Sunday, July 29, 2012

Some More Things I've Been Working On

The barrettes I ordered from Etsy turned out to be too small, but I didn't let that deter me.  I went straight to the horse's mouth and called Offray, the company that manufacturers the toothless alligator clips I've been using, to find out if I could buy them direct.  There was a a bit of a rigmarole, what with faxing and emailing and the red tape that comes with proving that I run a small business.  But in the end they said that I could place an order!  I was ridiculously, over-the-moon, Christmas-morning excited.  So, in the coming weeks I'll be gluing and photographing all the barrettes I've been making in the meantime.  Stay tuned for the resulting barrette blowout!  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Some Things I've Been Working On

During the last week or so I've been busily building up my next barrette barrage.  I always write down all my design ideas, and I'm nearing the end of the barrette list.  Unfortunately, A. C. Moore stopped carrying the alligator clips I use, a hard truth I accepted only after stalking the aisle that was once their home for the better part of last week.  So, I ordered some almost identical-looking clips from Etsy and am eagerly awaiting their arrival.  In the meantime, I plan to forge ahead with the rest of the barrettes and so may not have time to blog.  But I couldn't resist snapping a picture of my works in progress.      

Sunday, July 15, 2012

At the Movies - The Amazing Spider-Man

I missed TV Tuesday, bypassed Jack Handey Wednesday, did not get through Thursday with another shoe montage, and skipped the Saturday story.  But seeing The Amazing Spider-Man last night sparked enough of a reaction in me to break my week-long blogging hiatus.

Much has been said about this reboot of the 2002 classic starring Tobey Maguire.  In the tradition of many comic book movie makeovers (think Batman's Dark Knight), The Amazing Spider-Man is packaged to be edgier and grittier than the original, using the backstory of Peter Parker's parents as the impetus that drives him to seek answers and eventually be bitten by that life-altering arachnid.  In theory, I can see why this might seem like a more well-thought-out alternative to being bit by a spider on a school trip.  But in practice the effect is drawn out and directionless, eating up so much of the movie's beginning that I couldn't help but look at my watch.  I longed for the simplicity and quick pace of the first movie, a theme that was to become increasingly apparent throughout the next two hours.

Even more disturbing than the cumbersome plot line is the change in Peter's character.  Maguire's Peter Parker was articulate, self-effacing, and sympathetic.   You (or least I) really felt for this high school nerd-turned-photojournalist just trying to make sense of it all. Yet Andrew Garfield's version speaks in mumbles so unintelligible that I honestly wondered if he was supposed to be portraying a Spidey with a speech impediment.  What's more, the new Peter Parker is more snarky than witty and more brash than brave, a strange hybrid of absent-minded scientist and half-baked badass that doesn't pack the same punch as the first more authentically nerdy Parker being hurled, wonderstruck and unprepared, into a world he doesn't understand.  Garfield's Parker is about dispassionate science and empty bravado, whereas Maguire's is about imagination and self-discovery, a tone echoed by that movie's colorful and dare I say whimsical, just-leapt-off-the-pages-of-a-comic-book sets.  By contrast, the sets of the remake are dark, somber, and uninspiring.

Finally, the switch from Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane Watson to Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy falls flat.  Because I'm a girl (as opposed to a comic book-toting fan boy), I'm going to spend a lot of time here.  I understand that Gwen doesn't come out of nowhere, that she does, indeed, precede Mary Jane in the comic books and is in this vein a more accurate choice of leading lady.  But in the realm of the movies, it was Mary Jane who came first, and, at least to me, makes for the more genuine heroine.

In Spider-Man, MJ and Peter grew up next door to each other in the same shabby row homes, establishing a shared history that lends depth to Peter's unrequited love for the pretty and popular MJ.  MJ is kinder and more layered than her A-list status suggests, traits revealed by her distaste for her boyfriend's boorish behavior and her post-graduation move to Manhattan to become an actress.  It takes character to chase down a goal that's not only unattainable but frowned upon, and MJ's courage in doing so renders her as gutsy and vulnerable.  She's both when she runs into Peter and tells him she's an actress only to have her boss at the diner where she really works scream after her that her register's short.  She shouts back, smiling ruefully as she opens her trench coat to reveal her waitress uniform.  Then she tells Peter that she's dating his best friend Harry (James Franco), establishing the love triangle that gnaws at us for the remainder of the movie.  Compounded with her infatuation with Spider-Man (who could forget that famously steamy upside-down kiss?), Peter and MJ's dynamic makes for a compelling love story.  Is the whole girl-next-door-on-a-pedestal-thing something that we've seen before?  Well, yeah.  But that's what makes it so good and what makes us root for Peter.  Cliches, after all, are cliches for a reason.

The romance in The Amazing Spider-Man is completely different.  Peter and Gwen are not friends; in fact, they barely know each other.  Gwen is an over-achiever who spends her spare time tutoring the class basketball star and leading the Oscorp Labs intern program (hey, she's not a student at Midtown Science High for nothing).  Although I respect that she's smart, the science angle is just as uninteresting and unglamorous here as it is when Peter is working out algorithms, and as a result Gwen comes off as a little uppity and wooden.  Peter's garbled wooing of her is painful to the ears, and it is a mystery to me why she falls for him in the first place.  Even more unbelievable is that their very first date is dinner with Gwen's parents (her father is the no-nonsense police captain, played by Denis Leary), which Peter bungles from the start by arriving outside Gwen's bedroom window instead of at the front door.  As if all of this isn't contrived enough, Peter tells Gwen that he's Spider-Man just after dinner!  Actually, he says, "I've been bitten," to which Gwen dreamily replies, "Me too" in an exchange so farcical I couldn't help but wonder if it was making fun of itself.  I get that this big if premature reveal was probably designed to make Gwen more of an equal partner and less of a damsel in distress.  But it came at the expense of romantic tension and general plot suspense, not to mention being just plain out of character given Peter and Gwen's lack of chemistry.

The Amazing Spider-Man is meant to be more modern, more real, and more indie than its predecessor.  In some ways it is.  But it lacks the heart of the original.  Admittedly, that's the opinion of someone who came of age along with that original, and who is not the target audience of the remake.  Still, it's the heart of any superhero saga that holds it together, cutting through the special effects and the bad guys to make it amazing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

At the Movies - Ted

There isn't a whole lot I can say about Ted that hasn't been said already.  It's a story about a kid, John, (Mark Wahlberg) who makes a wish that his Christmas gift of a teddy bear comes to life.  The wish comes true, John and Ted become "thunder buddies for life," and John slides somewhat unconsciously into adulthood with his pot-smoking bud by his side.  All is well until John's career-conscious yet surprisingly down-to-earth girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) suggests that Ted is preventing them from moving on with their lives.  Masterminded by the man (Seth MacFarlane) who brought us "Family Guy," Ted was an instant box office success, and therefore a testament to America's love affair with fart jokes.

So, is there more to Ted than bathroom humor and the saccharine schmaltz that is raunchiness's good cop twin?  Or is the movie's message more menacing than it seems, hinting at themes of Peter Pan syndrome and the perennial plight of the long-suffering girlfriend?  If so inclined, I could play either side.  But such musings have no place on a blog like this, and anyway, they're kind of a downer.  It's far more fun to focus on the appearances from Ryan Reynolds, Tom Skerritt, Sam Jones (Flash Gordon), and the always dryly amusing Patrick Warburton; the wild wardrobe of Ted's trashy girlfriend (which I vastly preferred to the more sophisticated style of Lori); and the eternal battle between the diamond-in-the-rough guy and the slick-but-smarmy guy (played by Joel McHale, who is always that guy) because we all want to root for the diamonds (even those of us who are duds).  But my favorite part?  Hands down, it was getting carded while buying the tickets :)        

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Something New and Sparkly: Sugar High and Two Kinds of Pie






Top: Kohl's
Skirt: Material Girl, Macy's
Shoes: Barefeet Shoes
Bag: Delia's







Top: Kohl's
Skirt: SugarPop Clothing, Etsy
Shoes: Mojo Moxy, Kohl's
Belt: Wet Seal







Top: Marshalls
Skirt: Boscov's
Shoes: Barefeet Shoes
Bag: Marshalls
Scarf: Marshalls


Key Lime Pie 

Cool 'n Easy Strawberry Pie

Did you ever notice how many novelty items and fashion accessories are modeled after desserts?  Probably, as it's kind of a no brainer.  Still, I was never so aware of the treat trend until I started selling on Etsy.  There cheerful colors, playful shapes, and the promise of something delicious all add up to a buffet of irresistibly scrumptious style.  So, to keep the sugar fest going, I decided to top off my barrette pics with these two Jell-O pies I made this weekend.  They're so bright and plasticy that they look as if they should be part of a little girl's tea party set or maybe even dangling from a necklace.  I'm pretty sure I blogged about the key lime pie recipe before, but that was years ago, and goodness knows there's no easy way to find back posts on this blog, so here it is again along with the one for the strawberry pie:

Key Lime Pie (from I Could Go for Something Jell-O)    

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups boiling water
1 large pkg lime Jell-O
2 teaspoons grated lime peel
1/4 cup lime juice
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 prepared graham cracker crust

Directions:

Stir boiling water into Jell-O in large bowl for at least 2 minutes or until completely dissolved.  Stir in lime peel and juice.  Stir in ice cream until melted and smooth.  Refrigerate 15 to 20 minutes or until mixture is very thick and will mound.  Spoon into crust.  Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm. Garnish as desired.

Cool 'n Easy Strawberry Pie (also from I Could Go for Something Jell-O)

Ingredients:

2/3 cup boiling water
1 small pkg strawberry Jell-O
1/2 cup cold red juice or water
Ice cubes
1 8-oz tub Cool Whip
1 prepared graham cracker crust

Directions:

Stir boiling water into Jell-O in large bowl for at least 2 minutes or until completely dissolved.  Mix juice or water and ice to make 1 cup.  Add to Jell-O, stirring until slightly thickened.  Remove any remaining ice.  Stir in whipped topping until smooth.  Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes or until mixture is very thick and will mound.  Spoon into crust.  Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.  Just before serving, garnish with fruit and additional whipped topped if desired. 

If there's anything I've learned about making Jell-O recipes over the years, it's to always go for the garnish.  Because without the aid of artfully squirted Redi Whip and well-placed fruit, everything pretty much looks like the same unappetizing mystery mess.  Here's to avoiding the mystery.     

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Saturday Story: Mount St. Helen

Helen didn't like to make waves.  When the supermarket cashier forgot to scan her carefully collected coupons she said nothing.  When her children were young and an uppity room mother assigned her to make four dozen cupcakes from scratch on a day's notice, she did it without flinching.  When her and Bob's friends wanted to go to Dollywood instead of San Francisco for their annual joint vacation, she packed a cowboy hat and a smile.  She always let some louder, bolder person pick the restaurant, the concert, the movie.  All her life, people had cut in front of her, left her stranded, and forgotten to invite her to things.  But Helen had remained silent. It wasn't that she didn't have a mind of her own, or that she didn't get angry.  It was just so much easier to pretend that everything was fine.  Life was simpler that way, and everyone was happier.  Well, everyone except for Helen.  But the sacrifice was worth the peace.  That was what she told herself each time some fresh upset threatened to disturb her still waters.

Take today.  Helen didn't want to be driving to Lady Godiva's House of Hair all the way on the other side of town.  Never a beauty, she didn't devote much time or thought to her appearance.  But her sister Rachel had insisted, calling her brunette bob a disgrace in that know-it-all way of hers, her eyes caught somewhere between kind and patronizing.  Ever powerless in the face of such pressures, Helen resigned herself to an hour of awkward chitchat with Rachel's hairdresser.  Now Helen pulled up to the salon, which was a squat honky-tonk of a place despite its pretentious name.  She sighed, assumed the perky persona she reserved for such occasions, and thought, let's get this over with.

Inside Lady Godiva's, a woman with a bleached blond bouffant took her name and invited her to sit down.  Helen obeyed by perching on one of the floral chintz chairs and reached for a magazine.  She flipped past the recipes and makeovers but stopped for the quiz.  Helen loved magazine quizzes with all the fervor of a thirteen-year-old.  This one was called "Mapping Your Mad-o-Meter" and posed questions such as, "You're cut off in traffic.  You : A) Scream bloody murder and drop F-bombs onto the other drivers, B) Shoot the driver a cold but classy stare, or C) Do nothing, but snap at your nine-year-old for no reason when you get home."  Helen chose C, then answered the rest of the questions and tallied her score.  It was in the lowest range, setting her squarely in the "white volcano" camp, the description of which read:  "Like a slow-simmering pot that suddenly bubbles over, you bottle your anger until it has nowhere to go but out, and then it's watch out, there she blows!"  Well, that's a load, thought Helen, joining the long line of seemingly self-aware quiz takers who claimed that those stupid magazines didn't know them.

A girl in a black smock appeared, interrupting Helen's thoughts.  She introduced herself as Marcy and led Helen to a knickknack-choked station.  Then she smiled and informed Helen that Rachel had given her instructions to "do something special."  Helen didn't like the sound of the word "special."  It conjured up images of allegedly fancy things that always turned out to be anything but.  Yet her need for smooth sailing prevailed and she acquiesced, convincing herself that whatever this Marcy came up with couldn't be that bad.  Marcy framed Helen's face with her hands a few times and made deep-in-thought squinty faces before leading her to a sink.  A Top 40 radio station hummed as Marcy doused Helen's head, mingling with the shampoo suds into Helen's ears like so much static.  Helen tried to block out Marcy's questions about where she worked and if she had kids and what movies she had last seen even as she answered them, her rote replies creating the perfect cover for her inner monologue, the gist of which could be boiled down to a single thought: I wish I were in my hammock.  I want to drink lemonade and watch the birds.  By now Marcy was prattling on about plums, cautioning Helen not to buy them from Farmer Fred's because his had given her friend Cassie the runs.  Her acrylic nails raked Helen's wet scalp as she yapped, causing Helen to wince and resent Rachel all over again.  Just who did she think she was, sending her on this fool's errand, plotting her hairstyle as if she were a marionette instead of a grown woman?  The more Helen thought about it, the angrier she got.  Lady Godiva's became a gilded prison, its air strangled by the cloying synthetic scents of a dozen products.  Helen hated being there, hated that she'd allowed herself to be steamrolled.  It was as if all the hurts and injustices and disappointments and humiliations of the past forty-five years were rising up to the surface and out of her carefully contained control.

"I don't want to get my hair done."  Quiet but unrelenting, her words punctured the breezy beat of the boy band ballad bleating from the speakers.

Marcy, who had been launching into a blind date story, eked out an inelegent "huh?"

"I don't want to get my hair done," Helen repeated, her voice louder and holding more of a challenge.

Marcy muttered that Rachel wouldn't like that, seeing as she'd already paid.

"Forget Rachel!" Helen was nearly shouting now, and the other women in the salon were beginning to stare.  "It's my hair." She was a little spooked by her own words, she who never contradicted anyone, but it was as if an unstoppable force had exploded, lava-like, to unleash her innermost thoughts.  Marcy uttered something unintelligible and backed away.  Helen felt a stab of remorse.  The girl was just trying to do her job; it wasn't her fault that she'd gotten caught up in the wake of Helen's white volcano fury.

"I'm sorry," Helen said.  "I'm sure you do lovely work."  She dug into her wallet, produced a twenty dollar bill, and pressed it into Marcy's hand.  Then she made her way past the curious, upturned faces of the other customers to the door.

Outside, the sun felt wonderful on her wet, still-mousy hair, the smell of heliotrope wafting sweet from a neighboring hedge.  Helen smiled as she slid into the driver's seat, overcome by a sense of well-being and calm.  It was a perfect day for a snooze in her hammock.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Getting Through Thursday (er, Friday) with Another Shoe Montage: Wish List


Pink, Yellow, Black Patent Faux Leather Platform Heels

 Green Colorblock Closed Toe Platform Pump Heels

 Yellow Multi Fabric Printed Peeptoe Platform Pump Heels

 Red Stripe Fabric Faux Patent Leather Peeptoe Slingback Platform Heels

 Bamboo Multi Satin Rainbow Ballet Flats

 Fuchsia Multi Faux Suede Colorblock Peeptoe Platform Pump Heels

 Michael Antonio Red Taft Heel

 Anne Michelle Viral Green Star Cutout Platform Pumps

Green Faux Suede Colorblock Peeptoe Platform Pump Heels

No montage this week, just a peek at some of the flashiest, fanciest, and most costumey of the shoes hiding out in my Favorites.  Enjoy :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"I bet the sparrow looks at the parrot and thinks, yes, you can talk, but listen to yourself!"

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

TV Tuesday: From VIP to DIY: Anything but Vanilla

When I caught my first glimpse of Vanilla Ice wielding a level in a Palm Beach palace, I thought I was seeing things (and also, of course, that something wasn't - ha ha - on the level).  But a closer look assured me that the 1990s pop icon had indeed abandoned rapping for rafters to star in a reality show called - you guessed it - "The Vanilla Ice Project."  At first I didn't know if it was more unbelievable that Vanilla Ice, or rather, Robert Van Winkle, somehow picked up and mastered a trade, or that gazillionaires let him into their homes, let alone remodel them.  But the bf stopped at least one of those stumpers in its tracks, informing me that Van Winkle (I'm sorry, I just can't do it), Ice and his crew aren't hands for hire; rather, they're restoring a mansion that Ice purchased and will eventually flip.  By this point, you're probably thinking, hey, what the heck kind of TV Tuesday post is this?!  Believe me, I feel your pain.  But summer means slim (TV) pickings.  Also, I can't help but be amused by the lyrical poet-turned-laborer and thought you might be, too.  Although my viewings of "VIP" have been few and far between, I was hoping to see some graffiti-style murals, day-glo upholstery, and/or industrial-grade chandeliers from which the Ice Man could swing in unchecked homage to 1990s camp culture.  Because say what you will, but to echo that scene in Stepbrothers where Mary Steenburgen rationalizes how son Adam Scott stole the high school talent show from other son Will Ferrell with a Vanilla Ice impersonation, "Ice Ice Baby" is "a really good song."  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Book Report: All the Pretty Hearses by Mary Daheim

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of Mary Daheim's bed and breakfast mysteries.  Morbidly funny and funnily morbid, they star innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn, a hostess with the mostest who makes homicidal hijinks seem more delightful than deadly.  The books' lighthearted bent is apparent in their titles, which include Nutty as a Fruitcake, Creeps Suzette, Suture Self, and Hocus Croakus as well as twenty-some others.  Daheim puts out a title a year, and I always bypass the latest hardcover in favor of the latest paperback.  This year's was All the Pretty Hearses.  Having suffered through All the Pretty Horses (the highlight of which was Billy Bob Thornton's character's overuse of the word "candyass"), I got a chuckle out of it.

The plot pegs Judith's retired detective husband as a murder suspect, although it soon becomes obvious that he's merely taking the rap to better work on the case from the inside.  Yet as always, it wasn't the plot that kept me reading, but the characters.  Judith's sharp-tongued, toolshed-dwelling mother, Gertrude, is a hoot of a broad who slings one-liners with all the verve of a vaudeville vixen.  But it's Judith's almost equally irascible cousin Renie who really takes the cake.  Successful owner of CaJones Graphic Design (insert laughter here) by day and feisty curmudgeon by night, she puts the "temper" in artistic temperament with her misanthropic mien and colorful candor.  Even more eccentric is her and her psychologist husband's obsession with their stuffed ape Oscar, not to be outdone by their overzealous affection for their wardrobe-wielding pet rabbit Clarence.  Renie also eats like a horse (but never gains an ounce), dresses like a homeless person (despite her collection of designer clothes), and spends money like there's no tomorrow.  Like most sidekick characters, she's more interesting than her comparatively conventional counterpart, Judith.  I'd say that I'd like to read a story starring her, but I suspect that that would spoil the silly.

Something New and Sparkly - Hey, There's a Bug on Me



Dress: Macy's
Shoes: Journeys
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's




Sometimes, when I'm done making a barrette (or any other accessory for that matter), I think, hmm, now what sort of outfit am I going to be able to build around this one?  But that wasn't the case with these critters.  Even as I was making them, I knew that I wanted to cluster them together against this yellow sundress (which I've had for years but haven't worn in a while), and finish everything off with the pink flower-accented Journeys pumps and Betseyville bag.  By the way, I never buy full-price Betsey gear, but I decided to splurge on this bag.  (Even the saleswoman seemed to balk at my extravagance, asking if I had somewhere special to wear it or if I "just wanted to look pretty.")  But I really liked the contrast of the girly straw and flowers against the edgier, graffiti-spattered chunky chain strap.   Oddly, this was right around the time I heard that Betsey Johnson was going bankrupt.  I guess she had a few too many bargain hunters among her fans.