Things I Love Thursday

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La Virgen Jewelry

Last year, I spent a month doing anthropological field work in Mexico. When I was down there, I noticed that seriously everyone was walking around wearing these little wooden bracelets with images of saints and the Virgin of Guadalupe. I soon went on a frantic search, basically because they were so cool.

In Douglas, Arizona, I found a little novelty shop that sold them for pennies, practically. I still wear them.

Now, I’m seeing that jewelry bearing the image of La Virgen is becoming uber-popular.

If you’re facing a craving for religiouswear and other cool and flashy Latin-inspired styles, I recommend the online store, Mexican Grocer. They have everything from medallions and necklaces to bags and Dia de los Muertos sugar skull molds.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

My motto is that I can cook, I just choose not to. Yes, I realize that is not the best mantra to live by. But that means that when I actually decide to cook something, it’s extra special.

My parents have a steadily growing garden in their backyard, and this year they’ve reaped lots and lots of delicious zucchini. Do you know how versatile that vegetable is? It’s like the miracle fruit (hey, the seeds are on the inside). It’s good grilled or sauteed. It makes meatloaf moist and light. And holy moly, it makes cake fluffy and delicious.

One of my favorite zucchini-related confections is the chocolate zucchini cake. Here’s a very similar recipe to the one I used. I made my version low-fat, by using nonfat sour cream instead of oil, Egg Beaters instead of eggs, and Smart Start “buttery spread” instead of margarine. Normally, if you don’t make low-fat cakes correctly, they can be rubbery and dry. I still would have eaten it, but this recipe was just so ridiculously delicious, I gave some to a coworker and she was instantly addicted. And I didn’t even tell her I doctored the recipe.

While you can’t taste the zucchini in the cake, it makes the batter incredibly moist and super fluffy, so it offsets the density of the walnuts and chocolate chips. If you have some zucchini laying around, I highly recommend trying this out. I’ve been eating it for breakfast all week!

Toyota Avalons

Aight, I’ll be straight with you: There is NO way I can afford a brand-new Avalon at present. But, the car that I just lost was one (his name was Giovanni), and it looks like the next car I’ll be getting is another Avalon. (Yes, I found a car already.) If the sale goes through, I think I will name him Merlino, after the great Arthurian wizard, Merlin.

Because, really, that whole Lady of the Lake thing is NOT overrated.

And I’m not a geek. I swear.

Scissor Sisters

The other night, I came across some station airing a Scissor Sisters concert. While I’ve loved their awesome electro-pop music for quite a few years (especially the outta control Filthy/Gorgeous), I’d never actually seen the kickass group live (or in concert).

It looked like they were just as good in person as they were on the albums, but the finale with the lead singer bearing almost all of it in a nude-colored glittery mesh bodysuit ala Borat was just one hilarious surprise.

God, I love them.

I love my skimmers

Since I haven’t had a pedi for a while, I decided to try something that I could wear with capris besides sandals.

Balloon skimmers
Check out THESE She-Hulks! But I love my balloon skimmers too much to care.

Last year, I went through a major skimmer phase. They’re fantastic, so can you really blame me? Just enough sneaker comfort with just enough femininity with fabric that doesn’t cover your entire foot. Most of the ones I got were from Hot Topic! That place is sort of my guilty pleasure…I love all the gutsy fashion and makeup, and they have a surprisingly amazing selection of shoes!

While I have several pair–ranging from ones with penguins to hearts and skulls to polka-dots–my favorite by far (and that unfortunately means smelliest, too, because you can’t really wear socks with them) are ones with heart-shaped balloons on them by Saints and Sailors. Unfortunately, they’re sold out, but they’re pretty fab.

Now, I normally play it relatively safe with my footwear. Or at least I did until I started working for Solestruck.com. I suppose I should look at these skimmers as a prelude to that relatively new obsession. I mean, really, what matches shoes with pastel balloons on them?

Anyhow, I’m not always the matchy-matchy sort, so I’ve been known to not only wear them with capris (like today), but also with skirts, khakis, and even nice black slacks. Sometimes it’s fun when you do something totally crazy! People respect you for that!

Or they just look at you funny….

Back to Basics: Chinese Mary Janes

Natasha's Cafe offers a huge array of colors of the basic Chinese mary jane!
Natasha's Cafe offers a huge array of colors of the basic Chinese mary jane!

Um, I’m obsessed with mary janes. I realize that the look isn’t necessarily flattering on everyone, but I wear them anyway. I remember when I was a little kid, I had this pair of really oldschool mary janes. The super-cheap cotton ones with the terra-cotta rubber sole. I’m sure we’ve all had a pair.

Anyway, I loved them to bits and then I grew out of them.

And then a few months ago, I decided I wanted to find something similar. I’d been going through a hardcore mary-jane phase, and while I got a few pairs of All Blacks, the Dansko Merrie, and the Mia Melina (I’m sure among several others), it just wasn’t the same. Sure, they were super-snazzy and mod, but I just had the craving for the flexible and basic Chinese mary janes.

So I did some searching, and happened to find this little gem boutique, Natasha’s Cafe. They sell lots of fun stuff from around the world–Egypt, Japan, Morocco, Russia–in addition to an enormous selection of the basic Chinese mary janes!

Burgundy cotton basic mary janes--one of the colors I chose!
Burgundy cotton basic mary janes--one of the colors I chose!

If you can’t decide on the color, they offer several combo packs with discounts. In the end, I ended up purchasing two pair of basic cotton (one in black and one in burgundy) and one basic canvas (in black). Most basic cottons are around $9, and a canvas averages around $12. Nicer fabrics like silk or flax tend to be more. The shipment took a little longer than I expected (but hey, I have the privilege of working for a company that has lightening-fast shipping and if I order some, I take them home that day), but that’s okay. I even got a phone call from one of their employees because one of the sizes I had ordered was out, and they wanted to know if there was a substitution. I could tell it really was one of the few locally owned, mom-and-pop kind of stores that just happened to offer some of their goods online.

So my shoes came, and they were almost exactly what I expected. However, I didn’t realize that my step is so high, the straps tended to undo themselves when I was walking. Some of them used a basic metal buckle, and some were Velcro, but it wasn’t specified on the Web site.

I feel pretty gutsy wearing them, even with jeans. The burgundy is a fun splash of color. However, if I purchased them again, I would most likely stick with a more structured material like canvas or silk, because the basic cotton shoes really are just basic cotton…and you can see your toes pressing up against the fabric because it’s pretty thin. Also, not tons of support, but that almost goes with the territory of getting a cheap flat.

So, check ’em out, if you’re so inclined! I can’t wait until fall to start wearing mine again…with funky socks, of course!

Turquoise nails…I’ve jumped the bandwagon

When I was younger, I was all about painted nails. Then I just sort of stopped bothering. I have troves of the stuff, mostly cheap polish, but in just about every color of the rainbow.

Turquoise Nails Rock!
Turquoise Nails Rock!

But then Katrina over at Puglyfeet got me so worked up over her love of turquoise nail polish that I had to give myself a manicure. I remember a few years ago, after searching to no avail, I settled for some turquoise-ish polish, that, upon recent investigation, ended up being too dark and too blue.

Any of you who know me knows that when it comes to precision, I am one picky lady. And I am picky about my turquoises! Most nail polishes–if you can find anything resembling turquoise–is either too blue or too green. And then they’re either too dark or too light. The one that I found in my cosmetics drawer happened to be too blue AND too dark, making it almost an aqua-cerulean color. If that makes sense.

So yesterday, during my lunch, I ran over to Target just to see what they had. And lo and behold, I found the perfect turquoise. And it’s actually called “Turquoise Seas,” distributed by New York Color. So it was cheap. But the color? An absolutely perfect mix (and brightness) of blue and green, with a light metallic overtone.

The polish painted on a little thin, so I had to do three coats, and then I get really impatient with my nails, and now the polish is a little cracked or “bunched” where I touched it while wet, but other than that, it works great! Yay! I love it, and feel like a mermaid or something…just because my nails are the perfect aqua now!

Now, on to another frustration: Why can you really only find black nail polish in regular stores (e.g., Target, Fred Meyer, Walgreens) around Halloween time? I mean, that was the hot color last year. Hrmph.

Geisha is the new black?

Whenever I photograph shoes, countless thoughts run through my head. Words just feverishly jumping about, or scrolling along like a banner. Sometimes I’m reminded of Disney Princesses, and other times I wonder who the heck would even want to put a particular pair on their feet.

Today it was all about the Jessica Simpsons. Now, please do not misinterpret this. I am NOT a fan of this person or her music. Or her acting endeavors. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I have absolutely no reason for disliking her, but I do. Which makes the fact that I adore her shoe line all the more difficult to own.

Jessica Simpson Jovic in Rose
Jessica Simpson Jovic in Rose

But today, I was photographing some Jessica Simpson Jovics, and I had to second-guess myself. The shoe (pictured at the right) is a mid-rise pump (a big plus for those of you who are not into killing your feet) with a patent leather upper with a nice ombre effect (see how the shadow moves from rose at the toe to dark brown at the heel?). I like the square-ish peep toe, and the squarely sculpted heel post is cool, too.

But if you look closely at the platform, you’ll see that it’s a little bit inset, and almost tiered looking. It’s pretty geometrical, and very unique looking.

So when I was photographing them and trying to write a description, the best thing I could relate them to was a pair of classic Japanese Geisha shoes. Although the platform on this particular shoe is only about a quarter-inch, the way that it is tiered reminds me of the platforms that Geishas wear (pictured left).

Geisha sandals
Geisha sandals

While this is one of the first shoes I’ve personally encountered with such a platform, I’m wondering if Geisha-inspired shoes are going to be a big, new trend.

I mean, seriously, though. We’ve got the Greco-Roman-inspired gladiator sandals all over the place. So when are we going to move a little further East and make a stop to be inspired by Japan?

Geisha: Is it the new black?