Sunday, August 26, 2018

Feather Your Quest: Owl Always Love Books

Top: Arizona Jeans, JCPenney
Skirt: T.J. Maxx
Shoes: Delicious, Zulilly
Bag: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Michaels

Owls.  They're wise, cerebral, know-it-alls, sometimes evil-eyed, but ultimately charming.  Everyone loves an owl (you have only to peruse Pinterest or your local Target to know that it's true).  And everyone loves A.J. Fikry.  Or at least they do once they get to know him.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin, is one of those rare novels that is equal parts plot and character.  What do I mean by that?  Well, some books are all intrigue and action, whereas others are all inner monologue and/or character studies.  (For the record, I'm on team character.)  But The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is both.  Which is to say that it's really good.

When we first meet A.J., he's in a bad way.  His beloved wife has died in a car accident, and his bookstore is losing money.  So he drinks and eats TV dinners and wishes that it all could be over.  Curmudgeonly and introspective, A.J. is also a little snobby, especially when it comes to books, and people often find him off-putting.  Which is just as well, because he prefers books to people.  But paired with his pessimism is a droll, wry wit, a flicker of brilliance and warmth that makes you think, I'd like to hang out with this guy.  This guy is one of the ones who gets it.

The thing about A.J. is, he's a good person -- he just doesn't know it.  Not until two extraordinary things happen: 1) Someone steals his priceless book of Edgar Allen Poe poems.  2)  Someone abandons a baby in his apartment.  The Poe book was meant to fund his retirement, and when it vanishes, he feels like his life vanishes with it.  As for the baby, A.J. doesn't like children; he doesn't even stock many children's books.  But it's when the book disappears and the baby appears that A. J.'s life begins, making him realize his potential and expanding his world in ways he never thought possible.  What happens in the end brings it all back full circle (and you know how I love a full circle), but I won't get into that so as not to be a spoiler.  I'll just say that everything in between the beginning and end hinges upon a delicate web of mysteries that are all connected.  Also, that this book isn't all serious symbols (although those certainly abound).  It's also funny and, dare I say, sweet (although I know A.J., even in his reformed state, would hate that).  It's a book about life and a book about books and how the two are intertwined.  As A.J. puts it:

"We read to know we're not alone.  We read because we are alone.  We read and we are not alone.  We are not alone."  (249)

I love this quote because it describes how I feel about reading.  That it's the great equalizer, a passport into the hearts and minds of people we may not like or even know.  That it lets us look past the noise of everyday life, giving us knowledge, empathy, and an understanding of our place in the world.  Also, it comes in handy when there's only football and "Family Feud" on TV. 

A.J. knew all this and then some.  Which is another way that he's like the owl.  Both in this Woodland Wonders Necklace and in nature.  Also spooky stories where the mean old owl turns out to be kindly.  His story is a hopeful one, reminding us that a little optimism (and okay, being the victim of a couple of very specific and well-thought-out crimes) can go a long way.

So, thanks, A.J.  For giving me one more reason to read past my bedtime.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

I'm So Hungry I Could Eat a Horse . . .

 Plucky Poultry Necklace

 Cheery Double Cheeseburger Change Purse

Dress: Zulily
Sweater: Macy's
Shoes: B.A.I.T., Zulily
Bag: Apt. 9., Kohl's
Sunglasses: Rampage, Boscov's

. . . should've been the name of Jim Gaffigan's tour instead of Fixer Upper.  The husband and I have long been fans of the pasty Midwestern food comedian and were psyched to snag tickets to his show in Atlantic City a couple of Saturdays ago.  I loved his books, and we both watched The Jim Gaffigan Show on TV Land.  So, we were all set for an evening of monologues on McDonald's and Krispy Kreme.  You can imagine our consternation, then, when Jim launched into a bit about . . . horses.  Horse races, jockeys, horse owners who seem like they've never met their cash cows in those blue ribbon photos.  The inhumane nature of horseshoes.  The idiocy of the phrase horseback riding because, where, other than the back, are you going to ride?  He even said that no one in the audience would know if he was lying about any of it or not because we were all from Philly and had probably never even seen a horse (and no, he didn't make a pun about Philly and fillies, although I don't know why the hay not).  It was kind of weird.  But also kind of awesome.  You know, in its weirdness.  (The husband really liked it and said he thought that there weren't enough horse jokes.)  He did sign off on a Hot Pockets note, though, so all was right with the fun-with-food world.

Horse or no horse, I can't do a Jim Gaffigan post without fashion featuring food.  So, order up on this Cheery Double Cheeseburger Change Purse and Plucky Poultry Necklace.  To echo the sentiments of fellow funnyman Joel McHale's The Soup, Chat Stew segment, So meaty!

Here's a not-so-short-story about Plucky Poultry.  The pendant is a dollhouse miniature, and when I first saw it, I thought that it was a lobster instead of a chicken.  And I thought, oh, that's perfect, because: 1) Whenever I'm working on something that involves glue and I leave it to dry, I keep checking on it to make sure that the glue's doing its thing, and when I do this, I (silently) refer to it as "checking the lobster pots."  Why, I don't know.  Maybe because it's folksy and strange and makes me feel like I'm doing something as high stakes as battling sharks for my dinner.  (Similarly, whenever I publish a post, I think of it as "releasing the doves."  Like at the wedding of a pesticide heiress or the funeral of a B-list pop star.)  2) Lobster makes me think of Maine and summertime fish fries.  Which makes me think of that part in Legally Blonde where Elle Woods gets to Harvard and asks for her calendar of social events and the preppy orientation guy glares at her, and she says you know, clambakes, trips to the Cape? before giving up and asking where she can find Warner Huntington III, at which point Preppy cracks, try the lido deck.  3) And finally, this crustacean-that-wasn't made me think of Jim's hatred of seafood, or, as he refers to it in Food: A Love Story, "seabugs."  (Which checks out, I guess, Indiana not being known for its shrimp cocktail.).  But this faux food charmer isn't a lobster.  It's a chicken.  Which has nothing to do with summer, Legally Blonde, or Jim Gaffigan's disgust of bottom feeders.  If anything, it's a distant cousin of Thanksgiving.  Which, come to think of it, is right in Jim's wheelhouse (elastic waist pants, Middle America fare in economy-size quantities, naps).  Which means that we've come full circle.

Just like a pumpkin pie . . . or Kentucky Derby wreath.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Pie in the Eye, Pie in the Sky: Service Worth Your While

 Fabulous Felt Cherry Pie Barrette

Out of This Swirled Agate Bangle

Top: So, Kohl's
Skirt: Arizona Jeans, JCPenney
Shoes: Chase & Chloe, Zulily
Bag: Macy's Backstage
Bag charm: Carole, JCPenney
Sunglasses: Michaels 

I've never worked in food service, and I can safely say that I wouldn't want to.  For one thing, I lack the upper body strength.  For another, I'm not sure I could keep my cool with strangers.  I have a tendency to laugh when things get awkward, and also, I'm a terrible liar.  (The lobster bisque?  No, it wasn't made today.  More like last Tuesday, and also, I saw the chef drop his contact in it.)  While I'm being honest, I'm not that big on cooking either (yes, the Food and Recipes menu tab on this blog is very misleading.  Note to self: replace with Heel Steals -- Shoe Shopping Confidential.  Which may be about shoes I bought really cheap . . . or shoes that I stole.  Stay tuned.)  That said, I can appreciate the kind of creative catharsis that comes from baking a pie or a cake or even the almost-impossible-to-master souffle.  Because that catharsis is not all that different from the kind that comes from making a felt pie hair piece (the barrette kind, not the toupee) or stringing a necklace or stockpiling sequins.  Also, I love pie.  Mostly key lime, although mermaid marshmallow sounds tempting, too.  Even if I haven't heard of it outside of Waitress

Ah Waitress, the movie-starring-Kerri-Russell-turned-play-starring-Katharine-McPhee-and-sometimes-her-understudy.  My parents and I saw the play on Broadway a few weeks ago, and it was marvelous, as tasty as Entenmann's, Mrs. Smith's, and Mom's homemade pastries combined.  Because it is, after all, a sweet story.  Well, maybe sweet's not the right word, as it has spousal abuse and adultery.  Maybe it's better to say sweetly tangy, like Laffy Taffy or Sour Patch Kids or ambrosia that's started to turn.  Anyway, the eponymous waitress is Jenna, and her dream is to open a pie shop.  She bakes unusual -- and unusually named -- pies for Joe's Pie Diner, where she serves them to the local yokels, including the cantankerous-but-secretly-kind Joe.  A waitress's job is to tend to the needs of others, and Jenna's is no different.  Her boss is a jerk, and the tips aren't always what they should be.  Add her mean old husband and an unplanned pregnancy, and she's ripe for an affair with . . . her gynecologist?  Yep.  In the movie, this dude is played by Nathan Fillion, which, although unappealing (I'm no Fillion fan), is believable because Castle brings a certain snarkiness with his suave.  But in the play, Dr. Love (not his real name) is more of a corn-fed, aw shucks kind of guy.  In the end it doesn't matter because Waitress isn't about romance.  It's about a down-and-out woman finding her way.  And also about happiness and grabbing it any way that you can.  When Jenna hears about a pie contest with a serious cash prize, she thinks it's her last chance for freedom.  But fate has other plans.  

I wouldn't classify the movie version as a comedy.  A dark comedy maybe, but even that's a stretch.  It's more of a drama.  So, I wasn't sure what to expect from the play.  I'm happy to report that it's more fanciful than foreboding, from the smell of freshly baked pie being piped in the theater to the cherry pie lattice-topped curtain:

And then, of course, there's the music by Sara Bareilles (I'm working hard not to insert a "Cherry Pie" by Warrant joke here.  You're welcome.).  You can't be grim when you're singing and dancing, and the musical theater element makes what could be a dense dish as light as egg whites.

Here's my program (er, playbill; Tracy, get it together, this isn't the Ice Capades).  The production we saw wasn't with Katharine, but no one can ever prove it. 

After the show, it was out into the mass of throbbing humanity that is Times Square.  But only momentarily, as Dad expertly herded us out of the throng and toward the considerably less crowded Rockefeller Center. 

On the way we stopped to take this picture.  If you look very closely (or break out your Sherlock Holmes-style magnifying glass or zoom in or whatever), then you can see my Flash Charms necklace and Lady in Lime ring from PinkBopp.

In keeping with the dessert theme, here are some ice pop stamps.  They're scratch and sniff!  What more could an '80s kid (or really, anyone) want from postage?  It's the perfect time to photograph them, too, because I just used my last boring PEACE stamp and need to send my water bill.  (Yes, I snail mail my bills like an eighty-year-old.  Obviously, for the super cool stamps.)

So, that's a wrap.  The next time your waitress serves you a slice -- be nice.  You don't know what kind of day -- or life -- she's had.

Also, you don't want her adding a side of lugee. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Mama Drama: Going Postal

 Whimsical Waters Necklace

Dress: Zulily
Shoes: Worthington, JCPenney
Bag: JCPenney

So last week, I received an email from a customer informing me that she still hadn't received a necklace that she'd purchased in March.  Needless to say, I was gobsmacked.  As always, I'd shipped the package within three days of purchase and emailed the customer the tracking number to let her know that it was on its way.  True, I didn't receive a response or get Etsy feedback, but that happens more often than not, so I thought that no news was good news.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Not knowing what else to do, I logged onto and plugged in the tracking number.  The red No Record Found that flashed on the screen made my heart sink.  There was only one explanation: the package had gotten lost in the mail.  In my nearly ten years of selling on Etsy, this had never happened.  I couldn't make the customer a new necklace.  The one in question was one of a kind, made from eclectic fabric flowers that I wouldn't be able to find again.  Instead, I issued a full refund along with my heartfelt apologies and the offer of a free item from my shop.  Thankfully, the customer accepted all of the above with grace and good humor.  Better yet, she loved the necklace she chose as her consolation prize, right down to the packaging.  Which meant everything to me.  When I send something across the country (or, once a in a while, across the world), I feel like I'm putting good out into the universe, and I want to keep those vibes going.

Still, I can't help but wonder what happened to that package.  Is it lying in an alley somewhere, pigeons pecking away at the illustrated envelope?  Or is some postal worker wearing the necklace to a summer shindig, margarita in hand, even as I type this?  In the future, I'll always track the package myself to find out if it reaches its destination, if only so I can contact the customer instead of her (or him) contacting me.  But the fate of this one will just have to remain one of life's mysteries.

In happier news, I saw Mama Mia: Here We Go Again last weekend, and it was fabulous.  So fanciful and colorful!  Plus, I always love a story with flashbacks, which is pretty much the whole deal with this one.  As you probably know, in the first Mama Mia, Donna's (Meryl Streep) daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), wants her father to walk her down the aisle.  The only hitch is, she doesn't know who he is.  He can be one of three guys (Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, or Pierce Brosnan) that Donna wrote about in her diary.  So, Sophie invites them all to her wedding, they show up, and chaos ensues.  In the sequel, which is partially set in 1979, we return to the idyllic Greek island of Kalokairi to see a young Donna (Lily James) fall for her three handsome suitors and sing her (broken) heart out about it.  (As a bonus, we also get to see her buy her signature overalls at an outdoor market).  The air crackles with the delicious angst of young love in an exotic setting, and the songs play in your head long after you've scarfed down your popcorn.  Yet even more intoxicating is the sense of freedom and adventure.  Donna is an unapologetic risk taker, exploring the world fresh out of college without a plan or a safety net, bewildered by those who follow more well-worn and traditional paths.  And she's absolutely ecstatic doing it, even when her world seems to crumble.  It makes me wish that I would've done something like that at twenty-two instead of combing Monster for a "normal" job.  But then again, I guess it all worked out.  This strange little public diary of a blog is more my type of adventure.

Anyway, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of ocean-themed jewelry-making supplies not long after I saw the movie.  When I spotted these dolphin-shaped beads and the groovy druzy rock pendant, I thought, ooh those would make a cool necklace.  Beachy and boho and blingy and blue.  Just like Mama Mia!  

Speaking of beaches, here's a shot of the faux surfboard attached to the Conex box that is the Sol Berrie smoothie stand on the less glamorous but beloved island of Brigantine.

Bold and inviting, it's the kind of picture you want to dive into -- one dutiful hour, of course, after downing your smoothie.  Or, you know, thirty seconds after downing your smoothie, pineapple-mango froth still dribbling down your chin.

How's that for unapologetic?