Monday, January 31, 2011

Something New and Sparkly: Ice Cream vs. Fruits and Veggies

Fabulous Felt Farm Fresh Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Apples Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Ice Cream Cones Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

It's no contest when fruits and veggies are up against ice cream. But in Tote Trove land, the healthy stuff exacts its revenge by being much cuter than that beauty queen of food groups, dessert. Which is just a fancy way of saying that I wasn't too crazy about the way the ice cream necklace turned out.

In a completely unrelated note, I'd like to give a shout-out to Betty White, who won the SAG award for best actress in a comedy series for her role as Elka Ostrovsky on TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland." Whoo-hoo. Stay golden!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Something New and Sparkly - Felt with Valentine's Flair

Fabulous Felt Cherry Pie Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Hearts Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Chocolate Strawberries Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

There are felt remnants all over my house. Some of them are tiny, others not so tiny. I find them wedged between my sheets, floating in my bathtub, and ensnared in my lint trap. I know I should tidy my craft area more often to prevent such havoc, but I prefer to maintain (and grow) my remnant pile instead. Mostly because I think I'll end up working on a new necklace only to need a piece that I discarded (and I buy enough felt as it is), partly because I'm lazy. So, the siege continues.

In honor of my Fabulous Felt Cherry Pie Necklace, I thought I'd share my mom's Cherry Sweetie Pie recipe. Although I've never made it myself, I can vouch that it's full of decadent goodness.

Ingredients:
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 pint sour cream
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 jar cherry pie filling
2 baked pie shells

Directions:
Blend cream cheese and milk, add sour cream slowly. Then sprinkle on pudding. Reserve 1/4 cup of cherries for decoration, then add the rest of the cherries to the mixture. Spoon into pre-baked pie shells and garnish with cherries. Chill 1 hour.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Report: The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

"Meet Carrie before Sex and the City." That's what it says on the cover of Candace Bushnell's The Carrie Diaries, a prequel to that other book that launched the popular HBO series of the same name. The idea interested me. After all, "Sex and the City" offered us little information about Carrie Bradshaw's background or her early days in the city, dispensing only small clues couched in glib one-liners such as, "I came to New York wearing Candie's," and "Sometimes I'd buy Vogue instead of dinner; I felt like it fed me more."

I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't what I found. The Carrie Diaries takes place during Carrie's senior year in high school in a small Connecticut town, and it's all about those staples of high school drama, namely cliques, crushes, hookups, and back-stabbing best friends. It seems geared toward thirteen year-olds (for all I know, maybe it is) and made me glad that high school is far behind me. Furthermore, some of the details don't match up with those in the TV series and the two subsequent movies. For example, it turns out that Carrie is the oldest of three girls. Her father is a doting scientist and her mother has passed away. Yet there's an episode of "Sex and the City" in which Carrie blames her problems with men on her dad who ran out on her (which makes a lot more sense than her having a nice dad and a normal middle class upbringing when you think about it). Also, the second Sex and the City movie features a flashback showing how Carrie met each of the other girls. She bumps into Charlotte first, on a subway, Miranda second, in a department store, and Samantha third, when Samantha's still a diamond-in-the-rough bartender. Yet in The Carrie Diaries Carrie is dropped off by her father in the city only to have her purse stolen (to Bushnell's credit, this does happen in the movie), and is forced to borrow change to call a friend's cousin -- who just happens to be Samantha, who is already a successful advertising executive. These are all subtle discrepancies, I know, but it's hard to believe in characters when their back stories flip-flop like that.

Still, even disappointing stories have redeeming qualities, and The Carrie Diaries is no different. I enjoyed the parts about Carrie becoming a fashionista and a writer. An edgy girl in a conservative town, she wears vintage white go-go boots the first day of school (much to the horror of her best friend) and reinvents a destroyed designer handbag left to her by her mother by painting her name all over it in pink nail polish. Always creative, Carrie has been dreaming up stories since elementary school, but it isn't until she meets college boy George (no, not that Boy George) that she realizes the value of the old adage "write what you know" and begins documenting her own experiences in her high school's newspaper. Finally, we catch a glimpse of Carrie's budding feminist outlook as she relays memories about her mother, who went back to college for her architecture degree after having children, and who always taught her daughters that feminism isn't about being anti-feminine, but about living the life that you want. I liked that part. Critics and viewers have always argued about whether or not "Sex and the City" sends a feminist message. As in, are these women falling into the old trap of being obsessed with their appearance and attracting men? Or, are these women bending the rules of society, refusing to be tied down by husbands and children to build careers and do their own thing? As someone who's always been in the latter camp, I thought this section of The Carrie Diaries tied in nicely with the way Carrie's adult life unravels.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Something New and Sparkly - Glamorous and Strange

Fabulous Felt Jewels Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Makeup Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Outer Space Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

The jewels and makeup are what's glamorous; the alien is what's strange. I think I'll leave it at that.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jack Handey Quote of the Week and Something Extra

This week's Jack Handey quote isn't so much a quote as it is a story. It's called "Lowering My Standards" and comes to us from Handey's What I'd Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats, which my sister gave me for Christmas.

"As you may have heard, I have very high standards. When people see me do something, they often shake their heads in disbelief. That's how high my standards are.

But lately I've been wondering if maybe they're not too high. Am I pushing myself too hard? Do I always have to be the one everyone looks up to? Are my high standards hurting my happiness and things like that?

Why, for instance, do I always have to be the first one to show up at a party and the last one to leave? And while I'm at the party is it really so important that I tell the dirtiest joke? A lot of times, I'm the only one telling a dirty joke; why do I feel compelled to tell one that is even dirtier and more graphic? Just so I can be number one?

Why do I sometimes feel like I should get "a job" or do some kind of "work?" Does thinking about maybe getting a job make me better than other people? Am I worried that if I quit borrowing money from my friends they'll think I'm stuck-up?

When I catch my foot and stumble on the sidewalk, why do I have to pretend to keep stumbling, all the way down the street? To avoid embarrassment?

At every get-together, why do I have to do my funny cowboy dance? Why not do a dance that isn't so demanding, like my funny robot dance or just funny prancing?

Is it really my responsibility that half-empty glasses of beer not be wasted?

Whenever there's a scary sound at night, why do I have to do all the screaming? Maybe somebody else can scream and cry and beg for mercy, for a change.

Would the world really fall apart if I didn't point out to people which are the regular goldfish and which are the bug-eyed ones? Let them figure it out on their own.

Why does it have to be me who ends up asking how much someone paid for something? Everyone is curious.

Could a sock really be a parachute for a mouse? Maybe not, but does that mean I have to stand up in the middle of the movie theater and start booing?

Why do I always have to be the one who sums up what was just said, or explains to the children what Hell is, or calls the meeting to order?

These are all questions I would never even have asked myself until that incident with Don. Every day my friend Don and I would see who could trip each other the most times. But then one day I tripped him and he fell and broke his jaw. He looked up and, with slurred speech, said, "I guess you win." But what did I win? I didn't win anything, and you know why? Because I forgot to make a bet with him. But something else was wrong, and I knew it. Why did I want to trip Don in the first place? To show how clever I was, or how brave, or how successful? Yes, all of those things. So I guess that answers that.

Still, something about it bothered me. I decided to drive up to a cabin in the mountains. For a week, all I did was sit and think and watch a lot of television. How, I agonized during the commercial breaks, did I get such high standards? Was it something from my childhood, or my fraternity-hood? Was it from another lifetime, when I was in another fraternity? I wondered if my high standards were leading me to a heart attack. Then I thought, Yes, but it'll be the biggest heart attack anyone's ever had. I wondered if it was even possible for a person like me to lower his standards. Then I wondered if they still made Bosco. I became so confused and frustrated I began smashing things in the cabin. I wound up running headlong into the woods in a panic when the people who owned the cabin suddenly showed up.

As I drove back to civilization (as you squares call it), I had already made a momentous decision: I would keep thinking about the possbility of lowering my standards. Maybe, just maybe, I don't always have to do things so perfectly. Maybe when I ask someone a question I don't always have to begin it with the words "Pray tell." Perhaps I don't have to wear the fanciest fanny pack that money can buy. And when I'm at a dinner party, maybe I don't need to sniff every piece of food before I eat it. In short, perhaps I should worry less about doing the right thing and more about doing the right thang, whatever that means.

People may worry, "Isn't there a danger that if you start lowering your standards they'll go too low?" As far as I'm concerned, they can't go low enough." (28-31)

The something extra is this greeting card, also courtesy of my sister. On the inside it says, "If you ever catch on fire, try to avoid seeing yourself because I bet that's what really throws you into a panic." If memory serves, I think I posted this quote here not too long ago. Still, nothing beats hearing it being narrated in a cheesy voice set to even cheesier music. Not that you can hear any of that. (That would require too much technical maneuvering on my part.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Something New and Sparkly - Felt in Bloom

Fabulous Felt Bright Flowers Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Avocados Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Sunflowers Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

This is a cheerful trio, don't you think? I usually sketch my necklace designs before making them, but the sunflowers and bright flowers just came to me as I worked with the felt. Maybe by spring I'll have made a whole garden of them.

The Fabulous Felt Avocados Necklace was of less spontaneous origins. It had been brewing in my head for some time, so I was psyched to finally make it. Or at least I was until the other night when I'd nearly finished devouring two avocados only to find a fruit fly nestled in the bowels of the goopy remnants. Some people think that fruit flies are harmless. But they're not. They're evidence that larvae are lurking somewhere in your produce. Not that I looked this up or anything. But I did do that fruit fly experiment back in high school, the one where you tote vials of maggots in your backpack so that you may cross-breed the resulting flies and draw those horrid Punnet squares to figure out the probability of them having red eyes and whatnot. And that's all the proof I need.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Wait! I missed one - Treasury Time Revisited

I popped back into my Etsy shop's activity feed only to discover another piece, namely this Fabulous Felt Artist Palette Necklace, featured in a treasury. Angi Coastal Creations, http://www.angicoastalcreations.etsy.com/, put together this show-stopping Somewhere Caught in the Rainbow collection. Here's the link:

http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4d3d596890148eeff07a4931/somewhere-caught-in-the-rainbow

This has certainly made my day! And now if you'll excuse me, it's time to return to the workshop . . .

Treasury Time

Hooray for happy stuff! And for my Large Happy Hippo Tote being featured in Retro Revival Boutique's (http://www.retrorevivalboutique.etsy.com/) Super Happy Fun Time Treasury! Click here to check it out and click through:

http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4d3ce8df85ad8eef03778c65/the-super-happy-fun-time-treasury

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dazzling Discounts at Daffy's

Top, Rampage, Daffy's

Top, Rampage, Daffy's

Top, Takara, Daffy's
Tights, Me Moi, Daffy's

Top, Rampage, Daffy's
Tights, Steve Madden, Daffy's

The bf and I were in Philadelphia today when I decided to pop into Daffy's. I'd never been there before but remembered watching an episode of the Style Network's old "Fashion Police" in which Robert Verdi was interviewing a woman on the street about where she'd gotten her outfit, and she'd answered Daffy's. As a shopper most at home combing clearance rounders, I knew I had to take a look.

The bf and I rode the elevator past the department store's first four floors to the misses and juniors section. (There's just something about a store with an elevator that screams, hey, country mouse, welcome to the city!) When the doors opened, I was greeted to racks heaped with interesting options and made a beeline for those that were the most colorful. (Hey, old habits die hard.) I was happy to stumble upon three festively printed Rampage tops that seemed to call my name, all at rock-bottom prices. I scoured the rest of the area, acquired one more fun top, then tried on my take. Everything fit perfectly, so I sauntered to the register with all the bubbling anticipation of an impending purchase. My total came to $34.13. The most inexpensive item was one of the Rampage tops, coming in at a super-low $4.66. Take that, Macy's!

On our way back down we stopped off on the third floor to peruse the shoes and accessories. (Well, I perused. The bf was patiently waiting as my ever-faithful supporter and driver.) I love shopping for accessories even more than I love shopping for clothes, so I was in my element. I picked out four pairs of patterned stockings, one of which was Steve Madden. This time my total was $21.30. Nothing to sneeze at considering that each pair originally listed for $18.00.

Back at the ranch, I decided to model my new buys, mixing them with items already in my closet. (Call it Photo Shoot Friday withdraw if you will.) I easily found interesting matches and arranged them all on my bed (I used to do this all the time after shopping trips) so I could gaze upon all the cheerful colors and patterns.

I'll be sure to return to Daffy's for more bargain hunting whenever I'm Philadelphia-bound. Truth be told, I wish there were a store a little bit closer!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Treasury Time

Dessert Decadence Print, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/


I was super excited to see two of my favorite tote prints featured in treasuries today! Lucky Wishes Charms, www.luckywishescharms.etsy.com, included my Dessert Decadence Print in her color-packed and adorable - wait for it - Jell-O treasury! And Ruby Chimera, www.rubychimera.etsy.com, made my Fast Food print part of her fun and quirky Memoir of Random Movies treasury. You can check them both out - and click through - at the links below. (It just occurred to me that not everyone may know what "click through" means. It means to click on each item in the treasury. Treasuries with the most clicks have the best shot of making it to Etsy's front page.) Thanks for looking!

http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4d3af3baecbe8eef47cda164/jell-o#4d3b313a875b8eef3c9544a0

http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4d3a74ab9f8c6d91a0ed4265/memoir-of-random-movies?index=2

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Report: Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

I finished reading Sophie Kinsella's latest Rebecca Bloomwood installment, Mini Shopaholic, a couple of nights ago, and it was just as hilarious as I'd hoped it would be. The title refers to Becky's two-year-old daughter, Minnie, who just happens to be a shopaholic in training, looking up at her mom and hopefully inquiring, "Shop?" with the approach of each taxi. (She also exhibits some less-than-adorable behavior, such as ordering a dozen or so identical green jackets from eBay.)

Although Mini Shopaholic is the sixth book in Kinsella's shopaholic series, I think it's probably the funniest. Sure, Kinsella's debut Confessions of a Shopaholic was gripping in its sheer shock value as we watched Becky wriggle from the clutches of bill collector after bill collector while garnering fame as a financial expert and still bagging buys so extravagant and lust-worthy they (almost) made you want to max out your Visa. But now that Becky's a married woman with a daughter, all sorts of new opportunities for hide-your-head-under-the-pillow hijinks emerge. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough as I read about Minnie being banned from four pictures-with-Santa stands, Becky pleading with the moving truck driver to "lose" her parents as they follow her convoy-style to her nonexistent new house, and Becky trying to throw a lavish surprise birthday party for Luke on a shoestring, an enterprise that involves bartering for a tent and a fire-eating performance with her designer castoffs on the advice of her penny-pinching sister. But that's just the beginning. Becky also fends off a nanny and a child therapist, forges an unlikely alliance with Luke's estranged mother, and masterminds a "shop in secret" campaign in an effort to boost sales at the department store where she works as as personal shopper.

Yet at the heart of the book remains the manic, over-the-top, and always somehow magical accounts of, yes, shopping. I think Kinsella's genius lies in her ability to present Becky as simultaneously delusional and relatable. Kinsella often relays Becky's antics in a way that make her seem foolish, casting herself as the observant, voice-of-reason narrator and spinning the whole crazy tale toward satire. But then she'll tie it all up by describing the pure joy of finding the perfect pair of shoes, something that most woman can identify with (well, expect for those two in front of me in line at DSW the other day who told the cashier that they hated shoes and hated shopping but had come out because they needed sneakers). A no-holds-barred dollar store shopping spree (the brainchild of yet another failed "cutting back" attempt) and a therapist-chaperoned trip to an outlet mall grand opening unleash fresh bouts of unbridled spending for readers to vicariously enjoy. Here are a couple of my favorite shopping-related lines:

"God, I remember writing letters to Father Christmas when I was little. They used to get quite long and involved, with illustrations and pictures cut out of catalogs, just in case he got confused." (Kinsella 20)

"It's not that he [Luke] disapproves, exactly. I mean, it's my money, I earned it, I can do what I like with it. It's just that when Mum and I were up at 7:00 a.m. on Boxing Day, ready to hit the sales, Luke looked at us in bafflement, then looked at all the presents still under the tree, and then said, "Didn't you get enough stuff yesterday?" Which just goes to show how little he understands about anything. Christmas presents and the sales are totally different. They're like . . . different food groups." (Kinsella 45)

I used to write Christmas lists like that, pictures and all. (To be perfectly honest, I still do. Hey, twenty-eight-year-old women want their leopard booties just as much as five-year-old little girls want their Hula Mania Barbies [or whatever Barbie is out there these days]). And as for Christmas presents and day-after Christmas shopping purchases being completely different, I couldn't agree more.

At the end of the day, I can't help but think that Kinsella is on Becky's side after all, voice-of-reason narrator voice notwithstanding. Especially considering the author bio blurb on the back of Confessions of a Shopaholic: "Sophie Kinsella is a writer and former financial journalist. She is very, very careful with her money and only occasionally finds herself queuing for a sale. Her relationship with her bank manager is excellent."

One thing's for sure; I'll be the first one queuing up in line to buy the next shopaholic book. I know one's coming. Kinsella wouldn't end Mini Shopaholic by sending Becky and family off to Hollywood without a follow-up play-by-play :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Like Nail Polish

There used to be a time when my nails were always painted. Red was my color of choice in recent years; back in high school they were a different color every day, to coordinate with my outfit. (I had a lot of time on my hands.) These days they're mostly bare, on account of all the paint and glue they come in contact with. I have to admit, not needing to keep up with them has been kind of freeing. Nevertheless, sometimes I miss them. So, in honor of my birthday celebration last week, I decided to break out my entire range of Sally Hansen Insta-Dry shades: Flashy Fuchsia, Snappy Sorbet, Expres-so Yellow, Lickety-Split Lime, and Brisk Blue. It's times like these that wish I could chuck it all and become a makeup name maker-upper. If there is such a thing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Treasury Time

LBaricsCrafts, http://www.lbaricscrafts.etsy.com/, included my Small Hearts and Checks Tote (along with a whole host of other festive EtsyNJ pieces) in her Valentine's Day-themed Red, Red, Red treasury. Feel free to check it out and click through:

http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4d37270e305b8eef4a3c44a8/red-red-red

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"If you're an ant, and you're walking along across the top of a cup of pudding, you probably have no idea that the only thing between you and disaster is the strenghth of that pudding skin."

At the Movies: The Dilemma


Martin Luther King Day found my mom and I shopping and going to the movies, as per usual. We settled on The Dilemma, which had opened that weekend, the only competition having come in the (weak) form of Country Strong.

The movie began promisingly enough. Two couples, Ronny and Beth (Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Connelly) and Nick and Geneva (Kevin James, Winona Ryder) are hanging out in a bar when Ronny asks, "How long does it take to really get to know someone?" (Ronny and Beth aren't married, Nick and Geneva are, and they've all known each other a long time). Nick says ten minutes because that's how long it took him to realize he wanted to marry Geneva. But Ronny disagrees, insisting that you can know someone for years and think you've got him or her figured out only to learn something new that changes everything. It's a compelling question. Nick and Geneva hit the dance floor, spurring Beth to ask Ronny to dance. He points out that great men don't dance, then recites a list that includes Martin Luther King in a well-timed holiday shout-out.

Unfortunately, the whole thing goes downhill once Ronny sees Geneva kissing a tattoo-riddled young punk named Zip (Channing Tatum) and begins obsessing over whether or not to tell Nick. Ronny is also trying to get up the nerve to propose to Beth but is confronted by commitment issues that are compounded by what he learns about his best friend, a scenario that made me think of that "Family Guy" episode where Stewie pokes fun at Vince Vaughn: "Oh, Vince Vaughn is on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. Here's my summary of every Vince Vaughn movie: Oh, I'm incapable of loving another person. Oh wait, no I'm not. The end."

For some reason, Ronny decides to spy on Geneva and Zip, which leads to a string of gratuitously violent events. (At one point, Zip brandishes a gun, all the while insisting that he's the "sensitive type." To be fair, he is pretty broken up when Ronny shatters his fish tank.) Clearly, this wasn't the light, romantic comedy I'd been expecting. It was dark. And not in the good, indie-flick kind of way, but in the potentially funny story gone horribly wrong kind of way. For a movie about honesty, it was awfully dishonest in its marketing. At some points I was so bored that my mind wandered to the metallic pink chain-strapped Guess handbag and metallic bow-adorned Paris Hilton pumps I'd left behind in Marshalls. (After the movie, I went back for the bag, but not the shoes. I just couldn't own something being peddled by Paris.)

The plot finally culminates in Beth staging an intervention for Ronny. Apparently, all his covert activity has made her think he's gambling again (He's a gambling addict; I forgot to mention that). The scene is nail-bitingly awful. (To give you an idea, Zip shows up as Ronny's presumed bookie.) As you'd predict, all hell eventually breaks loose and all the secrets come tumbling out. Despite some gloomy aftermath, Ronny finally proposes to Beth, rather inelegantly by hiding the ring in a takeout bag.

Nick and Geneva, however, don't make it.

In the final scene, Ronny, Beth, and Nick are at a hockey game, the bookend to a scene from the beginning of the movie. Nick is chosen from the audience to shoot a goal and makes it, winning a dream vacation. As my mom put it, you just know he's taking Ronny as his guest in a perfect end to this fraternity-esque who-needs-women-anyway bromance. Not that she used the phrase fraternity-esque who-needs-women-anyway bromance, but the sentiment was there.

All in all, I don't regret seeing The Dilemma, if only because I like to collect movie-going experiences the way I like to collect shoes. Because even when your shoes pinch, you're (mostly) still glad you made the journey. Which reminds me, I'd better hop to it and get the Jack Handey quote of the week up here . . .

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Betty White!







The ever-fabulous and inimitable Betty White is 89 today! You undoubtedly know her as Rose Nyland from "The Golden Girls," as the lady in that Superbowl Snickers commercial, as a passionate animal rights activist, and as Saturday Night Live's oldest (and quite possibly funniest) host. But after perusing this Web site,

http://extratv.warnerbros.com/2010/05/45_fun_facts_about_betty_white.php#betty_white

I found out some more. For instance, that Betty had a Pink’s Hot Dog named after her (it's called the Betty White “Naked” Hot Dog), that she wrote a short story called "Pet Love" for Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul, that she is the only “Golden Girl” to appear on four different shows as the same character, namely “The Golden Girls,” “Empty Nest,” “The Golden Palace,” and “Nurses," that she was voted the best looking girl in high school, that she was the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host, ironically for the show “Just Men," and that she won an Emmy in 1985 for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series during the first season of “The Golden Girls.”

Quite an impressive resume (and those are just the highlights)!

To commemorate Betty's special day, I decided to break out the "Who's Your Betty?" tee shirt that the bf got me for Christmas. The best part is the cartoonish Betty White-shaped tag that came with it. The bf confessed that the tee in my size didn't have a tag and that, recognizing the must-have quality of this kitschy piece, he'd been forced to pilfer one from a different tee and craftily reattach it to mine. I'm glad he did, because I made a brooch out of it! Some felt backing, a Gorilla glued pin, and a few coats of Mod Podge were all Betty needed to shine. (I stopped myself from giving her a pair of rhinestone earrings. That would have been crossing the line over into the cheesy) Here I fastened it to a couple of necklaces.

Betty, I know you'll never read this blog, but at the risk of sounding silly, I hope you're having a fantastic birthday and that you're out there enjoying some cheesecake (or regular cake, it doesn't matter, really), Golden Girls style.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Report: This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

I always enjoy a good Irish yarn, in which colorful characters, intricate story lines, and whimsy are always sure to star. True to form, Marian Keyes delivers all three in This Charming Man. But as in all her novels, she mixes the light, sometimes side-splittingly funny froth with much darker stuff.

This Charming Man is the story of three women and how their lives are destroyed, in one way or another, by terminally handsome and smarmier-than-usual politician Paddy de Courcy. Lola is a purple (er, molichino, as she is ever quick to point out)-haired, self-employed stylist, Grace is a tough-as-nails journalist, and Marnie, Grace's twin, is a fragile, emotional secretary. (It should be mentioned that the lion's share of the funny stuff comes from Lola, who ends up hosting a safe house for cross dressers and riding off into the sunset with one of them.) The book opens with the announcement of Paddy's engagement to a socialite (who is later revealed to be Grace and Marnie's childhood best friend), an event that sparks the following reactions from each woman:

Grace: "Everyone remembers where they were the day they heard that Paddy de Courcy was getting married. I was one of the first to know, what with working in a newspaper when word came in from David Thornberry, political correspondent (and tallest man in Dublin) that de Courcy was calling it a day. I was surprised. I mean, we all were. But I was extra surprised, and that was even before I heard who the lucky woman was. But I couldn't act upset. Not that anybody would have noticed. I could fall down dead in the street and people would still ask me to drive them to the station. That's what life is like when you're the healthy one of a pair of twins. Anyway, Jacinta Kinsella (boss) needed a quick piece on the engagement so I had to put my personal feelings to one side and be a professional."

Alicia (bride-to-be): "It would have been nice if you had asked me first."

Lola: "I was on the net, checking eBid for an owl handbag (by Stella McCartney, not just any "owl" handbag) for a client to wear to a wildlife charity thing when I saw the headline. DE COURCY TO WED. Thought it was a hoax. The media are always making stuff up and faking cellulite on girls who don't have it and taking it off girls who do. When I discovered that it was true, I went into shock. Actually thought I was having a heart attack. Would have called an ambulance but couldn't remember 999. Kept thinking 666. Number of the beast."

Marnie: "Don't you be happy, you bastard. That's what I thought when I heard. Don't you dare be happy." (Keyes 1)

This is one of those stories where the author zeroes in on each character individually, fleshing out each one's little quirks and foibles through a kaleidoscope of descriptions and flashbacks before ever crossing their paths. As always, I liked this approach because it allowed me to get inside each woman's head and - as is the case in all good stories - because it provided a solid and believable foundation for the ambitious plot that unravels. However, the most important point about the structure of this story is the string of passages describing domestic violence. Keyes gives us unflinchingly graphic accounts sandwiched in between the women's narratives, never offering any names. I was halfway through the book before I realized that Keyes was writing about things Paddy had done to each of the women. For a while I thought that Marnie had an abusive husband. To be fair, I think that Keyes framed Marnie's story so that it seems that way, highlighting her nervousness and the problems in her marriage, then following them up with the snippets of gruesome attacks. It's only once we realize that Marnie is an alcoholic that it becomes clear that her husband isn't the problem and that her abuser is someone from her past.

Most of us latch onto one character more than the others when reading fiction, recognizing some nugget of ourselves in his or her naked psyche. In this book, I identified with Marnie. I didn't want to. In many ways, she appears weaker than Lola and Grace, and I was ashamed of my own comparison, especially when she turned out to be an alcoholic. But Marnie is painfully sensitive and introspective and expects too much from everyone, and that was something I could understand. Even so, I would have preferred to feel a kinship with strong, independent, go-to-hell Grace.

Marnie's heart was broken by Paddy as a teenager, Lola was still seeing him at the time of his engagement, and Grace - well, Grace never fully succumbs to Paddy's charms, but her abbreviated encounter with him is enough to land her a bloody eye and walking papers from her boyfriend. Yet it isn't until Grace discovers Paddy's plan to get a women's rights activist ousted from office that she rounds up Paddy's victims to blackmail him.

I won't go into details, but let's just say Paddy gets what he deserves.

It's true that the all the loose threads are wound up a little too easily as the book comes to a close. But I didn't mind, as long as there was a happy ending. This is the kind of book that needs a happy ending. Not a strike-up-the-band-and-release-the-balloons kind of ending, but one that lets you walk away feeling that it will all be okay after having been opened to so many horrific things. Keyes does an excellent job of explaining how women become involved with - and stay involved with - men like Paddy. To be honest, I don't know if I would have read this book if I'd known what it was really about. (I loyally read all of Keyes's books, barely glancing at the back covers to suss out particulars before marching them to the checkout.) But I enjoyed it. Although depressing at times, it was very well-written (no surprise there) and offered a fresh angle on something I didn't know a whole lot about.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Tote Trove Gets a (Mini) Makeover

Over the Rainbow Corsage Necklace, www.thetotetrove.etsy.com

Carnival Magic Necklace, www.thetotetrove.etsy.com

Fabulous Felt Junk Food Necklace, www.thetotetrove.etsy.com

Black Arts & Crafts Necklace, www.thetotetrove.etsy.com

It's no secret that in recent days, weeks, months, etc, my little Etsy shop has been slowly changing from a Tote Trove to something more closely resembling a Necklace Nook. Admittedly, I shouldn't have hemmed myself in with such a bag-centric name at the get-go, but then hindsight's twenty twenty. Still, sticking with my old name doesn't mean I couldn't rearrange my shop to show off my bolder necklace lines to better advantage. So, I lumped all the "ordinary" necklaces in with the bangles and barrettes and eliminated the Christmas section, giving me ample room to devote sections to my Corsage, Carnival, Fabulous Felt, and Arts & Crafts designs. I think the site looks a lot better already.

That's all for now. Although I've been steadily working on more felt neck pieces, I'm regrettably succumbing to the sleep monster.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Quartet of Somethings New and Sparkly - More Fun with Fabulous Felt

Fabulous Felt Artist Palette Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Jell-O Mold Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Steak Dinner Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Lemons Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

When I was in A. C. Moore yesterday and found that they had restocked their white felt, I thought, "Oh, good, now the Fabulous Felt Steak Dinner Necklace can come alive!" (My idea for it had been gathering steam in my head for the better part of three days.) It wasn't just any white felt either, but special super-thick fleecy felt, which was wonderful because it meant I didn't need to use two layers for each shape the way I normally do, the regular stuff being nearly transparent. Yet the finished steak necklace turned out to have less, ahem, sizzle than I'd expected, ranking as my least favorite of this batch. (I'm most partial to the artist palette, partly because of the colors, partly because it reminds me of a couple of palette pins I had as a child.)

Sometimes that's the way it goes in the wily and freewheeling world of arts and crafts.

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"I wish my name was Todd, because then I could say, "Yes, my name's Todd. Todd Blankenship." Oh, I also wish my last name was Blankenship."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gone Shopping

Golden Girls Pocket Mirror, Snappy Mirrors, http://www.snappymirrors.etsy.com/

Mixed Button Pack, Sick On Sin, http://www.sickonsin.etsy.com/


Snazzy Skirt, The Lazy Oaf, http://www.lazyoaf.co.uk/


Flowers Tee Shirt, The Lazy Oaf, http://www.lazyoaf.co.uk/


Splash Color Tights, We Love Colors, http://www.welovecolors.com/

Polka Dot Sheath Dress, XOXO, http://www.xoxo.com/


Crayon Dots Tee Shirt, The Lazy Oaf, http://www.lazyoaf.co.uk/

Every January I find myself going on a post-holiday online shopping binge. (And yes, this is in addition to my day-after-Christmas brick and mortar store shopping binge.) By this point any worthwhile winter bargains have been wiped clean from the stores, forcing me to stalk cyberspace's great marketplace. I tell myself that it's my opportunity to find some truly unusual, can't-get-this-at-the-mall pieces, and more often than not this turns out to be true.

Some people stock up on canned goods in case of a snowstorm, alien invasion, or nuclear holocaust. I stock up on fashion items. Sometimes I honestly feel as though I'm trying to squirrel away enough essentials, both funky and classic, to last me a lifetime in preparation for the day when I run out of spending money and can no longer shop. Don't ask me why I think this will happen; that would be like asking the can-hoarding Mrs. X why she fears a day when she won't be able to get her hands on green beans or fruit cocktail. All I know is, the shop-til-you-drop-for-survival game is one I've liked to play since high school.

January isn't quite half over, and I've already racked up an assortment of sweaters, tee shirts, and dresses, including a black and white tuxedo-style cocktail dress that I purchased from http://www.xoxo.com/ in a fit of Rebecca Bloomwood-style inspiration, thinking things like, "I could get invited to a cocktail party! Or a wedding! I'll wear it to every function! Everyone will know me as the girl in the black and white cocktail dress!" (For the uninitiated, Rebecca is the heroine of Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic.) I would've included a picture of the dress here, but when I went to copy it from http://www.xoxo.com/, I discovered that it was sold out, and the picture gone. (Who knows? Maybe I even scored the last one.) I also nabbed some baubles from Etsy, namely a pair of pocket mirrors from http://www.snappymirrors.etsy.com/, one of which features the Golden Girls, and a selection of kitschy, produce-themed buttons from http://www.sickonsin.etsy.com/ that I look forward to pinning to various sweaters and handbags.

Yet even with a take like this, I fear the siege isn't over. I've got my eye on a trio of duct tape clutches, a collection of octopus pendant necklaces, and an anime cartoon-printed mini skirt, all from Etsy. The only saving grace is that I got most of my stuff on sale, if not clearance. This is the sort of twisted logic I use every time I amass a new mini wardrobe, rationalizing that Carrie Bradshaw would've spent more on a single pair of shoes. Never mind that Carrie Bradshaw is a fictional character. Or that every time I open my closet I'm pummelled by a rainbow of sweaters and jeans raining down from the top shelf.

Something tells me, though, that I'm not alone in my obsession. The cliche about women loving to shop is a cliche for a reason. So, what are your go-to guilty pleasure purchases? Clothes? Cosmetics? Kitchenware? Spooky porcelain dolls? (Each to her own.) This shopaholic wants to know :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

At the Movies: Little Fockers

Ah, Little Fockers. A definite holiday season must-see on any avid moviegoer's list. The bf and I saw it last Thursday night in a theater that was a bit more crowded than you'd expect on a weeknight.

It was cute. It was funny. It was considerably better than How Do You Know, which we saw New Year's Day. The bf thought it lacked a strong storyline, and maybe that was true. But to me, it was the logical third installment of a story about the progression of love. Meet the Parents was about the universal awkwardness of meeting a girlfriend's parents for the first time. Meet the Fockers was about getting married, having a baby, and the blending of two unlikely families. Little Fockers is about what happens after the babies come. Still happy and in love, the Fockers muddle through the typical minefields that beset couples their age: moving to a bigger house, child rearing, and the threat of infidelity. Not that that last one is a real land mine. Ever the good guy, Ben Stiller's Greg Focker never really considers bedding beautiful and flirtatious drug rep Andi Garcia (insert laugh here), played by Jessica Alba. Still, Andi's there for a reason, if only to prove the strength of Greg and Pam's relationship.

Serious analysis aside, the movie was definitely entertaining. I think my favorite part was when Kevin (Owen Wilson), Pam's ever-ingratiating ex, performs acrobatics in a white spandex suit at the elaborate circus-themed birthday party he throws for Greg and Pam's twins.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Whole Bunch of Somethings New and Sparkly - Fabulous Felt Necklaces Featuring Flora, Fauna, and Everyone's Favorite: Food

Fabulous Felt Gumball Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Breakfast Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Paradise Palm Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Bird of Paradise Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Banana Split Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Waffles Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Rainbow Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Cookies Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Here's my newest crop of Fabulous Felt Necklaces. (And yes, I realize the bird is the only example of any fauna. But I couldn't resist using the phrase.) My favorites are the Bird of Paradise, Gumball, and Breakfast designs (in that order). I have so many ideas for more that I wrote them down. I've been going through quite a bit of felt and will most likely need to purchase more soon. I'm thinking of going online to find some more exotic colors, such as turquoise and hot pink. If I do, then I'll probably end up worrying that my more standard-colored creations will look drab by comparison.

Stupid new ideas, spoiling everything.