Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year's Message from My Cat

Have a Happy New Year or Imma hurt you.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Dead Zone

Not that kind of Dead.

A friend of mine used to refer to the week between Christmas and New Year's as "the dead zone,"  the time when one set of festivities is over and the next one has not yet begun.  My friend used to throw a party during the dead zone, giving us all something to do besides wait for the ball to drop later in the week. 

But I'm older now, and I don't mind a little quiet time.  I've got my calendar and planner organized for the coming year, the Chrismas decorations are put away, and my jewelry work area (which was taken apart to make way for cookie baking) is back in the corner of the living room.

I've been spending time listening to music, or to the wind, or to the calls of the crows outside.  I've been drawing, and thinking about new jewelry designs.  I've been getting in bed early with the first of the Palliser novels.

It's been lovely.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dept. of Home Economics: Soup From Leftovers

Here at Old Maid HQ, it's often a challenge to cook fresh vegetables before they go bad, and to eat leftovers without expiring of boredom.  When the fridge gets too full, I make Use-It-Up Soup.  Check out how to make it over at My Life In Food: A Culinary "Art" Journal.

Now you know what to do with the vegetables from that crudite platter everyone ignored on Christmas Day in favor of the potato chips and onion dip.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Words of Wisdom, Christmas Edition: Charles Dickens

"This boy is Ignorance.  This girl is Want.  Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.  Deny it!... And bide the end."

Merry Christmas, Gentle Readers!  May Ignorance and Want be kept from your door today and always.  May you instead, find peace, prosperity and good company in the new year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Elizabeth, Age 7

Do the dance
to live your life
inside your heart
and outside your life
with the love of family
and people that are your friends!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Yes, It's Really a Jousting Scar

What Happened Bandages from Urban Outfitters

The Army Dude heard about my thumb getting in the way of a cheese slicer, so he gave me a box of these nifty bandages.  I'm still clumsy, but at least now I'm cool and clumsy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Louisa May Alcott


It takes so little to make a child happy that it is a pity, in a world full of sunshine and pleasant things, that there should be any wistful faces, empty hands, or lonely little hearts.

Little Men, 1871

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Deck The Halls

"Do you want to come over and help me decorate?" my grandmother would call to ask my siblings and me on a Saturday morning early in December.  And yes, as a matter of fact, we did.  It was the most eagerly anticipated day in the Christmas seasons of my childhood next to Christmas Day itself.

Boxes and boxes of decorations would come out of storage in the eaves behind my grandfather's closet.  There was a long garland of plastic poinsettias to be wound around the bannister on the stairs.  There was gold tinsel garland and scratchy white fake snow that I wasn't allowed to touch (it was probably toxic, come to think of it) to festoon the mantel, where a plastic sleigh with Santa and some wrapped gifts would be pulled by eight tiny reindeer and a Rudolph that was bigger than the rest and didn't match them.

There was a manger scene with all the usual fixings, including an angel holding a banner that said "Gloria," which when I was very little I thought was her name.  My mom has the manger scene now, which she puts up every year and enjoys at least as much as my grandmother did.  When I told her about Gloria one recent Christmas, my mother looked at me quizzically and said "Didn't you think of the carol with the words 'gloria in excelsis deo'?"  Nope.  I was a precocious reader, but more or less average in the understanding of Latin words department. 

At Gram's house, the barn for the manger scene was carefully placed on the itchy, scratchy snow.  I was allowed, as I got a little older, to place the figures in the scene -- which was a grave responsibility, both because of the fragile nature of the figures and the need for traditional accuracy in the placement -- with repeated warnings not to touch the snow (what was that stuff)?  Next to the barn was placed a white church with a steeple that had lighted stained-glass windows and tiny carolers outside it, holding hymnals with their mouths permanently painted in Os.

There were tinsel garlands to festoon doorways, and a huge brandy snifter to fill with colored glass balls and place on the kitchen table.  There were little Christmas figures for the top of the TV (what was already there was removed from its crocheted doily and stored for the season).  Decorations for every room in the house came out of those boxes.  But the scariest ornament of all -- to me as a little kid, anyway -- was the plastic mistletoe that hung in the doorway to the living room.  It was attached to a styrofoam ball decorated with beads and ribbons.

This is a bell, not a ball, but you get the idea.

It wasn't scary looking, but it was very scary to a shy little kid because proximity to it meant getting kissed.  Or having to kiss someone you really didn't want to, like your brother, for instance (on the cheek, but still).  I used to pause about six feet from the doorway, make a visual reconnaissance of the area, and then run through the doorway at top speed once the coast was clear.  I would be sternly reminded not to run in the house, but it was worth it, and in any case the grownups tended to be more lenient with the antics of excitable children at holiday time.

Despite my childhood anxieties, when I found a bunch of plastic mistletoe among the boxes of Christmas things I saved from going to  the Johnston landfill, I had to keep it.  It's hanging in the doorway between my sunroom and living room and in the unlikely event anyone tries to kiss me when I don't want them to, they will get, as my mother would say, a punch in the snoot.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Two Blogs, Two Etsy Pages

Let's face it: just as I have too much fabulousness for one blog, I have too much fabulousness for one Etsy page.  I'm still making and selling my handmade vintage, repurposed, and reclaimed jewelry at Sow's Ear Jewelry, and now I'm also selling fun vintage items at Carmen Miranda's Vintage & Kitsch. I seem to have an eye for kitschy vintage stuff.  Who knew? 

Right now I'm focusing on finding new homes for some vintage Christmas ornaments that I rescued before they went to the landfill.

This Vintage Koestal ornament is handcrafted with handpainted wax heads.  It's from about the 1940s.  No way was I going to let this end up in the trash.  It's even cuter in person.

This is an awesome example of 1960s beaded crafts.  It's a handmade angel ornament that's nine inches tall and can stand or hang.  What's more awesome than baby blue paillettes?

Maybe a faux-Faberge egg ornament made from turquoise flocked material and dozens of faux-pearl beads.   It's really pretty from every angle.

Of course, nothing says Christmas like a pair of demented choirboys in your floral display.  You can quote me on that.

Dear, sweet, two-pound Baby Jesus is beautifully proportioned.  It feels like you're holding a (small) real baby.  I'm actually getting kind of attached to this one, so I hope somebody buys it soon.  I might end up being the crazy lady pushing a baby Jesus statue in a pram, and nobody wants that.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Harpo Marx

I don't know if my life has been a success or a failure.  But not having any anxiety about becoming one instead of the other, and just taking things as they came along, I've had a lot of extra time to enjoy life.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

New Items in my Etsy Shop

Dramatic Black & White Dangle Earrings $13

I love the combination of black and white. It always looks crisp, chic, and modern.  I liked the idea of black & white earrings to finish a black & white ensemble, add punch to an all-black outfit, dress up a white summer sundress.  The frosted glass beads pick up colors, too -- so the earrings can actually be worn with a lot of outfits.

Mixed Metal Dangle Earrings $12

I love the look of mixed metals.  Simple, modern earrings go with warm tones or cool tones, and they coordinate with  both silver and gold jewelry.  Or you can be on-trend and mix silver and gold in your other jewelry and wear these to bring it all together.

Three Circle Dangle Earrings $12

These earrings have a lot of fun movement, and they add polish to any outfit.  Slim jump rings give lightness to the stainless steel washers.  These are the earrings to reach for when you are looking for something not too big, but not too small.

Industrial Dangle Earrings $13

These earrings make a pretty bold statement.  While some of my other earrings incorporate hardware in such a way that the observer might not notice, the number of hex nuts here draws attention to the fact that they are hex nuts.  In a cool way.

One thing I've realized since I started wearing hardware jewelry a couple of years ago is that guys notice it, they can tell what it's made of, and they think it's cool.  I'm not saying for sure that wearing my jewelry will get you a date, but it might!

Check out everything at Sow's Ear Jewelry on Etsy.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Helping To Make Your Season Bright


During this stressful time of year, what could brighten your day more than William Shatner? (Or as I like to call him, "The Shat" -- and yes, I do know what that is the past tense of, thank you very much.) Here he sings Bohemian Rhapsody with such dramatic pauses, such hilarious pathos, such utter... Shatnerness that your heart will be filled with joy. Or at least you'll laugh for five minutes and forty seconds. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Etsy Shop Is Open!

One-of-a-kind reclaimed earrings with hardware accents $18

After some struggles with the online setup and learning to use a new camera (based mostly in my unwillingness to read directions), my Etsy shop is open for business!  My jewelry is made from repurposed hardware, reclaimed jewelry parts, and commercial findings such as jump rings and clasps.  Occasionally I make a piece out of all new jewelry parts, but not very often.

Hardware necklace $18

 The idea for this necklace came to me as a friend handed me a big coffee can full of hardware he wanted to get out of his house.  I thought, Oh look, a brackety thingy.  I wonder what I can do with it?  A little while later, I was at home carrying out what I'd pictured.  I've gotten lots of positive feedback on this piece, and the inspiration behind it really was as simple as that.

  Chunky hardware earrings $13

I liked this pair of earrings so much I made another for myself.  I love how I can wear a plain turtleneck and jeans, and when I put these on I look dressed. You know, like I made an effort.  I enjoy that in an accessory.

Modern chain bracelet $18

I didn't expect the photography process to be as fun as it is turning out to be.  I'm having a great time looking for just the right backgrounds and learning how to light the pieces properly.  The way I photographed this bracelet is my homage to Yves Saint Laurent's iconic mid-'60s Mondrian Collection.  But you knew that, right?

You can check out everything I have listed so far at  I've got more to list in the coming days, and lots of ideas going forward into the new year.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

My table centerpiece: a bowl my brother made me filled with colorful fallen leaves.

Happy Thanksgiving, Gentle Readers.  I'm thankful to each and every one of you for taking time out of your busy days to read the crazy goings-on in my life and in my head. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dept. of Home Economics: More Fun With Broccoli Stems

Not a fan of Cream of Broccoli Soup?  Fret not, Gentle Reader.  There a lots of other things you can do with your broccoli stems instead of throwing them away.  Check out some ideas at My Life In Food: A Culinary "Art" Journal.  Plus, there is a Jane Austen quote and I take a couple of shots at Martha Stewart!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The WHATcracker???

Sometimes blog topics just get handed to me.  Quite literally in this case, because a card advertising this heartfelt production was handed to me as I left the opera on Sunday.  I can only imagine the reaction of my fellow patrons -- most of whom were over the age of seventy.

Seriously, people, have high school kids completely taken over the theater in BostonThe Slutcracker?  Nobody over the age of eighteen could find that name and image anything but stupid.  Could they?  (Please, God, let the answer to that be "no.")   

You can click here to see what it's about, but be warned: it is Not Safe For Work (and not safe for you at all, Mom). 


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Macbeth...and Zombies

Playtex Living Gloves


On Sunday, I went to see The Boston Lyric Opera's production of Macbeth.  It's an early work by Giuseppe Verdi, but as the music director pointed out in the lecture before the performance, it is not an immature early work.  The music is lovely, with choral passages that are just breathtaking.  The performers had amazing voices and the orchestra did a great job of supporting them without overwhelming the beauty of their singing.

The staging, however, was another thing entirely.  It was as if the opera had been staged by a high school student who had just discovered symbolism: heavy-handed and unintentionally hilarious.

The entire chorus was made up of zombies.  As characters died, they returned to the stage wearing the same zombie makeup so it became hard to tell who was really dead and who was faking it for the sake of Art. The women wore vaguely 19th century peasant garb and the men were dressed vaguely as early 20th century newsboys.  The colors were drab and lifeless.  Maybe this was a comment on how tough life was when the people of Scotland were ruled by kings who killed people right and left.  When the chorus was portraying the nobles of the court, however, they were dressed exactly the same way.  You'd think life at court would be a bit better -- or at least, courtiers would dress better.  In this scene, Lady Macbeth is singing before the royal court.  Not that you would know.

See the red gloves?  The chorus waved those gloves around and danced like they were at a Miley Cyrus concert.  They wanted to make sure you were paying attention to the gloves, which were red because the Macbeths have blood on their hands.  Get it?  It's symbolism.

The yellow gloves at the top of this post were props in Act I.  While Macbeth got his prophesies from the witches in a forest, Giant Playtex Living Gloves painted onto particle board waved in the background.  Toward the end of the scene, the gloves were flipped to reveal bloodstains.  Macbeth is going to have blood on his hands.  It's foreshadowing, y'all.  My drawings pretty accurately portray what the gloves looked like.  They weren't just Gloves of Doom.  They were Cartoon Gloves of Doom.

I knew we were in trouble when the curtain rose to reveal a raised stage made of riveted steel.  It looked like the deck of an aircraft carrier and was surrounded by metal staging and stairs.  I hoped that perhaps we were in for a modern take on Macbeth (which could have been interesting if it was well done) but then the chorus came out in their garb of unidentifiable provenance and zombie makeup and I realized we were in for a bumpy ride.

The chairs on the stage are supposed to be seats for the king and the highest-ranking members of court. I could see, even from the last row of the mezzanine, that the chairs had been purchased at a local Goodwill and spray-painted with sparkly gold Krylon. I'm all for an eclectic look, but really? The king of Scotland can't afford something not held together underneath with ye olde duct tape? Those chairs moved all over the place -- around the stage, up and down the staging, and over the heads of the zombie court while the principals were singing their hearts out. It was very distracting.

There was a lot of red splashed about in this production.  A lot of red.  That's because a lot of blood is shed in this story.  It's symbolism.  The men in the angry mob above are wearing Red Ballcaps of Doom because Macbeth has just been stabbed by Macduff (not to be confused with McGruff).  Blood is being shed.  Get it? In the previous scene, women were wearing Red Kerchiefs of Doom to let you know Macbeth's doom is approaching.  In case you've never heard of Shakespeare and you need a warning that Macbeth dies in the end.

This is the scene where Lady Macbeth descends into madness (quite literally, as you can see).  I wish the BLO website had a photo of the Jedi Rolling Pin she carried around in the first part of the scene where Lady Macbeth is wandering in the night muttering about the blood she can't wash off her hands.  I thought at first she was holding a black light, since using a black light is the best way to reveal bloodstains even after the area has been washed.  But no, it was a rolling-pin-shaped gadget that lit up and she waved it around for a while.  It distracted from the bravura musical performance she was giving, which was a shame.

The zombie in this picture is a doctor.  You can tell because he's wearing a Red Lab Coat of Doom.  Maybe the coat is red because in Shakespeare's (and Verdi's) time, doctors bled their patients.  Maybe it's a comment on the medical system of today and how it's bleeding us all dry.  Maybe it's foreshadowing that in the next scene, Lady Macbeth dies.  Maybe all three.  That's some deep stuff, my friends.

In the final scene, Dead King Malcolm, Dead Mrs. Macduff, and Dead Lady Macbeth (with their otherworldly garments helpfully marked in blood with the spots where they recieved their mortal wounds) drip rose petals down over little Banquo, Jr. who is still alive and will someday rule Scotland.  They do this to let audience members who may have nodded off know that his reign will come to pass because of the blood that has been shed.  In the background, the newsboys in the Red Ballcaps of Doom sing about how sad it all is.


Saturday, November 12, 2011


Conceive of my shock, Gentle Readers, when I was on the phone with the Army Dude this morning, chatting of this and that, and the Army Dude said "Chanel?  Who's that?"

It was a few moments before I regained my powers of speech.  I then explained to him, in the politest tones I could muster, who she was.  He replied "Oh, right.  An old dead lady."

An old dead lady?  Next he's going to tell me that Gene Kelly isn't really my boyfriend. 

I haven't been this upset since my sister started wearing legwarmers.  I need to lie down on my chaise longue with a cold compress on my fevered brow, a cup of tea, and Young Men In Spats.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

The Army Dude is old school: photos from below the name tape down only.

I know I tease the Army Dude a lot on my blogs, but the truth is I am fortunate to know someone who is not only a squared-away soldier, but an excellent human being. 

Thank you for your service, Army Dude.  And thank you to everyone who puts his or her life on the line for the rest of us.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dept. of Home Economics: Cream of Broccoli Soup

Did you know you can make delicious soup from the broccoli stems you usually throw out?  It's cheaper than the stuff from a can, it tastes better, and it's better for you!  Check out the recipe at My Life In Food: A Culinary "Art" Journal.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


"We live and learn from our mistakes; the deepest cuts are healed by faith"

This song has been in my head for a couple of days, courtesy of a mix CD (remember those?) my sister-of-the-heart Monica made way back in 2003.  Monica introduced me to this song, as she has to so many cool things that have been recorded since dear Mr. Gershwin's untimely death.

What's not to love?  The song is catchy as hell, Pat Benatar is belting it out, and there are mullets in the video!


Monday, November 07, 2011

Anything Went

Last night I watched Anything Goes, starring Bing Crosby, Donald O'Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, and Jeanmaire.  There was a lot of talent on that screen, but the movie itself was just... meh. 

The costumes by Edith Head were gorgeous, though.  So that was something.

The musical numbers were mostly annoying.  The only thing that saved a few of them was the presence of Donald O'Connor.  I may not be the best judge, however.  I'm still harboring a resentment against Cole Porter for rhyming the words "nina" and "neurasthenia."

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Auntie Maria: Jewelry Designer

I need to work on my photography.

Things have gotten kind of interesting around here lately.  What started out as a hobby making jewelry for myself and as gifts from repurposed and reclaimed materials has turned into the beginnings of a business.

Granted, my first customer was my sister Rachel.  But she paid me!

So now I'm ordering business cards and brainstorming with friends about marketing.  I've started keeping track of what I make so designs can be duplicated.  I'm assigning them stock numbers and everything.

What I really enjoy, though, is taking out all the sparkly and shiny materials and spreading them out so I can play.  That's the fun part.

A new work area in the corner of my living room.  The creative projects have been taking over my dining table and a girl's gotta eat.

This is just how Coco Chanel got started.  Well, actually it was hats, and she had a rich, titled boyfriend as a financial backer.  But close enough.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Erin

"There is no squeezing in ballet!"

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

She Is Too Fond of Books

Can you guess who I am?

Last night I dressed up as an Aunt of Literature to give out candy at my friend's house.  Even with the book as a prop, the only people who knew I was Louisa May Alcott were women over the age of forty.  The costume itself was a smart choice, though.  All those petticoats and layers (and the fur lined coat I borrowed from my friend as a finishing touch) kept me toasty warm.

Next year, maybe I should dress as the girl who wrote the Twilight series.  Or I could go as that Snooki person.  She wrote a book -- I saw it at Barnes & Noble the other day. 

Somehow, the idea that girls are reading Confessions of a Guidette instead of Little Women scares me more than all those creepy clowns and zombies I saw last night.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I totally stole this from someone on Facebook.

Tonight I'm going to my friend's house as I do every Halloween.  She lives on a busy street and gets a bazillion trick-or-treaters.  What's more fun on Halloween night than sitting on the porch drinking tea and handing out candy to a bunch of cute kids in costume?

Dressing up to hand out candy, that's what.  I usually think of this approximately five minutes before leaving the house.  Last year, my friend loaned me a plush moose hat and all evening people kept saying it was too early for reindeer.  That was annoying.

This year, I've got a costume all ready to go.  I'm going to get someone to take my picture and I'll post it here because obviously I have no shame about posting pictures in which I look silly.  I'll give you a hint: I'm dressing as an Aunt of Literature.

And no, it's not Auntie Em.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Doesn't Everyone?

Who wouldn't want to drive the Zamboni?  I'm not saying I'd want to make a career out of it, but to me, the only rational response to the question "Do you want to come down to the rink and drive the Zamboni?" is "Let me get my jacket."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dept. of Home Economics: The Incredible Egg Carton

It's the little things.  Specifically, it's the little things lying around the house that are tough to corral and keep organized.  So it was with my jewelry making supplies -- until last night, when I made an omelet for dinner.

I washed and dried the empty carton from my Little Rhody Natural eggs, and then cut it apart to create three storage trays.  You could leave the top on if you want storage with a lid; I wanted to be able to place them flat in the storage drawer that I take out of its cabinet and bring to my table when I'm ready to make jewelry.  The egg-shaped sides stack nicely, provided they are not too full.
Here are some uses for your empty egg cartons that I came up with just off the top of my head, but there are probably a lot more:
  • Desk drawer: Use one or more sides to organize paper clips, binder clips, erasers, sticky notes, etc.
  • Craft and sewing supplies: With or without lids, you supplies will be neat and organized.  No more ransacking drawers looking for one specific thing -- or worse, buying something you forgot you had.
  • Tiny toys: I'm thinking of Barbie's accessories or all those pieces for the Littlest Pet Shop -- but anything tiny and easily lost can be stored in egg cartons.  Let the kids get creative and decorate the cartons with stickers.
  • Girls' hair accessories: You'll be able to find barettes, snap clips, and ponytail holders, even on a busy morning.  Let your daughter get creative with decorating the outside of the carton.
  • Kitchen junk drawer: One or more trays will neatly store batteries, matches, restaurant business cards, rubber bands, twist ties, etc.
  • Jewelry: if you're a gal who keeps jewelry in the top dresser drawer -- or a guy with tie tacks and cufflinks you want to store -- a plastic egg carton is the perfect see-through storage solution.
  • Home repair kit: Keeping those screws, nuts, washers, etc. organized might make it less likely that you and your significant other will fight while fixing something.  Might.  I'm not making any promises.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Safety First

If you go for a walk with the Army Dude in the western part of Rhode Island at this time of year, he requires you to wear one of these attractive numbers.  It's to avoid getting shot because of deer hunting season, but honestly, how much danger could I be in?  It's not like I ever shut up.

Note how it gives that pumpkin shape to which every girl aspires -- and the color... well, the photo doesn't do it justice. 

Even though the day was a bit overcast, I decided to accessorize with a pair of sparkly sunglasses.  (Translation: I hid behind them.)  Not that I think it helped.  I haven't felt this conspicuous since my sister Rachel visited and did my makeup before we went out to dinner.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


A rainy day.  Tailor-made for making jewelry, reading, and taking a nap.  Who am I to argue with Mother Nature?