holiday shopping: 11 posts

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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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 →

Holiday Gift Ideas from French Magazines : Perfume Sets

My weekend mornings start with a cup of tea and a couple of French magazines. I call it my language practice, but there are other reasons I prefer French Marie-Claire and Elle to their US equivalents–more articles on diverse topics, in-depth interviews, and better fashion coverage. They feature much more on perfume, besides the usual sponsored ads and token mentions of the advertisers’ products. Thanks to French Marie-Claire, I’ve rediscovered Shiseido Zen and fell in love with a delightful orange blossom cologne Bien-être L’Eau Parfumée des Familles.

With the holiday season approaching, the glossy pages are splashed with tempting perfume gift ideas, and today I wanted to share with you a few of them. I love the idea of a scented present that includes several fragrances to try, but in some cases I also wanted to highlight a few interesting products that are presented exclusively for the holidays. While I’ve collected some of the ideas from my dog-eared issues of French Marie-Claire, Vogue and Elle, I featured the sets that can be easily found in the US as well as Europe.

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Holiday Shopping : Gifts for All Senses, Perfume and More Part 2


Holiday Shopping : Gifts for All Senses, Perfume and More Part 1

More Books

In the previous installment, I focused on perfume and scent themed books, while today I would like to offer a few suggestions on flavors. A book like The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg might be equally fascinating for cooks and fragrance lovers. It outlines different combinations of flavors, pointing out what foods go well together. Another great book from the same team is What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea – Even Water – Based on Expert Advice from America’s Best Sommeliers. The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook by Niki Segnit is similar in premise to The Flavor Bible, but it goes further by classifying different flavors and explaining why some combinations work.

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