Literary Inspiration: The Night Circus

The Night Circus Collage 1

Have you ever fallen in love with a book?  Just found yourself utterly entranced by the world it creates?  I think this happens all the time, can actually remember my father some 20 years ago telling me, in rapturous tones reminiscent of a little girl divulging her first crush, about this book series he had just started reading about a boy wizard at a magical boarding school.  My mom is going through something similar at the moment with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe books; when she talks about them, I can see that she’s been positively enchanted.  As was I the first time I read my favourite book, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides.  I remember reading that blisteringly tragic final paragraph and then just sitting back in my chair, a melancholy smile playing at the edges of my lips, as I contemplated that weird ache in my chest that felt as though it was caught somewhere between heartbreak and hope.

Which is precisely how I felt when I finished Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, an elegantly languid tale of love, loss and the beauty of the unexplained as set against a mysterious after-hours circus.  This was the most beautiful book I think I’ve ever read, and it actually hurt a bit when the gorgeous tale of les Cirques du Reves and its creators, performers and devoted Reveurs drew to a close.  At the risk of sounding like a book jacket blurb, I would absolutely run away to join this circus.

On the subject of the story itself, a tale of two magicians whose chess game-like maneuvers play out over decades, sweeping the circus and its inhabitants into their increasingly dangerous orbit, I’m somewhat neutral.  It’s a love story, and a deeply satisfying one at that, but for me, this novel is all about the elegant, gothic carnival Morgenstern creates with her Night Circus.  This is an all black and white world, stark light-and-dark simplicity against which to highlight the incredible magical feats showcased within.  The only colours you’ll find in les Cirques du Reves are the blood red accessories the circus’s travelling fandom wear as a kind of identification, and on opening night, the rainbow-tipped flames in the hulking courtyard cauldron.

If a book could be said to be set designed, then this one has been, to within an inch of its life, and I adore it – I love the more is more is more approach!  It’s truly the most evocative novel I think I’ve ever read – I could picture every painted checkerboard floor, every striped canvas tent, every sumptuous midnight dinner menu, every impossibly beautiful feat of the unexplained.  And all the credit in the world to Morgenstern for this; she certainly has that Rowlingian flair for world-building.  That The Night Circus is her debut novel (the theme in my friends’ reading challenge for which I chose this book in the first place) is incredible; she’s a very gifted writer.  And not for nothing, because I’m exactly the kind of person who notices these kinds of things, but this was a beautifully edited book.  I can’t tell you how irked I get when I’m pulled out of a great story by some sloppy little editing error.  I get so peevish about it, I’ll actually grab a highlighter and aggressively circle it!  It’s a real delight to see someone (or someones) take the time and care to get it right the first time.

Because I’ve tasked myself with doing a manicure for each book I read for my friends’ reading challenge, I had to come up with one for The Night Circus.  But I couldn’t possibly have limited myself to just one design, not with so much great inspiration right there on the page…so I did five.  Actually six, but the sixth was whonkus and not quite what I had intended, so five it is!  Here I’ve done manicures inspired by Herr Thiessen’s dreamy courtyard clock, the entrance tunnel of stars, the spiral and checkerboard patterns painted on the ground and – my favourite – Celia’s wishing tree.

The Clock

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The Entrance

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The Grounds

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The Wishing Tree

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And then for good measure, because one does want a hint of colour, even in the midst of a black-and-white circus, I created a design inspired by the wrought iron cauldron in the centre of the courtyard.  The cauldron, a centrepiece of the circus in more ways than one, typically burns with stark white flames, but on the circus’s opening night, archers lit the flames with arrows tipped in a rainbow’s worth of rich colours.

The Cauldron

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Gosh, I loved this book; it was so pretty.  Big recommendation if you like a sweeping, slow burn of a love story and uncommonly evocative settings.  This one may require another read-through, and soon. 🙂

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And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

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I was saying to a friend the other day that despite all manner of great things in my life at the moment – home renovations that are progressing nicely and this blog’s upcoming fifth anniversary, to say nothing of the mini Disney World break we’ll be taking in just two days’ time!!! – I have been feeling wildly out of sorts.  And while I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact source of my unease, I think a large part of it stems from the fact that for the first time in very nearly a year, I am doing all of the things I once eschewed in an effort to save my body and soul – spending a lot of discretionary money, not monitoring my diet, neglecting my workouts.  I mean, there’s certainly no Caligula-esque bacchanalia going on here, but it does feel quite outside the norm.

Ah, but it’s the great human conundrum to ruminate over, well, everything, so I can still feel quite guilty about all of the above, despite the fact that I’m doing all three of those things (or neglecting to do two, while overindulging in another) precisely because I cut back on our spending and amped up our self-care in the first place – specifically, to have been circumspect enough with our money that we were able to book four Disney trips in one year, including an unexpected interim trip this coming long weekend.  And then being in good enough physical health to actually go and comfortably enjoy ourselves (don’t laugh, there was definitely a time not that long ago that I absolutely felt too zaftig for Disney.)

But spending begets spending, and in the past few weeks as we’ve been preparing for our trip, I feel like our spending has gotten a bit out of control, and it’s making me quite twitchy.  Of course, “out of control” is an assessment made purely in the mind of the beholder, but if you’ve spent the past year buying virtually nothing but the essentials, purchasing anything that’s not toilet paper or food feels weirdly illicit, and not in a good way.  So lots of guilt there.  I even have guilt over the two and only wax orders I placed earlier this month, and I’ve been waiting for them since November of last year!

Then I’ve just been having a really tough time maintaining my dieting motivation.  Part of that is owing to the many disruptions going on in my life, both fun (Disney!) and not so fun (anything involving concrete filler.)  I thrive on structure and consistency, and neither travel nor renovations aid in either of those things.  And I’ve been slacking hard on my workouts for no good reason other than being just dog tired from the endless up-and-down that is laying new flooring.  I guess I could call those squats?

All that to say I plan on doing better, starting immediately – perhaps even starting with Disney (I have this maybe not so crazy idea to develop a diet and exercise plan around Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.)  But also do better in the sense that I must cut myself some slack and focus on the positives of which I am so proud.  Positives like the fact that we have bought and paid for four Disney vacations in one year.  Positives like the fact that I have spent just $250 on scented wax this year, as opposed to the significantly higher amount I spent the year previous.  Positives like the fact that none of the stuff we’re buying for our trip (rain ponchos, waterproof footwear, basically anything to keep us from drowning in Florida’s swampy humidity) is disposable, and we’ve built some awesome (and awesomely functional) park bags for our vacations going forward.  Positives like the fact that I know both Mr. Finger Candy and I have lost weight since our Christmas 2017 trip, and that this motivational blip too shall pass.  Onwards and upwards.  But maybe not outwards. 😉

Another positive?  Continuing on with my low-buy no-buy.  So true, I did make those two wax purchases, one a custom order with Sniff My Tarts and another a Melting Duck order containing Haunted. Mansion. wax, but neither one will be showing its face around here before Halloween.  And so with nothing new coming in, I’ve continued to diligently melt through the old, whittling my once quite unmanageable stash down to something approaching reasonable.  Actually, more than reasonable; I now have so few Mini Melters, creating complimentary scent blends is becoming something of a dicey chore.  But not undoable – and here’s some of the better scent blends I’ve come up with as I scrape the bottom of the metaphorical wax bucket.

Blackberry/Blueberry Muffin/Cotton Candy Frosting/Raspberry Sauce

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This smells like berry-flavoured candy floss.  Very sweet and fruity, with that tart berry kick.  And not a bit of my beloved Marshmallow Smoothie to be found.  Because I used it all up weeks ago. 😦

Gilligan’s Brew/Royal Sugar Cookie/Waffle Cone

Coconut Crunch Cookies 2

I call this one Coconut Cookie Cone, because it smells like all of the above!

Apple Clove Butter/Lambeau Leap/Vanilla Bean Noel

Lambeau Leap Plus 2

Getting a jump on the Fall scent blends with this crisp, Sweater Weather-based fragrance.  Lambeau Leap is a blend of three Bath and Body Works scents, Sweater Weather, a juniper berry scent, Cider Lane, a spicy apple cider blend, and Vanilla Bean Noel, a caramel cookie and musk scent, although I mainly get that bracingly strong Sweater Weather note.  So I amped up the two “missing” scents with this Mini Melter blend of Lambeau Leap, Apple Clove Butter, a warm, slightly spicy apple scent, and Vanilla Bean Noel.  Ahh, much better.

Raspberry Sauce/Vanilla Bean Noel/Waffle Cone

Raspberries and Cream Cone 2

And all will be right in the world so long as I have my beloved Raspberry Sauce.  I think I have maybe six or seven little pieces left, and when that’s done, there will be another order placed immediately.  And I won’t feel the least bit guilty about THAT one. 😉  This scrumptious blend smells like raspberry cream ice cream in a toasted vanilla waffle cone.  Yuh-um!

Be Our Guest!

Be Our Guest Collage

Oh, we WILL, and in just a little under a week’s time, too!  Guesting at the Be Our Guest Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, that is, one of our favourite spots to dine on Disney property.  We love it so much (actually, Mr. Finger Candy is, somehow, the real Beauty and the Beast nut in this household) I made this little video all about our experiences there for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!  So as Lumiere might say, I invite you to relax and pull up a chair as the diningroom and I proudly present…your dinner!  And also your breakfast, as many times as we possibly can.  Happy watching, and bon appetit!

Ragdoll

Sally Collage 1

Hi there, friends!  Wonder of wonders, this is a blog post, and I have apparently NOT disappeared!  With apologies for my unintended absence, I’ll simply note that I’ve been hard at work on some renovations and upgrades to my apartment AND deep into the always fun (but also always stressful) preparation stage for our next trip to Disney, which I’m somehow only now appreciating is coming up at the end of THIS WEEK!  Holy cats, I’ve got so much to do.

But first, nails!  This is a glitter polish I made last year that was inspired by Sally of The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Here I’ve paired it alongside A England’s Whispering Waves, a deep, bruisey purple-tinged turquoise that really takes Sally’s look to the next level.  Speaking of, I’ve got to get working on MY look if I’m going to meet Miss Sally this coming weekend, which is a distinct possibility; can’t be slacking on the character meet and greets with one of my all time favourites. 🙂

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Cupcakes by the Ocean

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Well, that’s a terrible pun based off a not-so-great song (Cake by the Ocean by DNCE) that was nonetheless a total ear worm, which is how I wound up doing these nails yesterday when I was in a funky bad mood and could think of nothing better to cheer myself up than some nail art and a bit of bad punnage.  So mission accomplished?  Because I’m feeling much better today, and these nails are pretty funny, and maybe even just plain old pretty. 🙂

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Literary Inspiration: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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So here’s the thing about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a 14th Century poem I recently re-read to satisfy the theme of an epic work in my friends’ reading challenge – it’s repetitive, preachy as shit, and as presented (in written form, translated from its oral, Middle English origins) it’s a deathly dull slog through what should be a thrilling tale of chivalrous knights, fair maidens and fantastic creatures.

Faulting neither the original, anonymous storyteller (or storytellers), nor W.S. Merwin, the scholar tasked with translating found snippets of actual archived text into something approaching readable English, Sir Gawain was simply not meant to be read, was in fact an oral tale designed to impart moral lessons whilst entertaining exhausted warriors around the campfire.

So if a read-through (my first since university) seemed stilted and lacking in detail (except for the endless passages devoted to inventorying the Green Knight’s admittedly pretty badass-sounding suit of jade-hued armor) that’s because the story was missing that certain – and quite necessary – dramatic flair that’s only present during the live performance of a thing.  I’ve no doubt that 14th Century audiences were enthralled by this spritely, sweeping tale of “verray parfit, gentil knyght”s and the murderous green giants who seek to behead them, but absent that live engagement, there’s precious little to the story itself.  Knights be knightin’, you know?

Ah, but the real fun (fun?) of Sir Gawain lies not in the story, but in the translation itself.  Just looking over the original Middle English will leave you feeling slightly disoriented, like staring at a door frame set ever so slightly out of square – there’s something wrong there, but you’re just not sure what that wrong thing might be.  But if you’re interested in linguistics and etymology, as I am, Sir Gawain is literary catnip.

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a weird one, and I’m not sure I’d ever point to it as a favourite, but it’s an enjoyable enough read, and as a case study in translation, it’s utterly fascinating and indeed, quite epic. 🙂

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