Friday, September 29, 2006

Long Weekend

Friends, I'll be away until Wednesday of next week. During that time, I'll still be sampling, so I should have plenty to talk about when I return. What am I taking with me on my journey? I'll be revisiting some fragrances, like Fifi Chachnil (I have the EDP to try), Delrae Amoureuse, Fracas, and Creed Fleurissimo. And I've chosen these new fragrances: Serge Lutens Arabie and three Frederic Malles: Parfum de Therese, Musc Ravageur, and Iris Poudre.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if

Ormonde Jayne's sample pack started my adventures in perfume. I have sampled them all, but I haven't recorded my thoughts on every one on this blog. Early on I kept notes in a journal, and sometimes I didn't write down my impressions at all. I wore Ta'if for the first time back in the spring. I remember being convinced it would probably end up as my favorite. Today, I think, it leaves me slightly underwhelmed.

The notes in Ta'if are:
Top: pink pepper, saffron, dates
Heart: Rose oil, freesia, orange flower absolute, jasmine
Base: Broom and amber

Ormonde Jayne scents typically have very bright openings, and this one's no exception. The top is peppery sweet and deep, but shiny. When I applied it this morning, I thought, "Too much." I loved the pepper, but as it sometimes does in cooking, it felt a bit over the top. But it quickly transitioned to florals, and in this had more of that distinct Ormonde Jayne brightness. I don't find it as beguiling as Ormonde Woman or Tolu, and it's not as wrist-to-the-nose for me as Frangipani. What leaves me perplexed about this fragrance is the way it just falls away to a demure ambery sweetness that almost isn't there. I get a picture in my head of Wylie Coyote falling off a cliff and hitting so hard at the bottom he's accordioned, shrunk to a quarter of his actual size.

I'm confused. It's nice, more uncomplicated than other OJs, but still pretty. But...I wonder now if I liked this so much last spring because it felt safe. It's not so far away from ordinary (but well done) perfumes one might find at the deprtment store counter. My reigning favorites are still the cedary-tropical Frangipani and the jasmine rice and tea-scented Champaca. Tolu, which still feels too big but is no less wonderful for it, rounds out the top three. Maybe it's just my mood today, but Ta'if lacks the grand or unusual styling of the other Ormonde Jayne perfumes. But I guess it would be a nice way to ease into niche perfumes.

*photo from Ormonde Jayne

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Santa Maria Novella Citta di Kyoto

I no longer know how to classify myself in terms of perfume. Of course, I don't think I ever could, but I was more able to say definitively what I didn't like (or so I thought) than what I liked. I did not like vanilla. I did not like citrus. Turns out I like a little or a lot of both, all depending on the composition.

One thing I may have known all along, somewhere in my perfume subconscious, was that if there were one perfume category I'd gravitate to, it would be floral orientals. Let's take a look at a bit of my perfume past:

Fendi. Oh how I loved Fendi. I bet if I were to buy a bottle, I would still love it. Notes: leather, rose, sandalwood, amber, musk. I was nineteen when I got my first bottle of Fendi, and I thought it was very sophisticated. This is one of those perfumes you wonder why it has fallen so far out of fashion. Take Beautiful...leave Fendi.

Coco. This is still a favorite, although I haven't owned a bottle in ages. Notes: Bulgarian rose, Indian jasmine, tonka bean, sandalwood, leather, wood, and vanilla. I wore this for a long time, and I'd switch it out with...

Opium. Another fragrance I wore for years, but haven't owned a bottle of in such a long time. All through my twenties I pretty much considered this my signature scent. Notes: tangerine, plum, cloves, coriander, carnation, lily of the valley, rose, myrrh, opoponax, castoreum, cedarwood, sandalwood. I've only ever tried the EDP, and I would love to try the parfum. One of my recent favorites from these past few months of sampling is the limited edition Opium Fleur de Shanghai.

And all of this brings me around to Santa Maria Novella Citta di Kyoto, with notes of tangerine, orange crown, hyacinth, rose, hawthorn, ylang-ylang, plum, peach, cinnamon, sandalwood, cedar, ebony, ambergris, and vanilla. Citta di Kyoto smells nothing like any of the scents I listed here, but it shares the same spirit. It's more ethereal, a brighter floral at the top that seems deceptively sweet. The fruit and cinnamon of this scent warm its heart perfectly. You'll find heart notes listed for any number of fragrances, but in this case it seems so true. Think of a package, wrapped in beautiful paper, a paisley of dark orange, pale green, and white. Tear away the paper and find a box, a dark, polished wood box, hand-crafted with clean, simple lines. Open the box and find there nested in brown velvet a heavy, handblown piece of glass fruit. Set it in a window, watch the light shine through and change through the day, shifting somehow from amber, to blood-red purple. The dry woods meld with the soft spicy fruit and floral notes, making a subtle statement. Where Coco strides confidently, where Opium slinks, where Fendi shouts and waves, Citta di Kyoto floats gracefully across the room, like a ballerina, effortless. You can't help but notice.

I feel as though this is floral oriental all grown up into the kind of woman I might like to be. Sadly, I used almost every last drop of my sample. I can hear my bottle-worthy list groaning under the weight of yet another addition. Luckily, my wallet is safe. For now.

*photo from Aedes

Music and My Favorite Films

I'm a serious fan of Woody Allen's movies. I say it that way so that I won't catch flak for saying "I love Woody Allen." Soon Yi blah blah blah. (On that note, Mia Farrow looks amazing in that Gap ad she did recently.) It may sound callous to say so, but sometimes--when they aren't doing something like, say, promoting genocide--we must separate the art from the artists. As it stands, he produced some of the finest films of the last century, including my favorite movie of all time, Crimes and Misdemeanors. I like a little side of something dark with my humor.

My other favorites are Hannah and Her Sisters and Manhattan. Oh, and Broadway Danny Rose. And Husbands and Wives. I love Judy Davis in that film--her rant about Don Juans, the fox and hedgehog debate, the way she's a little (ha) cold to Liam Neeson. I love Purple Rose of Cairo and Radio Days. The ubiquitous Annie Hall. Love and Death. (Diane Keaton is one of my idols.) I'm a pain in the rear to watch a Woody Allen movie with, to tell you the truth, because I have to recite all the lines I know along with the movie (and I know a lot of them).

And so I wonder if it doesn't make me a little bit of a geek that I bought Woody Allen's playlist on iTunes. I'm amazed how all kinds of people put these things together and put them out there for us to buy. I guess it's as close as possible to having a personal soundtrack as you can get. I can barely make playlists just for myself to listen to...they end up full of everything but the kitchen sink, so to speak. It's easier for me to just copy everything over and just select shuffle.

Last night I was looking around on iTunes and saw the link for celebrity playlists. You all know I am not big on the celbrity thing, but when I saw the Woody Allen one, I could not resist. Here's what's on it:
Blue Horizon - Sidney Bechet
Burgundy Street Blues - George Lewis
Original Jelly Roll Blues - Jelly Roll Morton
The Pearls - Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers
Cornet Chop Suey - Louie Armstrong
Shine - Louie Armstrong
Over the Rainbow - Bud Powell
A Night in Tunisia - Bud Powell
Just You, Just Me - Thelonious Monk
Koko - Charlie Parker
Giant Steps - John Coltrane

If you like jazz and you like Woody Allen, you can't go wrong with this. Even if you don't like Woody Allen, it's a great playlist. And while I'm on the subject of music and film, another of my favorite movies has such a wonderful, eclectic soundtrack: Rushmore. I whip this out every fall. I don't know if it's because Rushmore starts with the beginning of the school year, or if there's just something about the list of songs on there that strikes the right note with the turning leaves and the bright blue sky. If you haven't listened to it and can get your hands on a copy, give it a shot. Listen to it all the way through. And if you haven't seen the movie--well, why are you still sitting here? Go! Run to your favorite rental spot and get Rushmore. Pick up a Woody Allen film while you're at it. Oh, and Whit Stillman's Metropolitan. (If you can find it...and whatever happend to Whit Stillman? I loved all three movies: Metropolitan, Barcelona, Last Days of Disco...his last was in 1998! Too bad.)

*photos from, IMDB, and Yahoo!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Serge Lutens Daim Blond

After my scent debacle on Friday, I was hesitant to try anything new on Saturday in case my sense of smell was still out of whack. I decided to brave it anyway, so I went for the best: Serge Lutens. I have many samples left to try, all in my Serge Lutens grab bag, so I reached in and pulled out Daim Blond.

This scent is said to mimic the scent of the finest suede, and in that it succeeds fully. For such a soft scent, it has an amazing amount of texture. If you were to close your eyes and sniff, you might swear someone was holding an expensive suede bag up to your nose. The next thing you would expect would be the soft touch of it against your skin, perhaps on your arm, or brushing lightly against the back of your hand.

The notes in Daim Blond are Padilla iris, apricot kernel, cardamom, musk, heliotrope, and hawthorn. I think of a woman, sometime in the 1950s, wearing a beautiful cashmere coat with three-quarter-length sleeves and a chic hat with a wide brim that sends a shadow across part of her face, giving her an air of both elegance and mystery. She wears long suede gloves that cover her arms beyond the edge of the coat sleeve. This is her scent. Soft, refined, and slightly haunting.

*photo from Aedes

Monday, September 25, 2006

Scent Lab

A few weeks ago we went to our neighborhood Starbucks and ended up joining a coffee tasting. The Coffee Master (like a sommelier of the bean) gave us sheets that explained what we'd be tasting, what aromas to look for, and how best to pair the coffees with food. I've done this with wine, but never with coffee, and it was a treat! Two things stood out for me; the pairing of the coffee with the food (I just think something dark--I'm a French Roast fiend--and something sweet, and that's about as far as I usually get), and the Scent Lab Starbucks has developed for its coffee masters.

When I took a wine course, the instructor had us all begin by smelling and tasting a base wine. Then she brought in four or five more cups of wine, all of which she had "tainted" with some other flavor. We had to guess what it was she had added to the wine. This was more difficult than it might sound on paper (or, uh, on screen), but essentially she added both flavors that would work with and against the wine, so we could tell the difference. When the course was over, she gave us a print out of a "wheel," and on this were listed all the flavors one might encounter in a wine. One thing I'll always remember: reisling wines smell of petrol. Something to do with the soil where the grapes are grown. If someone hands you a glass of white wine and it smells of petrol, then it's a reisling. Or that person hates you and is trying to kill you. You be the judge.

The Starbucks Scent Lab consists of nine different scents that can help you identify a type of coffee and its classification. Sadly I didn't think to write them all down, but the three I smelled at the tasting were smoke, berry, and citrus. (If you're curious and a coffee drinker, the coffees were French Roast (smoky), Arabian Mocha Sinani (berry), and Ethiopia Sidamo (floral/citrus).) We sniffed the bottles from the lab, and then we sniffed the coffee. Amazing! Now I drink enough coffee to know they don't all smell the same, but I hadn't ever paid specific attention to the real undertones or tried to classify them. We had the Ethiopia Sidamo with a bit of lemon poundcake to complement the citrus, and wow! It was seamless. If you've ever had something sweet with coffee and wondered why it just didn't taste how you expected, this might have been the reason. A dark French Roast can overwhelm a delicate lemon cake, and on the flipside, the cake can make the coffee taste bitter. Wrong pairing. Voila!

Quick aside: I know some people who eschew Starbucks. I met one girl who referred to it as "the evil empire." Of course, she worked as a photo stylist for the Neiman Marcus catalog. I'm not sure: What's more evil? A generally available good cup of coffee, or a custom Mercedes that comes with a pint-sized miniature for one's offspring to drive around the manse? And who knew Neiman Marcus kept a social critic on the payroll?

This got me thinking about creating a scent lab for myself for perfume. I've Googled away for "scent lab," "fragrance kit," "scent kit," and so on, but all I seem to be able to find are fragrance kits that make my lab better at identifying scents when I take him hunting. But I don't have a lab, I have a cat. And although civet or something might be of interest to someone's dog, I was thinking more long the lines of bergamot and ylang-ylang in oil form. If you know where I can find a (perfume) scent kit for beginners, please let me know. If not, then I'm going to set about creating one for myself. I'm getting a little better at picking out notes, but I know I'm confusing some of notes with each other. What I'm planning to do is to order some essential oils and train my nose to identify the scent. Geeky, but it seems necessary to have this basic level of knowledge. I don't know how any of the rest of you started out, or if you awoke one day after smelling a gajillion perfumes and found you could just name notes off the top of your head when you smelled something, but me...well, let's just say I'm no Luca Turin. I think my own personal “scent lab” will be a nice addition to The New Perfume Handbook, Second Edition, which I ordered but must wait for, as it was backordered through Powells. *Sigh* I’m ready to continue this education, but until all this comes together, I’ll keep sniffing.

Friday, September 22, 2006

When Bad Things Happen to Good Perfumes, Part 2

I'm just not happy with my perfume today. I don't have a sample to discuss--I had planned to talk about Comme des Garcons Incense-Zagorsk, which I wore yesterday, but I neglected it because work was so busy. I can tell you right now that my impression was favorable. Details forthcoming.

Today I'm not having any luck with scent at all. First, we had to take Diva to the vet this morning for her yearly shots, so my first big fragrance hit of the day was the smell of frightened animal sweat. Diva's not just pretty--she's smart, too. She knows when something's up. Although I thought I was doing quite the acting job, she sensed I had something up my sleeve and promptly hid under the bed. By the time we got her out and into the car, she was releasing hair like pollen. I'm used to her, so I don't sneeze too much, but I got a few hives on my neck.

And talk about animalic smell. And not in a sexy way. It was only very prominent for a few minutes, in the waiting area at the vet, but still...I think it threw off my sense of smell completely. When the appointment was over, we took Diva home and decided to go get coffee. I was getting ready for work in a piecemeal sort of way, so I put on a little makeup and then applied Anne Pliska before we left. I was bothered my the scent of myself all the way to Starbucks. When we got there and were standing in line, Bob told me he didn't like my perfume. While I wasn't thrilled with his timing (it was a little bit as though he'd leaned over and whispered that my butt looked big), I secretly agreed with him. When we got home I washed it off and decided to try again.

I applied Loukhoum and then left for work. But this one isn't working either. You all know how much I love this. I washed off as much of it as I could in the ladies' room. I think perhaps the animal sweat tainted my nose. I long for something bright and juicy. Amber or incense was not the way to go today at all. Perhaps I should have spent the day with Bois de Paradis again, or with Jo Malone's Pomegranate Noir. Or even with a light floral. *Sigh*

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Parfums Delrae Bois de Paradis

Oh, what a dark, juicy, spicy treat this scent is. I'm supposed to be sampling fall scents, but this one catapulted me straight into winter, into the holidays. The notes in Bois de Paradis are:
Top: Bergamot (Aedes)/citrus (Parfums Delrae site)
Heart: French rose, blackberry, fig (PD site), spices (PD site, listed as cinnamon on Aedes)
Base: Woods and amber

This isn't an oriental per se, but with the spice and amber, it qualifies at least as much as Chinatown does, and it does a far better job (in my humble opinion). The citrus is joined wholeheartedly by the cinnamon at the top. I say this is "dark" because the juice quality of this scent is heavy and thick, mulled with the other notes to create a rich fragrant brew. For some reason I think of Dickens (Except, well, I don't care much for Dickens. But in this case, I mean it as a compliment. Really.), and children with oranges in their stockings on Christmas morning. (Uh, like that ever happens anymore. Can one shove a Sony Playstation into a sock? Give me back the days of oranges, chocolate, and books.) To me that signifies a timelessness. I'm afraid the rose was lost on me, and the woods aren't very strong. (I wonder if this is a rosewood or something light...I didn't get any cedar. If it's sandalwood, it's not very prominent to my proboscis...ha! I just cracked myself up. How sad.) But the amber--I can still smell it faintly on my wrist, like a faded memory of the previous year's festivities.

(Today I am Queen of the Aside.)

*photo from Parfums Delrae

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Creed Santal Original EDP

Creed Santal Original was one of my very first samples, but I've been saving it for cooler weather. Inside the vial, it smells heavily of sandalwood, so I thought it would be perfect for fall. The notes in Santal Original are:
Top: Royal Indian sandalwood, cinnamon, coriander, juniper berry
Heart: Lavendar, orange tree leaves, rosemary
Base: Tonka bean and vanilla

I was right--this is a wonderful fragrance for fall. But this scent in particular serves as a fine example of why you should never judge a scent after simply smelling a sample. Upon smelling it in the vial, I thought this unisex fragrance would favor a man, and I almost gave it to Bob. I'm glad I didn't. Immediately upon applying, beyond the sandalwood, I got the most wonderful sweet juice, what must be the juniper berry. I need to stop for a second and interject: the notes listed above are from Aedes, and they are the same notes that appear on Neiman's site. If you go to the Creed site (where they do not list notes, and where they say directly this is a unisex scent, which is important) and click the link to buy a fragrance, it takes you directly to Neiman's. This one's a bit out of my budget, so I went to eBay to see what the prices are like out there, and I found several shops that listed both a men's and a women's version of this scent. Interestingly, the men's version contains the notes listed above, while the women's version (remember, according to eBay) also contains neroli, ginger, mandarin, orangewood, cedar, benzoin, and ambergris.

Because Neiman's is an "officially sponsored" site, I'm going to assume they have all the notes correct. And because Neiman's and Creed both say this is a unisex scent, I am going to assume it is. eBay also sells a cologne version, and I'm wondering if this is the "men's," however Neiman's and Aedes both sell only the EDP. Make of all this what you will.

But to return to the fragrance: I admit the first thing that came to my mind, before I read the notes anywhere, was neroli. If other notes are present, then neroli must certainly be one...but on the official list the closest thing is "orange tree leaves." The juiciness of the opening is tempered beautifully by the spice, and the sweetness softens somewhat after the first thirty minutes, when rosemary and lavendar take the stage. This stage is fresh and slightly medicinal, in a comforting way. Think of it as luxurious aromatherapy, as this scent bids you to relax. The tonka bean and vanilla lend a warmth and slight creamy sweetness.

I am trying to be picky about what I put on the bottle-worthy list, and I can't see how to leave this off. Of course, it will take me forever to collect everything on that list, and I've still barely made a dent in my samples. There are whole houses whose perfumes I haven't even sampled yet. I cannot afford this hobby. I'm going to go buy a lottery ticket now.

Update: I've been wearing this all day, and I'm sad to say that it does fade quite a bit. I smell a barely-there deep orangey vanilla, and not much else. For a sandalwood fragrance, especially one with such a strong beginning, I'd expect more. This tempers my longing somewhat. It'll stay on the list for now, but so far the winner this week is still Shaal Nur.

*photo from Aedes

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Comment Trouble and Blogger Beta

Argh. You have my apologies if you have been trying to comment and been unable. Apparently Blogger has this known issue with its current Beta:
"Users are seeing errors when posting comments with current Blogger accounts to blogs on the new version of Blogger in beta. Until we fix this, the workaround is to preview the comment before publishing. (You only need to preview once per account.) Update (9/13): This issue has been re-written to clarify the core bug and offer the workaround."
I work in technology, and I just love developer-speak: "clarify the core bug and offer the workaround." Huh? Anyway, looks like if you choose to preview first, it might work. And naturally, they have no way for me to switch back to the old blogger, so we all must hang in there until this gets fixed or is released. *sigh*

Ormonde Jayne Tolu

If I have any feeling of discontent about any of Ormonde Jayne's creations, then it's got to be that some of her fragrances are simply too big for me. Of course, that's blaming it all on the perfumer, which isn't really fair. Instead, I suppose I should say, I'm not big enough for some of her fragrances. Still, Tolu rounds out my top three favorite Ormonde Jayne fragrances, where the other two are Frangipani and Champaca.

The notes in Tolu are:
Top: Juniper berry, organge blossom, clary sage
Heart: Orchid, Moroccan rose, muguet
Base: Tolu, tonka bean, golden frankincense, amber

This is a juicy incense of a fragrance, and it lasts forever. The opening is bright and slightly sweet, but it settles quickly into a floral-incense combination. As I said earlier, I'm not really big enough for Tolu, but I love it anyway. I feel as though I'm wearing a cashmere sweater that's a few sizes too large (wait, that's in again this season, right? Where'd I put my leggings? Ha!). I'm not sure how to explain "too big" any other way, except to say that I don't fill it in. I'm sort of small--not dinky, just short, somewhere between 5'2" and 5'3", and a decent weight for my height. I say all this to give you a frame of reference: I am what some might call petite. But what I feel like a little bit when I wear Tolu (although less so than when I wear Osmanthus, which overtakes me completely) is one of those petite women who, in an effort to not be thought of as small, has gone large with everything: huge jewelry, high heels, big hair, too much makeup. She bought up all of the castoff suits at some Hollywood auction for Dynasty, and she wears one every day.

Now that I have that picture, I can't get it out of my head. It reminds me of a time in college when I had a brief crush on someone, and one night I was driving home and thinking of him when I smelled a very distinct scent: skunk. My brain locked in the association, for better or worse. Every time I thought of the boy after that, I then remembered the smell of that skunk. No fault of the boy, to be sure. He was quite clean. But the crush was over. Not quite the same, but you get the idea.

Anyhow, so many women pick perfumes that wear them, instead of the other way around. They aren't necessarily the women in the elevator wearing too much--over-appliaction isn't the problem (although at times they can go hand-in-hand). More often they are women who get into costume every day of their lives. You notice their perfume as you notice everything else about them because it seems somehow forced and artificial, discordant. The scent, no matter how pleasant, simply does not fit its wearer. Of course, you could argue that just because a scent is unexpected does not mean it's inappropriate. But I would answer that I think you can have a scent that's unexpected and still fits. I push back the sleeves of Tolu and readjust the neck. I squirm and rearrange. And it's too bad, because the amber in this scent is quite comforting, even if it doesn't quite fit.

*photo from Ormonde Jayne

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Etro Shaal Nur

The trees are getting tired. Everywhere around Atlanta they droop and yellow against a crisp blue sky. This past weekend was an odd mix of heat and cool breezes, the sort of weather that makes it apparent the air conditioning in most places is too strong, yet still necessary. Over the weekend I wore Fleurs d'Oranger, and while I love it, I didn't think it was striking the right chord. It's sweetness left me wanting something dry and woodsy, so I went into my little box that might as well be labeled "Fall Samples" and pulled out Shaal Nur.

According to Etro's web site, the notes in Shaal Nur are:
Top: Citrus floral (lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, tangerine, rosewood, coriander)
Heart: Aromatic floral (thyme, tarragon, rosemary, karo karoundé, rose, petit grain)
Base: Spicy, woody, amber (nutmeg, patchouli, vetiver, cedar wood, opoponax, incense, musk)

Karo karoundé is apparently a daffodil-like flower, similar to narcissus and jonquil in scent (facts I patched together from their site and the card that came with my sample--if you look at Aedes, they'll tell you the scent actually contains narcissus and jonquil, but don't be fooled). If you took Laura Tonatto Iss, mixed it with Etro Messe de Minuit, and then threw in some rose and a few herbs, you'd have something like this scent. If I had read the notes previously, I might not have tried it. Herbs in perfume frighten me a little--when the list of ingredients sounds like something I might want to rub on a chicken before roasting it,'s off-putting. Let's leave it at that.

But no worries. You won't want to spice your chicken with Shaal Nur. One thing I love about this scent is how different the sillage smells from the up-close and personal smell of it directly against the skin. At a distance, it's a dry woody floral, and the rose peeks through beautifully, uplifted gently by the herbs that surround it. Up close, the rose disappears somewhat behind the woody spiciness; the nutmeg, cedarwood, and patchouli hold court with the incense and musk. You get a bit of the citrus at the opening--not really a bright burst--but to me it was still much more woods and incense even at the top, although the vetiver comes right through and holds on until the end. I love a fragrance that has many dimensions at once, and to me this has the best of incense and vetiver and rose. It's a literal potpourri of a fragrance, and I mean that in the best sense: dry but intoxicating, a little tricky to the senses, and could easily be worn year-round by those who love incense-based fragrances. Etro lists this as a unisex fragrance, and I think it is, even with much rose in the sillage. Maybe think of it as the perfume for a man who loves roses. I think this one goes on the bottle-worthy list for me.

*photo from Aedes

Friday, September 15, 2006


I love these shoes. They're from the Trovata show. Oh....*drool* Photo is from

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Life in the Slow Lane

Ah, today I am wearing Temper Chocolates Temperare 03: oakmoss, chocolate, fig, vanilla, kukui nut, sage, dalmation. Outside it's raining and raining and raining, and it's cooled off quite a bit. This scent is perfect for a morning liek this--it's like a nice, dark, strong cup of coffee, comforting with a bit of pick-me-up. That's about the best I can do on a review today.

I've fallen behind not in actual sampling, but in writing about sampling. Work is not only crazy busy, but also crazy. The group I work in is going through major upheavals at the moment, and it's none too pretty. Sadly, I work with some seriously malicious and insecure folk who have nothing better to do than spread conspiracy theories and nasty rumors about their co-workers. Nasty gossip drains the life out of me. I keep my door closed (yes, thank goodness, we have doors on our cubes), but I can still hear them out there, spreading venom. Everyone's talking in a normal voice and then suddenly, it's all hissing whispers. I put my headphones on and listen to music and try to keep working, but sometimes I find myself just staring out the window, the headphones silent, wishing I were somewhere else. I'm doing my best to stay away from toxic people. I've had my fill.

I also now have this new Blogger Beta, because I fancy myself an early adopter, but now I find I can't comment on some of my favorite blogs! Ohhh...ggrrrr. So if you are visiting me today, and you know I usually visit your blog and comment regularly, could be Blogger's fault. That's all I'm saying.

And to close on a high note, I can't stop looking at all the pictures of Fashion Week! Whenever I take a break at work I go to The shows, the parties. My favorite thing to look at is The Sartorialist's pictures he's taking of people outside the shows. The Sartorialist is one of my very favorite blogs--I'm sure you've all heard of it. I love looking at these pictures of real people and how they dress every day. The show clothes and the models are fun to look at, but I know I'll never be a model. On the other hand, I do hope to be a real person one day, so these pics inspire me.

*photos from Temper Chocolates, The Sartorialist and

Monday, September 11, 2006

i Profumi di Firenze Tobacco

I wish this weren’t a day when people remember where they were at that moment. For people who lost loved ones on this day, my heart goes out to you. But much disturbs me about our insistence on dwelling on the tragedy of the event rather than on what we might do to prevent such a thing from happening ever again. Is there any way on earth that people might begin to understand each other, ever?

Obviously, I’m not going to answer that question on a blog about things like eye shadow and perfume. In fact, I hadn’t planned to bring it up, but I was going to work this morning, and I decided to stop and get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Usually I go to one closer to my house, but because I came up with the idea on my way to the office, I headed to a different location, and on my way there, I realized: I was headed straight for the Starbucks where I heard the news. Back in 2001, I went to the same Starbucks every day, and the guy who usually made my drink was the one who told me the first plane had hit the tower. We always joked around with each other, and I thought he was kidding. I chided him until another customer told me it was true.

And just before I started to compose this post, I was knocking around Napster, looking for something to listen to. I was going for The Killers new album, but it’s not posted yet, and then I saw a link for The Strokes. I clicked through and selected Is This It without much thought, and then realized: this album came out in the fall of 2001. About a month after 9/11, I went to see Janeane Garofalo perform, and she mentioned this album was really great, so I went out and bought it. Very strange to go see a comedy act after the events of those days, especially the act of a person who was there that day, and who had a lot of stories to share. But I suppose the important thing is to remember to keep laughing, to keep finding things to enjoy: comedy, music, perfume, eye shadow. While we pay our respects to those who lost their lives that day, we must move forward and enjoy what we can of life. Difficulty and unhappiness are never things to look for—they will find you. They have your address. But happiness, you should always strive to seek.

And my perfume that day? Something I no longer wear: Elizabeth Arden Splendor. I wore it for many years afterward, but then one day I put it on and realized it didn’t smell the same anymore, that it or I had changed, and it was time to find something else. And look at me now: a new perfume every day, practically!

i Profumi di Firenze Tobacco is an uncomplicated blend of tobacco flower and sandalwood, a spicy floral perfect for fall. It’s warm without being heavy, like a light blanket in your lap on a cool afternoon. It makes me long for crisp air and a glass of hot apple cider. It’s still warm here, but the breeze carries a little chill on it, and the other day I looked out the front door and saw three burnt orange leaves amidst the tired green on the tree in our front yard. Crazy as it sounds, to me fall is the beginning of a cycle more so than the end. I love watching the leaves turn, I love the holidays, the barrenness of winter that allows spring. To me, summer, in all its stifling heat, is the end of things. But no matter what you think of as the beginning or the end, it’s all a cycle, no? Endless cycle of life.

*photo from LusciousCargo

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Shiny, Pretty Things

Fall is my favorite season, and I’ve never gotten over the “new clothes for school” syndrome as I’ve aged. Personally, I think we must continue to mark changes in seasons, which is why, despite fashion trends to the contrary, I am all for putting away the white clothing and the linen after Labor Day. (Okay, I live in the South, where it stays hot, so maybe dark linen is acceptable, but please, people: put away the white linen! Save it for a cruise!) As far as clothing goes, I’m pretty basic. My job does not require me to dress up (at all…seriously, people wear clothing to work here that has holes in it…and this is a professional, white-collar company.), and I have the basics covered: sweaters, jeans, some cute shoes. I love coats, but owning a bunch of coats in Atlanta…if I owned ten, I’d have one for each day of winter, let me put it that way. Pointless to have so many awesome coats and leave them hanging in a closet.

For some reason this year, I couldn’t bear the thought of buying another sweater. I was completely unenthusiastic about fall shopping. But then, I found Modish. Modish is one of my favorite blogs featuring the works of independent craftspeople from around the world. Every week Jena, the “owner” of Modish and a jewelry designer in her own right, shares all kinds of interesting finds, from notepaper to art to bags and t-shirts to jewelry.

Yes, jewelry. Frankly, I’ve never been one to accessorize. I tend to wear the same watch and earrings, along with my wedding ring, every day. But some of the designs I saw on Modish got me thinking: instead of buying new clothes, I could just get some cool jewelry to spice things up! I mean, I thought about doing this before, but let’s face facts: Atlanta is the land of the old Mall & Chain. I find it difficult to get excited about buying a necklace when it’s hanging on a rack with fifteen others just like it, and it also screams “I AM A TREND!” And if you can find a boutique that features independent crafts, you must be prepared to pay through the nose for them.

But I found some interesting, unusual, and pretty (and very affordable) stuff thanks to Modish, and so I wanted to share!

Anna Sofia Designs
Anna Sofia Kukafka makes handcrafted jewelry out of glazed handmade or silk-screened papers from places as various as Japan, Nepal, Italy, Thailand, and Bangladesh. She also uses sterling silver, semi-precious stones, and Swarovski crystals. I ordered this pair of earrings, and also a necklace (not the one pictured…she’d removed the picture from the site, but it’s lovely!). The paper is quite pretty, and the pendants and earrings are very lightweight. I’ve only worn the necklace so far, but I got many compliments, because it’s so unusual.

Spipo Designs

Rickina Velte, a former Aviation Electronics Technician with the U.S. Navy, is the owner of Spipo Designs, and her site features earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings, and brooches. Let me get the bad news out of the way first: This site is difficult to get through—because it’s just so impossible to decide what to buy! Rickina thinks of her jewelry as works of art, and I would have to agree. She puts a great deal of time and effort into perfecting her designs. I bought this carnelian necklace—which is stunning in person—and these gorgeous emerald nugget earrings. Hm…the Navy’s loss was the art world’s gain!

Sweet Thunder
Jenny Mangun and RJ Porter are Sweet Thunder Designs. According to their site, Sweet Thunder “supports limited edition production with an emphasis on using recycled, reconstructed, rare vintage & antique materials.” This is yet another site that’s difficult to get all the way through without wanting to click the Add to Cart button next to almost every item. I ordered this pretty necklace made out of an antique box clasp the first time, and the second time, I ordered this Mercury Loop necklace. I had to be very disciplined and actually take items out of my cart. *Sigh.* Just wait until I win the lottery! I’ll join their Earring of the Month Club.

And finally, in closing, let me tell you the most impressive thing of all about these businesses: their amazing attention to presentation and customer service. All of them sent me messages personally thanking me for my order, and each time I received an item, I felt like I was opening a gift from a friend. Not only are these people crafting beautiful and unique pieces of art, but they make their customers feel as special and unique as the work they do.

So please, if you get a chance, visit these sites, and visit Modish. Support independent business people!

*all photos are from the designers’ sites

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

La Prairie Silver Rain

Sorry for the late post this evening, friends. I promised yesterday that I would wear Silver Rain today for comparison's sake, so here goes--the notes in Silver Rain are:
Top: green apple, verbena flower, bergamot, anise, coriander
Heart: dewfruit berry (?), plum, sugar, "gardenia tuberose blossom (?)," red rose petals, star magnolia
Base: red sandalwood, agarwood, tonka bean, vanilla infusion, patchouli, musk, heliotrope

Okay, folks, here's my impression of Silver Rain: meh. *Shrugs* I put it on early, early this morning (you might know the routine by now--it's Wednesday, which means early early meeting, which means don't wear something that frightens people), and I thought, "This is good. Nice. I like this." And then...I promptly forgot about it altogether.

Now, while I wasn't running to the bathroom to wash it off, I can't help but think my lack of interest doesn't bode well for Silver Rain. It's sort of like getting set up on a date with a pretty good actor, excusing yourself to go to the powder room during dinner, and then accidentally wandering out of the restaurant on your way back to the table and simply going home. Later, some time after you've turned out the light, you wake up and think: "My purse...did I leave it at the restaurant?"

I can't give you a fair review of Silver Rain because I wore it all day and didn't think to sniff until well after lunch (not like me at all), at which point it was just a soft pleasant perfumey smell on my wrist, indistinguishable from any other sort of pretty inoffensive perfume. Probably I'll test it again, and my guess is it's pretty and easy to wear. I'm sorry I can't tell you more...

But (there's always a but): This evening I put on Midnight Rain again, and I think I like it! The opening is sweet with a little spice in the top, and then it does progress to the headache-y stage, but it smells so rich. Tonight I'm thinking baked fruit with spices: rich, warm, spicy, honeyed. This one's definitely growing on me.

*photo from Nordstrom

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

La Prairie Midnight Rain

On Saturday, we ran through Nordstrom so I could sniff Chanel No. 22. I swear that Serge Lutens’ Clair de Musc is almost a dead ringer for No. 22 in the opening, but they didn’t have a tester open for me to sniff. While we were waiting for the SA to see if she could find one, Bob admired the bottle for the new La Prairie scent, Midnight Rain. We walked over to look and the SA started talking to us, and I ended up scoring samples of both Midnight Rain and Silver Rain.

She didn’t have the complete list of notes in hand, and I haven’t been able to find them anywhere, as this fragrance isn’t listed on any site (Nordstrom, Neiman’s, etc.) that sells La Prairie. I couldn’t even find a picture! Released only a few weeks ago (according to the SA), Midnight Rain is supposed to be the “evening” counterpart to Silver Rain, but it would probably also work well in the daytime during colder months. The few notes the SA mentioned were pomegranate and vanilla, while I jumped in and added bergamot. I swear I smell black cherry in the opening rather than pomegranate, but that might just be my nose—it seemed much sweeter. For what it’s worth, my guess on the rest of the notes: plum, tuberose, jasmine, rose, violet, cardamom, cedarwood, musk, amber, and possibly vetiver (I asked the SA if it was there and she said it was, but then she said Silver Rain also had vetiver, and it doesn’t).

In the opening, Midnight Rain is reminiscent of Dior’s Poison. It has a heavy, fruity sweetness that’s somewhat overwhelming, and it conjures for me the image of opaque, sugary dark purple, like grape Kool Aid. However, unlike Poison, Midnight Rain releases the fruity sweetness in the dry down (although I must be honest: I haven’t smelled Poison in years). The vanilla note is prominent and creamy, and there’s a period in there where the vanilla, tuberose, and jasmine are a bit overwhelming, but then cedarwood comes through beautifully and gives it some spice. I think that there must be some violet because it also has it has that dry, powdery floral undertone that compliments the cedarwood quite nicely. In the end, this scent is much drier than I would have imagined it could be through the first few hours I wore it. I like it much better after wearing it for eight hours than I did this morning. If only it got to this point sooner…

Tomorrow I’ll wear Silver Rain, which, as I said, is the “daytime” counterpart to Midnight Rain, and I’ll do a little of a side-by-side. At least I know the notes for that one—all of this guessing puts me in dangerous territory. Still it’s a good educational experience, and I feel safe in saying if you like Dior’s Poison but want something a bit spicier and interesting in the dry down, this might be a good one for you to try.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Making Amends

Maybe a few of you out there read my post about the awful experience I had with Anthropologie last spring. In a nutshell, I placed a rather large order with them through their online site, and I wound up with only one item from my original order, along with several items that clearly belonged to a customer whom I refer to (somewhat) fondly as Sally Teenager. (It’s also possible that in a parallel time-warp fictional universe, the items were ordered by Carrie Bradshaw for her wardrobe during Season Three of SATC.)

Sometimes orders are botched. These things happen. So you call customer service and tell them what happened, and they fix everything for you immediately, right? Well, sadly, not with Anthropologie. When they learned about what had happened to me, they told me I’d have to wait while they conducted an investigation, and in the meantime they refused to either refund my money or send me the items I had actually ordered. To make a long story short (you can read the full story here), after about a month, they finally returned my money, and I vowed to never, ever shop with them online again. (Please note: I’ve never had an unpleasant experience in their stores! Their salespeople are quite nice, but they don’t sell petites in the stores, only online, and so it goes…)

Much to my surprise, several weeks ago a customer service agent from Anthropologie left a comment on my blog, apologizing for my experience and offering to make amends in the form of a $25 coupon. And to her, I would publicly like to say: THANK YOU. I do appreciate that she contacted me, and I appreciate the gesture. But what I truly hope is that perhaps someone has really listened, actually heard me, and that things will change. Sadly, my bad experience with them last spring was not my only—there was another the spring before, but I won’t go into that here—and I’m sure if this happened to me twice, then it’s happened to many other people out there.

Let’s hope they’ll consider what other online retailers do and use that as a model. I shop frequently with J.Crew, and the few times I’ve received an incorrect order, they’ve sent the correct items out immediately, no questions asked. This is also true of Athleta, an online and catalog retailer (and a smaller business than the other two) that sell exercise wear; when I called to inform them they’d sent me the wrong pair of exercise pants, they sent me the correct pair just a few days later.

Shopping is an emotional experience. We may feel excited when we purchase something new, and along with that excitement we may feel anxiety until we receive the order. And when we get the order and it’s wrong, we’re disappointed. We shouldn’t be made to feel worse, to wait longer. Shopping is rarely just about the merchandise. Often when we buy something new, we’ve already psychologically placed it in our lives, thought about how we’ll wear it or use it or display it. All retailers need to remember this. It’s like the Otis Redding song, “Try a Little Tenderness”:

She may be weary
Oh, young girls they do get weary
Wearing that same old shabby dress
But when she gets weary
Try a little tenderness…

*photos from

Etro Heliotrope

For me, Labor Day always means the end of summer. While summer is my least favorite season, I always find the time around and just after Labor Day to be a bit melancholy, as everything green wilts tired and yellow in the weakening sunlight. Etro’s Heliotrope, with notes of heliotrope, sweet almond, vanilla, fruit notes, ylang-ylang, and petit grain, is the perfect scent to wear to say goodbye to summer.

Heliotrope is slightly powdery and a little bit old-fashioned, a soft pink silk party dress faded by time. This powder is a nostalgic powder, soft and gentle. It conjures up a hazy and humid yet cooling late summer nights, where twinkling lights in the trees glow softly in warm wet air.

I don’t catch much in the way of the fruit notes, to be honest, but the scent of almond adds to the powdery softness of the heliotrope, and the vanilla makes it slightly sweeter and alcoholic. Petit grain adds just enough sharpness in the dry down to keep this scent from turning into your Grandmother’s dressing powder, giving it a decidedly modern edge.

I look forward to the crisp days of fall, when I can wear the heavier woods and incense-based scents that I have lined up to try. I’ve been trying to pick some samples for the coming weeks of warmth that will neither knock me back into the flowery brightness of summer nor push me forward too soon into the fiery leaves and bright-blue sky of fall. I would wear this scent again during this time of year—I can almost imagine it becoming a late summer staple. I also think this would be a wonderful scent to wear after a long day full of hassles. It’s so calming and sweet, comforting.

*photo from Aedes