Miranda, The Ghost Next Door

miranda1I read a book about a ghost named Miranda, when I was about 12, and I’ve been haunted by it ever since. I could not remember the title, the author or anything else very helpful. But, it seems I had a lot more in my mental storage than I thought.

On impulse I searched for “Miranda ghost book” today and I found it! I was sure it was the same book as soon as I saw the book cover! I felt that connection to myself from so long ago. I remember how I felt then. A feeling of loss, sadness and the drive to never forget Miranda. I even decided I would name my first daughter, Miranda. (I never had a daughter but today I’ve read at least two other women named their daughter Miranda based on this book).

The book was written by Wylly Folk St. John and is titled The Ghost Next Door.

The best place to read more about Wylly Folk St. John was all the blog posts and photos from  Elizabeth Harper, her great-niece.

I don’t have a clear memory of the facts from the story but all the feelings are still there. Looking into the book again today the feelings are coming back, almost as fresh as the day I turned the last page when I was reading the book.

The book seems to be out of print now. Maybe the publishers thought the story had become too dated to sell. There is another edition but it lacks the illustration from Trina Schart Hyman.


GoodReads: Wylly Folk St. John

GoodReads: The Ghost Next Door

Sherry Alston had never been told about her dead half-sister Miranda. So when Sherry came to visit her Aunt Judith, no one could explain the odd things that started to happen. Who was the elusive friend Sherry said she saw in the garden? Was she an imaginary playmate – or could she be the ghost of Miranda who had drowned in the pond years ago? Uncanny reminders of Miranda began to turn up – a blue rose, a lost riding whip…

Wylly Folk St. John’s house has been preserved as part of the historic preservation society.

Amazon: Wylly Folk St. John

Disney made her Secrets of the Pirates’ Inn into a TV movie. I found the full movie (1969) on YouTube.

Home Keeping and Homemaking as a Profession

I don’t like the leftover attitude about stay at home Mothers or housewives and the idea that women should be homemakers who look pretty for their man and do what they are told to do. It’s a small minded and ignorant way to treat something which is so much bigger and more important.

The world needs homemakers. Whether the person who looks after the children and the home is a man, woman or a couple, it’s a vital role. It’s a profession really. I wish it was given more credit and taken far more seriously than it is.

Being a Professional Homemaker

Homemaking is Important for the World and our Future

Years ago my Mother told me about a new TV show she had begun watching while she was in Florida. (My Mom is a Canadian snowbird). She said the show was really good, all about how to do the regular kind of things a lot of people have stopped doing, forgotten how to do or just never knew the right way to do them. That TV show was, The Martha Stewart Show. I still think about that when I see the Martha Stewart magazines in the book store and the grocery store aisle. (We don’t get the TV show here in Canada any longer.)

There are a lot of little homemaking skills which people don’t seem to know any more. How to clean things and how to place things and how to keep things run well.

All these skills used to be the work of women mainly. As my Mother said about my Grandparents, he works outside and she works inside. That was how they did it too. Rarely were there ever any cross-overs. But, later in life there were times my Grandmother wanted to garden and my Grandfather was happy to give her garden space in his garden. But, she wanted to plant potatoes and he didn’t. Of course, it was complicated by the fact that she insisted on planting her surprise potatoes in his rose garden. But, that was just an extra wrinkle to the tale.

Small things, the working together of people. So complicated and yet so very important.

Stay at Home Dads

Stay at Home Moms Too

My Mother was (mostly) a stay at home Mom. At times she would go out to work part time. She worked at a Tim Horton’s donut shop, hospital admissions and drove for Honda as a test driver too. Later, when my little sister was in high school my Mom got into real estate – and did well, she liked it too.

Things are changing from the old days and that’s a good thing.

Modern Families Take Care of the Family, Together

Why are home making and housekeeping still so strongly associated with women? Yes, it’s a traditional thing for the women to stay at home with the children and look after the home. But, that was a role outdated at least twenty years ago. Men can be at home looking after children and the home now. But, more often couples work together. Men and women take on the care of children and the usual skills, crafts and work of making a home and housework.

Are people still so deeply caught up in the past or do we just not give men any due credit? I know men who do a wonderful job with their children. I know couples who work together to get everything done, after their standard 9 to 5 work day.

What to do with Broken Books

book drunkardBooks get broken. Some can be repaired. Some aren’t worth repairing but could be repurposed/ upcycled instead. Book art is nice to see but, I think it needs to be practical so we aren’t just creating clutter but something useful too.

I don’t have many hard cover books these days. I miss them.

When you buy a book now it’s either a paperback or a bigger sized paperback book. Very few books are published and distributed as real hard covers any more. In stores they seem to think those big sized paperback books are the new hard cover books. They’re wrong. I think they just don’t want to reduce the price. But, do they really think we are that easily fooled?

The old hard cover books, the real hard covers, needed some extra looking after once in awhile. The old bookbinding sometimes came a bit unravelled if the book were well read many times. We would recover the book. We used wallpaper left over from a home decorating project, drawing paper from architectural drawings my Dad didn’t need any more, or plastic which was intended as drawer liners but worked very well as book covers too.

It wasn’t just book covers that took abuse. We taped up pages and made home made repairs to the book spines too. Tape wasn’t the best choice for fixing pages though. After time the tape would get yellowy and sometime after that it would eventually lose its stickiness and fall right off as if it were just an ordinary piece of plastic. I guess, by that time, it was.

Helpful Links

Books Beyond Saving Can be Upcycled

Not all old books can be saved.

Sadly I lost a few boxes full of books when the water heater tank leaked and eventually cracked down in our basement at one house. No one noticed right away. So there was water on the floor awhile. The boxes were in the same room, sitting in the water. The water was soaked up into the cardboard box and into the books.

The books on the bottom were the worst off. Some were mildewed and I wasn’t even able to pick them up due to allergies to mould and mildew. Books in the middle were water logged, thickened with wavy pages. They couldn’t be saved. No store would have taken them in trade and I couldn’t keep them due to the allergies. Most of them were past being readable anyway. Some books on the top were not too bad. But, I was so disheartened I wrote them all off.

We burned them all. At that house we had a large backyard on the edge of a small rural town. So burning out in the back garden was ok.

Burning isn’t the only option for books beyond saving. If the pages are okay still you can do a lot in creating book art. Books in bad shape can still be used, just in different ways.

Be Creative but Practical Too

I think there is one very important thing to keep in mind when we repurpose books or anything else. That is to keep the repurposing functional. Yes, a lot of the book art is cool or interesting to see, but where will it be a year from now even? Will we still like it, want to keep it and want to give it space in our home – or will it just become one more piece of stuff we have around adding to the clutter?

There should be new value added to anything we repurpose. If we are just creating mindlessly or for the joy of the moment then are we really repurposing and upcycling at all? Or are we just giving the book a temporary stay of execution?

I think it’s very important to find new uses for old things but they should actually be useful.

If you can’t fix them… repurpose them!

How to Express What You’re Thinking When You’re Shy

Often when you are shy you can use the written word to express your feelings. The problem isn’t really being able to write out your thoughts and feelings – it’s the part where you share them.

Sharing your inner most thoughts and feelings is to let them be judged by someone else. It also means you take the chance on sounding weird, odd or just being told how wrong you are. At times, it’s easier to remain quiet. Easier than trying to put yourself forth into the noise of everyone else. It’s easier to fade into the background and not be heard. Except, we do want to be heard, be part of the world around us. Our opinions and ideas are worth hearing too.

Communication needs to be a two way street. Someone listens while someone else speaks. Then there is feedback to confirm the communication. As a shy person, I find the biggest challenge is to be heard. People don’t stop to listen. Instead they interrupt, they don’t listen and they don’t really hear what you say when you do manage to say something.

You try written communication, hoping this is a way to be heard without being interrupted or having to be face-to-face. But, there is still the big drama of waiting for feedback and not knowing what kind of reception your communication will get. Was it wanted? Were you understood, or misunderstood?

Often, writing it down isn’t enough. You need the instant feedback and the first reaction to know you have been heard and understood.

How to Talk to Someone Important When You’re Shy

Practice what you want to say beforehand. You can write it down and then say it out loud, see how it sounds. You might shorten it, change the wording around or choose an entirely different way to say it. Know what you are going to say, but don’t have it so memorized it sounds like a scripted speech.

Talk to the person when they are alone so there are fewer distractions and no one else to jump in and offer their opinion, welcome or not. If you can’t be sure of having time alone, or privately, make an appointment, schedule the time to talk with them.

If you really need to say something important and can’t get yourself to start, bring a friend along to break the ice and then leave or stay out of it when you’re ready to begin.

When it comes time to talk, stop thinking so much. Don’t analyze every word, don’t get obsessed with small details like how you’re standing or sitting, where you put your hands or whether or not your teeth are white enough, etc. Put the little things out of your mind and think about something else, like the coffee you’re going to enough later, or how nice the garden looked, anything simple and pleasant to keep you from getting too focused.

Realize that you are not the centre of the universe – the world is not watching you and waiting for you to fail. Other people in the room, in the area, are more worried about themselves and the possibility that they have spinach in their teeth to be wholly focused on you and what you are doing or thinking or saying. Though, they will wonder what you are thinking if you look at them too long and make them feel a little paranoid.

In the end, take a breath, stop thinking and start talking.

Communicating as an Introvert

Don’t Turn Your Back on that Garden Gnome

Here we are, surrounded by snow at this time of year. It’s a nice time to think about Spring, which I know is coming, eventually. It just takes it’s own time; keeps it’s own schedule. Sort of.

I’m thinking of a garden setting for a scene. It’s early morning, the dew is still on the grass. If you walk out there you will have soaking wet feet. But, it does leave pretty cool footprints.

Way out there, in the corner of the back of the backyard, is that old rattan garden furniture. It’s been left under the big tree and probably needs some looking after now. But, it is kind of useful for sitting under the shade when it gets really hot in summer. Those hot days the plastic furniture will burn your butt and leave those big wide stripes on your bare skin. I’m not a big fan of summer, but that’s another story.

I’d like to write a story about garden gnomes some time. They really should have some kind of secret life and a secret society or something. Garden gnomes… far worse than moles and much scarier than zombies. For one thing, they have a lower reach. You won’t even notice that sweet garden gnome until it trips you with the garden hose and starts offering your brain to the lurking zombies, collecting your blood to sell on the black vampire market. Aren’t you feeling just a bit more suspicious about garden gnomes now?

Of course, they could live in garden sheds… but that would be too predictable. Anyway, not everyone has a decent garden shed and garages just don’t cut it. Those are for cars and their associated gremlins.

A real garden gnome lives in garden furniture. If you want to appease your garden gnome have a look in the garden furniture shop  for something nice. The links today are from Bridgman garden furniture. Gnomes think the imported stuff is fancier and we do want to keep them impressed, happy, less likely to gnaw off our fingers. Find some fancy garden furniture for your gnomes. Get them thinking everything is good, then try to trap them. But, beware, trapped garden gnomes are not happy garden gnomes. Really, there isn’t much you can do with them at that stage. You just know they are going to get out again. You can try to transport them far away. I’ve heard one guy mailed off his garden gnomes, all the way to some tiny village in the back roads of China. They were back in a week, with a new accent and some Karate moves.

Don’t think you are safe just because you have never bought or brought home a garden gnome. Don’t suffer such false hope. The garden gnomes are there, in your yard,  dead heading your flowers just for fun.

Give a character to something we usually think of as harmless or mildly silly (mice, fairies, mail boxes…). It’s kind of fun.

The Dictionarium

Flickr: The Dictionarium – In contemporary usage, a place for those obsessive types who collect or take pictures of dictionaries of all shapes, sizes, types and linguistic predilections.

Not something I have thought to do. But, I do actually have a photo of my dictionary. I took the photo because I had a pressed flower in the pages and it was really, very flat after several years. I had taken the flower from our garden after I came home from traveling and was told my cat, Rosie, had been killed. I wanted a photo of the flower, as it was in the dictionary, so I would still remember my little cat.

Why would you take a photo of a book, other than for a book review?

What I Learned About Doodling from Scrapbookers

Mainly this is about lettering, how to create fun, fanciful and pretty letters. These can be used to illustrate quotations. Or add a unique touch to other creative work you are doing. Think outside the box. Just get the basics and take off with your own imagination and favourite things.

  • Start by drawing your letters as usual, in your own hand drawn print. Use a soft pencil (#2 or mechanical pencil) which you can easily erase if you also use a white eraser. These should be easy to find in any kind of art or craft supply shop.
  • Outline your letters with a fine black liner pen. Don’t try to make them perfect but do think of your original letter as the centre point so that your new letters will be in the right place while becoming fuller in size. Once you have outlined the letters you will need to carefully erase the original letters you drew with the soft pencil. Use thicker paper if you find the paper you are using is ripping too easily.
  • Add life to your letters with crayons, coloured pencils or markers. Draw thick and thin lines, polka dots, diamond shapes, whatever you prefer or get the idea to try. When you colour the letters in pick your favourite colours. Outline some of the shapes you drew inside the letters, give them extra focus and it’s a way to get more colour in your design. Experiment and discover what styles and colours you like best.
  • Now shadowing… the rule I discovered is “outside right and inside left”. So you will be adding shadow to the outside of letters on the right side and to the inside of letters on the left side. Do it for awhile so you get the feel for it. Try different thick and thin shadows, see which you like best for your own style of lettering.
  • Decorate your letters with a little extra touch. Add shapes to the whitespace around your letters. Or, draw a frame around some letters and then decorate the frame with more shapes and colours.
  • Add a whole illustration around your letters. Maybe a cityscape, a sandcastle, a garden, something that just appeals to you or seems to suit the words you used. Whenever you need some inspiration or a general drawing guide for an object try to search for it on Google. In the Google Images section you will see a setting “Any type” which gives you the choice of clip art and line drawing. Either of those will give you illustrations instead of photographic images. Study how someone else drew the cityscape (for example) and then you will be able to use that as a guide for your own illustration.

Dodinsky’s Writings

Humble Beginnings

We can not deny
that often
a truth and a lie
have the same
humble beginnings,
intended to keep
someone from harm,
but in the scheme of things
both have the same intensity
to reduce someone to tears.

Too Late

Even if you find
your voice,
it does not matter
when you speak
to a man who is deaf
by choice.


I found the first of these on an inactive blog. Tracked down more and wound up on Facebook at Dodinsky’s Garden of Thoughts.

Prelapsarian Paradise

I’m reading a book by Zoe Archer which uses the phrase “prelapsarian paradise”. I’d never heard of the word prelapsarian. So, I got out of bed (I love to read in bed long after I should be sleeping) and looked it up online. I did consider just staying in bed and looking it up in the morning. But, I know myself, I’d read another chapter and forget what page the word was on and then soon forget all about it.

Prelapsarian is about before the fall of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. So it’s a reference to religious/ Biblical things more than a comment on distopian societies. I was hoping for something else about uptopian societies on the rocks in some way. But, no, it’s sort of related but not quite. Still an interesting word.

If you want to know more you can read about Lapsarianism then stretch your brain into reading Notes on Supralapsarianism & Infralapsarianism.