Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Local treasures (for your lips)

Since I have a few new favourites, I thought I'd recomend some more lip balms. This is a bit of a local edition, which wasn't planned, but is nice if you happen to live near me. Which most of my (five) readers don't. Oh well! If you ask me I will probably send you one as a gift. Sending out gifty packages is almost as much fun as receiving them.

So, as for the lip balm.

Honey Pie Hives & Herbals ~ Chai
This spicy treat was purchased on a vacation to Sand Banks and Prince Edward County, Ontario. I'm pretty sure it was from the Bean Counter Café but it has been a while and I forget. So this isn't really a new favourite, but rather a tried-and-true old favourite. It's light, fragrant, spicy and smooth. I've had my little pot for a while now (I hardly ever use up a lip balm, since I have so much of the stuff... which is sort of wasteful of me) and it still smells and feels great. Not that I recommend holding onto it for a long time. I recommend using it up and then trying other flavours like Fennel, Cinnamon Hearts, or Rosemary! Maybe I will have to go on another vacation. Actually I don't have to go that far, their wares are sold right here in Montreal, and I plan to go scout out that café very soon. Not just for lip balm either, I wouldn't mind some beeswax candles or trying out their loose leaf teas. But I still think I should go on vacation.

Naturally Upper Canada Warm Honey Nectar and Sweet Vanilla Fig
(but mostly the honey one)

I got these at the Jean-Coutu so I am betting that they are more widely available than the others I'm mentioning. The Vanilla Fig one is pretty good, but it does have a kind of shimmery white-lip thing going on, which I don't always (ever?) want. It is subtle though. I wouldn't classify this as lip gloss or anything. Still, the Honey version is a lot nicer. It really is a lip balm, no other secret sparkly agendas. The smell reminds me of the Burt's Bees Honey Lip Balm (not their original pepperminty one, which is what started my whole thing with lip balm in the first place, but this one). They both smell good, almost floral (like you can smell the flowers that made the honey or something) but the Burt's Bees one has a rough, crumbly texture that I've never really liked. This one has a perfectly smooth texture, so it is the winner. In the honey-flavoured lip balm contest. Incidentally I also tried the Vanilla Fig hand lotion, which feels nice, but is a little perfumy for me. Even though it's all NATURAL! and paraben-free etc, I still wouldn't use it around my (asthma-prone) mother.

I bought this one from a table at a craft sale that I stumbled upon in Mile End a few weeks ago. Now I wish I'd bought more, and other stuff too, like cream and bath salts! Not that I have the budget to outfit myself with a bathroom full of such luxuries, but still.
I have to admit that this one is my (current) absolute favourite. It smells exactly like real vanilla beans. Not sugary like vanilla cookies or perfumy or wrong in anyway. I want them to make perfume that smells exactly like this. I know they make scented oils, but I want perfume. Spray, or rollerball, I'm not picky, I just want to smell this smell all the time.
The one small problem I have with it is that the product is not as solid as it could be. It seems prone to cracking or breaking off (and as enthusiastic as I am about lip balm, I am not exactly vigorous in my application of it). Since it smells effing awesome and feels great on my lips, if a tiny piece does break off, I smoosh it back on top (lest I loose some) and it seems to stay put. Probably this is one of the problems of homemade goods, sometimes things are not always as uniform as they are when made in commercial proportions. But that is a tiny complaint, and has not deterred me from using it nor from opening it just to sniff it. So vanilla-y. Next time I come across their stuff I will be tempted to try the Lune de miel too, but I find it hard to imagine that it will beat out this one!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wanted: Handmade Writers

While my readership is on the petite side, it is also heavy on writers. So when I received an email from Amy Spencer asking me to let my friends know about her online writing class, Handmade Writer, I thought it seemed like a good idea.

Here is an excerpt from the letter she sent:
"The Handmade Writer e-course has been inspired by the strength of craft
communities and brings a crafty approach to creative writing. I am a writer
and also a crafter and I know lots of other people are too. I see
similarities between the two creative forms and that’s what this e-course
is all about. I will encourage students to gather material from every
source imaginable and use the fabric of their lives to tell extraordinary
In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit that she is offering up a chance to win a spot in the course to those of us who help to promote it, and I will also admit that I'd be pretty happy to scoop that prize! (Not that I have time for it... but I'd make time!) The course sounds great, and is definitely the kind of thing I would consider doing, if I wasn't already a diligent Library Tech. student. I like that she is combining craftiness with writing, in that sometimes through crafting we take the pressure off ourselves to create "high art" and then create it by accident anyway. There is nothing so beautiful as a hand-knit scarf, a splotchy collage, a scrappy poem. There is nothing so lovely as an unselfconscious foray into imagination.

So, check it out! And if anyones signs up, I'd love to hear how it goes! There will come a day when I am no longer a student, and when the panic of that sets in, I will certainly want to sign up for creative writing classes like this one. 

*Update: I won! Such good luck I'm having lately! At least when it comes to contests (I also won a book recently). I'm really looking forward to taking this, my first writing class. If nothing else, at least the quality of my posts here should improve ; )

Friday, March 19, 2010

Snail City

Snail City found here (I don't know if that is the artist or not)

Considering the series of misadventures I've been through of late (nothing serious, just allergic reactions, the flu, a chest cold, generalized grumpiness) I'm in a great mood this week. Could be that my shoulders are lighter as these calamities finally scatter and leave me be. Could be that a good friend just had a baby boy! Could be that I am watching the mailbox for some books that are coming to me from several little shops in the UK. Could be that it is SPRING! here in Montreal. I know that the west coast is being showered with cherry blossoms but most Montreal Marchs are snow-covered. This one is April-like in its snowlessness. And I am glad. I am a fairweather friend to snow (no pun intended), loving it in November, hating it by February. Actually, no. That's a lie. I still like snow, even in the darkest February days. What I hate is sleet, ice chips hitting my face, bitter cold wind and skating rink sidewalks. But those are worries now cast aside until NEXT winter! Can you believe it? I can't. I'm tempted to go all doom-and-global-warming-gloom but I won't. I will put away my heavy coat and sigh with relief instead.

Things I have recently been enjoying:
  • Castles in the Air ~ all about living in and restoring a crumbling castle in Wales, so far quite funny and charming. Also, I see from the website that after restoring it, they made it into a bed & breakfast of sorts. I am so tempted to go. Alissa, I would recomend that you check it out next time you swing through the UK, except that you have chateau ennui. ; ) 
  • Old episodes of Da Vinci's Inquest. He's such a quirky trouble-maker.
  • Homemade yogurt. Not homemade by me! A certain handsome housemate of mine has taken up this hobby and I just get to sit back and reap the creamy benefits. My favourite is getting to open a new jar and take the first, almost frothy, scoop. (Apparently the process is quite easy. Perhaps, if he is reading, he will post the instructions in a comment for the curious).
  • Miss Endicott ~ A serendipitous find at the library. A comic about a young woman who is a governess by day and a solver-of-problems by night. The description claims that it is steampunk, which it may yet be, but I haven't gotten that far yet. Even without steam or punk, it is already pretty awesome.
  • David Sedaris on audiobook. Recommended for those who do not mind laughing like loons on public transport. Also, makes the workday zip past.