Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"Good Mornink!"

"Good mornink!"

It's an odd experience to have a doll who's been sitting on your hutch for years suddenly speak to you. "That," I said, "is a matter of opinion."

"You are not happy?" Matushka exclaimed, the circles on her cheeks turning pinker at this shocking revelation.

"Sorry. It's not you, I'm just having a bad day."

"Hmm--we are--how you say--havink confidential!" she said, clearly believing she'd recalled an appropriate phrase. The little Russian nesting doll in her peasant dress and babushka was definitely enjoying herself.

"When I get up at dawn, I want to experience a beautiful sunrise, not hike into a creepy forest where I'll meet someone who gave me nightmares as a child.."

"Is adventure and learnink experience!" she said with great enthusiam. Matushka had been riding in my tummy pack facing forward, but now she swivelled around to look me in the face.

"Going to meet Baba Yaga is--disconcerting," I said, not adding that it had creeped me out when in the blink of an eye our entire tour group had disappeared leaving us alone.

"You are afraid of her?" the bow lips pursed, as she tried to suppress an amused smile, and her eyes twinkled.

"She scared the chicken soup out of me when I was a kid--pinching Hansel's finger to see if he was plump enough to eat, poisoning Snow White with that apple!"

"You are grown woman, surely you know the difference beteen real fear and fairy tales," she chided.

"Her fence is made of bones."

"A reminder of death, that is all."

"Her hut sits on chicken legs!"

"Is funny, no?" she chortled.

"She zooms around in a morter pounding on anything that gets in her way with a pestle."

The doll shivered. "Be careful!"

"Another thing. Don't you think it's a bit much for the Enchantress to make us walk all the way? It's fine for the young ones, but some of us are getting too old for this kind of thing. We deserve some respect, a little kindness and understanding."

"Good point!" she exclaimed. "Remember it. Now, we are gettink close, is time for me to hide." She wiggled and squirmed until she was lying down inside my pouch and then whispered, "Zip quickly."

Matushka was right, we'd walked and talked the morning away and Crypt Lake was clearly visible through each gap in the trees. "I wish they'd named it something else," I muttered, but all I heard in return was a muffled,"Shhh!"

Despite Matushka's former assurances, I found myself walking more and more slowly as a feeling of dread began to build. Earlier the birds had been singing and a cool morning breeze had ruffled through the leaves, but now the heat was oppresive and as it approached noon, the only sounds I heard were my labored breathing and my lagging footsteps crunching the twig-littered dirt path.


I nearly stumbled over something snagged in a circlet of plastic from a soda six-pack. It went mute and froze in terror as I bent down to have a closer look. Puffed up like a blow fish, its spines extended, a tiny hedgehog lay on his back with his little legs poking straight out. I took a pair of manicure scissors from my pack and held my breath as I snipped, praying I wouldn't cut anything vital. After I put it right side up, it hesitated a moment as though I'd frightened it to death, then scurried off into the underbrush.

For some reason the opportunity of doing a small kindness cheered me but my courage nearly failed again, when a few minutes later I came upon a small clearing in the woods and saw Baba Yaga's hut with its bone fence surrounding it.

"Thinks are not always what the seem," I heard Matushka whisper.

"Riiight. . . . . ."



The Enchantress gives me a doll.
A doll…
After all these years.

The day I put my dolls away
High in my closet
I cried.
My step-daddy insisted
I didn’t have to put them away.
But I knew it was time
To put them
For good…

I examine this doll.
She is completely handmade,
Not plastic.
Even her eyes
Are made of something real
Like ebony.

She says her name is Nauscka.
She wears sweet little clothes
Like a child.
Blue sweater, skirt, socks,
Little Mary Jane shoes
With a button to hold them on.

I hold back,
Not wanting to believe.

I suddenly realize
All the travelers are gone.
Nauscka tells me to follow
The crow.

I am silent
And so is she.

My skirt has large pockets
And she fits inside
Where she hides.

She begins to bounce
Up and down.
I look around
Someone is coming.
I hide.
Dreadful hooded bandits
Pass on the dusty road.

How did she know?
She says nothing.

She only tells me where to turn
Soon we are at a dreadful house
Near a lake.

The gate of bones moan
When we approach.

I look down at Nauscka,
She nods

I timidly knock.
The door is flung open
Looking into the eyes of death himself.
But the ragged thing standing
Is somewhat womanly.
She spits her words at me,
“What do YOU want?”

“I need directions to the
Camp of the Amazons.”
My eyes wide with fear.
She sees my fear,
And smirks with satisfaction.
“Please come in, dear
And we will see what we can do.”

Inside is so dark,
I bump into stacks of things.
She sits down
lights her pipe,
And blows smoke in my face.
“I will tell you the way,
but you must do something for me
in return.”

I knew this was coming.

“Like, what?” I ask.
“Don’t be so smug,” she puffs.
“Me?” Oh, yeah, yes me…

I feel Nauscka press me
In warning.
I change my tone.
“What would you like me to do?”

She rolls her eyes around
And squints.
“I’ll think of it tomorrow,
Tonight you can stay out back.”

We stay in a tiny shed
And sleep on straw.
In the night
Nauscka bumps me
To notice things
In the dark.
I see Baba’s silhouette.
She blows at the clouds
They move quickly away.
Leaving the night clear
And full of stars.

The house rumbles to life.
Huge chicken legs appear
To lift the house
And walk away.
All I can do is gasp

Just before dawn
A burst of red light
Runs across the field.
The chicken house runs after it
And catches it.
A cackle echoes.

Nauscka whispers to me
“Pretend you are asleep”
And I do.

I can feel Baba peering at me.
She shakes me roughly.
“Girl, time for work.”
The sky is still dark.
I blink slowly and yawn.

She puts me in her kitchen
The house is a mess.
Piles of stuff in disarray.
And then I remember the chase,
Well, of course
everything inside fell over too.

But I don’t ask or comment.
And Nauscka gently pats me.

Baba leaves me to work
Nauscka amazingly
Does most of the work
She cleans, organizes, polishes.
Somehow in a very short time,
The task is done.

Baba Yaga comes in
Squints at me.
Looks around
Shakes her head.

“Huh,” she says
with her hands on her hips.
She gives me directions to the camp.

I am almost out the door.
Baba clears her throat.
I stop.
“Is there anything you would like
to ask me?”
I hesitate…
“What was the red light this morning?
“Ahh,” she says,
“it was dawn coming too early.
So I had to hold it back.”
She smiles her toothless smile
and nods.

“And you, girl, how did you
clean my house so quickly?”

Pressure from my pocket.

I smile,
“With kindness
And sweetness.”

“Bah,” She waves me away,
“Get out of here,
Be on your way!”

I start to run
Out the door.
As far away as I can.
When I am truly far away.
I take Nauscka out of my pocket.
I hug her and rock her.
And she hugs me back
With her little hands.

So long ago,
Putting my dolls away
broke my heart.
And now Nauscka
Looks up at me
As if she knows.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

One Day...

Entrance To Marie's Shop in New Orleans

Sunday, September 04, 2005

One of Baba's House Elves

One of Baba's Many Faces

Friday, September 02, 2005

Sugar Skulls How To!

A Día de los Muertos altar without sugar skulls is like ....a mega let down! It's a must-have. Sure, you can be lazy and go buy pre-decorated skulls, but if really want to show your love go the extra step and make your skulls. It's the sweetest thing you can do for the one you love.

And for those of you who are hard pressed to find the supplies in your local markets, I'd try to Google them...the Molds anyway.

Anita Marie


1 set of plastic skull molds
Mixing bowl and spoon
2 cups of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of meringue powder
2 teaspoons of water
1 piece of cardboard, approximately 5" x 5"
Mix the dry ingredients together in the bowl. Sprinkle the water in and continue to mix until the sugar is completely moistened and becomes the consistency of moist sand. Scoop some of the mixture into the mold and pack it evenly and firmly. Place the piece of cardboard on top of the mold and quickly flip it over so the sugar skull pops out. Very carefully slide it onto a flat surface.
Continue making the rest of the skulls. Let them dry for 24 hours in a dry place.

2/3 cup of water
1/2 cup meringue powder
2 pounds of powdered sugar
Electric mixer
Concentrated food coloring (the kind professional cake bakers use)
1 pastry or Ziploc bag
Plastic cups
Blend the ingredients with an electric mixer until the peaks form in the icing. If using assorted colors, scoop the white icing into separate bowls and add a dab of different colored food coloring in each one. Mix again. Scoop the icing into the pastry or Ziploc bag (snip the corner for the latter). Continue until you have several bags of different colors. Keep sealed and refrigerated until use.

Baba's Boudoir

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You can use all of these keys but you should be very cautious about using the one in the bottom right hand corner which opens the door to Baba Yaga's Boudoir. Your tongue and eyeballs could be taken by 'the hands' who work for Baba and end up in her locksmith's workshop, ready to be crafted into a new key.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Sugar Skulls For Gail

Here you go Gail, its on me...choose yourself a sweet one...
Anita Marie