Valentine’s gift guide

On February 1, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

There is certainly a cheesy, overcommercialized aspect to Valentine’s Day but it’s true too that there is a lot of cute stuff to be had, and I don’t mind a certain degree of sentimentality. I can genuinely like it, even.

Here are a few pieces I would love to be given, and I’m sure I’m not the only one:

1. a luxurious red lipstick

Lipstick Queen Silver Screen Lipstick in Have Paris, maybe, or Le Metier de Beaute Maraschino

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2. pearls

Because, pearls. But also how charming are these akoya heart drops?

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3. a cookbook

I’m really into Mediterranean fusion cookbooks at the moment. Enjoying _Plenty More_ and definitely want to have a look at _Ottolenghi_.

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4. fancy lip balm

Always good to pave the way for kisses, no? This natural, nutrient-packed offering from Tata Harper caught my eye recently.  Be True lip treatment. There’s a tinted version as well.

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5. liquor, in conjunction, glassware

I don’t know about you, but I love being given alcohol. Champagne, especially. Say it with champagne! Better still, say it with champagne glasses. Really, really tall ones…

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6. the scent of roses

I always enjoy Tea Rose, a simple, bright citrusy rose fragrance from The Perfumer’s Workshop. It’s so inexpensive, too. I find it layers beautifully with any number of other fragrances, and especially like to use it to brighten or soften various masculine favorites of mine. Alternatively a lot of L’Occitane’s rose scented products are lovely, also their peony products, peony being much like rose in character but a bit softer and, in a pleasant way, harder to identify. I like the hand creams.

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7. gourmet ingredients

Gourmet herbs, spices, salts, things that come in beautifully packaged jars…I can’t get enough of that stuff. Surprise me.

8. a locket

I’ve been susceptible to the Victorian charm of lockets for as long as I can remember. I’m always looking for interesting vintage ones (I haven’t found one yet, in all this searching, but it’s one of those searches that’s been going on for years, off and on), and like a lot of different styles, from miniature hearts to oversized ovals. This chubby Tiffany’s gold heart has that classic (plain), clean (really plain) look I like. Lockets can be cheesy but, you know, it doesn’t have to be like that.

27679161_927308_EDIt’s unoriginal, I suppose, to give someone a necklace with a heart on it…but honestly I think necklaces with hearts on them are appealing. A dainty chain, a dainty heart*…maybe solid, maybe studded with some stone** or another. I can’t go for those swoopy, stylized hearts but a plain, shapely heart, sure.

*something like this tiny platinum heart, for instance

44870_main**case in point, the diamond heart necklace Lena Dunham wore in her recent Elle cover, speaking of Tiffany’s. I find that piece so beautifully sized and the shape of the heart appealing as well, curvy and proportional – there are many unfortunate heart attempts out there, as far as I’m concerned. Making a mental note to try to get my breasts to do this thing Lena’s are doing here. Imagine with a pearl pendant? Nothing not to like there.

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What do you think? See anything you like?

vendor images, images link to vendor pages

 

in praise of bar soap

On May 4, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

I like the sense of artistry behind fine bar soaps and enjoy the tactile process of using all but the most poorly formulated exemplars. I’ve mentioned this before in the context of the soap dish, and perhaps it is not a coincidence that I prefer the kind of soap that requires its own accessories. Mentioned again in the discovery of Saipua’s excellent packaging and figured I’d share a few more favorites. There is no common ingredient here that determines my preference, I like all sorts; glycerin, vegetable, triple-milled, whatever smells and feels good.

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I like picking them up and putting them down, sudsing them up, feeling them slip between my hands. The washing of hands with bar soap is one of those small rituals during the day that requires a slower pace and a certain attention, and something about it always brings me back to consciousness or awareness.

The chemistry of soap is also interesting, and a mastery of that chemistry is something I can appreciate.

L’Occitane Magnolia & Mûre Soap – L’Occitane’s soaps are solid across the board, I’ve found. Those from the Grasse collection are distinctly perfumed in a way that lingers nicely on the skin, and produce a satisfying lather. ‘Mûre’ means musk, which combines beautifully with heady florals like magnolia. I think this is my favorite scent from the collection but they are all pleasant. 

Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap  – a barely-there-yet-still-somehow-extremely-appealing scent with salt crystals, randomly available through Anthropologie. Their seaweed soap smells incredible, too.

L’Occitane Shea Butter Soap, Milk – smells the way you hope babies will smell (the more obliging babies do smell this way), that is: virtually of nothing, yet with a hint of something creamy and healthy about them. Shea butter is a nice ingredient to watch for.

La Lavande Jardin des Senteurs Soap, Milk – more French shea butter soap, can’t go wrong.

Bee & Flower Ginseng Soap – a nostalgic nod to this soap, which I used growing up and which smells unmistakably, quintessentially, of soap. Nothing artificial, which I like in a soap. A basic, no frills bar.

Pacifica Persian Rose Soap – I’ve been through a few bars of this, and keep extras in my bureau where they gently perfume my clothes. Pacifica is a great natural company, and these soaps have a strong and lasting scent. They feel so nice in the hands, and are more oily than creamy (they are translucent rather than opaque, for example). The Persian Rose has to be my favorite but I’ve also liked the Tuscan Blood Orange, the Tibetan Mountain something something, and the Brazilian Mango Grapefruit. Often turn to this line in the warmer months.

Yardley London English Lavender Soap – a classic, and one that, like the Ginseng soap, smells of soap. The other scents don’t tempt me but I go back to the Lavender again and again.

I’ve liked a number of indie soaps, too (try typing ‘handmade soap’ into Etsy and just see the legion of soap makers), and am always browsing the aisle in Wholefoods, looking for something new. I’ve also liked the vetiver and linden soaps from the Pre de Provence line, Japanese charcoal soap, goat’s milk soaps… Let me know if you have any suggestions.

smell this: L’Occitane Eau de Vetyver

On December 13, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

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L’Occitane’s Eau de Vetyver is a rich, creamy vetiver, wonderfully enveloping in the winter months. Here we have a species of vetiver quite distinct from a fresh, bright vetiver (my prime exemplar being Guerlain Vetiver). This is dark and earthy, closer to straight vetiver essential oil.

It’s a shame vetiver isn’t one of the scents we tend to have on auto-recall, like the banana or rose. Please, go smell something that smells of vetiver and teach your nose about this great fragrance. I have yet to smell a vetiver dominated fragrance that I actively disliked. This is personal to some extent, of course, but vetiver has the sharp green brightness of mint as well as the slightly different acidic brightness of citrus (a different quality of light, if you follow), the visceral appeal of rich, healthy earth newly overturned and full of living roots, and that masculine tug that comes from being used at least minimally in the base of nearly every western fragrance (and not so minimally in many of the masculine ones), and so being vaguely, can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it familiar.

To all of this, in the case of L’Occitane’s offering, is added a measure of sweet cream, softening all of the edges and giving the fragrance a feeling of warmth, like the illusion of warmth one gets from smelling cinnamon or amber fragrances. It can be used sparingly as it is a powerful concentration and has excellent longevity on the skin (and even better longevity on fabrics).

This isn’t showing up on L’Occitane’s online shop anymore so I suspect it is being discontinued. I snagged a bottle from my local store to have as a backup, is how much I like this fragrance. Many of L’Occitane’s fragrances are pleasant to me though few touch me as personally desirable. I do like the Magnolia & Mûre from their new La Collection de Grasse line but that is a story for another day.

into: lip balm

On February 25, 2013 by theseventhsphinx
the stash

the stash

 

Ah. Lip balm. I have a thing for lip balm.

I love all formulas; waxes, ointments, creams, butters, oils…

I clearly don’t need any more lip balm, but I like to have options (options, options, everywhere) and I always want to try something new (and lip balms are a great way to reach the free shipping threshold…).

Some standouts:

Dior Crème de rose – the latest and most luxurious addition to the stash. Expensive but loving it. After all, nothing is too good for my lips, is how it goes in my mind.

Boots No. 7 Protect and Perfect lip cream – creamy and entirely non-oily, this feels like putting moisturizer on your lips, a lot like the much more expensive Clinique All About Lips, but I think better (and cheaper). In this same vein, many eye creams make great lip conditioners, and some inexpensive eye creams are cheaper than expensive lip conditioners…

L’Occitane shea butter – great multi-purpose skin conditioner. Especially long-lasting effects. This is one I keep by the bed.

Kiss My Face ginger and mango – this flavor is a favorite. I have a powerful affinity toward ginger. This is an especially buttery/soft and smooth stick formula that is great for winter, when a tiny bit of tugging can mean a cracked lip. The Yes to Carrots balm has a similar consistency, and neither is as waxy or firm as the standard Burt’s Bees.

Smith’s Rosebud Salve – it’s basically petroleum jelly with a nice fragrance (I also like the minted rose but do not like the Brambleberry), but I love petroleum jelly, and these ointment-like balms. I forgot to put Vaseline in the picture, but I use it all the time. These products don’t condition but sometimes protection is all that is needed. Aquaphor also good for this. I don’t find the Kiehl’s balm to be much different. I would also put the Murad lip care and  Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream in this category, though they are more nourishing and long-lasting than a plain petroleum jelly. They can all also be used to add shine to eyebrows, lashes, eyelids, cheekbones… versatility.

Nuxe Rêve de Miel lip balm – thick, entirely unique texture that requires a lot of working in, but conditions wonderfully. Expensive but…if you are obsessed with lip balm you will understand how one comes to own these things.

Dr. Lipp nipple balm – basically medical grade lanolin (which I also got some of, not pictured, and which, aside from smelling medicinal, works great), which is protecting and healing. Great for cracked, chapped situations. Note that it is extremely thick. The Molton Brown and Laura Mercier lip treatments (both nice if you can find them on sale…too expensive if not) are somewhere between Carmex and this in consistency.

Carmex – I am virtually never without Carmex. Smells medicinal, I know, and is possibly causing my addiction to lip balm…but I don’t care.

Nivea Olive Oil & Lemon lip care – this is a great stick formula. The texture is a lot like the pai bergamot lip balm, a hard oil that melts on contact and leaves a very thin slick on the lips. No tugging on the lips like with waxy formulas (the Mario Badescu lip balm is the same texture, but the scent is an awful species of herbal). I also like this kind of packaging a lot, and find it much cleaner than the standard chapstick tube. Sidenote that I don’t like the new Nivea lip butters at all, and find the flavors cheap and synthetic.

Korres lip butters – if you can find them on sale and choose a flavor you like (I don’t like a lot of them), the texture is gorgeous, and the tints are high quality (not patchy, surprising color payoff). This is the only product called a lip butter that I actually think is similar in texture to butter. These are superior, though, because they are less oily than butter (which I suppose you could use, but it would be a little Handmaiden’s Tale). I like the guava and wild rose flavors.

I’m really liking the cheapo Wet ‘n Wild juicy lip balm I just got, too. Actually one of the better tinted options I’ve used, though the pricier MAC lip conditioner is also excellent (Oh, they seem to have discontinued the tinted ones…fools).

smell this: winter 2013 fragrance picks

On February 1, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

The cold weather makes certain heavy scents particularly appealing to me. The molecules aren’t as mobile and stay closer to the skin, evaporating more gradually, and a fragrance that would be deadly or cloying in the summer is rendered subtle and fine.

Here’s what I’ve been wearing:

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Montale – Red Vetyver. Just gorgeous. Pricey, but do you want to smell like a sexy, resinous tree or not? A little like Chanel’s Sycomore.

Lalique – Encre Noir (pour homme).  This actually does smell a lot like black ink, the kind you would buy for calligraphy or what have you. Like ink + a dark, earthy vetiver. Great on a man, better on a man with stubble, but maybe better still and more charming/unexpected on a woman.

C.O. Bigelow Musk perfume oil. A little goes a long way, but great to mix with a body oil to dilute and slather away. Rich, powerful musk that isn’t too…fecal. I also like to put this on as a base and temper with something sweet and light, like a simple floral like

Tea Rose by Perfumer’s Workshop. Olfactory equivalent of a photographic representation of a tea rose, or, to me at least, a wild rose. Simple, light, refreshing (not a dark, syrupy, honeyed rose), and so inexpensive. Men, try this on. Plays well with others. Mix it with Guerlain Vetiver and you become just about effervescent. This will be great for spring as well, but winter is when I miss florals. Same idea behind

CB I Hate Perfume – M2 Black March. [not pictured as I only have a sample vial] This smells precisely like a handful of freshly turned earth with crushed flower petals and roots mixed in. Incredible. Not cheap. Lovely old-school apothecary packaging. Get the perfume absolute if at all, which is a viscous oil that lasts on the skin for hours. Also great in the rain. Or give it to a gardener.

L’Occitane – Eau de Vetyver. A creamy, rich, slightly dirty vetiver. Cozy and enveloping.

Paloma Picasso EdP. A kind of sparkling chypre (which genre I usually don’t like) from the 80s that is often marked down at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. Not for everyone, but a wonderful respite from the saccharine fruity-florals that dominate the market. Give it a while to develop on the skin before you veto, as it starts out a little green and screechy like Grey Flannel or Halston I-12 (both of which I also like in winter, but like more so in the rain). Points to guys who give this a go.

Bulgari Omnia. Now discontinued, it is superior to all of the flankers it spawned. Lactic and nutty with a distinct note of cinnamon, this will make you smell like a gorgeous, sophisticated chai latte.

Some fragrance resources:

Not familiar with vetiver yet? Get familiar.

http://www.basenotes.net/ (reviews, descriptions, note lists, and a good place to look up the year a fragrance launched or the perfumer behind it)

http://theperfumedcourt.com/ (try fragrances on your skin first if you can, blind buying full-sized bottles is risky business)