Monday, November 11, 2019

Calling All Cacti: Late Bloom Baby Boom, Drink it In


Cactus cardigan: Collectif X, Modcloth
Cacti blouse: Amazon
Floral surplice top: Flying Tomato, Marshalls


 Arid Elegance Necklaces


Susan Green is a cool customer. She wears only black and gray, she likes rules, she collects cacti, and she never lets anything get in her way -- or, to use Mindy Kaling's parlance, she's a very busy woman who never has time for fun.  So, she's a classic rom com heroine.  And Sarah Haywood's The Cactus, which is a selection of Reese Witherspoon's book club, is the story of how this chick gets, well, lit.  Metaphorically.  Although there is a fair bit of wine drinking.


Forty-five-year-old Susan informs us, in her no-frills, straightforward way, that her mother has just passed away and that she's facing an unplanned pregnancy.  The father is a like-minded, no-nonsense professional with whom she had an "arrangement."   So, a boyfriend without the hassle -- or romance. She also has a ne'er do well younger brother who seems intent on ruining her life by swindling her out of her inheritance.  But he also happens to have this friend . . .

Ah yes, the friend.  The male friend who's appealing and funny and kind despite being a borderline ne'er do well too.  In this instance, he's Rob, the professional gardener, and his oat sowing days are behind him.  Now he's ready to put down roots, becoming a constant if held-at-arms-length fixture in Susan's life.  I know what you're thinking: we've seen this before!  Susan's the prickly, tough-skinned succulent, and Rob is the loosey-goosey horticulturist with the patience to penetrate her guarded layers.  Which makes this book sound like a bodice ripper and/or a Hallmark mush fest, but it's neither.  For one thing, there is zero sex, not even a kiss.  And the tiny bit of emotion that eventually does eke out is hard-won and all the sweeter for it.  


The thing about Susan is, she's the opposite of America's sweetheart (and not just because she's British) and of what the world expects women to be.  Instead of being warm and selfless, she's self-contained and standoffish, like one of those HBO antiheroes that it's hard to like.  That said, her inner sanctum can be an uncomfortable place.  She's so rigid that she sometimes seems inhuman, and her lack of self awareness can be as annoying as it is gently funny.  Here are a couple of glimpses into her head:

"It could simply be, however, that I was aware from an early age that a close relationship with a boy or man -- or indeed anyone -- would undermine my freedom, dilute my individualism, take up precious time and cause the unnecessary expenditure of emotional energy.  Looked at logically like that, it's astonishing that any rational person would want to engage in intimate relationships." (195-196)

"As you're aware, I've always been the author of my own destiny.  We can choose how to define ourselves, and I define myself as an autonomous and resourceful woman.  What I lack in terms of family and other close personal relationships is more than compensated for by my rich inner life, which is infinitely more constant and dependable." (205)

From Susan's point of view, she's protecting herself.  Why throw caution to the wind in an unstable world when you can craft your own custom, temperature-controlled solarium full of indestructible, botanical wonders?  Yet despite all this, or maybe because of it, I can't help but like her.  Especially when she shares some story from her past that's so sad you want to be that one kid she can turn to when she's alone on the playground.  And that's what keeps the reader -- and, I imagine Rob -- interested.  Speaking of which, this is what he has to say:

"He picked up each of the containers in turn, remarking that several of the plants were pot-bound and would soon cease to thrive if they weren't repotted.  And light, too, he said -- they would benefit from being in a position with more direct sunlight, at least six hours a day.  I must say, although I may have been impressed by his expertise in plant cultivation, I was more than a little disgruntled.  I've managed to nurture some very impressive specimens without anyone else's interference.  Admittedly, none of them has ever bloomed, but that's a detail." (217)

Rob is saying that Susan's doing a mostly fine job with her cacti -- but that they'd be better off with some changes.  Predictably, Susan bristles, going as far as to say so what if her plants have never bloomed?  But she knows, deep down, that Rob's right.  Because although green (and indeed Green) can symbolize a tough as nails cactus, it can also mean inexperience and vulnerability.  As accomplished as Susan is in the rest of her life, she's awkward when it comes to people.  Which is mostly fine; we don't all have to be social butterflies!  Still, in (tentatively) accepting Rob's friendship and, yes, in having a baby, she discovers that sometimes -- even for a cactus -- companionship can be nice.

The Cactus is a lovely story, a kind of middle-aged coming-of-age.  Also, it's refreshing to read about a suitor who's not, even once, the proverbial prick.

Cactus humor, you never let me d(r)own.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Old School Rules: Blink if You're Color Blind






There are two '90s bands that make no ophthalmology apology: Third Eye Blind and Blink 182.  Blink had the punk and the grit; Blind had the pop and the wit.  Is that an oversimplification for the sake of a rhyme?  Totes.  But simpler times are the name of the game.  And like these eyes, I make no apologies.

Although Blink 182's new album "Nine" is nowhere near as good as "Enema of the State,"I liked listening to it.  And not just because I was hypnotized by its rainbow case cover.  But because it brought me back to a simpler time.  Kind of like how looking at these outfits brings me back to the simpler time that was September.  (I've seen you on my lawn, Mr. Frost, and you are not welcome.)  Then again, the first single from "Nine," "Blame it on My Youth," describes harder times and a past that's about as romanticized as store brand mac n' cheese.

I guess some simpler times aren't so simple.  Which is why it's best to move on and get to the good stuff.

And in this case, the good stuff is Gouda. 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Bear Flair: The Joy of Corduroy


Mauve, white, teal, and raspberry minis: Wild Fable, Target
Tan mini: Celebrity Pink, Macy's
Lilac mini: Modcloth
Pants: LC Lauren Conrad, Kohl's

The last time I blogged, it was October, and it was about jackets.  Now it's November . . . which means time for corduroy!  It doesn't get much more retro than this elegant yet rustic ribbed velvet that's most at home with Led Zeppelin and love beads.  Also, Adam Sandler's "Thanksgiving Song" ("my favorite kind of pants are corduroys"), which I guess is retro now too, having come out in the '90s.

So, yeah, I like this fally fabric, as evidenced by the picture above.  But someone else likes it beary much, too.  There are lots of famous grizzlies out there: the Berenstain Bears, the Care Bears, even, if we're to count that strange cartoon, the Gummy Bears.  But only one wears stylin' green overalls.  And that's our story's star, Corduroy.


A sweet and curious underdog if ever there was one, this library darling remains at the top of children's woodland creature wish lists (because yes, that's totally a thing).  And no wonder.  He's so much cuddlier than that creepy Teddy Ruxpin. 

Anyway, for those of you who don't know, the first book, Corduroy, introduces the title character as languishing in a toy store with a missing button.  Then a little girl named Lisa busts open her piggy bank and buys him.  She brings him home and, with some surprisingly deft needlework for a child, restores him to his former sartorial splendor.

Yet it's the second book, A Pocket for Corduroy, that captured my Pre-K imagination.  Lisa brings Corduroy to a laundromat, which is fun because there are lots of colorful pictures of clothes.  She tells Corduroy to stay put while she does her laundry, but he sees something with a pocket and wanders off because, hey, he wants a pocket too!  A kindly, beret-wearing artist washes Corduroy's overalls (and, in fact, mistakenly washes him!).  But then it's closing time, and he leaves Corduroy to brave the night alone.  To be fair, he does say he's "too fine a fellow to be lost."


Corduroy gets into some mischief involving detergent (because really, who hasn't?) and gives himself a bit of a fright.  But the next morning Lisa finds him.  He tells her about the pocket (apparently he's not one of those talking toys that hides his powers), and she promptly takes him home and stitches a snazzy purple one to his overalls.  

I think it was Corduroy's commitment to clothes that got me.  He understood the importance of details and wasn't afraid of a little danger if it meant snagging his look.

Take a hint, Snuggles, and put on some pants.    

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Haunt Jaunt: Jackets and Jack-o-Lanterns


Halloween means spooky times, tons of treats, and a chill in the air.  It's the chill that brings the thrill, of course -- the thrill of breaking out jazzy jackets!  Um, don't you mean costumes, oh esteemed Tote Trove lady?  No.  I mean jackets.  Because a jacket is a lot like a costume -- colorful, fun, and cape-able of turning anyone into anything.  Here's the cream of my top layer crop.  Two are oldies but goodies; one is as fresh as roadkill.   


This first jacket is a Wild Fable favorite.  Sure, it's more "Saved by the Bell" than Satan's ball.  But I'm willing to let that slide because of my hair horns. 


And here's the new kid on the blog, decked out in day-glo.  Sorry, Joseph A. Banks, but Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat has claimed this happening hoodie.  It's from Dolls Kill by way of Delia's.  Which, if you ask me, is pretty Halloweeny.  Most Dolls merch is mucho edgy.  To give you an idea, it comes packaged in black bags emblazoned with a knife-wielding Kewpie.  It's a sight that never fails to unnerve me.


And finally, faux fur fires up stormy denim.  Black is a fitting shade for this day of undead and its feathered friend -- or perhaps I should say feathered Poe.  Nevermore, "That's So Raven," said some Nickelodeon exec at some point one day.  Mr. Foe (for I've made my decision; this foul fowl is not to be trusted) is the only frightening thing in this picture.  Unless you count my closed-eye smirk of a creepy doll impression.  Watch out, Kewp, I'm coming for you.


You could probably tell by my tongue-in-cheek tone, but I like Halloween only a little.  And even then, it has to be playful as opposed to spine tingling.  Observe the quirky cute cover of this murder mystery in which a mean woman dies in a way that's not at all gory.  


The husband, on the other hand, likes Halloween a lot, and the darker and more macabre the better.  (Who do you think bought that raven?)  This is his beloved reproduction of a Van Gogh self-portrait that haunts our hallway every October. 


The husband and I agree that Vinnie was a sad, misunderstood man who died way too young.  Even if he did want to marry to his cousin.  

Speaking of which . . . whoa.  It's a Poe-Van Gogh crossover.  Two dark dudes and artistic geniuses who had the hots for their uncles' offspring.  Who would win in a weird, tortured, incestuous-even-though-it-was-olden-times, dead guy contest?

My money's on Vinnie.  People who cut off their own ears mean business.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Video Grilled the Radio Star: Fry No More, Cyborgs, We've Bot You





Top: Wild Fable, Target
Skirt (a dress!): Macy's
Shoes: Chase & Chloe, Zulily
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Belt: Gifted
Purse Charm: Betsey Johnson, Macy's

If it's wrong to blog about a book just because you like its cover and title, then I don't want to be right.  The book in question is Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, which is a novel by Robin Sloan.  Still, I'm a little ashamed to be slamming it, however gently, even if I am more enamored with its green screen-slash-book spine cover art than its contents. 


Penumbra is about an out-of-work web designer who takes a job in a super old bookstore owned by the super old and kindly if eccentric Mr. Penumbra.  Of course, it's no ordinary store, but the front for a covert operation.  Which I realize makes it sound like the Mafia's running narcotics through The Chronicles of Narnia or somethingBut that isn't what's going on.  (For one thing, the stock doesn't lend itself to Narnia or much of anything that anyone's heard of.)  The secret is more of the Harry Potter variety, with a little "Silicon Valley" tossed in, and the result is less than compelling.  Yet although the mystery is unsatisfying, Sloan's writing style is anything but.  Succinct and steeped in the dry wit that's the parlance of hipsters and techies, it hints at the promise of something.  And it's a something that I plan to further explore in another Sloan book, Sourdough: or, Lois and her Adventures in the Underground Market.  This one is about an engineer who turns her career bitterness into baked goods.  So, rebellious and homespun, not to mention feminist.  Sounds like a bake-off blue ribbon winner to me.     

Which kind of sort of brings us to this post's Work That Circuit necklace and earrings.  They combine not only the aesthetics of the techie and girly, but the idea of the machine meeting the human, of the lab blurring with the late-night rager.  Which begs (okay, very quietly and perhaps apologetically whispers) the question: Are PCs and people so different?   

Um, yes.  Yes, they are.  Unless you count Alexa among your nearest and dearest.

I guess Penumbra's not the only one peddling dead-end puzzles here. 

Somewhere out there Mr. Sloan is hate-smiling. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Diamond in the Stuff

Candie's, Kohl's

If you're a regular reader, then you know that I think that the '90s were a fine time for fashion.  The glam '90s, that is, not their flannel and combat boot-clad but arguably hipper, fresh-from-reform-school stepsisters.  Skinny belts?  Pleather skirts?  Hard Candy nail polish with those cute matching rings?  Check, check, and check please!  Back when girl world was ruled by Sassy and Wet Seal, this was a look I loved in all of its sweet-tart, holographic glory.  Just toss me a pair of clunky loafers, and I'm back in eighth grade again.  On second thought, don't.  Funky loafers or not, I'd rather be courting forty than stuck at thirteen.

You know what else came from the '90s?  Jewel.  She gave us "Who Will Save Your Soul," "I Was Meant for You," and "Foolish Games."  And then she gave us "Intuition," that club song that became a jingle for the Schick razor of the same name.  On the one hand, I thought that it made her a sellout.  But I also got that she didn't want to go back to that van.

Crazy thing: I was all set to publish this post when I received this as a freebie in my Zulily package:


It's like Zulily was reading my mind.  I couldn't not photograph it.  Talk about, ahem, intuition!

Speaking of jewels from days gone by, here's a trio of tops that have three '90s things going for them:


Satin 

Or rather, high shine polyester that's the reigning queen of wash-and-wear-if-you-dare.  

Leopard 

It's subtle yet slick and gently embossed.  Like that other '90s fabric, brocade.  

Jewel Tones 

Behold a yellow brick road of ruby, topaz, and fuchsia!  I challenge anyone who says that this last Barbie shade doesn't belong with gemstones.


They say good things come in threes, and I think I've proved it.  Then again, they also say that about deaths.  Clothing-wise, that applies more to leather.

You know.  Cows.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Spend and Snap: Perks Every Time





Top: POPSUGAR, Kohl's
Floral skirt: Stoosh, Macy's
Peach skirt: Amazon
Shoes: Jessica Simpson, Ross
Bag: Xhilaration, Target
Belt: Wet Seal

Ah, the bend and snap.  A time-honored, much-documented parlor trick for snagging a man's attention.  Actually, I don't know about much-documented, as the only place I've seen it is in Legally Blonde.  But the dance number that exploded in that Cambridge salon was enough to convince me that it was something that girls in the know knew about.


The same can be said about barrettes (also brunettes, but that's an argument for another day).  They may not have an 83% return rate on a dinner invitation, but they do offer a 100% guarantee that you won't eat alone.  Which is to say that your barrette buds will always be with you at the breakfast buffet.  As long as you can cough up the couple of dollars to pay for them and your coffee.

Yep, barrettes are the bomb (remember when people said that?).  Here are a brunch, er bunch, that I didn't make:


Some are as photogenic as a Christmas ham, whereas others look like they oozed out from under a seven layer salad (I see you, sequins.  Beauty queens and kidney beans are the only Bs where you belong.).  But in the end that doesn't matter because they're all part of one big, happy hair family.

So, locks and lox, perfect together.  Just as long as you don't find a hair on your bagel.  

Which is why -- barrettes or not -- I steer clear of buffets.