Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Whoa, has it been a long time!
Happy belated New Year’s, dearest readers; I sincerely hope that everyone had a joyous and restful holiday season - something I did not have. As you may know, my new job is in retail, and the holidays were beyond hectic for me. The non-existent posting from me (along with my near-disappearance from Twitter) should have been a sign that things were just not going well for me. I made it through most of December on very little sleep, no makeup save for mascara, and only my perfume collection to keep me sane. Times were trying, truly trying. Every aspect of my life went completely on hold.
(See, I wasn't kidding - I really drew a bad picture of a Christmas tree!)
Even now that holiday has passed, we transitioned right into sale period (oh, isn’t retail grand?) and I’m still just as busy as I was pre-Christmas. Ugh. I have been so tired that I actually slept through New Year’s Eve! First time in my life that I’ve ever done that. I haven’t even written my ‘thank you’ cards for Christmas gifts that I received. I’m actually embarrassed at the level to which my life has corroded because of work responsibilities.
My last wakeful hours on New Year’s Eve had me swearing to myself that 2012 would be different: I could no longer neglect myself or my blog. I made a DSH Perfumes order to cement this decision, and then passed out over a heap of french fries. Delicious!
The first day of 2012 ended up being just a beautiful day. With a fully done face of makeup (the first time in nearly a month that had happened) and a healthy spritzing of Guerlain Iris Ganache, I stepped out into a sunny NYC day and things just fell into place. My confidence soared, I was able to respond to texts and emails, and a lovely brunch date with Ilusionisto blossomed into the reconciliation of our relationship - and I looked and smelled fabulous the entire time. At the end of the day, I was able to sleep peacefully for the first time in a month. Truly, truly wonderful.
With this in mind, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for the love, support, and readership you’ve blessed me with this past year. Blogging (and my sick love of makeup and perfume) has brought me friendships that I could have never expected but have always wanted. I love - truly, truly love - each and every one of you. I am sorry I could not say these things sooner, or in a more personal manner.
If I have any resolution for 2012, it is to bring you the little slices of my crazy brain that I had always tried to offer you: I am still buying all of the taupe eyeshadows I can get my hands on, I am still sniffing all of the perfumes I can get my hands on, and I’m still eating all of the bacon I can get my mouth around. Please, bear with me if things get crazy for me again. I do not mean to abandon you, or to disappoint.
Now that I have said what I needed to say, I’d love to hear from you about your holiday season, about your New Year’s resolutions, and about all of the yummy things you have been eating! Let me know in the comments.
...oh, and have a wonderful, lovely day!
Sunday, December 25, 2011
After all the running around, shopping, cooking, and headaches the holidays are actually here! The Beauty Spotlight Team wishes you a happy and very healthy Christmas, Chanukah and New Year. May 2012 be a beautiful year in all ways.
Joeybunny took part in the O Tannenbaum! perfume blogging project - see what woody perfumes stole her heart over at Beauty, Bacon, Bunnies!
If you've looking for the perfect balance between moisture and colour for the cold winter months then check out the tinted balms that Lisamarie from Beauty Crazed has been loving lately!
Beauty Info Zone has a brand new look. We're putting on the Glitz with Tarte for the holidays. Come see what Tarte and Beauty Info Zone have to show you.
At Everyday Beauty, Zuzu did the unthinkable and chose her favorites from a year's worth of purchases. Many of these items were not necessarily released as new this year, but they were new to her. Come read about what made Zuzu's best-of list.
Over at Lipstick Musings, Shannon has found a not-quite-red (for a change) that will rock your world in Guerlain Rouge Automatique Lipstick #168, L'Heure Bleue!
London Makeup Girl asks if you are washing your hair properly? She was mortified to find that she wasn't! Read the post and watch her video here.
Modesty Brown has a Butter LONDON Knees Up and shares some perfect twinkly red nail colours for the festive season.
Paula, from Older Girl Beauty, talks with MAC MUA Romero Jennings about Daphne Guinness and her upcoming makeup collection with MAC.
Looking for some last minute gifts? Pammy Blogs Beauty continues her Holiday Palette reviews with Too Faced "In Your Dreams" Palette.
Perilously Pale shares a Face of the Day post that will have you hopping running to place an order for some Rouge Bunny Rouge. Come see why this is one of her favourite brands!
Over at Pretty in Dayton, Styrch falls in love with Cult Nails Power Thief.
Prime Beauty reviews Benefit's new Hervana blush; it’s spellbinding and will hypnotize you—she hopes!
Visionary Beauty shares her collection of the delightful Rouge Bunny Rouge loose glitter pigments, including the two new tantalising shades; Caress of Mink and Embrace of Cashmere.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I cannot remember the last time I had a Christmas tree; I think I must have still been living at home, and I miss that little plastic piece of green joy. Admittedly, I always wanted a real Christmas tree: I wanted to smell the fresh pine needles throughout my home, all the time - but my mother refused, claiming it would be a fire hazard. Sigh.
(the tree at the Mast Bros. Chocolate Factory)
One day, I’ll have a real Christmas tree: I’ll string it with garland and obnoxious ornaments, and I’ll place presents and cards underneath it. Even if I spend Christmas alone, I’ll get to luxuriate in the sight and smells of such a gorgeous living thing. But for now, I have a hilariously bad drawing of a tree taped to my bedroom wall (in the corner where I have lumped all of my Christmas gifts and cards), and a large collection of woody fragrances with which to assuage my want.
I have always had a soft spot for woody accords in fragrances. I love them for the warmth they give to fragrances, the instant imagery I see in my mind while wearing them - forests, darkness (or light, depending), coziness, expanse, life, and death. Woody accords bring to mind both the divine and the irrefutably human: wood is a material for near-infinite possibilities, and this is evident even in perfume.
With this in mind, I should probably let you all in on why I’m waxing poetic about wood: today is “O Tannenbaum!” Day - many of the lovely perfume bloggers who reside in the blogosphere are getting together today and posting about some of their favorite woody fragrances. Each of us picked three perfumes to do mini-reviews on; I will link all of the participating blogs below.
For my particular post, I decided to focus on three of my favorite Indie perfumers: Laurie Erickson, Mandy Aftel, and Roxana Villa. These women are incredibly talented and have cast a serious spell of magic over my life (and my wallet), and when I had to think about three of my favorite woody fragrances, their creations were the first to ‘pop’ into my head. The following three mini-reviews will take us from the photo-realistic to the purely dreamy, from the severe to the soft: all different interpretations of trees, of wood - a material we all seem to take for granted despite the magic that permeates its very being.
Sonoma Scent Studio’s Winter Woods: Laurie Erickson’s Winter Woods is an ode to every fantasy this citydweller has had about spending a white Christmas in a log cabin. I’ve always had a desire to spend Christmas by a fireplace, the smell of my kindling filling the air with a robust, thick smoke which would mix with my soft, ambered perfume. I would sit there for hours, cuddling someone close and just basking in the warm glow of the fire. Winter Woods smells exactly like this fantasy. At once incredibly soft and almost charred, it straddles a fine line between the masculine and feminine. An incredible combination of guaiacwood, cedar, birch tar, cade, and labdanum lend Winter Woods its irresistible thick and resinous appeal - and a decidedly sexy leather aspect. The fragrance lasts for hours, and as it wears the smoke clears somewhat and makes way for a lovely amber and sandalwood skin scent: just as sexy as the smoked woods at the beginning, but softer, sweeter, and a bit tamed. It is the dying embers in that fireplace, emitting a warm glow as my mystery cuddle partner and I get closer and closer…
Aftelier Perfume’s Oud Luban: Mandy Aftel originally created Oud Luban as part of the Clarimonde Project, an ode to one of the most haunting stories of love and loss I have ever read. The priestly Romuald was cursed to spend his life serving one love (the church) while aching for his other love (Clarimonde). Mandy’s interpretation of the story brings us this fantastic solid perfume, whose smell is both unique and familiar, old and new. Anyone raised in the Catholic Church can still smell the fragrant and heady mix of the wooden pews and the cloying incense burned during services: the frankincense smoke curling from brass censers. Oud Luban recreates the smell of the Church with a blend of frankincense, no less than eight varieties of oud, and an incredible orange note - the combination makes for a deliciously smoky orange lacquer while first applied to the skin. One can almost see Romuald on bended knee, praying for his damned soul. However, Oud Luban is all top and base notes - no middle - and the notes transition from piety to passion, a delicious and deep skin scent emerging. It is night, and Romuald’s head and heart are with his Clarimonde, his mind recreating the warm spiciness of her skin: benzoin and patchouli call to mind his carnal desires. Still, the fragrance never quite loses the austere woodiness: a brutal reminder to Romuald of his reality.
Roxana Illuminated Perfume’s Q: Nobody does dreamy quite like Roxana: her fragrances are a call to an idealized, fairytale version of nature that is not unlike that of my childhood fantasies. Woodland creatures, fairy sprites, and the souls of the ancients live and dance together in the scented scenes that her perfumes create. To try her perfumes (I adore her solids, with their beautiful color-coded seals) is to find one’s ‘happy place’, to reacquaint oneself with the simplicity of the surrounding world. Her gift is to make art out of that which one usually does pay attention to: Q is a perfect example of this - who knew that the oak tree could serve as muse for such a beautiful fragrance? Q is a deep and twirling sort of woody scent, and while smelling it, it is easy to imagine oneself standing amongst the sturdy, tall trees. You pick up a fallen leaf and hold it to your face, feel the trace amount of dew which it has collected, and smell the sunshine and greenness. There is a beautiful hint of citrusy snap to Q that marries well to the fresh green powderiness of the wood accords; I wear it and I feel a deeper sensuality. There is an unmistakeable spice to the fragrance, and as it wears, Q reveals an animalic ambered base, an accord which smells to me of benzoin and labdanum. Bark, leaf, twig, sun: the oak is encapsulated, revered, and made magic. It shares the magic with me, and I revel in it.
I could go on and on, but why do so when so many other of my blogging friends have other lovely wood fragrances to share with you! Please check out their blogs - and their contributions to O Tannenbaum! Below - and feel free to share with us your favorite woody fragrances!
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
I now have something else that I can blame Nathan Branch for: my new love of Mast Brothers Chocolates. Nathan is the ultimate enabler, sending me links of fragrances to try, books to read, and foods to eat. On Friday evening, he sent me a link to an article about the Mast Brothers, Brooklyn residents (and brothers, obvs!) who were among the first in the country to start a chocolate factory that produced “bean to bar” chocolate: the brothers received their beans in their rawest state, and did all of the processing themselves - and packaging, and branding, etc. I Googled their website, fell in love with what I saw, and immediately booked myself a tour of their chocolate factory for the next afternoon.
Nathan, it was the best $10 I’ve spent in a long, long time!
The Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory is located on N.3rd Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; the commute from my job to the factory was quick and easy, and I wondered how I had never heard of it prior to Nathan’s message. Clearly, I don’t spend enough time in Brooklyn! The hour-long tour was scheduled for 4:30pm, but with about twenty minutes to kill, I stopped first at the factory’s Tasting Room + Store (a few doors down from the factory).
The decor and displays in the Tasting Room + Store are gorgeous: chic and minimalistic, and I loved the paper used the wrap the bars. There was a truly stunning display of small cakes, macarons, and truffles, but I went right to the round table where samples of some of the bars were available. The Mast Brothers Brooklyn Blend bar that I tried was quite nice: deep, a teensy bit grainy, and rich.
The tour started in a timely fashion. Derek, our adorable tour guide, provided us with water, aprons, and hairnets. He was affable and quite knowledgeable about the chocolates he helped produce, and he was patient with all of our questions. The tour started with a video of the Mast Brothers discussing their philosophy. I was quite taken with this quote from Rick Mast: “To make great chocolate, one needs two things: the best ingredients and the best execution.” The brothers get their beans from co-ops in the Dominican Republic, Peru, Belize, Madagascar, and Papau New Guinea. They use organic cane sugar or maple sugar, and they strive to “connect consumers to the chocolate, straight from its source.” I really appreciate that, as I’m trying in my own life to shop indie and shop local as much as possible. Also, the reasonable prices ($7 a bar) don’t hurt either!
The physical tour of the factory began after this video presentation. Some pictures of the tour are below!
After the tour, we had a (very generous!!) tasting of the Origins line of Mast Brothers Chocolates (the seven bars represent the seven locations they obtain their beans from), and then I went back to the Tasting Room to purchase some bars!
I ended up coming home with two bars of chocolate, the Papau New Guinea and the La Red. All of the Mast Brothers Chocolates are dark, and are around 70% - the darkest is 75%, and it’s phenomenal: bright and sweeter than one would expect. The Papau New Guinea came home with me because it has a smokiness (lent to it by a double roasting) which makes it taste of hickory bacon. The La Red, from the DR, came home with me because it has an irresistibly juicy, fruity flavor.
I hope that if you’re ever in Brooklyn, you get to visit the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory. It was an hour well-spent (I came home smelling of divine chocolate, and happy as a clam), and part of the $10 fee gets donated to a charity of your choosing on their website! If you’d like to see more pictures from my tour, please click here to be directed to my Flickr account.
Monday, December 12, 2011
It’s now time to complete my little guide to perfume shopping in NYC! My first installment took us along Fifth Avenue; my darling Kenny and I wore out our noses at Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Sounds like a full day, doesn’t it? It does - but I still had four (!) more places to drag Kenny. This required a train ride downtown to the West Village, and later on some eastbound walking. We purchased Kenny a MetroCard, and off we went to our first stop.
(picture borrowed from NYMag.com)
Every fragonerd must pay his or her respects to the veritable shrine of niche perfumery, Aedes de Venustas, located on the lovely Christopher Street in the West Village. Aedes is a boudoir filled with luxe and hard-to-find niche lines; also, the two cutest dogs in the world live there, so pet them if you get a chance! Kenny and I went straight to the Malle display, both of us agreeing that Musc Ravageur is an essential fragrance to own (although I’m not much of a Malle fan beyond Musc Ravageur!). We poured over every nook and cranny of the store, sniffing everything we could get our hands on. I wanted to bring the Serge Lutens cabinet home with me!
Some of the highlights of our sniffing include: Amouage Gold Woman (I have this and love it; Kenny was wide-eyed over it), Serge Lutens Chergui (a holy grail fragrance for the both of us), L’Artisan Dzing (I need this!) and Tea for Two (Kenny said I need it), and Diptyque Tam Dao (a favorite of mine that I think Kenny needed to sniff; he enjoyed it).
After Aedes, Kenny and I took a gelato and cookie break, and then walked over to MiN New York. MiN is a new store in the East Village, an atelier and apothecary combined. The layout of the store is wonderful and the selection of products made me gasp. I saw Spanish apothecary products my grandmother used on me as a child, and Kenny nearly fainted over the Frapin fragrances. I ran straight to the Miller Harris display, and the two of us squealed over the Keiko Mecheri table. I cannot stress this enough: MiN New York is an absolutely necessary stop for any fragrance enthusiast. Any place where I can buy Amouage, By Kilian, metal bunny paperweights, and get a cup of coffee all at once is a slice of heaven on earth!
Some of the highlights of our sniffing include: Frapin 1270 (Kenny instantly bought a bottle!), Penhaligon’s Amaranthine (I have a decant of this! I need to dig it up and review it), Keiko Mecheri Cuir Cordoba (I love this, and I knew Kenny would too - see Nathan's review here), and Carner Barcelona Tardes (Birgit’s review piqued my curiosity, and both Kenny and I agreed that it was the best of the line).
After MiN, I dragged Kenny around the corner and across the street to the Santa Maria Novella/LAFCO store. The Santa Maria Novella store is great if you’re one of those crazy people who likes to buy your friends housewarming presents, and stuffs their closets and dressers with potpourri. The store is a veritable Candyland for those who like all aspects of their life to be scented. I own their potpourri, their soaps, their skincare...I can go on and on. I also love gifting people with LAFCO candles. I can’t help it! I wanted Kenny to sniff the SMN colognes, and we also had a random woman follow us from MiN to SMN and I was able to help direct her to some lovely home fragrances to give as Christmas gifts! I really need to start charging people for my help.
Some of the highlights of our sniffing include: SMN Calycanthus (see my review here; I need to get a bottle ASAP!), SMN Carnation (I didn’t like this as much as I thought I would), and SMN Vetiver (Kenny preferred Calycanthus; I thought the Vetiver was OK).
Our final stop of the afternoon was at Le Labo, as there was no way I was sending Kenny back to New Jersey without a stop at one of my favorite stores! It’s silly to even include a ‘highlights’ section, as there isn’t a Le Labo fragrance that I don’t like. Rose 31 is a holy grail fragrance for me, as is Santal 33. We both drooled over the Olfactorium, and I decided that I need to buy a bottle of Labdanum 18 as soon as I can. Kenny also pointed out the laundry detergent (oh, to have all of my clothes smell of Rose 31!), and we swooned over the candles.
With our time at Le Labo complete, it was time to take Kenny back to Penn Station and for me to go home! I hope you enjoyed this guide to NYC shopping! I plan on, in the future, elaborating on some of these shops and writing about other stores we didn’t get to visit last weekend! Let me know in the comments what you think about this.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
The holiday season is upon us. Is your shopping done yet? Take a break, sit by the fire grab a cup of coffee or cocoa and gather some great gift ideas from your favorite beauty bloggers!
Joey is hypnotized by Aroma M's latest potion, Geisha Amber Rouge . Find out why this perfume is as potent as a drug at Beauty, Bacon, Bunnies !
Nothing could be finer than a gift from Le Metier. Beauty Info Zone shares two beautiful nail polish sets that would fit into any beauty lovers stocking perfectly.
How's your gift list coming along? Take a look at the first installment of Prime Beauty's Holiday Gift Guide for 2011!
Lisamarie from Beauty Crazed has skipped right over winter and has moved right on to Spring nail shades - check out Chanel Vernis in May and June and see if you don't agree that this was a good call!
At Everyday Beauty, Zuzu's Petals found another red lipstick to love. See what's so special about NARS Sheer Lipstick in Flamenco.
London Makeup Girl bought a couple of the new MAC Metal X cream eyeshadows. Are these less crease-prone than the 2007 version? See what she thinks here: MAC Metal X Gold Carbon and Palladium.
Can Quick BlowDry Shampoo by it FACTOR really reduce your blow dry time??? Pammy Blogs Beauty tests it out.
Modesty Brown takes us through a new purchase, a couple of old favourites and an item that was good enough for a fussy beauty blogger to re-purchase. She invites you to share your old, new and re-purchased items too.
With Christmas looming and the search for the perfect present upon us, Visionary Beauty has a look at the Trish McEvoy Portable Beauty collection in Romance.
Think a product called Loose Glitter Pigment sounds like something you could never pull off? Don't let the the name scare you. Perilously Pale shows you why the new neutral offerings from Rouge Bunny Rouge are stunning and MUST HAVES!
Over at Pretty in Dayton Styrch discovers what is quite possibly the best scent to wear for the holidays at a visit to Preen Apothecary.
Don't forget about the BeautyBloggers.org auction to benefit Doctors Without Borders. Participants have donated a treasure trove of the best lotions, potions, products, and gadgets. Donated items range from the hottest items from this year’s holiday collections to hard-to-find exclusives and limited edition cult favorites. When the auction ends, winning bidders make their donations directly to Doctors Without Borders, through the site’s secure giving page.
Hurry, the auction ends Monday, December 12th.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
(picture borrowed from this lovely blog)
The sign of a well-composed fragrance often lies in the reactions that wearing it generates. Usually, when I try a new fragrance on, I often will “ooh” and “ahh” or moan inappropriately. Sometimes I visibly recoil and audibly gag. Once in a while, music or poetry will come to mind if I make a tangible and deep connection with what I’m smelling. When this happens, I know that I’ve struck “perfume gold”, and that what I’m wearing needs to come home with me or be purchased in a larger size. The undeniable beauty of the scent is its own symphonic treat, words painted with an olfactory glaze, mobile and living art.
I feel as if it’s no surprise that Mandy Aftel’s latest fragrance, Secret Garden, conjured up such emotions in me. I had excitedly followed the genesis of the fragrance on Nathan Branch’s blog, and his review of the finished product left me thrilled and anxious to get my paws on a sample. From the inspiration behind the name (how I love the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett!) to Nathan’s declaration that the scent was “irresistibly luminous”, Secret Garden seemed to bloom with the promise of sensuality and surprise.
It has been interesting to read other bloggers’ thoughts on the fragrance. My demonic sister Sheila found herself seduced by the fragrant blooms and animalic base of Secret Garden, while the lovely Birgit was enveloped by a very human sense of comfort and warmth exuded by the perfume. Incredible that one small vial of liquid could conjure up such vivid and conflicting emotions and thoughts! Like I’ve said before - and like I will say again - Mandy Aftel’s genius lies in her ability to create perfume as an experience. All of the senses are stirred, the mind struggles to comprehend, and the heart leaps.
When I first applied Secret Garden to my skin, I was instantly reminded of Pablo Neruda. I have been a fan of his for as long as I can remember, and I keep his collected work of poetry by my bedside. I am especially fond of his sonnets, and I know a few by heart. Soneto XLVII (47) in particular jumped out at me; I’m posting the Tapscott translation below for you to read:
I want to look back and see you in the branches.
Little by little you turned into fruit.
It was easy for you to rise from the roots,
singing your syllable of sap.
Here you will be a fragrant flower first,
changed to the statuesque form of a kiss,
till the sun and the earth, blood and the sky, fulfill
their promises of sweetness and pleasure, in you.
There in the branches I will recognize your hair,
your image ripening in the leaves,
bringing the petals nearer my thirst,
and my mouth will fill with the taste of you,
the kiss that rose from the earth
with your blood, the blood of a lover’s fruit.
What is incredible is that this sonnet perfectly embodies the experience of wearing Secret Garden. Secret Garden is flower, fruit, and flesh all at once: the initial application is bright, unfolding, and full of promise but as the fragrance develops it becomes feverish, deeper, and lustier. I am kissed by happy hints of bergamot and blood orange, caressed by an indolic jasmine and a blooming rose, and ravaged by (real!) civet and castoreum. It reminds me of perfumes from another era; Secret Garden could be a long-forgotten vintage and I’d believe it.
Still, this is probably the easiest Aftelier fragrance to wear - and I do think it is Mandy’s best. She managed to create a perfume that is both accessible yet outerworldly: Neruda’s forest lover encapsulated. Secret Garden: it is the kiss that rose from the earth to awaken passions within us all.