HALLOWEEN post – a true ghost story (Haunted Cathedral edition)

Happy Halloween, my ghouls!

I have a story to tell you, mostly in pics. We’re talking about my office. We’re talking about how I thought the antique mirror was haunted, and then I didn’t, and then I did, and then I didn’t, again. That’s where we are now. I do believe that something in my office is haunted, but I don’t think it’s the mirror. I think it’s my print of Canterbury Cathedral. I guess it’s possible that the arrival of the mirror brought out the haunting, because I didn’t see it before the mirror arrived, but there’s no way to know.

Going back, then: At the end of September, I photographed my office to death so that I could show it to you in my updated office tour post, in the process of which I took a plethora of pics of my thrifted Canterbury Cathedral print. The print was the most important element. I wove my “Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Gothic/Haunted Cathedral” décor theme around it, after all.

You may recall how in that office tour post, I explained that Canterbury Cathedral is haunted by the ghosts of those who were murdered there, most famously that of Archbishop Thomas Becket. Going through the pics in deciding which ones to include in my post, I noticed a strange occurrence in a few of them. My dear friend Caroline convinced me that today, Halloween, would be an ideal day to share them with you. She was right, of course. First, though, let’s have a look at the beautiful Canterbury Cathedral from the outside:

 

[pic from KentLive.news: “The 13 most haunted places in Canterbury and the spine-chilling stories behind them”]

 

Here’s my print:

 

Thrifted Canterbury Cathedral print

 

Getting down to it now, I’ll have you focus on this print detail – this is the same pic I’d posted in my office tour post:

 

Nothing amiss here.

 

And finally, we arrive at the pics in question, which came from a different series of shots. May I just say that it’s gratifying to know that Callaghan shares my incredulity over these? I didn’t understand what I was seeing as I scrolled through these pics. Neither did he. Neither did Caroline. There are varying degrees of skepticism amongst we three, but we’re all baffled. We all agree that these pics defy explanation.

Like 99% of my pics, these are completely untouched. I captioned them to point out the oddities within:

 

Faint white shape on the wall above the stairs; blueish haze slightly above and to the right

 

The shape on the wall becomes bolder, while the blueish haze becomes more faint

 

The shape and the blue haze vanish, and a bright white crescent shape appears, seeming to float up into the dark of the cathedral ceiling

 

The crescent becomes a slash with a bright spot toward its left end, and the faint blueish haze appears again at the top of the conjoined pillars to the left

 

The blueish haze becomes fainter and drifts higher as the white slash in the center thins out

 

The white shape comes back, but now it’s at the top of the arch, much brighter than before, and more defined against a white square background; the blueish haze appears above and behind it to the left with a window pane imprint

 

Also, this last pic is more blueish in tone overall.

This is all quite inexplicable.

That weird shape, for one thing… it’s kind of like a cell phone, but my phone doesn’t look like that. It also reminds me a bit of the Instagram logo, but it doesn’t look like that, either:

 

[My phone on the left, Insta logo on the right]

 

The shape in the picture doesn’t match either of these things. It’s not a reflection of my phone. It’s not an imprint of the instagram logo on my phone. So what is it? What is all of this?

Callaghan and I have studied the print from the same vantage point and at the same time the pics were taken; we’ve looked around to consider lighting, the objects in the room, whether there could have been a reflection, etc., and we came up with nothing. Callaghan is an artist and designer who knows his way around images. He examined the print to see if there’s a watermark or something else lying within or beneath the paper. Nothing.

Here, I’d like to share the text about Canterbury Cathedral from the KentLive.news article “The 13 most haunted places in Canterbury and the spine-chilling stories behind them”:

The twelfth century cathedral is a famous pilgrimage site where Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1161 to 1170, was murdered.

However, the ghost of another murdered Archbishop, Simon Sudbury, is said to walk the Cathedral.

Killed by Wat Tyler, the head of the Peasant’s revolt, in 1381, Sudbury’s pale and bearded ghost haunts the tower named after him.

Interestingly, despite the fact that the ex-Archbishop’s head was buried in a different place from his body, he does not appear as a headless ghost.

He actually appears as a solitary figure, dressed in grey robes and is often seen haunting a bedroom in the tower, reportedly tucking the occupant in at night.

There is a passage in the cathedral known as the ‘Dark Entry’ which is thought to be haunted by the ghost of Nell Cook, who was a servant of a canon (priest) at the cathedral.

Nell was furious with her boss after discovering his affair, she poisoned the canon and his mistress with tainted food.

As punishment for her crime, Nell was buried alive beneath the ‘Dark Entry’ and her spirit haunts the passageway on dark Friday evenings.

According to legend, anyone who is unfortunate enough to see the ghost of Nell Cook will die soon after.

The cathedral is also said to be haunted by a monk who can be seen walking in the cloisters with a thoughtful expression on his face.

 

Having considered everything, the easiest explanation for the occurrences in my pictures is that the print of the haunted cathedral is itself haunted, in the sense that something was picked up by the photographer’s lens. I’ve taken numerous other pics of this print, and only the ones above show “activity.” That this activity was revealed after I brought the antique mirror home is probably a coincidence. It may be a fanciful stretch to say that there might be a connection, but I’m saying it anyway, because it is possible. Also, it’s Halloween, and I guess this post amounts to a ghost story.

In any case, I adore this print. I love having it next to me as I sit here and write, and I’m dreaming of the day we can go to Kent, England to visit Canterbury and take a ghost tour of the village – including and especially Canterbury Cathedral!

I’ll leave you in proper spirit with the theme song from Halloween, my favorite classic horror film.

 

 

Happy Halloween, All!

 

 

Kitty updates! (Halloween edition.)

True confessions: I’ve become that (cat) mom who puts on a video to entertain her kid while she writes.

But it works.

 

Nenette watching her birdies and squirrels video

Nenette watching her birdies and squirrels video

 

Nenette and I have discovered the wondrous videos of Paul Dinning. Nenette’s favorite one is just over two hours long, and when it ends, YouTube rolls it over to another of Mr. Dinning’s videos, which is three hours long. Indeed, Nenette sits and watches the birdies, squirrels, and what have you… for, yes… FIVE hours. It’s gotten to where she’ll literally ask me to put on her birdies. She just adores Mr. Dinning’s videos, and I’m happy to provide, because otherwise:

 

My writing table, aka Nenette's favorite hang-out while I'm working.

My writing table, aka Nenette’s favorite hang-out while I’m working.

 

Thank you, Mr. Dinning… we are much obliged!

Nenette also let me know, in no uncertain terms, that she’s ready for Halloween.

 

Nenette with Jack-O-Lanterns

Nenette with Jack-O-Lanterns

 

Outside on her patio, Cita is ready, too.

 

Cita with Jack-O-Lanterns

Cita with Jack-O-Lanterns

 

She’s getting into character, getting the evil look down… but she’s nothing more than a sweet armful of cuddly kitty. Cita’s problem is that she trash-talks other cats, but then can’t handle the repercussions. Instead of backing up her talk, she runs. This leads to major drama; this is why she can’t live indoors with another cat in the house. But she loves her patio and yard, she’s very territorial (she was living on our property before we bought it), and she enjoys her role as head of security chez nous. So we do what we can to keep her safe.

She’s a happy girl, overall.

 

Cita in the mesquite pods

Cita in the mesquite pods

 

She loves luxuriating in piles of mesquite pods!

And she enjoys napping on any of the six chairs arranged on the patio. We’ve made the patio her haven (which includes our attached laundry room, where she eats).

 

Cita on one of her many chairs

Cita on one of her many chairs

 

We’ve decorated her patio for Halloween:

 

Skeleton trellis

Skeleton trellis

 

Laundry room end of the patio

Laundry room end of the patio

 

BBQ end of the patio

BBQ end of the patio

 

(Cita does approve of the Halloween décor.)

We’ve been celebrating Halloween all month, including dressing up for the costume party at Drag Bingo. Flash-back to just last week:

 

Pulling out spines all night with Callaghan

Pulling out spines all night with Callaghan

 

As for what we’re planning for Halloween… we’ll be chilling. We’re opting out of Scarizona once again, but that’s okay. We were going to do an interactive game in the house (haunted house), but our schedules will preclude such shenanigans! The times, they are busy: Callaghan’s getting ready to embark on a journey, and I’m working on my main project and tackling a to-do list for the house. We have upcoming events, so there are Deadlines of various sorts. You know how it is!

Anyway… I’m happy to report that the fur-kids have been doing well.

T minus six days til the holiday! Happy Halloween in advance!

DRAG BINGO!

On Saturday night, we went to Drag Bingo at the Renaissance. Today, by popular demand, I’ve got a few pics!

Drag Bingo was an annual charity event for the Melonhead Foundation, which supports families of children with cancer. So much funding goes into pediatric cancer research, and of course that’s critically important. It’s also critically important, while your child’s daunting medical expenses mount and loom, to be able to feed your family and pay your rent, utility bills, etc. The Melonhead Foundation works to provide families with this and additional types of support.

After a magnificent 10-year run, this year was Drag Bingo’s last. The annual fundraising event was always held in October and doubled as a smashing Halloween costume party and contest (sponsored by Nick Yale Realty) with uproarious drag performances by the Rainbow Girls: Teensy Fhea, Manna Nuff, and Pepper Mills! This year and last, they were joined by the beautiful and talented Roxanne G. Davenport, who traveled to Phoenix for the event. Party attendees also came from out-of-state, and a few from out-of-country!

The dinner was fabulous, the alcohol flowed (and non-alcohol, for those of us not imbibing), the mystery gift boxes, raffle prizes, costume category award prizes, and bingo prizes were awesome and very generously donated by the event’s sponsors, and it was just an all-around hysterically good time.

I only have a few pics here, because my phone died a quarter of the way through. Also, I’m only posting safe-for-work pics, obviously. You’ll just have to use your imaginations when I tell you that I accidentally caught a scandalous wardrobe malfunction pic, and that the, um, pickings in the Pick-A-Dick bingo prize were impressive (to say the least), with the winner also being the recipient of the “Sexiest” costume category: Robin, The Boy Wonder (who was, indeed, a wonder). (The prizes for that bingo category were donated by Risque Chalet… I’m not providing the link; you know where to go if you want it)!

The Girls outdid themselves this year. Their performances included some of the most hilariously dirty numbers we’ve seen yet. Let me tell you, I’ve been around the block more than once, and I learned terminology on Saturday night that I’ve never heard before!! And the outrageous trio of grandmas treated us with many videos featuring themselves with their riotous wit, antics, and borderline hanky-panky. Drag Bingo was truly “NEVER Your Grandmother’s Bingo” – ! But it was “all for the children”!!

This year may have been Drag Bingo’s last, but the Melonhead Foundation drives on to provide support for families faced with the challenges of pediatric cancer. Click here to donate!

This year, Callaghan and I went as battle-bloodied warriors:

 

Obligatory pre-event selfie, Yours Truly and Callaghan heading out

Obligatory pre-event selfie, Yours Truly and Callaghan heading out

 

With my bloody spine weapon.

 

Obligatory at-event selfie

Obligatory at-event selfie

 

Red carpet group shot with the Rainbow Girls

Red carpet group shot with the Rainbow Girls

 

Callaghan and some civil war guy...

Callaghan and some civil war guy…

 

And here’s my beloved Sista, the one and only Poetry Pamphletry! This fabulous lady here is one of my oldest and dearest friends; she’s supported me through all kinds of life stuff in the last two decades, and we crack each other up beyond the point of ridiculousness. We have so much in common we figure we were separated at birth.

 

Poetry Pamphletry

Poetry Pamphletry

 

(That guy standing behind her was the ONLY Harley Quinn we saw all night, by the way, if you can believe that)

Random room shots from our table:

 

View from our table, 1

View from our table, 1

 

I love this pic of the three of us girls:

 

With Teensy Fhea and Poetry Pamphletry

With Teensy Fhea and Poetry Pamphletry

 

Back to random. Raffle tix galore!

 

View from our table, 2

View from our table, 2

 

These 80’s exercising dudes were hysterical!

 

View from our table, 3

View from our table, 3

 

These guys though

These guys though

 

The Rainbow Girls

The Rainbow Girls

 

Teensy Fhea!

 

Teensy!

Teensy!

 

And Teensy...

And Teensy…

 

Okay, now in this next pic, you can see my favorite costume of the night: “Stranger Things”! She’s got Winona Ryder’s hair, olive green shirt, and colorful string lights wrapped around her body… and in the front, she’s holding a “missing child” postcard with a photo of her kid.

 

"Stranger Things" costume

“Stranger Things” costume

 

That Teensy…

 

More Teensy!

More Teensy!

 

There can never be enough Teensy!

There can never be enough Teensy!

 

Callaghan and me being ourselves (this is much better lighting; you can actually see how I tried to make myself look batter-worn).

 

Us, clowning around

Us, clowning around

 

How I love that spine sword

How I love that spine sword

 

And that, folks, brings us to the end. Good memories, good times, good friends, and a great cause. Thanks for all the laughs!

Callaghan is designing clowns and I don’t know what to do.

Heading into off-season at the amusement parks, Callaghan’s evenings of late have been filled with lots of freelance work. He hung onto a few of his European amusement park clients when he accepted his position as a motorcycle designer, because why not? It’s feast or famine in that industry. He’d only be swamped a few months out of the year.

Now that American Halloween hype has started to gain traction in France, French theme parks want a piece of it in a more major way. So they’ve asked Callaghan to design some clown attractions… because you can’t have spooky, ooky Halloween décor without clowns, of course. If there’s one thing the French have picked up on in their Halloween education, it’s that clowns are essential elements of the fear factor.

Even better, some of this Halloween-inspired design will remain a permanent fixture, so visitors can enjoy the park’s creepy side no matter when they go. Here’s Callaghan’s first design, a rough draft of a horror fun-house-type attraction (with mirrors inside):

 

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

 

You have to have clowns with wide open mouths as entrances, you know.

And there will be more. Oh yes. I’m already imagining waking up at night, shuffling into the kitchen for a glass of water, and noticing a dim screen-light casting vague shadows on the wall. I see that it’s coming from Callaghan’s office. I go in and find that his computer has turned itself on. The clown file is displayed, and it’s flickering.

Thanks, Parc St. Paul. And Festyland (You mean FESTY THE CLOWN-land, I said to Callaghan when he told me the park’s name), and thank you, Parc du Bocasse.

Here’s a draft of his Parc du Bocasse poster, featuring the bee mascot he’s been creating for years:

 

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

 

He loved my idea of designing a vampire version of the bee. Buzzy the Vampire is made of awesome because Callaghan’s art is kick-ass. It’s great no matter the subject. Even clowns.

How I Alone: Halloween safety precaution edition.

Callaghan’s been back for 11 days. I’d been alone in the house for 12 days, which isn’t an unusual situation, as he does have away-business of one kind or another every once in a while. I’m not here to gloat about the awesome time I had with the whole house to myself for almost two weeks. (Of course he was missed, but not terribly; thanks to Skype, I “saw” him several times a day.) I’m here to gloat about how I totally outdid myself on the aloning this time.

Yes, there’s a difference between “aloneness” (neutral/positive) and “loneliness” (negative). And yes, it’s “doing alone,” rather than “being alone.” I’m declaring “alone” to be a verb, because this is my blog, so I can. “To alone” refers to how you behave in the absence of human company, of course. You aren’t alone alone when you share your abode with cats or dogs or fish or iguanas or horses or an ant farm or whatever-you-have. (We have two furbabies of the feline persuasion, in case you weren’t aware.)

Aloning is an art, but this time, it occurred over Halloween, so there were special safety precautions to be taken, and that put a different slant on things. It was a learn-as-you-go sort of situation since I’d never aloned over Halloween before. As you can imagine, I came away with a wealth of knowledge. Such as, at dusk, you should close all the window coverings on the south side of your dwelling (in case of a siege such as zombie apocalypse).

You should fill up all of your five-gallon water bottles and hoard them in a closet (in case of zombie apocalypse).

If you don’t already have loyal animal children who will guard you with their lives, you can get a guard dog of some kind. If you’re more of a cat person, you can get an ocelot. If you’re allergic to dander and alligators aren’t your thing, you can get a carnivorous plant or a saguaro. (In case of zombie apocalypse.)

 

With saguaro and a bunch of sun and wind.

With saguaro and a bunch of sun and wind.

 

(The saguaro cactus in the picture isn’t at my house. It’s just near my house.)

You can keep a stash of delicious pickled turnips (in case of zombie apocalypse).

You can play the ukulele (in case of zombie apocalypse).

You can keep the gas tank in your car topped off in case the zombie apocalypse happens and you need to drive to Mexico, where zombies don’t go.

There are many things you can do that you’ll never realize until you’re alone over Halloween, and this is invaluable, especially since zombies are much worse than other things that can happen, such as three consecutive earthquakes (in the desert) one night and a threat of a mass shooting at your workplace the following day.

Each time is a learning experience. Maybe next year Callaghan will be away in early October and I’ll be able to write “How I Alone: Columbus Day edition.” The siege threat in that case would be even more formidable than zombies!

What I’m Digging Right Now – October Favorites

The theme here is Halloween, obviously. This “favorites” post is late, so let’s get right into it, shall we?

 

1). American Horror Story: Hotel (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-AHSHotel2015

 

People either love this season of AHS, or they hate it. We love it. It was love at first step into the extravagant art deco set, and so far, there’s no aspect of Hotel that hasn’t impressed us. For one thing, we were happily surprised to find, right from episode one, that Lady Gaga can act (it was anyone’s guess how that casting decision would pan out). Hotel is a gorgeously done gore-fest of lavishness, and an equally gorgeously wrought mystery. Fine writing. Fine directing and acting performances. Breath-taking set. And that intro with its split-second, neon flashes of the 10 Commandments has to be the creepiest (therefore the best) yet – at least, it’s our favorite so far.

 

2). Scream Queens (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-ScreamQueensS12015

 

We were skeptical about this new series, so I’m thrilled to include it here as a favorite. Every episode of this comedy/horror series features at least one moment that causes us to hit “pause” so we can pick ourselves up from the floor. We’re always a little surprised when we bust out in spontaneous laughter during Scream Queens. Its random humor just strikes you that way, out of nowhere. The series spoofs horror films, so it appropriately stars Emma Roberts (American Horror Story) and, most brilliantly, Jamie Lee Curtis in essentially the same role she played in Halloween H20. Between Scream Queens and American Horror Story, we were set for Halloween all through the month (and between Scream Queens and Modern Family, we were set comedy-wise, as well). Oh, and did I mention that two of Scream Queens’ creators are American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk? There you go. Now go watch it.

 

3). Drag Bingo (Melonhead Foundation charity event).

 

Off to the Melonhead Foundation's annual Drag Bingo. This has to be my favorite wig yet.

Off to the Melonhead Foundation’s annual Drag Bingo. This has to be my favorite wig yet.

 

The Melonhead Foundation put on its annual Drag Bingo gala, so of course we attended. Where else can you contribute to a great charity while playing dirty bingo dressed up for Halloween while some of the finest drag queens around MC the event and provide the entertainment, and there’s dinner, candy, a costume contest, and mystery prizes? Don’t say I didn’t told you… if you’re in Phoenix next October, don’t miss this event!

 

4). Too Faced Born This Way foundation (Nude).

 

Too Faced Born This Way foundation in Nude

Too Faced Born This Way foundation in Nude

 

Don’t worry… I’m still an e.l.f. devotee, and e.l.f. is still the brand of cruelty-free make-up I mainly use, but I unexpectedly found myself purchasing this high-end foundation one day in October. What happened was I went to Ulta in search of the Urban Decay concealer I prefer – one of two high-end cosmetic items I use – and just when I found (for the third week in a row) that they were sold out of my shade, the Too Faced lady, who had been lurking further down the aisle in the Too Faced section, snuck up behind me and got her claws into my common sense and then her fingers on my face and next thing I knew, I was walking out of the store $40.00 poorer. But the little orange bag I held contained this amazing foundation, and I absolutely love it. (Plus, since I didn’t get the Urban Decay concealer, I only spent $10.00 more than I’d planned, anyway.)

 

5). Iced Coffee.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-IcedCoffee

 

Maybe it’s because October’s heat felt unusually extreme to me, or maybe the heat actually did register as unusual… in any case, I sort of fell into the habit of drinking iced coffee while home in the afternoons. I’d put the morning’s leftover coffee in the refrigerator, and then I had this fabulous, refreshing drink to look forward to later in the day. It became a special treat.

 

6). Tempe Farmer’s Market vegan breakfast burros.

 

Tempe Farmer's Market vegan burritos

Tempe Farmer’s Market vegan burritos

 

We live across and slightly down the street from the Tempe Farmer’s Market, so once we discovered that their deli offers huge, delicious vegan burros every day, it became challenging to go by without stopping in to pick one up. They’re a lot of food for a reasonable price, and there are all different kinds, so you never know what you’ll find. My favorite is the breakfast burro (the one on the right).

 

7). Frontera salsa (Jalapeño-Cilantro).

 

Frontera Jalapeno Cilantro salsa

Frontera Jalapeno Cilantro salsa

 

Even something as simple as an excellent salsa can add to the enjoyment of a whole month! We’d never tried Frontera brand salsa before, so when we spotted it at Sprout’s one day, we decided to try it. This Jalapeño-Cilantro one immediately became my new favorite jarred salsa.

 

8). Larabar (Cashew Cookie).

 

Larabar fruit and nut bars in Cashew Cookie

Larabar fruit and nut bars in Cashew Cookie

 

These little bars contain a mere two ingredients: Cashews and dates. That’s it. While these tasty and satisfying nutrient-dense treats aren’t cheap, they’re definitely worth it.

 

9). New Hair.

Finally! I had bangs cut! By Melanie, my fabulous hair stylist and friend! Finally, my hair is back to the way it was before I moved to France, it’s out of my eyes, and it’s much easier to control. I’m displaying this particular pic because you can see the shape of the cut, even though it’s wind-blown because I’m sitting at the bus stop in the early morning and there’s weather and lots of fast cars going by.

 

New hair with bangs and a little face-framing and layering.

New hair with bangs and a little face-framing and layering.

 

Hello, November! We’re already two weeks into the month, but it’s never too late to say hello.

Halloween Merriment (and the unexpected adventures of Callaghan’s butt)

Happy Halloween Eve!

Callaghan and I have been celebrating Halloween all week, wanting to make up for the fact that we’ll be apart on the actual holiday. He left yesterday for a 12-day business trip in France (Normandy)… so yes, the week-long celebration was necessary. Priorities.

Actually, we’ve been in Halloween celebration mode all month.

I have no Halloween plans for tomorrow. At first I wanted to go to SCARIZONA Scaregrounds with a friend, but then I chickened out re-thought that plan because they promise to prey on “every possible phobia,” and there’s no way I’m risking the possibility of roaches (real or not). I’m thinking roachaphobia is common enough that Scarizona masterminds would use it in the creation of their haunted house “experiences.” I’m a risk-taker in some ways, but not in the roach way. NOPE. Not going.

Instead, kitties and I will enjoy a quiet, spooky Halloween together.

 

Bunny-butt Nenette and butterscotch Nounours checking out a jack-o'-lantern pumpkin.

Bunny-butt Nenette and butterscotch Nounours checking out a jack-o’-lantern pumpkin.

 

I’m looking at 12 days of quality bonding time with Nounours and Nenette. But fear not – I am planning on some crazy shenanigans for the duration. As they say, the cat will play while the Callaghan’s away.

Here’s some of what’s about to go down:

  • Reading (All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr)
  • Writing (I round-filed both of my neglected big projects, but this new one is actually a starting-over of one of the discarded ones.)
  • Watching Netflix (Yes, I’ve returned to Netflix. What can I say.)
  • Playing with furbabies (Nenette will learn that I can be just as fun as Daddy when it comes to playing.)
  • Taking the bus (to work – this is new) and walking (home from work). I still refuse to pay for parking at work when we live so close.
  • Eating simply. (For the next 12 days, I’m basically going to live on salad, baked sweet potatoes, broccoli, brown rice, quinoa, hummus, peanut butter, bread, and fruit. Because these are foods I love, I’m lazy about cooking, and I don’t want to spend time thinking about it.)
  • Getting my hair cut. (YAY new hair, plus I get to see my girl Melanie!)

And, so as to not make too much of a ruckus up in here:

  • Updating/cleaning up some of this blog’s details, i.e. the About page, stuff in the sidebar, some of the links and tags and categories, etc., etc. Long overdue.

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it captures the main agenda. You get the idea. It doesn’t take much to amuse me.

Case in point: I was too easily amused by this exchange with Callaghan yesterday morning when he was at the airport, texting to tell me about his pre-boarding adventures.

You know how a text conversation can get off-sync when you receive a message while you’re texting, so after you send the one you were writing, you immediately answer the new one that came in, and the messages accumulate out of order because the timing got messed up, plus you were talking about two different things at once, so now your phone displays a merging of replies on different subjects, and it either doesn’t make sense at all, or it just looks wrong?

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Callaghan-AirportScreenShot

 

This is what happens when you’re texting about airport security procedures and breakfast at the same time. It’s all fun and games until someone gets a scone up his butt. Of course, it had to be Callaghan.

Jack-o’-lanterns and Americanism 101.

Somehow, long before he met me and for reasons no one will ever know, Callaghan managed to live in the United States for 10 years without ever carving a jack-o’-lantern.

In my mind, this is tantamount to not knowing what Halloween actually is in America, which in turn says to me that Callaghan hasn’t been a real American. All this time, his dual citizenship has been fraudulent.

Believe me, I did not arrive at this conclusion lightly. Thinking about it, though, I do see a pattern here.

Callaghan knew about St. Patrick’s Day parades and green beer, but he didn’t know that Americans (especially kids) make sure they leave the house with the color green visible somewhere in their outfits, even if it’s just shoe laces, a hair tie, or a pin… or others who are displaying green can pinch them.

He knew about Valentine’s Day roses and chocolates, but he didn’t know that American kids traditionally give their friends and classmates valentines that contain simple and often humorous verses. (Roses are red, violets are blue….)

He knew about Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating, and maybe even about classroom-decorating and school costume parades, contests, and parties, but he didn’t know the most fundamental part of the holiday – how to carve a jack-o’-lantern – because he’d never done it.

I get it. Since he first moved to the States as an adult, he missed out on the kids’ aspects of these and other holidays. But it’s those aspects that define the holidays more than the adult ones, in my opinion. Especially Halloween.

Since the ruthless slashing and carving of a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern constitutes a basic American Halloween activity we’ve all done at least once in our lives, a logical question on the United States citizenship exam would be, “Have you ever carved a jack-o’-lantern?”

“No” means try again later. “Yes” means here’s a pumpkin and a knife… prove it.

Prospective employers weed out the liars and the frauds the same exact way, like when I interviewed for the job I had before I moved to France. They took me into a room with a lightbulb hanging over a lonely chair computer, sat me down, gave me some basic information, and instructed me to compose a letter on behalf of a fictional boss. I knew nothing about the subject, and that was the point. They just told me the name of the addressee, the name of the fictional boss, and the goal of the letter. I’d written many such letters before, which showed, I guess, since I got the job.

In the same scenario (but with a pumpkin and a knife instead of a computer), Callaghan would not have gotten the “job” (his citizenship).

Instead of being asked about jack-o’-lanterns, he was asked silly things like Who is the current President? And Why are there 50 stars on the flag?

First of all, duh. Secondly, where is that kind of knowledge going to get anyone in terms of being a real American? A full-grown adult who’s never carved a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween is certainly from another country, if you ask me. It’s a dead giveaway. (har, har)

Callaghan would have failed his citizenship exam because you can’t fake your way through carving a jack-o’-lantern. It’s not self-explanatory. It seems like a simple thing, but until Saturday night:

–He didn’t know how to choose a pumpkin for a jack-o’-lantern.

–He didn’t know about carving around the stem to make a lid.

–He didn’t know that pumpkins are hollow.

–He didn’t know about scraping away the stringy pulp.

–He didn’t know about gathering the seeds and rinsing, drying and toasting them, because…

–He didn’t know that Americans like to eat pumpkin seeds…

–because pumpkins are totally New World, and Old World people can’t know these things through osmosis just because they’re in the States.

Callaghan didn’t know anything about jack-o’-lanterns, and I loved it. I loved that somehow, miraculously, I was the person to pop his…. He learned about jack-o’-lanterns from me. Of all the many Americans he met and befriended over the years, I got to be the person to show him!

He seemed disinterested at first, but then he saw me draw the face on my pumpkin. He’s an artist, remember, and I had his attention. He watched as I wielded the knife to carve around the stem, and I invited him to lift the lid off the pumpkin. I’ll never forget the surprise in his voice or the expression of wonderment on his face when he looked inside the pumpkin and said, “It’s HOLLOW!!”

Sharing that moment of discovery with him will always be one of my favorite memories.

After we finished the jack-o’-lantern, he wanted to run out to get another pumpkin, so we did. (Since we’re in the States, we were able to do that, even though it was almost midnight.)

Here we are in the parking lot, as those of you on Facebook have already seen:

 

In front of Safeway at around 11:30pm. Midnight pumpkin run!

In front of Safeway at around 11:30pm. Midnight pumpkin run!

 

And here he is, posing like the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a classic bit of American literature from 1820:

 

The Callaghan Horseman.

The Callaghan Horseman.

 

The Headless Horseman.

The Headless Horseman.

 

We lit the jack-o’-lantern with a tea light so we wouldn’t have to worry about it, and the flame would burn itself out.

 

The spooky jack-o'-lantern we light in our bedroom every night.

The spooky jack-o’-lantern we light in our bedroom every night.

 

Jack-o’-lanterns and accompanying folklore such as the Headless Horseman came to America from Ireland or northern Europe, I believe. American culture contains this bewitching mélange of other cultures. Our traditions come from everywhere. America is a glorious mutt. 

And we love the cutthroat culture of Halloween. No mercy for pumpkins!

My College Survival Tips. (School is starting! Here’s how I got through when I was a student.)

Arizona State University, my alma mater and place of employment, starts its fall semester this Thursday. For me, being immersed in the university community, this is one of the most energizing times of year in The Land of AZ. The loudening crackle of the university gearing up for a new academic year echos around town like a catchy tune, everyone’s motivated as the heat starts to let up (or at the idea of the heat letting up), football season begins, Halloween approaches, and we look forward to the fall sunsets, which we know are going to be more glorious than usual.

 

And it begins!

And it begins!

 

School starting up always takes me back to when I was a college student. (Meaning, pursuing an undergraduate degree, for those unfamiliar with the American university system.) It was 20 years ago, but I remember with keen clarity some of the survival skills I’d developed. A lot has changed since then, but a lot has remained the same. In honor of this first week of Academic Year 2016, I thought I’d share some of my personal college survival skills.

Here’s how I survived when I was an undergraduate student at ASU:

1). .99 bean burritos “without cheese” from Taco Bell (no less than four packets of fire sauce) and Power Bars the rest of the day – stock up on Power Bars when they’re on sale. (Sidenote: Taco Bell’s bean burritos are now $1.29 on campus, and these days, I don’t eat Power Bars. Neither would I eat bean burritos from Taco Bell. But they saved me many a day when I was broke and late for my next class and needed to grab something cheap and fast.)

2). Work as a student worker on campus 20 hrs/week –

2a). Use workplace as a locker for storing stuff in between classes when off-shift.

2b). Study/prepare for classes during downtime while at work.

3). Emergency measure for Paper-Writing Procrastination (PWP, because I’m a vet and you leave the military with acronyms-as-language hardwired into your brain): Pull all-nighters in the Computing Commons on campus –

3a). Bring a light jacket or sweatshirt regardless of the time of year (or you’ll freeze in the A/C), your own water bottle, and Power Bars.

3b). Pick a work station and implement your strategy for camping out there all night. Strategy involves mostly just leaving all your stuff where it is to make it look like you merely ran to the restroom when in fact you went outside to eat your Power Bar and walk around to get the blood circulating in your legs.

3c). Finish and print the final draft of paper just in time to go to class and hand it in.

4). The “Study for an Exam” (aka “Cramming for a Test”) version of #3 is to do the exact same thing, except pull the all-nighter in the designated study section of the 24-hour IHOP that used to be across the street on 13th and Forest at the Twin Palms hotel (it’s now The Graduate Inn, and the IHOP, sadly, is gone). Venue-specific bonus: coffee all night!

5). Donate your plasma once a month or so for extra cash. The plasma-donating place on Broadway is still there. I don’t know if the phlebotomists who work there these days have vampire fangs attached to their canine teeth, though, or if that was just a thing of the 90’s.)

6). Get your teeth cleaned for super cheap by the students in the dental hygiene program at the local community college (in the 90’s, it was Phoenix College… not sure if any of the other schools in the Maricopa County Community College system have started offering dental hygiene curriculums.)

7). Wait until Friday to do happy hour with friends from work/class –

7a). Order one cheap beverage (I usually got iced tea) and shamelessly eat enough free happy hour food to constitute dinner. My favorite place for this was Macayo’s. I remember their mini-chimichangas and mini-flautas to be so deliciously satisfying! (Don’t know if they still are. Haven’t been to happy hour there in years, and I wouldn’t eat those things now, anyway.)

8). Get together with classmate who’s doing as well as you are after you’ve both finished your drafts of the next assigned paper; exchange papers, read, offer each other brutal but constructive criticism.

9). Caffeine. In my case, it was Diet Coke. I DO NOT recommend this. If I was an undergrad relying on caffeine today, I’d go for iced coffee or tea.

10). Join the Tae Kwan Do club on campus, which meets three times a week. (Used to, that is. It’s not there anymore. The Jui-Jitsu club is still there, though… it meets at the SRC three times a week, as well, I believe.) It’s free therapy, and it keeps you in shape.

On that note, you can consider yourself a seasoned Tempe-campus ASU student when you learn to recognize the juniors and seniors by how amazing their legs look after they’ve spent 2+ years running, power-walking, biking, roller-blading (which very few people do anymore) and/or skate-boarding around the country’s second- or third-largest campus to get to their classes on time.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-2015FallSemesterStartsASU-Devils

Question: What’s left in the brain after a week of Mondays?

Answer: Nothing.

I had an idea, and then I didn’t. Then I thought I would wake up early this morning with that same idea or some other idea circulating through my brain, but alas, it didn’t happen. The waking-up early part almost-but-not-quite happened, but the idea part didn’t, and that, unfortunately, was the critical part. I’m idea-less. It’s been a long week, and ALL THE IDEAS have left the building. I got nothing.

Or so I thought. One thing I did want to mention is that Ronnie James’ girlfriend has returned, to our relief. You see, she’d disappeared sometime early Halloween week, and you know that long-rampant (albeit probably untrue) rumor about how so-called devil-worshippers swoop through the neighborhoods around Halloween and abscond with outdoor cats – particularly the black ones – to use for “rituals”?  So I’d been a bit nervous for her, she who roams the ‘hood with no fear. By Wednesday last week, Ronnie James (le pauvre petit Wrah-Wrah! as we like to call him) could be observed at any given time draped forlornly over the table in front of the window, his dragony yellow eyes half-closed and scanning the street horizon in search of his little lady. And finally, two days ago, she made her first post-Halloween appearance.

She returned just as spry and adorable as usual. We wondered whether her Mommy or Daddy (we believe that she’s someone’s kid, and not just a stray) deliberately kept her in during Halloween week, a thought that warms my heart. Even if those black cat rumors aren’t true, there’s a lot to be said for peace of mind. I mean, anything could have happened. She could have been hit by a car or something.

So that’s the report from the neighborhood, folks. All is well.

For a flourish of a finish today, you get a couple of kitty grams:

 

What? I'm the Wrah-Wrah.

What? I’m the Wrah-Wrah.

 

CAPTION ME.

CAPTION ME.

 

Happy Friday, All!

Halloween Festivities!

HELLo! This image-centric post is brought to you by one of America’s favorite holidays, Halloween, which is TODAY. Yay!!

This is just to say Happy Halloween, and here are a couple of pictures I took of creepy sights around town, and here’s another one of Zombie Callaghan, and here’s one of our jack o-lantern (not in that order), and hey, here are a couple of pics of the cake I made last night – the cake that I’m bringing to our Halloween potluck at work today, because I love my co-workers so much!

As for this evening? After celebrating Halloween pretty much all month, Callaghan and I are going to enjoy a low-key night at home. We’re going to watch this week’s episode of American Horror Story and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. THAT IS THE PLAN, STAN, and we’re sticking with it. =)

Let’s start with home…

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-halloween2014jackolantern

We decided to go with a fake jack o’lantern this year.

 

Then to the Melonhead Foundation’s Drag Bingo charity bash!

 

Remember when I was escorted to Drag Bingo by a jovial French zombie?

Remember when I was escorted to Drag Bingo by a jovial French zombie?

 

I don’t exactly have coulrophobia (a pathological fear of clowns), but still…

 

Earlier in the month, I spotted a random clown tucked into a hallway near the entrance of a Wal-Mart.

Earlier in the month, I spotted a random clown tucked into a hallway near the entrance of a Wal-Mart.

 

And in our neighborhood, this house always catches my every-horror-tuned eye…

 

The sequel to the sequel to the sequel of "The Amityville Horror" is going to be called "The Tempe Horror." It's the windows under the peaked roof that do it.

The sequel to the sequel to the sequel of “The Amityville Horror” is going to be called “The Tempe Horror.” It’s the windows under the peaked roof that do it.

 

And for work today, I made this cake, a tradition I’ve done for Halloween potlucks for years:

 

The return of the litter box cake, just for my co-workers!

The return of the litter box cake, just for my co-workers!

 

 

Ronnie James approves.

Ronnie James approves.

 

Happy FRIDAY Halloween, Everyone!

This and That

I have nothing to give you today, due to the fact that the saga of my new computer took up every last second of time between Friday and 11pm last night (when we weren’t gallivanting at Drag Bingo or working out in Body Combat class or doing laundry or actually working, that is). Guys, to give you an idea… a new episode of Homeland is available, and we haven’t watched it yet! That is our NUMBER ONE show this season, we’re utterly enthralled, and it’s been driving us crazy that there’s an episode just sitting there, unwatched. But we’re going to watch it tonight after grocery shopping (didn’t even get that done over the weekend) after work, so I get to look forward to it all day.

I’m extremely happy – I would even say thrilled – with my new computer (and this is the second one since the saga began – I had to take the first one back because of major issues), but I haven’t really used it yet. My amazing brother remoted in from California last night to help me set it up, and since then, I’ve been busy sleeping (a scant five hours) and showering, and now I’m sitting here with a cup of coffee and Callaghan next to me and the lights on in the deliciously dark early fall morning and the sound of the sprinklers on the lawn and kitties running around.

Speaking of kitties, have I mentioned that Ronnie James has a girlfriend? She’s an outdoor neighborhood kitty, and she’s adorable. She comes and sits on the table under the window, and she and the Wrah-Wrah gaze and bat at each other.

Aren't they a cute couple?

Aren’t they a cute couple?

Also, here’s a photo from Drag Bingo, which many of you have already seen on facebook. This was actually taken right before we left the house:

Callaghan and I didn't quite coordinate our outfits for the soiree.

Callaghan and I didn’t quite coordinate our outfits for the soiree.

Have a great Tuesday, All!

Our Halloween Laundry Room

On Friday, I wrote about the heartwarming qualities of a well-maintained, staffed Laundromat. It’s entirely coincidental that this morning’s post is also about a laundry space. On Saturday, before I’d decided what to write about for today, Callaghan and I stood in our new laundry room at home talking about the most important feature of that room, which is, of course, that it makes me think of the laundry room in the horror film Halloween. Because we all know that no laundry room is complete without the mental image of a masked killer standing outside of it, watching as you blithely go about the business of doing your laundry.

That original Halloween from 1978? Stands out in my memory as being the movie that sparked my interest in the horror genre, which has long since been one of my favorite film genres. I find the laundry room scene in that movie to be a wonderful scene, especially because it arrives at that moment.

You know that moment. It’s the moment in a cheesy horror movie wherein the tension gathers itself into a jagged-edged ball with frayed, stripped wires poking out all over the place before it begins its bouncing, chaotic journey downhill, picking up speed and snagging everything along the way until it slams to a halt with everyone (except that one, token survivor) dead at the end. (Long aside: It’s fun if the survivor is the one person that you’d predicted would escape. Sometimes, a horror movie starts and some characters have DEAD written all over them from the very beginning, right? We like to make predictions within the first 15 minutes. “He’s dead.” “She’ll be the first to go.” “That person’s going to be the one who stays alive.” It’s actually the most satisfying when we’re wrong, though, because being wrong means that the movie wasn’t as predictable as we’d thought it would be.)

Taken out of context, this scene from Halloween isn’t particularly creepy, but it’s brilliant in its place (no gore here):

 

 

I honestly don’t know why this came to mind on Saturday. Our laundry room isn’t especially creepy. Maybe it’s because the start of the fall semester means that fall is near, which, in turn, signals the approach of Halloween, bringing to mind the movie Halloween. Whatever the case, Callaghan and I had the chance to discuss the matter gravely.

“This reminds me of the laundry room scene in Halloween,” I said as we stood in the laundry room. It was empty. The washer and dryer were to be delivered later that day.

“What scene?”

“Remember that scene? The girl is babysitting, she goes out to the laundry room – it’s night – and the killer is there, creeping around outside. This is like that laundry room.”

We were having this conversation because our laundry room is only accessible from the backyard. It’s connected to the main house, but you can’t walk through. The only other time I’d seen a laundry room like that was in Halloween.

 

Our laundry room at night, not creepy at all under the patio's two bright lights.

Our laundry room at night, not creepy at all under the patio’s two bright lights.

 

“In this laundry room,” Callaghan said as he looked around, “the only place for the killer to hide is behind the door. So you enter it by kicking the door in really hard… and then there’s no more killer!” With his French accent, he pronounced it “keeler.”

But the killer would be wilier than that, I thought. I could picture how it would happen. The killer would crouch around the corner, or, if the patio lights were out, in the inside corner of the patio.

 

The laundry room in the dark.

The laundry room in the dark.

 

I’m not really concerned, though. The laundry room is spacious, but it’s narrow, and other than the one on the door, there are no windows. That means that I would have the advantage.

All of this makes me think of American Horror Story: Freak Show with increasing anticipation. We can’t wait for the return of Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulsen, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Even Peters, Emma Roberts, et al! October 8… only a month away!

 

 

What I’m Digging Right Now – August Favorites

August was interesting. It brought death, storm destruction, unpleasant dental work and a diagnosis of asthma for the Ronnie James. It also brought much in the way of good times, a new home and a new job for Callaghan.

At work, the fall semester started, and my Monday that week was epic: I started it first thing in the morning at home by spilling a full, large mug of coffee all over myself, the couch, the floor and the inside of my bag, which was sitting (open, of course) on the floor. How to start your day! Bathe in hot coffee! Such literal, caffeinated ablutions sanitize the early-morning mind. That’s how I saw it. Too bad about the almond milk, though.

Coffee scent still wafts out of my bag every time I open it. It’s not a terrible thing.

On that note, let’s start with entertainment!

 

1). The Killing (T.V. series)

 

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Netflix released the fourth and final season of The Killing on August first, and we greedily absorbed it all in two days. It’s over now, and we’re sad about that, but I’ll tell you what… rarely has the final episode of a series felt so satisfying.

I think I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: we’re hard-pressed to explain how The Killing’s Linden and Holder endeared themselves to us so completely.  Our favorite aspect of watching the series was witnessing the development of these characters and their partnership over the arc of the four seasons, but in fact, we loved everything about it. We found the haunting crime drama to be intriguing and masterfully-paced. The city of Seattle was depicted as mostly rainy and gray, and it seemed to be cast as a character in and of itself to gorgeous effect, veiled more in lyricism than grunge. The actors’ performances were exceptional. The plotlines for each of the seasons kept us quietly on edge. We enjoyed seasons one, two and four the most, but each season built on the last while revolving around unique plotlines (with the exception of season two, which was part two of the opening season’s storyline). Overall, we would say that The Killing is a brilliant and underrated series.

This brings to mind an incident that occurred in the store the other day: I was approached by a guy who wanted to know whether we had cable at home (evidently he worked for a cable company), and when I said no, he asked why not. I answered, “Because Netflix.” He was annoyed (maybe because I laughed, which was probably rude, now that I think about it) and pretty much stalked away with a black cloud over his head. At least we didn’t upset him more by telling him about the other internet resources we use for watching all kinds of movies and T.V. series!

 

2). Rage in the Cage (August 9, 2014).

 

Rage in the Cage at the Celebrity Theatre was good times!

Rage in the Cage at the Celebrity Theatre was good times!

 

It’d been too long since I’d attended a combat sports event at the Celebrity Theatre, so when our friend and Body Combat instructor said that she could get us a good deal on tickets because she was going to be working the event as a ring card girl, we gladly seized the opportunity. Not only was it fun to see Izzy at the event (it was like a preview of her participation in the natural physique competition she ended up dominating at the end of the month!), but the fights provided rock-solid entertainment. It was awesome to see that two of the night’s winners hailed from Arizona Combat Sports, the gym where I’d trained in Muay Thai back in its earlier days. The next Rage in the Cage event is in October, and we’re looking forward to it!

 

3). White peaches.

 

The white peaches have been so good, we haven't been able to get enough.

The white peaches have been so good, we haven’t been able to get enough.

 

We devoured white peaches all month… the ones at our favorite Fry’s were fabulous (maybe they still are), and we couldn’t get enough of them! You know how it is when you bite deeply into a piece of fruit and it’s just so satisfying on every level? It’s like that with these peaches. They’re sweet, fragrant, juicy and dense. For me, nothing signals or defines summer as convincingly as certain stone fruits – peaches, cherries, apricots and plums.

 

4). Vegan donuts at Whole Foods.

 

Why?! And why do they have to be so good?

Why?! And why do they have to be so good?

 

Leave it to our favorite Whole Paycheck Foods store to start stocking their bakery with vegan donuts. There’s nothing healthy about these deep fried, refined carb- and sugar-loaded delectables; “vegan” isn’t necessarily synonymous with “healthy,” and treats like these donuts are a great case in point. I feel a bit sheepish admitting that I’ve eaten something like five of them since I discovered them just a few weeks ago. Now I need to develop a will power specific to these donuts. Or not.

 

5). Little Ranch House in the Desert.

We’ve been in our new house for two days, and we all love it! We feel like we’re home, and all the space is a wonderful novelty for the kitties. We adopted them from a small apartment in France, and they’ve lived in nothing but equally small spaces up until this move. It’s been funny watching them here… it’s like, they have so much space, they don’t know where to go first. The bed is still their headquarters of choice, though.

 

Day One in the new house: Ronnie James purring in contentment on our bed.

Day One in the new house: Ronnie James purring in contentment on our bed.

 

6). Framed “Not Cal” decal.

 

NOT CAL in a frame!

NOT CAL in a frame!

 

I finally got this second NOT CAL decal framed! I put it in my new home office, of course. I love it.

 

7). göt2b Guardian Angel Gloss Finish Flat Iron Balm.

 

The hair product that guards against heat even when you don't use heat.

The hair product that guards against heat even when you don’t use heat.

 

This is good stuff. I picked this up in August thinking that I would start using my straight-iron again, but I discovered that I like what it does just by itself, as a leave-in treatment on dry hair. It adds a little something (I don’t even know what, really) that I like to my hair.

 

8). Manifesto (perfume).

 

Manifesto, the way to end the summer.

Manifesto, the way to end the summer.

 

In August, I started wearing “Manifesto,” which caught my eye because of its name. It amused me because of the Unibomber. (Not that I in any way condone, support or agree with the Unibomber and his activities, mind you. Just… you know. Manifesto.) Then, of course, there was the fragrance, itself! Made by Yves St. Laurent, it’s lovely with its body of white flowers, woods and vanilla. I think it bridges the summer and fall gorgeously.

(I wear perfume strictly for myself, by the way… because I like it, and because of what it evokes for me. I wore fragrance long before I ever wore makeup. It’s a personal thing.)

 

9). Paws jewelry.

 

Favorite impulse buy of the month: paws jewelry from Michael's. (Photo from instagram.)

Favorite impulse buy of the month: paws jewelry from Michael’s. (Photo from instagram.)

 

We were on an errand at Michael’s when I saw this cheap little set of costume jewelry. Paws. They were near a Halloween-themed display, so they may have been a part of that, which would make sense… I’m more prone to impulse-buying when Halloween things are out than any other time of the year.

 

This brings us to Ronnie James’ and Nounours’ “Favorites” pick for August!

 

10). Feliway.

 

A Feliway'd Nounours on the eve of our move.

A Feliway’d Nounours on the eve of our move.

 

Feliway is a product consisting of synthetic feline pheromones – undetectable by humans – emitted by a plug-in device similar to a plug-in air freshener. Our vet prescribed it to Ronnie James as a part of his treatment plan for anxiety, which was aggravating his asthma and causing him to over-groom himself. It works, and it works really well! Feliway mellows kitties like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We had the first one in our bedroom in the apartment before we moved, and now, in the house, we have an additional one – so, one in the living room, and another in our bedroom. Kitty bliss. =)

 

That wraps up my “little things” favorites list for August. Welcome, September!

50 Shades of Wrah-Wrah

Only one person in our household dressed up for Halloween yesterday, and that was Ronnie James. His costume was so easy, it was almost like cheating.

 

Ronnie James on the left. "Fifty Shades of Grey" on the right. Quite literally, NOT UNLIKE.

Ronnie James on the left. “Fifty Shades of Grey” on the right. Quite literally, NOT UNLIKE.

 

Okay, that was too easy, I admit, but that was a NOT UNLIKE just waiting to happen… the shades of gray (spelling it the American way outside of the title) in Ronnie James’ fur range from silver to gunmetal to taupe, with many more shades in between.

Incidentally, I have never read that book. I might one day. I’ve caught snippets of “news” reports here and there regarding who’s being cast as who in the film adaptation; since I haven’t read it, I can’t really weigh in on the matter, but based on what little I know, I’d venture to guess that Ronnie James wouldn’t work in any of the roles.

We’re now one week away from Moving Day, with the energy and excitement of moving increasing exponentially with each passing day! There’s so much to do, but it’s all very energizing rather than overwhelming. This morning, I woke up with a list in my head and knocked out half of it within an hour. Payments were sent, future arrangements were made, phone calls were placed, appointments were confirmed and canceled, letters were preemptively written, my planner was updated, “notes to self” were scrawled on Post-Its and numerous items were checked off the old “To Do” list. Callaghan’s putting boxes together and taking other things apart, and we’ll head out to the V.A. this afternoon. The whole next week begins now, and it’s going to pass us in a flash! Let the adventure begin!

Halloween Masks and the Question of Teeth

I have this theory about Halloween masks. There’s a formula for what makes the mask spooky, and it’s simple: No teeth = spooky. Teeth = not spooky. This is not to say that all masks without teeth are spooky, but just that the spookiest masks I’ve seen are the ones without teeth.

We went to check out the masks at the Goodwill (famous for its Halloween displays), Walmart and Target. The main thing I noticed about the masks in these major stores with popular Halloween sections (we didn’t go to any Halloween specialty stores) is that they mostly represent zombies and other toothy creatures. Today’s trend is monster masks, and snarly carnivore teeth seem to be the common denominator and defining characteristic from monster to monster. They’re fun, these masks, but I don’t find them scary at all… the gaping, snarling or grinning mouths jagged with sharp teeth just don’t chill my spine.

Here’s a sampling of the masks I tried:

 

Lots of teeth all around, except for the clown in the bottom right corner.

Lots of teeth all around, except for the clown in the bottom right corner.

 

To me, the spookiest one is the toothless clown at the bottom right corner… and not just because it’s a clown. The mask on the opposite end of that row is also a clown, and that one’s not scary to me. It happens to have teeth, which I think kills the creep factor, though it is a pretty cool mask.

In contrast, take the vintage masks of yesteryear. I’m talking about the old-fashioned, simple ones, those plain, homemade masks that not only didn’t feature teeth, but whose mouths were often so brief that they seemed like afterthoughts… those masks of the “pillowcase over the head with eye cut-outs” variety. Those, I have to say, really kind of creep me out. There’s not much to them, and maybe that’s why they work. Less is more, as they say. It’s those minimized, close-lipped, atrophied or warped little mouths that give those masks that certain spooky je ne sais quoi.

 

Old-fashioned Halloween masks, typical of their time. No teeth.

Old-fashioned Halloween masks, typical of their time. No teeth.

 

 

Imagine opening your door to find this pair...

Imagine opening your door to find this pair…

 

 

And who can forget the mask on this child in the chilling Spanish film The Orphanage?

 

The masked child in The Orphanage

The masked child in The Orphanage

 

I don’t know about you, but that’s certainly not a vision I’d want to see standing at the end of my bedroom hallway! No teeth necessary.

Just to rule out the possibility that it’s the black-and-white photo effect at work, I examined my snaggle-toothed mask mosaic again as a black-and-white image to see if the absence of color would add to its spookiness.

 

Black and white. Still not scary.

Black and white. Still not scary.

 

Conclusion: the creepiest masks are the ones that don’t have teeth. It seems counterintuitive, but think about it… lack of emotion is scary. A closed mouth is a mysterious mouth. We don’t know what’s going on behind those lips, and the unknown is scary and unsettling. (The Mona Lisa would not be nearly as mysterious were she revealing her teeth.)

Only three of the masks I tried on didn’t have teeth, and my favorite was one of those:

 

Weird little girl

Weird little girl

 

 

It's at Target. I should totally go back and get it, right? For next year?

It’s at Target. I should totally go back and get it, right? For next year?

 

 

Callaghan cropped me out of the picture...

Callaghan cropped me out of the picture…

 

 

...then we used this photo I took of September's full moon...

…then we used this photo I took of September’s full moon…

 

 

...to make this image.  (Callaghan decided to draw me a left eye.) "FrankenKristi."

…to make this image. (Callaghan decided to draw me a left eye.) “FrankenKristi.”

 

Happy Halloween!

But it’s Seasonal!

That’s my new favorite excuse for impulse purchases at Target: “It’s seasonal!” Of course, this only works if the thing is, in fact, seasonal. I think that a t-shirt with a mummified Snoopy design on it qualifies.

SO. A Halloween costume isn’t going to happen this year, but this seasonal t-shirt makes up for it somehow. Also, I had too much fun trying on masks at various places. More on that later, perhaps.

Here are the weekend highlights, in brief:

 

A rare treat: Saturday breakfast out. Coffee and a blueberry scone at Starbucks (the vegan scone was from WF)

A rare treat: Saturday breakfast out. Coffee and a blueberry scone at Starbucks (the vegan scone was from WF)

 

The view from my side of the table.

The view from my side of the table.

 

Then we went to Target, where this seasonal t-shirt happened.

Then we went to Target, where this seasonal t-shirt happened.

 

Awkward angle of me. Ronnie James is just as silky-soft and plush as he looks.

Awkward angle of me. Ronnie James is just as silky-soft and plush as he looks.

 

Happy Monday, All!

 

 

 

 

Of Fire-Hardened Crafts and That Band with the Videos

We’re still in major stuff-organizing mode up in here. In the last few days, I’ve unearthed a couple of things.

Thing One: the miniature clay hand-painted mask a friend brought me from Venice many years ago, which has somehow survived my life so far (I hope I didn’t jinx it by writing that. Watch it break the second I post this):

 

Ronnie James with the Venetian mask

Ronnie James with the Venetian mask

 

It fits! READY FOR HALLOWEEN.

It fits! READY FOR HALLOWEEN.

 

Thing Two: the Navajo horsehair pot I’d given to Callaghan, as referenced in this post:

 

Navajo horsehair pottery, hand-made, hand-painted and adorned with turquoise.

Navajo horsehair pottery, hand-made, hand-painted and adorned with turquoise.

 

And tonight, for something different, we’re heading over to Emo’s  to see The Neighbourhood. I often refer to them as “that band with the videos,” because, yeah, their videos.

 

 

Have a great weekend, Guys!

 

 

 

 

“Her Perfume Smells Like Burning Leaves” (but she probably doesn’t wear a cartoon owl every day)

Fall is here, Halloween is coming up, and while we have no idea what we’ll be doing costume-wise, I can at least enjoy feeling seasonable now when I put on my Halloween t-shirt, which I got from Target several years ago and actually wear throughout the year.

I wore it yesterday:

 

The Halloween t-shirt too adorable to ignore three-quarters of the year.

The Halloween t-shirt too adorable to ignore three-quarters of the year.

 

Creepy/scary Halloween imagery usually appeals to me more than the cutesy variety, but this t-shirt was an exception. I couldn’t resist it!

I’m generally enthusiastic about wearing Halloween stuff year-round, but I know that when the late Peter Steele of Type-O Negative described the mysterious gothic vixen in his song “Black No. 1” and concluded with “every day is Halloween,” he probably wasn’t thinking of her wearing a t-shirt that says “I (heart) the night life” under an orange heart-feathered cartoon owl perched on a sparkly gold crescent moon. I’m just too lazy to be a gothic vixen every day, so I go with the owl.

Moving the same note along to our apartment, we’ve got our Fall/Halloween mantel décor up! PICS – because it happened.

 

Our Fall (Halloween!) mantel. Not a leaf in sight, but we've got candles; original traditional and bizarre art; an assortment of tools; an old brass key; a petrol lamp; a bronze clock; an antique candelabra and a silly stuffed owl.

Our Fall (Halloween!) mantel. Not a leaf in sight, but we’ve got candles; original traditional and bizarre art; an assortment of tools; an old brass key; a petrol lamp; a bronze clock; an antique candelabra and a silly stuffed owl.

 

Close-up of Callaghan's bizarre 3-D piece ("Antix"), the antique ice-pick and the owl.

Close-up of Callaghan’s bizarre 3-D piece (“Antix”), the antique ice-pick and the owl.

 

Close-up of the left side. The still life on the end is an original painting by Alerini, a French artist.

Close-up of the left side. The still life on the end is an original painting by Alerini, a French artist.

 

Close-up of the right side. The gorgeous candelabra is a gift from Dude in France. The antique brass key on it is a gift from Catherine, also in France. The art on the end is a framed set of rubber stamps designed and carved by Callaghan.

Close-up of the right side. The gorgeous candelabra is a gift from Dude in France. The antique brass key on it is a gift from Catherine, also in France. The art on the end is a framed set of rubber stamps designed and carved by Callaghan.

 

ETA: No leaves, branches, pumpkins or gourds were abused in the making of this display.

The Shipping is Coming! The Shipping is Coming!

We’ve now been back in the States for three months, and our things – what we’ve taken to calling “The Shipping” – will arrive tomorrow. Yes! The Shipping actually arrived from France in June. It’s been chilling in New York all summer, and tomorrow morning, it will ride into Austin like a long-lost unicorn on 18 wheels. (This is what a unicorn really looks like: a pile of boxes and a scratching post cat tree.)

Three months doesn’t seem unreasonable for international movers, but because of the company’s initial indications to us, we were expecting The Shipping to arrive around mid-August. In reality, the end of the month arrived with no communication from the shipping company people until the very last minute when they called to give us a window of the 29th through the 3rd. Long, riveting story cut short: they couldn’t narrow it down to an actual date, but the driver called on the 3rd (the last day of the delivery window) to say that they would be here on Thursday the 5th.

So, tomorrow.

Once The Shipping gets here, we have to figure out what to do with it. It’s a lot, and we’re in this small one-bedroom apartment. Minor details! We’ll work it out.

After all that excitement is over, we have some concerts to anticipate this month, and then the month of October. October is going to be amazing, because American Horror Story comes back on the 9th! Season 3. Coven. It’s going to be EPIC. Look at this cast!

 

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…which gets me thinking about Halloween, because the time to start thinking about what to be is now. My only criteria are “creepy” and/or “strange,” and the creepier/stranger, the better.

 

Halloween 2008. I went to work dressed as Samara from The Ring.

Halloween 2008. I went to work dressed as Samara from The Ring.