On to the post:
To me, no color scheme or pattern says Christmas quite like plaid -- or tartan, as it seems to be known outside of North America. In addition to gingerbread and truffles, I have a terrible weakness for Walkers Shortbread biscuits during this time of year. (You should see me at TJ Maxx ... whooboy. No clothes, just a box of Walkers and a bag of Lindor truffles.)
Last holiday season, Sally Hansen released a limited edition line of Christmas- and winter-inspired patterns in its Salon Effects line of nail strips. I remember taking essential items like dryer sheets and laundry detergent out of my basket at Target so I could purchase the Plaid About You set.
I've never used nail strips before, so I wasn't expecting an easy time of it, especially when considering the fact that I have a way of complicating the simplest things. And as you're about to see from my results ... yuck.
So here's what the set looked like in the box and with its contents removed:
A lot of you might have used strips before, but some of you may be n00bs like me and have not. According to the instructions, you're supposed to match each strip to one that would fit your nail plate, and there are at least eight sizes per packet for you to try. Once you've done that, you can peel off the backing and apply each strip to the nail plate, one finger at a time. Then you file off the excess strip with the smooth end of the enclosed file. Simple enough, right? Not if you're me.
I topped each finger with SV, and opted to skip using base coat on my left hand, although I used it on my right one. I will say that while base coat isn't necessary, it does help the strip adhere much better to the nail plate. It does, however, make the removal process -- which is the same as you would remove nail polish, with a cotton ball/felt strip and acetone -- a little harder. That's just my observation.
I started with my right hand and pretty much botched the strips when I tried filing the excess off.
And here's the left, which did not fare much better. It is less heinous but still undeniably janky.
Obviously, all unsightliness you see here is 100% user error. Depending on how you look at it, this mani was either a fantastic fail ... or, to borrow from Cher Horowitz, a Monet (all right from far away, a hot mess up close). But would I use nail strips again? I don't see why not. Practice is supposed to make perfect, or pretty close to it. It's not like I don't have back-ups of these strips from the clearance bin or anything. ;) I do think it's worth noting that nail strips are more problematic for those with curvier nails. I also think that top coat is necessary and that should you choose to apply it, you should treat your nails the same way you would if you had polish on (that is, give yourself time to dry so you don't dent your strips up). Lastly -- and this is probably my reluctance to do nail art/strips/embellishment speaking -- immediately while the strips are drying post-top coat, they just feel WEIRD, like little bits of tape stuck on your free edges. It took me an evening to get used to it. I put these on last night, but I'll probably remove them tonight after church.
Like I said, I found these strips at Target last year, but if you want this particular pattern, try checking Five Below, where I found different patterns from last year. I did hit up Big Lots earlier this week to buy gift bows and found a box of ONLY Plaid About You sets for $3 each, which is as good a deal as you would have gotten from Target clearance.
The real question is probably why I opted to do nail strips ... in PLAID. In short, the answer: "Return to Cranford."
A lot of Christmas movies and television specials are about the family you're born into. "Return to Cranford" strikes me more than its predecessor as being about the importance of community and about the friends who are family when you are old. To me, there's something very beautiful about the idea of growing old in a place you love, among your oldest and dearest friends, the people who know you best. This .gif from years ago nicely sums up my post-"Cranford" feelings BEFORE I found out "Return to Cranford" was happening:
YOU GUYS. MY HEART. I DVRed "Return to Cranford" on PBS that winter and later bought the DVD as a present for my mother (translation: for me), so now I can watch it whenever I wish. And after the horrific events in Connecticut yesterday, I really needed Miss Matty Jenkyns and her delightful friends to cheer me up.
"Return to Cranford" is a two-part miniseries that takes place one year after the first series ended, but it nicely updates you to what has happened to the town and its inhabitants since the events of the first series. I have a slightly softer spot in my heart for "Return to Cranford" now because I am, shall we say, more of a Miss Matty than a Miss Deborah; I think "Return to Cranford" was criticized for lacking some of the sharpness from the original series, which I interpret as being part of Dame Eileen Atkins' character (Miss Deborah), who "set the standard" for the main characters' "small society." On the other hand, Dame Judi Dench's character (Miss Matty) is the heart of "Return to Cranford," which sees her struggle with being alone for the first time in her life and make decisions she never had to before.
If the arrival of the railway is the catalyst for not only economic and industrial change in Cranford, but also social change, then how the characters adapt to such changes is the underlying theme. One of the best bits involves Barbara Flynn's character (the widowed Mrs. Jamieson, who dresses her lapdog similarly to herself) snubbing her friends by telling them not to call on the widowed Lady Glenmire, Mrs. Jamieson's sister-in-law visiting from Scotland. Prior to this injury, the ladies had been planning to wear shawls and hats with plaid to celebrate Lady Glenmire's visit and Scottish heritage. Lady Glenmire eventually discovers the reason for the absence of social callers and invites the ladies over one night, and everyone is friends again until she marries an upstanding member of the town, which Mrs. Jamieson and Miss Pole cannot accept. This clip shows a little of the party, and is one of the best scenes in "Return to Cranford."
Why yes, that is Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie, playing Mrs. Forrester in "Cranford") singing.
Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that "Return to Cranford" was my introduction to Disney prince Hiddles (Tom Hiddleston), who went on to play Loki in "Thor" and "The Avengers." If you had told me back in 2010 that he would be Loki, I wouldn't have believed you. This also was my introduction to Michelle Dockery, or Lady Mary Crawley from "Downton Abbey" (ugh forever at that series). Overall, there are a lot of familiar faces from British stage, film and BBC productions, which I feel helps drive home the coziness of Cranford society and being amongst friends. (Like you needed more proof that I AM actually a spinster in training ...)
SO. What do you think these nail strips? I think the pattern is cute, though I could use more practice. Have you tried Sally Hansen's strips, or another company's?
More importantly: If your mom/aunt/grandma/loser friend has a copy of any Cranford DVDs, you should borrow them and report back to me. If you've seen either or both of these series, tell me what you thought. It's always nice to connect with other "Cranford" lovers. One last note: If you watch "The Hobbit" this weekend and cannot get enough of sexy dwarf Richard Armitage, I insist that you watch the 2004 "North & South" miniseries, as he's perfect and the end is so romantic and it's a great introduction to Elizabeth Gaskell's work. From there, you can move on to "Cranford" (it was based on some of Gaskell's Cranford stories) and "Wives & Daughters." You can thank me later.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to see if I can find a seafoam green turban like the one Miss Matty so longed for. I think I could pull it off.