Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Wishing you a very happy new year. Thank you for visiting, reading and participating.

Photo: Stirred, Shaken Not Straight

The Last Day Of The Year

Artwork: Last Evening Of The Year, Oscar Bluemner, 1929, The Whitney Museum.
Music: Cousteau

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 In Perfume- Delights & Rants

Champagne, party streamers and some glittery outfits-- we're ready to help 2011 leave the building and look at the perfumes that made the year into what it was, for better and worse.

2011 was the year that department store brands almost redeemed themselves, or at least kept me from fully losing my faith in humanity. Elie Saab, Bottega Veneta and Tom Ford Violet Blonde from his signature line smelled really really good. I also enjoyed spending a few hours in Jean Paul Gaultier's masculine-oriented Kokorico.

Of course, not everything is well on the shelves of our department stores. Dior stunned many of us when they renamed the reformulated version of Miss Dior Cherie, their low-brow strawberry juice, as Miss Dior. Robbing the iconic and much-abused original Miss Dior of its name (it's now called Miss Dior Classic). I'd have said "what a shame", but the people at Dior  obviously have none.

The most heartbreaking moment for the perfume community happened early in December. Perfumer Mona di Orio passed away leaving a gaping hole in our hearts. As a fan of her work, the loss and grief are too big for words. Mona was a shining star whose talent and creativity amazed and delighted. 2011 saw Mona di Orio gaining a much deserving recognition and expanding her distribution. The perfumes she launched this year in the Les Nombres d'Or series (Tubereuse, Oud, Vanille and Vetyver) brought Mona new fans and were among the biggest delights of my perfume year.

Andy Tauer kept taking his art to new heights. Zeta was a dream of linden blossom and his Tableau de Parfums venture brought us Miriam. Both are romantic, emotional and breathtakingly beautiful. I wouldn't have expected any less.

Serge Lutens managed to surprise everyone by putting popcorn and buttered toast in his Jeux de Peau then going the opposite direction with some serious floral action. Beyond all the death talk, I felt that De Profundis is an original and interesting perfume. And it smells great.

Technically, L'Artisan Parfumeur Traversee du Bosphore was released in late 2010, but I bought it sometime in December or even in early January, so I'll mention it here. Otherwise I'll have to get cranky about the boring Batacuda that L'Artisan offered us this year, and it isn't even worth the snark.

Among the many discoveries I made this year, two happened while traveling. In Montreal I found an intriguing Canadian brand, MonSillage. Perfumer Isabelle Michaud created a highly-styled yet very personal line. Aviation Club is theoretically a masculine, but the refined leather has delighted me every time I grabbed the bottle from the husband's part of the cabinet. The other discovery happened in Paris. Bois Richeux 1178 is a natural perfume from a special garden outside Paris.

My best vintage find of the year was utterly accidental and jaw-dropping good. A Jacques Fath perfume coffret. And, yes, it includes a small amount of Iris Gris. My hands still shake every time I hold the box. One day I might be able to talk about it in a semi-coherent way.

Annick Goutal (or rather her daughter Camille) deserves a special award for courage. Releasing a bold, full-bodied perfume that's more than tinged with a vintage feel in today's Bieberfied market is a risk. Mon Parfum Cheri, Par Camille is an adventure in iris. I wanted to send both Camille and her perfumer, Isabelle Doyen a thank you note and maybe some flowers.

The most encouraging trend we saw this year was the continuing expansion and success of the smallest independent brands. Apparently, if you make it and it's really really good, they will buy. This brings us to my very personal absolute favorite perfumes of the year. These little luxuries are as fabulous as it gets and I could not pick just one as the top perfume of the year, so you get five. In no particular order:

Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes has pushed herself farther this year. Her 2011 perfumes Haute Claire and Secret Garden are as beautiful as they're approachable. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is responsible to my other toe-curling-good perfume moments of the year: Vert Pour Madame, Pandora and Paradise Lost are each a journey in a bottle; a journey to places modern perfumes rarely go. The latter was part of the Clarimonde Project, a unique idea that  has brought the very best out of its participants. As an observer, I was blown away by the beauty and depth of the discussion. The perfumes that were created as a result were soul-stirring.

Wishing you a wonderful 2012 and eager to hear your discoveries and perfumed joys of the year.

For more about the best and worst of 2011 please visit  Another Perfume Blog,  DSH Notebook , EauMG , Perfume Shrine , Perfume Smellin' ThingsScent Hive  and Smelly Blog .


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Estee Lauder- Youth Dew

Estee Lauder's 1953 Youth Dew is one of her least advertised. From going through stacks of Lauder ads throughout the decades, it seems that it has always been the case. The one above, one half of the original ad featuring model Paulina Porizkova, is from the late 1980s/early 90s, when Paulina reigned as the face of Estee Lauder. I think she did the perfume justice, though I admit I would have loved to see Elizabeth Hurley leading a Youth Dew campaign. It would have certainly suited her better than those sugary photos for Beautiful and Pleasures.

Still, even without billboards and magazine spreads, Youth Dew was and still is iconic and immediately recognizable, for better and for worse. To some people this fragrance symbolizes the yenta image of Estee Lauder as a brand. To others it's a beautiful relic of another era; never mind the "when men were men" thing, it's more about when perfumes smelled like perfume.

The list of notes (aldehydes, orange, spices, peach, bergamot, cinnamon, cassia, orchid, jasmine, cloves, ylang-ylang, rose, tolu balsam, peru balsam, amber, patchouli, musk, vanilla, oakmoss, vetiver and incense) reads like someone took everything they had in the perfumer's organ and mixed it together hoping for the best. The result is a big boned fragrance that doesn't try and hide its presence. Animalic, powdery, ambery and spicy- it's all there. Youth Dew isn't too sweet, though. Back then ladies didn't try to smell like fruit or pudding, and they definitely wanted to leave a trail that you remember them by. They wore girdles and slips, petticoats and gloves, belted jackets and hats. The scent of Youth Dew lingered on coats and in closets and it was perfectly fine.

To my 21st century nose, Youth Dew smells like a sibling to Tabu. The funny thing is that many of those suburban yentas who wore Youth Dew used to scoff at the reckless Tabu wearers. Tabu is more sensual and extra animalic, but that mix of heavy and heady, rich flowers and spice, fur coat and silk stockings- it's all here in Youth Dew, making it a gorgeous and very fun perfume to wear. If you dare.

The current Youth Dew you can find at the counters is an eau de parfum and smells a bit sharper at the top before it starts its sensual journey. There's no doubt it has been tweaked over the years, yet as a whole and in the dry-down, the stuff I occasionally spray at Ulta ends up smelling pretty much like my very vintage oil version. The bath oil is also available from most department stores, just don't expect to find the range openly displayed. You need to make the Lauder SAs fetch it from wherever they hide it under the counter while arguing with them that you really have no interest in the latest Pleasures flanker.

Youth Dew by Estee Lauder ($30, 1.8 oz EDP. Seriously, the best bang for very few bucks) is available at Macy's, Bloomingdales, Ulta and even Nordstrom, including online.

Paulina Porizkova for Estee Lauder, found in an online message board.
Photo of Estee Lauder from Time Magazine.
1953 fashion ads from

Chanel April 533 Spring 2012 Nail Polish

April (533) is one of three Le Vernis nail polish colors released by Chanel as part of their spring 2012 collection. I skipped May (a pink) and June (orange) in favor of April, a beautiful and wearable shade that's somewhere between red wine and fuchsia.

 My nail polish collection is pretty modest compared to some, and I try my best to avoid duplicates, hence I had a hard time finding anything that was even remotely close to April. I'm pretty sure that if you have enough OPI, Essie or Zoya you might be able to get closer, but I'm very much in love with this Chanel color, as it's far more elegant than one would anticipate. It's a lot more complex when you look at it in person.

When I was searching indoors, one of the colors from StrangeBeautiful Color Library No. 3 looked like it might be close, but as you can see, the StrangeBeautiful is bolder and more red. What's less obvious is that Chanel's April required 2 coats and was harder to apply, while the SB is perfect in one coat and has a wider and better brush.

Bottom Line: this bottle of April will be half empty before spring even gets here.

Chanel April 533 Spring 2012 Nail Polish ($25) is available at the counters and from

Rescue Beauty Lounge- Jane and Catherine Nail Polish

Rescue Beauty Lounge re-released a bunch of limited edition nail polish colors that have been unavailable for some time now. One of those colors is the gorgeous Killa Red that I swatched and reviewed nearly two years ago. There are also a few colors from RBL's limited edition Tudors collection; I chose Jane and Catherine out of them, as they were sold out last time before I managed to make up my mind about them.

Catherine is a dark somewhat murky purple with some very fine multicolored shimmer. It's perfect for midwinter and looks quite Royal. I would have loved to see the Duchess of Cambridge wearing this. The closest color  I found in my collection is Chanel Particulier, but you can easily see that Particulier is more gray, not as dark and has very little shimmer. The texture of Catherine, like all Rescue Beauty's nail polishes is as good as it gets.

Jane is an office and PTA-friendly neutral light greige. You can see that it lean cooler and grayer than the very classic and utterly wonderful Fashion by Deborah Lippmann, which is my go-to color whenever I have no idea what to wear and just want an elegant look. Jane can be its cool alternative, especially since the quality and ease of application are comparable.

Bottom Line: perfect.

Rescue Beauty Lounge Jane and Catherine nail  colors ($18 each) are available from

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ineke- Derring-Do

Derring-Do is the only fragrance from Ineke clearly labeled "for men", but just like most of the other offerings from this line, it's quite gender neutral or simply friendly to all. A frequent complaint about indie perfumes is that they're too different and complicated to garner compliments from other people in one's trail. Personally, I don't find it to be a universal truth but I also don't care as long as I don't smell too offensive to the only noses that matter in my house hold- human and  fuzzy feline ones. In any case, Ineke Ruhland, the San Francisco-based perfumer will never be blamed of going too far with Derring-Do. If anything, it doesn't raise much expectations when you first read about notes such as citrus blend and rain.

The thing is that beyond the dearth of high quality, simple and, yes- fresh perfumes on the market (let's face it- most of them are such a hot synthetic mess), Derring-Do is far less boring than it appears at first sniff. The familiarity of citrus and fern notes in the pouring rain is pleasant and not that stomach-turning Calone mess we know too well. It does smell like rain in one's backyard and has that bright new green feel to it. But it's the magnolia note that turns Derring-Do into a more true-to-life experience. Ineke created a newly-blossomed magnolia flower on a rain-soaked brunch. It's not the heady and overripe accord of the tree in its full glorious bloom; we're talking early spring here, a little hesitant and not quite warm yet, but full of optimism.

Derring-Do dried down into a soft woody floral musk and lasts this way for the better part of the day. A man smelling of it will most likely be complimented for smelling nice and friendly, a woman is sure to assert her immaculate personal hygiene. Wearing Derring-Do in the summer is a no-brainer, wearing it in winter is a good reminder of things to come.

Notes: Citrus Blend, Rain Notes, Cyclamen, Magnolia, Fougere Notes, Guaiacwood, Cedarwood, Musk.

Derring Do by Ineke ($88, 2.5 oz) is available at Anthropologie stores and from Henri Bendel in NYC, Woodley and Bunny in Brooklyn, Beauty Habit and directly at

Top photograph: Magnolia In The Rain by Thomas Duffy. Derring Do promotional image from

Sue Devitt Miramar & Lonely Splendor Silky Sheen Eye Shadows

Sue Devitt Silky Sheen Eye Shadow in Miramar seems to have been discontinued, but as you can see, its sibling Lonely Splendor is extremely close so there's nothing much to mourn even for those of us who have a shrine for taupe eye shadows where they pray nightly.

I'm a big fan of Sue Devitt eye shadows. The colors are always pretty and they offer a smooth satin finish. The eye shadows can be packed on if that's your thing, but a light wash offers enough intensity in complex, flattering shades. Lonely Splendor is a full and saturated taupe. Miramar was just the same and I wouldn't have both in my collection had one of them (I can't remember which, but probably Miramar) wasnt a gift with purchase. Since they're nearly identical, one of them lives permanently in my travel train case, ensuring that no matter what, I'm always equipped with a fabulous taupe.

Bottom Line: Pretty.

Sue Devitt Silky Sheen Eye Shadows ($18 each) are available from Barneys and many other department stores (my local Macy's has a counter). Also at

Aftelier- Secret Garden

"If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden."
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Secret Garden, the new perfume by Mandy Aftel of Aftelier is named for the 1910 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, one of my favorite books of all time. The Secret Garden tells the story of a little English girl, Mary Lennox or "Mistress Mary Quite Contrary" who was born and raised in India but sent to her uncle's house after losing both her parents in a cholera epidemic. Spoiled, pampered, selfish and completely emotionally stunted, Mary has a lot to learn before she can find herself, learn to love, give and make things grow. She comes into her own after discovering the key and the door to a locked garden on her uncle's estate. It's the garden that brings Mary and her sickly cousin back to life .

Mandy Aftel's Secret Garden is about life, love and an innocent sensuality. It's also a natural perfume, like all Aftelier fragrances and products. But unlike many perfumes in this genre, Secret Garden is very accessible and doesn't have that raw jagged edge in the opening notes that can be scary at first to those who aren't used to it. The first burst of Secret Garden is both floral and warm. It's sunshine and anticipation.
"Is the spring coming?" he said. "What is it like?"...
"It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine..."
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

The floral heart is big, full and generous. As Mandy Aftel notes: "The jasmine sambac heart of the perfume, with its spicy indolic kick, paired with the jammy raspberry, lends the illusion of spice where there is none". One can spend days wearing this perfume and trying to pinpoint the spicy notes- you can almost taste them, so certain you'll also be able to identify and name them- but, no. It's rose and jasmine in such a seamless blend that it forms its own color, something new and unique.

"And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles."
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Secret Garden comes fully alive on warm skin, the way a real perfume is supposed to do, feel and smell. And "alive" is a key word here. Mandy Aftel used some truly rare and treasured natural materials making this perfume: an old batch of civet, castoreum tincture and aged patchouli. The former two are, indeed, from animal source, even if very vintage one, so take that into account if you're looking for fully vegan perfumes. The animalic base is what gives Secret Garden its sensual feel. It smells magical, feminine (my perception. I'm sure men can wear and enjoy it), like something one would wear to perform an ancient ritual on a full moon night.
"As she came closer to him she noticed that there was a clean fresh scent of heather and grass and leaves about him, almost as if he were made of them. She liked it very much and when she looked into his funny face with the red cheeks and round blue eyes she forgot that she had felt shy."
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Top: bergamot, bois de rose, Geraniol, blood orange.
Heart: jasmine sambac, raspberry (compounded isolate), Turkish rose, blue lotus.
Base: civet, castoreum, vanilla, deer tongue (plant, not animal), benzoin, aged patchouli.

Secret Garden by Aftelier is priced at $150 for either 1oz EDP or 1/4 oz extrait. Samples and other sizes are also available for purchase on A sample was sent for my consideration by the perfumer.

Top image: The Unwinding Tree by Kelly Louise Judd.
Deconstructed garden photo from

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hakuhodo Brushes- Last Restocking For 2011

As many of you noted, the upcoming price increase of Hakuhodo makeup brushes (on January 1st) has sent everyone ordering. The result was many popular brushes selling out and appearing as out of stock on the website. Luckily, Hakuhodo just sent me an email about their last restocking for the year:
Our last shipment for 2011 will be arriving shortly, product availability will be updated online tomorrow, December 28 at approximately 2:00PM PST (USA Pacific Standard Time). Due to a high volume of orders at year end, please note there may be a slight delay shipments. Also note that the online shop will be closed from 11:00PM on Dec. 31, 2011 through 1:00AM Jan. 1, 2012 (USA Pacific Standard Time) for year end maintenance.

So there you have it. There's still a chance to get the Precious in 2011 prices.

Not affiliated, etc. .

Blush Horizon de Chanel Spring 2012

Blush Horizon de Chanel, the "Glowing Blush Harmony", is the star of Chanel's Harmonie de Printemps collection for spring 2012. It's gorgeous in the pan, pretty on the cheeks and captures the theme Chanel chose for the season, a spring sunrise. Now that the winter solstice is behind us I'm a little more open to the idea, though I dearly wish the kind people of Chanel had waited another month or so to release Blush Horizon.

The colored stripes go from white to deep wine, but the majority of the product comes in the wider stripes in wearable rose, coral and peach shades. The overall effect is more or less medium pink that you can slightly adjust towards cooler or warmer tones. However, since the compact is a normal size and the stripes are quite narrow, this is mostly a gimmick- you can't really pick the individual colors, even with a narrow eye shadow brush. So it's more about using more of the top half (cooler rose tones) or bottom half (warmer peach).

The various shades of Blush Horizon de Chanel do blend beautifully together and the texture is very fine. It fully delivers on the subtle glow promise-- not much of a shimmer and no visible particles, just a pretty luminous look. The shades are pretty universal though at least on my skin it leans very pink. The pigmentation level is quite intense so I use a light hand. One swipe of the brush is enough for me, at least this time of the year. Perhaps when the sun gets more serious in its appearance and the days get longer I will consider using a bit more. Right now a hint of Blush Horizon de Chanel is all that I need to revive my winter pallor.

Bottom Line: Pretty.

Blush Horizon de Chanel ($58) is available at the counters and from

Dry Skin Brushing

I'm not particularly crunchy and have never seriously contemplated doing a cleanse, but dry skin brushing is a tip I picked from a couple of detoxing friends. Using a coarse brush on dry skin sounds a bit painful, but it doesn't have to be. It actually feels quite rejuvenating, which is exactly what this practice is supposed to be.

The idea is simple: just before taking a shower, use a brush on your dry skin  in circular motions moving towards your heart. The brush can have a long or a short handle (I prefer a long one, so I can give my back a good scratching); experts recommend natural fibers. The benefits, other than a nicely exfoliated skin, are supposed to include toxin removal, blood and nerve stimulation and an overall feel of well-being. Since I'm a beauty blogger with a serious dry skin issue I'd rather focus on this very tangible aspect.

It works. I've used countless of body scrubs and exfoliating creams, some with better results than others. Dry brushing my skin has been giving me the best results so far: softer skin, a much better appearance, no tightness  and no arid earth texture. I've found that after a brushing session my skin requires far less moisturizing, which is unheard of for my cuir de crocodile.

There are plenty of suitable brushes on the market, available everywhere from Ulta to Whole Foods. I bought mine online for less than $10-- I can't remember if it was through Amazon or one of the natural product retailers. It's a little thing that makes a world of difference.

Photo from

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lolita Lempicka- Lolita Lempicka

Considering how Lolita Lempicka by Lolita Lempicka (1997) is always mentioned as an Angel spawn or a recommendation for Angel lovers, I would have never expected to like this fragrance. Add to that the first ten minutes of so after application, when it smells like a fermented bad fruit with a musky future, and you get something that I would rather not wear.

The thing is that if one can survive the twisted cherry note, the reward is a truly lovely anise and vanilla gourmand. It's not even that loud if applied responsibly, and the checks and balances system of green veins woven into Lolita Lempicka hold things together in a very wearable way, being neither noxious nor obnoxious. It is sweet, though, and you need to really like anise and licorice notes mixed  into your praline and truffles if you're going to enjoy this fragrance. I most definitely do.

Which brings us to the reason I never graduated past a mini of Lolita Lempicka onto a full bottle. There's that initial unpleasant business with the opening notes. I don't believe in perfumes that make me suffer. But more than that, as much as I like Lolita Lempicka and its licorice dessert, I get my fix in a more interesting and satisfying way from Uncle Serge's Douce Amere. I've been experimenting with anisic fragrances in recent weeks and in the end of the day, Douce Amere is the one that calls to me the most.

Lolita Lempicka was first launched in 1997. I've compared my decade old mini with a brand new sample and couldn't find a definite difference. I have a feeling that the new juice is... rushed, I guess, dives more quickly past the opening notes while the old one moves in a slower pace, but that could be the result of the new sample being a spray and the old mini a dab-on.

Notes: ivy leaves, aniseed, Amarena cherry, violet, iris , vetiver, tonka bean, vanilla, praline, musk.

Lolita Lempicka by Lolita Lempicka ($50, 1oz EDP) is available at Sephora, online and in store.

Lolita Lempicka 1997 perfume ads from

Hakuhodo Kinoko Brush (Vermilion)

Thanks to my readers Patricia and Sarah who asked and reminded me to review a Hakuhodo Kabuki-type brush: my vermilion Kinoko.  For those who're confused over where to find these brushes (they come in a couple of sizes and shapes and various handles, including Kokutan (ebony wood), but all of them are under the Fan/Kinoko Brush category on Hakuhodo's site menu (on the left of the screen).

This Kinoko brush with the vermilion handle is made of goat hair and synthetic fiber blend. The hair length is 43mm and the diameter (Hakuhodo refers to it as "thickness") is 38.4 mm at the top and base. The shape of the Kinoko brush with its domed head always reminds me of a traditional men's shaving brush, but the texture and feel of this brush is anything but.

The Kinoko is a dense powder brush, as soft and luxurious as they come. It buffs finishing powder beautifully, does wonders with normal (not too dark) bronzers, removes excess powder and helps with touch-ups. The very round top makes the Kinoko perhaps less ideal for narrow areas, but it's actually soft and flexible enough that unless you need a very detail-oriented brush it performs quite well even around the nose.

The shape and size of Hakuhodo Kinoko are close to MAC 182 Kabuki brush. You can see that they're not identical, and when it comes to softness there's no comparison. The Hakuhodo brush is light years away in luxury. My MAC 182 is much older and doesn't see much use these days, but it's a solid brush that only experienced minimal shedding. The Kinoko hasn't lost one hair after the initial washing, so I don't hesitate recommending it.

Should you choose this type of brush over other powder/bronzer tools? It depends on your preferences. A Kabuki brush is also perfect for applying powder or mineral foundation, so it's quite the multitasker. If you prefer smaller/thinner/long handle brushes, so be it. If you feel the need to have a couple of Kabuki brushes in your arsenal, this is a great option, together with Edward Bess Luxury Face Brush.

Hakuhodo Kinoko Brush ($72) is available from They ship internationally.

Handmade Kindle Cases

Two minutes after unwrapping my new Kindle I started to think about dressing it up. Preferably in couture, which to me means handmade and/or custom made, not necessarily name brand. The destination was clear: Etsy.

The choices for e-Readers sleeves, cozies and cases on Etsy are so many one can spend hours browsing unable to decide. Some are sleek, others are adorably homespun; materials range from recycled wool, upcycled oilcloth to leather. There are hand-knitted options, appliqued, felted and hand-stitched. Prints go from the ubiquitous retro owls to the tackiest and funniest Star-War characters. When buying make sure you order a case that fits your gadget's model as they vary slightly.  I went with the one you see above: Personalized leather case with peacocks ($46, TinderBloom).

Here are a few of the other items that caught my eye:

Herrigbone pattern, navy & cream ($22, Echoshop).

Octopus & Seahorse ereader sleeve ($15, Pogtotes).

Faux Croc Kindle Fire cover ($39, GardenourLeather).

Oilcloth Dots (22GBP, ArrooDesigns).

Red Knit Kindle Sleeve ($20, haramis).

Red & Cream Toile Kindle Cover ($20, JonahDay).

Recycled Padded eReader Cover ($10, CitrusSister).

Leather Kindle Sleeve ($95, NomadUnlimited).

As always I'm not affiliated with any of the Etsy shops above. The links are only for your convenience.