Posts tagged ‘fragrance’

January 16, 2014

REN Rose Otto Bath Oil

Like many of you, I was given beauty products as Christmas gifts. Luckily for me, the people who bought them know my taste and so there’s nothing that I don’t love.

REN Rose Otto bath oil tops my list of the best beauty gifts ever. (Thank you to my lovely boyfriend!) The smell is incredible, and because it’s an oil, it moisturises so well that there’s no need for any additional post-bath moisturiser. REN make wonderful products, without many of the nasties such as parabens, sulfates or mineral oils. The base oil for this product is sesame, and the fragrance is based on the Rose Otto and Palmarosa oils it contains. I’ve been feeling ill for a week now, and bathing in this oil has helped relax and soothe my poor body like nothing else.  The bottle is glass, so can be recycled, although I tend to keep mine and reuse them as tiny posy vases.

As you might imagine, I’ve been using this oil quite a lot since Christmas. In fact, I’m about a third of the way down the bottle already. Many Christmas beauty and fragrance gifts will now be still unopened, as people wait for special occasions to use them. My advice to you? Open the packaging and use the products. Be lavish! My mother is notorious for keeping special beauty and fragrance products for ‘best’ – and so many times the products have spoiled before she’s even had the chance to use them. Shelf lives for ingredients are not indefinite, especially when it comes to natural ingredients like essential oils. They need to be stored appropriately and used within a certain time.

And, the best day of your life is today. It’s the only day of your life. What’s already gone is history and who knows what the future holds. So, open your special beauty products and enjoy them today. And while I’m on the subject, wear your favourite clothes too. Put your best shoes on to do the school run. Wear your favourite dress to the cinema. Or just to potter around the house. If your favourite things make you happy, you should make today a great day and use them…

REN Rose Otto Bath Oil (image from REN)

REN Rose Otto Bath Oil (image from REN)

July 24, 2013

Three Good Things: Week Two

The first week of Three Good Things was so well received and I have been completely delighted by how many people got involved. It seems that I’m not the only person who wants to slow down and practice a bit of gratitude for the small things in life.

We may not live perfect lives – I know I definitely don’t –  but there are a lot of things to be grateful for. Things that bring a bit of joy to the everyday, a spot of sunshine and a smile. I want to document them and be reminded that, although my life is not perfect, it is my life. And I’m incredibly lucky to be living it.

So, here we go…

One: My sweetpeas

IMG_7117

The first thing on my list this week are my sweet peas. More than any other flower I know, sweet peas demand to be picked. The more flowers you pick, the more flowers the plant produces, in the desire to ensure its own survival. Added to that, if you choose one of the older varieties or perhaps Matucana (the original sweet pea) you are rewarded with an incredible fragrance from so few flowers. And, if that’s not all, they’re incredibly easy to save seed from. Just allow the pods to dry well, and pop out the large, dark seeds. Keep them somewhere cool and dry and they’ll be fine for sowing next year. Just remember that if you choose an F1 hybrid variety, the saved seed will revert back to the parent, and so you might well end up with a colour you weren’t expecting. But, hey, that’s part of the fun of gardening…

Two: Bun making with my daughter.

IMG_7137

I’m not the kind of parent who does lots of craft activities with my kids. Something I’m going to attempt to change this summer. But I do cook with them. This week, we made buns. Not cupcakes or fairy cakes. Buns. That’s what my mum calls them, and so that’s what I call them. Anyway, these ones, with too much icing and a mountain of mini marshmallows on each one, were lovely.

Three: New perfume!

IMG_6919

This week I was reminded that delated gratification can lead to far greater rewards. For about a year now, I’ve longed for a new perfume. One specific perfume, to be precise. 34 Boulevard St Germain, by Diptyque. I don’t know about you, but every time I see something that I’d really like, I say to myself ‘on payday, I’ll buy that’.  Of course, each payday comes and goes and I don’t buy lovely things. I pay bills.

This month, however, I did buy it. After a year of wishing that I could have this perfume in my life, I finally do. If you see me around, expect me to smell of it! It’s a complicated and quite unique fragrance, inspired by the flagship Diptyque store in Paris. As the store sells a myriad of perfumes, candles and home scents, you could be forgiven for thinking that it would be a tangled mess of a smell. Not so. It starts off with green top notes, then the mid notes are floral and then dries down to  the lingering woody, earthy, rich and perfect base notes. I love it. Adore it. And it feels more special to me because I had to wait for it. I doubt I’d be treating it with the same reverence if I was just able to buy it on first encounter without having to really think about it.

So, that’s my three good things for this week. I’d love you to share your Three Good Things, either in the comments or in a blog post. Here’s a little round up of all the fabulous people who wrote a post last week – do go and read them!

Hello Kirsty  – In which we learn the Spanish for ‘we are turtles’ and see a glimpse of the best birthday party dress ever. Brilliant.

Espresso Coco –  More language fun in this post. And some of my favourite things from one of my favourite people and collaborator on a brand new blog! It’s about TEA. You’ll love it.

Leeds & Me  – Isobel has greener fingers than she thought! And because of this post, I’ve a new book on my reading list.

A Hell of A Woman – This blogger is one of my online best buddies and in this post she shares news of a great new project.

Lady Lugosi – This post made me laugh out loud and again, there’s a brilliant project included.

Spider’s Filthy Assistant – I love this post. It’s sexy, optimistic and has made me want to pay a return visit to Edinburgh this year.

Nyssapod – A post from one of my  favourite online friends. I’m coveting the phone case in this post! And I’m going to listen to the money-saving Audioboo.

Looking at this list of posts has made me smile the biggest grin. I probably shouldn’t have it as one of my Three Good Things for next week, but it’s tempting…

September 12, 2012

My top ten plants for bees

So, I promised that I’d give you a list of my favourite plants for attracting bees. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but I’ve chosen plants that I really like, so not only the bees benefit! Bees prefer a relatively sheltered space, with sunshine. We’ve successfully grown a wildflower mix on the allotment and I’ve also decided to replant the small raised bed I have in the front garden with bee-friendly plants too.

There are a few points to bear in mind:

1 – It’s useful to have a variety of plants with different flowering seasons throughout the year, giving a longer period to support the bees.

2 – Local native flowers are better, which seems quite obvious really, as they share natural habitat. You don’t have to solely plant native species, but consider including them in your garden. Make sure that you get any native species from an approved supplier instead of collecting from the wild, obviously.

3 – Single flower varieties of cultivated plants are better than fancier double-flowered varieties.

4 – Weeds are a great source of food and habitat for many beneficial insects and pollinators, so if you’ve enough space to leave a patch wild, that’s always appreciated. You could go the whole hog and have a logpile too…

Lovely bee! Image from the super talented Abi Manifold.

My Favourite Plants for Bees – these are plants that I’ll be including in my planting either at home or on the allotment.

1 – Lavender. Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ which is the one that you’ll think of as the ‘traditional’ type or Lavandula stoechas, which is French lavender, with the bracts at the top ( like a pair of bunny ears!)

2 – Sunflower – Any variety of Helianthus annus will be great. After this summer’s success, we’re definitely planting these on the allotment again.

3 – Hellebore –  Helleborus argutifolius or really any other type. I love Hellebores, they’re gorgeous plants that hide away often unnoticed in the garden. They’re perennials, so they don’t have to be replaced each year, and they’re in flower before almost anything else – which helps the pollinators in the colder months. Other early flowers include crocus and single varieties of snowdrop, which are also lovely – but look at my Hellebore!

Hellebore in my front garden.

4 – Dahlia. I adore Dahlias. The more flamboyant and day-glo the better. For the bees, however, we need less flamboyance and single varieties instead, such as ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ which is popular and well-established. So, I’ll include a few single varieties in my all-new-and-improved cutting patch on the allotment next year. The good thing about dahlia is that they’re flowering once many other things have gone to seed, so extending the season into early Autumn.

5 – BorageBorago officianalis. A pretty herb, the petals and young leaves of which can be frozen in ice cubes to serve in summer drinks. A win – win situation, I call that… Just be aware that this can self-seed and get a bit invasive if you don’t keep on top of it. I might grow mine in a separate bed on the allotment.

6 – Harebell. Campanula rotundifolia. This is the wild Harebell, so if I did grow it, I’d have to be sure that I got it from an approved supplier. I love this little wild flower – it’s the perfect example to me of something that might be called a ‘weed’ but is completely beautiful. Also, Plantlife named it the county flower of Yorkshire a while ago, so it seems fitting that I grow it.

7 – Comfrey – I keep this in a pot as it can go a bit mad and over take everything. Comfrey is also called knitbone  (something I learned in an old pony book as a child!) – and is used as a herbal remedy for problems with bones, muscles and bruising. It also makes a great, although stinky, high- potash plant food when the leaves are infused in a bucket of water. Again, a plant that benefits me alongside the pollinators.

8 – Mint.  I really recommend Mentha piperita ‘Black Peppermint’, it has a strong, quite powerful fragrance and taste, making it perfect for tearing up in a mug with hot water for peppermint tea. Far better than the dried out sachets you can buy. Mint can also be invasive, but if you keep it alone, don’t put it in too small a pot, it’ll just be unhappy. Give it plenty of room.

9 – Apple – Malus domestica Hurrah! Bees love apples too. A great excuse for me to finally get that last space in my row of cordoned trees filled with another old English variety of apple. I’m thinking a cooking variety this time. For pies, obviously…

10 – Jasmine. Jasminum officinale We have a giant plant of this outside the front of our house and it smells incredible – I’ve already told you how I bring it into the house. The bees love it too. They must be as attracted to the fragrance as I am.

So, there we have it. My list of ten plants I will be growing to attract the bees – as well as use as cutting flowers or for eating! It’s important to choose the right plant for the right place, considering your soil type and the exposure to the wind, for example. The Royal Horticultural Society have a big list of both cultivated varieties and wild flowers that will attract pollinators, so do go to their website and have a look.

I’ve just realised that this blog has got very gardening-heavy recently. I will blog about different things soon, I promise!

August 15, 2012

Growing: gardening and career changes.

It’s not been our greatest year on the allotment. As I’ve written before, too many other things have been getting in the way, and coupled with the awful weather we’ve had, we’ve had our fair share of failures. Now that we have some more help with the work, in the shape of my mum, things are getting lots better and I have lots more renewed enthusiasm for it.

In fact, my enthusiasm for gardening as a whole has gone through the roof recently. There is something very satisfying in working with your hands and the process of making things grow, or at least attempting to, is such a soulful and satisfying one that I’m hoping to make it a source of income at some point in the future. With this in mind, I’m going to attempt to take the RHS level II courses to give me some formal qualifications.

Anyway, what I really wanted to share with you today is this photo:

I grew this!

This lily has survived the horrible weather, being driven over by toy trucks and repeated over-watering by the kids. It looks far too exotic to be growing in my little Northern back yard, but there it is in all its flamboyant beauty. Perfectly positioned in a pot so I can gaze at it through the window when I’m doing the washing up! It smells incredible too, a bold heady fragrance. I’ve been tempted to cut it and bring it indoors but I’ve realised that it is better where it is.

It’s made me think about a couple of things. Firstly, that plants want to grow. Really, really want to grow. Fling a few seeds in a pot and the chances are that something will come up. Even if you think you have no green fingers at all, I do urge you to try. Growing anything, even a few herbs, will really give you lots of pleasure, and you never know where it might lead you.

The other thing that I’ve been thinking about this flower is that it won’t be here for long. Soon it will die and I’ll no longer be able to look at it when I do the washing up. But that, perhaps, is a good thing. I would never want to not be filled with joy when I look at it. Never want to just take it for granted. I always want to be proud that it’s grown at all! So, I accept that its beauty will fade, and I won’t see it again until next year. The memory of it will remain, and that stimulus, the one I have had to develop gardening as part of my paid working life, will hopefully live for much longer.

June 29, 2012

Fragrance: Eau Dynamisante

It’s been a while since I’ve written a fragrance post. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve been for a play in the perfume departments and beauty stores so I’ve not found any new ones that I’ve liked. Instead, I’ve been using up all of the different perfumes I’ve already got, in some attempt to save a little money. After all, new perfumes are not always best. Most of my absolute favourite perfumes are older classics.

Take Eau Dynamisante, for example. Created in 1987 by Clarins, this is described as a ‘treatment’ fragrance for both men and women by Clarins, and therefore is missed from some perfume reviews. Most notably for me, it’s missed from ‘Perfumes: The Guide‘ which is my fragrance bible. This is perhaps because it’s designed to be worn all over the body as an aromatherapy type treatment, rather than ( in the words of the immortal Coco Chanel) ‘where you want to be kissed’.

I don’t consider Clarins particularly when I think of perfume in the way I would with companies such as Guerlain, who have moved from perfume into skin care and make up. I always think of Clarins as predominantly a skin care company and yet this fragrance has been a success for over 20 years.

The scent is reminiscent of a traditional Eau de Cologne to me, with herbal elements and spicy, citrus and woody (Patchouli, Thyme, Lemon, Petit Grain) notes. It’s got a clean and uplifting feel to it, and really does make me feel invigorated when I smell it. A great fragrance to wear during the day. Clarins make a whole range of body products in this fragrance too. What a treat it would be to use them together. Perhaps I will be venturing into that department store soon after all…

September 19, 2011

Fragrance: Part Three

These days I don’t have a signature scent. I prefer to wear a different fragrance depending on my mood. During the day, I might wear something lighter and greener, unless I need to feel grown up, then I’ll head for the Chanel Les Exclusifs, of which I have written before.

My perfume choice is also affected by the time of year. Summer has me wearing florals such as Balenciaga. I’ve worn this since being introduced to it by Roja Dove and I love the young, summery and violet scent of it. I also love Prada’s ‘Infusion de Fleur D’Oranger’ with it’s neroli and bergamot – which feels pefect for hot summer days in Italy.  As this is the fragrance I wore the last time I was there, it’s linked in my memory with this:

The scent of Italian Lemons

Night Swimming

Il Giardino Garzoni, Collodi.

All of this reminiscing has renewed my passion for travel and made me look all the more forward to next summer’s trip to Rome. Better get the Earworms back on!

In the meantime, I’m going to hunt for a new perfume for Autumn and Winter. Something that I can wear for everyday, so not too heavy, but I do tend to wear things that are woodier, muskier and generally more grown up in the Autumn and Winter. Perhaps it’s time for a classic. Maybe Mitsouko, by Guerlain.

September 9, 2011

Fragrance: part two

Fragrance is an emotional subject, although when you enter a department store to be assaulted on all sides by the latest offerings, it is easy to forget to really take your time and make sure that you love a perfume before parting with your money. It is important to wear a fragrance for a while to fully experience the longer lasting middle and base notes which are the real heart of a perfume and do not truly arrive until after the fresher, louder top notes have disappeared. This is not something that is uppermost in the minds of people trying to get you to buy whatever new scent they are trying to sell!

For me, there are a handful of perfumes that will be forever associated with specific people and moments in time.

The first of these is ‘Eternity’ by Calvin Klein. My perfume bible (Perfumes, The A-Z Guide, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez)  describes this as a ‘ screechy and soapy’ rose. Which it is. For me,  it is also the smell of Rhodes, a greek island that was the location for my one and only foreign holiday as a child with my parents and younger brother. My mother bought a bottle of Eternity at the airport on the way there and wore it every day. Infused in my memories with the sun, sea and Greek hospitality, this perfume is the one I wear to feel close to my Mum, even though she doesn’t wear it these days.

Eternity, anniversary engraved bottle

‘Envy’ by Gucci fares better with Turin and Sanchez, as a five star green floral. Sadly now discontinued (although you can still pick it up in a few places) Envy was one of the first perfumes I bought for myself,  as I was lured into the undeniable glamour and luxury of the Gucci house, and intoxicated by the smell. I wore this for a long while, and my oldest friend bought some for me, so it will always remind me of her, which is now a memory tinged by sadness as she emigrated to Canada. Rather amusingly, ‘Envy’ is really similar to ‘Pleasures’ by Esteé Lauder. Considering the contrast in the marketing of these two fragrances, it makes me smile to think of how similar they smell.

Another perfume that will always remind me of old friends is ‘Poison’ by Christian Dior. Famously loud, this is not a fragrance to wear when you are going to be in close contact with other people and certainly not out to dinner. We all wore it to dance in night-clubs, pretending to have an air of sophistication beyond our years. It formed the backdrop to many a memorable evening and in my mind is part of our coming of age. We also used to wear ‘Tendre Poison’, a lighter, greener version, which is also now discontinued. Lura Turin says of Poison, “This is the fragrance everybody loves to hate, the beast that defined the eighties…” (Although I’d like to point out that we were wearing it in the 1990’s in case anyone is trying to work out my age!) Apparently, it’s back in style, along with other loud eighties favourites this winter. If you choose to wear it, do so sparingly!

These days, I take great care in choosing new fragrances, and I’ll be writing about new favourites soon. If you’re interested in buying a copy of my favourite perfume guide, take a look here: Perfumes: The A-Z Guide: Amazon.co.uk: Luca Turin, Tania Sanchez: Books.

What are your sentimental perfumes, and why? Do tell…

August 19, 2011

Fragrance: part one

I’ve written recently about fragrance, and of the memories associated with it, but I’ve been reading ‘The Essence of Perfume’ by the incomparable Roja Dove and so my thoughts are still on the subject.

I had the great fortune to meet Roja last year and listen to him give a talk on fragrance, during which he tested us with a series of different scents on white paper strips. He also had with him the original series of bottles in a case from which Mme Coco Chanel chose number 5, giving rise to the perfume of the same name. As you might imagine, it was a great thrill to see them first hand. He is an incredible speaker, and has a great ability to hold an audience completely captivated. I could have listened to him all night.

The sense of smell is developed when we are young, so memories associated with certain smells are imprinted onto our minds. When we smell the same thing as adults, the memories return. This explains why I have a great fondness for the smell of crayons, sweaty horses, old books, mouldy Barbour jackets, cut hay and new trainers!

I have quite a number of books on perfume, one of which is ‘Perfumes The A- Z Guide, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. It is, simply, one of the best, funniest and most entertaining books I have ever read. I highly recommend it.

Here is an extract of what they say about my beloved Chanel perfumes:

Bois des Iles: ‘ It is basically perfect and, though eighty years old, seems as ageless as everything Chanel did in those inventive years. If you think of all the best Chanel fragrances as little black dresses – sleek, dependable, perfectly proportioned – Boise des Iles is the one in cashmere’

Cuir de Russie: ‘ There have been many other fragrances called Cuir de Russie, every one either too sweet or too smoky. This one is the real deal, an undamaged monument of classical perfumery and the purest emanation of luxury ever captured in a bottle.’

So far, so perfect. (and, yes, for those of you who read my previous post, this is the Cuir de Russie post accident!)

What I’m interested in now, and what will form the next few posts on fragrance, is where my thoughts on other perfumes differ from the thoughts of others simply because of my memories of them.

So I am planning a series of posts about this, but I am really interested to know what are your favourite smells, fragrances, perfumes – and why?

‘Sit with someone and breathe in their scent and they give you one of the most beautiful of all gifts – the gift of memory. You may not have seen someone for years, but with one breath of their scent, the memories come flooding back, dreams are revived, love is rekindled.’ Roja Dove.

July 26, 2011

Fragrant memories.

My darling daughter taught me a valuable lesson recently. Not on purpose, you understand. Like many things that happen to me, it started with an accident.

To begin the tale, I need to backtrack a bit to this Spring. In Paris, on Rue Cambon stands the original Chanel boutique. I’ve spoken before of my love for Chanel, but this year was only the second time I’ve stepped inside the hallowed store and this time, I was shopping.

To shop in the Chanel boutique here is a wonderful experience. For those of us not fortunate enough for it to be a regular occurance, it truly is a thing of excitement. Above the store is the famous appartment of Mademoiselle Chanel herself, not to mention where the white-coated staff of Chanel work their magic each collection. For a very special glimpse into this world, take a look at the documentary series: Signe Chanel – Haute Couture Collection [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: Signe Chanel: Film & TV. This Spring, I particularly coveted a black dress with deep pink camellias on it, which I subsequently saw Anna Wintour wearing, so I am pretty confident that I made a great (although imaginary) choice!

Anyway, one of the many things I am passionate about is fragrance, and I was fortunate enough on this occasion to purchase two wonderful new ones, from Les Exclusifs de Chanel, which are only available in a handful of places across Europe.

I’d spent a considerable amount of time, in a state of what can only be described as giddiness (so sophisticated) making my choices, ably assisted by the staff at Chanel, who clearly understood that this was not an everyday shopping trip for me (my outfit alone gave the game away) and were patient, kind and liberal with the free samples. Once I’d made my choice, I was then taken to a separate room to make my payment. There is nothing as crass as a cash desk in the Chanel store!

The wonderful fragrances (Bois des Iles and Cuir de Russie, for those fragrance fans out there) were safely taken home and worn on special occasions, or quite frankly whenever I needed a lift. Both heady, warm and very grown up, they offer the emotional reassurances you need to take on the world. If Bois des Iles were a person, she’d be a glamourous great aunt, who still smoked, wore cashmere and called everyone ‘darling’. I love it. Cuir de Russie feels like a more dangerous character, leathery, smoky and somehow dirty, but in a great way. If you are interested in fragrance, you need to seek these out, they’re incredible.

That is, they were incredible. Until my darling daughter smashed one of the bottles all over the wooden floor boards in my bedroom. After the initial upset, which I have to admit was very tearful, my husband was able to help me come to terms with it. Ok, I’m being melodramatic, I admit, but I have precious few luxury items these days, and loads of lesser perfumes all over the bathroom but it just had to be this one that was lost. Isn’t life just like that?

He reminded me that, although the fragrance was so very special, part of what had made it so was the memory of its purchase. A memory which I remember every detail of. A memory which still makes me smile, brings back that giddiness and which I will have forever. It helps of course, that the bedroom now has the scent of that memory soaked into it, so I get a reminder each time I walk in. It helps that I still have a teeny, tiny amount of the perfume left for when I really need that grown up help. And it helps that I am going to make a new memory by saving for a replacement bottle to buy next year in Rome. But what is really important is that I was given a little reminder that memories are more important than material goods, however beautiful they may be.