We’re Moving!

We have been remiss in our correspondence as of late but with good reason!

Darlings, Miss Havisham’s Tea is dipping our toe into new waters.

Firstly, we are moving our blog to www.MissHavishamsCuriosities.com.

Because we’re really more of a lifestyle movement after all, aren’t we dearies? Why limit ourselves to tea and gossip?

All of our content, social media, and discussion forums will now be in one lovely little hub.

Secondly, and this is a big one, we will be adding an online store in the near future.

So many of those trinkets we’ve showcased will eventually be available to you online. How else can a lady support her weekend flea market addiction?

And so it is out with the old and in with the new including our fancy new logo courtesy of Mr. Havisham (Thank you, Tim).

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So please visit us at our new home, subscribe to our newsletter, and look out for more exciting announcements soon.

xoxo

Miss Havisham’s Curiosities

We’re getting curiouser and curiouser…

War Brides and Movie Stars: The Queen Mary

This is my love letter to the Queen Mary.

Docked in Long Beach, the Queen Mary is rumored to be one of the 10 most haunted sites in the country and for a small fee you can take one of her many tours including several night time ghost walks.

I’m not going to lie, whenever we go to the Queen Mary, we are usually the youngest people there by a good 30 years, but that’s probably part of why I love it. There are a number of exhibits that, frankly, I am not the target audience for like the Princess Diana exhibit, but just walking around the ship and looking at the art deco interiors is enough to keep me coming back.

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The Queen Mary made her maiden voyage in 1936 and was considered the height of luxury. “She boasted five dining areas and lounges, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, a grand ballroom, a squash court and even a small hospital. The Queen Mary had set a new benchmark in transatlantic travel, which the rich and famous considered as the only civilized way to travel. She quickly seized the hearts and imaginations of the public on both sides of the Atlantic, representing the spirit of an era known for its elegance, class and style.” -QueenMary.com. Photos are also from the ship’s website.

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My favorite exhibit is a display of the collected memories of former passengers. It’s a poignant look into life during the war because after those first three glamorous years, the Queen Mary became a warship transporting soldiers to Europe for World War II. As many as 16,000 soldiers were transported during the war. Painted to camouflage her from enemy sights, she was nicknamed “The Grey Ghost.”

The ship’s website also tells us that “Adolph Hitler offered $250,000 and the Iron Cross to any U-boat Captain that could sink the Queen Mary.”

After the signing of the armistice in May 1945, the Queen Mary was dedicated to bringing US troops home and, more interestingly, carried thousands of war brides and children born to American soldiers to the US to begin their new lives.

One woman recalls leaving England to join a husband she hadn’t seen in two years. She said she didn’t recognize him out of uniform. Watch her story here.

The following pages are taken from a promotional pamphlet for the Queen Mary who was bigger and faster than the Titanic.

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A few of the deco details (pictured above) that were restored to the ship after it was decommissioned in 1946. It was returned to its former glory and sailed for nearly two more decades of commercial use.

With the rise of commercial airlines and the decline in the market for luxury sea travel, the ship was sold to the city of Long Beach in 1967 for $3.45 million. She docked in Long Beach after her final cruise and she has remained there ever since as a hotel, museum and events space. She was even in an episode of Arrested Development. Lucille Bluth hijacks her and there are gay sailors. Heaven.

While a bit shabby, the rooms still maintain their original charm. Just go in with an appreciation of what the lady’s been through and what she’s done for so many people. Aging gracefully is a bit rare here in LA so let’s embrace it, hmmm?

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We had tea on the ship twice. It was great. The waiter, clearly accustomed to explaining every single detail of the tea service, was so delightfully bored by his own talking that I wanted to wink at him and say, “Shhhh, it’s ok. We don’t really care, just bring me all of it and I will eat it.”

He seemed to sense it though and did exactly that. I left feeling like I had willingly done terrible things to myself by eating so many scones, but then returned and did it again recently and will surely do it again soon. Make reservations and try to go on a weekday or you’ll be surrounded by screeching bridal showers and fussy groups of ladies asking all those questions our waiter friend is so very tired of answering.

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There are any number of events throughout the year you can use as an excuse to visit the ship. The Fourth of July is a big one and usually sells out right away. I hear the fireworks are to die for and yes, there are themed old timey sections where you can drink and get rowdy. Valentine’s day is another one, bask in the vintage romance. Halloween is a bit crazy there so be warned. There are lots of teenagers going to the haunted house, loud music. Meh. We recently went to a flea market next to the ship which was small but fun and came with free admission to the boat. Check out their calendar of events here, you’ll find something to do, I’m sure.

The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles apparently hosts an Art Deco Festival on the ship in August. Side note: the society also seems to host a lot of drinking events at historic bars…interesting. Cocktails and pretty? Yes.

Now the big question, is The Queen Mary HAUNTED?

There have been numerous sitings and as many as 150 different spirits have been “documented.” At least 49 people have died on the boat. If ever a place SHOULD be haunted, it’s this one. The engine room is supposed to be the hotbed of paranormal activity. It is definitely creepy.

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Also on the haunted list: both of the swimming pools. A young girl is said to have drowned in one of the pools. Again, it is creepy.

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And here it is empty…even more creepy.

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The number of spooky stories is countless, doors slamming, phones ringing, a phantom baby that cries. Stateroom B340 is no longer rented to the public because of its supposed paranormal activity. Faucets are said to turn on by themselves and the bedsheets fly across the room.You can read all about the ghosties on Haunted Honeymoon.

So is she really haunted? Rumor says yes. I can’t confirm it. While I barely slept the night I spent there, it was largely due to the air conditioning vent being aimed right at my delicate little face and the sink drip drip dripping and…my waiting for the ghosts to come. No ghosts came. It should also be noted that Tim slept like the dead.

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The boat does offer their own ghost tours…plural. I haven’t done any of them. If you do, email me because I’m curious about all the secrets that lurk inside The Grey Ghost. It should also be noted that this is the first in a series of haunted hotel reviews. Stay tuned.

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Port bow view of the QUEEN MARY at anchor. The Queen Mary on war service. 28 September 1944, Greenock. The 84000 ton Cunard Liner Queen Mary in her grey white war paint as she prepared to make another atlantic crossing taking wounded us troops back to America.

May your nights on the ship be spine tingling. xoxo

 

 

Roadtrip Part One: I Want to be a Hearst

I have to be honest, when friends come to visit me in Los Angeles I feel a little pang of anxiety. I still don’t know where anything is here and driving still stresses me out. Don’t even get me started on parking. I know change is hard but I knew New York, I know it still. Everything is accessible by public transportation there. I knew New York so well I even knew tiny off beat places to go. In LA, you really have to know where you’re going and while there are things to do, they’re not always easy to get to. Truthfully, after about twenty-five houseguests, I feel like I keep doing the same things over and over.

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So when one of my favorite people on the planet came to visit recently, I decided this time we were going to take a road trip. It was time to see something you can’t see in New York and I really couldn’t look at the Venice canals again.

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While I lack the ability to parallel park, I do have a husband who doesn’t mind driving, loves adventure, and has a fantastic sense of direction. Lucky for me or I would have gone mad within a few months of living here. So, armed with road snacks and a destination, off we went.

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To Hearst Castle:

If you haven’t been to Hearst Castle, go. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Perched high and overlooking a remote section of the California coast, every bit of it is jaw dropping. When I visited I kept thinking I should just sneak away, hide in some quiet room, and spend the night because it really should be my house, guys. It’s such a powerful impulse that the second time I visited I actually started looking around with intent to stow away. If I disappear one day, you’ll know where to find me.

You can imagine that the home of William Randolph Hearst, media magnate and the inspiration for Citizen Kane, might be something unusual and you would be correct. No expense was spared building the house in a time when the rest of the country was suffering from the stock market crash and the Great Depression.

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The tycoon himself.

“Hearst Castle’s history begins in 1865, when George Hearst purchased 40,000 acres of ranchland. In 1919,William Randolph Hearst inherited what had grown to more than 250,000 acres, and was dreaming of ways to transform it into a retreat he called La Cuesta Encantada—Spanish for “Enchanted Hill.” By 1947, Hearst and architect Julia Morgan had created Hearst Castle: 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways—all built to house Hearst’s specifications and to showcase his legendary art collection.” So sayeth the Hearst Castle website.

First, let’s take a moment to appreciate that Hearst hired a woman architect. Interesting. Second, consider the lengths Hearst went to; he even went as far as to have whole rooms from great houses in Europe purchased, shipped, and reassembled as part of the construction process. So elaborate were his building plans for Hearst castle, they were never fully realized in his lifetime.

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Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Mervyn LeRoy, and Hearst himself. Nice outfit, Billy boy.

The castle served as a playground for Hollywood’s elite who were bused in from Los Angeles each weekend to dine, drink, and dance the night away. When you were at Hearst Castle, you wanted for nothing; evening wear was even provided if you forgot yours. You could swim in either the outdoor pool or the indoor pool, play tennis, stroll the gardens, view the private zoo, or catch one of Hearst’s latest films in the movie theater.

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The largest swimming pool I have ever seen.
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Indoor pool, my favorite. The tiles are gold.
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Inside the movie theater. Photo by Alana Cowan (houseguest supreme)

There is a guest wing for both ladies and gentlemen, never the two shall meet (wink, wink) and a number of guest cottages around the property. The guest cottages are bigger than my house, by the way.

My favorite room has to be the gothic study.

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Not to be confused with the library which is filled with antiquities. Those vases along the ceiling? Those are Greek and Egyptian.

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Oh you know, just a bedroom.
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This room is called the “jewel box” but I just call it my bedroom.
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Meh.

And let’s not forget the great room.

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Now for the juicy part. Hearst was married to a former vaudeville performer, Millicent Veronica Willson who he fell in love with when she was a mere sixteen years old. She bore him five sons, one of which is the father of Patty Hearst who was famously kidnapped in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a cult. Under the influence of the cult, Hearst assisted in a bank robbery. Her sentence was commuted by President Carter and she was officially pardoned by President Clinton. She has gone on to appear in a number of John Waters movies including Serial Mom, Cry-Baby, Pecker, and Cecil B. DeMented. This only makes me love her and John Waters more, but back to Millicent Hearst.

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Patricia Hearst and John Waters

Poor Millicent rarely stayed at Hearst Castle though. She and her husband lived very separate lives. She lived in New York and became a great philanthropist. Her husband lived in California at Hearst Castle with his mistress, actress and comedienne, Marion Davies. They lived together quite openly though he and Millicent remained married until his death. How modern.

Millicent and Marion:

It’s said that the portrayal of Marion Davies in Citizen Kane so enraged Hearst that he launched a full on attack against the film and its director, Orson Welles. Even Welles later admitted that his depiction was unfair to Marion who was a very talented actress. Marion actually supported Hearst in later years when he hit hard times financially and was forced to sell off much of his art and property. She married eleven weeks after Hearst’s death in 1951. Read about the battle over Citizen Kane here.

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Hearst and Davies characters in Citizen Kane set in a mock up of the famous great room.

Hearst Castle and its impressive collection of art and artifacts was donated to the state of California and is a museum now but I have grand plans to occupy it. They’ll never find me. Never! I highly recommend the evening tours which aren’t offered year round so do your homework. The entire estate is decked out for an old Hollywood cocktail party and it all feels a little bit spooky. As an added bonus, it will be easier for me to sneak off and hide in the shadows in the evening.

Four hours from Los Angeles and you feel like you’ve escaped the city. You feel like you’ve escaped back in time. Well played, California, well played. As much as I hate to admit it, you definitely can’t find Hearst Castle in New York.

It’s a non-profit so go support your local castle. Hey Hearst Castle administrators, just list the guest rooms on AirBnB already. See? Fundraising issue solved.

 

 

 

 

 

Freaky Friday

Welcome to Freaky Fridays where I post links to the odd and the fantastic. Thank you to my friends, especially Sally and Susan, who provided me with pure gold this week. Have a weird news story? Send it to dearmisshavisham@gmail.com

Cameos carved from Oreos by artist, Judith G. Klausner. Delicious.

Mugshots of female criminals of the Edwardian period as found on Dangerous Minds. These ladies will cut you.

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Want to sleep in the Paris Catacombs? I mean, who doesn’t? It was listed on AirBnB as a contest (I didn’t win).

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A pony dressed like a unicorn leads police on a wild chase near Fresno. I love everything about this story.

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Then there are people bending over and filming themselves as creepy round creatures. I hate everything about this story.

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Folk art from the golden age of secret societies? Yes. On display at the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan until May 8.

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18 rare catbreeds you’ve maybe never heard of. I like cats, shut up.

Who hasn’t done a thing or two out of spite? Would you build a house just to infuriate your neighbors? Explore the concept of the spite house as found on Hyperallergic.

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You just have to love the British. Giant walking porcelain dolls spotted all over London. Brilliant.

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Likewise, a pack of Miss Havishams took to the streets and subways to promote the BBC’s version of Great Expectations. Flattering, dearies, flattering.

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May your weekend be filled with mirth. xoxo

Go Ask Alice

Alice in Wonderland has captivated readers for decades. Written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, it was published in 1865. Three years earlier, Carroll rowed a boat up the Isis section of the Thames river with three young girls and Reverend Robinson Duckworth inside. The three young ladies were the sisters Liddell,  daughters of Henry Liddell (the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Dean of Christ Church): Lorina Charlotte Liddell (aged 13); Alice Pleasance Liddell (aged 10); Edith Mary Liddell (aged 8).

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Alice Liddell, far right.

While on the river it’s said Carroll entertained the girls with a story that was so beloved by Alice that she asked for it to be written down for her and thus Alice in Wonderland came into existence. Carroll approached the artist John Tenniel to illustrate the manuscript.

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In 1998 Lewis Carroll’s own copy of Alice, one of only six surviving copies of the 1865 first edition, sold at an auction for US$1.54 million to an anonymous American buyer, becoming the most expensive children’s book (or 19th-century work of literature) ever sold, up to that time. Alice Liddell’s copy of the manuscript sold in 2009 for $115,000.

The relationship between Alice and Carroll is a murky one. She posed for Carroll often and those photos have been cited as proof that the nature of their friendship was less than appropriate.

This past June The Morgan Library in New York held an exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication. The exhibit included original drawings by Carroll and Tenniel as well as a number of photos. I was surprised that there was no mention of the question of Carroll’s relationship with Alice. You can view a number of the illustrations online at The Morgan Library’s site. There is an interesting article on the subject of their relationship here.

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Character development sketches between Carroll and Tenniel

We may never know the truth about Carroll’s proclivities as Richard Cavendish writes here:

“The friendship between the Liddells and Dodgson (Carroll) had broken down in 1863, for reasons that are not clear – the relevant page in his diary was cut out by one of his descendants – but it may be that Mrs Liddell was uneasy about him and Alice. Polite relations were resumed after a few months, but the earlier warmth did not return. ”

Alice grew into an adult and married a cricket player at the age of 28. They had three sons. She became quite the society hostess. After her husband’s death in 1926 she found the upkeep of their household to be draining. Facing financial difficulties, she sold her copy of the manuscript for £15,400. She died in 1934 and is quoted as saying, “I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland.”

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Alice as an adult.

Alice in Wonderland has been the subject of songs, art, and numerous films, one of my favorites is the stop motion film by Jan Svankmejer.  You can watch the trailer online.

There are no shortage of Alice themed events. Don’t forget to attend The Victorian Tea and Dance Society’s Alice in Wonderland themed social Sunday, March 6.

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Should you find yourself in London, you must go to The Madhatter’s High Tea at the beautiful Sanderson Hotel. I left with diabetes but I also left happy.

Want to throw your own tea party? I have several pieces of the Alice in Wonderland collection from Fishs Eddy in New York. I love them. Not sure if they still have the dinnerware but they also carry the prettiest cake stands.

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Cakestands for days.

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And who’s ready for a garden party? Alice always is.

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Need to make a pillow? A skirt? Find all the fabric you need on Etsy:

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And let’s not forget shoes. Wow.

From Elusive Rabbit:

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Or these from Irregular Choice:

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Care for a scarf?

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An entire tea set? Egg cup? Gift wrap? Check out The Alice Boutique.

I find The Hudson Hotel in New York to have a very Alice in Wonderland feel. Much of the furniture in the library bar is oversized and the lobby is really something. It’s a fun place to take a client for a drink.

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Or this acrylic chandelier from Vinci Living. Plenty more Alice interior design ideas on Lace and Ruffles.

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And I leave you with a great Queen of Hearts from Popsugar:

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Curiouser and curiouser!

Australian Sex Appeal, It’s Deadly

I love weird, structural plants and anything that attracts hummingbirds or has alien looking flowers. Where does one find such specimens you may ask? It seems Australia has a plethora of them. Not only are they weird and even (swoon) toxic, many of them happen to be well suited to our climate here in LA. While I’ve mostly stuck with California native plants, I admit I have been flirting with Australia lately. I’ve always been a sucker for an accent.

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Some of the oddest looking plants in the world can be found in the land down under and lucky for you, they are showcased in this article by Nadina Hughes. I love her blog, you too will love it.

This plant is called a Desert Pea and is protected by the Australian government. No picking these little aliens, no sir. I’d love to have an army of these crawling across my yard. I wonder if I can find seeds for them.

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Here are a few more weird plants, some from Australia, some not. I love the bat faced one.

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Bat Faced Cuphea Photo by JKehoe
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Cannonball Tree Photo by Wahj
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Swaddled Babies Photo by Tim Waters

Then there’s this…  This is an Australian Baobab tree and that’s pretty much all I can say definitively about this picture. Why is this girl being swallowed by it (birthed by it?) and why does she look like Laura Ingalls Wilder? Apparently, these trees were used as jail cells once upon a time!?!

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This is a Corymbia Ficifolia and it’s a beautiful Australian tree, indeed one of the most spectacular in all the world. So fuzzy.

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And more fuzzy: Acacia trees. There are so many different types. Make sure to do your research though, some of them can be invasive in southern California. That means they can be bad breaker-uppers too.

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I’m having a love affair with Grevillea right now. I planted a Grevillea Long John in my front yard and it’s seductive. Grevillea have pine tree like needles on them and require very little water. They love full sun and scorching heat. Their best feature, however, would have to be the flowers that spring magically up and out like exploding firecrackers or caterpillars. There are so many different colors it’s dizzying and hummingbirds love them. Thank you, Australia. Behold!

Now, let’s not skip over the Australian plants that can kill you…or at least make you violently ill.

This pretty little Black Bean tree produces large pods filled with toxic seeds from March-May and will make you very very sick. I hate myself for loving you…

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One of the ten most poisonous plants on earth, the Strychnine Tree, also known as the semen strychnos (let’s be adults please) produces orange like fruits that contain neurotoxins. Ingest one of these and you’ll likely experience convulsions, paralysis, or may even die. It’s used in small doses in homeopathic medicine and in large doses in rat poison. I’m intrigued but I have to pass.

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There are over 2000 types of Euphorbia, most of which contain a toxic sap known to irritate the skin, eyes, and even cause blindness. I planted this Blackbird Euphorbia in my yard so yeah, duly noted.

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I see Angel’s Trumpets all over Los Angeles. Guess what? These Australian imports can be poisonous.

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Pitcher Plants are found in many places, not just Australia. They trap insects in their evil little vases and have been known to devour whole rats. You can buy them at California Carnivores.

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Deadly Nightshade and Oleander also call Australia home. Can everything in Australia kill you?

If danger and beauty are your thing, you can find many Australian plants at the magnificent Seaside Gardens in Carpenteria. Not only do they sell rare imported plants but they also have demonstration gardens for Australian, South African, and California natives. They were doing drought tolerant before we had a drought. You can also go to australianplants.com and order some plants online.

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Finally, may I recommend Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart. Witty, informative, and chock full of great illustrations, Stewart will take you on a tour of the villainous botanicals lurking in your own back yard. Yes, Australia, we too can be devious here in the states. Maybe it’s because you’re beautiful, bad, and mysterious, but I believe you and I are made for each other, mate.

 

 

Freaky Fridays

Welcome to Freaky Fridays where I post links to the odd and the fantastic. Thank you to my friends, especially Sally and Andrea, who provided me with pure gold this week. Have a weird news story? Send it to dearmisshavisham@gmail.com

Breaking News (hardly): George Washington’s teeth weren’t made of wood says Smithsonian.

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Curbed wants you to party like the Bauhaus did and so does Miss Havisham.

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If you ever find yourself in Budapest, you simply must go to Memento Park which is essentially where all communist statues go to retire. After the fall of communism most of statues and monuments pertaining to that period of history were immediately removed from around Budapest. Here they now live for your viewing pleasure.

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The controversial practice of sin eating existed from Medieval times up through the early 20th century. Believe your sins can be consumed by another person leaving your soul free to enter the kingdom of heaven? The church sure didn’t think so.  Read all about it here.

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I am obsessed with this story. Read about the Russian family who lived alone in the Siberian wilderness for over 40 years then watch the video by Vice of the last surviving member of the family. They had no idea WWII ever happened.

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Love taxidermy, hate the idea of dead animals? These beautiful pieces by artist Kelly Jelinek may even be better than the real thing.

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And another:

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I’m not going to lie, I hate this furry nail trend as reported by Bored Panda. No person who actually needs to USE THEIR HANDS could have these. It has to be a joke or some runway fashion gimmick, right? Very teen wolf, baby.

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Only slightly less practical are the Guinness Book famous nails of Lee Redmond who owned the longest natural lady nails in the world. Sadly, Ms Redmond lost her nails in a car accident. She tells of her tragic loss here.

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Want to stay young forever? Try the vampire line of cosmetic procedures where blood is injected into your various body parts for a youthful undead glow. I’ve been bathing in the blood of doves for centuries, dearies. How do you think Elvira stays so young?

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And I leave you with some real life haunted houses for sale.

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May your weekend be fantastically fanatical.  xoxo