on the menu: Proust and madeleines

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madeleines

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madeleines ii

I asked for a madeleine pan for Christmas.

Because, you know, Proust.

I defy you to read the opening chapters of Vol. 1 of In Search of Lost Time and not want a madeleine. Even or especially if, like me, you’ve never had one before.

They tend to be expensive to buy, so: literary baking! Turns out they are a bit laborious to make*, so I see why the expense. It also turns out that they are wonderful; a satisfying, delicate crunch of resistance yielding to a soft, lemon cake.

I’m amiably disposed toward them for turning out well on the first try. Curious to try some alternate flavors now, in which the butter is infused with earl grey tea or lavender buds.

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I think the lesson here is, Proust does not disappoint.

*recipe from Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours

N.B. This is what happens if you overfill the molds. I dread to think what happens if you don’t sufficiently butter and flour the pan.

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fragrance: winter 2013 picks

The cold weather makes certain heavy scents particularly appealing to me. The molecules aren’t as mobile and stay closer to the skin, evaporating more gradually, and a fragrance that would be deadly or cloying in the summer is rendered subtle and fine.

Here’s what I’ve been wearing:

Montale – Red Vetyver. Just gorgeous. Pricey, but do you want to smell like a sexy, resinous tree or not? A little like Chanel’s Sycomore.

Lalique – Encre Noir (pour homme).  This actually does smell a lot like black ink, the kind you would buy for calligraphy or what have you. Like ink + a dark, earthy vetiver. Great on a man, better on a man with stubble, but maybe better still and more charming/unexpected on a woman.

C.O. Bigelow Musk perfume oil. A little goes a long way, but great to mix with a body oil to dilute and slather away. Rich, powerful musk that isn’t too…fecal. I also like to put this on as a base and temper with something sweet and light, like a simple floral like

Tea Rose by Perfumer’s Workshop. Olfactory equivalent of a photographic representation of a tea rose, or, to me at least, a wild rose. Simple, light, refreshing (not a dark, syrupy, honeyed rose), and so inexpensive. Men, try this on. Plays well with others. Mix it with Guerlain Vetiver and you become just about effervescent. This will be great for spring as well, but winter is when I miss florals. Same idea behind

CB I Hate Perfume – M2 Black March. [not pictured as I only have a sample vial] This smells precisely like a handful of freshly turned earth with crushed flower petals and roots mixed in. Incredible. Not cheap. Lovely old-school apothecary packaging. Get the perfume absolute if at all, which is a viscous oil that lasts on the skin for hours. Also great in the rain. Or give it to a gardener.

L’Occitane – Eau de Vetyver. A creamy, rich, slightly dirty vetiver. Cozy and enveloping.

Paloma Picasso EdP. A kind of sparkling chypre (which genre I usually don’t like) from the 80s that is often marked down at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. Not for everyone, but a wonderful respite from the saccharine fruity-florals that dominate the market. Give it a while to develop on the skin before you veto, as it starts out a little green and screechy like Grey Flannel or Halston I-12 (both of which I also like in winter, but like more so in the rain). Points to guys who give this a go.

Bulgari Omnia. Now discontinued, it is superior to all of the flankers it spawned. Lactic and nutty with a distinct note of cinnamon, this will make you smell like a gorgeous, sophisticated chai latte.

Some fragrance resources:

Not familiar with vetiver yet? Get familiar.

http://www.basenotes.net/ (reviews, descriptions, note lists, and a good place to look up the year a fragrance launched or the perfumer behind it)

http://theperfumedcourt.com/ (try fragrances on your skin first if you can, blind buying full-sized bottles is risky business)

bohemian chic: the flat chest

There is only so much padded enhancement can do with a 34A chest. They are just…small. I don’t envy the more generously endowed, however. Quite the opposite. I think my modest bust suits the athletic silhouette I favor and, rather than seek to make my chest look as large as possible (though that can be fun), I often like to give a more straightforward representation.

Here are some soft, unpadded lingerie pieces I think do this well, and create that lithe, nipple-friendly look that is to me so French. I’m thinking Vanessa Paradis in La fille sur la pont; that tight sweater and what looks like no bra at all. There is perhaps something slightly risqué in failing to hide that you have nipples (surprise!) but I like this element of it as well, and find the effect youthful and natural, especially in the contexts of certain types of shirts/outfits. There is something alluring in the more soft, yielding appearance unpadded lingerie provides. And: comfortable. In the case of the American Apparel pieces below I often like to have them showing under loose, open, or transparent layers; effectively treating them as I would a bathing suit top.

American Apparel spandex jersey cross-back bra, Myla London Delena bra (asos), Princess Tam Tam Night Bird bra (asos), Mimi Holiday éclair lace bra (link), Calvin Klein micro lace triangle bra (asos), American Apparel ruched front tube bra (bandeau), American Apparel baby rib bikini bra. [The American Apparel options are nearly always in the sale section, if not actually always.]

And, of course, there is the option of nothing…though I tend to think I am not quite flat enough to pull this off. Alas. Maybe if the sweater were tight enough? Hm…