Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On the Sanctity of Fruit: From Farm to Fable

Top: Delia's
Skirt: Modcloth
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: H&M
Belt: Izod, Marshalls
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

 Simply Strawberry Brooch

Dress: Modcloth
Shoes: Dolce by Mojo Moxy, DSW
Bag: Katie & Kelly, DSW
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Relic, Kohl's

 Simply Citrus Brooch

Dress: Modcloth
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Modcloth
Belt: Marshalls
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

 Mandarin Market Brooch

Top: So, Kohl's
Skirt: ELLE, Kohl's
Shoes: Qupid, Alloy
Bag: Call it Spring, J. C. Penney's
Belt: Candie's, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Cloud Nine, Ocean City boardwalk

I've always loved fruit.  The kind you can eat is delicious and nutritious, and the kind you can't brightens up a dull day.  The latter has two basic style personas: realistic and cartoonish.  Realistic fruit looks like the stuff at your local farm stand; cartoonish fruit looks like it's about to get up and dance.  But they're both appealing (and I don't just mean the bananas), forming a tapestry rich in lifelike and surreal motifs.  Also, antioxidants.

So you can imagine how perturbed I was to find that certain cereal bars and cookies (which shall remain nameless, lest I receive crates of rotting fruit from the snack company bigwigs), have been passing off cranberries as strawberries.  It's a clever if exasperating ruse, and for a while it works.  That is, until you're chomping on one of these carb clusters and think, "Hey, I know that's a strawberry on the box, but this wrinkled red thing kind of looks like a cranberry.  And it kind of tastes like a cranberry too!"  So you read the ingredients on the side of the box and confirm your suspicions; there are no strawberries in this thing at all!  Why would they do that?  Because nobody likes cranberries, despite Thanksgiving's campaign to convince us otherwise.

That's why this week's pieces pay homage to that master of masqueraders: extract.  Flavorings frank about their fakeness, these enticing elixirs keep things real by having the integrity to pretend to be the fruits displayed with such lifelike detail on their iconic McCormick boxes.  Naturally, this makes me think of the always wry, sometimes ribald comedy Extract, specifically that part toward the end in which Jason Bateman's Joel explains why he loves running a small extract factory.  Even after all the trouble caused by his affair-that-wasn't with line worker Cindy (Mila Kunis), he gets sentimental about the vanilla, almond, and root beer flavors that his plant churns out year after year.  Why?  Because they make people happy.  In other words, it's the seemingly small, extraneous things in life that give it its sweetness and -- ahem -- flavor.  That's why Joel did what he did, and that's why I do what I do, too.  It's probably also why the bogus cereal bar and cookie people pull their strawberry scam.

Next week I'll attempt to apply the same logic to Fruit Loops.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Books by Mail, Oh What a Tale! and Rufus Spills the Beans

 Love Links Necklace

Top: So, Kohl's
Camisole: So, Kohl's
Skirt: Material Girl, Macy's
Shoes: Bucco, Kohl's
Bag: Nine West, Boscov's
Sunglasses: Rampage, Boscov's

Tee: Merona, Target
Skirt: Ellen Tracy, JCPenney
Shoes: Penny Loves Kenny, DSW
Bag: Princess Vera, Kohl's
Sunglasses: The Tote Trove
Belt: Wet Seal

Dress: LC Lauren Conrad, Kohl's
Skirt: Kohl's
Shoes: Journeys
Bag: Xhilaration, Target
Sunglasses: Brigantine beach shop
Belt: Wet Seal

Sometimes, when I'm packaging orders, I feel like Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) from that scene in Love, Actually.  You know.  The one where boss-man Harry (Alan Rickman) is buying a gold necklace for his secretary-slash-mistress and Mr. Bean is taking forever and a day wrapping it, placing it first in a box and then in a clear plastic bag, which he fussily fills with dried roses, some other dried flora that comes out of its very own drawer, and (because it is the holidays) a cinnamon stick.  He's donning rubber gloves, brandishing holly, and fixing to shove it all into a big, conspicuous Christmas box when Harry puts a stop to the madness, his wife looming dangerously in the background.  Not that there's anything dramatic about me swathing stuff in acres of bright tulle and tissue.  But like Mr. Bean (or, as he is [as nearly] ridiculously named in this role, Rufus) I do tend to get carried away, especially without a skittish, adulterous Brit to cry uncle.  I love packaging every order just so, making it pop with ribbons and drawings -- and surprises.  Like a birthday present.  Or, at the very least, a really good catch from a pediatrician's prize box.  It's what separates my little enterprise, and those of all Etsians, from Amazon.  Well, that and enough glue to double-coat Alaska.

Not that I'm knocking Amazon.  That would be pretty thoughtless, seeing as how it's Tammy (the Torso's) homeland.  Also, I just ordered four paperbacks from there, one of which is already becoming fast friends with a unicorn bookmark.  Ordering books from Amazon kind of reminds me of grade school book orders.  I used to love pouring over the vaguely colorful newsprint pamphlets from Weekly Reader and Scholastic, eyeing up the exciting new titles and special extras like rainbow-print pencils and "Saved by the Bell" posters.  I'd feverishly add and subtract items on my Texas Instruments calculator until I had spent my allowance on just the right mix of fun and intellectually stimulating.  Once I even enrolled in some sort of summer club, although that turned out to be a disappointment beyond the googly-eyed puffball "Reading is Believing!" critter that lured me in.  Not exactly what you'd call dish washing money well spent.  Anyway, Amazon's a lot like Weekly Reader, only the "special extras" run the gamut from watermelon Oreos to electric band saws.  (Although I've never purchased power tools, I can't say the same about the Oreos.)  Like most people, I depend on this most popular of online retailers for hard-to-find essentials like scarf hangers, flower boxes, cherry pitters, and (but of course) glue.  Yet despite its virtual general store status, it's Amazon's exhaustive collection of books that most spellbinds me.  It's nearly ruined me for big box brick and mortar stores, where it's not unusual to comb the aisles only to emerge without the elusive, still-as-of-yet-unread-by-you titles from your favorite authors.

Plus, those stores never have enough unicorn merch.  Or glossies of good old Mr. Belding.    

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Magical Mystery Story Tour

 Citrus Safari Necklace

Dress: Kohl's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Nine West, Boscov's
Belt: Izod, Marshalls
Sunglasses: Brigantine beach shop

 Limey Love Necklace

Tee: Wet Seal
Skirt: Ellen Tracy, JCPenney
Shoes: Ami Clubwear (again!)
Bag: H&M
Sunglasses: Brigantine beach shop (squared!)

Fancy Fangs Necklace

Dress: American Rag, Macy's
Shoes: Madden Girl, Marshalls
Bag: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Sunglasses: JCPenney

This week's pieces don't have a whole lot in common aside from being faintly tropical.  So, I'm peeking outside the (craft supply? toy? I can't seem to remember which one I haven't used yet . . .) box in search of a theme to tie this post together.

Just the right time for a triple book report, don't you think?  

I'm about halfway through the third in a trio of cozies -- because what mystery fan doesn't like her mayhem wrapped up in an afghan?  (All the better to mop up the mess with, I say.)  Up for consideration are Mary Daheim's Clam Wake, Laura Levine's Death of a Neighborhood Witch, and Julie Hyzy's Affairs of Steak.  

Happy hour goes homicidal in Clam Wake.  Set in idyllic-meets-creepy island retirement community Obsession Shores in the dead of (hardy har har) winter, this mollusk gets moving when a milquetoast of a man is stabbed on the beach.  Only Seattle sleuths Judith and Renie can schmooze the booze-loving oldsters to find the killer before the next shell shocker -- but not before having a few of their signature wacky run-ins.  Death of a Neighborhood Witch occupies similar territory, shamelessly employing corny humor to describe the murder (also, incidentally, a stabbing) of a one-hit-wonder sitcom star in the slums of Beverly Hills.  This caper is captained by lovable loser Jaine Austen, author of not acclaimed novels, but award-winning plumbing ads (in this book she branches out to mattresses; her Bernie the Bedbug is as cute a creation this side of Disney).  Reading both books was like -- to impose upon a much-loved cliche -- visiting with old friends.  Deranged, dysfunctional friends, but friends nonetheless.  Judith and Renie's irreverence and Jaine's self deprecation are endlessly endearing, softening the (always fatal) blow of the very murders they seek to solve.  Chock-full of puns, caricatures, and other mass market paperback guilty pleasures, these whodunits know how to deliver.  Affairs of Steak, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish.  White House head chef Olivia "Ollie" Paras and prickly sensitivity director (yes, that's really a thing) Peter Sargeant discover two staffers stuffed into tilt-skillets (also, apparently a thing), an incident that Hyzy describes in somewhat graphic detail.  Which should have been my first, ahem, clue, that this mystery would be no laughing matter.  With all the pomp and circumstance that we've come to expect from the White House, Affairs of Steak is undeniably the most serious of the three stories.  Hyzy puts the political in party, and I'm not talking donkeys and elephants.  The characters are high-strung instead of silly, career-climbing instead of quirky.  Protocol rules the day, and even the most innocuous conversations are fraught with enough tension to keep the interrogation bulb perpetually burning.  On the up side (for I strive to be a kindly, if not always Pollyanna, blogger), it's more cloak and dagger -- and therefore dramatic -- than its kookier counterparts.  It also seems a little more realistic, what with its earnest officers instead of the usual bumbling cops.  Finally, Affairs of Steak has the distinction of being the only culinary cozy of the triumvirate, complete with recipes.  Death by Chocolate, anyone?

So, which novel most ignited my intrigue, tickled my funny bone, and had me turning the pages long after midnight?  It was a close call (between Clam and Witch, of course, not Steak; that sad sack was never in the running) -- but Daheim's done it again!  Her Clam Wake puts the fun in funeral.

Hey, somebody had to say it.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Fantastic Fourth: Flip Flops and Fireworks

From left to right: So, Kohl's; Michaels; So, Kohl's

Christian Siriano for Payless squared.

Clockwise: Chinese Laundry, DSW; Dolce by Mojo Moxy, DSW; Penny Loves Kenny, DSW; a.n.a., JCPenney

It's been more than a year since I've done a shoe montage -- because it's been about since then that I've bought more than one pair of shoes.  Shocking, I know.  But this spring I broke down and bought some basics -- and some not-so-basics -- and just like that, the bug was back in my system.  So I thought, what better time to bust out my buys than on America's birthday?

Blogging and buying, those are my super powers.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Snake Thighs: The Skin You're in When They're All Out of Pluck

Tank: Wet Seal
Cardigan: So, Kohl's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Penny Loves Kenny, DSW
Bag: Modcloth
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Mudd, Kohl's

Tee: Arizona Jeans, JCPenney
Skirt: Merona, Target
Shoes: Venus
Bag: Nine West, Marshalls
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: Michaels

 Lady Lilac Necklace

Tank: Worthington, JCPenney
Dress: Modcloth
Shoes: Chinese Laundry, DSW
Bag: Call it Spring, JCPenney
Sunglasses: JCPenney

This week's post is a little sweet shop meets safari -- or maybe I should say sweet shop on safari.  I can just see a bunch of smiling ice cream sundaes, laughing lollipops, and ecstatic eclairs stuffed into a pink camo Jeep as they make their way through the Serengeti, snapping pics of the lions and zebras and hippos.  The hippos would love it, always being hungry and whatnot.  The hippos and the snakes, that is.

"Huh?  What snakes?" you're probably thinking.  "I thought this was a nice, cartoonish jungle (er, Serengeti), not the cobra-ridden kind on the Discovery channel."  (The bit about the hippos fixing to devour the tourist treats is neither here nor there.  Mostly because that allusion is based on a board game.)  

But snakes, it seems, are everywhere, especially where you least expect them.  For example, I recently discovered that one of my favorite pairs of Hue tights has a subtle snake pattern:

I was somewhat appalled -- I'd thought that the design was some kind of geometric -- because I hate snakes. In general because of their awfulness.  In particular because their slithery, legless bodies give me the creeps.  Gene of Bob's Burgers (which, incidentally, is a cartoon) agrees, setting his fear to song:

"I'm not afraid of ghosts
I'm not afraid of sharks
I'm not afraid of cancer
I'm just afraid of snakes!

They really freak me out
Where are their arms and legs?
It's not okay!"

No, Gene, it's not.  What could the good people at Hue have been thinking?  No woman wants to walk around on a couple of serpents, and "Hey, Lizard Legs!" is hardly a term of endearment.  Maybe it's a badge of badassness?  As in, I beat the skin off this critter and am now rocking it as an accessory.  A leg accessory.  Oh, the irony.

I see what you did there, Hue.