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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Foodie Sunday~ Happy Easter and a simple but cherished family recipe!

By Beth

Happy Easter! I've got quite a busy day planned so instead of my usual musings! On the agenda is a birthday party for a dear friend and a lovely Easter brunch and egg hunt in the country so instead of writing, I should probably start cooking. This year I'm making a dessert for my son to take to his girlfriends house for dinner so that he can have and share one of our families wonderful traditions. It's the simplest recipe ever and I'm going to share it with you here. It's made with a simple chocolate wafer and freshly whipped cream and we call it quite affectionately "Zebra Pudding"! 

This year because there are a couple of adorable little sisters that he's got to impress, the pudding will be covered in peeps and jelly beans. I have to admit to being thrilled that this is something that I can still do for him and I can't wait to see the pictures!

At any rate, this is the simplest recipe ever. Go to the tracery swore and buy several boxes of "Famous Chocolate Wafers"  and a couple of pints of heavy whipping cream. Whip the cream with some sugar and vanilla until it's stiff and then take a wafer and frost it with the cream. Place another cookie on the other side making a whipped cream "Oreo". Lay it upright on a tray and continue until you've made a log of whipped cream and cookies. Frost the whole thing top and bottom (the picture shown is before this part!) with more whipped cream and then leave in the refrigerator overnight. This is the most important step! It will get soft and turn into a luscious ice box cake! Make sure that you make the cake on the platter that you're going to serve it on otherwise you'll end up with a mess! Have fun decorating them for whichever holiday you're celebrating. They are adorable bedazzled with Easter candy and make perfect snow covered logs for Christmas. To serve them, simply slice on the diagonal so that you get the striped effect!

Have a wonderful day all! What are some of your favorite Easter traditions?


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nasomatto Pardon

By Tom

Another one of those best-laid plans weeks this week. I wanted to review this one since I liked the opening on it so much- a smooth and yummy oud with a touch of raw cacao and cinnamon. Unfortunately my skin ate it alive. Every time I tried it it was gone within an hour or so, culminating in tonight where I got dolled up (for me that is- I put on a tie and a jacket, which always gets a comment from the local ladies, mostly because it's as rare as a blue moon..) at 6 to attend a City Council meeting where after our election the new council members are seated and the retiring one's tenure is marked. I gave myself a pretty liberal application and sat in the auditorium, planning on writing this upon returning home. It's 11:00 Pacific time and it's completely gone. It isn't like I was jogging or digging ditches; I was sitting in air-conditioning and actually unable to move much lest I be considered rude during the 3-hour meeting.

Since this is the fourth time this has happened I can't say this is a true review. I also can't say that I'd pay the $165 for 30ML to find out if a liberal spraying rather than a liberal dabbing will change that.

At Luckyscent, where I asked for and received a sample.

Image: Luckyscent


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Grace Notes in the Air: Anu Essentials Natural Perfumes

By Donna

As most regular readers of this blog know, I am very interested in natural perfumery, and I am always delighted to find naturals that can stand up to fragrances that incorporate synthetics in both longevity and originality. The perfumes of Anu Essentials by Anu Prestonia are a breath of fresh air and a welcome addition to the growing ranks of high quality naturals. (Bonus: the company also makes scented soaps, body butters and hair care products, all 100% natural.)

The aptly named Meadow Lark is the perfect scent to wake up to in the morning. It’s as clear and bright as a birdsong and oh so pretty. I have a special fondness for wholesome “alpine” florals of this style and I really like this a lot. The combination of zingy clary sage, tarragon, Clementine orange and luminous Bulgarian rose is nicely balanced to give the effect of fresh morning air in the country, and it is a pleasure to inhale this fragrance as deeply as possible. Meadow Lark would work very well as a cologne alternative for men too, since the herbal aspect keeps the rose from getting too heady. If only conventional perfumery would take a hint from this is as to what “fresh” really smells like, we might not have to hold our noses at the mall anymore.

Sea Scape is one of those very rare fragrances that actually smell of the ocean, and I found it to be both exhilarating and highly wearable. Smelling this and then trying a synthetic “marine” fragrance makes one realize that the latter do not even come close, and they have always bothered my nose with their sharp metallic character. No such problem with Sea Scape and its notes of seaweed, violet leaf, neroli, rose, ambergris and jasmine. It is salty, musky and richly floral all at the same time, delicious without being sweet, and the more I wear it the more it grows on me. The longevity is very impressive, and not just “for a natural” either. This is my favorite of the line and I would wear the heck out of it in any season, not just summer. It’s not a beachy fragrance in the usual sense; this one is like walking alone on a deserted shore, watching the fog lift and listening to the seagulls cry as the tide goes out.

The third fragrance is Sita, which needed a bit of time on my skin to develop fully, and I could not really relate to its description as a seductive and aphrodisiac perfume – that is, until I got a spontaneous compliment on it. It is not heavy or sultry to me, but maybe that’s not the point here, since flowers are as enticing by their very nature as any love potion and this stuff is crammed with them. It is intensely rosy, heightened by jasmine, underscored with patchouli and lightly spiced. I did not find the patchouli to be very noticeable, but it does contribute to the scent’s good staying power. It is probably the least original in the group, reminiscent of what a Floris of London, Yardley or similar English rose floral would be like if it were all natural, but no less pleasing for it, and I like a good classic floral as much as anything. It is very well done, and I look forward to future launches from this talented perfumer.

Image credit: “West Point, Prout’s Neck” (1900) by American artist Winslow Homer via Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain.
Disclaimer: I received the samples for testing from Anu Essentials.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

CB I Hate Perfume 7 Billion Hearts

By Tom

The other night I was invited out to dinner by a friend, kind of at the last moment. The restaurant is basically down the street from me and my friend was going to collect me, since I'm on her way to the restaurant (sometimes I wonder if my neighbors think I'm the American Gigolo or something- I'm always being picked up and dropped of my older ladies in expensive cars..) As I was going to leave, I quickly grabbed something from the sample dish to dab on before dashing out.

I happened to grab the sample of 7 Billion Hearts, the Christopher Brosius creation my Scent Twin had sent me a sample of and that I had previously reviewed on the Posse and she reviewed on her site.

I'd almost forgotten how much I love this scent. If I were setting out to seduce someone I think this is what I'd reach for- it just might be the best vanilla scent there is out there, hands down. It's a thick, rich delightful vanilla, rich with smoke at first application, then bringing something like the scent of fine cognac and finally ending with a hint ot his beautifully earthy musk. The weather here was perfect for it- the lows were low 50's and the high barely cracked 60. 7 Billion Hearts kept me nice and warm..

Lasting power is phenomenal- I got 12 hours and it still lingered after showering, which only made me want to re-apply.

2 ML of the perfume is $30, and it will last you a while. When you decide to fall, it's $230 for 15 ML, available at the CB I Hate Perfume website. My sample was sent to me by a friend.

Photo: CB I Hate Perfume

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Masterful Marigolds: Tagetes Femme and Homme by En Voyage Perfumes

By Donna

 I have come to anticipate new launches from En Voyage Perfumes most eagerly, ever since I fell for perfumer Shelley Waddington’s fantastic Vents Ardents in the summer of 2011. Something about her compositions appeals to me in a unique way that is hard to describe. I find that the fragrances have a certain expansive radiance that I think of as her signature, similar to the way Andy Tauer’s funky “Tauerade” base is immediately recognizable. It seems like Shelley’s perfumes are infused with light, shot through with a sunlit brightness, from Vents Ardents to Chang Chang to Lorelei and now to her new fragrances, Tagetes Femme and Tagetes Homme. They both feature one of the most distinctive floral notes in perfumery, the humble yet cheerful marigold (Tagetes), its unmistakable piquancy lending character to any perfume that incorporates it. I am very fond of marigolds; they were one of the first flowers I came to know as a child when I discovered the magic of gardening, and they were so easy and fast growing that they were practically instant gratification. The pungent scent of their crushed leaves is the aroma of summer itself, warm but not sweet, sharp and herbal and like nothing else.

Perhaps the most iconic fragrance to use a dominant marigold note is the rather offbeat chypre Niki de Saint Phalle, which I discovered and loved decades ago. I have not smelled it recently, but I am quite sure that it has been both cheapened and reformulated from comments I have read on perfume Web sites, so I think I would need to look elsewhere for a marigold scent now. Fortunately, both of the En Voyage scents are excellent, so that void has now been filled.

Tagetes Femme made me smile broadly with delight as soon as I tried it, it is so sunny and happy and relaxed. It is sweet but not syrupy, intensely floral and imbued with that marigold pungency I love. The juicy opening is so delicious that I want to experience it over and over again; it’s by far the most user-friendly version of blackcurrant bud in perfumery that I have ever smelled. It’s over all too soon and is followed by a cascade of florals, herbal notes, vanilla, rose, Tonka bean, fruity musks, sandalwood and more. The marigold kicks in along the way, but it does not dominate, it merely adds an edge to the composition that keeps the sweetness in check, and along with sage gives an airy clarity to the overall effect. Summer is a cup that truly runneth over in this perfume and wearing it feels like walking through a walled cottage garden stuffed with all kinds of plants on a still, hot July afternoon. By their very nature, the floral materials in the fragrance do not lend themselves to long life, so it does fade away too soon, but while it lasts, it has a unique beauty. I got about three to four hours from it by itself before it dried down to a gently vanillic skin scent, and I would suggest applying unscented moisturizing lotion or cream to the skin to extend its life. It is definitely worth it.

The first thing that came to mind when I smelled Tagetes Homme was that I really, really want to meet the man who would wear this! I pictured him in my mind immediately but it was not about appearance, more about effortless self-assurance, an easy grace as he moves through the world, yet not without a sense of gravitas; this is not a person to be trifled with. In a world where so many nominally masculine fragrances are faceless clones, it is wonderful to find one that is truly distinctive without being “weird” or one of those trendy things that’s supposed to be an acquired taste for those in the know. It signals to the world that yes, it is meant for men, but not just any ordinary man. This fragrance is for the man who turns heads without needing to try and its attractiveness is immediate – no learning curve needed. The marigold is much more assertive than in Tagetes Femme and its scent has heft and weight, no shyness here. Sage is here too, along with cedar, vetiver and patchouli, tempered with amber and woods; the smoldering incense base is the definition of masterful and it glows like a banked fireplace. Its notes and structure are traditional in the broad sense, but attention getting in the details, and the way it comes together results in a feeling of quiet power, the kind that mesmerizes those who are drawn to the man who wears it; this could easily end up wearing the man on the wrong guy. The generous dose of marigold certainly doesn’t hurt its appeal to me, since I like it so much anyway. It is a beautiful fragrance with outstanding longevity that I have enjoyed wearing myself, but when I do, I keep looking over my shoulder for the handsome, mysterious man who would wear it so very much better.

Image credit: “Red Marigolds” abstract art via
Disclosure: The samples of these fragrances were sent to me for testing by En Voyage Perfumes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Jo Malone's Sugar and Spice Collection and Memories of many a High Tea!

By Beth

There is just something special about an traditional English tea. Everyone has tried to imitate it , but in my mind it's never been duplicated with the exception of the afternoon tea on Bergdorfs 7th floor which occasionally and with the right companion can come pretty close. Don't get me wrong, there are many lovely tea rooms here in America and I enjoy them all but there's a regality about a proper British tea that I thoroughly enjoy as well as a touch of whimsy which is allowable because tea is so entrenched in their culture that it's just understood and not worried about. British children have their own tea services for goodness sakes and It's a wonderful thing! More importantly and because the Brits are fairly addicted to sugar the sweets found at their High Teas are legendary and the savories are the perfect accompaniments.
But in my world it was all about the sweets. You haven't lived until you've tasted a real British scone, with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, all buttery and warm I might add. You just haven't and I've never met an American scone that could come close. It's a bit like a southern biscuit…you must use Crisco or forget it. British scones are filled with butter…lots of butter and white flour.  Some things should truly just never be tampered with.

Tea has been a part of my world since I was avery young child. I've talked many times about my own mothers penchant for afternoon tea; raised by a very Patrician mother of her own she continued to believe until the day she died that it was the only civilized meal left to be eaten in the western world.   As a result of this passion when she died I inherited several pretty fabulous tea sets and was left with decades of wonderful memories. My father was a coffee drinker so she didn't really get to enjoy afternoon tea unless she was traveling with me.  My mother and I enjoyed  tea all around England, Scotland and Ireland and those images are engraved in my mind and heart forever. So are the smells and the perfect tea services!  I learned to love coddled eggs because of breakfast teas , egg and radish sandwiches, Scottish salmon croquettes and refreshing fruit soups!

Because we were in the porcelain business we had appointments to visit every wonderful factory and in those days they always had a beautiful high tea prepared for us when we arrived.  I’ll never forget the high tea at the Royal Worcester / Spode factory , where the whole thing was served on  a set of Duke of Gloucester, with British sterling and Stuart Crystal…I felt like a Princess. I still remember that because because that was the first time that I ever enjoyed a buttered roast beef and watercress tea sandwich which is an absolute thing of beauty. I've even been lucky enough to have gotten the chance to enjoy many a cucumber sandwich and later in life a few martinis with Lord Wedgwood, a most charming gentleman who definitely knows his teas. More recently my nephew Michael is spending a year or two in Oxford in a masters program, and he keeps posting all of these lovely pictures of tea that he’s enjoying on a spring holiday that he’s taking through the English countryside with his darling girlfriend Molly, placing afternoon tea in the forefront of my mind once again.

So it came as no surprise to me yesterday when I was walking through Saks Fifth Avenue that my eye was drawn to the uncharacteristically vibrant display at the Jo Malone counter. I walked over and took a look at the display of 5 little bottles with sugar spun pastel labels displayed with a covered glass cake plate filled with sweets named most appropriately  “The Sugar and Spice Collection”.  I rolled my eyes and then the really sweet SA came over to talk to me and convinced me to take a closer look.  I’m not really one for foodie scents, but I’ve got to admit I was almost immediately smitten. I don’t know if it was the perfumes themselves or just the whole presentation, but as I sprayed them I became very happy, in a distinctly childlike way. By the time I was done I was wearing them all and they blended together beautifully like an elegantly set tea table amidst a blowzy English herbaceous border. All that was missing was the perfect hat, cartwheeling children and a couple of large lovely dogs!  I brought them home to my husband to see if  it was just a product of my overly vivid imagination ,  but he loved them and said that I smelled like a perfect country day. Enough said!

Here are the descriptions of each of these pretty perfumes straight from the Jo Malone site.

Ginger Biscuit
“Just-baked biscuit. Spiced with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, melting into caramel. Butter-crumbly with roasted hazelnuts. Warmed by tonka bean and vanilla. Irresistible”

Lemon Tart
“The mouth-watering tang of lemon tart. Sparkling with citrus fruits and verbena, contrasted with swirls of meringue and lemon thyme. Refreshing.”

Red Currant and Cream
“A summer pudding. Sharp-scarlet juices of red currants, lush strawberries and raspberries, rippling through creamy musk. Vivacious and enticing.”

Elderflower and Gooseberry
“A voluptuous gooseberry fool. Crushed, summer-green gooseberries, juicy with lychee, enfolded into the soft delicacy of elderflower. Tender and feminine.”

Bitter Orange and Chocolate 
“The bite of bitter orange, layered with dark chocolate.  Orange peel counterpoised with warm, powdery cocoa, milky coconut and coumarin.  Sumptuous and addictive.”

They are all wonderful and I’d love to give a whole set not just to a granddaughter but to myself. I adore the Bitter Chocolate on it’s own and find the elderflower and Gooseberry to be something that I’d enjoy wearing all spring long. I must admit that until I smelled this collection the genre  of  sugary fruity gourmand perfumes had escaped me almost entirely, but there’s something about these  playful Jo Malone’s that’s absolutely delightful and makes the possibility of smelling like a warm ginger biscuit seem sophisticated and very romantic. They’re only available through March so you don’t have much more time and priced at 60.00 a bottle they’re easy to succumb to.  Take your inner child to tea (or at least a precocious niece or nephew!) and try them all!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Heat Wave

By Tom

Well the madness that is Los Angeles weather continues apace. Last week it was rain and lows in the low 40's with daytime temps not that much higher. This week we're topping out into the 80's, breaking records. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but those snuggy scents I was enjoying so in the rainy cool days are a little much in this heat.

So I am reaching for some of the lighter stuff. like Annick Goutal Eau de Sud and Hadrien, Acqua di Parma Colonia and Hermès Eau d'OrangeVert.

What do you reach for when the temps soar? Let us know in the comments,

Image: Wikipedia

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Guerlain L'Heure de Nuit

By Tom

I decided to drop by Saks while out at lunch and this has shown up at the Guerlain counter. I had read that this was something of a flanker to L'Heure Bleue. L'Heure Bleue is legendary of course, one of those benchmark scents that us fragrance lovers adore, but perhaps is a bit of a challenge to people who, well, aren't us.

L'Heure de Nuit is more for them. It's not challenging-it's pretty. It opens with notes that remind me of candied violets, adds in citrus and finally goes to a pillowy almond.

I don't like it at all.

Maybe because I feel that when you name something basically "middle of the night" and color it an inky blue the scent should be a little darker, more goth. This is more of a sparkly pinafore of a scent and for me it kind of just doesn't work.

$270 for 4.2 oz at Saks, where I sampled

Image: my iPhone