introductory henna

On July 14, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve been wanting to try to do my own mehndi for a really long time now, years. I really like the concept of a tattoo— and have a healthy appetite for tattoo reality shows—but I’m not yet drawn to any idea so powerfully that I want to wear it permanently. Enter henna, that clever, versatile dye.

It’s a different creature, really, than the etched precision of ink. It has its own history, and its own style, which varies from one culture to another, and lends itself beautifully to modern hybrids of tradition and innovation. Many designs have ancient origins and ancient meanings to match, ranging from simple patterns and shapes to those astonishing intricacy. You know how I like astonishing intricacy. If it is somehow tied up with wearable decor, so much the better.

henna paste cone

Somehow I wasn’t able to make the time for the project until I gave up, at least temporarily, on the idea of mixing my own henna paste, and got the ready-made cones (thank you, eBay).  I also needed a fair chunk of time, as the henna can take a while to apply and to achieve a dark, long-lasting stain it stays on the skin for at least 4 if not more like 6-8 hours. I had to decide on a pattern, too, which we won’t talk about how long that took. I opted for something geometric and straightforward to start.  If you are one of those people who can’t bear to look at feet, you’d best tap out now.

Designs on the feet connect the spirit, mind, and body to the earth. I like this kind of physical symbol or reminder, perhaps because my memory seems to need all the help it can get. And I like my feet. I like them as they are, just as I like my face as it is, but it’s appealing to embellish them all the same. It’s not exactly that I like them more when they are embellished…but I like the novelty and the energy of embellishment.

mehndi henna feet geometric design theseventhsphinx

I washed my skin and and rubbed it with eucalyptus oil (diluted) to prepare it to receive the dye. Henna also has an earthy, peculiar [though not exactly unpleasant, though not exactly pleasant] smell, which the eucalyptus combats. You snip the end of the cone to the desired diameter and essentially pipe the henna paste on, like frosting a cake. You can use a transfer to create the design or just freehand it as I’ve done here. I had a pile of cotton buds and toothpicks on hand to quickly remove errors before they became part of the story. I looked at a few hundred images and cobbled together two that I liked to make this design. You have to take care with anything around, as henna will stain a good many things if given the chance.

You keep your design intact for as long as you can manage, moistening it periodically with a lemon juice and sugar solution (I only spritzed mine with diluted lemon juice because I’m always going off-recipe, which seemed to work fine). It eventually starts to flake off and, in my case about 6 hours later, you scrape the remainder off.

mehndi henna feet geometric design theseventhsphinx

The initial stain is a bright rust, sepia, basically my favorite color ever.

mehndi henna feet geometric design theseventhsphinx

As it oxidizes it darkens into a deep, warm brown stain that lasts about 2-3 weeks. There are strategies for making it darker and longer lasting but I was only willing to be inconvenienced up to a point, and I’m delighted with the results of my first foray.

I don’t like to miss an opportunity to decorate myself in a new, personal way. And it’s so like me to want to do it myself, though I have seen mehndi artists at some of the Indian shops in the area. [Perhaps I’ll visit them after botching something with my non-dominant hand.] I find it extremely appealing, fitting, beautiful.

I absolutely love it.

I’m already thinking of what to try next, I like this medium so well. It’s versatile, flexible, it needn’t be too precise, neither in execution nor interpretation, and its duration is a comforting balance of not-quite-fleeting and not-remotely-permanent. And it’s beautiful.

Have you tried it?

x

 

almond joy

On March 29, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

There is a definite pattern in my bodycare preferences…

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(and in my eating preferences, too)

It is almond and coconut all the way chez Sphinx, with only occasional forays into other bodywashes here and there (though, come to think of it, I have the Dove nourishing almond oil one, and their nourishing almond deodorant as well) or some alternate body lotion (I like Amlactin, and a number from L’Occitane, like…their almond one…and their almond oil body wash…). Even when I stray from the pure stuff, these ingredients are often in there somewhere.

There’s a definite appeal to raw ingredients, their flexibility and malleability. You can start mixing already complex products but I find the results much more hit or miss, have difficulties getting textures to blend the way I hope, and often, if I like the product, it seems unnecessary. [My sense that it doesn’t always work out, then, may be a result of messing around with products I didn’t especially like in the first place. Hm. By that point I’m convinced I can’t make them any worse, however, so I can really have at them. Example: a body scrub from The Body Shop that I didn’t find scrubby enough, added granulated sugar until I was satisfied. Problem solved.*]

*I have ruined some things, too, but it never serves to discourage future experiments.

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1. NOW Sweet Almond oil—there are other brands but some don’t smell very good, this one has the virtue of not smelling like much at all, absorbs nicely into the skin, acts brilliantly as a carrier for essential oils and perfumes, lovely on the hair as well. Mixes readily with other oils to create still more hair/body options. Edible. Really wouldn’t be without this.

2. Dr. Bronner’s Almond Castile soap—great all-purpose soap. I use it as a body wash and sometimes as a shampoo, and to wash makeup brushes. A touch of marzipan to the scent, which I don’t love but which doesn’t seem to linger. I prefer the peppermint scent (but not the rose one), and have been meaning to try the eucalyptus. Takes ages to finish a bottle. Maybe next year, eucalyptus.

3. Barlean’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil—there are tons of brands of coconut oil around, and most of them seem just fine. This one is especially good to eat, and I use it all over. In my hair as a leave-in or deep treatment, as a skin conditioner, to sautée vegetables, as an oil/butter substitute in various recipes, added to grains to flavor while cooking, just…to eat.

4. Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter—I’ve mentioned this before, and I don’t like it any less now. Has a bit of a chocolatey richness to it that makes it especially delicious. Very thick and moisturizing. Such  great value.

5. Sun Bum Coconut lip balm—think will be picking up some of SunBum’s sunscreen come summer. Smart branding, good, skin-friendly ingredients. Nice to find lip balms with a high SPF. This is cocoa butter, mainly, but with coconut scent, so it’s in.

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6. Raw almonds—I cannot begin to tell you how many raw almonds I consume.

7. Coconut flakes—anyone have a good recipe for coconut macarons? They are the kind of indulgence that is just appealing enough and just expensive enough to make me want to take matters into my own hands. I like coconut milk, too, and coconut water, certain brands of, and that So Delicious (that’s the brand, not my emphasis, though it is really good) coconut milk ice cream. The mint/chocolate one.

I really wish I had some of that now.

layering, a ModCloth challenge

On November 18, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

ModCloth invited some bloggers to talk about fall/winter layering, prompting us to choose three items (tops, from them) and explain the selection. I like this kind of style challenge, where some aspect or another is limited, controlled. The challenge for me was that so many of their tops are prints of some kind and working with multiple prints can be difficult. They are thin on basics, too, as it’s not what they do (they do cute, often retro-inspired statement pieces). So!

idea 1: sandwiched plaid

I like to keep things clean, usually, meaning solid, meaning no prints, but now and then I’ll go for one. An easy way to deal with a print, even a dramatic one, is to break it up, sandwich it between two solids. Ideally, for me, between muted and harmonious solids.

Something like this basic plaid buttoned shirt

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between this sweetheart mock turtleneck sleeveless number (I like a button down with a turtleneck, and this one, sort of sheer/formal, would be appealingly strange, unexpected next to informal plaid), the color pulled from a minor note of the plaid pattern,

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and this slouchy grey (read: neutral) cardigan, with really any kind of belt thrown over the whole affair, and none of the buttons done up on the shirt. A lot of colors could work here, and they have tons of sweaters.

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OK, so this is a tame approach (or some might say chic! Some might say sophisticated!), but pretty foolproof. There is also

idea 2: inverse pattern juxtaposition

By which I mean some simple camisole base like this

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layered with a (more or less) two tone pattern with one color dominant, like this geometric cardigan,

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layered with another two tone pattern, this one with the color that is non-dominant in the other pattern now dominant, like this other geometric cardigan (not ideal b/c white vs cream, but you see what I mean, and I often like white and cream together anyway).

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If you live somewhere sufficiently cold, you know two cardigans are not unheard of. Maybe no belt on this one. Or maybe a really pale tan leather braided belt.

Just a solid color in the middle would be good there, too. Like this.

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Layering gets easier and easier with experimentation as you discover what you like and begin to establish strategies to achieve it. Often your wardrobe works for you as you are often drawn to the same colors (not hard to find harmonious combinations) and, even if you prefer patterns, often prefer the same kinds of patterns. Then, too, it’s good to be open to unexpected combinations.

Imagine three layers, all plaids with some common stripe…I would like to see that. Or imagine three very different patterns, all with the same dominant color. Or three identical patterns in three different colors. Or two, with a solid between them, or three beautifully complementary solids…

This is to say nothing of accessories.

images via modcloth.com

rosy lips

On October 11, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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I was pawing through the lip balms recently and realized that the rose-heavy pattern I noticed previously is going strong, and expanding. This is what my patterns of interest and preference are like, they tend to run long and deep, playing out over months or years. I don’t mind repetition, either. I still haven’t gotten sick of this Fitz and the Tantrums track.

I use and enjoy all of these, special mentions to Smith’s Minted Rose, Dior Crème de Rose, and By Terry Baume de Rose.  These last two are the most expensive but also the most emollient. Right now my favorites are the Dior and the Smith’s Minted Rose and I switch up depending on if I want a cream vs an ointment texture. The By Terry is really nice but it’s a little too dear for me given that I like so many less expensive alternatives. That said…I kind of want to try one of the tinted versions of this Baume de Rose formula, the Nutri-Coleur line.

Also pictured:

Korres Wild Rose lip butter — beautiful deep red tinted balm, love this color

Smith’s Rosebud Salve — cult classic, the smell of this is attached to so many phases of my life that it triggers a complex nostalgia, in a good way

Jurlique Rose Love Balm — firm, wax-based, very nice light rose scent, not too glossy so it gives a very natural look to the lips

Vaseline rosy lips — sweet candied rose smell to this, but I like it, as I like plain Vaseline now and then. They totally get me with those teeny tubs. Gah! So cute.

organic Rose Petal Balm — this one is from a friend of the family in Maine but a number of etsy sellers (and indie beauty chemists all over) make essential oil infused balms like this, and I wouldn’t hesitate to try anything with this beeswax/jojoba/shea or cocoa butter base (though I know that my skin doesn’t have issues with any of the popular essential oils). Hard to go wrong.

distraction: Retro Butterick

On September 7, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve been itching to sew lately. Getting great inspiration from these 50’s and 60’s Retro Butterick patterns, especially these bell or swing/rockabilly skirt styles.

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May need to take a stab at this last one.

images via pinterest

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