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Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! Fall Favorites and a Fabulous Treat!


“There’s a few things that I’ve learned in life; always throw salt over your left shoulder , keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for good luck and fall in love whenever you can.”
Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic

So the wheel of the year has turned once again, bringing us back into the dark, plunging us deeply into the time of year when our need to move inside towards the hearth, away from the bone drenching cold into the arms of our lovers is the most important need that we have.

October 31 is the festival of Samhain in the witches year or Halloween , a time when the veils between worlds is so very thin and a time when if you dare to ask, those that have crossed over will reappear, sometimes with answers, sometimes with warnings. Today if you hear anyone whispering to beware in a voice as thin and wet as a creeping fog take heed.Today even if you don’t listen you will feel them pulling you away from danger and you will look , yet never see their misty astral bodies in the sunlight. Yet you will know that they have been there, as sure and unsettling to the soul as any horror movie could ever be. The spirit world is far reaching in a way that is more unsettling any of us could ever imagine. I know…I’ve seen, smelled and tasted of it firsthand. There ARE things that go bump in the night and you would be wise to listen for them. You’ll know that they are near when you walk through a spot that is cold for no apparent reason, or if you smell the sweet smell of spring honeysuckle or lilac on a cold autumn night. Maybe you’ll feel a hand on your shoulder as a friend of mine did one Samhain eve as she was feeding her horses, yet turn around to find no on there. All she heard was the voice of her Lakota grandfather fading fast into the cold dark night telling her to be careful of the old barn ladder.

For centuries, we have tried to make sense of that which we cannot see nor explain by burning them, exorcising them, ridiculing them or simply pretending that they don’t exist. Simple forms of banishment will never work, because how can you get rid of something that you have no understanding of. Witches like me have existed for centuries and even though you’ll try, you’ll never succeed in destroying us completely. You need us….we’re your voice into that other world that you are so afraid of, we’re the ones that know how to heal you without the medicines that will destroy you body and soul. We know how to hold your hand while you are dying and if it is part of your journey we will remove your fear. We know how to make sweet balms and perfumes that will make the homeliest among us instantly more glamourous and yes, be very careful because if we wanted your men, they would be powerless to resist us.

But I know that you’ve heard that old saying, “that there’s a little bit of witch in every woman” and it’s true. Every witch has a Grimoire, which is a handwritten journal of recipes and spells that has sometimes been passed down through many generations. If you’ve got one of your Grandmothers cookbooks, with all of her beautifully handwritten notes then you’re in possession of a book of family magic and you can use it to strengthen that bond any time you wish.

We have all kinds of magickal tools to play with, some of the most potent we learn from our mothers who never even realize what they were teaching us. There is magic in the art of preparing a beautiful meal for your family, there is magic in the art creating a beautiful home that conveys a message of comfort or status. My personal ‘Book of Shadows” is full of delectable recipes that will put all of the sparks back into your sex life and make you as bewitching as you’ve always dreamt you could be. In the spirit of celebration I’ve been asked to share with you my favorite things that I’ve been eating, drinking , sniffing or wearing this fall. I’ve been a busy little witch and my cupboard isn’t bare. So grab your brooms and meet me in my woods by the fire. Clothing is optional and the fire is very hot. There’s a bit of my favorite witches brew for everyone and of course because this is MY party, plenty of good food. So without further adieu here they are….

Some of my favorite things; all fabulously witchy , wonderful and ready for fall!

My Favorite Candle
Every good witch has to have a favorite candle and mine is the wonderful “Mary Jane” by the notorious fragrance house, Juliette’s got a Gun! When it burns my entire house is filled with the spectacular scent of Hashish, Pine and Oud. This candle comes poured into a simple silverplated cup that basically tells the story of this lovelytender creature that has been so reviled in the last century. If you’ve never been in an opium den or were not lucky enough to be a child a the late 60’s , then what I can say is that “Mary Jane” is the scent of a sweetly burning pile of maple leave and oh so perfect for telling ghostly stories on a spooky autumn night.

Favorite Lipstick
My favorite lipstick that I’ve worn this fall, the one that never fails me is Lipstick Queens “Medieval”. This is more of a stain than a lipstick and it hearkens back to Medieval times when (GASP!) full coverage of your lips was considered a sin. Alas, what’s a hot young maiden to do? This wonderful, vitamin E filled and delectably rich balm gives your lips a juicy and lusciously bee stung appearance and stains your lips to a beautiful soft red that’s appropriate for almost any skin tone.

Favorite Classic Cocktail
A vintage pre-prohibition sazerac made with Bulleit Rye, a swish of Mata Hari absinthe, a touch of sugar , a caramelized lemon peel and some very excellent bitters. Pour all ingredients into a well chilled cocktail glass and stir.

Favorite Bitters
Bitters are making a comeback and not just your garden variety Angostura bitters, but in all kinds of flavors. Fee Bitters has been open since 1863 and are still mixing up the best blends that I’ve ever tasted. Try the White Peach or my personal favorite which is of course the Aztec Chocolate. The Black Walnut is absolutely bewitching when stirred into a bit of butterscotch schnapps and hot spiced rum!

Favorite Olive Oil
The white truffle infused olive oil from New Yorks fabulous Olive and Fig restaurant is simply to die for and they WILL ship it to you! If you or anyone you know loves truffles than this is a must. I buy this in gallons for my husband, who adores it. Drizzled on a salad or grilled meats makes them a completely decadent treat, but for the most sensual meal ever whisk a bit of it into a bowl of steaming creamy risotto with fresh butternut squash, a little bit of sautéed onion, potatoes and parmesan cheese.

Favorite Boots
These are a bit silly to be sure, but my favorite rain boots this year are from DKNY, lovely black rubber things with colorful sketches of New York City all over them and my favorite incantation that says over and over again…”New York…I love the feeling of never wanting to leave and always wanting to return” I said that over and over again for an hour and poof…an opportunity to return to NYC emerged for late January…. My own pair of ruby slippers!

Favorite Fall Perfume Number 1
Tom Fords utterly ravishing Violet Blonde….This is a take no prisoners love potion like I haven’t seen since the early 80’s. With notes of Violet, Iris, musk , Suede and Vetiver , this lusciously sweet, remarkably green and thoroughly disarming perfume is just the thing to warm you and another up on a cold chilly night.

Favorite Caramel Apple
I wrote about this last week but it’s back! My favorite caramel apple recipe comes from Tartine, that lovely bakery in San Francisco that has invented the easiest , yet most delectable recipe ever for making perfect caramel apples that come out right everytime. Just mix the ingredients which include molasses, butter, sugar and maple syrup and cinnamon into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Dip the apples into the soft buttery caramel for a translucent and deliciously decadent treat that is in my experience the perfect prelude to a sugary kiss…Here’s the link

Favorite Fall perfume Number 2
I have fallen head over heels in love with Creeds Tubereuse Indiana. This amazing fusion of Tuberose, Ambergris and amber is one of the most exotic and arresting perfumes that I’ve ever had the pleasure to own. Wearing it makes me feel sexy and colorful and it’s a fabulous fragrance to go dancing in as it gets better as it warms up and blends with the scent of your skin.This one can be as spicy as you want it to be and also is the perfect fragrance to scent anything from your underwear to your stationary (You’d probably know I’m a huge fan of love letters!)

Favorite New Website
Although I’m definitely a fan of the written word, time IS limited so what’s a girl like me to do? The folks at Paperless post have created one of the best sites that I’ve seen yet for sending invitations, thank you notes and all forms of written communication. Their templates are gorgeous and of course no trees were harmed in the making of them . Hands down the best site I’ve seen yet for paperless communications that require an RSVP. Here’s the link!

Favorite Home Scent and Witches Brew
Yes, I know that you’re expecting something exotic, but this time of year I’d like to end on a simple and homespun note. When you carve your pumpkin, dip the inside of the lid in cinnamon, really coat it. When you put the lit candle inside and I always use a little scented tea light (Witches Brew from Yankee candles) your entire house will be filled with the aroma of cinnamon, patchouli and roasted pumpkin. As a bonus, just put a gallon of apple cider on the stove and let it simmer. Addcinnamon sticks, cloves and an orange and about 10 teabags of Mate’ . Sweeten with agave nectar and you’ve got my favorite warming “Witches Brew” !

I hope that wherever you are that you’re enjoying the season. In your comments please share with me some of your favorite ways to celebrate the season. I’ll choose one lucky winner who will receive from me a 50.00 dollar gift certificate from Sur La Table just in time to begin the holiday season!
To check other Fall Favorites, please visit: Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This and Perfume Posse

Merry Meet and Merry Part and all my love until we meet again…

The Windesphere Witch

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Foodie Sunday: Hallowe'en Candy

By Tom

I love Hallowe'en candy.  There's something so neat about beensy little candy bars.  Give me a"fun-sized" Hershey's Crunch and I am just as happy as if you'd handed me a pound of Teusher.  Well, maybe not that happy, but you get the idea.

My favorites tend to run to plainer chocolate ones: the aforementioned Crunch and regular old Hershey's are fine, Mounds is a treat and I won't give you a bitter look if faced with a Heath Bar.  Peanuts and chocolate, however is something I don't care for, ever since I was a kid.  The next day at school the Reeses were traded with the kids who liked them.  The quickest was to this day to get me to drop a brownie is to tell me there are nuts in them..

I don't have a reason to buy it, mind you.  In the 20-something years I've lived in my neighborhood I've never had one tot come to my door.  I live you see in the part of Beverly Hills that is (formerly literally) on the wrong side of the tracks.  Kids are no fools, so they hit up the single-family areas and leave the "industrial triangle" alone.

Which is good for my waistline since there are no leftovers to make me far more than "fun sized".

I may go over to The Witches House and help hand out candy, just for the heck of it.  I promise not to filch any.  Really.

Please share your favorite treats in the comments.


Сuir Les Nombres d'Or

Review and translation by Alena

Вся моя парфюмерная жизнь – это борьба за чистоту восприятия. Моя собственная внушаемость мой – главный враг в этой борьбе. История дома, название, личность парфюмера, рекламный образ, легенды – это те плевла, на которые так падка моя парфюмерная душа и от которых я всегда пытаюсь отделить сам аромат. Моя самая большая парфюмерная фобия – поиски смыслов там, где их нет. Меня утешает лишь то, что поиски замысла в творении – это извечное человеческое увлечение, самое древнее хобби.

Мне нравится, когда вещи называют своими именами. Когда упускают ненужные эпитеты. Когда игнорируют второстепенные детали. Мона ди Орио поступила мудро, дав своей аудитории возможность наполнить смыслом такие однозначные понятия как “ветивер”, “ваниль”, “амбра”..., ноты, ставшие в парфюмерии архитипичными. Односложные названия ароматов Les Nombres d’Or дают простор для жизни. Просто “Кожа” и никаких гвоздей. А сентиментов хватает в любом ольфакторном багаже.

На эти мысли меня натолкнул разговор с Еруном Оуде Согтуном, с которым мы случайно встретились у одного из многочисленных амстердамских баров. И, о парфюмерные боги, в тот день я носила Сuir Mоны ди Орио. Мы говорили о Моне, о ее Les Nombres d’Or, о том, как люди реагируют на эти ароматы и какие запахи им близки. Ерун говорил, что люди, к примеру, понимают Vanille, потому что запах ванили знаком им с детства, он несет для них определенную смысловую нагрузку. Сам запах, а не образ, искусственно созданный вокруг него.

Мне с детства знаком запах замерзшего угля, талого снега, овощей, хранящихся в холодном подвале. Это запахи в преддверии зимы, когда в тапочках на босу выбегаешь на улицу, бежишь по оледенелым тропинкам за углем, перепачкавшись сажей топишь голландскую печь, соскабливаешь грудки замершей земли с картошки, вылавливаешь огурец из рассола, травы для которого собирал еще летом, ходишь на станцию встречать электричку, подходишь близко к железно-дорожному полотну и слушаешь, как от грохота проносящегося мимо товарного поезда замирает сердце. Так пахнет Cuir Моны ди Орио. Я не могу объяснить почему это пахнет хорошо, но оно так пахнет. И не стремлюсь к объективности. Оставить свою системы координат – это как бросить свой крест. Я лишь пытаюсь быть чесной самой с собой: в точке 0 моей системы координат всегда тихо, как в центре циклона.

До прихода Советской власти в 1939 году семья моего деда занималась выпечкой хлеба. Когда у них отобрали пекарню, они стали шить: женщины – платья, а мужчины – кожаные куртки и плащи, которые так любила партийная верхушка. Кожа стала моим любимым направлением парфюмерии задолго до того, как я узнала об этом факте. А знала я только о хлебе. Когда вышла Онда Веро Керн, я подумала, что этот парфюм мог бы носить мой дед, которого я, к слову, едва помню. Эти ассоциации и вывели меня на неизвестные ранее тропы семейной истории. И пусть это просто молекула хинолина, которая так возбуждает лимбическую систему. Когда я пахну Сuir, то знаю: я нахожусь в свое время и на своем месте, и не важно, это железнодорожная станция моего детства или бар в Амстердаме.

Cuir Les Nombres d'Or Mona di Orio (Mona di Orio, 2010): Cardamom, Absinth, Leather, Cade, Resinoid Opponax, Castoreum.

My whole perfume life is a struggle for the purity of perception. The main enemy in this struggle is my own suggestibility. The history of a house, the name, the perfumer’s personality, the advertisement, the legend – this is the chaff that my perfume soul is greedy for. So I always try to separate that from the smell itself. My biggest perfume phobia is a search for a meaning where it does not exist. My only сonsolation is that the search for a reason in creation is an eternal human passion, the oldest hobby.

I love when things are called by their proper names. When unnecessary epithets are dropped. When minor details are ignored. Mona di Orio wisely gives her audience the ability to give a meaning into such plain concepts as "vetiver", "vanilla", "amber",... – notes that became perfumery archetypes. Simplistic names of perfumes from “Les Nombres d'Or” make room for life. Just Cuir and nothing more. Because there is enough sentiments in each olfactory luggage.

These thoughts came to me after a talk with Jeroen Oude Sogtoen. I accidentally met him next to one of the many bars in Amsterdam. And – oh my perfume gods! – that day I wore Cuir from Mona di Orio. We talked about Mona, her Les Nombres d'Or, how people react to such scents and what smells they like. Jeroen said that it’s so easy to understand Vanille, for example, because people know the smell of vanilla from their childhood, it has some meaning for them. The scent itself, not an image, artificially created around it.

What I know from my childhood is smell of frozen coal, melting snow, vegetables, stored in a cold basement. This are the smells of pre-winter when you run out into the street in slippers on bare feet, follow frozen paths, to bring back coal from the storage, and soot your hands while stoking the furnace. You scrape frozen pieces of soil from potato, catch a pickle from a brine made with herbs you collected during last summer. You walk to the station to meet the train, come close to the railway and listen how your heart stops in a thunder of a freight train passing by. This is what the smell of Cuir Mona di Orio is like. I cannot explain why this smells good, but it really does. And I do not try to be objective. Leaving your coordinate system is like losing own cross. I’m only trying to be honest with myself: in the reference point in my coordinate system is always a still as in a middle of a cyclone.

Before soviet government came in 1939, my grandfather’s family ran a bakery. When bakery was taken from them, they started to sew. Women sewn dresses, men – leather jackets and coats, so adored by communist party leaders. Leather became my favorite note in perfumery long before I got to know that fact. When Onda from Vero Profumo appeared, I had an idea that my grandfather (whom I just barely remember) could have worn it. These thoughts led me to the unknown before paths in my family history. And even though it could be just a molecule of quinoline that stimulates limbic system, when I wear Cuir, I know that I am in my time and in my place. Doesn’t matter if that is a railway station from my childhood or a bar in Amsterdam.

Cuir Les Nombres d'Or Mona di Orio (Mona di Orio, 2010): Cardamom, Absinth, Leather, Cade, Resinoid Opponax, Castoreum.


Friday, October 28, 2011

What to Wear For the Day(s) of the Dead

By Marla

Dia de los Muertos, a holiday that celebrates the dead and reunites their spirits temporarily with their living family members and friends, is celebrated throughout Mexico and the southwestern United States from October 31 through November 2. It’s a joyful holiday that’s meant to honor the ancestors, and get together as a family in order to celebrate all generations at once. It’s music, dancing, and parades. Tables of lovely presents called “ofrendas” are set up at home and at gravesites; they display portraits of the deceased, their favorite things, foods, and flowers. Most people outside the celebration areas recognize the fabulously decorated sugar skulls of this holiday. The Grateful Dead used a lot of symbolism and imagery from Dia de los Muertos; they really liked La Catrina, I think.

So what kind of perfume should you wear?? Well, the flower of the dead is the marigold, or tagetes, and if you’ve never been to Mexico for the first days of November, then you’ve never seen marigolds in such saffron profusion! Tagetes, or genda as it’s called in India, has a sharp, compelling green scent. It’s strong so it’s not used often in perfumery; it’s got a reputation as a tough note to handle. Sophia Grojsman loves it though, and has used tagetes/marigold in Estee Lauder’s Beautiful, and Prescriptives Calyx. Niki de St. Phalle perfume uses lots of tagetes in all its concentrations, and its herbal, green piquancy really works well in this chypre. For purists, genda attar is still available from India; it’s just marigold distilled with sandalwood, and it’s a green lover’s dream. From the men’s department comes Paco Rabanne’s Black XS by Olivier Cresp. And, for a subtler tagetes experience, the original Dolce & Gabbana might be a good choice.

But OK, what if marigold is not your thing? Well, I’d say anything with sweet notes, especially a caramel or chocolate gourmand, would be a perfect choice. Dulces/sweets are a huge part of this tasty holiday. Mugler’s Mirror of Desires has a lovely nutty caramel heart, and there’s Prada Candy, too! Or perhaps a bread scent reminiscent of the traditional “Pan de los Muertos”- Bois Farine or Jeux de Peau might work. Naranjas are also common on the ofrendas, so any orange-based cologne would be lovely. Orange Sanguine by Atelier Cologne would be perfect.

So what do you plan to wear for the Day of the Dead?


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mostly Harmless: Justin Beiber SOMEDAY

By Tom

Being a fellow of middle age (or so) who does not have children I'm afraid that my exposure to the latest big thing in the world of pre-teens is limited.  My godchild was the last lifeline to cluing me in, but she is in her second year of college, so I think she's past the age where she's be a reliable source of info.

What I'm saying is that I have managed to live the past several years without really experiencing the whole Justin Beiber thing.  I don't think I've ever heard him sing (although I am told he does so well) or perform.  I know he had a supremely silly haircut that made news when he cut it.  But looking back at the teen idols from my youth, they had pretty silly hair as well, so who am I to talk?

In any case, he decided to put out a scent.

What does it smell like?  I once rented a car in a color so forgettable I mused it must be called Champagne Inoffensive Metallic.  That's the only adjective I can think of.  Inoffensive.  It starts off with a fruity-floral (lisitng mandarin, pear, jasmine and "creamy florals") then seems to add in a little vanilla and (unlisted) patchouli and finally a clean little musk.  As March pointed out, that's much better than wandering the corridors of the local junior high smelling like walk-of-shame.

Would I wear it?  No.  I do like it however, certainly far more than some of the other things in the shelf at Sephora (Pink Sugar, I'm looking at you) and nothing in the line is over $45.  I hope that the teens who do wear it don't apply it like some of the boys do with Axe.  I'm not sure at high concentration it would remain inoffensive..

At Sephora, where I sampled.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Aftelier Perfumes Experience: Virtuosity Meets Alchemy (Part One)

By Donna

I finally know what all the excitement about Aftelier Perfumes is all about. Yes, I am late to the party but hey, parties don’t get interesting until they are well underway, right? After having tested a wide range of Mandy Aftel’s wonderful natural perfumes, I know why she has garnered so much attention, including a Fifi Awards nomination in 2011 for her masterful Honey Blossom scent.

Perfumer, author, artist, flavorist, innovator, and gifted communicator Mandy Aftel has been busy breaking down the barriers between indie/niche perfumery and the “big boys” for some time now, and her work has been instrumental in the recognition of natural perfumery as an art worthy of the respect that the classic perfume houses and luxury brands have always enjoyed in the modern era. Before I began testing the fragrances in earnest, I read her groundbreaking book Essence and Alchemy, which not only explains many of the technical aspects of perfumery for the layperson, but illuminates her own creative process and how the lessons of the past are interwoven with modern techniques. My understanding of the perfumery process was increased exponentially and I recommend this book very highly.

Of course I had to sample the famous Honey Blossom, and it did not disappoint, but it was not what I had been expecting at all. Unlike some other honey-based perfumes such as Ginestet’s Botrytis or Roxana Villa’s To Bee, it has virtually no highly pitched sweet notes; it is a cello versus violins, and only Serge Lutens’ honey monster Miel de Bois has as deep a voice. However, neither is it as funky and heavy as the Lutens, instead opting for a quiet depth that slowly becomes apparent, after a start that was curiously flat on my skin, with a smell almost like wet Kraft paper or cardboard; this turned out to be mimosa and linden, and both of them softened up after the strange beginning. (Mimosa in perfume has always been problematic for me, since unlike most florals it does not have much “lift” on its own and it needs help in that regard.) My patience rewarded with a slow, stealthy development that culminated in a richly dark honey scent that lasted for hours. A base of ambergris and benzoin helped in that regard, and since ambergris is very rarely encountered in modern perfumery; that was a rare treat indeed. Once it settled in for the long haul I could not stop smelling myself; to me it evokes chamber music played in a Victorian parlor with the late afternoon sun slanting in and the beeswax smell of polished furniture in the air. I love honey in perfume anyway (yes, even Miel de Bois!), and I can see why it has garnered so much attention.

Smelling the enigmatic Lumiére reminded me of a friend of mine who was trying to describe a wildly multi-colored garment by posing this question, and the only possible answer: “What color is it?” “Yes.” Lumiére is multifaceted and ever-changing on my skin, and I can’t even begin to pin down what category to put it in. Is it green? Is it floral? Is it fruity? Is it musky? Is it incense? Is it sharp? Is it soft? The answer to all is, of course, yes. Who ever heard of putting green tea, lotus flower and frankincense in the same perfume? And does it actually work? Well, yes, and spectacularly. The jangle of competing sensations at the beginning gradually composes itself into some thing truly beautiful, described by Mandy as feeling like fine silk on skin, but it’s a silk with a bit of raw roughness to it, shantung rather than charmeuse. At its heart is a splendid bouquet of lotus, honeysuckle and boronia flower, and remember that all of these are naturals, so you can just imagine how good it is; no weirdly aquatic “lotus” approximation in this juice, it’s the real thing. Having tested it several times, what I am coming up with at each wearing is that it’s a smell that slowly transforms into a perfume, if that makes any sense. Of all Mandy’s perfumes I have tried, to me this was the one that best illustrated the importance of the great Edmond Roudnitska’s principle of duration as an essential component of perfumery, as explained in Mandy’s book, since without it the artistry and structure of the fragrance cannot be experienced to the fullest degree. Once Lumiére has reached its final destination, it is both gorgeous and compelling and well worth the journey of getting there.

The first Aftelier fragrance I ever heard of was probably Cépes and Tuberose, and at long last I got to smell it. This is probably the one that put Mandy Aftel on the map, so to speak, and now I know why. The idea of putting mushrooms (cépes) and tuberose in the same perfume seems truly weird, until you think about it a little; there is some overlap in the lower register of their respective aromatic profiles, since tuberose has some pretty funky, fleshy, earthy undertones that become even more apparent when it is concentrated into a concrete or absolute, so pairing it up with porcini mushrooms almost seems like a natural progression, but of course it’s one of those “why didn’t I think of that” ideas that only seems blindingly obvious after someone creative has actually done it. The really amazing thing about it is how it does not really smell like either one of these things. This is where the alchemy part comes in; something entirely new is created by the fusion of two disparate elements. This is no novelty trick, but a beautifully wearable fragrance that keeps me riveted with a sweet, almost confectionary character, almost like rich chocolate with cream and fruit. Rosewood, Moroccan rose and benzoin contribute to this composition, but nothing else really accounts for the overall effect save the interaction between the mushroom and tuberose, resulting in a musky and highly sensuous experience like no other. It is light years away from any other tuberose perfume yet its languid sexiness fits right in with most people’s expectation of what a tuberose fragrance “should” be. The mushroom contributes its earthiness without actually revealing the secret of its identity to anyone who might smell it without knowing what it is. I don’t think I am going out on a limb to say that this is a masterpiece.

Speaking of unexpected, the lovely floral Pink Lotus was a nice surprise; unlike Lumiére, where the floral notes are sheer and evanescent, the lotus in this one is rich and “retro” with a solid mossy base like a Fifties classic once it develops, and I really liked it a lot. It put me in mind of such womanly vintage scents as Blanchard Jealousy or Corday Fame, with an added flourish of modern freshness. Unfortunately, this beauty is being discontinued, so if you want some, better hurry. In my next review of this line, I will talk about some more of these highly original fragrances.

Disclosure: The perfumes I sampled were given to me for testing by Mandy Aftel at my request.

Image credit: Purple glowing mushroom image wallpaper from

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Foodie Sunday: Apples Butter, "The best Caramel Apple recipe ever" and a deliciously homemade giveaway!

By Beth

Every year I look forward to autumn for so many reasons, but mostly because the harvest season with its totally unabashed abundance inspires me to begin really cooking again! I love the light fresh meals of summer but it’s the long slow braises of autumn and the scents of apple butter, chili and stews that really feed my soul. So far, this years Indian summer although a bit rain soaked has brought a few bonfires, plenty of crispy wonderful apples , clambakes and lots of fresh cider. This week , now that I've finally felt Autumns first chill in the air I've begun to think about making Cidre’, that thoroughly seductive French hard cider that my son and nephew love to drink all winter long as well as delicious slowly baked Apple Tarte’ Tatins that emerge from the oven dripping with butter and oozing with creamy salted caramel. I came home from Asheville with a dehydrator and a 23 quart pressure canner so that I can indulge my desires to preserve every little bit of this season that I can.

I begin longing for these treats in the last weeks of August when plump red apples start falling from my trees and the smell of their ripeness begins to waft through my windows with the warm breeze. Riding the trails this time of year is an incredibly delicious experience with the warm windfall apples crunching under my horse Henry’s hooves , the last of the ripening berries that I can steal from the birds and the sticky sweetness of the molding fallen leaves. When I still lived at Windesphere, my son Alex and I always went apple picking at a farm that was right around the corner. We’d spend the day picking apples and choosing fragrant concord grapes so ripe that they were practically bursting with juice. Those are such wonderful memories. We’d bring a lunch of fresh cheese and warm bread and we’d spend the day playing among the trees , choosing the best apples and cominghome with huge bags of fruit, way more than we could ever eat. Alex was homeschooled and one year my husband came home to find two huge carboys on the sink filled with cider and bubbling very wickedly and very mysteriously. “It’s an organic chemistry experiment dad….we’re making Cidre’ " my son proudly told his father! Jim looked at me in disbelief, but I finally prevailed. The resulting beverage was a wonderful yeasty, cidery brew that we bottled , labeled with my Windesphere Witch label and given away all year for presents. That was also the same year that we made wine at a nearby vineyard. Homeschooling definitely wasn't a task for the faint of heart, but more for the fun of heart! Those days were great!

I think that may have been the point that my husband officially began to question my sanity, but when the time came to fill the bottles with the sweetly alcoholic brew even he got in on the action. After all, he did grow up on thousands of acres of cattle farm and his mother grew up canning and preserving everything in sight. I’ll never forget the sight of Jm helping Alex siphon the liquid from the carboys into the bottles that he’d labeled so proudly. We let the Cidre’ settle for another month or two and then we opened the first bottle. It was perfectly delicious , amazingly fresh and tart!

This year I'll probably also make some Apple cordial. Just take many peeled and cored fresh apples, slice them and put into a bottle of spiced rum. Add more spice if you like, a whole vanilla bean, some whole cinnamon sticks , raisins and a bit of brown sugar or molasses. Shake andthen let the whole thing sit for about a month. Pour it into several pretty bottles, label and give it away as Christmas gifts. This is a really satisfying treat served in those tiny cordial glasses that you inherited from your grand mum and drunk next to a cozy fire… add a snuggly feline and stir!

Today I'm about to start my yearly tradition of making apple butter with bourbon and as much chutney as I can bottle. I love to make apple butter and it's one of the easiest things that you can do with a surplus of fresh apples. The traditional way calls for a huge copper pot and a bonfire , the way that it’s made every year at the Apple Butter Festival in Burton, Ohio. The Century Village in Burton has a wonderful festival every year where you can see apple butter being made in this old fashioned way. When we still lived there we'd drag Alex up at 5:00 am to participate in this wonderful alchemy….that of turning apples, cider, cinnamon, butter ,sugar and smoke into a rich and golden spread. When you make apple butter this way takes hours to melt it down, but it's worth it. First you build the bonfire and then you bring out the copper cauldron which is literally bigger than a kitchen sink! Add apples and cider and stir with a wooden paddle , every now and then adding more crates of peeled apples. When the apples are melted down, then you add enormous amounts of cinnamon, sugar and butter to the already delightful mixture. There are bees flying around everywhere the aroma is so sticky and sweet. Every now and then I've bought a jar that has a bee in it, in my mind a sign of a very lucky year ahead! (and a naturally made product!) This year for the first time in awhile I went back to the festival and stood watching the stirrers. I must have been looking longingly at the process because a very sweet woman just handed me her paddle and turned over her cauldron. "You look like you want to stir , do you know how?" I just smiled and grabbed the paddle that she handed me and she was nice enough to take my picture!

Lacking a bonfire in my kitchen but owning a wonderful copper pot, I make apple butter every year at home. It’s very simple and makes your kitchen as well as the rest of your house smell incredible. I embellish a little bit simply because I can, but in the end it’s apple butter. I hope that you'll try this because its one of the most satisfying Autumn preserves that you can make. For the record, you can do the same thing with fresh pumpkin and it's wonderful! If you lack a copper pot, a slow cooker will definitely do the trick!

You will need:

Tons of apples, sliced and cored! It’s your call as to peel them or not, I keep the peels on because I like them!
A large bottle of fresh apple cider
Cups of brown sugar
Huge amounts of cinnamon
At least one stick of very good butter
A slow cooker or a large copper pot (the slow cooker works very well ,but it never gets quite as creamy as it will if you stand for hours cooking out the liquid and stirring happy good wishes into the pot!)

Here’s the simple recipe. Put the apples into the pot or cooker, add enough cider to cover and cook for as many hours as it takes to really cook them down . When it’s almost done add the cinnamon to taste, brown sugar and enough butter to have it be silky and smooth.

When it’s done pour it into sterilized glass jars and seal tightly. If I'm not pressure canning the jars I pour a layer of melted butter over the top of each one to help seal.

If you're a regular reader of mine then you know that I simply can't leave anything alone and this simple recipe although wonderful doesn’t quite do it for me, I'm always having to gild the lily! Real apple butter made over a bonfire has a bit of a smoky taste so at the very end I add a bit of organic liquid smoke. Sometimes, I leave it at that, but morethan often I’ll add some bourbon, something wonderful like a Woodford Reserve or a Bookers, because you will taste it so it's not worth it to use anything too cheap.

Making apple chutney is fun and easy. Same basic recipe, but this I’ll always make in the slow cooker and add raisins, lemons , walnuts and onions and a little bit of the liquidsmoke. The slow cooker is actually easier to control than my copper pot which does have a mind of its own. I play with the spices, sometimes adding fresh sage from my garden and sometimes add a bit of brandy or single malt. Serve it with a freshly roasted chicken or a loaf of fresh bread and a large wedge of white cheddar. Always make sure that there's a wonderful ale nearby, it's the perfect accompaniment!

Please promise me that you’ll have fun with the harvest this year and make a promise to yourself to put something by even if your stillroom is the teensy kitchen in your apartment. . In the end, that’s what food like this is about, slow to cook, creative and fresh. I hope that I've convinced you to let it become a real part of your seasonal experience !

Now for one more treat! Tomorrows project comes from my sister Ellen , who IS the Goddess of all things sugar , butter and chocolate! She called me the other day insisting that I try a recipe for caramel apples which she says is perfect! In the realm of dessert, if she says it I believe it and as one who has always been intimidated by caramel I was completely intrigued. The recipe comes from the Tartine cookbook which is a fabulous bakery in San Francisco that evidently makes the most wonderful caramel apples in the world. According to Ellen you simply take all of the caramel ingredients and place them into a saucepan, bringing the whole of it to a boil, checking the temperature with your candy thermometer. You dip the apples , let them harden and I guess that they don't stay on the plater long enough for anyone to really look at them , they are supposedly that good! I've seen pictures though and they are beautiful, the caramel is translucent and covers each apple completely yet allows the beautiful colors of the fruit to shine through. I haven't made them yet so I figured that we could all try together! Here's the link!

Seeing that it's baking season, I've got lovely jars of my homemade baking and pie spices to give away to one of you! Just let me know in your comments if you'd like to be entered in the draw and please leave me a recipe or two because I love sharing ideas with you!

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Five-Star Hotel: Eau d’Italie Magnolia Romana - Review

When I go through my Osmoz kit of floral notes, I always stay the longest with the magnolia note. It is so beautiful, so tender. It is my favorite floral note. Strange that I do not have a single perfume featuring it.

Well, no more. Enter Magnolia Romana, one of the perfumes of the Eau d’Italie line by Bertrand Duchaufour.

It was created in 2008 and features notes of purple basil, lemon leaves, neroli, nutmeg, cypress, magnolia, Bulgarian rose, tuberose, lotus, ozone, aquatic notes, cedar, hay extract and white musk.

Magnolia Romana smells like fresh linen at an expensive hotel, an elegant bed, with crisp and cool, high tread-count sheets. A fresh, clean – freshly laundered even – scent, that should make us hard core Perfumistas wary of what is to come. But somehow it doesn’t, this is clean scent, yes, but one done by the master.

The perfume progresses into more floral territory soon, the magnolia, heavy with dew drops or rain, its affinity to water underscored by lotus, sits there, pink and pretty, enveloping me in its soft and tender embrace. Magnolia Romana is very long lasting, the drydown is pleasantly musky with vestiges of magnolia clinging on until the very end.

Magnolia Romana is easy to love, a perfectly likeable scent that is pleasing and carefree and simply lovely. It smells good in an expensive way. Like someone dressed casually, but expensively. Only the best fabrics, only the best tailoring even for a jeans and t-shirt kind of day.
Magnolia Romana smells like the understated elegance and quiet classiness of a really good hotel that does not approve of flashiness or overt opulence. Like a hotel I would very much like to stay in.

I smell the part.

Image source:,


Friday, October 21, 2011

The Colours Out of Space: Pentachords by Tauer Perfumes

by Marla (or is it??)

H. P. Lovecraft wrote his personal favorite sci-fi short story, “The Colour Out of Space” in 1927. It’s about an alien (perhaps) who arrives in a meteor (maybe) and proceeds to destroy the countryside around its landing site by dint of a peculiar “colour”, an analogy for some sort of energy that does not exist on Earth. Now this story is a horror story, but if we can imagine Colours Out of Space that don’t feed on our life energy and destroy us, but merely change us in an olfactory manner, leaving us neither better nor worse, only different, then Tauer’s Pentachords could come directly from that meteorite. The original and frighteningly talented Mr. Tauer wanted to make wholly synthetic odors of 5 aromamolecules each. No naturals could be used, because each natural component is composed of many different aromachemicals. He was looking for some sort of alien purity, obviously. Maybe, down in his cold, stone laboratory deep in the Alps, he still is….

From benign to terrifying, I’ll rank my mini-reviews:

The Fluffy Cloud Alien: White freaked me out briefly at first with its synthetic blast of some substance I can’t quite name. Within 90 seconds, it had settled on my skin to become the Best Marshmallow Ever. But it’s a very big, scary marshmallow. Remember Mr. Stay-Puft from “Ghostbusters”? Big marshmallow. I really love White, though, and I’m considering a bottle of it. Some days it’s just a lovely Ms. Stay-Puft with a mere hint of malice in those enormously sweet, comfy eyes….

The Burning Crater in the Orchard: Auburn sometimes pleases and sometimes alarms me. It’s fiery, but not an earthly fire. It’s something made by Some Thing that burnt up in our atmosphere. The remnants land on your skin, and your skin starts to change. It’s hot, that’s for sure….

The Ancient One: Verdant just freaks me out. It’s the most Lovecraftian of the trio, and I’ve worn it a few times, but I’m afraid if I keep wearing it, I will also begin to glow in that Colour Out of Space. Or start chanting for Cthulhu to return. Sure, it’s green, I guess that’s the best analogy. Just be warned before you try it on, it doesn’t leave your brain. Even if you hate it (and I don’t), you won’t forget it, and you’ll start wondering exactly what’s in that vial, and if it’s really gone….

So I’m hoping that Mr. Tauer tries a few more colors for the Pentachords collection, but not until next Halloween, please. These 3 are making my skin glow just fine.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Scents: Going Into The Closet

After this past week of heat, we finally have entered fall.  It still will hit 70 during the afternoon, but the mornings are cool with a bit of marine layer and the darkness is coming earlier and earlier.  I've started to pull out some of the fall scents: the ones that have a bit of fire to them.  Annick Goutal Encense Flamboyant is one of them.  Slightly smoky, slightly musky, slightly spicy, wholly delicious.  Another favorite making its yearly return is Miller Harris L'Air de Rien.  Dark green and with a surprisingly healthy dollop of musk, this one really is better in cooler weather like this.  Which leads me to one that's perfect for fall: Etat Libre's Like This.  With notes of ginger, pumpkin and immortelle, it's not foody, just incredibly comforting.

All these were purchased by me.

Last call for Miriam: if I don't hear from Jill or BlogBaebe1 by this Friday the 22nd I'll choose alternates.

The winner of the Badgley Mischka Fleurs de Nuit sample

... is ccdouglass. Do send us your details.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Russian Saturday: Caron En Avion

Я не очень люблю парфюмерные легенды. Запах должен говорить сам за себя, если ему, конечно, есть что сказать. Но история создания En Avion Caron, впрочем как и Vol de Nuit Guerlain, трогает меня настолько, что мне впервые в жизни захотелось стать блондинкой. А это, согласитесь, серьезная заявка от женщины, в душе которой цвет волос еще чернее, чем он есть на самом деле. И дело не в том, что темноволосые женщины не могут водить самолет. Даже наоборот: первые женщины, покорившие небо, были именно брюнетками. Но самолет и блондинка – это так красиво!

En Avion не оставляет времени на раздумья. Низкий, быстрый старт пронзительно-ветреного флердоранжа, горькие хлесткие листья в лицо. Фиалке, с ее легким дыханием, все сложнее заглатывать воздух. В розово-гвоздичном, тугом и плотном сплаве тонут все: и робкий голос жасмина, и смолы, и даже амбра. В этой схватке Голиаф побеждает. Аллюзия теплой и мягкой кожи создается за счет плотности животных нот и мха. Сочетание гвоздика-кожа отсылает к Tabac Blond. Несмотря на то, что Tabac Blond для сравнения у меня только в ЕDT, он гораздо вальяжней и медлительней духов En Avion. Тabac Blond застывает в ванильно-циветной фазе, в то время как En Avion с калейдоскопической скоростью проносит мимо всю свою тяжелую артиллерию.

Больше всего мне нравится как En Avion звучит в сухую жаркую погоду. Когда испаряются излишки сладости, он становится лаконичен и черен, как полосы камуфляжа на щеке индейца, как платье, с которого оборвали кружево. Впрочем, в своей сладкой ипостаси En Avion прекрасно согревает промозглыми осенними днями.

En Avion незаменим, когда нужно увеличить дистанцию между собой и людьми, между собой и миром, дистанцию с той с частью себя, на которую сейчас не хватает времени. С En Avion это достигается в считанные секунды. И дело не в том, что кому-то может не понравиться ваш запах. Капля духов на запястьях не меняют ольфакторной картины мира, но меняют самоощущение. Главное, соблюдая дистанцию, не сбиться с курса.

En Avion Caron (Ernest Daltroff, 1929): Rose, Neroli, Spicy Orange; Jasmine, Carnation, Lilac, Violet; Opoponax, Amber, Musk, Wood.
I am not too fond of perfume legends. The scent should be able to talk about itself, if it has something to say, of course. But the story of En Avion, just like Vol de Nuit Guerlain, has touched me so much that, for the first time, I wanted to become blonde. And you would agree that this is serious coming from a woman who, deep down inside, feels darker than she is. And it's not that dark haired women can't fly a plane. It's just that a plane and a blonde is so pretty!

En Avion doesn't leave time for thinking. Low, fast start of the piercing, windy fleur d'orange, bitter, snappy leaves in your face. In the rose-carnation, tight and solid blend, everything drowns: the shy jasmine, resins and even amber. In that battle, Goliath wins. An illusion of the warm and soft leather is created thanks to the thickness of the animalic notes and moss. The combination of carnation and rose makes a reference Tabac Blond. Despite the fact that I only have Tabac Blond in EDT, I feel it is more relaxed and leisurely than En Avion parfum. Тabac Blond gets stuck in the vanilla-civet phase, while En Avion, in rapid motion, displays all nuances of its development.

I love En Avion the most in dry, hot weather. When the surplus of sweetness has evaporated, the perfume becomes laconic and black, liike stripes on a cheek of a Native American Indian, like a dress, from which they torn off the lace. Having said that, in the sweet stage of its development, En Avion warms one up so well during the cold days.

En Avion is indispensable when you need to create a distance between yourself and other people, between yourself and the world, the distance with the part of you for which you don't have time right now. En Avion does that within seconds. And that's not because someone might not like your smell. A drop of perfume on your wrists doesn't change the olfactive picture of the world, it changes your emotions. The main thing is, while keeping the distance, not to steer off the course.

En Avion Caron (Ernest Daltroff, 1929): Rose, Neroli, Spicy Orange; Jasmine, Carnation, Lilac, Violet; Opoponax, Amber, Musk, Wood.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

She’s Cute When She’s Mad… Serge Lutens’ Vitriol d’Oeillet

by Marla

I spent a few years translating the journals of a French archaeologist into English, so trust me when I say that “Vitriol d’Oeillet” translates as “Pissed-Off Carnation”. Really.

I’m a colonial, so I don’t associate carnations with funerals, grim states of mind, and so on. They were just those cute little flowers boys bought for girls in school when they couldn’t afford roses. We used them in science experiments in freshman biology. And they used to smell so good, now, not so much. The scent has been bred out of commercial carnations, but you can grow heritage varieties that are full of clove-y goodness. That spicy kick is due mostly to eugenol, which I think IFRA banned, or exiled to Capri last year.

So I was really looking forward to Serge’s carnation perfume. The only one in my collection is Guerlain’s Voile d’Ete, long discontinued, and I’m down to my last 5ml!! Would Serge save me? Alas, no. V d’O is really…cute. No anger, no shouting of personal remarks. No Medusas or Medeas here. Just cute little teddy bears throwing cute little tantrums.

Not that it’s a bad perfume. It’s nice. There’s some peppery smoky spice in the opening, just a tad to whet your appetite. Then it settles down into a comfy, old-fashioned floral, more rose than carnation, with some gentle musk and soap. Then in a few hours, it’s gone. Phhft. I could wear this anywhere, it’s quite pleasant, but I don’t want to put on a Serge and then forget that it’s there. You know what I mean?? Chergui overpowers and haunts me (and passersby, too). Serge Noire is a real feast, a scary Tim Burton sort of feast, but truly compelling. Even Gris Clair and Bas de Soie get me to thinking, dreaming, over the many hours I can smell them on my clothing and hair. And don’t get me started on La Myrrhe or Iris Silver Mist or my prose will turn purple.

V d’O? If carnations are for funerals in France, then this funeral is for someone you barely knew, you feel obligated into going, you’re too far from the priest to hear the eulogy, and then you sneak out a little early so you don’t get caught in the cemetery gridlock. Sigh….

Did anyone get more out of this than I did?

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Return of Summer

Well, summer dropped back into Southern California for a special visit.  It was 96 yesterday in the Hills of Beverly and it's supposed to be about the same today.  So much for finishing that review of the blood-type fragrance, today was all about the pursuit of Air Conditioning and summery scents.

The one that I grabbed for on my way out the door yesterday was Annick Goutal's oft overlooked Eau de Sud, Hadrien's younger, brasher brother.  I love Hadrien, but in serious heat it tends to take to it's boudoir fanning itself.  

The one I think I'm grabbing today is another Hadrien cousin, Les Nuits d'Hadrien.  This adds a little oomph onto the blameless citrus with juniper and a touch of spice that won't die out waiting for the bus.

Of course, I could bring out the big guns: Uncle Serge's Gris Clair has an opening lavender that's chillier than a trip to a meat locker.

In the interest of sucking up some AC I stopped into Nordstrom on my way home and found what might be a new like, if not a total love: J B Eau de Parfum by Jack Black.  I'll refer you to their website for the list of notes, since I can't say that I was discerning them well individually (I only did one spritz on my wrist while dawdling in the men's department.  It's a perfect scent for a line devoted to mens grooming: it smells sort of familiar to anyone who has ever been to a barbershop, but modern enough that it's not going to make you think of grandpa.  Well done, Mr. Black.

J B is $70 for 3.4 ounces, practically everywhere.  I sampled at Nordstrom.  The others were from my own collection and are old enough that they may not reflect what is being sold under that name these days...

Image: Painting Summer Heat by Mark Bowles.  Love his work..

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Style Encore: Badgley Mischka Fleurs de Nuit and Couture (And a Prize Draw!)

By Donna

My recent infatuation with the original Badgley Mischka perfume continues unabated, so I decided it was time to try the other two fragrances in the line. I ordered samples of 2007’s Fleurs de Nuit and Badgley Mischka Couture from 2009. I have never seen either of these in a store, and it seems that only the Couture is currently being sold at full retail price in places like Neiman-Marcus. I found both at an online discounter at what passes for pocket change these days, which is yet another argument for not chasing all the new launches as soon as they hit the stores, since most of them will either disappear or come down in price a lot if they stick around. I just love finding something really good at a bargain price; it warms my frugal Yankee soul to the core.

Fleurs de Nuit is a full-on white floral perfume, composed by Rodrigo Flores-Roux, who also did the wonderful John Varvatos Artisan and the recent reorchestration of Houbigant’s iconic Fougère Royale. A reading of the notes makes it sound as though it’s one of those Big White Florals that takes over the room, but it’s nothing of the kind. I have the pure parfum as it happens, and if this were fashion on the runway, it would be the grand finale bridal gown. It has a lot of green but no sharpness, a very soft halo of white flowers (mainly jasmine but with a noticeable lily note) that does not read like an evening fragrance to me at all, and I really don’t detect any of the purported woods and amber. I see sunny summer meadows and girls in white eyelet dresses on flower-twined swings, sighing dreamily as their Prince Charming approaches. A milky quality makes it resemble Lalique’s Flora Bella somewhat but it is less radiant and more demure; this bride is a shy one indeed. 

Since my skin amplifies white florals I expected this to get a lot bigger with time but it does the opposite. Over several wearings it stayed close to the skin after a brief flash of headiness in the opening, but it also lasted all day. For those who want their jasmine to be indolic and seductive, this is not your cup of tea, but it’s ideal for office or casual wear. I am always looking for a white floral that is well-behaved in public, and Fleurs de Nuit is exactly that. It’s not an original idea like the first release from this house, but it’s very nicely done. 

Badgley Mischka Couture is related to the original launch and is also a fruity chypre, but it is more complex in character and not nearly as fruity. The perfumer is Caroline Sabas, who also made my beloved Natori, so I was really hoping to like it, and I do. It starts out a little bit loud and reminds me of something else in the opening, something flashy like Versace The One or Paco Rabanne Lady Million. This one does immediately make me think “evening only” as it is both bright and intense and has a more sophisticated and urban air than Fleurs de Nuit does. Its kinship with the original is clear but it adds woody notes of vetiver and patchouli and a floral embellishment of jasmine, gardenia and violet to go with all that fruit, which includes plum, blackberry and pear.

The name says it all; its fashion equivalent would be a show-stopping number that looks great on the catwalk but which needs some modifications to be worn in real life by women who are less than six feet tall. After many hours the far drydown reveals a wispy ghost of Angel with a candied fruit and caramel aroma lingering on the skin. The longevity is very good, as would be expected for this style of fragrance. My sample of Couture is the Eau de Parfum, so of course I am now curious about the pure parfum strength; I thought the parfum of the first one was superior to the EdP. It’s a welcome riff on the original for those who don’t like so much fruit, and I think this cheerfully over-the-top fragrance would be very popular if it had wider distribution in brick-and-mortar stores.

I am offering a large sample of Badgley Mischka Fleurs de Nuit pure parfum to one reader, so if you would like to be entered in the draw, tell us in the comments. (U.S. mailing addresses only please.) Do you have a favorite “demure” white floral? Please share your thoughts!

Disclosure: The fragrances sampled for this review are from my own collection.

Image credit: Official Badgley Mischka Platinum Label™ Collector’s Edition Bridal Barbie® from (This doll will set you back $375 smackeroos, and you could buy a lot of perfume with that!)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Foodie Sunday: Hot Dogs

Well, we had after some chill and our first torrential rainstorm (for LA) an absolutely perfect day.  High in the low 70's which meant that in the shade there was a bit of a chill.  I met my BFF Lynn for lunch as I usually do on Saturday at a local Chinese food place that has great food on the cheap in a strip mall (on the Southwest side of 3rd and La Cienega if you're hungry..) made me remember what I really wanted.

A hot dog.

Specifically, one from Tale 'O the Pup.  Tale 'O was a was one of the last remaining examples of "programmatic architecture" left in LA, where the building embodied the purpose of it's function.  In the past Tamale stands would be tamale-shaped, places selling milk would be shaped like a jug.  Tail 'O was one of the last hold outs, a fixture for years on La Cienega and Beverly (featured in "Body Double" and "Ruthless People") which moved a block away to San Vicente and Beverly when the Hotel Sofitel was constructed on the site.  It was there at this site for years more (featured in "L.A. Story") before they lost the lease on the site and the hot-dog shaped part of the building was put into storage awaiting another location.  One that hasn't been found for years.

I miss those hot dogs.

They had the best quality kosher dogs that had great taste with a great bite of that casing and had wonderful fries, onion rings and refills on my Diet Coke.  I used to get the extreme with onions, covered with chili and cheese.  I want one right now.

I also had the greatest star sighting I've had in my life and one that I was hoping that my BFF, who is always late would make it in time to see and didn't: Ella Fiztgerald lifting her veil to enjoy a hot dog while the Chauffeur waited by the Mercedes Landaulette.  Seeing Garbo in New York wasn't as great.  Garbo wasn't eating.

Now I want a hot dog.  What's your favorite?

Friday, October 07, 2011

First Impressions??

by Marla

Well, I live Way Out There, but Luckyscent has Sample Packs, and I can’t resist them. Olfactoria wrote a provocative article about the indelibility of first impressions, and I responded that over 90% of the time, my first impressions remained true over time. But, said my Inner Skeptic, is this really true?? Or just the residue of a flawed memory? So here I am, with my first impressions of Luckyscent’s Fall Preview Sample Pack. In the interest of Science, I’ll follow up in a few weeks, after several wearings, with truly profound, pithy (don’t you love that word?), and scholarly reviews of each sample vial. Then we’ll see how they match, OK?

1. Tauer Perfumes Pentachords- Auburn- OK. Neon Spice Attack! Maybe good. Maybe too synthetic. We’ll see.

2. Tauer Perfumes Pentachords- Verdant- Weird. Really out there. Scary wafts of mint. Looking forward to long test. I think….

3. Tauer Perfumes Pentachords- White- Synthetic plastic eek! Ten minutes later, maybe the best marshamallow ever…. Like those marshmallows they make in Italy in the spring. Mmmm….

4. Serge Lutens- Vitriol d’O (I can’t bother looking up the spelling)- Meh, but needs time. Family members declare it smells “like a breath mint”.

5. Illuminum Gardenia Petals- Oh Holy British Teapots, smells like a train loo air freshener gone wrong….

6. Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Universalis Forte- synthetic and off-putting, yet I keep sniffing my arm….

7. Amouage Honour Man- Mmmm….I want to smell my DH in this. Heck, I’d smell any man in this!

8. Amouage Honour Woman- What Illuminated White Plastic Garden Petals should have been. Swoon.

9. Mona Di Orio Oud- This is not oud. It’s so much more. But I have no idea what to call it. I must live with this. For a month at least….

So there we go. Nine new perfumes. Nine little reviews. Let’s see how it all adds up in a month?

What are you testing these days, and how’s it going?


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Le Labo Gaiac 10

As you might have heard, Le Labo is releasing the city-specific scents to all the stores for the month of November.  In preparation for this, they're releasing samples starting this month so one can test them out in preparation for popping for a full bottle.  The samples are $10 each and have a decent (if not generous) amount of product in them.

I got Gaiac, and I loved the initial opening.  There's a lovely woody blast there that was in immediate hit.  I liked what came next with its soft, contemplative and serene continuation of the woods with a dollop of skin musk, but perhaps not so much so that I will need a full bottle.  I might have to try a couple of the other ones.  I guess I'm lucky; so far my favorite of the bunch is the LA exclusive, which I can get at the 3rd Street Store, where I bought the sample of Gaiac 10.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Just Plum Pretty: Natori by Josie Natori (2009)

By Donna

It took me almost two years after it was launched that I finally tried the new version of Natori from 2009. There is no Neiman-Marcus in my city, and I must not have paid attention at the time if it was at Saks Fifth Avenue, but we lost that store in 2010 anyway and no other brick-and-mortar shops carried it. Marina’s take on it at the time got me revved up to try some but I never did until recently, and it was definitely worth the wait. I started with a mini bottle from EBay, graduated to a larger decant in a swap with another perfume fan, and now I realize that a full bottle will be necessary.

I recall the original Natori scent from 1980 with the stylized gold flower design on the bottle and I really loved it; however, it seemed to disappear very quickly from the market, and I could not figure out why because I thought it was very well done. Of course that was before discontinued perfumes could be hunted down on the Internet; I saw it on EBay not too long ago and put in a few bids, but somebody with deep pockets wanted it a lot more than I did. (I have never smelled the interim Avon Natori perfume so I can’t comment on that one.) The current Natori is an update of the original and has the same diffused softness, a languid boudoir type of fragrance, appropriately enough considering Josie Natori’s fame as a lingerie designer. Putting it on is like slipping into a slinky negligee after a warm bubble bath. The original was centered on peony but did not have any sharpness to it at all; just the rich, creamy scent of the best fragrant blossoms, and was a straight-up lush floral perfume. The new incarnation also features a prominent peony note but it is embellished with rich plum and a number of other soft, warm notes including something called “satin musk;” and is firmly located in the floral-Oriental zip code.

The many things I find so pleasing about this fragrance: As soft and comforting as it is, there is nothing overly sweet or powdery about it. The plum is delicious yet it’s not a sugary gourmand. It’s sexy and seductive but so darned user-friendly that Grandma could wear it too. It is retro but not dated, more like a timeless classic, and even though its gentle softness seems somehow familiar, it is a departure from so many of the syrupy feminine scents on the market today, as it does not have an overdose of the now all too familiar and often obtrusive woody-amber aroma chemicals or “clean” musks. It has great lasting power but the sillage is moderate; it is not loud or vulgar. It puts me in mind of how Samsara used to be before they cheapened the formula, though with much less projection. Some have called it an Angel descendant, but to me it’s not that way at all; definitely not a “fruitchouli” bomb, since the plum is well balanced with the other components and I frankly can’t even smell the patchouli. If anything, it’s closer in concept to easy-wearing yet distinctive perfumes like Lelong pour Femme or the original Mauboussin. It occupies its own little island in the perfume archipelago, and it’s one I want to visit over and over again.

Natori was composed by Caroline Sabas of Givaudan, and the listed notes via are rose petals, dark plum, ylang ylang, purple peony, night blooming jasmine, black patchouli and satin musk. (Adjust your sets for the presence of PR-speak.) It is now widely available at online discounters as well as the higher end department stores and can be had in a range of bath and body products – I understand that the body cream is especially good and, it comes in a big 5 ounce (150 ml) jar. The latter part of 2011 has brought a new Eau de Toilette version of Natori, but I have not tried it yet. I hope that the formula has not been altered in any significant way and that it is just a lighter concentration of this delightful fragrance that has quickly become one of my go-to standards.

Disclosure: The perfume I tested for this review was from my own collection.

Image credit: Photo collage by the author from various sources. I do not claim ownership of any of these images.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Kristen Michèle Parfumeur Fleurs Blanches, Notes Fraiche and Épice Orientale

Kristen Michèle Parfumeur is a line consisting of three scents created by Californian Kristen Michèle. Established in 2008, the line is now available in Europe through First in Fragrance.

The fragrances are handcrafted and “inspired by travels and life itself” as Kristen Michèle states. I had the opportunity to try all three, here are my personal impressions.

Notes Fraîches:

Notes Fraiches was created in 2008 and includes notes of lemon, galbanum, marine notes, honeysuckle, gardenia, lily, musk and white tea.

Notes Fraiches is as the name suggests, a fresh, marine scent. Evocative of maritime breezes and freshly laundered white sheets blowing in the wind, Notes Fraiches is not exactly my kind of perfume. It is very pretty and well-made though, and I’m sure it has its fans, my husband first among them. Notes Fraiches is soft and wears close to the skin.

Fleurs Blanches:

Fleurs Blanches was also released in 2008 and includes notes of blackberry, grapefruit, frangipani, lily, narcissus,tuberose, ambergris, musk and sandalwood.

Fleurs Blanches, white flowers are taking up the theme of the first perfume seemlessly. Reminding me of Acqua di Parma Magnolia Nobile, Fleurs Blanche is pretty and happy and cheerful, but thankfully not relentlessly so. It calms down nicely after a few minutes and is a soft and lovely floral on a creamy sandalwood base. A bridal scent if there ever was one. This is no heavy white floral by any means, but a delicate bouquet of freshest, dew-laden blooms. Young and carefree.

Épice Orientale:

The last of the three, an oriental, includes notes of blood orange, fruity notes, jasmine, tuberose, patchouli, frankincense and ambergris.

Èpice Orientale is by nature the heaviest of the three. It is a floral oriental, although for its genre it is quite light and airy, sheer almost and therefore very wearable, even for non-oriental fans. It opens strongly with the accent on the orange, aided by a little spicy kick. The heart is dominated by tuberose that segues smoothly into the broad base of patchouli and amber. This light enough to be worn year-round, although it is lovely now, as temperatures drop. The spicy orange also gives the perfume a christmas-y vibe.

If I had to find one word to express the common thread that defines those three perfumes it would be clean. These are very clearly American fragrances, made for American sensibilities. Which is simply a statement, not a judgement!

I could imagine these selling like hotcakes in Sephora. Since it is a niche line, I am not sure this is what people who are especially interested in perfume, are looking for. Too clean, too polished, too friendly and sleek .

But what sets them apart from usual mainstream fare, is the high quality of the materials and the love that went into them, a love I can smell, even if the perfumes are not to my personal taste.

What about you? Did you try the line? What are your thoughts?

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