Wednesday 28 January 2009

Baby shower- help needed!!

Help! I am organising a baby shower for an old friend. As always with these things I agreed to planning the party a long time ago and it suddenly seems to be upon me and I am not totally sure what I’m doing!

This is only my second close friend to have a baby so I don’t have much experience of attending showers. My first one was in a bar which I’m not sure is normal! Otherwise all my experiences are from American TV shows!

I have obviously sent out invitations and have lots of rsvps so I know we will be a large group and there should be lots of presents coming.

Catering wise I am doing cups of tea and think we should do some champagne cocktails and mocktails.

I have ordered some very sex and the city mini cup cakes and lots of old fashioned penny sweet milk bottles for decorations.

I am thinking we also need proper English finger sandwiches and scones.

I am a bit lost about games. It’s been suggested to me that we should be playing lots of games- is that right?

I am also wondering what music might be suitable? I am thinking lots of calming Madeleine Peyroux type stuff. I’m not sure what to play for pass the parcel though!

Also do we need a special baby shower cake?

All suggestions very gratefully received!

Rose xx

Sunday 25 January 2009

On addiction

Addictive personalities run in my family. I have luckily so far escaped the big ones: gambling, drugs, smoking, alcohol (I do occasionally enjoy more than my recommended daily allowance but am not at the vodka on cornflakes level yet).

Periodically though I grapple with e- bay addiction- and this past week has seen me falling hopelessly down the rabbit hole into full on, checking ebay throughout the day and before bed mode.

On the bright side I have secured a limited edition album and many, many perfume samples- including some rare Guerlains. On the not so bright side I have opened a kind of Pandaora's box... again. It's so nice to have that little extra excitement of wondering if I am winning this or that at my desk or when I'm writing on my laptop. It becomes the norm to have extra little current of interest and I now face going cold turkey.

Still their should be lots of reviews of all my perfume winnings in the coming weeks.

Maybe if I just have a little look tomorrow morning it wouldn't do any harm...

Thursday 22 January 2009

Stories: It's not word count that matters, it's what you do with the words

Recently I have been reading Quantum of Solace: the complete collection of the James Bond short stories and About Love and other Stories by Anthon Chekhov.

While the stories in both volumes are quite different they are both obviously short fiction collections. I think these tales are a much neglected form of writing and have been wondering why that is. When you think about it many great writers have either written shorter or short fiction. These stories aren’t lost but equally how often do you see someone reading short stories on a train, or how often do you find a short story in a newspaper supplement? (I am referring to British papers here).

I think in many ways in these very busy modern times a collection of shorter tales can be far more satisfying than a long novel that takes you time to complete because so many of us can never sit down for two or three hours and really consume a a novel, or let it consume us.

Short stories can be just as profound and stay with just as much as a longer tale when they are well written.

I studied short stories as part of my A- Level in English literature and found them interesting but preferred the novels, but at the time I had the time to read all day!

My interest in short fiction was re awakened when I bought a collection of Christmas stories last year. One of the stories was a haunting tale about a lonely old lady organising a Christmas party. I won’t spoil the story but it really affected me and the tale has stayed with me ever since.

The James Bond stories could perhaps be seen as working because you already know the character and background of 007 so less characterisation and exposition is required. I tried to read them thinking about what my response would if I didn't know the written and screen Bonds so well and I think the stories hold up well. Fleming’s written style might be sparse but he makes very definite statements about characters that work well in a short story and his narrative thread is usually very strong. The Chekhov stories are different again, some of them do involve recurring characters but others don’t and they are all interesting, although more taxing than the Bonds.

I enjoy being able to read a story and feel a sense of completion before I go to sleep or when I get off a train. Of course I also enjoy a longer experience with a book, being able to look forward to reading more of a really gripping story when I get home and having that feeling you have of a secret life or love when you are really engaged with a great book. However I often find that I start a book and realise I could love it but I either end up giving myself three hours sleep a night or end up not enjoying the book as much as I know I would if I could read it for longer. Short stories don’t give me that same sense that there is always something I haven’t finished quite properly that taking a long time to read a long book can do

Sunday 18 January 2009

Lostmarc'h: Ael- Mat

Ael- Mat is the perfume that is closest to what I imagined a fragrance house named after a beach would produce; the scent of sea air.

The Lostmarc'h website lists the official notes for Ael- Mat as: head tone of hesperidia with undertones of jasmine and chamomile blossom over a soft musk base note. The chamomile blossom note is what makes this particularly interesting to me. Chamomile is, as we know from tea, a very calming and soothing scent. In this fragrance it gives the musky base scent a rounded, comforting but not at all sweet dry down.

Ael- Mat means Guardian Angel in Breton and is a unisex fragrance. I think the chamomile and musk dry down would be very interesting on a man or a woman. As with Din Dan from this house I think Ael- Mat is very wearable and suitable for many occasions.

I suppose in some ways it doesn't have the scent of a classic fragrance in the style of a Chanel or Guerlain but it could become a scent one identified with it's wearer as much as the more traditional perfumes. On the one hand it's quite unusual and would appeal to someone wanting a distinctive fragrance but on the other hand it is very soft and gentle and therefore I think would appeal to people with more classic tastes.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Lostmarc'h: Din- Dan

I find Din- Dan an enchanting name. It apparently means underbrush in Breton- I don’t think Din Dan sounds the slightest bit like what it means but I like it all the more for that reason I think- because it’s a little bit silly. Those two syllables roll off the tongue with such rhythm you can’t help but half sing them. Din- Dan. Like Tick- tock, up- down and ring ring they sound melodic and lift otherwise dreary sentences. You can imagine a little girl or boy smiling and saying Din Dan over and over.

So Din Dan is fun to say and I glad to report it is also a very happy uplifting scent. It is unapologetically upbeat and is almost sings on your skin. Like all good lemon and verbena scents it is very fresh, clean and alive. The lemons of Din Dan are not sharp and are more like the fat, almost too yellow sweet lemons I have seen and smelt in Southern Italy in the groves.

The top singing, laughing note reminds me of the lemon of Monsieur Balmain, a particular favourite of mine amongst the citrus family and an unsung gem for a man or woman in my opinion. What sets Din Dan apart for me is the peach note which makes the lemon less shrill, more rounded and sweeter, without ever being saccharine. This true peach, fresh and skin like scent also seems to prevent a generic cologne smell from setting in during the dry down and therefore keeps Din Dan interesting.

This is certainly a unisex scent, it would be tasteful without being boring on a woman and I think it could be quite dashing on a gentleman in the summer. The bottle is also terribly cute and would look lovely on your dresser on in your wash bag. I think it would be perfect to take to Deauville in early summer but the beauty of a scent like this is you can wear it any time, anywhere and it’s virtually always going to work.

Sunday 11 January 2009

Dear handbag manufacturers of the world...

... I have been looking for approximately two months for a new handbag.

A handbag is in many ways very much like a girl's daemon. It is another part of her, whether she likes it or not.

My requirements are as follows with explanations:

Medium sized: I would like a bag that is attractive and can fit a phone, wallet, notebook (for writing), perfume (of course!), travelcard and possibly other sundries in it. I do not want a teeny tiny bag that I can only fit a phone, a cashcard and a lip gloss into. I am not Carrie Bradshaw and cannot survive with these things alone all day. Neither do I want a humongous bag that is going to give me curvature of the spine. I am not Mary Poppins and I do not need to be able to carry lamps, large mirrors or any other furniture items in my handbag.

Secure: I am a twenty something girl who works in London and regularly uses trains, tubes, buses, a car and her feet to get around. I often take my handbag to work and then straight out to dinner/ bars/ clubs/ theatres/ cinemas. I therefore need a bag that has a zip or other very secure fastening. I would add that London and most other places I have visited experience rain from time to time and a bag that is wide open to the elements is not only insecure but a bit silly if you don't want the contents to get wet.

Attachments, buckles, bling, rhinestones: I want there to be as little glitz and razzmatazz on my bag as possible. I know tastes vary but really how many people can take a bag that looks like it was designed by Barbie to work.

Price: I actually don't mind paying a reasonable to borderline over the top amount for a bag that fulfils these requirements. However the only bag I have come across so far that does is a Birkin and I can't afford one of those- and even if I could I need a new bag now, not in three years (or however long the waiting list is now).

Fakes: I don't do them, I don't want them. Just because I can't afford a Birkin, or Kelly or Bayswater doesn't mean I want a much cheaper, copied version. I am not a snob but I don't watch pirate dvds and I don't want something inferior. I don't see that that means I can't have something nice. I want you to design your own interesting bags please.

My current bag was a mere £50 from Gap and I adore it. It is part you can take me to the office but part bohemian and is just the right size. With hindsight I should have bought two, or more. It is now coming to the end of it's natural life after service over and above the call of duty and I would like to be able to buy something new so I can stop wrestling with the broken zip.

Please can you make me a workable, secure bag of a reasonable size that doesn't cost the earth? I would be most grateful.

Eagerly awaiting your reply... or designs.

Yours Sincerely,

Lostmarc'h: Iroaz

I imagine you can guess that Iroaz means rose in Breton.

As the website says it smells of rose shores- but to me they are not salty, rocky shores but have a very aquatic, marine scent and are lacking the driftwood and flotsam and jetsam beach scents have of late been filled with. To me Iroaz think it smells of a rose garden near the sea, or perhaps fresh cut roses from a bouquet that have fallen into the water.

I am very fond of rose scents but I have found that they particularly require quality materials to be used as a synthetic or one dimensional rose scent is most offensive to me. Happily all the Lostmarc'h line appears to be made with high quality ingredients and the rose scent that is part of Iroaz smells of the fresh, true flower.

I am conscious though that I have never reviewed a whole line of fragrances before and it has presented new challenges. I think when we choose to write about something artistic it tends to be because it has either inspired or challenged us. I usually only write about fragrances that have resonated with me. Of the Lostmarc'h scents Iroaz is the scent that is least for me and were I not reviewing their entire fragrance library I don't imagine I would have written about it at length, although quite possibly with other rose scents as it's is very interesting. I have to admit to not enjoying marine notes and I think I have been a bit handicapped in my enjoyment of Iroaz because of that. I may grow to love the aquatic notes, my education in fragrance is increasing all the time and I am constantly finding I appreciate notes I haven't in the past. Until then Iroaz won't be my favourite but it is a beautifully made and presented perfume and if you like marine notes and the scent of roses on the wind I recommend you seek it out.

Saturday 3 January 2009

Lostmarc'h: Aod

Aod means Seashore in Breton. This scent is quite different to Lann- Ael (reviewed yesterday)and much more what I expected scents from a fragrance house named after a beach to be like.

The Lostmarc'h website lists the perfume as follows: Head note of fresh grapefruit, floral core: gardenia, coconut, seashore aromas

From the description I suppose I was expecting quite a 'normal' beach scent. Grapefruit, coconut, gardenia: these are the ingredients to transport you to sun tan lotion, beaches and cocktails with umbrellas in them (nothing wrong with any of that of course!).

However to me Lostmarc'h have made the scent of sitting on a beach as the sun is going down when a chill has settled in the breeze and you start to want to put you clothes on. As they themselves say this is the snap of your towel in the wind, I would add it is perhaps the smell of your towel, your hair and skin when you get back home after a day at the beach and you need a hot shower. It isn't the scent of a cold beach you walk along with a scarf wrapped around your neck- but there is a suggestion of coolness in it that is refreshing.

Friday 2 January 2009

Lostmarc'h Lann- Ael

Lann- Ael gave this sometimes jaded nose lots to think about. For it is quite unlike any scent I have encountered in perfumery so far.

It is a gourmand scent but its intent doesn’t seem to be seduction by chocolate or vanilla. Lann- Ael apparently means Angel heath in Breton and the official notes for it are: Buckwheat, other cereals, whiffs of milk, apple and vanilla. On me the buckwheat and cereal notes are quite dominant and are what make it so unusual and interesting.

For the first hour or so the scent is very much as the notes describe, it is captivating both because it is quite different and because of the milk and cereal side being so soothing. In the dry down the vanilla and becomes much more dominant and the fragrance becomes less unusual, but the cereal note and the hint of fruit still keep it from being like others available.

To me Lann- Ael is the scent of a woman who nurtures. It is a scent to comfort, to calm and of being happy and peaceful. However if all that sounds a bit boring and innocent I am doing it a disservice. For I think this is a scent lots of people will lean in to smell again and again.

Thursday 1 January 2009


I have some celtic heritage and it's very easy to forget that Bretons have as much claim on a celtic background as the Irish, Scots or Welsh. On smelling the Lostmarc'h scents one cannot fail to be reminded that the Bretagne region is ancient, mysterious, enchanting- and celtic.

I initially looked for a Breton- English dictionary to look up what Lostmarc'h means but in fact their website tells us Lostmarc'h is a place 'Lostmarc'h beach is the last beach continental Europe, located in the Finistère, more precisely on the Crozon peninsula'.

For many years I suppose this beach would have seemed like the end of the world to Europeans. The Lostmarc'h fragrances match this idea of the beach being a magical place, the scents are ethereal, both ancient and otherwordly in a fairytale sense and to me a precious find.

They are not listed as being available in the UK yet so I ordered a complete tester set. I was delighted to receive the most beautifully, carefully packed parcel with six very generous (I mean about 10ml generous) samples of scents wrapped inside tissue with heather and sea shells and an old picture of Bretagnes in traditional dress. There was also a hand written note inside saying they hoped I would enjoy the fragrances. I was enchanted and so wanted to love the perfumes- which luckily I did. I will be reviewing the fragrances individually over the coming days but in the meantime you can read all about them here.

Lostmarc'h beach picture: courtesy of here