Thursday, June 26, 2008

What I'm Digging

My my my, what a slacker I've been with my posts this week, huh? If it's any consolation, I do have a semi-decent excuse. I've been very very busy scrubbing down the house and doing all those last-minute chores that people usually put off until special occasions in preparation for my birthday (!!!). Although technically my birthday isn't until Sunday, I've decided to follow my own advice and have a super spectacular tea party for myself a few friends tomorrow, which all of you lovelies are invited to! No, really! If you're in the Palm Beach County area and want to stop in, you're completely welcome to!

Anyway, a few other bloggers have been doing this really positive thing where they compile a list of things, no matter how big or small, that "make them smile" or things that "they love" for the week. Many have challenged others to start making these little drafts of encouragement as well, so I'm extending the love and challenging all you lovely bunnies to do the same! Take stock of all those wondrous little things in your life and share them with the world! So, without further ado, here's my list for the week...

Pugs! - I've always wanted my very own pug dog to give a funny name to and take on scenic strolls, and for some strange reason my pug-enthusiasm has recently kicked into overdrive. I spent a good two hours this week lounging on the couch and watching Youtube videos of pugs falling asleep, pugs bowlingpugs and donuts, and, my personal favorite, pugs with licking problems.

Kids Books - As a smug pre-teen, I would never be caught dead in the "Young Adult" section of the bookstore. I found all of the reading materials on those isles to be empty and childish, even considering their market, filled with playground romance and bland characters. Now, I seem to find myself trolling up and down those exact same isles constantly, picking up tiny brightly-colored novellas and huge hardcover period pieces. I've fallen in love with pastel picture books about tiny girls in gingham dresses, exploring New York City or France or Milan or her own backyard. I feel so connected to the spunky heroines in all these strange modern fairy-tales, and just keep coming back for more.

Leaving Shangri-L.A. - I've had the incredible honor of meeting Miss Rie, a whimsically down-to-earth sweetie, and after thumbing through her spectacular book-review blog I'm thrilled to say that I've become addicted. She seems to have the inside scoop of the book world and continually introduces readers to fun, flirty, and all-around magical books. Plus, she specializes in books to read "After you finish Weetzie Bat," which is definitely a universal search for fans of Francesca Lia Block!

Evos - An all-organic fast food chain, I first heard about Evos from a fellow-vegetarian who had discovered them while vacationing in Tampa, Florida. The shops look incredible, the food sounds delicious, and now that I've planned a trip northward in mid-July, I can't wait to make a pilgrimage to one of their ten different locations and give them a try.

♥ Pink Furniture - After acquiring a pink wicker vanity from a closing Betsey Johnson store, I've fallen in love with having eccentrically painted furniture. It adds so much more character to a space and says so much about you as a person, plus I'm quite thrilled with the pink-on-white contrast that my patio now has.

♥ Costume Wings - I've been puttering around various Renaissance websites and costumes stores looking for the perfect pair of angelic fairy wings (because every girl needs a good pair of wings), and I've found so many lovely pairs! There are glorious butterfly wings with stitches of lace and glitter, angel wings with huge white feathers dusted in babydoll pink, and pocket-sized sparrow wings that look like they could fly away at any moment. The hard part is deciding which ones to buy!

The question is what are you digging this week, bunnies?

Penelope ♥

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Daily Inspiration - June 24th

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, jolting upright in bed as though sparkling water is coursing through my veins, and think, even if only for a moment, that I am someone else.

A tide-pool of memories sways at me, rocking me back into consciousness, and I see myself as an adult. A twentysomething. The same skinny samurai, only taller, more majestic, happy in a way that seems almost impossible.

I see wedding cakes turned cupcakes, a back-alley wedding with buttercream-colored trellises and hundreds of electric icing lights. Women are swaying in vintage ivory gowns, the men decked out in button-up shirts and low-top Converse under their dress pants. Indian samosas and spinach quiches and vegetarian tamale pies and garlic-tomato tarts are piled sky-high, dressed up almost as vibrantly as the guests are, and delicate desserts of all shapes and colors are served on pastel china plates.

I see apartment buildings that hug the ground in a city where everything reaches up to paint the sky. Spaciously small with a red brick stoop, I see a kitchen so enveloped with light that not using it even for one night seems like a terrible crime. Paper lights are strung up making it appear as though every day is as thrilling as Christmas and silkscreens and paintings and sketches and prints from all over the world line the walls. I see walks in the park, street fairs with caramel musicians throwing themselves on the bongos, restaurants that make you smell like vegetable lasagna and lavender even if you're only walking past, and subway lines that speed past leaving trails of shimmering dust.

I see a bakery painted a mosaic of colors, from pink to brown to blue to orange, with glass ice cases filled with brightly colored and sweet smelling treats. I see poetry slams inside, and teenagers with thrift store wedding dresses under houndstooth overcoats, and painters and musicians coming inside just to sit down and work, strumming out the chords to "Dancing in the Moonlight" and painting neon-colored Ganeshes. I see bento boxes on display with honey rice balls and mozzarella macaroni and cheese and eggplant tea sandwiches and sticky udon noodles inside.

I see little girls in chinese dresses and cowboy boots belting out the lyrics to "Lola". They dress themselves in plain black leotards and flowing Indian skirts, plodding around the city jumping in puddles and playing in the park and throwing themselves at museums gift shops and eating strawberry and brie croquettes at Automats. They paint and sing and dance and act all at once, wanting to be astronauts and ballerinas and veterinarians and rock stars. They run around the house in silky shimmering buttercup pajamas while mom and dad make dinner and watch All About Eve, starting heated debates over who's the better person - Margo or Eve?

I stare at my strawberry-painted feet poking out from under the covers and slowly slip back into my own sleepy body, tossing around the dreams of wedding cakes and lazy days. Rolling back down onto white jersey sheets, I think about these things and ask, "Where have I been? Am I here, in the bed, or am I someone else when I sleep? Are these really memories of yesterday," I ask, "Or are they dreams of days to come?"

Penelope ♥

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Alice in Wonderland Style

After discovering that lovely Alice in Wonderland photoshoot yesterday, I got to thinking about what big a part of my childhood the Alice in Wonderland books were. Alice was smart, carefree, and she just so happened to tumble into this curious dreamworld where anything was possible. She lived every little girl’s dream and pulled in anyone who happened to crack open the book.

Now that Western society is going through an Alice in Wonderland revival, I think it’s even more important for Alice-inspired style to retain certain aspects of those awe-inspiring books. Thus, I give you the Cocoa guide to Alice in Wonderland style!


The Look
Alice is all about the babydoll look, wearing pastel blues and buttercreams. Very much like Japanese Sweet Lolita fashion, her clothes should be childlike with lots of lace and ribbons, but try not to overdo it. Everything about her should be smooth and simple - she’s no Marie Antoinette! For a little extra charm, stay true to her 19th century roots and accessorize with anything floral. Flowery cameos, pretty flower rings – whatever you can think of!

In terms of makeup, it’s essential to remember that Alice is still a little girl. Her look is very natural, with little to nothing more than a rosy blush and lip-gloss. Start with a smooth, pale foundation and spread evenly over the entire face. Brush the cheeks with a light yet vivid pink, something like MAC Cosmetics’ Coygirl Powder Blush. For the lips, try an equally light pink stain for a gentle look – Benefit’s PosieTint looks absolutely stunning and is described as a “petal-pink stain that plants a kiss of see-through tint on cheeks & lips”. That alone would make me try it!

How to embrace your inner-Alice

+ Have afternoon tea every day for a week. Pick an interesting spot to lounge at whilst enjoying it.
+ Embrace knee-high socks and mary janes. Extra points if you can find white knee-highs with pretty blue ribbons.
+ Take a class on etiquette - make any excuse to practice what you’ve learned. Over dinner, in meetings, even over traffic tickets!

The White Rabbit

The Look
While the Lewis Carroll version of the White Rabbit was a drab, punctual character, I always pictured his female anima to be a swinging, flirty go-go girl on white and pink roller-skates. Try muted dresses in white or buttercream to balance out eccentric, funky jackets. For an everyday look, a classy pocket watch necklace like the one seen above is appropriate, but for a more costumed look, oversized Flavor Flav clocks can be substituted.

For makeup, start out with a matte foundation in your natural skin tone and seal it with a matching powder. Brush your cheeks and neck with a sparkling iridescent powder like Lush’s Candy Fluff for a fun, breathless look and on the eyes, use a light and shimmery pink champagne color such as Stila’s Bouquet. Finish off the look by using a cotton candy pink lipstick and maybe even going over it with a clear, glassy gloss. I’m in love with Benefit’s Candy Store Silky Finish Lipstick – it’s a great color, long lasting, and super shimmery!

How to embrace your inner-Rabbit

+ Run, bike, or roller-skate regularly to quench your need for speed.
+ Read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time from cover to cover.
+ Invest in a good pair of four-wheeled roller skates. Spend a weekend at a local roller-rink, honing in on your skills.
+ Blow kisses to thrilling-looking boys – even those you don’t know!

The Red Queen

The Look
The Red Queen can easily be described as a saucy powerhouse; she's a girl with an assertive attitude and lots of flair to boot. She’s not mean-spirited per say, but she’ll definitely put up a fight if she doesn’t get her way. All of this is reflected through lots of vibrant reds and spicy, sometimes outrageous outfits. If you’re not feeling all of the red, try to tone it down with a bit of gold – sometimes something as simple as a set of gold bangles can really sweeten up a look. The most important thing is to include some accessory that represents her cardshark royalty, and it can be anything from earrings (as pictured above) to a printed dress. Whatever you can find!

In terms of makeup, go for a light brown eye shadow and black eye pencil to create smoky, seductive eyes. And, of course, lips should be a vivid cherry red. Try Benefit’s Frenched for the perfect starlet shade – it’s more than just a cute name!

How to embrace your inner-Red Queen

+ Go to rock shows in your best red dress and sturdiest boots. Knock the socks off anyone who crosses your path.
+ Shower your home with red roses and look to them to brighten your day.
+ Drink fruity cocktails (or mocktails if you’re underage) that are crimson in color. For starters, try Shirley Temples, Cosmopolitans, and Watermelon martinis.

The Mad Hatter

The Look
A female version of the Mad Hatter can be interpreted in so many different ways, but I’ve always seen her as a chilling eccentric in pinks and golds. With an obliviously calm attitude, much like Harry Potter’s Luna Lovegood, the Hatter remains the most true to her original character’s mode of dress, sticking firmly to anything frilly & dolly and, of course, 19th century top-hats. When dressing as her, lace and other vintage-associated fabrics are musts, but throw in modern accessories like heart-shaped sunglasses and bubblegum to emphasize her eccentricity.

For makeup, the Hatter is surprisingly natural with a pale foundation smoothed across the entire face. Eyes and cheeks are left as-is while a tasty pink gloss is applied to the lips. Smacker’s Lip Frosting in Strawberry is not only the perfect refection of the hatter, but also adds a smooth, even shimmer that completes the look. Iridescent powder can dusted around the face and neck for extra sparkle and a sweet-smelling kick.

How to embrace your inner-Hatter
+ Celebrate your un-birthday at least once a month. Make it a spectacular complete with large, formal table settings.
+ Write poems and riddles that have no answers. Challenge others to come up with the solution.
+ Bake tiny tea cakes and petite fours in vast amounts and decorate them with your initials.


Penelope ♥

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Alice in Wonderland Photoshoot

Despite the fact that it's  from 2003, I just recently stumbled upon this absolutely gorgeous photoshoot that Annie Leibovitz did for Vogue.  I love how modest and childish it is - instead of blatantly stumbling into a world of high-fashion and even higher price-tags, Alice is just a pretty girl in babydoll dresses, making her way through the whimsically curious Wonderland.

(I'm in love with this dress. If I had something as gorgeous as this, I'd never take it off. Really. You'd see me brushing my teeth in it and wearing it to bed.)

Penelope ♥

Friday, June 20, 2008

Daily Inspiration - June 20th

When you're young, I think every little girl has high-flying dreams of being a princess. Some girls want to be asian empresses of ginger and jasmine, having love affairs with chamomile tea and dancing precariously on tip-toes. Others want to be French royalty in baby blue, taking honey baths in the high courts of Versailles. Still yet are those who dream of being Indian princesses, belly-dancing under the full moon while visions of Ganesh and Krishna turn through their heads, rustling like the pages of the Bhagavad Gita. Whoever it is we see ourselves as when we close our eyes, in one way or another we all have our flings with royalty.

As we grow up into modern-day queens of the concrete jungle, those royal dreams seem to subside. We put away our pink lip gloss and stop practicing the waltz in our backyards - we fold up that spectacular champagne dress that we promised we would wear to all those royal balls and throw away our favorite plastic pearls. We trade in bunches of pink tulle and translucent sequins for pencil-skirts and oxford heels. We turn our backs to that shimmering fairy-tale world and we enter the strange and unknown - reality.

Maybe it's not that we shun our childhood, our silliness and our dreams, maybe it's just that the little girls inside of us can't take it - maybe they see the world that we're entering, seemingly devoid of everything sugary-sweet, and maybe they're the ones who curl up and wait patiently for the return of our dreamworld. Maybe even they can't spot the everyday magic our world possesses.

The trick of it all is that once we leave our fantasies, we do become those global princesses. Suddenly we're out on our own, making choices, facing each day; we become these strong, independent women in designer dresses and silken pearls. We realize that our childhood alter-egos were never just about bubble baths and tulle, but rather graceful warriors of their respective lands who just so happened to dabble in royalty. It occurs to us that our teeny-bopper dreamers were always there inside while we faced reality, pulling in everything beautiful like planets in orbit, and that they were the ones who kept that childish charm in our lives.

Standing on the street, or in coffee shops, or over dinner, we realize what life-long dream we have fulfilled. We stand over mirrors and see Japanese geishas. Or Rococo darlings. Or caramel yoginis.

Our princesses have never left. They have only grown.

Penelope ♥

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Daily Outfit - June 19th

I've seen a lot of different communities dedicated to this and countless bloggers trying it, so I figured I'd catch a ride on the bandwagon and try my hand at occasionally posting a daily outfit. The picture quality is pretty horrid, but my poor little Macbook can only do so much!

+ Grey Flashdance sweater from the Gap
+ The perfect pair of jeans, found for ten dollars at the Gap
+ Red criss-cross applesauce sandals from Traffic
+ Black beret from Goodwill

What are you wearing today, bunnies?

Penelope ♥

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How To Pack A Bento Box

I just got a wonderful e-mail from a lovely bunny who, like myself, has a soft-spot in her heart for Japanese bento lunches. She asks...

I impulsively bought a really cute bento box off Ebay a few days ago and then realized that I had no idea how to pack one! I saw on your Flickr that you’ve packed some really adorable bentos before…can you help a novice out?

Bento boxes are the ultimate conversation starter during your lunch break. They’re a rarity in Western countries, which makes them all the more interesting for creative souls who just so happen to be hungry for a yummy lunch. There are so many different things you can pack and so many different ways to pack them that the specifics really come down to your culinary tastes, but packing a great lunch is almost as easy as eating one!

Pick a Theme
It’s not absolutely necessary to figure out a theme for your box, but I find that it usually makes the process of selecting specific foods & cookie cutters all the easier. Your theme can be anything - circuses, summer days, the night sky - whatever you can think of! Get as creative as you possibly can!

Pick Your Food
Once you’ve figured out what theme you want to use, try to match all the flavors and shapes in your box to it. What kind of tea can you imagine sipping while strolling around the French countryside? What treat would you want to enjoy after spending a topsy-turvy day spinning round and round on a carousel?

If you’re not going the themed route and just want something snazzy for lunch, then simply pick your favorite food or raid your fridge for leftovers. Believe it or not, you can put pretty much anything into a bento box. (It is, after all, your lunch!) The best place to start is with what you already have. Sushi rice and hard-boiled eggs are usually staples, but try making up some macaroni and cheese or a small garden salad to nestle inside your new bento. Dig through your recipe box or cooking websites for some bright ideas if you’re still stuck – just make sure that you actually like what you plan on making!

Arrange Your Proportions
The whole idea of packing a bento is to keep your lunch light and healthy. Read: everything is in miniature. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of sandwiches and divide pasta up into baking cups – make sure that everything is small enough to fit in the box but not small enough to leave huge gaps.

When preparing your meal, you may think that such tiny portions will leave your stomach growling, but the truth of the matter is that bento boxes are actually quite filling. They leave you comfortably full but not over-stuffed and sluggish like most other “normal-sized” meals do. If you do have a bigger appetite than a regular bento can satisfy, though, “adult” bento boxes are available with way more room for more food (only without all the cute characters and prints).

The general rule of thumb is that a bento should contain two parts protein, two parts grain, and one part sweets (which can be anything from mini-cupcakes to fruit), but this is really just a rough outline and is in no way carved in stone. Simply try not to let one part of your meal overwhelm the others – it’s all about balance.

Get Creative!
Now it’s time for the fun part - decorate your food in any way that you can think of! Cut out Nori eyes and smiley-faces for your hard-boiled egg, make your sandwich on fairy bread instead of regular toast, place fresh cherries and fondant flowers in the gaps between your food. Do everything you can to make your bento box all about you and let your creativity run wild!

Once you’re done, pack it up, throw it in the fridge, and save it for work/school – or maybe you’re so enthralled by your magnificent handiwork that you just want to enjoy it right now?

I know it may sound like a daunting task to start packing such intricate lunches, especially with the availability of bento supplies being what it is. If you don’t live in a big city with its own Asian district, finding all of the neat tools that most bento websites talk about can be a run-around. Sure, eBay and various Livejournal communities sell all the necessary accouterments, but usually with a huge markup. If you don’t live somewhere where bento boxes are readily available, the truth of the matter is that you’ll have to pay the price.

But sometimes improvising can give you the best results if you find yourself in this situation - decorate an old Tupperware container and use it as a bento box. Look for kids lunch box sets and utensils at your local surplus store. Make your own bento picks out of toothpicks and printed images. Creativity is the key when it comes to packing a fabulous lunch, so let your imagination run wild! I promise that before the day is out you’ll have great food, great fun, and an even better conversation starter for over the lunch table.

Penelope ♥

A Little Something Extra
The best way to learn is by example, and JustBento offers great recipes and pictures for those looking for a little inspiration.

For fellow Livejournal fanatics, Bento Lunch is the perfect community to congregate and share bentos, ask questions, or even just lurk and admire the stunning pictures!

Monday, June 16, 2008


Photo by Yen

Hello, lovelies! I hope everyone is having an absolutely smashing day so far. I hate to get semi-serious on everyone, but I have a bit of an announcement.
When I started this blog, I wasn't exactly sure what direction I wanted it to go in - all I knew is that I wanted to inspire, empower, and meet some fabulous folk along the way. I know Cocoa is still a pink little baby in the Grand Canyon that is the blogosphere, but I just want to articulate how much all of your comments and bits of encouragement mean to me. Without all of you darling bunnies, Cocoa is nothing!

With that said, I've decided that I want Cocoa to be reader-driven as possible - a place where spunky souls can gather, gab, recommend music & movies, ask questions, and even voice what they don't like loud and clear! This is where you guys come in. 
I want everyone who reads regularly to be a part of what we have here, so send me some e-mails or drop off a comment with your suggestions! Ask for advice, tell me what you'd most like to read about next, or even just pop in to offer a quick hello - whatever you can think of! Cocoa is all about you, lovelies, and I want to hear what you have to say.

You can always send me an e-mail at (which is also available on the front page) and, of course, comment anywhere on Cocoa. So get out those megaphones, bunnies, and turn the volume all the way up because I'm listening!

Penelope ♥

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dressing Like Your Heroes

Photo by Super Emily

Inspiration always has to come from somewhere and the matter of style is no exception. When it comes to fashion, inspiration can come from the strangest of places - coffee shops with funny names or tiny boutiques, old antiques that look nothing like their modern adaptations, fizzy ice-cream floats that change colors before your eyes.

But usually that warm fuzzy that is a sense of style comes waltzing over to us from other people. It’s a gift that’s passed on, even from people we’ve never spoken to, moving quietly from person to person like a Grecian muse in ballet flats. These people that pass on their gift, they can be anyone in the world that happen into our day-to-day lives, even those characters that only exist on paper and on screen. Our TV-heroes can change the way we look at clothes, the way we look at ourselves, and make everything in our lives just a little bit brighter.

Behold! Some of my favorite inspirational fashionistas, both real and imaginary.

Wednesday Addams

When the Addams Family movies came out, I was so utterly thrilled! The television show had been my absolute favorite all throughout childhood (even though it was way before my time), and Wednesday Addams was by far the coolest little spunkster on the show. On television she was far more cutesy and childish, but I loved her more gloomy and all-too mature appeal in the movies. I think a grown-up Wednesday would be just as sour but with way more style, making oxfords and ribbons an absolute necessity! But just because she’s older doesn’t make her any less of a little girl – if you plan on dressing like Wednesday, don’t forget the bows!

Carrie Bradshaw

Like many other tomboys who thought they were way too cool for such a girlie show, I refused watch Sex and the City when it first came out. Later, after watching my first episode on syndicated television and instantly falling in love, I slapped myself in the face for this lapse in judgment. Imagine my surprise when I found out the show was incredibly witty, fun, and most importantly, far from average! I started watching religiously, and although I still haven’t seen every episode (All six seasons are on my birthday list! Cross your fingers!) I find it just as relatable and thrilling as the rest of the women who watch it.

Everyone has their favorite character on the show, that lovely lady who they try their best to emulate in both fashion and chatter, and mine just so happens to be the incredibly Miss Bradshaw.

Carrie is all about having fun and adding that extra dash of flavor to your wardrobe. Her motto is to dress up in the latest couture while still staying true to yourself and your tastes, no matter how crazy they may be, which is what makes her so likeable. While the other characters struggle with either too much fashion or too little, Carrie always manages to look fabulous for the occasion. I remember reading somewhere that the stylists for the show said Carrie’s look was all about mixing high fashion and thrift store finds, making Carrie even more eclectic and daring. Dressing like her is only a matter of being bright, being outgoing, and never being afraid to wear heels!

Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson, famous director and notorious auteur, just so happens to be the only real person on this list and at the same time the biggest character. When I first saw his movies, I felt like I was riding a carousel in some alternate universe where the people are a strange and eclectic bunch with hand-painted family portraits and lewd conversation over the dinner table. I had to know - what kind of an eccentric could live in a world like this and, more importantly, why aren’t more people like this!

Enter, Wes Anderson – a thrilling sir who’s all about the unusual. Decked out in an all-vintage wardrobe, he’s is a scotch-drinking kind of man who brings back the old by presenting it in a scathingly dry modern light. There’s no term coined for Anderson’s style and when searching for the words, one finds it practically impossible to describe him in both film and fashion. All in all, the best way to put it is that Anderson has a taste for the flawed. He takes the trashy, the old, the passé, and the trick of it all is that he makes those things American culture gave up on so long ago interesting again. When dressing like Anderson, everything has to be considered, no matter how outdated it may seem, because just like with his characters, he believes that everything deserves a second chance.

Penelope Wilhern

I know, I know – irony abound! But the recently-released Penelope really is one of my favorite movies! From the moment I first saw Miss Penelope, with her charmingly kitschy wardrobe and absolutely gorgeous playground-like bedroom (she has a swing in her room! How swanky is that!) I have to say I fell in love. The movie itself is like a fairy-tale, set in a hybrid of all the greatest cities where everyone knows each other and modern day magic is not amiss, and even the worst of characters are still semi-lovable.

Penelope herself is a style-icon, though, for everything about her dress is very conservative and old-fashioned but with a funky, fairy-tale edge. Color is an absolute basic, with Anthropologie-esque dresses and lots of patterns, but she stays on the mild side with oxford pumps and pattered tights. She’s half adult and half child which I admire in unspeakable amounts, a girl who wants nothing more than to explore the world and be herself, maybe finding love and friendship along the way. But she’s not afraid to be a little girl, even when she’s not anymore, and won’t let anything get in the way of her being herself.

So the question, my lovelies, is who inspires you? (And more importantly, what do they wear!)

Penelope ♥

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sweet & Sour Girls

Like the famous condiment of Chinese take-out fame, girls can be both sweet and sour. There are babydoll girls with bright pink bedrooms and Disney-printed sheets, girls with closets full of the most sparkling champagne dresses and shoes to match, timid girls with magazine cut-outs of supermodels and life-sized Barbies glued to the walls, and girls who spend Saturday mornings on their backs in the front yard, dreaming about boys with surfer bodies and clashing guitars. Then there are girls who slosh around at ska shows like fizzy soda inside a bottle and girls who laugh too loud at dirty jokes and girls who dye their hair the sleekest shade of royal blue and girls who think that the only boys for them are the boys with fast cars and even faster hearts.

There are the sweet girls with their bubble gum charms – and there are the sour girls with their boisterous pop. But what if being true to yourself means being both sweet and sour? What if you live out life like a sweetheart while deep down inside you're screaming to be a bit more sour? The truth of the matter is that life is never cut and dry - we all have a little sweetness and a little spunk to us and that's what makes us wonderful, but if you're a smarmy doll who wants to be a little less tart (or vice versa), here are some ways to spice things up.

Sweet Girls

Tips for making your life a little sweeter
+ Put aside some space outside and start a personal pan-sized garden. If you live in an apartment or somewhere equally sparse, fill empty yogurt cartons with potting soil and plant herbs or tiny flowers.
+ Cut-out pictures from your favorite fashion magazine and keep them in a journal. Look to it for inspiration whenever you need it.
+ Bake cupcakes to celebrate the little things.
+ Rent all six seasons of Sex and the City and watch them in a week-long marathon. Practice the mannerisms of your favorite character.
+ Pick up sewing. If you already know how to sew, challenge your skills and design a stunning evening dress.
+ Take out an old book of fairy-tales from your local library - read it from cover to cover.
+ Practice kissing until you can officially be considered a professional. Try different flavored lip glosses & balms and pucker up with your sweetie!

Sour Girls

Tips for making your life a little more sour
+ Learn how to swing-dance - or just take to dancing whenever music is playing!
+ Learn to play an instrument you don't already know.
+ Make masquerade masks and wear them to parties or special events. Be sure to add extra feathers and tulle.
+ Go shopping at local vintage clothing stores. Buy the first dress that catches your eye, no matter the price.
+ Make mixtapes and leave them in public places for people to find.
+ Hone in on your poetry skills by keeping a tiny notebook in your purse. Write tidbits of poetry throughout the day as inspiration strikes and present your work at local slams.
+ Participate in a local parade - dress up in your funkiest outfit and strut around like the prom queen.

Stay candy-coated, lovelies!

Penelope ♥ 

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Daily Inspiration - June 12th

I've always been lovestruck with carnivals, especially old spectacles where the cotton candy booths are tiny wagons on wheels and pictures of beautiful flapper circus girls from carnivals past are pasted on the sides of every booth, tent and wall. Everything about carnivals makes me sigh - the midnight neon lights, the sticky sweet food, the ten-story ferris wheel with every gondola looking more like a big pink tea-cup than an actual seat. Something about the idea of staying up all night to just bathe in electric light and ride clattering rides is so appealing to me - like a little girl in the backseat, I'm a moth to the flame of those exploding lights calling my name from the side of the road. It's that childhood instinct to press your nose against the glass and scream "Pull over! There's a carnival!" Although the grown-up in me says to keep driving, to ignore the candy apples and dart-board games, that little girl in the backseat never quite wants to give up being young.

I always pull over.

Penelope ♥

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How To Throw A Smashing Tea Party

As my honorary first post here, I’ve decided to skip those oh-so-sweet formalities and jump right into things - to take life by the pearls, if you will! I’ve never been one for drawn-out introductions, so I figured the best way for me to get to know everyone (and for everyone to get to know me) is by, quite simply, throwing a party.

There’s no better way to get to know people than through parties, and there’s no better way to get to know interesting people than through tea parties. Tea parties have their roots in Victorian England where they acted as aristocratic gathering grounds for high-society women (and sometimes their men.) American culture inherited the practice during the Gilded age of the USA, and a variation on those classically classy parties still thrives today in certain debutant circles. Modern tea parties have lost their tight-lipped formality and instead gained a zany, electric charm filled with sugar sweet music and warm baked treats.

Ironically, tea parties have never been about the tea, but instead about the people. While most parties dabble in drinks and dancing, tea folk find themselves mingling and joking, telling fairy-tales and horror-stories over the table to total strangers. Tea parties are about the whimsical, the fantastic, the childish and the silly. They’re a celebration of everyday magic and the people who throw themselves wildly at it. To quote Henry Fielding, “love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea.” Free conversation has always been encouraged between guests, even during Victorian tea time, and the charming and sometimes strange atmosphere is the perfect place to let loose and be yourself.

What You’ll Need
+ Sugar cubes
+ Milk
+ Honey
+ Lemon slices, or maybe lime slices as well if you’re extra daring.
+ Various teas – Try to mix it up. Don’t just go to the supermarket and pick up a box of Lipton - search out some really interesting teas. Teavana’s Almond Biscotti and Yogi Tea’s Mexican Sweet Chili are some of my personal favorites, but experiment to find something that you think your guests will enjoy. Variety is key!

If your party is going to take place during the summer, it’s always a wonderful idea to have lots of iced tea on hand as well. For those such as myself who have to strut through intolerably blistering summers year after year, hot tea gets to be overwhelming if there’s not something cool to wash it down with. If plain old iced tea isn’t your thing, try Arnold Palmers or iced green tea with sugar and some fresh mint. Anything cool and zesty will do the trick!

Pick a Menu
It’s best to serve bite-sized, manageable food. The whole idea of the tea party is that it isn’t a meal but rather a social afternoon snack, so try to find light yet flavorful hors d'oeuvres. Classic tea parties served tea sandwiches of cucumber and tomato, but personally I have more of a sweet tooth. Try peanut butter, banana, and honey or Nutella sandwiches along with pink iced sugar cookies and cherry-topped cupcakes. As a rule of thumb, try to avoid meat – it’s very filling and some of your guests (such as myself) might have dietary restrictions. Sweets are always the best way to go – they’re fun with so much room for creativity, and they can easily be made vegan and, surprisingly, quite healthy!

Extra-Special Tricks
+ Set out bouquets of bright and colorful flowers.
+ Ask everyone to come in costume. Outfits don’t have to be elaborate or super-expensive, just throw on those old prom dresses and worn-in combat boots!
+ Take Polaroid snapshots of your guests throughout the afternoon.
+ Make a hand-made guestbook for everyone to sign. Press fresh flowers and put them in-between the pages.
+ Ask guests to bring their own teacup for a little more variety.
+ Hang paper lanterns and/or clear Christmas lights around. That way if the party extends into the night, you’ve got both extra light and a stunningly magical setting.
+ Set up a living room set outdoors, complete with rug and floor lamps. Pretend like the party is actually taking place indoors.
+ Clear out a space somewhere shaded and have a low-to-the-ground table with lots of pillows and cushions for seating.
+ Have an absurdly ambient playlist. (The Tiger Lilies and Nouvelle Vague are some of my personal favorites.)
+ Ask guests to bring any instruments they play – live music is always extra thrilling.
+ Serve jam and other condiments in vintage mason jars.

Now go out there, with tea-cup in hand, and shake up the world! Expand your horizons, meet strange and interesting folk and, of course, sweeten life.

Penelope ♥