Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bond No. 9 Chinatown Redux

When I was little, nothing at the grocery store was more intriguing than the Brach’s candy bins. If a white paper sack got filled with candy and came home with us, I was beside myself. In particular, I loved the cinnamon hard candy. I remember the cloying, spicy sweet smell as I unwrapped it, the tingling sensation on my tongue, the hot fumes that passed over the candy and down my throat when I breathed in through my mouth. I spent much of the time flipping the cinnamon disk over and over on my tongue, trying to manage the spice and get more of the sugar.

Wearing Bond No. 9 Chinatown, I get that same spicy sweet sensation. When I breathe in, the sensation of spice is so strong and yet cloyingly sweet that I expect the taste of sugar on my tongue. My nose and the back of my throat burn slightly, and then there’s the headache. Several of you have left comments to the effect that you sometimes feel as though you are being bludgeoned by a tuberose. I think I get it now. For the sensation of wearing this fragrance is a little like this: I’m eating about three of those Brach’s cinnamon candies and being bludgeoned to death by a tuberose.

The notes are:
Top: Peach blossom and bergamot
Heart: Gardenia, tuberose, peony, orange blossom
Base: Patchouli, cedarwood, vanilla, sandalwood, cardamom, guaiac wood

Seriously, I thought I just got off on the wrong foot with this scent the first time around. I thought that over-application was the problem, so I washed it off. And I thought what was left at that time was not half-bad, even pretty. But I was wrong. It’s cloyingly sweet and sticky. Let’s dissect it: Right way, I should have known I’d have a problem because there’s peach blossom in there. Anything peach and I—we just don’t get along, unless it’s in cobbler or pie form. And then there’s the tuberose, so heavy that you can forget any of those other floral notes, except maybe the gardenia. But the peony and the orange blossom…hello? Hello? Not in my vial.

And patchouli? No…cardamom and vanilla, spiced up by cedarwood (which I usually love), and then getting pushed around by the tuberose. They’ve taken the patchouli and sandalwood, tied them up, and locked them in a closet, along with the bergamot, peony, and orange blossom. I think the peach blossom is the ring leader, if you want to know the truth.

I know, I know: a gajillion awards, everybody loves it, it’s so wonderful. Hm. And I wanted it to be wonderful on me, because come on, look at that bottle! Gorgeous! By all rights it should be spicy and interesting, not sticky candy! Why do I smell cinnamon? Why does this fragrance smell as hot pink as the bottle it comes in?

Pardon my rant, but no. I just saved myself $110.00. Maybe I’ll get an empty bottle on eBay. But me and Chinatown: we’re finished!

*photo from LusciousCargo

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


--Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell

The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.

Samples A-L (by House)

Acqua di Biella

Acqua di Parma
Iris Nobile


Andy Tauer
L'Air du Desert Marocain
Le Maroc pour Elle

Anné Pliska

Pliska Parfum

Annick Goutal
Eau de Camille
Eau de Charlotte
Eau de Ciel

Eau d'Hadrien
Le Chevrefeuille

Antonio Puig

Vetiver de Puig

Jolie Madame

be becker.eshaya
be becker.eshaya


Maybe Baby

Bois 1920
Sandalo e The
Vetiver Ambrato

Bond No. 9
Bryant Park
Bond No. 9 Chinatown, Part II
Fire Island
Saks Fifth Avenue for Her
Silver Factory
West Broadway
West Side

Calypso (Christaine Celle)

Calypso (St. Barth)

Parfum Sacre

CB I Hate Perfume
Just Breathe
Wild Pansy


Happy Heart

Comptoir Sud Pacifique
Vetyver Haiti

Creative Scentualization
Peace Comes from Within


Santal Original
Spring Flower

Des Filles a La Vanille
Je T'Aime
Riviere de Janvier
Toi Mon Ange

Eau de Lierre
Do Son

Estee Lauder
Beyond Paradise
Pleasures Intense
Private Collection
White Linen
Youth Dew


Messe de Minuit
Royal Pavillion
Shaal Nur

Fifi Chachnil
Fifi Chachnil

Frederic Malle
Carnal Flower
Iris Poudre
Le Parfum de Therese
Lipstick Rose
Lys Mediterranee
Une Rose
Vetiver Extroidinaire

Apres L'Ondee
Chant d'Aromes
Fleur de Feu
Jardins de Bagatelle
Vetiver, Part II
Vol de Nuit

Hanae Mori

Hotel Costes

i Profumi de Firenze

Ambra del Nepal
Vaniglia de Madagascar

Jo Malone
Pomegranate Noir
Vintage Gardenia (Layered)

Kai Perfume Oil

Keiko Mecheri
A Fleur de Peau
White Petals


L'Artisan Parfumeur

Drole de Rose
Mandarin Tout Simplement
Mure et Musc
Orchidee Blanche
Passage d'Enfer
Safran Troublant

La Maison de Vaille

La Prairie
Midnight Rain
Silver Rain

Laura Tonatto

Lea St. Barth

Lea Extreme

Ligne St. Barth

Samples M-Z (by House)

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
Fleur de Comores
Secrete Datura

After Hours
Embrace the Day
Hidden Cove

Michael Storer Perfumes

Miller Harris
Coeur d'Ete

Moea Perfume Oil

Mona di Orio

Nuit Noire

Classic Pink

Ormonde Jayne
Ormonde Woman

Parfum d'Empire
Ambre Russe

Parfumerie Generale
Un Crime Exotique

Parfums de Nicolai
Vanille Tonka

Parfums de Rosine (Les)
Ecume de Rose
Poussiere de Rose
Rose d'Ete

Parfums DelRae
Bois de Paradis

Green Chypre

Robert Piguet


100% Love

Coral Perfume Oil
Peridot Perfume Oil
Sage Perfume Oil

Santa Maria Novella

Citta di Kyoto

Sarah Jessica Parker
Lovely Liquid Satin


Serge Lutens
A La Nuit
Daim Blond
Datura Noir
Fleurs d'Oranger
Fumerie Turque
Gris Clair
Miel de Bois
Sa Majeste La Rose
Tubereuse Criminelle
Vetiver Oriental

Sonia Rykiel
Rykiel Woman

Stella McCartney


Susan D. Owens
Child Perfume

Viktor & Rolf

White Flowers

Yves Saint Laurent
Opium Fleur de Shanghai

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Serge Lutens Fleurs d'Oranger

Serge Lutens and I, we have something special. We have chemistry. We have a connection. Every Serge Lutens I try I at least like immensely, even if I don’t absolutely love it. I liked Vetyver Oriental. I liked Gris Clair a lot. I loved Douce Amere and A La Nuit. I am nuts about Miel de Bois, so much so that I now am the proud owner of a full bottle.

And then along comes Fleurs d’Oranger, with notes of orange blossom (neroli), tuberose, white roses, and white jasmine. Imagine the sweetest orange you’ve ever eaten and try to remember its fragrance. No bitterness, no watery pulp. This citrus is not sharp or acidic, but fresh and softened by the most delicate tuberose. No bludgeoning here. If this isn’t a typical citrus fragrance (sometimes with citrus scents I feel as though someone’s sprayed the actual juice directly in my face before the other notes move in and take over), it isn’t a typical white floral either. The neroli and the rose keep the tuberose and jasmine from turning creamy, preserving the quality of a fresh cut bloom.

This is full-bottle worthy for me, as soon as I can justify it. I’m going to have to stop sampling Serge Lutens fragrances because every time I put one on, I want to buy it. As much as I love Ormonde Jayne fragrances, I have yet to spring for a full bottle for myself. I haven’t even put one in the shopping cart and then changed my mind. But this morning I found myself trolling around on Aedes, and I almost bought this. I think I went a little crazy thinking about getting some samples, too: Chypre Rouge, Daim Blond, Santal Blanc. But then I started thinking: What if I love them all? Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic, but I’ve found two full-bottle worthy Serge Lutens out of six. Think how easy it will be for me to find two more!

I abstained, but this is going on the ever-growing list, which includes:
1. Lubin Idole
2. Mona di Orio Nuit Noire
3. Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum
4. Ormonde Jayne Frangipani
5. Robert Piguet Fracas
6. Acqua di Biella Janca
7. Les Parfums de Rosine Ecume de Rose
8. Bond No. 9 West Broadway

And I have so many samples to try yet, who knows what else I’ll find to love? This is the danger of being the perfume-sampling amateur. I feel like a child who was never allowed sweets and then was suddenly let loose in the pastry shop. Give me another éclair!

*photo from Aedes

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bond No. 9 West Broadway

Sorry to be so late with today's post! And on top of being late, this one will be short. I'd read the notes somewhere--lime, lily of the valley, and sheer musk, accoring to the Bond No. 9 website--and this wasn't one I had on my list to try, but I got my hands on a sample of West Broadway after reading Colombina's review on Perfume-Smellin' Things.

I'm generally shy about citrus in a fragrance, but I'm getting more bold, and Colombina promised in her review that this fragrance was oh-so-much-more than a paltry list of notes, and she was right. The opening is a bit sweet and quite citrusy, refreshing and a bit sparkly, but it dries down rather quickly into a soft incense. If I didn't know better, I would swear I smell a little cedar in there, but perhaps it's just the darkness of mate (pronounced mah-tay) tea that is apparently also part of the makeup. (Bond doesn't list this note on their site, but Beauty Cafe, where I got my samples, lists the tea and "crisp greens.") Don't let the green and citrus fool you--this is decidedly an incensy-woody fragrance. I also smell a soft sweetness underneath that keeps it a bit light and makes this scent decidedly feminine.

So far I've tried three other Bond fragrances (Chinatown, Scent of Peace, and Fire Island), and this is my favorite. (I need to give Chinatown another try...we got off to a rocky start!) I can see this being wearable year-round, which only adds to its appeal. Who knows...maybe this will be my Bond!

*photo from Bond No. 9

Friday, August 25, 2006

Off for the Weekend

I'm not going to be on the computer this weekend, but I'll be back on Monday and ready to sample. At least by the calendar we're getting closer to fall, and I can't wait! Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Summer Reading Update

We’re closing in on Labor Day, and while it’s not the official end of summer, it always marks the close of the season for me. Usually I read more in the summer than at any other time of the year, but this summer has felt so topsy-turvy, I find myself unable to concentrate even when I feel like reading. Sadly, I haven’t even managed to get through the last two books for my real-life book club, and I’m only a little more than halfway through Rabbit Redux. That’s only one-and-a-half Rabbit novels, when I was supposed to have them all read by now…Oh well. The best laid plans and all that.

Back in July when my computer came unplugged and I lost my entire post about Rabbit, Run, I’d planned a follow-up and never got around to it. So, as lame as I feel for not being further down my reading list, I thought I’d go ahead and tell you about Rabbit, Run.

Months ago, when all the hoopla started about The New York Times list of best American fiction of the past 25 years (well, to me it was a lot of hoopla--for some this event may have passed unnoticed), I got the idea to read all of John Updike's Rabbit novels. Michael Cunningham, one on a long, impressive list of talented writers who judged this little "contest," merely mentioned how these books had influenced his own writing, and I knew I had to read them right away. Updike was one of three writers on the list whose books I hadn't read (the other two being Mark Helprin and Norman Rush...and while I haven't read every book on the list, I've read at least one book by all the other authors); I'd only read his short stories in The New Yorker.

I'd tried to read Rabbit, Run many years ago, but having gone through a strange break-up of sorts, I couldn't stay with it. Harry Angstrom reminded me too much of the guy I was working to get over, and so I gave up after about 60 pages. I doubt on my first run (no pun intended) that I even noticed Updike's amazing prose, his unbelievable genius at the sentence level. Take this for instance: "The fair young man with his throat manacled in white lets his car glide diagonally against the curb, yanks on the handbrake, and shuts off the motor, thus parking on the wrong side of the street, cockeyed. Funny how ministers ignore small laws." Or this: "The thing about her is, she's good-natured. He knew it the second he saw her standing by the parking meters. He could just tell from the way her thighs made a lap." Or: "The road twists more and more wildly in its struggle to gain height and then without warning sheds its skin of asphalt and worms on in dirt."

The other remarkable thing about this book is how easily we’re (using the audience “we”) lured into seeing everything through Rabbit’s eyes. Here’s a man who has quit his wife and small child—simply walked out the door one evening and decided never to return—and you actually find yourself identifying with him, hoping he escapes, that he makes it out. Rabbit is not remarkable in any way, but he’s charismatic. Think of someone you know who infuriates you but whom you can’t stay mad at for any serious period of time. Even at the end, when he seems to turn his life around and returns to his wife, you keep hoping he’ll escape again.

Ultimately, he’s charismatic but not entirely likable, as I’m finding in Rabbit Redux. In the second book, much of what happens is temporal, in the sense that it very much reflects competing attitudes about gender, race and war that were prevalent at the time. While it’s interesting and relevant to the story, it feels more dated, where the first novel in the series feels more timeless. But both novels are examples of remarkable prose and character development, and I have to say that I’ve read Beloved, the novel that took the top place, and although that’s a significant book in many ways, I think Rabbit, Run is a better book. Beloved can be cold and a bit tricky, and many people have said (and I agree) that it’s a distant and cerebral novel, where something more emotional may have had more resonance.
I think with Rabbit, Run, anyone could imagine that need to escape sometimes, to wake up one morning and walk out into bright clean light and want to make a break for it, start over, leave everything behind. In so many ways, that’s the ultimate American experience, to leave what you know and move into hardship and adventure. Think of the people who moved West. And today, people constantly remake their identities. I wonder sometimes if we haven’t become more materialistic as a society because we feel we no longer have the physical ability to light out and discover. You go to school, you get a job, you buy a house…We claim to desire stability, but when we’re standing still, perhaps we find we need something else, something more, and if we can’t move, we get a new haircut or a new shirt or a new church, anything to make us feel as though something has changed.

I’ll continue though all four books because I can’t wait to see what happens, and I can’t stay away from Updike’s prose for too long. Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to get through Rabbit Redux (apart from the topsy-turvy summer and the Sex and the City box set I got for my birthday) is that I keep going back and rereading parts of Rabbit, Run. Even as it stands alone, it’s one of the finest books I’ve read. I’ll be back eventually with my final impressions of the other four. In the meantime, stop and smell the perfume!

*photos from—Support independent booksellers!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Child Perfume by Susan D. Owens

A visitor to this blog (Hi Cindy!) asked me several weeks ago to compare Majenty’s Embrace the Day to Child Perfume Oil. At the time, I didn’t have a sample of either fragrance, but after Autumn kindly sent me a sample of Embrace the Day, Cindy generously offered to send me a sample of Child so I could compare the two. Yesterday I got a package from her in the mail, and not only did she send me Child, but all kinds of other scents to try. So, thank you Cindy! I have to say, I’ve met more nice people through this perfume blog…it restores my faith in people in general. I only hope I can learn to decant and return the favor!

But I digress. I pulled Child out to sample immediately. This morning I cruised the internet looking for the notes, but I can’t find them listed anywhere. The closest I get is on La Crème Beauty, where they are listed as “brilliant exotic flowers, an alluring white crisp jasmine floral.” Just as a refresher, Embrace the Day is a gardenia based-oil infused with jasmine, tuberose, and plumeria.

Not having the most trained nose, I feel I’m taking a shot in the dark—I’m basing my impressions on some research and the few things I think I can recognize based on all this sampling I’ve been doing. The thing about sampling is, unless you strictly sample single-note fragrances, you’re always smelling blends, so you might think you know a note when really, you’ve got it all wrong. A lot of this comes from experience, but I swear I’m about ready to plant myself in front of the oils they have over at Whole Foods and start all over with the basics. I looked online for some sort of kit to help me learn, but all I found were scent kits that would make me a better hunting dog. Hrm. I'm already really good at that. I’ve also looked for classes in my area…but nothing! What can one expect from a major city with no serious perfume boutiques?

I digress yet again. Sorry. I said the other day that Embrace the Day presents mainly as a gardenia soliflore, in that gardenia dominates the scent. The tuberose sweetens it a bit (gardenia, although creamy, always has a little dirt or bitterness underneath it to me), and the jasmine lends a slight indolic quality. But still, to me it’s gardenia, and very soft and smooth, crisp like a starched sheet.

Without any notes to help me (I admit this might be way off), I’d say that Child is a sharper scent, especially during the opening. I think there must be some neroli or bergamot in there because I definitely get citrus, and it sticks around for the first couple of hours. The jasmine is prominent all throughout, but I also wonder if there isn’t a little ylang-ylang and tuberose in there as well. Or maybe osmanthus. In the dry down I get a little spice, maybe some sandalwood. It’s not quite as heavy or smoky as cedar, but there’s something there…I don’t detect any musk.

I like Child better than Embrace the Day, and to me they are quite different. If anything, I’d have to say that Child reminds me much more of Fracas than anything (in spirit, that is, as the "main" note in Fracas is tuberose, not jasmine), but it’s not quite as dark or sophisticated. For a younger person who loves white florals, or perhaps for a more casual occasion (or if you’re going into a situation where you’re insecure about your perfume but you want to wear something), I think Child would be a wonderful choice. But I think for a woman who’s more confident and self-assured, Fracas is the better option. Unfortunately Child suffers the same celebrity following (in fact, some of the same people, even) that Fracas suffers, but I suppose you shouldn’t let that put you off. If anything should put a person off this pretty scent, it’s the name. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t think it’s responsible marketing to name a fragrance that’s supposed to drive men wild “Child.” But perhaps that’s just me.

Thanks again, Cindy, for letting me try this! I should also mention that Bob loves it. My man has a real thing for white florals, I’m discovering, and the claim this scent makes them wild is apparently true, at least in my case. He could not stop complimenting me this morning. The other white florals he loves are Carnal Flower, Fracas, and After Hours…I never would have guessed it!

*photo from

Sweet Diva Is 100!

I didn't even notice, but yesterday's post was my 100th post!

Monday, August 21, 2006

L’Artisan Orchidée Blanche

In the case of Miel de Bois, many people talk about the beautiful honeyed scent that appears after they’ve endured hours of harsh woods and cat pee. For me, though, the woods are the best part. The honeyed “afterglow” is pretty, but it’s not as exciting as the opening. I guess that tells you what sort of relationship I have with Miel de Bois: It’s all about the beginning. I find myself reapplying it just to smell those woods!

But if you want honey, I say, why not just go straight for honey? Why put yourself through all the agony? It’s like trying to turn a jerk into a nice guy. Really, it’s just easier to date the nice guy in the first place.

And to go straight for a beautiful honey scent, all you have to do is reach for Orchidée Blanche. A blend of magnolia, iris powder, and honey, Orchidée Blanche is floral, understated, elegant, and sexy. It’s the finest down comforter and silk sheets, luxurious and soft.

I find this scent both comforting and alluring. At first sniff I was afraid I might not like it (which would have been a real shame because I bought a bottle unsniffed, as I kept hearing they probably won’t make it much longer). Some florals become bitter and soapy against my skin, with a sweetness that’s slightly cloying. I had sprayed this on the back of my hand (mistake number one) after sniffing a few other samples I’d received (mistake number two), and immediately decided that I could just eBay it if worse came to worse. But yesterday we had a birthday brunch to attend, and I wanted a light floral that wasn’t tuberose/gardenia/jasmine (so not a traditional white floral). I thought about grabbing my sample of Ecume de Rose when I saw Orchidée Blanche, still in its box, sitting atop my dresser.

I thought, why not? And so I took it out of the box and sprayed with abandon, and I’m glad I did! This scent it quite light, and on my skin simply produced the most lovely honeyed iris. As the day went on, the scent got warmer and even prettier. In late summer the sunsets have a tendency to last forever, and as thunderstorms pop up in the distance, colors trade places in the sky—salmon becomes lavender, turquoise becomes shell, steel gray moves to navy—and the sun burns rosy pink (thanks global warming!) as it drops below the horizon, until you’re left with soft dark evening sky displaying sweet stars. That’s Orchidée Blanche: sweet, soft, comforting, reflective.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Serge Lutens Miel de Bois

Perfume is a mystery.

Today I planned either to wear Loukhoum or Messe de Minuit. My experience yesterday with Hidden Cove had me running for incense or something dry. I was rooting through my samples looking for these when I saw Miel de Bois.

I may have alluded to this before, and I know I’ve left this little story in the comments on other perfume blogs, but here goes: When I first got this sample from Aedes, back in May or June, I sprayed a little in the air just to see how it smelled, and when Bob got a whiff, he absolutely hated it. In fact, I believe he said something along the lines of “What the hell stinks?” And after I told him, he said, “Never spray that again.”

Now, I know Bob is not alone. Many people hate this fragrance. I sighed and tucked my sample away at the bottom of the box. And this morning as I poked through all the glass vials and little plastic bags, there it was, still at the bottom of the box. I’ve been keeping everything stashed in the guest bathroom we never use, and because I knew Bob wouldn’t have any reason to come in there this morning, I figured it was safe to take out the sample and give it a little spray-and-sniff.

Oh amazing, amazing dry woods. I got a fleeting hint of cat pee, and then it was all woods. Oh. It’s been a hell of a week, and I was feeling rebellious, so I decided to give it a shot. I sprayed it on and went to get dressed.

Miel de Bois smells like someone has poured honey on a slowly dying fire made up of the most fragrant wood you can imagine. The notes are:
Top: ebony, gaiac, and oak wood
Heart: honey
Base: beeswax, hawthorn, and iris

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. How on earth could anyone say this stinks? Why do people hate this? Why do people think the dry down is the best? How could people like any one part of this experience better than another when it’s all so amazingly wonderful?

In case you hadn’t already guessed, I love this perfume. I love it. The woods! (And, no cat pee when it's on the skin.) I wanted to protect it from Bob, because I knew I was going to try to leave for work and he was probably going stop me. He would do his best to convince me to go back upstairs and take a shower so that I wouldn’t inflict the nasty smell on my co-workers. With great trepidation, I headed downstairs. I tried not to get too close to him as I organized my things. I thought I was managing to dodge him pretty well, but as I headed back upstairs to grab my iPod I heard , “What’s that you’re wearing? That’s nice. I like that.”


“Really?” I said. I came back downstairs.

“Ya,” he said. “It’s very unique. I like it.”

I didn’t bother to remind him that he’d asked me never, ever to spray it again. I just said, calmly, “Yes, I like it too.” And then I went upstairs and did a quiet little happy dance. This is full-bottle-worthy Serge Lutens. The others I've tried all pale in comparison. (Close second favorite is Gris Clair.) Call me a freak.

Perfume is a mystery.

*photo from Aedes

Majenty Hidden Cove

The final Majenty sample I have is Hidden Cove. This is a coconut oil with notes of “flowers from the far east” (non-capitalization isn’t mine) and water lilies. I was sort of excited to try this one. After Hours is a “Southern” perfume. It makes me think of Maggie the Cat from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, or more specifically Elizabeth Taylor in her white satin slip, lazing around the house and picking fights. The lush humidity cannot hold--you know some storm eventually will come along and break it up. But the tension beforehand is almost intoxicating. Embrace the Day is straightforward gardenia, very mother-of-the-bride. And then there’s Hidden Cove.

After reading the notes, I had high expectations: I thought it would be oriental and exotic, maybe both tropical and spicy, with a hint of coconut underneath…like curry, only with flowers. Instead, I got this: tanning oil and a cheap imitation of Lipstick Rose. I don’t smell anything that one would generally find in an oriental scent. Maybe it’s just the way this stuff reacts with my body chemistry, but I got a definite hit of something very dusty and powdery, like the cosmetics aisle at an old Walgreen’s. In the vial it smells slightly less cheap, but I still swear I smell rose…and it’s very, very sweet, much sweeter than the other Majenty oils. Sadly, this is a no-go. My final opinion is this (in case you couldn’t already tell): if you’re interested in a perfume oil and you like white florals, After Hours is the way to go. Again, I think it was a happy cosmic accident that I ended up with the one I like best. It’s a great hot summer night perfume.

If anyone out there tried Hidden Cove and had a different experience, feel free to post and share. Whenever I really don't like something, I feel I must blame my nose or body chemistry!

*photo from Majenty

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Majenty Embrace the Day

Sorry to be posting this so late today, but I promised to tell you what I thought of this sample, so here I am! Once again, let me thank Autumn at La Creme Beauty for passing this sample to me. This perfume oil has a base of gardenia infused with jasmine, tuberose and plumeria. Because this is an oil and the notes consist of particularly "heady" white flowers (and because I had already experienced After Hours) I expected Embrace the Day to come on quite strong. To my surprise, it didn't.

Where After Hours feels hot and steamy, Embrace the Day feels ladylike and fresh, like clean, pressed, white sateen cotton. Although the gardenia oil is infused with the other floral notes, it comes across more like a soliflore, pure gardenia, but actually softer in scent on the skin than the scent of a "real" gardenia. Truly, the perfume oils live up to their names. You wear Embrace the Day to work; you wear After Hours--well, after hours. Embrace the Day is sunshine and air conditioning, where After Hours is sweltering heat just before the storm. I think Embrace the Day is lovely, but I have to say that I prefer After Hours. It suits my personality (make of that what you will!), and so I have to take back what I said--maybe Mercury wasn't working against me after all. I remain happy with my happy accident!

One more thing about Embrace the Day, though: I know many of us work in offices and must be sensitive to the amount of perfume we wear, especially when we interact with others. White florals in particular can sometimes be overwhelming, even for the wearer. The good news is that Embrace the Day is very light and stays close to the skin, so you can wear this without being afraid you'll offend someone with your perfume. I have several--well, I won't call them white floral haters, but people sensitive to white florals (i.e., they get splitting headaches) at my office. I had a meeting with one of them today, and she did not comment on my scent. And when I wore this for the first time, last Friday, I was sure I'd put too much on (let's just say I felt like a walking gardenia), but when I asked a co-worker if it was overpowering she said absolutely not. Be be warned...After Hours is much more potent!

*photo from Majenty

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back with Sample on Wednesday

This week has been so hectic, I haven't had a chance to try any new samples! I'll be back tomorrow, though, to talk about Majenty Embrace the Day. Have a wonderful day!

Friday, August 11, 2006

No More Rock n' Roll Fun

I love music. All kinds of music. All kinds of good music. I love everything but bad pop and bad country. Rock, punk, jazz, classical. Most of the time, I have trouble playing favorites. That's how much I love music.

But I have no problem playing favorites when it comes to Sleater-Kinney, and it saddens me that after their last show in Portland tomorrow night, they'll be on "indefinite hiatus," and we all know what that means: gone. Probably the worst part for me is knowing that I'll never get to see them live. They'd been around a good long time and I knew who they were (hm...I distinctly remember watching an interview with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and he was wearing one of their t-shirts), but for some reason, it took me a while to get around to listening. And once I did, I could not stop.

I appreciate that people have different taste in music, and what's really great to one person might sound just awful to another. A few days ago I said that celebrities can't sell me anything, and for the record, critics really can't either. If I love something, I'm going to love it, no matter what anyone says. But the critics do love them, and their fans love them, and many people will be sorry to see them go.

On many blogs you'll see people getting tagged with lists of questions from their blogger friends. As I read, probably like lots of people, I answer the questions in my own mind. It's a fun way to test yourself, to really think about what you like or want or would do in a certain situation. One time on someone's blog I saw the following question: If you could sing like anyone, who would it be? If I could sing like anyone, it would be Corin Tucker. (I think the person on the blog said Janis Joplin, which is also a fine choice.) I don't think I've heard many other voices with that much raw power. Some people think she's shrieking, but I find her voice covers a range of emotions that's simply incredible.

And not one to blah blah about the feminist thing much on the blog, I have to say they impress the hell out of me for playing the way they do, for refusing to compromise, for being three women playing two guitars and drums and having no bass player, and for being able to rock the fillings out of your teeth. I'm a 37-year-old woman, but they turn me into a teenager, they make me have to jump up and down, they've made my days a little bit brighter when I need something to pick me up. And while I know I can always listen to them--the music that already exists doesn't go away--it makes me a little melancholy to know they won't be out there working on the next album.

And so my heart's a little heavy as I say: Thank you Sleater-Kinney for having existed at all, and at least leaving us with your music. All the best to you. (They aren't going to read this, of course, but it's out there in spirit, so it counts.)

*all photos from The Sleater-Kinney Archives

Kindness of Strangers

When I got home yesterday, I had a package waiting for me on my doorstep from La Crème Beauty. I couldn’t remember if I ordered anything from them. I’m always starting to place orders for samples and then deleting them at the last minute, but maybe this time I had clicked through without realizing…could it be possible? When I got into the house, Bob was acting a little suspicious (“Oh! Look at that! A package!”…like it was unusual for me to get a package from such a place), so I thought maybe he’d sent me a little gift.

And when I opened it, I found it was indeed a gift, but not from Bob! To my great surprise (and delight), it turned out that Autumn at La Crème Beauty had read in my blog (thank you for reading, Autumn!) about the mix up that occurred when I ordered Majenty’s Embrace the Day from them and instead received After Hours. It took me such a long time to discover what had happened, and I liked After Hours so much, I saw no reason to complain. People make honest mistakes, and I had already used the After Hours several times…it was all good!

But after reading about what happened, Autumn was kind enough to send me a sample of Embrace the Day (which I’m wearing today and will write about soon), along with Hidden Cove and a little box full of several other lovely samples (wrapped prettily in purple tissue) I’ve had on my list to try, along with a sweet letter offering her apologies for the mix up. This absolutely made my day! Terrific customer service is apparently alive and well at La Crème Beauty. After the horrible time I had with my beloved Anthropologie, I admit I’m a little wary. But this has renewed my faith. Autumn simply could have read about what happened, cringed in embarrassment for a few seconds, and then gone on with her life, but instead she chose to reach out. And as for me: I had planned to order from them again, even without this lovely gesture. But now you can be sure they have a loyal customer. Just the letter alone would have been enough.

So if someone is rude to you at a store, or you have a bad online shopping experience, try to take heart in the fact that there are people out there who must love their jobs and care about their customers. (And who also have great taste in music. You got to see The Raconteurs, Autumn?! I am jealous…but I’m glad it was fun. Nothing worse than going to see what you think will be a great band and they turn out to be meh.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Looks for Fall

***My apologies...Blogger is giving me all kinds of problems with images today!*** When you spend all day writing about something dry and technical, you need a little beauty. Being a “girly-girl” (if indeed I can still classify myself as “girly-girl” at the age of 37), I’m not typical in the technical world. Engineering types are like academics: they believe “serious” people don’t spend time worrying about how they look. Well, I defy convention! I’m perfectly comfortable moving from syn flood and DoS attacks to lip gloss and back again.

My favorite time of year is fall—I’ve been ready for it since June!—so I was excited last week when I saw that Neiman Marcus (and others) had posted the fall looks for some of their beauty lines. If you’ve been reading the blogs, you know there are two basic trends: browns and purples, in a nutshell. For what it’s worth, here’s my take on the beauty looks on Neiman’s site:

This one is my personal favorite, mainly because it’s office-friendly but still polished, and it should work for almost any skin/hair color combo. I liked this one so much that I had to check it out in person. The shadows, Pyrite and Cocoa, are much warmer in person than they seem in the picture. Pyrite is somewhere between taupe and champagne, very pretty, while Cocoa is a warm brown with a little bit of red underneath. The cheek color, Winter Bloom, is a pretty but standard soft coral. If you have the basics in your drawer, this look will be easy to recreate. But let me tell you about the best part: the lips! The lipstick in Amande and the gloss in Campari are simply stunning. Amande is a soft brown with a hint of red underneath, and Campari is a sheer, silky (read: not sticky) gloss in a dark red somewhere between black cherry and Chinese lacquer. Just gorgeous, seriously. The natural lip pencil is meh. It’s a flat brown that removes all color from your lips, and frankly makes the lipstick a little flat and pasty. I’d skip the pencil and apply this directly, or use a better neutral with a hint of color, like MAC Spice.

The cool thing about Neimans is that, should you have the means and desire to do so, with one click you can purchase the whole shebang, sans foundation-type stuff.

shu umera
This one was my second favorite. I love the smoky brown eye that’s not too heavy on liner. And that lipstick is gorgeous. I like the way it carries all the pink from spring and summer forward into the fall. To me, this would be a wonderful look for evening. I mean, if I could apply it. Many of you out there are more skilled than I am, surely; if I tried this at home…well, let’s just say it would probably look like the nurses had let me play with makeup before I escaped from the institution. But if I had a special occasion coming up, I’d drag this picture to a makeup artist in a second.

Christian Dior
This ties for second-second favorite. I love the purples/roses in the smoky eye, again with the softer pink lips. Beautiful again for evening (which might be why they call it “Evening Elegance”), and if I wanted to go for a less neutral look, this would work. As long as I had a makeup artist who knew what was what, and didn’t try to pair this lovely smoky eye with, oh, I don’t know, say, coral lipstick. All makeover type people believe strongly that because I am fair and have green eyes that I should wear purple eye shadow and coral lipstick. Not going to happen. Never.

That said, I went out and found my own version of rose/purple for day at Clinique. This is their Colour Surge Eye Shadow Duo in Rose Wine.

Speaking of purple eye shadow and coral lipstick…This look is just this side of what happens to me every time I get a makeover, only more chic and without the coral. The lip color is very pretty. I’m pretty sure we’ll see this eye on the CNN Headline News anchors, most specifically poor Robin. Nothing to distract us from the Israeli-Lebanese conflict like some heavy eye makeup. This is why I listen to NPR.

Bobbi Brown
I covered what I thought of this look over a month ago, when I warned you that BROWN IS BACK. Lucky for us, though, that most of the other makeup lines have a fairly modern take on it, instead of returning to the mud-sucking zombie look of the 90s.

Hm. They are calling this look “Autumn Solstice.” I personally like to call it “Olsen Twin Chic.” I seriously thought that was one of the Olsen twins…had to look very closely to determine that it was an Olsen decoy. But enough funny…with the right coloring, I think this look is very pretty. Brunettes should stay away from this, I think, or they’ll end up looking like the mob wives in Goodfellas. I recently saw this same type of makeup on Miranda on a SATC rerun, and it looked very pretty with pale skin and bright red hair.

Laura Mercier
This look (left) is quite pretty, the colors are nice, but I find it boring. Frankly, she looks like she just came off the stage at a beauty pageant. I don’t bind a more balanced lip and eye, but this feels very 1980s to me.

NARS and Trish McEvoy

***Since I posted this, Neimans has taken down the NARS look. The picture (right) is Trish McEvoy's look.*** Meh. All the colors here are basic and neutral, very nice. You know you’re getting quality. I think the Trish McEvoy look is supposed to be close in feel to the shu umera thing, but to me it’s not as stunning and misses the mark. And there’s something about the NARS model I don’t like, so maybe that takes away from the makeup.

What's your favorite look for fall? Do you change, or stick with the same thing season to season?

*photos from Neiman Marcus

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Robert Piguet Fracas

Fracas is a scent I’ve been familiar with for quite some time but never wanted to try. I remember seeing it probably ten or more years ago in InStyle magazine (I was unfamiliar with it before that, sadly) and being intrigued by the bottle. I loved the black and pink, the clean lines, and I loved the font. But a cool font is not a reason to buy a perfume. And to be honest, I’m not sure if they listed notes, or if I read them if they were there, because I was instantly turned off by the fact that this was supposedly, at the time, Madonna’s favorite fragrance.

It’s not that I have any problem with Madonna per se. Although at the time of said InStyle tidbit, I believe she had just adopted her new British accent. That might have been a slight turn off. But that wasn’t the only thing…months hence, Fracas was listed as the favorite perfume of many other larger-than-life celebrities. For some reason, this was a serious turn off for me, and by the time it became widely available, I refused to sniff it.

Nothing does less to sell me an item than to tell me a celebrity likes it. (Yes, yes, I know…then why read InStyle? Because I like to look at stuff, people!) In the first place, I tend not to believe it. I believe beauty editors put together “makeup bags” and product-of-the-moment choices that would seem likely for the celebrity du jour. Does anyone remember in the late 90s when all the celebrities were apparently using Yon Ka and MAC StudioFix? And then the big deal was Kinerase. And of course Creme de la Mer. And Stila Kitten eye shadow. And NARS Orgasm blush. And NARS Masai lipstick. I remember all this because it sticks in my craw, for some reason, that I’m only supposed to believe it’s great because a celebrity’s using it. They’ve taken the whole high school fear of inadequacy thing to a whole new level. All the cool kids are using it! Come on!

And some of these items are great products…but they are placed by beauty editors. With all the free stuff celebrities receive, and considering they probably rarely do their own makeup, I seriously doubt they know what’s on their face or in their drawers at any given time.

Okay, enough ranting. I had to say something because this perfume has been reviewed (so much better) by many others (Aromascope, Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Bois de Jasmin, Now Smell This, to name a few), and what can I really add? As a reminder, the notes in Fracas EDP are as follows:
Top: bergamot, orange blossom, leafy green essence, peach blossom, pink geranium
Heart: tuberose, jasmine, lily of the valley, white iris, carnation
Base: sandalwood, musk oakmoss, vetiver, cedar

Holy gorgeous fragrance Batman! For what it’s worth, I can see why someone who’s trying to change her life, maybe growing up a bit, trying to pull herself together, would choose to wear this fragrance. It’s the ultimate aromatherapy that says I’m a LADY. It makes me want to sit up a little straighter, cross my legs at the ankle instead of the knee, wear my pearls. I expected the opening to be all about the tuberose, but instead it’s all about the bergamot and orange blossom, softly cut with green, that float along on the top. Eventually the scent becomes sweeter, and the carnation makes the floral heart drier than some other white florals I’ve tried. The sandalwood and cedar break through clearly, lending a subtle spicy woods to the sweetness. Honestly I don’t detect any vetiver, but my nose is still developing (makes me sound like Pinicchio). Just after wearing this for one day, I’m not sure how any perfume wardrobe could go without it. I suppose if you just absolutely HATE floral scents, or if you had some severe allergy to beauty (or celebrities), you could skip it. But I cannot imagine going too long without a full bottle of this amazing scent.

*photo from LusciousCargo

Monday, August 07, 2006

Serge Lutens A La Nuit

Back to white florals, today I’m wearing the lovely A La Nuit, with notes of Moroccan, Indian, and Egyptian jasmine, white honey, benzoin, and musk. The jasmine is very direct at the opening, but not overpowering. This dries down into a very soft honeyed musk that sits close to the skin. Sadly, like Datura Noir, I can feel this one fading much too quickly. Again, could be my light hand when applying. I’ve noticed that Serge Lutens scents tend to have very powerful openings and very quite, almost hushed endings. In like a lion and out like a lamb, as it were. (I’d like to stop here and thank Tom, who in his comments for his guest review of Miel de Bois on Perfume-Smellin’ Things suggested I apply Miel de Bois in the ladies’ room here at work, so I could cast an accusatory glance at a co-worker if I got any nasty cat pee at the top. Supposedly this scent is wonderful if you can just get through the first few hours…I guess if I don’t find it wonderful after all that, I’ll still have a tool for exacting revenge on my co-workers, should they cross me.)

*photo from Aedes

Weekend Samples

I continued sampling this weekend, although I took a break from the white florals for a bit. Before I get into that, though: I went to a birthday party for my friend Lisa on Friday, and as my Datura Noir had faded away completely, I decided to wear Majenty After Hours. Unless my friends were saying something different about it when I wasn’t in the room, this perfume was a big hit. It must be the blend of the oil combined with skin; it’s very lush and warm without being cloying. Some of you know that I got After Hours by mistake when I had ordered Embrace the Day; now I’m thinking I want to try Hidden Cove instead. If anyone out there has smelled that one, please let me know!

Goes without saying that it was both hot and humid all weekend, although I must admit not as hot as it was last week. Still, I was looking for something to cut the heat, so on Saturday I decided to try L’Artisan Mandarine Tout Simplement, L’Artisan’s 2006 summer offering with notes of green mandarin, ginger, frangipani, yellow mandarin, red mandarin, and cedarwood. Generally I fear citrus fragrances because they do not react well with my skin, but this was very pretty, orangey sweet and also green. Imagine you are at the park, having a picnic on a hot day and smelling the fresh cut grass, and you peel a juicy orange. That pretty much sums up this scent. Imagine doing that in real time, too, because unfortunately, this scent didn’t last that much longer on my skin. Maybe if I had a full bottle and could be more generous with the amount, it would be better. I don’t think for me this is bottle-worthy, but it does make me more enthusiastic about trying citrus scents.

On Sunday, it was not as warm but super humid, and I decided to sample what everyone’s touting as “the smell of summer,” Bond No. 9 Fire Island. The notes in Fire Island are cardamom, ozone, neroli, white musk, tuberose, musk, and patchouli. Before I get going here, can anyone explain to me how ozone works in a fragrance? I looked at osMoz, Wikipedia, and Bois de Jasmin (wonderful info on notes there), and then tried a general search, but didn’t come up with much of anything. Not to sound dim, but is it simply used as a synthetic note? Does it mimic a marine note?

Because there’s a slight marine feel (although not briney or salty) to Fire Island. They’ve bottled a very specific summer olfactory sensation that combines everything from tanning oil to parking lot tarmac. I’m not joking when at one point I thought I must surely be smelling a note of caramelized popcorn. This is not gourmand or floral, and the musk does something wonderful to the tuberose that makes it sort of sandy and wet. Some people have called it beachy, but I think of it more like a boardwalk scent, the mixture of vacation and industry. If this sounds awful, it isn’t. If someone had thought to package this scent and sell it in gift shops in summer vacation spots everywhere, they would have made a killing by now. It would out-sell snow globes in a minute. But it’s very much a perfume, still, and a quite comforting and lovely one at that. I’m smitten!

*photos from Aedes and LusciousCargo

Friday, August 04, 2006

Keiko Mecheri White Petals

Well, Hello Kitty!

I admit, I can’t say I’m a fan of Keiko Mecheri’s creations after trying only three of her perfumes. I can say I love Loukhoum (Can you hear me, L? You complete me!), and I can say I like Osmanthus (The Perfume Formerly Known as Fleur d’Osmanthus). That’s about it.

Therefore, can I really feel comfortable saying anything bad about White Petals? You bet!

The Keiko Mecheri site lists the notes as white flowers bouquet, hesperidees, sandalwood of Mysore, and powdery musk. LusciousCargo is more succinct, listing the notes as white florals, crisp citrus, freesia, peonies, white lilies, narcissus absolut, milky sandalwood, and powdery white musk.

Me, I list the notes as Country Time Yellow Lemonade blended with Snapple Pink Lemonade, to form a sweetly tart (or tartly sweet) scent that will make your teeth ache. The marketing copy at LusciousCargo recommends White Petals as a “first fragrance” for young girls, and I couldn’t agree more. Of course, you could also just buy them some Lik-A-Maid and have them wet it down and put a little smidge behind each ear.

Okay, to be fair, after about three hours, the “milky sandalwood” (didn’t know Nestle Quik made that flavor) and powdery white musk (the Lik-A-Maid chalky candy stick thing ground to dust and added to our heady lemonade blend, perhaps?) do appear. Barely.

I’ve done right by you all. I wore it, I reviewed it, and now I’m going to wash it off!

*photo from

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Serge Lutens Datura Noir

(Sorry, no picture at the moment. Blogger's being a pain.)

The notes in Datura Noir are myrrh, bitter almond, tonka bean, musk, osmanthus, heliotrope, mandarin, lemon flower, tuberose, datura flower, vanilla, coconut oil, and apricot. This is a magnificent blend of scents. One of the things I find unusual about this scent is how cooling I find it at the top. The opening (when I didn’t have the notes in front of me, I seriously thought I detected absinthe) is so refreshing, and in fact this fragrance is chilly on me, but not in a bad way. (Or maybe I just think it’s chilly because they feel the need to keep the office temperature hovering at about 58 degrees F.) Under the chill, a powdery sweetness comes through.

Nothing dominates here; this is an ensemble cast in the truest sense. It’s not creamy, not tropical, nor is it bright and sunny. It’s actually rather dry.

Words fail me.

For what it’s worth, when I smell Datura Noir, I remember sitting in the shade in Las Vegas at the Wynn, on the patio at a little sandwich and coffee shop, eating gelato. Dry bright heat combined with cooling water from surrounding pools, the slight cloying sweetness of gelato on my tongue, the smell of other people’s espresso and coffee drinks, the glass canvas of the hotel reflecting the majesty of the desert.

The only thing that concerns me at this point is how long it might last on me. Again, I only applied this lightly (Read the post on Now Smell This about perfume at the office, by the way…some interesting thoughts and comments.), and now it’s almost lunch time and the scent is quite faint on my wrists. I know I had enough on for Bob to tell me how good I smelled when I left this morning, though, so timidity might not be the reason for this fading floral. But if I test it again and it lasts, I might consider a bottle.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Yosh White Flowers

As I mentioned last week, I have a full bouquet of white floral samples to try, and so the second in line after Do Son is Yosh White Flowers. The notes are jasmine sambac, night blooming jasmine, violet, sweet pea, freesia, tea rose, rose Maroc, gardenia soft, lily of the valley, soft lilac, Egyptian tuberose, and narcissus, with a base of petitgrain and Siberian fur.

What I like about this scent is the slight watery green edge that cuts the floral notes. I also happen to like that the jasmine, tuberose and gardenia are not allowed to dominate, as they so often do in white florals. This perfume oil is quite bright at the beginning. The freesia, lilac and narcissus are most prominent to my nose, riding the soft green wave of petitgrain. The tuberose and the gardenia actually seem to come through later, along with the rose, and they are elements that soften the brighter edge, make it a bit sweeter, more powdery. I'm not catching any of the Siberian fir note, but I probably wouldn't know that note if it bit me on the...well, I wouldn't know that note, but I'm imagining it would bring a bit of woods, if not pine, and I don't get that at all. I like that this scent is a bit powdery in the drydown (violet, perhaps?), rather than green or creamy. It's very refreshing and pretty, wonderful for hot weather, and not overpowering.

Because this is an oil, I'm hoping it will last the day. I didn't feel like I had to apply too much, but then Bob didn't say anything, so either he didn't like it or I wasn't wearing enough. I tend to have a light hand, especially on Wednesdays, as I have a 7:00 A.M. meeting on that day every week, and I'm afraid of offending people who aren't quite awake.

To be honest, White Flowers smells to me a lot like something Ormonde Jayne might create. I love Ormonde Jayne, so this is a compliment of the highest order. However, I could buy an Ormonde Jayne scent at half the price of this lovely perfume oil (or I could buy two Ormonde Jayne scents!), so that makes me think. If I really like something, price is not so much of an issue, but if it's not so far off something else I really like, well...that might change things considerably! I may have to re-sample some of my Ormonde Jayne lovelies, and see how this compares "up-close," so to speak.

*photo from Yosh