June Band of Bloggers

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Toes in the water, sunshine on the skin, evenings spent watching blinking fireflies or brilliant fireworks, all the little indulgences that only summer can bring.  As it’s arriving soon (in the northern hemisphere), for June we want to know the special ways you indulge during the summer months.  Any activities you look forward to?  For some, it involves dodging bugs, to searching for respite from soaring temps.  But for everyone, it means longer daylight hours.  What is your summer indulgence?

I’m not sure how much of an indulgence something can be if it cost 75 cents at the secondhand bookstore, but one of my favourite things to do in the summer is bury myself in a stack of Christopher Pike young adult thrillers and pretend I’m 12 years old again.  I was just discussing this with a friend the other day, but those beloved books (all published in the late ’80s and ’90s, for those not familiar with Pike’s work) really hold up quite well.  You know, provided you’re into Egyptology, time travel, teen cannibalism, lizard people from Mars, mild drug use, vampires, devastating childhood trauma and a hell of a lot of female characters named Ann.  Last summer, whilst in the midst of a major Pike-a-thon, I created this manicure.  I may have also rhapsodized a fair bit about my deep, abiding love for the 1980s YA teen thriller; you can find that post here.

Christopher Pike Collage

Continuing with gratification, what’s the most indulgent fragrance purchase you have ever made or been gifted?  A special bottle of perfume, exclusive wax opening, or pricey, fancy pants candle?

Every Christmas my parents gift me with a two-wick Voluspa candle in one of my favourite fragrances, French Bourbon Vanille.  This candle is a real luxury item – silky smooth, clean-burning coconut wax, a lush, gourmand fragrance, that beautiful mercury glass container – and it’s got the price tag to go along with it – $38 Canadian.

That my parents willingly – I’d say even gleefully – purchase this for me every year is nothing short of amazing, as they are not the type to splash out on something as banal as a candle.  My parents have always been exceedingly financially responsible.  It’s what has allowed them to enjoy a comfortable life, all while continuing to be quite generous with their only daughter (come on, you knew I was an only child!)

Having said that, my parents are still a long way off from Dickensian tightwads.  They spend their money on the things that matter to them; luxury candles simply aren’t one of those things.  Dollar Store firestarters will do just fine, thanks!  But my, do they love purchasing this candle every year.  I think it gives them a weirdly illicit little jolt – “Wayne!  We’re buying a $40 candle for our kid.  Is she bonkers or are we?”

Voluspa In the Dark

Lastly, how would you indulge if $ was no object?  It could be a luxe fragrance you desire, a pampering spa package, a legendary retired scent, etc.  What is your dream way to treat yo’self?

If finances and environmental impact were of no concern, I’d enjoy freshly laundered linens every day, and fresh cut flowers thrice weekly.  Thrice!  I love bedding down in clean sheets (bolted downstairs at 9:30 pm on New Years Eve, actually, to throw a load in the machine so I could begin 2017 unencumbered by 2016’s scuzzy sheets) and fresh flowers are simple sunshine in a vase.  Love the little luxuries associated with both.

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Please feel free to answer these questions for yourself in the comment section below.

And we hope you’ll visit these Band of Blogger blogs and help support the blogger community!

Amanda at Thrifty Polished

Deb at It’s Always Something

Jaybird at The Candle Enthusiast

Jessica at The Meltdown Blog

Julie at The Redolent Mermaid

Lauren at LoloLovesScents

Liz at Furianne

Sandra – me! – at Finger Candy

If you are a blogger and would like to join the Band of Bloggers for our monthly posts, please contact us.

The Nightclub at the Edge of the Universe

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On a Friday night 20 or so years ago, there was probably only one place you’d find me, on the dance floor of Zaphod Beeblebrox, the coolest bar in the universe.  Located in the very un-cool city of Ottawa, Ontario, Zaphod’s was a small, oddly-shaped, black-lit sanctuary of Brit pop, industrial, electronica and alternative rock, with potent signature drinks (the glowing green Pangalactic Gargleblaster was a particular delicious favourite) and nightly showings of Aliens.  Some of the best moments of my life happened in that bar – it broke my young(er) heart when it closed a couple of weeks ago after 26 years of killer Friday nights.

To thank Zaphods for all my best weekends, I thought I’d paint this glow-in-the-dark galaxy manicure that mimics the black-lit stars and galaxies that dotted the walls of my favourite Nightclub at the Edge of the Universe.  Rest well, Zaphod’s – so long, and thanks for all the fish.

Zaphods Collage

Easter Weekend

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Loveliest of Easter weekends to you, friends.  Being not so religious, as well as hailing from the kind of small, WASP-y family that does things like vacations in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, my Easter weekends typically involve travel and a whole lot of outlet shopping.  Or they did when I was a kid; my mom and dad and I – “us is the flamily” – passing horse-drawn Amish buggies on the road, catching fireflies in the parking lot of the motel, buying ultra preppy oxblood penny loafers at the Bass outlet and scarfing endless plates of incredible fried chicken at the restaurant where the waitress didn’t even blink when I said I wanted mashed potatoes and gravy as all FOUR of my sides. Those were really great vacations. 🙂

But this Easter weekend I’m home, simply enjoying a few days off from what has so far been a rather busy April.  Quite a few social events and a new-ish exercise regimen that keeps me hoppin’ like a bunny.

Speaking of, here are a few items guaranteed to put a spring – and THE Spring – into the Easter Bunny’s bounce.  Remarkably, these are all things I pulled from around my apartment.  I didn’t have to go rummaging in seasonal storage for anything.  So when I was joking a month or so ago that it’s always Easter in my apartment, I guess I really wasn’t joking?!

My favourite speckled egg wreath makes another appearance here, alongside, on the left, some very cute little cracked egg votive candles, a neat stack of Peeps-scented wax tarts from Yankee Candle, an actual Peeps-shaped wax tart from The Bathing Garden in Keep Your Temper, and KB Shimmer’s Where My Peeps At, which is pure Easter in a bottle.

Easter Photo Left Side

Then over on the right we have a gigantic, three-part Chick ‘N’ Mix bath bomb from Lush (there’s a cute little bicarbonate bunny inside the huge chick), a speckled wax robin’s egg from The Bathing Garden in Blackberry Fudge, a clutch of pastel Reflections markers, a wee little ceramic cupcake perfect for hiding tiny treasures, another Peeps-shaped wax tart from The Bathing Garden in Looking Glass, two frosted sugar cookies from London, Ontario bakery A Couple of Squares and a large glass jar filled with a half dozen hand-painted cardboard eggs.  Hoppy Easter!

Easter Photo Right Side

Literary Inspiration: The Virgin Suicides

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At the end of last year as part of my annual assessment of greatness (doesn’t that sound like something George’s dad would come up with on Seinfeld?) it came to my attention that despite quantitatively reading more than I ever have before, I read just two novels in 2016.  Otherwise, the bulk of my reading was online – my blog, other people’s blogs, and so much infuriating on-the-fly political news, my blood pressure practically demands that I return to the comforting paper (or electronic) embrace of a real novel.

And so I’ve been following along with a casual reading challenge created by my friend Julie of The Redolent Mermaid in an effort to not only read more, but read better.  Also grammar gooder. 😉 And because there’s nothing I love more than making life difficult for myself, I’ve added two sub-challenges to the main thread:

1. Where possible, all selections will be made from my own bookcase.  Despite being an avid lifelong reader, I actually fell out of favour with reading as a pastime some years back – that’s not a recent development.  As such, I have a serious backlog of gifts, loaners and hopeful recommendations that require my attention, if only to finally be able to say, “I read that!”

2. To keep it relevant to my blog, I have to do a manicure inspired by whatever I’m reading at the time.

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Which presents a bit of a challenge (within the challenge’s challenge) when the first book you pick to fulfill the theme of a beloved or favourite novel is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.  The entire depressing story is right there in the title – how exactly do I draw nail art inspiration from that?  Carefully, very carefully, and respectfully, being mindful of the overall feeling the book inspires in me as opposed to a strict adherence to its events. Which, absent any context or enjoyment derived from Eugenides paying out the story, are just so, so bleak.

If you watched the 1999 Sofia Coppola movie starring Kirsten Dunst, you’re already familiar with the story and tone of The Virgin Suicides.  The film is faithful to both, chronicling the year in 1970s Grosse Pointe, Michigan over which all five teenage Lisbon girls – Cecilia, Mary, Therese, Bonnie and Lux – take their lives.  The story is told from the perspective of a group of neighbourhood boys whose trainwreck-like obsession with the girls stretches into adulthood, upon which they reconvene one last time for a final forensic analysis of a shattered family, a decaying neighbourhood, the girls’ inexplicable deaths and, indeed, their own passing lives.  Really lightweight stuff!

I think Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of the novel is about as perfect as one can be, particularly that feeling of floating about inside a hazy, pastel-hued cloud.  But in both the film and the novel, there’s nasty little moldy bits creeping in along the edges of all that cotton candy fluff – cracks in the rose-coloured glasses that have let in the rot.  In the book more so than the movie, this is represented by the Lisbon family home, a staid suburban structure whose internal and external disrepair mirrors its residents’ rapidly decaying mental states.  And as the Lisbons incrementally retreat from their friends, their neighbours, the world, the family home, once a bustling hub of shimmery teenage girl activity, becomes a stale, airless crypt housing little more than living ghosts and their moss-covered memories of what can never again be.

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Super uplifting. 😉  And I can’t really explain why it’s my favourite book 20 years running, except that it just is. The weird heart wants what the weird heart wants, I suppose.  I just hope I did it right with my interpretation of the book’s tone, that feeling of life’s bright spark being born under by decay.  Let’s leave it on that cheery note!

Queen of Hearts

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So I always thought I was the Queen of Halloween.  I’ve always loved dressing up in costumes, decorating my home and hosting terrible parties (my bad Halloween parties – yes, parties, plural – are legendary in their awkwardness, although I can’t say I loved them.  Nobody did!)  I was married on October 31st, for pity’s sake! But this gorgeous, lush pile of beautiful Valentine’s Day goodies suggests that my affections may lie with the 14th of February, and all its confusing, commercial connotations (riddle me this: Why do we give hand OR Hallmark-written sentiments to loved ones in the name of Saint Valentine, who was blind?  Also a martyr and a political prisoner, but how unsexy is that?)

It also took me next to no time to pull together this collection of items, from cute wax tarts, to the absolutely stunning silk floral wreath my mom and dad gave me in a fit of post-Christmas spoilage.  It, along with all of the other silk flower arrangements dotted about my apartment, lead me to think I may have a heretofore unacknowledged romantic streak!  Also a lot of pink, red and white things, most glittery, and right at hand, no less, living amongst me as decorative items, not just seasonal decorative items.

And so let’s see what sorts of beautiful things I’m loving on in the days leading up to Valentine’s, shall we?  On the left we have, from left to right, a Sex Bomb bath ballistic from Lush, berry-shaped wax melts from Rosegirls in Strawberry Jam, a blossom-shaped wax melt from Vintage Chic Scents in Jackie O (a delicious, creamy vanilla), a pink piped heart from Rosegirls in Cotton Candy Frosting, a gorgeous pair of wax lips (the actual non-edible kind) from The Bathing Garden in The Sweetest Thing, a green-berry kind of scent, and my magnetic, kissing kitties salt and pepper shakers.  I purchased the salt and pepper shakers at the same place my parents bought this gorgeous wreath, a store in my city by the name of Marie Antoinette.  It might be the most beautiful shop I’ve ever been in in my life, packed to the rafters (literally; lush bouquets and other decorative baubles hang from every available surface) with a gorgeous collection of carefully curated items. When I shop there (about once a month, following a delicious donut breakfast with my mom at Suzy Q Donuts across the street) I’m hard pressed not to walk away with the entire store.

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And over on the right we have, from left to right, a Sparkling Red Slippers bubble bar from Lush, a Lover Lamp bath bomb from Lush (it smells like citrus cinnamon hearts), my favourite candle, Voluspa’s French Bourbon Vanille, nestled in a glittery stand from Bath & Body Works, a couple of loved-up iced sugar cookies from A Couple of Squares (shoutout to London, Ontario now), a neat stack of soap rosebuds, another faux floral arrangement, and finally, a wee ceramic gateau, hinged to conceal a small space for hiding tiny treasures, another darling find from Marie Antoinette.  I’m in love with it all!

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Center Stage

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These ballet slipper nails – three traditional pink, one the shade of sultry, heathen independence! – are for one of my oldest and dearest friends, who is one of my oldest and dearest friends precisely because she shares my love of ultra cheesy ’90s ballet movie, Center Stage.  There are, of course, other reasons we’ve been in each other’s lives going on 25 years now (oh. my. lord.) but mostly it’s just Center Stage.  Jodie Sawyer’s shitty turnout and desperation cookies are the glue that holds our friendship together. 😉

Also the completely awesome mini ballet that closes out the film, wherein Jodie, who has spent the movie embroiled in a love triangle with her sexy rebel teacher and a cute classmate, throws off the shackles of spurned and unrequited love and JUST DANCES THE SHIT OUT OF IT!  And somehow pulls off an ON STAGE quick change, going from a pink tights-and-pastels costume to a sparkly red number, complete with blood red lips, elaborately knotted hair ribbons and the devil’s toe shoes, in the span of about 10 seconds. Dance movie magic at its finest!

Pep(permint) Talk

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Mmm, peppermint, what an olfactory delight you have turned out to be!  It pains me to admit this, but there was a time not that long ago that I cared for you not one whit – too icy, too bracing, too toothpastey.  But in my advancing years, I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for some of the flavours and scents I used to shun, and dear peppermint, you are number one on that list, with a bullet (alongside black coffee, black pepper, bourbon, freesia and anything involving anise.)

And thank goodness for that reversal in scent preference, because otherwise I wouldn’t have come into the possession of this lovely little mountain of pepperminty goodness.  So shall we check out some of the peppy mints that have been sweetly scenting my holidays?  Yes, let’s!

First up, the overkill.  So did I need an entire pie’s worth of Rosegirls’ sublime Peppermint Coconut Mallow? No, probably not…although “need” is such a tricky word, isn’t it? 😉 Anyhow, when Rosegirls opened up for a pre-sale in November that included a number of beloved holiday scents, I purchased an entire pie of Peppermint Coconut Mallow, a perpetually popular pick that softens peppermint’s icy chill with mounds of creamy, dreamy marshmallow.  It’s a sublimely gorgeous fragrance – sweet, cool and creamy.  One of those scent blends you stockpile if you get the chance, which is precisely what I did!

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Another favourite mint around these parts is Bath & Body Works‘ Twisted Peppermint. Sweet and icy where Peppermint Coconut Mallow is cool and creamy, Twisted Peppermint is a blast of candied arctic air.  To me, it is the smell of Christmas.  It also reminds me of the candy coating on a Freshmint Tic Tac.  This three-wick candle is going into reserve for next year, although I had it out and about over the holidays because I love the design on the label.  Actually, come to think of it, Bath & Body Works had very attractive packaging on all of their products this year.  Well done, BBW!

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Then, succumbing to the beautifully photographed enabling of my blogger friend Julie of The Redolent Mermaid, I placed an order with Solstice Scents, a small, independent parfumerie that deals in the sort of gourmand fragrances that make my eyes roll with delight.  That’s how I came to possess this tiny – already deeply coveted – roll-on bottle of Snowmint Mallow perfume oil.  And oh my, this perfume – a blend of “Peppermint, Vanilla Cake, Sugar Cookies, Flaked Coconut (and) Marshmallow Creme” – is FABULOUS!

I will freely admit that gourmand fragrances are not everyone’s cup of highly sugared tea. I also recognize that the above-listed scent notes seem like they would be best served on a dessert plate as opposed to spritzed on your wrists.  But Snowmint Mallow manages to dodge the plastic problem that so many foodie fragrances ultimately fall prey to.  This is no hodgepodge of vaguely fake, desserty-type scents; Solstice has created a proper fragrance here that’s beautifully balanced and layered.  That it reminds me of a favourite mocha vanilla perfume I wore in high school is simply marshmallow creme icing on the peppermint-dusted vanilla cake.  At a holiday party an old friend pulled me close and shouted in my ear that I smelled “JUST LIKE HIGH SCHOOL! Oh crap, is this the Wu?  CLEAR THE DANCE FLOOR!”  I’ve also received a number of compliments from my husband and my mom, who sniffed my wrist and shouted with delight, “It smells just like you!” Can you ask for anything more in a perfume?  I think I’m in love.  I shall be needing reinforcements, or at the very least a larger bottle.

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Finally, here’s an impulse purchase from Bath & Body Works that became my must-have beauty product of the holiday season, Shea & Sparkle Scrub in – sing it with me one more time! – Twisted Peppermint.  This is a lovely little scrub, soft and smooth as opposed to hard and scratchy, loaded with fine glitter and scented with that distinctive Tic Tac fragrance (softened a bit here for use in beauty products, a wise idea when using mints on your skin.)  The nicest thing about this scrub is it washes away cleanly, leaving behind no glittery, slippery residue, making it safe for both bathtub surfaces AND glitter-phobes! Dee-lish.

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