Flowers for Isolation

Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, daffodils, narcissus, photography, covid, astrazeneca

The week started out so well.

Or maybe I should say last week ended well. This week was a nightmare.

Last Saturday my SO and I got the first of our AstraZeneca COVID vaccines! What a relief that was– the first bit of light at the end of a long, long tunnel. I had very mild side effects that didn’t last long. He didn’t have any side effects. We’re looking forward to our second doses.

I think it was Monday that I found out my entire family had either tested positive for COVID, or was exposed to it. Let me tell you, it’s a special kind of feeling of isolation to hear that nearly all the people you care about in the world have contracted or might contract a deadly and debilitating illness. I don’t recommend it. And my family aren’t covidiots, by any means; it was a real shock to hear the news.

But speaking of the people you care about in the world, on Wednesday my SO was hit with a non-COVID health issue. Because those haven’t taken a pause during the pandemic. And we then discovered the fun of trying to get medical care during a lockdown (he managed to connect with a doctor and avoid a trip to the ER, thankfully).

So, things have been stressful lately. In light of that I decided to share some pictures I’ve taken of spring flowers, because flowers make me feel better. If you’ve also had a rough week, maybe they’ll make you feel better too…

Cherry Blossoms

Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, cherry blossoms, sakura, photography, covid, astrazeneca

Magnolia

Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, magnolia, magnolias, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, magnolia, magnolias, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, magnolia, magnolias, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, magnolia, magnolias, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, magnolia, magnolias, photography, covid, astrazeneca

Daffodils

Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, daffodils, narcissus, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, daffodils, narcissus, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Flowers in Isolation, blog post with photos by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com, spring, daffodils, narcissus, photography, covid, astrazeneca
Photo by Maria Tyutina on Pexels.com (I didn’t take this one but I’m using it because my photos are too disorganized for me to find all the daffodil photos I did take!)

What makes you feel better when things haven’t been going your way? Share in the comments.

Studies have shown that books fight stress. Download some stress relief today:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords (all formats), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Stay safe and happy May 1st,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Vampire’s Garden: Hawthorn

Vampire's Garden: Vampire-Repelling Plants, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained when she was still human, she continues to study plants and have a garden. This post is eleventh in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Botanical Name: Crataegus monogyna (and other species of Crataegus)

Common Names: thornapple, May tree, whitethorn, hawberry, mayhaw, fairy thorn, quickthorn, Bread and Cheese Tree

History: Native to temperate areas around the world, hawthorn is part of the Rosaceae (Rose) family (you can see the resemblance in the berries, which are similar looking to rosehips). Folklore about Hawthorn abounds, and these are only a few examples: In Ancient Greece, branches decorated altars of Hymenaios (God of marriage), and were carried during wedding processions. It is believed that Jesus’ crown of thorns was made of hawthorn (in parts of France it was claimed that the plant would groan and cry on Good Friday). The Celts thought it could heal a broken heart. Before the calendar was changed from the Julian to the Gregorian system, hawthorn bloomed on 1 May, and May Day/Beltane celebrations included gathering the flowering branches (the only time it was allowed). In Great Britain and Ireland it was believed that uprooting or cutting down a hawthorn brought bad luck (with some attributing the failure of the DeLorean Motor Company to their cutting down a hawthorn in order to build a factory). Hawthorns have strong associations with fairies, and lone trees were thought to be especially powerful and most beloved of the fair folk.

Vampires: Starting in Serbia and spreading throughout the Balkan region, it was believed that only stakes made of hawthorn or ash could kill a vampire. In Bosnia, people would wear hawthorn twigs to funerals, dropping them as they left the cemetery; if the deceased rose as a vampire, they would have to stop to pick up the twigs, allowing the living to return home safely. The thorns were also placed in a recently deceased person’s clothing to “pin” them to the coffin and keep them from rising.

Language of Flowers Meaning: Hope

Cultivation: There’s a hawthorn for almost any hardiness zone, from Zones 4 to 11 according to the USDA, and as far north as Zone 1 (just below the tundra) in Canada. Hawthorn will grow in full sun or part shade. They’ll tolerate most types of soil, although they prefer rich, well-drained soil. They’re also drought tolerant. Growing hawthorn from seed is difficult and time-consuming– it’s easier to transplant a sucker or seedling. It’s possible to graft one type of hawthorn onto the seedling of another type. You can also use hawthorn as rootstock to graft other plants, mainly medlar and pear. Flowers generally bloom from May to June. Hawthorn is used as a hedge plant and as ornamentals– just be mindful of the thorns. Once established, hawthorns need little attention, other than fertilizer in spring, and some water during prolonged dry periods. It is also resistant to road salt and air pollution, making it ideal for urban areas.

Uses:

Medicinal: The flowers, leaves, and berries of Crataegus laevigata and other species have been used since the first century CE to treat heart disease. Science is starting to back up hawthorn’s use for treating a variety of cardiovascular issues, although more studies need to be done to confirm results and determine things like dosage. The dried fruits of Chinese (C. pinnatifida, shān zhā in Chinese) and Japanese (C. cuneata, called sanzashi in Japanese) hawthorn species are used in traditional medicine as a digestive aid.

Caution: Taking too much hawthorn can cause cardiac arrhythmia and low blood pressure. Some people may also experience headache, a racing heart, and nausea. Do not use if you are taking digoxin. It’s best to be safe and avoid hawthorn if pregnant or breast feeding.

Culinary: The “haws” (berries) can be used to make jam, jelly, sauces, or wine (although since they’re an important winter food for wildlife, you might prefer to leave them on the plants. The young spring leaves and flower buds can also be eaten cooked or raw. In Mexico, the fruit of a local hawthorn species is made into candy called rielitos.

Wildlife: Hawthorn is a source of food and shelter (especially in winter) for birds and mammals, as well as an important source of nectar for insects. It also provides food for the larvae of many butterflies and moths.

Bonsai: Many species of hawthorn can be used for bonsai, including common hawthorn (C. monogyna), Japanese hawthorn (C. cuneata), thornless hawthorn (C. nitida), and ornamental varieties like Crataegus lavigata ‘Paul’s scarlet’.

Other Uses: First Nations people of Western Canada used the thorns as fish hooks and for minor surgeries.

Mara’s Uses: Although Mara would likely use hawthorn in tonics for her clients, its traditional use against vampires might leave her a little reluctant.

Further Reading:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Wikipedia: Crataegus

Vampires: Hawthorn

Six Ways to Stop a Vampire

WebMD

Mt. Sinai

How to Grow Hawthorns

Hardy Fruit Tree- Hawthorn

Gardening 101: Hawthorn

Hawthorn- a Foraging Guide

Hawthorn- bride of the hedgerow

Hawthorn- Tree of the Wee Folk

Hawthorn as Bonsai

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

A Lesson in Education

A lesson on education, blog post, aspasia s. bissas, lessons, classes, school, learning, language, french, greek, home schooling, unschooling, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Kate Graur on Pexels.com

I had an unusual linguistic upbringing. Growing up, I heard mostly Greek at home (I spoke a mix of Greek and English). I also lived in a French province for the first nine years of my life. When I started school, it was at an English school, with French lessons starting in grade 1 (we eventually moved to an anglophone province, and I continued taking French until I graduated). My mom taught me the basics in Greek, and I had a very small amount of Greek school on weekends (I don’t think it amounted to a full year).

I never heard French at home, except when flipping past the French channels on TV. I never had anyone to speak French with outside of classes, and I only occasionally read anything in French. But I heard Greek constantly, spoke it often, and read and wrote it occasionally. I’d have conversations all the time with older relatives (granted, they did most of the talking, but I still felt I had a solid grasp of Greek). If anyone asked I would have said I was fluent in Greek and knew some French.

Then I decided to take lessons.

a lesson in education, blog post, aspasia s. bissas. classes, lessons, school, learning, homeschooling, unschooling, french, languages, france, greek, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Matt Hardy on Pexels.com

I had a language learning app taking up space on my phone, so I finally decided to give it a try to see if it was worth hanging on to. I chose French as the language to learn since I’d been wanting to improve my skills for a while. The app starts off by testing you to see how much you know. I breezed through the test and got to skip ahead to more advanced lessons. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I remembered and how easy much of it was (that said– keeping track of the gender of words and then adjusting all the words in a sentence accordingly is exhausting).

L’homme est canadien (the man is Canadian)
La femme est canadienne (the woman is Canadian)
Les hommes sont canadiens (the men are Canadian)
Les femmes sont canadiennes (the women are Canadian)*

 

(*These aren’t even the most complicated examples– wait until you need to start describing inanimate objects…)

It was great to find out that I wasn’t as bad at French as I thought. And since it was going so well, I decided I’d might as well improve my Greek while I was at it.

Considering Greek is technically my first language (I started picking up English as a toddler), that initial test was not as easy as I expected. Unlike with French, I did not get to skip ahead to more advanced lessons. I discovered I didn’t even know some basics– my vocabulary and spelling are much worse than I realized (but at least my conjugation is good).

After a few minutes on the app, I realized I knew only some Greek and quite a bit more French than I’d assumed. Not what I expected.

It turns out the formal French lessons that I had in school made an impression that’s stuck with me decades later. Meanwhile, learning Greek mostly by “osmosis” let me down. There’s something positive to be said about rote learning and formal education, after all.

My years of absorbing Greek haven’t totally gone to waste. The knowledge I’ve picked up has definitely made the app lessons easier (I’m seriously impressed by anyone who can learn this language from scratch). Since starting the lessons, however, I’ve already seen a major improvement, especially in spelling, vocabulary, and reading. I’m probably only up to an Elementary School level of proficiency so far,  but I finally feel that I’m getting a real grasp on the language I’ve known all my life.

A lesson in education, blog post, aspasia s. bissas, french, greek, france, greece, school, classes, learning, rote memorization, homeschooling, unschooling, formal education, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Josiah Lewis on Pexels.com

As someone who’s always been more inclined to learn on my own rather than take a class, this has been eye opening. It’s amazing the difference that actual lessons can make. I’m excited to keep using the app, not only to keep learning French and Greek, but also to expand on my two years of high-school Spanish, and– hopefully– to learn a new language or two. The next time I’m tempted to learn something new, I think I’m going to find a class to take instead of assuming I can figure it out myself.

How about you– have you taken any classes lately, or are there any you want to take? Share in the comments…

Find out what I can do with language (including a bit of French) by getting my books 🙂

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Hallotober Tag

Hallotober Tag, Halloween, Samhain, October, Autumn, tag, blog post. Aspasia S. Bissas, spooky, aspasiasbissas.com
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

It’s the most wonderful time of the year– and to give it some of the appreciation it deserves, I snagged this tag from A Geek Girl’s Guide. Feel free to post it yourself (please share your link) or leave your answers in the comments 🎃

What’s your favourite thing about October?

Wow, I have to pick only one thing? In that case, what I like best about October is that everything about it feels like home to me. It speaks to my spooky, pumpkin-loving, pagan soul.

Are you a big celebrator of Halloween?

I used to be. I’d decorate the house, carve a jack o’ lantern, and do all kinds of Halloween-themed cooking and baking. I’d have people over and shell out (give out candy). The last few years…not so much. I’m hoping to get back to proper celebrations in future.

What’s your favourite horror movie?

Nothing will ever scare me more than the original Alien movie. As far as I’m concerned it’s the perfect horror film.

Hallotober Tag, Halloween, Samhain, October, Autumn, tag, blog post. Aspasia S. Bissas, spooky, aspasiasbissas.com, alien, aliens, horror, horror movies, xenomorph, ridley scott, ridley scott is an asshole

Would you rather a cosy night in watching horror movies or a big night out in a costume?

I would never willingly choose a big night out. A cozy night in with The Nightmare Before Christmas and a few other spooky/scary movies is perfect.

Which has been your most favourite costume to date?

Confession time: I haven’t liked wearing a costume since I was a kid (I won’t bore you with reasons). But when I was a kid, I went as a fortune teller a couple of times and remember having fun with it. (I should also add that costumes back then were always ruined because it was so cold where I lived. We couldn’t go out without extra layers under the costumes, as well as gloves, hats, scarves, a winter coat, and– worst of all — snow pants on top.)

Hallotober Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, Halloween, Samhain, October, Autumn, tag, blog post. Aspasia S. Bissas, spooky, aspasiasbissas.com, costume, constumes, cold halloween, snowy halloween, ruined costumes
Welcome to my childhood Halloweens. Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina on Pexels.com

Bobbing for apples or pin the hat on the witch?

How about some divination instead?

How do you celebrate Halloween?

I haven’t lately, but I used to go all out with the decorating and cooking and handing out candy, among other things.

Hallotober Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, Halloween, Samhain, October, Autumn, tag, blog post. Aspasia S. Bissas, spooky, aspasiasbissas.com, pumpkin jack o lantern, witch
Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

What’s your least favourite horror?

Anything where regular humans are the monsters. There’s enough of that in real life.

Do you have a favourite trick or treating memory?

When it got dark and dinner was over and my parents would   f i n a l l y   let me go out.

What’s your favourite thing about Halloween?

The feeling in the air.

Hallotober Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, Halloween, Samhain, October, Autumn, tag, blog post. Aspasia S. Bissas, spooky, aspasiasbissas.com, witch, magic, magick, spooky
Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

Scary costume or Silly costume?

Scary. Always.

What’s your favourite Halloween candy?

Chocolate, although I’m the weirdo who also likes candy corn and those molasses candies that exist only at Halloween.

Hallotober Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, Halloween, Samhain, October, Autumn, tag, blog post. Aspasia S. Bissas, spooky, aspasiasbissas.com, molasses candy, halloween candy, candy, toffees, weird halloween candy, weird halloween toffees

Who is your favourite black cat, real or fictional?

I love all black kitties because they are awesome, but I especially love my black kitty, who chose our home to be his home ♥

Hallotober Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, Halloween, Samhain, October, Autumn, tag, blog post. Aspasia S. Bissas, spooky, aspasiasbissas.com, cat, cats, black cat
Black cats rule! Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

What’s your favourite thing about Hallotober? Share in the comments!

Looking for a spooky read? Download my books…

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Happy Equinox!

Happy Equinox! Blog post by Aspasía S. Bissas, autumn, leaves, leaf dress, fairy, fae, goddess, nymph, seasonal, seasons, pagan, paganism, polytheism, polytheist, good wishes
Photo by Alise AliNari on Pexels.com

It’s the first day of Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere, my favourite season (and not just because you can apparently make a dress from the pretty leaves). My part of the world does Autumn perfectly, with colourful leaves that crunch underfoot, and crisp air tinged with wood smoke, and gourds– so many gourds. There’s an eldritch feel all around that has nothing to do with spooky decorations. And for me, every change of season is an opportunity for a fresh start, so here’s hoping that this season brings the positive changes to the world that we all so desperately need…

What’s your favourite part of the season?

Happy Equinox…

Aspasía S. Bissas