Sitting Down in the Gown

Aurora in White

Didn’t we all want to see Sleeping Beauty’s wedding dress? I did.

Last week, I traversed the plains of Illinois and arrived at the threshold (or “Gateway”) of the west in my fair hometown of St. Louis to shop for a wedding dress.

Due to some circumstances not under my control, I was not able to choose to have my wedding in St. Louis, so the next best thing was being able to dress shop there in order to have my little piece of the Lou with me on my special day.

I wasn’t sure how indecisive I was going to be throughout this process. I had given myself only one long weekend in the middle of one of the coldest winters in twenty years to find my dress. I had done some research with magazines, of course, and Pinterest, and The Knot, and speaking with friends who are also planning weddings. But I hadn’t gone anywhere in person yet and had no idea if I was going to have a Say Yes to the Dress bridezilla meltdown or whether it would be whimsical and practically effortless.

Let me just put this out there right now: the women who go on TV shows to try on bridal gowns are brave! As giddy as I was to go to a few shops and try on dresses, I would have felt twenty times more anxious if I knew my experience were being filmed and eventually televised. Props to you, Regular Ladies of America who appear on TLC.

I had lined up three appointments for the long weekend and given myself enough time to go to a shop on impulse, should the need arise if I wasn’t finding anything.

As fortune would have it, I only had to go to two shops and try on six dresses before I found The One. (I was told later that this was very Zoe-efficient of me.)

Prior to my second day of shopping, I was given some solid advice by the daughter of a close family friend. She told me to try on serious contenders twice. I kept that little nugget stored away until the time came for me to make a decision. It came in handy, since I ended up loving my dress but came back later to try it on a second time before going forward with my purchase.

For anyone who will be dress shopping in the near future, here is some insight I thought I could share on this whole process that may help you out:

  1. Customer service at bridal boutiques is key and will make or break the shopping experience. While there are plenty of do-it-yourself places out there (and are more budget friendly, certainly), if you are able to afford going to a place with reputable customer service, I highly recommend doing so. I gave both shops I tried positive reviews on Yelp, even though I only ended up buying from one place.
  2. Bring or wear a bra that will look good in low cut and/or strapless gowns. Even if a gown has sleeves, it’s probably going to be sheer up top, and bra straps can take away some of the illusion you’re trying to create.
  3. Unless it’s summertime and unbearably hot, pantyhose isn’t a bad idea. It helps slide you into dresses more easily. This was one thing I wish I had done, though I was shopping in the middle of winter, so it wasn’t a nightmare.
  4. Dresses get HOT once you put them on. The sheer tonnage of material and being under hot lights gets you warm really quickly. To prepare, use a little of this ingenious powder gel on yourself. For those who aren’t aware, that powder gel also contains the same active ingredient as the fancy foundation primer out there, so you can use it on your face if ya want!
  5. Dresses you don’t like hanging up might look stunning on, so keep an open mind. Such was the case with the one I eventually chose. I saw it hanging up and pooh-poohed it. Then I got it on and was in awe.
  6. If you’re absolutely unsure if you like a dress after you’ve been wearing it a while, you probably don’t. And pay attention to details that bother you, e.g. a corset back vs. a zipper vs. buttons. They can be surprising dealbreakers.
  7. Accessories can make all the difference in the world.
  8. Be prepared to have your consultant see a lot of you (definitely shave and get yourself all tidy). If she’s doing her job well, you will feel relatively comfortable throughout, despite someone you never met getting all up in your business.
  9. Take lots of pictures from different angles in case you can’t decide right away. Thank goodness for cell phone cameras.
  10. Sit down in the gown before you say yes to the dress! This was one of the key things one of my relatives made me do before going forward with my purchase. She wanted to be sure I would feel comfortable sitting and moving around in it. After all, I’m going to be in this thing for twelve hours or so. Sitting proved to be fine, though I won’t be able to slouch at all. I’ll have lovely posture on the big day.
  11. Pace yourself and have fun!

Realizing how fun–and to some extent comfortable–it was to wear the gown made me laugh. I don’t wear fancy stuff on a regular basis, so I felt like the gals on Friends when they wore the wedding gowns because it made them feel good. I totally get it now! It’s hard to go back to jeans and sweaters once you’ve had a wedding dress on.

And aren’t they totally rocking sitting down in those gowns?

friends

Advertisements

Yeah Toast! and Other Trips Down Memory Lane

In the process of moving, we have been ardently striving to downsize our collection of STUFF that we’ve accumulated since childhood, adolescence, college, and then Young Adulthood. We’re not yet in the place where we are moving into a four-bedroom house with lots of extra storage space. This means prioritizing what gets to stay and what gets to go.

It’s actually escaping me whether I’ve ever shared how many times I moved when I was in New York City, but it was a LOT. Between 2005 and 2010, I moved six times to various neighborhoods around NYC. If you count the move from New York to Illinois, that’s seven. This is lucky move number eight in seven years. When you do the simple math, I’ve moved more than once per year since 2005. Yikes.

Considering my other half can’t stand moving – and I daresay it’s a toss-up whether he hates celery or moving more – we’re trying to make this move be the last one before we’re in a more permanent housing situation. But only time will tell.

While downsizing, I came across my cassette tape holder that I have had through all of my moves since 2005. It’s never occurred to me to go through it before now. I’ve just said, “That goes with,” and then it sits on a shelf or a desk or in a closet until the next move. Since I grew up with cassettes, I guess there is a sub-conscious part of me that never wanted to throw them away, so I never thought, “I should sort through these.”

Just as I was putting the tape holder in a box, all of the little drawers slid out. When I looked at the contents, none of these were critical for hanging onto any longer. I mean, it has probably been over a decade since I popped one into a tape player, even just for nostalgia purposes.

But before I put these little babies in their final resting place in a landfill far, far away, I thought I’d share some of the contents with you. There’s a small selfish motivation to this, if only because I’ll have this post to remind me what kinds of things I used to have on tape before CDs and then digital music came along.

What’s in Zoe’s tape deck?

The bulk of what I found were mix tapes. My tape collection began at a young age but the mix tapes are from the ages of 12-18, most likely (circa 1992-1998). I discovered at an early age the magic of recording on blank tapes. I even have tapes of myself pretending to be a radio DJ but those are elsewhere and are not being thrown away. (Guests included people like my brother.)

I had a CD player/stereo starting when I was 14 but the car I got at age 18 only had a cassette player, so until I put a CD changer in the trunk, I was jamming out to some mix tapes in the late 90s.

Some samples of songs on my mix tapes are: Silent All These Years by Tori Amos, Never Ever by All Saints (yeeeeah……), The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel, Linger by The Cranberries, Beautiful Disaster by 311, Emotions by Mariah Carey, Vogue by Madonna, Hippychick by SoHo (hahaha remember that song?), Finally by Cece Peniston, Rollin’ With My Homies (nod to Clueless), I Love You Always Forever by Donna Lewis, Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, something called “Yeah Toast!”, which apparently is something I recorded from the former St. Louis morning show Steve and D.C. and is now a YouTube video (see below), Machinehead by Bush, The Key, the Secret by Urban Cookie Collective, Daughter by Pearl Jam, Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root, Self-Esteem by The Offspring, Cantaloop by Flip Fantasia, Brain Stew by Green Day, Hello by POE, All That She Wants by Ace of Base, Rhythm Was a Dancer (by ??), Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio (only the coolest song everrrr), Time by Hootie and the Blowfish, Ironic by Alanis,  Santeria by Sublime, Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn, Faith by George Michael, and Toy Soldiers by Martika (what ever happened to her?).

Full albums I owned that make me chuckle are: The Simpsons Sing the Blues, Tom’s Album (which is just a bunch of takes on Suzanne Vega’s classic hit “Tom’s Diner,” an ALL-TIME favorite of mine), the soundtrack to the movie Straight Talk with Dolly Parton, Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion, Johnny Mathis’s “Merry Christmas” album, and Mariah Carey’s original self-titled album.

I also found a bunch of nature sounds like Distant Thunder and Gentle Ocean, both from the store The Nature Company, which was eventually bought out by The Discovery Channel.  We had a Nature Company store in the Galleria in St. Louis. It was extremely popular in its heyday. I think there are only so many rainsticks and natural mineral stones people need, though. Anybody else remember that shop? I had the nature tapes because I liked to listen to them at night to help me go to sleep. Even now, I need some kind of white noise in order to get to sleep. Pure silence unnerves me.

Anyway, I had a few, “Oh…my…..GOD” moments while I was going through the tapes. I don’t remember recording much of the songs, though I do remember doing quite a few tape-to-tape and CD-to-tape mixes. All this reinforces is that music affects us from an earlier age than we can imagine. Quite a number of the songs on the tapes remain some of my favorites to this day, even for no other reason than I loved them on such a pure level when I was younger.

However, I’m still scratching my head over “Yeah Toast!”

Adolescence is such a bizarre time. I leave you with the skit to hear for yourselves.

Ice cream as natural disasters

At some point, advertisers and marketers alike decided that ice cream needed to be more exciting and enticing than it already is, and set out to come up with trademarked names for ice cream vendors’ concoctions.

The basic premise for most ice cream shoppes is to have something with a base of ice cream with some kind of topping, candy or “mix-in” thrown in to give you a delicious “new” frozen treat. (Note: Snickers turns into hardened chunks which you will NOT be able to remove from your fillings.)

Take Dairy Queen. Their signature ice cream mixture is the Blizzard. It makes sense – it’s something frozen and it’s all a “whirl” of tasty deliciousness.

The local place near me, Custard Cup, calls theirs a Snowstorm.

As a woman whose hometown is St. Louis (that’s in the state of Missouri; I have actually been asked that before), I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up Ted Drewes. What’s Ted Drewes, you ask? Only the best frozen custard in all the land.

What’s frozen custard?

Surprisingly, this is not a frozen treat everyone is familiar with. And it is NOT frozen yogurt or Pinkberry or anything like that.

By definition, frozen custard is the following:

Frozen custard is a cold dessert similar to ice cream, made with eggs in addition to cream and sugar.

In the United States the Food and Drug Administration requires products marketed as frozen custard to contain at least 10 percent milk fat and 1.4 percent egg yolk solids. If it has fewer egg yolk solids, it is considered ice cream.

If you have any kind of discerning palate, you will taste the difference, though I fear you won’t fare very well if you prefer diet or light ice cream. I prefer the purity of Häagen-Daz if I’m going to go for ice cream. Coffee, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Chocolate are my favorite flavors and they all have about five ingredients, none of them resembling monoglycerinsulfatecresthydrogenelixircarbonate.

Anyway, if you go to Ted Drewes in St. Louis, you will want to order yourself a Concrete. This is what I grew up calling any kind of natural-disaster-ice-cream-dish. They are awesome and the frozen custard can’t be beat, at least in my opinion. Here’s a photo of what all cashiers do when they serve you your concrete:

See that? She’s holding it upside down to show you that it really is frozen and it’s not going to slide out of the cup just because it’s been mixed together. It’s not a milkshake. Nostalgia does strange things to people because now I want to go back and have someone turn upside down my ice cream treat (concrete). Oh and Kevin always makes fun of me for calling anything that is ice cream + candy a concrete. We’re dorks like that.

McDonald’s dubbed theirs a Flurry. Just a slight chance of some kind of snow-related weather activity – in a cup.

Another local place here called Junior’s Burgers & Custard called their ice cream + candy thingy a Tornado. No need to post a photo. I wonder if a cyclonic image makes people shiver and think, “I want ice cream!” And you know somewhere out there, someplace calls theirs a Cyclone.

Sonic calls theirs a Blast. A blast of what?

Lastly, as we circle back around to Dairy Queen once more, they also came up with something called an Oreo Brownie Earthquake Sundae.


At this point, I have to wonder if the name really does help sell the thing. If it’s not something akin to snow, it’s ice cream as it relates to a natural disaster. Missing are Typhoon, Wildfire, Hailstorm, Volcanic Eruption, Mudslide, Sinkhole, Tsunami, Hurricane, and Flooding. I can see it now: “Can I have a sinkhole with marshmallow, walnuts, cranberries, and Andes mints in it?” I just grossed myself out typing all of that.

Did I leave anything out? What do you think, do you like the fun gimmicky names or do you prefer we just call it as it is? I think if I owned an ice cream shoppe I might pull a Dwight Schrute and all my menu items would be listed as such:

  • It is Custard With One Mix-In. $3.50
  • It is Two Scoops of Ice Cream With Hot Fudge On Top. Nuts Are Optional. $4.50
  • It is Like a Concrete But it is Really Just Ice Cream With Candy In It. $4.00

 

From Sprigs to Colossal Displays

I wonder if the Pagans from hundreds of years ago could have ever anticipated the extreme lengths to which people in the future would go to celebrate the Winter Solstice, now incorporated into the massive holiday we now know as Christmas.

Certainly there would have been feasting and music, which are more than prevalent today. I personally have an extensive Christmas music collection and I have asked for a multitude of new albums this year. (Julie Andrews singing Christmas carols? Yes, please.)

This is sprigs + lights. And it's stunning!

Since I am not even going into the consumerism aspect of Christmas (i.e., gift giving and shopping), I’m mainly focusing on the lights and decorations aspect.

Obviously there are people for whom Christmas is just another day (I do not refer to the religions that do not celebrate Christmas) and they could care less about decorations or being jolly or any kind of “spirit” associated with the season, unless of course they prefer the alcoholic kind. (And many do.)

But for some decorating is a custom, nay a compulsion, that must be carried out each year and it must beat out last year’s effort. Remember all the episodes of Home Improvement where Tim had to outdo his neighbor for the holiday lights/display contest? (Remember how torn up Charlie Brown is about Snoopy going for the lights and display contest? Ha, managed to get in a Peanuts reference.)

Take this guy, for example (this is in Boston):

Clark Griswold, do you see this?

I have no idea how this guy’s neighbors sleep. It sure is pretty, though.

Then there’s the unveiling of the tree at Rockefeller Center. It’s a huge event that draws the millions in NYC plus the tourists who are there to see….an enormous tree strewn with lights. The concept seems simple but what it all boils down to is that we’re all attracted to pretty, shiny, sparkly things like moths to a flame.

Having grown up in St. Louis, I was fortunate to experience the Winter Wonderland display at Tilles Park. Since words can not accurately describe how elaborate this scene is, I’m going to link you to the video they have about what it takes to put this show together. This year is the 25th anniversary of young and old alike flocking to stare at the pretty lights in celebration of our nation’s biggest holiday.

Do you decorate for the holidays? Have you put up your tree yet? (We have…) What are your annual holiday traditions that you can’t live without?

Sebastian Maniscalco: stand-up comedian, Italian, funny, metrosexual

On the occasions when I need a break from work but have to remain at my desk, I go on to YouTube to browse any new comedy videos that a fellow comedian fanatic might have put up. Lately I’ve had a real affinity for watching two comedians from the Axis of Evil comedy tour,  those being Ahmed Ahmed and Dean Obeidallah. Seriously funny stuff. (Check ’em out!)

About a month ago, I was at home watching a standup comedy marathon on Comedy Central and I happened to catch a half hour special by Sebastian Maniscalco. I laughed loudly and heartily and had a feeling he was a strong up-and-comer. I didn’t know at that time that he was one of the comedians chosen by Vince Vaughn to participate in Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Tour. That’s going on the Must Rent list. And so, on one of the days that I needed a laugh break, I looked up some new clips of Sebastian on YouTube. The video clips posted were so funny that I went onto his website and dropped twenty fat ones to get his DVD.

It arrived via snail mail a week or so later, a handwritten return address on the top left corner (my post office is a convenient 15 blocks down the street from me – a real treat), and I watched it immediately. It’s only an hour long but it’s very well done, and much to my delight and surprise, his performance takes place in St. Louis! He’s originally from Chicago, so it sort of makes sense, but still. What’s up homies from the Lou?

The Arch in all its shining glory

The Arch in all its shining glory

But anyway. Sebastian’s persona is that of a macho, Chicago-accented Italian pretty boy. He comes off very close to New Yorkish but you can’t mistake his Midwestern accent. He’s very clean-cut and presents himself well; which he jokes about later when he talks about people who are slobbish when going to places like the grocery store (people like me who “roll out of bed and then [they’re] in the fruit section”). He prefers to scrub himself down thoroughly and put on six sprays of cologne, style his hair and then he’s ready to hit the food store.*

One of Sebastian’s strengths is that while he has the occasional dirty joke, he doesn’t saturate his material with them. I personally find that if a stand-up comedian can be hilarious without always resorting to talking about men and women and sex, s/he can consider him or herself successful. (Let me just insert that I am biased and think men make better stand-up comedians than women. I know, I know. It’s completely going against my own sex but I really do think men are funnier when it comes to this profession. However, people like Ellen Degeneres and Bonnie Mc Farlane give the guys a run.) Sebastian inserts the occasional nuts joke but nothing cringeworthy. Big kudos to you, Sebastian!

Speaking of Kudos, there’s a joke about Kudos snack bars in his act at the grocery store. Can’t miss it.

I watched the DVD on my own and then went over to my girlfriend’s apartment to watch it all over again while we munched on Mexican takeout. The second viewing solidified my decision to write a raving post about the guy. I don’t know if it’s because he’s Midwestern or not but I like that he’s not quite up to speed on all things technological. He refers to “new features” of cell phones like texting and accidentally activating the Web browser for his cell phone material. He then proceeds to compare the people at the gym who have all their music on their “Pods” (on the bicep, no less) to himself, who still wears a portable CD player on his waist. I mean seriously, how old school can you get? But the self-deprecating jokes are fantastic, even if there only a few.

One of Sebastians classic facial expressions.

One of Sebastian's classic facial expressions.

By far one of his best jokes is his “downtown Beirut” joke, referring to a cheap store relative to whatever city he’s in, this one being TJ Maxx. In this instance he is dead-on-balls accurate, since in St. Louis, TJ Maxx is absolutely a nightmare. It’s right up there with Marshall’s. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be, everything’s a mess and chances are, you’re saving money because whatever you’re buying is damaged, or as he refers to it, “irregular.”

Sebastian’s delivery is full of fantastic facial expressions, some physical humor (including the Beirut joke) and lots of sarcasm.

I won’t ruin all of the jokes for everyone but the material flows nicely from one joke to another, and he ends with one of his strongest, that being about Today’s Man. Hints: apple martinis, frappuccinos, flip flop sandals. See the YouTube clip at the end!

I rated his DVD “Going Up” (no idea where that comes from, unless he’s referring to his climbing the stardom ladder) four stars out of five, which is pretty high up there in my lowly opinion. I’m not a stand-up expert but I do consider myself an amateur connoisseur since paradise for me would  be a stand-up comedy marathon sprawled on comfy furniture with good friends and good drinks. I frequently seek out stand-up on my movie channels and Comedy Central, I love the show Last Comic Standing to see new faces and new material and I have even written my own jokes on the side, never to see the light of day.** I love going to comedy clubs but since it can be a pricey adventure, I don’t go very often. I’m content to stay home and laugh my boisterous laugh in the privacy of my home.

As to the “wrap the gift” joke that I refer to in the headline, I will leave that to you to find out on your own. It’s great advice and hilariously delivered.

See him. Decide for yourself. Support one of the next famous faces of comedy. Embrace the mirth. Since my YouTube clips keep getting pulled, go look for a current one to tantalize your funny bone.

*The phrase “food store” is something I had never heard of in my life before I moved to New York and dated a New Yorker. I even Googled search terms looking for it and if Google can’t come up with any relevant information for this phrase, pretty sure hardly anyone uses it except for said ex-boyfriend and his family. Oh and my friend Jim once used it. Maybe now it will catch on. I just say grocery store like most people.

**Note about me: I have incredible stage fright and while I can crack myself up at my own jokes, I would never be ballsy enough to actually perform them.