The First Great Candle Burn-Off Of 2016 — Black Orchid from Aquiesse vs. Black Hibiscus from India Hicks


Although the days are getting longer, and I can feel summer on the other side of the fence, every day around 4:30pm I remember we’ve still got a lot of night to trudge through. To say nothing of the cold, even in California.

Time for another Great Candle Burn-Off!

Let’s compare Black Orchid from Aquiesse , and Black Hibiscus, from India Hicks. I know! A theme! Floral Noir! Wholly accidental, as you’ll soon see.


I picked up the Aquiesse candle at the boutique where Tish Jett spoke last December, in an attempt to be a good citizen and chip in for my invitation. The store was not my thing, shall we say, but I smelled all the candles on offer before picking this one as the best of the lot. I also chose the India Hicks candle because of a blogger connection. Patricia van Essche sells the line, here, and I want to support her.


OK so I’m a dope. I thought these were roughly price-equivalent. Picked up the Aquiesse for $50, paid $54 for India. But the Aquiesse is 11 ounces, India only 5.8. Ooops.

Packaging, Design & Materials

Look how similar the packaging, at least at first glance. Black and silver for Aquiesse,Aquiesse

black and gold for Madame Hicks.

Black Hibiscus India Hicks

But Aquiesse sports a Romanesque monogram logo, India handwriting script. Aquiesse uses a vaguely Moroccan pattern as background, Hick, beetles. Hick’s subheading says to me, “English — but not too formal to hang out on Harbour Island.” I’m going to guess Aquiesse is going for opulence, and India, casual glamor? Probably should be spelled “glamour.”

You brought issues of safety and environment to my attention last time round, so this time I checked. Both candles are 100% soy wax, and lead-free.


Both candles seem to behave themselves reasonably when on fire. No spitting of cinders, no pillars of sooty smoke. In first burning, I thought India was going to drown in her own wax, but I tilted a little out of the way and now she flames like a dream. Short wick, no sputtering, no problem. Aquiesse, which I admit to having burned much less frequently, seems to insist on a high flame, which then gutters in the draft a bit while emitting white smoke.


The Scent Itself

Here’s the thing. I love the way India’s Black Hibiscus smells. Love it. It’s earthy and fresh, with just enough sweet.  Light but pervasive, as though I were burning the wood of a tropical shrub, one that dried just last week in salt and sand. I use it every day. On the other hand, I don’t like the Aquiesse much at all. Even though I sniffed it, unburned, in the store, and thought it was good. Not. Smells to me like an old-fashioned department store and laundry soap. Ooops.


I can’t tell! I have burned India’s candle just about every day since right before Christmas. It’s maybe 2/3 done. Since I don’t like the Aquiesse, I’ve lit it only 5-10 times. I know, I should be prepared to suffer for my research but I simply cannot. We’ll have to believe the manufacturers, who give the Black Orchid 100 hours, and the Hibiscus 47-50 hours.


Final Score

Um, yeah. India Hicks Black Hibiscus is the clear winner, even in the face of higher price per unit of fire and scent. Again, you can find it here. Should you actually prefer the scent of department stores, the Black Orchid can be had on Amazon for less than I paid for it in the boutique that shall not be named. I was prepared for either candle to win, as one must be in Burn-Offs, but I am quite happy the champion belongs to Patricia.

Next Burn-off I’ll go back to the comments from the 2015 post and pick some of your recommendations. I’m thinking citrus, and sunny, to match the lengthening days.


Amazon affiliate links may generate commissions. I have no commercial relationship with PVE or India Hicks, those links are not monetized, the product was neither free to me nor discounted.

So Next Year I’m Getting A Flu Shot, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:38am

Hi guys. Sorry about disappearing. Here’s what happened.

After visiting my mom I drove down to LA, where I met with blogging friends, (BTW, do you follow @mrs_badinage on Instagram? You must.) attended my extraordinary youngest sister’s 50th birthday party, and came down with the flu.

Not knowing I was that sick, we drove back north on Monday. The flu did not take kindly to my disregard for its powers and promptly laid me flat on my back, groaning. Fever and everything. Such discomfort.

Today is the first day I’m free of the aches and pains. Weak as a baby, but I’m not complaining.

I have every hope of putting out my two planned posts this week, a Candle Burn-Off, and a Valentine’s giveaway from Blue Nile. Can’t promise for fear of disappointing, but that’s the plan.

I hope you are all well. Next year it’s flu shots for me. And I really don’t recommend 6 hours on California’s I5 as a home remedy. Have a nice weekend.


Note: I thought I had published this hours ago. See, totally not myself;).

Interior Surfaces At Mom’s House ( At No O’Clock)

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights at my mother’s house. Thank you all for your response to last Saturday’s post. I’m working my way through the replies, it does take longer than usual.

I thought I might show you a few more photos from Mom’s house. These are interior surfaces.

Upholstery in a guest room.


Duvet covers in the same room.


Tile in a guest bathroom.


20th century Swedish upholstery on a sofa bed in a guest room.


A living room rug.


A tansu cupboard in the living room.


The living room tile. Installed when my mother and stepfather moved in, it single-handedly transformed the house.


The Southern California light, of course, was already there.

Blue Nile’s Annual Diamond Ring Event — 15% Off — For Weddings Or Just Your Regular Fingers

This post presented in collaboration with Blue Nile

Quick note. Blue Nile is holding their annual diamond ring sale, 15% off quite a few. Use code RING2016 at the checkout. You can think of these as wedding rings, of course, but they also work for regular fingers. I noted this, pretty in white gold milgrain and diamonds, back in a previous post for the Nile (I made that term up. I’m sure they don’t call themselves that, I imagine no one does.)

Or you might prefer to stack ’em high. Really high. So high.

Blue Nile Emerald Cut Eternity Ring

I can understand. I remember when someone I knew married the grandson of a jeweler. Man-oh-man her ring was amazing, channel-set emerald-cut, just like this. I admit I gawked, if surreptitiously.

Blue Nile sells simple bands and men’s rings too, along with the diamond-embellished, round or otherwise. And I did peek at Costco pricing when I was there the other day, and it appears, although not remotely by scientific study, that the price for a ring like this in carat, color and clarity (which is quite like my wedding ring BTW) costs more in Big Box Land than on Blue Nile.

The sale runs through January 27th.

Even if you’re not in the market, I do love a little wander through sparkle. Online, I can gawk as broadly as I like.,


Links may generate commissions

Did You Have A Bowie Moment?

When I heard David Bowie had died, I remembered my Bowie moment. Picture a young Californian girl dancing to “Rebel, Rebel” in a Princeton eating club. Those clubs were far more likely to play Southern rock and Motown like “Hey-ey Baby, Will You Be My Girl?” than glam anything-at-all. Someone had switched it up that night; we were maybe in togas?

“Rebel, Rebel” played above us, perfect and dissonant.

I know many of those who have been moved by Mr. Bowie were real rebels, the overtly odd ones, and he made them feel it was OK to be weird. Not I. That night I had a lot of Shetland sweaters yet to wear, a lot of fitting in yet to attempt. Took me a long time to find my inner Bowie, and maybe I’ll always be looking, but I thank him for his guidance.

And hey, Fair Isle sweaters eventually found their inner Bowie. Also here. Maybe Shetlands’ time will come as well. R.I.P, David. All our Bowie moments thank you very much.

Snowflake Lights In The Pyracantha, Clementines In The Bowl, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:26am


I’m not sure which is more important about the past few weeks, that I understood something about Christmas or that it’s been raining.

Oh, of course I know the rain is more important. Our drought has affected so many. However, that story can be found everywhere, my immediate thoughts only here. We will work with what we have.

I found Christmas stressful this year, which was weird. I had more than enough time to plan, I thought I had done so, and yet at the end I ran around. It seemed a lot of things became necessities, despite my intention to go easy. Why?

  • I had to have a wreath and a tree. The wreath needed a bow. It had to be gingham.
  • I had to put out the red glass trees, the elf houses, and a bowl of clementines (I could also have filled it with ornaments). Which bowl? Silver? Or vintage from Hong Kong?
  • I had to serve a peaceful but out-of-the-ordinary dinner. I worried about managing on my own.
  • I hired a house cleaner to come two weeks before everyone got here. My sense of so much to do persisted.
  • I decided against the usual garland over our interior French doors. I missed it.

At some point I understood. I wanted, no, I needed (I rarely use italics. High WASPs disapprove unless required by publication) something we will now call The Christmas House. I needed to strew imaginary sparkle like Tinkerbell’s dissolving flight path. Silver, floors, lights, all shining, surrounded by evergreen and red. Imagine a round globe of warm light, our house inside.

The Christmas House, then.

My mom was always good at Christmas. I don’t think she ever once showed stress, or complained. High WASPs don’t, especially those from New England. Of course, she probably had help with the silver. Curled arm candelabra, big spoons, a basket for rolls. To say nothing of our linen tablecloth, with napkins so stiff and heavy they resembled white slabs of granite. Heaven forbid you wipe your lips too hard.

But our Christmas wasn’t formal, per se. I mean, we wore our flannel nightgowns in the morning. We tucked our feet up onto chairs when we sat. We were seen and heard.

I wanted that house, here. I’ve always wanted that house, here. Even if I’ve never said it quite so clearly.

It’s also true that until now I have prized invention and surprise over all. The adrenaline of the big finish, at Christmas and always. I’m getting older. Might be time to make a change.

I was wondering if I’d need to say this next bit, but I guess I do. Otherwise you might not understand my intent. My mother doesn’t remember who I am any more. She might remember The Christmas House, I’m not sure. I wasn’t in Santa Barbara this year. But when your mom forgets you, you’ve got to remember yourself all the more.

For the first time I am daydreaming of repetition. No invention. Our menu this year:

  • Hot and sour seafood soup
  • Cross-rib roast with rosemary and balsamic rub, cooked in the pan with potatoes, carrots and onions
  • Roasted brussels sprouts
  • A simple salad with red leaf lettuce
  • Frozen whole wheat rolls (important to remember to put them in the oven on time)
  • Blueberry pie with caramel ice cream

Maybe we will eat this, with variation, from now on. The roast was delicious but a tad overdone. I didn’t predict the impact of letting it rest an extra 20 minutes as we sat and talked. Next year I might substitute a seafood and tofu soup. Maybe an apple pie. Can’t call Mom any more for that recipe, which is probably why, subconsciously, this year I chose blueberry. Maybe a cake. I’m a terrible baker.

It’s so hard to know how to communicate all this. I might sound cavalier. Or trivial. I am not and I am, both. I know you guys are kind and good and you are going to want to comfort me — I want to ask you not to. Relationships are complex, sorrow faceted like broken ice in a puddle. This is life. This is what happens. I am greatly fortunate, in my family, my husband, our resources. But it’s Saturday morning and a long time ago I decided that every Saturday morning I would write as I chose.

Here I want to get rid of sentiment, to be practical and acerbically Sturdy. To indicate my capacity to cope and understand. That’s how I comfort myself. And I suppose with garlands and Bach in my earbuds and plans to buy more snowflake lights for the pyracantha next year.

Have a wonderful weekend.

A Review Of The (Quite Ladylike) Compact Lightweight Down Jacket from UNIQLO

One morning in January you wake up and quilted diamonds of down blanket the land.

You in cold climates have the puffers, high-end to low, fanciful to utilitarian. While we here in the temperate zone, well, we wear what you might call fluffers. A thin layer of down is enough.

To that end, here’s my new purchase, the UNIQLO Compact Down Jacket.

First up, a reasonably neat (and highly Sturdy) Extreme Casual—San Francisco look. Barely stylish, but saved from Slobovia by the ladylike shape of the jacket and a trustworthy Schiaparelli pink cashmere muffler. Assisted, maybe, (giving myself the benefit of the doubt,) by the pattern play between jacket and bag.


DETAILS – Earrings: A decade old from Claudia Kussano | Scarf: Two decades old from Loro Piana (similar color) | UNIQLO Compact Down Jacket in Navy (also comes in black, lavender, and other colors ) | Jeans: Levi’s 501 Original for Women (new jeans! new jeans! button-front! 100% cotton!) | Shoes: Clarks “Penwick Abbot.” Also new. So cheap I still can’t believe it. | Bag: Bottega Veneta Large Hobo. Navy version. Not cheap.

Here’s a somewhat more Tomboy getup, more ghurka-like, certainly more windblown as a suburban train pulls up. The boxy jacket balances enormous chinos.


DETAILS – Earrings: Gold ball posts c/o Blue Nile (a present! they sent me a present!)  | Aqua, violet and mustard scarf: Decades old from Etro (similar) | UNIQLO Compact Down Jacket | Boyfriend Chinos via J.Crew on sale now | Bag #1: Bottega Veneta Small Messenger. In gray and metallic.| Bag #2 Duluth Pack | Shoes: Perforated “Blair” sneakers by VINCE

(Why I’m wearing sunglasses under a gray sky but squinting unshaded eyes into bright sun I simply cannot say.)

The jacket can be worn:

  • At 60℉ over short sleeves
  • At 50℉ over long sleeves
  • At 40℉ with a sweater or sweatshirt underneath
  • Possibly at 30℉ with a coat over. But it rarely falls below 40 here, except in the wee hours of the morning. So I’m the wrong person to confirm that UNIQLO website recommendation.

Not bad for $70. Oh, and it’s got narrow faux leather trim at the zip, the sleeve-end, and the pockets. Nifty. Ladylike.

This is one of those pieces of clothing I look forward to wearing. When I realize, “Hey, the UNIQLO will work,” my day feels just a bit better. Which is entirely the point of style — at least the Extreme Casual variant. BTW, it’s light, silky-soft, and packs into a little stuff sack, just like the sleeping bags of our teenage years. These days, however, we avoid patchouli, and no matter how Extremely Casual, walk rarely barefoot on sidewalks.

With that, welcome, everyone, to 2016!


Clicks and/or purchases may generate commissions.

Untitled, 2016


Untitled, 2015


What Do You Wear To A Family Christmas?

Iona asked, in these comments, what do people wear for family Christmas? I believe in to each their own at home. All about the ugly sweaters? Have at it. Fair isles and kilts? Good look, of type.

But that’s not what you’d see at Carnochan Christmas. We’re neither casual casual in jeans, nor fancy fancy in heels and jackets. It’s pretty much nice pants or comfortable long dress. Plus flat shoes, of course.

We also tend toward the usual neutrals and muted colors. The house is full of red, green, sparkles. We do not need to serve as extra Christmas trees. One year I did get myself up in a short-sleeved chartreuse cotton sweater, cableknit  interspersed with clear sequins. Scratched my tender inner arm, however, and Christmas isn’t Christmas if you’re itchy. Never mind.

This year I’ll probably wear the black silk pants of Thanksgiving again, maybe with gray and white striped t-shirt and patent flats. My sister won’t be at my house this year, but, I wouldn’t be surprised if she wore something gray too. I’ll generally add a pair of dangling earrings, often with color, she’ll opt for more subtle jewelry, with more evident marks of the maker’s hand.  The outfits below would be as casual as we’re apt to get for dinner. Entire mornings, of course, are spent in pajamas as we open stocking presents.

Untitled #207

We have dressed up more, other years. An ankle-length deep brown silk velvet shift still hangs in my closet, waiting for another formal holiday. My mother, just a couple of years ago, wore a fawn brown jersey caftan with strands of turquoise beads, native American-made earrings, and Ferragamo flats. I know. She’s very good at this.

Untitled #206


Family Christmases cry out for suede kitty slippers, don’t you think? “Ha!” my mother would have laughed, “I like those!”

Have A Very, Very Merry Christmas In Comfortable Shoes (Here Are Some Similar Goods.) All The Best To You And Yours!

Dresses, Pants & Tops (The Talbots silk pants do come in black, I promise, ShopStyle just doesn’t show that picture. Never mind, burgundy can count as a neutral!)

It’s Really About The Shoes & Jewelry

Have a wonderful holiday, if you’re celebrating, may your days be merry and bright!



Note: The Hawaiian earrings in the collage are from Na Hoku, in, um, Hawaii. The native American earrings come from this site in Arizona, they say they buy directly from the artisans. Affiliate links in the widgets may generate commissions.