Archive of ‘unquiet things’ category

My Neighbors

Our neighbors originally hail from the Narnia province, deep in the glowing heart of Rivendell. They retired to FL in their twilight years but they still dream of the old country.

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But lest you think it’s all glimmering midnight fairyland and unicorn disco folktales round these parts, allow me to present the other end of the street, where the rapidly shifting terroir gives rise to a distinctly divergent environs.

{cue up Monster Truck Housewives Of Unincorporated nameless Florida town}

 

 

Weird And Wonderful Things

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Have you ever looked at something I’ve rambled on about here on the blog, and thought, “dang, I need a Japanese ear rake to scrape out my glunky ears, too!” Or, “man oh man, I want to give that gnarly foot peel a try!” Or “boy howdy, I want to read that book/watch that movie/hear that album/wear that stinky perfume, too!”

Well, thanks to me frittering away the better part of an afternoon making a little Amazon shop, you can find all of these delightful things collected for you in one place!

Pictured up top:

Emperor of Nightmares: EC Steiner

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(This interview was originally published on Dirge in 2015. The site is no longer active or updating.)

Think back upon your last nightmare. Not those maddening dreams where your mother is still alive and making you crazy or the ones where your bank account is inexplicably in the single digits and you are three months behind in rental payments. No, the real nightmares. The harrowing nocturnal visions that wrench you awake with a gasp and a shudder, render you terror-stricken, with your heart pounding, and desperately praying that the creature you’ve just encountered whilst slumbering is not, in fact, in the very room with you.

You lie under the blankets, paralyzed. Powerless and sleepless, nerves jangled and at the edge of your skin, until the sky lightens with morning, the room’s dim shadows scatter, and you finally see that you are alone. Or, at least – you are alone now.

EC Steiner is an Atlanta-based sculptor, designer, and sometime storyteller who crafts dark and dangerous visions inspired by “the sensuous, the grotesque, and things as foul as they are fair.” He conjures forth those phantom filaments from the darker pathways of our disturbed slumbers and coaxes them to life in the form of horror and dark-fantasy inspired artwork.

In a recent interview, I spoke with Steiner about his love of the dark and of nights, and how this fascination inspires and informs the nightmarish hordes of strange and evocative grotesqueries that he creates and unleashes his audience.

Perhaps you should leave a light on tonight.

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When I first became aware of your work, you were using the King Unicorn moniker. Why the shift, and can you tell us about the significance of the Casket Glass name you are now using for your endeavors?

EC Steiner: Like many artists, I have a day job to support my art and reduce some of the uncertainties that come along with working in a creative field. Unlike many artists, I was working on projects for a group of state and government agencies. I chose what I believed to be a fairly ridiculous pseudonym in order to save my employer from having to explain why “some gorehound” was the acting team lead. And that ruse held up for a long while.

King Unicorn reflects a past life of taking on commissions, work-for-hire assignments, and the highly competitive opportunities created by the projects of others. Every year, there are thousands of artists graduating into creative fields ready to chase and grab up the opportunities others provide. Casket Glass reflects my desire to move away from that realm – to create my own opportunities and focus almost entirely on my own projects. In this way, the work is wholly mine and fully expresses what I want to leave behind in the world. Casket Glass is not a new identity as much as a reminder of what inspires and motivates me.

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You describe yourself as an “Alchemical Artist, Errant Decadent & Purveyor of Lygophilous Dreams.” It would seem that, to quote Rainer Maria Rilke, you “have faith in nights” – or at least in nightmares. Tell us about this fascination with the dark, this faith in nights, if you will – where it stems from, what drives it, how it translates into the work that you do.

I have a love of mystery and the unknown, and there’s an undeniable excitement that comes from wandering into the shadows outside the reach of the firelight. I keep ranging further into the darkness–into the nightmares–because I want to find the point where my sense of wonder becomes a sense of terror and to learn how can I draw on that knowledge to elevate what I’m trying to create.

To quote Devendra Varma, “The difference between Terror and Horror is the difference between awful apprehension and sickening realization: between the smell of death and stumbling against a corpse.” If through a visual medium, I’m presenting the corpse, then I also need to find some way to invoke some presence of “the smell of death” that will linger and follow my audience home. Evoking that experience is something I will spend the rest of my life working to achieve.

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What is your earliest “Lygophilous Dream”, realized, so to speak? And how has your work evolved since that time?

One day, I posted an image of a clay bust: a skull-headed, equestrian beast-man, dressed in cloak and mail, with a twisted length of cancerous growths spiraling out of the top of the head. It was entitled “King Unicorn Self-Portrait Bust,” which was a humorous play on the fact that no one knew who I was when I first started slipping artwork out of my studio; I kept my identity offline and signed off on posts and communications with simply “~KU.” It was dark and grotesque, and the response it received set the stage for everything else that followed.

The core evolution in my work is related to developing confidence with materials and with processes. For me, it just took putting in the time and giving myself the time to collect the experiences that evolved the work.

Being primarily a self-taught sculptor, so much of my growth was inspired and supported by the creative community. I owe a great deal to those artists who were willing to take time away from their own work to offer suggestions, share techniques, and encourage pushing everything as far as I could take it.

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Though your illustrative work is fiendishly well-honed, it’s clear that your first love is sculpting – can you tell us about your background in the medium, and how this love came to be?

I was first exposed to sculpting when I was very young as part of a wonderful arts program offered by the public school system where I lived. As I grew older and was moved around, those opportunities didn’t appear as often, and I ended up taking art classes that kept repeating the same entry-level techniques. That continued into higher education, where formal art instruction and I parted ways.

It wasn’t until around 2000, when I picked up an old issue of Amazing Figure Modeler Magazine (#18, with the beautiful “Alien Pile” sculpture by Takayuki Takeya on the cover) that I was truly inspired to do more with sculpting than just create costumes and Halloween props. I ordered a five-pound block of oil-based clay and went to work. From that moment, I never stopped trying new techniques, experimenting with new materials, and being open to failing in new and spectacular ways to gain experience.

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Your pieces have appeared as part of several exhibitions: Splendid Trespass at 8ofswords Gallery in 2013, The Grotesque at Modern Eden and Yours Truly at Alexi Era Gallery in 2014. More recently we can see your digital work in Canaan Cult Revival Magazine, and in My Dream Date With A Villain, a publication from hereticalsexts. What drew you to these projects in particular? Where can we see more of your work?

There has to be something compelling about an opportunity for me to want to take time away from my own work to contribute to its outcome. Most of these projects were helmed by friends and designed to launch new personal endeavors. My contributions were a way to do more than just act as a cheerleader for their ideas; I was able to lend my time and my creativity to help them find a sense of success and momentum early on.

For gallery events, I want what I present to contribute to the narrative of the exhibition, not work against it. All of my gallery pieces were developed specifically to match the themes of each event. I recognize that sculpture is, at times, underrepresented in galleries, so I appreciate having the opportunity to lend an extra dimension to the narrative the curators are after.

Due to ongoing commitments and a backlog of projects, I discontinued contributing to gallery exhibitions for 2015, but samples of my work are available on my website, and I regularly post under the Casket Glass name on Twitter and Instagram, which funnels my work to Facebook and Tumblr for those who prefer those networks.

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What can you share with us regarding your work space where these dark dreams incubate and are brought to life? What rituals do you use to put yourself in the mood to work?

I live in a kind of hermitage near the mountains. While I’m far from the more enticing elements of Atlanta, the distance from distractions affords me more time to work and a space that’s conducive to my needs. I’m able to keep a designated indoor studio and a separate manufacturing workshop for louder, messier activities.

Because my day is divided between two very different worlds, I need to take the time to peel off the skin I wear during the day to prepare for the evening’s work. When I don’t take that time, it creates a channel through which the frustrations and conflicts from my work day can creep into my sacred space. I use a sort of meditative practice involving music and transmutative visualization, so my daylight toils can’t cross over and poison the joy the evening brings.

I don’t like to look at other artists’ work after I’ve begun a project. I will gather up my references and complete some preliminary sketches before the focused activity begins, but I prefer to avoid outside influences once I’m under way. I don’t want to recreate the thing that inspires me by going back to it repeatedly. I let the inspiration act as a catalyst, then step away from it. I would rather the work I attach my name to have my own voice and not feel borrowed from something or someone else.

Nearly all of my spare time is devoted to being in the studio. It’s the drawback of dividing the hours available each day between the thing I love and the thing that supports it. Fortunately, I’m not forced to pass the time in a silent cell. I use my nightly and weekend sessions to explore the films and music that both help develop my projects and keep me entertained.

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In that vein, is there anything you can share regarding future projects and collaborations?

On the sculpting table, I’m currently finishing a trio of busts to release in an extremely limited, one-off format and then will begin a new line of occult-themed models for collectors and painters. I’m also working on the last design for my “Carthage” series of three acrylic and graphite paintings. That series will be available individually and as a single triptych print. And because no hour should be left unspent, I’m in the midst of writing and planning the illustrations for a novella to offer those who enjoy more than a few words with their art.

 

Currently {March 2018}

IMG_2352The last few months I have been homebodying it up; reading, knitting, trying to watch a movie but usually giving it up to read or knit some more, instead. Which is not to say that my social calendar is generally quite busy– it is certainly not–but it does seem to be filling up at an even slower pace than usual.

I did attend a small but lovely Death Over Brunch (our Sunday morning, chilaquilecentric riff on Death Over Dinnerin January–and hopefully in the forthcoming months we will be expanding this concept to a more public venue and opening up the events to a larger guest list! Stay tuned for details.

In February I got a thing removed from my face! I had it checked out last year and they told me it was seborrheic keratosis, which is basically just a harmless barnacle, and that I shouldn’t worry about it. Well, I wasn’t worried, per se, but it sure was ugly, so a year later, I made an appointment to get it removed. If you’re curious, insurance did not cover this procedure; it cost me $125 (I think they gave me some kind of discount because I was paying out of pocket.) They squirted the area with liquid nitrogen, which stung a little, and throbbed gently for about 20 minutes after. After a week or so, the little booger started to come loose from my face, and since I couldn’t resist fiddling with it, I peeled it off. I probably should have given it another day to come off on its own, but I don’t think it made too much of a difference. Now the area beneath is a little pink, but even that is starting to fade. I was beginning to feel very self conscious about the spot, and you know, I’ve got a handful of things that already make me insecure, so if I could fix one of them relatively cheaply and safely–why not?

ear picks

In the meantime, allow me to share with you some of my recent Favorite Things.

Featured in the top photo are a ridiculous pair of light-up, cat-eared headphones. They are the best purchase I have ever made. Just look at them. They’re awesome. I will assume this is self-explanatory and move on.

Bamboo Japanese ear cleaning picks. These particular ones don’t get great reviews, all sorts of complaints of them breaking off and getting lodged in the ear canal, but come on people–a little finesse, please! I can’t feel sorry for those yahoos, jamming bamboo sticks in their ears, willy-nilly and then injuring themselves. I’m actually the worst at everything, and that’s never happened to me, so I’m not sure what’s wrong with these folks. I was obsessed with the practice after reading this a few years ago. (Despite the fact that the article basically says not to do it.)

Our new squatty potty stool! I don’t think I even need this, but I figure even if you’re fairly regular, you can always improve on things. I like to keep my guts and related business happy, and, well, I had some amazon credit. There’s also a white, plastic version (I got the more expensive luxury bamboo model) but either way it gives a sort of geriatric impression…which isn’t really the sort of bathroom decor I was looking for, but, oh well. If you’re not grossed out by such things, give this review a read over at gizmodo; the comments are particularly enlightening.

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Laniege Lip Mask I have a dreadful habit of brutalizing my lips when I get stressed or anxious or nervous. I don’t just nibble at them in a manner that suggests shades of sexy, virginal innocence, in the way that the heroine of a bafflingly popular “erotic” novel might do–no, I gnaw and rip and tear at the skin on my lips, as if my teeth are vultures picking apart a carcass on the side of a busy highway in the afternoon sun.  I am often left with craters and crevasses on my lips, unsightly pits and splits marring my poor, mangled mouth. I tried the lip mask from Laniege, on a whim–it’s a berry-scented gloop that you glop on your lips overnight–and you know, it does actually help quite a bit. My lips really never heal completely from the abuses that I subject them to, but in the few weeks I have been using this, I think it’s as close as I am going to get. They really do look almost normal now, and without trying to sound overly dramatic, I started noticing results almost overnight! Make of that what you will. (Another nervous habit I have is scratching a phantom itch, usually located in the ankle region. I will scratch and scratch until my ankles are raw and bloody. These wounds, too, take ages to heal.)

Lastly, I have become obsessed with mukbang spoons.  They are not called this, of course. They are just wooden spoons, used for eating. I see them used all the time in mukbang videos (here’s an example of Keemi using them to eat kimchi mac and cheese. Also if you are unfamiliar with the concept of mukbang, read this.). But there’s always something so enchanting to me about eating with comically oversized utensils, so I certainly had to have a set for myself. I used it to eat my favorite breakfast yesterday–leftover rice, heated up and mixed with a little soy sauce and butter, served with a yolky fried egg on top, and generously dusted with furikake. I’m pretty sure that eaten with a large wooden spoon, it was at least 25% more delicious. Tiny spoons also make food tastier! I use these to eat yogurt with…and I hate yogurt! It becomes at least palatable with fairy spoons, I swear.

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Books: As with the beginning of every year, it dawns on me that I actually own a library card, and thus I begin availing myself of the local branch’s offerings until about April or so, when I fall off the wagon and start up again with the buying of more books that I do not need. This sofa’s scattering of titles is the result of several trips to the library over the course of about a week and a half, and among these pictured I can heartily recommend Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women (I will probably recommend everything she’s ever written, forever), Abigale Hall by Lauren Forry, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Not pictured, but still recommended: Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Strange Case Of The Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss. Pictured, and only one chapter in, but I’m going to recommend it anyway because it’s already amazingly compelling: Pachinko by Mei Jin Lee.

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I suppose I have watched some movies recently, and some of them have been marvelous, but no doubt they are things everyone’s already seen, so I am not sure they are worth mentioning. If you’re on the fence about The Shape Of Water, drop everything and marvel at it. If you’re feeling the same way about Annihilation, I would suggest investing the time in reading the books, instead. Black Panther’s excellence was unparalleled, and I think I enjoyed it more then even Wonder Woman–and Wonder Woman was a movie I had been waiting my whole life to see. I finally got around to seeing IT (meh), The Beguiled (I enjoyed the book more), Alien Covenant (I wish they’d left out the crew and the aliens and just made the David & Walter movie instead) and The Dark Tower (was it me, or did that feel like a YA film?)

As far as streaming movies I watched Marjorie Prime, which was sort of like a Lifetime version of a Black Mirror episode…and you know what? I enjoyed it much more than any Black Mirror episode. On netflix I barrelled through Peaky Blinders in a matter of days and it was every bit as amazing as everyone says it is, so I am sorry I waited so long to get around to it. I also watched The Ritual, which was pretty freaky, the monster was particularly unsettling, and I think I might have liked it even better than the book.

What have you been reading? Watching? What sort of weirdness have you been buying from amazon in the middle of the night? Fill me in!

{Guest Post} Stuffed in a Bell Jar: A Taxidermy Piece

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“Liz T is a seaside kitchen witch who lives with her husband and his weird dog in New Jersey. A paradox of a woman, she reads the classics and poetry while guiltlessly enjoying reality TV garbage. Find her on instagram as @divebardame.

It was one of those things that you couldn’t help but keep staring at. Curiosity driven by fascination and a bit of fear.

It was the bear skin rug that sat on top of the refrigerator in my Nan and Pop’s basement in North Philadelphia. A black bear Pop had killed on a hunting trip, folded so only the head was visible, peering over whomever was grabbing a Coors Light from the fridge. The bear’s mouth drawn wide open, showing all of his teeth. A pink rubber tongue forever shaped into a soft wave. Glass eyes staring out. The eyes were probably the most unrealistic thing about the bear. If there’s one thing I have learned while dabbling in taxidermy, it is that the eyes are the key to imitating life.

I used to pet the black bear, pat him on the head. And sometimes, pinch his teeth. After Pop had passed and the neighborhood turned, we had to move Nan out of her home and into a smaller apartment in Northeast Philly. The bear lived with us for a while, folded on top of our refrigerator in our garage. I’m not sure why this bear always ended up on top of a fridge, but who were we to question tradition? He now resides with my Uncle who has the bear and other bucks mounts on his wall. Nan and Pop are gone, but that bear is still around.

Another distance family member, my aunt-by-marriage’s-brother’s -wife, (if you’re Italian, you know this just means ‘aunt’) had a massive collection of insects. Vibrant butterflies, glossy green beetles, jet black scorpions- all framed and labeled around their home. Again, this experience occurred as a child, so in reality she may have had about a dozen frames of bugs. But I still like to believe my child’s memory of there being hundreds. I loved staring at them, but even more so, I wanted to touch them. I had never seen butterflies so big and blue growing up in Pennsylvania. And even if I did, I would never be able to catch those agile things. But now here they were, right in front of me. So close and delicate, with only a pane of glass between us.

On a trip to Chicago, my partner and I visited a friend who took us to the Field Museum. Not only does the museum have Sue the T. Rex, the largest and most complete dinosaur ever discovered (kudos to Sue for living large and staying organized) but they also have hall after hall of preserved animal specimens, some over 100 years old. Some are beautifully displayed in glass cases. Others are shown in a scene reflecting their environment in the wild, like the notorious man-eating lions or a grizzly bear standing upon rocky terrain. If you have ever wanted to feel like a tiny, feeble speck, go stand by that grizzly. You could easily spend an entire weekend looking at every specimen just once- that’s how big this place is.

A derpy breed of antelope at the Chicago Field Museum. Photo by my friend, Jon.

A derpy breed of antelope at the Chicago Field Museum. Photo by my friend, Jon.

So after all of this time and admiration, I finally started a collection of my own. We have a pheasant hanging in our garage which was left by the sellers- so thanks! I also have a gorgeous black tarantula gifted to me by my very best friend. We named him Abe as she purchased him in Lincoln, Nebraska. His abdomen broke off and got kinda stuck between the sealed glass by his head, but I guess that’s part of his charm. The real Abe didn’t make it out completely unscathed either.

The next piece I want to add to my collection are these gorgeously obscure little mice dioramas made by Brooklyn Taxidermy. I first came across these little delights at a punk rock flea market in Asbury Park, NJ a few years back. The company is run by Amber Maykut, a skillfully talented taxidermist and entomologist who has worked for several museums around the country, restoring and creating gorgeous pieces. The ethically sourced mouse/mice pieces are too precious. They’re exactly the storybook imagery we grew up with- little mice in their own community, maybe living inside an old grandfather clock or a hollowed out stump in the woods. Some mice are displayed enjoying a thimble sized cup of coffee, others are calling on the cards, ready to read your fortune.

If you’re reading this and are thinking “hmm, I wouldn’t mind trying to make one of these babies myself,” you’re in luck! Brooklyn Taxidermy offers classes. Whether you’re looking for classic taxidermy pieces, quirky mice, or the more creative, crypto-zoology inspired pieces such as the jackalope, Brooklyn Taxidermy is definitely worth a gander.

Taxidermy Jackalope courtesy of Brooklyn Taxidermy Etsy

Taxidermy Jackalope courtesy of Brooklyn Taxidermy Etsy

So is taxidermy odd and strange, even slightly depressing? I suppose so. It is, at its root, dead things. This once stunning, grandiose creature is now dead, gone. And that’s how we get to ENJOY the thing? Once it has passed and everything that makes a butterfly a butterfly, a bear a bear, a fox a fox- is now gone? I understand all of this- yes. But taxidermy extends beyond that. It creates eternal life only in death, through death. It offers accessibility: taking something so beautiful and striking, something that you could never get to see up close in person, and placing it right in front of you, larger than life. Even if it is only the shell. Which is also the part that is so quickly whisked away once death takes it. The shell is what is burned or boxed up and buried because it is “tainted” with death. Taxidermy says, “No, no. Not just yet.” and makes it possible for that magnificent something to stick around for a little while longer.

Instead of that old bear inciting an interest in hunting, I’ve grown to have an interest in collecting dead things. Not through channels of killing, for, as I’ve mentioned, the whole hunting thing has never sat well with me. And I absolutely do not support big game hunting. I believe any taxidermy that is acquired in present times should be obtained through ethical channels, once it has died on it’s own accord. That’s what I find most fascinating about taxidermy. It keeps around for us the semblance and structure of what something was, long after the spirit of what it was has dissipated.

If nothing else, it will make a great conversation starter for your next cocktail party.

Thank you, Liz! Do you have a weird or strange interest or passion or obsession that you would like to share with the readers of Unquiet Things? Are you interested in writing up a guest post about it? Please let me know! I will pay you with a knitted good for your time!

Previous Guest Posts:

Planners: Rituals Of Comfort, Agents Of Change
Ten Gems Of Decadent Cinema

Kitchen Witchery In A Post Mawga World

cookbooksIn the year that has passed since Mawga, my grandmother died, I have spent a great deal of time thumbing through the recipe book that she left behind. A small, black three ring binder; matte, plastic, unmarked, and which now holds the contents of its predecessor, a vibrant orange business, with jaunty illustrations of butter crocks and salt cellars and tea kettles. This newer version, you’d never mistake it for the vessel of gastronomic conjurations it contains. You might think it was an address book, if people used such things anymore. A booklet for business cards or bills, perhaps. Something filled with information for filing away. Things that no one actually wants to bother digging out and looking at again. As opposed to…well, the thing you reach for, not just out of habit, but of yearning, and of a craving. You would not know to look at this book and crave.

(Oddly enough, that previous portfolio seems to have been resurrected as a strange sort of literary journal/catalog in my grandmother’s remaining years. She refilled it with blank, lined pages and loaded it up with lists of titles she was looking forward to reading, book recommendations from various friends, Top Tens, and many other inscrutable literary lists whose themes utterly escape me. When I became aware of its existence, this thrilled me. In our souls, I think, my grandmother and I loved the exact same things: eating and reading.)

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Despite the book’s bland camouflage and newer, sturdier spine, the pages are the same–blurry with stains, dog-eared and torn from marking a place, and, what I love most–intermittently scribbled with her enthusiastic notations and opinions: “Good!” for example, with regard to a certain oyster stew recipe that Mawga and my grandfather enjoyed. This in an incongruence that always makes me giggle and retch simultaneously. As far as I know, no one in the family but the two of them liked this particular soup. It was a foul, milky, bi-valve bath water. More for them, I guess!

Oyster soup aside, I love so many of her other recipes, so I thought it befitting to spend an entire week celebrating her life by preparing foods and cooking meals that are attached to some of my most beloved memories of her. I don’t know that these were all her favorite foods, but they are certainly the ones I recall with reverence and the clarity derived from a recollection distilled from a single, fixed point. That beautiful late summer day spent at their house by the creek, on Barre Road, with the supper of chili and cheese and hot dogs . The cozy evening with the steaming bowls of chicken and dumplings before watching The Dukes Of Hazard with my grandfather. Food, for me, are these delicious memories of bone-deep love.

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I dined on cheese conies both at home and in restaurants when I was young, but I still believe Mawga’s version was superior. If you haven’t got a Mawga, if you happen to be in Ohio, Skyline Chili is the place for these things. If you don’t live in the midwest, you can try to cook it up yourself! It’s basically a hot dog on a bun and a little squirt of mustard, topped with “Cincinnati chili” (which is very different from regular chili) and an enormous mound of freshly grated cheese. Chopped onions are optional, I guess, but I personally think they are a must.

Oddly enough, there is no recipe for Cincinnati chili is my grandmother’s cookbook! Perhaps she made it so often that she knew the ingredients and instructions by heart? I found this one online and it was nearly perfect. Yes, it calls for cocoa and cloves and allspice, which sounds kind of weird if that’s not what you’re used to, but that’s what gives it its distinct flavor. I think that this one was a little tangier than I remembered, which my adult palate really appreciated–so don’t skip the apple cider vinegar. I don’t think hot dog brand matters, so use whatever your favorite is. I use potato buns, but go with your preference. The cheese is absolutely crucial! Grate it yourself and leave it out on the counter until it gets a little soft and skeevy with the room temperature. Pile it on top until you can’t see what’s underneath it anymore. You might not think with the cheese and chili, the mustard would even matter, but it does. You definitely miss it when it’s not there! If you have leftover chili, serve the leftovers on a plate of spaghetti. That’s a Skyline thing, too. I don’t care for it, but lots of folks love it.

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My grandmother’s chicken and dumplings are not the most photogenic thing in the world (not even close) but they are without a doubt, the most delicious. Dropped, not rolled. Totally made with Bisquick. And no, we don’t besmirch their character with peas and carrots (ugh) or sprigs of herbs (no!) Mawga would be appalled. Actually she wouldn’t, she was pretty live-and-let-live. But I’d be kinda appalled.

This is another recipe that is not written down, but I’ve watched it made so many times that I could make it in my dreams. And it’s basically just a nice broth with some dough in it, so no biggie! While Mawga always boiled up a whole chicken for her dumplings, I am not nearly that ambitious.  A packet of chicken thighs (skin on, bone in) in a big pot of water begins the broth for this dish. How big a pot? I would go with the biggest you have, because you want to have extra broth leftover to squirrel away in the freezer for future dumpling emergencies. Into your enormous cauldron, along with the chicken thighs and water, throw a couple of stalks of celery and a few carrots. You could roughly chop them, or just break them in half.  Along with that, halve a few onions, and toss them in the pot, skin and all. Add a bay leaf or two and bring to a boil. I guess you could add some seasonings at this point, but I add those a little later in the process.

Lower heat and put the lid on, and leave it be for about an hour or so. Fish out the vegetables and throw them away, we’ve drained all the life from them at this point. Remove the chicken from the pot and once cool enough, pick the meat from the bones and set aside. Put the bones back in the pot and add your seasonings; I usually use a tablespoon of Better Than Bullion, which Mawga never used but I bet she would have if she’d known about it, and some black pepper and maybe some Lawry’s seasoning salt. I also add more water to the pot at this point or maybe even pour in a carton of store bought chicken broth to supplement it (which begs the question, why bother to go the home-made route at all?) Leave it on the stove at low heat for the rest of the day to make your house smell amazing. If you have thought ahead, then you will have made this broth on a Saturday. Turn the heat off and the whole thing cool off. Pour through a strainer to remove detritus and bones, pour back into pot. Rearrange your entire refrigerator to accommodate your broth pot on Saturday night. On Sunday afternoon, place the pot on the stove, skim the fat off the top, portion out the extra broth (whatever you deem extra) into tupperware and freeze. Heat the remainder (leave, oh, 5-6 inches of broth in the pot?) up to a boil. While it is heating, make your dumplings with the directions straight off the back of the Bisquick box:

Dumplings: Mix 2 cups Bisquick and ⅔ cup milk until soft dough forms. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto stew (do not drop directly into liquid). Cook uncovered over low heat 10 minutes. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer.

To serve, place a little of the chicken meat into the bottom of the bowl. Or you could forgo it altogether, the chicken is beside the point if you ask me! But some people feel like it’s not dinner if there’s no meat in it, I guess. Ladle a portion of broth (which will have thickened up considerably) and as many dumplings as your eyes think your stomach can handle, on top of the chicken. My favorites are the soggy dumplings, while Mawga preferred the fluffy ones, but I really have no idea how to control the sog vs. fluff ratio. You get what you get!

tuna salad

Tuna

I think my grandmother probably fancied herself a good, Christian woman—and she was!— but I also like to think our Mawga was a magnificent kitchen witch, as well. And while I don’t suppose she was ever thrilled with my spiritual path, I do believe that she was happy to know that I, like her, thrilled immensely to the delightful magic of dreaming up meals, enjoyed the playful ritual of experimenting with recipes, and reveled in the spellbinding peace to be found in a room full of loved ones with sated appetites and full bellies. I dare say she even dabbled in a bit of cookbookmancy! Purely for dinner divination ideas, of course. Her “brown bag tuna salad” (original recipe via a newspaper clipping, circa 1973, but recopied by her, above,) while certainly not glamorous, would definitely be among the first noted in her culinary grimoire, for as often as I recall them freshly prepared and waiting in the refrigerator.

I served the tuna salad on Wasa crackers with her deviled egg recipe (boil eggs, scoop out yolks, mix yolks with mayo and mustard and a little white pepper, spoon back into egg white shells, dust with paprika) along with some garlicky herbed, roasted sweet potato wedges, and while I know beyond the shadow of a doubt I never saw sweet potatoes in any form on her table, I know she’d appreciate the practicality of using up something that’s been living in the veggie drawer too long, and not letting it go to waste.

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I thought I’d be much sadder about it all than I actually was after spending a week cooking from her book, but it’s been such a joyful experience, recreating these meals, and with them, my happiest memories of her. Even this macaroni, a recipe not hers, but one that she requested I make (and then pushed away, because she had no appetite for it) is a lovely bowl that recalls her trust in me to care for her as best I could during her last few months, and to prepare something cozy and delicious and heart-warming. The recipe, by the way, is from Serious Eats. It could have been a little creamier and oozier, but that’s my problem with most macaronis, I think. Baking it gives you those delicious, chewy, browned edges, but then it also dries every thing up. I’d rather prefer to eat it oozing straight out of the pot, before it goes into the oven!

At any rate, here’s to you, my marvelous Mawga—may we enjoy many warm suppers together in the next world, and until then I’ll be using what you taught me and honing my skills, such as they are. I know you’ll be impressed. Or you’ll at least pretend. And I’ll love you for that through every lifetime.

It has been over  >a year since you left us, Mawga, and the world is a much less delicious place for your passing.

Kiss Me As The Undead Armies Approach And My Talking Skull Weeps Diamond Tears

Kiss Me As The Undead Armies Approach And My Talking Skull Weeps Diamond Tears The Sarah Elizabeth Story

Kiss Me As The Undead Armies Approach And My Talking Skull Weeps Diamond Tears: The Sarah Elizabeth Story {Artist: Pino D’Angelico}

I have been often accused of both taking things too seriously and yet somehow I do not take things seriously enough. Well, which is it? I wish I knew.

I can tell you that I do have a great love of general foolishness and absurdity (except for pranks, which are just awful and hateful, and candid camera type baloney, which is even worse). In my heart of hearts, I’m a massive goofball. Some might go as far as to say that I revel in idiocy, but those are just my sisters saying that and you can’t pay them any mind.

This manifests itself in a number of situations, mostly private, I think, because I am very much internally motivated and most of my trials and tribulations, my comedies and tragedies, occur in the stage of my own mind. This all sounds very dramatic but I guess what I am saying is that I talk to myself a lot. And I’m not even embarrassed to tell you that personally, I think I’m hilarious. Except when I’m working myself up to a good cry, because, well, you know, that happens in these conversations, too. I can be very cruel. But also very sensitive! There are sometimes tears.

But mostly I am making myself laugh, and oftentimes it’s with regard to art, especially olde-timey stuff or pulpy comics schlock–but whatever I’m viewing I can’t help but to impose my own ridiculous inner dialogue onto the canvas. I normally post them up on facebook or instagram or twitter and I know I’ve got a number of friends who indulge this behavior–and I love you for it. You’ve created a monster, and now I can’t stop.

I’ve collected several of them below, for posterity. Do you do this, as well? Feel free to share in the comments, or just tell me about the silliness you get up to when you can’t help yourself.

don't ever invite me to a bachelorette party unless you have some crazy shit like this planned.

Don’t invite me to yr bachelorette party unless there’s some crazy shit planned. {image: Geisterjäger John Sinclair- 37 Die Hexeninsel}

Fuck this guy.

Get you a Pierre who can deal with you at your corpsiest. {Cover art: Forbidden Worlds #24 }

"Best meetup group." “I have been looking at your squirrel.” The adventures of a squirrel : supposed to be related by himself. Darton and Harvey, 1807.

Best meetup group. {“I have been looking at your squirrel.” The adventures of a squirrel : supposed to be related by himself. Darton and Harvey, 1807.}

...but do you have this in black? The abbess from Basel's dance of death by Matthäus Merian.

…but do you have this in black? {The abbess from Basel’s dance of death by Matthäus Merian.}

Me, after penning a particularly obnoxious Yelp review and deeming it a literary masterpiece. {“What a paragraph I have written.” From Vermont Hall, or Light through the Darkness by M. A. Paull, 1888}

I would love to read her okcupid profile. No judgement. Artist: Averardo Ciriello

I wanna read her okcupid profile. No judgement. {Artist: Averardo Ciriello}

TRY AGAIN MY EYES ARE UP HERE. {Ophelia (1880), de Madeleine Lemaire}

TRY AGAIN MY EYES ARE UP HERE. {Ophelia (1880), de Madeleine Lemaire}

This is the clothing subscription box we deserve. {A History of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art by Thomas Wright, 1875.}

This is the clothing subscription box we deserve. {A History of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art by Thomas Wright, 1875.}

outta my way there's autumn things happening {Illustration from Favorite Fairy Tales, 1861}

outta my way there’s autumn things happening {Illustration from Favorite Fairy Tales, 1861}

actual photo from when I was in the girl scouts {Three Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, 1840, George Cattermole}

actual photo from when I was in the girl scouts {Three Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, 1840, George Cattermole}

#beachbodygoals {From Loraine and the Little People by Elizabeth Gordon and illustrated by M. T. Ross, 1915.}

#beachbodygoals {From Loraine and the Little People by Elizabeth Gordon and illustrated by M. T. Ross, 1915.}

Jesus, Larry. Quit breaking my shit. I told you not to touch anything. {From The London Journal, 1863.}

Jesus, Larry. Quit breaking my shit. I told you not to touch anything. {From The London Journal, 1863.}

friday night gang's all here {Art: Jack Thurston}

friday night, gang’s all here {Art: Jack Thurston}

RE: invoking demonic entities. It pays to be discerning when selecting a child with which to tempt your demon. You wouldn't want to pick a dud. Pro-tip: thump the youngster on the head, lightly, as when choosing a ripe melon. Listen for a lively exclamation of outrage. You've got a winner! Engraving from Macé’s Fairy Book. Home Fairy Tales (Contes du Petit-Château). By Jean Macé. Translated by Mary L. Booth. With Engravings. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1868.

RE: invoking demonic entities. It pays to be discerning when selecting a child with which to tempt your demon. You wouldn’t want to pick a dud. Pro-tip: thump the youngster on the head, lightly, as when choosing a ripe melon. Listen for a lively exclamation of outrage. You’ve got a winner! {Engraving from Macé’s Fairy Book. Home Fairy Tales (Contes du Petit-Château). By Jean Macé. Translated by Mary L. Booth. With Engravings. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1868.}

The Haunted Menagerie Group Show And Exhibition Debuts In Portland Tonight!

Haunted MenagerieIf I’m being honest, my soul is forever dying slowly due to the fact that I am not living in Portland where so many friends and talented people and wonderful things reside… but my not being local to the area is causing me extreme suffering today, as there is something very special happening that I cannot attend!

The Creeping Museum, whom I’ve written of at Unquiet Things previously and whose creative vision I respect tremendously, is the labor of love conceived between two friends in North Portland, whose mission is to help artists and independent creators give back to their communities by turning their strange and unusual work into tiny pieces of affordable art, for which to support wonderfully worthy causes. And right now they are gearing up to introduce a new project that I think will resonate on some very heart-deep levels with so many of us.

Caley Hicks

Tonight, Thursday, February 15th at 7PM, at their Little Free Library in North Portland, The Creeping Museum will present an opening celebration for The Haunted Menagerie: A Celebration of Spirit Familiars and Ghostly Pets which will include a miniature group show featuring original artwork as well as an artist bookplate(!!)“exhibition”–and oh, how I wish I could be be present to see all of it! Please go in my stead and take lots of photos and beautiful selfies with the enchanting art and the brilliant minds who pulled it all together, ok?

Jenny Fontana

The bookplate collection will benefit the Portland Audubon Society and includes art by the following artists: Layla Sullivan, Amy Earles, Benjamin Dewey, Marybel Martin, Becky Munich, Pantovola, Christa Dippel, Canvas Menagerie, Hidden Velvet, Alex Reisfar.

The group show in the miniature gallery will include original art by the following artists, and the proceeds from the sale of each piece will go to the nonprofit of the artist’s choice.
– Dena Seiferling
– Darla Jackson
– Stephanie Buscema
– Jenny Fontana
– Diane Irvine Armitage
– Joe Vollan
– Gretchen Lewis

amy earles

Next week-ish,  or sometime thereabouts as I understand it, The Creeping Museum will have a shop update with all sorts of magical items and spells and wonderment related to The Haunted Menagerie concept. I will be writing about it at length over at Haute Macabre, and will be certain to share all of the wonderful details and secrets at that time!

In the meantime, I have been granted a tiny sneak peek of some of the beautiful bookplates and have permission to share them with you…

3.5"x4" Post Card Template

3.5"x4" Post Card Template

3.5"x4" Post Card Template

3.5"x4" Post Card Template
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Even More Stinkers & Duds

Stinkers

Welcome to another installment of Stinkers & Duds, wherein I complain about the products that really gross me out! Don’t expect thoughtful, articulate commentary on these things (I hope you have figured out by now that you should probably shouldn’t ever expect that from me). These are beauty products and cosmetics that usually make me a little bit irate, so it’s basically just a lot of cusses and hate.

If you’d like to visit the things upon which my wrath and disappointment fell in the past, see:
Stinkers & Duds // More Stinkers & Duds // Hateful ‘fumes

 

adgWhy is it that when someone gifts you with something awful, it’s a jumbo-sized version of that awful thing? Yes, I’m a jerk for complaining about a gift…but…it’s not like I’m complaining to their face, right? Aqua di Gioia from Giorgio Armani was a Christmas present this past year, and I am fairly certain I already knew I would hate it; a very similar scent was gifted to me right after high school, as well. And true, when we are young, we haven’t really developed all of our tastes, we are still trying to figure out what we like, but I can assure you that when it came to fragrance, I knew what I was all about–and it was not “shower fresh”, “soapy clean”, or “the world’s most watery glass of lemonade.”

This is a bland, polite scent whose very inoffensiveness offends me. ALSO, and here is a loathsome confession. I am kind of addicted to the youtube channel of this really horrible celebrity; I don’t know why I continue watching her, but I just cannot look away. There is really nothing at redeeming about this person or her place in the world, including and especially her horrible taste (which I know is so subjective, and I am sorry, but she’s pink and UGGS and spray tan and oh my god why can’t I stop watching her?) Anyway, she bought herself Aqua di Gioia as a Christmas gift and as soon as I saw that this dumb dummy loves it, well, that just summed it all up for me. It’s just a dumb, pointless perfume.

 

 

07629Oh my god, I am such an asshole. This LUSH Shoot For The Stars bath bomb was a gift, too, and even worse, it was a gift that I suggested someone buy for me. It’s beautiful, right? It purports to smell of bergamot which sounds super classy, right? Well, we would be wrong for thinking that. It smells like a peach gummy scented urinal cake. Which is the exact opposite of classy. It also left both the tub, and my post-tub bod, super greasy. I know this for a fact because when I went to bed that night, I snuggled up against my partner, who remarked, “…ugh…you’re super greasy.”

 

61CogSaLL3L._SX522_

Joseon Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream was highly recommended to me, first by friends, and secondly by the internet–reddit threads, facebook groups, beauty blogs.  It has a cult following, all sorts of heavy-hitter ingredients, and it seems to be everyone’s Holy Grail multifunctional skincare cream.  It’s supposed to be brightening, anti-aging, and give you beautiful, bouncy skin. Use it as a face massage, a sleeping pack, with your bb cream, whatever. It was starting to sound like coconut oil, in that regard, right? Like, what can’t this amazing stuff do?

Well, I could not use it long enough to find out. While I didn’t love the powdery-cucumbery scent, it was the slimy, sticky texture that I couldn’t get past. It had a this horrible jellied, stringy consistency (if you are familiar with snail mucin products, you know what I mean), and if I am being honest with you, it looked like someone jizzed all over my face. It was really bad. Like, Faces Of Jizz 18: The Jizzening bad. To add injury (injizzy?) to insult, not only did I look like a glazed fucking donut the few times I used it, it really reddened and inflamed the sensitive areas on my face. Not cool, Joseon Dynasty Cream*. Not cool at all.

To be fair, I purchased this product through amazon. I am aware that purchasing things like this through third party sellers can be risky business, but I truly think I was using the actual product, and it just didn’t work with my skin.

So that’s it for my recents Stinkers and Dud products? What about you? Tell me what you’ve been hating lately!

The Re-Shelvening

Whole Shelf

I don’t quite recall when we first installed this spacious landscape of shelves into my office, but what I can assure you is that they have been amassing quite a lot of junk ever since! (The above is an “after” photo, and as you’ll see, I still have a lot of junk.)

It occurred to me that there was a great deal of empty space just begging to be filled with all of the books that were lying around the house because the other bookshelves were already dangerously full. I figured hey, I’ll take this opportunity in finding a home for all the wayward books, to do a bit of organizing…and who knows…maybe that will clear up space for more books!

I posted a few photos on Instagram of this process and several folks requested that I share some lists of the titles I was reorganizing. I am happy to! See below for a shelf-by-shelf breakdown of what got moved where and why, my probably-logical-only-to-me reorganization system, and where to find each of the books if you want them for your own shelves.

Haunted Anthologies

A shelf of mostly haunted anthologies that have covers illustrated by Edward Gorey.

The Ghost In The Far Garden
Ghostly Gentlewomen
Bewitched Beings
Cat Encounters
Grande Dames Of Detection
Ladies Of The Gothics
Sisters Of Sorcery
Baleful Beasts
The Haunted Dolls
Ghosts
Vampires
My Heart’s In Greenwich Village

Weird

A shelf of the weird, the uncanny, the psychotic, the satanic.

Satanic Feminism
The Horror Reader
Satanic Panic
The Uncanny
Monsters Of Our Own Making
House Of Psychotic Women
Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema Of Jean Rollin
Vampira: Dark Goddess Of Horror
HP Lovecraft: A Life
Uncanny Reader
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection

Poetry

A shelf of poetry that didn’t fit on the other poetry shelf, zines, and weird booklets that defy categorization. And a funny little goblincat to watch over it all. Also, the best candle.

Best Bones
Paperdoll Fetus
A Red Witch, Every Which Way
Dear Jenny, We Are All Find
Swan Feast 
Bestiary
Dream Date With A Villain
Dream Date With A Villain Vol. 2
Forever Doomed
Witch Women
Die Mensur (not sure of availability)
Morbid Fantasies (only available as PDF)
The Occult Activity Book (not available)
The Occult Activity Book Vol. 2 (not available)
Sound Of Snow Falling
Hera Lindsay Bird
Bruja
I Miss The World
The Impossible Fairy Tale
The Atheist Wore Goat Silk
Literary Witches
Teaching My Mother To Give Birth
Milk And Honey
Ask Baba Yaga
Bags (This is by the Over The Garden Wall guy; not sure on availability)

perfumeA shelf for perfume and the dark arts.

Italy’s Witches And Medicine Women
The Ultimate Guide To Tarot Card Meanings
Cosmos, Chaos And The World To Come
The Black Arts
Victoria Regina Tarot Companion
Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll
Satanic Alchemy: Atrocities Of Gilles de Rais
The Secret Of Scent
Essence And Alchemy
The Emperor Of Scent
Perfumes: The A-Z Guide
The Tarot Bible

writing

A shelf on writing, creativity, journals…and my mother’s cremains in a teacup.

What It Is
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
A Year Of Creative Writing Prompts
A Short Guide To Writing About Art
Ghost Stories And How To Write Them
Artful Sentences: Syntax As Style

cookbooks

A shelf of cookbooks, recipes, eating and drinking. Some of these things are not like the others.

Cannibal Kitchen: A Horror Lovers Cookbook
Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook
Damn Fine Cherry Pie: And Other Recipes from TV’s Twin Peaks
Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook
Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs from Around the World
Square Meals
My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life
Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki
Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails
The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh
Son Of The Martini Cookbook
Chas Addams Half-Baked Cookbook
The Death Row Cookbook
The Cannibal’s Cookbook
Decadent Cookbook
The Dark Shadows Cookbook

deathThe Death & Stuff shelf.

Fashion Victims
Death’s Summer Coat
Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses
Dr. Mutter’s Marvels
Morbid Anatomy Anthology
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
Bitten by Witch Fever: Wallpaper & Arsenic in the Nineteenth-Century Home
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

altar incense perfume samples

And the rest of the shelves…well…they’re a bit of a work in progress. There’s my mom altar, my shelf of incense, potions, and elixirs, and then an entire shelf dedicated to perfume samples! And as you can see from the photo at the very top of this post, there’s still a few shelves that need some work; they’re in odd or hard to reach spots with relation to my desk and where I sit, and so right now they are home to weird little action figures and toys that still need some sorting.

…so that’s it! And in case you are wondering: yes. Yes, I did clear some space to make room for even more books.

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