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A Haunted Ohio Attraction

October 31, 2013

Since it's Halloween, I wanted to tell you about one of Ohio's most haunted attractions, the Ohio State Reformatory located in Mansfield, Ohio.  The reformatory was opened in 1886 and thousands of inmates served time there until it closed in 1990.  The prison does have a spooky history, seeing has how many inmates died while incarcerated.  Some of them died of illness, others committed suicide, and a few were reported to have been murdered.  There is a cemetery at the prison where more than 200 bodies have been buried.  Some famous murders occurred here when two former prisoners were released and went on a killing spree.  The murderers were dubbed the "Mad Dog" killers and one of their victims was the farmer who worked at the Reformatory.  His wife and daughter were also murdered on site.  As if this wasn't creepy enough, the warden's own wife died within the prison's walls as well.  She accidentally got shot when a hidden gun became dislodged and went off.  The warden himself died of a heart attack right in his own office while he was on the job. 

Since the prison is a creepy place, it is the ideal location to celebrate Halloween.  The haunted prison experience is available to those interested every fall.  Personally, I don't think I could handle it!  I scare very easily and am the girl everyone laughs at in movies because I shut my eyes and plug my ears during the frightening parts.  I've also been known to jump out of my seat several times in movies that aren't even horror flicks, so the idea that I have to pay for people to jump out at me in real life sounds like torture.

Besides the haunted prison experience, there are also options to go on ghost hunts in the prison.  The ghost hunts are available year round at the cost of $70 a person, and you are given the freedom to explore the prison on your own.  These are done from 8pm to 5am, so you stay overnight!  The Ohio State Reformatory has been featured on the show Ghost Hunters and many who have done the overnight stay have reported hearing footsteps, hearing conversations when no one is there, and seeing figures.  A friend of mine was trying to get me to do this, but I'm way too chicken.  I did go on a historical tour of the reformatory during the day and that was enough for me!
Here are some pictures of the former prison...You may actually recognize it, as it was featured in several Blockbuster hits such as The Shawshank Redemption and Con Air.  Interestingly enough, the prison can also be booked for weddings and bridal shows.

How will you be celebrating Halloween?

South Africa Haul

October 30, 2013
I thought I'd do a haul post on the souvenirs that I got on my visit to Cape Town.  My pals and I had free time some nights and spent a lot of time shopping at the V&A Waterfront and Green Market for items to take back home with us.  I bought a couple of things in Johannesburg, but did the majority of my shopping in Cape Town.

Here is what I bought:

Zulu Wire Baskets:  I really became obsessed with these wire baskets because they are handmade and just so cool looking!  They can be decorative or practical.  I bought a huge one that I might put fruit in.  A neat thing about these baskets is that the starting point is actually the center of the basket, with the outside part of it being the last part that gets woven.  I'm keeping the black one for myself and giving away some of the other ones as gifts.

Soweto Spoon: Okay, before you totally judge me for buying a spoon listen to my reasons why!  When I was living in Europe I sent my grandma some spoons for her spoon collection, but it turns out that she didn't actually have a spoon collection.  It was my aunt who had the spoon collection and my grandma collected plates.  Since I had sent her several spoons for her collection that she didn't even have, she decided to start one because of me.  She ended up getting spoons from all over the world because my aunt is Peruvian and my cousin joined the Navy and did a lot of traveling.  When my grandmother died, I ended up with her spoon collection and decided to continue it.  It is very appropriate that I add the Soweto spoon to the collection because my grandmother really enjoyed hearing about my trips and she had all of my travel destinations on my 6 month trip around the world memorized and would tell everyone about me.  :)  Before she died, she asked me about my next travel plan and I told her about how I had the possibility to go to South Africa.  That was one of the last conversations that we had.

Beaded Crafts:  The next two items aren't elaborate like the Zulu telephone wire baskets, but I thought they were pretty neat.  The first one is a mesh covering that can go over a pitcher.  It's perfect for use outdoors to keep the bugs out.  The second item is a Christmas ornament.

Beauty Products: In the Cape Town area there are a lot of Woolworths, a department store.  I browsed the beauty section and picked up some Ylang ylang lotion and some Juniper Berry & Lemon bath gel and lotion.  I also really wanted to try something with Rooibos in it since it is so big in South Africa, so I picked up some day cream with SPF in it.  In the Jo'burg airport, we had a lot of time to kill so we did some shopping.  I ended up purchasing a Jolly Jewels nail polish by Golden Rose.  I had never heard of it before and was informed that it is a Turkish brand. 

Literature:  At Biblionef, I bought some books by South African authors to take back to the United States with me.  I picked books that I thought would be useful in an early childhood classroom.  I also bought An African Christmas Cloth directly from the author when we visited her in her home.  It was so cool because the "illustrations" in the book aren't drawn...they are all hand stitched and then photographed!  She even let us look at some of the cloths that eventually became the pages of her book.  

Accessories:  While living in Korea I became familiar with the store Accessorize, but there are none by me at all here in the States.  Even though the store isn't South African, I did buy a purse and some earrings from there.

I also bought a handcrafted beaded necklace that was made in South Africa and a scarf from the V&A Waterfront...It was on sale and I couldn't resist.

Food:  I bought some rusks to take with me, but my friend and I ended up eating them all in Jo'burg!  Rusks are a type of hard biscuit that can be dunked into tea or coffee.  Rusks are traditional type of Afrikaner snack, but they are also eaten at breakfast.  My friends and I ended up loving the "tomato sauce" that was used on fries.  It just tasted so much better than the ketchup that we are used to, so we all brought an extra bottle home besides one of my friends who bought two bottles.

Heart String Craft:  These are made by mothers in townships and provide them with income that can help support their families.  There were different ones to pick from, but the one I liked best had hearts with the word "love" on it and then it was also written in three other South African languages on the remaining hearts.  You can hang the string up on your wall and then put pictures underneath.  

Travel Must Have: After our long flight over to South Africa, my friend was complaining that her ankles were so swollen that it looked like she had cankles.  They were pretty bad and I started chuckling at her until I looked down at my own ankles and realized that I had cankles, too!  They didn't go away for a few days.  One of the other girls we were traveling with recommended buying compression socks for the flight back.  I ended up doing so and they were so worth it.  I'm proud to report that I had no cankles from the return flight.  I'm going to bring these with me every time I travel.

What are some of the souvenirs you've purchased and love from your travels?

Cape Town Diaries: Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens & Gold of Africa Museum

This will be my last installment of my Cape Town Diaries series describing what I did on the study tour I took to Cape Town, South Africa.  At this point in the trip, the study tour was officially over so all of the students besides myself and three others flew back to the States.  The four of us decided to extend our trip a little and spend an extra day in Cape Town and then head on to spend some time in Johannesburg.

Since our study tour ended, we were responsible for covering the cost of our hotel and finding our own accommodation.  We tried to continue our stay at the Breakwater Lodge by the V&A Waterfront, but for some reason they would not let the four of us share a suite that had two rooms with two twin beds in it.  Instead they told us that we had to book two separate suites, which was getting to be a bit pricey considering there are plenty of other options in Cape Town.  We thought about staying at Vicky's Bed & Breakfast in Khayelitsha because one of our instructors at OSU recommended the place to us.  Khayelitsha is a township outside of the city that was formed when blacks were forced from their homes by the government under the Group Areas Act.  Vicky sought to educate foreigners and tourists who stayed in her B&B about what life was like in the township.  She used her connections to give back to the community.  Vicky was reported to have been a lively, welcoming host, so we were pretty sad when we found out that Vicky was stabbed to death supposedly by her own husband in the B&B.  In the end we chose to stay at Parliament Hotel, which is located right in the city center.  The experience was a bit different for us because while we were staying in the Breakwater Lodge, we were a bit sheltered.  Since the Parliament Hotel is located in a more urban setting, we were exposed to a few things that we did not encounter in the V&A Waterfront, such as seeing a woman shooting up drugs into her arm on the street. 

On our last day, my friend Scott and I decided that we would visit Kirstenbosch Gardens.  It had been something we had been wanting to go and do, but on the days that we had free time, it was pouring rain, so we keep putting it off.  Unfortunately, we were in Cape Town for the start of their rainy season and it was pouring and cold by the time we arrived at Kirstenbosch.  We found out that there was a small tram that had a roof over it, so we decided to buy a ticket for that since walking around the gardens in a downpour would have made us miserable.  Our guide had a very thick accent and I had a lot of trouble understanding him.  I could tell my friend did as well judging by his responses which were, "Oh, that's interesting," "Uh huh, right," and "Oh, really?"  The gardens are located right at the bottom of Table Mountain, which makes for some pretty scenes.  Also, the gardens are different from other botanical gardens I've been to because at Kirstenbosch they try to stick to growing only plants that are indigenous to the region.  My two favorite things on our tour were seeing the national flower of South Africa, which is the protea and also seeing some guinea fowl.


After being outside in the cold, we headed over to the cafe and decided to warm up with some Rooibos tea, which is quite famous in South Africa.  Tea is rarely just tea in South Africa and usually "having tea" with someone means not only drinking tea but also having a bunch of different snacks ranging from mini sandwiches to pastries.   Happily for my group, many of my professor's contacts hosted several teas for us.

After our Kirstenbosch excursion, Scott and I decided to check out the Gold of Africa museum.  We are both not really that big on museums, but figured we might as well check it out since we had some extra time.

The next morning we were off to Jo'burg!

7 Deadly Sins

October 25, 2013

Shane @ Whispering Sweet Nothings created this Halloween inspired link up.  I thought it would be fun to join in!  If you would like to participate, there is still time because she is leaving the linky open until a bit after Halloween.

seven great things in your life.

1.  I no longer am a student and have the degree I have been wanting for a long time.
2. My sisters!  When my sisters and I fought, my mom used to say, "Some day your sisters will grow up to be your best friends."  She was right.
3. There is plenty of work available for me.  I've been getting a lot of calls to substitute teach...the best part is I've lined them all up ahead of time instead of getting woken up early in the AM.
4. Having close friendships with several gals that have lasted longer than a decade. 
5.  My health.  Yes, I'm sure I could lead a more active lifestyle, but I don't have any major health problems, thank goodness.
6.  Amazing travel opportunities...I'm forever grateful for the ones I've had and can't wait to start planning future trips.  
7.  My free time and that I actually have some!

seven things you lack and covet.

1.  Money to repay my student loans
2. The ability to cook
3.  A start of a career
4. My old figure before I gained weight
5. A pet
6. A place I love living in
7. Frizz-free hair

seven things that make you angry.

1. People who drain you of your energy and positivity.
2. Closed minded people.
3. Bullies.
4. Littering.
5. Frenemies.
6. Injustice.
7.  How little education is valued by many members of society.

seven things that you neglect to do.

1. Return every phone call.
2. Exercise regularly.  I don't have a routine...Some weeks I will like 4 times and then the next week I'll only do it once.
3.  Cook healthy meals.
4. Stay within my budget for the month.
5. Not procrastinate. 
6. The dishes.
7.  Get my hair trimmed when you're "supposed" to, after every 2-3 months.

seven worldly material desires.

1. To have my own house!
2.  Plane tickets to my favorite travel destinations
3. An I-Pad
4. New furniture for the living room.
5. Tory Burch flats.
6.  A newly remodeled kitchen
7.  A shopping spree on Etsy!

seven guilty pleasures.

1. Beauty subscription boxes.
2. Celebrity gossip magazines.
3. Desserts.
4. Netflix.
5. Starbucks.
6. Pretty Little Liars.
7. Shopping online.

seven things you love about love.

1. The anticipation of that first kiss.
2. Fairy tale endings.
3. The feeling that someone "gets" you.
   4. Having a best friend & significant other all rolled into one.
5. The little thoughtful things like a note or a flower that make your day.
6. Endless possibilities.
7. Mutual attraction.