Laugh all you like, but when I get cold, I get cold. My fingernails turn blue and my butt cheeks become ice cubes (even under layers!) right around this time of year, and …wait for it…it’s only about 60 degrees.
It’s true. I am a total cold weather weenie. I have no idea how I lasted as long as I did in New Jersey when there were actual winters with snow and ice and never-ending Februaries. Ugh! I don’t even like thinking about it. It’s bad enough I still dream about it– about once a month or so, even though I have been back in Florida for four years now.
So when the temperatures dip into the arctic mid-50s, I cannot wear my go-to tee shirts and flip-flips, no way, no how. I’d freeze to death! I’ve developed a winter uniform that I pretty much wear every day starting this time of year…and the bonus is that it doesn’t even have a chance to get old, since our “winter” only lasts about a week!
The leggings are the high-waisted kind with some sort of shaping, so they’ve got a tiny bit of structure to them and it doesn’t feel like your flabby belly is flumping hither and yon under your pants. Which wouldn’t matter anyway because the tunic/tee dress is so gloriously voluminous. In any event, they are very, very comfortable and I would highly recommend this brand to people who do not find leggings abhorrent. There are no shoes pictured because well, let’s be honest. Where am I wearing shoes? I work from home and wear socks and never go anywhere. Shoes would be a lie.
Not pictured is something that should have made my 2015 best of list, but I think I was a little bit too embarrassed to mention it. I’ve been growing increasingly self-conscious about that bra-strap fat that oozes out and around my ladies’ support garments, so I’ve taken to wearing this wonderful thing. I’m not even going to type the name out. It’s too dumb. Click on the link and you will see what I mean. Despite the name though, I love it. I purchased four of them last year and they are by far–seriously– the best thing anyone has ever made, and I wear them under just about everything.
It is also winter perfume season! Time to slather myself with all of the woodsy, mysterious resins and incenses! Which most of these are, save for the Bergamoss, which is loamy and sweetly grassy and strangely enough there’s a weird bit of celery in there, too. It’s a nice break between the heavy scents I tend to wear this time of year.
I have a weird habit wherein every time I write something, I feel compelled to design an outfit around it. Obviously in the virtual sense – my wallet could not possibly withstand this peculiar compulsion!
Below are 15 (okay, it’s actually probably more like 20-30) ensembles created in 2015, including links back to the articles, essays, or ramblings that inspired their creation. As always, click through the image to find details on the items included.
Here’s a hodge-podge list of things I either stumbled across or that were recommended to me, in no particular order, that I ended up being pretty thrilled with in 2015.
Previously: 14 things I loved in 2014
The Iope Air Cushion is one of the items I discovered during my Korean beauty product phase earlier in the year that I am still excited about and that I will probably be replacing once it runs out. It is a “unique formula-soaked sponge that has all the benefits of a BB cream (anti-aging, moisturizing, skin-evening coverage and SPF protection). It comes with an equally innovative non-absorbing puff that wicks the formula off of the sponge and effortlessly applies evenly onto your face, for that dewy no-makeup, makeup look.” What I like most about it is that quick, fast and easy. My time is valuable and when I want to throw a face on in a hurry, this is the best thing in my arsenal. It’s got a light, lovely fragrance, it feels cooling when you apply it, it’s very hydrating, and it works quite well with my sometimes sensitive and irritable skin. Love, love, love.
LVNEA’s Wild in the Woods is a mossy, loamy scent fragrant with sweetly decaying forest vegetation. It reminds me of walking around a local pond; there is one spot where the water line meets the exposed tree roots that smells exactly like this subtle, unique perfume.
I ordered several of the Icelandic Yule Lad scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s recent Yule update, but it was Ketkrókur who stole my heart. Ketkrókur (Meat Hook) comes down from the mountains on December 23, Saint Thorlak’s Day, to steal your hangikjöt with his hook hand. Rude! The notes for BPAL’s version of this dinner thief consist of “labdanum, patchouli, dragon’s blood resin, and clove” and is spicy and warm, slightly powdery from the dragon’s blood and with a tinge of sweetness from the labdanum. It’s an aggressive scent out of the bottle, but one that quickly settles down and behaves in the most lovely way. It smells nothing like smoked lamb, or metal hooks, or stinky trolls, thankfully.
I am not a phenomenal reviewer of media (or even a very good one, or a decent one) so I am just going to provide you with a list of books an incomplete sentence or two about each. Please note, not all of these titles were published this year, these were merely books I read this year, and thoroughly enjoyed.
The Doll Collection– Short stories exploring the darkness of the creepy doll trope, but avoiding the clichés. Not a dud in the bunch. Megahex– Graphic novel about a depressed stoner witch, her cat, and their “friends”. These people are deadbeats and scumbags and basically terrible. The Vorrh -A genre defying, mythic read, following several storylines (some more engaging than others). The language is dense and deliberate; I wanted to read and re-read and savor every sentence because each one was so perfectly crafted. A Pretty Mouth -Not quite what I expected and so I’m not going to spoil any surprises. A novella of sorts, following the exploits of one family through the years, though not exactly by a direct path. Witty and decadent and sinister. Recommended to me by a fellow whose tastes I trust implicitly. Revenants – Recommendaton #2 from the above mentioned gentleman. A highly atmospheric, eerie tale set in a small colonial New England village. Three young woman disappear. Inexplicable incidents follow. Secrets are revealed. Grim reckoning looms. Harvest Home -Published in the late 60s, details a family’s move from the city to a simple country life ruled by the land, and the discoveries that ensue. A slow burn but worth the effort, and the magic and mystery of the small town life is something that lingered with me, despite…well, if you’ve not yet read it, I will stop there. The Taxonomy of the Space Between Us – I read several books of poetry this year – stunning collections, all – but this is the one that resonated with me on a very visceral, very emotional level. Devastating and unrelenting, it is a haunting chronicle of grief and and ineffable sibling bonds that remain even after death. The Wicked + The Divine – The story of reincarnated gods as pop stars; slick, beautiful art and a high concept story line, this wasn’t always easy for me to follow, but it was fun to get lost in.
I did not watch many movies this year, and I’m afraid the ones I did watch didn’t leave much of an impression on me. The Duke of Burgundy, however, was absolutely delicious. I wrote briefly about it back in May, and described it thusly: “Gorgeous lesbian lovers/lepidoptera enthusiasts have minor spat”. I’m really not sure there was much more to this dreamy film (advertised as “Sex, Bondage, & Butterflies”), but I am fairly certain I could watch it again, and again, and again.
At the very top of my list is Ghost’s Meliora, of course. If I look at my music library I can clearly observe that this was my most listened-to album this year. I almost feel like it’s not even fair to list it because it’s so obvious, but there you have it. Below are a handful of other artists whose albums I enjoyed as well.
Summary: There’s a lot of books on this list. Films were disappointing. I listened to the same thing over and over. I tried a great deal of cosmetics and beauty products, but only a few were standouts.
…And that’s probably about 15 things, right? I’ll confess that lost count halfway through. What have you discovered, re-discovered, or uncovered that was pretty great this year? Tell me all about it!
Listen, I’ll level with you here. There’s no one who can shop for you like you can.
Unless you are providing your friends and loved ones with highly detailed lists which note exactly what something is and where it can be found (which I’ve come to think of as kind of tacky, but your mileage may vary!) it is unlikely you are going to receive that weird/macabre/grotesque/OH DEAR GOD WHAT IS THAT item on your list for which you have been longing intensely.
So here’s what you do. Your holiday shopping is, I assume, done and over with, correct? You can breathe a sigh of relief. Pour a glass of wine…or a shot of whiskey…or whatever your poison is – except – please, for the love of all things holy, not one of those vulgar energy drinks.
It is now time to focus on you and what you want – and no, I am fairly certain it is not that Bath and Body Works gift basket in some gross, fruity scent you’ll never wear or that gaudy hummingbird wind-chime from someone who learned 20 years ago that you liked hummingbirds and never listened when you told them gently that your tastes had changed since you graduated from high school.
(And don’t get me wrong – I love it when people think of me enough to buy me a gift, and I am grateful…I just don’t ever expect someone is going to get me that thing that I really, really, want!)
It is now time to throw a few gifts for yourself under the tree! Consider the following items and please note that they all have the mlleghoul stamp of approval, for they have been purchased solely by and for myself.
If you are not already entranced by Segovia Amil’s dark, captivating beauty on instagram, you’ll be bewitched by her words in Ophelia Wears Black, her first published book of poetry. “Ophelia Wears Black is a collection of poetry and prose focusing on the shadow aspects and dark side of the human experience through the eyes of a young girl. Divided into four parts, each mirroring the cycling seasons, we follow Ophelia into her own re-imagined Underworld where she learns to make sense of and find the perfection and necessity of her own inner darkness.”
I have not been able to put down Folk Horror Revival: Field Studiessince receiving it a few weeks ago, it is some of the most compelling, fascinating writing I have ever read on one of my very favorite subject. Featuring essays and interviews by many great cinematic, musical, artistic and literary talents, Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies is the most comprehensive and engaging exploration to date of the sub genre of Folk Horror and associated fields in cinema, television, music, art, culture and folklore. AND 100% of all profits from sales of the book will be charitably donated to environmental, wildlife and community projects undertaken by The Wildlife Trusts.
Music & Art & Baubles
Lost Voices: Volume 1 – Keening and The Death Wail: Lost Voices explores vocal improvisation in folk culture. Volume 1: Keening and the Death Wail considers Keening (a traditional improvised vocal lament) practised by women in ancient Ireland and worldwide. Includes a 31 page booklet exploring the history of the art of keening with a cd of audio examples.
Easeful Death labradorite coffin ring from bloodmilk (sorry for my hands, I know those pointy witch claws are en vogue right now, but I can’t knit with those nails and I’d probably put my eye out.) “Cast immortal in sterling silver, bat wing and leg bones molded from the real thing, are composed into a beautiful setting cradling a labradorite coffin cut jewel.”
Death and the Maiden art print, by artist Tenebrous Kate of Heretical Sexts: “The virginal blush of youth and the icy hand of death, Eros and Thanatos, vanity and decay. Emerging from the imagery found in Medieval depictions of the Dance of Death, the motif of Death and the Maiden is at once macabre and erotic.”
Littlest friend bat cloisonné pin from Cat Coven. Perfect for lapels – whether they’re gracing leather jackets or spooky granny cardigans!
A ghostly white resin hand pendant on recycled black leather from artist Alice Rogers of Trances and Portents.
Eau de Mort parody ad art print by the incomparably lovely Becky Munich. This one is a bit of a cheat since it was a gift, but I have several prints from Becky hanging on my walls and there is space for several more -so no doubt many purchases from this talented artist will occur in the future!
I also treated myself to a sampler set from The House of Orpheus, which is something I have been meaning to do for a while. Enodia is lovely beyond compare – “… ancient goddess of the streets. She is the Nachtfalter, the moth, the night butterfly. Guided by the moon and associated with Artemis, Hekate and Persephone. Black Storax would have been in the incense burned in offering to this goddess of the street and so we base this perfume in Black Storax, with notes of Black Agars Wood, Moroccan Myrrh, and Vanilla. It is exalted by the alchemical oil of silver”.
Also! I’ve loved the candles from Burke and Hare for awhile now, so much so that I tend to burn through their offerings much too quickly. On a whim, during a recent sale, I picked up Dragon’s Blood: “…fragranced with the precious red resins that create the alluring scent known as Dragon’s Blood. It is a potent and earthy fragrance, infused with cedar wood and patchouli essential oils. The scent combines sweet and spicy notes to form a sophisticated complex blend. “
As it turns out, there are quite a lot of really awful products out there! And as you can imagine, I like to ramble on extensively about such things, so I shall be featuring a quasi-regular Stinkers & Duds column to share with you these products that range from Mildly Offensive to Relatively Useless to Really Fucking Gross, Kill It With Fire.
On today’s list:
1. Caudalie Lip Conditioner $12: this has the consistency of a 1000 year old crayon – nay, a fossilized million year old crayon. Perhaps carbon dating methods cannot even determine the exact age of the waxy substance which comprises this product. Combine this with all the healing properties of spiked lizard skin and scraping sandpaper and then imagine scouring this rough specimen across your poor, tender lips. Wonder at the bleeding mess you have made of your mouth because you have done this ill-advised thing. Think about demanding your money back from Sephora but then never actually do it because you find the act of returning things to the store and dealing with customer service repugnant. Stew fretfully for the rest of your life about it.
2. Nature Republic Bee Venom Cleansing Foam $12.98: I had read several good reviews about this product, the bee venom is supposedly good for neutralizing redness, and I have this problem on my cheeks and chin every now and then. I don’t quite understand what it is – i am not naturally ruddy-cheeked (I am actually rather sallow) and it’s not acne or blemishes. Just sort of an…inflamed irritation? I don’t know. Anyway, this did not help at all. Not only did it do nothing – I am still as red as a tomato most days – it smells a bit like hand cream that you’ve left in your pocketbook too long and which has gone off, and it was terribly drying. Nope.
3. Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb $50: I hate Victor and Rolf’s Flowerbomb so much that I nearly fly into a rage. It smells petty and mean spirited and small-minded. Like bigoted small town pageant moms and the shitty popular girls in 80s movies. It simultaneously makes me want to cringe and cry. It’s all the Heathers. Also: it’s an enormous lie. It smells nothing like any flower, ever. Unless, of course, there is a blossom that smells like Bongo jeans and hair-sprayed bangs and the wretched duo of Jennifer W. and Amanda P. in the 7th and 8th grade. How’s it feel to be the inspiration for the world’s worst fragrance, you dumb, hateful bitches?
Me: nearly waist length, color treated hair. Slightly coarse, wavy. Frizzes up in the right conditions (ie 100% in Florida). I have a lot of hair and you can tell.
Me on Redken Color Extend Magnetics: Hair is lank, limp, greasy. I look like Samara, crawling out of the well and off of your teevee set to kill you. Guess you shouldn’t have watched that video when you knew your friends were dying one by one a week later. I now officially resemble a Japanese murder ghost and obviously someone has to pay.
Also when my sweet, thoughtful, always complimentary dude wrinkled up his nose as he sniffed my freshly washed head and remarked with a grimace “ugh, you smell like dog ears” – which, WTF does that even mean? – I threw it out with out a backward glance. Life’s too short to smell like dog’s ears, folks.
What’s had you wrinkling your nose lately? Tell me all about your own stinkers and duds! I’m all ears, as always.
Currently watching: School of the Holy Beast. Sans subtitles. “…a veritable furnace of subjugated carnal desires and broken vows.” I probably don’t need the dialogue, right?
Currently listening: As beautiful and melodic as Julia Kent’s Asperities is, it is also an album full of tension and darkness. You’re not sure if that breathless feeling you’re experiencing is the welling emotion of tears yet to be shed or a silken noose tightening about your throat. This is the sound of my every November. Haunting, heartless; exquisitely cruel.
It’s a long shot, but maybe you’ve heard about a little film released recently by that guy – you know. He does the scary stuff… Guillermo …what’s his name? Yeah, it wasn’t very big, not a lot of hype. Really flew under the radar, you know? Scarlet Summit? No, hm. Ruby Pinnacle? This is gonna drive me nuts.
Ha! Just kidding, you weirdos. I reckon Crimson Peak has been on our collective horror-nerd radar for the last three years, and we’ve anxiously been counting down the days until its release earlier this month whilst working ourselves into a feverish delirium awaiting its myriad charms.
A lush, lavish gothic romance in high, bloody style – and a dizzying exercise in glorious excess – Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak delivered on a grand scale. A tale to delight the senses on every level, brimming with terrible, tragic beauty and darkly dreamy imagery, both elegant and savage – the only thing missing from this gorgeous experience is the fragrance of those dark secrets and monstrous revelations.
The mad geniuses over at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab anticipated this, and October 31, 2015, marks the release of their Crimson Peak-inspired line of fragrances, nail polish, jewelry, and statuary.
As to the scents themselves, the lab has outdone themselves. I’ve been wearing their fragrances for years and although they consistently provide marvelous olfactory experiences, never had they made as strong a showing as they have with this singular collection. Among the oils I sampled, each was beautifully nuanced, deliciously complex and perfectly – uncannily – captured the essence of the character or the theme conveyed.
In short, I think I loved them all. My wallet weeps at this pronouncement.
Some standouts include:
Edith Cushing (Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind: pearlescent vanilla musk with white sandalwood, grey amber, white patchouli, ambrette seed and oudh. ) smells of wholesome beauty, youthful innocence and somehow…of butterflies and ruffled nightgowns. The airy warmth of delicate musk and sweetly powdered limbs.
Both Sir Thomas Sharpe (Give in to temptation: black amber darkens a pale fougere.) and Lady Lucille Sharpe (Love makes monsters of us all; faded red roses and a glimmer of garnet with black lily, yang slang, smoky plum musk and black amber. ) share the same melancholy amber base. Sir Thomas is a close to the skin scent – slightly sweet, with a hint of light musk and tinge of tears – it is a somewhat sad smelling thing. Lady Lucille, on the other hand, is plummy with dark roses and the tang of something deliciously unhinged. “Love makes monsters of us all,” she mused, and you can smell that cruel, desperate sentiment in this bottle.
Dr. Alan McMichael (My deeper concern has always been for you. If you are happy, I am happy. Bay rum and sandalwood) is a deceptively simple, comfortable scent. A feeling of safety, of familiarity, of leaning into a warm neck and breathing in skin and a hint of luxurious aftershave. Also…of horses. I have never actually seen a horse in real life, mind you -I only know them from books, but I am fairly certain that story-horses share this smell.
Crimson Peak [EPONYMOUS] (A house that breathes, that bleeds, and remembers. A house like this, in time can become a living thing with timber for bones and windows for eyes: snow marbled with blood-red clay frozen over the scent of decayed wood) conjures a bleak, chilled incense. Not an entirely welcoming fragrance at first, but as it sinks into the skin, becomes a part of you, you detect a very slight woody warmth and its peculiar charms become a thing to crave.
The Manuscript (A ghost story – Your father didn’t tell me it was a ghost story.
It’s not, Sir, it’s – more like a story…with a ghost in it.
A leather-bound manuscript, ink barely dry. A Gothic ghost tale, personified. The pages are permeated with a preternatural otherworldly quality – but only slightly, as the ghost is a counterpoint; leather and paper and splotches of ink, with a hint of ghostly chill.) Rich, buttery leather, parchment dried with age and subtle, acrid scent of something you can’t quite place -something from the corner of your eye or a mostly forgotten childhood memory. This smells of déjà-vu to me; a book I’ve not yet read and yet have somehow have committed the tale to heart.
Black Moths (Back home we only have black moths. Formidable creatures. They thrive on the dark and cold.
What do they feed on?
Butterflies, I’m afraid. A flutter in the darkness: wild plum and black currant with aged black patchouli, vetiver, red rose petal, tonka absolute, and opoponax) Brittle, papery, musty darkness that becomes lighter in the wearing never but quite loses that tinge of unease, of quiet menace.
Perhaps you’d rather scent your rooms than your person?
Young Edith’s Bedroom (beeswax, leather-bound paper, white gardenias) hints at porcelain and wood, lace and shadow but becomes the most incredible, bombastic honey scent I have ever encountered.
Lucille’s Room (lilac water, fossilized black amber, lily of the valley, violet leaf, oakmoss) is a lighter, more subdued fragrance, recalling the play of shadow and light and the flutter of moth wings in between.
The Workshop(sawdust and gear lubricant, metal rods shining in golden afternoon light) –is it possible to smell the imagery of dust particles floating lazily in a patch of dim afternoon sunlight on a cold, clear afternoon in late winter ? I believe have.
Allerdale Hall (A grand house brooding against the horizon, a silhouette of jutting chimneys and sharp angles silhouetted against the grey sky) Allerdale Hall is a challenging scent to pin down. Dark oiled woods and the scent of the sky before a snow.
A sensory masterwork, these 30 individual, original scents expand upon the vivid world of the film’s characters and story points and are available in 5ml apothecary bottles exclusively via the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab website.
And of course, it’s imperative to know how one might wear this collection, is it not?
Now it’s a week that I have been back from Portland and these experiences are not nearly as fresh in my mind …so I think this will be a massive photo dump along with some recommendations. Sound good? OK, let’s go!
As with our stay in 2012, we paid Voodoo Doughnuts a visit. I think a lot of the locals will tell you this place is over-hyped, and maybe waiting in line for a half an hour with a bunch of derpy tourists will certainly color your experiences a bit – but we were in and out of there in 5 minutes, so I still think it is a pretty okay spot for morning (or whenevertime) pastries. Pictured are the Maple Bacon bar, The Loop, and the Cock-n-Balls. Which we group shared. Of course!
Other doughnut places visited:
Blue Star – these doughnuts seemed… little more high-brow? If you can even say that about doughnuts, I guess. We shared the blueberry bourbon basil, which was understated and lovely.
Pips – these guys are tiny fried bits of deliciousness. A member of our group took it upon himself and hunted them down at 6 in the morning to take advantage of a birthday special that they offer. I had the honey and sea salt, which was a sweet, salty, greasy revelation.
After stuffing ourselves full of cheese samples and wine at The Wedge fest (watch the video at the top of that site and you’ll see two of my favorite beardos!) we wandered around the city looking for a proper meal. I am not sure how we ended up at the Bit House Saloon, but I am glad that circumstances led us there, for we had several rounds of wonderful cocktails between games of Fluxx. I used to feel sort of weird about showing up at a bar and playing card games, but now I find that I really enjoy it – how about you? My favorite cocktail of the afternoon was The Grandmaster Flowers: bourbon, nectarine, chamomile, grapefruit, lime, and dandelion & burdock bitters. Also, that punch bowl. Gimme!
Still not having put food in our bellies, we attempted to get seated at Katchka right across the street for “Russian food in a space that looks like your communist grandmother’s basement”, but once we heard about the 3-4 hour wait, we decided to hoof it down to Noraneko for some ramen. And who should we accidentally run into but our friend’s husband, with whom we had just shared drinks at Hale Pele the previous night! We all cozied up for noodles, but to be honest, it was the few light bites we enjoyed beforehand that really made me happy. Who knew that dried squid could be so sweet and chewy and delicious? Paired with an oolong highball, I felt like Murasaki Wakkako in Wakakozake! Pshuuu….!
I think we all can agree that no trip to Portland is complete without a trip to Powells, but what trip to Powells is complete without purchasing a copy of Kanye West – Reanimator? Ponder that, if you will.
Early on I knew that I would want to make a sojourn to ALTAR which boasts a magical collection of “Northwest Alternative Handmade” objects and apparel, home goods and body care items. When she rung up my purchases, the lovely owner (whose name I sadly did not catch. Or even ask for. Whoops!) assured me that I had picked out one of all of the best things in the store. Among my favorites: dark, wild scents from lvnea, dreamy tees from Wolf Child, jewels from Morgaine Faye, and the gorgeously illustrated wooden tarot deck from Skullgarden. What I did not bring home with me, though I wish I could have, was one of Tyler Thrasher‘s beautiful crystal encrusted creatures. So exquisite! So delicate! So not going to make it home in one piece! It was a treat though, to be able to see them in person and up close.
The first place – and one of the last places -that I visited in Portland was my beloved Paxton Gate. A treasure trove of taxidermy, oddities, curiosities and natural wonders, I could spend hours upon hours in there taking in all of the delights and grotesqueries! I would then of course become bankrupt and have to live in a cardboard box…but these are just minor inconveniences, you see. Just look at those fancy mice! I would love to have them cavorting with me forever! And that raccoon – his face! Ah, I love this place. On my first visit, a silver tentacled ring wrapped its way around my finger, and upon my last, my heart was stolen by a wee mummified bat. Too many good things!
Oh, Portland. I already miss your weirdness and your fantastic happy hours and your wonderfully friendly folks. We will be back again, mark my words!