Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Cocoa Guide to Rococo Style

Photo by Nett

Rococo is an art term that designates a specific period of French culture, namely during most of the 18th century. Marie Antoinette? She's the Rococo goddess herself - a queen of everything light, sweet, and lovely. Rococo design treats every room, dress, and person as an individual work of art, decorating them accordingly. By using gentle curves and pastel colors contrasted against vivid golds, a sweetly beautiful yet undoubtedly aristocratic effect is created.

Rococo style, both architecturally and artistically, is generally looked down upon by the art world and thought to be merely "frivilous and extravagant," but when looked at closely it's clear that there's incredible history behind everything from this period. The style itself says worlds about French culture at that point in time and in modern day society it reflects a carefree and whimsical attitude. If you daydream of masquerade balls and flower petal baths and shimmering pink hair ribbons and sugar-iced cupcakes, chances are you'd firmly disagree with those art historians.

Authentic Rococo style is vividly reflected through most Japanese "Lolita" brands such as Baby, the Stars Shine Bright (which I would kill to own anything from!) and Metamorphose, but for Western city-dwellers it's not impossible to transform the lavish and extravagant into something a little more everyday. 

Embrace Florals...
Flowery prints and nature-themed fabrics were commonplace in the 18th century and although they may not be quite as popular today, that doesn't mean they're impossible to find. Even if not conventionally vintage-looking, most anything with a simple floral print can be construed as Rococo when paired with the right accessories. Even something as silly as floral printed combat boots can give you that babydoll edge if worn with something sweet and bubbly.

...And Pastels
Color is your friend! The only time you would see black or white in Versailles was during either a marriage or a funeral. The message behind Rococo itself is to never take life too seriously and embrace the sweetness around you, and that means filling your life with loads of color!

Work Off of a Theme
Dress yourself up like a butterfly garden or a hand-spun web of cotton candy, the summer sky or a neatly wrapped birthday present. Buy butterfly clips for your hair or powder your face and dab on baby pink blush. Pick a new theme everyday and stick to it! Your theme doesn't have to be perfectly apparent to others but do try to go the extra mile, even if it means just doing something as simple as buying lipstick in a shade that you wouldn't normally wear or using ribbon instead of a belt. You are a work of art! The french treated everything as an individual masterpiece, whether it be a room or a hair-do. It's a vital part of this lifestyle to do the same to your daily wardrobe!

Don't Be Afraid to Clash
Contrast and juxtaposition in color is what makes everything Rococo incredibly alluring. Think Betsey Johnson! That kind of incredible dash of color and life can bring any outfit out of mediocrity and into the realms of history. 

Never Doubt the Power of Accessories
Since most Rococo dresses were incredibly complex, adapting the same sort of style to a more everyday outfit involves a great deal of accessorizing. Gold is the metal of choice for jewelry, being an old-school sign of both privilege and femininity (not to mention a key aspect of Rococo decorating), but just about anything from ribbons to pearls can be adapted accordingly.

Penelope ♥

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Truth About Being Wild

There are two types of girls in this world: those who are the perfect, timid matriarchs born only for marriage - the bread-and-butter kind of girls who carry family photos of distant cousins in their wallet and will do everything in their power to avoid an argument - the girls who sit crisscross applesauce on their twin-sized bed and daydream about wedding dresses and first kisses and plastic pink dollhouse homes. There are these small-town girls with their quiet smiles and television dreams, and then there are those who are wild.

While the small-town girls are daydreaming about Tupperware parties and joining the PTA, these concrete goddesses are taking off their heels and jumping carelessly into public fountains. They are dancing wildly to live music, whether it be pulsing trance or cafe jazz, and wearing hand-strung popcorn necklaces as crowns. These swinging cafe-au-lait kind of girls belt out karaoke standards without missing a beat and scribble little crumbs of encouragement on bathroom walls - they slip in and our of our world, cart-wheeling and backflipping through life, and the tragedy is that sometimes we only notice their presence when they're gone. Sometimes they fall into our laps as best friends and curious strangers. Sometimes we are those wild girls.

We are the ones who will always sing, even when nobody's listening. We are the ones who will never hesitate to ride loop-de-loop roller coasters, no matter how daunting they may seem. We are the ones who will never be afraid to speak our minds, and we will do whatever it takes to change the world. Others may never understand us - the simple girls will stare scornfully, scratching away our encouraging graffiti with a manicured nail, but these shortcomings never seems to faze us - until it comes to the matter of love. When beautiful boys are involved, boys who thrill us and chill us and yet could never begin to comprehend us, the whole world begins to slow.

These boys with their expensive watches and stunning punctuality, they are afraid. They see who we are and what we have, all of our madness wrapped up neatly in lace and tulle, and they realize that they could never tame us. They know that we, with our ever-changing nail polish, would never rear their perfect Oxford child - that we, with our dreams of baking cupcakes for notorious authors, could never settle to be part of a conventional family. In us they see instability and calamity - they fear the fact that we will never submit to their American dream. And so they run. Even those with love in their hearts still run, tumbling towards unwed sweethearts in Lily Pulitzer sweaters. And these silly boys settle down with sleepy girls that we will never understand. And we are left standing barefoot in pubic fountains. Or star-struck on that karaoke stage. Or staring blankly at a bathroom stall with pen in hand. We realize that love has eluded us, tricked us, shattered us with its fickle sense of humor, but maybe we are the ones who have been doing the eluding. Are we wrong in our slam-dancing ways? Have we become too much to handle? Somewhere along the highway of life, have we made a wrong turn and somehow forgotten to change lanes and become simple?

When did love begin to dictate who we are and not the other way around? No matter how lovely or sweet those dashing boys are, sometimes we just have to accept that we are too wild for them - too complicated and untamed. At the end of the day we have to ask ourselves, is it better to be loved or free?

We may be unconventional darlings, or gothic prom queens, or mysterious concrete conquistadors, but we know what we have, and we will always embrace it, no matter the heartache it may bring us. Because we are wild. We are free. And we are not afraid.

Penelope ♥

Monday, July 21, 2008

How To Be Mysterious

There are always those people in life who continually keep us guessing. We could never understand them fully even if we wanted to - they're the dramatic foils in the passion play that is our life, slow-dancing in the background and speaking only when spoken to. These little fragments of noir royalty, with their sultry eyes and crooked smiles, these are the people who are the real lead characters. They're the ones who we would die to know completely, from cover to cover like a paperback novella, but we know that could never be possible with someone as curiously strange as they are. Just when we think we've got them completely figured out, they turn around with a different mask on and fool us yet again.

We all have little pieces of these people inside of us, whether we can shatter conversation with a simple smile or change who we are whenever we change our hair, these swingin' flappers and private detectives of lore are thriving somewhere in us. And it's never impossible to let them out.

When being charming doesn't quite do it for you, the great thing about life is that you can always turn to being mysterious.

Figure Out Who You Are

It's incredibly important to know who you are as a person before taking up the task of becoming more mysterious. Write down some of your traits and habits and highlight the aspects of your personality that you would feel comfortable revealing to others. Only your closest friends should know every trait on that list!

Always Keep Eye Contact

Although some may find it slightly intimidating, keeping solid eye contact is a sign of confidence. It gives you an air of mystery since most people, usually unconsciously, will break eye contact to fiddle with little things are glance around the room. Eye contact even while you're not speaking makes you appear attentive yet enchanting - top it off with a hazy smile to seal the deal.

Play Hard to Get
Act like everything deserves a little deliberation. Even if you're asked to do something that you'd love to jump up and down and scream yes at, hold yourself back, think about it for a few seconds, then answer with a yes and a smile. If the topic is important to you then don't beat around the bush - never be afraid to say yes or no - just eliminate the firmness in your voice. Keep everything sweet and simple leaving others confused as to your true intentions.

Sharpen up your Wit
Always stay on your toes and never be afraid to flash your dazzling wit. If you don't feel comfortable answering a question, throw out a sneaky smile and ask your company a question of your own or divert their attention to some other menial fact. The monologue?

Them: So, what's your name anyway?
You: Well, I do suppose it depends on who you ask. You know how people are these days, going by so many titles. There are names and nicknames and professional titles and pen names. My own grandfather has four different names! And I don't mean semantics like "grandpa" or "grandad" - real, legalized names!

Carry Curious Items
Wearing monogramed jewelry or other items of clothing that clearly have symbolic influence will definitely keep others guessing. Never go outright and tell people what these little trinkets mean - the dialogue below will do!

Them: What does the "M.P." on your necklace stand for?
You: If I told you right away then we'd have nothing to talk about!

Never be Afraid to be Unpredictable
Being mysterious in no way means being boring. Mysterious folk always seem to be doing something new and different which is half the reason why most people can never quite pin down their interests. If someone asks you to dance, don't say you're not a very good dancer, just dance! Play up your hidden talents spontaneously, like bringing a ukulele to work and serenading strangers in the hall.

Never Ever Act Self-Absorbed!
Mystery is not about being snooty - it's simply a way of presenting yourself. Remember people's birthdays, even those you hardly know. Bring them tiny gifts that show you remember and leave them wondering how you knew their birthday in the first place. Selflessness is never out of place.

Speak Profoundly
Even during fluid conversation, never prattle on saying things just to pass the time. Cut down on the filler in your dialogue - eliminate saying "like" and "um" altogether. If it takes you a few extra seconds to get your thoughts together, so be it. Never let yourself be pressured into mindless conversation. When you do speak, be sure to say only what you mean.

Penelope ♥

Weekly Wishes

Photo by TIO

I wish... an old-fashioned carnival would come to town. The kind where you can hold hands in velvet-lined swans in the Tunnel of Love and ride a huge, glistening ferris wheel all the way up to the heavens. I want to be able to eat cotton candy from tiny red carts, the sides of which are plastered with faded posters advertising the cart's circus days and watch tiny girls ride on the backs of ferocious old tigers while singing out fifties doo-wop songs. If nothing else, I wish that I'd be able to run a traveling carnival like that one day and bring a little magic back into the world.

I wish... I could sing. I've always wanted to be in a band, but my obvious lack of musical talent has held me back indefinitely.

I wish... others could see the world with the same kind of delight and excitement as a child does. Sometimes I think we're the silly ones, with our standard educations and restless schedules, and maybe children are the only ones who have the world right. Maybe everything can be simplified into twos and threes, light and dark, sweet and sour. Maybe all we need someone to take us by the hand and lead us blindly into this whimsical perspective.

I wish... every restaurant served at least one vegetarian thing besides a side salad.

I wish... for world peace and Manolo Blahniks.

What do you wish for?

Penelope ♥

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Brillante Weblog and Inspired Blog Awards

Cocoa has just received two awards! The Inspired Blog Award and the Brillante Weblog Premio are given from fellow bloggers who feel that certain blogs are inspiring, refreshing, and all around wonderful. Ashley Lorelle over at Luscious Letters has passed on these wonderful little awards to Cocoa, so now it's my turn to send them out to others!

The rules are:
1. When received, you may post the awards to your blog
2. Link to the blogger you received it from
3. Return the favor and give the awards to 7 blogs
4. Link to those 7 blogs
5. Leave those 7 bloggers a comment about receiving the brilliant premio!

Much like the lovely Ashely Lorelle, I don't actually read seven blogs so instead I'll follow in her footsteps and send these out to the three spectacular blogs that I frequent most often...

Run by the stunning Miss Rie, Leaving Shangri-L.A. is every bibliophile's dream! Filled with magnificent reviews, insider recommendations and little nibbles of life in the big city, Rie delivers a sweetly original commentary by answering the question, "What do I read after Weetzie Bat?"

Casey-Scott is the coolest honey in the blogosphere - hands down. A quirky theatre student, Sir Casey's little piece of the internet is like a sizzling explosion of fabulousness, swing-dancing with readers on topics such as adorable cupcakes and stunning new theatre shows. Keep your eye on him because I'm sure one day he'll be legendary!

Although I've never had the honor of formally meeting Miss Lala, her website is a gold-mine for thrifting enthusiasts and fans of grade-A  kitsch! Her neon-colored blog sports everything lovely, from classic party guides to magnifique movie reviews that will send any reader on a groovy trip!

Thank you so much, bunnies, and I hope you three can keep on spreading the love!

Penelope ♥

Friday, July 18, 2008

Penelope Bat's Favorite Things

Photo by Jim Atwood

In this crazy little world, it always seems like it's the little things that change our lives: hearing a really great song on the radio, perfume that smells exactly like your first grade teacher did, tiny shops that look just how you imagine your dream house would. Collectively, these little pieces of happiness are the things that make our day. They're life's little fireworks that can shoot us out of mediocrity and into the land of the spectacular. Sure, they're only material goods, but if certain material goods can send our world spinning out of our daily rut and into a better direction, then doesn't that count for something?

If Oprah can do it, why can't we? Here are the little things that are changing my world right now.


- 365 Organic Oat Bran Sticks
Upon first glance, these tiny little treats appear to be inedible - possibly even wood shavings - but in all reality they're absolutely delicious snacks that are a great substitute for those over-salted potato chips. I'm a crazy stickler for healthy eating and these are really as good as you can get without sacrificing taste. No description could give them justice - trust me on this one, go out and give them a try!

- Smart Dogs Veggie Protein Links
Despite being a veteran vegetarian, there are a few childhood staples that I find myself missing in times of emotional crisis (or just extreme hunger!). One of which is the americana classic itself: the hot dog. After sampling a wide variety of vegetarian 'dogs, from Morningstar Farms to Yves brand Veggie Dogs, I found that most of them tasted (and smelled) far different from their classic counterparts - you might even say closer to the realms of the inedible. And then came Smart Dogs. These things are amazing - they're a guilt-free version of the good old American hot dog, tasting just like the real thing. They've become one of those staples that you're bound to find in my fridge at any given time.

- The Hot Food Bar at Whole Foods
For those not-to-rare occasions when I don't feel like cooking at home, the Whole Foods hot bar is always there. (At least until 9:30 pm!) Filled with Indian samosas and vegetarian lasagna and Israeli couscous and honey-orange tempeh, the hot bar has pretty much anything that a health-junkie could ever want in a meal in a delightfully quirky atmosphere. (The cafe at my local Whole Foods usually sports impromptu bands that set up and jam out anything from swing music and bluegrass.) In my opinion, it's ten times better than any of the chain restaurants around here at just about the same price.


- MAC Lip Conditioner Stick
If I could, I would buy one of these for every bag that I own so I would never have to go without it. MAC's lip conditioner is like silk for your lips - smooth, fragrance and color free, it leaves your lips feeling conditioned, fuller, and super-kissable. It's a great primer for lipstick or heavy gloss, but I prefer to wear it on its own for a soft, gentle look. If you're looking for the perfect, simple lip-gloss, try this wonderful alternative instead!

- Auric Blends Perfume Roll-On in One Love
I first found this fantastic little treasure at a new age store, hidden between teacup-sized bowls of incense and rose quartz. After sniffing through all their various scents, one in particular grabbed me instantly. One Love smells like cotton candy and sunsets - like drinking cherry soda and bright-pink-fruity-drinks at the very top of a ferris wheel, fireworks popping then sizzling out like burning champagne in the distance. It smells like princesses and carousels with the biggest, grandest horses you've ever seen and it smells like taking a cherry-pink bubble bath in the arms of your lover. It smells like tropical trees that sway wistfully, giving gifts of pineapple and mangoes and kiwi and melon to those who picnic underneath them. It smells like love.


- Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City
I first found Kiki Strike no more than a week ago, hidden behind westerns and romances at a used book store. The back reads that Kiki is a "black-clad, vespa-riding, cafe-au-lait-drinking girl", and with those simple words I was hooked! She's a New York superspy whose goal in life is be dangerous, a pre-teen who can pull off both a Russian fur hat and a Girl Scout beret. As influential and kick-ass as she is, though, she's generally unheard of amongst the pre-teen scene - her main market. I'm awed at how this is even possible, but nevertheless I still love the Kiki Strike series and would recommend it to those loving adventure in a heart-beat! Kiki Strike is a killer read!

- The Every Boy
Quirky and tragic, The Every Boy is the kind of book that's has a universal appeal. It plays like a Wes Anderson movie, Henry Every being a unique yet flawed teen trying to comprehend life, love, and the mystery of everything in-between. The real tragedy is his death, which we discover on page one, made all the more melancholy by the poignant misadventures he leaves behind in a meticulously organized ledger of his life so far. Henry Every is relatable, even if he's not, and the entire novel is oddly charming in the details, from the subplot focusing on the most deadly Jellyfish in the world to Henry's mid-novel journey to New York City. It's a trip starting on page one, and will forever be one of my favorites.

- The Gift Moves
I love kids books - for some reason, these kinds of whimsical novellas always have ten times more depth than a regular piece of fiction ever could. This one in particular is that same kind of harrowing tale, a first-person account of Path Down The Mountain's life as she adventures into a post-apocalyptic metropolis to apprentice as a weaver. It sounds simple, even as she finds herself falling in love with the baker's son, but something about this whole novel seems to shake the ground beneath you. It reveals all those unspoken complexities that life throws at us, how difficult it is to truly be free, to be yourself, and it throws all of this in our direction in the form of a 230 page kid's book. The Gift Moves is a journey, both literally and figuratively, and it's one of the most poignant books I've read to date.

Since music generally speaks for itself, instead of posting a humdrum little overview for each album I'll simply sample what I consider to be my favorite song off of it. You can decide for yourself whether or not you like it!

- Estelle // Shine
Sample: American Boy (Feat. Kanye West)

- Violent Femmes // Add It Up (1981-1993)
Sample: Kiss Off (Live)

- The Tiger Lillies // The Gorey End
Sample: ABC


- Penelope
Although I've already professed my love for this adorable movie, (and it's not just because I share a first name with the title character!) I feel the need to shout out what a great flick this is yet again. Penelope is a modern fairy-tale wrapped in eccentric, home-made wrapping paper - it's the tale of a whimsical socialite who was born under her parent's family curse, a curse that to no surprise can only be broken by true love. She escapes from her parent's watchful eye and into the world, drawing public attention much to her mother's dismay, but nevertheless the world outside finds her to be just as charming as she really is and sees past her physical deformities. The movie is sugary sweet with a punch of morals and lessons learned - it's your typical fairy-tale, only completely different!

- Wristcutters: A Love Story
The story is simple: twentysomething Zia wakes up one morning, tidies up his cubicle-sized apartment, puts on something presentable to wear, and promptly kills himself. From there, he finds himself in a mysteriously crueler version of the world he sought to escape from inhabited by fellow jumpers and cutters from around the globe. Despite how depressing it initially sounds, the movie is a quirky trip that instantly landed on my list of personal favorites as soon as I took it out of the DVD player. With curious characters and tiny miracles that seem to brighten up the sleepy backdrop of Wherever, Wristcutters is all around stunning - the kind of movie where as soon as you finish watching it, you know you'll never find anything else like it ever again.

- Everything is Illuminated
Let me preface this blurb with one little fact: I have fallen in love with Eugene Hutz. As if being in the front man of bad-ass gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello isn't enough, he also plays the pivotal role of Alexander Perchov in Everything Is Illuminated, a jive-talking Ukrainian with a passion for tracksuits and "negroes". (His words - not mine.) Characters like Perchov and the lovable Sammy Davis Junior Jr., the canine accomplice to the story's misadventures, really make the film unique and memorable. There's no doubt that it's a drama - the slapstick comedy ceases as soon as the story gets into full swing - but for some reason the story is so infectious and silly that even the biggest hater of theatrics will still find it to be a stunning piece of work.


- Anthropologie
My goal in life is to be able to actually buy things from Anthropologie instead of just ogling the merchandise like a crazed bag lady. Despite the fact that most everything in the store is way out of my price-range, Anthropologie always manages to simultaneously have the funkiest and most down-to-earth goods for sale. The style is a strange combination of old and new, with huge oak poster beds draped in bright pink linens or satin babydoll dresses with pockets shaped like owls. It's what the nicest thrift store in town would look like if you lived in a modern day Jane Austen novel - an appealing concept to a new romantic such as myself.

- Betsey Johnson
Those of you who subscribe to Cocoa Kisses will know that I have very recently bought my very first Betsey Johnson dress - a beautiful yellow number that looks like a boho 60's slip. Despite my thrills over this still-unnamed beauty, I will forever crave more from my favorite designer's scattered boutiques - cotton candy dresses that look like hand-spun carnival treats, sequined and cinched gowns that drape down like mermaid tails, gingham printed lovelies taken straight from the dollhouse closet. Betsey has a butterfly garden kind of flair that daydreaming girls swoon over and I'd love nothing more than to meet this spectacular woman, even if just in passing. Miss Betsey will forever be a favorite of mine, through and through.

Penelope ♥

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How To Be Charming

"I'm about to depart for a month to a place that feels like home to me. The entire atmosphere has been very nourishing for the eight years I have known it. However, the generally friendly people there have never received me with much warmth (as I am something of an anomaly). This year I suspect I'll be even more foreign to them than usual. I think these people are golden (if a little closed-minded sometimes), and I want to charm their socks off. How would you approach such a venture?"

There's nothing more difficult than finding something you love and having it somehow not love you back. As hard as it is to say, people can be cruel sometimes and very close-minded when it comes to the unfamiliar. Personally, I've never understood it, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. The one way that I've found to appeal broadly to almost everyone is by being charming - a trait that originated as far as I can tell in old American cinema. Starlets like Audrey Hepburn and Bette Davis could solve almost any problem by batting their lashes and turning on their legendary charms. But how exactly did they do it? Is charm a talent that you're born with, or does one acquire it like a favorite pair of shoes?

Being charming takes practice, but once perfected it can be used in most any situation and, more importantly, can send your self-confidence skyrocketing out into the stratosphere. For the every girl and socialite alike, here are the charm school basics.

Set Down the Ground Rules
Before you embark on any kind of social adventure, write out a small list of promises that you'll make to yourself. Promise yourself that you will never compromise who you are just to gain the attention of others. Promise that you won't have more than one or two casual drinks in public. Promise that you will always sing karaoke when the opportunity arises. Whatever you can think of! This kind of list is for whatever you find to be important socially and morally - it's the social samurai's code of honor. Write one up and stick to it!

Always be Yourself
It's key to always be yourself, even if you don't fit perfectly inside the lines of normal. A lot of times people will find folks that they wouldn't normally give a second glance to be incredibly endearing so long as they are upbeat and friendly. Stick to your morals and personal beliefs like glue and never back down from them - in the long run, this will earn you way more respect and admiration than sacrificing them for attention ever will.

Essentially, flirting and charming are the same thing - your intentions as the flirter are really the only difference between the two. Be as appealing as possible, keeping eye contact and making your positive attitude known, but the key is to present yourself in a graceful yet fun air. Act as though you were chatting up that beautiful boy with a cup of cafe au lait or that darling girl with bubblegum pink hair ribbons - even if you're not romantically interested, at worst it will always keep people interested!

Go Out Of Your Way to Talk to People
Don't intrude on their conversations at dinner, but do strike up a chat with people you wouldn't normally talk to. If you're trying to charm a particular group of people then don't be afraid to walk straight up to them and introduce yourself. Be eccentric! Follow your hello with batting your lashes and a question about their thoughts on god. If you have no particular group you're trying to thrill in mind, then simply take any opportunity to strike up conversation. Shop-keepers, waiters, supermarket cashiers - talk to whoever you can! The key is to know your limit; never draw out these tidbits of conversation into your whole life story. Charming girls always have a bit of mystery to them!

Keep Everything Casual
Informality is the key! Make people feel like they can really open up to you by placing them in a casual, easy-going setting. Never drill them with questions, even if well-intended! Tell a silly anecdote, ask them about their favorite movie, and let them answer at their leisure. People will feel much more inclined to respond positively to you if they feel relaxed.

Stay Relaxed
On that note, you too should be calm, cool and collected! Do some breathing exercises, fill your house with lavender, drink chamomile tea, or even practice light yoga. Do whatever you feel is most relaxing and conductive to a positive mood. Charming girls always appear as though they don't have a care in the world, even when the world is on their mind!

A little happiness can go a long way - never be afraid to flash a genuine smile! If others are trying their hardest to shoot you down or if you find yourself in a rocky position, a true smile will always turn the situation upside down. Others are drawn to those who appear to be happy and carefree and a smile does both for you. It's trite but true - a smile spreads joy.

Be Humorous
If you aren't normally a very funny person then this might be a tricky one, but the message here is basically never be afraid to joke. Wit is never out of place when meeting new people. With this said, there is a fine line between wit and just plain inappropriate humor. I love dirty jokes just as much as the next girl, but they have their place and it's definitely not a good thing to throw out to people you've just met.

Practice Your Diction
For some strange reason, truly charming folk always have astonishingly perfect diction. They annunciate perfectly and never slur their words, a trait that may be hard for those of us who have a lot to say and so little time to say it! Nevertheless, practice makes perfect and when it comes to speaking, slow and strong is the way to go. Practice tongue-twisters in the mirror or shout out monologues and soliloquies while driving to work. If you're truly dedicated to the charmed way of life, you could even consider taking drama classes or auditioning for a local play. Theatre always gives you the means to perfect your speaking!

Penelope ♥

Monday, July 14, 2008

Daily Inspiration - July 14th

"Sometimes you fall, spinning through space, grasping for the things that keep you on this earth. Sometimes you catch them. They can be the hands of the people you love. They can be your pets- pups with funny names, cats with ferocious old souls. The thing that keeps you here can be your art. It can be things you have collected and invested with a certain sense of meaning. A flowered, buckled treasure chest of secrets. Shoes that make you taller and, therefore, closer to the heavens. A suit that belonged to your fairy godmother. A dress that makes you feel a little like the Goddess herself.

Sometimes you keep falling; you don't catch anything.

Sometimes you fall, spinning through space, grasping for the things that keep you here. Sometimes you catch them. Sometimes you don't.

Sometimes they catch you."

- Necklace of Kisses by Francesca Lia Block 

Penelope ♥

Saturday, July 12, 2008

10 Things To Do During The Summer

Photo by Lara Ferroni

I've embarked on a spontaneous trip to Orlando this weekend to park-hop and sight-see and generally take advantage of the marvelous Florida summer, so to tide you bunnies over before I can actually sit down and write a formal post, here's a sweet little list of thrilling things to do during those sometimes boring summer days!

01. Practice pen-paling. Buy interesting or funky stationary and send weekly correspondences to your distant friends - or make new ones to send pretty scented letters to! (Postcrossing is a great place to find really curious folk from around the world, and most of them are more than happy to be on-going pals!)

02. Cook something new every week. You can make your way through a recipe book or just whip up some tried-and-true classics, but vow to make at least one home-cooked meal for your or your friends at least once a week. Bonus points if you document it with pictures!

03. Start a band - even if you have absolutely no musical talent! Have an "audition" night and invite everyone you know to bring various instruments, even if they too can't play them. Practice jamming out to your favorite songs, from The Clash to Lily Allen, then book weekly "gigs" or "band practice" at the houses of others.

04. Take up rollerskating. Buy a simple pair of four-wheeled skates and jazz them up with your own personal touches, adding anything from sequins to a snazzy paint job. Instead of driving, skate to the grocery store or to Starbucks - take any excuse you can get to perfect your form! If you aren't interested in decorating a pair, has a great little tutorial on how to turn your favorite pair of shoes into roller-skates. It's the perfect opportunity to transform those great red cowboy boots you have into swanky skates!

05. Go thrifting! Map out all your local thrift, vintage and antique stores and spend a day going from place to place, digging for hidden treasure amongst the kitschy fawns and 1970's living room sets. Set a limit on your spending - say fifty bucks - and see what all you can come home with on that budget.

06. Open up a pop stand. Make bubbly coke floats and raspberry popsicles and fresh sorbet and champagne shaved ice, serving a variety of icy treats to your friends or family.

07. Throw a backyard tea party, complete with an eclectic soundtrack and paper lights.

08. Finger-paint elegantly - turn your childish fun into an art form and have an ongoing art show in your kitchen or living room.

09. Dig through your local paper and scour for interesting happenings - scope out craft fairs and antique shows and gallery openings and street fairs. Take pictures of your adventures at all these marvelous little events.

10. Attend a poetry slam - extra points if you actually participate in it. Come dressed in classic Funny Face style, complete with felt beret and ballet flats, and spend the evening sipping café au lait and batting your eyelashes at sensitive poet boys.

Penelope ♥

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Manifesto; One Of Many

Photo by Jen Gotch

I believe in the right for women to have a choice.
I believe in people, because it's a little known fact that they have a tendency to surprise.
I believe in Change with a capital C.
I believe in myself, a kind of satisfaction that no other god can give to me.
I believe in serendipity and it's ability to amaze.
I believe in the ethical treatment of animals - they're living, breathing creatures, no different than we are.
I believe in magic in it's oh so many forms.
I believe in breaking free of routine.
I believe in personal freedom for all - something that no job or school should ever revoke.
I believe in gay marriage, because love knows no bounds.
I believe in respect for everyone, no matter how conflicting their personal views may be with yours.
I believe in abolishing the word "feminist" - in the words of someone spectacular, "I was asked if I was a feminist, I said - 'isn't every woman?'"
I believe in the power of clothes - although true love for yourself starts on the inside, that perfect dress can always make you feel like a goddess.
I believe in beauty, however it comes wrapped.
I believe in consistently doing the impossible.
I believe in art, in all it's quiet splendor.
I believe.

The question is, what do you believe in?

Penelope ♥

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Name That Cup!

Good morning, bunnies! Penelope here with a cup of fresh hot Cocoa for you to start your day with! I hope that everyone's morning has gotten off to a stunning start filled with french toast and french roast and lots of whipped cream kisses. If not, the day is still young! The wonderous things may not start to happen until after the sun goes down!

Anyway, I've been playing around with the content here on Cocoa lately, mixing everything up and trying new things, and I really hope that everyone is having fun with the posts. The readership has somehow almost doubled overnight, so I just want to extend a very warm hello to those brand new bunnies who are hopping into this neck of the woods. For those of you who don't know, Cocoa tries it's hardest to create a community atmosphere where stunning people can connect and share whatever is on their minds, so if you ever have any comments or concerns or suggestions or recommendations for really good songs, don't even hesitate to send me an e-mail and let me know!

I'm having so much fun with Cocoa right now, and from the e-mails and comments I've been receiving I can tell that you lovelies are enjoying it just as much as I am. Because of this, (ready for the drumroll?) I'm considering buying Cocoa it's own spot on the great big internet. That's right - Cocoa is getting it's very own website!

Although it sounds like nothing short of cherry pie, there is a catch: is taken, which I half-expected, but shockingly so is! 

So this is where you guys come in - I need a domain name and I've only got a few ideas myself, but I'd still never be able to narrow it down to just one! I need your help to pick a fantastic title for the new and improved Cocoa site - or even just your suggestions on my current ideas. When you think of Cocoa, what comes to mind?

This is your time to shine, trusted bunnies - where do you think the new and improved Cocoa site should reside?

Penelope ♥

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Art School Confidential: Beautiful Pictures and their Assumed Secrets

Photo by Jesse Thomas

They say that the job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery. I'm a firm believer that art can do that and so much more. There are so many artists out there, so many magical pieces, and all of them have their own sweetly-tuned soul. They all shout out these messages and stories in their own unique rhythm, lulling the viewer into their work, their history, their love. Yet we can never be exactly sure what they are saying - for we all hear something different. That's the trick of it all - we as the audience get to choose what to take out of it. Sure, we could rack our brains for hours, trying desperately to pick together what the artist was really thinking, but why not believe what you want to believe? In desperation, truly great art will always speak for itself.

Yet I am still a believer in looking at art with one eye closed. You will always see something that you hadn't noticed before. So take a good look, ponder away, and hopefully fall in love with what you see. All in all, everyone loves a good mystery.

(For the facts portion of this article, I've called in a little help from my darling loverboy, Remy. As an art history major from Brooklyn/gorgeous artist himself, he really does know far more of the technical details than I do! While everything under "The Magic" was written by me, "The Facts" were written entirely by him.)

"The Frame" - Frida Kahlo (1938)
The Facts: Frida Kahlo is known for two things: Being a major female artist and having that unibrow.  It's sad to see an artist with such an epic life story diminished to a couple talking points, but unfortunately that seems to be the case here. Frida was hit by a car when she was only fifteen and sustained massive internal injuries, leaving her in a hospital for much of her life. While in a full body cast she began to paint her own experiences with love, sexuality, and pain. The vast majority of her works are self portraits, as in "The Frame", and gained her attention from Europe. It was actually this very piece that ended up in the Louvre's collection after Breton's Surrealism show in Paris. Sadly, she died in 1954 before seeing her coronation as the queen of the Neomexicanismo era.
The Magic: She was a world of electric pastels and everlasting sunsets - a place where wild parrots with feathers the color of seashores perch themselves on statues of the Virgin Mary, cawing out sonnets in broken Spanish. With poinsettias and hummingbirds in her hair, she inhaled all the beauty around her like a favorite scent brushing past in the wind and exhaled her emotions, her pain and her sorrows, onto the canvas. Life became art and art became life as she tip-toed into a world of impeccable, rosewater beauty where people became animals and animals became saints and saints became people in one tangled motion. Life/art was never simple - it was never bland. It was glorious and glowing, filled with paper skeletons and symbolic dreams, driven by heart-thumping passion and blinding love and enduring sexuality. Art beat upon her chest like a drum and played her rib-cage like a xylophone, stirring the music inside of her, pulling it out from it's bandaged body and twirling it onto the dance floor. Art threw itself upon her, and she embraced it madly. Even today, the music has never left her.

"Expectation" - Gustav Klimt (1909)
The Facts: Have you ever sold a painting for $1000? $10,000? Gustav Klimt is guaranteed to have you beat. One of his pieces sold at auction for $135 million two years ago. Klimt fought his way up from being a poor immigrant in the mid-1800's to superstar status. Paintings such as "Expectation" personify the classic mosaics and techniques of the Gold Phase. Dressed in a simple robe and sandals, Klimt would work for hours in his studio painstakingly striving to catch the beauty and eroticism he saw in the female body. But unlike many artists of his day, Klimt avoided wrapping himself up in scandals and wanted people to instead judge him from his paintings.
The Magic: The women he met, those sleepy goddesses and tangled muses in their cascading golden gowns, they were never purposefully the women he found himself dusting onto the canvas. Those modern-day Cleopatras seemed to lean over him while he sweated into his paints, tapping their gold lacquered fingers gently on his shoulders and whispering their secrets into his ear. They would tell him their entire life story while he painted, about how they were raised in Milan on tiny lavender-scented vineyards, sleeping head-to-toe in a seashell colored shack. Or how they would spend late nights staring deep into their bedroom ceiling in Vienna, seeing every little speck as a distant star filled with bright-lights and people who lived just like us, talked just like us, looked just like us. They would whisper these secrets, these baby truths, while he painted what he heard, and when they were finally done, when those femme fatale ghosts of Christmas past finally disappeared back to Italy or Austria or that faraway star, only then would he look to see what he had done.

Center Panel of "Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation Triptych" - Hans Memling (1485)
The Facts: Hans Memling is very old school. You'd be surprised how many people think that Leonardo da Vinci was the first artist and Picasso picked up the brush and continued the legacy. Lots of other artists like Memling get lost somewhere in translation. Over five hundred years ago he was creating paintings with more symbolism than even Dan Brown could come up with. Back then, the Church was the one paying most artist's rent, so they painted whatever Bishop Smith told them to. Pieces such as Memling's "Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation" were commissioned to teach the illiterate populace the dangers of letting vanity and overindulgence leading you to the bowels to Hell. No dogs for you.
The Magic: She found that they as a race were curiously fascinated with being good. Even while being bad they wanted to be good. They called out her name, howling for her in the night in highs and lows, yet when she tip-toed quietly into their lives she always seemed to find them on their knees, calling her a witch and a sinner - a scheming slip into broken glass. She would stand in their backyards and wash her hair in the moonlight or do cartwheels and front flips while their dogs yapped at her heels, forever waiting for them to make up their minds, but the madness spun wildly on - women spending coin on silk candy dresses, men spending hours gazing lazily into mirrors, both dashing wildly to that wooden steeple, shouting madly about how she was invasive, she was wicked, she was a cruel and ugly beast. Yet she never seemed to mind, amidst all the name-calling and flagellation, the confusion and the chaos.  Never once did she take it sourly, because at least she could figure out that loving oneself is never a crime.
"Self-Portrait" - Philipp Otto Runge (1802)
The Facts: You know you're an Art History major when you look up Runge and say "Oh! That's the guy that was hanging out with Friedrich!" Honestly, you'd be hard pressed to find a Romanticist with more beautiful paintings. In his short 20 years of work, Runge wanted to express the peace and harmony of nature through a fusion of painting, music, and poetry. His portraits are smooth as butter; his brushwork is a combination of feather-like edges and solid pigment. Try exploring something new today, Google him.  
The Magic: People always told him that his eyes spoke the secrets of the world. He had these indescribable eyes, the kind that made people hold their breath when they saw him, as if they were waiting for him to prove (or disprove) that he was, in fact, staring straight through them. He unwrapped people like a birthday present or a Thanksgiving turkey, pulling away the bitter dressings and peering plainly into their raw innards. Because of this, he made many strangely uncomfortable, desperately covering themselves up in any way possible. Others unwrapped themselves for him. Regardless of what they thought of his ice soaked eyes, everyone seemed to simultaneously let out that heavy breath they had been holding in for so long when he resigned himself to his studio. They chattered nervously, tittering about what he could possibly be doing in that tiny room, but no one dared a guess for unknown reasons. On that quiet rainy day when he finally did emerge, a parchment-wrapped mystery clutched under his arm, the intimidated and enthralled alike gathered in his foyer. No words were spoken. No one dared so much as a heavy breath. They simply watched, his skeleton eyes brushing the ground, as he unwrapped the freshly finished painting, brushed it off, and hung it on the wall. He trotted back to his studio, closing the doors behind him with a wistful afterthought, leaving a hushed crowd staring with such great intensity at the work before them. Though no one said it, no one felt as though his eyes could be captured any better.

"Amoureuse" - Erté (1977)
The Facts: Erté was born as Romain de Tirtoff in St. Petersburg, 1892. Rejecting a position in Russian Navy and going against his father's wishes, Romain sought to become an artist in Paris instead. He took the name Erté to avoid disgracing his family honor, never expecting to build such an illustrious career in less than five years - he signed a magazine contract by 1915 and became the king of the Art Deco period. His illustrations are easily recognized for their sharp, elegant, sophisticated nature, and "Amoureuse" is no exception. Maybe you've seen some of his designs in Ben-Hur or La Bohème?
The Magic: Although she couldn't remember when he first appeared, she could never forget him. He was right there on the tip of her tongue, giving her butterfly kisses, batting his charcoal colored lashes, or humming lullabies and love songs to her quietly in the middle of the night. He was always there, kissing away her lipstick or brushing off her rouge, telling her in poetry and prose how she didn't need the bubblegum dresses or cherry pink lips to be beautiful. He traced out constellations on her belly and spoke of Roman gods and Persian princes. They were Cupid and Psyche, counting each other's fingers and toes and speaking never as strangers. They were inseparable, indescribable, they were engorged animals howling into the night, filling their bellies with each other until she rolled off into a hazy sleep. He was never there when she awoke, disappearing like a lover's ghost or the moon into the morning sky, but she could never bring herself to mind. Because every evening, after rinsing off her rouge and unrolling her curls, looking into the mirror she always found him there.

Penelope ♥

Friday, July 4, 2008

Daily Inspiration - July 4th

Photo by Jo Santiago

In South Florida, The fourth of July is always a spectacular. Fireworks shoot off at midnight, shattering like champagne bottles, announcing the national holiday's vivid presence. We have beach-side celebrations with sand castle building contests, young and old alike meeting to build ocean-side doll houses or life-sized hot dogs or glowing sand angels or the Statue of Liberty. We barbecue in the park while shimmying around to Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run, forever talking about the time that he suddenly appeared in Palm Beach and strolled around the very park we're standing in. There's tropical soda pop in every glass, so fizzy that the ice crackles and snaps indefinitely, and every table boasts Americana classics from apple pie to hamburger buns frosted with sesame seeds. The local taquerias fly American flags from the roof and blast thrift-shop cassettes of Elvis Presley and The Beach Boys, humming out their Spanish equivalents. 

The downtown district is littered with families picnicking by the intercostal, sprawled out on old tablecloths with feasts of peanut butter sandwiches and Mallorca sweet bread and cranberry spring salads and ice cold pop. Their children do cartwheels and handstands on the water's edge, peering over the concrete divider and into the sunwarmed inlet below, watching expectantly for a glimpse of a twenty-foot shark or some other elusive beast. They howl out in desire while tugging on their mother's pant leg, begging for a cotton-candy ice cream cone from the nearby tiny pink shop while mom and dad slow-dance barefoot in the grass to Louis Armstrong.

When the sun begins to set over that ever-expansive ocean, the entire city seems to spontaneously light up in a sudden flicker of fireworks. They shoot into the sky leaving smoky mascara trails, popping into pinks and blues like a wine-bottle cork pulled from the bottle. If all the lights in the tiny city of Palm Beach were to be turned off all at once, the light from those shimmering fireworks alone would be enough to keep the world spinning madly on. They crackle deep into the night, even after everyone has packed up their picnic blankets and carried their sleeping children back to the car, lulled into sleep by the wistful light show. No, those fireworks seem to keep on going, even when their audience has long since been laid to bed.

They just keep on shooting, illuminating the sleepy sky until the stroke of midnight when they too can finally be laid to rest. And there they lay, resting their tired eyes until the next forth of July when they get the chance to mesmerize the world again.

Penelope ♥

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Cocoa Soundtrack To Life

I recently did an interview for Lisa Clark's Pink World (which can be seen right here!) and one of her many fantastic questions included "What five songs are on the Cocoa soundtrack to life?" Although she only asked for a simple five, this got me thinking, sorting, compiling an eclectic mix of the most inspiring music I could find - the kind of music that keeps the world spinning round. Music that makes you want to jitterbug across the living room floor, music that played in your head during your first kiss, music that shakes the ground beneath you and makes you want to stand atop moving cars and sing out slewed lyrics at the top of your lungs. Music that says hello, Cocoa.

This is the Cocoa Soundtrack to life, simply.

1. Float On - Modest Mouse
Driving through labyrinth streets and glowing red lights that seem to whisper secrets to the tarmac. Teenagers eating scrambled eggs and french toast in diners at one in the morning. Sitting in the backseat of a two-door sedan, banging against the window with every downbeat - shouting, not singing. Recognizing the silliness and thrill of this world in that moment, in that song. Never being afraid to blast the radio ever again.

2. Breakdown - Jack Johnson
Afternoon picnics under the blinding caramel sun - buttery light so airy that it spreads itself entirely across the landscape. Sunday morning cafes that serve fizzy Italian sodas and hazelnut coffee to sparkling jazz musicians in fedoras. Buzzing down alleyways and open roads on the back of a lemon-yellow Vespa, eyes closed, inhaling the scenery. Feeling as though the entire world is as sweet as this honey-drizzled paradise.

3. Chelsea Dagger - The Fratellis
Thrashing in the streets. Girls in six-inch heels and paper-thin jeans strutting, not walking. Cherry red lipstick stains on every white-button up and paper napkin in town, like a trail of breadcrumbs side-winding from lover to lover. Swaying hips and guitar riffs shaking up the city streets. All-night shows that spark lightning storms inside neon dance clubs and corrupt the youth.

4. Love and Happiness - Al Green
Blues club kisses and southern nights. Folks with so much soul that they shout when they mean to whisper. Guitars that strum on their own, sending out a harmonious mating call to the people that were meant to play them. Silky smooth swaying hips and dollhouses made from Limone bottle caps. That feeling of overwhelming, unshakable soul that prickles you straight down the chest like an acupuncturist. Folk art on scraps of musty wood, illustrating baptist gospels and sunday brunches and the birth of Elvis and Jesus sighing on the cross.

5. Blood & Peanut Butter - BC Camplight
Strumming out chords in the middle of the street, singing out as a one-man musical revolution. Women in business suits and tie-dye alike clasping hands and twirling like rockstar whirling dervishes. Tap dancing atop cars, bouncing to drum beats, cage dancing for the uncageable.

6. Raw Sugar - Metric
Slow dancing, low dancing - belly dances and bonfires on sandy beaches. Poetry slams set to music and beat-boxing boys linking fingers with microphones. Palm trees that whiplash against the wind and the children who bandage them with snowflake-colored Christmas lights. Overcast days spent breezing down Worth Avenue on cruise control, admiring the high-rises and gold-flaked chateaus.

7. Love Underground - Robbers on High Street
Superhero-like love, with white-river rapids of adrenaline and emotion. Running, bounding, backflipping through boundaries and obstacles - cartwheeling into a lover's arms and feeling the ground shake from your bass-drum heartbeat. Knowing that this is how love should feel - sparkling, soaring, sweeping through couples like hawks in a swan-dive.

8. Good Enough For Granddad - Squirrel Nut Zippers
Outdoor parties under the cherry-pink sky where harlequin girls shake their fingers to the rhythm. Foxtrotting and lindyhopping and swing dancing and sidestepping while chewing on watermelon bubble gum and chalky candy cigarettes. Seizing tiny girls by the waist and spinning them into a dizzy dreamworld of big bandstands and big band.

9. Dancing in the Moonlight - King Harvest
Blind dates in tiny cafes where the entire restaurant is illuminated by strings of paper lights. Warming frosted hands with mugs of hot chocolate and making origami cranes out of cloth napkins. Tap dancing under the summer moon, watching it wain from park benches. Making love in a personal-pan sized bedroom the color of rosewater marzipan.

10. Sweet Jane - The Velvet Underground
Tossing left and right with Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgewick as dance partners, sipping the factory scene like it's a sweetened rum and coke. Going to the grocery store in furs and flats while budding rock stars strum guitars on the dairy isle, shouting out names of all their lovers. Alternative families who dress their children in kimonos and cowgirl boots and whisper stories about how they used to be local punk stars or costumers for movies or novelists or party planners. Watching those children grow up to be exactly that.

11. All My Life - Cas Haley
End credits played at outdoor movie theatres. Life seeming to move to the same beat. Dinner with friends, eating Israeli couscous and thick slices of cheese pizza outdoors amongst the bougainvilleas and humming swallows. Finding that perfect ice cream ice princess dress that makes you feel like a candied ska star. Figuring out the secrets of life from thick canopies of trees and late-night sunshine and sweeping beaches and stray cats that eat out of your hand. Finding happiness.

Bonus Tracks
12. Hong Kong Garden - Siouxsie and the Banshees

13. A-Punk - Vampire Weekend

14. Kiss Me - Sixpence None the Richer

15. You - Atmosphere

16. The Science of Selling Yourself Short - Less Than Jake

Penelope ♥