Sunday, September 29, 2013

I'm awfully fond of you

This weekend was filled with birthday celebrations (my girls' birthdays are six years and one week apart). It was joyous. 
Honestly, I thought he would be bigger;). 
Every kid needs fireworks on his/her birthday. 
You're so fine, / And I'm lucky that you're mine. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Rap Sheet

For your Friday procrastination/inspiration pleasure:

Quote of the week courtesy of Stephen King on NPR.
The Rubber Duck Project visits Pittsburgh, beginning tonight. This is big news in Pittsburgh, people. Via
Speaking of the 'Burgh, this bit from the Unarmed Education Mercenary on the #iammargaretmary controversy at Duquesne University, which is, incidentally, my current home institution. Via
Jimmy Fallon and JT spoofing the ridiculosity that is the #hashtag. #whichiwillcontinuetouse  #nodisrespectjimmyfallonjustintimberlake #lolololololol

Pond's New Luminous Finish BB+ Cream. The before and after of my face says it all (before = complexion of a 30-something abuser of the sun, with redness and uneven tone; after = glowing, even coverage that lasts). A+++ in my book. 
What happens when bookshelves completely invade your house. Like Gremlins
8 Fun New Ways to Decorate a Pumpkin from HGTV Magazine. Cute. But all I'm going to say is if I spend that much time tricking out a pumpkin, the f$&*er better not rot.
Buy fake pumpkins.
Speaking of fall decorating, our mantle says hello!! 
This bedroom decor from Lauren Elizabeth = dynamite win. Especially the of-the-moment Instagram heart. 
Eat your hearts out friends. (On second thought, that is one deeply weird, frightening command. Don't do that.)
I received the Pond's BB Cream in the Mama VoxBox complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes. All opinions, however, are solely my own. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Better than Coffee: The Owl's Skull Playlist

Here's what's spinning our turntables this month (yeah, a lot of these songs are old. What of it;)).

"Hold On" Alabama Shakes
"Gold on the Ceiling" The Black Keys
"I'm on Fire" Bruce Springsteen (I seriously can't get enough of this song)
"China Girl" David Bowie
"That's All Right (The '68 Comeback Special Version)" Elvis (Black leather suit = sexiness)
"Call Me When You're Sober" Evanescence (I was heavily rocking out to this song this morning, drawing stares from all sides)
"Lost in America" The Gathering Field
"How You Like Me Now" The Heavy
"Bad Things" Jace Everett (Mmmmm.... vampires)
"These Days" Jackson Browne
"Hallelujah" Jeff Buckley
"That Lonesome Song" Jamey Johnson (Can't-get-enough-of Song #2)
"Housewife's Prayer" Pistol Annies
"I Need a Hero" Sarah Buxton

What's your go-to song when your morning completely sucks?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why I love reading to my daughters

I am lucky enough, at this point in my life, to be able to work from home two days a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I spend the day with my youngest, Sophia, who is growing so fast I see her edges as blurred. The mornings are usually spent with her watching cartoons or playing and me writing lesson plans, reading, or grading papers. Then, we have lunch, and then, we snuggle down under a mountain of books and read until she is sleepy.

There is something so comforting about reading to my daughters. I am the first one to admit that I am pretty dismal at other forms of play; making up dramatic Barbie plays, roaring with dinosaurs, and hopping around in the backyard ... that's just not my thing. But reading, and reading with feeling, I can do with the best of them. I make up voices. I read softly and with CRASH BOOM BANGS. The girls chime in with their own voices.  And here's really why I love it.

When I read to my daughters, we become some kind of symbiotic creature. Our breath fills out the corners of the stories, making them ours. And I realize, painfully, that one day our symbiotic creature must succumb to time; its been in its death throes with my eldest for the past year now already. Maggie and I currently read in the same room, but silently, in our own chairs, climbing into the worlds of our separate stories. With Sophie, I relish now, when my soon-to-be three year old will still climb into my lap, letting her weight grow heavier as the story grows longer.


On a completely other note, today's book, Peter Rabbit (above), was inspired by Sophie's lunch fare (I like, sometimes, for fun, to connect what she eats to what we read), an Annie's Microwavable Mac and Cheese Cup that came in my Mama VoxBox from Influenster. Quick and easy to prepare, this mac and cheese was surprisingly, well, cheesy. I'm used to the Kraft Mac and Cheese singles, which are invariably runny and fairly slimy. Annie's offering felt much more like homemade mac and cheese, and Sophie scarfed the entire serving up. I was almost afraid she was going to eat the bowl (and I was hoping to get more than just the one little spoonful I managed to sneak before I gave it to her). I tend to prefer giving my kids whole, unprocessed foods, but when life calls for something fast in a pinch, I would serve Annie's up again. It was hopping good.

Until tomorrow!
"I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes." All opinions, however, are solely my own.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Into the Oubliette: Marisha Pessl's -Night Film-

An oubliette (the word deriving from the French verb "to forget") is a dungeon, a dark, dank cell with a small trap door that serves as the only way in or out. Marisha Pessl's second novel Night Film strives to become just such a door, an aperture that lures readers deeper and deeper into the oubliette of one man's mind. The novel investigates the dark side of investigative reporter Scott McGrath, a washed-up journalist who is disgraced and jobless after accusing legendary, reclusive, and sinister horror-film director Stanislas Cordova of nefarious activities. Cordova's daughter, who dies in the book's early pages, becomes McGrath's obsession. As the pages turn (faster and faster; Pessl is rather adept at the Dickensian cliffhanger, making it nearly impossible to put the book down until you are finished with it), Cordova and his daughter dance around the edges of the book, just out of our grasp, a Brando-esque romantic villain and his demonically angelic minion.

All in this book is never as it seems. Just as you think you have a handle on things, Pessl pulls the rug out from under you, leaving you standing over yet another rigged trap door. As the novel pulls into sharper focus, McGrath's outline bleeds outward, indelibly marking every detail in the book as something we should hold up to the light and turn ... including Ashley.

Pessl especially excels at blending multiple voices within the book, fabricating newspaper articles, chat sites, blogs, hospital records, police reports, photographs, field notes, the "Black Boards"" (a clandestine site maintained by the Cordovites), and magazine articles that bring Cordova, Ashley, and McGrath to life in a way that straight narration cannot. Part of the book's thrill is sifting through these fabricated artifacts alongside McGrath, searching for clues that he and his band of misfits may have overlooked.

Night Film is at once entrancing and maddening, in the end. It leaves one in the dark, with more questions than answers, and not in a good way. It closes with what I have come to call "the WTF ending" (a masterful critical term if there ever was one, but it pretty much sums up my initial reaction).  Is it great literature? No. Is it worth a few evenings of your time, especially when the cold fingers of late September and early October are winding their way into the earth's skin? Hell yes. The novel's prologue alone is worth the price of admission.

On another note, Stephen King's Doctor Sleep was released today. You know, then, what's on my nightstand. Listen to King discuss this long-awaited follow-up to The Shining here. Quote of the day, from King: "Being scared is like sex. There's nothing like your first time."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-Ups

Discovered at La Bonne Vie Designs
While browsing at the Country Living Fair a few weekends back, I unearthed a 1955 copy of Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grownups. I actually don't remember reading the Eloise books at all when I was growing up. My mom may not have liked the spitfire of a girl who misbehaved unrepentantly. She certainly was a stickler for good behavior, and Eloise is one of the most glorious bad girls of children's literature (or, as Ed Koch put it, so much better than I, "Eloise is one of the more delightfully fiendish literary heroines of our time.")

Here she is showing the lobby her gutchies. This is typically how she rolls. 
Eloise was the brainchild of Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight (you can read about this dynamic duo here). She evolved into a character who presses all of the buttons in the elevator (one of my favorite pages is a foldout that depicts her elevator shenanigans in all their circuitous glory), hangs with her chain-smoking, Pilsner-guzzling Nanny while the old broad watches the fights, autographs the walls, puts sneakers on her turtle - generally, she wreaks a delicious sort of havoc. Her misbehavior is revelatory, the book a release valve that allows pent-up aggressions (where is Eloise's mom, anyway??) to erupt into laughter.

It was impossible to get a good picture here. Sophie kept flipping the pages around. 
I love the rather stark, yet exuberantly drawn world of Eloise. Her world is both prim and impetuous; the black, pink, and white lines form a landscape that feels, at once, as staid as the lobby of the Plaza and as topsy-turvy as Eloise herself. Funny enough, I think I like these books more than my girls do (I know, for sure, my eldest daughter was never a fan). I think older books like Eloise don't read as well in the fast-paced world we live in today - she is "rawther" verbose. There is, nonetheless, something so tender about Eloise, in the end. A forgotten little girl, rich as all get out, who is supremely devoted to her Nanny, her turtle Skiperdee, and Weenie, her dog.

There she goes. ;)

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Rap Sheet

Here are the unusual suspects that have us buzzing this week.

This nail lacquer (I love that word, "lacquer") from Ruffian, currently sold exclusively at Birchbox, arrived in my little Birchbox this week. It takes me back to my high-school days of a certain purple-black nail polish called "Vamp," the wearing of which ruffled my parents' feathers to no end.  
Visit the quirky, innovative living room of Emma, from the blog A Beautiful Mess
You will want to kick off your shoes, pour yourself a Crystal Head skull vodka, and spin a record.  How cute is that "Pot Luck," Julia-Child inspired rack? I really wish I had thought of that (along with everything else over at A Beautiful Mess - those girls and their team are ridiculously creative). 
I recommended Pessl's book last week in the round-up. I started it two days ago and I. can't. put. it. down. Every chapter ends with a cliffhanger (in true Dickensian fashion) that entices me deeper into the book's oubliette. Read it. Now. Stephen King also recently released his long-awaited follow-up to The Shining. Reviews of the book are strong. I can't wait to start it next week. Who needs sleep? 
This snarky send-up of the Whole Foods phenomenon from Kelly MacLean deservedly went viral this week, because it is f*!$ing hilarious. Namaste. Via
This video for the Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream from Jeni's Ice Creams has
had me salivating over the last few days. I'm going to try to make a homemade dessert tonight inspired by Jeni's. If it doesn't turn out well, I can always order a $12 pint here. $12 seems like a lot, btw, until you realize that they HAND-HULL all of the strawberries. Stay tuned for my recipe next week!! 
Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Your Country Living Fair Survival Guide

Here are my top 11 tips for making the most of your Country Living Fair Experience:

1. Dress in layers. Last year, I wore a long-sleeved navy dress and leggings and melted the entire day. This year, I dressed for warmer weather and froze my tush off most of the time, especially in the morning when the fair opened. I'd recommend leggings, jeans, or a long skirt, a lightweight scarf, a short-sleeved T or dress under a sweater, and some Chucks or cowboy boots. With that combo, you should fit right in.

If this mannequin from Stash Style had on a top and some boots,
it would be perfect. Looks like the top got blown off after the fembot boobs discharged. 
2. Carry cash. And lots of it. Many vendors don't take credit, and the ATM in the venue asks you to relinquish your first born before it will give you any money out of your account.

3. Explore every nook and cranny. Leave no booth unturned. For instance, my mom, digging through one booth I had skipped over, discovered a sugar jar exactly like the one I have at home, which I purchased at Goodwill for our first apartment when I was 25 for $1.00. Turns out, one of the vendors was selling said sugar jar (which actually looks like someone's project from pottery class, if you ask me) for $120!! Thank goodness I didn't send it back to Goodwill like I had planned.

Yes, I have two sugar jars. The little one is for the brown sugar we put in our coffee.
If you don't do this, you are thoroughly missing out. 
4. Spend the night and explore the city. Columbus has an awesome food scene, with some really quaint areas in the city worth your time. Eat, drink, and explore. Shopping with a hangover is awesome.

5. Buy a Ya Ya Cart. With a cute liner. Then, bring a friend who doesn't really like to shop or your husband and have that person mosey along with the cart while you duck in and out of the booths (maneuvering a cart through the booths, especially on Saturday, is like trying to drive a 1975 Caprice Classic station wagon in New York City during rush hour).

Via Modern June
6. Start in the antique section, and then make your way over to the crafts/housewares/jewelry/etc. The craft vendors, located in the market field, tend to have a decent amount of stock. If you miss your Holy Grail in the antique section, you miss it forever. That said, I like to browse before I make my purchase decisions. Unless, that is, I know I will wither away and die without a particular item.

7. If you have to choose a day, go on Sunday. Much less crowded than Saturdays (some shoppers on Saturday were absolute jerks, seriously. It never fails to amaze me how some people believe they don't have to wait in line like everybody else). Sunday is much more laid-back and relaxed, and you can actually get into the majority of the booths to look around without being trampled upon.

8. Eat from the quirky food trucks and skip the regular humdrum fair fare. The Sweet Carrot truck at this year's fair had the most delicious food I have tasted in a long while. The smoky brisket on sweet corncake, topped with an acidic slaw and corn salsa that cut through the mellower flavors, was out of this world (top it with Sriracha sauce, which they provide in abundance). Also, you must, must, must try Jeni's Ice Cream, especially the Salty Caramel and the Lemon Blueberry frozen yogurt. Get to Sweet Carrot early and Jeni's late (btw, Jeni's has a flavor you can order online right now called "Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk." What the what?!?!! That sounds sooooo good).

9. Park in the back lot, on the side farthest from the Ohio History Center. Otherwise, you should bring hiking boots, a sherpa, and a canteen.

10. Wheel and deal. Especially late on Sunday. Almost everything is marked down then (they really don't want to pack it all back up. Some vendors even sell their display racks, tables, etc. for a steal). Pillows that were $40 sell for $20. You get the idea.

11. Finally, stay until 4:00 on Sunday. When they begin to dismantle the Country Living displays, all of the plants are sold off at bargain basement prices. Three mums for $5.00! Corn stalks galore. You could outfit your entire estate for the harvest season with very little extra cash.

Put this event on your 2014 bucket list. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I see the moon ...

And the moon sees me.
Under the shade of the old oak tree.
Please let the light that shines on me
Shine on the ones I love.

Over the rivers, over the sea,
Here with my love's where I'm longing to be.
Please let the light that shines on me
Shine on the ones I love.

The bright full moon heavy in the sky always reminds me of my mother's love. Radiant. Eternal. And fierce. This song, the version I remember, reminds me of flying along in a shiny blue car, the bright light of the moon shining in through the windows, and me, listening to my mother's voice. Night all.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Country Living Fair: My Favorite Vendors

Sadly, oh so sadly, the weekend has come and gone, and this year's Country Living Fair, at least for me, is at an end (if you're an Atlantian, there's still Stone Mountain). Today, to ease my melancholia (brought on by such sad parting), I have decided to be your girl Friday, giving you a rundown of my favorite vendors and their wares.

Let's start with Modern June, who brings us "cool stuff for the hip housewife." Kelly, self-professed "oilcloth addict," stocks "retro-inspired" aprons, tablecloths, placemats, bags, and floormats, all made out of splashy, sunny, super-cute fabrics. My favorite thing she makes, however, has to be these party banners. Check out her two blogs in your spare time, Modern June and Oilcloth Addict.

Next on the list is La Bonne Vie Designs, where I found this fabulous 1955 edition of Eloise (more to come on Eloise later this week). La Bonne Vie displays a blend of original designs, including the Rockin' Roses necklaces showcased at the Etsy site linked above, and antique finds - notions, housewares, kitsch galore (the pic of me above was through the looking glass at La Bonne Vie). A must visit.

Wholly Craft! may have been my favorite booth of the entire day, filled to the brim with a laundry list of original, unique, one-of-a-kind finds: "clothing, accessories, jewelry, housewares, paper goods, baby gifts, plush creatures, zines/books, fine art prints, bath goods, and much more." They aren't kidding by the way. The mix is eclectic and divine.

Pretty printed dishtowels from Wholly Craft!
Wholly book journals, Nancy Drew!!
Two more. Every year I am so thoroughly impressed by the paper-cuttings of Jeri Landers, artist, author, and illustrator extraordinaire. Her exquisite Scherensnitte (or "scissor cuts") are painstakingly crafted, cut and painted with such a fine hand that my own digits cramp up just thinking about the work involved. I am especially drawn to the dark aesthetic of the more traditional silhouette versions she creates, but the full-color versions are magical too. 

Last, but most definitely not least, one of my favorite places to shop every year, Collected Over Time. They always have a thorough, varied mix of antiques and general finds. I mean, how special is this table, created by one of the owners out of handwritten recipe cards snapped up at estate sales?

Ok. That's enough for today. I shall now go wallow in some pumpkin beer. At least we have the rest of Fall to look forward to. Tomorrow, I offer up my Country Living Fair Survival Guide. Y'all come back now. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

We are just home from a long, delicious, inspiring, and perfectly autumnal weekend at the Country Living Fair in Columbus, Ohio. Watch this week for posts at the Owl's Skull about our adventures (favorite vendors, fall festival style, Country Living craft hacks, and maybe even a Country Living Fair Survival Kit). As for now, I'm going to snuggle in (the flannel pjs have emerged - hallelujah!!). With a happy heart and a quiet soul.