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Spring

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“We are Londoners so we are used to rain. But the enthusiasm and support despite the weather is amazing.”

This is what the bassist and vocalist, Oliver Sims of The xx, said to the drenched crowd on Friday night here in Montréal. And it was true. Everyone was ecstatic and there were even some free-spirited concert goers dancing in the rain. A great concert can make for a great experience regardless of the season. But Montréal is high precipitation city and hosting an outdoor concert can mean some unfavourable temperatures. The xx and Grizzly Bear landed here on a cloudy day, fragile to the threat of rain that sprinkled on and off on Friday. As optimistic as I wanted to feel about the weather that day, it ended up pouring like cats and dogs by the end of the night at Lachine Canal.

I had dressed appropriately with layers under my rain coat, had pulled on my tall rain boots, and hauled my big umbrella. But this city rains more than my hometown of Toronto — and of course Montréal gets more snow as well. At last year’s Osheaga, a violent rain storm drenched the concert for at least one of the three days of the music festival.

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It has been raining every other day or so here in Montréal which, along with the colder temperatures, meant I was back in layers and rain boots. I was walking home in the evening last night after a day of rain, and the drizzle had stopped by the time I came out of metro. I live next to a beautiful park and as I was walking past the greenery I thought the effects of the fog corralled in the air made for a dreamy scenery. I do not carry fancy camera equipment so I attempted to capture the night with my iPhone. I cannot wait for sun and the summer season to start in the city.

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By now I think I can safely say that Montréal is out of its deep freeze and my parka can be safely tucked away for another few months. Spring also means that I can look forward to seasonal harvests, which get me excited about all the fresh produce I can use for home cooking. Depending on where you are, green beans may be coming in season, either now in the spring or by the summer. Here in Montréal, my local grocery store was having a sale so I stocked on a bulk buy. Green beans are great frozen so after washing the beans and trimming the ends I froze half away and used the other, fresh half to make a salad for a potluck.

I wanted to bring a dish that had spring written all over it so what is more perfect than a green bean salad? However, I wanted to make sure the recipe was a good one, especially for those who may not be the biggest fan of vegetables.

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Spring has sprung here in Montréal with blue skies, bright sun, and above zero temperatures. One of the tasks I had scheduled for myself this long Easter weekend was to repot some of my plants, which are composed exclusively of cacti. To be specific, my goal was to pot my collection of moon cacti into individual pots but to make this more fun, I decided to make this into an easy arts and crafts session using used candle jars.

First a disclaimer: I am not a plant expert! I did not always have cacti and in fact, for pretty much all of my adult life, I did not grow any plants. This is despite being surrounded by a forest of plants in my childhood home, which my mother tended to and cared for inside our suburban dwelling. She had a green thumb and the plants grew tall and robust under her care, meaning that a collection of approximately fifteen plants took up a large portion of our living room. My family called this area the “jungle” because that is exactly what it was — a smorgasbord of plants large, stout, small, flowered, spiky, with big leaves, and small leaves.

I did not inherit my mom’s ability to be the plant whisperer, and my various attempts to grow pants were always a bust. My first plants were small pots of cacti that my parents permitted me to purchase as a child; I loved how they were purchased as small, baby creatures that came with seemingly straight-forward directions. However, I always managed to kill my cacti, and my memory is fuzzy in terms of whether I drowned them in too much water though that seems like the probable diagnosis. Since then, I never owned a plant though I did tell myself that eventually I would have a jungle of my own.

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Here in Montréal, we are digging ourselves out of yesterday’s snow storm that closed down schools and caused traffic chaos. The storm caused $17 million in clean up to remove the 20 centimetres of snow, but today it is bright and relatively mild. The Onion, of course, had an article two days ago with the title, “Punxsutawney Phil Beheaded For Inaccurate Prediction On Annual Groundhog Slaughtering Day” — are we not glad this is an Onion article?

Happy first day of spring!

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On nails: Essie, Geranium

I love nail polish. Many girls and women these days do. In fact, during the recession starting in 2008, many economists expected that lipstick sales would surge as per the Lipstick Effect which posits that the sales of inexpensive indulgences, such as lipstick, increase during lean economic times. Instead, a 2010 study found that the sales of nail polish, not lipstick, actually increased by 0.8% in 2009.

This I do not find surprising. I would say that, as someone who likes to follow fashion and beauty trends, many women including my peers are not as enamoured with lipstick which is not a staple for many grooming routines. We women continue to wear foundation/concealer as base, love to pile on tons of mascara, groom the brows, and maybe some blush and eyeshadow. For the lips? Not lipstick for every day wear, but instead something sheer and more natural like gloss or balm. Lipstick, when used, is reserved for special occasions (or daring fashionistas featured on a street style blog). Amongst all the women I know, I would say I am the only one that still sports lipstick though only for a night out or for events. And when I wear lipstick, it is bright and meant to be seen, never soft and demure.

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On nails: Butter London, Yummy Mummy

But nail polish is a different story. Just about every female friend I have has a nail polish or two to paint at home on a week day night, or bring to their neighbourhood nail salon. When I was working full time, I sported nails in unassertive colours for the sole purpose of looking neat and professional. Nowadays, as a student, I wear nail polish in both brights and neutrals, and more as an accessory. I do not usually pile on the earrings, necklaces, or other accessories on a daily basis. But my nails? They are a relatively cheap and fast way to complete my outfit. And they bring a flash of colour to the sometimes grey transitory season that is the end of winter, or beginning of spring.

My all time favourite is Essie’s Geranium, which can only be found at specialty beauty shops or salons though Essie now carries select colours in drugstores here in Canada. It is a bright, warm coral that I sport all year round (top photo). The orange makes it a non-basic red, and it is flattering on my yellow-based skin tone. I apply three to four coats for maximum coverage and opacity.

A new discovery is Butter London’s Yummy Mummy (second photo from top). Horrible name and quite a high price point, by the way ($17 CDN!). But it is a beautiful, cool beige-grey tinged with purple and fine shimmer. It is quite sheer and applied in two coats, it retains some translucency and looks like your nails, but better. For a completely opaque look and to emphasize its cool undertones, use at least four coats. I surprisingly purchased this product at Indigo bookstore amongst their array of lifestyle products (with a gift certificate, natch).

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