These glowing nuts are emblems true
Of what in human life we view;
The ill-match’d couple fret and fume,
And this in strife themselves consume;
Or from each other wildly start,
And with a noise forever part.
But see the happy, happy pair,
Of genuine love and truth sincere;
With mutual fondness while they burn,
Still to each other kindly turn;
And as the vital sparks decay,
Together gently sink away;
Till life’s fierce ordeal being past,
Their mingled ashes rest at last.
— Charles Graydon, “On Nuts Burning, Hallows Eve” (1801)
From the depths of my Drafts folder* comes this fragment detailing a favorite Victorian parlor game. As is so often the case, it’s been knocking around in there so long that I forget what my original point was, so I’m just going to publish it and pass the confusion on to you.
The game itself is very straightforward, assuming you have a fireplace. (If you don’t, you can also use a charcoal grill.) Pass around a bowl of chestnuts and let each person choose two: One to represent themselves and one to represent a lover (current or potential). Each player places their chestnuts next to each other in the hot coals, and the nuts’ behavior “predicts” the fate of their relationship: If one hisses and steams, it indicates fretfulness or a bad temper in whomever the chestnut is named for. If both sputter, the relationship will be full of discord. If they pop away from each other, the lovers will separate. If they burn tranquilly side by side it means a life of happiness and harmony (I wouldn’t recommend trying to eat them once they’ve been reduced to ash).
It’s fun to play the game and then eat the results (not too many items can play a dual role as party game and snack food), or just save the roasted chestnuts for later and use them in a soup or dessert. Chestnuts are an underutilized foodstuff as far as I’m concerned, and I’m always happy to see them appear in the markets in autumn. Keep an eye out for their appearance, and you’ll have an inexpensive way to amuse your guests and get something yummy in the bargain.
*You guys. It’s really scary in there. And I think Amelia Earhart is propped up in one of the corners.
Nyne of Brilliance Found has been fascinated with jewelry since she was six, and makes wonderful, unique pieces in a variety of media.
She makes the usual range–earrings, necklaces, body jewelry, etc.–but seems to particularly shine in “statement rings.” Her filigree leaf or autumn leaf wrap rings are the perfect, understated fall accessory, and she also makes loads of interesting pieces like skeleton key ring, the proud crown ring (I love the patina on this one), and the very-hard-to-miss vampire bat knuckle ring. Her work seems to lean strongly toward naturalistic shapes such as leaves and animals, and I love their delicate, lacy look.
She’s got items up at both ArtFire and Etsy, and her work is really quite affordable.
If you’re over the age of 30 and have a fondness for cheesy horror movies, you’re probably familiar with Elvira’s Movie Macabre. (If you’re not, imagine Roddy McDowall’s movie-host character in Fright Night, except he’s a busty brunette in a tight dress.*)
The show has been off the air for 20 years, but it turns out that Elvira is far from retired. Cassandra Peterson is the head of an Elvira marketing empire, and she’s recently decided to introduce a new generation of cheesy-horror-movie fans to her prodigious cleavage.
LA Weekly has a long and detailed article about the Elvira “brand” and plans for the new show.
I’ve been seeing a huge uptick in singleton comments on very old posts. The comments are clearly written by a human rather than a ‘bot, since they address (more or less) the actual content of the post, but they’re also pretty clearly an attempt to enhance page rank by including an irrelevant URL.
Just so ya know: An actual human also reviews every single comment made on the site, no matter how old. Posts that appear to be covert spam are either deleted outright or are emasculated of their URLs. Persistent spammers are backtraced and reported.
Please…go play elsewhere. You’re not gaining anything by annoying me.
These are brilliant. Artists Luke Bartels and Jeff Canham hand-craft birdhouses from “the wrong side of the tracks,” including strip clubs, head shops, liquor stores, and more.
The one-of-a-kind birdhouses are for sale at The Curiosity Shoppe, and you can see additional photos on Canham’s site. I love how much character and silly charm is added with a clever paint job.
Obviously, the artists’ birdhouses are handmade and completely unique, but if you don’t happen to have $675 to blow on a birdhouse* and do happen to be a little bit crafty you could get an unpainted wooden birdhouse (frequently available at hardware or craft stores) and paint it yourself. The bad-area-of-town theme is hilarious, but you could also do a haunted house, a medieval apothecary, or any other design that amuses you. The birds won’t mind.
Just in time for autumn,* MAKE has a tutorial for making some lovely harvesty lanterns out of dried gourds.
The example uses a drill, but if you’re afraid of power tools you can use those little pumpkin-carving jigsaws instead. In addition to making patterns of holes you might also be able to cut larger designs in the gourd, although you’d want to take care not to crack the brittle walls. Since the gourds are lit by miniature fairy lights or LED lamps, you can also embellish them with paint or glue-on ornaments that wouldn’t be appropriate for anything lit by a candle.
The gourds are easy to grow and come in a wide variety of shapes, so if you’ve got a little yard space you can plant some for future craft projects.
I love how elegant these look, particularly with several massed together. They’d make a lovely and inexpensive centerpiece for a dinner party or even for the tables at a wedding reception.
*I’m sorry, Southern Hemisphere readers; you know I love you, but autumn starts now, not six months from now.