Friday, November 28, 2008

Free Shoes Giveaway Update

The Style Bard has extended her Thanksgiving trip by one day, and the winner of the Lulu's Free Shoes Giveaway will now be announced on December 2nd, 2008.

My deliquency; your gain. You get one more day to comment on Style Bard or Style Bard Shoes for a chance to win $100 worth of FREE SHOES!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Marshall's Shoe MegaShop (Part 2)

Some of you may recall a Marshalls Shoe MegaShop post here earlier this year, wherein I went running all over town to find some new shoes for an evening event (taking place that very night; yay, last-minute shopping). I wrote about how the new 5,000-square-foot boutique-style display in the Marshalls shoe department compared to the old clearance-rack arrangement. In my travels, I went to three Marshalls stores and in each of them, the Megashop was a bit of a disorganized mess and I found it difficult to shop efficiently (and under a time constraint) for shoes, whereas I recalled being able to quickly browse all shoes in my size with the old set-up. But I promised to return and see if the problem persisted once the Megashop was in full-swing, and not just a burgeoning concept.

So this weekend I went to Marshalls to buy some new shoes for fall, as well as some casual tops. I've been on a mission to dress up my casual look, because I think I've outgrown t-shirts and tank tops. But that's another post. In terms of shoes, I was looking for oxfords, booties, loafers, chunky ankle boots or knee-high boots. I may live in South Florida, but I journey up north for Thanksgiving, and all of my cold-weather clothes and accessories are in storage in New York.

First I have to say that the Megashop was much more organized than my previous excursions. I was able to see all of the shoes with one sweeping glance, and could easily gravitate toward what caught my eye. The clearance wall was in fact organized by size, thank goodness, as compared to the hodge-podge free-for-all that had stood in its place a few weeks ago. (There was one Super Clearance shelf where it seemed like the last of every shoe was just tossed together, and these were not organized at all, but as it was in the spirit of deep-discount clearance bins, it didn't phase me; I took the time to browse for my size.)(If I can survive shoe-shopping at Filene's Basement, I can survive one messy shelf.)

Then I have to say that unfortunately, because I am in South Florida, Marshalls simply didn't have a great selection of boots and booties, which were my first priority. However, they had a nice variety of oxfords, and two ankle boots, and one pair of knee-high boots, and I assume that the range is wider in other parts of the world. This didn't stop me from moving on in my pursuit of trendy fall shoes though, and I managed to make two name-brand purchases for under $50, which is exactly why I'll continue to shop at Marshalls.

My first purchase was these beauties:

Wexford, by Rockport

I thought that these shoes perfectly exemplified the feel of autumn, with rich foliage tones woven through a somber chocolate color; plus, the tweed-like texture makes me think of the cozy, lazy comforts of fall. They have Sole Innovation technology, so the inside is super cushy and the arch is very supportive. I liked them at first sight for their Mary-Jane appearance, and I fell for them when I put them on and felt how completely comfortable they were. Of course, I was ready for commitment when I saw the price tag: $19.99. Marshalls rocks. If you look up these shoes online, they're still selling from $40.00-$75.00 through various retailers. This means I got a fantastic bargain on shoes that aren't outdated or out of stock. I really can't wait to wear them with a yellow, orange or red blouse to pull out the little threads of color in the heels.

I also got these:

Mattino, by Nine West

I love, love, love these shoes. Of all the shoes in the store, these were my absolute favorites, and I had to have them. And since Marshalls carries everything from Payless-level shoes to designer brands, I could have wound up paying a hefty sum for these. But when I grabbed them they were only $29.00. Looking around, I've seen them for about $45.00 elsewhere, so I consider this a fair price. Yes, I know I'm 5'9" and I know they're 4" heels with a hidden platform; but when they're on, I truly don't notice the height. They're so comfortable to wear and I think the chunky, thick look is very "right now." I want to wear them over tights, and I want to wear them against the contrast of frilly, girly dresses. They inspire me. Sure, I'll be an Amazon woman when I go out, but I'll look like a hot Amazon woman. Can you see the little sliver of silver on the heel? Can you see the faint sheen of silver sparkle on the base? Love.

And then once I'd exhausted the shoe racks (almost getting a pair of Etienne Aigner loafers, but then deciding I really wanted black or red loafers, not brown), I went on to purchase some discounted Ralph Lauren polos and a few other casual-preppy-chic shirts to stand in place of my forever-old basics such as three-per-pack go-to Hanes black t-shirts.

All in all, I still wish I could have picked up some boots or ankle boots, but it wasn't in the stars. I'd like to see what's in stock up north at Marshalls. But I'm very, very happy with all of my purchases, and the boutique-style shopping at the Megastore is certainly growing on me now that they've got it under control.

Here's a quick, fun, interactive quiz from Marshalls to help you find your "sole mate" and pick the perfect new fall shoe:

I'm a glittery high heel! No surprise there (although it was a tight race between boots and heels). Now I just need a similar widget to help me pick my soulmate and a new man for fall. Wouldn't that be nice?

Happy Halfway Mark, NaNoWriMo Writers!

If you're writing a novel this month (sure, let's just be so cavalier about it! It's like making toast!) then November 15th was our official halfway point so congratulations to all of us!

I'm not at 25,000 words yet, but I know I'll get back on track. And if you're behind, don't worry! Don't let it keep you from finishing your novel! You can still pull up and win this ink-and-coffee-fueled race. We've made it this far and we have two weekends left to go.

When I'm looking for inspiration, I want to gaze upon something beautiful. Some would turn to a small child smiling, a puppy or the sunrise. I look to fashion. So for inspiration to push through and chase down those last elusive 25,000 words, here's this:

I want to write a character who would wear this dress, and have somewhere to wear it. Doesn't work in this year's story, but maybe next year. Sigh. Just drink in this drool-worthy to-die-for gown. It's worth at least 1,000 of those missing 25K words, if we're to believe the saying! No... this does not mean you only have to write 49,000 words. Now quit stalling and get back to work!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

50 Books

This year, I'm endeavoring to read 50 books in a year. It's some kind of... 50-books-a-year challenge. I dunno, I didn't make it up! All I know is that I've neglected updating this list for awhile, but here we go:

1) The Bostonians, Henry James
2) A Drink Before the War, Dennis Lehane
3) Darkness, Take My Hand, Dennis Lehane
4) Sacred, Dennis Lehane
5) Gone, Baby, Gone, Dennis Lehane
6) Prayers for Rain, Dennis Lehane
7) Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde - Ah, this was just what I expected of it. It was very refreshing after the detective series. I love his little quips, and I like how you can see how this work inspired some of his later works. I like his timeless observations about human nature. And, though I knew the ending, I also thought I knew exactly how we would get there and I was pleased to be wrong. Dorian Gray is a remarkably memorable character, and while the book lagged in some strange places, overall I really enjoyed reading it.

8) The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, Elizabeth Berg - This was a collection of middle-aged-female-oriented short stories and I ate it up in two sittings and then made my mom read it. Though the narrators kind of started blending together, it was Berg's voice that I enjoyed, so I could let it go. I liked the contemporary peeks at things like weight watchers, being married, getting older, etc. I would definitely suggest the collection but also the author, and I look forward to picking up something else by her next time I'm at the library.

9) The Apprentice, Tess Gerritsen - This wasn't my favorite of Gerritsen's novels. I feel like I really, really love one of her books and then the next one is horrible. For example, I loved Harvest but loathed Gravity. But those are her medical thrillers, and this is a detective series kind of thing, and I don't plan to return for more. The character was a little stale, kind of the female-cop trope, and she falls in love and it's very predictable with whom. There are definitely intrigues and great fast-paced segments, and, as always, I feel utterly rewarded by the very insightful, very factual medical information in her books (she used to be a surgeon before becoming an author). I can't say her books aren't smart in that sense; they seem well researched and even well executed. I just didn't like this whole convention, and I don't think it's meant to be her format.

10) Skin Deep, Gary Braver - Unfortunately I didn't like this book as much as some of his other thrillers. And I'm going to tell you why because you're not going to read it. On the cover, this book boasts of being a medical thriller, and is decorated with a surgical theme. As you begin to read it, you realize that the book doesn't know what it is exactly. The main character stumbles around for a bunch of it. He's a cop and the other main players are cops. They're trying to catch a serial killer. No wait. That's the cover that says there's a serial killer. In reality, only one person dies until like, chapter thirteen. Until then, the cops are trying to catch one killer. We're lead to think it might be the main character in some kind of sleeping-pill-induced fugue, but we're lead there so forcibly that we know it isn't. By the time there's a "serial killer" on the loose, and we've all admitted that it's not the main character doing the killings, it's like page 300 and by now we've guessed that... dondonDON... the only character in the entire book who isn't a cop, his wife or a corpse is a DOCTOR... and for 300 pages we're not supposed to figure out who the "serial killer" of this "medical thriller" is? I mean, give me a break. How insulting to the reader. I'll tell you this, though: there is one great twist right at the end. And if Braver had sprinkled that kind of thing throughout the book, it would have been much, much better. Ambitious, but the novel fell short of the mark. It took me forever to read because I wasn't enjoying it, and really messed up my reading pace.

11) Proof: A Play, David Auburn - After slogging through that more tedious novel, I took a break to read some plays. You can see how I need to switch things up from time to time. Proof was wonderful, for its nuance, subtlety and simplicity. It's the kind that stays with you and makes you think afterward. It's a little hard to explain without giving much away, but there's family conflict and romance and math. Curious yet? Good, you should go read it because it's fairly short (it's a play after all) and pretty good. I'd like to see it done, and I'll probably read it again at some point (if not buy it, because plays are the sort of thing I prefer to own and re-read).

12) The Exonerated, Jessica Blank - Another play, this is what's considered a social agenda documentary-style play. When we're not talking about intense family dramas, this is the sort of play I like because there's a message involved which has ramifications in daily life, and this play focuses on the death penalty. It's comprised of interviews with hundreds of real-life exonerated inmates who were falsely imprisoned for tens of years. There's unexpected humor and a lot of human depth in the stories. My only criticism with this is that it was written by actors, and I feel that it shows. There's something lacking in the organization and the style, and while it's hard to pinpoint exactly, I feel that the answer just lies somewhere in the mentality of an actor versus the mentality of a writer or director. As I said to a friend, when I read Dead Man Walking, I wanted to be in it (and was, but that's another story). When I read Laramie Project, I wanted to read it over and over again to really absorb it all (and eventually chose it as my undergrad thesis topic). I wasn't attracted in that way to The Exonerated; in fact, I think the only reason I would even see it is if it had a very talented cast, because seeing some of the acting choices with these difficult and complex characters would be interesting. I eventually realized that Dead Man Walking leaves audiences wondering if the main prisoner did or did not commit his crimes and if he will or won't die. And Laramie Project is also posed in a more storyline-style narrative. But with The Exonerated, you know that they're already out and were wrongly accused. There's kind of nowhere for it to go. This is one of the things that I feel a more talented playwright might have been able to foresee and find a solution to.

13) All My Sons, Arthur Miller - Speaking of more talented playwrights! Miller is one of my all-time favorites, and while I've read and studied many of his plays, this one play in paticular is in very few of his anthologies (of which I have three, none with this play). I was always too stubborn to buy it on its own, but now I may have to because I really loved it. Not only did I love this play, which was his first big success at age 30, and prefaced his success with Death of a Salesman (you can really see his style bloom between the two), but I also loved the edition I picked up. It had a solid, interesting introduction and overview of the play. The story is about a man who, for family's sake and for profit, sells fault parts to fighter pilots in the war, and as a result, they die. The story unfolds in numerous complexities in terms of plot and character while revealing very much about the mentality of the time (1940's) and humanity. I can't say enough good things about this, so I'll stop gushing, but go read it. I'll be buying it next time I see it.

14) Black Sunday, Thomas Harris - Okay, so I'm a big Hannibal fan and I've read all the books and seen the movies. (Except Hannibal Rising, which I also checked out from the library but then had to return because someone else had it on hold. I'll be seeing you again, child Hannibal!) So I don't know why it's taken me so long to get around to reading his first novel, which is kind of an exploratory effort for him, and basically follows the thriller genre. But it involves political intrigue espionage and a hot Israeli spy and it's very tightly crafted (save for maybe this one weird tangent thrown in to mislead the reader and, I guess, the protagonist but seriously... mostly the reader) and as with Gerritsen, what I like most about Harris is how thoroughly he researches, and how many facts and figures he gives you. It makes the world more three-dimensional and makes the reader feel intelligent. Sometimes his breadth of knowledge amazes me, and his intelligence is obvious. Not that I don't love Hannibal, but I think that when you get to the point of doing prequels, you should go back and try something new. With all of his new exposure and maturity as a writer, I think more and diverse thrillers by him would be completely wonderful and well received.

And I have a next book to read but it hasn't been cracked yet because of NaNo. I think 50 books a year should become like, 45, when there's NaNo, because the month of November is pretty much a wash.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quick Top Chef note...

Not only don't I cook, but about three days ago I literally set my stove on fire. That's how extremely I cannot cook. And that's only a drop in the bucket in terms of anecdotes justifying how the Style Bard cannot cook. However, I really enjoy Top Chef and I'm thrilled that it's back. It's one of the most sincere reality tv show competitions on TV, I feel. It's much too early for me to cast a bid on who I think will make it to the finale, but I do want to say that after tonight's episode, the Culinary Institute of America must be smarting. The two canditates on Top Chef who attended CIA were kicked off first, one and you just know it's gonna be interesting around the student union building tomorrow.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Ready for more cool prizes? I thought so.

Last month, Style Bard offered a chance to win free jeans and a gift certificate to a swanky restaurant. This month, Style Bard Shoes is giving readers a chance to win FREE SHOES.

Here are the details: FREE SHOES from!

This promotion runs from November 8th-November 30th, and winners will be announced December 1st---just in time to buy some new shoes for your New Year's Eve blast!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Free Giveaway Winners!

And after much ado, we finally have the winners of Style Bard's very first free giveaway! The winners are:




If you are one of these two subscribers, you'll receive an email this evening from me. First Lenweeks can pick his or her prize from either PZI Jeans or a $50 Gift Card to Bruno Jamais, and then Gingerpye will win the other fabulous prize!

Sad you didn't win? Don't worry. We've got another glam giveaway coming right up, where you'll stand to win FREE SHOES from Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Free Giveaway Update! Please Read

Hello! I want to thank everyone for participating in my first freebie giveaway.

But first I need to make an important announcement for everyone who entered to win by subscribing to the newsletter. When you subscribed to Style Bard News you received a confirmation email which you must open in order to officially join the mailing list!

As it turns out, over half of you who tried to subscribe are not yet subscribed. That means you can't win the prizes, or receive newsletters for future giveaways! I think spam filters are catching this important email.

So, to make up for the confusion, I'm extending the contest through the weekend. I'm going to give everyone an extra 48 hours to find the confirmation email and officially subscribe to Style Bard News, and then on Monday, November 3rd, I will notify the two winners!

This means that you also have to wait until Monday to hear about the next upcoming giveaway, and I know that's kind of cruel, so I'll give you a little hint today: it's a chance to win free shoes, worth up to $100.

So if you want to win PZI Jeans, a gift card to Bruno Jamais, or if you want to qualify to be entered in the next giveaway for FREE SHOES: open those emails, officially register, and I'll let you know if you're a winner on Monday!

Sorry again for the confusion and thank you again to all who participated. ~SB