Monday, January 18, 2010

Tarot Girls: The Major Arcana

Photo by Lilly1975
Everyone seems to have their own interpretation of tarot cards. Something about those little pieces of paper seems so mystical, so omnipotent, and every card seems to have a life all of its own. Some cards are tiny girls with swords unsheathed, some are boys with electric manes like lions - nevertheless, these seemingly harmless cards can be potent parts of our lives; fortune tellers and iconic figures. They can be girls and boys who we know and recognize - maybe best friends, maybe strangers; they can be ourselves - and whether we lay out ancient spreads every morning or play "pick-a-card" with our baby niece, tarot cards can spill their secrets to those willing to listen. Each card has a life of its own, and through this on-going series here on Cocoa I'll share what each card says to me in lullaby highs and hushed lows. This is the story that the Major Arcana tells.
The Fool

The Fool
- A daydreamer
- Full of potential and possibility
- Almost blind to impending dangers
- Childlike
- Optimistic
- Naive
Emily believed that the absolute best way to calm a charm bracelet of jittery nerves was with a big bowl of chocolate gelato and a night spent whizzing around the nearest roller rink. The gelato wasn't hard to find - there were tiny gelaterie everywhere, boasting spectacular names like "Michaelangelo's" or "La Dolce Vita", tucked away in the sullen corners of sleepy city streets. The roller rink, though - that was a whole different story. In this glorious age of twenty first century thrills and chills, she found that most folks had long ago traded in childhood classics like roller rinks and ice skating for more the age-appropriate pursuits of Blackberries and pub crawls. While other women her age spent their weekends picking out Yves Saint Laurent lipstick in deep raspberry shades, she sucked down ballerina pink cherry sodas and gazed dreamily at glossy magazines, transfixed by the fizzing whirlwind of electric color. She realized that in this ever-changing marquee of a city, even children weren't allowed the luxury of childhood - it seemed as though everyone had already grown up before they even had the chance to be foolish and wild. Staring wide-eyed at her favorite childhood roller-rink, plywood nailed to the doors and neon spray-painted pictures of high-rises and superheroes thrown across the walls, Emily vowed that she would never fall victim to the disease that is adulthood. With one hand on her magazine and another over her heart, she swore to swing through the childhood that, much like her favorite roller rink, everyone else had abandoned.
The Magician

- Self-confident
- Powerful
- Provides the tools for change
- Creation
- Smooth-talker
- Open/revealing
The very first trick Kate learned, at the all-grown-up age of eleven and a half, was to make a coin disappear. After French lessons and piano practice and college level calculus taught by a charmingly tousled tutor - a sweetly awkward English twenty-something to whom Kate felt superior to in every way - he would lead her out onto the peppermint-scented lawn for a lunch of mushroom pate and warm baguettes and pineapple salad and chocolate mint eclairs and, between the rows of honeysuckle and baby's breath, he would show her magic. He palmed coins and produced scarves and turned cards into flowers, and deep down inside, rumbling with the aftershocks of not fully understanding something for once in her life, Kate burned to do the same. Her head, with its world-class education and radiant sharpness, purred that these simple parlor tricks were child's play and could be deconstructed into their smallest parts, and so snuck quietly to her room, her tutor's coin in hand, and practiced until the sky darkened and her hands ached. After the next morning's Mandarin and classic literature and viola lessons in the parlor, she pulled the coin from her dress and, like a seasoned magician gracing a crowd with mysteriously foreplay, waved her hands until the coin shimmered out of existence. Her tutor, a glint of pride in his eyes, clapped politely, but it wasn't until he began searching for his coin (of which he assumed she had palmed or slipped into her sock the way children often do) that true confusion began to set in. Opening the piano seat, peeking behind keys, plucking at each taut string until they confirmed, with a polite D, F, or G minor, that the coin was not there, he turned his gaze on her and demanded the coin. I made it disappear, she declared, smoothing out her dress - isn't that the trick? The coin, by now most likely tarnished by age, was never found, and even Kate can't quite account for the items that she makes disappear. All she knows now, standing on stages and in front of tail-coated gentry, is that she found her magic, and no textbook could ever teach her the same.
The High Priestess
- Beauty
- Mystery
- Omniscient
- Intelligent
- Psychic powers (intuition and secret knowledge)
- Secretive
- Eccentric
- Insightful
- Unpredictable

Sadie was a curbside prophet, a Saturday-morning dreamer who spent every weekend exploring the city that she loved like a first-time lover. She would wander barefoot through farmers markets that blocked off entire roads and come home with funny hats and bohemian scarves and vegetables still wet with morning dew. She would watch passion plays in the park and sing along with every musician she passed, beating with them on bongos or slapping at her thighs. She bought tickets to independent movies playing at theatres no bigger than her flat, only to give them away to strangers on the street right before showtime just so she could stand under the marquee and its hundred-year-old bulbs and watch the crowds rush in. At night, she would swing through cafes that seemed aglow with dim electric light, sipping cafe au laits and holding existential conversations with complete strangers, only to slip out quietly when they weren't looking and do it all again somewhere new so that when they turned back around they could only wonder if she was there, with her wild hair and crow-black eyes, or if she was just a strange and wonderful dream.
Penelope ♥

Monday, January 11, 2010

Style Sheet - Anarchy in the USA

Believe it or not, my awkward pre-teen years were spotted with 12-inch singles, ripped jeans, and a ritual twelve-am howling of my favorite Clash song. Yes, through those early identity crises that we all go through I was a tried and true punker, shearing apart leopard print skirts and sporting combat boots, a practice which I'm sure confounded my peers who associated punk rock with Hot Topic and Good Charlotte not anarchy and an abundance of plaid. Despite my frilly, silly wardrobe today, I'm still a punker at heart who can slam dance with the best of them, and in celebration of the movement that rocked the UK to the USA and beyond, this week's style sheet is all about the underbelly of rock-'n'-roll itself - punk rock!

Tank Girl
Nothing says anarchy quite like the chain-smoking, butt-kicking, counter culture diva herself - the epitome of rock and roll and the only girl who can handle a gun so large that it occupies three different counties, Miss Tank Girl. The brainchild of Jamie Hewlett (of Gorillaz fame) and Alan Martin, Tank Girl has been breakin' backs and taking names since the 1980's, but her comics are still floating around today in the form of both compilations of the original strip and a completely new mini-series by different artists all sharing a love for the sharp-tongued mistress of punk.
Where to buy: Barnes&

What's a punk rocker without a leather jacket? Without combat boots or ripped tees or a lifetime supply of safety pins? This unique rock'n'roll clothing brand delivers all that and much more to both budding delinquents and seasoned rockers with an abundance of buckles, straps, and, of course, plaid. Perfect for those who dig the classier grunge look of "High Punk", Hellcatpunks will have you slam dancing and rock-n-rolling and giving the whole world the middle finger with a great big dollop of style.
Where to buy:

The Toy Dolls
Think you know what "classic" punk rock is? Think again. These guys have been around since the dawn of the punk movement all the way back in the 70's, and they're still rockin' today! Churning out album upon album of silly but undeniably punky tunes about everything from a brilliant circus elephant to suburbanites who can't stop watching Dynasty, The Toy Dolls make punk seem like, quite literally, child's play! (After all, nothing says punk rock like falsetto tunes and kazoos!)
Where to buy:

Lolita No. 18
Taking the idea of a typical punk band and turning it on its head, this all-girl Japanese ensemble rocks out with the best of them and gives punk a kitschy flair that'll shake and shimmy and sway even the toughest of punks. Covering classics like "Rockaway Beach" and "Dig That Groove Baby" in swingin' sandpaper voices, Lolita No. 18 gives the "girl band" concept a face lift, complete with nose piercing and safety pin lip ring. You'll never think of punk rock the same way again!
Where to buy:


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Currently Digging

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Okay, so I've always been in love with Rocky Horror - ever since I was a wee thirteeny bopper and my mother drove my best friend and I down to Miami to see a showing of it at the unheard of hour of midnight. It was playing at a little rickety theatre that had floors waxy with popcorn butter and seats that could gobble you up, but we were mesmerized by it none the less, with its throng of people in costume loitering outside the doors and sign that proclaimed in huge ink-blot letters "Rocky Horror Tonite". We stood under the marquee and wiggled with joy, running in and out of the crowd of Brad Majors' and Frank N. Furters, and laughed through the entire show, having no idea what a callback or audience participation was but loving them nonetheless. We watched as the local cast strutted in front of the screen, wearing lingerie and silly wigs, and we Time Warped up on stage until we were damp with sweat from all of the silliness and fun. Now, an uncountable amount of years later, I know every callback in the book and have started my very own cast to Time Warp the night away in our underwear, and after our first show just a few weeks ago I don't think I could ever love Rocky Horror any more.

Nights In
Now that an icy 30 degree chill has settled over South Florida, I've spent the last few evenings curled up inside in an attempt to ward off the biting cold. Being homebound has it's perks, though, I like to think, like the kind of serenity that nothing else in the world can match and the privacy to be sleepy and silly all at once. I've fallen in love with sliding around the house in a pair of thigh-high knit socks and curling up on the couch under a layer cake of blankets, reading books about magical houses and storm clouds and Russian cats that walk upright on their hind legs. I love cooking fresh pasta with homegrown rosemary sprinkled on top while playing midnight jazz as loud as it'll go, humming along to Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong in their sweet lullabies. I'm going to miss this blistering cold once it's gone, but I think I can concoct an excuse here and there to spend more swollen, sleepy evenings inside.

Green Tea
Nothing's better for the cold-weather blues than a warm cup of tea, and green tea is the best you can get. At dinner parties and get-togethers, my eighty five year old grandmother always whispers to me that the secret to her longevity and good health lies in bottomless cups of green tea - along with love, laughter, and happiness, and honestly I think that truer words were never spoken. She's in perfect health and could probably run a mile if you dared her, and she loves to say that a cup of green tea a day since the 1970's helped her along. I may not be able to break that kind of a record, but a cup of tea here and there never hurt!

Believe it or not, I'm a frugal fashionista in the most honest sense; almost everything in my closet was purchased for $5 or less, with the exception of a few brand-name beauties that I splurged on. (Betsey Johnson and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright tend to always get me in a headlock!) As such, thrift stores are always my shopping expedition of choice, and I'm a firm believer that you'll never find cooler clothes anywhere else! Lately I've been surfing from one store to another, picking up itty bitty skirts covered in hearts and denim cowgirl dresses that lace up the front, not to mention a few pink numbers and sunglasses shaped like huge, bubblegum hearts. Ooh la la!

Penelope ♥

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Games for Girls on the A-Go-Go

Whether you grew up with Crash Bandicoot, PaRappa the Rapper, or Pong, video games have played a part in most everyone's lives in one way or another. Despite having a reputation for belonging only to loner boys in living rooms and basements, gamer girls have been tapping out codes and saving princesses since the dawn of games themselves.

Here and now in the 21st century, being a girl that digs games is far less of a stigma than it used to be, especially with all of the darling options geared specifically towards swingin' gals. With the advent handheld systems like the Nintendo DS, though, teeny tiny baby girls on the way to school and high-heeled professionals commuting to work alike can partake in something that used to be just for those with enough spare time to plant themselves in front of the television every night. With all of the options out there today, it can be a daunting job to find just the right game to accompany you on the Brooklyn-bound G train or the public bus or the London underground or even just on a car trip across the street, but here's a list of Penelope-approved games for every girl on the go.

Princess Debut
Who hasn't had those sugary summer daydreams of suddenly switching places with a fairy-tale princess? In Princess Debut you find yourself doing just that after coming face to face with your crowned doppelgänger, a girl who looks just like you and just so happens to have your same name despite coming from a different dimension. As you take her place in her parallel world you find yourself encumbered with the challenge of learning how to ballroom dance in time to wow the guests at the royal ball, not to mention the monumental task of finding a date! Part dating sim and part rhythm challenge, Princess Debut is bound to bring out the girly-girl inside of you and will no doubt have you tapping your toes and cha-chaing around the living room in no time at all.

Style Savvy
Put your fashion skills to the test in the ultimate style challenge that'll have you reorganizing your own closet and dressing up your friends before you even know it! Work your way up the fashion ladder, starting from your first day working at a super chic boutique all the way up to managing your own shop, dressing customers, ordering clothes, and customizing your stylist all the while. Filled with styles to suit every taste, from retro go-go girls to baby pink lolitas to classy dames to gothic honeys, Style Savvy has something for every girl, goddess, and mama with a love for dressing up and being fabulous.

Rockin' Pretty
Become part of the ultimate super sweet all-girl band in Rockin' Pretty, an outright adorable slice of heaven to any girl who has dreams of rocking out on stage in a Japanese school uniform. Play as Mai, an energetic teen who can rock with the best of them, as she joins up with a Josie and the Pussycats-esque rock group in hopes of taking home the grand prize at Rockin' Pretty, a nationwide contest for up-and-coming bands. Play at gigs and dress up the band in outfits that range from adorable to out there, all the while working towards your goal to become the best band there ever was.

Rhythm Heaven
I have a personal soft spot for any kind of rhythm games, especially after growing up on ample doses of Dance Dance Revolution, Um Jammer Lammy, and Space Channel 5, but as of late Rhythm Heaven has been my toe-tapping game of choice with its catchy tunes and unique characters. Work your way through different mini-games and try to master them all, saving the world or cheering on your favorite pop star in the process, and with thrilling quests that can be played over and over again you'll never find yourself short of a catchy rhythm at just the right time!

Penelope ♥

How To Make a Comeback

Photo by Claude Estebe

After months upon months away - gone without a word, never mind an explanation - how exactly does a girl go about sliding herself back into the spotlight? Should she rush in, guns blazing, and make fireworks pop in the sky like shattering stars to recognize her reappearance? Or should she simply slip in unnoticed, wistful and nostalgic but ready to start anew nonetheless?

And what about those chronic procrastinators that we all know lurk inside of us? How exactly are we supposed to kick that put-it-off bug and fall back into what we love, whether it be baking or weaving or playing the tambourine? After what seems like a millennia of putting aside those favorite hobbies for the sake of our careers or education or family or reruns of Web Soup, how exactly should we re-approach those darling delights of ours that have been waiting patiently for us in the corner, gathering dust?

All it takes is a whim - a sleepy morning or a snowy night - and from there the rest is history.

Start Slow
There's nothing wrong with jumping right back into things, but it's important to set a pace for yourself so that you don't end up putting down your hobbies again, this time for even longer. Don't set unrealistic goals for yourself - it's important to see yourself in the perspective of the here and now, not the past. Sure, you may have used to play the drums in a ska band every other night, but now you may only have the time to pick them up on Saturday mornings. Don't force yourself to play every other day! Set a goal to get back to that peak you used to have and work gradually towards it.

Set Priorities
Remember that no matter how much you love doing what you do, life comes first. Don't be afraid to temporarily break from your schedule if your car breaks down or your grandpa falls ill. Give yourself some slack, and it'll be less stressful in the long run when accidents or unexpected events do happen. With that being said, it's important to not mistake necessary slack with an excuse for procrastination. Prioritize your life, putting your hobby or task below the most important things to you, and don't break from your schedule unless anything related to those important aspects of life comes up.

Don't Make Excuses
There's no need to answer to why you stopped doing your hobby in the first place - all that matters is that you're back into it now. Remember that you don't have to explain yourself to anyone but yourself because you're the only person who is instrumental in getting things done. Plus, not telling the whole world exactly what happened adds a little bit of mystery which is supremely unconquerable!

Do Something New
Give your old hobby a new twist to liven it up! Try a new sewing technique or learn a new type of dance - the more unique and new you can make your hobby, the more likely you are to stick with it.

Do What Makes You Happy
Because in the end, happiness is all that matters.

I've missed you girls, and I'm thrilled to be back.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Frida Kahlo Photoshoot

Frida Kahlo has been one of my all-time favorite artists since before I can remember. Something about her eye-poppingly vibrant yet deeply emotional pieces captivated my art-loving heart and still hasn't let go to this day. The first time I paid a visit to the MoMA in New York City, I remember literally running through the Chicano and Latin American section, searching wildly for a piece of hers, any piece of hers, to no avail. I dreamt of throwing myself at her stories and tales, her vivid, palpable, heart-thumping emotions meticulously carved out on each and every canvas. I'm sure that if I had found a painting of hers I probably would have been thrown out of the museum promptly for running my fingers over each and every brush stroke, feeling for the thought and emotions behind them.

In their March/April issue, Dujor Magazine featured an absolutely stellar photoshoot inspired by Miss Kahlo herself that I think truly captures both her uniquely Mexican style and the electric color that filled her life, through good times and bad. Kahlo was a testament to the strength of womanhood, exemplifying to us all that even through the hard times, the mistakes, the accidents and the unavoidable flaws, there is beauty everywhere to be had.

Penelope ♥

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Cocoa Guide To Tutus

Photo by Abby Lanes

"I see you like tutus! Any recommendations for really nice ones? I've been on a hunt for vintage-styled ones, but the best I've come across thus far are right here and I figured it couldn't hurt to ask if you, perhaps, had suggestions!"

Only recently have tutus become style essentials for unconventional, eccentric, and all around fabulous girls, but their history stretches all the way back to the dawn of ballet and beyond. In the 14th century their brethren, the petticoat, were worn under huge creampuff dresses to create a more desirable shape, but strangely enough, in modern times the terms "tutu" and "petticoat" have become interchangeable, meaning short, fluffy skirts made of tulle, crinoline, or silk. Nevertheless, these swingin' circles of sugary-sweet fabric have captivated so many and still somehow hold the power to make any girl the center of the room. Looking for your very own tutu or, for you DIY girls, directions on how to make your own? Look no further - here's the Cocoa guide to the sparkling, shimmering, cotton candy joy that is tutus. 

 Making A Tutu
For the No-Sew Girl
As crazy as it sounds, no-sew tutus are incredibly easy to make and require so much less time and effort than full-blown tiered ones do. All you need to make one of these fabulous, fluffy skirts is a few yards of tulle your favorite color (or colors!), a pair of scissors, and a piece of elastic long enough to fit around your waist with room to spare. Simply knot the two ends of the elastic together so that it makes a neat little circle, cut the tulle into strips, and tie them one right next to another on the piece of elastic, as shown here. Easy as that! You can embellish your brand new tutu with just about anything you can think of, if a plain and simple skirt is a little too boring for you - tie pieces of silky ribbon in-between the strips of tulle, hand-stitch a loop-de-loop design around the bottom, or even make flowers out of the remaining scraps of tulle and stitch them into elastic!

For the Sew-Happy Girl
Take it from me, sewing your own tutu is not a good idea unless you're both super experienced with sewing and extremely patient. I took the plunge and made an attempt to sew my very own a few months ago and, while it came out with only a few little flaws, it took about seven hours and bundles upon bundles of tulle. If you have the time and experience, though, the possibilities are endless - you can make tutus from just about anything, from old t-shirts to kids bed sheets to your favorite curtains to vintage kimonos. There's a fabulous tutorial on how to do exactly that over at Instructables, covering all of the basics and displaying some amazing tutus to jump-start your creative juices, as well!

 Finding The Perfect Tutu
Believe it or not, vintage tutus are everywhere - the trick is to know where to look. Antique shops, vintage clothing stores, and even thrift stores usually have these tiny gems hidden in-between 1970's aprons and pencil skirts, sometimes even dangling from the ceiling like gauzy halos of tulle. Not up for a hunt? My all-time favorite tutus come from the online retailer Sock Dreams, featuring everything from victorian-style petticoats to sweetly short crinolines all for a super-reasonable price. In terms of the mainstream, Hot Topic has a genuinely funky selection of tutus that are just short enough for us under-5'5'' girls to pull off without looking weighed down by our huge skirts, but if you have the cash to spend and want to go all out, Lacey's has a gorgeous collection of super-pouffy bubblegum colored tutus perfect for any eccentric fashionista.
Penelope ♥