Book Review: Elegance

Today I want to share with you my review of a delightful little book, “Elegance” by Kathleen Tessaro. If any of you are familiar with Madame Dariaux’s concise encyclopedia by the same name and loved it — you will appreciate this book. It follows the transformation of Louise Canova from a drab, depressed and depressing person who is stuck in an unsatisfying marriage to an elegant woman of substance who is unapologetic in living her life.

I really like this story because I think its a journey that all elegant women share. Although Louise’s specific background may be different from ours, we all have times in our lives when we have to choose between what is right and what is easy, an opportunity to express out highest ideals or to stifle that expression out of fear of change.

Louise’s journey is structured with passages from Madame Dariaux’s iconic book that set the tone for her metamorphosis. I will admit, it is a rather banal story, but the question of what elegance actually meant to me was what made it interesting for me.

At a certain point in the book, Louise gets fed up with trying to become the “perfect” elegant lady and decides to live for the moment with the exclamation that “life’s too short!”. She tosses everything she learned about elegance in the bin (including her chic wardrobe) and trades that in for impulsive nights at the trendiest clubs, expensive purchases from this season’s hottest fashions, and the dazed and hungover mornings that follow suit. She starts to interact with the world around her differently and her experiences shift as a result — and not in a way that ultimately served her true objectives. But, she realizes all of this and she eventually finds her way back thanks to a friend and a hilarious yet poignant incident at The Ritz.

By the end of the book we learn that elegance is not about appearances or about belonging to a certain social circle. Elegance is a state of mind that is reflected on the outside of a person. It is the daily practice of refining and cultivating the experience of quality emotions in our lives. Fittingly, the book does not end on a note of resolution. We see that Louise is starting to settle into her new life and enjoying all that she has to appreciate, but with the new awareness that she needs to remain in touch with her values and practice expressing them on a daily basis. Perhaps by reading this book it will trigger you to start nurturing quality moments in your own life, or if you are satisfied with your life, to go deeper into those moments because after all, there is no “destination elegance” — we all must find it everyday.

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Beauty Review: YSL Black Opium Perfume

If you follow my Instagram you will have noticed that I posted a picture showing that I used up all of my YSL Black Opium. I purchased the smaller 1.6 ounce size since I wasn’t sure if it would suit me despite its rave reviews from everyone in the world. I bought this at Sephora in early October to use during my trip to Tunisia and I used it on average 3 times a week (mostly because I would forget in the morning) since October. For a daily user of this perfume I can image it lasting at least 3 months based on how long it took to spritz my way through this bottle.

Let’s start with the bad and end with the good because it’s Friday and I want to end on a happy note.

The Bad

When I used this at around 7AM by around 12PM the scent was gone. Since this lasted me only halfway through my day I invested in a portable perfume atomizer so that I could top up during lunch. Perhaps this is an average number of hours for a perfume to last but I’ve used perfumes that would last me the whole day from 7AM to 7PM that weren’t as expensive as this one. The lasting power for Black Opium just wasn’t there for me.

Secondly, while strangers and friends would compliment me on the scent, I wasn’t that partial to it. This is definitely an intense, darkly sweet scent that I didn’t enjoy on myself even though others liked it on me. I did start to like it once it had been on my skin for a couple of hours and the top and middle notes had evaporated, but by that time I would have only had about 3 hours of a scent that I actually did like. It isn’t smart for me to purchase a perfume for just its base notes.

The Good

While the actual product didn’t please me, I’d like to give YSL recognition for the packaging. It is beautiful. Consisting of a shiny black bottle shot through with subtle pink glitter with a glass peephole in the center that reveals the light pink liquid — it perfectly reflects the whole feel of the perfume. It tells you that it’s sweet, feminine tones are surrounded by a dark, heavy domination but still shine through at just the right angles that surprise and delight you.

The Verdict

It isn’t for me. However, I can see why it would be popular because of its packaging and mysteriously almost sickly sweet scent. It’s funny that other people liked it on me but I only like the perfume once it has sat on my skin for a couple of hours, but nobody has time for that. So now I am back to my signature Bvlgari White Tea scent until something else comes my way. Let me know if you guys have any recommendations for me for a spring or summer perfume for the upcoming season!

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My Scathing Beauty Review

This is my review of the Yes! to tomatoes clear skin acne pore scrub. Normally, I don’t bother doing reviews of beauty products because there are people out there in internet land who have probably already done one better than I can do on a huge number of products that I couldn’t use in ten lifetimes. However, I feel very strongly about this product.

In short, I really dislike this face scrub. This is the worst one that I’ve ever tried. Again, not that I have tried an entire aisle’s worth at Bartell’s, but I’ve purchased and used up a fair share to know what a good scrub should be like. It should be grainy, but not lacerating, it should feel like you are scrubbing away any trace amounts of makeup, sweat and grime from the day while revealing the fresh and smooth skin underneath. As you pat your face dry, your skin should feel squeaky clean and ready to drink up whatever moisturizer or serum that comes next in your skin care routine.
If what I just described to you sounds like a face scrub you’d like to try, then don’t buy this one. I have two main gripes with this product, firstly, the size and sensation of the beads and secondly, the inability for the product to remove even the most tiniest amounts of foundation, or lotion or liner from my face.
Let’s start with the beads. The beads are rough and I don’t have particularly sensitive skin. So it doesn’t feel as though I’ve gotten rid of the dead skin and other matter from the surface, it feels like I’ve just taken sand and rubbed it on my face without actually removing and revealing a cleaner layer. It’s as if my old, dead skin cells are still on my face, but just scratched up — not a nice sensation. Also, because the beads are very small, a slightly annoying occurrence that would happen frequently is that they would end up in my lashes and make their way into my eyes. Again, just not a pleasant experience.
On to the actually cleansing aspect of the scrub. I have never had a face scrub or face wash quite do what this one does. It’s like this: it’s the end of the day, you get home, you use a cold cream or makeup remove to remove your makeup and despite doing your best to remove every single patch of foundation and every smudge of liner, there will be some makeup left on your face before you go to use this scrub. Now, normally, this isn’t an issue and a facial scrub will be able to fully remove whatever traces were left, but not if you are using this scrub. I’m not sure what ingredient is specific to this scrub that makes it react the way it does to makeup, but unless your face is a clean surface to begin with, this scrub will take whatever trace foundation remains on your face and turn it into this stubbornly greasy film that just coats your entire face and it will spread your mascara and liner around until it completely smudges around your eyes. I understand that a face scrub is not a makeup remover and I was not using the product in this way, but I would expect that whenever I wash my face with any product, it would make my face cleaner and not coat my face in a greasy film. After using this scrub I end up having to use a different face wash to get my face clean.
So there you have it. I am not one to write negative reviews or positive reviews of makeup products, just because I feel like there are other blogs that specialize in that type of content, but this is one that had to be written due to the very strong feelings I had about it.

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Book Review: French Women Don’t Get Fat

I am sure many of you have heard of a very popular health and cooking book called, “French Women Don’t  Get  Fat”. It was an enormous commercial success amidst a transition in the diet and health industry towards favoring a holistic,  pleasurable, “slow food” approach to long-term health and weight loss, in stark contrast to the obsessive calorie-counting, restrictive, puritanical tone to achieving your ideal body that had dominated the weight loss industry. If you have not yet read the book, I highly suggest you do so.  It will shift your attitude towards your ideal body, the traditions and ritual of food preparation and enjoyment with the larger goal of discovering and cultivating your little pleasures.

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Giuliano writes this diet book within the context of her own weight loss story after some late adolescent weight gain after a study abroad trip to the states. The experience of reading this diet book is so different from any other you may read because it is a story that Giuliano tells so charmingly well. It is an incredibly liberating and enjoyable experience to see the subject of food and weight loss presented in such a way that puts back the ritualistic and sensory pleasures of dining. There is no mention of calories, counting, fat, carbs, gym memberships. and the endless other unpleasantness that are found in any other weight loss book. Just sensible portions, fresh and seasonal ingredients, some light walking and other slow and easy shifts in your habits is what this book is about. A distinctly French method that emphasizes pleasure over deprivation and shuns the “no pain, no gain” approach to living in and loving your ideal body.

Although the concepts are simple enough to remember and apply in my daily life, and while I may not eat certain staples of the conventional French diet such as wine, cheese, or bread, I still find myself reaching for this book every once in a while just to enjoy Guiliano’s storytelling. I find that this book is more than just about weight loss; it’s about getting to know yourself and cultivating your own pleasures in not just food, but also in life. I think that we all work very hard to create the lives we want to live and between the demands of schooling, work, and family, this book has helped me to learn how to take my moments to take care of myself and perhaps its can bring about that same shift for you. 

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