Saturday, August 02, 2008

Perfume Week in Review: July 27 - August 2

This week I decided to stick to a plan. Some weeks, even if I pull everything out on Sunday that I think I want to try during the week, I'll go crazy by Tuesday and start wearing things willy-nilly, leaving my carefully chosen samples neglected. Which makes me wonder: How many of you out there are planners when it comes to sampling, and how many of you just pick and choose at random?

Sunday: Les Parfums de Rosine, Rose d'Ete de Rosine Eau Fraiche. Vida included a rather generous sample of this in the bag of goodies she gave me. A lover of rose, I let out a little squeal when I saw it. The notes in this are: at the top, citrus, tangerine, and pear; in the heart, lime tree flower, lotus, rose essence, and rose absolue; and in the base, musk and ambrette seed. The fruit here is refreshing, the rose light and lively. I know I've been resisting lighter florals, but this was just the thing to cure me. I think of this as a poolside fragrance, which means as I wear it I picture myself on a chaise next to some wonderfully appointed resort or hotel pool, resting under the shade of an umbrella with a book and a refreshing cocktail, without a care in the world. It lasts nicely for an eau fraiche, but it's not so heavy one couldn't spritz several times throughout the day.

Monday: Le Labo, Rose 31. I've got three words: Holy. Grail. Rose. Strangely (at least to me), Le Labo markets this as "an assertively virile fragrance for men." I found nothing about it to be particularly masculine, to tell the truth, nor do I find it "unisex," which usually means some mix of citrus, woods, and/or vetiver. I find this instead to be something that should transcend marketing hype. I find it odd that a company who claims that perfume should defy description falls into this trap, but so be it. All that really matters is what's in the bottle, and this one is a stunner, with Centifolia rose, cumin, olbanum, cedar, amber, Gaiac wood, and cistus ("highlighted by a distinctly physical animal note," no less). The woods and the rose blend seamlessly, and the scent is quite dry, but it is also lovely, and I think quite feminine in its own way, a bit woodland nymph dressed to the nines.

Tuesday: L'Artisan, Bois Farine. I almost can't talk about this one. I'm not sure what happened. First, I have my favorite perfume house. Second, I have Jean Claude Ellena, who's batting about ten million as a perfumer as far as I am concerned (you can probably tell from this that it's a bad idea to mix sports metaphors and perfume, but I do what I have to do). Third, I have iris and woods and a host of other lovely notes. All of this should add up to WINNER, right? I don't know if it was my lotion, something I ate, the heat, or a combination of all three, but here's what I smelled: peanut butter and sawdust. That combination was not as pleasant as it might sound. If that doesn't prove the subjectivity of the nose, nothing will. It was so awful that on my drive to work I had to roll down the window and let some fresh (smoggy) air into the car. I work less than a mile from my home people! When I got to work I scrubbed, and after that it was a bit better...in fact, enough better to even seem pleasant. I will try it again. I refuse to believe that I would not love this one.

Wednesday: L'Artisan, Dzing! Wednesday was my birthday, so I went with Dzing! because it makes me feel comfortable and happy, the way everyone should feel on her birthday!

Thursday: Le Labo, Jasmin 17. Mmmmm. Jasmine, musk, sandalwood, and vanilla. This is quiet, slightly powdery, caught-a-whiff-of-it-on-a-walk-this-evening jasmine. I tread very lightly with white floral samples, so I'm not sure if it was my under-application or the gentle tone of this perfume, but it seemed not to last, leaving only a faint, soapy trace behind. While it lasted, I found it quite pretty, but no match for Rose 31 for my affections.

Friday: Le Labo, Ambrette 9. Seeing a trend here? I have all these Le Labo samples, and I've heard such wonderful things about these fragrances. The best thing about Le Labo is their Discovery Set (probably all of you already knew about it, but what the heck), where you can choose three different 5ml scents for $52. We all know 5ml decants don't even always come so cheap when you break it down, and I think it's great they let you pick and choose, instead of having to buy three of the same (can you hear me, Frederic Malle?). Anyhow, I digress. Ambrette 9 is marketed for babies, and as ludicrous as I find this, I very much like this sort of scent, and I do like this one in particular. It's rather golden, honeyed, and soft, staying clean and close to the skin. It has a brightness to it that keeps it from feeling soapy, though, as a lot of lighter scents like this one can. I also like that it really almost smells like nothing--meaning, it doesn't smell like citrus, or like tea, or like a soliflore. Ambrette 9 is one of those scents where people make the delightful mistake of thinking this is just how you smell. And by the way, it's not babyish--not in the least--so you don't have to feel creepy about wearing it, as you might with, say, Clean Baby Girl.

Saturday: Repeat! I am going to wear the PdR Eau Fraiche again today. It's supposed to be hot, but maybe the haze will stay out of the air, and they sky will be a bright clear blue like it was yesterday, and this fresh bloom will keep the cheer going. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend, and have a lovely week!

*images from Le Labo, LuckyScent, and First in Fragrance

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Perfume Week in Review: July 20 - 26

My apologies for not getting this post up yesterday. What a week! My perfume selections were all over the place, kind of like the weather. One thing hit me early yesterday morning on my way to the gym, when I realized that it was still quite dark even though only a month ago the sky held imminent brightness, that the days are getting shorter and fall is on the way. After that I sensed fall in the air all day. Most likely this is all psychological, because my birthday comes at the end of July and for me still marks that short span between birthday and back-to-school, even though it's been many years since I actually lived by that calendar. If my perfume choices this month tell me anything, it's that I have been more anxious than usual this year for fall's approach. I've wanted nothing but spice and incense, even as I try now and again to wear something light and summery. Anyway, enough babbling. Here are the perfumes:

Sunday: Annick Goutal, Eau de Ciel. This is a light, lovely, iridescent fragrance, like a dragonfly's wing. The notes are Brazilian rosewood, violet, Floretin iris, and lime blossom, and while they are lovely, they were not strong enough to convince me that I should continue to wear light, breezy scents, even in the heat, which is why on Monday I went with...

Monday: 10 Corso Como. This was a bit more like it, with notes of frankincense, musk, rose, geranium, vetiver, and Malay oud wood oil, although I must admit, it left me feeling a bit like Goldilocks. That is, Eau de Ciel was too light, too ethereal, and 10 Corso Como, while sophisticated and lovely, proved to feel a bit to dry for me. Perhaps it was my mood, but it made me think of leafless branches and high, icy clouds, and even though I'm ready for fall, I'm not that ready. It made me a bit melancholy, so on Tuesday, I went with...

Tuesday: Donna Karen, Wenge. This is one of my oldest samples. I'm pretty sure I picked this up in the first few months of blogging, which means it's been floating around in my stash, neglected. Wenge is part of Donna Karan's Essence Series, which also includes Lavendar, Jasmine, and Labdanum. I think it might be beautiful blended with something else, but alone it translated to something like saffron on my skin, and I found it a bit stifling. I have this same problem with Safran Troublant, which is quite pretty, but in summer tends to make me feel as though someone has soaked a rag in the stuff and tried to smother me with it. Having decided to leave Wenge alone until it gets cold and give it another shot, on Wednesday I decided to buck up and wear something summery, so I went with...

Wednesday: Estee Lauder, Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. Even in its straightforward, simple beauty and elegance, it could not sway me. The perfume matters less than the fact that on Wednesday I met my first ever friend of Sweet Diva, Vida. She had offered me a sample of one of her favorite perfumes, and after emailing back and forth we realized that we work inside a mile from each other. Vida is quite cool and generous and fun, and she brought me a lovely bag of goodies! We had a lot of fun over lunch chatting about perfume and blogs and Sniffa and so on. How lucky I am to have such fun readers! I told her that the next day I would be sure to try...

Thursday: Montgomery Taylor, Ambra di Venezia. This warm, elegant floral, with notes of narcissus, jasmine, mandarin orange, lime, sandalwood and mango was certainly much more fitting with my mood. I agree with Vida that this is one of those perfumes that, instead of developing by note, from the first makes you feel as though someone has handed you an exquisite bouquet of stunning flowers. I think this would be lovely year-round, and who wouldn't want that bottle sitting on her dressing table? Apparently Montgomery Taylor is quite an artist when it comes to glass as well. Too bad for me, the hand-blown limited edition bottle is too costly, but the juice is still available in a regular bottle and well worth it. The next day, I thought about wearing this again, but I didn't want to use it all up right away, so instead I decided to wear...

Friday: Santa Maria Novella, Eva. With notes of citrus fruits, Italian bergamot, black pepper and vetiver, you might think this was more up my alley, after all my complaining about florals and my quest for something drier, spicier. This was lovely, but I think this one is suited to cooler weather. I also tend to have trouble with fragrances bearing black pepper (I cannot abide Rose Poivree, for example), but this one wasn't overwhelming. I'm afraid I can't do it much justice, though, because I was coming down with a cold, even though I didn't realize it until today, when I decided to wear...

Saturday: Estee Lauder, Private Collection. I could still smell when I put this on before going to the hairdresser this morning (I make it sound like I went to have a wash and set or something), and at the top, this one is too too green for the likes of me. Luckily, after about twenty minutes or so, it becomes something wonderful, or at least I trust it does because both my colorist and Bob said I smell good, and I'll just have to believe them!

I hope your week has been an adventure of scent as well, and that you'll share some of your fun! Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, my friends!

*images from Aedes, Donna Karan, and Montgomery Taylor

Friday, July 18, 2008

Perfume Week in Review: July 13-18

I got this brilliant idea around the middle of this week, to change "What's Your Friday Perfume?" to "Perfume Week in Review," mainly because I was sampling away this week and realized I didn't want to keep any of it from you. Of course, the problem with having such an epiphany on Wednesday means I can't totally remember little details about other things I wore earlier in the week. Doh! I'll try to keep notes for next week, so I can pull it all together, but for now I'll do the best I can from memory.

Of course, I still want to hear about what you're wearing or sampling, not just on Fridays, but any time!

Sunday: L'Artisan Patchouli Patch. With notes of osmanthus, patchouli, white musk, anise, and spices, this is not your Woodstock hippie's patchouli, so if you've been avoiding this one because you're afraid it will remind you of the guy in your college English class who never seemed to change clothes (or bathe, for that matter), have no fear. This is patchouli with a refined, bright edge. I happen to like patchouli even in its "hippie oil" form, so this one worked well for me, although I have to prefer, I like a richer treatment of patchouli, more like the way it represents in Flowerbomb--a little sexy oomph.

Monday: Etro Shaal Nur. This was a "do over" of sorts, because I haven't worn Shaal Nur since the first time I sampled it, almost two years ago. that doesn't stop me from telling everyone how much I love it, though, so I thought maybe I'd better check on that. Results: Yep. Still love it. It's a pretty spiced rose, soft and calming, dry and spicy, and really rather modern, I think. I've linked to my review, and I stand by what I said!

Tuesday: The Different Company, Sel de Vetiver. I think at one point I had about four or five sample vials of this perfume. I somehow worked worked my way down to two (some of you out there may have received this from me), and I'm glad I finally heeded what the universe was obviously trying to tell me and tried this perfume. With notes of grapefruit, patchouli, cardamom, geranium, Haitian vetiver, iris, and ylang ylang, Sel de Vetiver is, to me, a very feminine vetiver perfume (as opposed to being a feminine perfume that contains vetiver), and luckily I wasn't overwhelmed by the citrus at the top. I'll have to talk about this one again, because as you can see, it was Tuesday. Tuesday was a long time ago, people.

Wednesday: L'Artisan, The pour un Ete. With notes of jasmine tea, green tea, lemon, and peppermint, this perfume is exactly as advertised: a refreshingly fragrant burst of tea on your wrists. It also happens to have terrific lasting power. I like tea scents, although I admit to not having tried many of them. If someone were to hold a gun to my head and tell me to buy a tea scent now dammit, I could choose this and not regret it, even if there were some other tea-based scent out there (Osmanthe Yunnan) I liked better.

Thursday: L'Artisan, Timbuktu. I love L'Artisan, and I'm amazed I haven't worked my way 'round their full offering not only once but twice by now. Sadly, I have a few samples that simply got lost in the crowd before I cleaned things out, and this was one of them. Probably this was a good thing, because I'm in a place right now where I am being very budget conscious and thoughtful, so I'm not tempted to GO OUT AND BUY IT NOW OH MY GOD I LOVE IT. Ahem. Excuse me. The notes are green mango, pink pepper berries, cardamom, karo karounde flower, smoky incense of papyrus wood, myrrh, and vetiver. This perfume is indescribably wonderful, but I promise to wear it again and try a better review. I even got a compliment on it, for the simple fact that it's so unusual and wonderful it stands out like the most elegant woman in the room at a party. Bottle worthy, and at the top of my list, possibly superseded only by the perfume I am wearing today, which is...

Friday: Hermes Hermessences, Vetiver Tonka. The Dark Knight premiers today, so in the spirit of things, let me just say, "Holy gorgeous vetiver perfume, Batman!" Vetiver Tonka is one of the more interesting treatments of vetiver I've tried. It's something much sweeter, even softer (dare I say powdery), yet without losing its own character. To me this perfume has the same presence as my beloved Elixir de Merveilles (no surprise, with JCE as creator); it's rather dry, but less gourmand. Elixir de Merveilles to me has a looser feel, more bohemian, if you will, where Vetiver Tonka is...well, a more self-assured, confident version of the same. It's less gourmand than Elixir, more floral, and it feels as though it's had everything unnecessary stripped away (not that anything in Elixir is unnecessary--no!) The notes are neroli, bergamot, vetiver, roasted hazelnuts, dried fruit, cereals, and tonka bean. My favorite Hermessence of the bunch so far. Oh yes.

So that's my two cents for the week. How do you all smell out there?

Have a lovely weekend!

*images from basenotes, luckyscent, and aedes

Friday, July 11, 2008

Etro Messe de Minuit

I don't care how hot and sticky it is outside, all week I have been craving incense. I tried for several days to force myself into something "summery" (Prescriptives Calyx, Clinique Happy Heart, Serge Lutens Fleur d'Oranger), but the days I've been happiest with my perfume choices I've worn something dark. Wednesday, it was Black Cashmere, and today, it's Etro Messe de Minuit. We've had quite a bit of rain this week, and outside just feels swampy, but there's something about Messe de Minuit which suits this weather perfectly. It feels as though I've escaped the rain by running into an old wooden church full of mildew and incense. This might not sound appealing, but I assure you it is. Something about this fragrance feels so full of history.

I can also tell my incense phase has yet to run its course. Even though it's not technically an "incense" scent, I almost broke out the Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir this week as well--and I'm not saying it still won't happen.

What about you, friends? Are you spritzing to beat the heat, or to suit your mood?

Have a lovely weekend!

*image from Aedes

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What's Your Holiday Perfume?

First off, I need to come up with something better than this lame "What's Your [X] Perfume?" for these posts. They're all starting to run together, and me no likey.

I thought I'd get a head start on the weekend and post today, since it's Friday for most of us. Today I'm wearing Laurence Dumont Vanille Violette, from a sample sent to me by reader Nikki C. I can assure you that I will most definitely NOT be wearing this perfume tomorrow, though, because there's no way I'm going to be that casual with the precious drops I have left. This was one of those perfumes that as soon as I had dabbed it on my wrists, I knew I was going to be in trouble, because the first thought in my head was to look it up online and see if I could get my hands on some. Wouldn't you know, Sephora is out of stock, but they kept the image and description up just to taunt me, along with the fact that at some point in time this lovely juice was marked down to $10 a bottle! That's right! TEN DOLLARS!

It occurs to me that maybe I shouldn't be telling you how pretty this is, because there's likely no way you're going to find any unless you know someone who has a bottle. (The Perfumed Court doesn't have it, and Nancy over at Fishbone Fragrances is on vacation until July 14 and is not displaying her current inventory. Bah!) The notes are rose, ylang-ylang, bergamot, violet, lily of the valley, sandalwood, and benzoin, but I smell nothing but the most perfect, sweet summery blend of violet and vanilla, just enough of each so it is neither candied or foodie. This is how I had hoped things would work out between me and Christian Dior La Collection Particuliere Passage No. 8. We all remember how that turned out. This is a much happier ending--or would be, if I could get my mitts on a bottle.

Now, something else I've been thinking about: patriotic perfume. Stay with me here. For the holiday season, the wondrous events from October through January, we have all sorts of choices in terms of holiday perfumes--beautiful spicy, incense-y scents that reflect both the season and its spirit. For those who celebrate Easter, you have your choice of perfumes based on lilies, or anything that means, essentially, that spring has sprung.

But what about the Fourth of July? Let me admit right off the bat that this is my least favorite holiday of the year. In the few places I've lived in my life, this holiday is generally represented by drunk rednecks towing boats to and from various lakes, whilst wasted on Budweiser. I like fireworks, but I hate crowds, particularly when said crowds are filled with the aforementioned rednecks, who are usually so drunk by twilight as to be more obnoxious than usual.

I guess if I were being literal about it, I would say that any perfume representing the Fourth would contain notes of hot asphalt, grilled hot dogs, beer, lake water, sweat, watermelon, and firecrackers. (Are you listening, Christopher Brosius?)

Ugh. Let's not be literal. Let's instead think: what's the best perfume to represent the Fourth, and what are the criteria? Obviously, the perfume must be an American perfume, or at least by an American designer. I feel like it should also be somewhat classic, although I'm not averse to having more modern releases on the list. Most likely it would be friendly. I also believe it should be iconic, and therefore most likely popular. I know that makes some of you shudder, but think of it like the flag. Someone may have a niche flag out there that he thinks represents America better than the Stars and Stripes, and his friends may know about it and love it and agree--it's much better--but, uh, who cares? I've come up with some ideas, and you can either weigh in on these, or add your own. Here are a few I thought of (and these all happen to be "women's" fragrances, and all of them launched in the 1970s. Does this have something to do with my childhood, I wonder, or a particularly good era for American perfume?), but I'm amazed how short my list is:

1. Lauren, by Ralph Lauren (1978). Notes: green notes, violet, rose, carnation, spices, woody notes. I hear this has been reformulated, but it's image is still classic to me. This was a popular perfume when I was growing up, and to me it represented all sorts of chic Americana: monogrammed cable knit sweaters, penny loafers, deck shoes. This is what you wear watching fireworks from your sailboat in the Cape, no? (Do they have fireworks there? Can you watch them from boats? Doesn't matter. This is my fantasy. And note that the boat here is a SAILboat, not a motorboat pulled behind a giant pickup truck sporting a confederate flag sticker.)

2. Charlie, by Revlon (1973). Notes: citrus oils, peach, hyacinth, tarragon, jasmine, lily of the valley, cyclamen, carnation, cedarwood, sandal, oakmoss, vanilla. You cannot get more American than some kicky gal named Charlie in her white suit and bright smile. I loved those commercials. I wanted to grow up to be a Charlie gal, much more than I wanted to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. (Name that perfume!)

3. Private Collection, by Estee Lauder (1972). Notes: green note, orange blossom, linden, jasmine, reseda, chrysanthemum, rose, sandalwood, heliotrope, musks, amber. Sure, I could have gone with the more obvious Youth Dew, or even with White Linen (see sailboats and Americana above), but Private Collection is sort of like the American Chanel No. 5, don't you think? I would like to think of Private Collection as sort of an American perfume ambassador, representing us in its stately, sophisticated yet casual way. I fear, though, that people think of us more like Giorgio of Beverly Hills--loud, obnoxious, and insistently cheerful. I'm also going on record here: I think Estee Lauder might be THE American perfume house. What say you?

I would be tempted to add a few others, like Elizabeth Arden Bluegrass, which was my very first "grown up" perfume aside from Love's Baby Soft. Or how about Clinique Happy? Anything by Calvin Klein? I know I must be leaving off the most obvious, and I will want to come back and edit as soon as I've published this! Oh well, I'd rather hear from you all, anyway!

Have a safe and happy Fourth!

*images from Sephora and OsMoz

Friday, June 27, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Hello all! Sorry to be late again this week! I may have to start asking about your Friday perfume on Thursdays just to keep up! I'm wearing Caron Fleur de Rocaille today, with notes of violet, gardenia, lilac, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, mimosa, sandal, rosewood, orris, and musk. This is a perfect "warm" warm weather perfume, perfect when you need a bit of coziness from a scent, even if it is scorching outside. As much as I love lighter florals for summer, sometimes they can't wrap me up in the comfort I need.

What are you wearing today or this weekend? Have you discovered anything new? Please do share!

Have a wonderful weekend.

*image from FragranceX

Friday, June 20, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Sorry to be so late this morning! Lateness is becoming a habit with me these days, it seems. I blame Mercury retrograde (as always). I'm constantly forgetting things, dropping things, running into things, and running late these past three weeks. To add a bit of sweet calm to my life, today I am wearing Annick Goutal Petite Cherie, with notes of vanilla, peach, musk rose, and grass. As I run into doors and spill Diet Coke today, I'll be humming "I feel pretty, oh so pretty..." all because of this perfume. (Well, okay...I'm wearing pink, too. That helps.)

What are you all wearing today? I hope you feel as lovely as you are!

*image from annickgoutal.nl

Friday, June 13, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Hello all! My perfume today: L'Artisan Orchidee Blanche. I haven't worn this in well over a year. In fact, I had sort of forgotten about it. Shame on me! My collection isn't so large that I don't know what I have, but it's easy to get into a rut of sorts. If I am not wearing a sample, I'm usually wearing the same two or three perfumes from my collection. Does this happen to you? Any forgotten favorites languishing in the drawer or cabinet?

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Prize Update

Hello! Just an update to those of you who won prizes in the "Going Away Giveaway": I have everything packed up and ready to ship. I was unable to get to it this past week with the new job (which went quite well the first week!), but I hope to get everything to the post office on Monday.

Three people have yet to claim their prizes: Gina, Vida, and Kimber K. If any of the three of you sent me an email, please re-send it and be sure to indicate something in the subject line about the giveaway, especially if I cannot recognize you from your email address, as I mark anything suspicious as spam (including emails with the subject line "hello").

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Friday, June 06, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

This week I decided to break out of the back-and-forth pattern I've developed, going between L'Artisan Dzing! and Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess--oh, that's right! I didn't tell you! On the day I officially accepted my new position, I was passing through Nordstrom to meet friends at the cafe for lunch, and there it was: the last bottle. Yep. I got the last bottle (besides the tester...do they sell those? do the SAs get to keep them?) at Perimeter Nordstrom. Ha! Oh...but I was breaking a pattern, right? Yes, I decided to break out of the back-and-forth and try something new, so I pulled three sweet Carthusia samples from my sample drawer and gave them all a shot. Today I'm wearing my favorite of the three, Fiori di Capri, with notes of wild carnation, lily of the valley, oak, amber, sandal, and ylang ylang. This represents as a peppery white floral with an oaky base, sweet and heady at the top, but still rather dry, which makes it wonderful in the heat.

I also tried two others, Via Camarelle (lemon, bitter orange, marine musk, cedarwood) and Io Capri (wild fig and tea leaves), but to be honest I was too nervous and distracted by all the new things at work to pay them much notice. I liked them both at first shot, particularly Io Capri, which is probably the best treatment of fig I've found in a perfume so far because it veers away from the beachy-ness most fig perfumes seem to have and really does become something wild and green. I'll definitely be trying them again...but of course my favorite of the three is the most floral. Old habits die hard, and also, I was less distracted on Thursday because I was getting more used to my new digs.

And in case you were wondering what I wore on my first day at the new job...Dzing! of course. It's the closest thing I had to a security blanket!

Okay, your turn! What will it be today, or this weekend? Discover anything terrific this past week?

Happy Friday, everyone!

*image from Carthusia.com

Monday, June 02, 2008

Thoughts, and What's Next

Hello Friends! Congratulations to those of you who won something in the drawing. If I could, I would give something to each and every one of you. You have all done me the kindness of reading this blog.

I've been thinking about ways to stay in touch, and I decided a couple of things. First, if you'll still visit, I could keep up "What's Your Friday Perfume?" so we could all touch base with each other. Second, I still have to finish my reading challenges, so I will still be posting my thoughts here and over at the Short Story Challenge blog. If you ever read this blog for the books, I hope you'll still drop by now and again.

Wow, I did this backwards: I did "what's next" before "thoughts." A reader (Uma) asked me in one of her comments:

"...it would be just interesting to know what were the most interesting and breathtaking (both positive and negative) discoveries you've made during your time as a perfume blogger - lines, scents, notes - whatever. What's your personal résumé?"

I've been thinking and thinking about this. The first thing I thought was this: When one is new to this sort of perfume experience, as I was, practically everything is breathtaking. I'm not entirely sure I ever got over that, because it seemed that almost everything I tried, I was moved by it for one reason or another. I suppose, though, the most consistently breathtaking line for me has been Frederic Malle. I can't think of one of these scents that didn't grab me by the collar and shake me around at least a little bit. Two of my very, very favorites, Iris Poudre and Une Fleur de Cassie, are from this line.

That said, the line that holds more favorites than anything, where I'd own a bottle of every single perfume if it were possible, is L'Artisan. The only ones I might be able to pass up are Ananas Fizz and Verte Violette, because the first one doesn't suit me at all and the second lasts...well, for just about a second. The other line I love is Hermes, although I didn't write about too many of their perfumes.

And this may sound nuts, but I was truly blown away by how much I loved Flowerbomb when I finally got around to wearing it. For some reason I expected it to be really awful, very "woman wearing too much perfume in the elevator," but instead I got an elegant hippie. Lovely.

The biggest disappointments to me? I didn't have many. I wrote about the few that I had. I wasn't in this long enough to be jaded about too many releases, but I will say this: I don't understand flankers. It's too much of a supermarket experience for me. It's like buying Wheat Thins--you can get original, low fat, low sodium, garlic and herb, roasted vegetable, cheese flavor, and on and on. Okay in a cracker, not so good in perfume.

The other thing that disappoints me are perfumes that are supposed to smell like soap or laundry detergent. (Come out from behind the draperies, Clean Fragrances. Everyone knows I'm talking about you.) If the idea is to blend in with the rest of our blandly scented environment, then why wear anything at all?

I suppose the last thing (because it's the end of the day, my brain is taxed, and I like to end on a positive note) is that I learned I am most definitely a white floral fanatic. Gardenia, jasmine, tiare, tuberose...I find them absolutely intoxicating. I thought for sure I'd come out on the side of heavy incense, and while I very much appreciate a good dark perfume, the crisp or creamy white petals will win every time.

I know there's more! I'll try to add as I think of it!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Prizes!

This drawing was tough! I wish I had something to give each and every one of you...but Bob drew the names, and the lucky winners are:

Kimberly Kaye - Fragonard mini perfume set

Gina - Penhalogon's sample set, plus other fun samples

Joanna - Mini pack, including Annick Goutal, Susanne Lang, Robert Piguet and more

Nikki C. - Bond No. 9 sample pack

Uma - Sample pack

Claudia - Sample pack

Flora - Apercu!

Vida - Sample pack

Rosarita - Ivoire de Balmain

Veronica - Yves Rocher Neonatura travel pack and minis

Kim - Zents Sun Body Spray

Janet - Estee Lauder mini pack

Justine - Czech & Speake Neroli

Congratulations to you all! Please email me at sweetdivablog@yahoo.com, and send me your name and address.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Going-Away Giveaway!

Friends, today will be the first day of the Sweet Diva Going-Away Giveaway! I have sample packs! I have full (or mostly full) bottles to share! I sound like I should be selling mattresses! Or perhaps used cars!

I've been trying to think how best to work this, and I think I've decided on the best approach: If you would like to be entered to win any prize, leave your name in the comments. I'll line up the prizes randomly, and then draw a name for each one. I may mix and match depending on how many people are interested. How does that sound?

Among the prizes are:
Balmain Ivoire (full bottle)
Sample Packs: Yves Rocher, Fragonard, Penhaligon's, Bond No. 9, Liz Zorn, etc.
Yves Rocher Neonatura Cocoon Travel Spray w/ refill
Houbigant Apercu (mostly full bottle...passed to me from a friend of Sweet Diva)
Zents Body Spray - Sun (full bottle)
Mixed sample packs and minis
Czech & Speake Neroli (mostly full, generously passed to me by the perfumer)

I'll keep the comments open for this until Thursday, and then I'll draw prizes and announce the winners on Friday. Come on, try your luck!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Some News...

Hello Friends! I am so sorry for my ongoing absence. I have some news to share--some good, some bad. The good news is: This past Friday was my last day at my old job! I am going to work for a much smaller company, a startup that focuses on social networking and gaming. A friend of mine went to work there recently, and the whole vibe is much friendlier, more creative, more passionate than at the corporate monster I just left. I think it's going to be great fun!

The bad news is: With all this change, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on my life and what the future holds, and I've made the decision to "close" Sweet Diva. For a long time, it has been my dream to write fiction. I've tried off and on over the years, and I've come to the conclusion that it's time to give it a serious try. A big part of what's propelling me forward is you. Connecting to you all through Sweet Diva gave me more confidence. Unfortunately, this means devoting as much of my free time as possible to pursuing that goal. The blog takes a great deal of time, and I have realized over the last few months that I cannot do both.

That said, I don't want to leave you all empty-handed! I still have a number of sample packs and items to give away, so over the next week or so I'll be holding daily drawings for different items. You may enter a drawing every day, if you like, and if I don't get much participation, some of you may find your selves with a large amount of booty indeed.

Please visit again tomorrow when I'll hold my first "going out of blog" drawing of the week!

Friday, May 16, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Hello friends! My Friday perfume is L'Artisan Premier Figuer, from a sample reader Nikki C shared with me. I cannot believe I haven't tried this. The notes are fig, fig leaf, milk of almond, sandalwood, and coconut. Sounds rather fresh and summery, no?

What are you wearing today?

Have a happy Friday!

*image from luckyscent.com

Friday, May 09, 2008

Two Years!

Happy Friday everyone! The first thing: Today is Sweet Diva's second anniversary! I can hardly believe I've made it two years, and it's been touch-and-go at times. (Listen to me, making this sound like it's the Tour de France or something.) The reason I keep the blog going is you. I am so happy to have this little online community with friends who drop by and share. Thanks to all of you, from the bottom of my heart, for reading.

The second thing: Today I'm going to wear my sample of EL Bronze Goddess Eau Fraiche. Last night I just did a quick spritz on the back of my hand, and just that little sniff was enough to send me into a frenzy of Internet searching, trying to find a bottle to buy. Alas, this seems to be sold out everywhere online. I'm hoping that after wearing it today, maybe I'll decide it isn't worth all the fuss...I hope so!

And my friends, what are you wearing today? I hope your weekend is lovely, and if you are a mother or have a mother, I wish you a Happy Mother's Day!

*image from esteelauder.com

Monday, May 05, 2008

And the Winner Is...

Jennifer S. S.! Congratulations, you are the winner of the latest grab-bag giveaway! Please send your name and address to sweetdivablog@yahoo.com.

Thanks to everybody who entered! I'll have another giveaway in a couple of weeks, so you can always try again!

Tommy Girl

I have a confession to make. After a lot of thought, I've decided not to read Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. I realize that many of you may quietly delete me as a daily read for this. How can I be a serious perfume fan if I choose not to read said book? Well, maybe I'm not serious. Maybe I'm just a fan. The truth is, I'm turned off by some of the reviews I've seen that say it's rather snarky, almost to the point where they just seem to be snarking for snark's sake. I've found that happens on some blogs as well, either in posts or in the comments sections, and I generally stop reading those blogs. It isn't that I love everything, or even believe taste is taste and everyone's equal in that sense.

I'm simply bothered by people who take the easy shot. If you know a perfume is sub-par, why even give it air time just to bash it? Leave it on the shelf and move on to something else. I do try to be honest when I dislike a perfume, and I'll go in for laugh now and again, but generally, I do try to keep the spirit positive. Making people feel bad doesn't make me feel good. Call me a pollyanna, but I feel that if someone has taken the time to read my blog and try to join the conversation about perfume, then I must only give credit. How many perfume releases are there a year to wade through? How many people live in places where there is no Barney's or L'Artisan boutique on the corner? How many people have discovered their love of fragrance by trying everything that's at the drugstore because it's all they can afford? Am I going to shut these people out or make them feel stupid? Hopefully not. I would rather open the door and say, "Welcome."

I'm also bothered by the idea that if an expert loves a perfume, we should all gather 'round and praise it. I don't happen to like Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise. I wore it for four straight days, gave it my best shot, and it fell flat for me, so I said as much. What did I get? A comment telling me Luca Turin loves it. Well, then, let me change my opinion! Not. I tried it again, and I still don't like it. So. There.

I see the benefit of working from "must smell" lists, particularly for people new to sniffing. It helps to smell the classics, or to sniff across types, if you will. But I'm bothered by the notion that lists tell us what we should and should not like. I'm not accusing Mr. Turin and Ms. Sanchez of doing this, by any means, but I do think some readers out there are going to start waving that book around like a bible, thumping on it and persecuting the rest of us if we don't toe the fundamentalist perfumista line. It also bothers me that snottiness is held up as discrimination.

All this to say: I don't like Beyond Paradise, and I will never, ever like Chinatown, but I will stand with Mr. Turin on Tommy Girl. Just trust me on this one: close your browser and go to Target and buy a bottle of this perfume. Do it now. I got my little half-ounce bottle for $7.99. With notes of apple tree, blackcurrant, camellia, mandarin, mint, honeysuckle, lily, rose, magnolia, sandal, and cedar, it IS summertime. It's children playing outside as the night sky darkens and the streetlights pop on. It's june bugs banging against a screen door. It's a game of tennis on a dewy summer morning. It's a hot car after a day spent in a cold movie theater. It's hamburgers and milkshakes at a drive-in at dusk. It's the beach, the lake, the golf course, the stoop, the porch swing. Whatever is your most pleasant memory of summer, when you spray this on your wrists, that is what you'll smell.

*image from Imagination Perfumery

Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday Poll (Yes, A Poll!) and A Giveaway

Today it just doesn't seem like enough to know what you're perfume is for the day. Let's have a little Friday fun!

What's your perfume? Mine, of course, is Dzing!, but I feel it's time to get back into some florals now that May has arrived. I can hear Eau de Ciel calling me from my perfume cabinet.

What are you reading? I'm finally finishing Amy Bloom's Away, and then I have Jhumpa Lahiri's new collection (already read the first story) and then Lee Martin's River of Heaven. I may have a lineup, but I'm always open to suggestions!

What are you listening to these days? I need some new music. Help me! I recently discovered The Cold War Kids, and I downloaded their album but haven't listened to the whole thing yet. The other thing I've been stuck on is Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings The Flood.

What activity are you most looking forward to this weekend? Here, it's cleaning. Yes, I'm actually looking forward to it. We also have two movies to watch, The Savages (love Laura Linney) and Gone Baby Gone.

It's time for another grab-bag giveaway! Leave your name in the comments if you want to be entered in the drawing. I'll keep it open until Monday evening at 7:00 EST.

Have a happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Apologies

Friends, I offer you my most sincere apologies. Forgive my absence (again). I never wanted this to be a personal blog, nor do I plan to turn it into one, but I can say outright that I'm having a career-related crisis. Nothing earth-shattering--just the dreary in and out of the days at a job that brings little satisfaction. I hate how whiny that sounds, and I spend time counting up things to be thankful for instead. A dreary job is not the worst thing that could happen to a person, but it is an energy sapper in its own way. I am not looking for sympathy, and I know what I have to do is find something else. The prospect is daunting, but also exciting.

I have been wearing Dzing! for two weeks straight. I have not wanted to wear anything else. A few mornings I've thought of wearing a sample of something or other (this morning I almost wore Premier Figuer, which the very kind Nikki C sent to me), or getting back to the Penhaligon's I started trying so many weeks ago, but then I find I must wear Dzing! I find it so comforting and effortless, and I need a little of that in my life right now.

What have I been doing? Mostly hanging around with my nose in a book (The Emperor's Children is old news to me now...but a pretty good book!), or watching movies. So many movies! And I could not be happier that my only night of television is back and going strong: Earl, 30 Rock, Scrubs, The Office. Is anybody else dreading the end of Scrubs? I can watch the reruns of that one over and over...it always makes me smile.

I promise to try to get back to posting more regularly. And I'll be continuing my giveaways, not, as some have snarked, because I want to get comments, but because I am working very hard to de-clutter my home (and I am obsessed with this blog). I sort of started this last fall when I was trying to figure out what perfumes in my collection to sell or give away. I think I've come to more resolution about that now. Part of the effort is giving away samples, and the full bottles will most likely go up on eBay. I can notify you all when I put them up for auction if you wish, but it would feel very strange indeed to have that sort of transaction with a reader! But then, I also like the idea of a reader getting a perfume she/he really wants. I might even consider trading. I hope to work that out in the next few weeks.

I will be back on Friday--to hear what you're wearing, of course! Have a happy rest of the week until then.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Happy Friday everyone! I'll be continuing my Penhaligon's sampling with Artemisia, with notes of nectarine, green foliage, green apple, lily of the valley, jasmine tea, violet, vanilla, oakmoss, sandalwood, musk, and amber. Lovely for spring, no? I plan to post about this and Malabah, so I'll say no more. Shhh.....

What are you all planning to wear today? From the look of the weather forecast, spring is not being a cooperative season this year. Some of you are buried under snow, while we here in Atlanta are buried under pollen--for now. Early next week we are expecting highs in the low 50s and lows in the low 30s! I am sorry to sound like the Weather Channel, but this is unheard of! I'm so tired of my sweaters...I am ready to wear a skirt and sandals!

*image from Penhaligon's

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Penhaligon's Bluebell

Finally, in the first full week of April, after hemming and hawing my way through March with a post here and a post there, I am ready to get down to business. I've been randomly picking things up and putting them down again, spritzing on scent and then forgetting about it during the day, thinking of something fine to say about a fragrance now and again and finding myself without pen, paper, or occasion to write. I know for a fact, if someone were to look through my notebook at work, they would find notes scrawled in the margin like "mentholated vanilla powder--sophisticated and sort of fresh" or "truly the juice, real rep. of or." I also have all kinds of scraps of paper floating around in my purse with nothing but notes on them. If someone were to happen by my desk, he would see a sticky note with something like, "galbanum, muguet, cyclamen, jasmine, rose, cinnamon, clove."

At least today he would, because those were the notes I scrawled on a piece of paper this morning, the notes for Penhaligon's Bluebell. Penhaligon's was one of the perfume houses on which I chose to focus this year, so the coming week or so will feature these scents. The terrific Gail (and where is Gail, these days, anyway?) sent me their sample set, which contains generous samples neatly packaged in a cute tin box. I'm a sucker for this line for the bottles and the labels--I find them so charming. Luckily, in the case of Bluebell, the juice lives up to its appearance. It's both old-fashioned, like the label, yet streamlined a sort of modern, like the bottle.

From the look of it, you might expect something powdery, but this scent is--while flowery--also earthy and spicy in the best possible way. I've never traipsed through the woods in Britain during April or May, so I've no idea what a bluebell really smells like, or whether in fact it has a smell at all, but when I smell this perfume, I picture this exactly:
It has the exact smell of dense blue, of shadow, of the cool, damp ground, of the wood and bark on the trees. This scent seems to me the perfect representation of the thing, even if it were nothing like the actual scent of a bluebell (according to the Penhaligon's site, it is an "authentic" soliflore, so I'll take their word for it). I was excited when I saw this picture on Wikipedia, because it matched so perfectly the image in my head...or almost, because in my head, it was cloudy and raining a bit. The only other scent I can think of that brings me this amazing feeling of being comforted by cool blue shadows is Annick Goutal's Eau de Camille, which is a bit headier because of the lilac, but also more delicate in the base, more fleeting, where Bluebell holds its intensity quite nicely through the day, offering a peaceful glance of woods after rain.

*images from Penhaligon's and Wikipedia

Friday, April 04, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

I thought this week would be a "comeback" of sorts. I had everything planned for my reviews this week, and then...another stomach bug. Half the office seems to have it. I make a solemn vow that soon I will have more than one post a week about perfume!

Today I'm feeling much better, and I've decided to go all springy and try Diorissimo, even though it's a bit rainy and not super warm. I'm hopeful.

What are all of you, my friends, wearing today...or this weekend? Are you trying something new, or wearing an old favorite? Either way, I hope it enhances a happy weekend!

*image from FragranceX.com (which unfortunately has none of this in stock)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Parfums de Nicolai Balkis

I've encountered few perfumes that make my mouth water. Granted, I don't wear many gourmand fragrances, which I suppose would be the most likely candidates for getting those salivary glands a-working. I could be wrong. And please note, I'm drawing a distinct line between perfumes that make your mouth water, and perfumes that make you drool. Plenty of perfumes make me drool with desire, but this thing with Balkis--it's completely involuntary. I get a whiff and my mouth draws into a pucker, and I cannot help myself.

The notes in Balkis are raspberry, Turkish rose, black pepper, coffee extract, iris, benzoin, and vanilla pods. One whiff of the raspberry here, and I'm transported back to childhood. I loved (still love) sour candy. In the opening notes, this scent has the same effect on me as a sour lollipop. I want to unwrap it and roll it around on my tongue for a while, and then I want to go outside and ride my bike or play in the dirt.

The raspberry in Balkis comes across to me as dried and a bit chewy, the tang softened by the rose and the coffee. The pepper is underneath, but the strangest thing of all to me is that Balkis smells not peppery but salty. Even with a rather gourmand list of notes, there's something very organic to me about this scent on the skin, and I think that's partially what makes me think about childhood. As adults, many of us sit in sterile offices all day, away from our physical selves. We're locked in with a computer and a phone rather than out among the elements. As children, we rode our bikes and made mud pies and planted imaginary gardens. We carried the scent of the world with us wherever we went; we had leaves in our hair and grass stains on our knees. I'm not sure if today's children get the pleasure of being dirty--randomly dirty, not dirty in an activity-oriented, sanctioned way.

As Americans, we tend toward the squeaky clean. Everything from perfume to household products is lauded for being fresh. What I like about Balkis is that, to me at least, it seems to be the opposite, without having to go the route of obvious skank or animalic properties. The iris, benzoin, and vanilla pods (ever smelled a vanilla pod? it isn't sweet like extract, but a spicy and dirty vanilla essence) especially give the base an earthiness that's incredibly appealing. And it's strange to admit, but the one thing that Balkis--this perfume that makes my mouth water--most reminds me of is sweat. (Have I never told you my sweat smells like raspberries and roses? Ha!) I'm not talking about Olivia Newton John "Let's Get Physical" sweat. I'm talking about the scent of your own bed, the warm and familiar smell of the person sleeping next to you, the mornings you wake up and stay in your pajamas and read a book and can smell the coffee, the raspberry jam on your toast, the remnants of last night's fire. It is the subtle yet sour, salty smell of familiarity, comfort, and desire. It makes me think of the French phrase bien dans sa peau, to feel comfortable in one's own skin. If you really think about it, all that obsessive scrubbing and ordering and anti-bacterializing does not exactly scream, "I am at home in the world!" But I'm not here to change anyone's habits. You can bathe once or twice a day and still wear Balkis, at least.

*image from Luckyscent.com

Monday, March 31, 2008

And the Grab Bag Winner Is....

Nikki C! Congratulations Nikki! Please email me at sweetdivablog@yahoo.com with your name and address.

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

Friday, March 28, 2008

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

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

What are all you lovelies wearing today or this weekend?

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

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

Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Guerlain Mahora

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

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

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

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

*image from 99perfume

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Reader's Journal: The Promiscuous Reader

How many of you out there are promiscuous readers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almost.

*image from Powells.com

Friday, March 21, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

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

Have a happy Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ineke Evening Edged in Gold

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Friday, March 14, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

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

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

*image from Ineke

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blessings

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

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

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

Friday, March 07, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

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

Have a wonderful day!



*image from FragranceDirect

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cate Blanchett Says...

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

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

*image from Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*image of Passage No. 4 from instyle.com

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hermes Elixir des Merveilles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*image from Hermes