Thursday, June 29, 2006

Today's Sample: Mona di Orio Carnation

Today I'm wearing Mona di Orio Carnation. I must admit, so far, I am a fan. I haven't tried the third fragrance, Lux, but I have tried Nuit Noire. (Note to self: order Lux sample now.)

The notes in Carnation are as follows:
Top: Bergamot, clove, carnation
Heart: Ylang ylang, violet, jasmine, precious woods
Base: Musk, amber, styrax

The opening and the end are the best of this scent, I think. The bergamot comes through right at the top, but to be honest I don't detect much of the clove. Is the carnation the slight dark powder? Jasmine rushes right in and hangs around for a while, but the fragrance gets very dark and powdery to me. And now I'm going to cheat a bit, because I read Colombina's review on Perfume-Smellin' Things, and she mentioned that to her, this scent smells like powder blush. Ah! Exactly what I was looking for, but I'll take it one step further--it smells to me like a dressing room, not the department store kind, but the sit-in-a-silk-robe-and-put-on-your-face kind, the kind with silver trays and beautiful bottles and perfect lighting...only it smells like this dressing room a few hours after the occupant has left it. And like something in the air, it eventually fades to the soft musky amber, and that's that.

My first sample to write about on this blog was Nuit Noire. (Sorry I can't link back...need to change a few things! But if you click the May link to the right and scroll up from the bottom of the page, you'll see it.) I loved it! After writing about my impressions of that scent, I looked around on the other perfume blogs to see all the other wonderful things everyone surely must have said, and much to my surprise found that many people did not like it at all!

I was somewhat daunted. Truly, I was nervous about recording what I thought in a blog at all, given that so many wonderful perfume blogs already exist. And here I was, my first time out, gushing my fool heart out only to find that some people whose blogs I had been stalking for months just thought it was anything from meh to completely yucky. And the comments on these reviews! Nuit Noire haters, all of them! I cringed. I slouched down low in my desk chair. (Luckily, I finally discovered Colombina's review of Nuit Noire, and found I wasn't alone!)

But I've perservered, and it's funny that after looking back at my impressions of Nuit Noire, I realize that both of these scents make me think of places recently occupied by someone fabulous, but now empty, and all that lingers is the scent. What lovely scents they are, though!

*photo from Aedes

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Today's Sample: Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Fleur de Comores

Fleur de Comores was another unsolicted sample I received with my last LusciousCargo order. According to their site, the notes are "vanilla and fruity" and "balanced by essential jasmine, orange blossom, and vetiver."

However, according to the Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier site, the notes are ylang ylang, wild jasmine, and vanilla. I'm afraid I'll have to side with the MPG folks. I really don't smell any orange blossom in this, and if it's there, it's right at the very beginning. And there's definitely no vetiver--there's nothing green, sharp, or even earthy about this scent.

Instead, it has a brightly sweet opening, and it is "vanilla and fruity" in feel, if not in actual notes. Wikipedia mentions that ylang ylang smells somewhat like custard, which to me always has a bit of a citrus element...anyhow, it does have a rather dessert-like quality, although it isn't really overly sweet. Later, it develops into jasmine underneath a very soft vanilla, and the fruit element disappears completely.

For some reason, I think "wedding cake."

It's quite pretty, and more remarkable than the Nanadebary Pink I wore yesterday, but to me it still needs something either sharp or spicy (or both) to round it out.

*photo from LusciousCargo

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Samples, Samples, Samples

I’m a little behind on sharing my sampling notes. I had intended on Saturday and Sunday to complete my reviews of the samples Victoria (from Victoria’s Own) so generously sent me to try. On Saturday Bob and I were attending a housewarming party, a late-afternoon barbecue in the heat and humidity, and I thought Niki De Saint Phalle EDT would be perfect.

I had showered and done my makeup, and while I was waiting for my hair to dry I spritzed on the scent, and then threw on an old t-shirt and shorts. We had a few hours to kill before the party, so I decided to cruise around the internet and look at blogs. But my plans were foiled by the smell. No, not the smell—the stench. The overpowering stench of white-wine vinegar coming from…coming from…from me. Bob came into the bedroom and, wrinkling his nose, said “What is that smell?”

All I can say is, I don’t know. This is a very fresh fragrance. I don’t know if it reacted badly with my body lotion (plain old Nivea CoQ10…and I generally wait a good thirty minutes before applying scent over lotion), or if it simply reacted badly with my personal chemistry. But I had to wash it off, and to console myself I spritzed on Anne Pliska.
It wasn’t the fault of Niki De Saint Phalle, and I’m sure of this because I caught a whiff of it on the t-shirt I was wearing, and it smelled delicious. I wish I could give you a better sense of what it might smell like on a person, but sadly, I cannot.

I took the day off on Sunday and wore Anais Anais, but I was back to sampling yesterday, so I tried my final sample from Victoria, i Profumi di Firenze Vaniglia de Madagascar. If you like a lot of vanilla in a fragrance, this is the one. The notes are simply vanilla orchid and vanilla bean. Bob said I smelled like a cookie, and indeed, I did smell like sugary sweet goodness all day long. It’s a very cozy way to smell, and this scent has great lasting power. I enjoyed it, but I admit I prefer the Ambra del Nepal.

Thanks again to Victoria for sharing these scents with me! It’s so much fun to try things other people love and have hand-picked.

And finally, yesterday I received my Anne Pliska from LusciousCargo. If you have never ordered anything from them, I tell you, it’s a treat! They carefully wrap your order so that it feels like you’re getting a present from a loved one, and they pack it in lavender potpourri. And of course, they also wrap up samples for you to try, and I’m wearing one today: Nanadebary Pink.

The notes in Pink are lily, Calabrias jasmine, Bourbon vanilla, clove, musk, myrtle, and sandalwood.

It’s a steamy, sticky mess here in Atlanta, so I wasn’t in the mood for anything too spicy and warm, but I wasn’t really in the mood for green, either. The second I sniffed Pink in the vial, I knew it would be the perfect thing to wear today. It’s a very light, fresh floral, with a soft hint of spice underneath, just enough to be a little sexy. I would call it a “sexy girl-next-door” scent; it doesn’t overwhelm on any level.

It’s pink, and in fact I was surprised that it didn’t contain any peony, because it reminds me just a bit of Jovan Pink Musk (which I really like, so that’s a compliment). I thought for sure that peony was the floral note; jasmine, which usually stands out, doesn’t come through in this scent. But what makes Pink more sophisticated than Pink Musk is the addition of sandalwood and vanilla, which give it that spicy, slightly dusky undertone. It’s a lovely, simple fragrance.

*photos from

Monday, June 26, 2006

Blogger’s Book Club: Bone

Bone, by Fae Myenne Ng

The instructions for being a member of the Blogger’s Book Club (BBC) seemed simple enough: read the book and then post your impression of the book, so I suppose I’ll just jump right in and try hard not edit and make it sound like I’m trying to write for The New York Times.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing is seamless. I think this book paints an almost painfully accurate picture of what it must be like to be caught between two cultures--or more accurately, three, because Chinatown, along with America and China, is represented here like a third country.

Leila, the narrator, is trying to make sense of her sister’s suicide--which provides the framework for the book--and her own place in her family, and her family’s place in the larger scheme of things. Smaller bones and larger bones, all joined by the connective tissue of shared experience, language, memory, culture--except for when things begin to break.

Leila’s sister Ona’s suicide provides this break, and Leila works as best she can to make the rift heal. Only we learn that the rifts are much deeper than death, mainly because of the distance created by experience that cannot be shared. Death is the ultimate experience for which we never receive an explanation, and Ona has left no note, nor are we ever told exactly why she chooses to end her life. But Leila also cannot know what it was like for her mother or her stepfather to come to America for the first time, or what her sister Nina’s life is like in New York.

The book moves back and forth in time, and sometimes I found it difficult to tell where I was in the story. Is Ona dead yet? How much time has passed? How old is Leila now? But I realized, the more I got into the book, that this pattern seems very true to form for a person who’s lost a loved one. There’s the time before the loss, and then the time after the loss, but then another dimension exists, where you’ve forgotten that the bad thing has happened at all--a strange combination of the present and the time before, moving ahead into the future, until you remember again what’s missing, a no-man’s-land of the living.

Leila tells the story in first person--common for a first-time author to choose this voice--but what makes this work extremely well for the story is that we have only Leila’s view, only her version of events. We have only the snatches of memory or character she wishes to provide to us, any character is only developed as far as she takes us. And in this, we can sense her difficulty in trying to hold it all together. She shapes the story for us--connects the bones, the people--but then also shows us that there is no sense, sometimes, in connection. Connection and memory do not provide the answers she seeks. Even language does not hold them together, as people move uncomfortably from Chinese to English as they communicate with each other.

Ng uses the metaphor of bones throughout the book: They did not recollect the bones of Leon’s U.S. “paper father” and send them back to China as promised, and they are lost forever in an unmarked mass grave; her mother, a seamstress, “knew all the seams of a dress they way a doctor knows bones”; Leila and her sister Nina toast “To bones” at a dinner after their sister’s death, remembering a time when their mother cooked their pet doves for dinner and gave them a sack in which to collect the bones: “She came out to check the bag. ’Clean bones.’ She shook it. ’No waste.’” But the larger metaphor seems to be that without the connective tissue, bones mean nothing. The skeleton of the family must have something to hold it together. Leila tries hard to connect, if you will, the shin bone to the thigh bone, and so on. She carries everyone else’s opinions and memories around, not to mention her culture.

I’m finding this more difficult than I thought it would be; as I type, I keep thinking of things to mention, and I could easily go on forever. Let me just say I felt this novel gave me a vivid picture of people trying to create structure in the absence of home or history. In one scene, Leila accompanies her stepfather to the social security office. The clerk goes through the file, only to find different aliases and birthdates--he needs the official name and date to set up payments. The stepfather becomes angry and believes they are trying to cheat him, and she begins to yell at him. “The way you do things is fucked,” she tells him, and then she promises to bring him back with the correct paperwork. At his place, she finds a suitcase full of papers, official documents, letters, notices of rejection for jobs and apartments, photos, notes for business schemes, old money, menus. He even has her mother’s marriage certificate--from her first marriage, to Leila‘s father. Leila cannot understand why he has kept all these documents, some of which don’t even belong to him, but in truth, his scraps of paper or no better or worse than the scraps of history she collects from the people around her, the scraps of understanding she has with regards to her family and even herself: “I’m the stepdaughter of a paper son and I’ve inherited this whole suitcase of lies. All of it is mine. All I have are those memories, and I want to remember them all.”

Be sure to read what Tessa at My Muse and
Vanessa from Entre Nous have to say about Bone.

*photo from Powell's

Sunday, June 25, 2006

You Smell Like a Couple

Today I'm wearing Anais Anais (a break from sampling), and Bob's wearing Boss by Hugo Boss. When we were getting ready to leave the house this morning, I noticed that our fragrances seemed to blend nicely, even complement one another.

The notes in Boss include apple, bergamot, cinnamon, tagetes, geranium, clove, cedarwood, sandalwood, vetiver, and olivewood. It's a green fragrance, but it's decidedly fruity and sweet without being feminine.

The notes in Anais Anais are orange blossom and hyacinth (top); sweet rose, white lily and jasmine (heart); and amber, sandalwood, and frankincense (base).

A woman could easily wear Boss, but what I'm talking about here is not whether a particular scent is unisex, but whether couples should pay any attention to whether their fragrances complement each other. The powdery floral incense of my perfume cuts into the fruity green of his EDT, and makes something remarkable all its own. Is there anything to the theory that if two people chose each other then their personal chemistry must be aligned so that somehow they are attracted to the same scents?

As we rode around in the car today, I tried to think if Bob and I ever wore fragrances that competed with one another, but I couldn't. And then I started to think that it would be interesting if perfumers made fragrances that were distinct in and of themselves but were meant to be worn at the same time by different people sharing the same space. Not as corny as "his n' hers," but something for spouses, partners, roommates...

Can you think of any fragrances that complement each other while being worn in the same space? (Mind you, I'm not talking about layering.) Do you find yourself conscious of your partner's fragrance when you're deciding what to wear?

Friday, June 23, 2006

My Life in France

I finished this book last week, and I’ve been trying to find the time to write a little review of it, but I keep getting pulled away by other things.

I remember The French Chef being on the television when I was a very little girl (it came on either just after or right before the shows that interested me: Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Zoom), but I never watched it when I got older. To me, French cooking was too much of a complicated affair (still is), and it involves the handling of way too many animals. I am not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat a lot of meat, and when I do it must be boneless and skinless (no preservatives, no antibiotics, etc.) and in no way recognizable as an animal of any sort. One Christmas I made chicken tetrazzini for my family, following a recipe that called for me to boil a whole chicken. Of course, you can’t just slide the thing out of a wrapper and into a pot of water. You have to reach in and take out the bag of stuff, of parts, and then wash the…uh, body. Carcass. Ew. *Shudder*

It took me about an hour to get the chicken out of the wrapper and into the pot. Handling a chicken while wearing rubber gloves—the old-fashioned, yellow, rubber kind that you wear while washing dishes—isn’t exactly a piece of cake. Chickens are slippery, and then when you factor in the drinking (I had a glass of wine to calm my nerves) and the fact that I had to keep putting the chicken down (“Bad chicken! Terrible chicken! You suck!”) so I could go in the living room and collect myself, well, you can see where I might have struggled.

Old Julia, though, is afraid of nothing. I jest, but cooking isn’t easy, and I think to prepare French cuisine in particular, one has to be pretty fearless. She was 37 when she moved to France along with her husband, Paul Child, and learned to cook. Many of the animals she handles still have things like feathers and heads and fur.

Wait. I’m going about this all wrong. Because really My Life in France is not about cooking at all, but about a person who found her calling, and all the attendant passion that follows. So many of us have half-assed jobs, where we like a part but not all of it, and we sit in our offices or cubicles and wish we were doing something else. Julia Child simply fell into cooking—before France, she basically had no interest in it at all, but she loved food, and she fell in love with France, so things fell into place. What I found remarkable about her story, besides the fact that the book is in her “voice” and so friendly and compelling, is how she never considered anything an obstacle.

While her wonderful stories, her curiosity, and her joie de vivre don’t exactly make me want to, oh, say, pluck a chicken and stuff herbs under its skin, she does inspire me to stay open to experience, to keep my chin up and my eyes open. So many memoirs are “poor little me” stories, this book is refreshing for all its happiness and plucky (pardon the pun) go-get-'em attitude. I’ve already recommended it to several people at work, and I’m thinking of recommending of for my real-life book club. And now I’m recommending it to you…but vegetarians, beware. On the one hand, in post-war France, she’s dealing with animals fresh off the farm, so at least there’s no corporate cruelty. But on the other hand, she does go into great detail about cooking different animals, and her approach is very French—pragmatic. If you are easily upset by that sort of thing, then you might want to stay away.

Bon appetit!

*photo from

Today’s Sample: Etro Messe de Minuit

You win some, you lose some. So far, every sample Victoria sent me has been a winner, and I would consider buying any of them (well, except Anne Pliska, which I already bought)—until today.

I’m just not sure how I feel about this one.

How to explain it? My dad and stepmother used to live in this house in Dallas near White Rock Lake. It was surrounded by huge trees (yes, there are trees in Dallas, and some of them are quite large). The house was older, built in the mid-50s, and like a lot of houses in that area, was pier-and-beam. When it rained, some water would run under the house, and stay in puddles in the yard for longer periods because the trees would keep the sunlight out. Combined with the humidity, well…let’s just say, things could get a little musty.

Back in the early 90s my stepmother went through this whole southwestern phase. (Yeah, okay, I’m not going to stop and explain the whole south versus western versus southwestern thing right now…Let’s just say the southwest starts over near El Paso and leave it at that.) Kokopelli earrings, little wooden brightly painted snakes, t-shirts with howling coyotes on them, paintings of adobe houses, yadda yadda. So one year for her birthday I bought her a little incense burner shaped like a cute little adobe house, along with some incense that smelled very strongly of sage and cedar. I think she burned maybe a half of a piece, and ten years later, the den still smelled of it.

Etro Messe de Minuit smells just like the den in their old house. It smells like musty incense. The notes are myrrh, amber, and vanilla. I kept waiting for some sweetness to come through in the dry down, something to take the edge off. But there isn’t anything. If when you think of incense you think of something sweet, this is not the incense for you.

Amber? Vanilla?

Where the heck are they?

Altogether, this isn’t a bad thing. I have some very fond memories of that den—I got married in there, after all—and this brings me a clear picture of it. And I’m strangely attracted to the scent. I keep smelling my wrist, and I’m feeling quite hippie-ish wearing it. (Not "Rich Hippie," real hippie, like I haven't bathed and I've been rolling around on the forest floor with the rest of my friends at a Rainbow gathering, and I need something to cover up the smell.) I even listened to the Grateful Dead (American Beauty) on the way to work this morning.

Would I wear it every day? No. Would I buy a whole bottle? Mmm…maybe. More likely, I would buy a decant, just to have it around to satisfy my inner hippie.

Read a review of this scent at Perfume-Smellin’ Things. Update: You can also read Victoria's review at Victoria's Own.

*photo from

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Today’s Sample: i Profumi di Firenze Ambra del Nepal

Busy, busy at work today, so my post is short (for once). The notes in Ambra del Nepal are amber, cardamom, and vanilla. This scent is so warm, yet not at all sticky and easy to wear even in hot weather. It’s close and humid here today, and the last thing I would choose to wear, if I were reading fragrance descriptions in order to decide on something, would be this. Luckily, though, I just grabbed the sample this morning and sprayed some on, because I'm sampling them in the order Victoria put them in the bag! (Oh, how nice it is to spray…I don’t live in fear of accidentally pouring the entire contents of the tiny glass vial all over myself!) Turns out that this fragrance is very soft and utterly wearable year 'round. Of course, these notes, to me, are always prettiest in winter, and this scent would be quite cozy.

Read a review of this fragrance on Now Smell This.

*photo from LusciousCargo

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Today’s Sample: Guerlain Après L’Ondée

I’m on day three of my samples from Victoria of Victoria’s Own. Oh, what a pretty, pretty scent this is! Ethereal, delicate, yet not cloyingly floral.

Basenotes lists the notes as follows:
Top: Aniseed, hesperidic notes, rose
Heart: Violet, hawthorn
Base: Iris root

Many of the reviews (and there are lots of them) describe this scent as “chilled” or “cold.” I suppose this must have something to do with the iris rhizomes…I often find iris fragrances described in this way. With the exception of Serge Lutens Gris Clair, which indeed is a beautiful, chilly fragrance, I would describe the iris-based fragrances (Hermes Hiris, Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile, Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental) I’ve tried as quite warm and earthy.

Yet, ethereal is anything but warm and earthy, so I suppose I contradict myself. Ethereal is a pale maiden, a timeless beauty, forever young and out-of-reach. And, I suppose, cold. But still, I don’t find it so.

Interestingly, the two Guerlain fragrances that I both wear well and greatly enjoy, Après L’Ondée and Attrape-Couer, are both based on violet and iris—yet wearing Après L’Ondée is like wearing beautiful lace, while wearing Attrape-Couer is like wearing cashmere or fine suede (no, not implying a leather note). One is light and delicate, where the other is smoky and sensual.

Most of the usual suspects in my Perfume Links to the right have wonderful reviews of Après L’Ondée, but I found this article from the TimesOnline, and thought I would share it with you all.

Note: This fragrance is only available in EDT, and is online at both and

*photo from

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Today’s Sample: Calypso Mimosa

A few weeks ago I tried Calypso Chevrefeuille, and Victoria offered me a sample of her favorite Calypso, Mimosa.

The notes for Mimosa are as follows:
Top: Green leaves
Heart: Mimosa, rose, jasmine
Base: Sandalwood

To me, Mimosa is simpler than Chevrefeuille (which, with its soft peppery amber, could evoke a stroll on a sweet early spring evening as easily as it could evoke sitting next to a fire on a bright cold day), yet no less lovely. This is what I call a “white dress” fragrance, perfect for summer, or for anytime when you just need a little summer in your life, need to picture yourself in a white cotton dress, shoes off, standing on the beach in the pink light of a mid-summer evening, or walking across lush green grass covered by the shade of tall trees.

And speaking of white dresses…I had ordered my Chevrefeuille sample from LusciousCargo, where they have the fragrances listed under Calypso St. Barth, but actually the name of the line is Christiane Celle Calypso, and they have an online store where they not only sell fragrances, but clothes…and in fact—white dresses! Here are two of my favorites, along with some other cute finds.

*all photos from

Monday, June 19, 2006

IBC: Every Woman Needs to Know

Almost seven years ago, I participated in the Avon 3-Day Walk (now sponsored by the Komen Foundation) here in Atlanta. I’m lucky—no one in my family has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Although doctors believed at one point my great-grandmother had the disease, they learned that she in fact had a benign tumor—after they removed both of her breasts. I try to check myself monthly, I go to the doctor yearly, and I’ve had my baseline mammogram. I donate to the Komen Foundation itself, and each year I try to support someone walking in the 3-Day.

Today I’m writing this in response to a news story, sent to me by my mother-in-law, about an uncommon type of breast cancer called Inflammatory Breast Cancer, or IBC. With this type of breast cancer, there are no detectable lumps. No mammogram catches it. Many doctors, although they learned about this cancer in medical school, have never seen a case and so are likely to misdiagnose the problem as an insect bite or skin problem. And when they do diagnose these cases, it's often too late for standard cancer treatments to be of any help.

I encourage you to watch this news story. Knowledge is power, in this case. Please share this story with other women you know. Post this story on your own blog, or link back here if you wish. If we can save one woman by spreading the word—just one—then the five minutes it takes to watch a video will be worth it.

*photo courtesy of

Today’s Sample: Anne Pliska

All week, Monday through Sunday, I’ll be sampling some lovely treats I received from the very kind Victoria at Victoria’s Own. She was nice enough to decant some of her personal favorites for me, including her beloved Anne Pliska.

The notes in Anne Pliska are vanilla, orange essence, geranium, bergamot, patchouli, amber, and musk. This scent is absolutely beautiful and perfectly balanced, both soft and warm. If a scent were ever full-bottle worthy, this one is it…In fact, I ordered a bottle this morning--my first full-bottle purchase since I started sampling! I tried it on immediately after opening and loved it from the first. Over the weekend, I had planned to share with you a list of my favorite samples so far. I've been keeping the list since I started my little project, and things move around every week. But for the first time, I sampled something and didn't even worry about the list--I just bought it, no question.

I won’t even try to do this scent justice, when Victoria has already reviewed it so well—it’s a scent she really knows and loves, and I’m so happy she shared it with me.

*photo from lusciouscargo

Friday, June 16, 2006

Today’s Sample: Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental, and the Vetiver Sample Wrap-Up

When I sniffed all my little vials o’ vetiver, I was most intrigued by Vetiver Oriental. According to Osmoz, the notes in this fragrance are:
Top: Sap notes, Padilla iris, undergrowth notes
Heart: Vetiver root, gaiac wood, woody-accord, chocolate
Base: Musk, ambered mosses, sandalwood, rockrose ladanum (I think they have a typo, and this is actually rockrose labdanum)

Two favorite fragrances, Calvin Klein’s Obsession (I wore this through high school) and YSL’s Opium (which I graduated to in college), are both typically categorized as Oriental, so I suppose a precedent was set. Both of those fragrances are spicy but also somewhat more floral than Vetiver Oriental.

To be honest, I cannot begin to guess what “undergrowth notes” are, but it doesn’t matter so much. The iris is very clear in the opening, and comes through with a musty rather than candied sweetness (just the word “sap“ makes me think sticky sweet, but it isn't). I personally don’t catch any chocolate, and the soft woods do have a slight sharpness underneath. Although it made me laugh, I thought it was interesting when I asked Bob to sniff, and he said I smelled sharp, like cheddar cheese. Cheese? But then he explained that musky, subtle sharpness that some cheeses have, and that he could smell that underneath the spice of the scent.

And while I don’t smell cheese, I see what he means. Not unlike the Guerlain Vetiver, there’s a musty quality underneath the sandalwood and the mild vanilla-like smell of the amber. But here that sharp salt, which is like the scent of skin not covered by soap or perfume, is well-balanced with the spicy sweetness, instead of amplified by an overly earthy accord.

I sound so fancy.

And so to wrap up my week of vetiver sampling: I failed to appreciate the classic vetiver, the vetiver, I suppose, against which all other vetivers must be measured: Guerlain Vetiver. While I don’t care for this scent, I’m happy to have it as a basis from which to work, and I can appreciate it. The Vetiver de Puig was intriguing, and I liked its woody darkness. It’s a fragrance I might reach for in a very specific mood, and only in winter!

As for Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Vetiver Haiti, well…If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, right?

Not only was Laura Tonatto Iss my favorite of the week, but it’s currently at the top of my overall list. I love it that much! (This weekend, I may post my Amateur Sampler’s List of Favorites, just for a little fun.) Vetiver Oriental is not in my top ten, but it’s not far from it. I think, though, that it doesn’t quite stand far enough apart from other “Oriental” fragrances with which I’m familiar. But if I wanted to purchase that type of fragrance specifically, I would buy it.

Read a review of Vetiver Oriental at Legerdenez.

*photo from Osmoz

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Today’s Sample: Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vetyver Haiti

Once you’ve found true love, everything else can pale in comparison. Yesterday’s sample, the Laura Tonatto Iss, was an unexpected treasure. Other than seeing the link in the sidebar on Luscious Cargo, I was unfamiliar with the line. But Comptoir Sud Pacifique is everywhere: Aedes, Luscious Cargo, Sephora, and so on. Many of the beauty blogs I read regularly mention their fragrances as well, so I know they have a lot of fans.

In general, I don’t care for vanilla in a fragrance. First, it tends to take over. Second, it seemed to become a hot trend years ago because, if I remember correctly, there was some study that said men tend to be attracted to the scent of vanilla (and I guess it’s easier than pumpkin, their number one choice, to integrate into a fragrance). While I care what Bob thinks about the fragrance I wear (because he has to smell it too, and nothing’s worse than being trapped with someone when their scent gives you headache or makes you sneeze or what-have-you), I don’t think that going all out with “guy-getting” fragrances is really the best idea.

But I digress.

I was surprised when I loved Des Filles a La Vanille Je t’aime, which I didn’t choose on my own; it came as part of the LuckyScent Hot Pack, a sample collection of some of their top-selling and favorite fragrances. Because of this, I felt a little more open to trying other vanilla-based scents, so I was excited when I saw that my vetiver sample pack contained Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vetyver Haiti. A new take on vanilla! (Well, for me, at least.)

The notes in this fragrance are as follows:
Top: Lemon, bergamot
Heart: Jasmine, ylang-ylang, gillyflower, vetyver from Haiti
Base: Vetyver from Haiti, vanilla, musk

In the opening race, bergamot leads lemon. The citrus is bright but not sharp, and really, this fragrance could use a little sharp. The jasmine is a little heady…and then there’s the gillyflower. According to Wikipedia (which is relaying information from the American Heritage Dictionary), gillyflower (gilliflower) is a carnation. But what’s more telling in the definition is this: “Some say that ‘gillyflower’ originally referred to scented plants that were used in Europe as a cheap substitute for the spice called clove.” Clove! Yes, a hint of clove is definitely there, and lends a very sweet spice to this scent. And focus on the word "cheap." And then there’s the vanilla. You can’t miss it. But the vetiver, although listed twice, never seems to appear, at least not for me. Unless, of course, “Vetyver from Haiti” is really just a code for “more vanilla.”

I said a while back that Ormonde Jayne’s Ormonde Woman reminded me of hairspray. The fragrance itself smells nothing like hairspray, but it evoked an image to me of a woman in the 1950s dressed to go out for the evening, and hairspray would be a part of all the scents that surrounded her. When I said that, I meant it evoked elegance from another time: cocktail dresses, coiffed hair, martinis…

Vetyver Haiti, to me, also smells like hairspray. More specifically, Aqua Net. The opening smells like Aqua Net, sticky and alcoholic. From there it moves into a sickening sweet spice, not unlike a burned dessert featuring vanilla liqueur. After that it calms down and smells like…Aqua Net, at the end of the evening--dark, musky, and sticky. The image this strikes is that of an overly coiffed and sprayed ‘do, the kind that looks impenetrable as a cocoon, like you could knock on it and it would make noise. The ugly side of elegance, it evokes shellacked hair that doesn’t get washed for a week, just wrapped nightly in tissue until the next wash and style. This is what happens when the party’s over, folks, and it ain’t pretty.

Surely they make some pretty vanilla scents, too?

*photo from

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Today’s Sample: Laura Tonatto Iss

Um, yum. Mmmm. Yummy. Yum.

I smell gooooooood.

The notes in Iss are: neroli, lemon, petitgrain, ylang-ylang, musk, bergamot, precious woods, Indian sandalwood, and, of course, vetiver.

The opening is very lemony and sunny, but not sharp and grassy. I guess the neroli, petitgrain, and bergamot that keep the citrus underneath as the fragrance begins to get a little spicy and warm, an earthy sweetness. It’s musky rather than fresh, spicy rather than floral—although at times it smells like a warm summer evening when lots of things are blooming and still green, and the soil is moist, and there’s just a faint trace of something in the air.

My vocabulary is on the fritz. I may have to try again when I’m feeling more level-headed. And it’s difficult to type with one wrist pressed against my nose.

Just yum. Mmmm. Drool.

*photo from LusciousCargo

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Listen to: Life's Rich Pageant

This past weekend I was reading Blogdorf Goodman, and Annie had asked readers to provide whatever cool facts they knew about Ohio. Mostly everything I know about Ohio is lame (Kent State—who wants to mention that?), or trivial (what band is from where), or sort of personal (an old professor of mine teaches at Ohio State, the minister who married me and my husband lives in Cleveland), so of course I wasted no time typing all my pointless facts into the comments block. Sometimes I just can’t be quiet.

But one of the things I remembered was that I liked R.E.M’s song Cuyahoga, so titled after the Cuyahoga River in Ohio (Cuyahoga is also the largest county in Ohio). This song is off Life’s Rich Pageant, my favorite R.E.M. album, one that they never surpassed, in my humble opinion. (Humble and uneasy. I live about 60 miles away from R.E.M.’s birthplace, Athens, Georgia…the fans here are rabid!) Once I’d thought of it, I couldn’t get it out of my head, so when I came to work on Monday morning, I signed into Napster intending to listen to the whole album. Except Napster didn’t have the whole album. They offer every other R.E.M. album, but for some reason, they only have four tracks from Life’s Rich Pageant. *Sigh*

I still wanted to hear it, so this morning I went into the guest bedroom and pulled my one remaining box of cassette tapes with which I cannot bear to part out from under the bed. It was easy to find because it’s not in its original case, nor does it have the paper label with the lyrics and all that stuff. But it is the tape I bought in (oh lord) 1986, just prior to my senior year of high school. The last time I listened to it was probably college, so I had no idea if it would even play. I know it lived in various places inside my car back in the day, and I’m pretty sure I spilled Diet Dr. Pepper on it at some point. But when I slid it into the cassette player in the car, it played just fine, and WOW. I had forgotten what an awesome album it is. On the radio here, they play a lot of R.E.M., but they tend to play the same songs over and over again (seriously, if I hear “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” one more time, I can’t be held responsible for what might happen), so it’s easy to forget how great they really are. If you like this kind of music, I suggest you find a copy of this and listen to it again, if you haven’t in a while. Just not on Napster. Ppffftt.

*graphic from

Today’s Sample: Antonio Puig Vetiver de Puig

I had a heck of a time finding information on today’s vetiver scent, Vetiver de Puig. Even the Antonio Puig web site doesn’t list the notes—just a short marketing description and the god-awful packaging (the box looks like camouflage). I finally found a few reviews at Basenotes, but that’s about it.

According to Basenotes
, this scent was created in 1978. Strangely, I saw this fragrance for sale from $12.99 to $150.00. Perhaps it was reformulated at some point? From the comments on Basenotes, it seemed this was the case. It wasn’t hard to find for sale, though, so I can’t account for the crazy pricing.

But the scent! The opening is green and grassy, with a very soft hint of citrus that’s short-lived. A reviewer identified part of the scent as celery, which was an apt observation. It does smell of fresh celery a bit (although the reviewer found this scent sour, and I didn’t at all), but the next thing I believe I smell is cedarwood. This scent is woodsy, fresh, and green. Think of a cold, wet day, post-rain, and the smell of wet cedar. Heaven, really. This is what I would classify as a “sweater scent”; it’s cozy and close. If you don’t like cedar or woods, you may find it too masculine, but I would definitely wear it again, most likely in the winter.

*photo from

Monday, June 12, 2006

Today’s Sample: Guerlain Vetiver

This week, I’ll be exploring vetiver fragrances. I hear these are ideal to wear in hot summer weather. My curiosity was piqued when I read the review of Lanvin’s Vetiver at Scentzilla! I asked Katie what other vetiver fragrances I should try, and she pointed me to one I haven’t gotten my hands on yet—Provence Sante’s Vetiver—and also the Guerlain.

According to Wikipedia, vetiver is a clump-forming grass that’s closely related to the lemongrass family and grown primarily in India, Java, Haiti, and Réunion. The roots, not the grass itself, are steam-distilled for the essential oil. It also says that this oil is used in aromatherapy to relieve stress.

Guerlain Vetiver seems to be the quintessential classic, and (lucky for me) it was part of the vetiver sample pack I ordered off eBay. Classified by Guerlain as a men’s fragrance but worn by many women, this Vetiver contains the following notes:
Top: Citrus notes, orange, bergamot, lemon, vetiver
Heart: pepper, nutmeg
Base: tobacco, tonka bean

The opening was the best part, a bright green citrus with no sweetness. I must admit, I missed a little bit of a floral note, but it was refreshing and slightly bitter, like sparkling water with a twist. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay that way. The citrus quickly gave over to pepper, something like green peppercorns accompanied by faint lemon. I could not detect the nutmeg, which would have added a little spicy warmth to this fragrance. The tobacco and tonka bean seem to leave what’s left of the citrus (mainly lemon) very dry.

After all the reading I’ve done lately, I realize that the classification of women’s and men’s fragrances is often quite arbitrary. I’ve known many women who could wear men’s fragrances successfully, but generally I am not one of them. (Although Ormonde Jayne Isfarkand isn’t too bad on me, but not nearly as wonderful as it is on Bob! I think the Terre d’Hermes might also work, but I let Bob have the sample. Grr.) On me, this Vetiver simply smells…How to put this delicately? It smells a little bit like I went to the gym at lunch, forgot my antiperspirant, and put this on to cover up any smell that might develop in the afternoon. Yes, sad but true: I smell like I am trying to cover up BO.

I’m disappointed because I was SO READY to love this. Sadly, three out of four Guerlain fragrances I have tried have not done well on me: Shalimar, Mitsuoko, and now Vetiver—all stink bombs on my skin. Really, there’s no other way to put it. So far, the only Guerlain that smells good on me is Attrape-Couer, that wonderful smoky violet. Mmmmm! And so I bequeath the Vetiver to Bob. Maybe it’ll do for him.

Check back tomorrow, when I try another vetiver. In the meantime, what’s your favorite vetiver scent?

Read a (positive) review of Guerlain Vetiver at Legerdenez.
*photo from Wikipedia

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Minute on the Eyes, No Time on the Thighs*

For the past two years, I’ve bought makeup at the drugstore, the only exception my beloved Stila Tinted Moisturizer (which I’ve replaced with the DuWop Revolution Face…not sure yet which one I like better. Think I’ll test that this week, as I still have about two days’ worth of Stila left.). For the longest time, all of my makeup fit in one little basket and consisted of only what I used every day. But lately, I cannot stop looking at makeup. I feel like I want try everything! And this crazy urge is no small irony for me, considering for the longest time, I could have been the poster child for “le no makeup.”

This morning I cruised over to to see what’s new. I considered ordering some of the new Estee Lauder Azuree Body Oil everyone’s raving about, but they are sold out. (I see a trip to the mall in my near future. That means a giant pretzel as well.) But I did see this Pastel Lip and Eye Palette from Bobbi Brown. Besides the fact that I am a sucker for makeup palettes, I like the fun color choices for summer, especially the lilac and the peach. Bobbi Brown is also offering single Shimmer Wash Eye Shadows, and I have to admit I am intrigued by this Sky color…and usually I would never choose any shade of blue! They suggest pairing it with Grey eye shadow and Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in Granite Ink. Sounds very pretty and sophisticated. (I have green eyes and recently darkened my brown highlighted hair to a deep auburn, so I’m not sure how this would translate on me, but my interest is piqued!)

I clicked around a little more and also thought about trying this Beach Shimmer Body Glow, which gives skin a little bronze glimmer. I’m very pale, don’t tan at all, and I’m pretty hopeless with self tanners, so I thought this might give me a nice soft glow at least. I tried the Neutrogena Summer Glow Daily Moisture, and even after exfoliating, all it really did was make my knees and feet look dirty. The Hawaiian Tropic Island Glow I tried smells great and moisturizes well, but I didn’t see much in the way of color. But then again, maybe I should try another one of the lotions, like Jergens Natural Glow, L’Oreal Sublime , or Dove Energizing Moisture. Any one of these is half the cost of the Bobbi Brown…however if I end up having to try all three, I suppose it’s sort of a wash. Hrm.

Next I clicked over to Chanel. I’ve been wanting the Quadra Eye Shadow in Gold Rush, which is what Audrey Tautou is allegedly wearing on the cover of June Allure, but they don’t have it! I haven’t checked at my local Nordstrom or Bloomingdales; maybe it’s available only at Chanel counters? Anyway, I did notice that Chanel’s opening page on Gloss is all about “le no makeup”--or as it says, “Les Naturels de Chanel, Ultra-Wearable Natural Looks.” However, if you click on the links under “The New Neutrals,: it takes you straight to the pages for the Quadra Eye Shadow or Glossimer, with nothing new highlighted for this look. And no Gold Rush. Grr. Edit: After clicking around, I finally found it here, in the Summer Colour Collection.

Nothing is less necessary than a big drawer filled with makeup, yet I find it more fun than anything lately (except maybe perfume…thank goodness for samples!) I can’t say what’s brought on this recent fascination. Maybe the fact that I don’t ever have to exercise or skip desert in order to wear that new eye shadow? Ha!

*Sorry for the heading…my play on “A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!”

**photos from

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Glass Castle

I just finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls for my “real-life” book club. Every month a different person picks the book, and this was not my month to choose. I probably would have chosen Julia Child’s new book, or perhaps a novel. These days, everyone has a memoir. In fact, just this past week, a woman I work with was telling me about how one of her ex-boyfriends had left her to go back to his ex-wife (I don’t think I would advertise that fact, but maybe that’s just me). This woman’s always sharing tidbits about her life with people at work, so I jokingly told her that she should write a memoir. She turned to me with all seriousness and said, “I have. Self-published.”

Hrm. We used to call those diaries.

You can read a synopsis of The Glass Castle at Powells.

The memoir genre is tricky, as we all saw a few months ago when James Frey was outed for fictionalizing much of his life story as related in A Million Little Pieces. I didn’t read that book, but I’ve read plenty of others, both novels and memoirs, that walk the fine line between reality and fiction. Part of the problem is memory, and part of the problem is the act of writing itself. Memoirs about someone’s childhood or someone’s drinking or drug problems are bound to walk that line, mainly because we don’t accurately remember our childhoods, and people under the influence most likely have memories that live on the boundary between their own fuzzy experience and secondhand accounts of their behavior. And as we cannot write in real time, and because we have an audience’s attention to hold, we must edit as we go.

The Glass Castle walks this fine line for several chapters at the beginning of the book. I don’t think Walls makes up any events from her very early childhood, but they are rather detailed and the dialog is a little overblown. For example, after a serous accident when she is three, she’s in the hospital for several weeks, until her father decides to remove her without the doctor’s permission. When he comes to get her, she asks “Are you sure this is okay?” She’s three. What does she know of the law, or of the rule of the hospital, or any of these things? To a three-year-old, Mom and Dad rule the world, don’t they? This seems like a question and older child or adult would ask…or an adult who’s finally getting the chance.

In these first chapters, sometimes Walls’s dialog and descriptions are more sophisticated, and other times her sentence structure is simpler, more childlike, and the words she uses to describe things are more like those a small child might use. I bring this up only because I think this beautifully illustrates the fact of how difficult it is to try and remember and recount childhood without having adult experience and understanding and knowledge laying over the top of it. I suppose the reason I noticed this is because for those several initial chapters, the voice that was sometimes adult and sometimes child distracted me from the story itself.

As she gets older in the book, the dialog and descriptions seem more realistic, and things start to move. The story of this woman’s life is both vivid and stunning. Her writing is quite solid but not overly poetic, which is important because the book is all about the stark reality of life in a family that gives new meaning to the word dysfunctional. Other writers, like Mary Karr in her book The Liar‘s Club, can describe scenes so beautifully that their stories have the patina of romantic tragedy. Walls doesn’t do this, although she does have some fine moments, and it works in her favor because (other than at the beginning) the language never distracts from the story—and it is quite a story.

What’s most interesting about The Glass Castle to me is that Walls never gives in to self-pity of any kind, nor does she use her story as some kind of mark that makes her special. I find it funny (peculiar) that there are so many memoirs out there about dysfunctional families, and each one seems to be competing with the other for who had it worse. (Forget about the talk shows full of these people, too. Feh.) I don‘t think many people had it worse than this woman‘s family. What makes The Glass Castle so compelling--and slightly disturbing--is her lack of whining, along with the fact that she still seems ever-so-slightly entrenched. Her parents could easily be labeled “toxic,” not necessarily because they are unloving and abusive (although her father is sometimes violent when he drinks, and her mother is rather negligent), but because their personalities are so malformed that it probably would have been better if they’d never had children at all.

Yet Walls manages to show them as people instead of just parents, which gives this book its strength. She’s not trying to comfort her inner child, and she never raises the question “Why me?” After reading about how they struggled and the true squalor in which they lived, I wouldn’t have blamed her one bit if she showed a little righteous indignation, but she never does. While she understands from an early age that something is seriously wrong, she also seems to grasp the pure complexity of the problem, not just for herself but for all of them--not a typical vantage point for a book like this. From an outsider’s perspective, I think her parents both suffered from some form of mental illness, but Walls seems to find a way to draw a line between who they are and who she is, and say “Okay.”

Friday, June 09, 2006

Blogger's Book Club

If you haven't put together a summer reading list yet, or if you aren't a complete geek like me but are just looking for some new books to read and discuss, then come with me...I’ve joined the Blogger's Book Club (BBC), organized by Vanessa from Entre Nous and TessaJ from My Muse. For this month, we are reading the novel Bone, by Fae M. Ng.

The following synopsis is from Powells:
“In this profoundly moving novel, Fae Myenne Ng takes readers into the hidden heart of San Francisco's Chinatown, to a world of family secrets, hidden shames, and the lost bones of a "paper father." It is a world in which two generations of the Leong family live in an uneasy tension as they try to fathom the source of the middle daughter Ona's sorrow. Fae Myenne Ng's portraits of the everyday heroism of the Leongs--who inflict deep hurt on each other in their struggles to survive, yet sustain one another with loyalty and love--have made Bone one of the most critically acclaimed novels of recent years and immediately a classic of contemporary American life.”

If you are interested in participating, let Vanessa or Tessa know. Basically, all you have to do is read the book and then post your thoughts about it on your own blog on June 26. If you don’t have a blog, you can email them to Vanessa, and she’ll post them on hers. We’ll be choosing the book for July in the last week of June.

*photo from Powells

Today's Sample: Serge Lutens Gris Clair

I thought Gris Clair might be a nice break from the white and green florals I’ve been wearing all week. I have nothing against floral, mind you, but my nose was ready for something fresh. Gris Clair is definitely a break. In fact, I’ve been green and white all week, and now I’m all lavender smoke from a chimney against a dark winter morning sky.

According to Aedes, the notes in Gris Clair are lavender, iris petals, vanilla, and tonka beans.

Funny, but this morning when I came downstairs, I asked Bob what he thought (I expected him to love it), and he said, “Eh, it’s okay. It just smells like perfume. There’s nothing special about it.”

Nothing special? I touched on this yesterday, how everyone has an idea of Perfume, of what that smell means in a general, as opposed to discussions around a particular fragrance. Somehow, we all have some idea against which we test everything we smell, something that goes beyond the fragrances out mothers or grandmothers (or even fathers or grandfathers) wore, or something that’s been a past favorite.

But then there’s also the idea of “perfume,” with the lowercase “p,” that really just means “scented.” Bob isn’t a particular fan of lavender. I have some lavender sachets I love, but to him they are just “perfumey.” I think the lavender must be why this smells to him like generic perfume: it’s just a sachet smell, a potpourri smell, nothing special.

To me, though, Gris Clair is special. I love the smell of lavender to begin with, and this fragrance takes it so much farther. This is the scent of cold, cold winter, but not an icy cold—a dark cold, the sort of darkness that takes you deep into yourself. (Sorry for sounding like a dime-store philosopher, but I’m in a bit of a dark mood…just bear with me.) If you have ever had a dark period in your life and emerged from it a better, stronger person, then you know that darkness can be a wonderful thing, in its own strange way. Darkness is close, but not warm, and deep and penetrating. That’s how I feel about this scent. Darkly beautiful, which is ironic because the name is Gris Clair, and nothing about darkness implies clarity…although I think it can lead that way. The hint of vanilla brings a little sweet promise to the dry down.

When you think of “Perfume” versus “perfume,” what scents come to mind for you?

Read a review of Gris Clair at

* photo from Aedes

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Today’s Sample: Parfums DelRae Amoureuse

After Monday, I wasn’t much in the mood for florals (no offense to the creators of the beautiful Bond No. 9 Chinatown—just stupid user error), but I stuck to the ones I had picked and have had a pretty good run of luck the rest of the week, even though they are all on the flowery side (with the exception of tomorrow’s sample, which is an unusual floral).

The notes in Amoureuse are as follows: tangerine, cardamom, tuberose, jasmine, ginger lily, cedar moss, sandalwood, and honey. LusciousCargo describes this fragrance as “floral and green.” Floral, I get, but to me this has not one trace of green. In fact—how do I describe this?—to me, Amoureuse signifies Perfume.

What I mean is that when I think “Perfume with a capital “P,” the idea of a scent like this is what comes into my head. (I think everyone has an idea of this smell, even more so beginners like me, because we aren’t yet trained to distinguish notes, and we also haven’t been exposed to much.) The tangerine and cardamom temper the tuberose in the opening. The tangerine fades rather quickly, but after that the tuberose never takes over the way it does in many perfumes. Usually it seems to be the star, but this is an ensemble cast, and it works seamlessly together, which means I could wear it any time of year. After wearing it all day (it has nice lasting power…it’s 5:00 now, and I applied this around 8:00 A.M.), I smell something that’s woody and sweet, with a hint of jasmine. Lovely.

Another fragrance I think of as “Perfume with a capital P” is Rancé Josephine. The two fragrances smell nothing alike, but to me the notes meld in much the same way.

And on a Bob note: So far, this weeks winner is Pecksniff’s Green Chypre. He liked the Chevrefeuille, which he pronounced “delicate and very pretty,” but then he also said it smelled like corn tortillas. Huh? This from the man who picked the rose note out of L’Ombre dans L’Eau while I was still thinking I smelled grapefruit rind. Chinatown, he said he liked but that it wasn’t “me.” This morning he said he liked the Amoureuse, that it was “better, but not as much as the other one,” and when pressed said he didn’t know what “better” meant, but he liked the Chypre the best. It’ll be interesting to see what he thinks of it now!

Read a review of this fragrance at Bois de Jasmin.

*photo from LusciousCargo

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Stop Taking My Picture and Pet Me

My sweet Diva...

Today’s Sample: Calypso St. Barth Chevrefeuille

Some of these samples I have, I’m not sure why I ordered them. Maybe I read a review, or maybe I decided to try out a few on my own. The Chevrefeuille comes from my fourth set of samples, which I ordered about six weeks ago. I’m pretty sure at that point I was still consulting every blog or review I could find, so I must have read about it somewhere. When I finish discussing, I’ll see if I can find a source.

The notes in Chevrefeuille are honeysuckle, sweet orange blossom, amber and musk. Although I love the smell of honeysuckle (and we have plenty of it here in Georgia), it’s not generally something I’d choose to wear, as I think of it as a bit too heady and sweet.

Traditionally, living in the south or the southwest (anyone who has ever lived in Texas knows that Texas is not the south, the exception being parts of Texas east of Longview and north of Houston, which are “southern” and should really belong to Louisiana), I’ve found that floral fragrances work best in the late winter or early spring, and I can get away with them a lot longer in Georgia than I did in Texas. In summer, I generally lean toward something green. (Prescriptives Calyx has been my longtime summer staple, although I recently learned on Now Smell This that it’s classified as a fruity floral—how, I ask?)

However, now that I’m sampling all of these niche perfumes, I’m finding more possibilities, and Chevrefeuille is one of them. The opening is pure honeysuckle, but it’s honeysuckle in first bloom near a wooded area on a spring morning, so there’s a fresh component, rather than the heady sweetness you might think. This is a relatively simple fragrance, so the procession of notes is uncomplicated, and while it maintains a soft honeysuckle, the amber is very apparent. Although it’s not listed in the notes, I also get a real hint of pepper over the softness, and it’s gorgeous!

Although I loved the fresh green of the Pecksniff’s I tried yesterday and still think it’s a wonderful scent for summer, I’d have to say that Chevrefeuille has knocked it down a notch or two on my list. I think I like the Chevrefeuille better because it surprised me. This is a floral I would feel very comfortable wearing even on the hottest summer days, but also in winter. The spiel on LusciousCargo says that Chevrefeuille is “a honeysuckle scent you’ll want to wear on Christmas day,” and I agree. It’s spicy enough to stand up to pine and cinnamon and nutmeg smells that are everywhere during the holidays, but soft enough to remind you that spring is not too far away.

A ha! I found a review on Now Smell This. Perhaps this was my source? I'm still not sure, though, because I don't think honeysuckle would have been my first choice, even after reading this favorable review. It remains a mystery.

*photo from (photo quality was quite poor on their site as well)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Today's Sample: Pecksniff's Green Chypre

Feeling slightly scent-shy this morning after yesterday's debacle with Chinatown, I decided to try something I had sampled over Memorial Day weekend but was unable to smell because of a horrendous allergy attack: Pecksniff's Green Chypre.

I listed the notes for this in a previous post, but here they are again, just so you don't have to click all over the place:
Top: pink grapefruit, mandarin, lemon, orange, galbanum, and bergamot
Heart: freesia, water lily, orchid, pink pepper, geranium, violet, rose
Base: musk and sandalwood

By now you must have learned that I like almost everything, as long as it likes me back. (I'm looking at you, Mitsuoko EDT. EDP, we'll see about you later.) I think I should learn a bit more before I start making pronouncements. I do have preferences, though...And this fragrance definitely falls somewhere at the top of the list. The opening is very fresh and citrusy, to me a little more sweet than green, and the pink pepper comes through quite nicely. Because I'm lucky enough today to "smell it through," I find that it has dried down to something green (geranium?), woody (sandalwood), and sweet (rose). Yes, I can definitely still smell the rose, and I like it this way. The green note along with this rose in nothing like what accompanies the rose in L'Ombre dans L''s more watery. It may be the water lily and not the geranium, in that case.

Clarification: I realized I used "sweet" twice, and meant two different things. In the opening, the citrus is not sharp or tangy, nor is it cloying and overly-fruity. I meant sweet like orange rind, but then, not only orange. (This is helping, isn't it? Ha!) The dry down "sweet" of the rose, mixed with the sandalwood and the hint of green, is a fresh, elegant powder, not a heady rose.

Do I like chypres in general? I don't know. Bois de Jasmin lists Mitsuoko as a chypre, and if I had only that to go by, I would have to say no (or again, that they don't like me). But that's not the end of the story. According to Wikipedia, a chypre "[builds] on a similar base consisting of bergamot, oakmoss and labdanum. This family of fragrances is named after a perfume by François Coty by the same name. Meaning Cyprus in French, the term alludes to where this base was inspired. This fragrance family is characterized by a scent reminiscent of apricot and custard."

Apricot and custard?

Reading reviews of chypres, I find the category seems much broader, and even if a fragrance has all or some of the three main notes that make it a chypre (as listed above), I wonder if it depends on where they fall in the composition, at the top, heart or base of the fragrance, that determines how the fragrance is labeled. The most common note I see listed as qualifying a chypre is oakmoss, which is also a key ingredient of a fougère. Experts, feel free to educate me.

But specifically, I think I am hooked on this Pecksniff's Green Chypre, whether I end up loving chypres as a class or not. In fact, I'm putting it on the "Happy Birthday to Me" short list of possibilities!

For a review of this fragrance and also Pecksniff's Classic Chypre, visit
Now Smell This.

What's your favorite chypre? Or your favorite Pecksniff's fragrance?

*photo from LusciousCargo

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bond No.9 Chinatown: When Bad Things Happen to Good Fragrances

At times, amateur perfume aficionados get a little overzealous. When I first started reading the perfume and beauty blogs, and I saw the way people were raving about Chinatown, I knew I had to try it. In fact, I almost bought it, unsniffed, just for the bottle alone.

My little vial of Chinatown has been floating around in the basket where I keep my samples for well over a month. I kept thinking I needed to wait for some special reason to try it, but last night I decided to pull it out and wear it today. This may sound unbelievably geeky, but some mornings I am so excited to try whatever fragrance I’ve pulled, when the alarm goes off, I am actually anxious to get out of bed. Today was one of those days.

Now, I’ve found that in sampling, more is often more, particularly when I’m applying the sample from a regular glass vial instead of an atomizer. Several times when I first started all this sampling craziness, before leaving for work, I would hold my wrist out for Bob to sniff and find that he could hardly smell a thing, so I would have to trudge back upstairs and apply more. Finally I got a little more confident with the amount I felt was right—that is, until today.

Chinatown is so unusual and so pretty, sweet and spicy at the same time. The notes are as follows:
Top: Peach blossom and bergamot
Heart: Gardenia, peony, tuberose, and orange blossom
Base: Patchouli, cedarwood, vanilla, sandalwood, cardamom, and guaiac wood

I find the scent to be a soft, powdery incense…or at least, what’s left of it. Because here’s what happened: I put way too much on. I put so much on that I had to roll down the car windows on the way to work, lest I be overcome by it and drive into a tree.** I’m pretty sure that the car itself was wrapped in a fine, golden-pink mist. My first stop when I got to the office was the ladies room, where I washed as much of the perfume off my wrists as I could before my morning meeting. And believe me, it saddened me to do so, but it was my own fault.

I can still smell what I put on my neck and cleavage, especially if I put my face down inside the front of my shirt. However, even though we have doors on our cubes, I’m afraid someone will come by and casually open my door and there I’ll be, face in shirt, sniffing away like a freak. (Tonight, on a very special "PrimeTime Live," Diane Sawyer explores a frightening new trend happening in offices nationwide: perfume huffing.) And really, I don’t need HR involved. My job is difficult enough as it is.

And so, if you weren’t sure that today was Monday, I assure you it is. I’ll wear this again tomorrow, and then maybe I’ll have something intelligent to say! In the meantime, you can read a review at Now Smell This.

*photo from LusciousCargo

**Bob left the house before I did today, or else I would have known before getting into the car that it was way too much. I simply assumed that it would mellow a bit…it didn’t! I’ll be interested to see what he says about it when I get home. He’s been liking white florals, and this is a very different take. Or would this even be considered a white floral?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Yesterday's Sample:L'Artisan Parfumeur Mure et Musc

After all the florals I tried last week, I was ready yesterday to try something else. Also, so many things are in bloom in Atlanta right now, it smells wonderful all over the place, so why try to compete?

I sniffed through a few samples and decided to wear L'Artisan Parfumeur Mure et Musc. Aedes lists the notes as blackberry with a hint of musk. On me this scent was very fresh and clean, as in soapy, with quite a bit of woods. I didn't pick up any trace of the blackberry. I enjoyed wearing this, but honestly I think it would smell better on Bob (after sniffing it on me, he thinks so too, so I'm bequeathing my sample to him). It's definitely unisex, but not for me. I think I am going to order a sample of Mure et Musc Extreme to try for myself instead.

Victoria has a wonderful review of both versions of this fragrance at Bois de Jasmin.

Of the other L'Artisans I've tried, La Chasse aux Papillons (regular...the extreme was beautiful but a bit much for me) has been my favorite. I'm also dying to try Thé pour Un Été and Fou d'Absinthe.

What's your favorite L'Artisan?

*photo from

New Look for Summer!

Score! Bob and I went out to lunch yesterday, and our waitress had on the prettiest gold eye shadow I have ever seen. The color was gorgeous, in a soft satiny shimmer. Usually if I see smeone wearing clothing or makeup I like, I don't say anything and just end up searching for it in vain. I suppose I feel awkward for noticing, especially something like eye shadow, but yesterday I decided to ask in the name of research. After all, it's not just about me anymore, but about you two readers as well.

I fully expected her to say MAC Pigment in Gold Dust, which everyone's been raving about (and is sold out everywhere), but to my surprise she said it was a color called Honey, from Urban Decay. She had mixed it with something else, but she couldn't remember the name of the other color. Doh! (I wasn't wearing any makeup at the time, which I think prompted the "You can get it at this place in the mall called Sephora" comment that followed.)

Lucky for me, I had to go to Sephora anyway, as I'm about a day or two away from running out of my Stila Tinted Moisture. I decided that I was going to try the DuWop Revolution Face, based on the Beauty Addict's review, but the second I walked into the store I made a beeline for the Urban Decay section.

At first I didn't see it in with their regular eye shadows, and I thought maybe it had either been a limited edition color or the waitress had told me the wrong brand name. I saw a few colors that were sort of close and picked them up, but then I saw the Deluxe Shadows, and there it was. Honey! In the case, it looked like sort of a greenish, heavy gold, not at all soft shimmery color it was on the waitress, but after a little hemming and hawing, I picked it up. (I really wanted a gold shadow, but the other thing that got me was the packaging...these look like cute little pill boxes.) And because it's a hard and fast rule that you cannot blend new eye shadow with anything old you have at home (seriously, it's a law), I also picked up one of their regular shadows called Blunt, to blend with the Honey.

I moved on over to the DuWop section, where I picked up the Revolution Face in Caitlin and also the Shades of Venom lipstick in Azalea, a very pretty, summery pink.

And oh, Honey! I tried it on as soon as I got home. If you are looking for a shimmery gold shadow to wear this summer, you must try this. It's lovely, and not over the top for daytime. I put the Blunt (a soft golden-pinkish's not as pink as it looks in the picture) all over my lid and up to my brow, and then put the Honey on just my lid up to the crease. I also put a little along my lower lash line, for soft sparkle. On my face I only applied my Smashbox PhotoFinish (which I bought a full bottle of yesterday as well, with the Dermaxyl and the SPF, thanks) and then dusted my new favorite powder, MAC Beauty Powder in Sunsparkled Pearl, all over my face. I finished it off with the DuWop Azalea lipstick, which has a slight shimmer--and oh, a new look for me!

Seriously, I've been trying to break out of the brown shadow rut, but almost everything I have tried has sent me right back. I tried green shadows, but they looked a lttle chalky and didn't really bring out my eyes (which is old wisdom--don't wear shadow and liner the same color as your eyes--and I think it's true, even if Almay wants us to think differently). I tried plums and pinks, but I think they made me look tired. I tried highly pigmented browns and bronzy pinks, but I looked like I'd done my eye makeup using metallic paint pens from Michael's. (Heavy shimmers show every ugly bump and crease on your eyelids, so should not be recommended for anyone over the age of 14. Okay, 20.) And finally, I'm so pale, bronze anything makes me look like I've been out rolling around in Georgia's red clay and am in desperate need of a bath.

I'm so excited! What's your look for summer?
*photos from

Friday, June 02, 2006

Don’t Hate Me Just Because I’m Trying to Appear as Though I’m Not Beautiful

I’m only about the thousandth person in the blogosphere to weigh in on the New York Times article about the new French trend for wearing little or no makeup, or rather, for appearing as such. (I’m not linking to the article because after a week they move articles out of general circulation and you have to pay to read them.)

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot, not just because of the article, but because of my own environment. Several of my co-workers would sooner shoot off a limb than put on a little mascara and lip gloss. Around here, to wear makeup is frivolous and anti-intellectual. And if you wear something other than jeans and a free company shirt that’s been laundered three hundred times, along with shoes that make you look like you’re planning to literally walk across Europe, well then, you probably are not a person to take seriously. (No joke, I stood in my boss’s office one day listening to a diatribe on how all good looking people are stupid, shallow, manipulative liars. Of course, I was really only half listening because I was trying to figure out whether she was telling me this because she thinks I’m good looking and secretly hates me, or whether she thinks I’m not good looking and will side with her against good looking people everywhere. When I first came to this job, she liked to remark to everyone how much I look like Kelly Preston. Kelly Preston is pretty, even if she is a wack Scientologist. Does being wack make her less pretty? I can only hope. But seriously I’m pretty sure my boss hates me.)

The article claims that “Le No Makeup” is all about French modesty. But really I don’t think the French have anything on us. We have serious competition in this country over who’s holier-than-thou, and makeup is one of the front lines for American women. I know many women who don’t wear any makeup at all. They eschew it in the name of modesty. If you are modest, you will be taken seriously either as a god-fearing Christian who is not a makeup-mongering whore, or as an intellectual, high-minded liberal who doesn’t have time for such nonsense. (Never mind that one of the most strident, tree-hugging feminists I knew in college now manages a Sephora. Feh.)

I always thought makeup was supposed to be about fun, not about moral superiority. I love it that these French women are wearing makeup—it’s just so well-applied you can’t see it. The article included a list of products French women (or you) might use to achieve such an “artful but there’s no art there” sort of look. It included no less than ten products.

Or what about Laura Mercier? Here’s what she had to say in the article: '' ‘It really astonishes me the way American women wear so much makeup,’ said Laura Mercier, the French creator of a line of cosmetics and skin care who lives in New York. ‘In America, even teenage girls are overly made-up. And when you are overly made-up, you send out the message that you are overly sexual, that you want to be visible to attract men.’” Um, has anyone happened upon the 9,427 steps it takes to get the Laura Mercier “Flawless Face?” And that’s just the “canvas.” The artist hasn’t started painting.

Really, what astonishes her is not how much makeup Americans wear, but how badly we wear it (when we actually do…again, for various reasons, it seems like most women don’t bother at all). Here’s another direct quote from the article: “Michèle Fitoussi, one of France's leading social commentators and a columnist at French Elle magazine, described the painted-doll look preferred by many American women with one word: ‘vulgaire.’” They go on to single out Britney Spears and Nicole Ritchie. I personally don’t think either of these girls are attractive, makeup or no, but how about this woman?

This is Robin Meade from CNN Headline News. You can’t completely see it here, but trust me: a few less blending applicator strokes on the eye shadow and she’d look just like Joan Cusack in Working Girl. (Remember the peacock-like array of shadows she sported on those eyelids? I tried and tried to find a picture. Alas, technology failed me.) Seriously, this woman is on screens all over the nation’s international airports, she’s in our homes, bringing us important news of the day, and she generally tends to look like she just got off her shift at Hooters. Um, I think maybe the French have a point. Robin Meade doesn’t need all that makeup—she’d be just as pretty without it—but there she is, all tarted up and talking about Iraq. CNN tries to do this to all their anchors (only Christy Paul comes out looking pretty good). How are we supposed to take it seriously, right?

But then again, why not? Why can't a woman wear all her MAC and cover Iraq? (um, sorry about the rhyming thing) Still, I wonder if it doesn't play up the Madonna/Whore thing a little too much. There must be a happy medium between lip gloss and powder and full-out hooker.

The article also discussed in depth the fact that French women are obsessed with their skin but then didn’t bother to reveal the most important information, how they cleanse and moisturize. I wanted to know more about the actual skin care! Because they must use something magical, given that they all smoke like chimneys, and smoking is second only to frying in the sun for ruining your skin. But French women learn to moisturize and pamper, and American women, again in the name of modesty, learn to use soap and water. I’m amazed at the number of women I know who don’t have any sort of skincare regimen, who don’t even use eye cream. Why? Because it’s uppity. Because that would mean “putting on airs.” Because they don’t wear makeup and somehow believe this equates with not having to care for their skin.

But then who’s buying all those beauty products? Why are we so torn about taking care of ourselves? And why, as Americans, do we tend to have such stubborn pride about being plain or out of shape? I can’t get over how many women I know who say they don’t diet (yet need to), don’t get their hair done regularly or won’t pay more than $10 for a haircut (and it shows, especially when your cute haircut grows out into a mullet), don’t use sunscreen (and have the wrinkles to prove it), and on and on.

Both sides lose, in my opinion. Moral superiority is never modest, no matter how much (or how little) makeup you’re sporting. But if I had to choose, I’d go with the French. Why? I like that they don’t apologize for the fact that they might spend a lot of time (and money) on their skin, that they may spend hours applying makeup so that it looks like they aren’t wearing any. Because they seem less conflicted about taking care of themselves, when it’s all said and done. A little luxury never hurt anyone.

*yes, I realize I contradict myself
**all photos from Yahoo!