Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Camping with the Chicken


Schools finally out and I’m off to our annual Canada Day camping trip. It’s supposed to be nice so I won’t forget to wear my suntan lotion when I catch some rays. Check out my blog next week for my latest camping adventures and tips.

HAPPY CANADA DAY

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ghostly Woman in Quebec City


I love a good ghost story. I found one in Quebec City at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the oldest Anglican cathedral in Quebec City.

Many people have seen a lady floating around the balcony in the church. This lady especially seems to affect organists who hear a female cry and feel cold chills while they practice. Sometimes the organ plays by itself or footsteps are heard when no one is around. Now that’s enough to give anyone goose bumps...oops, I already had those.

Animals also feel the ghostly presence and are at times nervous and jumpy when in the church.

Queen Elizabeth II actually saw the ghost on the balcony when she visited in 1964. She was spooked and let me tell you, she’s no chicken.

Who is this lady ghost?

One theory is that it’s the ghost of a former nun who had a baby. The baby died and is said to be buried in an unmarked grave in the church crypt. Organists have found that if they put toys on the grave, they are allowed to practice in peace. It’s as though she is watching over her child!

Another theory is that it’s a lady who was mistakenly buried alive near the church during an outbreak of cholera.

A third theory is that it’s a woman that was buried in the church’s foundation during construction in 1799-1804.

Whoever she is, this tortured soul still continues to visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gonna Wash those Lice Right Outa My Hair


This morning I bathed myself in lavender, so I’m smelling sweet and am ready to talk about this plant from the dark ages all the way to modern times. You can read about lavender during ancient times in my last post.

Dark and Medieval Ages (AKA the time of Knights)

People in the dark ages had forgotten about lavender and its uses.

Only the monks and nuns in the monasteries grew lavender and used it for medicinal reasons. This is probably because only the very rich, monks and nuns knew how to read and write. There were no printing presses so only books that were hand copied, usually by monks, were available. In copying ancient manuscripts about the medical effects of different plants, the monks learned about the uses for lavender.

Hildegard of Bingen,a German nun, wrote that lavender oil was a good treatment for head lice (yuck) and fleas (double yuck).

Tudor Times and the Renaissance

Henry VIII, (you know, the English king that chopped off his wives heads), unwittingly increased lavender’s popularity. To get more cash, he closed down the monasteries and sent the monks packing. He gave monastery buildings to people he wanted to reward…usually ones that had done him favours.

Many of these monasteries came with fields of lavender so the ladies of the manor used the flowers in their linens and to freshen the air. They even mixed it with beeswax to make furniture polish and scented water with it. They often hung their laundry to dry over the lavender shrubs. People at this time associated lavender with cleanliness. It didn’t take them long to realize that lavender was also great for getting rid of insects as well.

Queen Elizabeth I of England adored the smell of lavender. She drank it in tea, used it as a perfume, and to treat her migraine headaches. Because the Queen loved it so much, it became really popular and many farmers grew lavender to meet the demand.

In France people used lavender to protect them from infections. It was noticed that glove makers who perfumed their wares with lavender, usually didn’t catch cholera.

By the 1600’s people saw lavender as a cure all and used it for headaches, nerves, bug bites, even snake bites.

People would tie bunches of lavender around their wrists because they thought it would protect them against the Great Plague. This may not have been a crazy as it sounds. After all, the plague was carried by the lice (which are insects) on the rats.

Grave robbers made a mixture called Four Thieves Vinegar which contained lavender. Another story says that four robbers rubbed their bodies with a mixture of lavender, absinthe, rue, sage, mint, rosemary and vinegar to protect them selves from infection before they broke into the homes of plague victims. Gross!

Victorian Times

Queen Victoria was a big fan of lavender and so it became very fashionable among the ladies and soon lavender was found in almost every Victorian home and garden.

WWI

Lavender was used to treat war wounds and was often used as an antiseptic. It was even used to get rid of fleas on dogs!

Modern Times

Today, people still grow lavender and use it to scent homes, flavour foods and for natural health remedies. Scientists are even researching uses in cancer treatments.

Provence, France is the largest producer of lavender but other suppliers include Canada, USA, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Japan, Bulgaria, Russia, and Germany.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lavender and the Prevention of Stinky Feet


I visited a Neob Lavender Boutique and greenhouse in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada. After taking a really cool tour of the growing area, I spent some time sniffing out the history of these pretty flowers.

This herb has had many names over its 2500 year history, including Nardus (named after the city of Naardus in Syria), Spikenard (because of the shape of its flowers) and Lavender (after either the latin word ‘lavare’ which means to wash or ‘livendulo’ which means bluish.)

Lavender is mentioned over and over again in different cultures, time periods and places.

Ancient Egypt
King Tut had his own stash of lavender. We know this because they found some in his tomb. The Egyptians used lavender for perfumes, cosmetics and mummification but only royalty and rich people could afford it. The Egyptians even made special contraptions called stills so they could extract its oils.

Biblical Times
Lavender is mentioned many times in the bible but it was called spikenard. According to the bible, Mary wiped Jesus’ feet with an expensive ointment made of lavender.

Ancient Greece
The Greeks learned about lavender from the Egyptians. Where the Egyptians used the scent on their heads, the Greeks used it on their feet. That’s probably the better way to go since your feet usually stink a lot more than your head does…especially if those feet have been sweating in a pair of old running shoes all day.

The Greeks also explored the healing qualities of this plant.

Ancient Rome
The Romans took it a step further and bathed in lavender water. After all, if lavender helped stinky feet, why not smelly arm pits?

They put lavender in linen drawers and in their laundry. They even hung the flowers around the house…I can see where this would be especially in handy in the washroom.

The Romans really appreciated lavender’s healing and antiseptic qualities. It helped keep away insects because bugs hate the scent. A Greek military doctor under the rule of Emperor Nero studied the medical uses of this plant and found that it helped tummy aches, gas, sore throats and headaches. The Romans also used lavender to clean wounds and burns.

Arabs
Some of the first types of lavender were probably grown by the Arabs. They used the plant for healing.

Look for my next post when I tell you gruesome lavender stories from the Great Plague and more.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Doing the Chicken Dance on Pont d'Avignon


There is an old song from the 15th century that we still sing today called Sur le Pont d'Avignon. It’s famous all over the world. You may remember it from French class.

The chorus goes like this:

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond

Which in English means:

On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there, we all dance there
On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there in a ring

To hear the song click HERE.

Well there really is a bridge across the Rhone River in Southern France and here is a picture of me standing on it.

We know the bridge as Pont d’Avignon but it’s also known as Pont Saint-Benezit. Legend says that it was named after a young shepherd named Benezet who caused the bridge to be built in the 12th century. (Wow that was so long ago that Dad wasn’t even out of diapers yet).