Nerdy Post-Anniversary box review

Non-nerds might be asking, what is a Nerdy Post box? Luckily for you, I am nerd enough to receive this subscription box as a birthday present (ahem…40th no less) to keep you informed.

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Nerdy Post is a subscription box service for paper goods and the like, featuring fandoms from books, TV and movies. Each month, a different theme is created and announced (to know if you should order, or skip the box for that month). Four standard items come in every box:

  • 8.5 x 11 High Quality Print
  • Auto grade sticker
  • Double sided bookmark
  • Color in postcard

along with a few of the following: buttons, mini prints, notebooks, sticky notes, temporary tattoos, koozies, coasters, magnets, lapel pins, etc.

First made aware of NP by discovering its primary designer on Instagram. Alexis creates mesmerizing hand-lettering videos, usually depicting book quotes, with major skill and stunning flourishes. As the 1-year anniversary box themes started being revealed in May, including Hamilton, Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice, I also began dropping hints to family members about what a fun little birthday present it would make. My sister took the bait, ordering before May 31st. The boxes began shipping mid-month and I received mine June 20th. Subscription is $13.95 plus shipping.

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I was surprised and freaking delighted to open the box and find the first item was wax melts! I believe it’s the first time wax was included in a Nerdy Post, a good sign that I was going to enjoy the contents.

Not having heard of the NerdWicks brand, I looked them up and found out they operate from Akron, Ohio. We’re practically neighbors! I’ll be checking out more of their fandom-themed merchandise when the shop reopens after the July 4th holiday. 

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Salt + Burn- smells like apples, bourbon and Hellfire. This is a reference to the Supernatural tv show. I’ve never watched, sorry, but apparently the ghost hunting hunks use salt to repel spirits and burn corpses. I’m sure it makes perfect sense to SPN fans.

The scent itself is devilishly good. Strong cinnamon red hots, with an infusion of bourbon-soaked baked apples. Well-balanced, the sticky apples aren’t too boozy and give the red hots a spiced bubbling brew to fade into, so as not to overwhelm. The wax felt around .5 oz, so the throw didn’t carry far, but it was enough to know I want more. An absolute future purchase.

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The description card explains the contents and symbolism of the items for the month. Very helpful because I didn’t recognize all of the quotes and needed a reference card to parse out what was what.

Each box includes a color-in post card depicting the theme. My enjoyment of coloring and post cards is satisfied here, I’ll have fun making use of it. 

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The next items I grabbed came out together. Recognizing the Stranger Things reference, I thought the cloth was just a nod to Lucas’, I’m taking on the bad-guys bandana. Turns out, it was the Harry Potter item that I will get to later.

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The waffle coaster featuring the iconic ST quote integrated into the iconic ST symbol made me smile, however, as a functioning coaster, it’s pretty impractical. The print is paper glued over a cork coaster. Because paper wouldn’t last long as cold drink absorption, it must be merely decorative. Maybe I’ll apply a clear glaze to fortify it.

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Unrolling the 8.5 x 11 print, I didn’t place the quote immediately, although, it rings similar bells to an MLK quote. The description card lists the origin as the cult favorite show, Firefly. This made me happy because my husband is a Firefly fan and I think the print will fit into his classroom next fall. At the beginning of the year, he assigns each student to select a favorite meaningful quote to present to the class and hang on the bulletin board for the year. As the resident nerd-teacher, a Firefly poster will only help to upgrade this status at school.

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The fat bookmark, as it’s called, features double-sided artwork. Horizontally, Star Wars is represented by a Leia-esque stormtrooper surrounded by colorful planets and the Millennium Falcon. I actually consider the simple quote to be very touching, especially since it comes from Annakin’s mother as he leaves her forever. Designed by Ink and Wonder.

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The reverse has a vertical quote by the Twelfth doctor, from Doctor Who. I haven’t watched any of the latest installment, but apparently 12 is a less cheeky, more encouraging Doctor than the 11th, who will always be my doctor. I hope to catch up with the series if it returns to Netflix.20170623_180053

Ooh, you know I adore bookmarks and I’m pretty satisfied with these four designs. Left side a. is my favorite, from the Hobbit: “The World is not in your Books and Maps, it’s Out There.”- Gandalf. The great wizard is well-quoted for a reason and I like the sentiment imploring readers to stick the bookmark in the page and remember to get out and explore. The mountainous landscape with fire-breathing dragon artwork created by Sorry for Wasting Paint.

Right side a. quotes the snarky Tony Stark. Iron Man happens to be one of my favorite Marvel heroes. The stylized font reads: “Let’s face it, this is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.” Amber recommends readers hold the bookmark in someone’s face if they don’t feel like conversing while reading.

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Left side b. I was surprised to see the Pride and Prejudice quote featured Mary Bennet rather than Elizabeth, but I think it encapsulates Mary perfectly and she’d be quite proud to know her words were on a bookmark. Design credit: Her Bookish Things.

Right side b. Lilo and Stitch “This is your badness level, it’s unusually high for someone your size.” It’s been a long time but I do remember an affection for the cute, trouble-making Stitch.

So far, so good with the previous items, but the next few felt a little disappointing:

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The left mini-print is a Game of Thrones quote referring to Samwell Tarly. Now I really like Samwell and I understand it’s about getting lost in books, but I was hoping for an edgier, more recognizable, world of GOT design. This one could apply to any bookish character from nearly anything. 

Right mini-print side a. has an old-fashioned book page style, by It’s Laura Crow. A story concerning Moriarty, Sherlock’s nemesis, is featured. Not sure if it’s taken from the BBC show or an artist interpretation, but I’m just not overly excited about a Sherlock item starring Moriarty, worthy villain though he may be.

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Above is the Hamilton item that I was looking forward to most. A great quote from the opening number was selected but although the design is flawlessly executed, nothing about it reads Hamilton to me. The coloring is taken from the costumes, but I would have enjoyed an actual costume depiction better, or the iconic black star on gold background. I realize the artists are limited by licensing restrictions and designs can only feature allusions to the work, I just wished for stronger Hamilton allusion here.

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Same for the generic design of the Chronicles of Narnia sticker. Who doesn’t love a classic Aslan quote? Again, props for the lettering skills. Unfortunately, the design is lacking any recognizable story characteristics.

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I’m undecided on the Harry Potter item. Partially my fault for misreading the teaser clue as saying a journal would be the HP piece. (It was only given in the golden ticket item, randomly placed in a few boxes each month). The design definitely reads Harry Potter, crammed with iconic series symbols, from the horcuxes to Dobby’s sock. I like the print, but can’t see myself wearing it as a hair scrunchie or bracelet. Maybe inspiration will strike as a better use for it, currently it sits on my HP shelf. 

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Nerdy post is a good value, this box equaled about a dollar apiece, especially if you are into paper products as I am. My mild rating is for the lack of integration of materials to it’s source inspiration in some cases. The favorites being the wax and the bookmarks, which I already seek out and collect means I probably won’t resubscribe. Nerdy Post also has a t-shirt subscription service, Nerdy Tees, that could be worth checking out. Which of these items would you be most excited to receive?

 

Book Challenge updates/ Mind-blowing edition

It’s beyond time to update my 2017 Redolent Mermaid reading challenge. Books have been doubled, but as my GoodReads challenge tracker glaringly reminds me, I’m still behind. Scent pairing suggestions follow.


Reading challenge #22. A book to make you belly laugh, guffaw or snort and chuckle along the way.

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders

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Getting this one right outta the way (Because after you’ve read LitB, you’ll really want to discuss it). LitB is the most peculiar, thought-provoking and likely best written novel I’ve ever read, yet I would never read it again.

I actually listened to most of the audiobook while driving 5 hrs. round trip to a memorial service for a friend’s father. What a strange trip it made. My personal reactions to Lincoln in the Bardo were more extreme than belly laughs:

At first I questioned, chuckled, pondered, brooded, startled, despaired, staggered, felt unsettled, strangely uplifted, and finally hopeful? I’m not sure there’s a descriptive term for the post-read feel other than, more connected to humankind.

It’s a simple premise, just one man’s interpretation of what occurs after death. What if dead souls lingered about the cemetery as if they were alive? How would they appear, what would they think about? What occupied and pre-occupied their existence? What if, into this world a newly bereaved gentleman came to dwell and mourn? What effect would his presence have on the Bardo dwellers? AND what if that gentleman was Abraham Lincoln? Freaking genius, also freakish nightmare!

This book held more gravity than I’m used to, but pirouetted gracefully between characters, moments, dialogue, even historical footnotes with such skill that I never felt weighed down by it. A searing and profound meditation on the human condition. I must provide a ‘recommended for’ note, one cannot go into this novel blindly. I wouldn’t bother with the print edition, the audio features 166 contributing narrators who bring such life to the words. It is a story to hear, rather than read.

Recommended for: audiobook readers, Nick Offerman fans, librarians, those looking to read harder, existential seekers, Abe Lincoln admirers who don’t wish to read masses of nonfiction AL bios (me), history and historical fiction fans.

Not recommended for: first-time audiobook readers, those queasy about death or ?s surrounding death, those easily offended by cursing-a couple characters swore like virtuosos, readers who struggle with unconventional dialogue or storytelling (characters constantly interrupt, ramble, trail off mid-sentence, etc.) People who hate footnotes (expect a lot).

Scent pairing: damp moss, dusty crypts, decay-nothing I want to smell.


Challenge #3. Magic

“The Paper Magician” by Charlie N. Holmberg

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The premise is promising: enchanting paper leads to unexpected adventures. 

Unfortunately, the writing never lived up to its premise. Lacking depth especially in character. Ceony, the heroine, expresses shallow emotional naivete; said to be around 21, but felt more like a 12 year-old. Holmberg, a debut author, wasn’t adept at world building and immediately suffers by comparison to J. K. Rowling’s wizarding world. Tagis Praff School of Magic, where students don’t even learn Dark Magic defense training, puts practicing magic in a mundane light.

The plot’s pacing wasn’t much better. Just when I started to consider the main characters’ burgeoning relationship endearing, a shocking (though somewhat predictable) act occurs, disrupting the flow. The said shocking event is the turning point of the story, but I believe it happens too early. No time for exposition after that, however, because readers are whisked off on a kooky adventure. Exciting at first, Ceony gets stuck in an endless scenario in which she needs to navigate her way out, causing the reader to feel stuck as well.

Low lights: Throughout the story, metaphors became increasingly clunky and nonsensical, for example, “The smell of sodden meat, fresh and spoiled, wafted like a cold song over her.” p.162 Wha? Um, okay.
Highlights: The dapper paper magician, himself, was intriguing. Ceony’s paper animal companion provided sweetness. It’s possible the series could get better, two more books follow.

Scent pairing: Dragon’s Blood from Sniff My Tarts. There were no dragons but there was an awful lot of blood for this light fantasy.


#17 A tale that takes place during war.

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“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, audio version. Some readers don’t care for stories about Nazis, and I get that. This story is so much more though, it’s about human beings and their varying abilities for compassion.

Two young protagonists, one French, one German, frozen at a single point in time. Their lives unknowingly influenced by each other’s pasts, in a desperate, simultaneous fight for their lives. The story centers around how they got to that moment and the tension building climax as they reach out to each other.

The best thing about this novel, what elevates and makes it deserving of it’s Pulitzer Prize: the plot fits together as perfectly as one of Marie Laure’s wooden puzzle boxes. Tightly woven, flawlessly edited and expertly composed. I learned a lot about French resistance activities and the cultural worldwide significance radios played in history. The only criticism being; with such detailed storytelling, the ending felt stretched out and could have resolved sooner.

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A library case display we did featuring AtLWCS

Scent pairing: salty sea air, ozone, driftwood and freshly baked bread.


#18 Female heroine triumphant.

“Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo

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The first in a sort of high fantasy-adventure hybrid series known as the Grishaverse, due to the presence of magical Grisha. Similar to wizards with a single special ability to conjure power from an element surrounding them. Featuring the pseudo-Russian country of Ravka where two orphans grow up to serve in an army, fight velociraptor-esque creatures, and traverse seas of darkness, all while harboring a secret crush. The Shadow fold, as it’s known, was actually the best part of the story; it had much potential and reminded me of the setting from the film, Pitch Black.

Of course, one can’t hang for long in the Shadow fold, especially when the heroine realizes she can harness the power of the sun. The rest of the story slides downhill as the newly empowered Grisha must decide if she can live with the price of power, or escape her fate as a pawn in a darker wizard’s game.

The story suffers from a more compelling villain than its snarky heroes, making their plight less exciting than intended. I didn’t like any of the characters enough to want read the sequel.

Scent pairings: 100% Sunshine by The Bathing Garden vs. Vendetta by House of Phoebe.


#1 Re-read a beloved book or series. I got halfway through last summer, but pushed myself to reread and supplement with the audiobook, in order to finish the series this summer.

“The Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling

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I’m not going to attempt a proper review with such a beloved childhood classic. But, suffice it to say, somebody was up to no good. I do agree with Finger Candy’s assessment that Harry was being a bit cavalier about nearly flaying young Draco to death. In fact, I felt he and his fellow Gryffindors were acting generally priggish throughout their 6th year. In hindsight, maybe they’re allowed some self-indulgent teen angst considering the term would soon end in upheaval, chaos and death. The penultimate book effectively resulting in an end to the safety and security of not only Hogwarts, but their childhoods.

Highlights: Dumbledore and Harry finally having a satisfying relationship. Glimpses into a young Tom Riddle’s history. Glimpses of a young Dumbledore, turned Hogwarts recruiter. (I think there’s prequel material in spades on the early life of Dumbledore). That emotional finale. And Luna.

Specific to the audio-narrator, Jim Dale’s voicing every character, but especially Peeves and singing Celestina’s cheesy love songs. Another favorite, Kreacher’s Christmas present!

Low lights: Harry’s attitude, especially as Quidditch capt., Quidditch in general, Ron’s attitude, Ginny’s attitude, Ginny and Harry, Ginny.

Scent pairing: nearly every candle/wax vendor has an HP collection. I prefer Draco and Harry from Super Tarts.


Challenge #9. A story that takes you to another place and time, real or imagined. 

“The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater  

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Digging my bookbeau for protecting my cherished books.

One place, overlapping lines of time. As demonstrated above, I don’t get caught up in great young adult novels till everybody else seems to have read them, but I do regret not picking this up sooner.

Synopsis from the author’s website:

“An unlikely group stumbles across ancient magic in Virginia: Blue, the daughter of the town psychic…has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. Gansey, who seeks the Welsh magic he believes saved his life. Adam, who searches for a way out of the circumstances he was born into. Ronan, who seeks to recover the magic of his childhood.”

Originality in the young-adult genre can be hard to come by, but The Raven Boys feels unique even as it relies on classic archetypes, such as, a band of misfits setting out on a magical quest. Crisp pacing, well structured with quirky, lovable characters. The boys’ friendship had echoes of Stand By Me, completely endearing. Also enviable, the friendship and reliance upon each other by the psychic women of the story.

I prefer even my fantasy genre reads to be somewhat believable, and TRB is that. It’s a series I expect to continue this year.

Scent pairing: incense, old-growth forest, mint leaves.

Summer to-be-read list commences. After so much YA and mind-blowing fiction, I’m yearning for some weighty nonfiction. Any reads that you’re particularly loving? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Vendor Feature-House of Phoebe Wax

This kaleidoscope of color represents one of my absolutely adored vendors. I named HoP my favorite find of 2016 in my year-end recap. Recently celebrating six months in business, House of Phoebe excels in my favorite scent types-earthy, woodsy, masculine, smoky and citrus. The store re-opened last week after a hiatus and I’m eager to check out the new fragrances Casey whips up.

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Each carefully wrapped black & cream package with gleaming golden touches presents a gift befitting of royalty, the 1.5 oz. cups inside resemble precious sparkling jewels.

The scent list is extensive and I’ve tried dozens. Because reviewing them all would be impossible, I shared a few of my favorite gems below. The melts run $1.35 and are sprinkled with shimmering glitter. Full-size samples included with every order. The categories featured on the HoP website are organized a bit differently, I grouped mine for broader simplicity.

Incense/Resins/Earthy:

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Baron La Croix-Cuban tobacco, earthy woods, musky sweetness.

Daenerys-Dragons blood, incense, bonfire, and blood orange. There is a quality spectrum of Dragon’s Blood oils, from rich smoky spice to sharper flowery notes. This falls on the good end, with an edge.  Imagine descending to the rocky depths of cool cavern air, rivulets run down the walls, when a sharp tinge of smoke creeps up…there be dragons ahead. A burnt offering of incense, fire and blood orange must be made.

Melisandre-Firewood, amber, currant, patchouli. Establishes it’s scent before you realize it, then it’s there, permeating the room with spice and sweet smoke. As beguiling and mysterious as it’s namesake inspiration.

Rebel Rebel-Lord of Misrule type (patchouli, sandalwood, citrus, black pepper) mixed with cedar, earthy moss, woody myrrh, and musky florals.

Third Eye-Saffron, sandalwood, leather, frankincense, and a touch of violets. Feathery wisps of sandalwood lighten rich, resinous frankincense. Aged leather provides a backbone to the powdery essence yet remains supple and tender, so as not to overpower. This fragrance soothed my inner savage beasts as I sought needed solitude to dwell in my own mind’s eye, to speculate on life, growth, change. I need to repurchase this peaceful, calming blend.

Vendetta-Smoky myrrh, scorched earth, a touch of citrus and light florals. The only bitter quarrel I’ll have is with myself if I don’t acquire more of this moody, musky, myrrh-soaked blend. Thank you Casey for fulfilling my sample request on this one, well done!

Citrus:

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Bless Her Heart-Sweet iced tea and lemon bars.

Bungalow-A tropical mix of pineapple, citrus fruits, and pomegranate over subtle tones of vanilla.

Mina-White tea leaves and lemon over earthy woods, rose petals, and a mixture of green florals.

Stars Chase the Sun-Orange citrus, bergamot, ginger, cypress, and rosewood.

Sansa-Sweet lemon cakes over notes of cedar and spruce. This was House of Phoebe’s first scent creation, inspired by Game of Thrones. (Character inspired scents related to the character are a must). 

Sugared lemon petit fours layered with chiffon cream and laced with delicate fondant served on a gilded tray. If cakes aren’t enough to send a young maiden into rapture in order to gain her secrets, then the clever nuance of stately blue spruce and sturdy cedarwood should do the trick.

On the lighter side, but I’m glad for it as both lemon sugar and cedar oils can be too much in heavy doses. I first received Sansa as a sample last August and adored it ever since. I try to grab it when available because I need this scent in my life.

Woody/Earthy:

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Forest Fairy-French lavender, lush green earth, sage, and eucalyptus. In love and admittedly confused by this one. I know I smelled a strong green minty tone when melting, and don’t believe I’m confusing eucalyptus with mint because they often pair together. Maybe it’s a more of an herb garden fairy? Either way, it’s fresh and strong.

Frau Holle-A blend of roasted pinecones and fir balsam with hints of apple and vanilla sweetness. A true-to-life fir tree essence enhanced by pinecones crunching underfoot.

Ygritte-Earth and foliage, spruce, and a hint of crackling firewood. Crisp, woody, smoky, warm, it holds every element I love about being outdoors on late fall days. Strong enough throw to melt half a cup.

*Better Call Saul-Cocobolo wood and boozy tobacco. (not pictured) An eye-opening experience, as if relaxing in a zen spa setting, a steam room outfitted in coastal cocobolo wood and tropical teak. My first cocobolo scent, but hopefully not my last. A HoP favorite, must repurchase.

Masculine:

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Arya-Freshly fallen snow, warm hay, leather

Asha-Driftwood, sage, aquatic florals, sea moss, and rum.

The Bear and the Maiden Fair: Brienne (Clean citrus, rain water, mountain air) x Penny Dreadful (Herbal tincture of poppy and lavender)

Brienne-Clean citrus, rain water, mountain air. One of HoP’s most popular fragrances. It’s SUPER FRESH. If that’s not your happy scent place, it will likely overwhelm.

I’ll let you in on a secret to why I think this scent is beloved…it smells exactly like a swimming pool. One sniff reminds me of long ago summer moments; padding gingerly across hot concrete, peeking over the edge for that glimpse of crystal clear, shimmering water, first wading, then jumping into the bracing coolness. It also carries the tangy note I enjoy from aquatic plants and greenery.  Not chemical, or crisp, but misty and potent.

Outlaw-Vanilla liqueur, oak, leather, cherry tobacco

Floral:

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Amaterasu-Fresh bamboo, sweet lemongrass, coriander, and sandalwood

Earthling-Lavender and pink sugar.

Margaery-Crisp summer fruits over a bed of roses. My favorite rose scent ever. More rosewatered than fresh rose. Imagine a bowl of stewed fruits and dark berries just leaching their juice, layered with sugar and sprinkled with rose petals. It’s soft, summery, and special.

Penny Dreadful-Herbal tincture of poppy and lavender

Fruity:

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Cersei– Sweet white grapes, bergamot, and myrrh, the perfect mix of sweet and sunny fruits and smoky darkness. Saving this for July’s Game of Thrones season premiere.

Delilah – A mix of vanilla, amber, heliotrope, tuberose, and birch. No explicit fruit notes, but on cold it gave a ripened fruity sweetness. Upon melting, the most decadent vanilla I’ve smelled flowed forth into creamy, gourmand heaven. No floral appears, just divine velvety cream with hints of golden fruits and amber. At risk of repeating myself, I need to repurchase Delilah soon.

Screen Door in a Hurricane-Rich coconut, vanilla absolute, and tiare flower with a touch of lavender

Violet-Sugared lemons and blueberries, jasmine, violets, vanilla and cedar. One of the few HoP misses for me. A very muddled note smelled off immediately, the blueberry was the strange smelling culprit, I think. Wouldn’t repurchase.

Sweet:

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Decadent and Depraved-Candy cigarettes frosted in vanilla buttercream and pink sugar. Who conjures candy cigarettes scents? Maybe I’ll try this when I have the kids visit, as I don’t think candy cigarettes are widely available anymore. 

It’s Good to Be Queen-Rich black tea steeping next to fluffy white cake. Casey represents the classic blends well too, like this tea and cakes.

Outliers: scents which don’t easily fit into a category 

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Aristides-Mint Julep; bourbon and mint with a hint of powdered sugar. Brimming with a cool freshness, but thought it too minty sharp and boozy for my nose. My sister ordered some and raved about it, however. 

Lonely Girl-Tea rose, cardamom, vanilla, currant, and peach

Bastet-A rich blend of Egyptian amber, rich patchouli, jasmine, citrus, and musk. An unexpected surprise due to its subtle cold throw. Bastet, an Egyptian goddess, transports me to a balmy southern clime where smoky smudge pots of incense alight a green orange grove at dusk. The aroma of night blooming jasmine mingles with sacred oils. Misty amber clouds envelop the crisp night air beneath a perfumed veil. Stunning.

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Why do I love House of Phoebe so? The artistic blends ALL created in-house, affordable luxury, courteous customer service and the gorgeously saturated wax pools aren’t bad either. If I could suggest any future endeavors for HoP, I’d love to see clamshells make an appearance. They store easily and I know Casey would decorate them beautifully; it’s high praise, but this brand already shows glimpses of a young The Bathing Garden vibe. I wish House of Phoebe such luck and a long waxy future.

Birthday Shenanigans: a Golden celebration

Four independent, different-natured, comical, female friends tackle a big city in style and solidarity. There was only ever one possibility for my New York City birthday theme: The Golden Girls.

Did you think I was going to say Sex In the City? Sorry to disappoint, but those aren’t my girls. My history with The Golden Girls is a little bit storied. I sang the theme song constantly when it originally aired during my youth. As an adult, my close friends and I realized we all adored the show, identified with the characters and quoted it religiously. I would catch the reruns on the Lifetime network only occasionally, but it wasn’t until I was 33 and receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer that I really needed the Girls.

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Such incredibly talented comediennes.

The night I arrived home after a surgical procedure I was in pain, scared and feeling sorry for myself. Unable to sleep, I settled on a Golden Girls marathon on tv and found myself laughing heartily even though it physically hurt to do so.  I was somehow cheered and comforted by these women and the shenanigans they got into during their golden years. I turned to other childhood comforts during my recovery, but watching The Golden Girls became a nearly nightly routine I used to fall asleep. I must have watched every episode at least three times over. Something about viewing these characters gave me hope for the future; I wanted to grow old just to see if I could turn out as fabulously funny as they did!

Fast forward several years to my planned birthday trip to New York City. Thankfully, due to The Golden Girls’ pop culture renaissance, I was able to find some cute themed merchandise on Etsy. Starting with these sticker quotes from ShopMaDesigns featuring sassy sayings from the beloved characters. They were a big hit and got us into the spirit of the show.

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Personal favorites include:

  • “Why don’t I just wear a sign that says, too ugly to live?” Dorothy to Blanche/Rose. 
  • “Eat dirt and die trash!” Blanche to Dorothy (nobody can cut a friend down like these ladies)
  • “Go to sleep sweetheart, pray for brains.” Dorothy to Rose
  • “Remember these sage words: You’re old, you sag, get over it.” Sophia to Blanche
  • “It’s like life is a giant weenie roast and I’m the biggest weenie!” Rose

I put together a few GG themed packages too. The simple design of these greeting cards, also from Shop Ma Designs, featuring the iconic character likenesses of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia grabbed my attention. 

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For my lovably acerbic “Dorothy” friend who I can’t live without.
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For the positive “Rose” I’m fortunate enough to have in my life.
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And to my wise friend (and excellent cook) “Sophia” who I want to be when I grow up;)

You know if I’m gifting, some good smellies must be included. Super Tarts’ Golden Melts wax collection is well-designed and I love the way each character’s scent turned out.

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If you’ve noticed the absence of a Blanche themed gift, I’ll give you three guesses to who is represented by Blanche in my group? And I don’t want to hear it, because I’m certain the only reason is because I am the youngest!

Every golden gal wannabe needs her mug of coffee to sip from while dishing around the table. There is lots of themed drink ware available, but I liked the design and Crate and Barrel brand mugs from Pick Me Cups.

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Threw in a Goat Milk Soap store bath bomb for good measure.

Stopping short of making character face masks for us to wear; would that have been over the top? I wanted to cap off our trip memorably and in true Golden Girls fashion. I scheduled a surprise excursion to the Rue La Rue Cafe in upper Manhattan. 

20170603_192637Owned by Rue McClanahan’s son and featuring memorabilia from the set of the show, and throughout Rue’s career, it’s truly a must for Golden Girls aficionados to pay homage to the girls. And it was incredibly cute, with yummy food, staffed by friendly, artistic employees, while the television show played perfectly in the background on a big screen.

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The wall of Rue was a treasure. Photo R.H.
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Complete with wallpaper from Blanche’s boudoir and the kitchen wall phone.

There was so much more including many of Rue’s costumes, a stage with piano and every souvenir fans could wish for from character bags of coffee, to candles depicting the fabulous four in roles of saints. I’m delighted we were able to visit. It provided a sweet ending to my birthday festivities and our trip.

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R.H.

I plan to stay golden in my forties and beyond:)

Empire state of mind

The New York City 4 day/4 night 40th birthday vacay recap you’ve all been waiting for! Or if you have no idea what I’m referring to, I just returned from my dream NYC trip that I’d been saving for the last few years. It was my first visit and I enlisted three best friends to join the celebration.

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Megabus trip The Amazing Race: 

That’s no exaggeration. We fortunately live close enough to get to NYC in about 8-9 hours, making travel by bus a decent option. I’m not the world’s greatest flier and may have had a minor medical emergency on my last airplane ride. Not wanting to take any risks on my birthday trip, combined with getting a Megabus fare of $11.50! from Pittsburgh to NYC, it seemed like the perfect plan.

Except, we almost didn’t make it. Of course we timed it to arrive 45 min. before our boarding window; however, everything from road detours, to travelers forgetting their shoes, to literally being stopped in 30 minutes of traffic ten miles outside of Pittsburgh conspired to make the last few moments a harrowing experience. Long story short, my husband who was chauffeuring us, white-knuckled the wheel while his passengers gritted their teeth, cheered him on, spoke positive mantras, and squeezed their eyes shut until he screeched around the corner of the pick-up location, 3 whole minutes before our departure time! I actually had the next available bus to NYC ready to book on my phone.

I’ll spare you the tailbone-busting details of the actual bus trip into the city, but I will say the anxious morning ride I just described was the more relaxing and better timed trip of the day.

Empire State-sized detour:

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R.H.

After checking into our Airbnb apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and having a much-needed sip of champagne, we set off in the direction of our first sightseeing stop, the Empire State Building.

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Actually, it turns out we were not in the direction of THE Empire State building, as we relied on google maps to pinpoint our destination. Getting two different results, our party followed the one listed as The Empire State building. New York natives and seasoned sight-seers know where I’m going here…we made the classic NYC tourist mistake, the one warned about in all the guide books; we went to the “Little” Empire State building. Pause here to mock our noob-ishness. Now that’s over with, we righted ourselves after our 30 block detour and found the other Empire State building.

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photo: R.H.

Hey, there it is! Other than regretting my shoe choice, the detour worked out because we missed the little bit of rain and hail that hit the observation deck when we might have been on it. Instead we enjoyed the air-conditioned 1 hr. line and observed the city lights at night.

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light fixture photo R.H.
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R.H.
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My fave photo atop the ESB
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R.H.

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No photo can capture the feeling of being on the observation deck. The coolest part for me was looking down and outward yet, not feeling afraid of heights, witnessing a French couple become engaged, the dazzling lights, and the actual temperature. It was cool and windy up there, but worth the mind-boggling views.

On the few minutes walk to our next stop, I saw my one and only NYC rat. He was running along, doing his thing and I didn’t hate him, I just pretended he was Ratatouille. Our evening destination was the 230-fifth rooftop garden where we hung out as the clock struck midnight on my birthday. It was quite a view to ring in my 40th year.

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“In New York you can be a new (wo)man….”

Central Park birthday morning feels:

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Columbus Circle, photo: R.H.
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R.H.

Granite boulders scattering the east side of the park.

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Our weather nearly the entire trip. Central Park in June. Gorgeous!
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R.H.

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I wanted to ride the Central Park carousel and reach for that brass ring, but it wasn’t operating at the time of our visit.

As we walked through Strawberry Fields and glimpsed the Dakota building through the trees, the guitar chords of “Hey Jude” reached our ears. That was kind of perfect.

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Thursday was the day I learned that New York City will assail itself upon you. One must walk aggressively to get through the crowds, cross the streets boldly and step lively on the subway. Whereas Uber-ing the city saved our butts, and more succinctly, our feet a few times; I found riding the subway a fun challenge. Couldn’t have done it without the MTA planner website for navigation and my willing friends.

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J.P. Morgan Library and Museum, Midtown, Rockefeller Centre, Bryant Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Grand Central Station, NYPL and Lillie’s Victorian Pub:

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Tea at the JPM, photo R.H.

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Jeff Koons’ balloon art
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Chair photo: R.H.

That Wafels and Dinges Belgian waffle with speculoos (cookie butter?) was one of the best foods I ate in the city, YUM-MY.

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Grand Central Terminal R.H.

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The Main New York Public Library is sort of my Mecca. 

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R.H.

The ceiling of the Rose Reading Room.

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R.H.

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The original stuffed animal inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh story books. Piglet is so adorable, I just can’t even.

I loved the Hell’s Kitchen/Times Square area pub where we dined for my birthday feast. Lillie’s Victorian Pub was a vision of ornate details and stained glass. Tasty grilled pineapple mojito cocktails and yummy chocolate cake to be had too.

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New digs: 

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On Friday morning we said goodbye to our Hell’s Kitchen apartment and moved to my husband’s cousin’s Chelsea residence. The complex is a sight to behold, occupying the city block between 23rd and 24th Streets and 9th and 10th Avenues. They graciously lent us their place and spent the weekend at the shore. Wow, I felt spoiled there.

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Back in the New York Groove

Friday was another full day of sightseeing:

St. Paul’s Chapel/Old Trinity Church

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The Courtyard Cemetery

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R.H.

9/11 Memorial: No words but reverence

North Tower location

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South Tower location

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R.H.
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R.H.

Chelsea Market:

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My taco from Los Tacos no.1 was THE no. 1 best food I ate in NYC.

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R.H.

The Highline-an elevated walkway with landscaped gardens following the old elevated rail system uptown through Chelsea. It’s a place you need to experience to appreciate the juxtaposition of greenery to urbanity.

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Left side photos: R.H.

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I gave my regards: Broadway

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Photo K.S.

This is about as dolled up as I get. You can bet I was excited and ready to give my regards to old Broadway. I also consider myself lucky to have gotten out of the apartment fully dressed, with three other women also getting ready, a commuting mom returning home, 2 children under four wanting to share their toys, and their dad trying his hardest to keep them out of our way-such is the crowded lifestyle of a New Yorker.

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We Uber-ed over to The Hourglass for quick drinks and some enthusiastic pre-show chatting with a nice couple from New Jersey.

Oh. Em. Eff. Gee. Seeing Wicked was my favorite part of the trip. We had fabulous seats, the Gershwin was grand and it was the perfect show to experience with my girlfriends.

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I know (because my husband has recently reminded me) that I can be tough. It’s a personality trait that’s served me well in many of life’s hurdles, but if I can be the super-serious Elphaba at times, I know I’m nothing without my Galindas. My friends exhibit all of the excitement, support, desire to improve others and fabulous attitude of the laugh-out-loud, pee-your-pants character and future good witch. And that’s Galinda, with a Gaaahhhh…

An Open Letter to NYC: 

“Dear New York, this is a love letter
To you and how you brought us together
We can’t say enough about all you do
‘Cause in the city we’re ourselves and electric too

Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten
From the Battery to the top of Manhattan
Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin
Black, White, New York you make it happen”- The Beastie Boys

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Visiting Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village was one of my favorite trip moments. It is so quintessentially New York that you can’t help getting caught up in the vibrant movement of the city. The gentlemen chess players, strutting pigeons, dog-walkers, street performers, dance groups, basketball games, opera singers, and spraying fountains created a heartbeat which I loved being a part of. And then there’s the arch.

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The arch features heavily in a book I loved reading this year, called, The Golem and the Jinni. Viewing it reminded me of the characters’ pondering discussions on life.

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Photo: S.S.

I love my friend for trying and the bright sun was shining right into her eyes, but apparently she thought I really wanted my photo centered with this lampost, rather than the 80 foot marble arch back there! Also, come on! Who sprays the WSQ arch with grafitti?

BookCon 2017/Book Swag:

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I’ll be honest, BookCon was a bit of a slog to get through. Walking the Highline to the Javits Center was great, but I made the fateful mistake of drinking one small Keurig cup of coffee after an exhausting three days of sightseeing in the city. I suffered significant brain fog through most of the day. There was an overwhelming amount of panels, discussions, giveaways, autograph sessions and vendor booths with book deals and book merch to visit, but I was too sickly to enjoy most of it. Still, my friend and I were troopers and with the exception of her hilarious near fisticuffs incident with a dismissive Starbucks employee (the only rude dude we met in NYC), we made it through only slightly worse for wear.

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Highlights: Leigh Bardugo was cool, meeting Benita from BookBeau was funny. The Little Golden Books 75th anniversary bus was awesome, anyone else grow up with the Richard Scarry Busytown books? 

My favorite meeting was with Elias Weiss Friedman, aka “the Dogist” on Instagram, who provides a short story on every dog he meets in NYC. What a cutie and he totally messed with me as I gushed how I “like” his photo posts every single day. I’m a dog-loving dork and he basically told me so.

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BookCon swag

The Met Cloisters:

While I was dragging myself through BookCon, my other friends made the better decision to visit The Met Cloisters, just north of the city at Fort Tryon Park. It’s a museum of religious relics and European medieval architecture. Each section of stone was excavated and reconstructed to form the monastic arcades and gardens. It looks breathtaking and I am sorry to have missed it, but I know it’s not going anywhere, I’ll get there someday.

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Photos R.H.

 

The Only Living Girl in New York

Sunday morning in Manhattan, in which, I wanted a little bit of time in the city to myself. I woke early, showered and traveled a few blocks south through Chelsea to grab coffee and a croissant.

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How I loved viewing the quiet streets, as Chelsea residents walked their dogs or walked to church and only the early vendors opened their stalls to the morning light.

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Cafe Grumpy was cute and frequented by NYPD officers from one of the nearby police stations. We hung out while I waited for a freshly brewed pot. I tucked into a warm almond croissant and the coffee was pretty good.

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Above is my last NYC photo; the back of the Chelsea apartment complex on the 23rd St. side. I’m thankful from the bottom of my heart for my husband’s family for inviting us to use their sweet home for the weekend. Their generosity allowed us to save money and experience two different NYC neighborhoods, living as authentic New Yorker’s might for a short time.

There was one more stop at a little out-of-the-way spot we visited on our last night in the city. I will share that special place in my next post as it’s directly tied to my birthday theme. The adventure continues another time…

I’m already dreaming of my next visit to New York City. I hope to return within five years and explore it all with my husband. For now, though, it is nice to be back home.

Band of Bloggers-June

Toes in the water, sunshine on the skin, evenings spent watching blinking fireflies or brilliant fireworks, all the little indulgences that only summer can bring. As it’s arriving soon (in the northern hemisphere), for June, we want to know the special ways you indulge during the summer months. Any activities you look forward to? For some, it involves dodging bugs to searching for respite from soaring temps. But for everyone it means longer daylight hours. What is your summer indulgence?

 
For me, summer is a time for relaxing on our deck for hours with a book in hand and a cold drink by my side. It’s leisurely walks with the pup and husband in the evenings, occasionally, with a little indulgent hand-holding. It also means an indulgene of possibility: a weekday pool party, why not? An impromptu road trip? I’m game. Last minute baseball or festival tickets? Count me in!
Because my birthday falls at the beginnning of summer, I sometimes overindulge; in ice cream sundaes, grilled foods, and cocktails. This year may reach a new level, with my current five-day New York City vacation celebration. That’s some fine hedonism right there.
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Sadly, it won’t be all baseball games, fun trips, and fireworks this summer. We have much neglected home repairs to get to and the initiation of a few projects. I’m hoping for a new kitchen floor but haven’t gotten into the planning stages yet.
One area I’m looking forward to indulging is rekindling a little of my love for cooking and trying new recipes. Summer always seems most conducive to experimenting.
 
Continuing with gratification, what’s the most indulgent fragrance purchase you have ever made or been gifted? A special bottle of perfume, exclusive wax opening, or pricey, fancy pants candle?
 I can’t justify the expensive luxury candles, upwards of $70 dollars for a single one. But spending that chunk of cash on a vendor wax haul is another story. I do love the variety and sampling many different scents, with the possibility of finding a new favorite. 
My most spurge-worthy wax purchase is my most recent Sniff My Tarts order, by a mile. What could be more self-indulgent than creating wax blends custom made especially for me? I’m glad that I ordered and can hardly wait until they’re on the way!
Lastly, how would you indulge if $ was no object? It could be a luxe fragrance you desire, a pampering spa package, a legendary retired scent, etc. What is your dream way to treat yo’ self?
*Okay, this may sound strange, but I recently heard about a spa retreat where the guests can care for horses as part of the spa package. At Ste. Anne’s, a Haldimand Hills Spa, in Ontario (Sandra!) an equine experience is offered along with the usual spa amenities. Not having grown up around horses, I’d love the chance to spend time on a horse farm, working with the animals. Mucking the stables and grooming the horses would seem less of a chore if followed by a relaxing soak and hot stone massage. Wouldn’t it? I’d like to find out and hey, if anyone else is game let me know. I asked my friends and they were NOT into it.
 I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s answers and responding when I return!
Please, feel free to answer these questions in the comments section below!
 
 
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May’s monthly highlights and NYC itinerary

Hello friends, I hope nobody minds an early recap this month. I’ll be too busy with last minute travel plans to push it back any farther, as this Memorial Day holiday provides a perfect opportunity to whip up a quick post.

Screenshot_2017-05-29-09-36-28-1May was full of many lovely melting and blog-related moments. I received generous gift packages, including gorgeous Rosegirls pie slices I plan to show off from Sandra, at Finger Candy, and an amazing mixed bag of melts from Jessica, at The Meltdown blog, who continually feeds my Super Tarts addiction. Thanks to my blogger buddies, my upcoming summer-long wax ban won’t mean I’m starved for great melts.

Last month, I forgot to include the slightly startling experience of meeting a few blog readers, I didn’t know previously, in the flesh. My sister held a party I attended with lots of her friends and co-workers. After introductions, a few ladies kindly told me that they enjoyed reading my blog! I was flabbergasted (thanks for sharing sis) and humbled that these women would take the time to read. They even shared that they loved my scent descriptions, so here’s a shout out to them, thank you so much for your readership!

Onto the month’s melts:

Rosegirl’s wax: Rockstar/Olive Branch, gifted.

Somehow, between wishing the Lush dupe scent trend would end while trying more and more of them, I fell in love with the Olive Branch scent. Never having experienced the inspiration body product, or any Lush product, I can’t say whether it’s spot on. But, this Rosegirls version is a gentle kiss of the bergamot, mandarin and leafy vine infusion of the serene scent, enhanced with comforting vanilla absolute of the Rockstar dupe. If this combo shows up in pre-order, I’m dead.

The Bathing Garden Caterpillar Mischief: Apricot and lemon jam, caramel cake bites, and coconut vanilla buttercream, a spring sample.

Very enjoyable, the sweetness is light and non-pervasive as the swirled fruit mingles with the bakery confections. The very last hint of scent is the lemon jam, a note I might stay away from singly, but added here is the perfect refreshing finish. 

Candles from the Keeping Room Pink Sugar and Strawberry, gifted. Okay, I may have found a strawberry I can handle. I wouldn’t order it on it’s own and still can’t help smelling an artificial tone, but I WOULD get more of this lucious PS/strawberry blend, it just conjures spring beautifully.

The Purple Fox Wax, 29 Palms: baja cactus blossom, green kelp, sea spray, blue sugar. I snagged my first geo bar on a whim when I saw they were still available hours after a PFW opening, one shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and all that. The geo has to be my favorite wax design, but the scent was a little too light on first melt, especially for blue sugar, so I’m curing for a few months to see if it develops.

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Along with the generous waxmail and the excitement of my super sized first Sniff My Tarts custom order, another blogging highlight arrived in the above melts from Bonjour Wax Co. I was surprised and humbled to receive this little package one day about a month after I posted a vendor review on Bonjour. Unbeknownst to me, Mandi read it and wanted to rectify the unsatisfying throw I experienced from one of her melts. She sent me the new stronger version of that one to try along with some samples. I was wowed by the lengths taken to ensure customer service. I’m letting the melt cure a bit, however, I feel this unsolicited generosity made a lifetime customer of me. Mandi is creating some inventive new wax samplers and has become a favorite vendor of my friend and sister, she’s quite an impressive girlboss.

Calypso by The Bathing Garden: sea salt, vetiver, driftwood, jasmine, and coconut.

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I can’t believe it has only been one year, this week, since I received my first vendor wax order, and if you saw the size of the stash I’ve amassed in that time, you wouldn’t believe it either. The Bathing Garden scent is proof of how far my tastes have grown and changed since my first order. I received Calypso last July, but didn’t like it, so I set it in a box and forgot about it. While hopping on to my sister’s summer TBG order, I pulled it out again for a sniff and realized it’s a winner.

The salty mix of fragrance merges with the aged driftwood capturing a true marine quality my fresh scent-loving heart adores. Milky coconut softens the saltwater tang perfectly. Maybe it needed nearly a year’s cure time to develop? All I know is I have ordered more.

Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio

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When I think of Akron, Ohio, I think of an aging industrial city of concrete walls lining the highways. There wasn’t much reason for me to visit until this Mother’s Day when I was fortunate to spend time with my mom and sisters on a tour of the Tudor castle style estate and gardens. Akron is the rubber city and this is the former home of rubber baron, F.A. Seiberling and his clan. It’s the 6th largest historic home in America and the 65 rooms were incredibly appointed with 95% of the original furnishings.

But the gardens were some of the best I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to quite a few. I had to share photos of our lovely day.

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English gardens resplendent along the grounds with gorgeous sculptures dotting the landscape in unexpected nooks and pathways.

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Perfect Japanese gardens woven along the back of the estate. There were also spectacular birch tree allee`s, budding tree and rose gardens, grape arbors, rolling lawns, meadows and greenhouses. It was such a gem to behold.

I’ll be leaving soon for the trip mentioned above. The next time I have a (pre-scheduled) post I will be enjoying New York City on my first visit!

A portion of our New York City itinerary:

Icons/landmarks

  • The Empire State Building
  • The Met Cloisters
  • The Guggenheim
  • Broadway 
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Times Square
  • 9/11 memorial

Shopping/sites

  • SoHo shopping
  • 230-fifth rooftop garden
  • Chelsea Market

Outdoor features

  • Central Park
  • The Highline
  • Washington Square Park arch

Bookish

  • BookCon 2017
  • The Strand bookstore
  • J.P. Morgan library/museum
  • New York Public Library

Can it be done in 3.5 days/4 nights? Probably not, but I’m hoping to try for most of it. I am aiming to be present in the moment and enjoy myself no matter what we are able to fit in during our stay. Also, we only have a few restaurants locked in, so I’m still taking suggestions if anyone has a can’t miss venue.

I’ll be excited to share our adventures when I return, until then, I wish you a beautiful start to summer.