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.

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!)

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.

Halloween Hangover

But in a good way, not in a “I ate too many mini Snickers and now I have to go off and hibernate for the next three weeks” kind of way. Although I did eat A LOT of mini chocolate bars this weekend, and given the time change, a nap sounds pretty good right about now…

In all weird actuality, we wound up having a very nice Halloween, COVID mandates notwithstanding.  Trick-or-treating wasn’t banned in my city outright, just discouraged – that should really be the City of Ottawa’s motto: “It’s Not Banned, Simply Discouraged!” – and so we stayed close to home, stocking up on what seemed like a reasonable amount of candy should any trick-or-treaters actually grace our Jack-o-Lantern-adorned doorstep.

And they did!  We had 22 kids and one highly amused delivery driver pop by, much to our delight.  We had a nice little socially distanced setup going, with pre-wrapped bags of candy laid out on the front steps, Haunted Mansion music blasting through the open windows, and a gentle, low-lying fog drifting through the garden, courtesy of Mr. Finger Candy’s intense new love of the fog machine (the phrase, “This might be the best thing we’ve ever bought!” was uttered more than once.)

We even threw together a couple of last minute costumes, transforming ourselves into a maid and butler of the Haunted Mansion.

And I went real big with my eye makeup look, simply because when else in 2020 have I had a time or place to wear six different shades of blue, green and purple eyeshadow?

In the days leading up to Halloween (okay, so for the entire month of October) we also put out a lot of Halloween decorations, really got in touch with our inner Clark Griswolds!

So it’s little wonder our house saw a bit of action, given that we were seemingly the only gig in (this) town.  I overheard a few kids that had already passed by grumble, “Oh man, I wish we could go to that house again” and I nearly chased them down the street with armfuls of Sour Patch Kids before I remembered that now – and always! – luring children to your house with candy is generally frowned upon.  There’s entire fairy tales written about it! 😉

Near-forays into Hansel and Gretel-dom aside, however, we had a really excellent Halloween.  And did you know it was our wedding anniversary?  Of course you did, I never shut up about it!  It was our 16th, and our first as homeowners.  It definitely wasn’t the usual kind of anniversary celebration we like to enjoy – that would involve a week-and-a-half-long trip to Disney – but given the circumstances of 2020, we’ll gladly take it.  Nothing wrong with throwing together a couple of very last minute costumes and spending the night crouched over a fog machine drinking Swedish Fish-o-ritas (actually, they were orange creamsicle margaritas – Screamsicles – with a chocolate salt rim from the Lone Star in Ottawa, and not only were they very festive, but they were also incredibly delicious.  Hmm, they might have been the reason we got that food delivery – tacos! – once the trick-or-treaters cleared out.)

All in all, I’m super pleased with how our first homebound Halloween went, and I’m hearing similar things from friends and family.  I think the general circumstances of this year – shitty ones, not to put too fine a point on it – have forced a lot of us to think outside the box on events like holidays, and in a lot of unique respects, we seem to be all the better for it.  Friends with kids have reported that they took part in local scavenger hunts, neighbourhood candy drives, costumed movie nights and other cautious, but no less creative, approaches to the Halloween season, and everyone seems to have had an unusually great time.  Going forward, I really hope the city takes note of the ways people are trying to responsibly and safely move forward with “living with” COVID, and maybe cuts us all a little slack.  Most of us are really trying.  Without a doubt, though, THIS is the Halloween these kids will always remember.  I know I certainly will.  Hope you had a good one, too, friends.

Go With the Flow

Marble Collage

I was recently the lucky recipient of these lovely Zoya polishes – pink Kristie, blue Maren, turquoise Harbor, and purple Jessica – thanks to the kind folks at Nail Polish Canada.  I swatched them all, of course – see my previous post for those details – but I also wanted to do a bit of nail art with my new, candy-coloured polishes.

Problem: I’m SO out of practice these days, both in terms of nail art ability and actual nail care, that a good mani for me is one in which my nails are not encrusted with a solid quarter-inch of gardening grit.  I figured at best I’d come up with something ultra easy, like a simple dotticure.

Instead I decided to shoot for the moon and do a water marble manicure, perhaps THE most difficult nail art technique, one that requires you to float polish on the surface of water.  Because that just sounds SUPER easy (spoiler alert: it’s usually not, and it’s always hella messy!)

Except….this time, with these polishes, it wasn’t.  Even after my extended absence from the nail art realm.  I think it’s because these four lacquers – rich cremes, all – are brand new, and at the peak of their polish power, having not picked up months’ and years’ worth of oil and grime.  All four are of a completely identical consistency as well, making it ultra easy to float the polish on the surface of water AND toothpick-out a swirled design.  TL;DR?  These Zoya polishes make water marbling EASY, even for the woefully out of practice.

Marble 5 - Fingers

Speaking of, I realize that without photos of the water marbling process, this must all sound like utter gibberish.  So might anyone be interested in a little tutorial?  Because I’d like to give this technique another try, see if I could come up with a slightly more consistent design finger-to-finger (much as I like the every-digit-for-itself approach.) 😉  Please do come back soon to see how I work out with that!

The Best of Days: A Gratitude Post

Halloween Collage

Show of hands if this pandemic has left you, too, feeling wildly imbalanced.  I know that over here in Sandraville, I have spent the past six months vacillating between frantic highs (back-busting stretches of gardening, mad cleaning, and a fun new obsession with keeping my lawn watered) and why-effin-bother lows (silly crying jags, disinterest in seemingly everything, and boredom that probably borders on clinical.)  Most days I get along just fine, going about my life like most of us are – cautiously, probably a bit timidly, but trying.  Sometimes showing up is 90 percent of the battle.

But the temptation to slide into pandemic pity has been, on occasion, overwhelmingly tempting.  I want to wallow, even when I know – especially when I know – that wallowing is unproductive, and just plain makes me feel bad.

So with the desire to banish those bad feelings for a little bit, Mr. Finger Candy and I recently sat down and talked about all of the things we were fortunate enough to experience pre-pandemic – our year and a half of indulgent Disney vacations chief among them – and how very, very lucky we were to have been given that time.  It was a wonderful lesson in a gratitude, and a timely reminder to count our many blessings.

It’s in that spirit that I now present to you THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!  No, really, with zero disrespect to the many important dates and events in my life (high school and university graduations, first date with my husband, our wedding…) this day – October 31st, 2018 – ranks as the absolute best. 🙂

It starts with an obsession with twenty one pilots, Halloween and Disney vacations, as all good stories do.  We were – and still are – mad as Hatters for our favourite band, twenty one pilots.  We were also going to be celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary – yup, we were married on October 31st – with a trip to Disney World.  So when we found ourselves with Halloween tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, an after hours event held at the Magic Kingdom, we decided to dress up like two different video versions of TOP’s enigmatic frontman and maestro, Tyler Joseph.

Twenty One Pilots Collage 2

At the time I proposed attending the party en costume, Mr. Finger Candy lamented that no one was going to know who we were.  “Husband of little faith!” I admonished.  “Okay, so not everyone is going to know who we are.  But the RIGHT people are going to know.”  Sure enough, we were in the park maybe 10 minutes before I began hearing delighted cries of, “Hey look, twenty one pilots!”  Rock star cosplay – it’s what’s for breakfast.

Twenty One Backpack Collage

Actually, what was for breakfast was this obscenely rich – TOO RICH – Poison Apple Cupcake, an $8 item from the Main Street Starbucks (“Home of the Half-Hour Lineup”) that was all Instagram and no taste.  It was a real one-and-done, as in take one bite and you’re done.  Cute, but way, WAY too much.  I generally prefer far less Red Food Dye No. 4 in my baked goods.

Poison Apple Cupcake Collage

We then skipped up Main Street to the hub, where we took the requisite photo in front of Cinderella Castle.

Tyler Two Pilots 12

Actually, we snapped photos all over the place.  When in Disney!

Tyler Two Pilots 9

We got stuck on It’s a Small World – you have no idea how small that world truly is when you’re creeping through it at .3 nautical miles an hour – and nearly missed our lunch reservations at Be Our Guest, the Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant in New Fantasyland.  As a reward for our stress, anxiety and patience (what are we going to do, bail out in the middle of Equatorial Africa and wade our way to the exit?) we were blessed with a total sweep of the It’s a Small World goodbye boards.  Ciao, Belle-a!

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Speaking of, lunch at Be Our Guest – a first for us; we’re normally breakfast people at this amazing themed restaurant – was the very definition of scrum-diddily-yum.  My husband continues to rhapsodize about the vegetarian French onion soup two years on, and I think I once had a sexy dream about the beef dip. 😉

Be Our Guest Collage 2

This restaurant has special meaning for us.  It’s where we like to go for our most romantic and special meals – an anniversary breakfast, now an anniversary lunch, and one very lovely (and very late) Christmas Day dinner.  We normally like to grab a table in the West Wing, where thunder and lightning flash throughout the room and the Beast’s shredded portrait morphs from human to monster and back again, but for this meal we snuggled up for the first time in the library, where a gigantic music box of Belle and the Beast twirled gently in the center of the room, tinkling softly.

Be Our Guest Collage 2

Between our late lunch and the start of the party, we hit up some rides – nothing that would muss up our costumes too much (sorry, Space, Splash and Big Thunder Mountains.)  Instead we kicked back with multiple stately rides on the PeopleMover, a surprisingly zippy, magnet-powered Walt original.  Whilst in Tomorrowland, we also tried out our fun new identities as Tyler Two Space Pilots on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, a black-lit, neon-splattered shoot-the-target ride.  And we concluded our time in Tomorrowland with a showing of the Carousel of Progress, a moving, animatronic stage show depicting one American family’s relationship to innovation and progress across the last 100 years.  Sounds like a total snooze, but I assure you, it’s a delightful hoot.  Also, 22 minutes of seated air conditioning.

TOP Ride Collage

It was also in the Tomorrowland bathrooms where I bemusedly overheard a little girl and her mom discussing my costume, with the mom furiously trying to shush her daughter as she, in her best approximation of sotto voce, LOUDLY grilled her mother as to whether she, too, had seen the funny, dirty girl with the crud on her neck.  Heh.

Once the sun began to set, we picked up our party wristbands, grabbed a couple of sacks and hit up the innumerable trick-or-treat trails.  And we CLEANED UP, because we were SUPER INTO IT.  You can’t help but throw candy at the costumed adults shouting “Trick-or-Treat!” and excitedly swapping goodies as they hustle off to the next candy stop.  By the end of the evening we had amassed two bulging sacks of candy (PB Snickers, Mars, Skittles, M&Ms and enough Starburst to power an 11-year-old’s birthday party) – or about five pounds of miniature sized sweets that I had to declare and explain to an amused TSA agent on our journey back home.  No ragrets!

I Want Candy Collage

In between ducking down dimly lit treat trails (or very brightly lit treat trails, in the case of the ones set up inside an attraction) we hit up Pirates of the Caribbean, which featured live actors dotted throughout the ride.  I didn’t find that they really added a whole lot to the experience (you want scary, try getting stuck on Pirates for 45 minutes!) but Mr. Finger Candy always loves an excuse to “YEE-AAAARRRGGHH!” with impunity.  We also ambled back over to the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square for the first of the evening’s three rides, which is 10 fewer rides than we took the Halloween previous, when we rode the Mansion 13 times in one day for our 13th wedding anniversary.

Haunted Mansion on Halloween

Back in Fantasyland, we met Pooh and the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood gang, likewise resplendent in their Halloween costumes.  I think Tigger was a big TOP fan, because he kept gesturing excitedly to his neck.

Tyler Two Pilots 11

In between riding rides, meeting cool characters, amassing a ridiculous amount of candy and fielding a ton of questions about our costumes, we nabbed an amazing spot in Frontierland for the 11 pm parade, and spent our wait time goofing around with one of the Disney PhotoPass photographers.

Halloween PhotoPass Collage

Mickey’s Boo to You Parade was so much fun!  Here, see for yourself in this video I made of the first Not So Scary we attended earlier in the season (though in this case I failed to record the very best part of the parade – literally dropped my phone – which my husband refers to as Jafar making f**k-eyes at his wife.  What can I say, the baddies like me.)

We closed out the night with the midnight showing of the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, a mildly raunchy stage show featuring the Sanderson Sisters, as well as a whole host of other Disney baddies, including Mr. Oogie Boogie Man, Cruella DeVil, Dr. Facilier, Hades and, once again, Jafar (boy, that guy gets around.)  My favourite part of the show were the lights and images that they projected onto Cinderella Castle.  Gorgeous.

Halloween Castle Collage

At that point it was about one o’clock in the morning, so with the tenderest of tootsies, arms laden with bulging sacks of candy, and completely jacked on high fructose corn syrup, we boarded a bus back to our resort…and then began the whole thing all over again five hours later!  We are nothing if not committed Disney travelers.

So what made this day the very best?  Well, not-so-simply because I was doing something so special, with the most beloved person in my life, on our most important day, dressed like my favourite musician, on my very favourite holiday, in the most magical place on earth.  And a Disney villain tried to make me his snake bride.  How could that not be the best day of my life? 😉  And one that I have very much enjoyed sharing with you.  Thanks for coming along on this gratitude-affirming look back on one of those days that makes life worth living.

Keeping it Small, Safe and Sudsy

Soap 1

Well, aren’t I just all over this hand washing thing!  Welcome to the new Finger Candy, friends – expanding my reach to the whole dang hand now!  Maybe even both of them, if you’re feeling so bold.

It’s funny, because growing up, I was not a big time hand-washer.  Cleanliness and hygiene were important, of course, but we weren’t a “wash up before supper” kind of family.  I grew up on a hobby farm, and probably the best you could have asked for is that I brushed my hands off on the seat of my pants after I yanked that carrot out of the ground (and before I shoved that carrot, completely unwashed, but sort of dusted off, into my mouth!  That one never failed to both delight and horrify my grandfather, the owner of the hobby farm.)

But before we purchased this single family home late last year, Mr. Finger Candy and I lived, for nearly 15 years, in a gigantic condominium apartment building with a seemingly infinitesimal number of high touch surfaces – elevator buttons, keypads, door handles, electronic fobs, counters, shelves and the like.  We were both also taking public transit to our jobs, which from a public health perspective is pretty well akin to just straight up licking your neighbour’s eyeballs.

So hand-washing really became a thing around our place.  I also liked the excuse of purchasing fun Bath and Body Works soaps.  Who doesn’t want their hands to smell like frosted donuts?

Then the pandemic struck and hand-washing became a life-saving necessity.  And suds, much like toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, became scarce.  For much of the spring there was no stock to be had at BBW, which is maybe not the negative I’m making it out to be – BBW soaps, particularly the foaming ones, can be harsh, and after a few weeks of manic hand-washing, our mitts were chapped and raw.

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I have, throughout the entirety of this pandemic, attempted to purchase small and local as much as possible.  These are the community businesses that need – and quite frankly, deserve – our help and our purchasing power in these unprecedented times.  And it suddenly dawned on me that I knew of a local soap connection – Heart & Home Soaps, run by Jennifer Dlugokinski, a woman I’ve known since grade 6!  (P.S. Shout-out to your seventh grade birthday party, Jenn, when we listened to the Barenaked Ladies’ “If I Had a Million Dollars” about 25 times in a row!)

Heart & Home typically sells its wares out of the Carp Fair, which has been unfortunately shuttered since the beginning of the pandemic.  But Jenn is still selling her products on Heart and Home’s website, so I placed an order, nixed the shipping option – why pay for that which you can drive 25 minutes and pick up yourself? – and drove out to her place to pick up my suds.  She had packaged them all up and left them in her mailbox, and that was that.  Simple.

Soap 2

And you know what?  They are fantastic soaps, lush and rich and full of happy hand-making ingredients like seed butters, Vitamin E, and fruit and nut oils.  They’re pretty, too, swirled with vibrant colours and, in a few cases, shimmery mica.  They smell great, also, particularly Peppermint Rush, which is getting a major workout in my kitchen (nothing feels like it gets your filthy post-gardening hands properly clean like mint) and Satsuma & Mandarin.  I’m also pleased to note that two, three weeks on, our frequently-washed hands are soft and smooth.  Maybe a bit tight after washing – that’s just using soap, I fear – but nothing like the BBW soaps, which had actually stripped our hands.  This feels so much better!

Soap 4

All in all, I feel good about shopping small and local, supporting a friend and getting my mitts clean!  And if you’d like to check out Heart & Home’s products for yourself, please click here (or the link above) for some lovingly crafted soaps.