31 July 2014

making faces :: rebelliously neutral

because it's a season associated with bright colours- the sun, the ocean [which we can finally approach without wanting to die], the trees, the grass and of course the canopy of flowers that decorate houses, parks and everything else, summer tends to be associated with bright colours. personally, that's a glorious thing for me, because i like fully saturated colour, especially when it comes to makeup [and even more especially when it comes to lipsticks].

but in the last week[ish] i thought, just to be perverse, i'd pull out some neutrals, really aggressively neutral neutrals, just to make sure i didn't fall into the seasonal trap. also, i kind of worry that some of my softer-toned lipsticks start to feel like i don't love them very much at this time of year and i don't ever want to be the sort of makeup mom who leaves her babies starved for attention. i'm not that woman.

so i thought throw together a quick post on some of my favourite "quiet summer" looks.

i should mention that i do wear soft-spoken colours fairly often, especially on the eyes, it's just that it's comparatively rare that i wear a complete look of them. since i now work from home, there's not a lot of reason for me to have to worry if the boss or my coworkers will be shocked by my choice of fuchsia lipstick or lime green shadow. [for that matter, i don't have to worry about shocking anyone by walking around the house in a tank top and underpants all day singing depeche mode at the top of my lungs, but i'm the sort of person who like to feel presentable even when i'm not presenting. most of the time. you probably shouldn't drop by unannounced.]

you can look after the break though... i'm decent, i swear

30 July 2014

more like space greatest hits :: i would like to not talk about my bum

since the overly pert pervert hawking these shame towlettes has reappeared on my television set, i figure i'm allowed to make this post reappear on my blog.


i mostly just tune out advertising when i watch television. although i'm sure it makes some impression, i perceive the bulk of it as background noise. i'm sure i couldn't tell you what products most of the ads were for, because it's all a jumble of cars, insurance, travel sites and stuff that you need because you have children. for me to remember an ad takes something pretty special.

a couple of years ago, for instance, fed ex had an absolutely charming ad with animated singing frogs and scenes from a happy forest that talked about the company's efforts to reduce emissions and their carbon footprint. aw. that was cute.

more recently, however, i've been haunted by the spectre of a perky blonde woman with a british accent demanding to talk about my bum. i don't know her and i don't know why my posterior should be of such interest to her, or what she's getting paid to be forever tagged as the woman who's obsessed with ass-chat, but one thing has become clear: she is evil and must be stopped.

ok, maybe she isn't evil, i've never even met her. i'm a little uncomfortable with her predilections, but i try not to judge. [note: i can't help it. if you go around demanding to talk to people about their wazoo, i am judging you. i'm sorry.] but whatever she is, she is flogging a product whose sole purpose is to destroy the planet and everything on it.

you might think that i'm exaggerating when i say that cottonelle wet wipes spell the end of civilisation as we know it, but stay with me.

first of all, these new "flushable" wet wipes are the antithesis of everything that environmentalists have been telling us for the last half century. in order to use them, you are supposed to wipe the area with regular toilet paper, follow with a wet wipe and then wipe with toilet paper again. a one-step, one-product process becomes triple the work and triple the garbage goes down the toilet. congratulations, you are now truly wiping your ass with your own future. forests are being destroyed, chemicals are being leached into the soil, all so that we can walk around secure in the knowledge that our buttholes are minty fresh.

second of all, the entire point of this campaign seems to be to layer shame on top of already extant shame about the filthiness of our own bodies. because if some chipper lady needs to talk to you about the state of the arsehole, it's clear that there's a problem. wipe all you want, shower twice a day. the fact is that your back passage is less than pristine and this complete stranger can tell without so much as sticking her nose in your pants.

history teaches us many lessons and among them is that people do horrible, disgusting things to each other when they feel they have things to be ashamed of. how long do you think it's going to be before some powerful organisation foists the anal inquisition on all of us? bleach enemas! self-fumigating underpants! this is the future, people and it may be clean, but it's still ugly.

i for one, will be abstaining from this terrifying new trend and attending to my back passage the old-fashioned way. well, the toilet paper way at least. anything more old-fashioned than that gives me the heebie-jeebies.

here, watch the fed ex ad. it's adorable.

28 July 2014

enter the urinarium

a little while ago, i decided to make myself go through the process of reading every piece of writing that i had on my computer, because i was convinced that there must be a few bits and pieces i'd forgotten among the piles of stuff that i've accumulated and, in some cases, published. turns out that was quite true. in fact, i found an outline for my unfinished-but-will-be-finished-at-some-point serial "a definable moment in time" that predates me thinking of the most of the events and characters of that story. this is a little concerning, because the plot outline is pretty detailed and while i knew that i had had a few of the ideas rattling around in my brain for a long time, when i started to write a.d.m.i.t., i had no recollection whatsoever of having written out a parallel story involving the same plot twists but with completely different characters. 

i also found a file entitled "urinarium", which sounds like a word that i made up, except that spellcheck accepts it, so it has to be ok, right? [note: spellcheck only recently started accepting "spellcheck" as a word, which seems like it should be the subject of some philosophical inquiry. it's also telling me that one of the instances of the word "spellcheck" in that last sentence is incorrect, but it's fine with the others.] i actually thought it might have been a draft of this blog post, since i have on occasion written up ideas in draft form to give myself a chance to think of whether or not i really want to publish them. you should see the reject pile. [no, you shouldn't. that's the point of it. -ed.]

in fact, it was a very short story along the same lines, which just goes to show that one of the things i've forgotten is how preoccupied with urine i can be. i'm not actually sure which came first, the blog post or the story, although i'm guessing they both were done around the same time. so if my writing ever becomes famous and studied in universities, some professor is going to have to talk to students with a straight face about the author's urine period. i can live with that. 

anyway, here's the story that i discovered. it is tiny but i'm not sure it needs very much more. 

[p.s.: i wanted to restart "mental health mondays" today, after its world cup holiday, however i am suffering more than usual from the effects of sleep deprivation and can't be critical or clever. however, since sleep deprivation can technically be classified as a mental disorder, just reading my senseless rambling may qualify as a study in poor mental hygiene. get your sleep, people, or you too will end up finding stories about urine on your computers.]


27 July 2014

this week in evil

i'm running out of words to describe my continued outrage at the government that has been [temporarily] tasked with the maintenance of my country. it's fun to make fun of the southern neighbours, of course, but up here, there just seems to be an undeniable predilection for malice and outright evil that dominates our federal politics.

for instance, witness this article that a friend of mine posted on facebook earlier today. the short version of this story is that stephen harper decided to get rid of an award for volunteer work named after a pioneering canadian feminist and champion of voting rights. the award has been replaced with a "prime minister's award" in the field. since the award was removed, its image was also taken off our currency, along with images of the "famous five" women who petitioned the supreme court to determine if women were to be considered persons under the constitution. because who the hell wants to remember a bunch of women who probably didn't shave their armpits?

the thought process behind the decision to make these changes is unclear, unless you embrace the notion that harper and his cronies are cartoonishly evil and want to spend the rest of their time in power doing things to prove this, things that make people angry while conveying no benefit whatsoever. the prime minister commissioned a report about changing the name of this award and was told by his own people that it was an extremely unpopular decision. but he went ahead with it anyway, so we can just add the $50k that was spent on that commission to the pile of things that should be making us angry.

also this week, the canadian government told oxfam, a well-respected charity, that they had to change their mission statement to remove the prevention of poverty from its aims. the government says that it's fine to want to help people once they're already poor and desperate, but not to try to stop them from tumbling into dire need in the first place. to be clear, oxfam works in the poorest areas of the world, helping people whose most basic needs- food, clothing, shelter, water- are not being met. as part of their work, they would like to help keep more people from slipping to that level. but the government seems more concerned that they'll be handing out fistfuls of cash to people who are complaining that they can't afford to upgrade the solar panels on their summer home. yeah. those somalian pirates have boats and you're trying to pretend the people there need our help, oxfam?

this charitable david vs governmental goliath tale is the latest in a series of stories about how harper seems to be using the canada revenue agency as a cudgel against those registered charities whose aims are different from his own and who might offer criticisms of things the things he does. several such organisations have mysteriously found themselves the subjects of audits, which forces them to spend money and resources that would otherwise go towards charitable activity. in theory, the government is trying to make sure that these charities aren't engaging in proscribed political activities. however, even if they are found to be conducting themselves properly, the costs of the process may ruin them anyway. and the revenue agency is casting a particularly suspicious eye towards those whose rumoured "political activities" involves having opinions different than harper's. also, organisations that are affiliated with science are especially vulnerable. i can't imagine how horrifying his elementary school teachers must have been to turn a kid so rabidly against a subject, but this man hates science with a passion that's normally reserved for an ex who gave you herpes. you see, he's not just defunding the scientific organisations that we have [he is doing that, of course, including scrapping the organisation that first discovered acid rain]; he is destroying the science that we already paid for. it's so offensive to him that he can't abide its existence, even if that meant giving it to another country to hang onto.

and this isn't censored or conspiracy theory type stuff. this is happening right out in the open and is being reported by canada's largest newspapers and broadcasters. we're all watching it happen in real time and sort of marvelling at the brazenness of it all, while quietly accepting that there's nothing that we can do until we're allowed to vote these people out of office [late next year, mark your calendars].

there are lots of theories as to why harper is so bent on destroying discourse, knowledge and dissent, but i've pretty much come to the conclusion that he is just wallowing in his own crapulence, simply because he can.

24 July 2014

making faces :: guerlain's new dream girl

guerlain, you need to stop doing this to me. you know i adore your lipsticks [well, pretty much everything about you, really], but there will come a time when i'm going to have to say "no more". not yet, of course. but sometime. eventually.

i think that part of the problem right now is that bold, saturated colours i love seem to be having a moment, which means that even the more conservative brands are introducing these sorts of shades to their lineups or featuring limited edition products that almost literally call my name. [<-- i="" note="" said="" that="">almost
literally", because if you hear the lipsticks singing to you, it's time to check yourself in somewhere safe.]
in guerlain's case, there's been a series of breathtaking limited shades lately, but now they've been joined by some great new permanent additions. all were released earlier this summer and i've already raved about "rose grénat", which came home first since it was limited. today, i'm raving about "gladys", which was the second of the new shades to follow me home. its official description is "vibrant fuchsia", which is pretty accurate. i'd say that it's deeper than what i'd normally refer to as "vibrant" [although that's a personal thing]. it's a berry-tinged fuchsia, meaning that it has a healthy amount of red in it, so it's warmer than a lot of other shades described as fuchsia.

"gladys" is a heavy-hitter when it comes to colour, even by guerlain standards. the rouge g formula almost always has fantastic colour payoff, but this one is exceptional. it is intensely, intensely pigmented even with one pass and lasts for hours. you'll probably have to reapply after eating, but even after a fairly oily meal, i had a healthy stain left. about the only things i can think of that compares to "gladys" in terms of colour payoff and lasting power are "madame batfole" and "gigolo". deeper shades tend to last better, but these just put almost all competitors to shame.

the other thing that stands out about "gladys"- and which is typical of rouge g's- is the faint micro-shimmer that helps lips look smoother and plumper, as well as give the colour a nice dimensional look. swatches on the hand don't do this lady justice, so let's just look at the effect she has on the lips, shall we?

now, whether or not you want to dish out the cash for "gladys" will likely be determined by how much you wear shades like this [me = a lot]. there are similar colours out there and guerlain themselves have come out with a few. "madame batifole" is similar, but pinker and lighter. they're actually more different than they appear in my swatch, but still definitely in the same ballpark. bite "crimson" is darker, redder and more matte, but again, not tremendously far off. both of those shades are limited, however, so if you've missed out on those, "gladys" is an excellent option.

l to r :: guerlain madame batifole [l.e.], gladys, bite crimson [l.e.]
with a colour this vibrant, there's little reason to do much else with your makeup, which is one of the reasons that i love them so. nothing is going to outdo your lips [and nothing should compete!], so it's pretty easy to throw on a few neutral products and go. [i've talked about the ease of bright lips before.] here's an example of how i've been wearing it. this looks fairly complicated, but was quite quick, since all the shadows are in the same palette. that said, you could get away with a simple wash of a single colour.

products used

the base
ysl touche teint éclat "beige 10"
nars radiant creamy concealer "vanilla"
mac paint pot "painterly"
mac prep and prime finishing powder "translucent"

the eyes [all shadows from the "naked 3" palette]
urban decay e/s "buzz" [all over moveable lid]
urban decay e/s "nooner [in the crease]
urban decay e/s "strange" [highlight]
urban decay e/s "dust" [patted on centre of lids to brighten]
urban decay e/s "blackheart" [outer v]
urban decay e/l "rockstar" [lightly along the upper lash lines]
ysl effect faux cils mascara "noir radical"

the cheeks
armani blush "509/ eccentrico"

the lips
guerlain rouge g lipstick "gladys"

if this looks like the kind of colour you'd like, i can't recommend it enough. there isn't a single flaw i can find with it. i've already been giving it an inordinate amount of love. [i try to spread out the lipstick love, but sometimes i just develop favourites. i can't help it.] it's a great vibrant colour for summer and it'll be amazing with the deeper tones that are more comfortable in the fall. and then it will look amazing when you're invited to parties over the holidays. a worthy investment indeed.

22 July 2014

well lit :: the paranoid charms of charles palliser

years ago, a friend got me to read the quincunx by charles palliser, a wilkie collins- or charles dickens-esque tale of tangled family history, class and inheritance set in nineteenth century london. i've always been grateful for the recommendation, as it's remained one of my favourite books and one to which i've returned many times over the years. as a novel, it's quite an accomplishment, not just because of its compelling plot [i stayed up until five in the morning on more than one occasion], but because it was so fantastically detailed in its construction. some of the literary devices palliser employs seem almost amateurishly obvious, but repeated readings show much more complex truths hidden behind the main story. it's those subtleties which have made it one of my longtime favourites.

since i fell under the spell of the quincunx, i've read three of palliser's subsequent novels- betrayals, the unburied and now rustication. while none match the singular excitement of the quincunx, there is no doubt that they are entertaining reads. betrayals stands alone as a series of interlinked short stories with different settings and different narrative voices. the unburied and rustication return to the  world of nineteenth century england and, in fact, both are set in and around the fictional southeastern town of thurminster, england. both are single story mysteries, like the quincunx and both are deliciously gothic in atmosphere.

it took me about twenty-four hours to read rustication, which should give you an idea of how compelling it is, but also reveals that it's a fairly straightforward piece. palliser's genius is normally that every single phrase, every detail is important and that, as much as he might lay everything out for the reader, there are still "easter eggs" for them to find. it gives a great sense of accomplishment when you're able to do this, which makes reading his works all the more enjoyable. you have to approach the text with the understanding that nothing is accidental.

that said, i felt like rustication was a bit of a letdown compared to his other books. too much of it seemed too easy, not demanding enough and the explanation of events [when the narrator has finally figured them out] is too comprehensive. i felt like there wasn't enough required of me. that's not to say that it isn't a good story, it is, but therein lies another problem: it's far too similar to the unburied, it just isn't as engaging. i felt like there was a lot of time wasted in the narrator's repetitive sexual fantasies about virtually every woman here encounters that might have been better spent in other ways.

the narrator is a young man, no longer a child but still well short of being an adult, who is sent home from university ["rusticated"] after a scandal involving the death of a friend. his oddly cold reception by his family and the creepy insularity of the small town where they have come to live after the death of his father are the springboards for a violent mystery in which the narrator is implicated. the story of how he came to be rusticated unfolds parallel to the plot and provides a sort of explanation for the narrator's occasionally frustrating naivete; he believes that the apparently simple people around him are incapable of the sort of darkness that he carries with him.

of course, that's not true. the people he encounters are machiavellian and vicious almost without exception- it's a challenge of reading palliser that the majority of his characters are generally unlikeable, while those who are at least not objectionable are often irritatingly obtuse. this is where his genius for plotting comes into play: it will keep you reading even if you can't generate any sympathy for the characters involved.

the problem here is that, unlike any of his other books, some of the plot elements seem rushed. [this is one of those areas where i felt the author could have done more work, rather than spending time on the narrator's sexual longings.] it's not quite clear why the narrator is so determined to unlock all the secrets of the town or in solving the central mystery, especially when it's so abundantly clear that stirring the waters is making him a target. it seems like he has enough to worry about on his own.

as i mentioned before, the other weakness of the book is that it just doesn't have enough meat on its bones to be worthy of the master plotter. i'll give it a caveat that i feel like i need to read it again, because there are some elements which i can't quite balance with the explanation of the mystery. palliser is not one to raise red herrings, so if something doesn't jive with the apparent resolution, i'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that there's something i've missed.

criticisms aside, i wouldn't have thrown myself into a book with such force if there weren't something to get out of it. the setting of the isolated town in the marshy gloom is expertly rendered and the horror that hangs over the place is as thrilling as anything in the story. likewise, the reliability of the narrator [and therefore his interpretation of events] is always a question, one which is hangs over the story's resolution, however neat and comprehensive his understanding [belatedly] seems. the pacing, although jerky at times, is enough to keep you reading and wanting to know more.

some readers will likely be put off by the violence and sexual content, neither of which are entirely new for palliser, but which he's never rendered so graphically. these elements definitely interrupt the notion of a victorian-era tale, being conspicuously modern inclusions. both elements do serve to emphasise the hypocritical chasm between what is spoken and what is thought, but at the same time, it seems that some of the characters are unrealistically blunt in their descriptions of these elements. this uncharacteristic openness has a tendency to pull one out of the setting- something i've never experienced with any other palliser novel; one of his greatest strengths is that he so meticulously recreates the historical world that even when elements not typical of period writing appear, it doesn't shake the reader's confidence in the setting.

so, as you've probably guessed, i was a little disappointed. i enjoyed reading the book, but i didn't feel that thrill when it ended that i've gotten from all of his other novels. whereas those are full meals [in the case of the quincunx a particularly large one], rustication is more like a meringue: sweet and easy but ultimately not satisfying. it's the sort of book i'd recommend taking on vacation [assuming that you don't mind reading something a little horrifying on vacation], when you aren't looking for too much intellectual stimulation, just a little thrill. it's certainly enough to function in that capacity.

21 July 2014

eat the cup, 2014 :: auf wiedersehen and danke schön

give credit to dom, who said all along that this was germany's year. after england was eliminated, my loyalty basically transferred to germany, who are always such an entertaining team to watch, but i was honestly worried that they would let themselves get rattled, as they have in the last few world cups. i'm kind of glad to be wrong. so once again, a week after the grand occasion, i took to the kitchen to prepare a feast in honour of this year's champions. [i'd actually intended to get to it earlier this time around, but i've had a sort of bizarre health issue, the kind of thing that only happens to me.]

german cuisine is simple and hearty, which makes it fairly easy to prepare, although not necessarily great for summer. i did, however, manage to find a couple of things that were suitable, although this still isn't the lightest meal in the world. [when we're talking european cuisine, it really would be easier if they had these competitions in the winter, although i guess i understand why they don't.]

probably even less fun than it looks
first up, i made german-style potato salad. much of german cooking embraces the humble potato, but this variation is warm-weather friendly. instead of the more standard north american version, german potato salad is made with potatoes, chopped herbs [i used parsley, chives and a tiny bit of tarragon] along with vinegar and sugar. i have to say that this felt strange to me, being used to the creamier version, but the herbs make it much fresher. plus, of course, it's much healthier. it replaces the fatty dairy element, but it also features parsley, which is unfairly relegated to the role of garnish these days. in fact, it is both tasty and incredibly healthy. [it's worth noting that a lot of fresh herbs are quite concentrated in important nutrients. plus they make your food taste better.]

to accompany this, i made a traditional german onion pie. well, almost traditional. dom's reaction was "it's a lot like quiche". yes, in fact it is basically quiche, but quiche is french, so we call this version onion pie. although it requires you to turn on an oven, which is never a great experience in the summer, it is very simple to prepare, so you don't actually have to spend much time in close proximity to the oven. [why would you ever need to stay in close proximity to an oven? -ed.] [shut up, editor -kate]

i used:

1 giant onion, chopped [probably a 1.5-2 lb onion; spanish is good and vidalia would be amazing]
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream [light is acceptable if you want to make it healthier]
1/4 cup smoked herring, crumbled [other smoked fish like mackerel or trout would be acceptable as well
2 x 9" pie shells
butter or oil for frying

i should note that the smoked fish is something that i threw in there and it's not part of any recipe i came across. however, smoked fish of various sorts is common enough in german and eastern european cuisine, just be careful not to add too much, since it's much stronger in flavour than anything else in the dish. you could also add some cheese instead, for a vegetarian version.

preparation is simple: fry the onions over until they are very limp and translucent. have the pan plenty hot when you first add them, but after a minute or so, reduce the heat to the low side of medium. that way, you can basically leave them be while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. you just have to stir them occasionally to prevent them from burning. if you arrange the pieces in a circle around the edge of the pan, it'll help ensure they cook evenly.

while you have the onion frying, mix the eggs, sour cream and herring together. when the onions are done, add them and blend everything together. the smoked fish should add enough salt on its own, but you can throw in some pepper if you like. there should be some liquid from the onion pan. make sure that goes in there too. the final mix should be thick , but still pourable. if it's too thick, add a little milk or water.

put the filling into the pie shells and pop into a 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. i find that every oven is different, so the rule of thumb i use is that the quiche pie is done when you can lightly bounce a fork on the top. remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing.

i'm always sad to see the end of the cup, since it means that i won't have the games to entertain me and that i have to go back to thinking up meals with no theme to help me. i considered doing a version of 'eat the cup' for the euro, which will happen in two years, but there really doesn't seem to be enough meaningful variation between a lot of european cuisine to make it a real challenge. dom had suggested a 'drink the cup' version, which sounds awesome, but of course, i wouldn't be preparing anything myself. [nor would you be in any condition to do so, i suspect. -ed.] we shall see what the future brings.

i've seen many comments that this may have been the best world cup ever. i don't know nearly enough about world cup history in order to make that sort of statement, but i will say that it is definitely the most entertaining one i've ever watched. the strength of the teams compared to past teams is subject to debate, but i found that there was an overall balance, so that there were relatively few easy games for anyone. [in fact, the easiest games were more shocking than anything else, since they generally involved the pummelling of a previously strong side.]

in parting, let's not forget to celebrate the beautiful part of the beautiful game by enjoying an assortment of

man candy of the matches

chile's alexis sanchez, who has a great smile, among other assets...

brightens your whole day
brightens your whole week
we like short shorts
hell, we like everything
 and who doesn't appreciate the bad boy charms of mario balotelli?

the intensity... 
the shirtless intensity...
the wet, shirtless intensity... 
whatever kind of intensity this is...
or how about balotelli's teammate, flaxen-haired, azure-eyed ciro immobile?

blue is your colour
so handsome i don't even need to ogle your body
...but i will
molto bene
and finally, we bid a fond farewell to didier drogba, since this is almost definitely the last time he'll be making a world cup appearance. at the ripe old age of 36, he can still put the youngsters to shame.

so long, farewell...
auf wiedersehen, goodnight... 
we hate to go and leave this pretty sight... 
sighs and smiles all around, sir
by the way, if you miss the man candy too much, you can always check out soccer players in underwear, a site i came across during my diligent research. it's exactly what it says it is.

19 July 2014

making faces :: the goddess and the princess

meet my inner princess
ah, the height of summer. the apogee of relaxation. the longest light. the compressed nights. it is here. [actually, the nights are getting longer all the time at this point, but that's like telling people in january that spring is right around the corner.] at no time of year can you be bathed in more flattering natural light and at no time of year do you want to spend less time fussing around with your appearance.

for a cosmetic aficionado to deal with these times, i recommend two things:

1. find an eyeshadow duo you like, because it's the easiest, most cost-effective way to get some different options without having to think about different products.

2. find a nice lipstick in a semi-sheer or semi-opaque formula that can transition from day to night.

so you just know those two things are what i'm reviewing here...

ok, first of all, i'm just going to acknowledge that when i did my initial review of products from mac's "alluring aquatic" collection, i made a statement that i simply couldn't buy "goddess of the sea", because i had similar shades already. i even singled out one limited mac shade in particular that i'm not even close to finishing as an example of such a shade.

ahem. so apparently willpower is not my thing. i bought "goddess of the sea".

i personally blame my mac counter associates, who go by the book when it comes to the amazing mac recycling program [return six and get one free lipstick, gloss or eyeshadow for free]. "by the book" in this case means that they follow the rule book which states that you're allowed to trade for any product unless it's one that's manufactured under license from another company. that means that you should be able to trade for limited products, even if their in special packaging, as long as that packaging is done by mac and isn't, say, a tie-in with a film or other non-mac entity. so i was allowed to trade in some deader than dead soldiers and get a lovely new berry lipstick that i needed like a hole in the head.

there are lots of things i could have traded for, but what can i say? teh purpleberrieez. dey callz to meh.

in fact, i'm happy that i did choose to get "goddess of the sea", because it made me very aware of just how much the mac cremesheen formula has improved in the last few years. when it originally launched, back in 2008, i really didn't care for it. i found it somewhat drying and it also seemed to be prone to migration. but i've found that over the years, things have improved and there could be no better example than "goddess of the sea". it applies smoothly and evenly, doesn't dry my lips or bunch up in my lip lines, lasts well and doesn't find its way outside the vermilion border. it's creamier, less glossy, than the mac lustre lipsticks, but it's not totally matte.

in terms of the colour, it is a berry-toned purple of medium depth, not translucent, but still semi-opaque. it will have a little variance from one person to another because of this. it can be layered to achieve a deeper shade or applied lightly for something quite subtle. the more it's layered, the more purple/ less berry it looks.

goddess of the sea
goddess of the sea
goddess of the sea
for me, this kind of colour is catnip, which is why i can't resist even when i know that i have similar options. in particular, it reminded me of the limited edition shade "bust out" from mac's summer collection a few years back [2011]. seen side-by-side, they are fairly similar, but i will say that "goddess of the sea" is noticeably redder and therefore warmer. "bust out" has a cooler greyish cast. the importance that you attach to these nuances will depend on how much you love such shades. i can easily spot the differences between them, but that isn't going to apply to everyone. [likewise, if you show me a dozen different semi-sheer nude pinks, i'm going to be at a loss to describe the distinctive qualities of any of them, whereas others will have no problem.]

l to r :: mac bust out [l.e.], goddess of the sea
if you want to see more colours that are in the same ballpark, check out my original review of "bust out".

next up, we have something that is considerably more original from the first glance: nars eyeshadow duo in "tropical princess".

one of the reasons that nars has such a cult following is their genius for combining unexpected shades like an icy lavender and an electric lime green. these are the sort of unions you never would have considered, but which work undeniably well. i get more excited about the seasonal nars shadow offerings than almost anything else in the cosmetic world.

"tropical princess" is just so outrageous that it demands to be taken home, even without being seen in person. of course, if you do get to see it in person, it's only going to tempt you more, because trying the shades on my hand, they looked even more incredible than in the pan.

the icy lavender shade has a pronounced white frosted effect- hence the "icy". it's so shimmery that it almost looks like a gloss. from some angles, it may look like a very cool tone of white, but i find that i can always spot the slight lilac cast. it applies sheerly at first and can be built up to something more opaque. because it's so dazzling when built up, i think that it's a blessing that a single swipe is much more delicate. if it always looked the way that it does built up, it wouldn't be a very versatile shade. [note: swatching the colour with your finger will give the effect you get from building it up in application. don't worry, you can make it more muted in use.]

indirect light
direct sunlight
i didn't make any comparisons because i honestly don't have anything that's both this light and this cool. there are highlight shades that have a similar effect, but none of them lean violet. i'm surprised that it is so unique, since very light shades tend not to be. i'm not saying that there aren't similar colours out there, just that they aren't in my collection.

i do find that after a few hours wear, the lavender tones disappear, so what you get is more of a chilled white. definitely, by the end of the day, even over a primer, the effect is one of a lot of shine, but relatively little underlying colour.

the acid lime shade is a heavy hitter as well. its light green base and dense yellow shimmer create a colour that appears almost neon. it's buttery in texture and dazzling when swatched. like its partner, a light application gives you more a hint of the colour- closer to a chartreuse yellow. as you build it, the green tones and the inherent brightness move to the fore. however you apply it, the colour has a great clarity- it never appears in any way muddy, a difference that became obvious when i tried to compare it to a couple of others.

indirect light
direct sunlight
mac "true chartreuse" pigment is yellower, matte and slightly more muted. mac "lucky green" eyeshadow has a dirtier quality. looking at the three of them together, "true chartreuse" has just a hint of grey in its base, while "lucky green" has a little brown. "tropical princess", by comparison, is like glass or a gemstone- pure colour, unadulterated by undertones that would dampen its brightness.

l to r :: mac true chartreuse, tropical princess, mac lucky green
i really wish that the formula of this colour made it easier to achieve that incredible clarity as easily in use as it does in a small swatch. as breathtaking as the colour seems to be on the smoother skin of the hand or arm, it becomes surprisingly finicky on the eyelids. i tried several ways of making it work, with decidedly mixed results. again, it's easier if i show you pictures.


16 July 2014

making faces :: an armani armada

forza italia
hold on to your seats, folks, because armani has unleashed an italian armada upon us. the brand has been in the process of reinventing its entire line over the last few years, with their updated lipstick and lipgloss formulas, as well as their divine, sparkling potted eye shadows. now is the time when they take the big plunge and redo their single eye shadows [they've already launched some beautiful four-colour palettes] and their blushes. it didn't take me long to indulge, however it has taken me long, very long, to get around to writing this review. lucky for me, everything is permanent, so it's not like they've run out of product.

for this initial review, i have one of each new product, an eye shadow and a blush, which i grabbed with my grubby little hands as soon as they hit counters. seriously, the counter at the bay wasn't finished filling the sample display when i descended on them. [i don't think they know quite what to make of me, since i always seem to go in knowing exactly what i'm looking for.]

i should warn you that there is some serious face spam, to follow.

i'll start with the easier review, which is the blush. i do love a bold cheek against my pale skin, so i gravitated towards #509, eccentrico. it's unabashedly bold, equal parts pink and red with a very fine shimmer that translates to more of a sheen in use. you need very little product to get a big hit of colour and fortunately, if you overdo it, it's a very easy product to blend out. [it also responds well to being subdued with highlighter.] my preferred tool for application is a mac 188 brush, which picks up and deposits less product than a denser brush. i don't find that most other bright blushes have quite this level of pigmentation.

eccentrico 509

in my collection, the only shades i had that could compete with it are mac "azalea" [cooler, pinker and frostier] and mac "salsarose" [redder and warmer].

l to r :: mac azalea, eccentrico, mac salsarose

this is a really nice formula and about the only thing i can say against it is that with the exception of "eccentrico", the range of colours is mostly light and muted, so they're unlikely to work on a wide variety of skin tones.

moving on to the realm of the shadows...

14 July 2014

the moon in the garden and me

something i wrote quite a while ago and discovered, in an old format, on my computer. i think that it's actually from a few computers ago, which goes to show you how careful i am about reviewing the contents of my precious writing folders. god only knows what i've lost over the years. i like to pretend that i remember every single one of my literary children, but the fact is that as i've gotten older, i'm just as lax about them as i am about almost everything else in my life. [i can however, tell you for certain whether or not i have a specific limited edition lipstick. my priorities need tweaking.]

aside from the fact that this story was written a long time ago, the idea for it goes back years earlier. it's something that came to me as a much longer idea, but written out long, it got very whiny and dramatic in a way that i didn't like. i've condensed most of the plot into a much shorter framework and as far as i can recall, the only thing i've retained from the original work-in-progress-that-never-seemed-to-progress is the opening line. i'm still not sure about the final result, but i'm at the stage where i truly don't know what to do with it anymore, aside from just add it here and contemplate its existence.

strangely, the story always seemed secondary to me, because the idea was fuelled more by the idea of the atmosphere i wanted to convey. the two words that come to mind are "foliage" and "watery", which aren't descriptive of atmosphere in any meaningful way, but that's as much as i have to offer. i seriously think i got the original idea looking at reeds in a pond at the halifax public gardens. not that you can tell.

the pictures i've used are from all over, but i found them all on pinterest. my page is linked at the right and you're more than welcome to peruse my boards at your leisure. all the photos from this post are on the board "flora" with links to their original posters/ owners.


Now I am a mermaid, vines for hair, breathing water and mud, stirring up clouds in my descent, clouds that obscure and clouds that disguise. I am falling back through time, sinking into dreaming where I am safe again, where I have always been at home, Tendrils of grass are woven into me, forming a braid with my body and everything around me that I call myself, that I call myself because it is so familiar. I am not trying any more. It is earthy and real and I am as relaxed as reeds. Powerless.

We would play here when we were children. Carolyn and Eva and I, out of sight, quietly, not like children but like elves or fairies, on the edge of reality for those large people who looked on over us. Those large people who were so incomprehensible, statues in the garden, this huge mysterious garden that isolated and protected us. One Father, close and distant as if that were possible. Warm by turns in the evenings, with a thousand life stories we might have believed early on. Not for long. One Mother, while she lasted, frustrated and wanting, always, to be let alone. She was never alone. For too long, I believed that it was because she was always surrounded that she really did always dream of being alone. Because I believed she wanted the one thing she could not have. I believed that although she had so much, she did just want her private space. I believed her claims longer than my Father’s. She was more convincing. But, in the end, just as aluminum-siding fake. She wanted to be out, but never alone.

When I was a student, living in a larger city, I was entirely alone although I wasn't by myself. I was older than most students. I lived with someone then, not so long. Long enough. My Father would call, more stories. And my sisters. They would call to remind me that there was still a sense in which we were together. And then I would come home for a few days, where my Father languished in loneliness, never understanding why she had gone, why all his women had disappeared, and I would realise that the home where we had been, where we had stood in the pond and sat in the garden, no longer existed. Autumn comes and burns away the last golden ashes of Summer and the foliage fades to  brown and grey and there is ugly detritus where beauty once ruled. Here is home.

None of the three of us understood the whole story. We knew our Mother was from California. That her family had a great deal of money. We found the pictures in the attic, our Mother as a young woman, perhaps pretty but not as polished as when we saw her. We could not picture the scraggly tendrils in the photographs being lacquered into the hairstyle she wore for us. There she was, unaccustomed to her handlers. Filled with so much kinetic energy that her two-dimensional image seemed ready to charge off the page. What would our Father have thought of her like that? Not much, but he never had to think of her that way, since she came to him later. Not much later. Late enough.

Around Carolyn’s graduation from high school (it must have been then, because I remember that there was a sort of occasion in progress), that was when the mysterious other man with dark hair came to visit. He spoke softly to Mother and to Carolyn and after that she was Carolyn Morris instead of Carolyn Fitzgerald and we understood that what we had found long before in the attic were souvenirs of a woman who no longer existed. Her parents didn’t approve of him and they cut her off, Carolyn explained later. It was like she was telling someone else’s story, one from a book, but from the staircase, I had heard her sobbing softly, rhythmically when Mother and this new man were speaking to her. In one stroke they had told her that she might have been someone else, someone happier with a normal Father and a happy Mother but had lost out and, at the same time, she was severed in her mind from Eva and I, made into someone else, without any history.

12 July 2014

eat the cup 2014, part ten :: remix

seems that the two semi-finals could not have been more different. one was a scoring assault where even the winners looked a little embarrassed by the end of the proceedings. the other was a dull crawl towards penalty kicks, which i maintain is a stupid way to end a game on this level. in the end, argentina snuck by with their [thus far unassailable] strategy of hanging back and keeping anything from happening for as long as possible. it does not make for great viewing, but it's kind of hard to argue when it keeps working. 

holland have been great throughout the tournament and found themselves outdone by an argentinian keeper who wanted to show that he too could be a penalty-saving hero. today, they won the match for third place against a shattered brazil. 

the two semi-final matches were as different in terms of cooking experiences as they were in terms of play. although you wouldn't think so at first blush, the cuisines of argentina and the netherlands go together quite smoothly, since both incorporate things like ocean fish and greens. i also thought that it would be nice to make something that came together quite quickly, just to offset the plodding pace of the game. 

and what's always super-quick to cook? that's right, fish. 

i used a combination of haddock and cod, although there's no meaningful reason to use more than one type. both of these are staples of the north atlantic, which means that they're well-known in places like holland. preparing is simple: just sprinkle your filets with salt and pepper and fry them in about a tablespoon of olive oil. fresh is always best, but in this case, it's absolutely necessary, since the flavour of the fish is right up front in the starring role. you can't afford to have your star player underperforming. 

before you get around to doing that, though, prepare an argentinian chimichurri sauce, a green condiment that is ubiquitous in the country. it's extremely simple and can be done anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of hours ahead of time. it's like making a fine herb salsa, although i added a twist to this one. last "eat the cup", i prepared a dutch-style fish dish with mustard sauce and while i didn't want to do a straight repeat, i did like the dish enough that i wanted to try something like it. so i added a hit of mustard to the chimichurri. just a little, of course, because herbs taste delicate and mustard is anything but. i used: 

1 cup parsley [chopped very fine]
1/2 cup cilantro [chopped very fine as well]
1 shallot [minced]
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tsps dijon mustard

you can prepare this in a blender or food processor quite quickly- blend the other ingredients first and then add the herbs. the herbs shouldn't be completely reduced to paste, but should retain a bit of texture. my preference, however, is to prepare this the old fashioned way, with a mortar. [meaning the kitchen implement, not the explosive. the explosive gives the herbs the wrong texture and ruins your mixing bowl.] to do this, combined the ingredients in a mixing bowl, then pound, mash, scrape and pulverize them slowly and with certainty. you might want to think about a team you really hate if you're preparing this for a world cup match. it helps with the blending process. 

when the fish is cooked, serve a little of the sauce over it. you could have rice or potatoes or something if you wanted to add bulk, but personally, i went with a mix of greens- including several common garden herbs- in a light vinaigrette tossed with some chopped nuts. because this world cup has been just a little nuts, after all. 

and thus are two national cuisines joined in less than the time it takes one to eliminate the other from competition. 

and because that's such a refreshingly light meal, i trust you have room for

man candy of the match

one of the highlights of the match between argentina and the netherlands for me had very little to do with the play. it was seeing the return of argentina's top shelf man candy sergio aguero. he had a listless start to the tournament, probably due to the fact that he was nursing an injury. said injury got aggravated and he's been sidelined since the group stage, leaving his side significantly lighter on the man candy front. 

unlike a lot of the men featured here, sergio isn't big on advertising his handsomeness. there are comparatively few pictures of him off the pitch, which makes me think that a lot of people have somehow missed just how cute this guy is. perhaps it's because, when you look at earlier photos of him, he looked vaguely like an awkward teen with a sloppy mullet. but that was long ago and a distinctive "punk-ish" take on the popular giroud-flip hairstyle that a lot of footballers seem to love, plus a few years for his elegant bone structure to emerge from his youthful babyface have turned him into quite the devilishly handsome young buck. 

he's also pretty high on the adorable scale. aside from his looks and perfect [although rarely seen] body, his jersey bears the name "kun aguero", "kun" being a nickname he acquired as a child from his favourite kids' television show. that's like lebron james opting to wear the name "big bird". boyish adorableness check. and on his left arm, he has a tattoo of the words "kun aguero" written in the elvish language from lord of the rings. geeky adorableness check. 
hello, handsome!
that smile could melt steel
you must be at least this intense to carry off this hairstyle
one dimple to rule them all...
parting is such sweet sorrow...
but it makes it that much better that you're back. 
rumour has it that he's single, having split from his former wife, daughter of argentinian legend diego maradona, last year. how can that be? 

kate and dom pick guess the champion

so when it all comes down, who's going to be number one in the world? 

dom has stuck steadfastly by team germany and certainly, after their showing against brazil, there would be no reason to doubt that. the germans have a deep and mostly healthy team that can put on a pretty dazzling offensive display and their defense is admirably solid and grounded with the man who may be the best goalkeeper in the world. there's very little reason to think that germany can't win. there's very little reason to think that they won't. 

but i'm thinking it anyway. argentina were always my pick to win and while i would actually prefer to see germany take it [the better team overall and it would make for a better game], i think it's telling that nobody has managed to find a way to siege the argentine fortress. if germany are to win, they need to break through and they need to do it early, or else argentina will fall into the same pattern that has won them every game thus far, slowing things down, taking their time and waiting for lionel messi to find an opening. if that happens- and i think it will- it'll be like 2010 all over again for germany. their tremendous firepower will be contained and their frustration will make them prone to tiny, crucial mistakes. 
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