It’s Friday. It’s snowing here. Like really a lot. Like even just driving my husband to the train station this morning -- which is less than a mile away -- was massively nervewracking, more an exercise in controlled sliding than legitimate driving. March is terrible. I know I look cheerful above, but that was just because I was about to eat a really delcious frittata at my favorite cafe. A big plate of tomato-covered eggs goes a long way to make me briefly happy.
FORTUNATELY, even when I’m not in receipt of a hot tasty breakfast prepared by someone else, I have recently found a few other things to distract myself with.
"Shadow on the Crown," by Patricia Bracewell
This is one of those books that just happened to land in my face at the exact right moment for me to read it immediately. I have a love/hate thing with historical fiction a lot of the time, because it’s often either so bogged down in getting the details right that it lacks any creative fire, or it’s ALL CREATIVE FIRE and very little attention to historical accuracy.
Patricia Bracewell’s "Shadow on the Crown," however, manages to straddle these two extremes very well. Set at the turn of the millenium (not that millenium, the 1000 CE millenium) and based loosely on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (a critical manuscript documenting the Anglo-Saxon period in England, as written by the Anglo-Saxons themselves in their own language), Shadow on the Crown follows the life of the little-known Queen Emma, who came from Normandy to marry the Anglo-Saxons’ asshole king, when she was but 15 years old.
Unsurprisingly, she’s more or less on her own after that.
The story is compelling enough that I kind of assumed a lot more of it was taken directly from history than actually was; Bracewell includes notes at the back outlining some of the larger aspects she embellished. Still, I saw a documentary of the same period recently and was surprised by how much of it was familiar, so I really do find this book is a great marriage of fact and fiction. Also it has a spunky heroine cleverly dealing with a shit situation out of her control and I’m always down with that. (Be warned, there is some rape in this book, but it’s not "Game of Thrones" or anything.)
Since this isn’t an era I am generally interested in, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Shadow on the Crown. Truth be told I only gave it a second glance (it came with a few other promo copies of other stuff, most of which wind up going into my building’s book swap shelves) because I thought the cover was pretty. I’m not the only one who literally judges books by their covers, am I?
Oh, and it’s going to be a trilogy, which I didn’t know at first so when I got to end I was all “What the what? That’s IT?” That’s not it. There will just be a wait for the rest.
Justin Gypsy Boots
As passionate as I am about boots -- which I wear pretty much constantly, all year round -- I’ve never been much of a cowboy-boot type. Dr. Martens are my boot of choice, and have been since roughly 1993. I have the truly ridiculous collection to prove it. Oh my god I’m old.
I’ve flirted with the cowboy boot look, but never fully committed. There’s a reason for this. Years ago I had a couple (painfully beautiful) vintage pairs which I never wore and eventually sold, because I have the highest instep possibly in a human who is not also a horse. Or, I guess, a centaur. What I’m saying is I have a VERY HIGH INSTEP. This made getting into (and out of) said boots an elaborate production that attempted to violate several crucial laws of physics.
Yes, I have one of those enormous boot-horn assists from IKEA (the OMSORG, which sounds like a frozen underwater dragon that breathes blue fire). It was the only way I could get those boots on. But even with this help the process took 20 minutes if I was especially efficient. And I was enraged by the end of it.
Thus I hadn’t really ventured into cowboy-boot brands for many years when I discovered and rapidly purchased these Ariat Fatbaby boots. I mean, look at the name, you KNOW they’re gonna be awesome. But still, even with all that fat, and even once they were broken in, it was a bit of a struggle. Not 20 minutes of struggle, mind you, but definitely long enough that I will never wear them on a plane because I’m afraid of taking them off in security and then huffing and puffing without a shoehorn to get them back on. My insteps, they are cruel mistresses.
Until now! What happened was I was looking at another pair of Fatbaby boots when I saw a reviewer say that they were looking to replace their Justin Gypsy boots. I had no idea what Justin Gypsy boots were -- like I said, I don’t much shop in western apparel -- so I went and looked. And then I found THESE.
Yeah, they’re totally not cowboy boots. They’re harness boots. But they’re BEAUTIFUL. Also the logo for the Gypsy line of ladyfied Justin boots looks like something you’d find in Barbie’s dreamhouse. And there’s plenty of cowgirlish Gypsy boots if that’s more to your liking.
Whatever. My experience with the harness boots has been fantastic. They are comfortable as fuck right out of the box. They look amazing. And best of all, I can put them on immediately. No shoehorn, no yanking, no red-faced rage. These are short boots, but the calf circumference is pretty generous, which means unless you like the look of big clompy boots, they may work best on ladies with meatier legs, proportions-wise.
Travelrest Travel Pillow
Y’all know me and my cross-continental redeye flights. I’m always hunting for ways to improve my comfort on long flights, as my comfort is already pretty comprised by my being such a great fatass wedged into a seat just enough on the small side to be annoyingly uncomfortable.
I am also, unfortunately, rather prone to debilitating jet lag if I don’t get at least some minimal amount of sleep on said flights, as when I don’t sleep then I get home in the morning and go to bed even knowing that doing so means I will wake up later in the afternoon unable to remember my own name and convinced that there are invisible deranged ferrets eating all my favorite dresses and how do I stop them I cannot stop them.
My ability to sleep on planes has never been great, even with a nice pair of noise-canceling headphones, because I don’t sleep on my back -- which is the closest approximation to sleeping upright in an airplane seat -- but on my side. This is hard to do, on a plane. Even if I shift around to sit mostly sideways, my arm winds up falling asleep within minutes. Traditional u-shaped travel pillows don’t help.
What I needed, it turns out, was a travel pillow shaped like a GIANT COMMA.
I found the Travelrest travel pillow the same way I find everything I didn’t know I desperately needed -- whilst idly browsing Amazon.com. Instead of being a horseshoe you wrap around your neck and try to sleep on, it’s a giant inflateable comma you sort of sling across your body and lean against. You guys know how much I love commas. Also the bonus is you have something to hug to your front, which those of us with mild childhood abandonment issues do enjoy doing in our sleep, be it with a pillow, a struggling cat, or a random stranger.
I’ve got another trip (to San Francisco) coming up later this month and I look forward to testing this solution on a real-life flight, but I have to say even just, like, sitting on the couch with it? It’s pretty comfy. Fingers crossed.
I am in love with this incredible, staggeringly beautiful time-lapse video showing the many angles of one of my favorite cities in the world: Los Angeles. (I’ve embedded the clip below, but you really want to watch it bigger if you can.)
An honorable mention goes to this incredibly bizarre, incredibly French student film, entitled “Fat,” which is both squeefully adorable and weirdly disturbing.
Have a delicious weekend, everyone.