Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Best Wishes for a brighter, lighter, and happier 2017.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Perfume Top Picks, Hall of Shame, And Some General Kvetching

It's becoming a numbers game. How many of the year's over 1500 new perfume launches can we even get to smell given the 365 days a year, one nose, a finite perfume budget, and only so much skin surface (and patience)?  This year even more than ever my top picks are a very personal list of new and almost new fragrances that stood out among the ones I chose to sniff and test. They've delighted me and brightened this poor excuse of a year. If 2015 was marked for me by mostly buying backups and vintage bottles, this year I've acquired a surprising number of new releases.

Before we get to the good stuff, here are a few things I had to get off my chest (this list would have been longer had I not complained enough back in February 2016):

Hall of Shame
This one belongs to Roja Dove who one-upped Uncle Serge's Hammer & Sickle bottle with a perfume named Oligarch for the Russian market.

General Kvetching
Guerlain standardizing the bottles, discontinuing Dandy (formerly known as Arsen Lupin Dandy), messing and remessing with the classics while releasing La Petite Robe Noire Ma Premiere Robe 2016.
Chanel. I don't mind the watered-down No.5 L'Eau, and I admit that I've longed for denser more concentrated versions of the Les Exclusifs. However, discontinuing the now classic eau de toilette formulations in favor of the muddy new eau de parfum was not what I had in mind.

With that out of the way I can focus on all that's good and brilliant. Here goes:

An older limited release now in wide(r) distribution
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge. It doesn't make up for discontinuing Absolue Pour le Soir, but it's so good I can almost deal.

Mainstream Surprise
And a celebrity one, no less. Sarah Jessica Parker Stash. Could have been easily mistaken for an edgy indie creation.

Most Adorable Bottle
While the juice inside was too light, sheer, and rosy for my personal taste, Grace by Grace Coddington and Comme des Garçons comes in a beautiful cat-shaped bottle that's a far cry from the ones we've seen from Katy Perry.

Beauty and perfume oils have been there since the dawn of the time, but just as the mainstream cosmetics industry seems to have rediscovered them, so did perfumeries. On my shelves the excellent ones from Aftelier (Ancient Resins was created for Leonard Cohen, but there are other great ones in the line) and Providence Perfume Company were joined this year by Chanel No.5 Body Oil, the oil version of SJP Stash, and the drop-dead gorgeous rose oil from Tauer Perfumes.

Super Limited Edition

  • Bruno Fazzolari x Antonio Gardoni Cadavre Exquise. A gourmand mega-beast. Only 99 bottles were made, but Luckyscent still has a few for sale. I don't need a backup but it's tempting.
  • Aeon 001. I bought  this complex animalic vetiver for the Blond's birthday, and I'm glad I did so before all 333 bottles were sold out. 

A New Line to Watch
Edward Bess is known for his fabulous and carefully edited makeup line. His previous attempt to add a perfume to his brand was less than successful, but he's back now with three perfumes that recall the glory days of perfume shopping (and wearing). My favorite is the woody-incesnsy Spanish Veil, but all three are pretty spectacular.

The Rest of the Good Stuff

  • Slumberhouse- New Sibet. A leathery, musky, mossy goat walking on a dirt path. 
  • Aedes de Venustas- Cierge de Lune. Light and dark, warm and cool, a sophisticated way of using vanilla in a decidedly non-gourmand way.
  • Parfumerie Generale- Indian Wood 11.1. A spicy milky sandalwood that showcases Pierre Guillaume's talent for the not-so-edible notes.
  • Rainmaker by En Voyage Perfumes. A lush rain-soaked mossy amber. I should have bought a larger bottle.
  • Eris Perfumes-Ma Bête. Blogger and vintage perfume aficionado Barbara Herman teamed with perfumer Antoine Lie to create this nostalgic animalic perfume and prove that it is, actually possible.
  • DSH Perfumes- Rendezvous is another animalic chypre in the classic tradition. If you loved Papillon's Salome and Bogue's Maai this is the one for you.
For More 2016 Perfume Picks please visit my friends:
Bois de Jasmin * Grain de Musc * Now Smell This * Perfume Posse

What Caught your nose this year? Have you bought it?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016)


Debbie Reynolds quotes:

"I stopped making movies because I don't like taking my clothes off. Maybe it's realism, but in my opinion, it's utter filth. "
"I think one of my favourite films is 'Dark Victory' with Bette Davis. Why? She was so wonderful in that film. And maybe I just want a good cry once in a while without having to go through a divorce."
“I don’t have a favourite decade. I like to remember the whole of my professional life as one wonderful party.”
“You see through things so easily. You see through phoney – so you don’t bother with a lot of people. But you see sadness before it happens too. You see someone who is already destined to go down the wrong road and you feel sorry for them. ”
“I want to sing and dance through the rest of my life. I want to be able to enjoy the last years that I have and be happy. That’s a lot to ask, but I hope to achieve that.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Currently- December 2016

Do I even need to say this?

Seriously, 2016, what gives?

I chose the image above, the December 1916 cover of the long-gone radical magazine The Masses, because I was thinking about that year and how it wasn't that joyful, either. World War I and the Polio epidemic were the tip of the iceberg. I usually gain some perspective from history, but this year has found me wondering how much progress we've really made since then. Looking at the Wikipedia 1916 event calendar is enough to make one think. That alone is depressing enough even before we consider the In Memoriam section of every coming award show. It's also been a difficult year for too many of my close friends and family members who've been dealing with serious illnesses.

If I were into tattoos I'd be getting a Hamsa hand on my shoulder right about now.

You know what? Let's start this over. If you're still here reading, that is.

Right now I'm wading in true escapist stuff, a YA science fiction novel, The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee. The writing is Twilightish, but the core idea and plot are quite enjoyable. Just before the holidays I considered rereading Connie Willis' Doomsday Book, but opted instead for her christmas story All Seated on the Ground, which was a good choice, all things considered. But the best book I've read this month was The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I started it when it first came out but got distracted by something shiny. I'm glad I came back to this very English novel.


Finally watched the most recent season of Transparent in one night. Right now the Husband and I are back to comfort-watching. Star Trek: Enterprise is more enjoyable than I remembered. Back in the day we quit it before the first season was over, but other than the fact that too many scenes seem to have been created with teenaged boys in mind it is not half bad.

Jane Austen's Emma was published 200 years ago this month. It's still as fantastic as ever.

A good friend gave me a decant of  Tralala from Penhaligon's which had been discontinued before I could get over my discomfort with the choice of literary and cinematic reference. I'm pretty sure nothing in Last Exit to Brooklyn has smelled even remotely close to this fantastic rich and vintage-inspired floriental.

Heavy mascara and dark berry lips. If not now then when?

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
Dark or black jeans, luxurious sweaters, hats, black boots. Also, a mix of modern and vintage bracelets in corresponding colors worn together.

Matzoh balls in a vegetarian broth.

Restaurants that serve mediocre food for exorbitant prices. I'd rather have a bagel at my local diner.

Feeding the squirrels and birds outside, then watching them feast under the watchful gaze of the cats.

A quiet and happy new year's eve.

Peace on Earth, in every possible way.

Random Thought
I hope Freddie Mercury is enjoying the great company he has now.

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

The Masses cover by Frank Walts, december 1916
Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), December Storm, 1959.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

Carrie Fisher quotes:
"I don't want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art." 
"I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive." 
"There is no point at which you can say, “Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.”" 
"I have a mess in my head sometimes, and there's something very satisfying about putting it into words. Certainly it's not something that you're in charge of, necessarily, but writing about it, putting it into your words, can be a very powerful experience. "
 "If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it. "
"I've seen pictures of myself with makeup on, and I look like those women who look like they're wearing makeup so they can look young, and I don't think that's good. They have all these products now called - wait, what's it called, it's my favorite - youth suppressant, or age go away; they don't work. "

Sunday, December 25, 2016

George Michael (1963-2016)

"I'm never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you"

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and joyous everything to you and yours.

Image via

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in Rose & Blushed Rose

It was announced late last week that Bobbi Brown (the person) would be leaving Bobbi Brown (the brand). The news wasn't utterly shocking. After all, the company was sold to Estee Lauder back in 1995(!), not exactly recently. While for many years Bobbi Brown has maintained creative control over the color cosmetics, things haven't been the same for quite some time. The core collection is still one of the most reliable lines one could buy (cream eye shadow, gel liner, blush, bronzer, Pot Rouge, lipsticks, and brushes), but so many of the seasonal and limited edition items have been lacking in some way: textures, pigmentation, performance. The overall feel many newer collections seemed to have strayed from the Bobbi Brown aesthetics. It's important for any brand to update and modernize its look, but we all know that it'd take a lot more than glitter eye shadows for Bobbi Brown to become an Instagram sensation. And frankly, Bobbi Brown customers tend to appreciate makeup one can actually leave the house wearing. Imagine that.

I recently went back to a Bobbi classic: the Pot Rouge. I've had several over the years, including probably at least one in Rose. Just as I've repurchased a few MAC classics after a decade hiatus, it's been a pleasure to get reunited with old staples and find that they're as fabulous if not better than I remembered. I still only use Pot Rouge as a cream blush and not on my lips, since I find them too dry yet slip-slidy. I'm all for multitasking, but let blush be a blush.

The formula of Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge adheres nicely to my face over foundation and blends easily without causing a disturbance in the force. I only use a little bit, because this product's strength is in the way it sheers into a natural pigmented glow. It dries down within minutes and is never greasy (my skin tends towards dryness). I set it, either with a sheer powder or with an extra pop of powder blush, so longevity is close to a full day, depending on environment.

The colors I currently have are classics: Rose and Blushed Rose. They are variations on the same neutral theme, with Rose being on the reddish pink side while Blushed Rose is significantly more brown. I thought I could also use Raspberry for more vibrancy, but a quick look in my cream blush drawer has reminded me that I'm not exactly lacking in that department.

Bottom Line: you cannot go wrong.

Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in Rose and Blushed Rose ($30 each, made in Canada) are available from and justabout every department store in the known universe.

Monday, December 19, 2016

My Favorite Eye Creams & Treatments

There's a strange parallel between my little arsenal of eye products and the liquor section in my pantry. The husband and I drink very little and not often, yet we keep a well-stocked liquor cabinet that we use liberally for cooking, baking, and entertaining. Similarly, eye creams and any dedicated eye products are not part of my AM/PM skincare routine. I take what I consider a very good care of the skin around my eyes, but I use whatever else goes onto my skin, from hydrating lotions to retinol products. Basically, unless a tube says "Do not use around the eyes" I will most definitely apply it there. Yes, the skin under the eyes and on the upper lid is thinner and more delicate than the rest of my face, but I it requires the same kind of treatment: gentle cleansing, careful chemical exfoliation, ample moisturizing. And an SPF.

That said, I do quite a bit of extra stuff on a very regular basis. I use gentle home peels (lactic, glycolic, mandelic) and I do masks, Many masks. A lot of masks. From sheets to thick goo that needs wiping off to sleep masks (not just for sleeping). That's when I use eye creams and serums, as an extra treatment or a mask.

These are my favorite eye creams (plus), in no particular order:

  • Tatcha Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum. The tube in my photo is not only empty, but has also been sliced open so  could reach and use every last drop. I wasn't wowed by the cooling ceramic applicator (why not go metal if that's what they were after?), but the fast absorption and god-for-you feel of the lotion (it's much more creamy than regular serums) won me over, as did the ingredient list (first ten ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Propanediol, Peg-400, Squalane of olive origin, Silk Extract, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Origanum Majorana Leaf Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Honeysuckle Leaf Extract).  ($95/0.5oz at and select retailers. A press sample)
  • La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Eyes. This is a repeat purchase because the combination of heavy-duty hydration and mellow price tag are very appealing. It's a lightweight cream that absorbs quickly yet leaves the skin supple for hours, and serves as a great companion to a sheet or a sleep mask. ($33/0.5oz at or your favorite French pharmacy).
  • Liz Earle Eyebright™ Soothing Eye Lotion is neither an eye cream nor a serum. Technically it's a liquid lotion and it's oil-free. I and other devotees use it on rough mornings, on allergy days, and when soothing is in a dire need.  The ingredient list (Aqua (water), Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) water, PEG-60 almond glycerides, Glycerin, Decyl glucoside, Centaurea cyanus (cornflower) flower extract, Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice, Euphrasia officinalis extract, Phenoxyethanol, Panthenol, Benzoic acid, Dehydroacetic acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citric acid, Sodium benzoate, Potassium sorbate) might be considered questionable, because some people are sensitive t witch hazel. My skin loves it, and so do I. ($25, 5oz, from
  • SKINFOOD Royal Honey Eye Cream. This is one of the reasons my beauty routine these days is chock full of Korean products. The cream is intensely moisturizing, yet actually feels and acts like a gel. I've even used it on my lips in a pinch and was impressed with the results. It might have something to do with having honey extract as its second ingredient (after water and before glycerin). Royal jelly extract is the sixth ingredient, an it also contains propolis, shea butter, and various peptides. This cream contains fragrance, so consider your options, but I think it's phenomenal, and not just for the price. ($30, 1oz, on
  • La Prairie Cellular Radiance Eye Cream. I've been hoarding samples of this Swiss wonder, because the crying and eye-watering caused by the price of a full size jar can undo all the miracles the product itself creates. It's true that the cream stretches beautifully so you only need a little, and I assume that with twice a day use one can expect to be as hydrated as an alpine mountain peak. All kidding aside, La Prairie skincare loads the skin with moisture that seems to have a lasting effect. However, for a cream that contains no active ingredients that actually renew and replenish the skin the price is very very hard to swallow. ($365, 1oz, at OsswaldNYC and select department stores.)
  • AmorePacific Time Response Eye Renewal Creme. This is another fabulous Korean product, just from the other side of the price range. As a matter of fact, price/volume is even higher than the Swiss La Prairie, which is one reason I get samples whenever I can and call it a day. The other reason is that this light cream's claim to fame is the hardcore content of antioxidants, which would have been fantastic had it not come in lidded jar that makes all the goodness oxidize quickly. Samples and very frequent usage as a treatment while doing an antioxidant sheet mask on the rest of the face are the way to go, if you ask me. ($260, 0.5oz, at Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus).
  • Giorgio Armani Crema Nera Obsidian Mineral Reviving Eye Compact. I originally got it for the husband, whose eye area needs all the help it can get (a blond who spent all his youth in the sun, and discovered skincare and SPF later in life). However, he found this rich cream far too heavy and thick for comfort. I don't blame him. I can only use Crema Nera as an occasional treatment, and must admit that all the minerals in the world still don't convince me it's doing much for me, at least until the next decade or a serious hormonal change. Packaging is so cute with the swiveling mirror in the base that i'm almost willing to forgive all the air exposure. ($180, 0.5oz at most department stores).
  • Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum. I don't know if this serum does any actual lifting, but I've emptied one of the tubes I was sent, using it before applying makeup, since it's rice in niacinamide and various peptides, non-greasy, and I've found that it makes many primers and concealers stick even better. (Around $25 for a 0.5oz tube at most drugstores. Press sample).

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016)

Zsa Zsa Gabor quotes:
"You never really know a man until you have divorced him."

"I never hated a man enough to give him diamonds back."

“I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his house.”

“I want a man who's kind and understanding. Is that too much to ask of a millionaire?”

"Dahling, just be yourself!"

Thursday, December 01, 2016

It Cosmetics Tightline Waterproof Full Lash Length Black Mascara Primer

The other day while doing my makeup I was surprised to realize that I've finished a full-size tube of It Cosmetics Tightline Waterproof Full Lash Length Black Mascara Primer. It didn't happen because it's a favorite product (more on that below) nor was it a case of "I'll finish this tube even if it kills me (don't do that. Life's too short for bad makeup). Admittedly, the amount of product It Cosmetics give you here is 0.118 oz, nearly half of what you get in a Lancome Définicils, for example (0.23 oz). The point, still, is that I've used up this It Cosmetics Tightline Waterproof Full Lash Length Black Mascara Primer just by testing and trying to figure it out.

If you're familiar with lash primers (my favorites are from Lancome, Lauder, and Dior) you know that they work on a similar idea to the age old trick of layering two mascaras, especially a lengthening one on top of a volumizing mascara. Lash primers often have a volume-building hyaluronic acid core that attracts and binds moisture (a good thing for lashes), creating a plumped up base for the mascara. Many of these primers are white, which I don't mind, they help show exactly where I need to apply more mascara. Those who dislike white lash primers will find that this It Cosmetics product takes care of the issue.

The other task that this It Cosmetics Tightline Waterproof Full Lash Length Black Mascara Primer is supposed to tackle is tightlining, the technique of applying an eyeliner in a very thin and non-conspicuous line at the very base of the lashes, making them appear fuller and darker without being too obvious. I do it all the time with a brush and pencils, liquid, gel, or cake liners (as long as they don't have shimmer particles in them), but beginners will supposedly find the super thin and delicate wand of the It Cosmetics primer much easier to manipulate and less likely to poke themselves in the eye (we've all been there).

The one thing that the thin and delicate wand does beautifully is separate the lashes and prevent clumping. It's a good pre-mascara comb. However, as a tightliner I don't find it particularly effective, probably because the formula is on the thin side. I can definitely reach the base of the lashes, but it doesn't do much there. It is just not an eyeliner.

Priming-wise there's also too little impact. The primer conditions the lashes, which is nice if one curls them first (I rarely do these days), but I've had primers that are much more effective in building an impressive frings that I just don't see the point. Using any random two macara samples that I have around seems to do a better job, even if I do need a lash comb afterwards to get a clean look. Speaking of clean, It Cosmetics boats that they don't use parabens in this primer. I won't get into the whole issue (the internet is vast and full of research), but my personal opinion is that a product that goes right into one's eye needs to have preservatives that prevent cooties from growing and multiplying inside the tube. I'd rather have parabens in all liquid and cream eye products, but that's just me.

Bottom Line: I am tempted to sterilize and save the wand to keep it as a lash comb and a reminder not to repurchase.

It Cosmetics Tightline Waterproof Full Lash Length Black Mascara Primer ($24, made in Korea) is available at Ulta and from the company's website.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How I Wash My Makeup Brushes

Almost every time I discuss makeup brushes someone asks about brush cleaning. It used to surprise me a little. After all, don't we all wash our brushes and have our own long-set preferences about tools and products? However, I've realized that my own routine has changed and evolved over the years, and now I have a system in place that makes the process quicker and easier (for me). This is how I get through a big pile of brushes (several weeks of laziness) relatively quickly and painlessly.

Detergents and Cleansers:

  • A bar of Shea Moisture Black African Soap (available at Ulta and Amazon, usually well under $10). This one cleans about 95% of gunk and goop from every brush.
  • Hakuhodo brush soap (available from, under "Accessories", $8-$18, depending on size). I use it on my most delicate and expensive brushes, not that the black soap isn't good enough for them, but still.
  • A good face cleansing oil. Whatever's on hand. This is especially effective for foundation and concealer brushes, and a good oil can actually restore tired old goat hair brushes and make them look new again.
  • Daiso Detergent Cleaning for Makeup Puff and Sponge (about $6 on Amazon). Very effective for foundation sponges. I alternate between this one and the Beauty Blender cleansers (liquid and bar). They all work well.
  • An anti-bacterial soap to clean the various tools once I'm done.


  • Sigma cleaning mat (available at Nordstrom and Ulta, among others, $25 well-spent). It curves around the drain and has suction cups that hold onto the inside of the sink.
  • A full set of Sigma Dry'n Shape Tower. I don't put it together to full height, because it makes sticking the brushes into the loops harder. I split the levels according to the brushes on hand. I also don't always use the elastic part. I find the Brush Guards to be more effective and easier to navigate.
  • Benjabelle brush trees, both the large original and the mini (for thin and narrow brushes). About $25 each on Amazon. My original is several years old (from around the time they launched), yet reliable and sturdy. The mini feels more rickety and requires a firmer hand and some cursing. Or perhaps mine is just defective.
  • Brush Guards (those are the stretchy plastic net things you can see in the second photo). I have about five packs of every size (there are four sizes).  I buy them on Amazon, and with proper care they last for at least a couple of years.

  • I collect my dirty brushes in the metallic utensil holder you see above. I try not to accumulate too many, even though I can (see: I have many brushes), because otherwise the task seems too daunting, and then I procrastinate (because I can. See above), and it becomes a Situation. What you see here is a larger than should be number of brushes, but it wasn't dire.
  • First, I assemble the various drying tools, arrange everything like so, plop the Sigma mat in the sink, carefully place my iPad in the medicine cabinet and go to Lisa Eldridge's channel (she's soothing and I prefer rewatching videos I've already seen, so I don't have to focus too hard). I  adjust the water temperature to reasonably warm and start.
  • Holding the brushes with the hairy head down I wet them, soap and lather, gently rub them against various areas of the mat and rinse clear, all the while making sure not to saturate and no get water directly into the ferrule (we don't want to loosen the glue that holds the hair together). That's why double-ended brushes are a pain. Foundation and concealer brush usually need a repeat, and sometimes a combination of cleansers. Artis brushes and their like also require a prayer.
  • Once clean, I gently (GENTLY) squeeze (not wring!) the water out of the brush, and arrange it for drying. When only washing a handful of brushes at one go I usually put the brush guards on right away, and stick the brush (hair down, again) in one of the drying tools, where it fits best depending on size and length. This time I was dealing with a few too many brushes, so I first placed them in the racks and only when done, dressed them up in the brush guards (sliding from the handle down). It's a matter of preference, not a rule. 

Speaking of rules, when it comes to brush guards (I have the originals as well as various Asian ones), there's just one: Use the smallest size you can for any given brush. You'll be amazed how far they stretch, and the whole point is to keep your brushes as tight as possible and prevent splaying. The first time you see the shadow/liner guard it looks very narrow, but as you'll see, it fits the largest and fluffiest blending brush easily. I even use it for the smallest Yachiyo brushes though the other ones require the blush brush size. Now someone please make brush guards for fan brushes of every size. I'll love you forever.

Double-ended brushes need to be laid flat (another reason I dislike them), as do massive Kabuki brushes (on their side). I put sponges to dry on towels, but a friend has shown me a photo of a sponge drying rack, so I'll probably get one soon enough (Amazon). Once all is clean and drying I wash the mat with an antibacterial soap, hang it to dry,  thank Lisa, and put everything away. Then  close the bathroom door (because cats) and wait. Thick and dense synthetic brushes take forever. Artis takes even longer. But within 12-24 hours it's all dry and I can put the brushes back in their various holders and drawers.

This time I also discovered that my medium Yachiyo, a much-loved and oft used brush, was left behind, and I washed it afterwards, and hung it to dry with some sticky tack, as seen on my Instagram. Whatever works, right?

That's it. I hope it was helpful. If you have more tips, tricks, or favorite products please share them.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Keep warm, joyful, and eat something great. Our late lunch/not-really-dinner included a chestnut soup and glazed Brussel sprouts in pistachios and cranberries. Then we melted into a puddle watching the Best In Show dog  show while Bob took a nap.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Currently- November 2016

Today Will be Different by Maria Semple. She's the author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette, and this novel serves another dose of biting Seattle not-so-typical slice of life.

Nick Cave's covers of Leonard Cohen's songs are my favorite.

I've been enjoying every minute of The Crown. We've also binged on the second season of Red Oaks (Amazon). This bittersweet story of a group of twentysomethings in Bergen County, NJ, during the 1980s deserves more attention and hype.

Just watch the last episode of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight. Otherwise I've got nothing.
Not safe for work, obviously.

Vintage: Magie Noire. The real stuff, especially in the huile concentration. New: Atelier des Ors Iris Fauve.

Dark dark red lips.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
It's black tights season again. I can't say I'm too happy about it.

A bowl of fresh ricotta cheese with two spoons of honey blended in. Or a plate of burrata with a slice tomato. Or Irish cheese wedges. There's a theme here.

I can't even.

A bubble of home life, cats, friends, decorating. And cheese. We'll always have cheese.

More cheese?

I keep having to remind myself that very short women should probably avoid over-the-knee boots, but this Givenchy doesn't look half bad:

Random Thought
You know it's bad when it feels like Bill Mahr isn't using enough profanity.

Dare I ask how are you? What's on your list of loves and banes? Any wishes and recommendations?

Art: Charles Burchfield, Autumn Wind, 1949. I've always found that Burchfield is to anxiety what Van Gogh is to hallucinations.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kevyn Aucoin- Glam Days and Candle-Lit Nights

It's equal parts the season and the fact that I've been testing a couple of full coverage foundations that made my face all one level and weird looking, but I've been gravitating towards these high glam Kevyn Aucoin items that shape, highlight, and create pretty focal points even on the most flattened face. Besides, they're genuinely pretty, as well as versatile (as long as you're willing to rock deep dark red lips during the day, which I've been doing lately). None of these are new, seasonal, or limited, which is another reason to show Kevyn Aucoin the love. I appreciate a reliable brand that doesn't pull the proverbial rug from under me.

I told you it was very subtle on its own.

Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Skin Liquid Lighting is a light cream-gel illuminator that can be worn in several ways: underneath, over, or blended with one's foundation. Compared to a classic such as Becca SSP, this one is very subtle and far less effective underneath foundation. Dabbed on the high points of the face it is elegant and flattering. Celestial Skin will not be detected from space and is under no danger of being Instagram's new thing, and that's nice. It's simply a lovely product. Longevity, though, can be questionable if used on its own. You can either top it with the Celestial powder, or go for this product's biggest strength: mix it with a good liquid foundation. That's where it performs best and truly shines (no pun intended. Mostly). My bottle of of The Celestial Skin Liquid Lighting is from an early batch, before the two other shades, Sunlight and Starlight were added. I think the latter have more pigment in them and might look better on darker skin tones.Candlelight is completely neutral and subtle, so take that into account when you're planning to shine.

Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Bronzing Veil was launched earlier this year. I actually chose the darker one of the two, Tropical Nights, which i felt was less orange and more in tune with my coloring. It's an ombre bronzer with a satin finish (decidedly not matte) that adds glow as well as color, which is what my face desperately needs these days (being this green and deathly so early in the season doesn't bode well for February). The width of the bronzer's compact allows you to place a brush on either the light or the dark side of its face, bt my preference is to swirl them together, unless I'm placing them on the eyelids. Again it gives a healthy internal glow that looks more natural than painted-on. I was surprised to see that this Kevyn Aucoin product was made in China. It's the only one in my collection so far, and will require future investigation.

The Expert Lip Color in Bloodroses is a Kevyn Aucoin classic. It's a deep blood red  if there ever was one, in a true lipsticky formula: satin finish, cream texture, average longevity that will transfer onto teacups, men, and pets, and will require a touchup after a meal. I'm perfectly fine with that, as I'm feeling too old for walking around with a puckered prune for a mouth. Instead, this smooth and rich lipstick has an old Hollywood charm (the packaging doesn't hurt), and since Bloodroses is such an intense color there's also a staining effect that when coupled with a good lip liner (I do need to by the matching Bloodroses pencil) keeps one looking reasonably pulled together for hours at a time, even with natural fading. The ingredient list shows aroma/flavor, but it's faint enough not to be a deciding factor for me (then again I'm normally not sensitive to that, and am usually perfumed to high heaven anyway).

My original intention was to use all of these plus more for my birthday look or any of last week's outings, but I was severly Not In The Mood, and have barely taken pictures or notes of my daily makeup and experiments. I'll try to make up for it in a holiday look or something. In any case, the bottom line is that these are all elegant and beautiful makeup items with a very classic feel.

Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Skin Liquid Lighting ($52, made in the USA), Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Bronzing Veil Tropical Nights  ($48, made in China), and The Expert Lip Color in Bloodroses ($35, made in Italy) are available at Select department stores, and Sephora (the lipsticks are online only at the latter).

Sarah Jessica Parker- Stash

There's a lesson there for all of us in the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker didn't give up on perfume. The 2005 Lovely didn't resemble the very precise vision SJP had originally as documented in Chandler Burr's book, "The Perfect Scent". It was packaged and marketed to a different audience, that of young(ish) women who were most likely taking "Which Sex & the City character are you? online quizzes, hoping to be a Carrie and feeling a certain disappointment when the algorithm declared them a Miranda. The inoffensive clean musk of Lovely (I am, or was, mostly anosmic to whatever's in there) was followed by the commercial flop of Covet, a perfume that was too weird for the Charlottes and Mirandas with its prickly green chocolate notes, and was probably a half-baked rush job to capitalize on Lovely's (and Sarah's) mega success. Then there were various bastardized flankers (The Lovely Collection, Cove Pure Bloom, and SJP NYC, all of which have probably never been in the same room with Sarah Jessica Parker herself). To add insult to injury, the stuff currently sold at the drugstores under the name Lovely smells to me like it bears little resemblance to the 2005 original.

A couple of months ago I had some Ulta points to use and enough interest in SJP's recent endeavours to use them on a 1/3 oz rollerball of Stash. Of course, the notes sounded intriguing (various woods, vetiver, incense) and SJP's love of masculine perfumes was  also an incentive, but Sarah is  still under  contract with  Coty, and that's rarely a good thing. The gamble ended up being the best use of my Ulta rewards in a very long time. Earthy, gritty, musky in that fabulous human warmth way--- Stash covered me in a soft and beloved afghan that invites people and cats for a snuggle. The husband was first intrigued, then quite taken with the perfume, and ended up relocating the rollerball to one of his shelves.

What is it about Stash that makes me want to wear it several days a week lately? Part of it is how it cushions that morning transition from the warm bed into an  unfriendly and aggravating world. I've been rediscovering my love for black pepper recently. Last night the Blond and I had dinner at Kajitsu in NYC, where one of the delectable courses was flavored with a thin sheet of black pepper pressed into a bark shape. It was exquisitely paired with panko-fried cauliflower and taro. My point is that the aroma of black pepper is awesome, with or without vegan food. Then there's the particular composition of incense and wood that could have easily come from any over-hyped niche perfume line, and in this case boasts an impressive achievement: if my memory serves me right, the wonderful creamy massoia oil was among the first natural ingredients to be heavily restricted by IFRA, as it can be a major skin irritant. the perfumer behind Stash have managed to recreate the comforting aroma of massoia bark oil with whatever it is that exists today, and blended it beautifully with the bracing notes of cedarwood and vetiver (lots and lots of vetiver, actually, multifaceted to show off both its dry and leathery sides).

The result is one of the best releases of this miserable year (perfumery has certainly followed suit with all the other calamities). The fact that there's also a dry oil in this scent means that some Stash will make its way into my side of the cabinet.

Sarah Jessica Parker- Stash (eau de parfum, $25 to $85, depending on size) is currently exclusive to Ulta. There are also various gift sets that seem like an excellent deal.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Leonard Cohen 1934-2016

Leonard Cohen quotes:
"We're always experiencing joy or sadness. But there are lots of people who've closed down. And there are times in one's life when one has to close down just to regroup. "
"I am an old scholar, better-looking now than when I was young. That's what sitting on your ass does to your face. "
"When you stop thinking about yourself all the time, a certain sense of repose overtakes you.  "

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Bobbi Brown Chocolate Eye Palette (2016 Edition)

There were palettes before Bobbi Brown launched her original Fall 2006 Chocolate collection with the sensational palette. Chantecaille's butterflies were the most beautiful makeup items around since the early 2000s, and I had bought countless Dior quints, Chanel sets (remember the Jeans collection? I still have that eye palette from 2003), and Lorac made a nice splash with the Snake Charmer and the Croc palettes in 2006. But everyone went nuts for Bobbi's deceivingly unassuming Chocolate palette. The face of the campaign was the stunning Shirley Bouganim, and the items went out of stock in an unprecedented rate, some to reappear at scalper prices on eBay, other simply  hoarded by makeup collectors. Bobbi Brown tried but never quite recaptured that level of hype and success with sets like the Mauve palette or the Rose & Denim collection. There was even a QVC relaunch of the Chocolate line around 2010 that went mostly unnoticed, ad the Rich Chocolate palette of 2013 that had the same format. But other brands paid attention, and large eye shadow palettes have become increasingly popular. Lorac rebranded and rebuilt the brand around them, Anastasia Beverly Hills nearly made everyone forget that it started as an eyebrow-centric brand, Tarte has been pushing more palettes than anyone can ever use, and there are countless of others at Sephora,Ulta, and the drugstores, dazzling us with colors and patterns. There's something about full sets than many makeup enthusiasts find hard to resist. Just one more palette and my collection is complete, right?

I bought the brand new Bobbi Brown Chocolate eye palette (fall 2016? pre-holiday 2016? Whatever) because this time I was genuinely curious. Some Bobbi eye shadows from recent years were sub-par, but I've felt a shift lately, both in their offering and at the actual counters. I've also noticed that the new palette includes a powder eyeliner trio similar to last year's Intense Pigment Liner, and I wanted these particular colors. So, why not?

The four eye shadow colors in this palette are Ivory (basically, a finely milled translucent powder, even less pigmented than the classic Bone or Navajo). I can only employ it to set my primer and create the smoothest canvas. It does not conceal veins or hyper pigmentation. Then we have Woodrose, a crease color if there ever was one. It works for me, and can also be used to slightly deepen the lower lash line. However, I'm not sure what anyone darker than NC42 would see in it. Milk Chocolate is exactly what it says. It's probably not the first time Bobbi Brown uses this name or shade, and it's a good and effective one. All three color mentioned above are matte, cool-toned, and smooth, and a vast improvement over some Bobbi shadows I've come across in the last five years. The last eye shadow, Velvet Bronze, is in the metallic formula, which is more fine satin shimmer than full-on metal. It's that ray of light that we like in the center of our lids these days, warm toned (see:bronze) and blends well with the mattes. How fun and useful is that?

Then there's the eyeliner portion, and if you've red my last year review you know I'm a fan. It's a tight (no debris) formula, pigmented and pliable that doesn't require a damp brush to perform and stay put. The colors are very dark and sooty, so even the navy doesn't scream "blue". Cocoa Mauve is ore of an elephant color, and I adore it to pieces. Navy is a blackened, well, navy, and Black Chocolate is the darkest brown I have. I've attempted to show that you can get a very fine line out of them, depending on the brush you use. I prefer a very thin angled brush (I have a couple of ancient MAC ones). The eyeliners are of the same quality of last year's, and that's a very good thing.

Now let's also see if we find any similarities to my original Chocolate palette (made in Canada), just for the sake of research. The colors are completely different even if in the same ballpark. While the new palette offers smoother texture, I can't help but think that the 2006 version was more pigmented, even if slightly less luxurious. I don't know if I care, since the new formula is pretty close to that of Tom Ford quads (maybe the packaging is making me biased), and I might have to actually swatch it next to the modern classic Coco Mirage. That's not a bad thing, either.

Bottom Line: Good Bobbi is back. At least for now.

Bobbi Brown Chocolate Eye Palette ($60, made in the USA) is available at counters everywhere and online.