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How Does Tarot Work? And Can it Make Me Happy?

It’s Mystic Monday today for the Guinea Pig Diaries and I’m pleased to welcome paranormal writer and Tarot reader, Kirsten Weiss sharing how and why Tarot can make you happier!  Thank you, Catie Rhodes, for introducing us!  Kirsten did a reading for me last week, and it was very reassuring.  Take it away, Kirsten!


Several years ago, I was at a low point in my life and I went for a tarot reading at a fortune teller’s café. It was just for fun. I’ve been reading tarot cards unprofessionally for over fifteen years now, so I can read for myself. But I wanted to hear what someone who didn’t know me had to say.

The reader told me I’d go on a trip in mid-May and I’d meet someone. Maybe it was because I was watching for it, but I did go on a trip in mid-May. And yes, I did meet someone special.

So does tarot work as a self-fulfilling prophecy? A sort of psychic placebo effect? Or is it something else?

The Hanged Man Card from the 15th Century Visconti Sforza tarot deck. In Renaissance Italy, traitors were hanged upside down so it's also known as the Traitor.

The Hanged Man Card from the 15th Century Visconti Sforza tarot deck. In Renaissance Italy, traitors were hanged upside down so it’s also known as the Traitor.

There are lots of theories about the origins of tarot, but the earliest known tarot decks were born in Renaissance Italy, and used in the game Tarocchi. What makes a tarot deck special is its fifth suit – called the trumps or Major Arcana. These are the cards most of us are familiar with from movies – the Lovers, Death, the Hanged Man. Tarot expert Robert Place speculates these trump cards were modeled on the Italian “triumph” morality parades of that time period.

The other four suits, called the Minor Arcana, are close to what you’d see in a deck of “normal” cards, though the court cards are a bit different. Tarot decks have four court cards per suit: King, Queen, Page or Princess, and Knight.

So how does it work?

Jung wrote about tarot: “[The images] are sort of archetypal ideas, of a differentiated nature, which mingle with the ordinary constituents of the flow of the unconscious, and therefore it is applicable for an intuitive method that has the purpose of understanding the flow of life, possibly even predicting future events, at all events lending itself to the reading of the conditions of the present moment.” So perhaps tarot allows us to tap into our subconscious understanding of what’s happening, to invoke synchronicity into our lives, and predict things at a deeper level?

Some readers treat tarot as a complex Roschach test, asking questions that lead the client to interpret their own cards. This can open up your hidden assumptions and beliefs, and force you to think outside your usual patterns. But is it future telling?

The Hermit from the 15th Century Viscontin Sforza tarot deck.

The Hermit from the 15th Century Viscontin Sforza tarot deck.

We tend to live in the same patterns over and over. Frankly, it’s not hard to guess someone’s future when we so often repeat the past. What if, however, we could use tarot to understand our patterns, and to break them?

And then there are some people (not me) who use the cards as a conduit for their own psychic connection. I even heard of one psychic who reads the cards face down. She intuits their meaning without having to look at them.

No matter how it works, in the hands of a good reader, a tarot reading can give a person clarity, direction, and hope, as that tarot reader did for me so long ago. It takes us outside of our regular thought processes, forces us to look at our lives through a new lens – the lens of a deck of 78 cards.

Frankly, I don’t care if tarot is “magic” or not. There’s something soothing about shuffling the cards, laying them out, puzzling out what they’re “saying.” And they’re simply beautiful.

About the Author:

Kirsten WeissKirsten Weiss runs the Tarot Card of the Day for the @ParaYourNormal twitter feed and is the author of the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, and The Shamanic Detective.  Book four in the series, The Infernal Detective, will be available May 21st on Amazon.

Kirsten worked overseas for nearly fourteen years, in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone.  Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.

Kirsten, thank you so much for sharing your personal connection to Tarot with all of us.  I had no idea how open the cards were for interpretation and like you said, how they can be an insightful tool, like journaling or blogging is for others; it can show us how we’ve grown and what’s possible.  You’re right, that is beautiful!

See more of Kirsten on Twitter and catch her newest book trailer for The Infernal Detective!

Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival – Part 4: The Festival

Welcome back to the fourth and final installment of our Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival! As promised, I said I’d take you on a tour of a real, live festival!  That’s just ahead, but if you’re still in the mood for tasting, please visit!

Beer, Wine, and Cheese FestivalWe’ve a fine selection of beers here.

Twelve of the tastiest wines here.

And six different cheeses you’ll want to add to your shopping cart here.

You can also prep for your next party by picking out your favorite wine accessories or learning How to Host a Tasting!

Between the Bluffs Beer, Wine, and Cheese Festival

This past weekend I attended the Between the Bluffs Beer, Wine, and Cheese Festival in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  Being the second day so far this year where temperatures climbed to a nice 70°, the festival was packed!  Held on the historic Oktoberfest grounds, the festival hosted a Wine Trail tent, three different beer tents, and a smattering of greasy and grilled cheeses to fill your gut!

Beer Wine and Cheese FestivalYes, that’s a picture of me wearing a pretzel necklace.  It was made by my festival attending friend, Cat, and it’s an accessory I highly suggest you don should you attend a festival like this.  The festival lasts for 3 hours and if you’re planning on walking out of there on your own two feet, you’re gonna need some food at some point!

There was live bluegrass music, a food and shopping tent, and good times had by all!  Now in its 11th year, the number of attending breweries has increased from 11 to 70 different vendors!  Many of them local to Wisconsin, however some were national brands such as California’s Barefoot Wines and Louisiana’s Abita Brewing Company.  The food and shopping tent had t-shirts and beer gloves aplenty, but what we hit up were the jalapeno cheddar brats and some fresh Wisconsin fried cheese curds!  Mmmm

Jess’s Video Making Debut!

Ok, this part requires a little introduction.  First off, I’ve never made a video before, and it was REALLY really loud at the fest grounds, so hopefully you can here what little info I share.  But mostly you should know that because I’d been drinking for almost an hour when we started taping these clips, that my “reporting” skills are practically nonexistent.  But hey, welcome to the festival!

Riveting live action reporting, isn’t it folks?  Well, I’ve got good news and bad news:  the good news is there’s a closing statement video in which I give directions around the festival that slightly resemble the ones Scarecrow gave Dorothy in Oz.  And then the bad news is I couldn’t get my actual interview with some festival attendees to upload here, so if you’d like to see the interview, please bounce over to Facebook where I’ll share the video on my page!  The gentlemen offered their favorite drink choices and how best to enjoy the festival as a new attendee.

Thanks guys!

How was your weekend? Did you wear a pretzel necklace? Would you like to? They’re delicious!

Can’t wait to hear how you all spent your weekends! See you in the comments section.

Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival, Part 3 – The Cheese

beerwinecheesepicIt’s the third installment of our Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival as this month’s Guinea Pig Diaries series!  If you’re just tuning in, fear not, there’s still plenty to go around!  You can learn about beer by going here, and/or about wine by going here!

Today’s post is about a subject which I’m quite fond of:  cheese.

Growing up in Wisconsin, this tasty dairy treat comes in all shapes, sizes, consistencies and colors.  I wish I could’ve sampled them all and shared with you, but my digestive track would sooo be on strike if I did that.  When sampling cheese, moderation is key, but there’s really no better partner for a good beer or wine than a nice, flavorful cheese, is there?

This post won’t even begin to cover all the yummy cheeses out there, but here are 6 kinds my friends and I tried and all agreed, we’d gobble them up again!

Six Tasty Cheeses You’ll Want to Try for Yourself

1.  Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs

Creamy and spreadable, this cheese goes amazingly with crackers and I recommend it with Pita Bites Black Olive and Feta crackers.  YUM!  I was first introduced to this cheese through a Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms appetizer at my Oscar Party, and they were delectable too.  Some herb cheeses can be overwhelming in their salty spices and overpower the cheese itself, but this one was downright addicting!  I couldn’t stop eating it!  It’s light, not too salty, but definitely savory and you’ll want to let it melt across your taste buds!

Boursin2.  Laughing Cow Light Mozzarella, Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil

The second of our soft cheeses we sampled, this brand favorite is the one I buy when I’m looking for a guilty pleasure treat.  Organized into perfectly portioned wedges, I dare you to eat just one!  This was my first time trying the sun-dried tomato and basil mozzarella and I must say I’m particular to the plain old Swiss one, but this was tasty too.  The key flavor is definitely the sun-dried tomato.  You won’t really need a flavored cracker with this one, it’s pretty strong on its own, and I think best with pretzels.

Laughing Cow3.  Crystal Farms Havarti

Not sure how wide-spread the Crystal Farms brand is across the country, but it’s pretty common around here.  If you’re a fan of simple, light, medium-soft cheeses that go well with anything, this could be the one for you.  The process for making havarti cheese involves washed cheese curd, so the flavor is typically on the subtle side.  I think this would be a good cheese to add into your favorite mac and cheese recipe as it’s a comforting flavor.  And it complements both sweet and salty sides.  We tasted it with wasabi sauce, bavarian mustard and bumbleberry jam!

Havarti4.  Kerrygold Blarney Castle Gouda

Another brand I seek out to indulge in guaranteed goodness!  I highly recommend the Dubliner cheese from this company, but we tried their gouda this time.  Joe was a big fan of this one.  Smooth and mild, gouda cheese is similar to a havarti in that it’s also made from washed curds, but then it’s placed in a brine solution to age and the amount of time a gouda cheese has aged is what gives it its flavor.  This gouda was creamy, despite its solid form, and delicious.  It has a slightly sour aftertaste and went best with cracked pepper crackers or a roast beef sandwich.  The adventure seekers could throw on some wasabi with it!

Kerrygold Gouda5.  Market Square Raclette

Raclette cheese is a semi-firm cow’s milk cheese that is most commonly used for melting, but I don’t know if I could wait that long!  This crumbly cheese was the standout during our wine tasting and I would say is similar in consistency and taste to a parmesan or romano cheese.  It has a little bit of a nutty flavor and was amazing beyond words with jam!  To find this particular brand of raclette, you’d need to visit Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin – a popular tourist city with theme parks, shopping and places to eat galore!  Market Square features various Wisconsin gift items, but the owners also make their own cheese and offer tastings.  Should you find yourself driving through Wisconsin, I encourage you to stop at any number of “Cheese Chalets” and pick up some real Wisconsin cheese!

Raclette6.  Sartori Bellavitano w/ Merlot

Saving the best for last (in my opinion), if you can find Bellavitano at your grocery store, GET IT!  I am quite possibly in love with this cheese, at least my admiration falls deep.  Made in Wisconsin, this family-owned and operated brand combines the savory cheddar you love with the boldness of a  parmesan and then soaks it in the wine and berry notes you’d find in a merlot.  I think the taste of this cheese is a slice of what Heaven would taste like.  Again, if you can find it, buy it!  Cause I’m not much for sharing when it comes to this cheese.  😉


Those are some of my favorite cheeses, how about yours?  Have you tried any of these before?  What is the first one you’ll go looking for? 

And inquiring minds want to know, if you were a kind of cheese, what kind would you be and what is your best food pairing? 

Cheese Tasting

Happy Tasting!


Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival – Part 2, The Wine

Welcome to Round 2 of the Guinea Pig Diaries and this month’s Virtual Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival!  It’s been Tasting City at my house lately, and I CAN’T WAIT to share with you our fun finds!

beerwinecheesepicSo sit back, relax, grab a glass of your favorite red or white and toast to the

Top (or Not) 12 Wines in our Tasting!


We’ll start with the whites and work our way ahead!

1.  Frontera Moscato

A Chilean South American white wine, this moscato is anything but bubbly.  Upon first pour, it’s smooth and golden in color.  It’s got a sweet taste to start, and the finish is almost pear-like.  This moscato is a dry, tart white and would pair well with most any dish.

Frontera moscato

2.  Bel Arbor Chardonnay

From the Bel Arbor Vineyards in California, this chardonnay is blended with apple and melon fruits.  It’s tart – like kick up your taste buds tart.  I think it would best be paired with light appetizers or pasta with seafood.  I served this white wine with a citrus marinated chicken.

bel arbor chardonnay

We interject for a Thumbs Down:

3.  The Infinite Monkey Theorem – American White Wine

Not all wines can be winners, but of the dozen we sampled the past week, this one was really the only BAD one.  Brewed and sold (in a can!) only in Denver, Colorado, my honey picked this up on the road as something for us to try.  At 13% alcohol, this carbonated white is a very bubbly, light champagne in color.  Unfortunately, neither its aroma or taste matched its fun packaging or color.  It had a slightly skunky aroma to it, even though we did pour it into wine glasses.  The fizziness of this particular wine is not a light refreshing bubbly, but more like the candy explosion equated with Pop Rocks!  Not a soul at our tasting finished their glass of this wine.  Buyer Beware.

infinite monkey wine

We now return to our regular tasting!  And the rest were all spectacular!

4.  Lost Island Wines – Apple Cinn-Ah-Mon and Exotic Fruit

Purchased at a local winery, these fun bottles were the party people of our picks!  Fun and festive packaging matched with fruity wine blends, Lost Island was a taste bud fave!  To start with, the Apple Cinn-Ah-Mon, at 12% alc, smells just like apple pie!  It has a cool, crisp start with a warm cinnamon finish.  Creators and owners of Lost Island Wines already boast of an even better bottle for next fall premiering more apple and spice for that cozy autumn season.  They may want to start selling it now as Wisconsin has failed its attempt at achieving spring season.  Could mean more nights in with a blanket and a glass of Apple Cinn-Ah-Mon!

The Exotic Fruit was the perfect blush to lead us toward the red wines.  Similar to a White Zinfandel, Exotic Fruit has notes of passionfruit and berries.  It smells like a delicious perfume that I would love to get my hands on!  Seriously, you’ll want to wear this stuff!  It is sweet, but not sugary, clean and smooth.  A definite re-buy in my book!

Lost Island Wines

5.  Fancy Pants – Red Wine

With a label declaring “I Wear the Pants!” this California red wine was another popular guest at the tasting!  At 13% alc, you’d never guess its mass appeal.  This wine was the first one everyone took a full glass of at the end!  Fancy Pants is a mixture of cherry and plum fruits, and expectedly is a dark ruby in color.  The plum was the standout flavor for me and it was great with hard cheeses, which I thought brought out the sweetness of the wine.  Fancy Pants is a perfect wine to share with girlfriends, not too dry and not too sweet, but a perfect blend of red wine goodness.

Fancy Pants

6.  Apothic Red

A staple at my book club meetings, Apothic Red wine is an affordable red wine blend of a rich zinfandel, smooth merlot, flavorful syrah, and bold cabernet sauvignon.  The name comes from the word Apotheca, which was a mysterious place where wine was blended and stored in 13th century Europe.  It’s a dark red in color with hints of mocha and vanilla in the taste.  It’s full, or should I say filling (*wink*), smooth, fruity, but not too sweet.

Apothic Red7.  Kore Zinfandel

This bottle came from the Laithwaite Wine Club my honey is a part of, and which I’m most privileged to be privy to on special occasions!  Blended in Sonoma County, CA, a land that is good to the zinfandel’s dark skinned grape.  It combines red berries, white pepper, and cinnamon with its entirely hand-picked and sorted grapes, then is aged in oak barrels.  The entire process living up to its namesake Kore – or beauty.  It is crimson in color and goes with anything you’d serve at a Thanksgiving meal!  To taste it is silky smooth, warm, but not too alcoholy to enjoy on its own for a great night in!

Kore Zinfandel

8.  Folonari Chianti

A tasty and affordable chianti!  Something tells me even Hannibal Lector wouldn’t snub his nose as this Folonari blend!  Made in Italy, the Folonari family has been winemaking since 1825 and pioneered the production of wine in a bottle so that people, such as you and I, could enjoy a fine wine in the comfort of their own home!  Cheers to Folonari!  This chianti was ranked #41 in the Wine Spectator Top 100 and has cherry, strawberry and floral notes.  The aftertaste seemed almondy to me, and would be a great introductory chianti to anyone who’s unsure of whether they’d like one or not.

Folonari Chianti9.  Collezione Di Paolo – Reserva Chianti

Another of the Lathwaite Wine Club collection, this pricier bottle is made by Paolo Masi in Tuscany, and is a Gold Medal Winner at the Mundus Vini 2012 world’s largest international wine competition!  The chianti uses the sangiovese grape which grows well in the Tuscany area and makes for a warm and inviting flavor; this particular chianti adds in notes of sweet cherry, spice and refined tannins.  It’s a medium garnet in color with a lovely berry aroma.  It pairs well with most foods, but especially pastas and hard cheeses!

Collezione di Paolo Chianti10.  Little Black Dress – Pinot Noir

Little Black Dress is the fashionable wine that partners with charities to support women and their success.  I already like this wine!  Add to that great cause some notes of black cherry and blackberry and we have ourselves a sharp, dry red!  This one is more robust at 13% alcohol content, but definitely tasty!  With its sleek label and saucy branding, this is a great gift wine for the professional women in your life, or even for a night out with your besties.  Wear your heels!

Little Black Dress Pinot Noir11.  Pineau Des Charentes – Port Red Grape Wine

Best kept for the end of the night, this port wine has a 17% alcohol rating.  Made in Western France where the brandy industry is popular.  This bottle is a mix of wine and cognac.  It has a warm, sweet beginning with a robust, alcohol finish.  If any Midwesterners have been feeling chilled to the bone this long, long, loooooong, long winter, then port is for you!  Light in color, this liquid leaves a layer on the glass from its syrupy nature.  If eating the crust of bread puts hair on your chest, then drinking a thimble full of this will warm your belly up!

Pineau Des Charentes12.  Lost Island Wine – Chocolate Strawberry Cyclone

All wine tastings should end with the dessert wine, typically very sweet and good in small doses – if you know what’s good for you!  Sampling another bottle from local winery, Lost Island Wines, this dessert wine was more dry, but still sweet in nature.  It had a gorgeous rose gold coloring.  The taste at first screams chocolate but mellows to more berry afterward.  It’s a light, velvety wine that could leave you licking your lips to taste every last drop!  Best when paired with…more chocolate!

Lost Island Wine

That’s it for our Wine Tasting!  Tune in on Friday for Guilty Pleasures – Wine Accessories!

Until then, what’s your favorite wine to drink?  Do you prefer red or white wines?  If you were a type of wine, what kind would you be?  And if you say wine in a can, we can no longer be friends.

Beer, Wine, and Cheese Festival – Part 1, The Beer

Welcome back to the Guinea Pig Diaries – where we’re having a Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival!  So come drink with me all month long!  Every monday we’ll focus on our favorite beers, wines, and cheeses and at the end of the month, we’ll tour a real LIVE BWC Fest plus share our Top Picks!


Today we’re talking BEERS!

Allow me to introduce my partner in crime, my boyfriend Joe, and longtime beer connoisseur.  Say hi, Joe!  You can tell I didn’t have to ask twice for his help with this project.


A Bit of History:

There are two kinds of beers:  ales and lagers.

Ales have been brewed for over 5,000 years!  The term ale comes from the German “alt” meaning aged.  And ales come from the top fermentation yeast and are typically served at room temperature.

Lagers have only been around for the last several hundred years.  They’re made from bottom fermentation yeast, and their creation was actually an accident that no one understood until the invention of the microscope, where the new yeast strain was actually visible.  They are typically served at cooler temperatures.

The Four Key Ingredients: 

Water, Yeast, Malt (most commonly barley), and Hops.

The water and yeast combine to start the brewing process, and yeast is the ingredient which makes the drink have alcohol in it.  Barley is a type of grain that as it sprouts, produces sugar.  The yeast feeds on these sugars during the brew process.  And hops are climbing vines that produce flowers or “cones”.  Hops is what gives the beer its bitterness and its aroma.  Mmmm!

Time to Start the Tasting!  

Just like with wines, when doing a tasting, you’ll want to start with your lightest beers and move to the darker ones.  This allows your palette a clean transition.


Hefe-weizens are usually light colored beers.  The name translates from “Hefe” meaning unfiltered or with yeast and “weizen” meaning white beer, for its light color.

FranziskanerFranziskaner Weissbier – Light yellow in color, bubbly, and a little cloudy.  This is a smooth, malleable beer that is well received on its own or with the smorgasbord of summer snacks one finds at a barbecue.  We tried it with lightly salted pistachios and the combo was heavenly.  A little sweet, fizzy, and crisp!

El Hefe Bavarian Style Hefeweizen – From local Pearl Street Brewery, a great starter beer or transition beer, the Hefe is a light ale packed with barley and wheat and notes of banana and clove.  It’s most commonly served with a lemon slice for complimentary flavor.  Now, the Hefe can get a rep as the “girly beer,” but don’t underestimate this  Bavarian style wheat beer.  It’s crisp, packs a punch, and I love the citrus notes!

HeinekenPale Ales and a Lager:

Heineken Premium Light – Brewed using a horizontal fermentation process, this lager has a wheat color, and licoricy aftertaste.  Overall it is smooth and another great pick for mixing with meals because its light and mellow.

Redd's Apple AleRedd’s Apple Ale – Ok, no lies.  This girl loves a good cider, but Redd’s is marketed differently.  Though it’s made with apple, Redd’s is a true ale, and not a cider.  It’s made by MillerCoors and meant to rival such carbonated faves as Mike’s Hard and Twisted Tea.  If you look on Beer Advocate’s rating site, this one did NOT do well.  For avid beer fans, such as my honey, I wouldn’t expect a high ranking for this fruity, fizzy drink.  But I’m a fan!  It’s crisp, a little tart, and only starts out fizzy.  The first few gulps are bubbly indeed, but it mellows right away.  This was again, a negative on Beer Advocate, but just going off of taste and fully noting that I am desperately seeking summer – I would totally grab a case of Redd’s and hit the beach with my besties!

Mr BeerThe At Home Beer Making Kit:

Mr. Beer – Ever wanted to try making your own beer?  Now you can!  Even without a brewery in your backyard.  I bought my honey the Mr. Beer, Beer Making Kit and it’s not half bad!  With a recipe and care instructions, Joe bottled 8 liters of homemade beer.  Classified as a pale ale, this batch was a light medium amber color and very fizzy.  To smell, it’s quite sweet and a little syrupy to taste, but still fresh.  Upon further inspection, it smells like brown sugar.  Quite enjoyable indeed, and it gave my honey a new appreciation for those who work daily in the brew making business.

Red Beer:

Killian's Irish RedOriginally from Belgium, red beers are sharply acidic and often unfiltered and pasteurized.  Their reddish color is partially from aging in large wooden tuns.

Killian’s Irish Red –  With a dark, rich amber color, this beer is smooth, full, and a bit darker than the previous ones.  It’s sweet to smell, and one that I didn’t mind swirling around my mouth to enjoy.  I think this beer would go well with red meats, hard cheeses, and peppery foods.

India Pale Ale:

Smuttynose IPADescribed as the “star of the hop world”, IPA’s first came about while the British were colonizing India.  Originally, all the beer they sent down was spoiled by the time it got to the soldiers, so they added in more hops and more alcohol – both of which have preservative qualities – and voila!  The IPA was born!

Smuttynose IPA – From the Smuttynose Brewing Co., this IPA is known for its sedimentary gold color.  I thought it had a bit of a sour smell, but that didn’t translate in the taste.  It definitely lingers on the tongue with what I described as a funky, but friendly, aftertaste.

Double IPA:

HopslamBeer Advocate website defines the Double IPA as this:  “Take an India Pale Ale and feed it steroids, ergo the term Double IPA. Although open to the same interpretation as its sister styles, you should expect something robust, malty, alcoholic and with a hop profile that might rip your tongue out.”

Hopslam – From the Bells Brewing Co., Hopslam is befitting its name from its inclusion of six different hop styles.  Add in some grapefruit and floral notes, a generous malt bill, and a dollop of honey = Hopslam.  The label itself proclaims “A biting, bitter, tongue bruiser of an ale.  With a name like Hopslam, what did you expect?”  This beer will wake you up!


Sam Adams PorterPorters are the first beer in the world to receive national distribution.  The two most likely places the porter got its name from are the “train porters” who sold the beer along the rails or from its sea passage to other “port towns.”  The darkness and cloudiness of port beers come from the early, albeit inconsistent, brewing process of the 1700’s, and helped mask any flavor imperfections.

Samuel Adams Maple Pecan Porter – Joe and I actually toured the Sam Adams Brewery in Boston, MA and had a great time!  It turned both of us into fans  – both for the beer’s taste and because the company gives back quite a bit of funds into local history preservation!

The Maple Pecan Porter is so dark I could barely see through the glass!  The maple syrup and pecans give this beer a nutty flavor, but there’s a definite coffee taste as well.  I would describe this slightly bitter, full-bodied porter as the perfect beverage for a cozy night in.

Those are the beers I was drinking, how about you?  Do you have a favorite kind or brand of beer?  What are you wanting to try next?  Have you ever toured a brewery before? Joe and I always try to hit up at least one winery or brewery on vacation; they’re pretty fun!

If you’ve tried any of these beers, which is your fave?  

Me at the Brewery

Until next week, CHEERS!

Coming Soon! Jess’s Virtual Beer, Wine, & Cheese Festival!

Hello, hello everyone!  I hope you’re all well rested from last month’s Sleep Study, because this month is all about fabulously savory treats!

It’s a new month, so that means a new challenge on the Guinea Pig Diaries!  Starting next week, we’re kicking off:


Next Week:  Top Picks in Beer

Followed by:  Top Picks in Wine

With a Side Order of:  Top Cheeses

And the Grand Finale Tour of:  A Real Local Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival!

Beer, Wine, and Cheese Festival

I’m currently researching at the moment, but will be sharing my favorite selections soon!

What are your favorite beers, wines, and cheeses?  Got any I should seek out?  

See you all soon!

Interpreting Your Dreams: What Your Drawings Can Teach You

And we’re back to the Guinea Pig Diaries – Sleep Study Month!  Last week we talked about Popular Dream Meanings, and we’re going a step further today with a fun drawing activity.  Our dreams can be symbolic or pure release of our subconscious minds.  But sometimes our dreams have a reoccurring symbol and that could have meaning.

The following exercise is from Sylvia Browne’s Book of Dreams and I found it really fun and interesting.  Here are the directions:

Grab a pen and paper.  Draw these five objects:  a house, the sun, water, a tree, and a snake.

STOP READING!  Finish your picture, then continue on. 

Here’s mine!

Dream Drawing

Now, I have to give the same disclaimer that Sylvia gave in her book, which is that these interpretations of dream symbols are not THE ONLY ones they could mean, but they’re some of the more common.  If you’re interested in learning what your particular dreams mean, the best thing you can do is keep a dream journal where you can record images and symbols that make repeat performances while you sleep!

That said, here’s the fun analysis of your drawing!  And don’t worry if you’re not a good “drawer”.  You can see I’m not!  By the way, that spaceship over the door of the house is supposed to be an outside light.  I like those on houses. 

Ok, check this out!

The House

The house represents you.  How did you embellish your house?  Is there a door?  Windows?  Can people see in?  Does the house seem inviting or more closed off?  Is there a chimney for warmth?  A path to the house?  Is it a big house or a tiny one?  Is it a house to be noticed or more to blend in?

The Sun

The sun represents your father.  How close did you draw the sun to your house?  Is it a glowing sun with rays reaching out or is a simple circle up out of the way?  If it has rays do they stretch out for warmth and generosity or do they seem limited in what they can offer?

The Water

The water represents your mother.  Again, look at its proximity to the house?  Is it nearby or distant?  Is it contained, like a pond or pool or flowing and lively like a river or an ocean?  Is it in the foreground or background of your picture?  Is its size relative to that of the house or does it seem out of proportion?

The Tree

The tree symbolizes your intellect, your relationship with your mind, your awareness.  What size is your tree?  Is it in the foreground or background?  Does it have branches that stretch out and provide shade or does it look shriveled and parched?  Does it offer protection over the house or is it too far away?

The Snake

The snake is your sexuality.  What is its location to your house and tree?  Is the size of your snake relative to the size of the house or does it seem out of proportion?  Does it look healthy or should you take it to the doctor?


I was really shocked how a little drawing like this can pull out some key truths about our lives.  I think that I am most like my father, so it makes sense that the sun is the closest to the house for me.  My mom and I have become much closer over the years so I agree with the flowing river – which in itself, is something I grew up next to and have always found calming.  I pride myself on being very self aware of my words and actions, so I created a more elaborate tree with a tire swing in it.  I’m much more private about my sexuality, so it’s there, appropriate in size and curled up next to the house (at home where it belongs!)  LOL

What do you think?  Are you finding little A-Ha’s in your image?  Don’t stress over the generalization of each object.  Again, if you dream about water a lot, it doesn’t mean you’re obsessed with thinking about your mother.  This is just one interpretation.  But it’s pretty thought-provoking isn’t it? 

Can’t get enough sleep?  I mean blogging about sleep? 

Check out the rest of the Guinea Pig Diaries series:

Want More Sleep?  Snooze is Not the Answer

Let’s Talk About Snoring:  It Might Get Loud!

Popular Dream Meanings:  Or Why Your Teeth Are Falling Out

Sweet Dreams Everyone!

Popular Dream Meanings: Or Why Your Teeth Are Falling Out

Welcome to the Guinea Pig Diaries – a monthly dive into different topics, and this month we’re talking about SLEEP!  Wondering about setting a better sleep routine, check out Snooze is Not the Answer.  Got a partner who snores?  Go read It Might Get Loud.

Today, we’re talking about dreams.

(image courtesy flickr Creative Commons – Heidi M Mcdonald)

Do you ever have a reoccurring dream?  Have you wondered what it means?  Dreams can have a variety of meanings and purposes in our lives; they can show us what we wish for, what we fear, and sometimes we can even speak to loved ones we’ve lost.

The most common type of dream is the Release Dream.

Release dreams serve their purpose by getting rid of the mental stress we carry around during the day.  They can be nonsensical, humorous, and even scary.  Nightmares are a form of release dreams – because they show us the worst case scenario.  They also show us, however, that we can survive.  Our subconscious is shocking us to let us know what we’re capable of accepting and dealing with.

What You Should Know About Nightmares:

Have you or someone you know had a reoccurring dream that a loved one becomes injured or dies?  Nightmares like this are disturbing, no doubt, but it doesn’t mean they’re a premonition of something bad to happen.  If we fear something with our conscious during the day, our subconscious stores it and releases it when we’re asleep.  And again, it’s to show us we’ll survive – even if in our dreams we don’t.  

I can think of a very particular nightmare I used to have again and again as a child.  I dreamed that I was kidnapped.  I was probably around 7 or 8 years old when a man came to our house and knocked on our door.  Being that my father owned a cake business, we commonly had customers stop by to return cake fixtures from parties and such so I thought nothing of strange people at our door.  This guy drove a beat up old truck and asked if my parents were home.  I said they were and to step inside, I’d go get them.  He immediately said, “Oh, that’s ok, nevermind…”, turned and left.  When I told my mom and sister what happened, they were instantly alarmed.  And I remember my sister looking out the window to catch sight of his truck and she called the police.  I didn’t know I should have been scared, but their reaction did the trick.  For several nights following, I suffered the nightmare that I was taken from my family.  It left me scared to even be on the playground at school without other students or teachers around.  Thankfully, I never saw the man again, and I’ve never been taken from my family against my will.

What About The Dreams Where My Teeth Fall Out???

(image courtesy flickr Creative Commons – mmmcrafts)

Opposite of nightmares, release dreams can encompass those totally whacked out dreams we have too!  You know, the ones where gorillas surround the house and take over the birdfeeder!!

just me?…

Moving along!  They’re called a release dream because they’re releasing the stuff our conscious collects throughout the day.  When I was reading The Hunger Games trilogy, you should have SEEN the dreams I was having!  And don’t get me started on my dreams following The Walking Dead.

Dreams About Your Teeth or Hair Falling Out:

Certain reoccurring dreams can have an archetypal meaning.  A common one is the dream that all your teeth are falling out!

If you’re dreaming about your teeth, or hair, falling out it could mean you’re feeling vulnerable or embarrassed in some way.  Perhaps you said something you wished you hadn’t or maybe you’re worried about getting old and afraid people won’t see you the same way.  Both would be triggered by stress, so do whatever calming techniques work best for you – especially before bedtime – to put these dreams to rest (pun intended).  

Dreams About the Weather – Storms, Waves, and Tornadoes:

Different form, same as above.  Emotional stress.  When we feel overwhelmed, we have the saying that “we’re drowning.”  That phrase comes from somewhere!  Emotional turbulence can take a physical form in our dreams through perilous natural elements because our minds recognize these forces as dangerous and requiring caution.

Dreams About Animals:

This one is two-fold.  The most common archetype for bird dreams is that they represent freedom and independence.  Dreams about whales represent grace and beauty.    Dreams of cats represents stealth and wisdom.  However, some Dream Experts* recommend keeping a dream journal so you can record what animals (or any symbols for that matter) are appearing consistently.  This may help you determine their meeting when you can look back and see what situations they are appearing in.  Are they threatening?  Are they protecting?  Are they nurturing?
Dreams About Being Naked in Public:
Again, here’s another form of the ol’ release dream acting out our fear that we’re not prepared for something – could be a speech we have to make or an assignment that’s due.  If we’re afraid of being judged by others, our release dreams could be showing that vulnerability.

(image courtesy flickr Creative Commons – Asta R)

Dreams About Stairs or Mazes:

Dreams where you are climbing stairs or a mountain or searching your way through a maze are all representative of a struggle.  You’re moving forward, but unsure of where the end is at this time.
Dreams About the Moon:
The moon showing in your dreams is often linked with your emotions.  If you’re feeling particularly intuitive, you might manifest the moon showing brightly in a night sky above you.
There are many more popular archetypes found in our dreams, but these are some of the most common.  Tune in next week when I share a fun drawing activity that teaches you about your dreams!  
Until then, what have you been dreaming about?  Ever had a reoccurring dream?  What’s the weirdest dream you remember having?  Oh, and don’t forget to take your teeth with you when you go!
*All dream archetypes and sleep journal advice come from Sylvia Browne’s Book of Dreams.

Let’s Talk About Snoring, It Might Get Loud!

Welcome to the Guinea Pig Diaries!  We’re talking about sleep this month, or what gets in the way of it.

Do you know someone that snores?

(photo credit – Creative Commons – Mrs Inman)

“What’s that? Speak up, Dearie, I can hardly hear you over Henry’s abominable gurgles!

I seem to be doomed to live with men who snore. 

Growing up, my father could keep the whole upstairs awake!  It didn’t matter my room was farthest away down the hall, with the door shut.  He was loud and clear.

Haaaacgh Scheeeew Zzzzz Zzzzz

Short of smothering my head with a pillow, I had to get used to it.  And my mother wonders why she found me asleep downstairs on the couch so much!  

Now, it’s my boyfriend (who I love very dearly if you’re reading, Honey!).  And instead of a pillow, it’s the TV on sleep mode.  And an occasional elbow jab…  😀

What causes snoring?

I didn’t know this, but there’s a whole variety of reasons why people snore.  When air is blocked in some fashion through your mouth or nose, it causes snoring.  Reminds me of trying to sleep with a bad cold – the worst is when your nose whistles, isn’t it?!! 

According to HelpGuide.com‘s collaboration with Harvard Health Publications, common causes of snoring include:

  • Age. As you reach middle age and beyond, your throat becomes narrower, and the muscle tone in your throat decreases.
  • The way you’re built. Men have narrower air passages than women and are more likely to snore. A narrow throat, a cleft palate, enlarged adenoids, and other physical attributes that contribute to snoring are often hereditary.
  • Nasal and sinus problems. Blocked airways make inhalation difficult and create a vacuum in the throat, leading to snoring.
  • Being overweight or out of shape. Fatty tissue and poor muscle tone contribute to snoring.
  • Alcohol, smoking, and medications. Alcohol intake, smoking, and certain medications can increase muscle relaxation leading to more snoring.
  • Sleep posture. Sleeping flat on your back causes the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway.

Sleep and Relationships – Let’s Talk About Sex Snoring, Baby!

Normally, when things get heated in the bedroom it’s a good thing!  But what if your partner’s snoring (or your own) is putting your relationship on edge?


(photo credit – Creative Commons – Mrs Inman)

Now, thankfully, Honeypot and I are not scouting out alternative spaces for another bedroom.  (Because he knows he’ll get the smaller one!  After all, I have more shoes.) 

It is a real issue for many couples, and one that could escalate over time.  Snoring can cause poor sleep for both the snorer and his/her partner.  Lack of sleep can cause fatigue and irritability, and often we can take out our aggression on our partner.  It’s all too easy to fight with our loved one rather than address the issue itself – the snoring.

So what if you’ve done everything you can think of – earplugs, noise machines, hundreds of dollars in various types of pillows?!

Be patient.  While it is frustrating to wake up in the middle of the night from someone’s snoring, remember they’re not doing it on purpose! 

Here’s some tips that HelpGuide.com’s site shared:

  • Time your talk carefully. Avoid middle of the night or early morning discussions when you’re feeling exhausted.
  • Keep in mind it’s not intentional. Although it’s easy to feel like a victim when you lose sleep, remember that your partner isn’t keeping you awake on purpose.
  • Avoid lashing out. Sure, sleep deprivation is aggravating and can be damaging to your health, but try your best to approach the problem in a non-confrontational way.
  • Beware of bitterness. Make sure that latching onto snoring is not an outlet for other hidden resentments you’re harboring.
  • Use humor and playfulness to bring up the subject of snoring without hurting your partner’s feelings. Laughing about it can ease tension. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into too much teasing.

And for the snorer, use the same advice!  Know that your partner is frustrated because they’re not sleeping well.  Don’t be too hard on yourself because you’re NOT doing this on purpose, and know that you’re partner LOVES YOU, just not your snoring.

If you still both feel that you’ve tried everything and talked about it, yet you’re still both miserable, it may be time to seek professional help.  Perhaps what you thought was common snoring, is really sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that requires medical attention.

So put down the bat!  There’s no need for violence!  If you’re still looking for helpful tips to prevent snoring try these bedtime remedies:

  • Clear nasal passages. Having a stuffy nose makes inhalation difficult and creates a vacuum in your throat, which in turn leads to snoring. You can do it naturally with a Neti pot or try nasal decongestants or nasal strips to help you breathe more easily while sleeping.
  • Keep bedroom air moist with a humidifier. Dry air can irritate membranes in the nose and throat.
  • Reposition. Elevating your head four inches may ease breathing and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward. There are specially designed pillows available to help prevent snoring by making sure your neck muscles are not crimped.
  • Avoid caffeine and heavy meals within two hours of going to bed, especially dairy products and soymilk.
  • Sleep on your side. Avoid sleeping on your back, as gravity makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to drop and obstruct your airway.

Share your snoring!  I mean STORY! 

Do you live with a snorer?  Are you a snorer?  What helps you sleep better?

*All bulleted lists are tips from HelpGuide.com’s article How To Stop Snoring.

Want More Sleep? Snooze is Not the Answer!

Welcome to the Guinea Pig Diaries!  Every month I’ll be covering a different topic, trying new things, experimenting!  And this month, you can call me Rip Van Witkins as I tackle the study of SLEEP!

Rip Van Winkle – The Man Who Slept for 20 Years – Jealous?
(Photo courtesy Creative Commons – LI Refugee)

When I started perusing through the National Sleep Foundation‘s website I was amazed at how much they had on Women and Sleep.  The average number of hours we’re supposed to sleep is between 7 and 9, however most women average just a little over 6.

And guess what ladies?  Women are more likely to have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and experiencing daytime sleepiness than men.

Oh goody gumdrops!  Now I know why I’m so plucky in the morning!

(Photo courtesy Creative Commons – Mrs Inman)

The causes for poor sleep can be any number of things:  Insomnia, sleep apnea, pain from migraines and tension headaches, restless leg syndrome, shift work hours, and even nocturnal eating disorders.

It also doesn’t help that all women have one of these inside their heads…

(Photo courtesy Creative Commons – mere.mortal)

Often times we think we can “cheat” sleep and function just fine, or catch up on all of our lost sleep over the weekend while getting precious little during the work week.  Regular sleep is important because that’s where our bodies achieve homeostasis.  During sleep, our breathing slows and our muscles relax.  Increased blood flow to the muscles during this relaxation is what allows tissue growth and repair.  We also release the cortisol hormone, whose job among other things, is to alleviate allergies, boost the metabolism, and help relieve pain so we can wake up energized.

Where is this cortisol you speak of?  Give it to me!

(Photo courtesy of Creative Commons – Mrs Inman)

Most of us know what an ideal sleep environment is supposed to be.  Dark room, no cell phone or alarm clock lights facing the bed, noise should be at a minimum, the temperature on the cooler side.  Blah, Blah, zzzzzzzz…

Whoops, dozed off for a minute there!  What I was saying is that we know what we’re supposed to do to help us sleep, but not many of us take the time to actually assist ourselves in that process.  Starting TODAY I invite you to join me and do a sleep study!

The sleep study month can be whatever you want it to be. 

Make small changes or large ones, but get some SLEEP! 

Here are some sleep tips to start with!

  • Going to Bed 2 Hours Earlier on Weeknights – I’m typically up until midnight or later every night.  Going to bed by 10pm is going to be tricky, but by giving myself a bedtime, I plan my night differently.  I get dinner, work on what I need to and then save my “wind down” activities like watching TV or reading for the end of the night.
  • Create a Bedtime Routine – Along with having a set bedtime, the actions you do right before bed are just as important.  Watching TV or playing games on your phone can be a fun way to unwind, but they decrease your melatonin making ability, a natural antioxidant in your body.  I’ve always been a germaphobe clean freak so my routine before bed involves my Clarisonic, flossing, mouthwash, moisturizer, vitamins, and chapstick!  Might sound basic, but doing these repetitive behaviors sends my body the message that bedtime is soon.
  • Get Plenty of Light During the Day – Just like plants, we need sunlight during the day and darkness at night.  The daylight hours help keep you energized, and then you’re more likely to fall asleep while its dark.  I’m going to try to take a short walk outside each day, sit by the window, and keep using the heat lamp in the bathroom!
  • Don’t Be the Princess and the Pea – I suffer from spinal subluxation in my upper neck so the search for a pillow that’s comfortable is unending.  I’ve tried memory foam and skipping the pillow altogether.  What’s worked best for me is an orthopedic pillow that is scooped in the middle to cradle my head while keeping my neck aligned.  If you suffer from neck or back pain, make sure you invest in the right pillow or mattress to get the best sleep possible.  Studies show people who tested a mattress for 15 minutes before purchasing one were happiest with their decision.
  • Make Bedtime Relaxing – Easier said than done, right?  If you’re like me, the minute you lie still, everything you could have and should have done that day is going to flood your brain!  Practice relaxation tips like deep breathing, tensing your muscles and relaxing them, and visualizing a peaceful place.

Are you in or are you out? Wanna get some more Zzz’s?  

  What keeps you awake at night?  What helps you fall asleep?  If it’s reading my posts, please keep the drool to a minimum. 

Snoozes and Pillow Fluffs,


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