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!

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Northern Lights: A Mini Lush Review

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Whooo, what a colourful stunner this Northern Lights bath bomb turned out to be!  Good job, Lush, this one’s a keeper (indeed, I think Northern Lights makes the rounds just about every Christmas, although this is my first time giving it a whirl.)

And “whirl” is just the right word, as Northern Lights’ chubby little cylindrical shape keeps this bath bomb swirling, twirling and barrel rolling from the very first moment it hits the water.  The colour effect on this guy is pretty spectacular, too, morphing from a bubbly mess of Barney-type hues to a gorgeous spray of neon yellows, pastel oranges, periwinkles, dusky purples and bubblegum pinks.  The neon pastel colour palette of this bath bomb is unlike any other in Lush’s collection, and I had a ton of fun messing about with the slowly dissolving bomb.

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Drawbacks?  I didn’t care for the scent, which Lush describes as a blend of ylang ylang and jasmine, two fragrances that have never rung my chimes.  However, gigantic grain of salt when it comes to my assessment of Lush scents, as historically, I don’t tend to care for any of them (eh, Twilight’s lavender is nice and The Comforter’s not-too-sweet currant is great in shower cream form, but you get my drift.)  Also, Northern Lights’ colour combination – yellow and turquoise in a plummy purple shell – results in gorgeous bath art, but also some seriously gungy-looking bathwater.  Just a bit of a warning if you’re not fond of sitting around in suds I describe as being the shade of shimmery bong water. 😉

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It’s the Bomb! A Lush Bath Bomb Round-Up

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Lush bath bombs, that is!  And 12 of ’em, one for every month of the year, featuring (top row, left to right) Twilight, Frozen, Pumpkin, Lord of Misrule, (middle row, left to right) Autumn Leaf, Monsters’ Ball, Intergalactic, Yoga Bomb, (bottom row, left to right) Luxury Lush Pud, Northern Lights, Shoot for the Stars and The Experimenter.

So I’ve heard tell that rubber duckies make bath time so much fun, but I think the song should be updated to include bath bombs, because that’s where the real bath time fun is to be had.  Actually, for me, fiddling around with multi-coloured bath bombs is pretty well the only reason to take a bath – otherwise, I’m Team Shower all the way.  But who can resist intensely pigmented, glitter-sprinkled balls of bicarbonate daffily dancing about their tub?  Not this blogger!  Also not the eight bajillion people that took advantage of Lush’s buy one, get one Boxing Day sale (I hear it was a circus.)

And so, without further adieu, an assortment of the bubbly bath art that beautified my 2016, co-ordinated to the header photo collage.  Bombs away!

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Potential and actual repurchases include (top row) Intergalactic, Northern Lights, Twilight, (bottom row) Luxury Lush Pud, Monsters’ Ball and Lord of Misrule because they performed beautifully (vibrant colours, long-lasting bubble effect, cool bath art) and represented great value for an item with a fairly limited application.

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If you’d like to read my thoughts on each of these bath bombs, or check out the matching manicures I often did to accompany bath time, simply click on the name of your chosen bomb in the top paragraph and you’ll be directed to my rantings and occasional ravings on why, oh why, Lush’s scent descriptions rarely, if ever, match the actual product in question.  Lush: The Only Place Where Mint Actually Means Orange! Until then, Sandra out!

S is for Sandra

Stranger Manis

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For someone who is presently showing off the SIX Stranger Things manicures she did this year, I actually have very little to say on the subject that hasn’t already been said.  It was an absolute delight, and I’m looking forward to the second season with equal parts joy and trepidation – joy because the first season was utter perfection, replacing Buffy – guys, REPLACING BUFFY – as my favourite show, and trepidation because I worry about the “too much of a good thing” effect the Internet will have on subsequent seasons.  But me of little faith shall have to just wait and see what the second installment brings, and content myself with these Stranger manis in the meanwhile.  Work I’m very proud of this year, every last one of them. 🙂

The Flea and the Acrobat

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Right Here

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Eleven

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Barb

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The Upside Down

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Rolling a 7

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Starbucks Festivus Cup!

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Combining two great flavours of Whimsies in one with this manicure featuring Whimsical Ideas by Pam’s Festivus glitter topper over Starbucks Holiday Cup, a pitch perfect recreation of the colour of last year’s “controversial” Plain Red Cup.  I think these two polishes go together beautifully, to say nothing of their mutual minimalism – plain metal pole, plain red cup…it just fits!

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Making Christmas

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With one week to go until the big day and a gargantuan snowstorm due to blow through the area tomorrow, it’s really beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Living in a condo apartment, we don’t have a ton of available space in which to decorate (to say nothing of the storage situation, which is tight) but I always see to setting out my favourites, including my (nearly) all-food ornament tree, a 14-year-old artificial beast that has claimed my sanity on more than one occasion, and very nearly my life the year I loaded it with 2,100 mini twinkle lights, one of which broke and electrocuted me.  For a couple of hours afterwards I swore I could taste the colour purple.  Ah, holiday memories!

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This is also the second year I’m setting out the holiday menagerie, including Fritz the Mouse Doorstop, a Christmastime critter that has been making the rounds in my family for the past 25 years.  In this photo you can also see my first planned renovation project of 2017 – painting those stairs (also ripping out the bathroom, but one step – wah-waaaahhhhhh – at a time, yeah?)

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The diningroom chandelier, a gigantic wrought iron thing that would not look entirely out of place on Game of Thrones (maybe without the twee shades), gets hung with sparkly baubles.

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Speaking of sparkle in the diningroom, in the centre of the table I always place my snowflake tealight holders, this year up on one of my ubiquitous cake trays alongside a super glittery three-wick candle holder from Bath and Body Works.  Candle options vary, but at the moment I’m burning White Barn’s Peppermint Marshmallow, and it smells amazing!

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And finally, for the first time in too many years, I set up my Christmas Town, a much smaller affair than my Halloween Town that my husband and I have dubbed Electric Gay Discoville on account of all the swirling rainbow fiber optics, and the fact that the only female figurine in town had no head straight out of the box. No, seriously, look at this over on the right of the tree – this is how she came, factory direct, and she’s the only lady in town!  You know, we never did find her head…

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Yup, RGDVille is a total sausage fest, and that’s just how the residents (and I) like it!

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So there we have it, friends, some of the festive decorating that’s lighting up my life.  I hope however you’ve decorated your homes (or not; Festivus is totally a thing) it’s added tons of sparkle and joy to your holidays. 🙂

Finger Candy’s Guide to the Good Gifts

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Happy holidays, friends!  By now, most folks have set out the menorah or decorated the tree or hung the stockings with care.  Now all that’s left is the gut-wrenching panic of erroneously thinking that you’re behind on absolutely everything and there’s still so much to buy and you can’t find that one special gift and HOLY SHIT, WHERE’S THE TYLENOL?!

So allow me to ease your seasonal shopping malaise just a bit with these sweet holiday gift suggestions, perfect for all of the good boys and girls on your list (or at least the ones who like scented wax, fun beauty items and this blogger’s second favourite show of 2016.)

For the nail artist or lacquer aficionado, these gorgeous multi-chromes from Polish Me Silly were the best polish purchase I’ve made in years.  Featuring a buttery smooth finish, tough-as-nails (ha) durability and vibrant, colour-shifting hues, these polishes are perfect for everyday wear and nail art alike.  I’ve certainly made great use of them time and time again, and I’ll definitely be adding more to my collection in 2017.

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Holiday shipping nonsense being what it is, customers outside of the United States may be out of luck in terms of receiving these by Christmas.  I wouldn’t chance it here in Canada. But there are a ton of indie and commercial brands out there that offer polishes with a similar colour-shifting effect (ILNP, KB Shimmer, Girly Bits Cosmetics, Color Club, China Glaze, Sally Hansen and Zoya, to name a few) and they’d be more than adequate stand-ins.

For the wax newbie, this ScentSationals warmer and wax starter kit, available at your local Walmart.  This pretty bulb warmer, an early Christmas present to myself, comes with four wax clamshells in yummy, seasonally-appropriate scents, and retails for just a hair under $30 Canadian.  A great deal for the person just beginning to dip their toe into the waxy waters.

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For the eternal 12-year-old, or people with actual 12-year-olds, Gravity Falls, an animated Disney series chronicling the summer twins Mabel and Dipper Pines spend with their great-uncle Stan in Gravity Falls, Oregon.  Don’t let the Disney label fool you – Gravity Falls is sweet without being saccharine, sly without being smarmy and full of so much weird heart, you’ll want to claim the Pines family as your own. Featuring the vocal talents of Jason Ritter, Kristen Schaal, Linda Cardellini, Will Forte, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Coolidge, J.K. Simmons, Nick Offerman, Nathan Fillion, Patton Oswalt and so, so many others, the show’s a wall-to-wall delight of Buffy-style supernatural hijinks, conspiracy theory-type mysteries and bonkers family togetherness.  My second favourite television show behind Stranger Things, and you all know how I feel about Stranger Things (“Yes, we KNOW,” said everyone who followed along on Sandra’s Endless Summer of Stranger Things.)

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For the bathing beauty, an assortment of colourful bath bombs from Lush Cosmetics. Here I’ve shown five selections from Lush’s holiday collection, from left to right, Luxury Lush Pud, Shoot for the Stars, Northern Lights, Mistletoe and Never Mind the Ballistics. Silly names, gorgeous colours and sweet scents – your bath-lover will be in bubbly Lush heaven.

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For the foodie, these jars of sea salt.  At $6 Canadian a bottle (once again at Walmart) they feature great design and super quality at a fraction of traditional “fancy salt” prices.  You can pour the larger pieces of salt into a grinder and use them that way, although I prefer to dump them out into my marble mortar and then grind them up with the pestle, easy peasy.

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Finally, for the gracious holiday host or hostess, a Christmas Pickle.  A quirky custom of unknown origin (Germanic?  American?  Macedonian malcontent in his bedroom?), the gift of a Christmas Pickle ornament guarantees the recipient a year free from garlic-related heartburn.

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Okay, so I made that part up. 😉  The actual tradition involves parents secreting a pickle away in the depths of the tree after the kids have gone to bed.  Then on Christmas morning, the child who finds the pickle first gets an extra little treat.  Annnddddd now that I’m writing all of this out, I’m struck by how pervy and unfair this whole Christmas Pickle deal really is.  I mean, I like a good game of Find the Pickle as much as the next person, but why the inequality, pickle gods?

It’s also worth noting that despite being quite clearly tied to Christmas, I think of the Christmas Pickle as a kind of non-denominational holiday good luck charm suited to any and every person, regardless of religious affiliation, or lack of same.  Besides, who doesn’t want to hide an ornamental pickle somewhere in their house?  No one I want to know, that’s for sure!

I hope you all find something on this list that tickles your fancy, or the fancy of someone on your list (uh oh, there we go with that pervy thing again!)  Happy (stress-free) shopping to you all.