Sunday, August 31, 2008

How To Weather The Common Cold

Photo by Kate Mc

Hello, bunnies! How is the great big world treating you today? I really hope your day has been a spectacular tea party so far, filled with strawberry jam and bite-sized treats! Sadly, mine hasn't been quite so great lately. I've somehow managed to catch a terribly icky cold recently which I've been fighting off with Jamba Juice Coldbusters and daily cups of tea. Basically, today is the first day that I've felt even semi-decent and have had the strength to pull my laptop over for a quick Cocoa update. I really am so sorry for the lack of posts - I know things have slowed down enough because of my new schedule and I promise I haven't forgotten about you guys!

According to my mother, a schoolteacher who works with germ-riddled kids every day, this kind of thing is going around right now - so for all of you other sad bunnies who are also bedridden with sickness, here's a very quick guide on how to combat the common cold!

♥ Drink lots of coffee/tea, especially with loads of honey!
♥ Make a soundtrack to fight off your cold. Pick quiet, sleepy songs that mellow you out and make you feel super-relaxed. (My soundtrack includes Luke Doucet, Norah Jones, and Esthero.)
♥ Try to avoid being in complete darkness. Don't hide in your bedroom with the curtains drawn - make sure to always have at least one light on, even if it's just a string of Christmas lights above your bed!
♥ Wear comfy clothes. Put on your lover's favorite shirt, your best pair of panties, and cuddle up under the sheets.
♥ Drink loads of juice, especially orange juice or anything else with heaping helpings of Vitamin C!
♥ Make sure to have at least one bowl of the tried-but-true classic: good old soup!

So while I've got your attention I thought I might re-address a question I asked in the last issue of Cocoa Kisses. Since so many folks seemed to have echoed that they really love the Daily Inspiration columns and would definitely be interested in a book like that, how would you all feel if I were to self-publish a little collection of musings filled with DI-type columns, both new and old? Before I jump into writing anything I'd really like to know your thoughts - would you purchase something like that if it was professionally made (i.e. through Lulu)? What price do you think would be reasonable? Do you know any other folks that might find that interesting or do you think the audience is too small for it to work? I was so disappointed since I got absolutely no responses when I posed this idea through Cocoa Kisses, so let me be your cheerleader this time! Rah rah rah - come on, sugarplums! Tell me what you think!

Okay, lovelies, try to avoid that dreaded sickness going around and, as always, stay beautiful!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's In Your Bag?

So I've discovered this little thrill on Polyvore of illustrating what's in your bag right now - a simple little task but one that really illustrates what kind of person you are, I find. While some people have tiny bottles of hand sanitizer and globs of clean tissues, others have grocery lists that they've found abandoned in the supermarket and books on philosophy. It's such a thrill to be able to get a quick peek into someone else's life, even if it's just for a second, and come out of it saying that you know a little bit more about them.

So here are the rules!
- Dump out your bag.
- Take an inventory of everything in there (no cheating - don't clean it out beforehand!)
- Dig through Polyvore or Google images and find images of what you see.
- Make a set and share it with the world!

Post the results on your own blog or share them in a comment right here on Cocoa! Get hoppin', bunnies, and show us what's in your bag!

Penelope ♥

Monday, August 25, 2008

Currently Digging

Nail Pens
I picked up a Sally Hansen nail pen on a whim a few days ago and have absolutely fallen in love with it since! I usually don't have time to sit down and do my nails except for once every two weeks or so, but these little suckers are absolutely perfect for touching up in-between classes, during lunch, or even at particularly long traffic lights. They dry incredibly quickly and come in all colors and shades, from neutral pinks to electric oranges. I bought one for French manicures just today!

Renaissance Festivals
I got a catalogue in the mail the other day and upon opening it up I found that it was filled with beautiful, intricate dresses and life-sized fairy wings and baby blue bodices and vanilla bean-colored skirts. I realized the clothing was meant for Renaissance festivals and other medieval events which made me really miss Palm Beach's local "Ren Fest," a weekend event which I somehow managed to miss last year. My beautiful boy and I love to wander around the booths and ogle all the hand-made goods and practice sword-fighting in the event area and chip away at Strawberry Italian ices. Personally, I absolutely love all the clothing up for sale. Some of the most beautiful dresses I've ever seen have come from Renaissance festivals, even though most are usually far out of my price range. Festivals such as these are such a wonderful excuse to dress up and be wild, and they're the only place in the world where you won't be looked at as the slightest bit strange for doing so!

Japanese Lolita Style
Okay, so this one's a given because in all reality I'm always digging Japanese Loli style, but especially today! As some of you may have guessed from my earlier Guide to Rococo Style, I'm a self-proclaimed addict of a Lolita fashion, but my heart is set on one brand in particular: Baby, the Stars Shine Bright. I've yet to actually purchase a piece from them, mainly because most of their dresses run about three hundred US dollars (totally out of my art-school budget), but I think every girl deserves some true Lolita couture so I've decided to start saving for one. Granted, it'll take me a while, but I think that makes it all the more worth it! (If anyone would like to help out my terribly vain cause, there's a donation button on the side of the main page - anything would be greatly appreciated!)

But enough about me - what are you digging this week, bunnies? Cupcakes with huge dollops of pink sugar frosting? Movie trailers that use your favorite song? Tiny novellas that aren't afraid to preface every chapter with huge, full page illustrations? Share your thrills!

Penelope ♥

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Daily Inspiration - August 23rd

Photo by Missy

There's something spectacular - something earth-quaking, china-shattering, spell-binding, something poetic that makes your heart swell as though it's been soaking in the bubbliest of champagne your whole life, something thrilling in all ways imaginable - about your first kiss.

It's a daydream of baby girls in babydoll dresses, swinging on tire swings or from tree branches or observing the ever-spinning world from the seashore that is their bedroom. We can all admit to spending at least part of our sleepy childhood with our head in our hands, thinking about those mysterious boys who will sweep us away with that sizzling effervescent kiss of womanhood. We wonder, blowing the amoxicillin-pink bubbles of summertime dreams, what they will look like - whether they will have ice-rink blue eyes that seem to sweep over us with a bittersweet chill, or a crooked smile that always comforts us, even in our most tart of times. What kind of music will define them? Will they be rocker boys who can strum out chords on our bedroom floor, serenading us with Radiohead and Kurt Cobain love songs? Or will they be jazz types who sneak into their father's study in the dead of night to have gin-spun rendezvous with Billie Holiday and Wynton Marsalis? How will these dream boys, so different yet so the same, find us in this ever-growing world - and more importantly, how will we know when they are here?

We ask ourselves these silly things while trudging through girl-hood, yet when we finally do slip into the open arms of our first lovers it seems so correct, like those first two puzzle-pieces we get to lay down in life, and suddenly questioning those beautiful boys seems simply absurd. These boys - with their strange stories and mystifying eyes - they give us butterfly kisses deep in our bellies, like an aviary suddenly shaken into a fury and the flapping of hundreds of neon wings. Life seems to float around them, and we suddenly find ourselves wrapped up with them, tied up in their electric lives - watching the entire universe circle in slow motion. We're atwitter with small talk and passed smiles, hand-holding and poetic words that still could never quite explain how we feel.

And when it finally does happen, that ruby red cherry on the cake of adolescence,
when we finally do kiss - all we can see are fireworks.

It's an explosion in small scale, a soda pop sip that fizzes through you like a high-speed chase. It's witchy women who slam-dance on the beach and throw themselves at the moon and stare into the bonfire as though searching for answers. It's all-night diners and midnight festivals all lit up in a neon glaze and hand-spun circus spectaculars deep into the night. We feel like thundering tides so glassy that a single touch could shatter the sea - our hearts heavy bongo drums meeting the beat of clattering subway trains. In that single moment, we become electric, anew. We are something more than tiny girls in an infinite world. We have been brought closer, closer to the Earth and the sea, the sky and the wind, closer to another human, to another planet, to ourselves.

The kisses never end, all from different boys who show us different worlds, and all of them bring us closer to something different. They show us the joy and magic in our lives, the tiny spectaculars that we pass over in an average day, and we become more alive because of them. We become more than just girls.

And we cannot explain what has happened to us, what storybook tale these boys have left us with, what piece of worldliness has been instilled all with the help of a single kiss, where that folded map of kisses will lead us - all we know is that we are not the same.

Penelope ♥

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How To Wear Loud Pants

"I know you don't run a 'style blog' or anything of the sort, but I was just wondering, if you had a pair of really loud pants, how would you wear them?  By loud I mean like yellow and green stripes or purple stars on neon pink, or being really specific a pair of skinny jeans that are black and yellow checker. I just bought them and now I have no idea what to wear with them with aside from the obvious solid yellow and black and that's just boring."

There are always those zany, out-of-this world impulse buys that seem like such a stellar idea while standing in front of the dressing room mirror, those cardigans all held together by tiny bows and those houndstooth wraps with fringe on the bottom like an old time flappers dress, and when we wear them we feel fabulous in so many ways - like this is the piece of clothing that defines us as a person, yet somehow when we get home and neatly unfold our tiny treasure, it seems like we can never bring ourselves to pull it back out of the closet and to wear it again. They're the kinds of pieces that we could stare at for days in loving admiration, starstruck by the way they seem to say everything about us while they say nothing at all, yet in all our thinking and all our planning we can never quite figure out what to wear with them. It's a tragedy, sure, but one that can be avoided - all it takes is a few simple tips, a little bit of courage, and a great pair of pants.

Wear Solid Colors

Patterns and vividly bright colors just complicate your look if you're already wearing something that's prominently vibrant. For shirts and jackets, use pastels and neutrals to soften the explosion of color. If you are going to wear a pattered or bright top, try to wear something plain over your pants to break up the colors. For instance, wear a little pair of shorts or a wide belt just to draw a line between the two pieces of clothing. I have to warn you, though, this usually only works if you're wearing solid colored pants with no pattern or design on them. If your pants are checkered or dotted with little pink stars or gingham or plaid striped, a plain shirt is the way to go.

Introduce Another Color
When wearing something very bright, people tend to be afraid to introduce any more color into their outfit for fear that it will be too over the top. The truth of the matter is that using just one or two colors, no matter how bright they are, actually makes your outfit look very bland. Use the color wheel to find a complementing color to your pants (one on either side of the color closest to that of your pants) and incorporate items of that shade into your outfit. If your pants are patterned with two different yet equally vibrant colors, pick the more noticeable of the two and go from there.

Add More Color Through Accessories
Afraid of wearing a green shirt with your blue pants but worried that a neutral top is a little too boring? Accessories are the absolute best way to add that extra punch to what you're wearing without going too over the top. Stick to a neutral shirt and try spicing things up with a pair of bubblegum pink sunglasses or some vibrant bracelets. Even something as simple as carrying a purse that complements the color of your pants really works.

Wear Longer Tops
Although some a reluctant to "hide" their super cool pants, the ultimate fail-safe is a longer, tunic style top. It'll allow just enough of your pants to peek through and show that you're funky and vibrant without making you look silly. This is for dire emergencies, though! I say, if you've got the will and the pair of pants, show them off!

Penelope ♥

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Underoos: Fabulous Stories For Every Style

Audrey was a spunky superstar, a sparkling belle of the forgotten borough. She was that serendipitous moment that brought people together, a real life school yard merry-go-round that seemed to always be spinning in slow-motion until it was your turn to ride. She painted her toes the color of bubblegum and hummed the lyrics to Sweet Jane during the previews of movies. She crowd surfed at jazz shows and knew that good lip gloss, when applied properly, could solve any problem. After glorious nights, she would wake her lover by playing the ukulele in bed - slowly he would rise, eyes still fuzzy from the warm kisses of his dreams, and find her propped up next to him sitting criss-cross applesauce, wearing nothing but a string of pearls and her favorite bikini underwear.

Emma was born of pale blue blood, at an early age her family moving permanently into a five-star Parisian hotel. Even into her early teens she would dash up and down the stairs, racing the century-old elevators that wheezed like sleepy old men, and blow bubbles from the balcony at starstruck tourists below. But every Sunday morning she would put on her best gingham dress, tuck her room key away safely in her pocket and climb down the stairs into the lobby. Peeking out from behind frosty marble pillars, she found herself fascinated by the English high tea that took place there every weekend, and sooner or later she began to eavesdrop on the pretty Parisian women, taking down notes on her Hello Kitty notepad. In her best script, she wrote the tiny things she learned like "never be completely bare in the company of others" and "always know the proper fork to use at dinner", socialite essentials that she willed herself to follow. At the age of nineteen when she finally broke free from that glorious hotel and ran away into the real world, she found herself quickly falling in love with a quiet boy who worked at a nearby neon gelateria. They chatted, courted, and when she was finally pulled to bed she found there to be quite a bit of controversy over her choice of underwear. Despite the pages of formality whirling around inside of her, shouting to follow all those flowering rules and be that perfect lady, she pulled herself out of bed, strapped on her Mary Janes, and strolled out of his flat, strutting home in nothing but a cashmere sweater and her best pair of briefs.

Georgia was a daydreamer who worked in a sleepy tea shop during the day, serving steaming pots of mint-soaked tea and bite-sized treats to artists and authors. She dreamed of writing pocket novellas about modern-day mermaids and boys who turned into wolves with a single kiss, but for some reason could never find the right words. She pondered why the words wouldn't come over teacups the size of a baby's palm and eventually came to the conclusion that before she could find the right words, she would have to find herself. But where did she begin? She wasn't even sure when she had lost herself in the first place. It was only when a street-side fortune teller read her palm on her way home from work, whispering in lush, hushed tones that the real her lay underneath, that she discovered what needed to be done. The next day she parked her bike in front of that dreamy tea shop, pulled off her coat, and strolled inside in just a camisole and a pair of boyshorts. And the real her really was underneath...

Lily didn't believe in marriage. In a cruel, upside-down world where boys in love with boys and girls in love with girls couldn't be wed, she decided that she too would never marry until those weeping couples were given the right to. She told herself this while lying on her back in bed, carefully scrutinizing the sleeping boy sprawled out next to her, but really even then she probably wouldn't marry. Lily was a mustang of the plains, an all-night wild child who got tipsy off of Shirley Temples and always danced in the arms of strangers. Looking at her curly tangle of hair and big baby blue eyes she wondered, was marriage really meant for girls like her? Instead, she promised herself that she would become a tousled yogini, doing sun salutations on the roof of her flat, usually in the nude. She would loiter around the "sex & relationships" section of bookstores, staring intently at the watercolor illustrations that accompanied every pose and posture, and go out dancing in her best pink leather pumps at least once a week - she would shine, all shaken up like a Christmas snowglobe, and mystify those hazy lovers around her. Maybe she would kiss the necks of all kinds of boys, surfer boys and rocker boys and poet boys and painter boys, but at the end of the night she would keep that promise she made, crawling out of their beds in her high heels and underwear, and fall in love only with herself.

Penelope ♥

Monday, August 11, 2008

Daily Inspiration - August 11th

Photo by Missy

"I am like a falling star who has finally found her place next to another in a lovely constellation, where we will sparkle in the heavens forever." - Amy Tan

Who caught you, falling stars?

Penelope ♥

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cocoa Book Club Book of the Month: A Charm of Powerful Trouble

The tiny introduction I've given the Cocoa Book Club has appeared to stir up quite a bit of interest around here, so I just want to take the time to say thank you so everyone who has proclaimed their enthusiasm - and especially thank you to those lovely ladies who have volunteered to be official Book Clubbers! The book for August has been decided and Cocoa's favorite blogger just so happened to be the one to choose...

So without further ado, our super-secret Book Clubber for the month of August is...Miss Rie of Leaving Shangri-L.A.! A dedicated bibliophile and an even better friend, Rie is a stunningly talented miss who dabbles in all things literary - from reviewing whimsical children's books to composing her very own column on the BUST blog. She's absolutely incredible so if you haven't already checked out Leaving Shangri-L.A., her sweet & sparkling blog chronicling all manner of literary thrills, I urge you to head over right now!

And now, lovely ladies, the very first book of the oh-so-sweet Cocoa Book Club...A Charm of Powerful Trouble by Joanne Horniman.


I'm a chick with simple tastes--at least when it comes to my books. I love beautiful imagery, strong characters, family secrets, small adventures, literary references, and a satisfying conclusion that leaves you sorry to leave the story behind, but blissed out at having known them for even several hundred pages. Joanne Horniman's A Charm of Powerful Trouble is a book that has slipped quietly from the notice of bibliophiles, and I am sorry for it, as it is an exquisite novel in short stories about the relationships between family and lovers. Laura Zambelli could be describing the book itself when she talks of her home in the rainforest:

A forest is so intricate it takes intimacy to know how to look at the maze of plants entwined like serpents: twisted, coiled, sinuous, insinuating. A rainforest is artful and curled and wild. It is the wildness I love most of all. It takes time to know it and love it, to see properly what it is.

Loosely based on the poem Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, A Charm of Powerful Trouble echoes the poem's sensuality, feminist leanings, and expression of the power of love between sisters. Sister Lizzie is bright and beautiful, with a long golden braid and curvy body, flaunting a gold ring in her navel and insouciant way of playing the guitar. Sister Laura is small and dark, but quietly celebrates the beauty of her growing womanhood and her ramshackle home outside Mullumbimby, Australia. Throughout the novel, relationships unfold and echo each other in a circular, dreamy narrative of love and loss. Their artist mother and filmmaker father find their relationship crumbling when Stella, the mother's beautiful best friend, most in with her mysterious daughter Paris. But once upon a time in the mother Emma's history, Stella was the quiet, witchy little girl of the bohemian yet glamorous neighbor who wore miniskirts and tended chickens. Lizzie and Laura are each other's safe haven in their tumultuous if loving family, like Emma's wilder older sister Beth was once her inspiration. Storylines twist through each piece like the snakes that inhabit their rainforest home as the women love tempestuously, lose everything, but come around to themselves when they realize that it is their own inner strength and self-love and passion for living that completes them. Joanne Horniman's writing is evocative and breathless, with images of women eating flowers, sisters who find a universe in a drop of water, bowerbirds with nests made from tarot cards and a goblinish market where mice sell fairy wings and foxes listen to poetry.

Here is an excerpt from "Kiss the Sky," narrated by Laura:

The summer when I was seventeen I was so full of undifferentiated sensuality that the world was a great glowing golden fruit around me. I didn't long for love and nor did I need it, yet I saw love everywhere without even looking for it...Everywhere I looked, I saw people delighting in each other. But I needed no one. I was myself, complete. At night the summer air breathed onto my face with such promises of bliss that I slept in a deep swoon. I was caressed by the morning sunlight and seduced by the long afternoon shadows, and I lapped it all up in such a daze of sensation that I couldn't tell where the world ended and I began. I was so much in love with simply being alive that I could have kissed the sky.

One last note: this book wins my Happy Sapphist award. Without denying the pain that can accompany coming into a queer identity, it is a relief to read a book that explores the beauty of a lesbian relationship without strife or negativity. Laura does struggle with feelings she doesn't have the words to put a name to, but after years of searching finds love with a woman as deep and loving as herself. ( And she's a librarian to boot ♥!) I cannot express how important it was to read a novel like this, one that assured me that there would be happiness, too. 

In the bookshop at Mullumbimby I crouched on the floor, dipping into book. I had a belief that one day I come across something--in a book, anywhere--that would finally allow the world to make sense, and I was forever alive and alert for it.

I found mine--in A Charm of Powerful Trouble. Happy reading!
Interested? A Charm of Powerful Trouble can be previewed on Google Book Search and purchased on Amazon. I can't wait to hear what you lovelies think of this incredible sounding book, and thanks again to the marvelous Rie for the write-up!

Penelope ♥

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Cocoa Book Club Call For Bibliophiles

Photo by Jinna

Good morning, bunnies! We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for a bit of an announcement! After careful consideration, I've decided to start a new little segment here on Cocoa called the Cocoa Book Club - and I need your help! 

Basically, every month a different reader or blogger or other mysterious guest will pick a book for the club and write up a guest article on it, introducing it in all it's fabulousness to the world. While no one has to run out and buy the book right away, reading it the exact month that it's posted - you will not be tested on it afterwards! - the idea is that this will be a great place to share fantastic books that readers think others absolutely have to read.

So here's where you come in - because I'd like this to be completely reader-driven, I need volunteers to pick books for the upcoming months and write mini-articles on them! There's no criteria to fill or paperwork to fill out, you simply need to enjoy reading and want to share your hidden gems with the world. So, if you'd like to volunteer to be a super secret book clubber for any of the following months, please comment with your e-mail address or shoot me an e-mail yourself! (And if you're a blogger, please also include a link to your blog!) I'll get back to you as soon as possible with more information and we'll set up a date for you to post.

Eep! I can't wait to hear from you, lovelies! Ready? Set? Get readin'!

Penelope ♥

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Daily Inspiration - August 6th

Photo by Brichphotos

For one reason or another, most folks on this tiny little planet seem to be mesmerized by fireworks. Maybe it's the sheer pyrotechnics of it all, the power we have to make beautiful explosions. Maybe it's the overwhelming brilliance that comes with that final pop of light. Or maybe yet it's that child-like thrill imprinted into us that comes from the unexplained phenomenon of Night Fires - something that still hasn't dissipated even after our however-many years of living.

But maybe we see something more in fireworks. Something that most others can't recognize. Maybe we love these glorious shows of light because we can relate.

Like these fiery lights, we are strong, explosive, thundering in unspoken magnitude, yet so incredibly mesmerizing. Quietly we shoot to life, shattering into a million tiny pieces of broken glass, and then in an instant we sizzle away into the night, leaving the world wide-eyed and staring. We disappear, the explosion gone, but that hazy trail, our smoky sweet dust powdered across the night sky will forever be there for others to blaze. We are tiny explosions all over the world, popping with every brush of greatness, and collectively we form a gloriously blinding blanket of light and life.

We are stunning, captivating - explosive diamonds broken across the night sky, falling back down to Earth and leaving our mark on the world. Sometimes we may not shimmer like we intended and instead only stun our audience with a quiet pop; other times we may not fire at all. Nevertheless, our potential is there. And when we become kinetic, nothing can stop us.

We are beautiful and strong. Brilliant and graceful. We are the fireworks show of the world, running year-round. And nothing could ever come close to the beauty we leave behind.

Penelope ♥

Monday, August 4, 2008

Weekly Wishes

Photo by Tracie Taylor

I wish...
 finding a decent job wasn't so difficult! I've been job hunting the past few weeks in hopes of wiggling into something part-time for during those long semesters. No such luck so far!

I wish... every town was required to have an old-fashioned 1930's swing club. Every Friday night young and old alike would put on their best dresses and heartbreaking scarlet lipstick, strap on a pair of heels, and jive in a swingin' little club until the sun comes up. Girls with feathers in their hair would tap-dance with sly-guy boys while the jaded smoked through slender filters on the sidelines.

I wish... restaurants would offer cold pizza on their breakfast menu! When will the world understand the culinary thrill of cold pizza in the morning?

I wish...  women didn't have to change their bodies so drastically to feel beautiful. I'm in no way against plastic surgery so long as it makes you happy, but I think it's such a tragedy when women have all of these procedures done and still nitpick over the tiniest little things. What's wrong with being a size ten? What's wrong with having small breasts? These are the little things that make us unique - that make us beautiful. Why would you want to change them?

As usual, bunnies, what do you wish for?

Penelope ♥