Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chanel Spring 2009 And One Good Perennial Lipstick



My expectations from spring makeup collections are always limited. They usually tend to be heavy on pink and other pastels which rarely agree with me. The good news about Chanel Spring 2009 Bohemian Fantasy collection is the lack of any Barbieness. It's darker than you'd expect, with the best item in the range being the deep violet nail polish and the chocolaty plum eye shadow in the Les 4 Ombres Quadra Eye Shadow (the silver gray is also very cute if less useful).

The bad news for me is how most of the colors look on my skin: Not Good.

The collection would probably look best on the cool-toned among us. Even the bold reds are geared for women with rosier complexions who can pull of pink based and beige lip colors. The blush was also too light for me and looked unnatural.

As for the items I liked, I already have very similar colors in my stash (including a violet nail polish. Zoya came out with one several seasons ago), so I don't actually need either. But that eye shadow compact is the one thing worth trying in the collection. The pigments were better than what you usually get in these Chanel quads.


The one thing I just couldn't understand was the lip palette. I looked at it, touched it, circled it, but unless I'm missing something major here, there was never ever so little actual material for so much money. If you think Serge Lutens lipsticks are atrociously priced at $75, this thing with its six tiny droplets of color (almost sample size) goes for $60. Did any of you discover a secret pocket of lip cream anywhere inside the compact?

My advice: skip the limited edition items and go for the regular collection. My latest discovery is Rouge Allure lipstick in Attitude. It's a mellow red with a dark rose base. It has more than enough personality to be considered a red, while still being daytime friendly on olive skin. It's a pretty and lively color which would serve you both in the cold months and later on this spring.

Like all Rouge Allure lipstick, it's comfortable to wear, moisturizing and wears for quite a while (unless it meets hot tea first). Definitely my favorite makeup item these days, with the added benefit of not having to hoard several before it goes away forever.

I tried to take a picture (with and without cats), but couldn't capture the exact color. You'll need to see for yourself in person, as the miserable color swatches on Chanel website are crappy (as are most of the images they use. They are rarely true to life. Someone in their marketing department needs to have a chat with the people at Sephora, Benefit Cosmetics, Nars and Bobbi Brown, to name a few companies who usually get it right).

Brandy Loves The 80s


Are we seeing a return of the matchy-matchy style?

Don't forget to make sure your scrunchy is the same color as your socks (preferably neon pink), though Brandy here is kicking it up a notch by posing as a Louis Vuitton billboard.

Photo: Faded Youth Blog

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sniffed Around Town


(For the 2008 Perfume Retrospective, please see yesterday's post)

I've been revisiting a few previously-sniffed scents at the usual NYC haunts. These are not full reviews as I haven't (yet?) bothered with samples and full wearing under different circumstances, unless noted. Just impressions.

*links go to my actual reviews that were written much later*

Chanel Beige- (part of the Les Exclusifs range and only available from Saks flagship in the city). The first time I tried it, I commented that it just doesn't go with my hair. It was too floral, too Chanel, too Upper East Side. Totally not me. It's still isn't, but I sort of get it now. Apparently, Muffy Sloan-McPrep has been skipping some Junior League meetings because she's having steamy randezvous with her tennis instructor. And she's invested in some killer shoes.

Champaca Absolute (Tom Ford Private Blend)- I didn't expect to like this one, let alone love. A biggish floral with some fruit in it (plum?) is not my everyday thing. But like many of the other Tom Ford perfumes, it melds with my skin and becomes smooth and musky (in a good way). It doesn't screech or does weird gestures, so while I probably don't need to have a bottle, I would wear it happily if the stork drops it at my door (storks bring the oddest things to this house).

Fleur de Liane (L'Artisan Parfumeur)- I really shouldn't have bothered with this one, as it's everything I hate. A sheer green aquatic with more than a hint of melon. I don't always assign colors to scents, but this one is a poisonous, radioactive aqua. While Fleur de Liane is a Bertrand Duchaufour creation, I can practically hear Jean Claude Ellena cackling behind the scene.

Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum (created by L'Artisan)- Another Duchaufour, this time a pretty nice one. On my skin and to my nose it's cool, clean incense, very similar to Heeley Cardinal and CdG Avignon. I liked it better as a room spray or on my husband, though he was not impressed.

Amouage Lyric For Women- Yes, please.
Gorgeous, sexy, rosy, spicy, woodsy. Lasts forever. It's the very late drydown that I'm not yet sure about. It loses some of the mouthwatering quality for more wood. Still beautiful, though.

Carnation (Mona Di Orio)-  Can I live without it, after all?  This one must be tested and re-tested on skin, as what you get on a scent strip would lead you to pull a Luca Turin and hate hate hate it. My skin loves it, most of the time. We all know where that leads.

Dans tes Bras (Frederic Malle)- Either they tinkered with the formula since I first smelled the tester in June (long before it was released, so everything's possible), or my skin really does a number on this. The sprayed card I got in Paris retained its powdery scent for days, while on my skin (and practically everyone else's) things have mellowed down considerably and it's not that heavy on heliotrope, either. I've been known to kill violets, so maybe it was to be expected. In any case, Dans tes Bras is a nice skin scents, suffers from longevity issues and a mushroomy accord, and smells a lot better in the open air than indoors.

Oriental Brulant (Guerlain)- The only one out of the three Elixirs I like so far. The problem? My skin makes it very very sweet. Even Isaac, the cutest SA at Saks 5th Avenue had to comment on this. The drydown is so Shalimar-like (just without the interesting parts) when I wear it that it's more than a little redundant, especially at $250 per bottle.

White Patchouli (Tom Ford)- No can do. The rose-jasmine combo in the middle turns sour on my skin every time I try.

Sycomore (Chanel)- The one Exclusif that might just force me to break my resolve against family-sized bottles and actually buy one. It's a beautiful, smoky vetiver with an ethereal quality that keeps it from becoming too butch (not that it ever stopped me before. I can't keep away from the Blond's Vetiver Extraordinaire, Route de Vetiver or his Guerlain). Want.


Photo of Saks 5th Avenue: Voted Off The Island

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Year Of Perfume: 2008 Retrospective


'Tis the season: Looking back, making lists and trying to summarize the previous twelve months in a way that makes sense. A group of us, bloggers with a serious thing for perfume, is offering a 2008 retrospective of the fragrance world. Each one of us is writing from a different point of view and location (some are based in Europe), and there's no common theme. I chose to look at events and trends that shaped and influenced us as consumers.

1. Launched in 2007, Tom Ford's Private Blend line was met with quite a bit of groans and growls from many perfume lovers. The twelve scents released at the same time made many doubt the amount of care and thought that went into creating them and accused Ford of trying to become an instant Lutens. Coupled with nose fatigue (who has the attention span for trying 12 new scents from one house at one sitting?), a general annoyance at the limited distribution and Ford's own controversial reputation all caused many to not even try. This year, however, found people giving the scents a chance and finding out they really really like them.

Say what you may about Tom Ford and the soft porn campaign he ran for his (tame, office-friendly) mainstream Tom Ford For Men fragrance. The Private Blend is well-made, interesting and actually worth the hype. 2008 has found the scents (if not the man) getting enough love that the latest release, Champaca Absolute, had people ordering blind. Quite a change from last year.

2. After years of dreaming, pining, hoarding the few precious drops left and paying over $400 on eBay for bottles that may or may not have relatively fresh juice in them, fans of Donna Karan's long-discontinued Chaos finally got their wish with the scent's re-release as a Bergdorf Goodman exclusive. Someone at Lauder (the company that holds the license for the Karan beauty line) has definitely been paying attention, as they created a full line of other discontinued items: Black Cashmere, DK For Men and the Essentials, all in the new black bottles.

As expected with such a project, the controversy hit two seconds after the first bottles were sprayed: Was the scent reformulated? Did they ruin it? Weakened it? No one can tell for sure, as those who still have some of the old juice admit, their bottles have aged (very well, in many cases, even if most of the top notes are no longer there), and it's quite difficult to compare. The new Chaos is lovely, but many of those who ordered unsniffed, based only on the legend, were disappointed to discover it's not an Earth-shattering perfume.

3. Speaking of internet hype, the biggest stampede of the year was probably the Balmain craze. Take a fragrance or two from a classic house, previously only available in Europe for full retail price, no samples to speak of, one name evoking a desired raw materials (Ambre Gris) and the other one named after a classic French icon (La Môme), and all of a sudden release them in the USA through an online discounter for a fraction of the original price. The result is a mass hysteria of blind orders, ending with almost as many disappointed noses. While both scents are pleasant and very wearable, they are not the pinnacle of French perfumery.

4. While Le Labo continued with their (super annoying and totally unjustifiable) marketing gimmick of exclusive city releases (Los Angeles, Tokyo and London, joining the ones in Paris, NYC and Dallas) which you can only buy in person at those specific locations, Serge Lutens has eased his grip just a little and allowed for more of his non-export perfumes to be sold here in the US. You can now get Santal de Mysore, Bois de violette, Bois et Fruits and Un Bois Sepia at Bergdorf Goodman (and even order them by phone). The first three were recently made available at several other locations like Aedes in NYC, Scent Bar (L.A.) and the Canadian Perfume Shoppe. In addition, Chergui seems to have made a semi-permanent migration into the export line and is available wherever Lutens fragrances are sold. While I'm not sure this means you will soon be able to buy Muscs Kublai Khan at your nearest Neiman Marcus, it does seem like Uncle Serge has realized a thing or two about the art of making money.

5. Guerlain have continued the trend of odd marketing decisions. Releasing Habit Rouge in parfum while keeping some beautiful old classics in an EDT form, thus making their performance less than stellar. Combined with the LVMH tendency to cater to Saudi sheikhs more than to genuine perfume lovers (I have no other way to explain that Four Seasons set which contained one former Aqua Alegoria scent or the other four digit items that look more like merchandising than a perfume), it was not the happiest year for Guerlain fans. And I'm not saying a word about the ridiculous soft porn literature that accompanied the release of the Elixirs Charnels.

6. Chanel have expanded their Les Exclusifs line with more jugs of EDT juice while terminating the USA sales of the few formerly-available parfums (Bois de Isles and Cuir de Russie). Apparently, they think we all want to be supersized or go swimming in our bottles. While the new Sycomore is available wherever Les Exclusifs are sold (which means hardly anywhere), Beige is limited to Saks 5th Avenue's NYC flagship. According to a source in Chanel USA, it was never meant to be a major release and they were quite surprised at the internet uproar and downpour of phone orders the store has received. The result of the many blind buys was the usual disappointment, when buyers discovered Beige was a very tame floral and not as interesting as they hoped. What else is new?

7. Perfumes- The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez is not the first book about perfumes. It's also a much less definite guide than the publisher would have you believe. Its strength (and also greatest weakness) is making perfume literature into entertainment. It has a somewhat broader appeal than most fragrance-related books (though for the life of me I cannot see the average L'Eau d'Issey one-bottle-a-year customer buying or enjoying this), and provides quite a bit of amusement to those who've sniffed a thing or two. Written by a scientist (Turin)and a former blogger and MakeupAlley popular reviewer (Sanchez), it mixes pop culture, snark and quite a bit of perfume knowledge. Still, at the end of the day, it's a book about the authors' opinions, a fact that seems to have escaped some of the online perfume community, fans and foes alike.

The release of the book was followed by a massive internet uproar from people who found their beloved scents being trashed. It was nearly as entertaining as some of Sanchez's more infamous quips, but not quite.

8. 2008 was the year the online perfume conversation has become even more important than ever before. Blogs and message boards have been spearheading trends for some time now, and this years we have also gotten some exclusive scoops and led important discussions. Denyse from Grain de Musc broke the story about the upcoming new Serge Lutens, Nuit de Cellophane, while I was the first to sniff and write about the latest Frederic Malle, Dans tes Bras. Our growing relevance is equal parts hard work, deep passion for the subject at hand and our loyal readers who make the effort enjoyable and worthwhile. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And a special thank you to Helg of Perfume Shrine for organizing this blogging event.

For more 2008 Retrospective, please visit these blogs:

  • 1000 Fragrances

  • Ars Aromatica

  • A Rose Beyond the Thames

  • Bittergrace Notes

  • Grain de Musc

  • I Smell Therefore I Am

  • Legerdenez

  • Notes from the Ledge

  • Olfactarama

  • Savvy Thinker

  • Tuilleries

  • The Perfume Shrine
  • Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Dr. Hauschka Rose Body Oil


    I can't help it. This time of the year I'm on a constant quest for soft and supple skin, and the result is a cornucopia of bottles, tubes and jars popping up on every flat surface in the house waiting to be slathered on skin (or rolled on the floor by a cat).

    Body oils are often extra easy to spread, which makes them very suitable for cold days wen you just want to put something on and get dressed fast. Of course, they also need to be absorbed quickly (but I can't remember the last time I came across one that wasn't).

    Initially, I was not impressed with Dr. Hauschka's Rose Body Oil. It sank in nicely, but about six hours later my skin was already showing signs of thirst. I tried it sporadically, but ended up neglecting the bottle in favor of other treats. Recently I unearthed it (or a cat did) and started using it regularly with much more impressive results. It seems like this oil performs a lot better over time and my skin definitely benefits. It's been weeks since the last time I got that tight and parched feeling (and dry earth look that comes with it).

    My only complaint is, surprisingly, about the scent. It's a lot less Rosy than you'd expect and (thankfully) very low key, but I often feel like I'm smelling the main ingredient, peanut oil, over the rose extract. It's a bit disturbing, actually, and not very luxurious. As much as I like my Thai stir-fry, I'd rather not smell like one. In any case, the scent is faint to begin with and fades quickly, so it doesn't clash with my perfume.

    Bottom line: You can't argue with a happy skin.

    Dr. Hauschka Rose Body Oil ($35.95) is available from stores specializing in organic and natural beauty products and online from the company's web site , C.O. Bigelow and Beauty.com, which is where I purchased mine.

    Estee Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang




    The last time I bought an Estee Lauder perfume was in the very early nineties, when I went through a couple of White Linen bottles before suddenly having a complete change of nose on it and not touching the last bottle ever since. Not caring much for assertive chemical florals, I allowed myself to ignore most of their releases, with the occasional sniffing stop at the counter for the sake of shaking my head and wondering "What on earth was Luca Turin sniffing?". Sensuous didn't rock my world, either, though , though at least I could see the appeal (other than Gwyneth Paltrow in only a white shirt and black stockings).

    But the list of notes for the latest Estee Lauder release, Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang (Ylang Absolute, Italian Bergamot, Geranium Oil, Bulgarian Rose Absolute, Cinnamon, Incense, Vanilla Bean, Sandalwood, Amber) sent me straight to the nearest Lauder counter as soon as I got word the bottles have arrived. I sprayed from the tester and continued my merry way to the Bobbi Brown makeup, thinking more about taupe eye shadows than of the happenings on my left wrist.

    Ambery perfumes come in many shapes, forms and ideas. It's the ingredients making what we recognize as the "ambery base" (mostly labdanum-tonka-vanilla. More on this in Helg's fascinating article on Perfume Shrine) that determine the actual feel of the perfume. And our skin chemistry. Mine loves amber in almost all forms and makes it radiate and come alive. I get far less powder and much more of the warm glow with some animalic teeth from most amber scents. Amber Ylang Ylang is no exception to this.

    That first testing has seen me going back to the mall the following day and buying a bottle. I just had to. That feeling of elegant warmth, rich and luminous is irresistible for me. While its a lot softer than the ultimate amber, Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, it's a lot easier to wear because it lacks the edge and punch. I save the Lutens for nights out and knock'em dead occasions, and wear this one whenever the mood strikes. The creamy and pretty facette brought by the ylang ylang is making the scent less formal than Ambre Sultan, but also far less sugary than other ambers I can think of, like Balmain Ambre Gris or Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Ambre Precieux. I can't say I smell much (or any) incense and even the sandalwood is less woody and more a soft light presence.

    It's interesting to note how differently this perfume is perceived by others. Angela on Now Smell This was underwhelmed, while Kristen the Beauty Addict felt it's the scent for a homebody. For me, it's not a fuzzy scent. It glows and pulsates too much to be ignored. Amber Ylang Ylang goes with cashmere, as the others have mentioned, but I pair it with my favorite burgundy cashmere sweater dress, the one that flows close to the skin and shows some cleavage.


    Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang is available from Saks, Neiman's and Estee Lauder.com. I got mine at my local Saks. The 1 oz bottle (perfect size) was $65, there's a 2.5 oz available for $120 and a gorgeous pure parfum bottle with semi-precious stones adorning the cap (above) that would cost you $300 for 1 oz. To put things in perspective, it's the price of 1 oz of Mitsouko extrait, which is just a little more on the masterpiece side of things, with all due respect to Erin Lauder and her vision.

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    My Little Guilty Pleasure- Sephora Vanilla Cupcake


    A recent Sephora order made last month has arrived with something extra: A birthday gift in the form of a mini (2.5 oz) Vanilla Cupcake bath & shower bubbles.

    It's cute. It's shimmery. It smells like dreamy buttercream. Not exactly the stuff one is supposed to pursue after a certain age. But I could not help myself and ended up wishing the hot water would never end so I could keep playing with the sugary bubbles.

    Vanilla Cupcake is shamelessly foody (I swear I could also smell coconut in the almond-butter-sugar-vanilla mix). It's also addictive for those of us not opposed to the genre, and I had to stop myself from ordering the entire product line. It's a fun scent, but I don't really want to smell like that, and eventually I was happy it didn't linger on my skin once I was all dried up.

    Speaking of dry, the fun ends once I'm out of the water. Despite the promises of hydrating ingredients like aloe and jojoba oil, my skin ends up feeling like it has been washed in regular (drying) soap. The gel's strength is not in pampering, that's for sure, but it doesn't stop me from using it again and again (and slathering myself silly with creams and oils once I'm out of the shower and back to my senses after the sugar high).

    Bottom line: It's not something I'd buy for myself, but this product is addictive in a guilty pleasure kind of way. It's like wearing a plaid miniskirt and knee high boots. Not very appropriate but a lot of fun.

    Sephora Vanilla Cupcake Body Collection ($12-$16) is available online and in store. The one I got was a Beauty Insider perk that came as a GWP during the month of my birthday.

    Image: http://alpineberry.blogspot.com/ (it was the most fun image search ever)

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    More From OPI La Collection De France




    Now that the weather has taken a serious plunge towards the dreary and right before I go back to holiday reds, the mood calls for something different.

    Enter OPI's La Collection De France for fall-winter 2008. I've already talked about Tickle Me France-y, an elegant nude which was my transitional color. Now we go for the serious stuff:
    Parlez-Vous OPI? and You Don't Know Jacques!


    Both looked on the scary side when they first came out several months ago, but even back then their beauty was apparent. Parlez-Vous is a smoky violet, cool and aloof. I can't stop looking at my nails when wearing it because it's just that different from anything else I own and wear. I was worried about the color clashing with my olive skin, but it works surprisingly well. Two coats got me bottle-perfect depth and coverage.

    You Don't Know Jacques looked even more intimidating. In the bottle it is a dark taupe with strong gray roots, but on the nail (mine, at least), it actually has more brown and is a lot easier to wear than I ever expected. It's a melancholy color and works best on those days the sun is nowhere to be found. The look is elegant and not goth at all, quite suitable for most workplaces, as long as you keep your nails short and oblong, to avoid the Morticia vibe.

    The quality is what you expect from OPI. A good brush, great coverage, easy to apply and lasts (with the aid of base and top coats) five to six days before the first crack appears.

    OPI La Collection De France is available at decent nail salons and from various online sources. I'm pretty sure I got mine through Amazon for about $8.50 each.

    Photo: Winter Evening at the Louvre by Rita Crane Photography on flickr

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Saving Face- Erno Laszlo pHormula No. 3-9 Cream


    The last month or so included flying cross country, having an evil cold and watching the weather go from fall to evil winter. None of the above is good for one's skin.

    I was being good, slathering my face religiously with my regular moisturizer, and on those days my cold threatened to get the better of me, also my secret cure: Vicks Vapor Rub all around my nostrils (seriously. It works wonders and prevents you from rubbing your skin raw when blowing your nose for the 1278th time in two days). But I still had a patch or two of blotchy, flaky skin that could use some extra help.

    That was when I remembered the sample of Erno Laszlo pHormula No. 3-9 cream for dry skin and cold weather. I received this the month before and was saving it for a time of need. That time has certainly arrived.

    The ingredient list includes vitamins C & E, yeast extracts and emu oil (so beware if you don't use products with animal-derived materials), and it promises improved hydration and reduced puffiness, irritation and chaffing. After a month of nearly daily use, indoors and outdoors, I can say that it helped heal miserable skin and get rid of those flaky patches at the side of the nose. It also did a good job protecting my face on blistery NYC days.

    pHormula No. 3-9 is not a substitute for an active twice a day serious moisturizer/anti-aging cream. I don't think it even claims to be one, but I'm making note of it just in case. You'd still need whatever cream that makes your skin looks alive. But it adds an extra nourishing layer of protection and helps with healing if you've been through a rough patch.

    The cream is thick and would probably be way too much if your skin is oily. Even for me, a little goes a very long way and lasts all day. Younger skin might find it of the "just sitting on the face" variety (a complaint often heard about La Mer), but some days I really do need a cream that would sit there and do its thing on the surface.

    Erno Laszlo pHormula No. 3-9 comes in a 1.7 oz jar which can be considered family-size. There's also a 7 oz option ($550) which would take a village to finish before it goes rancid. While the regular size is priced at $195 (most decent department stores and ernolaszlo.com), you can now get it from Dillards (at least online) for $110. The sample I received was a PR freebie.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    More Celeb Eyeliner: Eliza Dushku


    Last week we had Emma Watson going to town with her black eyeliner. Like most of those who commented, I thought it was a teenager's thing. But maybe not. Here we see Eliza Dushku (whom I can't help but love. Like all the other Buffy nerds, I'm giddy with excitement about seeing her on Joss Whedon's new series, Dollhouse), sporting a slightly more subtle version of this look. To be honest, I'm not sure this works. Eliza is beautiful and sexy, but something seems off. What do you think (click on the image for a closeup)?

    Photo: IdontLikeYouInThatWay.com

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Reflection and Self-Reinvention


    I turned 38 last month.

    Thirty eight is not a milestone, except in the sense of marking 20 years from one's 18th birthday, so I didn't make a fuss over it.

    Many years ago, I had a boyfriend who used to get seriously depressed and irrational every year around his birthday. It was more than a little ridiculous, since the birthdays in question were his 21st to 23rd (soon after the last one I had enough of the drama and left for good). My own approach has always been a bit different. I don't look back or drown myself in reflections about my questionable achievements and failures. I look ahead, taking note of all the new opportunities and experiences the coming year is about to offer me.

    After a certain point in your twenties, most age restrictions are gone forever, except for your eligibility to be elected for office in the U.S. (30 for a Senator, 35 for President and VP). It's no longer about things I'm now allowed to do, but about taking up opportunities as they come, branching out and trying out new things, especially those out of my comfort zone.

    That's what I've been doing in the last couple of months, and I'm ready to tell you about it. Don't get me wrong: There's nothing Earth shuttering. I didn't get a boob job (or even Botox. Yet) and haven't dyed my hair red. But there will be a report about some unusual (for me) footwear, a perfumery class, I did something with my hair and bought a bottle of Chanel perfume.

    Stay tuned.

    Image: The Mirror by Sir Frank Dicksee from http://www.squidoo.com

    Sunday, December 14, 2008

    An Odd Ball- Ojon Tawaka "The White Ball"


    Ojon Tawaka had a lot going against it as far as I was concerned. I'm not a bar of soap person, for reasons from germaphobia, cats who likes to play in the (dry and empty) bath, a deep dislike for soap scum and a general preference for the texture of shower gels and creams. And it's unscented.

    But this ball has won me over completely in recent weeks. I can't think of any other shower product that showed this much kindness to my very dry skin, while not being oily and actually delivering a clean feeling. Looking at the ingredient list, it seemed more like a moisturizer than a cleanser: it's all about cocoa butter and several oils and extracts. But somehow it works and feels nice in the process. I'd probably go for something stronger had I needed to seriously de-slime myself, but it delivers well for the normal filth level of suburban life.

    The ball comes with a little bowl and a metal drain that holds it in place. It's a bit awkward to hold and use at first, because the thing is quite big, but no special technique is required. There's no residue in the bath to complain about, and the ball still holds its shape and texture after weeks of use. Surprisingly enough, the cats show absolutely no interest in it, and I got used to the nutty, buttery smell which reminds me of a cross between black soap and shea butter. Not exactly Guerlinade, but I can live with it if the result is legs without the cuir de crocodile look.

    Ojon Tawaka "The White Ball" ($65) is available from Sephora. I got it as a PR freebie.

    Is Grunge Really Making A Comeback?


    Amidst all the other dark forecasts, here's another one to worry about:
    The Return of Grunge *
    I'm not retiring my Manolos any time soon, but what do you think?

    *Sorry, link no longer active. The original web site, Urbania, went down, and the article (by Kelly Kreth) hasn't been republished yet.

    Image: grungemovement.com

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Perfect And Almost Perfect- Scarlett Johansson And Emma Watson


    Twenty five years ago, when I was in junior high, my friends and I were experimenting with makeup. I wasn't really allowed to wear it to school, but it didn't prevent me from going to town with black eyeliner pencils and that sticky, oily lip gloss that came in roll-on bottles and smelled like teen spirit. My mother was equally horrified by the idea of having a daughter old enough to wear makeup and by the way we used to wear said black liner: on the inner rim and between the lower lashes, creating what she used to call "cow eye" effect (my father was even less polite about it).

    Years and many magazine articles later, we all learned how this style actually made our eyes look smaller, and all that black (which also tended to smear and bleed quite a bit. It was cheap 80s drugstore stuff, after all) was too harsh for our young faces. Personally, I realized that given the size and shape of my eyes, I need to keep any and all eye makeup to the top lid.

    Lovely Emma Watson (photographed her in the Los Angeles The Tale of Despereaux premiere) was not even born then, so here she is embracing that 80s eyeliner look. Of course, she's so cute and otherwise perfect with her fresh skin and masterfully shaped eyebrows, that she can wear whatever she wants and still look stunning. But her eye makeup does bring me back to those days of early teen angst, pre-crazy Michael Jackson and tight-rolled jeans.



    A softer, more classic and completely flawless makeup is what we see on Scarlett Johansson in two recent Nobel Peace Prize events (I'm still not quite sure how and why she was even there, but, hey, eye candy!). I love both the glammed-up evening version and the old Hollywood look. No crazy clown blush or weird wardrobe choices this time. Just perfect.

    photos: The Socialite's Life and Hot Celeb Home.

    Guerlain Super Aqua Serum (and a word or two about Orchidee Imperiale)


    My quest for better skin and a perfect serum continues, and sadly, it doesn't look like Guerlain is the answer.

    I managed to hoard enough samples of Guerlain's Super Aqua Serum for nearly eight weeks worth of daily use (that's how long it takes to see results with most serums). The stuff in the little blue tubes didn't look or feel very serum-like. It might be all in my head, but I like a thick, siliconey consistency, while Super Aqua was actually a thin lotion that was more difficult to trust. It felt fine and absorbed quickly, didn't seem to clash with my moisturizer and never irritated my skin.

    It just didn't seem to make any difference, and I had the feeling my face which was used to more active products wasn't getting the best treatment possible. Vitamin C products seem to work better for me. Or maybe I just haven't found The One.

    Speaking of which, long time readers might remember my devotion to Secret de Vie moisturizing cream from Lancome. It's still my number one product, but I've strayed a little and tested Guerlain's pride, Orchidee Imperiale. I only had one sample tube, not enough for serious testing and a full review, but I liked it quite a bit. It felt very similar to SdV in richness and in the general happy effect the cream gave my skin. It was fast to absorb, nourished the parts that needed it, calmed where required and adjusted to the changing weather. Just like Secret de Vie. The difference? While SdV costs $240 for 1 oz, Orchidee Imperiale is $400. At this price I expect to wake up and discover I have the face of Elizabeth Taylor at age 20, eye color included.

    Guerlain Super Aqua Serum, $156, (and the entire range) can be found at every decent department store, from Bloomie's and up. My stash o'samples came as GWP from several local Guerlain counters.

    Image: Golden Drop by Roberto Carnevali. www.photo.net

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Buffy Likes Pretty Things- CMZ Art



    Buffy is wearing my new necklace. A pendant of original art by Charlene Murray Zatloukal. I found her store by randomly browsing Etsy (a dangerous, dangerous place), not looking for anything in particular. Something in the melancholy quality of her work has caught my eye and heart, and this pendant was just perfect. It's not too rustic or crunchy while still looking decidedly handmade and special. I wore it today (before Buffy got her paws on it) and was asked about it twice in 20 minutes, so it definitely stands out.

    Her creations, both jewelry and paintings can be found in her own Etsy store (mostly art, currently there's an interesting charm/cameo pendant in red, $18.75) and in her family store, Pendants Plus. Her personal blog is here.

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    To Boldly Go- Estee Lauder Signature Hydra Lustre Lipstick In Black Cherry






    I've already mentioned my lack of enthusiasm for this years holiday makeup collections. None of them seemed exciting, innovative or featured too many must-have items. I was extra annoyed with Smashbox who repackaged existing products into "Holiday Kits" which are really good value but there's nothing really new in them and as far as I'm concerned, each set has at least one product I either don't need or don't like, which makes them not such a great deal after all. There are pretty palettes from Givenchy and Chanel, but once again, not all the colors are ones I'd pick. Bobbi Brown has the right idea in that department: empty pans for 3, 4 or 6 colors which can be filled with almost any eye shadow, blush and glitter lip color (why just the glittery ones?). Sice you're getting the full size products the result is wickedly expensive (the six color set ends up at $130. Ouch).

    That said, I ended up falling for a holiday lipstick: Estee Lauder Signature Hydra Lustre Lipstick in Black Cherry. It comes in the cool facetted design, as it's part of the Vintage Jewels range and calls to mind better days, when the Lauder counter in the department store was a wonderland of luxury and magic. I really like the face lift and new approach Lauder has taken in the last couple of years, making the house relevant and interesting again, even among the newer (over-)hyped brands.

    Black Cherry has won me over with its bold and rich color, a dark red with brown-rosy/plummish tones that make it a lot more wearable for me than the other colors in the collection, and creamy, moisturizing formula. It glides on easily even if you don't use a brush and stays in place even after your first sip of latte (though not as perfectly as when just applied). A comfortable wear, non-drying or flaking is always a plus. You absolutely must use a lip liner with such a dark color. I liked the one the SA had me try with the lipstick in store, the Automatic Lip Pencil in Midnight Plum, so I got one to go.



    Estee Lauder Signature Hydra Lustre Lipstick ($19.50) In Black Cherry is available online and offline from every semi-decent department store. I bought mine at my local Nordstrom where I got the best customer service I've came across at any makeup counter in years. It was not limited to the Lauder ladies. I felt the same way across the isle at Nordie's Chanel. Someone at Saks and Bloomie's should take note, because I'm giving my business to those who deserve it.

    Model: Giselle

    Monday, December 08, 2008

    Memo Paris- Lalibela And Other Treats


    Five months after returning from Paris, there's still one more story left to be told and perfume boutique to talk about.

    Unlike my other scent destinations I had on the trip, the visit to Memo boutique was not planned. The Blond and I stumbled upon the store while walking around. I don't remember for sure, but I think we were heading to the nearest Metro station when we spotted the place, and since it looked pretty, trendy and obviously smelled good, there was no other choice but to enter and check what it was all about.

    While you won't learn much from the company's website, Memo is a home and fragrance collection created by Clara Molloy, a book publisher who travelled extensively and was inspired by (more or less) exotic places. About half the beautiful store is dedicated to candles and room sprays, which all seemed quite nice even if none has actually captured me. I preferred to concentrate on the perfumes, which back then there were four of them ( a fifth one was launched last month), and on the very handsome sales assistant.

    The perfumes, a range called 'Les Echappees', just like the other products are supposedly evocative of faraway places, from Sundance, Utah (hence my raised eyebrow at the exotic claim) to Ethiopia. I tried three on my skin, and sniffed the bottle of the fourth, Inlé, which is osmanthus, jasmine and tea, named after a lake in Burma. It felt too watery from the bottle, but I'm not big on osmanthus to begin with and never gave it a fair chance.

    Siwa, a floral vanilla, didn't convince me it evoked the Egyptian desert. The notes: cinnamon, aldehydes, narcissus, whiskey, popcorn, musk and vanilla sound more interesting than the result on my skin. It was too pale for my taste. I like my vanilla opaque and thick, but can't deny Siwa is probably easier to wear for most than my beloved Un Bois Vanille or even Shalimar. The lasting power was the least impressive in the group.

    Sundance is inspired by Sundance, Utah, and is all about a softened tuberose. The notes sound a bit scary: bergamot, pear, lemon, tuberose, pimento, tiare, iris, sandalwood, musk and tonka bean. However, everything here was so smooth and toned down I can't even complain about the pear. Unlike my taste in vanilla, when it comes to tuberose I usually prefer mine to be housebroken. I really liked Sundance and was close to buying a bottle (I almost regret my decision to pass). It would make a cute, friendly warm weather fragrance and shouldn't scared even those who have emotional scars from Fracas.

    The last one I tested was Lalibela, named after an Ethiopian holy city which is a pilgrimage destination and has several ancient churches. Out of the note list (coconut, orchid, rose, peony, jasmine, patchouli, cistus, vanilla, tobacco leaf, incense and woods), what I'm getting in huge amounts are a dark and dirty rose and thick, heavy incense. This is a seriously gothic rose which makes the original Regina Harris oils seem like Little Miss Sunshine. The sales assistant called it "a sad rose" and I could tell he was not a fan, but I was captivated by this scent. It felt... purple, I guess. Deep, dark purple. It lasted on my skin for the rest of the day, into the night and until my shower the following morning, when I returned to the store and bought the bottle.

    Lalibela is really that strong and should come with a warning label. You can do some serious damage to your nearest and dearest if you don't spray with utmost caution (said she who can wear two spritzes of Miel de Bois). But the right amount is gorgeous and provocative. It works beautifully on a cold night (we've been having plenty of those recently) and stays on my scarves until I haul them to the cleaners.

    As I said, I didn't get to smell the most recent addition to the line, Jannat, which is described as
    'The wild flowers of paradise'. It's centered around frangipani, which tends to scare me, but I'm very curious if anyone has tried it. Please tell me in your comment.

    Oddly enough, the bath and body products are related to the home fragrance and range and not to the perfumes. I'm not sure what's the logic here. In any case, Memo products are only available in the Paris boutique (60, rue des Saints-Pères), Bon Marché department store or in the UK from Harvey Nichols (London and their other locations). The company's website tells you they do not ship to the US, so I'm assuming shipping to anywhere in Europe is ok. No one carries it here in America, but The Perfumed Court offers samples and decants of the first four scents, including a sample pack.

    The bottle I bought, 1.69 oz, was 80€ . The now have both bigger and smaller sizes, priced accordingly. The newer bottles also look a lot better (at least online) than the original one. I'm a bit annoyed with the cheap looking white plastic cap that evokes a drugstore product more than luxurious exotica.

    Friday, December 05, 2008

    Eva Mendes: The Good, The Bad And The Inexplicably Orange



    I've always liked interesting eyeliner colors. Us, olive skinned non-blondes, can pull off many unorthodox shades because our undertones take the edge of them. Here's Eva Mendes in an electric blue eyeliner. Problem is, she forgot the essential rule of toning down everything else when you go for such a look. This closeup photo shows just as bad the foundation/bronzer/blush situation was.

    As a bonus, at the same event, The Spirit launch party, Scarlett Johansson also sports some monster blush (and your great aunt Tilly's couch as a dress). I love the hair color, though.

    Photos: I'm Not Obsessed

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    In Which I Don't Learn My Lesson (But There's still A Happy End)


    Neither the miserable experience I had at the YSL counter when I asked to see and test the Pur Black lip gloss, nor my previous attempt at wearing an ultra dark lip color (I ended up giving it away to someone much younger) have deterred me from buying it online. After all, Sephora has a great return policy and customer service.

    I opened the package and applied it right away on naked lips and without looking at the mirror. The look on the husband's face, though, did not say " a cosmetic jewel ... and a spectacular fashion statement". It said "horror". A glance at the mirror and I knew why. My lips were unevenly covered with sticky purplish ink.

    I wiped it clean and decided to do the smart thing and put a much lighter color underneath first and then accent it with the Pur Black. Remembering something about a plum tone, I made the miserable choice of Bobbi Braun Mauve gloss. It's a bit edgy, but by itself it's an almost nude neutral on my lips. However, when worn together with the black gloss, the result was scary and purple. In a dead way.

    Before taking the gloss back, I decided to test it over a couple of my daytime reds. One was an old Lancome and another a just-purchased Chanel. The original lipsticks were soft, mellow reds. Topping them with a light (gently, carefully applied) layer of Pur Black transformed them into a glossy black cherry color, quite elegant and definitely sexy. So that's what this is about.

    The gloss is a new formula, shimmer-free and far less sticky than you might think from looking at the shine. It has the same herbal scent I dislike in the Golden Gloss series, but it fades quickly. The lasting power is not impressive and the first cup of hot tea does away with it. Use a mirror to reapply. And a lip liner. I mean it.

    YSL makeup is availble from most good department stores, YSL.com and Sephora. I bought my gloss ($28) from Sephora.com.

    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    The Two Faced Perfume: Vetiver Dance- Andy Tauer (and samples giveaway)


    Vetiver Dance is not what it seems.

    Some vetivers are rich and lush. Think about the chocolate and jungle greens in the velvet that is Vetiver Oriental (Serge Lutens). Then there are the cold, crisp ones like Encre Noir (Lalique), Vetiver Extraordinare (Malle) and the wonderfully bitter and astringent Route de Vetiver (MPG). Guerlain Vetiver is crisp and dry, but oddly warm, and the same can be said about Lubin's Le Vetiver, though its opening is a lot more interesting than the drydown.

    Andy Tauer's Vetiver Dance is all of the above or none of the above, depending on what your skin and your nose make of it.

    I fisrt tried it several months ago, when the weather was still very warm and unforgiving. While the very first try of a minuscule amount was very Taueresque and promising, a full wearing on a hot day nearly killed the fragrance for me. There's a very strong lily of the valley note that jumped at me right away, suffocating the top notes completely. It surprised me, because a similar LOTV treatment in the mythological Hyacinth And The Mechanic was lush wonderful. Then again, I only tried it in those bitter cold days of late winter when one is willing to sell her soul for any promise of spring.

    The thick LOTV made it hard to focus on the other notes, even though the perfume's development was interesting even then. There were all the loved companions to the vetiver: an herbal note, a bitter crispness, the return of the promised grapefruit peel. I liked the late drydown, with its hint of dry Tauerade: ambergris, cedar wood, tonka and cistus are signature notes. But the mean and green was still somewhere there. It didn't look promising.

    As the weather became cooler I tried Vetiver Dance again and again and again, discovering it does much better when allowed to bloom outside. I found sweetness in the top and middle notes and an incredible dry vetiver later on. There's a point after about two hours on the skin, when the perfume changes direction right under your nose. Literally. It becomes something else entirely. While I've learned to appreciate the artistry of the first phase (face?) of the fragrance, what I would have loved is a bottle containing only the second one.

    Vetiver Dance is incredibly strong and potent. It lasts all day even when applied lightly, which is probably the right way to go given its strength. My guess is that it's a challenging scent only if you have muguet issues (I can't stand Diorissimo), and even then it's worth a try because it smells like nothing else. The amazingly rich drydown alone is worth the experience, even if you decide the whole thing is too much.

    Thanks to Andy's generosity, I have some samples to give away, so please leave a comment if you're interested. I'll do a kitten-assisted draw next week and announce the winners.

    Vetiver Dance is available in the USA from both Luckyscent (Scent Bar) in L.A. and Aedes in NYC. Bottles and samples can also be purchased directly from Tauer Perfumes in Switzerland. My samples were free.

    Image: Organic Forming No. 3 by
    Heidi Vaught

    A few notes about Chanel 2008 Holiday Collection and a rant about the eyeliner duo


    When it comes to limited editions and seasonal collections, people either love them with a collector's passion or get grumpy and annoyed about the gimmick and the fact they disappear from the shelves within a couple of weeks only to appear on eBay at an inflated price. Cranky and jaded as I might be, I actually belong to the first group. My reasoning is that in an over-saturated market, with new products coming and going, I no longer expect a favorite lipstick to be there forever. Instead, I'd rather have the newest and most interesting colors. By the time I hit pan, there will be so many other things to love I doubt I'd mourn the disappearance of my red du jour.

    All of the above means I expect the limited editions to be interesting, exciting and maybe even daring. All the things the current crop isn't (except for very few. More in a day or two).

    I'm the biggest fan of Chanel's seasonal collections, but I couldn't find a reason to buy any of the Holiday 2008 items. Don't get me wrong: everything there is very pretty, but for me, the end result was either "meh" or simply redundant. Consider, for example, the Beige eye shadow quad. It's a beauty, but do you need another set of mostly sheer browns? Me neither. The lip colors, all of them nicely done, were too pale when I tried them on (except for the Red Shine Glossimer), and the one item I really wanted, the Haut Chocolat nail polish sold out before I even had the chance to see it in person (note to self: next time order online as soon as you get the press release and before the mass newsletter goes out).

    Speaking of the Haut Chocolat polish, you can find them for $30-$40 on eBay, and I admit to considering the option, before taking a look at my nail polish stash and realizing the silliness. Unless it's really your dream color and nothing can compare to it, I wouldn't do it. Besides, rumor has it that just like last year's Tulip Noir which has made a comeback this season (saw them at my local Nordstrom and Bloomie's), it will be relaunched sooner or later.

    There's also another gold highlighting powder, this one is loose and even more expensive ($75)than fall's Facette d'Or. Why?

    But the thing I really wanted to talk about is the eyeliner duo that comes in the little compact. It first appeared as part of the Smoky Eye collection in a color called Noir-Lamé, which I promptly ignored. I definitely didn't need another black eyeliner. But I was curious about the supposedly new texture (Chanel's description: "Mistake-proof eyeliner duo enables every woman to achieve the perfectly lined eye. Stray-proof, powder-based formula easily mimics both the precision of a liquid eyeliner and smudged look of a kohl pencil. "), so the limited edition Brun-Lamé seems worth checking, even if I suspected it was too light for me (I prefer brown to black for everyday use, but it needs to be a very dark brown).

    You know what? This product is not "Lamé ". It's lame.

    Sorry for the silly pun, but this eyeliner has earned it.

    Because it's not a real eyeliner. Basically, it's a very tightly pressed powder eyeshadow. It's so stiffly packed that despite what they say, it can't be used efficiently while dry. And that's not just me saying. The sales assistant who did my makeup admitted to it right away. You need to use it with a (very) wet brush, which you can do with most eyeshadows on the market. Not only is the concept not new, there are actually some great products on the market to be used instead of water, to make the eyeshadow into a more stable eyeliner. I've been using the Paula Dorf Transformer for years, and it makes for a never-ending eyeliner wardrobe.

    So, why do we need two more brown eyeshadows to serve as eyeliners? I'm not sure.

    As for the Brun-Lamé, while in the compact, the difference between the two sides was much more pronounced than when wet and on skin. The shimmer almost disappears on application. The color itself is very nice, but as predicted, too light for me. It would probably look a lot better on a very light skin, especially if you're pale blonde and usually prefer brown mascara. But even then you'd do just as well with one of the brown eyeshadows you probably already own.

    Monday, December 01, 2008

    The Greatest Loves Of All (for now)


    Fragrance enthusiast (AKA "crazy perfume-people") tend to have certain common habits and quirks. We go through similar phases in our scent journey and we make personal discoveries. An experience that many, especially those of us with large collections, seem to share is the "Why do I even bother wearing anything else?" moments we feel when wearing a much-beloved perfume after not visiting it in a while.

    Only it's not just that one bottle. We tend to have several Big Loves that never fail, never disappoint and wearing them always feels like coming home. They bring out the best in us.

    Here's my short list:

    1. L'Air du Desert Marocain- Tauer Perfumes. My holiest of grails.
    2. Shalimar (parfum) and Shalimar Light- Guerlain (yes, a heresy to put them together. I don't care).
    3. Revelation- CB I Hate Perfume. I am a fig tree.
    4. Douce Amere, Muscs Koublai Khan, Ambre Sultan, Cuir Mauresque- Serge Lutens. I'm cheating here, as these are my current Serge obsessions. While I couldn't pick just one, they can change and vary.
    5. Organza Indecence- Givenchy. The most elusive (purchase-wise) and least floral from this house.
    6. Black Orchid- Tom Ford. Yes, seriously. A gourmand gardenia, and it loves me like no other.
    7. Sage Machado- Onyx (perfume oil). It's thick, it's sweet and it works.
    8. Lei- Mazzolari. Who's the powderiest of them all?
    9. Musc Ravageur- Frederic Malle. No surprises here.
    10. Onda- Vero Profumo. No list of mine can be complete without this one. She only comes out at night...
    11. Jil Sander no. 4 (especially the parfum)- Apparently, I'm Alexis Carrington.
    12. Regina Harris- Amber Vanilla. Variation on a favorite theme.

    What are your "why do I bother with anything else" perfumes?

    Image: Heather Murray Art. Chosen simply because of the adorableness factor. It was either this or a fluffy bunny.

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