Monday, October 6, 2008

Autumn's Small Indulgences

Sometimes in order to feel pampered and special one needs a little indulgence to make us feel like we deserve a little something for ourselves. In the spirit of divulging some of my finds to inspire you I am listing some of the things that make me tick this autumn.

My biggest weakness is books: books of all sorts should line the walls of a vast old-British-style library decked in leathers and mahogany, like those shown in Merchant Ivory films ~it is my idea of heaven. It wouldn't hurt if this vision is accompanied by the nose-tingling smell of old parchment and pipe tobacco and the eerily minimalist, full of hidden emotion Richard-Robbins-penned soundtrack of "Remains of the Day". Sometimes I am told by my entourage that I have masculine tastes in those things, but I laugh it off: why not?
The poetry of Reiner Maria Rilke is always a propos, but autumn introspection adds its own varnish of the untangible and the futile. I am picking up this tome. On my bedstand is the just finished novel "Their Most Serene Majesties" (1961) by modern Greek writer Angelos Vlahos, a can't-put-down palimpsest of Byzantium intrigue and political back-stabbing during the era of Comnène/Comnenid Dynasty rulers (12th century AD). I am definitely re-reading this soon!
One of the books that escapes this somber and more serious mood is "Oliver Finds His Way", a children's book written by Phyllis Root and beautifully illustrated by Christopher Denise. It's "only autumn" is the phrase that should resonate with all those who like the little bear lost in the woods find themselves trapped in everyday problems. Read an informative review here. Half the pleasure is of course leafing the books while slowly sipping my latest addiction: Lapacho Orange tea ~an infusion of Lapacho tree bark peppered with orange, ginger, hibiscus and rose with a bittersweet aftertaste.

The autumnal melancholy of October will no doubt find me rewatching one of my favourite Henry James' novel adaptations on the silver screen: the intensely moving, yet exquisitely restrained Wings of the Dove from 1997 starring Elena Bonham Carter and Linus Roache. The Venetian canals seem to come alive in all their melancholy as a tangled web of love, trust and loyalty come into the wistful finale.

Fragrantly-speaking, I am putting on the front all the warmer scents in my collection with much rejoice, altough the default rainy weather scent remains Mitsouko, always. But several other little things take my mind off more complex compositions.
Blissoma by Irie Star includes aromatherapy soy candles as a more ecological alternative to paraffin and I am overjoyed to see the option in a sanely-priced range. Two of those candles are eminently suitable for autumn and its two predominent moods and I am lighting them in succession in my living-room as we speak: the festive one that rolls as soon as Halloween and all the other celebrations come around; and the pensive, introspective one that comes with mist and cloudy skies that keep us indoors cuddled up with a good book.
Celebrate includes notes of wild orange, clove, bay, sweet orange, and myrrh and the smell is uplifting, sweet, quite spicy and vibrant with the piquancy of pomanders and sweet resins melting in the fireplace. Peace on the other hand includes notes of cool frankincense, lavender, peppery elemi, palmarosa, and murmuring vetiver and delivers the serenity of mind that induces a state of meditation: sometimes when one gets home after a tiring day there's simply nothing better than having a bubble bath with some candles around and sipping a good Pinot Noir. Blissome also featuresthree Winter scents in perfume oils that promise to take us further away into cold weather. They do sound like fun!

I knew Pacifica Fragrances from a friend who had generously gifted me with their Nerola body butter, which layered perfectly with my summery fragrances. But I was gratified to see that Pacifica has now come up with a collection of autumn Solid Fragrances to take in your purse or on travels when liquids are just too messy, too airport-inspection troublesome. The perfect solution! The little tins are adorable and small enough so as not to get bored with the scent, while the boxes are graphically excellent and bearing a witty quote.
My top choice of the ones I tried is Madagascar Spice, centered around one of my favourite notes: Spicy clove, predominately produced in Madagascar, is the overwhelming note in this scent. Sweet orange and just a small touch of black pepper sit atop, making a perfect combination that recalls a pomander or traditional Middle East delicasies. Not surprising: Once a coveted aphrodisiac clove began its perfumery career in early Arab perfumes. The tree is thought to have originated in the Moluccas of Indonesia where it grew till the Dutch conquest of the East Indies in wild proliferation. The Dutch however uprooted a majority of wild clove trees in order to monopolize the production of cloves but in an act of divine retribution seeds were later stolen from the Dutch-controlled groves and planted in the regions of Zanzibar and Madagascar. I am keeping the yummy solid in my purse for touch-ups and layering over my spicy, warm fragrances.
Spanish Amber is also scrumptious and completely in tune for autumn, when the crunch of leaves underfoot beckons you to compliment your cashmere sweaters with an equally tactile fragrance. A warming blend with resinous amber notes at its heart, rosy geranium and woody sandalwood in the middle, while citrusy bergamot and elemi provide the vivid start. It's an amber blend that also comes as a soap, the smell of which reminds me of Ambre Sultan; the perfect alternative for people who can't do the former in perfume form. There is currently a 20% off offer on the Tibetan Mountain Temple line. Vetiver and Indonesian patchouli are blended with complimentary notes of violet, wood, roots, and soil, as well as the surprising tang of fgrapefruit in the top and the effect of cool and warm is intriguing: it's a little strange and unusual incense for my sensibilities, although I realise that its bouquet would be in tune to the Buddhists among us.

My nails will see a good lacquering of darker colours. I like this Chanel nail varnish: Fantastique. A berry that seems to have a light of its own, very pretty and unmatronly.
Good ole' Mavala of Switzerland iwith their excellent quality nail polishes will be handy too. My summer staple of bright, pop-red Los Angeles for my tootsies will give way to the brownish-berry of New Delhi and the elegant light greyish mauve-y hue of Via Venetto on my fingertips (bear in mind the colours are more vibrant in real life than on the screen). The great thing about Mavala is they come in very small cute bottles so they never have the time to dry up and one coat is more than enough for opaque and lustruous colour that lasts for days.
And my lips will get the Guerlain treatment with a nude that actually looks good and not "dead" because of its rosey undertones: Envie de Beige (#540) from their vast Kiss Kiss lipstick collection, looks darker and more matte in the tube but goes on creamy and semi-opaque. The perfect accompaniment to smokey-grey and plum eyes!

Forest pic by Tani Shepitkoat Manuscript "The Last Judgement", folio 51v, Gospel Book, c. 1050-75 via of Blissoma and Pacifica items through their websites, of Guerlain lipstick courtesy of LuciaFi/Flickr, of Chanel Fantastique via


  1. Rilke! You and I share the same vision of heaven.

  2. I am always looking for a good book to read as I have a slight reading addiction- the Angelos Vlahos book sounds fascinating!

    I, too, am transforming my beauty routine to feel more autumnal- raisin or wine colors for my nails and deep plums on the eyes or lips and a richer blush for the cheeks- fantastique!

  3. Anonymous04:44

    Books, candles and perfume! Do we need more than that?! :)

    Reading, 'What is the What' by Dave Eggers. Burning 'Firewood' candles by Henri Bendel. Taking the heavy orientals and moving them to the front of my wardrobe (tested Opium [the woman's] for the 1st time this week...a wow!).

  4. Helg - you are all set for autumn. What are you going to do for winter I wonder???

  5. Anonymous12:27

    Apart from the wonderful "Light of September" Song you kindly posted earlier, there are many things I love in autumn...

    Ruby Tangerine Color - a very exotic reddish orange brightening even the most drab of autumn days - goes great with grey as a matter of fact!

    Nail Polish - still Rajah's Ruby of OPI, it's dark but glistens red in sunlight

    Books & movies - I've taken to reviewing the Lord of the Rings and enjoy Rivendell and Lorien and all the elvish dwellings.

    Music - L'Ete Indien with Joe Dassin or even a later interpretation by the composer himself, Toto Cutugno. Anything Aznavour.

    Taste - baked apple with cinnamon and cloves.

    Fragrance - Elixir de Merveilles and Lolita Lempicka Fleur de Corail.

  6. D,

    obviously we share some taste osmosis of the premier kind :-))
    Glad to see you well and thanks!

  7. DC,

    I highly recommend the book, it's quite absorbing!
    I can picture you in those wonderful colours, the soft light of Cali is also very complimentary and not making anyone look "bruised". Enjoy!

  8. M,

    taking notes on book and candle :-)
    Opium is FANTASTIC! It's my signature whenever I meet new people and the longest standing staple in my wardrobe.

  9. M,

    LOL! I will certainly find something to take my fancy till then. If not perfumes, then books and films are certain :-))

  10. NG,

    what a lovely colour that sounds, I will look it up!
    Oh Dassin....what you're reminding me of!! We used to spoof the first line in my native language and it sounded funny :-P

    I also love Elixir des Merveilles and should look up Fleur de Coraille on your rec! Thanks :-)

  11. Some things on my mind lately:

    (1) Autumnal fragrances: Mitsouko (of course), and also L'Air Du Désert Marocain, the new L'Artisan fragrance for Aedes Venustas.

    (2) Candles: Diptyque's Feu de Bois and Maquis. Also Cire Trudon's Roi Soleil candle.

    (3) Cashmere sweaters, leather boots, and scarves of all kinds.

    By the way, E, your "vast old-British-style library decked in leathers and mahogany, like those shown in Merchant Ivory films" sounds a bit like the L'Artisan home fragrance for Bottega Veneta, Intreccio No. 1 (by Olivia Giacobetti). According to the publicity materials, "The sweetness of polished wood is folded around supple leather, conjuring the moment when one sinks into a large armchair and inhales the rich aroma of book bindings and burning candles." Sounds divine, doesn't it? I think I'm about to order a bottle.

  12. Autumn/ fall smells I love: Wet London pavements, wet country grass mixed with leaves, bonfire night burning leaves mixed with the smell of candyfloss, hot toffee apples and fireworks.

    I am newly obsessed with chai tea lattes and cinnamon apple tea.

    Food wise I am thinking of steaming hot pies and curry! particularly Sag Aloo, spinach and potato curry, so warming and comforting.

    For my nails I am going to go for Ruby slipper, a sparkly plum red from Chanel I bought in America on my last visit but have never got round to wearing.

    For scents I have been wearing Bois De Iles and I wore L by Lolita De Lempicka for the first time in a long time yesterday. I agree with you and others though, Mitsouoko is perfect really.

    Books wise the BBC have had a Tess of the D'Urbevilles on, I don't think it was one of their best (although there were great things about it, the seaside town and stonehenge) but it has made me want to read the book.

    It's funny you should mention the Remains of the Day, I adore the film and it's definitely going to get pulled out for a watch on a rainy Sunday, even though I am almost sure to cry and cry!

  13. As far as Autumn goes a few favorite loves:

    -Lolita Lempicka (the original)
    -My Sephora Cassis nail polish (gorgeous dark cassis color)
    -Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (so utterly perfect for Autumn Evenings)
    -Angela Carter short stories
    -Breaking out my candles

  14. E, why did you have to point out that Tibetan Mountain Temple is on sale? I have been resisting buying it for months. I may cave now ;-) I think a lot of the Pacifica scents are very nice--Tahitian Gardenia is another I like.

    Autumn and winter are my seasons for revisiting my favorite Iris Murdoch novels. "The Philosopher's Pupil" is a great read on a gloomy November day. Joyce's "Dubliners" is another book I turn to as the cold weather comes on.

  15. J,

    Mitsouko is perfection. I should try the Cire Trudon ones, thanks.
    The L'artisan I have smelled in their "gris gris" at a friend's and it was indeed lovely, but I should seek in room spray most probably :-)

  16. Rose,

    your food choices and smells (esp. the country ones *sigh with longing and nostalgia for English countryside*) are eminently exquisite.
    Tess is one of my favourite novels: he seems to paint such vivid pictures of country life, no?
    And I find ROTD *very* moving as well...

  17. J,

    you reminded me of Irving and my mind was cast to the Burton adaptation: love it! Should re-read and re-watch.
    And LL is great in cooler weather: seems wickedly fairy-tale-like!

    So how is the quality on the Sephora nail polishes? (I admit I have been only eyeing their instant-vernis patches gitzmo)

  18. M,

    oh, do not let me the enabler :/
    Seriously, I haven't tried the Gardenia (probably should) but the M.Spice is very reminiscent of Christmas desserts traditional here and is giving me cravings (yum!) now. I also like their Nerola a lot.

    Iris Murdoch: have only read about her, should remedy.


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