"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!