Monster Kid Mansion

I like toys. Recently, when I saw the New Exclusive Mega Super Duper Yowza LEGO kit announcement, my inner Monster Kid did a jig. I wanted to share my squeaky enthusiasm with the werld but I had some reservations about posting this here. Too childish? Too, I don’t know, plastic? Luckily, I remembered that Zaftig is also a very talented LEGO enthusiast and probably wouldn’t mind. Coming out in September, take a look at this new addition to the Monster Fighters Collection!

Playing with toys like this helps inspire/energize/encourage/foster daydreams of my ideal Old House. Similar to Zaftig, I have fantasies about a gorgeous old treasure filled with workshops, secret gardens, animal playground, a monument to hard wood floors and high ceilings. But I very much insist that my old house be haunted. I mean, most houses are haunted (or will soon be) because houses take on the personalities of their inhabitants. You can strip the wallpaper, you can refinish the floors, you can firehose the entire place with methylene chloride but you can never remove the shades of the lives lived within Its walls.

I would like my house to be inhabited by cast of characters like the above. Here are the specs from the LEGO website:

The crooked Haunted House is home to the scariest ghosts and monsters. Tremble in fear as you open the gate, go weak at the knees as you step onto the porch and gasp in horror at the fireplace, kitchen, office, folding staircase, bedroom, potion room, music room and collection of other creepy objects. Dare you enter the Haunted House?!

  • Add to your LEGO® Monster Fights Collection with the first officlal LEGO® Haunted House!
  • Includes 6 minifigures: 2 glow-in-the-dark ghosts, Vampyre, Vampyre’s Bride, Zombie chef and butler
  • Features unique ‘crooked’ design featuring boarded up windows and working front gate.
  • Haunted House opens to reveal detailed interior with 3 floors.
  • First floor features fireplace that swings open and displays a ship in a bottle on the mantle.
  • Cook up a ghoulish meal with the Zombie chef in the kitchen complete with old-style stove, jars and table!
  • Write letters from the Vampyre’s haunted office!
  • Pull the lever hidden in the chimney to release the drop down staircase and access the top floor!
  • Top floor features gramophone, records and newspaper LEGO® elements.
  • Customize the Haunted House with new stickers for wall hangings, spider webs and curtains!
  • Measures 15.4” (39cm) high, 9.4” (24cm) wide and 7.5” (19cm) deep

Like I said, I love toys. Miniatures, models, I am a bonafide, genuine lifelong member of the Monster Squad. I never get tired of “The Monster Mash” song. I’ve seen James Whale’s 1932 The Old Dark House about a million times. And, like these things and the Universal Monsters, LEGO makes me happy. I’m sure you’ve seen lots of examples of outside-the-box MOC designs folks do. Some of them are just phenomenal. My favorite and a theme that fits here comes from Mike Doyle. He does the exquisitely detailed, lovingly decayed Victorian mansions. ALL LEGO!


About this piece, he says,

“I really love seeing things under or through other things. There is a certain magic to it. Here, we have rotting, degrading substructure under the shingles (which have fallen off). This is a cause and effect technique. I’m a big fan of showing (or implying) before and after in a natural way. It’s story-telling, really. It also is engaging – it draws the viewer in to ponder what has happened. Now, this technique is different than showing the action or act. The action is implied (in this case, gradual decay of house through winds and harsh weather).”

Visit his WEBSITE for more awesome photos of the rest of his abandoned series, “making of” details and other assorted fun stuff.

Steampunk Jewelry

Compass Rose Designs

Compass Rose Design revives historic heirlooms into wearable art. Handmade in the San Francisco Bay Area. Everything comes from somewhere. Not only do the genuine antiques in my designs have their individual stories, the shape and structure of each item connects with a historical moment and has it’s own raison d’etre – reason and purpose for existence.

The Adirondack Chair

An FB acquaintance posted a fantastic Adirondack chair recently, which prompted a search for others. Summer is coming – or already here if you are fortunate enough to live South – and nothing says Summer like furnishing your outdoor space with pieces to make the neighbours gossip. Here’s wishing they work themselves into a tizzy with some of these favourites:

First, the usual but rendered in a rainbow:

From Sensational Colour for your Home.

For the beer drinker:

From the Winfield Collection

For the galeophobist:

From Land’s End

For the Hockey enthusiast:

From Sports Furniture Unlimited

Finally, my absolute favourite, linked through the website Coolest Furniture:

From Deviant Art by Bokusenshi

Polka Dot Houses

This morning’s news contained a story about a North Dakota man that has painted his house with multicoloured polka dots.

From the Boston Herald:

“Jim Deitz believes he’s creating a Grand Forks landmark, but the downtown apartment house he’s painting one polka dot at a time is making a city planner cringe.[…] “Pizza delivery drivers won’t have any trouble finding this place,” Deitz said of the century old-two story home that houses six apartments. “You can’t miss it.”

Different reports list Deitz’ beef with city planners backtracking on buying his house as motivation for the unusual choice. Regardless, it is a memorable and whimsical statement. Somewhat to my surprise, polka dot houses are not terribly rare. Here are some I pulled off of the internet.

From Zero Cabin:

Shipping containers have become a popular choice for prefab construction due to their structural stability and ability to provide a quick frame for a building– not to mention the excess supply of them in shipping yards around the country. The designers using them are taking a wasted resource and upcycling them to give them a useful life as a home–which is also hopefully affordable.

Not to be outdone, a wonderful piece by National Geographic, Rise and Shine Detroit, contains some wonderful images of the city, including the one below.

Next, Vancouver Awesome says little about this image. Polka dots speak for themselves anyway.

And finally, one resident of Piqua, Ohio responded to city officials in a unique way. When he received a notice to paint his house within 90 days or pay a fine – he opted for a colourful compliance.


Thoth: Greenfield Papyrus, c. 950 B.C.E.

“The sky quivers, the earth quakes before me, for I am a magician, I possess magic.”
— Pyramid Texts, utterance 472 (§ 924), ca. 2400-2300 B.C.E.
Attributed to Thoth, Egyptian God of the magical arts,
invention of writing, development of sciences, and judgement of the dead.

Gospel of John fragment, c. 125 c.e.

“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.”

— John 1:1, New International Version

Texts have special properties. They are authoritative, constitutive, and cryptic. Far before we expressed every (ill-formed) thought on contemporary media, words inscribed on paper were magical. In a very literal sense, ideas, once written, become an authority of their own, beyond long forgotten intentions of the author. The text itself, the material words on a page, survives, and by doing so, is interpreted and reinterpreted according to various readers or audiences. Words written have power: historical, political, religious, legal, social, and cultural power. We scrutinize ancient codices deemed important enough to preserve, protect, and promulgate. We refer to texts to support or debunk or promote ideas. We guard secret tomes of occult knowledge. We burn or ban texts deemed offensive or subversive, and exalt those divinely inspired; over time one codex can be both demonized and revered, sometimes by the same groups at the same time. We collectively affirm that a signature on a document changes one’s very social status – innocent/guilty, married/divorced, born/deceased, master/slave – these contracts have weight because they are a tangible, and therefore permanent, method to prove agreement between parties, change legal status, and assert or deny rights.

Paper, then, becomes the means of transmitting that power. It has gone from a highly specialized method of communication for the trained, learned, elite; to revolutionizing how the general populace accepts authority; to commonplace and expendable in every home; to contentious product of the environmentally conscious. Special properties indeed.

Ancient Egyptians made the initial form of paper from papyrus plants as early as the third millennium B.C.E. It was followed by animal skin parchment, then ancient Chinese paper made from bamboo and mulberry trees in the first century C.E. The bulk of human history is contained, preserved, and circulated on paper.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection texts hidden in caves near the Dead Sea in what is current-day Palestine. The extensive library were found mostly on parchment scrolls, kept in jars that were hidden in holes on the floor of eight different caves. This library contained known Jewish texts in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, as well as documents produced there by its own community. The sectarian Qumran group were apocalyptic, and read these texts as a true indication that the world was ending within their lifetime. An obscure and little used text that survives and circulates has more power than one that was once important but has since disappeared into oblivion.

Dead sea scroll fragment

Until the printing press, little was mass produced. The widespread means of circulation played a pivotal role in modern history when reformists pushed for individuals to interpret biblical texts directly. Westerners grew increasingly literate, and ideas formed as a response to a decentralized authority form the basis of our contemporary notions of individualism. That you can even voice unpopular, controversial, or (as is most likely) completely benign opinions on your twitter or blog is the direct result of the invention of the printing press. Mass production of information means that even the boring have a voice.

My particular form of mundane expression involves the love of pretty stationary, wrapping paper, and the scent and look of old books. On a trip to New York I purchased the following lovely letters at the Museum of Sex. They came complete with stickers of floggers to seal your envelopes.

Betty Page Stationary from NY Museum of Sex

As with many craft-minded people, I often buy pretty paper for no immediate purpose, and simply wait for a chance to use it. I have rolls of Chinese wrapping paper, colourful rice paper, and stationary at my work station. I found the following inventive upcycling of Sunday comics on Etsy.

Upcycled Newpaper Stationary Set from

As I refuse to throw away a good carboard box, these are old shoe boxes covered in vibrant paper, applied and sealed with Modge Podge.

Paper covered shoe boxes chez Z.

A similar idea can be found at, which details how to make wallpaper out of an old dictionary.

From Apartment Therapy

There are days where I am inundated by paper – articles to read, papers to grade, theses to produce – that I welcome taking this commonplace yet oh so important thing as paper, and not reading it. That is truly subversive for an academic.

Old Houses

I have this fantasy. It involves buying an old home, isolated by greenery, and fixing it up. It is large enough so that family can visit often, or even be housed permanently in another wing. I have animals – dogs and cats – a workshop, and a vegetable garden. But the house is old. It has been marked by age, neglect, but it is beautiful. And all mine. Its restoration could take a lifetime. I look forward to it.

Daydreaming about this fantasy involves browsing Historic Properties. Some of these houses can be had for as little as $10,000.00, up to several hundred thousand. On days when I need a break from the long and smothering to-do list, examining photos and imagining my life in places like these certainly helps the morale.

For the Love of Colour

I have a strong aversion to white walls. It is not that they cannot be pretty or striking, it is just so damn common, especially among home decorators/designers. Why do people in a profession that pride themselves on creating creative spaces fall prey to the same ridiculous motto of, “White is Right?” Browsing home decor magazines then becomes pictures of nice furniture in bland rooms. It is too easy, predictable, and safe. It is also the reason that I cancelled my subscription to a few popular home decorating magazines. Show me spaces that truly push boundaries, and I will fork over my dough.

Given this, I was pleasantly surprised by House and Home’s coverage of the home of Victoria Webster. Not afraid of bold, bright colour, Webster’s home still demonstrates class, style, and comfort.

The image above is Webster’s living room at the time of the House and Home photo shoot. I discovered, however, a hip surprise; after the shoot she altered her living room by installing vinyl graffiti on the walls (image below). Daring: I love it. You can view a short video on the new room at this link: Victoria Webster.

Nick Offerman

In my alternate life I am a carpenter. Instead I simply admire the work of others, and drool over beautiful finishes, grain, and craftsmanship. Recently a fellow blogger highlighted an video made by Fine Woodworking, showcasing the work of actor Nick Offerman (of Parks and Recreation). You can view it and some pictures below, or browse the Offerman Woodshop website – itself a lesson in well-done graphics and presentation – to see their various products.

Harricana, by Mariouche

“Our Mission: To turn fine materials into the finest fashion.”

The Harricana line is the product of Mariouche Gagné, a First Nations woman from Loretteville, Quebec. Its goal is to recycle and reuse animal furs into contemporary fashion. The picture below is an example of a before and after, and showcases the transformation of a dated yet perfectly useful coat into something modern and chique.

Having spent many hours scouring garage sales, I can attest to the amount of beautiful, unworn furs laying around people’s attics and basements. I have a mink stole that I purchased for $4 dollars, and a full length brown leather and fur coat I got for $24. I am not an avid ecologist nor even someone against wearing animal furs, but am against waste, and very pro a good deal.

If you live in the wintery North as I do, one of these babies keeps you cozy all winter. Real fur is soft, and the only thing that can keep ears warm when the icy winds reach minus 40 Celcius. Visit their online store here.


The book is a very sensual thing. Not the wording within, but the object itself; binding and paper and fonts and ink; the tactile pleasure of the page; the scent of leather binding or musty age; the beauty of textual display. Books are romantic, and dying, a casualty of the virtual age.

In my real life, I am exposed to books all day. As a graduate student, I take out library books, grade essays, sift through archival letters, occasionally touch ancient scrolls, and print countless articles from academic databases. The print format is integral to my daily life. I recognized that the aesthetics of a document is important ever since realizing that I was more likely to give a well-formatted paper a higher mark, despite its content deserving of a lesser grade. Presentation matters. It is the package that initially draws an audience to your ideas.

One of the reasons that I have been so absent of late is that I am a book review editor for an academic journal, and have been scrambling to get everything finished by publication date. The co-editors and I discuss every colon or semi-colon, margin, font, double or single quotation mark, and overall layout of each article and review. It is not even a print journal; we switched to an exclusively online publication last year.

Much is gained with this new format – exposure, readership, and financial savings – but something is also lost. I cannot put my nose to the freshly printed paper and inhale the product of such hard work. It is somewhat anti-climatic, only because it does not feed my particular paper fetish.

I am not alone. Another benefit of the virtual age is that one can find like minds on any topic, even books and paper, with forums dedicated to bemoaning the loss of print format while using the causality of this loss to communicate their laments. Oh internet, how I love and hate you.