All about aquamarines, March’s birthstone

March’s birthstone has a soft, sweet hue: aquamarine. Most aquamarine stones are a very light blue, though they can range to a deeper tone.

Mythology

Aquamarine’s mythology relates primarily to romantic love and sea safety.

According to ancient Roman mythology, aquamarines absorb the atmosphere of young love. They were once considered the best gift from a groom to his bride after the marriage was consummated. In Medieval times, the stone was said to reawaken the love of married couples.

Greek and Romans called the stone the sailor’s gem, as it was said to bring safe and prosperous passage across rough waters. It was also said to make soldiers invincible.

Source: Jewels for Me

How to wear it

Due to its light color, aquamarine is a perfect addition to for spring fashions. I find it most beautiful in silver or white gold settings. Pair the stone with denim or a sun dress for a subtle bit of sparkle and color.

collage1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Happy birthday, March babies! If you want to find yourself a sweet birthday treat or have a March-born bestie, check out Jac & Elsie’s customizable options, where you can easily add an aquamarine-colored birthstone to most charm necklaces. I recommend the Full of Awesome set and the zodiac charm necklace.

 

 

30 things to do before my next birthday. Which is in two months.

I’m taking another prompt from Journaling Sage over on Instagram:

List 30 things you want to do before your next birthday.

My next birthday is less than two months away. It definitely puts some parameters on my list of 30 things to do, making them perhaps a little more fun, a little less serious, than they might be if I had a year to cover everything.

Without further ado:

    1. Finish the book I’m reading. I started “A Storm of Swords” Saturday, and it’s 1,177 pages.
    2. Get another 10,000 words finished in my manuscript.
    3. Go to yoga at least three times a week, each week.
    4. My awesome friends like to send me photos of Donald when they see him (thanks, Christy!) Look at him, arms wide open, calling to me!

      My awesome friends like to send me photos of Donald when they see him (thanks, Christy!) Look at him, arms wide open, calling to me!

    5. GO TO THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER. (I’ll be in Orlando for my bday. All together now: AHHH!)
    6. Meet Donald Duck.
    7. Pick a weekend day and spend 24 hours in my pajamas.
    8. Watch both Kill Bill movies, back to back.
    9. Make something for dinner that I’ve never made before.
    10. Make something ELSE for dinner that I’ve never made before. (That’s two new dinners.)
    11. Dye my hair black.
    12. Take my laptop to Florida and spend a day writing on the balcony of our hotel. (OK, this might happen a few days after my birthday, but whatever–close enough.)
    13. Jump in the Atlantic. (See parenthetical above.)
    14. Subscribe to “The New Yorker.”
    15. Mail the few Christmas gifts I still haven’t yet sent to my friends. (Whoops.)
    16. Purchase nothing for myself online. Nothing. (Unless they’re tickets to things in Orlando.)
    17. Post at least six new listings in Jac & Elsie.
    18. Rearrange my living room to fit the new TV.
    19. Print out eight favorite photos for wall collage behind the new TV.
    20. Throw out half of my makeup. Offer the makeup I no longer want to friends, and then throw out the rest. (I have A LOT of crap I never use.)
    21. Clean up the spare room so it’s a spare room again and not my giant closet.
    22. Spend a week without my phone. (This may be tough, but I really want to leave my phone at home when I go to Orlando.)
    23. Find a new favorite blog or two to add to my roster. (Taking suggestions! I like slice-of-life blogs best.)
    24. Get my tax stuff together. (This isn’t so much a “want” to do as a “must” do.)
    25. Go to a solo matinee.
    26. See some form of live entertainment.
    27. Send a donation to Easter Seals Arc. (You should, too.)
    28. Have a writers’ retreat.
    29. Finish two personal essays currently in the first draft stage.
    30. Properly sift through Netflix, which we just started subscribing to.
    31. Start a travel journal. (I really like Journaling Sage’s idea of using it more of a spot for ticket collection, though I would like to go backward and at least list the dates and locations of previous travels.)

The best-dressed from the 2015 Academy Awards

The best part of any awards show: The morning-after photos. Vulture has one of the most in-depth slide shows (thanks, Vulture!). Here are my favorites, in no particular order.

Except Emma Stone. Who is the best, at everything, always. You don’t see a lot of chartreuse in life, but this color is stunning on her. Gorgeous texture and fit, almost demure. She’s Hollywood perfection. (Click on the pics for more.) 

Eddie Redmayne: I love a beautiful colored tux, and those black silk lapels are gorgeous.

Steve Carell: The facial hair and glasses and traditional tux: So handsome

Keira Knightly: How romantic! I suspect this is one of the night’s polarizing looks, but I love the handwriting and floral design. The soft waves in her hair complete an ethereal look.

Nicole Kidman: Kind of funky for an event as glamorous as the Oscars, but she completely rocks it. Chartreuse again? Is this a thing?

Laura Dern: Ohhhhh, that metallic texture and color is amazing. Very punk rock princess. The necklace might be a bit overkill, but I appreciate the risk.

Georgina Chapman: Gaudy and over-the-top–but so, so beautiful and daring. I love everything about this, down to the slicked back and simple ‘do to offset the busy dress.

If Keira is my favorite, Katie Cassidy takes my silver metal. This fine lace looks tattooed on her skin, in the best way possible. The lace is gorgeous, a mixture of old tyme and modern. It’s different enough in tone from her skin that she doesn’t look naked, but it’s close enough for a lovely monotone kind of look.

 

Honorable mentions:

(Clockwise from top left) Lupita Nyong’o can do no wrong when it comes to awards show fashions. She always looks so effortless and comfortable and glamorous * The beautiful bold jewel-tone of this dress makes Scarlett Johansson stand out. I don’t adore the fit around her chest, but I do adore the gown’s necklace. It’s ballsy to match jewelry so closely to a dress, but the fact that it puzzles with her neckline makes it appear to be part of the dress * Zoe Saldana is va-va voom and beautiful. I love the simple adornments and soft hair. Lovely and sexy. * So pretty. Gwyneth Paltrow‘s gown is proof that fit is more important than anything. It’s a glove on her body, and it even makes the weird single sleeve and floppity shoulder flower sweet and interesting. The earrings kill it a bit for me, though. I don’t mind the red and pink mix, but her dress is so simple and modern, and the earrings are gaudy and costumey by comparison. * Rosamund Pike: That color! That slit! That texture!J.K. Simmons looks positively dapper, and did you note his pocket square matching Michelle Schumacher‘s gown? The pattern on her dress is so interesting, the color is gorgeous, and the fit is fantastic.

I’m not one for worst-dressed lists because they’re mean. But … just this once … Lorelei Linklater. The pattern screams “homecoming dance,” but the slit to her chachi screams “pole dance.” Maybe if it fit better, it’d be less yuck? The dress is pulling around her midsection, so it is simultaneously too tight around her hips and too loose in her belly.

And through it all, I’m still waiting for a dress to come close to my favorite awards show fashion of all time: Lucy Liu at the 2013 Golden Globes.

Who wore your favorite gowns and tuxes?

Why whiskey is better

At some point as a girl, I started to develop my idea of what being a woman meant. If I were to make an idea board of all the ideals I associated with femininity, front and center would be a photo of my cousin Tressa and her mom, my aunt Annie.

In the photo, taken at (I think?) a cousin’s wedding I was unable to attend, Tressa is front and center with a big stogie in her mouth. Her head is cocked to the side, and her mom has the kind of expression on her face that scolds, “Tressa!!” My aunt is caught mid-laugh, making the joy on the two women’s faces completely unposed and perfect.

Without my realizing it then, that photo planted a tiny mustard seed in my brain, assuring I would work to become the kind of woman who enjoyed cigars and all their accouterments–buttery soft brown leather chairs in old libraries, cozy Granddad sweaters, whiskey.

On a recent Friday night, my husband visited his fam and I opted for a quiet evening in. At one point in the night, I texted him a peak into my evening: fashion mag, the beautiful "The Last American Man" by Liz Gilbert, and Laphroaig.

On a recent Friday, my husband visited his fam and I opted to stay home. At one point, I texted him a peak into my evening: fashion mag, the beautiful “The Last American Man” by Liz Gilbert, and Laphroaig. Just looking at this pic makes me cozy.

Fast forward about a decade. I am at a whiskey tasting at a local liquor store with my not-yet-husband, double dating with his oldest friends. At the time, I found whiskey strong and disgusting, a taste to cover with the sweetness of Coca-Cola. I am happy to be in attendance because, I’m curious: Does “the good stuff” (read: the bottles that cost more than $20 a pop) really taste better? Does whiskey that has been barrel-aged for 12 years taste that much different from the crappy Jack I’m familiar with?

The short answer: Holy mother of God, they’re not even the same drinks.

During the tasting, I learned the difference between whiskey, scotch, and bourbon (there are more distinctions*, but the basic one is geography: Scotch is from Scotland, and bourbon is from Kentucky). I also learned that I am by and large a scotch fan. I learned that what makes scotch taste so much better than the other two liquors in its family is the fact that Scotland is an island, and the barrels that are aged in the country are whipped by the surrounding geographical elements.

Take Laphroaig, my scotch of choice (which I discovered at the aforementioned tasting). The distinctive taste in Laphroaig (say luh-FROYG) is that of peat. In laymen terms, it tastes like a bonfire smells: smokey and woodsy, as a result of the peat moss on Islay, the Scottish island where Laphroaig is made. Everything from the wind to the salt water in the air affects the taste.

This week, I’ve puffed my chest out a little more for being a whiskey-drinking woman, thanks to some stories floating around the web: Elite Daily’s 10 Reasons Why You Should Always Go For The Girl Who Drinks Whiskey and HuffPo’s (albeit, completely corny) For The Girls Who Drink Whiskey.

I’m not sure how much my choice of alcohol makes me a woman who

“(K)nows that none of us fit in these neat little boxes. She’d never pigeonhole other women–or men, for that matter. She knows that each of us are infinitely full of gorgeous nooks and crannies waiting to be explored, and that the people who are willing to brave our fire in order to enjoy our warmth are the ones worth keeping in our lives(,)”

(Seriously, that HuffPo piece is covered in cheese) … But my preference does say certain things about me, some of which are pointed to in the above articles:

  • You don’t discover a drink like Laphroaig–or a good enough liquor that would make you bitchslap anyone who tried to taint it with soda–without being excited to new things.
  • You dig being the “the only chick” in certain situations. For whatever reason, whiskey is undeniably a masculine drink. That makes me feel especially badass to be sipping two fingers of it from my cut crystal lowball glass.
  • I prefer a lowkey Friday night to one filled with people. Good whiskey is meant to be sipped in front of a fire with a book or a boy, not chugged with your college buddies.

Not to get too J.K. Rowling on you, but I fully believe we can form ourselves into the person we want to be. Certain traits are inherent and unavoidable (do what you will with me, but I will always want to give $50 to any homeless person I see, even though my brain will try to logic me out of it). But it’s our choices that ultimately make us us.

And I want to be the kind of gal who appreciates a good cigar and and a better whiskey.

* Want a little more in-depth info about the difference among scotch, whiskey, and bourbon? Mental Floss has a great overview.

Three ways to nourish my soul tonight

Last night, I slept for crap. I watched #SNL40 until 11:30 p.m. (Fallon and Sanz, love) and went to bed. Around 12:45 a.m., I migrated to the couch because, sometimes, a change of scenery helps me sleep.

But not last night.

At 1:30 a.m., I went back to bed and fell asleep around 2 or so. I woke up two or three times throughout the night.

I have no idea why I wasn’t tired. My eyes didn’t burn, my body didn’t sing that blessed song of slumber it usually does when I wiggle between the sheets. Sleep was instead a blasted toddler running away from me in a department store and hiding in the middle of a circular rack of clothing. (Or was that just toddler Jac?)

As a result of my shitty night’s sleep, a prompt from Journaling Sage on Instagram especially spoke to my gritty eyeballs this morning:

List 3 things you can do this evening to nourish your soul.

I’ve been thinking of those three things in the back of my mind all day. I can:

  1. Go to yoga after work. I tried it out about a month ago and seem to still be going. I look forward to it, which is unusual for me and physical activity. I like that my brain can shut off, and I like the peace I feel. The only concern on my mind becomes, “Don’t fall down … Don’t force this stretch and throw out your back … Am I doing this right?”
  2. Go to bed early. Let’s be real: I’m going to watch Better Call Saul at 10 p.m., so it can’t be that early. But maybe I can unwind a bit beforehand with …
  3. … a book. If I can be all showered and washed up by 9, I can spend an hour with “Life After God” and my Snuggie before Saul.

What three soul nourishing things can you do tonight? Based on the responses to the Instagram post, I see lots of reading, some writing, some meditation about the good things of the day–and at least one cup of tea.

Terrible, no good, very bad tunes to have as your ‘song’ with a romantic other

As a teen (and early 20something), I liked to do what I could to assure my romantic relationships were “real”–that we held hands enough, or talked at each other on the phone enough.

One surefire way to make a relationship legit? Pick out your song, a tune that can always make you think of the other, something romantic and schmoopsy. And if it’s a song that actually has meaning to you, even better.

Looking back at some of my “songs” with exes, it’s really no wonder none of those relationships worked out. What a terrible (albeit, humorous) list of romantical songs. Consider the following examples, if you will. (To protect these poor souls from any embarrassment, I shall substitute their names with Disney characters.)

In chronological order:

  • “On Bended Knee”–This was my song with my first boyfriend. We were 12, and we liked Boyz II Men. The other popular Boyz song of the time? “I’ll Make Love to You.” As sixth graders, we both thought that would be a bit much, so we went with “Knee.” Which is a breakup song. Considering Simba and I dated/broke up/made out/confessed our undying love/moved out of state on on and off and on and off for seven years, it was actually pretty accurate. Sample lyric: “Darlin’, I can’t explain. Where did we lose our way? Girl, it’s driving me insane.” (Boyz II Men: Using “Girl” decades before Ryan Gosling made it cool.) And below: Boyz II Men is still my favoritest, and I still love this song. My darling husband–surprise, it’s not Simba–took me to my first Boyz concert last year. I took video only during “Knee.” It gets shaky at the end when I start screaming when Wanya holds out that delicious note.
  • “Piano Man”–I first asked Geppetto out as a friend. He came with me to prom and then asked me to his spring dance (poor dude went to an all-boys school). I didn’t first look at him romantically until the end of the night at his school’s party, as we danced to “Piano Man.” Sixteen-year-old me had never heard the Billy Joel tune before, which appropriately shocked and appalled Geppetto. So as we danced, he sang it to me. All together now: Aww. It’s got a sweet ass story, but have you heard those lyrics? Not what anyone would call romantic. Sample lyric: And the waitress is practicing politics as the businessmen slowly get stoned. Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone.”
  • “We’ve Got Tonight”–The Mad Hatter and I never actually established this as our song. We started to date a few months before college graduation, and he had plans to spend the summer overseas. We knew ours was a romance with a deadline. I didn’t really know anything by Bob Seger other than “Old Time Rock and Roll,” and when The Hatter played this for me one night, it had its appropriate weepy affect. But make no mistake: This is first and foremost a song about a booty call. Sample lyric: I know your plans don’t include me. Still here we are: Both of us lonely, both of us lonely. We’ve got tonight. Who needs tomorrow? We’ve got tonight, babe. Why don’t you stay?”

Your turn, kids. Any “songs” that simply don’t scream “I’ll love you forever”?

Shapiro’s ‘Still Writing’ a fantastic tool for writers

The first thing to strike me about the book is the feel of it. The thick, smooth cover makes a pleasing scratch as I run my nails against it, and it feels good against my finger tips. The pages are thick, and as I thumb through them, nose close, they smell fantastic.

Click image for more

Click image for more

A bizarre way to begin a book review, I suppose, but since before I could read, my sense of books is nearly as important as the words and message themselves. Indeed, if a font is too tiny or the pages displeasing against my fingers, I won’t make it past the first page. Reading, for me, engages more than the cerebrum (the part of the brain that lets us read books–and recognize friends, and play games); it engages the parietal lobe (the part that makes order of what the five senses pick up).

“Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life,” by Dani Shapiro, is a slim 230 pages, but it seems shorter. There is a good bit of space between the lines of text, and instead of chapters, Shapiro relies on small 1- to 4-page chunks of text subheaded out–“Tribe,” “Ordinary Life,” “What You Know?”

Because it is such a short text, I mistakenly thought it would be a quick read. Instead, I find myself unable to read more than 10 or 20 pages in a sitting. This is for a number of reasons:

  1. Without pulling sections of her text out and highlighting them, “HEY! This is a prompt! Take note!” Shapiro packs “Still Writing” full of prompts. In telling the memoir of her writing life, she sneaks in ideas for the reader to take and flea. One in particular has woven itself among the folds of my brain and won’t rest until I tackle it: Shapiro writes that there are events in our lives that change us. They move the earth for us, and we are not the same. Write about that terrible shock. I’ve never written about mine. I feel almost silly admitting what it is; I was so young and bright-eyed and naive. I didn’t know any better. But I’m excited to get myself back inside my 18-year-old head and get it down. Another, perhaps less traumatic prompt I’ve pulled from “Still Writing”: Who do you write for? I didn’t realize it until Shapiro asked, but I do have a very specific audience member in mind when I write. He’s an acquaintance from college. I can’t even say “friend,” we were never that close. But he is smart, intimidatingly so, and he is talented. And in my head when I write, without realizing it, I ask myself, “What would he think?”
  2. I started keeping a journal in second grade, and it wasn’t long after that when I realized how much I love to copy down good words and bits of advice–as though, by writing in longhand something brilliant that someone else wrote, I can absorb some of that brilliance. With Shapiro, that includes entire lines and poetic phrases:
    • “the fickleness of good fortune”
    • “pain engraves deeper memory”
    • “Like falling in love, moments that announce themselves as your subject are rare, and there’s a magic to them. Ignore them at your own peril.”
    • “No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” (quoting Martha Graham)
    • A writer is one who is “immersed in the work of finding expression for their life.”
  3. “Still Writing” is full of fantastic reading suggestions. At least once, I put Shapiro’s book down to track down a short story she described, “Getting Closer,” by Steven Millhauser. A quick Google search and I found that the story was a New Yorker story from 2011. Read it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
  4. Finally, and perhaps most distracting to the reading process, is how much Shapiro makes me excited to write. After flying through three or four small chunks, I can’t keep going, much as I want to; instead, I have to stop, to turn to my lap top, to work on the manuscript I’ve had going for nearly a year. I hadn’t touched it for months, but a new year’s resolution to “write more” assured I would. Shapiro, too, assures I do.

Many how-to books on writing or a creative life are much too flaky for my taste. Shapiro is grounded in tangible things. She doesn’t instruct me to pray or meditate or empty my mind. If those things work for you, wonderful. They don’t for me. Doing it, writing, being creative, works for me.

And so, apparently, does reading Shapiro. The only other book that has ever made me so excited to write is Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

A question to fellow writer’s out there: What writing books are on your must-read list?