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Happy holidays from The Grove! So sorry that the GroveZine is running late this month. Thanksgiving suddenly jumped up on the horizon, followed quickly by the lighting of the Enchanted Forest here in Jefferson, and of course, the Candlelight Tour of Homes was in full swing before I knew it. I don't know where the month of November went, but it was just a blur in passing... and December's starting out the same.
HGTV Update! If you've been a GroveZine subscriber for a while, you know that the HGTV show "If Walls Could Talk" came to The Grove last summer to film the house for an episode. We've been told by the show that a tentative air date of 12/31/07 has been set - New Year's Eve! I'll let you know as we hear something more definitive, but you can check the HGTV website for that show, and we're supposedly in episode #WCT-1809.
Ah, the ever-popular ice cream sandwich; I think that these things have been around since the dawn of time. Although I've eaten a bazillion of them in my life, I still love them. Recently, however, I was introduced to a new twist on this classic treat: Ice Cream Sandwich Cake. The Grove was the scene of the holiday party that kicks off the Candlelight season this year, and it's always a lot of fun. It's attended by the Historic Jefferson Foundation Board of Directors, the homeowners who've put their homes on the tour, local dignitaries, etc. My folks helped us host the party, and my mother brought the cake that I mentioned - it was a huge hit! I think that half the people there were asking for the recipe. 'Tis the season for desserts, so I thought that I'd include the recipe for those of you with a sweet tooth (or an office party, church social, etc). It's incredibly easy to make.
Ice Cream Cake
17 Ice Cream Sandwich
12 oz Caramel Topping
1 1/4 cup toasted pecans
12 oz Cool Whip
3/4 cup Hot Fudge Topping
Place 8 1/2 Ice Cream Sandwiches in a 9-1/2x13" Pyrex pan - it should be a snug fit. Spread caramel topping over sandwiches. Sprinkle 1/2 of pecans on top. Spread 1/2 of the Cool Whip over everything. Place 8 1/2 Ice Cream Sandwiches on top, and then spread the remaining Cool Whip and sprinkle with remaining pecans. Freeze for at least 2 hours. Drizzle the hot fudge topping over the top of the cake. Let thaw about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Like I mentioned, the Candlelight season is upon us in Jefferson, and it all started the Friday after Thanksgiving when we lit the "Enchanted Forest" in Lions Park. The tour of homes started the next week, and since Tami & I are volunteering in the homes every night, we've been having fun and have encountered many GroveZine subscribers. The #1 question has been, "Where is the November GroveZine?". I kept apologizing, and told everyone that it was coming soon - and here it is, finally. Candlelight has been a lot of fun, though, and the homes are simply beautiful with their holiday decorations.
We seem to be having a couple of ribbon-cuttings on new businesses every month, and one of the latest places to open is a museum: Lafayette Street Vintage Vehicles. It's located in the historic downtown area, and is home to seven vintage automobiles, each one over 50 years old - the kinds of cars that your grandparents drove. You can inspect and enjoy each one up close & personal, and the museum also features miniature displays, photographs, and other antiques. I was there just a few days ago, and had a great time looking around.
Speaking of new developments in town, I passed by the low, swampy area south of Don Juan's Mexican Restaurant on Hwy 59 to see that there was some clearing taking place. Word around town is that there will soon be a new three-story hotel there. There's a lot of work to be done before they can even start - the area floods like a lake every time that we get a good rain, so that will be the first obstacle to overcome, but it seems to be moving right along. This means that at popular festivals like Candlelight, Boo Run, Pilgrimage, Mardi Gras, etc, even more people can stay in town. Stay tuned for more info as it develops. Also, the word around town is there is also a new workout facility going in on Polk Street downtown, and also a new hobby shop that specializing in model trains (I can hardly wait to see that shop - should be very cool).
Coming up in January is the quilt show, on the 25th through the 27th. You can check out all their info at jeffersonquiltshow.com. Tami and I have volunteered there since it first started, and it's always been interesting. I'm not into quilts, but I couldn't help but walk around in awe of the expert workmanship in all the quilts that I saw. Make your plans early, because this is quickly becoming a huge event here in Jefferson!
I got an email from Nancy Poole this month, and she had a very interesting story to tell from the Excelsior Hotel. If you've read my "Ghosts of East Texas and the Pineywoods" book, you know that Tami and I encountered a spirit there that exuded a sweet, heavy perfumed scent. Nancy ran across the same thing at the hotel recently, and then right afterwards had the same occurrence at a conference that she was attending (as if the presence might be following her), and here's her story in her own words: "During a recent stay there I was nearly overcome by what I at first thought might be Oscar de la Renta's signature perfume, but couldn't pin it down to any one person who might be wearing that. I noticed it near me at the TBRC conference site as well as the hotel, so assumed it must be from an audience member, but upon reflection this past week, I'm having second thoughts. Hearing my name called softly last Sunday morning while I was alone in Room 206 (just at the top of the Excelsior's stairs), I'm all the more suspicious of that cloying fragrance I noted at both the Saturday conference site and again as I came downstairs into the hotel lobby, that same Sunday morning as my unseen 'wake up call'." The folks at The Excelsior House don't talk about their spirits, but the place definitely has its share of activity.
When we do the tour of The Grove, I think that one of the things that surprises people is some of the subtleties of the things that happen here. Not every supernatural event involves seeing a spirit walking through the house. Sometimes we encounter little things that we just can't understand or explain. For example, I had just started the tour a week or so ago and led our guests into the parlor. Tami is always a room or two ahead, putting the last minute touches on the house; sometimes we'll hear her close a door or knocking around a little bit. On that particular day, though, it sounded like she was re-arranging everything in the next room. It was loud and a little distracting - things were knocking around, and could tell that she was running around in some kind of state of calamity. I just ignored it and went on with the tour, but afterwards, I asked what in the world had been going on. The answer was an interesting - and a little annoying for her - manifestation of the supernatural at The Grove. Tami was in the stairwell giving everything a quick dust-off, and as she moved on, items on the dressing table started falling over. She went back and righted everything, but after she walked away, they once again began falling. Keep in mind that these are things that are always on that table on a day-to-day basis, and they never fall over. There wasn't anything shaking the floor, since the group in the parlor with me was standing still listening to my stories, and Tami was quietly stepping around in her sock feet trying NOT to cause any noise. At that one particular time, and only for a window of a few minutes, the things on the table that shouldn't be moving at all were being knocked around by an unseen hand. It had stopped by the time the group came to the stairwell - just a little mischievous fun by the spirits at The Grove.
There are a ton of things that I can't explain that happen at The Grove. In many ways, though, this one is one of the strangest. I was sitting in the den – the "new room" that was added in 1870 – just relaxing and watching TV. The French door to the game room was open, and I saw some movement there in my peripheral vision. My first thought was that one of the dogs was behind the door and was walking out, but it was much, much smaller than our bassets. I then figured that it was Elsie the cat, but as I was turning my head I saw that it was a small black dog sitting there just at the edge of the door. It stopped and stared at me. Our friend Renee has a little black dog named Linus, but he's a tiny poodle and this dog was bigger than that. I kept looking at him and trying to figure out who he was, and my next thought was that he was about the size of my aunt's Maltese, but Chloe is snow white, not black. All that was going on in my mind, when suddenly the little fellow just faded away. Now, the first odd thing about this that was that I didn't just get a quick glimpse or faint image – it was full-on, solid little black dog that disappeared right in front of my eyes. The other strange thing is that most conventional theology teaches that animals don't have spirits, only humans do... so what was that little dog doing there? Native Americans believe that there are animal spirits, and who knows, maybe they're on to something. I can hear the words of the Great Bard ringing in my ears: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." No matter what, though, on that Wednesday evening at The Grove, the ghost of a little black dog showed up in the game room, and only stayed for a minute.
I say all the time that there are paranormal things that happen at The Grove that we simply don't understand; most of them, in fact! Some fascinate me more than others, though, and one of those involve the manifestation of "feelings" associated with an event. You may remember a particular entity that we call "Thomas" who we occasionally encounter on the stairs; when he's there and you get close, you're overcome with a feeling of sadness and apprehension. Step away, and the feeling fades. It's like the emotion is exuding from him, much as the heavily scented cloud surrounds the Perfumed Lady at the Excelsior House. Well, something odd happened to me this month - I was sitting at my computer in the den working, when I saw something moving around in the game room through the sheer curtains on the French doors. When I turned and looked directly at it, I saw a very large, shadowy figure moving past the doors as if it was walking from one side of the room to the other. Suddenly, a wave of intense fear rushed over me. For one of the first times at The Grove, I was terrified. When I stopped and thought about it, though, I was suddenly fascinated - I wasn't in fear for my life or safety, it was just as if whatever I was looking at was sending out waves of the feeling. I made myself stand up and dash into the game room, and while I didn't see anything, there was certainly a very strange feeling in the room, kind of like the feeling that someone was present. I told a few people about it, and they said, "Hopefully that won't happen again!" Actually, though, I'm hoping that it does. It was so sudden and intense that I'd like the opportunity to explore it further... who knows, it might provide a little more understanding of the things that happen here at The Grove!
Thanks for continuing to read the GroveZine, even when I'm running late with it! I sincerely hope that your Thanksgiving was fantastic, and that you have a delightful holiday season as 2007 comes to a close. It almost seems unreal - not that long ago everyone was agonizing over "Y2K" and the rollover from 1999 to 2000. They say that time flies when you're having fun, so I guess that we're all having a deliriously wonderful time, 'cause time is certainly flying! I appreciate you spending a little bit of your time reading the 'zine. Have a great December!
If you'd like to check any of my books on ghosts and the supernatural, you can find them at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com, or
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copy of anything.
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