Miss Mina's Blog

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What’s in the Box? 

Dear Constant Reader,

A huge, mysterious parcel arrived at The Manor. The contents were so special I thought I’d try an unboxing video.

How did I end up with this magnificent piece? Christine McConnell has a YouTube series, From the Mind of Christine McConnell. Each month she makes something fabulous and selects one of her supporters on Patreon to receive it. This month she asked a trivia question during a livestream and the first person to answer correctly would get the cage. And that person was me!

This was on October first. I had been having such a terrible September. Certain events made me full of doubt about myself and I had lost my desire to do anything creative. Winning the cage was a jolt of positivity and I’ve been much better this month. It could not have come at a more perfect time. Thank you so much, Christine!

The trivia question, by the way, was “In the movie Addams Family Values, what is the name of the baby?” (which is the name of the bat). I still can’t believe that out of the hundreds of people responding, I answered first.

I love everything about it! The Victorian birdcage is the perfect aesthetic for The Manor. There’s so many fabulous details, like the handmade spiders and the fairy lights. And of course the Bat himself and his glowing eyes. The purple accents are just marvelous — there’s even a chunk of amethyst (my birthstone!). I could just go on about how incredible this is! I don’t know where exactly in The Manor Pubert is going to live, but he’ll be the star of that room for sure.

To see more about the creation of the Bat-Cage, here’s the video:

Thanks to…
…Christine McConnell for making this whole experience possible.
…Georgia Dunn for permission to include a panel from her wonderful comic strip, Breaking Cat News in my video. See the rest of that particular strip here.
…Scratch for filming, video editing assistance, and helping to clean up packing peanuts. In case you were wondering, a “metric fuckton” of packing peanuts is five garbage bags full.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

In the Kitchen: Tomato-Parmesan Scones 

Dear Constant Reader,

On Saturday I threw a little tea party at The Manor. It had been a while since my last one, but I hadn’t been feeling up to an elaborate to-do. I hadn’t been in a good place recently and I was badly missing my friends. So, I sent an invitation to a “low-key tea party”, promising only tea, scones and jam, and maybe cake.

And then something exciting happened (more on that later) which got me feeling motivated again. While I still didn’t make any tea sandwiches, I ended up baking two kinds of scones and two types of cake. And, it being October, I had a spooky theme going with the cakes and serving ware. I served…

Coffin brownies filled with Nutella and raspberries, served on a spirit board tray. I used the recipe for Supernatural Brownies from the NY Times and they were, in fact, scary good!

Spice cake tombstones, served on a skull cake stand.

Scones with currants and dried sour cherries (from our tree) from my favorite scone recipe. The heap of scones obscures the charming Victorian skeleton decoration on the bowl.

And these scones were accompanied by sour cherry jam and blood orange marmalade (both homemade) and butter. Please note the skull spoons and skeleton knife (the blade says “poison”).

Also, I made these savory scones as an experiment and I was very happy with the results. The recipe comes from Tea Fit for a Queen: Recipes & Drinks for Afternoon Tea and I’ve converted it from metric. I think the recipe could easily be doubled (and you want to).

Sun-Dried Tomato and Parmesan Scones
8 oz. self-rising flour (or about 1 1/4 cup flour, heaping 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt)
1 3/4 oz. unsalted butter (3 Tablespoons plus a little)
1 1/2 oz. grated Parmesan
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 oz. chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment (I use a Silpat).

Sift flour into a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the Parmesan, thyme leaves, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Pour in the milk. Gently stir until the dough just comes together. Knead lightly until the dough is smooth.

Pat dough into a round about an inch thick. Cut out scones. I got about 16 2″ round scones, but you could make them bigger. Bake about 10-15 minutes until barely browned.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Feathers are happiest in a moderate environment.

Optimally feathers should be kept between 60 and 75 degrees F and at 45-55% relative humidity (these are museum guidelines). Now, most of us don’t live in places that are that rigidly climate controlled, but there are still things we can do to keep our feathers at their best.

Avoid storing them near bathrooms, laundry areas and other places with high humidity as too much moisture can encourage mold. Also, keep them away from radiators, direct sunlight, and other sources of heat. If the feathers get too dry, they can crumble.

Don’t worry too much. Like I said, most of us don’t have perfectly climate controlled places to store our fans and boas and headdresses, but we can be aware of the issues.

I’ll be talking more about caring for feathers and other costume items at BurlyCon next month!

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip.

Carry reusable utensils with you.

Most performers I know are often eating on the go — in the car, backstage, in an airport, &c. Having your own silverware in your bag means you’ll never find yourself without a fork in a time of need and you won’t be contributing to single-use plastic utensils ending up in the trash.

There are tons of options out there — like metal, bamboo, folding, modular, &c. You can buy fancy sets or just use a thrift store find.

I have a metal fork, knife, and spoon I found in the kitchen junk drawer (I think I bought them for my first apartment…) plus a metal straw. I made a cute little bag to carry them all and there was even room for a small cloth napkin. The whole thing takes up almost no space in my purse and it’s been so useful!

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Batwoman Burlesque 10/6 

Dear Constant Reader,

Sunday night was the debut of the Batwoman TV show and we had a little premiere party. It’s was kind of a last minute thing and we’re grateful to Tavern 730 for letting us use their back room.

The BeauTease are not known for performing as comic book characters and the like (often called nerdlesque), but we’re all big fans. It was a lot of fun to adapt some of our acts to work for a Bat-themed burlesque show.

Betty Blaize opened the show with Betty, It’s Cold Outside, but instead of her usual partner, Dino Martini, she danced with Mr. Freeze. (Puppetry creation by Scratch)

Then I performed my rose-petal act as Poison Ivy. The biggest difference being that I changed my usual cut-velvet jacket for a white coat wreathed in ivy.

Ava created a new act for the occasion — Cat Woman. You can see this one at It Came From Beneath the Tease on Saturday at Thunder Road.

We closed out our little show with Bat Woman, of course. Actually Devastasia in her secret identity.

And then we celebrated the birthdays of two of our audience and Ava Fox with some cake! Shows that end with cake are the best!

I realize it’s been a while since I shared any of the glamorous details of burlesque life. Once we got to the venue, Betty realized she was missing her pasties. I was planning to wear gold rhinestoned ones for my act, which were very similar to the ones Betty usually wears, although sans tassels. I loaned them to Betty.

What did I do? If you’ve seen “La Vie en Rose”, you’ll recall that I pluck off rose petals that are stuck to my boobs. Well, I just glued on extra petals as pasties and just had to remember which one could come off and which ones had to stay on! I doubt anyone knew there was anything amiss.

You can see us next at It Came From Beneath the Tease on Saturday for a fun halloween/monster movie themed show. Friday the 25th we’ll be at Deacon Giles in Salem for a darker, creepier Halloween show.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

If you’re using a mirror on stage, treat the glass so the lights don’t glare off it.

Not only is the light reflecting off a mirror distracting, it might hit an audience member. A good temporary solution is to spritz the mirror with hairspray. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s something we all carry, and it washes right off. A theatre trick is to spray the mirror (or glass) with diluted soda. You can also buy theatrical anti-glare spray, but I don’t see the need for that.

For a permanent solution, if your mirror is a dedicated prop, is to use some silvery paint. It will still look shiny, but you won’t get the reflections. Or, if it’s easy to remove the mirror from the frame, you can replace it with something else silvery (and non-breakable).

Photo is my vintage mermaid hand mirror without any glass treatment. I probably should have hairsprayed it and then taken another.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Welcoming October 

Dear Constant Reader,

September was a rough month for me. A few people involved with burlesque did some things that made me doubt myself very badly. I’m not going to get more specific than that. I already second-guess my place in the burlesque world, so it was particularly hard for me to shrug off. I spent pretty much the entire month feeling unmotivated, overwhelmed, and lacking in creativity, amongst other negative things.

However, October started off with an amazing surprise, which has nothing to do with burlesque. I’ll tell you all about it when it’s a done deal, but for now just know I’m thrilled and feeling inspired again.

Segue to… we have a bunch of shows coming up which are going to be a great deal of fun!

This Sunday Batwoman premiers! Come watch it with us at 730 Tavern, Kitchen & Patio in Central Square, Cambridge. After the TV show there will be a little Bat-themed burlesque! It’s completely free, but bring a few bucks for some food and drink and to tip the performers.

Next Saturday we’re back at Thunder Road in Somerville with a light-hearted Halloween burlesque revue plus music from our friends The Waveriders.

On Friday, October 25 you can catch us at Deacon Giles in Salem for a much darker Halloween show. We’ll be doing two late-night shows.

Also, we’re settling into our new studio with Introduction to Burlesque and Spellbinding Striptease both starting on October 8th.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

When making tear-away cup bras, use two bras.

It may seem like the logical thing to do is cut the cups off a bra and then reattach them to the bra with fasteners. Trust me on this, you are only setting the stage for sorrow.

In order to have a good structure, you want underwire on both the cups and the frame. So, get two bras. From one cut the cups from one just below the underwire — these are going to be your cups. From the second cut the cups just above the underwire — this is going to be the bra frame. I know it’s a bit wasteful, but you want both pieces to have that wire. I salvage the straps and hardware from the now-cupless (and useless) frame for other projects, so it doesn’t all go to waste. If you’ve got other ideas of how to use the leftover bits, I’d love to hear them!

If you want a little extra lift, or you need to conform to decency laws that prohibit underboob, instead of cutting away the entire cup, you can leave part of it attached to the frame. Don’t forget to finish the edge! A little bias binding works great for this.

Attach your fasteners (I use snaps) so the underwire of the cups sits on top of the underwire on the frame.

Have fun tearing away!

M2Like this costuming tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Review: In the Kitchen: The Necronomnomnom 

Dear Constant Reader,

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen some photos lately of dishes with rather odd names and a sinister tome in the background. What is up with that? I’ve been cooking from…

The Necronomnomnom
It’s a cookbook, but a truly special one. It’s full of rituals and rites, illustrated with arcane sketches and notes, which must be interpreted to achieve tasty results. As you might have guessed from the title, it’s a Lovecraft-themed cookbook. There are fifty recipes, including cocktails, appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts, and even recipes for children (that is, for children to eat, not how to cook them). As the names evoke eldritch horrors, so do the presentations, with odd colors, additional tentacles, or inscribed runes (all edible, of course).

The recipes have terribly wonderful Lovecraft pun names, like The Sandwich Horror or The Custard from Out of Space. But in order to cook them, you have to puzzle through the ingredient lists and instructions, which are written in archaic and mystical fashion — even poetry. The degree of obscurity varies from recipe to recipe, from relatively straightforward in terms of ingredient names and measurements to rather baffling at first glance.

Here, for example are the ingredients for Deep Fried Deep One, the first dish I cooked.

What is the Herb of Mysterious Purpose? The Bay of Elders? It helps to be an experienced cook, because once you figure out what the dish is, things start to fall in place. I was often chuckling at the cleverness of the authors or feeling smug that I puzzled things out.

And the instructions for The Oats of Dagon.

I’ll admit, this was a challenging one! I’m not even sure how many times I read and misinterpreted the instructions before I finally got it.

The illustrations are very detailed and in perfect keeping with the theme. Be sure to read all the scribbled little notes — there’s a story running through the book. Here’s a little taste of the artwork:

I managed to get my hands on a first, or Grimoire, edition, which is only the mystic rituals. There’s really nothing to break the illusion that this is a mysterious spell book and the cover is pretty horrifying. There was also a super-special edition with a three-dimensional flayed skin* cover, for that extra touch of realism.

Don’t worry if the thought of figuring out the ingredients and instructions fills you with fear. The “Bookstore Edition“, which comes out in just a few days, has all the rituals and illustrations, but also practical additions like a table of contents, index, and… all the recipes in clear language in an appendix in the back. I’ve had a lot of fun figuring out the recipes, but I know that’s not for everyone.

I’ve been really happy with most of the results! I’ve also had fun bringing out The Manor’s spookiest china and arranging the tentacles just right for a good photo. Here’s some New England Damned Chowder:

For more delicious photos of my endeavors so far and some commentary on the recipes, I’ve created a photo gallery just for my Patrons.

Highly recommended for creative cooks, lovers of puzzles, and weird fiction fans.

*Or maybe cast latex…

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Welcome Electrix! 

Dear Constant Reader,

We have a new troupe member!

Electrix joined us as an apprentice at the beginning of the year. Previously she had taken classes at B.A.B.E. and volunteered at one of our shows. She was also performing burlesque around Boston, so her dedication to the art was pretty obvious. We had no idea at first how truly dedicated she was. You see, she lives in another state. Twice and sometimes three times a week she was driving much further than any of us, never with any complaint.

Although rather shy, she quickly jumped in, cheerfully doing whatever needed doing, like set up and break down and stage kittening. She had also been a professional theatre lighting tech (hence the name) so she was happy to be our follow spot operator when we needed it. And she loves cats a lot and Albert has reaped the benefits of her affection.

She and I first worked together when Scratch cast her as my naughty maid in “Mistress and Maid”. I was so impressed with how fast she learned the role and how hard she was rehearsing on her own time. She had video of Brigitte performing, but put her own spin on the part instead of just trying to replicate what she saw.

She made her solo debut at Surflesque in June and we decided to renew her apprenticeship for the summer. She has learned several group numbers and last weekend she debuted another solo. She’s also been making her own costumes and studying burlesque history.

As autumn approached and her apprenticeship was winding down, we thought about how hard she’d been working, how much talent she had, what a great attitude she showed, and how nice she was to be around. In other words, she felt like a member of the troupe, so we decided to make it official. We asked her to join us and she accepted!

Look for great things from this long-legged lovely!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.