Tag Archives: Silas


If you’ve never had the pleasure of sharing a four hour car trip with an owl suffering from a basher of a head-cold, consider yourself an extraordinarily lucky person.

It seems that whilst exploring the Palladian Circle in Congress Park, I caught a nasty cold. It also seems that, whilst exploring a vast and confusing maze of tunnels beneath the hills of this same Congress Park, Bubo caught my cold. I blame the stale air in the tunnels. And Bubo’s refusal to cease her habitual nips from my hip flask of whiskey. Sharing does tend to extend to germs, my dears.

Palladian Circle Sculpture, Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, New York

These tunnels beneath the hills might, at one time, have led to the basements of the various Victorian mansions surrounding the park. I can only imagine what nefarious and prohibition-based escapades occurred below the seemingly proper streets of Saratoga Springs.

This delightful creation is part of the Presbyterian Church now:

This is not my house

The tunnels spider-webbed in all directions, and I was so thoroughly turned around when we extricated ourselves that I nearly toppled into one of the springs the town is so well-known for. I might have taken “taking the waters” a bit too far at that point. You might say that this underground system was rather crinkum-krankum.

Crinkum-krankum (some might spell it crinkum-crankum and we are all correct) is an archaic noun which means something full of twists and turns; a thing fancifully or excessively intricate and elaborate. It was often used to describe something that was much ornamented and could refer to artwork, carved chests, and even music. Herman Melville even had one of his mariners use it in reference to whales that looked rather different than the whales he was used to: “I tell ye, men, them’s crinkum-crankum whales.”

According to the esteemed Michael Quinion on his delightful website World Wide Words: The word has a confused origin. It’s related to the older crinkle-crankle and cringle-crangle, which are both based on crankle, meaning a bend, twist or curve. In turn this derives from crank, something winding or crooked or a cranny or inaccessible hole or crevice, a sense that had been borrowed from that of a handle.

In the interest of full etymological disclosure, crinkum-krankum was also used as terribly vulgar slang term for what Francis Grose explained as “a woman’s commodity: the private parts of a modest woman, and the public parts of a prostitute.

Naturally, I will have none of that in this house, though I am quite aware that Mordecai and Silas enjoy extreme bawdiness and I admit to blushing often when those two are in their cups and having open discussions. I am the more modest of the relations, I am quite aware. Crinkum-krankum, as far as I’m concerned, is the perfect word to dub a winding and confusing garden wall or an overly elaborate vase.

Speaking of vases, Bubo was particularly fond of this urn, also on display in Congress Park. A pair of painted iron urns, titled Night and Day, were created by Danish neoclassical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and were placed in the park in 1830. This photo shows the night side of the urns. Can you guess why Bubo particularly likes these?

Night and Day Urn, Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, New York

Relatively Candied

I believe I am completely recovered from the holidays – amazing how we look forward to the festive time with family until Day Two of the festivities and then we look forward to getting back to “normal” life – even if that normal life makes us crazy.

Nothing makes one crazy like family.

My family is crazy, and thus craziness is relative.

The Winter Solstice trees have been disposed of (converted to firewood) and most of the lights have been put away (Bubo likes to keep some around her nest). Mordecai and Charles are on a pilgrimage to Antigua and my house is finally my own.

As we all know, my own means just yours truly, a great horned owl, a pygmy yeti, a passel of dragons, various specimens, mobile gargoyles, some Night Story Birds, a handful of Slate Wing Fighting Birds, and whatever comes in through the subterranean canal.

Last night it was a very tiny woman, singing sea shanties and selling cookbooks printed on handmade paper. She had hair the color of yellow split peas and smelled of ham.

Interestingly enough, the first recipe in the cookbook I purchased was a Swedish ham and split pea stew. (With Silas gone and his amazing collection of recipes, one must come up with new culinary options.)

I already attempted the candied ginger. The parlor smells of singed hair and rancid citrus, so perhaps desserts are not my forte.

The stew is in the slow cooker and all I need is some delicious fresh bread.

Yes, this is the time I wish Great Aunt Una lived closer – she bakes a mean bread.

She also makes bread turn mean around 2 am, so anything un-eaten on the counter might bite you come morning. That is the time I do not miss Great Aunt Una.


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Well it is nearly Thanksgiving, and I’m sure many of you have turkeys thawing in the refrigerator, beans ready for snapping and pies begging for the oven. I am in a quonset hut in Sebastian, Florida, listening to pelicans mumble in their sleep while my cousins Eulalia and Willis do a little night fishing. Mordecai, back from the North Country, is quietly smoking his pipe and Bubo is off gallivanting in the balmy southern skies. We are preparing for a quiet and subdued Thanksgiving, hoping that Silas returns from his boar hunting in the Everglades refreshed and reinvigorated and less morose about the loss of his toe. Surprising that he’s so delicate, isn’t it?

Tomorrow we shall eat and give thanks.

Which brings me to today’s word.

Gallimaufry is a noun with two meanings: both a hodgepodge, miscellaneous jumble or medley and a ragout or hash; a dish made of leftovers.

First used in the mid-1500s (sometime after 1545 but sometime before 1555), gallimaufry comes from the Middle French galimafree, which is a kind of sauce or stew. It is most likely an amalgamation of galer (to amuse oneself) and mafrer (to gorge oneself).

Incidentally, mafrer is from the Middle Dutch moffelen, which means to eat or nosh.

So whilst enjoying your holiday – which is sure to be a gallimaufry in all senses of the word – try to take a moment to give thanks for the people in your life, not just the things.

Hopping Mad

At approximately 3 o’clock this morning, a great shriek and a crash echoed through the house. There were bellows, furniture went flying and a brown furry creature the size of a small ottoman rushed past me as I wound my way through the hallways to Silas’s room.

Apparently, Suluk brought back a pygmy yeti from her travels last month.

Apparently, said pygmy yeti bit off Silas’s supernumerary toe.

You must understand: everyone in our family is born with a supernumerary toe. It is often on the left foot for men, and the right foot for women. And we always lose our supernumerary toes in odd and adventurous ways (naturally).

Cousin Octavia lost her toe getting drunk with sirens off the coast of Cuba.

Uncle Ruprecht lost his toe whilst in the Congo. It seems that he was bare-chested wrestling with a chubacabra in some sort of strength display.

Cousin Cate lost hers whilst playing polo on a hippogriff.

Great-Uncle Ebenezer lost his hunting with korrigans in Scotland.

Aunt Agatha lost hers in a freak accident whilst dancing with a Japanese Tatsu.

Silas had managed to keep his toe the longest. Most of us lose ours at a fairly young age, doing something reckless and dangerous. Silas’s ability to keep his supernumerary toe had become a point of pride with him, and the family often theorized on how he would finally lose it.

I suppose losing it to a pygmy yeti – currently a cute and fluffy little cryptid the size of a beagle puppy – was too much of a disappointment for poor Silas.

He left in a black rage before the sun came up. I have his toe in a jar, along with all the other toes of the family (we’ve always kept them, organized and labeled).

And now I have a pygmy yeti. I think he’s rather adorable, don’t you?

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