Friday, December 31, 2010

NARS Botan Brush

The huge Botan brush is part of the foursome NARS Artisan brushes (as is the Yachiyo. I'll review the two Ita brushes soon). When I say it's huge I really mean it: it fills your hand and covers large chunks of face real-estate. The Botan brush is bigger and denser than any of my other Kabuki brushes and has quite a bit of personality. It requires understanding more than actual skill to use correctly. I've been living with mine for the last six months, so I feel it's time to share the love and knowledge.

First, what it's for:
NARS website tells us the Botan has "a large, dense dome shape perfect for loose powder application, buffing and blending. ". This is a finishing brush- the last stage of a full makeup application, when you're trying to achieve a smooth, absolutely seamless finish. The brush buffs away contour lines, removes excess powder and evens out the color on your jaw and everywhere else. You can use the Botan to apply mineral makeup, but honestly, I feel this tasks requires more precision when depositing the color than the brush allows. However, the way it's cut and fits on the face does allow access to crevices, especially around the nose, so I understand why some like to use it with stuff other than just finishing powder.

What's most important to know:
Don't even think of using this brush without first washing it thoroughly. An experienced NARS specialist stressed that it was absolutely crucial to do that, and I guess she was right. The brush definitely felt softer to the touch once I washed it. It also lost some hair and a bit of dye in the process but not since. This is annoying, if you ask me. When a company creates a top tier  product (and prices it accordingly) you'd expect it'd be ready to use. It's even more irritating considering the brush is so dense it takes 2-3 days to fully dry (not to mention the maneuvering and Macgyvering  I have to do making sure the brush stays upside down while drying), so you buy this luxury brush, need to do some work to make it fully usable and then wait.

Once your brush is dry and you're ready to use it, do your makeup as usual, get your favorite finishing powder (note that the Botan brush doesn't fit inside a Guerlain Meteorites tin), start buffing and note the difference- it's all in the details.

Bottom Line: Excellent, but probably not a beginner's tool.

NARS Botan brush ($75) is available at Barneys, Neiman, Sephora and

All photos are mine.

Winner Of Tauer Le Cologne du Maghreb

There's quite a bit of stuff to fit in today before the end of the day and the year, but first is announcing the winner of Andy Tauer's Advent Calendar giveaway. A fabulous bottle of Tauer Perfumes Le Cologne du Maghreb goes to Spike. Please drop me an email so we can make arrangements. Congratulations!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Burberry Sepia 03 Lip Gloss And Lip Liner

Burberry conveniently named both gloss and lip liner as Sepia (#03), which makes locating and matching in a hurry a lot easier when you're in a hurry. But this is not why they're so awesome- it's all about the textures and color. I've bought these two items back in August and have been constantly reaching for them, even when not wearing the Burberry lipsticks I got at the same time (though as you can see, they work beautifully together).

Sepia is a warm brown-based rose. The lip liner is a little more neutral than the gloss and is a great base color for lips: under lipstick or topped with the Sepia gloss. It's soft and glides smoothly but never bleeds into lines. I did find that some color tends to gather in the scar on my lower lip, but it's not really an issue- I don't use the pencil without something on top. The gloss is very pretty (and not just because of the sleek Burberry packaging) and keeps the promise of hydrating and glowing. It's comfortable, not sticky and has no shimmery particles. There's a faint powdery makeup scent that goes away within minutes and doesn't bother me.

Bottom Line: Who could ask for anything more?

Burberry Sepia 03 Lip Gloss and Lip Liner ($27 each) are a Nordstrom exclusive, online and in select locations.

All photos are mine.

Best Perfumes Of 2010

2010 was a very good perfume year as far as I'm concerned. Despite the economy that has yet to bounce back fully and the IFRA drones that are still out there trying their best to kill the industry, many perfumers managed to get their groove back and create some outstanding scents. There was excitement in the air,which is something we dearly needed. It's the first time in years I was able to compile a favorite list based only on perfumes released this year, and I'm actually cheating- while I decided to go with a list of ten, several of these slots actually include more than one fragrance. And then there's a group of honorable mentions, all quite fabulous.

Sometime in the next few days I plan to post an addendum of not-so-random thoughts served with a side of snark, because it can't all be puppies and rainbows. But this is a "Best Of" list, so I'll address one of the most important movements of the year- the growing public interest  in independent artisan perfumery, including all natural/botanical scents. The Natural Perfumers Guild and its current president, Anya McCoy, made a huge contribution to educating the public and promoting the cause and concept of natural perfumery as a luxury product made of the finest ingredients by artists committed to creating beauty.

Between the Mystery Of Musk project and the Outlaw Perfumes initiative, McCoy and the Guild pushed several very small lines into the limelights and encouraged the creation of some of the most interesting and vibrant perfumes of recent years. Showing the world what a talented perfumer can achieve when freed from bureaucratic restrictions, I hope the Outlaws will forge a new path and inspire others to take a stand against IFRA. How awesome would it be?

But enough with that. Let's have fun with the great perfumes of the year.

1. Andy Tauer was on a roll in 2010- Orange Star, Eau d'Epices, Une Rose Vermeille, Carillon Pour un Ange. Each one of them is a joy to wear. The latter is a soul-stirring masterpiece (yes, review coming soon).

2. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz- Musk Au Natural, Cuir et Champignon and  Mata Hari made my year. Rich, dark and tempting, they are works of art that elevate American perfumery. I dearly hope this talented perfumer gets international recognition.

3. Serge Lutens had some serious 'splainin' to do  this year, namely L'Eau. Both Bas de Soie and Boxeuses are the redemption we hoped to see and smell.

4. L'Artisan- Coeur de Vétiver Sacré. The most a-typical L'Artisan since Dzing!, Coeur de Vétiver Sacré is rich and complex, holds my interest for hours and smells incredible.

5.Absolue pour le Soir Eau de Parfum by Maison Francis Kurkdjian proved that dirty animalics are alive and well.

6. Roxana Illuminated Perfume- GreenWitch. This botanical perfume is a green chypre. It took me a few weeks before I could hear the ocean when wearing it, but all of a sudden it was there. Remarkable and original, a must-try for chypraholics.

7. Puredistance Antonia- Highbrow, high cheekbones and exquisite beauty.

8. Vero Profumo in EDP- Vero Kern adapted and adjusted her iconic trio extraits (Kiki, Onda, Rubj) into an almost user friendly eaux de parfum. The result didn't lose an ounce of beauty or originality.

9. Mona di Orio Les Nombres d'Or (Cuir, Musc, Ambre)- Can there be anything new to do with classic single notes like amber, leather and musk? Apparently so, when the perfumer is Mona di Orio. The theme, as always, is sensuality, and nobody does it as well as Mona.

10. Guerlain owed us some good juice. Especially since they keep butchering their classics, reformulating and discontinuing their gems and instead churning out questionable pink and purple stuff in bottles aimed at mob wives and the garden variety oil tycoon. But Tonka Imperiale smells like a true Guerlain and the limited edition Shalimar Ode a la Vanille and Arsène Lupin Dandy are also the real thing.

As I said above, I've forced myself to stop at ten, but there several special mentions and kudos-  By Kilian created a beautiful jasmine, Love And Tears, that combines top quality ingredients and wearability. It's a rare thing. Anya McCoy contributed two gems to the Outlaw project, Light and Amberess. I have a feeling they're both going to be a great success. The juvenile delinquents at Etat Libre d'Orange seem to have gotten over themselves and gave us some real beauty this year- Tilda Swinton Like This and the new Josephine Baker. Annick Goutal released one of the best summer perfumes- Ninfeo Mio, putting a beautiful new spin on the fig theme. As for 2009 releases I fully adopted this year, I must mention the Tubereuse trio from Histoires de Parfums, and my favorite one from it, No. 3 (L'Animale). Parfum d'Empire's Wazamba is a regular part of my rotation and Mona di Orio's  Jabu is all sunshine.

Please visit the other participants for more fascinating lists:

Scent Hive
I Smell Therefore I Am

Smelly Blog

Images: and Roxana Villa

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ask The Husband: 5 Masculine Black Tie Perfumes

Composing yesterday's little list of perfumes I'd wear with an evening gown was a lot easier than making The Blond come up with his choice of five black tie masculine perfumes. The result is interesting, though. Not necessarily the ones I would have chosen for him, but I'm not the one who needs to deal with the bow tie.

In no particular order:

1. Mazzolari Lui- Sweet dark patchouli. Not very articulate of me, but: yum!
Why the husband likes it: You'll know when he enters the room.

2. Neil Morris Gotham- Urban and animalic.
Why the husband likes it: It's sophisticated and unusual. No one is going to smell like him.

3. MPG Route du Vetiver- A surprising choice as this is such a raw and untamed vetiver, which might be the point.
Why the husband likes it: It's very different from his polite vetivers (Tom Ford, Guerlain, Lubin) and his "let's take the boardroom" Vetiver Extraordinaire.

4. Tom Ford Private Blend Japon Noir- Dapper and stylish without losing an ounce of sensuality.
Why the husband likes it: It's warm and friendly, makes him feel like he's ready to work the room.

5. By Kilian Pure Oud- Of course. I nearly put this one on my own list.
Why the husband likes it: It smells like a million dollar in the opposite possible way to Donald Trump.

Photo of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in 1953's Dream Wife from

Tweets From The Mall

There was no avoiding this today. We had to run some errands and go to the mall. Cat food, hardware and Nordstrom -could be worse. I hate Macy's with a passion (at least the one we have here), but we were already there to return something so I stopped by the Benefit counter and asked the sweet young girl to show me the new blush, Bella Bamba. She gave me the box and an extremely dirty brush (eww, cooties!). It's nice, very rosy, a lot more shimmery than their other boxed blushes, and looks a little cheap, if you ask me. I sort of liked the color on me, but what can I say? I like Edward Bess a lot better.

Nordstrom was somewhat of a zoo. I stopped by the Armani counter but there was nothing new. The SA complained they were nearly out of eye shadows. She had no idea when anything new is going to arrive. Dior already has the new spring collection. It's... springy, I guess, though the number of variations on gray and silver is a nice touch. But I'm the Grinch when it comes to spring colors and couldn't find anything there I really wanted. Still, the quints are gorgeous and worth your time, if not your cash. Personal opinion? It's better and actually prettier than Chanel Spring.

Then it was Burberry time. Doreen, the counter manager, gave me an incredible makeover and even managed to create a foundation match for me- mixing the liquid in No. 5 with the Compact in No. 7. Who would have thought? The result was perfect and I actually like the finish. There are also more eye shadow and lip color reviews in my (and your) future. They still don't know when the makeup brushes will be in. I can't wait- there's a huge face brush that's as soft and fluffy as can be. I need it.

The evening ended at Barnes & Noble. I got the new biography of Isabella Blow written by her husband. I'll let you know how it goes.

Edward Bess Love Affair Compact Rouge

The first Edward Bess Compact Rouge, After Sunset, has been a favorite since the moment I got it. It gives me a very natural glow, neutral enough to wear with bold eye or lip look. Which is why I was eager to add the two newer shades of this cream cheek and lip stain to my collection. The one you see here is Love Affair, a cool rose, that still has enough natural skin warmth so it doesn't look weird. That's one of the secrets to the incredible wearability of Edward Bess products- he's focused on the way the colors look on actual people rather than on making the most unusual and eye catching pigments.

The second I opened this compact at home to take photos and swatch, my little Sophie pounced and wanted her share of the fun. Hence the claw prints. What can I say? This cat knows makeup.

Love Affair is quite intense in the pan, but you can see in the swatches that it's easily sheered- I didn't do any real blending here, but of course you should do it when applying to your face. You can also see Love Affair compared to the other rosy Compact Rouge, Island Rose, which is darker and has a little more red. I'll post a full review next week, so this is just so you see the difference.

Compact Rouge can be applied with fingers or with most face brushes. I was surprised and delighted to see Edward use this cream blush with his own Face Brush- it's made of natural fibers which are normally reserved for powder products, but this wonderful brush appears to be perfect for the task and the result on my face looked amazing (not to mention professional). Note to self: get a second Edward Bess Face Brush for cream products. It's worth it.

Bottom Line: As good as it gets.

ard Bess Love Affair Compact Rouge ($38) is available at Bergdorf Goodman, select Neiman Marcus locations (also online) and If you're in the UK your destination is

All photos are mine.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

10 Perfumes For An Evening Soirée

What are your plans for New Year's Eve? There's no power in the universe that can make me leave the house and join the drunk masses in Times Square, but that doesn't mean I don't fantasize about a real soirée- evening gowns, glamorous halls- the works. And what better way to get in the mood than listing ten perfumes for such a glamorous night. Black tie optional.

1. Amouage Lyric (Woman)- Dark, rosy with a plunging back.

2. Serge Lutens  Bas de Soie- An elegant dry iris, like the exquisite lingerie you wear under that gown.

3. Annick Goutal Grand Amour- Because some of us are true ladies.

4. Tom Ford Black Orchid- ...And some of us are not.

5. Tauer Perfumes Un Rose Chypree- It goes perfectly with the vintage Jacques Fath dress you see above.

6. JAR Diamond Water- We can't have the jewels, but this sparkling floral is as good as it gets.

7. Mona di Orio Nuit Noire- When you want to make it a night he'll remember.

8. Robert Piguet- Fracas (extrait de parfum, please)- You want to feel like a queen, especially if his ex is going to be there.

9. Puredistance Antonia- You get to dress up and have a witty conversation right out of a George Cukor movie.

10. Juozas Statkevicius (Joseph Statkus) - And then you vanish into the night.

Photo of model Bettina in a Jacques Fath gown by Henry Clarke, 1950

Let's Talk About: One Product From Each Line

This post actually started as an "Ask The Non-Blonde" thing, as a reply to many similar emails asking the same question about different brands: What is the one product I should get to fully appreciate the line? As I was compiling my list and looking over my notes and your comments, I realized this would be a better subject for an open thread. Here are my own suggestions (and, yes, I'm cheating by recommending more than one item when applicable), but I'd really like to hear from you, so please chime in and tell us which products represent the best of the best- what would make someone new to the brand a true convert?

In alphabetical order:

Armani- Eyes To Kill Mascara, Rouge d'Armani lipsticks (avoid the lip wax).
Aveda- It's been years since I've bought anything Aveda, but I used to love their hair care line.
Bliss- Everything foot related.
Bobbi Brown- Long Wear Gel Eyeliners, brushes
Burberry- neutral colored eye shadows, lipstick and lipgloss
Buxom- mascara
Cargo- palettes (great value, great quality, lovely presentation)
Chanel- foundation, single eye shadows, Rouge Coco lipsticks
Chantecaille- the beautiful palettes
Cle de Peau- skin care (and then some), lipsticks
Dior- eye shadow quints (the singles are also gorgeous)
Dolce & Gabbana- lipsticks, eye shadow duos (the quads are a bit oddly edited in my opinion)
Edward Bess- brushes, lips products, eye shadows... absolutely everything just skip the mascara for now (the new formula will be out soon, though)
Estee Lauder- skin care
Givenchy- mascara
Guerlain- Meteorites, anything Terracotta, Rouge G (skip the mascara)
Hourglass- Film Noir mascara, lipsticks
Julie Hewett- Cheeky cream blush
Kanebo Sensai- skin care (best in the known universe), body care, lipstick
Lancome- mascara, skin care, blush, Artliner
Laura Mercier- brushes, palettes
Le Metier de Beaute- the eyeliner pen is phenomenal, but also you will want to start at the top: Kaleidoscope kits and Peau Vierge tinted moisturizer. You'll never be the same again.
L'Occitane- hair products, body products (be suspicious of their face creams)
Lorac- palettes, single eye shadows
Makeup For Ever- Aqua Creamliner
Nars- Soft Touch Shadow Pencil, brushes (skip the lipsticks)
Paula Dorf- brushes, Transformer
Shiseido- skin care, lip crayons
Shu Uemura- blushes
Sisley- skin care, eyeliners and lipsticks
Smashbox- brushes, Limitless Liquid Eyliner Pen, Soft Lights highlighter
Sue Devitt- Intensifier Eye Pencil
Trish McEvoy- brushes
Urban Decay- eye shadow primer, liquid eyeliners
Yves Saint Laurent- eye shadow duo and singles, luminizing powders

Your turn!

Sue Devitt Golden Triangle Eye Intensifier Pencil

From the "can't go wrong with this" department, we have another beautiful Sue Devitt chubby Eye Intensifier Pencil. Golden Triangle is a metallic olive with quite a bit of gold sheen that would appeal to any khaki green lover. The color is so pretty, it brings out rich hues in brown eyes, looks like a million dollar and takes about 15 second per eye to apply, including blending.

The texture of Sue Devitt's Eye Intensifiers is quite soft and smooth. They are more of an eye shadow than liners- I use Golden Triangle on the lid and in the crease, with or without a wash of a nude base eye shadow (Le Metier de Beaute in Naked is a favorite). The built-in blending sponge is surprisingly good for this task, making the Eye Intensifier a perfect choice on the go. They stay put until I go after them with an eye makeup remover, so that helps too when there's no time for touch ups and mirror breaks.

Botton Line: a makeup bag staple.

Sue Devitt Golden Triangle Eye Intensifier Pencil ($22) is available at Barneys, some Bloomingdale's location and Henri Bendel, as well as from

Photos and veiny wrists are all mine.

Monday, December 27, 2010

10 Midwinter Perfumes- Keep Warm Without Getting Bored

We all have our standby winter favorites that keep us warm and cozy. Many are classics like Bois des Iles and every possible version of Shalimar. Tonight, though, I'm staying away from the most expected choices. This list is ten smoldering winter perfumes that you're less likely to smell on the Subway tomorrow:

1. DSH:  Coeur de Vanille- Vanilla might be an obvious choice when it comes to getting snuggly, but this Dawn Spencer Hurwitz all-natural perfume is one of the best I've tried and leaves the prestigious Guerlain SDV far behind.

2. Vero Profumo: Onda- An ultra-sexy and animalic fiery vetiver.

3. Parfum d'Empire: Ambre Russe- An unconventional and larger than life boozy amber.

4. Tauer: Lonestar Memories- I wear it year-round, but this smoky, tarry, leathery wonder is also like a cup of lapsang suchon.

5. Serge Lutens: Fumerie Turque- Maybe the most obvious choice in this list, but still wonderful. Uncle Serge's sweet smoke got me through some freezing days and nights.

6. Anya's Garden: Kewdra- An all-natural and botanical dirty musk, as carnal as it gets and then some.

7. Nez a Nez: Marron Chic- A powdery truffle made of iris, cocoa and dust, in the best possible way.

8. Comme des Garcon: Zagorsk- There are many great choices for a dark incense fragrances. None of them smell like this melancholy CdG.

9. Mona di Orio: Cuir- Like borrowing your new boyfriend's leather jacket, given that the guy is tall, handsome and also rich.

10. Ormonde Jayne: Tolu- No winter list is complete without a big classic oriental. This is one of the more complex and interesting ones you can find.

Photo of model Gigi for Jacques Griffe by Henry Clarke, 1951

Spotlight On A Blogger: Jane from Daly Beauty

Jane from Daly Beauty makes me consider moving to Ottawa. Well, almost. She's fabulous, glamorous and knows not only beauty and fragrance but also real estate and home decor. The latter is something we have in common- love for mid-century modern design. Can you imagine the shopping trips? Jane's energy is inspiring- she's a superwoman in the best possible sense of the word, which is another good reason not to miss her blog or her Twitter updates.

Here's Jane in her own words:

When did you start blogging and why?
I have always been a beauty junkie, but I didn't know what that was until I started reading beauty blogs.  I started blogging as an experiment (I know nothing about html or that programming stuff!)and as a personal outlet.  My friends regularly would ask for advice, and I was also known to offer unsolicited beauty tips as well.  So I guess I wanted to share what I know and what I love.

Every blog seems to have a special voice - what's the message on your blog? 
My message is that beauty is everywhere if you look for it and that all of us are beautiful.  Its all about finding the confidence to experiment and have fun while finding the beauty that is inside us all.

Have you always been a beauty fanatic or did it come later in life for you?  What made it blossom?  I don't ever recall a time that I wasn't a beauty fanatic.  My earliest memories are perfume related - standing on my tip toe at my mother's vanity and smelling her Shalimar, playing with her cake mascara (along with our dog - that's a whole other story...).  My aunt was a full blown beauty and perfume junkie and I always felt at home in her room - her round bed with velvet tufted headboard and a dresser FULL of perfumes.  Her room always smelled like the ground floor of a major department store and to this day that is my favourite smell in the world (after the smell of my children's heads...).

Tell us a little about yourself.
 I love to read and beach vacations - my dream is a long good book and a warm beach with crashing waves and sunshine.  Heaven.  I love to spend time with my daughters - they are 14 and 22 and we have a blast together, always.   We love to shop naturally, and beauty shopping is something we could do every day.  No one makes me laugh as hard as they do.  One of our favourite activities is to get a delish coffee and get our hair done.  Our stylist is a genius and can fit us all in, rotating between the three of us.  For us, it's ALL about the hair.  Modern and mid-century modern design and architecture are a passion as well, and I like to think I incorporate that clean simple and modern aesthetic into my beauty routines.

What's your daily beauty routine? 
Simple - moisturize, tinted moisturizer or primer (lately a good primer on its own has been my go-to) a little concealer, blush/bronzer, neutral eye shadow and a touch of mascara.  A nice plumping clear lip gloss and of course, perfume, and I'm good to go.

If we were to invade your beauty closet what surprises would we find?
 That I have some makeup brushes over 15 years old...I care for them like babies and it amazes me how a good quality brush will last for ages.  I do need to get some new ones though...

How many lipsticks/glosses can be found in your handbag at any given time?
 Oh geez.  At least 5.

What's the best beauty advice you've ever received?  Wash your face before going to bed.  No matter how tired I am, I always do this.

Dita Von Teese Beauty Book- Preview Photo

Heather Sweet, or as you probably know her- Dita Von Teese- has tweeted this photo as a preview for her beauty book that's coming out in 2011. How do you  feel about it? What do you hope she's going to teach us?

Photo, hair and makeup by Dita Von Teese, December 2011.

Sisley Phyto Star Palette Sparkling Rhapsody Eye Shadow Quad

Sisley Phyto Star Palette Sparkling Rhapsody is the ultimate eye shadow quad for a winter night when there's over a foot of snow on the ground (we got 2' yesterday). It has a beautiful icy quality and a sparkle that looks like a million dollar. As it should, because this Sparkling Rhapsody set is so outrageously priced it would have been criminal if it sucked. It's still pretty nefarious, but the colors and textures of these four eye shadows is everything I wanted for a very long time.

Not all silver and gray were created equal and I have issues with many that are too flat. Many of them are too cool or too ashy or too metallic. Or all kind of too and utterly wrong. Sisley got it right- the colors are cool but they work because they are rich, complex and have a beautiful pearly glow. The pigment is intense enough you need very little to create the look and, forgive me for the beauty-blogging cliche, it blends like a dream. The level of shimmer and the pearly finish make Sparkling Rhapsody a night out kind of thing, but you can still play and create different looks and take it from evening gown to rock club.

The colors in the palette are a pearl white (perfect in the inner corner, among other things), a dark shimmery charcoal, a beautiful light sky blue and a dark silver (it matches the eyeliner pencil in Deep Silver). I've worn them is combinations of two or only one at a time (except the white which is more of an accent color) and loved every minute of it. There is a little fallout of shimmer, a thing that I'd rather not have with such an expensive product, but it was easy to clean up and everything else worked perfectly, so I can only complain so much- like about this:

The packaging is unique and as sleek as they come, except of the fingerprints (and paw prints) it attracts. Of course, it comes with those stupid sponge applicators and that's borderline unacceptable- you'd think a company like Sisley would be able to figure out mini brushes by now.

Bottom Line: Don't ask.

Sisley Phyto Star Palette Sparkling Rhapsody Eye Shadow Quad ($100) is available from Saks, Bergdorf and other such places.

All photos are mine.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Serge Lutens Bois et Musc

One of the thing I like best about the legendary Bois series by Serge Lutens is the almost musical aspect of it- you can smell them one by one, recognize the common theme and "listen" to the different variations. Then you can choose your favorite(s), which will likely depend on your preference between musk, orientals, dried fruit or violets. Or all of the above.

Bois et Musc wears similarly to the granddady of the series, Feminite du Bois- it has all the elements we know and love- boozy plums, cedar, spice (yes, cumin) and a nice heart of clean musk. It's sexy, warm and goes beautifully with a cashmere scarf and a glass of red wine on a winter night. I can't recall if I've layered FdB recently with Clair de Musc, but I won't be surprised if the result would be pretty close.

It wasn't always like this, though. I seem to recall older samples of Bois et Musc where the perfume had more bite. It wasn't so literal a love child of Feminite du Bois and a harmless musk, though it didn't seem related to MKK, either. It had its own personality, which is also evident in the wax sample I still have. The changes aren't surprising- the new FdB has been reformulated, and though it's still recognizable and very nice, die-hard fans are not amused. It makes sense that the rest of the Bois series also lost something. Serge Lutens doesn't denies that there have been changes in the formulas- between issues with availability (and quality) of raw materials and IFRA, nothing stays the same. I'm kicking myself a little for not getting a full bell jar of Bois et Musc when I was at the Salon in 2008, but back then Uncle Serge and his creations seemed a little more eternal than they are today.

Bois et Musc is part of Serge Lutens non-export line and only available as a bell jar (115 euro, 75ml) from the Salons du Palais Royals Shiseido in Paris. Those living in Europe can also order it online ( The rest of us only get to pout.

Art: Piano Concept In G by Vladan Ignatovic

Friday, December 24, 2010

Weekly Roundup Christmas 2010

It is the night before Christmas and time to check with our friends what they've been testing, swatching and loving this week. After all, if you've managed to avoid the malls this past month, you're probably in beauty counter withdrawal. I know I am.

Everyone is talking about Chanel Spring 2011 collection. I don't know how I feel about a spring collection that's released two weeks before Christmas, not that we can't use some brightness, but still. Let winter be winter, you know? In any case, check out Café Makeup for Amy's review, The Beauty Look Book for Sabrina's review, and Best Things in Beauty for Charlestongirl's review.

I was intrigued by Kari's review of Dior's Crystal Nude Primer at Fab over Forty. I have this compact sitting on my dresser in my to-test pile right now, so my own impression is coming soon.

Say what you want about Oprah, her skin looks amazing. Philosophy's Hope in a Jar was recently featured in Oprah’s “Ultimate Favorite Things,”, which is a mighty recommendation. Read Jennifer's review at BeautyXposé.

I love Benefit boxed blushes. My life can be described as "before Dallas" and "after Dallas". I also got my mother hooked on it. Bella Bamba, Benefit’s newest face powder brings something new to their line-up, with promises of a 3-D brightening effect. Read all about it at Product Girl.

Kelly proved she's game for anything at Gouldylox Reviews. Water Marbling isn't for everyone, but if you find yourself snowed in, it's a fun look to try.

Jane got in the Christmas spirit at Daly Beauty. Head over to find out what's ringing her bells for the holidays. Oh, and her daughters are as gorgeous as she is.

Debi is discussing the Charlize Theron Dior advertisement from 2007 - still airing, still alluring. Visit DivaDebbi to share your own thoughts about it.

Aromierotici tackles a YSL classic, M7, at Il Modo di Odore. It's been ages since I've smelled this one, but his reviews is making it clear that I need to go and find some ASAP.

Modesty Brown has some great lip color reviews. I'm utterly taken with her photos of Nars Bougainville lip gloss, and I suspect many of you would agree. She also reviews one of my current favorites, Hourglass Nocturnal. My own review is coming soon.

Here in my little world things have been quite hectic. First, you still have time to enter the Tauer Cologne du Maghreb giveaway (and if you're late, there's always my mother's marzipan). I reviewed a gorgeous new perfume, Antonia by the exclusive Puredistance house, and an old classic, Caron Nuit de Noel. Then there was an(other) Edward Bess blush, a festive but elegant nail polish from Deborah Lippmann, a Guerlain luminous makeup base, L'Or, and my current obsession, Sisley makeup- I showed you two khol pencil liners, Black Diamond and Deep Silver. It's just a small taste of things to come.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Photo of Elizabeth Taylor and the retroest Christmas tree-

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Smashbox Foundation Brush No. 13

Generally speaking, my preference in foundation brushes is either for thicker and denser ones (like Cover Fx brush or Sephora #55), or stippling brushes. This is why Smashbox Foundation Brush No. 13 lives in my concealer drawer and is used mainly with liquid concealers and under-eye highlighters such as Touche Eclat, when I want to cover larger areas and make sure everything is blended perfectly into my foundation (not to mention my face). Smashbox Foundation Brush No. 13 is very soft and great for this task. When I can convince Sophie it was not actually designed for her amusement, that is.

Smashbox Foundation Brush No. 13 ($29) is available from Sephora, Ulta and

Photos by me.

Deborah Lippmann (and Cher)- Believe Nail Polish

I hope you're in the mood for a festive but classy nail polish with a touch of high glam. I know I am, even though I just manage to break another nail while trying to get things done around the house before the holiday. It doesn't matter- a little filing, buffing and coating and I'll be ready. Believe, a collaboration between nail polish queen Deborah Lippmann and Cher (Queen Of The World, most likely) is exactly what I need right now- a pale multi-shimmer gold with a metallic finish. It changes with the light, as I've tried to capture in the photos and lasts with proper top coat maintenance for at least a week, even on a klutz like me.

Deborah Lippmann nail color ($16) is available from Barneys and Nordstrom, in store and online.

All photos are mine.

Andy Tauer's Advent Calendar, A Giveaway And My Mother's Marzipan

Today is day 23 of Andy Tauer's Advent Calendar. I'm honored to host a giveaway of a very special bottle of Andy's creation Le Cologne du Maghreb- an all natural, all botanical eau de cologne. It's a real prize- a 50 ml of a scent that can't be purchased anywhere. And, of course, it smells wonderful- rich citrus like you rarely encounter nowadays over a light wood/incense base. This is Andy's gift (details at the bottom), and here is mine:

December celebrations in my family have always been about more than just Hanukkah. Not that the Festival Of Light on all its deep-fried goodness is anything minor, but my dad's birthday is the 17th of December, my late grandfather's was the 22nd (he would have been 98 this year) and my parents' wedding anniversary is the 28th. This means December has really been one big countdown. With food.

One of the treats that always appears on the table is homemade marzipan. I believe my mom has refined and improved an old family recipe. Her marzipan is delectable, flavorful and ridiculously easy to make. I still remember when I was very young that my mother used a manual food mill to grind the almonds, but that was over 30 years ago. A food processor simplifies preparations- grind, mix and roll into cute little balls. It takes very few ingredients, just make sure not to compromise on quality and freshness. The basic principle is equal parts almonds and sugar, some seasoning and a binding ingredient (the egg white). Quantities can be easily adjusted as is the seasoning. My mother uses vanilla-laced (store vanilla pods in your sugar for a couple of weeks). Or add a few drops of the best vanilla extract to the mixture. This last adjustment is not mother-approved (I'll hear about this in tomorrow's phone call), but it works in a pinch.

Nina's Marzipan

9 oz (250gr) raw unblanched almonds
9 oz (250 gr) sugar
an egg white (probably a little less- depending on the mixture)
zest of a medium lemon, finely grated
a few drops of almond extract

1. Blanch the almond in boiling water- let soak for 1 minute, rinse in cold water and pat to remove skins. Dry. No shortcuts on this- never buy blanched almonds because they are seriously lacking in taste, aroma and texture.

2. Process the blanched almonds and sugar into a very fine and uniform meal.

3. Add egg white one spoonful at a time and mix by hand to dough-like consistency.

4. Mix in extracts and lemon zest.

5. Roll into balls, about 3/4-inch round. Place each ball in a paper candy cup, store in an airtight container and refrigerate until serving.

Yes, that's it.

And now to Andy's giveaway- to be entered please leave a comment and tell us about a favorite holiday treat or a scent memory. 
Art by Craig Stephens