Impressions

Dewlap Valentine: a Reptilian Love Story

I was raised by animals. Don’t get me wrong, I had great parents, but for as long as I can remember I’ve been surrounded by animals of all kinds: cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, hamsters, frogs, turtles… My family and I have worked in rescue for years and opened our hearts and home to countless animal companions, some of whom have left for forever homes and some of whom have made their forever homes within our walls. I’ve learned something from each of them and loved every one.

Bob hugs in the hospital

Bob hugs in the hospital

Bob came to me as a baby barely longer than my little finger. His eyes were eager, his feet quick, and his scales impossibly green. He had a calcium deficiency that required a sweet-smelling syrup spoon-fed to him with each leafy meal for the first two years of his life and left him a little more sluggish than most iguanas his age, but it gave us even more quality time together. As he grew, he would sit on my shoulder while I watched television or surfed the internet; we sat together on the back porch in the hot summers; he even maintained a live journal in his younger days–many of the entries read “alkjdskllllllllllllll,” but he still acquired more friends than he had long, spindly toes.

Bob loves dinner

Bob with a favourite meal

We knew each other well: Bob knew when I got home from school or work, crawling off his Throne of Rocks to wait by the food bowl while I chopped up leafy greens–collard, mustard, dandelions–along with a finely-chopped strawberry or melon, all sprinkled with vitamin and mineral powders. His golden eyes would go wide, ringed pupils dilating as he stared down the bowl before his sticky pink tongue would dart out to taste the day’s offering. His preferences were red and yellow foods: berries, yams, squash, but above all bananas. Simply seeing a banana on the counter beyond his enclosure could send him into a fit, shaking his head, paddling at the tank, trying to lunge open-mouthed on it despite the glass between them. Yellow shopping bags, purses, flowers, and knick-knacks had the same effect.

Bob's insides and a bladder stone

Bob’s x-ray and removed bladder stone

It was the day before Easter when I noticed something was wrong. He was drinking excessively, moving as little as possible, drooling. My family vet had never seen anything like the x-ray image we took and we were referred to an emergency specialist who instantly identified it as the largest bladder stone he had ever seen. He went into surgery the next morning and had the stone successfully removed. A few weeks later, however, he suffered some complications of his condition and passed away at the emergency vet. I was fortunate enough to visit with him the night before he passed away, and I know he received nothing but love and care from the wonderful staff. I was heartbroken. He had fought so hard and come so far and even the doctor had expected him to fully recover. At that time, I was working towards my state board exams and graduation and I felt as if Bob had set the ultimate example for me: he just kept going.

Bob makes a swan friend

Bob makes a swan friend in the hospital

I wanted to hang on Bob and his determined survival instinct desperately. While he will forever live on in my heart, I needed a physical memento. Enter Darling Clandestine. Owner Evonne knows what it means to love a lizard or two, and she worked tirelessly with me to create a blend I know Bob would have loved, appropriately named Dewlap Valentine. In its glimmering green bottle, it smells like ripe, fresh strawberries and yellow banana tossed with dark leafy greens. It’s bright, it’s fresh, it’s delicious. But applied to the skin, Dewlap Valentine comes to life. The greens grow darker, the fruit goes riper, and something beautifully animal comes through. It becomes musky, salty, organic-smelling, like bright green noses and spiny toes and stripy bellies, all smeared with fresh fruits and leaves. It is one of the most complex scents I’ve ever smelled.

Dewlap Valentine by Darling Clandestine

photo from Darling Clandestine

They say scent is one of the most powerful triggers of memory, and Dewlap Valentine is all of Bob’s scent-memories bottled. I know he would be proud to have inspired this scent–he’s even smiling on the bottle. I can’t thank Evonne enough for creating this wonderful scent and making it available to her customers. It touches my heart to think that people might wear this perfume and look at the little green bottle bearing Bob’s grin and smile themselves, imagining all the love and warmth that this cold-blooded companion contributed during his lifetime. I know I do every time I put it on.

 

(originally published on Bella Cantarella)

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Cosmetics, Impressions

Metamorphosis 123.0 – The Search for the Perfect Brow

Life is busy: we have hectic school schedules, demanding careers, families, pets, possibly even social lives to attend to on any given day. I’d like to think that this blog has always presented makeup and cosmetics as fun and artistic tools of expression, but sometimes they become vital necessities. There are definitely days I can’t be bothered fussing with multicolored eyeshadows in the mirror when I’m rushing out the door before sunrise, but I cannot leave the house without dabbing some concealer until my eyes to fake a full-night’s sleep. As I get older, I find that I’ve taken a lot for granted, and one of the biggest things I battle in the mirror every morning is my brows.

Some people need to test every eyeliner in existence. Others need to own every bronzer on the market. I find myself madly searching for the perfect brow tool. I’ve tried markers, pens, pencils, and powders: some have worked, some have left me with smeared lines and faded arches. One brand practically synonymous with brows is Anastasia of Beverly Hills. In their own words:

Anastasia has long been the definitive eye and brow expert for icons such as Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah as well as hip up-and-comers like Diana Agron, Selena Gomez and Kristen Cavalari and has recently expanded into colors that match their superior standards for skincare based cosmetics.

When I was contacted by the brand’s PR to review the Beauty Express Brow Kit, I was ready and willing. I am restless in my search for the perfect brow, and after seeing this video I’m pretty sure that this kit makes brows completely and entirely foolproof:

“Beauty Express” brow-kit instructional video from Anastasia Beverly Hills on Vimeo.

Anastasia products are available at Sephora as well as their website, Anastasia.net. I’ll be updating you on the Beauty Express Brow Kit when I’ve had a chance to thoroughly test-drive it, as well as giving you a chance to snag your own.

Have you tried Anastasia of Beverly Hills? What are you favourite brow products?

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

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Aesthetics, Cosmetics, Impressions

Metamorphosis 119.0 – Julep Maven It Girl Box October 2011

I realize it’s almost November and I’ve been terrible with swatching lately. I seem to sit on colours for weeks before they make it up here. Thus is the case of October’s Julep Maven box, which arrived here much earlier this month. Why have I been holding out on you? My nails are in terrible condition and I’m sort of embarrassed. They take quite a beating in school.

This month’s It Girl box included a brightening hand cream (review to come) and two polishes: Leighton and Jaime. To be honest, I almost requested a shelf pull this month since I thought I had too many similar colours. But in the name of science, I decided to keep the box as-is and compare with my existing polishes.

Turns out, my fears were entirely unfounded. I can’t find exact dupes for either of these polishes. In the case of Jaime, described as an “ultra-saturated, dark turquoise blue,” is rather similar to a few in my collection (Zoya’s Breezi, butterLONDON’s Blagger), but none close enough to consider a dupe. If you don’t wear a lot of blue and have either of those, you can probably live without this, but if you’re a blue-lover like me it’s a good one to keep around.

I have a ton of silvers. True silvers, pewter-silvers, borderline-gunmetal-silvers, you name it. And I have them in every finish imaginable. It was hard to imagine that Leighton wouldn’t be a dead-on match for at least one of them. But…it’s not. Despite my massive arsenal of silver nail polishes, this is a colour I definitely do not own. While it’s described as a “pure liquid silver,” it’s not the metallic foil I anticipated. Rather, it’s sort of a frosted grey, like brushed steel. It’s a lovely colour, dramatic without being vampy. I think it will be a lovely winter colour. However, as with all frosted polishes, be careful applying or it can look wonky.

That’s not bubbling you see, that’s actual damage to my nail plate. Some of them have been repaired (which you can also see), but I wasn’t able to hide much. Below is a larger shot of the shade on my nail: you can see it’s not really a “metallic” as it is a “frost.” I actually held this against some brushed steel and it was the exact same shade.

Once again, I’m quite pleased with the shades and products Julep has included in the month’s box. I’ve all ready received the preview of November’s box and can honestly tell you, I can’t wait to see it!

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

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Cosmetics, Impressions, Reviews

Metamorphosis 102.0 – Julep Maven Intro and Impressions

As a child, I was an incorrigible nail biter. I would bite them down to the quick, sometimes until they would bleed. Fast-forward twenty years and I was forced to keep them cut incredibly short and polish-free for work. I could still paint them on events or days off, but I’d always find myself with a remover-soaked cotton pad in the morning, frantically trying to remove glitter or thick shimmer particles before my boss saw the damage.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that I now pride myself on my claws. I paint them at least once a week and am always searching for things to keep them healthy and strong. When I heard about the Julep Maven program, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist–nail polishes and nail-care products delivered to my door every month? Yes please!

 

Julep Maven is a monthly program from Julep, a nail salon and polish company based out of Seattle, Washington. After taking a brief quiz to determine your personal style, Julep assigns you a “Beauty Editor Style” that will help them select colours and products for your monthly mailing. I don’t know how many profiles are programmed into the quiz, but some fast blog-reading and google-fu tells me other possible results include “Classic with a Twist,” “American Beauty,” “Bombshell,” “It Girl,” and “Boho Glam.” Along with these colour profiles, Julep also takes a survey of your nail and hand health to send your customized monthly box. Below is my own Julep Maven intro box, hand-picked for an “It Girl” with dry, brittle nails.

The package arrived on my doorstep packed up neatly in a jet-black box (I thought I might have ordered something from MAC until I saw the Julep logo stickers along the sides). In addition to several papers explaining the program benefits, there was a thank you note from the CEO and Founder, Jane Park.

I thought this was pretty neat: all products sent in this box came in a paper Julep bag, as if I had purchased them myself from their salon. Go ahead and tell me I’m easily impressed–it’s the small things in life. But tied with a pink ribbon, the bag housed a small pink tissue-paper package containing my It Girl colors as well as other nail-care goodies.

Like Birchbox and, I imagine, other monthly services, Julep includes a card to explain the products you’ve received and the retail value of each. In my case, my It Girl box included two colours–Sienna, a shimmery pale gold (considered for Vogue in October), and Emilie, a not-yet-released turquoise-green. Additionally, I was sent Julep Nail Therapy, a moisturizing strengthener, and “Facial for Hands” Glycolic Hand Scrub for softening and brightening skin.

Aside from the glycolic scrub, all products were wrapped in plastic and sealed with a little Julep logo sticker before being wrapped together in hot pink tissue paper. The bottles are all long and rectangular, painted black on one side. The shape doesn’t bother me at all since I tend to hold the bottles between my fingers while I do my nails, but those of you who might put them down to lay your hands flat might not dig them. I sort of foresee these taking a tumble while dipping the brush back in.

The “Facial For Hands” Glycolic Hand Scrub comes in a simple black-and-white box, complete with product information, directions, and full ingredients. They recommend using once a day, though claim it’s gentle enough to use each time you wash–the product, however, is 3 fl oz and retails at $32, so I think using it as your regular hand cleanser could get pricey. This seems like a once-a-day TOPS thing to me.

Additionally included was a sample of the hand scrub as well as a sample of their Everyday SPF hand cream.

The first thing I dove into was the Julep Nail Therapy. It is of the utmost importance that I use a good strengthener at all times or my paper-thin baby-nails will bend and break, which is not just ugly but also incredibly painful and sort of gross. I typically use Essie’s Grow Stronger AND Rock Solid base coats on my nails, but I’m pretty low in my stash so I was excited to try this. The formula is a little thin and spreads over the nail easily, drying perfectly clear. It definitely reinforces the nail: one coat gave me the same strengthening power of about two coats EACH of my Essie products. Additionally, it smells decent. I can’t pinpoint exactly what the fragrance is, but it’s sort of spa-like. Perfume is listed in the product ingredients.

Sienna is a light shimmering gold. It reminds me a bit of butterLondon’s the Full Monty, but a bit more taupe-y. I can see myself getting a lot of use out of this polish–it’s a sophisticated, grown-up colour that’s neutral without being nude. According to Julep, this colour is being considered for inclusion in Vogue‘s October issue.

Emilie is not yet on the Julep website, but it’s a pretty deep turquoise green. It’s a vaguely familiar colour considering all the murky greens we saw this Summer in the nail world, but I don’t seem to have any this exact colour–it’s darker than OPI’s Mermaid Tears and bluer than Stranger Tides. I’m not sure how much Fall use I’ll get out of this, but going into the last weeks of Summer this is a gorgeous colour.

The following is two coats of Emilie over butterLondon’s Nail Foundation, all over one coat of Julep Nail Therapy. This is shown without a top coat to show how shiny the polish is on its own, but I will end up throwing a coat over anyway to make sure I don’t experience any extensive tip-wear over the week. I’m trying to cut my colours to one a week.

I’ve all ready received an e-mail from Julep giving me a peek at my next box. I’m not sure if that box is for September, or if this was simply an intro box and the preview was for August’s box. I guess we’ll see on the 26th, which is when Julep ships their monthly boxes. What really sold me on Julep Maven was the ability to request a new shelf pull for your box–if for any reason you aren’t happy with the box preview, you can request a new pull any time before the 26th and they will select new products for you. You can also put your membership on hold or gift your box any time before it ships out, guaranteeing that you’re 100% happy with your subscription each month. You also get 20% off all Julep purchases and free shipping, as well as invitations to exclusive Julep Maven events online (which I assume means sales–always a good thing)!

I’ll definitely be keeping my membership and eagerly awaiting my next installment! If you like nail polish, have a hand fetish, like to pamper your fingers, or even just love getting monthly boxes of goodies, Julep Maven is a great program. If you sign up here, you’d not only be getting in on a fabulous service, but also helping me continue to bring you posts like this: using my referral link lets Julep know that you heard about the program through me and credits my account. You don’t have to, but if you like seeing these posts it’s greatly appreciated!

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

PS: Don’t forget–my Detrivore Giveaway is still on!

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Impressions, Reviews

Metamorphosis 78.0 – June Birchbox

I was honestly a bit shocked to see an email in my inbox yesterday saying my June Birchbox had shipped. For some reason, I expected to be prompted for a payment first. This morning, the bright pink box was on my doorstep waiting. I’ll admit to snooping the website yesterday, trying to predict what I’d be sent and hoping I’d receive some products over others and a little anxious over what I really would find–one of the online products was a self-tanner and my heart sank a bit.

I dug into the card first: the theme this month was wanderlust–travel-friendly products for pampering on the go. Best of all, the card said nothing about a self-tanner!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love the bright pink packaging. At first glance, I did think this box was a little lighter than the last but after reviewing the contents I honestly think I’m happier with this month’s haul.

Outside the smaller packaging sat the Weleda Wild Rose Smoothing Facial Lotion and Sircuit Cosmeceuticals Molecular Mist. I’ve been meaning to try this lotion for a while now after seeing it on every trip to any store ever, but at $25 it’s a bit of a commitment. That’s not to say I haven’t purchased moisturizers for considerably more money sight-unseen. But this was the first product I ripped open and dug into. It’s a thick cream and a little goes a very long way. It leaves behind a strong, rosy scent and takes a bit to seep in as it’s quite heavy but my dry, chemically-burned skin ate it up. I’m two weeks into a new retinol treatment that’s been wreaking havoc on my skin so this burned a little bit, but so does everything else these days. The Molecular Mist I’m not too sure about. I’m not terribly keen on sprays, and this one smells a little weird–like coconuts and plastic–but it felt nice on my face. I can’t say it did anything for my super-dry skin, but it was refreshing.

The inner package contained samples of Kate Spade Twirl perfume, Deborah Lippman Stripper to Go Nail Lacquer Removers, and a full-sized Laura Geller Baked Blush n’ Brighten. I wore Twirl today and while it didn’t give me a headache, I didn’t really like it. It’s fruity but not bright, and while it’s fun it just doesn’t have the wow factor that I’d like in a high-end perfume. If I’m going to dish out $65 for 1.7oz, I want to be blown away. I really wanted to love it–inside the envelope housing the vial in whimsical pink letters it says, “she had a cocktail in hand and confetti in her hair“…who doesn’t want to be that girl? Unfortunately after a few hours of wear, it sort of reminded me of Play-Doh.

I was excited to see Deborah Lippman on the Birchbox page as I’ve been dying to try her lacquers, but I appreciate the portable polish removers. I don’t travel often, but when I do I usually find myself in need of nail repair. Supposedly, these are “mitts” soaked in polish which lends me a rather strange mental image. I haven’t tried these yet, but will report back as soon as I do.

The Laura Geller blush was quite a pleasant surprise. As you well know, I’ve never been a blush girl but found myself obsessed this past year so I don’t have a wide range of shades. I received a light golden-beige shade called Honey-Dipped which applies more like a bronzer on my way-too-pale-for-summer skin. It’s not “shimmery” or “glittery” but the veins of soft gold running through this baked mineral blush gives it a very definite glow. The Birchbox website recommends Honey-Dipped for fair complexions, Apricot Berry (a coral-bronze) for olive tones, and Pink Grapefruit (a peachy gold) for medium tones. Oddly, I feel either of the two other colours might have worked better with my colouring (technically, I’m a very pale olive). It’s still pretty, but I get the feeling I won’t have much use for it after summer is over.

With this installment, I can confidently say I’ll be keeping my subscription for next month. I’m really happy with the products in this month’s box and I’m eager to see what everyone else gets and how they like it. I might even purchase some of the full-sized products once I come off my no-buy!

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

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Cosmetics, Impressions

Metamorphosis 70.0 – May Birchbox Impressions

Admit it: everyone loves samples. Whether you get swept up by the miniature packaging, or just love the idea of a non-committal trial of something new, there’s always something to love about samples. Until recently, my samples came as little surprises in orders, or as a reward after dropping several hundreds at Sephora. I never imagined there would be companies out there that delivered nothing but samples!

I had never heard of Birchbox until Amanda posted a glimpse of her April shipment, but I’ve since seen it pop up on quite a few of my favourite beauty blogs and mentioned by several brands who have contributed. The idea is that each month, Birchbox puts together a collection of deluxe samples–no foil packets here!–based on your personal preferences that fits in with whatever theme they’ve decided to work with. In April, it was eco-friendly, natural and non-toxic products in honor of Earth Day. For May, it’s classic, timeless products that come fully mom-approved.

I signed up just shortly after seeing some of the amazing April offerings: it’s $10 a month, but don’t worry. Nothing’s automatic. Each month, you have the option to renew your membership. There is a yearly membership available, but I like to keep my options open.

My shipping notice came around the 5th of May. They did ask I allow 10 days for delivery, but looking at the tracking info makes me think they’re NJ-based, or close to it. The next day, I found the bright-pink box on my front porch. The packaging is pretty neat–the hot-pink shipping box is just a sort of cardboard shell that folds away to reveal the foil-stamped box inside.

What can I say? I really like the minimal packaging.

Inside, smaller samples were bundled in bright pink tissue paper and tied with black ribbon while larger samples were tucked underneath a bed of paper. A printed card with full product details was set on top of it all.

Call me silly, but I liked seeing how this was all packed up. To me, it meant a real human being had wrapped everything up and arranged it in an aesthetically pleasing manner rather than just dumping it all in a box and saying “the mail is gonna mess it all up anyway so why bother making it look pretty?”

The first thing I noticed was a distinct smell from the box. I didn’t really like it, and it sort of reeked of amber (which, you may or may not know, is one of my LEAST favourite scents EVER). Of course, I tore open the little pink bundle to see what it was.

The contents of the bundle

Inside the smaller bundle, I was surprised to find a small bar of soap, a tiny tube of night serum, a full-sized Stila shadow, and a perfume sample. There was the source of the smell! I had actually eyed up this perfume on the Sephora website (jasmine is one of my favourite notes in the entire world) and I was a little surprised to find it so disagreeable to me.

According to the notes, there’s no amber in this, but it’s heavily wooded and very musky. I actually like woody scents, so originally jasmine + woods sounded like a dream, but I guess it’s the musks that put me off. It’s really a shame, this had the potential to be so beautiful!

This lovely little soap is from Archipelago, loaded with rich olive oil and pomegranate-derived anti-oxidants. I haven’t tried this yet, but I really am dying to see how it performs. The ingredients look positively dreamy, and the triple-milled process promises luxurious lather without the harsh chemicals that are often used to produce similar effects. Better yet, the full-sized product (plus a candle and handcreme) are on the Birchbox site for a very affordable $35.

Though I am impressed to see this hailed as Audrey Hepburn’s favourite night cream, I’m a little afraid to try this little serum sample. Why? Mostly because the full-sized product retails at $190. I may be worried about the aging process, but I’m still in my late-early twenties (I’ll be in my early-mid twenties this year). Any “fine lines” I have are mostly imaginary, though I still do my best to beat them away. I’m not sure I need to get hooked on a two-hundred-dollar night creme right now. Or if the results would even be noticeable on my more-or-less young skin.

This was the biggest surprise to me. Stila shadows retail at about $18, and this baby is full-sized. It’s not a colour I would have selected for myself as Jezebel is a sort of tanned nude shimmer, but it looks like it might be a nice colour to blend with. The Stila formula is quite smooth and applies nicely–my one complaint was always that they came without compacts. I understand the concept of saving packaging, but I don’t do the custom-palette thing. I’d like a compact to hold my pan, please. I do see, however, on the Birchbox site they are sold in compacts.

These two were tucked under the paper at the bottom of the box. On the left is a blank card from TinyPrints and on the right are two packets of Oribe Beautiful Color Shampoo and Conditioner. I did think I specified no foil packets, but whatever. I’ll just have to remember to take scissors into the shower with my while I try these. I’ve definitely heard of the Oribe brand, but have not tried before…particularly because I hesitate to spend $36 A PIECE on shampoo and conditioner without knowing if it will really work miracles on my hair or not.

And there you have it. May Birchbox. I think I’ll be renewing my membership for June and seeing what they have to offer again. I like the concept a lot, and I think you get a decent amount of stuff for the $10. I particularly like the fact that it opens me up to things I might not have tried otherwise. Of course, I’ll keep you updated as I try the products.

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

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