Semi-Precious Stones: A Tutorial

Semi-Precious Stones TutorialI did a manicure the other day using a technique I’ve seen described as both the smoke effect and the lightning effect. Nomenclature aside, it all amounts to the same thing, even if you’re calling them, say, semi-precious stone nails, as I am in this little tutorial (which is my first real foray into the world of share and share alike, by the way.) If you’d like to play along at home, start in the upper right-hand corner and go across, one row at a time. I think the overall effect looks a lot like one of those gorgeously colourful and delicately veined semi-precious stones like Malachite or Amethyst, and they’re really not the least bit complicated – not much effort for maximum impact, as all good things should be. Ready? Let’s get into this thing!

1. Begin by painting your nails with two coats of a lush, gemstone-hued polish. Here I used China Glaze’s Four Leaf Clover, which reads far more blue in these photos than its true neon jade colour. It diminishes the green Malachite-type effect I was going for only just slightly.

2. Once dry, dip a tiny detail brush in a pastel, complimentary-coloured polish (here I used China Glaze’s pale green Re-Fresh Mint), and working one nail at a time, paint on a design that looks a bit like a ragged chain of lightning. I started my chain from a different point on each nail just to vary things up, as this type of design looks best when it’s a wee bit undone.

3. Immediately dip a flat-headed brush in nail polish remover and lightly dab it over the pastel design. What you’re trying to do here is blur any harsh lines and spread the design around a bit, giving it the overall effect of a cracked piece of gemstone. If you goof, you can always wipe it off and start over or widget together a bit of patchwork after the fact. But try not to natter away at one spot for too long, because you’ll wipe it bare with acetone (I know of that which I speak!)

4-5. Going one nail at a time, repeat steps 2 and 3 on your remaining nails.

6. When you’re done, your nails will look as though they’ve been marbled. You could slap a bit of top coat on at this point and call it a day, but we’re not done yet!

7. Once again taking your tiny detail brush and another darker complimentary polish (here I used Cover Girl’s Constant Caribbean, a dark turquoise metallic), paint on a few ultra fine lines in a jagged pattern to mimic the rich veins of colour that run through semi-precious stones. Tidy up any bits where you coloured outside the lines, top with an ultra smoothing top coat like Seche Vite and voila, you’re done!Semi-Precious Stone Hand

Victorian Holly

Victorian HollyYeah, I’m not sure I know what exactly that is either, but that any sort of rose pink/pewter/pale green colour combo is invariably described as being “Victorian.” I studied quite a bit of Victorian literature in university, but I don’t recall any lectures on their preference for dusky pastels, just that the poetry was quite florid, vital infrastructure was non-existent, class divides were worse than they are now and, if you were a degenerate writer at least, you died of all the sexually transmitted diseases before the age of 25 (whaddup, Byron, you sexy beast.)

I think my grandmother on my dad’s side would have adored these nails. She loved to decorate in this type of silvery rose colour, and at one point she even owned a pale pink Christmas tree. Believe me, I have tremendous envy!

For these grandmother and Victorian-approved nails, I went with a handful of complimentary Sally Hansen polishes from their Gem Crush and Color Foil lines, silvery-rose glitter Razzle Dazzler and metallic Rose Copper, respectively. I like how this design looks a bit like super posh, liquid metal holly berries. They’re T-1000 berries! Ooh, or holly berries for the Terminator’s gran! (Yes, folks, that is a prime example of the non-linear paths my brain occasionally takes. Hope you enjoyed the ride. Please exit through the gift shop.)

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Christmas TreeI know all you Americans are coming down off (or coming back up out of) major gravy-based comas and/or recuperating from injuries sustained during the Battle of Black Friday, and so the upcoming holiday season is probably the furthest thing from your minds, but here in Canada we’ve been good to go since the middle of November (and if you’re a major retailer like, say, craft store Michael’s, who in recent years have pushed their “holiday” season into groundbreaking and obscene new territories, it’s more like late August.) I hung our outdoor lights a few weeks back and I’ll be digging the tree out of storage this weekend, so I’d say this Christmas thing is pretty well on.

And on my nails as well, where a pond manicure Christmas tree design meets a favourite glitter jelly, KB Shimmer’s Get Clover It, and two different Sally Hansen glitters, Strawberry Shields and Over the Rainblue. Quite festive.

Take Care: A Sunny’s Body Products Review

Fall Box

Hand care, that is. If you spend any time scrolling through the offerings on Instagram or perusing other beauty and nail blogs, you may have run across mention of Sunny’s Body Products. Run by one super hard-working lady, Sunny’s is an indie beauty product manufacturer offering a wide range of body and nail care products in just about every delicious scent under the sun (because as nice and legion as Sally Hansen’s apricot cuticle cream is, wouldn’t you like to bathe your fingers in the scent of, say, gingerbread cheesecake every once in a while? I know I do.) Sunny’s offers all manner of good-for-your-hide products at super reasonable prices, from cuticle balms and oils to buttery hand creams and body balms, all customized to the scent of your choosing (and if you think choosing yogurt is difficult – I just about have a panic attack every time I buy yogurt; there’s just too much stupid choice – try whittling down your list of “must trys” from Sunny’s spreadsheet of nearly 350 scents.) And because Sunny’s offers its products in a number of generously-sized sampler packs, you can try out all sorts of scents and see what truly strikes your fancy.

Beginning this past summer, Sunny’s began offering cute little limited edition boxes of its products themed to the most current festive season. Selling for between $22 and $24 US, each box contains a full sized sugar scrub and Miracle Balm, as well as a full sized dabber of Sunny’s Intensive Cuticle Therapy and a roll-on bottle of cuticle oil. Rounding out the fun is a half sized pot of luxurious hand cream (now called hand butter), a full size tube of lip balm and, depending on the season, a handful of delicious candy! Sunny’s also recently added another product to the box, an all-over body balm, and in keeping with the boxes’ limited edition caché, all of the products are offered in special, one-time-only scents (on the subject, I have found Sunny’s scent descriptions to be nearly universally accurate. I’ve bought a range of products in about 20 different scents, and only one, Sex on the Beach, was a dud.)

I passed on the first summer and Halloween boxes, being already quite flush with hand care products of a Sunny’s nature, but I couldn’t say no to the Fall box, what with its perfectly prejudiced preference for pumpkin and my overwhelming weakness in the face of spicy/bakery-type scents. I was also very nearly out of the aforementioned apricot cuticle cream (funny story – apricot is just about one of the only scents Sunny’s doesn’t offer.) This particular box is no longer available and the recently released Christmas box is currently sold out (although I believe Sunny’s has a second release planned), such is the rabidness, shall we say, of Sunny’s fans. But in a good way, because her products are really quite terrific and effective, in addition to smelling simply divine.

Here in Canada there’s no disputing that winter isn’t just coming, it’s very much here, but my fellow nail art aficionados in the United States are still Thanksgiving-deep in the Fall, and so the breakdown of this fall box isn’t coming entirely out of left field (I don’t know what that means. Is that good? I so don’t know my sports metaphors.)

First up we have a one ounce pot of Sunny’s Hand Cream in pumpkin apple butter. Recently re-jigged as hand butter, this super smoothing, semi-solid cream (“butter” really is the appropriate term) saved my uncomfortably cracked feet when no other product could achieve the same – ha – feat. I just made slathering a coat of this cream on my tootsies a daily event, and in next to no time I had trotters I wasn’t ashamed of, uh, trotting out in public. This cream smells delicious, too – a slightly fruity, slightly spicy combination of the season’s most delicious, warm scents.

Hand Cream Collage

Next up is Sunny’s Hand Sugar Scrub, a simple, super moisturizing exfoliating scrub in autumn mums. The scrub itself is nice and not too scratchy (although be careful when you use these types of oil-intensive products in the tub or shower – they can leave a very dangerous film of oil on the bottom of your tub) although I’m not the hugest fan of the scent – florals just ain’t my jam. This one’s getting re-gifted to my grandmother, who does enjoy floral scents.

Sugar Scrub Collage

Third and fourth on the docket are Sunny’s Intensive Cuticle Therapy, a dabber-based, super nourishing cuticle oil, and Sunny’s Cuticle Oil, the OG cuticle care product in a handy and portable roll-on bottle in caramel apple and autumn harvest, respectively. I use these two all the time at the very end of my manicures to hydrate-up the acetone-ravaged skin around my nails, and they both smell bloody fantastic (particularly caramel apple, which is tart and sugary and not the least bit cloying – a lovely surprise. Autumn harvest smells like Fall, candied, if that makes any sense.)

Cuticle Oils

In fifth place, and without its own solo shot, we have Sunny’s Lip Saver in pumpkin pecan. When I was in high school and university I was crazy for lip balm. In fact, a mutually obsessed friend and I were recently joking that we’d find random lip balms in pockets and bags and purses long after we thought we had lost them – it was like they were breeding (life finds a way?) But in recent years I’ve lost the lip balm bug (I think it was the advent of those super glossy, ultra gloppy, mega plumping lip glosses that dominated the beauty scene in the early 2000s – looking like the victim of a Tijuana back alley plastic surgeon is NO ONE’s best look) although this lip balm could convince me to start carrying again. Colourless and satiny, Sunny’s Lip Saver is that perfect blend of hydration and texture – as in it has absolutely none and makes your lips feel fantastic. Saved, even. The pumpkin pecan scent is really lovely, too – slightly peppery and a little bit nutty, with just a hint of vanilla. A nicely complex scent for a lip balm.

Finally, saving the best for last, we have a full sized pot of Sunny’s Miracle Balm in pumpkin crunch cake. This not-too-greasy cuticle balm is fantastic no matter the scent, but I’m delighted to have a big ol’ container of the stuff in pumpkin crunch cake, as it reminds me of this tooth-rottingly delicious white cake with boiled caramel icing my grandmother used to make for any old day ending in Y. Love it. Love all of it!

Miracle Balm Collage

Sprinkled Waffle Cone

Sprinkled Waffle Cone HandCandy Lacquer’s ultra fine rainbow micro glitter, Tropical Sugar, is the perfect finishing touch on these dipped-and-rolled nails that look like sprinkled waffle cones. And now that I’m thinking about it, I just realized that I haven’t actually eaten my ice cream in a cone in about 25 years. I’m a terrible dawdler when it comes to eating (when I was a kid taking my sweet ass time lingering over the last morsel on my plate, I apparently called it “savouring”), and so the soupy bits in the bottom would destroy the structural integrity of the cone, and next thing you know, I had a lap full of melted ice cream. Best to keep the mess confined to a cup, as well as my nails!Sprinkled Waffle Cone Bottle

Foiled Again!

Foiled Again!Here’s a bit of free-handed, nuthin-but-brush nail art using a trio of Sally Hansen’s new Color Foil polishes that was so dead easy, I can lay it out for you in a simple written tutorial, no need for elaborate photos (nice as they are, this is one of those “go where the wind takes you” kind of manis and there is no catastrophically right or wrong way to achieve this effect.)

Here I started with two coats of a tried and true black polish, Sally Hansen’s Xtreme Wear in Black Out. I then chose three colours from Sally Hansen’s Color Foil line, Rose Copper, a silvery-rose chromatic, Purple Alloy, a a lavender chromatic, and Leaden Lilac, a periwinkle-hued metallic. This technique works with any combination of polishes, but I love the way the liquid foil polishes blend into one another, creating a sort of metallic rainbow effect.Foiled Again! Bottles

Starting with the polish of your choosing, uncap the bottle and brush nearly every bit of polish off the brush. What you’re looking for here is a near-dry bush (and that includes making sure there are no up-the-brush blobs just waiting to rain down and destroy your pretty manicure.) Look at it this way: A lot like salting your food, you can always add more polished brushstrokes later, but you can’t take them away should you go overboard, so dry your brush off more than you’d think reasonable.

Then, taking your dry brush and starting at the top of your nail, brush downwards towards the tip of your nail. Add a second stroke starting in maybe the middle of your finger if you’re feeling cocky. Move on to your other nails, varying up the brushstrokes with each subsequent nail as you go. After waiting for those brushstrokes to dry, lather, rinse and repeat with the remaining two colours, filling in any gaps or aggravating spots as you go. Top with a good quality top coat and bang, yer done. I’m not sure it could be simpler or more effective (and isn’t that just so aggravating?! It’s always the ones that took 20 minutes that people love and not the manicure that took you two hours and claimed a small piece of your sanity. Eh, I guess simplicity sells.)

Misfits

MisfitsMy husband was recently on a rather extended business trip, and faced with long nights with naught by Neflix and unlimited bandwidth to keep me entertained, I started watching just whatever struck my fancy (Monte Carlo? Soul Surfer?), including a few programs I’ve been recommended and just never got around to watching.

There entered Misfits, and there went any semblance of productivity I hoped to accomplish over the next week and a half. Life seriously ground to a bit of a halt while I devoured the first six-episode series and desperately tried to stay away from the second so my husband and I could watch it together. Premiering in 2009 and spanning five seasons, Misfits, for the unenlightened – it shouldn’t need saying, but you really ought to get enlightened – is a British show about five screw-up young offenders who, on their first day of community service, are caught out in an electrical storm and struck by lightning, after which they discover they’ve developed super powers. Wackiness ensues (as does charm and that delightful sense of British humour, to say nothing of heartbreak and loss and some genuinely touching pathos.) It’s fast paced and crass (owing in large part to one character, Nathan Young, the walking, never-stops-talking embodiment of the young male id) and so funny, there are scenes that have put me into actual stitches, doubled over on my couch from lack of oxygen. But it’s also sad and contemplative and DARK – questionable morals are what the Misfits are all about. The soundtrack also kicks eight kinds of electronic and Brit Pop ass.

I admittedly haven’t watched much of the third season, choosing instead to compulsively watch the first two series for reasons I shall keep to myself in the interest of not spoiling the story for you – did I mention that you should be watching this show? 😉 – but the first two seasons simply crackle with energy and chemistry, and it’s such a delight to watch. Two enthusiastic thumbs up.

And so with Misfits dominating my life for the past two weeks, I thought I should give it the nail art treatment. Here I tried out Chalkboard Nails‘ smoke effect manicure, in which you paint a lightning design over top of a dark polish, immediately blotting it out with a flat-sided nail art brush dipped in acetone. I then painted on a few fine strands of super power-inducing chain “laaaightnin'”, as the character of Kelly would say, and gave my thumb the logo treatment. An ever so slight mis-fit for my Misfits.