Posts tagged ‘perfume’

March 20, 2013

Sweet Cecily’s lip balm kit: A review

I bought a lip balm making kit for my daughter from Sweet Cecily’s a little while ago, and promptly forgot about it until the other day when we were looking for something fun and a little bit different to do together. It proved to be the perfect choice, combining my girl’s love of making things and her desire to be a real ‘girly girl’ with her own lip balm, just like her mum!

It’s been a while since I wrote about a skincare company and Sweet Cecily’s is exactly the kind of brand I like. A small company based here in Yorkshire, creating hand-made skin care with natural ingredients and complete with pretty packaging, there is a lot to like. I look forward to trying out more of their range in the future. The Sea Buckthorn Berry hand cream looks particularly good for us gardeners!

The kit I bought contained all the weighed-out ingredients for five pots of orange essential oil lip balm and the little pots, lid stickers and instructions needed, all inside a cotton drawstring bag. My daughter added all the ingredients to a double-boiler saucepan for me to heat up. Everything melted easily together and there was the perfect amount for the five tins included. I then poured the melted lip balm into the little pots and left it to cool. It took hardly any time at all and so as an activity, it wouldn’t have been enough on its own. But – plenty of time was needed for creating five mini masterpieces to decorate the lids and so Eve was happily drawing oranges all afternoon!

PicMonkey Collage

Originally, the plan was for Eve to give out several pots away to friends, but in true diva fashion, she has decided to stockpile it all for herself. I have been honoured to receive a pot of my own to keep though, so I’m happy enough. The lip balm contains a lovely combination of shea butter, cocoa butter and almond and calendula oil and so is really moisturising and the orange essential oil adds a lovely fragrance. My pot is made all the more special because of the unique picture that has been drawn for the lid, which makes me smile every time I see it. I keep it in my bag and use it every day. I really recommend this kit as a gift, it’s been a great success.

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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!

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…

January 27, 2012

Gorilla Perfumes

I realise, as I write this, that I could be accused of turning this blog into some kind of Lush Love-Fest. It’s my second post about the company in as many weeks. And no, I’m not getting anything out of it. I’m going to plough on regardless, because I spent a brilliant time in the company of a member of staff at the Lush Leeds store recently during an evening to promote their new Valentine’s Day collection. All of which is very cute, and I may well indulge in a couple of  bubble bars, but that’s not what I ended up spending the whole event playing with. I ended up with the perfumes…

I love perfume, there is no secret there. I’ve written before about it: herehere, here and here. I also worship my two copies of ‘Perfumes: The Guide’ (by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez) like they’re religious tomes. Even though I am happy to make my own opinions about perfume, all of those I already owned before I bought the book are highly rated by them, so perhaps we have similar tastes.

Part of the Valentine’s Day collection at Lush is a new perfume called 25:43. Although I can tell it’s going to be popular, it’s not really me – too sweet. When I said that to the member of staff, she took me over to the table where the Gorilla perfumes were displayed and we spent a good long while playing with these:

The brilliance of this is that there are no names, no fancy packaging, just the scent. So you cannot be influenced by anything other than your nose. So, there are no assumptions on hearing the name of a fragrance such as ‘Dirty’ – which actually has a strong minty top note…

Some of these perfumes originally started out with the B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful part of the company, which no longer exists as a separate business. Thankfully, the perfumes moved across to be part of the Lush business and are available online or in larger stores.

In this blind perfume testing, there were three standout fragrances: Breath of God, The Smell of Weather Turning (which has an incredible minty note alongside oak and grassy smells)  and the Smell of Freedom. These are complex,multi-layered perfumes, unlike anything I’ve smelled anywhere else. I bought Breath of God and have worn it every day since. It still catches me out as it dries down. Amazing. It has an incredible five star review in the Turin & Sanchez book too.

‘Wearing it, I feel a sense of wonder that so late in the perfume game there can still be such a profound invention’ Tania Sanchez.

What I utterly love about the Gorilla perfumes (aside from the lack of fancy packaging showing me great perfume is not about the bottle) is that you can buy different parts. So, Breath of God can be bought as Inhale and Exhale – which you can wear individually or together.  Even more exciting is the triptych of perfumes making up The Smell of Freedom. This is really a perfume journey like nothing you can get in mass market department stores, no matter how much budget you have.

The Smell of Freedom can be bought as one perfume, or as:

Part One: Fire Tree, a warm and woody herbal perfume, with Australian influences from lemon myrtle and fir tree oil. This part is inspired by an Australian Aboriginal artist.

Part Two: Old Delhi Station, again a warm perfume but with a spiciness to it and a feeling of incense. Inspired by a journey made across India to meet an exhiled Tibetan Monk, this contains sandalwood, jasmine, black pepper and patchouli.

Part Three: Oudh Heart, my favourite of the three individual parts, this is inspired by a remarkable man called Sami, imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay without trial, he was freed as a result of work by Reprieve and Lush. This part is full of oudh (one of my favourite ingredients) sandalwood, cedar and orris root.

Again, the three can each be worn individually or layered together. It’s the closest many of us will come to really getting a glimpse into the art of perfumery as well as the inspiration behind a fragrance. Lots more about the story behind these perfumes can be found on the Lush website. I am enchanted by them and I really do urge you to go to your nearest (large) branch of Lush and try them for yourself.

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.