My Etsy shop is now officially open for business! Why not take a quick look around? Maybe you’ll fall in love with something, and give it a home. And you’ll feel a little swell of pride, knowing that these items are not only one-of-a-kind, handmade, and awesome, but also environmentally friendly. AND you’ll feel good knowing you participated in Small Business Saturday, which makes you a completely rad individual. Do the right thing, be rad, and adopt a doodad today! All your favorite creepy home decor items and props are for sale just one click away: Nevermore Decor on Etsy
Monthly Archives: November 2014
I think we can all agree that the Peanuts’ cartoon specials are hilarious and adorable (if not, you are dead to me because what is wrong with you they are great), but I think the Thanksgiving special is my favorite. I could watch Snoopy wrestle a lawn chair all damn day, because I know his struggle and it is real… Though I be but little, I am fierce, and nothing fills me with white-hot Hulk rage like an inanimate object defying my will. Spice packet won’t tear at the line? Apply brute force, spill spice packet everywhere, use entirety of lung capacity to scream “GODDAMNIT!!” and throw it in the trash, kick the trash can for good measure, spill trash across kitchen, see red as the fire of a thousand suns ignites in my pupils, destroy the world. I’ve got Snoopy’s temper, Peppermint Patty’s tendency to steamroll people and put her foot all up in her mouth, Lucy’s maniacal mean streak and relish for pranks, and under the surface bubbles a pot of Charlie Brown’s social anxieties. So basically, I’m a delight. ANYWAY.
For those of you who haven’t seen it since you were 3 (or ever), Peppermint Patty invites herself (and several others) to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. As usual, Charlie Brown is too socially awkward to object, even though he is going to his grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner in just a few hours. Gasp! Good grief! Linus suggests that Charlie make a dinner real quick for his friends, then go to his grandma’s. Given his limited cooking abilities, and the fact that his sous chef is a dog, Friendsgiving dinner ends up consisting of popcorn, toast, pretzel sticks, and jellybeans.
Not everyone is impressed.
Patty freaks out, Marcy apologizes for her, Linus makes a big speech, they all go to Grandma Brown’s house, Snoopy invites Woodstock to participate in some light cannibalism, roll credits. To enjoy this strange little gem of a holiday special in its 25-minute entirety for yourself, click here.
That sweet, well-intentioned failure of a dinner was my inspiration for Snoopy’s Awesomesauce Thanksgiving Trash (although if I’m being honest, I saw this on Pinterest (so stinkin’ cuuuuute!), and that’s what made me think of combining all the parts of the Peanuts’ gang’s Friendsgiving dinner into an autumnal version of what is commonly known as a ‘trash’ snack mix. Click this link if you don’t believe ‘trash snack mix’ is a thing. It is very real. And so good. ).
I wanted to bring a little Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special to the table this year, so here’s what I came up with:
What’s in it:
- kettle corn
- pretzel sticks
- Cinnamon Toast Crunch (I wanted French Toast Crunch because the bits actually look like little pieces of toast, but I couldn’t find it anywhere…was that a limited time thing??)
- jelly beans (specifically Buttered Popcorn, Toasted Marshmallow, and Cinnamon JellyBellys)
- dry roasted peanuts
- cinnamon cheesecake flavored candy melts
I tossed the freshly-popped kettle corn, pretzels, and peanuts together with the warm, gooey candy melts, then added in the Cinnamon Toast Crunch and the jelly beans afterward. And that’s all there is to it. Anyone can make this. You could be eating this in less than 10 minutes. 20 minutes if you need supplies first.
I was hoping to add a little color to the whole thing by throwing in some kind of autumny sprinkles, but I apparently missed the boat for that, because it’s all red and green sprinkles everywhere, as far as the eye can see. Oh well. It tastes so damn good, no one will care. I’ve been sampling it as I put it together and OH MY GOD. SO GOOD.
The great thing about a solid trash mix is that you can change it up any which way you like, and it’ll be good no matter what, as long as you’re not terrible at combining flavors. I wanted to get the popcorn, jelly beans, pretzels, and toast into the mix, and I had the cinnamon cheesecake candy melts left over from another project, so I just shot for sweet/salty/cinnamon when I was throwing this together. But you can make a trash mix for any occasion, with just about anything. And people go apeshit for it.
By the way, that killer print in the background was done by a very talented guy named Tom Whalen. He makes all kinds of badass posters, and you should go check him out while you’re eating trash.
I love Thanksgiving. I love the food and wine and DESSERTS, and getting together with family, and I’m 100% on board with taking a day to feel grateful… But I, like any student of history, don’t particularly care for the willing ignorance behind the whole Pilgrims and Indians motif. Call me Wednesday Addams, but even if members of these two groups enjoyed some kind of meal together, it doesn’t negate the government-sanctioned genocide and land theft. It just feels a little disingenuous to pretend not to know any of that, just because waffle cone teepees and pilgrim hat marshmallow cookies are both delicious and adorable.
So, if you’re looking to bring some history to your Thanksgiving table that isn’t quite so soaked in blood and tears, and also brings booze along with it, may I suggest: Beaujolais Fest! On Thursday night, Hubstep and I went to a little wine club meeting, and we learned a little bit of history while tasting many, many wines.
Back in the day, in the Beaujolais region of France (pronounced Boe-jhe-LAY), there grew a little grape known as Gamay. The Gamay grapes were thought to be less “elegant” than the Pinot Noir grown in the same region, and the nobility wanted nothing to do with them. Making wine with Gamay grapes was basically social suicide. But the workers in the fields thought the Gamay was just fine, and found that it even fermented more quickly than the other grapes. And so, a tradition began among the fieldhands, to collect and ferment the Gamay grapes for themselves. A few short weeks later, they’d celebrate the end of the harvest season by cracking open their bottles of freshly fermented wine, and getting schwasted.
As time went on, the party got more and more out of hand, and eventually it became a world-wide phenomenon and the government of France had to lay down a few rules (mostly to prevent early release of the vintage). But! The Beaujolais Nouveau wine is still made the same way (essentially using gravity, rather than a press (or feet!), to crush the grapes), the Gamay grapes are still picked by hand, and all over the world, at midnight on the third Thursday of November, the Beaujolais Nouveau wine is released, and there is much rejoicing. Beaujolais Day is a celebration of the harvest, and of the laborer who makes it possible. Those field workers used the grapes they had access to (what the nobility thought were garbage grapes), fermented them whole in barrels, and after waiting the minimum amount of time necessary for it to turn into alcohol, busted out their humble vintage, and celebrated another year of hard work, together with their friends and family. They didn’t have the fine wines and fancy parties of the lords they worked for, but they did have food, and wine, and family.
Making do with what you have, and gratitude for it. Hard work, and the satisfaction of a job well done. A table laden with the fruits of the harvest, surrounded by family. This story may be French, but all that sounds pretty damn close to what Thanksgiving, and America, are all about.
So, may I suggest bringing a little Beaujolais Nouveau to your Thanksgiving table this year. It’s fruity and surprisingly smooth for such a young wine, and it pairs really, really well with turkey and stuffing and cranberries. You can find it just about anywhere that sells wine, like the grocery store, and it’s usually priced right around $10/bottle, so it’s affordable for the working family. So, here’s to working hard, being with family, eating pie and drinking wine, and being grateful. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
For some reason, most of the party advice and how-to’s I’ve come across only suggest games and activities for children’s parties. Spoiler alert: adults like games and activities too! It seems to be a common assumption that all you need to throw a successful party for adults are the basics: food, booze, and music. Sort of a ‘if you build it they will come’ approach – put on some tunes, put out some chips, and everyone will just magically have a great time. If your goal is to host a largely forgettable evening, well, that’s the recipe.
While it’s not always easy to come up with games adults will enjoy (we usually end up having to more-or-less invent them), it is absolutely worth it. The reactions are priceless. When you have thematic, age-appropriate games, it kicks your party into a whole new level, and makes it an event; an occasion that they will still be talking about weeks, months, years later.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to strike a balance between ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ and Beer Pong. Actually… ok, between like, Uno and Beer Pong, because even when you were five, you knew that ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ was stupid bullshit, and you were too old for it.
Your game can’t be too kid-ish, because no one will want to play and they’ll think you’re an idiot. And drinking games exclude all but the alcoholics and the 22 year olds. Not that you should never do drinking games; they can be a fun way to get the crowd warmed up and ready to act a little silly/make a new best friend. Depending on your crowd, there’s nothing wrong with putting on a PowerHour playlist (plays only 60 seconds of each song, 60 songs total; take a sip of your drink every time the music changes) to give your early arrivers something to keep them busy while you finish up the food/put the ice out/other last-minute stuff. But drinking games shouldn’t be the main focus, or your only activity, because it excludes too many people. The ideal of the game is to get people involved, engaged; to get them talking to people they normally wouldn’t. Without an activity, people are generally just going to eat their chips and talk to the people they already know. Forgettable. A game gives them a common goal (or enemy), and a reason to interact with strangers. And one of the coolest things in the world is seeing two of your friends, from completely different spheres of your life, laughing together and just getting along famously.
To give you an example, our Knight of Fright Halloween party (medieval/fantasy theme) had several games going on. The “Royal Proclamation” I sent out to our guests via Facebook about a week beforehand puts it in a nice fat little nutshell:
Your goal on November 8th will be to accumulate the most gold that you can, in order to increase your wealth, influence, and the favor of your house. There are several ways to accumulate gold:
EARN IT: Competing in the lists (playing a game called Battlegrounds, which is basically a tabletop variation of Cornhole meets Angry Birds)
BUY IT: A gold is given for every entry into the 50/50 raffle
WIN IT: You may gamble your gold for a chance to win big by playing Fortune’s Tower (a card game)
STEAL IT: All guests will be issued a satchel for their gold, to be attached to the hip area via the provided clip. You may attempt to take other guests’ satchels, but be careful of being caught by them OR by The Royal Guards, who will put you in the stocks for your trouble.
The Royal Treasurer will keep track of each guest’s wealth and allow you to make deposits and withdrawals from The Royal Treasury. THE ROYAL TREASURY DOES NOT ISSUE CREDIT. At the end of the night, the richest/most influential Houses will receive very fine gifts of hospitality from the Lord and Lady of the Castle, in the hopes of securing an alliance. The peasantry can just get the hell out.
Battlegrounds took place in the garage/catacombs. Besides providing the thieves with an excellent environment in which to attempt to snatch a satchel or two (low lighting and distracted marks), just about everyone tried it at least once, and most kept coming back for match after match.
We bought a set of tabletop cornhole tables and some weird, tentacley balls (…that sounds terrible) at our local craft store, and from those items (totaling about $20), we made Battlegrounds. There were 5-7 people to a team, and the idea was for everyone to throw all the balls simultaneously, to try to either score, or stop the opposing team from scoring. Points were awarded the same as cornhole (1 for on, 2 for in), but you could stop an opponent’s ball in mid-air by hitting it with one of yours.
Fortune’s Tower is actually an Xbox game, it was part of a little side-thing called Pub Games that came as a pre-order bonus to Fable II. We let guests bet their gold on the outcome of the card game, line by line. [Click the screenshot to try it out (Xbox required), but be warned: it’s very addicting. ] This was even more popular than Battlegrounds, and there were even a couple jackpots. For those of you who’ve never experienced such a thing, jackpots are unreasonably exciting, even when it’s fake money that means nothing. The sun shines out of your face anyway and you feel that combination of utter elation and smug, I-completely-deserve-this satisfaction. It’s pretty great.
The stealing part was a lot of fun, too. You really needed a light touch to release the binder clip (on the satchel) from someone’s costume without them noticing. And if a Royal Guard caught you in the act, you would be carted off to the stocks in the garage, where we would boo you and throw lettuce at your head.
We had a few other baskets that I didn’t snap pictures of, but my love affair with themed gift baskets is another post for another day.
Now that’s just the games we did this year, but this post is already too long to be piling any other examples into it. The point is, games bring your theme to life, get your guests invested in your concept, and involved with one another. As Martha would say, it’s a good thing.
I have one word, one very important word for all you home haunters out there: CHEESECLOTH. Cheesecloth is your new best friend. If you’ve ever purchased “creepy cloth” at the Halloween store at $7 for 2 yards, or bought those bags of fibrous bullshit that you pull apart and stretch to make spiderwebs, this post is for you. Cheesecloth is about to change your game up.
Oh, people of Sherwood, you’ve been had! Hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Firstly, “creepy cloth” (or “freaky fabric”, or whatever they choose to call it at your particular local Halloween store) is just cheesecloth that has been roughed up a bit for you, and therefore costs approximately 3x as much. Do your own ripping and tearing, and spend more money on candy and booze. Now, I will admit, I don’t mind paying the extra if it’s a different color, like black, and I’m using it to create an effect other than spiderwebs, because ain’t nobody got time to be dying cheesecloth all different colors in their utility tub. Fuck that.
And those bags of “super-stretch” spiderwebs? Has anyone, in the history of ever, EVER had any easy time with that crap? The effect comes off cheap and cheesy, and it’s a pain in the ass to put up AND to take down. Cleaning that stuff up is the absolute WORST. WORST!! The point is, it’s terrible and I hate it.
Lovely, lovely cheesecloth, however, is the bee’s knockin’ knees, you guys.
…I don’t even know what that means. But what you should take away from this is, cheesecloth is great.
The effect is absolutely stunning, it’s super easy to clean up, and you can re-use it year after year after year. AND you can use it for like, a hundred other cool things besides making spiderwebs.
SO. This year, for our medieval theme, we turned our garage into… The Catacombs. Which, I felt, required the entire ceiling to be absolutely riddled with webs. I didn’t, in the end, actually get the whole ceiling covered, but…
The cheesecloth webs have a much more realistic effect than that bag of stretchy cotton will ever be able to provide. AND they were super easy to put up, thanks to this guy:
Because I am a short li’l stack of pancakes, I have a hard time reaching the ceiling in the garage, even when standing on a chair. And our ladder is too tall to even open up in the garage. This presented me with a problem. How would I cover the ceiling in cobwebs if I couldn’t reach it? So, my big strong MacGyver bent up some metal, covered the edge in Avengers duct tape, and created the perfect cobwebbin’ stick. It has a hole in the top that is just big enough to allow a standard push-pin to sit in it, but not fall through. So, we would place the push-pin in its holster, drape the torn cheesecloth over it, and push it up into the ceiling.
Worked like a charm.
I think I’ll get into the games we had going in the garage (and the shaming photo-op) in the next post, so for now, just remember that cheesecloth is the best and that having a fantastical cobwebbin’ stick makes it even better.
I built this thing months ago, and then spent week after week after week trying to decide what the first post should be about. Every possible ‘first post’ topic was too cutesy, too old, out of season, or dull. Excuse followed excuse, and here we are, months later, and only virtual spiderwebs adorn this blog. I said I was going to be dedicated this time! Shit!
So, in the name of research and advice (and totally not just further procrastination), I read article after article about blogging, and how to build your brand, and how your posts should have purpose, and all kinds of really helpful nonsense, until finally I came across some common sense (somewhere…would link if I remembered)… “Just start”, it said. Stop trying to make everything perfect and just do the fucking thing already. So here I am, just starting.
Today, I’d like to talk about severed heads.
We just got done with our annual Halloween party, which this year had a Medieval theme, so obviously I had to mount some severed heads on a wall. Obviously.
And the detail views:
I bought styrofoam heads (like for wigs) at my local craft supply store and proceeded to ‘horrify’ them with acrylic paint, wigs, and a few other odds and ends. I found the wigs at a thrift store. I didn’t feel great about touching said wigs in general, and felt even weirder when the clerk rang them up without comment. I realized in that moment that there wasn’t a single thing I could say right then that would make buying two secondhand wigs, one male and one female, that would make the situation less awkward. “Don’t worry, they’re not going on MY head,” …nope. “I thought those would be perfect for the severed heads I’m making” …definitely not. I frequently spend my time in the checkout line at Goodwill trying to think of comments to help explain my purchases so that maybe I’ll seem a little less strange, and inevitably only come up with ways to make it worse. If anyone out there works the register at a thrift store, and a woman comes through your line with things like gross wigs and Barbie heads and children’s nightgowns and ceramic clowns, cut her some slack. She’s not a serial killer, and she’s concentrating really, really hard on not creeping you out.
The Making Of
As you can see above, I keep a very neat and organized work space.
So it turns out that styrofoam has an excellent texture for making severed heads. Who knew, right? The heads come with a flared out neck and flat base, so they’ll sit nicely on a flat surface, but I needed them looking messy and mounted on spikes. So, I clawed the neck bases apart like an animal, breaking pieces off and scratching bits here and there, leaving the rough surface see above. I think we’re all familiar with the pebbly texture of torn styrofoam. Turns out, when you cover that pebbly surface with red and black paint, it makes pretty decent rotting flesh. I used a spray sealer on all of them to give it a shiny, bloody-looking finish, and added white rice for maggots on one:
WARNING: TRYPOPHOBIA TRIGGER BELOW
Trypophobia, for those of you who don’t know, is a fear of small holes. Usually, a cluster of irregular small holes, such as a lotus seed pod, or honeycomb. It sounds ridiculous, but Google it, and see if the images don’t turn your stomach. I was surprised to find out that a lot of the pictures made me feel really uneasy, like almost nauseous. This article explains it better than I can. Have fun disappearing down that particular Internet rabbit hole.
Anyway, I figured, “So, that’s gross and horrible and strange and seemingly fairly prevalent, I should work it into a Halloween decoration!” Because I am the worst. So that’s exactly what I did. I bought a sprig of autumn foliage at the craft store that included a lotus seed pod (ugh), sliced off the top of it, and set it with tacky glue (and a metric fuckton of red fabric paint) into the cheek of one of my heads:
At Dave’s suggestion (Dave is my Hubster), I added black glass marbles into the mix:
I think we can all agree, that’s nasty.
I have to admit, the marbles weighed down that side of the face terrifically, so once the heads were mounted on the wall, I had a hell of a time stopping this one from tipping over and spinning around so that the marbles faced the ground. Stupid gravity, getting in the way of all my plans.
The woman was the first head I made. I think she is probably the least scary/gross, but for whatever reason, she is my favorite. There’s not much to her, and I think the wig is mostly what makes her, but even so… favorite.
When I finished her, I put her in the closet for (fairly) safe storage (always the chance of an avalanche in there), and whenever I would open the door, and her face would be there, seemingly sleeping, I would get this vision of the eyes suddenly popping open. And that freaked me right the fuck out.
Eventually I got smart, and turned her face to the wall. But that is legitimately how I judge the quality of my Halloween crafts… if I don’t enjoy being alone in a room with it at night (or better yet, even during the daylight hours), I’ve done something right.
To close out, some photos of the heads the night of the party… apparently the camera HATES the dramatic red spotlighting on them, and they all came out blurry as shit. Sorry. But you get the idea. Pin them anyway. Pin them all!