Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Now For Something That Looks Different

Book Review: Your Face in Mine by Jess Row

3.5 stars

You're walking down the street of your hometown, where you have returned after a crushing personal tragedy only to have your unhappiness compounded by a depressing professional calamity, and you see a familiar-seeming man on the street.  You rack your brain, trying to think of a black man you know well enough that he would look this familiar to you, and you come up empty.  But when he gets closer, he's a high school friend who played in a band with you for a couple of years...your friend who was white (with some Jewish ancestry).  WTF?  Your friend explains to you that he's had racial reassignment surgery (a very cutting edge, secret series of operations in southeast Asia) and is now married to a black woman and living as a black man.  But he wants to go public with his story, and he wants you (conveniently now otherwise unemployed) to help him craft the narrative.

This is a crazy-promising premise for a novel, no?  And it starts out really good.  And then at some point, it just gets kind of bogged down, and then it turns weird.  Not like eerie-spooky weird, just like, wait, the characters are doing what now?  Where did that come from?  And the pay off I had been so curious about (e.g., what will your friend's wife do when she finds out?) never comes.  Instead we get a kind of implausible, meh ending.  It was hitting 2 star level by the very end.  This is too bad because the central idea was so smart and interesting.

I did not make any radical changes like that for my outfit, but I did try a personal style challenge that pushed me to do something different that's a bit outside my comfort zone.

Personal Style Challenge:  Ankle Pants with Ankle Boots -- Thursday, 11/20/14

Everybody else in the world is wearing this combination, so I thought I'd give it a try.  I had a couple of new items that came together very easily into an outfit.  It was comfortable and flattering enough.  (Yes, I wore black trouser socks under those boots.  I was not about to do the stylish "leave an inch of bare ankle poking out above your boots" thing during the 8-15 degree F days.)

And it featured a new scarf with pretty birds on it!

It's hard to go wrong with a bird scarf and a pair of bad-ass maroon boots.

White long-sleeved T (Lands End)
Black ankle pants (thrifted, Eileen Fisher)
Maroon cascade cardigan (Coldwater Creek)
*Maroon ankle boots by Dolce Vita (Nordstrom)
*Beige bird scarf (Kohls)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

All Mixed Up

Last week was such a hard week.  I was tired and headachy and going bonkers at work with slow-as-frozen-molasses network issues while running up against a deadline.  Wednesday was a want-to-cry kind of day when I realized I had left my caffeinated tea at home (which I was planning to use for my migraine) AND the insulated mug I use to drink my decaffeinated tea.  And my ulcer was bothering me so I didn't want to risk trying coffee as my caffeine dose.  I thought I might have caffeinated tea bags at work, but I didn't.  (Note: I do now, as well as my grumpy/angry Sylvester the Cat mug.)  Then when I left work at the end of the day (FINALLY), I realized about the time the elevator reached the ground floor that I'd left my purse upstairs in my desk.  It was the Grumps.

But what is not hard?  Mixing stripes, leopard, and herringbone patterns!

Day 16: Pattern Mix #2 -- Wednesday, 11/19/14

This one is pretty subtle by my standards, but I liked it a lot.  It was even warm enough at times during the day to leave off the jacket.  (I'm loving the "happiness is a warm bun" approach of sitting on a heating pad for extra warmth in my office.)

*Black and white striped button up shirt (thrifted, Old Navy)
*Black sweater vest (thrifted, Foxcroft)
Black pants (thrifted, Macy's)
Gold "shelled pea" necklace (Target)
Leopard smoking slippers by Clarks
Black and white herringbone blazer (thrifted, Studio 1940)--I'm not familiar with this brand, but this blazer is da bomb

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dressing Up in Black

Book Review: The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh

4 stars

I only recently became aware of these books that are a continuation of the Peter Wimsey mystery novels.  OK, I've read a few of the original Sayers novels, but I was never a huge Peter Wimsey fan and do not really remember them well enough to assess how well Walsh's books stand up against them.  So my review is based on the book in itself and not a comparison to the original stories.

I'm a bit of a sucker for murder mysteries set in academia (I am very sad that I have only one of the excellent Inspector Lewis TV mysteries, a police procedural set in Oxford, to watch!) and that's what attracted me to this book.  I was a bit surprised by how much it felt like "Inspector Barnaby, Peer of the Realm, Goes to Oxford in 1952," with people dying left and right and our investigators nonchalantly out of their depth much of the time.  And there was this weird detective-on-vacation thing going on: Hey, somebody just died...look, it's a gorgeous day to go punting, have lunch at a lovely little inn, and then go see some old building!  Fundamentally, the story was ludicrous, but it was entertaining.

I've heard that graduate school in the UK is very easy compared to the US, and here's an extreme example (easy if you have money, of course):

     "I didn't know you had an MA," Paul [Harriet's son] said.

     "You just leave your name on the books, and pay the fees for five years, and then your BA becomes an MA," Harriet admitted.

The best lines in the book occur when Peter asks Harriet:

     "Can I go haring around after bodies without shaving first?" he asked her.

     "Certainly not, Peter," she said. "There is an implication of inattention in an unshaven man that gives the impression of intellectual weakness."

I would give them kudos for the "haring" term but at one point this evil couple eat roast r***** at one of the myriad restaurants they visit during their investigation-vacation. THUMP!

Day 12: Play Dress Up -- Tuesday, 11/18/14

I did not think wearing a black academic gown a la an Oxford don would be appropriate for work, but I did base my outfit on the color black.  My initial version of this outfit used a sleeveless black dress and tights instead of the sweater and pants, but the onslaught of winter made my original version unworkable.  But we will not compare this new version to the original but will instead examine it on its own merits.  It's not really in seasonally appropriate colors, but I didn't want to wait until spring, and a tuxedo jacket is about as dressy an item as I want to wear to work.  One of my co-workers liked its spring/summer quality -- I suppose it did bring a bit of brightness to a dreary day.

Black sweater (thrifted, Liz Claiborne)
Black striped pants (thrifted, JCP)
*Black/floral "Monet" print tuxedo jacket (thrifted, Target) -- the print just reminds me so strongly of a Monet painting
Purple gumdrop necklace (Target)
Black buckle flats by Me Too

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Not a One Hit Wonder

Book Review:  City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte

4.5 stars

This is the sequel to City of Dark Magic, and it avoids the sophomore slump problem that sometimes plagues sequels (I am looking at you, Authority!).  For some reason, I was kind of not into the book for about the first third, but I think it was more about me and my mood at the time than anything wrong with the book.  It was reasonably well-paced and set up the story for the rest of the book in an unobjectionable way, but I just wasn't feeling it.  Then one day I picked it up and started liking it a lot -- go figure.

I want to share with you my favorite lines from the book (don't worry -- it doesn't ruin anything for you if you decide to read the book, and they stand alone just fine if you don't).  One of the characters is a 13 year old blind musical prodigy (who is suffering from a serious illness) who has a dog:

        "Boris. Yoga mat," she said in a loud, firm voice.

        She listened to the sound of her elderly mastiff rising, heard the jingle of his collar make its way to the corner of the room, then cross to her.  Boris nudged her knee and deposited his favorite chew toy, a mangled stuffed lion missing its tail, at her feet.

        "Good boy," said Pols.  Her dog was becoming nearly as deaf as she was blind.  He was also pretty blind.  It was important to consider his feelings, though, and be encouraging.  Boris may not be able to see her, or hear her, but he knew she wanted something, and he had offered her the best thing he possessed.

OK, I'm not much of a dog person, but damn.

City of Lost Dreams demonstrates that City of Dark Magic was not a one hit wonder from the writing team who call themselves Magnus Flyte.  Monday's outfit demonstrated (to my satisfaction) that my brown-and-black vaguely-leopard-print cardigan-jacket-thingy wasn't a one hit wonder either.

Day 24: One Hit Wonder -- Monday, 11/17/14

She defines a one hit wonder as "an item you've only worn one way before."  I think maybe I've only worn this cardigan one time before, so it probably counts as a one hit wonder.  I like it and want to wear it more, so I decided to give it another try in an outfit combining black and brown, which is not something I usually do.  One reason I haven't worn it much is that it is somewhat heavy but it has 3/4 length sleeves -- awkward!  If its cool enough to wear this weight of sweater, it's probably cool enough to wear long sleeves.  But I decided, Fuck it, I'll just wear it with long sleeves in a similar color (so the sticking out sleeves are not crazy-obvious and contrasting).  I was satisfied with the effect and amused to note that one of the women in the HR department had done the same thing with her heavy 3/4 length sleeve sweater.  I don't know if the long-sleeved shirt under 3/4 length sleeve sweater is a thing or not, but it seems like a workable solution to the problem.

I took the photo wearing the brown weather-proof loafers that I wore to work, but I changed into my brown flats when I got there.  (Ever since it snowed, I've been wearing weather-proof shoes/boots to work and changing into my real shoes inside the office.  The snow/slush/ice/sand/salt/mud mix o' nasty in the parking lot is not nice to shoes.)  Damn, this photo doesn't show you much, does it?  Well, I wore pants and a top and they were both dark colors and there is a necklace that is flashing a bit of bright metal.

Black lace-edged knit top (thrifted, Coldwater Creek) -- you can't really tell here, but I liked how the lace peeked out from under the sweater, it added a nice bit of texture and perhaps made the whole "my shirt is sticking out from under this sweater in multiple places" thing seem more intentional
Black/brown leopard-esque cardigan-jacket (thrifted, Josephine Chaus)
Brown cotton pants (thrifted, Nine & Company)
Black tooth/claw necklace (Outfit Additions)
Brown weather-proof loafers (Lands End)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Staying Warm in 90s Style Jeans

Even though my Skyrim office is now my Oblivion office, it's not as much warmer here as you might expect.  Winter has set in completely in Snow City.  So for a Sunday of Oblivion playing, I thought my puffy leopard vest was just the thing with jeans and a comfy shirt.

Day 16:  Pattern Mix -- Sunday, 11/16/14

I know, a normal person would wear a solid shirt with a leopard vest, but I was excited to wear my new striped shirt.  I love stripes, and I have a couple of striped shirts/sweaters, but I did not have any plain black-and-white striped knit shirts.  (This is not something that I ever come across at Goodwill.)  So over the weekend, I went to Kohls and found two excellent ones.  

I also wanted to wear my new black ankle boots, part of my haul from the Nordstrom sale.  And to show them off to best effect, I pegged my straight-legged jeans like it's 1992.  OK, I admit, I did not actually wear my jeans like this all day -- I did it for the amusement value in the photo (and, yes, to expose the boots in the photo).  I hope you are properly entertained/appalled by this time warp fashion.

A detail about this shirt that I love, which is not visible with the vest, is its cool quilted shoulders!

I am happy to have a black-and-white striped knit shirt in my wardrobe.  (I actually do have a short-sleeved one from Walmart that I've had forever, but the season in which short sleeve shirts make a serious return to relevance is months away.  One thing I have noticed is that despite living in Snow City, I still automatically gravitate toward short sleeved shirts.  They feel the most flexible and adaptable -- hey, you can always add a cardigan or jacket!  Wait, I need to add a cardigan or jacket to a long-sleeved shirt or sweater anyway because it's like 0 degrees outside!  Damn! -- but they are definitely of limited value in my current situation.)

*Black-and-white striped top with quilted shoulders (Kohls)
Leopard puffy vest (Macy's)
Straight-legged jeans (Kohls)
*Black pointy-toed ankle boots by Sam Edelman (Nordstrom)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sinus Infection Blues

Day 13: Old Faithful (With a Twist) -- Friday, 11/14/14

Well, after a week of fighting off some kind of illness, I woke up during the night with a fever and other sinus infection symptoms and decided that I wasn't going to go to work.  Luckily, my casual Friday outfit worked just fine for feeling warm and comfy on a puny day.

I have worn this scarf and pants combo before, but decided to make it winter-friendly by upgrading the knit shirt to a sweater (with a T-shirt layered under it) and the flats to socks and ankle boots.

Robert could not resist making the "Feeling blue?" joke, and who can blame him.  This is a majorly blue outfit.  If I were a rabbit, I'd be Blue Bunny.

Blue pullover sweater (thrifted, Studio Works)
Blue Dockers pants
Blue "tie-dye" scarf (Kohls)
*Navy ankle boots by Seychelles

Between two recent Zappos and Nordstrom (anniversary sale) orders, I finally have a boot collection suited to a woman who lives somewhere that has winter for 6 months of the year.  You've seen the grey and navy ankle boots now.  I plan to get the others into the rotation ASAP for your viewing pleasure (and for the happiness of my feet).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


 Book Review:  The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

4 stars

A historical mystery/romance that's a little bit sexy and a lot unexpected.  It's Britain in 1922, but this is not Downtown Abbey.  An older woman (an uber-snob) and her 26-year-old daughter (a snob-in-training) are trying desperately to keep a foothold in the privileged, moneyed, nice-house-owning class after all their men have died -- the sons in the war, Dad of something I don't remember, but which should be embarrassment over having lost all the family money to a series of terrible, stupid investments. They have already given up their servants (Mom hates seeing her daughter play charwoman and yet, what the fuck else is she supposed to do? Let them live in squalor?  Daughter's job is to do all the dirty work around the house, try to stretch too little money across too many bills, etc., while protecting Mom's delicate sensibilities and outrageous delusions) and a great deal of their ability to keep their crumbling house in a respectable neighborhood of London warm and well-lit, so now they are reduced to taking in lodgers, an outgoing young clerk and his wife.  Intrigue ensues.

Now for an unexpected (but not sexy) work outfit...

Day 17: Layered Necklace -- Thursday, 11/13/14

I wear some necklaces with built-in layers, but I haven't tried layering my own.  I was iffy on this proposition, but gave it a shot with two short necklaces with different shapes -- a hanging pendant and a discreet beaded choker.

*Berry wool pullover sweater (thrifted, Coldwater Creek)
Grey pinstriped Dockers (thrifted)
Black/grey argyle socks (Sock Dreams)
Grey leopard flats by Fergilicious
Black beaded necklace by RB
Silver pendant (thrifted)
Not shown: Quilted black vest (gift from my mom)

Verdict:  I enjoyed everything about the outfit (my bottom half is 3 monochromatic patterns -- yay!) except for the layered necklaces, which I feel pretty meh about.  I don't wear long pedants, which maybe makes this harder to do -- I think a shorter necklace and a longer necklace layer more easily.  I will stick with one necklace at a time in the future, I expect.  (Or a necklace and a scarf, of course!)