Erasers, paperbacks, and patches, oh my! Those are a few of the collections elegantly captured in A Collection a Day, our March Book of the Month. Int...moreErasers, paperbacks, and patches, oh my! Those are a few of the collections elegantly captured in A Collection a Day, our March Book of the Month. Intrigued? Read on to see how you can win a copy for yourself!
In light of our new collections-themed shopping categories, we thought it was apt to unearth A Collection a Day from our bookstore shelves. Based on San Francisco artist Lisa Congdon’s popular blog of the same name, this book is built around a simple concept — it’s a photographic and illustrated assembly of the artist’s 365 collections. More than that, though, it’s an archive of seemingly mundane objects, an homage to nostalgia, and a celebration of collecting things that you love. It’s inspirational!
One of the first images in the book is of four vintage bingo cards. At some point, maybe your grandma tossed out a pile of those. That’s too bad, because seeing the cards grouped together like that, you really see the character they have individually and as a group. You see the wear and history of each card. To me, the image evokes scenes of church basement games with ladies in sheath dresses, white gloves, and ladylike hats, trays of homemade rugelach, and hot competition with low stakes. What does it make you think of?
We were lucky enough to visit the author in her San Francisco studio, where she graciously showed us her impressive collection and talked a bit about her book. (If you’re a newly minted Lisa fan, be sure to see her new project, 365 Days of Handlettering!)(less)
“Wait, you can make marshmallows?” That’s how our current Book of the Month, Marshmallow Madness by Shauna Sever, begins. How does it end? Very happil...more“Wait, you can make marshmallows?” That’s how our current Book of the Month, Marshmallow Madness by Shauna Sever, begins. How does it end? Very happily, with a container full of homemade marshmallows. If you are a connoisseur of the fluffy sweets, then you must pick up this book!
Every time a coworker saw this book sitting on my desk, they said, “Oooh, the cover is puffy!” Yes, indeed! No cuteness is spared in the design of this book. The cover leaves no mystery as to what you’ll find inside. You’ll want to know not only how in the world to make your own marshmallows, but how to get them to look as adorable as the purple swirlies, pink flowers, and rainbow cubes featured on the front.
This is a well laid-out cookbook with beautiful color pictures, easy-to-follow directions, and thorough background information. The recipes range from sugary and fruity flavored treats to “grown up” flavored snacks like margarita and pineapple-rosemary.
To test this cookbook, we had a mini ‘mallow match of our own — ‘March-mallow Madness’ — in the office. Stylist Annie made the book’s Minty Mallow Cookie Sandwiches (wow), Test Engineer Caitlin made the Birthday Cake Marshmallows (adorably delicious), and I made the Deeply Chocolate Marshmallows (yum). Each of us agreed that the recipes were much easier to produce than we expected. Since they weren’t so difficult, it was easy to make ‘em look real purdy!
Does your modern life need a little zest? Perhaps Jane Austen can help. Watch our very first video review for Margaret C. Sullivan's The Jane Austen H...moreDoes your modern life need a little zest? Perhaps Jane Austen can help. Watch our very first video review for Margaret C. Sullivan's The Jane Austen Handbook and perhaps you'll find yourself yearning for a different kind of life, too.
We're totally inspired by this book! As a vintage loving fashion retailer, our closest source of vintage inspiration are our own marvelous moms. The f...moreWe're totally inspired by this book! As a vintage loving fashion retailer, our closest source of vintage inspiration are our own marvelous moms. The full color pages of Piper Weiss's book celebrate the ageless beauty and style that the women in our lives championed.
A look at the life of one of the most famous and mysterious monarchs in the world. At times, this book was a little hard to get through, the prose not...moreA look at the life of one of the most famous and mysterious monarchs in the world. At times, this book was a little hard to get through, the prose not as engaging as it could have been.
I was not planning to read No Place Like Home while moving across the country. But like so much else in life, as playwright and author Brooke Berman e...moreI was not planning to read No Place Like Home while moving across the country. But like so much else in life, as playwright and author Brooke Berman explores in her memoir, sometimes things don’t always go according to plan.
Berman is looking for that place where she fits into the world — a situation so many other young women face in their twenties. For Berman, she is sure the answer is New York City. Raised in Michigan by a single mother who ingrained in her that Manhattan is the epicenter of all things important, Berman leaves the Midwest for Columbia University at age 18 and never looks back.
What follows is a series of cramped apartments, vegan roommates, and a series of boyfriends — one of whom swears he’s “this close to Enlightenment.” Segmented into sections by the various addresses she kept on the island of Manhattan and beyond, No Place Like Home explores what it’s like to face the actualities of trying to realize your dreams.
Berman’s best moments are those personal ones that she makes universal — when you can relate to how ridiculous her situation is or how overtly crazy she is acting. During a particularly tough stretch, she finds solace in going to St. John’s each morning to weep in its garden, and admits, “I know, it’s dramatic, but it helps.” She puts a story behind the cliched term of “starving artist” — and shows us how much of our growing up actually occurs after the age of 20— until we can come to the point where we can say, “I know where I need to be, doing the work I need to do, and finally after years of living this way, I know it’s going to be okay.”
While at times the cynical reader will roll her eyes at Berman’s fancy for the New Age, the author seems aware of this, stating at one point, “I am a massive pain.” Despite the spiritual healers and macrobiotics, No Place Like Home will make you smile and shake your head as you remember where you’ve been and what might lie ahead — whether it’s turning thrifted clothes into “Salvation Armani” or finally buying a bed after ten years of moving a futon mattress between apartments.
Oh, and did I mention that Rainn Wilson makes an appearance? - Sarah, Fashion Writer(less)
What do crayfish, church buggies, and a Bayou Christmas have in common? All are things you could be Queen of in the state of Louisiana. Regions across...moreWhat do crayfish, church buggies, and a Bayou Christmas have in common? All are things you could be Queen of in the state of Louisiana. Regions across the country proudly tout their specialties through annual festivals and fairs, along the way appointing ambitious young ambassadors to spread their holy gospel — be it of yams or catfish. Think you can handle the duties that come with the highly sought-after title of Swine Queen? After reading David Valdes Greenwood’s new book, The Rhinestone Sisterhood: A Journey Through Small-Town America, One Tiara at a Time (May 2010; Crown Publishing), you’ll be thinking again.
With over 130 festivals annually, Louisiana loves its celebrations — and its Queens. But these are hardly bikini-wearing, mechanical-answering, perfect-bodied women. There’s Frog Queen Chelsea — the five-foot pixie who knows how to pose with Kermit while handling the possibility that he might just pee on her; Kristen, the confident Cattle Queen who has ambitions of getting her PhD in psychology; Lauren, the vivacious Fur Queen whose duties help distract her from her parents’ recent divorce and sister’s hospitalization; and Brandi, the quiet Queen Cotton, who despite fluctuating weight and self-confidence has overcome her struggle to become seasoned festival royalty.
As they negotiate their time during the week among full-time jobs, college classes, on-again/off-again boyfriends, and family, their weekends are spent bouncing throughout the state acting as spokeswomen at neighboring festivals — duties which may include milking cows, sporting a homemade potato sack ensemble, sitting atop a parade float for two hours in the Louisiana’s summer heat, or wrestling a Vaseline-covered pig to the ground.
Valdez Greenwood takes us through a year in the life of a festival queen — from Chelsea’s win at Frog to the state’s grand event — the Queen of Queens pageant. Despite an initial opinion that this book is all sunshine sparkling off rhinestones, Valdes Greenwood proves life atop the parade float isn’t so easy. Being Queen doesn’t make you immune to the universal consequences that come with underage drinking or crippling migraines. But as if that isn’t enough, there’s mean-spirited internet message boards gossiping about how you probably rigged the whole thing. What if the town that hosts your festival barely exists after a devastating hurricane? You might even have a stalker.
Full of vibrant and strong-willed characters, The Rhinestone Sisterhood takes you on a boisterous ride through high-spirited communities, local tradition, and the pride and perils of life as a Queen. While at times the glitter may seem to spill off the page, in the moment, you can’t help but be delighted by it, as Valdes Greenwood has made you fall completely for these girls. He artfully navigates the space between being too close and too distant to his subjects, giving the reader just the right view of the narrative, while still intertwining moments of festival history and pageant politics. This charming portrait of small town life through its young women might just encourage a trip to next year’s Giant Omelette Celebration. - Sarah, Fashion Writer
Win a copy of The Rhinestone Sisterhood! Interested in reading The Rhinestone Sisterhood? Become our friend on GoodReads! Don’t know about GoodReads? It’s a social networking site that allows book lovers to share their favorite finds.
To enter our giveaway, join our Book Smarts group on GoodReads, and leave us a comment in the discussion titled, “What book has most inspired you — and why?” If you tell us what book has most inspired you ON GOODREADS by 11:59 p.m. on May 31st, you’ll be entered to win a free copy of The Rhinestone Sisterhood!(less)
Alexandra Penney is pretty much the woman you wanted to be when you grew up. She’s held editor positions at Vogue, Glamour, and Self. She owns an Herm...moreAlexandra Penney is pretty much the woman you wanted to be when you grew up. She’s held editor positions at Vogue, Glamour, and Self. She owns an Hermès Kelly bag. She spends afternoons painting in her SoHo loft, a place where neighborhood friends throw pebbles at her window. After being dropped down a sock-wrapped key, everyone catches up over wine and gourmet cheese. Isn’t that the life?
But The Bag Lady Papers, a memoir that divulges Penney’s experience of losing her life’s savings to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, isn’t just a story about Baccarat crystal and expense accounts. In fact the book, which is based on her popular Daily Beast blog series, is as much about that, as it is about blow-up dolls and fish markets.
The book opens on Penney as she prepares a lavish dinner party in her Upper East Side home. As she primps her dining room table, news of her trusted (or so she thought) financial investor’s arrest hits. Like an anxiety-filled dump truck, the intensity of Penney’s panic smacks us in the face. Will she need to sell her home and move in with her son? She pops a tranquilizer. Can she afford basic necessities? The notion of suicide enters her head. Will her bag lady fears – ever present in her mind, even at the height of her success – become reality?
Alternating between the worry-ridden present and her career-climbing past, the memoir’s chapters delve into Penney’s life as she goes from copywriter, to mother, to fish market cashier, to New York Times bestselling author, to broke artist with multiple mortgages to pay. But, The Bag Lady Papers doesn’t quite do her journey justice. The book’s introduction leaves the reader with a bad taste in her mouth. We are barely two pages into her story when the author is asking herself if she’ll ever be able to buy fresh flowers again. It’s difficult to sympathize with a stranger when you hardly have the facts.
Readers who make it through the first few chapters will find that Penney eventually hits a more narrative stride. Her rise to success, which includes helping to create the famous breast cancer awareness pink ribbon while Editor-in-Chief at Self, is one to be admired. The ironic thing is that the entire time she is working these incredible jobs, she yearns to give it up to fulfill her dream of becoming an artist. In fact, The Bag Lady Papers is in many ways a book about finding the path to make your dream possible. For Penney, this meant quitting her job as Glamour’s Beauty Editor to go back to art school.
Throughout The Bag Lady Papers, Penney touches upon numerous topics, that have us asking for more. From women’s often hesitance to deal with money, to “bag lady fears” which plague successful women like Gloria Steinem and Lily Tomlin, these topics, if they’d been delved into deeper with Penney’s journalistic eye, would have provided incredible support to her personal story. There are hints that this book was written on a tight deadline (Penney mentions it herself and there are exhaustive lists taking up space throughout), which might be the cause of this oversight. This is just too complicated a story and too emotionally-charged, that you have to wonder what a second draft would have looked like. But perhaps in a few years – and with a bit more distance from the situation – Penney can tell us the story of how she rose back to the top. -Sarah, Fashion Writer(less)