A Thrifty Witch Haul : Ox Blood Dress

I live predominantly in black and have for the past, hell, about 17 years? But now and then I’ll see something and I’ll think ‘maybe…maybe just this one time…’and I’ll feel all brave and go getting. I’ll feel like I’m throwing myself outside of my neatly arranged all black box.

However my excitement quickly turns to panic, and 9 times out of 10 I’ll quickly back THE FUCK AWAY from the colourful-whatever-it-is. But the other day, on a thrifting adventure, I landed on an ox blood dress (though it might just be a long-ish top) for £2.

I thought to myself ‘the man likes red, and it feels a bit Goddess-ishy.’ Red is good too, because it’s the colour of passion, the colour of action, the colour of energy – all things I need to be channeling right now.

The dress still had the original Zara label attached to it. Who knows, maybe someone with much the same thought process as me had bought it originally then failed to find the courage to actually wear it outside the house.

I tried it on, and, while it’s not made of the loveliest materials in the world – polyester and elastane – it fits gorgeously. It’s tight where it should be tight, and beautifully flowy where it should be beautifully flowy.

The fact that it’s an ox blood red colour is quite the big deal for me, and, yeah, you can scoff at this, it does take a lot of courage to step out in something that isn’t charcoal.

 

 

My Arctic Library : Children Of The North

I was feeling so fucking sad the other day. Sad because of cruel people. Sad because of the dishonesty and lack of respect in the world. Sad because my head has been a difficult place to be recently. I wanted to scream until my heart burst.

But then the postman came with a package, and in a moment, I became gentle and soft and curious.  Inside was a bubble wrapped book, Children Of The North by Fred Bruemmer.

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It had been sent by Mia, a reader of my blogs, and the second person to answer the call I put out to help collect all the books written in England about the Arctic. For a while I was able to forget about the hurt and focus instead of this beautiful act of kindness.

There’s something about books published in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Something special which is rarely there nowadays. It feels like more attention was paid to the little details back then, details like tiny illustrations running across the page borders. Details which help to bring a book to life.

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Children Of The North was published in 1979 and features the exquisite photography and writing of Fred Bruemmer, a Latvian/Canadian researcher and photographer. He is the one behind that harp seal pup photo.

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This book is a ‘compelling portrait’ of the offspring of the north, who are born and grow up in the harsh and unforgiving climate of the Arctic. I didn’t already own a book all about the children of the far north – yet I’m deeply fascinated by the little souls who thrive in the cold. So this book really is a blessing. I can’t wait to get my read on!

If you think you might be able to contribute to my Arctic Library and be a part of this ambitious dream, let me know in the comments or you can send a note to katiemariemetcalfe@hotmail.co.uk I would be ever so grateful!

A Day Of Food When I Was Anorexic VS A Day Of Food Now

I thought this would be interesting to write about because my relationship with food is so radically  different to how it used to be.

When I was 14 years old I developed Anorexia Nervosa. Over the course of a few months, I bid farewell to over half of my body weight. The hair on my head thinned and dropped out. My periods dried up. My nails and bones became brittle as kindling, and a strange, blonde fur (lanugo) started to blanket my sad and broken skin.

My body was trying in vain to keep itself warm, to keep itself alive. When the fur didn’t help, my body started to cannibalize itself from the inside out.

First it consumed any fat that I had left, then it started to steadily eat away at my muscles. I was – very effectively – starving myself to death and became little more than a bundle of bones tied up in a scrap of dry flesh.

Yet I wanted to be…no, I needed to be thinner, smaller, less noticeable. I needed to be leaving a fainter footsteps when I walked. I needed to be practically able to float. Nothing else other than getting thinner mattered in the world. Nothing. 

My diet when I was at lowest weight (just under 5 stone) was tragic. Nobody really knew what I was eating because I lied about what made it past my mouth. I became an expert at magicking food away to anywhere but my stomach.

Before this sickness adopted me, I wasn’t fussy with food. Actually, I fucking loved food, and had a more than healthy relationship with the stuff. But it didn’t take long for it to become the enemy, for me to be afraid of it even touching my skin.

This is what a day of food looked like for me then:

Breakfast

  • 15 grams of dry branflakes.
  • A small glass of water.

Note: It was VITAL that the branflakes were weighed, and I quickly replaced milk with water when I realised how many calories I could save. But then I started to become worried about the amount of water I was having and thought that it would increase my weight, so I started to have my branflakes dry instead. There were some days, before I was admitted to hospital, where I would actually count the number of branflakes in my bowl. They always needed to be an even number.

I’d forever had tea in a morning, but that quickly became forbidden when I became ill.

Lunch

  • 2 Ryvita’s each with a transparent layer of sandwich spread.
  • 1 small apple.
  • A bottle of water.

Note: I would eat about half of one of the Ryvita’s and then throw the other one and a half in the bin. When I was having lunch at school this was easy enough. Though I still did it discreetly, just in case. More often than not the apple wouldn’t get eaten and would be thrown in the bin too.

Dinner

  • A Quorn burger or something similar. Whatever it was I didn’t want to eat it.
  • Peas, Carrots.
  • Mashed potato.

Note: The fights that I would have with my mother at dinner time were so apocalyptic they became legendary. I would scream so loud I’d break an eardrum or two, and I think I remember even catapulting plates of food. I’d usually end up swallowing a few tiny mouthfuls, then somehow manage to get away with not touching the rest, most of which would end up down my sleeves then in the toilet.


After I’d pretty much reached the weight I was when I was a toddler, I maintained my exhausting anorexic existence for over ten years. I would sort of get near to being better than I’d relapse, then I’d sort of get near to being better again, and I’d relapse…and so the cycle continued on and on and on.

It pushed my terrified family to the edge, then, making me watch, flung them over relentlessly. They’d dust themselves down, repair what had been broken, then they’d be taken right back to the edge again, even more terrified than before. And again, I was made to watch as they were flung over.

Fast-forward to 2017, 17 years after I was diagnosed with anorexia, and my relationship with food is poles apart from what it was. My family and I have, together, recovered.

I have a womanly belly. My arse is taking on something of a curve. My collar bones aren’t sharp enough for me to cut my fingers on anymore. I’m also in a relationship with a Swedish man who has weaned me onto crisps and chocolate and pick n mix and Pepsi. A man who has managed what no one else has managed – he’s managed to make me eat foods which I was still, up until a few months ago, forbidden from touching.

And this is what a day of food for me looks like now:

Breakfast

  • A bowl of…I dunno…maybe 55, 60 grams of branflakes? I don’t weigh stuff anymore, with plenty of semi-skimmed milk.
  • Non Fat Greek yogurt. Again, I don’t know how much, several tablespoons?
  • A BIG cup of tea with milk AND one teaspoon of sugar.
  • A piece of dark chocolate.
  • 1 40 mg citalopram tablet, 1 100 mg quitapine tablet.

NOTE: I used to weigh my cereal OBSESSIVELY when I was ill, and I would NEVER use semi-skimmed milk. Just skimmed or unsweetened soya…soya because it has less calories than the skimmed. Also, when I was in hospital I’d drain the milk from each individual branflake and eat just one flake at a time. I’d didn’t finish a bowl of cereal until at least 5 months into my stay in hospital.

It was only when I discovered artificial sweetener in hospital that I started to drink tea again. I became obsessed with the stuff and would have up to 8 in one cup of tea…how I have no fucking idea. Anyway, I ditched the sweetener several years ago because of a million and one different reasons which I can talk about in another post – though primarily because it works to agitate my mental issues.

The dark chocolate thing is new. When the lovely lady who contributed to my Arctic Library sent me a heap of dark organic chocolate (70% + cocoa content) I became infatuated and have been having some every day since. I’m now on the last bar she sent, and I’m trying to make it last…the benefits of dark chocolate are EXTENSIVE, as you’ll probably know.

The medication I’ve been taking since 2010 helps with the shit that goes down in my brain, because it doesn’t function like everyone else’s and needs some help. The citalopram works as an anti-depressant, while the quitapine works as an anti-psychotic. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 15 along with the anorexia. Then, when I was 24 I was accessed for the millionth time and diagnosed with bi-polar.

Lunch

  • Ham sandwich cobbled together with 2 slices of white bread and butter.
  • A banana.
  • A meringue.
  • A cup of tea with milk and sugar.

NOTE: Yeah, yeah, I know. White bread is shitty, but we didn’t have any multigrain in, so I had to make do. Back in the thin days I just wouldn’t have eaten. The butter is a relatively new. I NEVER EVER EVER had butter on my bread when I was ill. To be honest, I used to be so paranoid about butter that I thought if I touched it, the calories would leech through my skin.

The meringue was just there. Wanted it. Ate it. Licked my fingers.

Snack

  • A muesli bar. Blueberry or something. Love muesli bars.
  • A cup of tea with milk and sugar.

NOTE: If I don’t have a snack mid-afternoon I’m a mega bitch. Seriously. When I was at my sickest there was NEVER a snack.

Dinner

  • A tuna mayonnaise and spinach (!) sandwich made with wholewheat bread. (I went to the shop.)
  • A bowl of Greek yogurt with a chopped up banana and a handful of strawberries.
  • Some more dark chocolate because I needed the good mood boost and brain energy.
  • A cup of tea with milk and sugar.

NOTE: I know a tuna mayo sandwich isn’t the best dinner option, but I just could not be arsed cooking. Anorexia wouldn’t have allowed that back in the day. I had to have what I’d planned to have a week earlier, that or nothing at all.

Snack

  • ANOTHER bowl of branflakes with milk.
  • 1 disappointingly small apple.
  • A cup of tea with milk and sugar.
  • 2 100mg quitapine tablets.

NOTE: I always eat a snack in the evening. I went to bed hungry for too many years. Plus, this is usually the time the man and I devour our crisps and chocolate…

Then later…

  • Some Horlicks because I was having anxiety attacks in bed and couldn’t sleep.
  • 1 banana because I wasn’t hungry but I needed something comforting that could also help me sleep. Bananas are good for sleep.

NOTE: My food routine was ESSENTIAL when I was ill. I couldn’t deviate away from it. If I couldn’t sleep when I was ill, there was no ‘grab a cup of Horlicks’ option.’ I just had to sit there, shaking my legs – it burned calories – waiting for sleep to come.

My, how things have changed. And how very fucking proud I am of myself and the man who has helped with much of it.

I Have A Thing For Septum Piercings

I don’t know when I started to think to myself ‘septum piercings are fucking gorgeous,’ but one day it just happened. I think it may have been when I saw this photo of one of my muses Darby Lagher.

It’s been about a year since I first developed the urge to nab myself some imitation rings, so I could see if I’d actually suit having a septum piercing, or if I’d look like a total twat.

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Personally, I’m thinking it looks suitably mystical and edgy, and I’m liking it a lot. I have a high pain threshold, so I know I’d be able to cope with having a needle put through my nose, but, the idea of just going with pretend rings is massively appealing as there’s none of the faffing around with the healing and the cleaning and the closing up.

My Arctic Library : Men Of The Frozen North

I had a thought a couple of months ago…’I wonder if I could collect all the books ever published in English about the Arctic?’ The thought made my blood tingle and my heart get all over excited.

Within moments of having the thought, a new dream was born. I decided that, no matter how long it would take me, I WOULD, one day, own every work of Arctic literature published in my native tongue.

I own probably around 60 books about The Arctic – though the number I’ve read reaches into the hundreds. Thank fuck for libraries is all I have to say. I have no idea where I’d be if it wasn’t for libraries. When I say libraries save lives, I really mean it.

Anyway…once I’d had the idea of building up an ultimate Arctic library, I jettisoned myself over to Facebook and Instagram where I put my idea out into the open, and asked if anyone would be willing to part with their own Arctic literature to help me establish my library proper.

I wasn’t too surprised when nobody joined the conversation…I mean, not everyone is so into the Arctic that they have a collection of books dedicated to the northern most part of earth.

But then…then I received a lovely message from one FB friend, Iris, from America. She sent a photo of Men of the Frozen North by Peter Freuchen and said ‘would you like it?’ I was a bit overcome and nearly burst into tears before replying I’d love it! When I asked about the postage to Sweden she said not to worry. My heart wanted to pop out and give her a bloody, juicy hug.

Hardly a week later and there was a package for me. A heavy package. A package that definitely contained more than a book. After breaking through the dense sellotape seal and thick cardboard I found a treasury of gifts.

I pulled them out, one by one. Each was wrapped in black tissue paper and exquisite silver ribbon. There was even a tiny handmade coffin box holding two of the gifts. A handmade coffin box! For me! 

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My tattoo written in Elder Futhark reads ‘Proceed from the dream outward.’ (Carl Jung)

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The parrot feather is my book mark for this journey.

I stood there for about ten minutes, looking at this beautiful bounty. I could feel the salt water gathering on my eyeballs. The kindness, the mother freaking kindness was just so much! The package was so exquisitely prepared, the gifts – which included a water buffalo tooth, a parrot feather, several bars of handmade chocolate, a hand made witch patch and several packets of jerky – so lovingly considered.

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When I’d gathered myself, I explored Men of the Frozen North. I smelt it. It hummed deliciously of old bookshop and was in immaculate condition for a book that’s older than my mother. (It was published in 1962.) I examined the contents page while squealing excitedly about what I was going to discover. (I was particularly excited about Part IV The Lapps as my knowledge there is a little weak.) I fanned through the pages, my eyes darting over words, illustrations and photographs. You’d have thought I’d never seen a book before.

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Men of the Frozen North was written by Peter Freuchen – his life-worn portrait on the back cover of the book is deeply humbling – a Danish explorer, author and anthropologist. He’s renowned for his role in Arctic exploration, in particular the Thule Expeditions. He was also a serious badass, the sort of badass we rarely see in today’s world.

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The 6ft 7 Dane wore a coat made from the skin of a polar bear he’d killed himself, he amputated his own toes with no anesthesia and once, when trapped in a tomb of ice after being caught in a blizzard, made a knife out of his own shit and carved his way out to safety. Needless to say, I’m pretty fucking excited about what’s going to unfold when I start powering my way through Men of the Frozen North.

If you think you might be able to contribute to my Arctic Library and be a part of this ambitious dream, let me know in the comments or you can send a note to katiemariemetcalfe@hotmail.co.uk I would be ever so grateful!

 

Why I Am Going To ‘Woman The Fuck Up’ About Money

I don’t know when or why I became sensitive about money. I  do remember when I opened my bank account though…I was 12 and had £10 to put in that I’d received for my birthday. And believe me, I was dead set that that £10 wasn’t going anywhere.

Every time I could put something in there – be it £2 or £20 – I felt like I was accomplishing something really fucking significant. I felt no shame in going up to the cashier and saying ‘I’d like to put this £2.50 into my bank account please.’

As a family of six, money was never something we had much of, and while my friends were rocking their new Nike trainers, I was wearing my aunties hand-me-down mid 80’s Reeboks that were three times too big. While my friends were crossing the sea to Greece, my siblings and I stayed with my Grandmother in a caravan on the blustery North East coast of England. While my friends brought in licorice and chocolate to school for break time, I brought in half a jam and margarine sandwich made with Safeway Own Value white bread. Despite our frugal living, we were happy and my childhood was one I wouldn’t change, it was impossibly rich in creativity, adventure and love.

My mum would welcome in all the kids from the street, and give them the food she worked two jobs for. Our homes during the years – we moved a few times – became refuges for kids whose parents didn’t give two shits about them, or kids who just wanted to get away and discovered that they found peace at our house. It was a very rare occasion that mum made anyone go on back home. Some would stay for days, others weeks. Our house was always a buzz of activity with new faces appearing every five minutes.

“It’s hard enough to give fearlessly, and it’s even harder to receive fearlessly.
But within that exchange lies the hardest thing of all:
To ask. Without shame.
And to accept the help that people offer.
Not to force them.
Just to let them.” – Amanda Palmer

I was seventeen and in collage when I got my first job. I worked the weekends as a catering assistant at a KP Foods factory and brought home £47.60 a week. I hated my job. I hated getting up while the rest of my family were sleeping and cycling in the dark to a factory whose smell made me gag from even a mile away. I hated the fact I was always given the shitty jobs ‘Katie, clean out the smokers room…’

I hated that 80% of the people I cooked, served and cleaned up after were spiteful and rude and seemingly unable to eat a cooked breakfast without half of it ending up smeared all over their table. I’m sure they did it because it would mean I’d have a nightmare scraping it up once they’d left, and the bean juice and egg yolk had dried. I hated the bitching and the behind the back talking. I hated that my skin and hair smelt like I’d been dipped in the deep fat fryer whenever I was finished for the day. If I’d been able to smell my bones, I think they would have stank too.

Much of the time I’d go home and cry. But I didn’t quit. I worked every weekend for three years at that place before packing it in. What would get me through wasn’t thinking about what I’d spend my money on, rather what I’d write when I got home. I was working on my second book and it took up almost all the hours when I wasn’t at college or work. It was my everything. It was what made me get up in the morning.

Several other jobs followed this one, none of them enjoyable, none of them satisfying, none of them made me think ‘hell, I want to do this instead of writing as a career!’ My mental health meant that I wasn’t as ‘on the ball’ I should have been. My anxiety meant I was afraid to confront customers. My values and how I’d been brought up left me unable to pressurize people into buying things I knew they probably couldn’t afford.

“From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us–it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one. It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.” – Amanda Palmer

I never ‘fitted in’ with any of my work teams and was always the ‘weird one.’ I didn’t mind being the weird one, but I did mind the gossip, I did mind the laughing, I did mind the ‘quiet word in my office’ moments where I was told I ‘had to come out of myself.’ I couldn’t come out of my self. Hell, I was enough out of myself by turning up when fatigue made my body heavy as an iron lady. But it was always the thought that ‘when I get home I can write’ that got me through.

I’d known, since I was a kid that I’d ‘have to work a normal job’ while waiting for my writing career ‘to take off.’ And I’ve worked enough ‘normal jobs’ to know I don’t cut it, that it’s not for me. My bi-polar and anxiety means that to get to my ‘normal job’ is hard enough as it is. Many don’t realize that managing to get through the day when you have bi-polar is achievement worthy of reward. This quote from Carrie Fisher sums it up quite perfectly:

“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” Wishful Drinking, her 2008 memoir about her mental illness and prescription drug addiction

I’m a lone wolf who thrives in solitude, and feels weakened when she’s crowded or put under the rule of someone else. I’ve never wanted to work for anyone but myself. I found my life’s meaning when I was four years old, and I’ve never strayed from that path, not even for a second. But to keep on that path, I need to do something which, at first, made me feel ashamed because I’m a fucking proud woman…

Since being in Sweden I’ve been living off my savings, freelance writing work, hand outs from my parents and by the support of my partner. But the savings are gone now. The work doesn’t pay well, and the discussion of ‘getting a real job’ has been raging for months. I’ve been working harder, faster, but the money never seems to catch up.

I’ve signed on at what’s essentially the Swedish Job Centre, but I don’t get any hand outs nor do I get any actual useful help. My partner thinks that, despite me having a 1st class degree, it’s almost inevitable that I’ll have to work as a cleaner or something. To think of this makes my heart become as heavy as a handful of wet sand. It makes me feel weak and helpless and vulnerable. It makes me worry about the hours that I’ll have left to create and do what I need to do to keep my spirit from rotting.

The contents of my bank account have always been a secret. I haven’t wanted to share its numbers with my family or anyone else. And when someone has asked ‘how much is in there?’ I’ve become deeply offended and angry. A large part of me feels I’ve let myself down by not being a fully self-sufficient writer by the age of 30.

“There’s really no honor in proving that you can carry the entire load on your own shoulders. And…it’s lonely” – Amanda Palmer

But not I’m letting my guard down. I’m not going to be secretive about money because if I want to make it I need to ask for help. I need people willing to support me in my journey to becoming a fully self-sufficient writer. I’m not only asking for help with this because writing is what makes me happy, I’m asking for help because writing is what helps me keep my sanity.

So I’ve established a Patreon page. There’s the option for you to pledge as much or as little as you would like to, and with each pledge comes a reward. By setting up a Patreon page, I’ve let go of my sensitivity to money and am openly asking for support in my life’s mission.  I’ll leave you with this uber poignant quote from the incredible Amanda Palmer whose book The Art Of Asking I highly recommend.

“Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.”  ― Amanda Palmer

Become my

Strength Is Around Here Somewhere

I’m feeling weak today. My self-esteem is somewhere out of sight, and the temptation to flee the internet is almost overwhelming. I’ve been having panic attacks about love heart emojis, and comparing the size of my breasts to someone elses, someone I don’t even know and whom I will never meet.

I’ve been bullying myself for not being able to stop overthinking and overthinking and overthinking. I’ve been bullying the one I love because I was struggling to love myself. Looking in the mirror today was impossible because I felt too disgusted with myself, with my appearance, with my thoughts and actions.

I’m wishing we were still in winter. I’m wishing I could go to ground with a brown mother bear, and hibernate in her massive arms. I wish I could regurgitate the berries I’d eaten during the autumn months and feed on them when I was hungry. I wish I could come back to earth’s surface strong and capable of fighting off anything that tried to go for my jugular.

In an attempt to gather back some strength, I’ve been looking at some self-portraits where I try and epitomize what it is to be a strong woman. I’ve also rounded up some quotes that bring me comfort and fire. I’ve fallen, but it’s time to woman the fuck up.

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The people
who consider you weak
have not yet noticed
the wolf hiding
behind your eyes,
nor the flames
inside your soul.

Let them think
you are weak
and do what
wolves and fire
do best.

Surprise them
when they least expect it.

– Nikita Gill

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It makes utter sense to stay healthy and strong, to be as nourishing to the body as possible. Yet I would have to agree, there is in many women a ‘hungry’ one inside. But rather than hungry to be a certain size, shape, or height, rather than hungry to fit the stereotype; women are hungry for basic regard from the culture surrounding them. The ‘hungry’ one inside is longing to be treated respectfully, to be accepted and in the very least, to be met without stereotyping.

— Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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A strong woman is a woman who craves love like oxygen or she turns blue choking.  A strong woman is a woman who loves strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong in words, in action, in connection, in feeling; she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

— Marge Piercy

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Operation Self-Esteem–Day Fucking One. ― Elizabeth Gilbert

Wyrd Things For Wyrd People

My shop A Living Witch is a treasure trove of wyrd things for wyrd people. Some of the things I part ways with have been found during thrifting adventures…

I was on my way to the library the other day when  my heart said ‘stop by the thrift store…’ Never one to ignore my precious organ, I made a detour. Once inside, my sixth sense led me to the home ware section, where I found three Konge-Tinn napkin ring holders in immaculate condition. I scooped them up, knowing that I’d found something very fucking special.

My research told me Konge-Tinn translates to King’s Pewter, and this special, Viking era pattern circulating the holders had been in use – and celebrated in Norway and across the world – since 1958. One source told me these date back to the 1960’s…though another one said the 1980’s. Either way, they’re probably the most epic looking napkin ring holders you’re going to find. Buy them here!

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As well as thrifting for my shop, I also made things. We’re hardly out of winter and already I’m missing it’s chilly breath on my neck. To cope with my loss, I’ve been wearing snowflake earrings, so I can always carry a little bit of winter with me.

I’ve always thought it magic that no two snowflakes are the same, and that singularly they’re so fragile, but when collected together are powerful beyond imagining.

This earring set, composed of two unique pewter snowflakes, embodies the fascination, and respect I hold for the crystals of the cold.

I made three sets to sell for other winter craving creatures. You can find them here!

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April’s Reading Stack

Is there really anything more beautiful than a stack of books you haven’t read yet? More beautiful than those unturned pages? More beautiful than the adventure of a new beginning? In my head, nothing can come close.

Living in Sweden means I don’t have immediate access to my entire book collection (I have 1% of it here with me…need to bring it in dribs and drabs) which fucking hurts. It also means that only a tiny portion of books in Borås library are available for me to inhale. Though I can’t complain. I should be grateful they have any at all.

April’s ambitious stack is a smorgasbord of all my favourite things –  Arctic nature, Scandinavian culture, black metal, magic in the everyday, polar exploration and horror.

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The Ghastling Edited By Rebecca Parfitt

‘Our fears take on many shapes and forms; from the intangible – the lurking shadows in the periphery of the mind; to our own mortality and fear of what comes after and will it come back for us?’ – From the editor’s letter.

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Black Metal Into The Abyss By Dayal Patterson

Features exclusive interviews withFURIA • MASSEMORD • 1349 • FORGOTTEN WOODS • TSJUDER • NOCTURNAL DEPRESSION • VEMOD • ONE TAIL • ONE HEAD • MYSTIFIER • BLACK ALTAR • BESATT • MORD ‘A’ STIGMATA • TRIST • HELHEIM • HYPOTHERMIA • LOITS • DEINONYCHUS • PSYCHONAUT 4 • KOLDBRANN • URGEHAL • SACRILEGIUM • BLAZE OF PERDITION

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The Little Book Of Hygge By Meik Wiking

‘Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to the cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight.’ – From the back cover.

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What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi

‘Jill Akkerman’s husband had been wanting to have a talk with her for weeks, and she was two hundred percent certain that it was going to be an unpleasant one.’ – The first sentence in the short story Presence.

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The Abominable By Dan Simmons

‘June 1924 : On the brutal North East Ridge of Mount Everest, famous adventurer George Mallory and Andrew Irvine vanish into the snow whipped night. Daredevil explorer Richard Deacon devises a plan to follow in the men’s footsteps, accompanied by two friends. Off piste and with almost no support tea, the three men strike for Everest’s peak and the most vicious climate on earth. As the winds rise and the temperature and oxygen levels drop, Deacon and his companions hear howls in the distance…’ – From the book jacket.

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Islands Of The Arctic By Julian Dowdeswell and Michael Hambrey

‘The Arctic islands are characterized by beautiful mountains and glaciers, in which the wildlife lives in delicate balance with its environment. It is a fragile region with a long history of exploration and exploitation that is now experiencing rapid environmental change. All of these themes are explored in Islands of the Arctic, a richly illustrated volume with superb photographs from the Canadian Arctic archipelago, Greenland, Svalbard and the Russian Arctic.’ – From the back cover.

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At The Mercy Of The Winds By David Hempleman-Adams

‘It is instructive to write here that on his doomed attempt to fly a hydrogen balloon across the North Pole in 1896, the explorer Andree took along with him a dinner jacket in case he was obliged to feast with the king of some as yet undiscovered arctic country.’ – From chapter one.

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Which book here is grappling with your attention, and what do you find yourself reading this month?