Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Nature of Reading and Rainbows

 Happy Hues Necklace

Cheerful Charm Necklace

Top: Macy's
Skirt: Vanilla Star, Macy's
Shoes: Worthington, JCPenney
Bag:  Uniquely Different, Etsy
Belt: Candie's, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Michaels
Barrette: The Tote Trove

When I woke up this morning, I wasn't sure what to post about yet.  Then I checked my emails and saw that there was a new post from Samantha at The Big Hair Diaries.  It was about nature and, as always, fun and insightful.  So much so that it inspired me to go with the nature theme I'd been kicking around.  Which kind of involves a book that's sort of about nature too.

A few weeks ago, I read a novel by a new (to me) author, Jenny Colgan, called The Bookshop on the Corner.  If I haven't said so already, one of my favorite things ever is curling up with a good book -- or even a not-so-good book. Truth be told, I read lots of so-so books that I never blog about. But that's okay. Because I don't read to learn something earth-shattering, or even to be amused or moved. If the book is that special, then it's a bonus. I read because I need to. It's my way of unplugging from and connecting to the world.  And that's something I can get from even the most mundane plots and basic bitch characters.

Anyway, The Bookshop on the Corner is about a librarian named Nina who lives in Birmingham, (England, not Alabama) and is on the verge of losing her job.  She's amazing at what she does -- she always knows just which book to recommend to each person, and she has so many books in her apartment that they're threatening to break through the ceiling -- but the thing is, people don't need libraries anymore.  At least not city people.  So, she stumbles through an interview for a media specialist position even though she has no idea what that is and predictably loses out to a slicker candidate.  Then her roommate, who's had enough of Nina's literary hoarding, kicks her out.  So Nina digs deep and asks herself what she wants to do with her life.

And the answer is . . . run a bookshop.  When she sees an ad for an old van for sale in Scotland, she thinks, why not a mobile bookshop?  She goes up there.  It's scary.  The challenge of doing something new, that is, not the place.  The place is bucolic and calming.  And in many ways, the situation is serendipitous.  The locals, who are farmers with little in the way of stores and entertainment, are eager to have Nina, and she needs a place to live.  One life-defining van accident later (you didn't see that coming, did you?), Nina is comfortably installed in a surprisingly sumptuous guest house apartment, driving her newly christened The Little Shop of Happy Ever After to swap meets and craft fairs to the delight of everyone she encounters.  Sure, there a few bad apples, but for the most part, her customers are nice, and Nina wants to get to know them.  As a result, she soon becomes enmeshed in the town and its dramas, transforming her from a mousy spectator into a, if not mouthy, then self-assured star.  Scotland's peaceful, green countryside (not to mention its farm fresh bacon and eggs) is the antidote to Birmingham's harsh hustle and bustle, and being surrounded by nature invigorates Nina in way that the concrete jungle never could.  She looks up at the sky and wonders how she could ever have lived in a city or limited her dreams to its claustrophobic skyscrapers.

In the end, it is this cleansing power of nature, as well as the love of a gruff-but-kind dude (did I mention that there's a dude?) that leads Nina to -- spoiler alert -- just what she's looking for.  Which is, of course, lovely.  That said, I was struck by Colgan's reflective summation:               

"She had started with a van.  But somehow it had opened her up to so much more.  And now she wanted that real life that she felt she had been missing out on, that she felt other people got a shot at while she sat quietly in a corner being nice." (295)
The Bookshop on the Corner is a good story.  Simple and sweet and afghany.  Overall, I enjoyed it because it's about country life, new beginnings, and, most importantly, people who love books.  I look forward to checking out the rest of Colgan's canon.           

Like Nina (and Samantha), I believe that nature has an other-worldly and energizing-yet-soothing effect, encouraging us to open our minds.  Which is why I like to preserve it in pictures.  Here's one I took last fall of the Atlantic City skyline from Brigantine:  

And here's one of a dew-spangled spider web on my own front lawn just last week:

I don't have a picture of a rainbow.  But "rainbow" was a good way to round out the "r" in "reading" in this post title -- and to give a shout-out to LeVar Burton.

Also, I made these rainbow-y necklaces.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Au Revoir to X: Autumn on Target

Jacket: Wild Fable, Target
Top: Wild Fable, Target
Skirt: Wild Fable, Target
Shoes: Delicious, Zulily
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Sunglasses: Wild Fable, Target

Eclectic Emoji Charm Necklace

Top: Wild Fable, Target
Skirt: Wild Fable, Target
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Sunglasses: Rampage, Boscov's
Belt: Wild Fable
Yellow necklace: Kohl's

I used to think of fall as a time of darkness and death (I'm looking at you, Halloween), but now I see it as a chance for rebirth and beginnings, an opportunity to enjoy something old that's now new again.  Which is very fitting, because this fall, there's a renaissance of '90s fashion.  Remember that irresistible mash-up of grunge and glam?  Well, it's back: corduroy, mock turtlenecks, happy faces, crop tops, faux fur, checkerboard prints, rainbow stripes, plaid, and much more.  Then again, saying that plaid is big for fall is like saying that flowers are big for spring or that ugly sweaters are big for Christmas.  But this isn't any old lumberjack or prep school tartan.  It's Clueless plaid in all of its yellow pleated glory, reigning as the queen bee crown jewel in the tiara of Target's Wild Fable label.  (Hey, that rhymes.)  Surely you'e seen that Target commercial with the Cher, Dionne, and Tai look-a-likes kitted out in revamped versions of the movie's (and decade's) top trends.  Aesop would be rolling over in his grave if he knew that Wild Fable is the name Target gave to the brand replacing its longtime juniors headliner, Xhilaration.  Then again, maybe he's a fan of teen flicks and is doing an, ahem, wild jig.  

Now, at first I wasn't happy about this coup.  I have many an Xhilaration piece in my wardrobe and hated the idea of the beloved brand being edged out by some new kid on the block.  Much like when the Backstreet Boys edged out the actual New Kids on the Block.  Then I remembered that I like the Boys better than the Kids.  I mean, "Everybody" vs. "Hangin' Tough?"  No contest.  And that's when I took a good look at the racks and realized I love Wild Fable.  Its edgy elegance transported me back to the days of Seventeen and Saturday mall crawls in a way that Xhilaration's boho blouses never could.  I was captivated by the studded belts, colorful Lucite-like earrings, and novelty wristlets (although, oddly, not a chain wallet in sight), that made up these punk princess spoils.  But it was the display centerpiece that really transfixed me.  For, arranged on a table like so many treats were -- are you ready for this? -- Caboodles!   

Every '90s girl had one of these confection-colored cosmetics organizers.  I'll never forget when I got my own sky blue case one Christmas.  I was so excited!  It matched my bedroom perfectly, and I couldn't wait to fill it with treasures.  So, you can imagine my indignation when my (male) cousin referred to it as a tackle box.  Stash mackerel-gut slimed lures and rubber worms where my bubblegum Bonnie Bell lip balm should be?  As if!

So, I picked up this lilac Caboodle as well as the other nostalgic pieces in this post.  My favorite is the checkerboard jacket.  They didn't have it in my size at the store, so I went online and ordered it.  It's like Speed Racer and ska all in one.  Cue the trumpets, Mighty Mighty Bosstones!

Still, as thrilling as the return of all this throwback stuff is, some of it should stay in the moldy basements of our memories of retainers and school dance sobfests.  I refer to you, baby backpacks, flannel, and scrunchies.  (The aforementioned Clueless-inspired, yellow plaid separates are, sadly, flannel.  Otherwise, you know they'd be preening in pride of place here.)   I've made a solemn pact not to cave to the likes of these D-list reincarnations.  And that goes double for jumpers.  I tried one on, and it was hideous.  Which sounds about right, because whenever I hear the word "jumper" I think of a big, bulky sweater knitted by dear old Aunt Agnes with puce-colored, pill-prone acrylic instead of a dress worn over a turtleneck.  Thanks, Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, and Maeve Binchy.  Soon I'll be expecting an elevator when someone says that they've called (a) Lyft.

So yeah, there's something to be said for fall fashion . . . and for fall.  For one thing, it marks the end of swamp ass, sunscreen, and mosquitoes.  But it's not the end of everything sunny.  I could go on about the magic of leaves changing from green to gold and the coziness of sweaters and the custardy coolness of Libby's pumpkin pie.  Yet the sign above the register at the breakfast place where the husband and I went this morning sums it up best:

"Everything will be alright in the end.  And if it's not alright, then it's not the end."

I thought that was beautiful.  (Then again, maybe I was still flying high from all the sugar in my super decadent strawberry cheesecake pancakes.)  It's a simple way of saying that no matter what your troubles or fears, the universe has a plan, and that that plan will take care of you.  Which, I realize, goes way beyond any wistfulness that the transition of seasons might bring.  But it's the little things that make a big difference.  And one of the biggest little things you can do is look for signs.

Especially the kind for 50% off on lunchbox purses.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cape Escape and Beads With Bite

Top: k lab, Kohl's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Guess, DSW
Bag: Xhilaration, Target
Orange bangle: Mixit, JCPenney
Purple bracelet: Licorice Jewelry, Etsy
Green bracelet: Amrita Singh, Zulily
Bow barrette: The Tote Trove

For this post, I'm rewinding back to Labor Day.  Otherwise known as the bittersweet last call for summer, it's now a mere blink in the rearview mirror as we speed toward Columbus Day and Halloween.  But it was lovely.  The husband and I went to Cape May for the day with my parents.  For those not in the know, Cape May is New Jersey's southernmost shore point and is known for its Victorian houses.  To me, it's this old-timey charm that makes it the most civilized of our beach towns.  Its quaint shops, brick walkways, and horse-drawn carriages are straight out of a storybook.  Although I don't recommend getting too close to the horses.  Their smell is more horror story than fairy tale.  

Speaking of horses, I spied this one parked outside a restaurant.  At first I thought that some indie grrl had, ahem, hoofed it into town on its enchantedness.  But upon closer inspection I realized that it was part of the decor, a magical mascot-slash-silent greeter.  Walmart, you could take a hint.

Now on to the important part -- the shopping!  No outing is complete without it.  Just ask any elementary school kid on a class trip to a museum; whether it's American history or Impressionist art, her (or his!) favorite part is usually the gift shop.  I was lucky enough to score these five chokers for just . . . drumroll, please . . . $5!  They're different from anything else in my collection, and I look forward to layering them with long, beaded necklaces this fall and winter.

This house wasn't part of the shopping.  But it's beautiful, no?  It's name is the Merry Widow.

Some postcards for my stationery stash.

 Another belle of a building.  This one's called the Pink Lady.


And finally, the purchase that fueled this week's project: baby teethers!  I got these at Della's Five and Ten, a retro drugstore with a soda fountain at the back.  Although if I may say so, making the workers wear those paper hats seemed a bit much.  Serving snacks to tourists is humiliating enough without having to wear iffy headgear.  I was so excited when I found them (the teethers, not the tourists); I could just picture them on a harjuku girl as part of a grand rainbow ensemble -- or on, you know, me.  Stringing them onto plastic chain and ribbon to make a necklace was fun and easy.  I'm already plotting a way to work it into my wardrobe this week.  

 Baby, What a Bauble Necklace!

On that note, a good time was had by all.  Maybe we'll go back to Cape May in December for a whole other kind of festive.  

Until then, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-ha. :)    

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Constance Wu Plays Rachel Chu: Crazy About Crazy Kitsch Asians

Top: Xhilaration, Target
Skirt (a dress!): Modcloth
Shoes: Chase & Chloe, Zulily
Bag: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Belt: Wet Seal
Bangles: B Fabulous
Ring: Making Waves
Cherry and bumblebee purse charms: Carole, JCPenney
Owl purse charm: Mudd, Kohl's
Barrettes: The Tote Trove

DISCLAIMER:  This post contains gratuitous use of the word "crazy," sometimes in pun form.  Don't say that I didn't warn you.

I know, I know, it's Crazy Rich Asians.  And they wouldn't like the "k" word, even if it is a cousin of  kawaii, that darling of the Japanese.  These people are about top drawer everything and wouldn't cotton to being called anything that resembles cute.  And yet . . . there is something decidedly campy about this story, which is filled with enough drama, romance, and satire to land somewhere between a telenovela and dark fairy tale.

First I read the novel by Kevin Kwan, and then my mom and I saw the movie.  Crazy Rich Asians has been out for years, but I never wanted to read it, probably because the cover seemed a little foreboding, with an art deco-y profile of an autocratic-looking Asian grande dame glowering from a burnt orange background.  Then the movie poster version came out, and I thought, hey, this looks interesting.  Those colors!  The promise of an old-fashioned love story!  The mom from Fresh Off the Boat!  Suddenly, it was a whole different game of mahjong.  And I was glad I decided to play.

Crazy Rich Asians is the story of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding).  And yes, of Nick's mega-big, mega-rich family.  Rachel and Nick are nice, normal, down-to-earth professors at NYU and have been happily dating for more than a year.  Then Nick invites Rachel home to Singapore for his best friend's wedding.  Rachel has never met Nick's family, nor does she know much about his childhood.  But she begins to get an inkling when they start their trip by flying first class.  Then they arrive, and Rachel is plunged into a wonderland of wealth and privilege beyond her wildest dreams.  Nick's grandmother's estate is palatial and so remote that it doesn't come up on GPS.  His cousins fly to Paris for shopping sprees and are regularly featured in Vogue.  And his mother -- well, his mother is less than impressed with Rachel, whom she sees as nothing more than a gold-digging banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) raised by a single mother.  Although no doormat, Rachel takes the high road when dealing with her beloved's cuckoo clan.  (No bitchy, don't-mess-with-me Jess from Fresh Off the Boat here.  Connie's got range!)  Still, trying to fit in is tricky.  Even the already-rich Young relations Rachel meets are merciless social climbers, and getting to know them is a bit like picnicking with piranhas.  For me, these parts were a little stressful to read, judgy people not being my cup of green tea.  But they are essential to the story, because it is, at its core, about the social games of acceptance and exclusion that people from all walks of life play.  Thankfully, Rachel has Peik Lin (Awkwafina), her college roommate, to diffuse the tension.  A new money funky fashionista dubbed by her own father (Ken Jeong) as the Asian Ellen, Peik Lin builds Rachel up when she needs it most.  And then, of course, there's Nick.  He's on her side, too -- that is, as much as the only son of a dragon lady can be.  If he's at fault at all, then it's in failing to prepare Rachel for all the strings that come attached to a family worth squillions.  Which seems -- ahem -- a bit crazy.  He says he's protecting her, but I can't help but wonder if he's protecting himself from the emotional messiness that will most likely and indeed does ensue from the meeting of his two leading ladies.  Will he prove himself to be a stand-up guy, a real life Prince Charming?  Or is he really a villain in professors' clothing, as obsessed with lineage and old money as his meddlesome mother?  A surprise from Rachel's past will force him to decide what he really wants and what he's willing to give up to get it.

So, are the book and the movie different?  Not really.  Rachel is sweet in both, but perhaps a smidgen steelier in the movie.  Similarly, the conflict in the book is more of a slow burner, which makes sense for 500 plus pages, many of which are filled with anecdotes and side stories.  But a feature film demands fireworks, both literal and figurative, and things come together more quickly and dramatically on the big screen.  Finally, there is one plot point that gets changed a little in the movie, but it's about the minor characters, and another that gets rushed along (it doesn't happen until book two in the trilogy.)  Still, for the most part, the story lines in the book and movie are nearly identical.  Here are some things I liked in each:


Language translation footnotes offering up bon mot-style tidbits on Chinese cuisine, dialects, and traditions.

Lavish, lovingly crafted descriptions of everything from Birkins to hand-pulled noodles, Ferraris to oleanders.

Insight on how the crazy rich Asians got so rich (and so crazy).


Breathtaking scenery.

Showstopping fashion.  Colors, spangles, patterns, you name it.  I recognized many a couture gown from Pinterest -- as well as an Isaac Mizrahi orange slice floor pillow from Marshalls.

Witty one-liners and general light-heartedness.


Nick and Rachel.  Their easy chemistry is sparklier than any Cartier bauble and truly touching.  Disney would be proud.

If you love love and grand gestures and opulence, then you'll love this book and movie.  Author Kevin Kwan grew up in Singapore, and it shows.  He's obviously intimately acquainted with the who's who of this tiny but mighty country -- and unafraid to poke fun at its foibles.

So yeah, missing this one would be -- wait for it -- crazy.

Now, a quick detour over to this week's (yes, Asian-themed!) project.  If this Eastern Romance Necklace looks familiar, then that's because it is.  I made it a long time ago but ripped it apart and put it back together again.  The old open circle shell beads and satin ribbon bow just weren't doing it for me anymore, so I replaced them with punky neon pink butterfly beads and rearranged the beads I kept.  A family jewel it isn't, but I like it a lot better now.

Whether of precious gems or glass and glue, accessories bring us together.  Or is it fire our imaginations?  Or make us rent more storage space?  Or fight over whose baubles are better?  I give up.  Some say that we're all the same because we all bleed, but I say that we're all the same because we like shiny things.  Sure, someone else's shiny thing may be tinfoil or a ruby or that glittery homemade slime everyone seems to be making, but the point is, it's the shininess that gets us through the day.  So that the next day we may seek more shininess -- and just maybe help someone else find her shininess, too.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to pick out my tiara.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

One Woman's Trash is Another Woman's Measure . . .

. . . of what's valuable. Which is, I realize, a roundabout and perhaps self-important way of saying that one man's trash is another man's treasure.  But it's especially fitting today because the husband and I went to an antiques shop.  Maybe antiques shop is too ambitious a term.  Thrift store isn't really right either because they didn't have clothes.  It was more like a junkyard on the outside overflowing with bric-a-brac (including armies of creepy dolls) on the inside.  Anyway, it's not far from where we live, and the husband, who loves such things, had wanted to check it out ever since we moved in last fall.  Now, historically, I'm not a huge fan of these places.  I'd been in them before, of course, with the husband and sometimes my sister, who also hearts old stuff.  But I always felt on my guard, leery of the smell and grateful that I was up to date on my tetanus shot.  Today I decided to be more open-minded.  Actually, I was the one who suggested we go in.  (Okay, the husband was hinting, and I didn't say, why don't we turn around and pop back into Target for some faux vintage farmhouse decor?  I think I saw a metal windmill that looks like it could have been uprooted during a tornado.)  Partly because being married means sometimes doing things you don't want to do to make the other person happy.  Partly because there might be something I wanted to take home, and if my eyes weren't open, then I would miss it. 

That said, there were more than a few unsettling sights.  The aforementioned dolls, for one, and also, all the way in the back, a row of very suspect  -- and I can hardly believe I'm typing this -- mattresses.  But there were also jewel-toned vases, kitschy-colorful knickknacks, and trays piled with costume jewelry.  Were these things dusty?  For sure.  A little worse for wear?  Almost always.  Did I drown my hands in strawberry-lemonade antibacterial gel as soon as I got back in the car?  You better believe it.  And yet.  As Springsteen's "Atlantic City" played plaintively on an old radio, I couldn't help but think that there was also something special about this place, that all these things had stories, had once had happy homes and would hopefully someday have them again.  It was all about possibility and seeing promise in something that someone else had discarded.    

I picked out a trio of ceramic wall hangings -- a strawberry, apple (or maybe peach?), and bunch of chili peppers -- for my dining room, and a dainty ceramic floral circle pin with AVON etched on the back.  Right away I knew that I wanted to embellish the pin with delicate Swarovski crystals.  Something about it was kind of familiar, and I realized that the demure, pastel aesthetic was similar to that of a wristlet I'd just gotten from Kohl's.  It's nice when new finds come together.

So, I ended up doing something I thought I wouldn't and writing this post instead of the one I'd planned about Crazy Rich Asians.  (In all honesty, I hadn't gotten around to making the necklace for that one anyway.)  But sometimes it's good to go off-script.  

The Asians can wait until next week.