Sunday, March 31, 2013

Currently- March 2013

I nearly skipped posting a "Currently" this month because I haven't been in the mood to talk about anything personal. My cat Gracie is very sick and will not get better, so the stress from that has been tainting everything else. But there's also a lot to enjoy and remember, so here are my currents and they're not all about doom and gloom.

Just finished one cute novel by Australian author Liane Moriarty and started another. Yes, it's basically chic lit (I despise this term), but well written and the Australian setting is different and interesting. I'd like to visit Down Under one day.

The soundtrack to just about any Woody Allen movie. The opening notes of most of them put me in a good mood instantly.

Hokkabaz by Esscentual Alchemy. It's a gorgeous one, inspired by Guerlain Djedi.

The brand new blush, Secret Affair, from Edward Bess is definitely a winner.

Frequently Worn Item or Outfit
Flats. I love my 4" shoes and sandals, but I love not having achy feet even more.

Tomato salad. Fresh cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, olive oil. Everything else is optional.

Guilty Pleasure
Ice cream, still.

Let's not talk about it.

I have some wonderful wonderful friends. And I met them through blogging.

A blog makeover. Stay tuned.

Hermes Brazil II scarf.

Random Thought
Between Tim Gunn and Lord Grantham, the world "flabbergasted" is now everywhere. Even on The Carrie Diaries, where it sounded all wrong. I'm pretty sure high school kids didn't say that in the 80s.

How are you? What's on your list of loves and banes? Any wishes and recommendations?

Top Photo: Alma College by Mike Wood Photography.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jean Patou- Joy (Vintage Perfume)

I first started paying attention to perfume advertisement in the 1980s. Already loving perfume because it was a feminine and mysterious way of self-expression, I became aware of the fantasy aspect and the alluring promises on the glossy pages of the magazines. But I wasn't very impressed with the slogan for Joy by Jean Patou: "The costliest perfume in the world". Yes, it was the 80s, the era of Blake Carrington, but I still thought it was not a very tasteful way to promote oneself (attn.: Clive Christian). What I didn't know until reading about in Michal Edwards' book, Perfume Legends, was that the tag line came long before the Decade of Greed.  It was Jean Patou's friend and publicist Elsa Maxwell who came up with it in 1930.

 I was quite indifferent to Joy for most of my perfumed life. It was too floral, especially too rosy. The EDT version was decidedly aldehydic and I much preferred Chanel No.5 for this sort of thing. It's only in the last decade that I caught up with the magic when my interests got me into the rabbit hole of vintage perfume. Once Procter & Gamble swallowed Jean Patou and made it part of their detergent and toothpaste empire (they sold it since. More on that later), Joy was no longer Joy and I'm willing to bet a vintage bottle or two that it was no longer all that costly to make. I smelled that stuff. I remember.

But vintage Joy was a different creature. I learned to appreciate the way the different concentrations emphasized certain facets. The parfum was and is still my favorite. It's sweeter on my skin, and I can finally get glimpses of more white flowers in there, from an exceptionally delicate tuberose, a heady muguet to an addictive (and joyful) honeysuckle. Generally I can say that the sweeter Joy becomes the better I like it. It's not a scientific statement or anything, but to me the height of Joy is when it smells more like nectar than petals or pollen. But that's just me.

I've collected several bottles of Joy from different years and have had samples sent by friends who also collect vintage fragrance. I don't know enough to date them, but it's fascinating to smell the subtle and not so subtle differences between the versions. Some are milky-creamy, others have a bolder rose note that smells practically pink. One sample was wonderfully animalic- the sort of alchemy that happens when indolic jasmine meets civet. Another ended up smelling too powdery on my skin and the rose disintegrated and became a bit too sour for my taste.

The dry-down is exceptional, though, in just about any Joy bottle I've met. It's long-lasting (unlike the P&G dreck) and surprisingly warm. The rose is round and makes me think of the colors of vintage sentimental greeting cards. The fragrance responds to body heat and that's what makes it sexier in the end of the day-- Joy is far less prissy than I ever expected, and far more plush and lush.

Joy has been reformulated too many times to keep track. My one and only recommendation is to use your nose and not buy the bottles that bear the P&G Prestige. The conglomerate sold Jean Patou two years ago. The buyer, Designer Parfums, has been working for a while on restoring the perfumes to a more recognizable(though IFRA compliant) form. New bottles of Joy, 1000 and Sublime started arriving at select department stores late last year. I have yet to actually try them, so please comment if you had. Did you buy a bottle? What is your favorite version of Joy?

Vintage Joy de Jean Patou ads (1938, 1946, 1947, 1957, 1965, 1986) via

New From Edward Bess: Blush Extraordinaire Secret Affair, Island Blossom & Endless Dream Lipsticks

The much-anticipated new color products from Edward Bess are here (mostly. I'm still waiting for Blush Extraordinaire in Bed Of Roses to arrive). What you see here are the Blush Extraordinaire (new product/ formula) in Secret Affair (a very on-trend coral rose) and two lipsticks in brand new shades: Island Blossom (coral) and Endless Dream (cool rose).

As Edward Bess promised, he took his customers' reviews and opinions to heart and brought back production to the USA. He also returned his lipsticks to the slick round metallic tubes that close with a magnetic snap. This is seemingly a minor thing, but when it comes to a luxury lipstick every little detail counts. The products just arrived, so other than smooshing the tip of my Endless Dream lipstick and taking these sneak photos I haven't played with them yet. Reviews, swatches, and maybe some comparisons are coming next week.

New Colors: Ellis Faas Creamy Eyes

New colors are being added to Ellis Faas Creamy Eyes range. The shades are: Deep Purple (E123), Teal (E124), Khaki Green (E125), Warm Brown (E126), Ginger Freckle (E127), Old Pink (E128), Peachy Skin (E129).  You know me: I was a goner at the mention of teal. The new Creamy Eyes shadows are already available online from ($36 each).
More details as soon as I get my hands on them.

Photo courtesy of Ellis Faas.

Addiction Kohl Eyeliner 01 Night Dive

The photo alone made Addiction Kohl Eyeliner 01 Night Dive pretty irresistible. Just look at the blue side of the Night Dive (01) duo. I was curious about the texture, since a kohl liner in cake form was new to me (I do love the regular cake eyeliners from Laura Mercier, but they're meant for tightlining and a more precise application). Addiction (a Japanese department store brand) offers these pressed powder kohl liners in four color combinations. Night Dive was an obvious choice as my first one, but I have to tell you that I've already got my eye on the other ones.

If you ever tried the loose kohl powder from Guerlain  you know that it gives beautiful results once you get the hang of it, but  it gets e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. This problem is solved in this case because Addiction kohl is not just pressed, it also has an intriguing almost creamy texture, especially the blue side of Night Dive (the black is more dry and powdery). It's extremely long-lasting (as in stays put and bright for at least 12 hours).

The big mystery for me was application. I read these reviews on Drivel About Frivol and Rouge Deluxe, and found them a great help for my own experiments. Teeny tiny eyeliner brushes really don't work in this case because you want a thicker line and a smoky effect. Some pencil brushes and smudge brushes aren't tight enough or directional enough, and since the kohl is so densely pigmented  some brushes pick way too much product (resulting in a massive fallout). I've had this Addiction Kohl for several months now, but by no means am I an expert. I can say that I join Kate's recommendation for the Hakuhodo G5515 and will add Paula Dorf's Smokie Eye and Smudge brushes. For a softer effect I can also go with a domed brush (Sephora or NARS). I'm still learning, though.

Bottom Line: Addicting.

Addiction Kohl Liner is available in select locations in Asia and from (about $40 including markup and shipping).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Change Of Heart

Looking at my sizable fragrance wardrobe I started thinking about the many loves at first sniff I experienced, as well as of the perfumes that proved to be an acquired taste. Then there are the ones that required a serious change of heart, that I deeply disliked at first only to come around and fall deeply in love with them.
I've had a very public change of heart (or two, or three) here in front of you, but some of these preceded this blog. Here's my list:

1) Comme des Garconns- Zagorsk. I hated it. Sample after sample I tried to figure out why others worshiped Zagorsk and why I hated it so much (there was some kind of a burnt rubber note that crossed the line for me). I even got another sample and sent it to my mom, hoping she'll be able to tell me what it reminds me. Five or six samples later (I'm dedicated, if nothing else) and things fell into place. I have a bottle now, and I wear it semi-often.

2) Guerlain- Samsara. Yes, I know. Samsara was etched in my memory in its EDT concentration. I used to know a girl who wore it, and let's just say that her taste level was questionable. I thought about this classic Guerlain as the late 80s/early 90s equivalent of a Jersey Shore perfume and avoided it completely. Then I got a sample of the extrait. And the vintage EDP. And the flankers (especially Samsara Shine). Nowadays I'm hoarding the vintage stuff and love wearing it to bed.

3) Regina Harris- Frankincense-Myrrh-Rose Maroc. It was probably the dark and heavy rose that threw me off. I'm not a big rose person (though there are many exceptions at this point), and FMRM made me feel suffocated with a velvet pillow. Somehow I uncorked the sample again and all of a sudden it was a very big love. It didn't hurt that the husband thought it was sexy.

4) Serge Lutens- Arabie. I still won't wear Arabie myself, but after years of thinking it was the filthiest and stinkiest thing (in the worst possible way), I smelled it on the husband who was absentmindedly trying on stuff he wasn't familiar with at Barneys. Amazingly, on him it's rich, sweet, and utterly delicious (my scent twin doesn't hate Arabie, either. I should have listened to him).

5) Gres- Cabaret. I didn't actively dislike Cabaret, but this rosy chypre mostly smelled to me like soap. I wasn't impressed when it was new in the early 2000s, I didn't care for it later when I started sniffing and testing everything for the blog. Then I got it-- the special kick one gets when wearing a chypre, and all of a sudden I started hunting bottles of the original formula.

How about you? What perfumes you never thought you'd wear became your darlings?

L'Occitane- Cade Shower Gel for Body and Hair

Once again I'm helping myself to the husband's shower products. This time it's L'Occitane Cade Shower Gel for Body and Hair, and I have to tell you that I'd steal any other item in this scent (too bad most of L'Occitane Cade range is for shaving. I'd love a body cream for ultra-dry skin that smells like Cade). Notes of juniper, sandalwood, immortelle and rosemary-- the end result is woody and balsamy, making Cade smell like a niche perfume. It's the perfect pre-Serge Lutens shower treat.

 This L'Occitane shower gel is low-foaming and doesn't dry my skin even during this time of the year. It feels comfortable and luxurious in the shower, but doesn't linger much once I turn off the water and put on my bathrobe. Neither the husband nor I have tried Cade on our hair, so I can't comment on its performance as shampoo. The husband says it's decent when it comes to washing off deodorant. I have no such issues and mostly care about not getting an itchy reaction, so I'm happy to say that L'Occitane Cade is highly satisfying in this regard.

L'Occitane- Cade Shower Gel for Body and Hair ($20, 8.4oz) is available online and from L'Occitane stores everywhere.

Photo: Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, The Grass Is Greener, 1960 (the most inconceivable plot ever: who would cheat on Cary Grant with the like of Robert Mitchum?)

Rouge Bunny Rouge Blush Wand- Manet

Rouge Bunny Rouge Blush Wand in Manet, a soft coral with pink leanings, is probably the most natural looking blush I own. The color is somewhat outside of my comfort zone, and just as it tends to happen with other products that are sent to me for review, I was blown away discovering how wonderful it is.  Maybe it's because of the semi-sheer texture and the skin-like finish, maybe it's the way this shade settles on my cheeks (they're less ghostly green than my arm) and brings out whatever natural color I may have. It's hard to tell, but Manet doesn't look like makeup when I blend it into my skin.

Rouge Buny Rouge is famous for incredible makeup textures, and the blush wand is no different. It has an almost gel-like consistency, a sheer creamy finish that melds with the skin and doesn't just sit on top of it. Blending is a breeze. I don't need to fuss with it for longer than a couple of seconds-- maybe because the shade itself is so right. The blush holds on to whatever base I'm wearing and stays put all day. It's a reliable product that doesn't require any skill or planning. Just touch and go.

One thing that needs to be noted is that Rouge Bunny Rouge blush wands are tiny. Each wand holds only 4ml of product. While the blush is very pigmented and doesn't require more than a light touch, it's still less than third the size of a NARS Multiple (1/2 oz, approx. 14ml). I still think it's worth it, especially if you're not a one blush person and keep a color wardrobe on hand.

Bottom Line: I see two other shades in my future.

Rouge Bunny Rouge Blush Wand is available from ($29) as well as directly from (29 euro). Also from Zuneta. The product for this review was sent to me free of charge.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tommi Sooni- Jinx

I'm in serious trouble when it comes to Tommi Sooni fragrances. I already have full bottles of Eau de Tommi Sooni I and Tarantella, and now I'm in lust with Jinx, a 2011 release from this Australian perfume house that interprets classic perfume themes in an elegant and modern way.

Jinx belongs on the same shelf as vintage Caleche and Chamade, as well as Goutal's Grand Amour and So Pretty by Cartier. Like them, Jinx is an aldehydic green floral with leaning towards chypre territory. It's also a perfect spring fragrance that opens clear, green and utterly angelic. The ethereal beauty continues to develop into a spring floral theme- green stems, delicate blossoms withstanding the cold April winds, then morphing into a beautiful bridal bouquet of white rose, muguet and jasmine.

Tommi Sooni Jinx has a heartbreaking innocence but also a strong core. The young bride is now a sophisticated city dweller, her hair perfectly coiffed, and her outfits are impeccable. She's confident and serene as she goes about her day.

The dry-down of Jinx starts a bit soapy (in the best possible and expensive way) and ends as a musky green base that whispers rather than announce itself assertively. This is probably the only thing keeping me from ordering a bottle right this minute, since longevity is somewhat questionable. It's still there, somewhat, after five or six hours, but the fragrance loses some of its bite, making me reach for my bottle of Caleche extrait just to add some backbone. I do think Jinx can make a fabulous parfum if the good people of Tommi Sooni would consider offering it in such concentration. It really begs for an elegant tiny bottle you can tuck into a vintage purse that'll make you feel like Grace Kelly.

Notes: fig, green vine leaves, grapefruit, basil, aldehydes, muguet, rose wardia, ylang ylang, jasmine, ginger, vetiver, moss, cistus, ambergris, white musk.

Jinx by Tommi Sooni ($180, 50ml EDP) is available from as well as form Luckyscent (currently running a promotion and offering Jinx for only $95).

1959 Modess magazine via
Tommi Sooni.

Ellis Faas Milky Lips L201

A couple of months ago, when I finished my old Ellis Faas L101 Creamy Lips pen, I decided to replace it with the same shade in the other texture, Milky Lips L201.  Milky Lips has a slightly lighter texture but has a similar finish (at least in the signature shade, "Ellis Red") and feels just as comfortable on the lips.

Ellis Red is the color of blood, hence the slightly disturbing swatches. It's wonderfully flattering, though, and can be easily sheered into a barely there stain. The texture is phenomenal and feels wonderful on the lips-- never drying, even in the middle of winter.

Ellis Faas pen applicators are somewhat controversial. They're pretty and slick, but also annoying-- it takes a while to dispense the product, there's a learning curve until you get the feel of just how much liquid lipstick you need (therefore wasting some in the process), and the plastic brush (or sponge in the case of Creamy Lips) is not necessarily the best tool for the task. I use a regular lip brush to transfer the color to my lips and apply it, and I clean the tip after every use with a makeup removing wipe (I do the same with Ellis Faas eye shadow pens) and have no issues of blocked applicators.

It occurred to me that Ellis Red is very similar to Shiseido RD607 (Nocturne) from the Lacquer Rouge line. You can see that Nocturne is a touch more wine colored while L201 is the promised blood red shade. Ellis Faas Milky Lips is not quite as opaque and dense as Shiseido Lacquer Rouge so it's easier to wear as a daytime red, but both are glorious. I know that I'm going to get questions as to which one I prefer. I always have a hard time recommending one over the other because it's always a "your mileage may vary" situation, but if you insist I'd say Ellis Faas, despite the applicator issues, because the formula is more nourishing.

Ellis Faas Milky Lips L201 ($35) is available from Sephora (select locations and online) and from

NARS Ashes to Ashes Shimmer Eye Shadow

Today we're looking at an eye makeup classic: NARS Ashes to Ashes Shimmer Eye Shadow. I finished a full pan bought long ago, and this new one was sent to me from NARS so I can show you how it compares to other much beloved shades . Ashes to Ashes is a complex neutral color that NARS calls a "Shimmery violet-based brown", and I'm not going to argue with that, only add that Ashes to Ashes appears different depending on the light: both type of light and its direction. In yellow artificial light the eye shadow appears significantly more warm and brown, while it can also have a very cool gray cast.

I love using NARS Ashes to Ashes with a bold eyeliner, paired with green or blue or solo, as the main feature of an understated elegant look. The texture and finish is among the best in this NARS range-- delicate and blendable, shimmery without visible particles.

I pulled out several comparable classic eye shadows that play the taupe field. Truth be told, I could have kept going, but that would have been an embarrassment of riches taupes. The bottom line is that Ashes to Ashes is unique, both in finish and in color. Depending on the light, it may be closest to Laura Mercier Topaz, though it still has more brown. It's a staple, but so are the other eye shadows you see here (Chanel Taupe Grise, Rouge Bunny Rouge Delicate Hummingbird, Kjaer Weis Wisdom, Le Metier de Beaute Jojo, and Urban Decay Underground). I love them all.

NARS Ashes to Ashes Shimmer Eye Shadow ($24) is available at the counters, from Sephora and on The product was sent to me by NARS free of charge.

Parfums de Nicolai- Vie de Chateau Intense

'Vie de Chateau' translates to approximately to 'living the high life'. It's also the name of a 1966 Catherine Deneuve comedy (named here A Matter of Resistance), described on as
"Set in occupied France, the film stars Catherine Deneuve as the young and beautiful bride of middle-aged and homely Philipe Noiret. Disappointed at Noiret's indifference concerning the Nazi invaders, Catherine is swept off her feet by handsome Resistance leader Henri Garcin. Throughout the rest of the film, it seems as though the underground operatives and the German officers are more interested in bedding the bewitched Ms. Deneuve than in winning the war."

Thankfully, Patricia de Nicolai's creation,  Vie de Chateau Intense, was inspired by the idea behind the phrase-- the life of the landed gentry (think Lord Grantham, only in French and probably with better food), gentlemen of leisure and the like, sitting on their leather sofas in their smoking rooms. Officially, Vie de Chateau Intense is a masculine fragrance, but I have to tell you that from the ripe fruit opening to the honeyed dry-down, this Nicolai perfume fits me like a (leather) glove.

The only fruit on the official list of notes is grapefruit, which doesn't usually smell all that boozy. I'd believe it if you told me it's plum or peach just after they reached the height of ripeness. It's a note I've learned to appreciate and enjoy because it walks a dangerous line between sex and fermentation. For a minute it reminds me of YSL Champagne/Yvresse that plays a similar game. What comes after is a melange of clean grass and fresh hay with a green edge that balances the honeyed tobacco and leather notes before letting them take over the scene.

The dry-down is almost all sweet tobacco with only a hint of leather and a chocolaty patchouli. It remains close to the skin and feels quite intimate even when I spray with all I've got (and believe me, I do, since a) Vie de Chateau Intense is addictive, and, b) It requires a heavy hand if you want longevity). The initial sillage is good, but by the time the fragrance settles on skin and develops its warmth and depth you're fine to mingle.  Now, Vie de Chateau Intense (I assumed there's also a regular Vie de Chateau, but Parfum de Nicolai website doesn't show it ) is supposedly a masculine perfume. But I didn't know that until I looked it up, and frankly, I don't care. I fell for this one from the 10th second after I first tried it on. Vie de Chateau Intense is seductively rich and, well, intense. It's sweet and delicious, clings to coats and scarves. Of course I'd love it on a man, but I much prefer to be the one smelling like this.

Notes: fern, cut grass, oak moss, vetiver, tobacco, patchouli, grapefruit, leather, musk, hay.

Parfums de Nicolai- Vie de Chateau Intense ($65, 1oz) is available from Luckyscent, Osswald, MiN NY and Not all retailers stock the small size, but offers a 250 ml refill (209 euro) if that's your thing.

Top image via Other photos related to the 1966 Vie de Chateau movie from various entertainment sites.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fashion in Monaco: Bal de la Rose du Rocher

The annual Bal de la Rose du Rocher, Monaco's grand ball is one of the most glamorous events in the known universe. Obviously it has something to do with the hosts of the evening: the royal family of Monaco, but there's also the setting, the location and the spirit of Grace Kelly (the event honors the Princess Grace Foundation). This year Princess Caroline commissioned Karl Lagerfeld to be the art director of the event. Both Caroline and her daughter, Charlotte Casiraghi, wore Chanel couture, and I have to say that neither one did herself any favors.

Of course, Charlotte Casiraghi can wear anything and still look jaw-dropping stunning, but the pink plumage of this Chanel gown is just not pretty enough for her.  The shoes and bag are utterly wrong for this look-- too heavy and clunky. Her makeup (khaki and gold eye shadows, bright pink lips) was gorgeous, though, and her manicure glittery and fun.

Princess Caroline didn't fare much better. I know she just became a grandmother last week, but there's no need to channel the stereotype. Caroline is still one of the most beautiful women (and princesses) in the world, so why not have a little more fun?

Princess Charlene took a fashion risk and wore a biker jacket with her Ralph Lauren gown. Some people think she should not emphasize her swimmer shoulders, but I actually don't mind that part-- that's who she is and what she looks like, so why hide? I have absolutely no shoulders (my arms seem to sprout directly from the neck) and I envy Princess Charelene's tall and strong physique.  Still, I'm not sure the jacket contributes to the look-- it hides the gold detailing of the dress that is the main attraction of an otherwise plain gown. I'd also change the makeup. The heavy charcoal smoky eye makes Charlene look sadder than ever.

All photos Getty via Zimbio.

Shiseido Nocturne RD607 Lacquer Rouge

Here's something quick and bright for a gloomy Monday: Shiseido  Lacquer Rouge in Nocturne RD607. You already know that I love these liquid lipsticks from Shiseido-- their rich and opaque formula is as intense as it is comfortable to wear.

Nocturne RD607, a deep velvety red with a hint of burgundy is the latest shade to join its siblings in my lipstick drawer. As the name implies, this is a night out color. It registers very red when I wear it and doesn't seem to be affected by my natural dark rose lip color. I find that this level of intensity requires a very precise application and a defined lip contour, unless I use very little product and apply the lip lacquer as a stain or mix it with a balm. Thus, Shiseido Nocturne is actually quite versatile. It's also long lasting-- pretty much like a regular lip stain, though the lacquered finish needs touch ups throughout the day.

In more Shiseido Lacquer Rouge news, the previously Asia-exclusive shades are now available in the US, including from Sephora. Click here to see my photos and review of RS312 Sunstone.

Bottom Line: Nice to have.

Shiseido Nocturne RD607 Lacquer Rouge ($25) is available at the counters, Sephora, and from