Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween! Hug a witch and kiss a black cat (or the other way around).

Images: Bat costumes from the 1880s  via Sighs & Whispers blog.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Serge Lutens- Baptême du Feu

The last theme I thought Serge Lutens would want to revisit is gingerbread. It seems like I'm the only one who truly loved his 2008 Five O`Clock Au Gingembre, while others have been busy lamenting the fate of latter day Serge. Yet, here we are, staring at a large plate of gingerbread piled high with homemade orange peel confiture (my mother's makes the best one). I'm of the school of thought that completely ignores the marketing blurbs and vague quotes from Uncle Serge that accompany every release. They get in the way of immersing myself in the actual perfume (however, if you want to read an actually coherent interview with your favorite Uncle visit this one on Lisa Eldridge's site). So immerse I did.

Baptême du Feu opens more gourmand than it actually is. You know that there's some drama there, because right behind the cookie plate there's a trail of smoke, slightly acrid and sooty. You sit down to devour your treat, turning your back to the scorched earth you left behind and diving right into the illicit indulgence that has been put in front of you. Who baked these cookies? Had the fruit preserve been cooked in that black cauldron that is now lying cracked on the hearth? Why is there a lone  pointy black slipper in the corner of the room?

The phase of uneasiness eventually fades. It's a very Lutens thing, actually, throwing at you several elements that don't necessarily scream "French perfume" (that's what vintage Goutal is for), then tighten it around you in an opaque scent bubble that is sometimes quite surprising. in Baptême du Feu it's a chewable cage of sweetened myrrh and cashmeran an wood, much more comforting than you'd expect it to be, but also slightly claustrophobic. I'm not quite sure if I want to nibble at my arm or gnaw it off like a trapped animal. One thing is obvious: I'm not bored.

Serge Lutens- Baptême du Feu ($150, 50ml eau de parfum, is available from Aedes, Twisted Lily, Luckyscent and the other usual suspects). The sample for this review was provided by Twisted Lily at my request.

Theodor Hosemann: Ilustration for "Hänsel und Gretel", 19th century

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

La Prairie Cellular Treatment Foundation-Powder Finish In Beige Rose (And a FotD)

I've mentioned before how enamoured I've become lately with compact  powder foundations. I have some from Laura Mercier and Lancome, but this here is the true reason of my infatuation: La Prairie Cellular Treatment Foundation-Powder Finish. It's the texture, the finish, the versatility of use, and the very adjustable coverage. It also doesn't hurt to have a very good color match, in my case Beige Rose, which is of medium intensity and a neutral undertone.

At their best, powder foundation in a pressed compact form have an almost creamy feel when you drag your finger across their surface. They're ready to be used in multiple ways: dry or dampened, all over the face or just on problem areas, and as a touchup powder after a long day. This La Prairie foundation is exactly that.  It comes with a thin flat sponge that will become your best friend (wash it along with your brushes and Beauty Blenders with your favorite cleansers), because it does it all. I've tried other methods of application, including various brushes (looks uneven and dry), and said Beauty Blender (picks up far too much product and covers the face like a mask). My conclusion is that the good people of La Prairie knew what they were doing, so stick with their own sponge. The compact has a perforated bottom so it can breathe and dry between washings, so it really works well.

My skin is generally dry, but La Prairie Cellular Treatment does not highlight this fact (except when I tried to buff it in with a flat top brush. Big mistake). The powder melds with the skin and feels soft and kind to it, creating a very natural and healthy looking finish, that's mostly matte just without the typical flatness. Using the sponge dry gives a light-to-medium coverage that cancels any redness or an even skin tone such as a light hyper-pigmentation on top of the cheeks. This method is also great to supplement coverage if you're using a sheer tinted moisturizer all over the face but need just a bit of extra help on certain areas, and a touch-up tool to carry with you on a long day, knowing that eventually the light base might give up the ghost.

The other way to go is to dampen the sponge (soak, then squeeze all the water out), and use La Prairie Cellular Treatment as a full-on cream foundation. This gets you some serious coverage, which again you can apply all over or just for designated areas. In the photo below I concentrated most of the coverage on the sun spots I have in the middle of my left cheek and the discoloration on my top right cheekbone, as well as the area around my nose. I did not use any powder (n need when using this type of formula, and the only other base product I employed was a touch of MAC concealer on a questionable spot on my forehead.

My shade, Beige Rose, is far less rosy than the name implies. It's just not quite so yellow as some of the other medium tones. The swatch on my arm is extremely heavy to show said undertone. I swatched it dry, just to show how much you get from the smallest amount of product as is. My face, obviously, has more redness and uneven patches than my arm, and that's where you see the true performance.

Bottom Line: Best in show.

La Prairie Cellular Treatment Foundation-Powder Finish ($95, 14.2g, made in USA) is available from select department stores as well as from Osswald NYC (by phone only, 212-625-3111, which might be the better option if you need assistance determining your shade and/or if the formula is suitable or your skin, as well as some real expert guidance about application).

I forgot to move away a small mirror that was standing on my dresser reflecting light, hence my neck appearing as a striped extention to my top. Sorry.

Here's what we have:

Sephora Smoothing Primer (from a sample. It's alright for what it is, a plain silicone thing).
La Prairie Cellular Treatment Foundation-Powder Finish In Beige Rose applied damp mostly to the center of the face and sheered out considerably outwards.
MAC concealer palette (medium), two shades mixed together to cover a blemish.

Kanebo Sensai eyelid base. Almost worth the ticket price to Japan. Or to London, as there's a Sensai counter at Harrods.
Chantecaille cream eye shadows in Seashell and Starfish.
Laura Mercier Espresso Gel Liner, which I only used to tightline, not on the lid.
Lancome Grandiose Extreme mascara on curled lashes. I think I prefer the regular Grandiose, but I have to determine exactly why.

Le Metier de Beaute Blushing Bronzed Duet in Romeo & Juliette (available at Neiman Marcus, for those who wondered if it's still in production), swirled together.
No.7 Shimmering Palette in Rose as a highlighter, used sparingly by patting with a Hakuhodo S116 brush.

A little Suqqu Moss Green powder haphazardly combed through with a spoolie.

Urban Decay Liar lip pencil
CoverGirl Nude Attitude lipstick (from the Queen collection).

Other Stuff
SotD: Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque.
Top: Asos
Vintage earrings

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rania J- Ambre Loup

I've stopped asking myself how many amber perfumes one needs about ten bottles ago. The deciding factor is rather simple: if I like it and feel the fragrance adds something special to my amber collection, then yes, I do need it. Enter Ambre Loup by Rania J. The name is quite telling. An amber soliflore with a wild streak in its animalic core. This is where our friends who prefer crisp and cleaner perfumes tend to leave us, skank lovers, to our own illicit pleasures.

The official notes of Ambre Loup's opening list clove and "spices". I smell a Coca Cola-like fizzy cinnamon that's just sweet enough to feel indulgent. I'm reminded of the quirkiness of Dinner by Bobo. However, where Bobo brings in the cumin and the clowns, Rania J. becomes the promised amber perfume, rich, thick, and as satisfying as ambers are for those who like them.

Then comes the twist. Ambre Loup might contain spices and vanilla, but it is not a gourmand. The furry wolf hair and animalic musk it's emitting is not a civet bomb in the style of Salome or Maai. It's smoother and doesn't necessarily try to follow the steps of Shocking de Schiaparelli or Bal a Versailles,  which perhaps makes Ambre Loup an excellent introductory and a transition perfume for amber lovers who want to take a step further and explore the darker side. The fragrance is cuddly and friendly enough to feel cozy, but will not bore you out, no matter how many amber bottles are already in your rotation.

Rania J- Ambre Loup ($149, 50ml eau de parfum) is available from Twisted Lily and Luckyscent. The sample for this review was supplied by Twisted Lily at my request.

Art: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi - The moon on Musashi Plain (Musashino no tsuki) from the series One hundred aspects of the moon, (1892)

Duo-Chrome: Urban Decay Solstice Liquid Moondust & Butter London Oil Slick Glazen Eye Gloss

The brilliant thing abut duo-chrome eye shadows is how they allow you to create a complex multi-dimensional eye look with just one color product. Since these eye shadows shift with the direction of the light that hits them you get the illusion of a layered-blended application. Of course, you have to be open to shine/shimmer/metallic finishes, and sometimes to unorthodox colors. However, there are enough options that gives a neutral base with a slightly more colorful shift that are adequate for daytime, such as brown or peach. Both MAC and Makeup Geek offer pressed powder eye shadows like that.

Today, however, we're talking about duo-chrome in cream formula. The better known one is Urban Decay's Liquid Moondust (there's also a pressed version, and I'm a fan of the original Solstice as well as of Zodiac), which comes in a tube with a small brush applicator. Liquid Solstice has surprised me by being more pink/mauve than the powder, though it definitely has that attractive green sparkly undertone. The coverage is rather sheer (I layered quite a bit in the swatch to show the full color effect), which allows you to create a very pretty gossamer-like look that only has a hint of drama.

I apply Urban Decay Solstice with the applicator and blend it with my pinky, though a small soft synthetic brush (UD or Real Techniques work well) is   cleaner and more precise method.  As much as I love the look I'm getting here,I do find that the particles in this eye shadow can get everywhere unless I use a truly spackle-like primer, or even better-- a glitter glue. I hear, though,  that I'm an anomaly in this. Not everyone is experiencing the glitter shower that lands on my temples and top of my cheekbones, so perhaps my tube is a dud(ish. I still like it more than I should). In any case, I advise you to give the tube a good shake before use to distribute everything evenly.

A few months ago Butter London added the four Glazen Eye Glosses to their ever-expanding makeup line. These are cream shadows with a glossy finish that calls to mind comparable products for Charlotte Tilbury, Surratt, Tom Ford, and Chantecaille. As far as I can tell, Oil Slick is the only true duo-chrome in this range (the others are classic neutrals in colors such as champagne, bronze, and rose old, and I might just have to get all of them. Because pretty), which is why I bought it the day it appeared at Ulta.

Oil Slick is described as a "chameleon", which is quite accurate. The brown-to-lizard green shift is an amplified and shiny variation on the classic theme of MAC's club. Coverage is quite opaque, and the futuristic effect is strong. Yet, applied and blended carefully there's nothing crazy or very out there about this Butter London eye shadow. You can use a small amount as your one-and-done color and looked more polished and edgy. Longevity over a standard primer is at least eight hours and I haven't experienced any migration, flaking, or errant glitter. This formula is smoother than Urban Decay's and has a higher end look, which brings us back to the "need the other ones" statement.

Bottom Line: two of the most fun makeup products on the market.

Urban Decay Solstice Liquid Moondust ($22, made in Canada) and  Butter London Oil Slick Glazen Eye Gloss ($24, made in Canada) are available at Ulta.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Currently- October 2016

October is mostly over and I'm surrounded by notebooks and planners, trying to figure things out for the future of this blog. I mentioned something about it in my pre-vacation note, and the responses were incredible and overwhelming in the best possible way. I'm going to write a full reply post to address it all and make heads, tails, and everything in between. In the meantime, here's where I a currently.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis. I've only started, but it has a similar feel to Bellwether, which I love dearly. Maybe I should reread Doomsday Book this coming Christmas.

Heather Woods Broaderick- Up in the Pine

Tired of current TV, current events, and current people, the Husband and I have resorted to comfort watching: Star Trek TNG. Years ago I've said that I'd watch Patrick Stewart recite the NY phone book. The first couple of seasons are pretty much that, but eventually the writing and some of the actors (Brent Spiner!) catch up. Yes, the whole thing is dated, ethnocentric, and at times quaint, but Sir Patrick makes everything better. And have you forgotten that Data is a cat person?

I've been alternating a lot between Goutal Gardenia Passion (vintage) and Parfumerie Generale Indian Wood. The latter makes more sense, but I'm finding a lot of enjoyment marinating myself in gardenia.

I've been experimenting a lot, including with colors so far out of my comfort zone they could be from Mars (the reddish coppery eye shadows probably are). Do you know what's funny? I've come across many people who are much more adventurous with their hair than with their makeup. They always say "it's just hair, it grows", but  are reluctant to try a blue eyeliner or a purple blush. For me, the worst makeup day can be wiped cleaned right away, but my hair is a huge part of my identity. Don't come near it with color or scissors if you know what's good for you.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
Remember the booties I wished for two months ago? They were the best purchase ever.

Brie. Ripe, soft brie on toast, on apple slices, or just in chunks, like chocolate.

Handbags & Kitten Heels: How Not to Write About Prime Ministers. Or Presidents.

So many antiques and interesting art pieces, so little floor and wall space.

Georgie has become a wonderful and cuddly bedmate. He reports for sleeping duty as soon as he sees us turning off the lights and plops in the middle of the bed in all his cuteness.

As long as my birthday is still something to anticipate, it's all good.


This Akris Punto Long Sleeve Polka Dot Trompe L'Oeil Dress ($995). There's also a set of a cardigan with the polka dots in the back($795) and a matching tank ($395) that might be much more practical. When do they go on clearance?

Random Thought
I wish Project Runway would replace Mary Kay with Colourpop or another edgy indie brand. I can't with the tackiness of the makeup lately.

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

Art: Kawano Kauro, Girl with Red Mask, c. 1950.

Packing Makeup For A Week Away

My original plan was to pack a lot more makeup. I wanted to bring along interesting stuff and do makeup for my mother and sister. Multiple times, if possible, and to allow my niece to play with stuff (nothing like an eight year old having a go at one's Viseart palettes). But as the Blond and I were cramming our luggage trying to fit in gifts for various family members (birthdays, housewarming) and remain within the airline's  restrictions on size, weight, and number of articles it was clear that my cool makeup briefcase had no room in there and I had to downsize dramatically (meaning that I made some good drama out of it).

I own three of these Paul & Joe kitty bags, but my toiletries and skincare bags had to be bigger (see tombstone).  However, I knew that I could fit enough makeup for eight days in the P&J (granted, I carried a separate brush roll). It wasn't easy and my choices were far from perfect, but here's the makeup I packed:

  • Primers: Wet'n'Wild (Fergie edition, of which I still have a year' supply) for eyes, MAC Prep'n'Prime because I had the sample size tubes piling up in the drawer, and it's a good one. Laura Mercier basic face primer, because that's the one I trust the most and I had a full travel-size tube.
  • Guerlain Baby Glow (medium). It's one of my top favorite sheer coverage/tinted moisturizers. The plastic tube makes it travel-friendly, and since that tube was reaching its end (I've repurchased since), weight was not a factor.
  • Serge Lutens compact foundation. This one is for heavier coverage and support for the Baby Glow where needed. I'm on my eleventy seventh refill, and will keep on buying them as long as Uncle Serge allows.
  • It Cosmetics CC Cream, the regular one with an SPF50 (travel size). I've been testing several It cosmetics face products, and this one seemed like a good quick face basic. I might need a full size.
  • Illuminators: MAC Strobe Cream in a tiny sample tube and NARS Orgazm illuminator (a GWP size). 
  • Powders: NARS Light Reflecting (pressed) because I don't like traveling with a loose powder. Dior because the pressed NARS isn't always enough (I think this one might be discontinued)
  • Eve Pearl Salmon Concealer (light/medium). It works and it's compact. 
  • Cle de Peau concealer in Almond. 
  • Stila Stay All Day liquid liner pens in black and Indigo.  
  • Pencil liners: Clio gel in Black Plum, Lancome gel in Cote d'Azour, and an old waterproof Armani black pencil. Using them as a base gave the neutral shadows more versatility.
  • Viseart Cashmere palette. A perfect condensed neutral palette that served me most days.
  • Chanel fall 2016 eye shadow quad. I wanted to show my mom that this really works, and also needed a little more variety that the Viseart provided.
  • Eye shadow crayons: my very last Sue Devitt Victoria Falls (don't you miss Sue Devitt?), Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Amethyst and Sand glow, Rimmel ScandalEyes in Bluffing and Trespassing Taupe (one would have sufficed), Sephora Colorful Shadow & Liner in 22 Dark Taupe Shimmer. I might have overdone the crayon thing and should have gone with an RBR custom palette instead.
  • Daniel Sandler cream blush in Soft Pink , because it's beyond staple for me (and I'm about to hit pan), Le Metier de Beaute Echo single blush. It's another go-to that always find it way into my travel bag. Rouge Bunny Rouge stick blush in Manet.  I should have taken something more pink or berryish, though. I got tired of these three and their neutral look.
  • NARS Rikugien (which I ended up giving to my mother because it was perfect on her and I have two more), NARS Cruella for the red factor, Edward Bess Midnight Bloom, which is one of my most travelled lipsticks. MAC Finally Free lipstick, a failsafe choice under any circumstances, and finally Tom Ford Giacomo which I ended up wearing most often, because the days were bright and summery, and this coral worked well.
  • MAC False Lash mascara, not my favorite by a longshot, but the size was perfect and it did the work.
  • Glossier Boy Brow. I was not going to fuss with my eye brows, but wanted some full-proof reinforcement.
All I'll say is that it could have been worse. Much worse.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Books and Fragrance- An Autumnal Roundup

Searching for inspiration or a clever idea to use in this post, I idly googled "books to read in autumn". I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the crafty search engine seemed to have anticipated my frame of my mind and came up with an automated list that's quite fitting and brings up memories from many fall seasons and places. Here's a screenshot of the Google oracle. It's not that hard to scent it, isn't it?

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847).  How many times have I read this early Victorian Gothic novel? How many of its film and television adaptations have I watched*? It's always dark, o course, there are horses, dogs, Jane's favorite hiding spot outside, wildflowers, Mr. Rochester's cigar. Oh, and a madwoman locked in the attic. What will happen if I layer vintage Tabac Blond (Caron), vintage Cuir de Russie (Chanel), and a good dollop of Mandy Aftel's Bergamoss? I guess I'm the real madwoman.

*My favorite is the 1973 BBC miniseries.

The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien, 1937). Long before Peter Jackson greedily butchered the story, there were earthy hobbits and dwarves, a fire-breathing dragon, and a wizard who probably hasn't bathed properly in a while. At first I was thinkin about all the patchouli and smoke I could find, but the newest Slumberhouse perfume, New Sibet, is animalic, warm, and has a weird ash note.

Rebecca ( Daphne du Maurier, 1938). "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." .  These words are enough to make my heart beat faster. What would one wear to the costume ball in the great mansion? The firs Mrs. De Winter wore lipstick and smelled of white azaleas. The estate itself must get whiffs of sea air and salt. I'm tempted to layer half the inventory f a Jo Malone boutique, starting with Wood Sage & Sea Salt, Wild Bluebell, Vintage Gardenia, and Peony & Blush Suede. Then I'll have to add a drop of some vintage extrait from the 1920s, when the events of the book take place. What's better than the 1924 My Sin?

Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813).  It is a truth universally acknowledged, that one doesn't need an excuse to reread Pride & Prejudice. I can't find any mentions of scents and smells in the novel, but you know that smelling salts, English lavender, green meadows, and a wild flower Elizabeth may have picked while strolling are all there. Eau de Lavande by Annick Goutal, Penhaligon's Sartorial for Mr. Darcy, and Penhaligon's classic Bluebell can all work.

Macbeth ( William Shakespeare, circa 1606). There's a lot more than that in the Bard's work, and personally I'd rather smell the three witches and their brew. However, "Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand" is all I can think about. Secretions Magnifiques (CSI Newark, according to my scent twin) is exactly that. Layer it with any Middle Eastern style sweet perfumes at your own risk.

The Cider House Rules (John Irving, 1985).  remember reading it for the first time not long after the book was published, which means that I was a teenager. Maybe that's why the gut-wrenching memory is still so vivid to me.  An apple orchard and the coast of Maine can be brought to life by two CB I Hate Perfume scents: Gathering Apples and Under the Arbor.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Washington Irving, 1820). The Blond and I visited the real Sleepy Hollow cemetery and historic Tarrytown during the first fall after we moved here. The scents of the season, the colors, the pumpkins, the crisp fall air , they all defined this area for me ever since. There's the very obvious choice of Etat Libre d'Orange Like This, but also layering of Lutens' Rousse, Louve, and Clair de Musc or Un Bois Vanille for the brave.

Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy 1878). This is another one that puts a boulder in the pit of my stomach. I wish I could read this novel in Russian to get a better taste of it, which brings me to the smell of my mother's beautiful old edition of all Tolstoy's writing. But more than old books, there were the marshes, the snow, horses, lavish dinners, fur coats, smoke, and leather. Maybe if I piled all the Russian leather perfumes in existence, CB's In The Library, and Arquiste's Aleksandr (as it happens, Pushkin is my mother's favorite), I can get close enough. Then I'll just go and cry for poor Anna.

It's your turn: what do you consider a good reading for fall? Is there a scent that connect with it?

For other takes on fall and its scents please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse.

Image: “Fall Library,” by Tom Gauld for The New Yorker, 2014

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mona di Orio- Oudh Osmanthus

The first time I've smelled Mona di Orio's Oudh Osmanthus back in 2011 when it was still called simply "Oud", my reaction was "well, it's not oud". The renaming (as well as the repackaging and rebranding that dropped the Arabic word "Oud" from the bottle) makes perfect sense to me. As far as I can tell from various old and new samples from different sources, the perfume is exactly the same, but Oudh Osmanthus doesn't pretend to be a fragrance in the Arab tradition of oud perfumes, but instead an interesting imagining of East meets Far East. To me, Oudh Osmanthus is very much an osmanthus perfume, pretty blossoms slightly wilting in the heat, vaguely covering a darker truth that lurks beneath.

The original bottle of Mona di Orio's Oud

The current bottle

I get it, but even five years later I still don't find this Mona di Orio perfume very wearable. The osmanthus note is broadcasted and amplified to a degree that it reminds me of the rippling air over burning hot asphalt on a summer day. I don't like being outside on such days, and the high pitch of the osmanthus doesn't like my skin, either.  What about the oud, then? It's deceiving at first, with an almost crisp windswept wood, then turns oddly oily and dark. I like parts of it, sometimes. But there's not enough of that rich oud to fully emerge from under the floral blanket of the osmanthus wit its occasional sharp spike that keeps poking me when least expected.

Notes: Elemi, Green Mandarine, Petitgrain, Patchouli, Osmanthus absolute, Nagarmotha, Cedarwood, Oud essential oil, Musc, Amber Gris.

Mona di Orio- Oudh Osmanthus ($395, 75ml eau de parfum) is available at Luckyscent and Twisted Lily.

My other Mona di Orio perfume reviews: Ambre,   Carnation,   Chamarre,  Cuir,   Eau Absolue,   Jabu,   Lux,  Musc,  Nuit Noire,  Oiro,  Tubereuse,  Vanille,  Vetyver,   Violette Fumee.

Art: Zhao Kailin, Osmanthus Bloom, 2015

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

FOTD: Two Looks For Our 20th Anniversary

The two following looks are from my 20th wedding anniversary last month. My notes show that in both cases I was going for some shimmer and luminosity with a bold lip look. We were out and about most of the day, so I didn't spend that much time on my makeup, meaning that I didn't grab any item from my "to test" list, just stuff that has proven reliable and effective.

Morning Look (antiquing and a light lunch at a lovely French  cafe in Montclair, NJ)

MustaeV Lustrous Cream Base
Armani Luminous Silk Foundation 5.5
Cle de Peau Concealer in Almond
NARS Light Reflecting Loose Powder

Under Eyes 
Eve Pearl Salmon Concealer in Light Medium (set with the NARS powder)

Laura Mercier eye primer (Wheat)
Sephora Waterproof Colorful Shadow/Liner Stick in Dark Taupe Shimmer 22 as a lid base,smudged to create the eye shape.
Viseart Theory palette in Cashmere (I mostly used the matte medium shade in the crease and some shimmer on the lid)
Sephora Waterproof 12H liner pencil in #15 Flirting Game
Buxom mascara

Cargo Mendocino and Bali blushes layered together. You know that I'm not crazy about the formula, but the color was just what I wanted, and I think the compacts were already sitting there by the mirror, so I did the lazy thing.

Youngblood Secret as a first layer, with Bobbi Brown Orange Crayon all over it for an extra punch and a less matte look.

Other Stuff
Scent of the day was vintage Panthere de Cartier, the fragrance of our wedding day.
Vintage earrings
Dress by Tory Burch (there should be a full body shot on my Instagram. It's not the most flattering photo taken at an odd angle, but whatever. The dress is pretty).

Later that night we dined at our favorite restaurant, the vegan Japanese Kajitsu. We usually go there to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. The food us phenomenal and the experience tends to transport us to a very zen place. Apparently, it's also a favorite of Natalie Portman whom we ran into twice. There was no celebrity sighting this time, but who cared? There were truffles in our food.

Primer, foundation, and powder were the same as earlier that day, but I added a touch of Armani concealer on the sides of the nose, to even things out.

Wet'n'Wild primer
Viseart Paris Nudes palettes, I used the colors numbered in my post as 1,2,3, and 6
Laura Mercier Gilded Gold Caviar Stick smudged under the lower lash line.
Marc Jacobs Midnight in Paris liner on the waterline
Stila Stay All Day liquid liner in Black
Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes mascara (I got a new tube of this eighth wonder).

Milk Gel Brow in Pilsner, a medium brown. It's actually a pencil which was either a GWP or a 100 point perk at Sephora. The first few times I've used it I thought it was fantastic, but now I'm not sure about longevity

Chanel Rouge Profond blush (fall 2016).
Anastasia That Glow kit. I used Bubbly and Dripping n Gold swirled together and applied with a fan brush.

Essence lip liner in 08 Red Blush
MAC Von Teese lipstick (limited, discontinued). It's exactly the shade you see Dita wear often.

Other Stuff
SotE was Diamond Water by JAR. A good fit for big anniversary celebration.
Antique necklace.
Dress by Ella Braitman/Flo (anyone can contact Ella on Facebook regarding international shipping, fit and sizes. Her work is beautiful and meticulous). I should have done it more justice by wearing Spanx and heels, but a nine course meal doesn't go with a shaper, and I was not sure about the parking situation, hence flats.
Shoes by Jimmy Choo. Yes, they're covered in glitter.

Art: Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Wedding, 1434

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

My Favorite MAC Products

Long-time readers know that with a few notable exceptions I rarely write about MAC products here. I used to have an issue with the onslaught of limited edition and brand new collections MAC would launch seemingly every other week. But then many popular brands have started doing exactly the same thing; and truth be told, very often with products that are inferior to MAC's. I also had an issue with the way MAC seemed more concerned about creating a hype than in training their staff how to greet a customer, or even just give decent service. This is why when I started this blog in April 2006 I was for the most part over MAC. I was tired of the unpleasant experience at MAC counters almost everywhere*, and was bored with seeing the same products again and again on every blog. However, I've always had several much-loved staples from MAC, and when I've recently repurchased, replaced several, or went back to using others after an hiatus, I've decided it'd be good to list my top favorites.

I tried for the most part to stick with what MAC does best: the permanent line that has been there seemingly forever. I will mention a few limited items simply because I do love them and count them among my all-time favorites. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Eye shadows. Not all MAC eye shadows were created equal, and even in the custom palette that I've assembled over time there are differences in texture and pigmentation. That said, Satin Taupe, Copperplate (discontinued for an inexplicable reason), Club, Vex, Patina, and Plumage are among my favorite eye shadows of all times and all brands. 
  • Blushes. The same goes for blushes. Two of my beloveds were part of limited collections: Seduced at Sea Extra Dimension Blush from the Alluring Aquatics collection, and Animal Instincts Blush from A Novel Romance collection (both were released in 2014). Still, the ones I reach for most often are Desert Rose and Fleur Power. Both are semi-natural colors (Desert rose is the cooler tone of the two) that go with almost everything. They have good and reliable pigmentation and longevity, and are no-brainer choices when I'm short of time.
  • Lipsticks.  My Inner Femme is a sentimental pick (and no longer available), while Finally Free (online only) was something I bought for the cause and for the color. Twig and Whirl are classic neutrals, less rosy than the spectacular Finally Free. I have a love-hate with the formula of many MAC lipsticks, and these are not excluded. Yet I find it worthwhile to put in the effort and the balms to make them work.
  • Lip Pencils in Whirl, Soar, and Spice. While I wish MAC lip pencils were creamier or at least had a better glide-on formula, these three colors are classics for a reason, covering the full range of natural rose tones. Longevity is excellent, which is another point in their favor.
  • Brushes. Some of the oldest items in my collection are MAC eye brushes. The quality has gone up and down several times, yet, even at its scratchiest 217 is one of the best blending brushes one can have (and I own plenty of Japanese and other high-end brushes). There's something about the particular combination of shape, size, density, and firmness that make the 217 and 234 that makes them indispensable to me.
  • Mineralize Skinfinish (Natural). The one in the photo is Medium, but I also have Light Plus and usually mix them together for an easy daytime finish with a hint of extra coverage. I finished a couple and have gone without for years, only to repurchase recently. Going back to using Mineral Skinfinish, I have no idea how I've let it go for so long. 
  • Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Groundwork and Tailor Grey. These are beyond staples. I consider these two colors of the ubiquitous cream eye shadow to be must-haves. I use them as a base, in the crease, or as an allover one and done wash all over the lid. These shades are perfection and the formula is made of awesome. Do take note, though, that not all Paint Pots are the same. No matter what I've done (or how many different jars of it I've tried) , I find the ultra-popular Soft Ochre to be too dry and completely unstable on my lids.
  • Eye Kohl Pencil in Teddy. It's the simplest of kohl pencils in an unfussy bronze-brown . I've gone through several over the years and still find it hard to explain better than to say that it's just right. 
  • Blue Brown Pigment. I only keep around a handful of loose pigments. For the most part I can't be bothered with the mess or with trying to wipe off cat faces that got covered in pigment (Lizzy and her white whiskers are my companions when I'm doing my makeup). Still, this incredible duochrome color creates such an impact I do not want to be without. Ever.
  • MAC Studio Face & Body Foundation in White. I actually really like Face & Body in general, as the light formula is very skin-friendly. My true match should be somewhere between N3 and C3, closer to the N range. White (I think it's a Pro color that's only available online and at Pro stores, and come in this huge 4 oz bottle) is essential to me for adjusting the shades of other foundations (and making C3 wearable on its own). Common wisdom claims that you can only mix it with other F&B colors  or at least other water-based formulas. I find Common wisdom to be utterly wrong about this. In the most extreme cases I mix White with my primer under whatever foundation I'm wearing. Usually, though, as long as said other foundation is liquid, F&B plays well with it.
  • Zoom Lash mascara. I don't like other MAC mascaras, but for some odd reason this one works. I always have a tube going, even if just sample size.
  • MAC Studio Conceal & Correct Palette/Medium. Matching a concealer to any particular area on one's face can be incredibly hard, so having a small palette that allows for mixing and blending is important. The super emollient formula and the colors (NW25, NW35, NC30, NC35, Mid-yellow, Mid-Peach) are the best I've found, even if it requires a good and careful setting (see again: emollient).

What are your MAC must-haves? Am I missing anything?

*Two notable exceptions: MAC pro store in NYC (7 W 22nd street) and the now-defunct counter at Henri Bendel.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Keratin Treatment At Stroudsbug Keratin Lounge

Twenty years minus two days from the last time I had my hair professionally done (trims not counted), I found myself sitting in a hair salon with two stylists wielding equipment fussing over me. Long time readers know that I have a live and let live relationship with my hair. I don't try to make it do stuff it doesn't want, and in turn my hair tries not to embarrass me. This is why at first I was inclined to refuse an offer I received to experience a free keratin treatment at the new Keratin Lounge in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The timing was right, though. A couple of weeks later I was going to visit my family in Israel, where the combination of high humidity and very hard water has never been kind for the mop on my head. Besides, the appointment offered to me was right at the start of my twentieth wedding anniversary weekend, so why not celebrate with new hair?

I knew very little about keratin treatments beforehand. I thought it was meant to keep one's hair stick straight for weeks or months, and that following the procedure you couldn't wash your hair for four days straight. I also remembered Jennifer Aniston blaming keratin for her hair becoming a burnt down split mess, explaining why she cut it into a bob a few years ago. I remember thinking back then that it seemed strange a treatment you get only a few times a year would cause that, when she was heat styling her hair on a daily basis and getting it colored and highlighted so frequently. Jen was never my hair idol, though, so it was just another celeb tidbit stored in my brain. The Keratin Lounge offer pushed me to ask question and do some research, which got me very curious.

The new generation of keratin treatments, at least in the Lasio Concept that's employed by Keratin Lounge, is not necessarily about making everyone sport the Rachel or Marsha Brady's hair. It does make curls relax to a degree that allows for a quick and easy straightening with an iron, but you can also let your hair air-dry into a truly natural-looking waves/open curls (depending on one's hair type), that are mostly frizz-free. Since keratin is the building blocks of hair, fusing an extra layer of it into your strands offers both protection and shine. In addition, the Lasio Concept requires only 24 hours of abstaining from water (also: no hair ties, clips, headbands, or scrunchies). I was getting excited.

The one issue that remained for me was formaldehyde, known to be part of straightening, relaxing, and keratin treatments (the classic Brazilian was infamous for that). According to the FDA, the safety level for formaldehyde in hair products is .2% . I don't know what's the status for other methods, including the 4 day keratin treatment, but I was told that the Lasio Concept uses .02% formaldehyde, tenth of the allowed concentration. Still, it's better to wear a breathing mask while having your hair sprayed and heated, which the salon offers. That was settled, then.

The Blond and I decided to make it a half day trip. While the original location of Keratin Lounge is in Manhattan, I was invited to the brand new salon in Stroudsburg, PA, which is about an hour and a half drive from my home. We tried to go antiquing, only to find the biggest location in the area, The Browsery (528 Seven Bridges Rd., East Stroudsburg), in the last stages of closing out. From what I've read about the place it's a real shame. We had a nice lunch at Café Duet (35 N 7th St, Stroudsburg), and a stroll in the very pretty town center before heading to the salon. Much more relaxing then our wedding day.

(Insert flashback music score)


September 4th 1996 was an extremely hot and humid day. Adding to that, the ceremony and receptions were at beachside hotel garden, adding to the soupy mixture that tried to pass as air. My glam team did their best. They planted me for four full hours under a hair dryer, trying to force my curly waves to stay put and look "natural". We were going for a Veronica Lake effect with the length, plus a section at the front that was straightened with the force of a cement truck and wrapped around the front, with just one loose ringlet that was "casually" framing my face. What can I say? It was the nineties. To achieve this, my hair was put in large rollers, dried into submission, and held with so much hair spray that days into my honeymoon  was still trying to wash out the crunchy bits. All of that, however, was no match for the humidity and sea air. By the time I walked down the aisle my waves were already limp and heavy. The front part was still holding, though, but feeling stiff.

Fina Result

Fast Forward to September 2016.

Keratin Lounge offers nothing but keratin treatments. No cuts, no color, no highlights. The Stroudsburg location opened over the summer, and is owned by Nadine Ramos, the CEO and founder of Lasio, INC. and the original Keratin Lounge in NYC. I was extremely lucky to have her as my stylist, and she was assisted by the lovely Celines Fernandez in doing my hair. Realizing I had an exceptional pro taking care me helped me relax in my chair, while the Blond lounged around and took photos.

The process was simple and straightforward: first, my hair was washed, then blow dried quickly to its natural state with no additional products. Next, Nadine and Celines sectioned my hair, and bit by bit sprayed it with the treatment, using a flat iron to seal it in. The entire thing took exactly two and a half hours from start to finish, which was nothing compared to the four hour ordeal from my wedding day. And I had a lot more to show for it.  My hair was smooth, shiny, and felt light as air, which I couldn't believe. The following 24 hours passed quickly, even if I had to sleep in a weird position and let my hair hang down from the edge of the bed. I kept my hair straight for several days, doing touch-ups when needed (the flat iron glides over the hair effortlessly), but have since resorted back to my usual air drying and forgetting all about it method.

My hair has kept the shine and silkiness throughout the month. I can actually comb and brush my hair to create a very clean and tight bun or ponytail, or just leave it as is. First day hair is more curly, while the next day tends toward an open wave that stays put nicely. I admit that I enjoy brushing and relishing the smooth and shiny look. I can probably also do intricate braids, but I have yet to gather the will for that. For those new around here, my hair is long. Very long. I had a couple of inches trimmed by a friend a week or two before, just for keeping it all even and bouncy. If I were to keep my hair straight day in and day out I'd probably cut a bit more, to  add volume.

Natural, just washed and unstyled hair, a month after treatment.

The Lasio Concept doesn't require you to avoid SLS and any other shampoo ingredients, except for sodium chloride, which is basically salt. I'm pretty sure the hard water at my parents' didn't do my hair any favors, and indeed, a little bit of the frizz has returned to the top of my head, but that's also a result of the unbelievable speed in which my hair grows. The lounge does offer hairline touch-ups if you're so inclined, but I'm going to wait it out and get my all head redone around the new year. The treatment is supposed to last three to four months. I suspect that give the hard water abuse and my hair growth it will be closer to three, but we'll see.

You can watch my transformation (courtesy of Nadine) on The Non-Blonde Facebook group in before and after quick videos  (it's public, so you don't need an account to visit).

The two locations of Keratin Lounge are   9 S 7th St, Stroudsburg, PA and 39 W 38th St, New York, NY. Full treatments start at $250. Mine was free, but I'm under no obligation to recommend or even write about it at all.