I like books with monsters in them. I just do. Yes, I read contemporary fiction as well, the occasional literary novel. Honestly, I read pretty much everything. But when I want to really cozy up with a book? Reality is out of the question.
Sometimes, I want to keep it light, something with a little humor. Something like Monster by A. Lee Martinez.
Monster is about a guy named Monster, who runs a paranormal pest control agency. He teams up with a woman named Judy when she discovers a Yeti in the freezer aisle of the grocery store where she works. Hijinks ensue. They ensue a-plenty.
Other times, I want reality with a twist of weird or dark, like with the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong.
The first book, Omens, opens with Olivia finding out her idyllic life is not all it seems. It turns out she was adopted as a child. And her birth parents? Convicted serial killers. Her hunt for answers leads her down strange paths and towards things she can’t explain but are somehow familiar…
So far so good right? Then there are the times I’m looking for morally ambiguous characters, the kind that makes you question who the real monster is. For example, Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer or This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab.
And obviously, you know I wouldn’t leave you hanging. Of course, I always want a good paranormal romance. (Incidentally, the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong scratches that itch very well.) For this category, I would be remiss not to mention The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, starting with The Cruel Prince. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride is another book I’ve mentioned in a previous post but I don’t care. I still fucking love that book.
And if that’s not enough, I have one more recommendation for you. Jackaby by William Ritter. It’s like Sherlock Holmes, if he solved paranormal cases. So good.
Okay, my friends. Go forth and read wonderful monster books. I’m off to do the same!
I shuffle around my house, movement inhibited by whatever large blanket I have currently wrapped around myself as an elaborate cape/burrito, stumbling from kitchen to couch and the nest of even more blankets I have waiting for me there.
At work, my space heater and humidifier run constantly. (I like my heat moist and jungle-y.)
It hasn’t even been that bad of a winter so far. But that’s part of the problem. So far. There’s still so much more winter to go. Where I live there are another three months ahead of me. Possibly four.
I suppose I could use this quiet, frozen time to accomplish something. But that would require leaving the blanket nest.
No, instead I think I’ll attempt hibernation until spring. If bears can do it, I can too. It’s only a matter of will. (Shut up, science. This doesn’t concern you.)
I will see you all in spring, when I emerge, a blanket-less butterfly.
As you may recall from an earlier post, I don’t usually get a Christmas tree. But with the world such as it is, and with a local health order forbidding get togethers with anyone outside our immediate household, my husband and I decided that maybe we would indulge in a little Christmas magic and buy a tree.
We always buy real trees because 1) we don’t want to store a fake tree all year, taking up valuable space and reeking of mildew when you do haul it out and 2) I read once that real trees are actually more environmentally friendly because of how long it takes for fake trees to break down in a landfill and I took it to heart.
Decision made, my husband offered to stop after work and pick up the tree, which sounded great to me. As much as I love going to stores, standing out in the cold and scrutinizing trees with no real idea of how it will look once it’s untied but feeling pressured to ‘pick a good one’, only to stand in line forever, pay and then carry and forcefully shove said tree into a vehicle to drive it home, I was happy to leave that task to someone else.
Except I really, really should have gone with.
The first time I bought a Christmas tree on my own, I stood in a yard of identical looking trees, wondering why some were forty dollars and others were twenty dollars. They looked exactly the same. Were they older? Less fresh? They didn’t seem to be. “Why would I pay double for the same tree?” I thought and merrily picked out a cheaper tree and drove it home to my little apartment. I didn’t realize that the difference in price was for a very good reason.
It turns out, the cheap trees are murder trees. I might as well have brought home a bin of hypodermic needles to decorate. That tree’s needles were so sharp decorating was almost impossible. I yelped so much my neighbours probably thought I was giving myself a DIY prison tattoo. A fair bit of the red on my first solo Christmas tree was blood. And I swore on my punctured skin I would never make that mistake again.
Until this year.
My husband wasn’t with me during my first purchase of a murder tree. He didn’t know that the only true test of a good tree is to touch the needles and make sure they don’t try to kill you. He just looked for a nicely shaped tree that would fit in the car and went on his merry way. He bought a murder tree.
I knew the second he brought it in the house. One touch and I started whispering “oh no”, over and over like I was possessed, or perhaps someone who’d been flayed before and was in the middle of an intense wave of flashbacks.
“You bought a murder tree.”
“What? No. It’s fine.” He touched the needles. “They’re a little sharp but I can decorate it on my own if you want.”
A little sharp? This tree was the unholy offspring of a rabid porcupine and a sea urchin. This tree didn’t want to be a Christmas tree. It didn’t want to be decorated. It wanted our blood.
A day later, the tree now unthawed and restless for murder, I dug out the thickest gloves I could find for my husband and me and we set to work. They did a decent job protecting our hands but they made hanging ornaments difficult and clumsy. We tried without the gloves but it was too painful. It was like shoving our hands into a basket of, well, needles. One by one we wrestled ornaments onto branches while being mercilessly poked and stabbed everywhere unprotected by the gloves. By the end we were both covered in a rash of red dots that made us look like we had a raging case of chicken pox. My skin itched like it was on fire.
The tree, desperately unhappy to now be a source of twinkling magic and joy, immediately set about killing itself. Despite constantly making sure it had water, the tree turned brittle and dry, barely making it to Christmas. Every time I leaned past it to plug in the lights it stabbed me, its insanely sharp needles puncturing through my jeans like they were nothing.
After Christmas we took it down immediately, lest it burst into flames and take us with it in murdery vengeance. It managed to shed 50% of its needles as we un-decorated it and even more as we dragged it out of the house. One last ‘screw you’ for our attempt to turn it into a Christmas tree. Come summer, we’ll chop it up and burn it, releasing whatever demon was trapped inside to wreak its havoc on the world.
At least now my husband knows to always touch the needles before buying, so hopefully that’s the last demon murder tree we bring into our house.
And let this be a lesson to all of you. Check the needles! Do not buy the murder tree.
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Winter is here, we’re all locked in the house and we’re getting dangerously low on things to watch on Netflix. Add the looming holiday to the mix and there’s only one thing left to do: eat. Eat all the things.
I’m a big fan of poppycock. For one, the name makes me feel whimsical and British. It’s also insanely tasty and I will mow down an entire tin in ten minutes flat if left unchecked. The hard bit is that it’s super tedious to make. And yeah, I know I’ve got nothing but time, but I need snacks now, dammit.
Another good one is peanut butter balls. They’re way less labour intensive (although still a little tedious) and also have the power to render me incapable of self control. Never had one? Picture little balls of sweetened peanut butter and rice krispies, dipped in a bath of dark chocolate. Oh yes. That’ll do pig, that’ll do.
Then, of course, there are the classics. The batches of chex mix, the various combinations of shortbread, toffee and chocolate (ours is called divine toffee squares and the title is very accurate), and usually something involving marshmallow. Sugar cookies I don’t find particularly tempting, ditto with rice krispies squares. (I actually didn’t know anyone made rice krispie squares for Christmas until I got married.)
If sweet isn’t your thing and only salty snacks will do, there is of course the savoury version of the chex mix, the various charcuterie and cheese boards, the little mini appetizers that show up everywhere this time of year.
The point is, among the diversity of holiday snacks and treats we should all be able to find something to joyfully inhale to mourn (or celebrate) our inability to socialize this winter. And hopefully the food coma inspired nap will last long enough for Netflix to push out some new shows because there’s only so much tic tac toe you can play with the cat.
Around this time of year, we all do our obligatory Christmas movie watching, as is mandated by holiday law. Everyone has their “must watch” list. Elf, Love Actually, The Grinch, Charlie Brown, etc. I have those as well (have you seen Arthur Christmas? Heartwarming!), but they aren’t the only movies I start jonesing for. Every year at this time I get the urge to watch my other seasonal favourites, and they have nothing to do with Christmas.
A little background on me. One of my favourite cousins growing up was a huge nerd. No matter what house was hosting Christmas every year, he always managed to take control of the TV in whichever basement we were hanging out in. All through Christmas day and into the evening, he would watch movies and they were always sci fi movies. It didn’t matter to me what we watched, all I cared about was sneaking the largest plate of cookies possible downstairs so that I could binge eat treats out of sight of my mom and any other responsible adult. The result? I’ve come to associate Christmas (indeed, the very best parts of Christmas) with science fiction. So, every December it’s not just Charlie Brown I reach for.
My top picks?
All of the Alien Movies
Inexplicable as it may be, as soon as the holidays draw near, all I want to watch are the Alien movies, specifically Alien and Aliens. If there’s time, I’ll watch the entire franchise, but the first two are a must.
The Original Star Wars Trilogy
These ones are straight nostalgia for me. We watched them A LOT. My cousin was straight obsessed. And you know what? I don’t blame him. That shit’s entertaining!
Ideally, I’m going for the crossover of Predator vs Alien, but any Predator movie will do in a pinch.
And While We’re At It…
Honestly, I’ll watch anything if it’s science fiction. New or old. Terminator, The Matrix, Star Trek. It truly doesn’t matter. And if you don’t like it, you can blame my cousin. It’s really all his fault.
First, lay out all the gifts and cue up a good Christmas or Hanukkah movie. Gather snacks, scissors and wrapping paper. Look everywhere for the tape. Why is there no tape? You know you bought some, because last year you did this exact same thing and had to run out and buy it. Find the tape. It’s empty. Use every curse word you know. Contemplate using masking tape. You’re out of that too. Would duct tape be too obvious?
Get dressed up in coat, boots, mitts and make the precarious drive to the neighbourhood drugstore. Purchase tape.
Upon returning home, shed winter clothes and try to get back in “the spirit”. Start holiday movie.
Begin with the easiest packages, the nice, perfectly box-shaped ones. Cut way too much wrapping paper for the first one, an unmanageable, ridiculously sized square. Get half way through wrapping before admitting defeat and grabbing the scissors. Trim off the excess and feel bad about the too-small spools of waste littered around you.
On the next gift, you don’t cut enough paper. Now you’re trying all the tricks, turning it this way and that (everyone knows putting it diagonally on the paper works wonders!), yanking the paper as taut as it will go, then a little tighter so it rips a little. No matter what you do, you still end up needing pieces from the useless end bits you cut from the last one. Not so useless now! Ahahahahahahaha! You are the mad scientist of gift wrapping! All will look upon your franken-present and tremble at your patchwork genius!
Keep wrapping. Lose your pre-cut piece of tape, the one you specifically cut so it’d be ready when you were in this compromised pose, trying to hold various folded edges together. Flail at your husband, who is wearing earbuds and doesn’t hear or notice you. Swear on your life that you will smash those earbuds the first chance you get. Give up, release the paper and your meticulous folding perfection and get a new piece of tape. Later, you find the missing tape stuck to your face. The universe is full of mysteries.
Now that you are nearing the end of your patience and gift wrapping has lost its magic, start trying to wrap the mishapen gifts, the various, soft, plushy items and impossibly angled kids toys. Announce to no one that next year everyone is getting books and boxes of macaroni.
Wrap presents until you run out of wrapping paper or tape, your knees give out, your back seizes, or all three. Look resentfully at the single present left waiting to be wrapped. Use all of your curse words. Tell yourself you’ll stop on your way home from work tomorrow for more wrapping paper/tape and wrap it then. Put it off for at least five days or until about an hour before you’re due to give it. Panic wrap it in a cold sweat before tearing out the door.
Congratulations! You have mastered gift wrapping.
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The holidays always make me feel like a hypocrite. Probably because I am one.
I don’t like to agree with sanctimonious religious people (they are the literal worst), but they are correct that I probably shouldn’t be celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, seeing as I don’t believe in God. And here I am, celebrating both.
How does an atheist end up celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah? Honestly, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but I didn’t walk into a bar and see a priest and a rabbi, if that’s what you’re wondering. The answer to all things holiday is – as with most people – family.
The simple answer to Christmas is that I was raised Catholic and grew up celebrating it and have continued to do so. Why not break up the bleakness of winter with an unhealthy dose of consumerism, am I right?
Luckily, my family is not religious, so there are no arguments over how I will not be attending mass, and my husband and I have managed to squash all hope of religious activity with my mother in law. (No long rambling prayers over an advent wreath for me, thank you very much.) She tried very hard, I’ll give her that.
As for Hanukkah, it came into my life when my sister converted. She fell in love with a Jewish man and found spiritual peace in the synagogue. It’s been around fifteen years since she made the switch and I’ve only just managed to learn how to spell it. (I’m lying. I still look it up every time. For some people it’s rhythm. For me it’s both.)
Every December since, we spend at least one night of Hanukkah with them and their faith and they join us for Christmas.
There are positives and negatives to this mish mash of holidays.
The obvious positive is the food. (Did you think I was going to say embracing multiple faiths and cultures in a loving circle of acceptance? Because… no. Food.) I will take any opportunity to enjoy a nice brisket, binge latkes and eat the appropriate amount of noodle kugel. (The key is to keep the portion small. A little bit? Delicious! A lot? Please no.) Give me blintzes, dumplings, turkey, mashed potatoes, rugelash and all the various Christmas cookies until I explode. Come one, come all!
The hard bit is navigating the various boring bits and inevitable awkwardness that comes with breaking various types of bread. For instance, my Jewish sister will only arrive on Christmas morning after Santa has come and gone. She is determined to keep her child from being wooed by the obvious temptation that is Santa and all his magic. She’s right too, because any child would be crazy not to go “Why the fuck aren’t we doing that?”
Nevermind that Santa has about as much to do with the Christian faith as he does with Judaism.
And before you give me the St. Nick garbage, first let me kindly invite you to jump off a cliff. I was raised Catholic, remember? I know the origin story. But Santa Claus is at best the alien cousin of St Nick, given that he is magic and rides in a sleigh with flying reindeer, when he’s not busy being the overlord over (again) magic elves.
There is also the yearly debate over whether I will attempt to find my nephew eight small gifts, in keeping with Hanukkah tradition, which makes spoiling him and buying his love while staying on budget difficult, or buy him 2 or 3 bigger presents, which feels like cheating. (It is cheating. And cheating wins. Cheating always wins. At least when he’s a teenager I can just split cash into eight envelopes and be done with it.)
When it comes to Christmas, my own Christmas spirit is mild at best and curmudgeon at worst. I don’t decorate. I don’t get a tree. I don’t love vacuuming up glitter for six full months after and wreaths and decorations make my house feel cluttered rather than magical. I enjoy other people’s lights but I’m not about to climb a ladder in sub-zero temperatures to put some up myself. My participation remains limited to buying gifts and baking treats.
Not to mention the addition of three birthdays in the month of December leaves me so frazzled by the end that I usually spend New Year’s Eve fast asleep by 8:30. And yet, there’s not a lot I would change. And what I would, I’m certainly not going to publish on the internet. (I’m sarcastic, not stupid.) This year more than ever, I’m looking forward to all the madness, if we’re able to manage it despite Covid. Because this grinch could use a little holiday magic. Or maybe just a long nap.
There are certain books that come along once or twice a year that I get mildly obsessed with. Do you know what I mean? Those special, just so good books that turn into your number one recommendation for everyone? No matter who they are, you’re convinced they’ll love it because it’s simply so fabulous? And if they don’t, it’s kind of friendship off for a little while until you can get over it?
Lately, the book I’m obsessed with is Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia.
This book is amazing for a lot of reasons. First of all, it’s basically a love letter to The Westing Game, which already makes it a winner. Second, the writing is fantastic and did I mention it has everything? Don’t believe me? Okay. It has:
A loner main character who is funny, sarcastic, has some fab all-black witchy vibes and loves puzzles, especially the puzzle of figuring people out.
An eccentric billionaire who dies and leaves behind an epic treasure hunt that grants the winner a mysterious prize.
A ragtag crew of fellow weirdos that join Tuesday in the hunt for the treasure.
The ghost of a mysteriously disappeared childhood friend.
And just to be clear, whether or not it made me cry as I read it WELL into the early hours of the morning because I couldn’t put it down is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. (When you read it, you’re going to be all “Melanie, where? What part made you cry?” with a look of absolute incredulity, and to that I say, it made me feel things, okay? I empathize.)
If none of this convinces you to pick it up, I apologize for failing you. Because this is a book everyone should read. It’s masterful.
Now go to an actual, physical bookstore and purchase it (or order it for curbside pick up, depending on your city’s pandemic level). Bookstores need your love this time of year and Jeff Bezos certainly does not.
It’s that time of year again, where central heating ravages my skin and the constant nose blowing every time I come in from outside turns me into Rudolph. Cue the dry, itchy skin, am I right?
If you’re like me and winter turns you into a dried out husk, don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Well, mostly I have your face.
1. Pai Skincare – Rosehip Bioregenerate Facial Oil
This is a miracle oil. It tackles dryness, dullness, blemishes, redness, fine lines AND it’s good for all skin types. Pai prides themselves on formulating fabulous products specifically for sensitive skin, which is good news because mine definitely is.
Antipodes – Aura Manuka Honey Mask
Antipodes is a New Zealand based company that creates fabulous skin care products that are green, pollution free and science based. The Manuka Honey Mask uses sustainable wild Manuka honey and is deeply hydrating while also clearing away blemishes. It’s loaded with anti-oxidants and smells divine with vanilla pod and mandarin. I loooooove this mask!
Pai Skincare – Chamomile & Rosehip Day Cream
This lovely, light moisturizer soothes sensitive, eczema and rosacea prone skin while also delivering a good dose of hydration. It’s not oily and won’t make you feel greasy, just leaves skin glowing, calm and hydrated.
Dermalogica – Intensive Moisture Balance
Have I mentioned that my skin is VERY DRY? Because it is. And this is the only moisturizer I’ve found that can tackle the supreme dryness that comes with winter. It is ultra nourishing and helps repair your skin’s natural lipid barrier as well as rebalancing your skin’s microbiome. And yet, it doesn’t make your skin greasy. It’s one of the key weapons in my arsenal.
Dermalogica – Precleanse Balm
I’m a big fan of the double cleanse (if you haven’t tried it, HIGHLY recommend). For my first cleanse, this is my absolute favourite. I’ve tried a lot of oil cleansers (this is what you want to start with. It gets the make up and such off your face so your second cleanse can deep clean), and this by far is the best. The Precleanse Balm is specifically formulated for dry skin, so it nourishes and hydrates your skin while you cleanse. My skin always feels so soft and lovely after.
Thanks lovelies! May these products keep you young and dewy forever! Subscribe and share!