Monday, June 30, 2014

If Rappers were Royals . . .

Tank: Mossimo, Target
Skirt: Necessary Objects, Annie Sez
Crinoline: Party City
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: J. C. Penney's
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's
Headband: Gifted

. . . then they'd wear a necklace like this one.  'Cause it's huge.  Not to mention luxe in a kindergarten teacher-meets-Lisa Frank kind of way.  I think I'm going to wear mine (because as almost always, I have a double) with a black dress and black leggings and some sherbety legwarmers.  Just as soon as I find some sherbety legwarmers.      

Why is it that the word "castle" makes us think of rainbows and stardust and pink colliding in a cartoon kaleidoscope of marshmallow madness?  (And by "us" I really mean "me" and of course the good folks at Disney).  As history (and HBO - thank you, "Game of Thrones" ) tells us, palaces are more often the provinces of dungeons and dragons than of princesses and unicorns.  (Er, make that "stories" instead of histor(ies), as some people would argue that dragons aren't real, but you know what I mean.)  No, in the time of the turrets (enchanted or otherwise), dark, dank dwellings were the law of the land and personal hygiene left much to be desired (just think of the stench of all those unwashed gowns and cloaks).  Which is to say that it was all a little more depressing than some storybooks would have us believe.  Then again, this is just par for the course (watch out for that moat!), given that most lovely things are the stuff of smoke and mirrors.  And Disney.      

They didn't call it the Dark Ages for nothing.     

This is just one of the reasons why my era of choice remains the most excellent 1980s, a time when princesses popped instead of perished.  I just purchased a (and I would be remiss in not saying this) truly outrageous bangle from Etsy's Licorice Jewelry. That's right, it features none other than Jem, that alter-ego accessing, pink-and-blonde coiffed pop diva darling.  Back in the 1980s, there wasn't a girl between the ages of five and eight (nine? ten? How old are kids when they stop playing with dolls?) who didn't want to up and run off with the Holograms, at least until gym class was over.  I, of course, had a Jem doll, as well as Roxy from the evil Misfits.  I purchased Roxy under duress, my preschool graduation money burning a hole in my pocket as I trolled the aisles of Jamesway in search of Kimber, Shana, or even Stormer.  You know how in every mean girl group, there's always that one girl who really isn't so mean?  In the Misfits, that girl was Stormer, the blue-haired sometimes helper of the Holograms.  But some other kindergarten-bound brat must have snatched up the last one, because only Roxy remained.  Probably because she didn't have an ounce of nice in her, her white hair, purple and yellow-rimmed eye, and print metallic pants proclaiming her badass ways.  To be honest, she scared me a little.  

I think she'd be able to hold her own on "Thrones."       

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's the Thought That Counts . . . So Start Thinking (and also Happy Summer)

Top: Lauren Conrad, Kohl's
Pants: Target
Shoes: Guess, DSW
Bag: Betsey Johnson, gifted
Belt: Wet Seal

 Easter flowers still going strong (at least until recently).

 Some gorgeous beach blossoms for which I'm (thankfully) not responsible.

In honor of the first official day of summer, I made this Sunny Saturday Necklace.  On a Saturday, as it turns out, that was somewhat less than sunny.  If the pendants are familiar, then it's because they're made from the famously value-priced Haskell earrings from Boscov's, or, more accurately, from the equally famous (or perhaps I should say infamous) Boscov's tent.  The tent and store were packed, and the salespeople were muttering, "Why aren't these people at the beach?"  (I was there on Friday, not the partly sunny Saturday.)  Apparently, choosing between catching a wave and a sale is no contest.

The start of summer doesn't just mean tent sales.  It also marks the end of the celebration-surfeited spring, and with it, the standard gift-buying season.  And I should know, as I come from a long line of enthusiastic gift givers.  Exchanging tokens for all occasions is a fine tradition and keeps things fun and festive.  But it does present one problem; with so much gifting going on, it's not uncommon to grapple with what-do-I-get-this-time syndrome?  Indeed, when faced with choosing items for loved ones, it's all too easy to fall into the giving-what-you'd-like-to-get trap.  I always thought that the idea of picking out presents that you secretly wanted was nonsense, especially when my seventh-grade Sunday school teacher advised us to do just that for our Christmas Pollyanna.  Or at least I did until I ended up with a stuffed moose sitting atop a plastic dome of questionable candies.  "Why didn't you listen to Mrs. McPreachy (not her real name)?" I silently demanded of the gifter.  "Surely you wouldn't want this holiday horror."  I should mention that it wasn't the monetary value of this offering with which I took issue (especially as it was probably just within the $10 cap that typically accompanies such exchanges).  I would've been thrilled with a Bonnie Bell lip gloss.  No, it was the complete lack of thought that triggered my disappointment.  That and the insinuation that I was the kind of girl who would appreciate a glucose-bearing game animal.

That having been said, when I'm shopping for others, I try to strike that all-important balance between choosing something that's appropriately thoughtful (that's the giving-the-kind-of-gift-you'd-want-to-get part) and appropriately them.  As in, put down that neon pink and chartreuse zigzag print sweater that you think is totally awesome and pick up the solid oatmeal waffle weave one that your sister wants instead.  If you're struggling, then just try to imagine how disappointed you'd be if you unwrapped the oatmeal sweater.  At least, that's the mantra I live by.    

Such restraint is especially important when shopping for men's clothing.  Men don't get a lot of choices when it comes to fashion.  They have their stripes and their plaids and their checks, all in manly (which is to say toned-down) shades of red, blue, black, brown, green, and gray.  So, it's difficult to get something that doesn't look like everything else in your brother's or dad's or boyfriend's or husband's closet.  That's why it's tempting to pounce on a pink polo or an orange and green madras plaid button-down.  Don't do it.  (Unless, of course, the man in question is peacock enough to be into that sort of thing.)  It's better to get something similar to something he already has that he likes rather than something different that he'll probably hate.  Even if it means having to say, "No, this isn't the same red and blue checked plaid shirt that I got you for your birthday; see, this (Father's Day version) has a subtle grid of yellow running through it."

Then again, sometimes surprises are welcome.  This past Easter I received an unlikely item in the form of a purple flowering plant (I don't know what it's called, although I remember that I can't pronounce it).  I say unlikely because I'm not the most nurturing of plant guardians, unlike the husband, who's kept a St. Patrick's Day clover plant (complete with leprechaun head pick) going and thriving since March.  So, when I received the plant, I immediately told myself, "You'd better keep this thing alive."  I watered it (almost) every day after that.  To my surprise, it lived and even sprouted new flowers until just last week when it finally succumbed to the heat.  Although it lasted for almost two months, its demise still made me sad, reminding me that flowers are fleeting.  That's why I walked to the beach tonight to take a few pictures of the flowering dunes.  I'd noticed them yesterday when I was without my camera and knew from years past that they don't last all summer.  Just this April I missed out on the cherry blossoms in front of the library, and I wasn't about to go through that again.  

Because when you get down to it, capturing the wonder of nature is more important than finding the perfect present.  And as they say, living in the present is present enough.  And as I say, it's nice when you find just the right corny saying to bring your post full circle.

Monday, June 16, 2014

New Necklaces, New (Blog) Look

Tank: Boscov's
Tee: Kohl's
Skirt: Marshalls
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Fred Flare
Scarf: Gifted
Sunglasses: Candie's, Kohl's

Dress: Eric & Lani, Macy's
Shoes: BCBG, Macy's
Bag: Marshalls
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: Rampage, Boscov's

Dress: J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Etsy, Eleven Peacocks
Belt: B Fabulous
Sunglasses: Kohl's

Dress: Candie's, Kohl's
Tee: Kohl's
Shoes: Betseyville, J. C. Penney's
Bag: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's
Sunglasses: Kohl's
Scarf: Marshalls

Top: Target
Pants: Sears
Shoes: Guess, DSW
Bag: H&M
Belt: Marshalls
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Here's the second batch of necklaces I made with my Olivia Madison Company beads.  As I'd hoped, they're bigger, better, and more bedecked than ever before (even if I do say so myself).  But they didn't start out that way.  At first, I just strung the beads with the rhinestone sliders, trying to let the pieces shine unencumbered by anything extra that involved the dreaded glue.  I hated the result (way too run-of-the-mill) and ended up taking action with my wire cutters.  That's when I thought, why string the rhinestone sliders at all?  Why not make them the focal point of some fresh felt designs?  (See, in the end, glue always reigns supreme.)  Once I started, I couldn't stop, unsatisfied until I'd covered the key categories of desserts, seashells, critters, randomness (that would be Miss Parrot Wings), and flowers.  I left out fruit, but there's always next time.  

So, that's one new thing.  The other is that, after much consideration, I decided to add a menu bar to the top of this blog highlighting some of the pop culture topics I've expounded upon and/or referenced these past five years.  I figured this would make it easier to pinpoint particular posts.  I ran into this issue a few years ago when someone was interested in the blog on a (for lack of a better adjective) professional level and said that there were too many posts focusing on my products. "Sure," I allowed, "but I write about other stuff too!," scrambling to find a post about a book or movie.  Needless to say, this would-be venture never went anywhere.  But it made an impression on me, if not about my content, then about the way I presented it.  
So I began the reorganization, an endeavor that required slogging through hundreds of old posts to decide which ones to link.  It was a humbling experience, like reading old school papers or journal entries and wondering what the heck I was thinking.  Which sort of gave me pause.  Part of the problem of making posts more accessible is that they become . . . more accessible.  Did I really want to give people a blueprint to musings that would be better off buried in the bowels of cyberspace?  Because truth be told, my earliest ramblings were a little rough around the edges.  For example, I sometimes fell prey to the break-the-fourth-wall habit of posing audience questions a la Zack Morris in "Saved by the Bell" or Carrie Bradshaw in early episodes of "Sex and the City."  I'd end posts by asking, "What sorts of crafts do you like?," "What's your favorite piece of clothing?," and (that convenient catchall) "What do you think?"  I've since dispensed with such queries, instead taking a strong but silent "you know what to do at the beep" approach to comments.  Still, this was just one of many instances of cringe-worthy blog behavior that I uncovered; by the time I'd finished searching, I'd arrived at the following realizations: 1) I am a very silly woman, 2) I read a lot of cheeseball books, and 3) I seem to have no shame.  

Nevertheless, in this digital age, there's no such thing as maintaining a linear online presence.  With or without a navigation menu, the narrative nature of a blog is merely an illusion, not unlike time itself.  A glance at any site's traffic confirms that, on any given day, more people may have accessed something you wrote two years ago than something you wrote yesterday.  Which meant that if I were to continue on this wayward adventure (and for better or worse it seems that I am), then I had to own my postings past, flaws and all.    

So that's what's on the menu.  That and some carbo-licious casseroles.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Screen Prints and Princesses

 All Tied Up Necklace

Tee: J. C. Penney's
Skirt: Macy's
Shoes: Bongo, Kohl's
Bag: Princess Vera, Kohl's
Leggings: J. C. Penney's

 Girly Gumball Necklace

Tee: She Said, J. C. Penney's
Skirt: J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Payless
Bag: Target
Sunglasses: Gifted

 Mellow Medallions Necklace

Sweatshirt: Eric and Lani, Macy's
Skirt: Target
Shoes: Guess, DSW
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

 Bright Bird Necklace

Tee: Gifted
Jeans: Simply Vera, Kohl's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's
Sunglasses: Cloud Nine, Ocean City boardwalk

 Affection Confection Necklace

Tee: Delia's
Skirt: Kohl's
Shoes: Payless
Bag: Kohl's
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

My latest bead bonanza from Etsy's Olivia Madison Company.

Last week I received an exciting new shipment of Olivia Madison Company beads.  I used half of them to make the (relatively) simple necklaces featured in this week's post.  The other half I used to make some of my least simple pieces ever -- but more on that next Sunday (or Monday or Tuesday).  This week the focus is on the beads.  And what beads they are!  The thing I love most about Olivia Madison Company is its astonishing stock of colorful, kitschy, kawaii-crazy styles.  Every shape, color, and material imaginable is up for grabs -- the shop is a veritable craft supply candy store!  What's more, it almost always has just what I'm looking for.  Although the glass and shell styles you find at most brick and mortar chains are pretty, for so many projects, nothing but punky plastic will do.  That was certainly the case when it came to accessorizing the screen tees (and one sweatshirt) in this week's ensembles.

That was the screen print part of this post.  Here's the other part.   

People like to say, "There are two kinds of people in this world . . .," filling in the blanks with infinite combinations of descriptors, such as morning people and night people, winners and losers, rich people and poor people, introverts and extroverts, city people and country people, and so on.  There are sound arguments for these truths and legions of others.  But on weeknights between 7:00 and 8:00, only one comes to mind to me: "There are two kinds of people, those who like "Jeopardy," and those who like "Wheel of Fortune." '

Before I talk about where I stand on that one, I should probably backtrack a bit.

I didn't used to like "Jeopardy."  I thought its players were boring and pedantic, and I found the all-blue set as unforgiving as an igloo.  To be fair, I wasn't all that into "Wheel of Fortune" either, (apparently I've already alluded to this; as I've always feared, this blog is turning me into a rambling, repetitive relative type), although I did like the wheel's wild colors and Vanna's impressive parade of dresses.  But there was something especially foreboding about Alex Trebek and his battalion of brainiacs.  It wasn't even until I moved in with the husband, a longtime "Jeopardy" fan, that I began to watch the show regularly.  Each evening at 7:00, the familiar theme song would fill our living room, often over my litany of dinnertime woes, the star of which was,  "Can you take a look at this chicken?  It still looks a little pink to me."  At first, I just didn't get it.  What did the husband see in these eggheads?  I dismissed his fascination with the same psychological shrug I gave his Discovery Channel and History Channel habits.  Knowledge, unsweetened by the sugar-spun snares of fiction, held no appeal for my story-soaked sensibilities.  But as the weeks went by, I was surprised to find my disdain giving way to delight.  I began to look forward to the nightly dose of clever category titles, snarky sidebars (from Alex), and quirky contestants.  One of my favorite parts was when the players talked about themselves.  Their odd jobs, offbeat hobbies, and interesting anecdotes transformed them from personality-challenged ivory tower dwellers to the kind of people who probably had trouble navigating dinner parties or finding their way to the subway.  They were vulnerable, and as such, suddenly more sympathetic than their "Wheel" counterparts, who blithely bleated about amazing spouses and darling children with the kind of overzealous emptiness of awards show presenters reading from teleprompters.  Sure, those people seemed warmer with their talk of family and pets and volunteer work.  But it was a warmth that seemed to be missing something.                  

That having been said, I was a "Jeopardy" devotee by the time that Julia Collins began what would prove to be her history-making twenty-game streak some four weeks ago.  Each night I tuned in to see if the thirty-one-year-old supply chain consultant would rack up yet another victory.  When she invariably delivered, I was as impressed by her down-to-earth demeanor as I was by her mastery of minutiae.  And I wasn't the only one.  A Google search yielded articles in which viewers referred to Collins as "humble," an assessment Collins herself challenged, asserting that she was nothing of the sort and played at the top of her competitive powers.  I found this interesting; if anything, her amiability was an asset, not a liability in need of defense.  Then again, when pressed (interviewers being what they are) Collins also mentioned the bit of bias embedded in being labeled as the top ever female "Jeopardy" earner (she walked away with more than $400,000), so I could understand how she might feel the need to distance herself from traditionally female (i.e. weak) traits such as niceness.  Still, niceness, when genuine, is perhaps the rarest and most precious of social commodities, no matter what your gender, and, as I mentioned previously, part of what endeared me to "Jeopardy" in the first place.

Deep thoughts, and certainly not the kind to be found revolving around the "Wheel."  Unless, of course, you want to delve into an analysis of Pat Sajak's global warming tweets.