Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Moon Tunes: Livin' La Vida Lunar

I recently picked up a bargain book that looked promising, Night Music by Jojo Moyes.  It's one of her earlier novels, published five years before Me Before You, which put Moyes on the map.  Having loved that trilogy (as well as Sheltering Rain and Windfallen), I expected a sad but satisfying second chance story.  And I got it!

The Spanish House (which isn't in Spain, but England) is a tumbledown mansion that too many people covet.  So when the owner, nasty old Mr. Pottisworth, finally croaks, it sets a chain of events rippling through the village.  The long-suffering Mrs. McCarthy and her conniving husband, who live in a smaller house at the edge of the property, think they deserve it for putting up with Pottisworth.  A down-on-his-luck developer wants to knock it down to build commuter housing.  Yet it's recently widowed violinist Isabel Delancy who inherits it and moves in with her two teenagers.  Left penniless after her husband is killed in a car accident, Isabel is forced to leave a life of luxury in London for a monstrosity in the middle of nowhere.  The house has no plumbing, heat, or electricity, and parts of it are literally crumbling.  It's a mess with which Isabel's ill-equipped to deal, especially in the wake of her loss.  As a career violinist, music has been the center of her world, so much so that it's cut her off from the rest of it, at least according to the children's nanny as she comforts Isabel's oldest:

"And she was fragile, a little like a child herself, Mary had said.  "You often find that with people who have a talent," she had told Kitty one evening.  "They never have to grow up.  All their energy goes towards doing the thing they love."  Kitty had never been able to tell whether or not she had meant this as a criticism." (60)

Faced with feeding her family and salvaging her strange new home, Isabel has to put music on the back burner, playing her violin only at night when she's lonely and thinks no one can hear.

Still, the Spanish House isn't the end of Isabel's story.  Instead, it opens her up to a countryside full of characters, some incredibly kind and others unscrupulous as their greed for the Spanish House spirals.  Their subplots intersect and overlap, weaving an intricate web of rural life and the motivations that fuel it.  Yet it's Isabel's transformation from sheltered lady to forest forager (among other things) that anchors the novel.  Despite her city sophistication, Isabel is naïve about everything else.  Although starting over is painful, she digs deep and finds that she has pluck, armoring her against her enemies and deepening her bond with her children.   

Rich with all the charm, heart, and, yes, melancholy that is Moyes' calling card, Night Music supports the old adage that big houses bring big problems.  But it also shows us that there's more than one way to make music -- and, ultimately, a home.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Primarily Prairie

Top and skirt: LC Lauren Conrad, Kohl's; Headband: INC, Macy's; Shoes: Worthington, JCPenney 

Bag: Amerileather, Zulily; Stretch bracelet: Cloud Nine, Ocean City; Bangles: B Fabulous; Ring: Making Waves, Ocean City

Top and skirt: LC Lauren Conrad, Kohl's; Bag: Mellow World, Kohl's; Shoes: Nine West, Amazon

Yellow and red bangles: B Fabulous; Green and blue bangles: Burlington Coat Factory; Ring: Charlotte Russe

Top and skirt: LC Lauren Conrad, Kohl's; Headband: New York & Company; Shoes: Chase & Chloe, Zulily
Studded bangle: JCPenney; Green ring: Express; Red ring: Making Waves, Ocean City; Bag: LC Lauren Conrad, Kohl's

I talk about primary colors a lot.  And also, for some reason, prairies.  Which is funny because I suspect that if I ever visited a prairie, I wouldn't like it.  But I do like these prairie-esque skirt-and-top combos from LC Lauren Conrad.  

See what I did there?  

This is the part where readers usually groan and think, oh no, not more paid advertising.  But I can proudly say that Kohl's has never paid me for pumping up its products -- and something tells me it never will.  I do it because I love it.       

And now I'm off to do more things I love.  And also a few that I hate.  

Don't look surprised, exercise.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Have a Happy and a Healthy, Not a Sordid and a Stealthy

Okay, so this title's a bit of a stretch, even for me.  But whatever family drama you've got going on today (and there's always something!), consider this: It can't be as bad as what happens in Leslie Meier's Turkey Trot Murder.  Because it's all fun and games and cranberry sauce until someone falls through the ice.

So, don't fall through the ice.  And have a happy Thanksgiving!  

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Covert Missions and New Traditions: Home is Where the Tart Is

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Sophie Kinsella's stories make me happy.  These books are sunsets stuffed in cupcakes wrapped in rainbows.  So when it was my turn to pick for the book club I'm in with my mom and sister, I went with Kinsella's latest, The Party Crasher, a quirky family dramedy with all the feels.

Twenty-six-year-old Effie Talbot is devastated by her parents' divorce.  To make matters worse, her father has a sexy new girlfriend, a nightmare of a woman named Krista who's persuaded him to sell Greenoaks, the Talbots' beloved, so-ugly-it's-cute family home.  Effie's older brother and sister have adopted a stiff upper lip, but stubborn and sensitive Effie is having none of it, refusing to attend Krista's farewell gala, which she wasn't exactly invited to anyway.  But then Effie remembers that her cherished Russian nesting dolls are still hidden somewhere inside Greenoaks.  So she decides to slip into the party incognito to find them, without any of her siblings -- or her now-famous childhood sweetheart -- seeing her.  I don't have to tell you that this is a mission riddled with narrow escapes, epic eavesdropping, and surprises for everyone.  Throughout it all, Effie finds out that things aren't always what they seem, forcing her to finally, maybe, grow up.

Effervescent with all the madcap humor, warmth, and spot-on character insights that ignite every Kinsella novel, The Party Crasher is plus-one perfection.  I don't know how she does it, but, as always, Kinsella delivers a fun and witty confection of a story that also offers up truths about life.  She just gets it.    

The Party Crasher is one party you won't want to miss.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Autumn Rays, Denim Days

Jeans: LC Lauren Conrad, Kohl's

Boots: 2 Lips Too, JCPenney; Bag: Current Mood, Dolls Kill 

Belt: Izod, Marshalls; Rings: Claire's, Delia's, Charlotte Russe, Miami accessories cart

Bandana scrunchie: Wild Fable, Target; Fuzzy scrunchies: Lady Arya, Zulily; Necklaces: The Tote Trove

Top: So, Kohl's

Boots: Mossimo, Target

Bag: Wild Fable, Target

Camisole: Hippie Rose, Macy's; Top: Free People, Belk's; Belt: Steve Madden, Zulily

Jacket: Candie's, Kohl's

Bag: Nine West, Ross; Maroon bangle: Iris Apfel for INC, Macy's; Pink bangle: Amrita Singh, Zulily

Top: IZ Buyer, Kohl's; Jeans: Earl Jeans, Macy's

Ah, autumn rays.  The thing about them is that they're few and far between, especially now as we close November.  Just yesterday I ran errands and bundled up in a button-down, sweater, and puffer coat (pics to come; here at The Tote Trove, we're rarely timely).  I was roasting in the car but cold once I got out.  You know how it is.  Anyway, I thought I'd post some pics of jeans I wore recently.  Because to me, that's the true mark of the changing seasons, going from sundresses and flip flops to jeans and boots.  Even this cold-shoulder top outfit, which I wore last month to get my latest COVID shot (watch out, Omicron!), seems like it's from forever ago.  October was a simpler time when all you needed was a jacket.  And sometimes, not even that.  As I recall, that day I was sweating in this pleather moto-coat, peeling it off during my post-shot trip to JO-ANN Fabrics.  Of course, that outing was unpleasant for other reasons, as I was forced to put back a bunch of jewelry-making supplies that I thought were on sale but weren't.  Oh, the shame!  That sort of thing never happens online, where you have the luxury of seeing how your total will play out before deciding to make it official.  Also, you don't have to deal with snarky cashiers.  Or wear suitable outerwear.  Or even pants.

Is it any wonder I prefer the virtual world?

Still, making this Tropical Trinkets Necklace helped me work through my nostalgia for summer and my annoyance at retailers.  Including JO-ANN's, because that's where I scored the set of (thankfully 50% off) island charms.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Big Apple Bites and Lean Cuisine Nights: Death Never Takes a Vacay

Most people go on vacation to relax -- or at the very least sightsee.  But Lucy Stone has other ideas.  When she leaves Tinkers Cove, Maine for The Big Apple, it's to track down her childhood bestie Beth's killer.  Which means stalking -- um, interviewing -- Beth's four ex-husbands, a motley crew that includes a crooked tycoon, a gang-member-turned-artist, a handsy chiropractor, and a cult leader.  In between narrow escapes, Lucy unplugs in her Airbnb studio with a Lean Cuisine from the corner bodega.  Well, except for the night she steps out of the shower to find a stranger hovering over her suitcase.  

Depressing -- not to mention scary -- isn't the word.  Worst of all, Lucy doesn't even tell anyone what she's up to.  Her husband thinks she's just getting back in touch with her NYC roots, taking in a show or two to unwind from the daily grind of housewifery and part-time journalism.  (Not that I blame her for wanting some time off from Bill; he can be a bit of a caveman.)  Yet knowing that I would never do any of these things is what entertained me as I devoured Leslie Meier's twenty-fifth Lucy Stone novel, Silver Anniversary Murder.  The humor hooked me too, especially this bit about the crooked tycoon:

"Even hardened New Yorkers were horrified by Beth's gruesome end, and her friends were deeply shaken, coping with guilt as well as grief.  But not Jeremy, once her nearest and dearest, who was happily bopping around the city collecting awards and consorting with call girls." (124)

Because sometimes reading about characters who are different from you can be as comforting as reading about characters who are you (but with better cars and haircuts).  They make you thankful that you're not squandering your hard-earned money, vacation time, and safety to play detective.

Which, I suppose, explains why I was always more of a Bess Marvin than a Nancy Drew.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Face That Launched a Thousand Quips

Flannel, tee, and skirt: So, Kohl's; Barrettes and bag: Dolls Kill; Belt: Izod, Marshalls; Tights: Isadora, Zulily; Boots: Simply Vera, Kohl's

Top: ELLE, Kohl's; Skirt: Dolls Kill; Bag: Elizabeth and James, Kohl's; Tights: Mixit, JCPenney; Shoes: Nine West, Kohl's

Sweater: Nine West, Kohl's; Skirt: Wild Fable, Target; Tights: HUE, Amazon; Boots: JustFab, Zulily; Bag: Apt. 9, Kohl's

Headband: Zulily; Sweater: JCPenney; Skirt and tights: Xhilaration, Target; Shoes: Nine West, Kohl's

Sweater: Modcloth; Skirt: Mossimo, Target; Tights: HUE, Amazon; Boots: Betsey Johnson, Zulily; Bag: Amazon

As you know, when I'm in between new outfit pics -- or just need a laugh -- I like to post old B roll.  Today is one of those days.  So enjoy this quintet of quirky facial expressions from falls and winters past.  Because I may not be Helen of Troy -- but if I float one boat, then I've earned by Greek yogurt. 

By which, of course, I mean ice cream.🍨