Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Listen to This

He may not be to everyone's taste and he's a bit of an odd duck, but I think Jack White is probably a genius. Get thee to Napster.

*photo from Yahoo! Music

Today’s Sample: Ormonde Woman

This morning I had a 7:00 A.M. meeting. I sprayed today’s sample on not long before leaving the house, and it only takes me about 10 minutes to get to work. Like the other Ormonde fragrances, this one has a very bright opening, perhaps a bit too bright for a 7:00 A.M. meeting. As this meeting will be an ongoing thing through the fall, I guess I’ll need to be careful about what I wear on Wednesdays.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I love Ormonde Jayne. I would own all of these fragrances in a heartbeat, finances permitting. Like Champaca, Ormonde Woman has a very bright opening. (An interesting note, in the insert she includes with her sample pack, she suggests applying her perfumes as soon as you leave the shower. If you’re like me, there are several layers of lotions and potions to contend with that might muck up the scent, not to mention I’ve heard that applying fragrance fresh out of the shower is not a great idea, as it evaporates.)

The Ormonde Jayne site lists the notes as follows:
Top: Cardamom, coriander, and grass oil
Heart: Black hemlock, violet, and jasmine absolute
Base: Vetivert, cedar wood, amber, and sandalwood

What I love about her fragrances is how they unfold so slowly. Unlike other perfumes that open brightly and then quickly fade to simple florals (or else just stay harsh), this one stays bright for quite some time. I realize “bright” is a visual term. I associate this smell with intensely bright morning sun. But as the sun moves higher into the sky, the intensity mellows a bit, as does this fragrance. It becomes a sweet and intensely sexy (I think) scent. The sweetness is not a candy or cloying floral. It’s delicate spice and amber, along with violet. But it's not lush like Frangipani, the headiness of it wafting up at you every now and again and making you swoon. It's a desert scent, a clear bright hot day with a painfully blue sky, but not scorching. It's close like that kind of desert heat that settles close and fools you into thinking you aren't really hot, don't need any water. It's comfortable, part of the skin. It becomes personal in a lot of ways other scents I've tried do not.

My nose is immature, and so I am afraid I can’t do it justice. Is the hemlock there? I’m sure it is, but sadly, I don’t know what black hemlock smells like. Honestly, I’m going to have to find a class. There must be one in Atlanta! Remember folks, you’re on this journey with me. I discuss my thoughts about each sample without consulting any source other than the perfumer’s site, for the notes.

But I feel it’s my duty, when I finish getting my amateurish thoughts down, to point you to a real review when I can, and you can read a wonderful review of Ormonde Woman at
Peppermint Patty.

And if you’re a beginner like me, you should also check out Peppermint Patty’s post for today, which is a
primer for perfume beginners. Unfortunately, she didn’t post this before I ordered a gajillion samples, or I would have tried to follow her suggestions. But I am sort of out in the middle of the ocean now, so I’ll keep swimming.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Summer Reading

Every year, I come up with a summer reading list for myself. I’ve been out of school forever, so I am not sure why I continue with the illusion that I somehow have more time in summer than at any other time of year, but I do. The New York Times hasn’t done a summer reading list yet, and I usually pick one or two off that, but here are the books on my agenda so far:
My Life in France, by Julia Child. For Julia Child to go to France, a country where she knew no one (other than her husband) and didn’t even speak the language, and to find a new career—or a new passion, I guess…it’s inspiring. I expect it to be highly entertaining and a fairly easy read.
From Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik. I’ve heard so many good things about this book, and I missed the series in The New Yorker, so I picked it up at the bookstore yesterday. I think I have France on the brain this summer, because I just finished A Moveable Feast. I expect that this book will be a less romanticized, but still very entertaining, view of Paris.
The Rabbit Angstrom Novels (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit at Rest), by John Updike. I read half of Rabbit, Run about seven years ago. I’m pretty sure the bookmark is where I left it. But I was reading the discussion in the NYT about the best books of the last 25 years, and Michael Cunningham (The Hours) said these books were a great influence for him, so I decided to give them a shot. The only other Updike I’ve read are his short stories in The New Yorker.
French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. Hm…another book about France and food! I just think this would be fun to read. If I remember correctly, Rabbit, Run is a rather grim book, so I’ll need something to lighten the mood.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami. A friend told me she was going to buy this for me for my birthday, which is smack in the middle of summer, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I can cross it off my “to buy” list. This novel tells the story of a man looking for his wife, who has disappeared, and the people he encounters as he tries to find her.

If you’re looking for books for your own summer reading list, I’d recommend these:
Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld. If you missed this book last year, you really should pick it up and read it. I’m not much for chick lit, but I don’t think this book really falls into that category. I’m not sure what drove me to buy it (in hardcover, no less), except that I was probably trying to break out of whatever reading rut I was in. I bought this along with Meghan Daum’s The Quality of Life Report (which I hated, by the way). Lee Fiora is such a well-drawn character. You may not like her (the author said she was shocked to learn how many readers hated Lee), but she’s so believable, and the world she wants to inhabit is vivid. (I don’t think Sittenfeld’s second novel is faring well with the critics…why do writers feel the need to turn books around so quickly? It’s a shame…how are they really supposed to develop? Not everyone can be Joyce Carol Oates.)
Strapless: Madame X and the Scandal that Shocked Belle Epoque Paris, by Deborah Davis. This book takes an in-depth look at Parisian culture during the belle époque through the scandal surrounding Madame X, discussing how these two lives intersected and were changed forever by a simple painting. A quick, absorbing read.
All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers, by Larry McMurtry. Really, any book by Larry McMurtry makes a great summer read, but this is one of my favorites. The main character, Danny Deck, is a writer whose book has just been published, and he’s at loose ends. This book is a little bit coming-of-age, a little bit road trip, a little of everything. Danny is also featured in Terms of Endearment and Some Can Whistle.
The Pleasure of My Company, by Steve Martin. If you don’t love Steve Martin, you can leave now. Go on…just go. This novel is funny and quirky, as well as completely heart-wrenching. It tells the story of an agoraphobic who’s looking for love. It’s a small, sweet book.
You Remind Me of Me, by Dan Chaon. This book is more serious than the others I’ve listed, but so engaging. It’s about fate, and about the possibility of becoming something more than who we think we are, and it’s amazingly well-written.

Memorial Holiday Samples

For Memorial Day weekend, Bob and I went to Dallas to visit my family. I’m not the most efficient packer (although I try, I really do), but one thing that made my bag a little lighter was the fact that I got to throw in little sample vials, instead of lugging an entire bottle of something-or-other along with me. Dallas is both hot and humid (no “dry heat”), so I wanted to be sure not to take anything too heavy or too spicy. I spent part of Wednesday night sniffing through all of my samples, trying to decide what to take with me. I finally settled on these three: Des Filles a La Vanille Je t’aime, Fifi Chachnil EDT, Pecksniff’s Green Chypre EDP.

I’ll start with the Pecksniff’s. I wore this on Sunday, the last day we were in Dallas, and frankly, I had a horrible allergy attack and was unable to smell anything, let alone this sample. According to the information on LusciousCargo, the notes are as follows:
Top: pink grapefruit, mandarin, lemon, orange, galbanum, and bergamot
Heart: freesia, water lily, orchid, pink pepper, geranium, violet, and rose
Base: musk and sandalwood
I got as far as the beginning of the heart notes. This scent was sweeter than I expected, but also very refreshing. The pepper is very distinct, and it’s surprisingly un-citrusy given the top is almost all citrus. I couldn’t pick out any of the floral notes in the heart (I love freesia, and it’s one floral I can pretty consistently identify, along with rose) but I think that was mainly because my sense of smell was already somewhat impaired.
By late evening my nose had cleared up a bit, and I could still smell the scent on my wrist, although it was softer. I mainly sniffed just to check the lasting power of the scent because I knew I wouldn’t be able to pick anything out. The following morning, though, I could smell a faint trace of the sandalwood. I’m looking forward to trying this one again, as I think I might really like it, and it didn’t get a fair shot the first time.

On Saturday I wore Fifi Chachnil EDT. LusciousCargo lists the notes as follows: vanilla, rose, orange, coriander, tobacco, and amber. I’ve read so much about this scent on the other perfume sites—it’s made a lot of “Best of” lists—and I was anxious to try it. I was not disappointed. This is a lovely, spicy floral scent. However, I’ve tried so many distinctive fragrances lately, this one actually seemed quite tame. If I were to buy it, I would consider it a staple scent, rather than something really special. The orange, coriander, and tobacco stayed the longest on me, so that the fragrance was actually more interesting later in the day. I didn’t catch much vanilla, but the rose was definitely there, especially at the opening. This made the fragrance seem less distinctive to me at first than it really is. Although I like rose, I like it best presented in unexpected ways, as in L’Ombre dans L’Eau. Finally, I realize this is the EDT and not the EDP, which is no doubt wonderful. I hope to try it soon.

The first two days of the trip, though, I wore the one that turned out to be my favorite of the three, Des Filles a La Vanille Je t’aime. LuckyScent lists the notes as blackcurrant, raspberry, and hints of vanilla. I received this sample as a part of their Hot Pack. I loved this scent the minute I put it on, probably for one reason: At least on my skin, this smells almost exactly like Victoria by Victoria’s Secret, which is no longer in production. I bought that fragrance when I was almost 21 (so about 16 years ago), back when Victoria’s Secret still sold decent lingerie and played classical music in all their stores, before they turned into…well, what they are now. I don’t know why they discontinued the fragrance, but it was very distinctive, very different, especially at a time when everyone drowned themselves in Paris and Poison and Fendi (all lovely scents, mind you, but they were everywhere). I never knew anyone else who wore it, and I don’t know what the notes were (from what I read on basenotes, apparently it had rose, but there’s no rose in Je t’aime as far as I know). It pops up at places like perfumebay, but it’s a little pricey (1.7 oz EDC for $125).
I generally shy away from vanilla fragrances. They are either too tropical or too sweet to me. But this scent is a very soft hint of vanilla, with fruit that’s more flowery than foodie. Don’t be afraid you will smell like something you would eat with afternoon tea. It’s a luscious, sexy scent, to my nose, but without being heavy. I reapplied this before we went out to dinner on Thursday night, and we sat outside in the evening heat and it smelled wonderful. I was in my favorite place (Dallas) with my favorite person (Bob), eating tapas and drinking sangria, and the world seemed full of possibilities. That’s just how I remember Victoria, wearing it the summer I turned 21.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

I'm in Dallas this weekend, visiting family. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Today’s Sample: Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

Carnal Flower was one of the samples I bought off eBay. On Sunday I went through my little basket o’ samples to decide what to try this week, and I pulled this one. I was somewhat apprehensive. Although I liked it at first sniff, I worried that A) Bob might think it was too strong; B) the people at the office might think it was too strong; and C) it might be too much in the sudden heat wave we’re having.

But despite my reservations, I went ahead and applied it this morning. When I went downstairs to leave for work, Bob told me I smelled good. This isn’t unusual, because he thinks most things smell good on me (except Mitsuoko, which he thinks smells like household cleanser, and Hermes Un Jardin sur Le Nil, which on my skin actually becomes something more like Un Jardin sur Le PEW).

Our morning conversation about fragrance usually goes something like this:
Me: What do you think? Holds wrist up for Bob to sniff.
Bob: That smells nice.
Me: Really? Do you like it? What do you like about it? Whips out notepad and begins to take notes.
Bob: Well, it just smells nice. Everything smells nice on you. Let me smell it again. Moves in closer, sniffs neck.
Bob: It’s nice, but it’s…well…
Me: What? What? Taps pen impatiently against notebook like journalist waiting for mad alleged serial killer to finally admit he’s guilty.
Bob: Flowery. But it’s nice. You know, just flowery.
Me: Flowery? What’s that supposed to mean? Slams pad on table.
Bob: Flowery. Um, you know, like flowers. Backs slowly away.
Me: Do you like it better than what I wore yesterday? Shines flashlight directly into Bob’s eyes.
Bob: I don’t remember. Please don’t hurt me. Crawls under kitchen table.

But this morning’s conversation went like this:
Bob: That smells good. Sniffs air nearby.
Me: Thanks. It’s not too much?
Bob: No, I mean, that smells really good. I like that. Just the right amount. Blocks doorway to garage in order to keep me from leaving so he can continue to sniff.
Me: Really? Thanks.
Bob: I really like that. Is that the lily of the…the one with the lily you wore the other day? (He tries, he does.)
Me: Iris. It was Iris. No, this is called Carnal Flower.
Bob: I like it. That’s my favorite. That’s the best.

He’s never said that about anything I’ve tried, not even the scents I used to wear before I started all this sampling mania. For him to say that something is his favorite is akin to…akin to…akin to Bush or Cheney admitting that they are wrong about anything. (Woops, did I say that out loud?) The only other fragrance he’s been this enthusiastic about is Nanette Lepore.

Although there are other notes in Carnal Flower, the main note is tuberose. You can read wonderful reviews of this fragrance at Bois de Jasmin or Now Smell This. To be quite honest, this is the first tuberose fragrance I’ve tried.

I do love this fragrance, and it reminds me of my grandmother. I associate Ormonde Jayne’s Osmanthus with the scent of her character, but I associate Carnal Flower—or rather, tuberose—with the scent of her physical being. Before getting my sample of Carnal Flower, I received a sample of Fracas. When I sniffed Fracas, I identified that scent as the smell of the inside of a perfume decanter that sat on her dresser. There was no juice inside the bottle, but the scent was still strong, though a little dusty. I had to ask my mom if my grandmother ever wore Fracas, and she told me no, but that the decanter had originally belonged to my grandmother’s sister, and so it was possible that she wore that scent. We don’t know. Maybe they both did, maybe long ago?

I do know my grandmother wore White Shoulders, Youth Dew, Chloe, Private Collection, and Jungle Gardenia, because she received them all as Christmas presents for me or my mom over the years. But still, tuberose is the scent I associate with her. When I sniff my wrist, I am instantly transported back in time to West Texas, to my grandmother’s house, and it’s summer. Strangely vivid.

Sorry to ramble! This is a beautiful fragrance. I do think this will hold up against the heat, because the tuberose is much calmer than I expected. And nobody at work has said, “What are you wearing?” (which in the group I work with means “You have on too much perfume.”) And Bob has declared this his favorite! Would it be worth a bottle?*

*My birthday is at the end of July, and I plan to buy myself a bottle of my favorite, if I can figure out what that is!

Mascara Review: MAC ProLash

Graphic created by Katie at Scentzilla!

One of my longtime close friends is a MAC freak. When I got married in 2001, she took me to the MAC counter for a makeover. I bought everything the MAC SA used on me, save for the foundation (that was back when I moved between Prescriptives Traceless and StudioFix) and the mascara, because at the time, I was fiercely loyal to the brand I was wearing. It was some of the best mascara I’ve ever used. Lashes like you wouldn’t believe. In fact it was so good that not long after the wedding these two men showed up at my house and wanted to take a picture of my lashes. Nice looking fellows in black suits and designer sunglasses. I think they were fashion photographers from Europe. They had the tiniest camera, with a really bright flash. And that mascara, it was…it was…Why can’t I remember the name?

What was I talking about again?

Anyway, the makeover. I didn’t buy the MAC mascara. But just about a week ago I was having my picture taken for something here at work, and for some reason when the flash went off I thought: MAC ProLash! says this about ProLash: “Lengthening, thickening, non-flaking, non-smudging…totally hard-wearing. Sassy and lush. Works on the catwalk, soups up the sidewalk.” Soups up the sidewalk? You mean, like when I’m hanging out waiting for customers to drive by? They are using Pamela Anderson in their ad campaigns, after all. I was a little worried that I might end up with a look that said not, “Don’t I have lush, beautiful eyelashes?” but more, “Just leave the money on the dresser, mister, and then we can get started.”

No matter my fears, I went for the Coal Black. The tube is standard, no frills MAC. The brush is a little shorter than on the other mascaras I’ve tried for these reviews, maybe a little over three-quarters of an inch long. The bristles form a widely spaced spiral, and the mascara itself is thick and somewhat dry. Usual routine: comb, curl, comb, apply mascara. The MAC went on beautifully, and I only needed one coat. (On Gloss, it recommends applying this mascara to the top of your lashes first, for volume. I did not try this, but I know this works well with…with…what the heck is the name of that mascara? This trick can also help hold curl with curling mascaras.) My lashes looked dark and quite lush. Because the formula is so dry, my left eye wonkiness did not have time to occur. The final effect was a little sooty, but all in all quite pleasing.

Quite pleasing until after lunch when I went to the restroom to check my mascara and discovered the black smudges beneath both eyes. Hrm. And no allergy eyes for me yesterday, either. I wiped off as much of it as I could (it wasn’t easy) and went back to my desk. By the time I went home last night, I had even worse smudges under my eyes. I looked sort of strung out, like I had big circles under my eyes. I looked, you know, like I had been working hard, souping up the sidewalk.

And after all of the mascara that had worn off onto my face, and even though I had applied only one coat, it took me two-and-a-half cotton balls full of Neutrogena remover to get this stuff off my eyelashes. And when I woke up this morning, I had a little smudge right in the corner of my right eye! Where did it come from? Ppffffftt.

I’m so disappointed. Really, I love MAC’s stuff. I think their eye shadows are just about the best, I love their powder blush (so silky, really nice), I love their lipsticks and glosses. But today, I’m wearing the Sonia Kashuk again. I just love how this black looks on my lashes, and I had no trouble with application this morning at all. My lashes look so pretty…

I’m sorry. I have to go now. Some men are here, and they want to take my picture!

Product Rating: 4

*photo from

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Today’s Sample: Diptyque Eau de Lierre

I took a wine class several years ago, and the sommelier said something that stuck with me: There are wines to appreciate as a connoisseur, and there are wines to enjoy with friends. I’m not sure why, but I remembered this comment today as I was thinking about Eau de Lierre.

Diptyque’s site lists the notes in this fragrance as ivy leaves, cyclamen, geranium, green pepper, ambergris, palisander wood, and musks.

This is my third Diptyque fragrance to try (the others were Philosykos and L’Ombre dans L’Eau). I felt a little shy about it. These fragrances are quite a departure from your everyday department store spritz. They can be a bit jarring, although not in a bad way—in fact, next to the Ormonde Jayne fragrances, they are my favorite “niche” so far. But with Ormonde Jayne, I feel more comfortable going with my instincts, even if I am not always right (see “Frangipani as summer fragrance”). With Diptyque, I feel a little bit outside my comfort zone, and so I cheat.

I read the reviews to see what I think.

Or rather, I read the reviews to see what I should think, and the reviews mostly tell me this is a watery letdown, that it doesn’t pack the punch of their past fragrances, that they seem to be maybe selling out a little and making fragrances that appeal to the mass market types. *Shyly raises hand.*

As with Philosykos, I loved this as soon as I put it on, and it only got better for me throughout the day. It’s hot today, and I am wearing my first summer dress of the season, and this scent fits perfectly. Looking at the notes, to me, this is exactly as it should be. Nothing in the list is grand, nothing should stand up, call out, wave. It’s a cool quiet place in the woods, and not much else. The pepper to me is a quick flash, the floral aspects don’t make this fragrance sweet, and the green is somewhat watery, but it evokes to me that unexpected, final, cool, wet feel of late spring that I get when I go out onto the deck to water the flowers in the evening, just past the heat of the day. That same soft humidity is there for me in this fragrance. It has nothing of the grandeur of L’Ombre, which is a bracing scent that makes me think of roses in an early spring cold rain.

I’ve been sniffing my wrist all day, but then this has been the case with all three Diptyque fragrances I have tried. Unlike the Ormonde Jayne fragrances where I have definite favorites (Champaca, Frangipani) of those I've sampled, I have no favorite here. I hope to try all of their scents (I have Do Son and Tam Dao at home), and I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with a bottle of something, maybe even Eau de Lierre.

Eau de Lierre is a fragrance to wear enjoying wine with friends. To me it is no disappointment because I don’t know enough to be disappointed. I sort of like it that way.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz…

After weeks and weeks of mostly cool and rainy weather, spring finally hit Atlanta this weekend. Actually, it was more like summer hit Atlanta this weekend. Highs were in the low 90s. Because temperatures have mostly been in the upper 60s or low 70s, this was refreshing. I was ready for skirts and shorts.

A few things about this weekend:

Yesterday I got the new Allure with Audrey Tautou on the cover. Gamine! Finally, after months of actresses with flat-ironed hair and smoky eyes, we get this lovely, refreshing face! Her hair is so adorable, it makes me want to chop all mine off tout de suite. Alas, I approach 37 in July, so I think my gamine days are firmly behind me. Still, if I were 27, I wouldn’t be writing this, because I’d be sitting in my stylist’s chair getting that cute crop. Er, except it’s Monday and my stylist doesn’t work on Mondays. But you get the picture. Her makeup is also very nice and fresh for summer. And all Chanel. I would post a picture of the cover, but they still have flat-ironed, smoky-eyed Meg Ryan up on their Web site.

Because it was so hot this weekend, I didn’t sample any new fragrances. When I first started my fragrance adventure a couple of months ago, I spent a lot of time just reading the perfume blogs, and I came across this post on Scentzilla. Katie was “traipsing through Target” and looking for old and new drugstore favorites, looking for a fragrance I wore back in high school, Coty Exclamation. I had an aunt and uncle I saw only a couple of times a year, but they were very sweet and always got me something for Christmas, and one year they bought me a bottle. (I think it was the first “grown up” gift they ever gave me—you know how older relatives continue to think you are still eleven years old even when you are about to enter college.)

I decided to head over to Target and see if I could find some. I couldn’t even remember what it smelled like, but I had to have it! Target didn’t carry it, but I did nab the Sonia Kashuk Gardenia & Black Vetiver perfume palette for my mom (Katie mentioned a Gardenia spray, but I haven’t been able to find it). By then I was on a mission, so I headed over to Eckerds, where I found not only Coty Exclamation, but also Jovan’s Pink Musk, another scent Katie mentioned. Pink Musk is sweet and refreshing, not cloying, not fancy. It’s a perfect scent to wear on a hot day when you’re running errands, in and out of a hot car. I wore it all weekend, and it’s just a pretty, soft scent. And it’s super cheap—I think I paid $9 for my bottle.

And today’s fragrance news:

Today I am wearing Hermes Hiris. I love this scent, but it fades so quickly. I am not one to carry fragrance around with me, so I can’t refresh. *Sigh* Fading iris. I went to TJ Maxx on my lunch break. I was supposed to be going to the pet store to get a snail to keep my office Betta fish, Napoleon, company. But TJ Maxx is just right there, so I thought I would drop in for just a second, and of course I ended up spending my entire lunch break ogling stuff. The TJ Maxx here is nothing like the magical fairyland TJ Maxx where Annie and Cavewoman from Blogdorf Goodman shop. Instead, we generally get fairyland’s final clearance items. Only once have I had good luck in a TJ Maxx store in Atlanta, when I scored a pair of flats for $35 that I had almost bought at Nordstrom for $85. The TJ Maxx stores in Dallas are much, much better.

Enough bellyaching. Today I actually had a little luck. I bought a small EDT spray of Guerlain Mitsuoko. I know it’s not quite as good as the EDP, but it was $20, and still smells quite nice. I also found a gift for my mom, but I can’t say what it is in case she reads this. Ha! I also got some cute blank notebooks for $3 apiece. I love blank books. I love paper. It’s going to make me crazy trying to decide which one to use first.

Enough rambling. I hope to return tomorrow with a review of MAC’s ProLash mascara, and also maybe a line or two about Diptyque’s Eau de Lierre.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mascara Review: Sonia Kashuk’s Lashify Mascara

Graphic by Katie at Scentzilla!

When I was at Target the other day, after I put back the Almay One Coat mascara and traded it for Neutrogena’s Weightless Volume, I decided I would also put back the Maybelline Full & Soft (another old favorite) I was going to review and get something else, something new that I hadn’t tried. After walking around a bit and looking at the standard stuff, I remembered the Sonia Kashuk line. I have a couple of her eye shadow palettes, and I’ve been impressed with the quality. She has a great shadow base for no creasing, and the colors are lovely. Her Sweet Nothings palette has soft shimmery highlighters that are great for summer, with other shadows or on their own.

But I am not here to review eye shadow, so on with the show. Sonia Kashuk offers several versions of her Lashify mascara: black and brown, in regular and waterproof formulas. The black comes with either a lash comb or a matching eyeliner in the lid; the brown comes with a lash comb only (or at least, I couldn’t find one with a liner, and I didn’t see a tag indicating one existed). I nabbed the black with the lash comb; I have plenty of black eyeliner at home. Of course, I also have a lash comb, so…I’m not sure about the benefit of offering either. It’s a little gimmicky, but for travel, I suppose either one could come in handy.

One thing I liked about this mascara was the minimal packaging. I hate those stiff plastic things a lot of drugstore mascaras come in--if you aren’t careful, you are bound to cut off a finger trying to get the thing open. And while I love some of the pretty packaging other companies have, I feel guilty throwing away the boxes. The Sonia Kashuk mascara tube was wrapped in cellophane only. One quick pull, and you’re in. Not much to throw away, either.

The “tube” is square, but not difficult to hold as I apply the mascara. The brush is a nice marriage between the brushes on the last two mascaras I reviewed: about an inch long and tapered at the end, the bristles are more separate and spiral down the brush like they do on the Bobbi Brown wand, but these bristles are fuller, like the Neutrogena wand. The mascara seemed to collect a bit between layers, but a quick swipe of tissue removed the excess.

I decided to try two coats, like I did with the Neutrogena. I followed the routine: comb, curl, comb again, apply mascara one eye at a time (thanks Neutrogena!). The first coat went on beautifully. I didn’t even need to comb. I went about my business for a few minutes, and then I went back in for a second coat.

This is where things got ugly. On the second coat, my lashes started to clump together. I had waited about three minutes between coats--possibly not enough time? In the middle of the left eye (cliquey, mean girl lashes), it looked like I had glued on one giant false eyelash. Down at the end, on the outside, it looked as though I had applied the mascara and then stuck my finger in there and rubbed my eye. Even on my right eye, my pretty, well-behaved lashes started to stick together. Combing only made things worse.

And so I had to resort to the oldest trick in the book: the safety pin. I know, I know. You’ll poke your eye out! Not to worry, folks. I am a professional accupuncturist. (Lie.)

I used the safety pin to straighten out the muddled mess (To be clear, you understand I’m using the pin part, right? Not the little hook part. Ahem.) and separate everybody, get them back in order. I waited a minute or so, and then I combed my lashes one final time.

And I was astounded. First, the back of this mascara is one of the prettiest blacks I have seen. My lashes looked neither sooty nor spidery. They were long, long. I don’t think they were volumized or thickened, necessarily. (Oh, another aside. No packaging means nothing to write any claims on: “Thickens! Lengthens! Makes you thinner!” There was a little sign posted at Target, but I didn’t write down what it said, because I thought I could look it up on the Internet, but the mascara is for sale in stores only…hence, no claims here and no graphic, either!)

But they sort of fanned out. They really popped, and my eyes looked great. I would say they were on the dramatic end of natural, but not moving into Va-Va-Va-Voom! territory. AND (drum roll please): My lashes held their curl. Now how often does that happen? I also had no flaking, and even after all the trouble, my lashes did not migrate back to their usual wonky positions. I experienced the tiniest bit of smudging by evening (nothing like with the Bobbi Brown), but to be fair, my allergies had kicked in, so it was to be expected since I wasn’t wearing the waterproof version.

This mascara came off very easily, only one cotton ball and my Neutrogena remover.

It’s a tough call. I found this mascara difficult to apply, but the look of it was so great, it almost makes up for it. And, of course, user error was probably part of the problem. Between my nutty lashes and the fact that I may have not waited long enough (or too long?) to apply the second coat…well…You may have better luck with it than I did, if you’re an expert, with normal lashes! At $8 a tube for really pretty lashes, I say give it a shot.

Product Rating: 9 (It’s all about looks with me. *sigh*)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mascara Review: Neutrogena Weightless Volume Mascara

Graphic created by Katie at Scentzilla

I love Neutrogena products. I’m rarely disappointed in anything they make, from skin care to cosmetics to shampoo. When I signed up to do these reviews, I thought I might go back and visit old drugstore favorites like Almay One Coat. But when I went to buy a tube, I found not one but three formulations of One Coat: Thickening, Lengthening, and “Triple Effect,” which lengthens, thickens, and gets you that promotion you’vealways wanted. Kidding. It lengthens, thickens, and gives you “curvier” lashes. But which one of these was closest to the original formula? While I stood in the aisle at Target and tried to determine which would be closest (I had just about settled on “thickening”), I looked across the way and saw the Neutrogena stuff.

I use the Neutrogena Lash Tint on weekends when I don’t feel like putting on full makeup. So, ahem, most weekends. I like it well enough, and you can’t really have major expectations for a lash tint anyway. I put the Almay package I had in my hands back on its hook and went over to the Neutrogena display. Neutrogena offers two mascaras, Full Volume and Weightless Volume. I picked up the Weightless Volume because it’s wax free, which is supposed to keep it from clumping, and anti-clumping is what I need. I also made sure to buy black (Rich Black, incidentally).

Here’s what the package says:
“Breakthrough wax-free formula eliminates traditional mascara wax clumping, smudging and smearing.
-Lashes look healthy, natural, and feel weightless, not heavy, stiff or brittle.
-Patent-pending, long-wearing formula goes on cleanly, feels weightless and washes off easily.
-Lash building brush builds and separates lashes with no clumps or smudges.”

The full-bristled brush is about an inch long and tapered at the end. I admit, I bristled and the bristles. Usually this means automatic clumpage. I went through the usual routine: comb, curl, comb again, apply mascara, comb again if necessary. Thank goodness the package had these helpful instructions: “Apply to one eye and then the other.” I’ve been doing it wrong all these years, going back and forth between individual lashes on each eye. This cut my morning routine time by at least an hour.

Oh, the mascara. I applied the first coat. Nice lengthening and no clumping! I waited a minute or so and then applied the second coat. This went on as well almost as well as the first--just a little bit of “dotting,” not really clumping, which was easy to fix with a quick swipe of the lash comb. My lashes looked long and somewhat full. Overall, the effect was noticeable, but still quite natural.

But the best part: my wonky lashes did not migrate at all during the day. This mascara held the chaos at bay. My lashes also felt very soft and natural. I would have assumed that it was the wax in mascara that kept lashes from getting brittle, but apparently I am wrong. (Not unusual!)

And the next best part: no smudges, no flakes, no smears, after fifteen hours of wear.

It was very easy to remove, much easier than my Bobbi Brown. I usually use two cotton balls taking off one coat of the Bobbi Brown, but I only needed one for two coats of this. It came off in little dots--not as odd as Kiss Me’s little squiggles, but still different. Of course, I was using the Neutrogena remover, so maybe that had something to do with it.

And it’s only $6! Also, I just noticed this morning that is having 30% all Neutrogena products through tomorrow, along with free shipping on orders of $25 or more. Happy shopping!

Product Rating: 9

*photo from

Friday, May 19, 2006

Today’s Sample: Ormonde Jayne’s Osmanthus

This morning I tucked my Frangipani away. As promised, I am wearing Ormonde Jayne’s (OJ) Osmanthus today, in order to compare it to the Keiko Mecheri (KM) Osmanthus (formerly known as Fleurs d’Osmanthus) I wore last week. I have the OJ on all my usual perfume points, save my right wrist, where I am wearing the KM.

This is not my first time to wear Osmanthus. In fact, it was the first OJ fragrance I tried, and also the first niche fragrance I ever tried. When I received my first sets of samples, I decided I would do mini-reviews for myself, so I could keep track of my impressions. Bob had given me a lovely fountain pen and journal for Christmas, so I decided to use the journal to keep track of fragrances. Funny, I work at a computer all day, and I generally come home and get on the computer there for one reason or another, but I love to write. I love the physical act of writing, the pen and the paper, all of it. Now that I’ve started this project, I generally type these impressions out in Word. I miss the book.

OJ’s site lists the notes in Osmanthus as follows:
Top: Pomello, davana (sweet Egyptian herb), pimento
Middle/Heart: Osmanthus absolute, water lily and sambac (Indian Jasmine)
Base: Cedarwood, labdanum resin, musk, and vetivert

Here’s part of what I wrote as my first impressions of this fragrance: “It’s almost masculine to me, but not unfeminine, like a woman who is handsome rather than pretty,” and “It’s sharp, but the smoke tempers it a bit.” I had also written “hairspray.”

To me, this is indeed a very sharp, smoky fragrance. If I were to take the analogy of the handsome woman further, OJ’s Osmanthus is a woman in the 1950’s, dressed to the nines at a cocktail party, with a cigarette in one hand and a gin martini in the other. Jazz—something experimental and discordant—plays in the background.

I think I wrote “hairspray” because this scent evokes for me all those scents that made up a woman of that era. When I smell this, I see pictures of my grandmother from that time, tan, made-up, well-coiffed. The scent of hairspray mixed in with the scents of perfume, lipstick, smoke and gin. The citrus hangs on to the end in this fragrance, but it does mellow.

The KM is a much prettier scent. The fragrance is soft but confident, elegant. It’s a woman (not a girl, mind you—it is not OJ’s younger sister, the way Anthousa Fig & Vetiver was to Diptyque Philosykos) in pale pink silk, sipping fine champagne at a late morning wedding in the summertime. A string quartet plays.

OJ’s fragrance is one I can definitely appreciate, but I wouldn’t want to wear it. Or maybe couldn’t wear it—I don’t think I can pull this off. But I would like to be friends with someone who could wear this fragrance with confidence. That person would have to have a big personality, or else this fragrance could end up wearing her, and then she’d just be the lady with too much perfume that you roll your eyes at in the elevator. For myself, I prefer the quiet subtlety of the KM, although I’m not quite sure it's really me either.

I’m Frangipani! (You knew I would have to bring it up again, didn’t you?)

Mascara Review: Bobbi Brown’s Everything Mascara

Graphic created by Katie at Scentzilla

I bought this mascara as an impulse purchase several months ago, along with the Pink Shimmer Brick Compact and the Pot Rouge for Lips and Cheeks in Flushed Pink. I was feeling ready for spring (mind you, it’s taking its time getting here this year, too), so I thought these purchases might freshen things up a bit. The few things I’ve bought from that line, I have mostly enjoyed, although I am not really a fan of the lipstick. Her makeup doesn’t draw me in the way MAC or Chanel does (I own lots of MAC, no Chanel, but I love to look and dream), but she does make good basics, and what’s more basic than mascara?

And besides, this mascara does EVERYTHING! Not only will it lengthen, thicken, and condition your lashes, but it will pick up your dry cleaning, vacuum your living room, and cook you dinner at night!


Here’s what says about Everything Mascara: “Formulated to lengthen, thicken, and define for maximum fullness. Conditions and strengthens soft lashes. The formula won’t flake, smudge, or clump.” Hm, like it says—everything. Wait: except curling. It says nothing about curling, so get out the old eyelash curler if that’s part of the “everything’ you want from your mascara.

As far as color, I tested the dark brown. I think it’s important to note this because I honestly believe that the color makes a difference. Brown and black mascaras behave the differently. Brown mascaras tend to feel thinner, not coat lashes as well, and not hold lashes in place as well. (The only exception to this: Maybelline’s Full & Soft mascara, in any color, both regular and waterproof.)

This mascara comes in a basic black tube. The brush is about an inch long and slightly tapered at the end. It seems to be designed so that all the extra mascara ends up in a little blob at the end of the brush, so it’s easy to remove with a tissue. The brush itself has evenly spaced bristles that spiral down the brush, instead of being layered separately, like branches on an artificial Christmas tree. (I don’t know why, but most mascara brushes make me think of Christmas trees.)

My general routine, because of the wonky left eyelashes, is to comb my lashes, then curl them, and then comb again, and then apply mascara. The Everything Mascara goes on very smoothly. I rarely have problems with dots or clumps as I apply. It definitely defines my lashes very nicely, but I would not say it thickens them much. Again, this could be because I am using the brown, which may be a thinner formula than the black. It does give nice, even coverage. My lashes are long, so I can’t say whether the lengthening claim works or not.

As to the “conditions and strengthens,” I ask you: How would you really know? I mean, when you use bad mascara, you know it. But when you wear a good mascara, how do you know if it is doing anything? I personally believe that the condition of your lashes has much more to do with the remover that you use (and whether you remove your makeup at all!) than with the mascara you wear. I have yet to find one I could definitely say improved my lashes. If you know of one, please tell me!

This formula definitely does not flake at all. However, its claims about no smudging or clumping don’t fare so well. By mid-day, I can usually see little smudges under my eyes—and I generally do not wear mascara on my lower lashes (which are very long, fine and sparse. Remember those adds “Hey spider eyes?!”—that was me they were talking to…). This means the mascara is wearing off a little bit every time I blink, I suppose. As for the clumping, the lashes on my left eye have generally migrated back to their usual positions (lash clique in the middle, chaos on the outside lashes, etc.) by mid-morning. In my book, this is on par with “clumping.” It’s important to me that mascara be able to hold my lashes in place, more or less, and this one doesn’t do that.

I use Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover and a cotton ball to remove my mascara at night (although like Cavewoman, I prefer Almay pads). This mascara comes off very cleanly, and I see no residue in the morning. Again, my lashes don’t seem to be conditioned or strengthened in any way.

Considering that this is $20 a tube, I would say buy L’Oreal Voluminous, or if you want something softer, Maybelline Full & Soft instead. They are both much better for much less money. But if you are loyal to Bobbi Brown and want to give the black version a try, it may fare better. Happy hunting!

Product Rating: 6

*photo from

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Like Ted Nugent, but with a Mascara Wand Instead of a Gun

Graphic created by Katie at Scentzilla

I’ve joined up with Blogdorf Goodman’s Mascara Hunters (Get it? Hunting? Ted Nugent? Guns? What a cheeseball. Scary, gun-toting cheeseball. Him. Not me.) for May’s Mascara Madness. Tomorrow’s post will feature my first review, Bobbi Brown’s Everything Mascara. Coming this weekend, look for reviews of Sonia Kashuk‘s Lashify Mascara and Neutrogena‘s Weightless Volume Mascara, and hopefully next week sometime, a review of MAC’s Pro Lash.

But for now, a little background:

Right up front I think you should know: I am unbelievably fickle when it comes to mascara. I have about four tubes of it in my drawer at any given time, and usually I’m none too crazy about any of them. But I do have a little bit of a practical side, so I try to use most or all of the ones I buy. Sometimes I just can’t, though, so into the trash they go. It’s a pity you can’t swap mascara, it really is.

Part of the problem is not the mascara; it’s my lashes. They are very long (they hit my eyebrows, and when I wear a lot of mascara, I can feel them), but they are very fine and only medium thickness. And then there’s my left eye. (Oooh, name for autobiography: My Left Eye) The lashes on that eye are a little wonky. For example, I have a little clique of lashes right in the middle of my eyelid—they tend to want to stick together. And on the outside lashes, it’s simply complete chaos. Eyelash anarchy. One lash grows out stick-straight and refuses to curl. If I pull it out, another grows back in, just as stubborn and defiant as the last. The others are just a tangled, muddled mess.

But mascara helps! Mascara!

My favorite mascara:
L’Oreal’s Voluminous Mascara. Hands down, this is the best mascara I’ve ever used. Every time I buy a tube of this stuff, I swear I’m never going to even look at another tube of mascara, but then I read about something in a magazine or see an advertisement and think, “What if I’m missing out on something? What if department store mascaras really are better? What if Great Lash really is great and I just forgot how great I thought it was?”

My other favorites throughout the years:
L’Oreal Lash Out; Almay One Coat; Clinique’s old mascara they don’t make anymore—was it just called Different Mascara? I can’t remember the name; Clinique’s High Impact; Lancome Definicils; and Maybelline Full & Soft.

Mascaras I want to try after reading other hunter’s reviews:

Urban Decay Big Fatty, reviewed by parisjasmal at Monkey Posh. Actually, she knows so much, I want to try all the mascaras and mascara-related tools she has reviewed!

DuWop Lash Lacquer in Plum Black, reviewed by the Beauty Addict. I have green eyes (guess you already knew that…heh), so I think the plum thing could really work.

Maybelline’s Lash Discovery Mini Brush in soft black, reviewed by Toya at Life of a Ladybug and Gigi at Beauty Jones.

Max Factor Lash Perfection in Deep Blue, reviewed by Patti and Patty at Blogdorf Goodman. I don’t know why I am so intrigued by the colored mascaras, but I don’t think they are the nightmare purples and blues of the 1980s, and they can do wonders to bring out the eyes. I don’t wear a lot of mascara, so a little oomph helps.

Come back tomorrow for my first review…maybe you’ll find something you want to try!

Tinted Love: One Woman’s Search for the Perfect Tinted Moisturizer

Like that title? I learned how to do that in graduate school. The opening title phrase, followed by what we affectionately referred to as the “post-colonic surge.” Sounds like something to tell the doctor about, don’t you think? Anyway, it was more interesting than “Product Review: Tinted Moisturizers.”

In their June issue, Real Simple reviews tinted moisturizers. For several years now, I’ve been using tinted moisturizers instead of foundation. Back in my 20s, I wore foundation (Prescriptives, Clinique, Lancome). After that, I started wearing Studio Fix, and I wore it for years, until my skin got too dry. I tried to go back to foundation, but I had a hard time finding one that spread evenly, didn’t highlight dry patches, or didn’t settle in my pores.

I thought I would review some of the tinted moisturizers I’ve used over the years, as Real Simple didn’t include any of them in their review.

Prescriptives Traceless Skin Tint
Years ago, I was walking through Bloomingdales (I remember this was the weekend after 9/11, and the mall was creepily quiet for a Saturday.), and I spotted something new: Prescriptives Traceless Skin Tint. I decided to stop and test, and went home not just with the tint but with the powder as well. For a few years I switched between that and the Studio Fix, depending on the weather and condition of my skin.

This tint works best applied with a brush. Many skin tints you can apply as you would a moisturizer, but this isn’t one of them (believe me, I tried). It comes in a tube with a screw-off top. The best way to apply it is to squeeze a relatively generous amount onto your fingers, dab the tint onto your forehead, cheeks, nose and chin, and then use the foundation brush to smooth it out over your face. A note about this tint: you have to smooth it out quickly, or it starts to get streaky.

Overall, it evens your skin tone and also provides a soft glow. It could have been the shade I was using (I am a Y/O), but I also felt it whitened my face just a bit. The powder (which they recommend, of course), enhances the glow and gives a very moisturized, dewy effect. As the day goes on, however, it does tend to move around a little and settle near drier spots or in fine lines. This is easy enough to correct with your finger, but really, you shouldn’t have to. I didn’t wear primer back then, but primer may help.

One drawback, though, is that if you have really bad rough or dry patches, this tint will highlight every one of them, especially if you use it with the powder.

MAC Select Tint SPF 15
I gave up both the Prescriptives Traceless and the Studio Fix because my skin was simply too dry. I love MAC, though, and I read about their Select Tint on MUA (where I have been lurking for years), so I decided to give it a try. I’m an NW20, and the SA recommended I stay with that shade for the tint. I noticed that it tended to separate a little in the bottle (must have been water, because this is a water-based tint), and I had to shake it well before applying.

I applied this tint with my fingers as I would a foundation. It went on well enough, but it immediately settled in my pores and clung to my dry patches. Also, it appeared to make my skin a sort of tannish-pink color. My NW20? Pink? I’m not sure if I was used to being pale and dewy after the Prescriptives, or if the SA simply gave me the wrong color. (Is anyone out there one level in Studio Fix and another level in something else?) I can’t comment on its staying power, because I think that every morning I wore it, I ended up wiping most of it off completely as I tried to get it out of my pores and even out the dry spots. My skin is much less dry now, so I am tempted to go back and see another SA and give it a go. I also like that it has an SPF, even though I wear a moisturizer with SPF 15.

Clinique Almost Makeup SPF 15
I love Clinique products because they are so easy. Clinique was the first “grown-up” makeup I ever owned, and I appreciate that they have continued to develop their line as their customer base ages.

My skin was a wreck when I ordered this a few years back, along with their 3-Step system and some other goodies. (I know, I know. Don’t use the 3-Step. See my entry on The Skin Type Solution if you want to know about my obsession with skin care products.) It was winter, and I wanted nothing of the strange color effect I’d gotten with the MAC, so to be safe I went with Fair as my color choice.

I applied this just like a moisturizer, squeezing it out onto my fingers and then swiping it all over my face. And I got what I expected: light, fresh, even coverage. Almost Makeup has a terrific moisturizing effect, and provides a bit more coverage than the other tinted moisturizers I’ve used. It also stays put, especially if you just dust on a little translucent powder. All in all, I would say this is my favorite…except that I can’t, because my favorite is:

Stila Sheer Color Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15
Before I start this part of the review, have you all noticed that Stila has been removed from Could the rumor that EL is planning to stop (or sell) this line be true? If you know, please tell me, so I can stock up on this tint (and on my Convertible Color in Lillium). And while I’m at it, anyone tried the Sakura Collection? It looks so pretty…

Ahem. I read about this product everywhere. (Yes, Product Placement People, you got me. Good for you.) I’m pretty sure what convinced me was a good rating on MUA. But however it happened, I was out of Almost Makeup (AM), and I decided to try this. I bought it in Light.

Like the AM, I apply this as I would a moisturizer: squeeze some onto my fingers, swipe it over my face, and I’m done. So easy! I do put a little translucent powder over the top, just to even things out and feel “finished.” Honestly, though, I didn’t know how much I loved this product until I was almost out of it and I decided to go back to AM. But when I used the AM again, it seemed thicker, and also not quite the right color. The Stila blends perfectly with my skin. There’s no lightening effect at all. I may have always been using the wrong color for AM, but the texture also no longer felt so “natural” after the Stila.

My only complaint about the Stila is that it does wear off a little, and the AM does not. However, I started wearing the Smashbox primer after reading about it on the Beauty Addict’s site (and also Cavewoman’s review on Blogdorf Goodman). I picked up a sample tube of this at Sephora (I hate to commit if I don’t have to), and it’s lasting forever. Now the Stila pretty much stays put. On days when I don’t wear the primer (because I am too lazy or running late), I see a big difference. My nose is glowing by late afternoon (Um, Br. Baumann, why does a DSPW have a shiny nose?), and I have to powder.

Of course, I say I love it, but I’m so darn fickle…I’m almost out, and I’m thinking of trying DuWop’s Revolution Face, after reading Beauty Addict’s review. Real Simple recommended Cosmedicine’s tinted moisture for dry skin, so that’s a possibility as well. Or I could go the drugstore route with Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Face Tint.

Anyone out there tried these, or have a tinted moisturizer you think I should try? Let me know, and I will review it here.
**photos of Prescriptives, MAC, and Clinique from; photo of Stila from

Frangipani Redux

Frangipani, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...I am wearing this wonderful scent again today. I could not help myself. And you know what else? I finally got the tropical thing around four o'clock yesterday afternoon. All the cedar and much of the amber seemed to wear away, and what was left was a soft vanilla floral. I could still smell it in class last night. (Bob and I are trying to learn Chinese...more on that another time!) I kept surreptitiously trying to smell my wrist. The instructor probably thought I was a nut.

And so, Frangipani again today. Tomorrow I will wear Ormonde Jayne's Osmanthus and do a comparison to the Keiko Mecheri.

I have more perfume related news, though: I went a little crazy with the Benevolent Blogging thing, clicking around and commenting to help the participants with their fundraising. Several of the sites were also doing drawings at the end of the day on Mother's Day, and by some very strange stroke of luck, I won not one but TWO of the drawings! Me, who never wins anything! Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.

The first drawing I learned that I had won was for Rochas Femme at Legerdenez, Cait Shortell's thoughtful and intelligent perfume blog. I'd read her review of this fragrance about a week before the drawing and was intrigued, but I never thought I'd get a chance to try it, much less own a full bottle!

The second drawing I learned I'd won, thanks to Andy Tauer's shy post, was for one of his original perfumes from Tauer Perfumes. I chose L'Air du Desert Marocain, because it sounds wonderful and it's unisex, so I can share it with Bob. Luca Turin wrote a very flattering review of Andy's creations, and Cait Shortell conducted an informative interview with him for her blog. I was happy to learn that I had picked his favorite. Be sure to visit his blog, Perfumery, as well, to read his thoughts on perfume, flowers, and life.

Thanks to you you both, and to all the Benevolent Bloggers out there.

Will either of these scents be able to rival my current love for Frangipani? Tune in and see!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Coco Puffs and a Nice Côtes du Rhône

I am almost through the second week of the first phase of the South Beach Diet. My husband and I decided to do this because A) we can’t fit into any of our clothes, at least not comfortably, and B) we were developing atrocious eating habits, and by atrocious I mean varying between pizza, Chinese, Ben & Jerry’s, and these boxed Indian meals we bought at Whole Foods. We sort of needed something to jump start a little weight loss, but also better habits. Enter South Beach.

Overall, this diet is very balanced. (No, I am in no way affiliated with this program or the good doctor who developed it.) It’s only for Phase 1 (two weeks) that you are restricted from eating any carbs, but you can still eat things like beans, which are a no-no on Atkins. It’s a little more meat than I like, but lots of vegetables, which I love. And I can still eat cheese! I love cheese!

I thought for sure I would really miss pizza. Pizza and also spaghetti. And bread, specifically the naan we’d been eating with the Indian food. And tortillas. And bagels. And grapefruit juice. And bananas. And, of course, the Ben & Jerry’s.

But I have actually been doing very well. I don’t get hungry. I don’t have cravings. (Except for Diet Coke, which I can have but would like to give up because of the benzene. But I won’t give it up! Not yet! I love Diet Coke! Give me back some carbs first, and then we’ll see.) I no longer turn into a raving bitch if I go thirty minutes past my regularly scheduled meal time. And I am seeing results. My clothes are looser. (We hid the scale…no weighing!)

But I won’t lie. There are things I miss. Things maybe you wouldn’t expect. What do I miss? Cereal. And wine. Cereal and wine. And come next Monday, I get to have both!

Please feel free to send in suggestions for cereal and wine pairings for me to try.

Seriously, though. The wine, I get. I generally don’t drink more than a glass a day, but it’s a nice ritual that we have to sit on the couch after dinner and have a glass and talk about the day or watch a little TV. (Watch my SATC reruns without a glass of wine? Sorry, Diet Coke, I still love you. And water, I love you, too. I’m with you all day long at work.) I miss the ritual of it more than the drink itself, but I do really love red wine (white, take it or leave it; champagne is my favorite).

But cereal? I want my Kashi Go Lean, dammit! I want some raisin bran. I want some of that Health Valley Granola stuff. Yum. This is the thing I miss the most. Cereal. If I can just have cereal, you can keep the bread and the ice cream and the pasta. Okay, maybe not the pasta—but you can keep the potatoes. Who needs potatoes?

Next week, starting Phase 2, I get oatmeal. First thing Monday morning. I love oatmeal. I do! (Despite the title, I’m not much for sugary cereal.) Phase 2 basically goes back to being a regular balanced diet, which is what I’m really after. (Well, that and to be able to wear clothes I bought last year…still can’t wear some of them. *Sighs*)

No, really, what wine goes with oatmeal?

Today’s Sample: Ormonde Jayne Frangipani Absolute

Before I talk about today’s fragrance, I want to talk for a sec about yesterday’s post. I received a few comments that I have chosen not to publish, and I am afraid I gave some people the wrong impression. I have learned a great deal from the perfume blogs I read every day. In fact, if those blogs didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have started this one! I never begrudge people their expertise. When I made the comparison yesterday between the wine connoisseurs and the white zinfandel lady, I only meant to express that I sometimes feel overwhelmed at how much I don’t know. Everyone has an entry point. I know plenty of people, who know a lot about wine, who started off drinking white zinfandel. But because they enjoyed it, they started to try other things, and the years went by, and now they know a great deal. Learning is a great pleasure. I never feel small for trying to learn something—only for turning my back on things that seem too difficult to learn.

On with today’s sample! Once again, I am working without a net here folks. The Ormonde Jayne Web site lists the notes as follows:
Top: Linden blossom, magnolia flower, lime peel
Middle/Heart: White frangipani, jasmine, rose and tuberose absolutes, water lilies, plum, and green orchid oil
Base: Amber, musk, cedar, and French vanilla absolute

First, I’ll start with a question: With the magnolia, the white frangipani, and the tuberose, could this be considered a white floral, even if it doesn’t finally develop into anything remotely floral (at least on me)? I’ll look this up once I have posted, but I wonder. I’ve often noticed that perfumes are marketed as (or named after) scents that are often in the top notes that tend to fade away.

When I applied it this morning, I expected to walk around smelling like a bright flower all day. It was a light, sharp sweet citrus. In fact, it seemed so light, I put a little more on after breakfast, at Bob’s recommendation. (Bob is very sensitive to the over-perfumed thing, so I trust him.) The floral hung on all the way to work, although it was somewhat more subtle. The tartness (and I say that because really, it made my mouth water a little) had worn off, but it retained the brightness of what I would think of as a white floral. (From what I have read, “white floral” has a rather broad definition, at least to reviewers and lovers of perfumes. Maybe not so to the “Noses.”)

But then the most remarkable thing: I’m at my desk, and I can smell the cedar. (Mind you, I have not even looked the notes up at this point! But I can smell it!) And I wonder, where is that coming from? I kept getting whiffs of it every now and again, the softest incense. And lo and behold, when I looked up the notes, there it was: cedar, tempered with this lovely vanilla and amber. I usually find vanilla overpowering, but this is so soft, it’s truly lovely.

I am not sure yet if I think this might be a little heavy for summer in Atlanta, but I think this would be the perfect fall or winter fragrance. In fact, it makes me think of a bright late fall or early winter day, where the sun makes everything gleam and all the lines are crisp, and then the sun starts to go down and the sky stays bright even as it darkens, but then night ascends and it gets cold, and the air gets filled with smell of wood smoke from people’s chimneys. At least that’s how it works on me. I like it so much though, it may not matter.

I must say that I have yet to be disappointed by any of the Ormonde Jayne samples I’ve tried (Osmanthus, Champaca, Ta’if, Sampaquita, Frangipani). The Frangipani and the Champaca are my favorites so far. But I think I should try the Osmanthus again, maybe, to compare it to the Keiko Mecheri. I may do that tomorrow.

Find a review of Ormonde Jayne Frangipani Absolute at Now Smell This.

**Okay, everywhere I look, it says this is a TROPICAL floral. A SUMMER fragrance. My excuse? I've never been to the tropics, people. Can someone pass me a glass of white zinfandel?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

No Sample Today

I decided to take a break today and wear Clinique Simply (that fragrance nobody wears, according to my friendly neighborhood Sephora SA).

When I encountered the perfume blogs, I was so delighted to read the thoughtful and intelligent musings of people who seem so interesting, I decided to jump on the bandwagon, bringing my novice’s take on fragrance with me. And in trying to join the online conversation about perfume, I sometimes feel as though I am the equivalent of the person who, having dinner with a bunch of wine connoisseurs, announces that she also loves wine, and then goes on to describe enthusiastically how she just bought a great new white zinfandel that comes in a box she can keep in her fridge.

In the last month or so, I have learned so much about fragrance, and my brain is filled with information that’s leaps and bounds ahead of my actual experience, leaving me with an understanding of notes I don’t know if I am sniffing and so on and so forth. I worry that when a fragrance disappears on me, it’s because I have somehow applied it improperly. Did I not wait long enough after applying my body lotion (which basically has no scent)? Am I applying it to the wrong spots? Is my application method wrong? I’ve tried dabbing with the applicator or with my fingers. I’ve tried simply, say, tipping the tiny glass vial upside down against my wrist and sort of moving it around. (I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to do that, but the tiny applicator in the bottle doesn’t help, and I hate to think of the fragrance on my fingertips that I am wasting when I wash it off.) I feel such relief when I get to a sample that’s in a little spray (like tomorrow's sample, Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani, which was the reason I got the sample pack in the first place), I cannot tell you.

But I have always loved fragrance. Some women feel naked without mascara or lipstick. I can go out without makeup, but I hate to leave the house without a little spray of something. And I absolutely hate it when I am running late for work and I forget to put on any fragrance. I feel strange all day, almost like I would if I forgot to wear my wedding ring.

I don’t know the notes of the many fragrances I have worn, but I carry with me the memories and attendant feelings that go with them. (After all, the ubiquitous “they” says that the sense of smell is the sense most connected with memory.) For example, although I wore Opium off and on though college and graduate school, it reminds me most of my years in graduate school when I was teaching, trapped somewhere between student and professional, trying to figure out who to be (okay, I still haven’t figured that out). But I also wore it because I wanted to be sexy (even though I am very firmly in the bookish girl-next-door category). Two fragrances I wore that were discontinued, Cacharel Noa (not Noa Fleur, which came later) and Giorgio’s Ocean Dream (the fragrance for which I received the most compliments, out of anything I ever wore) were fragrances I wore during the first year I dated my husband. I wore Elizabeth Arden’s Splendor when we got married. I wore Spellbound when I got my Bachelor’s and my Master’s; I wore Beautiful when I graduated from high school.

One of the best things about this new project I’ve started is how it makes me go back and remember all the fragrances I have worn, and what they meant to me at the time. Funny, but wearing a different fragrance almost every day, as I have for the last five or six weeks, has left me feeling a bit untethered, but not necessarily in a bad way. Because I have no connection to any of these new fragrances, every day is a blank slate. Silly, but I almost feel like I could be anybody. Today, though, I needed to just be me, so I went back to Simply, a fragrance I find very comforting and cozy, that I’ve worn through the last six months or so, which have been pretty steady, sure-footed. It’s not fancy, it’s not exclusive to France, but it isn’t exactly white zinfandel in the box either. When I run out, I may just buy another bottle.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Public Service (or Lack Thereof) Announcement

I think by now we are familiar with the way I feel about leggings and their close relative, the stirrup pant. In my post several days ago, I mentioned that I thought thirteen-year-old girls must be partially responsible for bringing these spandex nightmares back into fashion. In this post, you’ll learn why. (And by the way, Sienna Miller, you are not thirteen, and you are NOT Edie Sedgwick.)

About a month ago I was eating lunch at my desk, and I decided to do a little online shopping. The weather was getting warm, and I’ve been wanting to shake things up a bit, so I decided I would see what kind of new skirts and tops they had at one of my favorite stores, Anthropologie.

Now, sure, we have a couple of Anthropologie stores in Atlanta. In fact, one’s just two miles that way, and the other is just about five miles that way. But I like to shop online for several reasons:
A) I wear petites, and they don’t sell petites in the store.
B) I like being able to try things on at home, with my own stuff.
C) I like the convenience of not having to leave my desk/sofa/bed.
D) I love getting packages, and this is one way I can be sure to get some!

On this particular day, I may have gotten a little carried away. I ordered twelve things (Oh, hush. I never keep everything, and two of them were sets of earrings.), including several skirts and tops to wear to work. Most of the people at work wear jeans day in and day out (or even shorts…Yikes! But it’s a technology company), including me. And I get tired of it, but I digress.

About five days later, I received a box from UPS. It was sort of small, really not big enough to hold more than a couple of skirts and shirts. I thought maybe this was just my first shipment, but upon closer inspection, I noticed the box said “1 of 1.” Hrm.

I took the box upstairs and opened it carefully. Even when I know what I’ve ordered, my heart always pounds like it’s Christmas when I open a package. I peeled the Anthropologie sticker away from their lovely tissue paper, knocked aside the packing slip, and pulled out the first item, the May Flowers skirt, pictured here. Isn’t it cute? Doesn’t it just shout “Lovely summer is here!”? Oh, I love their clothes!

I set May Flowers aside and moved on to the next item, which was…which was…Oh, I almost can’t say it.

Brown. Ruched. Leggings.

Oh yes. Brown ruched leggings. And a yellow-striped bandeau top with pictures of fruit on it. And a t-shirt with musical notes all over it. And a gold lightening-bolt necklace.

My heart was still pounding, but now from anger and confusion. Where the hell was my order? I checked the packing slip. It listed everything I had ordered, but none of this…not any of this…CRAP they sent me! This order clearly belonged to some teenager. And at that moment, said teenager, who shall heretofore be known as Sally Teenager, was probably pawing through a box filled with my really cute, appropriate-for-work clothes!

Immediately, I sent an email to their Customer Service Department. (Which, by the way, I would like to suggest be renamed simply “Claims Department,” for reasons you’ll understand soon.) When I got to work the next morning, I called and spoke to an actual person.

To both the phone call and the email, I received the following response: “We will have to conduct an investigation to see what happened.”

And my response to both: “But I told you what happened! You sent me the wrong stuff! I have Sally Teenager’s stuff!”

And their response to that? “We will not fulfill your order or credit your account until we have conducted an investigation. This may take up to ten days to complete. Please answer the following questions…” Followed by a long list of questions about the box, such as:
Had the box been opened?
Had the box been damaged?
Could I tell if the merchandise in the box had been removed and replaced with something else?

Yes, yes. I think the UPS man opened my box (after kicking it around the warehouse for a while) and proceeded to take out the really cute clothes (all twelve items of which your packing people had miraculously managed to shove into a shirtbox, and which UPS man planned to keep for himself for his, er…hobby) and replace them with Sally Teenager’s skanky clothes (which she ordered with a credit card she stole from her mother’s purse), all the while thinking that we would be none the wiser! And I could just go to work in ruched leggings, a bandeau top, and a frigging DISCO lightening-bolt necklace!

It went on like this for weeks, people. They refused to honor my order or credit my card until I sent back the stuff they had mistakenly sent. (Did they seriously think I would want to keep it?) The representative who was supposed to be helping me stopped answering my emails. I disputed the charge on my credit card. I considered contacting the Better Business Bureau. It wasn’t pretty.

I am a veteran Internet shopper. And people make mistakes. Some poor woman probably had a fight with her boyfriend, went to work, was thinking more about the fight than her job, and accidentally packed the wrong items in the box. These things happen, and they are forgivable. Stuff like this has happened to me before (although not involving the likes of brown ruched leggings). But other retailers, like JCrew, generally send your correct order out IMMEDIATELY, no questions asked, along with profuse apologies.

But not Anthropologie. After weeks with no contact and nothing to show for all my frustration, I finally received a phone call. They had received my return order (about a week earlier), and they planned to ship me the items in my order…that is, the ones they still had in stock. They would credit the rest to my account.

No. No. I had them credit the full amount, and with you all as my witnesses, mark my words: I will never order anything from them online again. Nobody did anything to help me. All they did was stonewall me, and really, act as though it were my fault that they sent me the wrong items. There was no “customer” focus—they clearly do not care about retaining your business—and certainly nothing you could call “service.” And this is why I suggest they just change their name to “Claims Department” and be done with it.

Sadly, I can’t tell you what happened to Sally Teenager. I don’t know if she was found out, got grounded, or what. She remains to us all, a mystery.

I have one bit of unfinished business to attend to, which is to call my credit card company and drop the dispute. Of course, I’ll have to fight my way through their labyrinthine “service” menu. Really, why do they say “Please call us at…,” when what they should say is “Just you try and call us at…”
Just. You. Try.

*photo from

Today’s Sample: Keiko Mecheri Fleurs d’Osmanthus

I have so many samples to get through, I may just start trying a new one every day. I was living with each sample for two or three days, but I am anxious to keep trying new fragrances. However, if I really love something, I may live with it for a few days, instead of moving on.

And I may love Fleurs d’Osmanthus. (Or as it is called now, Osmanthus. The sample I got from luckyscent—and I can’t link to luckyscent now because I am at work and on my lunch hour and they have that site blocked as PORN—still had the old name on it.) The Keiko Mecheri site lists the notes as gold osmanthus, morrocan white datura, and tuberose. The Perfume Shoppe site also lists “overtones of plum and apricot.”

Again, I’m not cheating and reading any reviews first. I’m on my own here: When I sniffed this in the bottle, I thought it was light and pretty. When I applied it, I still thought it was nice and pretty, but just…well, floral. I think that’s a problem I have with a lot of floral fragrances: They are just floral. I could just as easily set a vase of flowers on my desk and be done with it, if I just want “floral fragrance” around me all day. (Yes, I know, my olfactory senses are immature, and I am basing “floral” as I know it mostly on mass-market fragrances.) But by the time I got to work, the fragrance was a bit deeper. The sheer floral scent developed into something…more opaque. The tuberose? It’s heady and sweet to me, but not powdery. It’s clean without being green or soapy.

Ahem. For a real review of Fleurs d’Osmanthus/Osmanthus, visit Now Smell This. (I try to check several of the “real” perfume blogs before I point readers to a review…if you have seen or wrote a review elsewhere and I missed it, please let me know!)

And now a couple of notes on other things:

On what I’m doing here: As a disclaimer, I would like to say that I am sampling, not reviewing (hence the title “Today’s Sample,” and not “Today’s Review”). What you are watching here is me trying to learn about the big bad world of perfume. That’s why, if they’re available, I’ll always point you to reviews I’ve found elsewhere. Feel free to comment and help me out—nicely, please.

On Anthousa versus Diptyque: Yesterday, I applied both fragrances, so I could be sure what I thought the differences were. Because I had already sprayed the Diptyque on my usual perfume points, I sprayed the Anthousa on the back of my hand (no doubt committing some horrible perfume faux pas, lordy). I put them on at the same time, around one o’clock in the afternoon or so. By seven o’clock or so, the Diptyque was gone, but the Anthousa held strong. I cooked for about two hours, getting meals for the week ready and preparing dinner, and even after having soap and water all over my hands, and corrupting food smells, I could still smell the Anthousa. This may tip the scales…I’m not sure. They are just so different.

On Mona di Orio Nuit Noire: I am apparently the only person in the world who likes this fragrance. I actually saw someone compare it to tacky drugstore perfume. Now, I haven’t smelled any tacky drugstore perfume in a long time, so this may very well be the case. Still. Ouch. Really, my senses might not be developed, but my taste isn’t that bad. I swear. *Blushes* Does anyone like this fragrance?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

If you left a comment and haven't seen it post...

It's only because I am a doofus who's still figuring out how this thing works. I finally went and took a look at my "moderate comments" page, and there they were! Actual real comments! Ha!

Thank you all for visiting...and know that now I'll reply if you happen to post something!

Today's Sample: Diptyque Philosykos

As promised, today I am wearing Philosykos, in order to compare it to Anthousa Fig & Vetiver, which I wore yesterday.

Here's what I think: Anthousa Fig & Vetiver is a girl, but Philosykos is a woman. I don't mean that only young women should wear the Anthousa, but when you are feeling young or innocent or light-hearted, this would be a great scent to wear. It has a very soft femininity to it, a sweetness that's not cloying at all.

The Philosykos is a bit sharper, especially on the opening. To me (who is no expert, and is trying to do this without cheating and looking at a real review first), the fig comes through with a lot of green underneath, like fresh-cut grass, but still a little sweet. It ends up soft as well, but the Anthousa retains a fruity note the Philsykos lacks (yes, I know, the main note is a fruit, fig, but still...I have a limited fragrance vocabulary!). Maybe "sugary" would be a better word...fig (DP) vs. candied fig (AFV).

Feh. I really like them both, enough to buy a bottle...but I would buy the Philosykos first! And I just may!

To read a real review of Philosykos, visit Now Smell This.

Happy Mother's Day!

I know my mom doesn’t think she taught me much of anything about beauty, but she did. I think of her to this day, so glamorous to me, sitting in front of the mirror and putting on her makeup, getting ready to go out. She was a MAC woman before anyone ever even invented the concept. She can make up an eye like nobody’s business. I remember when I was twelve or thirteen, a Chanel representative came to our West Texas town for a trunk show. This was the early 80s, and the economy was booming. Our town was an oil town, so that meant lots and lots of money. I imagine all the oil men’s wives turned out for this guy, because to get anywhere close to the likes of someone like him you had to go to Dallas. My mom and my grandma went to see him, too.

The way I picture it, he’s thin, wearing a black turtleneck, and has a pencil-thin mustache (yep, kind of cliché, I guess). He speaks with a heavy French accent. (For all I know he could have been from Houston and wearing cowboy boots.) I can imagine him working over these West Texas women with their coral lipstick and blue eye shadow, exasperated, wondering when he can go smoke--or, even better, when he can leave this godforsaken smelly town--when he gets to my mom. My mom! Because Mr. Chanel took one look at her, and what did he have to say?

Don’t change anything. Your makeup is perfect. Perfect! The. Guy. From. Chanel.

She was so thrilled when she came home, so excited, I can still remember it. And I can remember the beautiful eye shadow she got, lovely pink and copper and teal, and the dome-shaped lilac powder, and all those elegant black cases…

But because it was the early 80s, a big, big trend was being preppy. Let’s see a raise of hands for all of you out there who remember The Preppy Handbook. One of the things it explained very, very clearly was that preppy girls did not wear makeup. Preppy girls wore lip gloss, maybe. For a dance or special occasion, maybe a little mascara and pink lipstick. And I wanted to be a Preppy. Which meant very little makeup.

And so began the fight that would rage on for decades, known to most mother-daughter historians as the “Aren’t You Going to Wear Any Makeup?” War.

Don’t get me wrong. I tried. I remember one time we raided the Elizabeth Arden counter when I was fifteen or sixteen. I got all new stuff, and she showed me how to put it on, and I kept it up for a few days, and then…back to preppy.

I remember we’d go to this place called Drug Emporium and buy all kinds of drugstore makeup and take it home and try everything on. She’d do me eyes and fix me up and I couldn’t believe what I would see in the mirror. Glamorous, just like my mom! But then, back to preppy.

I remember when she gave me the Chanel eye shadow quad. (Why did she still have it? Why hadn’t she used it all? I wonder now if it just seemed too special to use. But then why give it to me, who can barely make up an eye to save her life?) I wish so much that I still had it, just because.

My mom always thought (probably still thinks) that I didn’t wear much makeup because I didn’t want to be like her. But that’s not the case, really. I just didn’t know how. To me, she was glamorous, and I was plain. When I put on a bunch of makeup, I just felt silly, like a clown. (A feeling I believe I channeled to almost every SA who tried to make me over at a department store because I always ended up in purple eye shadow and coral lipstick, and indeed, looked like a clown.) And also, I lacked her confidence. I worked hard at being invisible.

Now, in my late-mid thirties (again, yes, it‘s a real age bracket…you‘ll see when you get here), I’ve been wanting out of my preppy rut. I don’t want to be invisible anymore. I read fashion magazines and cruise the beauty blogs, and I bring home new makeup, and I start applying it, and virtually every attempt ends with this: I WANT MY MOMMY! Because the best makeovers I’ve ever gotten, I’ve gotten from her. Because she knows how to do all this stuff and I don’t and I need her help! And it’s nothing trivial, because I am trying to be somebody new, trying to change, and I can’t do it by myself.

Mom, I love you! You are having a pretty rough time right now, I know, and a lot of the things that are broken, I can’t fix. But you tried hard to give the gift of beauty to me--and it IS a gift, not just because of all the pretty colors and packages and scents, but because of the way it binds us together--and so, I would like to give the gift of beauty to you. Every month, I will send you a beauty treat. (except this month, when I will just carry it to Dallas in my suitcase) I will send you something that will hopefully remind you of how glamorous and strong you really are, to me.