holiday gifts: 14 posts

Holiday Gift Ideas : Soaps, Creams, Makeup and More

In the last part of my holiday gift series, I’ve put together another eclectic collection of my favorite things. Some of them are scented, others are simply pretty: beautifully wrapped soaps, decadent body creams, jewel-like makeup … and cat shaped lipsticks.

Rancé Iris Royal Box of 6 Soaps


Rancé has been making soaps since 1795, and purportedly the formulas remain unchanged. While I highly doubt it, the quality of their soaps is excellent. They’re triple milled, which means that the bars stay firm and last well. They’re scented with high-quality essences, and the aroma lingers delicately on your skin. Even those with sensitive skin–and I’m one of those people–won’t find this soap drying or irritating. Finally, the packaging is stunning, making Rancé’s soap sets a beautiful present.

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Holiday Gift Ideas : My Favorite Candles

I love giving gifts, and not just for Christmas. When I want to treat someone to a scented present, a candle is one of my top choices. By lighting the wick, you transform the ambiance of a room in just a matter of minutes. You can give L’Occitane Feuille de Figuier as a memento of the summer, or L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Thé et Pain d’Épices for a bit of winter holiday cheer. With Comme des Garcons’s Jalsaimer candle, you can send your friends on a tour of Rajasthani temples perfumed with myrrh and frankincense. It’s up to you to choose the fantasy.


Although it’s easier to select a scented candle than a bottle of perfume, you should still research your recipient’s tastes. Is she a lover of all things sweet and floral? Does he like clean, understated colognes? In general, you have more leeway when it comes to home fragrances, because while someone may not like wearing gourmand perfumes, they will enjoy the scent of vanilla and gingerbread spices in the air.

Having come across my fair share of candles that were either badly scented and/or overpriced, I have little patience for high-end brands that don’t deliver on their promise.  A good-quality candle should have a strong smell when unlit, fill the space with perfume when burning and also retain its fragrance as long as wax remains in the jar. There should be no scents of soot, burning paper or wool, or other off-odors (assuming that you clip the wick regularly).

It’s best to burn your scented candle for no more than 2 hours at a time. But with the choices below, these 2 hours should be plenty to perfume the whole room.

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Holiday Gifts Ideas from French Magazines

It’s time for my gifts lists inspired by French magazines and Belgian stores. Christmas decorations are going up around Avenue Louise, Brussels’s version of Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and the boutiques are receiving their seasonal gift sets. I’m rarely tempted by the matching scented creams and shower gels, but the presentations are so irresistible that it’s hard to walk past the perfume shop window without taking a quick peak inside.


My list reflects things that I like to give and would love to receive. If you would like to introduce someone to fragrance and know a bit about their tastes, discovery kits are excellent options, and there are several choices below. Another criterion for including the sets is the high-quality matching products. All too often the body lotions and creams are of mediocre quality in comparison to the perfume and needless to say, such sets don’t make the cut.

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Frederic Malle’s Guide to Perfume Gifting and More from Vogue

“A lot of people give Chanel No. 5  for the same reason they might buy an Apple computer—because they think they can’t go wrong,” says Frédéric Malle. “But perfume is more personal than that. It’s not about choosing a ‘good’ fragrance. It’s about choosing the one that’s a good match with the person who will be wearing it.” features a fun article called Perfume by Personality: Frédéric Malle’s Guide to Fragrance Gifting.  I particularly enjoyed Malle’s choice of fragrances. For the Minimalist, he recommends Frédéric Malle L’Eau d’Hiver Eau de Parfum; The Urban Bohemian–Estée Lauder Youth Dew; The Outdoor Adventurist–Les Exclusifs de Chanel Bel Respiro; The Art Collector–Dior Miss Dior (original) and Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert Extrême; The Vintage Enthusiast–Rochas Femme and Caron Pour un Homme. To read the rest, please follow this link.

Also, the French edition of includes a beautiful spread on solid perfumes, Jolies Concrètes. It’s in French, but the pictures say everything.

Holiday Gift Ideas : Favorite Beauty Treats for All Senses

December 6th is celebrated as Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas Day in Belgium and the Netherlands, and this holiday kicks off the winter festivities. In the olden days, children used to receive gifts on this day, rather than Christmas Eve, and according to legend, if children had been naughty, one of the Sinterklaas’s helpers would stuff them in a sack and take them to Spain. Apparently, Sinterklaas spends most of his time in Spain, with only a brief visit to the northern lands. As I  look at the grey skies outside, the idea of a Spanish sojourn doesn’t sound all that bad. On the other hand, the glittering decorations in the streets of Brussels are so beautiful that I’m willing to put up with some rain and snow.

In the spirit of the holidays, I will play Santa Claus today and bring you some gift ideas.  (I’m sorry to say that even if you have been very naughty this year, I can’t whisk you away to Spain.) I already shared with you the perfume sets that caught my eye. Today, inspired by the impressive array of holiday gifts at the stores in Brussels, I want to talk about  other treats that feel special and luxurious, either because of their scents or colors.  I’ve enjoyed using these products myself, so I recommend them without reservation.

Belgian Eggwhite Soap

Belgian Eggwhite Soap is produced with pure eggwhite, chamomile, and lecithin. While it’s intended for use on your face, I prefer to use it on my body, since it leaves my skin silky and moisturized. Eggwhite soap has a delicate chamomile scent, and it lathers into a whipped cream like softness. 6 x 53 g soaps ($19), a single 53 g soap ($5). Available at Beautyhabit. Continue reading →

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