Monday, November 26, 2018

Restasis Oasis: Arizona Iced Weeee! What a Well Watered Cactus

It's no secret that I love cacti.  So much so that I decorated my office to be a little paradise of these prickly pals.

Now that I've shamelessly showed off one of my sanctuaries, let's get back to our regularly scheduled (and equally shameless) show-and-tell of my crafts and closet!  Still stuck on saguaros, I decided to make more cacti barrettes.  I've always been a fan of that whole iconic cactus against a sunset aesthetic, so I decided to play with that.  To me, the contrast of cool green against the red/pink, orange, and yellow explosion of a dying sun is dazzlingly dramatic.

Tops from top to bottom: Fifth Sun, J. C. Penney's; Derek Heart, J. C. Penney's; Almost Famous, Boscov's

Anyway, cacti come from Arizona, and so does Busy Phillips.  I just finished reading her autobiography, This Will Only Hurt a Little, and binged her new E! talk show "Busy Tonight," and I can say that she's as sharp and tough as the Southwest's spikiest succulent.

I was expecting This Will Only Hurt a Little to be a laugh-out-loud lark.  But it isn't.  Busy's breezy, conversational writing only ups the intensity of her memoir, which is emotional, raw, and sometimes hard to read.  (You know, hard to read as in contains heavy stuff.  Like all those Oscar-nominated movies that are hard to watch.  Which is also, incidentally, the title of Tracy Jordan's [Tracy Morgan's] EGOT-bait feature film on "30 Rock."  Fun fact: Tina Fey produces "Busy Tonight."  Coincidence?  I think not.)  I should've realized that This Will Only Hurt a Little wouldn't be a sitcom anecdote-studded giggle fest made R rated by a few f-bombs.  First of all, there's the title.  Sure, it'll only hurt a little -- but that means it will still hurt some.  And then there's the front and back covers, which feature a pink suit-clad Busy perched hopefully yet apprehensively on what can be only a waiting room chair on account of its uncomfortable-looking 1970s-era harvest gold pleather.  It might be the waiting room of a doctor's office or for an audition, but the message is clear: whatever's on the other side of that door has the power to make or break you (and Busy.  Because this is her book.).

So, what makes This Will Only Hurt a Little an uneasy read?  It isn't just the Time's Up/Me Too-tinged accounts of chauvinism in Hollywood -- although those certainly make an impact.  It's Busy's teenage years.  Some seriously scary things happened to her, the kinds of things that could destroy a girl's faith in herself and in men for the rest of her life.  We all know that high school can be awful and about as far from a sock hop as a corn dog from a vegan buffet.  So, it's all the more meaningful when Busy describes rising above her own chilling chapter to follow -- and achieve -- her dream of becoming an actress.  Even when one of her high school boyfriends steals the credit for writing Blades of Glory.  That's right; Ms. Phillips is responsible for that hilarious Will Ferrell (and okay, John Heder) movie about competitive male figure skating.  Which, now that I think about it, makes perfect sense, as it's funny and glitzy and raunchy and has lots of heart, just like Busy.  As for that old plagiarizing ex, no one even knows his name.  He's probably selling corn dogs somewhere.

Now, there is a part in the book where Busy says that fellow "Dawson's Creek" star Katie Holmes was "very sweet," but "wasn't really like a hang-out-and-smoke kind of girl," (171) which gave me pause, as I'm no hang-out-and-smoke kind of girl either.  But then I reminded myself that for better or worse, this book is Busy's truth (she says so on page 8), and if she and Katie didn't click, then so be it.  Also, Katie doesn't have a book or talk show.

That said, here's a part of the book that I love:

"Have I talked about being a sparkly human yet?  Well, I have a theory.  There are certain people who are what I call sparkly humans.  These are people who have things just happen for them or to them because other people see them and seemingly inexplicably want to help them.  Because they sparkle.  From the inside out.  I was always a sparkly human (still am, for the most part, on most days).  Adults just liked me and wanted to help me.  Not kids at my school.  Sometimes sparkliness isn't recognized by peers until much later.  Sometimes sparkly people are even bullied as kids.  Because other kids want to put that light out.  They don't understand it and they want to kill it.  The secret is, if you're truly sparkly, you survive all that bullshit and you don't let them put it out.  And at some point, you started to get rewarded for it.  Sparkly humans aren't always entertainers, and they don't always become famous.  There are sparkly humans everywhere.  And there are also plenty of people who are wonderful and amazing, but aren't sparkly.  It's a very specific thing." (126-127)

I think this is cool and interesting, this idea that some people are marked for greatness like characters in a fairy tale.  And also, that this greatness can take many forms.  But that all of the forms are united by this one intangible but unmistakable thing.

Busy brings her sparkle and pioneering, take-no-prisoners attitude to "Busy Tonight."  In her book, she talks about being tired of waiting around for casting directors to decide her fate about this or that project, or to tell her that she doesn't have the right look or that she has to lose weight.  Why not do something where she calls the shots?  Why not create a safe space for topical issues and girl talk and silliness?  Why not host her own talk show?  I'm glad she did because "Busy Tonight" is so fun!  The set is bright and eclectic, like, as Busy herself says, a sitcom living room.  Busy wears great outfits, and her enthusiasm is infectious from the time she runs out onstage to the time she puts on Mr. Nightgown.  So far, some of her guests include Mindy Kaling, Kristen Bell, John Stamos (the first dude, and a gracious one at that), and even Julia Roberts, all of whom Busy ushers into her photo booth before commercial breaks.  And then, at the very end, she comes out in a long, floral, Bohemian-style muumuu (the aforementioned Mr. Nightgown) and sings a goodnight song so endearing and clever that you can't help but hear it in your head all day.  Listening to it, I always think, I really hope this works out for you, Busy, because you seem to really want -- and deserve -- it.

As they (don't) say, cactus makes for imperfect.  Bring on the smudged glitter.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Cornucopia Colors and Happy Thanksgiving

 Focal Feather Necklace

Dress: Almost Famous, Kohl's
Turtleneck: Zulily
Shoes: Penny Loves Kenny, Zulily
Bag: Xhilaration, Target
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Big blue bead bracelet: Cloud 9
Bangle and small blue bracelets: JCPenney
Beaded bracelet: Plymouth Plantation gift shop
Ring: Francesca's
Barrettes: The Tote Trove

You know how you look out at the horizon of fiery fall foliage and think, what this needs is a teal peacock feather?  Well, I had that same thought when I planned this year's Thanksgiving outfit.  As much as I loved my new floral goldenrod dress, I wanted to add the snap of cool blue for contrast.  So a peacock pendant it was, along with my trusty blue envelope clutch.  I don't have to tell you that I'd rather make accessories than side dishes.  I don't like to cook unless it's with something that comes from a box or can.  Partly because can product art can be pretty nifty.

What is it about pictures of food that say 1950s?  I refer, of course, to the classic foods of yore such as mac n' cheese, ham, casseroles, and anything made with JELL-O.  Not the sea salt-dusted kale and quinoa of today, which is about as picturesque as Walmart on Black Friday.

That said, whatever you wear or whatever you eat, I hope that everyone has a fancy feast and a happy Thanksgiving!

Because fancy isn't just for felines.  Me-wow.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sweater Weather on Your Guard: Undercover Investigation

Gilda Glamazon Necklace

Sweater: Wild Fable, Target
Skirt: Dancing Days by Banned, Modcloth
Shoes: Chase & Chloe, Zulily
Bag: Dancing Days by Banned, Modcloth
White polka dot bangle: Mixit, J. C. Penney's
Orange striped bangle: Target
Yellow bangle: B Fabulous
Cream rose bangle: Mixit, J. C. Penney's
Gold and orange striped bangle: Macy's
Barrettes: The Tote Trove 

In the last couple of weeks, it's gotten chilly in South Jersey.  Which means time to stash the tee shirts and break out the sweaters.  Now, sweaters are cozy and snugly and all -- but they can also be kind of tricky.  Not like blouses, which are easy because they're polyester.  (Well, my blouses are easy because they're polyester.  But let's assume for the sake of this post that yours are polyester too, shall we?).  Good old, created-in-a-lab poly ensures that those blouses wash up wrinkle-free and always look stellar.  But sweaters . . .  It's like, along with the sniffles and defrosting your car, Mother Nature has brought you this extra special treat of a wardrobe scavenger hunt.  Because sweaters come in many stripes and fibers, most of them far from groovy.  The good and bad ones are all mixed up together, like a bag of Hershey's miniatures rife with Special Darks and Mr. Goodbars (again, those are not my favorites.  If you're a Special Dark devotee, then you know the drill.).  You've got your cotton, your cashmere, your acrylic, your wool, and your rayon-viscose-poly-nylon-modal-and-sometimes-cotton blends.  With so many natural and synthetic contenders clogging up the racks, how's a shopper to choose?  By reading The Tote Trove's rundown on naughty and nice knits, of course.  Let 'er rip.

Acrylic: I've said it before and I'll say it again: never ever buy acrylic.  It pills after the first wash.  The exception is if it's acrylic that's also chenille (and not just because it rhymes with Tennille, as in the Captain and Tennille and also my childhood cat).  Unlike evil everyday acrylic, chenille doesn't pill, although after lots and lots of wear it does tend to get holes.  Another plus is that it's oddly luxurious and kitschy.  And guess what?  It's trendy again! 

Cashmere: This Cadillac of sweaters is synonymous with actual luxury.  Yet I take issue with this because -- surprise! -- it pills just like acrylic.  Also, it's as itchy as all get out.  But then again, what do you expect from something that's made from a goat?  

Cotton: I don't often tout the virtues of natural fibers.  But there's no denying that when it comes to sweaters, cotton is king.  Pill-proof and tough, cotton sweaters keep their shape and color long after other fabrics have packed up and moved to hagsville.  Ding-ding-ding; we have a wardrobe winner!

Ramie: Ramie is like cotton's less successful neighbor.  It works in the same building, but in a cubicle instead of the corner office.  Which is a weird way of saying that it doesn't pill as badly as acrylic but is nowhere near as smooth as cotton.  So, if you have a few extra bucks and find one on sale, then buying it is, on the junk food consumption scale, better than choking down a Hot Pocket but not as divine as devouring a Cinnabon.  Mixed metaphors out.    

Wool: Wool is supposedly a high-rent fiber, but it's even itchier than cashmere, so don't be a sheep -- don't buy it.

Rayon-viscose-poly-nylon-modal-and-sometimes-cotton Blends: The blends are a step up above ramie.  They're more durable, wash reasonably well, and even have a shiny sheen.  Their cubicle is closer to the corner office and they have an assistant who brings them Cinnabons.  They also have fat asses from said Cinnabons, but as they say, you can't have everything.

So, what's the takeaway?  Most sweaters are awful.  Stick to polyester blouses.  That said, I of course have lots of sweaters.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Before I sign off, here's a close-up of my Dancing Days by Banned purse featured with this week's outfit.  It was a summer clearance find from Modcloth, and I thought it deserved to shine against its own rich red background.

Ah, summer how I miss you and your sweater-free days.  You've got bitchin' (ahem) in the bag.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Nerds (Because the T-Rhyme is Unseemly)

Howlite Delight Necklace

Sweatshirt: One, Marshalls
Jeans: Vanilla Star, Target
Bag: Olivia Miller, J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Charles Albert, A. C. Moore
Sunflower barrette: The Tote Trove
Yellow bracelet: Amrita Singh, Zulily
Flower bracelet: Mixit, J. C. Penney's
Pizza barrette: The Tote Trove

As you know, I'm a big fan of Pinterest.  It's fun to scroll through endless screens of shape and color, the images a kaleidoscopic carnival of creativity.  But sometimes Pinterest is more upsetting than soothing.  Because the pictures are so perfect.  Just the right brightness and placement, every detail razor sharp.  And that can make an amateur photographer such as myself feel a little discouraged.  We've all been there.  You painstakingly prep your pics, whittle them down to a chosen few, then put your best foot forward into cyberspace only to have another, bigger foot (or, big feet being about as popular as Smoky the Bear at a bonfire, a smaller foot) in a Louboutin stomp on you, reminding you that no matter how hard you try, you will always be a bargain basement Steve Madden.  It's like when you get all dressed up for the big dance in your new rainbow rhinestoned black dress and look in the mirror and feel foxy only to arrive at the school gym and see your arch nemesis Brittany McDonald (no relation to Ronald) wearing a black dress that lights up plus a tiara.  (You know, if it were 1985 and you went to a school where such things were cool instead of landing you in a Dumpster.)  Whenever I feel this way, I back away from my computer and try to focus on something real.  Like my latest craft project.  Or reading.  Or planning my outfit for the bloggers' ball.  (What?  The bloggers' ball isn't a thing?  Then BigBlogger666 has some explaining to do and a rainbow rhinestone dress to return.)  I also try to remember that 1) my best isn't the same as someone else's best, especially a someone with Photoshop and a much more sophisticated knowledge of filters, and 2) that I love fashion because, unlike in math and Sudoku, there's room for everything and there are no wrong answers.

Last weekend I was getting dressed to run errands (by which, of course, I mean go shopping), when I thought, I really like this outfit and want to photograph it before putting it on.  Usually, this isn't how I come up with my post outfits.  I put them together to go with the jewelry I've made.  And yeah, I end up wearing lot of them IRL.  But even then it's the jewelry driving the bus.  So, I get a little jolt when it happens spontaneously.  This time was no different.  I set up the shot, got out my camera, and made my edits -- only to have the picture not look nearly as good as the in-the-flesh (in-the-cotton?) version.  I grunted and stewed; I adjusted the flat lay and took some more shots.  But then I decided that it was okay just the way it was.  Because what is this blog if not a chronicle of my efforts, the good, the bad, and the what-was-I-thinking?  The hiccups are what make it interesting -- even if, especially if -- they're hiccups only in my mind. 

Also, bargain basement Steve Madden is nothing to sneeze at.  Unless you really are Steve, in which case the bargain is cutting into your profits.  Or unless it's mold in the basement that's causing you to be tempted to sneeze.

I'm so glad I'm not (really) Steve Madden.       

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Junior Mint Hint: I Want Candie's

 Punchy Pendant Necklace

Top: Candie's, Kohl's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Jessica Simpson, ROSS Dress for Less
Bag: Guess, Macy's
Belt: Kohl's
Striped bangle: Mixit, JCPenney
Stretch bracelets: Princess Vera, Kohl's

 Pastel Princess Necklace

Top: Candie's, Kohl's
Skirt (a dress!): Kohl's
Shoes: Worthington, JCPenney
Bag: Nine West, gifted
Belt: Flotsam and jetsam from my craft room
Black bangle: Mixit, JCPenney
Blue bangle: Kohl's
Stretch bracelet: Cloud Nine

 Red Blow Bling Necklace

Top: Candie's, Kohl's
Skirt: Tinseltown, Macy's
Shoes: Chase & Chloe, Modcloth
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Modcloth
Red bangle, B Fabulous
Stretch bracelet: Amrita Singh, Zulily
Strawberry print bangle: B Fabulous

For years now, I've been gobbling up Candie's.  I like the brand because it offers lots of staples -- basics with bite that make for nice necklace backdrops.  Sometimes I get caught up in clothes that are overly fancy, which is fine ('cause I'm all for the fanciness), but that can present a problem when it's time to accessorize.  So, it's nice to have a standard-but-special go-to.  Another reason I like Candie's is because it's good quality, which is to say that most of it is made of polyester (a.k.a my miracle fabric) that never fades or wrinkles.  I remember when I first saw it all in the juniors section of the Kohl's I'd visit on my lunch break.  I thought, oh, Candie's, how exclusive, thinking of those iconic and pricey sandals in Macy's.  I didn't think I'd actually own any of it -- which was silly, considering that the stuff is pretty affordable and now takes up prime real estate in my closet.  But then, I was young and naive (and, yes, making less) and not factoring in all those now-famous Kohl's promotions.  These days I'm as addicted to Kohl's cash as much as the next middle class American, earning it only to spend it and then earn some more.  I was at my local store a couple of weeks ago when the teenage cashier handed me my bright green coupon with a somewhat jaded "now you have to come back and spend more money."  "Or go online," I said with spirit (although, looking back, this wasn't so much a retort as it was a confession; a breezy "your-job-depends-on-my-rampant-retail-therapy" would've packed much more of a punch).  That said, I did end up going online this weekend.  I ordered a yellow dress and a red sweater (Ronald McDonald forever!) for a mere twenty-six dollars including shipping.

You know how people say that if you find something you like you should buy it in every color?  Well, since the summer I've been collecting these print, lace-insert tops.  And so I thought it'd be fun to photograph them with some of my candy-themed barrettes.

There is indeed a Junior Mint in there somewhere, although, sadly, no Reese's Pieces.  But then again, I suppose you'd have to head over to Draper James for those (insert groan-slash-drum-sound-effect).  Anyway, these tops come in at least half a dozen more prints, but after the sixth one, I said enough -- it's time to move on to button-downs.  Still, they're good pieces to layer year round.  Tomorrow I'm wearing the red one over a black and white polka dot blouse, cinched with my favorite yellow belt.

I wasn't kidding about Ronald McDonald.