Five Secrets I’d Like to Share

Author Luccia Gray, she of the fabulous All Hallows at Eyre Hall, has passed on the challenge of telling my blog followers five things they probably don’t know about me. Mmmm, what to tell you? – there are so many fascinating things to relate, I’m such a movie star.

Angelina JolieOkay, so back to reality.
1. I actually am related to a movie: The Silence of the Lambs.

Silence of the lambsI received a phone call from a friend of mine at the USDA in Beltsville, MD, asking me if I could provide death’s head moths for the movie. He was a beatle guy, and this was out of his comfort zone. Death’s head moths are indigenous to Europe and Asia, but the USDA frowns on the importation of non-native species. However, the animal I used for my research for over 30 years is Manduca sexta, the tobacco hornworm, and it looks pretty similar to the Death’s head moth.

Manduca sexta
Manduca sexta
Deaths Head Moth
Deaths Head Moth





Long story short, I was hired to provide the moths in all three stages – larvae, pupae and adults, for the movie. And I was paid per insect! We made a lighted and heated trunk in which they could be transported with separate compartments for each stage, and various bit part actors on the movie would fly down from Pittsburgh to pick them up. They flew back in a first class seat!
I taught the insect wrangler – that’s what they called him – how to get the Manduca to perform, and he glued a clear false finger nail on the thoraces of the adults with a skull painted on to disguise the adults. Oh, and the pupae they removed from the dead girl’s throat? It was a Tootsie Role!

2. In case you didn’t read my Growing Up Pilgrim blog, I know how to card, wash, spin, dye and weave wool (I can also knit and embroider), as well as make soap, bayberry candles, and cook in a fireplace. I’m really good at making steamed black bread, from a recipe in the Plimoth Colony Cookbook. All of these have been very handy in my married life…not!

If you’d like to know how to make bayberry candles, check out this video:

3. I love to sail. My first boat was what is now called a Class 10, then it was a Turnabout. It was wooden, heavy, but turned on a dime. Only one sail but later someone figured out how to add a spinnaker. My next sailing adventure was crewing on a Columbia 50 in Lake Erie, named the Res Ipsa Loquitor (lawyer lingo for the Thing Speaks for Itself.) The owner was a lawyer, and he used the boat mainly for assignations. We found lovely things below deck.

Columbia 50
Columbia 50

There were two female crew. We were relegated to spinnaker packing and popping, but weren’t allowed on overnight races because Frank, the cook, liked to work in the nude! Those races suffered from wrapped spinnakers and a lot of cursing.

In California, we were qualified to skipper a six meter open hull Shields class – basically a scaled down 12 meter America’s cup boat. No motor, you had to sail her out of the congested Newport harbor , which was an adventure in itself. We had some near misses, once practicing a spinnaker jibe, but the Dainty was fast.

A Shields Class boat
A Shields Class boat

Today I have a nimble little 17 foot lady, fast in light wind and wild in a gale. Takes two of us to handle her.


4. My favorite foods, hands down, are lobster and pizza. I usually only eat lobster in Maine where it’s fresh. Lobsters in restaurants in the South have usually been sitting around for a while, are rank-tasting, and don’t have much meat because they’ve been living on their muscle protein. Pizza? Any kind, but I do prefer mine in Chicago – Giordano’s stuffed spinach or veggie pizza or Gino’s deep dish supreme. Heaven!

Gino's pizza
Gino’s pizza


5. I had polio when I was 12. No lasting effects until I hit my 60s. Now I have some muscle weakness, which is pronounced in my left hip. Check out my post: The Disease That Never Quits. I work out pretty often in a gym and swim every day in the summer; so far I am holding the worst effects at bay.


Thanks, Luccia, for the tag. And my feet are bigger than yours! Do go and visit her blog, Rereading Jane Eyre (

I’d like to pass this challenge on to Bob Byrd, Elizabeth Hein, Stepheny Houghtlin, Irene Waters, and Rosie Amber.



18 thoughts on “Five Secrets I’d Like to Share”

    1. To tel you the truth, I didn’t go to the movie because it scared me! I waited and watched it when it was shown on campus for the students. Their comments during the movie helped me deal with the tension. I did feel quite a thrill seeing my Manduca in the film!

  1. Fabulous information, Noelle! You are so knowledgeable about so many varied arts (and sciences!) So glad I casually stumbled across your blog last April. You forgot to mention that you’re the Internet ‘ s most optimistic, enthusiastic, and supportive blogging sister ♡♡♡♡♡ 5 hearts.

  2. Lovely secrets Noelle. Fascinating your role in Silence of the Lambs but I have to admit I have never seen the film but if I ever do it will be even more meaningful than it otherwise would have been.
    Thanks for including me in your shout out. Cheers Irene

  3. Pingback: Reflections and Secrets as we see the New Year In. | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

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