Thursday, May 31, 2018

Currently- May 2018

I finished George's Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo, which I refused to read during the massive hype that surrounded it last year. I liked it a lot, though,  probably because all the reviews and discussions have prepared me to better understand the structure and literary technique. The story has stayed with me for a while now. Not just the grief-stricken Lincoln and his moral dilemmas  but also the assorted fleeting (literally) supporting characters with their fears and little victories clinging to their humanity.
I've now started Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss, downloaded the Australian classic Picnic at the Hanging Rock, as well as Futureface by Alex Wagner (after watching her being interviewed by Trevor Noah), then there's the newest novel by Julian Barnes, and a book my husband highly recommended,The Door by Magda Szabo. All these reading pleasures a click away on my iPad. I wish I could show it to my ten year old self who was always worried of having nothing to read.

Shadow Relief by Loma. The entire album is worth listening, actually, but this song is my favorite right now.

Streaming assorted design, antique, and home improvement shows from the UK, as well as a few American ones. There's something incredibly soul-soothing in seeing people build and create living spaces with love and dedication to their craft. I'm so over the Property Brothers and the extreme sponsored content they create. On the other hand, why can't Tom Silva from This Old House be my uncle?

Usually this time of year is all about green perfumes with daffodil, violet, and hyacinth notes that reflect the going ons in my yard. It's not that I haven't been wearing Tocadilly, Lauren, or Grand Amour, but true love lately has been Civet from Zoologist. It's the joined the little circle of "why do I bother with anything else?" perfumes.

Sheer sparkle over a cream black base on the lid. The easiest way to go is by using a shadow stick (Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier or Kiko. I have all three and use them interchangeably), blending a little to create the desired shape, maybe layering a bit more, then topping it with a powder (pressed or loose) shimmery eye shadow. I've been collecting duochrome colors from indie brands, but anything that's not fully opaque but is high in shimmer looks fantastic. Or just use Stila liquid glitters. Nothing is more simple or as a bigger impact.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
A black cashmere camisole by Tibi. It's the perfect layering piece even in spring, considering the wacky weather. I wear it under light silk dresses with an extra button open, flowy blouses, or light cardigans.

My mom's candied orange peels. She's found a new old recipe that she says is exactly as she remembers it from her childhood. I'm all in.

The combination of severe allergies and various antihistamines just to be able not to suffocate are a brain circus. I know that yesterday happened, but I can't prove it.

I'm still smiling when thinking of the royal wedding. Harry and Meghan gave us not just what we wanted but also something we didn't know we needed.

Binge watching The Americans this weekend.

A better system to sort and store my lipsticks.

I was genuinely shocked the first time I've heard a guy say that he can't stand reading books with a female narrator because it bothered him to have a women's voice in his mind. In the years since I've learned that it's a real thing.  Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett explains in The Guardian why it's so very wrong.

Random Thought
It suddenly occurred to me that the word "Influencer" is exactly what I've been looking for all those years so we can make the distinction between people who write blogs to share experiences and tell stories and those whose job is to create marketing content to help brands increase their sales.

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

Image by Edward Penfield for Harper's, May 1897

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Chanel Premieres Fleurs Harmony Of Powders & Rouge Coco Glossimer Bourgeoisie

I promised you more spring/summer 2018 Chanel stuff and this is part of it. The brand might have been overdoing it a bit with new mini collections and minor releases every few weeks (since when is cruise makeup collection a thing?) , but it's all very pretty and far less pastel-toned than usual so instead of complaining I just bought all of it. Almost.

The Premieres Fleurs Harmony Of Powders is this season's limited edition collector's item. I don't buy these often, but when I do I put them to good use despite the urge to save them untouched and unspoilt. I'm a makeup user, not a collector, and I want to enjoy and get the luxury experience of applying this beauty to my face. I do have to side-eye Chanel for only ever releasing (please correct me if I'm forgetting something) these items in fair-to-light color combinations. I'm of a neutral ashy olive complexion and can wear some of them but not all (other than as a glowy finishing powder, I guess). I wish Chanel was more inclusive here.

The new(ish) Premieres Fleurs Harmony Of Powders is a combination of a pale warm rose blush and a whit moonlightish highlighter. The compact (about the size of a Chanel regular blush) is wide enough so you can go in with your brush and pick the blush and highlighter separately, or just swirl them together. Both methods give a very pretty radiant look. The blush shows up on my cheeks much better than it swatches, which happens to me with many Chanel makeup items. That's their beauty, really, the complexity of the pigment translates very well to the face; the very fine texture delivers a veil of color that never cakes or look patchy, yet can be built to some degree. I have no issue with pigment intensity in Premieres Fleurs Harmony Of Powders, but I suspect anyone darker than an NC 37-40 would find it just a glorified peachy finishing powder, and that's a shame.

There's a bit of a silver overspray in the Asian-inspired embossing. It goes away after the first brush swipe. I understand why they did it, but overspray annoys the everloving bejeesus out of me on principle. Don't put makeup on my makeup. That's my job.Other than that it's a classic Chanel face color, in the usual packaging with the familiar velveteen pouch and a brush that works in a pinch (I used it for the swatches and it didn't slash or irritate my skin). I like using relatively small domed or tapered blush brushes with a good snap and density, but just about anything that fits the compact and my face works very well. I've experimented with angled flat duo-fiber brushes (Hakuhodo G5552), small Yachiyo, candle-shaped highlighter brushes, and just about everything that isn't a massive super fluffy powder brush has performed well.

Bottom Line: for Chanel lovers who blush and highlight responsibly.

Chanel Premieres Fleurs Harmony Of Powders ($70, made in Italy) is a limited edition item. Available from most Chanel counters, Chanel boutiques that sell their beauty line, and

Chanel Glossimers were probably the very first Chanel makeup item I've bought decades ago. All the old colors have been gone for ages (how many Giggle or Unity Glossimer have you repurchased?), and the formula has been tweaked for the better more than once. The current version is actually called Rouge Coco Gloss Moisturizing Glossimer, but the packaging is the same as ever. It's a lip gloss with a typical fuzzy doe foot applicator and a very hydrating and comfortable formula. It's old school in the very best way,  not goopy, doesn't smear everywhere, and has just enough pigment to be worn by itself on a casual lip day. The color I chose this time, Bourgeoisie 119, came out with the other summer items and matches the color story (I'll show you the quad, Premiere Eclosion, in an upcoming post) but it's part of the permanent collection. The color is a warm(ish) true rose with a shimmery finish, the texture is smooth gel-like that's not gritty, and has a very faint makeupy smell that goes away immediately.

Bottom Line: It's Chanel, it's a Glossimer, you know what you're getting (hint: for better and for worse, not an Anastasia Beverly Hills lip gloss).

Rouge Coco Glossimer in 119 Bourgeoisie ($30, made in France) is sold wherever Chanel makeup is available.

Monday, May 28, 2018

5 Products I’m not supposed to like but I do

In which we all clutch our pearls- A makeup comedy in five parts

Sometimes I manage to surprise myself. I know better than to ever say never and my makeup collection is a mammoth proof of that. It includes a bright yellow eye pencil, after all. And I know how to use it. Still, I am biased in certain ways. There are trends, people, techniques, and products that don’t sit well with me for one reason or another. This is what we’re discussing today.

Here are the elephants in my room:

  • Morphe 35F eye shadow palette.
    I generally stay away from Morphe because of the brand’s uneven private label quality control issues. And their marketing, and the YouTube personalities that are busy hard-selling them. I could have claimed innocence about this purchase because it happened during what my friend Josie and I call our lost weekend, though no drugs or alcohol were involved (only kittens, ridiculous pajamas, mounting anxiety, and a scary amount of takeout food). But I bought the 35F palette and there was no one more surprised than me when it appeared on my doorstep and it didn’t suck. At all. As a matter of fact, this combination of rich shimmers and a handful of chiffon-like mattes in neutral to warm shades is often a starting point in my makeup looks and can be paired with practically anything to great results. Have I bought any other Morphe product since? No. But I’m perfectly happy with this one. ($23 at Ulta)
  • Kat Von D foundation and concealer brushes.
    This one’s a doozy. I’ve avoided everything and anything that has to do with Miss Von D since the launch of her makeup brand ten years ago. It’s for personal reasons and that’s all I’m going to say about it, though it was never a secret since I have expressed my distaste for her several times on this blog. Imagine my reaction when I opened an unmarked package with no return label that has arrived by USPS, and contained two newly launched (at the time. It must have been over two years ago) Kat Von D foundation and concealer brushes. There was no note or indication of who sent it; I’ve never been on their PR list even for press releases. It was a complete mystery.

    To this day I have no idea who mailed me these brushes. Was it a KVD fn trying to make a point? A regular reader who was hoping to cure me by exposure? An innocent gift? Or, as I used to joke, a wordless message from Von D and co., subtly telling me “we know where you live “. In any case, after some trepidation I decided to test the brushes and loved them right away. They apply and blend cream and liquid products like the best of them, and the pinched shape of the brush heads gives them flexibility and movement you rarely find in brushes as dense as these. I’d still like to know where they came from. ($34 and $24 on
  • MAC Rollerwheel Liquid Liner AKA the pizza cutter eyeliner.
    My makeup collection has no room for gimmicks and I have little patience for nonsense launches. Makeup should do its job and perform well, especially in these times of countless options and possibilities. For every useless product there are thirty good ones from every corner of the globe. For some reason, though, I was adamant to buy this MAC eyeliner and figure it out or die trying. The learning curve was on par with Calculus III, except that one usually isn’t at risk of losing an eye doing math.

    My first attempts using a x10 magnifying mirror went comically wrong. I’d rather see a ghost than zoom on my eye area for as long as it took me to wonkily draw my shaky line. I've since that I can use my regular x5 Simple Human lighted mirror while looking straight ahead, or utilize a small triptych mirror I got years ago as a GWP from Hakuhodo and also has a magnifying panel; I place the mirror on my dresser (also leaning my right elbow against it), look down into the mirror and roll the wheel gently as all the weight is on my elbow and dresser and not in my wrist. The trick is using absolutely no pressure on the wand and eyelid, and breathing normally while doing it. The result is very precise, thin, and graphic, and the wheel actually gives a lot of control, perhaps even more than a brush. Once you figured it all out and stopped getting shiny black lines all over your face, that is. ($21,
  • Lipstick Queen Mornin' Sunshine Lipstick
    Here's another silly gimmick: a yellow lipstick that's supposed to turn peachy coral on one's lips. This comes from a brand that has been steadily declining in recent years and leaning more on shticks for YouTubers than on elegant cosmetics.  I haven't bought any Lipstick Queen products in two years and I wouldn't have bought Mornin' Sunshine either (I found few redeeming qualities in their yellow gloss in a pot I tried years ago). However, a couple of minis and a full size of this yellow cuteness found their way into various GWPs bags from Barneys and from Ulta. I tried one of the minis, intending to donate the other ones, and somehow got hooked.

    The color-changing thing is not really a thing on my lips. They're too dark and too purple-mauve to allow a sheer peach to show up. There's a hint of juicy color added, though, which is really really nice when I'm not looking to make a lip statement. Even more than that, the formula of Mornin' Sunshine is balmy and rich with no goopiness, thickness, and no extra shine. I used up the first mini without even thinking about it, and the other two now live in various purses and get ample of use. It's still too expensive for a tinted balm, but it sure is lovely. ($25 at Ulta)
  • Kiko cosmetics Pure Clean Scrub & Peel
    We're ending this with what might be the most ridiculous product of all. Consider this: I tend to reject manual face exfoliation (body is a different ballgame) unless it's the most delicate brush head Clarisonic has to offer or a very soft microfiber washcloth. I  use acids and chemical peels, thank you very much, so anything abrasive is like going House Bolton* on my face. Add to that the fact I don't use wipes in my regular cleansing routine (I do a triple cleanse, first taking off most of my eye makeup, than oil, and wash it all off with a cream or foaming product, with or without the clarisonic). So what gives?

    Kiko Scrub & Peel wipes have two sides. One is kind of wavy, the other can sad off your wood floors. A package only has 20 wipes, making the $9 price somewhat steep. However, I've found enough uses for these things to justify stockpiling every time Kiko has a 30% off sale. The sandpaper side is useful to give lips a good exfoliating and prep (as long as they're not actually bleeding). I removes glittery swatches, gunk and goop, over-sticky body products from behind the knees, and scrub my hands with them in an emergency. Thick masks that don't sink in and require washing off usually benefit from a good wipe-down before rinsing.  Then there are all kinds of travel situations, dripping of who-knows-what, taking off some makeup in the afternoon before doing a completely different evening look, especially if I've layered and reapplied SPF during the day.  I have packets upon packets of these everywhere. ($9 from
Are you shocked? Horrified? Do you have products you like against all odds?

*A Game of Thrones joke. I highly advise NOT Googling if you're not familiar. It ain't pretty.

NARS NARSissist Wanted Cheek Palettes & Lip Kit Swatches & Review

George was auditioning for a NARS mascot role

Unlike the NARSissist Wanted Eye palette that I got, admired, and promptly gave to a friend who rocks these colors far better than I could have ever hoped to do, the two Wanted Cheek palettes were something I knew I'd use and enjoy for a very long time. And I do. Because: blush, highlighters, NARS, no brainer.  It was a huge privilege to get both palettes (they were sent by PR) that saved me endless vacillation before picking out just one, since each palette offers several colors I really really wanted. If I have any criticism at all of the Wanted Cheek palettes is that I suspect I'm not the only person who would have loved to be able to pick the singles myself and put them in the (very pretty) packaging. However, the palettes are edited thoughtfully, well-balanced, and offer five new limited shades each and only one that's part of the permanent collection. This means the value is there and the attention to detail is impressive: the packaging reflects the shades inside, so if like me you own both it's easy to tell which is which without opening the palette.

Palette I
Palette I. The purple at the top right required a bit of building up on my skin so you can see the true shade. 
Palette I is the lighter color story, and it swatches and applies a lot more impressively than the colors appear when resting in their pans. The finishes go from matte to shimmery highlighter, and can be used alone or mixed. That's the reason I adore palettes: they give my inner kindergartener the means to go hog wild with my brushes and blend colors together and create something new and fun.

Top to bottom, left to right: Unlimited (shimmering pale pink champagne, a highlighter that's actually lighter and shinier than in the pan.), Buzzed (matte warm nude-to-orange), Notorious (matte lavender, not my usual color by any mean but mixes well with the warm colors for my own Frankenblush), Kingpin (matte warm rose), Bumpy Ride (permanent. shimmering ethereal pink with a hint of warmth. I love it mixed or on top of Notorious), Crave (matte bright coral, a more muted and less take on the magnificent and long gone Boys Don't Cry).

Palette II

Palette II

Now get your softest most delicate blush brushes for Palette II, because Holy Pigment.  Not that Wanted I is lacking in intensity, but the colors themselves are lighter. Number II is yet another reminder that NARS has always been the go-to brand for colors that show up on every skin tone.

Top to bottom, left to right: PYT (after the Michael Jackson song? metallic warm rose highlighter, rich enough in pigment to wear as a blush alternative on my skin ), Ambition (matte tangerine), Taos (permanent, soft red with a golden pink sheen), Exposed (matte dusty rose, not to be confused with Tarte Exposed blush ), Penthouse (matte raspberry, straight out of the 80s), Queen (matte pink-base red).

All the blushes and highlighters in both palettes are very soft and will kick up some powder especially if you use a stiffer brush (which I wouldn't). You only need a light dip to pick up a good amount, and you'll notice how easily they apply and blend. Blending is key, of course, but that's not exactly news. I like to use a small or medium Yachiyo brush (the NARS one is too large for this, in my opinion) for Wanted I, while Wanted II looks fabulous if you pat the color gently with the flat side of a very soft paddle brush blush and then blend (Korean makeup artist Jung Saem Mool uses this technique in many of her YouTube videos).

Bottom Line: my happy place.

Last, we have NARSissist Wanted Power Pack Lip Kit in Warm Nudes (there are a couple of other kits in Cool Nudes and Hot Reds). These are minis of the Powermatte Lip Pigments, an interesting and wearable but not perfect version of a matte liquid lipstick. I've reviewed the entire line, formula, application, and longevity so I won't repeat it. The Warm Nudes kit includes one permanent color, Get It On, which I've described as a " J Lo beige" and promptly rehomed, and the new Hot Blooded, a terracotta shade that I like much better.

Bottom Line: a decent way to try the formula before investing in a full size.

NARS NARSissist Wanted Cheek Palettes ($59 each, made in Canada) are a limited edition item. Currently available at every store and counter that sells NARS (Ulta, Sephora, department stores,, and I'm probably forgetting a few).

NARSissist Wanted Power Pack Lip Kits ($22, while a full size single is $26) are also limited. It looks like not all stores have all the colors in stock, but Ulta does (yay, points!).

All products in this review were sent for consideration by the brand's PR.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Guerlain- Black Perfecto La Petite Robe Noire- Perfume Review

I've been stuck writing this review for weeks. Many weeks. I bought my bottle of Guerlain Black Perfecto La Petite Robe Noire in Italy back in early March because I fell for it on the spot and the husband had his "this is good stuff" face on. I've been wearing Black Perfecto often and in serious quantities (more on that later) and it's great. Is it Guerlain Great? Is there any perfume in Guerlain's current lineup that's that amazing? Why do I make things so complicated?

I'm writing the last part of this review while wearing a good dab of vintage Madame Rochas. Guerlain Black Perfecto has  absolutely nothing in common with Madame Rochas beyond the vague definition of "perfume". However, I wanted to remind myself of what I used to identify and analyze as a perfume vs. the stuff we buy these days. In that light, do I still like Black Perfecto? Is it a good perfume?

Yes, and yes.

As mentioned above I've been struggling with this review. I'm guessing that for the average La Petite Robe Noire customer this flanker is supposed to be a sexier evening fragrance, which should make sense from a a marketing perspective. Personally I'm rather annoyed  with thw La Petite Robe Noire range (twenty two flankers after the 2009 initial release which I disliked so much I left the Guerlain counter at Bergdorf without purchasing Les Secrets de Sophie, a perfume I truly wanted and have been kicking myself for missing out on ever since. It's the one that got away that I will forever remember). However, I own and love the 2011 La Petite Robe Noire 2  (that's the cherry marshmallow one), and somehow Black Perfecto seems more related to this happy place in a bottle than to generic original LPRN. Or it might just be my skewed perception. Laurel, Yanni, all that.

Guerlain's Black perfecto offers an added light, summer-weight leather note to the cherry. It's tasteful in a way that certain popular leather-cherry tobacco perfumes usually aren't, but it's also sheerer and far less long-lasting than I'd like. If a typical Tom Ford perfume is a commitment until the next shower do us part (or tries to), Guerlain doesn't go there. Instead they use an airy variation on their classic theme of a sweet heliotropish almond and spice (L'Heure Bleue has the more aromatic anise seed in its good versions, Black Perfecto has a slightly stickier yet nice sweet licorice). In this sense it's more Guerlain-like than Mon Guerlain, and I'm all for it, hence the black bottle in the Guerlain section of my cabinet.

Lest there be any doubt, Guerlain Black Perfecto La Petite Robe Noire is a modern perfume, more easy-going and light than what we usually consider a "leather perfume".  For longevity I spray myself with a brow and hair-raising amount and then than add one last  spritz under my clothes for good luck. Sometimes I just layer Black Perfecto with LPRN2 and that does the trick as well. It's nice. Good, even, so why not?

Because for some reason Guerlain has decided the American consumer is not the target market. While I hear it's everywhere in Europe, from Douglas Parfumeries (their occasional 20% off discounts apply) to Duty Free stores , here in the US you can only buy it from third party sellers of varying reputations. A 30ml bottle is £43.20 in the UK (or £66 for the 50ml). At Parfumerie Douglas the 50ml goes for € 83.00.

Top image:  model Karlie Kloss photographed by Angelo Pennetta, may 2012, styling by Francesca Burns for Vogue UK.