Taking inspiration from the Needful Things series that we shared on a quarterly or semi-annual basis over at Haute Macabre….since things are slowing down over there, I thought I would give the installment a new home over at Unquiet Things. In that vein, here are some needful things in the form of spring favorites! ! From mundane to marvelous, below I am sharing all the stuff I love lately. Alternately (or, both, if you wish, I have also shared a version of this over on youtube!
Shower caddy shelves. My shower toiletries were just sitting on the edge of the tub, the bottoms coated with dust that becomes that disgusting wet glunk. It’s unsightly and gross and I am a million times happier after discovering that I could just put them on a shelf. These are just the stick-on-the-wall kind, and I was able to figure it out for myself, so it must have been pretty easy. Also this little tiered countertop organizer, which doesn’t exactly fit on my sink quite the way I had envisioned it, I mean god forbid I ever measure anything, but it definitely helps organize my clutter.
Mate The Label boxy tee. Ok, so these tee shirts overpriced but really nice, and they’re organic and sustainable and all that. There’s something about these shirts I really love, but it’s not the price, which is sort of ridiculous. I think it’s actually the necklines, which are raw and uneven and that might drive some people nuts, but my big head stretches out necklines anyway, so it’s like these guys have already done the work for me.
Stitch Fix floral tops I can’t count how many times I said I was done with Stitch Fix’s subscription boxes and for a while there, I really was, I swear! But this past year they switched their business model up a bit and instead of just offering you a box where a stranger picks some things out for you, they have started curating a little shop of outfits for you that changes throughout the day. Nine times out of ten it’s nothing I want but I’m afraid I’ve become a little bit addicted to peeking in to see if they’ve got the *perfect* floral top for me. Now I am not sure what this perfect,top even looks like, but I will know it when I see it, and as I’m a bit obsessed with florals in general, I’ve picked a few “not quite perfect but I like it anyway” pieces along the way.
Bookkeepers butter hand and cuticle salve from Paintbox Soapworks Packed with nourishing shea butter & a panoply of skin-pampering oils, this little jar is a lovely little treat for your grubby little mitts, and I love the smell of the herbal floral lavender natural oils, it makes me feel like I am getting a manicure and hand treatment from a gentle hobbit in the Shire.
Two fragrances that I have been wearing frequently this spring are both from indie perfumers: Antoinette, a zingy candied floral from Seance Perfume, and The Queen of May a limited edition scent from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and a riotous jumble of wildflower blossoms with a dusty heart of vanilla musk.
Ever since the big chop earlier this year, now that I can finally see my ears, I have reverted back to my childhood love of massive earrings,I found a few inexpensive pairs of silver hoops on Etsy that have been in heavy rotation lately. I love the details and shapes of these two in particular. They’re not too crazy, but I think they’re still pretty and unique. 1st pair of silver earrings and second pair of silver earrings. Also Sacred Hearts from Rosita Bonita, Amparo Rosary from Vanessa Mooney, as well as earrings from Arcana Obscura, Under the Pyramids, and Bloodmilk.
I always keep a notebook and a pen nearby when I’m engrossed in a book. Whether it’s to jot down an unfamiliar word or turn of phrase, to capture a sentiment that particularly ensnared my heart or set my imagination alight, or make notes on this, that or the other interesting tidbit or topic for further research, I have found my book notes absolutely essential to deepening my experience of and engagement a story while I’m reading it. Equally as important, I revisit the thoughts and words I’ve recorded in this little grimoire of poetics for inspiration in my own writing when I am working on various projects. The notebook I am currently using is about 3/4 full, so inspired by an Instagram friend, I found another one that I’ll keep waiting in the wings until I need it.
This Hilma af Klint phone case to match the cover of my book, created by virtuoso of big glitter energy, Sparkledome Studio, is perhaps the most frivolous purchase I have ever made, and I don’t care. I LOVE IT.
Conversely, this little power strip/cube/whatever is not glamorous. I have devices scattered all over the house in search of unused outlets to charge them, and it’s never occurred to me to get a little multi-plugger-inner thing. It’s not very exciting, so there’s not much to say about it, but it’s nice to have the stuff I frequently use throughout the day plugged in and conveniently charging next to me, as opposed, to say, next to the toilet in the bathroom at the other end of the house.
I am always looking for somewhere to stash my knitting when I’m not working on it (otherwise it’s just strewn haphazardly across my desk) and this project bag from my friend Erica’s shop is just the perfect size and shape for just about everything I am working on. The vintage floral fabric makes my heart sing every time I catch a glimpse of it.
Milk Bread As long as I’ve been an adult with a kitchen to call my own I have been trying to bake bread and for a long time, they were mostly sad loaves of failure. I think I’ve really only begun to see success in the past 5 years or so and funny enough, the best loaf of bread I have ever made was whipped into creation last week…using a foolproof recipe that probably would have guaranteed me perfection a long, long time ago. This would be the plush, pillowy Japanese Milk bread. This is undoubtedly the exact opposite of all of the sourdough I have been making lately in that I feel sourdough is a real tough-love sort, bare bones of project, it only gets so much to work with and build on. Whereas milk bread, you got your full-fat milk, the addition a significant amount of sugar and a whole bunch of butter, and how is that even going to go wrong? The answer is that it doesn’t. If you’ve had bread problems, make this recipe and you’ll feel like a genius.
Joshua Weissman’s Tikka Masala is probably the most delicious recipe for this dish that I have ever tried, but his YouTube videos are kind of cringey and obnoxious and hard to watch. Luckily you can find the recipe on his blog, as well.
Daily Walks to look at “nature”; Every day, around 3 o’clock or so, Yvan and I take a walk outside and around the house to peek in on the growing and movings of the seedlings and sprouts and flowers and bees and all of the other daily dramas that take place in our backyard. We don’t live on an estate or anything (ha!) just a small house in the suburbs, but we’re hunched in front of our computers all day and it’s so nice to take a moment, stretch our limbs, get some fresh air, and look at bugs and lizards.
Poetic Remedies for Troubled Times: from Ask Baba Yaga I’ve been reading and rereading both books of enchanting advice from Russian American poet Taisia Kitaiskaia, who writes from the perspective of Russia’s most infamous witch, Baba Yaga. My dear friend Sonya, also a Russian poet, has written on how this folkloric entity is both benevolent and dangerous, and ultimately more unpredictable than evil–and that’s exactly how these wildly imaginative missives read. Beautifully and compellingly unpredictable. These books would make the most delicious gifts for your most daydreamy, whimsical friends.
Gaylords of Darkness has all the trappings of something I might hate if I am being honest. My least favorite kind of podcast or any interaction, really, is when two friends’ conversation devolves into tangents and inside jokes and it’s awkward and makes me feel like a third wheel. Stacy and Anthony wander all over the place and ramble about all kinds of silliness and I am fairly certain they think they are quite amusing, and you know what? THEY ARE. It must be that they are just on the right sort of weird wavelength as I am, or that their fanciful ridiculousness and whimsy aligns in all the right ways with mine because I love them, and existence in this world truly makes it a better and a million times more interesting place. Listening to them chat about horror movies, their thoughts and insights and experiences with them, reminds me of listening in on the *coolest* conversation at a party and wishing, and hoping against all hope that they were also talking with you. With every single episode I come away with a fresh take on horror and having peed myself a little from laughing so hard.
The Queen of Black Magic is an Indonesian horror film I had heard about, promptly forgot about, and then my interest was rekindled when I heard the glowing things that the aforementioned Anthony and Stacy had to say about it. A loose remake of a 1981 film sees three estranged orphan friends meeting up several decades after a traumatic event to say goodbye to the head of the orphanage, who is dying. Increasingly weird and violent things begin to happen once they arrive with their families in tow, and uncertain of the source, they soon discover the secret from their past is much more terrible and tragic than they realized. It is a pretty bonkers film in terms of both story, and uh, gory. And like an director Joko Anwar’s previous offerings, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Li Ziziqi’s YouTube channel is another fleeting nugget that someone had mentioned to me a year or so ago and which I then tucked away to look into later…and of course, never did. I saw the Chinese video blogger referenced again somewhere in my twitter feed last week and decided to have a peek at whatever they are all about, and I was utterly entranced. Known for her food and handicraft preparation, and depicting idyllic interludes of her life in her hometown of rural Pingwu, Mianyang, her storybook videos emphasize the stunningly beautiful countryside and many compelling ancient traditions. There’s a highly elaborate drama to the skills and craftsmanship she shares in her incredible creations, whether it’s salted egg yolks from ducks she raised by hand, the furniture she creates from stalks of bamboo, or the petals she cuts from a single piece of silk and colors one by one with vivid botanical dyes to create a charming peach blossom headdress and matching combs. Combine these creations with the pastoral scenes of the seasonal landscape and the lovely, lilting tranquility of the soundtrack, it conjures a wistfulness for a gem of life you’ve never experienced but most certainly want to –somehow– get back to. And I can’t get enough of it.
Oh, July. Dealer of fermenting heat fevers and the slow insensibility of sweat-death. Purveyor of seasonal ennui and summer malaise. July, my old nemesis. I see you have returned again.
I could do now what I have always done; ignore its presence and live in resentful unease until early autumn, when hurricane season begins in earnest. Cracked plastic blinds drawn weakly against the ruthless light of the sun, central AC cranked low and fans straining at their highest speeds to combat the boiling temperatures and ponderous humidity. Pretend it’s not there at all, none of it; if I don’t see July and all of its overheated, inflamed offerings, well then, perhaps July, in turn, does not see me.
I am not so certain that this is a strategy that’s been working very well for me. Though in the moment it might feel nice to root myself in the darkness like a pale, weak mushroom with a fondness for diet coke, crunchy snacks, and horror novels…after several weeks of this, I begin to feel unbalanced and generally unwell. And so, I have been considering the thought of meeting my brutal summer nemesis head-on…and deliberating on what such encounters might look like for me.
Into my daily-doings I am trying to incorporate –without hemming or hawing or overthinking them– the implementation of those things that…while I might not love doing them…they are the things that benefit me and my overall wellness in the long term. Some people talk about that concept as being the ultimate form of self-care, but if you’re not into discussions of self-care, I suppose you could just look at it as being the responsible adult in your relationship with yourself and doing what’s best for yourself even when you just don’t wanna.
Exercising when I’d rather be cozy on the sofa reading, eating something nutritious when I’d rather be eating greasy junk, waking up early and having time to start the day on my own terms instead of sleeping in and rushing to be at my desk on time, making that appointment to get my mams grammed or my parts poked at, instead of putting it off because I feel fine and I really hate making phone calls. Doing the thing I am dreading RIGHT NOW and getting it out of the way so I can get on with my life, instead of ignoring it and letting the dread and doom build to unsustainable levels. I am not perfect and I don’t always get it right (and honestly sometimes four margaritas is a perfect amount, and I don’t care what future Sarah has to say about it) but this is one of the biggest changes I have been trying to make for myself.
So this year when summer-cellar-potato-sprout-me started to feel sickly and strangely heartsick in July, I met the month, halfway, under the sun and in the shade of the dusty, gingery spice of the riotous crepe myrtle blossoms and had a good think about it. While I hate being sticky and overheated and I really dislike the blinding glare of the bright summer sun in my eyes…what I do love is the lovely fresh air and moving myself through it. It makes me sad that I can’t throw the windows open and let the breeze in at this time of year, and I can’t take my evening walks around my neighborhood without coming back to my house tomato-faced and soaked through with my own sweat and stink. So the windows remain closed to the elements and I cease moving much at all. But I need those breezes and I need those walks to feel good. To feel like myself!
One thing I must constantly remind myself of is that I don’t need to suffer, needlessly. I do not have to be the conductor in my own choir of personal misery. I have written about this before, how discomfort and suffering are somehow wrapped up for me in my lifelong sense that I was somehow invisible. But I am here in this world, and a real person stares back at me every day from the mirror. And what I am saying here, is, that as a flesh and blood human going outside to parlay with the sun…I maybe need to stop being so stubborn and wear something appropriate instead of a suffocating swath of head-to-toe opaque material in the darkest shades of black.
So …as of last weekend, I began wearing shorts for the first time in over two decades. The pair pictured above was sent to me in a Stitch Fix box five years ago and I’m not sure why I kept them because they didn’t fit very well and I knew I wasn’t going to wear them. I stuffed them into the furthest recesses of that one dresser drawer that I never rummage through, or really, even ever open at all, and forgot about them for several years.
It would be an extreme disservice to myself to say that these shorts now “miraculously” fit. Miracles and mystery have nothing to do with it. For a year and a half now I have been working quite hard at moving more, and really examining why I eat, what I eat, and how I eat, and though it is a slow process (and I wouldn’t have it any other way) my clothes are starting to fit better, and I am just feeling better in general. At any rate, these shorts are the Kut from the Kloth brand, and I know it is a stupid name, but I really do love them. I wore them outside to water our plants earlier this week, and I felt a breeze on my legs for the first time in a very long time. This is going to sound cheesy and melodramatic but that movement of air on a scrap of skin that usually never sees the light of day felt like an epiphany and I nearly wept.
Ever since the spiritualists in Cassadaga nudged me* this past January about exploring my interest in herbalism, I’ve been trying my hand at growing and gardening various things. I’m not one to do a lot of reading on a subject before I embark on things such as this; I know if I do, I will quickly become overwhelmed and then probably become too intimidated to even begin. Instead, I start with something small and try to learn as I go, reading and finding answers when I encounter a question, or when something doesn’t seem to be working.
Now, I feel compelled to share that this is not the first time I’ve ever had a little garden. But in the past whenever I grew frustrated, I usually just gave up and let things die. I didn’t really examine what I had done wrong, I didn’t try different techniques in attempting to right the issues, and I didn’t feel much of an attachment to what I was doing. I think this may be because I was not learning anything, and perhaps more importantly, I did not have any encouragement. I’m currently living with someone who is as delighted as I am by green and growth and gardening, and I am almost certain that having a partner in crime for such things increases the enjoyment as well as the possibility for success. Especially if that partner is more patient and persistent than you when it comes to finding solutions for garden problems. This is not to say that you need another person for success and enjoyment of your endeavors! You are quite capable, and quite enough. And I am too, I am sure. I just know that someone else to geek out with over your sprouting seedlings sure doesn’t hurt, either.
And so, I wore something comfortable and cool and I walked outside to do something I enjoy. It seems so simple when I say it like that, doesn’t it? The July sun doesn’t seem so vexing and villainous when I am enthralled, watching the traffic jam of sleepy-drunk bees in my sunflowers, or when I am held spellbound by the sweet scent of lavender on my fingertips. The sweat dripping into my eyes isn’t such an intensely personal affront when I am pruning mint and oregano to make something interesting with, or digging little holes to drop delicate basils cutting into, to hopefully take root and thrive. For a moment or two, I almost feel a sense of camaraderie with that brilliant blazing day-star, burning and boiling its path across the July sky. I guess in spending time now working in concert with something I’ve spent so long bitterly avoiding, I am learning that I, too, can grow.
Fear not! All of this growth is not just confined to the back patio explorations and schmaltzy personal development! Our front porch is turning into a jungle and there are green things vining and growing (and probably wilting and rotting) on all of the indoor shelves, as well!
Of course, despite this seeming summer truce, I could never neglect the one space that has always been there for me, no matter what the weather out of doors or inside my heart is doing. Kitchen adventures are still happening!
I harvested and dried some mint, basil, oregano, for cooking purposes; as well as some thyme, which I added to a batch of creole seasoning; I picked some chive blossoms and made an infused vinegar; I pickled some watermelon rind last weekend (it’s kinda underwhelming) and I began a sourdough starter, which if I am being honest, smells a little disgusting. Like a belly button infection. And before you ask me how I know what that smells like, I will point you to the 17-year-old Sarah with the ill-advised bellybutton ring.
I made Joshua Weissman’s sandwich bread (good); the buffalo tofu from Sarah’s Vegan Kitchen (excellent) and several recipes from the Southern Vegan cookbook, to mixed results. Typically everything I make by this cook (it’s the person who runs the Rabbit & Wolves blog!) is excellent, but the jury is still out on the Reuben sandwich and the kale carbonara pasta. They weren’t…bad? But they weren’t great? However, from this same book I also made the chili smashed potato salad and both myself and the person I fed it to while we watched the LotR trilogy for the eleventy-fifth time thought it was perhaps the finest potato salad we had ever eaten. I have no doubt that Samwise Gamgee would agree.
I do have to be real about my newfound positive relationship with the July sun. It’s still dreadfully hot. I do have to escape indoors from time to time! And strangely enough, it’s not so hot that I don’t want a pile of scratchy wool yarn on my lap?
A few weeks ago I was nearly this far in my progress on the Carlina sweater when I decided that I’d thread some yarn through the live stitches, take the work off the needles, and try it on. It was…enormous. I ripped it all back to just below the motifs, jettisoning weeks worth of work in the process, switched to smaller needles, incorporated matching decreases every few rows to hopefully reign in the girth as I worked my way down again, and just this evening I bound off the body and tried it on.
It is…still enormous. Are there lessons to be learned here? Yes? Will I learn them? Most assuredly not. I would not swatch again and I will continue to never swatch!
For YEARS now, I have been meaning to dive into the Artist’s Way. I have begun the morning pages and the various tasks, but I’ll admit, I am not super consistent. Anyone else want to do this with me? We can check in on each other and gently try to hold each accountable? Let me know in the comments!
I am re-visiting Toni Morrison’s Beloved, because it’s been since my junior year of high school that I read it, and that was…a long time ago. As a teenager wrapped up in her own head and her own problems, I didn’t have the attention to give it that it deserved, and even if those mental spaces were functioning at 100%, I am not sure how much of it I would have really understood anyway. I also intend to dig into Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson because I just watched the deliciously savage Shirley a few weeks ago, and I believe it was supposed to have been set during the time she was writing this novel. Also this vintage paperback indicates it was at one point $1.50 and wow I think maybe I overpaid by a lot.
I finally got around to watching the incredibly interesting and remarkably insightful Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror; I’d heard it mentioned over and over in the last year or two by folx whose tastes and thoughts I really trust, and after watching it, my only regret is that I took so long to do so.One of the films mentioned immediately caught my interest– Eve’s Bayou, a southern gothic family drama with a plot incorporating magic and memory, and a moody atmosphere and aesthetic that could have been coaxed from a poem or a dream. To recommend it as a creepier Steel Magnolias with a Flowers In The Attic Vibe isn’t really fair, because at its core, it is a beautiful portrait of black identity and female awakening.
Two other things I recently watched and also recommend, but for very different reasons, are two series that are on Netflix right now. Both are short, with between 6-10 episodes, but that is where the similarities end. One is The Babysitter’s Club, and the other is Ju-on: Origins.
When I was 15 or 16 years old, I had for years been on a steady diet of Stephen King, Anne Rice, and multiple re-reads of The Exorcist. My youngest sister and subsequently our middle sister began reading The Babysitter’s Club series, and I suppose I must have started sneaking copies from their rooms at that time as well, perhaps in an unconscious effort to feel a bit closer to them. I have very fond memories of those books! This series is such a surprise and a comforting delight. I don’t know why I say “a surprise”–I watch and love things probably intended for younger folks all the time! It stays true to the spirit of the original, embracing friendship and empowerment of young women, but it’s also updated to be more diverse and inclusive. If the ending of the She-ra remake (which I also thoroughly ador(a)ed has left a hole in your heart, you could do worse than give The Babysitters Club a watch.
And Ju-on: Origins. Wow. Not much to say about that, but if you’re feeling nostalgic for what I think of as the Golden Age of Japanese horror, then do a binge of this. Think a slightly dialed down Takashi Miike plus a bit of David Lynch? Forbes called it the worst Netflix original series, but maybe they just don’t know genius when they see it. Maybe I don’t either! So as always, take my opinion with several grains of salt, but if you watch it, let me know what you think.
I’m finding the runway fashion a little lackluster at the time being, so I thought I might round up a small collection of the “fall looks” I’ve been sharing on Instagram. You might argue that my sartorial contributions are nothing to get excited about either, but that’s just like, your opinion, man. But also you’d probably be right–they’re 95% monochromatic (or just black, if we’re telling it like it is), they are relatively shapeless and unstructured, and I am neither a model nor a photographer, so my imagery consists chiefly of one pose over and over again, reflected in a smudged mirror.
Well, so what? I’m a real person! And this is what I really wear! And I think you can get a much better sense of clothing as it really is and how it truly fits if you get a chance to see it on a random schlub, as opposed to someone who’s all made up and has great lighting and a photographer to find their best side.
Scroll on for a few of my favorite ensembles this season, and I will share with you the details on where to find everything as well. (My No Face phone case can be found at Amazon (because I know you’re going to ask!)
Back in 2012, my fella and I visited Portland, OR and had a lovely time -delicious foods were devoured, delightful cocktails were quaffed, old friends met for the first time. It was a marvelous trip and we have been talking about it ever since.
It only made sense then, to make a return visit -this time with several friends in tow! And since I have a dreadful habit of glossing over the human aspects of my adventures, let me say that I could not hope for finer traveling companions. Everyone’s personality is so different in our group – boisterous and exuberant; clever and droll; taciturn and brilliantly observant -but they all add up to the most wonderful circle of friends! And it feels strange to say that, “friends”. These gentlemen were originally comrades of my beau* but over time, as I’ve gotten to know them, I feel like they might actually be friends of mine, as well.
*(I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but I hate the term “boyfriend”, so I’ll use just about every other descriptor I can wrangle.)
We found a fantastic place to stay via Air BnB, a spacious and welcoming spot to call home base whilst exploring the city. A renovated 1920’s bungalow, it offered four bedrooms and two bathrooms, a large kitchen, and plenty of community space for boardgames and D&D and Dark Adventure Radio Theatre (we’re a nerdy group, you know). Again, we stayed in the Mississippi neighborhood and reveled in the chance to revisit some previous loves while staking out some new favorites with my fellow travelers.
If you’ve a hankering to visit the City of Roses, perhaps you will consider the following suggestions? Portland friends, commence the eye-rolling now.
At Mac! you’ll find all sorts of macaroni and cheese related shenanigans. We shared enormous plates of their Truffle Mac, Cheeseburger Mac, Artichoke & Spinach Mac, and Cordon Bleu Mac. Somehow we lived through it.
We had a few breakfasts at Sweedeedee, a small corner cafe which is an excellent place for people watching and listening to records and eating pie – if you get there early enough, before the place starts to fill up. Recommended: the egg sandwich with shredded lettuce and avocado on the most delicious thick-cut, molasses bread. Also, salted honey pie. Skip: the breakfast burrito (too much mealy, undercooked potato).
At Hale Pele, in the lurid glow of torchlight and under the baleful glare of the gods, we sacrificed our dignity with friends and fellow fire drinkers. I am fairly certain I had just about one of everything on the menu, and I will admit, near the end I am not even sure what I ordered. I have to recommend, however, the Corn ‘n’ Oil, which as the menu would suggest, is indeed a strange name for an amazing drink. If you are looking for a nosh, they have several things to munch on; my favorites were the fried taro chips and the tuna poke. I love tiki bars for their kitschy escapism and potent cocktails, and Hale Pele now sits at the top of my list.
Elsewhere in the city, I met thesetwo magical humans for art and cocktails; at Antler Gallery for the Unnatural Histories show – where I finally got to see one of Jessica Joslin’s exquisitely crafted bone and brass menagerie in person – and at Victoria Bar, where the drinks were Princess Bride inspired!
Normally I am not keen on photos that other people take of me, because I have only like, 1/8 of a good side and no one knows how to capture it properly. That’s not their fault, of course. I just don’t photograph well. I shudder to think that I might actually look like a poor photo all of the time… but I suppose that’s a possibility that I can’t rule out, no matter how much it bruises the ego. I do love this picture, however, taken at Tidbit Food and Farm food truck pod thingy whatever you call it. I don’t recall what we were discussing, but the look on my face is ridiculous and I love Minna for meeting up with us to visit, and for making me make that face. I also do not recall what was eaten, but there was rice and noodles and karaage and takoyaki and I felt like the heroine of an action packed food anime trying to stuff it all in. Afterward, Minna marched us over to Fifty Licks for boozy adult ice cream super fun times. Pictured above is the Velvet Shiso made with plum wine, Riesling, and their Coconut Lemon Saffron sorbet with is spiced with saffron, star anise, and cardamom. It was amazing as it sounds. The only thing missing from this wonderful evening was our good friend Robyne, who was nursing a cold. Hopefully we will see you in January, Robyne!
The Lan Su Chinese Garden is a beautiful spot to gaze quietly upon art, architecture, design and nature, and I was just enamored this time around by the mosaic courtyards with their poetic names – “Plum Blossom On Cracked Ice” being the best-loved by my ear and my favorite to speak aloud. I have heard that the guides sometimes suggest walking barefoot on the stones to feel the different patterns and such, and I think that sounds like a lovely idea and a pleasant exercise in mindfulness (…or something? At least it sounds like a nice massage for the feet!)
Also, if you ever wonder if I actually wear the things that I have purchased from Stitch Fix, I present to you Exhibit A: the Everly Peter dress from Fix #10. I wore it with leggings and an asymmetric black Helmut Lang jacket and it was super cute. This photo, by the way, was taken in a startlingly clean nerdy game shop bathroom.
Next up: roses! more cocktails! doughnuts All of the shopping!
It’s true, sometimes my desire to be a part of things trumps my common sense. When I first started paying attention to subscription boxes, back in the beginning of the year, I realized I was a little bit late to the party with the whole idea, but I was immediately intrigued. I loved the novelty and the surprise of it, and the idea that some stranger was picking things out just for me! However, I also realize that my tastes don’t exactly align with the average person that these boxes are marketed to, but I somehow managed to shush that voice in my head and ordered all of them anyway.
I’ve been blarging regularly about my Stitch Fix boxes, and I am all the way up to number six now, which I will post about separately. I didn’t even bother with number five, because it was sort of a dud. I did keep one cardigan though, that I really love, so I guess it wasn’t all that bad.
I’ve mentioned the netflixian clothes rental services Gwynnie Bee as well, and that’s actually something I have been having quite a bit of luck with, and have actually kept a number of dresses. I have a bit of a passion for weird prints and these two are my current favorites. I love the strange angles and geometry of the first dress (The MM2 Tangerine Prism dress), and the second dress (The City Chic Mirrored Paisley dress) looks like it houses a portal to another dimension in my nether region. And those weird pockets! I do think they could both benefit from a belt.
Rocks Box is one that I had some misgiving about because I am very particular when it comes to jewelry…but as I’ve been saying, I need some more traditional pieces to add to the rotation. Sometimes I just don’t want to be asked questions about the taxidermy eyeball earrings that I am wearing, or the baby owl skull necklace around my neck. On the whole they sent some nice things (I kept the gold Gorjana rings from each box, and that black House of Harlow arrow necklace) and they gave me some ideas for some designers that I will seek out apart from the service, but I’m kind of picky, and I just couldn’t force myself to like their inventory. I canceled the service after three boxes; the third one was a dud, and is not pictured here.
The Daily Look Elite box appeared promising at first, but they only cater up to a size 12, so if you are on the larger end of the spectrum, your choices are limited. I hate the term “edgy” with the fire of a thousand suns, but I think that if you’ve tried something like Stitch Fix and thought “oh man, this is stuff my grandma or the girl scout troop leader or low-end ladies who brunch would wear”, you would probably find Daily Look a little bit more edgy/contemporary. My first box was such a disappointment that I didn’t even bother photographing it, let alone trying it on. And my second box, well, they sent me two (!) pairs of shoes, one pair of sunglasses, one trench coat, one kimono, and one bag, and one tiny pair of earrings. None of them were all that awful, but it was just nothing I need. I did keep the bag because upon closer examination it appeared to vaguely resemble an Alexander Wang satchel I’ve been lusting after, but upon evaluation I realize that I do edgy and avant-garde and offbeat just fine on my own. I actually need more grandma clothes, to be honest. Daily Look Elite has been canceled.
The last box I ordered was the Pop Sugar Must Have box. Pop Sugar is one of those sites I never really make a point to look at, but sometimes when I am looking for reviews or roundups of certain types of cosmetics or beauty products, I end up there anyhow. Now I knew going in that this box probably wouldn’t be to my taste (especially starting in June when everything is summer! beach body! sunshine! and all of that nonsense), but once again, I silenced my better judgement and signed up anyhow.
There was nothing terrible in here, but nothing really compelling either. The new book by Judy Blume which I will give to my grandma because she is currently reading 50 Shades of Grey and I don’t want her brain to start to deteriorate, an eye shadow palette from Pacifica, a yoga headband, some sunglasses which aren’t my style at all and anyway I wear a terribly strong prescription, a gift card for $30 off a “vintage” jewelry site (which is mostly overpriced 80’s Avon stuff), and loofa buffer pre-filled with a very synthetic smelling yuzu body wash and some gummy vitamins. I am not sure why they call this a “Must Have” box. Who Must Have this stuff? I would be interested to see what they do for the autumnal season, so I might give it another try. In the meantime, I think I will squirrel some of this stuff away for gifts or surprises or something. Surprise! Have some crap that I didn’t want! Ha.
For most of these boxes I managed to find instances of “get a free month when you sign up”, otherwise I might not have tried them at all. If you poke around My Subscription Addiction you might be able to find some of those and that way if you don’t like it, well, you really haven’t wasted anything other than your time. In the meantime, here’s a code for a free month of Rocks Box: SARAHBFF951 and the url for a free month of Gwynnie Bee: https://goo.gl/LbCqJh
What are your favorite subscription boxes? Is there one that you think I should try? You know, I really wish they’d put together a Haute Goth box*, or a Ghost Chic box – that would be right up my alley!
*I know there’s already some sort of goth box, but when I checked it out, it didn’t impress me. I want one that includes art from my favorite dark artists, unusual baubles from my preferred ghouly jewelers, spooky tales from writers and poets, maybe a tarot deck or divinatory devices, an unusual piece, maybe a scarf or shawl or hat from a macabre desiger.
Wow, I think this box will probably cost about $1000. I don’t want much, do I?
This past weekend included a three-hour drive through the scariest thunderstorm to the dreamiest little hideaway. Back to the stomping grounds that were never properly ours, a dream that never quite came true for us.
Even though we desperately wanted to move away from Florida, we thought, for the longest time, well, if we *have* to be here, we’d sure love to be in this particular part of Orlando. With this little ramen place, and this little record store, and this corner coffee shop. With my best friend on this end of town and my sister and her swimming pool just ten minutes away and so and so forth. But the timing was never right. I had family responsibilities in town at that time. And then folks started moving away from Orlando, and then we had to move to another part of Florida for other obligations and responsibilities. By then, it was too late.
But we had a free weekend, and we found ourselves reminiscing about a place we never knew as well as we would have liked and for some friends we hadn’t seen in a while. So! We planned a brief Orlando jaunt close to all the places we loved best We rented a cute Airbnb. We met up with some friends for soup dumplings, we met up with other friends for board games and beers, we went out for sushi, and then the next morning we went out for coffee and stopped by our favorite nursery for some garden treats before heading back.
I guess you can’t go back, and you definitely can’t-can’t go back to somewhere you never lived in the first place. But still…it was good to see you, Orlando. For those interested in such things, I shared a “what I bring in my travel bag” over on TikTok!
Baby-me in my mid-twenties wanted to start a food blog with tons of gorgeous bread photos but it turns out I couldn’t even make a decent no-knead loaf. It wasn’t till my 40s that I learned patience with sourdoughs and the no-fail certitude of plush buttery enriched doughs that I had the confidence to revisit making just a regular old yeasted loaf of something.
This is a whole wheat oatmeal flaxseed loaf using a recipe from Minimalist Baker. It rose perfectly, it’s nice and sturdy for toasting, it’s exactly as I envisioned, and I did it! Only took me twenty years! Gonna start that food blog now; people are definitely still reading those, right?
Bad days, man. Sometimes I think I’m getting better at handling them, but then sometimes, I have no idea what I’m doing. But this day is over. And I made a pretty good mushroomy fauxganoff meal, even though I wanted to order tacos and queso. I planted serrano and melon seeds. I’m having a nice little foot bath, and I’m trying a new whiskey that a lovely friend got for us. A stupid day doesn’t have to turn into a stupid evening. I’m gonna knit some muppety stitches and do my grandma knee strengthening exercises and read something deliciously creepy and be glad that I am alive in this world to have any kind of day at all. Am I doing this right? Any of it? Will I ever know?
P.S. I am fine. Most of my bad days consist of being very agitated and working myself up to a tizzy. I’m working on the “not working myself up” part. Hee hee, but, if I am being Very Real here, I will confess that my most of my agitations are for very bratty reasons. I consider it a good day if I can work on personal projects alongside Day Job things, and on days where work-work is nuts and becomes my entire focus, I get SO CRABBY. These are super privileged, very entitled crabulations and cranks, but I can’t help it.
I WANTED TO FINISH KNITTING MY BLANKET BUT MY BOSS KEPT YAPPING: The Sarah Elizabeth Story
I’m trying to keep better track of what goes into my guts and fuels my bod and my brains. This may be very triggery and I don’t want to freak anyone out, but I’ve become fixated with and terrified of the idea that as soon as I turn 49 in two years, I’m going to wake up dead.
I remember that happened to Michelle McNamara (46) and Julie Powell (49) and maybe for different reasons, but I don’t want that to be me. And you can’t foresee or control these things, I realize that, but there are some things I can control and I at least want to know that I tried my best. So logic dictates that if I do not eat at least 20 kinds of vegetables per day, I will literally die.
This not-at-all upsetting multiple ongoing existential crises brekkie thoughts brought to you by zucchini and enoki miso soup, eggy salmon rice, and lots o’ pickles.
It broke my eyeballs and turned my joints to jelly but it was actually an easy-peasy project and I’d probably knit it again while my traitorous old body disintegrated around me. I will eventually gift you a pretty blanket with my skittering skellington hands and hopefully, you’ll be too enchanted to scream?
Or, well, at least my author copy is. The books haven’t hit the warehouse yet, so advance copies won’t be sent out for awhile, and regular old copies won’t be available until the publishing date of September 12th. But anyway…it is HERE! I know I keep saying this, but I can’t believe I even wrote one book, let alone three, and yet here they all are!
Please be sure to place your preorders! Preorders are important! And etcetera! I don’t want to do the whole song and dance about it but they’re important, they really, really are!
and don’t forget…
Pre-order your copy of The Art of Fantasy by August 1 from any retailer and be one of the first 100 readers to receive bonus goodies! Details here.
I have been doing 31 Days of Horror on an annual basis since 2016, and most of my reviews and thoughts on all of that autumnal-tinged, horror-related material ended up as posts over on Haute Macabre blog. Which, as that blog no longer exists, means that my writings are no longer there. You’ve heard me bemoan these circumstances before, and there’s really nothing to get into and no point in getting worked up about it, that’s just the nature of the internet.
Still! I hate the thought that I can’t easily access any of those writings, so I am slowly, tediously, retrieving them from archive.org and reposting them here, at Unquiet Things. Please forgive me if some of these links still direct you to archive.org pages…it took forever to go through and change them, and I may have missed some!
Anyhow, if you have a few minutes to yourself and want to do a bit of time traveling–all the way back to 2020!– grab yourself a pumpkin spiced latte and an apple cider donut or whatever your October treats of choice might be, and dive into my entire month of 31 Days of Horror from October 2020.
Kuroneko. Adapted from folklore, Kuroneko is a ghostly tale of two women’s revenge on the cruel samurai who violated and murdered them before setting their forest hut ablaze. The slain women are transformed into avenging cat-spirits after a black cat laps at the blood from their charred remains. Dramatic and austere, eerie, and elegant, this is a chillingly poetic and utterly gorgeous film.
The Witch in the Window. Undeterred by the realization that they’re most likely living with a malicious spirit, an estranged father and son continue their work on a fixer-upper farmhouse and in the process make strides toward repairing their relationship. I thought this film had a genuinely freaky moment or two, but mostly it was sweet and a bit sad. I appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into developing the dynamic between a parent trying to reconnect with a child who is growing up too fast, and I think the film’s effectiveness, for me, was rooted more in that emotional landscape than the ghost-witch-whatever was going on there.
In Fabric.What a weird fucking film. But I guess that’s Peter Strickland for you. In this strange, quasi-comedic commentary on consumerism and commodification, a swanky red murder dress on display at an eccentric department store curses and corrupts its ill-fated victims. (But it was on sale!) I suppose there are tinges of the giallo in this film, but it just…doesn’t feel like a giallo film to me? And the humor is off-putting in that oddly queasy way you feel when someone’s joke falls flat and everyone laughs a bit uneasily, and the silence afterward is unnerving and awful. In Fabric isn’t scary so much as it is disorienting and nasty and despite all of that, totally mesmerizing.
Clown in a Cornfield This book has been on my radar since it started showing up in several “hotly anticipated horror fiction for 2020!” lists back at the end of 2019. I don’t think I realized at the time it was a YA title, but honestly, there’s nothing kid-friendly about it. I mean, I’m not critiquing it for being a violent, bloody slasher-film-in-novel-format — it was actually a great deal of fun and was a retro reminder for me of some of the books I enjoyed as a pre-teen and teen (which I’m pretty sure were in no way considered YA, whoops!) A new girl trying to make the best of her situation, prankster classmates, generational tensions, and a highly implausible killer-clown situation added up to a delightful read that I sped through over the course of an afternoon. The pace and imagery really does read like a movie, so I was not surprised to learn that the film rights have already been optioned
The Final Girls. My partner does not like horror movies. He reasons that real life is horrific enough and he doesn’t need the extra stress and bummers of celluloid brutality and monstrousness. I guess I get it, and while I don’t totally disagree, I think we are just wired differently. I feel somewhat similarly but whereas he is repulsed by horror, I am fascinated by it. At any rate, we do reach some compromises; if it’s a zombie film or a horror-comedy, I can usually talk him into sharing popcorn and a scary film with me. Our compromise this year was the 2015 The Final Girls, which we’ve actually been meaning to watch since. Well. Since 2015, probably. Even with the not-so-scary films, it takes five years of convincing with this guy!
Playing with the “final girl” trope, wherein because of the privilege of some sort of moral superiority (she’s usually a virgin), the final girl is the last girl(s) or woman alive to confront the killer, and ostensibly the one left to tell the story. I don’t love making the construct of your virginity to be your saving grace; it doesn’t change your value or your identity and I’m not really going anywhere with that but I just wanted it noted, I guess. Although I bet Alex and Andrea, whom I will be mentioning below, no doubt get into that very thing at some point!
Antiquated and problematic notions of purity aside, The Final Girls was a hoot. The plot centers on a young woman whose mother, an actress in cult-classic horror B-movie Camp Bloodbath, dies in a traumatizing car crash. Three years later on the anniversary of her mother’s death, she attends a screening of the movie, and when trying to escape an accidental fire set in the theatre, she and her friends somehow become trapped within the movie itself.
The Final Girls was a silly, stupidly gory movie with a surprisingly deeper emotional core than I expecting, weighted with grief and loss and survivor’s guilt, but resilience and catharsis, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if the writer of this film experienced the death of a parent and was attempting to exorcise their sorrow and suffering through the script. You learn to recognize that pain, I think, once you’ve experienced it on some level for yourself. Anyway, I might have had some issues some of the key ideas in play in the film, but I ultimately really enjoyed it and thought it was a lot of fun.
Faculty of Horror I made an important discovery last week. A game-changer. One of those revelations that strikes you and you realize “I could have been doing it this way all along!” I learned that I can both knit a couple of fiddly repeats in a complex pattern AND listen to people talking about something! Typically I listen to instrumental music when I am knitting. Something darkly ambient and Lustmord-y or Hildegardbingen-y type monophony (which isn’t wordless I guess, but if I can’t understand the words, that amounts to the same thing.) I thought that listening to a discussion might become a distraction and screw up me and my stitches along the way.
It turns out I can do two things at once! I came to this epiphany whilst listening in to the most recent Faculty of Horror podcast, wherein hosts Alexandra West and Andrea Subissati examine the films Pyewacket and Hereditary, investigating the deepest depths of grief, despair and what we stand to lose (and gain) when we forsake our family for community.
Not only did I not drop a single stitch, I breathlessly hung on to every word of Andrea and Alex’s knowledgeable and passionate discussion of horror, through the lens of analysis and academia, along with their own individual perspective and personal reads. Before I knew it, the hour I’ve been dedicating every night to this slog of a shawl was up and I had barely aware it had passed! I will definitely be tuning into more Faculty of Horror and stay tuned in an upcoming installment of 31 Days of Horror when I dig into a more seasonally appropriate project!
Blacula I have been hearing about Blacula for what feels like my entire life, and yet somehow I had never seen it. And I guess what I mean is that while I couldn’t tell you what I’d heard about it, I was very much aware of its existence. It came across my radar again when I watched the excellent Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror just this past summer, and from the various hosts and guests insightful commentary I became increasingly aware that I must make a viewing of this film a priority.
In Blacula, Prince Mamuwalde, played with dapper dignity by Shakespearean actor and opera singer William Marshall, visits count Dracula to entreat his aid in ending the slave trade. Dracula, instead, bites Mamuwalde, cursing him to become Blacula, who is then sealed in a coffin for several lifetimes. Meanwhile, Mamuwalde’s beloved wife is imprisoned in the crypt and left to die. After his coffin is purchased by a pair of interior decorators in 1972, Blacula awakens with a thirst for blood.
I loved this film. It was campy and dated and …not visually spectacular, in that way that the effects and color in many B-movies from that era are not so great. But I thought it was such a fantastic story–a man, lonely and out of time, searching for the love of his life. There were some funny, light-hearted moments, and one genuinely freaky one, the sort of thing that you’ll see in the dark, in your mind’s eye, for many years to come. If like me, you have a great love of the horror genre and/or vampire films, but have not seen Blacula yet— do yourself a favor and watch it tonight.
Sweet, Sweet Lonely GirlSweet, Sweet Lonely Girl is a restrained, melancholy, and softly ominous drama, a sort of off-kilter romance with a gloomy, gothic 70s haunted house vibe plus a placid pace to test your patience. Adele is a quiet young woman who has the opportunity to escape her miserable home life for a time to play caregiver to her aunt, an aging recluse. Soon, she makes the acquaintance of Beth, a pretty young woman with a free-spirited and mysterious “bad girl” aura that is somehow both vague and definitive at once. Adele– isolated, friendless, vulnerable, and naïve, soon develops an intense crush on Beth and falls under her corrupting thrall to the point of neglecting her duties to her aunt. If you dig films like Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, or Burnt Offerings or some of the themes in Jean Rollin’s films, I think you’ll enjoy Sweet, Sweet, Lonely Girl.
The Color Out of Space Color Out Of Space was a film I have been waiting a long time to see, and it was ridiculous and hammy but utterly gorgeous and pretty wild and worth the wait. If you haven’t read the H.P. Lovecraft story or have not seen the other film adaptations, the story can be summed up thusly: in the wild hills west of the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts, many years ago a meteorite crashed there, poisoning every living thing nearby; vegetation grows large and strange and foul, animals are driven mad and deformed into grotesque shapes, and the people go insane or die one by one. Sounds trippy, right? This version of the film was particularly so (and if you’ve seen the film Mandy, then perhaps you, like me, have come to believe that these are the roles that Nicholas Cage WAS BORN FOR.)
It had a strangely amusing moment that didn’t quite fit with the rest of the film. Did anyone else see this? Remember the scene with the local news segment that referred to Nicolas Cage as a “bourbon connoisseur” (as well as “UFO Witness” and “Amateur Farmer,” ha!) You really didn’t see that humor in the rest of the film, which was kinda weird. I would have liked to have seen more of that, but then again, that might have turned it into a different movie entirely. If you enjoyed this version of the story, but have not seen the 2012 adaptation, I recommend that, as well!
The Strings I splurged and bought a weekend pass for Salem Horror Fest, which is probably nothing I’d ever go to in-person (I don’t like crowds, or …people…or crowds of people) even if they were doing an in-person version of it this year. Which they were not! So a virtual, on-demand version sounded just dandy to me.
The first film I chose, I will admit, I chose solely based on the thumbnail of a young woman’s face against a wintry backdrop. Without knowing the first thing about the story, that chilly and haunting imagery inexplicably called to me, and I don’t question these things. The Strings is the story of a young musician, Catherine (played by real-life musician, the incredibly gorgeous and talented Teagan Johnston of Little Coyote) who travels to her aunt’s remote coastal cottage on the shores of Prince Edward Island to work on new material in solitude. After visiting an abandoned and very possibly haunted farmhouse with a photographer friend-maybe-more-than-friend, eerie nighttime disturbances at the cottage begin plaguing Catherine her sense of reality begins to shift and crumble.
It’s a slow burn that might not be for everyone–also considering that while it’s not a musical, there is a fair bit of musical performance in it, and I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, either… but after watching The Strings, I was thoroughly satisfied that it alone was worth the price of admission for Salem Horror Fest. ALSO PLEASE MAKE A SOUNDTRACK AVAILABLE FOR THIS MOVIE!
Black Lake Black Lake was my second choice from Salem Horror Fest, again not based on anything more than the name. Oddly enough, it had quite a bit in common with The Strings. Aarya (K/XI) is a young artist who travels to the Scottish countryside for a housesitting gig that will also afford her some time away from her family to work on her paintings in solitude. A gift from a generous auntie turns out to be a cursed object in ways I’ll admit I did not entirely understand.
There was a lot to love here, though I must confess that I was watching this late at night and I may have had a couple of strong cocktails and by the end, I’d totally lost the thread of what was happening. Here is what I do know: Aarya has a fantastic collection of tee shirts (at one point she is wearing an Eraser Head tee; in the film’s opening sequence, she is wearing an Evil Dead tee shirt.) The visuals are a total sensualist’s dream: we see her digging her toes into the carpet, luxuriating in its texture; savoring a bowl of Lucky Charms, stopping to eat the marshmallows with her fingers, an extended clip of her preparing an afternoon coffee with that iconic little Moka pot–it sounds weird to say, and I don’t want to turn anyone off, but many portions of the film almost felt like a high production quality vlog. But it’s not all delicious beauty: the lens focuses with the same desire and relish on the grotesque as it does the greedy; similar hunger is shown for the delectable as it is the detestable (i.e. closeups on pulling hair from her mouth, dislodging glass shards from foot-flesh.)
I think I am discovering that the “artist traveling to an isolated spot to create in solitude; weirdness ensues” subgenre is my very favorite in horror, and it’s so strange to think that in knowing nothing about either of these Salem Horror Fest films, I chose these two specific films! Black Lake, I think, was more diverse in the themes it explored: violence against women and girls, cultural differences, sexuality, and art. But like The Strings, it had an amazing soundtrack, and this one is actually available. I was tempted to count it as a separate entry on the list, but nahh. It is very good, though!
I fell madly, deeply in love with both of the leads in both of the films–they are both incredible– and I am trying not to be weird and stalkery on social media. But also: hiiiiiiiii! I love you both!
The Return by Rachel Harrison Good golly. I tore through this book. Up until the point where I put it down and forgot about it and only finished it a few days ago (this is the other cheat I mentioned, as I actually started The Return sometime in September!) If you enjoy stories centered on female friendship and the complicated histories between friends and the secrets they share–or keep–from each other, and how sometimes a friend disappears and you give them up for dead but then they return but they’re all kinds of weird and fucked up and then you all go to a super creepy bespoke hotel in the mountains to reconnect …well, then you may enjoy The Return. I sure did!
Lovecraft Country poster by Ngabo D.Cesar aka El’Cesart Ok, so I am not yet ready to talk about Lovecraft Country, the story of weird-fiction fan and veteran Atticus Black in search of his missing father in 1950s Jim Crow America, where if the white supremacists don’t get you, the Shoggoths will. Monsters, ghosts, curses, magical treasure hunts were just a few of the pulp-noir adventures that we encountered in this bonkers HBO adaptation of the novel (which strangely enough, even though it seemed like it follows the exact same story, I could not get into at all.) As I am only four episodes into the show and have quite a bit of catching up to do, my day fourteen entry is for this dark, fantastical, emotionally-fraught poster art by Ngabo D. Cesar, aka El’Cesart, instead.
Ok ok, wait! One more thing. Earlier in this list, I mentioned the documentary Horror Noire, over the course of which a great many wonderful films are mentioned. One of them was Eve’s Bayou, which upon hearing the description, I immediately hunted down a copy and devoured it.
I’m not sure I’d call it a horror film…it’s more a southern gothic family drama, I think, threaded with themes of trauma and violence and grief and memory but also voodoo and swamp snakes. I watched this film and I fell in love with every character, every scene. Eve’s Bayou is a beautiful and sorrowful and haunting film–and wow, I know I use that word all the time, but it really applies here– and it’s the best thing I’ve watched in many, many years. (It is from 1997 though, and it definitely looks and feels like it.)
The main character, a little girl named Eve, is the main focus of the story, and she is played by the marvelously emotive and adorable actress Jurnee Smollett…WHO NOW PLAYS LETTIE IN LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. My partner and I may have let out little shrieks of glee when we realized this was the case!
Hubie Halloween . Yes, I watched Hubie Halloween on Netflix. It was one of those evenings where more time was spent looking for something interesting to watch than having watched an actual something would have taken me, and at a certain point you’ve got to know when to say, “okay, this as good as it gets tonight.” And for what it’s worth…it wasn’t the worst Adam Sandler movie I’ve ever seen?
So…Hubie Dubois earnestly and enthusiastically loves Halloween, and every year he goes to great lengths to ensure that the townfolk of Salem enjoy it safely. Of course, this sort of pure-hearted exuberance can often make one the target of scorn and derision by mean-hearted people who don’t understand you or what you’re all about, especially if you’re…well, if you’re one of the characters Adam Sandler plays. (He’s still with this goofy shtick? Lordy.) So of course Hubie is the butt of everyone’s jokes and the focal point of all manner of cruel pranks.
A killer escapes from a local mental institution, a weird neighbor may have lycanthropic tendencies, and a number of mysterious disappearances in the town are a few horror-movie tropes that make me feel like I was justified in putting this on the list, as well as the horror I felt when I actually realized I was laughing a few times. Ugh, body, why did you betray me like that? In my defense, Maya Rudolph (who is also in this film, along with several Adam Sandler film regulars), and she is forever a high priestess of hilarity.
Braid. A sumptuous, psychotic dress-up parable of the perverse peculiarities of power; a bitter frenzy of nightmarish friendship, and the disillusionment of dreams. I don’t know what else to say about this one. I don’t know what the hell I watched and I’d surely watch that nonsense again. Also: Braid is very pretty.
Relic The not-quite-viewing of Relic was a massive failure on my part. You only have two days to watch the movies that you rent from Amazon and that presents a bit of a challenge for my distracted “ten minutes here, ten minutes there, maybe I will finish it on Wednesday of next week” film-watching habits. In the span of two evenings, I got about a half-hour into the movie…but from what I saw, I was fairly intrigued. When Edna, an elderly woman goes missing, her workaholic and somewhat neglectful daughter, Kay, and granddaughter Sam, head out to her isolated, rural home to find her.
The house itself, while at the onset somewhat mundane, became even in my short viewing, awfully unnerving. Moldy walls, rotten fruit lying around, shadowy stairs and hallways, doors slightly ajar, ominous notes tucked away in pockets (“DON’T FOLLOW IT.”) Edna reappears within a few days, disoriented, and with no explanation of where she was. A doctor’s visit suggests Edna may be unwell and this is where I stopped watching, but from the woman’s behavior and having experienced this in my own life with aging relatives, it’s clear that a diagnosis of dementia is undoubtedly forthcoming. I’ll definitely be returning to this film to see what direction it takes–will it remain an intergenerational family drama creeping with psychological horror, or is something supernatural stalking these women?
I’m seeing people whose opinions I might generally trust falling into two camps with regard to The Haunting of Bly Manor, a current Netflix series based loosely on Henry James’ 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, and it seems like they either think it’s outstanding or, to quote a friend, “a total snoozefest.” I thought rather than watching it and determining its merits for myself, I would instead go straight to the source material, never having read it.
…and talk about a snoozefest. A ghost story about weirdly beautiful orphan kids being haunted by malevolent spirits and the naively courageous governess vowing to protect them (or who is perhaps going mad?) should be an absolute delight to read with a cup of tea on a blustery evening. I had the tea! I had the bluster! I had the sentences that went on for three paragraphs long with no sign of stopping! But…I didn’t really need that last one, ok? Listen, I have no problem with the language of 19th-century authors. But this? This writing is nearly impenetrable. I found myself shouting after trying and failing to read the same sentence for the fifth time in a row, “what the hell HENRY JAMES, are you getting paid BY THE WORD?” Having not read the short story before, I wasn’t entirely familiar with it, but yes, as it turns out, I think he was, as The Turn of the Screw first appeared in serial format in Collier’s Weekly magazine, running in 1898 from January 27th to April 16.
I haven’t exactly finished the story yet, but now I am thinking I will just switch over To Bly Manor, instead.
“What Happened to Japanese Horror?” This video essay is exactly what it sounds like, a condensed overview at the long cinematic history of Japanese horror. It’s a fascinating look at some cultural and genre touchstones as well as a neat opportunity to familiarize yourself with and learn more regarding some of the themes and ideas that one will find throughout Japanese horror films.
EXTE Hair Extensions While I was viewing the above video essay on Japanese horror, I was reminded of a film I’d heard of a few years ago with the silliest (yet somehow intriguing?) premise I could imagine: cursed hair extensions. I never had the opportunity to watch it, and so my knowledge and the memory of that knowledge was forgotten until just this weekend. I don’t think it’s an easily unearthed cinematic nugget, but if you don’t mind a crummy copy, you can watch it on YouTube.
Part family-drama, part police procedural, part bizarre genre entry, part shocking and macabre grotesquerie (let’s just say if the prospect of finding hair in your food makes you want to barf, then seeing it come out of someone’s eyeballs is really going to give you a problem) EXTE is many things and all of them add to what I thought was unhinged, brilliant fun. This is a Sion Shono film, so if that means anything to you, you’ll know what you’re getting in for. Also! It’s got Gogo Yubari in it, and I am always happy to see her in anything not related to Quentin Tarantino.
Double feature idea: I’ve just now become aware that a film called Bad Hair was just released on Hulu a few days ago and if I understand correctly, it is a horror-comedy about a killer weave? This plus EXTE would make for interesting back-to-back viewing!
Over the weekend I friend-sourced some ideas for horror shorts to fill up on when I was pressed for time, and I got so many wonderful suggestions! Thanks, friends. Feel free to check out the thread if you are interested, and share your recommendations, as well. (Thanks for this one, Kate!)
The narrator in this 1968 short, based on the M.R. James’ 1904 story, “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad” describes the author’s writing generally consisting of “peculiar atmosphere and cranky scholars” …and having read a great deal of Montague Rhodes James’ works, I don’t think I can argue with that summation of his measured, understated ghost stories. Nothing melodramatic or gory to startle you with, suddenly…but slowly, rather… through the subtle suggestion of fear and unsettling one’s imagination and one’s view of what is familiar — that’s the sort gentle terror that this particular author lulls you with.
“Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad” as adapted by the BBC in 1968, is the tale of a stuffy, eccentric, and self-important academic who discovers a strange whistle while exploring a cemetery on the East Anglian coast. Inscribed with the eerie phrase, “Quis est iste qui venit” (“Who is this who is coming?”) the instrument, when blown, unleashes a supernatural force that terrorizes its discoverer–who of course, thinks he does not believe in such things.
Bonus material: Two r/nosleep stories & one blog post
The Third Day A psychological-horror drama in the form of a a six-part miniseries, in The Third Day we, along with Jude Law, are drawn to the mysterious, British island of Osea and its sinister secrets. I was originally interested in watching this because I’d heard that one of the co-creators of Punchdrunk had a hand in it (and you may know that Punchdrunk is the theatrical company responsible for our much beloved Sleep No More experiences.) I only watched two episodes this week, but it’s bizarre and gripping and I’ve seen just enough to know that I am invested in peeking back in at this place and these characters and hopefully figuring out what’s going on.
The Haunting of Bly Manor Last week I began reading The Turn of the Screw in anticipation of watching its current loosey-goosey Netflix adaptation, The Haunting of Bly Manor. Despite a friend’s reassurance that the book fucking rules (I’m paraphrasing here, but close enough) I needed a break from Henry James’ overwhelming long-windedness. I am only one episode in and I am perhaps prematurely in love with Owen and you’d better not make me regret sharing that confession, Owen! Don’t end up being some kind of asshole! I’ll watch another episode because I liked Flora’s dollhouse, but I didn’t see anything about the show to really hook me, just yet,
Dragula: Resurrection Ah, so here’s where we start watching things the whole way through! If you’ve not watched The Boulet Brothers bleeding-edge reality show wherein drag artists (including drag kings and non-binary, too!) compete for the filthy, horrifying, glamorous title of drag supermonster–well, I’ll wait. Watch seasons 1-3 and meet us back here. I’m not one for competition shows, they stress me out way too much. But I have loved Dragula since their wild and weird and wonderfully low-budget first season where I watched a challenge with the rivals getting buried alive.
“Resurrection” was a between-season special, during which they called past contestants back to compete against each other in three categories for an opportunity to be in season four. Due to the pandemic, they had to arrange things a bit differently than the typical Dragula set up in which the contestants are on camera hanging out together, designing costumes, planning performances, and being antagonistic and shitty to each other. And that’s fine with me! Those are the segments of the show that, while I am sure are good for ratings, always make me feel panic-stricken and frantic like my breath is caught in my lungs. I loathe confrontation, and while I’m sure a lot of it is manufactured in shows like this, and there’s probably much in the way of editing to create melodrama out of molehills–still. I know it’s not real but it always makes me cry, anyhow. “Resurrection” was filmed in the individual performer’s various locations, so there was none of that real-time cattiness and bad behavior (it should be noted that I am ok with all that foolishness happening behind everyone’s backs, ha!) But getting back to me crying. Oh, I cried. My heart. The winner? If you’re anything like me, it’s exactly who you want it to be.
The Curse of La Llorona The Curse of La Llorona, the legend of the weeping woman searching for the souls of her children, is such an inspired idea for a movie and a wonderful opportunity to showcase Mexican folklore, and I think in the hands of someone else, this could have been a beautifully tragic, eerie, and even terrifying film. But this…is not that. It’s too slick, too Hollywood, and with a white woman as the main character, I would also say a little white-washed– but if you can look past Linda Cardellini and the jump scares and the ridiculous ghost, I do think there are the beginnings of some wonderful explorations into Mexican culture to be found in the film.
The Wake, Perfume and Fripperies I feel a little bit awful in admitting I’ve never heard of these “masters of goth” until I just recently stumbled across their current album, Perfumes and Fripperies. Despite the fact that I don’t know them, I am convinced they somehow know me and they named this album–their first in a quarter of a century!– in my honor. Maybe just to get my attention! I know, I know. I’ve got quite the imagination. If goth rock, florid and gloomy and cloaked in velvety, doomed romanticism sounds like something you’d be into, that’s exactly what this is. And I am definitely into it. And now I wanna hear about their perfume and frippery collection…
Valancourt World Horror Stories If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll note that this book is showing up in every photo I’ve shared lately, but it’s really quite good. Valancourt has achieved something extraordinary with this marvelous collection of strange and unsettling tales from all over the world, many of them translated (in house!!) and for the very first time. If you don’t have a copy yet, you need to grab one immediately.
Night Tide Night Tide is the story of a sailor, who, while on shore leave, becomes entranced with a sideshow mermaid who believes that she really is a siren and that she is fated to murder men on nights when the moon is full.
I’ve had this on my watchlist for years now, but I am strangely cheap in that I will not spend $3.99 to watch it (and yet I will spend $399 on a much-coveted perfume? Priorities, I guess?) After using my library’s digital service for ebooks for the last 8 months, it dawned on me that they may have streaming movies as well…and they do! They offer services like Hoopla, where you can find cinematic classics like SHARKENSTEIN and FIVE-HEADED SHARK ATTACK! And one, what’s with all the sharks? But two, if you have Kanopy available to you, use that one instead. Let’s just say the selections Kanopy has to offer are more discerning and thoughtfully curated. Anyway, that’s where I found Night Tide. I want to say it was a “weird little film” but that could be just because Dennis Hopper is in it. Dennis Hopper always makes shit weird.
Beyond the Mirror’s Image by Dream Division If your ideal sonic soundscape is a traversing a long, dark nightmarish hallway that is simultaneously echoing and reverberating with the sounds of 70s Italian horror scores, 80s slashers, dark synth, and 70s prog rock, I think you are going to really dig Beyond the Mirror’s Image.
Hellraiser: The Dark Watch Vol. 1 So, it turns out that you can find comics and graphic novels in your library’s catalog of digital offerings! I don’t know why that I never thought to look, and it didn’t occur to me until late last week. The first title that caught my eye was something I recall hearing about all the way back in 2013…the reimagined story of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser series!
Now I’ll admit, I have not seen all the movies, so I am really lost with regard to what’s going on. Hell’s got a new high priest now, and there’s a Cenobite army? What? I don’t know, it all seems disjointed and odd, but then again, so did the movies. But the art is gritty and gory and there are wicked monsters and diabolical traps, and really what more do you need from a Hellraiser comic?
[EDIT: Ok this is a total cheat because I am adding this after the fact and I haven’t even watched it yet but HOLY SHIT Y’ALL there is Hellraiser ASMR! Thank you Minna, for making me aware of this–I cannot wait to experience these sensory seeds of torment!]
Stage Fright AKA Deliria I suppose it sounds ghoulish to say so, but I adored this nonsensical. bloodbath of a movie in which nearly every single character is extremely disposable and the masked killer has the most incredible mask that I’ve ever seen in any slasher/Giallo/thriller type film.
In Stage Fright, an escaped madman and notorious serial killer (and former actor!) terrorizes the cast of a musical who get locked into their rehearsal space …by their egomaniac director, in an opportunistic, irresponsible “the show must go on!” kind of move.
There is absolutely no logic to any of the story, but it is a fun story and paired with both the flamboyant neon glamour of the visuals and the aggressively hypnotic score, I had a fantastic time finally watching this film. Also, it’s on YouTube!
World of Horror I am bad at video games. I prefer to read or watch a movie, to follow where the author or director is leading me, and wherever I end up, well, that’s the way it was meant to be. That’s how it was written. And I am most likely going to get there in 90 minutes or so. At least with a movie. I wish it only took me 90 minutes to read a book! My point is that there’s no guesswork in these stories. I experience them, but I don’t interact with them. I don’t have to do anything but let them unfold.
Video games frustrate me. I am not a puzzle-solver by nature, and I am the kind of person who, if my first attempt at something fails, I will go back and try that same exact thing fifteen more times. This staunch refusal to deviate from the path I’ve set out before me is what caused me to die fifteen times in a row (but somehow in fifteen completely different ways??) while playing the retro, creepy World of Horror, an H.P. Lovecraft/Junji Ito-inspired RPG horror game set in a quiet Japanese town filled with eldritch beings, wild-eyed cultists, and impossibly twisted human forms.
In World of Horror, one invokes dark rituals, uncovers disturbing clues, and solves puzzles across multiple randomized mysteries. It’s unsettling –especially playing in the dark, with headphones on–and frustrating, and oddly enough, I can’t stop thinking about. I find that most disturbing of all.
The Craft: Legacy It’s unfair to add The Craft: Legacy to this list, considering that at this point I really don’t think I am ready to talk about it yet. I will say this. Obviously the original is a classic and a feminist horror touchstoneand I know we all have all kinds of attachments to it for all kinds of reasons. But it’s not unimpeachable. It had some problems. So it was heartening to see the original bones of the story fleshed out with entirely new weirdos and witches, who had more aspirational priorities. I loved the strengthened sense of sisterhood in this version of The Craft, but I feel like the characters, as individuals, needed and deserved so much more depth and story. I’m not sure I can say anything else right now, I am still mulling it over! [Edit: two years later, as I am reading this, I realize I was being very diplomatic. In hindsight I did not love this film, and I am not sure I even liked it very much.]
Speaking of enchiladas…
“Hello, I’m Stevie Nicks. Do you like the music of my band, Fleetwood Mac? And do you like fajitas, flautas, quesadillas, and other Tex-Mex specialties? Then come on down to my new restaurant in Sedona, Arizona – Stevie Nicks’ Fajita Roundup. In the seventies, I dedicated myself to witchcraft, Lindsay Buckingham, and cocaine. But now I use that same energy and dedication to bring you an affordable dining experience you’ll never forget.”
Yes, I dressed up as Lucy Lawless channeling Stevie Nicks in SNL’s most flawless and magnificent skit: Stevie Nicks Fajita Round-Up. I even sang a song for you and everything! But I chickened out and I am not going to post it.
“Now, there you go again, you say you want burritos.
I sure hope that you can keep ’em down.
It’s only a flour tortilla, used to wrap around your meat now.
Have you any beans you’d like to share with the loneliness?”
Woven throughout this week was a common thread, an entire midnight-dyed alpaca skein of them, as it happens. I took this opportunity to begin knitting up Our Widow’s lovely Widow’s Web stole pattern! Knit on size 17 needles (for non-knitters, this means they are BIG ASS NEEDLES) this is a gorgeous and satifying knit that comes together very quickly, and it is a pattern that is fairly easy to memorize–which makes it nice to work on while you are watching scary movies! I am about 3/4 through with it, so by the time I go to post up next week’s picks for 31 Days of Horror, I should have a finished object to show off!
Notes April Carter, proprietress of Our Widow, when I asked if there are any spooky movies or such that she likes to have in the background while working on a project:
“I’ve been on an Addams Family binge lately! Of course, I enjoy the whole kooky bunch, but I especially love seeing Morticia knit, it’s something that seems so against her nature, but she’s perfectly comfortable doing it. I think I mentioned something in our interview about the attitudes towards knitting being a homemaker/crafty type past time, and how I wanted to help change those beliefs. I think Morticia personifies that– she’s strange, she’s goth, she’s anti-cutesy, she hates traditional family standards, and she looks incredible while doing it of course!”
And finally! Behold the Widow’s Web wrap, its fuzzy tendrils and dangling loops completed just before midnight on Halloween. I hope the recipient doesn’t mind, I felt compelled to cocoon myself in its spidery stitches and take a few photos to commemorate our time together, before sending it to its new home.
Also: Soul cakes, also known as “soulmass-cakes”, are small spiced, round cakes traditionally made for Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day to commemorate the dead in the Christian tradition. The practice of giving soul cakes was celebrated in Britain or Ireland during the Middle Ages, although according to Wikipedia similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.
Typically flavored with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger or other sweet spices, along with raisins or currants, I found a recipe on NPR that didn’t seem too tricky, and baked them up on Halloween night while I ordered out for enchiladas. I had a lot of movies to watch and had only so much time to devote to cooking!
Late on Halloween night, sitting alone and in silence, I explored a confessional ritual in Lisa Marie Basile’s The Magical Writing Grimoire.
In this exercise, we make a sacred confession: we name our shadows and call them out by the name we have given them. “When we validate and honor our darkness,” Lisa writes, “we can begin to heal it.” By naming our shadows and meditating on them, we have taken that dark energy and transformed it into potential.
And so with my box and my string, my paper and my pen, my will, and my intention, I set out to make that change.
One thing I will never tire of is hearing about people’s favorite things! Hopefully, if you are reading this, you feel the same.
Below are a few things that I have either been enjoying lately or relying on throughout the year. It was a weird year, and I have a feeling that things are only going to get weirder. I’m not sure if I want to say “get weirder before they even out” because most of the time I don’t think that’s possible anymore.
But it was a weird year in good ways, too. I wrote my second book (just working on image permissions at this point!) and I just signed a contract for my third. I was interviewed on four podcasts despite swearing up and down that I was never ever going to be on a podcast! I started a little TikTok account after proclamations that I hated TikTok and that I WOULD NEVER! Chances are, if I say I’m never going to do something, the universe will present me with a reason or an opportunity to do that very thing within the next 24 hours. I never learn my lesson! (According to this logic, all lessons be learned by tomorrow??)
Anyway, 2021 was a mixed bag. I’m still here. I’m glad that you are too. In honor of mixed bags, here’s some stuff. Just a total jumble of things, no theme tying anything together, and everything mixed up in no particular order!
Celestial Seasonings Fast Lane Tea. I haven’t drunk Celestial Seasonings teas since I was a kid. Nothing wrong with them, I guess I was just seduced by the variety of options available nowadays and never bothered to revisit them. But I had several boxes of their Fast Lane tea – a lightly spiced black tea- thrust upon me, and it’s actually very good. I think there may be an extra kick of caffeine in it, and the spices are very subtle, more of a fragrance than a taste, and it’s a really lovely treat in the afternoon with the Silk “oatmeal cookie” Oat Creamer. We’ve taken to having a mid-afternoon tea break and treat around 2-3 pm most days and this is really perfect for that. Serve with a cardamom bun or a slice of lavender tea bread!
Lavido Hand Lotion I already love the thick, nourishing version for feet, and this mildly musky coconut-scented hand cream is perfect to keep at my desk.
Jadeywadey180 I love watching videos where people are pampered. Massages, scalp scratches, even chiropractic videos! And of course, facials and skincare treatments. On Jadeywadey180’s channel, she once mentioned that you really need to massage your cleanser into your skin for at least 30 seconds for it to even begin to be effective. Now I don’t know if that’s true and I am not here to debate anyone, but I did start doing that and it feels amazing, so I think that’s reason enough to continue.
Molton Brown Geranium Nefertum shower gel is not exactly similar to my stupid expensive favorite Oud Wood shower gel from Tom Ford but they’re on similar wavelengths. A sort of rich, woody scent, balanced with moss and fig, perked up with pepper. It’s a dashing ghostly scoundrel of ascent and at $32 it’s still not cheap for a bottle of squirty shower shit, but it’s also not Oud Wood’s $75 price tag.
Some pieces from Universal Standard: these Universal Standard Stephanie wide leg striped pants which are sort of replacing my linen Swayers from STATE the Label because they are falling apart and for some reason, STATE refuses to make more of these plain black pants. Come on, guys! Pretty please!? Also, these bike shorts, which honestly are sort of amazing. From the fit to the feel to the side pocket for my phone, they are excellent. I also picked up this waffle-knit lounge set in a dusty rose-lavender-oatmeal color, and it’s comfy and cozy as heck and I strangely love this light neutral color and am looking for reasons to incorporate more of it into my wardrobe.
Here’s that color again, sort of! I was gifted an older Apple Watch from my BGF after they upgraded to a newer version, and I surprisingly loved it. It was a nice opportunity to try it out before making that sort of investment, and I probably would have just continued using it, but it wasn’t really charging very well, and it wasn’t super responsive after awhile. I purchased a new one and I was going to get a lavender band to accompany it, but somehow I ended up actually liking the band that was included with it. Sarah of 2017 would be aghast. *waves to old-Sarah from across time*
Le Bon socks I first saw these last year in Rachel Symes New Yorker gift guide in 2020 and I pooh-poohed them because I am obsessed with cute socks, and these are … not that cute. But my kawaii animal and anime character socks are often cheaply made and then and fall apart and I’ve been rethinking about what it is exactly that I expect from my cozy foot tubules. The socks from Le Bon are a bit utilitarian-looking in muted colors, no bright novelty prints here. But they do offer an extremely soothing sole swaddle, so I’m sold.
When I walk for exercise my toes flail and flounder aggressively, which results in holes being poked in the top of my shoes. Someone suggested to me that I need sneakers with a wider toe box, and after doing a little research (you know, reading like 2.5 reviews) I decided upon the Topo Athletic Zero Drop Magnifly 3…which I think is actually a running shoe, but that’s fine. Or at least it seems to be fine. I don’t know, I am not a shoe or foot or much-of-anything expert! They’re really comfortable and they’ve held up quite well. I purchased these in June and nary a toe hole in sight! With the previous pair, I’d managed to breach the top of the shoe in less than three months, so this is good news.
This adorable little glass cup is just the sweetest thing and makes me unreasonably happy. I had a tiny matcha latte in it one day and a little whiskey soda the next evening. Wheee!
Then there is this neutral color open-front cardigan from Cotton Emporium that’s getting pretty ratty because I wear it nearly every day. With dresses, with jeans and old metal or horror tees, with my pajamas when I wake up on a chilly morning–I wear it with everything. Does it go with everything? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, no one said that. I originally got this one from Stitchfix but I am fairly certain it is no longer available. This is the exact one that someone was selling over on tradesy a while ago. It’s really nothing special, just perfectly worn-in, and somehow both lightweight and cozy. Another piece that has been getting a lot of mileage these past few months is this mustard-colored tunic dress from Toast.
Recipe inspiration from two unlikely places: Nami’s YouTube channel & The Salad Lab on TikTok. Nami is a single woman living in Japan and her 20-30 minute videos often follow her over the course of a weekend while she documents the meals she prepares, tidying her home, small crafts, and occasional peeks at her neighborhood grocery shopping trips or visits to cafes to meet up with local friends. I usually watch this while I am knitting a simple project (it’s subtitled, so I partially need to pay attention!) and I love to see her go about her quiet, creative days. I especially enjoy Nami’s imaginative approach in the kitchen, where she often cooks simple meals using unexpected combinations of ingredients. In The Salad Lab, saladologist (I made that word up) Darlene “creates fabulous salads every day” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. A brief minute or two long video of some disembodied hands making a variety of salads. I love salads! So I get a lot of ideas here, too.
Also, I learned that you can shred chicken in your kitchen aid in less than 30 seconds with the paddle attachment. Now granted, I didn’t spend a lot of time shredding chicken with just two forks and elbow grease–that’s too much work!– but now that I know that I don’t have to do it that way…!
Sopor from Twilight Alchemy Lab is a pillowy sleep blend with notes of lavender, vanilla, chamomile, and blue tansy and its gentle, aromatic lullaby has earned a position of prominence on my nighttime dream shelf.
Ok. So. While these two fragrances I’ve chosen to share here are not exactly my *favorite* scents this year, they are the scents that surprised me the most with how much I’ve enjoyed them. Also, I realize that I often write about perfumes that are not easily accessible; they’ve either been discontinued, or they’re prohibitively expensive, or hard to get one’s hands on, for whatever reason. I thought instead I might mention two fragrances that are fairly easy to find and accessible– in terms of purchasing a bottle, and also that neither of them are really challenging scents. I’ve already written reviews for both Hanae Mori and Glossier’s You, but I will share them both below again, in case you missed them!
I first learned of Hanae Mori on a blog that I was pretty obsessed with, back in the early 2000s. This person wasn’t a perfume enthusiast or fashionista, or even a popular blogger as far as I could tell…she seemed to be a gentle quiet weirdo, like me. She had a goth Betty Page bob and she did something in tech and updated sporadically about her little Seattle apartment. I thought she was the coolest. When I began to really delve into fragrances a few years later, I recall her mentioning this one in passing, and so sought out a sample. I was disappointed at how ordinary it seemed. Twenty years later I quite disagree with past me! Hanae Mori is a perfectly lovely woody vanilla and creamy, milky musk with hints of dusty dried grass and the airy green tang of blackberry leaves. A lot of reviewers mention fruit, but I don’t get any of that at all. If you enjoy the sweet comfort and nostalgic 90’s whispers of Vanilla Fields or the bitter Miss Havisham melancholia of Fleur Cachee, I’d say this scent falls squarely in the middle and I am surprisingly obsessed with it.
Glossier’s You is a scent I really had no intention of ever buying, but then my curiosity got the best of me. A minor point: I hate this bottle, it’s dreadful. It looks like a small pink blandly Cronenbergian lump of quivering flesh. I can, however, get over that, because as it turns out and much to my surprise…I actually really love what’s inside the horrid skin sack of a bottle. It’s possible that I had very low expectations because I don’t like any of Glossier’s other products and also because I am maybe a snob. But I really don’t mind being wrong! Okay, I am a Taurus and I hate being wrong! But I make an exception for perfume. You is a wonderful melding of this chilly, ghostly delicate iris musk and a warm, woody, sturdy peachy amber quietly enveloped in a crystalline psychic glow of pink pepper and you kind of wonder how these notes got together but then you think of Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus and it all just makes perfect sense. Yes, this is a queer classic anime power couple of a scent and I absolutely adore it.
Books. Always. Words have always been my dearest, staunchest companions, and this year I read a lot of good ones! I challenged myself to read 50 books this year, which I realize is not a lot for people who tend to read a lot, but I surpassed my goal at a current number of 55 and if I can finish Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart Is A Chainsaw by the end of the day, it will be 56! (I probably won’t.) My two favorite from this year are books that I inadvertently read back to back and which have some similar themes in common: death, loss, grief, and food: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner and The Astonishing Color of Afterby Emily X.R. Pan.
Music: I’ve been remiss in recent years in keeping my ear to the ground for new and incredible music, but I will say I’ve been immensely enjoying Japanese Breakfast, both their newest release, Jubilee and basically everything else, too. And lots of Matt Berry, of course.
Watching: Both the ridiculousness and stunning costumery of The Great and the dreamy absurdity and upsetting realism of Atlanta. We also just binged S2 of The Witcher, which, although I enjoyed it, it kinda seemed like we were playing the video game this season. Do I need to read the books? Hm.
At just 12 hours until 2022, I am attempting to watch a handful of horror/esque/ish/adjacent movies I meant to watch before the end of the year. I have seen In the Earth, Possessor, and Censor(my favorite so far) and I am going to try and fit in Last Night in Soho and Titane before the night is over. Wish me luck!
I have glamorous aspirations, but in reality, I am pretty much the opposite of glamour. Despite all the makeup I have lying around, I barely wear any of it, unless I am going to make a little video for YouTube (which …isn’t that often), or else I have to leave the house for a special occasion. Which is also not often, or ever really, nowadays. On a daily basis, the only thing I do after morning skincare stuff is sunscreen and the most minimal of eyebrow stuff. I basically just want to make sure they are all going in the same direction, to be honest with you. I’ve been using this brow butter and styling gel from Saie, and it’s ok. It does the job. I think I just really like the packaging.
I do try to sneak a little glamour in with some daily jewels and the magics of the Face of the Oracle pendant from Atelier Narcé have been clasped around my neck more often than not throughout the week.
Paintbox Soapworks is a perpetual favorite in our household. Here are some of their wintry offerings that we are currently enjoying…
Honorable mentions include: my library card, which has really gotten a workout this year in accessing their digital collections // Stasher silicone bags which have been great to help with cutting down on plastic baggie usage (and another shoutout to Swedish dishcloths as a paper towel alternative!) // all of the friends, family, and acquaintances who have checked in on me during what I feel have been several near meltdowns over the past few months // finally accepting the idea that at 45 years old I don’t have to suffer unnecessarily, and maybe medication for depression and anxiety is an option worth exploring…I have been on it for 4 days now, go me! Better living through chemistry! // art and poetry, always // Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings which was a perfect superhero movie // on a related note, I am happy to see that Michelle Yeoh is just about everywhere I look nowadays, and I don’t think I have ever been as excited to see a movie as I am Everything Everywhere All At Once
I am a sloppy knitter. I’ll be the first to admit that. I don’t measure things and I don’t knit gauge swatches, because eh, I can’t be bothered. I knit for fun and also for therapy and while I get that grabbing your ruler and counting your stitches per inch are foundational steps and have myriad benefits for both your finished garment and your overall knitting practice, they are…decidedly not fun. They feel too much like math homework. Which is the opposite of therapeutic for me! This DEATH BEFORE SWATCHING is a stance I have stubbornly stuck to for years, and I don’t know why I dig my heels in about it, but I suspect it’s because I failed Algebra II in tenth grade and took it again in summer school–and failed again–and so maybe I am scared?
Sometimes I get lucky! Through absolutely no measuring or swatching at all, I made not one, but two really lovely sweaters last year that fit me perfectly! Well, let’s say 85-90% perfectly! But mostly this cavalier attitude regarding whether or not I actually have enough yarn to finish a project or am I playing a wooly game of chicken, or am I knitting too tightly or too loosely with this weight yarn and this size needles, it comes back to bite me. More times than not I actually do not have enough yarn, and half of the time I wind up knitting an elephantine kaftan when I was meant to be knitting a regular-sized sweater.
It was just such a sweater that I unraveled over the holidays. I had been knitting it for the greater part of a year, but as I began working on the sleeves, it finally occurred to me to try it on. It was massive. Much, much too big. And short of starting over, there was nothing I could do to fix it. That sucked.
So. I ripped it apart and knit up a hat. Which is…also slightly too big. Whatever! There were no lessons learned here.
…and here’s the rest of that sweater. Reincarnated as the beginnings of a rustic shawl! And if this shawl is a bit oversized, I think that’s fine.
I’ve been in a funny place for the past few weeks. Funny, and a little unfamiliar, and I almost don’t even know what to do with it. I’m feeling kind of …carefree? And generally good about life? Like everything might actually be ok for once and the world doesn’t feel like it may crash down around my head …any second…any second now?
This is such an alien state of being for me. And what makes it worse (what makes good…worse? Ah, Sarah.) is that so many people I know are struggling and suffering and just really having a rough go of it at the moment. I feel awfully guilty for feeling as great as I do.
I feel so great, in fact, that every day for the last three and a half weeks I have launched myself out of bed at five a.m. sometimes, at 4:59, before the alarm has even gone off. I’m immediately out the front door–in my pajamas, no less–to take in the world while everything is dark and quiet and still. I used to walk in the early mornings for exercise; it was a slog, and I hated it, and more often than not I would find reasons to avoid it and lay in bed for another few hours. Now I have begun to think of it as a gentle stroll to stretch my toes and wake myself up, and I’m finding that it’s become a really vital part of my morning. (I still get the stupid, sloggy exercise at night, though. Bah.) It may sound as if I’ve contracted some sort of passing mania, but I have kept this practice up for nearly a month now, even on weekends, and as it turns out, I don’t really need more than 5-6 hours of sleep a night. Which doesn’t quite sound right, does it? But I feel loads better than when I was getting 7-8 hours a night? And anything over 8 makes me feel awful, anyway.
I’m attributing this change to a handful of things:
-In late summer we finally wrapped up this interminable business with my grandparent’s estate, so after nearly three years, that particular dread is no longer weighing on my shoulders. My grandfather passed in 2015, and my grandmother’s decline was long and slow (she passed in 2017) so between caring for them before their deaths and dealing with the aftermath and the house and the paperwork and finances, it finally feels like I can let go and properly say goodbye. Goodbye, Mawga and Boppa. Until we meet again!
-I submitted some of the final stuff for a project I’ve been working on, and even though it’s not even close to being done, I think the most challenging aspect of it has been taken care of, and even if nothing ever comes from it, or if it all falls through… at least I will know that I was able to commit to writing 12 chapters of something. Yes, I am writing a book. Yes, this is what I have been obliquely alluding to since March earlier this year. Nope, still not really ready to talk about it yet. But I will say this: be careful what you put out into the universe because sometimes you just might end up eating your words.
-I had a difficult conversation with my boss that I was scared to have, and it turned out ok…it didn’t kill me at all. Now I finally feel good about plans to eventually move to the West Coast, and hopefully sooner rather than later. Portland, here we come!
-Another thing I am loathe to talk about for myriad reasons is that I have lost almost 25 lbs. I’m actively working on just feeling better in general, and unfortunately, weight loss is a part of the process. I just want to be able to squat comfortably again, man. And I don’t even mean for exercise, I mean for when I want to squat down and look at a tiny roly-poly on the sidewalk or something. And maybe wear one particular dress I bought four years ago, but which didn’t even fit me at the time.
-And finally, I am fixing my teeth, a thing I’m terribly self-conscious about.
But listen: I may be in a better mood and I may have nicer teeth–but I’m still not smiling for anyone. No way, no how!
Oh, and another great thing is that I found a Heart record for $8 at a boba shop, of all places.
So, let me tell you about this sandwich. First, slice up a shallot and quick pickle it in a little bit of vinegar and sugar. Set that aside. Crumble half a block of tofu and saute it with some garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, nutritional yeast, turmeric, and a bit of black salt (it’s sulfurous and will make it taste eggy.) While that’s cooking, toast a few slices of sourdough bread, and when they are ready, mush up some avocado slices on them, top with a few spoonfuls of the tofu scramble and garnish with the pickled shallots. This was something I threw together last weekend, and it was pretty tasty.
Next, allow me to bring your attention to this pumpkin bread. I have been making it since 2002, using ingredients and directions from allrecipes.com, but which I have slowly been tweaking and changing over the years. I use half brown sugar/half white sugar, mostly applesauce in place of oil, and for the remainder of the oil I use olive oil, twice as much cinnamon, omit the nutmeg, add cardamom and black pepper, and sub in fresh ginger for the powder. I reckon it’s a whole new recipe by now!
Finally, this is a pumpkin curry I improvised when I realized I’d bought more pumpkin than I was ever going to eat in my oatmeal. (I always think pumpkin oatmeal is a great idea for like, the first week in October. And then I’m over it.) First, whiz up one medium onion, 5-6 cloves of garlic, one serrano pepper, and a knob of ginger in your food processor. Or, you could mince it all by hand, whatever’s easiest. Cook in the instant pot using the “saute” function for about five minutes. (I might do a few minutes more.) Add to the pot a can of chickpeas, or if you thought ahead to cook up some dried chickpeas, add about a can’s worth, about 15 oz or so; a 15 oz can of coconut milk, a 15 oz can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) and a cubed sweet potato. To this add 2 tbsp curry powder, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and fenugreek leaves. Or whatever you generally like to add in terms of curry spices! I just sort of threw in whatever sounded good. Stir it together, close the pot, and cook for 10 minutes, with a natural release.
I served this curry with short grain brown rice because that’s what we had on hand, and which was also cooked in the instant pot. Our formula for rice–whatever kind of rice– is to rinse it in cool water 2-3 times, drain and use a 1:1 rice to water ratio, minus about a tbsp of whatever (to account for whatever liquid is still left in the rice after the rinsing). Cook on high for 6 minutes and then do a natural release. Most of the time this makes for perfect rice. I also roasted some cauliflower that had been tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, garam masala, and a pinch of turmeric.
For something that I did not consult a recipe for, it was really quite good!
This is a shawl that I knit last month. I think it broke me. It was the most epically tedious thing I have ever created. I was warned, going into it, that I was probably going to be bored with the pattern, and man, I sure was. The funny thing is, it seems to be a pretty beloved pattern among most knitters (it’s the Find Your Fade shawl.)
I don’t mean this as a criticism to the designer, but I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who enjoys the challenge of a more intricate pattern. Which I normally do! But sometimes I like to rest my eyes a little and not stress out so much about something that’s meant to be an enjoyable pastime. If you need something a little mindless for a netflix binge, this is perfect!
…but be certain that there’s at least 6-7 seasons of it because this knit is interminable.
In blocking this I noticed A LOT of dropped stitches. I think I got so bored with it that I just totally tuned out and mindlessly sped through it, without even noticing. I performed some surgery after blocking, so I think it’s okay. (Here’s a good video on how to pick up dropped stitches on a finished piece of work.)
So just an FYI: don’t daydream your way through this project. Check every few rows for some dropped or wonky stitches so that you’re not surprised by them after you have already finished!
Two movies and a cocktail: I did not do my thirty-one days of horror films this year; however, I did watch one movie at the beginning of October and one at the end, and I highly recommend them both.
Cooties was kinda funny and kinda dumb and a whole lot of fun, and I’ve been meaning to watch it for years now, ever since I saw that sonic creepster extraordinaire, Kreng, was involved in the soundtrack. It’s more or less about zombie children, and, Frodo, who plays the part of a failed writer who has to move back in with his mom in the town where he grew up, and is a substitute teacher at the school where the kids start getting freaky and bitey and gross one day.
Knife + Heart was a beautiful and brutal homage to the giallo film, almost entirely populated by queer characters, and I don’t know what I was expecting but I sure wasn’t expecting what I got–a dreamy, kitschy, sleazy, thriller, the likes of which I have never seen before. This one also has a pretty great soundtrack.
This is not a themed cocktail, but I suggest you pair either of these films with the rum Old Fashioned that this guy shares on his youtube channel (skip to 5:35 for the specific recipe). We crafted a few this past weekend, and I’m fairly certain that I liked it even more than a regular Old Fashioned!
Ok, so that’s it. You can all go home now. Oh, but wait! I got a fancy new mattress, too. Which is kind of hilarious, considering I don’t spend all that much time sleeping anymore.