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Friday, May 16, 2014

Coup de Foudre - Guerlains L'Heure Bleue

By Beth Schreibman Gehring

“I picked up the bottle of L’Heure Bleue and poured a generous puddle into the palm of my hand. Rubbing my hands briskly together before the scent could evaporate, I smoothed them rapidly through my hair. I poured another dollop onto my hairbrush and swept the curls back behind my ears with it.

Well. That was rather better, I thought, turning my head from side to side to examine the results in the speckled looking glass. The moisture had dissipated the static electricity in my hair, so that it floated in heavy, shining waves about my face. And the evaporating alcohol had left behind a very pleasant scent. Frank would like that, I thought. L’Heure Bleu was his favorite.”

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Outlander.” 

Everyone who knows me at all , knows that I’ve had an obsession with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander  Series for at least the last 20 years.   There are 8 books in all beginning with the first one, entitled Outlander, which is set simultaneously in Inverness Scotland in 1945  and 1745!  This is a series that has something for everyone,  history, England , Scotland, the most outstanding love affair ever written , amazing leading men and women and yes, plenty of captivating, knee crossing , heaving bosom , heavy breathing, sweating, panting , begging sexuality.

Warning. Anyone who thought that 50 Shades of Gray was provocative is not sexually mature enough for this delicious story!

To make a long story very short (and so as to not ruin it for anyone who is interested enough to read them, a lovely young nurse in her twenties, Claire Beauchamp Randall is on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank. They’ve been separated by the war and have seen each other only 3 times in 6 years. Frank is a historian who is absolutely obsessed with his British ancestor, the monstrously awful Captain Jack (That’s Black Jack to you”) Randall.  One day, while Frank is busy researching his family tree, Claire who's an amateur botanist,  decides to goes  back to Craigh na Dun, a megalithic Scottish standing  stone circle, to pick a bit of gentian violet for her plant press.  She wanders around the circle and hears a strong buzzing noise, much like a swarm of angry bees and is quickly drawn to the cleft between two stones.  The rest is herstory!  Claire finds herself tumbling through time and into the arms of her husbands notorious relative and is rescued by a band of Scots Highlanders, and especially one,  James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, a young and exceeding wonderful although outlawed Scottish laird. 

I’m not telling you the rest. The best news is that a TV show is being made of the first book (the trailer is above so get ready to feast your eyes!) by Starz and will begin in August.  There’s also an 8th book due out in June entitled “Written in my own hearts Blood. “ Each book takes Ms. Gabaldon at least 4 years to write and they are so worth the wait!

  Claire’s signature perfume  is Guerlains magnificent L’ Heure Bleue, which is also her husband Franks favorite. It also happens to be a favorite of mine, which makes it very easy for me to channel my inner Claire Randall  at anytime. L’Heure Bleue  translates into “The Blue Hour”  or perhaps  even more appropriately , The Gloaming which is Middle English for that heady blue sky space that occurs between dusk and eve where the sun has set, but nightfall has not yet appeared.

L’Heure Bleue is what might be called a Floral/Oriental, but to me it is simply one of the most gracefully seductive perfumes that I’ve ever smelled. To begin there is exotic aniseed and bergamot and not just a little bit of Neroli , the tango of which makes  the beginnings of this perfume deceptively ephemeral but quickly L’Heure Bleue’s , becomes very exotic as the Tonka bean, Iris and Benzoin blend with its sexy vanilla heart. L’ Heure Bleue   dries down on my skin leaving a residue of boozy vanilla and musk.  When brushed through the hair as Claire does in the passage above, the chemistry created is almost unbearably sensual.

If you haven’t smelled LHB in a while I encourage you to give it a twirl again.  It requires a heart open to adventure  , romance and passion. It is not a young woman’s perfume, but then again Claire Randall  was/has never been a young woman. My only sadness is that this glorious fragrance was wasted on her absolutely useless husband Frank. 

Jamie Fraser would have been utterly spellbound by it and that’s all that I’m going to say. I'm afraid that you'll have to discover him for yourself........

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Off Topic: The Remake of Rosemary's Baby

By Tom

Okay, I'll admit that I usually don't like remakes. Rarely do you get something that is even in the same zip code as the the original. The remake of "Psycho" by Gus Van Sant was an interesting disaster. The remake of "The Stepford Wives" was just a disaster.

The remake of "Rosemary's Baby"? So far not so good.

Where to start? First off, the original was an almost word for word carbon copy of the book (legend has it that Roman Polanski didn't realize that it was de rigeur in Hollywood to change the original material.) While I didn't expect that the remake would be so faithful there are plot points that at least to me seem to be there as just that, plot points (SPOILER: in the original, Steven Marcato is Roman Castevet, a major moment in the movie where Rosemary with the help of a scrabble set finds out that her kindly elderly neighbor is the son of a man who claimed to have conjured up the living Satan and was beaten to death by a mob in front of the Bramford Apartments in New York, where they all live. In the new version, they're separate people. Why? Who knows.)

The director of the piece states that unlike Mia Farrow in the earlier version, Zöe Saldana is not a "victim." Well, I beg to differ. Mia Farrow's Rosemary Woodhouse was not a victim. She was a woman who moved into an apartment building with her loving husband and became pregnant only to slowly discover that there was something so horrific going on around her that it defied belief. First finding your husband distant. Then having horrific health problems in your first few months of pregnancy that your doctor (and back in the 60's doctors were considered like gods, especially Society ones that were on TV) tell you will end soon. Then having the few people you can turn to either die or not believe you. Then coming to the crushing conclusion that your husband and your neighbors have literally sold you out to the Devil.

What does she do? Grabs the biggest knife in the kitchen and makes her way in to the middle of the party of her tormenters to take her baby back. Sound like a victim? I don't think so.

Also, casting. Ms. Saldana I have no issue with and I actually really liked Carole Bouquet who is pinpoint perfect in her portrayal of the sophisticated Gallic warm and just a little too friendly Margaux Castevet. It's the boys who let us down here. Roman in the original was so benign seeming that it was a shock when it turned out he was the head of a Satanic cult, 2014 Roman practically twirls his moustache. John Cassavetes in the original (when Guy was an actor) was a great actor in real life: he was able to show us when Guy in the movie was "acting" at Rosemary. You could see the wheels turning in retrospect, even if Rosemary could not. 2014 isn't turning my wheels.

Then there's the gore; I am so tired of TV shows throwing battle slops at me instead of plot. I might be putting on my old man pants here, but when did something like this get a "TV-14" rating when by my count it was gorier than "Freddie VS Jason?"

But even the gore doesn't move the story, the first installment at two hours was a horror taffy-pull. I don't know that I have the energy to watch the rest.

What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Image: IMDB

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Foodie Thursday: Spaghetti Sauce

By Tom

Okay, I admit it. I got nothin' for this week. I'd filed in Saturday for The Posse and the scent I thought I'd write about for today just wasn't doing it for me, and not in an interesting way.

What has been doing it for me recently is pasta, and pasta sauces. After my round of dental surgery I wasn't able to eat much, and after seeing a friend I hadn't seen in a couple of months (and weighing myself and looking in the mirror, it was getting a little "Rosemary's Baby" around the edges. Now, that's a look that a twenty-something Mia can get way with. On a fifty-something (did I just admit that in PRINT!?!) not so much.

So I figured some carbs were in order. I like pasta, and I like pasta sauces. Everything from browning some hamburger meat and an an onion and adding jarred sauce (Silver Palate seems to be ever on sale at my local market and is great) to making home-made alfredo, which is easier than it would seem and a lot healthier.

Cooks Illustrated and Cooks Country if you are a cooking enthusiast is a god-send to the home cook. They will exhaustively research the perfect way to cook anything you can think of ans walk you through the recipe step by step. You have to sign up and pay for their site but if you're cooking for a family and want easy and fool-proof recipes it's worth it.

So what's your favorite past and sauce? I think my all-time is fettuccine carbonara..


Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Painterly Palette of PK Perfumes (Part two)

By Donna

Last time I reviewed the first half of the PK Perfumes line, and now I am wrapping it up with the rest of the bunch. I have really enjoyed testing the various styles of fragrance so well crafted by Paul Kiler.
One that I keep coming back to experience is Velvet Curaçao, so intriguing is its dark and delicious take on orange and orange blossom. It does indeed feel like an opulent tapestry, or perhaps a heavy curtain in an opera box behind which all the grand ladies and gentlemen sit in their silken finery and flirt with slinky gloves, feathered fans and sidelong glances. It is almost candied it is so rich, but it is kept from being too sweet by its deeply burnished base of oakmoss, labdanum, ambrette seed, woods and musks. This would be a wonderful fragrance for special occasions, especially the kind where the lamps are turned down low, soft music is playing and candles are lit...

Carissa is a very bright, happy and extroverted floral. It is a classic bouquet scent with rose, tuberose, green notes, jasmine, orange blossom and and the unusual and rarely used Carissa flower, an Australian bloom with which I am not familiar but which has a gardenia-like scent. (Its fruit is quite poisonous when unripe; typical for a white floral, they always seem to have something sinister in their family tree and that's one of the things I love about them.) It is entirely unapologetic about its nature so those who shun floral perfumes like this for being “old-fashioned” will miss out on its effusive charm. Carissa would be right at home in the kind of American style mid-century perfumery that produced so many overtly feminine fragrances (think of White Shoulders, for example) but that is exactly why I like it so much. It's the kind of thing I splash on with abandon when I don't have to go to the office and I can just revel in excessive girly indulgence all I want.

I am always on the lookout for a good green scent, and Ere is a welcome addition to the genre. It's just grassy enough from the judicious use of galbanum but it's not chewy and dense like some fragrances that have an overdose of the stuff – mind you, I adore galbanum, but sometimes you just want to enjoy a nice soft green fragrance that reminds you of walking on dewy lawns, and this is one that fills that niche to the letter. It has a resinous (but not heavy) base that makes it linger much longer than most of its kind, and a juiciness that lets you know this grass is stemmy and freshly cut, ready for your bare feet to tread upon. I am saving the rest of my sample and I plan to trot it out the next time it's too hot to wear anything but a soothing, cooling green.

After reading the description of Pentecost, how it actually smells was quite a surprise. I was expecting a fresh spring floral with roses, but how about grapes? Yes, the aroma of grape must and wine dregs, intense and pervasive, is what hit my nose first with this one. I am particularly fond of the foxy pucker of grape skin so I enjoyed this immensely. The florals and exhilarating green notes chime in shortly thereafter, and it turns out that the initial impression was an illusion, simply another facet of rose, fresh and fruity yet rich, the immediate and vivid breath of a highly scented living flower. The other surprise of Pentecost is how long it lingers; I could still smell it on my skin the next morning after applying it the day before. It's flat-out gorgeous and I recommend it highly for any fan of rose perfumes.

Speaking of rose, the name says it all with Dirty Rose, a sultry black-red rose with a hefty punch of patchouli, made distinctive from others of its kind by the inclusion of just enough oud a great wallop of muskiness. If you want the overall structure of a rose/oud scent but the extreme versions from the likes of Montale are too much, this would be a great choice. Patchouli can be problematic for me, and sometimes it refuses to cooperate with my skin chemistry, but on a good day I can rock a perfume like this and feel like a femme fatale, and when that happens Dirty Rose works perfectly. On the flip side, this is easily a man's rose for those who dare. Prisoners will not be taken in either case.

The final fragrance I tested was a preliminary version of a pending launch intended for men only, and it's easy to see why – Kairos is devoid of any softness or sweetness, yet it is elegantly constructed, not rough or coarse. It is a vetiver-heavy scent with an earthy muscularity which is still restrained enough for polite company. I don't know what the final product will be like but I think it's safe to say that it will require men with strong personalities to carry it off, and I eagerly await its debut.

Image credit: Red rose wallpaper via Pink roses on branch wallpaper from
Disclaimer: I requested and received a sample set from PK perfumes for testing purposes.

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

A Semi-Rerun and a Minor Whinge

By Tom

First off, it's hot. We've gotten into a Santa Ana cycle this week, For those of you who have never lived in Southern California, the Santa Ana winds (otherwise known as an off-shore flow are hot, dry winds that come down from the desert into the basin. They can down trees, power lines and my neighbors DirecTV dish. They also can exacerbate fires, and there are several going on right now. Raymond Chandler wrote of them in the story Red Wind thusly:
"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."
I happen to not mind them, since I grew up in New England where we'll take that 90's weather and add in sopping humidity that will stick around all night. But it did make me think about what scent I should wear. Actually if I was stuck on a frozen steppe about to be devoured by wild dogs part of me would be wondering what I should be wearing scent-wise, but I digress..

I came across the bottle of French Lover I bought back in the day when I was flush and gave myself a healthy spritz. Back in 2007 I wrote:
"This has been compared to Guerlain Derby and it does make that same slashingly chic statement. On me the angelica takes a backseat to the vetiver: and what a vetiver! Incredibly full, it's supplanted with woods and incense and not a little musk. It also reminds me a bit of something else- somewhat as if Le Labo Vetiver and Guerlain Habit Rouge had a love child: It has the Le Laboish austere smokiness in its vetiver, but it has the swagger (the only way I can think of to put it) of Habit Rouge. Wearing it today maundering about in my paint-spattered t-shirt and old jeans, I kept getting marvelous little whiffs of it and felt distinctly underdressed. I also passed two people who visibly and enjoyably sniffed and then looked at over at unshaven me and visibly thought "Can't be him". This is the scent I would wear into a meeting with the CEO, a date with the person I wanted to marry or perhaps when being sentenced: it has a rock-ribbed patrician quality to it that's quite wonderful. Needless to say, I logged onto the Malle website and picked up a (small) bottle right away, especially since it will be renamed Bois d'Orage in the states, since it is felt that 'French Lover' would not sell as well. Well "Thunder Wood" sounds like a porn star, and I like the original name."
I still feel the same way. It's still that good, and I usually dislike scents that have anything with Angelica in them. I still like the name "French Lover" better too, and am glad I got a bottle shipped from Europe back in the day, I'm bot glad that 100ML bottles are now $250 at Barney's. But I may have to try the body wash at $75.

What do you wear when the heat is on?

My tester was from my personally purchased bottle. 

Image: Barney's.