A Saturday Supper

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Inspired by a conversation with my sister that’s really too long to get into but the gist of it is that I struggle to reconcile living a life of refinement* with my fierce devotion to disgusting junk food: she suggested that I make a little ritual of it. A small portion of, say, Funyuns, with a fancy whiskey or somesuch. I liked this idea very much and I love my baby sister for suggesting it!

When I tweeted about it (I’m one of those people who keeps a twitter for the sole reason of spouting ridiculousness) @cheesesexdeath adroitly suggested that I pair it with a super gooey, spruce-wrapped Harbison, and with that, a Saturday night supper was borne! Sadly, my grocery store did not have the Harbison–sad trombone–so I grabbed a triple creme Fromage d’Affinois, and I don’t think that’s at all similar but it’s a buttery ooze that’s providing a wonderful contrast to the salty, crunchy, top-of-the-mouth-scratchy skanky funk of the Funyuns.

Thanks to my life-advisor and my spiritual cheese advisor for tonight’s divine/unholy meal. Amen.

*P.S. I blame my misguided ideas and obsession with “refinement” on reading too many Alexandra Stoddard books in my late teens/early twenties.

Mary Katrantzou Spring 2020 Ready To Wear

_CSC4042I gasped when I saw many of the pieces in this collection, incorporating motifs of scales, spiraling numbers, map of the heavens, and compasses, and which reads to me like a passionate love letter to myriad Greek achievements of antiquity. I don’t always trust what I think I am seeing, though (sometimes I can either be a little dense, or entirely too fanciful, ha!) and so I was gratified to see that I was at least half right, when I read that Vogue described it as the “…living resonance of Greek culture throughout Western civilization.”

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Of the collection’s inspirations, Katranzou notes: “…philosophy, theology, biology, astronomy, trigonometry. Ideas that are so abstract—words that were birthed here two and a half thousand years ago—and the wonder that they can be so relevant today.”

See below for some of my personal favorites from Mary Katrantzou’s Spring 2020 Ready To Wear collection, and pop on over to Vogue to see the collection in its entirety.

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A Perfect Bowl Of Autumnal Slop

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So last night I made a thing out of some random stuff in my fridge and it was way better than it had any right to be, and I am definitely going to make this part of our meal rotation. I forgot to take a photo and it was not particularly attractive anyway, so please gaze upon Mads-as-Hannibal holding court at his dining table, and pretend.

A Perfect Bowl of Autumnal Slop

-Dice up two sweet potatoes and toss with some olive oil and whatever seasonings you usually reach for. I used s+p, herbs de Provence, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Roast in 425 ° oven until they are as done as you like.
-Separately in a pan, sauté some sliced sausages (I used two Field Roast apple-sage fake sausage), until it’s browned; set aside.
-In the same pan, sauté sliced leeks (1-2) for a minute or two, add a small container of sliced portabella mushrooms, stir in s+p to taste, let it cook down a bit. Splash in some sherry or vermouth or whatever you have on hand.
-Throw in a handful of chopped spinach, let it wilt. Toss sausages back in.
-Splash in some heavy cream (totally optional, we just happened to have on hand that we’ve been adding to everything, just to use it up.)

Divide roasted potatoes between two bowls. Top with the sauteed autumnal veggie matter. Garnish with crumbled bleu cheese (optional, but we had a tiny wedge left over from our curdbox)

Like I said, this was way better than the sum of its parts and definitely better than it sounds on paper! A perfect (sloppy) bowl of autumnal comfort.

Caitlin Ffrench: Ten Tools That I Use Most Often

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I am so excited that Caitlin Ffrench is joining us for this month’s edition of Ten Things! I have been knitting Caitlin’s beautiful pi shawls and assorted patterns for a few years now, and I quite often marvel at her wildcrafting adventures on Instagram– so I was wonderfully intrigued when she mentioned she’d be writing about her favorite tools that she employs in her various practices. I interviewed Caitlin in November of 2017 for Haute Macabre, and it was such a treat to work with her again for this piece.

Caitlin Ffrench is a Canadian Fiber Artist and Forest Lurker working with wildcrafted pigments from within the land bases she visits. Ffrench gathers discarded stones, bricks, weeds, and other waste to grind into useable pigments to make paint and dyes. ffrench paints with wildcrafted pigments as a way to find the connections between place and memory.

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10 Tools That I Use Most Often

Explaining what I do for work is a hard thing. I make paints from earth and botanical pigments, I write knitting patterns, I’m an artist, and I teach natural dyeing. I’m sure there are other things too, but at the moment I can’t think of them.

The tools I use are well worn and loved dearly. These 10 tools are the most important in my arsenal, but there are many more I could name. (If this was a list of 100 things I think it might cover my most important tools… maybe.)

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My Basket

This well-worn basket has been across the continent with me. I use it for wildcrafting dyes and dirt, as a purse when puttering around town, to carry objects back and forth to my studio, and to store my knitting in while at home. I think it is most useful because I can take it outside and hose it out if I’ve left wildcrafted plants in it a little past their prime, and it can be reshaped while it dries. This one is 9 or 10 years old, and the bottom is starting to give way- but I won’t let it go that easily. A repair is in its future.
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Books

Books are my most dynamic tool. I think that as a teacher I need to be constantly learning, and books are the easiest way to study new things. Last year I took on a reading challenge to read at least 100 books (I hit 110 last year!) which means I almost always am carrying a book with me.

Out of last year’s books The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St Clair was in my top 5, and I showed it here alongside The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar and Colors from the Earth by Anne Wall Thomas. These books are three of my most prized possessions, and I’m constantly rereading them to glean knowledge.
(Note: Today I finished my 86th book- I may make it past 100 books again this year!)

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Film Cameras

Shooting film photographs is a great love of mine, and this camera is my favourite out of my collection. It is a medium format camera that is really simple to use. I got it at a camera swap a number of years ago, and I bring it on most of my travels. I shot a book of knitting patterns in Iceland on it- a feat I’m not sure I’d repeat. There is a nuance in shooting medium format film that you can’t get any other way, but shooting a book halfway across the world on film was a ballsy move. (It is called The Darkness Fell and you can find it, along with my other patterns, on Ravelry.com)

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A Silk Scarf

I naturally dyed this silk scarf using the eco print method with Trident Maple leaves and Iron, and then overdid it with homegrown indigo. I wear it as a neck scarf or have it jammed in the bottom of my purse almost every day. I use it when gathering earth pigments–silk is sturdy. I used it yesterday to collect ochre while hiking (the dirt shown in the photo).

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Mortar and Pestle

I have two granite mortar and pestles that I use for grinding earth pigments; the one shown here which is the larger of the two, and a smaller one I take traveling. I use the granite ones because they’re a very hard stone, and can break up almost any stone I gather. Using these tools makes me feel like the witch I dreamed of becoming as a child. Some real Baba Yaga vibes.

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Shears

I am a scissor hoarder–and I don’t regret it. I use scissors in my studio and at home all the time and have a pretty lovely collection. The shears shown here though are my absolute favourite because they’re the burliest ones I own, and they’re sharp enough to get through many layers of denim at once.

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Sketchbook

I feel naked without my sketchbook. I use it to take notes, to design knitting patterns, for painting and drawing, and for reminders to remember things for later. I use the Moleskine brand and the ‘sketchbook’ paper one. The paper is tough enough that I can use watercolours on it. I use the same size every time, and they sit on their own shelf in my studio. They look quite handsome all in a row.

When I start a new one I put the start date in the front cover so it’s easy to look back at ideas from older ones. I go through between 5-8 a year, and they’re always a little rough looking when they’re finished. I think they’re an intimate glimpse into the workings of my brain.
Shown here is a drawing from a hike I did yesterday, and pigment samples from the side of the lake I was at. I even remembered to put in the date on the drawing. Past me likes to leave helpful notes for future me to look back on.

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Dye Pots

As I child I made potions out of plants and dirt, and it seems that nothing has changed–I’m still making potions out of plants and dirt.

As a natural dyer, anything you use for dyeing is no longer food safe. You need separate deepest, spoons, lids, scales, etc because the things you’re dyeing with may be toxic. I have a bunch of dyepots, but I prefer to think of them as cauldrons. Be the witch you want to see in the world!

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Oilcloth Tool Roll

My friend Kassy at Old Fashioned Standards made this custom tool roll for me this summer. It is a riff on a tool roll she already makes, but with a pocket large enough for my sketchbook, and a zippered pocket. She makes things from Oilcloth, and they’re sturdy as hell. (And water resistant!)

It was made for a residency I did in Iceland, and it needed to hold all of the drawing and painting things I would need while traveling.
Cassy also makes jackets, pants, hats, bags, witch hats, and other magic. Look her up- she’s badass.

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My Hands

My hands always look rough, are stained or cut up, and I love them. My hands are my greatest tool, and when I came into my 30’s I realized that stretching and physiotherapy would make a world of difference on them. They’ve been tattooed by my friend Nomi Chi (The roses on each hand), and by my partner Arlin ffrench (all the things on my fingers.) Having them tattooed was a way of making them fancy- to thank them for their hard work. I also wear Bloodmilk rings on my left hand, and a moonstone ring made by my friend Janet Harrison on my right hand every day. The amber ring on my right hand comes and goes- but the others are always there.

‘I am not what I am, I am what I do with my hands.’ -Louise Bourgeois

Find Caitlin Ffrench: Website // Instagram

Links of the Dead September 2019

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.

Previous Links Of The Dead: {September 2018} | {September 2017} | {September 2016} | {September 2015}

💀Is Dying at Home Overrated?
💀The Women Who Crash Funerals to Loudly Cry
💀The Best Obituary Ever, and the Wacky Funeral That Followed
💀The Role of Nurses When Patients Decide to End Their Lives
💀Barbie Celebrates Day of the Dead With A Special Edition
💀I Wonder If You Would Be Proud Of Me, If You Were Still Alive
💀Caitlin Doughty recommends 6 books that explain death in America
💀Lego Model Funeral Kits For The Small And Large Undertaker of Tomorrow
💀Six Flags will pay couples $600 to lie in a coffin together for 30 hours straight
💀‘Called To Be A Funeral Director’: Most Mortuary School Grads Are First In The Family
💀Pam doesn’t want to be buried in a coffin, so she’s knitting her own recycled burial shroud
💀Rest in peace? Not so much. Corpses move for more than a year after death, scientist finds

A Giveaway Of BPAL Favorites!

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A few years ago, at the request of Sam over at Haute Macabre, I wrote up a little primer/course guide for folks who were looking to dip their toes (or dive straight into) the mythical, mystical, magical catalog of fragrance oils offered by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.

Shortly afterward, I came on board as a staff writer and have written all kinds of stuff about all kinds of things for the Haute Macabre blog since that time, but this week they are again sharing that BPAL guide for curious newcomers to the brand–along with a giveaway of some of my favorite scents that I give mention to!

Hop on over to Haute Macabre for a chance to enter and win each of the above scents!

Toto Coelo’s Dracula’s Tango

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A few years ago I saw the most fantastic, campy-kitschy video sung by a group of fabulous 80s new-wave ladies in comfortable sleeping attire, and last night when I was trying and ultimately failing to conjure forth who they were and the title of the song …I was convinced of at least one thing: they were singing about Dracula.

When I woke up this morning, after posting queries all over social media, the answer had been revealed to me by the miraculous Mondo Heather–and now that I reflect further upon my first hearing the song, I am almost certain that it was Heather who shared the video that I initially saw!

Mystery solved: it’s Dracula’s Tango from 1982 by British group Toto Coelo. The video is an absolute blast and I couldn’t help but try and grab some (ultra blurry) captures below, along with the delightfully demented lyrics. And of course, here’s a Spotify link for playlist purposes!

The moon was shining in the night
The hounds were baying under simple stars
And as you storm under the lights
I knew my heart would be at stake

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Am I just another victim?
‘Cause I never can resist him
Oh don’t, don’t go
You’re gentle touch
Is what I need so much, and…

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Dracula la la I’m a sucker for your love
When you do do do what you do to me
And you la la la now I’ve got you in my blood
Supernatural love’s getting through to me
Dracula la la I’m a sucker for your love
When you do do do what you do to me
And you la la la now I’ve got you in my blood
Don’t you know dear Count it’s a mystery?

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Prima Donna I’m yours
Even though you have the cross to bear
We take the mirror off the doors
And snuggle in our double tomb

‘Cause your castle is a nightmare
You’ve got batty friends who live there
Oh please, just squeeze
I go insane don’t tap my windowpane

Dracula la la I’m a sucker for your love
When you do do do what you do to me
And you la la la now I’ve got you in my blood
Supernatural love’s getting through to me

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Got to get my teeth in you
Necking is the thing to do
Even though they never know it
Positive or not

You and I coagulate
Vitalize a dying rate
Vladimir my dear
You know I’m after every drop

Get into a different vein
R.I.P is all the same
I was bitten now I’m trying
Transylvania

You’re the coffin I’m the key
We tune up in harmony
I’ll do anything for you
Except for mania

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Dracula la la I’m a sucker for your love
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When you do do do what you do to me
And you la la la now I’ve got you in my blood
Supernatural love’s getting through to me
Dracula la la I’m a sucker for your love
When you do do do what you do to me
And you la la la now I’ve got you in my blood…

It’s Showtime Synergy! The Jeremy Scott Ready To Wear Spring Summer 2020 Collection

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Do the kitschy-campy day-glo electric neon flights of fancy in the runway clip above and in the video below remind you of anything in particular? Anything that calls to mind perhaps, an 80’s cartoon teeming with glamour and glitter, fashion and fame?

No? Just me? Well, take a closer look at some highlights from the collection below, go watch the Jem And The Holograms Truly Outrageous Complete series, and get back to me.

[EDIT: I just found this article from earlier this month and it looks like it’s no accident–though I mean, really, how could it be, haha.]

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If you need some extra convincing, peek at Jem and The Holograms and the Misfits in their ensembles below! I’ve got a good feeling that Jeremy Scott & Co. has got some fond memories of these gals.

Image credit: Allyeska on flickr

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Misfits

*Super vulgar bonus extra credit, but I wouldn’t be a good friend if I didn’t share: some Jem parody videos

*Not so gross extra credit: have you read the comic book version of Jem and the Holograms, featuring gorgeous, expressive art from Sophie Campbell and some updated twists for a modern, forward-thinking audience, but all the campiness and ridiculous rivalry in the old cartoon? You should definitely check it out!

The Cruelest Cuts

Cruel to be kind

It’s funny how when you’re living in a present moment, it’s incredible easy, almost an automatic reflex to be cruel to yourself, just utterly savage. I was so happy when this photo was taken, ecstatic, even. A huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders just months before, and I was back among people who loved me. In spite of that, there are so many things I poked and picked and pricked at myself about. Too flubby in the bod, crooked teeths, frizzy hairs. Wow. Rude.

I see this photo today and just…marvel at how pretty I look. Why is it so much easier to show these kindnesses to a past version of ourselves? I’m trying to keep this in mind this morning and hold it close to my heart as I’m looking in the mirror, not pleased with what stares back. I’m trying my best to be kind to that person right now in this present, fleeting moment. I’ll never get this moment back again, you know? Now is when I need this love most. Not eight years ago. Not the faded me in a photograph. Current me, the one existing this second. Who knows how many more seconds are allotted to me? I can’t waste them being mean to a person who did nothing wrong but look in a mirror and just wish to see something nice.

Ghosts I Have Been (Again?)

81mEFcNf0fLThis “discovery” feels a bit like one of those pieces of information I’d already researched and mentally filed away, and then, at some point in time, scrubbed all memory of the occurrence. Today when I unearthed the artist responsible for one of my favorite childhood book covers, I thrilled to the revelation for maybe three seconds before thinking…but… wait…don’t I already know this? After some thought, I’m pretty sure I had already found this once before and then promptly forgot it. Old news, I guess. But still pretty neat!

For posterity’s sake then, I am noting that the cover art for Richard Peck’s Ghost I Have Been was created by sci-fi and fantasy artist Rowena Morrill. You know, for when I inevitably forget this all over again.

Here’s a fantastic facebook gallery of her works, which no doubt contains a cover or two that you will recognize: there’s cover art for magazines such as Weird Tales, Creepy, And Heavy Metal, along with accompanying cover illustrations for books by beloved genre favorites such as Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K.Le Guin, Madeline L’Engle, Robert McCammon, Piers Anthony, and even a few H.P. Lovecraft collections! And then there’s this one with a cape-wearing baby-faced leather daddy Hitler riding a motorbike. Yikes. They can’t all be winners.

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