Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This Post Brought to You by Glamor in Unexpected Places

(And by 11th grade Political Science class.)

At various points in my life, certain songs have resonated so strongly as almost to become theme songs. Madonna's "Crazy for You" was the mournful lament of my (unrequited) loving heart for several years of high school. Maria's cheerful "I Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty" from West Side Story carried me through many long days in the theater costume shop in college. (It worked because we sat in a windowless basement sewing room for eight or ten hour stretches, and none of us felt anything like pretty. But we did feel like we were completely hilarious in our perverse ability to be happy under the circumstances.) Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" was the love song that bouyed my first real relationship (made ever-so-romantic by his phoning me long-distance, drunk, one night at 2am to let me know that when the bar at closing time had started playing this song that reminded him of me, he'd made an excuse to his friends that he had to use the bathroom, just so he could stay inside and hear the song out before he had to leave with them *sigh* college boys can be sooooo charming).

Right now, the song I'm humming is the 1966 classic "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'."

And I feel every bit as sassy, fabulous, and powerful as the go-go-iest go-go girl ever could. Here's why:

Oh, yes, they are. Knee high, buttery soft leather boots with decorative buttons and 3+" heels. Red. A perfect glorious red. The color is blissfully nothing like bad lipstick. I've been trying for nearly four years to find red boots I could fall in love with, and I have found to my astonishment that most of them come in an overly-shiny color that can only be described as trampy and street-walkery. The ones that come in a good color -- something more like oxblood or cranberry -- are invariably chunky. They're awesome in their "girl cowboy" or "hip biker chick" vibe, but not really styled in a way that suits my work wardrobe.

Finally, my search has ended. And -- are you sitting down? All that style, all that class, and they are CROCS!

When the lovely new (perhaps my new best friend, I'll admit) "social media PR" person from YOU by Crocs emailed me to ask if I would like to try a pair of boots from their new fall line, I did the email equivalent of stuttering and blathering and perhaps drooling slightly, accidentally, on myself. That is, I did precisely what I would have done if David D-- had asked me out in high school. You know David D--, the hunky boy in Political Science class who always smelled so good, had devastating green eyes, and could have any girl in the school? The one who only knew you were alive when it was time to pair up for projects and he knew he could smile in THAT WAY that would make the shy brainiac without a boyfriend secretly sigh and then do the entire project herself because there was no way she was not getting an "A" on it, just because he was too lazy to do his part very well. Well, when Mr. YOU by Crocs emailed, I was nearly sure he must have been aiming at the blogger standing right behind me, and I was just accidentally in his sightline delusionally thinking that he was talking to me. But, of course, email doesn't work that way. And he was in fact talking to me.

And so I agreed to blind date and marry his boots.

Now, lest you think I've sold my soul for a pair of boots, let me reassure you that I am under no obligation to be anything but honest here. So, Fact 1: the first time I tried to wear them to work for one of my Marathon Mondays (on campus 8:30am-10pm), I only lasted three hours before I had to cancel my classes for the day and come home early. These boots will not, I repeat WILL NOT, cure stomach flu. Truth be told, they won't even really take the edge off, even though they are an awesome cherry red.

Fact 2: Back in realism land, I wore them again yesterday. For 14 hours. On my feet. Teaching. I, who do not normally wear stilettos. And all day long, I felt like a fashion model. My colleagues couldn't get enough of them. Even my students couldn't help but commenting on how great they looked. Every where I went, we had conversations about my footwear fabulosity. If you want to feel like a million bucks, get yourself some Crocs. Not a sentence you ever thought you'd read, is it?

Not quite accustomed to such high heels (heels for me are usually more like 2"), I couldn't walk the way I normally do. Instead of striding purposefully and fast through the halls, like a woman on a mission, I had to slow down slightly, and step more stately. I felt like I always imagined I would feel wearing heels, back when I was a little girl and used to listen to my mother's spectator pumps clicking smartly on the wooden floors and think it was the most glamorous sound in the world.

Fact 3: These boots are comfortable. The body of the boots is shapely without being binding. (By contrast, I have some black tall boots that make me feel like I'm wearing a tourniquet by the end of the day, and they aren't even styled to be super snug.) Also, I am notoriously klutzy when it comes to basic walking, and my heels slide out from under me all the time. I twist ankles. I slip on stairs. But yesterday? Never once. There is something fantastic in the design of these shoes that makes it possible for me + high heels to = graceful. I'm hooked. They have some padding in the footbed, which is nice if you're going to spend all day posing as a foot model for Barbie. Honestly, there could be a bit more padding for my taste, but then the balls of my feet aren't really used to spending 14 hours in stilettos.

Frankly, I didn't expect to come home last night and feel like I'd been walking in sheerling socks all day, and when I first saw just how high a 3 1/4" heel is, I was a little worried that I'd need to walk through the door and rip them off my feet in a fit of agony. But instead, I'll be wearing these again as soon as is fashionably possible. (It might be a little silly to wear chili pepper red boots every single day; they are quite noticeable.) Honestly, if you're going to spend all day in HIGH heels, you should do it in these. There are boots and shoes, all equally scrumptious in their leather and details. And if you want a bit more of the flat shoe comfort of the original Crocs in a super stylish alternative, you can prance around in the cozy, fleece lined, snow bunny boots.

And don't forget what is perhaps the most important thing: If you were the consummate wallflower in high school; if the David D--'s of the world got you to do their chemistry labs and poli sci projects just with a smile, but didn't ask you out afterwards; if you have any need to do something that will make up for all that high school angst and prove that 38 is not too old to be a "late bloomer," then get yourself some glorious red boots.

Those silly high school boys have no idea what they were missing...

Go on, click play. You know you want to see Nancy Sinatra and all her friends dancing around in sweaters and black satin briefs. And boots. Don't forget the glory that is boots.

Cross-Posted from Mommy's Martini

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Extraordinary Baby Gift

You know how easy it is to find baby gifts for first-time parents. Between the registry, and the adorable clothes in such teensie tiny sizes, and the desire to help in practical ways, there are so many things to buy for baby #1 that it's hard to narrow down the options.

Well, I'm about to make it a little harder -- or a little easier, depending on your perspective.

If you want to stand out from a sea of diaper bags and burp cloths, or you favor gifts of a more crafted and heirloom quality, or you need something to give a mother of a second child, or you have your very own little one who just keeps dashing off in a store, look no further than this great idea:

Bumble Bells.

These beautiful, adjustable, sterling silver baby anklets are hung with little silver bells that tinkle softly when baby wiggles, kicks, or walks. They come in two sizes, for babies and toddlers. They would make a gorgeous and unique gift for a friend.

Or, if your children are anything like mine were as younger toddlers, they would be a very practical gift for yourself. If I'd had Bumble Bells on Daughter the day she ran away from me in Kohl's, I certainly would not have severely sprained my ankle trying to dash after her between the racks. I wouldn't have had to keep her in sight, you see, only within earshot. And I would have caught up to her just the same. Except without the week of being on crutches afterwards.

Those of you who are concerned about safety (aren't we all?) will be glad to know that Bumble Bells are ASTM certified. For you who don't click outbound links, that means that THE international organization that regulates product standards attests to the fact that these bells cannot be removed by a curious child and swallowed. Now that is peace of mind.

The main site for Bumble Bells has more information, photographs, and testimonials from other mothers who have fallen in love with Bumble Bells. You can buy them right now on the Bumble Bells Etsy shop, and in select retail stores, although the small company is expanding and soon will offer more purchase options.

One of the reasons I agreed to review Bumble Bells is that I prefer to support local business whenever I can. Bumble Bells is a Chicago-based company owned by a mother whose own daughter wears Bumble Bells, and as soon as I started talking to her, it became clear that she not only offers a great product but cares about children everywhere. After I'd already agreed to write the review, I asked Jill from Bumble Bells if she would be interested in making a donation to the Literacy Funding Challenge as part of Help Our Schools Saturdays; she responded right away by telling me that a portion of their profits already goes directly to Head Start and that she would be very happy to consider making another education-based donation as well. The goodness and integrity of small businesses in this country never fails to inspire me. All I had to do was explain the project to her, and within a few hours, I had this email response from Jill,

"I have donated! And man does that always feel good."

What a fantastic company to give your business to, if you're in the market for a unique and beautiful baby gift! I only wish I'd known about Bumble Bells before my children were too old for them.