Monday, February 28, 2011

There's something deep inside of me; there's someone else I've got to be...

Monday, 2/21/11 - Friday, 2/25/11

 I went to the coast this past weekend and it was deserted because of the cold, but so beautiful. The tide was so high when I got there the beach was basically nonexistence There is nothing quite like staring out at the sea to make one feel contemplative, which is what I felt.

Monday: I'm taking a personal pass today because I got "a wild hair" as my father would say and, as I was running out the door this morning, layered Origins Ginger Essence with Bath & Body Works Wild Honeysuckle, which has resulted in a spicy top note with a soapy dry sweetness underneath. I have no idea what made me pair the two or motivated me to layer this morning, I just did. But it turned out nice.

Tuesday: L'Artisan Al Oudh - Notes: Cumin, cardamom, pink pepper, Neroli, rose, castoreum, civet, leather, musk,Oud, sandalwood, Atlas cedar, patchouli, myrrh, incense, vanilla, tonka bean OMG! So good! I haven't tried a lot of Ouds yet but I'm ready to start. It's a dry, warm, and mix of wood, moss, and peat. It's smoky. It's slightly medicinal. It reminds me of walking in the woods after a rain in the summer. It's a very different green outdoor scent than, say, CB I Hate Perfume Black March. It's an intense scent, and feels very close. I don't know how else to explain it. Some scents are light and airy and spacious; this scent feel like this moment from George Michaels' "Freedom! '90" video. FN1 Right around the 5:45 mark, one of the models pulls her entire head inside a black wool sweater and they shoot her singing inside this kind of...cocoon. Al Oudh does that. It cocoons you. The sillage is wide, so beware. Don't get over zealous with spraying if you can't take/don't want them to smell you coming. If you do, though, it's a wonderful way to go. 5 of 5 nods.

Wednesday: Pacifica Indian Coconut Nectar solid perfume - Notes include: vanilla, coconut, vetiver This starts off a a very gourmand vanilla and coconut mixture, not unlike taking a large tablespoon of sweetened flaked coconut and holding it in your mouth. After about an hour, the sweetness fades and a creamy vetiver base comes forward mingling with the coconut. It's so sweet I don't know if it would work as a spray, but it's a great solid perfume. It's just lovely and would be a great summer scent. My only complaint is that it only lasts two hours before it disappears. Luckily I can carry the little solid perfume tin in my purse for mid evening reapplications. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Thursday: Dawn Spencer Horwitz (DHS) Perfumes Nourouz (Tamarind / Paprika - Holiday Edition - Natural) - Notes include: Black Pomegranate (accord), Paprika, Tamarind, Bulgarian Rose Otto, Orris, Osmanthus, Oppopanax, Red Wine notes, Tobacco Absolute, Vanilla Absolute

 Nourouz, also known as "Tamarind / Paprika" is a limited edition holiday scent. It's a lovely scent with a boozy edge that blooms into a nice,dry warmly herbal scent. I find it to be sort of black tea like, with a touch of cream and a smidgen of sugar. I enjoy it because it's slightly sweet without being gourmand or floral. Truly lovely and delicious, great on a man or woman. 5 of 5 nods.

Friday: Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion - Notes: gardenia, orange blossom, tuberose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, vanilla, patchouli and oakmoss Wow. I have not encountered such a gritty gardenia before. Really! I feel like this is a scented caste iron gardenia, a gardenia made of glass and spun, still not, in gun powder. It's edgy in a way that florals aren't usually, which makes it a very sexy gardenia, but in completely different way from other gardenias. The tuberose is nice but the sharper notes are what really wow me here, because it is so different from Robert Piguet Fracas but yet just as fabulous and strong. Love, love, love. 5 of 5 nods.

Winner of the weekWhat a great week of scents!  I honestly cannot choose this week -- love'em all and can't wait to have them.
"All we have to do now
is take these lies and make them true somehow.
All we have to see
is that I don't belong to you
and you don't belong to me.
~ "Freedom '90," George Michael

Also it's that time again, readers.  It's time for our monthly mixed CD and sample drawing!  Three or four samples of my choice plus a mix CD of the variety given by significant others in high school, complete with handmade cover art by moi.  And as a teaser -- the mix has got a little bit of everything, from artists like Best Coast and Be Your Own Pet to Wanda Jackson and The Ronettes, with a little Decemberists and Black Keys in between. 

Leave me a comment to enter, telling me either (a) the Oud you recommend I try next or (b) how you think Oscars went.  Or (c) anything you want to tell me, really.  Open to all readers regardless of residence. Comment by 11:59 PM, Pacific Standard time, Saturday March 5, 2011 to enter.

Mix title: This Gun Don't Care Who It Shoots.

FN1. Video below. WARNING: NSFW depending on your work.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscar Musings: What Does a "Best Picture" Smell Like?

Further thoughts on the Oscars... See my guest post at Now Smell This! for more.

There is very little in the world as satisfying as a well-told story.

A truly good story is one that is an immersive experience. It takes the voyeur into itself, immersing you in the sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste of the moment. When any piece of art does this, we like to honor it. For perfume, we have Prix International du Parfum, the Fifis, Grand Prix du Parfum, and so forth. When it comes to motion pictures, two annual judgments tend to reign supreme: Cannes and the Academy Awards.

Tomorrow the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hand out the coveted statuettes for the 83rd time. First held May 16, 1929 to celebrate outstanding film achievements for 1927 and 1928, the “Oscars” are now shown annually in over 200 countries. So it’s safe to say that, unless you live under a rock or on Mars, you’ve heard about the little golden statute and all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it. While there are a lot of awards for various aspects – costuming, screen writing, score – the most sought after award, year after year, is Best Motion Picture. This year ten films will duke it out to be named story of the year.

When faced with contenders as varied as Toy Story 3, Black Swan, The Kids Are Alright, and Inception, how does one choose the “best”?

As perfume obsessed as I am, it tends to invade all aspects of my life, including my other obsessions. When I smell perfume, I hear music, and vice versa. When I encounter a truly beautiful photograph or painting, sometimes I have an immediate scent association. So of course, as I sit around watching movies, I think about perfume. What’s interesting is I don’t often find myself thinking about what a particular character would wear so much as I find myself wondering what scent could capture the overall feeling of the story I’m seeing.

I wonder, if this film was a perfume, what would it smell like?

So, dear readers, my challenge to you, on this Oscar-eve, is this: Think of the movies nominated for best picture this year. If you were asked to attempt to explain to someone who had not seen them what the essence of their stories were through scent alone, what would you choose?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Today is the day, darling readers....

...the day I cross the Rubicon and guest post for Now Smell This!

This is like climbing the Everest of Perfume Blogging, and I am super grateful to Robin for letting me blather on about two things I love -- movies and perfume.

My post, A brush with fame: perfume at the Oscars,  is posted.  Come on over and talk to me.

Copyright Photo taken from J Chau at flickr; all rights reserved by J Chau.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Scent that Book!: Beautiful Creatures & Beautiful Darkness

Scent That Book! is a new, reoccurring feature here at Feminine Things. It is premised on the idea that even books require perfuming, whether the authors realize that or not.

Reading is sexy!
Dear reader, do you read a lot? I read…a lot. I’ve always been a big reader. I was the kid who always carried around a book like a safety blanket; I was like the Rory Gilmore of my Houston suburb. My reading slowed to a trickle during college and then law school. In the last year, though, I’ve returned to fiction with ferocity. I read two to three books a week, usually in the two hundred to five hundred page range.

Something I’ve been noticing. These books will have passages that describe scents, usually the specific way a person smells, and my little sniffa brain immediately begins distracting me with an internal hunt to place the scent in the panoply of perfumes I know. Then I thought – why play a game alone that could be so much more fun with friends?

Thus here we are, the first in a new series I’m calling Scent that Book. I’ll give you a passage from a book with some scent related items mentioned. You help me figure out what perfume you think might be similar.

First up:  Beautiful Creatures, and its sequel, Beautiful Darkness, also known as the first two novels in  The Caster Chronicles, are books by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia. Beautiful Creatures was named it one of the top ten books of 2009 and the top pick for best teen book by Here's a brief description:
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small southern town of Gatlin has ever seen. Lena has wavy black hair with large green eyes. She wears a necklace made of pieces of junk and carries around a tattered journal. She is gossiped about, picked on and neglected because of the fact that she is the niece of Macon Melchizedek Ravenwood (Otherwise known as Old Man Ravenwood), the town's shut in. Lena is struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten south, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Lawson Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape Gatlin, is haunted by dreams in which he is trying to save a beautiful girl he has never met. He has brown hair and blue eyes and lives with his care taker and house keeper Amarie "Amma" Treadeau and his depressed father who has shut himself in his study since his wife's death. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
Without giving away too much detail, here are two snippets of scent description from Beautiful Darkness:
I was caught in her drag, struck by the current that bound us together and kept us apart. I leaned in to kiss her mouth, sand she held the lemon in front of my nose, teasing. "Smell." "Smells like you." Like lemon and rosemary, the scent that had drawn me to Lena when we first met. (pg. 32) 
Lemon and rosemary, Lena Duchannes' signature scent. So what do you think, dear reader? What scent might capture all the magical turmoil of Lena Duchannes (rhymes with "rain") and her star-crossed love affair with Ethan Wate in tiny Gatlin? I was thinking maybe Guerlain Jicky at first because Lena's power is supposed to go back generations, but now I'm thinking Miller Harris Le Petit Grain, the oak-moss, vetiver, and patchouli leaves at the base reflect some of the story elements that I'll let you discover on your own.

Ah, yes, but as all star-crossed stories go, Lena and Ethan struggle with forces working against their love, and teenage temptation rears its head. Enter Liv, who is described below.
But I didn't answer her. I pushed her shiny blonde hair away from her face and leaned down, our faces only inches apart. She inhaled softly, our lips so close I could feel her breath and the scent of her skin, like honeysuckle in springtime. She smelled like sweet tea and old books, like she had always been here. (p. 211)
Honeysuckle, sweet tea, old books. Like a cross between CB I Hate Perfume In the Library and Jo Malone Honeysuckle & Jasmine, or better yet DSH Perfumes Wild Honeysuckle? Though that, sadly, misses the sweet tea aspect, which if you're from any part of the South, you know won't do a'tall. I've never tried elizabethW Sweet Tea but maybe that would do. I dunno. It's stumper, Liv, the English would-be librarian.

So now its your turn. You've got a few words about the universe, the characters, and some notes. What do you think?

You can read more about Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Random Film Thought of the Day

InStyle did a piece recently on the 10 most iconic movie kisses...

Sam & Jake in Sixteen Candles
....and this one WAS NOT on the list.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

She thinks I'm psycho 'cause I like to rhyme her name with things.

Monday, 2/14/11, through Friday, 2/18/11

Texas milkweed
Monday: puredistance Antonia - The initial impression I had was of a milky soapy substance with a hint of bitterness around the edges, like the sap from the Texas milkweed I remember growing up. You'd crush the flowers between your fingers and the scent would rise up at you. FN1.  It also has a powdery aspect that is nice and unique. Carol talks about this one being rendered strongly enough to taste it, and I get that sensation as well. It's green, but not in a sharp way. It's more powdery and supple and slightly floral than sharp, like the tender stems of  a weaved wildflower crown. I think it would be a great scent for Spring, though sadly not for me. I don't know what it is. It's unique and pretty and lush, but I've tried it three times and I still can't see myself wearing it. I recommend giving it a whirl, though. Everyone else seems to love it. 3 of 5 nods. FN2.

Tuesday: Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Union Station - Truthfully? The opening smells exactly like a high quality version of Gap So Pink! I know because I wore it for a couple of years in high school and still keep a little bottle for nostalgia.

Two hours later: Still very Gap So Pink!. I'm gonna go home and try a side-by-side comparison and get back to you.

Later that night: Okay, so on my left arm I have Union Station, and on my right arm, So Pink! Putting them right next to each other, I can see the obvious differences but there is absolutely no denying the similarities, especially after a couple of hours. On application, So Pink is more citrusy, but in a fake cleanser smell kind of way. Union Station, on the other hands, smells like a basket of pale pink flower petals, like roses and tulips. The scents are like half-siblings. In fact, let's imagine it together, shall we?
Imagine two girls. 
Union grows up in an upper middle class ranch-style house on a block in a suberb full of the same micro-McMansions. She's an A/B student on the JV cheerleading squad and always has a date to Homecoming. She will probably make the Royal Court for Winter Formal this year. She drives a light blue Cabriolet convertible her parents bought her for her sweet sixteen. She got a good score on her PSATs and already has contacts in the admissions office of the big state school of her dreams, where she never pauses to doubt she will be accepted.

Then you've got Suz. She lives in a cramped two bedroom aparment in a rundown complex with her mom and her mom's boyfriend, Bob (rhymes with "knob"). She doesn't know anything about her dad, except that her mom dated him for a while, but he broke it off when she got preggo, which gives Suz some pretty dim views of dating. Suz makes okay grades, with the occasional A, not because she isn't capable of more, but because she hates going to that damned school full of the bubbleheaded rah-rahs and their beefy boyfriends makes her teeth ache from the fake sweetness of their h
allway gropings. Suz rides the bus or bums rides off her friends, and avoids dances like she getting ready for for the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.

The girls have a few run-ins during high school -- invites to the same parties, interests in the same guy -- that are just enough to allow them to torment one another with their mere respective existence.  
As they grow older, look so much alike they could even be twins if you look past Union's dyed hair and nose job (broke it on a seesaw as a kid, had to have *that* fixed) and Suz's colored contacts. 
Years later, purely by chance, they end up working at the same large company. Union is a corporate account exec and Suz one of the top HR people, completely unaware of one another until they run into each other in the elevator one afternoon. There they realize they not only know each other, but may have more in common than they ever realized when they were sixteen and sitting on the opposite sides of bitter enemy lines, the kind that can only exist in high school.
That's what wearing Union Station is like compared to So Pink!. Like the stylish, better heeled half-sibling of my beloved high school scent in a plastic bottle. So if you like So Pink! this is a nicer version of a scent so similar after about two hours I could barely discern a difference. If you like Union Station okay but think it's a little on the pricey side, give So Pink! a try.

Just remember -- the money you spend going to make a huge difference in the quality of the opening salvo. Later...well, not quite so much. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Wednesday: Andrea Maack Sharp - Notes: orange blossom, angel skin, sweet vanilla, white musk and soothing softness. The opening is all black pepper and bitterness, probably from the orange blossom, but I'd expect to see white pepper among the notes, and I don't. In other words -- sharp! This part lasts about half an hour as it blends into the middle, which is anything but.

The middle is sweet, but not in a floral or foodie way. It is very ambery without, apparently, any amber. The sweet is a little on the dry side, as if you could make dried herbs of sugar cane. The overall experience reminds me of the way it would taste if you ate the coating off roasted spcied nuts, but without the nut part.

Except....except it has this little medicinal edge to it that keeps tugging at the edge of my brain, refusing to be ignored. It's interesting, as sweet as it is, you'd think I'd say it was floral or gourmand, but truthfully, it is sweet in the way that makes me want to meet the man who would wear it because I think, at least in a small dosage, it might be sexy as hell on a man with the confidence to wear it. FN3. Of course, this is the same phantom dude comfortable with wearing Theirry Mugler Angel, who I still have yet to encounter. FN4.

Now the big question: Do I like it? I think...yeah, I think I do. I can't quite call it an oriental, though it is definitely in that direction, because it lacks the complexity and incense-y edges I normally associate with orientals. I don't think it's overly aggressive (though, woah baby, it's got some sillage) as far as orientals go, so if you don't normally like things of that nature you might really like this. For me, it was like wearing the smell of Katy Perry's new album, Teenage Dream. Seriously. That album cover? That addictive poppy bounce? This scent has it. So look at the visual aid to the right, and you essentially have this scent. A lot of nice, but more than a smidgen of naughty, too. And you know what? I think I'm developing a crush on Katy Perry...and on Sharp. FN5. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Thursday: Keiko Mecheri Cuir Cordoba - Notes: black violet, bergamot, elemi, suede accord, patchouli, sandalwood, benzoin. Immediate impression: "Medicinal at first, but the sweetness underneath makes sniffing this feel the same as the feeling of velvet rudding against skin. I feel like a cat; I want to pur and rub myself against this one."

Okay, I wrote that before I read the Luckyscent description which says "Cuir Cordoba is like the softest, most supple suede." *AND* "Luxuriously tactile and equally gorgeous on a man or woman: Cuir Cordoba purrs utter sophistication." Seriously, how crazy is that? Soft fabric and purring? But I mean to tell you, those are the two things that come immediately with Cuir Cordoba. In fact I don't really know what else I can say: it's sweet and soft, the patchouli is very light, providing a kind of shading on a mix that smells 70% sandalwood and violet/10% benzoin/10% whatever the hell "suede accord" is. The only thing I didn't really get a lot of was the bergamot. And it doesn't smell like velvet or suede. It smells like the feel of velvet or, yes, I can see suede, against your skin. Definitely sexy, and could be worn by a man or a woman.

1 hour, 31 minutes later: Why is my lovely fabric scent turning into a copper penny dipped in blood? WHY!?! I loved it! It was one of the best scents I'd tried this year. I could have gone along rubbing my hand on my face for hours. But now? Smells like someone bleed all over my velvet gloved hand.

~ 3 hours in: The coppery blood smell has faded somewhat, but still there. It's better, but I don't so much want to spend hours with my hand glued to my face anymore. The coppery notes are less obvious from a distance of say, a foot away, but if you sprayed it on and someone went to kiss your neck or wrist, they might get an unpleasant undernote surprise. This makes me really sad to say, but I think I have to downgrade my initial impression, which was in the 4.5 to 5 range, to only a solid 3.5 to 4 nods.

Friday: Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine - Notes: blood orange, bitter orange; heart notes: jasmine, geranium; base notes: amber woods, tonka beans, sandalwood. It is hard to do a good orange scent. I don't know what it is about orange scents, but so many of them smell a little like cleaner to me. I don't think it is the perfumers' faults, it is just that citrus smells get used in cleansers a lot, so that's the first thing that spring to mind.

 With that disclaimer, this is one scent that does not smell like cleaner! It is a very good orange scent. Right out of the gate, it is like a blast of realism, sweet orange fruit flesh all over you. It fades down quickly into a quieter scent, which allows a slightly sweet floral aspect come to play underneath. I think it screams summer scent, as you can practically feel the warmth coming off it in waves. It also works as a unisex scent, I think because citrus notes are found so often in genderless air fresheners and cleansers.  My only complaint is how light  and fleeting it is, though that makes it pretty safe for those of you in work aren't scent friendly. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Winner of the weekAndrea Maack Sharp edges out both Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine (for being too light) and Keiko Mecheri Cuir Cordoba (because of the weird coppery part I can't get over). That said, would love to any of them. Great scents all. In fact, this whole week was consistently pretty good to great, which says nice things for all these perfumers.

This week's song dedicated to the Tuesday's scent and the warring fictional perfumey teens in my head.

"She lives her life like it's a party and she's on the list.
She looks at me like I'm a trend and she's so over it.
I think her ever present frown is a little troubling.
she thinks I'm psycho 'cause I like to rhyme her name with things.
But sophistication isn't what you wear or who you know
or pushing people down to get you where you wanna go.
They didn't teach you that in prep school,
so it's up to me: no amount of vintage dresses gives you dignity..."

"Better than Revenge," Taylor Swift (You can hear a clip of the song here.) FN6.

FN1. Why was I crushing flowers between my fingers and sniffing at them? I dunno. What can I say? I was a weird kid. I also ate mint picked wild from my backyard even though my mom told me not to.
FN2. My sample was generously provided by Perfume-Smellin' Things and Luckyscent
FN3. Like Ted from How I Met Your Mother and his red boots. "Pulling them off."
FN4. I suspect this is a mostly American problem.
FN5. Seriously, did you see her on HIMYM? So cute! See the video below...

FN6. I love Taylor Swift. I love her new album, Speak Now. If you want to debate her as an artist or a positive icon for girls/women, we can do that, but I can tell you that if I had a guitar and her talent at twenty-one, I'd be writing songs just like hers. And I love her for that.  I love that her music feels like a window back to young love and loss, because it feels real, even if it isn't perfect in its maturity or awareness. After all, who's perspective is especially at twenty-one?

Monday, February 14, 2011

David sent me this today...

First, my brother sent me a Valentine all the way from Iraq, and then I got this in the email:

Hope your significant otter is as lovely as mine.

Happy V-day!

Ten Great Date Movies & Perfumes to Match

Once upon a time, my lovely but somewhat romantically clueless husband convinced by best friend, Kate, to watch the movie The Crow by telling her it was a love story. Now I admit that love is clearly involved in the epic tale that is The Crow and is an overarching theme. But when the story is about a zombie arisen from the dead for a brief period because he is hellbent on torturing to death the evil people who killed him and his girlfriend so he can reunite with her beyond the grave, "love story" probably isn't the first thing that should spring to mind. And when it comes to romantic events, like say, Valentine's Day, you're looking for a date film that has the right mix of meet-cutes, romantic hijinks, minor challenges, and happily-ever-afters to make everyone feel happy and hopeful and, above all, not like they completely ruined their hair and make-up sobbing through half the film. To that end, I give you the following list of what I deem as appropriate films and their according romantic scent pairs. FN1.

1. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940) - A hilarious rom com about a couple of crazy kids in love who, after making every wrong choice available, finally get what they deserve -- each other. Guerlain Shalimar for Katharine Hepburn, who can even make being soused look elegant.

2. Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954; thought the 1995 Sydney Pollack remake is good, too) - A wealthy cynic attempts to seduce the girl from the wrong side of the servant's quarters in order to protect the family business and finds himself stuck with the one problem he can't pay someone to fix -- falling in love. Chanel No.5, because I like to think Sabrina found it while she was studying in Paris and brought it back to the house to seduce David, but in the end Linus bought her a bottle every year for their anniversary.

3. Breakfast at Tiffany's (Blake Edwards, 1961) - When a frivolous young woman meets an equally errant young man, they find that the only thing they are more afraid of than an honest day's work is being without one another. Patou Joy, for so many reasons, last but not least of which because the unassailably talented Ms. Hepburn is rumored to have worn it herself. FN2.

4. Hello, Dolly! (Gene Kelly, 1969) - When a widowed matchmaker is hired to make a marriage match for a dour old merchant, she decides to make a match for herself and goes about setting an entire town to falling in love while she's at it, in song. Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille for Ms. Dolly Levy Vandergelder, who loved to eat and drink and make merry, and would like a scent that reflected her spirit.

5. Sixteen Candles (John Hughes, 1984) - A sixteen-year old girl thinks her life is over when her entire family forgets her sixteenth birthday, but ends up with the best birthday present of all -- the high school hunk of her dreams. Annick Goutal Quel Amour for darling Andy, who has to have one of the greatest film kisses of all time.

6. Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987) - When Francis "Baby" Houseman gets dragged to the Catskills for the summer with her parents, she doesn't imagine she will be taught by a dance instructor how to move with passion and grace...and also dance a little, too. S-Perfume 100% Love beause Baby, even after all of her summer lovin' still has that light and innocent feel to her, which is why Johnny loves her so much.

7. Singles (Cameron Crowe, 1992) - Love in the 1990s -- who the hell knows what that's supposed to look like? If you're looking for the intersecting group of love stories movie that inspired films like Love, Actually and Valentine's Day, look no further. Juliette Has a Gun Miss Charming, because Kyra Sedgewick and Bridget Fonda could have both worn it and still gotten their respective endings.

8. Sleepless in Seattle (Nora Ephron, 1993) - When an engaged woman hears a sad widower on the other side of the country tell a story of love and loss on the radio, she finds herself unable to ignore the feeling that he is exactly what she's looking for. How does she know? "Magic." Jo Malone Red Roses for the lovely and lovable Meg Ryan, who is both traditional and modern in this timeless romance.

9. Grosse Pointe Blank (George Armitage, 1997) - When professional assassin Martin Blank gets an assignment that takes him back to his old neighborhood just in time for his tenth high school reunion, he gets the opportunity to try to make up for the biggest mistake of his life: disappearing on prom night and abandoning the girl he has always loved. Creed Love in Black for Martin and Debbie, who deserve to ride off into the sunset.

And last but not least...

10. The Thomas Crown Affair (John McTiernan, 1999 remake) - A bored multi-millionaire pulls an art heist for entertainment and meets up with an art thief bounty hunter who makes him believe that life, and love, might be anything but boring. One of the sexist movies of the last two decades. Robert Piguet Fracas for Rene Russo to wear with that see-though golden dress she flaunts during the dance/seduction scene.

Honorable mention: Valley Girl (Martha Coolidge, 1983), Der Himmel über Berlin (Wim Wenders, 1987), When Harry Met Sally... (Rob Reiner, 1989), Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1991), A Life Less Ordinary (Danny Boyle, 1997), Lola rennt (Tom Tykwer, 1998), Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001), Elizabethtown (Cameron Crowe, 2005), Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006), Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008).  FN3.  FN4.  FN5.

Happy Valentine's Everyone!
FN1: In anticipation of complaints, I want to say I explicitly left off the following films for the following reasons:

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) - No one wants to watch a love story where the people don't end up together for Valentine's Day. Sorry, but no -- Louie and Rick don't cut it.

Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939) - See Casablanca, plus the crushing poverty, death and destruction of post Civil-War south in general and the burnination of Atlanta in particular. Persevering in the face of crushing obstacles might be inspiring, but it is not particularly romantic.

Ghost (Jerry Zucker, 1990) - Movies where people are dead but still in love are NOT GOOD date movies. Reuniting despite death, a la What Dreams May Come or Always, is a downer, people, not date material for this, the most romantic day of all days.

The Notebook (Nick Cassavetes, 2004) - De-press-ing. The Notebook is a very beautiful story but sobbing until you snot all over the sweater your date lent you doesn't make for a great date for Valentines.

Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996) - Again, they're dead! What is wrong with you people?!?

Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) - Dead, dead, dead. And with sad dead person music!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004) - They're caught in a break-up loop! Things can't even change the second time because they don't remember what went wrong with the first try so they can work on it. They're only going to crush each other again. NOT ROMANTIC.

500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009) - About a failed romance. FAILED. He calls the IRL girl a bitch in the opening credits. Not a love story -- says so right there in the voice over.

Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007) - Unless you're trying to get preggo, then starting a date night with this film isn't going to end up where you're trying to get, I'd wager.

An Affair to Remember (Leo McCarey, 1957) - They don't get together when they're supposed to midway through the film because she's hit by a bus. Sad. So sad. Just watch Sleepless in Seattle. You'll be better off, date-wise.

Wow, it appears I could have also done a "Movies to Watch on V-Day to Remind You That Sometimes Love Sucks And You're Better Off Single" list. With perfumes.

FN2. For an updated twist, may I suggest Hors de prix, starring Audrey Tatou, which I'd pair with CoCo Mademoiselle.

FN3. This is a really heterosexist list. I know that. I apologize. Maybe next year I can do an all-queer Valentine's list. Which doesn't really make-up for this year's and I'm sorry for that, again. My only excuse is that I'm too tired to rewrite it right now.

FN4. So apparently I'm also a xenophobe, since all my foreign choices ended up as honorable mentions and footnotes, when I could also do an entire list of foreign films in and of itself.  I'm sorry.  I'm very Oscar-focused right now, so I keep thinking "American Cinema, American Cinema."  Again, my apologies.

FN5.  Oh! I obviously watch a lot of movies.  You got that, right?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Scheme just for a sight of you...

Monday, 2/7/11, through Friday, 2/11/11
My view on the way out
to work this week,
inspiring my Friday choice...

Monday: Ave Luxe No. 23 - Notes: unique blend of Sandalwood, Hawthorn blossoms, Acacia, Rose, Himalayan Geranium, Lavender, and Musk  

Right from the beginning, the musk is evident. Despite the sandalwood and rose, it's not overly sweet, the bulk of the floral notes coming from the geranium and lavender. Pretty quickly No. 23 moves into the incense and wood category, but those geranium/lavender notes are still hiding underneath there.  The overall effect is not overly powdery. I threw it up against Comme des Garcons x Artek because I was feeling like they were similar from my week old memory. This is sweeter and more feminine where CdG x Artek feels strong and cold. While CdG x Artek is tall and angular and full of sunshine like glass and steel architecture, No. 23 is soft and cozy, like a fleece blanket or your favorite worn t-shirt, soft and stretchy from one hundred washes. While the wood is at the forefront in Artek, with sandalwood is at the fore in No. 23.  I like it.  3.5 of 5.

Tuesday: Prada L'Eau Ambree - What a nice, light amber! L'Eau Ambree is not overly sweet, but instead tempers the traditional sticky sweetness you expect from an amber with a lemony citrus note. It keeps the whole thing very fresh and summery, which I don't find in a lot of ambers. It's not overly feminine, either. I feel like you could easily convince a mildly metrosexual guy to wear this one (say, as a gift?).

Like so many Prada scents, it has good staying power while still being a light scent. I put it on eight hours ago and I can still detect a nice mild waft. Sometimes I think that's the genius of the Prada model. Make it nice and not overly powerful or assertive but long-lasting, then sell it in ginormous volumes for not much money so people will apply liberally. If you're trying to become someone's department store-grade signature scent, this is a good approach, in my opinion.

And while we are on the topic of Prada: Why is it that Prada is so good at doing a moderate to high quality scent unlike so many other comparable lines? Whatever they've got going in their labs, other department store lines should take the hint. I own three different Prada scents (Infusion d'Iris, Infusion de Tubereuse, and Prada Pour Homme) and I like this one enough that if I found it for a reasonable sale price (which isn't unusual for Prada scents), I'd take it. It's not a scent that's going to change the world or stop someone dead in their tracks, but it is going to make the person sitting next to you think, "Hmm, that's a nice smell." 3 of 5.

Wednesday: Bond No. 9 Riverside Drive - Indie-style maleness, with a hint of Hudson River clearwater sloops. A woody-mossy masculine classic, updated with contemporary aqua accords and a hint of exotic fruit for cool crispness. Notes: Basil, pineapple, sandalwood

I'm pretty upfront on my lack of love for aquatics generally, which means I find over half the men's scent market boring at best and kind of offensive at worst. I don't hate them; I even like some on occasion, even enough to own. But generally, it's not a good basic structure for me to start with.

Riverside Drive is your stereotypical masculine aquatic that comes off ho-hum at first but gets interesting because of the inclusion of some sweet fruity middle notes that leave too soon, and then fades back into the stereotype. Because the sweet middle is nice, the overall effect ends up feeling like a missed opportunity.

Eight hours later... Damn. Eight hours later and I have to come back and revise -- the damn thing grew on me, like a fungus.FN2 I caught a whiff f it much later and thought, wow, that's nice, what is that? Then realized it was me. The slightly sweet part appears to have returned! Still not super unique, but nice enough to make me notice when I wasn't paying attention, and that's something, I suppose. For what I'm pretty sure is the first time, I grant thee an UPGRADE: from a 2 to a solid 3 of 5.

Thursday: Andrea Maack Craft - Notes: aldehydes, elemi, cold metal, ice, cedarwood and patchouli."FN1 How to describe Craft....well first off, I'm definitely getting the aldehydes, and in that way it's like Chanel No. 5, which anchors the smell of aldehydes in my mind, and by which all over aldehyde scents shall be measured. It's most like the No. 5 EdT because the floral notes are weakest in the EdT in my opinion, and this isn't floral at all. It's also not warm in any way, so I can see the "cold metal" part of the description, but I wouldn't think of it as a summer scent at all.  It's cold for cold; austere.  While marble; an impersonal interaction with an frigid hostess at a five star  restaurant.  It's a nice experience, though, so just like that hostess, the coldness is worth getting over so you can get to the meat of the experience, which is enjoyable.  Craft is pretty uniform through out, from application to dry down, but it has decent staying power and interesting enough that it will keep you sniffing at it even without a lot of movement. 3.5 of 5.

Friday: Guerlain L'Heure Bleue - Pass day. Because I was feeling bleue, I guess. Go here for my full review.

"I've flown around the world in a plane.
I've settled revolutions in Spain.
The North Pole I have charted, 
but can't get started with you..."
~ "I Can't Get Started With You," Ira Gershwin

FN1 I am informed elemi is "a resin with scent of spicy citrus." Thanks Annelie.
FN2 This is not an insult. I know a girl whose whole life is dedicated to fungus, and I adore her. When she showed up at my house on Halloween dressed as a mushroom, throwing flour at people to spore them, the costume made her so happy she cried. I liked people who are so open to joy moving them, they cry. She's good people; and I like fungi better for knowing her.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oh, what can you do with a sentimental heart?

Scent SpotlightL'Artisan Bois Farine EdT

As promised, this year as I sprint through five scents a week, I promised to pause on occasion to sing high praises for the occasional show stopper.  The first of these is inspired by that most commerical of lover's holiday -- Valentine's Day.

Here's what L'Artisan has to say about Bois Farine, a 2003 release:
Created by Jean-Claude Ellena, perfume composer of great talent and international fame, Bois Farine (Wood Flour) is the product of his encounter with a magic tree in the Reunion Islands. Here, in a forest known as the coloured wood forest, surrounded by evocatively named trees , red wood, yellow wood, iron wood and milk wood, he unexpectedly discovered the fragrant white tree - a rare and nowadays protected species, reputed to have magical powers. This tree is specific to Reunion Island and its red flower smells like flour.

Bois Farine is a single and unique fragrance, a magical union between witch wood and flower powder … As rich and fresh as flour rain.

Notes: white cedar, gaiacwood and sandalwood, white iris, farine flower, fennel seed
A ton of reviewers comment on an initial encounter with what they describe as a "peanut butter" note. My pretties, I am getting none of that, and I like peanut butter enough that you could probably still list a well-made  PB and J among my favorite foods, so I admit it was weirdly disappointing.

Instead I was bombarding my a fleeting litany of imagery I can only describe as Valentine-esque. I was so stunned by  the experience I actually set Bois Farine aside expressly for a very special February spotlight.  I'm on try four now, just to confirm my prior impressions, and if I were going to say that any scent seemed stereotypically Valentine's Day like to me, this would be it.  Here's what I get:

Slide 1: A little girl, light brown curls and cupid's bow lips, cutting a string of paper hearts from cheap red construction paper so faded it actually looks kind of sickly
Slide 2: A thin, almost severe looking woman with black hair tied into a bun in a black satin night gown before a large oval mirror on a dressing table, looking at her hollowed cheeks with an air of discerning judgement, then hitting herself smack in the face with a huge and overloaded powder puff
Slide 3: Tiny hands very carefully gluing, with WAY TOO MUCH glue, hearts cut from paper doilies onto purple paper with "HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY" printed very carefully across the top
Slide 4: A young woman exclaiming in cartoonesque excitment over flower delivery of completely silk flowers straight from the factory
Slide 5: a pre-teen flopping down on a bed, giant "Princess Leia" esque headphone on as she carefully writes out the tracks on the inside lines of a casette tape in smearing pastel glitter pens
Slide 6: A shower of red hots falling onto a glass bowl sitting on a well-floured surface, then pink frosted cupcakes being pressed, frosting down, into them until they are coated with red hots

I could go on.  My initial notes, which are really my immediate, unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness impressions read as follows:

Baby powder and lipstick, silk flowers and red hots.  If I were going to say that any scent seemed stereotypically Valentine's Day , this would be it.

Here I am three weeks and several tries later and I stand by it.  It's woody, but not in a pencil shaving way or an incense-y way like so many others.  It's sweet, but not overly so. I don't think of it as foodie, even though the immediate thought I have every time is red-laquered nails digging in a bin of  waxy holiday candy.  I think I keep getting red hots because it's cinnamon-flavored candies I keep thinking I'm smelling, and I don't think I've ever thought I smelled that in a scent before.  It's not precisely floral, either, but it still has a vaguely sweet floral scent.

So the big question: do I like it?  Bois Farine is a controversial scent when you look through other reviews. People either love it or hate it or cannot decide enough to say, which says a lot for its not smelling like anything else, and that alone is no mean feat.  Bois Farine was the first in the Far Away Travels line, and I have to appreciate the strange pace it set for what followed.  when it comes to the "Far Away Travels" series, which I personally either psychotically love (Timbuktu, Dzongkha) or find really disappointing (Havana Vanille). FN1  This one I'm putting tentatively  into the love category, which surprises me.  I do really like it, though, perhaps because of, instead of in spite of, its weirdness.  It's definitely a "try before you buy" scent; hell, you should probably try it twice.  Like Robin, I wish I could get it in a 15ml sprayer.  I think I'd wear it, but not often enough to merit 50ml.  15ml would be about perfect.  That, or I need to find another Bois Farine loving weirdo to do a split with me.

You can buy Bois Farine direct from the perfumer, as well as at Luckyscent, Beauty Encounter, Beauty Habit and I'm sure a ton of other places. The price? 50 ml for $95 and 100ml for $135, which let me tell you is a downright reasonable price point if this melts your butter.

"O-o-old habits die hard when you got,
when you got a sentimental heart .
Piece of the puzzle, you're my missing part.
Oh, what can you do with a sentimental heart?"

"Sentimental Heart," She & Him

Want more? Try...
~ a rare reconsideration from Robin at Now Smell This!
~ a review from Bois de Jasmine
~ a review from Aromascope
~ a review from Pere de Pierre
~ a review from Olfactoria's Travels, who looks like she started back in October and has a pretty good thing going

FN1 Yeah, yeah, yeah, you all love it.  You seriously question my taste if I don't. Etc. Etc. Let the stoning begin.

Photo, and all attendant rights related to it: kristelyoneda.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

There ain't no grave gonna hold my body down...

Monday, 1/31/11, through Friday, 2/4/11

First off: TaffynFontana, please send me an email at to claim your prize! 

Weird week that started out with me deathly ill at the beginning and ended with what I would describe as an "atmospherically appropriate" trip to the coast on a day so grey and misty you couldn't actually see much; a nameless bar for cocktails, tomato soup, grilled cheese and fondue; a French patisserie  where I had a truly delightful and aromatic cup of rosemary mocha; and a trip to see the largest glockenspiel in the U.S.

Why did I go see said glockenspiel?  Because I could, of course!

Monday: Teo Cabanel Oha - I was so sick, kids. So very sick. Like had the serious flu and slept 30 of 36 hours. Of the six hours I was awake, I spent one of them in the shower. When I was out, clean and free of fever sweat, I still couldn't smell anything. I put on Oha on so I felt like I smelled nice, even if I couldn't tell myself. I also changed my sheets and sprayed some on my pillow case, which I liked but my kitten really did not, which she showed me by refusing to get back in the bed with me. Full review here.

Tuesday: Bond No. 9 New Haarlem - Can't smell a damn thing. On those days, you go for comforting. It's there for those small moments you get a whiff of anything while you're blowing your brains out through your nose. Full review here, though I wrote it so early in my perfumista days that it's the equivalent of a "stub" article on wikipedia.

Wednesday: Cristiano Fissore Rapsodia in Blu - Lemon, bergamot, rosemary, petitgrain, mugweed, jasmine, lily of the valley, cedarwood, white musk

Back at work, and I can even smell again...kinda. Hello white flowers, it's been a while. This is one of those scents that feels like a mishmash of similar things all smashed together to create a nice, clean, unoffensive scent. In other words, kinda boring. It's nice, but not particularly distinctive in any way. If you imagine someone filling water balloons with oil paint and then throwing them at a canvas covered in spikes to break them on impact, then replace the oil paint with scent, you get the general idea. Also, rimagine they only used pastel colored paints, and therefore pastel scent notes, and you'll get what I mean. It reminds me of Kai, but less interesting and also a lot less strong, so if you find Kai overwhelming in its giant white floral soapiness, then you might like this better. It's not a scrubber, but it just doesn't have a lot to recommend it. Which is too bad because it has a pretty kick-ass name. 2 of 5 nods.

Thursday: Comme des Garcons x Artek - Finnish Labrador Tea, Twinflower (Linnea Borealis), fennel, ginger, lemon, musk, saffron, cedarwood

The open is lemon and cedar, giving it a flickering flame and glowing soft white wax feel. Over time, it moves toward incense and wood and away from lemon. This incense reminds me of Mass (not unlike CB I Hate Perfume Fire from Heaven) but is less acrid fire and more melting candlewax and incense. I actually think it is more wearable in an okay-for-normal-every-day wear, as opposed to Fire from Heaven that feels like a Holy Day Mass, as opposed to any given Sunday during Ordinary time. FN1 I never really get any ginger and very little musk, if any. The end result is a strangely intimate kind of experience. I think this one is a better masculine than feminine, but it could go either way. 3 of 5.

Friday: CB I Hate Perfume Patchouli Empire
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,

I went to a hippy college, where the "sweet scent of patchouli perfuming the air" was an ongoing joke due to the general lack of showering. So honestly I put off sampling this for a very long time because I figured I'd hate it, at minimum in principle if not in fact. Boy, was I wrong.

When I hear that trumpet sound
I’m gonna get up out of the ground
It's weird and wonderful. It's my favorite Whitman Poem. It is dreaming of transcendentalism under a tree by Walden Pond, or marching through Southern thickets in search of long lost gravemarkers for attenuated southern ancestors. If I was going to a graveside this is what I'd want to wear if I wanted to blend in with the scenary. It's not funerary; it's all earth and peat and oak moss. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I probably make it sound creepy, but it's not. It's the cycle of life...and death. And life again. Round and round. Like the end of Steel Magnolias. "That's the way it should be. Life goes on."

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

4.5 of 5 nods, and only because I am in love with Black March and Wild Hunt, but this is greener than either of those if you'd like all that dirt without the sweet rain of the former or the slightly floral bent of the latter.

Winner of the week:  Patchouli Empire, obviously. :)
FN1 This analogy probably only means something to my random Catholic readers. For the rest of you unwashed heathens (*wink*) think the difference between going to Easter church with your in-laws verses getting up and going to church regularly.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Random Song of the Day

Stuck in my head.  May it now be in yours as well.

Drawing Results for Month One of Perfume Challenge 2011!

Congrats to TaffynFontana for being our January winner!  Please contact me at with you mailing address so I can send you your package.

To all others who entered, keep trying.  There are 11 more months in 2011, which means 11 more opportunities to win!