The Art of Darkness

Last-Minute Gift Idea: Vinegar

December 17th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Herb VinegarNo, wait; don’t leave. Hear me out. Vinegar can serve as an awesome gift, filling several different roles.

It’s cheap, easy, and super-fast to make, so it’s a fantastic last-minute hostess gift or stocking stuffer. You can make a whole bunch in very little time, so it’s simple to turn out lots as party favors or small gifts to give out at the office. It can be gussied up in a variety of ways, making it look Very Fancy Indeed and cementing your reputation as a skilled artisan (as opposed to somebody who shoves some herbs in a bottle and pours vinegar on ’em).

The most common use for vinegar is in cooking, and making flavored vinegar is, indeed, as easy as shoving some herbs in a bottle and pouring vinegar on ’em. Choose different combinations of herbs to create a whole galaxy of customized flavors. The basic method is to carefully rinse fresh herbs and pat dry, put them in a glass bottle or jar, and cover them with vinegar. (A caveat: Plain white vinegar has a harsh, rather flat taste, so for culinary uses it’s best to use a wine vinegar or cider vinegar.) There’s a good overview of process which goes into more detail here. I particularly like their suggestion of threading peeled garlic on bamboo skewers; there’s a “Vlad the Impaler” blend just waiting to happen.

The real fun in flavored vinegar is choosing the flavors, and if you google “how to make flavored vinegars” you will get a truly overwhelming number of suggestions. Some good basic combinations are:
Oregano, Rosemary, and Marjoram
Chili, Cilantro, and Garlic
Fennel, Orange Peel, and Star Anise
Raspberry and Thyme
Shallot, Tarragon, and Lemon Peel

The herbs should steep in the vinegar for at least 24 hours before being used, with the flavors growing stronger over time. However, if this is a make-something-before-you-run-out-the-door gift, warm the vinegar to a bare simmer (don’t boil) before pouring it over the herbs. That’ll give the infusion a little head-start.

But wait, there’s more! Vinegar has been much touted as a natural all-purpose cleaner, so step up your gift-giving game with scented cleaning vinegar. The 5% concentration sold in grocery stores is fine, but there are higher concentrations (including one that’s a whopping 20%) if you prefer; look for them in grocery-store cleaning aisles, hardware stores, or online.

The infusion method is pretty much the same as for culinary vinegar, but you’ll want to choose pleasant scents and don’t have to worry about the taste. Some ideas:
Citrus peels (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit), one type or in combination
Strong-smelling herbs like sage, lavender, mint, or rosemary
Whole spices like cloves, cinnamon sticks, or allspice
Vanilla beans: Scrape the seeds out of the bean for use in cooking, and use the pod to scent vinegar
Fragrant rose petals
A few drops of essential oil

Cleaning vinegar is great for degreasing things like range hoods, brightening mirrors and windows, disinfecting surfaces, freshening laundry, and ironing. (It shouldn’t be used on marble surfaces or hardwood floors, since it can damage them.)

One final use for scented vinegar is as “Monster Spray.” To help ward off monsters, natch. Use calming scents such as lavender and put it in a little spray bottle (there are even labels you can use). Spritz a little around a child’s room to banish the thing under the bed, or to help them go back to sleep after a nightmare. The vinegar makes it smell like it means business, so you know it’s working.

Easy! Cheap! If you’re strapped for a fast holiday gift, help is as close as your grocery store.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 2 Comments »

Secret Santa Can Suck It: My Gift

December 16th, 2014 by Cobwebs

The matches for our Secret Santa Can Suck It exchange have been made and sent to their assignees. After everyone posts about their “gift,” I’ll list all of the entries to peruse. To kick things off, here’s mine.

My recipient is Pixel Pixie, and I was delighted when I drew her name out of the hat because I know just what to get her. She likes to sew, so she gets a deluxe sewing room makeover!

She’s going to need some storage space, and some nice big work tables.


Lots of drawers, and flooring that’s easy to keep tidy and pretty to boot.


Her equipment will be upgraded as well, with professional-quality sewing machine, serger, and embroidery machine.

Sewing Machines

When they’re not in use, the equipment can stay out of the way in custom Victorian-style cases like this one:

Sewing Table

All of her supplies get a makeover as well, with some laser-guided(!) precision shears, plus interesting goth touches like “wicked” embroidery scissors:


Speaking of goth, she needs a couple of vintage iron dress forms:

Dress Forms

And a closet full of bat-shaped clothes hangers:

Bat Hangers

Finally, just to help her settle in with her new gear, we’ll arrange for a couture apprenticeship in Paris:


So happy holidays, Pixel Pixie! I hope my “gift” meets with your approval!

Posted in Whatever | 5 Comments »

The Great Martian War

December 15th, 2014 by Cobwebs

As an unusual tribute to WW I, the History Channel created an allegorical secret history of a war against Martian invaders.

On its 100th anniversary, The Great Martian War tells the story of the catastrophic events and unimaginable horrors of 1913-17, when Humankind was pitted against a savage Alien invasion.

With powerful and detailed First World War parallels, The Great Martian War fuses sci-fi fantasy with specialist factual history to explore the real-world tragedies and unique horror of World War One.

The accompanying video is weirdly plausible.

(There are a lot of complaints about the choice of music, so watch it with the sound off if it irritates you.)

(via BoingBoing)

Posted in Whatever | 2 Comments »

Egad! It’s Another Week of Link Dumps: Day 5

December 12th, 2014 by Cobwebs

This concludes yet another Link Dump Explosion. Regular posting (and once-a-week Link Dumps) return Monday.

Cthulhu Wedding Cake – Pretty design with lotsa tentacles.

Ethereal Dreams – A “gothic Christmas” music mix.

Little Brown Bat Plush – Sweet little stuffed bat to cuddle. The same manufacturer also has a vampire bat, a tarantula, and a vulture.

It to be a Movie – After years in development, a big-screen version of Stephen King’s It is set to start production next spring. It’s apparently planned as a pair of movies, one following the children’s lives and how they come to know Pennywise, and the other detailing the kids as adults, still fighting him.

Hades Footwear – All kinds of spiky, steampunky, weird-looking shoes, including some very goth sneakers.

Aztec Death Whistle – I can definitely see how a bunch of warriors blowing on these before heading into battle would cause some psychological trauma for their opponents. Also soiled undergarments.

Moss Graffiti – It’s pretty common to use a slurry of moss and yogurt to give flowerpots and lawn ornaments a rustic overgrown look, but I’d never thought about painting it on walls. This is a really neat idea.

Chocolate Spider Web Drinks – Cute edible drink garnishes (chocolate martinis for the grownups, and chocolate milk for the kids).

Le Heart Design – Amazing ethical mouse taxidermy. You can see a piece that the artist did for The Bloggess here.

Molt – Neat short video of a tarantula molting. Watch with the sound off because the soundtrack is really irritating.

Posted in Link Dump | 3 Comments »

Egad! It’s Another Week of Link Dumps: Day 4

December 11th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Cthulhu’s Pizza Kitchen – Amusing faux commercial.

Literary Christmas Ghost Stories – A few vintage selections, including a couple by Charles Dickens.

Monster Cocktail Stirrers – Great-looking drink decorations made from candy.

The Creature Vault – New book of concept art for the Harry Potter movies. A few of the images can be seen here.

Nobody Bought the Tiffany Bat Lamp – Short article about bats in Art Nouveau design, mentioned here not only for the gorgeous lamp of the title, but also for a couple of other lovely pieces like this Lalique necklace.

The Bourbon Legends – “They’re like urban legends…only drunker.”

The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft – Big ol’ book of eldritch horrors, with introduction by Alan Moore.

Deathmøle – Jeph Jacques’ “fictional band that makes actual music” with song titles like “Fifty Goddamn Skeleton Warriors.”

Gardening for Bats – Short video discussing “wildlife gardening” with the aim of attracting bats.

Notes on a Case of Melancholia – Perry Bible Fellowship creator Nicholas Gurewitch has a Kickstarter for a great-looking Gorey-inspired picture book about Death’s despair that his son doesn’t want to continue the family business.

Posted in Link Dump | No Comments »

Egad! It’s Another Week of Link Dumps: Day 3

December 10th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Ultimate Beetlejuice Costume – This completely over-the-top costume not only includes a sandworm puppet, it also features the Maitland’s entire house.

Domsai – These anthropomorphic terrariums are pricey, but really interesting.

Cthulhumas Wreath Creature – This is a pretty neat tentacle-y wreath.

Middle of Beyond – Lots of great holiday merchandise like Cthulhu Christmas sweaters, Krampus knit scarves, and Baphomet glass ornaments. (via Burning Prairie)

Mari Lwyd – Welsh Christmas/New Year tradition involving a horse’s skull. This would be way more fun than caroling.

10 Real-Life Laws That Regulate The Supernatural World – It somehow doesn’t surprise me that Texas is exorcism-friendly.

Raven Hand Puppet – I want to snorgle his fluffy feathers. There’s also a smaller finger puppet version.

Little Bat – Ridiculously adorable art print of a sweet little hanging bat. This would be perfect for a child’s room.

Skull Necklace – This “pearl necklace” made of little skulls is gorgeous. (Hat tip to xJane)

Scorpion Chair – Amazing wooden chair. I’m not sure how comfortable it would be to sit in, but it’s got all kinds of style.

Posted in Link Dump | 3 Comments »

Egad! It’s Another Week of Link Dumps: Day 2

December 9th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Bronze Age – This vareigated yarn by Zen Yarn Garden is the very essence of Halloween. (via Burning Prairie)

Love Manor’s Flickr Photostream – All kinds of fantastic ideas for spooky decorating and entertaining. In particular check out their album of potion labels and other printables.

“Jaws” Necklace – Clever necklace design which mimics the iconic movie poster.

My dead girlfriend keeps messaging me on Facebook – A great bit of realistic horror fiction from Reddit’s NoSleep.

Sick Roses – Interesting interview with Richard Barnett, who’s written a book on disease and the art of medical illustration.

Dark Literary Classics Calendar – Neat calendar featuring works like Macbeth and “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

Christmas Comes Early to Pottermore – J.K. Rowling has announced that she’ll release 12 Harry Potter stories this month, beginning on Friday.

Corporate Spirit – Peculiar stock photography, many with captions.

Saint Gomez and Morticia Addams – This set of prayer candles featuring “the patron saints of Eternal Love” almost makes me want to convert. The seller also has Saint Elvira, Saint Jareth, and a lot of other great designs.

Animated Christmas Cards by Terry Gilliam – These Pythonesque cards are awesome.

Posted in Link Dump | 2 Comments »

Egad! It’s Another Week of Link Dumps

December 8th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Y’know, I swear I do things besides surf the web all day finding links for your amusement, but you’d never know it to look at my Drafts folder. So you guys get another full week of link dumps. Egad.

Vampire Vodka – Easy DIY for making homemade cherry vodka. There’s even a downloadable label.

Rupert Giles, MLS – “Course List for Rupert Giles, Master of Library Sciences Candidate, Michaelmas Term 1982”

#RejectedSpells – Amusing Twitter hashtag imagining the spells that didn’t make it into the new D&D 5th Edition. I think my favorite is Summon Wilford Brimley.

Ordinary Mushrooms in a Magical World – This gorgeous macrophotography is like a glimpse into fairyland.

The Love Crafts – ‘Toon about toys from a sex-positive mythos. NSFW-ish.

Goth Xmas Shirt – As a bonus, I’m pretty sure that’s Krampus in silhouette.

“Portrait of Poe” Cake – Great-looking red velvet cake decorated with a fondant portrait of Edgar Allan Poe. The stencil-type nature of the portrait looks reasonably DIY-able. (Hat tip to hng23)

The In Vitro Meat Cookbook – This exercise in “recipes as design fiction” envisions a future of lab-grown meat.

Coolest Movie Monsters – Screen Junkies had a “showdown” to determine the coolest movie monsters of all time.

Alien Queen Cosplay – Weirdly elegant riff on the xenomorph from Aliens.

Posted in Link Dump | 3 Comments »

Days of Future Link Dumps

December 5th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Zombie Snowflake – Papercraft pattern for “monstrous” snowflakes. If you cut the hair off it’d be a decent Frankenstein’s Monster, too. Stick one or two of these in amongst a bunch of normal paper snowflakes and see who notices.

Texting the Underworld – Fun book for older kids about a “perpetual scaredy-cat” who has to prevent a fledgling banshee from taking one of his relatives.

Creepmas Trees – Some cool ideas for spookily-decorated Christmas trees. (Hat tip to Fiend4Halloween)

Humans are Terrifying – Great thread discussing how humans could be the scariest monsters in the galaxy.

Hocus Pocus Cowl – Knit cowl pattern with lovely vintage-y Halloween imagery. Could be adapted for hats, bags, and other items.

The Jar – As Pixel Pixie, who linked me to this, put it, “Tim Burton directed Ray Bradbury story on an Alfred Hitchcock show, scored by Danny Elfman. You’re welcome.” It’s like the Goth Singularity.

Go to Hell – Atlas Obscura has a neat roundup of “gateways to Hell” around the globe.

Skull Chair – This soft skull chair has a hinged jaw. It doesn’t look tremendously practical, but it has a very high Awesomeness Quotient. (Hat tip to Fiend4Halloween)

How to Be Goth – Just in case you needed a guide.

The 13 Days of Christmas – A Nightmare Before Christmas take on The 12 Days of Christmas. (Hat tip to Sally)

Posted in Link Dump | 2 Comments »

Nightmare Catcher

December 4th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Nightmare CatcherThe Wandering Mermaid Etsy shop sells “vintage inspired treasures” such as antiqued journals and little charms. The shop also offers a variety of pretty bottles labeled with things like “Fairy Godmother Wishes” and “Mermaid Song,” but the one I was particularly taken with was their bottle of Nightmares. It’s filled with black glitter and little sparkly stars, in which are nestled bits of paper listing “classic nightmare themes” which you may wish to keep bottled up.

I love the idea of having a place to capture bad dreams where you can keep an eye on ’em. Although the ones on Etsy are surprisingly inexpensive–for $15, you could hardly buy the glitter–something similar would be pretty easy to DIY if you wanted to use a different bottle or otherwise adjust its appearance. I’d also add a pretty pen and a supply of blank paper slips for writing down personal nightmares to bottle up.

This would be a particularly great gift for a child, but it’d be nice for anyone who could use a little midnight reassurance. The bottle or jar could be personalized with the recipient’s name, and little “magic charms” representing pleasant things like flowers or teddy bears could be attached to the outside or mixed in with the glitter. Nightmares aren’t nearly as scary when they’re sulking in a jar instead of running around freely, so having a place to store them might help ensure pleasant dreams.

Posted in Bittens, Needful Things | 3 Comments »

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