Sunday, January 13, 2019

Diamonds are a Girl's Best Spend . . .

 Rainbow Not Quite Rhombus Necklace

Dress: Speechless, Kohl's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Amazon
Belt: Marshalls
Blue and green bracelets: Cloud Nine
Yellow, rainbow, and pink bracelets: So, Kohl's

. . . as long as they're cubic zirconium or, better yet, plastic or shell and merely diamond-shaped, like the one in this here Rainbow Not Quite Rhombus Necklace.  I've recently gotten back into rainbow gumball necklace-making mode, and Rhombus is the simplest of the bunch.  It's kind of short too, which is why I'm not listing it.  Instead I'm looking forward to wearing it with lots of black tops and dresses.  And, of course, to a making many more rainbows. 

On the topic of things that are random, here's a quote from Anna Faris's book Unqualified:

"People who follow their creative passions are fascinating but also complicated, and they all have a tricky combination of narcissism and insecurity." (26)

Although Anna is referring to musicians, specifically musicians she dated, this piques my interest in terms of all artsy types.  Because it's true.  Putting one's stuff out there requires a confidence bordering on cockiness, an awareness that one's stuff is good enough to compete with other stuff on the world's stage.  The insecurity, I think, comes from realizing that not everyone is going to agree with you.  And that's very humbling.  To put your great stuff out there only to have its greatness questioned, mocked, and pelted with banana peels (or, rather, tomatoes.  Banana peels are for hilarious slipping.  Which works here too, if you like metaphors.) is enough to make even the vainest, most resplendent peacock run back to its nest.

By the way, I'm a fan of celebrity autobiographies because I like learning about stars and their childhoods and how they're secretly shy and eat ice cream and hate red carpets and watch bad TV and are just like us!  Even if I sometimes suspect it's not true.  But Unqualified strikes me as genuine.  I've seen Anna Faris on a bunch of talk shows, and she always seems so serious and sad, not at all like her bubbly TV and movie personas.  Of course, this could be due to her split from Chris Pratt.  But she still seems pensive and sensitive.  And that comes through in her book.

Anyway, Anna's comment on creativity reminds me of this more benevolent yet equally intriguing one from John O'Hurley, who is the spokesperson for Philly radio station BEN FM:

"Creativity is intelligence having fun."

I love that.  Because it's so much better when someone smart says, "Let's spray paint "Cowabunga Forever" on that billboard and then write a play about it," instead of "Let's write an equation, then balance our checkbooks."

Then again, O'Hurley, who spouts many a quirky and J. Peterman-like one-liner for the radio waves, also says this:

"The fun isn't in having nothing to do.  It's in having lots to do and not doing any of it."

Anyone who has whiled away a weekend watching ("Seinfeld"?) reruns amid piles of dirty laundry and dishes no doubt likes the cut of this jib.  Even if it's about laziness instead of creativity.  Unless laziness is a kind of creativity.  In which case, way to go, Peterman.

So, when it comes to spending money and time, fake and playful is better than real and real boring.  Which is not a clever sales tactic to influence you to buy this not-for-sale necklace.

It's just a reminder that diamonds come from blood and are no one's friend.

That was a dark note to end on.  Anyone who thinks it might cause them PTSD should focus on the part about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles instead.

And also that time when Peterman said, "It'll always be Burma to me."

Monday, January 7, 2019

Cake Talk: They Say it's Your Birthday

Yesterday, January 6, was the twelfth day of Christmas, a.k.a. the Epiphany, a.k.a the day that that guy or girl gets a partridge in a pear tree and a boatload of other weird stuff from his or her true love.  They say that love means never having to say you're sorry, but I say it means not sending someone you love live poultry.  Anyway, this year, January 6 was also the Golden Globes.  And, as usual, my birthday.  (Fun fact: Past Golden Globe winner Eddie Redmayne and I share a birthday and birth year.  You'll get why that's relevant later.)       

When it comes to birthdays, most people fall into one of two camps: people who love them and people who hate them.  Spoiler alert: I fall into the former (as does anyone who regularly writes about herself).  This year, I turned thirty-seven.  Ten or even five years ago, this would've struck me as en route to old and yesterday, as if on cue, one of my rogue white hairs resurfaced.  But then I got carded to sit in the bar at a restaurant.  So I'm going to say I broke even.

The husband baked me this cake.  It's a hummingbird cake, which, in case you don't know, is a spice cake with pineapples, carrots, and bananas (also walnuts, but I said no to those).  I'm ashamed to say that when he first told me he wanted to make it, I was less than gracious because I thought I wanted something -- gulp -- store-bought.  I didn't like the idea of someone else, even the husband, choosing my birthday cake flavor and, um, aesthetic.  Typing this now, that seems absurd.  But sometimes I have tunnel vision and choose style over substance (as evidenced by my use of the word "aesthetic" to describe baked goods).  In the end I realized that having a husband who loves me enough to make something special and personal from the heart for me (not to mention my family) is worth more than some designer stale cake that a minimum wage baker sweat/spit/dropped boogies in before going home to beat his chihuahua.  (Don't look at me like that -- you don't know what goes on at Entenmann's.)  The hummingbird cake was, of course, scrumptious, a cross between carrot cake and banana bread, both tropical and down-home delicious.  Also, it was lovely to look at, with a hummingbird not only in it (figuratively speaking; I think that's the pineapple), but on it.  We see you, "Portlandia." 

I'm not sure why I told that story.  It certainly doesn't put me in the best light.  Maybe because it helped me purge my conscience.  But also, I think, because it taught me that birthdays aren't just about you and what you want (or, for that matter, Eddie Redmayne).  They're about the people who love you.  That was a little more Hallmark network than IFC, but sometimes schmaltz can't be avoided.

That said, in the spirit of celebration -- and self-indulgence (because this is still my day, dangnabbit) -- here are a few recent-ish pics of me in outfits and settings I like.   

Pulling a face in my new parka. 

Crafty in the craft room (did I really just type that?!).  A prize goes out to anyone who can spot the Mr. Crabs, Hello Kitty, and creepy cupcake doll.  No promises that the prize isn't a chihuahua.  Or live poultry. 

With the husband post great cake debate.

Kickin' it before the big birthday hoedown.  Because, boots.

Love may mean never having to say you're sorry and not sending live poultry.  But sometimes it does mean swallowing a little crow.  

Or, in this case, hummingbird.  

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Boots Blues and Other Shoes: Patent Leather to Leather-like Plastic

Sweater: Wild Fable, Target
Skirt: Hollister, Marshalls
Boots: Two Lips Too, Zulily
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Barrette: The Tote Trove

From top, clockwise: Apt. 9, Kohl's; Union Bay, Kohl's; Simply Vera, Kohl's; Apt. 9, Kohl's

From top, clockwise: Two Lips Too, J. C. Penney's; Two Lips Too, Zulily; Penny Loves Kenny, Amazon; Penney Loves Kenny, Amazon

If you've been reading this blog long enough, then you know that I don't like winter.  That said . . . I love boots.  I love them with skirts, denim and otherwise, and I love them with dresses and jeans.  And not just because they're comfy and hide my gnarly, unpainted toenails.  There's just something irreverent (ironic?) and fun about making a fashion statement with something that was originally intended to block out the snow and muck out horse stalls.  Lately, I'm into ones that are western.  And because I'm a contemplative, avid collector kind of girl, I decided to photograph two groups of my favorite boots -- one featuring four pairs of citified kicks and another showing four pairs for camping out -- or should I say glamping out? -- at the ranch.

Taking these pics got me thinking about Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, which I read awhile ago.  It's Food Network chef Ree Drummond's autobiography, and in it she describes her transformation from country club princess to home on the range homemaker and the style evolution that came with it.  Before she met her husband, she worked in an office and dressed up every day.  She used to love lining up and polishing her collection of black high-heeled pumps.  (Of course, as a vegetarian, she also used to love pasta primavera, but that's a whole other facet of her transformation tale.)  Then she hooked up with her hubby, who she refers to as the Marlboro Man, and moved out to his isolated cattle ranch, where she morphed into the peasant blouse-wearing, steak-scarfing prairie princess (because I still have to get princess in there) that foodies and philistines alike know and love today.

I could relate because back in the day my own style had a harder edge.  (Also because I live next to an empty lot that kind of looks like a ranch.)  I didn't like wearing anything that looked provincial, and that included all things western.  But sometime between then and now I became more eclectic, and country-fried flair emerged as one of the key elements of my look.  Probably because it's homey and warm and, in the right hands, more crazy colorful than the raddest rave getup.  Also, because felt, which I use a lot in my accessories, has that same soft-yet-crunchy aesthetic.  Anyway, my favorite western accessory is (obvi) boots.  Because they show where you're going, and they show where you've been.  And because when you're on a ranch, literal, figurative, or otherwise, it's important to wear something that shows the cows who's heading the herd.  Even if that something is a pair of boots made of plastic instead of rawhide.

They won't know the difference.  They're cows. 

P. S.  I don't know what the "otherwise" is.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year: Black Sky Affair, Do Me a Solid

Sweater: Derek Heart, J. C. Penney's
Skirt: Decree, J. C. Penney's
Bag: Candie's, Kohl's
Shoes: Chase & Chloe, Zulily
Orange bangle: Mixit, J. C. Penney's
Yellow bangles: B Fabulous
Mint bangle: Decree, J. C. Penney's
Barrette: The Tote Trove
Blue heart ring: Delia's
Cupcake ring: A Self Portrait, Etsy

I don't drive at night.  It's not that I can't or even that anything awful happens if I do.  I just prefer to be on the road when the sun is shining.  It wasn't always this way.  In my twenties, I'd drive from Brigantine back home at all sorts of unlit hours after hanging with the husband (then boyfriend) without a thought.  Of course, before that I used to get on I-95, another fear-inducing activity, to see a guy I briefly dated who lived in North Jersey.  So maybe I was never a gutsy driver, just someone willing to put the pedal to the metal for love.  Anyway, one night about ten years ago, after the husband and I had moved in together, I went to my parents' house for dinner.  I was driving back to Brigantine and, as usual, got on the Atlantic City Expressway.  But I went out the in instead of the out.  I know, I know -- pretty awful.  Luckily, there was no one else around, and I was able to make a quick K-turn and be on my way.  But the experience shook me, and I decided not to drive at night anymore.  Between then and now, I've broken that rule a handful of times, sometimes with white-knuckled results.  The other night I found myself in a (potentially) similar situation.  I was leaving my parents' house just as darkness was beginning to fall.  The fact that it was still somewhat light out was helpful; it gave me the chance to get on the road and ease into driving before the sky turned completely black.  But even once that happened, I still felt relaxed, singing along to the radio and in control as the miles melted.  And I thought, maybe this should be my New Year's resolution, to drive at night, at least once in a while, when I know where I'm going and am wide awake and not at risk of being distracted by billboards.  Then again, I don't really believe in resolutions.  And even if I did, then I would rather go with something like buy duplicates of all the beauty products I use daily and stash them in my glove compartment (which isn't as much of a cop-out as it sounds; on Christmas Eve I made the husband turn around on the way to my parents' house because I'd left my Cherries in the Snow lipstick in another purse.)  Still, I'm not going to go all dramatic and "resolve" to do anything.  I'll just be more open-minded about venturing out after the sun's said goodnight.  And, of course, about stocking up on lipstick.

That said, this week I focused on something else dark and dangerous -- or at least, something that seems that way but most certainly isn't.  I'm talking about this Black Beauty Necklace (no horse jokes, please.  Unless they're about bronies).  I don't know about you, but sometimes, in some outfits, I find myself looking for a solid-colored necklace.  But Tote Trove Lady, you may be thinking, that doesn't make any sense.  You're all about being a crayon box full of color!  (Because in my imagination, you too have a thing for alliteration and cutesy metaphors.)  And to that I'd say, well obvi.  But when you love color as much as I do, then you have lots of colorful tops and dresses, and every so often, instead of adding even more bands to the rainbow, what you really want is a nice, monochromatic piece to anchor it all and make it look even brighter.  And more often than not, the shade for the job is good old-fashioned black.  So that's why I made Black Beauty.  What she lacks in color she more than makes up for in chunky statement beads -- bows, roses, and a heart, a treacly trifecta if ever there was one.  I'm really happy with how it (she?) turned out.  Especially how its (her?) inkiness pops against the sweater's bright stripes, as sharp and unforgiving as a goth chick tearing into a wall of Care Bears. 

The next time I'm night driving, I'll channel that dark goddess's chutzpah.  Minus the coffin purse and Happy Bear carnage.

So.  Whether you drive, take the train, or hoof it, safe travels.  And happy New Year.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas Carol Playlist Extended

This time of year, radio stations that have been blasting Rudolph and Andy Williams since Thanksgiving return to their regularly scheduled programs.  Which is as it should be.  Because you can take only so much of the "Twelve Days of Christmas," especially the versions with those weird lyrics about bringing just four colored lights for the tree.  (I'm looking at you, Andy.)  But as for the rest of the holiday hoopla, I feel like I'm just getting started.  Maybe that's because I finished decorating the day before Christmas Eve and plan to leave everything up until Martin Luther King Day.  Some people may think that's strange, but to me, when all the excitement/merriment/chocolate mint of the big day is over, it's finally time to sit back, cinnamon tea in hand, and enjoy all those festive garlands and scary Santas.  It's also the best time to score bargains.  Especially on decorations. 

Years of experience have taught me not to burst into Target or Macy's expecting mountains of discounted, glittery loot to fall at my snow boots, though.  The post-game shopping game requires more strategy.  Instead of expecting a garden of goods, I hunt for delicate dandelions and violets curling up from the sidewalk crack crannies of shelves and clearance bins.  This pay dirt is often half-hidden by the moss and weeds of stuff that's broken or just plain ugly (and yes, I know that most people consider dandelions to be weeds, but to this horticultural hoarder, they're the belles of the Christmas ball).  Like so much of life, post-holiday shopping is all about managing expectations.  So although I didn't unearth as much as I would've liked during my expeditions, I was pretty pleased to find this wreath for 70% off at Michaels (just $18!) and this trio of Lauren Conrad pastel pine trees for 70% at Kohl's (just $2.12 thanks to $10 in Kohl's cash!). 

Here's some other stuff that less holiday hustle and bustle gave me the chance to do:

1) Wear (and photograph) this Pretty Pompom Presents Barrette.  I've always wanted to make an accessory out of those tiny shiny packages they sell with the mini tree decorations in craft stores, and now I have!  I think the mini pompoms add that certain something.

Ugly sweater print top: Xhilaration, Target
Mickey & Minnie sweatshirt: Disney, Kohl's

 Pretty Pompom Presents Barrette

2) Take a proper pic of the husband's newest gingerbread creation: a castle!  

This is the first thing the husband built using his own homemade gingerbread instead of graham crackers.  It's been standing for a couple of weeks now and so has proved to be structurally sound.  I assume that it's also delicious -- emphasis on "assume," as half-month-old gingerbread doesn't make for the best eating (or the calmest colon).  Still, I was more than willing to gobble up the consolation prize of leftover gumdrops and Swedish fish.

3) Like most people, I visited with lots of family this week.  And most of them agreed that what everyone wants for Christmas after Christmas is to stay home in their pajamas all day.  There's just something about the go-go-go pace that comes with cranking out cookies, prettying up presents, and smiling like you mean it on demand all the time that makes you want to hibernate with a good book, Netflix account, and/or homemade tattoo kit (hey, I don't know what you're into) until March when Rita's reopens with free water ice.  Yep, the week after Christmas is that sweet spot of you-time (provided that you don't have pets or small children -- or parents -- in diapers) between the 25th and whenever you've agreed to rejoin the rat race. 

And that makes it truly -- sing it with me, Andy -- the most wonderful time of the year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A (Different Kind of) Christmas Story

Turtleneck: Wild Fable, Target
Sweater: Arizona Jean Company
Skirt: Kohl's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Macy's
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's

Dress: Xhilaration, Target
Shoes: Zulily
Bag: Macy's
Belt: Belt is Cool, Amazon
Bangles: B Fabulous
Ring: Making Waves
Lime stretch bracelet: Cloud Nine
Kelly stretch bracelet: Parade of Shoes

This post doesn't have a tongue stuck to a pole, a bunny suit, or a fishnet-clad leg lamp.  But it does have Christmas desserts made of felt (full of fiber and hands down the healthiest part of your holiday meal!) and a strange ornament from Christmas past.  

I made this ornament back in grade school.  I think it was for the tree in the school lobby or something.  Anyway, my mom found it in her ornament box while decorating her tree and told me I should have it.  (Okay, she plucked it off the back of her tree from land-of-misfit-toy-territory and said, "Take this.")  I had mixed feelings.  Although it was nice to see Greta again (she didn't have a name back then, but I think she's earned it now), I was also saddened by her bedraggled appearance.  Clearly, the attic had not been kind; the Greta I remembered was a bright-eyed kid full of holiday hope and wonder.  Now she looked like an old refuge who'd taken a tumble off a Douglas fir.  I had to do something.  So I brought her to makeover central, a.k.a. the craft room.  First, I cut off her weird, noose-like wire ornament hanger.  'Cause if that's not a metaphor for lost causes, then I don't know what is.  Greta could stand proudly on one of my shelves or tables; no more hanging from Douglas firs (or prelit faux pine Home Depot floor models that tip slightly forward) for her.  I didn't have any kelly green ribbon to replace the faded and fraying bows securing her braids, so I made do with some moss-colored satin.  I glued on fresh cotton balls to upgrade her to marvelous marshmallow status, then added rhinestones, sequins, and miniature pompoms for that homespun, church bazaar feel.  Is she perfect?  Hail no.  She looks like a reject from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or maybe a Russian majorette.  (Not that there's anything wrong with Russian majorettes; they're just not very Christmassy.)  But she's my majorette, and I'm happy to have her home for the holidays where she belongs.          

It just goes to show that a box of ornaments is like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you're going to get.  I hope that you too are reliving happy memories and making new ones with the people -- and creepy keepsakes -- you love. 

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Something from the Star: Bright Light, Lite Brite

Top: Candie's, Kohl's
Skirt (dress): Modcloth
Shoes: Circus by Sam Edelman, Kohl's
Bag: Princess Vera, Kohl's
Belt: Gifted

What do G. Love and the Special Sauce, Gremlins, and that Christmas light-like toy have in common?  They're all about lights and getting lit.  Although not necessarily in that order.  

Because Friday was the solstice, I thought it was a good time for a party look made for -- what else? -- northern lights and winter nights.  Enter this fluorescent frock, sparkly black top, and starry clutch  (holographic parka to ward off frostbite excluded.)  The top reminds me of an inky black sky, making for a spangled, albeit slightly smoggy backdrop for the brooch-styled barrettes.  I've worn it only once, to the movies.  This outfit, however, is ideal for clubbing in Juneau or Helsinki while downing mulled ciders and hot buttered rums.  Or, in my case, hot chocolates and herbal teas (see aforementioned sentence about me wearing this top to see Daddy's Home 2).  Because December is no time to guzzle the cold beverages so immortalized by the Sauce. 

So, about these barrettes.  I can't stop staring at them!  What can I say, their vivid colors and graphic shapes speak to me.  To make them, I decided not to fool with the craft store fare of openwork metal French and alligator clips and instead headed straight to the source, a.k.a. the grocery store grooming aisle, for Scunci and Goody.  These high-quality barrettes are comprised of French clips covered with durable plastic bars that make sturdy perches for cabochons.  The finished products make me think of candy, all colorful and shiny.  And yes, tasty.  Is it bad form to call one's own stuff tasty?  Not according to wannabe rap icon Big Tasty.  Then again, it's probably bad form to view the misguided middle kid from "The Goldbergs" as any kind of role model.  

One thing's for sure; these barrettes are a step up from the first barrette I ever made, which featured a weird, disembodied harlequin head.  I was about ten and big into harlequins, which were everywhere in the '90s.  Don't ask.  Anyway, the barrette was a big, gold-rimmed white plastic rectangle to which I affixed a ceramic sparkly green and purple turbanned head.  It was pretty heavy (figuratively and literally, clown motifs always being disturbing), and I don't think I ever wore it.  Kind of like how I rarely played with my Lite Brite set.  That was more of my sister's thing (literally; it was her toy.)  Maybe that was because of the if-not-menacing-than-unquestionably-unsettling clown head on the box.  The head that was most certainly that of a workaday circus performer and not a high-brow harlequin.  

It always comes back to clowns.  Maybe they're the ones we shouldn't feed after midnight.