"To be a Virginian either by Birth, Marriage, Adoption, or even on one's Mother's side, is an Introduction to any state in the Union, a Passport to any Foreign Country, and a Benediction from Above."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fashion Dilemma - Those Christmas Parties!

Somehow for someone who spent the last month basically being a hermit, I've managed to accumulate a number of Christmas invites. I already know what I want to wear to most of the more formal occasions, but I have a couple I'm not sure about. The first is an informal little open house with a bunch of my friends from a ladies' networking and service organization. I plan to wear either a warp cardigan or a big pashmina shawl, so I thought I'd like to get a cute little top to have peeking out of the sweater/shawl. Do you think something like this little sequin number would work? I couldn't find a great image, but it's a drapey black sequin top from Talbots:

And then there's this one:

I also thought I could go for something a little more toned down. Perhaps a sleeveless shell with a ruffled collar or maybe even something like this lace tank I saw at J.Crew that comes in a variety of colors:

The other party is for my husband's office. It's on a weekday evening, so it's supposed to be "dressy business" attire. I know that a number of high-ranking political types will be present, so I need to make a good impression. I just have no idea what to wear - hence the lack of pictures for this one. Given the dress code, I'm sure my holly green cocktail dress is out, but I think a plain black suit would be too severe. Ideas?

Many thanks!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Smells Like a Monday - Souvenirs of Italy

I went to Italy for two weeks at the end of October, and even the smallest towns there had little perfumery shops. It was much easier to find pretty perfumes - and lots of selection - than in some American cities I've visited. Given the huge fragrance displays in the local pharmacies and the presence of perfume shops on what seemed like every other street in even the smaller towns I visited, I got the impression that fragrance plays a larger part in daily life over there. As someone who doesn't feel entirely put together until I've spritzed on a little something, I completely agree with this approach!

I was already familiar with Dolce & Gabbana, Gianfranco Ferre, Ferragamo and some of the other major designers' perfume lines, so when browsing for goodies to bring home, I didn't linger long at those counters. I instead kept an eye out for lines that are harder to find back home. In a small town in Tuscany, a local perfumery carried the I Profumi di Firenze line. If you ever have a chance to try these scents, do so! They are beautifully made and while they are much less expensive in Italy, they are also available in the United States via Beautyhabit. After sampling the wares, I ended up with a bottle of Talco Delicato. I've worn this scent before and it's still one of my favorites from the line.

I've seen Talco Delicato described as a musky vanilla scent, which would make one expect something much heavier than it actually it. The name really says it best. Talco Delicato is a very warm and feminine scent that has a powdery aspect to it, but without making one feel as though one is smothering in a cloud of talc. I find this scent elegant and incredibly graceful. It drifts over the wearer and just settles in naturally. With its warmth, it's a perfect scent for fall and winter.

My next fun stop was at Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Known officially as Oficina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, this pharmacy has been open to the public since 1612. In addition to selling a variety of fragrant colognes (Zagara, or orange blossom, being one of my favorites), Santa Maria Novella also sells a variety of luxurious soaps, home fragrances, and skincare products. Many of their recipes are based upon those developed by Dominican friars around the 13th century, and the Domincans actually owned and ran the business for several centuries before it went into private hands.

The pharmacy is housed in an ornately decorated old building and it takes up several large rooms. Given the enormous crowds on the day I was there, they needed it! I didn't end up with any new perfumes for myself, but I did buy several of their milk-based soaps to give as gifts. The soaps are strongly fragranced and smell absolutely beautiful. I got some in carnation and some that are jasmine scented. They are blending beautifully in my sweater chest until time to wrap them for Christmas.

Throughout my travels, I noticed that almost every pharmacy or midlevel perfume shop had plenty of shelving devoted to a brand called L'Erbolario. I had seen a few of these scents in the United States, but I have no real familiarity with them. Given that the company makes perfumes with matching bath/body products, it made me think of something along the lines of Crabtree and Evelyn here at home. Every time I saw a display, I took a few minutes to try various scents. Oh my goodness, the variety!

Many of the scents were soliflores (based around a single flower), but some of the flowers were ones that I had never seen scents for before, such as Acacia, which turned out to be soft and rather sweet. They also make various citrus scents and a neroli(blossom of the bitter orange tree) scent. The Italians seem to love their orange blossom! Almost every line, whether high end or not, seemed to have an orange blossom cologne or neroli scent of some type.

After trying many, many fragrances from L'Erbolario's seemingly endless list, I settled on Fiori Chiari as my last fragrant souvenir of the trip. It has notes of lily, rose, peony, lily of the valley and various fruits. This scent smells of green grassiness and light blooming flowers. It's the perfume equivalent of walking in a sunny breeze, and I suspect I'll be wearing it a lot in the spring. Even though I visited Italy in the fall, this scent really captured for me the essence of how I felt on my favorite day of the trip, which would be the day my friends and I hiked through hills in Tuscany on a bright sunny day when the light made everything look unbelievably green.

And to bring it all back to Virginia, I discovered over Thanksgiving that L'Erbolario now has a US distributor, and this distributor is based in Charlottesville, VA! You can find the complete L'Erbolario line in the USA at Londons. They have a shop in Charlottesville (love it!) and a website complete with Cyber Monday deals. If you're interested in L'Erbolario, Londons has set up a dedicated website and those products can be found here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Recalled to Life

Funny how life works. I figured I'd be offline for 2 weeks while I went on vacation to Italy and then be right back. Italy was absolutely wonderful, and I'll blog more on it later (with pictures!), I promise. However, I ended up getting sick the last day of the trip. And I kept on being sick until finally I dragged myself to a doctor here at home - and found out I had whooping cough.

I'll spare you the details of being sick and just say that anything that makes you cough enough to break your own ribs is very obviously not a lot of fun. I had no energy for weeks and I've only just recently gotten to do basic things like leave my own house or get caught up at work. Thanksigiving this year made me feel extra thankful because I am finally better. I even felt well enough to bake my usual bourbon pecan pie and play with my little cousins for hours on end. It was fabulous, and being able to celebrate like that is not something I'll easily take for granted.

I've been having such fun catching up on blog posts and puttering around my house. I never thought I'd actually be thankful for organizing my books and papers, but I've been getting into it. I set my Pandora account to Christmas music(Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy is awesome paper sorting music, btw) and I've just been going to town. What a great day - even if the UVA/Tech game was just awful. I had been heartsick about having to miss almost all the UVA games this year, but I can't say I'm sorry about being home instead of down in Blacksburg this afternoon.

So, anyway...I made it back to the online world and I'll be posting again. I actually have some minor news, too, but I'll save that for later.

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Want!

I had never heard of Lesley Evers up until very recently. Somehow I came across an article saying that those who like Jules Reid or Kate Spade would like Lesley Evers dresses. I went to her website and - wow! I was like a kid in a candy store. She makes cute tunics and skirts, but there are so many dresses that look both polished and very comfortable. I am especially wanting this one, called the Riley:

I like it the way it is, but I think it would look adorable belted as well. And I have cute 60s style black flats that would be perfect with it!

It would be a little cold for this one in Virginia in fall, but I like it, too:


And I absolutely love this Kylie skirt!

And, since there is a summer sale on, this little number may soon be mine to hold onto for next year. I'm not sure how long my self-control with regard to the Margaret will last:

And don't get me started on Miss Laura here:

You can find all the goodies here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Go Hoos!

I'm not going to be able to make it to many UVA home games this year, but I'm following along at game parties. UVA vs. VMI would not normally be a big deal of a game, but with the season UVA had last year, I'd privately get a little nervous about what the local high school would do to them. They're my team and I love my school, and I'm happy to see that they seem to be stepping up their game this year. Hope it continues when they play ACC teams!

As I write this, we're in the second half with a comfortable lead, and I'm hoping it stays this way. I'll admit to teasing my cousins about Tech's defeat at the hands of JMU; please let's not give them a reason to turn the tables.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nuts and Bolts - Coding Help, Please?

I'm definitely a total newbie when it comes to HTML here. I've learned a few tricks and beamed with pride accordingly. However, I'm having a little issue here. I'm trying to add the BlogFrog widget to my sidebar and it just isn't cooperating. I can't get it to line up symmetically with all the other widgets, and I just need to move it over a little to the left. Does anyone know how to do this? Thank you!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Smells Like a Monday - 20 Best Ever Perfumes

As I caught up on my blog reading today, I saw a feature over at Perfume Shrine talking about an article in the Daily Mail which purports to list the 20 best perfumes of all time. I realize that scent preferences are a very individual thing, but I just don't agree with the list. The scents listed in the article are:

1. Chanel No. 5
2. Shalimar
3. L'Air du Temps
4. Joy
5. Poison
6. Eau Dynamisante
7. J'Adore
8. Blue Grass
9. Je Reviens
10. Jean Paul Gautier Classique
11. Opium
12. Angel
13. CKOne
14. Anais Anais
15. Jo Malone Lime, Basil and Mandarin
16. Rive Gauche
17. DKNY
18. Coco Mademoiselle
19. Beautiful
20. Youth Dew

Most of these are scents that have sold millions of bottles, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them on a bestsellers of all time list. However, I don't think that these are the best 20 scents that perfumery has ever had to offer. My own personal 20 best list would be:

1. Laura Ashley No. 1 - now discontinued, but one of the most delicate, polished florals I've ever worn. Of scents available today, Santa Maria Novella Angels of Florence probably comes closest.

2. Coty Chypre -Nearly 100 years ago, this perfume launched an entire category of perfumery called chypres. It too is discontinued, but I've smelled vintage bottles of this scent and it was amazing.

3.Guerlain Mitsouko - One of the most sophisticated and beautifully crafted chypre scents out there

4. Guerlain Shalimar - It's not really "me", but this oriental scent truly is a classic and if you like orientals, it's one of the great ones.

5. 4711 cologne - This scent has been around since the 18th century, and remains probably THE classic citrus cologne. I love Eau Imperiale dearly, but I do have to give this one the edge.

6. Je Reviens - I'll agree with the Daily Mail on this one. It's soft, feminine and beautifully crafted.

7. Quelques Fleurs - One of the oldest multifloral perfumes (i.e. doesn't simply focus on the scent of a single flower); It was launched in 1912 and women still wear it today.

8. Dioressence - I know that Opium gets all the attention, but frankly I think this oriental which came out around the same time is much better made. It's been reformulated since then (sadly), but still deserves a mention.

9. Chanel No. 5 - Yes, this one is a classic and deservedly so. It's probably the most famous aldehydic floral of all time and has been loved(and imitated) for many years.

10. Joy - Another one that belongs on the Daily Mail list. Again, it's not really "me", but this rose-jasmine powerhouse has definitely been famous for a reason for all these decades.

11. Ivoire de Balmain - I've come across many aldehydic green florals that came out in the 1960s - early 1980s Some are better crafted than others, but this green floral which starts off sharply green before drying down into a heart of roses and white flowers is probably my favorite.

12. Crown Rose - Sadly discontinued but this is an amazing rose scent. It starts off very rosey and then dries down into a resinous sandalwood base

13. Estee Lauder Pleasures - Trendy fresh florals are sometimes maligned, but I think this one is wonderfully blended.

14. Creed Fleurissimo - This was created for Grace Kelly and she wore it on her wedding day. One of the most polished sweet white floral scents I've ever tried!

15. Estee Lauder White Linen - This is another amazing aldehydic floral. It's fresh, polished and really well done. Whenever I smell Charlie, I keep thinking that it WISHES it could be this perfume.

16. Chanel No. 19 - No. 5 gets the lion's share of attention, but this green perfume is amazing, too. It manages to be both feminine and yet give off a very no-nonsense, powerful vibe.

17. Annick Goutal L'Eau d'Hadrien - I'm usually not into the unisex scents, but this cologne has an understated polish that definitely makes it classic in my book.

18. Caron Nuit de Noel - Another classic wonder - this one from the 1920s. This scent is very polished, but with an undercurrent of darkness and mystery to it. I love to wear it to midnight service on Christmas Eve as it fits to unfathomable wonder of the occasion very well.

19. Robert Piguet Fracas - This 1944 creation is a bigtime attention getter. There are several big tuberose scents out there, but this one is the best, I think. It has just enough green to tone down the big florals so as not to overwhelm everyone around the wearer. A great party scent!

20. Guerlain L'Heure Bleue - This floral with the powdery drydown came out in 1912 and is deservedly still in circulation. It does have a faintly old-fashioned vibe to it, and I love the powdery drydown. There's a melancholy, bittersweet air to this one that just gets me. And as with most of the older Guerlain classics, the craftsmanship is impeccable.