The Art of Darkness

Happy Halloween!

October 31st, 2012 by Cobwebs

SpiderMy pals the barn spiders were right on schedule this year: They show up seemingly out of nowhere every fall, and it’s their appearance that really means autumn to me. They’re plump and fuzzy and orange-and-black, and the outside of our house is currently festooned with living Halloween decorations.

Since today is the Big Day, I’m going to turn the forum over to you guys: What’s your favorite thing about Halloween? Share it in the comments!

p.s. – As is my annual wont, I’ll be participating in the unfortunately-acronymed NaBloPoMo again. There will be a post every day of November, including weekends. Can you hardly wait? I thought so.

Posted in Whatever | 4 Comments »

This Year’s Costumes

October 30th, 2012 by Cobwebs

Kid CostumesAs per usual, I have to show off the annual costume photos (it’s my blog; I can brag if I want).

Every year I make an entirely-too-elaborate costume for Shadowboy, usually make one for a friend’s niece to boot, then have professional photos taken. This year the niece had piratical aspirations, and although I lobbied hard for Shadowboy to be a parrot he insisted that he wanted to be a beetle. (Why, I don’t know, but hey–at least it was an interesting challenge.)

The girl’s costume was a relative snap; I used this pattern (bottom right) and tarted it up with brocade fabric and lace and whatnot. Shadowboy’s was…whatever the opposite of “a snap” is. Root-around-in-my-pattern-stash-and-swear-a-lot opposite. The pants are a pajama bottom pattern with feet cribbed from a dragon costume and re-cut into a more insectoid shape.

The top is the tunic from a cheerleader pattern I had laying around,* extended by a foot or so. The hood and gloves were taken from a generic animal costume, with channels stitched in the mittens to bifurcate the fingers and antennae added to the hood. The wings were cut from foam rubber and covered with the same fabric as the costume. They were attached to the back of the tunic with big strips of velcro.

As usual, no matter how much I gripe about the construction process, the results are worth it. These will join my big wall o’ Halloween photos, which help me feel Halloweeny throughout the year.

*I have a long-standing habit of buying likely-looking patterns whenever the local fabric stores have 99-cent sales, even if I don’t have an immediate use for them. I’ve generally found that hacking together pieces of different commercial patterns is easier than calculating measurements and drawing pieces from scratch.

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The Mission Creeps’ “Halloween”

October 29th, 2012 by Cobwebs

The Mission Creeps have released a new album, and the title track is…cute. Sort of reminiscent of 60s pop songs, but bouncy and thematic.

Some of the other tracks sound intriguing, too, such as “The Plum Room (with Sounds from a Real Ghost Investigation)” and “Shadow: A Parable (Edgar Allan Poe: 1835).”

(via Cult of the Great Pumpkin)

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The Link Dumps in the Rue Morgue

October 26th, 2012 by Cobwebs

Pretty and Poisonous Halloween Decorations – A few simple decorating ideas. I particularly like the lace-stamped candles.

Steampunkin – Tutorial for making a fantastic-looking steampunk Jack-o’-lantern.

Halloween Bell Jar – Attractive DIY decoration with lots of room for improvisation.

Shakespeare v Lovecraft – “Histrionic Heroes vs. Tentacled Terrors!!! Endless Soliloquys vs. Unnatural Silences!!! Romeo vs. Mi-Go!!! England’s Royal Beasts vs. A Shoggoth!!! The Author vs. Iambic Pentameter!!!” (Hat tip to Sisifo)

Haunted Birdhouse Village – Suggestion for turning dollar-store birdhouses into decorations. The ones in the demo are sort of plain, but there are lots of ways they could be spooked up further.

Snickerdoodle Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwiches – I could eat several dozen of these.

Hellraiser Nail Art – Not a terribly practical manicure, but certainly an arresting one. Also check out the same artist’s polymer clay Facehugger nail accessory and amazing Audrey II manicure.

Skull Candle Holders – DIY “glam goth” candleholders.

Alice in Steampunkland – This “inspiration board” was intended for a wedding, but there are some great ideas for any kind of party.

Knife Cake Decorations – Cute little edible daggers with which to stab cupcakes.

Posted in Link Dump | 5 Comments »

Random Caramel Apple-Related Things

October 25th, 2012 by Cobwebs

Caramel ApplesTwitter account FoodPorn_ (which you should follow only if you don’t mind gaining 50 lbs) recently tweeted this photo of embellished caramel apples, and after quite a bit of googling I finally tracked down the original source…which, annoyingly, doesn’t provide details on the actual decoration. (It does, however, have a pretty good recipe for the caramel itself, in case you’d rather use from-scratch instead of store-bought caramels.) My guess is that they’re just dipped in candy melts and then in sprinkles.

The initial search did turn up some other interesting ideas, including these aggressively-festive things, and these cute jack-o-lantern and spiderweb designs. There are also some great ideas here (photos are at the bottom of the page–I love the little ghosts).

If you’re feeling brave you could also coat them with dried mealworms, and if you’re not-so-brave (or you want your friends to still like you), use the realistic-looking gummy earthworms instead.

Just for a bit of variety, these caramel apple cupcakes sound pretty tasty. (Also, did you know there’s a caramel apple perfume?)

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 4 Comments »

Barmbrack: Traditional Halloween Bread

October 24th, 2012 by Cobwebs

BarmbrackThis is one of those things that I’d swear I posted about once, long ago, but a dig through the archives suggests I may have been hallucinating.

Barmbrack/barnbrack/brack is an Irish sweet bread which is traditionally used as the medium for fortune-telling on Halloween. Wikipedia explains:

Barmbrack is the centre of an Irish Halloween custom. The Halloween Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game.[2] In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring. Each item, when received in the slice, was supposed to carry a meaning to the person concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich; and the ring, would be wed within the year. Other articles added to the brack include a medallion, usually of the Virgin Mary to symbolise going into the priesthood or to the Nuns, although this tradition is not widely continued in the present day.

There are two main types of the bread, one a quick bread made with a chemical leavener such as baking powder and the other leavened with yeast. Both are filled with dried fruit that has been soaked in tea.

The Evening Hérault has representative recipes for both types* and a quick google will turn up loads of other examples. This one, for instance, substitutes whiskey for part of the tea.

As nearly as I can tell, there’s no traditional shape for the loaves; they appear to most commonly be baked in either round or loaf pans, but for the quick bread you could use a ring mold or any other pan that will hold the dough (it’s probably too thick for really intricately-detailed cake pans), and for the yeast version you could braid it or try other freeform shapes.

If you plan to include charms in the dough, remember to wrap each one in waxed paper before insertion. (And, obviously, since they’re choking hazards the charms aren’t suitable for small children.)

This is a lovely bread for breakfast or tea, served warm with butter.

*Incidentally, if you don’t have self-rising flour, you can make it yourself: For each cup called for in the recipe, substitute 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 2 Comments »

Urban Legends at Shellhawk’s Nest

October 23rd, 2012 by Cobwebs

Every October over at Shellhawk’s Nest, the eponymous Shellhawk solicits guest posts on a particular theme. This year the theme is favorite urban legends. I’m one of the guest bloggers, so if you want to find out what passes for “horrifying” in my neck of the woods, you can read it here. (Spoiler: It isn’t very horrifying.)

p.s. – Don’t forget that All Hallow’s Read starts this week! Spooky books for everybody!

Posted in Funny Peculiar | 5 Comments »

Trick-r-Treat: Season’s Greetings

October 22nd, 2012 by Cobwebs

Are you ready for The Big Day? Here’s something seasonal to help get you in the mood: The animated short by Michael Dougherty which inspired his movie Trick-r-Treat.

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The Return of the Link Dump

October 19th, 2012 by Cobwebs

Introvert Fairy Tales – “A quiet kind of happily ever after.” (Hat tip to Bruno)

From Tim Burton, Another Signature Lovable Loner – Interview with Tim Burton about Frankenweenie and other projects.

Teeny Bat – The caption is perfect. (Hat tip to xJane)

Spooky Ghost Pizza – Easy, kid-friendly meal idea. The little olive spiders are adorable.

Worst “Sexy” Halloween Costumes – Sassy Big Bird is horrifying.

Halloween Radio – Web-based radio station which bills itself as the “Official Radio Station For Halloween.” Wish I’d known about this months ago. (Hat tip to Sisifo)

Creepy Crawly Pumpkin Posies – Tutorial for turning a pumpkin into a vase for a bouquet of spider-infested flowers.

Itty Bitty Bat Cupcakes – Absurdly cute little cupcakes from Bakerella.

October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween – Good-looking collection of stories and essays from a number of well-known authors.

Edible Flower Syrups – Recipe for making simple syrups from edible flowers. There’s a related recipe for flower pastes. (Hat tip to joasakura)

Posted in Link Dump | 6 Comments »

Shrunken Head Cider

October 18th, 2012 by Cobwebs

Shrunken Heads

My pal Kitten Herder turned me on to this splendid party idea: A cider-based punch full of apple “shrunken heads.” How awesome would a cauldron-esque punchbowl look with these bobbing around?

The recipe was presented without attribution on Facebook, but fortunately a bit of googling turned up the original source on an old episode of the Martha Stewart Show.

I’m a bit leery of the amount of salt in this version of the drying solution, since adding a lot of heads to the punch might make it noticeably salty. All of the instructions for shrunken-apple heads seem to require at least a little salt, but since these apples aren’t thoroughly dried out you could probably get away with less salt and a slightly longer drying time.

I’m also not really on board with this recipe’s implication that the punch should be at room temperature; it should probably either be served heated or ice-cold. If you don’t want ice cubes or an ice ring to detract from the floating heads, thoroughly chill the ingredients before combining and then sit the punchbowl inside a plastic novelty cauldron with ice in the bottom. (For extra spookiness add a little dry ice to the outer cauldron–NOT directly to the punch–so the cauldron will “smoke.”)

Obviously, you can use any punch recipe you like, although something with a citrus component (like the lemonade in this recipe) will help keep the apples from browning.

2 C lemon juice
2 T coarse salt
8 large, firm cooking apples such as Granny Smith
32 whole cloves
2 gallons apple cider
2 (12-ounce) cans frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
2 C spiced rum or apple brandy (optional)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper Mix together lemon juice and salt in a bowl large enough to roll the apples around in.

Peel the apples and cut each in half through the stem; remove seeds and core. Using a sharp paring knife, carve a face on the rounded side of each apple half. Place apples in lemon mixture for one minute; transfer to paper towels to drain.

Place apple halves face-side-up on prepared baking sheet and transfer to oven. Let bake until apples are dry and begin to brown around the edges, about 90 minutes. Remove from oven and press cloves into the “eyesockets.”

Combine cider, lemonade, and alcohol (if using) in a large punchbowl; float shrunken heads on top.

(Thanks, Kitten Herder!)

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 6 Comments »

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