October 2009

Cassette From My Ex: The Book

Cassettefrommyex The mixtape was a major art form of the 80s and 90s -- you'd make one for your best friends and longtime crushes, painstakingly choosing every song and then putting them in the right order. Don't even get me started on how much effort went into naming each side and decorating the case. Well, all good art movements deserve a tribute book, and now the mixtape has one: Cassette From My Ex (St. Martin's, $23) is a collection of stories and soundtracks of lost loves edited by Jason Bitner of FOUND Magazine fame.

In its pages you'll find not only heartfelt essays by rock writers Jancee Dunn, Rob Sheffield and The Magnetic Fields' Claudia Gonson, but also the soundtracks that go along with their stories -- the track lists for the mix tapes that inspired each tale.

Hear about Marie Hansen's "Punk and Not Punk" tape, the product of her 8th grade relationship with a decidedly Not Punk boy. Read the history of Annie Tomlin's "Summer Pick-Up," made for her by Ben, whose "lips looked as though they were stained with Kool-Aid." And close with Sarah Grace McCandless' heart-wrenching mix from David, the boy who left for college and said his final adieu with "The Tape I Finally Made," which includes The Cure, Depeche Mode and Bon Jovi's "Never Say Goodbye." Way to make a girl weep, David.

You might call your mixtape a "playlist" today, but never forget that every time you put a bunch of songs together and give that music to someone else, you're continuing a long tradition of emo art.

PS-Okay, full disclosure: I have a mixtape story, and it embarrassingly involves Sarah McLaughlin and Hootie and the Blowfish. It's here. (Choose your track lists wisely, everyone.)

Why Do We Carve Pumpkins?


Jack-o-lanternBesides inhaling handfuls of candy, carving pumpkins is the most symbolic aspect of Halloween. But as I was scooping out the slimy innards of my future jack-o-lantern -- pumpkin seeds stuck on my face -- I stopped and asked myself: What that hell am I doing?

Think about it: a pumpkin isn't something that crosses our minds the other eleven months of the year. It isn't part of our regular diet, and then 'Weenie time come around and we go pumpkin crazy. We hollow it out, cut pieces to make it look like scary face and stick a candle in it? That's... weird!

So where does this tradition come from? Hundreds of years ago in Ireland, October 31 was a holiday called "Samhain" -- it marked the end of summer on the Celtic calendar. Samhain was a spiritual celebration that symbolized a beginning and an end, just like birth and death. It was believed that on this day the dead and living mixed; entering the bodies of the living was the one chance the recently deceased had of making it to the afterlife. (And if this is how reincarnation actually works...? SCARY.)

Of course, no druid in their right mind wanted some creepy spirit in them, so they'd dress up in scary costumes to spook the spirits. The other way to fend off these ghosts was to carve out turnips or gourds and place a burning lump of coal in them. People set them out on their windowsills or porches to frighten away the bad spirits.

When Europeans eventually settled in America, they discovered pumpkins were much easier to carve! (Thank goodness for that, have you guys seen gourds?) And lumps of coal were replaced by the more convenient candle.

So, there you go: Jack-o-Lanterns 101. They don't teach you this stuff in school!

An Owling Good Time

Owlearrings What is it about owls that make us want to collect them? Is it their sense of mystery and mythicism? Their aura of magic and darkness? (Or am I just watching too many Harry Potter movies?) Whatever the reasons may be, owls have always captured our attention, because they are beautiful creatures.

Lucky for us, there is currently a plethora of owl merchandise for us to covet. Behold five of our favorites:

1. Pigwidgeonette Earrings, Modcloth ($24). Adorable vintage-inspired earrings look absolutely cheery in bright orange. I shall name them... Orville and Petunia. They're twins.

2. Deco Owl Tee, Delia's ($24.50). This royal blue shirt with a pink and purple graphic owl will look great with jeans and a hoodie. It's so nouveau, it hurts. 

3. Silver Metal Hanging Owl Pendant, Unique Vintage ($20). I hate using cliches like "statement piece," but this owl pendant is a statement piece. A simple black dress with this around your neck will make heads turn. (Get it? Heads turn? Yuk, yuk!)

4. Owl Notecard Set, CutxPaste ($12). Whimsical owl illustrations by Susie of boygirlparty make these blank cards mini pieces of art. Instead of starting your letter with, "How are you," why not, "Hoo are you." (Last owl joke -- I promise!)

5. Owl Tea Light Holder, Etsy ($5). Melissa and I were just pontificating upon the loveliness of tea lights, so I find this little guy adorable. Dim the lights, pretend you're in a dark, wooded forest and watch him glow.

Quick DIY Ecobeauty Recipes

Ecobeauty I'm a huge fan of DIY beauty recipes, so I was excited to check out Ecobeauty: Scrubs, Rubs, Masks, and Bath Bombs for You and Your Friends ($20, Ten Speed Press). The authors are a mother-daughter team: Lauren Cox, a UCLA student who's been making her own products for 10 years, and Janice Cox, a natural beauty and home beauty expert.

The book, which features 100 easy and earth-friendly projects (including a bonus section about making gifts out of your creations), is the perfect companion to a girls' night. Who needs a date on Saturday when you can make your own Blueberry Antioxidant Facial Mask or Chocolate Brownie Lip Gloss? No one.

The lovely authors have allowed us to share one sample recipe, so here's a taste of the joys that await you:

Refreshing Mint Hair Rinse
"If you're in need of a pick-me-up for dull, limp locks, this rinse will do the trick. Together, the mint tea and vinegar get your scalp really clean and leave your hair fresh and shiny. Mint is naturally energizing and will give your scalp a tingly, fresh feeling, and the vinegar will rid your hair of any residue from styling gels or soap-based shampoos."

1/2 cup boiling water
1-2 mint tea bags
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

"Pour the boiling water over the tea bag and let it steep until cool. Remove the tea bag, pressing it to extract as much tea as possible, then stir in the vinegar.

"To use, shampoo and condition your hair as usual, then apply the entire mixture to your hair. Massage it into your scalp and work it through your hair, then dry your hair as you normally would, without rinsing it out."

Makes: 4 ounces

I am so into minty eco-beauty, and my scalp is still tingling with delight!

PS-Follow Ecobeauty on twitter for quick DIY recipes on a regular basis!

Reprinted from Ecobeauty by Lauren Cox with Janice Cox. Copyright © 2009  Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, Inc.
Photo credit: Angie Cao © 2009.

Hear(t) It: Sissy Wish

SissywishWhat did I do this weekend? Well, thanks for asking! Let me tell you:

This weekend I saw the absolutely charming Sissy Wish play at NYC's The Living Room. She's like Bjork's younger, less forlorn sister. Or a more sprite-like version of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeah's. In any case, I was smitten once she took the stage in a vest made of cassette tapes and started doing Muppet-like robot dance moves. Success!

Sissy Wish (real name Siri Walberg) hails from Bergen, Norway. She started playing music as a teen thanks to her brother: "His band was always rehearsing downstairs and I heard the drumbeat going on all the time. I just felt it in my stomach that I wanted to do the same thing."

A couple bands, a few albums and years later, she found herself trying to tour in the US. To afford the costs of touring, she dropped the real instruments and band members, and switched to synthesizers, samplers and electronic beats. Her unintentional new sound lead to the creation of her album, Beauties Never Die, that was released in Norway in 2007, but just made its was across the Atlantic to us this year. BND is sonic smorgasbord full of unexpected hooks, clashes, bangs and futuristic robot noises with Siri's cartoonish, Betty Boop-like voice gluing everything together like a piece of Hubba Bubba

I sat down with Siri after her show to ask a few questions:

I Heart Daily: On the road, there's not much time for a beauty routine. What's the one thing you make sure to carry with you?
Siri Walberg: Red lipstick. Let me show you...it's Yves Saint Laurent in Rouge Volupte. I put it on before I go on stage, and at the end of my set I look at the microphone and my lipstick is all over it. I feel bad for the person after me!

IHD: What's a Norwegian band we should listen to?
SW: Ungdomskylen. It means "Youth School" in Norwegian.

IHD: What's the best food you've had in America?
SW: I like Mexican food -- tacos and burritos. A journalist in New Mexico asked what my favorite meal was in the US and I said sushi in Kansas City. I don't think I impressed him with that answer!

Watch Sissy Wish play one of the songs off Beauties Never Die, "Float":

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