Friday, December 30, 2005

The Year in Fragrance (& other good stuff)

Having accepted a challenge to name my top ten favorite discoveries of 2005, I first thought, "Piece of cake." I'm constantly trying new stuff, thanks to friends (accomplices?) at MakeUp Alley. But it's proved more difficult than I many of these impetuous loves will prove to be of ever-after quality? Only time will tell. Along those lines, I've learned that re-discovering classic and vintage scents can be just as exciting as sampling new releases. Anyway, here they are for now, my favorites of the year:

Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque - This, I'm positive, is one for the ages, so I'm listing it first. Among the veritable pageant of Lutens creations that cross my dressing table, Fumerie Turque stands head and shoulders above the rest. Released in 2003, this unbelievably smooth, subtle blend of tobacco, rose attar, honey, dates, beeswax and woodsmoke seduced me at first whiff. Through the kindness of friends, I've acquired samples and decants; a full bottle will be my first purchase when I make it to Paris.

Hermes Eau des Merveilles - "Water of Wonders" - what an apt name, and the spangled bottle proclaims the sparkling juice! Launched in France in 2004, Merveilles finally made its way to the US this year. Long rumored to have one of the last remaining supplies of natural ambergris in the world, Hermes certainly put it to good use in this scent. Allied with bitter orange, ambergris lends a salty-fresh feel. I am reminded of meandering along the seashore, picking up bits of driftwood and shell, while the white foam blows against my bare legs, depositing its glinting burden of salt and silica. And yet, excellent beach scent though it is, Merveilles is grounded in oak-y wood notes, so it's cozy enough for cold weather. I am dying to try the recently released Parfum des Merveilles.

Comme des Garcons White - How this slipped under my radar, I'll never know. I was vaguely aware of its existence (launched in 1997!), and I guess I can attribute my lack of curiosity to the line's poor staying power - on my skin, anyway. Swapped for un-sniffed, I expected it would be just as soon swapped away again. Wrong. There is something quite compelling about this scent - completely unsweet, unfloral, by contrast it reveals deep femininity. I have yet to find a satisfactory list of notes - "lily of the valley, vanilla and amber"? - "cedarwood, may rose, LOTV and pomegranate"? I suppose LOTV must be in there, but it's not obvious. No one lists spices - cinnamon, cardamom? - but that's what I smell the most in White. A mystery I will enjoy exploring more fully!

(detail, Mary Magdalene,
from Madonna of the Rosary,
Lorenzo Lotto, 1539)

Bellodgia - An oldie but goodie I rediscovered in 2005. N., (Life in Paris blog), a dear friend and purveyor of many fine lemmings, sent me a surprise package with extrait samples from the Caron boutique. While Tabac Blond and Narcisse Noir certainly caught my attention, it was Bellodgia (1927) that won my heart. Creamy, dense carnation over Ernest Daltroff's distinctive oakmoss base - a scent for Mary Magdalene, both introverted and sensual.

i Profumi di Firenze Mirra - Another splendid gift from afar...I initially raved about Mirra parfum in my 'Scents of Summer' list of favs (August), and it's still in my top ten of the year.

Chanel Allure - Also on the 'Scents of Summer' list. Can't believe this one escaped me for a decade. I only tried the EDT when it was first released in 1996...and it was *so* not me! This year I discovered the parfum...and, as those who've read the adventures of Princess Swapsalot will recall, the EDP. A perfect blend of rose de mai, vetiver and vanilla. Got a hankering for the body cream next...mmmm!

Takashimaya "T" - A sample from another lemming-monger, Annieytown (Blogdorf Goodman), this is the truest, best tea scent I've smelled. Somewhere between the lovely weirdness of L'Artisan Tea for Two and the demureness of Bvlgari Eau Parfumée Au Thé Vert. Crisp, lemony, smoky, calming. At the top of my "Pursue in 2006" list.

And how about some non-scent items?

Christian Dior DiorSnow x2 - I've tried the Whitening Lotion (toner) and Pure UV base, which is suitable as a moisturizer in summer. While not usually big on the ridiculous, pseudo-scientific claims of high-end skincare lines, I'm buying this one. My skin is clearer, more radiant, less ruddy, and just all-around well-behaved. Available at pretty good discount from various e-tailers. Worth the $$$.

Prada Shielding Lip Balm - When I first received one in a swap, I ranted about the stupid 'monodose' packaging - how wasteful! There's no denying, however, that this is one wonderful product. It moisturizes, plumps and subtly tints lips - comes in 6 your-lips-but-better shades (I prefer #6, a soft light red). Recently available at TJMaxx (you're too late, I've bought up all the #6's), I'm informed that Prada will be releasing the same forumlation in different (hopefully bigger) packaging. The monodose concept is supposed to keep the product from being contaminated, but it's really a misnomer - I get at least 10 uses from one of the teensy 1.5 ml tubes. And since you squeeze it out onto your finger, rather than apply directly to lips, there's not so much contamination anyway. Let's hope they don't mess around with the formula while they're repackaging.

Lush Olive Branch shower gel - My first introduction to Lush products, in a gift set from my daughter. Not high-lathering, but extremely comforting and moisturizing, and the scent is divinely earthy. I like how there's a 'packed on' date and an expiration date, and the human touch of a little photo-print of the person who blended your bottle. I look forward to trying more from this line.

Wishing everyone a beautiful, scent-filled, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Want more fabulous Best of 2005 lists? Visit my friends at...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Forgive and forget?

There are 83 registered convicted sex offenders living within a 5-mile radius of my house. Their crimes range from aggravated sexual battery, to rape, to indecent liberties with a child.

I know this because a group called Family Watchdog have made it their mission to establish an easily accessed database of these individuals in towns all over the United States.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. At least Family Watchdog is a free service; there are others that charge a fee for access, turning a profit from this miserable trade.

My kids are grown now, but learning that there are 5 registered sex offenders living within 1/4 mile of the elementary school they walked to each day causes a moment's disquiet, to say the least. Had I known this when they were still in school, would I have done anything differently? Cautioned them? And, how specific would I have been? Shown them the photos of these individuals, so they'd know who to look out for?

The dilemma of just where to draw the line - between protecting children and scaring the be-jeezus out of them - is one every parent must face. Do our children deserve to be terrorized in the name of protection?

And then there is also the question of the right to privacy of people who have served their sentence for the crime for which they were convicted. Do they deserve to have their names, addresses and photos published on the web so that their shame can be held against them forever?

I'm aware that there is a very high rate of re-offense in sex-related crimes - especially those perpetrated against children. But somehow, this website just turns my stomach.

I welcome comments/views/insights on this issue. I just don't know. . . .