Thursday, February 26, 2015

Want: Yellow Freesia Purse by Eight Seasons


It's snowing again (what else is new?), but I'm telling myself that spring is just around the corner. And summer. Remember summer? This bag from Estonian designer Eight Seasons is the perfect cure for the winter doldrums and the "Feels like 14 degrees" that my weather app just announced.

Measurements are 10.3" (26cm) high, 12.7" (32cm) wide,  and4.4" (11cm) deep, so it won't fit the kitchen sink but still roomy enough for all the usual necessities. This color is quite bold, but I don't have a yellow purse. Yet. So why not?

$289 on Eight Season's Etsy store.

Link provided for your convenience. I'm not affiliated and not compensated in any way, shape, or form. But you already knew that, right?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NARS and Photographer Steven Klein to launch makeup line

Photographer Steven Klein

Today's big beauty news comes from Page Six. François Nars was seen and heard having lunch with photographer Steven Klein (link partially NSFW) and discussing the launch of a makeup collaboration, due around the holidays. I'm not sure what exactly will be Klein's role in the makeup itself, as it is said that independent art director Fabien Baron is going to be in charge of the overall look of the products. But we can expect an edgy campaign, and hopefully several covetable items.

This is not the first time François Nars finds inspiration in an artist's work. The Guy Bourdin collection from Holiday 2013 was definitely interesting, as was the Andy Warhol collection the year before. But in this case we're talking about a living photographer who is going to have an input. I'm curious to see where it goes.

EDIT: These story is now confirmed by NARS PR.

Winter Skin- Let's Talk About It


My friend and reader Liz left this comment on yesterday's post:
"My winter skin is absolutely parched and cracking. I desperately need an addition to my routine to add moisture back in. My trusted Shiseido isn't working well at present."
Sounds familiar?

 Winter skin is frustrating, uncomfortable, and generally not pretty. No matter if we spend a lot of time in the freezing and dry outdoors or in arid  overheated rooms, the result is the same. So how do you battle it?

I haven't changed my skincare routine much, but for the last few winters I've been relying more heavily on Dr. Jart+ Sleep Mask, but I use it twice a day without rinsing. In the morning it's the last step after moisturizer (or sometimes just before. I can't say I'm keeping the order very religiously), and it makes a visible difference. In general, I think that masks are the answer, and if you can find 5-10 minutes at night to do an Asian paper mask (either pre-made or a DIY), things can improve dramatically. But no-rinse masks like Dr. Jart or the various ones from Sisley are even easier and completely fuss-free.

Do you have more tips and advice on dealing with winter skin? Please share with us!

Snow Queen illustration by Artuš Scheiner for Andersen's Fairy Tales, 1934.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DHC Resveratrol Essence


Last month I've mentioned that DHC Resveratrol lotion (a Japanese equivalent of a hydrating toner) has made its way into my skincare rotation. I told you that it's a decent competent, product, probably too expensive for what it does, but pleasant nonetheless. It took me a bit longer and a lot more testing to make up my mind on its companion, DHC Resveratrol Essence, but I think that I can finally share it with you.

In Japanese cosmetics an "essence" is the runny milky serum that you apply after your lotion/toner and before a moisturizer cream. The names are confusing, but once you get it and remember that the "lotion" is the watery stuff and the essence is a serum in a thin lotion form things become simpler. I was first introduced to this concept by Kanebo Sensai (no longer available in the US). DHC Resveratrol Essence is very similar to the Kanebo Essence, but cheaper and easy to obtain.

DHC Resveratrol Essence doesn't appear revolutionary, and the ingredient list (see below) is pretty straightforward. But the proof is in the winter-ravaged skin, and I can tell that it is nourishing, softening, and acts as a moisture magnet for whatever else I put on my skin afterwards. The softening effect is the big thing here, because this is the one thing I can't get enough during this season. Resveratrol is a polyphenol antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes, so it is a good-for-you anti-aging material. It's pretty far down the list, though, so I can't vouch for its effectiveness,  but I use so much other antioxidants that I doubt it matters much.

Hydrating lotions are also the heart and soul of Japanese sheet masks. I've used both this essence and the toner for this purpose (when not being lazy), as well as in combination: soaking the paper mask in the lotion and putting it over a face slathered with the essence (about twice as much as you'd use in a quick pre-makeup routine). I always want to take a nap like that, but in reality I either watch a YouTube makeup video or read a bit (still more relaxing than catching up on email).

Ingredients: water/aqua/eau, butylene glycol, squalane, pentylene glycol, glycerin, glycosyl trehalose, sodium methyl stearoyl taurate, behenyl alcohol, hydrogenated lecithin, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, phenoxyethanol, sodium hydroxide, tocopheryl acetate, disodium EDTA, resveratrol, hydrolyzed soy protein, isodonis japonicus leaf/stalk extract, oryza sativa (rice) extract, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, hydrolyzed collagen, sodium hyaluronate

Bottom Line: when my skin is happy I am happy.


DHC Resveratrol Essence ($61) is available from DHCcare.com. The product for this review was sent by PR.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fragrant by Mandy Aftel- Book Review


*Disclosure: the author of the book is a dear personal friend*

It took me longer than usual to finish reading Fragrant by Mandy Aftel. The reason was that the book is a rich tapestry-as rich and intricate as its beautiful cover (which also translates to the inside design, from typeface to illustrations). I took it in small portions, little morsels of perfume stories, facts, quotes,  and recipes.  Fragrant feels like a box of the most luxurious artisan-made truffles (incidentally, Mandy Aftel is a chocolate connoisseur), which you have to appreciate one by one and not binge on the whole thing).

The narrative of Fragrant is an exploration of five aromatic materials: mint, cinnamon, frankincense, jasmine, and ambergris, through the way we perceive them, and the way they influence us and our emotions. The book can be accompanied by a companion kit ($25 on Aftelier.com) that includes cinnamon and mint essential oils, frankincense resin, as well as jasmine and ambergris tinctures. The latter will probably knock the socks off newcomers to perfume that never experienced this legendary ingredient.

Speaking of fragrance newbies: too many perfume books, even those that aspire to explain the fundamentals (categories, scent pyramid, etc.) stumble during the effort to pull those readers into the perfume world, perhaps because they lack the emotional aspect. Mandy Aftel's writing is as affecting as her perfume artistry, so she pulls you into her world and shows you its magic. Long-time followers of this blog know that when considering a perfume book I often ask myself how likely it is to grab my own sister: a fragrance lover who owns several bottles, never leaves the house without wearing scent, yet is completely baffled by my own perfume life and the passion that holds it together. I have a feeling that reading Mandy Aftel's book may give people like her a push in the right direction.

For me, there are two things that stand out the most in the book: Mandy's own vision, and commitment to honest perfumery, as well as the depth of research that holds the book together, as represented by the little-known facts and quotes. My absolute favorite is this one by Oscar Wilde from The Picture of Dorian Gray, which proves that dear Oscar was one of us:
"And so he would now study perfumes and the secrets of their manufacture, distilling heavily scented oils and burning odorous gums from the East. He saw that there was no mood of the mind that had not its counterpart in the sensuous life, and set himself to discover their true relations, wondering what there was in frankincense that made one mystical, and in ambergris that stirred one's passions, and in violets that woke the memory of dead romances, and in musk that troubled the brain, and in champak that stained the imagination; and seeking often to elaborate a real psychology of perfumes, and to estimate the several influences of sweet-smelling roots and scented, pollen-laden flowers; of aromatic balms and of dark and fragrant woods; of spikenard, that sickens; of hovenia, that makes men mad; and of aloes, that are said to be able to expel melancholy from the soul."
And a final word from the husband:

"Fragrant has a unique meditative quality. While broadly telling the stories of 5 fragrant heroes, the unusual mix of history with science, facts and folklore, personal opinions and actual perfume making recipes, has an interesting effect. Even without a common narrative or a mystery to be solved, it draws you in and fascinates, enlighten and challenges you to examine again the fragrant world around you. We take for granted today scents that were the pinnacle of luxury in the past. I found myself reflecting on the richness and abundance of spices and essences available today and appreciating them more.

I also enjoyed Mandy's mini essays about perfumery today and her insider take on the industry.
This is what I'd imagine spending a wonderful week in one of Mandy's workshops feels like. Hearing her opinions, stories, anacdotes and rants while learning about high end perfumery.  "

Fragrant by Mandy Aftel is available from Amazon (around $21 for the hardcover, $11.99 for the Kindle edition). I received the hardcover directly from the publisher and the companion kit from Mandy, but also purchased the ebook as these days I find it easier to read on my iPad.

Art: "And she proceeded to burn perfume and repeat spells until the sea foamed and was agitated"-- The Story of the Gulnare of the Sea  by Maxfield Parrish, Arabian Nights, 1909


Smasbox Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer In Bordeaux





I'll start with the bottom line: Smasbox Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer is the most impressive lip product I've come across in ages, putting it (for me) in the same category with Wllis Faas Hot Lips, but perhaps even better. There are several lip lacquers on the market these days, and I probably like most of them (Shiseido comes to mind), but Smashbox Be Legendary takes things a step further in terms of formula (rich and nourishing) and an unparalleled longevity: the stain remains fully in place throughout the day, lunch, cake, snack, dinner, several cups of tea, and a late-night bread pudding (don't ask). Then I have to use a(n eye) makeup cleanser to take off what remains.

It's that good.

I was sent the one in Bordeaux as an example of Smashbox doing the Marsala trend. It's a beautiful rich blood-red color, regardless of Pantone and other crazes. I tend to cringe at the "color of the year" thing. The best way to make me avoid something is by telling me that everyone is wearing/buying/doing it, but unlike the vile Radiant Orchid from last year, this is a shade I can fully embrace. It's dark, indeed, but not quite vampy and not overdone. There's something about this particular color that makes it wearable even in a casual/daytime setting. But it could be just me and my love of reds.

The texture is miraculously not sticky, the scent is so faint you need to practically stick the applicator up your nose to smell it, there's no taste, and the feeling it leaves behind is smooth and soft (including on a blistering winter day when the temperatures are in the low single digits).

There are twenty shades in Smasbox Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer range, and while not all of them are this complex (or in my ballpark of colors I can and want to wear), my wish list has just gained about four or five new ones.

Bottom Line: see above.

Smasbox Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer ($24) is available at Sephora and from smashbox.com. The product for this review was sent by PR.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Currently- February 2015


I'm getting over a cold. Not even a particularly bad one, but just unpleasant enough. Cold medication is a wonderful thing breathing-wise, but they make me fall asleep All.The.Time. I haven't been this useless in ages (and also less than coherent, I strongly suspect). So I've been sleeping at odd hours, staying up to read late, and generally feeling out of it.

Book
Last night I finished reading Love Creeps by Amanda Filipacchi. I picked it up as I was looking for something cheerful after the (good but gloomy) Girl on the Train. I'm not sure what I think. Creeps is witty, surreal, and touching at times, but I can't say it cheered me up much.

Music
Peter Gabriel- Games Without Frontiers (Haven't heard this one in years, but was reminded because of the next item)



TV
We've been binge-watching The Americans. It gives me nightmares, but the early 80s nostalgia was almost pleasant. Also, I was raised by parents who immigrated from Eastern Europe, so there's something familiar about the Jennings family (no, my parents aren't and were never KGB agents. As far as I know. Right, Mom?)

Perfume
Ramon Monegal- Hand in Hand. I wasn't supposed to like it, seeing as in theory it's a rose/oud thing. But I'm in love.

Makeup
More cream eye shadows.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
A thick, slightly oversized belted sweater from Derek Lam for Neiman's line.

Guilty Pleasure
Salty Black Licorice by Jacobsen Salt. It's the real thing and I might be slightly addicted.

Food
Grilled cheese. The Husband has a new method for making it.

Bane
Other than the aforementioned cold I'm following Eileen's No Bane Zone.

Joy
My friends.

Anticipation
Thaw

Wishlist
Several Viseart eye shadow palettes. I'm waiting for them to get back in stock.

Random Thought
Please tell me that the Oscars are a Kanye-free zone.

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

Art: Charles E. Burchfield, Street Vista in Winter, 1957-60

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Scents Of Winter


Winter means different things depending on where you are. Right now we're all about snow here in the Northeast, and Valentine's Day has been a blizzard day more times than I can remember. Snow has its distinct smell that you can catch in the air hours before it actually starts. In residential areas it's mixed with the scent of wood-burning fireplaces from all around you. that is, to me, winter here at home.  But I've also experienced winter in a couple of other places, and it's so different I could probably recognize it with my eyes closed.

Winter in Israel is more like spring here. That's the season when trees are in bloom and wildflowers pop up everywhere. It's also the season of fresh citrus fruit, so an Israeli winter to me will forever mean big juicy oranges, orange peels, and mandarin oranges that almost peel themselves for you. Winter is also the season for most fresh herbs, especially those that grow wild-- sage, marjoram, , and a native wild oregano known as za'atar.

The first couple of times I've been to London happened in the middle of winter, in January and February. It didn't stop me from falling deeply in love with the city. I didn't care that it rained and rained and rained some more. The rain-soaked concrete and cobblestone was different than that of the parks. And all around you there people in damp woolly coats and hats, stopping for roasted chestnuts from street vendor carts.

But back to the here and now, and to my ten perfume picks for the season. At this point of almost-mid-February I've already had enough. I may be a peaceful vegetarian and an animal lover, but I'm ready to skewer the rodent from Pennsylvania and his six more weeks of winter. I crave warmth and sunshine, lighter clothes, lighter meals, and have I already mentioned warmth? Here are the perfumes that have been providing me with just that:

Amber, incense, or amber plus incense:
Serge Lutens- Ambre Sultan, and Fille en Aiguilles
Juozas Statkevicius (Josef Statkus)
Aedes de Venustas- Copal Azur

Hot Tea
L'Artisan- Tea For Two
Masque Milano- Russian Tea

Hot & Cold
Serge Lutens- L'Orpheline

Vintage
Those furry animalic wonders of Bal a Versailles and Zibeline

The Obligatory Valentine's Day Roses
Amouage- Lyric Man
Vero Profumo- Rozy (Voile d'Extrait)

Please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse for more winter perfume picks.


Image: Vogue cover from January 1919 by Georges Lepape via Condé Nast archives


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Want: Sulwhasoo Powder Compact Plum Blossom Design


I'm not much of a collector (other than perfume), and have been doing my best not to fall into the rabbit hole of accumulating gorgeous compacts. I'm not always successful, since I do have a thing for Guerlain pressed Meteorites, Lauder's Zodiac collection, and I also found myself scooping up a beautiful vintage compact covered in an alligator* skin a few years ago. But other than these occasional slip-ups I've been good. Really.

That's why I've staunchly ignored the beautiful compacts from Korean brand Sulwhasoo. I like several Sulwhasoo  skincare products (the cleansing oil and the ginseng range), but I've never tried their powder. The one that comes in this jeweled case is an anti-shine one, which is not something I need.  Still, I've been staring at their Plum Blossom compact (a design that was first debuted in 2008 and relaunched a couple of times since) and finding myself coveting it. The mosaic is handmade by Korean craftsmen, and I'm in awe of it. Enough so to consider removing the mattifying powder with a brightening one (I need to find out the dimensions)  just so I can have it.

Sulwhasoo Powder Compact Plum Blossom Design ($150) is exclusive to Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.


Image: BergdorfGoodman.com

A Second Look At Uma Thurman (Not So) New Face


Makeup artist Troy Surratt made headlines the other day after the new look he created for Uma Thurman (above, photo taken at The Slap premiere party on Monday, February 9th)  went viral and sparked debates everywhere. Did she or didn't she have work done? Why doesn't she look like Uma Thurman? Is it good makeup or bad makeup?

I admit that I was a little shocked at first, but a quick search for Ms. Thurman's other recent pictures seems to point towards makeup and not plastic surgery. How much face reconstruction and recovery could anyone undergo in the week and a half that elapsed between January 28th and last Monday? My guess is: none.


Uma Thurman at the 2015 House Of SpeakEasy Gala at City Winery on January 28

Troy Surratt gave a statement to People magazine saying:

"I think that women should feel open and free to experiment with different beauty looks — it’s only makeup, at the end of the day it all washes off.
... As a makeup artist I’ve grown a bit tired of all of the lash-y looks and fake eyelashes that we’ve been seeing on the red carpet for some time now.”
I love that dig at the signature Kardashian look of furry animals on the lashline. It's been almost five years since we saw the modern version of the naked lashes on the runways, and my readers weren't buying it (scroll down to the comments). But obviously when you compare the two photos you see that there's a lot more going on than a nude eye makeup. First, Surratt recreated Uma's eyebrows, and that might be the biggest change. Eyebrows can alter one's expression, and make you appear older or younger. Personally, I think the new eyebrows might be too yellow/too closely matching to Uma's hair color. But that's a minor thing compared to what I believe has put so many people off, and that's the over sculpting with various powders/bronzers/whatever, which is evident along the hairline.

Surratt's description of the face makeup doesn't include what he used for that purpose, not which blush it was (is the placement a bit off?). All he says is:
“I prepped Uma’s skin by massaging with Creme de la Mer ‘The Concentrate‘. I applied a glowing foundation using a Beauty Blender for a super natural look. When the makeup was finished we misted her face with Tatcha’s Luminous Dewy Skin Mist for added radiance.”
A "super natural look"? I don't know about that.

For those curious about the lip color, Surratt told People that it's Surratt Automatique Lip Crayon in Mégalomane mixed with a Surratt Lipslique in Pecadille. Those go straight to my shopping list, considering I absolutely adore his lip products.

What do you think of the look and Surratt's vision?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Paula's Choice Clinical Instant Calm Advanced Redness Relief



Clinical Instant Calm Advanced Redness Relief might be sleeper product in Paula's Choice line. It's a toner-like liquid, but the calming effect on red, irritated or inflamed skin takes it a step beyond cosmetics. Paula Begoun suggest a wide range of uses for Clinical Redness Relief, from rosacea relief to an aftershave. I use it on the sensitive skin around my nose when I have a cold, on parched cold-bitten skin, and in the summer heat. The effect is instantly visible, not to mention that you can feel it.

I usually apply the liquid when I feel the need, either after cleansing or on its own on a makeup-free face (and neck,  and anywhere that feels irritated, including from after an allergic reaction to soap). Serum, moisturizer, SPF--- they all come after. I also keep a couple of the sample packets in my purse (I ask for them with every Paula's Choice order I place) for emergencies on the go. It also makes a world of difference when adjusting to a retinoid routine.

Ingredients: Water, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol (slip agents), Sea Whip Extract, Oat Beta Glucan, Colloidal Oatmeal (anti-inflammatory agents), Epigallocatechin Gallate (green tea-derived antioxidant), Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract (plant-derived anti-irritant), Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (plant-derived antioxidant), Phytic Acid (corn-derived chelating agent), Xanthan Gum (thickener), Polysorbate 20 (emulsifier), Potassium Sorbate (preservative), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent).

Bottom Line: a staple.

Paula's Choice Clinical Instant Calm Advanced Redness Relief ($18, 4oz) is available from paulaschoice.com.

Hourglass Graphite Modernist Eye Shadow Palette






If there's one thing I'm sure about in regard to the new Hourglass Modernist palettes is that I made the right choice when only picking Graphite out of the seven available versions. There are swatches and reviews of the palettes all over the internet, and they range from unconvincing to meh, which is kind of shocking for an Hourglass color product. Especially considering that the company has been phasing out the glorious Visionaire duos and the memory of the lovely Vol.6 palette is long gone. The Modernist palettes have a serious wow factor when you look at them in the pan. The wavy surface, the seamless transition from one color to the next, and the elegant presentation of the beautiful colors are tempting. But it's performance where the older Hourglass eye shadows excelled and where Modernist seems to fall a bit short.

The five colors of Graphite come in four different formulas: matte, almost matte, shimmer and metallic. But I find that there's a slight difference in texture between the two shimmer ones, No.2 and No.5.

From left to right:
No.1, a matte beigey cream (the one you can barely see when swatched on my arm) feels extremely buttery to the touch but applies unevenly and requires a cementish primer. It's quite powdery, though not chalky. The pigment is good, but it's not the ideal eye shadow to create an even surface, which is what a color like this should be.
No. 2 is a shimmer warm intense gold. This is the worst texture in this palette, as it feels almost gritty and creates quite a bit of fallout. The best way to make it work is shake any excess from the brush (use a flat dense lay-down brush) and place the color carefully by patting it down. Don't over blend because it'll look muddy.
No.3 is a satin/almost matte rich dark brown. The texture is good but the pigment is far less crisp than you'd expect it to be. I suspect this color would benefit from use with a damp detail brush, especially since it's a contour/eyeliner color and not something that goes over a large part of the lid.
No. 4 is a metallic cobalt blue that at a certain light leans a bit teal. This is the winner of the palette, as it performs as beautifully as it looks. Smooth, soft, blendable--- this is what I expect from an Hourglass makeup palette.
No.5 Is the runner up here. A complex platinum shimmer that wears a bit warmer than it appears at first glance. The pretty color is enhanced by a good texture, much smoother than its sibling (No.2).  The fine grain ensures that the eye shadow works well to highlight the inner corner.

Bottom line: form over function.

Hourglass Modernist Eye Shadow Palette ($58) in Graphite is a Sephora exclusive. The product for this review was sent by the company.



Thursday, February 05, 2015

How to Get a 10% Off At Osswald NYC?


This doesn't happen every day! Osswald NYC is planning a spring cleaning and are redoing their famous wall of miniature bottles (the most beautiful feature wall ever, if you ask me). They're looking for  bottles – preferably vintage - that still have some or most of the fragrance in the bottle.

If you have minis that you’d like to donate to Osswald (and be part of the wall above), they'll offer you a 10% discount code (one use only) good for anything on their website (those are brands that never ever go on sale). They will also pay for shipping.

Not all bottles will be accepted – a photo or photos of the bottles will be required before Osswald approves the donation, and said photos do NOT guarantee acceptance.

For more details, email Josie at [email protected] – a discount code will be emailed to you upon acceptance and receipt of your donated bottles.

Photo via Osswald Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Clarins Ombré Matte Cream-to-Powder Matte Eyeshadow- Taupe & Sparkle Grey





The ferocious competition on lid space continues with Clarins Ombré Matte Cream-to-Powder Matte Eyeshadow. To be honest, I really wanted to buy five of the available six colors (I can live without Nude Pink), but decided to be reasonable and go with two (for now): Taupe and Sparkle Grey.

The cream-to-powder formula is probably what Givenchy  Ombre Couture Cream Eyeshadow was supposed to be, but Clarins is doing it much better (and far less dry) with these dense (the opposite of the sponge-like formulas that we've been seeing a lot since Chanel launched their Illusion d'Ombre) and color saturated creams.

The "matte" thing is a bit misleading in the case of Sparkle Grey. It has a similar density and texture as the truly matte Taupe, but you can clearly see that it has a beautiful sheen to it. The color itself is not very gray and I wouldn't argue with anyone who'd call it a lavender(ish) taupe. It goes beautifully with its sibling, Clarins' Taupe for an elegant eye look that doesn't crease and never budges once set (even I have to admit that in this case a primer is only optional and not an absolute must).

Bottom Line: Rosewood is really calling my name now.

Clarins Ombré Matte Cream-to-Powder Matte Eyeshadow in Taupe & Sparkle Grey ($24 each) are available at the counters and online from most department stores.

7 Favorite Zoya Nail Polish Colors From Recent Months







The sad state of my nails in recent months made me avoid nail polish for the most part. I bought exactly one bottle (Guerlain Rouge d'Enfer, which was part of their holiday KissKiss trio). And couldn't bring myself to do much with the beautiful Zoya colors that kept taunting me from afar. To add insult to (self-inflicted) injury, I got lazy for a few days about cuticle oils and balms, and the result was Not Pretty. I paid for it and then some.

I've been working on things, though, keeping my nails at a safe length and providing them extra nourishment, so things are slowly getting better. Enough so that I can start enjoying nail polish again. It was time to look at all the great colors and finishes and choose some favorites.

It goes without saying that Zoya Naturel 2 collection was my first go-to. I loved the first Naturel lineup (they've been among my favorite and most used colors since they first came out), and I could have easily included the entire Naturel 2 in this post. But I made myself pick two: Marnie (warm plum) and Aubrey (mauve rose). You can definitely see why the collection was Zoya's transition into fall, but these are classic, ladylike colors that will serve me all year round.

This brings us to the latest Zoya collection, another transitional Naturel (Spring 2015), but this time in the satin matte texture. You have to like the way the polish feels on your fingernails, but if you do, Rowan ( a sueded taupe) is a stunner. It takes quite a while to completely dry and achieve the matte look, but when it does, this is a very strong formula.

Prim was part of Winter 2014 collection. It's somewhere between lavender blue and periwinkle, or stormy blue skies. A very unusual color that I find irresistible despite a streaky first coat application. From the same collection comes Imogen, a PixieDust glitter texture (my husband finds them amusing, though not necessarily wear-in-public material. It's the "go big or go home" color of this collection with large chunks of glitter that look confetti-like in a sheer black base.

Margo and Sansa come from the Entice & Ignite collections for Fall 2014. Zoya calls Margo a "modern red plum". I call it an almost fuchsia. It has an 80s throwback vibe and looks worthy of Alexis Carrington. I love Zoya's cream finish and its durability. Sansa, an obvious nod to the Game of Thrones character (April can't come soon enough) is a metallic purple with gold dust sparkle that makes it incredibly complex and alluring. This formula wears like iron and applies perfectly. I can get away with a single coat, but two are perfection.

Bottom Line: I vow to take better care of my hands and nails and keep them worthy of these colors.

All the nail polish colors featured here can be found on zoya.com ($9-$10). The products for this review were press samples.

Aedes de Venustas- Copal Azur

Photo from Tolan Yoga Retreats in the Sian Ka'an, Mexico.

Writing a fragrance review means combining as many elementsas needed to illustrate what a perfume feels like when you're wearing it. It always starts with fragments, then hopefully things come together. Except that with Copal Azur, the latest release from NYC boutique Aedes de Venusta (known to most locals simply as Aedes), a Bertrand Duchaufour composition,  my thoughts kept taking twists and turns and not forming a cohesive story. Not for lack of love for the perfume (in fact I adore it), but because it keeps making me think of places and colors, bringing forth various images.

What's so different about Aedes' Copal Azur? What makes it stand out so much among other beloved and/or classic incense perfumes? Is it the spiciness? the whiffs of fresh air? the hot and cold elements? Or maybe it's just the way the fragrance interacts with my skin? I've used up the sample and I'm still not sure. I just know that I keep thinking that Copal Azur is exactly what I wanted Uncle Serge's L'Eau Froide to be (and it failed miserably for me).

The official note list includes stuff like ozone and salty notes, both can mean the use of Calone, which I consider Not A Good Thing. I have to admit right here and now that I don't smell any of that. There's a sensation of cool air whooshing throughout Copal Azur, but at no point do I get a watery, "shower fresh" feeling from it. This is an incense perfume more than anything else, and while there is certainly an outdoorsiness to it, the focus remains on the beautiful incense, which is enhanced by all the other elements.

Copal Azur makes a statement right away with a noseful of spice. Only cardamom is listed, but I keep getting a zingy ginger in several forms: juicy fresh, dry powder, and in the end the sweet crystallized one. Together with the milky cardamom it could have gone foody, but it doesn't. Instead, it makes the incense more exotic and deeper, and provide the backdrop for the ambery and slightly sweetened dry-down.

I've been testing from a small dab-on sample, yet projection and longevity have been quite impressive (sillage is harder to evaluate this way). A cold incense is not always the first choice for midwinter, yet just like CdG Zagorsk, Copal Azur stands out against the snowy landscape, and I can't wait to discover where it goes in the heat of a NYC summer.

Notes: ozone, salty notes, incense (three kinds), cardamom, patchouli, myrrh, amber, tonka.

Aedes de Venustas- Copal Azur ($245 for 3.4oz or the very tempting refill spray at $110.00/ 3 x 0.25oz each) is available at Barneys and of course directly from Aedes (aedes.com).

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