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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Crazy, Sexy Charmed Life - Impromptu by Roxana Illuminated Perfumes

Impromptu by Greg Spalenka...In Roxana's own words..."The use of the word illuminated in my company name refers to "bringing"  to light the elder way of making perfumes with plant materials AND illuminating each fragrance with an image. 

This review of Roxana Villa's magnificent perfume Impromptu should have appeared weeks ago because I received the first sample just before Easter but then life always full of unexpected surprises, unexpected sorrows and the unexpected joys that come crashing in.  I think, scratch that.... I KNOW that the sheer beauty of being alive is that it can change in a heartbeat.  

Many of you don't know that over Easter my husband was badly hurt.  We were on what was supposed to be a long overdue and relaxing vacation. I was waiting for him at the bottom of Camelback Mountain in  Scottsdale to pick him up after what was generally a easy climb for him. Too easy I think, as he'd gone up and down in record time but had fallen somewhere along the route down. I found him at the trailhead covered with blood and with absolutely no memory of what had happened, of anything or anyone save me and our son. It was terrifying to see someone that I knew so well with absolutely no recollection of the who, why and where of his life.  Because I am who I am , the image of him wasn't nearly as important as the smell of him. I knew that it was truly bad when I could smell the primal fear mingled with the blood and mountain dust. If you know Jim, then you know that almost nothing truly scares him. He's a man that generally acts in spite of his fear. The smell stayed with me for days, eclipsing my normal experience of the Sonoran desert which is usually to me totally sensuous and 
spicy , rich , musky and full of desert Oud. 

What he eventually remembered was that he felt the presence of my parents, both of whom have been gone for several years now.  I think that they must have gotten him down the slope as no one was with him when I found him at the trailhead. I know that someday he'll tell the story and It will start with.."Even unconscious I made one of the best times of my hour and 20 minutes up and down!" which were the first words he spoke to me as his memory was returning the next day. 

He's always led a bit of a charmed life!

I was thrilled to have him back, but there was still that lingering scent. I wandered around Scottsdale for two weeks after it happened trying to bring back the pieces of myself that I'd left up on the mountain. Jim was going to be fine, but I truly was wondering about me. Post traumatic stress is hard enough but when you're one that lives literally by the smell of things it can be even more overwhelming. My normal instincts about the world around me had vanished. I couldn't taste anything very well and my Creed Tuberose Indiana perfume smelled like soap. This was not at all promising. 

The day came that I knew that I had to go back up on that mountain, not just for him, but for me. I hadn't planned it, it was an impromptu; a  moment of desire that I gave in to in spite of myself. I'd been coddling him like an infant and I could tell that we were still scared. It's a bit like falling off of a horse. No matter how frightened you are, the moment comes when you've got to put your foot in the stirrup again. So the morning came about two weeks later that we found ourselves holding hands and standing at the beginning of the trail. We only planned to go for a short walk, just long enough to reclaim the mountain but not anywhere close to the area where the tricky climbing begins. One step at a time and then one more. It was early in the morning and he was still to weak to climb past the first pass, but we made it up to the saddle. He was so happy. I was terrified. I could barely breath the whole way up. 

Finally when we stopped I was able to take a deep breath and look around. It was beautiful that morning, sunny and the mountains were sparkling with moving shadows of purple and pink. All around me was the wild wonderful cooing of mourning doves and the smell of fresh coyote scat which was an astonishingly pleasurable assault to my starving senses. There was the strange fruity smell of blooming cacti and then there was the intoxicatingly sweet golden Acacia which I heard long before I saw. I say this because although I could smell it from a mile away, all I could hear was the drone of honeybees everywhere. I was literally trembling with pleasure. Life was finally rich and lusty again. We smiled at each other, walked slowly down the mountain and drove to the airport. To me it's a miracle that he's still with us. It could easily have been such a different ending.

Photograph courtesy of Roxana Villa

I got home and started to climb through the stacks of mail that had piled up during our unexpected absence. I found a package from Roxana, thought "Goddess, just what I need!" and ripped it open, with unusual ferocity because I generally linger over mail from Roxana because anything from her is always a work of art.  This particular package contained a precious vial of her recently reformulated Impromptu perfume, a spray flacon and some of the beautifully crafted solid perfume in the same scent. I opened the pretty glass vial, closed my eyes and took a deep sniff. 

Within seconds, I was standing back on that mountain with Jim, surrounded by a lemony warmth, a dripping honeyed sweetness and a leathery balsam that was so beautiful that I had to sniff again to be sure of what I was smelling because I knew that Roxana uses absolutely no animal products at all with the exception of her own beeswax and honey. (I like to joke and say that I want to come back as one of her bees..they truly have the life!)  I smelled the fiery desert heat and baked red clay.  It was almost overwhelming and it was totally arousing . It brought back that wonderful memory, where instincts were once again stronger than false perceptions. It is the scent of intense passion , the kind of sensual revelry  that occurs when faced with almost losing that which is the most precious.  

 "Impromptu" is such an impossibly beautiful perfume. This luscious scent is filled with so many exotic  woods, resins,herbs ,spices and flowers that it would be almost counterproductive  and confusing to name them all. I truly think that the drama and beauty of Roxana's perfumes lay not in her singular notes although those notes are beautiful in and of themselves.  It's the way that they are transformed when she waves her spicy wand over them. Within Impromptu you will find woodsy notes of birch , cypress and balsam and the honeyed, leathery softness of labdanum and the astringency of myrrh. Exquisitely sweet ylang ylang, helichrysum and the very mysterious artemisia begin to appear almost immediately and I love the spicy tarragon note that she uses!  Every note that Roxana plays with is wonderful, but it's her transformative use of vanilla that rounds this fragrance out and gives all of   Roxana's masterfully hand blended accords a place to snuggle up and call home. 

I really don't know how she does it, but Roxana is one of the only perfumers that I know of who is capable of putting so much magic and soul into her perfumes that simply opening the bottle can pull so deeply on your senses that they literally begin to reel. Opening that bottle was a bit like falling backwards in time. I needed to remember that moment on the mountain and I needed to be reborn to it once again so that my life could work powerfully again here at home.  

Impromptu is unrestrained yet elegant, a little sweet, a little smoky and totally feral. It's a man's scent as well as a woman's; I wafted some Jim's way and he smells simply marvelous when he wears it. 
This sounds silly perhaps, but I know that almost anyone like me with an unrestrained adoration of the art of perfumery and its alchemy should know exactly what I mean when I say this. I love Impromptu even more without clothes. When I'm sunbathing and my skin is warmed, the scent completely blossoms.  I love to stretch out as naked as possible on my sunny upper deck like a lazy desert cat and revel in Impromptu's sweet woodsy fire. I suppose that if I have have to appear dressed while I'm wearing it I'll break out the sexy Ralph Lauren maxi dress that I bought for it (Yes I buy clothes for perfumes not the other way around!) ... a swirling, sexy sheath of cat print with leather ties. I'll add a chunky gold necklace, some carved bone earrings and dance the night away 
because I've certainly got a lot to celebrate!

You can buy Impromptu right now at Roxana's Glorious Illuminated Perfume Site but soon you'll be able to visit her in her  fabulous new  retail and teaching space in Agoura Hills , California!

Equally exciting news is that Roxana's equally wonderful husband Greg Spalenka released a GORGEOUS   new book that debuted at the San Diego Comic Con this weekend and the deluxe edition contains the signed Impromptu print that is featured above. You can purchase it here!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Good Enough to Eat: En Voyage Perfumes Souvenir de Chocolat Trio

By Donna

Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes is well known for putting her own spin on traditional perfume styles, and now she has taken on the gourmand family with great success. This much anticipated (and now multiple award-winning) trio of scents lives up to it billing, evoking the sweetness of classic favorites with an original twist.

I love vanilla in perfumes, from light and airy to dark and boozy, it's all good. Indigo Vanilla brings out an aspect of it that is new to me; thanks to the inclusion of sugared violets and a creamy, buttery musk, the vanilla has a cool, milky character that is very appealing and different. One of the great pleasures of baking is mixing the ingredients, and smelling this is like making my favorite cream cheese and butter shortbread cookie recipe, and topping them with violet frosting. Even so, it is not sticky-sweet like all those candyfloss vanillas, so it is very wearable even in warmer weather. Something fruity peeks out as it develops perhaps thanks to the hint of milk chocolate in the mix, which only adds to the hedonistic experience and gradually becomes more apparent in the long drydown. If I could make a dessert that tastes like Indigo Vanilla smells, I would soon need a new larger size wardrobe.

I have been waiting for Shelley to do an amber perfume, knowing it would have the warmth and radiance that is so characteristic of her work, and Captured in Amber is indeed marvelous - dreamy and hypnotic, so rich and deep that it's downright indecent. My immediate impression was that this fragrance was composed with a very high percentage of natural ingredients. Labdanum, tonka bean, vanilla, resins and spices form the “ancient” smelling amber accord, which is combined with silken dark chocolate, bitter orange and yes, real ambergris, the latter of which is extremely rare in today's fragrances, even the high end luxury scents. It's hard to describe what effect this magical ingredient does for a perfume, but everything is smoother, rounder, more finished somehow, like a stone that's been tumbled in a river and becomes as polished as a jewel. I will compare it very favorably to the hard to find Chocolate Amber from the Italian natural fragrance company La Via de Profumo; if you have ever tried that one, Captured in Amber is akin to it but spicier, more complex and not as sweet, and they are both wonderful.

The ultimate combination of coffee and chocolate for this mocha lover is Café Cacao, which combines top shelf perfumery materials to make what is perhaps the most decadent fragrance in the group. Along with the real ambergris also found in Captured in Amber, it flaunts a parade of sensuality; in fact, there is not a single note in this perfume that I don't adore. Vanilla, rose, cardamom, bergamot peel, espresso, dark chocolate, steamed milk and whipped cream, amber accord, musk, ambergris – who could ask for more? It all comes together seamlessly and even though it has all those gourmand notes, it is not too sweet or cloying, so the rich bitterness of the coffee and chocolate can be enjoyed as a counterpoint to the dessert ingredients. I prefer a gourmand fragrance that leaves room to breathe, and Café Cacao is a great example. The only problem with it is prying my nose off my arm when I wear it. Apparently Marie Antoinette liked to have ambergris in her hot chocolate; that is not an option for most of us, but with this fragrance we can get an idea of what that must have been like.

These three fragrances are also recommended for blending with each other to make your own delectable “recipes.” For me, Captured in Amber tends to overpower anything else, and its longevity is incredible, but the other two make a perfect combination. No matter how you wear them, the result is the same – pure pleasure!

Image credit: Candied violet and chocolate eclairs via Pinterest, original source unknown.
Disclosure: I received samples for testing purposes from En Voyage Perfumes.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Etat Libre d'Orange Cologne

By Tom

Cologne Eau de Parfum is a decided departure from the usual Etat Libre d’Orange usual ways of doing things. They’re of course those crazy kids who did C.S.I. Newark, er, Secretions Magnafique, which to me is a total scrubber with it’s notes of defiled mobster found under the pier.(but I am told that it is one of their most popular fragrance. They also did a personal favorite: Tilda Swinton Like This with it’s comforting mandarin and pumpkin accords. But I have friends who think it’s too weird.

So Imagine my surprise to read that these kids want to give us “nice”….

And it is nice. It opens with a bright orange and orange flower that took me by surprise. It also reminded me of something. Then it struck me; 4711. Not the 4711that until recently has been sold at places like the 47 cent store in recycled bleach bottles (although I read that they’re coming back full circle to the good stuff) but the stuff I remembered in the 70’s as a kid. It was a lovely scent that on a hot, humid New England day a splash of on the back of the neck was more refreshing than an ice bag (I was too young for Pimm’s cup back then.)

Of course, Etat Libre is a bit, well, shall we say more in the opening than the innocent 4711, and of course there’s more in the middle and the drydown. 4711 had a flash (if I remember correctly, and it has been decades) some lavender, then nada. Cologne goes to a jasmine middle then a light leather and a skin musk that would make the Chairman at smellbent smile. Lasting opwer is good, considering that it's sold as a cologne. I got several hours out of it, while the 4711 I remember from my yoof lasted an hour tops.

$149 for 100ML. My sample was asked for and received at ScentBar.

Notes (from LuckyScent:) Blood orange, orange blossom, bergamot, jasmine, musk, leather.

Image: LuckyScent


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Soft touch: The pastel world of Arts & Scents perfumes

By Donna

If you have never heard of the Arts & Scents fragrance line from Germany, you are not alone, as it is not well known in the U.S.A. even though it has been in existence since 2010. After reading about this natural brand on another site I was very curious, because they sounded quite different from the dizzying array of new niche fragrances being launched almost daily. I am very glad that I was able to single these delightful scents out from the herd. The first one I tried was Dream of India and I was quite taken aback, in a very good way. I was expecting incense and spices and whatever else one thinks of regarding Indian perfumery motifs, but it was not anything like that. There is incense in it, but it the softest imaginable interpretation of it, a gentle and enchanting suggestion of Eastern delights. I imagined a literal dream, with gauzy veils draped above a bed in a darkened room where I lay half-asleep in the afternoon with the aroma of the perfume hinting at the vibrant life outside – languid champaca flowers, curry, masala spices, rosewater. There is an aura of cool stillness about it that is very restful, and I was drawn to it over and over again.

A Day in Grasse evokes another kind of place; this one is about a sunny morning in the legendary rose fields; the day is young and the summer heat has not yet taken all the chill from the air as the heady aroma of roses drifts upon the air. If smelling this does not being a smile to your lips, nothing will. It is a fresh yet powdery rose, plump and cheerful, and definitely a vivid pink blossom, an unabashedly feminine perfume accented with the exhilaration of vetiver and red clover. There was a time when I did not care for powdery scents, and they are still a challenge for me, but A Day in Grasse is so beguiling and straightforward I can't help but love it. A must-try for rose and romance lovers.

Equally charming is Cupido's Kiss, a bouncy fruit-laden creation that is just simply delicious. Sometimes a perfume does not have to be overly complicated to be good and this is a great example, bursting with juiciness and delivering a shot of pure pleasure. Underneath the fruit lies a beautiful bouquet of flowers waiting to surprise you, and another twist comes later – a warm, musky base that's decidedly sexy. It builds upon itself until it becomes a symphony of intense sensual pleasure, and I would happily buy a full bottle and splash it with abandon. Cupido's Kiss is one of those perfumes that reminds you of why you fell in love with fragrance in the first place – simply because is smells good and brings joy. This was a big win for me.

There is just a touch of fruitiness in Light of Ormuz, which seems to be the closest thing to a dedicated masculine scent in the line – all of the scents are nominally unisex – and that abstract tang of fruit, green notes of mint and vetiver and a whisper of cedar complete this understated fragrance. It does not proclaim itself as being manly the way mainstream fragrances for men usually do; it is quiet, reserved and very attractive. As subtle as it is, it lasts surprisingly well. If this fragrance were a person, it would be the young Iranian man I once met who looked just like an idealized portrait of Alexander the Great – softly curling reddish chestnut hair, a perfect high bridged Greek nose, carved cheekbones and startling, icy grey eyes, a refined beauty yet not a “pretty boy” at all. 

Wild Cat Musk does not quite display truth in advertising; the name made me think I was going to be smelling another Musc Ravageur, but this cat is a sweet, fluffy kitten that wants to snuggle but is also ready for some serious mischief. It really very wearable and I enjoyed it immensely. The opening has a chili pepper tingle and the musky quality is softened by hibiscus; I really love this combination of notes. I have never been a “musk person” although I enjoy smelling musky perfumes on others. I am always afraid that I am anosmic to the particular musk in the scent, as many people are, and that everyone around me is getting an overdose. That problem should not arise with Wild Cat Musk and I would wear it with confidence; it is possible to smell sexy and cuddly at the same time and this is the perfect example. Like most of the others from this house, it is soft-focus, gentle and highly wearable.

Another that might be more of a masculine than not in concept is Cuero de Mexico, but a touch of sweetness along with the leather makes it perfectly unisex. The leather itself is of the sort found in Trussardi and Daim Blond, a civilized leather with a touch of daring, and it is supported by neroli and a light, delicate tuberose. The more I wore this the more I liked it, and I would suggest it to anyone who prefers their leather scents to be restrained and elegant. It has an open airiness, a sense of distance that feels like being on the road with the horizon rolling on before you with all its limitless possibilities, and it's another one from this brand of which a full bottle would be most welcome.

I had a little trouble with Pan Tierra – something in it smells like brick dust and kept me from fully appreciating this well done gourmand fragrance. Even though it has caramel, coffee chocolate, tonka bean and vanilla, it is not really all that sweet, which is a good thing, since I enjoy gourmands more when they can breathe a little bit. I think the problem I have is that the chocolate is a dusty cocoa instead of a more “liquid” and darker chocolate note. For those who do enjoy this style and like a dry cocoa effect, I recommend trying it out.

I saved Night & Dawn: A Vampire's Love for last – it is the most unlike the others in the line in its intensity and could easily have been one of the Devilscent perfumes, which is high praise coming from me. It is a stunner, a beautiful and unusual fragrance that would turn heads anywhere. It begins as a warm, sweet enveloping fruit scent, like sipping a glass of cordial in front of a cozy fireplace. Notes of lychee, tobacco flower and passion fruit blend with heady tuberose to create a luscious and decadent impression. As it develops on the skin, vanilla and sandalwood make themselves known, and it is all underlined with a particularly fine and profound patchouli that feels well aged and mellow and never overpowers the rest. This is one of my favorites of the group, and it's not just good “for a natural perfume” it's marvelous on its own merits. Besides, who can resist a perfume with the tag line “You are my heart's eternal night?” If this is what vampires are wearing these days, I am going over to the dark side right now.

The fragrances of Arts & Scents: The Art of Creation are all created by Manuela Pfannes-Völkel and are available via the perfumer's Web site. Sample sets are available for purchase; you will also find several perfumes that are not included in this review. (I am very curious about Beach Flower and Coco Tango now and I really need to try something named Orange Planet Space Essence!)

Disclosure: A set of perfume samples was sent to me for testing by Arts & Scents at my request.
Image credits:Pastel globes wallpaper from Kitten wallpaper from Art for Night & Dawn: A Vampire's Love from

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Rerun: On the Lighter Side

By Tom

This week is my birthday, so I'm doing a summer rerun this week.
Nasomatto China White, Isotta Fraschini Profumo Uomo and L'Artisan L'Ete en Douce

First off, I want to thank all of you for wishing me a happy birthday in this blog last week, I was truly touched, and it made turning 137 years old a lot easier. I thank you all!

What did not make it easier was the fact that it was about 137 degrees in the city of the lost Angels this weekend. I know, climate change is supposed to be bu*l**it, but I don't remember it being so hot so early or so often. Or perhaps my advancing age makes me kvetchier.


So, this means that I decided to drop into ScentBar (blissfully air-conditioned and always congenially staffed) to test out a few new things.

China White is new from Nasomatto, who is very tiresome about listing ingredients. My first sniff reminds me of an ashtray, of recently extinguished cigarettes. I mean that in the best way, mind you- there's a delicious decadence to its opening that's quite wonderful. I wasn't overwhelmed with what came later, a delicate, powdery floral with only an undertone of the ashtray opening, It's interesting, like all of the Nasomatto line, but like those scents didn't quite entice me to purchase.

Isotta Fraschini was there also. Isotta Fraschini was an automobile company in Italy from the 20's to the 40's which specialised in deluxe automobiles. In real life Valentino and Clara Bow owned them, in the movie "Sunset Blvd", batty Norma Desmond is chauffeured around Los Angeles in one. Naming a cologne after a company whose most famous (arguably) cultural reference is as a leopard upholstered punch line seems silly, but at least it's not Hummer, right?

Actually the cologne itself is quite pleasant. It's a very smooth mix of tonka, woods, spices and anise-tinged musk, none of which would have the bad taste to actually stand out. It has that "I've smelled this before" quality to it that, were I in a more charitable mood (or in heavy AC) I might refer to as "timeless" instead of "derivative". It seems like part of a spec sheet on gracious living and in it's zest to be completely unassuming, grated.

L'Ete en Douce was a 180 degree turn however. Minted orange blossoms and airy hay notes are light as a feather and refreshing as spring rain, while the gently woody and musky drydown manage a feat that I find L'Artisan scents usually do either/or but not both: be ethereal and long-lasting. Completely full-bottle worthy for me and perhaps immediately necessary in my life, this was of the three the one that seemed to me most worthy of it's price.

L'Ete en Douce is $145 for 100ml, at Luckyscent, Barney's and L'Artisan Boutiques. Isotta Fraschini seems to be unavailable. China White is $185 at Luckyscent and Barneys

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Bell Jars at Barney's

By Tom

I had posted about this before, but I was in Barney's in Beverly Hills the other day and saw that the vaunted Bell Jars were there, for $290. I still don't know if they've migrated to every Barney's or just the larger ones (BH actually redid the first basement level into a whole realm of paint and fumes) but while I am glad that I don't have to ration (although $290 isn't exactly "spray liberally" territory considering my finances) it does take away some of the thrill of the chase.

Back in the heady early days of my discovery of Serge Lutens and the discovery that I seriously lusted after several of his scents, he had a two-tier system: release something in the square bottles that were sold outside of Paris, and the Bell Jars were exclusive to the Paris Salon. If you lived in the EU you could order of course and there were people who were willing to part with semi-filled bottles on eBay, usually for about the price of a high-mileage Pinto. It always seemed to me that the non-exclusives were just a bit blander. That they were (dare I write it?) That they were a bot watered down. The big stuff, the ones that made you go "whoaaaah" or sometimes "yikes" were reserved for Paris.

Of course you could get decants, but if you wanted the experience of your own neatly wrapped Bell Jar and wasn't going to Europe (and didn't live there) hoops had to be jumped.

The fist Bell Jar I acquired was via a friend. He lives in New York, and was going to visit his parents who live in Switzerland. He offered to carry back and mail my bottle of Chêne if I would let his mother have anything they might shove extra into the package. I ordered online, it arrived in Switzerland and according to my friend, shove they did. They also sent a very sweet and Gallic note thanking me for purchasing. I still have the bottle.

The second one was pure blackmail. A dear friend completely spaced my birthday and was terribly apologetic about it when she remembered weeks later. she asked how she could make it up to me. I knew that she was attending a wedding that would be in the south of France and would be in Paris for a few days. I told her that she would make my year if she could stop in the Palais and buy me a bottle of Muscs Kublai Khan, and that could be my present for two birthdays and Christmas. She hemmed and hawed, since she would have her mother and then 6-year old nephew in tow, but she eventually produced the bottle after telling me what a trial it was.

About a year later, I was in New York visiting her and at her request got something for her out of her bedroom. On the vanity were to little black boxes containing Bell Jars of her own. I had to laugh. That and applaud her choices. That, and wonder what her mother's nightstand carried. The nephew I'm sure didn't indulge.

In any case, the Palais only deal started to fade when "special editions" started appearing at Barneys in the square bottles. Then Berdgorfs received some of the Bell Jars, Then Barneys in New York got the full line, and now Beverly Hills.

Like I wrote, I'm happy that I don't have to ration that bottle of Chêne like I was rationing Perrier in Death Valley. But I hate to admit it, the thrill of the hunt is gone. As well as the admitted snob appeal of telling someone who compliments you on your scent that it's only available in Paris. Even if you admit (as I always do) that I rely on the kindness of friends to supply it.

Image: Serge Lutens


Friday, May 16, 2014

Coup de Foudre - Guerlains L'Heure Bleue

By Beth Schreibman Gehring

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

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

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Outlander.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Off Topic: The Remake of Rosemary's Baby

By Tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: IMDB

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Foodie Thursday: Spaghetti Sauce

By Tom

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Painterly Palette of PK Perfumes (Part two)

By Donna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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