Sunday, May 3, 2009

Frida Kahlo Photoshoot

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

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

Penelope ♥

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Cocoa Guide To Tutus

Photo by Abby Lanes

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Style Sheet - Geisha Girl

I have to admit, this week's Style Sheet is influenced by a  passion of mine that has just recently come to fruition. I've been telling myself that I'm going to visit Japan for years now, maybe even take up residence there for a little while, dissuaded only by my weak grasp of the seemingly complex language. This past week, though, I've put my reservations aside and picked up as many instructional books and video games as I possibly can on a whim, and I'm happy to announce that I'm picking up Japanese surprisingly fast! In celebration of my non-failure (for I can't say it's a success until I've completely mastered the language) today's Style Sheet is all about those gloriously gorgeous ladies of Japanese lore - the modestly lovely princesses of Nippon themselves - those daring, darling, geisha girls!

Matsuri Geisha Hair Pin
What's a geisha without extravagantly beautiful hair sticks to don? Described as "mint green Bohemian glass beads on intricately engraved bone," these gorgeously vibrant pins are the perfect cherry to top your super sweet green-tea-ice-cream-sundae of a hair-do with. Wear them with your best pink kimono, tiny blossoms and all, for an electric night filled with sushi and sake, or with nothing at all for a tranquil gardenia bubble bath!
Where to buy:

Lady Snowblood
Remember Kill Bill, that swingin' Quentin Tarantino film from six years back? Lady Snowblood just so happens to be its prickly-sweet Japanese precursor from 1973, a cult flick filled with gangster geishas hellbent on exacting revenge and traveling bandits with a taste for European debutant balls. Vividly beautiful and sharply gory at the same time, Lady Snowblood shows that not all geishas are those elegant and gentle beauties that we've come to expect - they can have quite a naughty side too!
Where to buy:

Roberto Cavalli Chinoise Print Dress
The uniqueness and elegance of traditional Japanese garb will always have its place in the fashion world - for kimonos never go out of style - but it's always fascinating to see the modern twist that designers put on these far-from-modern dresses. Roberto Cavalli spices up tradition with this amazing kimono-esque dress, perfect for hushed spring days spent under explosive cherry blossom trees or mystical festival nights where ponds and lakes and rivers alike light up with tiny paper boats, burning bright into the night with the secrets of the dead.
Where to buy:

100 Poems by 100 Poets White Teapot Set
In order to become a geisha, you're required to be well-versed in a slew of traditional "domestic arts", namely flower arranging and tea ceremony. While not all of us have the precise level of grace needed to excel in the latter, absolutely anyone can indulge in the tranquil thrills of chakai, serving sweets, tea, and a light snack to a cast of close friends. Throw your very own chakai with this traditional tea set, inscribed with one of the 100 poems from the 13th century anthology of Hyakunin Isshu, and refine your natural grace to geisha-like levels!
Where to buy:

Penelope ♥

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Weekly Wishes

I wish... for sweltering, swollen nights spent sitting criss-cross applesauce under a blanket of hazy purpled stars, dreaming of voodoo queens and midnight seances and doe-eyed children in tattered babydoll gowns, running barefoot through bayous and turnpikes and humid everglades with their weeping willows and their hushed lullabies. I wish for slow-dances on the front porch of Santeria priestesses, first kisses under warm mangrove trees still dripping with morning rain, afternoons spent shimmying through the backyards of pastel bungalows protected by jangling painted bones and buried ancient charms - I wish for those sticky-sweet Southern summers that can only fully be experienced at night, kissed by whispered breezes and the distant hum of Creole Crow Dances.

I wish... that everyone believed in the most magical, lyrical, dreamworld, heart-thumping, head-spinning, storybook things, catching only glimpses of them but knowing that they're there nonetheless. I wish that strangers would shudder to a halt, spinning madly on one heel in the middle of the street, swinging to catch sight of pinched imps in fedoras and whistling fauns drifting past the corner of their eye. I wish strangers would tell of how boys in coffee shops steal handfuls of creamers and sugar-cubes, only to leave them in a broken trail in hopes of luring home his sweet-toothed anima. I want quiet girls to tell me in whispered words and hushed tones about how love-struck firebird boys visit them at night, whispering sonnets in their ears when they think they're asleep, and how paper-skinned pixies tell fortunes in the park to anyone who will listen. I wish the world around me would hum to life with long-forgotten tales and dusty stories and folks would tell of how these bedtime stories have cracked into the modern world in tiny, wistful specks of life.

I wish... for pink tights and cowboy boots.

In this quietly spectacular week, my sleepy boys and electric girls, what do you wish for?

Penelope ♥

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Albums For Every Moment

Photo by Paul Broome

I'm a firm believer in concocting the perfect soundtrack to life - stashing away some jazzy and upbeat and melodic tunes for all of those conceivable moments that could require music. Whether it's a single song for those moments when you get the incurable blues or a whole playlist overflowing with swingin', swayin', slam-dancin' pep,  the power of music to change the rhythm of life is undeniable. The question is, what's on your soundtrack?

 For Electric Shocked, Bubblegum Pop, Clap-Your-Hands Moments 

I discovered this triad of merriment no more than a few weeks ago when they opened for Ben Folds at an itsy bitsy show in a local college theatre, electrifying the crowd with repeating beats and swingin' tunes. Before the show the women's bathroom had been crowded with twenty-something girls complaining about how opening acts never made them want to rush out and buy their CD, but Jukebox the Ghost shocked everyone by doing exactly that. As soon as they left the stage, there was practically a stampede of people charging towards their tiny merchandise table! 

Let Live & Let Ghosts is for those moments of chaotically sweet soda-pop bliss - for the upbeat anarchist spray-painting ten foot smiley faces underneath bridges and on empty walls, for tiny girls sipping down chocolate milkshakes in diners and trying to explain the Socratic method to bewildered strangers, for eight year old gangster girls in Converse and tutus, stomping around the playground and cursing like a sailor at anyone who looks at her the wrong way. It's an album about the confusing thrills that make up life, whether it be parking your car in a tow-away zone or surviving the apocalypse only to find, after the dust settles, "a better world than the one you left behind."

Preview (Hold It In):

For Sweetly Surreal, Slow-Motion, Modern Day Moments

Ben Folds has been my personal hero for as long as I can remember (I've joked since the sixth grade that one day I'll get him to come to my birthday party), with charmingly surreal tracks ranging in topic from the club-life of gothic misfits to the daily failures of a college drop-out considering joining the army. His live shows have a kind of communal spark to them that studio-recorded tracks just can't capture which makes this album, in my opinion, one of his best. It's the next best thing to actually being in the audience!

Ben Folds Live is the perfect soundtrack for those moments that require flinchingly catchy yet down-to-earth ballads - for being chased down by the hypertonic scream of a cop car, or watching a car crash shatter in front of you in steamy, dreamy, mistifying slow motion, or daydreaming aimlessly to the haunting question of "What if? What if? What if? What now?" It's music for realists and daydreamers alike, for awkward teens and ever more awkward adults, for strangers and loners confused by the sleepy complexities of life but in love with them nonetheless. It seems that those thrilling je ne sais quoi moments that life quietly slips underneath us can always be filled in neatly with a bottle of beer and a Ben Folds song.

Preview (Zak & Sara): 

For Super-Charged, Ska-a-Go-Go, Save the World Moments

Whether you know it or not, most everyone with a toddler in the house has encountered the Aquabats in one way or another. As the creative geniuses behind the electrifying kids show Yo Gabba Gabba, their music has seeped into houses all across the world in the form of those tiny tunes that your baby sister won't stop humming. Their formal music, though, is far more thrilling, taking on the form of backflipping ska tracks with a full brass band and shakin', cartoon-inspired lyrics.

Perfect for thrashing, bashing, party-crashing moments, Myths, Legends and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2 makes a ska-a-go-go background to a day spent playing dress-up with wrinkled costumes and kids bed sheets-turned-capes, or cannon-balling in on a hot summer pool party, or speeding towards the beach on an electric yellow moped, revving through stop signs and stop lights and crosswalks alike. For big kids, though, their music is the main ingredient to starting a sweet-and-sour slam-dance-mania mosh pit, no matter whether you're at a club, in a parking lot, or even thrashing through supermarket isles!

Preview (The Wild Sea!):

♥ For Mean Reds, Swollen Blues, and Bittersweet Happiness In-Between Moments

With songs reminiscent of flirtatiously dangerous noir flicks, black and white and splattered with streaks of chocolate syrup blood, Luke Doucet strums out harrowing tales of broken hearts and broken china, furniture tossed from apartment buildings in a steamy frenzy and sloshing glasses of bourbon and rum on the rocks. His characters are acoustic heroes, "martyrs and barflies" tiptoeing through a sepia city sparked by broken neon and shady, rouged girls in golden cocktail dresses. 

For those smokescreen jazz-club moments in life where the blues and the reds collide spectacularly leaving you swaying and woozy, Broken (And Other Rogue States) provides a perfect soundtrack to match your haziness and transport you to a world of sleepy strangers and broken fire-escapes. It's a world of brick apartment buildings and swaying sidewalks, of restaurant powder rooms and young waiters in tuxes and a matching fez, of jazz singers and lit cigarettes and stiletto heels and black suited men. An album for dazed moods and bittersweet blues, Doucet lights up those dark corners of life with mystifying songs and swaying guitar solos.

Preview (Emily, Please):

Penelope ♥

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Peppermint Issue 2 Out Now!

My, my, I've been gone for a while, haven't I? I won't bore all of you amazing girls and boys with the rather drab reasons for my absence, but it's safe to say that things have been nothing short of hectic around here lately! I'm happy to announce that I'm back, though, and with a whole lotta stories to tell! 

First, though, I have a rather exciting announcement to make. Those of you who live in Australia might have already seen the second issue of Peppermint Magazine floating around bookstores and cafes - maybe you've even flipped through it once or twice. If not, go out and get yourself a copy right now! As of issue #2, I'm a brand new contributer with a super special article contained within its pages!

For all of you bubblegum bunnies who live in other parts of the world and are wondering what all the fuss is about, Peppermint is an eco-fashion magazine all about living life to its fullest, and greenest, possibilities, focusing on green fashion, DIY projects, and inspiration for living an Earth-friendly life. As of right now it can only be found in Australian retailers, but absolutely anyone, no matter where you live, can subscribe and receive every issue right to their front door for a super-reasonable price.

With that said, I'd like to welcome all of the brand new bunnies to Cocoa and say hello again to all of the old ones who have stuck around, even through my sporadic absences. All of you are beautiful, intelligent, and all-around amazing people, and we're going to have a lot of fun.

Stay beautiful, angels~

Penelope ♥

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Style Sheet - Bonjour, Paris!

In the spirit of being spontaneous and trying something new, I've decided to start a new segment around this super dizzy merry-go-round that is Cocoa, hopeful something that all of you amazing bunnies will enjoy! The Cocoa Style Sheet will be a weekly compilation of stunning a-go-go clothes, beauty products, books, places, and anything else that I can think of all centered around a rotating weekly theme. This week? That theme just so happens to be the one and only city of art, love, and style supreme - Paris, France! 

Have an idea for a theme? For a featured product? For a new and unique cupcake flavor? Let me know! I'm dying to hear your thoughts and suggestions, my mocha bunnies! Throw your two cents into the hot Cocoa cup!

TokyoMilk Parfumarie Curiosite in French Kiss
Tokyo does Paris! This little bottle of aromatic bliss describes itself as "a sweet pucker of mandarin orange, gardenia and tuberose" - and what a kiss it is! A kiss about squeaky sleek platform heels, reapplying your lipstick atop the Eiffel Tower and oversized black berets worn by tiny girls sipping cafe au lait, French Kiss captures all of those wonderful kisses that the hometown of sizzling love has to offer.
Where to buy:

Retro-Style Chanel Brooch
What would Paris be without fashion? Without haute couture and incurable style? This stunning brooch takes its wearer back to the vintage days of French mode in a way that brilliantly captures the style legacy of its company's founder, Cocoa Chanel. In the words of the decadent fashion dame herself, "A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous." Luckily this effervescent accessory just so happens to be both! 
Where to buy:

Almondine Bakery
New York Magazine named this itsy-bitsy pastry cafe the "Best Bakery in New York" for 2009 - an all-too deserving title for the Dumbo-based shop which serves up sticky sweet croissants, oversized mugs of bittersweet hot chocolate, and sugar-dusted raspberry doughnuts daily. A heaven on Earth for those world travelers looking for the best French bite a little closer to home, Almondine is never one to disappoint, whether its clients be casual Brooklynites with a incurable sweet tooth or tried-and-true Parisians.
Where to enjoy: 85 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl
"Ever wonder what gives French women that je ne sais qua?" The back of this fabulous, flirtatious, and all-around awe inspiring book reads. "At first you might think it's the elegant figure, matchless style, and mysterious allure. Then you realize those qualities don't come from just anywhere. They come from generations of women raised to cultivate an extraordinary sense of self. French women know who they are, like who they are, and excel at presenting who they are." A thrilling roadmap to the lessons learned from a multitude of French women, Entre Nous shows that any woman can capture their unique and charismatic charm - all they need is a little bit of style, lots of spunk, and that enduring spirit that tells a girl to always hold her head high and never give up!
Where to buy:

Penelope ♥

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Cocoa Guide to Discovering Sparkling Novels

Photo by Sara-Elizabeth Myers - my new favorite book!

There's no specific section in the library for books bubbling with lyrical prose and mythical stories, yet our hearts are still stuck onto these kinds of tales - so how, we ask, do we discover new and exciting reads? How do we find these tiny novellas and towering epics that make our heads spin and our hearts fly out of our chests? There are only so many tried-and-true authors we have under our belt and what happens when no one else is around to give recommendations and we, quite simply, get that insatiable itch to read?

Where to Hunt for Fabulous Reads
+ Dig through the young adult section of your local bookstore or library - I find that some of the most dreamlike and enchanted books somehow always end up categorized there.
+ Used book stores usually have a "vintage" section filled with old kids books and ten cent paperbacks with the most curious and outrageous story-lines. Take a day and explore all of these stores in your area - you might just find some really great deals while you're at it!
+ Hit the nearest comic book store! Crazy as it sounds, most comic book stores carry the best in science-fiction and fantasy, not to mention the fact that you're more than likely to find a thrilling read at a discounted price!
+ Garage sales, garage sales, garage sales! There's no better place for thrilling novels that you won't find anywhere else.

Before you begin your hunt, here are some absolutely amazing, all-around thrilling, super sparkling books to keep your eye out for...

White Oleander by Janet Fitch
If Francesca Lia Block were to write harrowing, epic tragedies, White Oleander would be her first novel. Set in Los Angeles against a hazy, blooming landscape, a mother-daughter relationship is shattered after poetess Ingrid Magnussen poisons her backstabbing boyfriend with the blossoms of oleanders. Consequently her fifteen year old daughter, Astrid, is faced with the all-too harsh realities of foster homes and adoption agencies, bouncing between dilapidated houses and all too unfit guardians for the remainder of the novel. The tear-jerking story and lyrical prose are both beautiful, but nothing short of heart-wrenching - just when Astrid seems to get a break, some terrible tragedy occurs and she's forced to start all over again. Nevertheless, White Oleander is an absolutely gorgeous work of fiction that deserves every piece of praise that it gets - if you're looking for something especially lovely to read, give this doorstop of a book a glance.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
When I first picked up this tiny little gem, I expected something strictly fairy-tale-esque - something dreamy and hazy, a fantastic world that evoked Alice in Wonderland and the eccentricity and wonder of being young again. Instead, The Book Of Lost Things presented the Brother Grimm world with a fiercely woozy twist, one that's mature and real rather than mild and childlike. It evokes a slightly less gothic yet similar nonetheless feel to that of American McGee's Alice at parts, and at others it shines brightly in the same manner as the original fairy tales themselves. In black and white, it tells the haunting story of a young boy, isolated in life and driven to a state of childish jealousy when his father remarries and has a second child. The only place he can seem to find solace is in the pages of his books, dusty old things that speak to him in the middle of the night, whispering secrets and stories and tales of their lives. It is only when one night, during the all-out bedlam of a World War II air raid, that he gets sucked into their paperback world and everything truly changes, and he finds himself in charge of a life-changing decision - is it better to face the modern horrors of growing up or those shadowy ones of childhood?

After Dark by Haruki Murakami
As a preface, I’m hardly exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most interesting, well-rounded, and comprehensively thrilling reads that I’ve ever gotten my hands on in my history of literacy. It’s an eccentrically simple story, following a strange brood of characters through the electric world that is Tokyo at night and mapping out their connections to each other - a Chinese girl is robbed and abandoned in a "love hotel", a quirky trombonist meets the sister of the girl of his dreams in a Denny's, a group of women with oddly unfitting names find themselves in the grungiest of districts at night, and a young woman who is trapped in a Sleeping Beauty-esque sleep gets transported into a strange and mysterious world inside of her television. After Dark is storytelling at its best, comprehensively capturing what its like to be a night owl in an electric city, from the cast of characters to the script-like narrative. Pick it up now and experience it for yourself!

Mondo Barbie
I'm consistently shocked when I reference this book in everyday life and others have no idea what I'm talking about. Mondo Barbie is an eccentric, flirtatious, and sometimes dirty compilation of short stories and poems all about America's favorite pink plastic sweetheart - that go-go girl herself, Miss Barbara Millicent Roberts. The book turns a modern bubblegum twist on the doll that almost all baby girls grew up with, exposing her stunningly deep impact on twentieth century life, culture, sexuality, and everything else through sweetly short valley girl novellas printed on petunia pink paper. Because really, who doesn't want to be a Barbie girl?

The Gift Moves by Steve Lyon
In a Hayao Miyazaki-esque world where buses are living, breathing creatures that pad across the country side and whole families tattoo their names and stories across their bodies, a girl leaves home with dreams of apprenticing in the city and learning the art of weaving. As she is taught how to dye fabric the most brilliant of colors and work a loom so large that it takes up a whole room by a mild old woman named Heron, secrets begin to unfold and her path in life criss-crosses in the most unexpected of places. The Gift Moves is a mystifying novel about soul-searching and the things that bind us to life, no matter how everyday they may seem, and is one of those rare electrified books that leaves you transfixed with the dreamworld contained inside of its pages.

The Every Boy by Dana Adam Shapiro
There's no more cheery an example of death and rebirth than that contained inside of this upbeat recollection of fifteen year old Henry Every's life. After washing ashore with no clues to his death, Henry's parents discover a meticulously organized ledger recalling every melancholy and rapturous moment of his short yet quirky life, from his obsessive love for a teenaged New Yorker named Benna to comically illegal episodes performed with his partner in crime, Jorden. A charmingly sweet yet tragic novel, it's heartwarming in a curious sort of way that will leave you wishing for more of its kind. I promise you that as soon as you've turned the last page you'll ask why your childhood couldn't have been this interesting.

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
To all of those searching for magic in novels, for quiet tales with modern day mysticism, for daydream-esque worlds painted through sticky-sweet words, for some tiny piece of fiction that can never be categorized, never be shelved properly, something that belongs to more than just children or young adults or quiet pre-teens, Green Angel may just be exactly what you've been searching for. It's a hauntingly lean novel, telling the story of shadowy and shy Green who, after an apocalyptic fire rages in large scale, is left empty and alone. With nothing but the house she grew up in and a garden soaked in ashes, she morphs through her teenaged years into a leather-clad warrior, a negative of her former self, blind from the ash and tattooed with her sorrow. Through chance encounters and the help of other survivors, though, she rediscovers herself and finds that sometimes disaster can lead to true inner-happiness.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
I can’t say enough about this book. Neil Gaiman brings fairy tales back from the depths of history and revives them with a newfound vigor in this incredible, imaginative novel. If you’ve seen the movie and thought it was just a little too cheeky for you, then this book is absolutely a must-read – the novel version is just a little bit darker while still retaining that wide-eyed charm that most fairy-tales have. It’s so nice to see a revival of this genre since no truly good fairy-tales have been written since the 18th century, and I definitely think that Neil Gaiman is just the man to tackle its Renaissance.

Penelope ♥

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Weekly Wishes

I wish... for a bite-sized brownstone in Park Slope, nestled between French bakeries overflowing with roller-skate sized eclairs and huge bone white mugs of cafe au lait and super-hero supply stores boasting capes and goggles and Batmobiles disguised as bikes. I wish for gardening stores within walking distance named after old black and white movies and cafes painted lipstick red that serve coffee and tea to artists and poets and everymen alike - for San Francisco-esque streets that dip down so sharp that they make bike rides turn into roller-coasters and a roadmap of the world's cuisines nestled in one single block. I wish for lazy days and hazy nights spent in this glorious whipped cream-topped slice of Brooklyn and I want to live, eat, and breathe within its boundary lines.

I wish... whistling was mandatory for anyone in a particularly good mood. Something about coming upon someone whistling just cheers me up automatically, especially when they seem so enthralled with doing it. Plus, almost all upbeat songs include whistling - take Perry Como's Magic Moments, for example. I'm telling you, whistling should be a sport!

I wish... for horror flicks and swingin' chicks.

In a week of hand-holding, heart-shaped confetti, and teenaged boys riding their bikes through the street with whole bouquets of roses balanced on the handlebars, what do you wish for, sugarplum bunnies?

Penelope ♥

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How to Give the Perfect Valentines Day Gift

Photo by anhsangtim

How do you say "I love you" in French? Italian? Japanese? For that matter, how do you say it in English? How do you say "I think you're pretty cool" or "I really wish we could hang out more" - how do you say "I would throw away everything just to be with you?" in a way that truly conveys it? Valentines Day seems to be the absolute best day to say these things, whether we say them in French, Italian, Japanese, or English, but the question is always what do we give to convey all these swirling, spinning, mixed-up emotions? What tiny, red-wrapped package could ever say all these things? Take a deep breathe, forget the bouquet of red roses, and go for a little more personal approach - quite simply, here's the Cocoa guide for finding those perfect gifts that say exactly the right words. 

"I'd like to get to know you better"
Have you happened upon someone thoroughly intriguing mere days before February 14th, either wandering the street or sitting next to you on a plane or in that itsy-bitsy coffee shop you religiously frequent? You're in luck! Now is the perfect time to further your friendship with a charming little trinket or a small excursion out with this newfound friend! Keep in mind that Valentines Day isn't all about over-the-top romanticism, so keep your gift simple and fun, especially at this stage of the relationship - track down a CD to a funky little band they might enjoy or pick up a book that they mentioned they've been meaning to read. Humorous gifts are great for Valentines like these, too, so feel free to find a parody of something they said they did or didn't like and present it with great extravagance. Despite standard V-Day traditions, though, avoid jewelry at all costs! You've just met the person and don't want to give the wrong impression!
For Last Minute Gift Givers: Put your skills to the test and make them something using Origami, whether it be a paper crane, an ice cream cone, or a slice of pizza.

"Thank you for being there"
It's important to remember that V-Day is not just about lovers in love, but it's a day of appreciation for everyone that you've cultivated a relationship with - that means mothers who have stood by your side during the good times and the bad, fathers who have always held your hand when checking for monsters under the bed, friends who have never let you down and were always there to cheer you up when the hard times came - don't forget that these are the most important people in your life and they deserve to be celebrated too! Try making hand-made paper lace valentines for these incredible folks, complete with personal letters and maybe even a few pieces of candy. If you're looking for something a little more modern, too, track down a gift card to their favorite coffee shop or movie theatre or restaurant and tuck it inside.
For Last Minute Gift Givers: Compose a poem and perform it with eccentric theatrics, professing your appreciation for them and everything they do in highs and lows.

"I think I'm falling in love with you"
"Valentine's day is in less than a week and I have someone really special in my life that I would like to make a gift for. He's my best friend, confidante, and the reason why I'm almost always happy...He's not my boyfriend, but I have feelings for him, and I was hoping that this Valentine's day, I could finally tell him."

This has to be the most difficult gift of all, especially to those on pins and needles wondering whether or not their Valentine will say those three simple words in return. If there's an opportunity for romanticism and extravagance, this is it - find something truly meaningful to the person in question, whether it be hard-to-get concert tickets or a little slice of nostalgia from their childhood, and make a whole day of the gift-giving ceremony. Take them out to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, taking a tour of the city you live in whilst doing so, or just visit meaningful places to the both of you. For those like the lovely bunny above who want to go the handmade route, do so with intimacy! Knit a big warm scarf for your Valentine to wear on those especially cold days, cut little hearts out of paper or fabric or whatever else you can find and string them together in a six-foot-long daisy chain, cross-stich "Be mine?" with little checkboxes underneath reading "Yes" and "No". Whatever you make, be sure that it comes from the heart and be especially sure to have lots of fun whilst making it!
For Last Minute Gift Givers: Don't be afraid to be cliche! If you've got a guitar and a little bit of musical talent, stand outside your Valentine's window and play their favorite song (or at least one of the songs you know how to play!)

"I'm definitely in love with you"

If you've been with someone for a while and have already been through all the tiny, romantic instances of Valentines Day, then just have fun on February 14th! Don't stress out over getting a meaningful gift or tons of chocolates or the biggest bouquet of flowers you can possibly find - instead just enjoy the time spent with your Valentine! In this case, your gift can be something as simple as a tiny little diary, for those Valentines who love to write, or a vintage apron for the epicurean connoisseur. Be simple in your gift and instead make the day spent together spectacular!
For Last Minute Gift Givers: Make paper dolls that look just like you and your sweetie and trade them so you can both carry each other around all the time.

Stay beautiful, angels, and have the most beautiful, love-soaked day possible.

Penelope ♥

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Currently Digging

Japanese Lolita style

Upon purchasing, receiving, and falling in love with this incredibly dazzling Baby, The Stars Shine Bright skirt, I've realized that there is truly no fashion subculture so comprehensively unique than that of Japanese Lolita style. Sure, anyone who's hung around this tiny little wonderland that is Cocoa for longer than a few days will already know that I'm constantly digging Lolita style, but as of right now I feel the need to reiterate it with a little more oomph - no other genre of clothing has redefined fashion and the lifestyle that comes with it as creatively and eloquently as this tiny little craze has. Lolita style consists of making little kid clothes for big kids, it's a silky whipped-cream and pink cherry topped slice of pie to tide over your inner child, and wearing its clothes give you the kind of thrill that only frilly dresses and big pink headbows could provide.

Doorstop novels
For those who don't already know, I'm an obsessively avid reader who practically lives in the library, but recently the novels I've been throwing myself into have been more like long-term relationships than two-day flings. Usually I read about three or four 300-page novellas at once, but as of late I've been falling in love with gigantic, 800-page epics so thick that they could be used as doorstops. From Steinbeck's East of Eden to Dantec's Babylon Babies, these gargantuan life stories stretch through whole generations, capturing every tiny moment in a different time, a different place, a different world. There's something so comforting about toting around a book that thick - it's almost like carrying an infant in the womb, protecting it and nurturing it, accepting it as a distant yet forever part of your world when you finally do turn that last page and set it free. Everyone should read at least a hundred books like these, or at least use them to prop open doors and steady wobbly tables!

 Vegetarian burritos
I'm constantly in search of really spectacular vegetarian burritos and I have to say that my two absolute favorites as of late hail from unlikely places. Whole Foods, the all-organic grocery store of national fame, makes an abnormally delicious black bean and cheese burrito on a spinach tortilla, one which can usually be found in the pre-prepared food section, but a little-known burrito chain called California Tortilla can also hold their own. Since CalTort has recently closed their one and only Florida store and, for now, don't have any locations in New York, I've settled into an uncomfortably jittery burrito withdrawal, but if you live in northern-most part of the U.S. South you're in luck - there are locations abound in towns near you so check them out!

Foreign films
Why do the French and Japanese tend to make the weirdest, strangest, and absolute best movies? After watching Luc Besson's Angel-A, a charmingly twisted love story featuring Jamel Debbouze from Amelie, I've realized that I could probably spend my whole life watching nothing but foreign films, picking up new languages, new references, new tales to tell. As for those forespoken crazy Japanese flicks that I love oh-so-much? Two words for you: Battle Royale.

Penelope ♥

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Style Essentials for the Unconventional Girl

Photo by Trixie Bedlam

Let's face it, fashion isn't the same for everyone. While some girls run their fingers over glossy magazines, slipping into teeny weeny slips of haute couture and super-slick Manolo heels, others burrow into vintage floral wraps found at rummage sales and electric yellow go-go boots. Yet whatever your personal style may be, some things are simple style essentials that look good on almost everyone - so for the front-page fashionista, thrift store starlet, and everyone else in-between, here are those certain items that every well-dressed girl should keep stocked in her wardrobe at all times!

 Pashmina Scarves
If you're from New York then you should have absolutely no trouble finding one of these beauties - they're sold on street corners all across the city for as little as $5 and they come in the most dizzyingly beautiful colors and styles. The pashmina scarf is one of the most versatile pieces of clothing for the sole reason that it can be worn so many different ways - from a full body wrap to a simple winter shawl to a sari-esque skirt to just a plain old scarf. It's a must-have for anyone who braves brisk winters (or for those who just want to look like they do!) Having trouble figuring out how to wear yours? Here are nine basic tying techniques!


Crazy as it seems, tutus really are absolute must haves for any modern girl who loves bringing funkiness and fun into everyday life. It may seem a little too wild at first, but tutus and petticoats can easily be paired with seemingly simple fashion staples and make you look effortlessly charming and chic. Try wearing them with oxford button-ups, long sleeved shirts layered with tank tops, and knee-high socks. For an everyday look, avoid high heels and instead opt for simple sneakers or flats.

♥ Black, Ankle-High Skinny Pants
I reference it constantly on this site, but there's one particular scene from my favorite movie, Funny Face, that cemented my love of skinny pants. In it, Audrey Hepburn's character Jo performs an interpretive dance in a smoky French club to thoroughly explain the concept of dancing as a form of release to Fred Astaire. She prances around the club in a black turtleneck and black skinny pants, swinging and swaying and throwing herself left and right, dancing with French poets and beatniks amidst the club's hazy lights. It's a classic scene that created a classic staple, and even today I still see the most amazing women pull a similar look off with so much flair. Pair them with a horizontally-striped shirt for a Paris-a-go-go look or a button-up shirt with flats - anyway you choose to wear them, these pants will never let you down!

Thigh-High Socks
Thicker than tights for cold winter days and very schoolgirl-esque, long thigh-high socks can really do wonders for an outfit. I suggest going with darker colors like an eggplant or navy, but whites and creams can look just as good when worn correctly. Wear them with mini-skirts, dresses, or even shorts and a good pair of heels!

Wide-Brimmed Hats
Although in modern days the big, classically simple sun-bathing hat has become more and more rare, it will always hold it's rightful place in a well-stocked closet. Audrey Hepburn pulled it off effortlessly in Breakfast At Tiffany's, pairing it with a little black dress, a pair of sunglasses, and a string of pearls, and I firmly believe that anyone can give it just as much character and charm as she did. Go with a tan one for casual summer days, wearing it with a white tank top, a filmy button up, and a rolled up pair of jeans, or for those more formal occasions wear it the Audrey way, black dress and all!

Ballet Flats
For quiet, casual engagements or those days when you simply don't feel like wearing heels, a good pair of ballet flats are the next best thing - they're stylish and simple, making you look professional and chic without being too dressy. A good black pair is always in style, but it's worth it to invest in as many colors as you possibly can. Mix and match and see what comes of it!

♥ Faux-Fur Coats
Fur coats create such a wonderful silhouette and add a great finishing touch to any outfit, but faux-fur is the way to go both ethically and practically. Fur coats have been associated with women of luxury for a good reason, for a real one will cost you a fortune, not to mention the fact that you'd be perpetuating the practice of killing for fashion with bona fide fur. Faux-fur is cheaper and just as stunning when worn, so try topping off any outfit with one, from silky buttercream dresses to denim jeans and turtlenecks.

♥ A Great Pair of Jeans
This goes without saying, but every girl absolutely has to have that one perfect pair of jeans to complete her  wardrobe. Jeans are so versatile and can be dressed up for semi-formal engagements and dressed down for runs to the supermarket. The possibilities are endless when it comes to what to wear with them, so get yourself a pair and experiment!

The Good Old Fashioned Little Black Dress
What would a girl be without the incredible little black dress? Think about how many classic outfits have been perpetuated by that one plain and simple idea of a perfect black dress? Discovering your dress is one of those classic moments of womanhood, like tumbling down the rabbit hole and into this strange and wonderful new world of style, so when you discover it don't let it slip away. A flattering dress never goes out of style!

Penelope ♥

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Everything A Girl Needs To Be Happy

Photo by Sarah


Penelope ♥

Friday, January 30, 2009

Daily Inspiration - January 30th

Photo by McKenzie

Nothing is lost when it comes to love. We get stuck in this perpetual cycle of passed looks, of that yearning for conversation, for words, for smiles, for anything. We become diary-writers and backyard poets, guitar-strummers and jitterbugs, all for the sake of four little letters - letters that we spell out in black ink and huge, looping letters, L-O-V-E. We want it written all over our bodies like tribal tattoos and battle scars. We become Yakuza gangsters, painting our history on our backs for all to see, for us to experience. My grandparents told me that they met while my grandmother was working as a waitress at a burger joint, that my grandfather ordered root beer after root beer and kept emptying every one that my grandma would bring him out the window of his convertible when she left just so that, when she brought him another, he could see her again. Love is funny like that. True love means being bashful and strange and completely unpredictable - it means ordering those thirty root beers just to see that one beautiful soul that you've wrapped your wings around, even if you have to empty every last one of them out the window.

Love, spectacular love, high-flying cotton candy silky-milky circus love, means setting all conventions on fire and throwing caution to the wind. Love makes us brave, it makes us unbelievable, and so we become those poets and musicians and artists and revolutionaries, all for the sake of four little letters. But in the end, when we find ourselves held tight in the arms of that one spectacular person, the root beers seem insignificant. The words, those letters, those are the only things that matter, and it's a beautiful thing to be able to say them with true conviction.

I love you, we say. Root beer and all.

Penelope ♥

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Penelope Bat ♥'s Hip✩Hop Candy!

In my travels around the great big internet, I just so happened to stumble upon a fabulous, pink-tinted place filled with jewelry, buttons, and keychains galore. This sugary-sweet heaven contains everything you and your inner-child could possibly need to take on the great big world with a pinch of flair and an excess of classic Japanese cuteness, catering specifically to high-flying go-go girls who, somewhere along the road of life, simply forgot to grow up. Hip✩Hop Candy was started by the darling Miss Kitty (a.k.a. Olivia Bruno) as a tiny web-based company, and since has grown into a much bigger enterprise, appearing at numerous Japanese anime and manga conventions with much success.

Because of my undying love for what Miss Kitty's doing and her amazing products, Hip✩Hop Candy and Cocoa have teamed up to present all of you lovely bunnies with a contest! The prize? A surprise goodie bag filled to the brim with all kinds of Hip✩Hop Candy swag! All you have to do to win is compose a classic Japanese haiku about Hip✩Hop Candy! 

For all of you who have forgotten your school-yard days of literature classes, haiku's are a form of Japanese poetry that are composed by the number of syllables they have. They're usually three lines and follow a 5-7-5 structure, the first line containing five syllables, the second containing seven, and the third containing five again.

You can enter as many haiku's as you'd like in the form of a comment, just please don't post anonymously! If you're our big winner, we need a way to contact you! Be as creative as you possibly can - there are no rules or prerequisites - just be sure to have all of your submissions in by Wednesday, January 28th!

As a way to fire up your creative juices, here are some H✩HC themed haiku's that I whipped up!

Panda bears and charms
Strawberry keychains and rings
Fire up Paypal!

Why travel the world
For Japanese goods when there's
Hip✩Hop Candy here?

Brighten up the room
With necklaces of tea cakes
And pink cupcake rings

Get writin', my super-cute bunnies! Prizes await!

Penelope ♥

Friday, January 23, 2009

One-Line Fairy Tales

Photo by Amalia Sieber

♥ Those hot-chocolate winter nights were what drove us outside, beneath the canopy of rambling trees with branches so thick that the blanket of the stars and the sky was but an afterthought, and it was there that we found our miracles, our haven, our tiny dancing girls with fresh drew in their hair and our anima queens who wore paper doe masks and tiny silk dresses and our animus kings in thick arctic coats and combat boots and our dazzling reception of music and merriment and magic, and we held hands as we faced this brave new word, tiny unspoken questions still on our lips, and we watched as the sky lit up with things we could not understand but loved nonetheless, and when the howling of the wolves and music of the night finally faded into silence and the electric light of their hopes and dreams faded into a sweetly dim refection of the stars, only then did we go inside, dizzy and drunk with the magic of that winter night, wondering from behind sleepy lids if maybe it was just a great and curious dream.

♥ The music of the evening called out to me, like the sound of a tuning fork struck against a star, until I thought, while huddled over endless sheets of paper and ribbons of pre-soaked ink, that it would drive me mad, and so I gathered up my typewriter, in it's faded black case, and my thick corduroy hat and my stiff winter coat and my one-way train ticket meant for nowhere in particular and I left the house with all the doors still open, the lights turned on, the locks left at ease so, if they so pleased, the doors could swing open and they too could enjoy the night, and I thought nothing of cops or robbers or thieves, but only of the night and what it held, and so I walked down quiet streets, past bakeries that I had frequented, bookstores I had loitered in, coffee shops that I had spent hours inside of simply watching the sun rise and set, and I knew that I must leave them all behind, and so I walked until I reached the shore and, standing on the last plank of the only pier in sight, threw off my stiff winter coat, my corduroy hat, my train ticket all into the ocean, keeping only my typewriter, my closest friend, and together I knew we could make our own home somewhere here, somewhere in this crisp, velvet night.

♥ The boy and I, the boy who I knew but knew nothing about, we wandered those streets illuminated only by the moon and the stars and talked about movie stars and coffee shops and dreams that made us both wake in a sweat, and I told him how I dreamt of carousels and ferris wheels that electrified the night and he told me how he dreamt of car crashes and broken glass and flashing lights that lit up the sky in blues and reds, and together we shared slices of pizza and broken stories in pizzerias with no doors and I told him how he looked happy, flustered yet happy, and how his cheeks were tinted a Shirley Temple shade of pink, and we walked each other back down those quiet and swollen streets, our laughter and joy and attention caught only by the sound of breaking glass, and together we watched that tiny red car crash into a brick wall, breaking into tiny, sugary specs like a ten thousand volt supernova, and in our amazement, in our fright, I was the first to notice the wall itself, a towering brick thing, and how behind it a ferris wheel, bright as the sun, was turning round and round in quiet excitement, and so together we stood there, shaken by the curious awe of the world, taken aback by the strangeness of it all, and when the world quieted back down we turned our backs and, solemnly, he walked me back to my waking life.

Penelope ♥

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Weekly Wishes

I wish... for ska music so loud and explosive that it sends entire neighborhoods into fits of slam-dancery. I wish for the heat of club lights, for skipping drum beats, for a full brass band that pumps out short breaths and falsetto rhythms. I want shaking hips, skankin' souls, midnight sing-a-long songs in tiny clubs - I wish I could wrap myself in notes and beats and crashing cymbals and fall into that shattering, crystalized pop of noise.

I wish... the best for our incredible new president, and I hope that every American takes this opportunity to come together under him for a truly United States of America.

I wish... life could be lived out in perfect poetry - in stanzas and lines and parallel structures. I wish everyone could turn life into their very own love song, a string of verse and rhyme, and make their own unique poetry out of days and weeks and years. I wish our songs would define us, our words bring us together, and our differences be set aside for at least one moment where we get to sing out that love song fearlessly to the rest of the world. I wish our lyrics would save us.

I wish... for little pink tutus and subway rides.

As always, my sleepy honey bunnies, what do you wish for this week?

Penelope ♥