Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bond No. 9 Silver Factory

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

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

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

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

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

*image provided by Bond No. 9

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm Back...

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

Monday, November 19, 2007

It Just Occurred to Me...

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

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

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

Sunday, November 18, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

Random Thanks, Day 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*images from (in order): etsy.com, wikipedia, amazon.com, clinique.com, nytimes.com

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Random Thanks, Day 4

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

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

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

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

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

*images from (in order): etsy, npr.org, imaginationperfumery.com, amazon.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Want

Don't judge. It's a sickness.

And it's cheaper than a maid.

*image from Amazon.com

Random Thanks, Day 3

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

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

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

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

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

*images from (in order): realsimple.com, retroweb.com, Luckyscent, motown.com, and Amazon.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Random Thanks, Day 2

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

Here's my list for Day 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S-Perfume 100% Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Random Thanks, Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

*images from (in order): Wikipedia, Chickfila.com, eBay, starbucks.com, and Wikipedia

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Week of Random Thanks

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

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

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

*image from www.photos.mdpny.com

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reader's Journal: Guilty Pleasures

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

From My Collection

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

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

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

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

On My Wish List

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

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

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

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

So it seems I am serious, after all.

*images from Powells and Amazon

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Weeks and weeks ago I had picked out all these scents to try for fall and put them in a little green glass box on my dresser where they sat untouched and waiting. I'm glad they were there, because it would have been too daunting to both pick samples and get back to posting (somewhat) regularly.

I've heard many a good thing about Costes, although I can't remember ever seeing a review of it anywhere. And of course, you're not really getting a review here, because I'm no expert...but I know what I like, and I like Costes. This scent was created for (by? around?) the Hotel Costes in Paris. The notes are lavender, bay-tree, coriander, white pepper, rose, incense, woods and light musc. What I particularly like about this scent is its unique herbal quality. The warmth of this perfume makes it feel like a cool weather scent to me, wonderful and sophisticated for the holidays. It's herbal but not dry, and I love the fact that it's warm without an overdose of incense, amber, or woods, which are so frequently a part of scents that seem to fit this time of year.

Costes is clean and unisex. While it's not at all soapy, it does make me think of finer, milled French soap. It lingers so sweetly (sweet like skin, not flowers or fruit) on the skin, it makes me swoon a bit. I imagine this would wear as well in spring or summer as it seems to in this much cooler weather we're (finally) having. I say firmly, this one is bottle worthy and would make a lovely gift (the season approaches, after all) for any man or woman, particularly someone who might not typically wear scent but who is looking for something to try.

On an interesting side note, Hotel Costes also apparently sells home scents, mayonnaise, liqueur, jewelry, and lounge music compilation CDs. Has anyone tried anything else from the Costes line? Or better yet, has anyone stayed at the hotel? It's supposed to be rather grand.

Or how about this: Has anyone tried any other perfumes issued for hotels? The only two I can think of are Caesar's Woman (Caesar's Palace) and Bellagio (obvious). I've never smelled either of these, but when I first started this blog I had someone tell me that Caesar's Woman was her mother's favorite perfume. I cannot imagine what this must smell like...cigarette smoke and buffet, perhaps? The smell of money and sweat? Hookers? Hm. As much as I love the Bellagio, I don't think I'd even try that one!

*image from Luckyscent

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mona di Orio Lux

Sometimes I try a perfume, and from the moment it hits my wrists, I know I am going to have to wash it off. Mona di Orio Lux has the most bizarre candied citrus opening...it's the Jelly Belly you're afraid to eat. You pull it out of the bag, it's a color that could only be described as "burnt sienna," and it smells like someone made oranges with a chemistry set in the basement.

But. (Cutting right to the chase, not going to fake you out for another full paragraph.) Something happens with this one. I don't know what it is. The high citrus notes die off and the sweet becomes more bitter, and after that it becomes so interestingly unique. I'm not sure if it's fabulous or cloying. I applied this around, oh, eight-thirty this morning, and by eleven, I couldn't get enough of myself. I smelled fantastic...maybe. I might have been having one of those days where my purple dress paired with a really wide elastic hot pink belt over black leggings seemed to be hitting the high notes, making me feel like a super-thin supermodel right up until the late afternoon meeting where I overheard a co-worker refer to me as "Good n' Plenty." This has never really happened to me and I own exactly none of those items of clothing, but you get my point. Sometimes things are only fabulous to ourselves.

The thing about perfume is, you can't really ask. You can pull a friendly co-worker discreetly aside and ask if your tag is sticking out or if you have something stuck in your teeth or something stuck on your face, but shoving your wrist into said co-worker's nose and asking, "Is this awesome or is it just me?" somehow seems beyond the bounds of office etiquette.

After the sweet citrus dies away, Lux reveals an almost leathery undertone, dark and well-worn, woody and even a bit green. Further on, it becomes more buttery without losing its darker edge. Consider this while I list the notes:
Top: Sicilian lemon, litsea cubeba (huh?), petitgrain bigarade
Heart: vetiver, Marrocan cedarwood, sandalwood Mysore
Base: musk, amber, vanilla bourbon, labdanum

In case you were wondering (I was), litsea cubeba is an "evergreen shrub or small tree with lemon-scented leaves and small, pepper-like fruit." (Thank you, Wikipedia) I'm not sure what makes the top so horrifically sweet to me, but I think what comes after makes it worth it in the end. It's sophisticated in an off-putting way that's attractive. It's not at all masculine, but it's a handsome scent. It's Wallis Simpson!

*images from Aedes and Time.com

Saturday, November 03, 2007

We Have A Winner!

Sweetlife won the drawing for a sample pack of fall perfumes from my (tiny) collection! Sweetlife, please send me your name and address at sweetdivablog@yahoo.com. Congratulations!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Run, Don't Walk

I just saw this over on Annie's blog:

"Allure.com is giving away $1,500 in fragrances hand-picked by
perfumer Frédéric Malle.

One winner will receive 18 fragrances, including Cartier Must de Cartier, Lanvin Arpège, and Malle's own Bigarade Concentrée and Noir Epices.

Visit: http://www.allure.com/freestuff"

Direct quote. I entered, and so should you! Hurry! Go!

Thanks for the tip, Annie!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

At Least I'm Here...

Sure, okay, I should be writing about perfume. I wore Micallef Automne to get me in the spirit of this fall-like (because lower 70s is cooler than mid-80s but still does not constitute "fall") weather, and it sort of worked. The sort of is a weather thing. I like this perfume, although I've no idea where I got the sample. The label is handwritten, so chances are it came with a decant purchase or from some kind reader who shared perfume with me. This is part of the "Les 4 Saisons" collection, and according to the Micallef Web site it contains: "Exciting red fruits mixed to rare spices - emotional." Emotional is about right. This is a dark red spice of a fragrance, but I swear the end dries to a deep rose. Or maybe it was just a wish.

Everything else I could write just feels like "yadda yadda." Blah blah "warm red velvet." Hummety hum hum "deeply mulled" something or other. Makes me feel like fill-in-the-blank star from fill-in-the-blank classic movie in that classic scene. It's like an item of clothing made out of a natural fiber. It's a particular shade of lipstick, a certain time of year or time of day. Pick one.

I had a funny thought there, because I thought: it's sort of a preppy fall fragrance. Leaves turning, folks wearing pea coats and loafers and knee socks (nobody dresses this way anymore, do they?). And so I was trying for the movie metaphor, and all I could come up with was The Sterile Cuckoo. Liza Manelli in a toggle coat. So many things wrong. For the love of god, Micallef Automne is not Liza Minelli wearing a toggle coat in The Sterile Cuckoo. (I actually happen to like that movie, though.)

Clearly, I'm having trouble today trying to find an original way to talk about perfume. Are there any metaphors left?

And so I'll move on to another favorite thing, books. I saw this article on Slate.com, "The Great Novel I Never Read," where authors and critics admit to not having read ...well, books they feel they should have read. Lord, I have too many to count. Let's see, just a few:

Love in The Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Middlemarch, by George Eliot (read one-third)
Portrait of The Artist as A Young Man, by James Joyce
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann (see the story about that one here)

I could go on...but I won't. Sadly, I chalk it up to this: If I wanted to read them, I would have done so by now. I can't blame years of having to read what was assigned (nothing like a 1500-page Eighteenth century epistolary novel to keep you engaged), nor can I blame being distracted by bad, trashy novels (The Devil Wears Prada, anyone?), nor can I blame (bad) television (so I watched 90210 and Melrose Place regularly in grad school--how else does one take a break from said Eighteenth century novels? By reading Cotton Mather?). The truth is, there are just some books I feel should interest me, but they simply don't. This includes anything by James Joyce, anything by Thomas Pynchon, anything by Charles Dickens...that's just a start.

Share your dirty secret with me. WAIT! Rephrase: Share your dirty book secret with me.

Oh...I mean, tell me what great novel(s) you've managed to avoid. And if you can't do that, then give me your best shot at an untried perfume metaphor. Oh! Let's make it a drawing! Comment and let me know if you want to enter, and I'll send you a sample pack of my current fall favorites from my own (small) collection!

*image: Parfums M. Micallef