Monday, March 31, 2008

And the Grab Bag Winner Is....

Nikki C! Congratulations Nikki! Please email me at with your name and address.

Thanks to everyone who entered. I'll be holding another grab bag drawing in the next few weeks!

Friday, March 28, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume? (Psst...and a Giveaway)

Good morning all! I'm planning to wear Penhaligon's Bluebell today. I've never tried it before...should be interesting!

What are all you lovelies wearing today or this weekend?

I have a little prize for you. Over the past couple of years I've collected a number of samples from purchases, friends, and well-wishers. I hate to see them languishing in the drawer, so I've assembled a bunch of sample grab bags. These are samples I've tried, or duplicates of things I already own. Some have several days' worth, some have just enough to wear once to see if you like them. I've distributed all kinds of scents across five bags, and I'm giving the first one away this weekend.

Let me know in the comments if you'd like to be included in the drawing. I'll keep this open through the weekend, and I'll draw a name on Monday evening.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Guerlain Mahora

Not a long post tonight, but I had to tell you all about Mahora. Sweetlife (Alyssa, to fans over at Perfume Smellin' Things) kindly sent this to me, most likely because she knows I love white florals.

The notes in Mahora are:
Top: orange, almond tree blossoms
Heart: ylang-ylang, neroli, tuberose, jasmine
Base: sandal, vetiver, vanilla

One whiff of this scent, and I long to be on vacation somewhere. Permanently. Just after winning the lottery. What I enjoy so much about Mahora, which goes from bright and tropical to creamy to powdery and comforting--think a long day basking in the sun, followed by an evening on a patio with a warm breeze off the ocean--is the sophisticated yet quiet approach it takes. There's no mistaking the tuberose, to be sure, but it's as though she's donned a sun hat and picked up a book to retire to a poolside chaise. I love this tuberose, so happy and relaxed on vacation. And I love that there's no coconut, or anything approaching coconut--or suntan lotion--nothing that shouts blatantly: "Yoo hoo! See my grass skirt? Want to rub some oil on my back?"

I need to do a little test, but Mahora reminds me of another white floral I recently fell in like with, Michael Kors EDP. That perfume is also an interesting approach to tropical, a bit sweeter if my nose remembers correctly, but still refined, a lady in a white linen dress. Perhaps later this week I'll cover that and see.

*image from 99perfume

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Reader's Journal: The Promiscuous Reader

How many of you out there are promiscuous readers?

Not sure what I mean by that? Let's say you go to the bookstore or to your favorite online bookseller, and you carefully select four or five books that you've had on your wish list for a while. As you're driving home with your books, or as you're waiting daily for the books to be delivered, you develop a plan. You know, for example, exactly which book you will read first, and it makes your heart pound just to think about it.

When you arrive home with your books, or when they are finally delivered to your door, you plan the best time to read, a time when you know you'll have minimal interruptions for the longest possible stretch of time. If you're the impatient type, like me, you may flip through several of the books and read the first few pages. But "the chosen one" remains in its virgin state, spine uncracked, until the appointed hour.

Finally, the moment arrives. You're in your favorite chair, or propped up with pillows in some cozy reading spot. You have the right lighting; you have a cup of tea or coffee, a glass of wine or a Diet Coke. You open the book. You read the dedication and acknowledgments, just to make that divine suspense last a leeetle bit longer, and then: There it is. The first page.

As you settle in and start to read, you think to yourself, "This is so exciting. I'm finally reading this book! The use of language...oh, that phrase there! That dialogue!" But in the back of your mind, something else is happening. You notice that your enthusiasm feels forced. You keep reading and hope it will begin to feel more natural. After all, haven't you been waiting for this moment for hours, days, or weeks on end? Didn't you picture how great it would be a thousand times over when you finally settled in and started to read, how you would be carried away, forgetting work and chores and all the troubles of the world for a few hours?

You keep reading, but the more you read, the more conscious you become of a most disturbing fact: You're faking it. Sure, you're looking at the words and turning the pages, but be honest. You're not really present. And why is that?

Because you're thinking about another book, that's why. You might even be thinking about several books, or a whole other genre. "This book is so serious," you say. "Beautifully written. Amazing. But maybe I need something lighter. I had such a long day at work, and I just need something to help boost my mood." Maybe you're reading a novel and you realize you're more in the mood for short stories. Maybe you're reading fiction but you also bought a couple of new biographies you've been wanting to dig in to for a couple of weeks. Or maybe, just maybe, you got a new copy of your favorite magazine in the mail that day, and you can hear it calling to you from the coffee table.

You put your bookmark (always use a bookmark, people!) in the book to keep your place and set it down. You tell yourself you'll come back to it tomorrow, or on the weekend, or next week when you're off for a few days and have more time. Then you start the search. You go through your TBR pile, your bookshelves full of things you've already read, your magazines. You think it's only going to be this one time, but it continues for days, weeks, this restlessness.

You cannot commit to a book. The book you thought you wanted sits untouched where you left it, gathering dust. All over the house are books you've picked up and discarded, bookmarks noting the exact moment you abandoned them. You think maybe you should just stop reading for a while. You should watch movies or television. You should listen to books on your iPod. You should go for a run, clean out your closet, wash your car, or repaint the house.

As you go on distracting yourself in any number of ways, something happens. One day, a book pops into your head. Maybe you hear someone else mention it, and like a word or song that suddenly seems to be everywhere, it's constantly on your mind. It makes you a bit nervous and concerned. What if it happens again? What if you pull the book down from the shelf, or make a special trip to the bookstore ("If they have a copy, I was meant to read it now," you think.) to buy it, and the same thing happens? You get so far, and then you start thinking about other books? You wait, but eventually you decide to throw caution to the wind. Maybe you and the book can make a go of it. Maybe this time will be different.

Oh, sweet relief when it works! The book is just the thing you needed! You read and read it; you think about what will happen next when you're away from it. You recall your favorite scenes during boring meetings, think about especially well-turned phrases in chapter fifteen as you drive. You finish the book, and you can practically hear the Rocky theme song playing as you snap the book shut after the final page. You did it! You finished a book! You are back on your game! Things will be different now! You will pick up other books and read them in full. You will be committed and serious. You will not cheat.

Okay, so, I've been using "you," but I suppose you all know: I'm talking about myself. Perhaps you've noticed the Winesburg, Ohio image that's been in the sidebar for--oh, I don't know--a month? Six weeks? I haven't changed it because at certain points it would have meant changing it almost daily. Here's a list of books I've started and stopped in the meantime: Conversations with Woody Allen, The Emporer's Children (Claire Messud), Away (Amy Bloom), Quakertown (Lee Martin), Jenny and the Jaws of Life (Jincy Willett), Rare and Endangered Species (Richard Bausch), Remembering Ray (essays about the late, great Raymond Carver), two current issues of Real Simple and Domino, plus several back issues, and Getting Things Done, for work, by David Allen. I've also listened to Selected Shorts on my iPod, short story readings that go on at Symphony Space in New York, and I've actually listened to Ron Carlson's "Towel Season" and John Updike's "Walk with Elizanne" repeatedly. I also got addicted to Project Runway, but as soon as it ended...well, let's just say it was difficult, and I seriously considered renting the first three seasons.

The book that finally broke the spell for me, as you probably know because of the image on the post, was Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld. I read this when it was first released, as a "summer read," and I remember being surprised at how good it was, how solid and non-chick-lit it seemed. I've always meant to re-read it, and a week ago I decided to give it a shot. I had nothing to lose (as long as I ignored my ever-growing TBR pile). And I'm happy to say I'm finding it quite good the second time around, and I'm almost finished with it.


*image from

Friday, March 21, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Happy Belated First Day of Spring! I am wearing Ormonde Jayne Champaca today, which is one of my favorite perfumes for spring. What are you all wearing to celebrate the first day of spring?

Have a happy Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ineke Evening Edged in Gold

I feel rusty. I don't at all feel up to the challenge of creating a meaningful description of this perfume. But I have a dilemma: I only have a wee drop left, and when I write about a perfume, I have to wear it. I cannot do it from memory. Often I have the "aged" version on one wrist, to verify the dry down, and the "new" version on the other, so I can re-experience the top notes.

Chaya sent me this sample, and I have ordered another from Ineke (if that tells you anything), but as much as I don't feel up to the challenge, I also don't feel like waiting. Several of you have asked what I think about this one, and all I can say is: It works for me. Oh, how it works.

The notes in Evening Edged in Gold are:
Top: gold osmanthus, plum
Heart: angel's trumpet, saffron, cinnamon bark
Base: midnight candy, leather, woods

Let's start with the obvious: What the heck is "midnight candy?" I actually went so far as to type that into Wikipedia. How am I to know whether that's a thing or not? I've been amazed at some of the ingredients in perfumes, thinking surely they were made up, when they turned out to be real.

But no matter the names of the notes. All that matters here is the experience. To give you an idea, a visual sense, I looked and looked for a suitable still life:

I'm still not sure that does it justice. So the words, the words...Evening Edged in Gold begins with ripened, honeyed fruit, a deep but not overly sweet nectar, lightened considerably by the osmanthus, which, for lack of a better word, is dappled through the top, a whiff here and there. I was surprised, honestly, that Evening Edged in Gold contains only plum, and not a heck of a lot more fruit, particularly peaches. But now that I smell the top notes again, there is a little something there of plum wine. And really, the scent ripens on my wrist, the fruit becoming deeper, the cinnamon bark and floral notes mulled in among the top notes. I find it almost a miracle that I didn't have wasps thrumming around me as soon as I stepped out the door wearing it. This has terrific lasting power, and the longer I have it on, I feel like it actually gets lighter, sweeter. Maybe it's the midnight candy, but this scent seems to work in reverse--and that's not a complaint. No, no way. The leather here is not as pronounced on me as in, say, Femme, which is probably closer to it than any other scent I've tried, and because of this it's better for the warmer weather (or at least the 70s).

Now here's the thing: I think I like it better than Femme. (I ordered the sample so I could be sure. Ahem.) Blaspheme, I know, but it's true. In considering what to say about Evening Edged in Gold, it occurred to me that this is one of those perfumes for which, if you tried it and really loved it, you might be able to give up everything else. I don't say that lightly. I've worn it three different days, and each time I felt like I was wearing something favorite, something me, not unlike a signature sweater or treasured piece of jewelry, yet not in an obvious way. That's unusual for a perfume, I think. We love lots of things, we perfumistas, even in all our self-acclaimed snobbery and persnicketyness. But how often do you put something on and think, "This is just me."? Not often, I imagine, although I'd love to hear in the comments if you have had that sort of experience. Maybe it isn't as uncommon as I imagine.

*images from Ineke and WebMuseum (Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Fruits from the Midi, 1881)

Friday, March 14, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Hello Friends! This morning I spread out all my new goodies, closed my eyes, and selected Ineke Evening Edged in Gold. I haven't even sniffed it yet, so this should be an adventure.

What are all of you wearing today? I hope your Friday is a happy one, and your weekend is full of fun and relaxation.

*image from Ineke

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Friends, I am sorry again for the lack of posts this week. Please bear with me! Work and the time change, among other things, have me in a tizzy. I hope all of you out there are breaking out of these end-of-winter doldrums. I believe I see light at the end of the tunnel, or at least at the end of March.

I would like to say a public THANK YOU! to some very kind people who've sent me treats: Kim, Sweetlife, and Chaya. Kim sent me Mitsuoko in EDP, among other things, and I'm both curious and afraid. I've ony tried the EDT, and it did not fare well. In a nutshell, I smelled like I'd been hosed down by an exterminator. I've heard time and again, however, that the EDP and the parfum are a completely different story. Keep your fingers crossed for me. In her package of goodies, Sweetlife sent me more Organza Indecence (one can never have too much) and Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, which I have been dying to try. I have a feeling it might be love. Chaya's care package included Miller Harris Geranium Bourbon and Ineke Edged in Gold--I think that one will be a killer, as in budget killer. I feel very lucky to have made such friends through this blog, especially during these past few weeks. You all remind me that life isn't all about toil and the paycheck, and these things do not define us.

*Early Sunday Morning, Edward Hopper (1930) from WebMuseum (This painting makes me think of Mystery Train.)

Friday, March 07, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Happy Friday everyone! What's your perfume today? I'm going with Jolie Madame. It's cool and wet today, and supposed to get colder--forty-two degrees tomorrow. Where the heck is spring?

Have a wonderful day!

*image from FragranceDirect

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cate Blanchett Says...

The winner of The Precious is Bonnie. Bonnie, you must go forth into your email account and send a message with great haste to In many days you will find promising treasure in your mailbox.

Congratulations Bonnie, and thanks to all of you who entered the drawing!

*image from Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Christian Dior La Collection Particuliere Passage No. 8, and a Giveaway

How excited was I about Christian Dior La Collection Particuliere Passage No. 8? Let's put it this way: When Gail very generously sent me a sample, she labeled it "The Precious." Iris! Violet! Even though I knew I'd never be able to afford a bottle, I was itching to try it.

"The Precious" proved to be not unlike the item for which it was named, that shiny gold band that drove Gollum (and almost Frodo) to madness in The Lord of the Rings. As soon as I applied it, it started working its own sort of dark magic. After just a few minutes, I felt slightly less than human. My skin took on an opaque, peachy cast, smoothing out and hardening. My hair coarsened and turned an unnatural shade of red before tightening up into an artificially curled bob. My eyes felt sort of hard and glassy, and I couldn't blink. At my joints, hinges and gaps appeared. I found I could remove my hands and feet and then put them back on. Having a little fun, I attached my feet to my arms and my hands to my legs, but I was afraid a co-worker might happen by my desk and catch me so I put them back. I felt compelled to stand behind my chair in awkward poses: my left hand in the air, almost as if waving at someone, my right hip jutting out as though I'd started to doing the bump and stopped halfway through, my head turned to look back over my right shoulder in a fashion that suggested I'd just heard someone call my name and whipped my head around in response. I stood that way for half an hour before the phone rang and startled me back into motion.

At lunch, my fingers were so stiff I could barely grip my fork. When I finally managed to get a hold of it, I found my mouth wouldn't open so I could get the food in. I'm pretty sure I stabbed myself a few times, but I felt nothing. My co-workers were starting to notice something was off. More than one person in the cafeteria asked me what was up with the Mona Lisa smile, but when I tried to answer (to ask them, "What Mona Lisa smile?"), no words came. My boss accused me of being secretive and looking for another job. "Why won't you tell anyone what's going on?" he asked me. "And why are you wearing that suit?" Until that moment I hadn't realized that the jeans and sweater I'd worn to work that morning had been replaced by an ill-fitting olive green Jones of New York suit, and my matching olive green shoes (high heels? on me?) wouldn't stay on my feet, most likely due to the little metal rods that had emerged through my soles.

But the worst part was the smell, like dusty plastic. It reminded me of certain department stores, the ones that use those really cheap mannequins--wait a minute! It was all coming together: the hardening, smooth skin; the synthetic looking hair; the weird joints; the freakish urge to pose unnaturally. I had turned into a mannequin!

And then I heard a voice. I'm pretty sure it was Cate Blanchett. I was bummed that it was only her voice and not a vision, because I always like to see what she's wearing. "Do not be afraid, Greeneyes," she said, her voice lilting and calm. "For a bathroom is just down the hall. In there you will find great relief."

At first I was a little confused, because it occurred to me that if I couldn't get food into my mouth, I probably wasn't getting anything out the other end, either. Also it seemed an odd for Cate Blanchett to contact me through the ether and tell me to use the restroom when I've been managing this task on my own for years. I was about to say something sarcastic in reply (telepathically, as my mouth was still frozen in that mysterious smirk) when it occurred to me what she actually meant: soap! Soap! All I had to do was wash away The Precious, and I would once again be human!

It took me about two hours to get down the hall to the bathroom. If you think it's easy to walk in ill-fitting shoes and with little metal rods sticking out of your feet, you're wrong. The other problem I had was that I felt compelled to stop every few feet and strike a pose. The only thing that seemed to release me was a co-worker happening by, and after lunch people are generally either in meetings or working (read: snoozing or surfing the net) at their desks, so there's not much hallway action. By the time I got to the sink I was ready to weep with relief, but what with the glass eyes and all, no dice. Thank goodness the faucets are automatic, so I didn't have to work any twisty knobs to get the water on. I pounded on the soap dispenser with the edge of my rigid hand. The cleaning folk aren't always regular about keeping the dispensers filled, but after whacking away at it for a minute or so, I was able to get a few drops out. I rubbed my wrists together so vigorously that if I'd been made of wood, I might have started a fire. I got the feeling back in my fingers first, and as my hands became more nimble I was better able to remove The Precious. My freckles returned, my eyes wept real, wet tears. My hair loosened back into its usual disheveled mess. When I looked down, there were my jeans and black sweater. Oh, to be human again!

And now here I am, back at the computer, typing away. No more urges to stand behind my chair and point at some imaginary bird flying through the sky. The truth is, I have this same problem with Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist, although it's not quite as drastic. Whatever it is that they've done with the iris and violet, it absolutely does not work on my skin. It gives off the most horribly sweet chemical smell that really does make me smell plastic. If you love Iris Silver Mist (and many people do--it's a great disappointment to me that I cannot wear it), then you absolutely should try this. As for me, I need my hit of iris to have some green or some sparkle, like Prada Infusion d'Iris or Hermes Hiris.

Too bad for me, but lucky for you, because I'm going to pass this baby on to a lucky winner. Let me know in the comments whether you'd like to try The Precious (also known as Christian Dior's La Collection Particuliere Passage No. 8), and I'll draw a winner at 7:00 PM EDT on Thursday, March 6. Only one thing--if you should turn into a mannequin, you're on your own! Unless, of course, Cate Blanchett shows up to help you.

*image of Passage No. 4 from

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hermes Elixir des Merveilles

I didn't wake up feeling lucky. Like the weather, my mood has been all over the place. Trying to make up for being a bad blogger, last night I checked today's weather and selected a sample to wear. It was supposed to be rainy and warm in the morning, with high winds, clearing and cooling later in the day. Early spring confounds me when it comes to perfume, I've decided. When April arrives, I seem to know just what to wear, but March sends me all over the map. I can't abide too much variety, which sounds ridiculous for someone sampling something new every day, but I even try to work my samples with the season, to get into a groove. Trouble is, it's impossible to find a groove when it's seventy degrees one day and fifty the next. I guess that's when I start leaning on the tried and true, especially since I'm afraid of treating something new unfairly.

Before retiring last night, I decided to try out Hermes Eilxir des Merveilles. I worried a little that it might be too heavy or gourmand for the warmish morning, but I was worried that if I didn't try it now, I might not get to it again until next fall.

The notes in Elixir des Merveilles are:
Top: Clemenvilla orange, orange pulp, chocolate
Heart: Tonka, tonka bean, vanilla sugar, creamy (creamy? creamy what?)
Base: Sandalwood, oak, balms, cedar, frankincense, ambergris, patchouli

This perfume is most definitely not a strict gourmand scent. If you were worried about all the vanilla and orange and chocolate, don't be. The opening is the most gourmand part of the scent, with a dark, dark chocolate note that almost translates as pepper on my skin. The orange is not sparkling or sweet, but a bit bitter, more like the rind than the fruit inside. The tonka bean lends to the spice as the scent develops, bringing out the dark heart which gets rounded rather than sweetened by the vanilla. It has a slight booziness, which is approprite because it's absolutely intoxicating. In the dry down the scent truly does get drier; the woods take away the booze and the cedar, frankincense and patchouli take over. To me, this part of the development is reminiscent of (but does not smell like) Etro Messe de Minuit, although a sweetness emerges underneath the dry incense that makes it...well, sort of addictive.

Another thing that occurred to me is that the more I sample, the more I realize how difficult it is to categorize perfumes by the season. Living in the deep South in particular, I find it's probably more accurate to categorize based on how a perfume will hold up against humidity. Some fragrances, like Femme, are overripe in humidity, but might play well in less humid areas. And some fragrances, like Miel de Bois or this one, stand up in the humidity because they are so dry. The ending on Elixir des Merveilles also has hints of green--not lush and grassy, but desert green, cedar and mesquite in the spring.

I've learned a couple of things over the last few years. One is to work with a budget. I spent willy nilly (well, for me...I tend toward the conservative side on buying things) my first year, and even on into the first part of the second year. Now I have a strict, strict budget, partly for samples (Want to hear something really sick? I've priced out all the samples I need to buy this year already!) and partly for bottles. I keep a wishlist (I keep meaning to post it), and every so often I get online and think I'm going to buy something, but I end up closing the browser and walking away. The second thing I've learned is to go with my gut--not with compliments, not with with what everyone else loves. I was much more easily swayed into thinking I loved everything in the first year (and it may still seem that way, but that's just because I'm positive by nature and I think to be snarky most of the time is simply to be lazy...I try to snark only when I feel it's truly warranted--looking at you, Clean fragrances--and I'm generally not interested in dictating taste), but I am much pickier about what I buy.

And I bought this one. (FragranceNet had the best price, in case you're wondering. Not a plug. Just the facts.) For me, it's in the category of Dzing! or La Chasse in the way I just knew I had to have it. I'm wondering now how I'll make my sample last until my bottle arrives. Maybe it's a good thing, though, as I might not want to wear anything else ever again...Right! My first full (small) bottle of 2008! My first Hermes!

*image from Hermes

And the Union Square Winner Is...

Claudia! Please send me an email at with your full name and address.

Congratulations Claudia, and thanks to everyone who entered!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Bond No. 9 Union Square, and a Giveaway

Note: I'll keep the drawing open until 7:00 PM EDT on Tuesday.

I'm still not feeling much like blogging, even after sampling the latest from Bond No. 9, Union Square. This is the second in a series of offerings themed around the artist Andy Warhol:

"'My favorite smell is the first smell of spring in New York,' Andy Warhol once said. Perhaps in a similar spirit, Warhol began painting and silk-screening a series of highly stylized, phantasmagorically colored flowers during the 1960s. He returned to this age-old painter’s subject in 1970, when he developed a portfolio of vibrantly colored flower screenprints at the first of his two studios on Union Square."

The notes for Union Square are:
Top: lily of the valley
Heart: green stem notes, sweet blue freesia, white birchwood, amber
Base: silver-cloud musk accord

Okay. I love the bottle. In fact, there's a whole portfolio of bottles offered with this scent--and I'd be happy to own them all--but don't think you can pick and choose. Like any art produced in a series (as with Warhol's art), these are sold together, ten bottles for the stunning price of $1500. Problem: I can't think why anyone would want to buy ten bottles of this perfume.

As for the scent, Bob really liked it. He said it smelled "fun" and "like a smile." Me? Well...Union Square is a cheery, uncomplicated scent, and it is green--green not so much like the outdoors in springtime, but green like Astroturf. Yes, that's it. Green like Astroturf populated with those little plastic pinwheel flowers that blow in the wind. The lily of the valley, green notes, and freesia are the most prominent notes on my skin. It feels rather cold and synthetic to me, however sweet and cheerful it is. I wore it for two days, and while it POPS, it feels distorted, like bad reception on a technicolor television.

Some part of me thinks this perfume is pure genius, because it truly does so readily evoke pop art. And like pop art, I appreciate it conceptually without really liking it. Also, it doesn't last very long. It is relentlessly colorful and then it seems to just fall away, all at once. I wore it both days and got about four hours out of it each time, tops. It's rather light, so it would be easy to reapply and not offend anyone, but it's awfully expensive for that, I think.

I'm going to give Bond the benefit of the doubt and hope that conceptually, this really was what they were going for, this over-the-top Technicolor spring. And because I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt and I think it's worth sniffing, even if just for fun, I have a nice amount of my Union Square sample left over to give away. If you're interested, leave your name in the comments and I'll draw for the winner tomorrow.

*image provided by Bond No. 9