Sunday, December 13, 2015

Theme Post: Gothidays Day Seven

Welcome to the final day of Gothidays 2015! Today, the insomniac would like to share with you some of her Christmas decor for this holiday season.

Back when we lived in the Gothic Mansion, decorating for Christmas was a very big deal, especially when the offspring were younger and still living at home. It literally took two weeks to do the whole house, and roughly the same amount of time to pack everything away again. These days, decorating feels like more of a chore than a delight, and nobody seems to care as long as there's plenty of food available to take their minds off the lack of seasonal decor.

Should you wish to see photos of how things were back in the “Olden Days”, here are a few links - which may or may not include some rather vague instructions on how to make some of the decorations you'll see in this post:

Theme Post: Gothidays 2012 Day One 
Theme Post: Gothidays 2012 Day Seven  
'Twas the Night (almost) Before Christmas

Many ornaments were taken to Goodwill when we packed up the Gothic Mansion two Christmases ago, and even more sold at a Christmas Market the insomniac  was a vendor at in November. As this too was a handmade/vintage market, she created a number of ornaments to go with the vintage Christmas items from her personal collection and, as expected, none of them sold. Actually, there might have been one that sold. No, wait - that one was given away. Seriously, she could write a very large tome on “How to Make Things That Won't Sell at a Market” and have no difficulties whatsoever filling it up with her brilliant ideas. Probably enough ideas to make it a three volume set.

The holiday colours for the cottage seem to have evolved into predominantly black, ivory and crimson, with a whole lot of tarnished silver thrown in. Because when dropping your old Christmas ornaments off at the Goodwill donation centre, you'll probably decide to take a little peek inside the Goodwill store and will inevitably find more tarnished silver to add to your already extensive collection.

And that's how the tarnished vase in this next picture was found, jazzed up with a few rhinestones, displayed with turkey feathers and taken to market. Where it didn't sell. There was, however, a tremendous amount of interest in the feathers ...

Customers:  Oooh, what kind of feathers are those?
Insomniac:  Wild turkey, I think.
Customers:  I really like those. I collect feathers, smudge with them, etc. etc. etc.
Insomniac:  Oh jeez, just take one.
Customers:  Really? Thank you so much!

The ivory decorations seem to work well against the dark furniture, dark walls and the dark stones on the fireplace. One has definitely noticed she's reluctant to display any brightly coloured things in the cottage, and there's only a handful of those types of ornaments left. Plus the ivory complements the skulls on the mantel nicely.

Lengths of fabric formerly used for covering tables at markets are now being used to cover the dining room table. The buffet always gets decorated, because at least people notice those decorations on their way to and from the kitchen to fill their plates with more turkey and stuffing.

The table isn't generally covered in antlers, and is not part of the holiday decorating scheme. The insomniac  has discovered a good way to get things done in a relatively timely manner is to stack them someplace where, eventually, they'll be in the way. As Christmas dinner will be on the 24th this year, the antlers will need to be photographed and put on the website within the next ten days. This clever tip, plus many more, to be revealed in her upcoming tome.

After Christmas, the insomniac  plans to unpack the box of crystal underneath the buffet and put all that  on the dining room table. Then maybe the shelves in the clock case meant to hold all the crystal will get built before Easter.

The blackened and gold-leaf tipped antlers didn't sell either. But that's okay - a set went to one of the insomniac's  helpers at the market and the other set will now live here with us.

As always, the taxidermy loves to get dressed up for the holidays, as does Odin. Or Thor. Whoever that guy on the piano is.

Thrifted frame, adorable little picture of an angel and deer. Didn't sell. Luckily, the insomniac  has gotten a lot smarter about markets, and is now making things she likes herself instead of things other people might like. All covered in Chapter 2 of the book. Look for it soon ... like in about twenty years.

Set of three votives that didn't sell. The spouse says it's because everyone fears the glitter.

Decoupaged papers on the backs of crystals. Didn't sell. Not even a little sad about that.

The very last of the brightly coloured ornaments. It hurts the eyes, doesn't it? If they weren't really old and possibly worth something, they'd already be gone.

And that's pretty much it for the downstairs decorations. No Christmas tree again this year, as we now have a forest full of trees that have the decency to drop their needles all over the forest floor instead of all over ours.

Upstairs is totally barren of Christmas decor, other than a skull and the remains of some very special flowers that probably aren't going to make it through many more holidays. Oh, and a cherub table cover that didn't sell. Almost forgot about that.

And now it's time for the important part of the post - the giveaways!

Firstly, a Krampus pillow - the perfect gift for any child on your Christmas list. And what child wouldn't want to be tucked into their bed Christmas Eve with this beauty in sight? It's practically guaranteed to produce visions of things other than sugarplums dancing in their heads. All. Night. Long.

Because the giveaway is open world wide, this lovely pillow will be sent to you without the actual pillow to save on shipping charges. But it takes a standard 18" pillow form, which can be purchased almost anywhere.

Secondly, a set of holiday tags with twelve different woodland animals, a package of antique gold tinsel garland, and an amethyst snowflake with an olive green bow. Whaaaaat? Amethyst and olive green are so Christmas colours! No? Oh, maybe that's why it didn't sell.

And thirdly, a package of crimson tinsel garland which says tissue paper on the label but it's bright and shiny so just ignore that, along with a lovely crystal ornament embellished with black snowflakes and crimson ribbon. Whaaaaat? Snowflakes aren't supposed to be black? Probably why it didn't sell either.

To enter, simply comment as to which of these prizes you're interested in. Or ask to be entered in all the draws and increase your chances! Winners will be announced Monday, December 14th as an addendum to this post. Both this and the previous contest end this evening, Sunday, December 13th, at midnight.

As always, a big thank-you to The Curious Professor Z for hosting this holiday extravaganza! It's been wonderful reading about the other participant's holiday rituals, and one hopes to see you all again next year. Although please don't expect anything new in the way of decorating ideas here at the Little Gothic Cottage - if anything, it might be even sparser than this year.

However, one does hope you understood that although the insomniac  claimed in her previous Gothidays post to be on a mission to reduce the amount of Christmas baking consumed in this household, she wasn't actually serious. We're right back up to fourteen different varieties of cookies in the freezer, two or three kinds of spiced nuts and at least five types of candy. Some holiday rituals should not be tampered with. So sayeth the family.

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


4:19 p.m. Monday, December 14th, 2015

Thanks to everyone who commented and entered! Commenters were assigned a number in the order in which their comment was received and winners chosen by the Random Generator.

Please email with your mailing address so your prize can be sent to you the next time the insomniac  drives into the city!

Skull Apron Winner - Lesley UK
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2015-12-14 23:09:30 UTC

Gothic Stars Winner - Bobbi
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2015-12-14 23:10:14 UTC

Krampus Pillowcase Winner - Natalie
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2015-12-14 23:10:57 UTC

Gold Tinsel, Woodland Tags and Amethyst Snowflake Winner - Debi
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2015-12-14 23:11:30 UTC

Red Tinsel and Crystal Ornament Winner - Stella Caughell
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2015-12-14 23:11:54 UTC

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Theme Post: Gothidays Day Four

Gothidays - a week long holiday extravaganza for the darkly inclined, hosted by The Curious Professor Z - what's not to love about that theme and who wouldn't be thrilled to participate? And, as usual, the insomniac is arriving four days late to the party ... hey, at least she made it to the party, unlike the one on her birthday.

It's been said before and definitely bears repeating - the holidays really are all about the food in this family. So for the 2015 version of Gothidays, the insomniac  would like to share (and re-share) a few of her favourite recipes for the holiday season.

Right after her birthday mid-November, preparations for the holiday fruitcake and mincemeat begin (click here for that post and those recipes). Although one has been threatening to make her own candied peel for years, this year - as she was standing in the grocery aisle wondering why the peel was marked at 50% off, assumed it had been reduced in price as it was approaching its Best Before Date, searched the packaging for an expiry date and found none, watched as the slimy contents of indeterminate colour turned over and over inside their somewhat grubby plastic container whilst she pondered the ages old question of how long does candied peel actually last before it has to be marked down to half price - at that moment, she decided 2015 would be the year she'd make good on that threat.

There are plenty of excellent sites (Martha Stewart's comes to mind) that show exactly how to make your own peel, so there's no need to go into much detail here - other than to say it's fiddly work but not terribly difficult.

The insomniac  used three lemons and three oranges, and it
was exactly the right amount for three dark fruitcakes and a half batch of
Grandma Smith's mincemeat recipe ...

Truthfully, the peel doesn't look that much more
appetizing than the stuff in the grocery store.

But it certainly tasted a lot better.

Now if you think fruitcake is difficult to get rid of at Christmas time, mincemeat is twice as hard to unload on unsuspecting friends and family:

Insomniac:  So ... I'm making homemade mincemeat this year. Would you like a jar? I've made my own candied peel, too. I'm pretty excited about that!
Friends:  What's in mincemeat again?
Insomniac:  Raisins, apples, almonds, candied peel, spices and a bit of suet.
Friends:  What's suet?
Insomniac:  Oh, it's just raw beef fat taken from around the joints and kidneys.
Friends - every last one of them:  Thanks for the offer. Terribly generous of you. I think we'll be out of town for Christmas though, so there's really no need. But thanks awfully for thinking of us. Much appreciated ... **spoken in hurried tones while backing out of room**

This is half of the mincemeat recipe ... it's hard to tell, but it's a very large bowl.

Should you be the only one who loves mincemeat in your family, you could probably
quarter the recipe so you're not eating tarts right up until Valentine's.

And this is how much it makes, even after you've managed to
unload give away two small 8 oz. jars ... you'll notice the sister-in-law did accept
a loaf of fruitcake though.

You'll also notice there are roughly 17 pounds of butter hoarded in the fridge,
as apparently there will be a butter shortage in Alberta for Christmas this year.

Back when the offspring were little, the baking continued from mid-November right up until Christmas Eve. By Christmas Day, there were at least fourteen different varieties of cookies in the freezer, two or three kinds of spiced nuts and at least five types of candy. A few years ago, the insomniac  decided to cut back slightly on her baking - for the sake of her waistline. And when she asked her family which cookie they absolutely could not live without, their unanimous response was Moon Cookies.

Although the recipe is called Rose's Crescents and comes from the book “Rose's Christmas Cookies” by Rose Levy Beranbaum, the offspring always called them Moon Cookies and they have been on the baking repertoire every year without fail since they were old enough to eat cookies - which was around three months old, if one remembers correctly. Little chips off the ol' block of suet, those two.

The book falls open to the page automatically.

You can click the picture twice to enlarge the recipe. Should you have difficulty
reading it, the insomniac  would be more than happy to scan a copy for you.

This is all the recipe makes ...

Not very many for a family of four, really.

You'll notice by the shapes of the uncooked cookies on the left that it doesn't really matter if they're perfect little crescents or not, as by the time they've finished baking they've puffed up nicely and all those little defects are unnoticeable. Rest assured, your family will not be scrutinizing the cookies and saying, “Oh, look. That one's not quite perfect. Shame.” Rather, they'll be doing a few quick calculations in their head as to how many cookies are left and how many they can stash in their pockets before anyone else notices. Well, they might be saying, “Oh, look. That one's bigger than all the rest.” as they furtively grab it before anyone else can get their mitts on it. There's no spirit of Christmas generosity in this house when it comes to Moon Cookies - it's every man or woman for him or herself.  

The reject cookies that aren't quite perfect are placed on a plate, and everyone who happens to be here on the day they're made gets two, plus a mug of hot chocolate - equal parts milk and cream, plus one tablespoon each of sugar and cocoa per cup. The youngest prefers her hot chocolate without cream, as she says it's too rich for her stomach. We believe she's a changeling, switched at birth. Nobody in this household has ever  said anything was too rich or too sweet for their stomachs. Not ever.

This is probably the only day of the year the eldest seriously regrets not living at home anymore.

You might want to get that tin into the freezer as quickly as possible.

Before your family discovers how good they are,
and you have to make another batch the following day.

In the spirit of the holiday season, one would like to offer a couple of giveaways for her first Gothidays' post. Firstly, for an apron in a festive black twill with purple skulls and crosses ... the perfect attire for whoever does the Christmas baking in your household. It comes covered in Martha Stewart Coarse Crystal Glitter, because along with the baking for Gothidays, there has also been a bit of crafting happening in the Little Gothic Cottage this week.

In hindsight, it might have been smarter to save the baking for a day other than the one also spent mounting taxidermy crows on their stumps, replacing all the red glitter that had fallen off last year's dollar store candle, or hot gluing broken necklaces onto bottle brush trees.

And to those who receive a tin of baking from the insomniac  every year for Christmas ... check those Moon Cookies carefully before inhaling them, so you can flick off any red glitter that may have made its way into your batch.

Those little specks on the apron are glitter - it's all over the cottage.

Secondly, for a set of Gothic Font star ornaments, which look nice on a plate or something as a decoration and really have nothing whatsoever to do with baking Moon Cookies except - you know - stars, moon. It certainly sounded better in one's head at 2:00 a.m. when trying to come up with giveaway items than it does now. But they're purple. They match the apron.

This glitter is the kind that actually stays on a project,
so no worries there should you win them ...

To enter, simply comment on this post as to which (or both) of these terribly special prizes you're interested in. Winners will be announced Monday, December 14th as an addendum to the insomniac's  final Gothidays blog post on Sunday, December 13th. That post will also have prizes - none of which have much to do with anything she's writing about, but sort of fit the Dark Holiday theme. Kind of.

The Gothidays 2015 week-long blogging event runs until December 13th - please be sure to check out the rest of the participants for a little peek into how they celebrate their holidays!

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


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Post-Birthday Post

The insomniac's  60th birthday came and went last month with barely a whimper. Although she wasn't terribly enamored with the thought of turning sixty (other than the Canada Pension cheque which will start arriving after Christmas, and the fact she can now demand a Senior's Discount at all major retail outlets including thrift stores) she was quite excited about her upcoming birthday party, planned by dear friends and involving copious amounts of food and alcohol.

Because she prides herself on her outstanding immune system - the result, she believes, of more than twenty years working retail - she wasn't terribly alarmed when she woke up with a sore throat a few mornings after her last market. “You'll blow this off in a day.”, she told herself. The insomniac  always talks to herself in the third person, which she doesn't consider at all strange. However, should she ever start referring to herself in the past tense, then it might be prudent to think about moving her to a full-time care facility.
And that did seem to be the case. But on the morning of her birthday, Friday the 13th, she realized that whatever plague virus she'd been infected with had returned with a vengeance, and she would be forced to miss the festivities.

Cards, presents, leftover food and cake were sent home with the spouse who did attend, remarking to the youngest as he walked out the door, “Just because your mother can't celebrate her birthday, that's no reason the rest of us shouldn't.” And although she did attempt to eat her generous single serving of luscious lemony birthday cake a few days later, she was only able to manage a few mouthfuls. Telltale signs the insomniac  is fairly ill: she hasn't been able to drink coffee in over three weeks; candy is left untouched on the kitchen counter; and cake of any variety is left for others in the household to consume.

Now if you were to look at the birthday gifts the insomniac  received from her friends that night, you could not be faulted for thinking, “Wow! In the short year she's been out there, she's really gotten into rural life. I'll bet she's going to pound back that bottle of wine, take that terribly sharp knife in hand, head out to the forest to kill something, drag it back home and then taxidermy it on the Dining Room Table using her newly acquired information from the guide book.” Well, you'll just have to wait until the end of the post to see whether you're right or not, won't you?

While we're on the subject of presents received, this seems an opportune moment to thank the many people who've sent the insomniac  gifts recently (some as recently as five months ago!) - especially since it wasn't even her birthday. So, in no particular order, a heartfelt thank-you to the following bloggers for their kindness ...

To The Curious Professor Z for a copy of Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing - a most excellent reference book, from what one remembers of it. The youngest, who has come to stay at the Little Gothic Cottage for a while, mentioned that since she'd be out here in the Land of Boredom for a few months, she should probably get her Sainted Mother to teach her how to sew or knit or something to pass the time. Since that fateful comment, the book has somehow disappeared into the room formerly known as the Dark Fairy Princess “Guest” Bedroom, but is now referred to as The Abyss.

To Nightwind for a copy of his newly published (like five months ago!) book of short stories, Tales of Dark Romance and Horror. The insomniac  promised Nightwind she'd review his book on this blog, but has come to the conclusion she's pretty awful at writing reviews. However, she can say she liked the book very much. And apparently the youngest did too, since it also seems to have disappeared into The Abyss.

To Little Gothic Horrors for the beautiful stuffed raven who, quite predictably, goes by the name of Nevermore. The sly thing has developed the bad habit of finishing off any half-consumed bottles of Apothic, then flying erratically around the Little Gothic Cottage searching for a bust of Pallas to perch himself upon, waking us in the middle of the night with his incessant croaking of his name.

To Winter Moon for the perfect vintage copy of The Turn of the Screw, which will be read after the holiday season is over and one is craving a nice Gothic ghost story for those long, winter evenings;  postcards suitable for framing (especially the Lugosi one); a necklace made with a tiny vial of Welsh moss; various charms depicting toxic substances; and a hearse brooch. And although she couldn't have possibly known, the card included with all those lovely gifts is exactly the same as our wedding announcement paper - those same unused announcements one distinctly remembers packing up two years ago, but for the life of her cannot remember which box exactly she packed them in.

To Easel and Quill for her perfect Hallowe'en postcard of a coven of witches (also suitable for framing), sent with a collectible Haunted Canada stamp and containing a lovingly decorated letter inside.

Thanks also to Lucretia's Reflection, who sends the insomniac  beautiful cards throughout the year mentioning that she's thinking of her - despite receiving diddly squat in return.

And lastly to Spooky Moon, who made an amazing trio of stuffed pumpkins for a Hallowe'en swap hosted this year by Ms. Misantropia. When picking up the package from the local Post Office, the clerk remarked, “Oooooh, you have a package from a Spooky Friend!” Yessiree, Postal Clerk Lady ... the insomniac  considers herself blessed indeed to have SO MANY Spooky Friends.

Hopefully, nobody has been forgotten in this list of long overdue thank-you's. And this is what happens when you leave these things for five months - someone is bound to have been missed.

And what exactly did the insomniac  end up doing with her birthday presents? Created a stunning display with her new terribly sharp knife while managing to avoid slicing off any fingertips, poured herself a glass of wine, retired to her overstuffed chair to read Guide to Taxidermy from cover to cover, decided after going over the nasty bits a few times that maybe the dead things in the freezer could stay in there a wee bit longer, and then proceeded to kill the bottle before Nevermore got to it.  

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


Saturday, October 31, 2015

I Bid You Velcome ...

Welcome, my pretties ... All Hallows' Eve is finally upon us, and as the insomniac  appears to be on some sort of vampyre kick this month, she thought to continue today's blog post in the same vein. See what she just did there? Vampyre. Vein. Get it? Ha. Hahahahaha.

Let us pretend you are Jonathan Harker, en route to pay a visit to Dracula the insomniac  at Castle Dracula The Little Gothic Cottage this evening. You arrive at Bistritz just as darkness descends and the foreboding full moon begins its ascent into the night sky - a very interesting old place, being practically on the frontier (truth) - for the Borgo Pass leads from it into the Spooky Forest.

As you await the arrival of your horse-drawn coach (also an accurate statement), you'll see your driver has not yet taken his seat and is talking to the landlord, Dwayne. They are evidently talking of you, for every now and then they will look your way, and some of the people seated on the bench outside the door will come and listen also, and then look at you, most of them pityingly.

Look closely and behold how the landlord, Dwayne,
has decorated the Bistritz General Store especially for your arrival ...

The time will seem interminable as you start on your way, now in almost complete darkness, for the rolling clouds obscure the full moon. Suddenly, the driver will pull up the horses in the courtyard of a vast ruined cottage, from whose tall black windows come no ray of light, and whose broken battlements show a jagged line against the moonlit sky.

As you stand close to a great door, old and studded with large iron nails and set in a projecting doorway of massive stone stucco, of a bell or knocker there is no sign; the time will seemed endless, and you shall experience many doubts and fears crowding upon you. What sort of place have you come to, and among what kind of people? You'll hear a heavy step approaching behind the great door, then the sound of rattling chains and the clanking of massive bolts drawn back; a key being turned with the loud grating noise of long disuse, and the great door will swing back.

Within stands a short, dumpy old woman, clean-shaven save for a few bristles sprouting from her chin, and clad in black from head to foot without a single speck of colour about her anywhere. She holds in her hand an antique silver lamp, in which the flame burns without chimney or globe of any kind, throwing long quivering shadows as it flickers in the draught of the open door. The old woman motions you in with her right hand with a courtly gesture, saying in excellent English, but with a strange intonation:—

I am the insomniac, and I bid you welcome to my cottage. Come in; enter freely and of your own will. The night air is chill, and you must need to eat and rest.

Death the Bride, Woman Mourning Dead Child, Death of Beatrice ...

Hey there, welcome to our house! 

Your hostess suggests that you will need, after your journey, to refresh yourself by making your toilet. She trusts you will find all you wish. When you are ready, she bids you come into the other room, where you will find your supper prepared.

Oops. Forgot to mention you should probably avoid the outside toilet.

That's where the spare Home & Garden decor is stored
until such time as it finds a permanent resting place.

After completion of your ablutions you return to the Great Room, where you find your hostess standing to one side of the great fireplace, leaning against the stonework amidst a collection of her favourite things which she has gathered together in one central location, specifically for your enjoyment. Or perhaps they've been gathered together in preparation for the photographer's arrival ... who can say for certain.

She makes a graceful wave of her hairy-palmed hand, with its long sharply-pointed black nails, towards the table and says:— I pray you, be seated and sup how you please. You will, I trust, excuse me that I do not join you; but I have dined already, and I do not sup.

But I may just have a teensy sip of that absinthe, if you'd be so kind as to pour.

After supper, you retire to the Library where your hostess joins you, explaining she has learned English through careful study of the newspapers, magazines, and other literary output of that country. And she will casually drop today's issue of the Calgary Herald on the table beside your chair, not coincidentally opened to this very page:

Not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination ...

But thanks for that, Shelley!

At this point in our story, the insomniac  completely steps out of character and starts dancing around your chair, fist pumping and high five-ing the taxidermy while emitting ear-shattering squeals of excitement that sound something like, “thank you Shelley for thinking of me for this article thank you Tom for being so patient trying to get a picture of someone who detests getting her picture taken thank you Calgary Herald for publishing the article thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!

Oops. Probably should have warned you to cover your ears before that outburst. What, you have to leave now? So soon? But you haven't seen the rest of the cottage yet, decorated in all its Hallowe'en finery!

Might one tempt you with a snack before commencement of your return journey? Or perhaps a toy to provide some small measure of entertainment during your lengthy coach ride home?

No? Well if you feel you must, then go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring!

And as your driver jumps into his seat and shakes the reins, the horses start forward and you all but disappear down the dark drive under the light of the full moon, the insomniac  will slump somewhat forlornly in the projecting doorway of massive stone stucco, sadly muttering, “Well, I guess we'll never see him  again.”, turn the key in the door (which is old and studded with large iron nails) as she firmly swings it closed behind you (accompanied by the sounds of rattling chains and the clanking of massive bolts). A solitary tear drips messily from beneath her wrinkled eyelid.

And ... scene.


PostScript: Practically every word of this post has been cribbed from Project Gutenberg's online version of Bram Stoker's Dracula - names were not changed to protect the innocent (sorry, Dwayne). There simply wasn't time to compose something from scratch, being as ill-prepared as ever as far as blog posts, impromptu meals for unexpected guests, Christmas Markets and Hallowe'en costumes are concerned.

And as the afternoon draws to a close, it's looking more and more likely that this evening's attire for the Hallowe'en festivities at the local saloon will be Something That Clawed Her Way Out From Underneath a Rock - a costume requiring very little in the way of preparation on the insomniac's  part, but one suspects will become increasingly difficult to verbalize coherently as the evening progresses ...

Happy Hallowe'en, everyone. :)