Springtime Polish Picks

Spring Main Collage

As I did for Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be a fun exercise to go through my lacquer collection and pull some Springy polish picks, with a few Easter gems thrown in for good measure.  A couple of these polishes are from actual Spring/Easter collections, but most just remind me of this time of year – cold, steely skies, crocuses and daffodils just beginning to poke through the snow, pastel eggs nestled in crinkly plastic Easter grass.

Starting off with the most obvious pairing, we have KB Shimmer’s Where My Peeps At and Smitten Polish’s Not Your Mama’s Easter Grass.  I think this combination looks like jellybeans nestled in chick fuzz nestled in plastic Easter grass.

Spring Collage Nails 2

Next we have another KB Shimmer pick, Full Bloom Ahead, paired with Different Dimension’s Luminosity. Full Bloom Ahead is one of my favourite polishes, and also one of the first indies I ever bought.  I think it looks like Spring flowers caught in an unseasonably late snowstorm.  Luminosity is just dang pretty.

Spring Collage Nails 1

Next we have yet another KB Shimmer pick – this time Make My Gray – paired with ILNP’s Mega.  I like the way the holographic rainbows in Mega’s depths mimic the steely grey glitters in Make My Gray.

Spring Nail Collage 4

Finally, we have the very eggy combo of Delush Polish’s 50 Shades of Yay paired with Glam Polish’s Ladies Choice.  50 Shades of Yay is one of my favourite, but rarely worn, polishes.  I think it looks like delicious rainbow Peeps cake (the delicious part being the cake; Peeps are the work of the devil, adorable though they are!)

Spring Nail Collage 3

Clash of Colours

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With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, I thought it would be fun to sort through my nail polish collection and pull my favourites in the supposedly clashing combo of pink and red.  I don’t go in for all that clashing malarkey – pink and red is one of my favourite colour combinations, hard at work in my wardrobe, my makeup and even my home decorating (“Lotta pink in here, huh?” sneered a plumber last year.  I wanted to ask him if his masculinity was quite finished being threatened by a colour, but instead I just smiled and paid him for a job very well done.)

Anyhow, lots of pink and red around here, a palette preference that apparently carries over into my nail polish collection, because I own an absolute ton of pink and red lacquers (as well as every variant in between, from cotton candy, to coral, to wine.)  We’d be here until Valentine’s Day itself were I to show you every one of my pink and red polishes, and so instead I’m whittling the list down to 10 favourites from KB Shimmer, Picture Polish, Emily de Molly and Whimsical Ideas by Pam.  There’s a little something for everyone here, from lush, berry-hued cremes, to fiery glitter bombs speckled with tiny hearts, so go on ahead and fall in love.

First up we have two of my oldest lacquers, Picture Polish’s raspberry and gold shimmer, Electric Dream, and O’Hara, a candy apple red spiked with tiny holographic shards.

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Next we have two polishes from Whimsical Ideas by Pam, primary red creme, Starbucks Holiday Cup, and Tutu Sweet, a vibrant bubblegum pink stuffed with silvery-white and hot pink matte glitter.

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Here in the middle we find two picks from Emily de Molly that are representing the Valentine’s season in both name and appearance, glittery melted popsicle, The Unloved (index and ring fingers), and Heart Street, a very retro mix of red, orange, purple and pink heart glitters in a fiery red base (middle and pinkie fingers.)

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Finally, we have four polishes from KB Shimmer.  This makes sense, as KB’s terrific polishes make up the bulk of my collection.  The first pairing is raspberry pink creme, Grin and Gerbera It, and Such a Vlad-Ass, a cool, vampy blood red.

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And finally-finally, we have the second KB pairing, candy sweet pastel glitter, Sweet Egg-scape, and maybe the most perfect red creme to grace my fingertips in the past four years, Chilly Pepper.

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Urban Decay Full Spectrum Eyeshadow Palette

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Kicking off the weekend with something a little different today, namely this bloody gorgeous Full Spectrum eyeshadow palette from Urban Decay that I received as a lovely and generous Christmas present (told you Santa was good to me!)

Retailing for $80.00 Canadian, this 21-strong eyeshadow palette is no lightweight from a cost perspective, but if you’d like to sample a wide array of some pretty out-there hues, or you’re interested in eyeshadow art (yes, that’s a thing) or you just want to mess about with some fantastically beautiful makeup, I’d recommend grabbing one of these palettes, because they’re just stunning.  And not for nothing, but Urban Decay are no slouches when it comes to these kind of super vibrant, high pigmentation cosmetics – these are superb eyeshadows, period.

We’ll take a closer look at the actual shades in a just moment, but first, let’s admire a packaging and design job very well done, from the matte-on-black finish of the embossed lid to the almost geometric placement of the eyeshadow pans.  This palette also features a whisper soft front closure, a large mirror inset into the lid, a dual-ended shadow brush tucked into the base, and a nice amount of heft to keep the whole works from toppling over.  So, so beautiful, but I am a sucker for gorgeous presentation.

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Good looks aside, how did the eyeshadows perform?  Splendidly!  I admittedly haven’t given this palette much of a workout, save the swatches below, but I have no problems to report with skin sensitivity, and the shadows applied beautifully, blending softly and smoothly.  And the colours…a high intensity rainbow in three gorgeous tonal variations. There’s a little something here for everyone, no matter your cosmetic style or skin tone, and plenty of hues to challenge those looking to play outside the makeup box.

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Nestled in their glossy black case, this assortment of precisely inlaid rainbow shadows can’t help but be anything other than eye-catching.  I’m drawn, like a magpie!  But how do they look on actual, you know, skin? Allow my pale pink hide to answer that question (having said that, how sad is it that my skin tone can best be described as a shade called “Iced”?  More like “Iced, with Freckles.”)

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All told, I love this eyeshadow palette, and I’m so delighted it made an appearance under my tree this holiday – I’m a lucky beauty blogger, indeed. 🙂

Winter Solstice

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Before I do the show-and-tell thing with this beautiful order I received from indie parfumerie Solstice Scents, allow me to share with you one of those odd little serendipitous moments that makes you feel at one with the universe.  Or mildly creeped out.  Depends on your world perspective, I suppose. 😉

Anyhow, after choosing a title for this post – Winter Solstice, because it’s winter, and this is an order from Solstice Scents – I thought to myself, “Huh, IS there such a thing as a winter solstice?”  Turns out there is! 2016’s winter solstice – you may know it as the shortest day of the year – was December 21st, which is the day I received this order.  Dun dun duuuuuunnnnnnnnn.  Really nothing more than a coincidence (Alanis would probably call it irony) but a cool little blip amid the atrocious randomness of the universe nonetheless.

Okay, so now that we’ve got that heavy stuff out of the way, let’s move on to the perfume! It’s been ages since I’ve been this excited about a new vendor, and even longer since I’ve worn perfume (I worked for many years in close-quarters courtrooms, pretty well the last place you should be doused, or even lightly spritzed, in anything.)  So when this tiny, potent pack of goodies arrived a handful of days before Christmas, I was in *just* the right festive mood to dive back into the world of olfactory delights, and delight in discovering a new vendor.

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First, the basics.  I placed my order on December 13th, Solstice shipped it from their Florida location on December 14th, and I received it here in Ontario a week later on the 21st.  That lightning fast turnaround time allowed me to sample some of the fragrances over the holidays, where I discovered a fabulous new favourite that smells just like me.  It’s the best thing I’ve smelled in forever!  My items (four 5 ml rollerball perfume oils, two 2.5 ml spray samples and six sampler vials) came neatly packed in a tiny box filled with the most gorgeous dark green tissue paper adorned with a festive sprig of evergreen – a lovely little touch.  Lovelier still were the postcards – including a handwritten thank you – depicting some of Solstice’s fragrances, as well as maps and bulletins from the Town of Foxcroft, inspiration for a number of their perfumes.

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Thoughtful aesthetic touches aside, let’s take a closer look at the contents of my order, shall we? First, I purchased four perfume oils in these cute little blue glass rollerballs. Each bottle was $15.00 US.

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Owing to what I’m assuming are infuriatingly random trade rules, Solstice is unable to ship sizes greater than the 5 ml perfume oils internationally.  So I’m stuck with these baby bottles until such time as I can ask an American friend for a fragranced favour, because I’m in LOVE with one of the scents I chose, Snowmint Mallow, and would very much like it in a larger size.  This is the fragrance I described some weeks ago as smelling like a beloved perfume I wore in high school, a refreshing, creamy and comforting blend of peppermint, cake, cookies, coconut and marshmallow cream.  Holy lord is it fabulous, and not remotely as heavy or gooey-smelling as you’d imagine from that description.

Of the other three perfume oils, I like Blackburn’s Parlor the best.  It’s another sundae-scented fragrance in that it literally smells like a banana split – sugary, buttery waffle cones, creamy chocolate and vanilla soft serve and the barest hint of fresh banana.  This is another one that somehow doesn’t come across as tooth-achingly sweet; rather, it’s a light gourmand scent softened with custardy cream.

I regrettably don’t care much for either Halloween Night or Blackburn Farmstead, the latter being a musky blackberry scent that simply doesn’t tickle my fancy.  Dark berry blends never have, though, something I should have remembered when placing this wildcard pick in my basket.  But I’ve no doubt I’ll be able to find Blackburn Farmstead a good home with someone who can appreciate its lush amber berries.  Halloween Night is…intriguing. Smells a bit like assorted candies rattling around the bottom of a plastic trick-or-treat pumpkin.  I can actually picture myself wearing this Halloween night.

Next, I ordered an assortment of fragrances in smaller sizes I wasn’t too sure about based on their descriptions.

I purchased two 2.5 ml eau de parfum spray samples in Owl Creek Aleworks, a rich, toffee and stout-infused butter bomb, and Foxcroft Fairgrounds, a light confection of a fragrance scented like sweetly spun sugar. Lovely, both.  Each spray bottle was $8.00 US.

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Finally, I purchased five fragrances (plus one freebie) in a beautifully presented sampler pack for $15.00 US.  I haven’t yet explored these scents in any meaningful way, but here I went kind of buck wild with my choices, swinging from sugary gourmand fragrances like Kitchen and Sycamore Sugarworks, to lively fruity fragrances like Heat of the Night, whose succulent mango notes I can already tell you I like very much.

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Overall, I’m tremendously pleased with my first – but certainly not last – Solstice Scents order.  Everything about this was a positive experience, from the no-fuss ordering system and super speedy delivery, to the beautiful presentation and gorgeously-crafted fragrances.  A definite winner.  Can’t wait to see what other fantastic scents are awaiting my discovery.

ETA: It has been brought to my attention by the very kind and complimentary folks at Solstice that there are actually a couple of vendors that deal in their beautiful perfumes internationally, Pretty Indulgent (they also carry a number of other niche lines) and The Rhinestone Housewife (same), who offers Solstice’s eau de parfums in 60 ml bottles that should hopefully slay my scent lust for all things Snowmint Mallow!

Mega Mario Rosegirls Haul

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Because we all succumb to the lure of a haul post eventually, particularly when we’ve got loads of fun, pretty and delicious-smelling goodies to share, like this awesome assortment of scented wax I received from Rosegirls a few days before Christmas.

Around about the middle of November of last year Rosegirls opened for pre-orders of a number of terrifically popular holiday scents, the majority of them Super Mario-themed (Rosegirls owner Jenny Oaks is a fan; many of their scent blends bear Mario-inspired names.)  I purchased a few of these blends last year when they were first offered, and a couple remain all-time favourites – lovely to see them back and making the rounds again this holiday season.  So without further delay, let’s see what yumminess will be scenting my home in the coming months, shall we?

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Starting with the big guns, I purchased an entire pie of Peppermint Coconut Mallow, which is not a Mario-inspired scent, but definitely one of Rosegirls’ most popular scent blends. It never ceases to amaze me that peppermint, coconut and marshmallow are compatible scent notes (peppermint and marshmallow, yes, marshmallow and coconut, sure, but peppermint and coconut?  Egads, said I, before I knew better.)  The coconut in this one is mild, very mild – more fresh coconut than either floral, coconut milk-type scents or buttery suntan lotion.  Its presence seems to round off the icier edges of the marshmallow-sweetened peppermint, lending the whole blend a creamy dreaminess lightly tinged with mint.  Delicious!  And a nifty little sinus-buster, too, if you prefer mints to higher intensity eucalyptus and herb blends.  I love it enough that despite the fact that I’ll be years in melting through these eight slices, I purchased an entire pie at a cost of $20.00 (US) per one-pound half.  How much my mailman must have loved me that particular delivery day!

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Next up we have another half pie in Koopa Troopa Assault (remember those nasty little Koopas?), a tart and creamy blend of Raspberry Sauce, Pomegranate, Sweet Lemon Confection (a candied lemon scent) and Marshmallow Smoothie.  I am a complete sucker for Rosegirls’ phenomenal Raspberry Sauce, Pomegranate and Marshmallow Smoothie scents, and with the addition of mouthwateringly tart lemon, this blend is pretty much perfection in a half pie.

In addition to the half pies, Rosegirls also offered a number of scent blends in their traditional chunk and muffin formats.

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I snapped up a few favourites from last year, including Up On The Castle Top, a blend of Rice Krispie Treats and Berry Creme Brulee that smells exactly like berry Bubbalicious gum, Christmas Wish Fluff Puffs, a festive cookies-and-pine blend, and Star of Wonder, Star of Night, a blend of Serendipity (itself a blend of cherries, vanilla, citrus, coconut and powdered sugar) and Strawberry Euphoria (all strawberry, all the time.)

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I also nabbed bags in my all-time favourite wax blend, Yoshi the Red-Nosed Dino, a combination of Raspberry Sauce, Pistachio and Marshmallow Smoothie (sounds weird, smells delicious), Koopa Klaus is Coming to Town, a “Woah, bakery!” blend of Coconut, Sugar Cookies and Zucchini Bread (please stay with me here, I swear this all smells so much better than these descriptions might otherwise imply) and Birdo’s Magical Cupcake Land, a sweet blend of Raspberry Sauce (are we detecting a pattern here?), Strawberry Jam and Birthday Cake.

Weighing in at just a shade over 8 ounces, the chunk bags were $10.00 each.  The muffins, sold in 5.5 ounce two-packs, were $7.00 each.  Some customers reported broken and torn bags.  I suffered no problems like that, although the wax in my bag of Star of Wonder, Star of Night came in shards, an issue I attribute to getting hoofed in the side whilst sitting on a cold delivery truck in the dead of Canadian winter.  Scent-wise, its appearance makes absolutely no appreciable difference, although it did make finding enough pieces to photograph a bit of a challenge.  Blogging problems, man.

Rosegirls very rarely has ready-to-ship stock.  Instead, they offer a number of ever-changing blends (usually anywhere from 15 to 20) on a once-a-month pre-order basis (January’s pre-order is actually this weekend, starting today, the 7th, and closing the morning of the 9th.)  The wax is then made-to-order, typically shipping out around the six-week mark.  I really like Rosegirls’ system, as I don’t care to fight someone online in what’s often distastefully called the Wax Hunger Games, but I can also see how antsier types might be put off by the longer turnaround time.  But if you’re cool with a bit of a wait and you like the assurance of knowing that your order is in the bag and good to go, no funny business, you’d do well to join Rosegirls’ Facebook group, where Jenny Oaks and Co. announce sale details, host giveaways and post fan pictures of their fabulously scented creations.  So what are you waiting for?  Go get you some!

Flawless Fingers

Up in Charms Revlon Collage

I’m jumping straight to the point today with a mini review of this fantastic polish, Revlon’s Colorstay Gel Envy in Up in Charms.  If you’re thinking to yourself that Up in Charms looks nothing like my usual swatchables, that’s because you’re correct – there’s no glitter, no holo dust, no gimmicky add-ons, just a rock solid polish in a pretty, neutral colour perfect for everyday – and everywhere – wear (in my head I just said that in the exact same voice as Julian the Orange Shopping Channel Tosser from Bridget Jones’s Diary.)

For my purposes, Up in Charms makes for a fabulous base for nail art.  Smooth, glossy and a touch thick in a way that makes application a breeze, Up in Charms dries down – quickly! – to a glass-like finish that’s best for nail art AND general wear.  These photos actually show this manicure sans topcoat – a never for me; I topcoat all the things – and I think it looks like ultra glossy perfection.  I didn’t even have to clean this manicure up along the edges of my cuticles, as the pleasant thickness of the polish held it precisely in place on my nails, no pooling, no runoff.  The coverage on this polish was also pretty fantastic, reaching full opacity in three light coats.  That’s something of a minor miracle with pale, sheer lacquers like this one that often require four or more coats to reach total opacity. Colour me completely impressed – I’ve got rich, saturated blues and purples that don’t cover as well.

Up in Charms is actually the first gel-type polish I’ve ever tried.  I purchased this particular shell pink colour to use as a skin tone when I’m up to my Disney girl designs, but I think I’ll be taking a closer look at Revlon’s other offerings in the Gel Envy line, and hoping for performance as great as Up in Charms’.  Revlon, one of those legacy beauty brands that has been around since the dawn of time, is available pretty well everywhere, although I purchased my bottle at Walmart.  Happy shopping!

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Finger Candy Favourites: Showstoppers (Part I)

All in photoIn today’s continuing nail art adventures, we turn an eye to the real reason we’re all here – hardcore nudity! Okay, so that’s a favourite Simpsons joke I couldn’t leave well enough alone, but really, we’re here for the good stuff. And in Nailese, that means nail polish, straight up. To that end, here is a compilation of some of my preferred brands, a few favoured products and one exceptional international stocklist. If you’d like to see a list of my favourite individual polishes of 2014, you can find that post here. And now on with the show!

CANDY LACQUERCandy Lacquer photo

Indie retailer Candy Lacquer is the first polish maker I ever placed an order with. That was a year and a half ago, and I’ve gone back a few times since, always emerging a much satisfied customer. Dealing primarily in glitter-stuffed toppers of the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink variety, Candy Lacquer’s polishes are hyper colourful and stunningly unique. And not for nothing, but for a product that basically amounts to miniature bits of paper suspended in varnish, their formulations are excellent – stuffed to the brim with more glittery goodness than a rainbow unicorn, but never dry. Compared to a lot of indies, Candy Lacquer’s online presence is downright small, and if you’re used to other makers’ flashier websites, you might be a bit disappointed by their less-is-more approach to e-tail. Don’t let this put you off. Sometimes – like this time – basic is best. My favourite Candy Lacquer polish – indeed, a favourite polish, period – is Candy Cane Fiesta, a winter holiday release I’ve managed to incorporate into about six seasonally diverse manis. If you’re likewise drawn to Candy Lacquer’s fun, beautifully made polishes, you can find them here.

I LOVE NAIL POLISH (ILNP)ILNP photo

ILNP is a fairly new-to-me polish maker that walks a delicate line between indie and commercial – their gonzo approach to polish design (bigger! glossier! shinier!) suggests an indie maker, but their rock solid production and customer service belies a more commercial sensibility. And the packaging! True, it’s a well known fact I’m a lifelong paper product lover, but I was just insanely charmed by the rainbow hearts and logo-printed tissue paper my order came bundled in. This is the part where some of you might be saying, “You were wowed by tissue paper?” To which I reply, um, yeah, I was. What about it? It’s a lovely little touch that speaks volumes about the care ILNP takes with its business. Which is the business of putting out stunningly gorgeous holos and eyeball-searing multichromes, like these three favoured beauties, chromatic flakies Electric Carnival and Supernova and ultra chrome Masquerade. You can find ILNP’s products, a constantly updated selection of gorgeous, on-trend polishes, here.

PURE ICEPure Ice photo

On this predominantly indie-centric list, Pure Ice, a brand available at Walmart, is the lone commercial standout. And for good reason; their polishes, a whatever’s-on-the-shelf assortment of cremes, shimmers and glitters, are of a quality not normally found in $2 polishes ($1.97, actually.) I own probably 15 different Pure Ice polishes, and have yet to encounter one that’s anything less than OPI, China Glaze or Essie-level quality for just a fraction of the price. In fact, I exclusively use Pure Ice products for my black and white nail polish needs. Like most nail artists, I go through reams of those two colours alone, and it simply makes the kind of sense that doesn’t to pay $8 or more a bottle for these always-in-use basics. The one caveat here is you really are limited to whatever polishes remain on the shelf. My local Walmart restocks frequently, but Pure Ice’s super favourable price point means their products move FAST. If there’s anything specific you think you might like multiple bottles of (say, their black and white polishes) grab a few and stock up while you can.

KB SHIMMERKB Shimmer photo

KB Shimmer, another indie, is one of those polish makers that just quietly goes about its (excellent) business, producing consistently beautiful and unique polishes (and some bath products) with no fuss, no muss. For that reason alone – well-made consistency – KB has more than earned its spot as one of my preferred purveyors of polish. KB’s most popular polishes seem to be their glitter-stuffed crellies (ugh) and jellies, and to be sure, one of my favourite lacquers, period, is Belle of the Mall, a Hawaiian Punch-hued jelly brimming with silver holographic glitter. But their other formulations – mattes, holos and cremes – are likewise fantastic. Their shimmer-infused holographic polishes are particularly lovely, throwing gorgeous linear rainbows and applying like a dream. My one nit to pick with KB Shimmer is that their products are not available directly from their website to international customers. American customers can purchase KB’s polishes directly from their site here, but if you’re an international customer, you can get your KB fix from international stocklist Harlow & Co. here. Speaking of which…

HARLOW & CO.

Closing out this list of besties is the company that has enabled nearly all of it, Harlow & Co.! Harlow & Co. is an online stocklist that carries over 50 harder-to-find brands, from A England to Wicked Polish, and all of it blessedly, gloriously available to international customers. Which in this incredibly rare instance I’m actually not, as both Harlow and I are Canadian! That means free shipping and – best of all – lightning fast turnaround times for said shipping. I frequently receive orders within two days of purchase, three at the very outside. And in one truly remarkable instance last year, my order arrived in one day. I had gone out of town for a couple of days and my order got home before I did! Really, really outstanding customer service, which is an increasingly rare quality in a business, and one that carries with it a tremendous value. I’ll sing the high praises of Harlow & Co. any day because of it (to say nothing of the fact that they keep me in sweet, sweet crack nail polish.) Fifty brands of nail polish are at your fingertips – and hopefully soon ON your fingertips – here.

I initially thought these five companies were the only ones that had captured my polish-lovin’ heart (and wallet), but a quick peek into my beauty tackle box has revealed a number of other favourites I’d be remiss in not pointing out. Things to deal with another day – don’t want to swamp you with too much goodness or anything. 😉 So – one more time for the cheap seats in the back! – TO BE CONTINUED…