Was this woman wrongly convicted of murder?

Image copyright Emma Jayne-Magson
Image caption Emma-Jayne Magson, 25, is serving a life sentence for murder

Emma-Jayne Magson stabbed her partner with a steak knife then left him to bleed to death. Yet her family believes her murder conviction was a miscarriage of justice. Why?

“I’ve done what my Dad did to you.”

Joanne Smith felt her heart sink as she read the text message from her daughter Emma-Jayne Magson.

Two decades earlier Joanne had been stabbed by her partner, and now Emma had fatally stabbed her own partner, 26-year-old James Knight.

Emma and James had both been out drinking that night and were thrown out of a taxi because they were rowing. The argument continued in the street and back at Emma’s home.

At some point Emma picked up a steak knife and plunged it into James’s chest, puncturing his heart.

James then somehow ended up in the street outside his brother’s house, where Emma was seen sitting on top of him. When James’s brother and a neighbour tried to help she failed to say she had stabbed him, so they unwittingly left him to die.

Despite all of this, Justice for Women, an organisation helping 25-year-old Emma, believes she is one of many women who may have been wrongly convicted of murder after fighting back against abusive partners.

The organisation is the same one helping Sally Challen appeal against a murder conviction for bludgeoning her “controlling” husband to death with a hammer.

“If I honestly thought hand on heart Emma really meant to do that [kill James], I would never stand by Emma,” says her mother.

“But I just know Emma. I know she loves James. And that’s so frustrating for me because I know how much she loves him; even to this day she loves him.”

So how did Emma come to kill James Knight?

Emma’s childhood

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Emma’s older sister, Charlotte, was kept at the family home after she died

Emma was only eight months old when her father attacked her mother in front of her and her older sister, Charlotte, in 1993.

“He locked me in a flat and stabbed me,” recalls Joanne. “They were both in my arms. He went for my throat but as I ran he slashed my legs.”

Despite Emma being too young to remember what happened, Joanne says the stabbing had a lasting impact on her.

“We moved around, we went into a safe house,” says Joanne. “There were scars on my legs and I had to learn to walk again.”

Joanne says Emma had a close relationship with her older sister.

“It was just them,” says Joanne. “They had a bedroom together; they did everything together.”

Then Charlotte died, aged nine, following a complication from an operation.

Joanne sounds regretful when explaining what she did next – her grief-stricken decision to bring Charlotte’s body back to the family home for two weeks. Emma was seven years old at the time.

“Charlotte was in my bedroom for a week, in my bed,” says Joanne. “For the first week she was in my room then I brought her downstairs in an open casket.

“I don’t think I considered anybody but myself.”

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Joanne said her daughter started “acting out” for attention as a teenager

While Emma had been quiet as a child she started rebelling as a teenager.

“As she got to about 13 she started drinking, acting out really, mainly for attention,” says Joanne.

Joanne had left Emma’s father but says there was violence in a subsequent relationship, and the pattern repeated when Emma got into relationships herself.

One of Emma’s partners “fractured her skull and put her in hospital and she had a leak on the brain”.

Emma had a daughter, who is now four years old, when she was 21. Joanne says the birth was “traumatic” and she suffered from post-natal depression.

Emma and James

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption James Knight had two daughters from his previous relationship

Emma met James a year after her daughter was born, in the autumn of 2015.

They got together at about the time James’s relationship ended with the mother of his two children. James had been staying with one of his brothers in Sylvan Street in Leicester, while Emma lived a few doors down with her daughter.

John Skinner, who was friends with James and worked with him as a binman, described him as “a family man” who had lots of friends.

“James had a very good group of friends… he was popular in and amongst his mates and at work.

“Whenever he wasn’t working with me people always wanted to work with him because they knew you could have a laugh and he would get the work done.”

John says the relationship with Emma appeared to begin well.

“When they first got together James looked really happy and bubbly and like he was moving on with his life and he just seemed really happy and settled.”

He became aware of arguments creeping in but thought this was normal for a couple getting settled.

“I’ve seen them have an argument once where it got quite heated but in my opinion they both gave as good as they got,” says John.

“I’ve never seen either of them be violent towards each other.”

Joanne felt her daughter changed as the relationship went on.

“James wanted her to stay in the home, and James didn’t want her to wear makeup,” she says.

Image copyright John Skinner
Image caption John (left) saw Emma and James argue but thought “they both gave as good as they got”

In the murder trial, the prosecution described their relationship as “volatile”.

Emma’s family claim James was physically and emotionally abusive.

She “always had bruises”, her mother says, but would explain them away as “play fighting”.

James’s mother, Trish Knight, maintains her son was not violent.

“James has no history of violence towards women,” she says.

“James was with his previous girlfriend for nine years, who he has got two children with, and there was no violence in that relationship.”

The BBC contacted James’s former partner but she did not want to contribute to this piece.

She told The Sun he was “a real romantic” at the start of the relationship and “an amazing dad” to their daughters.

However, she discovered James was smoking cannabis and taking steroids towards the end of their relationship.

“It was a far cry from the man I fell in love with,” she told The Sun.

“It caused row after row and no matter how much I begged him to stop, he didn’t listen.”

Image copyright John Skinner
Image caption John (right) said James was popular in and outside of work

James’s mother still insists he would never have hit anyone.

“James could shout, and James had hit a wall. If James lost his temper he would hit a wall rather than hit somebody,” says Trish.

John noticed a physical change in his workmate.

“He did get a lot bigger, obviously, you could tell there was something going off,” says John.

“Obviously he was always obsessed with looking good… he used to go to the gym after work.

“If you do the job and you work hard it keeps you fit in itself but he went that extra mile.”

The miscarriage

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Emma already had a daughter, who is now four years old

Emma miscarried their baby in the middle of March 2016.

Miscarriages are known to trigger mental health problems, but Emma’s family say the loss was even more traumatic because half of the baby was left inside her despite a hospital procedure intended to remove it. She then returned to hospital for a further procedure to have the remains removed.

Emma telephoned her mum to say James blamed her for losing the baby.

“A nurse had to have a word with them in the hospital because he was calling her a slag, saying she was with black men, that’s why she lost it,” says Joanne.

James’s mum said he had been “thrilled” about the prospect of becoming a father again, and she never heard him blame Emma for the miscarriage.

“He was upset,” Trish says.

“I think he was angry it had happened to them.”

Fateful night out

Image copyright Leicestershire Police
Image caption Emma claimed she “didn’t mean to harm” James

Emma decided to go on a night out with a friend on Saturday 26 March 2016, the Easter bank holiday weekend.

That night, Emma met up with James at a bar in Leicester city centre.

Louise Bullivant, her new solicitor, says door staff at the pub asked James to leave because they were concerned about his behaviour.

“There was an incident between James and door staff which resulted in him being asked to leave and Emma decided to leave with him,” she says.

“There’s no doubt that they had both been drinking.”

They argued in a taxi and the driver asked them to get out, meaning they had to walk home. During the journey, CCTV captured James grabbing Emma around her shoulder and neck and pushing her to the ground.

A statement from Emma was read out in court, in which she claimed she stabbed James in self-defence.

“Once in the kitchen, he grabbed me around my throat and pushed me back,” it said.

“I was right next to the sink and reached out to grab something. I picked up the first thing which came to hand which was a steak knife; the knife was in my hand and I hit out once.

“I didn’t mean to harm him, I just wanted to get him off’.”

“I think something triggered; I think she had had enough,” says Joanne.

James’s mum says nobody really knows what happened.

“There were only two people who were there that night and one of them can’t give his version of events,” says Trish.

James’s last moments

Image caption Emma said she stabbed James in the kitchen of her house in Sylvan Street, Leicester

James did not die immediately. In fact, he somehow ended up outside his brother Kevin’s house a few doors away, lying face down in the street, at about 02:30.

Kevin and a neighbour, Michal Ladic, came out to help but Emma did not tell either of them she had stabbed James.

“He was still alive when I came to them,” says Michal.

“I wanted to turn him around but she was sitting on him. He was face down, topless, she was sitting on him.

“I asked if he was all right and she said he was just drunk.”

In his evidence at the trial, Kevin said Emma told him James was drunk and had been beaten up by bouncers earlier on.

When asked what impression he got from Emma, Kevin said: “That everything will be fine in the morning – he just needs to sleep it off.”

Kevin helped lift James into Emma’s house and placed him on the floor of the front room. Kevin did not realise his brother had been stabbed and left, telling him: “I will see you tomorrow.”

Emma rang 999 and asked for an ambulance, but again did not mention James had been stabbed.

When asked what had happened she said: “Um, I don’t know, my boyfriend’s here and he’s making weird noises. I don’t know what’s going on.”

Later in the call she said: “It looks like he’s had a fight with someone.”

When the operator explained the ambulance might take a while, she replied: “No, that’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

The prosecution claimed Emma deceived people into not saving James’s life, and described her as “cold, brutal and manipulative”.

However, her mother believes she simply didn’t realise James was dying.

“I don’t think she knew how serious it was in that moment,” says Joanne.

Image copyright Emma-Jayne Magson
Image caption James was known as “King James” and Emma got a tattoo in tribute to him after his death

Kevin was awoken by Emma banging on his door, screaming that James was dead, about 40 minutes after he had seen them both outside his house.

Kevin went to Emma’s house and Michal was already there trying to save his life, having heard Emma’s screams.

“We didn’t know he had been stabbed,” says Michal.

“The body was so clean, nothing on him, and only when I gave him mouth-to-mouth and the second breath raised his chest and that wound opened and my eyes popped out. I just took the phone from Kev and told the operator that he was stabbed in the heart.

“Then I was trying to do the CPR for another 15 minutes and she was getting in my way, like ‘I want him back, I just want him to wake up’.

“I remember telling Kev to drag her off him, and he did it, he took her off so I could carry on with the mouth-to-mouth and CPR.”

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Emma’s grandmother says she saw marks around Emma’s neck

Emma phoned her grandmother, who got a taxi straight there.

“The ambulance had taken James away,” says Lynda Allen.

“There were police everywhere. Eventually, they let me go through and she walked down the road to me. All she had got on was a little nightdress, no shoes, nothing.

“She put her head on my shoulder, crying.”

Lynda noticed marks around her neck, which were also noted when Emma was later examined in police custody.

Emma was not initially arrested as police did not realise she was responsible for stabbing James.

She was allowed to go to her mother’s house, where she told her mother she thought she had killed James, who told police. Emma was then arrested and taken away after being allowed to say goodbye to her daughter.

The murder trial

Image copyright PA
Image caption Emma decided not to give evidence at her trial

Unusually for someone accused of murder, Emma remained on bail throughout her trial at Leicester Crown Court.

Her new solicitor believes this “says a great deal about the court’s approach to the evidence”.

Emma decided not to give evidence herself, but her legal team argued she had acted in self-defence, did not intend to kill or harm James, and had suffered a loss of control.

Her family believe she was scared and did not understand what was happening during the trial.

“How can I put it without sounding nasty?” says her grandmother.

“Emma’s very slow on the uptake. If you said something to Emma and she didn’t understand it, where it’s quite simple to me and you, I would have to sit and explain everything to her.

“I don’t understand the law but I would have thought there would be somebody there to talk things through with her that she didn’t understand.”

Emma’s new solicitor believes if she had been supported by an intermediary, such as a trained social worker, she might have followed the trial better and participated effectively.

Emma was found guilty of murder in November 2016 and given a life sentence with a minimum term of 17 years.

Emma’s appeal

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Joanne takes Emma’s daughter to visit her in prison every week

After the trial ended, Emma’s mother was approached by a police officer who told her to contact Justice for Women.

The group helped Emma get a new legal team, which is trying to appeal against the murder conviction using psychiatric evidence.

The original psychiatrist instructed by the defence team had diagnosed Emma as having an emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), but for some reason this was not used as evidence at her trial.

Emma’s new legal team went back to this psychiatrist for a further assessment, and also instructed a clinical psychologist who diagnosed Emma as having a pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

Even the psychiatric expert originally instructed by the prosecution now agrees that Emma was suffering from a recognised medical condition at the time of the killing.

“He says he has revised his view and now supports a diagnosis of EUPD and PDD-NOS,” says Emma’s solicitor.

A petition was launched demanding “justice for James”, saying that Emma should stay in prison and “do her time”.

However, Court of Appeal judges in London have found Emma has an “arguable” case and granted permission to appeal.

Emma speaks to her young daughter on the phone every day, and she visits the prison every week.

“They are so close,” says Joanne.

“She’s going to see her mum today and she said ‘I’m going to my mum’s house, I can’t wait. I love my mum’s house’.

“It’s just so sad.”

Image caption Trish says her son James had no history of abuse in his relationships

For James’s young daughters, their weekly visits are to his grave.

“They ask if Daddy is watching them,” says Trish.

“One of his daughters when she’s old enough wants to go in the sky to see Daddy.”

Joanne empathises with James’s mum, but maintains Emma should not have been convicted of murder.

“I’ve lost a child so I know what James’s mum is going through. I understand, I really do,” she says.

“I just hope Emma can come out and be a mum to her daughter and get on with her life.

“She will never forget James ever, she won’t. I know that she loves James and I know that if she could take that night back she would. 100% she would.”

On 22 November the Court of Appeal granted permission for Emma-Jayne Magson to appeal against her murder conviction. Her legal team is waiting for a date for the next hearing.

Related Topics

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-45733551

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/amazon-products/was-this-woman-wrongly-convicted-of-murder/
via iHomeInnovations
from Things For The Kitchen And Home https://homeandkichentools.tumblr.com/post/182159028246
via Home And Kitchen Guru

Native Americans call Trump’s Wounded Knee tweet ‘callous,’ ‘disrespectful,’ and ‘racist.’

President Trump invoked two Native American tragedies to insult Senator Elizabeth Warren on Twitter, causing decent people everywhere to cringe.

At this point, it should be painfully obvious that you shouldn’t use the tragic history of Native peoples as a weapon to attack your political enemies. And yet, here we are.

On January 13, 2019, President Trump shared a clip from an Instagram Live video of Elizabeth Warren, in which she grabs a beer and thanks her husband after announcing that she’s running for president in 2020. Trump commented, “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!”

For those who may not know, Wounded Knee was the site of a massacre in which U.S. soldiers slaughtered 150-300 Native Americans, nearly half of them women and children. And the Battle of Little Bighorn, though a momentary victory for Native Americans, is still a painful reminder of the oppression of the indigenous people of America, which only became more intense after the event.

The largest and oldest American Indian and Native Alaskan organization in the country has denounced Trump’s tweet.

The National Congress of American Indians is “the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country,” and those who lead the NCAI had some words for the president after his tweet.

NCAI President Jefferson Keep said on behalf of the organization:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the casual and callous use of these events as part of a political attack. Hundreds of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho people lost their lives at the hands of the invading U.S. Army during these events, and their memories should not be desecrated as a rhetorical punch line.”

Rodney Bordeaux, Chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and NCAI Great Plains Alternate Area Vice President also said:

“The President referenced the Wounded Knee Massacre, one of the darkest and most tragic chapters in the history of the Sioux Nation, to mock Senator Warren. On behalf of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, I condemn President Trump’s racist and disrespectful tweet about this brutal incident, in which an estimated 300 unarmed men, women, and children were rounded up and slaughtered. President Trump should remember that the United States has broken and continues to dishonor the treaties of peace made with our nation and other tribal nations of this country, and he should apologize immediately to the people of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and other Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations for his shameful and ignorant misstatement.”

Others have called out the president’s insensitive and callous remarks as well.

Ruth Hopkins, a Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer and tribal attorney called Trump’s tweet “cold, callous, and just plain racist.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe called him out, saying “It is disgraceful that a President is mocking a massacre that hurt our Lakota People. We are outraged by his ignorance and lack of propriety.”


Other folks on Twitter, Native and non-Native, have pointed out the egregiously offensive nature of this official presidential statement. (As a reminder, all of Trump’s tweets, including this one, have been ruled by a court as official statements and will go down on the historical record.)

Trump’s tweet is indefensible. The fact that he has not acknowledged that fact or deleted it with a profound apology isn’t surprising—but it should be. We should be shocked by this kind of behavior out of the President of the United States. The fact that it’s barely made a blip on most people’s radars is a clear sign of how far our standards have fallen.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/native-americans-call-trump-s-wounded-knee-tweet-callous-disrespectful-and-racist

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/amazon-products/native-americans-call-trumps-wounded-knee-tweet-callous-disrespectful-and-racist/
via iHomeInnovations
from Things For The Kitchen And Home https://homeandkichentools.tumblr.com/post/182132574511
via Home And Kitchen Guru

Manchester knifings ‘a terrorist inquiry’

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionManchester stabbing: Police restrain suspect

The stabbing of three people – including a police officer – in Manchester is being treated as a terrorist investigation, police say.

A man, aged 25, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after the attack on New Year’s Eve at the city’s Victoria railway station.

Two knives were recovered at the scene and a property is being searched in the Cheetham Hill area.

The BBC understands the security services are assisting police.

The three victims were taken to a nearby hospital with “serious” but not life-threatening injuries.

A woman, aged in her 50s, suffered injuries to her face and stomach, while a man – also in his 50s – has injuries to his stomach.

Image caption Police raided a house in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester

The officer, a police sergeant in his 30s, sustained knife wounds to his shoulder during the attack, but has since been released from hospital.

Manchester Victoria railway station has reopened after the stabbings.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), told reporters at a briefing at force HQ the suspect lived in the Cheetham Hill area of the city.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionGMP Chief Constable Ian Hopkins says the incident is being treated as “a terrorist investigation”

Earlier, officers raided a newly built semi-detached house on Schoolside Close, a mile north of Manchester city centre.

Resident Nousha Babaakachel, 40, said a Somali family live at the address, a mother and father of five, in their 40s, who came to live in the street around 12 years ago from the Netherlands.

She said two of the four sons are at university, one works at Manchester Airport and the youngest is back in Somalia. They also have a daughter.

Both parents attend the local Khiza Mosque.

‘Frenzied attack’

At the briefing, Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: “I know that the events of last night will have affected many people and caused concern.

“That the incident happened so close to the scene of the terrorist attack on 22 May 2017 makes it even more dreadful.”

Mr Jackson added that “given how frenzied the attack was” officers were considering the mental health of the arrested suspect.

“There is wide reporting in the press about what the attacker allegedly said during the incident and because of this we want to be clear, we are treating this as a terrorism investigation,” he said.

He explained officers were “retaining an open mind in relation to the motivation for this attack”, and said there was no information “to suggest at this time others are involved”.

Police recovered two knives at the scene but do not yet know if both were used in the attack.

Emergency services praised

Manchester Metrolink said services to the station are operating “to the normal pattern” but advised of “minor delays”.

Officers said counter terrorism police were leading the inquiry.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The station was shut after the attack and police remain at the scene

Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn both said the victims were in their thoughts, with Mrs May praising the “courageous response” of the emergency services, and Mr Corbyn highlighting their “bravery”.

The Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he wished those injured a “full recovery”.

ACC Sean O’Callaghan, from British Transport Police, said he was “incredibly proud” of the four officers who detained the suspect.

They were “fearless, running towards danger and preventing further harm coming to passengers,” he said.

BBC 5 live producer Sam Clack, who had been at the station at the time, said he saw a man stabbed on a tram platform at the station “feet from me”.

Mr Clack also said he heard the knifeman shouting “Allah” during the attack, along with a slogan criticising Western governments.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder

He added he was “close to jumping on the tracks” as the attacker had a “long kitchen knife”.

Greater Manchester Police, which declared the attack a “critical incident”, said it understood that people would be worried but there was “no intelligence to suggest that there is any wider threat at this time”.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said the attacks appeared to be an “isolated incident”.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham: Stabbings appear to be “an isolated incident”

Mr Clack said he first “heard this most blood-curdling scream and looked down the platform”.

“It looked like they were having a fight, but the woman was screaming in this blood-curdling way. I saw police in high-vis come towards him. He came towards me.

“I looked down and saw he had a kitchen knife with a black handle with a good, 12in blade. It was just fear, pure fear.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Police said there was “no intelligence to suggest that there is any wider threat at this time”

He said police used pepper spray and a Taser on the detained man, who he said had been “resisting arrest”.

He said he saw “six or seven” officers on top of the man, who he described as “very skittish”.

“He was very aggressive and very intent on causing more harm than he actually did,” he said.

“It was very, very scary.”

Image caption A man has been arrested and officers remain at the scene

Police said the woman had injuries to her face and abdomen and the man had injuries to his abdomen.

The New Year firework display in Albert Square went ahead.

You may also like:

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-46728702

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/amazon-products/manchester-knifings-a-terrorist-inquiry/
via iHomeInnovations
from Things For The Kitchen And Home https://homeandkichentools.tumblr.com/post/182081108366
via Home And Kitchen Guru

‘I’ve a water-filled hole in my living room’

Image copyright Alison Evans
Image caption A living room feature no-one would want

If you think your house is chaos on Christmas Day, spare a thought for the Evans family.

Alison and Keith Evans’ home in Trebanog, Rhondda Cynon Taff, has a big open drain in their living room floor because of recurring flooding.

The problem has plagued the couple for almost a year and will see them squeeze into their kitchen to open presents, eat dinner and watch TV.

To add to the stress, Christmas Day is also their daughter’s 18th birthday.

Mrs Evans said she was at her “wit’s end” over the situation – which has also puzzled Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, who have been unable to find the source of the flooding.

“Family and visitors will all be piled into the one room,” she said. “We managed to get the TV and sofa in the kitchen, but now that has had to make way for the Christmas tree.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTrebanog mum Alison Evans said the situation has left her at her wit’s end.

The problem at the couple’s semi-detached house, which they bought 10 years ago, started last Christmas.

They had to rescue their presents from under the tree after water came up through the floor.

Builders were called in and the flooding looked to have gone away – but a couple of months later and they were back to square one.

A drainage pit and pumping equipment as well as a large hole in the floor have been there ever since.

“When it rains it fills up and we haven’t got a living room,” said warehouse worker Mrs Evans, whose daughter Hope was born on Christmas Day.

“We get up in the morning or come home from work and we don’t know whether the hole is going to be full.

“We’re constantly thinking and worrying about it. It’s hard to plan anything really.”

Image caption Outside, a typical semi-detached

Image caption If the pump fails, the water has to be bailed out

Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, who have sent surveyors around, said the floods were not linked to its system.

Mrs Evans said she has spoken to her insurers but said they would not pay out until the source of the flooding was found.

In a statement, Legal and General said although it had “every sympathy with Mr and Mrs Evans in what is a very difficult situation” it was a “longstanding water ingress problem which was evident prior to inception of their policy”.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-46611482

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/amazon-products/ive-a-water-filled-hole-in-my-living-room/
via iHomeInnovations
from Things For The Kitchen And Home https://homeandkichentools.tumblr.com/post/182054567556
via Home And Kitchen Guru

Is There Anybody Out There?

Cataloged in Creepy / Scary Stories

Is There Anybody Out There?

By the time 1 A.M. rolled around Julian was certain Tony wasn’t coming back for more drinks, but that wasn’t such a big deal. Andy’s was his dive, his home away from home. He knew the bartenders by name and they never vetoed his jukebox selections, even on a Hall and Oates night. Everywhere he looked there was a friendly face, a sloppy hug, a cry of “Hey Jules!” from across the smoky murk. It was a good night. He was three tequilas and five beers deep and though the thought of Tony’s continued absence was a minor blip of concern on his radar, he was not of a mind to give it any credence.

At any rate, Tony’s departure over an hour ago was a mission of the utmost importance. After laying a substantial amount of groundwork with certain young woman they met earlier in the night during a brief stop at Eastside Bar Tony found his opportunity. Claiming an early work day she asked for a ride home, which he was happy to provide, knowing the chance to prolong the night in more intimate surroundings was high. The fact of his continued truant status could only mean glad tidings. If he couldn’t bum a ride from one of the other patrons he could always walk. It wouldn’t be the first time, just the first time in a couple of months. The first time since an unfortunate incident had occurred. This was a concern for later, as far as Julian was concerned, and the less thought of that unfortunate incident the better.

Another shot of tequila, bottle of Dos Equis, and two cigarettes later, Julian found himself sitting at the bar discussing Schwartzenegger movies with some bearded bro with a topknot and a tie-dye tank top. They had met before, but the location of this earlier meeting had slipped his mind along with the dude’s name. It didn’t matter, since the guy seemed to think Arnold’s finest cinematic moment was True Lies, which was just baffling. He was preparing to explain all of the myriad reasons in which this guy was one hundred percent wrong when the bartender announced last call. Mr. Topknot downed his drink, flicked away the cigarette he had just cadged from Julian, and sauntered off without a word. Just as well, since Julian wasn’t about to beg a ride from some hipster who had apparently never seen . Or , for that matter.

A glance around revealed dire news. The few remaining patrons appeared drunker than he was, and all of them strangers. Not one solid candidate for a ride and that meant he was walking. Not a big deal, he told himself again. It wasn’t far, a mile and a half, two miles tops. And it was a nice night, early summer and not too hot. His brother wasn’t home, which meant he was free to smoke a bowl, play the guitar a bit, and pass out. Maybe the night wouldn’t end with him blowing a load over some girl’s stomach and chest area as Tony’s surely had, but it was a good night and he was feeling fine.

After paying his tab, Julian stumbled up the stairs to the ground floor, stopped to flirt a bit with Amy at the door, and stepped out into the night. He lit another Turkish Gold and looked out upon the square. All around him were other barflies exiting the other half dozen bars in the vicinity, walking, hailing cabs, or crawling into cars they probably should not have been driving. Just as well Tony never showed up, Julian decided. Every time he took a ride from someone as blitzed as Tony tended to be by this time, he spent the entire ride wondering if this was the time they were going to get busted or worse, hit someone, something. He knew he shouldn’t do it, but it was one more bad decision at the end of a night full of them, and the thing about bad decisions were that they got easier to make every time. So tonight that bad decision was taken out of consideration, and it was probably for the best.

The first leg of his journey, heading south down Locust Street, proved uneventful. If anything was on his mind, it was the thought of a taquito or two from the gas station along the way, maybe with a cup of nacho cheese for dipping. This part of town seemed to mostly consist of auto part stores and garages, no houses or apartments to speak of, and from experience he knew that cops seldom patrolled this stretch after the bars closed. Few cars of any sort passed him, and foot traffic was nearly non-existent. No one to bother him or try to give him a ticket for the apparent crime of walking home drunk. Good times.

He was humming a tune to keep himself company and still feeling good from all the drinks as he turned onto Eagle Drive, putting him at a few mere blocks from the gas station with its roller grill bounty. A debate had started within him, concerning the taquitos and whether they should be enjoyed as he walked or if they should be saved for after the smoking of a bowl. Both sides had equal merit as far as he was concerned which put the former option at an advantage for coming first. Also, it had recently occurred to him that he was ravenously hungry.

When it happened it was just like flipping a switch in his brain. Less than two blocks down Eagle, Julian felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, and a rash of goosebumps ran down his arms. His mouth went dry and his heart started racing. As clear as someone speaking the word aloud in his ear, his mind screamed a single word:

In the moment before he obeyed this imperative, Julian glanced around at his surroundings for the source of this adrenal spike. The moon was full (or close to it at least), and the street lamps were lit. If there was an immediate threat or danger nearby, it was well hidden. It didn’t matter. He could feel it. Eyes, watching him, waiting for just the right moment. To strike, to kill maybe. Julian didn’t question his instincts. Julian ran.

The feeling did not dissipate as he sprinted down the sidewalk, throwing glances over his shoulder in search of a pursuer. There was none. No one was chasing him. He had heard nothing at all, not even so much as a twig snapping. Apart from the sound of his own heavy breathing the city was silent as the grave. Still, this feeling of panic, of mortal terror. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he could not convince his heart to stop pounding, nor his feet to stop moving away from some apparently mythological threat.

Before long the fluorescent glow of the convenience store appeared in the near distance. Still unsure from what precisely he was fleeing, Julian managed to convince himself that all would be well as long as he could reach that island of light, still bustling with activity. The very sight of it calmed him by a measure and he was able to convince his legs to slow from a full-on sprint to a fast jog. The stitch in his side loosened and he was able to breathe, but he still felt a disquieting skin-crawling sensation that told him he wasn’t out of the woods just yet. Another over-the-shoulder glance revealed nothing apart from the unshakable sense that the danger was merely hidden. Ducked behind a tree, perhaps, and just at the right moment.

As Julian crossed the threshold of the gas station’s immense parking lot, the light of its powerful arc-sodium lamps washing over him, he could feel his panic trickling away as acutely as the sweat down his back. Glancing around he saw that none of the people gassing up their cars or carrying armloads of salted snacks and soft drinks took any special notice of his frantic approach. This was good, as the absence of a hatchet-wielding maniac would have left him looking foolish and he knew it. For the remainder of his approach, he forced himself to adopt a casual pace and a calm expression he still did not precisely feel, and stepped through the double doors for taquitos he no longer precisely wanted. A glance back to the parking lot showed nothing untoward, hatchet-wielding maniac or otherwise.

Julian perused the shelves lackadaisically, forestalling his inevitable return to the darkness of the city streets, for the last leg of his journey. His frazzled brain cleared enough to allow the return of cognitive reasoning and he realized the probable source of this panic.

It was the aforementioned “unfortunate event” that crossed his mind at the bar. Though he did not allow himself to think about it at the time, some lingering memory of it must have remained. A sort of trap set by his subconscious, perhaps.

It was, of course, a night not at all unlike this one. Julian had found himself drunk as a skunk, stranded at the bar without a ride and forced to walk home. The same old story of a hundred other nights. This one, however, went drastically south. No more than a block away from the bar, he ambled, puffing on a cigarette and paying no particular attention to the world around him, when a voice emerged from somewhere on his left.

It said, “Hey man, got a cig?”

Julian, never being one to deny another smoker in need, was already fishing into his pocket for his pack of cigarettes as he turned to face the anonymous party. That was when the first blow landed, somewhere between his left eye and the bridge of his nose.

“Fucking Mexican!” Someone else cried, cackling. Julian never saw who they were, thanks to the tears welling up in his already swollen eye. He didn’t see the point in telling them his family was from El Salvador, wasn’t even sure they’d care.

Vainly attempting to defend himself, Julian threw some wild haymakers at the shapes in the darkness, connecting rarely but once or twice in key locations judging by the smack of meat and the sputtered curses that ensued. For the most part, however, his attackers were winning handily. They seemed to be concentrating on his head and stomach area, and he could feel his legs wanting to quit supporting his battered body. Another blow to the side of the head clinched it, he crumbled to the ground making soft sounds of negation.

“Get his wallet,” the head bastard commanded, and Julian almost chuckled. The wallet in question contained perhaps two dollars cash (if he hadn’t spent it after all), a debit card with exactly no money on it, and a coupon for a buy one get one free pretzel. He didn’t even have a driver’s license.

A rough hand fished the wallet from his pocket along with his phone with its cracked screen. He tried to find the strength to resist, but came up short. One of the bastards, he wasn’t sure if it was the lead bastard or the flunky bastard, called him a broke ass spic, threw the wallet down in disgust, and with this they departed. Perhaps they found wealthier victims down the lane, perhaps not. Julian didn’t know and he did not much care. Actually, he did care. He hoped they found a victim with a gun who shot the two of them in the gut so they could spend the rest of the night dying horribly. After a while, he picked his sorry self up and trudged home.

The next day he got a paycheck advance from his boss, picked up a pay-as-you-go phone to replace the one the hoods stole. He took some photos of his battered face and posted them on Facebook to the bemused and sometimes concerned reactions of his friends. A few of them swore revenge he knew they could never achieve, but by then he was no longer angry. Sad and afraid, but not angry.

Sometime later his bruises faded and the swelling subsided and that was that. Or, he thought that was that—but here he was hiding in a 24-hour convenience mart after having some kind of panic attack on a well-lit city street, so he reasoned there must be some residual trauma from that event. It was the only thing that made sense.

Julian pretended to consider a bag of pretzels as he reflected on this idea. It was elegant in its simplicity, there was a psychological cause and effect relationship that anyone could understand.

So why don’t you feel better? Asked an internal voice, Why do you still feel as though you are being watched?

Because it’s not that easy, he replied in his head so no one would think he was crazy, Just because I know why I’m feeling paranoid doesn’t mean I automatically stop feeling paranoid.

Julian’s inner dialogue was interrupted by the sudden realization that he had been standing there in the aforementioned chip aisle staring at a bag of pretzels for far longer than anyone would find acceptable. To save face, he bought it along with a bottle of soda selected at random. His efforts were in vain, however, as the sleepy-eyed clerk seemed to scarcely take notice of him, merely accepting his cash and murmuring a “get anything else for ya?” out of a robotic sort of habit.

Taquitos all but forgotten and unwanted snacks in hand, Julian stepped through the automatic doors and into a parking lot illuminated to a near-daytime brightness. The panic that brought him to this point had lost its finely-honed edge but left in its wake was an acute sense of dread. Dread, and also this treasonous inner voice that seemed to articulate all of his fear and trepidation in a way that seemed so terribly reasonable. It spoke up again in the borderland between the sanctuary of the gas station and the dim world beyond.

You’re being followed, it whispered.

I’m not, Julian insisted, trying his best not to look back over his shoulder. He was nearing the intersection of Eagle Drive and Carroll Boulevard. The townhouse style apartment he shared with his brother was still several blocks away.

Julian felt the skin on his back crawling as the crosswalk sign changed from red hand to white stick figure. With a glance to his left and right, he crossed.

This part of Eagle Drive was mostly commercial. Auto part stores, beer barns, check cashing places, that sort of thing. Nothing open 24 hours, of course, the convenience store so recently departed was the last such oasis he would find. It occurred to Julian that on other occasions he found himself walking home from the bar he would pass others on the sidewalk who were on similar journeys. Not so this time, not a single other pedestrian. Every once in a while a car passed, though even for coming on three in the morning the city seemed unnaturally deserted. He could not recall having ever felt so alone.

Now his skin was crawling all over. The urge to look back was almost overpowering, but he knew that if he did he would give in to the panic he could still feel bubbling deep inside him. If he could just keep his head down for a few more blocks he would be safe at home where he could smoke a bowl, pass out, and forget about this strange night.

He was abruptly aware he could hear the sound of his footsteps echoing in the pervading silence. This was good, wasn’t it? If he could hear his own footsteps then surely he could hear those of a pursuer, if one existed.

This damned voice was getting hard to ignore. It was the lack of distraction, that’s all. He just had a little fright with no reason behind it. Happens to everyone, especially intoxicated people who recently had the shit kicked out of them. Just a little fright and he let himself get pulled into a feedback loop. There was nothing but the empty streets to look at, and nothing but paranoid thoughts to think. Tomorrow he would look back on this and wonder what he possibly could have been afraid of. Maybe he would even laugh about it.

Julian did not dignify this with a response.

Julian started humming a song. One of his own, actually. It was one he had written years before and still performed at open mic nights from time to time. For about a block it seemed to do the trick. Recalling the lyrics, the melody, the rhythm, it occupied enough of his mind that he could block out other rogue thoughts for the time being. Perhaps long enough to get home.

The fear was still there, Julian could not fool himself into believing that this inexplicable feeling of being watched by some malicious entity was going away. It wasn’t. It made no sense and he knew it, but knowing that changed nothing. He had never felt something like this so strongly in his entire life and just that fact was alarming enough.

Julian hummed harder. He thought of more complex compositions. He pushed away sinister thoughts. He concentrated on putting one foot in front of another. He resisted the urge to walk faster. Walking faster would turn into running. Instinctively he knew it would give away to terrified flight. Every step brought him closer to home, and once home he would be safe. He was sure of it.

To this thought, the rogue voice’s response was a derisive laughter that spoke volumes. He ignored this too, and all of its implications. Another block down and he was in the part of Eagle that mostly consisted of other apartment complexes. He was at the home stretch and that made him feel marginally better.

But look at all those dark alcoves, all those entryways. So many places for him to ambush you. Look at this spot up ahead, that entryway. If someone was waiting there you would never see them in time. They could just jump out they could have a knife they could stab you to death before you ever-

His Jaw began to hurt and he realized he had been clamping his teeth together. His hands ached and he realized he had curled both of them into tight, painful fists. The muscles and the veins in his arms stood out under his skin like tectonic plates. Julian forced himself to take a slow, deep breath and relax. Deep breath. Slow release. Deep Breath. Slow release.

By minute increments he allowed his tension to drain from his body, even his heart rate began to fall. He stood there in the dark just like that, just breathing, until he felt somewhat closer to normal. He opened his eyes.

“I’m fine,” He said aloud.

He expected no response, but one came in the form of a terrible crash, echoing in the night and issuing from somewhere terribly close. A reasonable mind would have dismissed this sound like a cat knocking over a trash can, or something similar, but that was something Julian lacked that night.

He screeched his fright as the old panic flared in his veins, obliterating all the hard-won calm within him. There was no containing it now, he was already running, unaware his brains had given his legs the command.

Though he heard nothing but the sound of his feet slapping on the pavement and his labored breathing, he could feel his pursuer closing in on him. He could sense the hand, clawed and scabrous, reaching out to the back of his neck. He could feel the hot breath, wet and reeking, wash over him. He didn’t look back. To look back was madness. He could stand to feel his pursuer, but if he had anything to say about the matter, he would die without looking at it.

His heart and his head were both pounding and his own breath burned in his lungs; he cursed himself for every cigarette he ever smoked. Still, he couldn’t stop. Panic held the reins and wielded a terrible whip. Reason and thought had no chance of permeating the static, the buzzing in his mind like a hive of furious hornets.

Finally, he crossed the last street and found himself on the grounds of his own apartment complex. The few lights burning overhead offered little protection from the terrible press of the darkness surrounding him, and Julian did not stop, did not slow until he was at his own door.

He plunged his hand into his pocket and retrieved his keys, spilling loose change onto the cement, jingle-jangling every which way. He made no move to chase them down, simply scrabbled at the keyhole trying with jittery hands to stab his key in place.

He fumbled his keys and they landed among the less ambitious coins at his feet. His eyes glanced in all directions, straining to peer into the shadows all but certain the wraiths, the ghouls, the muggers, and the murderers would choose this moment to converge upon him. All he could see was his neighboring townhouses, a dimly lit parking lot, and empty sidewalks connecting them all. No threats, no gremlins or goblins slinking in the darkness.

Still watching, he crouched and groped at the sidewalk for his keys, eventually finding them right where they landed. Panic had faded away very nearly enough for him to start feeling stupid about the whole thing. The key slid into the lock this time without much resistance and before he knew it he was back inside, feeling positive his fear and paranoia would fade as soon as he smoked his bowl and stumbled off to bed.

Inside, with the door locked and dead bolted, Julian felt immediately less positive. His empty apartment seemed to be a landscape of shadows, darkened rooms, and blind corners. Everywhere he looked he saw masses that were probably nothing more than piles of clothes, a guitar stand, a hanging coat, but somehow resolved themselves into the perfect silhouette of crouching prowlers and other dangers.

For his own comfort, Julian set about switching on every light in the townhouse, armed with an undersized souvenir baseball bat his brother had acquired at a Rangers game. He didn’t honestly think the bat could do any real damage to an assailant but the other closest thing he had to a weapon was his guitar and that was upstairs, pretty much last stop. The staircase was a particular source of anxiety for him. It was a perfect ambush spot.

He took the stairs slowly, bat in one hand and his phone, in flashlight mode, in the other. The darkness above him seemed nearly tangible, a black mass of nameless menace crouched and ready to strike.

Did he hear a sound? He wasn’t sure. The stairs were creaky, but he didn’t think it was a creak. Maybe it was a thud or a knock. It seemed like it was coming from his brother’s room, but of course, his brother’s room had the wall that they shared with the neighboring townhouse. That was the trouble with a haunted apartment: You could never be sure if it was the sound of a ghoul or your neighbor going bump in the night.

At the second floor landing Julian stood, waving his flashlight phone in a fashion utterly ineffectual at permeating the gloom. Nothing pounced at him, not yet at least. Not yet. The apartment is empty! Nothing is going to get you, fuckhead! He told himself.

Again he felt the frustration of reason setting in and yet making no discernible difference in his feelings. He could tell himself there was nothing whatsoever to fear, that being the testimony of all available evidence, but the reasoning brain was not in charge of the situation. Something deeper, something primal held the reigns, some holdover of his earliest ancestors who had to fear predation. Something was wrong, he was in danger. Something beyond the five senses screamed this message to him.

Julian realized he was frozen on the landing, giving into the fear. He grimaced and forced himself to take a step forward, and then another. Before long he had reached the switch for the hallway light, and no longer needed his flashlight. He tapped away the light and stuffed his phone back into his pocket. He would check his brother’s room, just a cursory glance to dispel his fears, and then on to his own room where he could retrieve his stash to be enjoyed on the couch.

Before he could allow himself to over think the action, Julian swung the door of his brother’s bedroom, peered inside, and swung the door shut again just as quickly. Safe.

Of course, Julian’s mutinous inner voice told him, it was fairly dark in that bedroom, and you didn’t bother to turn on the light.

Julian immediately spun around and laid his hand upon the doorknob, though he hesitated to turn it. I could see in there well enough. I don’t need to open the door again. Besides, Juan would be pissed off if I turned his light on, he’d think I was snooping.

Conflicted, Julian leaned against the wall and tugged at his hair. How long was he going to be spooked like this? Nothing happened, nothing is going to happen. So why couldn’t he just stop, why couldn’t he relax? He didn’t know. Finally, with a frustrated growl, he swung the door open and flipped on the light.

Julian gasped and fell back against the hallway wall. Crouching on Juan’s bed, waiting to pounce, was… was…

A pile of blankets. Julian sighed and sunk down to the carpet, rubbing his forehead.

“This is ridiculous,” He said aloud, breaking the silence. His voice sounded strange in the empty apartment, strained. “I’m being ridiculous.”

The sound of his own voice made him feel slightly better, less alone. He rose to his feet and surprised himself by being confident enough to enter his own bedroom without some big to-do. He flipped on the light and no laundry or anything more menacing jumped out to assail him.

Nothing in his bedroom seemed awry, it was much as he left it. Bed with blanket rumpled at the foot, laundry piled in a corner, just as he liked it. Television on the dresser against the wall opposite the bed, pile of DVDs beside it. The closet was closed, and that he felt confident to leave unchecked. It was so full of junk that no room remained for boogeymen to lurk.

On his cluttered desk was a conspicuous book, clearly fake and reeking of old resin. This was, of course, his stash box. It contained a baggie with about a gram and a half of something dank, another baggie of schwag that was mostly shake and seeds, a grinder with a peace frog on the top, half a pack of papers, and a glittering purple glass pipe.

Julian grabbed his box, considered, and grabbed his guitar as well. If there was nothing to watch on TV, at least he could play some music. His fingers brushed the strings, producing a familiar and comforting sound. Julian allowed himself a smile. This would be just the thing, have a quick smoke and play something, probably Blink 182. Carousel. Yeah.

Juggling the stash box and guitar and working toward a free hand, Julian turned back to the door. The smile died on his face. He heard it this time, he definitely heard it. Footsteps, moving furtively down the hall. Bare feet on soft carpet. An invader, a skulker, a lurker. Something and it was out there, he heard it. He thought he heard it. He might have heard something. Dammit, He thought to himself. He stood perfectly still, holding his breath and listening with all his might.

Moments passed, and he heard nothing more. Nothing sinister, at least. He could hear the soft roar of passing vehicles and the hum of electricity in the walls. Nothing else. He didn’t hear any footsteps, furtive or otherwise. He was alone in the house, no one followed him on the walk home, he was in no particular danger, and he almost believed it.

In a few more moments he was back in the living room, and he slumped into the couch. TV on for noise, sorting leaf from seed in the concavity of an old Frisbee, guitar close at hand. The pipe was soon packed and he leaned back into the couch to watch a blue-haired cartoon scientist berate a wide-eyed teenager. Almost immediately a warm, calm feeling washed over him, and his head buzzed pleasantly.

Soon his fear was forgotten or at least pushed deep into a corner. The bowl cached, he picked up his guitar and strummed through the intro to Carousel, simple but catchy and much loved. Carousel turned into Dammit, which then transitioned to a loose medley of beloved riffs and melodies. Before long, his eyes were growing heavy and his strumming slowed, slowed, stopped. He drowsed.

Briefly, his thoughts turned to his stash, and the anger his brother would express if he came home to all that paraphernalia out in the open, but it was okay, so he told himself. Just a brief nap and he would put all those things away and crawl into bed. Forget about all the strangeness of the night, the terror of solitude, and all that. Just a nap…

Julian snapped awake, sending his guitar crashing to the ground as he sat bolt upright. His heart was thudding violently in his chest, a bird trying to escape its cage.

“Fuck! Fuck! Oh Jesus, Jesus,” Julian cried, raking his fingers through his hair.

Hands. Just as he was drifting off to sleep he could feel them on either side of his head. Hands? Claws, really. It was so real, so… And that sound? Like a scream, like something screaming his name right into his face, only? Only he didn’t hear it out loud. He heard it in his head. Didn’t he? There was no real sound, was there? It was only some sort of dream thing, wasn’t it? But why were his ears ringing? Why could he still feel that phantom touch? Oh Jesus, what the hell is happening to me?

Immediately he was wide awake again, hugging his knees to his chest, head snapping in every direction, and feeling eyes on him from around every corner, in every shadow. He could feel clawed, bestial hands reaching for the back of his neck, but would turn to find nothing. They were damned fast, whatever they were. Sometimes he could even feel their hot breath, almost hear it. Immediately he became aware of the sound of a low moaning, and realized he was making the sound himself.

At last, he remembered his phone, and tried to find someone still awake that could perhaps talk him down, but to no avail. He couldn’t even stand to look at his phone long enough to find a name in his address book, as it was time not spent watching the shadows. Every moment he spent focusing on his phone he could feel them gathering ever closer, just behind him. He could sense them, somehow. He threw his phone aside in disgust and flinched at the sound of it striking the coffee table.

Dawn. When was dawn? Not soon enough. God. It was unbearable, this doom hanging over his head, all around him but just out of sight. Constant footsteps: down the hall, in the kitchen, coming up and down the stairs. If he strained he could hear them. Footsteps, real or imagined it made no difference now, not here in this crepuscular limbo, this no-time. Here that line was erased, maybe for good. Real or imaginary, they’re both just abstract concepts anyways. Aren’t they?

Something changed. It was hard to define, but whatever it was, it cut through the thought-fragments and panic haze long enough to grant Julian something like clarity once again. It was silence. Not like before, that sort of late-night silence that was no real silence at all, not like this. It was as though time had stopped. Still. It was happening, finally, and the happening was heralded by a stillness.

The next thing Julian became aware of was the feeling of a charge in the air, like static. The way it must feel right before you’re struck by lightning. The hairs on his arms stood on end. The charge washed over him in waves.

Next came a vibration, pulsing and alive. It was everywhere at once—in the couch, on the floor, he could even feel it in his clothes. His clothes were vibrating! The whole house was vibrating, he could hear the creak and groan of the walls stretching and twisting against themselves.

The temperature dropped, noticeably. Twenty degrees, maybe more. And still the charge, still the vibration, still the creak and groan of a building straining against itself. Julian could feel his lungs burning and realized he had been holding his breath. He let it out in a wheeze and drew air back in through a throat constricted to pinhole size. His teeth chattered and the temperature dropped a few more degrees.

Julian’s attention was drawn to the corner of the room opposite him. There was nothing there, but still, there his eyes were drawn. Slowly at first, but gathering momentum while the charge, the vibration, and the cold reached their crescendos, he saw: The Shadows, all of the shadows, were coalescing upon that point. Somehow they were gathering.

The shadows began to assume a shape, like a dark lump, on the floor there in the corner. It appeared intangible but undeniably three-dimensional. The lump grew larger and sprouted pseudopodia. As Julian watched, transfixed, it finally realized its form: A man, though made of the darkness itself. It was a man-shaped hole in reality.

The Man-Shape reached out to Julian, radiating not malice, but rather a feeling of sorrow and regret. The thing mourned at Julian, there was no other way to describe it. It stood this way for a few seconds, made a sound like a sigh, and disappeared.

The effect of its departure was felt immediately by Julian: It was relief. He could breathe again. His heart rate slowed again to something close to resting. The fear was gone, the feeling of a presence was gone. Tears rolled down his eyes, and he realized through the haze that he could see the first light of dawn peeking through the blinds. Day had come.

The next thing Julian realized was that he had dozed off. The spent adrenaline and the lateness of the hour conspired together, and he had been out for nearly an hour. Julian gathered up his stash box and stumbled up the stairs.

No sooner had he set the box upon the desk, Julian was startled to hear a knock at the door. It could only have been Juan, who forgot his house key every once in a while. Julian sighed and stumbled his way back down the stairs and to the door.

It wasn’t Juan at all, knocking at the door. It was the police. Two of them, a man and a woman. Julian’s heart sank to somewhere around his ankles.

“Are you Julian Reyes?” The Lady cop asked. The name on her badge read Ferguson.

“Ye-es?” He replied, feeling a different sort of doom building.

“Your brother is Juan Gustavo Reyes?” The man cop asked. He was a Johnson.

“That’s right,” Julian asked, “What’s this about?”

Johnson looked to Ferguson and nodded slightly. Ferguson grimaced.

“I’m sorry, Julian,” Ferguson said, and he could see in her eyes that she meant it, “but your brother is dead. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.”

“What?!” Julian cried, incredulous. Hot tears stung his eyes and he blinked them away. “What happened? Died in the ambulance? What ambulance?”

“Can we come in?” Ferguson asked, and he nodded, leading them to the couch. He could smell the lingering aroma of pot and he was sure they could too, but they didn’t mention it.

“We believe it was an attempted mugging,” Johnson told him. His lips were pressed to a thin line. “Your brother’s car was found a short distance away, out of gas, and it seems he was walking to the service station another two blocks away. There was a struggle, and your brother was stabbed twice in the stomach and once in the neck. I’m sorry, Julian. He succumbed to his wounds before he could be stabilized. There was nothing they could do.”

They went on talking to him for a while about having a few questions, arrangements, things like that, but Julian had stopped listening. All he could think about was the sorrowful Man-Shape, and the way the feeling came upon him when he was two blocks from the gas station on Eagle Drive, right where his brother would die mere hours later.

Image Credit: Rendiansyah Nugroho

is cataloged in ,

Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/jeremy-alderman/2019/01/is-there-anybody-out-there

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/amazon-products/is-there-anybody-out-there/
via iHomeInnovations
from Things For The Kitchen And Home https://homeandkichentools.tumblr.com/post/182027708786
via Home And Kitchen Guru

I ate 100 different types of ‘pigs in blankets’ and lived to tell the tale

Gav takes on the sausage world and it proved almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Image: Gav murphy

What’s the best accompaniment to Christmas dinner? Red cabbage? Get out of here. Parsnips? Come on, now. Sprouts? That’s an argument for another day. 

The obvious correct answer is: ‘pigs in blankets’. And I mean proper pigs in blankets which, in the UK, means a sausage wrapped in bacon — none of this pastry nonsense. 

Whoever thought of taking a sausage and giving it a little pork jacket deserves some kind of medal or at least a little mention in a national anthem. There are people in the world who also think like this, which is why they’ve set up the world’s first “pigs in blankets party” in Margate, a seaside town in Kent in the south of England. 

The party features 100 different variations of pigs in blankets including just about every sausage that exists, from foot-longs to cocktails to whole wheels of pork. And all these sausages were covered in bacon combinations you could never have dreamt up. 

A feast fit for a sausage king.

Image: gav murphy

Obviously, I was more than a little excited to take on the challenge of trying every single one. 

The whole thing was conceived by culinary genius and PR creative Emma Thomas and her food PR company Messhead which previously created such magnificent-sounding food shenanigans as ‘Fry Hard’ — a pop-up shop where they’d literally fry anything — and also the less appetizing sounding but equally incredible ‘Human Butchery’ which consisted of various meats arranged to look like human flesh on a body. 

You can experience this for yourself on the 29th of December but I was invited along to have the best dinner for one that has ever existed at the Cinque Ports restaurant right on Margate beach where the party is being held. 

“Shall we start with the two-metre long cumberland with streaky bacon?”

I was greeted by a ham-flavoured daiquiri on arrival by chef Jim Thomlinson who’s worked across the UK in some fancy Michelin Star restaurants but thankfully now he’s doing the Lord’s work with sausages.

“Shall we start with the two-metre long cumberland with streaky bacon?” he asked. 

“Shall we run away and get married, Jim?” I replied. 

The romance with Jim didn’t stop there as he brought out a wooden tray with two different types of pork-wrapped black pudding and an intimidatingly long-looking monster. 

Genuinely couldn’t fit the whole thing in one photo.

Image: Gav Murphy

Jim and Emma presented plate after plate of blankety delight to me —a saveloy (a bright red banger popular with cockneys) wrapped in smoked back bacon, fennel sausage with Parma ham, a venison and red wine banger with a thick bacon coat. 

You know that Kanye West song that goes “Welcome to the Good Life”? I’d bet actual money that he wrote that on a rainy Sunday in Kent whilst stuffing himself with a sausage made of white pudding coated in turkey bacon.

Just when I was thinking there was no way these mad sausage lovers could surprise me any more, up pipes Jim: “How do you feel about stuff that’s been battered?” 

“I feel like that’s something I could get on board with, Jim. I’ll be honest” 

If there’s any food that isn’t better battered, I don’t what to know about it.

Image: gav murphy

Not content with wrapping a bit of bacon around a battered sausage, however, Jim also had the bright idea of deep frying an entire pig in a blanket. We need more forward-thinking individuals like this taking control of our meals, if you ask me. 

I know you’re reading this and thinking “Wow. This man has it ALL right now. The guy is full of pork ‘n’ just loving life”. I’d be thinking the same thing but I’ll tell you what though, trying to work your way through 100 different types of pig in 100 different types of blanket really takes its toll on you around pig number 60. I was trying to take little bites of everything, which was easy when faced with two metres worth of Cumberland (a big ol’ chunky sausage from England), however as the pigs got more and more interesting, the urge not to just scoff the lot down became worryingly hard. 

I assume it is very similar to running a marathon. Sure, those first 10-15 miles are just a breezy little joy but then as you near the finishing line, things get slightly more challenging. 

Quite honestly, I had run flat up against a wall.

Image: Gav murphy

I was experiencing what runners call ‘The Wall’. Except, instead of a bit of a stitch fixed by chomping down some Haribo, I actually had a bit of a job in front of me. Somewhere around blanket number 80, I was really starting to flag. Surely there couldn’t be many more ways of blanketing a bit of sausage?! Then I heard it from the kitchen: “Do you want some lobster?” 

I’d forgotten about lobster, the pig of the sea.

Even the underwater oinks were getting involved.

Image: gav murphy

Now, I don’t make the kind of money that’ll see me turning down lobster at any point and if I can give you one piece of advice it’s that if you’re ever offered lobster, YOU TAKE IT! Particularly when that lobster is wrapped in bacon (unless you’re a  vegetarian, of course). 

The final stretch of pigs in blankets presented itself before me as a host of cheese-wrapped big boys — a Toulouse sausage wrapped in Raclette, a Frankfurter with cheese coursing through its centre, a bit of venison in blue cheese. The home stretch was a decadent bastard, to say the least. 

Then it happened: I reached the final pig in blanket. I was so horribly full of pig and I honestly thought I would feel absolutely disgusting and sick, but actually I was more intrigued to see what mad delight Jim had cooked up for me to finish this party. I ran through all the variations that could possibly be left and kept coming up short. Then I saw it. 

The final boss.

Image: gav murphy

A mince pie. A mince pie wrapped in thick bacon. Although not technically a sausage, I feel like this spin on the classic might’ve been the change I was looking for, because I wolfed down the warm treat without even thinking. 

100 variations of pigs in blankets, done. I’d like to say that I learned something after taking on this challenge, but I’ll be honest I already knew that pigs in blankets were food sent from the Meat Gods and this entire adventure just confirmed it. 

Mince pie wrapped in bacon? Yes please.

Image: gav murphy 

If you’d like to experience the same level of greatness as I experienced that day, then the Cinque Ports in Margate is hosting the second installment of their Sausage Parties on the 29th of December where you can get all the pigs in blankets you can eat for £20 — just in case for some reason you don’t get enough pigs in blankets on Christmas Day. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/pigs-in-blanket-sausage-party/

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/amazon-products/i-ate-100-different-types-of-pigs-in-blankets-and-lived-to-tell-the-tale/
via iHomeInnovations
from Things For The Kitchen And Home https://homeandkichentools.tumblr.com/post/182001714291
via Home And Kitchen Guru

14 huge moments in the Royal Family in 2018

Image: AFP/Getty Images

What a year it’s been for the royal family! 

While 2018 has been a mean old year for us mere mortals, those whose blood runs blue have had a festive year with not one but two weddings and some pretty major announcements. 

Now that the year is coming to an end, it’s time to look back at the most memorable royal family moments from 2018. 

1. *The* wedding 

Two different royals may have tied the knot in 2018, but the first wedding of the year was also the most spectacular. 

The whole world (or at least 29 million people, per Nielsen figures) watched Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle tie the knot in St George’s Chapel on May 19th. Not only was the ceremony quite the showstopper, the guest list was out. of. this. world. In attendance was the Queen of England *AND* the Queen of the Universe, Oprah. 

Come on, just look at the two of them. 


Image: AFP/Getty Images

The entire ceremony was just one moving scene after another. 

Like when Prince Charles walked Meghan Markle down the aisle, as her own father could not attend. 

Image: AFP/Getty Images

Serena Williams was also there. NBD. 

2. The baby announcement

Five mere months after their wedding, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) rocked our world once more.  

On Oct. 15 Kensington Palace made the announcement that the Duchess is expecting a baby in the spring of next year. 

3. Prince Charles turned 70 and revealed his favourite dish

On November 14th Prince Charles celebrated his 70th birthday and we all learned a new word; “groussaka”. In a birthday interview with Country Life, His Royal Highness revealed that he prefers the classic Greek dish moussaka with grouse, not lamb, giving us the groussaka. Thanks for sharing, your highness.

Clarence House also released some lovely family photos in celebration of the Prince’s big day. 

4. Prince Louis was born

Prince William and Kate Middleton (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) welcomed their third child, Louis Arthur Charles in April. 

The name Louis was perceived to be a nod to Lord Louis Mountbatten, a well-loved relative of the royal family who was killed in an IRA attack in 1979. 

A lot of people people thought Kate Middleton paid tribute to Princess Diana when she introduced Louis to the world. The Duchess wore a red dress with a white collar, much like the red and white outfit worn by Diana when she left the hospital after giving birth to her second son, Harry. 

Princess Diana and Prince Harry

Image: Getty Images

5. Meghan Markle released a cookbook

One of Meghan Markle’s first solo projects as a Duchess was the charity cookbook Together: Our Community Cookbook. The Duchess came up with the idea of the cookbook after a visit to the Hubb Community Kitchen, a community kitchen that helped feed survivors in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017. 

The proceeds from the cookbook, the foreword of which is penned by the Duchess herself, all go to the Hubb Community Kitchen, to help keep it open. 

6. Princess Eugenie got married

Prince Harry was not the only young royal who got married this year. 

His cousin, Princess Eugenie, tied the knot with wine merchant Jack Brooksbank in October. Their wedding, also in St. George’s Chapel, was quite the star-studded affair with Kate Moss, Liv Tyler, Demi Moore, and Naomi Campbell in attendance, to name a few. 

Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank

Image: WireImage

When Cara Delevingne showed up to the ceremony in a suit and top hat, she pretty much stole the show.

7. Princess Charlotte started school

Three-year-old Princess Charlotte started school and we’re mostly including this because of how unbelievably darling she is in this photo.

8. Meghan Markle bonded with the Queen

Everyone knows that hanging out one-on-one with your in-laws can be a tad strenuous, but Meghan Markle sure makes it look easy. 

The Duchess had her first solo outing with Queen Elizabeth in June, when the two attended the opening of the Mersey Gateway bridge in Cheshire. 

Even though looking at a bridge all day might not sound all that interesting to a lot of people, these two managed to make it look like a hoot. 

Meghan Markle and Queen Elizabeth II

Image: Getty Images

9. The first same-sex wedding in the Royal Family’s history

Lord Ivar Mountbatten, the Queen’s third cousin, made history when he married his partner, James Coyle, in September. Mountbatten is the first member of the royal family to be openly gay and marry a same-sex partner. 

The wedding was held privately, but Mountbatten shared a photo of the two on Instagram. 

10. The Queen met President Trump

Brits weren’t too fussed when U.S. President Donald Trump visited the UK in July. Neither was the Queen when the president reportedly showed up 15 minutes late to their meeting. 

Donald Trump denied being late, and actually claimed that the pair got along brilliantly. 

Image: Getty Images

11. Harry and Meghan’s first royal tour

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s first royal tour overseas was a trip to Australia, Fiji, Tonga, and New Zealand (in fact, they made their aforementioned pregnancy announcement right as they landed in Sydney.)

During their trip they experienced a lot of local culture and also served up so. much. cuteness. 

Image: WireImage

Image: WireImage

Image: Getty Images

12. Prince William spoke his mind about social media

Let’s face it; it’s the tech bros’ world and we’re all just living in it. Well, Prince William will not accept that. 

The Duke of Cambridge spoke candidly at an event at the BBC about how Big Tech and social media companies have failed to live up to the responsibilities that come with their immense power. 

“Their self-image is so grounded in their positive power for good that they seem unable to engage in constructive discussion about the social problems they are creating,” the Prince said as he urged social media companies to “reject the false choice of profits over values.”

13. Kate Middleton received the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II

One of Kate Middleton’s most-talked about looks this year was at a Buckingham Palace state dinner, where the Duchess of Cambridge wore a tiara formerly worn by Princess Diana along with  what is probably the most beautiful 19th century pearl and diamond necklace you’ll ever see.  

But, noticeably, the Duchess also wore a brand new order; the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II, given to members of the Royal Family for their service (that’s the yellow ribbon with the Queen’s face, in case there was any doubt.) 

Image: Getty Images

14. Prince Harry and Megan Markle released a never-before-seen photo from their wedding 

As the year drew to an end, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex got one more moment in the spotlight as they released an unseen photo from their wedding reception. 

The photo, which is featured on the couple’s official 2018 Christmas card, is a black and white shot of the couple watching fireworks while holding hands.

What’s more romantic than that?

Thanks for all the memories, your royal highnesses. May 2019 be as full of glitz, glamour and royal grandeur.

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/top-moments-royal-family-2018/

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/amazon-products/14-huge-moments-in-the-royal-family-in-2018/
via iHomeInnovations
from Things For The Kitchen And Home https://homeandkichentools.tumblr.com/post/181973447136
via Home And Kitchen Guru

Dear Mom in the Weeds, You Are Not Alone

Precious Mom,

As I sit here and write, I can hear my toddler screaming on the other side of his bedroom door. He threw his lunch on the floor and stole his sister’s candy. He is two, and as it seems, is engaging this stage that is every bit as terrible as the well-known phrase implies. It is noon and this day is not shaping up the way I thought at all.

Become A Contributor

.myButton {
-moz-box-shadow:inset 0px 39px 0px -24px #e67a73;
-webkit-box-shadow:inset 0px 39px 0px -24px #e67a73;
box-shadow:inset 0px 39px 0px -24px #e67a73;
background:-webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, color-stop(0.05, #e4685d), color-stop(1, #eb675e));
background:-moz-linear-gradient(top, #e4685d 5%, #eb675e 100%);
background:-webkit-linear-gradient(top, #e4685d 5%, #eb675e 100%);
background:-o-linear-gradient(top, #e4685d 5%, #eb675e 100%);
background:-ms-linear-gradient(top, #e4685d 5%, #eb675e 100%);
background:linear-gradient(to bottom, #e4685d 5%, #eb675e 100%);
filter:progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorstr=’#e4685d’, endColorstr=’#eb675e’,GradientType=0);
border:1px solid #ffffff;
padding:6px 15px;
text-shadow:0px 1px 0px #b23e35;
.myButton:hover {
background:-webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, color-stop(0.05, #eb675e), color-stop(1, #e4685d));
background:-moz-linear-gradient(top, #eb675e 5%, #e4685d 100%);
background:-webkit-linear-gradient(top, #eb675e 5%, #e4685d 100%);
background:-o-linear-gradient(top, #eb675e 5%, #e4685d 100%);
background:-ms-linear-gradient(top, #eb675e 5%, #e4685d 100%);
background:linear-gradient(to bottom, #eb675e 5%, #e4685d 100%);
filter:progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorstr=’#eb675e’, endColorstr=’#e4685d’,GradientType=0);
.myButton:active {


Each morning starts off the same. After a few feeble attempts of early rising, I finally manage to turn the alarm off and sit up in bed. Then, the internal struggle begins. Do I feed my soul or cleanse my body?

This morning, my ritual quandary is interrupted by the panicked voice of my 6-year-old who doesn’t want to buy his lunch for fear that what is available will not suit his sensitive palate. Despite my husband’s reassurance that pizza is indeed on the menu, the fact that pizza was served yesterday makes him fear that today’s entre’ will NOT be pizza. In response to his crocodile tears, I pull a grilled cheese sandwich out of the fridge. I had prepared it the night before in my attempt to circumvent a foreseeable lunch crisis for his younger siblings later today. We would be out for the morning and returning just in time for lunch and I wanted to make lunch as hiccup-free and seamless as possible. I sigh. “Even when I think I’m prepared, I’m not.”


We drop my eldest off to school on time with a kid-approved lunch and signed homework. A small win for sure.
We return to the house and I unload the two remaining children. My mind moves to feeding them, clothing them, and warming up yesterday’s coffee. “A shower would be nice,” I think to myself. I enter the kitchen only to be welcomed by the buffet of dirty dishes that [fill] the sink and lines the counter. “I should take care of those.” I pour cold cereal for the kids and microwave my day-old brew. When breakfast is done, I usher the kids into the living room where they plop down on the couch to watch t.v. “Probably not my finest mom move,” I muse. I rush to the bathroom to jump into the shower but not before my gaze locks in on the grime that has taken up permanent residence in every nook. “I really ought to do something about this,” I think as I turn on the water. After a quick rinse, I dress, take a quick peek at the kids, and then rush back into the bathroom with my cleaning supplies. As I clean, my mind moves to all the people counting on me for this or that. I write a mental list of what needs to be taken care of today. “I need to wrap that gift. I should deliver thank you cards today. I need to email that recipe. Gotta make sure Dom practices piano. We really should put that trampoline together for Charlee!” The list grows and grows.

Thirty minutes later, the bathroom looks a little better but it’s not complete. “I’ll have to finish later.”

I rush to dress the kids, find socks and shoes. “Brush teeth? No time. I’ll just brush their teeth really well before bed tonight.” Finally, we climb back in the car. No one has shoes on and no one is in the mood to comply with my request to put them on. So I toss the shoes and socks and water bottles into the passenger seat and hit the button for the garage to open.


I drop the kids off in childcare. I get their snacks mixed up and find myself apologizing for something silly. As I walk away, I breathe deeply. “Freedom!” I slide into my seat at MOPS. We talk. We laugh. We admit how hard this motherhood thing is. And for a moment I think: “I’m not alone anymore”. Then, I pick up my children. The baby flips out over candy and we struggle to make it to the car in one piece. At home, I still have one grilled cheese sandwich that I split between the two kids. The toddler continues his flipping out performance by throwing his plate to the ground. As I stoop to pick up the mess, I am met with the poor condition of our floors (read: They are dirty).

As I rise, the overflowing mound of dishes clears its throat to remind me of its existence. “I need to get to those,” I say yet again. Lunch is thrown away, most of it uneaten (of course) and naptime begins which is where I began this journal of events. Thankfully the tears have stopped now and, although no one seems to be sleeping, there is peace. I sit and I write and survey my surroundings. Puzzle pieces are strewn across the floor. Curtains are in desperate need of hemming. Books are half-read. Bathrooms only partially cleaned. And lunch? I haven’t eaten lunch. Just then the app on my phone goes off reminding me to drink water. I ignore it. “I should really clean this room.”


Being a mom is hard. For every win, [there are] several failures staring back at me. With each passing year, I think it will get easier. In some ways, it does get easier but never as quickly and beautifully as I imagine.

To be completely honest, most days I am treading water. I’m peeking through the weeds. It’s not easy. I have to parse through all the needs and demands of each day to find moments and places that really deserve my time. It’s a motherhood paradox. We can keep the home clean but the kids must walk on eggshells for fear of making a mess. The kids are happy but the house is a disaster. We take time for ourselves but the house suffers and the kids aren’t happy. It’s a struggle that doesn’t seem to have an answer. The scenario may vary a little but we are all in the weeds. We are all trying to drive clutch without a manual and the start-stop of motherhood can be difficult to navigate.

Precious Momma. Can I encourage you with two important truths?


Let go of the perfection. My bathroom is half-clean and the kids watched “Dora the Explorer” for an hour. The other night, my husband and I stayed up late sorting and folding laundry and the next night our entire family tackled the daunting process of putting the clothes away. And today? The hamper is already overflowing with clothing needing to be washed. Raising kids and keeping a home liveable is work! Laundry piles will happen. Books will take longer than anticipated to read. And clean showers? Those things may very well become a luxury. We just can’t make it ALL happen. So momma….let it go. Determine the things that really matter and let the rest go.


I know I said that already. You are not alone in your struggle. There are others facing very similar challenges. But you are also not alone. He is with you cheering you on, comforting you, strengthening you. When your toddler knocks the trash over for the millionth time or your kid walks into church without shoes or your child graffities your tablecloth, God is with you. The tears. The anger. The sadness. He knows it all. And He wants to exchange all that frustration with peace and joy. He wants to arm you with the eternal perspective that every day counts. Even the ones that seem to end in piles of laundry and uneaten grilled cheese sandwiches.


Precious momma in the thick of the weeds, you are not alone. I’m there. I’ll be here for quite a while actually. Mothers everywhere, whether they don a business suit or yoga pants, they are treading water as well. We want to get it right and just can’t do it. Give yourself grace and let go of this perfect Pinterest world you’ve envisioned.

If only we would admit that we can’t get it all done.

  • That we can’t always be on time.
  • That we can’t keep up with the dishes and laundry.
  • That we do lose our cool.
  • That we do forget to eat lunch
  • That we leave bathrooms half cleaned and forgotten birthday gifts in the trunk of our car.

You might be surprised by the [number] of women who would join you in a chorus of “me too!” if you did. And let’s remember always that we are not alone. He is there. In our most frustrating moments like potty training a reluctant (read: stubborn) toddler, He is so there. He’s also there to celebrate the hard-earned triumphs like when a character lesson finally connects with your child. Or your child finally decides that writing letters might be fun. Just a hypothetical of course.

He is there.

Dear precious mom in the weeds, you are not alone. I’m there with you. Together, let’s release those things we can’t control and allow God to surround us with his love and wisdom to embrace the things that really matter.

Now off to do the dishes… but not before I snuggle my kids.

**This story was written by Patty Parker and originally appeared on her blog.  

.IRPP_ruby , .IRPP_ruby .postImageUrl , .IRPP_ruby .centered-text-area { height: 130px; position: relative; } .IRPP_ruby , .IRPP_ruby:hover , .IRPP_ruby:visited , .IRPP_ruby:active { border:0!important; } .IRPP_ruby .clearfix:after { content: “”; display: table; clear: both; } .IRPP_ruby { display: block; transition: background-color 250ms; webkit-transition: background-color 250ms; width: 100%; opacity: 1; transition: opacity 250ms; webkit-transition: opacity 250ms; background-color: #FFFFFF; box-shadow: 0 1px 2px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.17); -moz-box-shadow: 0 1px 2px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.17); -o-box-shadow: 0 1px 2px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.17); -webkit-box-shadow: 0 1px 2px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.17); } .IRPP_ruby:active , .IRPP_ruby:hover { opacity: 1; transition: opacity 250ms; webkit-transition: opacity 250ms; background-color: #eaeaea; } .IRPP_ruby .postImageUrl { background-position: center; background-size: cover; float: left; margin: 0; padding: 0; width: 31.59%; } .IRPP_ruby .centered-text-area { float: right; width: 65.65%; padding:0; margin:0; } .IRPP_ruby .centered-text { display: table; height: 130px; left: 0; top: 0; padding:0; margin:0; } .IRPP_ruby .IRPP_ruby-content { display: table-cell; margin: 0; padding: 0 74px 0 0px; position: relative; vertical-align: middle; width: 100%; } .IRPP_ruby .ctaText { border-bottom: 0 solid #fff; color: #3498DB; font-size: 13px; font-weight: bold; letter-spacing: .125em; margin: 0; padding: 0; } .IRPP_ruby .postTitle { color: #000000; font-size: 16px; font-weight: 600; margin: 0; padding: 0; } .IRPP_ruby .ctaButton { background: url(https://faithit-eszuskq0bptlfh8awbb.stackpathdns.com/wp-content/plugins/intelly-related-posts-pro/assets/images/next-arrow.png)no-repeat; display: inline-block; height: 130px; width: 54px; } .IRPP_ruby .ctaButton { background-color: #3498DB; margin-left: 10px; position: absolute; right: 0; top: 0; } .IRPP_ruby:after { content: “”; display: block; clear: both; }

Read Next On FaithIt
Exhausted Teacher: “Parents Have Adopted a Bizarrely Lenient Attitude Toward Disciplining Children”

Read more: https://faithit.com/dear-mom-weeds-not-alone-patty-parker/

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/amazon-products/dear-mom-in-the-weeds-you-are-not-alone/
via iHomeInnovations
from Things For The Kitchen And Home https://homeandkichentools.tumblr.com/post/181946603441
via Home And Kitchen Guru

Even KitchenAid has a Google smart display

I mean, this makes sense, I guess. The kitchen has long been a case use manufacturers have pointed for these kinds of smart screens. So why wouldn’t KitchenAid/Whirlpool want in on a little bit of that action?

The simply-named KitchenAid Smart Display is looks like your standard smart screen — taking a few design cues from Lenovo’s product, from the look of it (albeit with some enormous bezels).

The big differentiator here, however, is Yummly, the recipe search engine it acquired two years back. That offering, coupled with Google Assistant, puts recipes and guided cooking techniques at the center of the 10-inch, water resistant display. Beyond that, it’s pretty standard smart screen fare. You can watch YouTube, create shopping lists and control smart home devices from the product.

Honestly, there’s probably not a lot of reason to purchase a KitchenAid-branded device over, say, a standard Google Home Hub — even if you plan to keep it in the kitchen. But hell, if KitchenAid positions them right (Target, Lowe’s and other home/kitchen stores) it can probably move a bunch of these.

Whirlpool is also debuting a new Pro version of Yummly at the show, which brings instructions from pro chefs like Carla Hall, Richard Blais, Jet Tila and Daniel Holzman to the platform.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/06/even-kitchenaid-has-a-google-smart-display/

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/amazon-products/even-kitchenaid-has-a-google-smart-display/
via iHomeInnovations
from Things For The Kitchen And Home https://homeandkichentools.tumblr.com/post/181920647226
via Home And Kitchen Guru

Alabama Sheriff Pocketed $1.5 Million In ICE Funds For Immigrant Food: Report

An Alabama sheriff personally banked $1.5 million in federal funds allocated to feed undocumented immigrants arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, according to an investigation by AL.com.

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin collected the money over a three-year period beginning in 2011, AL.com reported. The funds were provided as part of a federal contract to use Etowah County Detention Center to hold hundreds of undocumented immigrants who face federal legal proceedings over their immigration status and any alleged crimes.

In addition, Entrekin also admitted at a news conference in early 2018 that he kept $750,000 in food funds from 2015 to 2017. He purchased a beach house valued at $740,000 soon after, The Birmingham News reported.

Alabama state law allows sheriffs to keep unspent money allocated for inmate food. The Southern Center for Human Rights says that the policy “invites public corruption.” Critics say the state law allowing sheriffs to pocket taxpayer funds should not apply to federal money.

AL.com, which includes The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and Mobile’s Press-Register, discovered Entrekin’s $1.5 federal windfall in a search of hundreds of pages of county and sheriff’s office records. Entrekin, who earns close to a $100,000 salary, turned over an additional $1.5 million during that time to Etowah County’s general fund for use on a variety of local needs, reported AL.com.

A local official confirmed that it’s routine for Entrekin and the county to split any unspent federal funds.

“With the ICE funds, the money comes in here, we show all the salaries that are paid … and the different expenses that are paid for ICE that we’re required to show,” county Chief Administration Officer David Akins told AL.com. “At the bottom line, say if we had $100,000 [left] at the end of the year, then the [county] commission should get $50,000 and the sheriff would get $50,000.”

ICE could not immediately be reached for comment.

Entrekin told the News in 2018: “The law says [food funds are] a personal account and that’s the way I’ve always done it.” Not all Alabama counties allow the practice. Entrekin runs the only county facility holding hundreds of immigrant inmates for the federal government. 

Entrekin lost the GOP primary for sheriff in June and will leave his job in January. He blames news coverage of his beach house purchase for his loss.

Federal rates for housing undocumented immigrants vary from state to state. Immigrants likely to be incarcerated for long periods of time because of complicated cases tend to be sent to the cheapest places, such as Alabama, according to AL.com.

Inmates have complained about spoiled food served past expiration dates, and kitchen workers have confirmed that food is often rotten, reported AL.com. In one case, food collected in a train wreck was fed to inmates to save federal money that the sheriff and county could then pocket.

Inmate advocates have also complained about poor medical care and a lack of outdoor recreation at the Etowah County Detention Center. 

The law allowing sheriffs to pocket unspent food funds was at the center of a 2018 lawsuit filed by the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. Forty-nine Alabama county sheriffs were sued over their refusal to produce public records revealing their take of funds allocated to feed inmates.

The organization has also called on U.S. attorneys in the state to investigate sheriffs pocketing federal funds.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/alabama-sheriff-pockets-federal-funds-immigrant-inmate-food_us_5c29a81de4b0407e908400a8

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/amazon-products/alabama-sheriff-pocketed-1-5-million-in-ice-funds-for-immigrant-food-report/
via iHomeInnovations
from Things For The Kitchen And Home https://homeandkichentools.tumblr.com/post/181893655971
via Home And Kitchen Guru