Criminal Profiles

Author: Kirsten K., Crafts, Holidays

A Rose for Lady Ravencourt

I have a large collection of silhouettes hanging on my bedroom wall. Some are hand-cut antiques, others are recent prints, and a few were created by me. Most are classical portraits of 19th-century men and women, but every October I like to switch a few out for something a shade more sinister.

John Fair has given the old-fashioned art of the silhouette a digital upgrade and introduced it to the dark side of the Victorian era with his clever—and cleverly named—Killhouettes. Years ago, knowing of my love for silhouettes and my morbid fascination with Jack the Ripper, my sister gave me “A Rose for Lady Ravencourt” as a birthday gift, because the image reminded her of the infamous serial killer. Instantly smitten, I jumped online and found the full Killhouettes lineup of criminal profiles.


Victorian Drive-By

I immediately saw the possibilities for using the pictures as pumpkin-carving patterns. Many of the images can be adapted to smooth over complicated details or account for detached spaces that would be lost in the carving process, but until someone makes even tinier saw blades than Pumpkin Masters, I won’t be attempting the spokes on “Victorian Drive-By” anytime soon. This year, however, I did manage to (somewhat) successfully carve a child-sized weapon from an older design called “No Candy. Your Wallet, Mister!”no-candy-your-wallet-mister

In addition to offering 5×7” prints for sale on the website, John Fair is active on the Killhouettes Facebook page, where he regularly posts new designs and special, limited-supply items, such as mini Halloween lanterns, door hangers, postcards, and temporary tattoos.

Halloween is in less than a week, so whether you decide to carve a knife-wielding “Isabel” into a pumpkin or hang a “Jumping Rope with Claudia” on your wall, it would be a crime not to get the complete series. At just $6 each, including shipping, these sick silhouettes are a killer deal.

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To view both current and past Killhouettes, search Google Images.


The Big Steep

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Tea

back-from-the-deadJust in time for Halloween, DAVIDsTEA has “resurrected” three of its past seasonal teas and boxed them up in a cute coffin (I can’t help myself—it’s cute!). Reminiscent of the Haunted House Collection from Moonstruck Chocolate, this “casket of tea storables” includes two bloodcurdling brews and one fall-friendly flavor to warm your spirits—or summon them.


Enjoy drinking this Swampwater.

Kirsti and I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans where we took a swamp tour, so I was eager to try a sip of Swampwater. This caffeine-free rooibos blend steeps to a dark, murky green, but features the bright tropical flavors of papaya and passion fruit. It’s a must-have for your Halloween-themed drink table or bar. Scare up a creepy cocktail by adding a splash of simple syrup and a bit of BOOze.


Avoid drinking this swamp water.

Stormy Nights creates a tempest in a teapot with black tea, dark chocolate, and fiery spices that will reanimate you to face a whirlwind of trick-or-treaters, while the soothing sweetness of coconut and vanilla helps you remain calm in the eye of the storm.

DAVIDsTEA has its roots in Canada, so it was natural for the company to create a blend featuring the sweet sap of the maple tree. Maple Sugar is a black tea with apple, cinnamon, and maple syrup pieces. Evoking the aromas of crisp waffles and hot apple pie, it’s comfort in a cup.

In addition to bringing this trio of teas Back From The Dead, the Halloween collection from DAVIDsTEA includes a Book of Spells with six bewitching blends, a Haunted Castle Box containing a tin of Stormy Nights and a mug with bats in flight, and a ghoulish gathering of teas and accessories. These items are only available for a limited time, so get yours before they’re dearly departed.

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Back From The Dead Seasonal Tea Trio



Have Your Day in Courtesy

Author: Kirsten K., Holidays, Self-Improvement

Kirsti and I find few things more swoon-worthy than good manners and common courtesy, but it often seems that people today think minding their Ps and Qs means checking their phones and maintaining their quarrels. In 1986, a group of concerned citizens in England made similar observations about the lack of civility they were witnessing around them and formed The Polite Society (since changed to the National Campaign for Courtesy) with the goal of bringing awareness to the “behavioural problems of the nation.” To that end, they established a National Day of Courtesy on the first Friday in October.


Although there is a National Common Courtesy Day each March 21st in the U.S., Kirsti and I believe this is an issue worthy of repeated acknowledgement, so we encourage our own Society members to celebrate civility, praise politeness, memorialize manners, and commemorate courtesy today—and every day—in the following ways:

  • thank-you-noteRemember to say “please” and “thank you.” This is Courtesy 101, but you’d be surprised how often these words are left unsaid.
  • Write thank-you notes—even if only by email or text—after receiving gifts and attending parties, or for any reason at all. I like to put notes on the doorsteps of houses in my neighborhood that are beautifully decorated for the holidays to let them know how much I enjoy their displays. People love to be appreciated!
  • Ease up on the pedal when another driver wants to merge. It’s the journey, not the domination.
  • Step outside of a store or restaurant to take a phone call if you must. You’re louder than you think. Really.
  • RSVP by the date on the invitation. Someone thought you were special enough to include on their guest list. Don’t make them hunt you down for a response.
  • Be on time. This is a huge one for Kirsti and me. To quote Vince Lombardi, “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.” Give yourself extra time to account for unexpected delays.
  • vexed-by-textHonor your commitments. I’ve grudgingly attended many events that I wanted to back out of at the last minute, only to end up having a wonderful time. People may have declined other offers, purchased food and drink, or cleaned their homes in anticipation of your arrival, so unless an actual emergency arises, don’t make excuses—just go!
  • Respond to emails, texts, and voicemails in a timely manner. We all get busy, but it only takes a minute to write or say, “I’m swamped at the moment, but I received your message and will respond as soon as I’m able.” When you do respond, make sure to address each point in the original message. Nothing wastes more time than going back and forth.
  • Save your comments until the end of the movie. Keeping a running commentary is the filmmaker’s job for the DVD extras—not yours.
  • Hold doors for people. It may turn into a clown car situation, but you might restore someone’s faith in humanity and set an example for others at the same time.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a beginning. And while we’ve all slipped up from time to time, making a consistent effort to be courteous is what gives you a reputation as Someone Who Often Observes Niceties.

With the current atmosphere in our country, shining a spotlight on civility has never been more important, so now that you have your day in courtesy, spread the word and do your part to polite up the world!

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National Campaign for Courtesy


Pickled French Plums – The Condiment You Didn’t Know You Needed

Author: Kirsti Kay, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Snacks, Starters

boat-street-pickled-french-plums-1I remember the olden days when fig jam and quince paste were exotic additions to a cheese plate. I used to really feel like an adult serving guests these fancy-pants confitures. It didn’t matter if your cheese platter was from Trader Joe’s or curated by a man with a handlebar mustache and bushy beard from the hipster cheese store—it was elevated. Now, even kids know what quince paste is, and fig jam is no longer special. You can buy it at Ralphs.

On this blog, we’ve written about rose petal jam and Jimmie’s Chipotle Pepper Jam as we quest for tasty additions to our plateau de fromage, but it has been a while since I’ve found something new that was worthy. Recently, I was visiting the cheese stall at my local Farmer’s Market and they introduced me to my new favorite: Boat Street Pickled French Plums.

boat-street-pickled-french-plums-2Made by acclaimed Seattle chef Renee Erickson, these Frenchie fruits will make your mouth sing. A winning combination of sour, sweet and spicy—the taste triumvirate—this spread creates a perfect storm when layered on top of some creamy, rich, soft cheese. Made with French plums, cider vinegar, cane sugar, coriander, mustard seed, arbol chili, orange peel, and bay leaf, it’s a complex explosion of flavor. It’s also amazing on sandwiches (grilled cheese—hold me!) or ice cream. Trust me, you will need several jars. Boat Street also makes pickled cherries, apricots, figs and raisins. So scratch that—you are going to need a boatload (see what I did there?).

There is nothing quite like a cracker spread with runny French cheese and a dollop of some magically fruity, smoky deliciousness and a chilled glass of Sancerre. Your mouth (and your guests) will say merci.

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Boat Street Pickles


Grapefruit Loop

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Drinks, Food & Drink, Pop Culture, Recipes, Spirits, Wine

rose-pamplemousseToday is officially the last day of summer, and even though I view the hottest season of the year with dread, I find myself wondering where the time went. Back in April, Kirsti sent me a link to an article about grapefruit wine and how this rosé pamplemousse was all the rage in France. Envisioning the two of us enjoying summer sunsets on her balcony with a bottle of the citrusy spirits, I bookmarked it as something to explore—and possibly post about—in early summer.

On the day the season arrived, I saw a segment on Nightline about the “rosé lifestyle,” a craze primarily among millennials that has spawned the hashtags #yeswayrose and #roseallday. Deciding to blend the trend of those who #drinkpink with the French penchant for grape juice and pamplemousse, I scoured wine shops and liquor stores for grapefruit rosé, but couldn’t find a single bottle. An online search uncovered a few brands for sale from a handful of retailers, but the shipping was two-to-three times the price of the wine. When I contacted two local wine shops about ordering rosé pamplemousse in the States, neither was able to do it, so I shelved the idea.

very-pamp-rose-pamplemousseIn late summer, it suddenly occurred to me: I have a friend living in France! I’ve written a number of times about Mika, who currently calls Lyon home, so I contacted her and asked if she’d seen any grapefruit wine around town. Despite everything I’d read about the French passion for pamplemousse, she hadn’t heard of it, but she returned mere hours later with two bottles of Very Pamp from Maison Castel. She drank each “without fanfare” (her words) and didn’t seem too impressed, but the next day she found three more brands and reported back:oh-my-pamp-rose-pamplemousse

“I am having the Oh My Pamp. It is really good! Very interesting notes all around. Lots of play on the palate and much more in the nose. Yes, it’s sweet, but not too sweet and not flat at all. It actually has a small hint of ROSE flavor to it! I don’t know why, but it TOTALLY works. Super low alcohol, so after I enjoyed half a glass I added a tiny bit of vodka and it’s still smooth and delish. Rosé and grapefruit might be my new flavor combo this year!”

summer-water-rose-wineThree bottles later, what may have started without fanfare had ended with a fan there, but that didn’t help me at all. Unwilling to put her to the trouble of shipping me a bottle of alcohol, but wanting to stay in the grapefruit loop, I decided to take the advice of one blogger and simply mix grapefruit juice with grape fruit juice, so to speak. Since both grapefruit wine and rosé have become synonymous with summertime, I purchased a bottle of Summer Water rosé for this experiment.

Pink grapefruit juice and rosé wine make such an obvious pairing that it’s difficult to believe this marriage has only been recognized for the past few years. With each displaying a shy blush and demure sweetness that tempers a tart acidity on the tongue, this fun and and flirty couple captures the “spirit” of the season. It may have taken me until the end of summer to figure this out, but with local temps predicted to reach over 100° by the weekend, it’s refreshing to know that there’s still time to fall for this fad.

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grapefruit-rose-wineGRAPEFRUIT ROSÉ (adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 cup rosé wine
½ cup fresh pink or Ruby Red grapefruit juice
Ice (optional)

Mix wine and grapefruit juice in a small pitcher. Serve straight or over ice. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit, if desired. Serves two.

Variation: omit the grapefruit juice (or not) and add Monin Ruby Red Grapefruit Syrup, to taste.


You can purchase Meadowsweet Rosé Wine with Grapefruit (from Arlington, Binny’s, and Jericho), Ruby Red Rosé Wine with Natural Grapefruit Flavor (from Amity, Shop Rite, and We Speak Wine), and Pulse Rosé with Grapefruit & Peach online, but be prepared to pay around $20 to ship a $5-10 bottle of wine.



Author: Kirsten K., Fragrance, Wellness

olo-violet-leather-perfume-1Kirsti’s recent post about Jasmin et Cigarette perfume prompted recollections of the time she introduced me to a similarly surprising combination of scents, which has played an unexpected role in my life ever since.

Several years ago, I was struggling with some personal issues in the weeks leading up to my birthday and had fallen into depression. Kirsti and her husband Aaron, unaware of my distress, had arranged to take me out to dinner on my birthday. I was not in a mood to celebrate and secretly hoped for an excuse to get out of it, but none presented itself, so I resolved to get on with it.

I arrived at the restaurant to find that Kirsti and Aaron were already seated with a bottle of champagne on ice. They greeted me enthusiastically and had the server fill our glasses to toast the occasion. Over a delicious meal, we shared stories and camaraderie in a cozy, candlelit setting.

After we’d eaten, Kirsti produced gift bags and a beribboned black hatbox filled with presents, including a small bottle of Violet/Leather fragrance from OLO. Perpetually on the lookout for all things violet, she’d come across this blend by perfumer Heather Sielaff in Portland, Oregon, and thought it was curious enough to warrant purchasing a bottle, scent unsmelled.

olo-violet-leather-perfume-2I dabbed the perfume on my wrist and breathed it in. The violet was there, softly lingering around the edges, but the leather was front and center. Having been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, it was not the type of scent I would have chosen for myself, but it suited me at that time. Clean and straightforward, it was both edgy and old-fashioned without a trace of cloying sweetness. I kept returning my nose to my wrist to see how the fragrance evolved.

As I sat there enveloped in violet and leather, I observed diners enjoying their food and each other’s company. There was a tangible sense of fellowship in the dimly lit room. Sated with dinner, pleasantly relaxed from the wine, and basking in the warmth of good friends, I felt a profound shift occur within me. Suddenly, I thought, “You are loved. Life is beautiful. All is well.” And like that, the mood that had been dogging me for weeks dissolved completely.

Studies have shown that scent triggers memories and emotions more than any other sense, so whenever I find myself going through a rough patch, I reach for my bottle of Violet/Leather perfume and inhale. The fragrance instantly transports me back to that birthday dinner and the feeling of absolute well-being I experienced.

While I can’t necessarily credit the perfumer with this transformation, OLO sells a number of intriguing scents with names like Victory Wolf, Dark Wave, and Lightning Paw that are worthy of a whiff. Perhaps one of them will turn out to be the special fragrance that becomes entwined with your own happy memories and creates a “scentuary” that you can return to whenever you need a reminder that all is well.

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OLO Fragrances


Pétillant Child

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Nostalgia, Spirits, Wine

kirsten-in-3rd-gradekirsti-in-3rd-gradeToday is a special day at The Swoon Society, because it marks the anniversary of the day Kirsti and I first met. I won’t say how many years ago that was…but it’s a lot! Although it took us four years from that first meeting to become close friends, this is a milestone anniversary, so we wanted to toast it properly. We got together this past weekend and decided to celebrate early by popping open the bottle of pétillant naturel that I gave Kirsti for her birthday.

A French classification meaning “naturally sparkling,” pétillant naturel wines (pét-nats, for short) originated in the Loire Valley from a fermentation technique that pre-dates the méthode champenoise. The process involves bottling and capping unfinished wine so that it can complete fermentation in the bottle and develop a mild effervescence. It is actually illegal to add sugar or yeast during production of a pétillant naturel, resulting in a wine that is completely natural, unrefined, and occasionally cloudy. For this reason, pét-nats have become trendy in recent years among hipsters and those seeking a more handcrafted, authentic wine.

les-pions-petillant-naturel-1Kirsti and I read about pét-nat wine for the first time last year, but didn’t take the plunge until I decided to purchase a bottle for her as a gift. Her house is built into the side of a hill and has a secret storage area that looks like a wine cave, both because you can see the exposed hillside and because it’s filled with bottles of wine. But despite having an enviable collection, she did not have a bottle of pétillant naturel, so it was “naturel” that I should remedy the situation. There was only one selection at our local wine shop, so the choice was easy: Ludovic Chanson Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Naturel Les Pions 2011. (Let’s just call it Les Pions, shall we?)

The tasting notes* included with my purchase cited a bouquet “wafting from the glass in a mix of apple, quince, bee pollen, bread dough, chalky soil tones and a bit of citrus peel in the upper register” and referred to the wine twice as “snappy.” I’m no connoisseur and am generally of the opinion that, to quote writer Nick Tosches, the tasting of wine falls into one of three categories: “‘good,’ ‘bad,’ or ‘just shut up and drink.’” However, I felt immediately that this wine was different, with its earthy flavor and lively bubbles. A Monet-like image sprung to mind of French peasants resting against haystacks to enjoy a simple lunch of crusty bread, cheese, fruit, and a bottle of rustic wine.

les-pions-petillant-naturel-2I was somewhat disappointed that this pét-nat wasn’t cloudy, but rather than sulk like a petulant child, I’ve decided to embrace my pétillant child and seek out other varieties. While Les Pions is 100% Chenin Blanc, pét-nat wines can be made from both white and red grapes. The unpredictable nature of the fermentation process means you’re never sure what you’re going to get, but the low price point (generally under $30) means that it’s a risk worth taking.

As with Kirsti and me, it’s best to make the acquaintance of a pét-nat when it’s young, so don’t wait for a special anniversary to enjoy it. Get to know your new “pét” immediately, and who knows? It might just be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Ludovic Chanson Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Naturel Les Pions 2011


*By John Gillman in View from the Cellar.


Jasmin et Cigarette – The Perfume of Every Wicked Temptress

Author: Kirsti Kay, Fragrance

jasmin-et-cigaretteI’m all talk. I know a lot about salacious subjects, strange places, and shocking-but-true stories, but I’ve lived a fairly sheltered life growing up in the Valley. Kirsten’s mom thought I was “too worldly” to be friends with her daughter in 7th grade, mostly because I was reading a lot of my mom’s romance novels at the time. You know, the kind where pirates kidnap a beautiful, nubile orphan named Annabel who just happens to know how to use a sword (and so does the pirate…wink, wink). I can tell you where to go in Paris for a night of carnal intrigue, but I’m in bed before those places even open. And I will always take the conversation to the “Oh no, you didn’t!” place. I want to be a cool kid, but instead I’m a goofball with a dirty mouth who loves pirates.

Because I love knowing about bizarre and interesting things that are outside my smallish world, I’m always on the hunt for the unusual. I happen to have a copy of Paul Lynde’s will. I own an actual John Wayne Gacy clown drawing (but, trust me, it only comes out at dinner parties) and my bathroom is decorated with vintage doll heads. So when I stumbled upon the perfume Jasmin et Cigarette from celebrated French perfumer Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre d’Orange, I was filled with curiosity, delight, and a little fear.

It’s pretty audacious to create a perfume that smells like cigarettes. Oh, and also “a woman’s skin when she exposes her freshness to the dark seduction of night.” But with other scents, such as Fat Electrician, Dangerous Complicity, and Secretions Magnifiques, you know this is not the kind of perfume a lady in Macy’s is going to spray on you while you are trying to find the bathroom. These are fragrances meant to work you up, to scandalize, to cause a revolution. Etat Libre d’Orange has more than 30 scents and I want to try them ALL.


I thought the bottle would look really fun next to my Demeter Funeral Home and Holy Water perfumes, so I impulsively bought it online without smelling it, but I was secretly hoping I would love it, because I wanted to smell like cigarettes from France! The fragrance contains jasmine absolute, tobacco notes, apricot, tonka bean, curcuma, cedarwood, amber, and musk. My friend Rebecca thought I was crazy to spend $50 on a perfume I haven’t tested that allegedly smells like…oh, you know, an ashtray in a garden of jasmine, but if you have enough guts to name your perfume Jasmin et Cigarette, I have enough guts to give you money for it.

I have to tell you, it does smell like cigarettes! I also have to tell you that it smells amazing, like no other perfume I have ever smelled before. It is smoky and gently floral. It is mysterious and, yes, kind of scary. It makes me feel like a secret agent or a Bond girl or a wicked temptress. It makes you want to lean in closer. And closer still. It definitely does not make me feel like a girl from the Valley who talks a lot of shit. When I wear Jasmin et Cigarette, I’m not telling stories, I AM the story. I might not ever be as cool as an ingénue who can French inhale, but at least I can smell like one.

But now, it is my bedtime and I hope to be dreaming of pirates.

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Jasmin et Cigarette Perfume


Jasmin et Cigarette can be purchased in the States from Le Pink & Co.


Flying Under the Radar

Author: Kirsten K., Books, Literature, Nostalgia

No Flying in the HouseKirsti and I met in third grade, which is notable for both the beginning of our friendship and our introduction to the book No Flying in the House. Our teacher, Mrs. Jansen, would read a few pages from the book each day after the lunch recess, and students impatiently lined up at the classroom door to hear the next part of the story. Today is the birthday of the book’s author, Betty Brock, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 80, but will live forever in our childhood memories and in our hearts.

No Flying in the House tells the story of Annabel Tippens, a young girl who mysteriously appears one day on the terrace of wealthy Mrs. Vancourt accompanied by her guardian, Gloria—a talking dog just three inches high and three inches long. Although the formidable lady has no interest in children, she is an admirer of small things and wants Gloria for herself, so she accepts them both into her home. But when a talking cat named Belinda causes Annabel to question her origins and abilities, will Gloria be able to protect her secret?

The ShadesI have reread the book a number of times as an adult and it is still as captivating as it was in third grade. First published in 1970, No Flying in the House delighted a generation of children, but seems to be flying under the radar today. Kirsti and I marvel that it hasn’t been made into a movie yet. Betty Brock wrote only one other book, The Shades, which is equally fantastical and worthy of its own adaptation. The books are both suspenseful and even mildly frightening at times, which is what kept me on pins and needles as a child, but it was No Flying in the House that first inspired my imagination to take flight.

On this special anniversary, I want to honor all of the teachers and authors who shaped my childhood and introduced me to the infinite wonders that can be found within the pages of a book. You wove your own special brand of magic and created swoon-worthy memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you.

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No Flying in the House


No Flying in the House and The Shades can both be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Kom Down

Author: Kirsten K., Cold Drinks, Food & Drink

búcha Verbena Rose KombuchaWhen my favorite flavor of Wonder Drink was out of stock recently, I decided to experiment with something new. Among the sea of kombucha choices—featuring typical additions of ginger, fruit, or greens—one blend stood out: Verbena Rose from búcha® Live Kombucha. With a floral essence and no SCOBY in sight, I should have snapped it up immediately, but I hesitated over…the name?

Readers of this blog know that Kirsti and I share a passion for anything rose-flavored, but we also share an aversion to certain words and quirks of language. Setting aside the issue of proper names with lowercase letters for the moment, I bristle at the practice of dropping the first part of a word to create a shortened slang term (i.e. ’sode for episode or ’verse for universe—sorry, Browncoats!), but even though this drink is a “kom” down*, I elected to calm down and buy it.

With just a hint of sweet rose balanced by the citrus notes of lemon verbena, this flavor is a winning combo. The fermented black tea contains live kombucha culture (think probiotics), and all of the ingredients, including Damask rose petals and blackcurrant color, are certified organic. It also has a softer, less acetic bite than many other brands of kombucha. Not to get too flowery, but this floral sparkling tea is, to quote the bottle’s own label, “Enchanting.”

A Verbena Rose by any other name would taste as sweet, but I’ve been bewitched by búcha® and declare this libation to be ’licious.

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búcha® Live Kombucha Verbena Rose


Use the company’s store finder to locate a búcha® retailer near you.


*To read a brief history of búcha®, including a connection to the actual city of—yes—Bucha, click here.