Category Archives: Ideas

The V in coVid

Dear Dorigen,

To put it mildly, covid is awful. Pete and I finally got it after years of being careful, locking ourselves away, vaccines, boosters, masks, scented anti-bacterial sprays, etc. I expected the many hours of sleep, the fever, the inability to taste, the aches, the coughs, the phlegm; I didn’t expect the fuzzy brain fog. My dreams are so uninformative.

To help us through, Pete and I carved out the occasional 45-minute timeslot to watch an episode of V (1984-5). I keep seeing familiar faces in the actors: Michael Ironside (I was his character in Scanners one year for Halloween), June Chadwick (she’s the girlfriend in This is Spinal Tap), Marc Singer (The Beastmaster, but really I know him best by me thinking he’s Kevin Bacon), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger and recently sans-eyes on Stranger Things), and Sheryl Lee Ralph (OMG, I clocked her immediately as the co-star to Morris Day in New Attitude).

We got half-way through V: The Complete Series when we realized that the “complete series” is actually part 3 of the franchise. V: The Original Miniseries and V: The Final Battle (which is somehow part 2) apparently came first and will be watched in time. My guess is the fashion is the same in all: the villainous aliens in red spandex with triangle crotch coverings, the heroic humans in blue denim and brushed out perms, and the half-breed star-child in head-to-toe purple.

I’m finally on the other side of covid and back to work, but the brain fog is still confusing things. Perhaps when it’s cleared, Marc Singer will be Marc Singer, and not Kevin Bacon, but I’m unsure. Also, with so many inspiring fashions in V, one could compile a killer Halloween costume, but I’m already prepped and ready to be a tomato.

Are you ready for your upcoming costuming: Great Gatsby attire for a friend’s fabulously themed wedding anniversary party? Are there feathers? How many feathers?

Love,

Em

P.S. I haven’t yet seen how Diana does her “scientific best” to command someone’s fleet.

P.P.S. Inspired by an episode of Karen Puzzles, I also watched The Circle. This is not to be confused with The Circle (with Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and digs at Google), not The Secret Circle (about teens with witchcraft powers, headband-length skirts, and mascara), and not Circle (the ethics-horror movie where the white guy wins). No, I watched season 3 of The Circle, the reality show where people never see their fellow contestants and they vote each other out of temporary apartments for money. Two of the Spice Girls made an appearance in Season 4. ❤

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Le Labo Deux

Dear Dorigen,

So, here’s the thing, I cut ties with Neroli 36. I just fell out of love with that scent. I placed the half empty sampler on its pedestal with the other Le Labo (and Aveda) sprays and walked away. I sometimes peer at them.

I now fully embrace Fleur D’Oranger 27 and Bergamote 22, so much so that I’m usually wearing both. Bergamote is on the wrists and D’Oranger, on my neck (or basically straight up my nose and everywhere, at all times). Like, if I didn’t work remotely, HR would have written me up. Like, if I was a Peanuts character, I’d be Honey-Bee walking around in a cloud of orange blossoms and lime-oids and grass and mahogany wood blocks, probably. Like, if I was on a reality TV show, Dr. Kirk Honda would have things to say about my self-soothing through excess, while insisting he’s not pathologizing me from afar.

Pete is either immune or immediately used to this new scent layer, because he hasn’t commented. Except for that one time I retried Ylang 49; he complained that it “stings the nostrils” and he started sneezing.

Can you smell me from 500 miles away? Does it smell healthy?

Love,

Em

P.S. Thanks for the pronunciation correction. Le-LA-boo. Not LEE-la-boo.

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Le Labo

Dear Dorigen,

Thanks again for the wonderful gift of Le Labo fragrance samples. These scents linger, so it took me some time to appreciate each on their own merits. I don’t have a nose for the specific notes of scents, but I appreciate the imagery and sense of place that they each gave me.

Presented in the order in which they were first sniffed and with my favorite two *starred:

SANTAL 33

For Santal 33, I get where Eddie Bulliqi is coming from with “10 Years of Santal 33: Why Did it Capture the World’s Nose?” Yes, it is a scent likened to an art gallery. But, like most art galleries, it’s perhaps too aloof. This scent is not inviting. Santal 33 is to be worn on other people propped on pedestals, while an audience admires and interprets notes from a distance. I don’t want to hug myself when wearing Santal 33.

NEROLI 36*

Neroli 36: I want to bathe in it; eat it; sleep it; luxuriate it. I think Neroli 36 was created in a lab for nefarious purposes, a chemical for heightened intoxication. It’s like a return to the womb. It’s like a journey to another planet. Neroli 36 may one day kill me.

ROSE 31

Rose 31 is a shade too floral for me. Or maybe Roses de Chloé already took me to the desert and captured my heart.

LYS 41

When first spayed, I immediately disliked Lys 41. It smelled mechanical? But that initial harsh note soon went away and then it smelled similar to Neroli 36, but less potent. A whisper. Or maybe that really was Neroli 36, seeping from my pores. Either way, I don’t trust Lys 41. It think it’s trying to trick me.

FLEUR D’ORANGER 27*

Fleur D’Oranger 27 is a kitchen-with-high-vaulted-ceilings. It’s not an empty kitchen. This kitchen has delectable foods in bowls on counter tops, bird of paradise leaves (not flowers), and ample sunlight. I want to spend time here chatting with you.

BERGAMOTE 22

Bergamote 22 is a clean bathroom at a very expensive hotel. I appreciate the universal loveliness of the masculine and the feminine balance, but I don’t want to spend time in bathrooms, no matter how luxurious.

AMBRETTE 9

Ambrette 9 is a tan, speckled vitamin swallowed while at a beach.

YLANG 49

Ylang 49 is a darkly lit room just before a long, relaxing massage. It also has the promise of candies. Like, someone’s grandma is waiting for you to finish your massage, so they can give you a handful of candies.

THÉ MATCHA 26

Likely because I’ve never tasted matcha before, my first sniff of Thé Matcha 26 went to something familiar: the image of a sphere of bright white shaved coconut. Sadly, in my ignorance, this false imagery has remained.

PATCHOULI 24

Patchouli 24 is a luscious campfire, set ablaze for royalty.  

I’m curious to learn which are your favorites and what you thought of all of these special scents.

Love,

Em

P.S. I think about Neroli 36 when it’s not with me. In these moments, I wonder if it’s thinking about me or if that’s just part of its game.


Dear Emily, 

I am so glad to be on this journey with you! I generally hate perfume and have left rooms because of overly scented people (including one young man I was interviewing for a job. He didn’t get it). I have tried over the years to find a scent I could wear but most perfumes are too floral, sweet, clingy (on the “feminine” side) and too musky, oily, heavy (on the “masculine” side).

Kudos to Le Labo, because they have figured out the formula for beguiling a lifelong perfume-hater like myself into spending hours sniffing and researching scents and spending my childrens’ college money on their wares. I have drunk the Kool-Aid. And my home smells like a bordello. I had heard about Le Labo and learned that every striving artsy New Yorker smells like Santal 33. I also learned that the Santal 26 candle is the official scent of the illuminati, so obviously I was ready to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try.

I ordered the 17-scent “Discovery Box” and embarked on an olfactorial (now a word) journey, which obviously, you had to join me on. The rest of the world appears to be embarking on the same journey, because when I tried to order the box for you it was wait-listed. I went ahead and ordered you the 10 I liked most. In this way, I have spared your nose from some of the more offensive scents in Le Labo’s arsenal (I’m looking at you, Baie 19 and Labdanum 18. I still have nightmares about Jasmine 17).

The entire line (even the florals) have masculine notes of either musk, cedar or smoke, and when they go full macho, it’s pretty gross. Another 13, for example, per my notes, “smells like an expensive men’s barbershop that Johnny Depp (himself an arbiter of scent) goes to.” It was commissioned by highbrow arbiter of fashion/arts/culture, AnOther Magazine, which was founded by Kate Moss’s baby daddy Jefferson Hack, so, you know, “cool.” Unwearable, however, if you are not an aging, but still virile multimillionaire clinging to your rock n’ roll youth. Now that I think about it, I might need to send you this one just because it is apparently so evocative.

On to the scents. They are each named for the primary scent note and a number, which indicates the total ingredient count.

My favorites:

Bergamote 22

Per the naming convention, the main scent is “Bergamot (Citrus bergamia), a type of citrus fruit native to Italy NOT to be confused with other citrus fruits such as bitter orange and sweet orange” (fancy) and as you can see from this tastefully art directed image, other ingredients include cedar, grapefruit, cotton, a matchstick and part of a floorboard. I love it. It’s fruity and a little floral and has that cedar note that apparently is my kryptonite. I learned through this process that my scent MUST HAVE CEDAR. I want to smell like I’ve just run in from the rain through a grove of orange Italian citrus trees and have just changed into the cashmere lounge-wear that I store in my bespoke cedar closet. This is ALMOST it.

Le Labo image

Santal 33

The beer that made Milwaukee famous. The sauna in an expensive spa that is harder to get into than the Met Ball. Sandalwood. Musk. Cardamum. Deep floral notes. It is masculine, but beautiful.  

Thé Matcha 26

THIS is my favorite. According to Le Labo, it is “Introverted and deep by nature. It carries a noble stillness… it is a scented reminder of home, of welcomed solitude, and of all things familiar and treasured.” Yes, that sounds like ME. I love it. It has the cedar and bitter orange that I like from my citrus grove/cashmere closet fantasy home and a deeper note that I can’t place and will just call “crack pie.” Is it Matcha? Is it Vetiver? What are these things? One can spend hours, days, a lifetime reading about arcane scents used in perfumery: their Latin names, their ancient roots, their medicinal properties, their complex extraction processes. (Vetiver is derived from the Tamil word meaning “root that is dug up” and is related to fragrant grasses such as lemon grass, though it is the extracted oil of its long roots that is used in perfumery. Vetiver smells “dry, earthy, woody, leathery and smoky… like uncut grass on a warm day.”) As I said, I love it. It’s woodsy, earthy, a little tart, very dry, with no cloying floral or musky scents. It is the scent of the best version of myself. The intellectually curious, effortlessly chic woman who runs with the wolves. The sapphire- and amethyst-adorned rover of ancient forests. I found myself breathing into the wristbands of my clothing, feeling my body relax.

I proudly held my wrists out to my husband, declaring that I HAD FOUND MY SCENT. “Eh, he said. Not for me. Smells like a man.” I am heartbroken and may never wear perfume again. 

Fondly,

Dorigen

P.S. A few more notes:

Neroli 36: This one dragged up a strong scent memory for me. I am in a small shop in Cambridge, MA that sells bongo drums and serape hoodies. I am 19. Essential Oils have just become a thing that people wear. Patchouli is a common one, but too crusty for me. I loiter at the oil wall as only 19-year-olds avoiding homework can loiter. I have found my scent. It is floral, sticky and sweet. It smells like Neroli 36. 

Baie 19: What young men think they smell like when bathed in Cool Water Cologne.

Rose 31: An incredibly wealthy, impossibly chic italian woman

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Quarantine Decadences

Dear Dorigen,

Like many of us, our world has gotten very small. Pete and I are gratefully able to work from home and we also don’t actually leave the house unless absolutely necessary (about once a month). My MS treatment has me at higher risk, so I am keeping all of the distance. I like to think that our two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo with a small kitchen and a two-chair porch is as tiny, precious, and decadent as Lizzo’s Valentino purse.

Below are some quarantine scenarios that I have been running into as I attempt to keep up the decadences.

  1. I have learned that my resting bitch temperature is 97°.
  2. I now own porch shoes.
  3. My face masks are just bandannas with hair ties and they are so thick that my glasses get fogged.
  4. So far, my coat closet and main bathroom are very clean, and I will eventually get to everywhere else.
  5. I also have workout plans.
  6. The one migraine I have had during quarantine was (I think) because of dehydration, so I am now keeping Gatorade in business.
  7. Thanks again for the many pajama bottoms; they have been especially handy.
  8. The first day that my bangs grew to barrette length, I mourned in a black shroud.
  9. Crawler earrings.
  10. Headbands take up too much back-of-ear real estate for glasses.
  11. Staying in the house for almost two months, my foundation is now 2 shades too tan for me.
  12. Basically, all that said, my phone doesn’t know me anymore. When I put my face to the screen, I am forced to enter a pass-code about 60% of the time. The phone is there to protect Emily, and I am no longer Emily.

I don’t know her.

How are you keeping up the decadences?

Love,

Em

P. S. I have also put together a ton of little baggies with carefully counted two servings of peanut M&Ms / one serving of almonds, and I have been eating around the almonds.

Accidentally On Purpose Fashion

Dear Dorigen,

It was great seeing you and the family in Chicago recently. As you know I had some sort of mystery accident that caused pain and numbness in my side and has made mobility challenging. With challenge comes great fashion responsibility, so here’s how I’m coping.

1) Summer Dresses

Likely the injury is a pinched nerve, and the first thing that was prescribed to me was loose-fitting clothing. I have been in a cute summer dress on the daily for over a month now; if I look like a drunken mummy when I walk, then I am going to make for damn sure that I am dressed like a fabulous, rich, cultured, fashionable drunken mummy. Some of my GO TOs…

Green African Print – Etsy | Multi-color Tiered Dress – Nordstrom Rack | Top Shop Striped Dress – I found it on Poshmark  | Green Etsuko – MM.Lafleur  | Printed Shirt Dress | Midi Floral Dress – Tory Burch – Sold out.

2) Disruptor Sandals

I am currently on another self-imposed clothing spending freeze, so when I spotted these exceedingly cushioned, yet elaborate Fila “Disruptor” sandals that legit help me walk and make me feel fabulous, I asked Pete to buy them for me. Just sayin. As soon as I stepped foot at work in these sandals, I was shocked to be inundated with comments from the young bloods. I thought I was going old school, old person (or as you called them “clodhoppers”), but apparently these were THE sandal of Lollapalooza 2019. I have had strangers come up to me and say things like “oh, I’ve been wanting to see these in person” (because they are apparently in a bunch of fashion blogs, including ours now). Werk.

fila

Fila “Disruptor” Sandals

3) Fashion Cane

I have been threatening to buy a fashion cane for years now, for the various innocuous injuries I incur (e.g. a stubbed toe, slight headache, etc.), and now that I absolutely need one, I bought a standard cane, and added my own flare. I just happened to already own an over-sized fur rabbit keychain that has fulfilled my fidgety heiress fantasy.

I got both of these keychains on Etsy

I will know for certain if it’s a pinched nerve or something else after I get my MRI results. The MRI scan was a trip. They do absolutely everything they can to make you comfortable, so you don’t have a flailing panic attack when trapped within the loud coffin machine. I was given multiple pillows, wrapped in a blanket, eye cover, ear plugs, headphones, and they offered to play absolutely any music (I had them do a YouTube mix of Beirut). On further reflection, I might have gone with one of my “5 desert island albums” – Kelly’s Shoes, Marlo Thomas and Friend’s Free to Be You and Me, Digital Underground’s Sex Packets, Sonic Youth’s EVOL (you bought me that), and anything by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.

So, that was my long way of asking you – what are the five albums you would take with you to a desert island?

Love,

Em

Halloween for the Office

Dear Dorigen,

As your beautiful, brilliant children have no doubt already made you aware, Halloween will be here very soon. My inner goth teenager strictly prohibits me from giving up on Halloween all together, but I refuse to spend a lot of money and energy on costuming these days and it is now almost entirely relegated to the annual office party.

If you need to make a spooky, yet professional appearance at work (or around the neighborhood), enclosed are some easy costumes I have pulled together over the years. My requirements: 1) only  one additional purchase item, 2) minimal borrowing, and 3) zero hassle with the work day hustle.

Tipi (or Hitchcock for that matter) would never with this non-matching suit, but, girl, I am on a budget

  • The Costume: Tippi Hedren from the Birds
  • Purchased: Crow
  • From my closet: Smart-enough suit, headband (to attach the bird to), work heals.
  • Borrowed: Fake blood
  • Response: I was the first one in the office that day, and had not yet added the blood to my face when another early-bird co-worker arrived. He forgot it was Halloween costume day and had to wait a couple hours until someone else arrived, so he could ask them, in earnest, if I was trying to make life-sized birds happen. This actually made my day, because 1) even though I had not yet been with the company for a year, it meant that my co-worker already knew that I was a fearless fashionista and 2) he had a point, life-sized birds on heads legitimately could make a comeback.

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Anna Wintour. I was physically unable to remove the smile

  • The Costume: Anna Wintour
  • Purchased: Wig (ok, and I also bought the Vogue)
  • From my closet: Over-the-knee dress in a small print, sunglasses (my prescription ones are red, so I used black electrical tape over the rims), necklace, fancy-looking kitten heels.
  • Borrowed: Fur coat (worn over the shoulders). Thanks Livi! 
  • Response: I got second place in the costume contest, I think mostly because I kept reading people for their fashion choices – “What? No want for color?” Also, as you know, my love of this wig resulted in a life-defining haircut.

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5th Golden Girl, Pippa Greenquist, doesn’t stand for nonsense

  • The Costume: 5th Golden Girl (I decided my name should be Pippa)
  • Purchased: Tights (they were out of the very 80’s “suntan” color)
  • From my closet: Dress with a 80’s fabric twist neckline, grandma‘s broach, various costume jewelry, 80’s pink lipstick
  • Borrowed: Hat. Thanks again, Livi!
  • Response: I admit this wasn’t my best effort, but once I explained the inspiration to those who asked, I got a lot of… “Oh, I love that show! So-and-so was my favorite!”

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Mrs. White – Clue

  • The Costume: Mrs. White – Clue
  • Purchased: Hat (thanks to my mother-in-law, who gave me a conveniently timed gift card to an antique store).
  • From my closet: Black dress, belt, tights, and heels and grandma’s pearls.
  • Borrowed: My department dressed as a group, so later in the day I “borrowed” one of the weapons we made with paper and cardboard.
  • Response: Our department won the office costume contest. We were each dressed as a different character (some mix of the movie and the game) and our boss’s costume was the envelope (brilliant).

scanners_Em

Darryl Revok – Scanners

  • The Costume: Darryl Revok – Scanners
  • Purchased: Medical tape and gauze
  • From my closet: Suit, button down, loafers, black sharpie (for the “inner eye”)
  • Borrowed: Tie (from my husband). Thanks Pete!
  • Response: Very few people got the reference, but this is my favorite Halloween costume ever – it was warm, it was clever, it referenced a beloved movie, it cost next to nothing, and it can be worn by anyone. Also, if someone repeated this costume, and you wanted to be even more comfortable, he is technically wearing a t-shirt in this scene, additional robe also works.

This year my Halloween costume is TBD, but I’m not worried. I’ll come up with something. Any time someone says to me, “you know who you look like?” I used to brace myself for the inevitable insult, but now I just write it down for future easy Halloween costumes. As an aside, I have literally never witnessed anyone feeling complimented after hearing the end of “you know who you look like?” even if it’s telling a guy that he looks just like Ryan Gosling.

But anyway, easy Halloween costumes basically just fall into my lap, as there are a million and one characters/people who have glasses and bangs and I am apparently very approachable. Like, recently, a young man (teenager? early twenties?) excitedly stopped me on the train; he really needed to talk to me about how much I look like Velma from Scooby-Doo (the live-action version; he specified).

So, Dorigen, do you have any easy and fabulous-enough costume ideas? Any kid-friendly costume suggestions that may require some fun crafting?

Love,

Em

P.S. If I chose to lift the minimal spending ban for Halloween, I would go as simply “plaid,” but, as it stands now, that would require a lot of purchasing on my part…

plaid. OMG. plaid.

Pullover: L.L.Bean | Earmuffs: Brooks Brothers | Bag: Burberry | Shoes: Vans | Top: L.L.Bean | Skirt: J.Crew (aka J.Crute) | Pants: Brooks Brothers