6 Protective Herbs and Stones


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The heroine in my Coffee & Crime mystery series, Ellie Gooden, frequently uses stones and herbs in her spiritual and everyday life, and I am often asked by readers about the ones I mention that she uses. ¬†For instance, when she first moves into her cabin in the first book in the series, Restless Natives, she smudges her house to cleanse it of any stuck or negative energies which might be lingering there from the cabin’s previous owner.

In my series, because my main character is frequently dealing with the sometimes negative energy of the dead, a lot of what she does involves either cleansing or protection, so today, I thought I’d spend a few moments giving you a minuscule example of the kinds of herbs and stones Ellie and other practitioners use both for those purposes. ¬†This is by no means comprehensive, just some of my personal favorites. ¬†So put down your besom, pull up your stool, and put on your witch’s thinking hat and have a listen.


Just as regular old table salt absorbs that red wine you spilled on grandma’s white table cloth, or the oil from your cast iron skillet, salt is also a great absorber or dampener of psychic energy of all kinds. ¬†Used for centuries in casting protective circles and barriers, it has the advantage in the modern age of being readily available. ¬†Used on doorsteps, windowsills, in the corners of your house, or in the traditional ritual circle, salt does the job effectively and economically!



A stone used by many for protection from all sorts of happenstances, amethyst is a beautiful purple gem stone with a calming, balancing nature, readily available at your local rock shop or metaphysical store.  Familiar to many people and great protection for travelers, lore also states it can help guard one against psychic attacks (something Ellie learns in Book Four!).


Black Tourmaline

I love all the color variations of tourmaline, but many of my pagan friends tout highly the potent protective properties of this black translucent stone.  Some traditions consider this stone able to create a psychic shield to dispel both negative energies and malign entities, and is carried by a couple of ghost hunters of my acquaintance.  It is also sometimes believed to help turn around negative thought patterns as well as assist in taking that energy and sending it down a more positive path.

black tourmaline


Not only is this little herb an aid in relaxation when drunk as a tea, but it can also help you fight off psychic attacks, especially when used in combination with other herbs like calendula, which I also use in skin and joint salves.  It has a pleasant, apple-like scent, and a mild flavor and goes great with a little honey.  Plus, the little white flowers are charming in your garden!


Sage and other ‘smudging’ herbs

While the practice of smudging with sage is common place among modern pagans, it has stirred some controversy among some Native American activists, who consider ‘smudging’ by white shamans a form of cultural mis-appropriation. ¬†While smoke and the burning of incense or herbs has been used by many cultures across the world, it is always important to respect the spiritual beliefs and practices of all peoples, especially if you are imitating or adopting another cultural tradition into your own practices. ¬†To avoid this, I grow my own herbs to use when cleansing a space, relying on my own European and Celtic heritage for herb choices; primarily lavender, rosemary and mugwort. ¬†This also acts as a protection against some shady business practices as some commercially produced ‘smudge’ bundles can contain toxic substances. ¬†Besides, I find that the connection between growing and tending my herbs gives my cleansing rituals more meaning and punch.

Cleansing Herbs

Mugwort, Rosemary & Lavender


Here’s an herb almost everyone is familiar with, and one that goes great with pizza! ¬†Not only can you use this lovely, fragrant herb in cooking, but you can create a wash with it that some practitioners swear by to ward off negative influences and promote a peaceful and harmonious home. ¬†Asperge the walls of your home or your body for a barrier against negativity.


And there you have it.  Just a smattering of possibilities!

If you’re at all interested in learning more about crystals and stones, or herbs, I highly recommend the following websites:

Crystal Vaults

The Magickal Cat

Or check out almost any book by the late, great author, Scott Cunningham.

I hope you’ve found this peek into the magickal world interesting! ¬†As with anything of a spiritual nature, most things are open to interpretation and your mileage may vary. ¬†In the end, it’s all about the energy you put into it, rather than the object itself, no matter the purpose. ¬†Keep putting out positive energy, keep love and hope in your heart, and the world will be a better place for it!

As always,

Illegitimi non-carborundum!


Friday Dance Party

Should you stay or should you go? ¬†Oh, definitely stay, because it’s that time of the week again! ¬†You know, where you get up on your feet and shake, shake, shake your booty? ¬†(Hah! ¬†Fooled you, that’s not it!) Riding on the coat tails of last week’s Billy Idol tune, here’s another snarling punk band. ¬†Give it up for The Clash and Should I Stay or Should I Go!

What’s Your Poison? 6 Espresso Drinks You Should Know (and try!)


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Since I write a cozy mystery series (the Coffee & Crime Mysteries) about the owner of a coffee shop, I read a lot about coffee. ¬†And as much as my doctor might wish otherwise, I drink a lot of coffee. ¬†Now, granted, I am not much of a connoisseur – I like a little coffee with my sugar and cream. ¬†However, I make a point to actually taste various types of coffee (without the sugar and cream), so that I am able to experience and recognize the difference, say, between a Hawaii Kona and a Jamaican Blue Mountain; a dark roast versus a light roast; or a blend versus a single origin. ¬†It’s fun and informative and I’m hoping to share more coffee lore in my books as time progresses.

One of the things I get asked most about is the difference between the various espresso drinks. ¬†So I thought I’d create a little blog post about it.

What is an espresso drink?

The basics:  An espresso drink is one that contains espresso (typically created in a machine by forcing steam through ground coffee beans), steamed milk, and foam in various amounts and in various layered combinations.

An Espresso & an Espresso - a marriage made in heaven!

Espresso & Espresso – a match made in heaven!

Some espresso drinks also contain other ingredients (like chocolate or other flavored syrups, or whipped cream), but all espresso drinks contain the basic three ingredients of espresso, steamed milk, and foam.

My Favorite Espresso Drinks

Cappuccino:  This is probably one of the most often ordered drinks, and likely the first thing you ordered at a Starbucks (outside of a pumpkin spice latte perhaps).  A cappuccino should be made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk, in that order.  Because of the layering, many good coffee houses will serve drinks like this in glass cups or short tumbler, so you can also appreciate the drink visually.

Latte: ¬†If you’re at all familiar with romance languages, you might be able to guess what a latte is all about. ¬†Yup – milk. ¬†A shot of espresso goes in the bottom of the cup (or a tumbler glass, outside of the States) and the rest of the cup is filled with steamed milk, giving the drink a sweeter taste. ¬†Then, a soup√ßon of milk foam is added to the top.

Cafe Latte

A Lotta Latte

Macchiato: ¬†The macchiato is a step down from the strength of a straight espresso. ¬†Layering is important here and a good barista (like those at my favorite local coffee shop, The Conscious Cup, in Crystal Lake) will make sure that there is a dark espresso layer on the bottom, a layer where the espresso and a little blop of steamed milk mix, and then the finishing layer of foamed milk (some coffee houses I’ve been to omit the foam).

Mocha: ¬†Ah, the joys of chocolate and coffee combined! ¬†The mocha is my go-to coffee drink in the winter. ¬†It’s 50/50 espresso (on the bottom) and chocolate syrup, topped with steamed milk. ¬†Sweet, rich, powerful, it’s a great pick-me-up for those chilly mornings when neither me nor my car want to start up. ¬†Some people like to put whipped cream on top. ¬†I say, go right ahead, there’s always room for whipped cream!

Mocha Mocha Mocha!

Mocha Mocha Mocha!

Americano: ¬†Most espresso drinks call for a shot (30 ml) of espresso. ¬†If you need more volume, but not more jazz (as in a Doppio, where you’d get double the amount of espresso), then you could opt for an Americano, which is the standard espresso shot coupled with twice the amount of hot water.

Cortado: ¬†Not always on the coffee menu here in the Midwest, the Cortado is one of my favorites when I really need a java fix. ¬†A popular drink in Spain, hence the Spanish rather than Italian name, it’s espresso mixed with an equal amount of steamed milk, and is creamy rather than foamy. ¬†Plus, because it is not layered, I can mix in a ton of sugar without anyone being the wiser and calling me a coffee Philistine!

The Cortado

The Cortado РOlé!

There are many more, but I’ll leave some for a future post. ¬†If there’s a coffee drink you’d like to know more about, or want to share YOUR favorite coffee drink, please leave a comment! ¬†I love to hear from you all. ¬†Now, at least, the next time you’re in line at your favorite coffee shop, you’ll be armed with some information, and can perhaps step outside your comfort zone and try something new. ¬†Or, maybe you’ll just impress the the guy or gal in line behind you with your exceptional coffee knowledge!

Be sure to linger over your coffee. ¬†Enjoy it, make it a ritual instead of just slugging it back. ¬†It is a delectable pleasure to be savored. ¬†As the mother of a dear friend used to say, “Just one more sip, George.”

As always,

Illegitimi non carborundum!






Friday Dance Party


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Is it time for a slow dance? ¬†Nah, I didn’t think so. ¬†Maybe next week. ¬†For now, I give you one of my favorite live performances, and, incidentally, one of my personal theme songs! ¬†Here’s a little Kenny Loggins for your Friday morning!

How Did They Build the Pyramids? One Brick at a Time.


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So I’m frantic busy trying to finish the first draft on the fourth Ellie Gooden/Coffee & Crime mystery. ¬†It’s due to my editor at the end of July. ¬†The clock is ticking. ¬†I was making steady progress until Wednesday when I was slammed with Stupid Real Life Stuff and I got totally derailed. ¬†I began to wonder if I was ever going to finish this one.

dog and keyboard

Made me wonder how those poor Egyptians felt, staring up at the empty space that would one day be the Great Pyramid, then looking at the seventeen or so stones laid on the ground and wondering how on earth they were ever going to create what Imhotep drew out for them.


But, Sunday I pulled myself up by my boot straps and planted my butt in the chair and managed to put down 2100 or so words. ¬†It felt good, and suddenly that pyramid I’m building didn’t seem quite so daunting. ¬†I might only be halfway to the summit, but I can see the gleaming golden cap over the brilliant white sandstone blocks, shining like a beacon to the heavens… just like this newest Coffee & Crime mystery will outshine all the rest of the cozy paranormals out there for sale on the ‘Zon this fall.

Or… ¬†maybe I’ve just been out in the sun too long and I’m starting to see things. ¬†At any rate, the way those poor, loin-clothed, bare-torso’d wretches built that pyramid is the same way I’m going to write this book. ¬†One lousy brick at a time. ¬†Yes, I’ll probably need some sledges to haul the stones, and some water to quench my thirst and maybe even a foreman or two to crack the whip over my head (hey Nano pals, you hear that? ¬†You get to play with my Indiana Jones whip!). ¬†But I got this.



Gratuitous Indy Pic!

Anyhoo. ¬†I haven’t been in touch in a while and I just wanted to let you know that I’m still here. ¬†Still dragging the stones up the slanted ramp, all Sisyphus-like. ¬†Still sweating under the hot Egyptian sun for the glory of Ra. ¬†Heh heh. ¬†Or something like that. ¬†Keep on, keeping on, fellow babies. ¬†And as always,

Illegitimi non carborundum!

Friday Dance Party!


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I asked fans on my FB page yesterday if anyone had suggestions for today’s Friday Dance Party tune and I got some interesting suggestions. ¬† So today you get TWO for the price of ONE! ¬†First, something with a nice, funky beat. ¬†I give you the Commodores and Brick House. ¬†This is a song that my daughter used to dance to when she was three!


And then, from another fan, something a little hipper and wilder. ¬†I present for your viewing pleasure The New York Dolls and Dance Like A Monkey! ¬†Come on, shake it like a monkey like you just don’t care!


That’s all for today, my friends! ¬†Keep it loose and as always,

Illegitimi non carborundum!

Exciting News!


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Hello, fellow babies! ¬†Exciting news for you. ¬†I’ll be signing books (and drink napkins and whatever else floats your boat) at the Barnes and Noble in Crystal Lake, IL on Thursday, July 27th as part of their New Writers Night. ¬†If you’d like to come out to meet me, ask me to introduce you to Charlie (I get that a lot), beg me to include you in the next Coffee & Crime mystery, or just to hob nob with the local literary elite, be there at 6 o’clock sharp! ¬†I’m so excited that my books will physically be in a real book store, I’m ready to explode!

As Bob Barker would say, come on down! ¬†We’ll have a blast and I’ll share with you what’s going to happen next for Ellie Gooden, Charlie, Erik the Red and the whole crew from Horizon, Wisconsin!

Hope to see you there!

new writers night