Monday, October 31, 2011

Viva Halloween: Las Vegas

Many of the indie perfume oil companies put out special limited editions for Halloween (and other holidays) and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is certainly no exception. This year, a special blend was announced to celebrate the company founders' wedding anniversary, Halloween: Las Vegas.

The notes were intriguing: "The aftermath of piratical nuptials: walls smeared with red and black frosting, copious amounts of spilled red wine, the leftover contents of three full bars, dry leaves and desert flowers crushed into carpet, tobacco smoke, and champaca incense in a cloud of body-heat amped Snake Oil and Dorian."

When I first read about this one, while loving the overall spirit of it, I assumed it wouldn't work on me. I love foodie smells, but find they often go plastic on my skin, don't love incense or tobacco smoke, find wine turns sour on me, and am a little scared by the intensity of Snake Oil, a BPAL signature fragrance that combines Indonesian oils with vanilla (though their other popular fragrance, Dorian, with musks and sugared vanilla tea, is wonderful to me). The more I thought about it, though, the more it intrigued, and I ended up ordering a bottle unsniffed. Then I received a small sample and WAS HOOKED.

I get a boozy, smoky tobacco (not the smoke, the delicious rich leaf) at first, then a winey grapiness that's neither too sweet nor too sour. The cake and frosting swirl in, as do the incense, Snake Oil, and Dorian components. "Swirling" is the best word I can come with for it -- there truly is a sense of many things happening all at once, as if you're going through a room with a big party in it and encountering different smells along the way. It ends up with remnants of red velvet cake -- that perfect blend of vanilla and cocoa -- and the wonderful dregs of the party.

It's sexy, it's delicious, it's rich, smoky, and heady, but all without being overpowering. I ordered more, I want to have this around for a long, long time.

P.S., it was a great fragrance to wear to a Halloween party last night, dressed as Joan Holloway from Mad Men. What better way to capture the spirit of that series than with a fragrance combining booze, tobacco, and sexy perfume?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm a Painted Lady!

I've been following for some time now Sheila Arkee's wonderful and informative beauty blog, Painted Ladies. I really love how Sheila and her posse of beauty mavens combine professional tips with an acceptance of the reality that we all have stressful, busy lives and are just trying to bring a little beauty and glamour into our days with the judicious application of a bit of gloss or shadow. I was blown away last year when Sheila pulled off an amazing feat -- to create and post a gorgeous eye look with a list of all the elements she used to create it every single day for a year -- and as a single mom to a toddler to boot!

I recently gathered my nerve and applied to become one of the beauty mavens, and was thrilled to be accepted into the ranks. So as of today, I am proud to be a Painted Lady myself! Looking forward to reviewing products and providing some thoughts on this wacky world of makeup.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Few Good Splurges UPDATED

As you can probably tell from the blog so far, I'm not one who has to rush out and buy the biggest labels or the trendiest new products. In fact, if you know me at all, you've probably at one point or another heard my rant on the "limited edition" racket. While I enjoy reading the beauty blogs to find out what's new and available, you won't find me insisting I simply must rush out and buy, say, the whole MAC Holiday release. If there is a particular product that looks like it would be a great addition to my wardrobe, then fine, but I'd rather find permanent collection items to fall in love with and use over and over. And you know that I'm thrilled to find inexpensive staples too, like Wet 'n' Wild eyeshadows, Jesse's Girl primer, and Cover Girl Lip Perfection lipsticks.

But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the occasional high-end or on-trend item, either. I already told you about my recent Giorgio Armani acquisitions and can report that I've been using the foundation, eyeshadow, and lip colors almost daily since. I almost passed up the lip gloss that day, and I'm delighted I didn't because it's become a real staple for me due to its long wear and rich pigmentation. I can apply in the morning and touch up after lunch and I'm pretty much good to go for the day.

My newest splurge arrived yesterday -- the much ballyhooed Chanel Peridot nail polish. The furor over this color may not have reached quite the fever pitch of the original Vamp debut, but it's easily the It Product of the Fall 2011 season. I almost never buy stuff like this -- for one thing, I'm too lazy or too shy to fight for it at department store counters, and I'm not someone with insider links to procure it for me. I was also a little put off by some less than stellar reviews of the product's formula and wear. Not to mention the ludicrous price. But it looked so pretty in the bottle, so crazily duochrome, that I found my resistance wearing down.

Reader, I ordered it.

My nail polish arrived yesterday in a shoebox-size cardboard box marked HAZMAT. Inside, within layers and layers of tissue paper, I found several Chanel product samples (the website lets you choose a couple from a list) and beneath even more tissue, a chic black drawstring bag, like a mini version of those bags that fancy shoes come in. Inside that was the little shiny black and gold box, and inside that was the bottle of Peridot itself. I immediately took of my old chipping polish and tried some on. To wit:

The results are a little mixed, mostly weighing on the plus side. In most light it's antique gold, and this wouldn't be my first antique gold polish. The interesting emerald-topaz highlights you see so easily in the bottle aren't always so easily visible. But when they do pop out -- and at some angles in some light you see more green than anything else -- it's a magical, shifting sort of color. I used two coats with clear base coat between them and find the finish a little brushstrokey, but perhaps a professional manicure will resolve that. No sense yet of the wear length.

I intend to enjoy the hell out of this nail polish, probably long after it's declared "so last season." For what I paid for it, I ought to.

I've now worn this polish through two manicures and can report on them.

The first, which I'd applied myself, came out a little streaky in terms of visible brushstrokes. It lasted about 4 days before the tipwear and chipping forced me to take it off. This is about average for me when I use metallic polishes.

The second was professionally applied, and looked much smoother, so clearly I have a lot to learn about applying metallic polish. I had the manicure on Sunday, and by Tuesday several nails were showing visible tipwear and I noticed a couple of tiny bubbles. On Wednesday, one nail showed a crack in the polish starting near the edge of the nail, and there were two chips that I was able to touch up. By Thursday the tipwear was about the same, but more cracks and chips had appeared, though it will still get me through the workday without looking too awful (since the color is relatively light and it's reflective, it's not too noticeable to anyone but me).

The color is really fun to wear. It morphs so much depending on the angle and the light that I find it endlessly entertaining to hold my hands in various positions to see what it will do. This has gotten me through a number of long meetings. I like that the polish can look classically antique gold, prettily pastel seafoam, and edgily corpselike chartreuse, or all of those at once.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Well, it's been a month since Hurricane Swatch. We came through it just fine, not even a brief power outage (though many neighbors were not as fortunate). From there it was back to school and back to work and all the attendant chaos. Happily, though, I did not take a break from playing around with cosmetics and perfume.

From the sublime -- a visit to the Giorgio Armani counter and the acquisition of some really stunning stuff -- to the mundane -- falling in love with a line of Cover Girl lipsticks from the drugstore -- and lots of scent experimentation in between, it's been a busy month. I'll update with greater specifics soon.

I've gotten rather busy lately with various swaps organized through's Jamuary 2011 Moms group and several other swaps taking place at the site. One was the Crooked Crafting swap, which I just got into the mail today, so will stay mum until my swapee receives her gift. The other is the Halloween version of Switch Witch, in which the bulk of that community happily stalks each other, trying to glean clues about every conceivable preference of her target, then spends a couple of months sending secret gifts and cards. I'm having a blast preparing gifts for my Witchee and learning about new and exciting stuff on her wishlist in the process.

More to come!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The End of the Rainbow

Managed to squeeze in some more swatching. Again, doing these both wet and dry, only now the dry is at the top and the wet at the bottom. It's increasingly clear to me that you will get no performance out of these if they're dry, as they won't even pack on without completely falling off the skin or clumping. You must also use a primer for any kind of staying power.

The Purples, Lilacs, and Lavenders:
With flash on top and without at bottom. All NYX loose pigment. From left to right: Beauty Queen, Goddess, Lilac, Amethyst, Embellish, Misty, Sand

The Blues:

From left to right: Hard Core, Space, Blue Eyes, Violet, Bayou.

You can see that by the time I got to the blues I started having a slight clue about how to photograph these with my lame phone. But it's also true that they're the favorites so far. They're not colors I can easily wear, but they're really beautiful, with all kinds of duochrome, shimmer, and even that starry glitter in Bayou. I'll need to figure out how to use them.

Hurricane Watch

So I'm not sure, you may have heard mention of this small weather event we here in the Northeast are stoically and calmly preparing for. While part of our town is under mandatory evacuation, we don't live close enough to the water to be covered, so we're cooling our jets at home WITHOUT STARBUCKS, which we discovered this morning had closed preemptively. Closed, too, is all of Broadway, naturally being the weekend that we had tickets to The Book of Mormon to celebrate Mr. Gateau's birthday.

Such is life.

Yesterday I took the 9-year old to NYC to visit the Museum of Modern Art (his choice), where he made the below painting using a very nifty digital program with a touch screen that actually simulates wet paint.
You can see, he's getting in the autumn mood already.

After that, we took a small detour to Saks Fifth Avenue, where I made a relatively modest haul at the Armani counter. My Holy Grail foundation is their Designer formula, which I'd had in a fair tone, their #4, which of course was discontinued. I despaired, and was reluctant to try to order a replacement online given how hard it is to judge foundation color in real life, much less on a monitor. There isn't a convenient Armani counter to me, so I had to wait for such a trip, and boy am I glad I did because the charming Raffy hooked me up with #5, which is a more yellow-toned fair, and perfect for me. I also finally got one of the gorgeous Eyes To Kill Intense Eyeshadows in a beautiful and useful bronze, #15 (Copper/Black Grey). Raffy helped me choose a fall lipstick, Rouge d'Armani #525 which is a mauve-pink and a matching lip gloss, one of the new Gloss d'Armani longwear formulas. I was pleased and surprised to find that these pinkier colors work well on me, and Raffy explained that I'm not really as warm-toned as I've always assumed, but really should think of my skin as more neutral. These items are definitely on the pricey side, but I have also found my Armani purchases to last a long time, perform well, and provide excellent value.

There is something about making a purchase of serious makeup that always inspires me to do a little destashing of the accumulated stuff. As I mentioned, Ms. Cake and I amassed giant collections of NYX pigments recently, and there is no way in hell I need all that eyeshadow. So I'm going through it, swatching, and figuring out which I should keep and which would make nice goodies to add to the many swaps I've been participating in at Ravelry and BPAL Madness.

Today, given as there isn't anything else to do, I got started with pinks and reds. As you can see, there is a lot of overlap, and while there are slight differences, there's a limit on how much bright pink sparkly eyeshadow one 43-year old suburban mother really needs.
Top: dry. Bottom: dry and wet, both with flash. From left to right: NYX Red, NYX Geisha, NYX Lemon Drop, NYX Cosmo, NYX Sunshine, NYX Princess, NYX Apricot, Jesse's Girl Sunset Blvd.

Obviously I'm crap at photography and lighting, but you get the idea. These definitely work better when wet, unless you're just dusting it on as a highlight. I'll probably keep the red, one bright pink and one golden pink.

Since there isn't much else to do while we wait out the storm, stay tuned for more swatching.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Yes More Pencils! Yes More Books!

We just got our school supply lists for our soon-to-be 4th grader and kindergartner. Instead of my annual rant about how stupidly our district handles school supplies, I will focus on the sense memories I have of this time of year.

There is a certain something in the air when it gets to be back to school time. It's a quality of the light, the way you can feel just the tiniest breath of fall air even though it's still officially summer. Back to school always meant very distinct smells to me -- new school supplies, that certain scent of clothes straight off the department store rack, new leather shoes, floor wax in the school building, apples. When I started college, instead of getting new shoes (one pair of oxfords and one pair of mary janes) I might have new boots or a leather jacket, and I added the smell of new-mown grass warmed in the late summer sun with a touch of turning leaves inhaled while crossing campus or sitting outside reading (or better yet, professors catching those last chances to let class meet outside).

So Fantasy Perfume #4 is my back to school blend: new books, a touch of pencil shaving cedar, beeswax, apples, autumn leaves, sun-warmed grass, and a touch of soft brown leather.

Pinky Tuscadero

This weekend we went to the Berkshires to pick up No. One Son and his impressive pile of seriously filthy socks from sleepaway camp. I am now back in the scrum of my three boys, so naturally I had to bust out my girly pinks today. As Pinky Tuscadero showed us all, it's a vile myth that redheads can't rock pink.

On the eyes I used MAC Expensive Pink on the lid, with Brown Down in the crease and Mylar on the browbone. I love Expensive Pink, as it's salmon enough to work with my coloring, with just the right amount of gold shimmer to look warm and illuminating but not glittery. On the cheeks I used MAC Mineralize blush in Dainty. On the lips I'm scraping the bottom of a tube of Clinique Different Lipstick in Rose Taffy.

With all that pink I knew I needed a scent including rose, but I didn't want the full-throttle rose experience of Two, Five & Seven. I went for BPAL Endymion, which includes d'Anjou pear, Lily of the Valley, bois du rose, and white musk. This is a funny one on me, because I can't really make out the pear as a distinct note, but it's definitely there adding a little juicy fruit to the florals. The musk gives it a nice warm undertone, and it's white musk so it doesn't do the horrible sour thing that darker musks do on me. This one goes through a phase on my skin that makes it smell quite soapy, as if a bar of Ivory had hung out for a while with some rose. It's not unpleasant at all, but it's not generally what I'm looking for. Fortunately, once that passes I'm left with a pretty warm, light floral with a touch of pear.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hermia and Helena Go To White Castle

If you know me even a little bit, you know that I have a background in the theater and if you know me a little bit better than that you know that I have a special fondness for A Midsummer Night's Dream. In fact, for the last few years I've been noodling around on a young adult novel that imagines the characters in a contemporary setting.

Thus, when I started getting interested in Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, I was delighted to learn that they offered a collection, called Illyria, inspired by Shakespeare characters, including Hermia, Helena, Titania, Lysander, Robin Goodfellow, and Oberon.

I can't try Helena, because the notes include night-blooming jasmine, which might as well be labeled "cat urine" for the way it smells on me, or Robin Goodfellow, which is another collection of death notes, including dark musk. Titania, which includes white grape, white peach, iced pear, musk rose, sweet pea, moonflower, and snapdragon, is super pretty on me, and what you might imagine Titania might smell like. It's a good thing I like it, since I managed to spill half an imp of it all over my desk. Lysander turned out to be a sweet-smelling men's blend, but that I didn't care for even though most of the notes (tonka, lilac musk, lime rind, etc.) sounded nice to me. I haven't yet received Oberon, but with orchid, bergamot, white musk, juniper berries, and earthy patchouli, I look forward to it.

That left Hermia, who is my favorite character in the play, and today I got around to trying her scent. With pink pepper, golden amber, honeysuckle, and passion flower, what's not to love? The pink pepper leaves a spicy tingle that stays on top of the blend, even as the sweet flowers and warm amber float around. It really does capture the essence of "little" and "fierce" Hermia.

The Rappaccini's Garden collection offers a Love-in-Idleness scent, so naturally I had to sample that as well. Unfortunately, like many in that collection, this one, while pretty at first, has a rooty base note that reminds me of nothing so much as washed armpits. I'm keeping my vial of it, though, in case I ever need a sniff for inspiration while writing, or have any opportunity to cause someone to fall in love with the first person seen upon waking.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Eyes Have It

I spent Sunday happily engaged with my best friend, Ms. Cake, in sampling, testing, and sharing a gigantic heap of Black Phoenix imps and NYX eyeshadow pigments. First, though, she had to play several rounds of Foosball with my 5 year old, a cutthroat Foosball player.

It got so that I had a different perfume oil approximately every four inches up and down both arms. We had a can of espresso to sniff to try to clear our palates, but eventually the cacophony of smells was overwhelming. So we switched to eyeshadow.

This was fun -- a number of months ago, some pathological wave came over me and I managed to convince Ms. Cake that what we really needed to do was order and split a full set of NYX loose eyeshadow pigments offered up for sale in two batches on the discount website HauteLook. The deal was something like for $55 each we'd have about 100 eyeshadows between us and could divvy them up. As it happens, we have completely opposite coloring. I wear gold tones and she wears silver. So we got them, and they sat in bags, along with a heap of little jars and spoons and mixing medium and magnetic palettes and whatnot that we'd ordered from Coastal Scents in order to be able to press our own eyeshadow pans. See, it's not just makeup, it's CRAFTS.

With the "help" of the 5 year old, we traded gold tones for silver tones, as applicable, and for those colors we both thought we could use, we split the powder between containers. So now instead of 50 (or however many) jars we each ended up with a number of full jars of certain colors and another 30 or something of partial jars. So now I have approximately a million little jars of eyeshadow pigments jammed into a little cabinet I use for makeup, in every color you can imagine. Just click that NYX link and see the assortment of colors and their often wacko names (Lemon Drop for bright pink? 3 Wise Men? WTF?).

So what have I worn on my eyes this week?

Why, NEUTRALS, of course! Monday I used Urban Decay in Virgin and Naked to create a gently shadowed pale eye with black liquid liner. Tuesday I splashed out with some gray, using Urban Decay Gunmetal with Wet 'n' Wild Color Icon jumbo pencil in a charcoal. Today I went with Wet 'n' Wild Nutty and Brulee, two real workhorses in my collection, with a touch of gray liner. I went wild and added the smallest touch of bright violet liner in the outer V, which added with the gray gave a nice toned-down blue-violet.

I've also acquired a new batch of BPAL testers, so will be playing around with those in the weeks to come. Naturally, that means I've been keeping to my usual scent wardrobe of Blue Morpho, Aelopile, and 51. I really live the life, don't I?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday I'm in Love....With This Lip Tar

I was moaning just the other day about how I'd allowed the otherwise magical Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar to migrate all over my damn face when I tried to soften it up with a little lip balm. That was before a package of goodies I'd ordered from ACW, the discount cosmetics retailer, arrived. I'd included two new Lip Tars -- Petty Beige (oh how I love that name! if only I were a drag queen!) to try to brown down some of the brighter colors, and Clear, to sheer them out a bit. Today I mixed up a bit of each with Trollop, which is a bright pink, and found great success. My lip color isn't blinding, the feathering factor is greatly reduced (though I'm still making careful use of lip-colored liner), and the Clear medium adds a bit of sheerness without compromising the long wear, non-sticky texture.

Eye makeup subtle and pretty -- NYX Skin Tight (shimmery peach) with a little MAC Woodwinked (golden bronze) in the crease, plus a touch of MAC Eye Kohl liner in Teddy (bronze) and NYX Propel My Eyes black mascara. More on that another day. Pinked up my cheeks with NYX cream blush in Rose, which is a new favorite.

On the perfume front, I slathered on Amsterdam today, for something fresh and pretty. But then like an idiot I skin tested anothe BPAL that I knew wasn't going to work for me, as much as I love most of the individual notes. This is The Great Sword of War, which contains mandarin, tonka, saffron, black tea, cocoa, tobacco leaf, "sanguine red musk and five classical herbs of conquest." To date, I have not found a fragrance containing red musk that doesn't make me want to wash it off immediately, and though I want to love mandarin as a single note, it's never blended in such a way that I can stand the result. Ditto cocoa. And it just figures that the perfumes I hate are the ones I can't wash off. So please remind me not to skin test stuff that I know won't work, or that has death notes in it, just for the sake of being complete.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Luve's Like a Red, Red Rose

Today I (finally) got myself into my fitted black puff sleeve blouse and black pencil skirt, which I consider a triumph in light of the post-baby body stuff. Naturally, this black-on-black look required red accessories. So I put on my wonderful Cole Haan lipstick red patent leather peeptoe slingbacks and whipped out a really killer red lipstick: Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics' Lip Tar in Strutter. Lip Tar is an unusual product, in that it's a liquid that comes in a tube applicator with an angled plastic dispenser end like a lip gloss, but it's really a long-wearing liquid lipstick that is best applied with a brush. Sometimes when you're looking at color swatches you see that some users don't get this, and instead apply it like a gloss, with a goopy effect. But that's WRONG.

Anyway, I brushed on my Strutter, making sure to line first to keep the stuff from migrating into the fine lines that have crept up on me and appeared around my lips when I wasn't looking. On the eyes I did a very simple pale neutral, using Urban Decay Virgin on the lid and Naked in the crease (b0th from the justifiably adored Naked Palette) and did a nice sort of retro black line on the upper lid using NYX Felt Tip Liner in Jet Black, which even a eyeliner idiot like me can get to work. And I looked great! Crisp black blouse and skirt, deep red lips, a defined but subtle eye.

At some point in the afternoon, though, I went to touch up my lipstick and discovered that the bit of balm I'd applied, coupled with the clear e.l.f. Lip Lock Pencil had conspired to mush my gorgeous red lipstick all around my lips, but skipping over the area where the pencil had been applied so I looked like the result of the unholy union of Baby Jane and The Joker. My eyeshadow, I realized, lacked precision. I've already ranted about my frustrations with getting red lipstick to stay where I put it here, but I thought I'd nailed that down. This Lip Tar is going to last longer than actuarial tables will have me live, so I'd better get my act together.

Anyway, I smelled good, that I know. I wore Two, Five, and Seven, so I smelled like a rose garden.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It is Easy Being Green!

I was when I got up today. Not emerald or kelly or olive, or even green-around-the-gills green. It was more an off-kilter kind of green. So first I headed off to the bathroom to do my makeup. First thing I reached for was MAC Club, one of my favorite eyeshadows because, like everything else I seem to love, it's a duochrome (reddish brown with green frost) that gives the look of an iridescent beetle shell or dragonfly wing. I used that on the lid and topped with a simple vanilla color, MAC Mylar. Then I used a dark bronze eyeliner on top and bottom and traced over that with a touch of Jesse's Girl Antique Green pigment and added highlights with their Pixie Dust iridescent white pigment. The finished look is something like this, though this isn't me, as you can tell by the exquisite long and lush eyelashes:

Then it was time for scent. I chose "51" from the Black Phoenix Wanderlust collection, inspired by places in the real and fantasy worlds. First of all, it tickles me to wear a perfume inspired by Area 51. But it suited my mood exactly. It's described as "luminescent, glowing, and otherworldly" and contains green mandarin, neroli, honeydew, white amber, guava, freesia, white and green musks hovering over desert scrub, smashed wood, and the dry, biting scent of night air over the Groom Lake salt flats." The liquid is palely green in the vial, and the scent is brightly fruity and floral with a nice underpinning of dry wood. It gives me a color impression that is neon green and pink, but as if seen from a distance.

I should probably have some pesto for dinner, just to keep the streak alive.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I Am a Dirty Hippie

Well, it's happened. I have found a patchouli scent I can actually wear without having to run to the bathroom to scrub it off after 10 minutes. Patchouli usually smells heavy and head-shoppy to me, with a bad sour Play-Doh smell after a short time. But the nice folks at the Black Phoenix fulfillment center included a free sample with my last order (known among BPAL fans as a "frimp" since samples are dubbed "imps' ears") of Depraved, which is described as "a salacious, lecherous, leering scent -- dirty and dark, slapped with a wet sweetness. Earthy black patchouli swelling with apricot." Whew.

I was trepidatious, but am sort of a completist, so if I had the thing, by gum, I wasn't going to let it go at least unsniffed. I uncorked and....wafts of sweet apricot nectar, backed with something that smelled like fresh-turned earth. Hm. I applied a bit on my arm and sniffed. Apricot and fresh earth, with maybe a hint of dry spice. So far so good. I applied a little more.

As it dried, the apricot stayed strong, and the patchouli asserted itself but never became dominant. It did eventually morph, but into something piney or cedary. All in all, the smell was as if I'd been rolling around in good clean dirt (with a few wood chips mixed in) while eating sticky juicy apricots. Sexy. I don't get that feeling of lechery or depravity from the description, but there's definitely sexual abandon in that scent.

I certainly can't see wearing this every day or in polite company, and a little goes a long way. But I'm keeping the imp and expect I might find myself dotting it on hidden pulse points that not just anyone can smell and having a grand old time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Olfactory Pleasure: A Theorem

Today I was feeling a little tired and burned out, so I didn't want to think too much about my perfume. That sounds ridiculous, I know. I mean, how much thought does it take? But I just didn't have the psychic energy to think about matching my scent to my mood or the weather or the colors of my dress. I just wanted to put on something that would smell pretty and make me feel comfortable all day.

I opted for BPAL's Lorelai, which is a very simple fragrance containing neroli, sandalwood, and ylang ylang. It's a sweet floral, but with a creaminess and a roundness that I find very soothing. Often sandalwood can rise up and drown out everything else on me, but this particular sandalwood stays in its place and just grounds the florals. The neroli gives it almost a whiff of orange Creamsicles that is quite lovely.

I've been going through my growing stash of BPAL samples and organizing the ones I have available for sale or swap. I was thinking about grouping them thematically, which could help isolate notes they have in common so as to help educate the nose. I noticed that certain of the scents are much more complex than others -- not just the number of notes in the blend, but also conflicting notes, notes that play off one another. Some morph over time as you wear them, leaving a different impression than the one you start with. Some are fairly high-concept and are meant to evoke very specific places, characters, or experiences. At some point I'll share some of my experiences with these, because I find them very interesting to wear and think about.

But today I didn't want any of that cognition and analysis. I don't detect anything especially evocative of the story of Lorelai in this particular perfume, and what you start with is pretty much where you end up. And some days that's just what I need.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A breath of fresh tuberose

Today is a banner day, in that I was finally able to squeeze myself into a dress that I hadn't been able to wear since I got pregnant with the baby. It's a tailored sleeveless navy dress, so I might actually pass for a lawyer, for once. I'm wearing it with my excellent tortoise patent peep-toe heels with a strap across the front, from the brilliantly comfortable Cole Haan Air collection. These things are genius for work, in that you don't feel a compelling need to amputate your foot at the ankle by lunchtime. In addition to everything else, my feet swelled to massive proportions when I was carrying that kid, so these were also missed.

To go along with the general impression of sophistication and put-together-ness, I busted out my bottle of Fracas by Robert Piguet. It is described thusly:

Classic femininity and modern sensibility collide within this lush white floral fragrance. Seductive tuberose mingles with jasmine, jonquil, gardenia, Bulgarian rose and orange flower in a profusion of fragile white flowers before revealing a base of sandalwood, vetiver, and musk.

Amazingly, this fragrance works beautifully on me, because jasmine more often than not turns sour on me, white flowers can go powdery, sandalwood can dominate everything else, and vetiver can turn everything it touches into misery. But this is supremely well-balanced, with the Bulgarian rose and gardenia supporting the tuberose (the dominant note) and the jasmine, orange flower, and white flowers adding a sweet and light top.

I became consumed with desire* for a tuberose fragrance after my friend Christi got married 10 years ago at a fabulous and fabulously low-key beach ceremony in Malibu. Christi wore a simple wreath of tuberose in her hair, and for the entire day I could not stop sidling up to her to sniff her head. Tuberose reminds me of every lush, romantic, tropical vacation I've ever taken. So I spent quite some time visiting fragrance counters and trying everything with tuberose on. Eventually I narrowed it to Fracas and Michael Kors, and went with Fracas in the end because that added sweet lightness made it more wearable for me. But I do think I need those musk, wood, and yes, even vetiver underpinnings to keep it from feeling cloying.

The only thing I would improve about Fracas is its staying power. For such a lush scent, I do find it's pretty much gone by afternoon.

*I do not say "obsessed" because one of my pet peeves in beauty writing is the way every editor of every fashion magazine writes her monthly little column about how she's currently "obsessed" with some overpriced, of-the-moment product that some manufacturer sent samples of. Obsession is a big concept, and it really shouldn't apply to the toner you've been using for two weeks.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dragonfly Wings

I'm wearing Blue Morpho again today. When the temperature is over 100, I might as well scent myself like a Hawaiian vacation.

I paired this with one of the prettiest eyeshadows in my collection -- Blue Emperor Dragonfly from Sweet Libertine (pictured), which was designed in collaboration with The Sanguine Gryphon, purveyors of gorgeous yarns and knitting patterns with a sort of steampunk/goth kind of vibe. To make it a little more work-appropriate, I layered it over MAC Kohl eye pencil in Teddy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sweet Smell of Success

I managed to successfully do over yesterday's attempt to wear one chosen scent all day. The key: remove all errant lookalike perfume vials from my bag before leaving the house. I have been peony-tulip-grass-scented all day today! Woo! Some days it's the little things.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Unforced Perfume Error

Today I was in an Amsterdam sort of mood -- Amsterdam being a BPAL scent composed of "tulips, peony, fresh flowing water and crisp green grasses." Between the desire to feel cool and fresh in light of yet another day of extreme humidity and heat and this exceedingly sprightly dress I have on (pattern detail above), it seemed like a good call, though I was also considering a couple of scents with an extra little oomph to echo the black and white crispness in the dress.

It really is a lovely fragrance, but it does need refreshing during the day, as it can fade out over time. So after lunch I reached into my bag and pulled out the sample vial I carry around with me for touch-ups, uncorked it, and started slathering away. "Hm," thought I, "this seems extra floral all of a sudden."

Turns out, I had left my vial of Two, Five & Seven in my bag and had mixed them up, so I was smelling that gigantic rose bouquet. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, and I finished applying to neck and wrists. Now I smell cheerfully of roses instead of wet peonies and grass. It's a good thing both perfumes contain grass, and peony has something in common with rose so the two don't clash.

It did get me to thinking, though, what kind of added note would transform something like Amsterdam into something slightly more substantial? Many of the "darker" notes, such as opium, patchouli, vetiver, and even violet don't really appeal to me (or flat out gross me out). Leather and aromatic wood, though I love them, tend to amplify on my skin and drown everything else out. I'll have to keep exploring, especially as we start to approach fall and I transition into wanting something a wee bit heavier but still refreshing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blue Morpho and Dragonflies

I wish this photo could do this color justice, but I often find it's hard to capture the depth and prettiness of duochrome and glittery nail polishes.

On Saturday I was doing my nails, and took suggestions from the peanut gallery, meaning I let my oldest kid (age 9) pick my colors. For the pedicure he picked one of my favorites, Zoya Adina, which is a soft purple with green duochrome, like a dragonfly's wing. For the manicure he picked Jesse's Girl in Glee (pictured) which is basically a peacock foil. This shows the blue base, but you don't really see the teal-green sheen. It didn't last long, but it sure was pretty, and anyway I had to take it off Monday morning for work. He decided it looked like the wing of a Blue Morpho butterfly.

As it happens, Blue Morpho is one of my new favorite scents from BPAL, so much so that I ordered extra backup bottles of this limited edition. Description:

Wild orchid, pikake, honeysuckle, calla lily, agave nectar, pink geranium, violet leaf, and wild amber.

Pikake makes me think of my honeymoon in Bali, where we were treated to tropical flowers strewn all over our bed. It seems to be the only jasmine I can wear without it turning sour and harsh on me. Whenever I wear it and catch a whiff it feels like an instant vacation. Which I need today, given the heat and humidity.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Today's Scent

This morning, with temperatures in the 90s predicted and insane humidity, I put on my lightest summer dress -- cap sleeves, faux-wrap bodice, circle skirt, black and white snake print with black sash -- and decided to go with something fresh and rose. I picked BPAL's Two, Five & Seven, described thusly:

A huge bouquet of squished rose petals: Bulgarian rose, Somalian rose, Turkish rose, Damascus rose, red and white rose, tea rose, wine rose, shrub roses, rose, rose, rose…

…and just an itty bitty bit of green grass.

I have a problem wearing many roses, such as tea rose, which instantly turns to soap on my skin, but this one stays really true. It smells like a big bouquet of fresh-cut roses, or like walking through a rose garden where the grass has recently been mowed and watered. What I love is that the rose is not one-note, it takes into account the fact that not all varieties of roses smell alike, so it's wonderfully layered, and the grass adds freshness.

Makeup also contained a revelation. I've been using shimmery nudes on my lids for years, colors like Urban Decay Sin, which is a muted nude pink, but there was always something a little off with my skin tone. Today I busted out NYX's Skin Tight, which is a shimmery peach and WHAMMO, that's my skin, only better. I did that over the whole lid (with a base of MAC Paint Pot in Painterly), added a line of NYX felt tip black liner and their Propel My Eyes mascara in black, and I had a great neutral but finished eye that was just enough retro to go with my dress.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Scent 'o the Day

Today is going to be hot and humid, and we're hosting a backyard barbecue with friends. I'm in a stay cool sort of mood, so I chose BPAL's The Dormouse, which is described as "A dizzying eddy of four teas brushed with light herbs and a breath of peony." I actually get something closer to lemony iced tea with a good dose of fresh-cut grass. It's comforting in a cool, fresh way, and isn't challenging or complicated. Suits me well on a Sunday, especially one I greeted with less than an optimal amount of sleep, thanks to a growing baby.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Holy Grail of Mothers

Fantasy Perfume No. 3 is that holy grail of parents -- the scent of your baby's neck. Since December 27 I've been deep in the throes of a love affair with this particular perfume which is, of course, impossible to bottle.

This, friends, is the real deal. It's all I can do to keep myself from having yet another once the baby smell goes away. If they could just bottle this, it would be very good for population control. May I present:

Jasper -- warm light skin musk, clean laundry, milk, a touch of sugar, a drop of vanilla, a dusting of baby powder. The elusive smell of a baby's head.

Eau de Backyard

I'm not a very good gardener, but I do like to take a stab at it each summer. Mostly I grow tomatoes, herbs, and the occasional cucumber, and recently I branched into strawberries and blueberries. Plus we have azaleas, hydrangeas, jasmine, forsythia, roses, and various flowers I haven't managed to kill yet. And weeds. If they flower, they're allowed to live, at which time I dub them "wildflowers." So I present Fantasy Perfume No. 2:

My Garden -- tomato leaf, lavender, tarragon, wild strawberries, warm soil, water, roses, peonies, hydrangea, with a waft of dry grass and oak leaf on the breeze.

Garden-Fresh Scent

Now that I'm seeing the world through perfume-note-colored glasses, I recently picked this garden bouquet with the scent blend in mind -- roses, lilies, lavender, and fennel fronds. It had rained the night before, so there was a wet note too. If only I could bottle it.

Too Darn Hot

I once had a bit of an argument with my grad school housemate about whether it made sense to think of perfumes seasonally. At the time, it just didn't make sense to me -- what if I wanted to wear Chanel's Coco in summer and winter! But I've come around somewhat. I still don't think of my scents exactly seasonally, but there are ones that fit my mood more often depending on whether it's cool or warm out. Actually, I think I experience scents and weather with a bit of color vocabulary, so I tend to choose scents that match that mood/weather/color profile flitting through my so-called mind.

Now that I've been hanging out a bit of perfumery forums (and realize I'm not the only freak who thinks about perfume this way, by the way), I do see a lot of discussion about scents that are good for summer or what have you, and I started thinking about what I choose to wear in hot weather. I find that my choices really fall into two categories:

Scents to Feel Refreshed By -- Sometimes I want to feel like I can resist the heat, like I just stepped out of a refreshing shower. At these times I prefer light florals, preferably with aquatic or grassy notes. I don't even mind if they go a little shampooey (though not soapy). I like citrus, too, but I tend to want the citrus mixed with either something more floral or a touch more grounded. Fitting the bill here are grassy scents like The Dormouse or Amsterdam from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, creamy florals like Quelques Fleurs from Houbigant, or fruity blends like BPAL's Croquet or 51. BPAL has a couple of refreshing citruses I like too, such as Embalming Fluid, with lemon, aloe, and green tea, and Hungry Ghost Moon, which has white grapefruit but also vanilla, rice, and wood.

Scents to Feel Gloriously Sticky -- And then sometimes I just go the hell with it, bring on the heat, bring on the funk. In those moods I might turn off the a/c and throw on a sundress and let myself get deliciously sweaty. At these times I go for something sweet smelling but earthy, or with tropical notes. BPAL's new limited edition Pussy (shut up, pervs, it's part of the Moth collection, inspired by the adorable Pussy Moth), with orange blossom honey, brown sugar, saffron, tonka, and tobacco leaf, or All on the Golden Afternoon with pineapple, tangerine, tobacco, apricot, and seltzer, plus amber and sun-baked flowers hit this note for me. Another I love is Fracas by Robert Piguet, which is heavy on the tuberose.

Today is a Sticky day, so I'm wearing Pussy. Shut up.

Perfume and Makeup and Blogging, Oh my

Either you can teach an old dog new tricks, or I am exceptionally immature, but I find myself 43 years old, with an established career as a lawyer and three children in the suburbs, suddenly living out my teenage dreams of getting my hands on all the cosmetics and perfume I could ever desire. Well, "all" is an extreme word given the cost of this stuff, in a world where beauty bloggers receive truckloads of high-end stuff to review, while I pay retail. By that standard I'm downright deprived. But I'm a big girl now, and I have disposable income, and given my status as a mother of three boys with a full time job, I figure I'm entitled to a few little luxuries.

And so I find myself at a point in life at which, if you were to believe the magazines, I think I'm supposed to be wearing a "signature" scent and a "signature" slash of lipstick, but instead spend glorious minutes in between conference calls, carpools, and diaper changes trying on eyeshadow pigments or trying to sniff out elusive notes in perfume blends.

So this blog will chronicle my experiments, disappointments, random thoughts, wishlists, and product reviews. I apologize in advance for the quality of pictures, as I'm generally too busy/lazy to do much more than shoot with my iPhone and email the resulting ill-lit photos to myself. But it's good to have areas in which you can improve.

Other ways in which I spend my time include knitting, cooking, making cocktails, trying not to kill all vegetation in my garden, reading (including mysteries), and watching TV, but the good stuff, you know. Sometimes maybe I'll talk about that instead of what's on my pulse points.