Scent Trunk review: Sample curated, niche fragrances

Disclaimer: I received this box in exchange for an honest review. 

Calling itself the "Netflix of fragrance," Scent Trunk is a startup subscription service that delivers three fragrance samples tailored to your tastes. It's $18 a month, and the price goes down to $16 a month or $15 a month when you subscribe for six months or a year, respectively.

Here's how it works. You make a scent profile of specific notes you enjoy, and you can look up where a scent fits, whether it's fresh, floral, oriental or woods. When I was done, mine looked something like this:

Then, Scent Trunk sends you small vials of three scents they think you'll love. You rate them, and they use your opinions to curate your next box. There are two things that stand out about Scent Trunk. First, they have perfumes from independent brands you've never had sprayed in your face at a department store. Second, they want to educate clients about fragrance so they buy something they'll truly enjoy.

In my elegant little box, which arrived within the week and included cards describing the fragrances, their attributes and longevity and sillage, I was treated to these scents:

Olympic Orchids Golden Cattleya: This was the first scent I tried and I loved it. Liquid gold, rich and thick and expensive smelling. But kinda tarty, in a very good way. Sexy. It was creamy, rich, sweet, and I definitely got that cream soda vibe the scent card promised. I thought the honey was the obvious scent that rose from this, although my friends who sniffed the inside of my elbow all said vanilla was their first impression. When I smell this, I have to close my eyes. It's also got killer longevity. This is the one I'd be most likely to buy a full-sized bottle of.

Amouage Jubilation 25 Woman: This was a challenging fragrance for me. Did I love it and want to bathe in it, or did I hate it and want to take a shower and get it off me? A little bit of both, but after a few wears, I grew to love it. Its sharp start faded within seconds to leave behind something soapy that comes through the spice. But there's a lovely, close-to-the-skin drydown when the leather and musk are prominent. It's sweet, but not cloying. Floral, but not astringent the way a lot of popular florals read to me. Weirdly, it occurred to me the first time I wore it that it smelled kinda like how people describe Angel by Thierry Mugler in the best-case scenario, except on me Angel smelled like spicy BO and made me ill. The Amouage smells refined yet comforting, like eating apple pie at Gatsby's. At $280 a bottle, this is wildly out of my price range. But that's what's so cool about this service — getting to try stuff I'd never in my wildest dreams be able to wear otherwise.

Note Fragrances Honey Blossom: This was the easiest one to like. It's lovely, pretty, sweet, unchallenging. It would be a perfect everyday perfume. Here's the thing with me and perfume: most of the time, when a girlfriend says "smell this," I dislike whatever it is. It bores me, or it stings my nose like rubbing alcohol with a dash of something sorta floral on top. I love smelling pretty, but sometimes I think I'd prefer to smell intriguing than smelling pretty. This one stood out the least for me, but it was a good middle ground — it would be universally likable, but it's still interesting. I feel like there's some subtlety and craft here.

I think Scent Trunk is an awesome service to try whether you're a fragrance expert looking to branch out and discover niche fragrances (really steps up your scent street cred to wear something no one else has heard of yet!) or if you're just starting out and want your own perfume stylist to help you pick something out.

Ready to give Scent Trunk a try? You can use the coupon code clever25 to get 25% off your first box. They're also doing a giveaway for a free box.


Book review: "Unteachable" by Leah Raeder

"The night I met you was like someone handed me a winning lottery ticket and said, 'You can only have it if you don't tell anyone.' "

“...The thought of how much happiness lay scattered across the universe, unrealized, in fragments, waiting for the right twist of fate to bring it together.”

Whoa, baby. Let's see if I can wrestle this beast down.

Leah Raeder's Unteachable is one doozy of a book. It's 320 pages of overwhelming emotions. The premise alone is enough to cause serious lip-chewing and hand-wringing. Barely legal high school senior Maise wraps up her summer with a steamy car hookup at a carnival, convinced she'll never see the hot guy she rode the roller coaster with again. Except he turns out to be her film teacher. And now they sorta kinda can't live without each other and INSANITY ENSUES. Basically, Raeder laughs at your "forbidden love" stories and says, "take that, wimps." 

This is a slim volume densely packed with well-developed characters, shocking plot twists, location changes and a TON of drama. Daddy issues. Good mothers and baaaaad mothers. Fraught friendships and coke fiends. Secrets. Lots and lots and lots of graphic sex. That's a big draw. This book is hot. But it's also deep, beautiful and challenging.

That time I did standup comedy

Everyone wants a crack at that sign when the show's over

This is how you make yourself do something daring — you tell people you're going to do it, rendering backing out impossible.

A few months ago, Eric and I went to an open mic night at the Pittsburgh Improv. Having never been to an open mic night, we expected something shabbier than what we got. You know, just a few sporadic and awkward people stepping up in some rinky dink hole in the wall. Which is not at all what we found.

Instead, Stand-Up Pittsburgh is a well-organized event in a swanky location. You eat dinner, you down cocktails, you laugh your ass off. It's awesome. And the whole time I was there, on the verge of peeing my pants and splitting my face, I thought, I want to do this. I want to do this I want to do this I want to do this.

So I did, not at the next open mic but the one after that. I wrote jokes, I scratched jokes out. I mined every exasperating situation for humor. I made weird connections, like between sexual harassment and dinosaurs. I binged on standup specials on Netflix and studied Amy Schumer's delivery like it was my second job.

I invoked all my favorite female comedians on Twitter and was stunned and fangirling when they actually responded.

I mean COME ON. It was surreal and cool and when I realized that I kind of hated my Twitter handle, which I've since changed to @whatisliz.

So there was no backing out. The priestesses of comedy had spoken, plus girls from my knitting group had already bought their tickets. You have to have four people there to see you to be allowed to perform. And I had seven! Seven awesome people showed up to support me and I felt like such a lucky girl.

Some of my cheering section
When I was just a spectator, it was on a light night during which only six or eight comics performed, two of them women.

This time, there were well over a dozen performers, and I was the only chick. No pressure to prove women are funny or anything. Add to that my already intense nerves and the fact that while waiting I'd accidentally already had a G&T and some lemony shooter thing on an empty stomach.

I got up there in my too-tight purple velvet pants and mercifully sturdy heels and I honestly couldn't tell if I was funny or not while I was up there. I saw smiles, I heard laughs here and there, but I couldn't really see many people from the stage and I was really in the zone. It wasn't until people were coming up to me after my performance that I started to feel really good about what I did up there.

Getting up in front of a crowd of strangers and friends and saying ridiculous, obscene things like a filthy little troll was liberating. (I mean, saying "vagina" into a microphone is basically a feminist act.) I put myself on blast and people responded to it. Being a broad and not a lady, the version of me that's all Id and moxie and wit, devoid of a filter, was my everything. A soaring high I intend to repeat.

Now I'm not just going about my day. I'm searching for material.