Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Glossier- Cloud Paint in Dusk & Haze

I have no problem admitting that it was Lisa Eldridge's fault. The moment I finished watching her "Illuminated Blush Glow" video three weeks ago I immediately clicked to Glossier's website and ordered two tubes of the new Cloud Paint. While Lisa chose the color Puff for herself I had to consent that my coloring is different  (a constant theme in my life: I do not look like Lisa E.) and picked Dusk (a peachy brown sunkissed color with a side of dulce de leche) and Haze (a classic berry). Who cares about the shade, though? I was utterly seduced by Lisa's promise of a "glossy expensive skin". Visions of the Hadid sisters and Rosie Huntington-Whitely were dancing around my head.

Glossier is a young American brand that has been taking over market share one product at a time. Sometimes it's incredibly successful, such as with their Boy Brow tinted gel (I just purchased my second tube), other times I don't really get it, as was the case with their original Balm Dotcom (I admit the name annoyed me even before I uncorked the tube), which seemed redundant.

But we're here for the liquid/gel blush in its cute paint tube. It's everything I hoped for. The texture is of a watery gel that threatens to burst out of the tube when you first open it (have makeup wipes within reach). Blended on skin the pigment appears natural and free of shimmer. It's semi-sheer but allows for some serious building up, one thin layer after another, and once set it does not meet until it's time to meet a good makeup remover.

The divine Lisa Eldridge has demonstrated application and blending Glossier's Cloud Paint with other face products: foundation, highlighters, and even concealers if you have a spot just where one is supposed to apply blush. The only thing I have to add is that the colors of the Cloud Paints can be mixed with each other to create more shades than the available four. It's a great product for spring, summer, and beyond. Glossier has definitely earned my respect with this one.

Bottom Line: I still don't look like Gigi Hadid, but my cheeks are glowing.

Glossier- Cloud Paint ($18, 10ml each, made in USA) is available from

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Moresque- Aristoqrati

I've mentioned Aristoqrati by Moresque as one of my top perfume picks this spring, and true to that it's the perfume I've been wearing the most over the last couple of months. In another life I might have picked it as my signature scent for the time being, but it's been twenty eight years since I've been loyal to one perfume for longer than six hours. The point is that the blend of spice and geranium is very very enticing.

Moresque (I keep typing Mauresque, as in Serge's Cuir) is a line that follows the Middle Eastern style. I remember liking the Black and the White collections well enough, though none kept my attention span (oud, rose, jasmine--- the usual) until I reached Aristoqrati (from Moresque's Art collection that features even more elaborately decorated bottles). It grabbed me immediately because the nutmeg bursts forcefully from behind the fresh and slightly classic men's cologne opening notes. The astringency of geranium leaves and stems was familiar and nostalgic for me. As a kid I used to crush a leaf and rub it between my fingers, savoring both the smell and the rough yet velvety surface. I still do it sometimes.

Geranium is often used as a companion to rose notes. Its various facets can be herbal, green, even slightly fruity (think of apple geranium in iced tea). It brings out the peppery side of carnations,  and adds a bright sunny feel to heavier blends. This is exactly what happens in Aristoqrati, a perfume that otherwise is an intoxicating nutmeg and patchouli mix that conjures a certain oriental mystery. There's the earthiness of freshly-watered soil of the geranium bed in the inner courtyard, the scent of herbs from the kitchen garden, ancient stone corridors providing shade and coolness in the Mediterranean summer afternoon, and again lots and lots of spices, especially if one decides to go overboard and spray herself silly. It happens. And you cannot wash it off for a while.

A friend asked me back in February, after I've mentioned here that Aristoqrati was my Valentine's Day date night scent whether I didn't feel it was a bit of an odd or masculine pick for the occasion. Obviously, that person was not aware that given the choice I'd wear Nasomatto Duro over Diorissimo anytime. Still, no, I don't think Aristoqrati is gender-specific. If you're a fan of spicy orientals and a generous garnish of nutmeg you're more likely to enjoy this perfume. If you can't wait to put in your geraniums for summer, give it a try. And word to the wise, one or two spritzes will take you throughout the day (and night).

Moresque- Aristoqrati ($375, 1.7oz eau de parfum) is available from

Image: Gigi Hadid for Vogue Arabia, Photographed by Inez and Vinoodh, March 2017.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Perfumes for an Italian Spring

We usually go to Italy in the early fall around our anniversary, because that's where the Blond and I have spent our honeymoon. Three years ago we went in early April, and it was decidedly different. The light, the taste of the air, they were abuzz in anticipation, even though the weather itself was on the very cool side most days. We stayed mostly on the Amalfi coast which was bursting with ripe  lemons and oranges, yards and gardens were green and lush (it rained a lot), and the flower boxes in every window were as I've remembered them, blooming with geraniums that seem to be there all year long (how do they do it?). We also bought perfume when a Sorento store was clearing out old stockrooms (vintage!!!)  as well as lines that weren't moving fast enough. It was glorious.

Here are my ten(ish) picks for Italian perfumes that evoke visiting that gorgeous country in the spring. All chosen with love and longing.

1. Bois 1920 Extreme is a modern fougere. Green with a twist, a tonka base, which is the thing to wear if you're sitting in the garden of one of those stunning Florence villas that are now open to public.

2. I obviously had to pick something by Eau d'Italie because their perfumes are incredibly evocative. While my personal favorites are not necessarily the spring ones, you cannot skip Jardin du Poete. That is spring, and that is Italy. As I'm sitting here looking at my backyard which is full of snow I fee an urge to dig through my samples and find it. Bring on the flowers.

3-4.  Never skipping an opportunity to honor the Florentine iris let's go with one of the prettiest (and more elusive), Iris by Hilde Soliani. Also, let's not forget her Il Tuo Tulipano, as it's as spring-like as it gets and can lift the gloom in an instant. A must-have, really.

5. You don't need me to tell you that Italian coffee bars are a staple across the country all year round. I'm not much of a coffee drinker but when in Italy even I will have an espresso and try to people-watch (the suits!) while doing so. Milano Cafe by AbdesSalaam Attar of La Via del Profumo ( is that. It's more of a four season perfume, but the burst of energy it gives you is all spring.

6. I've had a tab open on my laptop for weeks with a draft for a review of Aristoqrati by Moresque, one of my favorite perfumes in the last several months. The Italian brand is mostly inspired by Middle Eastern perfumery, but the overflowing geranium note on all its facets (rosy, sappy, peppery, and that scent you get on your hands if you've been rubbing and squeezing the juicy green leaves between your fingers) is all Italy and sunshine.

7. (7a, 7b, 7c)No Italian perfume list will ever be complete without Acqua di Parma, it's only a matter of choosing, and my imagination carries me away whenever I start. We talked Iris, and Iris Nobile is lovely, as are the various iterations of Colonia Assoluta, because of all those amazing citrus groves you find seemingly everywhere (at least from Rome south). But it's the blue series of coastal scents and tastes that makes an extra balmy spring day feel like a prelude to vacation. My personal favorites are Cipresso di Toscana, Fico di Amalfi (more late summer than spring, but FIG), and Ginepro di Sardegna.

8. I still can't forgive myself for not visiting the grounds and museum of Santa Maria Novella in Florence back in 1996. I would have came back with my weight in perfume and body products and a new passion for non-mainstream perfumes. But which one is the most spring-like, considering my husband favors Peau d'Espagne while I'm partial to Nostalgia? The answer is the delicate Violetta, with its tender leaves and soft purple petals. Soon they'll bloom in my garden. Soon.

9. One of my all-time spring picks is and has always been the vintage version (as old as one can find) of the classic Lauren. The unique blend of violets and tagetes, crisp and sharp, suggests spring with every whiff. It's one of my favorite perfumes of all time and I have a semi-lifetime supply, but I've vowed not to include impossible-to-find perfumes in these lists. Besides, it's not an Italian perfume, so let's move on. But Italian brand Profumum Roma offers us the lovely Tagete, again, an impression of an Italian villa's gardens, probably at dusk, when the imagination starts flying.

10. I'm still waiting for a burst of springtime energy to propel me into the stratosphere (or to finish laundry. Whatever comes first). In the meantime I've been faking it with Il Profumo Ginger, a mix of ginger and good soap that feels as clean as the fresh morning air on the first day of vacation, when you're eager to go and see what's waiting around the corner.

Wishing you plenty of daffodils and tulips this spring. Please visit m friends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, and Now Smell This for their spring picks. What are yours? 

Art:  Galileo Chini, La Primavera, 1914

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Face Oil Comparison: Vintner's Daughter VS. Best Face Forward

One of the most requested posts lately have been a comparison between my old standby, Best Face Forward Serum Oil to the much-hyped Vintner's Daughter Oil (it was buzzing even before Gwyneth Paltrow Gooped about it). Beauty oils have become very popular and are sometimes represented as the cutting edge of beauty (somewhere in the afterlife Cleopatra is having a good laugh at some YouTubers and PR people). Some oils are simple blends or even based more-or-less on a single ingredient (argan, marula, jojoba), while others combine and balance several types of oil that are supposed to provide a wider range of skin benefits (calming, healing, nourishing, brightening). Both BFF and Vintner's Daughter belong to the latter group, therefore are perceived as treatments or serum oils.  Long time readers know that I've been a loyal customer and user of Best Face Forward since 2012 (meaning that I've been repurchasing bottle after bottle, mostly at retail price). It made me somewhat reluctant to shell ot $185 for 1oz of Vintner's Daughter (1oz of BFF retails for $40, and you can also buy a 2oz bottle for $70). But the ingredient list of Vintner's Oil was very impressive and promising, and while researching I've found this interview with the owner of the company by Youtuber Stephanie Nicole (you can also watch her video about the science behind face oils).

Let's start with some more facts- the oils that make up the blended product. For BFF I have the screen shot from the website, and for Vintner's Daughter a photo from the back of my box:


Vintner's Daughter
As you can see, there's a lot more going on in Vintner's Daughter, though we cannot know how much of each ingredient is actually present in either one. Best Face Forward's three main oils are argan, borage, and carrot seed oil (which is responsible to the product's light tint), while Vintner's Daughter is mostly based grape seed oil (duh), hazelnut oil, and bergamot peel oil. Perfume people reading this who are familiar with IFRA and the issue of citrus oils in perfume are kindly asked not to have a stroke (more on the issue below). There are several similar ingredients, which confirms to me that April Gargiulo of Vintner's Daughter has been doing her homework and is, indeed, committed to creating an excellent product (I already know and trust Annette Wells of BFF and wish I lived closer so I could experience her bodyworks).

Another fact that's obvious the second you open the bottle and let the first drop fall into your expecting palm is the scent. While Vintner's Daughter doesn't contain any synthetic fragrance it uses not just the aforementioned bergamot (that's the stuff scenting in your Earl Grey tea), but also rose absolute, jasmine grandiflorum, neroli (that's a form of orange blossom oil), frankincense oil, lavender, and several more citrus oils. Basically, it smells  just like a Mandy Aftel perfume* (and that's a massive compliment). In comparison, while BFF does contain some rose oil which you can definitely smell if you sniff closely, it is not perfumy in any way, shape, or form. BFF smells kind of herbal-crunchy-organic, but even my husband has stopped complaining about it for the most part.

BFF directions for use

Vintner's Daughter directions insert

Other than the scent aspect that makes Vintner's Daughter much more of a luxury product the two oils perform the same way for me. They do good on their promises and keep my skin in tiptop shape (I do, of course, use various acids, actives, vitamin C, snail secretions, and whatnot). The nature of the product makes me more likely to go slather BFF after a long sojourn into a NYC winter night or when the humidifier isn't cutting it. You just don't go full-on anointment with a $185 oil. Unless you're Cleopatra. Or Cersei (in Game of Thrones you anoint the new king or queen with seven oils). My skin receives and absorbs the two oils very similarly and feels the same both in the short and the long run. BFF leaves a faint orange residue that is not visible on my skin, but it's something to consider if you're Emma Stone. All in all, it depends on your skin and the oils that feel best to it. Or what causes you an allergic reaction.

Which brings us to skin irritants, the natural vs. synthetic debate, and the fact that IFRA restricts the amount of natural oils used in perfume, where to begin with you get mostly alcohol with a eent tiny amount of an actual "perfume". Oils are good. Oils are kind. Oils can restore the appearance of the skin and make it look and feel dramatically healthier. And like anything they can cause an allergic skin reaction. Natural oils and absolutes contain a larger number of different molecules, thus increasing the chances one would have a reaction to one of those molecules. Put all those natural essential oils together and the odds increase almost exponentially. Certain oils are known to be more irritating than others (that is, for those who ARE sensitive to them. Not to everyone). Those include but are not limited to most citrus oils, lavender, and cinnamon. Then there's someone like me who is not sensitive to any of the above or any of the stuff in any of the oils mentioned in this post, but is extremely (and that's putting it mildly) allergic to pure coconut oil and some (but not all) of its derivatives. And I'm talking a skin reaction that includes red painful welts all over my body and scalp. So go figure and be careful. Patch tests are recommended for a reason.

Bottom Line: While I've thoroughly enjoy using Vintner's Daughter (my bottle is nearly empty), I won't be repurchasing because of the price. I already bought a new BFF that you see in the top photo. For aromatherapy I have other stuff.

Best Face Forward Serum Oil ($40, 1oz) is available for purchase from Annette Wells. Vintner's Daughter ($185, 1oz) is available from a few online retailers as well as directly from the company. The links here are not affiliated or sponsored and I only include them for your convenience, as they don't always appear first in a Google search. I do not get a cut of the sale or any incentives (and I hate that I even need to say it again, but beauty blogging is what it is these days).

*Mandy Aftel actually makes face oil for her Aftelier brand. The current roster included a honeysuckle one, a rose, and a jasmine elixir.  They're $65 for 12oz ( and are based on rice bran, sweet almond, apricot kernel, camellia, grapeseed, squalene, and rose hip seed oils, plus Aftel's own perfume blend. They're nourishing, providing a sense of aromatherapy, and because of the small dropper and the way they blend, I keep them in my foundation drawer and add a drop to most liquid foundation I use. I've been doing it since the very first Face Elixir Mandy has launched and it's a fool proof trick for someone like me whose dryish skin tends to get dryer from wearing foundation. I still miss the Ylang one.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Laura Mercier Editorial Eye Palette Intense Clays & Clay Smudge Brush

The best thing a cosmetics brand can do to get me interested in the gazillionth launch of the month is to actually offer something new. New to me, but also new to the brand, a product that's not a recycled idea from seasons ago, because guess what? I was here all those seasons ago and might still have that Chocolate palette or the eleventieth compact inspired by Mademoiselle's Chinese screens. Laura Mercier has knocked it out of the park big time with the new Editorial Eye Palette Intense Clays.

It was hard to gauge what we were dealing with from online promo pictures, so holding it in person and digging in was the way to go. This is a palette of thick cream shadows, three mattes (top row, l-r: Blackened Black Clay, Blackened Blue Clay, and Blackened Brown Clay), and three metallic clays (bottom row, l-r: Metallic Platinum, Metallic Pewter, and Metallic Rust). The "clay" designation is very apt. It's so densely packed that you can feel an almost putty-like effect. The best description I can give until you have your own fingers in the pans is that if you've ever touched Colourpop Supershock shadows it will make you think about taking the Colourpop pans and and compacting them to the densest, tightest version of themselves. Colourpop has this slightly whipped texture. This is the opposite.

The seventh pan in the Laura Mercier Editorial Eye Palette Intense Clays compact is the white Air-Light setting powder. At first glance one might mistake it for a light-diffusing, shine-inducing, jewel effect kind of topper you pat on the eyelid to intensify your eye shadow. It is not. It is also not meant to be uses with a heavy hand/dense brush, as I've demonstrated in the swatch below. This is a super light and fine setting power meant to set and increase the wear and longevity of the clay eye shadows. Laura Mercier does powders extremely well, and this is no exception. But you must used it right: once your eye makeup is done (but before liner and mascara) pat a teensy tiny amount of the Air Light with your fluffiest small blending/crease brush over the clay colors. I prefer any of my Hakuhodo or Chikuhodo squirrel brushes (S142 is a good one), but Suqqu M, Edward Bess, and even various MAC brushes will do. Just don't overload it, or it will look chalky.

Laura Mercier has released the new Clay Smudge Brush to go with this palette (purchased separately). The thing is, that while this is an excellent and surprisingly unique brush in terms of shape, proportions, and performance, it is not the first tool you'd want to use when creating a look with the clay shadows. Your pinky finger is a decent tool to pick up the putty, manipulate it into an even and thin layer and place it on the lid, blending carefully. A flat synthetic brush (for concealer or eye shadow) is even better. You can take advantage of the way these brushes are shaped and cut: more tapered, pointy, or round to get the desired placement, reach under the lower lashes, or create a gradient effect. The clayes blend beautifully into each other with less than minimal effort, and offer loos from neutral to heavily smoky, light to sultry blue. The mattes are obviously designed for lining and smudging, which is where the new Clay Smudge brush comes into play You can also add them with a light hand and blend into the metallic colors. One day last week I went all out blue, using the Metallic Pewter (more silvered cadet blue, really) as a base on the other third of the lid, closer to the lashline and outwards, and then topped it with a touch of that magical matte midnight blue.

When you want the look to hold all day/night it's advisable to use the setting powder (lightly. Have I mentioned that?). If it's just for a couple of hours and mostly taking pictures you can skip it. The clay shadows look more vibrant on their own and hold nicely over a primer (my lids are not oily and the weather is still very cold here). 

You'd think that someone (me) who's been collecting makeup brushes for decades would find a twin to the new brush that would make the purchase unnecessary, but to my surprise, Laura Mercier Clay Smudge Brush is quite unique for a synthetic smudge brush. I compared it above to the classic MAC 219 for perspective. Obviously, the LM is not a pencil brush. It's domed, not pointed, and while it's slightly denser and fuller than the It Cosmetics for Ulta No.124 Airbrush Precision Smudger, it's far smaller than the two I have from Urban Decay, so I skipped that comparison.

Bottom Line: for anyone who gets a real joy from playing with new makeup textures and combinations.

Laura Mercier Editorial Eye Palette Intense Clays ($48, made in Italy) & Clay Smudge Brush ($30, made in China), are available at Sephora, Laura Mercier counters everywhere, and

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Currently- February 2017

I've taken up genealogy research for both sides of the family, mine and the husband's, pondering the neverending and utterly confusing ways of spelling common names like Isaac, Rebecca, Esther, and Maurice, both populating every branch of the family tree.  I also took the basic DNA test that dispelled a very long-standing family myth. The 0.0% Sephardi Jew in the report was especially surprising. At least that's one place I can skip when digging for Isaacs and Davids. Combing through records of people from Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Germany, Bulgaria, and in the husband's case the Czech Republic has opened more questions than it solved.  My Bulgarian side is particularly difficult to crack. The coolest part, though, is connecting with various third cousins, exchanging information and photos of common ancestors (the aforementioned Maurices. Or Moritzes. Or Mauricius. Take your pick). It's a good distraction, if nothing else.

My attention span has been making it hard to stick with any particular book. Or paragraph. I am waiting, though, for two hardcovers that are about to be released: Ines de le Fressange's second book (I disliked her first one, so go figure), and the much-anticipated Trish McEvoy tome, The Makeup of a Confident Woman: The Science of Beauty, the Gift of Time, and the Power of Putting Your Best Face Forward. Because we all need more beauty and style books (those familiar with the bookshelf situation in my house are snorting with laughter).

Just replace the names in the lyrics with "George and Bowie".

Restored on HGTV. Not to be confused with other home restoration shows, Brett Waterman is the real deal and amuses to me no end. If you like Nicole Curtis, you'll worship Brett and his commitment to stripping layers of paint from Arts & Crafts doors and built-ins.

Link My version of time-travel.


A Valentine's Day gift from the husband (not Philip. He's been here for a while).

Various cream and creamy eye shadows. There's an interesting palette I'll show you on Monday.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
This is the time of year when I get extremely fed up with winter clothes in general and mine in particular. Everything feels worn to death, no matter how much creative accessorizing I do or how deep my fashion collection goes. It was fun to dig out a long black dress I bought a decade ago from Adrienne Vittadini (when the brand still had really nice boutiques offering well-made clothes), a twelve year old DVF knit jacket in red, black, and olive that I nearly forgot I had, and a funky pair of vintage Pucci boots, but I'm over it. Done. DONE. Give me a sundress and a silk scarf.

I'm also kind of done with food right now, thanks to a Thai dinner that kept me up last night.

My iPad is at its final throes. A new version is expected to be released in a matter of weeks. Let's see if the old relic can hold on until then.

My mom's butter cookies with date paste filling.


I took this picture earlier today in our backyard.

To but the two properties closest to us, bulldoze down the houses down and fill the space with trees, a koi pond, a raccoon habitat, and goats wearing pajamas.

Random Thought
Apparently Karl Lagerfeld got Meryl Streep confused with Instagram personalities.

How are you? What's on your list of loves and banes? Any wishes and recommendations?

Photo: Cardinal In End Of Winter Rain by James Oppenheim, 2011

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Butter London Sheer Wisdom Serum Shadow Review & Swatches

I have a couple of new eye shadow loves that have won me over not because of some unique color but thanks to innovative and beautiful texture. Today we're looking at the Sheer Wisdom Serum Shadows from Butter London, a product I bought out of pure curiosity. I picked four of the six available colors (kipped the pink and the mauve), and have been reaching for them at a surprising frequency (All.The.Time).

The "serum" part is thanks to the liquid shadow's viscosity. It does look and fee serumy, as in not watery or lotiony. It has a bounce, just like some skincare items (it's makeup, not skincare, but the texture is different than say, Armani, Rouge Bunny Rouge, or YSL). The Sheer Wisdom Serums also go on the skin at first touch shockingly light and sheer, just like a serum you dot on the lid and then blend. The result is an incredibly versatile eye shadow. You can keep your application at minimum and create the most perfect and beautifully blended no makeup-look. Or you can add more and layer, using the wand to load the product and then your fingers and/or a MAC 217 to build it up and accentuate the lid, crease, or any other part. Butter London has created here a complete matte skin-like finish that is utterly foolproof. The colors are natural and neutral for maximum elegance, but the darker once are up to the task of a smoky eye.

Longevity is an all-day affair. There's no sheen to fade, just a sturdy and reliable pigment that looks fantastic and way more professional than the easy application suggest. You can do a one color look or go for all four together (a method that can take some time to accomplish because one tends to play with the wands and brushes and admire her faux pro-skills as she goes). Whatever you decide, the process is fun and the result is pretty.

The colors I got are:
Buttercream- a classic vanilla that works well under the brows or even to lighten the lid like a primer.
Sepia Tan- a light warm camel color that works well in the crease or as a solid all over lid color.
Driftwood- a gray-leaning taupe. Perfect.
Maplewood- a rich brown I love to use on the outer V.

Bottom Line: maybe I do need that Mauve Mist shade.

Butter London Sheer Wisdom Serum Shadow  ($24 each, made in Italy) are available from Ulta.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Happy President's Day

Happy President's Day. I've marked the day by sending Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) an email of encouragement. Later there might be some shopping.

Image: George Washington, Engraved by Edward Savage, after a painting by him. Mezzotint. London, 1793

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