Thursday, April 9, 2020

Paper Products Party for Two

Or maybe I should say "paper products party of two."  Like the husband and I are cloistered on a quarantined craft cresting atop choppy waters.  Only, it would be more of a houseboat than a rickety sloop, what with a roof and running water and regular deliveries from Target.  By the way, that's where I got these napkins (Target, that is, not a houseboat).  As you know, paper goods are tough to come by these days, and I was feeling discouraged on Target's site until I detoured into the party section.  There I discovered such a collection of colorful cocktail serviettes that I felt like I was planning a booze cruise.  When I mentioned this on that family-wide FaceTime app known as House Party, my brother-in-law said, "You better not let Governor Murphy hear you say that!"  He refers, of course, to New Jersey's fearless leader known for fining people for throwing parties.  The most recent was a DJ-led rager that took place mere miles from the statehouse.       

Deadly virus or not, I guess some people just have to get their groove on.

Anyway, when the napkins arrived, they seemed like a bounty.  Now I'm reluctant to open them for fear that they'll dwindle faster than my Nature Valley almond butter biscuits.  Between us, the husband and I polished off fifty in less than two weeks.  That said, I did score a box of industrial-grade (i.e. nearly nonabsorbent public restroom) paper towels from Amazon.  I was so excited you might think it was a new Betsey bag!  Yet with these too I plan to exercise caution.  Normally, I go through paper towels like, well, almond butter bars, the evidence piling up Leaning-Tower-of-Pisa-style in my bathroom trashcan.  But rationing the finer fibers in life has taught me to be more careful.  For example, I've been using dishtowels and bath towels whenever possible and thinking, "Is this what it feels like to be environmentally responsible?  It isn't so bad!"  It's funny how much you can do with a little when you have to.  Somewhere out there a tree's thanking me.

I hope it's an oak.  No, a redwood.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Duck Duck Truce: Crayon Box Rocks

Welcome to another exciting edition of rhyme time!  That's right, I wrote a new poem, and it's about the duck decoys on my mantel.  They say that when you spend a lot of time alone, you start talking to yourself and/or inanimate objects.  In this case, the objects are talking to me -- or rather, to another inanimate object, my faux forsythia wreath.  Anyhoo, I call the poem Flighty Ducks Get Their Wings Clipped -- for reasons that will soon be clear.

The four little ducks
In this pic had a fight
Each wouldn't give in,
Each thought he was right.

But the wreath below them
Was upset by their strife
And said they should stop
If they valued their life.

That gave the ducks pause
And they shut their beaks
For only fools quack
When a wise woman speaks.

The wreath smiled sweetly
And glowed like the sun
She wasn't just decor
For good times and fun.

I was once like you,
She told the four ducks
Ungrateful and selfish
And out for big bucks.

But then a wise antelope
Showed me the way
And soon I gave thanks
For each gift of a day.

Thank you, wreath lady
Chorused the quartet
We'll be good to each other,
We'll be our best yet.

No need to thank me
Replied the gold wreath
Just help one another
And treasure your teeth.

"Wait, what?" said the ducks.  "We don't have any teeth!"

But the wreath was already gone.  In her place was the grinning face of Emilio Estevez.  His smile was mostly toothless, and The Mighty Ducks theme song was playing in the background.  The duck decoy on the end screamed; the duck next to him muttered that he would've preferred to hear music from St. Elmo's Fire.   

Me too, duck one space from the end, me too.

This post isn't just about repentant waterfowl and underdog athlete flicks.  It's also about Crayola crayons and the Hard Rock Casino, two artsy icons at opposite ends of the rainbow paint palette spectrum.  Crayons are wholesome (even when eaten, they're nontoxic), whereas rock and roll is all rebel yell (although I realize how unhip it is to reference Billy Idol instead of Billie Eilish).  They have nothing in common.  Except for maybe when the waitress at the Hard Rock Cafe brings little Katie a pack of crayons.   

Well, that and they're both built for expression.  Which is obvious given my unfortunate air guitar performance in the pic above.  The husband took it back in January, or, as I like to call it, "the time that came before" (the coronavirus).  And although it's true that I had a good time, it wasn't as good as the time I'm having now. 

Right, Emilio? 

I quack myself up.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Clean Food, Cool Dude: Inside Voices, Please

Enchanted Eats Necklace

Tee: Macy's
Skirt: POPSUGAR, Kohl's
Shoes: Cape Robbin, Ami Clubwear 
Bag: Betsey Johnson, gifted
Sunglasses: Michaels
Red Belt: Tahari, Macy's Backstage
White Belt: Belt is Cool, Amazon
Barrette: The Tote Trove

The coronavirus quarantine might have slowed the globe down.  But that doesn't mean we're not still moving.  Still life?  More like chill life -- if this wayfarer-wearing pineapple has anything to say about it!  And he does.  Most notably, pass the sunscreen and salsa. 

This too-cool-for-school tee is another member of my super elite, never-worn-it-in-real-life club.  I ordered it from Macy's a while back, along with the one that says Fanta.  I can see myself rocking it with a hoodie and sweatpants while I slather my Fage with Softsoap. 

I don't know about you, but I'm getting a lot of emails from stores pushing the whole "look hot at home" angle.  As in, don't stop buying our products just because the world is on lockdown.  And I think, well, I'm one of those people who dresses up all the time, but even I don't wear heels to do dishes. 

I am getting a new perspective on clothes and the role they play in my life, though.  For example, it's weird how they can both expose and protect, kind of like a Madonna cone bra.  Or, for the non-icons among us, something as seemingly simple as a day-glo pink sweater.  The color exposes me/you as someone who's out there, but it protects me/you from others, too.  As in, don't-mess-with-this-mama, she's out there; leave her be with her out-there thoughts.     

In other words, like Colbert and those snarky sweatshirts, I was social distancing before it was cool.

Here's hoping that you go the distance too, whatever it means, whatever you do. 

And also, in these days of isolation, that you don't morph into Dr. Seuss.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Green Queen: Mistress Marilla

I've always been suspicious of prequels, sequels, and alternate versions of classic books written by people other than the original authors.  It's why I passed on the not-Margaret Mitchell's Scarlett and the not-Daphne du Maurier's Mrs. de Winter.  Although I do recall watching the Scarlett miniseries on TV as a kid with my mom and sister.  Remember network miniseries?  And Sunday night movies?  If not, then picture a Lifetime movie airing on CBS every Sunday after "Murder, She Wrote."  Oh, '80s and '90s, you made cheesy melodrama worth staying up for.  Even if that cheese, much like its lactose-laden inspiration, gave us nightmares.  (If my mother is reading this, then I feel honor-bound to say that not one of those soaps stirred up bad dreams.  That was just a bit of hyperbole.  It takes more than a wedge of Gouda and Judith Light whaling on her husband to mess with my sleep.)

Yet despite -- or because of, I'm not quite sure which -- my eternal love for Anne of Green Gables, I gave Marilla of Green Gables a chance (which you probably saw coming a mile away, given the wide berth I gave Meg and Jo).  Written by Sarah McCoy instead of L. M. Montgomery, this prequel is Marilla Cuthbert's origin story.  Known to grown-up little girls and book lovers the world over, Marilla is the iconic, no-nonsense closet softie who opens her door -- both literally and figuratively -- to give Anne Shirley a home.  She's middle-aged when we meet her, a gray-haired spinster living with her bachelor brother on the family farm in Avonlea.  She's proper, she's stern, she's set in her ways, and she's downright disgruntled when the orphanage sends her a wisp of a girl instead of a strapping boy to work her farm.  At first.  But her kind heart lets the endearingly eccentric Anne stay, forging a bond that will change them forever.

Still, one can't help but wonder: Just how did Marilla end up alone in the first place?  Sarah McCoy explores this question, using it for the foundation for her irresistible novel.  She shows us Avonlea as it was forty years before Anne ever set foot there.  It's a more austere, pioneery sort of place than the fairy tale land we see through Anne's eyes.  But it honors the spirit of Montgomery's magic, its seemingly simple descriptions of small town life seeping into the soul.

Marilla of Green Gables starts in 1837 and ends in 1860.  At the start, thirteen-year-old Marilla is the daughter of modest, hardworking people.  Her older brother Matthew is painfully shy, and none of the Cuthberts are demonstrative.  But they love each other deeply even if they seldom say so.  Still, Marilla feels her reserve melt away when she starts spending time with handsome John Blythe. 

"They sat together under a canopy of meadow grasses and a sky of spun sugar.  Marilla's heart still beat fast from the dance.  John's did too.  She felt the pulse in his fingertips.  From the magazines she'd read, she thought she'd feel embarrassed or ashamed to be holding a boy's hand.  The same way she felt holding the pages of the romance quarterlies.  But she didn't.  She only felt John: simple, solid, and true." (110)

Wait.  Hold up.  Blythe, do you say?  As in Gilbert Blythe, Anne Shirley's one true love and husband?  Yes!  Apparently, in Anne of Green Gables, Marilla tells Anne that people used to call John her beau.  But I'd forgotten that.  Not so for McCoy.  This brief but telling revelation sparked her need to write this book and get to the bottom of what happened between John and Marilla to cause Marilla to end up -- to use the term of the time --an old maid.  McCoy draws upon the themes of pride, duty, and the passage of time that influence the plots in so many of Montgomery's novels.  At times, McCoy's writing is so like Lucy Maude's it's as if the late author herself is writing through her.  One marked difference, though, is the prominence of historical events and -- but, of course -- feminism.  McCoy takes us on a sometimes somber journey that encompasses Canada's fight to split from Mother Britain as well as the American Civil War.  At one point, Marilla witnesses the public hanging of some "radicals" and is horrified by the way the onlookers laugh:

"They were too young to understand that life is ephemeral while death is permanent.  These weren't her children or children of Avonlea, and yet they pained her.  Like a tendon tethered to splintered bone." (198)

Marilla's own Aunt Izzy, a dressmaker in Charlottetown, offers her home as a safe house for runaway slaves.  Marilla is proud, reflecting that her aunt couldn't have made such a difference if she'd stayed in Avonlea and married a local boy as planned.  Instead, she uses her talent with needle and thread to offer refuge:

"Their costumes were their salvation, transformative as Cinderella on the night of the ball, and Izzy was their fairy godmother."  (238)

McCoy also examines what it means to be a wife and mother, and it isn't always as idyllic as the Avonlea of old would have us believe.  Poverty, farm chores, and mouths to feed conspire to create a life that is oftentimes drudgery.  Women are discouraged from speaking their minds, and many succumb to sickness and even death as a result of childbirth.  Still, Marilla of Green Gables needs to be told because it speaks its own truth and sets the stage for everything that comes after it.  If Marilla and John had married, then there would never have been an Anne or a Gilbert.  It's because they didn't that Anne and Gilbert come into the world, cross paths in Avonlea, and fall in love.  Which is the way it's supposed to be.  Like Marilla and John 2.0.  But not.  And that's the bittersweet part, I guess.

So, you see, I had no choice but to read Marilla of Green Gables.  Even if I eschewed Scarlett and
Mrs. de Winter.  Because I'm a fool for an origin story. 

And because I never loved Gone with the Wind or Rebecca the way that I've always I loved Anne.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Room of My Own: Part 2

If my closet is a tranquil retreat, then my craft room is a cave of chaos.  Just kidding.  It's pretty tranquil there, too.  I spend many a happy hour soaking in its colorful comfort, making stuff and watching TV.  This is what I look like when I'm at it:

Very different from my coiffed pics, I know.  The husband took the first and third outfit pics just this past week.  There was something kind of funny about changing out of my quarantine couture (i.e., pjs) into real clothes, makeup and all, then scrubbing my face and putting my pjs back on.  Funny and satisfying, like I had the best of both worlds.  And like I was putting something over on the world, too.  

Remember our pal Tammy Torso?  My true blue (and red and yellow and green . . .) outfit model?  Now that I photograph my outfits on the floor (and on myself), she's joined the ranks of the retired.  Which means that she gets to live a life of leisure next to my stock boxes, forever clad in two crinolines and an old crop top that never quite fit.    

No doubt about it, having a room (or two) of one's own is sweet.  That's why Cheryl is so upset when her she-shed burns down in that Allstate commercial.  I know that I'm super grateful for my rooms and all the peace they give me.    

Because every woman needs a place where she can hide out from the world for awhile.  

And also stash her mannequin.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Ship Shape Escape: Family Feud Unglued

I was on Amazon when I found a book by an author I'd never heard of.  The book was The Floating Feldmans, the author was Elyssa Friedland, and it caught my eye because of its cover.  I liked the way the characters' faces peeked through the ship portals, my favorite being Mr. Man Bun. 

So, I added it to my wish list, and my sister got it for me for Christmas.  Last week I finally tested its waters.  Which is a dramatic way to talk about diving into a book, but you never know with new authors.  Or new anything.  It's like that "Seinfeld" episode where Jerry takes Bania out to dinner (and lunch) in exchange for a suit and mocks Bania's always-annoying commentary.  That is, if you order your go-to meal, then you know it'll be good but the same.  If you order something new, then you get to have something different, but it might not be as good.  To quote Jerry verbatim, "it's a gamble."  And that's just how I felt before embarking on The Floating Feldmans.  Which is fitting, because the novel's about a cruise and cruises are all about food.  Also disease, not to put too fine a point on it in the current coronavirus climate.

Anyway, the Feldmans are complicated.  You've got overbearing mom Annette and distant dad David with two grown children: overachieving daughter Elise and slacker son Freddie (he of the man bun).  Elise has an overachieving daughter, Rachel, and slacker son, Darius, of her own.  She also has a nice-guy husband, Mitch, making for a neat parallel with her bro's trophy girlfriend, Natasha, who, is also -- you guessed it -- nice!  "Wait a minute," you may be thinking, "How can a slacker dude score such a babe?  Are things -- dun dun dun -- not what they seem?!"  To echo the sound of the ship's casino . . . jackpot!  This family has more secrets than a prostitute's diary, and they all come out on the Ocean Queen.  It's all hands on deck for domestic discord, with jaded cruise director Julian at the helm.  Friedland pulls out every cruise ship cliche, from the passengers duking it out over the soft serve machine to the dorky dad sandals to the overpriced offshore excursions.  And it's hilarious!  Really, the perfect fly-on-the-wall situation where you can soak up all of the laughs and none of the calories -- or ptomaine.  Here are some of my favorite parts:

"How Elise craved that soaring spike in adrenaline that shot pins and needles to her extremities and sent butterflies to her stomach.  She sighed and looked back at her cart, fighting off the urge to calculate.  The total couldn't be much.  She had tossed in maybe eight or nine hardcovers at most, three frozen cakes, a few packages of T-shirts for Darius, and a bunch of sports bras she'd need now that she'd signed up for Class Pass." (11).

Yes, Elise's shameful secret is that she's a shopaholic.  Like Rebecca Bloomwood, but not as much fun and without the rich husband (Elise's better half is a journalist; need I say more?).  One of her more unfortunate splurges is family sweatshirts plastered with Annette's (rather angry) face, which she got on -- wait for it -- Etsy.

Still, all roads lead back to that other over-indulgers' paradise, namely the buffet:

"On average, passengers aboard the Ocean Queen consumed six thousand calories per day, sitting down to no less than five full meals.  The midmorning "snack" consisted of pastries, a full salad bar, and a taco station.  Afternoon tea was the least dainty meal Julian had ever laid eyes on.  Instead of finger sandwiches and bite-sized lemon tarts, the kitchen staff put out twelve-foot loaves of streusel from which the guests could hack off as much as they liked.  And, as far as Julian could tell, they liked a lot of streusel." (2)

"A middle-aged woman wearing a sweatshirt that said I Have No Cruise Control shouted, "Where's my free pizza?  I was told there would be free pizza." (134)

This book is zany.  But it's also a little dark and deep and gives you a look inside that cattiest of cliques: family.  Like the meanest of mean girls, the Feldmans manipulate one another and freeze each other out.  But unlike their middle school monster counterparts, they actually care about one another, a truth that surfaces like filet mignon from a sea of expired bologna.  And that's kind of comforting.  Because although families are never easy, they've always got your back.

Even if that back's wearing a day-glo sweatshirt emblazoned with the matriarch's mug.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Chandelier Cheer but Not Really; Also, Two Pastel Sweaters

Make no mistake.  The cheer is real.  It's the chandelier part that's in question.  And that's because only one pair of this post's earrings qualify for the ceiling decoration descriptor.

On a less glamorous note, the word "earring" reminds me of "earwig."  Which is a funny word that would be even funnier if it actually meant coiffure for the cartilage.

People talk about cartilage when they talk about ears, don't they?  I thought about that as I drew this ear.  I even outlined it in black Sharpie, no windows cracked.  Because when it comes to creating quality images, breathing is secondary.

You may recall that I don't wear earrings.  But I do enjoy making them.  I think that they're one of the daintiest yet most statement-making accessories that a woman can wear, and because of that they wield a lot of power.  Also, they detract from ear hair.

Blue Rebecca Rose Earrings 

Charlie Plain Chain Earrings 

Pink Rebecca Rose Earrings

And now for something I will wear: this pair of necklaces and contrasting spring sweaters.  

Purple sweater: American Rag, Kohl's; Mint (although it looks white) sweater: LC Lauren Conrad, Kohl's

I call the pink necklace Piece Offering, and I don't call the other one anything.  One day when I'm doing something mundane like killing a spider, the right name might come to me.  Something like Erstwhile Earwig.

Turns out that wasn't a spider.