Another Rip Roarin’ Retrograde!

Everyday Adventures

So… how are things in your neck of the woods? It’s glitch-city here, folks.

For those not up on the astrology, we’re winding down the most recent Mercury Retrograde. It’s technically over on the 22nd, but the shadow zone hangs around until October 6th or so, so if you’re feeling a bit on edge, remember that it’s just the way things are right now, take a deep breath, and try not to overreact.

I know, easier said than done, right?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had tech issues, short tempers, miscommunications, computer problems, missing mail, and more to contend with. Did the planetary alignment make these things happen? No, of course not. I don’t believe that astrology is a cause and effect sort of thing.. Instead, I take the view that astrology is a way to remind us of things that happen anyway, and a tool for insight and broader perspective. Not that the stars or planets predetermine my life (I reject that just as much as I do the concept of predestination), but they reflect it.

So when things were going haywire and someone said it was Mercury Retrograde (which happens four times a year, on average), I was like ‘oh, right, that makes sense.’

For me, Mercury Retrograde is a reminder to be kinder. To give people the benefit of the doubt. To back up my computer if it’s been a while. To be more careful about the important things.

I did wonder aloud to Todd the other night, though, if the recent retrograde wasn’t coloring our responses to Duncan’s antics, lately. He’s developed a persistent habit of nuisance barking while we’re trying to work on one thing or another. He wants to play, duh, but we can’t play just because we’re home. A couple times this week I’ve tried to wear him out a little (a tired dog is a good dog) but even the 45 minute walk last night didn’t get us much of a reprieve (it was a little better, I think, but I was more worn out than he was).

Tonight is the annual Witches’ Night Out in nearby Boston, GA. We went last year and really enjoyed the shops (check out the video here: 2015 Witches Night Out) and it’s a toss-up whether we’ll bring Duncan with us or not. On the one hand, it’d be great for socializing him and could tucker him out. It could also be fun. Plus he was really good when someone stopped to talk to us on our walk last night–barely woofed at all and eventually layed down and chilled until we were done.

On the other hand, it could be a night of dog-free drama is we don’t take him, he could get over-stimulated from the crowds, and we’d have to take turns popping into the shops.

It’s a dilemma. One we’ll decide upon depending on how we feel when we get home from work, I guess.

I’m going to remind myself to just breathe. “Witch” me well 🙂

49 | Creative Prompts: Omens

64 Arts

This post is part of an ongoing series exploring the everyday applications of The 64 Arts.

As we wrap up this relatively brief foray into omens and related topics–let’s face it, you know whether you buy into superstitions, omens, etc. or not and it’s not my goal to convince you–we’ve come to my favorite part of each Art, the creative prompts.

See, what I said above is true: I’m not here to convince you one way or another. But my goal with this series is to encourage us all to live more creative lives. And that means approaching topics in creative ways. So here we go!

1. Have your chart done.

Chart? You mean astrology? Yeppers!

Now, you might be wondering why I believe (as friends have opined) that clouds of gas hundreds of thousands of light years away have any bearing whatsoever on my day to day life. Let me quote Guggenheim Grotto:

It’s not that I do or don’t believe
It’s that I just don’t not believe
In god and aliens and love at first sight…

And astrology. Some folks have said that since the Moon can affect the tides, and we’re made up largely of water, it’s not impossible that celestial events affect our pedestrian existence. And then there’s the point I read about how we’re not who we are because of where the stars were when we were born, but that we were born when and where we were in relation to the stars because of who we are. I tend to really like that last bit, because it puts astrology in the same light as reading Tarot and other forms of “divination:” a tool for reflection, meditation, and insight.

For instance, Mercury is about to go retrograde on September 18, which signifies an increase in technical issues, computer problems, and communication upsets. Now, most people see this as a prediction of doom, gloom, and general miserableness for 3 weeks. I prefer to see it as a reminder to be more careful with what I say, not to jump to conclusions, give people the benefit of the doubt, take my time, and backup my computer data. See, it’s all about perspective.

But I digress.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to have your chart done. Not just your sun sign, but the whole shebang. While you can pay people to do these for you, I’ve found a really fabulous resource in and if you know the time and place of your birth you can generate your entire chart and look up all the bits and pieces to explain it. And if you’d like some very down-to-earth astrological advice, I suggest heading over to I’ve especially enjoyed her “Style Your Ascendant” series (your ascendant being your “rising sign” and the sign other people initially perceive you as; for instance, I’m sun/moon Taurus with Virgo rising, so most people’s first impressions of me fit the Virgo mold more so than Taurus).

2. Grab your crayons and destress with this coloring page I made you.

See, one of the many “side effects” of paying attention to superstitions, omens, astrology and more could be a propensity towards worrying. Worrying leads to stress and stress leads to all kinds of other bad things. Not to mention, stress can bring about a lot of those things we’re already worrying about, or seem to, self-fulfilling prophecy style. Apparently the simple act of coloring can be very therapeutic (who knew? Oh, right, I did–it’s been a sure-fire way to bust through a creative block for ages).


Just click the pdf link here jvanderbeek_omens_coloringbookpage to download a full-size version.

And if you have watercolor pencils (or my Portable Plein Air kit, now available on etsy) you can absolutely print this out on watercolor paper and have even more fun with it!

3. Writing prompt: Hindsight is 20/20.

Sure, omens are all about portents of the future, but what about the past? Once a chapter of our lives has come to a close, it’s far easier to see the signposts along the way that we may have missed or brushed off as nothing in the moment. What can we learn about trusting our gut and our intuition by examining the past?

Along the lines of ‘those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it,’ take an experience from your past (or a friend’s or family member’s past, if that’s what comes to mind more easily–we can learn from other’s mistakes just as much as our own!) and write about lessons learned and ways it can be applied in the future. Or draw something, collage something, create something from it. Anything goes, medium is up to you.

In my comic book, Rings on Her Fingers, I talked about the different signs and omens I ignored leading up to my first marriage (which, by virtue of calling it the first one, I’m sure you can guess that it didn’t last–not really a spoiler there). Case in point:



If you choose to do one, two, or all of these prompts, I’d love to see what comes out of it. Leave a comment here with a link or tag me (@scrapsoflife) on twitter or instagram!

49 | Clovers, Comets, and Crows

64 Arts

This post is part of our ongoing creative exploration of the 64 Arts.

As I’ve done more research and reading about omens I’ve noticed two common elements of most omens:

  1. The appearance and incidence is natural in origin (as opposed to man-made).
  2. The appearance or incidence is naturally scarce or rare.

This kinda goes back to my hooting owl example: not so powerful if its a regular thing.

I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover

Clover is plentiful in fields all over the place, but most only have 3 heart-shaped leaves per stem. Since the 4-leaved variety is rare, obviously it’s a sign of good luck, right?

Well, maybe to an naturally optimistic soul. But if there’s one constant among the undeveloped cultures (where belief is superstitions and omens is more common), it’s that the different and unusual will be feared as often, if not more so, than praised.

But what’s lucky for one could mean ill for another.

The Case of Halley’s Comet

Before science was anywhere near explaining the various lights in our sky, people made stories up about them–what they were, what they symbolized–and still do. Astrology is still practiced (seriously by some, casually by others) all over the world and while some do invest the stars with the ability to predict the future, their divinations aren’t exactly omens (or at least not all of them, we’ll go that far in safety, I think).

But when I star streaks across the sky, a meteor shower rains light from the heavens, or a comet burns its way over the horizon… that’s apt to get some folks’ attention!

As early as men and women could conceive of some higher power, the sky was often where those celestial beings lived. Any changes in the sky were considered their judgement on the actions of the mortals below. So when Halley’s comet streaked across the sky back in 1066, with war looming in England, a war that saw  the death of their king? Well,  obviously, a comet is bad news. But what about the other guy (William the Conqueror) who rose to power thanks to that same battle.

Two sides to ever coin. Even the fiery ones.

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

And speaking of balance, some omens do take that into consideration from the get-go.

Magpies (please excuse my alliterative choice in the title of this post) were, apparently, pretty scarce once upon a time, and to see them was considering auspicious, indeed. Of course, how many you saw–whether it was at one time or over the course of a day I’m a little unclear of–definitely mattered.

There are many versions of the old nursery rhyme/folk song but they all start with

One for sorrow
Two for joy(or mirth)

Then they continue along, diverging between the overall good or neutral and the more negative.

Three for a wedding
Four for a death (or birth)–see, now we’re getting into weird territory

Some even had three for a girl and four for a boy.  Some versions stop at four, but for those that continue on, five and six stay pretty constant at silver and gold, respectively, so I suppose we can take that for people being as concerned with wealth then as we are now.

Seven for a secret is pretty common, though, again, a secret can be good or bad, and some versions I’ve read or heard referenced say seven for a witch. The version recorded in an 1846 book finishes

Seven for a secret
not to be told
Eight for heaven
Nine for hell
And ten for the devils own self.

I guess you really didn’t want to see more than 8 magpies for sure, right?!

While it was a non-reference book that reminded me of the magpies, I first heard of this rhyme many years ago while listening to a Guggenheim Grotto album and one of the tracks was “One For Sorrow” and I wondered what the symbolism behind the magpie was in the lyrics.

Incidentally, magpies are no longer scarce in England, so your chances of seeing a tidings of magpies (not a typo, that is their correct collective noun) are a lot higher than they used to be. So maybe take that, and all of this, really, with a grain of salt and a flutter of feathers.

These ominous examples are all from ages past, what sort of things would constitute omens in this day and age, were one to believe in such things. In the natural versus man-made distinction all that crucial as we continue to innovate and automate and rely on technology? Does a clap of thunder out of a clear blue sky make you think twice about something you just said or thought or are planning to do?

Definitely worth pondering, I think…

Cosmic Cocktails | Pisces | Sleeps With the Fishes


And here we are, at the end of our jaunt among the cosmos, with our final sign in the zodiac: Pisces.

Sleeps with the Fishes, Pisces cocktail

I’ve dated to astrological fish in my time and, with a little reflection, I see that they are each on totally opposite ends of the Piscean spectrum.

The high school Pisces definitely had that little-white-lie habit down, along with the straying eye. The creative version of the truth may have made things nice and rosy for a while, but a tissue of lies is pretty flimsy, and eventually fell apart. But boy did he have charm.

The fiance Pisces, on the other hand, uses his creativity for good, not evil, but doesn’t have a lot else in common with his sun-sign generalities (which tells me that there’s gotta be some super-strong influence elsewhere in his chart, to reflect the better qualities he exhibits).

What things are common to many a Pisces that are totally lacking in Todd?

Well, money flows through fish-fingers like water, but my atypical Pisces is an accountant–managing other people’s money as well as his own–and is amazing at sticking to a savings plan. Our fishy friends are not the best student, often day-dreaming during class but excel in socializing. He is sometimes shy and reserved, but is pretty good about making decisions (though professes to have gone through that in the past).

But lets leave the personal comparisons aside for now and move on to larger Piscean virtues.

They are compassionate, forgiving, and often in touch with the concepts of past lives, future potential, and the multiverse. Their charm can cross the line into smarm and once they decide they love someone, all faults are ignored and nothing can possibly go wrong. Which might sound like a good thing at first glance but seldom holds true for long. They also like to change ideals mid-stream, it’s that whole mutable sign thing.

Swims With the Fishes

1 oz Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Mango Nectar
3/8 oz Melon Liqueur
1/4 oz Lime Juice

Combine over ice and shake until the mixture is as icy cold as the streams salmon swim in. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a Sweedish Fish candy.

Snipping the candy with some kitchen shears to make a notch will help perch the candy on the edge of the glass rather than leaving it to drown in the melony depths.

And our resident Pisces approves.


This series has dealt with a lot of personality generalities. If you’re interested in a cocktail made just for you, check out my Character Cocktail service.


To finish out the month of July I’m going to be sharing cocktail recipes from other sources (aka, not my recipes, but ones that have been sent to me to share), starting with a fun round-up of Olympic-inspired drinks next week. In August we’ll be doing another Meet the… wine series before starting our new cocktail series in September.


Cosmic Cocktails | Aquarius | The Bleeding Heart


As we wind down our trip through the cocktail cosmos, we come to our next-t0-last sign: Aquarius.

The Bleeding Heart, Aquarian Cocktail

Symbolized by the water-bearer, Aquarians often find themselves happiest when helping others–both in face-to-face, person-to-person encounters as well as large-scale humanitarian efforts that benefit many. They also tend to be incredibly idealistic, but with follow-through: eschewing businesses that employ third-world factory labor, for instance, or even those without corporate recycling programs. With this idealism can come a rigidity, though, that we wouldn’t normally expect in an air sign.

What is in line with their air-sign brethren is the propensity to do their own thing, society be damned. Often ahead of the curve, if you find an Aquarian you click with on something, watch them! They will spot trends and spout truths yet to be proven and be off on the next thing by the time it catches on. But you have to be quick, our Aqua slips down that stream of consciousness and keeps moving right along.

Loyal friends, once you’re in sync with an Aqua you can count on them for life. They are often strikingly handsome, though not always in a conventional sense, and often so likable, even if you don’t agree with anything they say. “New Age” medicine is much more their speed, when ill, than the more Westernized “there’s a pill for that” theory, even to following not-exactly-legal sorts or regimens.

Now, if you happen to be born between January 21st and February 18th and do not recognize yourself in the above, have no fear. Probably the most over-riding feature of Aquarius is their different-ness. Not just from all the other signs, but within the sign, from member to member. It’s not even a matter of being outwardly quirky, sometimes the individuality is more subtle, in a can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it way.

The Bleeding Heart

2 oz Vodka
1 1/4 oz Banana Liqueur (like 99 Bananas)
1/4 oz Creme de Menthe (clear)
2 oz Club Soda
1/8 oz Grenadine

Combine vodka and the liqueurs in a mixing glass over ice and shake until icy. Stir in the club soda, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Pour the grenadine (preferably homemade or locally-sourced) over the back of a bar spoon or add with an eye-dropper. Swirl just before ready to drink.

I mean bleeding heart in the best possible sense, of course, but you probably already figured that out.

Making your own grenadine is not tough at all (equal parts pomegranate juice and sugar, cook until sugar dissolves and the mixture reduces by half–simmer slow or you’ll end up with more of a brown mixture–and a splash of orange flower water to finish) and worth it, especially if you like Shirley Temples and other non-cocktails.

This drink might sound a little bananas, but it’s bracing, gets straight to the point, and is definitely ahead of it’s time. Strong-willed, too.