Book Review: The Portable Dorothy Parker

The Portable Dorothy ParkerThe Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A collection of poems, short stories, essays, articles, reviews and more, The Portable Dorothy Parker is both fun and fascinating.

Dorothy Parker, famous (or is it infamous) for her wit and humor, never thought much of her work other than as a way to pay her bills. Believing that one had to be a writer of a serious novel before you could be taken seriously, I believe that she did herself and her work a great disservice. In her short stories, many of which consist of nothing more than a conversation between two characters or a stream of consciousness internal monologue, she displays an exceptional talent with dialogue, filling the space between the lines of what is said with hidden tragedies, ironies, and hypocrisies more deftly than many of the novelist that I have read. The most famous example of Parker’s skill in contrasting the stated with the unstated is her Arrangements in Black and White, a short story in a white woman, gushing about the black singer who is attending the same party, reveals a horribly racist and condescending attitude even as she professes that she has “no feelings at all” about his race.

There were several points where Parker’s short stories reminded me of Hemingway’s iceberg theory of writing in which only a small percentage of the story is stated outright while the rest lurks underwater, unseen until the reader delves for it. This was particularly striking while reading Parker’s Lady with a Lamp which seemed like a companion piece (if not a sequel) to Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants both in style and in subject.

If Parker’s short stories reminded me of Hemingway (and occasionally of James Joyce), her poetry (my favorite part of the book) made me instantly think of Edna St. Vincent Millay (one of my all time favorite poets). Neither Millay and Parker were shy about partaking in life, love, and sexuality (see: Millay’s “I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed” and Parker’s “Salome’s Dancing Lesson”) but Parker seemed to be a lot more down to earth about it all with less illusions about the game and how it would play out. Still, despite the heartache inherent in not getting what you want (or worse, getting it), Parker never bows out. She may go into each situation with a wry, here-we-go-again attitude but she still goes in despite knowing better. And this rueful self-awareness, combined with her wit, humor, and just a touch of snark, is what I really enjoy about Parker’s work. Poems like “Unfortunate Coincidence,” “Two-Volume Novel,” “The Red Dress,” and “The Flaw in Paganism” are a lot of fun to read anytime but I can only imagine how much I would have appreciated this book when I was dealing with the ups and downs of dating!

The book also included some articles and essays Parker wrote for various publications, interviews, theater and book reviews, as well as a collection of letters that Parker wrote to various people. I have to admit that the letters were a bit of a let-down. Being out of context and to people that I didn’t necessarily know, they just didn’t catch my attention. I think I would have enjoyed them more in a biography or memoir because then I would have more of a context to put them in. The fact that the book ends with the letters was a bit of a let down, causing me to feel like the book fizzled out rather than ended.

I enjoyed the reviews a lot more. Although Parker’s wit seemed to becoming more curmudgeonly as she got older, her take on authors like Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, A. A. Milne (or as she called him, the author of “Whimsey the Pooh”), Jack Kerouac and Beat culture in general are often hilarious and not to be missed.
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Book Review: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of DespairTwenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lush, sensual, and passionate, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair is a simply gorgeous collection of poems by Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.

What I love about Neruda’s work is how earthy it is and by that, I mean that his poetry blends a frank appreciation of love and sex with natural images of pines, islands, sea, and sky in a way that is elemental and evocative and breathtaking.

For me, reading this book evoked images of a poet scribbling his verses by the light of a full moon while salt-laden island breezes wafted through open wooden shutters to cool the glistening skin of the smiling, sated woman sleeping in the tangled bed just behind him.

I am left in awe of how romantic and beautiful these poems are and I cannot wait to discover more of his incredibly poetry.

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New – Blue Lace Ruffle Scarf / Price Reductions on all Knitwear

I have started a blog just for Ciarrai Studios stuff so I can reclaim this blog for my personal stuff. But just in case anyone is interested:

New – Blue Lace Ruffle Scarf / Price Reductions on all Knitwear.

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Special One Day Offer – Tea at Pemberley Charm Necklace

Tomorrow marks the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Tea at Pemberley

Tea at Pemberley Charm Necklace by Ciarrai Studio

To celebrate Ciarrai Studios is having a special ONE DAY SALE on the Tea at Pemberley Charm Necklace, my customizable Pride and Prejudice-themed charm necklace featuring your choice of tiny porcelain teacup, a crystal teapot charm, a handmade charm with text from the book, and a small glass vial with REAL tea leaves.

I’ll be reducing the price of this beautiful Austen-themed necklace and you can use the coupon code from our Valentines Day Sale (CUPID13) to take an additional 25% off, bringing the cost down from $42 to $24!

This offer is only good from 12:00 A.M. – 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, January 28th so don’t miss out!

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Look What I Made: Love Letter Charm Necklaces

Introducing my NEW Love Letter Charm Necklace Series.

Featuring actual text from love letters written by famous authors, poets, and historical figures, the Love Letter Charm Necklaces would make a romantic Valentine’s Day gift for a special lady. And all of the Love Letter Charm Necklaces (as well as everything else in my shop) are on sale for 25% off until February 15th with the coupon code: CUPID13.

Captain Wentworth Love Letter Charm Necklace by Ciarrai Studios

Captain Wentworth Love Letter Charm Necklace, Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Nathaniel Hawthorne Love Letter Charm Necklace by Ciarrai Studios Victor Hugo Love Letter Charm Necklace by Ciarrai Studios
Nathaniel Hawthorne Victor Hugo
John Keats Love Letter Charm Necklace by Ciarrai Studios Mark Twain Love Letter Charm Necklace by Ciarrai Studios
John Keats Mark Twain
Oscar Wilde Love Letter Charm Necklace by Ciarrai Studios
Oscar Wilde

My Thoughts On This Design:

The weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day is an important time for someone who designs and sells jewelry. You want to make sure that people looking for a romantic and meaningful gifts to give their sweethearts can find something beautiful in your shop. As this is Ciarrai Studios first Valentine’s Day since our launch back in August, I really wanted to make some special items to celebrate the season. The guiding thought that I kept coming back to was: what would I love to get for Valentine’s Day myself? As my husband, Rob, can tell you, Valentine’s Day is a pretty big deal to me and I am a sucker for big romantic gestures so the bar was set pretty high.

After some brainstorming, I came up with the idea to poke around and research love letters written by famous, historical figures to see if I could make romantic charm necklaces out of them. I read letters by powerful leaders, writers, composers, and artists. I even read a series of love letters written between a 12th Century nun and monk! I read passionate letters, heartbreaking letters, sweet letters, and playful letters. The kind of letters that women wish they would receive and that men wish they could write!!

And not only were the letters interesting to read themselves, but the stories of the lovers who wrote and received them was fascinating as well. Some of the stories, like the ill-fated romance between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, I already knew but others (like the story of Héloïse d’Argenteuil and Peter Abelard (the 12th Century nun and monk that I mentioned earlier) were totally new to me!

There were so many incredible letters that the hardest part of this project was choosing which letters to include in this series. My personal favorite is the letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I don’t normally associate the author of The Scarlet Letter with romance but his letter to his wife was so sweet and playful that it just melts my heart a little. I was also pleasantly surprised by Mark Twain’s letter. Again, I don’t think of Twain as a romantic author but his utterly adorable letter to his wife makes me smile, especially the postscript. And I couldn’t resist making a necklace inspired by Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne Eliot in Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion. While the captain is fictional and all the other letters are historical and real, when I think of incredible love letters, I cannot leave out a letter that includes lines like: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” (Pardon me while I swoon a little!).

Once I had decided which letters to work with, I made handmade resin charms with text from the letters and combined them with silver charms of a pen nib, a love letter, and a Swarovski crystal heart to make the necklaces. As of right now, I only have red, pink, and purple hearts but I am expecting a shipment of hearts in a variety of colors (including the birthstone crystal colors) and once those arrive, you will be able to customize the Love Letter Charm Necklaces with whatever colors you like.

Of course, no matter which letter I chose, I couldn’t fit all of the text in a charm necklace and there was something off about getting a love letter necklace and not getting a love letter. So I decided to include a print-out of the full letter text which each necklace. To add a little extra touch of old-fashioned romance, I bought a wax seal and some sealing wax to hand seal the letter in their envelope. I have always thought that sealing letters with wax seemed cool and romantic and I can now report that it is as cool as I always imagined it to be. I bought a seal with the word “Love” on it but I am already drooling over other stamps like this cool Celtic Knit stamp from Nostalgic Impressions.

So what do you think? Is there someone whose letters you would like me to add to the series? Let me know in the comments!

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Happy New Year!

Hello and Happy New Year to you all! I hope you enjoyed your holidays and that 2013 is treating you kindly so far.

As for me, I am really happy to see the last of 2012. While there were definitely good points in the year, the last few weeks of 2012 was a bit of a challenge. My poor family got hit with crisis after crisis. I spent time in emergency rooms and at wakes and other assorted places that are not where you want to spend the holiday season. We seem to be (mostly) through the worse of it (God willing) but it was a trying time.

Christmas Crafting:
In between each crisis, I managed to have a good holiday. I finished (most of) the crafted gifts (two of the planned gifts were pushed back to be for next Christmas, which considering everything that happened after I made that decision was definitely a good idea)

Traditionally, I take a big group photo of all the presents I made over the year but this year I was so tired and overwhelmed by things going on that I considered skipping it. However, my mom (who loves showing off the yearly photo) asked me to take it anyway. So here is the yearly group shot of (almost all) the gifts:

Christmas Group Shot 2012

This shot includes: 1 throw blanket and matching pillow, 2 baby dolls, 3 hats, 2 pairs of socks, 3 scarves, 8 fairy dolls, 1 settlers of catan board game clock, several pieces of jewelry and many, many mitten ornaments / gift card holders.

There is really only one thing missing from the shot. On Christmas Eve, I finally received a package of supplies that I ordered months ago. They were coming from China and evidently got held up in customs. But fortunately, the item I wanted to make was small enough that I could put it together that morning before the family arrived and we started exchanging gifts. It was for my Aunt Sharon, who is a bird fanatic and loves to watch and feed birds. I have another piece of the same lace so I will probably put one of these up on the store but I was just really happy that I was able to put this under the tree for my wonderful aunt!

Lace Birds Necklace

 

Ciarrai Studios:
Another reason I was scrambling to finish the Christmas gifts this year was that my Etsy store, Ciarrai Studios, was actually very busy for the past month or two. It was my first holiday season as a shop owner and I had no idea what to expect so I had a bit of a time crunch towards the end. I am not complaining! It was great to be busy and I hope to be busy more often. I know that most of that is due to the Christmas rush but it was very exciting that people were finding my store and buying some of their gifts from me! I hope everyone who received a Ciarrai Studios piece for the holidays loved their gift!

Christmas and Christmas Eve:
The holiday itself was nice, if a little hectic. Christmas Eve, we split between the two sides of the family. Christmas morning, we spent with my folks and the two of my sisters who live locally. (My sister, Ginger, moved out to the west coast so we have to rely on technology to see her for the holidays). Everyone really seemed to love their gifts. My nieces spent a lot of time playing with their dolls and my mom is in danger of wearing out her new socks that I made for her. Rob loves his new iPad mini and really got a kick of out the Tesler and Edison finger puppets I got him as a gag gift. We have also been enjoying a new board game that he got from his stepbrother, Castle Panic. I received some great gifts, including a new Nikon D5100 camera and a lens for it, a swift and ball winder (very handy!) and a ton of sock yarn.

Then after all the gifts were opened and most of the family had gone to take naps and try and fight off the flu plague that was making its way through our ranks, Rob and I ordered some Chinese food and watched Rent on DVD. (December 24th, 9 pm EST. From here on out, I shoot without a script. See if anything comes of it…).

After Christmas:
The day after Christmas, my cousin / best friend, Nikki and her daughter (my goddaughter), Katrina came down from NH for a week-long visit. My aunt hosted a get together so everyone could see Nikki and spend time together.

DSC_0104

As you can see, a good time was had by all.

Then over the course of the week, we went to see The Hobbit (which I enjoyed. The lack of Samwise -a serious flaw of the film- was balanced for the most part by the addition of some surprisingly hot dwarves) and Les Mis (more on this in an upcoming post). I arranged for many of the ladies in my family to go to our local tea shop for a candlelight high tea that was delightful!

And we spent a lot of time playing board games with Nikki and my nieces. Like I said, Castle Panic was a hit. My 7 year old goddaughter, Katrina, really got into the whole thing and there is something insanely cute to a gamer auntie to hear her niece say (in the cutest little girl voice) “Oh! Goblins are easy to defeat because they only have one hit point!” We also got in some Ticket to Ride, Apples to Apples, and Carcassonne. I really wish that we lived closer to Nikki or had more board gaming friends that lived locally because I would love to have regular game nights. *sigh*

In Other News:
Now that the holiday crafting is done, I am enjoying the opportunity to knit some non-Christmas items before I start working on the 2013 list. I found this incredible yarn, Cascade’s Eco Duo, which is an undyed Alpaca yarn and I am just smitten with it. It feels incredible to the touch and the yarn knits up with these subtle tonal stripes that are gorgeous. I picked up two colors: a cream color (which goes from a pale vanilla to a caramel color as you knit) and a beautiful fawn color. I used the yarn to knit two tams. It was my first time knitting a tam and coincidently, it was the first time I realized that I actually look pretty decent in tams. So instead of selling them in my store, I adopted both tams and bought more yarn to make some for the store.

Here is one of the tams, modeled by my lovely goddaughter:
Katrina and my Tam

I also have a pair of fingerless gloves in the works. Rob enjoys flying kites but his hands can get pretty cold when he goes out. He can’t wear regular gloves because kite flying involves tying knots and other manual dexterity related tasks so I am going to use some of my new sock yarn to make him fingerless gloves. I am even getting extra geek points for designing a pair of gloves with cables and a dragon scale pattern and naming them Fingerless Gloves of Dragon Flying +10. It really takes very little to make a geeky husband happy.

I am also enjoying some time to do recreational reading. I just finished the Language of Flowers, which I enjoyed immensely, and The Weird Sisters, which was enjoyable in a non-earth shattering sort of way. I also received the Night Circus as a gift from my sister in law and have been looking forward to reading that for a while. I can’t wait to start it but I want to finish my re-read of David Copperfield before I start a new book. Keep an eye out here for some book reviews when I have a moment to catch up with myself.

Anyway, as much as I am enjoying writing this post, I have a very hungry kitty looking reproachingly at me in an attempt to remind me that it is past his usual dinner time. And in the interest of not being a bad kitty mommy, I should go feed him.

With all of the madness (mostly) behind us, I am hoping to do a lot more posting in 2013 and so I feel somewhat justified in saying:

Good night and I will talk to you all soon!

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Look What I Made: Sheet Music Earrings

I’ve gotten some requests to make earrings to match the resin pendants in my store. I am 100% in love with the Christmas Carol Pendants I made earlier in the month so I decided to start with them, which led me to make these:

Sheet Music Earrings

Sheet Music Earrings

There is so much that I love about these earrings. I love their timeless, Old-World feel. I like how they are so perfect for the holidays but could be worn year round too. I imagine someone wearing them to Christmas dinner with the family, while caroling, going to Church, etc. But most of all, I can really see these earrings as the perfect accessory for any musician or singer who is performing a recital or a concert. As a former music major, I remember having to perform solos (or small ensembles playing  chamber music or Christmas carols) and I would have loved to have a pair of earrings like these back then.

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Look What I Made: Bookish Charm Necklaces

C. S. Lewis once said “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” It’s a sentiment that I am very familiar with. I love to curl up someplace with a good book and a hot cup of tea. This inspired my new series of bookish charm necklaces.

Each charm necklace features a tiny teacup, a teapot charm made of Swarovski crystal, a vial of real tea leaves and a handmade charm with text from a book. So far, I have made a necklace for JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

What makes these charm necklaces even more charming is that they are customizable. the photos I took of  all the different charm necklaces show them with the pink flower teacup and light sapphire crystal but you can pick your own teacup and the color of the crystal in your teapot for a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry that is sure to delight both book lovers and tea drinkers!  

Tea with Gandalf
Tea With Gandalf

Tea with Mr. Tumnus
Tea With Mr Tumnus

Tea at Pemberley
Tea at Pemberley

Tea with the Mad Hatter
Tea with the Mad Hatter

These are the styles of teacup you can pick from to personalize your charm necklace. They are so cute that I can’t wait to get some more!!
teacup-Options

 

So this leaves us with two questions. #1. What books should I do next? and #2. How long can I resist doing a Prufrock version? What do you guys think?

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So Excited!!!

Yesterday, something insanely exciting happened. One of my favorite authors, Stephanie Pearl McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot) writes a yearly “gifts for knitters” post for her blog (which if you don’t read already, you really should! It’s insanely entertaining, particularly if you are at all interested in knitting) and she included my Knitted Teacup Note Cards!

Yarn Harlot Blog Post
I will have to admit to some fangirl shrieking and dancing about the house when I saw that. She called my cards “charming!” My reaction to that may have gone something like this. It seriously made my day!

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Look What I Made: Promises to Keep Note Cards

I recently made this pendant, inspired by Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” one of my favorite poems from one of my favorite poets. My favorite part of the poem is the ending, which reads:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.

There is something so hauntingly beautiful about taking a stolen moment for yourself amidst all the obligations and craziness of life that seems particularly appropriate for the holiday season. (The lovely images of trees draped in fresh, unspoiled snow also makes me think of the holiday season).

But as much as I loved the pendant I made, I just couldn’t help but think that this design would make a gorgeous note card or holiday card so I made these:

Promises to Keep Notecard

Promises to Keep Notecard

Featuring a wood of snowy pine trees and the phrase “Promises to Keep” on a deep blue background, my Promises to Keep Note Cards are now available in packs of five in my etsy shop, Ciarrai Studios

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