Sunday, July 31, 2016

Books about Books and Hot Homemade Looks: Confections from the Tote Trove Kitsch Kitchen

Top: J. C. Penney's
Skirt: Modcloth
Apron: Gifted
Shoes: Payless
Teapot: Target
Sunglasses: Candie's, Kohl's

Top: Material Girl, Macy's
Skirt (dress): Modcloth
Shoes: Christian Siriano for Payless
Belt: B Fabulous
Blender: Gifted
Sunglasses: Brigantine Beach shop

Top (dress): Modcloth
Skirt: Xhilaration, Target
Shoes: Chinese Laundry, DSW
Belt: Wet Seal
Books: Gifted
(Yes, my own, never-before-seen-on-this-blog) Eyeglasses: Candies, Visonworks

I recently read two books about books, or rather, the kinds of lives that books bring.  One was a novel, Meg Wolitzer's The Wife, and the other was Gina Sheridan's memoir I Work in a Public Library

I'll start with Wolitzer.  Most of her books (The Interestings, The Ten Year Nap) are fat, but The Wife is thin -- just like a good wifey should be.  It's a kind of post-fairy tale commentary, an account of what happens when the romance dies.  You know, if Cinderella was a promising literary light and Prince Charming was a talentless, bed-hopping cad intent on usurping her sparkle.  The wife in question is ingenue Joan, a quiet, upper-middle class coed of the 1950s who dreams of writing the great American novel.  Although she briefly works at a publishing house, her husband, "king of the world" Joe Castleman, aspiring writer and one-time college professor -- Joan's professor, to be exact -- persuades her to quit, ostensibly to help him with his writing, but really to dance attendance upon his insatiable ego.  Joan soon transitions from Joe's partner in crime to his mother/savior/plaything, a subservient role that she seems to both despise and relish.  In this way, Wolitzer makes her a symbol, a kind of submissive everywoman, to show what happens when women are forced to abandon their identities and instead become things.  After years of bearing this burden, Joan's resolve begins to crumble, leading to a series of irrevocably explosive events.  The Wife is smart, gritty, and funny, studded with the jewels of self-awareness and keen characterization that have become synonymous with Wolitzer's work.  It's about being a woman but also about being human, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't devour it, mesmerized, in a day.  Nevertheless, it left me feeling a little empty, not because of any lack of storytelling prowess on Wolitzer's part (whose skill, by the way, is flawless), but because of the bleak light it shines on marriage and human nature.

On the other hand, I Work in a Public Library was, if less textured, easier to digest.  To be fair, it's an entirely different kind of book, a collection of real-life librarian Gina Sheridan's bizarre and bittersweet conversations with library patrons.  I marveled at Sheridan's grace and patience in dealing with rude people who persisted in making requests that had nothing to do with the library, forcing her to serve as a makeshift visitor's center-slash-human Google (which may not seem like an apt analogy considering the library's relationship with the actual Google, but you get my drift).  I doubt that I could have been half as accommodating, but then that's why I'm not in library science.  Overall, I found Sheridan's compilation clever, especially the way she organized her chapters to mimic the Dewey Decimal System.  I also liked her stories about children, which provided lighthearted comic relief, despite all the cliches about children's cruel candor.  Also, there's a lovely last entry about a man who, with Sheridan's help, tastes his first Krispy Kreme doughnut at the ripe old age of eightysomething.  Happy endings don't come much sweeter than that.

To that end, this week I thought it would be fun to play with the classically feminine housewife and librarian themes when putting together my outfits.  I like things that are old-fashioned (as do many people, given the popularity of antique stores and thrift shops), and The Wife and I Work in a Public Library inspired me to whip up some looks that speak to those aesthetics (female oppression and smelly old books -- hey, bookworms come from somewhere -- aside).  Unsurprisingly, each of this post's outfits includes a piece from Modcloth, that vintage Valhalla of reborn retail riches, as well as one of my brand-spanking-new Rainbow Rampage necklaces.  Gumball beads, pendants, charms, neon plastic chains, candy-colored cabochons, and Swarovski crystals come together in everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style in these funky fairy tale statement necklaces.  This series is hands down my favorite in a long time, and I'm positively giddy at the prospect of making even more of these wild and whimsical wearables.  

More gumball beads are on their way to Tote Trove central, so you know I mean business. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Southern Sips and Good Time Trips: Virginia Out on the Veranda

Top: Modcloth
Skirt (dress): XOXO
Shoes: Qupid, Alloy
Bag: Nine West, Boscov's
Belt: Apt. 9. Kohl's
Sunglasses: Brigantine beach shop

Virginia is for lovers.  And ham, as many a billboard reminded the husband and I on our way to that state's Eastern Shore to spend a week with his family.  We hung with the fam, ate crabs by the cartload, and vegged out in a quaint bayside cottage, luxuriating in the South's slower pace (some of us more than others, as yours truly rarely reared her head before noon).  Peaceful and impossibly green, the Eastern Shore is the kind of place where you picture locals nursing lemonade -- or perhaps something stronger -- to beat the heat from their wraparound porches.  

Thus inspired, I squeezed out this Lulu Lemonade Necklace one lazy afternoon between downing mystery novels and watermelon.  The hot pink plastic of these (otherwise) dainty drinks is brighter and wilder than that of any real-life libation.  But then, that's just the sort of fun and fantasy I've come to expect from Flash Charms.  That's right.  I transported my day-glo doodads across state lines.  Because you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take the Jersey out of the girl (something I've said at least one time before, probably while visiting an exotic locale like Tampa or Dearborn).  So, as the Garden State's (or at least this site's) site-seeing ambassador, I looked for camera candy and found these contenders.

Pork products need not apply.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Just Plucky: Sleuthin' and Stylin' with Stella Ducktropolis

 You Quack Me Up Necklace

Dress: Modcloth
Shoes: Alloy
Bag: Nine West, Marshalls
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: Michaels
Fascinator: Modcloth

It's no secret that I love books, lipstick, and stickers.  So I got a real kick (or should I say quack?) out of Charlotte Barnes's children's book Stella Ducktropolis, which I bought as a gift for a baby girl named (what else?) Stella. Stella (the duck, not the baby) is a web-footed wonder who lives in the enchanting town of Pondsylvania.  A sticker factory inspector by day and crime-fighter by night, Stella has a passion for fashion, pink, and the word "fabulous."  Barnes sets the scene with a delightful mix of fun and humor (signs saying "Quality is Fabulous!" and "Crime is Not Fabulous!" pop up in the charming illustrations), relaying how Stella was inspired to become a crime-fighter when she set out to catch the thugs who stole her niece's lollipop:

"Stella had been shocked by the unfabulousness of such behavior.  "Taking candy from a baby!  Those cads!" she exclaimed.  That's when the idea of becoming a Fabulous Crime Fighter had sprouted like a little seed in the fabulous garden of her mind."

Soon Stella embarks on a new mission, namely to nab the nefarious Blue Bandit.  Armed with style and savvy, the glamorous gumshoe gives new meaning to the term fashion police while protecting her beloved Pondsylvania from punks and pond scum alike.  Her red lipstick is laced with truth serum, her compact blinds bad guys, and her high heels squirt baby oil to give unsavories the slip.  This is one duck with skills (so watch out, Liam Neeson).  In Stella, Barnes gives us a heroine who's both cute and clever, showing her femininity to be not only an asset, but the source of her ingenuity.  To be sure, female vigilantes are no strangers to fiction, what with Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars, and the new estrogen-infused Ghostbusters kicking butt across traditionally male territory.  Still, Stella has a special something, a kind of fierce sweetness and courage that run deeper than her feathers suggest.  Stella Ducktropolis is an endearingly quirky treat with a message, teaching little girls to fight for themselves and the people they love.

So, in the spirit of Stella, I made this You Quack Me Up Necklace.  Lipsticks dangle next to rubber duckies and one (modified) Flash Charm flamingo.  I had a blast styling it with my favorite dress and my yellow feather Kentucky Derby-meets-Big Bird fascinator, making for an unexpected but whimsical combination.  Kind of like super sleuth Stella.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Bikini, You're the Bomb(shell) and Beach Blanket Blingo

Folksy Fruit Necklace

Bikini: Venus
Hat: Sea Star, Brigantine
Towel: J. C. Penney's

Bikini: Venus
Hat: Candie's, Kohl's
Scarf: A. C. Moore

Bikini: Venus
Hat: Candie's, Kohl's
Striped scarf: A. C. Moore
Floral scarf: Nordstrom

"It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka-dot bikini 
That she wore for the first time today.
An itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka-dot bikini, 
So in the locker she wanted to stay."

If you're a woman, then you can probably relate to this timeless tune about the self-consciousness that comes with baring one's bod in a bikini.  We've all felt the sudden security blanket appeal of the cover-up, made the excuses (Aunt Flo's come early, and me without my tampon!), and longed for the cocoon-like comfort of Old Man Winter.  Even if you love how you look, there's something slightly nerve-racking about busting out on the beach in what amounts to neon underwear.  Thank goodness I have Tammy (the Torso) to do the honors for this (and every) post.  Ever intrepid, she has no such qualms about modeling a few scraps of well-padded Lycra.  (Also, she never got over coming in second in a Miss Hawaiian Tropic contest, so I knew she'd be game.)  Better her than me, and also better for the baubles.  Because less clothing means more real estate to show off statement necklaces to their best advantage.  The bikinis may be tiny, but everything else about these looks is super-sized: the colors, the hats, and even, for about a millisecond, the rafts.  

Ah, yes, the rafts.  We met on a routine trip to Michaels (where all such liaisons take place), me cracking down to take them home in my typical let-me-mull-it-over-first fashion a full two weeks later.  So, it was with much anticipation and excitement that I finally carted the inflatable watermelon, doughnut, and pizza into the house, my newly purchased dollar store air pump dutifully in tow.  The husband was amused by the rafts but skeptical about the pump.  "I don't think that'll work," he said, watching me struggle to attach the flimsy apparatus to the pizza's pungent (smells-like-a-new-doll!) plastic.  So he stepped in and blew it up the old-fashioned way, and for one glorious moment it reigned as fat and happy as any boardwalk come-on.  It turned out to be too big for my photography purposes, which should have been my first clue that I'd embarked on a fool's errand.  Because soon enough it began to shrink and sputter, air escaping from a cluster of pinprick holes that I'd accidentally made with the pump.  The husband gallantly patched it and reinforced it with air, and I took a bunch of pictures before safely (or so I thought) sequestering it in our spare bedroom.  The next morning the husband greeted me wearing the deflated pizza on his head, good-naturedly asking, "What happened here?"

Damn you, Felix Ungar, for making photography look so glam and easy.  Disappointed, I left the doughnut and watermelon untouched in their boxes, earmarked for my sister who has a pool.  This was nearly the last staging straw.  There was nothing for it but to buy a new prop, namely the straw hat pictured with my own (nearly) yellow polka dot bikini.  Prettily retro, it provides plenty of coverage and as such will be starring in my own (undocumented) beach adventures.

I think our little locker girl would have liked that.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

From Pond to Bay: A Tall Tale of Turtles

T is for Turtle Necklaces 

 Fabulous Felt Sea Turtle Barrette

Dress: Marty's, Ocean City boardwalk
Top: Material Girl, Macy's
Shoes: Christian Siriano for Payless
Bag: Xhilaration, Target
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

No tribute to 1980s-1990s toys would be complete without a shout-out to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (not that this post is a toy tribute, but when did I ever let such details stop me?).  As a girl (and a girly one at that) growing up during these decades, I was, as I've many times mentioned, a devotee of Rainbow Brite, My Little Ponies, and Strawberry Shortcake.  But there was something about the Turtles too, something dark and gritty and, dare I say, dangerous, that captured my usually cotton candy-clogged imagination.  So, naturally, I watched the cartoon and saw all of the movies, including the originals in the early 1990s and Michael Bay's recent reboots.  Each was enjoyable in its own way, but it wasn't until I caught the 1990 version again on TV (starring Judith Hoag as April O'Neil, more recently known as the departed "Nashville's" Aunt Tandy) that I realized just how much the aesthetic of our heroes in a half shell had changed.  Way back when, they were cute claymantion-like crime-fighters, life-size carbon copies of their cartoon counterparts.  But under Bay's manly tutelage, they've morphed into bona fide warriors, their hulking shells intimidatingly tank-like.  A more subtle difference is the shift in the color of Leonardo's mask; once upon a time it was a cool, cheerful turquoise; now it's dulled to a no-nonsense cobalt.  My first thought was, oh, I'm getting old, recognizing the same righteous indignation I'd felt upon watching Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man after years of the aw shucks charm of Tobey Maguire.  Kids -- the audience, I reminded myself pointedly, for whom this face-lift of a franchise was meant -- would pass no such judgments, mesmerized by these anthropomorphized amphibians much as I had been at the age of eight.

Change is never easy, not even in the sheltered world of toy company-aggrandized characters.  That's why I kept my own turtle trinkets simple, using good old-fashioned felt and pony beads instead of the more worldly and weathered bohemian pendants. Just think of me as your keeping-it-real jewelry crafter, a pliers-wielding Splinter dispensing pearls - er, rhinestones - somewhere high above the sewer.   

Martial arts meet masquerade in these iconic turtle masks I embellished.  The guy at the movie theater handed them to me with amusement when I bought two adult tickets.  Little did he know that the husband and I would fight over Leonardo.

One of many turtle crossing signs here in Brigantine.  If only real turtles had super powers.