Sunday, November 2, 2008

Brown Sugar and Fig is back!

Naiad's Brown Sugar and Fig soap is back in stock! Let the cheering commence!



Not only is the soap beautiful and gorgeous, not only does it smell absolutely divine, but it was amazingly helpful last month during a time when I thought I was going to die from ladytimes. I can't guarantee that it'll work so well for everyone else, obviously, because aromatherapy is pretty personal, but I plan to keep this in my house as long as she's making it.

I was also so sold on it that I ordered the Brown Sugar and Fig sugar cubes and the Moroccan Fig Bar last time I put an order in with Naiad, on the grounds that perhaps it's the fig that had such a great effect on me, and maybe I can get more of it. ^_^ I'll let you know how that works out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Anniversary soaps!

Grant and I have a pretty awesome system for getting each other gifts. We make lists. ^_^ Or at least... I make lists! This year I gave him a list of a bunch of different soaps I was interested in, and he ended up putting together a gift box full of lovely fall-scented stuff.

It's an even more thoughtful gift than you'd think, actually! Grant and I are from the Midwest -- Indiana, to be specific -- where the seasons really turn. There's a definite spring, summer, fall, and winter. Fall was always my favorite season. My birthday is in fall (late September). My wedding was in the fall (October 21st), with the leaves changing color and looking absolutely gorgeous. Fall in Indiana is fantastic; the weather is beautiful, the scenery is as gorgeous as you can get in Indiana (Brown County is unbelievable), and it starts my own personal holiday season -- what could be better?

Well, when we moved to Seattle, we discovered that we get two seasons: the most amazing summer ever (okay, it's a little cold for Grant, but I love it), and what passes for our winter: six months of cloudy, overcast mist. It's not an awful kind of winter -- it beats snow -- but there's no definitive "fall" season. The leaves don't even always change colors or come off the trees; it just doesn't get cold enough here to shock the trees into hibernation. (Or whatever it is that causes leaves to change colors and fall off.) I mean, it's almost November, and the tree outside my bedroom window is lush, green, and leafy.

So a whole gift basket of autumn-themed soaps makes me really happy, and reminds me of fall without making me have to rake leaves. :) I'm quite pleased! Here's what I wound up with:



This is Atomic Cherry Amaretto Shaving Soap from Bunny Butt Apothecary. (Okay, okay, it's not a fall scent, but it was in the basket because both Grant and I love amaretto scents.) I may not like shaving my legs, but I sure hate it less now that I've discovered handmade shaving soaps! This one smells just divine and gave my razor a perfectly clean slide. \o/ Definitely recommended, and I'd buy shaving soap from Bunny Butt again in a hot minute.



This one is Hard Cider Soap by Balsam. It smells wonderful -- the shop description is "Cinnamon spice meets autumn apples. Just the soap for a hot bath on a cool, fall evening!" And it's definitely a spicy, apple-y scent that reminds me of a nice hot cider. The soap feels great, too, nice and smooth and clean. I used this one this morning, and paired it with JoJoElle's "Fall Love" Ultra Luxe Lotion. (And there's a whole post coming about JoJoElle. SO MUCH LOVE.)

These are the items I haven't yet tried out -- all of which I'm totally excited by --

Also by Balsam:



Pumpkin Spice Soap

And these are from Magic Hands Workshop:



Honeyed Peach soap (darn it, can't find a link)



Honey Oatmeal soap



Two kinds of Body Butter -- Honey Oatmeal (again, can't find a link) and Caspian Dancer!

And somehow he lucked into a sample of Magic Hands' Sugared Pumpkin Sea Salt bar, which I didn't even realize existed. But I'm thrilled -- Magic Hands makes awesome salt bars!

Happy anniversary, sweetie! :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A rundown: Soaps By Naiad I Have Loved

I've mentioned before that Naiad Soap Arts is my favorite soap shop on Etsy (possibly my favorite soap shop anywhere; it'd be tough to pick between Naiad and Villainess). But I haven't really talked about Soaps By Naiad I Have Loved. So let me run you through a list of them...



There's the Banana Brulee Soap, for starters. This was my first soap order from Naiad, and it smelled AMAZING. Like the best kind of banana cake, wrapped up in a smooth soapy package. This was the first time I'd ever sniffed my soap while washing my hands, and the tendency to get soap bubbles on my nose continues to this day.



This one is the Chocolate Coffee Scrubby bar, which got compliments from Grant on how good it smelled when I started using it. (He liked the banana soap, too!) It was a terrific scrubby soap, but I don't see it in her shop these days -- it may have been replaced by her Coffee Bean Soap, which isn't as scrubby but may be better for sensitive areas.

After I'd tried those, I lucked into a set of the Chocolate Mint Soap Bars:




which look like nothing so much as gigantic Andes mints, and which are so soft and smooth and smell so awesome that I immediately realized I should never, ever be without them. I have a stash of five bars in my house right now, but I'm pretty sure I'll be using these for as long as she cares to make them. :)

When I made my first order from Naiad, I got a free sample of Blood Orange Soap:



Somewhere in my past I had some kind of soap that was blood orange scented, because when I smell this, I think "Soap!" This may seem like a silly thing to think -- it IS soap! -- but with the banana and the chocolate and the mint, I've always thought "cake!" or "coffee!" or "candy!", not "soap!" All I can think of is that it's like Palmolive -- it smells just like cilantro, therefore when I taste cilantro, I think "Soap!" -- and somewhere in my past, I had a blood orange scented soap that shaped my thoughts on soap forever.

Leaving that aside, it's a very nice soap, as are all of them. ^_^

Another one of the soaps I've tried and loved is a Spiced Plum Loofah soap -- in the grab bag post, it's center-left. It looks a great deal like the Wintermint Basil Loofah Soap, only imagine it purple instead of green:



I had my doubts about this; all the loofas I've seen on store shelves have been very crunchy and scratchy, and the one time I stayed in a hotel where they gave me one, they also gave me a liquid soap that didn't lather very well on it.

But WOW! The loofah soap is AWESOME. It softens up just enough when I'm using it that it isn't too scratchy, but it provides a really nice-feeling scrub. I'm enjoying the Spiced Plum scent a lot, too. Unfortunately, I can't find any instances on the Etsy shop where this soap has been offered for sale! However, I definitely would try more loofah soaps thanks to this one. :)

The last soap I've got to share is the French Macaron Soap:



The one I tried was the top one, the blue/cream one, which was almond scented. And it smelled Exactly Like An Almond Cookie. It was awesome. :) (I will say, though, that the "cream filling" was not as solid a soap as the "cookie" parts; once it was down to just the filling, it got a little messy.)

And while this isn't a soap, I want to include it anyway, because it is SO GOOD:



It's the Strawberry Lime Lip Balm, which feels wonderful and smells even better. As someone who stashes lip balm in every room of the house, the car, and all the bags I leave the house with, I consider lip balm an essential -- to find one that's this good and works this well is a particular treat. You get about twice as much lip balm as comes in a standard stick-style lip balm, which is even more made of win. Despite the fact that it'd take me a while to get through this one, I went ahead and ordered four more of her lip balms, because OMG SO GOOD -- and hey, variety is the spice of life, or lip balm, whichever.

What with the grab bag I've shown off already, I'll have plenty more Naiad reviews in the future. For now, lemme leave you with the link one more time -- http://naiad.etsy.com -- and say that her stuff ships super-amazing-fast and is always, always worth it. Big fan here!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Naiad's Grab Bag!

Okay, guys, run-don't-walk to Naiad Soap Arts on Etsy, because Erin has a deal going on right now that is Not To Be Missed. It's a soapy grab bag -- 2 lbs of soap for $10 -- and you will honestly not believe what you get in this thing. ^_^ I got eleven different kinds of soap:



all of which I am ridiculously excited about trying!

Naiad is my favorite soap shop on Etsy by a long shot. I'm so excited to get to try so many different kinds of soap! (It's all I can do not to convo her with "So, um, how many of these do you have left? And can I get, like, all of them?" But I really ought to leave some soap for other people! :D)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seattle Rainwater Soap Company

Seattle Rainwater Soap Company is a local-to-me soap business with a variety of neat-smelling, scrubby soaps. The soaps also feature "real Seattle rainwater", which, unlike someplace like New York, is the kind of thing you might actually want in your soap. ^_^

So far I've tried the following varieties of soap:

Orchard Fruit: Apple/Peach - A bestseller. Not too sweet, with poppyseed for scrub. It was definitely fruity, and it was the soap I could smell the "Seattle rainwater" best in -- it really did smell like an orchard on a rainy day. The poppyseed scrub was a little much for me, though.

Almond Latte: With cocoa butter for creaminess and coffee grounds to exfoliate and remove odors. This one smelled really good out of the packaging, but ended up having an almost... bread-like smell to it in the long run. The coffee grounds were definitely scrubby! It was nice, but not the kind of almond I'm looking for. (I have recently found the almond I'm looking for, and will tell you all about it in an upcoming post.)

Ginger Zest With Lime: Bright and citrusy, with hints of orange, lime, and ginger ale. By far my favorite of the soaps I've tried from them. This is very much a CITRUS!!! soap, with lots of yummy, spicy ginger, too. I'd use it again in a heartbeat. The scrubbiness in this one seems to come from the citrus zest. It isn't a harsh soap in the least, though; it's very nice to the skin.

Like anyone looking for a bargain, I was excited to see that they offer a discounted "odds & ends" bag full of imperfectly-shaped soaps. I may have to give that a try at some point. :)

Friday, September 5, 2008

A small collection of appropriate soaps


Victorian Wedding Cake Soaps
by soapychica


Glycerin Wedding Cake
by DaisyCakeSoap


Wedding Cake Scented Cupcake Soap
by DoctorSweetTooth


Congratulations to Sweetly Scented Lemmings' own Telesilla and her wife Darkrose on the happy day of their marriage! :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Update: Country Heart Gifts Soaps

A while back, I mentioned a sale on closeout soap samples that Country Heart Gifts was doing on Etsy. I've had a chance to test out some of those soaps now -- the only problem is that, since all these scents are being discontinued, it seems less than useful to go into detail on specific scents. So instead, a more general review!

First off, soap-as-soap. It's quite pleasant soap to use, very silky, very clean. A very nice sort of soap to have around, and the samples are terrific for hand soap, just the right size.

As for the scents, well! I grew up in the Midwest; I know from country. :) My favorite scent families out of the samples have been the peach scents (a more sweet peach scent than fresh-fruit peach scent), the strawberry scents (ditto), and the vanilla scents (a nice strong vanilla extract sort of scent). These all seem like the kinds of things I'd find in one of the independent country-home-stores back in Indiana, the kinds of places I could find sheep, bins of nickel candy, and the occasional bar of handmade soap that smells like cherry almond or strawberries & cream.

So if that sort of thing is up your alley, this store comes highly recommended! You can still find terrific bargains in her sale section, so have a look. :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Serpentine Hair shampoo bars (Esquire, Kahlua, Vapor)

One of the first things that got me hooked on handmade soaps was Telesilla pointing me at Serpentine Hair. (You can see her review of it here!)

I'd been curious about shampoo bars for a while, but in mass-market stores they're few and far between. What pushed me over the edge to ordering them from Serpentine Hair was the great descriptions on her website and the reasons she had for making shampoo bars in the first place. My hair is short -- not quite buzzcut, but not much longer -- and finding a shampoo that doesn't just make it stand up in a large cloud of POOF is a challenge. Even with a couple lathers of conditioner, not much helped, and you know, it's a pain in the ass to effectively wash your hair three times and not get what you want out of it.

The second thing that sold me on Serpentine Hair was the ability to get sample slices, something I could (and did!) share with friends. :) That way, if I didn't like it, I could still hand 'em out to people and know that someone was getting a good time out of the deal.

So my first order from Serpentine Hair included samples of Esquire, Kahlua, and Vapor. I'll take 'em one at a time here so I can do a full write-up of the scents -- here goes!

Esquire: On the website, this is described as follows: Our first blend aimed at the men in our lives, Esquire is a sophisticated, masculine blend of amaretto and leather with the barest hint of coconut to turn down the heat. All smoking jackets and luxury, this is a terrific blend for a man who thinks he can take on the world--and win!

My impression: The bar was a mostly-brown color with the barest hint of pink to it. Lots of almond, and I could definitely catch that leather scent, too. I actually ordered this one because my husband (Grant) loves almond, but it turns out that almond scents really vary from place to place -- some of 'em he loves, some of 'em not. Some of 'em I love and he doesn't. And so it goes! This one, I enjoyed quite a bit; he wasn't so fond of it, so the rest of the samples went to friends.

Kahlua: Website description: Warm and sensual, this gorgeous scent is wonderful for java junkies and chocoholics; it's a delightful blend of coffee and chocolate scents with a shot of creamy vanilla. Kahlua is also a great choice if you're trying to turn the men in your life on to sulfate-free haircare; its delightful fragrance rarely fails to entice!

My impression: The bar was a definite strong brown color, just what you'd expect from a coffee/chocolate blend! And it really did smell like coffee and chocolate, too. As promised on the website, Grant found it enticing. :D But it wasn't my favorite of the bunch, so most of these samples went to friends as well. (It paired great with Naiad's Coffee Chocolate Scrubby bar, though; for a couple weeks there, our shower smelled like a Starbucks.)

Vapor: Website description: Divinely devoid of any adulteration, Vapor is our fragrance and color free scent for sensitive skin and sinuses. A unisex treat that's an absolute delight for all chromosomal persuasions, with fabulous follicular results!

My impression: The bar's almost pure white, just slightly off-white. And even though it doesn't have any added fragrance, it's still made of various kinds of oils. Oddly enough, though it doesn't list almond oil as one of its ingredients, when I sniff it, I definitely detect a hint of almond. And I love it. It's a very, very faint, natural scent, not something you can smell when you're out of the shower, but it's definitely a pleasant one, and it goes with everything. I have no qualms pairing it with any number of other kinds of soap (whereas I saved Kahlua for times when I was using soaps that had definite chocolate or coffee notes). I hoarded almost all the samples of Vapor for myself. ^_^



Okay, okay, so that's all well and good about the scents. What about the actual shampoo effects?

I am happy to say that these shampoo bars kick ass. They're as soothing to my hair as any number of hair treatment products, and they haven't left any kind of residue. I will say that it took about three days for the residue left over from my regular shampoo to finally wash out and be completely gone, and at that point, the shampoo bars really started to shine. It's quick, it's easy, it doesn't take a whole lot, and I'm thrilled with the results.

Doesn't take a whole lot meaning... Well, I've got short hair, so I skip the recommended step of using a loofah to lather up. I just rub the shampoo bar on my head for a bit and lather up that way. (And for all the warning about "not much lather" on the website, I tell you what, there's plenty of lather for me! Sure, you won't drown in it, but do you wanna?) Anyway, because the bars do melt if you leave 'em in the shower without benefit of a wire rack (mind you, my shower rack for soap is a wire rack), I cut mine into sample-sized slices before putting them in the shower.

This is both good and bad. Good, because one small sample slice (say 1/4 inch) lasts me over a week, and you can cut those bars into quite a few sample slices -- so I've been using just the samples I didn't send to friends (I think I kept about 8 at home) for almost three months now (!), and I've still got two that I haven't touched. (I should really keep better stats on how long these things last; I'll do that next time I swap in a new slice.) Bad, because it means I have less excuse to try new scents. :)

This said, I ordered three new bars of Vapor, and one each of Edge of the Earth, Czarina, and Forbidden Fruit, a while back. I've only tried out Forbidden Fruit so far, but I'll see if I can make it a point to try the other ones in the next couple weeks so I can do reviews of those scents, too. :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Whipped Bubble Scrub from JoJoElle

It's not often that a product can make you totally rethink your thoughts on a whole product type, but that happened to me today!

See, I'd tried a sugar scrub before. The one I tried was an almond-scented body scrub from The Body Shop. It was heavy and thick, didn't spread, didn't dissolve, and didn't rinse off -- I had to take a second shower just to feel clean. I thought, okay, maybe sugar scrubs aren't what they're cracked up to be.

Ha! No, I just hadn't tried the right one yet. And what one was that? Well, the one I tried today was Lemon Wedding Cake Whipped Bubble Scrub from JoJoElle. (You can find a version of it directly from her, or you can get the double-set I got, with Lemon Wedding Cake and Key Lime Cake, from the Soap Box Company.)

First of all, it smells fantastic. Both the Key Lime Cake and the Lemon Wedding cake smell... well, exactly like their names. :) The lemon wedding cake brings back memories of really awesome lemon wedding cakes I've had, and it's a welcome indulgence for my on-hiatus sweet tooth.

Next step: trying it out. It's very, very scrubby, much more than I realized was possible in a sugar scrub! (That'll teach me to go for big-box retailers...) It went on nicely, lathered (that was a surprise!), and rinsed perfectly clean. I was utterly and totally thrilled!

Post-shower, I smell very very faintly of wedding cake. :D I don't mind it a bit. I feel clean and exfoliated -- this will be a great thing to keep in my shower and use weekly, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a nice sugar scrub. There are several flavors--er, scents--available at The Soap Box Company, so give them a look and see if there's one that suits you. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Travel soaps!

As Telesilla said, I've been out of town for a few days in my favorite vacation spot -- Las Vegas!

Over the years, the hotels in Las Vegas have tried to distinguish themselves with everything from floorplan (the Venetian has particularly nice ones) to... well, soap. I thought I'd take a quick spin through some of the Vegas soaps I've run into in recent years. Obviously these aren't handmade, and I'm not suggesting anyone go to Vegas specifically for the purpose of acquiring soaps from these hotels, but I thought it'd be fun. I've got twelve "real" reviews in the queue after this, so no worries, I'll be going back to handmade and e-shops next time. :)

Caesar's Palace: Tangerine and Olive Flower
Caesar's offers a whole suite of things in the same scent: Tangerine and Olive Flower. Did you know that that basically means "tangerine and cucumber"? Me neither. (And I don't know if all olive flower scents smell like that or if it was just theirs.) I'm not real crazy about melon/cucumber scents, so this one didn't do much for me. They sure tried hard to give us all the soap we could want for a month (it's hard to make them stop).

I have turned up a few e-tailers that sell olive flower soaps, if you're curious about them! I haven't personally ordered any of these soaps (although at least one of them is now on my wish list), but just in case the information could be useful:



Palazzo: Lemon Verbena
It's not the most unusual scent out there, but the Lemon Verbena soap provided by Palazzo was actually very nice. If my memory serves, the soap was actually Agraria, and it was really nicely-scented stuff -- lemon without being overpoweringly ZOMG LEMON! -- and quite gentle on the skin. Definitely the nicest hotel soap I've ever used. :)

Treasure Island
What does Treasure Island have going for it now that there aren't any pirates? Well, it has some seriously interesting soap. They stock "massage bars" (you know, the kind with the little bumps) in rosemary mint (one of my favorites!) and -- this is the kicker -- oatmeal cookie-scented soap for face and hands.

I'll be honest here -- it's plain old garden-variety mass-produced soap, and if your skin is anything like mine, you'll probably need to use some serious moisturizer afterwards. But the oatmeal cookie scent is awesome, and it's one of the few soaps my husband has ever said "Wow, that smells good!" to. We packed away the soap they gave us every day, and are down to our last bar or two. It's good stuff. :)

There are, of course, any number of places you can get oatmeal cookie-scented soap! Here are a few that caught my eye on Etsy:


Much as I like Vegas, I'm very happy to be home (I think my hair is the happiest thing around; I'm back to using my Serpentine Hair Shampoo Bars, and they are so, so, so much nicer than standard shampoo & conditioner), and look forward to writing up some of the soaps I've got in the review queue!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Winning stuff is fun!!

So La Parfumer Rebelle does a give away each month and....

I won the July package, which was put together by Justine of Oh, True Apothecary and The Scented Djinn. And so today, the day before my birthday (and where the hell has the last 45 years gone, I'd like to know), I got a box. With stuff! And things! And stuff!

  • Two bright pink La Parfumer Rebelle t-shirts, one of which will fit me.
  • A four ounce canister of Scented Djinn's rose geranium powder. While I don't normally wear powder, Darkrose does and this smells good enough that I might end up using some too.
  • A little bag with ginger candy and some tea.
  • A bar of hemp soap (scented with lavender and rosemary) from Sierra Soapurri (who sound like they're somewhat local). It's got poppy seeds in it too, so it's nice and scrubby.
  • A little sample of her Mock Violet Eau de Toilette.
  • A .5oz bottle of the Boronia Eau de Cologne that I love so much.
  • AND! What looks to be at least 2ml of her brand new prefume, Serj. It's an eau de perfume whose key notes are: fir balasam, hyacinth, orange juice and ruh khus (which is vetivert that's been hydro distilled). I've only given this a quick sniff, but it smells really interesting and I can't wait to settle down with it and review it.

    So yay winning things! It's not something that happens to me all that often and that it was stuff from Scented Djinn just made it even cooler.

    Speaking of reviewing, I know I've been kind of quiet lately, but things around here have been a little hectic and tiring what with a certain amount of running around getting things done for the wedding. My lovely and talented co-blogger, Helens, is off on vacation for a couple days and I'm having the fun birthday weekend--dinner with Darkrose tomorrow, dinner with Darkrose and my sister Saturday, and our once monthly fannish get together on Sunday. I hope to review the Serj at some point during the weekend and also, I have two samples from Loreto for the wedding perfume; reviewing those will be fun because they're very similiar.

  • Monday, August 4, 2008

    Soap Sample Sale!

    So I just have to link to a soap sample sale I stumbled across last week. Country Heart Gifts is selling 20 cute adorable soap samples (closeout scents of her choice) for $5, which is hard to beat.

    My package (which contained the samples, plus three full-size bars, plus some wax tarts) arrived today (she shipped 'em on Friday) and I think I got one of everything, plus a few extras to round it out to 20. I've got an Apples & Almonds wax tart going right now and my bedroom smells terrific. :D

    They're small soaps, but big enough to get several uses out of 'em, especially if you use a soap saver of some kind. I'd give 'em a week or so as a hand soap if it's the only one you use. It's a great way to test out different scents -- I've already tried Chocolate Cherry and Orange Spice -- and I can vouch for the soap quality (they're quite nice soaps, very smooth, nice lather). I'll give more details as I try out more of them, I'm sure!

    Thursday, July 31, 2008

    Demeter Fragrance's "Incense" -- the v v wordy review

    Demeter Fragrance is about as far from an indie perfumer as you can get. You can buy some of their fragrances at Sephora, which is pretty much the kiss of non-indie, as far as I'm concerned. But, still, for all their non-indie status, they're just plain fun, which can be a real treat after the omg srs biznss feeling I occasionally get from places like BPAL and Nocturne Alchemy. Want to smell like Play-Doh? Or maybe Tootsie Rolls? How about a Laundromat or its opposite, Dirt? Demeter's there for you. In addition to the more unusual scents, they also have the mandatory foody fragrances and the boozy ones and a lot of single notes.

    And above all? They're seriously cheap, even when you factor in that this is cologne; you get an ounce/30 ml for $20, or a half ounce/15 ml for $6. Shipping's a fairly low flat rate and if you order over twenty-five dollars worth of product, you get a free full-sized bottle--their choice of scents, not yours. Also, they offer other products--shower gel, lotion, body oil, room sprays, candles, soap and sugar scrubs (the last three in selected fragrances only).

    Aside from the pricing and the selection, what really pulled me in was a review of "Incense" over at Now Smell This where the reviewer compared it to i Profumi di Firenze's Ambra del Nepal. Now I've never actually smelled the real Ambra del Nepal--too rich for my blood--but I've tried some of the dupes and I have a real love/hate thing going with it. The main notes are amber, vanilla and cardamom, and in most of the versions I've smelled, the cardamom can be just this side of too much. Also, Darkrose really dislikes it, so I've been looking for something along those lines that we can both stand.

    Sooooo....

    Incense -- there are three paragraphs of description and no notes listed, aside from the fact that their inspiration was copal which, for me, was just one more reason to try it; I love copal.

    One of the downsides of being a perfume oil fan is that the first sniff of any cologne or even eau de parfum is going to make you blink and thing "zomg alcohol!" After that, I got a nice ambery scent and a touch of vanilla. Since I picked this up in the smallest size possible, it came without an atomizer, which made it hard to put on. Well, at least until I ended up spilling some on my hand, at which point, I rubbed it on my arms and ran my fingers through my hair, hoping like hell it didn't morph into something horrible since we were about to head out to dinner and another shower would have made us late.

    Fortunately, I love it and so does Darkrose. The copal has an amber scent--hell, there may be amber in there too--without any of the powdery dry down that you sometimes get with amber. There's vanilla in it as well, but it's not overly sweet. I don't know what other spices are involved; I think I can smell the tiniest hint of cardamom, although that could just be the power of suggestion. I'm guessing that there's also a touch of champa flower (aka Plumeria or Frangipani), the floral used in Nag Champa incense. What there isn't is anything like a smoke accord; this is the scent of a lovely incense before you burn it.

    It's light enough to wear on a summer evening and it has a pretty good throw/sillage. It doesn't last very long, but then, it's cologne, so you can't expect it to. At the price you pay for it though, it would be easy enough to slip a bottle in your bag for touch ups. Incense is available at Demeter's site, but not at Sephora.

    * * *

    Speaking of Sephora, I'm signed up for their email newsletter. Goddess only knows why since I don't actually wear make up anymore, but it's kind of fun to look at make up trends. So anyway.... Tonight I got an invitation to buy a brand new product one whole day before it launched. What was the product, I see you asking breathlessly.

    ÔSCILLATION - Vibrating Infinite Powermascara -- "The first vibrating powermascara by Lancôme. This revolutionary mascara provides 7000 oscillations per minute for ultimate lash transformation. Press the button and experience a breakthrough sensation in application. In one easy new gesture, let the vibrating brush combined with an exquisitely smooth formula wrap every lash up to 360 degrees."

    Wow, all that for only $35 (plus shipping and handling)!

    Somehow, I managed to control myself and not order it. Although, during my sister's visit next month, she and I are going to go on a perfume sniffing run of both Nordstrom's and Sephora--both places that, I've been told, are generous with the samples--and you can bet I'll be checking out the Vibrating Mascara. Although really, since I can pick up a vibrating lipstick (link could be considered to be not safe for work) for $24.94 (plus shipping and handling), why I'd need the mascara too is beyond me.

    Wednesday, July 30, 2008

    Three of the Ladies of BPAL's Grindhouse

    First off, I must thank the lovely Scented Djinn, who sent me a tiny vial of boronia--distilled into a 10% solution. It's still a very elusive scent, but I really do get the raspberry and I can totally see why she'd want to use it in an eau de cologne, it's fresh and really quite lovely.

    Secondly, I apologize for not updating recently. In addition to the final polishing on the novella Darkrose and I wrote, I've been having motivational issues, so yeah...sorry.

    Thirdly, reviews:

    Tonight it's three from BPAL's Limited Edition series Carnaval Diabolique. As part of Act IV, these are the Ladies of the Grindhouse. All the blends of the Carnaval series are accompanied by art, some of it not safe for work, so take care when you click the links.

    Aeronwen -- "Fig, dark myrrh, amber, redwood, nutmeg, tarragon, black musk, and sweet orange."

    It's cripser than i would have expected given the notes; my first impression is a green citrus. I assume the green comes from the tarragon, although it doesn't smell like the herb much. In the dry down I start to smell something sweeter--the fig, probably--with a slightly bitter undernote from the myrrh. Along with a dry note from the redwood, the whole thing seems almost masculine, or at least like something blended with a male wearer in mind. I like it, but it's not at all what I expected.

    After about ten minutes or so, I get a faint medicinal note; it's not awful, but I'm not crazy about it either. In fact, that sums up my whole reaction to this. I've smelled things that were intended to fall into the "masculine" category that I've liked much better. There are guys I'd love to smell this on--Sean Bean maybe?--but it's not something I need more of.

    Eisheth Zenunim -- "Honey, ambergris, neroli, white peach, patchouli, and cocoa absolute."

    In the imp the first thing that hit me was OMGPatchouli, but once I got it on, it was mostly about the white peach and the neroli. I don't get much cocoa at first, and the patchouli is very much in the background. Then the honey kicks in and it's honeyed peaches with a little floral over it. It isn't particularly foody, but I suspect it would appeal to people who like the current sweet, fruity floral trend in mainstream perfumes. Sadly, those people? Are not me. This is just a little too twee for my tastes. Since it also reminds Darkrose of the stuff her mom used to use to straighten her hair, that's another strike against it.

    Inez -- "Golden amber, vanilla musk, myrrh, cedar, carnation, and red sandalwood."

    Cedar is a tricky note on me, my skin tends to amp up woods a lot and it did so with this almost from the second it hit my skin. It also amped up the sandalwood, but you don't hear me complaining about that. And underneath...oh my yes, this is nice. The vanilla musk is a nice faint undernote, and the amber is present without being too powdery. I can't get the carnation yet, I think it's probably being overpowered by the woods and, strangely enough, I don't smell that faint bitter note from the myrrh.

    About ten minutes in, the cedar and sandalwood calm down a little and the whole thing becomes a very nice, almost creamy, woody scent that really works on me. I might just have to buy a bottle of this before the line goes away.

    Speaking of which, the Carnaval Diabolique was going to go away in September, but in her most recent update, Beth said something about it sticking around a little longer because they're still working on the next act.

    Friday, July 25, 2008

    Local soap: Moon Valley Organics (Creamsicle)

    The more I look around, the more I find that independent folks and local folks are making great-smelling, natural-ingredient soaps. I'm not a stickler for organic and natural ingredients (I live in a house where Diet Coke is the beverage of choice -- artificial works for me), but it's always neat to see what people come up with in that arena. Local places are also fun to shop from; I like the idea of giving my money to smaller and local businesses.

    Review: Soap from Moon Valley Organics
    Scent: Creamsicle


    Moon Valley Organics is a local company right around the corner from me -- they're located in Arlington, Washington. Around here, you can find their soaps both at Pike Place Market and at the local Whole Foods. The Pike Place Market shop is a lot of fun; samples are all around the outside of the store, and if you want more (or less) of a soap than what's in a bar, they'll sell it to you by the ounce.

    I picked up two ounces each of Creamsicle and Chocolate Comfrey, as well as a bar of Mint Sage -- I'm a sucker for mint. The first one to come up in the rotation was Creamsicle, so that's what I'll be babbling about today. :)

    Look: Creamsicle is a medium-orange color with little speckles of darker orange to it. It's a standard sort of hand-made bar soap, hand-cut, etc.

    Feel: Perfectly smooth soap that lathers well under water and rinses clean.

    Ingredients: MVO is very proud of its natural ingredients, which -- for this soap -- include the following: Saponified oils of Organic Safflower, organic coconut oil and Organic Palm, Organic Red Palm, Beeswax, *Sweet orange oil, Vanilla Fragrance, *Castor oil, Raw honey, *Paprika, *Castor oil, and Rosemary extract. All starred ingredients are organically grown or wildcrafted. Creamsicle is listed as petroleum-free, cruelty-free, and made of 84% organic ingredients.

    Lifespan: It took me a good week to use up a half-ounce sample of this stuff; it definitely does not melt right away.

    Scent: The first time I sniffed it, I thought, Hey, wow, it's a creamsicle! It's definitely got that orange-and-vanilla scent to it, and anyone who was a fan of those ice cream bars in their youth (or, hey, nowadays) will find it familiar.

    When you come right down to it, though, I'm a single-note kind of girl. I'm often willing to give combination scents a shot if they smell good on first whiff, or if they're a combination that sounds interesting to me. But it takes a lot to get me interested in combinations, and this one has an herbal thread running through it that just didn't grab me in the long run. I'm not sure if that's the paprika or the honey or the rosemary, but something in there just isn't for me. I'm hoping I'll like the mint sage and chocolate comfrey a little better. :)

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Cafe Mocha Sheep Soap (Goat's Milk) -- Gassner Custom Soaps

    In the interests of giving soaps a fair shake, I'm going to try to use them for a week before reviewing them, unless the smell is Just Not For Me. So far I haven't run into anything that makes me say "run away!", but of course I'm picking out most of the soaps I'm using, so I'm getting a biased sample. :)

    Offering you a piece of proof that it is, in fact, All Telesilla's Fault, let me show you something she sent me:



    N'AWWWWWWWWWWWWW. Sheep soaps! (As Telesilla knows, sheep are my favorite animal. What? They have wool, which you can knit! They are cute! They are lovable! They bleat cutely! There is nothing not to love.)

    These are custom-made soaps from a local-ish soapmaker -- Gassner Custom Soaps, in Oregon. (I'm in Washington, Telesilla's in California. Local-ish!) You can find an option for ordering the adorable sheep soaps on Etsy. The ones I have are made using a Goat's Milk base, and one of them is Lemon Zest and the other is Cafe Mocha. In spite of the numerous soaps already in my shower, I opened up the Cafe Mocha one and sniffed.

    MMMMMMMMMM!

    Review: Goat's Milk Soap from Gassner Soaps
    Scent: Cafe Mocha; SHEEP SHAPE!

    First of all, I don't see how you can go wrong with a sheep-shaped soap. I just don't. That's as cute as it gets as far as I'm concerned. It's an adorable sheep with wool whorls all over! Love!

    Look: The sheep soaps were tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, then put in little plastic bags with paper labels attached. Very professional, very cute, ingredients listed right on the label -- all touches that were greatly appreciated. Plus... SHEEEEEP! Many bonus points for sheep!

    Feel: The goat's milk soap is a lovely, creamy, silky-smooth soap that lathers nicely (passes the loofa test) and rinses off nice and clean. It's a pleasure to use! Very soft, very smooth, gentle and non-drying on the skin. Thumbs up! It's not quite right for my face, but it's great everywhere else. :)

    Ingredients: As explained on the website, the goat's milk soap contains the following: Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Castor Oil, Safflower Oil, Glycerin (kosher, of vegetable origin), Goats Milk, Purified Water, Sodium Hydroxide, (saponifying agent), Sorbitol (moisturizer), Sorbitan oleate (emulsifier), Soy bean protein (conditioner), EDTA (water softener). And, of course, fragrance. :)

    Lifespan: I allow all my soaps to drain and dry on wire racks or nubbly plastic ones (I have a very inexpensive one from Target that's working out great). This one looks like it's got a lifespan of a few weeks of very heavy use, or quite a bit longer if you're more conservative with your soaps than I am.

    Scent: Holy cow, this smells amazing. It's a wonderful coffee/chocolate scent, a perfect mix of both. It lingers for a while after you use it, but not heavily; you can't smell yourself unless you're sniffing your hands or somesuch. It did make my husband sniff me, though!



    Gassner Custom Soaps has a TON of other scent options. I'm looking forward to sniffing Lemon Zest, and I suspect I'll be ordering more (OMGADORABLE) sheep soaps further on down the line. :)

    Saturday, July 19, 2008

    Top...um...Few Summer Scents

    So several of the bigger perfume blogs are doing their lists of Top Ten Summer Scents.

    I don't have ten of them, but here, in no particular order is, the short list of things I like to wear in the summer. In the coming week, I'll be reviewing the ones I haven't already reviewed, along with a couple of LE's from BPAL.

    1. Boronia Eau de Cologne by The Scented Djinn -- I'm dead serious about what I said in my review the other day. As soon as I get paid, I'll be picking up a couple of dram sized bottles and filling up an atomizer to carry with me on days when I have running around to do.

    2. The (un)Poisoned Tea Cup by Blooddrop -- Tea Scents are in and off themselves, incredibly refreshing, and this one has the added advantage of a nice tart fruit scent. It's crisp and sharp and is another day-time-when-it's-100F-outside kinda scent.

    3. California by Possets -- Fabienne's hommage to my home state isn't necessarily what I would have done--it's really too evocative of SoCal--but it is quite nice. It starts with a burst of juicy but not too sweet orange and then drys out into a very interesting floral with a faint resin note underneath. It's deserty and dry, but not "hot," and is a really nice thing to wear on an summer evening as things finally start to cool down.

    4. Morgause by BPAL -- Violets and incense together make the perfect summer floral oriental, sweet and maybe a little old fashioned, but not cloying. This will be what I wear if we go to High Tea while my sister is visiting next month.

    5. Ruth by Loreto Aromatica -- This is a nighttime scent in the summer; it would be a bit much in a hot car before the a/c kicks in. But on an evening, or on a day when we're heading to the Bay Area where it will be foggy and cool, it's perfect.

    * * * *

    Also, it's Double XP weekend on City of Heroes/Villains aka CoX, which means maybe one review from me over the weekend. CoX is an MMORPG in which you play either a superhero fighting crime or a supervillain doing crime. I'll probably be logged in and playing during most of my waking hours.

    Hmmmm...I think that Arcana's Caffeinated Death is the perfect gaming perfume.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Follows Like A Sheep

    You know how Telesilla said not to listen to her when I told you it's All Her Fault?

    It is so totally all her fault.

    I like stuff that smells good -- who doesn't? I used to associate particular scents with people; I had a pear lotion for my first boyfriend, which was discontinued not too long after the relationship was. (I miss Sparkling Pear. I don't miss the ex!) I think there was a peach lotion somewhere in there... or was it vanilla? And raspberry was for my high school sweetheart, but she and I parted on good terms, and I happily kept right on using it for twelve years until the crazy people at Bath and Body Works discontinued it.

    Then I went through this horrible phase where strong scents, good or bad, caused instant migraines. Stuck on the bus with a guy wearing aftershave? Migraine. I made blueberry muffins one day... came downstairs to check on them... migraine. Taking out the trash, thank God, was never my job at home, but opening the trash can on a bad day? Migraine. Forget going to Starbucks, a perfume counter, or Bath and Body Works. Nope.

    So I pretty much forgot about smelling like something pretty, and focused on smelling like as little as possible.

    Fast forward a couple more years. The migraines had been more or less defeated (they still happen sometimes, but they're not triggered by smells anymore). And Telesilla started posting squeeful posts about BPAL.

    See? See how this is all her fault? Totally. Forget the fact that I'd been interested in nifty soaps and lotions for years. Forget the fact that I had been scent-deprived for ages and was suddenly made aware of the fact that hey -- I too could smell nice stuff again! It's really all Telesilla's fault. No, really. Really!

    As it turns out, though, my preferences run more toward soap than lotion or perfume oils or other sweetly scented things. Soap makes me happy. It gets me clean. It makes me smell nice. It comes in cute shapes. You can get handmade soap from e-tailers who are small-business craftspeople instead of big corporations. It's a neat way to take advantage of the opportunities made available by a worldwide network connecting people who can Make Cool Stuff with people who want to Buy Cool Stuff.

    And hey, at least all my soap purchases fit under my sink (so far) and haven't taken up an entire room for the soap stash (yet), unlike the knitting. The soap obsession has gotten obvious, but luckily my adored and adoring husband is very understanding about it. (I mean, hell, it's not his cabinet that's full of soap.)

    But let's get my cards on the table here. I am not a soap connoisseur; I know what I like, I know what I don't, and my tastes often run toward the simple. I have sensitive skin -- which not a single one of the handmade products I've tried has set off, by the way. (Score one for people making soap at home over major businesses who make soap on a huge processing line, full of additives and funky allergic-reaction-causing chemicals.) And I do try things other than soap at times!

    But I have a cabinet full of soaps and I'm totally excited about getting to review them.

    Like the sweetly scented lemming I am. :)

    (Did I mention that it's All Telesilla's Fault?)

    Here are a few of the criteria I use for evaluating soap:

    * Lather. I know not all things need to lather up dramatically, and I sure don't need a shower full of suds, but is it comfortable to use? Does it glide nicely on the skin? How does it feel? And can you lather up a loofa or washcloth with it, or would that be more trouble than it's worth?
    * Texture. Rough? Smooth? Silky? Creamy? What does it feel like? (Bearing in mind that salt soaps and scrubby soaps are meant to be rough.)
    * Scent. What does it smell like? Does it seem like a natural scent, or does it have any kind of artificial smell? If it's not a "soap" scent, does it smell... well... soapy? How does it compare to other soaps in that flavor family that I've tried?
    * Lasting scent. How much scent are you left with after a shower? Do people ask what that awesome scent you're wearing is? Can you smell yourself, and would you wanna?
    * Ingredients. What's it made out of? Can we trust it? How does it work on people with sensitive skin? Is it vegan? Is it organic?
    * Presentation. Could you give this to your boss or your minions? How about your mother-in-law? (My mother-in-law is made of awesome, and I'm not afraid she'll withhold her approval if I send her the wrong present, but I would definitely want to send her the best of the best in terms of handcrafted soaps, because she deserves them!)

    And for sheer amusement factor:
    * The husband. Does he like it? Does he nod and say, "Yep, that's soap, all right"? What does he make of the mold? Does it make him sniff me? What's his utterly-heterosexual take on the matter? (For reference, his review of almost every single BPAL scent I tried was "Hmm... smells like a candle." I think the closest we got to a more detailed review was "Hmm... smells like an almond candle!")


    What I like: Soap that washes off clean and doesn't leave me feeling sticky. Food scents rather than floral scents. Anything that doesn't irritate my skin. Enough lather that I can use a back scrubber. Sheep and other cute things (I'm a sucker for cuteness). Chocolate. Citrus. Anything that really and truly smells like fresh fruit instead of like it's trying to smell like fresh fruit. I don't insist on vegan or organic ingredients by any stretch, but I'll make sure to mention it if the soaps use 'em.


    So you're gonna get a biased set of reviews, but, well, life's short and there's a lot of soap out there. I'll gladly take links if you've found something insanely great!

    Ch-ch-Changes/Oh, look out you rock 'n rollers!

    So, you ask, what's with the name change?

    Well, way back in 2005--which is like a century or two in internet years--a number of my friends got into BPAL in a big way. Just before she herself started buying and wearing BPAL, one of our friends said, "you're all a bunch of sweetly scented lemmings!"

    Fast forward to now and this blog, which started out as my personal space to talk politics and perfume. More and more, it's about the perfume and so I've decided that the politics will go elsewhere, and that this will be all about the "stuff that smells good."

    Furthermore--drum roll, please!--I've invited a good friend to join in the reviewing fun! Please welcome Helens--and yes, that's with an S, like the volcano--who will be covering soap and anything else she feels like reviewing.

    I should let her introduce herself, so all I'll say here is that she's a great friend, an excellent writer and editor, and that you should totally ignore anything she says about it being All My Fault.

    The blog subtitle is from a song by the J-Pop band Jinn. It's off their album Lemmings and we thought it worked quite well here.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Cool, Crisp and...Gone -- Boronia Eau de Cologne by The Scented Djinn

    Tonight--I've decided to be honest here; I rarely review anything until sometime after ten, so saying "today" is a little misleading. Anyway, tonight, I'm sniffing Boronia Eau de Cologne from The Scented Djinn, which, by the way, is an awesome name for a perfume company.

    "a contemporary take on a classic eau de cologne featuring the typical citrus sparkle of an EdC matched with the floral magic of boronia. This blend includes bergamot, lemon essence (from the juice, not the peel), neroli, lavandin absolute, rosemary, orange flower tincture, vanilla tincture, yuzu, oregano tincture, orris butter and boronia."

    I'd never heard of Boronia before, and sadly, the Wikipedia article on it is kind of lacking in information. However, my google-fu did turn up this very lovely set of photos. So yes, once again, I'm sniffing blind, as it were.

    Edit: The most recent post at Oh, True Apothecary talks about boronia, so now I know more than I did last night when I was reviewing this.

    It opens with a sharp, cold burst of citrus; I really get the lemon and the yuzu more than anything else. Almost immediately on the dry down, I can smell the neroli and the vanilla and another floral note that has to be the boronia. Unfortunately, I'm trying this from a sample vial when it really needs to come from a spray bottle, so it's hard to get enough on me at enough strength to review because just ten minutes in and my skin has soaked it up like crazy, even though I made sure to use lotion before hand.

    What lingers, however, is lovely. The citrus has died down and what's left is a nice vanilla flavored floral that isn't too strong on either the vanilla or the flowers. Nor is it too sweet. In fact, it's very much what an eau de cologne should be, crisp and refreshing and light. I hope she starts selling this in bigger bottles, because right now all you can get is a dram. A bigger bottle with an atomizer would be a lovely thing to have in my purse this summer. I mgiht just have to pick up a couple drams and dump...er, decant, them into an atomizer.

    Also, check out her blog, Oh, True Apothecary, for insights into the life of a natural perfumer.

    Monday, July 14, 2008

    And Now, For Something Completely Different -- Vetiver Dance by Andy Tauer

    Today, as promised, I'm sniffing Andy Tauer's Vetiver Dance, which I was lucky enough to get as a pre-release sample during Andy's blog giveaway.

    "grapefruit, black pepper, clary sage, lily of the valley, cedar wood, ambergris, tonka and dark vetiver from java"

    Wow! Initially, this smells like citrus and grass. A tart burst of grapefruit, over fabulous, sweet, just mowed grass where the mower--a push mower with no smelly engine--caught a few light blossoms as well. It's really incredibly light on me at first, which is interesting, given the notes. I catch a tiny bit of the pepper, but it's in the background. And the ceder, which my skin normally amps like crazy until I smell like wood shavings, is, for the most part, well behaved.

    As the dry down happens, I'm getting more than a bit of the lily and the grass note--which I'm assuming is the vetiver, although it could be the clary sage--is fading a bit. I wish I knew what vetiver smells like alone. Darkrose really liked it on me at first, but now she's more "meh" about it, which is probably because she loves her some grapefruit and the citrus has faded into the background, as it will. I'm also getting just a whiff of some incredibly expensive soap, which isn't actually a detriment to wearing this; although I'm not a huge fan of "clean" scents, this is just a faint touch that works. Right now, about a half hour in, it's a greenish floral on me, which is odd because I expected it to be a lot darker and more woody.

    And now, about 45 minutes in, there it is, now it's woody and a tiny bit dry, but it's still a light, green, almost effervescent kind of wood. There's still a faint lily soap note, but not enough for me to dismiss this out of hand. I think "dance" is the perfect name for it; this scent is light on its feet and while it knows the classical ballroom dances and maybe even a little ballet, it's not above dancing like no one is watching when its favorite pop song comes on on the radio.

    I kind of wish I'd tried this totally blind because knowing it's from an incredibly well-respected niche/indie perfumer whose stuff sells for around $80-$90 for 50ml makes a difference, I think. And actually, when you realize that a BPAL LE goes for $20 for 5ml, that's not outrageous, even if Tauer's stuff is either eau de parfum or eau de toilette. But my point is, to me it smells expensive and I don't know if that's a) because I know it's kind of pricey, b) because he uses high quality ingredients, c) because it's an alcohol based perfume and that "feels/smells" more pricey just by association or d) some combination of the above. I know he uses the best materials he can, and of course you can never ever dismiss association out of hand when dealing with scent, so I've got to go with D.

    Ultimately, it's a scent that reads very unisex to me, although I can see it being put on the masculine side of the aisle at Sephora or Nordstroms. It's about as far from anything I reviewed last week as possible and it's almost a shock to my nose after all the sweet pomegranate--and no, that still doesn't look like a real word to me. But it's a good shock, a fresh sharp shock that really works for me. It's got very good staying power and the throw/sillage is excellent when you consider that I only used one spray. I won't reach for this often, but on days when I want something unusual, I'll go for it. He's releasing it sometime in October and while I feel that yes, it's a fall kind of scent, I'm glad I got it now to help me combat the heat of a Sacramento summer.

    Sunday, July 13, 2008

    Take My Pomegranate, Please -- Pomegranate Week; The Givening

    As I've said, I'm doing a Pomegranate Scented Care Package for the Live Long N Marry Charity Auction, which benefits the No on Prop 8 campaign here in California. If you can and you're interested in the goodies, I urge you to go bid on it. If you can't afford it--and I understand, I couldn't bid on it at this point--I'm going to offer one person a chance to get a pared down version for free.

    The give away package will include sample vials--the 1/32 oz size--about half full of Swank, Fruit of Paradise, The Flower Song, Dark Fruit, The (un)Poisoned Teacup and Ruth. Basically you'll be getting enough to do some sniffing and testing. I'll also include some other goodies, both pomegranate and non-pomegranate.

    This will be completely free, provided you live in the US. If I have to ship anywhere else, I'd appreciate if it you picked up the shipping costs. I'll send it out in about a month, at the same time I send out the bigger package.

    How do you get this? Comment and tell me you'd like to be included. I'll assign everyone a number and then use a random number generator to chose the winner. It's that simple. I'll take names for the next week or so.

    By Now I Really Know How to Spell Pomegranate -- Pomegranate Week: Day Last

    Okay one final BPAL Limited Edition Pomegranate scent. And really, it's about time; I'm reaching the point where the word "pomegranate" doesn't look like a real word any more.

    The Fruit of Paradise was part of the Yule '07 line. The Lab said:
    "While Persephone visited the realm of Hades, she tasted one single pomegranate seed, an act which compelled her to remain connected to the Land of the Dead for all eternity. Demeter's grief over her beloved daughter's absence that brings on the bleakness and barrenness of the winter months.

    The Fruit of Paradise, the Nectar of Death: bittersweet pomegranate."

    First off, I always heard that it was six pomegranate seeds Persephone ate, which led to her staying with Hades one month for every seed. But never mind....

    Fruit of Paradise opens with a burst of pomegranate that is very very close to Swank, if not as crisp. It's still pretty sweet, however. After a short time there's a slightly spicy note that someone on the forum said they thought was clove. Since a bitter note creeps in around the same time, I'm thinking that maybe they're right and it is clove. I had wondered if maybe it was myrrh.

    Regardless, this is a pretty straightforward scent that....

    Okay, I'll admit it, it totally smells like Midnight Pomegranate from Bath and Body Works. It's a little more bitter, but not much, and I get the feeling that if I were to dilute it in some perfumer's alcohol, I'd end up with Midnight Pomegranate Eau de Toilette or even the body splash.

    Needless to say, it layers excellently with the B&BW products, which give it damn good staying power and a decent throw/sillage. I don't actually regret buying it--I picked it up on eBay for about what I would have paid for it if I'd bought it from the Lab--but of all the actual pomegranate oils I've got, this one is the one I could most easily do without. The "clear, fruity sweet" niche on my perfume shelf is perfectly filled by Swank, which I like more than I like Fruit of Paradise.

    And so, although I actually didn't plan it this way, we've come full circle, from sweet uncomplicated pomegranate to sweet uncomplicated pomegranate. The one review I didn't repost but feel I should link to is Loreto Aromatica's custom blend Ruth, which features pomegranate as one of its top notes.

    * * *

    Next up, I'm getting as far from sweet fruit as I can. Tomorrow, I'll be reviewing Tauer Perfumes Vetiver Dance.

    *flops over in a heap*

    Darkrose and I finally finished a fan fiction novella we've been working on for the last couple of months, so at the moment, I'm kind of all worded out. And just in time; the first draft deadline is tomorrow.

    Later in the day, after I've slept, there will be a final pomegranate week review and then on Monday or Tuesday I'll get into the details of the give away.

    Also, there are still a few days left to bid on things in the Live Long N Marry auction. The bidding deadline is 12:01am Pacific Time, July 15.

    The Pomegranate Scented Care Package is up to $53 which means that it will most certainly be stuffed with a whole lot of extras; the higher it goes, the more good stuff I'll be putting in there.

    A full 5ml of BPAL's Love's Philosophy--the current bid is at $20.

    A full 5ml of BPAL's Numb -- the current bid is $30.

    Both bottle packages will include extras.

    And I'm not the only person offering perfume either. Check out all of these posts, there are some real bargains in there.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Incense and Pomegranate -- Pomegranate Week: Day Five

    Well, the fires are still burning, but I have the air filter running at max and I think my sense of smell is working a little better than it was yesterday.

    So...let's take a look at Dark Fruit. It was a general catalog blend from the now unfortunately closed Violette Market.

    The description read: "Smoldering pomegranate and berries, kissed with earthy patchouli and incense."

    Now here's the thing: I love patchouli as long as it's used carefully. There's a world of difference between the patchouli used by good perfumers and the cheap stuff you often smelled on people at Grateful Dead concerts. So I tend to approach anything that has patchouli in it with a certain caution.

    At first sniff, Dark Fruit is both earthy and smokey. The fruit is both tart and sweet, and you can certainly tell there's patchouli in it. But it's not dirty hippie patchouli at all; rather, it adds a nice deep earthy note over which rises the scent of the fruit and some kind of woody incense. At a guess, I'd say the wood is sandalwood. In fact, I imagine that this is how a piece of sandalwood that had been soaked for a long time in pomegranate and berry (blackberry? tart raspberries?) juice and a little bit of patchouli oil would smell if you then burned it. Unlike a lot of incense smells, I don't get a heavy blast of resin, although there's a very faint scent underneath all the others that might be myrrh.

    As the name suggests, this is a very dark take on pomegranate. This is Persephone in front of a fire in the Underworld during the dead of winter, while above her, Demeter mourns her absence. I love it, but I don't think I'll be wearing it until late October at the earliest; it's a warm, somewhat heavy and not particularly sweet scent that's perfect for cold days.

    I was very sorry to see Violette Market close. This blend alone was enough to convince me that she had a very interesting take on the whole Dark Victorian branch of indie perfumes. While this could be considered headshoppy, it's unique enough that it doesn't smell like a BPAL knock off. I'm glad I had the money to take advantage of her going-out-of-business sale and get a 1/2 oz of this.

    Tea, Black Pomegranate, Hot -- Pomegranate Week: Day Four

    I'm terribly sorry about this, but I'm re-posting a review I did a while back, with a couple of changes. We're in fire country here in NoCal and while there's no chance of us having to flee or anything like that, the smoke is godawful--seriously, while still quite high in the sky, the moon was dark orange tonight--and it's playing havoc with my sinuses, so no testing and reviewing anything today.

    Anyway....

    Today, I'm revisiting Blooddrop's The (un)Poisoned Tea Cup, which was a Spring '08 Limited Edition.

    The description read: "Fortunately for the drinker, this cup of pomegranate black tea was left unscathed."

    This one is exactly as advertised, down to the faint tannin/bitter note of the black tea. The pomegranate is just the way it would be in a tea blend; it's not like sweetened juice or pomegranate syrup has been added to the tea, but is a more subtle dry pomegranate. It does sweeten up a tad but never gets really sweet the way BPAL's Swank does. It's another simple scent, what you get all the way through is a crisp, brisk cup of pomegrante tea or glass of iced pomegrante tea, bracing and refreshing.

    When I first tried it, the tea note faded fairly quickly. Later, however, when I'd applied it more liberally, it hung around for quite some time, although the throw/sillage was rather minimal. I purchased the bath gel and light soy lotion as well and all together, they really increase the staying power of the scent.

    I'd say this is a spring/summer scent for days when you don't want to smell too sweet.

    Even if tomorrow is smokey, I won't be going out like I did today, so hopefully, I'll be able to review something new.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Shaken, Not Stirred, and Sugar on the Rim, Please -- Pomegranate Week: Day Three

    Today, partly because we had a late dinner at Ink--a local bar and restaurant that serves food well into the wee hours-- and partly because I did The Flower Song yesterday, I'm going to review one of my early BPAL favorites.

    Swank
    is from the Lab's general catalog; you can find it in the Bewitching Brews section.

    The Lab says: "Simply cool, the essence of Lounge: the scent of a crisp pomegranate martini."

    It is, again, a fairly sweet scent, although it has none of Flower Song's syrup to it. Instead, it is, as they say, crisp. In fact, and this is always one of those mysteries, it smells cold. I have no idea how that is accomplished, but that's why I don't blend perfume. Well one of the reasons anyway.

    Cutting the sweetness down to tolerable levels is the martini part of the equation. This isn't a vodka martini, as one would expect. No, there's a hint of juniper berry in there, just the tiny touch needed to tell us that this martini is gin.

    It's a very very simple scent, no morphing, no changing to anything else. It's got a clean sweetness to it that makes it the perfect summer weather fruit scent. Which, as it reached 108F/42C here and the air quality was bad thanks to the fires burning all over the Sacramento Valley, I really needed. It's got excellent staying power and a pretty standard throw/sillage for an oil.

    The very first time I reviewed this, over on the BPAL forum, I mentioned the scent memory I referred to the other day. To my mind, this blend, more than any of the others, is that fruit essential oil I loved as a kid, only grown up. Sure it's still sweet, but there's a lightness and a subtle hint of something else that makes it fun and adult.

    * * * *

    About the giveaway. I'm doing a pomegrante scented gift package for the Live Long n Marry auction. I plan on doing the "lite" version--fewer goodies and smaller amounts--as a blog giveaway, probably sometime over the weekend, provided I've reached the deadline for this story I'm slaving over. :)

    * * * *

    Finally, I got my little sample of Andy Tauer's Vetiver Dance because I was lucky enough to sign up for the samples he was giving away in celebration of his third year blogging. I haven't tried it yet, but all indications are that I'm in for a real treat. Of course, I had to go and look at his other perfumes and am dying to try L'air du désert marocain, Incense extrême and maybe score some Incense rosé for Darkrose. Seeing as they run $100 for a bottle, though, maybe not so much. All I can say is "thank God for The Perfumed Court."

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Row Faster Guys, and Feed Me Some Pomegranate Seeds -- Pomegrante Week: Day Two

    It's still Tuesday as far as I'm concerned--I keep very late hours--and so here's the second day of Pomegranate week.

    Today I'm writing up The Flower Song, a BPAL Limited Edition from the Lupercalia '08 Love Poems Collection.

    The Lab said: "Unknown, Written during Egypt's New Kingdom
    To hear your voice is pomegranate wine to me:
    I draw life from hearing it.
    Could I see you with every glance,
    It would be better for me
    Than to eat or to drink.

    Pomegranate wine, lotus root, river reeds, hyssop, and barley."

    My initial impression was a blast of thick sweet pomegranate. Two years ago at Thanksgiving, I made something called pomegrante molasses, which involved boiling down several cups of pomegrante juice into a thick syrup, which I used to baste a pair of Cornish Game Hens--Darkrose and I don't like turkey. If I'd added about a cup and a half of sugar to the juice before boiling it, the end product would have smelled a lot like this. At first it's a little much, even for me.

    Fortunately, it calms down some and there's a little bit of a green note, which I assume is the lotus root. There's also a faint winey note, but not enough to make you think you've spilled your drink. A little while later, some toasted cereal creeps in underneath the thickness and helps smooth things out.

    After than, it doesn't morph much. It's a slightly thick, smooth pomegranate wine. One of my early and persistent BPAL favorites is Swank, the Lab's pomegranate martini blend. While that one is sweet but sharp with the gin note, this is sweet and a little syrupy and should be worn on your barge on the Nile while pretty, mostly naked girls (or guys according to your inclination) fan you. If you live somewhere other than ancient Egypt, I'd say wear this in the fall or winter when you need something comforting and a little thick.

    It's got staying power for days and a pretty good throw/sillage.

    While it's a Limited Edition, it's recent enough that it's still available on either the BPAL forums or eBay.

    Monday, July 7, 2008

    Still life with Pomegranates -- Pomegranate Week Day One

    Pomegranate, it seems, is the new vanilla. Instead of a few lonely bottles languishing in the produce section, Pom now markets several blends of pomegranate juices and iced teas; you can get pomegranate tea blends, pomegranate candy and I'm surprised Starbucks hasn't figured a way to try to make pomegranate and coffee work together, although I suspect they offer a pomegranate Italian soda. The other day Darkrose found out that Dryers sells a mixed box of no-calorie made-with-real-juice popsicles in pomegranate blends--they're pretty good too.

    And of course perfume and body products are right there in the vanguard, just about everyone offers something with pomegranate. In fact, reading the reviews of the major perfume and niche houses over at Now Smell This I see that some people feel that pomegranate has been used too much recently.

    Me? I love it. And so I declare this week to be "All Pomegranate Week" here at IMNKMAL.

    First off, I'll start with a basic.

    Midnight Pomegranate from Bath & Body Works is cheating a little, because it's about as far from indie and small business as you can get. On the other hand, not only is it really really hard to beat BBW sale prices, but this is a very commonly and inexpensively duped fragrance, making it easy for smaller etailers to offer a full range of bath and body products in the scent.

    It is the quintessential sweet fruity scent and it's probably aimed at a much younger woman than I am. Looking at the listing for the Body Splash is kind of funny because they say: Top Notes: Pomegranate, Sparkling Citrus, Dewberry, Anise, Cinnamon, Nutmeg; Mid Notes: Cassis, Black Berry, Iris, Jasmine, Raspberry; Base Notes: Musk, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Tobacco, Patchouli. Honestly? All I get is a the pomegrante and maybe a little cassis, sweet vanilla and a very sweet musk. To be fair, I haven't tried the Eau d' Toilette; maybe it's more complex than the Body Splash. I also have the Shower Gel and the Body Cream--their mid-weight lotion--and it's all very much the same. If you use the gel, the scent clings just a little around after your shower, which helps amp the pomegranate if when you wear another pomegranate fragrance such as BPAL's Swank or Love Song. If you can handle the sweetness, the shower gel, body cream and body splash combo is perfect for a warm day spent running around. Layered that way, or even on its own, the Body Splash has pretty remarkable staying power and if you spritz generously, it's got a decent throw/sillage for what it is.

    You can get just about every scented product BBW carries, including their anti-bacterial line and their home fragrances, in Midnight Pomegranate. I wouldn't pay full price for it, but that's because it's easy enough to wait and then go wild during one of their sales.

    I think I like it and other sweet pomegranate scents aimed at the 17-25 yo market because of a scent memory. The very first perfume I ever wore was Spiritual Sky's Raspberry Essential Oil, which is a painfully sweet raspberry with no subtlety at all. Occasionally, I don't mind revisiting that time when a nice shot of uncomplicated, unsophisticated, sugared fruit made me feel pretty.

    I mentioned a give away the other day; more about that tomorrow.

    Saturday, July 5, 2008

    The Madness to My Method -- Part Six

    6. My thoughts on naturals vs synthetics.

    Unless you grow the plants yourself, distill them into tinctures and blend them into oil from a certified organic grower, you honestly just don't know what you're getting when you talk about something "natural." It doesn't help that "natural" and "green" are phrases that can be tossed around without necessarily meaning anything; unlike the USDA, which can certify food as organic, the FDA (which covers perfume, bath & body products and the like) can't.

    Furthermore, there's the environmental factor to consider. Sandalwood, for example, is in high demand; is it more ethical and green to use natural oil or to refine a synthetic so vast numbers of trees aren't cut down or to use a slightly inferior oil from a grower who replants? Also, some classic perfume additives are animal in nature; is real civet more ethical than the synthetic version, given that you have to either kill the animal or harvest the musk from a live animal in way that is painful to the animal?

    I honestly don't have answers as to whether all natural is a) possible at all and b) as green and/or ethical as we'd like to think. On the other hand, synthetics are chemically produced and there are undoubtedly waste products that might not be disposed of properly, plus there is the fact that I really do like the idea of an all natural product.

    I think that, for me, it has to come down to a balancing act. I'm not well off, far from it; I'm disabled and my partner and I pretty much live on her salary--she does IT help at a university--supplemented by my very small Social Security check. I have to shop carefully for everything, both necessary stuff and frivolous things. I do my best to buy locally and to purchase organics when I can afford them and I do what I can around the house to lower my carbon footprint.

    When it comes to perfume, I trust that the perfumers I patronize are using the best materials they can to produce the best product they can within a price people can afford. I trust them when they say that they don't test on animals. And I trust them, as part of an culture that strives to be independent and aware, to walk as lightly on the Earth as they can.

    I can't ask more of them than I ask of myself.

    * * * *

    This is the end of the Method posts. Hopefully either tomorrow or Monday will see a new set of reviews, including still life with pomegranates and maybe a give away.

    Thursday, July 3, 2008

    The Madness to My Method -- Part Five

    5. My strictly independent status and how I choose what to review.

    I'm not shilling for any company, large or small. If an e-tailer is running some kind of special and I send you there and tell you to mention me, I'll also tell you exactly what I'm getting out of it. I'm not famous or anything like that and my reviews aren't done as part of a marketing campaign. I pay for almost everything I review; the only exceptions are freebies sent with orders or gifts from friends.

    I choose what to review pretty much at random. I've got a hell of a backlog of samples to get through and there are a couple of things that can slow me down. I won't review anything while I have a migraine or while my sinuses are acting up. I occasionally have deadlines for fan fiction challenges and there are times when I just need to chill and do nothing but play City of Heroes/Villains.

    I do participate in decant circles now and then and will try to review the Limited Edition scents in a timely manner so that they're still available when the post goes up.

    * * *

    New reviews soon, hopefully. I've had migraine issues and our a/c is still giving us grief. I'm crossing my fingers that the most recent fix holds.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    The Madness to My Method -- Part Four

    4. Indie vs Big Perfume Houses and Celebrity blends

    There are several reasons I wear and review perfume from small, independent e-tailers as opposed to say, the latest from Calvin Klein or Aquolina. The first, and sadly most important reason, is money. The small independent e-tailers keep their prices pretty low and are generous about samples and freebies. Also, the active trading culture means that I can buy a sample of a BPAL LE, for example, for $3 or $4.

    There's also the matter of variety. While the choices at BPAL in particular can be overwhelming, it's also a lot easier to avoid notes that don't work for you when you have twenty different blends with saffron in them, each just a little different.

    And of course, there are a lot of blogs out there reviewing big name-brand perfume. And sure, there are a lot of people writing fan fiction and that hasn't stopped me, but in this case, I think that the Indie perfumeries get short shift. Although, if you're reading this and you know of any blogs that review the indie etailers, I'd love it if you commented with a link.

    Finally there's an indie aesthetic/feel/attitude and a sense of community that I like about the small e-tailers. As I said way above, I view perfume as a modern form of alchemy and there's something I like about the idea of someone sitting down in their kitchen/extra bedroom/garage and making something because they like the way it smells and think that other people might like it too. And the sense of being part of the community, of actually being a part of the process, is really wonderful. We talk about Beth at BPAL, Fabienne at Possets, Astrid at Blooddrops and Dave and Brianne at Mythos Mixtures; these are real people who interact with their customers via forums and email.

    Having said all that, I've got about five perfumes by perfume houses up on my wishlist at Amazon and next time we hit the mall, I might try some of them at Sephora. I have nothing against the big houses and I'd be happy to review the occasional Big Name Perfume if I could afford it, but my focus will continue to be on the Indie houses.

    Monday, June 30, 2008

    Addendum: Pyramid of Khafre

    So I wrote the Pyramid of Khafre review around 1:30 or so this morning. At about 4am, just about the time we were getting ready for bed, I sniffed my wrist and it smelled fantastic. It was spicy lavender with an almost effervescent undernote, perfumey in very good way. Which, on the one hand, is great. It's another thing that smells good on me and it's a real departure from the sort of thing I normally wear. On the other hand...I really don't want to have to wait that long to like what I'm wearing. Yes this has some amazing staying power--twelve hours after applying it lightly, it's still present on my wrist--and a halfway decent throw, but who wants to wait two to three hours for their perfume to actually smell good?

    I have recently learned that the technical term for "throw", or "how far away from you, the wearer, can your perfume be smelled" is "sillage". It's French and it also means the wake of a ship, which makes sense. But, while I'm all about using the proper terminology, I don't know that I like the way the word sounds. Which, yeah, is totally not the reason not to use it. The reason I might stick with "throw" or use both, is that most of the forums I've been on use it and bringing in a new term might confuse readers.

    Speaking of terminology, shoot me if I ever call any of this "juice." Just...no.

    Nocturne Alchemy: Pyramid of Khafre

    Nocturne Alchemy is in interesting concept e-tailer; all of their blends are tied, some more loosly than others, to Egypt. This isn't the blend I'd have chosen for my first review--I've just gotten involved in a decant circle for some of their newest LEs--but it happened to be tossed in as a freebie along with some other stuff I picked up from somone on LJ.

    Pyramid of Khafre -- Lavender, limestone, chai spices and amber. (This was dug out of the perfume copy, which is a couple of paragraphs, including one on just who Khafre was--builder of the second of the Great Pyramids of Giza.)

    This starts out as lavender and a soapy lavender at that, although there is in fact, a weird dusty undernote that I assume is the limestone. As it progresses, the spices come out and that soapy note goes away, although the lavender is still a little sharp. It's a strange scent, which is kind of what I'd expect given the notes involved. Eventually it settles into a faintly powdery but spicy lavender that still has that faint note of limestone.

    It's not an easy scent and while it doesn't morph once it settles down, I can't quite decide if I like it or not. I'll sniff it and think "nah, not really working" and then a few minutes later, I'll sniff again and think "actually, I kind of like this." What I don't get is any sense of Egypt at all; the spices just aren't enough to take me there. In the end, it's that limestone note that defeats this; combined with the lavender, and even in spite of a very powdery amber, it's just a little too sharp.

    PS Dear Nocturne Alchemy, 1998 called and they want their web design back. Love, Me.

    * * *

    Also, Loreto of Funkier Than Thou, has renamed her shop. It's now Loreto Aromatica. I'm in the process of dropping her a line to see if she can do something for Darkrose and I for our upcoming wedding.

    Sunday, June 29, 2008

    The Madness to My Method -- Part Three

    3. What you won't see here and what you will.

    I simply cannot wear any blend that includes a cream accord. Everything I've ever tried with one has simply gone awful on me, either plasticy and fake, or rancid and sour. Likewise, you'll rarely, if ever, see anything reviewed here that includes rose among the notes. Maybe 1 in 99 blends with rose work on me, the rest end up smelling like soap. It kind of breaks my heart because not only do a lot of lovely sounding blends include rose, but I also like the smell of roses.

    Because of the rose thing, I tend to have to stay away from most florals. Jasmine's another tricky note, I can usually handle it if it's not the dominant note in the blend.

    Mostly, my tastes are pretty broad. My favorite perfume family is the Oriental; I like things from pretty much every sub-category in the family. I also like some of the Woody family and some of the Fresh family, particularly the citrus group. I tend to stay away from things described as "clean/linen" because they usually smell like overly scented dryer sheets to me.

    The Gormound category is tricky for me. I stay away from the excessively foody scents; I'd rather not smell like cake, cookies or frosting, plus all too often, there's that cream accord in there. I usually do like what I call the "drinky" scents (BPAL's Swank, which smells like a pomegranate martini, is a good example here). I don't want to smell like a liquor cabinet, but a touch of rum or a hint of the juniper in gin really works for me. I also like some fruity scents, although usually I like them to feel kind of grown up and not smell like strawberry lip gloss or Spiritual Sky Raspberry Oil.

    I also like several of the traditionally masculine scents, particularly cyphres and fougéres.

    Due to the fact that most of the indie e-tailers throw in freebies, I'll occasionally review things that fall outside my already broad tastes.