Woefully Unprepared

Blackout 1

That was my husband and I this weekend after back-to-back tornadoes struck our hometown of Ottawa, Ontario on Friday evening.  The storms – a rare, although not totally unheard of occurrence – tore through the city in a matter of minutes, leaving utter destruction in their wake – flattened homes, uprooted trees and a completely decimated power station, which knocked out electricity to nearly 180,000 homes and businesses, ours included.

In the eerily still moments that followed the lights going out, it began to dawn on us that we were not in the best of positions to ride out anything longer than half a day’s power outage.  In an effort to curb mindless munching, we keep precious little “emergency” food in the house – crackers, granola bars – or even easy to prepare things like salad and sandwich fixings.  So we had no food, and a rapidly thawing freezer full of things that could only be heated up.  We also live in a condo apartment, so we have no barbecue, gas stove or hot water heater.  Also a multi-storey walk down to and then back up from the garage in order to check the news on AM radio because neither one of us carries a data plan on our phones, choosing instead to tap our home or public wifi, which is great practice in terms of saving money and curbing poor phone habits, but terrible in the event of an actual emergency, because when the power goes out, so too does the wifi.

On Saturday evening we braved the roads – signal lights out, all intersections down to the mostly respected honour system – and went over to check on my parents, who were having a veritable blackout party when we straggled in, weak from a diet consisting of nothing but dry Mini Wheats straight from the box.  Bustling about their gas fireplace-warmed kitchen in a cozy-looking jewel toned robe, my mother laid out their bounty of “eat this now”s, expressing concern that it wasn’t much (my mom’s definition of “not much” being wildly skewed, of course; their granite-topped kitchen island was crammed with a tantalizing assortment of salads, deli sandwiches, dips, heaping bowls of leftovers and half a chocolate cake!  I nearly burst into tears, but crying would have gotten in the way of all the eating; we fell on this unexpected feast with gratitude.  My parents are pretty awesome.

We rode out the remainder of the weekend in our apartment doing what we did all weekend long – cramming as much reading as we could into the daylight hours before passing out from boredom about two hours after sundown.  When the power came back on, I nearly cried, again.  It was a bit of an emotional weekend.  Having the power off was its own challenge, sure, but it was the weekend-long information vacuum we were plunged into that made the whole situation that much worse – I was utterly furious that for all our expensive devices we have jacked up in our faces at all hours of the day, when it really comes down to it, we’re still just sitting in the dark, clueless.

And the silence – it was deafening.  I never realized before how much white noise I like to have in my life.  I have slept with a full box fan bearing down on me virtually every night of my life.  I score nearly everything I do – cooking, cleaning, blogging, driving, personal care, working out, travel, socializing – to a vast assortment of playlists and favourite music.  I work on an asskicker of an Alienware gaming computer that pumps out a low, never-ending hum.  I nearly always have a movie or a show queued up on our TV; extra white noise points if it’s one I’ve watched hundreds of times before (jest not, I’ve definitely seen Beetlejuice and The Lost Boys more than 250 times each.)  At one point Saturday night as I lay in bed struggling to fall asleep to the deafening din of nothingness, I thought, “Is this what Simon and Garfunkel were singing about in Sound of Silence?”

In our defence, I will say we weren’t completely lost souls in all of this.  We actually had a very productive weekend – my husband, who fought off an emerging cold all last week, finally gave in to the germs and allowed himself to just rest.  I used the downtime to finish one book, start another (on the Wall Street implosion of 2008, for pity’s sake!) and take up the entirety of our second bedroom floor.  And last night, in something of a stroke of waste-not, want-not brilliance, I cannibalized three different Hello Fresh entrees that I was utterly crushed at the thought of having to dispose of, cobbling together a rather posh and large feast of Tex Mex-inspired salad and balsamic-drizzled caprese salad with naan bread, by candlelight.

The power came back on about 10:30 Sunday evening, and we were beyond thankful for it.  Then we started to get a picture of the true destruction to our city, of which we were mostly spared.  Aggravated and inconvenienced for two and a half days, yes, and I had to throw out virtually all of the contents of our refrigerator (once again, I nearly cried; I absolutely loathe wasting food) but thankfully spared the indignities of so many of our neighbours – leveled homes, flattened cars, uprooted trees and lives.

But this entire incident has taught us a few crucial lessons.  First, Mother Nature hates us, and she has good reason to.  Climate change exists; you simply can’t deny the negative impact our wildly wasteful lives have on the environment.  And if you do, boy howdy, do I have a one-way ticket to Mars for you right here, my friend.  But secondly, and most important to our immediate lives, we discovered, as I stated off the top, that we are wildly unprepared for any emergency situation, big or small.  So we’re formulating a more responsible plan for next time, because there will be a next time, because see above, re: climate change.  And also something about history something-something and being doomed to repeat it.  Unless we learn our lessons, to close off this circular argument.

And now we rebuild and heal up and try to return to something approaching normal.  Get better soon, Ottawa.

Blackout 2

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Dumbass. Also Ooh, Pretty Ring!

Beaded Ring 2

I’m quite glad I did this manicure, inspired by an old beaded ring I recently dug out of jewelry box purgatory, earlier in the week, before I suffered one of those dumbass injuries that smarts like the dickens, leads to the temporary uselessness of at least a couple of limbs and leaves you rightfully questioning the life decisions that led up to this moment.  Like the decision to try to brute force my refrigerator out of its nook without realizing that it was quite firmly caught on something.  Or the decision, once I noted that it was quite firmly caught on something, to try to HULK it up and over the obstruction, like I was The Rock’s friggin’ weenie Canadian cousin or something.  I think you can see where this is going.

Which would be straight on through to Dumbass Injury Land, where I’m now sitting in quite uncomfortable forearm agony.  Yes, my FOREARMS.  Two days on and I still can’t register any sensation in my hands, wrists or forearms other than pain.  I can’t form a tight fist without sort of feeling like I’m about to pass out.  Typing this has proven to be a rather exquisite form of torture!

Anyhow, super glad I got this one done before I succumbed to my own idiocy.  Seriously kids, don’t try to dead lift your large appliances; it will not end well.

Right, so this manicure was inspired by this ring I bought, oh, 20 or so years ago from a designer who worked and sold out of the Byward Market Building in Ottawa, Ontario.  I add that detail because I cannot remember her name and I don’t believe she’s even working out of Ottawa any more; her booth in the Market Building disappeared many years ago (but if anyone knows of her name, please hit me up!)  I’ve actually got quite a few of her pieces, and they’re all weird, colourful and maybe just a little bit too much.  Wait till you see the beaded choker I’ll hopefully be able to show to you in a few days’ time once any sensation other than pain has returned to my forearms.  Until then, as always, nail art!

Beaded Ring 1

 

Lifestyles of the Rich and the Sudsy

Soap Collage

Some weekends back my mom and I went out for one of our doughnut ‘n’ decorating dates, which involves a trip to a favourite local doughnut joint (Suzy Q’s in Ottawa, Ontario) followed by a bit of retail therapy at a favourite home decor shop across the street (Marie Antoionette’s.)  I’ve spoken about both before – and actually, hang on a tick, I’ve vlogged about both before as well!  I actually vlogged this doughnut date, much to my mother’s eternal embarrassment/amusement.  Here, ch-check (it out for) yourself, if you’d like:

Anyhow, it was during this Saturday morning shopping excursion that my mom, as is her sweet custom, asked me if I’d like a little treat from Marie Antoinette.  The answer to that question is always a delighted YESand I quickly snapped up a beautiful bar of soap from Juniper Tree, a soap supply company out of Berkeley, California.  I’ve actually purchased three or four bars of Juniper Tree’s gorgeously detailed glycerin soaps in the past, and all from Marie Antoinette, who display them on tantalizingly tiered trays like precious little petit fours.  This beautiful bar, with its crown of dried flowers, is in a fresh and sweet scent called Tiki Taffy.

But I clearly spaced on how much these little bars of soapy goodness actually cost, because there was a moment of sticker shock when the cashier read out our total.  “Sorry, how much was the bar of soap?” my mother casually asked in a not-remotely-casual tone of voice.  And when the answer came back as a shade over $10, we had a good, guffawing laugh (once we were outside, we’re not complete animals.)  My mom was positively in stitches over the thought that this one wee bar of soap cost more than her entire suds “budget” for the year.  What can I say, her daughter’s got tastes in high places.  This is really all her fault, wretched enabler. 😉

But seeing as I was now in possession of a very expensive bar of “company soap,” I thought I should do something impressive to best display its elevated status among the other suds-stuffs in my collection.  And that’s how I found myself carrying out a lifestyle photo shoot with a bar of soap, a bottle of Prosecco and my thoroughly annoyed cat at three in the afternoon on a Wednesday in the middle of May.  As you do.  Or as I assume wealthy people do, because what else would a $10 bar of soap be up to other than…

Soap 3

…drinking sparkling stuff out of fluted champagne glasses?  Or…

Soap 5

…hunting big, deeply disinterested game?  Or my personal favourite…

Soap 6

…perusing yacht listings.  I’ll take the $74 mil guy at the top – he comes with a villa!  Mr. Finger Candy, grab my cheque book, we got a yacht to buy!  Quick question: Do you think they accept Canadian Tire money?

Really, though, I was just feeling exceedingly goofy.  This bar of Tiki Taffy will go into a soap dish and I will use it with relish.  Until the next trip to Marie Antoinette’s when we’re amusingly sticker-shocked anew!

Frozen Bubbles

Frozen Bubbles

As in Polish Me Silly’s fun Mr. Bubble glitter bomb over top of my frozen, lacquered fingertips.  ‘Cause it never stops snowing.  As I may have mentioned once or twice or 20 times over the past two days.  Fur real, though, it’s the middle of MARCH.  Time to wrap this up for the year, Earth!  Besides, there’s only so much time left before we all switch over to griping about the heat and humidity (also a thing in my in-a-valley city.)

Heh, that reminds me of a cute interaction I had with a reader years ago.  I had mentioned in a post at the time that my city sits in a valley, as in the Ottawa Valley.  If you’ve been to Ottawa, you know it has its lovely qualities, but it’s also a major (bureaucratic) city, with all the attendant ugliness that goes along with that descriptor – old, crap, perpetually breaking infrastructure (sinkholes!), sprawling, high density suburbs (vinyl!) and a death trap of a 400 series highway that cuts through the entire city like a gaping, infected wound (but tell us how you really feel, Sandra.)  Anyhow, this reader, who I believe hailed from the Philippines, left a sweet comment on my post to the effect of “You live in a valley?!  How wonderful, it must be so beautiful and magical!”  It was adorable, and I laughed for about five solid minutes afterwards at the thought of this girl thinking that I lived in freakin’ Fern Gully.  I tried to be as gentle as possible as I explained that no, Ottawa was your pretty typical metropolitan mess, and how its valley-ness manifested itself was mostly in poor weather conditions that would settle into the divot and then not move off for the next 10 days.  That’s kind of what we’re in right now – a snow cycle that’s trapped down here “in the Valley.”  No place like home, eh? 😉

Meow, That’s Hot!

Hot Sauce Main Collage

Hot sauce, made here in Ottawa, Ontario by Meow! That’s Hot, and plenty of it.  With a matching manicure, even if I think their label cats look totally demonic.

Mr. Finger Candy and I are both big fans of the web show Hot Ones (great, in-depth interviews with celebrities as they attempt to form coherent thoughts while eating progressively hotter and hotter chicken wings) and a weekend marathon some while back inspired this massive order of locally-sourced hot sauce.  I don’t know what to say, apparently my husband was feeling quite passionate about burning his face off.  You can find Meow! That’s Hot hot sauces at Chilly Chiles stores, although you can also order direct from the source (and if you’re within Ottawa, the completely nice dudes who work at Meow! That’s Hot will refund your shipping, and deliver it to your door with a hilariously withering, “Giant box of hot sauce for (Mr. Finger Candy)?”  And it WAS a giant box of hot sauce.  Enough to seriously screw up your sense of taste and smell for at least the next four months.

Hot Sauce Bottles Collage

Except burn-yer-face off is not exactly what Meow! That’s Hot does.  Oh, they bring the heat alright – Ghost Kitty, studded with nuclear hot ghost peppers, and Manx Mangler, loaded with both habaneros and scotch bonnet peppers, are particularly fiery – but there’s also a good deal of taste to these hot sauces, which are packed with all sorts of yummy things like garlic and pears and tomatillos and blackberries.  So if pain and delirium ain’t your thing when it comes to a hot sauce (or if that’s only occasionally your thing, I don’t know your life!) Meow! That’s Hot might be a good choice.  Give ’em a shot!  And also check out these nails, still with that demonic cat.

Hot Sauce Hand

Tea Time

Tea Time Main

Afternoon high tea is such a deeply civilized and indulgent custom, isn’t it?  I think it’s all those gold-rimmed cups, raised pinkies and tiny, crustless sandwiches.  Or maybe I just love the idea of stopping mid-day to treat yourself, mull over the events of the coming hours, days and weeks from atop a steaming mug of Earl Grey.  I think we’d all be better off – humanity, that is – if we were required to take a one-hour breather every afternoon. Stranger Things’ Chief Hopper may say that mornings are for coffee and contemplation, but I think afternoons are for tea and reflection.  Also crustless cucumber sandwiches with herbed cream cheese, and a couple of those tomato-and-bacon jobbies with the spicy mayo when you get a moment, thank you.

Sitting down with a bracing cuppa, however, is but one way to enjoy the elegant pleasures of tea time.  There’s also plenty of tea-based bath and beauty products, scented waxes and perfumes, as well as a vast assortment of things that just look like they belong on a tiered tray.  Of the latter, I have much!  It really made me realize how much my taste in decorating is rooted in the flouncy tea room aesthetic – so many vintage florals, and everything’s shaped like a petit four.  I also really love it when my bath and beauty items look – and smell! – like wee pastries.  And so what delicious assortment of treats has recently made an appearance on my tea tray of life? 😉

Tea Time Whole Tea Set

Well, for starters, tea time would be no such thing without a proper tea set, of which I somehow had none.  I didn’t even have a teapot, save the deeply unattractive – but wonderfully functional – diffuser pot I use for my day-to-day tea breaks.  I pulled together this beautiful little set from a stunningly gorgeous display of mix-and-match items at Marie Antoinette, a favourite decor shop in my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario.  If you turned me loose in there for just 10 unbidden minutes, I could bankrupt myself and probably everyone else I know.  Is it cheating to say, “I’ll just take the entire store”? Because I would.  Twice!

Tea Time Cups Collage

How wonderful are these sweet little cups with their tiny china spoons?  I’m smitten with the not-quite-matching detailing and the vintage floral design on these pastel pretties.

Tea Time Tea Pot

The nicest surprise of all – because it was actually something I neglected to check while I was in the store – was getting this cute little teapot home and discovering that it houses a convenient built-in diffuser basket. Form and function at its prettiest!

Tea Time Bath Bombs

Another sweet find from Marie Antoinette was this tantalizing trio of mini cupcake-shaped Bath Mallows from UK outfit Bomb Cosmetics in, left to right, Cherry Pie, Lavanille and Little Bo Peep.  These tiny treats are so scrumptious (particularly Little Bo Peep, which smells like cake and candied berries) I had to hold myself back from just snatching up mad handfuls of the delicious little buggers.  Oh, that finances and storage space were of no concern!

Tea Time Wax Scrub Perfume

Speaking of mad, here’s a few items that might show up on the edge of the Hatter’s tub, a playing card-shaped wax tart and tri-layered scrub from The Bathing Garden in Tea Party with Alice, a perplexing blend of strawberries, honeyed tea and clotted cream, and a dainty rollerball perfume from Solstice Scents in Blossom Jam Tea Cakes, a beguiling blend of spring florals, almond tea cakes and sweet icing.  Appropriately enough, I’ve been driven sort of mad by both of these scents, as I really don’t care for either.  Or do I? Nah, I definitely don’t like them.  Or maybe I do?  I’m deeply undecided on both, and it’s really messing with my head.  The Hatter would absolutely approve.

Tea Time Yankee Tarts

None of these wax tarts from Yankee Candle smell like tea, but they remind me of tiny fluted tea cakes nonetheless.  They also look pretty fabulous stacked up so sweetly in that header photo. 🙂

Of these five tarts, Strawberry Lemon Ice is a favourite.  It smells exactly like the strawberry sauce my church would serve atop its annual Strawberry Social shortcake, juicy, sweet and tart.  Cafe Al Fresco is an unexpected favourite – smooth and creamy in a way I think none of us ever expect from Yankee Candle. Honey Lavender Gelato was pretty inoffensive, and you already know my feelings on Pink Sands.  Peeps had no scent whatsoever, unfortunately.  It happens, particularly with Yankee’s lighter scents, and you don’t get lighter than a marshmallow Peep.

Tea Time Tray of Sweets

Finally, we have a couple of cake trays laden with tantalizingly yummy wax treats from The Bathing Garden, including (top tray left to right) Summer Melon & Mint, Guava Berry Gelato, Summer Twilight, Sweet Madi and Happy Un-Birthday and (bottom tray left to right) Bee Smitten, Sweet Madi, Cheshire Cat, Sugared Pie Crust and Mid-Summer Song. Delicious little (non-edible) treats fit for an elegantly refined – and well-earned – tea break.

Sweet Carnival Treats

Circus Header with Banner

I sadly can’t remember the last time I was at a carnival or a fair or an exhibition. Probably the last time the actual Exhibition was in town, a travelling carnival (complete with jerky carnies of questionable sobriety) that made the Canadian rounds every summer until I was well into my 20s.  I loved going to the Ex so much; would actually go multiple times over its two-week run with my parents or my friends – ’twas no better place to people-watch, boy-hunt and play out your very dramatic teenage life than the dusty, sweaty and dirty Exhibition.

When I close my eyes, I can still see the flashing neon lights of the Zipper and the Pirate Ship and the godforsaken Tilt-a-Whirl bathing Lansdowne Park with their jaunty artificial glow.  I can smell back bacon on a bun, perogies, miniature powdered donuts and candy apples.  I can picture the trashcan beside the Himalaya where I nearly threw up in front of a boy I liked very much after we challenged each other to what was in retrospect an ill-advised pre-Himalaya milk-chugging competition (nobody won that day.)  These memories are so potent, I can almost hear local punk act Furnaceface (opening for Bryan Adams, yo) drifting (probably more like blaring) over the long-since-gentrified Lansdowne Park stands (it’s actually still a football stadium, now home to the Ottawa Redblacks, but these days it’s surrounded by far more genteel – and infinitely more boring – fare (Whole Foods, a splashy movie theatre and some chain restaurants that won’t be there in two years’ time.)  *Sigh*…might as well just give in to the Grumpy Old Lady within and admit that I miss the Exhibition of my youth. It was dirty, but it was our dirt (to paraphrase The Goonies, “It’s our grime!  It’s our grime down here!”)

Okay, time to step off the nostalgia bus and focus on the real task at hand here, eyeing-up this fun assortment of carnival-themed wax, snacks and bath and beauty items.  As always when putting together one of these themed posts, I’m amazed at the sheer number and variety of items I was able to pull together from just ’round the apartment. Why do I own so much circus and carnival-themed stuff when I haven’t been to either in over a decade?  Who the heck knows!  But it’s fun and pretty, and I had a blast putting together this little still life photo shoot.  MUCH easier working with cotton candy and sugar scrubs than trying to stuff babies dressed like begonias into flower pots, trust. 😉

Circus Lights Photo 1

First, a bit of carnival-themed wax, including clamshells in The Bathing Garden‘s unexpectedly delightful Clowning Around and Poppet’s Coaster Ride, and in the little cup, a few thematically-appropriate scents, Rosegirls‘ Cotton Candy Frosting and Waffle Cone and The Bathing Garden’s Tunnel of Love.

Both Clowning Around and Poppet’s Coaster Ride were favourites from an order I placed with The Bathing Garden earlier this year, and unexpected ones at that, on account of the popcorn note in Clowning Around and the lemon note in Poppet’s Coaster Ride – the latter tends to give me headaches and the former is nearly always totally yucky.  But the popcorn note in Clowning Around is completely inoffensive, adding a pleasant, almost grassy tinge to its tri-layered blend of sweet cotton candy, even sweeter candy apples and fragrant kettle corn.  And wonder of wonders, the lemon note in Poppet’s Coaster Ride, a dee-licious combination of raspberry cake bites, peach jam and luscious lemon curd, did not give me a headache!  Praise the fragrance gods!  And so I snapped up one of each scent in both the wax and scrub formats.  The sugar scrubs are loooonnnnng gone, having fulfilled their intended purpose in life, but they were too pretty to not share alongside these shots of their stupendously gorgeous clamshell companions.

Circus TBG Wax and Scrub Collage

By now you will have noticed that as ringmistress of this particular blogging circus, I’m focusing on the more pleasantly-scented side of the carnival circuit.  As in the cotton candy and the frozen custard and the caramel apples, and not so much the sweat and the outhouse and the chip grease (and the dust and the pig-on-a-bun and the cheap body spray.)  If that’s your thing, though, Demeter probably has a scent for you!

Circus Lights Photo 2

And if you’ll now direct your attention to the centre ring, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll find a fun assortment of carnival-themed bath and body care, including a festive fragrance from Solstice Scents (Foxcroft Fairgrounds, a beguiling blend of cotton candy, taffy, funnel cakes, crisp Fall air and wood smoke), a candy floss-scented bath bomb from The Goat Milk Soap Store, an Experimenter bath bomb from Lush, and a bottle of one of my favourite indie nail polishes, Candy Lacquer‘s Carnival Games.

Okay, okay, so with its funky old man smell, I’ll concede that The Experimenter is not exactly carnival-inspired.  At least no carnival I ever wish to attend!  But the mad burst of rainbow-hued bubbles it gives off reminds me of the garish, ultra vibrant neon lights of the attractions blinking feverishly in the sultry summer nights.

Circus Experimenter Bath Bomb Photo

And Carnival Games is the gold standard in mega chunky glitter bombs, a bonkers assortment of every shape possible in every colour imaginable.  Bright and whimsical, just like its namesake (though definitely not rigged, and certainly not a waste of money.) 😉

CG Bottle

Finally, we have a mixed bag of carnival-inspired goodies from The Bathing Garden – a bundt-shaped wax tart in Nights at the Circus, a scrumptious pumpkin-apple blend, lotion in Candy Carousel, another “scents of the midway” fragrance, whipped soap in Fried Candy Donut, a favourite of Mr. Finger Candy, dipped candy apple-shaped wax tarts in Victorian Midway (left) and Vintage Circus (right), two blends based off one of my mother’s favourite fragrances, Bath and Body Works’ Winter Candy Apple, another long-since-used sugar scrub in Fried Candy Donut, and a tiny, perfectly-shaped donut wax tart in – once more, with feeling! – Fried Candy Donut.

Circus Lights Photo 3

And with that, dear audience, it’s time to draw this carnival to a close – dismantle the Zipper, pack away the flammable prizes, turn off the cotton candy…blowers?  Sure, we’ll go with blowers.  See you out there in the circus of life, friends. 🙂