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.