Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Makeup For The DMV

The jewel in the crown of the DMV experience (for our overseas friends: Department of Motor Vehicles, also known as Purgatory) is having the glamor shot. A moment in time which accompanies us everywhere for the next four years, and it's a good idea to try and make it prettier (and less reflecting of the environment where the photo is being taken: grey walls, sour-pussed employees and the Great Unwashed everywhere).

Basically, unless you're Maria Shriver, you want your features to look more defined, thus avoiding the typical squinty-eyed blob with hair effect. Of course, an even skin is important, but it's nothing unusual. stick to your normal primer-foundation-concealer-blush/bronzer and set it all with your favorite powder. Don't make the mistake of trying to shade and contour your face. The crappy lightning won't cooperate and you're most likely to end up with mud face.

It's better to concentrate on what you want to stand out. Define and fill your eyebrows with a either an eyebrow product or a dark eye shadow (my choice is Bobbi Brown Espresso, which is just a bit darker than my natural hair color, without being quite black). Use a stiff, angled brush and work it in short, steady strokes, only where needed.

Go for the darkest liquid or gel eyeliner you own. Normally for daytime I prefer a dark brown, but this is an occasion to break out the black, and go for a heavier application than normal (once you're done with the DMV just apply a little taupe eye shadow on top, to bring it down a notch or two. Or just glam it up for the day). In my case, this is even more important than mascara, since my eyes are a bit heavy-lidded. In any case, a layer or two of black mascara add the finishing touches. Only use brown if you're very fair and you have bunny (or Tilda Swinton) lashes. Eye shadow is far less important today. Stick to natural, low shimmer colors. It's the defined outlines that you want showing, not your Nars habit.

Last and very important is lip color. You want to show color, not shimmer, so go for a dark stain or a real old-school lipstick. You you know what flatters you, so pick one of your favorites in red, plum or berry. Don't skip the (matching or nude) liner. You want a well defined but invisible outline, and it will help keep the color in place while you wait (and wait, and wait some more). My choice for the happy occasion was my trusty Fresh lip liner in Gypsy Rose and a very pigmented Givenchy gloss that is more of a liquid lipstick (in Violine Vitamine). Don't forget to take the lipstick with you, for a last minute touch up. Avoid shiny glosses for this occasion, but you can apply a plumper before putting on the color, if needed.

A zen attitude would also help.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Non-Blonde Is Two!

Two years ago I decided I had something to say about lipstick, perfume and Mary-Kate Olsen's sense of style. I didn't think other people would be very interested, but this medium is very forgiving, and expressing myself was fun. Soon I realized people were actually reading and coming back for more. I discovered my writing voice and the joy of interacting with people around the globe who share my interests.

Today is my second blogging anniversary, a perfect opportunity to thank my readers and friends for making this such a wonderful experience. You're the ones who helped me take The Non-Blonde to the next level and make it more than just a self-indulgent hobby. I've learned a lot in the last two years and had fun every step of the way.

Here's to you and to another beautiful year,


Image: lavender and red lilies in my patio (a couple of years ago).

Friday, April 25, 2008


I'm about to start reading Nina Garcia's Little Black Book of Style. Who knows? Maybe I'll learn something.

Into My Arms by Nick cave. Actually, this is my favorite song of all time. I don't allow myself to indulge in it too often, so it remains special. But I listened to it today and it's as amazing as ever.

frequently worn outfit or item
Elie Tahari denim jackets. Dressing up a t-shirt or dressing down a silk dress. I love the feminine cuts and all the cute details.

Parfumerie Generale Bois Blond. It's not necessarily a spring scent and not very feminine. It's all wood, all the time, and I can't get enough.

Tofu in every shape and form. What kind of person gets tofu cravings?

I probably need to just remove this category. I only drink water.

guilty pleasure
Reading people's personal blogs. We live in strange times.

bane of my existence
The DMV.

A shopping spree.

By the time I saw these perfect Burberry sandals on Neiman's web site, they were already out of my size (7.5). I'll need to hunt them down in person. Must.Have.These.

Please tell me about your current loves!

Art: Room in New York by Edward Hopper
Perfect footwear: Burberry, from Neiman Marcus website.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


EBSQ is an online gallery for independent artists. I often browse it for interesting images to accompany my posts and can spend several hours doing so. But it's not just about painting and photography. There's a huge jewelry section where you can find one-of-a-kind and interesting looking little pretties. When you click on an item of interest you'll get a page with a bigger photo and links to the artist's web site, Etsy store and/or any other form of contact. Prices and materials vary, and it's a lot of fun to discover the more unique pieces. I'm waiting for a little package. Picttures and review to come.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Itchy and Scratcy Show

Here's an issue I call Skin Primavera: The weather is acting crazy from day to day. You might start your morning using a thicker body cream than needed or you dress too heavily and find yourself sweating by mid-afternoon, or maybe you're just allergic to daffodils. An itch leads to a scratch and there you have it: red, irritated skin.

The most effective answer I've found so far is aloe vera gel. I'd shy away from the stuff with additives and green coloring and go for the pure stuff. Lily of the Desert has an organic, 99% gel that gives me six hours of relief per application. It has a light moisturizing effect (which means that sometimes I need something extra on top of it) and is instantly calming. It's a medicine cabinet essential, and I also keep a tube in my cosmetics bag. It has saved my legs on more than one occasion.

In my much younger days I discovered that aloe vera gel is also a good post-debauchery cure for the eye area. It helped de-parch, de-puff and revive a hard-partying face. I suspect that now, 20 years later, it'd take a lot more than a $4 tube of gel, but it still feels great on the skin, especially post-flight or after a workout.

I buy mine at the local Whole Foods, where there are several similar brands available. You can also order online .
Image: Top Review

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In Which I Take On White Flowers (and win!)

This little review could have gone really, really bad. This thought crossed my mind the other day as I was liberally applying Tubéreuse by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier and realizing seconds later that testing a tuberose perfume on a day the water company was doing maintenance that required shutting down the water supply for the entire street, might not have been the best idea ever. In fact, with my white floral record and the weather getting significantly warmer, it had all the making of a bad day (though a much funnier review).

Don't get me wrong: I have tried Tubéreuse several times before and didn't hate it, but going for the full body experience was pushing my limits to a point a hot shower should have been at least a viable option.

I think I finally have tuberose all figured out. I am more likely to enjoy it when it's not trying too hard to be lady-like. Whenever tuberose is paired with other white flowers like gardenia or orange blossom and doing the pretty, pretty princess thing, chances are it wouldn't work for me. But if it has some masculine notes, a dirty edge or a quirky personality, I just might fall for it. There's no shortage of examples: While the EdP version of Fracas feels off, like wearing an utterly wrong shade of lipstick, the parfum fits me like a bias-cut silk dress. I adore Uncle Serge's Cedre, where tuberose peaks and pokes the wood notes, and the first Parfumerie General bottle I ever bought was Tubéreuse Couture.

But back to this little surprise from MPG. I think it works because of two things: the green leaves that keep the floral parts from becoming a full-on diva, and the gorgeous drydown. I get more ambergris than musk, but in any case, it's considerably softer than many other tuberose perfumes. It has enough development to my nose challenged, while still showing the many faces of tuberose. A warm day makes this scent bloom, but it doesn't get overwhelming. The sillage is polite but still good, and the lasting power is very impressive. Twelve hours after application, I could still smell traces. While I don't need a full bottle and maybe not even a decant, considering the other options in my collection, I did enjoy Tubéreuse a lot more than I expected.

MPG fragrances are sold at Aedes in NYC and LuckyScent (Scent Bar) in L.A.. My sample was bought on eBay.
Art: White Tuberose by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Image: AllPosters.com

You Are Gold

My annoyance with Chanel's spring collection is already documented here. Truth be told, spring/summer collection are rarely as exciting as fall offering. Maybe it's all the pink, or maybe there's something else at the works. Just like Vogue's September issue is usually more interesting than the almost equally lethal March one. Whatever it is, there's a good chance that Chanel would redeem their reputation with their 2008 color collection.

Their new creative director, Peter Phillips (not the Peter Phillips who was the first person to call Queen Elizabeth II "Granny", but the name made me somewhat amused) is continuing the gold rush theme from a couple of seasons back, but this time, at least judging from the picture on WWD, the color is deeper and a little more interesting. I still had to stifle a yawn when reading about the inspiration behind the collection: Once again, it's the famous Coco Chanel Rue Cambon apartment. We've been through this multiple times before, but what do I know? My habitat, with its stacks of books, rows of CDs and the occasional feline that tops them would never inspire anyone to create an evocative nail polish.

The jewel in this golden crown is the Gold Fiction nail polish, which is supposed to be made with special pigments, rendering its honey-gold color deeper and with an excellent finish. It's outrageously priced at $30, but the people at Chanel are predicting a big success. They might be right. An innovative formula and a special color which is pretty, wearable and wouldn't scare children and small animals can go a long way. On my covet list there's also the promised eye shadow quad palette which will include gold, coffee, ivory and dark green.

Not bad.

Info and images: WWD. Model: Natalia Vodianova

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Underarm Adventures- Secret Platinum Invisible Solid in Vanilla Chai

I have only myself to blame. Nobody made me buy this deodorant, Secret Platinum Invisible Solid in Vanilla Chai. But some perverse curiosity made me reach for it, put it in my cart and then actually use it. The result, learning that I really don't want my underarms to smell like pudding, was predictable.

While I adore many gourmand fragrances, this is no Serge Lutens. And certain body part should never omit this kind of scent. Or any scent, actually. What I want from my antiperspirant is that it would ensure that neither I, nor anyone else in proximity, would smell anything that comes from my underarm. Instead, what I get from this product is a strong artificial pudding odor. It actually has a sillage, which I can't even begin to tell you how wrong it is. It's so strong that it competes and clashes with my perfume of the day. I also made the brave (but gravely wrong) experiment of wearing it while working out. Use your imagination.

That said, while this Vanilla Chai thing is clearly not for me, I can see how it can be a hit at middle schools across the nation. It blocks BO, stains clothes no more and no less than any other deodorant and lasts all day. But I'm back to using my favorite, a masculine one, Gillette X3 in Storm Force, which is effective, smells faintly of cedar when applied but can't be detected unless your nose is firmly stuck under my arm.

I buy my deodorants at Target, but they are available everywhere under the sun for less than $5.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The (Almost) Lost Perfumes: Niki de Saint Phalle Parfum

It's spring and green perfumes are the order of the day. The problem is that too many of them fall under the "fresh" category, and I don't do fresh (or airy, or light, or... you get the picture). Also, my skin tends to eliminate green notes almost on application, so I can't really be bothered.

Except for when they have far more personality than the usual herbal stuff.

Niki de Saint Phalle, an 1982 perfume by the late French-born and NY-educated artist has that personality. It's as far from typical 80s creations as can be, but is still vibrant and full of life and surprises. The biggest one is the note that's most prominent on my skin: Marigolds (also known as tagetes).

I love these little tokens of summery sunshine and grow them in my yard every year. I plant them between my vegetables and herbs because they're a natural insect deterrent (if only they were as effective with Steve the groundhog and Sheldon the rabbit I could even have broccoli again). The flowers and leaves have a strong, pungent scent that I adore and could just roll in it. But I don't really have to, because I have a precious bottle of the pure parfum, a little masterpiece of presentation (see photo), that holds this lovely juice. I'm aware that some find this scent too weird to wear. Marigolds have this combination of green and tobacco, and are quite different than feminine flowers. But I think the other florals here, while mild and almost faceless, manage to keep the weirdness to a wearable minimum.

The marigolds are a bit subdued in the musky-mossy sweet dry-down, but are still present and maintain the green feel. I can't say that I clearly smell any other of the official notes (Jasmin, Rose, Marigold, Ylang-Ylang, Vetyver, Sandalwood, Patchouly, Amber, Musk ) other than, maybe, the amber. I'm actually glad about it. The perfume is so well-blended that it has a very distinct character that is all about the complete and final product.

While the common knowledge is that this fragrance has been officially discontinued, this official-looking site still claims that at least the EdT and the body line are still being made (which explains why they can be easily found from many online discounters). It's the pure parfum that sadly has been lost. The 80s were not just about Giorgio, though it's becoming harder and harder to remember with all the reformulations and discontinuations of lovely classics.

If you live in the UK and can get to Liverpool, their local Tate is running a Niki de Saint Phalle exhibition until May 5th.

Addendum: Here's a story about how I found a bottle of the Niki de Saint Phalle parfum in Paris, didn't buy it but got a much better deal here at home (and also a couple of photos of the artist's creations in Paris).

Golem, an architectural project for children in Jerusalem’s Rabinovitch Park,
Marigold Magic by Linda Falge, ebsqart.com
Perfume bottle image from the Niki de Saint Phalle Perfumes site, linked above

My vintage bottle was purchased on eBay.

Monday, April 14, 2008

What's In Your Bathtub?

I have no idea what Buffy was thinking, but she sure looked cute.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

This blogger is still cranky

I haven't written much about the Summer 2008 collections. The reason is that most of them left me feeling uninspired. There's only so much innovation one can find in bronzing powders, especially when said one is quite addicted to them and already owns at least one from each major luxury brand. And as for other makeup items, we've seen (and bought) it all before.

Two companies compete for the Outrageous Award of the season: First is Bobbi Brown, queen of the limited edition palettes that end up tripling in price on eBay has gone a step further. This season she doesn't offer a palette, but a collection: a lip trio, a metallic eye shadow palette and a mini brush set (why would they put a blush brush in a collection that doesn't even include a blush or any face product for that matter?). You can have it all for $140. The problem is that it's all or nothing: you can't purchase any of the items individually, even if you really don't want or need more makeup brushes.

No, thank you.

Another "oh no, they didn't!" moment comes to you from Chanel. While there are cute looking lip colors in each of their formulas and the nail polish in Antelope is gorgeous and elegant (it's a frosted fawn color. A bit 70s, but in a very good way), I couldn't believe my eyes even when I saw Oasis, the eye shadow quartet in person at the counter. Except for the khaki, this set is nearly identical to the one from two summers ago, Gold Rush (see the second picture, yanked from an eBay auction). It's not exactly the same, but I own Gold Rush and can promise you that you don't need both. I'm all for recycling, but not of ideas. Add to that the second nail color in this collection, Flamingo, a bright pink that looks suspiciously close to Biaritz from the same summer 2006 collection. What's the point?

Now, the last annoying move (though not nearly half as bad as the two above) belongs to Smashbox. They have an eye and cheek palette that are exclusive to Sephora, but the item I'm more interested to try, the Desert Chic palette (another eye/cheek combo) can only be found online, either directly from Smashbox or on QVC. I'm a veteran blind-buyer, but when it comes to face color (unlike lip or eye products that rarely go wrong) I prefer to play with it at the store.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Non-Update On Mario Badescu Cleanser (or: How To Annoy A Blogger)

Remember when I contacted Mario Badescu for some clarifications regarding the ingredients in their green (and apparently edible) Enzyme Cleansing Gel?

The next day, my hit counter showed a visit from someone at Mario Badescu. How did they get here? Not from the link in my email signature. The person did a search on monomides, probably trying to find the answer to my little chemistry question, but only found my blog. A nice Google page rank would do that. But apparently, the answer wasn't found in my original post, and the customer service rep must have given up on the issue, because I never got a reply.

What I receive instead is spam. I never asked to have Mario Badescu newsletter sent to my blog email address (I'm not talking about press releases, what they send me is the regular pushy stuff that I already get in my other email). I am not amused.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Laura Geller Powdered Silk Pressed Powder

Like most LVMH-owned companies, Sephora manages to keep annoying me. I'm not even talking about the decline of their fragrance department, or lamenting the good old days when you could buy Chanel and Bobbi Brown at Sephora stores. What gets to me is the way they drop the smaller makeup lines. The list is endless: Anna Sui, Becca, Alison Raffaele, Paula Dorf. At least they still carry Laura Geller, and the prices seem to be lower than on Ms. Geller's own website (which looks 1999 fab).

I bought my compact of Powdered Silk after playing with it at Sephora a few months ago. I immediately noticed the great texture and how soft and smooth my face looked. It blends with any other face products I use, be it my Chanel foundation or any blushes and bronzers I happen to wear that day, both cream and powders. The result is always flawless and polished.

I feel that a good finishing powder makes the difference in a put-together face. Just like the way an Ikea piece usually doesn't measure up to well-made furniture (and I'm saying this as an avid Ikea shopper. I have to be, since she who has a houseful of felines cannot invest or get too attached to perishable home decor. And almost everything is perishable when it comes to my beasties). The colors can be nice and the design clever, but I don't want that kind of rough finish on my face.

Another great selling point for this powder is its durability. It stays in place all day and all evening, doesn't melt or cake after a short walk in the rain and keeps my skin nice and smooth without drying it out (which means that if your skin is very oily, this might not work) . The puff that comes in the package is flimsy and pointless, so I don't bother with it. A good powder brush delivers the best results, and from my experience, only a little product is needed for optimal results.

There are three colors available: light, medium and dark. I'm using light and it's a perfect match because I don't want any extra color on top of whatever else I'm using under it. I tried the medium and it seems a bit too tan/orange, so your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier- Fleur d'Iris

Spring is really here. I haven't worn a heavy coat in a couple of weeks, my back yard has some interesting signs of life (and I don't mean Steve, our resident groundhog) and I'm playing with perfumes that have more green and floral notes.

Or iris.

While the orris perfume note is actually made of the roots, the rhizomes, and is earthy and cool, this isn't exactly the feeling you expect or desire in a perfume called Fleur d'Iris. And, indeed, this is as far from the legendary Tauer Orris as you can get. There's no leather or dirt here, and the scent is decidedly feminine, powdery and sweet, sweet, sweet.

It definitely evokes some flowers, but on my skin, as soon as the vegetal-rose opening fades (I quite like it, even with the strangeness and almost leek aftertaste it can give), the scent starts warming until it becomes all violet, and a candied one, at that. It's not too sweet, and I manage to enjoy it, despite not being the greatest fan of powdery flowers. It's probably the amounts of vanilla that make it warm and deep instead of vintage face product. In fact, after a few hours of wearing I always think that if only it had a touch of tonka bean it would have passed as a Guerlain.

Like quite a few of the feminine MPGs, Fleur d'Iris is pleasant and wearable, but not too original. It's pretty, would probably delight vanilla and violet lovers and for an EdT, the lasting power is impressive (8-10 hours on my dry skin, a rarity), but it doesn't wow me the same way several of the masculine fragrances from this line do. Expect an ode to Parfum d'Habit, Route du Vetiver and Iris Bleu Gris in the near future.

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier line is available from Henri Bendel and Aedes in NYC as well as other premium retailers. I'm still using a sample pack I bought on eBay in the good old days.

Art: Iris by
Sofia Perina Miller

Monday, April 07, 2008

Julie Hewett Cream Eyeliner

Confession time: I'm wary of private labels. When I buy something I want to know exactly where it comes from and who makes it. Recently there are more and more makeup lines carrying the names of makeup artists, some more famous than others, and not all lines are created equal.

Seeing that the label on the cream eyeliner from Julie Hewett is a simple sticker has worried me a bit, but it was better than expected. While not in the same league as Bobbi Brown's gel liner, Hue Colour is creamy and easy enough to apply. It goes on smoothly and looks great. I still prefer the lighter gel texture of Bobbi's, just because it's more klutz-friendly.

The biggest drawback is in terms of durability. Without an eye primer, it doesn't survive a full day. True to the promise, it didn't smudge, but it did fade and crease. A primer kept it in place for about 8 hours, but the color wasn't as vibrant. Despite the suggestion to also use it as a shadow for a dramatic smoky eye, I'd avoid it. It creases too much and the creamy texture just can't hold. But as an eyeliner, it's quite nice.

The color I bought was Newsprint Bleu. It's inkish with a bit of grey, on my eyelids it looks similar to Lancome Artliner in smoke, and despite technically being blue, it's almost a neutral, and quite flattering, so you wouldn't get the skank effect often associated with blue eye makeup. The other colors in the collections are too adventurous for me: violet, burgundy and (gasp!) white, but if any of you tries them, please let me know how they look.

Julie Hewett products are available directly from her website (where I purchased mine), as well as from Bliss (they have some exclusives) and QVC.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale. Yes, I'm a nerd who reads grammar books for fun.

Annie Waits by Ben Folds is permanently stuck in my head. That's one of the best earworms one can have, so I'm not complaining.

frequently worn outfit or item
My two merino wool shawls. I have one in black and one in red, which I find myself constantly reaching for, now that heavy coats are no longer needed.

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Eau de Camelia Chinois. No idea why, but I'm on an MPG kick lately and finding myself quickly emptying samples. This one is most likely to become a full bottleor at least a large decant.

Lightly steamed sugar snap peas.

Water. How boring.

guilty pleasure
Lazy weekends. Snuggling with the beasties on a rainy Sunday and not doing anything productive.

bane of my existence

May flowers.

As ridiculous as it may look, this giraffe necklace from J. Crew. I'm not crazy about the color combination of the grey beads with the gold/brown, but it's all about the giraffe!

Art: April Showers by Toby Vandenack
Necklace: J. Crew

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Lion Sleeps Tonight- Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental

My Serge Lutens habit is not exactly a secret, and the shelf space the bottles take in my perfume cabinet is steadily growing. The other day I was taking stock and checked to see which one is most likely to need restocking first. The answer is Vetiver Oriental. Not very surprising, considering the bottle is heavily shared with the Blond, and we both have a serious thing for vetiver.

Vetiver is often described as green, earthy, dirty, dark and bitter. But in this case it's also rich and chocolatey, a note one would not necessarily expect to find in such a rooty, balsamic scent. It emerges from behind the green, making it at once sweet and mysterious, just as you'd hope to find in an oriental perfume, but still very unusual. It adds to the lush feeling you get from the woods and the mosses, and blends well with both the dark and the creamy notes.

What I'm getting is a feeling of a dark jungle, exotic and wild. As it unfolds it beauty, you also sense the danger that lurks just behind, tempting you to go in deeper. So I spray a little more, to get more of that green and wait for another wave of chocolate and magic to emerge. Maybe that's how the green liquid in the bottle is disappearing so fast.

Vetiver Oriental is part of the Palais Royal exclusive collection, but it's available worldwide for a limited time. I bought my bottle from Aedes in NYC (my personal preference whenever possible, because the store is privately owned, not part of a chain and is local for me), but you can also get it from all the usual suspects: Barneys, Bergdorf, Neiman's, or if you're lucky to be in Los Angeles, at Scent Bar (also by phone and email, but not sold online). The Perfumed Court, unlike all the others mentioned above, has samples.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In His Words: Perez On Blogging

Think what you may about Perez Hilton, he is a phenomenon and sets the standards for what is successful blogging. Click on this link to watch a clip of an interview he gave last Friday.

Image: Perez Hilton