Monday, October 31, 2011

Books, I love them.

Just pre-ordered the new Nov. 1 releases from Joan Didion and Mindy Kaling: Blue Nights and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, respectively. I like to follow my heavy, illness and grief memoirs with a sarcastic, observation-based, humorous chaser.


I adored Didion's last book, The Year of Magical Thinking, and I'm hoping that Is Everyone... is even half as funny as the cover image and excerpts suggest (although, it still doesn't beat Tina Fey's Bossypants, which I think has the best book cover I may ever see for the rest of my life).


Any other great books I'm missing out on? 

Talking about books makes me miss Borders even more than I already do (RIP). However, Books-a-Million is currently moving into two former Borders locations near me, so maybe they can fill a teeny bit of this book-browsing, coffee-drinking, tabloid-devouring void of mine.

Friday, October 28, 2011

This is Halloween! This is Halloween!

As I've mentioned, we're having our Halloween party this weekend and I've been trying to prep what I can ahead of time so I'm not running around like a madwoman come Saturday afternoon. Here's a sneak peek at what I've accomplished thus far:


Inspired by these Martha ones (and not wanting to pay for them), I made my own soda labels (and treat bags).


Coffin utensil holder — I bought an unfinished wooden one (like this one) from Pat Catan's, painted it, distressed it and wrote my own epitaph with a silver Sharpie marker (love those).


We carved our pumpkins, which will end up being heads for spooky scarecrow-like yard decorations — can you guess who the soft, gray, adorable inspiration was for mine? Two years ago we tried the Martha Method of filling a mason jar with white Christmas lights instead of a candle and it worked great (especially if you hoard extra-long extension cords, which we do).

I've also prepared a list of creepy foods that I intend to make, including but not limited to: these heavenly sounding pumpkin cupcakes, deviled eggs like this, salsa dip that looks like puke but tastes like amazing (equal parts salsa and cream cheese), the always-a-hit finger cookies and these shards of glass cupcakes from — you guessed it — Ms. Stewart herself*.


And, lest I get too worn out from all of this strenuous party prep, I've been diligent about getting outside, enjoying the last of the warm fall weather (it may snow this weekend - yay!) and taking every picture I can of the beautiful leaves before they're gone.


What are you being for Halloween? Any last minute suggestions for creepy food/decorations?

*Although it may seem like it is, I promise this post is not sponsored by Martha Stewart, I just love her and everything she does. But I wouldn't be opposed to being sponsored by her, eh Martha? What do you say? Have your people call my people**.

**I don't have people.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Foxy Lady

Last week I talked at length in defense of the non-sexy Halloween costume, and mentioned that this year I intend to go as a fox (inspired by this amazing children's jacket). Not a sexy fox, or a lingerie model with ears and a tail, but a classy, tweed-jacket-wearing, professorial fox.

My man is going as the same (although he would make a great sexy fox), and while the costume is pretty basic when you consider that I've sewn an adult-sized peanut suit for Halloweens past, I am still hand making a few key fox parts.

This past weekend I made the "heads", which are basically hoods that I cut off of thrifted clothes and hand sewed ears onto them. I also made a pretty rickety bow-tie (my sewing experience is almost exclusively relegated to Halloween time, so I'm not exactly ready for Project Runway), but what I'm most proud of is our tails.

I had very little idea how to start making the tails, but I bought some white and brown skeins of yarn, and decided to give it a try. After cutting individual strands to length for what seemed like days, I came up with this brilliant little handmade ghetto loom of sorts:

 
Which, was basically two clips on the edges of candle jars that I wrapped my yarn around, expediting the process while helping to maintain my sanity. I gathered about five bundles of white, and probably six or more brown on top, cut through the bottom of the loops after rubber-banding the tops together, and then randomly trimmed the yarn strands into what I thought a fox tail looked like.


I was pleasantly surprised by the results, and as with most things, my second one turned out much better than the first. I tied the clips I was using to each tail, allowing us to clip them to our shirts. The tops will be hidden underneath our tweed blazers (mine has elbow patches!), so I didn't worry about making them look too finished.


I'm excited to have a cute and clever (or at least I think so) costume that I will actually be able to move around in — mobility is usually an unfortunate afterthought in my costume-planning process. And since they're predicting a possibility of snow showers during our Halloween party, I know I'm definitely going to be thankful for all of those layers of tweed.

Side note: Mozart DID NOT enjoy this fox tail making project. She spent the greater part of the night trying to attack the yarn from various angles, and I think I'll be picking up hidden yarn scraps for the rest of my life.

Historic Hudson Valley


How have I gone 26 years without knowing about the Historic Hudson River Valley and it's fantastic fall fesitvals?!


Centered around Washington Irving's famous Legend of Sleepy Hollow are three events: Horseman's Hollow, a haunted walking trail at Philipsburg Manor; a dramatic performance of the spooky tale at Old Dutch Church; and the Legend Celebration at the homestead of Irving himself.


Then, in the category of "holy-shit-I-want-to-go-to-there" is the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, featuring more than 4,000 individually hand-carved, illuminated jack o'lanterns. Four-thousand, hand-carved jack o'lanterns — I know where I'll be next October.

Also, their site contains one of the most unexpectedly funny FAQ pages I've ever read.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Poor Miss Sophie

If you'll recall, my mom, the anti-cat person, bought a cat a few months ago, and instantly fell madly and deeply in love. I mean, how could you not love Miss Sophie, the world's cutest vaguely-siamese rescue kitten?


Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, Miss Soph came down with an eye infection, or so my mom was told by a few different vets. When nothing seemed to make her eye better, she went to an eye specialist, who finally diagnosed Sophie with entropion, a deformity of the (in Sophie's case, third) eyelid that is apparently super rare in cats; so rare in fact, that the surgeon asked my mother if she could document Sophie's case for publication in some rare cat disorder journal somewhere (is that a real thing? and she said yes).

So, poor Sophie underwent double-eye surgery last week (although only one eye was currently having problems, the other eyelid was also trouble, so they operated on both) and is currently enduring the ultimate in cat shame: the plastic cone.


As if that wasn't embarrassing enough for the proud Miss Soph, the cone is too large and after many successful escape attempts, my mom taped the cone snug with bright blue painter's tape.

Kudos go out to my mom — a woman so cheap that she collects her shower water to use on her plants — for falling so in love with Miss Soph that she barely flinched at the steep surgery bill.


And I think Sophie fully intends to stick to her repayment schedule of belly rubbins and general cuteness.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE CATS! 

And in case you were wondering, Mozart's sparkling green beauties are doing just fine these days.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CRAMBLIN' (WO)MAN

A few weeks ago, my culinary genius of a friend, Rachael, posted a picture to Twitter of a very delicious-looking apple crumble. I promptly replied: GIMMEE DAT CRAMBLE, and a very funny hashtag and on-going meme of sorts was born.

Fast-forward to this past weekend, and I'm in Buehler's staring at their pounds and pounds of apples, when I decide to try my hand at the CRAMBLE. I finally got around to making this legendary dessert last night, and I must report: it's HOLY SHIT GREAT.



Now, I had expectations, as any lover of fall-themed desserts would, but the CRAMBLE far exceeded all of them. It was crispy and gooey and cinnamon-y and even my man — in the middle of playing a video game, no less — felt compelled to praise all things CRAMBLE.


Head over to Rachael's (newly designed!) blog and check out the simple (aka not cramblicated) recipe — and don't forget the vanilla ice cream — your mouth will never be the same.

In defense of... The non-sexy Halloween costume

While I am not the girliest of girls, I do not mind being thought of as sexy on any day of the year with one notable exception: Halloween. I'm not sure when it became ok, let alone the standard, for a girl to parade around the streets wearing nothing but skimpy lingerie and a pair of animal ears. On any other day of the year, this girl is a hooker. On Halloween, she's a sexy mouse.


I come from a crafty family, and Halloween has always been the perfect outlet for my once-a-year urge to sew something. My costumes though out the years have included: a crazy, evil clown; a road; an evil, creepy man; the original Willy Wonka; the Luigi half of the Mario Brothers; Ellen DeGeneres; a penguin; a bloody mary (yes, the drink); Mr. Peanut and a Wizard of Oz flying monkey. All creative? You bet. Entirely handmade? Of course. Incredibly sexy? Not a chance.


It seems that I am part of a small minority (there has to be others out there, right?) of girls that actually want a creative, funny and interesting costume — not to mention one that doesn't cause frostbite — in lieu of dressing as a complete slut. 


Maybe I'm jealous of the attention that these girls get for doing something that takes zero effort or advance  planning. Maybe I get frustrated when I'm waddling around campus as a penguin and I can't pick up drinks because in my quest for authenticity, I've sewn flippers around my jacket sleeves with no outlets for my actual hands. 



Or maybe, just once, I want recognition for doing something creative and difficult (have you ever sewn a 5 ft. peanut suit? I don't recommend it) without being looked down upon for not costume shopping at Victoria's Secret.

I really just want to thank everyone who goes beyond underwear in their quest for an interesting and unique Halloween costume and let them know that you're not alone. There's nothing wrong with choosing smart over sexy or quirky over quick. 


And if you would like to consult with me on costume ideas, I'll be sewing elbow patches into a thrifted tweed jacket — I'm going to be a classy, professorial fox this year — fully-clothed, but sexy just the same.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quest: Gray Nail Polish, part 2

1. NYC Color Sidewalkers  |  2. M.A.C. On The Prowl*  |  3. RBL Concrete Jungle (apparently you can't get this anymore?)
4. O.P.I. Skull and Glossbones  |  5. Carolyn New York Hanging On the Stoop





Since my last post about my obsession with non-sparkly gray nail polish, I've come across a few others I thought I would share. I bought the NYC Color Sidewalkers this weekend at Target, and while I've only painted it over my other nail color while in the store (a girl's gotta test these things), I am certainly in love with its under $2 price tag. Also, the lighter gray is different enough from my others to justify owning yet another gray polish.

Then, today, I received O.P.I.'s Skull and Glossbones in the mail, the result of a manic impulse buy from Amazon. Again, I've only painted over one nail so far, but the color is even lighter than Sidewalkers, and from what I can tell, its definitely a high-quality polish. It better be, for what it cost, but it might be my favorite, after the Finger Paints Mozart-colored one.

*Who pays $23 for a nail polish? Am I strange to think that's a little extravagant? Maybe it paints itself (that would certainly be worth it)?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Broomstick Treat Bags

Once again, I turned to the High Holy Priestess of Halloween, Ms. Martha Stewart, for the treat bags I decided to make for our Halloween party this year. I've seen these broomstick bags in her magazine for a few years, and decided to finally give them a try.

They are pretty simple, but take a lot longer to put together than I had anticipated. By the time Practical Magic was over (1 hr. 44 min.) I had only finished 15 "brooms". I had also run out of treats, so I moved on to The Craft (I was really feeling the 90s witch-vibe) and a nap.


First, gather sticks from your (or your neighbor's) yard, and have your nice, handy, man cut them for you. I found that a more substantial, thicker stick looked better, but use what you can find.

Bonus: This totally counts as yardwork, or at least that's what I told myself.

 
Push the bottom of one bag out, while keeping the sides folded in. Cut the bag into strips, stopping short of the bottom. This part frustrated me at first, because you're cutting through multiple layers of brown paper and it gets pretty shifty and tries to make your life hard.

I found that keeping a hold on the cut parts while you cut the rest, and constantly re-aligning your pieces is the way to go. Also, if it's not perfect, it doesn't really matter in the end.


Cut some fringe in the top of another bag, and set it inside of the shredded one. Fill with treats, and insert your stick handle.


Gather the shredded strips around the inside bag, and tie tightly with string. I wrapped it around a few times to look like a broom handle.


Place in a box, and keep away from cats until your party.

I'm pretty happy with how they turned out; I just hope they last until the 29th — for some reason Mozart has felt compelled to chew on every one of the stick handles she can reach.

Side note: the bags ended up a lot larger than I had thought they would be, but it makes them more realistic/impressive looking. Be prepared to use a lot of candy in each one (and make sure you have some extra for yourself, you've worked hard).

Web Therapy | Meryl Streep

This is the first episode of Lisa Kudrow's Internet-only show, Web Therapy, that I've seen (I'll give you three guesses why) but I laughed out loud through the entire thing. So, so good.

Friday, October 14, 2011

In defense of... North

"I hated this movie as much as any movie we've ever reviewed in the nineteen
years we've been doing this show."
 — Roger Ebert

I am about to defend the merits of the best-worst movie (I insist that I coined that phrase far before this) ever made: 1994's North. Never heard of it? Neither have the DVD manufacturers — as far as I can tell, its only available in its native VHS format (remember those?).

I had the pleasure of seeing North in its original, theatrical run in 1994. I was nine, and I loved it. I think even then I could tell that this movie was a little cheesy, but the absurd premise of an eleven-year-old who  is fed up with his work-a-holic parents, takes them to court and when the judge rules that he must find replacements or return to his given set within two months, embarks on a world-wide parent audition? Yeah, I loved every minute of it.


Still have no idea what I'm talking about? Would it pique your interest to mention that the eleven-year-old in North is Frodo-himself, Elijah Wood? Or that his original parents are played by Seinfeld Alums Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander? I'm sure you've heard of Bruce Willis? Yeah, he's in it too (in a bunny suit, no less).


A fan of Jon Lovitz or Oscar-winner Alan Aarkin? You won't be disappointed. Maybe you've listened to Reba McEntire, or watched Dan Akroyd on SNL or been creeped out by Kathy Bates?


How about Abe Vigoda, Ben Stein, Kelly McGillis, Faith Ford or the dearly departed John Ritter? Oh, and I think Scarlett Johansson is pretty popular these days, although her career surely peaked with North.

Yes, the story is ridiculous but I stand by my assertion that it is the best, worst movie I've ever seen (and I've seen it many, many times). So next time you're flipping through the channels and you see North on TBS, stop and watch (it's also streaming on Netflix).


Or, purchase the VHS and have this wonderfully kooky, surprisingly endearing, film on hand whenever you're in the mood to see Bruce Willis in a pink bunny suit.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Society6

Have you ever been to Society6? They handle the selling, printing and distribution of prints for some really great artists, and I spent quite a while browsing through the work.


I particularly like Thomas Sullivan's prints; the nesting-doll like food chain set is my favorite, although the skeleton key is just as cool.