Friday, September 28, 2012

For the Little Owlets...

This post must start with a warning. Beware: Target (or as we say it in my house Tar-jay, very French-like, a la Fancy Nancy) is addictive. It's like crack for bargain hunters.

You could buy the really cute owl-oriented bedding and accessories for your child's room at Pottery Barn, and spend about $400 on the whole ensemble. Or you could buy pretty much the same stuff at Target ... for about half the price.

For the older owlets, the Love n' Nature set, with items priced between $10 and $90.

 For the babes, the Zutanoblue Owl Brights set or the Bananafish Calico Owls set.

Zutanoblue bedding: Love the colors on this one!!

Bananafish: This is the set Miss Sophie is getting for her 2nd birthday.
For a quick change, these wall decals I bought for Sophie's room - only $14 a pop for several. I decorated two walls with what was included!

These owlies are a cheerful addition:). They make me smile.

Happy shopping!! Adieu. ~Alice

 **Images, except the last, from the Target website.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Alchemy and Amy Adams...

A short post today, as its a hectic one in the household. On my way home from work this afternoon, an interesting hour of Fresh Air on NPR, especially considering yesterday's post. First, the secret of life. Electricity. How very Frankensteinian.

Check out Terri Gross's interview with Ashcroft about her latest book at
In the same hour, Gross also interviewed Amy Adams, who played Giselle in a fairly smart send-up of Disney's princess films, Enchanted (a movie that all the while reinscribes the very things it makes fun of). As part of the interview, she played Adams singing "A Happy Little Working Song," which I'm sure the poor woman loved. Here she is, trying to promote her latest very serious film The Master, and she's talking about singing to rats. Ah, well. At least she's famous.

Until tomorrow. Adieu. ~Alice

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Frankenstein ... Through the Looking-Glass?

First of all, I have a confession to make. I had never, up until very, very recently, finished Frankenstein. Yes, I picked the novel up several times throughout the course of my life, but I promptly put it back down. I disliked the style of the novel: the "ponderous" plot (thank you, Dr. Jamie, for this word - you know who you are), the emotive language, the Noble Savage who spoke like a nineteenth-century professor even though he was just assembled out of parts from the charnel house. I prefer my books to have more meat on their bones, so to speak. The only reason I picked the book back up recently? I had to teach it. This time, I suppose, it's growing on me. Like a fungus.

Now to my point. This morning, as I was reading up on the long afterlife of the novel while preparing for tomorrow's class, I discovered that John Tenniel, the gentleman who so famously illustrated Carroll's Alice books, repeatedly drew upon Frankenstein to critique current state affairs in his political cartoons.

"The Russian Frankenstein and His Monster" (Punch 1854), depicting Russia as a war machine
bent on the destruction of British men.

"The Brummagem Frankenstein" (1866), drawn to protest the decision to give the lower classes voting rights. Here, Tenniel draws a brute, bearded, working-class Birmingham rough as the rebellious creation of an "ill-advised" politician.
Incidentally, Tenniel is also responsible for the illustrations so often connected to Poe's "The Raven," his melancholic print perfectly capturing the despondent and star-crossed narrator.
To close, two quotes from Shelley. The first, perhaps, my favorite: "I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper" (from the 1831 preface to the revised novel). Who doesn't want their work to do the same? Writers, after all, are Frankensteins of a sort, piecing together textual bodies from fragments called up from the tomb of the brain. 

The second, a more poignant, and painful, observation: "the survivors are the greatest sufferers, and for them time is the only consolation" (Volume I, Chapter VI). How true this is. At the heart of Frankenstein is an acute "rage at the dying of the light," the anger that all that we hold dear could slip into the arms of the grave at any moment. The Frankenstein metaphor was used aptly, and oh so terribly, thus in last season's American Horror Story. And if you haven't jumped on that show's train yet, you are really missing out (the new season starts in a few short weeks).

Until next time, Adieu. ~Alice

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tootsie Pops...

A short, but sweet post for your Monday. My husband told me this weekend that my owl obsession is getting so out of hand that he feels like he is living in a Tootsie Pop commercial. Have a happy week! Alice

By the way, why does Mr. Owl always have to be so smarmy? One, two, a-three... Hehehe...

Friday, September 21, 2012

My "Frightening Five for Friday" (Danger Lies Ahead)...

Inspired by the "High Five for Friday" by @k8_smallthings at The Small Things Blog and a list of the "Top 10 Horror Stories" by Stephen Jones, editor of a new anthology of horror tales A Book of Horrors (which popped up today in my Twitter feed), I decided to whip up my own batch of terror, the "Frightening Five for Friday." Today, my five favorite terrifying tales, some for kids, some not. Either way, danger lies ahead.

(#5) "Godfather Death" by the Brothers Grimm: When I was about 10 years old, one of my aunts sent me a book that claimed to compile "the best of children's literature" (quite grandiose, no?). One of the stories in this book was "Godfather Death," the lone illustration a snuffed candle. I won't give too much away about this story, but I will tell you that Godfather Death is none other than the good old Grim Reaper through the eyes of the Grimms - and he is terrifying.


(#4) "Summer of '77" by Stuart O'Nan: This very brief tale is one of the creepiest, most cringe-worthy stories I have ever read in my entire life. The story is scarring, one of those tales that digs its claws into you ... Why would that guy do that? Can you imagine? Oh, please don't do that... (The summer of '77, incidentally, is the summer I was born; I hear it was a hot one).

(#3) "The Bloody Chamber" by Angela Carter: If I say too much about this story, I will give it all away. Let's put it this way: Imagine your husband has a really scary skeleton in his closet. I mean, literally.

Purchase The Bloody Chamber here. I adore every page in this entire book, of which "The Bloody Chamber" is only a part.
(#2) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: The opening lines of this novel speak for themselves. I need say no more. Other than that Stephen King couldn't exist without Jackson as an ancestress (well, Jackson and Lovecraft had him as a love child).

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill house, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for 80 years and might for 80 more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
(#1) The Shining by Stephen King: Not Kubrick's film, an aesthetic masterpiece in its own right. The book. A monster of a book. A book with teeth. A book that bites. A book that settles over you like the ghostly residue that settled over the Overlook. If you read this novel, you will never forget it.

That's my quintet. How lovely they are. Until next time, au revoir. Alice

Monday, September 17, 2012

Something wicked this way comes...

There is nothing quite like the thrill of the find. After hunting and hunting ... and hunting through booth after booth, pile after pile, you see it. No, not Stephen King's clown, but that thing you just can't live without.

This past weekend, I attended the Country Living Fair with my mom, aunt, and future sister-in-law. Held in Columbus, Ohio every fall (there are also fairs in Austin, TX and Atlanta, GA), the fair is filled to the brim with kitschy crafts, decently priced antiques, architectural salvage, hand-made jewelry, camel saddles turned into shelving units - if you want it, it's probably there, tucked away in some corner underneath feedbag pillows and vintage photos.

Click here for more information about this year's and next year's fairs.
What became quickly apparent as we wandered through the vendors' wares was that each of us had a different it. Just like in King's novel, where the monster turns into whatever the person fears most, the objects we desired emerged from our subconscious, the pattern of our collections revealing the patterns of our personalities.  My mom was on the hunt for unique jewelry, eventually buying a bracelet made of typewriter keys. My aunt's sole purchase was a tiny basket (I take that back, she also bought a $5.00 loaf of bread, which we teased her about mercilessly). Some of my earliest memories are of my aunt's basket collection; she had them hanging from her walls, her ceilings - everywhere. Funny enough, she is kind of like a basket herself; she likes to hold everyone together, keeping us all in one place as much as possible.

As for me, my it items speak to me. Quite literally. I usually buy things with words or images that capture my imagination. One of my favorite purchases ever is a sign that says, simply, "Simplify," which I have hung over the front door of each of the houses we have lived in to remind me to live my life as simply as possible. Unfortunately, I tend to "complicate." Here's what I bought.


We tell the story of ourselves through our possessions, the objects possessed by our spirits. In a way, this is a sad thing, because material things are so ephemeral, and no one can fully grasp the meaning of your possessions to you, not really. Oh well. I will continue to surround myself with the things I love. Looking at them makes me happy.

Oh, and if you go to the fair this year or next, eat some Jeni's salty caramel ice cream. The stuff is unbelievable.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Don't come around here no more ...

In honor of this fabulous Friday, two of my favorite songs, which I will be rocking out to shortly on my way to work this morning.

First, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Don't Come Around Here No More." This commenter on the youtube site for the video ("trashywilma," what a name) sums up its place in my imaginary (I am, after all, a Gen-Xer): "I remember being fascinated by this video at the age of 6. It was so trippy and the cannibalism scene at the end so horrific (at least to a child) that it greatly impacted my little mind. I think this video and ones like it (The Cars 'You Might Think') warped me, and for that I am grateful." I am wondering right now, however, whether being fascinated by grown men eating a woman like cake or holding a tiny woman in the palm of their hands is such a good thing. Nevertheless.

Next up, "White Rabbit" from Jefferson Airplane live on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Man can that woman sing.

Enjoy, and ... Remember, what the Doormouse said, FEED YOUR HEAD ...

Friday, September 7, 2012

There's no place like home...

I have been thinking of late of the role of home in children's books, for obvious reasons. The lost mansion that goes up in flames in Lemony Snicket, the home spinning through the air in The Wizard of Oz, the perilous flat on the flipside of the wall in Coraline.

My current workspace. Not the most comfortable spot in the house, but the quietest.
The prevalence of the home in children's books makes sense. Children's worlds are defined by the borders of their abodes, the space of their environs at once both familiar and fraught. I think of these fictional worlds as secret gardens, walled spaces that we all want to peer into, our imaginations poking through the gaps in the ivy. As readers, even very tiny ones, we are voyeurs. We read to examine others, to dissect their suffering, their joys; we like to take these people apart and figure out how they work, much like a child likes to take apart a Tonka truck to see the innards.

Ever since I was a young girl, I have loved entering people's imaginary houses, handling their objects with my mind: their combs, their phones, the bones of their homes (perhaps this is why Dickens is one of my favorite writers; my favorite book of his, Bleak House). The magic of these spaces in children's books is that they simultaneously function as blueprints that can help children strategize how to deal with their own world and an escape hatch from the circumstances of their lives (much as the kids in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe enter a new world via the armoir or Dorothy flies away from the drudgery of her Kansas existence via a tornado).

Perhaps most importantly, these books help children figure out how to realize what's valuable about their own homes and the people in them. The characters themselves often come to such a realization. Max's mother, in anger, sends him to bed without supper, resulting in his trip to the land of the Wild Things, but she leaves food out for him to come home to. And that food shows Max that his mother loves him.  Coraline's mother is distracted and wants her daughter to learn how to entertain herself, which makes Coraline interested in what's on the other side of the wall. But when Coraline's mother is gone, her daughter realizes what a hole her absence leaves.

To end our story today, a quote: "It is astonishing just how much of what we are can be tied to the beds we wake up in in the morning, and it is astonishing how fragile that can be” (Neil Gaiman, Coraline). The presence of the home in children's books shows us how deeply rooted our identity is in our origins and our today; in the beds we woke up in for the first time, as well as the beds we woke up in this morning. Identity, along with our sense of home, is transitory, fleeting, ever-evolving. Which is both freeing and terrifying.