Love Songs Don’t Lie: the Death of Romance, and a Valentine’s Day Playlist

Romance is dead. It was a devastating realization for someone who grew up on stories like the Phantom of the Opera and Wuthering Heights. I spent my childhood swishing around with stars in my eyes, writing my own love story in my head–my soulmate would see me in the opposite box at the opera, across a ballroom crowded with waltzing couples, drinking espresso at a sidewalk cafe, and instantly fall in love with my tumbling waves of raven hair, my fiery russet eyes, my almond-creme skin. He would find me irresistibly charming, witty, talented, and whisk me off to Paris, or New York, or Carpathia to love me til death and beyond. Every year, I waited for it to happen. It wasn’t an if, it was a when…

But ten years later with a string of volatile, unstable relationships behind me, I had lost faith. Romance was just another fairy tale, something reserved for novels and cinema, not something that happened to real people in everyday life and anyone who said otherwise was delusional. Those who had magical stories about meeting their partners were embellishing for presentation. There was no Heathcliff, there was no Erik, and my youthful ideas about true love were an embarrassing blip that time would eventually strike from the record. The stories I once loved now seemed pathetic. I told myself that it was all in the spirit of childhood fantasy, that I had simply grown up. So I swapped sighs for cynicism and swept it all behind me.
And then, one day, I found myself crying on 1st Avenue. It had suddenly occurred to me that I had resigned myself to a life of dull mediocrity, where things were convenient and accessible. Love songs and sonnets aren’t created from ambivalence. I had been moved to tears by a love song, one I had heard hundreds of times before—I realized that the romantic had never died, I had simply hidden her away. Romance is delicate, fragile. It can be wounded easily, and takes time and care to recover. I’ve always advocated self-invention, creating art out of life, yet I had completely ignored that particular plot point, leaving it all to chance in an often-hostile setting. But I also don’t believe in coincidences—standing that morning on the sidewalk, blinking back tears as I listened to lyrics, I knew something had been set in motion. I had opened up to the Universe, and the Universe never misses an opportunity to set things right.
If we’re being completely honest, part of me never stopped believing in love: I’ve always thrilled at vampire stories, paranormal romances—hell, I even stalked out wedding blogs. And despite a lifetime of truly disastrous events, Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. But since that fateful morning, I can fully count myself among the faithful. I love hearing about how couples met, I emotionally invest in relationships between fictional characters, and there have been many, many repeat performances of my sidewalk waterworks. It may sound sappy, naive, or radically uncool, but I believe my life is richer for it. It can be scary to open yourself up to something that might feel like nothing more than a pretty idea, but if you don’t take the risk, you’ll never see the reward. Believe me, I know what it’s like to be hurt, disillusioned, let down—it’s been worth every second of sadness to appreciate the happiness that can come from putting your trust into another human being, and watching the magic that happens when two people believe in a feeling.
the Lovers
This Valentine’s weekend, whether you find yourself banding together with friends, painting the town with a lover, or comfortably at home with family, consider your emotions. Where do they come from? Are they from the heart, from the core of your soul? Have you dredged whatever deep, labyrinthine recesses you hide under the surface? Or are you sitting safely in the shallows, feeling from the surface? Open up. The Universe is listening.
If you need some inspiration, I put together a Spotify playlist to serenade you. Inside, you’ll find some heartbreaking love songs, some smoldering seductions, songs for soulmates, and just-for-the-moment lovers. No matter where you are, there’s magic to be found: it turns out, love songs don’t lie.


Illustration from the Shadowscapes Tarot, by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Radical Self Love Salon, Plotting a Beautiful Revolution with Gala Darling

Buried under old clothing and long-forgotten textbooks, I recently found two stray pages from an old journal. It was my habit to “introduce” myself to each new notebook, explaining a little about who I was and why I chose to write there–there was a certain romance to journaling, as if each notebook was not only a time capsule, but a public one, unearthed decades or even centuries in the future and transporting someone else into my life. These two pages were my introduction. I wrote about how I was likely perceived by others, who I was from an entirely detached perspective. Not even half a page in, one thing became absolutely clear: the girl who wrote this journal did not love herself. She didn’t even like herself. There was nothing blatantly self-loathing written, no mention of body hatred or bullied shame, just the complete and total detachment of someone entirely uncomfortable in their own skin. “I am completely unremarkable,” 19-year-old Me wrote. “I have no delusions about my identity. There is nothing that makes me special.” I actually cried, not because of any memories stirred up or hurtful words written, but because I genuinely felt bad for the girl who penned these pages.


Somehow, though, those had been feelings that persisted throughout my life. In fact, up until very recently, the idea that I could love myself was fairly repulsive to me. Why should I love myself? What have I done to deserve it? Maybe, if I accomplished this or finished that or adhered to this or became that, maybe I could love myself. But not now. I put all of my self-worth into my accomplishments, and the fact that I didn’t have a glittering professional resume or tales of globe-trotting adventures or my dream apartment in a breathtaking city meant that I hadn’t done anything to prove my value–not to society, and not to me. I was unremarkable, and worse yet, I was downright boring.



I don’t know when it happened. I can’t tell you what day it was that the sparkling little feeling crept into chest. I’m not sure the exact moment it started dancing in the throat, tickling at my brain. I’m not sure when I started to have hope. But suddenly, after nearly thirty years, possibly a third of my life in the rear-view mirror, I started to matter to myself. Big time. It’s no longer about what I’ve done or haven’t done–there are other measures of a person, and I’m finally starting to register on my own radar.


Yesterday, in a room filled with pink rose petals and bright July sunlight, I heard this sentiment echoed seven times over. It was fresh, exciting, magical–as so many other groups before us, we had gathered together to discuss a revolutionary concept, joining forces to break new ground. Unlike the salons of my childhood history books, however, we weren’t discussing the fate of the nation or the latest schools of contemporary art: we were discussing Radical Self Love. To the uninitiated, Radical Self Love is Gala Darling’s revolution–it’s about remembering who you are and falling in love with that person, over and over again. It’s about being your own greatest love. “Isn’t that just a serious case of narcism?” you may ask–the answer, truly, is no. As Our Lady RuPaul would say, “if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” And sadly, too many of us trudge through our daily lives hating everything about them–our jobs, our families, our friends, our cities–when the source of all that unhappiness really is self-loathing.


In a sunny white room nestled deep in New York City, the eight ladies of the first ever Radical Self Love Salon sat on mismatched pieces of furniture, pulling oracle cards and consulting each other’s opinions and experiences as we plumbed the depths of the fears that opposed us. We meditated and grounded our energies, imagined our best selves and showered our heads in magenta rose petals. And when we finally figured out just what stood in the way of being those magnificent creatures we had envisioned, we burned those hurtles to a crisp. We left that room as stronger people, women fully aware of our capacity to shine brightly. The world is our proverbial oyster, but we aren’t just specks of sand in a briny soup–we are all ready stunning pearls. Radical Self Love is knowing that. And while 19-Year-Old Me might have felt unremarkable and defeated, I know now that nothing could be farther from the truth.


Magic Monday: Everyday Symbolism — You’ve Got This

Normally, when a stranger on the streets of New York City approaches me, or asks me to do something, I ignore them. It’s an ingrained trait, handed down from one hardened city-dweller to another. But on Tuesday night, re-discovering one of my favourite neighborhoods through the fresh eyes of a friend, things felt different. Maybe it was the optimism of the still-glowing skies at nearly 9PM, or the electric haze of summer post-rain, but when a stranger in shining black shoes stepped out from under the awning to grab my attention, I gave it to him–“Look!”

There, arching a perfect 180 degrees over Tomkins Square Park, was a vibrant, neon rainbow. I gasped and thanked him for pointing it out to me, and while I initially rounded the corner towards our original destination I found myself drawn back to the edge of the sidewalk, angling my phone towards the sky to capture what I could only see as a brilliant sign from the universe: things are going to be all right.

photo 1 copy

I choose to see things differently. I look carefully at my surroundings, I find messages and meaning everywhere. There is constant reassurance from the universe all around–even when you’ve made the wrong choice or need to rethink your plans, there are clues everywhere. Recently, I had a series of particularly rough days. I felt alone, exasperated, and just plain bad. Armed with my Nikon D-series, I lay in the dirt outside my classroom shooting some of the plants and odd fields of abandoned construction supplies. Back in the lab, I realized I hadn’t gotten all my exposures as I wanted them and headed back out to the exact spot I was crawling around for the last half our only to find a mammoth goose feather in nearly the exact spot I had been. There were no geese to be seen, and I had only been inside for about five minutes.

photo 5

My grandfather was a particularly insightful Pisces who knew What’s Up. About a year before he died, he told my mother that when he wanted to get in touch, his sign would be feathers. At his memorial service, we gave each person in attendance a peacock feather to remind them that while people we love might move on and change state, they are never gone. The next day, my cousin–who graciously opened her home to the service–called us, excited and just a little uneasy, because she found several bright, beautiful feathers laid out on her front porch. “I think Jack was saying thank you.” That mammoth goose feather brought me to a similar state of confused excitement, tearfully decoding the message as I dropped back into my place in the dirt–in this case, I think Jack was saying “you’ve got this–just hang in there.”

We all go through tough times. With Mars recently coming out of retrograde and Mercury slipping back in, things have been more than a little wonky lately. But don’t worry: you’ve got this–just hang in there. The signs are all around you.

Cosmetics, Love Lists, Monthly Picks

Metamorphosis 79.0 – May Monthly Picks!

May was considerably harder to settle on than any month previously, perhaps because my out-of-commission camera forced me to be later on this post than usual. Things started to blur together–did I start loving these products in May, or early June? Did I even get this in May? Or am I mistaking June for May since I keep writing “5/?/11” on all checks at work?

But after much consideration, I’ve narrowed it to these selections which I enjoyed throughout most of the month. I haven’t included face or complexion products since otherwise, this list would be a boring beige-coloured wasteland (my picks would have undoubtedly been OCC Tint, Bobbi Brown Corrector and Creamy Concealer, Bobbi Brown Pressed Powder, and Lamas Beauty Eye Repair Complex–boring to look at, right?) and it’s much more interesting to see the Sea of Coral I’ve lived in this May.

It probably all started with Zoya Nail Polish in Elodie. On the website, it looks like a soft, almost pastel melon shade but as you see, it’s really a vibrant coral-orange. It’s a gorgeous, fun shade that applies creamy and opaque in about three coats (I use many much thinner coats to avoid bubbling and “VNL”–visible nail line–so it should only take normal people three coats to achieve perfection). I also discovered creme blush (finally!) and fell head over heels for Bobbi Brown Pot Rogue in Cabo Coral. Applied to my skin or foundation pre-powder, it blends to a very pretty peachy coral. It appears rather intense but after it’s been set it’s quite subtle–best of all the colour is completely buildable! It’s also lip-safe and can be used as lipstick in a pinch.

I wore this Inglot palette Monday through Friday for most of May. It’s neutral, it’s versatile–I can use the two beiges and the taupey grey for a very clean, neutral eye or have at the greys for a graduated smokey effect. This doesn’t mean I’ll never wear red eyeshadow to the office again, but it does give me a work-friendly option.

I know that OCC Lip Tar made it’s way onto the list last month, too, but this time it’s Interlace. It is hands-down the perfect nude in my collection and makes any look instantly more chic. I like to apply it lightly, blot off any excess, and set it with a clear or nude gloss (like BITE’s Prosecco or MAC Cremesheen Glass in Lightly Prancing). Bobbi Brown High Shimmer Lip Gloss in Citrus was my go-to gloss this month, living exclusively in my purse and swiped on almost every day. It’s a beautiful peachy-orange shimmer in a clear base and while it’s on the stickier side, it is the longest-wearing gloss I have ever owned. I have swiped it on at 9AM only to find my lips are still shimmery and a little tacky at 7PM when I’m driving home. Considering my lips are on the drier side, I find it highly moisturizing.

And last but not least, the product that has everyone and their mother talking, Make Up Forever Aqua Liners in 10 Iridescent Red and 04 Diamond Lagoon Green. I know, everyone has raved about them to no end but honestly they’re that great. They don’t budge for DAYS if not properly removed and they come in such a variety of bold, powerful colours they really are perfect for the bright eyeliner trend that’s been so hot this season. Of the 16 shades available, I scored 10 for 50% off at the Makeup Show. If you don’t get them with a pro discount or show special, they’re a bit pricey at $23 a piece. But I would have paid it anyway–the formula and applicator remind me a bit of MAC’s Superslick liners, but thicker and with a longer felt tip “brush.” Personally, I wish these had an actual brush and a shorter top for application, but I love them anyway. In May, the green was pretty much my everyday liner shade, while the red was for those days I really needed a pop of colour to get me through the day.

And there you have it. My May was a bright blur of corals, not quite Spring but not quiteSummer either. What products did you love in May? Have you made the jump to your Summer look yet, or are you still clinging to Spring?

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

Cosmetics, Love Lists, Monthly Picks

Metamorphosis 65.0 – April Monthly Picks!

Wow! April was a major haul month, between the IMATS, Beautylish event, and Sephora sale, I’ve had a lot of new things to try out and play with. But there have been a few things that I’ve come back to again and again this month–here’s what I’m loving:

I managed to snag a 20 palette from Inglot at the IMATS for a pretty impressive discount, but even at full-price, this would probably rank amongst my best beauty buys of all time. These shadows are buttery, blendable, and amazingly pigmented all in the convenience of a palette. I don’t travel often, but this would definitely be a go-to item for future trips–such beautiful colours all in one place! I also got my hands on quite a number of OCC Lip Tars at that show, and Anime has quickly become one of my favourite lip colours. It’s a bright, bold neon pink that dries matte and stays on my lips for almost 9 hours at a time, even through food and drink!

After thoroughly loving theBalm blush I received from Beautylish, I purchased Mary Lou-Manizer during the Sephora %15 Off Sale. The texture of these products is just amazing for pressed powders–they’re soft and blendable, but not at all dusty. The luminizer is a beautiful shade of pale-golden beige that’s just right for highlighting my skintone. I also grabbed Korres Wild Rose Mask during the Sephora sale after reading up on the benefits of rose for complexion-brightening. I’ve only used this mask twice now, but it’s an absolutely luxurious experience–not only does it smell amazing and leave my skin feeling soft and moisturized, I swear my skin glows after using it.

Anyone who follows my Twitter feed knows how badly I’ve been dying to try butter LONDON. Lucky for me, my local Ulta started carrying their line and my ever-wonderful, amazingly attentive mother picked these up for me. I have a full review forthcoming, but I’ve been wearing this combo for a few days now and it is by far the shiniest, smoothest, most luxurious polishes I own. This colour, Blagger, was definitely on my list, but I likely wouldn’t have gotten the top and base coats simply because I all ready have so many–but I’m glad I did try them, because I really don’t have anything comparable! The top coat is impossibly shiny and the base coat is a creamy beige that dries matte, giving the polish a nice surface to adhere to. After five days of intense typing, working out, hand-washing, and my own personal nailbiting/picking habit, this remains chip-free and gorgeous. I think I’ve found my Holy Grail nail system!

What have you been loving this month?

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

Cosmetics, Love Lists

Metamorphosis 52.0 – Creme de Menthe, a minty-green love list!

Every few weeks or so, I come down with some sort of colour-bug. Certain colours stick in my head and I just can’t get enough of them. These past few weeks it’s been mint green. In all honesty, mint has always been one of my favourite colours. I think my synesthesia is partially to blame, but the creamy, soft texture of mint has always struck a chord with me. (In fact, “Menthe” was an early web-moniker of mine.) But for Spring, it’s really hard for me to pin-point a better colour: it’s fresh, it’s delicate, and it goes well with everything. Lately, I’ve been pairing it with lilacs and corals.

Here are some of my favourite mint-coloured products at the moment. Full reviews of these products are forthcoming, I promise!

Shiro CosmeticsKawaii Shadow in Banzai is a very pale mint green with strong blue tones. The satin texture makes it perfect for highlighting or as a base for darker shadows. It’s fairly opaque on its own though it can be built up or blended out. I’ve been using this in the inner corners of my eyes for a bright pop of minty colour!

Evil ShadesFaerie Garden is a slightly darker green, more of a fresh mint than a creme-de-menthe. On site, it’s described as “primary green with golden shimmer,” but I’d say it’s a slightly blue-toned green with a shimmery finish. I usually pat this on my lid with a flat brush for a sweet, herbal green base.

I’ve really never been a body-shimmer type of girl, but I’ve really been loving Meow CosmeticsWildcats powder in Jungle Cat. I was obviously hesitant when I ordered a green body-powder, but it blends beautifully to the barest, palest minty sparkle. Like mint frosting for your skin! I use a large, flexible Taklon kabuki brush to dust this powder over my chest, shoulders, cheekbones, and brows for a very subtle highlighting effect. (It also works nicely mixed into a pump of body lotion or sunblock!)

I have to admit, I haven’t yet had a chance to wear Lime Crime‘s Mint to Be lipstick out of the house yet! Of course as soon as it arrived, I ripped it open and slathered it on, but I just haven’t had an appropriate occasion for it otherwise. Like most of the reformulated Lime Crime lipsticks, this is perfectly opaque and creamy when properly applied. I suggest covering your natural lip colour for truest-green results.

For a little bit of not-quite-swatchy fun, this is a shot of my pigment-encrusted hand after opening up and fiddling with all the jars for these shots. You can see quite a bit of Jungle Cat on my fingers and a bit of Faerie Garden on my palm.

Obviously, wearing all these beautiful minty products together might be a little green-overkill. As I said above, they pair beautifully with lilacs and lavenders (like Sugarpill’s Paperdoll or Weekender), peaches and corals (like Morgana Cryptoria’s Peach Daiquiri and Evil Shade’s Faerie Kisses), even bubblegum pinks (like Sugarpill’s Birthday Girl).

What colours are you loving for Spring?

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

Cosmetics, Love Lists, Monthly Picks

Metamorphosis 50.0 – March Monthly Picks!

I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to do a sort of product feature. Weekly seemed kind of ridiculous, and seasonal seemed too infrequent, so monthly sounds good. I’ve got thirty-odd days to think up new features, and that’s perfect.

This month, my picks are all products I got in March. I’m not sure if that will always be the case, but this month it certainly is. When I get new products, I tend to test out every aspect of their usage especially if I’m reviewing them so I get really attached to a lot of products.

My first pick is Wylde Ivy‘s Silken Body Oil in Little Shop in Salem. It’s like a nifty little moisturizing perfume that goes on smooth, soaks in quickly, and leaves you smelling wonderful all day. The oil itself is made from a combination of Coconut and Jojoba oils with addition oils from various fruit seeds. I particularly like it in this scent because it’s a light incense-y blend that’s sweet and a little dusty and layers perfectly will all sorts of other fragrances. Plus, it doesn’t give me (or anyone else around me) a headache after too long, as most fragrances often do.

Zoya Nail Polish in Dannii is a soft pink-purple with an amazing multi-coloured sparkle. I’m always amazed by the depth of colour in Zoya polishes, which is why they’re my favourite hands-down. This particular colour is great for spring–it reminds me of newly-budding flowers.

For some reason, I was all about the metallic eyes this month. Meow Cosmetics‘ Heiroglyph from the Egyptian Treasures Collection was definitely one of my go-to shadows. It’s described on-site as “metallic chartreuse with verdigris overtones and metallic gold undertones,” but I see it as a darkened, antiqued gold.

You’ve seen how beautiful Brazen‘s Cherry Bomb lip gloss is. If you haven’t, go read my review right now. It’s richly pigmented but still layerable, it’s smooth and creamy, and it stays put for hours. I haven’t seen this listed in the shop yet (which is live again after a brief hiatus!), but the owner is always more than happy to do custom listings if something you want is “out of stock.”

I’ve never been a blush girl, but lately I seem to be obsessed! The more unusual, the more shimmery, pigmented, sparkling, or complex the colour, the more I love it. Meow Cosmetics’ PINK, Inc blushes are really gorgeous. They apply like a dream, they’re incredibly blendable, and they have just the barest hint of shimmer that really bring them to life. My favourite is definitely Slip. On site, it’s described as “bright warm coral PINK with a slight refreshing twist of citrus peach,” but it definitely reads as a light coral-y peach. I ordered it in the 10g size, though I sort of feel like I should have gotten the larger jar.

–and there you have it! Five items I fell absolutely head-over-heels for this month. Also, all $10USD or less.

What have you been loving this month? Products, foods, music, websites, events?

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine