Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Terror of HTML Errors






Maybe you've noticed the angry black and yellow exclamation point at the bottom of this blog. It appeared some time last week. I clicked on it and read the message about the HTML error I'd recently created in one of my posts. None of this came as a surprise. I'd had trouble with the spacing in a few posts and foolhardily fiddled with the HTML in an attempt to fix it. This, my friends, was my downfall. I'm so technologically impaired that it's a wonder I can even run a blog, let alone edit code. For example, I never understand why my posts sometimes come out with such weird-looking formatting. The other day things were so bad that my Etsy mini icon, profile, and tags disappeared from the left-hand side of the page only to reappear, centered, at the bottom. It was a mess. After (much) more fiddling I corrected it. Still, the dreaded exclamation point remains.


So, if this site spontaneously self-destructs, then at least you'll know why. I've read that it's a good idea to back up your blog. I'm not sure what this means (how does one back up a Web site?), but I'm spooked enough to remember that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie sees the Sad Mac on her screen and loses all her files and everyone keeps asking her, "didn't you back everything up?", and she keeps having to say, "no," all ashamed. I think I once tried to save the blog site content to a CD. Maybe that would be a good (albeit unsophisticated) idea. Wish me luck.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fiction Friday: Part 2

It's time for another installment of The Bird Lady. (If you want to catch up on the first installment, just click the Fiction Friday link in the tags list on the left-hand side of the screen.)

****

Lucy stomped off into the kitchen to root through her junk drawer, determined to unearth the coupon for a dollar off a purchase of three or more honey sticks that she had stashed away the week before. A regular at PetSmart, she would return tomorrow, Sunday, for her weekly stock-up visit. She went to the supermarket for herself only half as often. Lucy was big on clipping coupons. But then, she had to be, especially after her no-good louse of an ex-husband Morton had walked out on her three years ago. He'd met a woman at a Star Trek convention and had announced that they were in love. When Lucy had protested, he said that none of it would have happened if she had bothered to learn Klingon.

Morton had been irritating. He liked his socks rolled just so and his roast beef still practically bleeding. Although he was a lawyer, he had insisted that Lucy continue working as an assistant at Ralphy's World of T-Shirts, a local print shop that made tees emblazoned with beer mugs and suggestive sayings. Much as she hated to admit it, Lucy supposed that that had been for the best, since she now depended on her salary to support herself and her darlings. It made her wonder if Morton hadn't been planning his escape all along.

She hadn't gotten the birds until he'd left. She had expressed an interest in getting a parakeet years ago, but Morton had always snuffed out her plans, declaring birds, or "avians," as he called them, to be dirty, money-sucking little creeps. Now she didn't know what she'd do without them. Grooming, feeding, and entertaining them gave her purpose. She had Christmas cards made with them each year. The first year Morton was gone she had mailed him one just to annoy him, but Zelda, his new wife and fellow Star Trek-a-phile, had returned it unopened. This gave Lucy an odd sense of satisfaction because she'd decided that it meant that Zelda was threatened by her.

And why shouldn't she be? Lucy had provided Morton with an excellent home for the better part of thirty years (she was now fifty-two, dried-up and useless at everything except data entry) and had borne him a son named Milton (his choice of name, not hers), who had also grown up to be a lawyer, no small result of his father's influence. Milton lived in Tallahassee with his wife Beth, a reluctant county clerk forced to toil for her keep in much the same way as her mother-in-law. Lucy didn't hear from him much, but they shared a mutual hatred of Zelda. In rare moods of malevolent whimsy they made fun of her blonde bouffantish hair, which resembled a beehive. Lucy reckoned that it provided housing for a whole family of birds, mostly because she knew how much that would infuriate Morton.

"Daddy was an asshole, wasn't he?" Lucy sang out to Finchy, Swan, and Wren, flinging aside coupons for Ramen Noodles and Shake n' Bake. She'd taken to saying that to them in moods of pique, even though they had never met the said "daddy" and would not have liked him if they had.

****

Be sure to stop by next Friday for more.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Report (sort of): I Love Ken: My Life as the Ultimate Boyfriend by Jef Beck







I found my inspiration for today's post in Borders on the buy one get one for 50% off table. I Love Ken: My Life as the Ultimate Boyfriend, by Jef Beck, stood out from the other offerings in all its Technicolor glory, and I knew I had to make it my own. (Finding an actual book book to make the buy one get one deal work proved to be a lot harder.)


So, Ken. He's kind of a shadowy, unsung hero of little girl world. If you were anything like me as a kid, then you hid your disappointment when someone got you Ken instead of Barbie for Christmas or your birthday. Because at first glance, what would a pig-tailed five-year-old girl want with a male doll sporting questionable clothes and molded hair? But it's not Ken himself that holds the allure - it's the supporting role he plays in Barbie's oh-so-fabulous life. Without him, there'd be no reason for her to wear those star-speckled dresses or hop into her Malibu-bound convertible. This seems to be what Jef Beck is saying in his tome to the plastic prince, especially in sound bites such as these:


"Pack her calendar with dream dates." (34)


"When she says the occasion will be "totally glam," understand that it might involve sequins." (20)


And, of course:


"Would Barbie put up with this?" (44)


On second thought, maybe Ken isn't all that bad.


I Love Ken: My Life as the Ultimate Boyfriend features an impressive array of pictures of Barbie and Ken dolls spanning fifty years. I recognized a lot of them from the late 1980s and early 1990s, some of which I had as a kid. I couldn't help but think, "ah, those were the days when Barbie was Barbie," eschewing all the new-fangled models haunting toy store aisles today. I'm sure women who met Barbie in the 1960s and 1970s feel the same way, turning their noses up at later versions.


I Love Ken: My Life as the Ultimate Boyfriend also boasts a centerfold. Or, as Beck puts it, a "Ken-terfold." In it there's a fireplace, a rose, and a framed picture of Ken. And on that note, I think I'll sign off.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"If you're a boxing referee, it's probably illegal to wear a bow tie that spins or changes colors."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Something New and Sparkly - One for Me, One for You


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

I'm not sure what came first, this leopard top I spied in Macy's, or the idea for this felt necklace explosion, but once I had both in my hot little hands I knew I had to wear them together. There's just something so theatrical and fun and just a little bit 1980s about wearing all that hard-edged color against an animal print. I liked the necklace so much that I made a nearly identical version to post in my shop.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Etsy Buys - Clutches That Are Just Ducky

I'm a Barbie Girl Clutch

Studded Peacock Clutch
I'm Gonna Getcha Pacman Clutch

I was beyond impressed by both the craftsmanship and the amazing, bold designs. Just look at how intricate that peacock is! Eleven Peacocks even personalized that one with my name at no extra charge.
Not wanting to force my new gems into my already-bursting purse closet, I carved out a space for them between a shoe box tower and a hat box tower on top of the purse closet. (I'm just waiting for one or both of them to come tumbling down and attack me in my sleep.) If you like these bags (and who wouldn't?), then be sure to check out Eleven Peacock's entire selection at www.elevenpeacocks.etsy.com. She has some really awesome pop culture-inspired designs that are sure to scream for a place in your closet. (Or purse corner or hat box valley or whatever :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Treats

Fruit Ambrosia


Double Layer Chocolate Pie: Fancy cookbook version



Double Layer Chocolate Pie: Messy "slice of life" version


I prefer no-bake, refrigerate-only desserts. You know, the kind that are made of pudding, Jell-O, Cool Whip, cream cheese, prepared pie crusts, and/or canned fruit. Easy to make and nearly impossible to mess up, they're cool, colorful, and refreshing, and offer a kind of 1950s kitsch factor that just can't be beat. So, it should come as no surprise that I chose to make Double Layer Chocolate Pie and Fruit Ambrosia as my contributions to Easter dinner. If you're a fan of such things and want to give them a whirl, then here are the recipes:


Fruit Ambrosia


Ingredients:


1.5 cups heavy cream

1.5 cups sour cream

Half a 7-oz bag coconut

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1 16-oz can pineapple

2 small cans mandarin oranges

1 jar maraschino cherries

Dash confectioners' sugar

1 cup slivered almonds (I never add these. Because I don't understand what some crunchy, tasteless nuts are doing in an otherwise creamy dessert. This thinking also explains why I hate nuts in brownies. Not to mention sundaes.)



Directions:


Whip heavy cream. Fold in sour cream, marshmallows, and coconut. Add drained fruit. Add almonds (or not).


Double Layer Chocolate Pie (from Jell-O: Celebrating 100 Years)


Ingredients:


4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 tbs whole milk

1 tbs sugar

8 oz Cool Whip

1 6-oz prepared chocolate crumb crust (I couldn't find chocolate, what with the Easter rush, and substituted graham cracker. It tasted just as good.)

2 cups cold whole milk

2 4-oz pkgs instant chocolate pudding


Directions:


Mix the cream cheese, 1 tbs milk, and sugar in a large bowl with a wire whisk (or beater) until smooth. Gently stir in 1.5 cups of the Cool Whip. Spread onto the bottom of the crust. Pour 2 cups of milk into a bowl. Add pudding mixes. Beat with wire whisk (or beater) until well mixed. (Mixture will be thick.) Immediately stir in the remaining Cool Whip. Spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate 4 hours or until set. Garnish as desired. Makes 8 servings.


Oh, and here's the "fun fact" from the bottom of the cookbook page:


"In addition to Bill Cosby, famous spokespeople for Jell-O have included Jack Benny, Andy Griffith, and Ethel Barrymore."

So, how did they turn out? The pie was delicious, really thick and creamy. The ambrosia was more of a miss, partly because I forgot the dash of confectioners' sugar. (The time I made it before that I forgot to drain the canned fruit enough and had a watery mess). Maybe fruit ambrosia isn't nearly impossible to mess up. Then again, maybe it's me.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Report: Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

' "Women should all move to Amazonia, or at least vacation there four times a year."

"Amazonia?"

"It's the girl world in my head, where I go when I'm annoyed with Carter, or just men in general. There are five shoe stores per capita, nothing has any calories, and all the books and movies end happy ever after."

"I like Amazonia. When do we leave?" ' (Roberts 288)

That's a little snippet from Happy Ever After, the Nora Roberts book I just read. I posted it because I like it (what woman wouldn't like a place with five shoe stores per capita?), and because Amazonia itself sounds like every Nora Roberts book I've ever read. There's always a diamond-in-the-rough man, plenty of money for new shoes, and, of course, a proposal. Happy Ever After offers up a bonus in the form of a diamond-in-the-rough-man who earns his shine (in part) by buying his lady love a pair of designer shoes. If that's not the stuff of fairy tales, then I don't know what is.

I debated the wisdom of admitting that I read romance novels to all of cyberspace. But then I remembered that The Tote Trove has no shame. I'm going to go ahead and buy the other three books in the Bride Quartet series (yes, that's what it's really called). The series is about four friends who run a wedding planning business, a job that seems pretty stressful and unforgiving to me. But then, I'm the sort who breaks out in hives at the thought of drafting seating charts and taste-testing chicken and vegetable lasagna for my own wedding some day.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Introducing Fiction Friday

This Friday I'm telling stories. Well, one story. About a lady who likes birds. It's a silly little tale called (what else?) The Bird Lady, and I've decided to share it with you in increments each week. It's by no means finished or perfect or any of those other writerly things, but I thought blogging about it would be a nice departure from Photo Shoot Friday as well as a way to keep me writing. Happy reading.

***

She was out of honey sticks again. Lucy Aires glared at her parakeet, Wren, and snarled, "You're getting to be a damn pig." Wren ruffled her sky blue feathers, glared at Lucy, and then flitted over to a chain of colorful plastic rings and started poking at them with her beak. Well, at least Lucy thought she glared. "Aw, you know I didn't mean it," she muttered in tones of contrition, reaching into the cage to pat Wren's soft head tenderly. The cage was magnificent, a larger-than-necessary dome constructed of wires intricately arranged into the shapes of flowers and hearts. Lucy had bought it on eBay from a woman in Ohio for twenty dollars. Her cockatiel, Finchy, and her parrot, Swan, resided in separate but similarly lavish cages, also purchased on eBay. Each cage had come with its own tropical flower print cover, which the lady from Ohio had thrown in for free. Although Lucy lived in a cottage, she'd devoted an entire room to her birds. Her mother's antique armoire held their considerable supplies, which ranged from food and treats to a plethora of toys and grooming products. Lucy's mother, who hated animals and lived in Canada, would have been horrified to learn of the armoire's fate. The grooming products were Lucy's favorite part of the collection. She bathed each bird three times a week. She'd learned how to do it by watching some woman wearing a safari suit on Animal Planet.

Lucy patted her short, feathery auburn hair and made a mental note to make an appointment for a trim and highlights. Although never a beauty, she had what were considered interesting looks, exotic, even, in the right light. Her nose was pronounced and slightly beakish, her eyes green and hawkishly sharp. Despite being thin and small-boned, she preferred garishly-printed muumuus and metallic sandals, both of which were ideal for South Florida weather. She lived on a quiet street lined with cottages similar to her own, some of which (not hers) had lawns adorned with pink flamingos. She didn't know her neighbors very well and liked it that way, talking to them only to apologize when her birds squawked too loudly.

***

That's all for now. Check back next week for another (hopefully longer) installment :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Something New and Sparkly - Easter Sunday Corsage Necklace


Why wear an Easter bonnet when you can wear an Easter Sunday Corsage necklace? At least that was what I thought as I finished off this super sparkler. I'm wearing it with a yellow top, a black and white polka dot skirt, and yellow and orange floral pumps. (I know it sounds a little scary, but I promise it looks nice. Maybe I'll even post a picture of it later this week.)

I won't be selling this item in my Etsy shop. Sometimes it's nice to make pieces that I know I'll never have to say goodbye to. Also, the materials for this one were more expensive than usual (note the longer length and richer looking beads), so I'd need to charge more. I like to price my necklaces at $20 or less to keep my shop affordable.

So, what are you wearing for Easter?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"Instead of raising your hand to ask a question in class, how about individual push buttons on each desk? That way, when you want to ask a question, you just push the button and it lights up a corresponding number on the tote board at the front of the class. Then all the professor has to do is check the lighted number against a master sheet of names and numbers to see who is asking the question."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Something New and Sparkly - Bountiful Bows



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




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




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




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




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




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



After making my Fabulous Felt Pink Bow Necklace the other day, I was driven by a compulsion to create a whole rainbow of companions for it. I love the fun and kitschy feel of the bow in its many crayon box incarnations; it reminds me of something a cartoon character might wear, or of the crowning piece in a little girl's dress-up ensemble. Which means, of course, that it's just the thing to tie a no-holds-barred, super funky and girly, going out get-up together :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Toys of the 1980s

Sweet Lolita Hello Kitty in La La Land Candy Charm Necklace, Sweet Love 4 U, http://www.sweetlove4u.etsy.com/

Rad 80s Style Jem Rockstar Holograms Colorful Necklace, Miss Mercy, http://www.missmercy.etsy.com/


Cheer Bear Huge Vintage Doll Statement Necklace, Miss Mercy, http://www.missmercy.etsy.com/


Rainbow Brite Star Sprinkles Huge Vintage Doll Statement Necklace, Miss Mercy, http://www.missmercy.etsy.com/

Strawberry Shortcake Huge Vintage Statement Necklace, Miss Mercy, http://www.missmercy.etsy.com/

My Little Pony Vintage Moondancer, My Emily, http://www.myemily.etsy.com/

What girl doesn't love toys of the 1980s? (Never mind my bias, having been a kid in that decade :) I always get excited when I see comeback versions of Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony merchandise in stores. (Has anyone else noticed Strawberry Shortcake's new glamorous long hair?) Rainbow Brite was my favorite (I had the Color Cottage, Starlite, Buddy Blue . . . ). So, when I went on a 1980s toy-themed treasure hunt on Etsy, I was charmed to find this dazzling selection. Whether you were the kid playing with them or the mom or grandmom buying them, what was your favorite 1980s toy?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Something New and Sparkly - Get Gorgeous

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

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

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

A tease with the comb, a squirt of hairspray, the knotting of a pretty pink bow, and a cloud of perfume to walk (or dare I say glide?) through once the last lock has been charmed into place. What more could a girl want? A big, rhinestone-bedecked piece of felt dangling around her neck, of course :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Christmas in April

I had the good fortune to custom paint ten of these Christmas Bell Gift Card Holders for a customer this week. After months of jewelry making, it felt good to paint again, Edgar Allen Poe's "The Bells" ringing through my head (at least part of the time). Here's the first and appropriately Christmasy stanza, courtesy of http://www.online-literature.com/poe/575/

"Hear the sledges with the bells -
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells."

Doesn't that just take you back to high school English class? Getting back to the totes, I wrapped them all up this morning (in Christmas paper, of course), doodled some candy canes and wreaths on the envelope, and sent them on their merry way. I couldn't have picked a better way to start my weekend.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Farewell Photo Shoot Friday

Aren't these salt and pepper shakers adorable? I just got them from Current, http://www.currentcatalog.com/, and they're now happily residing on my kitchen table. Now that that tomfoolery is behind us, we can move on to more serious business. Last week I hinted that I may be doing away with Photo Shoot Friday. Today I'm making it official. Although I had a great time wearing and posting my outfits, I've decided to move on to a new Friday column, which I'll unveil next week. Hopefully it becomes as popular as its predecessor, but I can't make any promises. For now let's just call it another part of this crazy Tote Trove experiment. So, thanks for tuning in each Friday; I truly appreciated all of your lovely comments :) Be sure to check back next Friday to see what's next!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Big Ass Bag Collection



I haven't always been a fan of big bags. Once upon a time I thought they were horrid, sloppy, and otherwise unladylike, preferring instead to ration my daily essentials and shoehorn them into purses the size of postage stamps. I still like postage stamp purses. But these days I stash them inside the capacious carryalls haphazardly shown here.

Unlike in my bow collage post, I've taken care to hide the yucky carpet with the tried-and-true tablecloth left over from my craft fair days. Just one more example of better living through polka dots.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"We like to praise birds for flying. But how much of it is actually flying, and how much of it is just sort of coasting from the previous flap?"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Root Beer World


If you think that A&W, Hires, Barq's, Mug, and Stewart's are the only root beer games in town, then think again. Root Beer World, http://www.root-beer.org/, which proudly proclaims itself to be "a world of root beer resources," lists thousands of unsung brands as well as message boards for root beer enthusiasts and root beer recipes (root beer torte or Robert E. Lee cake anyone?) As for this picture of a root beer-themed Snoopy tale, it's just one of the many sarsaparilla-spiked stories featured in the aptly named "root beer books" sidebar section that appears on the site's various pages.

So why am I writing about a soft drink? Because I like it. And because the link for http://www.root-beer.org/ has been burning a hole in my favorites list for the better part of a year since the bf discovered it (he has a knack for such things).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bows - A Trend Worth Tying





Kohl's, http://www.kohls.com/

Not too long ago I thought, hey, I've been seeing a lot of bow clothes and accessories around; I think I'd like to do a post on that. So, I went online and scouted all my favorite virtual shops. But oddly enough, the expected bevy of bow-inspired buys did not beckon (say that five times fast). On the contrary, I had to search really hard for the paltry few items displayed here. That's when it dawned on me that maybe bows aren't trendy now; maybe they were trendy a few years ago. (I'm seldom up on such things, as I wear the same stuff for years.) Still, I persevered, opting to brave the depths of my own closet. I emerged with the pieces you see arranged in the collage in the first picture (my apologies for the visible snatches of unattractive tan carpet).

This post didn't turn out to be as interesting as I'd anticipated. But it did help me discover that I'd like to add some yellow bow accessories to my collection. Which was no small discovery. No collection, after all, is complete without yellow.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Something New and Sparkly - Madcap Medallions Necklace

Recently, I've been working away on a custom order (more on that later). But this Madcap Medallions Necklace is the last item I finished and listed for my Etsy shop, www.thetotetrove.etsy.com. I'd been wanting to embellish some felt circles with ribbon remnants and was excited to see how they'd turn out. They looked a little ragged once finished though, so I jazzed them up with some rhinestones. The end result is a festive, kooky piece that would be at home in an old costume trunk, a vintagey shop, or an outdoor bazaar. (Don't you just love the word bazaar? Such romance.) More practically speaking, this necklace would add some drama to a plain black sundress or black tee, as displayed here. Which reminds me, I really need a plain black sundress. I'm always buying prints, so I have precious few garments to serve as nice backdrops for my crazy jewelry. Sigh.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Treasury Time

MissPattisAttic, http://www.misspattisattic.etsy.com/ came up with this intriguing new Purple People Eater treasury - and this corsage necklace of mine fit right in! Be sure to check out all the other monstrously excellent wares here: http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4da3324efa4d8eefbea5cc28/purple-people-eater#4da380b876ed8eef79c0d4b8

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Book Report: Crossroads by Belva Plain

Novelist Belva Plain is known for two things: family sagas and cautionary tales about greed. Crossroads (not to be confused with that Brittany Spears movie) is no different. It's the story of two young women: privileged, naive, plain Jane Gwen Wright, and working class, manipulative, beautiful Jewel Fairchild. Gwen hates Jewel because she's beautiful, and Jewel hates Gwen because she's rich. Then Jewel tells Gwen an awful secret about her seemingly unblemished upper-crust family, ratcheting up the jealousy factor on both sides. The years go by (as they will in Plain soap operas). Gwen gives up an Ivy League education to marry Stan, an electrician of modest means, and Jewel escapes shop girl hell by bagging Jeff, a filthy rich CEO. Gwen's marriage begins precariously as she adjusts to cramped apartment living, a meager bank account, and a miscarriage; by comparison, Jewel travels the world with her husband, buying everything her heart desires. Plain is careful this way, gently exposing the class disparities between Gwen and Stan that threaten their love match instead of going for the quick and easy "love conquers all." By the same token, she shows how a charmer like Jewel is a social asset to her businessman husband instead of immediately pointing out that unions based solely on social gain inevitably crumble. She takes her time to illustrate just why Gwen and Stan are right for each other despite their different backgrounds - as well as why Jewel and Jeff are not. Although Stan is poor, he is a person of character who truly loves his wife. Jewel, on the other hand, is not, and Jeff, the son of a college professor, eventually begins to tire of her mindless chatter. Yet that's not to say that Jeff is of strong moral fiber. His questionable business practices coupled with his infatuation with a married woman suggest that he is even more reprehensible than his gold-digging wife, who is, despite her many faults, at least faithful to her husband.

Crossroads is entertaining. Jealousy, wealth, and romance can be depended upon to hook fiction readers, and Plain manages to weave all three in such a way that they don't come off as cheesy. The only thing that annoyed me about the book - and this is more of a criticism of Plain's novels in general than of this one in particular - is the way the "good" character (in this case Gwen) is nondescript and unassuming and completely uninterested in shopping, whereas the "bad" character (Jewel) is flashy and attention seeking and loves acquiring things. The comparison implies that caring about clothes and one's appearance is immoral and possibly even at the root of less-than-praiseworthy behavior. I think it's the lack of judgment about such classically "trivial" things that makes Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series so refreshing, and, dare I say, endearing. (I know, I know, I'm always dragging the Shopaholic books into my posts, but if the shoe fits . . .) Plain's books are filled with women like Jewel, and they always get their just desserts. I'm not saying I'd want to be friends with someone like her; she's sneaky and mean spirited. What I resent is the tidy way Plain bundles traditionally "good" and "bad" qualities in her heroines. Real women are more complicated than that. Hmm. Despite what I wrote earlier, I suppose Plain's characters can be cheesy even if the overall feel of her books isn't. Then again, maybe I'm taking this story just a bit too personally. These things happen when you read too much.