Planner Talk 2019: The Planninator

Planner 2019

Early last week I was in the heady throes of the honeymoon stage with my new planner…I was riding the high of having written down a thing AND done it, AND I went on to do the next thing, as well. And the next!

It was, as I said, I very heady feeling, and dare I say…empowering. I found myself taking care of something I had put off for six months (it involved a phone call…and not just an easy, 5 minute phone call, but the kind where they’d probably put you on hold and transfer you to six different departments, to which you would have to explain your problem six times over, and then they’d try to talk you out of whatever you want, or they’d have to get a manager…and then more hold time…you get the idea. I did not want to make this phone call.)

Last week I:

-called the bank to initiate a thing
-ordered new eyeglasses
-scheduled an eye doctor appointment
-scheduled a dentist appointment (it has literally been 20+ years)
-scheduled an appointment with the dermatologist
-scheduled a appointment with a new therapist (gonna give it another try!)
-canceled three services (I had to make phone calls for all three!)
-wrote a handful of things
-went to see my nail tech and got my claws removed
-participated in a monthly call for creative women
-went to Post Office (twice)
-went to library (twice)
-cleaned out closet and all clothing drawers, all without having watched or read Marie Kondo

If I am being honest, all this is probably more than I get around to doing in a year! I am basically the PLANNINATOR, crushing all goals!

Planner 1

So, you may be wondering, what brought about this flurry of productivity, is it sustainable and can we really chalk it up to the the acquisition of a new planner?

To backtrack just a little, this new planner was a gift from my youngest sister (see previous planner post from her, to give you an idea as to her dedication to planners and planning.) I had her asked if she thought that she was up to the task of picking out a planner for me and perhaps some fun accessories, as a holiday gift. As I expected, she was super excited about the possibilities! I think nothing would make her happier than to have all her sisters in the same room together, gleefully ignoring each other as they plot and plan and scheme their days away in their respective planners.

With a few guidelines from me,  that this new planner be:
1. undated, but with time slots, and
2. it’s gotta be black!, and
3. hard bound (as opposed to ringed)

…she said that  with all of my restrictions, I didn’t leave her a lot to work with and she ended up going with a Passion Planner. Here’s what they have to say about themselves:

“Passion Planner is the one place for all your thoughts. It’s more than just a planner—it’s a tool that helps you break down your short and long-term goals and incorporate them into your daily life. It has been designed to encourage you to plan for the future, reflect on the past, but most importantly, act on the present. Think of it as a paper life coach — ready 24/7 to challenge you to focus on what is most important, accept your thoughts and ideas without judgment, and prompt you to reflect on your everyday life. We hope that it becomes a place where you can declutter your mind, allowing you to focus on the present moment.”

planner 2 planner 3

I also asked her to feel free to include lots of fun accessories…even though I don’t really know how they work or what I am supposed to do with them and I’m actually convinced I don’t even know what “fun” is, or how it works. But it seemed important to include stickers! And washi tape! I mean but also what are you supposed to do with washi tape? I don’t know!

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And I know I’m hard to shop for, I want “sort of, you know, “goth”, but not like, Victorian goth, or cutesy goth, or Halloween-y goth, or like 1992-era Spencer’s Gifts, goth.”
I guess what I am saying that I don’t want anything too cheesy or too “on the nose.”  So… that pretty much rules out everything on Etsy, because Etsy tends to be all of those things. So instead she went with something far easier to pin down–cats and Sailor Moon!

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…and a darling pouch for all of my accoutrements!

If you’re curious as to where she picked up the stickers, the tape, and the pouch, these are the three shops that she shared with me:

planner 9

The Passion Planner is much larger than the one I was previously using, seen here for comparison. But honestly, I like both sizes! I’m really digging the larger version right now, but that could be due to me being the kind of person who adapts pretty easily and I generally reach the conclusion that what I am doing now is better than what I was doing before. I like that I can really sprawl and ramble with my thoughts and ideas, but I do see how this larger one might be a little bit more challenging to travel with, but my planner stays at my desk all the time, so that’s not really a concern.

If you’re interested, I was previously using the undated planner from Ink + Volt, and I thought it was pretty great. I didn’t use it consistently, and it wasn’t exactly for planning and scheduling purposes (more like for ideas and brainstorming and lists) and because it’s undated, I think I have probably been using it for two years now. Highly recommended!

Planner 10

ALSO: because my sister is a marvel and she knows me pretty well, she DID find me some “goth but not really” stickers, and they are perfect. As an aside, I gotta find another word to sum up my “goth but not really” aesthetic. But the best I’ve been able to come up with, that doesn’t sound too long-winded, self-important, or cheesy, is “cats and darkness”. I don’t know that it’s an important distinction, I mean I know what I mean and I know it when I see it. And the more I belabor the point, the more it sounds like I’m putting down the stuff that doesn’t fall into my narrow criteria–which I don’t mean to do! If you like it, it’s very good! As the sample lady once told our other sister, when she was sampling some sheet cake or bagel bites or whatever at Costco on a Saturday afternoon. “If you like it, it’s very good!”

SO THEN. Week One of using my planner was a spectacular success! I wrote a lot of stuff down, and I crossed a lot of stuff off my list. Or I put a checkmark next to it. (Are you a crosser or a checker? What’s the difference, anyway?) This week I’m…well, let’s say I’m a tad less enthusiastic.I actually might have overdone it last week, and maybe made myself a little manic about it (I mean, I seriously did feel a little crazed) and I’m still recovering, heh heh. I mean to the point that, even after writing almost 1200 words about the thing and having taken a whole mess of photos of it today, I don’t think I have actually written a single thing in it..

Well, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow! Which, I don’t think Macbeth was talking about his planner when he said :

“.To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;”

…but then again if Macbeth had all these stickers and washi tapes at his disposal, he might have been a PLANNINATOR too. Also if you look up #pashfam on instagram, you won’t see a lot of Shakespeare but you might find some layout ideas and different tips and tricks and suggestions for how other users put their Passion Planner to work. I am passing that tidbit on not having looked at it myself, because I’m stubborn and I am pretty sure I don’t need to see how other people do things, but wow, that sounds really bad when I see it in black and white like that. Maybe I’ll just take a peek.

Ten Things That Got Me Through 2018 From Heather Jean Skalwold

Anxiety

For this month’s Ten Things, we are featuring our lovely friend Heather Jean Skalwold, unstoppable human creator, art director at DellamorteCo. and chief coffee pusher at Banshee + Cinder Coffee. I began chatting with Heather a few years ago, either for interview purposes…or…something else (I don’t even remember now!) and our friendship has grown and blossomed to the point where sometimes I find myself texting or DMing her about this, that, or the other thing on a daily basis. Sometimes frivolous or ridiculous, and sometimes more solemn, weighty matters–I think we’ve found in each other a kindred soul with whom to share our thoughts, no matter what form they take.

When I reached out to Heather to ask if she’d be interested in contributing a “Ten Things” installment, she suggested “Ten Things That Got Me Through 2018”. Though I was sorry to hear that she–or anyone– had a rough go of it last year (mine wasn’t so hot, either), I felt very passionately about giving the opportunity to someone who had a painful, challenging year, to share a few helpful things that alleviated their suffering during that time.

At the same time I have been talking to Heather about this post, reading her words, formatting the images she had thoughtfully chosen, and thinking about her experiences overall, I have also been reading Megan Devine’s It’s OK That You’re Not OK, and in this wonderful book and excellent resource, Megan talks about pain versus suffering, how to tend to your pain and adjust your suffering.

“There’s so much helplessness inside of grief, so much pain that cannot be fixed. Suffering, however, is optional. That distinction can help you figure out what things can be changed, and what things simply need to be supported.

In grief, pain gets tended, suffering gets adjusted.

You might ask yourself, where is there suffering? What tangible problems could be solved in order to reduce suffering? Are you eating, sleeping, moving enough? Can you spend more time with people who support your pain, rather than try to talk you out of it? Are there any places that induce even the smallest bit of calm inside your heart?”

I like the idea of knowing the things that induce calm in your heart while the rest of your world is in turmoil. The things, however small or inconsequential seeming that may relieve the pain in some small degree, or introduce a modicum of peace and stillness when everything feels like it is falling apart. Thank you, Heather, for sharing the things that made your world a little better last year :)

undies1. Awesome Underthings

TomboyX Iconic Briefs
Something about women’s underpants really pisses me off. I like a pretty bra, sure, but I do not want all that lacy, frilly crap on my butt. It’s also difficult to find good women’s underwear with a Halloween print. TomboyX has catered to all my desires and they have these y-front briefs that really tickle my fancy. I bought 2 great Halloween prints, a pack of black briefs, and then went on to get a pair with an octopus print, and one with cats! Normally I’m all black everything, but for these underpants I’ve gladly made an exception. AND the Iconic Briefs are built with a front pocket so you can pack! So cool! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it!
redecorating

2. Redecorating

I redecorate every year, but it generally consists of shifting my generous collection of art and oddities around the house. This year I indulged myself, embracing the modern, stark tones of Blade Runner and Delia Deetz. My living room is shades of grey with shots of red, ivory, and black. It is eclectic but clean, minimalist, and unapologetically not Victorian or witchy.
A big change that you have control over can be incredibly cathartic.
(You get to see my living room as a fancy collage because I haven’t finished painting the walls yet and I’m terrible at taking interior design photos.)

sculpture

3. This sculpture by Kiki Smith at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ

 

pods

4. Sawbones & Science Vs Podcasts

Sawbones is hands-down my favorite podcast. It’s the only podcast I listen to consistently. They are funny, witty, informative, and talk about one of my favorite topics, messed up medical history. They tackle important modern day issues as well, and being a liberal, science minded couple from West Virginia, things can get pretty interesting!
This podcast is therapy for me. I turn on a new episode while I work and I can just focus on their stories. My anxiety from the day subsides. My overactive, ruminating, worrisome brains finally shut up. This podcast is part of my self care, and something I really, really look forward to every week.

I occasionally listen to Science Vs when the topic intrigues me. Their The Science of Being Transgender which aired in December was eye opening. I’ve struggled to understand my gender identity since I was 10 years old. It feels a little ridiculous to have an epiphany because of a podcast, but there it was. All my confusion was simply because I don’t have a gender. Like a person’s sexuality, gender is something that is instinctual. Most people just know that they are a girl or a boy, whether that matches their sex or not. I don’t have that instinct. I don’t suffer from dysphoria either, though. I think I would have been okay in whatever body I was given. I’m perfectly comfortable with my body and my sex. I can identify with being a woman because of my sex, but I just don’t “get” a lot if things. I suppose like being colorblind, you don’t know you’re missing something until the world (people, society, podcasts, whatever) makes it glaringly obvious. Hey! Guess what! You’re agender!

Poppies from the manuscript Codice Rinio Codice Roccobonella, 1445. (1)

5. Online Support Groups
In May my mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, out of the blue. I thought she was going to die. Her doctors thought she was going to drop dead at any moment. It was the single most horrifying thing I’ve been through in my entire life – the idea of losing my mother. Friends helped find me an amazing resource for those going through treatment and their loved ones. I was able to join a group for caregivers and close family almost as soon as I signed up. And it helped. The moderator was knowledgeable and sympathetic and just urging enough to get a bunch of strangers to open up and start talking to each other.
My mother survived her first chemo treatment, barely, and then her second, and her third, and then surgery, and then more chemo. My mother is still going strong and the doctors call her a rockstar. My mother IS a rockstar.

Connect with others in support groups for cancer patients, loved ones and people who have lost a loved one, led by oncology social workers. https://www.cancercare.org/support_groups

If you are troubled by a death, illness, disorders, trauma, social issues, identity issues, severe depression, anxiety, the loss of a beloved pet/familiar, anything… there is help out there, people who have been or are going through what you are. If you are troubled I urge you to please put google search to work. You are not alone.

mads

6. Mab’s Drawlloween Club 2018

Daily art prompts for the entire month of October, hosted by Pop Surrealist painter Mab Graves. I’ve never done anything like this before and it was an incredible challenge that pushed me to my limits. It usually takes about a week for me to complete a full collage! I am so proud of myself for finishing, and I swear, I have never been so productive creatively in my entire life. Art is therapeutic for me, and while it kept me busy as hell, I absolutely loved the challenge.

You can check out my artwork on instagram: http://www.instagram.com/saintcalluna

voting7. Voting

Did you vote? I voted twice in 2018 – legally!*
We finally made a change and I have a little hope where there has been none in two years. We have got to put this dumpster fire out!

(*2 different elections, no voter fraud here…)

mourning8. A Mourning Tattoo and Mourning Jewelry

In 2018 I got another tattoo! My cat, Banshee, died in October of 2017, and I have never mourned for another living soul the way I mourned the loss of my sweet jerkface of a familiar. I was devastated. Distraught beyond measure. To celebrate our relationship, and keep her with me, I drew one of her owl like eyes and had it tattooed on my left hand. I am not hiding my love and my pain, and I am definitely too old to be squeamish about visible tattoos.
Then fate brought Copperelegy of The 8th House Collection to me. She inquired about an art trade… in return she created this this sterling silver urn bracelet containing the ashes of my dearly departed Banshee. It is gorgeous and perfect and fills me with such sorrow and joy. I was blessed to have had 11 years with that troublesome, possessive, mouthy, and loving little creature.

IMG_99229. Coffee

I had to stop drinking booze early in 2017 because of new medications. I quit smoking over a decade ago because it’s gross and cancer sucks. I’ve never been into the recreational drug thing, and they probably wouldn’t go well with my meds now anyway.
So what have I got??

Coffee!

I love coffee and you’d have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands before I give it up. I find pure joy in that first sip of the day. I love the aroma, the complexity of the flavor, the warmth on a cold morning. Or afternoon, or night… you know how it goes.

Coffee became a new focus for me in 2018 when I opened Banshee + Cinder Bespoke Coffee Co. Yes – I love coffee so much that I started selling it.
Sometimes when the world is bleak, you have to remember the simple pleasures to help get you through – because this bullshit lately is overwhelming…

instagram

10. Instagram

I really tried to make this last thing not be Instagram, but here it is. Instagram is one of the things that got me through 2018. I have my own little community of amazing people who have supported me through all my struggles, my new ventures, and random art attacks. This past year especially I have made some incredible new friends and acquaintances, and even met a couple of them in person!

I have been inspired, comforted, made to feel like I’m worth a damn. Thank you, Instafam, for getting me through 2018.

10 essentials

BONUS ROUND!
My 10 Essentials

Bombas Merino Wool Socks
So soft, so comfortable. I smile every time I put a fresh pair on my feet, and since I switched to wearing wool over cotton I no longer struggle with foot odor! Additionally, Bombas donates a pair of socks to homeless shelters for every pair of socks they sell.

Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm SPF 20
I can’t find a tinted lip balm with an SPF anywhere. I keep buying all these fancy tinted balms and I keep coming back to Neutrogena.

Nizoral A-D Shampoo
The only thing that has worked for my itchy, flaky scalp, and I have tried everything. I just wish I found it sooner!

Urban Decay Brow Beater Microfine Brow Pencil And Brush
The right size, the right color, and easy application. Seriously, all I want are good brows…

Fluevog Shoes
Goth/weirdo staples. With my Dada Donuts and my Derby Swirls I go from vamp to Brando without missing a beat.

My iPhone
I went to being someone who thought cellphones were a leash, to someone who can barely live without their better than Star Trek pocket computer.

Bird Ov Prey T-shirts
I live in these. Softest and coolest looking t-shirts ever. Jordan of Bird Ov Prey is an insanely talented designer, working out of Brooklyn, NY.

Batwing Sunglasses from La Femme en Noir
It took me two years to find the perfect damned sunglasses. I am finally satisfied, and I have a pile of sunglasses that I don’t know what to do with now. These suit my vampire aesthetic perfectly.

Eggo Gluten Free Waffles
The best gluten free waffles ever! I can’t find them sometimes and it makes me fantasize about buying a big freezer so I can store bulk quantities.

Hello Activated Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste with Fluoride
Black black black fucking toothpaste, I love it… I used to get charcoal toothpaste shipped from Japan because you could only get powder in the US. Finally someone has hopped on the activated charcoal craze, and lucky for me, their headquarters are 2 towns away from me!
(FYI they also make a black toothbrush.)

Find Heather Jean Skalwold instagram // art // Banshee + Cinder // DellamorteCo

Year After Year

2019-1

“Year after year
On the monkey’s face:
A monkey’s face.”

― Matsuo Bashō

New year, old me. Same old me as last year. I will never be a new me. Or, I suppose you can argue that I will never be an old me, I will never be the me that was, because every day, every minute, every second, every moment, I am changing in the most minute ways on a molecular level and I am continuously different than I was the moment before. Which is it, then? Who cares! I am the me I am now, and that’s really all I’ve got to work with. And hopefully I will never wake up with a monkey’s face!

And so, it is a new year. I don’t plan on making a lot of big changes and I haven’t got much in the way of resolutions, but I guess I will do a few things differently in 2019. 2018 felt like a year of stasis, nearly to the point of stagnation. One major reason is something I’m not going to talk about here, it’s a family matter, and it’s constantly on my mind; there is never a second, never a minute I am not thinking about it, and it’s really taking a toll emotionally and mentally. I am hopeful that it will be resolved this year because it’s a heavy weight, and frankly, I am tired of bearing it. I think in 2018 my depression was as bad as it’s ever been. Which is not nearly as bad as I know a lot of other folks have it, but let’s face it, it is exactly as bad as it feels, and I don’t think there was a single moment in 2018 that I felt “good”.  But I can’t not live my life while I’m waiting for matters to work themselves out, and I can’t use that as an excuse to make poor decisions, to not take proper care of myself, to not take measures when I feel myself sinking to that low, dark place where the self-criticism is deafening and the self-medication is unchecked.

How did I get to talking about all that? I am not sure. Sometimes when I want to write about this thing or that, I figure whatever I’m sharing needs a bit of an introduction to get everything rolling; somewhere along the line though, the intro gets out of hand and runs off the rails, and we end up in a very different place than where I hoped to take us– and, in the getting there, the whole tone of the piece has become something I didn’t intend. Let’s dial it back a bit. I came here today to talk about my goals for 2019. None of them were meant to be about what a bummer last year was. Moving forward!

2019

Goal: Use the nice things that I have. Here we have a spot of pre-new years cleaning and paring down. There was an entirely separate container of lipsticks on this dresser, as well as a mug of mascaras, before I went through and tossed at least half of it. The purpose, other than clearing out gross, expired product and things I don’t actually use, was to clear a small space, something I’ll see every day, and choose a few perfumes and pieces of jewelry to lay out and wear for the week. I’m great at collecting these things, but not so good at actually using them. I’m hopeful that this practice will help!

Seen here, perfume-wise is Myrrh Casati by Mona di Orio, which sometimes smells like spicy licorice incense and sometimes smells like Cinnabon, but with posh ingredients and prepared by a world-class chef, for rich people. Both iterations are okay by me. To the left of it is French Lime Blossom from Jo Malone, which kinda reminds me of fusty, old-fashioned soap, but sometimes I am in the mood for that sort of thing! If you’re into that too, well, unfortunately it’s most likely discontinued.

2019-4

Goal: Continue tracking, on a monthly(ish) basis, the stuff I use; noting what works, what doesn’t, and trying to be smarter in general about the purchases that I make, and making sure I’m using everything up. If you follow me over on instagram, or remember my year-end post for 2017, this is not news to you. The above are products I emptied in December: the mask and the sample-sized hair products will not be repurchased, they really did nothing. I am still looking for that HG shampoo and conditioner for coarse, color-treated hair! I liked the Beauty Water, or I thought that I did, but I hear from a friend in the industry that micellar waters are a bunch of hooey and a waste of money, so I don’t think I will re-stock on that one. I will always buy more Tom Ford Oud Wood shower gel because it is the most beautifully-scented shadowy-forest-temple shower gel out there, but it is also $68, so I might not get more any time soon. Definitely will grab another packet of Banshee + Cinder coffee as it’s delicious, and I would buy another Lost In The Woods candle (it smells like a path of Sweet Tarts in a dark, fairy tale woodland) by A Dark House, but I am not sure where or how to even do so. I think the creator only sells her candles at events, and I’m pretty sure this was a limited release anyway.I’m on the fence with the Omorovicza Queen of Hungary mist, because it’s really just rose water, right? Surely I can find something just as nice and much less expensive!

 Hot, charred cherry tomatoes with cold yogurt from the book Ottolenghi Simple A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi

Charred cherry tomatoes with cold yogurt from Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook

Goal: Cook more. I like to cook. Except when I don’t! Which, in Sarah-speak, means I like to cook when I have time to cook. When I can do it leisurely, when I can linger over the process. For me the getting there is much more important than the end result, because let’s face it, I’m not actually a very good cook, and oftentimes the outcome falls hilariously short of my expectations.  But I don’t let that stop me! Unless, as I noted, I’m tired, or stressed, or rushed for time. At those times I have no desire to do the cooking and will instead drive to Chipotle or order a pizza or maybe just eat a box of crackers smeared in margarine. I am also going back to a vegetarian diet this year. Ish. (I may keep eating fish). I ate entirely vegetarian for a year or two a decade ago and I don’t think I have ever felt so good in my life! I looked pretty good, too! Man, if I could go back and give 2008 me a hug and tell me how gorgeous I was, I totally would. Collarbones! Lordy. I can’t remember the last time I saw those.

2019-3jpg

Goal: Food diary. More tracking of things! I’m trying to figure out what all triggers my acid reflux, which I started noticing when my mom got sick in 2012 and has been sporadic ever since, but getting progressively worse. I think I’ve got it pinpointed to a combination of certain starches + fats (stuffing is the worst offender) but sometimes it will come on suddenly when all I have had is a glass of water. Wine and spirits are no good, either, which is sad…but…at least it’s not coffee that’s a problem. I don’ think my weight gain over the ensuing years is helping, either, but ugh, diets are boring and dumb and you’re never going to hear me talking about them again. I’m sure it would also help for me to see a doctor, but I refuse to take a prescription for this, so: nope. As a matter of fact, since this hasn’t been diagnosed, do I even know it is acid reflux? But what else could it be? Thank you, WebMD!

2019-2

Goal: More stranded colorwork knitting! These Underwing Mitts were part of my 2018 goals, and to be honest, I didn’t even start them until the end of December. Though I at first hated their fiddly tediousness, I soon became addicted to seeing the pattern emerge and I finished it up in a few days time. It obviously took me forever to get around to attempting them; in my nearly fifteen years of knitting, this is the first colorwork project I tried my hand at! Despite the fact that I throw myself into terribly intricate lace knitting all the time, I have always found the concept of colorwork daunting. Well, now I’ve done it! The only problem is…now I have to knit its mate! If all goes well I will take on these gorgeous Russian Flower mittens next…

2019-6

Goal: Read 5 books. Which may seem a little light if you recall my reading challenge from previous years–heck, in 2018 I read 101 books! But this year I am doing something a little different: there’s a handful of books from the past 3-4 years that I began, and for some reason–either they were dull and plodding, or I was distracted and wasn’t in the right headspace at the time, or whatever–I never finished them. There’s actually only four books in this list that come to mind, but I am sure that there has got to be a fifth! Of course, I can certainly read any other book I wish (and trust me, I always have a long list of titles I wish to read!) , but to reach my goal, I must have read:

Goal: More flowers! You may not know this, but before your friend Sarah was all about books and jewelry and perfumes and ghost stories and horror movies and snarking on runway couture, she was super-obsessed with blooms and bouquets and all things “flowerdy”. She was also maybe five years old. But she never, ever lost that true-heart-love for posies and garlands, to include even a single, perfect blossom. Fresh flowers are expensive to keep on hand all the time, but maybe I’ll treat myself once a month or so? And seeking out and swooning over floral art doesn’t cost a thing, so I’ll definitely be doing that, whether it be the beautiful photography of Debi Shapiro, or gorgeous botanical lingerie set from Ohhh Lulu or an exquisitely luxurious loungewear from Harlow and Fox. Expect to see a lot more florals on the blog this year!

Do you have any goals for 2019? Any habits you are trying to break or practices you’d like to develop? Are you going to ignore Infinite Jest for another year? Let’s encourage and support each other in the comments!

Vampires, Witches, and Ghosts: The Top Ten Reasons Why I Love the Holiday Season By Sarah Chavez

Mucha-Christmas-in-America-1919 Header

Sarah Chavez (interviewed previously) is a museum curator and historian who writes and recreates historical and cultural recipes for her blog, Nourishing Death, which examines the relationship between food and death in rituals, culture, religion, and society. She is also co-founder of Death & the Maiden, which explores the relationship between women and death by sharing ideas and creating a platform for discussion and feminist narratives. She is the executive director of The Order of the Good Death and serves as the Social Media Editor for Death Salon.

To continue our monthly installment of Ten Things, and just in time for our full moon, 2018 winter solstice, Sarah is here to share her Top Ten reasons as to why she loves the holiday season! There are eerie and wonderful and delights to be found here, indeed; I suggest you grab a cup of something steaming and fragrant, dim the lights, curl into your favorite seat, and tuck right in!

rau Perchta by Bill Crisafi

frau Perchta by Bill Crisafi

During this time of darkness, when one year ends and another begins, people have practiced rituals to honor and appease the dead. Similar to Halloween this threshold between the old and the new allows the dead, (along with demons, spirits, and witches), passage between our worlds.

We leave offerings of food on our tables and doorsteps for otherworldly beings, eat beans for good luck (which were once believed to be vessels that held the souls of the dead), and make noise (fireworks, gunshots, cheering) at midnight on New Year’s Eve to scare away unwanted spirits who wish to do us harm or bring misfortune.

Indeed, this is a magical time of year…but not for the reasons you might think.

Ghosts

1. Ghost Stories
“There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.”

Ghosts? On Christmas?
Yes!
Ghost stories on Christmas were once an important part of holiday traditions –
“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” wrote Jermome K Jerome in 1891.

This year, gather around a fire, or a pizza, to share ghost stories with your loved ones, or track down episodes of the BBC series Ghost Stories For Christmas and revive this wonderful, forgotten tradition.

draculadaughter1732

film still from Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

2. Vampires
For me, the holidays season officially begins with St. Andrew’s Eve on the night of November 29th, when the vampires arrive. According to Romanian folklore, not only do spirits of the dead roam the earth this night but so do the undead. Be sure to rub garlic on your windows and your pets!

Holiday movies image from Bell, Book, and Candle

film still from Bell, Book, and Candle (1958)

3. Holiday Movies
If Hallmark Christmas movie marathons, and reruns of Miracle on 34th Street are not your thing (because they definitely aren’t mine), here are some alternative seasonal favorites that pair just as well with some popcorn and hot chocolate by the fire.

Bell, Book, and Candle (1958) – There’s witchcraft, a cat, and a secret nightclub for witches set against a Christmas in New York City backdrop.

Fanny and Alexander (1982) – Ingmar Bergen has a way of beautifully and painfully exposing the best and worst of human beings. In this lavish, visually stunning film he takes viewers inside the Ekdhal family’s Victorian era Christmas to explore the pain and joys of family.

The Curse of the Cat People (1944) – Intended as a sequel to Cat People (1942), this gem features the main players of the horror classic, but that’s where the ties end. In it, an alienated little girl makes friends with a ghost, and an elderly, reclusive actress. Critic Leonard Maltin’s descriptives of the film as “wonderful atmosphere [and] fine, moody fantasy” are spot on.

Night of the Hunter (1955) – I saved the best for last – Night of the Hunter is a masterpiece. This is essentially a fairy tale, both terrifying and achingly beautiful. If you’ve never seen it, here – this is my holiday gift to you.

Christmas Monsters image of The Tomten by artist Astrid Lindgren

image of The Tomten by artist Astrid Lindgren

4. Christmas Monsters
You are all probably already familiar with Krampus, but the holiday landscape is full of terrors, making it even more festive! Here are a few you may not be familiar with:

The Tomten are creatures that live in Scandanavia, and bear a strong resemblance to the Expedia Gnome. They reside among the dead in the burial mounds surrounding nearby homes where they act as caretakers, protectors and helpers of the household. But beware for they are easily offended and have quite the temper. The Tomten are known to act out their anger by killing livestock and playing nasty ticks on the home’s inhabitants, breaking things around the house, hiding important objects, (where did my car keys go?!), curdling the milk and tying the cows’ tails together. No cows? Your shoelaces will suffice.
There are even some stories of Tomten driving people insane with their tricks or even biting them. Their bites, being poisonous, typically lead to death.
You would be well advised to leave a gift of food out on Christmas Eve for this fellow.

The Karakoncolos is a version of bigfoot who can be found in Turkey, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. He appears during the Christmas holidays and lurks in the shadows on street corners awaiting the arrival of passerby. When someone crosses The Karakoncolos’ path, he asks them a riddle. If the word “black” is not incorporated into the answer, the unfortunate person receives a death blow from the monster.

Each year on New Year’s Eve the Japanese village of Oga carries out an elaborate ritual involving demonic-like ogre figures, the Namahage. During the grand annual festival fifteen Namahage march down from the mountain where they are said to live and descend upon the village. The demons hand out sticky rice cakes to the citizens of Oga, believed to ward off disaster in the coming year, which sounds pretty nice right? However, once that is done the demons visit every household in the village where they berate the women and children and then threaten to kidnap them. The family offer the Namahage some sake and do their best to convince them not to take anyone away this year. This usually does the trick.

music-Holly Ivy

5. Christmas Music
A hallmark of Christmas is the music of the season. We are all too familiar with the thematic elements of the overly cute, romantic, sentimental and of course, sacred songs of the holiday season.

When you think about it, it isn’t terribly difficult to find curiously macabre songs and carols among the pack. After all, even by Christian standards, this is the celebration of a figure who has always been linked to death.

The Holly and the Ivy
One of the most popular Christmas songs, The Holly and the Ivy may be burdened with the stamp of Christianity, but still manages to maintain its pagan fertility imagery – so obvious, there is no need to explain. It’s Christmas Sexy-Time!

Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.
The holly bears a blossom as white as lily flower…

We Three Kings
Another popular Christmas song we all know, that little kids sing at school, and frequently plays over the speakers at the grocery store.

Myrrh is mine: Its bitter perfume
Breaths a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

Bethlehem Down
Composer Peter Warlock was experiencing financial difficulties. He had recently befriended poet and party boy Bruce Blunt. The first account of their mutual company was from a press report detailing their arrests for being “drunk and disorderly.” Lack of funds to fuel their party life prompted their collaboration on Bethlehem Down, which, in turn, won them the Daily Telegraph’s annual Christmas carol writing contest. The prize money funded an “immoral carouse” on Christmas Eve in 1927.

When he is King they will clothe him in grave-sheets,
Myrrh for embalming, and wood for a crown,
He that lies now in the white arms of Mary,
Sleeping so lightly on Bethlehem Down.

The Coventry Carol
You may not recognize it from the name, but you know it. This carol was originally contained within a mystery play, retelling the story of Christmas. This song is sung by the mothers of the little boys under the age of two, who are destined to be brutally murdered by King Herod’s men. In the last lines, they say goodbye to their children. A truly haunting and heartbreaking piece.

witches vintage photograph of Perchta and her Perchten

vintage photograph of Perchta and her Perchten

6. Witches
In many parts of Europe, witches are a common and popular figure of the Christmas season. Prior to the Christian church taking over January 6th as Epiphany or Three Kings night, this was the holy night of Berchta, goddess of winter, witchcraft and animals.

Many countries have adapted Berchta to their own cultures and she goes by many different names and personas, from the kindly La Befana who leaves Italian children small gifts, to the sinister Perchta who punishes the idle and greedy by ripping out their intestines and replacing them with straw, rocks, and garbage.

food photograph by William Mortenson

photograph by William Mortenson

7. Food
By now it should be no surprise that many of our traditional Christmas foods are also attached to some dark folklore. For example, fat from the Christmas Goose would be left outside as an offering for witches who would use it to make flying ointment.

For me and many other Latinx’s, holiday season equals, tamale, pozole, and ponche season. Pozole is a soup that has been around for centuries, originating in Mexico prior to colonization. It was a common dish, made with a combination of herbs, peppers, corn and meat. When the pozole was served in conjunction with festival days, or as a part of sacred rituals, the meat in some cases was from the bodies of those who were sacrificed.
Nowadays we use pork and chicken, but making pozole is another way our traditions link us to our family, culture, ancestors, and the dead.

Grave candles in Helsinki 2004. Photo Darren Webb

Grave candles in Helsinki 2004. Photo Darren Webb

8. Visits From the Dead
As I mentioned previously, this is a time when the veil between the world of the living and the dead thins. Many different cultures welcome their ancestors with gifts of food, or even save them a place at the table.

On Christmas Eve in Finland families all journey to the cemetery to visit the graves of their loved ones and light candles. An area is set aside for visitors who do not have family interred locally. Here, they are invited to light a candle for their own loved ones who have passed on. The scene is reverent and magical.

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Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast, Season 2

9. Gifting aka Treating Yourself
Not only do you deserve it, you probably need it. Holidays are hard and always cause some measure of stress – family, loss, changes, and a new year bring on all sorts of anxiety.

Do things that nourish and delight. Lavish yourself with love and care and gifts. Mind you, a gift doesn’t have to be a thing you spend money on – it can be time (which, imo, is the most valuable thing). These, compounded by living in a society that is suffering from feelings of loneliness and isolation, we are desperate to find connection and meaning in our lives and with each other.

Here are three of my essentials right now:

Teamotions Tea is not only delicious, using adaptogens to provide much needed emotional support. Created by a bereaved mother and her sister to help provide support through almost unbearable grief, their Have Hope blend will help you in the worst of times. My favorite, Seek Peace is a coconut chai that helps to “release pent-up emotions, especially anger and frustration.”

Yes! Liberation is an elixir for “healing, strength, protection and support in the face of racism, neocolonialism and oppression. Heals our broken hearts and helps us recover from trauma.” For most of us, this year has been rough. I started using this in September, and for the first time this year I felt like I could actually breathe.

Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast, Season 2 this Korean reality show, available to watch on Netflix, isn’t your normal U.S. reality TV fare full of tears, drama, and people being generally horrible to each other.

The series, which follows a celebrity Korean couple that reside on magical Jeju Island, who, (with their many adorable rescued pets), open their home to guests for the winter.

Watching this show is like a soothing balm as it leads viewers through every day tasks of cooking and cleaning, mixed with fun outings like sledding, and exploring the island. The hosts meet interesting people, have meaningful and hilarious conversations, and you get to see the delightful, healthy relationship between the celebrity hosts. This show so pure, and it just makes me happy.

Rituals- Alphonse Mucha, Christmas in America

Alphonse Mucha, Christmas in America

10. Creating Meaningful Rituals
Ritual is what elevates an ordinary event to a special one. It forges connection to culture, nature, community, and those we love.

During this time of year we are often burdened with doing things because of “tradition,” and these are so often traditions that fail to evoke joy or meaning to us as individuals. I want to encourage you to let go of what does not serve you, and to create rituals imbued with intention and meaning unique to you. Honor yourself, and the dead – there’s your New Year’s resolution. Blessings on your way.

Find Sarah Chavez: twitter // instagram

Stacked November 2018

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Just in time for Jólabókaflóð* (which I am told by an actual Icelandic person, “is sort of a thing, but not really a thing”–but whatever, who needs excuses to read books on Christmas!) our Haute Macabre staff reads for the past month! 

I may have read more nonfiction in the past two months than I have in my entire life, and though I’m never going to adore the true life telling of a thing as much as I do a rousing tale of high fantasy, I have come to realize its vast importance, and it is a practice I hope to keep up with in 2019 and beyond.

* RE: Jólabókaflóð. I first began seeing mention of this in 2013 or 2014; it’s purportedly the beloved Icelandic tradition of the “Yule book flood”, wherein everyone retires to their separate corners of the home on Christmas eve to read the books they’d just gotten for Christmas. RIGHT ON. Except not so much, in my (admittedly limited) experience. My partner is Icelandic, and his mother and brothers and Icelandic; I have spent every Christmas with them for the past seven years and not once have I experienced this phenomena. We all just sit around and socialize for about 48 hours straight. I feel terribly cheated, because in that time frame, I could use a moment or two with a quiet book! My partner, as I mentioned above, says, “..well, it. s sort of a thing, but not really a thing. Sort of like how at Thanksgiving people talk about how they are going to eat so much that they will fall into a “food coma” but that’s not really a proper tradition. It’s just the way people talk about it.

However, I just read this NPR article from 2012 where they talk about the concept of Jólabókaflóð having to do with the surge in book sales from late September to November, or most likely, the purchasing of books as gifts. This explanation sits better with me, because I can see evidence of it. Everyone disappearing with their books on Christmas eve and leaving me the hell alone? Not so much.

Image by Caitlin McCarthy

 

Banshee + Cinder Interview And Giveaway!

Banshee + Cinder (wolf tea creations)3

image credit: WolfTea Creations

Some days I can barely manage to change from my pajamas into my human workday clothes before stumbling to my desk for another day of drudgery, and if that’s the best I can accomplish, I’ll call it a win. Actually it kind of feels like a win if I can even make it out of bed in the first place, and okay, if I am being honest, most days are like that for me. I’m a steady plodder and I’ll get there when I get there and I certainly can’t multitask worth a damn. But then I’ve got these fantastically brilliant friends who are always moving and shaking and hustling and making and I’m constantly marveling at not only the amazing creations they bring into the world but the regularity with which they conjure forth these wonderful things. And then! And then! There are some friends who somehow, on top of everything else they are doing, surprise you with an entirely new endeavor, and it’s like “HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS? Do you have an army of clones? It is sorcery?” How do you crazy-clever people have the time and energy and focus to keep all of these fabulous projects going at once?

The answer is probably that they get out of bed in the morning, they change out of their pajamas into their human clothes….and keep going. They don’t stop!

One such unstoppable human creator is Heather Jean Skalwold; you may recognize her name from her involvement as art director with Dellamorte & Co., purveyors of high drama gothic eccentricities and décor…but did you know she can now supply you with an otherworldly brew to fill that eerie, eldritch, meticulously sculpted coffee mug with?

Grounded in the most vital of mortal experiences–that first taste of a dark, steaming cup of coffee on a chilly morning– Banshee + Cinder is a small, woman-owned business offering a “bespoke roast-to-door experience.” And having tried it their coffee myself, in a roast and a grind that I picked out with some help from them (because I’m pretty clueless about both), I can speak to the fact that it is delicious! I haven’t quite learned how to talk about coffee but I will say that it tastes beautiful on it’s own–no sweeteners or milk needed. And my partner, who never likes the coffee that I make as much as he likes the coffee that he makes, exclaimed, “wow, this is good! Are you sure that you made this?”

And I do know exactly what they mean when they speak to that first magical sip of coffee in the morning; it is, they share, “the profound intimacy of this ceremonial sip so imperative to our daily ritual” that inspires their passion for coffee. And I know we are not alone in our mutual passion for coffee and that transformative first sip–which is why I thought it imperative to talk with Heather Jean Skalwold all about her new venture and to offer a giveaway for Unquiet Things readers!

Read below for our invigorating, highly-caffeinated (well, at least on my part–I think Heather Jean naturally runs on some sort of high-octane genius-juice) interview and leave a comment for the opportunity to win a bag of Banshee + Cinder coffee (medium roast, medium/coarse grind, just like mine!) as well as a Banshee + Cinder coffee mug, with art by Saint Calluna. A winner will be chosen on Christmas eve next week!

Banshee + Cinder logo

Image credit: Darby Lahger

Unquiet Things: I know you initially through your art–both in your role as art director for Dellamorte & Co., in addition to your own personal work as Saint Calluna. So the coffee connection was a bit of a surprise for me! Coffee + art? What’s the link? 

Banshee + Cinder: Interior decorating, obviously! It’s funny, at the time I was thinking about opening an online boutique with curated items for home decor. A witchy, dark lifestyle brand. I thought it would be an interesting and generally unexplored niche to fill. I started doing a lot of research into opening an e-commerce site, finding suppliers, running logistics, etc., and I randomly stumbled upon this coffee supplier. It was love at first sight, and complete happenstance. I thought, I love coffee, why couldn’t I do this? And so gears shifted and I was suddenly researching coffee. I learned everything I could about coffee varieties, growing, farming practices, roasting, brewing, even the countries the beans came from to get an idea of the social and political climates. I was able to choose some incredible coffees from around the world, with plantations committed to organic and sustainable practices, while providing fair wages to their farmers. And then I found a roaster in Chicago to partner with. Before I knew it, I was running a coffee company!

Banshee + Cinder (seven spike studio)2

image credit: Seven Spike Studio

Banshee + Cinder (seven spike studio)

image credit: Seven Spike Studio

What’s the inspiration behind the name Banshee + Cinder?

Banshee and Cinder are my cats- tortoiseshell sisters from the same litter. I adopted them when they were three years old, and Banshee claimed me right away. We were inseparable for a decade until her death last year. Losing her was devastating… Naming the company after her is just one of the little ways I continue to honor her. Thankfully Cinder is still going strong.

Banshee + Cinder (wolf tea creations)4

image credit: WolfTea Creations

Tell me about your first experience/s with coffee. What’s your earliest coffee memory?

When I was very young I hated coffee, and through much of high school I just drank tea. I remember exactly when I started drinking coffee. I was out late at a diner with my friends. I ordered tea and poured in some creamer and it curdled. It was disgusting… and sad because I really only had pocket change to buy anything with! Someone offered me their coffee after getting it refilled, and I discovered quickly how to make it more palatable with milk and sugar. I’ve been a fan since, and I adulterate it much less now.

image credit: WolfTea Creations

image credit: WolfTea Creations

Banshee + Cinder (wolf tea creations)2

image credit: WolfTea Creations

What’s your coffee drink of choice? What do you pair with your coffee?

I like the American style, regular coffee (as opposed to espresso drinks) that I make at home. Either drip or pour over, as long as it’s brewed with a paper filter. Paper filters produce a brighter, sweeter cup of coffee with little or no sediment or oils. I primarily drink my Brazilian blend, roasted dark to bring out the chocolate earthiness. I have come very far since I was a child! My favorite way to take it is with whole goat milk and raw alfalfa honey, sometimes with a dash of organic pumpkin pie spice.

 

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Tell us about the coffees and the roasts that you offer at Banshee + Cinder? Any tips for preparing and drinking your brews? How would you advise folks to best enjoy them?

All of my coffee is single-origin, meaning they come from one location in a specific country. It’s incredible how much a change in location, terrain, and climate can affect the flavor beyond bean varieties. A flavor profile is listed on each coffee’s page to help customers decide which region suits their palate best.

Now we’re called a “bespoke” coffee company because we roast in small batches, to order. This coffee is fresh. We will roast any coffee light, medium, or dark, and grind it to your specifications. Or it can be ordered whole bean, if you prefer to grind it yourself. The grind depends on your brewing method, and the roast just depends on your taste. We have guides for the roasts and grinds as well so you can pick the perfect coffee for your needs.

As far as preparing and drinking… make sure your equipment is clean, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Otherwise drink your coffee how you like it best. I suggest sipping it black first so you know what you’re getting into, and then lightening and sweetening slowly until you achieve your perfect coffee to adulterant ratio.

I also offer a decaffeinated blend. I want to drink coffee all the time, except I really need to sleep at night. I’ve never really understood the decaf taboo. I can personally attest to the quality of Banshee + Cinder’s decaf!

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Is there anything else you want people to know about Banshee + Cinder?

I have been blessed to be able to work with some incredible women in the arts. Photography by Darby “Old-Hag” Lahger, Casey Capell of WolfTea Creations, and Carla Cury of Seven Spike Studio, and illustration by Nikol King. I hope to keep featuring artists as the company grows. The next illustrator to be featured will Holly Cappello, aka Holigoil. I find it exhilarating to work with these artists and have the chance to bring the arts to the coffee game.

Do you love coffee? Have a favorite way of taking your coffee? Perhaps you maybe even have a morning ritual dedicated to this most sacred of morning beverages? Tell us all about it in the comments and be entered for a chance to win a bag of Banshee + Cinder coffee and a Banshee + Cinder mug?

Find Banshee + Cinder: website // instagram // facebook // twitter

Solstice Scents Fall 2018 collection + a giveaway!

Solstice-Scents-Wilcox_feature

I know in many places you’re getting snow and blizzards but closer to the equator, we’re just starting to experience autumn’s chill. A perfect time to review Solstice Scents Fall 2018 collection! Peek over at Haute Macabre today for my thoughts on a handful of these seasonal fragrances, and leave a comment on the blog post to enter to win a FULL SIZE Bottle of one of the scents!

Links of the Dead {November 2018}

Image credit: Mathieu Baly

Image credit: Mathieu Baly

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {November 2017} | {November 2016} | {November 2015}

💀 How a Grieving Father Is Uncovering Mexico’s Mass Graves
💀 Death As A Friendly Onion
💀 How vividly imagining your own death can help your next career move
💀 How To Grieve For Online Friends You Never
💀 Thanksgiving: The National Day of Mourning
💀 Event teaches local Girl Scouts about mortuary science
💀 A Handbook For Grieving
💀 “Magical Funerals®” coming to Walt Disney World
💀 She Sees Dead Bodies

Currently {November 2018}

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Wow. Hi there. Hello. It’s been a while. Last I checked in I was feeling mopey and melancholy, for reasons, I suppose, that have much to do with Florida’s eternal summer…and not having much else going on, I had a lot of time to brood.

Time seems to have sped up exponentially since August. It’s already less than a week until Thanksgiving, and I barely have time to reflect on how busy these past few months have been. Although, to be fair, anytime I have a planned event or excursion– that is to say, singular, just one– I feel like, “omg, I’m so busy! such a whirlwind of things! hooo-whee boy I am I exhausted!

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The end of September saw me getting dressed up as if for an autumn day in layers, dark stockings and boots (it was actually close to 90° outside, and I was dying), to see one of my all-time favorite bands, with some of my very favorite people. First we dined at Morimoto and that was…not great. But I am pretty sure that since this location is nestled into Disney tourist central, they probably cater to the broadest, blandest tastes possible. I hear that Philly Morimoto is pretty amazing, so I’ll just chalk our experience up to location.

The Decemberists always put on a fantastic show …and I’ve seen them twice now so obviously that makes me an expert! And now I finally get the appeal of The Mariner’s Revenge song, so I will never cut out early before the finale again. I am not sure I’ve ever heard lyrics that provide me with such a sense of joyous, demented glee…

“”Find him, find him
Tie him to a pole and break
His fingers to splinters
Drag him to a hole until he
Wakes up naked
Clawing at the ceiling
Of his grave”

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And since we mentioned Philadelphia…shortly after our evening with evening with Colin Meloy & Co., I journeyed back up north to visit with my BGF again. I had some semi-plans in early Autumn to either visit Salem again or else visit my youngest sister in Indiana, but both of those ideas came to naught. When BGF wistfully spoke of my visiting her in Philly in order for us to experience autumn together, I jumped on the idea and we made it happen. Well, mostly. I flew up there and had a fantastic visit, but the weather up there was not overly cooperative either, and there was not a fiery falling leaf in site.

Delicious foods eaten: Dan dan noodles, brazilian cheese bread, french toast donuts, soup dumplings, smoked old fashioneds.

80’s movies watched: Pretty In Pink (which I had never seen!)

Oddities shops visited: The Creeper Gallery in New Hope.

Enormous pieces of still life bricolage art featuring flora and fauna and various pieces of natural ephemera purchased, for which I have no room to display: Let’s not talk about it.

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More concerts! We saw The Secret Sisters and Ray La Montagne at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in Orlando, and I wore a very low-cut dress.  This two things are not necessarily related, but I thought it worth mentioning. As my late Mawga would say, the “boobers were floppin'”. As a bit of an aside this is a tunic dress from City Chic and it’s just got the most marvelously unique shape to it, and they come in all kinds of gorgeous floral prints and I love it. Also, it’s 50% off right now!

Anyway! The Secret Sisters were amazing, they were an absolute joy to watch and their harmonies really just blew me away. If you like melancholic blue grass and murder ballads, you definitely need to check them out. Ray LaMontagne, well, he was a bit of a snoozefest, but I wasn’t really there to see him anyway, and I knew what I was in for, so I’ll not complain overmuch about what I am now thinking of as “an evening of naptime with Ray”,

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I have been making lots of lovely Japanese-style breakfasts lately, with rice and miso soup, broiled salmon, homemade pickled vegetables, and tamagoyaki (rolled japanese omelette).  I’ve never been much for pancakes or cereal and sweet stuff in the morning, and there’s something about this combination of foods that is wonderfully savory, and perfectly balanced to fill you up while at the same time you feel like you are eating something light.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes for creating such a meal:

I have also lately found myself craving kimchi jjigae, a Korean dish which my BGF made for me ages ago, and which I have found myself thinking of frequently now that the nights are getting darker earlier and the temperatures are (slightly) starting to drop. I think at its most basic it’s just a stew with kimchi and pork belly, but then to that you can add all sorts of seasonings and extra spices and wonderful things like green onions and tofu and rice cakes. Most recently I think I probably cobbled together two or three different recipes and made sure to include sesame oil, garlic, gochujang (red pepper paste),gochugaru (red pepper flakes), scallions, tofu, and rice cakes. Not too many of the little rice cakes (or “rice tubules” as I like to call them) because you’ll probably want to serve this stew with/over rice! I haven’t made it often, but I get the feeling that it’s hard to mess up, and you’ll definitely want to make enough for leftovers, because it is even better the next day.

In searching out youtube videos for various recipes, I came across honeykki’s channel; she makes the most peaceful, soothing videos of the recipes that she prepared and eats each day, so if this is a thing that appeals to you, I highly suggest you take a peek at her beautiful meals.

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So, I’ve been diligently knitting away on a few things this year, and because one of them was mega-intense, my finished object pile this year is very, very small. Back in January I started the Ghost Orchid shawl, a pattern by Andrea Jurgrau, which I believe was inspired by the one of the creations of legendary doily master Herbert Neibling. I bound off the last stitch last weekend, blocked the thing with much help from my creative consultant and partner-in-crime, who insisted that we measure precisely and make it perfect because I put so much work into it. I eventually let him take over because I personally think blocking is the worst but he seemed super into it. Win-win!

Additionally, on-and-off-again I am working on this sock yarn leftover blanket, which I plan on giving my youngest sister as a “congrats on your divorce!” gift. She got divorced two years ago, so I’m running slightly behind on this one.

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I know I have said over and over again, that I prefer my nails short, long nails are gross, etc, etc. They’re unwieldy, and impractical, and I hate the feeling of the even the slightest dust particle under my nails, so I have always kept them brutally short. I got some fancy nails last year before I visited Salem, but I wasn’t really happy with how they came out (and to be fair I had them done at my regular salon, where the average age of the clients probably range from 65-75, so those ladies were probably not prepared to bring my vision to life.)

I gave it another try earlier this autumn when my sister recommended her new nail lady to me and holy moley! Evee at City Escape Spa is crazy-talented, a consummate professional who is overwhelmingly thorough and knowledgeable, and not only that–she is so much fun to visit and chat with and gives you terrific one-on-one attention while she’s making your nails look magnificent. From the first visit she gave me exactly what I was looking for, and with each subsequent visit she has somehow made my nails look even better than the last time. I believe she really puts in the effort to getting to know her clients and really digs down deep to figure out what they’re into and about, and that helps her hone in and focus and start putting ideas together for you–and they are so spot on!

If you are in the Orlando area and looking to beautify your claws, I cannot recommend Evee at City Escape Spa highly enough. And if this sounds like a review, well, maybe it is. She’s a veteran, minority, female business owner, and I want to see her succeed, so if someone happens to see this and make an appointment because of it, that would be pretty great.

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Media/entertainment-wise, I spent most of October working on my 31 Days Of Horror, but I did recently watch a non-horror film (sort of) this past Friday, when I finally got around to watching Paprika, a 2007 anime more or less about technology that can record your dreams, and what happens when someone with less than noble intentions hijacks those capabilities. Visually, I mean, whoa. Hyper gorgeously trippy, delightfully surreal, and story-wise, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so perfectly capture the utter wacky weirdness of dreams. I have also been watching Better Call Saul, on Netflix, but less because I like the business of lawyers and more because I love watching grizzled old Mike Ehrmantraut.

All throughout October I indulged in various haunted house stories: The Haunting of Hill House and Hell House, which were both re-reads, along with a few others, all of which I go into in our Stacked feature at Haute Macabre. Currently, I am catching up on my non-fiction stack: What The Eyes Don’t See, written by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha about the Flint water crisis; she is the physician who stood up to those in power in order to address a gross environmental injustice and save the city she loved. Dr. Hanna-Attisha writes compellingly, compassionately, and with such an intensity, that you feel like you’re there in the trenches with her, just trying to get somebody, anybody, to pay attention to her urgent findings of the elevated levels of lead in her tiny patients bloodstreams. And any level of lead at all in your blood is bad news!

Alongside What The Eyes Don’t See, I am also reading Floating Gold: A Natural (And Unnatural) History Of Ambergris by Christopher Kemp, and this, too, is a wonderfully gripping, engaging book–but in a very different way. Flint’s children need lead-free water for all kinds of important developmental reasons, etc.; this book is about water and the vital role that it plays in our lives. Floating Gold, however, follows one man’s obsession with ambergris, a substance that is basically impacted dung that is forcefully expelled from a sperm whale and floats in the ocean for a very long time before making landfall. It’s used, or it was used as a fixative in luxurious perfumes, and it’s very expensive–sometimes costing more per ounce than gold. These two books couldn’t be more different, and yet they do have that main/underlying element (pardon the pun) of water in common.

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And lastly, here’s some pork shoulder braised in a pumpkin, recipe via Chef John. Ours doesn’t look as good as his did, but it was damn good. No, it was actually divine, even. Sadly, this was the pumpkin we meant to carve on Halloween while we passed out candy to neighborhood kids, but I’d had an awful day and decided Halloween was officially canceled. There was no candy or carving, and this wee orange gourd sat neglected until we hit upon the idea TO EAT HIM. Sorry, little buddy.

 

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