Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and fulfilling new year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Luise Rainer (1910-2014)

Luise Rainer quotes:
"The secret of a long life is to never trust a doctor."

"The Oscar is not a curse. The real curse is that once you have an Oscar they think you can do anything."

"Hollywood was a very strange place. To me, it was like a huge hotel with a huge door, one of those rotunda doors. On one side people went in, heads high, and very soon they came out on the other side, heads hanging."

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 In Perfume: My Top Picks & Wow Moments

How easy it  would have been to make a "Best Of" list for 1970, the year I was born. Basenotes lists 37 perfumes that were released that year, and even if we take into account an incomplete database and the actual number was closer to 50 or even 60, a perfume aficionado had a much better chance smelling almost everything and keeping up with brands, launches, and industry gossip. With around 1700 new perfumes this year alone and a few latecomers from 2013, what are my chances to give you a comprehensive picture of 2014 in perfume? All I can do is look back and pause on moments, events, and scents that made an impression, good or bad. My "wow" moments, if you will.

Last year's baggage

  • Masque Milano burst onto the scene in 2013, but I didn't get my nose into their samples until early 2014. The result is one bottle purchased and another one high on my wishlist, Montecristo and Tango, respectively. Remember the excitement of Serge Lutens in the early years? That's what I felt when discovering them.
  • The perfumer behind Tango, C├ęcile Zarokian, is also responsible for Nuit Andalouse from Parfums MDCI, the sexiest white floral this side of Fracas.
The Showstoppers
These are the new perfumes that made me so happy to have a nose I felt like a puppy. Seriously, it's easy to lose the big picture sometimes, but there are still a handful of perfumers who create magic and reach into my soul:
The Unexpected Pleasures
  • Serge Lutens- L'Orpheline. I'd have never guessed this was a Lutens/Sheldrake creation. I would have never thought I'd enjoy this ghostly perfume. But I've been going through my bottle at an alarming rate.
  • Dior- Cuir Cannage. I actually really like the Collection Privee from Dior, but their Leather Oud didn't do much for me, so I had low expectations. Here, the nice people of dior return to plush handbags and red lips.
  • Hermes- Bel Ami Vetiver. The only semi-mainstream perfume on my list, I know. This was a horrible year for perfume counters at the department stores, as even a brand like Bottega Veneta managed to produce some truly horrid juice (Knot), not to mention YSL with Black Opium. I'm always suspicious at perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena and his magic tricks, but this time it works beautifully. A gorgeous perfume you can actually buy at Saks. Hallelujah. 

Before I continue to a short list of new(ish) lines that I discovered and loved this year, let's have a look at the head-scratching and not-so-good wow moments:

  • Perfumes that missed the mark: It's a big disappointment when one of your favorite perfumers in the universe tortures a gardenia (Tauer Sotto La Luna: Gardenia). The same goes when for Frederic Malle producing a boring and bland barely-a-perfume (Eau de Magnolia). 
  • Speaking of Frederic Malle (you knew this one was coming), I wasn't really surprised by the sale to Lauder. Anyone who heard/read him speak over the last year or so could have smelled Mr. Malle's industry burnout. I was more surprised at the Le Labo guys doing the same, but whatever. At this point in the game things come, things go, and we all hoard vintage (even if that means 2008 batches of Dans tes Bras).
  • I'm still not over Henri Bendel. The iconic NYC landmark got rid of its magnificent perfume and cosmetics department in favor of selling their own ugly merchandise. 
  • Making a mockery of perfumery and its clients is probably not a sustainable marketing strategy. Please don't pee in your perfume, even if Mr. Pregoni tells you so.
  • The ghost of Diana Vreeland is haunting the hallowed halls of Bergdorf Goodman, throwing stuff around. Which is not even the beginning of what I hope she does in her grandson's house.
Back to positive thinking. 

Lines to Watch
  • Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger has actually been around for several years, and my favorite from them so far, Lavande Ombree was released in 2013. But I only discovered them last summer and was immediately taken with their elegance and beauty. 
  • Orto Parisi. The exact opposite of Au Pays French refinement, Orto Parisi comes from the creator of Nasomatto. Now with more goat.
  • 777 Stephane Humbert Lucas. The aspirational price tags are off-putting, and I wasn't certain that we really needed another French brand that caters to Middle Eastern perfume preferences, but despite my better judgement I've found myself falling in love with these perfumes one by one. My favorites (beside the rob-a-bank O Hira): Soleil de Jeddah, Khol de Bahrein, and Black Gemstone. 
For more lists and reflections please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin, Now Smell This, Perfume Posse, and Grain de Musc.

Winner of Tauer Advent Calendar Draw

The Winner is wefadetogray

Congratulation, and please contact me so we can make the needed arrangements. Many thanks for all who participated and to Andy Tauer for his generosity (and apologies to the late and great Richard Avedon).

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Andy Tauer's Advent Calendar Giveaway (And a Holiday Recipe)

The annual Andy Tauer Advent Calendar tradition is here. We're between the last couple of Hanukkah nights and Christmas Eve, a time of double joy, entertaining, and a special prize. Our other tradition is sharing a recipe for a holiday treat, this time a  nut brittle in s cheater's toffee that's as quick and easy to make as it is to gain the weight.

Photo by the fabulous Joy Baule

Gaia's Sour Cream Nut Brittle

1.5 cup of sugar
1.5 cup sour cream
a dash of salt
1 tbs vanilla extract
1.5 cups nuts. You can use pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts (my favorite), or go the American way and do peanuts.

1. Cook the sugar and sour cream in a saucepan until you get a light brown syrup (15-20 minutes, medium heat), stirring very frequently.
2. Add salt, vanilla and nuts. Stirr well for a couple more minutes; remove from heat.
3. Line a large flat pan with foil, pour the mixture in and flatten with a spatula. Let cool.
4. Break into pieces, store in a glass jar and try to save some for your guests.

Now for Andy Tauer's giveaway (and please read carefully):

The draw is open (nearly) worldwide, with some unfortunate exceptions: Italy, Spain, Croatia, Russia, and Greece are excluded. The winner of this draw will be able to pick an Explorer Set ( ), of 3x 15 ml fragrances, free choice of scents. The prize will be shipped for free from Switzerland, through FedEx. Local taxes, VAT, and import fee may apply and are not covered by Tauer (or by me). The winner is responsible to make sure that they are allowed to import the prize. The State of New Jersey, where I am located, also requires that the winner is over 18 years of age.

Mr. Tauer ships to the address given to us and will not contact the addressee afterwards.  None of us will we use the contact information for any other purpose than sending the prize, nor will we forward the address to anybody else except for the purpose of shipping the prize to the winner.

To be entered please tell us of your favorite easy to make and serve Holiday snack, or a favorite cooking shortcut that makes entertaining easier.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and every seasonal joy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Smashbox Always Sharp 3D Liner In 3D Neptune

I really like the blackened blue color of this Smashbox Always Sharp 3D Liner in 3D Neptune, but the amount pearl/glitter is at an OMG level. The problem is less about the way it looks, since a thin, shimmery blue line is actually very nice and flattering, but more with what happens when you remove (or try to remove) your makeup. Getting rid of the shiny particles requires an oil-based cleanser, patience, and the understanding that you will still find blue sparkle on your face and pets for the next two days.

Smashbox Always Sharp is a mechanical pencil with a relatively thin point, which is really nice. You can press it on the side to get more width to the line where needed. It's not smudge-proof in any way, and I'd never use it on the lower lash line (and definitely never ever ever on the waterline with this amount of particles).To get the best use of this Smashbox pencil you need to start with a good primer that will keep it in place, draw a thin line and not pile on the product, and preferably set it with a powder eye shadow. Still, longevity is questionable, and if you have oily lids I'd stay far far away.

With the number of fabulous reliable eyeliner on the market (including at drugstore level), this is a sub-par option, no matter how pretty it looks when first applied. I expect my eyeliners to work harder, stay longer, and be more versatile (both for smudging/smoking and contouring) and perform a lot better.

Bottom Line: not the one.

Smashbox Always Sharp 3D Liner In 3D Neptune ($20) is made in Germany and available from The product for this review was sent by PR.

Clarins Eye Quartet Mineral Palette Skintones

Skintones is one of Clarins six permanent mineral eye shadow palettes that were released not so long ago (there are also a couple of seasonal limited edition ones, and I just saw a new spring palette containing the requisite pinks and greens). Skintones is the most neutral of these quads, containing basic colors that makes it a true workhorse. It's not that I didn't have my eye on the one in Indigo, but I settles on this one. Because taupe.

This Clarins mineral formula is quite pigmented, but the texture varies from one color to another. As I was swatching #1, the wet sand shade that's nearly identical to my own skin tone, I had to press quite a bit to get the product, while when I moved to #2 I got too much product on as you can see above. Eye shadow #2 is not chalky or powdery; as a matter of fact it's almost as creamy as the color itself, so one needs to use about one third of what I had on.

I was surprised with #3 and #4. In the pan both look like very cool toned grayed browns. On my skin (which is known to warm certain colors considerable) #3 is a warm medium taupe and #4 is straight on deep brown. They're very nice colors, but hoped for the more unique look of the pan. The texture and finish are smooth, with #1, #3, and #4 having a satin look and the creamy #2 is more of a matte. All of them, including the harder #1, blend well and last until you remove them.

Bottom Line: basic, but great quality.

Clarins Eye Quartet Mineral Palette Skintones ($42) is available at the counters and online from most department stores.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Currently- December 2014

Jojo Moyes- One Plus One. A truly nice story that doesn't insult one's intelligence, provides well-written characters, and a believable plot.

Phosphorescent- Song For Zula

Elementary. Forget lizard-faced Cumberbatch. Johnny Lee Miller is the real Sherlock.

Anything and everything by Alexis Karl.

Red blush. 'Tis the season.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
A very large and thick cream colored cable knit cashmere scarf that I bought about ten years ago and has paid itself off tenfold.

This post on The Alembicated Genie. Also, this one by Kafkaesque.

Fruit. I'm craving the juiciest, sweetest fruit.

The package I sent for my father's birthday is still stuck somewhere in postal hell, nine days later. Needless to say it was mailed express.

A day of antiquing in the Hudson Valley, walking through very very light snow (umbrella not needed) on a beautifully decorated main street that looks like a Christmas movie. A salty caramel latte. And acquiring some vintage perfume in the process.

A staycation, like every Holiday season.

A pair of Hermes gloves.

Random Thought
The Solstice. It's uphill from now on.

How are you? Please share your loves, banes, recommendations, and random thoughts!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Scent By Alexis- The Poetry Of Longing

The Day is Done

The day is done, and the darkness
      Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
      From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
      Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
      That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
      That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
      As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
      Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
      And banish the thoughts of day.

Perfume is a fantasy. A good perfume is longing, bottled. A longing for  things just outside our grasp, memories, and half-formed ideas about places and situations we might never experience again except in their olfactory form. Poetry can be the same. The right combination of words opens a hidden door in our hearts releasing a bottled emotion, taking us there.

If you're familiar with the work of perfumer Alexis Karl you  know that poetry is never far from her fragrances. Neither is longing, which goes well with the dark themes of her other artwork (painting, music). But her latest creation, a limited-edition perfume that is only available by request (more on that later) takes the concept even further. The idea behind Poetry of Longing was a prompt by  perfumer/writer Monica Miller to create a chocolate perfume. Of course, Alexis has  worked with chocolate notes before in her Body Made Luminous (review coming soon, now that a new batch is available), as well as in Dev from the Devilscent project. But Longing is very different from them.

While The Poetry of Longing shares a gourmand idea with Body Made Luminous, but if the latter is a dark dark chocolate that hits a very specific spot, Longing is softer and somehow creamier. The chestnut note takes you almost to Nutella territory, only better, richer, and even more satisfying. It's the thing you crave in the middle of a sleepless night where nothing in the pantry touches your inexplicable hunger. Because you're not just hungry for food; you want a plusher bedroom, a more romantic view out of your suburban window, a more glamorous nightshirt... You want and want and want.

The Poetry of Longing takes you out of the kitchen and into a dark corner in the living room, where you settle with a soft blanket that smells faintly of the French sachets you put inside the  ottoman where you store a blanket or two for such nights. The cat is ready to settle at your feet the second you find the right position that allows you an easy reach for the chocolate truffles and the stack of old books on the side table. You read a few lines here and there. A favorite poem, the first few lines from a novel you almost know by heart ("It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."), which leads you to the next one, but as the printed lines blur before your eyes, you think of Mr. Darcy (or is it Colin Firth? or Benedict Cumberbatch? or any of those English gentlemen who make your heart race?).

The Poetry of Longing becomes quite animalic and sweet with its composition of rich  amber and dry ambergris. It performs some acrobatics on skin, like wild creatures born out of that semi-awake fantasy. It's fascinating to follow the development of the perfume from thick chocolate ganache to a dark and twisted carnival. It makes you see things, dream things, plunge head first into the mysterious rabbit hole where who knows who and what awaits you.

(A stiff neck by morning, from falling asleep with a book and a cat in that chair, but what a trip it was!)

Notes: Chocolate Absolute, Ambergris, Muguet, Black Agar, Smoke, Chestnut, Fossilized Amber

Scent by Alexis- The Poetry of Longing is hand blended in very small batches. It comes in a gorgeous gilded bottle (see photo in Monica's post), and can be bought only if you contact Alexis Karl by email: [email protected]. She'll tell you the rest of the story.

Art: Autumn by Arthur Hacker, 1907

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush

I have a soft spot for Bobbi Brown makeup brushes, probably since they were the most beautiful and luxurious looking ones in my collection for years. Some of my older Bobbi Brown brushes have been reworked (for the better) or discontinued and replaced with other shapes and sizes, but I still cherish the ones I have, and occasionally add a new one to the stable. Like the recently-launched Full Coverage Face Brush.

I knew I wanted this brush the second I saw it. The shape is unique enough among my face brushes (imagine that): medium length, very densely packed soft synthetic bristles, shaped into a nice curve resembling Kabuki brushes, and meant to provide full coverage no matter what foundation you're using: powder or liquid. It doesn't quite buff the product on ( a flat head is more of a buffing tool), but it's close. And, indeed, allows for full coverage of any part of the face you use it on.

LY34 is floppier and not as soft, Hakuhodo G527M is made of natural hair and meant to only be used with powders.

My personal preference is to use this Bobbi Brown brush with a powder foundation on areas I'm trying to even out, or all over for a flawless nighttime look, I've tried the Full Coverage Face Brush with various powder foundations (Dior, Bare Escentuals, Youngblood, Laura Mercier), and various liquid foundations (Lauder, Guerlain, YSL), all with good and solid results. It's one of those brushes that in smaller tool collections can become such a staple workhorse that one might find herself buying a couple of backups. for me it's become part of the rotation, and a much beloved one.

Bottom Line: an essential.

Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush ($42) is available at the counters, Sephora, and The brush comes wrapped in plastic but without a box and with no manufacturing details.

Alyssa Milano- Three Makeup Looks

If you're watching the current season of Project Runway All Stars you get to see a very pregnant Alyssa Milano rocking bold and fun fashion, and usually some very bad makeup (I'm guessing that this is what happens when the show is sponsored by Mary Kay). In the time between taping the show and now, Alyssa has already given birth and has returned to the red carpet for various events. Over the last few days we got to see  her in three very different makeup looks.

The one above from the 'Into The Woods' World Premiere is rather heavy (dark lips, smoky eyes), but I think it works with the color of her dress and ensures that the actress doesn't look washed out (we have very similar skin tones, so I know the perils).  Below are two other looks. In the first one, at last week's  March of Dimes' Celebration of Babies the eye makeup is toned down and dearly missing a liner. I'm not sold on the orange lipstick, though it's an interesting contrast for her Peter Pilotto dress:

Then there's my favorite look, Alyssa Milano arriving for The Opening Night of 'Elephant Man' on Broadway. Rosy lips and a more balances eye makeup with a bit more liner, and what appears as a hint of bronzed cheeks:

Which one is your favorite?

Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger- Lavande Ombree

Travel posters, mood-boards, advertisement, and fantasies about the south of France tends to focus on sunshine, beaches and the promise of an eternal summer (I'll take one of each, thank you very much). Most of the perfumes by Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger follow this pattern, as the family that founded the brand has roots in Grasse, Vance, and Cote d’Azur (I'll take that as well). But Lavande Ombree is different, and not just because it has a black cap and a more masculine leanings, but because the mood and atmosphere take a turn away from that bikini in Saint Tropez. Winter in Grasse?

Lavande Ombree is a leather and lavender perfume that moves between the crisp and clean to the warm and spicy aroma of warm skin under a leather jacket. The leather is well-worn but buttery soft and of a high quality. It was probably bought at an exclusive boutique on Via Veneto or Rue Faubourg a couple of decades ago, and has seen a few adventures and love affairs. The freshness suggests that is now ready for more. So why not in the lavender fields of Grasse, where the wind carries the scent of herbs and flowers, and every rock and grain of soil retain the memory of blossoms and summers past.

Lavande Ombree is in the middle, sporting a black cap

I've sniffed most of the perfumes by Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger, and Lavande Ombree is the standout (I'm also partial to Figue Fruitee, which should not come as a surprise). It's very obviously animalic, earthy (there's a good dose of patchouli somewhere in its folds), and quite musky. But the greatness of this fragrance is that it never crosses the line. This mystery man is never anything other than a perfect gentleman, well-groomed and dressed to the nines, even if you suspect that he has quite a past. Worn by a man, Lavande Ombree speaks of travel, creases in the corners of the eyes, and an effortless worldliness. On a woman, I think, this effect is increased tenfold, but again: it's never vulgar. It's a sexy scent, for sure, but it wears close to the skin and doesn't project much more than lavender and spice until you get very very close and the fun really begins.

I bought Lavande Ombree for the husband a few months ago (it was love at first sniff, and he asked me to quote him that it smells like "sex on just-laundered sheets"). I've  since borrowed it shamelessly many times. It's one of those perfumes that feel right for every occasion, so despite the Blond's description I think of this Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger gem as kind of like my favorite pair of black boots. Whatever works, I say.

Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger- Lavande Ombree ($125, 100ml EDP) is available from Twisted Lily, Indigo Perfumery, and BeautyHabit.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Smashbox Full Exposure Palette Part 2: The Shimmers

This is the second part of my Smashbox Full Exposure Palette review. This one focuses on the seven shimmery eye shadows.

Like the matte colors, the shimmer ones come in a range from cool to warm toned. Once again, the shades are pretty basic and kind of expected (charcoal, bronze, etc.), with a couple of standouts, the more complex S1 and S5. The shimmer is created by infusing silver and gold pearl into the pigment (sometimes both). The eye shadows have visible shimmer micro-shimmer particles, though it's not actual glitter, and surprisingly: almost no fallout. The photo above shows the palette after intense swatching and some playing with the colors. The debris you can see was actually a result of shipping/transit and not from actual use, so I'm highly impressed with that.

The texture of these Smashbox shimmer eye shadows is decent but far from perfect. I'm spoiled, I know, but I'd like something smoother and less gritty. Still, pigmentation is good, end even the lighter colors show up well. It's just not a luxury palette, though I know it will do the work and then some. Longevity is exponentially improved by using a primer, and the Smashbox brush, while not the softest, is usable and effective. The palette would make a good gift for a beginner or give  a good value for someone who wants a bunch of workhorse colors in one palette.

Bottom Line: Better suited for those who are less obsessed with textures.

Smashbox Full Exposure Palette was sent to me by PR. It's available from Sephora ($49). The palette is made in the USA, brush manufactured in China.

Smashbox Full Exposure Palette Part 1: The Mattes

Mega palettes are somewhat of a craze right now. Urban Decay started it, of course, with their Naked palette and its sequels. Then there was Lorac Pro (and other ginormous offerings from the brand), not to mention Laura Mercier's several Artist palette in more variations that I could follow. Smashbox is now joining the fun with their Full Exposure Palette. Original? Not really.But it is well-thought and contains fourteen eye shadows, half of them matte, so it's worth having a look. Each Full Exposure Palette comes with a dual-ended brush (one side for matte, the other for shimmer), and there's also an extra item, in my case a mini mascara, but I also saw a version where the extra was a primer (or was it an eyeliner? I'm getting my palettes mixed up). No one buys the palette for the free mascara, right? So let's move on to the main course. This post is about the matte eye shadows, the next one will feature the seven shimmery colors.

The textures of M1-M7 is decent. I've seen silkier ones, but they're fine and easy to apply and blend without muddying things up. The shades range from the basic lid brightening nude to black, with two warmer browns and two cooler ones to balance things out. Pigmentation is moderate for the light colors and intense for the dark ones that can also be used for lining. The standouts for me are M2  (a natural crease color) and M6 (perfect contour) but I'm pretty sure I already have similar ones somewhere in my collection (Bobbi Brown? Rouge Bunny Rouge? maybe Naked Basics 2?). Smashbox has succeeded in making these eye shadows the perfect combination of firm and soft--- there's no chalkiness or powdery mess in the palette or on the lid, so that wins them a gold star in my book. The eye shadows might not be a dream-come-true of silkiness but they're still a good starting point for several matte eye looks.

Next: The Shimmers.

Smashbox Full Exposure Palette was sent to me by PR. It's available from Sephora ($49). The palette is made in the USA, brush manufactured in China.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Yves Saint Lauren- Rive Gauche (vintage Perfume)

Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent is a good reminder that the 1970s offered more than John Travolta and polyester. It's so incredibly chic that it's sometimes hard to accept it as part of that particular decade, until two things happen: you look up high fashion of that era (not the stuff your mother still stores in boxes down in the basement), and you realize that while very French and elegant, there's an edginess to Rive Gauche that doesn't exist in iconic floral perfumes of the previous decades (think Caleche, Ma Griffe, Madame Rochas, and many others).It's the same kind of feeling you get when you look at Saint Lauren's designs for Mick and Bianca Jagger on their 1971 wedding day (the same year Rive Gauche was released).

Rive Gauche is a seamless aldehydic floral. It's hard to point at most of the single notes, especially at the beginning, where this is just a cool cloud in the Parisian sky. The abstract floral heart was declared a rose by Luca Turin, and I think the degree of rosiness varies between vintages.  have a couple of 1970s bottles, bought in pristine state, and what I get from them is considerably smoother than an aldehydic rose. According to Nigel Groom the floral notes are gardenia, honeysuckle, jasmine, ylang-ylang, orris, geranium, and magnolia (while the base is sandalwood and vetiver). The truth is out there, hiding behind the metallic canister and the distinct metallic note. It's related to two Paco Rabanne perfumes: Calandre (1969, by Michael Hy who cooperated with Jacques Polge on the creation of Rive Gauche), and the greener, colder Metal from 1979.

Karl Lagerfeld's bathroom,  photographed by Oberto Gil for Underground Interiors, 1972

All of this is more a reference and a ballpark to the universe in which Rive Gauche exists (existed, rather). It's perfumy, with just a hint of powder, and a woody-musky dry-down that sends me right back to my childhood and my general idea of "perfume". In that sense, Rive Gauche is the all-chrome version of Chanel No.5 and its various offspring. Rive Gauche was a natural development: a bit harder, pointier, crisper, but just as stunning in its original state.

The dry-down of the fragrance, at least in the EDT versions that I have, goes back a bit to the familiar sandalwood and musk realm. It's easy to settle into and live with, just like a perfectly-tailored expensive pantsuit. There's dryness, courtesy of the vetiver, that I think would appeal to men who are not afraid of the aldehydes and flowers that precede it, and a depth that lets you know that whatever they put in was the real thing, before the ever receding standards (and manufacturing costs) of designer fragrances. Rive Gauche is highly satisfying when I wear it and when I pick up a scarf or a sweater saturated with it from the day before. It's more than just nostalgia: this is truly a great perfume worth exploring, because it makes everything feel just a bit more refined than it actually is: like the 1970s through this particular prism.

Shu Uemura Gloss Unlimited PK 70C & RD 20 C

These two Shu Uemura lip glosses were gifts with various purchases (hence the travel size), and to be honest, I was rather shocked to see the $25 price tag of the full size product. It's not that shu's Gloss Unlimited is a bad product, but it's barely a makeup product. As you can see in the swatches above, I had to glooop a good amount on my wrist just to make the colors show and prove that there is a difference between the two outside the tube. Because when I put them on in a reasonably even light coat you cannot tell I'm wearing anything but a very shiny balm.

The goopiness is also an issue. On one hand it creates a very good and effective briar between the lips and the freezing cold New York air (I wore them last week the day it alternated between snow and ice pelts). It's also hydra-plumping, which is a nice effect. But no matter how little I apply, the gloss feels very heavy on my lips. Extremely heavy, actually, which in 2014 when there are so many lightweight formulas to choose from is unacceptable from a premium brand such as Shu Uemura.

RD 20 C looks fabulous in the tube, and I hoped to get that "just bitten" effect from the sheer red color, but as I said above: nada.   PK 70C is a little more opaque, but you can only tell if you really coat your lips persistently. It's a pretty pink color if it shows on you, but who has such colorless, bloodless lips (other than corpses, and I'm pretty sure morticians don't invest in Shu Uemura).

Bottom Line: a dated formula and sub-par pigmentation. Pass.

Shu Uemura Gloss Unlimited PK 70C & RD 20 C ($25 each) are available from

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Why Haven't I been Wearing It More?

One of the perils of having a large perfume collections is neglecting parts of it. At times I get fixated on a bunch of things, going through a leather phase, a seasonal obsession, or simply testing so many new (and new to me) things that I don't even get to my own cabinets often enough. But I do rotate my fragrances, and purposely look for ones I haven't worn in ages, very often having those "I should wear it ALL THE TIME!" moments. Which I try to follow up, thus creating a whole new set of perfumes that I haven't worn in a while. And repeat.

These are the perfumes I've gone back to wearing most recently, rediscovering them and adoring more than ever:

1. Tauer Perfumes- Orange Star. It's actually a summer staple, but also a cold weather pick-me-up. I wore it today and Orange Star almost brought back the sun.
2. Tableau de Parfums- Miriam. Another one by Andy Tauer, this one is an aldehydic marvel. I've been wearing a lot of vintage Rive Gauche lately, so Miriam fits in well with this classic theme.
3. Caron- Narcisse Noir. Because I've been thinking about Paris.
4. Annick Goutal- Eau d'Hadrien. Yes, I know that Hadrien says "Mediterranean summer" and this is early winter in the Northeast, but that's not the reason I've been avoiding it for the better part of a year. This Goutal classic has been reformulated and my emptying bottle has started to make me sad. But I recently found a vintage bottle at an estate sale, that's probably even older than my current juice. I'm indulging again, winter be damned.
5. and 6. are by Histoires de Parfums: Noir Patchouli and 1740. I don't know why I've neglected these two terrific rich fragrances, but I'm certainly making up for it now.
7. Hermes 24 Faubourg. Whenever I get to the Hermes shelf in my cabinet I usually end up spraying Hiris. Because iris. But when I finally reached for Faubourg again I instantly felt the magic returns. It made me put on a vintage scarf and red lipstick.
8. Tommi Sooni- Tarantella. No excuses here. Tarantella is one of my all-time favorites, so I guess I got distracted by shiny objects.
9. Madini Oils- Olive Flowers. I love this one, but I spend so much time in Shalimar on its many vintages, concentrations, and flankers that I almost forgot about this Middle-Eastern tribute to my favorite classic.
10. Serge Lutens- Chene. So many Serges, so little skin space. I've been wearing L'Orpheline, Miel de Bois, and Louve so much lately that several of their siblings have been looked over. But the other day I dabbed on some Chene and it felt so very right. Sublime.

Which perfumes have you been neglecting only to rediscover again? What do you think you should be wearing more?

Photo of Ginger Rogers via

Want: Enamel Rose Earrings

This is more of a theoretical want because first I need to check if this earrings fit in those pierced-to-clips convertors (some do, some don't), but look how pretty are these handmade sterling silver and cold enamel roses. They come from a Turkish jeweler on Etsy that offers a large selection of interesting items. Actually, the collection could have used some editing, but there are enough covetable items, such as stacked rings, hand-hammered crescent moon necklaces and the various rose-shaped jewelry, enameled and not.

The earrings above are $65 from Meltemsen on Etsy. As always, the link is here for your convenience only, and I'm not connected, affiliated or compensated for it in any way.

Bobbi Brown Sultry Red & Bordeaux Lip Color- Scotch On The Rocks Collection

Sultry Red and Bordeaux lipsticks were my last selection from Bobbi Brown's Scotch on the Rocks collection (here are my reviews of the bronze highlighter and the lip gloss in Scarlet). I skipped the two lighter colors offered (though I admit that Malt Shimmer looked tempting) and went straight for the reds. Bordeaux and Sultry Red have a creamy texture and a matte yet healthy finish. They feel comfortable on well-prepped lips and have a good staying power, minimal transferring, and leave a nice stain behind, though you will need to touch up after about four hours.

As always, my personal preference is to apply with a brush and work the color into the lips as a first layer, then add another coat (even without a brush). This ensures an even coat and more important; an even wear with no rogue patches. The lipsticks contain fragrance and smell faintly makeupy. I like it--- this scent goes well with the classic elegant colors and old-school finish. I think my other Bobbi Brown lipsticks have a similar scent.

The names of these lipsticks are spot-on: Bordeaux is a wine color while Sultry Red is a cool toned screen siren red. Both look glam, so it's no wonder the packaging for this limited edition collection is all gold (regular Bobbi Brown lipsticks come in a black tube). I'll be wearing these two for several Holiday events, and that's the whole point.

Bottom Line:  Holiday or not, these are great colors for those of us who wear dramatic lipsticks.

Bobbi Brown Sultry Red & Bordeaux Lip Color from the  Scotch On The Rocks Collection ($26 each) are available at the counters and from