Great Bone Structure

I may have mentioned that my dream house would look like a Victorian study/wunderkammer. I’m already partway there, with my specimens and pictures of bugs and bats and my curios from around the world, but someday I will have more. Oh yes, I will have more.

Specifically, I would love a collection of animal skulls. Animals look like fantastical monsters without their skin, and I find them fascinating. But I currently have nowhere to put a collection of skulls, so for now I make do with one tiny muskrat skull. Someday, though, I would love to have a proper home library with beautiful dark wood book shelves and a few choice specimens on display.

They’d have to be mostly replicas–I’m not about to hunt a giraffe or net a sea turtle or harpoon an Indus River dolphin–there are just so many problems there, both ethical and practical. Replicas would do just fine. And while we’re talking replicas, I might like a replica child’s skull complete with all those teeth waiting to grow in. It’s funny, I really enjoy looking at skulls and imagining where the muscles attach and why they’re shaped the way they are, but looking at all those extra teeth hiding inside a kid’s skull freaks me out a bit.

 

Lost Souls Shawl

Way back in January I said I was making the Lost Souls shawl, and then I never mentioned it again. I actually finished it weeks ago and was all set to show you, but Dad died and life got crazy and I’m just now getting around to writing the post.

skull shawl 2The pattern was actually pretty easy for someone of my middling skill, and it’s such a lacy pattern it worked up quickly. Around the time I finished, I bought a cheap IKEA chair for my living room, and I decided the shawl should live on the chair. It spices up the dull light gray, and it’s easy to drape over my shoulders if I get cold while reading or watching TV.

I must have made the shawl a bit small, because I had yarn left over. I used it to make arm warmers for my girls. (My boy also got arm warmers, but I ran out of the shawl yarn and he opted for red cotton from my stash.)

If you’re wanting a pattern for the arm warmers, you’re out of luck because I didn’t use (or write) one. I basically made single crochet rectangles big enough to wrap around the kids’ arms, then stitched them into tubes with single crochet. The top and bottom ruffles are half-double crochet if I remember right, and the edging on the thumb holes is slip stitches. If you’re good enough with a hook to understand that description, you’re good enough to make way fancier arm warmers than these.

Oh, and speaking of the chair, it’s bland and boring and I’m looking for more ways to spice it up. I’m considering some sort of stencil or even freehand Sharpie art. What do you think? Any experience or suggestions?

R.I.P. Polyvore

So . . . Polyvore disappeared pretty much overnight. I might be the last to know, since I only used the site once in a while, but I thought I’d pass the info along just in case. Looks like you can download your moodboards and such until May 15th. It also looks like FashMates is trying to carry on with the fashion side of Polyvore, at least. They’ll also help you import your Polyvore sets, but I’ve not yet personally used their site so I don’t know how it compares.

If you used Polyvore’s widget code to show sets on your blog, those links all now lead to a cheesy-looking online storefront. I have a couple posts that do this now, and I’m working on fixing the problem, either by downloading my original sets or replacing them with different pictures. I can’t imagine the heartbreak and hassle for serious Polyvore users, and the whole situation seems pretty awful.

Bugs Under Glass

I have a bad case of Olympic Fever so I haven’t had much to post about, but in my odd non-Olympic moments I’ve been mooning over pictures of Victorian style libraries and British Raj style decor. I’ve been nostalgic for India, and one of these days I’ll do a dream post full of black saris and salwar kameezes.

My dream home would mostly look like one big Victorian library/British explorer’s study. Our current house probably isn’t the one we’ll grow old (well, older) in, so we’re holding off on expensive furniture or renovations until our kids grow up and we eventually we decide we’re too lazy to ever move again move into our dream home.

But we indulge in smaller, more portable things like art and bedding. Over the years we’ve found that we both like natural specimens like rock crystals, taxidermy birds and preserved plants and insects. We own a beautiful grasshopper and a robo-beetle (rhinoceros beetle with watchworks attached) that I might have shown you before, and I couldn’t resist adding this amazing pair of cicadas from Bugs Under Glass. They aren’t the exact cicadas that whirred away every summer when I was a kid, but they’re close enough (and a lot prettier). I can’t wait until it arrives.

I especially like that preserved bugs are so sustainable. They’re generally raised on “insect farms” in and around the creatures’ regular habitat and harvested at the end of their naturally short lives. The farms provide locals with an income that preserves rain forest habitats instead of destroying them, so bonus eco-points there.

Someday I might spring for a beautiful black “mormon butterfly” specimen, or a specialty “skeleton butterfly” with the scales removed from one wing to expose the delicate structures underneath. Nature is so amazing, don’t you think?

Chainsaw Art

It isn’t very goth, I suppose, but I spent part of my weekend binge watching Carver Kings on Netflix. It’s technically reality TV, so there’s a feeble attempt at drama, but mostly Carver Kings is about watching people make huge chainsaw scupltures. And that’s a pretty cool thing to watch. One year we even saw real live chainsaw carving at the state fair. I love seeing people create things, especially when they have a lot of skill.

octopus carving.jpeg
Jeffrey Michael Samudosky

 

Sometimes they carve amazingly cool stuff, but most of what they make is kind of western American folk  art–lots of snarling bears and screaming eagles and mysterious wolves, assorted other woodland creatures and occasional “wood spirit,” and maybe a dragon for the really adventurous types. It’s all over the place out here in the mountain west. You can’t buy a fishing pole or visit a canyon without wading through a gift shop full of this kind of art, and I get kind of jaded about it.

So jaded, in fact, that I forget just how much Mr. Robot likes this stuff. He likes screaming eagles and mysterious wolves, and we have exactly zero of these things in our home. We have a mountain scene with a yeti in it and a picture of sharks eating boats, but that’s not really the same, apparently. So the kids and I decided to look for an affordable chainsaw sculpture for Mr. Robot’s birthday in April. Maybe a curious little owl. He likes owls.

owls
by James Haggart, found on eBay.

Dragon bench is by Igor Loskutow. Dementor/wraith is by Denius Parson. I couldn’t find a credit for the ground sloth monster. 

5 Random Things for January

Hey everybody! I still exist! Before all the holidays, Septicemia was nice enough to nominate me for that Liebster award thing and I was all set to work on it when the holiday rush began and tore me away from the computer. The kids started winter break, Mr. Robot got seriously ill, and while I was focused on all that I kinda lost track of the blogging. Now that kids are back in school and Mr. Robot is feeling better, I finally have time to check in. So hi! I hope everyone’s having a spooky January so far. Here are 5 random things I’ve been doing and dreaming about amid all the chaos:

  1. I got a cool new tank top from Disney’s online store. My mom’s always been obsessed with Disney and I inherited a tiny bit of that obsession. Over the years I’ve really fallen in love with the Haunted Mansion ride, and I couldn’t resist this tank based on one of the ride’s paintings.
  2. While driving around one night looking at Christmas lights, we discovered that one of our local cemeteries was full of tiny lighted trees and nativity sets on and around the graves. Nothing really huge or gaudy, just little personal touches for the season. I’ve never seen them do this before, but I hope it becomes a tradition. The whole thing was very peaceful and sweet. Our pictures are terrible because we were too busy enjoying it, but hopefully you get some idea of how lovely this graveyard full of twinkling little lights was.
  3. After taking a break from crochet for a while, I’ve finally ordered yarn to make the Lost Souls skull shawl. It’s been on my mind for ages, ever since Black Kitty pointed me to the Ravelry pattern. I do love a pop of color with my black, so I’m going to make it in Berroco Vintage Black Currant.
  4. I’ve been mooning over the bed sets on the Ink & Rags site. I decided to spend my money on yarn this month, for the shawl and another project, but someday I’m going to get one of these beautiful duvet covers. I just can’t decide which one, they’re all so cool. These are my top three contenders so far (pictures from their site):
  5. Over the break, I took the kids up to Salt Lake City to visit relatives, and we had a rare foggy evening. The western U.S. is pretty short on spooky castles, but we do have a great big Mormon temple smack in the middle of town. It’s spires looked mysterious and castle-like in the fog, so I snapped a couple of quick pics while I waited to cross the street.

There you go. That’s what I’ve been doing on my break from blogging. I’ll try not to be such a stranger. I hope all of you had time for some fun and are excited for the new year starting. I’d love to hear about your interesting plans and projects. What are you dreaming of doing, seeing and maybe buying this year?

Dead Man’s Party

This is my blog’s first Halloween! dead mans party 2

I mostly grew up in 1980s suburban America, which means a)loads of trick-or-treating and b)weird candy scares. Seriously, when I was a kid the local police would offer to x-ray our candy every Halloween, looking for razor blades and needles that never appeared. My parents never actually bothered to x-ray our candy (they would gladly risk our lives to avoid waiting in line on Halloween), but they did feel up every piece of candy we trick-or-treated. Not one razor blade or needle, and obviously no poison–I have four siblings and every one of us is still alive. As an adult, I suspect they were really just looking to steal a few of their favorite flavors from us. I do the same thing, but I’m honest/mean enough to just grab my “mom tax” without making excuses.

Just kidding. My kids are really nice, so they’re usually more than willing to kick me a piece or two from their haul.

dead mans party 1

As a grown-ass adult, I live in the Rocky mountains, in a basically suburban neighborhood, so every year we get a hundred to a hundred fifty trick-or-treaters. I’m a witch every year, as an excuse to sit on my porch in full goth regalia, munching candy. We get a lot of tiny kids, so I try not to make it too scary.

We have a dozen or so skeletons we put out every year–a human skeleton, some crocodile heads, and various other skeletal creatures–and every year I aim for a theme of some sort. I’m not super artistic, but I try. Last year was bayou themed, and this year I’m hosting a “Dead Man’s Party.” The kids helped. I’m very pleased.

 

I’m not sure how popular Oingo Boingo* was worldwide (they’re mostly famous for the “Weird Science” song), but I grew up with “Dead Man’s Party” in my head every Halloween. This year, we’re making it a reality. We bought party hats and kazoos for our skeletons, and come Halloween we’ll blow up balloons and spray some sparkles onto our spiderwebs. By then I’ll have a couple spotlights set up and ready to turn on. Those and our strings of purple lights will keep the party going all night long. The local toddlers will be terrified and excited.

*You may not know Oingo Boingo, but you probably know Danny Elfman from the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, among others.

Lego Monsters

Mr. Robot remembered to get out the Lego monsters. A few years ago when Lego put out its Monster Fighers line I went a little crazy buying most of them. Now I’m glad I did–my collection was nearly complete when they stopped selling them. Back then they even had a Monster Fighters game on the Lego website. Which I never finished. Because I suck at video games.

What about you? Have you ever felt silly snatching up a deal and been so glad you did?

 

Ancestors in October

Ages and ages ago I wrote about painting my bathroom, and way back then I said I was planning to put up old photos of my ancestors. Then life happened and pictures didn’t. I finally got them all printed and framed, but they’re still just propped up in a corner of the living room waiting for Mr. Robot to put them up. He’s very patient and precise with that stuff, so once he does it they’ll look great and be very secure, but he’s been busy and sick by turns and hasn’t gotten to it. IMG_3932

Aw, well. I never claimed to be great at DIY.

October is a great time for hanging a shrine to my ancestors anyway, what with Samhain and Day of the Dead coming up, and I’m sure they’ll be up by then. (If they are, they fit perfectly with Bane’s craft-along “black and white” theme, so I could participate without thinking up something new. Here’s hoping.)

My ancestors are a mix of Deep South farmers (small farmers, not fancy plantation owners) and actual pioneers (the kind with oxen and covered wagons). Mr. Robot’s mom’s side were also small farmers, but we don’t have any old pictures of them. The pictures we have are from his dad’s side, who came over from Norway around 100 years ago. From their pictures, they were pretty fancy. Lots of well-dressed Victorians with fancy hairstyles. His ancestors look like this:

Mine look like this:

Yeah. I’m proud of my ancestors. I come from religious fanatics and explorers and feuding Southern rednecks, and I think that’s pretty cool. But seriously, look at those classy, attractive Norwegians. When I started this project, I never thought the hardest part would be making those two families look like they belong together.

Instead of picking my family’s most formal photos, I picked his family’s most casual because really, I had to put up Aunt Dess and her pet goat. I never even met Aunt Dess, but she and her goat are my heroes. So cute!

Evil Dead: the Cross Stitch

I finished my Dead By Dawn cross stitch. I still have to iron and frame it and hang it up, but it’s done. I love stitching–crochet, knitting, cross stitch–because it puts me into a focused, mindful state. Cross stitch is new to me, so this project was right at the limit of my skill and really made me focus. That was a lot of fun, but I also had some sweary moments of picking out (and once or twice cutting out) wrong stitches. I’m hoping practice makes me better at counting squares.

Still, I’m planning to dip back into crochet next. I found a nice shawl pattern I want to make and I ordered a hank of fancy wool to make it out of. I can’t wait for it to arrive.

onyx wool

I managed to finish the whole thing without actually rewatching the Evil Dead trilogy. I watched Little Evil and The Babadook and several documentaries instead. The Babadook was great, but the “babadook=unresolved grief” metaphor was a bit obvious. Little Evil is a horror comedy from Netflix and it’s a bit tame but fun and kind of heartwarming. A good cross stitching movie.