What I’ll Check Out in November

November, and possibly June, must be the most underrated months. It’s all about waiting for the next month – the bringer of the holidays. Thus both months are rather unassuming and chill because they are never the main stage for anything. Although the amok-run at work reaches its peak just before start of holidays (because the world must be finalised by then) and can make life highly stressful, the beginning of November can actually be quite enjoyable.

While we cannot escape the perverted commercial build-up to Christmas that hits us already early October, it is OK to start enjoying its benefits in November. The use of fir – real or plastic –  is one of the least naff ways to spruce up (ha hah) spaces for the festival season. Therefore frequenting a coffee-place lined with fir and lit with fairy lights can be an extremely pleasant November-hobby.

Seasonal scented candles

I am somewhat unsure about the need to turn one’s home into a spiced cinnamon smelling shrine because Christmas, but seasonal scented candles cannot be entirely escaped. 

The masters of smelly wax at Diptyque have upped their game in the last years. They dropped the obvious Christmas-references from the design, and overall present a solid selection of three holiday scents each year. Already in shops, they are worth checking out. 

If you want to minimise the amount of decisions to be taken, especially on something as seemingly trivial as the smell of a candle, you will never go wrong with their perennial classic, Feu de Bois. It smells of burnt wood, is elegant without anything that smacks of “spiced something” and works around the year.

Double-masking

The change of season, lack of sunlight and daily exposure to various types of air-conditioning have made my skin mental and caused hair to fall off (not all, but lots). There’s no overnight trick, but I’m currently overdosing on vitamins D, C and B as well as Omega 3. 

I tried daily double-masking for a week and must admit that the Japanese do not recommend this for nothing. I’ve now taken this practise down to 3-4 times a week, and it does seem to have a positive effect (skintone is more even, less breakouts, texture more plumped, absorbs products better). I use the duo “The Bean” and “The Petal” by Mahalo Skincare – the former a detoxifying and purifying mask, and the latter a hydrating and calming one. It does seem like an extravagantly time-consuming thing to do, but I do not lounge on a velvet canopy in silk robes while I let the masks work – most indoor activities can be performed while having one’s face covered in pink paste.​

mahalo1

US Midterm Elections

I have my eye on the election day for one reason only: the faith of Roe v. Wade. The 70s landmark decision on the legality of abortion is again threatened, and the composition of the future Congress will play a crucial role in deciding the future direction of women’s reproductive rights. If you are American & eligible to vote, do. 

What’s in it for us Europeans? A good reminder that women’s rights do not make steady linear progress on their own, and whatever rights have been negotiated, can be backtracked overnight. Thus always one eye on the ball, girls, always. 

I have two recommendations on this topic if you wish to understand better why the issue has polarised American elections for decades: Documentary “Reversing Roe” on Netflix is very recent and very thorough. It covers US presidents and their stance on the abortion issue from Reagan to Trump – but the most interesting part is the peek at the backroom politics and the huge influence the biggest lobbies have on top politicians.

A Spark of Light” by Jodi Picoult is a recent novel about an abortion center in Mississippi that also becomes the center for a hostage drama (the book is not based on a real story but makes references to similar, real attacks to other women’s health centres). 

While the book is not exactly your cinnamon-smelling hygge-read, it’s an excellent novel and the subject matter is enormously important. 

Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”

Out on 13 November, this is the first of the two upcoming Obama-memoirs. I admit that I only have a very superficial image of Michelle Obama – I love the way she dressed as FLOTUS, find her an excellent public speaker, she has very cool friends (Sarah Jessica Parker will do the author-interview on the publication day) and she totally nailed it in the Carpool Karaoke. 

As we have witnessed, the threshold for qualifying as a decent public (political) figure has sunk to historic depths lately. If there’s no-one to look up to these days, reminiscing in the days past is the next best thing.

Red Wine

Elevator Music and Other Essentials

Back from Stockholm. I traveled up there in an attempt to escape the Brussels heatwave but what do you know – the Nordics are apparently some of the hottest spots in Europe at the moment. So it was hot. But it was also supremely beautiful, so I’m not complaining. 

We were experiencing the hot weather city-break dilemma bigly in Stockholm: in principle the department stores are the only places with proper air-conditioning, therefore the only places one wants to hang out at, on the other hand one cannot fathom the idea of trying on clothes. Or anything, really.

Also there’s the end of sales period, which is never an inspiring season to go to shops for anything. The new stuff is not yet properly in, and whatever remains from the previous season is the stuff that no-one really wanted in the first place (those people who get their the amazing, classic and timeless wardrobe staples of superior quality for the fraction of the price exclusively by shopping at sales, I don’t want to know you). 

I read some months ago that the Swedish perfume house Byredo had come out with a new perfume “Elevator Music” in collaboration with an American rap-artist. I don’t know much about rap music, but what caught my eye in the article was “limited edition“. This triggered an immediate Pavlovian reaction – I set about finding the exclusive perfume with the fervour of a rabid dog. 

What luck, then, to find oneself in Stockholm, the home of Byredo. I now have a pretty bottle of “Elevator Music”, or the P-Diddy perfume, as I’ve taken to calling it (the collaboration is actually with Virgil Abloh but as I said, I ain’t no connoisseur of rappers). It actually smells very much like Byredo’s “Mojave Ghost”, and it’s a kind of a watery, yet woody scent that mainly likes to keep to itself. 

I also decided to give Frank Body’s Coffee Scrub another chance (you can read my account of the previous attempt here). Whether I like it or not, some body parts need to be exposed to the world in this heat. I got some of the scrub with coconut and actually quite like it this time round. Also my holiday-self (an uncomplicated beach-girl) got some foot-cream by Sol de Janeiro that smells of tropic and is quite possibly something I would not consider in winter (when I rather go for the lovely camphor by Santa Maria Novella) but hey, it came with a nifty surfboard-shaped, travel-size foot-file. Sold. (The cream is actually very good)

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Since I am listing all these glamorous items here, let me finish with Ecolomega’s Omega Fish Oil Caplets. Omega oil products are of course available in Belgium as well, but I have not come across this brand here. It’s Danish and their stuff is extracted from Danish trout without using any solvents, chemicals and/or additives (most other brands use processed industry crude fish oils). The caplets contain Omegas 3, 6, 7, 9 and 11. They smell rank but are very good.

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I also bought a winter coat, but as I can barely type the words winter coat, I shall leave the introduction for when the temperature is about 30 degrees Celsius less than now.

Spring Scents: Going Masculine

I’m yet to spring-clean my apartment, yet seem to be terribly concerned about my perfume being of last season. After having been very  loyal to Le Labo’s Santal 33 for two years I decided to move on. (In all honesty I did have a short fling with Oud Immortel by Byredo last year. It was the result of me actually ending up stalking a woman at a Brussels bar, trying to figure out what perfume she was wearing. She was obviously on a date that evening so I could not barge in and enquire about her scent. What followed was a month-long search for something oud-y. Byredo’s Oud Immortel was the closest I could find and am actually quite sure it was her perfume as well.)

Anyway. As Le Labo has recently started opening more shops in Europe, also Santal 33 is becoming a household thing. It used to be the quintessential New York-scent (it’s their top seller in New York and every insta-worthy brunch-joint on Manhattan absolutely reeks of Santal 33), but has now become something that absolutely everybody wears (and I know this because I haul that stuff to friends and colleagues from travels). While it is hands down the most complemented perfume I’ve ever worn (I’ve been stopped on the streets by people enquiring what I’m wearing, as well as been asked about my perfume at bank, supermarket and restaurants), it might be becoming a bit boring now. 

Both Santal 33 and Oud Immortel are unisex scents, so it was no surprise I was going for something masculine, strong but ​crispy (it’s supposed to be spring, after all). I have been enchanted by Cire Trudon’soudy Revolution and actually had my mind set on it. However, once in the shop I took an unexpected turn to Frederic Malle’s cabinet and started spritzing away. 

I retuned home with not just unisex, but totally mega-masculine French Lover from the Frederic Mallecollection. Its creator Pierre Bourdon says he wanted to create the ultimate man’s scent, so here we are. According to the leaflet in the packaging, my perfume “serves a confident virility”. While that remains to be seen, the scent is a pleasant mixture of cedar wood/vetiver/patchouli with a touch of iris. And yes, I suppose you would call it a rather traditional men’s scent.

While smelling the scents is essentially how we learn what we like and what’s available, perfume business is also an interesting trade to read about. I’m no connoisseur of perfumes, but have a keen interest to read what goes on behind closed doors of a global business that rolls in massive sales mark-ups for nearly everything that’s puts on the market. Who decides what smells good with what? Apparently it’s in the hands, or noses, rather, of precious few people.

Should you have interest in reading how perfumes or eaux de toilettes are mass-produced (and indeed what separates them from washing detergents: very little, I can tell you that much) and what amount of work and research goes into creating a perfume, I recommend “​The Perfume Lover” by Denyse Beaulieu. The book is by no means new, but it is entertaining all the same and includes nice literary references.

In addition I would strongly recommend a blog Bois de Jasmin, which is written by editor, writer and professionally trained perfume specialist Victoria Frolova.  I had the pleasure of having her give a beginners’ course on smelling perfumes last year chez moi and have been an avid fan since. Go have a look!

masculine-scents

P.S. To counterbalance the above masculine selection, I am keeping a standby supply of Carnal Flower by Dominique Ropion for Frederic Malle. The scent was introduced to me by the inimitable tour de force behind Life In a Cold Climate when I was sporting Lys Mediterranée (also from Frederic Malle collection) in the office a few years ago. Carnal Flower is strictly speaking not your everyday light spritz for the office (if ever there was one) as the name kind of suggests. It’s heavy of tuberose, but cut with camphor and eucalyptus to take off most of the sweetness, and regularly tops the “sexiest perfumes” -lists (which are cheesy per definition, but in any case it is one of the fiercest tuberose scents) and is very, very feminine. 

Deck the Halls! December Checklist

Celebrate good times: the days will become longer in just 3 weeks! Because it’s been dark and miserable for far too long, I’ve refused to leave home for about a month now (except to go to work, where they are still not buying my “I’m teleworking” -assurances) and therefore am slowly becoming stir-crazy. A month ago I thought I’d use the darkness productively by being virtuous and studious whenever I can, and decided I’m allowed a glass of red wine in the evenings if I do my French homework at the same time. Bilan d’ensemble: Zero French homework done (unless internet shopping counts as conjugaison les verbes, which I think it actually does). Don’t ask me about the wine.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there’s no avoiding it if you live anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. It’s a nice break from work but also bloody exhausting. The hysterical consumerism around it is both scary and fascinating. Being locked up with one’s parents for several days  to “celebrate” makes it pure torture. I do like the weeks before Christmas, though, and despite the last month of the year always being insane at work, I like to start pretending it’s Christmas around mid-December. Herewith a little advent-101 with something old, something new, something tried, tested, DIY and something with green packaging. Everything can be introduced to daily life as of immediately.

December movie

For some strange reason my December special is the British-American “Love, Actually”. Anyone who has seen it knows it’s the silliest film everbarely has a plot to hold it together (it actually has nine, all of them crap), and everything about is absolute, utter , sexist nonsense, but it’s part of my personal Christmas tradition nevertheless. Pairs well with red wine (this is becoming bit of a theme here) and expensive chocolates.

December song to make you laugh

Nat King Cole singing “O Tannenbaum” in German. Genuinely the most hilarious thing. I had Christmas carols playlist on random on Spotify this week and this gem cheered me right up.

​December mantra

If you could believe in Santa Claus for 8 years, you can believe in yourself for 5 seconds. You’ve got this.

2017 December DIY

I’ve been harking on about a certain feminist t-shirt a couple of times now. It’s a t-shirt that has an essay slogan in the front and it costs €600. Here’s your gift idea for this year: Buy a white t-shirt (please consider buying it somewhere that sell things made by adults who receive a salary). Then buy Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” – booklet for a few euros and wrap in a paper of your choice. Hey presto! You will give a t-shirt with the fashionable feminist message plus the actual text explaining why we should all be feminists.You’re all very welcome.

t-shirt

December scented candles 

The only reason I buy into the scented Christmas candles-craze is because I want my home to smell like a pine forest around the year, and many brands bring out special woody scents for Christmas. So it’s an occasion to stock up. I don’t care for the ubiquitous concoctions of cinnamon/spice/vanilla, but have bit of a weak spot for anything that smells of burning wood. The Queen of smelly wax (Diptyque) do my favourites “Feu de Bois” which brings a fireplace to households that do not have one, and “Choisya” which is a Mexican orange blossom and smells disturbingly good (I told you haven’t left home for a month). Most things by Diptyque are lovely. As is Namche Bazar by Astier de Villatte. 

December foot cream

A recent pilates class turned into a horrible bare feet -situation because I’d forgotten to pack socks in the morning rush. Apparently I had also forgotten to smear my feet with cream since about June. Below my favourites, which I use in principle

foot-creams

December chocolates

Neuhaus marzipan, eaten in copious quantities. For variety, mix with Pierre Marcolini’s Orangettes. If you want to have a bit of a Christmas tree, throw some Charbonnel et Walker Pink Marc de Champagne truffles in the mix. This is becoming slightly pornographic so I’ll stop here. 

December books

I will do a separate post about festive literature, but already want to give you a heads up about Jeffrey Eugenides’ (Virgin Suicides, The Marriage Plot) latest: “Fresh Complaint”. A hilarious collection of short stories that go well with, um, red wine and chocolates.