Saturday, 31 October 2015


As darkness approaches, take comfort within,
Past loved ones draw closer, the veil is thin..
Walk freely amongst all of them once again..
Celebrate and rejoice the spiritual Samhain ...
Burn the fires quite wild, end of harvest is nigh,
Free will and free spirit shall fill the night sky...
Give thanks and sweet offerings for now and for then..
No suffering souls at the Feast of Samhain..
©AHL ~ Celebration Samhain..

Roasted pumpkin soup recipe

• 1.5kg edible pumpkin
• Olive oil
• 1 teaspoon dried chilli
• 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
• 1 large onion
• 3 cloves garlic
• 1 carrot
• 1 stick of celery
• 1 litre hot vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F. Half the pumpkin and remove the seeds (you can keep these for roasting), then chop into wedges. Place the pumpkin on two large baking trays and drizzle over a little olive oil. In a pestle and mortar, grind the chilli and coriander seeds with a pinch of salt until finely ground. Sprinkle the spices over the pumpkin with some black pepper. Roast the pumpkin for 1 hour, or until soft and slightly caramalised at the edges.
Meanwhile, roughly chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Heat a lug of olive oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan then add the vegetables and cook for 15 minutes, or until soft and sweet but not coloured.

easy pumpkin soup blending

When the squash is ready, add to the pan with the hot stock. Blend with a stick blender, adding a little more water if you like a thinner consistency.
Ladle into bowls and add you favourite toppings.


Halloween horrors: writers reveal their private fright nights ...

The Stories of MR James
Olivia Laing

A large portion of my childhood was spent in the car, driving between my parents’ houses. To enliven these journeys, my father bought a sizeable collection of story tapes. As a consequence, my sister and I know Three Men in a Boat andThe Wind in the Willows almost by heart. But the one we listened to most often didn’t involve benign picnics by the Thames. The Stories of MR James, read by Michael Hordern, was about a different kind of England: misty, haunted, malevolent.

James was a medievalist and provost of King’s College, Cambridge. His stories are populated by dons and curates, people who potter into country churches and take tea in their rooms after games of golf. After acquiring an object – a bone whistle, perhaps, or a painting that has caught their fancy at a county auction – they become subject to disquieting phenomena: small, unpleasant disturbances in the fabric of reality.

To this day, I still find it hard to read “Casting the Runes”, in which Mr Edward Dunning, engaged in research at the British Museum, is cursed by Mr Karswell, a petulant occultist from Warwickshire. The haunting proceeds incrementally, delicately, deliciously, building towards a night of horror. The lights go out in Mr Dunning’s house. When he slips his hand under the pillow to check the time, he encounters not his own familiar watch, but “a mouth, with teeth, and with hair about it, and, he declares, not the mouth of a human being”.

It’s this tenebrous quality, this paralysing vagueness, that makes James’s stories so lingeringly disturbing. He understood that the half-glimpsed thing is far more frightening than anything encountered in full light. The writhing sheets in “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”; the moving figure that emerges from a print of a country house in “The Mezzotint”: these slippery, malevolent objects have the capacity to unnerve me still.

Listening to the tape while driving at dusk through Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, the marsh country of Essex, it was easy to feel that James had found a way to tap the strangeness of the English countryside, with its crumbling houses, its blighted ash trees and deserted beaches. Even now, in a different millennium, that odd, uncanny power still abides, both in the land and in the stories that came out of it.
Crowhaven Farm
Michel Faber

The earliest thing that scared the bejesus out of me was intended to put Jesus into me. It was a Christian motivational film screened at my local church in Boronia, Australia, circa 1969. I must’ve been about nine and let me tell you, nine-year-old boys are not hot on allegory. In this movie, Jesus Christ was a clown. A Ronald McDonald-style clown, in a carnival. Clowns and carnivals are creepy as hell for a start, but the concept of this film (its title, unlike its imagery, did not get branded on my brain) was that the clown was compelled to take on the suffering of everyone else in the circus. So, in the act where the magician saws the lady in half, Pierrot Jesus takes her place, whereupon his mute paroxysms of pain indicate that he’s getting cut for real. In another scene, he’s in a barrel, contorted with agony as somebody thrusts a sword through slits in the wood. I’ve blanked out the rest, but I have an inkling that the climax involved a fatal fall from the trapeze. Jeez! The things we inflict on innocent children …

The earliest thing that scared the bejesus out of me was intended to put Jesus into meMichel Faber

I’m not actually that easy to scare. Horror movies in which monsters pursue hyperventilating victims to rip out their entrails don’t faze me. I rate the special effects on a scale of 1 to 10, assigning 8½ to commendably exuberant eruptions of innards. But there’s one horror movie which has haunted me for more than four decades: Crowhaven Farm. I’m just one of a worldwide coterie of people who were enduringly spooked by this obscure made-for-TV flick when they chanced upon it in the early 1970s. Meeting a fellow Crowhaven Farm survivor is a deeply affirming experience. So it got you, too?

By modern standards, the film is tame. No eyeballs are punctured, no skulls explode. An unhappily married couple move to an isolated farm in Massachusetts. The plot unfolds in a succession of low-key, unsettling events. The neighbours are friendly and welcoming and (of course) have been waiting for this couple since the 1600s. By the time the wife is out in a field, pinioned under a large wooden plank while her Puritan neighbours pile rocks on top, the awareness dawns that you will never get over how creeped out you are at this moment. 

Three Oncologists by Ken Currie Photograph: Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Three Oncologists by Ken Currie
Kathleen Jamie

In traditional Scotland, Halloween or Samhain was the Celtic festival when this world and the otherworld were at their closest; the boundary between could be crossed. A sinister time. It was possible to foretell the future. The dead could walk.

It seems to me that Ken Currie’s eerie and brilliant portrait Three Oncologistsoccupies this very Celtic space. It’s an official portrait, commissioned in 2002 by the National Galleries of Scotland. The three men depicted (it would have to be three, like the weird sisters) are Professor RJ Steele, Professor Sir Alfred Cuschieri and Professor Sir David P Lane, all then of the department of surgery and molecular oncology at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.

It’s a portrait, but far from flattering. Nowhere are the pomp and curly wigs of earlier portraits of surgeons and physicians. Currie’s painting reaches back into another cultural tradition. The three men are lit with a ghoulish inner light; they seem to be haunting the threshold between life and death. They are shown poised to move through a curtain, which is the black cloth of the theatre, the operating theatre, the veil between worlds. This curtain appears also to radiate from the figures, like an aura or ectoplasm. Like mediums, they can move back and forth into that place which is for most of us, an otherworld.

Furthermore, they hold their tools or means: Steele raises his gloved and bloodstained hands, Cuschieri holds a surgeon’s implement, Lane carries a paper. Whose sentence is written there?

Currie's three men are lit with a ghoulish inner light; they seem to be haunting the threshold between life and deathKathleen Jamie

Though it was painted in 2002, I believe the chill of this work lingers from the 19th century, when the medical colleges procured bodies to dissect without asking enough questions, when that demand was satisfied by body-snatching and even murder, as in those committed in Edinburgh by Burke and Hare. The surgery and science that saves us today is built on these misdeeds – Currie’s painting seems to acknowledge that horror. The medics themselves are pallid, corpse-like, but human, all look hunched, raddled, interrupted in their task. Are they slightly guilty? Is what they are doing transgressive? “Spooky” is not the word; there is a greater fear here, that of the unseen patient.

As we grow more able to say the word “cancer” out loud and more of us survive it, thanks in no small part to our surgeons and physicians, this painting will become a historical record of an emotional state, as well as honouring three esteemed medics. But it will still send a shiver down the spine.

The Simpsons Halloween special
Mark Lawson

Now as fixed a part of the schedules as the Queen’s Christmas broadcast, television’s most sustained and impressive Halloween project is theTreehouse of Horror series of annual episodes of The Simpsons, which reached its 26th instalment this month. Fittingly, these shows are both a treat (the only individual episode each season that viewers can anticipate) and a trick, incorporating narrative or graphic experiments and occurring outside the regular storyline.

For me, the most memorable remains the first Treehouse from 1990, in which Lisa reads “The Raven” as a rather inappropriate bedtime story, with the yellow-faced family becoming caught up in the action of Edgar Allan Poe’s horror monologue. The sequence shows to perfection the series’ multi-layering of references.

Although the series posts semi-jokey warnings about these stories being unsuitable for younger viewers, the terror factor is limited by the time slot and genre. In the same way, Doctor Who – for which a traditional viewing position has been behind the sofa – is frightening mainly because its target audience has a low nightmare threshold.

Among television shows intended to make adults jump, I have a fondness forRainy Day Women, an intelligently unsettling 1984 BBC Play for Today by David Pirie, in which hysteria develops in an English village fearing a German invasion in 1940. The BBC’s Ghostwatch, a Stephen Volk play taking the form of a purportedly live broadcast from a haunted house, was so effectively terrifying that it has never been repeated in Britain, although it is available on DVD for brave home entertainers, as is The Stone Tape, another BBC play in which research scientists regret basing their facility in a Victorian building with a history. It was one of the finest achievements of Nigel Kneale, the greatest writer of small-screen frighteners, to whom a modern admirer, Mark Gatiss, paid tribute in the 2013 BBC production of The Tractate Middoth, a truly spooky contemporary ghost story.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491
Mozart’s C Minor Piano Concerto K491
Tom Service

Of course Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain is self-consciously spooky with its evocation of a witches’ sabbath and its cauldron of dissonances, as are the final couple of movements of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, when the hero dreams of his own execution and another lot of witches consign him to a hallucinogenic oblivion. And then there are the modernist masterpieces that Stanley Kubrick turned into a definitive soundtrack of spookiness in The Shiningand 2001: pieces by Penderecki, Ligeti and Bartók that are now the sonic embodiments of deep-space eeriness and elevator doors deluged by blood.

All of the above might seem scary, but they’re frightening in the way that Halloween costumes are superficially frightening. True musical terror, those chills that come from a cold sweat that’s created by the drama of the work itself, is a different matter. And that’s why the final movement of Mozart’s C Minor Piano Concerto K491 is a piece that makes my blood run cold. It’s a set of variations on a tenebrous theme – what terrors could that possibly hold? Well: this winding, chromatic melody has ice in its veins, in the way it snakes and sighs around itself, in the implacable way that it shuts out any possibility of a major-key resolution. The transformation of minor-key despair to major-key happiness was a stock-in-trade of late 18th-century musical convention, so that you could make sure that your listeners left laughing after visiting a place of emotional darkness. Mozart himself did just that in the D minor piano concerto that he wrote a year before this one, when minor-key torment becomes D major glory in its final bars.

But that’s not what happens here. Mozart’s variations create a kaleidoscope of musical and expressive darkness, and they have a suffocating cumulative power. The composer gives us an ironic sense of hope with a vision of startling major-key brightness in one of the variations – only to rip it away again. The piece ends with a triple-time dance to the abyss, in music that has always sounded to me like the fulfilment of a bleak prophecy, a curse from which there is no escape. It’s frightening in a way that speaks to your soul as much as to your senses, and as such, it’s properly, profoundly scary.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Joanna Briscoe

This 6,000-word story captures the substance of nightmares. An inspired bookseller, knowing my own dark and twisted imagination, strongly urged me to read it, and it instantly gripped and chilled me.

In the lightest of tones, a female narrator describes how she has been prescribed a rest cure for her “slight hysterical tendency” by her physician husband. He has rented an empty ancestral hall for the summer, where he insists that he and his wife sleep in an old nursery complete with bars on the windows and torn wallpaper. Forbidden to write for fear of over-stimulation, the narrator has little to do but watch the effects of the sun on the disquieting paper lining the room. She also writes.

As her tale becomes darker, much of the creepiness lies in that very buoyancy of tone, all exclamation marks and echoes of her husband’s supposedly caring instructions: “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.” The claustrophobia thickens as she sees a sub-pattern begin to grow, trapping a woman’s figure in the paper. The wallpaper’s “colour is repellent, almost revolting: a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight”. Its patterns go “waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity … a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus.”

Published in 1892, “The Yellow Wallpaper” was astonishingly ahead of its time in sentiment and language, its phrases – “great slanting waves of optic horror” – often enjoyably modern in sound. It is open to so very many interpretations, and its refusal to provide an answer enhances its unsettling effect on the mind. Is the narrator insane? Is this a valid response to “kind” incarceration? Is Gilman writing of postnatal depression, or offering a comment on women’s general or medical oppression? Is it a tale of the paranormal? As one critic once put it: “It may be a ghost story. Worse yet, it may not.”

Like the patterns themselves, the meaning slips, blooms, plunges into uncertainty, looping and doubling back, the territory shifting until the story becomes almost sickeningly haunting.

Clowning around … Reece Shearsmith in Psychoville Photograph: BBC
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

I enjoy watching comedians clowning around, from Buster Keaton, deadpan under his pancake, to Ricky Gervais in The Office, fingering his tie like someone auditioning for the lead in a new Laurel and Hardy film. But a real clown always sends a shiver down my spine. That white mask of a face. That painted-on rictus of a smile. My queasiness is mild compared to sufferers of “coulrophobia”, the pathological fear of clowns, but they still spook me. It’s hard to explain why. I certainly can’t remember any traumatic encounters with balloon animals as a child, and I’m not a big fan of horror stories like Stephen King’s It, in which a group of children are hunted down by a sewer-dwelling monster in the form of a clown with a puff of blood-red hair.

A clown always sends a shiver down my spine, with that white mask of a face, that painted-on rictus of a smileRobert Douglas-Fairhurst

So why do they seem so alien and uncanny? Maybe it’s because they behave so oddly, like someone who has been given an instruction manual on how to be a human being but abandoned it halfway through. Maybe it’s the way they move, with that weird mixture of clumsiness and grace, creating a world where choreography meets chaos. Or maybe it’s just their unnerving silence, as they walk around with planks of wood and custard pies, giving the impression that, however chirpy they seem on the outside, much darker thoughts are bubbling away under the surface.

A couple of years ago, the BBC comedy drama Psychoville featured Reece Shearsmith as Mr Jelly, an embittered clown with a metal hook for a hand, whose red nose acted like a warning beacon to anyone foolish enough to mistake him for his great rival Mr Jolly. The world of books is full of equally menacing clowns. One of the stories in Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers features a haggard alcoholic performer, whose “glassy eyes” contrast horribly with the “thick white paint with which the face was besmeared”. The narrator gives him a few shillings, and as he turns away hears “the roar of laughter which followed his first tumble on the stage”. A few days later he is dead. It’s a strange little story, and one that resonates far beyond the obvious warning about the dangers of drink. Looked at from another angle, it’s as if this sad figure has worked out what a clown is really for. He is a capering death’s head.

Trailer for 13 Tzameti
13 Tzameti
Anthony Quinn

I’ve only seen this film once, nearly 10 years ago, but I recall its insinuating mood of dread as if it were yesterday. The Georgian-born French director Géla Babluani’s low-budget debut sidles along for much of its length, then plunges us abruptly into a scenario that’s about as close to a waking nightmare as cinema gets. A young immigrant labourer steals the identity of his late employer and travels to Paris on a mysterious assignation, trailed by unnamed pursuers. It’s difficult to say what the young man thinks he’s getting into – there seems to be drugs and cash involved – but he ends up in a place he could never have imagined. It involves a contest in which strangers gamble on the outcome and yet it’s filmed in a matter-of-fact way that catches you off-guard. That’s part of its fascination: to have things that are unimaginable suddenly stare you coldly in the face, as black and real as a gun barrel. Shot in monochrome, the film nods to Jean-Pierre Melville’s fatalistic gangster noirs and to Kafka’s dreamlike fables of dislocation; maybe a pinch of Patricia Highsmith lingers too. But in the event 13 outruns its influences. I can’t exactly remember how it ends, and it hardly matters – what survives in the memory is that horrific sense of entrapment, of knowing that your fate has come to meet you. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, and I’m not sure I’d want to again.

Illustration by Andrew Rae

The Listeners by Walter de la Mare
Helen Dunmore

A moonlit clearing in a dark forest; a deserted house; a traveller who comes to knock at the door and calls out “Is there anybody there?” The setting is eerie enough, but slowly a deeper and more disturbing strangeness settles. A bird flies up out of the turret and the sills are fringed with leaves. It is a long time since this was a place of human habitation, and yet the house seems to hold its breath as the traveller strikes upon the door. The sound does not echo into emptiness. The air is “stirred and shaken” by the knocking and the cry of the man who seeks entry, but no one responds. There is “only a host of phantom listeners” there. They possess the house. They have never left it, even though green things tangle at the windows and birds build their nests in empty rooms. Like the house, they wait and listen and do not answer “that voice from the world of men”.

At around the 15th line, gooseflesh rises on my arms. It always happens: it makes no difference that I know what’s coming, or that I’ve read the poem dozens of times. The presence of the listeners is so palpable that figures begin to take shape in the imagination. They are there, and not there. They are summoned up, but they will not answer.

Throughout the poem it is the traveller who acts and speaks, but the listeners who lie at the heart of the mystery. There are no stanza breaks: it is all one poem, wrapping itself around the reader like an incantation. Read it on Halloween, and see what comes.

The Listeners by Walter de la Mare
‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.



DIY Dog Mints
  • 2 and ½ cups old-fashion oats (or whole wheat flour if preferred)
  • 1 large egg (or ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce if eggs are a no-go for your pup)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped, fresh parsley
  • ½ cup finely chopped, fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon of dill
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • your favorite cookie cutter (varying sizes, optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 325º F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place oats into a blender. Pulse them until they reach a flour-like consistency. Then set aside.
  3. Whisk parsley, mint, egg, water, and oil together in a large bowl.
  4. Add the oat flour to your mixture and stir until it combines
  5. Knead the dough (just a few times is perfect), and place the dough onto a floured surface.
  6. Flatten out the dough using a rolling pin, or your hands, until it is about 1/8-inch thick.
  7. Using your cookie cutters, cut out you cookies! Typically you’ll have around 40 mints.
  8. Place mints ¼-inch apart on your parchment lined baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool completely before serving, no matter how much they beg!


Happy Halloween

It`s Halloween! It`s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can`t be seen
on any other night:
Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.

Jasper & Bonnie feeling excited with Dajana Naas

Monsters, stalking through the night,
Halloween is the Night of Fright.
Fear is what this night brings,
Along with many other things.
Are you sure you are prepared?
Tonight is not for the easily scared.
Creatures from hell roam on this night,
For tonight is the Night of Fright.

Friday, 30 October 2015

5 Life Lessons from Dogs—our Greatest Teachers.

Via Christine Steinon Oct 27, 2015

Author's photo: Christine Stein
“It’s not your dog’s fault—you’re running after him. That’s why he’s not coming,” I shouted over to the dog training field.

The woman desperately tried to make her dog come to her.

I explained to her that when she is running after her dog, the dog thinks she is playing with him. If he’s not coming when she calls him she should run away—that would be the only way the dog would then come after her.

I worked in a dog training school some time ago, and I can tell you—it’s not really a dog training school, but more of a school to train humans how to communicate properly with their dogs.

The dogs never do anything wrong. It’s similar to children’s behavior—they just react to what we are doing, to whatever signals we give.

When I was a little girl, I grew up with two little dogs my grandmother owned, and a couple years ago, I managed to get my own two dogs—not so little, but with the same big hearts like the little dogs back then.

If we take a bit time to look into the behavior of our dogs, we will realize they have a very readable way of communication. That is one of the first lessons my dogs taught me…

Clear communication. My dogs always show me how they feel.

It’s their (whole) body language speaking. I know from their eyes, posture and activity—everything! How they feel and even what they are about to do. My dogs show very clearly if they hear me—a little twitch of the ear, short look or eye movement—and if they will come.

They express it clearly if they want to go out, are hungry or want to go to sleep—preferably in my bed. It is clear from their body language if one dog likes another (or not), if they are going to bite (or not). They don’t “play games,” so to speak, like we humans sometimes do.

I am always amazed with their direct form of communication. Dogs show each other when they are in the mood to play or sleep—and they would never play when they don’t want to. Moreover, they have a very good strategy to figure out things very quickly—first, sniff it. Then, if necessary, lick it. With this they have all the information they need to make a decision, easy and instantly.

I would compare this to our gut or heart feelings. The initial feeling we have in the first place—“it is what it is”—that gut feeling.

Patience and perseverance. I don’t know of any other beings that would wait as patiently as my dogs do.

No matter if they need to wait in the car, or for me to return home or for their food to be served—they just wait. No barking, no jumping around, no howling and no freaking out.

It seems that my dogs are able to deal with almost every circumstance, and they are fine with it. Of course, there is a thin line between patience and perseverance when it comes to food. They will wait patiently for their food, and they will have perseverance when it comes to the food I’m eating. They don’t beg in an annoying way, but they will wait there, until the end—making sure that I know they’re willing to sacrifice themselves and finish the rest of the food, in case I need any help.

Doggie eyes. Those “doggie eyes” never lie—they speak the truth! They frequently remind me that the eyes truly are the doors to the soul. The truth in the eyes of a dog hits you instantly. There’s no way around it, the eyes just tell you everything.

The love, the desire for a treat or a cuddle, the fear or the boredom—my dogs teach me every day, that we just need to read the eyes, and we will know everything. Through the eyes we can dive deep into the soul of a being. Looking at those dog eyes, I just know how they feel, what they want, what their intentions are and what they are up to.

Trust. A dog trusts us 200%—he trusts in us and the universe.

I have two little anecdotes for this—some time ago, I went to Switzerland with my dogs, and we went hiking in a beautiful wood with many waterfalls. Sometimes there were five to six meters of steep slopes. The ground was slippery all over, and we humans sometimes needed to hold on to something, as a grip, to make it.

My female dog was all over the place. She ran through the water back and forth, jumping over branches and simply slide when she didn’t find a foothold. She frolicked right next to the water slopes, and one time she slipped and slithered a few meters, before finally stopping one centimeter before the edge of the slope.

My friend’s heart stopped while watching—he couldn’t move. My dog took a sniff of the fresh slope-air, and then she jumped all the way back. She did this several times, without fear. I believe dogs are like little kids and they know they are protected.

What would we do if we could have the same trust all our life?

Another time, my dog, Mogli, had a big shaggy hairball behind his ear. At some point I decided do cut it off, and I accidentally cut a hole in his flesh behind the ear. I know it sounds horrible—and it was. Mogli was yowling loudly and pervasively—and then, he was just looking at me, without barking, biting or anything. He just trusted that what I was doing was the right thing, even though it wasn’t.

I mean really—who would still trust you, even when you are hurting them? This brings me directly to the next point…

Unconditional love. A dog loves us no matter what.

No matter how we look, how we feel or what we do—they are always happy when we come back to them. They follow us wherever we go, and they want to be with us—whatever we do.

I see the love in the way my dogs look at me—how they observe what I do, how they follow me or come to cuddle, how they try to take care of me. It is this invisible (and visible!) bond of love I have with my dogs, that I learn the most from.

The longer I am with my dogs, the more I learn and the more I am able to understand.

I am truly convinced dogs were created to help us learn and grow—to show us how to come back to unconditional love and trust. I really enjoy the days I am able just to hang out with them a full 24 hours.

They teach me that it doesn’t take much to have a beautiful, fulfilled life. The most important elements are: to love, to trust, to play and to just be in the moment. My dogs are masters in this, and they do it effortlessly.

I hope that I always will be able to love, trust and play like them—and if I can’t, that they remind me how to.

Thank you, masters! High-five (paw?) and how about some extra treats for all of us today?


Great Literary Villains

PrintNapoleon from Animal Farm
“When they had finished their confession, the dogs promptly tore their throats out, and in a terrible voice Napoleon demanded whether any other animal had anything to confess.”
The novel that was described by Orwell to be a satirical story against Stalin follows a farm of pigs as they overthrow the humans and reign for themselves. Among the pig leaders is Napoleon, who represents Stalin. Napoleon instates a dictatorship in which the pigs are promised a “better life” after working harder and harder. Like most villains, Napoleon never acts upon these promises—instead killing those who consorted with his foe and creating a society focused on his praise.
bambiHe from Bambi, A Life in the Woods
Arguably one of the most devastating moments of childhood was when “He”—the nameless hunter—killed Bambi’s mother. While most would reference the Disney adaptation, the original tale: Bambi, A Life in the Woods was written by Austrian novelist Felix Salten in 1923. Not only does the hunter kill Bambi’s mother, but he teaches children about how awful loss is. A lesson that perhaps we (along with Bambi and friends) were not quite ready to learn.

seriesofunfortunateeventsCount Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events
“There are two kinds of fears: rational and irrational- or, in simpler terms, fears that make sense and fears that don’t. For instance, the Baudelaire orphans have a fear of Count Olaf, which makes perfect sense, because he is an evil man who wants to destroy them. But if they were afraid of lemon meringue pie, this would be an irrational fear, because lemon meringue pie is delicious and would never hurt a soul.”
The beloved Children’s series A Series of Unfortunate Events containsthirteen novels, all in which Count Olaf is a villain. After the Baudelaire sibling’s parents’ are killed in a fire, they are placed in the custody of their evil distant cousin Count Olaf—whose main goal is to steal their inheritance. After he is deemed unfit he is taken away from the children but proceeds to find them by dressing in disguise throughout the rest of the books. Count Olaf is essentially an evil “mastermind” who murders many people to try and get his hands on money.
lord voldemortLord Voldemort from the Harry Potter Series
“If he could only have understood the precise and terrible power of that sacrifice, he would not, perhaps, have dared to touch your blood… But then, if he had been able to understand, he could not be Lord Voldemort, and might never have murdered at all.”
I would confidently suppose that most people, children and adults alike, know of the infamous Lord Voldemort. Villain-extraordinaire of all sevenHarry Potter books, the main plot throughout the series is to try and kill him. After killing Harry’s parents and cursing him as a baby, Lord Voldemort’s single goal (besides, of course, ruling the world and killing non-purebloods) is to destroy Harry Potter—whom he believes to be a major threat. While Voldemort is not wrong about this, he basically kills everyone Harry loves throughout the book and can be seen as the ultimate villain.
psychoNorman Bates from Psycho
“Cold-blooded murder is one thing, but sickness is another. You aren’t really a murderer when you’re sick in the head. Anybody knows that” [Norman—on his mother]
When one first starts to read Psycho, it may appear that Norma Bates (Norman’s mother) is the real villain. However, she is nothing compared to the crazy that is Norman Bates. He eventually kills his mother and keeps her corpse their house. His mother taught him that women are evil—besides her of course, and the co-dependent relationship they have alone would almost qualify as something “psychotic”. Regardless Norman Bates is a serial killer who stabs people to death while wearing his mother’s clothes…Psycho indeed.
Complete Sherlock HolmesDr. Moriarty fromSherlock Holmes
“He [Moriarty] is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and nearly all that is undetected in this great city.  He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker.  He has a brain of the first order.”
While not featured in all Sherlock Holmes stories, during his appearances Moriarty is a “criminal mastermind” and seeks payback from Sherlock for exposing his criminal ring. He is a crime lord who protects many English criminals in exchange money and loyalty—obviously posing a problem for protagonist Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty is a murderer who is one of the major villains in the series.
lord-of-the-fliesJack fromLord of the Flies
“[Jack] tried to convey the compulsion to track down and kill that was swallowing him up.
‘I went on. I thought, by myself—‘
The madness came into his eyes again.
‘I thought I might kill.’”
This novel was a real eye-opener, both for readers and the boys forming this civilization. After being stranded on an island, a group of British boys are forced to govern themselves. Jack, the leader of a boys choir group, does not get along with the chosen leader—Ralph, and schemes to overthrow him. Throughout the novel, Jack turns from civilized to violent—leading to the death of another boy. He represents the worst parts of human nature, eventually leading an attack to kill Ralph.
othelloIago from Othello
“If I can fasten but one cup upon him,
With that which he hath drunk to-night already,
He’ll be as full of quarrel and offence
As my young mistress’ dog.”
Shakespeare’s plays always contain a villain—sometimes many! Iago fromOthello is one of the worst. After being overlooked for a promotion, Iago hates Othello and conspires to turn everyone against him. Iago manipulates all of the characters, while they continue to refer to him as “honest Iago”. The quote above explains Iago’s plan to get Cassio (the man promoted) drunk so he would make a fool of himself and be punished. He is constantly scheming and even convinces Othello to kill his wife—who he believes to be sleeping with Cassio. In Shakespearian terms, that’s a villain.
hannibalHannibal Lecter from the Hannibal Lecter Series
Hannibal Lecter is featured in four novels by Thomas Harris, and is a serial killer. An obvious choice for a villain. Although Hannibal had what seemed like a rough childhood, he is still a murderer and cannibal. Described as a sociopath, he does not fit into any standard psychological profile. Hannibal Lecter is definitely one of the worst villains in modern-day literature.

The-Lord-Of-The-Rings-9780007149247Saruman from The Lord of the Rings Series
The villain of the very popular Lord of the Rings series, Saruman was originally the chief of the wizards and of the White Council that opposed Sauron. However, being a villain, his experience with dark magic ignited his desire for the One Ring. He was eventually defeated in the War of the Ring when he allied himself with Sauron. As Lord of the Rings fans know, desiring the One Ring for yourself is never a positive trait.