Today, Amanda shares with us her ten things she is loving for for fall. Read more below!
I joke that my life revolves around tea but it really does. There’s something therapeutic about it and I really get into it. Bitters, flavored sugars, elixirs, and whatever else I can find gets thrown into the mix. It’s my little sip of self care sitting patiently waiting for my tea to steep. I’m a huge fan of Adagio teas (they have killer autumn blends like Bonfire and Candy Apple). Adagio offers some of the best fandom teas created by others and their house blends are super tasty. Why yes, I’d like t a tea inspired by Hobbits, please and thank you.
Hear me out! They are majestic in their scratchy thickness and I literally wait all year to bust out my precious Russian handmade socks with robins and deer on them. They’re big and floppy and everything you’d hate about normal socks but for some reason they turn magical once those leaves start turning.
I barely wear makeup during the summer, so once it turns cool I feel energized and ready for some serious eyeshadow time. I’m currently loving the Rust Stack and The Gemini Palette by Melt Cosmetics and the Orb of Light Full Moon Palette by Black Moon Cosmetics. These have some of the best formulas around, plus they boast some serious fall color stories (which make my green eyes pop something fierce).
Scary Stories on YouTube
My mind goes 100 mph when I’m trying to sleep, so listening to scary stories via YouTube helps calm me down. I light candles, rev up the fake fireplace ,and hunker down to listen to collections that I randomly pick. Some are duds, some are nightmare inducing, but I love the randomness of them. Bonus points if they have a video of thunderstorms playing while they narrate.
While I frequent my local farms all year, I get extra giddy when I see the corn fields being carved into mazes, acres of pumpkins, hot apple cider, and bumpy gourds. Being born and raised in Massachusetts, all of these things remind me of my childhood and make me feel both joyful and reminiscent. I look forward to these feelings every year and I’m always on the hunt for the perfect pumpkin or apple dumpling.
My first run in with a facial steamer was when I was a teenager and my mom bought me this contraption from Conair that made my nostrils burn when I inhaled. Since then I’ve dialed it down and opt for a big bowl, a kettle, dried flowers and a fluffy towel. Towards the end of September my skin goes sideways and gets dry and lackluster from all summer’s abuses. I grab my bowl of herbs and spend 15 minutes inhaling the fragrant steam in my makeshift towel dome.
My art purchases always spike during autumn when artists are creating beautiful and dark pieces that have all my favorite colors; burnt oranges, mossy greens, flecks of yellow, blood red smears, and dark, earthy browns. One of my favorite recent purchases was from Adam Burke called “Emergence,” which is perfect autumn in my eyes.
Horror Movie Parties
These evenings are some of my favorites as we gorge ourselves on horror-themed snacks while throwing our hands up as the protagonist trips yet again. It’s always fun to see what scares people and it’s such a great bonding experience. I love introducing people to new films and this is the perfect time to share the love of horror and tasty snacks. These evenings usually end with us playing horror VR games, screaming bloody murder, and high fiving each other for not tripping over the dog. My watch lists usually include: The Possession, Scream, Young Frankenstein, The Exorcist, Wishing Stairs, Sinister, and Ju-on
Sometime last month I was scrolling through the instagrams, and I paused, thoroughly enchanted by some photos that my friend Megan had just shared. To give a little backstory, Megan and I met at Orlando’s inaugural Death Cafe, which I was hosting at the time, and, having several interests in common of the morbid and macabre variety, we became fast friends. As a matter of fact, she learned of that Death Cafe event entirely due to the fact that I had posted about it beforehand on instagram…. which, at the time, I thought was maybe a frivolous way to advertise for an event, but, hey, it worked! Megan is a lovely friend and I always looking forward to spending time with her and talking perfumes and jewelry, and Hannibal, and spooky stuff whenever the opportunity presents itself.
At any rate, several weeks back, Megan and her family had begun their annual Halloween decorating party, and, as I believe this was probably in back in August’s sweltering dog days, that makes these seasonal preparations even more delightful (as I’m sure all my rabid weenie weirdo friends would agree!) I suppose I just really adored that idea that she has made a yearly tradition of bringing out all the Halloween-themed goodies and turning the festooning of their home into into a celebration with her children to herald in their favorite season and its high holiday. It reminded me a bit of how I felt when September rolled around when I was a little girl in Ohio. Though I don’t have many memories of my early life there, I definitely recall the eerie cardboard skeleton being hauled out of storage, and once it was affixed to the basement door with lots of scotch tape, I knew magic was soon to be afoot!.
I asked Megan if she would mind sharing a few words with us here at Unquiet Things about the spoopy childhood magics conjured forth via her pre-Halloween festivities, and she happily obliged. Read on for more, and thank you, Megan!
Every year at the end of August, (after weeks of anticipation -i.e. pestering- from my little monsters) we pull down the orange & black storage containers from the dusty attic and commence what I have not-so-creatively titled “The Annual Halloween Decorating Party.” It really isn’t anything too elaborate: I bake cookies, light a Fall-scented candle (go ahead, call me a basic witch!), queue up the Beetlejuice soundtrack, and we all dance around decorating our home with ghosts (both literally & figuratively) of Halloween’s past. The kid’s faces fill with wonder and excitement as they unearth the next decoration from the box, as if discovering treasure for the first time (even though it’s just the same ol’ stuff), or greeting an old friend they haven’t seen in a year. Elaborate or not, a wonderful time is had by all.
This has always been a sort of tradition for me at various stages of my life, drawing from my early childhood experiences centering around the holiday. In those days (you know, the days of yore – AKA the 80’s) I’d watch my mom pull out the terracotta jack-o-lantern
from some seemingly secret cupboard containing all-the-cool-things, and carefully place it in the center of the dining room table. Then we’d hang up the old & worn (now vintage!) paper witch & skeleton & pumpkin and that’s when I knew: HALLOWEEN IS COMING! The very sight of these things would send spooktacular shivers down my spine. Oh, the magick of the season!
Now, decades later, I create these moments with my children in hopes of passing the same magickal feelings on to them. They are intangible but so very real, much like memories themselves. I hope that they will look back on these times with great fondness. Maybe they will continue the tradition someday, excitedly unpacking decoration after decoration from an orange or black box and invoking the magick of their past. Or maybe they will share it with their own little monsters, should they choose to have them.
There are many opportunities throughout the Fall to practice a bit of childhood magick. I love to pick pumpkins at the pumpkin patch, get lost in a corn maze, and of course we are in full-on celebration mode come Halloween night. But for me, it all begins with the decorations. Just like it did all those years ago with one silly little terracotta jack-o-lantern and some worn out paper.
What about you? What sort of special Halloween magick lives on from your childhood? I’d love to hear about it!
I had so much fun with last months “What I Can’t Live Without” feature that I decided to do a monthly column spotlighting my favorite people and some of their favorite things! This month’s 10 Things list is shared by Nuri McBride, a lovely friend with whom I share many passions and common interests, and whose enthusiasm, insights, and support have bolstered me immensely in the past year, with regard to my creative projects.Nuri writes beautifully and extensively at her own blog Death/Scent, which explores the fascinating world of fragrance & funerals. She is also a Contributor at Death and the Maiden.
I adore books (print, audio, and to a lesser extent, digital) and I could not live without them. Some of my most beloved authors are Neil Gaiman, Pablo Neruda, Umberto Eco, Michael Ondaatje and Margret Atwood. If I had to recommend a book from each it would be, in order, Anansi Boys, The Capitan’s Verses, The Name of the Rose, Anil’s Ghost, and a tie between The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace. [Bonus: I listen to Neil Gaiman read Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol every December while baking gingerbread men. I highly recommend it for a chill afternoon.]
A lot of people write off comics as juvenile and banal but there are amazing things going on both art and story wise in comics these days and nowhere more than at Image Comics. Who would have thought a publisher started by illustrators that founded a venue in which creators get to keep their copyrights would produce such diverse and interesting stuff? #sarcasm My favourite titles are Fatale, Pretty Deadly, Saga, The Wicked + The Divine, Sex Criminals, and Chew.
I think Sarah and I bonded over our deep psychological need to smell like the Queen of Sheba. Picking one favourite out of my 300+ smell-babies would be impossible. However, I find myself reaching for Incense Avignon (Comme des Garcons), Incense Pure (Sonoma Scent Studio) Gypsy Water (Byredo) and Carnal Flower (Frederic Malle) the most these days.
I am a taphophile and I love to stroll in a good cemetery, it’s my happy place. You can learn a lot about a town and its people by visiting the local graveyard. Wherever I go in my travels there is always a day devoted to the nearby cemetery and I enjoy visiting the old and forgotten little pocket cemeteries of 20 or so graves that are tucked about my city. Some of my favourite places of rest in the world are Abney Park (London), Bonaventure Cemetery (Savannah), The Old Jewish Cemetery (Prague), South Park Street Cemetery (Kolkata) and the Cross Bones Graveyard (London)
Skincare is super personal. My run-into-a-burning-house-to-save-it holy grail cream is Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream, but when Sarah Elizabeth tried it she hated it. I think 90% of skincare is knowing what your skin needs and giving it that and nothing more. As such I am not loyal to brands but to ingredients yet the one brand I use the most for both face and body is Avene. Avene is a French pharmacy brand hailed for its gentleness and sensitive skin preparations. Yes, I am one of those bougie women that spray their faces with Eau Thermale water and I swear by it for my last step in cleansing. I love their XeraCalm A.D Lipid Replenishing Cleansing Oil in the shower and follow it up with the Lipid-Replenishing Balm to keep my skin silky. Their Antirougeurs Mask is great if you find your face gets dry and inflamed. I use a touch of the Cicalfate Post-Procedure Cream on recovering skin from a cut or acne breakout to keep scaring at a minimum. I would also recommend their Mineral Mattifying Facial Sunscreen because it is SPF 50 and doesn’t break me out.
Stories of Strange Women
Oh podcasts, they save me on long bus rides and when I’m out walking my dog and people want to talk to me. What would I do without them, be forced to speak with people! I’m a big fan of Oh No Ross & Carry, Sawbones, and Welcome to Night Vale but the podcast that I feel not enough people are listening to and they should be is Stories of Strange Women. As a strange woman myself it makes me happy to hear the Hurley Sisters, interviewing other weirdos about the circuitous paths and interesting lives they lead. I find it very inspiring.
So, most people don’t know this about me but I’m a huge table top role-playing nerd. It’s a form of collective story-telling that both requires and develops advance social and communication skill like empathetic listening, conflict negotiation, and improvisation. This idea that all D&D fans are shut-in young men with no social skills is nonsense. Sadly, getting my party in the same room on a weekly basis with jobs, partners, and babies is a tall order these days so I satisfy my craving for the theatre of the mind by watching Critical Role (available on YouTube, Twitch, Project Alpha, and as a Podcast). Critical Role is a show with professional voice actors being professional dorks. It’s my lunch date almost every day, and it makes me happy. I recommend starting with the second campaign.
Dark & Dreamy Cooperative Board Games
I believe firmly that Monopoly is the worst game in the world. Not only does it promote ruthless land speculation by the 1% it also has shitty game mechanics that will lead to players getting eliminated long before the game is done so only the person that wins really has any fun. Isn’t Capitalism a hoot kids? I much prefer cooperative games were the players must work together. These games make sure everyone has a good time right and you might actually learn something about your friends. If the game is artistic and a bit spooky even better. While not a true co-op game Dixit is a magical card game everyone should have. It requires you to think empathetically about how your other players would interpret dream-like images. Mysterium is like Clue and Dixit had a baby in a haunted house. Betrayal at House on the Hill starts off co-operative before one of the players is revealed as a defector and you all need to battle against them and their unclean legions. If you like games with a lot of chance, the dice rolling Elder Sign is a personal favourite as is its big bother (we are going to be here for 5 hours minimum) Arkham Horror, both set in the Cthulhu Mythos.
Butter London Eye Gloss
When it comes to makeup I’m a cream kind of gal. Cream lipstick, cream blush, cream highlight. I don’t really use powder and maybe that’s why I’m so crap at doing my eye makeup. But I always look cute in Butter London Eye Glosses. They are pudding-like shadows that go on beautifully and blend out great with just your finger. Plus, they stay put and don’t feel sticky. I throw on some liner and mascara and I’m done. Spark and Oil Slick are my go-to shades.
The Films of Guillermo Del Toro
There are some creative people that just make the world a better place, not because they dress it up in ribbons and bows but through their stories of monsters and devils they show us something of ourselves and make us better people. That’s how I feel about Guillermo Del Toro’s work. Unlike some other directors beloved for their fantasy settings that are all style and no substance, Del Toro is using fairy tales to process the trauma of war, the terror of patriarchal love and the inhumanity of institutions that turn men into monsters. I highly suggest watching the Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth back to back as they are set in the same world just a few years apart and are part of an eventual trilogy based about the unprocessed trauma of the Spanish Civil War. Crimson Peak and the Shape of Water feel like precious jewels to me. Also, I adored the novelisation of the Shape of Water which delved deeper into the characters and the themes of the movie. You should read it.
“Liz T is a seaside kitchen witch who lives with her husband and his weird dog in New Jersey. A paradox of a woman, she reads the classics and poetry while guiltlessly enjoying reality TV garbage. Find her on instagram as @divebardame.
It was one of those things that you couldn’t help but keep staring at. Curiosity driven by fascination and a bit of fear.
It was the bear skin rug that sat on top of the refrigerator in my Nan and Pop’s basement in North Philadelphia. A black bear Pop had killed on a hunting trip, folded so only the head was visible, peering over whomever was grabbing a Coors Light from the fridge. The bear’s mouth drawn wide open, showing all of his teeth. A pink rubber tongue forever shaped into a soft wave. Glass eyes staring out. The eyes were probably the most unrealistic thing about the bear. If there’s one thing I have learned while dabbling in taxidermy, it is that the eyes are the key to imitating life.
I used to pet the black bear, pat him on the head. And sometimes, pinch his teeth. After Pop had passed and the neighborhood turned, we had to move Nan out of her home and into a smaller apartment in Northeast Philly. The bear lived with us for a while, folded on top of our refrigerator in our garage. I’m not sure why this bear always ended up on top of a fridge, but who were we to question tradition? He now resides with my Uncle who has the bear and other bucks mounts on his wall. Nan and Pop are gone, but that bear is still around.
Another distance family member, my aunt-by-marriage’s-brother’s -wife, (if you’re Italian, you know this just means ‘aunt’) had a massive collection of insects. Vibrant butterflies, glossy green beetles, jet black scorpions- all framed and labeled around their home. Again, this experience occurred as a child, so in reality she may have had about a dozen frames of bugs. But I still like to believe my child’s memory of there being hundreds. I loved staring at them, but even more so, I wanted to touch them. I had never seen butterflies so big and blue growing up in Pennsylvania. And even if I did, I would never be able to catch those agile things. But now here they were, right in front of me. So close and delicate, with only a pane of glass between us.
On a trip to Chicago, my partner and I visited a friend who took us to the Field Museum. Not only does the museum have Sue the T. Rex, the largest and most complete dinosaur ever discovered (kudos to Sue for living large and staying organized) but they also have hall after hall of preserved animal specimens, some over 100 years old. Some are beautifully displayed in glass cases. Others are shown in a scene reflecting their environment in the wild, like the notorious man-eating lions or a grizzly bear standing upon rocky terrain. If you have ever wanted to feel like a tiny, feeble speck, go stand by that grizzly. You could easily spend an entire weekend looking at every specimen just once- that’s how big this place is.
So after all of this time and admiration, I finally started a collection of my own. We have a pheasant hanging in our garage which was left by the sellers- so thanks! I also have a gorgeous black tarantula gifted to me by my very best friend. We named him Abe as she purchased him in Lincoln, Nebraska. His abdomen broke off and got kinda stuck between the sealed glass by his head, but I guess that’s part of his charm. The real Abe didn’t make it out completely unscathed either.
The next piece I want to add to my collection are these gorgeously obscure little mice dioramas made by Brooklyn Taxidermy. I first came across these little delights at a punk rock flea market in Asbury Park, NJ a few years back. The company is run by Amber Maykut, a skillfully talented taxidermist and entomologist who has worked for several museums around the country, restoring and creating gorgeous pieces. The ethically sourced mouse/mice pieces are too precious. They’re exactly the storybook imagery we grew up with- little mice in their own community, maybe living inside an old grandfather clock or a hollowed out stump in the woods. Some mice are displayed enjoying a thimble sized cup of coffee, others are calling on the cards, ready to read your fortune.
If you’re reading this and are thinking “hmm, I wouldn’t mind trying to make one of these babies myself,” you’re in luck! Brooklyn Taxidermy offers classes. Whether you’re looking for classic taxidermy pieces, quirky mice, or the more creative, crypto-zoology inspired pieces such as the jackalope, Brooklyn Taxidermy is definitely worth a gander.
So is taxidermy odd and strange, even slightly depressing? I suppose so. It is, at its root, dead things. This once stunning, grandiose creature is now dead, gone. And that’s how we get to ENJOY the thing? Once it has passed and everything that makes a butterfly a butterfly, a bear a bear, a fox a fox- is now gone? I understand all of this- yes. But taxidermy extends beyond that. It creates eternal life only in death, through death. It offers accessibility: taking something so beautiful and striking, something that you could never get to see up close in person, and placing it right in front of you, larger than life. Even if it is only the shell. Which is also the part that is so quickly whisked away once death takes it. The shell is what is burned or boxed up and buried because it is “tainted” with death. Taxidermy says, “No, no. Not just yet.” and makes it possible for that magnificent something to stick around for a little while longer.
Instead of that old bear inciting an interest in hunting, I’ve grown to have an interest in collecting dead things. Not through channels of killing, for, as I’ve mentioned, the whole hunting thing has never sat well with me. And I absolutely do not support big game hunting. I believe any taxidermy that is acquired in present times should be obtained through ethical channels, once it has died on it’s own accord. That’s what I find most fascinating about taxidermy. It keeps around for us the semblance and structure of what something was, long after the spirit of what it was has dissipated.
If nothing else, it will make a great conversation starter for your next cocktail party.
Thank you, Liz! Do you have a weird or strange interest or passion or obsession that you would like to share with the readers of Unquiet Things? Are you interested in writing up a guest post about it? Please let me know! I will pay you with a knitted good for your time!
I have a difficult time watching movies. I mean, I love movies, and I love watching them but I tend to become fixated on minute details. And if it is a particularly gorgeous film, brimming with opulence and utterly dripping with lavish details, well, then we have a problem, because I am painstakingly pausing the film every few seconds, scene by scene, to capture a certain detail–the shadowy fold of a velvet skirt, the glinting facets of a crystal goblet, the glow of candlelight on skin. More often than not it takes me five hours to watch a standard length film.
Sometime starting in 2016, I think, I began marveling at the sumptuous, sensuous cinematic screen shots posted over at @la.belle.otero‘s instagram. This person, I thought, has without a doubt elevated the dreamy, decadent screen shot to an art form! I became obsessed with the images they would share– poetic, hypnotic glimpses of films I’d never even seen or heard of! In addition to mesmerizing scenes graced by magnificently beautiful women, the account is also awash in an abundance of wickedly exquisite art and fashion.
On a whim, I inquired of the owner of this instagram account if she might like to put together a guest post detailing some of her favorite or most beloved gems of decadent cinema to share with the readers of Unquiet Things, and I was delighted when she agreed!
The Seventh Victim: Produced by B-movie master Val Lewton, this cult/noir classic from 1943 oozes with glamour and gloom. Set in Greenwich Village with a plot revolving around a mysterious missing sister and a Satanic cult, it features one of the most visually striking characters in noir cinema. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of Jean Brooks as Jacqueline, with her long black bob and dark fur coat, sunk deep into an armchair. The Seventh Victim is a concise and enigmatic thriller steeped in a highly stylized, sinister atmosphere, but it’s truly Brooks as the troubled and traumatized femme fatale who makes it essential viewing.
Black Lizard: I rarely recommend films to people if they’re hard to find or not commercially available. There’s one I always make an exception for, and that’s this one. This 1968 gonzo Japanese campadelic crime caper stars renowned drag queen Akihiro Miwa as a glamorous jewel thief, and features Aubrey Beardsley-inspired sets, a collection of human statues, and a cameo by literary icon Yukio Mishima (who wrote the play on which the film was based). Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who would much later become famous for Battle Royale, this gem is ripe for rediscovery.
Morgiana: When it comes to aesthetics, nothing makes me giddier than the Belle Epoque through the lens of the 1970s, and this Czech gothic horror film revels in it. It’s a study in elegance and creepiness with an interplay of light versus darkness, embodied in the two sisters (both played by the same actress, Iva Janzurova) at the center of the of a surreal fairytale struggle between good and evil. The costumes and art direction are ominously executed with meticulous detail (every delicate object, every fold of cloth catches the eye), and emphasized by the hallucinatory camerawork.
Don’t Deliver Us from Evil: Two teenage girls in rural France, fed up with the humdrum of their lives, give into the temptations of the dark side by way of the writings of Charles Baudelaire and the Comte de Lautrémont, and are ultimately and irrevocably plunged head first into a life of crime and an unwavering devotion to evil. With such a plot, it would be easy for this film to be little more than typical exploitation fare, however director Joel Séria gives the viewer something much more poetically sinister, propelled by strong performances from the lead actresses and capped off by an unforgettably shocking final scene.
Five Dolls for an August Moon: I’m a devotee of the giallo genre, and although a well-developed plot is often what makes the best of these films great, sometimes storyline simply takes a backseat to pure eye candy. Mario Bava’s take on Ten Little Indians utterly abandons logic in favor of a pop art extravaganza dripping with candy-hued tones (even the blood is peppermint red). Featuring giallo queen Edwige Fenech at her most beautiful, the “dolls” are resplendent in retro-fabulous costumes that parade on the screen like a late ‘60s fashion show. If you’re feeling puzzled by the ponderous and often incomprehensible dialogue, most DVD releases treat you to a soundtrack-only option, which is one of composer Piero Umiliani’s grooviest.
Daughters of Darkness: Who wouldn’t give into the ravishes of vampires who looked like Marlene Dietrich and Louise Brooks? Renowned actress Delphine Seyrig, with the help of her young companion, seduce a newlywed couple in an abandoned grand seaside hotel in Belgium. Seyrig’s elaborate and breathtaking costumes took up a large chunk of the film’s budget, and it shows. Her hypnotic beauty and lines delivered in a voice that manages to be both breathy and husky at the same time are reason enough to see this 1971 treasure, but there’s even more to be enjoyed, such as the desolate beach locations, and the deserted opulence of the hotel itself.
Nightmares Come at Night: Les Cauchemars naissent la nuit, one of dizzyingly prolific director Jess Franco’s most personal and obscure projects, has a title that is not as elegantly rendered in English, but in any language, the title reveals little of the film’s secrets. Thought to be lost for many years until it was released on DVD around a decade ago, Nightmares contains many elements and themes central to Franco’s filmography: mind control, madness, bizarre night club acts, remote locales, and perhaps most importantly, borderlines between dreams and reality. A difficult film to describe, but truly worthy of watching in an attempt to unravel its mysteries.
Fascination: French director Jean Rollin is often mentioned in the same breath as Spaniard Jess Franco, but the two directors’ works are as different from each other as they are intimately aligned with each director’s singular vision. Rollin, famed for his repeated use of vampires, took an unusual diversion on the theme in 1979. Rather than the traditional fanged undead, Fascination centers around two women (another construct frequently employed by the director) holed up in a chateau who are initiates of an all-female blood-drinking cult, where they are about to turn the tables on a violent gang of criminals who invade their terrain. The Belle Epoque via the ‘70s aesthetic is another huge plus.
Possession: Made infamous by appearing on the banned British “video nasty” list in the 1980s, this film by late Polish art house director Andzrej Zulawski transcends the oversimplification of mere “horror movie” into something sublime and inexplicable. The plot centers around the violent dissolution of a marriage, and the crystallization of the resulting outpour of emotion into a truly horrific physical entity. Possession is simply unlike anything else, and defies description (and often, comprehension). Isabelle Adjani was awarded Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival in 1981 for her gut-wrenchingly unhinged performance.
Camille 2000: Radley Metzger specialized in making the sublime ridiculously sublime through his softcore (and later, hardcore) adaptations of literary classics. This film takes the 19th century novel La Dame aux Camélias (which has been adapted numerous times into theatrical, opera, and prior film versions) and transplants it into swinging ‘60s Rome. Metzger excelled in creating lavish masterpieces out of what could easily have been done on the cheap, and true to form, every shot is lovingly framed with exquisite cinematography. Even the sex scenes are filmed with a sophistication rarely seen in “euro-cult” movies of this era. A rich orchestral score, an outrageous dungeon party scene, ultra-mod furnishings (oh, to have a clear inflatable couch!), and a dizzying array of costumes, all add to the icing on this decadent confection.
Thank you, Jessica! Do you have a weird or strange interest or passion or obsession that you would like to share with the readers of Unquiet Things? Are you interested in writing up a guest post about it? Please let me know! I will pay you with a knitted good for your time!
I spent some much-needed quality times with my sisters over the Thanksgiving holiday. We sat in companionable silence, ignoring each other in favor of our various quiet pursuits while eating mass quantities of junk food–and it was utterly glorious.
I snapped a photo of my baby sister’s afternoon pastime (forgive me, she’s in her late 30s now, but you know how it is–the youngest is always the baby. I’m the oldest, if you didn’t know!) She was earnestly carving out time in her planner for this, that, or the other thing, and while she was doing so, I snapped a photo and shared it to Instagram. It garnered such an interesting response! Some folks were much like me, in that we can’t be bothered with planners, but still find the concept and execution fascinating. Some people thought it was quite a work of art! And others were keenly interested in learning more, for they too, yearn to make sense of their schedules and set things to order.
She and I decided that it might be fun for her to put together a little guest blog for the New Year, when everyone is trying to pin down their plans and get organized for 2018. See below for her journey from a sad, struggling soul who felt like life was something that happened to her, to a woman with purpose …and plans! She discusses regaining a feeling of control and a sense of empowerment through the use and implementation of her planner (and all of the little gadgets and doohickeys that make planners so much fun! Or so I hear. Still not a convert tbh.) And additionally, we have a bit of a Q&A, wherein I encourage her to spill the beans on all of the incidentals and details and accompanying planner fripperies.
The late May sun was just starting to set in the west; another day in the deserts of Southern California was drawing to a close, exhausted by its own unending heat. The pinkish-gold glow of the sky made the brownish lumps of the San Bernardino Mountains (piles of god-shit, as I sometimes sourly observed) against that sky curdle and hulk in surly, resentful, passive existence.
At that moment, though, I could scarcely register the brilliant sunset or the hulking mountains; my eyes kept blurring with tears.
I was driving my colleague, Dustin, home from a work party. He kept glancing over at me in vague dismay–this snivelling, exhausted, melancholic woman in the driver’s seat was a hollow echo of the brash, boisterous colleague with whom he had become familiar. He knew I was experiencing a bout of depression, but he didn’t know the causes–such as my own failure to execute basic acts of self-care (LIKE TAKING MY ANTIDEPRESSANTS), the fact that, despite my knowledge of my husband’s repeated infidelities, I had just committed with him to a 30-year-mortgage on a house in a place that I hated more with every passing minute. I would grow old in that house, with that man, and life–if I could call this existence “life”– was simply happening to me, with neither my consent nor my dissent, nor any effort on my part to steer things. I was good and trapped–so I thought.
Like any man who has no profound emotional attachment to a person, Dustin simply wanted me to stop crying. He tried to cheer me up. “Do you have something nice to look forward to? You should make some plans. Everyone needs something to look forward to.”
I tried to pull myself together. I stopped snivelling (on the outside, at least), and carried on with my evening, but I had heard Dustin’s words, and I didn’t forget them in a hurry. Or ever.
Not long after that, I started to plan.
My immersion into “the planning community” has been very gradual. In 2012, 2013, my forays into “the planner life” consisted mainly of weekly lists and goals, broken down into categories. But I was lacking a grasp of the big picture (who am I kidding? I still am), and I knew it wasn’t enough. I flitted about from one planner to another, not ever quite finding the right fit for me (I know now that “the right fit” has a name: “Planner Peace.” Go on, roll your eyes. I’ll wait.) But in early 2014, my Middle Sister directed me to The Life-Changing Magic of Erin Condren, and by extension, “The Planning Community.” What can I say about Erin Condren Life Planners? They aren’t everyone’s cuppa, but they are mine. They aren’t hideously expensive, but they aren’t cheap, either. These customizable planners have helped me organize my life (I currently juggle three jobs and try to have an active social life), direct my intentions, energies, and projects, and generally just help me stay on top of things. I like being busy and productive, I like setting goals, I like checking things off my lists, and if you think that I am the type of person that would schedule sex in my planner, well…I’m here to tell you, if I actually ever bothered to have sex, I absolutely would.)
Since using Erin Condren, I’ve noticed more and more that life is no longer something that happens to me. More and more, day by day, I happen to life. I’m not saying that joining “the planning community” got me to divorce my husband, find a new job (or 3) , move across country, and build a whole new existence–but I AM saying that these accomplishments of mine were a hell of a lot more easily achieved through maintaining a planner and a planned life.
Recently, I traveled down to Florida for my annual Thanksgiving jollifications with my sisters and their partners. From Orlando with Middle Sister to Daytona with Eldest I traveled, and it wasn’t until I was getting settled into the captain’s bed in Eldest’s office that I realized I had left my planner behind in Orlando.
Not long after, Eldest’s partner observed, not without amusement, “Your sister’s been without her planner for half an hour, and she’s a bit of a mess.” I had to chuckle; it was true. As soon as I realized I was without my planner, I promptly began making a to-do list for the next day on a piece of scratch paper. It wasn’t my planner, but it would have to do.
“It’s the ritual, I think, that you need as much as anything,” Eldest observed. And she’s right! On Sundays I light some candles, play some music, drink some wine, and plan my week ahead. In the mornings, I settle down with some coffee and contemplate what needs to be done in the hours ahead. It’s a ritual, a routine that helps me feel like I have agency in my own life. The sense of control is fictional, of course, but the planner in my hands, the intentions, the goals are very real, indeed. The Black Dogs of my depression and my anxiety–not discussed here, but no less potent for that–are longtime companions of mine, and I’ve found some ways to manage their less-than-cherished company.
Some folks laugh at me, I think, for trying to plan and stay on top of things, but I know now: planning is my way for me to perform self-care when I am anxious. It’s my way channel my energy and to try to give my struggling, sometimes sad life some intention and purpose. I invite you to find a way to incorporate planning into your life to achieve your own kind of comfort and care.
You mention Erin Condren planners–what makes them so great?
Well–and bear in mind, everyone is different in what they like and need in a planner–for me it’s that the EC planners have a certain amount of regimenting, and a certain amount of customization. (And space for lists–every week, every month, and at the back of the planner.) Each year, the designs change in response to what people ask for, and each year, they just keep getting better!. When I first started using EC planners, they were only vertical layouts, non-time-slotted, with chunks for morning-noon-and-night, Now you can get horizontal or vertical layouts, time-chunked or non-time-chunked, and you can decide how your days and priorities and projects are broken down and planned out. Furthermore, there is plenty of space and ways for folks to get all artsy-fartsy and shit.
Plan out you typical day for me!
Okay, so, I use the Erin Condren vertical layout planner, which is divided into three sections. I use the top section for my scheduled stuff, the middle section for my to-do list, and the bottom section for self-care/adulting stuff. So, here’s my Monday:
📖 7:30 AM Labwork at Clinic
📖 8:30-5 PM Work
📖 5-6:15 Run to campus, grab dinner
📖 6:30 Movie with Joelle
📖 8:30 Go home, do chores, putter, etc.
📖 Pick up library books
📖 Renew professional membership
📖 Fold laundry
📖 15 minute clean
📖 Work on packing
📖 Text my friend Jo
📖 Take pills
📖 Hail hydrate
📖 Continue Dryuary Project
📖 Cuddle Cats (For the record: I am in the middle of moving, so pretty much all of my energies are focused on that, and not so much with anything beyond the very basics of self-care. Long-term goal: Get better about that.)
How do you differentiate or prioritize different kinds of plans? Need to do vs. want to do?
For me, to a greater or lesser extent, everything is a NEED to do! But I tend to categorize my plans and to-do lists and action items and routines: Work, Health, Home, Social Obligations, Correspondence, To Buy, To Read, General To-Do Errands, Project Steps, and then under each category, try to list stuff in order of descending importance.
What are some of the other planners currentpopular in the “planning community?” What are some “planner trends” right now?”
📖 BuJo (Bullet Journaling) was HUGE a year ago. (I tried BuJo, but it was too time-consuming.) This year, it’s Travelers Notebooks. Both of these are more customizable than your manufactured planners.
📖 Other planners that seem to have quite a devoted following are Passion Planners, Plum Paper Planners, and Kikki K Planners
📖 PenGems, I’m told, are a thing, although I suspect that they could be more a flash in the pan. 📖 The planning world, much like the makeup world and the crafting world, is one that responds to the free market, as far as I am concerned. If there’s an interest in it, then by god, there are products to fulfill your interest!
📖 Planner Conventions
I know there’s some facebook pages (and probably LJ communities and reddit groups, etc.) dedicated to “the planner life”, what can you tell me about them and the communities built around them? How do you find them helpful? 📖 Again, it’s going to depend on what you need. Do you need inspiration for ways to plan out your ECLP (Vertical)? Do you need to be reassured that you are not the only one with 7+ planners? (You’re not.) Are you just going through some shit and need to reach out to someone? There are many, many different planner communities out there, but I would suggest for a general, and gentle, introduction, Planners with Manners would be a good starting point, and they can direct you to other, more specific groups. 📖 BohoBerry, a really fantastic lady who has a website/blog about creative goal setting and bullet journaling, has a tribe, which includes a facebook group; I’m actually really excited to look into this more. She also encourages a lot of journaling and self-reflection.
📖 Lisa Marie Landreth, of Paper and Glam, designs her own planners and stickers, and runs a bit of a planning community and book club. She might be a bit feminine and conventional for many folks’ tastes, but I find her to be very earnest and sweet, and her “glam family” seems to grow every month.
📖 “MAMBI” (Acronym for the brand name Me and My Big Ideas) produce “Happy Planners”, which I actually use as a bit of a scrapbook (there seems to be quite an intersection between the planning and papercrafting communities), and the Facebook Group Mambi The Happy Planner Divas focuses on that particular brand. And of course there’s always the We Love EC Facebook Group for the Erin Condren fans out there!
I’ve peeked through your planner and have seen all kinds of wacky decorations–what’s that all about?
STICKERS, dude. It’s all about the stickers. There are so many different stickers that will help you theme and customize your planner, day, week, month, Gallifreyan regeneration cycles, whatevs.
Do you have any planner recommendations for readers of Unquiet Things? I think you know our aesthetic. I think you referred to it once as “dead people stuff.”
Cor blimey, that’s a tough one. Because I feel guilty about type-casting folks. I mean, here I am using those cutsie-pootsie stickers from Switzerland, but then I am listening to Dropkick Murphys and contemplating the feasibility of open relationships as I plan my month. So, folks can be a bit…eclectic in their tastes? But then again, I am a liberal librarian who rejected California for Indiana and says “dude” and I am also burning a Bath and Body Works candle and drinking some Starbucks coffee as I plan, so perhaps some tastes will out and folks are hard to pin down, so hey hey y’all, let’s make some assumptions…
ANYWAY. Customizing planners is one of the big things in “the planning community”, so I would say that Etsy shops that supply stickers, covers, and charms according to the aesthetics that I am PRESUMING y’all have, would be something I would recommend. Naked Eye Studio on Etsy unfortunately only has a few items up for sale, but some of their stuff would be PERF.
As I am currently traveling, one of my wonderful sisters has been kind enough to write a thoughtful guest post for Unquiet Things. Read more about this brave, sweet, sensitive soul over at Under The Shadow Of The Mountain.
“You’ve haunted me all my life
You’re always out of reach when I’m in pursuit
Long winded then suddenly mute
And there’s a flaw in my heart’s design
For I keep trying to make you mine…”
-Death Cab for Cutie
“Where do you come from?”
It’s a common enough question, and simple enough, too. So why don’t I have a simple answer? “I live in California,” I tell people. “But I was born in Ohio, and I grew up in Florida. But I’m FROM Indiana.” Why do I tell people that, when I only lived in Indiana for two years; when really, it’s my mother and her father and his father and so on, back to 1820, who are from there? How can I be from there?
I’m from there because, quite simply, Indiana has haunted me since I was a child. It haunted me each time I asked my grandparents to tell me about the “olden days” growing up on the farm in the Depression. It haunted me when I looked out at the humidity-choked Florida summers and wondered what it was like to experience seasons. It haunted me when I gazed up at at the popcorn ceiling in our 3 bedroom-2-bath Florida ranch-house, and imagined what it would be like to live in an old farmhouse or bungalow. It haunted me as I told people we came from “Good Midwestern farmer stock.” It haunted me and it never quit, until, when I was 24, I made the decision to move to Indiana for grad school and to stop wondering, dammit, and start living. And of course, I fell in love.
What wasn’t to love? I was besotted with a Hoosier boy, who was agreeably besotted back. I was enchanted by the silent, eerie glow of fireflies on summer nights. I got excited by cornfields, for god’s sake. I dragged Hoosier Boy around to just gawk at old houses. The often-dilapidated barns–hundreds, maybe even thousands of them–across the state never failed to impress me, the way they endured neglect for decades and still stood, quietly dignified. The unreal, vivid green of springtime dazzled me, even as the thunderclouds from potentially deadly spring storms roiled overhead and the tornado sirens wailed their weird warble across the countryside. The absurd county fairs, notorious for deep-fried anything, bemused and beguiled me in equal portions. Our family history began to intrigue me, especially when I found out that my great-great grandparents were buried one county over. I eventually made the cheesy remark to Hoosier Boy that I was “exploring the land of my past with the man of my future.”
But of course, love is complicated. And there has always been enough of the academe-trained liberal in me to know that there were parts of Indiana that would never, will never, sit well with me. The work ethic and the courtesy of Middle Americans are no myth, but neither is their stoic reserve–and for an in-your-face, say-everything kinda gal like me, I never felt like I fit in. There are strong conservative elements (I’ll avoid other, more judge-y terms) in Indiana that have definitely presented themselves on an embarrassingly national stage recently, that made and make me feel uncomfortable at best and ashamed at worst.
But I never stopped loving Indiana.
Not even when I had to leave to nurture my career and nurse a broken heart. That was almost ten years ago now, and believe it or not, my heart is still broken. Or perhaps it just yearns for what it can’t have–a settled, anonymous kind of life, in Middle America, in an Indianapolis suburb.
The late and great David Foster Wallace once said, Every love story is a ghost story. And in its most basic, broken-down form, this is truth. When you love someone, you give them the power to haunt you, should you ever lose them. And if the people we love can haunt us, can linger and haunt places, I think it stands to reason that places can haunt people, too. Indiana certainly haunts me.