Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Roja Parfums- Diaghilev (Parfum Imperial Collection)


A very successful perfumer who'll remain nameless described the perfumes from Roja Dove's line as "belong in a museum". After a few seconds of thought he added, "so does Roja". I didn't inquire further as to what specific aspect of Roja Dove's public persona he was referring. Your guess is as good as mine. Diaghilev, a larger-than-life chypre is a perfect example for what the famous perfumer meant. Diaghilev, with its mélange of notes is so over the top that if I weren't standing at the Bergdorf Goodman counter with the tester right in front of me when I first smelled it, I'd have thought (convinced even) that someone has mislabeled a vintage perfume sample. A very very vintage perfume. Something from the 1920s, perhaps, when leather, oakmoss, all the spices in the world, and a thick overripe floral bouquet could be thrown together and then worn in public without shame.

There's cumin in the top notes which the husband detected immediately while my own skin smoothed it over. I can smell traces of many thick and plush perfume ideas, the ghosts of  famous perfumes the way they smelled back when Louise Brooks, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Gish and Marlene Dietrich used to wear them. Diaghilev is rich, plush, and very animalic, padded with a thick layer of oakmoss that I can smell throughout the perfume's development. It's everything I can ask for in a scent. In a different time and place (ok, and a different personality) Diaghilev could have easily been a contender for my signature scent.

They no longer make them like that. They no longer sell them like that. And if you want to wear this type of perfumes you probably need to run with a very specific crowd who appreciate things like that. There aren't all that many of us around these days, which is probably the reason that Diaghilev stands out so much and feels so shocking. You just don't smell perfumes like this unless you're well-versed in vintage perfumes. The scarcity of this style is why someone like Roja Dove in his quest to create a perfume that represents a "Decadent Intoxicating Sophistication" has made Diaghilev one of the crown jewels of his line. And priced it accordingly.

Here's the thing: Diaghilev is a magnificent perfume. It's a very fitting tribute to Sergei Diaghilev and his uncompromising artistic vision. But I almost feel like an oblivious Gwyneth Paltrow prattling about in her GOOPy ways as I'm writing this, because it's nearly impossible in this case to separate the excellent perfume from its positioning at the very top of the fragrance market. Roja Dove has made sure of that. Once upon a time a perfume like Diaghilev could have been found on the shelves of department stores and boutiques who catered to the same people who regularly bought Mitsouko, Jolie Madame, Bandit, or Cuir de Russie in their original incarnations. But we all know that it's no longer the case. what's left of the grand perfumes is barely recognizable, and definitely no longer in fashion. In theory, neither would be Roja Dove's fur coat to the opening night at the opera.

But Roja Dove did something my husband has labeled as genius. Instead of competing with the likes of Serge Lutens, Pierre Guillaume, or any of the various projects Bertrand Duchaufour is working on at any given time, he placed his juice at the very top. This tier is smaller, the competitors are fewer, and while there are not as many customers, their wallets are far more open and their appetite for bottles adorned with crystals at a price only Gwyneth could love is insatiable.

Is it possible to separate Diaghilev from its cost? I'm trying. Wearing this perfume and basking in its sweet balsamic leather makes me happy, and that should be enough, right? What do you think?

Notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Cumin, Tarragon, Blackcurrant, Heliotrope, Jasmine, Peach, Rose, Tuberose, Violet, Ylang Ylang, Cedarwood, Clove, Guaiac Wood, Nutmeg, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Ambrette, Benzoin, Civet, Labdanum, Leather Notes, Musk, Peru Balsam, Styrax, Vanilla.

Roja Parfums- Diaghilev ($990, 3.4oz extrait de parfum) is available from Bergdorf Goodman and Osswald in NYC. My sample was a gift from a dear friend.

Art: Costume design by Léon Bakst for principal female dancer in the Ballets Russes The Firebird, 1910.

Vintage Cornucopia Jewelry


A cornucopia is my most favorite of all the traditional images associated with Thanksgiving. Being a a weirdo vegetarian I'm as likely to decorate with a turkey as much as I am to eat it. Instead, just give me fruits, veggies, and flowers and I'm truly and fully thankful. You can tell that I've been pursuing vintage jewelry even more than usual lately. I haven't bought anything, but here are some of the pretty and joyous cornucopia jewelry I've found around the web:

Hallmark Thanksgiving Silvery Cornucopia Vintage Pin, via http://earringfish.com
Clip-on earrings (part of a set) via rubylane.com

A 1940s brooch via Etsy

More from Etsy: screw-back earrings. I'm very tempted.

How cool is this ring? via RubyLane and Etsy

Brooch with green beads or stones via RubyLane
For the gentlemen: Tiffany&Co, cufflinks via 1stdibs.com

Perhaps my favorite: an abstract cornucopia brooch from the 1940; a bit art deco. Via Etsy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Providence Perfume Company- Beauty Elixir Oil For Hair & Nails


A few of my favorite artisan perfumers have been expanding their lines to include hand-crafted body products and treatment oils that combine the benefits of potent natural ingredients with the perfumers' knowledge of the aromatherapeutic qualities of certain materials. The finished products are not only rich, elegant, and luxurious, but also wonderfully effective. Perfumer Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Company has recently added this Beauty Elixir Oil For Hair & Nails to her bath & body line (I'm a huge fan of the body oils), and just like everything else she does- it's fabulous.


The 100% natural and botanically based oil base used for the Providence Beauty elixir is a blend of organic argan, camellia, coconut, avocado and neem oils. It feel light to the touch and absorbs quickly, but the way my cuticles and hands feel after application tells me that there's some serious power behind the elegant texture. I haven't used it on my hair, since I have a big head of hair and the 2oz in the bottle will be gone far too quickly if I did, so I can't comment on the oil's effectiveness in this regard. But as a dry and rough cuticle, elbow, and other fun location treatment, this is a gorgeous and potent oil that replaced for me other nail treatments.

A big part of the luxurious feel of the Providence Elixir Oil is the scent. There can be no doubt that the composition was created by a skilled perfumer, as the orange blossom, jasmine, apricot and neroli oils bring in the sun. If you like orange blossom and neroli this oil is going to make you smile and even relax a little as you apply the oil and massage it in. Charna Ethier recommends using the elixir as part of your bedtime ritual (the dropper makes it easy to dispense the right amount without waste). I agree and also add as a pre-manicure treatment and throughout the day, especially if you just got in from a day when you forgot your gloves (it's not just me, right?).

Bottom Line: a fabulous gift for yourself or a much-deserving loved one.

Providence Perfume Company- Beauty Elixir Oil For Hair & Nails ($44, 2oz) is available from providenceperfume.com. The product was sent for my consideration by the perfumer.

"Woman’s hands and neck with pearls", 1930s - Photographed by Willy Kessels

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Maison Francis Kurkdjian- Oud Cashmere Mood


The name, notes, and official description of Oud Cashmere Mood by Maison Francis Kurkdjian are quite misleading. The expansion of the original Kurkdjian oud theme into the Mood series was said to represent a feeling by use of a tactile idea. In this case of Cashmere Mood it's supposedly about comfort (Silk Mood is shimmer, while Velvet Mood is warmth). The actual bitter and harsh opening of Oud Cashmere Mood took me by surprise.

Oud can be many things. At its best, this precious note (and material) is dark and animalic. It can also smell medicinal and scary. Pairing it the way perfumer Kurhdjian did here with Moroccan labdanum, benzoin, and vanilla was supposed to create the comfort of a large and thick cashmere shawl. Instead, I get a desolate and almost bleak sensation, an otherworldly chill that finds the spine through the layers of cashmere.

Basically, it's a cold November day.

It takes a while (at least half an hour in my case) before the rubbery medicinal opening becomes friendlier. This effect, created by the very dark and stark labdanum-oud combination, is not completely pleasant on my skin (it was perfectly fine on a blotter, if I remember correctly). I don't think I've ever come across a less sweet benzoin/vanilla composition, which is fascinating in a somewhat perverse way. Is it cashmere-like? Maybe. I don't usually go the oud way for my comfort scents, but this Francis Kurkdjian ends up warmer than it begins, probably thanks to the whiffs of smoke that wafting in and out of my personal space when wearing it.

Longevity of Oud Cashmere Mood is pretty good (longer than the original MFK Oud), sillage and projection are light and polite, at least when dabbing. I much prefer the original, but I get why this can be a huge hit among the oud-crazed.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian- Oud Cashmere Mood ($375, 70ml parfum extrait) is available  from Twisted Lily, Osswald, Luckyscent, and Bergdorf Goodman.

Photo: An abandoned church by Janice Dunn, 2006.



Want: Aurélie Bidermann's Gold Lace Cuff


I've been searching for a statement bracelet recently. I tend to prefer vintage and antique pieces, but I've had zero success so far. A wide cuff has to fit a certain way, be prportional to the wrist and arm,  and not move too much, and my wrists are almost freakishly bony and narrow, so none of the gorgeous pieces I tried on looked right. Then at the NYC antique show at the Piers I saw a stunning pair of 1960s Valentino mesh cuffs that made my heart skip a beat, only to discover that they were too SMALL (that's a first). So I've been looking online and fell in love with this Aurélie Bidermann's gold-plated lace-effect cuff . Isn't it gorgeous?

$725 from net-a-porter.com, which is the source of the photo.

Pixi Beauty Lid Last Shadow Pen Brun Beam(& Gilded Mink)






I bought a couple of Pixi Beauty Lid Last Shadow Pens, the thick eye shadow crayons, because I love the regular Endless Silky Pens so much. First was the one in Gilded Mink which I never reviewed because it was discontinued* not long after, and I liked it enough to bring home its sibling, Brun Beam.

Pixi Beauty Lid Last Shadow Pens are not quite as creamy as Laura Mercier Caviar Sticks. This may be a good or a bad thing, depending on how well you get along with smudgy-to-cement textures (I love them). Pixi pens are dryer and more cream-to-powder. This means that on my lids they require a creamy primer and a stiffer brush to get a smooth and even layer of the very pretty colors. The swatches above, shown on completely bare skin demonstrate why. But once you get over the slight learning curve, these Pixi pencil shadows are a roaring success due to their longevity and versatility.

The discontinued Gilded Mink was a beautiful taupe, while Brun Beam is a dark ashy cool brown. They are classic neutrals, an easy choice on a bleary-eyed morning, as long as you can manage the texture.

Pixi Beauty Lid Last Shadow Pen Brun Beam ($18) is available from pixibeauty.com  (use code Pixishare for 20% off), and also at Target if you're brave enough to deal with the grimy display.


*Gilded Mink is now back in stock and everyone should get it.

spicy Perfumes To Celebrate Thanksgiving


This list of spicy perfumes to celebrate Thanksgiving was the Husband's idea. Our turkey-free Thanksgiving meal is on his mind, and while there won't be a bird on the table, spices are very much what it's about. Once we started to discuss the perfumes to include here it became clear that the obvious choice is Serge Lutens.  I can't help it: these are my favorites. But there are more wonderful choices out there and I tried to include a thing or two that are less expected along with a modern classic or three.

  • Etat Libre d'Orange- Like This (Tilda Swinton). This pumpkin pie perfume will be part of similar lists till the end of days. That's actually a very good thing.
  • Serge Lutens- Rousse. Perhaps the ultimate in cinnamon, warmth, and autumn leaves.
  • Serge Lutens- Five  O'clock au Gingembre. Spicy pastries, afternoon tea, and the coziness of the season.
  • Serge Lutens- Arabie. The last one, I promise. Arabie is not exactly pilgrim material, but it's the spiciest and most evocative fragrance in this genre.
  • Jo Malone Nutmeg & Ginger. Jo Malone perfumes might be more about the flowers and the atmosphere of English cottage gardens, but Nutmeg & Ginger is an example of an easy-to-wear spicy fragrance that doesn't take over the entire room.
  • Frapin Caravelle Epicee. Frapin has several options that I could have included here (the boozy 1697 is also incredibly spicy and satisfying), but Caravelle Epicee has it all, from pepper to coriander, and a cashmere sweater dry-down.
  • DSH Perfumes Épices d’Hiver- I had a hard time picking from the many gorgeous options Dawn Spencer Hurwitz offers, but  Épices d’Hiver on all  its pepper-vanilla-incense (and a lot more) is just what I'm craving right now.
  • CB I Hate Perfume- M3 November. A bit too obvious? Maybe. But this is Thanksgiving in a bottle, and Christopher Brosius is the master of creating an aromatic picture right there on your skin.
  • Parfum d'Empire- Aziyade. This cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon bomb is related to Arabie, and is probably more India than Plymouth. still fabulous, though.
  • Annick Goutal- Sables. With a prominent immortelle note, this classic masculine from Annick Goutal is very maple-like. It's also peppery, honeyed, and just smoky enough to keep it interesting.
What would you add to the list? What perfume will you wear on Thanksgiving day?

Art: 'Thanksgiving',  1894,  by Will H. Bradley for the literary magazine The Chap-Book.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Elemis Soothing Apricot Toner & Sisley Floral Toning Lotion


Not all toners were created equal. Many of us started our skincare regime back in the day when a toner was mostly supposed to be the finishing step in cleansing, remove any trace of makeup and grime. It was also supposed to prevent oiliness, and as teens and young twenty-somethings most of us used extremely drying toners (Clinique, anyone?) with a shocking alcohol content. Even the milder ones that started appearing on the market twenty years ago were not exactly gentle. Eventually toners lost their appeal and many people, me included, no longer used them twice a day. For the last five years or so I've been mostly using Japanese-style hydrating toners (usually labeled as "lotion" though it's a sticky liquid) of the kind that you tap onto your skin and help it absorb creams and serums. There's also plain old rosewater that works well, with or without added glycerin, or witch hazel that adds a clarifying action.

While I've been mostly faithful to Kanebo Sensai Collection Lotion II (I'm on my third or fourth bottle), I have been playing with other mild toners here and there, such as Elemis Soothing Apricot Toner (part of an excellent Elemis travel set) and Sisley Floral Toning Lotion (I always seem to have a small bottle or two around from various gift-with-purchase events). Neither one is a must-have or an irreplaceable item, but both are nice and I use them for freshening up and before I put on my makeup.

Sisley Floral Toning Lotion is closer to the Japanese idea of a toner/lotion. I don't have a full ingredient list but the active ones (according to Nordstrom) are rose, cornflower and witch hazel floral waters. It's not as sticky as the one by Kanebo Sensai, so basically I'd say it's a glorified (and very elegant) witch hazel toner. I like it a lot, actually, and if you compare by volume, at $100 for 8.4oz the Sisley product is actually cheaper than the $70/4.2oz Kanebo. I like the freshness of this toner and the soothing sensation it gives post face washing. I have yet to spring for a full size bottle, but those GWPs are an excellent source. Available at select department stores.

Elemis Soothing Apricot Toner is more of a traditional toner albeit a very nice one. Maybe I shouldn't like it as much as I do because it's loaded with stuff like fragrance and dye, but it's a very pleasant and pampering product, or at least gives the illusion of one. The apricot scent is pretty strong but I don't mind. I find that I like it best for use before going out for the night: I always do a quick cleanse and refresh prior to starting my makeup. The Elemis travel set I got at the last Nordstrom anniversary set will probably last me until the nest one, when I fully intend to buy another one (a full size is $36/6.8oz at Nordstrom and Ulta). A travel set is a Nordstrom exclusive.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

House Of Cherry Bomb- Cardamom Rose


The House Of Cherry Bomb is a Brooklyn-based perfume line by Maria McElroy (of Aroma M) and Alexis Karl (Scents By Alexis, which I really need to review soon because her work is breathtaking). Alexis and Maria share a studio in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood (you can read more about the place in these blog posts by Tinsel Creation and Indie Perfumes) where their work can be sampled and purchased (see details below); the perfumers also created two fragrances that are exclusive to the atelier: Cardamom Rose and Tobacco Cognac.

Cardamom Rose is quite different from the punk rock atmosphere that characterizes the House Of Cherry Bomb. I'd say that it combines Maria McElroy's aesthetic of faraway lands with the big city sensibility of Cherry Bomb. The result is a modern and delicate perfume that goes beyond the two obvious notes of rose and cardamom. It tells a story of travel to a charming location where the air is fragrant with the spices that were just used in making the dishes that were served to you in exquisite antique plates on a table decorated with beautiful just-cut roses.

The rose is recognizable but very light here. Rose-phobic will not be suffocated by it and might actually enjoy how understated and elegant it is here. It makes me think of silk charmeuse: the delicate lightness with a substantial texture of this weave. This is the kind of rose the perfumes used for Cardamom Rose, and it lets the other elements of spice and a very light smoke shine through and add a slightly darker layer under the floral opening.

While there is an almost foody reference to the spice facet of Cardamom Rose (a Moroccan pudding? an Indian dessert?), it is not sweet at all. There's nothing loukhoumish about this House Of Cherry Bomb creation and it never veers into "yummy", just warm and inviting. If I were to continue with my fabric reference I'd say that this silk charmeuse is an antique rose color with warm brownish undertones. It's a perfect color for the warm season but also a delightful accent to the black and gray of a winter wardrobe. It puts some much-needed color in my cheeks.

Cardamom Rose by the House Of Cherry Bomb (about $40. This line is wonderfully affordable) is an exclusive to the Aroma M Atelier located on the 10th floor of 68 Jay street (#1007) in Brooklyn. The studio is open to the public on Mondays and Fridays between 1 and 6 PM (also by appointment, and you can contact them by email [email protected] which is excellent if you're an out-of-town visitor who doesn't want to miss all that NYC has to offer perfumery-wise). The sample for this review was supplied by the perfumers.

Photo: Model Jessica Stam by Solve Sundsbo for Vogue Italy, 2008.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cacharel- Loulou (Vintage[ish] Perfume)


I had absolutely no intention to seek out a bottle of Loulou, the 1987 perfume from Cacharel. None. Zero. Nil. I didn't need it. I could live the rest of my life without it. After all, Loulou is seared in my perfume memory so clearly that I can taste it. When the perfume came out in the late 80s (I was mainly wearing Creation by Ted Lapidus around that time) my sister graduated from another Cacharel perfume, Anais Anais, to Loulou. I don't know how many bottles of this fragrance she used before moving on (to Tresor), but you could always smell it in the house, hours after she was gone to school. I was sure that's all the Loulou I could ever take.

I found myself as the owner of an old bottle of Loulou last month when I bought a lot of vintage perfume (you can never have enough Shalimar).  I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do with it, but less than a week later Victoria wrote about Loulou on Bois de Jasmin, leaving me no choice: I had to give it a try.

The first hit of Loulou took me back in time right away. It was 1987 or 1988 again, not necessarily something I was eager to re-experience. But I was surprised to discover how beautiful, lush, and womanly this Jean Guichard creation (Eternity, Deci Dela) is. Once the abrasive floral notes move aside and make some space for the rounder mimosa-jasmine and their tropical friends, things become more personal. Loulou is an interesting composition of contradictions:  heliotrope and iris show their powdery facets, the sharp tagetes against creamy and sweet ylang-ylang and sandalwood, and the dry-down that satisfies the oriental lover with an almost edible vanilla note. Somewhere in there, an incense note joins and adopts a powdery character. It's a lot to take, for sure, but I can actually wear and enjoy Loulou. In small dozes and not too often, maybe, but enjoy it I will.

See more reviews of Loulou on Perfume Shrine and Katie Puckrik Smells.

Notes: mandarin, marigold, black currant buds, jasmine, mimosa, tiaré flower, ylang ylang, heliotrope, iris, sandalwood, musk, incense, tonka bean, and vanilla.

Loulou by Cacharel can be found at various discounters.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dior Addict Extreme Lipstick- Princess 857





Dior Addict Extreme is one of my go-to lipstick formulas. The balance between color, shine, intensity, and comfort is among the best you can find, so I keep adding more colors to my collection. It's more pigmented than the regular Dior Addict and lasts (as a stain for a several more hours).  Princess 857 is part of the regular exiting line (Dior does beautiful seasonal/limited edition colors, but nothing beats a color you know you'll be able to replenish a couple of times before it's discontinued). This is a classic daytime red/pink-based red that you can build up for a little more drama or just wear as is. I'm finding that Princess gives an instant brightening to the face on a gloomy fall day. And it makes me happy.

Dior Addict Extreme Lipstick- Princess #857 ($31) is available at the counters and online from nordstrom.com.

How To Deal With A Skin Emergency


This is kind of the prequel for my post about my heavy-duty skin saver, Sisley Black Rose Cream Musk. In the midst of a skin emergency, when there's a specific and very visible skin issue, I resort to these six more-or-less quick fixes. A flaky patch, a welt-like redness, clogged pores, and actual breakouts-- here's what I use. Some of these have active ingredients that might not suit everyone. Take it into account, especially if you already know that salicylic acid does your skin more harm than good.

3M Nexcare Acne Care
Probably the weirdest product in my arsenal. These are round little stickers that you put on a fully developed pimple. The sticker draws the icky stuff out and deflates the zit withing hours. Once done, remove the sticker and apply a calming product or the BHA lotion below. Available from Asian markets that have a drugstore area, but easiest to just buy through Amazon or eBay, priced at $6-$8 for a box of 36.

Paula's Choice 2% BHA Lotion
This is basically a very mild exfoliant with the benefit of salicylic acid that gets into the pores and cleans them out. Somehow, it also calms red patches and deals with flakes around the nose, making sure nothing unsightly develops there. ($22, 3.3 oz paulaschoice.com)

Time Laboratories Argiletz French Green Clay 8 oz clay (not pictured because I forgot to grab it).
This is actually a dietary supplement that you're supposed to mix into water and drink, but I and many others use it as a clarifying and calming mask. A thick paste is more absorbent but also drying, so I create a  more diluted mixture that doesn't strip my skin but does clarify and helps with inflamed red patches ($11 on Amazon).

Mario Badescu Anti Acne Serum
Mario Badescu offers some stronger products to deal with serious breakouts (some people swear by the buffering lotion), but I'm not a fan due to smell and extreme drying effect that is harder to treat than an occasional breakout. However, this  salicylic acid gel (2%) does the job and simply gets rid of bumpy areas and flakes. ($20, 1oz, at Nordstrom, Ulta, and mariobadescu.com).

Hummingbird Ranch Propolis Skin Cream
I already reviewed this one in detail, but must include it here because it's my ultimate remedy for just about everything. As thick and balmy as this cream is, it never clogs my pores. On the contrary: it seems to prevent impending doom if I apply it soon enough. It's a wonderfully effective natural anti-inflammatory. ($7.50 humminbirdranch.biz).

Jason Natural Cosmetics Pure Natural Hyper-C Serum Anti-Aging Daily Spot Treatment
Vitamin C is the answer for a multitude of skin issues, but is especially effective when you're trying to restore clarity once the skin freakout has subsided. This gel is sticky and smells of a sweet orange (it contains fragrance), but is basically an enriched aloe leaf juice that's packed with botanicals that as long as you're not allergic to any of them will help skin perk up quickly ($36.95 on drugstore.com. Press sample).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

L'Occitane- Lavender Eau de Cologne


 As much as I love L'Occitane products and many of their scents, I doubt that I would have bought the large bottle of Lavender Eau de Cologne that landed on my doorstep a few weeks ago. I rarely wear eau de cologne of any kind (vintage Guerlain doesn't count, right?) because they disappear before I even leave the house. Also, my lavender choice for household stuff is Molinard Lavande (eau de toilette) that I use as my linen spray. While none of the above is going to change because of this sunny spray, I have to admit that it's kind of nice.

L'Occitane is based in Haute-Provence, an area famous for its lavender. They know their stuff and do a great job capturing the open fields and endless sunny days by pairing the lavender with light and bright citrus notes. The fragrance really sparkle for those fifteen minutes that I get to enjoy it before it disintegrates into a vague musky wood veil that doesn't stay on much longer. I spray my bed and towels quite heavily, but even then it's no match for the cheaper Molinard that perfumes the room and makes the sheets smell inviting for long hours. So I just spritz and spritz some more. If L'Occitane's Lavender was longer lasting it would have been a real winner in this category. Its ephemeral nature makes the experience a little too frustrating for me.

L'Occitane- Lavender Eau de Cologne ($52, 10.1oz) is available from L'occitane boutiques and online store. The product in this review was sent for consideration by PR.

Art by Ivailo Nikolov.

Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen Swatches







There's a new color of Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen-- Iridescent Iris, which I'll review as soon as I get to play with it, but here are the  promised swatches of the entire Silky Eye Pen range, including the discontinued True Teal. I've already reviewed two of these colors in detail: Emerald Glow and Cafe Gold, and also mentioned Black Noir in my favorite black pencils post. Pixi Beauty certainly did a wonderful job creating these pencils, which see a lot of use here (and please don't make me choose between them and Urban Decay because I can't).

I couldn't find Sage Gold when I took the first pictures (for some reason the pencil was hiding in my concealer drawer), so you'll notice it appears in some of them and not in others. The names are pretty self explanatory, so I have little to add there. One comment , though, about Oyster Glow, the metallic champagne color: I bought it thinking it would be great for the lower lash line or even for brightening the waterline. It's not. The color is certainly bright. Too bright for me, actually. The metallic finish makes it look weird on my waterline and the color itself creates too much of a contrast around the lower lashes. If you have a paler and/or cooler skin tone Oyster Glow may work for you, but I can only use it as an accent color on the upper lid and not as an eyeliner. The texture of Oyster Glow is somehow denser than the other Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen and it lasts even longer (of course it does. I had a terrible time trying to get it off my waterline before leaving the house). Go figure.

Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen ($15 each, but you can use discount code Pixishare for a 20% off on their website, pixibeauty.com) can be found at Target and on the company's website. Some of the pencils were sent by PR, others purchased by me.

Bath & Body Works- Forever Midnight


Forever Midnight is a big juicy floriental with a touch of the colorful 80s. It's really BIG. As in a one unwashable spritz that lasts for 12 hours big.  I admit that I didn't expect that from Bath & Body Works. Not that I'm sure what I did expect; the name "Forever Midnight" annoyed me too much to even think about it. But if we ignore the idea of an eternal midnight and concentrate on the perfume, you'll have to admit that this big bucket of spicy plum is a pretty nice surprise.

Forever Midnight makes me think of a simplified Jil Sander No.4 with a very gourmand base. It's the opposite of many fresh fruit scents and clean body mists that are usually associated with Bath & Body Works (I can't tell them apart, and honestly- I'd rather not try). In fact, there's nothing fresh or clean about Forever Midnight, and it's not even trying to pretend. The perfume opens with a massive plum and a hit of the spice cabinet (coriander? cardamom? it's a bit abstract but my nose and money are on the first one). The floral notes move in rather quickly, adding a hint of powder. Rose isn't mentioned but there is something rosy about the heart, and it goes well with the diva attitude of the jasmine and orchid-like note that rules the core of this perfume. The jasmine note is more prominent when the skin is very warm, adding to the sultriness of it all.

Then comes the dry-down. Caramel and vanilla that don't try to be anything other than yummy. This is what the midnight thing is all about: a date night perfume that has every intention to make the night last until breakfast. Maybe it's not very subtle or refined, but I have a feeling that Forever Midnight is quite effective. I'm happy to see that Bath &Body Works is adding something that doesn't feel like I'm wearing coconut water.

Notes: plum, night blooming jasmine, vanilla orchid, spices, caramel liqueur.

Bath & Body Works- Forever Midnight ($45, 2.5oz EDP) is available from B&BW stores and online. They even have a 1/4oz purse spray that is currently on sale for $6.  The sample for this review was sent by PR.

Art: Orchids and Plums by Jim McVicker, 2011.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kjaer Weis Cream Blush Sun Touched & Desired Glow




I'm a huge Kjaer Weis fan so I can't explain why it took me so long to start exploring the cream blushes from this line. The blush comes in six colors and it was quite hard to choose because these are incredibly flattering and natural looking shades of rose and peach, all designed to enhance your skin tone and go with it. The cream texture is very light as you blend it (fingers are fine. I also use the smallest Yachiyo brush from Hakuhodo). I find the texture of Kjaer Weis blushes  a little lighter and more sheer than the Hourglass duos (see here and here), but there's still a lot of pigment there to give a good glowing flush.

I chose Sun Touched and Desired Glow as my first Kjaer Weis blushes, probably because I was craving the warmth ('tis the season). Sun Touched (the cover got stuck to the pan when I opened it) is the coral one, while Desired Glow is a golden tan. My favorite way to wear them at the moment is to mix them together for a perfect peachy hue. I've also experimented successfully with using Desired Glow as a very subtle bronzer/complexion enhancer, then adding Sun Touched as a bright blush on the apples of the cheek and blending it into a seamless healthy look. You can always finish with a powder blush on top, but I don't see a reason. Kjaer Weis blushes last on my skin for about 12  hours and I love the sheer finish and non-makeupy look they give.

Bottom Line: I'll have to get a few more.

Kjaer Weis Cream Blush Sun Touched & Desired Glow are available from kjaerweis.com. They come in a gorgeous sleek compact (refillable) for $56 or as a refill ($26) which is what you see above.



Monday, November 18, 2013

Bibimbap- A Simple Vegetarian Recipe


I fell in love with bibimbap, the classic Korean rice dish, the first time I had it fourteen years ago. The textures and flavors hit the spot for me and made me a big fan of Korean cuisine. I became a vegetarian soon after, though, which made ordering a bibimbap at restaurants a bit more challenging. I do like the vegan version served at Hangawi in NYC, but I admit that I miss the fried egg so it's not as satisfying as I think it should be.  For a long time I thought that bibimbap was too complicated a dish to make at home-- how can one even hope to capture the delectable aroma?  With the right seasoning, apparently.

I combed through many bibimbap recipes online (thank you, Internet!) and figured out a way to get the desired result quickly and with the minimum hassle one needs for a mid-week dinner. Ingredients can be added and substituted easily. Basically, a bibimbap is a bowl of rice topped with assorted vegetables, a fried egg with a runny yolk, and gochujang- a red chili paste. You can add fried tofu, raw julienned cucumbers, various mushrooms and/or bean sprouts. I like my veggies on the colorful and crunchy side, which is not necessarily the traditional Korean way (but then again, neither is vegetarianism). I use long grain brown rice that I cook in the rice cooker because that's a staple in our house, but obviously you can use your favorite white rice.

Gochujang is available at the Asian aisle of your supermarket, as well as from Korean food stores, and can be ordered from Amazon. I but the three-pack of Taeyangcho Red Chili Paste Gold (about $10 on Amazon Prime).

Here's my simplified vegetarian bibimbap (serves two):

  • Cooked rice (1 cup dried rice is a good portion for a one-dish meal for two people)
  • Assorted vegetables cut into bite-size pieces: 1 sweet red pepper,  1 carrot, half a broccoli head, 5 mushrooms, a handful of snap peas.
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 tbs gochujang 
  • toasted Asian sesame oil
  • 2-3 tbs light soy sauce
  • peanut oil (for sauteing)
-Saute the veggies in peanut oil in a deep pan starting with the ones that take the longest (you can also do it one vegetable at a time which is the correct way). I like them to retain the vibrant color but not everyone is a fan of crispy broccoli, so do it according to your taste.
-Fry the eggs until the whites are done but the yolks are still nice and runny. I fry them in butter and quite a bit of it, actually, because I like to pour the melted butter over the rice. Just call me Paula.
-Mix the gochujang with light soy sauce and drizzle in a little sesame oil (about one teaspoon). You can also add grated fresh ginger if you have some on hand.
-Assemble: put the rice at the bottom of a bowl, pile the vegetables on, top with the fried egg (and melted butter), and spoon the sauce mixture on top.
-Serve. Everyone mixes the content of the bowl at the table, so the runny yolk becomes part of the sauce.

Image: Bibimbap by Dragon_Frog from Deviant Art.

Winner Of Aftelier Ancient Resins


The winner of Ancient Resins Elixir from aftelier is Woodgirl!
Please contact me as soon as possible so I can pass your information to Mandy Aftel.

Endless thanks to all the readers who participated as well as for the lovely birthday wishes; and a special thank you to Mandy for her generosity and support of this blog and its readers!

Photo of ancient Roman perfume bottles by Peter Finger via library.csi.cuny.edu.

Kjaer Weis Blue Wonder Eye Shadow




This is another review that writes itself. Or the photos of the incredible colors do. I'm a sucker for good blue eye shadows, and as far as I'm concerned few colors are prettier than Blue Wonder by Kjaer Weis. It's a rich medium-dark blue with maybe a hint of gray. It's a complex and sophisticated color that enhances the eyes (couldn't be more perfect for brown eyes) and works with the skin. I know that a blue eye shadow is not necessarily "natural", but the way Blue Wonder interacts with the warm undertones is, well, kind of a wonder.

If you're already familiar with Kjaer Weiss eye shadows you know that the texture is superb, easy to blend and melds with the kin beautifully. The finish is satiny with a touch of delicate barely there shimmer (never shiny or garish), and it lasts all day over a primer. The brilliant Kirsten Kjaer Weis who is the makeup artist behind the line recommends pairing Blue Wonder with her Divine and Cloud Nine for a colorful smoky eye. I don't have the latter, but I can tell you that it's an excellent shot of color when using neutrals from Edward Bess or Laura Mercier.

Bottom Line: true love.

Kjaer Weis Blue Wonder Eye Shadow is available from kjaerweis.com. You can get it in the gorgeous full packaging ($44) or just the refill ($22), as I did, and place it in a free form palette (I use Z-palettes).

L'Occitane- Aromachologie Soothing Concentrated Mask


It took me using about half the tube before I came to truly appreciate the Aromachologie Soothing Concentrated Mask from L'Occitane. My usual solution for itchy scalp is shampooing to get rid of product buildup and whatever else that causes the uncomfortable feeling. A clean scalp is a happy scalp.

The first few times I used L'Occitane Aromachologie Soothing Concentrated Mask I enjoyed the sensation of applying the treatment directly to my scalp with the nozzle, but I probably rinsed it too quickly and wasn't too impressed with the lack of results. Only when I started leaving the mask on for at least 15 minutes did I realize that it was doing a world of good to the way I was feeling. This L'Occitane mask relieves dryness, discomfort, and the occasional reaction for an unsuitable hair product (an occupational hazard that sometimes have me question my sanity). I've learned to save this mask for real emergencies, leave it on my scalp for a good while, and follow with a gentle but hydrating hair conditioner since the soothing mask does little for the hair itself.

Bottom Line: use as directed.

L'Occitane- Aromachologie Soothing Concentrated Mask ($26, 5.2oz) is available from L'Occitane stores as well as online. The product for this review was sent by PR.

Photo of Salvador Dali via Stirred, Straight Up With A Twist.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ormonde Jayne- Ormonde Man


One of the biggest and happiest perfume news if you live in the USA is that Ormonde Jayne is coming to Osswald early next year. I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I was last week to get an official confirmation that the UK-based brand will finally be available right here in NYC . I'm not sure if all the body products will also be stocked  but I do hope so. This is a good a reason as any to talk about Ormonde Man, the other half of Ormonde Woman.

Ormonde Woman is often described as bewitching. It's the scent of sacred forests, fairies dancing among the violets, unicorns grazing nearby... Yes, it's all that. Ormonde Man is very similar. Very. Yet it's somehow pared down and more of this world. The notes are very similar with black hemlock, various spices and woods setting the tone, but the final result is a very suave woody perfume with evergreen veins and an almost incensy feel (the result of the coniferous juniper that defines Ormonde Man's opening). The fragrance manages to be both very elegant and just a little wild.

I often cite Ormonde Man as a "masculine" perfume that women should at least try if not adopt as their own. I most certainly did-- the husband asked for a bottle a couple of years ago and I obliged, and ever since then I've been borrowing it for my own use. The husband loves this perfume for its elegance, I wear it for its depth and the magic it possesses (sans unicorn).

Notes: juniper berry, bergamot, pink pepper, cardamom, coriander seeds, oud, black hemlockvetiver, cedar, sandalwood and musk.

Ormonde Jayne- Ormonde Man will soon be available from Osswald (osswaldnyc.com). Right now it can be purchased from ormondajayne.com where the travel kit of 4 x10ml atomizers is priced at $100 (shipping charges seem to have been adjusted back to a semi-reasonable $18 after months of it being around $80).

Photo from the set of Bringing Up Baby (1937, directed by Howard Hawks).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Collecting Vintage Perfumes- Ask The Non-Blonde (Part 3)


I was delighted to see that the discussion and online buzz surrounding Barbara Herman's excellent book, Scent & Subversion made more people give vintage perfume another chance. I got several emails this week asking for advice about starting a vintage perfume collection. Basically, my lovely readers wanted to know where and how to start, how much to spend and what to look for. All good questions. Obviously, Barbara's book is a great place to begin. The reviews in the book will give you a good idea about what you're smelling as well as some general background. You can also refer to her blog, Yesterday's Perfume, and also check out my previous Q&A posts on the subject: Part 1, Part 2, and How To Shop For Vintage Perfumes. But tonight I'll try to answer the most basic question: Where to begin?

Start with what you know. It makes little sense to go seek fragrances you never smelled before, especially if you're not familiar with their current formulation or with the perfume house. A great first step would be to go back to a perfume you used to wear way back then-- try to find a version from the year(s) you loved it. The same goes for a perfume a loved one used to wear-- it'll trigger beautiful memories and you will recognize it and smell the nuances. Some of these perfumes will surprise you with their sophistication. That was how I felt when I rediscovered the Anais Anais of my youth.

If you're new to vintage I'd also recommend starting modestly. Of course, if money is not an issue by all means- bid on that pristine Baccarat bottle and enjoy it to the last drop. But assuming resources are limited I wouldn't spend a fortune on something I'm not sure I'm going to love. Besides, some drugstore and mass market brands of decades past had beautiful perfumes that were interesting and well-crafted. Max Factor, Revlon, Fabrege, and especially Coty had incredible gems. It's still easy to find them today at semi-reasonable prices.

We all want bottles of Iris Gris, Djedi, Doblis, or Chypre de Coty from the 1920s. But these are the rarities that are very hard to find. It's too easy to become obsessed and spend a lot of time trying to find the Holy Grail only to end up frustrated. Given enough time and patience you're likely to come across some of these unicorns. Eventually. But don't let the desire blind you to the charms of a good Norell that is right there at the thrift store. Some of the easier to find perfumes are Shalimar eau de cologne, Coty Emeraude, L'Origan, or L'Aimant from the 1960s, 70s or 80s. Everyone wants a good bottle of Lancome Magie Noire, but Magie is easier to locate (and usually cheaper). Chanel No.5 is much more common than Cuir de Russie, and you'll have fun comparing different versions.

I'd also recommend paying attention to classic masculine fragrances even if you're the girliest of girls. Some of the vintage manly classics are loaded with oakmoss (Ralph Lauren Polo) or birch tar. As a bonus, they're usually cheaper. The same goes for the very easy to find vintage Estee Lauder (Youth Dew is probably the most widely available extrait de parfum). Miss Dior is practically everywhere and it's a real masterpiece, and since I mentioned masculines, the same goes for Eau Sauvage.

One last thing: too high expectations might cause bitter disappointment. You might not like some of the classics and the vintage versions can smell too foreign and hard to wear. There's nothing wrong with you or with your taste if galbanum is not your thing or if you dislike aldehydes. Vintage style can be an acquired taste, for one, and sometimes it just doesn't click with you. So what? I know serious perfume connoisseurs who just don't enjoy these things (I'm married to one). Give them a chance, but don't force it. Perfume in every form is here for our pleasure. Let's have fun.

Photo: 1966 Coty counter via beautymouth.com.

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