Sunday, December 23, 2012

'Twas the Night (almost) Before Christmas ...

Back in October, whilst drooling over a Hallowe'en display from MK's Little Cabinet of Curiosities, a small votive shown in Madame Kismet's post captured the insomniac's  attention. MK was most generous and allowed the insomniac  to “borrow” the photo for reference so she could attempt to make something similar. As was to be expected, the end result bears little resemblance to the original except for the black Dresden trim, which at a distance looks a bit like the metal trim on the prototype. Possibly the fact Madame Kismet purchased the votive in Frankfurt sparked the idea of covering one's interpretation with pages from an old German book instead of leaving it plain. Whatever the reasoning behind the somewhat perplexing deviations that were made during the recreation, one can't help but feel pleased with the final outcome.

MK's Original Votive

Should you not happen to have an old German book with this particular Gothic Font in your collection, here are some pages to start you on your way. Print out a copy of the text and paste it onto your glass container with some sort of decoupage medium such as Mod Podge or Collage Pauge. Then give the paper an aged look with either Distress Ink (apply after the  decoupage medium has dried) or Distress Stain (apply while medium is still wet). Trim the paper to fit by ripping it while wet to create a tattered edge. Add some Dresden trim around the top (Collage Stuff has a lovely selection of black trims) with whatever glue you have at hand. Might one suggest that Diamond Glaze, the only glue left in the cupboard that had not dried up since last Christmas, was not a good choice. You may want to try something different.

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

If you're planning to keep the votive, add a coat of clear varnish to protect the paper. But in the unlikely event you've not cleaned off your craft table properly and have small pieces of grey melton wool from the mukluks you're currently working on embedded in the decoupage medium, you should probably avoid the varnish so the paper can be easily removed after Christmas and you can redo the votive again next year. Note to Self: make more of an effort to centre the paper on the large votive a bit better next year ...

The Insomniac's  Versions

Distress Ink on left votive (subtle aging effect)
Distress Stain on right votive (not so subtle)

To create the stars shown tastefully tossed amongst the votives above, cut pieces of cardboard in your desired shape. Glue a piece of the text onto the front and back of the cardboard, then trim to fit the cardboard. Distress the edges with a Distress Ink Pad (Dusty Concord has been used on the cut-outs below), and glitter the edges with Stickles glitter glue which will hide the cardboard interior nicely. These little cut-outs have many different uses during the holidays, such as:

Adding a bit of purple filler
to the black glittered pine cone display ...

... or extending the life of your centerpiece
by strategically covering up the dying greenery.

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a Corvidae Corvus ...

The stockings made of old upholstery material were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there ...

His eyes - how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
When he saw that they'd left him a decanter of sherry!

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight -
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

The insomniac  will be taking a brief hiatus from blogging over the holiday season, returning again on January 13th. First on the post-Christmas To Do list, the refinishing and reupholstering of a lovely Gothic settee and chair; to be made ready for sale in the Attic and someone's eventual enjoyment of it in their  Gothic Mansion. But not this  Gothic Mansion, because obviously there is no more room. And the only New Year's resolution one has any intention whatsoever of keeping, is that 2013 will be the year the downsizing process begins. Really.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties. And a very Merry Christmas to you and yours ... xox.


    'Twas the Night Before Christmas or A Visit from St. Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore - the slightly modified version.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Great Christmas Tree Tragedy of 2008 ...

After reading through the various Gothidays posts last week, a recurring theme seemed to be the sentimental feelings everyone had with regard to certain special ornaments from Christmases past. The insomniac  also had such a collection of memorable ornaments, and decorated the family tree with them right up until 2008 - the year of the Great Christmas Tree Tragedy. A few days before Christmas that fateful year, at approximately 5:00 a.m., there was a tremendous crash, a yelp from the dog, and the sound of thundering paws taking the stairs three at a time up to the second floor. And then ... silence.

Tentatively going downstairs to investigate, the insomniac  and the eldest offspring found the 10-foot tree lying on the floor. After righting the tree, it was discovered that not only were most of the ornaments broken, but to add insult to injury, EVERYTHING was covered in doggie diarrhea. Kaos had rather odd bathroom habits, always finding it necessary to bury his head in a tree or bush before going about his business. We deduced that was probably what he was attempting to do in the Christmas tree that morning. Luckily for the spouse, he had already been called in to work at 2:00 a.m. and did not have to deal with the cleanup. The youngest stood by and sobbed helpfully, while the insomniac  and the eldest dragged the stinking mess outside.  

Almost all the special ornaments collected over the years were broken that day, and a new Christmas tree had to be hurriedly purchased along with a new set of multi-coloured lights (all the white lights were sold out by then). Since that year, even though Kaos is no longer with us, holiday decorations in the Gothic Mansion consist primarily of pine cones and antlers and old Christmas postcards; durable items which are hard to break. And although the lives of many ornaments were lost in the Great Tragedy that year, we still speak of it with much laughter accompanied by the shaking of heads, and it has become a new cherished memory for the family.

Kaos still got a present that year, regardless. Watching him open
them was really the highlight of Christmas for all of us ...

Taking a cue from her Sainted Father, who used to take old Christmas cards and apply them to scrap pieces of wood, the insomniac  started a collection of antique Christmas postcards that year. It has proven to be an excellent way to decorate, with the added bonus of being cheaper and much more durable than glass ornaments.

The original Santa ornaments created by the SF.
They've been repaired so many times, it's not even funny.

Lately, the insomniac  has started scanning the original cards, printing them out and pasting them onto a piece of cardboard; the final touch being the addition of lots and lots of glitter (she prefers Stickles glitter glue which is available in a gazillion colours and has a nice sharp point, enabling extremely detailed glitter work). The edges are aged with a Distress Ink Pad - the Old Paper colour gives a lovely weathered look to the piece. Working with a copy leaves the postcards in their original condition, on the off-chance they might actually be worth something to a Real Collector some day.

As always, click the image to view the larger size, then use the RightClick-Save feature to make use of the samples for your own crafting purposes.

The SF made little stands for his Santa ornaments.

The insomniac  can't be bothered and
props them up against any available vertical surface.

Sample 1

Displayed with dried flowers from the eldest offspring's annual
“Mom, I feel terrible that I forgot your birthday again this year!” bouquet.

His memory is almost  as bad as his mother's ...  ;o)

Sample 2

This next card provided the inspiration to use peacock feathers in this year's brown, gold and black display on the buffet ...

This year, peacock feathers ...

 ... next year, sea shells.

Unlike a true postcard connoisseur, there is no particular rhyme nor reason to the insomniac's  Christmas Postcard Collection, but she does have a special fondness for those with angels; especially angels with deer. The unsurpassable favourite is unquestionably the dead bird postcard, but despite numerous eBay searches she has never been able to find another. Cards are chosen strictly for their aesthetic appeal, no matter their condition (there's always Photoshop) or what language the holiday sentiment is expressed in.

For the Croatian/Bosnian readers ...

For the German readers ...

For the Scandinavian readers ... sorry, no deer.

The insomniac  had every intention this week of also including instructions for do-it-yourself votives made with dresden trims and pages removed from an old book, as well as glittered stars and bats made from those same pages, but decided mid-week it was of paramount importance the kitchen chairs be painted black before last night's holiday party instead. Perhaps because one no longer participates in the Christmas Shopping Frenzy at the mall in search of new ornaments, there remains some deep-seated need to recreate that feeling of panic, compelling one to undertake unrealistic kitchen makeovers three days before the next batch of company arrives.

In any event, be sure to gather up any small glass containers for next week's votive instructions, which you will definitely be able to complete before Christmas Day. But they'll look just fine displayed all year long, in case you decide your kitchen chairs need painting this week instead. A word of warning, though ... they are  glass and they will  break.

The Favourite

She is displayed year-round up in the real third-floor attic sewing room,
but comes downstairs for Christmas ...

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. And also wishes you Compliments of the Season. Goodnight, my pretties.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Theme Post: Gothidays Day Seven

Today is the final day of Franny's Gothidays 2012. The insomniac  has so enjoyed reading about all the participant's holiday traditions around the world, which also provided a welcome respite this past week from the cleaning, baking and decorating preparations for the Annual Christmas Potluck last night. It's always wonderful to see all our neighbours, old and new, and catch up with everyone - our little tradition that has been happening for roughly ten years now and one we hope to continue for many years to come. 

Gothidays also inspired a closer look at one's own holiday rituals: a few of the less satisfying to be eliminated or given diminished importance next year, to allow time for the more meaningful ones. One ritual that will remain unchanged is the vast quantities of food, which proved to be enough enticement to lure not one but both offspring to the Potluck last night. And thanks to the European participants in Gothidays, a brand new addition to the insomniac's  holiday celebrations - Glögg. Cheers, everyone!

Last minute centerpiece ...

The new hot mats looked nice ...

Woodland Forest Display ...

A bit of the Reindeer Collection ...

We believe, Rudolph.
We believe.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. As for the insomniac ... pretty much ate herself into a stupor last night and will now be retiring to the couch. Goodnight, my pretties.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Theme Post: Gothidays Day Four

Since most of this week will be spent trying to finish up the baking and decorating before the Annual Christmas Potluck on Friday, here are some pictures of yesterday's progress ...

Peanut Brittle cooking ...

... and cooling.

The Lace Cookies were a total flop. They ended up in the garbage. No pictures. Pffft.

A little more Christmas decorating was completed. There is still a bit more to be done before Friday ...

Fresh holly added to the cupboard above the sink,
since a lot of time is spent staring at this shelf while doing dishes ....

The piano was decorated with a bell garland and gold paper snowflakes. The vintage sheet music has a nice Christmas feel and will be displayed on the piano until the snow melts - unless the youngest comes home; then it's replaced by Stairway to Heaven. Below is a closeup, in case you'd like to make a copy - it is quite pretty.

Not used for much except another place to display things these days ...

Closeup of Sheet Music

The only decorating done on the second floor was the addition of some fresh juniper branches to the upstairs hall table. The wall colours down the hallway are green and burgundy, so it really doesn't require much effort to make it look Christmas-ey. The insomniac  is a bit lazy when it comes to Christmas decorating, really ...

Greenery and deceased birds - Ho Ho Ho ...

A closeup of the Victorian Christmas postcard shown above, in case you'd like to make your own card for family and friends - because nothing says Season's Greetings like a dead bird. An early Christmas present from the insomniac  to you ...

Dead Bird = All the Pleasures of the Season?
It's a mystery.

On Monday, there was a beautiful hoar frost coating everything on the veranda. This is how the black wreath in the bird bath looked on Monday evening.

Thank you, Mother Nature ... it's beautiful.

Franny's Gothidays 2012 continues until December 8th and the insomniac, for one, would like to say, “Franny, this was the best idea ever! It's been so enjoyable reading about everyone's holiday rituals. Please promise to do it again next year!”

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Theme Post: Gothidays 2012

The Curious Professor Z has challenged everyone to share how they celebrate the holidays. The insomniac  is excited to participate in this event with the pair of Christmas tabletop dioramas completed thus far; the remaining installations to be finished over the next few weeks. Or not. We'll see how it goes.

Because the offspring no longer live at home and will arrive on Christmas Day just in time to eat vast quantities of food, promptly retire to any available chaise while moaning dramatically about the over-consumption of vast quantities of food, only to depart with an abundance of leftovers in hand the minute they've become ambulatory again, hauling the 10-foot fir tree in and out of the house no longer seems worth the effort. And while one of them is bound to comment, “Whaaaat - no tree again this year?”, neither of them seem to be banging down the door with offers of help. Besides, the holidays are really all about the food in this family.

One of this year's themes for the Dining Room (where the majority of the Christmas Day action occurs) was created around a recently thrifted purchase - the dangling pine cone ornament hanging from the middle of the buffet. The silver glittered birds were purchased three years ago and have remained perched on the pedestal bowl ever since. Black sparkly pillar candles were bought this Hallowe'en and replaced the purple sparkly candles, which have since been donated back to the thrift shop from whence they came.

Although the brown, gold and black theme is quite attractive, it's not something the insomniac  could live with on a permanent basis as it doesn't coordinate very well with the wallpaper or the carpet. But once the tinsel bell garland and dangling pine cone ornament are removed, it'll probably be just fine to leave out right up until March. Or thereabouts.

Thrifted silver pieces and natural items ...

Collection of magpie feathers, baby's breath,
bird's eggs and pine cones ...

Gold painted walnuts and peacock feathers - decorating staples ...

Glittered pine cones - another staple ...

The insomniac  relies heavily on the “haul everything out of the cupboards and make a Christmas display out of it by adding some antlers and pine cones” style of decorating, which she is quite certain is a recognized style in decorating magazines these days and is the antithesis of the minimalist style. Generally, each year's display is somewhat different and starts out with some old stained tapestry or some type of handwork that, while very pretty, is not something one would care to look at every damn day. The red and black feltwork items below add a sort of folkloric look to this year's Black Forest Antler and Christmas Beer Stein Display.

A Hallowe'en tree with black crystal ornaments, red tinsel ...

... and spider tree topper.

Old fashioned tinsel garland adds a festive look to any set of antlers ...

There's something about a stein
that just shouts Bring on the Christmas Beer Cheer ...

Beautiful Hungarian reverse felt applique ...

The Gothidays 2012 week-long blogging event runs until December 8th - please be sure to check out the rest of the participants for their brilliant holiday ideas with a dark twist. And many thanks to Franny for hosting this event - an excellent start to getting us all into the Christmas spirits spirit.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams of the upcoming festivities. Goodnight, my pretties.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Slight Technical Difficulties with Close-ups of Tiny Taxidermy Pieces ...

The insomniac  would like to apologize for the tardiness of this week's post - apparently Macro Mode on the new camera does not work the same as Macro Mode on the old camera. And since this week's subject consists of very small pieces of taxidermy, it's not particularly effective when the photos are so blurry it's hard to make out what they actually are ...

Worse than usual photo.

You're intrigued now though,
aren't you?

Hopefully, with rather large coffee cup and camera instruction booklet in hand, the correct way to take a decent close-up photo will be revealed by day's end, at which time a proper post will be published. Hopefully.


... many hours later. This was how it was supposed to start: 

The cleansing of the Gothic Mansion in preparation for holiday company has begun, as there's nothing quite like the probable embarrassment of having one's guests discover cobwebs in the corners to provide the necessary incentive for a thorough cleaning job. Everything in the Mansion, including things stored under glass domes, are being given a good going over. And as the last three items in this particular collection have been sitting on the plant stand waiting to be added to their special dome for well over a year now, one felt that along with a good dusting of the dome, this might also be an excellent time not only to hang the remaining items but also take a few pictures while they're out. Because if you think the insomniac's  close-ups stink, you should see her attempts to take a photo of anything hidden behind glass.

This particular collection is, of course, the insomniac's favourite, and has been in the works for roughly four or five years now. Because nothing is glued in place inside the dome, it is quite difficult to incorporate new items and completely justifies one's procrastination in adding those final three pieces - as soon as the glass dome is removed, tree branches, moss, bird's eggs and all those little hanging taxidermy pieces have a tendency to project themselves clear across the room. The majority of the collection was purchased in Germany, and one believes they are worn on a chain across the front of lederhosen and has heard them referred to as Black Forest Hunting Relics or Charivari. 


Bird Head

Back of Bird Head


Really Excellent Teeth

Crow Claw

Bird Beak

More Teeth


And Again - More Teeth

A Different Crow Claw

Little Hoof


Bottom Left: Hinged Jaw with Teeth
It opens and closes. Sweet.

Permanent Display with
badger skull, horn handled knife,
spider & web, owl ornament, pipe.

Because the branches are close to full, the insomniac  has now declared this particular collection to be complete. Unless another fantastic hinged-jaw piece or a larger glass dome becomes available at a decent price, in which case there's probably room for a few more.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.


PostScript: During proofreading, the spouse mentioned the pictures were very difficult to see, especially with all the tree branches, moss and bird's eggs in the way. Should you agree with him, you can always click on the pictures for a better look.