Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sugar and Spice and Everything Dice: An Introduction





Top: Kohl's
Skirt: Marilyn Monroe, Macy's
Shoes: Betseyville, Macy's
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Belt: Izod, Marshalls
Sunglasses: So, Kohl's



The sugar is Nicholas Sparks's Two by Two, the spice is Amy Schumer's The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, and the dice is Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic to the Rescue, a tale that tells us how everything in the fictional -- and, indeed, real world -- is one casino game away from collapsing.

Because books are what make this post, er, cook, this Lovely Librarian Necklace is a willing and apropos mascot.  (And yes, I still think that libraries are gross and smelly and filled with books smeared with mystery stains.  But it's the spirit of the library that I celebrate.  Kind of like when I wax fanciful about flea markets.)   The books in question represent a souffle of stories, a trio of trials, and a network of narratives whose humanity can be conveyed by only good writing and imagination.  That and handicrafts made from stuff that belongs in a dollhouse.

So, stay tuned as I embark upon The Tote Trove's first ever three-part series (four if you count this introductory post, which I do) and indulge my hey,-here's-what-I-think bookworm ways.

But not real bookworms.  They're even more unsettling than real libraries.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Motley New and Chick Lit Too: A Case of Mistaken Serenity




 The Real Teal Necklace

Sweater: Jeanne Pierre, Marshalls
Skirt: Marshalls
Shoes: Nine West, DSW
Bag: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Belt: Cape Charles, VA shop
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's






Top: Marshalls
Skirt: I Heart Ronson, J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Betseyville, Macy's
Bag: Xhilaration, Target
Belt: B Fabulous
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's 





Buttercup Betty Necklace

Top: XOXO, Macy's
Skirt: Modcloth
Shoes: Kensie, DSW
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Sunglasses: Party City

This week's necklaces are a mishmosh of components and styles.  I made The Real Teal with rhinestone sliders from two broken (store-bought) bracelets.  I liked attaching them to a plastic chain instead of stringing them along wire because the result was something modern with movement -- in other words, a bauble that boogies.  As for the others, Eclectic Elephants is a twist on my old rampage theme, and Buttercup Betty stars the last of my vintage oval pendants.  The cluster of daisy beads gives it that extra special retro something, don't you think?

But the hoopla doesn't end with the hardware.  Which is my not-so-subtle way of saying that it's time for the book report portion of this post. 

When I first heard of Marian Keyes's The Woman Who Stole My Life, I thought it was a novel about identity theft.  So I was all set for a rollicking tale of hijinks and shopping sprees punctuated by the obligatory lesson on self-discovery.  Kind of like that "Friends" episode where Monica's credit card is stolen and she takes up tap dancing.  Turns out, it isn't about that at all.  The title is an echo of what the main character's husband, a frustrated artist, says when she gets a book deal after surviving an extremely rare illness.  

Stella Sweeney, wife, mother, and beautician, is suddenly struck with Guillain-Barre syndrome.  Every part of her body except for her eyelids (and, I think, her internal organs) is paralyzed, which means that she spends months in the hospital trying to regain feeling.  So imprisoned, she's forced to spend every second with her thoughts and fears.  Her husband, Ryan, and two teenage children are beside themselves with grief and worry.  At first.  But as time marches on and Stella does not (she doesn't die; this is just my clever way of saying that she still can't walk), their concern turns to resentment, and they begin to barrage Stella with workaday queries, namely, "The tenants from Sandycove have given their notice.  What am I to do about it?" and (more entertainingly) "Where is my bunny rabbit onesie?".  "Huh?" you're probably thinking.  "How can they ask her anything?  She can't even talk!"  But she can.  Sort of.  Stella's neurologist and lone champion, Dr. Mannix Taylor, has devised a communication system in which she answers questions by blinking.  He does the heavy lifting by suggesting letters, and Stella blinks when he's gotten one right.  Dr. Taylor records everything in a series of notebooks to document Stella's progress -- as well as her many witticisms, such as, "When is a yawn not a yawn?  When it's a miracle."  Thus, Stella and Mannix get to know each other "one blink at a time" (this isn't me being clever, but Keyes; stick around and you'll see why; okay, the "see" was me and I'm sorry).  They joke, flirt, and commiserate, becoming acquainted with the most intimate details of each other's lives.  At the same time, Stella's relationship with Ryan becomes more strained and stilted, slowly revealing their marriage to be one of convenience -- or, rather, inconvenience, with Stella cast in the role of servant.  Oh yes, this tale oozes feminist outrage, cunningly so through the stark sound of silence.  Not that it's all sick bed reflections and social commentary.  This is Keyes, after all, the queen of quick wit and comic timing. Which is to say that there are (some) hijinks.

Stella survives -- even if her old life doesn't.  After much emotional hemming and hawing, she tells Ryan that she wants a divorce and embarks upon a proper romance with Mannix, who also, it should be noted, has initiated divorce proceedings (which in Ireland -- who knew? -- take five years).  After a brief misunderstanding between Stella and Mannix, Mannix makes a grand gesture by self publishing a book based on his notebooks called -- wait for it -- One Blink at a Time.  One drug-addict-Vice-President's-wife-turned-nun later (don't ask), Stella and Mannix are a bona fide couple, and Stella is being courted by a New York publishing house.  She and Mannix move the kids stateside and begin the tedious business of fine-tuning the book -- as well as Stella's image.

Oh, the fame monster.  Never satisfied, demanding every pound of unmoisturized flesh.  But the art director of one of Stella's magazine shoots puts it much better than I can:

' "This!" Berrie pointed at Mannix and got the attention of everyone in the room.  "This right here is why we don't encourage boyfriends on author shoots."  To Mannix, he said, "You don't get it.  It's not who you think Stella is; it's who we decide she is.  And we decide she's cozy and safe.  It's how her book will sell." ' (350)

Mannix buys Stella the too-flashy Jimmy Choos that Berrie forbids her to wear -- at a 50% discount from the stylist, natch -- because that's just the kind of guy he is.  But the unpleasantness of Berrie's words linger, casting a pall on the proceedings and the rest of the story. 

Make no mistake, I enjoyed this book.  Keyes is one of my favorite authors.  Her novels are smart and funny and full of glamour and Irish charm and heart.  But for me, this one is a little anticlimactic.  Stella never finds herself or figures out what she really wants (aside from Mannix, of course, although, god though he is, he doesn't seem like enough).  If Ryan kept her down, then Mannix gives her wings -- but she doesn't seem to go anywhere.  Then again, Ryan never finds himself either (not that he deserves to, the punk), and in his own deluded way (he seeks Internet fame by giving away everything he owns), he tries very hard.  So maybe that's the takeaway from this story.  That trying too hard is overrated and that happiness comes from letting go.  

Or maybe, as usual, I'm, ahem, reading too much into things.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Back to White: Happy 95th, Betty!







Dress: Macy's
Shoes: Venus
Bag: Nine West, Marshalls
Belt: B Fabulous
Sunglasses: Party City

It appears that I have a Victorian straggler who couldn't help but stay behind to celebrate Betty White's birthday.  This white-as-snow bow admires Ms. White as much as I do.  And why not?  She's a delight!  Sweet and bubbly with a subtle snarkiness, the woman who gave the world Rose Nylund (and, okay, Sue Ann Nivens) has spent almost a century on this planet.  But then that's the cusp of Capricorn for you, especially when you toss in the dogged work ethic.  How does she do it?

One thing's for sure.  This is one goat who just keeps going.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Victor/Victoriana






Top: Marshalls
Skirt: Kohl's
Shoes: Payless
Bag: Candie's, Kohl's
Jacket: Candie's, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Kohl's







Creepy Castle Necklace


Dress: Macy's
Shoes: Christian Siriano for Payless
Bag: Xhilaration, Target
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Sunglasses: So, Kohl's







Top: J. C. Penney's
Skirt: Decree, J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Payless
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Belt: J. C. Penney's
Jacket: Candie's, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Kohl's

This time the Victor in question isn't a Broadway cross-dresser but a well-preserved soap star (which, come to think of it, isn't all that different).  Eric Braedan's Victor Newman has reigned on CBS's "The Young and the Restless" since 1980 -- solidly putting him in the camp of the restless.  It's odd for me to mention him because I haven't watched the soap since I dealt in hall passes, but to this day I can't hear the name Victor without thinking of Genoa City's leading man.  Seasoned but still attractive, Slick Vic is as classic as a floral fan or lace parasol (and you thought that the soap opera part was what was girly).  Like the Victorians, the daytime Emmy-winning actor has a few skeletons in his (albeit fictional) closet.  He got his start playing Nazis and cowboys, his rugged good looks no doubt helping to sell the ruthlessness required by such roles (unless he played rodeo clowns).  Unlike the Victorians, Braedan hails from Germany instead of Great Britain. This was news to me; I always assumed that he was British on account of his proper, high-tea-sounding voice.  Which helps explain why I shoehorned him into a post about 1800s England.

I've always loved the era of bows and ballgowns.  So much so that when taking British lit in college (Tennyson, Dickens, and Bronte, oh my!), I wrote a research paper on Victorian fashion.  So of course I'd end up channeling this ladylike aesthetic into the accessories and outfits of at least one post.  I loved embellishing these bargain bow barrettes (J. C. Penney's) and stringing up this necklace with vintage cabochons and fan charms (Etsy's MK Supplies), then pairing them with sweet but salty somethings, like this mesh-backed scroll-print dress and lace-edged pleather mini.  Perfect for a lady's lunch, bridal shower -- or an ingenue's entrance on an episode of your favorite afternoon saga -- they bring the bold (but not the beautiful; I'll poke fun at that soap some other time) and punch up the pretty.

Now, that's what I call daytime drama.    



Sunday, January 8, 2017

Charm Alarm: Splash Flood Warning





Sweater: Arizona Jeans, J. C. Penney's
Jeans: Arizona Jeans, J. C. Penney's
Shoes: a. n. a., J. C. Penney
Bag: Xhilaration, Target
Sunglasses: Kohl's






Sweatshirt: Bongo, Sears
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Worthington, J. C. Penney's
Bag: Nahui Ollin
Sunglasses: Party City






Top: Lily Star, Target
Jeans: Princess Vera, Kohl's
Shoes: Guess, DSW
Bag: Nordstrom
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Will these Flash Charm puns ever get old?  Probably, if the ever-dwindling clearance rack at Michaels is any indication.  Last year at this time, Flash Charms were the new kid on the jewelry making block, and I, awestruck and smitten, started buying them up like an extra on "Hoarders."  Now there are a precious few relegated to an endcap between the American Girl doll clothes and the googly eyes, shamefaced in the glare of those perky new pompom charms.  Sure, I dedicated a whole post to the wonder of the pompom trend just two months ago and have since even purchased one (in case you're wondering, it's from J. C. Penney's and looks like cherries), but that won't stop me from rolling those scene stealers under the bus if Flash Charm shelf space is threatened.  

So here's (perhaps) the last and latest Flash Charm trio.  You've met the critters and takeout under other names and incarnations, but the bicycles are first timers.  When I bought them, I thought that they were bicycle repair kits.  I thought that the box with the bicycle picture on it was for storing tire patches and -- well, honestly, I don't know what else -- and that the cylinder thing was a pump.  Then the husband told me that they were lunchboxes and thermoses.  And I realized that that made more sense.  Still, I think a bicycle is a weird choice for a lunchbox when there are so many cooler things like ponies and rainbows and cupcakes.  At least a cupcake is something you could put in a lunchbox. 

Take note, Flash Charms CEO.  It's gaffes like this that made room for the pompoms.