Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bubblegum Ball Blowout: Part 3 and a Late Merry Christmas

 Lemon Yellow Gumball Necklace

Sweater: Candie's, Kohl's
Skirt: Candie's, Kohl's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Betsey Johnson
Belt: Wet Seal

 Dark Green Gumball Necklace

Dress: Modcloth
Cardigan: Candie's, Kohl's
Shoes: Rocket Dog, DSW
Bag: Wet Seal
Belt: Wet Seal
Scarf: Gifted

 Pink Gumball Necklace

Top: Candie's, Kohl's
Skirt: So, Kohl's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Princess Vera, Kohl's
Belt: Wet Seal

Mint Green Gumball Necklace

Top: Decree, JCPenney
Tank: Worthington, JCPenney
Skirt: So, Kohl's
Shoes: Payless
Bag: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Belt: Candie's, Kohl's

At nearly zero hour, I finally embraced the holiday spirit.  I blame the Christmas episode of "The Middle," in which Frankie boycotts what she sees as a pointless holiday to gorge on fudge sans pants while watching reality TV only to spring into action at the last minute when her husband tells her that she's the reason he celebrates Christmas.  I sided with her the whole time, as I'm sure I, along with millions of other female viewers, was meant to, only to have my faith in festivities renewed by the last misty-eyed scene.  (No snickering, please; I have it on good authority that "The Middle" makes plenty of otherwise tough people sniffle.) So, I decorated my tree, wrapped my gifts, and even managed to bake some cookies.  Never mind that the husband made most of them, and that the recipe I picked out, the one for the never-before-tested-by-me orange slices, produced a big batch of awful despite my efforts with orange extract-spiked drifts of vanilla frosting made all the more disturbing (and dare I say slightly moldy) by stripes of icing in flagrant orange.  The cookies tasted like cotton-ball-and-orange-scented-car-air-freshener sandwiches, or at least what I think that would taste like, and I shuddered, fearing for the squirrels' safety as we flung them outside, the ever-irritating "Mele Kalikimaka" piping up inside my citrus-fogged head.  I don't know what it is with me and baking.  I guess I feel like it's something I should like to do and be good at, just one more seemingly errant but well-placed thread in the crazy quilt of my crafty existence.  But that's just the Martha Stewart talking.  What I should really do is back away slowly and stock up on Entenmann's.         

Anyway, this holiday hoopla and the malaise that creeps in once it all begins to unravel is the reason I'm getting around to writing my Christmas-themed post on the Johnny-come-lately date of December 28.  Not that it's all that Christmassy.  I don't know about you, but I enjoy the fetchingly retro combination of red and mint even in summer.  Maybe because it makes me think of ice cream sundaes, maraschino cherries tumbling down mountains of mint chocolate chip.  Gumballs fit in nicely with that imagery and are surely a treat (or rather, a treat teaser, unless you want to hear about gum hanging out in your colon for seven years or whatever) for all seasons. One day, I aspire to make a gumball necklace for every shade in the ice cream shop window.

 It's nice to have something to chew on.                     

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bubblegum Ball Blowout: Part 2

 Yellow Bow Necklace

Peplum tank: Monteau, Marshalls
Tee: So, Kohl's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Betseyville, Macy's
Bag: Bisou Bisou, JCPenney
Sash: Wet Seal

 Orange Bubblegum Necklace

Top: Candie's, Kohl's
Skirt: Necessary Objects, Annie Sez
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Marshalls
Belt: Marshalls

Purple Gumball Necklace

Top: Marshalls
Skirt: Decree, JCPenney
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Eleven Peacocks, Etsy

As promised, this week the gumballs keep rolling.  There's purple, there's orange, there's yellow.  (Well, to be fair, the yellow is for bows, which aren't technically gumballs, but we like to keep things flexible here at the Trove.)  I'm holding a couple of dark green and mint necklaces in reserve to post next week with two more in pink and yellow in a kind of not-quite-red, not-quite-green Christmas countdown.  Because complain though I might, I love Christmas just as much as the next hopped-up-on-candy-canes crafter.

And in keeping with the season, I've just read a book set in winter, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple.  I settled on it in the magazine-slash-trashy-paperback aisle of the grocery store after considering and ultimately rejecting the usual bodice rippers -- all topnotch when that's what you're looking for, but this time I wasn't.  There was a lone copy, and the improbable title and cover (a scarf and dark glasses-disguised cartoon head whose mouth was a perfect "o" against a backdrop of mountains) intrigued me.  I found it all the more exotic for being in the same place as my fruit snacks and cheese wheels, and when the cashier commented that she wanted to read it, I knew I had myself a winner.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is about a wife and mother who disappears two days before a Christmas cruise to Antarctica.  Although Bernadette is a housewife, the word is kind of misleading.  In fact, she rarely leaves her house, which is a former school for wayward girls with blackberry bushes pushing up through the floorboards.  She's ostracized by the other moms, and her husband is a top executive at Microsoft and as such, part of the fabric of the perfect Seattle life that has contrived to constrict her.  Yet it isn't until the middle of the novel that we learn that Bernadette is no garden variety misfit but a former MacArthur genius grant recipient, a star whose meteoric rise and subsequent crash landed her in Seattle in the first place.  The format of the novel is as unconventional as Bernadette herself, comprised of a series of letters, texts, reports, and other assorted correspondence, its overarching voice that of Bernadette's daughter, Bee, who has claimed the role of compiling the letters.    

Although a scathing social satire of technology, the Pacific Northwest, and modern American life, Where'd You Go, Bernadette is, at its heart, about what it means to be different.  The satire part is merely a mirror held up to show us what nonconformity costs.  Some parts are as simple and easy as the movie it's clearly destined to be, others rife with enough symbols to choke a term paper.  But  Bernadette's former mentor says it best in a response to one of Bernadette's rambling, rant-ridden emails: 

"Are you done?  You can't honestly believe any of this nonsense.  People like you must create.  If you don't create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society." (Semple 147)

Highlighted by this caveat, the branches growing through the floorboards come to symbolize the wilderness of unchanneled creativity running rampant in Bernadette's brain.  Yet clipping the branches causes a mudslide and destroys a neighbor's house, illustrating the importance of nurturing creativity instead of slicing it off at its roots.  For all of her neuroses, this is something that Bernadette understands and passes on Bee early on when Bee makes the classic complaint of being bored:

"I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life.  You think it's boring now?  Well, it only gets more boring.  The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be." (Semple 46) 

Well said, Bernadette.  Even if you did give your social security number to the Russian mafia.  Because that's the thing about this heroine.  She does a lot of out-there, even dangerous stuff.  But you want her to come out okay because, underneath it all, her motives are pure.  She's a frustrated artist and a wonderful mom, her story a slice of social commentary wrapped up in an arctic adventure that's all the more satisfying for warming your heart.

And speaking of wrapping things up, I'll post the third and final installment of jaw-dropping (or perhaps I should say jaw-breaking) gumballs next week, just in time for Christmas.  And then maybe I'll wrap some presents.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bubblegum Ball Blowout: Part 1

 Bright White Gumball Necklace

Top: L'Amour by Nanette Lepore for JCPenney
Jeans: L'Amour by Nanette Lepore for JCPenney
Camisole: So, Kohl's
Shoes: Venus
Bag: Nine West, Boscov's
Belt: Wet Seal

 Rainbow Pastel Gumball Necklace

Tee: JCPenney
Jeans: City Streets, JCPenney
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Candie's, Kohl's

 Pastel Primaries Gumball Necklace

Dress: Lulus
Shoes: Guess, DSW
Bag: Bisou Bisou, JCPenney
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's

Red Bow Gumball Necklace

Polka dot top: Wet Seal
Blouse: Candie's, Kohl's
Skirt: Stoosh, Macy's
Shoes: Betseyville, JCPenney
Bag: Candie's, Kohl's
Belt: Candie's, Kohl's

You know how foodies wax poetic about the shape of a pepper or the texture of artisan bread?  Well, that's how I feel about beads.  Which is why I ordered so darn many of them, the ones I posted two weeks ago and made into the neck candy you see here, plus a bunch of other ones that are rolling around on my coffee table even as I type (so much more festive and original than Christmas balls, don't you think?).  I'm having such a good time stringing them that I half considered wrapping them around my Christmas tree.  Of course, that would involve hauling said tree down from the attic, a chore that had been earmarked for today but got lost in the shuffle of reading and laundry and On Demand sitcom catch-up.  And, of course, necklace making.  (Don't ever let it be said that I don't have my priorities in order.)  Necks are just easier (not to mention more fun!) to decorate than houses.  I'm thinking about bringing back that old tradition of putting up the tree on Christmas Eve --you know, to really build the momentum and make time for the truly important holiday activities, which is to say, wrapping presents -- and then maybe leave it up until Martin Luther King Day.  People always say that the presents are the least important part of the holiday season, but that's simply not true.  You can skip the cards and the decorations and the cookies, but if you don't hunt down gifts for your nearest and dearest and present them, nicely wrapped, on the appointed day, then your name is mud.  I know, I know, that's not what they meant.  It's the reason for the season that's key, not the tangible stuff that we bequeath and stockpile year in and year out.  But of all the tangible, secular tokens of Christmas, it's the gifts that rise to the top of everyone's list because of the things that those gifts represent.  Crass consumerism? Well, sometimes.  (Especially if you fall victim to those displays of mystery gadgets and desk accouterments that clutter every department store aisle from mid-November to Christmas Eve and who among us, at some point, hasn't?)  But no, what they represent is that you racked your brain and the very best in doorbuster deal emails to come up with some somethings to make your favorite people smile and say, "You just get me." 

 It doesn't get much more reason for the seasony than that.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Here's a Little Something to Chew On . . .

. . . while I cook up a storm of new stuff in my kitsch kitchen.  It's my latest shipment of gumball beads!  Sure, the shot's a little blurry and the arrangement of the beads is a little haphazard, but I think the promise of exciting projects to come still shines through.  I'm not ashamed to admit that gumball beads are one of my latest obsessions (another is toy tea sets -- but more on that next time).  I love how they manage to marry the cray cray and the everyday (despite my vow to never say, much less write, the word "cray cray," the siren call of that rhyme really snared me) in a look that's fun and easy but still full of flavor -- just like gumballs themselves (imaginary gumballs, that is, not the real ones that taste like wallpaper paste after five or six chews).

Speaking of crafting (and, really, when are we not speaking of it?), I couldn't help but notice some DIY references in last week's sitcoms.  First there was Monday's episode of  "Two Broke Girls," in which an exuberant if misguided yarn enthusiast is bent on beatifying Brooklyn one crocheted fire hydrant cozy at a time.  Then Tuesday had "New Girl's" Jess admitting, "I craft so hard!" upon learning that her crush boasts a yarn collection (yes, yarn again!) rivaling her own.  On Wednesday, "The Middle's" Brick brought a date to Thanksgiving dinner clad in a turkey-print dress that most definitely did not come from a factory.  And finally, on Thursday, "The Big Bang Theory" featured Sheldon shutting down his beloved Fun with Flags podcast series only to resurrect it after reading the comment of a viewer who "kind of liked it."  Although a podcast isn't exactly decoupage (not to mention that Shelly would shudder at the thought of getting Mod Podge on his fingers), the creative, off-kilter element of the flag fiesta is of the same sentiment.

And that's that.  As Turkey Day draws near, may your sweet potatoes be marshmallow studded and your cranberry sauce can-shaped instead of lumpy.  After the bird has been butchered, I'll be carving out some time to string my gumballs.   I can only hope that my apple crisp turns out half as tasty.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Sneak Peak and a Story

What do a little girl's tea set, pompom-filled cups from said plastic tea set, and gumball beads have in common?  (Although it's probably not too difficult to guess), you'll have to wait until next week because I'm still toiling away at new projects.  So, for the remainder of this post, I'm moving on to something else, a kind of book review-slash-fiction-exercise mash-up.

The book in question is Barefoot, by Elin Hilderbrand.  The particulars of the novel aren't important (well, they are, but not to this post); all you need to know is that one of the characters is a college student struggling to write fiction that's about something bigger than himself:

"Chas Gorda warned his students against being too "self-referential."  He was constantly reminding his class that no one wanted to read a short story about a college kid studying to be a writer.  Josh understood this, but as he rolled into the town of 'Sconset with the mysterious briefcase next to him, he couldn't help feeling that this was a moment he could someday mine." Hilderbrand, 21.

This passage caught my interest.  After all, I'm always tempted to fictionalize my own experiences, cloaking them in the dubious disguises of different ages, different towns, different names.  (Is that Technicolor-caftan-wearing craftista named Casey a crude caricature of myself?  I should add that  Casey lives on a houseboat, by contrast, paddleboats make me seasick.)  I can't help but wonder what it would be like to make up a story -- or at least the beginning of one -- that's as alien to me as Alaska.  So, I'm forgoing my usual alliteration-addled, pop culture reference-riddled write-up to give it a whirl, even if a blog, by its very nature, is the stuff of self reference.

Ever since she had entered her second trimester, Mitzi was constantly craving things.  She wanted gumballs, ice cream, and lemon raspberry iced tea, but whenever she indulged, she threw up.  "Too sweet," Dr. Lindstrom had clucked when she called his office to to ask his opinion.  She had gotten into the habit of consulting him about these prenatal yet not quite medical queries because he was the only person Mitzi trusted.  Her husband, Mark, was teaching a course about supernatural themes in Victorian literature at Indiana State University while she managed the store at home in Vermont.  The store was, inexplicably, a hardware store, something Mitzi knew nothing about.  But it had been in Mark's family for decades, so when he got the offer to teach his dream course at ISU -- his doctoral thesis had been an analysis of the nuclear family as it related to Dracula through the ages, an irony that was not lost on Mitzi -- she agreed to hold down the fort.  If she glanced at her gently rounded stomach and wondered what she would feel like once she was bigger and alone, then she didn't voice it.  Mark promised to take leave and return to Vermont closer to her due date, hastily adding that until then she would have her mother and sisters.  And, of course, Dr. Lindstrom. She nodded, trying not to think of her mother's more overbearing-than-helpful maternity advice, and of her sisters squabbling, or, in rare spells of harmony, complaining about their husbands and children.  They had six children between them, three each, and watching them tear through their mother's scrupulously maintained pink Victorian never failed to give Mitzi a headache.  Her mother never once rose her voice, instead offering the little miscreants fresh-baked cookies like the born hostess that she was.  True, her eye had twitched a bit when Caitlin knocked over her antique milk glass fruit bowl.  But she let it pass, waiting a beat before reaching into the overturned-but-not-cracked bowl and handing Caitlin an apple with such grace and aplomb that Caitlin cowered, shyly accepting the fruit and slinking off to a corner to eat it.  Mitzi's mother had the rare ability of charming children to that they both loved and respected her.  Thinking of this, Mitzi nervously rubbed her stomach, worrying that she herself would never be as effective.  Unfortunately, that was one problem that even the esteemed Dr. Lindstrom could not fix.  "Aw, screw it," muttered Mitzi, then ducked into the freezer for some rainbow sherbet. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Only a Paper Shoe

Every Christmas I get a Workman Publishing shoe calendar.  And every year (well, every year later), I cut out the pictures because they're too exquisite to throw away.  Here's a sampling of my stash:

So, some weeks ago, in the spirit of my recent use-every-part-of-the-pig crafting ethic, I decided to make some of them into brooches.  At first, I was pretty excited.  I glued and rhinestoned and ribboned, all the while thinking, "Hey, I'm on to something!"  But, then, without warning, the whole enterprise began to seem kind of doomed, the pieces shaping up to be -- for lack of a better word -- wonky.  It was all very disappointing, kind of like spotting the perfect pair of pumps on a far-off department store riser only to find out that they have kitten heels.  But such is life, so often trampled by the foibles of footwear.  I'll either wear them myself or add them to my free gift grab bag, but I won't list them.

Dress: JCPenney

(No need to adjust your monitor; those are indeed two different shoes that you're seeing.  Although I've never braved the look myself [too much uneven pavement out there] it's my nod to Helena Bonham Carter, who's done just that on more than one red carpet.)

Pink T-strap: Payless
Blue leopard pump: Ami Clubwear
Black scarf: JCPenney
Belt: B Fabulous
Bow scarf: Gifted
Fuchsia scarf: Express
Sunglasses: Relic, Kohl's
Bag: Fred Flare

On an unrelated note, I may have given Halloween candy short shrift last week.  Since then I've been scarfing down the leftover fun-sized snacks, an experience that reintroduced me to the joys of Twizzler-tinged Milky Ways and Snickers-scented Dots, flavor mash-ups that could come only from the fragrant fracas of a Halloween candy bowl.  Chocolate and fruit, delightfully artificial and all up in each other's grill -- it doesn't get any sweeter than that.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Many (Masked) Faces of Tammy

 Rad Ribbons Necklace

Skirt (a dress!): Modcloth
Sweater: Marshalls
Shoes: Worthington, JCPenney
Bag: Betsey Johnson, ROSS Dress for Less
Belt: Wet Seal

Top: So, Kohl's
Skirt: Material Girl, Macy's
Shoes: Venus
Bag: Bisou Bisou, JCPenney

 Coconut Lime Necklace

Top: Kohl's
Skirt: Eric and Lani, Macy's
Shoes: Bucco, Kohl's
Bag: Merona, Target
Belt: Marshalls

It's no secret that I've always been a little suspect of Halloween.  Partly because of the ghouls and what have you, partly because it's a holiday that revolves around food (if Reese cups can be called food) instead of stuff.  I'm told that after my first time trick-or-treating, I lined up my candy instead of eating it.  Which sounds about right, considering that whenever I got a goody bag at the end of a birthday party, I was more excited about the stickers than the Tootsie roll pops.  Still, I decided to trick Tammy out in this pumpkin pail on the heels of this Halloween weekend.  The husband was kind enough to slice out the bottom (almost as if he were carving a real pumpkin!), making for a much better fit.  My first round of pictures, which featured the intact pumpkin awkwardly perched on top of Tammy's neck instead of around it, were downright frightening, and not in the good way. 

Speaking of treat bags (which I was, albeit a paragraph ago), A.C. Moore is now packaging jewelry supply purchases in fancy pink and black shopping bags, complete with pink tissue paper.  A far cry from the standard Thank You for Shopping-style white plastic bags that they used to give you, and in fact still do at the rest of the registers (the jewelry register is now sequestered from the other checkouts, giving the jewelry department an exclusive, boutique-y feel), it's just the sort of "carrier bag" that Confessions of a Shopaholic's Rebecca Bloomwood would have displayed on the back of her bedroom door.  Although I haven't gone that far, I still have mine, just waiting to fill it with something awesome.  Like maybe some beads shaped like candy.