Project Wax Update: Summer candles

20170709_153921
Summer collection

It’s time for a rotation of the summer candles, past time considering it’s July, but I didn’t want to change any out until I finished a few off. I’ve been making stellar progress (for me) on my candle depletion project. Okay, the empties below aren’t super impressive but I wasn’t home much to burn last month. To put it in perspective, my pre-candle depletion numbers totaled 5 empties for the entire year, in a good year. Considering those poor stats, I think I’m doing pretty well.20170709_112454What these finished burns lack in quantity was made up in quality. Early Sunrise and Lake Sunset are two retired favorite Treasures. The Relaxing Rituals line was discontinued years ago. I still have the fragrance oils of this soothing combination of Cardamom, Rose and Cedarwood, but I was sad to say goodbye to the candle. I’ve even finished Black Tea Rose since this photo was taken, giving me a good jump on my next empties post, with my fall collection roll out.

20170705_103733

Bath and Body Works’ Salted Vanilla seemed to take forever to get through for a 3-wick, but it was enjoyable. I’ve heard it reviewed as sour milk smelling, but I got nothing close to that. The vanilla was subtle with a golden brown butter essence and the briny tang of sea salt. Initially, the burn didn’t produce much throw, but by the third go, it threw respectably. Not a repurchase, but not awful. 

20170709_111304-COLLAGE

Progress is all jolly-well, but I’m also on a wax and candle buying ban. Early June brought a minor setback when my good friend, who works for Yankee Candle, brought me two Pure Radiance crackle wicks. She knew I loved them and they were being discontinued, I didn’t have the willpower to turn them down! Pumpkin is set aside for fall but Citron smells yummy.

20170709_160046

My seasonal copper tray is the simplest yet: found seashells, a shell guidebook, glass starfish dish from a Charleston, South Carolina honeymoon stop, the nautilus tealight holder was a Yankee Candle clearance item from summer 2015 and retired Sandalwood Vanilla jar with Beachcomber illumilid.

20170709_160148

My mid-to-end of summer burning goal is six candles. I still have spring’s Fresh Cut Herbs going in the kitchen, determined to finish it. My summer stash holds some of my all time favorites, including Mountain Lodge and Campfire Treat. If a candle from my summer collection catches anyone’s eye for a review, let me know, any excuse to burn!

June Best & Worst: I’m still learning

“I am still learning”-Michelangelo

20170702_095149

I had a visceral reaction to reading this featured quote while at the New York Public Library. Unable to explain why exactly, but those four simple words feel so meaningful. Maybe it’s because if one is still learning, they are still willing, still striving, still living. There’s a freedom in admitting you don’t know it all. An admittance I’ve struggled with in the past, but am letting my need to know and be prepared for everything go, little by little, and it feels good. 

I’ve learned a lot this June. I also wrote my 100th post!

20170702_094521

Best: Turning forty. I never take a birthday for granted, but celebrating this one in New York City was a special experience I’m so grateful I had. The city was thrilling and the company and support of my friends helped make it memorable. Their friendship is so important to me and I’m still learning, each day, how to be a better friend; many thanks for their patience.

Also Best: Spending time with my husband and family on a short getaway. Visiting relatives I don’t get to see often and racking up two fun sunny days with my niece and nephews is quality time I will cherish.

Worst: My knees feel more like I’m seventy. They went kaput the day I turned forty, literally, as I sat on the wide stone steps of the NYPL and felt the cramped bus ride and endless walks through the city express itself through grinding pain. I’ve now learned what many others experience but I never understood; what it feels like to have major knee discomfort any time I bend or rise. As my friend so succinctly put it, “Welcome to forty!”

20170402_193940

Best: Featuring my favorite wax vendor with an in-depth post. Casey at House of Phoebe Wax is wonderful, in both blending ability and customer service relationships. I’m excited that I could spend a little time raving about her beautiful products and spreading the word.

Worst: I noticed some of my blog photos were being used on a wax vendor’s page without any notification or acknowledgement to me. Surely, it’s frowned upon to use someone’s personal photos without asking permission, even if they occur with a flattering review. That act itself wouldn’t have been too bad, if, the brand’s owner had been anywhere near apologetic when contacted. Initially surprised, yet flattered, I politely asked for photo credit. The response to my request was somewhat flippant and amounted to being told I needed to provide a photo with my name or else other photos that were sent to her would be used instead. Later, one photo was taken down and another was credited with my first name.

This was an eye-opening experience on how to handle improper conduct, personal photo violation and basic small business-customer relations. As a blogger, I’m still learning, but as a customer what is becoming clear is that I prefer vendors with integrity. No matter how large or small a company is, straightforward sincerity will always get my endorsement. There will be no more product photos forthcoming for this vendor to use in the future.

Best: Winning a candle blogger award by FeedSpot. Along with The Meltdown blog and two candle bloggers who helped inspire me to start fragrance blogging, Andy’s Yankees and Yankee Candle Sisters. I felt a little guilty over this award at first because I rarely post candle reviews any more. I do love to discuss candles anytime, however, and give many glimpses of my collection and candle accessories. With my current project wax candle depletion, I’ve been burning more than ever. Maybe this will inspire more candle content. The top 60 candle blog awards list can be viewed here.

Worst: Being out of town often this month means I’ve been unable to melt much. I feel as if I hardly got through any of my wax, but July brings a lighter schedule with more time at home. It also brings my No-Buy July, which I’ve already started last month with a wax ban. I’ll be making an extra effort to shop my stash and melt through a good portion (to make room for more of course).

20170702_095851-COLLAGE

Best: My husband and I started a little vegetable garden in a plot where our swimming pool used to be. It is the first time we have tried our hands at it and I thought it would be blind luck if anything bore fruit. It might be luck, but some little tomatoes and a few soon-to-be red peppers have sprouted. What a satisfying feeling and I can’t wait to make my first salad using our own summer vegetables along with the garlic I planted last fall that’s ready to harvest soon.

Be it in blogging, gardening or life, I’m embracing the learning. I know I’m not the only one, what have you learned about yourself lately that you’re willing to share? Any new hobbies, projects or products you’ve been cultivating?

 

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

20170619_194441

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

20170505_094839

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.

20170622_090326

“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.

20170330_103332.jpg
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

20170524_155142

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

20170621_160627

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  

20170622_092246
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.

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.

20170506_133216-1.jpg

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.

20170527_200815

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

20170514_121524-EFFECTS.jpg

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.

Screenshot_2017-05-29-09-43-25-1

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

20170514_131842-COLLAGE

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.

Band of Bloggers-April

It’s that time of year again! As the warmer weather soothes stiff joints and brushes off the last vestiges of winter, homes beg for the same fresh start everyone promised themselves at the beginning of the year. Clothes are donated, rooms are scrubbed, and yards are tended. While the fauna leave their winter dens or return from long migrations, the world blooms with new growth in vibrant splashes of color.
 
For April’s Band of Bloggers post, we will answer a few questions about Spring and the ever-loved Spring Cleaning. Feel free to join in and answer these questions in the comments below!
Speaking of fauna, we’ve had a woodpecker visit a tree in our front yard every morning for the last week or two. I don’t mind him too much as the pecking only lasts about 5 minutes and it’s an arousing reminder of spring. I’m looking forward to longer days and getting outside more often. Though, it’s been rather rainy of late, hopefully our weather will cooperate.
Do you decorate for Spring? 
Barely, it’s my least decorated season. However, I grabbed a few more items this year, including the moss bunny below. Love that little woodland creature. I gravitate to
pastel blue-greens and aqua tones during spring. I also love earthy, mossy green tones.
 
Are there any products you find yourself reaching for as the weather warms? This can be anything; food, clothing, bath and body, wax, you name it!
Honestly, without a blog record of what home fragrance I melted last year, I’d have no recollection of the spring scents that I’ve reached for in the past. I can’t remember any before then either, but I know I’ve really only gotten into lavender scents through vendor wax. Citrus fragrance always seems to brighten things up around springtime.
This year, I’ve reached for numerous pink sugar blends, and will continue to do so as I’m expecting more. Two new-to-me categories I recently enjoyed melting are fizzy and laundry scents. I’m interested if anyone has a nice laundry type recommendation, nothing too starchy. I’ve also received some florals I will review soon. The Yankee jar candle is a gift from a friend in the retired scent Water Garden. An absolute pleasure to burn, as cool and soothing as an actual water garden.
I’ll be reaching for my Rose scented natural deodorant from The Dirty Goat, my festive one seemed to last much longer than the drug store brands. The antiperspirant property is holding up well so far. We’ll see if I enjoy smelling of roses.
Food-wise, it’s bring on the spring bounty! I crave nearly every type of salad one can imagine. I always use more herbs in the warmer months when they’re more readily available.
 
Do you participate in the Spring Cleaning craze?
Hahaha! (That’s the sound of my dust bunnies laughing).
I’m more of a summer cleaner, I need longer days and my husband’s help to tackle larger projects. This summer it will be cleaning the garage, but he doesn’t know that yet;) The only spring-oriented cleaning I have on the horizon is switching over my closets this weekend.
Don’t forget to visit these fellow participants in the Band of Bloggers and help support the blogging community!
Liz at Furianne
Sandra at Finger Candy
If you are a blogger and would like to join the Band of Bloggers for our monthly posts, please contact us.

Take time for Harry Potter? Always.

Amidst the anxious excitement over plans for upcoming trips, continual vendor haul posts and countless exhilarating store openings, a gentle reminder was needed. A reminder to myself that what feeds the soul, truly feeds my soul, is immaterial. It cannot be bought, nor won, can neither be checked off a list, nor added to a planner agenda. In fact, it’s difficult to capture at all in writing and photos. What fills my soul is connection; to friends, to family, community, and (introvert that I am) even to beloved characters from books and movies held so dear. Perhaps the universe provided the opportunity to reconnect without me even realizing it was needed. However manifested…I am grateful.

Reconnecting with community occurred last weekend at our high school’s musical (which happened to be High School Musical). My husband is a teacher, but outside of Speech and Debate related functions, I’m not in touch with many local families. It was nice to reminisce about how these teenagers have grown and to catch up with a few former coworkers. I tend to forget too easily about the community ties that exist and have sustained through the years, especially in the smallish town where we live. I left feeling somewhat abashed for too often residing in my own world, but also touched, and with a renewed esteem for many fellow community members.

20170328_092332

Connecting with a friend and revisiting a beloved fandom came by an invitation, of sorts, to Hogwarts. My good friend got us tickets to the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Film Concert series performance by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

20170325_194752.jpg

I hadn’t heard of these CineConcerts before which blend live music and visual media. But if my love for the world of Harry Potter and classical music wasn’t enough reason to attend, then the rare occasion of getting dolled up to enjoy a lovely dinner and night out with a friend certainly was.

The concert format featured the orchestra playing live, all of the music that was recorded in the film, while the movie was projected with dialogue and subtitles onto a gigantic screen. The conductor had a flat screen on his podium which flashed varying lights in conjunction to the climactic movie moments. The music was heart-stirring. I especially enjoyed watching the frenzied Quidditch match performance, and of course had chills during John Williams’ Hedwig’s Theme.

20170325_200122

If you’ve ever attended a viewing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show“, in which crowd participation is expected, and raucous, this was, in comparison, a tamer experience. One can’t sing along to instrumentals but there was quite a bit of cheering and a few choice comments from the sold out audience. Most vocal reactions were to the first screen appearances of fan favorites, Hagrid and Snape, with hearty cheering, and some booing as the Hogwarts houses were announced. The crowd in my section was conspicuously hipster, with clouds of patchouli scents wafting all around. It made me smile however, to see many gray-haired fans alongside young ones wrapped in their Hufflepuff scarves.

Speaking of Hogwarts houses, have I ever mentioned that I’m a Slytherin? Of course, my librarian side is Ravenclaw and back when I took the Pottermore beta test, that’s the House I was sorted into. I don’t consider it to be the definitive test since everyone knows that when you answer intelligence to what you value most, you’ll be Ravenclaw.

Many years ago, I took the comprehensive 100 question quiz in which I must have attempted to skew my answers to Ravenclaw, causing my true nature to come out, hence Slytherin. Ah well, if it is so, there are a handful of soulful Slytherins too plus my husband and many friends are Hufflepuff, so they keep me in check.

As much as I would love to indulge in the merry merchandise of all things HP, its just not feasible. I daydream over the International translations of the books, but what I currently own are an incomplete set of library cast-offs. The illustrated editions are exceedingly gorgeous, so I plan to keep requesting those as presents.

Here sits my humble Harry Potter shelf.20170326_191237.jpgAll of the items were gifted except the darling character bookmarks from Happy Hello Co. I’m too much of a bookmark geek to pass those up. The framed quote was made by a student and the stick-like wand is a real stick, fashioned and painted into a wand presented to me by my nephew when he was nine.

The Funko Pops were stocking stuffers and though I want a few more, I must be selective due to space. My husband knew Harry with Hedwig and Fred Weasley were musts!

The Half-Blood Prince is pulled out because that’s the book I’m currently into from the series. I started it a while ago, but that’s a story for another day.

Any HP collectors out there with beloved items to share? Strong opinions on which Funkos I should get next? Would you attend a CineConcert? Apparently they tackle a wide range, from Star Trek to It’s a Wonderful Life. I’m looking forward to attending another in this series sometime. Until then it’s good to know the fandom continues to change and grow.

 

Book challenge update/scent pairings

20170305_162950

The most enjoyable book (audio actually) I read last year was The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner. Just announced as the winner of the William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. I recommend it as a modern, if sentimental, coming of age in the south story of friendship.

Unfortunately, The Serpent King was one of two bright spots in a personally horrible literary year. Seeking to reignite my reading fire and elevate my choices this year, I entered the Redolent Mermaid’s reading challenge for 2017.

Off to a shaky start, I juggled 3 books at once, delaying the completion of any of them. You may assume being a library specialist makes me a fast reader, sadly, not so. My powers of concentration aren’t what they used to be, often taking me longer to get through most books than it does many of my patrons. Alas, I waded through a few and am currently on my fourth.

*My reviews are for editorial purposes only, book critic I am obviously not.

20. Female authored-

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, published 2016. Described as “a fever dream” this brief story features a young African-American girl from Tennessee replanted in Brooklyn in the 1970s.

20170110_164707

Woodson writes in memories and memory lapses, so that the reader is spinning, shifting through the storyline on unsure footing. Alternating between a punch to the gut softened by splashes of warmth and humanity, the writing is bare, sparse, and spare. Drifting through the protagonist’s broken memories meant I didn’t really experience or understand the supporting characters. Her best friends, brother and father felt like strangers. Real human beings portrayed in the unreality of snippets of memory, I was never pulled into the story.

The interesting takeaway was that everyone in Woodson’s Brooklyn dreamed of living in better places. If you’re looking for a feel-good read, keep looking. If looking for diverse, LGBT-authored, I lukewarmly recommend it.

21. Paranormal or supernatural-
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, published 2013.
 20170305_142333.jpg
For the purpose of the reading challenge, I put the G+J into the supernatural phenomenon category. Cataloged as Fantasy, a more appropriate description is Folklore, or a sort of Historical/ Fantasy hybrid. Unlike anything I’ve read before, I predict it will be the best book I’ll pick up this year. I dare say the best I’ve read in a decade, but while still feeling the post-read pull on the heartstrings it’s too early to say.
Told through seamless multiple narratives, The Golem and the Jinni is a story about legends, good versus evil, the nature of humanity, whose main characters don’t qualify as human. Set in late 19th century New York City, a tale of lost souls seeking friendship, love, community, freedom and acceptance while navigating two different cultures, Jewish and Syrian.
Reviewer William Schwab said, “a good book answers questions you didn’t know you should ask.” Reading this brought forth so many questions: Can people rise above their nature, or are they destined to fulfill it? Which has greater value, one’s duty or self-determination, safety or freedom? What does it mean to be truly free? What is a purposeful life? Who is worth one’s faith and devotion and at what cost? My personal favorite dilemma these characters struggled with; should great knowledge be sacrificed for happiness? 
Never have I read a story containing so many unforeseen and unpredictable developments that I nonetheless knew was barreling toward it’s inevitable conclusion. This is Wecker’s debut novel, researched and written over 7 years and I hope that she carries on. No encounter was wasted, no character or detail superfluous, not a single word. With visceral imagery and impeccable pacing, even at 484 pages I felt I was leaving the Golem and Jinni’s world too soon. I perceive I’ll continue to live with the memorable Chava and Ahmad, the thoughtful rabbi, solitary Arbeely, good Michael Levy, caring Maryam and the fateful Ice cream Saleh a little while longer though, I’m not ready to give them up.
20170301_134400-1
 At the suggestion of my buddy Sandra, who’s been pairing her challenge reads with nail art, I will tie in fragrances inspired by a few of mine.
The Jinni – a character both “dazzling and dangerous”, fiery and impulsive, is represented by Bright Copper Kettles from Yankee’s My Favorite Things collection. Jinni’s skill at metalsmithing was an integral part of the story and a fitting choice. Cinnamon bark, and spicy clove cast an inviting spell while patchouli and cedarwood radiate the warmth of home.
20170305_142957
The Golem -tougher to choose, I rejected a baked bread scent for one elemental and earthy. Silver Birch, with ozone, Siberian pine, clove, eucalyptus and patchouli fit nicely. Leaning masculine, it represents the strong, stoic Golem, with a steady even throw to it as well. The beautiful birch tree label symbolizes all of the nights wandering the parks.
11. A book with an animal on the cover or in the title.
Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase published 2016 (audio book)
20170305_143319
 A dual narrative flipping between 1960s and present-day Cornwall and the happenings and mishaps occurring at the Alton family’s stately title home. Though a rabbit graces the intriguing book cover, the animals play a minor indirect and unlucky role.
Both premise and character introductions were promising, but the story became disappointing fairly early on. The audio narrator didn’t help as I found myself rolling my eyes at the developing melodrama. Our modern heroine Lorna, initially likeable, came across quite selfish and petulant by the conclusion. The tragic Amber’s flashbacks, though a more stimulating story, began to read like teenage diary entries. There was also a Flowers-In-The-Attic undercurrent happening and if you’ve read it and that’s your thing, then BRH may be for you. I read it as a pre-teen and am not looking for V.C. Andrews read-alikes at this point in life. The revelations and predictable subsequent revelations weren’t worthwhile enough for the rest of the plot. I recommend any of Kate Morton’s novels instead, far better at untangling old family secrets.
Happy Reading friends, send any thoughts and recommendations, I vow to read better in 2017.