Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Elsa Schiaparelli: a biography by Meryle Secrest

I enjoy fashion design, particularly that of the 1930's and 1940's so when I saw noted biographer Meryle Secrest had written a book on the life of Elsa Schiaparelli I was very excited and requested it for review from the Blogging for Books program.  Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography was an educational and insightful book packed with photos detailing Schiaparelli's work and also offered candid shots of her family life.

I came for the clothes, but I was intrigued by the designer herself.

The author mentions on several occasions that there isn't a lot of personal ephemera in the way of letters or diaries left behind by Schiaparelli.  She also adds that many of the stories the designer related of her early life and her personal life may have been embellished and were likely fabrications.  Although Schiaparelli left behind an autobiography, most of the stories were taken with a grain of salt and the author often states when the stories she related veer into conjecture.  I loved the dramatic flair Schiaparelli possessed and her use of "stunts" to gain attention as a child.  A story in which a young Elsa tried to emulate the beauty of her older sister by planting flower seeds in her nose and ears is both humorous and yet describes her difficult childhood.  Ms. Secrest works hard to separate fact from "possible fact" and from outright fiction, but doesn't shy away from relating events in Elsa's own oft embellished voice.

While the author researched her biography of Salvador Dali her interest in Elsa Schiaparelli was sparked.  The two artists' friendship, collaboration and shared love of surrealism were evidenced in their creation of a gown purchased by Wallis Simpson which featured a lobster and parsley sprigs painted on its diaphanous white fabric by Dali.  This dress is featured in one of the three color photo sections which are printed on glossy paper.  It is one of the things I knew the designer for.  When I thought of Elsa Schiaparelli I pictured whimsical hats, feathers as adornment, her signature shocking pink and this dress.

What I had no idea about, and what were to me the most intriguing aspects of this book, were the many unsung contributions to fashion that she made throughout her career.  These include the built in bra for swimsuits which she patented, her version of a one piece dress which wrapped around the body, her early embrace of zippers as a design element and her invention of the matching coat or dinner jacket to go with her evening gowns.  At every turn Secrest weaves the stories of Schiaparelli's innovative work in the field of fashion with stories from her personal life gathered from her daughter, her friends and her admirers.  At times the stories were shocking - for example her admission of leaving her infant daughter on the balcony of the hotel to "sleep in the sun" all afternoon as she tried to manage her career in fashion with her duties as a single mother.  She is often unlikable, but is rarely uninteresting.

As much as I am a fan of fashion, I also am a fan of fragrance, and Schiaparelli's achievements in this field are also described in detail.  I was intrigued by the fact that Mae West was the inspiration behind the curvaceous perfume bottle Schiaparelli's signature fragrance "Shocking" was packaged in.  The cover of the book is an illustration for an advertisement for the perfume, its bottle the female figure with a head of flowers, a tape measure and a button at the waist which had a signature S on it.  All of these iconic images of the design icon.

I think this book would appeal to fans of fashion and the photographs would appeal to anyone.  The sumptuous descriptions of the fabric modifications, pleating, color and texture of the garments Schiaparelli created can't compare to the beauty of these photographs and the vibrancy of color which jumps off the page.  The book will be published on October 7th and would be a lovely addition to your bookshelf or your local public library.  You might consider requesting it for the collection of a library near you, to make it available for others to enjoy as well.

Thank you Blogging For Books for providing this copy of Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography for the purpose of review.  I would give this book a three and a half star rating.

Monday, September 29, 2014

This Sucks.

I felt marginally better this evening and since my throat wasn't bothering me any longer I decided to sing a few charts on the karaoke machine.

I wish I hadn't.

The karaoke machine is a piece of shit.

Very expensive, non-working shit.

So is our printer which will not print out the label for us to send it back.

If I am grateful for anything today it is for not throwing it through the window.

That's all folks.

A quick update:  Well the karaoke machine is in the mail and making its way back to the folkd we bought it from who are sending us a replacement.  Luckily the warranty was still in effect (even though it was only a thirty day one so thank goodness it went kerflooey when it did instead of a few days later.)  Unfortunately Andy stayed up until nearly 2 AM trying to get the printer to work before giving up and putting in the brand new printer we've had on standby since our old one was on its last legs.  He had to go to WalMart in the wee hours for a black ink cartridge, but the label was printed and it has shipped.  He is already sound asleep and I should be too but my cold is back!  Ick.

Much love and no colds or flus to all of you.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Toast and Tea Can Cure What Ails You

I'm feeling pretty dreadful today.  It's that time of year when my allergies, my tendency toward chattering teeth and declarations of "it's freezing" in any temperature below 75 degrees and my uncanny ability to pick up whatever bug anyone within 30 feet of me has, meets to make me miserable.  I try taking medicine, and occasionally I will take vitamins to ward off colds but I seldom remember to do so for longer than a week.  By that time I already have whatever dreaded thing that has kicked a few butts and I will probably get it again before the season is over.  It is an ongoing and not very fun saga, but I've learned to associate Autumn with its familiar arrival.  Today it is a killer headache, a sore throat and a general feeling that someone slugged me with a baseball bat in my joints and lower back.

When I was a kid and I was sick there was one surefire meal I would be served.  I knew my mom believed I was ill and was getting ready to call the school and let them know I wasn't going to make it if I heard "go lie down honey.  I'll bring you some toast and tea".  If you were having issues with your tummy there would be ginger ale too.  If you were lucky it was Vernor's hot ginger ale (which may be the most delicious pop in the history of time if you don't count Cheerwine).

Two slices of toasted white bread that has a golden sheen of melted butter and a cup of hot Rose brand tea laced with sugar was the medicine of choice in our house.  It always makes me feel better.  Even if I'm just having a crap day I self diagnose my need for toast and tea therapy.

Some people swear by chicken soup and my husband makes a pot of chili with an extra jalapeno kick to "burn the cold out".  My undergrad theatre professor Mel would always tell me I should drink a Coke to settle my stomach because her family swore by its healing properties.  I've had friends who said they had to drink orange juice or Gatorade until they were sick to death of it or have a dinner of white rice while the rest of their family had McDonald's hamburgers.  Popsicles and brandy were popular sore throat fixes from what I've been told (although not at the same time).  A college friend would always order an extra greasy pizza that he would eat in one sitting because it "replenished his electrolytes".  He made remarkable recoveries.

All of this brings up the question - what is your go to meal when you're feeling under the weather?  Is it manufactured to make you feel better because of itsuncanny healing ability or is it strictly a remembered comfort of having someone to take care of you?  Let me know what it is that makes you feel better - I'm willing to add to my toast and tea if you have a great suggestion!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Making Progress...

I started to tackle the bedroom today.  There is a ton of work to be done.  You wouldn't think that such a small room could possibly hold so much stuff.

Apart from the piles of clothes that I have to wash and the baskets of clothes that are already cleaned and need to be folded there were dozens upon dozens of boxes of things I had to go through.  When I "clean up" I generally make piles of magazines and books and papers and makeup.  Allison, my friend from Instagram laughed when I said I tripped over boxes of makeup but it is the truth.  Makeup is everywhere.

I don't collect it exactly, I just love it.  I taught theatrical makeup design classes at the University of Alabama as a graduate student and I see potential in just about everything.  I think "ooh!  This would be a great retro color for a pinup look" or "this glitter will be just the thing if I have to do a fairy makeup".  I don't even do makeup on other people any more, but the ideas don't quit popping into my makeup artist brain.  I also can't seem to resist a sale, and I have loads of unopened makeup with clearance stickers on it.  I have hundreds of products I have received from subscription boxes too.  There was a month last year when I received 13 different boxes.  Insanity.  I see that now, but I really thought I needed them.  I am now down to two makeup subscriptions (Ipsy and Blush Mystery Beauty Box) and one book subscription (Book Riot) but it is a Quarterly box and only arrives once every three months, so it is manageable.  I will likely give theses up too in the near future, but they are exciting and relatively inexpensive (the makeup boxes are less than $35 a month combined and I used to pay that for one Wantable or PopSugar box).

I am about halfway done with the room and I worked on it for almost 9 hours today.  Here are some pictures to show the progress I made.
This is a box of boxes and wrappers/ cardboard from packaging I saved for no reason.

 These Glossybox boxes are full to the brim with whatever the labels say they have in them.  They are going to be stored under my vanity table.  Perhaps I'll actually use it now that it has been cleared of the piles and piles of makeup that you couldn't see past!

Eyeliner/ Brow Pencils 

Primer/ BB Creams

Single Eye shadows 

Lip gloss

 These storage boxes are for CDs - I found them at Dollar General.  I like the fact that they are clear and I can easily spot things.  Hopefully it will encourage me to use it more often.  I have things I love that I totally forgot about.  I have two large clear plastic organizers that are in the "office".  The office will probably take me a week to finish.  It is the most overwhelming room.  I start to feel panicked just thinking about it.  I think I will leave it for next weekend because I need a few solid days to work on it.

It might not seem like much, but this is actually big time progress from what it was.  I think I might take some "before" pictures of the office because that room will be a major transformation if I can get it together.  I hope you all are having good, productive weekends.  I'll be here trying to straighten out the mess.  Wish me luck!

Lip stains, pencils and crayons

Eye liners 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Jumping From My Mind's Eye to the Big Screen

As you can probably tell from several past entries I really enjoy reading.  I feel transported by a good book to a place where I can let go of my stress and worries and allow myself to be submerged in a world of someone else's creation.  I like going on these excursions and I like authors who can engage me with their ideas.  What I find the most exciting is how these ideas take shape in my own mind.

 The best books give your imagination a workout and give you enough description of the environment and of the characters that the way you fill in the blanks is well informed, but free to be painted by your own perspective and nuance.  I sometimes throw away an author's description and cast my own preferences on the characters.  I often find myself manipulating the images of the characters in these books to suit my own personal tastes and opinions.

Here's an example: in the Dead Until Dark series by Charlaine Harris, we meet a mind reading waitress by the name of Sookie Stackhouse.  She is described over and over as a petite blonde, who is incredibly tanned.  My Sookie was a leggy, porcelain skinned beauty with red hair falling in waves down her back.  When HBO created the True Blood television series and cast Anna Paquin as Sookie I was a little confused.  My vampire loving pal didn't look anything like I had imagined her.  I went back and re-read the descriptions of her in the books and realized that my mind pitched them in my unnecessary information pile and pulled out the redhead from my own opinions on what a cute and plucky leading lady ought to look like.

Anna Paquin with blonde hair looks very much like the descriptions of Sookie in the novels, but in my mind she looks a bit like Jessica Chastain with her beautiful red hair.

Gale and Peeta from the Hunger Games were other characters I wondered about.  When I saw the movie casting I was excited because physically the two actors looked very much the way I imagined the characters in the book.  Then I read that they would both dye their hair for the roles and I was baffled.  My Peeta had glossy brown hair and my Gale was a dirty blonde, so seemingly the actors cast had perfect hair for the roles.  When the movie hit the theatres I had to go back and re-read the book to find their descriptions.  Again, I had pitched the author's description and plugged in my own personal preferences.

Yes!  Yes!  Wait. What?

This is one of the main reasons I like to read a book before I see the movie or television version.  I like to have MY characters firmly rooted in my mind before some actor hustles their way in and changes them.  I don't typically "cast" a book with actors or people I know in the real world, but I do have a Rolodex of sorts that informs certain physical features of the characters I build.  If I read about a handsome man he will probably have a tendency to look like Bruce Willis or Jon Hamm.  If I think of a beautiful woman she will probably look a little something like Michelle Pfeiffer or Christina Hendricks.   I have a wide variety of what I consider to be beautiful so my casting pool is pretty huge.

Lately I have been discovering the books that movies were based on after they have been released as a production with someone else's ideas shaping the way I see it.  Game of Thrones was completely off my radar until I was attending the televised version of the "Red Wedding".  I thought to myself "I need to read these books" after that moment happened.  I have been dutifully making my way through the series, and now that I'm in the fifth book (and I've thrown the fourth one across the room a few times in disgust at the turn of events), I realize that I simply can't replace the images of the actors on the show with my mind's own imaginings.  Every time I read about Tyrion's missing nose and scarred face I picture the handsome Peter Dinklage and think "geez George - he looks awesome, why do you have to keep describing him this way?"  I sometimes wonder how much of my book mind suffers by filling in the blanks with someone else's version of John Snow or Sanza Stark, but I can't look away.

I recently began watching the Starz television series Outlander.  I have the first book by Diana Gabaldon and I wanted to finish it before I watched the series, but I just didn't have time.  I am so completely entranced by the storyline and I adore the actors who have been cast.  I know my mind will plug them in as I read the books, but hopefully I can make it well into the series before the second season airs and I will meet new people to craft in my imagination.

This is what I wonder - has there ever been a movie or production based on a book that you wish you could un-see?  Has your perception ever been so changed that you re-read a book or a book series and then had your images of the characters elbowed out by the cast on the screen?  Do you wish you could remember "your" Peeta or Sookie a little better and not have them crowded with Josh Hutcherson or Anna Paquin's visage?  Is there ever a time when you want to kiss a casting agent for planting someone in your head?  I would love to hear about it!

Last weekend we saw The Maze Runner.  I liked it, but I'm in no rush to read the series after seeing the film.  I bet I'll get Patricia Clarkson's face stuck in my mind if I ever do.  There is something wonderful about her nose that is so memorable and striking that it won't be easy to let it out of my mind's grip.  Let me know if you'll be watching a movie or show based on a book this weekend and if they "got it right"!  Have an awesome weekend folks and much love to all of you.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Can't Name That Tune

I don't hear very well.  I've gotten by for years with a mix of lip reading and playing a game of "fill in the blank" with what I think are logical words or ideas for the gaps.  I ask people to repeat themselves or I nod and smile until I'm forced to say "Wait. What?" because I realize I've missed something big.  This isn't usually a problem.  I'm sure that people think I'm rude if they are standing behind me and say "excuse me", because I usually don't notice their presence.  I seldom hear footsteps or can differentiate background voices from general white noise that fills my head any time I'm in public.  I don't move for them simply because I have no idea they are there, silently cursing me for accidentally ignoring them and repeating themselves until they push by me and I think they are jerks.

 I get by for the most part, but there is one thing that has always vexed me.  It has been a problem for as long as I can remember, and with my husband's recent purchase of the karaoke machine it's become startlingly apparent.

I can't understand song lyrics to save my freaking life.

When words are set to music my heart goes wild.  I love me a good song.  I love singing at the top of my lungs to my favorite tunes on the radio, and I am over the moon when I'm belting out my favorite hits with the "follow the bouncing ball" type lyrics that the karaoke machine feeds me.  Unfortunately, at least once a song my forehead will crinkle up as I squint and think "No... that couldn't possibly be the words.  There is no way I have sung this song 400 times and never knew that this is what they were saying!", but that is exactly what happens EVERY TIME.

I'll give you a couple of examples.

When I was working in Cherokee, North Carolina at the outdoor drama Unto These Hills I longed to be in the pre-show choir.  There were auditions the first week we were there.  I thought I was going to make it in easy peasy since I had been a music major in undergrad and had concentrated most of my time on musical theatre performance.  I went in with "I Get A Kick Out of You" from Anything Goes and didn't realize that it was a kind of challenging piece forthe sight reader who was accompanying the auditions.  I wanted it very up tempo and it took a moment to get under way but I thought I had done just fine.  Everyone else was singing a few bars of Amazing Grace and I figured that since I had a piece prepared I had a leg up.

They posted the cast list the next day and I wasn't on it.  I was heartbroken and I spent the entire summer kicking myself for blowing it.  To make matters worse my roommate made it and came home each night and warbled her way through her alto line over and over and rubbed salt in the wound.

I cried many times that summer in frustration over the fact that every night my friends let their beautiful voices soar over the mountains and I wasn't with them.  Still, I learned every bar of every song and sang along while I sat in the costume shop sewing my little heart out.  I'd be painting the dancers with Texas Dirt and harmonizing with the folks dancing in their calico dresses on stage.  Folding laundry, darning socks, beading chest plates, all of these were accompanied by the songs of the pre-show entertainers over the loud speakers, and I was right there with them, unseen and hidden in Laubin or kicking around in the dressing rooms with the actors.

My favorite of all the songs was A Merry Good Tune.  It was a beautiful melody and I thought I may have heard it before they sang it on the hill, but I thought it was completely lovely.  If there was one song that made me melancholy that I wasn't out there in the show, it was that one.

The next year I auditioned again, but I didn't expect anything.  I didn't even bother preparing a piece.  I walked in and said to the director "all I did last year was sing along with your choir.  I hope this year I can do it from the stage instead of the dressing room."  I then sang a few bars of Amazing Grace a capella. I knew it from the hymnals at our church and had every verse memorized like every other Catholic school kid.   Eventually we made it through the whole song with several modulations and interjections of "sing it again, this time a little bluesy" or "do something interesting on the end of this verse."  When I finished they stared at me.  Then they said "why didn't you audition last year?"  I'm glad I didn't puke on my shoes as I explained with increasing redness that I had indeed auditioned and yes, I had a piece prepared then and that additionally I knew every word of every song they had sung the previous year.  They ran me through a bit of Rocky Top which I knew from liner notes to a John Denver album my mom had and then we did the chorus of The Farmer's Cursed Wife which was a bunch of diddle-aye-dies and other made up words.  Finally he said "Do you know Amercian Tune?" and I drew a blank.  "I don't think so.  Did you sing it some other year?"  Nope.  They had done it the past year.  It was a Paul Simon chart.

I wondered how there could have been a song in the show I didn't know.  The pre-show segment was only 30 minutes or so of music.  I thought perhaps it was part of the big medley they ended each performance with and I hadn't known it as a stand alone song.  Suddenly the room was filling with my favorite song from the year prior.  I almost exclaimed "A Merry Good Tune!" but instead I whispered "oh, shit."

These are not the lyrics to American Tune.  They are however the lyrics to A Merry Good Tune:

  "Many's a time I've been mistaken, and many times confused.
  Yes sir, I've often felt my name wasn't most always misconstrued.
  But it's alright, it's alright - I'm just weary to my soul.
  Still you can't expect to be right near everyone so far away from home.
  So-o far away from home."

There was some more stuff about statues looking at me and the it ended with the whole merry good tune stuff and me tryin' to get some rest.  At least I got the rest part right.

The only people who knew my alterna lyrics were my friends Michael Berg and Brooke who had heard me sing it wrong all summer.  I must not have sung it too loud because I don't remember them correcting me.  Blissfully I was able to hum along and then look at the lyric sheet so I didn't make a complete fool of myself.  I made the choir that year and I figured out quickly that I had made up my own special variety of misheard words for nearly every unfamiliar title we sang.  It took a few weeks for me to straighten them out.  I still argued until I was blue in the face that the line in Seven Bridges Road was "time sweet as honey" and I am sticking with it because frankly nothing else makes sense and if it's wrong I don't want to be right.

This was just the first in a long line of the stunning realizations that my ears quite often (if not always) do me wrong.

I once asked my brother in law Bill what an angrion was.  I had looked in the dictionary and hadn't found it, but he was a fan of the artist who sang the song the word was in, and I figured he would know.  "Use it in a sentence Mick" he said.  I answered "there's a place in the wood for the angrion man with his looking glass, tie, and his radical pants."  I was laughed out of town.  He asked me if I knew the title of the Billy Joel song and I said "Angry Young Man."  Oh.  Damn.

I was positive that Michael Jackson sang "Billie Jean has got my cover.  She's Justin's girl but claims that I was the one with the chance to love my son".  I thought it was about a private investigator for some reason and the sidewalk lit up because he was retracing the steps of his cheating girlfriend.  I have no idea why.

When singing Linda Ronstadt's Blue Bayou on the karaoke machine the other day I was impressed that the only major misunderstanding was "I'll sip tequila sunrise with sleepy eyes - how happy I'll be."  Who wouldn't be happy to be back home and drunk?

My ex fiance went to high school and was very good friends with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.  He asked me when we first started dating what my favorite NIN song was and I said it was "Turn on the Light".  He proceeded to tell the man all about it when he saw him next.  I'm sorry, but Terrible Lie just isn't as dynamic.  

When it comes to nonsense words I am oddly golden.  I can understand vowel sounds really well and I can do the whole scat line of Rag Doll by Aerosmith with complete precision.  I was also clear that Steve Miller spoke of the pompatus of love.  Made up words are easy to understand because they're easy to hear and you don't have to think too hard about what they mean.

There are hundreds.  Hundreds of songs that I have very little understanding of.  I want to buy these vocalists some consonants and a diction coach.  Then I want them to sing very slowly and loud right next to me without a bunch of percussion banging away.  Finally I want them to start giving out liner notes.  Liner notes with lyrics are a blessing to people like me.

I'm going to keep on singing my own lyrics.  They make sense and even if they aren't what the song writer intended me to hear, I kind of love my secret justifications behind each misheard lyric.  If you see me grinning at the karaoke machine it is because, yet again, I have had a moment of "really?  THOSE are the words?"

In the immortal words of Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls (whose songs I really think I know the lyrics to but clearly don't) "You've got to laugh at yourself.  You'd cry your eyes out if you didn't"

Much Love to all yinz guys.  Please share with me your misheard lyrics or your memories of mine.  I know I'm notorious for this by now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

5 Reasons I Keep Things (Even Though I Should Be Like Elsa and Let It Go)

I am a hoarder.  I hate the word.  It feels awkward to speak it aloud.  My mom called it "being a pack rat" which was not much better.

The show Hoarding: Buried Alive has cast light on an issue that many people don't really understand.  On it, you see people who have taken their obsessive collecting and compulsive need to keep things that others would throw away.  I can relate to them.  The show nearly always makes me cry and I go out of my way to avoid it.  I can see the desperation in the eyes of the people who are asked to give up some of their things.  I get it.  I am overly sentimental and emotionally attached to things that I really have no need for.  The memories that certain posessions hold makes me hang on to them even when I know I shouldn't.

Andy and I are tackling a project.  We are taking a room of our home each night and really cleaning it.  Scrubbing, vacuuming, dusting, pitching things we don't need and organizing things we want to keep.  It's daunting but it will be incredibly good for me to get rid of some of these things.  I recognize it's a problem and I can clearly see that all the things I've accumulated are holding me back - I'm embarrassed to have friends over because there is just a ton of stuff everywhere.  I know it frustrates Andy but he is really helping me by making it a team effort.  When we finish we will finally be able to have some people over and have a small party.  That is a small goal.

Here are five things I've figured out while cleaning this week.

1.  I keep things for far too long.  I have tons of bath and body products that I should have gotten rid of ages ago.  I threw away things tonight that I know for a fact I bought in Alabama.  That was over ten years ago!  I even thought "I should keep this because I got it in Montgomery at that store I...." - NO!  I have to quit doing this.

2.  I keep things because I am afraid that if I don't, someone will ask me where it is.  Truly, if you give me a gift I am touched by it.  I will want it around where I can see it and think "this person really was thinking of me".  I found salt and pepper shakers that my mother in law gave me that I never cared for in my kitchen cabinet.  I kept them because I expect some day she will say "where are those cute little salt and pepper shakers at?  You know the ones that look like little fish?". The chances of that happening are slim to none but I worry.  If you come over and wonder where your gift is, please keep it to yourself.  If you ask me I might have a heart attack.

3.  I keep things because I am afraid I will regret giving them up.  This is a constant fear.  My mom bought me a snowman when I lived in Alabama.  She stitched an icicle on it's nose and crystal beads as tears.  It had a note on the bottom that said "I'll have a blue Christmas without you baby.  Love, Mom".  I am seriously crying my eyes out typing this because I gave it to Goodwill.  It was big, it didn't really fit in our truck when we moved the last of my things from Alabama, and I didn't think I'd miss it.  Every Christmas I think about it.  I took a picture of it on my phone but that phone was damaged and I lost it.  It haunts me and I'm terrified that everything is the next snotsicle snowman.

4. I keep things because "they might be worth something someday".  I don't even like this reason.  It was simply ingrained by my parents and I can't get away from it.  I press value on things based on the fact that someone else might think it is worth something.  It pains me to throw away things I think are valuable, which leads me to....

5.  My most pressing reason to keep things is "I paid good money for this".  Even if I hate it - perfume that smells awful will sit on my vanity because it was $40 and I can't pitch 40 bucks down the tubes.  Food will sit in my pantry way past it's expiration date because I might eat it someday and I hate the fact that it was $3.87 on sale.  I memorize prices.  I can tell you what store things came from and if it was on sale.  I have bought things I absolutely positively have no use for because they were an amazing deal and I knew I needed to feel that high of getting a bargain.  I am a bargain idiot.  It makes me feel I'll to think of all the money I have needlessly spent that I am now trying to pay off in monthly installments on cards with a balance that never seems to get lower.  I have jeans I can't fit in that I think I will need when I lose weight and I don't want to have to buy new clothes.  I know many people have skinny jeans but I have a whole skinny wardrobe.  If I get skinny I will be afraid to get rid of my current clothes because what if I get fat?  It's a vicious cycle.

I am upsetting myself honestly.  I'm off to a good start but I could use some moral support.  If you can spare some good vibes please shoot 'em at me.  Help me to care more about being healthy and getting my things organized and less about the 5 worries above.  Thanks in advance!  XO

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall Flavor Experiment: Pumpkin Spice Fudge

Howdy folks!

I love baking in the fall and winter but it still kind of felt like summer today and I was looking to make something that had all of the flavor of the first day of Autumn but none of the heat.  I came up with an oddball solution, but one that I hope tastes pretty good.  I whipped up a pan of pumpkin spice fudge for a luncheon tomorrow at work!  I'm hoping that it sets up well because it is a bit of an unconventional fudge.

I like to make rum truffles.  They have become one of my go to recipes for holidays and parties, but they are really labor intensive and it takes hours to chill the mix, roll them into balls and coat them in toppings.  My husband and I started choosing a room to tackle and really clean each day, and yesterday it was the kitchen so I wasn't ready to destroy all our hard work in a tornado of rum ball mania.  I tweaked the recipe a little, threw in some things I had on hand and splashed it with Fireball Whiskey. There is an approximation of the recipe below, but a lot of it was done by my highly scientific "looks about right" method, so you may need to add a little of this or that to make it perfect.  When it was finished and before it went into the fridge, Andy tried a bit off of the mixing bowl and declared it good even though he isn't usually a pumpkin fan. We'll hear from the work taste testers tomorrow and I will post an update on the final chilled texture so I can figure out what you might need to add to make it just right!

Pumpkin Spice Fudge

1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons pumpkin spice flavor syrup (I used Archer Farms brands from Target)

Combine these in a 2 quart sauce pan.  Heat on medium watching carefully and stirring constantly until liquid just starts to shimmer.

1/3 bag of Kraft pumpkin spice flavored marshmallows (about 20)

Turn heat to low.  Add marshmallows to liquid and stir until melted.  Be careful not to scald mixture.

18 ounces white chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli brand - a little more than one and a half bags)

Add to mixture slowly, stirring constantly until chocolate is completely melted.  I find that white chocolate doesn't melt as easily as regular chocolate does.  If there are a few small pieces that don't melt it's fine they will still taste good.  

2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 

Remove mix from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl.  Slowly add powdered sugar and spice to mixture in bowl, mixing with a spoon to combine.  Use a slow speed on your stand mixer or hand mixer and continue to mix until there are no visible lumps.  

4 Tablespoons of Fireball Whiskey, warmed (If you prefer you can use cinnamon schnapps or spiced rum)
A sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice

Slowly pour whiskey into fudge base, continue to mix on low speed until mixture is glossy and well combined (about one minute).  Pour into a shallow foil pan that has been lightly greased with butter or cooking spray to prevent fudge from sticking.  Lightly sprinkle with additional pumpkin pie spice if desired.  Chill in the fridge for at least two hours, preferably overnight.  Slice into small squares with a plastic knife (plastic knives don't stick to the mix!) and enjoy.

I hope you enjoy this no-bake fall treat.  The alcohol does not cook out so bear that in mind before serving it to little ones.  The little cinnamon kick is a fun way to add some warmth without heating up the kitchen.  Much love to all y'all and happy eating!

A quick update - this fudge didn't set up very well.  It had more of an icing consistency than I wanted.  I would decrease the cream to a scant cup, only use one tablespoon of the pumpkin syrup and both bags (22 oz.) of chocolate chips if I made it again.  Hopefully that will make it a little firmer and easier to serve.  Even though they ate it on spoons I didn't hear much complaining.  :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Books for Days!

I'm so grateful that I have been blessed by a deluge of books lately.  It seems that I have a lucky star shining down on me.  The only problem is I don't know what to read first!

Here are a few of the awesome books I have received in the mail in the past few months.  I am going to be happily passing the fall and winter with these friends to keep me company, and have already reviewed a few here on my blog.

This is just a sample of the awesome reading I have done and still have waiting for me - I am actually dedicating a bookshelf entirely to books that I've discovered through these programs.

 I don't enter every giveaway in the history of time (although I know it may seem that way).  If a book strikes me as interesting or if I see it deals with a topic I'm excited about I will take a moment and fill out an entry form for a giveaway or I will retweet or comment on a blog post in hopes that I'll be chosen as a reader - I do try very hard to review all the books I am given prior to their publication if I receive an ARC, and I always review my Goodreads and Library Thing wins because the books they give out depend on word of mouth for sales.  The more I review, the more opportunities pop up!

I will never tire of reading and my new found passion for blogging and reviewing is quickly replacing my need to spend money on subscription boxes.  I've cut way back on the monthly subscriptions and have found I am much happier, so I'm grateful for that too!

A million thank yous to the generous folks who send this glorious book mail my way.  It's like Christmas when the UPS truck pulls up - most giveaways don't let you know you've won, they just appear on your doorstep, and there's no surprise like a book mail surprise!

Algonquin Books Blog
Library Thing 
Twitter - St. Martin's Press
Shelf Awareness giveaway
inspiredbooksguide.com blog hop

Blogging For Books, Goodreads, Shelf Awareness

She Reads Summer Giveaway

Blogging for Books Special Request

Shelf Awareness, Goodreads
She Reads Summer Giveaway
Blogging For Books
A box of book goodness from including books from the House Party Chatterbox program, Read It Forward, Influenster, Swaggable and other blog giveaways including Wen's Buzzing Reviews and The Lit Bitch!

Books - My favorite place to get lost!  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How To Be a Good Wife: A Novel by Emma Chapman - Review

How To Be a Good Wife is a haunting debut novel from Emma Chapman.  It is the kind of book that zips by because you are so completely engrossed in the story and are wondering just where it is headed.  I would sincerely recommend carving out an evening to dedicate to this book because I think it has a story best told in one sitting.  I gave it a four star rating on Goodreads.

In the opening pages we find the good and dutiful Marta trying to fill her days with something to distract her from missing her son, Kylan.  Marta and her husband Hector have been married many years and she is finding the adjustment of moving from a life as a doting parent to an empty nester hard to navigate.  In an effort to control and change something about her circumstances she stops taking the medication she has used for years, and when she does so, begins to question her life and memories.  Everywhere she looks she sees visions of young girl who is begging for her attention.  The girl causes her to question her sanity, and the truth of her life and her past.

The title comes from a book given to Marta by her mother in law on her wedding day.  Words from the tome are repeated in Martha's mind whenever she completes a simple task.  Advice such as "Always put the needs of the rest of the family above your own" and "Take small mouthfuls of food, like a baby bird, and make sure to chew daintily with your mouth closed" inform her every waking moment.  When she comes to a startling realization mid-book, she struggles to find her way out of the doctrine of behavior she has always followed and to recover the self that she lost in the process and hopes that the girl she once was is not lost to her forever.

I don't wish to give away any more of the plot, but I must say that I was moved to tears several times in the reading of this book.  There were so many wonderful descriptions that caught my attention.  Ms. Chapman has a knack for detail and vividly creates the scenery of Marta's world from the fjords and snow drifts to the scratches in the tabletops of her captive home. I love when authors can so accurately describe a flavor or put extraordinary details into the environment of the book in this way.  I was dreading Hector's first taste of the overly salted soup at the dinner party - never did a written spoonful cause me so much anxiety.  I was also rewarded with the knowledge that the instruction manual on wifery was there early in the novel as a protection of sorts for Marta - her ingrained recollection of these rules and decrees on attaining perfection sheltered her from the disapproval of her husband and kept her from the pain it could have brought her.  All of these details lit up the novel and made it memorable days after reading it.

When you finish the novel, you can visit the How To Be a Good Wife website and join in a discussion about who in the novel is to be believed.  It is a fun interactive experience and I was surprised at how many people had differing opinions about the outcome of some of the novel's events.  Personally, I think a smile and a shovel can hide most anything.  You can also follow Emma Chapman on Twitter and let her know if you enjoyed her book.

When I first heard of this novel, I had seen it recommended as "for lovers of Emma Donoghue.." and being that several of Ms. Donoghue's novels are favorites of mine, I was happy to explore an author who had a similar voice.  If you liked Emma Donoghue's Room, then I think this book would be enjoyable to you as well.  I look forward to new offerings from Ms. Chapman in the future, and hope that I have the opportunity to read more work from her very soon.  Thank you to Picador books who provided me with a hardcover edition to read and review and to the Shelf Awareness website who called my attention to this lovely author.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Happy Saturday

I had so much fun singing karaoke in our basement tonight that I completely forgot about posting!  The karaoke machine was a late birthday and early anniversary present for the both of us, and it has been fun.  I love singing things I would never sing in public and just goofing around!  Plus it is good practice for really singing when we go out with our friends.  I might have the courage to whip out Blue Bayou now!

We also saw The Maze Runner today - we had some free passes from an online promotion.  We even went out to dinner.  A fun day - we don't do that too often anymore and it was nice for a change.  I'm very grateful that Andy and I share a love for singing, movies and so many other things.

Tomorrow I'll have a review of a book I finished earlier this week but needed a few days to process and think about.

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Fall 2014 My Subscription Addiction Quarterly Box #MSA01

When Liz Cadman of My Subscription Addiction announced that she would be curating a box for Quarterly I signed up within minutes of reading her post.  I love Liz's honest reviews and reveals of the content in the dozens of boxes she buys or is given by companies to try each month.  She posts helpful information on what can be found in the boxes and the values of the products or services each box provides.

 By reading her daily posts I have steered away from boxes that wouldn't be a good fit for me while finding some boxes that I really enjoyed splurging on because I could see multiple examples of what the company offered and get a good feel as to the types of items that may arrive on my doorstep.  She seems to know what customers want in a subscription and has heard from the comments from subscribers what thrills them and what they would be content in never seeing again.  Her box promised to focus on products that were free of harsh chemicals and parabens and offered a range of beauty, lifestyle and fashion items.  You can check out my unboxing video by clicking the play button!  (Note: you will hear me giggle and see me fumble my way through opening everything with one hand.  At one point I say I hope the body scrub is jam because it arrived without a label and I thought that would be rad.)

The cost of this box was $50.00 - fairly steep in terms of a subscription box.  Also, Quarterly charges shipping fees on their boxes so that was an additional $8.00.  I had a coupon code from the My Subscription Addiction site for $5.00 off that was offered on the day of the announcement, so my box cost $53.00 shipped.  I knew that the value of the products in the first MSA Quarterly box would be higher than the purchase price simply because the best boxes always offer you a great variety of products, introduce you to new brands you may be unfamiliar with and have a value exceeding what you paid.  In that way, this box definitely delivered, however several of the items were misses for me, and I don't think I would buy this box again.  I wanted to support Liz in her endeavor, and I'm glad I did - I will be gifting most of the box contents to friends and family, so even though this box wasn't particularly thrilling to me personally, I know there are people in my life who would love these items.

Here's what came in the #MSA01 "Fall Favorites" Box:

Tatcha Polished Classic Rice Enzyme Powder - 2.1 oz. (Full Size) - $65.00 value

This product is from a brand that I have heard of but I'm unfamiliar with.  It is a cleansing powder which you add water to and it exfoliates and smooths your skin from what I understand.  It is formulated with rice bran and papaya extract.  I am allergic to many tropical fruits including papaya, and other cleansers and masks that I've tried in the past that included it made my skin react unfavorably so I will be gifting or trading this item.  It has the highest value of any of the included products and was the teaser that was listed as a preview on the My Subscription Addiction site several weeks ago.

Raw Naturals Chai Latte Scented Soy Wax Candle - $24.00 value

This soy wax candle is fairly small in a clear glass holder.  I enjoy the fragrance and love that it is a wood wick style candle.  I like the crackling sound you get with this type of wick.  The scent is heavily spiced with cinnamon and cardamom.  My husband was overwhelmed by the scent, so when I light this I will probably place it in the kitchen and hope that the throw is milder than the out of the box fragrance.

Juice Beauty Reflecting Gloss in Guava - .14 fl. oz. (Full Size) - $15.00 value

Juice Beauty is an organic beauty brand that features all natural products.  This lip gloss and products by this brand are featured regularly in beauty subscriptions like PopSugar Must Haves and Ipsy.  I have received their products several times, and I just don't enjoy them.  When I got this in my Ipsy bag I tried it.  It tastes like oranges to me, and I didn't leave it on long enough to get a sense if it was sticky or not, because I just hated the flavor, but I do remember it being very shimmery.  I'm sure it's a win for some people, but I have received it in three different subscriptions in the past year and it doesn't excite me simply because of the flavor.  The color seems to be a bright orange red.  This is one of four shades that went out.

Fig + Yarrow Cardamom and Coffee Body Scrub - ? oz. - $22.00 value

Ummm?  This product was a mystery to me.  I don't have the information on the size or ounces or really anything about this scrub because it had no labels on it.  When I shot my unboxing video I was cracking myself up because I had no idea if this item was jam or a scrub or something else.  The scent that I was getting was more likely from the candle than from this.  I believe it is sealed under the lid in addition to the piece of tape that was stuck on the jar.  There was an ad from the company enclosed with a picture of the label and that is where I got the brand information first.  Liz mentions on the card that one of the ingredients is shea butter which is another one of my oddball allergies, so this is also not destined for me.  I really wish it had a label since I will be gifting this item, but it didn't come off because the oil had leaked or anything like that - it was well wrapped in tissue paper and bubble.  They must have just forgotten mine. 

Simonetta Acrylic Infinity Knit Scarf - $25.00

This is a circle scarf and it seems very soft and fuzzy.  The herringbone pattern looks a little like a zebra print to me in this charcoal grey and cream blend.  I almost didn't remove the plastic wrap from this item because I was sure it was wool, but I was surprised to find it labeled 100% acrylic.  It seems very warm, and my husband said I will probably be very happy for it come winter but we agreed that it seems like an outerwear scarf rather than a fashion scarf.  I am not a skilled wearer of scarves.  I'm always super excited when they turn up in subscription boxes because I never buy them for myself since I always feel a little odd in them, but when the weather snaps this will probably be under my coat since outerwear scarves are less curious for me to figure out.

Also included in the box were codes for Fig + Farrow (a 20% discount), Tatcha (a free deluxe size cleansing oil with your first order) and Just Fab (75% off your first item with a subscription).  The Just Fab code is only good through mid October, so I hope that the MSA01 Quarterly boxes all go out in time for the recipients to redeem them.  I never add codes of this type into the box value since they usually rely on you spending more money outside of the initial purchase.  Still, the overall value comes to $151.00 which is excellent for a box of this type.  The My Subscription Addiction box was thoughtfully curated and I know Liz worked hard to make this a winner.  It sold out quickly, and I hope Quarterly keeps it in their lineup even though the natural products didn't work for me personally.  I know that they will make great gifts and that if I wanted to trade them on the swap forum at MSA they would be snatched up in a heartbeat.  I wish I wasn't such a weirdo, but that is what I am and how I leave you!

Much love my friends!