Thursday, February 04, 2016

Teo Cabanel- Alahine

I owe this one to Kafkaesque. Over a year ago (two years, maybe?) she insisted that I give Alahine by Teo Cabanel a chance. She was really adamant about it, and I do not argue with Ms. Kafka. She was right. I fell in love with this rich ornate oriental the way I did decades ago with the any of my first big florientals. It has everything I love: honeyed golden flowers (give me the ylang nectar and no one gets hurt), a classic jasmine-rose heart infused with resins that give it a contemporary edge, and a rich tapestry of vanilla brocade. If you've ever smelled the base notes of  a really really vintage Chanel No.5 extrait and amplified it to the nth degree you can probably picture the opulent elegance of Alahine's dry-down.

Alahine is sweet  within the boundaries of good taste. It's loud yet not brash (Kafkaesque recommends moderation, but I'm all about 'more is more' at the moment), and the juxtaposition of soft petals against peppery minerals and dirty musky cistus is my jam. When I look through the big floriental part of my perfume collection I notice that I've been wearing this Teo Cabanel perfume  more often than my old standbys (Jil Sander No.4 and the other 80s and 90s staples). Is it because Alahine is edgier? More of this time? Probably not, considering the other stuff I wear on a regular basis. I blame the vanilla this time of the year. As Alahine settles and expands on skin there's a comfort element that feels just right at times. I need to be in a certain mood to wear the classic Panthere de Cartier, but the 2007 Teo Cabanel eau de parfum (I'd sell my soul for the discontinued extrait) is an easy choice, just like my favorite orange cashmere stole (you didn't expect me to wear pink, did you?).

A few years ago Teo Cabanel changed the packaging and the bottles of the entire line. Such a move tends to get the warning sirens of reformulation to blow at full force (as does the disappearance of higher concentrations). When I set to buy my own bottle I did some sleuthing to find an older version because I'm a paranoid purist. But I also chatted with the nice people at Luckyscent who sent me samples from their newest tester, and I tested them side by side with my older juice. I was happy and slightly surprised not to find any difference. I'm not a professional nose, of course, and it was Serge Lutens who said in an interview (I can't find the source, but could have sworn it was on Grain de Musc) that we should expect a formula change or a tweak about every seven years, so take this with a grain of ambergris. All I can say is that if there is a difference between older Alahine (clear bottle and a squarish cap in a gold-printed white box) and newer (cylinder shaped gold bottle, round gold cap, heavier white box with a gold label), I cannot detect it.

Teo Cabanel- Alahine ($130, 50ml eau de parfum) is available from Luckyscent.

Photo of actress Kay Francic circa 1930 via

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy Eye shadows & Lipstick- Insolent Ivory, Brash Bronze, Defiant Coral

I took advantage of an excellent GWP event at Neiman Marcus. I needed a couple of Estee Lauder skincare items (a new bottle of Advanced Night Repair serum and the companion sheet masks which I will review soon). Shipping was free, so I split my order in two and got two full size eye shadows in different colors (the mini lipstick was the same in both). There was also an incredibly generous variety of Re-Nutriv products in full and deluxe sizes, and lash primers. But we're here to talk about the shiny stuff.

I'm already a huge fan of Lauder's Pure Color Envy series. Both the eye shadows and the lipstick are excellent and deserve a lot more attention than they tend to get (no, Kendall Jenner hype is not the answer). In any case, the eye shadows I got in Insolent Ivory (28 Velvet finish, meaning a matte basic cream) and Brash Bronze (01, Luminous finish, a truly stunning metallic bronze, more complex on the lid than in the pan) go beautifully together (and with my other Lauder singles), and the adorable mini lipstick in Defiant coral is that much-needed kiss of sunshine. It's a classic, almost retro red coral, wears beautifully and lasts through a snack or a tea break.

Bottom Line: worth an individual purchase.

Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy Eye shadows  in Insolent Ivory &, Brash Bronze ($25 each) and Defiant Coral ($30 for the full size. What you see here is a mini) are available at the counters and from

Notes From The Sample Jar

Or, rather, from various sample jars scattered around the house, and some free-range samples that I've managed to rescue from Marigold and Gemma who tend to appropriate and hide the vials in secret places only cats know exist. This is all stuff I've been sniffing and testing sporadically, a few were sent for review (will be disclosed below) while others found their way here in mysterious ways.

Viktoria Minya- Hedonist Cassis. The original Hedonist is among my favorite perfumes. I like the Rose flanker, and kind of worship Viktoria Minya for creating Eau de Hongrie. While Hedonist Cassis on all its juicy brightness might not be the one for me, I can't help but admire the hand that created this cheerful composition that fills the air with dreams of summer and the just-cut grass on which you sit munching on a bowl of red fruit. Have I mentioned that it's juicy? ($200 at Luckyscent. Press sample).

Stella by Stella McCartney (2014 version). I was never a fan of the original 2003 Stella. It was supposed to be a smooth rosy amber, but my skin made it nothing but a sharp and loud rose. Years and restrictions changed Stella, and it was also flankerized to death until it was briefly discontinued. Stella was rebooted a couple of years ago, and the cries of reformulations were as expected. Personally, the brand new sample of Stella is kind of nice. I'm still not a rose person, but the current juice is very soft and the rose are tender and kind of vintage. Not bad at all for something you can het at Sephora ($50, Sephora and most department stores)

Ayala Moriel- Komorebi. Let's get to the bottom line: Komorebi is one of my favorite perfumes by Ayala Moriel, and I'm a big fan as it is. It feels like the thickest part of the thickest wood and you can hear the crunch of twigs and and leaves under your feet, and enjoy the crisp, green, and surprisingly warm modern chypre composition. If Ayala were to come up with a full range of body products scented with Komorebi I'd buy them all. Plus backups, because the husband will get into them without even asking. ($48,, press sample).

Hermes- Le Jardin de Monsieur Li. I'm not a fan of the Jardin series, so the chances that a sheer herbal citrus was going to please me were already exceptionally low. My skin kills  Monsieur Li before it has a chance to develop, if it even has the capability to do so. It's fresh, it's clean, and it's completely unnecessary. ($97, Sephora, most department stores, and Hermes boutiques).

Marc Jacobs- Mod Noir. I'm pretty sure I've smelled worse things than this, including from Marc Jacobs' label. I just can't find it in me to search them and remember. Synthetic and sharp white floral over an especially intolerable laundry musk. I only tested it three times and gave up. There's no chance I'll wear it a fourth time. ($70 at Sephora).

Paco Rabanne- Invictus. Oh well. Having no expectations has helped me deal with this very generic mainstream masculine. I might not be able to pick it out in a police lineup among other salty marine citrus thingies, but for what it is, Invictus is not the worst ever. I kind of enjoy the very salty and sharp sea air as an abstract idea, and wouldn't recoil away from people wearing it. Just as long as it's not my husband on me. ($64, Sephora).

Narciso Rodriguez For Her L'Absolu. Between their similar names and the fact that I'm anosmic to all of them, Narciso Rodriguez perfumes completely escape me. Except for this one. It's a different musk than what's in most of Narciso's bottles, bolder and more animalic. The flowers have a distinct vintage feel as is the entire perfume, actually. It's womanly, bosomy, and incredibly sexy, at least if you're a fan of the genre. ($96, at Sephora and most department stores).

The last three samples are from Atelier Cologne. I used to have an immense respect for Atelier Cologne because no matter what, their fragrances seemed to be perfectly engineered and carefully conceived. But last year they bombarded us with eight new releases, and a month into the new year there are already six more listed on Fragrantica. This is the road to make me stop caring. Except when the stuff is good. Another point in favor of Atelier Cologne is the travel size atomizers. Not all locations offer all scents in this format, but that's another reason to visit their boutique, where the service and knowledge are miles above what you get at Sephora.

Atelier Cologne- Mandarine Glaciale (Collection Azur). I get it. They want to offer an alternative to the stuff in the blue bottles from Tom Ford. And in this case, the people at Atelier have really succeeded. A ginger and citrus little thing that feels uplifting and not completely boring. I like it. Shoot me. ($125 at Sephora. There's probably a smaller and cheaper bottle to be found)

Atelier Cologne- Pomelo Paradis. Sweetened and slightly floral grapefruit juice that evaporates in front of my eyes. Short-lived perfumes got no reason. ($70 at Sephora).

Atelier Cologne- Oud Saphir. May the gods of real authentic oud forgive me, but I love this one. It's leathery, smoky, slightly animalic and very interesting. Oud Saphir draws complex arabesques on skin, taking you to faraway lands as well as into a meditative state. I don't know what kind of sorcery it is, but on a market full of sorta-kinda-not-really ouds, whatever they put in Oud Saphir hits the spot perfectly ($130 at Sephora and Atelier boutiques).

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Colourpop Puppy Love Eye Shadow

The main reason I bought this Colourpop Puppy Love Eye Shadow is that all proceeds from the sale of “Puppy Love” are donated to Best Friends Animal Society and their NKLA effort to Save Them All. Of course, I do love (LOVE) the formula and concept of Colourpop (at least when it comes to eye shadows), and the color is a basic, no-brainer kind of thing that I've been reaching for regularly. So spending $5 on a made in the USA product that is useful and fully dedicated to charity was an easy decision. And honestly, I'd have probably bought the eye shadow even if it had come in chartreuse. Because puppies and charity.

Puppy Love is a soft skin-like peach with a smooth sheen. The people at Colourpop say it's a "pink & gold duo-chrome in a Pearlized finish".  I don't get much of a duo-chrome effect on my skin (my lids are rather dark. for me it's a classic peach champagne color that brightens the lids instantly without looking "done". It's a pat-and-go item that requires nothing but a touch of mascara and maybe an eyeliner for polished yet utterly effortless look, Of course, one can integrate Puppy Love into an elaborate makeup look that would make Instagram proud. I pat it with my ring finger on the center of the lid to add some glow. The options are many and fun to explore.

Like most (all?) non-matte Colourpop eye shadows, Puppy Love benefits from a very thin layer of eye shadow primer (NARS has never failed me), and a finger application. Brushes tend to kick up a mess and dilute the color unevenly. So use your finger and don't forget to close the lid as tightly as humanly possible. The creamy putty texture is prone to drying otherwise.

Bottom Line: Not just for the love of puppies.

Colourpop Puppy Love Eye Shadow ($5, made in the USA) is only available from

Photo used in the background is by Richard Avedon for Harper's Bazaar, 1952, from the gorgeous book American Fashion (Assouline, 2007).

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Annick Goutal- Sables

I refuse to title this review "vintage perfume". I just won't do it.
My bottle is not from 1985 (the yesr Goutal launched Sables) or even close. It's from the end of the previous decade or early from this one. I have cats older than that.

Sables by Annick Goutal is inexplicably labeled as a masculine. I think it's a perfect example of a gender-free perfume. it doesn't matter who and what you are when it comes to Sables. You just need to really really love immortelle and its fenugreek/maple syrup smell. Yes, there's a mellow sandalwood and amber dry-down that leads the fragrance into calmer waters, but from the very first spray to the last whiff I can capture, this is a major immortelle perfume. More so than anything else in my personal collection (and I'm not one to shy away from this note). The husband smells the spice notes better than I do. Apparently there's cinnamon (I get it) and pepper (completely alludes me). He finds it as easy to wear as I do and doesn't get the controversy around immortelle. It smells great, end of story.

When it comes to sweetness, I Goutal's Sables less gourmand than ELdO Like This and not as syrupy as Chypre Rouge (Lutens), both I love (probably even more so than Sables).  Projection is average, as is longevity, unless you saturate yourself with it like a waffle. I don't know how the current version (in the more elegant box) measures up, beyond a quick sniff I got which seems more mellow than the juice I have. It's still easy to find the older bottles with the more elaborate labels and boxes.

The current version of Sables by Annick Goutal is available at the brand's boutique and from Aedes ($149, 100ml). Please comment if you've smelled it recently and how do you think it compares to the original.

Photo of a butterfly on an immortelle flower via

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lancôme Spring 2016 My Parisian Pastels Shimmer Cube Eyeshadows and Highlighters Palette

This is my one and only concession to the pastel trend of spring 2016. It's all the pinks and ice cream colors I can handle, and they come in a cute little tin that would have equally appealed to my seven year old niece. I'm not entirely sure that Lancôme My Parisian Pastels Shimmer Cube Eyeshadows and Highlighters Palette is dripping with Chic Parisienne. It's more like a certain type of fashion(ish) illustrations that accompanies magazine articles about how young Parisian women don't get fat/ never wear the wrong eye shadow/ avoid the mall/ can talk about Sartre while eating escargot. Whatever. Would these magical creatures buy and wear Lancôme's  My Parisian Pastels Shimmer Cube Eyeshadows and Highlighters Palette? I don't know. I'm just Gaia, a middle aged blogger from New Jersey, and bought this thing kind of against my better judgment.

Let's start with figuring out what is this thing and why does it look so much like The Body Shop Shimmer Cubes? The answer to the second part might be easier, since I seem to recall Lisa Eldridge, the creative director at Lancôme being a fan of that product (available at Ulta, by the way). As for exactly is this product, I'd say it is whatever you want it to be, as long as your vision includes shimmer. For colored cubes of pressed powder in colors ranging from greenish yellow to lavender. The pigments are sheer and almost all of them are decidedly pastel. But it's that sheerness that allows them to be used on top of other makeup colors to add a mostly refined shimmer to one's look. I admit that I'm fond of the idea, because I love playing, mixing, and layering, while giving a new life to old staples.

Basically, a touch of any of the palette's cubes over your blush or eye shadow gives it another (shiny) dimension). Speaking of the shine, it is mostly high shimmer, but without any glitter particles. In theory, you may be able to use the colors on their own if you're so inclined, but the cubes were not formulated with high pigmentation in mind, and the only colors with any survival rate are the darkest ones. They perform much better over cream shadows, pencils, and blushes, and also look decent over intensely pigmented powder products (or directly over a cream foundation, but application can be patchy). I use a fluffy brush to get them on, something like a MAC 217, or a finger for just a dab in the middle of the eye lid.

The packaging has numbers and tells which ones are recommended for face and for eyes, but I'm pretty sure that I've mangled the original setting, so I no longer no which is which. I'll go out on a limb and say that a greenish yellow was probably not meant for the cheeks, but who knows? Another word about packaging: each cube is independently ensconced in a small plastic box with a lid, which prevents a mess and any breakage. The thing is, that it's kind of annoying fumbling with the lids (you have to take the cubes out of the tin in most cases) as you're trying to be creative and do an interesting makeup look. My advice would be to keep the thing for an at-home use, remove (but keep) the individual lids, so the product is ready for you as you open the tin.

Bottom Line: girls just wanna have fun (but can probably find better ways to do it).

Lancôme Spring 2016 My Parisian Pastels Shimmer Cube Eyeshadows and Highlighters Palette ($59) is available wherever Lancôme  products are sold.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Top Winter Perfume Picks- Selected (Mostly) By The Husband

Winter top ten perfumes are always the hardest for me to pick. Part of this is because I dislike this season so much. Another reason is that what many consider "cold weather perfumes" are among my most favorite to wear all-year-round, so it feels like all the leathers, heavy gourmands, and smoky fragrances have already been mentioned. I was lamenting this to the Blond who seemed unfazed by my plight. He's slightly more seasonally-directed than me in his perfume choices, or so it seems, and is far less likely to wear anything named "Cuir" in August or a citrus cologne in the dead of winter. "Just write about what you've been reaching for most often these last couple of months", was his suggestion. "What about you? What have you been wearing more frequently?", I challenged him. I've noticed that he has been quite focused on several bottles lately, not necessarily his old standbys,  while barely touching others.  Therefore, the first part of this list is The Husband's top picks for the season, He only had six, which made it easy for me to select the four perfumes I've been wearing a lot lately.

His top perfume picks for winter:

  • Undergreen Gold. Ginger and smoky incense. Quite a bit of ginger has been consumed in our house lately, so this perfume just goes along with our food. 
  • Terre d'Hermes (edt). That's a surprise, actually. I'm usually the one wearing it (and more often in summer), but something in the flinty orange composition has been calling to him lately. That, and the fact he's never visited Basenotes' male fragrance forum.
  • L'Artisan- Dzongkha. I finally got him (us) a full bottle of the stuff, so he's been naturally drawn to it. And, of course, iris and vetiver are his jam.
  • Parfumerie Generale- Querelle. Exactly the same reasons as above, minus the iris.
  • Chanel Egoiste Cologne Concentree (vintage). It's sandalwood and spice, utterly delicious and cozy. His scarves and coat have absorbed a good amount, shielding him from the cold.
  • Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Soleil de Jeddah. Funny: this was included in my summer favorites, because I found it to be juicy, and yellow, and all that's good and sexy about long summer days. On his skin the leather is very pronounced and there's no trace of mango. Skin chemistry, go figure.
And mine:
  •  Raghba by Lattafa Perfumes. This is both a guilty pleasure and a cheap thrill. It's a sugar-coated oud, with smoke and vanilla in the background. For under $30 it could have been a lot more tacky (it probably IS quite tacky), but I wear it well. Neither cats nor husband object.
  • Chantecaille- Kalimantan. There has to be a serious patchouli in this mix, and Kalimantan with its dry and formal ways is one of the more interesting takes on this theme. 
  • Parfums MDCI- Les Indes Galantes. It has all the makings of  a classic Christmas/Holiday season perfume: orange, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla. Just add cheer. 
  • My vintage pick for the season is Cabochard de Gres. It's all the coats, hats, and handbags I wish I owned , right out of an old French movie. In black & white, of course.

What are your winter picks? Have they changed since last year?

Please visit my friends at Bois de JasminGrain de Musc, and Now Smell This for more winter perfume picks.

Image: A winter scene by Chéri Hérouard for La Vie Parisienne, 1923

Thursday, January 21, 2016

FoTD: A Blue & Gold Evening Look Featuring NARS NARSissit Palettes

About to leave the house, I gave the light in the guest bath a try.

I was very eager last week to put on real clothes, do a full face of makeup, and do something fun after more than a week of feeling miserable and trying to prevent my lungs from leaving my body. It was just a casual dinner the city, but I wanted some sparkle, hence the blue and gold eye look. I used some new stuff, a bunch of old standby favorites, but most important: the two newest NARSissit palettes (L'amour Toujours for eyes, and the Sephora-exclusive Cheek Studio Palette). Here's the full list of products:

Smashbox Oil Primer (a post about oils coming very soon)
YSL Touche Éclat Le Teint Radiance Awakening Foundation (New Formula) in B50 Honey, applied with a Beauty Blender. Spoiler alert: I love it and got a full size bottle.
Rouge Bunny Rouge Impalpable Finishing Powder Diaphanous 

Under Eyes
Giorgio Armani Corrector (still my favorite product in this category after several years)
YSL Touche Éclat highlighter No.2. It's a staple.
(Yes, that how I look after correcting and highlighting. My eyes are set halfway into my skull)

NARSissist blush II from the palette
Becca Moonstone pressed highlighter

NARS eye primer
Eyeshadows from the L'amour Toujours palette: No. I (a nude) as a base all over the lid, VII (matte taupe) in the crease, X (blue) on the outer half of the lid, blended upward, V (gold) on the inner part of the lid, tear duct and under the lower lashes.
Lancome Artliner (Noir) along the upper lashes
Anastasia Beverly Hills Metallic Eyeliner in Gold (I think it's a Macy's exclusive) on the lower lash line. It's a rediscovery for me, and I really love this pencil for its smoothness, liquid metal look, and staunch longevity.
Buxom Amplified Lash Mascara (from a sample). Because of the gold shadow and liner I also applied a touch of mascara to the lower lashes, which I usually avoid (see: sunken eyes). I love the regular Buxom Lash and this is just as good.

Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk lip liner (is there anyone in the world who doesn't use this one?)
L'Oreal Infallible Pro-Matte Gloss in Nude Allude, a warm beige-brick kind of color that seems to work exceptionally well in this context. I love the formula (it's a relaunch) because it's not 100% matte.

Other Stuff
Earrings- Oscar de la Renta clip-ons from a couple of years ago
Dress- DVF
SotE- Nüwa by Roja Dove
Dinner- could have been better (and the waitress should have told us that the cake was gluten-free)

See Also

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