Thursday, November 30, 2017

Having Money Doesn't Scare Me

I love it when I learn new pieces of information that will probably be of no use unless I'm stuck in an awkward conversation with nothing to say. Did you know that hobo nickels (altered coins) were first carved in the mid-18th century and that the most popular design of the time was the "potty coin" which altered the Liberty figure to appear to be sitting on a chamber pot? There, now this will take up space in your brain too.

If you want to make the awkward conversation even better, you can open up your coin purse and show them your recently altered nickel collection. Yes! Matt Petitdemange is carving up coins to look like skulls. You know you want one from a special year to carry around in your pocket for good luck (and awkward conversations.) His shop is called The Hobo Nickel Shop.

Sugar Skull on a Half Dollar Coin
Skeleton on a Penny
Susan B. Anthony Skull Dollar Coin
Buffalo Skeleton Nickel
Lady Liberty Skull on Dollar Coin
George Washington Skull Quarter
These are truly the gift for someone who has everything and wants nothing. You really need to bookmark these. At some point your going to need a gift and this will pop in your head and you won't remember where you saw it. Do it now.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Witchfinder's Sister

I recently finished reading The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown. Published this past April, the novel is a fictionalized account of the 17th-century, English, witchfinder, Matthew Hopkins, told from his sister's viewpoint. In actuality, little is known about Hopkins and history does not record that he even had a sister, but we do know that he was one of six children and four are known to be boys, so it's possible he had at least one sister. For a concise account of Hopkins read an article by George Knowles Matthew Hopkins: Witch-Finder General.

In Underdown's story, Hopkins' sister, Alice, returns to her brother's home after an accident kills her husband. She soon realizes that Hopkins is on a crusade to find women accused of being witches and bring them to trial. Her relationship with her brother is strained and it's through Alice's eyes that we watch the frenzy of witch hunting grow in the countryside. Alice is the voice of reason in this story, but what I found most chilling is Underdown's very real portrayal of how little freedom was afforded to women at this time. Alice realizes her brother is preying on the infirm and elderly who can't defend themselves, but she must be very careful in her choice of words and actions so as not to bring undo attention to herself. Underwood expertly shows us how a person can be free to move around and yet restrained and watched to the point of mental imprisonment.

Hopkins eventually forces his sister to travel with him and inspect the women being accused. Alice tries to quietly offer the accused advice in how to answer her brother's interrogations, but unfortunately, Alice doesn't have the power to thwart her brother for long and the novel descends into a mood of hopelessness as each women is hung for witchcraft. I won't give away the ending of the novel, but Underdown does give Alice her moment of revenge which is based on some myths told of Hopkins demise - he died at around age 27 - but most historians believe he died of tuberculosis.

There is little of the supernatural in this book, although there is some. The real horror lies in how easily one person can condemn so many people to die based on rumors and superstitions. In truth, Matthew Hopkins is responsible for the deaths of over 300 people during a three-year period. He published a pamphlet called "The Discovery of Witches" in 1647 that described his methods of interrogation. It eventually made it's way to the new colonies and was used in the trials of witches in Connecticut and later in Salem, Massachusetts.

This is a sad story, but an important lesson. It makes you think about who we are condemning these days. We may not call then witches anymore, but the practice of accusing people for little more than superstition, unfounded beliefs, and rumors still exists.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Father of the American Ghost Story?

Washington Irving died on November 28, 1859. I know what you're thinking: "Washington Irving, meh." I think we should all take another look at this hip guy. Did you know that he was the person who gave New York City the nickname Gotham? Hello, Batman. And, that there is a cocktail or two inspired by him (but not the actual word "cocktail" that some have credited him with- that was apparently disproved)?

And really, where would Halloween be without the Headless Horseman? I know I ask a lot of questions, but The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is often called one of the earliest pieces of American fiction and I say the first American spooky story. How can you not be wowed?

Let's go shopping.

Washington Irving Giclée Print fron ArtTalesandMagic
The Headless Horseman from HeadlessEnterprises
Washington Irving Doll from UneekDollDesigns
Then, let's make an Irving-inspired cocktail and raise our glasses to him. Because I said so.

The Knickerbocker
(named after Irving's nom de plum for a tongue-in-cheek history he wrote of New York in 1809)

2 1/2 oz of golden rum
1 1/2 tsp raspberry syrup
1/2 tsp of orange curaçao
1/2 oz of lime juice

Shake the rum, raspberry syrup, orange curaçao, and lime juice over cracked ice. Now for the crazy part- place the squeezed-out half lime in the bottom of a glass and pour the drink in with the ice. Add a few berries and ta-da! 

The Headless Horseman

2 oz Vodka
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
4 oz Ginger Ale
Orange Slice for Garnish

Combine the Vodka and Bitters in an ice-filled Highball glass and then slowly pour in the Ginger Ale. Easy peasy.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Count Von Count Day!

On November 27, 1972, Count Von Count made his first appearance on Sesame Street. I don't know if you would consider this his birthday, but it is certainly the day to celebrate this well-loved, spooky, puppet. Can it really be 45 years???
Gund Stuffed Animal from shopsy
Count Von Count T-shirt from Zimmermantwin
FunKo Count Von Count on Amazon
The Count Wall Decal on Amazon
Count Von Count Hoodie from ChickenPrint1
Count Von Count Yard Art from CSCuteCrafts

I tried to find a Count Von Count cocktail for us to imbibe during our celebration, but alas, although I could find a bar in China that claims to make one, I couldn't find a recipe. Be creative.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Black Cloaks for Black Friday

It's Black Friday and you would think by the name alone I would love it, but no. There are too many people buying useless things so I stay inside. I have decided though if I needed to go out, I should have a black cloak to hide under. It's seems so New England to me, whether it be witch or pilgrim.

Wool Half-Circle Cloak from chrononautmercantile
1920s Mohair Velvet Opera Cape from FrockittoMe
Flare Wool Black Hooded Cloak from camelliatune
Wool Black Cloak from Gabyga
Maleficent Rooster Feather Cape from eilasan
Black Wool Cape from AtelierMaregaMask
These cloaks should keep you warm and safe from the maddening crowds.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Let's Honor The Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving! I always like to honor the turkeys that have lost their lives for us on this day. Perhaps you can incorporate one of these items into your Thanksgiving table decor next year or add a little something special to your outfit.

Turkey Skull Coffin Display from ShinerSkulls
Turkey Neck Vertebra Covered in Copper Rings from SuperCopper
Chicken & Turkey Bone Necklace from apt213
Turkey & Chicken Skull Necklace from apt213
Turkey Leg Bone Candle Holder from SpecialtySkulls
Two Yards of Turkey Feathers Boa from OnLineFeathers

These might give you an idea for a DIY project today after everyone has picked the turkey clean and you're looking for something to do before you start dessert. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Spirit Dolls

Griselda Tello considers herself a painter first, but assemblage art became a meditative practice for her and so, Tello's spirit dolls were born. Each doll is made from found objects and fabrics and she paints the molded faces. Tello recommends hanging the dolls near a kitchen door or garden gate as a welcome into your home. Her shop is called awesomeart.

Mabon Moon 
Mother Nature
Sugar Skull
Hedge Green Kitchen Witch
Equinox Moon
Halloween Garden Spirit
There are many, many more beautiful spirit dolls like this one in Tello's shop. You might also like to take a look at her paintings.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Colorful Shrines

Many people know that I have a small family shrine in our house as a remembrance to family members and pets that have left this world. It's not morbid. In fact, it makes me smile every time I pass it. It's my little step toward not fearing death, instead, treating it like it's a welcome guest in our house (and as a guest, death needs to behave while it's visiting.)

That's why I love the colorful clay shrines that Kirsten Page Bennett is making in her shop My Mind Garden. You can fill the shrines with anything you want to honor be, it a lost relative, a family pet, or President Obama. The choice is entirely up to you.

Sunburst Mini Altar
Winged Mini Altar with Heart
Sunburst Mini Altar
Bennett also makes some skull ornaments and candle holders I think you'll like.

Anatomical Heart Ornament
Sugar Skull Candle Holder
Sugar Skull Ornament
As Thanksgiving creeps up on us, it would be nice to give a few minutes to thinking about a a way to honor the family and friends that won't be with you this year.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Caitlin Doughty: Book 2

I just finished reading Caitlin Doughty's new book From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. Published this year, it's Doughty's second book about how we respond to death.  Doughty isn't talking much about our emotional reaction to death, but rather the customs and business of death. Her first book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory (2015) was her up-close view of the cremation industry in the United States.

From Here to Eternity is a loving look at death customs, new and old, that are practiced around the world and that Doughty was able to visit and in some instances participate in. She begins and ends the book with examples of new trends in natural burials in the United States including outdoor funeral pyres and natural decomposition. In between she visits old customs of honoring the dead in Indonesia, Bolivia, and Mexico and new customs in Japan and Spain.

Throughout it all, Doughty is practical and straightforward about the question of what to do with all these bodies, but she also brings a sense of wonder and respect for customs that may seem outlandish to some. For instance, living with the dead body of a family member for several years after they have died, as is sometimes done in the South Sulawesi region of Indonesia, or collecting the heads of the dead and keeping them on display in areas of La Paz, Bolivia.

Of course, Doughty also has a sense of humor about it all. I've heard it said that most morticians do have a wonderful sense of humor about death and, yes, Doughty now owns her own nonprofit funeral home (in Smoke Gets In Your Eyes she was working at a crematory and hoped to have her own one day) where she offers cremation and natural funerals with un-embalmed bodies.

What I like most about Doughty's books are that they allow me to ponder how I would like my body treated after I die without feeling morbid. Most people don't want to think about this, but she describes death rituals that are so very loving, you'll want one too. Doughty is out to change how we think and talk about death and I'm looking forward to watching her do it.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Macabre Mix of Odds & Ends

I have some groovy items to show you that you might want to mark as potential holiday gifts. These are items I wouldn't mind finding addressed to me, wrapped in some glossy black paper with a charcoal taffeta bow.

Tiny Skull Ring from Datter
Haunted House Skeleton Key Necklace from AbbiesAnchor
Spooky All Year Pin from Ectogasm
Ghost Candles from HiddenfromtheLight
Skeleton Joy Faery from faeryfossils
Needle-Felted Wool Skeleton from SomeRabbits
Victorian Mourning Print Scarf from KMSxCo

There you have it. Seven lovely items for you to covet.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Yard Art: Let's Get Metal

Zed's Zombie Ranch's artists say they "crave the outlandish." Well, they provide it, too. Their shop offers steel sculptures of skeletons in "outlandish" positions and metal wall and yard signs that will make you smile. Sure the snow may be falling in some parts of the world, but just think how those yard art signs will stand out in the snow!

The shop is zedszombieranch.

Skeleton Playing Banjo
Skeleton Guitar Solo
Beware of Hell Hounds Sign
Do Not Wake The Troll Sign
Skeleton with Boom Box
Zombie Nom Nom Nom Sign

The more I wander through this shop the more I find to love. Spend a few minutes exploring today.