Sunrise Over Vienna

Just a short note today – I wanted to share the amazing light we saw on our way to school this morning.


Have a great day!

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Monday Question – What Is On Your Nightstand Right Now?

When I did the People In Perfumeland interviews the question that got the most attention was the one about the nightstand. It sems to engage the nosy person in all of us.

So today I want to know what you have next to your bed!

What are the contents of your nightstand at the moment?


My Answer:

Mundane and uninteresting things first:

My nightstand has a digital clock, because knowing the time at all points during the night is important to me, I want to know how long I still have before the alarm goes off – nightly interruptions are less since the boys are older, but still rather frequent.

Next to it is my asthma inhaler for emergency use and a box of tissues.

The more interesting items:

There is my Santa Maria Novella Pasta di Mandorle handcream – its smell of citrus and almonds takes me back to this summer in Italy in an instant. Lovely.

Since I am a lip balm addict, you can find plenty of those around the house, on my nightstand is a tin of Smith’s Rosebud Salve and Nivea Lip Butter, both very nice balms in my opinion.

Then I always bring my Kindle when I go to bed (I tote it around the whole day wherever I go). Currently I am reading something that was intended for a bit of light relief, Jojo Moyes Me Before You, and it is of course written in the manner of so called “chick-lit”, but the subject matter is anything but light and I expect to put the box of tissues on the nightstand to good use before too long.

In the drawer of my nightstand you can find the “bible” – Paula Begoun’s Don’t Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me. It has seen less action since the inception of Paula’s Beautypedia, but I still like to keep it on hand.

The ubiquitious iPhone is there as well of course, and during its hours on the nightstand it functions mostly as a notebook.

The second drawer holds body lotion (for days when I am too lazy to use it earlier in the bathroom), earplugs (never once used, but I like the theoretical option to tune out my dear family) and an inexplicable single sock belonging to one of my sons that didn’t yet find its way to more appropriate lodgings.

So, not very interesting I am afraid…

What is on/in your nightstand? I can’t wait to hear!


Posted in Monday Question | Tagged | 65 Comments

Sunday, Foodie Sunday – The Humble Brownie No Refined Sugar Version

By Val, the Cookie Queen

Greetings to you all! Here is an alterative version to my famous Humble Brownie – no refined sugar, lots of taste!

Let’s crack on with it. I am sure we are all too busy for fussing around.


225 g (8 oz) dried stoned (haha) dates
112 g (4 oz) softened butter
1 egg
1 small banana, mashed
vanilla 2 tsps
90 g (3.2 oz) flour plus 2 levelled tsps baking powder
112 g (4 oz) melted good quality black chocolate

Put the dates into a small saucepan and just cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, simmer for about 12 minutes or until soft.

I buy dates that already have the stones removed, but of course you can take them out yourself.

Cool the dates down and strain off any liquid that might be left. (I usually find the water has been absorbed.) Purée the dates in a machine until totally smooth.

Double check that there are no stones because it could damage your machine or break someones teeth. (I have insurance for this, but you probably don’t.) You can complete this step one day before and keep the purée until needed. No problem.

Preheat your oven. 180°c fan oven, 190°c conventional / 360°f fan oven, 375°f conventional.

Melt your chocolate. I do mine in the microwave on a low setting, checking every twenty seconds and giving it a stir. Set on the side.


Put the dates and the softened (important) butter into your mixing bowl. Beat well. Add the egg, the banana and the vanilla. Beat well again!

Add the chocolate and mix in well. Then fold in the flour until its has all been incorporated.


Put the whole lot into a pan. Place in oven.
Probably about 25 minutes. You will have to look. Should be firm to the touch, but still springy when you do touch it. As ever, do not overcook. Never overcook brownies.


If you want to top them with a luscious ganache – nothing could be easier.

1/4 cup (60 mls) whipping cream
84g (3 oz) dark chocolate chopped up

Microwave the cream on a high heat for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped chocolate. Leave for a couple of minutes and then stir until smooth. Pour the whole lot over the brownies and spread it out.


Put the brownies in the fridge for about half an hour (or until you want to eat them!)

These are so good, much better than they sound. Rich and chewy and not too sweet.




Posted in By Val, Food | Tagged , , , | 34 Comments

The Hermès Cahiers – Sketches And Drawings By Philippe Dumas

Late last year Hermès (of which I am a bit of a fan ;) ) released nine small books – sketchbooks or cahiers – with drawings by Philippe Dumas, heir and CEO of Hermès. The books have been published by the esteemed Parisian printing press Actes Sud.

The books include sketches and drawings (watercolours, pencil and ink) of artefacts of the Musée Hermès at 24 rue Faubourg St Honoré in Paris. They are grouped into various themes, many of which are horse-related, since the “Sellier” business is what Hermès started out with of course.

I wanted to share a few glimpses of what is inside these lovely volumes.

photo 1

The Titles are La Mer, Vive le Cheval, La Route, Les Metamorphoses, Vive la France, L’Exotisme, La Vie á l’Air Libre, Le Soleil and Voyage en Extrême-Orient.

photo 2

Variations of the famous Calèche motif that is part of the house’s logo.

photo 5

Those sketches have even prompted me to try my own hand at drawing and it is not all that bad actually. Who knew I could draw a horse?! (Maybe one day, when I’ve practiced lots more, I’ll show you… )

photo 3

My sons’ favorite motive – the sheep-drawn carriage. ;)

photo 4

I love the water colours in this one.

photo 1 (1)

Detail from La Mer.

photo 3 (1)

Detail from La Route “The dangers of fast transportation”.

photo 2 (1)

From Les Metamorphoses (btw, Metamorphosis was the theme of the house in 2014, this year it is Flaneur Forever! – I’m looking forward as to how they will interpret that, especially if/how Jean Claude Ellena will).

photo 5 (1)

I love this deeper insight into the history of Hermès aesthetic and design. They draw on their heritage and celebrate continuity without ever being stale or old-fashioned. Not only their scarf and RTW designs but virtually anything that leaves the house is imbued with history, tradition and heritage. The motifs found in the books can be found throughout the world of Hermès, used in ingenious ways to make products that are functional works of art – just what good design should be.

photo 4 (2)

I bought all nine cahiers, but gave one (Le Soleil) to my mother in law for Christmas, one is conspicuously absent from the photo shoot as it was in my handbag being toted around the city.

photo 5 (2)

And best thing? These cost 10$ each. A truly affordable treat from Hermès for once. ;)

The cahiers are available on Amazon (UK here, US here).

Note: copyright owned by Hermès and Philippe Dumas, photos by me.

Posted in Fragrance Reviews | 26 Comments

Winter Chic – Review: 4160 Tuesdays Doe in the Snow

By Tara

4160 Tuesdays is the quirky independent perfume house of Sarah McCartney, who makes all the fragrances by hand at her studio in west London.

“The name: if we live until we’re 80, we have 4160 Tuesdays.
That’s all. Let’s not waste them.
On a Tuesday, do something different. At the moment, we’re using ours to make perfume.”

Sarah’s scents tend to be as whimsical as their names, which include Invisible Ben, Tart’s Knicker Drawer and The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO). 


I particularly liked the sound of Doe in the Snow because it’s a retro fragrance inspired by the fruity chypres of the 1960s and 70s. A time when many of these kind of perfumes had a laid-back, throwaway chic.

Launched this year, Doe in the Snow has top notes of grapefruit, cedrat, yuzu, peach aldehyde, snow; heart notes of cedarwood, rose, jasmine, oak; base notes of opoponax, oakmoss, leather and green tea absolute.

The icy citrus in the opening burst of fizz gives the initial stage an enlivening feeling, like stepping out first thing into a freshly snow covered landscape. You look at familiar surroundings with new eyes. Your senses seem extra sharp as the white blanket makes everything quiet and bright.

The florals in the heart are smooth, silky and pleasantly sweet. In the drydown the snow has melted on a patch of ground and we get a slightly earthy, mossy base.

The lovely vintage feel is sustained from beginning to end.

Although it has a snow white theme, for some reason I keep visualising it as green. I can only think this is a result of the combination of the tart citrus, oakmoss and green tea.

The frosty covering gives Doe in the Snow a clever twist. It has a crisp, crystallised quality. Think “Diorella on Ice” or even “Sous le Vent on a Snowball”.

Despite feeling like “Citrus fruits, flowers and woods, stirred with an icicle” as Sarah so nicely puts it, Doe in the Snow doesn’t feel cold and uncomfortable. You’re walking into the Big Freeze but the serenity of the scene insulates you from the chill.

Doe in the Snow is elegant as chypres usually are, but what’s good about it is that it’s so relaxed and easy to wear. It doesn’t have the stand-offish nature of some in the genre. There’s no lofty attitude.

It does indeed have gentle doe eyes rather than a steely stare.

Photo via blog restivo

Photo via blog restivo

So although Doe in the Snow was created for a bride on her winter wedding day, you don’t need a special occasion to wear it. It would add a dash of class no matter what clothes you had on. In much the same way a slick of red lipstick can pull together any outfit.

I think it would be fun to wear Doe in the Snow on Christmas Day. A special time of year, but one many of us spend a large amount of lounging around in our pyjamas.

Did you try 4160 Tuesdays? Any favorites?

Posted in By Tara, Chypre, Fragrance Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

Bittersweet Memory Of A Big White Floral – Review: Ineke Gilded Lily

Hello Olfactoria’s Travelers,

Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies and Perfume Posse thrilled to be with you all today. I hope life is treating you all well and that your holidays are wonderful. If times are tough for you now I am sorry. All I can say is bad times are like the rain, you can’t stop it, it will pass and pretty soon the sun will come out. It will happen, depend upon it.

I have in my collection a bottle that has always seemed delightfully festive in its lovely red, gold & black. Festive and elegant. Even the name suggests the over the top extravagance of the holiday season:

Gilded Lily was created by Ineke Ruhland for Ineke in 2010.

Gilded Lily Ineke FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Top: Pineapple, rhubarb, grapefruit, elemi
Heart: Goldband lily
Base: Patchouli, oakmoss, labdanum

For our house here in Australia Christmas season is usually an onslaught of friends and family. A full table, laughter, joy, probably a snippy fight, great food and the camaraderie of years spent together. I know I’m the lucky one yet this time is always bitter sweet. I miss my Mum, Dad and Sister. In the end though family has become what I have made with my BFF Kath’s family and Jin. We are all a good fit and I love the madness that is Christmas Day in 35-40C down here.

Beach-Santa WATodayPhoto Stolen WAToday (Problem with using the image? Let us know)

Gilded Lily seems the perfect accompaniment to this Holiday bitter-sweetness. Its opening of lightly sweetened fruits, the green brightness of the resin and the softest kiss of lily that can be smelled from very early on. Sweet but not sugared, a lovely treacle thick waft of something quite unusual, disarming and teetering on awkward. That frisson of nearly going over the line of gorgeous into disgusting; but Gilded Lily only skirts the edges and remains prim and ladylike through the heart. I love this nod to naughty, even though it doesn’t properly manifest, it keeps me guessing even when I know the outcome. The base notes conjure for me a well loved leather handbag, filled with remembered scents of cosmetics, fragrance and all the othe paraphernalia of modern womanhood.

Gilded Lily Ineke Sibel FlickrPhoto Stolen Flickr

Reading back it feels like Gilded Lily wears big on me, it does not. Yes, it is fragrant and lovely but no BIG WHITE FLORAL, rather a memory of a BWF. A hologram that has all the hallmarks of the BWF but manages to remain calm and composed and only hint at outrageous. I like Gilded Lily for that, and I am still beautifully fragrant but sotto voce. Yes, the impact of being softly and beautifully fragrant. Perfect for a night of reflection.

Further reading? Perfume Shrine and TheNonBlonde
First In Fragrance has €95/75ml
Posh Peasant has samples starting at $3.50/ml

Gilded Lily Ineke Jumping_for_joy WikipediaPhoto Stolen Wikipedia

Whatever you are doing or wherever you are doing it I hope your holidays are/were on the happier side of bittersweet. Even if you are solo this year try and do one good thing that you really enjoy, luxuriate in it. Be it cooking, reading, cleaning, sewing, surfing the internet, walking your dog, window shopping, spritzing fragrance or helping at the local church. Whatever, wherever, I wish you health, wealth and happiness.


Portia xxx

Editor’s Note: Portia had intended for this post to go up on Christmas day. It is entirely my fault that it did not (my commitment issues, you know? ;) ), so I adapted it a bit to still fit the aftermath of the holidays. But in any case, Portia’s words are timeless and make sense now just as much as on Christmas day.

Posted in By Portia, Floral, Fragrance Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

Monday Question – What Are Your Current Favorite Things?

This post is a bit of a combination of MQ and Favorite Things list, but I am curious about your current mini-obsessions and eager to share mine.


What do you love at the moment?

What are you obsessing over?

What delights you?



My Answer:



I just finished reading a a novel by Sophie Hannah called The Monogram Murders. It is written in the style of Agatha Christie and features no other than one of my favorite literary figures – Hercule Poirot! A classic murder mystery set in a London hotel, Poirot once more outwits us all. Surely not the best of his cases, it still is a worthy heir to the impressive work of Agatha Christie. (I used to devour her books in my teens and I blame a lot of my English on the educational power of her books.)

I’m looking forward to read The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon and the new Joyce Carol Oates novel My Sister, My Love, both gifts from lovely fumie friends.


mr selfridge

My husband and I are currently watching the second season of the series Mr Selfridge. It tells the story of the American Harry Gordon Selfridge and his life’s work, the inception and running of Selfridge’s on London’s Oxford Street. Jeremy Piven marvellously portraits the charismatic and ever positive self made man and is supported by a cast of wonderful British actors. I love how you get a feel for the time, get to see glimpses of perfumes of the time (Guerlain, Coty, Penhaligon’s galore!) and I adore the various British accents. Highly recommended viewing!


cuir d'ange

I’m kind of getting in the mood for Hermès Cuir d’Ange at the moment. I initially dismissed it because I didn’t get on with a perceived plastic note that was quite dominant for me. Now in colder weather the violet is more prominent and I get a smooth leather instead of a new car/doll head vibe. Testing continues…

Random Stuff:

dark red

I am loving the colour burgundy (Rouge H for acolytes of The Orange) very much right now. A gorgeous scarf, a warm woolen hat, even a cosy blanket for curling up on the couch are all in this deep, dark red hue that makes me happy. Lipstick is a good way to live the love for this colour too. Current favorites are Clinique Black Honey, Fresh Sugar Plum Lip Treatment and Burberry Prune lipstick.
Sidenote: The Husband calls every fancy colour Cranberry, no matter if its actually cerulean blue, moss green or steel gray, as long as it is not a straightforward yellow or green or blue he calls it cranberry. I think it warrants this side note that for once he is almost right. :)

Unattainable Dreams:

I could add a lot to this category, but for now my dreams ar haunted by a vintage Rouge H box calf Kelly. Perfection. ‘Nuff said.

kelly rouge hWhat are your current loves and interests?





Posted in Fragrance Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Christmas Surprise – Or Why It Makes Sense To Marry A Man With All Kinds Of Skills

My husband indulges my love for all things orange (i.e. Hermès), but not only as one would expect. Remember this?

Now he has been at it again.

So we have that box…


Let’s open it!


See that elegant tissue paper? ;)


It is a scarf ring in the shape of a stirrup.


M made it out of chromium cobalt molybdenum, a metal usually used for dental work. He made a wax model himself and then proceeded to cast it in metal.


Here is my lovely stirrup on Hermès Parures de Maharaja 90cm silk twill.
It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?



That’s why I can highly recommend a man with technical skills. You never know what he uses them for…

Posted in Accessories, Scarves | Tagged , , | 58 Comments

Christmas Surprise – A Sneak Peek

I found a surprise by The Husband under the tree…


What’s inside that box? Apparently he was busy counterfeiting. More to follow soon… ;)

Posted in Accessories, Scarves | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

Happy New Year 2015!

Another year is about to begin and it will be a significant one for me: the year I will turn forty.

Aside from me getting on in years, what will it bring in terms of the blog?

I am not entirely sure, to be honest.
Perfume is covered expertly by my lovely contributors Tara, Sandra, Michael and the inimitable (and unstoppably energetic) Portia, so that topic is in good hands.

How can I keep on writing a blog dedicated to perfume though, when I don’t explore the fragrant world any longer? (At least for now and the forseeable future).

Well, nobody says this blog has to be dedicated to perfume alone. I made OT, I can decide to widen its scope.
The inspirational Lila Das Gupta (of Perfume Lovers London) told me to write about whatever interests me, whatever captures my passion at the moment and some people will follow, some won’t.

As I have let the blog take a pause this past week, I have received several not very friendly comments as to my lack of commitment and while it astonishes me that a pause of a few days would cause such venom in some, it also tells me that it would be missed, if I decided to let it go completely.

WordPress does an end of year report and the statistics in there told me that almost half a million people visited OT in 2014 and I am humbled by this number.
In my mind OT still feels like a chat with friends. A place where I can share my thoughts, also private ones and feel safe and among people who understand and respect each other.
Those comments had a very different feel, but still, they galvanized me into action.

2015 will see a broadening of themes here, I will write about beautiful things, about art, about frivolous luxuries, about books, about lifestyle, about things I love and the occasional snippy bit about things I hate.

And, thinking of the ever wise Undina’s advice here, I will do so when I feel like it, because blogging, writing, sharing thoughts should be a joy not a chore.

OT has brought me many joys, good friends, lovely acquaintances and – not to forget – more samples than I can count. ;)

Thank you for reading, commenting (even for the snippy comments!) and for coming back time and again.

All the best to you for this shiny new year.
May it bring you what you want and need in your life!

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , | 107 Comments