After the Storm

Greetings from storm-ravaged Ottawa, Ontario, friends. So I was sitting here Saturday afternoon editing photos of the tulips in my garden when I thought, “Yikes, it’s getting really dark out there. Looks like a storm. Better go out and clip the last remaining tulips before they get smashed to crap.” Then while I was outside clipping tulips I thought, “Yikes, it’s getting really dark out here. There is definitely going to be a storm. Better get inside before you get smashed to crap.” Less than five minutes later, just as I was putting the finishing touches on my rescue tulip bouquets, a wildly destructive storm front called a derecho rolled over Ottawa, and smashed the crap out of my city.

Years ago in Orlando, Florida, at the end of a long, stormy day of Disney-ing, Mr. Finger Candy and I were caught in a downburst as we tried to navigate the parking lot in front of our resort. As the water rose above my ankles, the sheeting rain and gale force winds drove me into a nearby rental compact, and I briefly wondered if we were both going to go off sailing to the Land of Oz. Until this weekend’s homegrown derecho, that storm was my personal litmus test for a frightening meteorological event. Saturday’s storm was so much worse.

Nearly 72 hours after 120 km/hour winds rocked the city, there are still over 70,000 homes and businesses without power. Gas stations have run out of fuel, grocery stores have run out of food, and restaurants, in need of both, have simply shut their doors. From pretty well one end of the city clear on out to the other, there are snapped, toppled and uprooted trees, smashed fences, and collapsed structures. A major retail corridor, Merivale Road – if the name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the area that was nearly leveled by a gas explosion some months back – is a tangled snarl of downed power lines. The sound of gas-powered chainsaws and generators is constant.

Knock on every bit of wood that was littering my front lawn before I went out today and picked it all up, but we came through the storm alright. I won’t comment on our deer-in-the-headlights reaction to the storm itself (not everyday a tornado rips through the Ottawa Valley; we were gobsmacked by the storm’s utter fury, such that we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the windows) but we didn’t lose power. In the immediate aftermath, it looked like a dump truck full of silty, leafy water had been hurled at our house, but praise the gods, we suffered no material damage to our home or property.

The same can’t be said for our immediate neighbours, whose 20-foot fir, leaning somewhat towards the street, was uprooted and tossed casually in the completely opposite direction (towards the neighbours who are thankfully not us.) The mere presence of this felled behemoth, stretched across two driveways and most of a lawn, has attracted a near-constant parade of gawkers and rubberneckers. I’m sad; it maybe wasn’t the most attractive tree, but it was old and living and added to the shade canopy on the street, and was undoubtedly a better steward of this earth than all of us utterly hellbent on destroying it (climate change is a myth/sarcasm.)

And so cleanup begins. Yesterday Mr. Finger Candy and I went out and filled two leaf bags with the sticks, branches and whole tree limbs that were littering the front and back yards. I swept down the front of the house and removed all the bits of stuck-on leaves and mulch spackled to the windows, doors and siding. I filled half a leaf bag with the fluffy floral remnants of our chestnut tree’s white blossoms, which carpeted the front lawn and driveway. I vowed to actually go “down cellar” the next time there’s one of these furious storms, instead of gawping out the window like an idiot extra in a climate disaster movie (“Mr. The Rock, sir? Is the water line supposed to be up to the 17th floor of this building?”)

And I’m trying not to be immensely bitter about the fact that for the past two weeks, I’ve spent an incredible amount of time and money re-landscaping our property. For a solid week and a half, Mr. Finger Candy and I began every day with a trip to Home Depot for garden soil, 10 bags at a time. We’d then come home, unload our bounty, and I’d go out to the yard to “rebuild” the beds I’ve spent the past two seasons denuding. Lather, rinse, repeat.

When I was out clipping my tulips on Saturday afternoon, everything looked spectacular, fresh and clean and level! No more blundering into ankle-twister holes or tripping over exposed roots! Then we all got derecho’d, and nothing looks very spectacular any more. Most of the dirt I laid down seems to have disappeared, as if the force of the storm simply vaporized it. I’m trying to maintain my chill about the situation, given what a non this is in the greater scheme of post-storm things, but dang, the pointlessness stings. Really knocked me down a peg or two, and believe me, these days, the lower rungs on the ladder have nearly disappeared; the ground is right. friggin’. there.

But we have power. And food. We are safe, our cats are safe and our families are safe. There are no downed hydro poles or gargantuan trees laying across our property. We came out of this one a little battered, but mostly okay. I hope you did, too.

Home is Where the Everything is

Hey there, Interwebs! Been a month. Or two. Or seven.

And where have I been? Oh, here, there and everywhere, if the here we’re talking about is my house, the there we’re talking about is also my house, and the everywhere is the space immediately surrounding my house. I’ve always been a major homebody – home is where the heart and the food lives – but this pandemic-related semi-self-confinement is getting ridiculous. News to absolutely no one who hasn’t been living under the proverbial rock of ignorance, but life these days is difficult, stressful and expensive. Even if I was in the mood for that quaint old notion of enjoyment over pure, mind-numbing survival, there are precious few fun funds to be found. Twice-yearly Disney vacations are a thing of what feels like the very distant past. Hell, even the cost of a 20-minute jaunt out to a favourite ice cream shop in the country is just a bit too much, gas prices being what they are.

Our lives on this planet amount to more than our bank balances, but I question what all this financial squeezing, pinching, limiting and restricting is doing to us when it keeps us from living our lives in any meaningful way. Perhaps multiple Disney vacations a year is – and was – financially insupportable for all but the wealthiest (or most indebted) families, but when you question the financial impact of a half-hour country drive and choose instead to just stay on home, you know something’s seriously amiss.

Mr. Finger Candy and I are, to use a tiresome phrase, doing okay. We’re hanging in there. We’re surviving, and then some. We have a beautiful roof over our heads, a bit of extra dough for improvements, plenty of Temptations for the cats and two-and-a-half specialty subscription channels on our TV. We’re doing okay.

But we’re tired of making the daily choice – really no choice at all – to either pay outrageously inflated prices for the things and experiences we once took for granted, or just. stay. home. More and more, home is winning out.

And while it may be where the heart and the food is – also, apparently, there’s no place like it – home can be boring and confining. Most days I feel like that old poster (like a meme, kids, but physical) of a chubby, stressed-out cat clinging to the inside of an old screen door: Kitty Wants Out.

Living where I do (eastern Ontario, Canada, North America, the Earth, the galaxy, the universe) it’s cold and snowy for a solid six months of the year, just adding to that disorienting, almost Shining-esque sense of imposed cabin fever. But

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES SANDRA A DULL GIRL.

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES SANDRA A DULL GIRL.

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES SANDRA A DULL GIRL.

Whoops, sorry about that! Thankfully, the very best way to counteract a major case of the Jack Torrances is to get out in nature (just watch out for those hedge mazes, yeah?) And our property is rich in nature, so I’ve really got my make-work cut out for me now that the spring has arrived.

What does any of this have to do with anything? Just pointing out that over the coming days, in an effort to combat the doldrums of life and an inexcusable, seven-month-long lapse in blogging, I’m going to highlight some of the yard and gardening work I’ve done to beautify my home and brighten my days. Aaaaannnnd maybe also show off a bit, because wouldn’t you if you had tulips this gorgeous in your yard?

I hope you’ll return tomorrow so we can share in the fun and, honestly, the occasional total calamity that is me blundering about my garden. Should be good for a laugh. Or two. Or seven.

Eight Years to Hold You

This world is just THE most random place sometimes, innit? I was sitting here trying to think up a suitably pithy title for a post about this blog’s eighth birthday when the phrase “Eight arms to hold you” popped into my head. I know that as the title of a Veruca Salt album from the late ’90s, but just in case I was wrong (I rarely am about grunge era music) I thought I’d run it through the old Wiki machine all the same. That’s where I learned that Eight Arms to Hold You was actually the working title of the Beatles’ 1965 film Help, and in addition to being the title of a pretty dynamite Veruca Salt album, it’s also the name of a song on the soundtrack to one of my favourite movies of all time, The Goonies.

So in keeping with the theme of complete happen randomstance and the number 8, I ditched the anniversary nails I had planned (eh, you know, pink, glittery and invoking various sweet foodstuffs) and did a simple mani using Enchanted Polish’s Octopus’s Garden (jeepers, what was up with the Beatles and cephalopods?) a lacquer that, as one of the first ones to hit my collection, is also celebrating its eighth birthday. Cheers to you, tiny everlasting bottle of noxious chemicals!

And cheers to you, Finger Candy, for limping along through these last two years of massive change. I know I’ve neglected you terribly, old friend, but I hope that one day soon we’ll be seeing more of one another.

Gardening Glory (and Some Gripes)

Given that the majority of my tulips were in full bloom by mid-April of this year – and just in time for a freak snowstorm, too! – I shouldn’t be too surprised that my garden as a whole is, here in the middle of September, really starting to languish. Still, I’m shocked at how pooped-out everything looks. Except for my tomatoes. They’re going to take over the world. (Yes, I know tomatoes should really not look like this, but they’re producing fruit and clearly thriving. So I, for one, welcome our new tomato overlords!)

This is just my second season as a homeowner with a proper garden, and I’m constantly surprised at what works and what doesn’t, what grows and what doesn’t, and how very differently plants respond to their environment from year to year. Nature’s quite the miracle, isn’t it? 🙂

Take this rose, for example, variety unknown, because that’s how I roll (if you’re looking for its proper Latin name and pronunciation, you’d best consult my mother, who has much gardening knowledge and skill. In the garden, I’m definitely more kill than skill.)

Again, let’s take this rose as an example. I moved this thing around the garden three or four times, and even left it out for a few days, roots exposed, while I contemplated where to move it next. No plant responds well to such treatment, let alone roses, which are susceptible to all manner of maladies, including shock. I was quite sure I had killed it, but a few weeks after moving it to its forever home, it once again began throwing off gorgeous clusters of those brilliant, hot pink blooms.

Or how about this peony, one of two plants I admiringly refer to as my zombie peonies. Zombies, because I am 100 percent sure I yanked them out of the ground last year and binned them after they seemingly up and died. I quite distinctly remember tossing them into a yard bag, roots and all. And yet, this spring two peonies grew strong and tall in the spots where their brethren once stood, so I can only assume I left just enough of the root structure intact for them to take hold this season.

Or how about the unlikely success story of our tiny back yard crabapple, a weirdly misshapen little thing that bore no fruit at all last season (thank you, ever-ravenous rodents) but gave off a whopping 12 cups of fruit this season, allowing me to make dee-licious crabapple jelly that Mr. Finger Candy has been hoovering back like it…grows on trees. Which, it turns out, is an expression that works in nearly all cases but this one!

The big oak tree in the back yard, Annie (Annie Oakley) produced only a handful of acorns last season. This year? They positively carpeted the back lawn. I raked and bagged up maybe 50 pounds worth of acorns. For a couple of weeks there, it was relentless. You could hardly venture beneath the tree for fear that a gust of wind or a particularly vengeful squirrel would send a shower of hard acorns down onto your head. At least the increased rodent presence provided our cats, Beans and Fluffy, with some much-appreciated entertainment.

In the complete reverse of Annie the back yard oak, Chester the front yard chestnut has produced maybe half the fruit he did in 2020. Last year, bright green, rock hard spheres of pain (or chestnuts, if you will) rained down onto our front lawn and driveway every day from the beginning of July to the middle of September. I’d typically pick up 3/4 of a medium-sized flower pot a day (and it should always be with gloved hands, because yee-ouch, those suckers bite!)

This year, though, the few chestnuts the tree has produced have remained resolutely – and quite dangerously – on the tree, hanging in massive, spiky clumps that, if they came down all at once, would absolutely knock you unconscious. I’ve actually been dodging some much-needed yard work in the front because I’m afraid of just such a scenario taking place. Mr. Finger Candy suggested I procure a hardhat, and you know, I don’t actually think that’s as crazy a suggestion as it might seem!

Other success stories include the gorgeous flowers and shrubs and flowering shrubs that overtook my garden this year – yellow potentilla, blue delphinium, periwinkle chinodoxa, pink hydrangea, purple lilacs, white trillium, and a rainbow’s worth of roses.

But this year’s undisputed king of the back yard was this patch of Black-Eyed Susans, five single plants that grew into a mighty, marigold-hued bush that put off tall, sunny blooms for the entirety of the summer. It was such a delight to look out the kitchen window every day and see this cheery fellow keepin’ on keepin’ on, rain or shine. I love it when plants unexpectedly thrive (see above, re: zombie peonies.)

Okay, so it would seem the gardening gripes were in relatively short supply this season, save the aggravating switcheroo the front and back yard trees pulled on us. My dad tells me increased fruit production means we’re in for a harsher-than-usual winter, so yay, there’s something to look forward to! When we’re arse-deep in snow and ice in two months’ time, Annie and Chester will be saying, “Told ya so,” because I think they’d be smug like that. 😉

Wow, what a load of work this garden has been. I often joke (?) that as a former apartment dweller, I may have slipped a cog by going from no garden to ALL THE GARDEN. But when I’m outside on a nice day puttering about, not worried that I’m going to get knocked unconscious by a shower of nuts, just watching the bees drone around and noting all the progress my plants have made, it’s bliss. So really, no gripes, just glory.

Tulipalooza

Bit of a throwback there for the Gen X near-olds of Ottawa, Ontario. Show of hands if you, too, spent a weekend in May 1990-something lolling about Major’s Hill Park, ostensibly there to admire the thousands of rainbow-hued tulips that were, and continue to be, the main draw of the Canadian Tulip Festival, but actually there to flirt with cute boys (and girls) at the all-ages alternative rock show. I met my second boyfriend in just that fashion, in line for the Pepsi Taste Challenge, which was beside the Much Music Video Dance booth, just in case I haven’t aged myself enough with these references. It won’t shock you to learn that that weekend also involved hacky sacks, neon pink comb-in hair gel, and many appearances of local musical weirdo-heroes, Furnaceface.

But I digress. This post is actually about the tulipalooza that I hosted in my garden this past spring, a throwback in itself given that tulip season has LONG since passed.

And that season was, to put it poetically, a beautiful nightmare. It started in the fall of 2020 when I purchased nine or 10 different varieties of heirloom bulbs from Breck’s Bulbs (zero complaints there; the bulbs I bought were in beautiful shape, white, fresh and plump.) In anticipation of the bastard rodents that would surely make merry with my tender tulips, Mr. Finger Candy made eight cages out of zip ties and chicken wire to lock the bulbs in before I planted them in the ground. I then planted a couple dozen, foolishly unprotected, in the pie-shaped bed at the front of the house. I had been inside maybe 15 minutes before I looked out the window and saw that arsehole squirrels had made off with at least three. Mr. Finger Candy leapt to the rescue once again, this time pinning an entire sheet of chicken wire directly on top of the soil.

Winter came and went, and in the spring my fledgling tulips began to fledge. I was so excited to look outside and see their tender green shoots just beginning to poke through the loamy gloom! And then the rodents returned, kneecapping my efforts – and the growth of my flowers – at every. single. turn. It also snowed in the middle of April, necessitating a frosty jaunt out to the beds in my flip flops to rescue the more advanced blooms.

I spent the majority of my spring vacillating between wild gardening highs and crushing rodent lows (not to suggest that I ever actually physically harmed the thieving little jerks, unless you count dosing my flower beds with Da Bomb hot sauce-infused water, a neat little trick that only occasionally proved successful.)

Highs? This absolutely stunning bouquet of inky purple Queen of the Night tulips, ruffled Black Parrots and bubblegum pink Fancy Frills I pulled from the front bed at the very end of the season. How such gorgeous specimens dodged the Wrath of Rodent, I’ll never know, but I loved having this cut bouquet in our home for the two weeks that it remained pert and bright and upright.

I also loved this sunset-hued bouquet of early bloomers I clipped during that aforementioned springtime snowstorm. These gorgeous, plush blossoms are Coral Pride and Pink Pride tulips mixed in with some yellow and white tulips that just randomly sprang up in the yard (I call that gardening by squirrel, or let the tulips lay where they may.)

Another high? This unique blossom, a Showgirl tulip. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a blue flower before (okay, purple-grey) let alone grown one.

The cool tones of this beautiful tulip matched nothing else in the garden, which certainly didn’t matter to the squirrels, who seemed to find these particular flowers extra delicious. But when I was able to actually bring one or two inside, I just wound up hodge podgeing them together with whatever else was in bloom, making for some interesting arrangements.

Lows? Oh, pretty much any time I looked outside and saw a wilted pile of leaves, or worse, a tall, green stem with a nipped-off blossom just laying in the dirt beside it. My mom said, with a note of concerned pride in her voice, “Well, you’re a real gardener now!” when I called her one morning, wracked with sobs and blubbering about my decimated tulips. Apparently heartbreak is just part of the gardening deal? I *might* even have been sort of understanding if the rodents actually ate the tulips, or derived some sort of sustenance from them. Canadian winters are hard; I suppose I can’t fault the little guys for falling on the first fresh greenery they’ve seen in months. But to just nip off the head and then leave it there, fully intact, the plant now utterly destroyed, is unconscionable. I could wring their little rodent necks.

Instead, I began dosing my beds with ground cinnamon, ground cayenne pepper and hot sauce-infused water. Capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers, is also usually the first active ingredient in critter ridder preparations, none of which seem to work very well, and all of which are quite expensive. So I bought a bunch of ground cayenne pepper at the bulk store and sprinkled it around my tulips. It worked as an invisible barrier more often than not, as did the hot sauce treatment, but I still suffered losses to squirrels who are apparently impervious to the pain of a 2 million scoville-rated hot sauce. As for the cinnamon, I was thinking anything that burns. Have you ever inhaled a bunch of ground cinnamon (or worse, done the cinnamon challenge)? It hurts and smells incredible all at the same time. I was just looking for the squirrel version of that. Is this also a sign that I’m becoming a “real” gardener, that I don’t want to hurt the rodents that thoughtlessly thrashed my garden, but I do want them to pay?

It’s been a learning process, that’s for sure, and one that I’m in the process of repeating right this very moment (get those bulb orders in now!) Heartbreak and tears notwithstanding. Only next time I’ll be approaching the whole endeavor with a bit more gardening wisdom – and A LOT more physical barriers.

Springin’ Sprinkles

If I have learned anything over the last year and a bit of pandemic life – and that is highly debatable; in most respects, I actually feel like I’m regressing – it’s that our existence is fragile, and we could all use a hell of a lot more sprinkles. I’m talking here about metaphorical sprinkles – those sparkly, too-fleeting moments of hope and joy and love and understanding – but also the real kind, the ones composed of corn syrup and cellulose gum and palm oil, and a certain childlike glee in having your foodstuffs adorned with the same.

It was with that thought in mind – “Want pretty sprinkles for sweet foods!” – that I placed an order for a beautiful mess of items from Sprinkle Pop, a candy maker I found through the always dangerous platform of Instagram (dangerous in that I can always find some completely random new area of interest to occupy my time and money. Bespoke sprinkles – *snort* – is just the latest.)

Sprinkle Pop’s surprisingly tasty adornments – flavoured jimmies, metallic spheres, glittery dragees, and colourful mixes loaded with tiny, hand-piped extras – come in three sizes, eight ounce jars, four ounce jars, and two ounce sample packs. The sample packs give you about a quarter cup of sprinkles, which in my (newly acquired) experience will decorate about three dozen cupcakes, or two sprinkled-spackled cakes. Here’s the Robin’s Egg sprinkle mix (perhaps my favourite) sitting prettily atop some cupcakes I recently made (chocolate with salted caramel buttercream icing, in case you feel like driving yourself mad with desire, and yes, they were totally delicious!)

I chose six sample packs, three perfect for the just-passed Easter season (from left to right, Hangin’ With My Peeps, a mix of pastel jimmies and tiny royal icing Peeps; Egg Hunt, another springy rainbow mix studded with hand-piped bunnies and carrots; and Robin’s Egg, with its sweet, speckled eggs) and three just-because-they’re-pretties (from left to right, Royal Plume, a fun mix of bright, peacock-inspired hues; Love You a Latte, a soft, Valentine’s Day-appropriate blend of coffee-flavoured jimmies; and Leprechaun Loot, which is clearly going to have to wait until next year to properly exercise its lucky charms.)

Then because I have plans for them, I bought two mixes in the slightly larger four ounce size, Dark Unicorn, a sugar’corn-studded blend of blacks and brights and neons, and Strawberry Shortcake, which is delightfully self-explanatory.

I even managed to derive some nail art inspiration from Egg Hunt!

Neat! Important, necessary, critical to my existence? Definitely not. But a sweet diversion in a world that could use a lot more sprinkles, and a fun thing in my life.

Sprinkle Pop Tie Dye

I’d love to say these cool, tie dye-patterned nails were an intentional thing, but like all delightful creations, they began in a very different place from which they wound up. I was going for another fluid art look, this time in a bouquet of spring pastels, so inspired by some springin’ sprinkles I recently purchased from Sprinkle Pop (more on the fab world of bespoke sprinkles next post.)

But I jumped the gun and didn’t let my little self-made nail decals dry thoroughly, so when I topped my finished mani with a requisite coat of Seche Vite, it smudged up into this still-pretty tie dye concoction that reminds me of Hypercolor shirts from the ’90s (a type of tie dye, I suppose, if watery pastels mixed with sweat is your bag. Yikes, the ’90s were a rough time, sartorially speaking!)

Ice Cream Hunt

I’ll keep this short, because I’m pissy at the utterly counter-intuitive nightmare that WordPress’ block editor has become (shouldn’t have to Google a “how-to” on every. single. action I try to carry out) but Mr. Finger Candy and I found this fun, new-to-us ice cream shop in Carp, Ontario called Carp Custom Creamery, and their heavenly, undoubtedly totally calorie-free confections are ah-mazing. So amazing, a recent jaunt out to the wee Town of Carp for a much-coveted tub of Easter Egg Hunt inspired some fun, thematically-appropriate nails for the long weekend.

Carp Custom Creamery sold over 1,000 litres of Easter Egg Hunt this season, and its run is now finished for the year, but I can assure you that they have many, many more tempting treats, including ice cream cakes, waffle cone tacos, hand-spun milkshakes and so many delicious flavours of ice cream, it’ll make your head spin. My husband and I found this place one bitterly cold February day when it seemed totally reasonable to be standing out in -17 degree temps, holding a cup of Pop Tarts ice cream aloft (I’d do it again in a frozen heartbeat!)

Depending on whatever miserable – but necessary, sigh – public health-related lockdown measures are in place on any given day (also feeling pissy about Ontario’s ever flip-flopping, wholly ineffective approach to the pandemic) you can roll on up to Carp Custom Creamery for cups and cones, shakes and tacos, or grab a few pints for home. On our last trip, we sampled the super popular Coffee Break (if you’ve ever had an affogato – espresso poured over rich vanilla ice cream – this creamy, caffeinated confection tastes exactly like that), Peanut Butter & Jelly (tasted exactly as you’d expect) and Nerd (black cherry ice cream studded with tart Nerds candy; it was SO unexpectedly delicious, and just look at that gorgeous grape colour! I sense another manicure coming on!)

Okay, feeling less cruddy now. I guess ice cream has a way of doing that. 🙂 Anyhow, TL;DR;JD (too long; didn’t read; just drooled) get thee to Carp Custom Creamery – you won’t regret it.

Feeling Fluid

The ingenuity of the nail polish world never ceases to amaze me. Just when you think you’ve seen every variation of a nail lacquer – truly, how different can those 50 mint green polishes be from one another?! – something new comes along, opening up a whole new world of nail art possibilities.

Shocker to no one who’s been following this sorry excuse for a nail blog over the past year, but there’s been a certifiable dearth of actual nail art embedded in the actual ones and zeros contained therein.  The long and the short of it is, I’ve had zero interest in fiddling with my nails.  And when I have, it’s been gardening season – and at that time of year, they are anything but tidy little finger canvasses! 

Then I ran across this trendy fluid art polish I purchased last year, Baroness X’s Nacre, and I decided to treat myself to a pretty new manicure.  We shall not speak of my first attempt, which I chalked up to a lack of practice over the last, oh, eight or nine months.  But my second attempt went swimmingly, and I’m so pleased with the results! 

Here’s how fluid art polishes work.  Containing a higher than usual percentage of oil, fluid art polishes interact with more traditional, water-based lacquers in exactly the way you would expect oil and water to combine – breaking apart into delicate lace, puddly little cells and swoopy streaks.  I created the manicure shown here by dabbing three polishes – hot pink, orchid purple and plain old white – out onto a small silicone mat, one on top of the other.  I immediately topped the tri-coloured polish pile with a generous blob of Nacre, before pinching the mat between my fingers, smooshing the four polishes together. 

You will not think that this will do a dang thing – and it didn’t work for me the first time I tried it – but when you pull the mat apart, you’ll see the polishes spread out and split up into lacy cells, right before your very eyes.  It was really so cool – effects polishes, when they behave, can produce the neatest looks.  And Nacre is a great choice for experimentation, as it doesn’t have the most colour presence beyond that lovely mother of pearl shimmer.

After creating six or seven of these little cellular strips (I was just doing my one hand) I let them dry for an hour or so.  Then when it came time to actually do my nails, I treated them exactly like nail decals, carefully cutting each delicate strip into a shape roughly the size of my nail bed, and then “sticking” it in place atop a single light layer of clear base coat.  I then cleaned up the raggedy bits by my cuticles with a detail brush dipped in acetone, before topping with Seche Vite, as always.  Et voila, a rather stunning and spring-y fluid art manicure, and a small, encouraging step back into the nail art world. 🙂

A Year in Review

No need to add to the chorus of “thank-your-lord-of-choice 2020 is over” exhalations of exasperation; this post is going to be about the good things that came into my life last year, the positive behaviours I somehow picked up, and the happy memories I made in the process.

Not to lay too much responsibility at the doorstep of our actual doorstep, but like most good things in our lives, they begin and end with our house.  We actually moved in just before Christmas 2019, so 2020 was all about finding our footing as new homeowners.  Mostly, we were unbelievably grateful – every single day, audibly, no doubt involving a number of colourful epithets – that we were not trying to pandemic-in-place in our old condominium.  Had this camel’s back not been broken by the proverbial straw some months earlier, I have no doubt that COVIDing-in-a-condo would have been the thing to finally do it.

Instead, we settled in, grateful – there’s that word again – for our little fortress against the unknown.  We couldn’t control what was happening outside our door, but we could tend our little kingdom, and its surrounding community, as best we could, and just try to stay safe.  At its very core, I think that’s all that’s been asked of us all along – just take care of yourself and your neighbours.  I’m not sure how that message got quite so twisted up.

Mask Up!

Okay, brief political interlude aside (NOT a positive thing in my life in 2020; against my better judgement, and very much to my mental detriment, I became a hardcore doomscroller) our house is rad, we love living here, and we had a great year as first time homeowners.

My lovely, gigantic kitchen gave me plenty of space to spread my culinary wings, whether it was countless Hello Fresh meals – an absolute treat and sanity-saver during the very earliest days of the pandemic – or from-the-garden rhubarb jam, or pumpkin spice cinnamon buns, or many, many, many dozens of scones – a friend’s daughter paid me the greatest culinary compliment I’ve ever received when she commented that they were topped with icing worthy of Santa’s cookies – or even both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, a first for me.

Sweet Treats

And in the early summer we purchased a gas barbecue, one of those “When I have my own house one day!” items I’ve been dreaming about over the last 17 years of apartment life.  Oh, the delicious, smoky fun we had this summer!  Mostly a lot of vegetarian, carby things (penne in a smoked vodka tomato cream sauce, white pizza, and alfredo-thyme farfalle studded with smoky, blackened corn) because Mr. Finger Candy is a vegetarian and I love carbs, but it saw its fair share of bacon-wrapped tenderloins and smoked chicken as well.  The very best food discovery I made this year is that dry mesquite wood chips loaded into a tinder box and set beneath your grill will impart a smoky flavour to your food that is virtually indistinguishable from bacon.  Spread the word, vegetarians!

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (and Your BBQ’d Pizza)

Because our house has rather a lot of yard (and one super adorable shed) this is the year I discovered I *might* be a green-thumb in the making.  My grandfather, one of those “Let me graft this pineapple onto a cherry tree and see what happens” types, would be so proud!  It’s serious enough that for Christmas this year, my parents gifted me with seed-starters and hydroponic lights to hang above my workbench.  No joke, I am but 7,567 loose nails and a mock road signing proclaiming “Brain surgery while you wait” away from turning into my Poppy, and I’m completely delighted. 🙂  I took such great pleasure from gardening and yard work last year – nothing felt so good as taking a hot, sudsy shower after a long day of pruning, mulching, replanting, de-crittering and/or rock wall-building.

Shed Life

Not to say everything in the great outdoors has been going totally swimmingly.  In the spring I planted and replanted (and then replanted and planted again) a promising collection of berries, tomatoes and peppers, before just giving up and giving them over to the many, many rodents, birds and outright pests that populate our back yard.  The squirrels made off with my heirloom tulip bulbs, even after I “dressed” the front beds with about five pounds of powdered cayenne pepper.  My peonies kicked the bucket.  I forgot to tie up our cedars for the winter, necessitating a 4 am, first-snowfall-of-the-season jaunt to the backyard in my jammies and boots to strap them down.  And in the early fall, one of the squirrels I liked to alternately coddle with vast quantities of nuts AND bitch about mercilessly, expired on my front lawn.  I buried him in the garden whilst softly singing Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah.  When the garbage collectors came by, I was slumped over my shovel sobbing like some sort of heroine out of a gothic novel.

In Bloom

Carrying out funereal rites for the rodents aside, both Mr. Finger Candy and I have derived great joy from the vast assortment of critters that swing by our backyard to partake of the endless nut buffet.  We don’t have cable TV any more, we just have a back window!  Friendly black squirrels, sassy grey squirrels, twitchy red squirrels, fearless chipmunks (Mr. Finger Candy claims they are my disciples and I am their queen), bossy blue jays, shouty crows, gentle doves, rambunctious raccoons (had to evict three of them from our shed in the summer), pudgy skunks, relentless woodpeckers, regal cardinals, flocking finches, and one adorable extortionist cat we nicknamed Mewington.

Little Rodentia

Speaking of cats – and the very best thing to happen to us in 2020 – having a home allowed us to once again open our doors (and hearts) to a couple of deserving feline friends.  Just before Christmas, when our souls were feeling a bit battered from the weight of everything, the opportunity to foster a bonded pair of rescue kitties floated across my Facebook news feed.  As I stared at the photos of their sweet, clearly frightened faces, I knew if I so much as showed the post to my husband, they’d be with us within the week.  So I sent him the link, and they were. 🙂  Fluffy, the big, floofy boy, and Beans, the tiny tabby girl, have been with us for about a month now, and we love them so much, some sort of medieval weaponry will most assuredly be needed in order to get us to part with them.  Seriously, I’ll cut you off at the knees and then feed the bits to the cats if you try to take them from us.  What can I say, my love is violent. 😉

Les Chats

The holidays were weird as heck this past year, with both Halloween and Christmas happening in the shadow of ever-tightening provincial lockdowns.  But in an odd sort of way, they were more enjoyable than in recent years past – probably something to do with that unknowable human quality of simply trying.  Trick-or-treating was heavily discouraged at Halloween, but we geared up just in case, laying out a socially distanced spread of bagged candy for the 20 or so kids who did stop by.

This is Halloween

At both Halloween and Christmas, we went heavy on the holiday decorations, turning our house first into a fog-shrouded, jaunty haunt, and then into a peppermint striped winter wonderland.  And guess who finally got her pink Christmas tree?!

Making Christmas

Making Pinkmas

And for both the spooking season and the holly jolly holidays, Mr. Finger Candy really got in touch with his inner Clark Griswold, adorning the exterior of our home with many hundreds of programmable twinkle lights.

Let There Be Light

When purchasing Christmas gifts this year – and indeed, this was the overriding ethos for nearly all of my purchases in 2020 – I really tried to keep it local.  And in doing so, I discovered (or re-discovered) some really terrific vendors and creators, like Heart & Home Soaps, which is owned by a woman I’ve known since elementary school, Doughbaby Doughnuts, which is *right* around the corner, and The Girl With the Most Cake, who supplied my wedding shower cake many marital moons ago.  And at the very height of the pandemic (the one way back in the spring, since we’re now up to multiple waves) my husband arranged to have some favourite photos of our late kitties Porky and Weegie transferred onto canvas by printers VistaPrint.  We also ordered in a lot of takeout from local restaurants, including Meatings BBQ, the Lone Star Cafe, Biagio’s and Karara Indian.  Having made only one Amazon purchase last year (unicorn pen calligraphy sets don’t grow on local trees!) we felt pretty great about how we chose to exercise our purchasing power in 2020.

Shop Local

Other things that felt pretty great in a year of decided un-greatness?  The three-hour, wee small hours of the morning message chat I had with my high school best friend.  We’re all old and shit, with kids and cats and ugh, responsibilities, but it felt like we were 18 again, falling asleep on the phone with each other as we planned our going-out outfits for that coming weekend. 🙂  I loved the socially distanced backyard visits I had with my other high school best friend in the summer and fall – nothing felt so much like the very essence of 2020 as sitting in the late summer twilight with Uber’d Starbucks lattes, catching up on our lives.  Zoom chats with even more high school friends were fun excuses to catch up, drink virtually and wear ALL of the makeup that I had not worn the rest of the year.  We also spent a bit of time getting to know our neighbours, including a lovely summer evening enjoying socially distanced drinks with the folks next door.  And while I didn’t do very much nail art this year – funny, for what is ostensibly a nail art blog – I did get my creative craft on in other ways, jumping back into the world of calligraphy and lettering, assembling a couple of miniature shadowbox lanterns for my parents, and making a felt wreath inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Getting Crafty With It

Without a doubt, there is much of last year (and some of this new year) I could have done without.  If ever there were a moment to Rip Van Winkle an entire year, no?  But it clearly wasn’t all a total loss, something I periodically need to remind myself of – there is enjoyment to be found in the awful, so long as you’re willing to acknowledge that it can exist.