Earlier this month we bought a new mattress–and that was a bit of a debacle which I’ll get into some other time–but I have since its arrival slowly been making a few gentle upgrades to my dream sanctum.
I wanted a small circular shelf for above my bedstand to house and display various dream-time odds and ends, talismans and looky-loos, but what I ended up with was this ginormous behemoth. I distinctly recall my internal approval of the dimensions while I read them…but I guess it turns out I don’t know what numbers are or how they work. However, my partner convinced me to keep it, we swapped out the massive, fearsome sorceress on that wall whose wild, chaotic energy probably belongs in another room, and yesterday, we got the shelf hung.
Now it’s pretty naked. I didn’t really have anything in mind just yet with which to adorn it with Most of the items there currently are just placeholders, but the print by Becky Munich may be perfect and might stick around….
, I would love some thoughts, suggestions, and recommendations for candles, crystals, statuary, sculpture, art, books, whatever–anything you feel might be a good fit for a bedtime/sleep sanctuary/dream adventure altar. My tastes run toward the fantastical and surreal, so I am not looking for anything too cutesy or twee (here’s a shelf I passed on, for example), and high gothic drama really isn’t my thing, either. Mythic, fairy-tale, folk-tale art feels may be okay, because I love all of those things, but again, nothing too saccharine. Sorry to impose so many restrictions, but I know what I like, and I think that’s helpful to share when looking for advice!
All my cranky codicils and caveats aside, what might you put on your own personal dream altar? Please share your links and tag some artists in the comments for me!
I am currently in a hardcore avoidance mode. When this mood sets in, I get the sudden urge to clean house when most other times I can’t be bothered in the slightest; I get in at least 20K steps a day due to the sudden desire to keep fit; I uncovered a scattered ambivalence of WordPress drafts that I started two years ago and I center all of my focus on them because clearly, that’s a priority right now! The bottom of the barrel items which are so insignificant that they don’t even register for the to-do list suddenly become of vital importance when I am avoiding certain work or projects. I made jam this past weekend, for god’s sake! Which…to be fair…making jam is totally a thing that I would do, so that’s not a great example. But I should absolutely not be making jam right now! I have things to do! Which is also why I rearranged all of the art on my walls.
…and since I am still not doing the things I should be doing, I thought it might be a good time for a small update.
I have been going to a new therapist since January of this year. I say “new” like I’m trying to distinguish her from all the other therapists I’ve seen, but really, that list is not terribly long. I tried one out back in 2015, right around the time my grandfather died, but it wasn’t quite a fit. I don’t know how to say this without sounding like an asshole, but I just didn’t love the feeling that I might be smarter (maybe a lot smarter) than the person who is counseling me. I mean, how can that be? They went to school and got degrees and all that sort of thing, so I can’t be all that much smarter, right? AND YET. Also, I don’t want this person to be too chipper. Or too “normal”. I don’t even know what I mean by that, but basically, I just don’t want to get therapied by someone who reminds me of the most average person in my high school class. The sort who was probably raised in a nuclear family with a nice mom and dad and was in a sorority and grew up to have three kids and who gets regular blowouts and does Zumba classes (and I KNOW these are all ridiculous qualifiers but I can’t help it!) I can’t talk to that person about my problems and I can’t take advice from them.
Right now I am seeing a therapist, twice a month, who reminds me of a grown-up Pippi Longstocking, which I find somehow really comforting. She drives a jeep with a “Chewie is my co-pilot” sticker on it. She wears skirts but doesn’t bother to wear stockings with them. I like that. Not that she needs me to like it, I just mean I dig the carefree aesthetic. She doesn’t seem to say a lot. I don’t know if therapists are supposed to? I find myself talking until I’m hoarse, and during this time I have observed that she barely even guides the conversation. Is that normal? Is this how it works? Oftentimes there are silences and I jump to quickly fill those in. I don’t want to be thought of as a bad conversationalist, but is what’s happening even considered a conversation? It’s a one-woman show, really.
…and yet. I have of late found that in these hour-long sessions I seem to shepherd myself along a circuitous route to some fairly impressive epiphanies and revelations. This is unexpected. What does it all mean? It’s hard to know. It’s maybe to soon to tell. I have been holding space for my wounds and trauma and broken bits for so long, I am not sure who I would be without their strange and dreadful companionship. It might be interesting to meet who that person is, though. I’m open to it.
One of the things that came up is how sometimes–most times, really–the only way I can get myself to actually go somewhere and do something, is because I know that afterward, I shall have a memory of having done it. It’s the pursuit of the perfect memory that finally compels me to do the thing, whatever that thing might be. But funny enough… the things I have the most wonderful memories of, are those unprompted moments– the things I did on a lark, decided on a whim, without having time to hem or haw about it or to have worked up a fine amount of dread.
On the way home that particular day after non-talking with Pippi, we grabbed some coffees at a cramped but charming donut shop, and as we were readying to leave, we realized that an accident had just occurred on the street just outside the building. A damaged truck was lodged on the curb right behind where we were parked, and we couldn’t back our car out of the parking lot to leave. As we waited for the police to take statements, we stood holding hands under a flimsy awning in a downpour, its meager shelter barely keeping us dry…and in the space of that moment, I was so inexplicably joyful. I have no idea why. But I knew I would stash this afternoon away in my mental drawer of mind-nibbles as one of those wholly unexpected morsels of happiness.
Another instance of this spontaneous joy happened while I was visiting BGF in Philly last month. I had been fiercely looking forward to the trip–to seeing her, to decompressing after a few months peppered with more stressful kinds of travel–and though we had a few things planned for my time there, it was a late afternoon hour or so spent walking through the city as the sun was setting, glaring directly in our eyes and blinding our vision, that remains a memory to cherish. I was practically trotting, attempting to keep up with her long-legged stride as we hoofed it through a more worrisome part of town, and either right before or right after that, we walked by the park where the Chinese Lantern Festival was being held. Nothing was lit up yet, so I didn’t really get a sense of what it was all about or how beautiful it would be after dark, but I did snap a photo of this lovely sidewalk Chinese zodiac along the way. I was overheated and overstimulated and my feet were bruised and blistered and bone-sore, but that time spent with my beloved friend on that particular afternoon left a vividly buoyant feeling in my heart that I can still summon when I conjure the imagery of those moments.
During my most recent visit with my therapist, I began what I believe will be several sessions of EMDR, which is a treatment designed to diminish the distress associated with traumatic events. I don’t think I am quite ready to talk about it yet, but I will share that I was a walking wound afterward. My eyes were raw from all of the savage, furious crying until well into the next afternoon. That was a week ago. Now, when I attempt to call forth the feelings I’ve associated with that particular experience, I feel a little differently about it than I have for the past 25+ years. It’s still very tender when I probe at it, but I think I may be looking at it from a different perspective now, through different eyes. I was stuck at that point in time, and it’s a little easier now to see it through the eyes of someone older, someone not standing so close.
Is this progress?
I sought guidance from the cards, above. Which is somewhat absurd, since I am not really all that knowledgable about the tarot. I just like the art, much like my mother did when she was alive …which is funny, because she is a major source of the angst and trauma I am currently working through. Oh, universe! You’re such a hoot. I am sure that someone much more well-versed in this divinatory art than I could give me a more thorough analysis and interpretation, but from what little I understand, I was encouraged.
I suppose it’s time to take a moment for a bit of a spring-time check-in…
Sadly…well, not sadly, exactly…but whatever-ly, I guess… I don’t post up my “Currently” monthly updates in as timely a manner as I did there for a good long chunk of time. I mean, I realize no one is losing any sleep over not knowing what I am up to, but it was a nice exercise to be able to take a moment to reflect on the things I had accomplished, both big and little, over a recent span of time, and to be able to share, “hey, I made this thing!” or “whoa, I found this out, and I’d really like to share it with you!”. But more and more often, these Currently check-ins have just been feeling like a chore to cross off a list rather than an accounting of recent achievements and discoveries to delight in. And maybe that’s the problem right there; I used the word “accounting” just now. Why would I phrase it that way? I mean that just sounds dull and boring and something to avoid, right? That’s how I have come to think of it. Perhaps I need to shift my perspective. How does one do that, anyway? Something to think on for next time.
In the spirit of “hey I made this!” here are two not particularly impressive things that I have made recently. I decided that I wanted to learn a few new knitting techniques this year and formed a two-person knitting group with my friend J. to this end. As an aside, even if it is just online, there is no way that I can participate in group activities. It makes me too anxious. I have a difficult time even replying to facebook comment threads, sometimes. Back in the day, you would never find me in an AOL chatroom. Omg. I am sweating even thinking about it! Online, as in real life, I do so much better in one-on-one activities and conversations. So I am definitely not going to be found in a room full of real life human knitters and I am also not going to be joining an internet collective, either. No way, no how! Just one friend to support and encourage and challenge me is quite enough, thank you very much.
Our first task was to tackle mosaic knitting, a color work technique involving simple slipped stitches and some intermittent knits and purls, dreamed up by the legendary Barbara Walker. I didn’t really love this method; maybe it was the fact that my colors were too close in shade to contrast much, or maybe my stitches too loose, but I couldn’t really see the pattern unfolding before me, which made made it feel…not very intuitive, I guess? Both in anticipating the next step in the instructions or as it relates to cleaning up any mistakes. ALSO, and this is the part I resent the most, it was very hard to mutlitask and binge The Umbrella Academy while knitting this. I had to pay absolute attention to my knitting to ensure that the design was consistent, and sure, I have no problem doing that with an exquisitely intricate lace shawl, but I’m not about to strain my eyes on what’s supposed to be a relatively simple system of stitchwork. At the end of it all I knit up a baby blanket for a friend and I was glad to be rid of it.
Next we took on brioche knitting, a technique that a friend of mine describes as her “final boss”, or the most difficult challenge to undertake and defeat. Brioche is a little hard to describe, and in a simple pattern, it might be hard to tell that it’s anything special, like the photo above. In a more complicated pattern, however, it’s pretty mind-bending. It involves “tucked” stitches–yarn overs that are knitted together with a slipped stitch from the previous row, and form a second layer of knitting in front of the first layer that sort of looks like arches or fish-scales. I am sorry to say that I think I hated brioche knitting even more than mosaic knitting. Though…it could quite possibly be the yarn I was using, or the pattern wasn’t working for me. Which the swatch, above, seems OK, the hat that built on these skills was a giant failure.
What have I learned from all of this? That learning is dumb and awful. And I guess I’d better do more of it.
I did a little learning too, with the Instant Pot that I received as a gift from my sister. I have been afraid to use it, I thought that maybe I’d blow up the house or something. Pressure cookers have always held a vague sense of danger, as far as I am concerned. Even their mere presence in the garage, unplugged and gathering dust on a shelf. Just their existence in my home seemed to herald some far-off-but-definitely-one-day explosion of doom. It seemed a shame, though, to let it languish, assigned as some obscure lower-level threat next to an ugly but perfectly harmless vase and a not-so-oven-safe Pyrex dish, so in January I finally began to experiment with it.
The house still stands, but it is quite stinky, as since I overcame my kitchen appliance anxiety, I have been using the instant pot every chance I get. Some of the recipes I have tried so far:
I believe most, if not all of these recipes were vegan, and even though I am not vegan (I’m not even vegetarian, really) I made all of them according to their directions, without sneaking in any dairy or chicken broth or anything like that.. and they were mostly quite good! Next up, I think I am going to try an instant pot version of gumbo or paella, or kimchi jigae, if such things exist.
Reading! Well, that’s always happening. If you peek at my Goodreads 2019 challenge, you might get the impression that I have completed my challenge and that I am 420% done, having read 21 books out of 5. And while I did set for myself a goal of five books, what Goodreads does not account for is that I have designated five very specific books as my end goal for 2019. I set out to read five particular titles that have given me trouble in the past decade or so, books that for whatever reason, I never finished. And basically, so far, I have read just about every other book but those five–and technically, zero percent of my challenge is done.
I am trying my best, and have been consciously attempting for a while now, to diversify my reading stacks to include more narratives from authors whose human experience is different from my own, and literature that reflects the lives of all kinds of people. I’m always a little bit afraid to talk about these things aloud (although I have conversations in my head about it all the time) because I worry that I don’t have the correct language for it, and in discussing my aims, I may end up looking stupid… which is OK I guess…or offending or insulting someone, which is definitely not OK, and which I would feel terribly about.
My reading list, actively, and in an ongoing way, includes titles from POC authors, LGBQTIA, differently abled or disabled authors, authors who fall somewhere along or at either end of any spectrum–I am seeking them out, reading their books, and supporting their efforts because if I don’t expand and become aware of what goes on beyond my own sphere of existence, then I am ensuring that my life remains very, very small. I mean, I probably don’t have to explain why it’s a good and important thing to read books written by a diverse range of people, right? The world contains more than just your story, or mine; it’s important, empowering, and beautiful to hear all of those voices. Anyway, all this wasn’t a lead up for you to hand me a cookie or a trophy or whatever this kind of talk goes for nowadays, but I would appreciate some suggestions of books you have enjoyed or learned from lately that were not written by white-cis-het males (or their female counterparts, really.)
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!
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”
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!)
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.
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”,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
August arrives, as it always does, thrumming with the ceaseless drone of cicadas, the looming threat of hurricanes, and a recurring, tender ache in my heart. A strange, soft, sadness for something that never was, wistfulness for certain places best left to exist in memories, a nostalgic sentiment for a timeline in which I, myself, should never have existed.
These photos were taken almost seven years ago, as I was packing up bits and scraps of a life I’d never fully settled into, preparing a return to a place I never believed I would call home again. Nostalgia is a funny thing, strange and sad, wily and dangerous. Even as I was snapping these photos, I was already seeing the place, and my memories of it, through rose-colored lenses. But that rosiness was never a true thing. Good times did not happen here. I look at this fence today, and recall the beauty of the river beyond, and it’s so easy to think, “how lovely is the lazy current, the fiery glow of August’s setting sun”, and it occurs to me, stark and sudden, how often I despaired, and imagined throwing myself in that very same river. These are terrible, melancholy thoughts, and I have learned throughout the years that nostalgia is no true friend of mine.
Mathyld (whose loveliness and talents I have recently written about, here at Unquiet Things) fashioned this Lionhearted talisman for me, back in 2011, when I knew I must make a decision that would change –everything– for me. Containing bits of labradorite, rutilated quartz, turquoise, and blue chalcedony, I clutched it for luck, I cradled it for protection, and I channeled all the confidence and strength that I could glean from its tiny, glimmering contents. It took no small amount of bravery and fortitude to walk away from that life, and I needed every bit I could get my hands on.
In the years that have passed, in the place that I am, I have found more love and wonder and satisfaction than I ever dreamed I’d have the courage to grasp. It’s funny to think that this situation, too, may change. That sooner or later the August shrieks of ancient insects will be too distant for my ears to discern, that I may trade the stunning semi-tropical savagery of annual hurricanes, for…well, whatever comes next. What is next? Where is next? I’ve got some thoughts, but we’re not quite there yet.
Meanwhile, I’m not going anywhere immediately, so that means we’ve got time to enjoy some rusty old treasures in the form of my late grandmother’s ceramic kitchen canisters, which we finally dusted off and filled with, well, you can clearly read on the canisters themselves what’s meant to fill them. And who am I to defy the word of Canister?
Also recently installed is my late grandfather’s workbench in our garage! Which I will probably never use, though it is wonderfully comforting to know it is nearby. But why do we have so manysaws? Yikes. Better not ask too many questions, I reckon.
Typically I like to spend at least one weekend every summer at my sister’s house, during which I do nothing but luxuriate in her swimming pool from the first light of dawn (which is sometimes difficult to gauge through her black out curtains) until midnight –and quite frequently, beyond. In times of yore I drank margaritas all day to celebrate my one day of #mermaidlife hedonism, but as I’ve gotten older, the cocktails have become more and watered down until we’ve simply decided that our middle-aged bods and their glitchy digestive tracts prefer just plain water and ice as accompaniment to our aquatic interlude.
Schedules throughout this June and July were too crazed for our pool date, but I’d be damned if I let the summer go by without it! Thankfully it finally happened this past weekend, although, sadly, the weekend was mostly rainy. I did get in some night swimming, and got to swan about it my Nobody dress, which is probably not intended as a bathing suit cover-up, but eh, whatever. You can’t see it underneath, but my swimsuit is this one, in black, from Modcloth; I’ve had it about four years now and it’s held up pretty well–but considering I only wear it once every 365 days, it had better!
Last month my BGF came to visit for a weekend, during which time we lazed about in our pajamas, ate a massive amount of junk food, and watched season two of Dragula in its entirety. Oh my lord, the insane alien baby realness in episode four! It was the perfect stay-in-and-make-poor-decisions weekend, and, as a bonus, she introduced me to Claws, which after having watched Sons of Anarchy, Peaky Blinders, and at least one season of Vikings, was exactly what I wanted. I’m so tired of seeing these shows about men and their macho gangs, doing all sorts of terrible, testosterone-fueled shit to keep their families together–I wanted to see a gang of strong females doing all kinds of terrible shit! I didn’t expect that it would come in the form of feisty co-workers at a nail salon, but that’s what makes it so unexpected and great. I believe that Claws may be what I was hoping for…and the bonus is that the show’s setting is Manatee County, and it contains all of the dumb craziness that could only take place in Florida. (I realize it’s actually filmed in New Orleans, though.)
I haven’t been keeping track of the visual media I’ve been consuming as thoroughly as I have in recent years, but here’s a quick rundown of some other things I have seen over the last month. If I were doing one-word reviews, I’d give them all a yes, even the bad ones (you can tell by the list which one that might be) because I think sometimes there are just things you kind of have to see. Atomic Blonde and Inside Out were my standout favorites, for what it’s worth. And The Great Mouse Detective, though a little silly, was worth it, just to hear Vincent Price as a villainous singing rat.
-The Disaster Artist -The Room -This Is The End -Sharp Objects -Atomic Blonde -Antman and the Wasp -The Great Mouse Detective -Inside Out -The Incredibles -Coco
It’s just that time of year, I guess. Summer, for myriad reasons–some which return yearly, and others always in flux- always just gets me to feeling some kind of way. I’m muddling through, though. We’ll get there. Where “there” is no longer summer, I guess.
I feel myself sinking into my yearly bout of summer malaise and The Morbs. All I want to do is sit on the sofa with a bowl of cereal and a glass with more ice than iced tea, and a big stack of books. I’m feeling less than productive…though truly, if I look at the past three weeks, I’ve gotten quite a bit accomplished. Perhaps I’m pushing through the ennui and heat-induced existential angst, even if it doesn’t feel like that’s what is going on.
Usually when July rolls around, it’s time for our yearly re-watch of The Lord Of The Rings series. We curl up on the couch with the AC running at full blast, and we watch little Frodo and Samwise and Gandalf and all of their adventures, even though we know them by heart after these many years. The only other movies I can do that with are the Harry Potter series–and while I wouldn’t really consider these my favorite movies, they are the only ones that I can watch over and over and over again. I find them immensely comforting for frazzled nerves and burnt out synapses. I guess I can also re-watch Soapdish and Hedwig and the Angry Inch on loop forever, but they don’t provide the same soothing experience. Do you have any films on your shelves that you could watch once a year for the rest of your life and never grow tired of them?
Speaking of things that soothe of comfort…lately I’ve dipped my toe (or my waist, really, hur hur) into corsetry. Earlier this year when I stuffed myself into a pair of strangulating Spanx, an interesting benefit beyond flub containment was that I found the torso-pressure really comforting. Like a firm, prolonged hug. Fast forward a few months, and a few of my close friends mentioned that they had purchased corsets, and in the process of seasoning them, (the initial, light and brief wearing of them to get them to nicely conform to your body) they noticed similar mental health benefits. Naturally I couldn’t be left out of Corset Salon, so I purchased one as well, to give it a try. Pictured above is the Mesh Waspie C-201 from Orchard Corsets. I can’t find much in the way of scientific evidence touting corsets as a method of anxiety control –although I suspect it works similarly to the very popular Gravity Blanket in this regard–but what can I say? It works for me. I do notice that I’m able to slow down and breathe (ironically) when I am corseted up. My heart isn’t pounding a mile a minute, like it usually does all day long for no immediately discernible reason. For some reason it calms me. If you’ve got an explanation, I am all ears.
Though I did not revisit my side-quest reading challenge from last summer, I have come up with another idea to keep up the pace in my goal to read one hundred books this year. I discovered an email from 2016 wherein I shared with my friend Maika the books I planned to read that summer. Looking back, I maybe read one of them, and no doubt that’s because I was still catching up on the summer reading I had planned for the previous year! My mission this July, should I choose to accept it, is to read the following books that I listed in that missive from June 13, 2016. The Joan Aiken book is a funny thing; I had originally seen a mention of Joan Aiken in the Weird Fiction Review Blog’s review of The Monkey’s Wedding. I was terribly intrigued but then shortly thereafter lost the link to the blog, forgot the blog’s name and definitely forgot both the title of the book, as well as the author. This blog is one I find and lose again quite frequently over the years, and for some reason it never occurs to me to bookmark it, which is silly, because it is a vast treasure trove of future reading ideas! You should remember to bookmark it for yourself.
I had to change the date in the title of this post three times because I honestly could not remember the date, or when I was, or, quite frankly, even where I am.
I has been a strange few months, full of extremes, and I feel like I am just now having the opportunity to take a deep breath (but hopefully not the sort you take before you plunge back into the fray, because I am tuckered out!)
In April, our merry band of weirdos met up for our yearly adventure, and this time the destination was Seattle! (See previously: Portland & Austin). Seattle is the home of one of my very favorite people, and I had actually planned this trip around the fact that they were getting married this spring. What an honor to have been there for their joyous occasion! And to have met their adorable mother, reunited with old friends, and have had my photo taken the bride and a life-size cardboard Nick Cave! Weddings freak me out, but this one was pretty low-key, had beautiful cakes, and a great soundtrack. (It also introduced me to my new best friend, Spanx shapewear, about which I wax poetic over here.)
One of the highlights of this trip was definitely The Scared To Death exhibit at the Museum of Pop Culture, spanning more than a century of cinema and featuring more than 50 props and costumes from film and television. I didn’t even know this treasure was a thing that existed, let alone present in a city I was traveling to, when I was traveling there–what a treat!
Whilst visiting, we also embarked on a side quest to NYC where mysterious adventures were had and beautiful artifacts were admired, and I will be writing more about that in a travel diary over at Haute Macabre, in the very near future! Oh, and most importantly, before leaving, I was introduced to what is quite possibly the worlds most delicious snack.
And so, that just about catches us up to present day. Present day being two days after we finally closed the sale on my late grandparents’ home. We’ve spent the last year and a half trying to close out their estate, and with the selling of the home, we’ve crossed a major item off the list; I feel like we are finally getting somewhere, and maybe there is a light at the end of this long, tedious, depressing tunnel. So on one hand I am feeling fairly celebratory! On the other, though…
My grandparents lived in this house since 1985; they had it built for them to move down from Ohio and live out their twilight years in. They were the only people to ever live in this home, and my family enjoyed (well, mostly enjoyed) thirty or more Thanksgivings at their table. My sisters and I sought refuge there when life with our mother became too volatile; I hauled my laundry over there every Sunday afternoon when I was in my mid-twenties and still living in a small apartment with no washer or dryer. Whatever the reason we were in their home, my grandparents were happy to see us. It was our home, too. And on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 at 2:30 PM it became someone else’s. If they are even half as safe and happy there as my sisters and I were, then these new owners will have spent their money well.
Some highly recommended reading: The Hunger by Alma Katsu, a thrillingly creepy reimagining of the Donner Party’s history and characters, and Experimental Film, by Gemma Files a strange and excellent story, a sort of pseudo documentary, rich in history and myth and weird technical details, about a mystery many decades old and how it begins to seep into the life of the woman obsessed with it.
For the holidays this year we left the comforts of home behind and disappeared to DC for a few days, where my partner’s brother was hosting Christmas for the family. We had a lovely time, eating herring and schnitzel at Old Europe, taking in a show at the Kennedy Center, watching The Last Jedi (oh, Leia, oh, my heart), and mingling with posh people at parties. Well, maybe that last part was more nerve-wracking than lovely, but I survived it, fueled by the smoky magic of hangikjöt, endless steaming coffees, and lots of glorious chocolate cake. Despite the book in this photo, I actually had zero downtime, and there was not much done in the way of reading.
As is my habit, I packed poorly for the weather, and the terrain, and for my comfort. I looked pretty cute, though. Here’s documentation of my travel attire for each day I was there.
On Christmas Day we walked up the hill to the National Cathedral for their Christmas organ recital and took in all of the gorgeous gothic spires and arches and buttresses and gargoyles and so on. It was a bright, windy day, and the cold inflamed my cheeks something fierce, but it was beautiful beyond words and absolutely worth it.
Now that we’re home again, it feels as if time has stood still for a bit and Christmas hasn’t yet passed…which is weird because all of our neighbors lights have been taken down, and their inflatables lie limp on the lawns. Keep them up a bit longer for us, please! We are exchanging gifts, just the two of us, on New Years Eve–which will be a nice way to wind down from the flurry of our Christmas visit, and a prolonging of that fanciful winter magic connected to the holiday, and which seems to linger no matter how old I get.
My best good friend left Orlando last month and is now living up north. I miss her desperately. We didn’t spend a lot of time together, just a day here and there every few months or so, but our time together was always so precious, and it was such a comfort knowing that we lived so close to each other! She recently sent me an exquisite glass spider with a belly full of galaxy, and every time my gaze falls upon it I ponder our strange, wonderful friendship, and comings and goings, and the passage of time–and marvel that I’ve been friends with this remarkable woman for nearly twenty years.
Tonight I’m relaxing and getting ready to see 2017 out the door. I’m not planning out my 2018, not yet. There is plenty of time for that in the next week, right? I’ll probably have some “best of” and “favorites” lists to share in the next few days, but for the time being, some things I am loving right now or have recently enjoyed are:
Did you accomplish everything you wanted for the year? Or…even for the month of December? Well, how about for this week? Did you discover any new loves this month, or receive some amazing gifts? Tell me all about it!
I’ll sum up November quickly: I fretted a lot, I feasted too much, and I miss my sisters desperately, having had them near me for one wonderful week, and now they gone. Other than that, I got, as they say, nothin‘.
Instead I’ll tell you about some of my favorite things this month!
Pumpkin Spice Snake Oil from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Halloween release. I received this one after I’d already written some Weenie reviews over at Haute Macabre, but this would have made top of my list, if I had sniffed it at the time! Snake Oil, a blend of “exotic Indonesian oils sugared with vanilla” is a gorgeous and intoxicating, but fiercely potent brew and– as much as I love it–I have to be careful wearing it around sensitive noses and sometimes it even gives me a fit of sneezes! This pumpkin spice version is tempered by some pumpkin spices that I can’t even really discern, but it definitely makes for a kinder, gentler Snake Oil. I have been wearing it every day for the last week. And…it’s still in stock! I would advise you to grab it while you can.
Graces elixir from Sister Spinster. I own several potions and elixirs from Sister Spinster; I love the concept of encouraging self-care and empowerment through wild blooms and floral abundance. Do they work? Well, I don’t rightly know. I like to think so? I can tell you that a dropperful of Graces, with its mixture of chamomile, skullcap, linden, lemon balm, lavender and violet leaf infused in brandy with local honey, and taken with intent when I am feeling anxious, nervous, stressed or in the dark….well, it makes me feel like I am taking a moment to collect myself. And sometimes I think that’s either all you need, or it’s the first in a series of steps needed to get you beyond your anxiousness.
Lip Balms from Pollux and Key: I have the Cocoa Mallow Balm and the Chamomile Hibiscus Balm. I ordered these on a whim because I loved the unique combination of ingredients they presented (and the fact that these are non-minty lip balms, although if that’s your thing, they have a peppermint one, too.) After using them though, I tell you what–these are utterly lovely. They are slippy and soothing, not at all chalky or waxy, and the fragrances is very, very subtle. I can catch a tiny whiff of it, and whatever it is, it’s pleasant, but it’s barely there at all. And they seem to be flavorless, which I also love. I only wish they they had a version packaged in a tube; the tins are very pretty, and I don’t mind using my fingers, but a tube would work better for travel and I’d really like to throw one of these in every single tote bag I own (and that’s a lot of tote bags.)
The Spellbound leggings from Black Milk, which I nabbed as soon as I saw my stunning friend Maika wearing them, and which have quickly become my favorite things ever. I had a pair of leggings that I’d gotten from Black Milk a few years back and never wore because I thought they were uncomfortable…it turns out I just needed to wear a larger sizer. Who knew!
Speaking of which, isn’t this some marvelous advice with regard to friendship? “…meet those that recognize the wound within the both of you.” Indeed, that is exactly what I try to do! This very excellent suggestion comes courtesy Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles by Taisia Kitaiskaia. I cannot recommend this strange little book full of wild, wise, and wonderful counsel highly enough.
In making up for the fact that our mattress is approx. 200 years old, I may have created a monster bed, one that drains my productivity and diminishes my number of waking hours. Between the Ghost and buckwheat pillows and the insanely high thread count sheets and the fluffiest, coziest duvet, I’m really just trapped in here, forever. The crowning glory? The eyeball-searing William Morris “seaweed” linen set. I had a tough time finding a website that would ship to the U.S. but if you are one of the people whose gaze has not yet fallen on this thing and you are interested in napping on it yourself, you can find it, and a few other William Morris patterned designs at Amara.
Lastly, if you like whiskey and you have a spare $70, I have stumbled upon a terrific one for you: Nikka Coffee Grain Whisky. I am definitely not an expert in such matters, but it is described as having “rich oak” and “marmalade” notes. Whatever that means? A lot of reviewers note that it’s a bit on the sweet side, and normally I am not a fan of dessert-y type drinks, but this is delicious.
It makes me very grumbly that Halloween is not an official holiday and that I actually have to preoccupy myself between the hours of 9-5 on this day with things that have nothing whatsoever to do with ghosts or monsters or candy. Who can we complain to about this?
Being old farts, my partner and I are forgoing spooky soirées (not that we’ve been invited to any tonight, come to think of it) and staying home to pass out treats, carve up pumpkins, and watch Monster Squad. Maybe drink some whiskey. I might not even wait until the last kid has rung the doorbell! We’ll see what kind of night it is.
Speaking of soirées! I was actually invited to a Halloween party a few weeks ago, and I am shock–shocked!– to tell you that I had a fine time. I actually had fun. What! How can this be? Honestly, parties are pretty awful for me; I get anxious about a lot of things, but nothing sends me into panic attack mode faster than the thought of celebratory social interaction. I think what made this an okay experience is that I knew the hostess and had been to her home a number of times, I already knew most of the attendees in some capacity, and, well, I went with a date. Actually three! My sister, brother-in-law and partner were all there. Come to think of it, there was actually nothing to be nervous about. Huh. My costume, in case you couldn’t tell, was a skeletonwitch. Oh, what, you thought I was a panda? Are you blind or something? Unfortunately, this fabulous hat arrived after the event, but that’s fine. I’ll wear it while I’m watching Monster Squad and drunkenly carving children. Pumpkins, I mean. I’m not drinking already or anything.
Though we’ve had some glorious weather these past few days with lower temperatures that lend to layers and cloaks and tights and cardigans, the beginning of October was pretty wretched, as this time of year tends to be. I felt sorry for myself and bought an obscene amount of autumnal candles, spooky records, and a numberofhauntingreads. Also some “trock or treat” socks from Korea.
Earlier in the month I spent the weekend with my best good friend in Orlando, who is moving out of state. I can’t believe she’s leaving, but we’ve been through this before. 15 or so years ago, I was the one who was leaving…and everything ended up being just fine. So, although I will miss her, I know this will just be a new phase in the adventure that is our weird and wonderful friendship. Anyway, she fixed the most amazing breakfast for me, during the course of our visit. Basically a toads in a hole slash avocado toast mashup. It may now be one of my top five favorite breakfasts.
Let me tell you about my other favorite breakfasts lately: rice with a little butter and soy sauce, topped with a runny fried egg and furikake; a “fake bagel”, which is basically a low calorie english muffin toasted and spread with laughing cow cheese, ripe tomato slices, red onion, and Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning, and salmon jerky. For real! Salmon jerky is amazing. Do you, like me, hate sweet breakfast offerings? Cereal, yogurt, most breakfast bars, etc.? Gah, they’re just the worst.
What are you up to this Halloween? Tricks? Treats? Napping with your cats and favorite monsters? That sounds pretty great, actually.