Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

I wish you all a Happy New Year! May 2008 bring you peace and happiness.

*image from Times Square Alliance

Friday, December 28, 2007

2007: Fragrance Year in Review

The fragrances listed here are my favorites out of the ones I posted about in 2007. Unlike last year, I was sampling right up until the last minute. At one point I thought the list was headed in a more floral direction, but as it turns out, my love of spice and incense tends to win out.

The biggest surprises for me:
  • Out of all the rose scents I sampled, Bryant Park was my favorite. I re-tested every rose, and this one stood out every time.
  • I never expected to love Flowerbomb so much, but I reach for it on a regular regular as can be for someone who wear a different perfume almost every day!
  • Despite the list, this year I tended to gravitate toward lighter florals. As I mentioned in my "unsung" post, this list might have shaped up quite differently if I had written about some of the perfumes listed there: PC Tuberose Gardenia, La Chasse, and Infusion d'Iris.
But now, without further ado, my favorites of 2007:

1. Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie. "The light touch of mimosa at the top masks the darker heart underneath, made full by the cassie, rose, and jasmine, and finally grounded by the spice and powder of carnation at the end. Strange to say, but it's a lifetime in a bottle, a movement from light-hearted youth to womanhood and then on into personhood, coming in to one's full being."

2. L'Artisan Passage d'Enfer. "The notes in Passage d'Enfer seem innocuous enough: white lily, frankincense, aloe, and white musk. All that white! Doesn't white mean purity? Or does it symbolize an unbearable heat, a white flame turning everything in its path to ash? This is a soft fragrance, close to the skin, but dark with incense. White lily adds a bit of sweetness to the top, but the frankincense and musk dominate here, with the aloe serving to cool."

3. Bond No. 9 Silver Factory. "Even knowing the most general history surrounding Andy Warhol, I believe I would have expected something more unusual, or even jarring. Something cultish like POTL, or the love-it/hate-it, oft-copied Angel. Instead, Silver Factory, with top notes of incense, wood resin, and amber; a heart of jasmine, iris, and violet; and a base of cedarwood, is a beautifully restrained fragrance, and for all the woods and incense, it's not the least bit warm. It's an iris carved into highly-polished granite, a house in a snowstorm where the fire's gone out but the smoke still lingers in dry, still air, offering the promise of but not delivering warmth."

4. Mona di Orio Lux. "Something happens with this one. I don't know what it is. The high citrus notes die off and the sweet becomes more bitter, and after that it becomes so interestingly unique. I'm not sure if it's fabulous or cloying. I applied this around, oh, eight-thirty this morning, and by eleven, I couldn't get enough of myself."

5. Caron Parfum Sacre. "It's the sort of scent that requires a great deal of contemplation, and still, all I could come up with was this: the silk lining of an old purse. When all is said and done, that's what I smell: a faint, spicy powder, elegant and ethereal, a dream of travel to exotic lands, a memory trapped in fine smooth fabric flecked there with tobacco and stained here by an oily smudge of lipstick."

6. Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb. "And so what if the dry down is slightly addictive? So what if you might start thinking to yourself that you can make it through the heady beginning (heady yet sort of refreshingly that tea?), that you can wade through gardens packed full of freesia, rose, jasmine, and orchid, just to get to the end, this patchouli for a hippie who's not only rich but also refined?"

7. Bond No. 9 Bryant Park. "I would have to be a sucker for Bryant Park right off the bat, though, because it has two of my favorite notes, rose and lily of the valley, along with patchouli, raspberry, rhubarb, pink pepper, and amber. I really love that the pepper in this is so evident, how it gives the patchouli a sophisticated edge, compliments the bit of sharpness the rhubarb offers, freshens the tart raspberry."

8. Guerlain Liu. "While not classified as a chypre (none of the characteristic notes are present), in the opening it's almost a dead ringer for Chanel No.5. I'm almost tempted to say it's like a Cher impersonator who does a better job at being Cher than Cher does. Or a Chanel impersonator that's better at Chanel. But it's not really better, it's just more Guerlain than Chanel, with that base of iris and woody notes and vanilla. It's powdery, earthy, slightly dirty, and ultimately comforting."

9. Annick Goutal Le Chevrefeuille. "This lovely has notes of honeysuckle blossom, honeysuckle vine, narcissus, jasmine, and lemon tree petit grain. I must admit, it wasn't anything like I expected. As a honeysuckle fragrance, I expected a softer, sweeter treatment of these delicate white and yellow blossoms, a scent akin to the taste of the nectar of these flowers. I found it much brighter and herbaceous, lemony at the top, with the sweet floral underneath appearing only as the scent softened over time on my skin. Truly, to my nose Le Chevrefeuille has the appeal of a floral tea with a refreshing squeeze of lemon."

10. CB I Hate Perfume Wild Pansy. "This seems to me to be the one in the collection that might make some perfume fans roll their eyes. Flowers and grass. So conventional. But I think half a dozen other perfumers could do flowers and grass and not do it so well. Personally I think this scent has a simple beauty, a freshness, a lightness of being. The wild violet has the clarity of the light tinkling sound of a glass bell. It's not a powdery scent; it is instead the embodiment of the colors purple and green--crisp, sweet, damp, uncomplicated."

Honorable Mentions
I can't quit without mentioning just a few more: Tauer Perfumes Le Maroc pour Elle was my rose runner-up, followed by Guerlain Nahema. Frederic Malle's Lys Mediterranee should be on a universal list of favorites somewhere, belonging to the world. Kai Perfume Oil is possibly the truest gardenia scent out there that I've tried, and it's well worth owning to wear on a hot summer day. And finally, my heart is broken that L'Artisan is no longer making their Vetiver perfume. I hope they come to their senses and consider a reissue.

I hope you'll share your favorites of 2007 with me. Best wishes to you all!

*image credits on original posts

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007: The Unsung (by Me, That Is)

Before I share my 2007 Fragrance Year in Review, which consists of perfumes I posted about here, I thought I would share with you some of my favorites this year that didn't make it into print. This list was no easier to put together than the other one, and I'm sure I've missed something, but here goes:

1. Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. I bought this scent unsniffed. I could say it was the positive reviews that drove my purchase, but I read positive reviews of perfumes that sound intriguing on a weekly basis without feeling the need to buy them NOW. After it arrived I wore it a few times and put it away. I even remember thinking, "What am I going to do with it now?" A few months later, I was reading a post on another blog about regrettable perfume purchases, and I thought of Tuberose Gardenia...and for some reason was compelled to pull it out and try it again. I'm so glad I did, for it is as classic and crisp as a freshly laundered white cotton shirt, pure white and cool.

2. L'Artisan Dzing! I wore this as a sample for a few days, intending to write about it, but instead I just bought a bottle and went on my merry way. With notes of tonka beans, balsam, saffran and ginger, this unobtrusive and comforting scent has become a wardrobe staple for me. It's a dusty suede, refined and just sweet enough to feel very feminine...although it could be easily worn by either sex.

3. Miller Harris L'air de Rien. If I remember correctly (and I am too lazy to go back and check), this one made a number of top ten lists after its release last year. I thought for sure as I reviewed the year that Miller Harris Coeur d'Ete would be up near the top of my list (Oops! Did I just give something away?), but it was trumped by L'Air de Rien. With notes of French oak moss, Tunisian neroli, sweet musk, amber and vanilla, this really does have the most wonderful powdery, sensual, feminine feel, but it also reminds me of walking through used bookstores on rainy afternoons. If I'd posted about this one, it easily would have made my top ten.

4. Fendi Theorema. Theorema seemed to be all over the blogs this year, like a new word lately on everyone's lips. I tend to be stubborn when it comes to trying something everyone seems to be talking about, as though I can't hear--or smell, as it were--through all the noise. With notes of tangelo, jasmine, thai shamouti (orange), osmanthus, spices, cinnamon, pink pepper, sandalwood, guaiac wood, amber, macassar, sweet cream, and musk, Theorema is a wonderful spice. I find it close to two other perfumes I tried and enjoyed immensely this year, Rykiel Woman (Thanks Chaya!) and Organza Indecence (Thanks Sweetlife!). These three could almost be sisters: Organza Indecence is the oldest, the straight-A student and the belle of the ball, the one who gets to do everything first. Rykiel Woman is the youngest, soft spoken, warm and self-assured in its powdery, citrusy warmth. Theorema is the middle sister who likes to be a bit different, craves adventure, and would be most likely to head off to Europe with her backpack. Of course, they've discontinued it. I got mine from a reader (thanks Sybil!), and I'm using it sparingly.

5. Prada Infusion d'Iris. Iris is without a doubt the "it" flower for 2007, what with the release of Infusion d'Iris, Bond No. 9 Silver Factory, L'Artisan Iris Pallida, and Guerlain Iris Ganache. From my own experience, I can say for sure that two of these, the Prada and the Bond, knocked it out of the park. To me, this scent is to iris what PC Tuberose Gardenia is to white flowers: a clean, clear representation of the thing itself. The top is quite green, but the dry-down is a fresh floral, the iris in all its purple majesty.

6. L'Artisan La Chasse aux Papillon. Technically I did sort of write about this one, as its the scent that knocked me out of my doldrums and got me back to sampling after my long absence last spring. I stand by what I said before: "'s the intricate lace of tiny, fragile blossoms in springtime. It's light and feminine, a non-headache-inducing white floral that's safe enough to wear to work and romantic enough to wear out on a date."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wishing You Peace

*image from

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Today is my favorite day in the whole world, because it's the day I married my true love.

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful husband!

*photo courtesy of our dear friends Lisa and Elliott

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Blue Iris Named 2008 "Official" color

Iris fragrances have been enjoying the spotlight for at least the last six months or so, but now color is getting into the mix. According to an article in today's New York Times, Pantone, arbiter of all things color, has officially named Blue Iris as THE color for 2008.

Funnily enough, this color is very close to the same royal violet sweater from J.Crew that I've been coveting through the fall. I remember watching a show on PBS a year or two ago about how every year, a panel of experts--made up of designers, artists, architects, etc.--puts together the popular colors for the following year. This activity is transparent to the general population, but eventually they do drive the color choices we find in stores year after year. I imagine we pick the best of what we're offered, most likely tempered by what we know to be our favorite anyway. I am happy about this year's pick because I love blue, but I would love blue beyond all other colors even if they'd chosen, say, Tigerlily, a bright coral that was the official color of 2004.

And I imagine if you love rose fragrances, the market's temporary fascination with iris will not faze you. That's not to say you might not pick up a bottle of, say Silver Factory, as you peruse the perfume counters. And you should, for I think this description of Blue Iris does a fair job of summing up the perfume: “'Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspects of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic.'” "A strong, soul-searching cast" and "anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic"--both easily apply to this wonderfully cool (in each sense of the word) incense fragrance. So throw on that blue sweater and apply some Silver Factory, and know that by this time next year, everything will have changed.

*image from the New York Times

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Week!

I cannot believe I haven't posted in a week! I know I promised to update my sidebar with what I've been sampling for my year in review, but at some point, that seemed like giving you a peek at the answers. I have quite some work to do. Creating this list seemed much easier, more self-evident last year. No idea if that's good or bad, really, but it's surprising how different the list is shaping up this year. A hint about this year: more, uh, floral-y florals. Last year I had more of a mix, a little leather and spice. But I'm giving too much away. No, no...must not say anymore.

I suppose Top Ten and Year-in-Review lists are ubiquitous among bloggers, but tell me, my non-blogging friends: Do you review your hit list at the end of the year? I have a theory that perfume lovers are natural list-makers. We are a people who love to categorize and prioritize. How else, really, could we keep up?

So I have been faithfully sampling and sampling things I tried throughout the year, sometimes gaining clarity and other times staying cloudy. I've only cheated once, yesterday, when I wore Lalique Encre Noir. I had to replenish some of my repeaters for testing, and, well, a few new samples crept onto the list. But other than Encre Noir, I've held them at bay.

So let's hear it, my friends: What are your favorites from 2007?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Want, Part 2

I rarely do this. I am generally reluctant to say I want anything as a gift. Usually, if I want something, I buy it for myself. But I admit, I saw this and wanted it immediately! But enough equivocating. I love Estee Lauder, and so do many perfume fans out there. This is a limited-edition collection of mostly classic scents.

From the Estee Lauder site:
"Limited-time collection arrives in an exclusive gift box and includes:
- Beautiful Parfum .12 oz.
- Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise Eau de Parfum Spray .14 oz.
- Estée Lauder pleasures Parfum .12 oz.
- White Linen Parfum .09 oz.
- Youth-Dew Parfum .12 oz
- Intuition Parfum .14 oz.
- Knowing Parfum .12 oz.
- Private Collection Parfum .07 oz.
- Cinnabar Parfum .12 oz.
- Aliage Parfum .12 oz.
- Azurée Parfum.12 oz
- Estée Eau de Parfum .12 oz."

This collection is $85, and for now they're offering free shipping. If I don't get mine, you should at least get yours. This would be a wonderful gift for any fragrance lover.

*image from

Monday, December 10, 2007

'Tis The Season to Be...

Grumpy. What's up with this weather we're having in Atlanta? We're breaking record high temperatures right and left (and still in a water crisis). I had planned a holiday scent post, but it's too hot to wear anything cozy or spicy. We bought our tree on Saturday and finally got around to decorating it last night. It felt like cheating, like it's not really the holidays at all, like putting up a tree for St. Patrick's Day. After all, it is green.

Flummoxed. I haven't finished my Christmas lists. That's right--not my Christmas shopping; my Christmas lists. For some reason this year, I don't have a clue where to begin. Usually, I have everything purchased, if not wrapped, by now. I think part of the problem is that 2007 basically skipped October and November, so we went straight from September into December, and who can keep up? The worst part is, I have to mail everything. I mean, mailing presents is no problem...if you have presents to mail. You see my problem.

Harried. I just realized it's really only about two-and-half weeks until I need to have my year-in-review post done. (I know! How will you get through the New Year without it? It's practically as popular as The New York Times's "100 Notable Books" list!) In addition to the holiday scents, I was going to post about some things readers have shared with me (Donna Karan Black Cashmere from Gaia, Fendi Theorema from Sybil, Organza Indecence from Sweetlife), but then I realized, I have to go back and sample at least ten perfumes from earlier in the year to come up with my list. (If you're curious which ones I'm sampling, check the sidebar every day.)

Blocked. Er, I mean, writer's block. Why else the crappy post? Only someone with writer's block couldn't think of something nice to say about Prada Infusion d'Iris, or any of the three scents I mentioned above, right? Maybe when things cool off, I'll regain my senses. But for now, I must shop! I have gifts to mail!

Somebody somewhere where it's cold...tell me what cozy scents you're enjoying!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Opium Fleur de Shanghai

Kim and Queen of Caffeine, I think you were the only ones interested in this one, so please send me your info (at the email address listed in the sidebar) and I'll send you both a decant. This is very cozy for winter. I do hope you'll enjoy it!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Love You, I Love You Not

This week I've started trying to weed out my perfume collection. Many of my perfumes are safe. When I look at the shelf in the cabinet where I keep them (that should give you some idea of the relative size, as they don't even fill the one shelf), I realize I've scored more than I've missed, to use an ill-fitting sports metaphor. The problem is, this makes weeding difficult. It takes me a long time to settle on what must go, or be banished if you will, but once I decide I don't look back. No point in second guessing a decision too much after it's been made, as that is a sure path to misery much of the time.

And so I've taken three boxes from the shelf and pulled a flower from a vase. I'm ready to pluck those petals.

I Love You. Because I'm a bit of a tease, should I tell you first what I could never stand to lose? Here we go:
Guerlain Vol de Nuit Parfum (post refers to EdP)
Caron Parfum Sacre
L'Artisan La Chasse aux Papillon and Dzing!
Balmain Jolie Madame
Tauer Perfumes L'Air du Desert Marocain
Rochas Femme
Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia
Annick Goutal Eau d'Hadrien and Le Chevrefeuille
Rykiel Woman

I Love You Not. This wasn't an easy one. In the first place, it's a classic, especially among white florals. The truth is, I bought a bottle more because I felt like it was something I should own rather than something I wanted to own. It's either a sign of confidence or a sign of bad taste, but the truth of the matter is, I can think of at least four white florals (possibly even five) that I would opt to wear before this one: Robert Piguet Fracas.

I'll give you a moment if you need it.

While I appreciate the beauty of composition on this one, I must admit, Bandit (which I do not own) is more my speed. And as far as white florals: out of the bottles I own, I would wear the Estee Lauder first, La Chasse second. If I want orange blossom mixed with my tuberose, then I'll wear Fleur d'Oranger (decant). And as far as what I don't own but would choose first: Tubereuse Criminelle and Carnal Flower. I'd even pick the headache-inducing (for me) Songes over Fracas. The creaminess falls flat on me. It's like eating generic sherbet. This deserves someone who swoons. It ain't me, babe.

I Love You. I thought, before I sprayed this on my wrists and spent the day with it, that this would be the first to go. It seemed to be a purchase driven more by curiosity and sentiment than desire and good sense (not that those go hand-in-hand very often). Many years ago, the original version of this scent was my winter staple, my signature scent.

I bought Opium Fleur de Shanghai based on a memory of a fragrance, and that's exactly what it feels like. I'm happy now that I did not just buy the original, because Fleur de Shanghai softens and rounds the spice, acts like a mellow dream of the past, with all mistakes and uneasiness faded into the background, an old friend remembered fondly. I wore Opium because it was the scent of a person I wanted to be, but Fleur de Shanghai is much more like the person I am, and probably even was then.

I Love You Not. My journey back to this fragrance was painful. I expected to feel those butterflies in the stomach, to steal sniffs of my wrist at odd times during the day (I think by now people in meetings must think I'm just wiping my nose on my wrist, like a nervous tic), and to be carried away on a wave of rosy vanilla incense.

Instead, I felt like someone sprayed a lot of really expensive air freshener in my face. It took over an hour for things to settle down, and then I spent the rest of the day smelling like I'd wandered out of a more sophisticated version of the Yankee Candle Store.

The most embarrassing thing about giving up Keiko Mecheri's Loukhoum is all the fuss I made about it. I all but put up a billboard declaring my affection for this scent. What happened? It grew a beard and a pot belly, took up smoking and stopped brushing its teeth.

Okay, it's not that bad. Not even close. It is actually very well done, but if I'm going to do vanilla, personally, I think Lea Extreme is the one. Or, for the oriental twist, Fleur de Shanghai.

What makes me laugh, always, is my own unbridled enthusiasm for these scents in the first place. I'm not at all ashamed I loved these fragrances, but oh--I was so young! I was a young perfume fan! I'm a year or so older now, and while I may not be wiser, my tastes have...matured, I would hope, but changed for sure.

Do me a favor, and in the comments, share with me an "I Love You, I Love You Not" fragrance story of your own. And if you'd like, let me know whether you'd like to try Fleur de Shanghai. I'll do a drawing if there are enough people interested...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Reader's Journal: Run

Okay, go ahead and call me out for having Alan Greenspan's book in my sidebar as "on my nightstand" for the last month. Technically, it is on my nightstand. Also, it's a pretty good read. I bought the book because he impresses me so much in interviews. Something about listening to him reminds me of my favorite professors and makes me long to go back to school. I don't always agree with his politics, but I greatly respect his mind. Very few public figures warrant respect these days.

When I started that book, I even had intense, however fleeting fantasies about going back to school to get a degree in economics. Right. Not going to happen. Fiction calls to me, and I always answer. I had Run on the stack right underneath poor Mr. Greenspan's book, and every time I lifted that tome to read, I would think, "I could just read a few pages of Run...just a taste..." Not exactly the equivalent of RyKrisp versus chocolate for a chronic dieter, but close enough to warrant mention.

Clearly, Run won. I've read three-and-a-half other Ann Patchett novels (The Patron Saint of Liars, The Magician's Assistant, Bel Canto, and half of Taft--not sure anymore why I didn't finish that one) and Truth and Beauty, her memoir about her friendship with Lucy Grealy. While she's not one of my favorite writers, to pick up one of her books is to be completely absorbed in the story she tells. She also writes cleanly and gracefully. I am not much for showy prose (uh, my own excepted, of course...tee hee hee).

Run, which except for the last chapter takes place in the course of twenty-four snowy and cold hours in Boston, is the story of the Doyle family: Bernard, the ex-mayor; Sullivan, his ne'er-do-well natural son; and Tip and Teddy, Bernard's two adopted black sons. An accident happens and shakes their world. Secrets are revealed, sometimes between the characters, sometimes only to the reader. If I'm honest, the plot is not much better than something written for the Hallmark Channel. It's unlikely, it's sappy, it plays on the emotions in much the same way. (Tears, followed by an embarrassed gulp and the thought, "Why am I crying? This is stupid.")

What renders it readable, then? Ann Patchett is a first-rate writer, and her characters are likable. And while she's got you...well, she's really got you. Her characters are like people you meet in random situations--at a conference, say, or when you're stuck in an airport--and you find you really like them, and you have warm feelings for them for hours afterward. You may have exchanged information and agreed to meet for lunch someday. Days later, you've forgotten all about them. In fact, it's not until you're in that situation again--at the conference, stuck at the airport--that you remember them, briefly, fondly, and wonder vaguely what might have become of them. You had such a good time with those people! Real connections were made! But then you get on with the business at hand.

All in all, Run was thoroughly entertaining and well-written, but it's not her best book, in my opinion. For me, Bel Canto still holds that place, and so far it's the only one of her books (except Truth and Beauty, actually, which is very good for a memoir, particularly because it's so anti-navel-gazing--a rarity) I would re-read.

You can read the New York Times review here.

*image from Powells

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bond No. 9 Silver Factory

I can't tell you what torture this has been. In the interest of full disclosure, I received my sample of Silver Factory from the very kind people at Bond No. 9--this past August, when I received samples of Saks for Her and Saks for Him. Don't think I am bragging, for I never, ever receive samples from perfumers, and I was so unbelievably thrilled. For just one moment, I didn't feel like a dinky blogging perfume buffoon. I felt like part of the party.

I share this not only to be on the up-and-up, but also because in a sense, I suppose that's what The Factory was all about: the flash in the pan, the fifteen minutes of fame, the cult and culture of pop art and real music. That moment in life when the most magnetic person in the room has turned to face us, and for that moment we are also magnetic and full of possibility.

Is it possible to feel nostalgia for a time before one's birth? (Although not much before) I spent much of Thanksgiving afternoon watching Pennebaker's Don't Look Back about Bob Dylan's tour of Britain in 1965. We started discussing Edie Sedgwick, and what songs Dylan may or may not have written about her ("Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat"? "Like a Rolling Stone"? Is Warhol the diplomat on the chrome horse?). I got lost in the film as though I were watching something recorded from my own past that I had forgotten. Something about that time mesmerizes me, but in truth, I was never all that interested in Andy Warhol or his art (although I will forever be thankful for Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, and Nico). Still, he was, as they say, before his time, postmodern when modern was still around. That he himself is an icon, that he at least surrounded himself with artists, cannot be denied. So many magnets on one room: where does one turn to look?

Here's the thing about Silver Factory: Even knowing the most general history surrounding Andy Warhol, I believe I would have expected something more unusual, or even jarring. Something cultish like POTL, or the love-it/hate-it, oft-copied Angel. Instead, Silver Factory, with top notes of incense, wood resin, and amber; a heart of jasmine, iris, and violet; and a base of cedarwood, is a beautifully restrained fragrance, and for all the woods and incense, it's not the least bit warm. It's an iris carved into highly-polished granite, a house in a snowstorm where the fire's gone out but the smoke still lingers in dry, still air, offering the promise of but not delivering warmth.

I don't at all imagine The Factory with lights and mirrors, but in the light of a cold winter day, empty, its high windows framing a chalky sky. It makes me as nostalgic as the Pennebaker film did, as though I arrived too late for the party. History's already been made and has left this scent in its wake.

*image provided by Bond No. 9

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm Back...

But I am out of commission. Chest cold. I hope to be up and running again soon. We HAVE to talk about Bond No. 9's Silver Factory.

Monday, November 19, 2007

It Just Occurred to Me...

Today, Lake Lanier, Atlanta's water supply, was 8/100 away from its historic low. We have about 66 days until we run out of water.

If there's no water, one cannot bathe. If one cannot bathe, one begins to smell. If one wears perfume! I'm all set!

Seriously, though--tomorrow Bob and I are traveling home to visit my family in Texas. I hope to post from the road, however briefly. Safe travels to any of you out there who might be hitting the road tomorrow as well!

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Sometimes I can't believe all the stuff I own. What really gets me is that even though I seem to own a bunch of stuff, it's rarely the right stuff. I don't mean "right" in a "keeping up with the Joneses" sort of way, but more in a "Why do I own six hot pink highlighter pens?" sort of way. Why do I even have these pens at all? It's been years since I highlighted anything other than my hair. I am sure at least two of them must be completely dried out--and surely one of them dates all the way back to college. (That's more than a decade, thanks.)

What compelled me to keep them? And why do I have two pairs of plastic Elvis sunglasses and a tiny eight ball?

Or how about this: The white shirt is a wardrobe staple. I own five white shirts. Two of them are a smidge too small to wear. One of them is a lightweight cotton with a pattern woven in, appropriate really only for warmer months. One is a classic white 3/4 length-sleeve shirt, but the underarms have yellowed a bit after so much wear. (Oh, like you don't sweat and that never happens to you!) The fifth is a very cool expensive white shirt for evening that Bob bought me years ago...and it's way too small.

Hence, if I needed a white shirt to wear tomorrow, say, to a job interview, I would not have one. Of course, I don't have a suit or even a pair of pants appropriate for such an occasion, either, so the white shirt (or lack thereof) would probably be the least of my worries.

I know this is a time of year when I should be thankful for what I have, and believe me, I am. I realize I am lucky to own five white shirts when some people can't even afford one...but then, that just makes me doubly irritated with myself. Why hang on to the shirts that don't fit? Why not own just one good one and replace it when it gets beyond wear?

In other words: Do I really need this much stuff to be thankful for?

How about this: I own at least ten tubes of lip gloss. At least four of them are identical in color. Only the brands are different. Same with lipstick--out of the many, many tubes I own, only three are any sort of unique shade. I essentially have duplicates and triplicates of every other color...again, different brands.

I have six tubes of mascara, and I only like one of them, but I continue to rotate through the others so I won't feel to guilty about buying them. One is a rather expensive brand, but it smudges. When I get home from work, I look like I've been crying and rubbing my eyes (and generally I have, but only on the inside). But. I. Will. Use. It. All.

I guess you can see where I am going with this...I need to edit. It's not so much a question of being virtuous, really, as it is a question of just not being so stupid about how I spend money. I used to be good at this sort of thing, at having all the bases covered and really not having more than was necessary. Now I have way more than is necessary, but the bases are wide open.

I am challenging myself to edit: my closet, my makeup, my books, and even my perfumes. I feel a need to clear away the clutter so I can see what really is (and isn't) there. The books and the perfumes are the most difficult. It's easy, say, to pick two brown eye shadows to keep out of the five that I own. It's less easy for me to get rid of books, because I worry whether they'll go to good homes. Seriously. And the perfumes...I don't know where to begin. I made some newbie mistakes. A couple I will give away, but then, what about the others? Do I sell them on eBay? Do I try to swap them for something I know now I really want? How do I know if I should really let them go? What if I miss them when they're gone?

But I am kidding myself. There are some bottles in there I know I just won't wear again except once in a blue moon. That just doesn't seem right.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Random Thanks, Day 5

Today's the last day of my random thanks experiment. Even if you chose not to share anything here, I hope these lists helped you think of the little things that make your life easier, and that it put a smile on your face.

1. Paper goods. I love paper: wrapping paper, cards, blank notebooks, sticky notes, calendars—oh god, I LOVE calendars. It takes every ounce of self control I have during the holidays for me not to buy more than three new rolls of wrapping paper and many boxes of holiday cards (of which I will send approximately two—cards, that is). When I go to TJ Maxx, my first stop is not to look for discounted perfumes or shoes. I go straight to the back, to the aisle where they keep the best thing of all: the blank books. No cheesy covers, please; no little sayings or pictures of puppies. I've already bought two calendars for 2008, a day planner and a letterpress desk calendar I bought off Etsy (bad place for paper addicts), and I'm still hoping someone gets me a wall calendar for my office. And I need one for my desk at home. And also a blank book for all my 2008 to-do lists. And some note cards, so I can thank the people who give me paper.

2. Woody Allen. Four of my favorite to ten movies of all time are Woody Allen movies: Crimes and Misdemeanors (1), Hannah and Her Sisters (4), Annie Hall (6), and Radio Days (9). There are at least four more in my top twenty. I'm obnoxious because I know all the lines, and I have to “sing along with” my favorites when they come up: “Comedy equals tragedy plus time. The night Lincoln was shot, you couldn't joke about it.” (Sorry, I had to get one in.) Yes, terrible about Mia Farrow...but these films are also some of her very best work—notice that she's in three of the top four. They're classics.

3. Elton John. My very first album was Elton John's Greatest Hits, the one where he's sitting next to the piano in the white suit, wearing those big white sunglasses. (You know, like in the picture I have right here.) I was smitten then, and smitten I remain. I know I don't need to list all the songs, right? In fact, I am listening to him as I write this--”Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” I don't even think I can pick a favorite. Okay, maybe “Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters.” Or “Yellow Brick Road.” Or “Bennie and the Jets.” Oh, never mind.

4. Clinique. I've tried a lot of beauty brands, and this is the one I always come back to. Granted, it could be force of habit, as Clinique was the first “big girl” skin care and makeup I ever owned. But seriously I think they just create lovely classic shades in wonderful formulas. Although I still mourn the loss of Dramatically Different mascara, both the High Impact and the Naturally Glossy mascaras are terrific. The lipstick formulas are about the best out there (for me, only Chantecaille really rivals Clinique in this area), and I don't know what I would do without my Black Honey Almost Lipstick. Well, I'd live, of course, but I wouldn't look as good. They aren't daring, but tried and true. I like that.

5. The New York Times. My daily dose of news. To tell the truth, I started reading the NYT online because they had a huge collection of first chapters. I could (and did) spend hours (at work) reading book reviews and first chapters. Eventually I moved on to other sections, like Movies, Arts, Fashion & Style, Health, and yes, even the Technology and News sections. And The Times Magazine! And I must confess, I also love the times because I can click on the real estate links and look at fabulous New York dwellings. Oh, to live in a place where football and dog fights don't count as culture. Sigh.

Bonus: Other Things I Didn't List...
When I came up with the idea to post these random things, my mood was low and my list woefully short. But as I started my little project, I started to add more and more things to the list. Here's a sample of things that didn't make it: Fresca, Alice Munro, Mexican food, Whole Foods, St. Andre cheese, Etsy (although it's kinda sorta there), my Roomba, champagne, spaghetti, traditional (i.e. preppy) clothes, peanut butter, jazz (specifically, John Coltrane), Texas, The Who, Wes Anderson movies, Richard Russo's novel Straight Man, dark chocolate, Larry McMurtry, and monograms. I could go on, but I won't. As you can see, I have plenty of things, great and small, to be thankful for!

*images from (in order):, wikipedia,,,

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Random Thanks, Day 4

1. Design blogs. If I have an addiction that goes beyond perfume, it's design blogs. Notice, I did not say design. I am not crafty or artistic in the least, and my house is more shabby than shabby chic. I lack the vision to carry a color palette through my home, the skill to make my own letterpress cards, the eye-hand coordination to sew or knit or make anything I could give away, let alone sell on Etsy. I have a short list of a few design blogs in my sidebar there, but they are a teeny percentage compared to what I have bookmarked (I know. I should be using feeds. I'm old school.) My favorites: Absolutely Beautiful Things, Posie Gets Cozy (I love, love her photos), and Creature Comforts...and that's just skimming the surface.

2. NPR. I love NPR. My dad would put it on in the car when I was a kid, and oh the eye-rolling and sighing that would ensue. I called it “Gloom and Doom.” Truthfully, I sometimes still feel that way, like there are days when there's just never, ever any good news. But still I listen. And I recently discovered all the free podcasts, particularly the Symphony Space series of actors reading short stories and the podcasts of Fresh Air. Working out was never easier.

3. Online perfume discounters. Probably what I should say here is just, “I love crack.” Because, yes, perfume is my crack. It's not necessarily a good thing that I can get so many classic scents at SUCH BARGAIN PRICES! (Cue sound of clown horn.) FragranceX, Imagination Perfumery, Strawberry.NET—they all delivered when I had a need. Oh, it's ugly. I'm not even going to talk about sample programs and decant sellers (cough Perfumed Court cough). It's like letting a drunk loose in a liquor store.

4. Cookbooks and recipes. Number one, I am a compulsive recipe clipper. Number two, I can hardly stop myself from buying cookbooks. (I manage, for Bob's sake, but I won't pretend it's easy.) Number three, I have hundreds of online recipes in my inbox, because I can't stop subscribing to services that send them. But do I cook? Not as often as I would like. In fact, frozen pizza (doctored by Bob) is a staple in our house. Our kitchen isn't greatly conducive to cooking (particularly prep work), and most nights I am too tired to care what I eat, let alone whether or not I am actually preparing it. Still, that doesn't stop me from dreaming. And I should say: I actually just made a recipe from the cookbook pictured here—the first one, even though I bought the book last March. Oh well. I'll keep trying!

5. Sex and the City. I realize suddenly that you might think I watch a lot of television. Well, technically, no. We only watch Heroes and the Thursday night line-up on NBC (except ER) on actual television. But I do like to watch things I own on DVD, like Sex and the City. That pink suede book full of DVDs has seen a lot of action. I never tire of this show. If I do happen to be flipping through the channels and it's on regular television, I will always stop and watch. I cannot help myself. Favorite episodes: Carrie on the runway, Carrie drunk at Vogue, and the series finale. I'm going to cry just thinking about it. I need help.

*images from (in order): etsy,,,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Want

Don't judge. It's a sickness.

And it's cheaper than a maid.

*image from

Random Thanks, Day 3

1. Real Simple Magazine. My life is an absolute mess, but once a month I receive my copy of Real Simple in the mail, and for the few hours it takes me to read it (slowly, cover to cover), I convince myself that this will not always be the case. Someday, I will be Mistress of My Domain. All closets will be organized, all shelving will be scattered with natural baskets and colorful bins filled with well-organized photos, notes, and cards. I'll know how to pick out quality sheets, luggage, and coats at various price points. I will know 101 clever ways to use pipe cleaners and ice cube trays, some of them together. I'll just say it: Real Simple is my porn.

2. Freaks and Geeks. Everyone knows Judd Apatow now, because of The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, but I knew Judd Apatow when. This show only made it through one season on NBC, where it started off on Mondays (against Ally McBeal and Monday Night Football) and ended up on Saturdays. (Do they even air shows on Saturday night?) Hard to believe it only ran one season. This show chronicles the Weirs, Lindsay and Sam, and their friends through high school in 1980. Trust me, this is not just another coming-of-age show. Rent, borrow, buy or steal (okay, don't steal) a copy, so you can see some or all of the following:
- Bill dressed up as a woman for Halloween.
- Millie pounding out “Jesus Is Just Alright with Me” on the Weir family piano.
- Mr. Rosso, the guidance counselor, serenading Lindsay and Daniel with Alice Cooper's “Eighteen.”
Probably that list means nothing to you, but just trust me. It's funny and warm and so, so true--the best possible combination.

3. Dzing! Still Available! Hooray! Even if only in the 100ml size! You can spray and spray and spray this perfume and never get enough of its sawdust-y loveliness.

4. Motown. I've blogged about my love of Motown before. So many talented artists (who were shamefully cheated), so many wonderful songs. I am particularly fond of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Supremes and early Stevie Wonder. Oh, and Marvin Gaye, of course, especially his duets with Tammi Terrell. My love for Motown segues right into my passion for 1970s soul. Earth, Wind, and Fire, anyone?

5. Flannery O'Connor, The Complete Short Stories. While I knew, in a scholarly sense, O'Connor's mastery of the short story, her terrific skill in painting vivid scenes and bringing her characters to life, I did not realize until I moved to Georgia how true her writing is. Now, you might be thinking, how hard can it be to write stories about the place where you grew up? Well, give it a try. Do your best to capture even the smallest part of your life on the page in a way that will convey any meaning at all to someone who was not there. And then consider not capturing a small moment, but painting the reader a picture of an entire slice of Southern culture...The people in her stories exist here, even today. It's bone-chilling.

*images from (in order):,, Luckyscent,, and

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Random Thanks, Day 2

A challenge today and for the rest of the week: share at least one small, daily thing with me for which you give random thanks!

Here's my list for Day 2:

1. Cashmere. Every year, for Christmas, I receive at least one acrylic sweater. Every year, it goes on top of the Goodwill pile. I can't abide any fabric that makes me feel like I am wearing my own personal sauna, no matter how "natural" it might feel to the touch. Cotton is good, wool is better, but let's face it: cashmere is best. I don't get too snotty about plys or counts or what-have-you, and while my taste may run to Tse or White+Warren, my budget is more Land's End or J.Crew (preferably on sale, which explains the odd and delightful color assortment in my closet). With a good sweater shaver and some terrific hand-wash detergent from The Laundress, these babies will last a lifetime.

2. Slippers. I've always been a slipper-wearing gal. I love the approach of cool weather because nothing feels better than going home after a long day at work and putting on slippers. (I am 38 going on 70. Nice to meet you.) My current slippers are my favorite I have ever owned. Although I loathe Uggs and think they are just about the most hideous thing next to Crocs to happen to fashion, I LOVE my pink suede Ugg slippers, even though the shearling is wearing thin and they are filthy and cannot be cleaned. They are without a doubt the most comfortable, cozy thing I own.

3. David Bowie. It does seem odd to declare my old-lady love for slippers on the one hand and declare my undying devotion to David Bowie on the other. Although I was familiar with his music from an early, early age ("Fame" was a big hit with both my parents, and the volume went up on the car radio every time it came on), I will never forget the first time I laid eyes David Bowie: It was probably 1978, I was all of nine years old, and I was watching a special about rock and roll with my babysitter Toni when they showed this...thing. I was so fascinated, and I remember saying, "She looks really weird." This sent my babysitter into fits of laughter, of course, and she said "That's David Bowie. That's a GUY." Guy or gal, I was completely taken by the image of Bowie dressed as Ziggy Stardust and serenading a concert hall full of people. My favorite Bowie album: Hunky Dory.

4. Eggnog. This is my biggest weakness at the holidays. I can bypass the cookies and pies and cakes and all the other holiday goodies--just give me my eggnog. I'm not adventurous enough to make my own, so I generally go for the store-bought variety: Organic Valley is best, followed by Whole Foods brand and Horizon. I suppose the classic spike is rum or whisky, but I prefer mine with a dash of Courvoisier--but just a dash! after all, you want to be able to keep drinking it!--and a healthy sprinkle nutmeg on top. Yum! I can feel my waist getting wider at the very thought.

5. Las Vegas. I know people think it's sleazy or cheesy, and I suppose some of the places along the strip definitely fit that bill, but I don't care--I love it. Over all, I am a person to whom understatement is not only a good thing, but something to strive for, but I love Vegas for being the complete opposite of understatement, for its full-out gaudiness and bright lights, its over-the-top hotels and casinos, and its shopping, not to mention its sheer will to survive and thrive out there in the desert (which I also happen to love). And there is simply no better place I can think of for people watching. Vegas attracts every type of person imaginable. It's definitely something to see. Because I can't travel there on any kind of regular basis, I get my fill by watching Ocean's Eleven.

Come on folks, join the party! Let's hear it!

*images from (in order): J.Crew, Zappos, Amazon, Organic Valley, and Yahoo

S-Perfume 100% Love

With some perfumes, you know from the first instant. Although I am a tremendous flirt who can declare perfumes bottle-worthy that I know in my heart I never intend to buy, I am not so fickle that I don't know the difference between temporary smitten-ness and true love. Mostly. I mean, I am getting better.

The terrific Angela from Now Smell This sent me a decant of S-Perfume 100% Love last year sometime. Unfortunately for 100% Love, I was already 100% gone on the Vol de Nuit parfum she included in that care package as well. Between that and Jolie Madame (also in the care package--if you don't already know, Angela has flawless taste), I had no time for 100% Love. It went into box o'samples sometime last January, until I fished it out a couple of months ago.

100% Love contains notes of red fruit (a jammy raspberry and/or red currant, perhaps), green sap, rose, incense, and black cacao. It's a powdery fragrance through and through, but not at all coy or grandmotherly. This smells like baby powder for adults, a soothing and sensual blend of notes. (Note: This does not smell like actual baby powder.) If it really were a powder, it would be finely milled and expensive, perhaps with a slight shimmer, and would beg to be applied by a Caron puff. The sweet sharpness of the red fruit comes through at the top and provides a jammy undertone that turns deeper and darker as the incense starts to develop. The rose is prominent through the full development, blood red but also slightly green. It reminds me a bit of the rose in Diptyque's L'Ombre dans L'Eau, if it were tricked out like a lady performer at the Moulin Rouge.

I put this in a category with two other perfumes in this powdery genre I love, Iris Poudre and Parfum Sacre. Iris Poudre is graceful and sophisticated iris, Parfum Sacre is hauntingly melancholy deep powdery spice. 100% Love is deeply sensual and comforting. I can't help thinking that this is the sort of scent you'd want your love to think of as yours and yours alone.

And so, I declare this bottle-worthy. I declare this is love, one-hundred percent. Heck, make it a thousand! I'm not at all surprised to find that 100% Love was created by Sophia Grojsman, who created a couple of my other favorite perfumes: Prescriptives Calyx, which is a staple in my perfume wardrobe, always, and Coty Exclamation, which, although cheap (in price) and available in drugstores, rivals some of the best soft orientals out there. Only one point of confusion: I notice that the year of creation for 100% Love is noted as 2003, 2005, and 2007, although I haven't seen the list of notes change. Don't break my heart, 100% Love! Don't go changing! (Good grief. I have taken leave of my senses.)

*image from Barneys (P.S.--Does anyone else look at the shape of that bottle--especially the cap--and think Love's Baby Soft? If the juice were would be close!)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Random Thanks, Day 1

If ever a day called for a list of little things to be thankful for, it's Monday. My email isn't working, my shirt is riding up in back, and my shoes are eating my socks. Anyway, that said, let's get right to it!

1. Frasier. This has to be one of my favorite shows of all time. After several years off the air, it seems to have returned, and I could not be happier. Favorite Frasier moments:
- Frasier and Niles playing "air violin"
- Frasier challenging everyone to do something daring because it's Leap Year and they have an extra day, only to chicken out himself and bungle his annual production of "Buttons and Bows" on a public television fundraiser..."Somethin' somethin' buttons and booooows!!!"
- Niles buying a whippet and jokes that ensue about the whippet and Maris, Niles's wife
- The opening (and subsequent closing) of Les Freres Heureux, that brotherly adventure in restauranteuring (oy, is that a word?)

2. Chick-fil-A. If you live or grew up in the South, you know this one. I'm not much for fast food--in fact, I'm a real problem on road trips because I refuse to eat McDonalds or Burger King--but I cannot resist a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries from time to time. Nobody makes a chicken sandwich like Chick-fil-A does, and I'm not sure why. The pickles, maybe? This is my bad day go-to food, but I ration it or else I'd eat it every day!

3. Genius, by Patrick Dennis. This is simply the funniest book ever written. Written by the same man who penned Auntie Mame (and featuring Patrick Dennis and Pegeen, many years into their marriage), this book chronicles Patrick's hellish adventures in screenwriting as he abandons his advertising job in New York after aging producer/director Leander Starr convinces him to write a screenplay for his next movie, being shot entirely on location in Mexico. A sort of chaos ensues that makes Auntie Mame's adventures look tame. If you loved Auntie Mame, this is a must-read. I'm sort of happy they never made this into a movie, because I might have died from laughing too hard.

4. Starbucks. I know this one is a "love it or hate it" thing, and clearly I fall on the side of "love it." I've seen heated debates around who has better coffee, Dunkin' Donuts or Seattle's Best or Starbucks or Coffee Beanery, or around whether it's a waste of money to spend upwards of three dollars a day on coffee drinks, or around whether we all just shouldn't go on buying Folgers or Maxwell House because coffee is coffee. Generally, I ignore all these things. I like Starbucks coffee (traditional bold, thanks), but what I really like is our neighborhood joint, which is like our Cheers where everyone knows our name, and we know theirs. We've been going there since the first day it opened. That sense of place keeps me coming back every time...and this time of year, so does the Christmas Blend!

5. Apples. Nothing could be simpler than this, right? I eat an apple every single weekday afternoon. I like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Fiji, Pink Lady, Washington Red, you name it. I recently discovered Honeycrisp apples. Wow! Unfortunately, they didn't have them at Whole Foods this week, so I got another variety from West Virginia. I love the crisp sweetness. My awesome husband slices one up and lovingly wraps it every day for me to take it to work, and that alone makes me smile.

*images from (in order): Wikipedia,, eBay,, and Wikipedia

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Week of Random Thanks

As the Thanksgiving Day holiday approaches, I've decided that each day for the next week I will post five random things for which I am thankful. I'm not talking about the big things. It goes without saying that I am thankful for my family, for my awesome husband, for my lovely kitty, and for my health. And I hope you know, friends and readers, that I am ever so thankful for each and every one of you.

I want to give thanks every day this week for the little things that pull me through each day, that perk me up when I am feeling crummy, that I take for granted when things are going well, or that seem to small to be thankful for. Remember that nothing, really, is too insignificant to give thanks for, to whatever deity or universe you wish to thank. And I realize as well that some people may feel lonely, may have no family close by, may be alone in a new city and have no friends, but I want to help them remember: even the little things are worth it.

And so my friends, as I post my five things each day, I challenge you to come up with your own, and post them in the comments (if you feel like sharing). I hope you'll enjoy this random thanksgiving!

*image from

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reader's Journal: Guilty Pleasures

For the most part, I'm a pretty serious reader (see current "On My Nightstand" entry in sidebar). The fact is, most self-proclaimed "serious readers" have a guilty pleasure when it comes to reading. Some read mystery series, some read science fiction, and some have a weakness for trashy magazines and tabloids. My personal weakness: girly books. No, no, not 1950s porn magazines. Books on, you know, how to be a girl. (Hi. Yes. I am 38 and I still say "girl.") I simply cannot resist books that give advice on hair and makeup (although it's generally all the same, no matter how it's presented), wardrobe (an area where I need serious help), or even charm and etiquette. Some of these books are quaint and some are just downright silly, but I like to grab them when I've had a bad day and read a few pages here and there, just to relax and have a little fun. I thought I'd share a few from my current collection with you, plus a few I've got my eye on.

From My Collection

The Little Black Book of Style, by Nina Garcia. This stylish little book by Elle fashion director Nina Garcia imparts mostly basic fashion wisdom, such as the essential wardrobe pieces every woman should own. We've all seen these lists in magazines and books, with some variation: white shirt, trench coat, great pair of jeans, cashmere sweater, and of course, the ubiquitous LBD. Show of hands: who has all these "essentials" in their closet? The funny thing is, I agree with the list. The sad thing is, I can never get it together enough to have the most basic items in my closet. I do, however, have a pair of apple-green chinos and a sweater with grey (yes, grey) cherries all over it. What woman could live without these? Seriously, though, I feel it's something I need to hear over and over again, like "Control your portions, eat fewer processed foods, and exercise." Someday it's bound to click.

What Would Jackie Do?, by Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway. We all know Jackie is a style icon, but the authors here go a little bit further than just dissecting her look, creating a sort of primer for young women. This book covers all sorts of topics: etiquette, dating, dressing for success, careers, and so on, albeit lightly. They also don't gloss over Jackie's faults. For instance, she had a bad habit of starving herself and smoking too much--not the best way to stay thin, and the authors are sure to stress this. Personally, I think this would be a great gift for a young woman. It's not restrictive and "Rules-y," but it provides a nice counterpoint to the Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans of the world...or to mothers who dress like their teenage daughters. (I do live in Georgia, after all.)

Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl, by Debra Ollivier. See, right there: a woman finding her inner French girl. You all know I can't resist anything with the word "French" in the title, but I enjoy this book not only for the style tidbits, but for the perspective. The author married a French man and lived in France for many years that included the birth of her daughter, and it's her perspective as a mother I find the most interesting. For example, here's a tidbit about children at mealtimes: "...they [children ages four through eight] ate each course separately and with great care...They ate with real cloth napkins and real glasses, and their cutlery was entirely adult...How pious these children seemed in front of their well-prepared plates." I think of this every time I'm in a restaurant watching some kid play table football with his chicken nuggets while his mother tries to persuade him (in baby talk--LOUD baby talk) to take just one bite. I think sometimes we've shed a great deal of civility in the last twenty years or so, so it's fun to imagine a place where manners still exist (even if maybe in reality, they don't).

Better than Beauty: A Guide to Charm, by Helen Valentine and Alice Thompson. This book was first published in 1938, but much of the advice still holds true today. With the tone of stern aunts or headmistresses, they dispense opinions and advice on things such as keeping clean: "Miss B. still subscribes to that old wives' tale that it's bad for hair to wash it too often. So there is frequently a musty odor when you get too close to her." Or going to the dentist: "We know one woman whose only claim to beauty is her teeth." This makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, but not in a derisive way. I like to think we have come a long way from having a standard idea of beauty, but I think it's still a struggle. Consider the "Zoe" effect: I see women all over Atlanta sporting huge sunglasses, giant "it" bags, fake (I hope) tans, and long stringy hair, and I think this must be less about looking pretty (because it isn't) than looking the same. And you can pick up magazines today that debate about how often to wash one's hair. (I think we have a large number of Miss B.s running around out there, but thankfully hair-care technology has come a long way so that we can't smell her coming.) But the best timeless advice they give: What matters more than expensive clothes and flawless style is grooming. Perhaps someone could send a copy of this to half the women in Hollywood?

On My Wish List

A Guide to Elegance: For Every Woman Who Wants to Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions, by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux. The funny thing is, with all these books I eye about wardrobes and dressing, you would think I went places other than an office where most people wear jeans. It's my personal opinion that the DotCom boom did a lot to hurt office etiquette, a large part of which is the office dress code. Believe me, even if I know the person sitting across from me in a meeting is a computer genius, it's distracting when he's wearing a hole-y t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops--in January. Why can't this guy wear a pair of pants? A clean pair of pants? And to the women: put on some make-up and stop wearing flannel to the office, please! And keep your Crocs at home!

How to Be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life, by Melissa Hellstern. Oh, come on. She's an icon. The author might be jumping on the WWJD bandwagon, but that's okay by me. I also wouldn't mind if this were accompanied by The Audrey Hepburn Treasures, a semi-autobiographical book of photos and stories from Hepburn's life, and Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn, a biography of the woman behind the icon.

Summer at Tiffany, by Marjorie Hart. I picked this up in the book store when it came out, but didn't buy it. Then I read the Non-Blonde's review and decided I had to have it, so on my wish list it went, along with another recommendation, Manhattan Memoir by Mary Cantwell.

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, by Dana Thomas. This is probably the most "serious" book on my list, and truly also the one that interests me most next to the two memoirs mentioned above. I'm hardly wealthy, so it may sound strange for me to confess that I don't think the democratization of luxury is such a great thing. The democratization of quality, yes (Martha Stewart at K-Mart, for example, is brilliant), but this chase for luxury goods, for more, more, more, isn't a great thing. Too many people have stretched their credit chasing "it" bags and Manolos. Why should I care? I'm not sure. But it feels like the erosion of common sense is behind the chase, and that concerns me. Although I love these books about style, one of the things I wish for myself is some coherence in what to own, in how I spend money, in striving for less to be more. Beauty must have meaning, for me. It should represent a hope that things will be better, not just that I can "get mine."

So it seems I am serious, after all.

*images from Powells and Amazon