Well, I lost the Scent Diary for last week (which I generally start as a Word document so I can add to it each day in the week), and then got stalled out on this week’s SD post due to general busy-ness. So you get another summing-up.
(“The Princess Bride” might just be my favorite movie of all time, y’all. Really.)
So it’s been cold and icky. Man, you know, winter rain is just horrible. Snow is nice, but winter rain is like the bitter tears of the earth. I’ve been testing samples, but I’ve also been wearing winter staples like Black Cashmere,Alahine, and Soivohle Centennial, as well as more year-round loves like Mariella Burani and Safari. I know, I keep wearing the same things over and over, but those are the ones I want. Shrug.
Incidentally, that text color I found for Centennial is the dusty dark peach color it really has in my mind, just the shade of an angora sweater I used to have in college.
The other thing I’ve been wearing frequently is Marc Jacobs Daisy. Now, look – Daisy is straight-up department-store let’s-not-offend-anybody uninspired. I acknowledge it. But it is also pretty and uncomplicated, and it just plain smells nice. It is, in fact, exactly the kind of thing that my female protagonist in the women’s fiction/romance novel I’m currently editing would wear. I like to wear fragrances that might suit my characters; I find it helps me keep their personalities firmly in mind while I’m writing.
The current plan is to self-publish this novel for Kindle/e-book, but I can’t tell you when that will be. A matter of months, no doubt. I’ll be sure to share info for it here.
Snowflake the lamb is growing by, er, leaps and bounds. He’s so stinkin’ cute!
I had a whole week’s worth of Scent Diary somewhere and lost it, so I can’t call this post Scent Diary. Instead, it’s just a random collection of musings from the week, things I remember thinking about. Here ya go:
After the snow, we’ve had some warm weather. The CEO is happy; Gaze is happy. I’m not. It’s been raining. I hate winter rain. If the atmosphere is going to shoot down wet stuff in winter, it should be cold enough to turn the moisture to snow, in my opinion. Bleargh.
Snowflake the lamb is thriving and getting bigger. He’s getting aggressive, too – every time I go into the laundry room, he’s following me around and nibbling at my jeans looking for milk. The lamb crop is up to 150%, which is nice. Gaze’s little flock includes six ewes, and all of them have now lambed. Two single ewe lambs, a set of girl twins, a set of boy twins (one of them was Snowflake), a set of mixed-gender twins*, and a ram lamb, born small and a little bit early but appearing to get along fine.
* I was concerned that the ewe lamb of this twin set might be a freemartin – that is, sterile – but apparently it’s only in cattle that the female twin of a male calf is unable to reproduce, due to the mixing of genetic material in the placenta. It can happen with sheep, goats, and pigs, but it is a rare occurrence. Cattle have twins at slightly lower than the rate in humans (1% for cows, 2% for women not using fertility drugs), and of those twin births, about a third are male-female pairs. 90-96% of female calves with male twins are sterile. Ewes, on the other hand, have twins at the same rate as they have singletons.
I have tested a few more things this week, so look for a Mini-Review Roundup soon. However, I have mostly been wearing favorites and standbys: Teo Cabanel Alahine (pretty much the only amber I like… but I really love it), Ralph Lauren Safari (a greenie for cooler weather), Guerlain Shalimar Light (far less filthy than That Skank Shalimar, but still a little bit dirty) Donna Karan Black Cashmere (not black, rich russet brown), and By Kilian Sweet Redemption(pretty much the only orange blossom that doesn’t smell like soap on me – instead, it’s like orange blossom candy).
I miss Bookworm. But finally Taz decided to give The Dragonbone Chair another shot, and this time he made it through the slow opening and swallowed this 600-page book in about two days. I asked him what he thought of it, and he did not feel satisfied with the ending. “Is that it?” he wanted to know. “Seems unfinished.” I reminded him that he’d just finished the first – and shortest! – book of a trilogy, and there was plenty more action coming. He’s working on The Stone of Farewell now.
Speaking of which, Bookworm and I have always made fun of the title font of this book, in which the T of “Stone” looks like a C if you catch a glimpse of it from a short distance away. So we call it The Scone of Farewell, AKA the Biscuit of Bye-bye, or even The Teacake of Toodle-oo if we are being exceptionally silly. But when I looked for an image of the book for this post, I checked Amazon and found that the cover has been updated with a less “fantasy novel” font. Oh well. Still a terrific, terrific fantasy series, and a cornerstone of modern fantasy lit. You can thank Tad Williams for laying a foundation on which the Game of Thrones series was laid, even if you think Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is dated and too-familiar. (You want to talk about pastiche? ERAGON. Eragon, while being an astonishingly good book series by a teenage author, seems to me like Paolini took every fantasy novel ever written to that point, threw them in a blender and hit Frappé. Frankly, the series bored me, and yes, I read all of it anyway.)
And I am working on revising an old novel for publication as a Kindle e-book. It’s scaring me to death… more on that later, too.
I’ve been testing a few things new to me and trying to work my way through the Sample Stash, having becoming interested again in sniffing things other than my favorites. So here goes!
L’Wren Scott (for Barneys): This perfume, released by the model and designer in 2009, in conjunction with her design label, generated some buzz around the time of its introduction with the then-staggering price of $195 per 100ml bottle. It’s a price that certainly seems less staggering now, given the price hikes we’ve seen across the board, but it was a shocker at the time. Scott, who was dating Mick Jagger for a time, died in 2014 and her business folded, of course. I’ve recently seen bottles on eBay for $50, so it’s within reach now of those of us not able (or willing) to drop big bucks on our fragrance.
Ms. Scott said in interviews that she mixed her own oils and was highly involved in the creation of her fragrance, from the notes to the packaging. This I believe – celebrities who are interested in fragrance for itself tend to release fragrances that are interesting, at least.
This one is downright quirky. First, it’s a spicy floral modern chypre. And when I say “spicy,” I don’t mean cozy baked-goods spices like cinnamon. I mean anise, artemisia, curry tree, coriander and cloves. The anise seems prominent to me, but the effect is highly aromatic in an unusual way. There’s a ton of patchouli, and lots of jasmine and geranium – very little oakmoss, but this is a chypre in the modern style. It’s big, bold, and in character something like that 80s beast, Ungaro Diva. Oddly for something so bold, it doesn’t last very long on my skin. It’s aromatic and woody enough that I would think it would be perfectly comfortable for a man to wear.
Here’s a masculine take on L’Wren Scott, at CaFleureBon.
Comme des Garcons Blue Encens: I went through a brief period of wanting to smell all the incense fragrances I could, after finding the smell of high-church incense very pleasant. (Hey. The Baptist church I grew up in had cinderblock walls, and although I visited St. Andrew’sseveral times to admire its beautiful jewelbox interior, I never went to services there. It took a visit to Malta five years ago to introduce me to church incense.)
Blue Encens has the traditional incensey mix atop a dry (not sweet) amber, with cool spices. It reminds me a good deal of the late, lamented Comptoir Sud Pacifique Eau du Gouverneur – all that pepper and sheer spice! It’s not particularly ashy, nor very woody. Nor is it groundbreaking; it’s just nice. I enjoyed this one. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that I did – its composer, Evelyne Boulanger, also worked on CdG Zagorsk (speaking of which, I like it again).
Miller Harris L’Air de Rien: Luca Turin’s review of this one in Perfumes: The Guide doesn’t make it sound like anything I would want to wear. However, there’s a regular commenter on Now Smell This who loves it and finds it comforting. I can’t remember which of her mentions of it convinced me that I needed to try it, but I’m pretty sure she talked me into it.
The notes listed are simply neroli, patchouli, oakmoss, amber, musk and vanilla. Of this one, Turin says, “It smells of boozy kisses, stale joss sticks, rising damp, and soiled underwear. I love it,” and gives it four stars.
Eww. To me, however, it simply smells like “skin musk,” with perhaps a veil of that “old books” smell. I mean, I can smell it, but it sort of melts into the skin and becomes a pleasant ambient scent. I don’t get a lot of patchouli in this, though I expected to. Would I wear it? Probably not, but that’s more a matter of finding it unexciting than finding it dirty.
Okay, so it’s MUSK. We know what happens with musks – they’re large molecules right at the edge of human perception, and many people are anosmic to (they can’t smell) several musks but can smell others. I suspect this is what happened to me with Smell Bent’s Commando, a fragrance recommended by Tom of Perfume Posse and Perfume-Smellin’ Things as smelling like the “impeccably clean skin of a child.” Um, nope. Nope. That thing is crowded locker room all the way, dude. And Patty at Perfume Posse calls L’Air de Rien “the huge catbutt perfume that skanked its way across the perfume universe,” at first, before deciding it was a lovely musky leather.
Burberry Weekend for Women: According to Fragrantica, it’s a fruity floral with some powdery notes. I thought it might be safe to test it when going to the salon for a haircut-and-highlights, but wound up having to scrub it off. Why? It smells of adult diapers to me – that is, stale urine. It’s horrible.
With notes of citrus, peach, and your quieter floral elements of hyacinth, peach blossom and mignonette, it sounds completely inoffensive, right? Well, somewhere down the list of notes, there is sage. Sage, in perfumery, is straight-up pee to my nose, and there’s the culprit. Aromatics Elixir smells urinous to me, too. (Sorry. It is what it is.)
Victoria over at EauMGhas a different opinion on it, and I’m betting that hers is the more common reaction. (How about that? The inoffensive one offends, and the skanky-catbutt one smells fine to me. You never know.)
More mini-reviews coming soon – I’d forgotten how much fun this is!
Over the summer, Bookworm set herself to use up as much as possible of the substantial yarn stash that my grandmother Sarah Lou (“Bambaw”) left behind her.
Please notice that I do not mention the considerable supplies of unpainted china, designs, and china paints she didn’t get around to using before her death at the age of almost-92. Nor the stacks upon stacks of fabric, yarn, clothing patterns, embroidery floss, buttons, and other notions. My other grandmother, Nell, a quilter, also left a similar pile of fabric and notions when she died at 92. She moved from her enormous farmhouse to a condo ten years before, and had reduced her stash to what she thought would be manageable before the move. All the same, after her death, my three aunts were cleaning out the condo and I overheard them discovering yet another supply of fabrics. Oh, the moaning!
I come from a long line of packrats, and it disturbs me, but so far not enough that I’ve begun jettisoning my own craft supplies. I really need to find a new home for the cross-stitch, however, because it hurts my hands. My fingers get numb within five minutes of holding a needle. And I hate that, and I would love to get back to stitching, but it’s just not going to happen. Neither can I crochet with thread and steel hooks anymore, same reason. These days I work with fat yarn and ergonomic hooks.
However, back to Bambaw’s yarn stash and Bookworm’s attempt to whittle it down… this past summer, she picked a couple of skeins of peculiar yarn out of the box and decided to do something with them. They were cream and goldenrod shades, and of a sport weight size, not very soft but with an attractive sheen to them. These skeins were of 100% rayon, and so old that the price tag on them said 29¢! Bookworm ruled out making her usual items (hat, scarf, dishcloth, rug) from them and finally settled on making a purse. For me, because she never carries one.
It’s wonderfully cheery, very summery. Looking at it makes me happy. But, of course, it’s crocheted, which means holes, which means you lose things like pens and perfume sample vials and stuff like that, which means that it needed a lining. Which meant that I needed to sew one.
Six months and eight tutorials later, it is done.
I used an old, worn, fitted sheet from a set with a pattern I always loved, in colors that make me happy – I cut off the bad elastic near the foot of the sheet, where the pattern was still bright and the cotton in good shape, and used it to line my lovely summery striped bag.
It was a lot of work – measure and cut, iron on interfacing, cut again, measure and mark again, make a stiffener for it, change the thread on the sewing machine, mess with the (aging) sewing machine… rip out a badly placed seam and resew it… then hand-sew it in, a little bit at a time (because hand-sewing makes my hands hurt).
Totally worth it. I love it.
Thanks to my sweet thoughtful Bookworm. Thanks to my mother, who gave me my inexpensive Kenmore sewing machine 23 years ago (she knew I’d need it!), and thanks to my grandmother, who probably snapped up that rayon yarn at half-off, at least forty years ago. The purse might be new, but it says family to me. I’ll carry it with pleasure.
Monday, Jan. 18 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day here. An amazing man.
When I was in high school, Coach Roland Malone (who taught Health & PE as well as coaching the boys’ basketball team) would take the microphone for morning announcements and read us MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech every year on this day. Amen and amen. (Coach, who died a few months ago from cancer in his mid-80s, was also a minister and a lovely person. He was, as we say around here to describe the indescribable, “somethin’ else.” I clearly remember him exhorting us in health class to avoid straining on the toilet, lest we cause ourselves hemorrhoids. Oh, yes, he said it…)
SOTD is Mary Greenwell Plum,over a bit of Juicy Couture body creme. Mmmmm.
Tuesday, Jan. 19 – SOTD is Honore des Pres Vamp a NY– tuberose root beer, here I come! Cheerful, vulgar, great stuff. (Funny how I tend to color-code BWFs as pink, isn’t it?)
Wednesday, Jan. 20 – I am almost finished with this novel – I’ve just been going back and adding scenes to bridge from one part to another. It’s kind of driving me crazy, and I think I might be better off putting it aside for a month or so and working on something else in the meantime.
The boys got out of school two hours early because winter weather was expected. I was out doing errands, and actually got caught in it a couple of times, where accidents well ahead of me blocked the roads. I finally decided to turn around and go the long way out to the interstate, which I knew would at least be scraped in one lane (it was clear all the way at that point).
SOTD was Pierre de Velay Extrait No. 11, an old floral chypre formula now produced by Roja Dove. It’s gorgeous. Smells a good deal like Roja’s first LE edp version of Diaghilev (I haven’t smelled the ridiculously pricy parfum version), or like Mitsouko without the brooding darkness. Or vintage Coty Chypre with a ton of lively bergamot up top. I got a decant at Surrender to Chance a while back, and it’s really lovely.
Thursday, Jan. 21 – Yesterday evening’s snow had stopped by 9 pm, and it’s clear today, but there’s no school. The boys are watching Discovery Channel and lounging; I am writing.
SOTD is Donna Karan Black Cashmere, since I finally performed the WINTER perfume cabinet-to-hatbox switch! It does feel like cashmere, but doesn’t smell very black to me at all. Maybe camel or beige, something you can accent with a red scarf. Great stuff.
Friday, Jan. 22 – Snow! Powdery light snow that then turned to sleet and back to snow, getting heavier as the day went on. I participated in the Friday Challenge at Now Smell This, wearing Serge Noire (which is definitely black: clove, wood, incense) on one wrist and sampling Miller Harris L’Air de Rien, which is not black but sort of greige – neutral, but serious about it.
I made brownies and a delicious pot roast with potatoes and carrots and onions. You need substantial food in weather like this. Taz has been outside shoveling the front walk and the driveway; how thoughtful of him!
Gaze went to check on his sheep in the evening, and found that one of the boy twins was cold and lethargic because his mother had apparently forgotten she had two lambs and was only feeding his brother. It can happen so fast – he’d been up and running around in the morning, and the sheep were free to go inside the hay barn, but lambs are so small that they can lose body heat very quickly if they’re not eating.
So the lamb came into the laundry room and we did our best to warm him up and feed him something. It took several hours, parked on top of a thick towel over the heating pad, with a towel over him, before he really got warm, and he had so little energy that it was difficult to get any milk into him even using a syringe. But finally The CEO got him to take a couple of ounces of milk out of a baby bottle, and then got up in the middle of the night to feed him again.
Saturday, Jan. 23 – Snow. Snow, snow, wind and snow all day… makes me think of my 1970s childhood! Total accumulation somewhere around 14 inches, substantial but not crippling. I think this storm wound up farther north and east than I had expected it to go; Bookworm said that New Haven got enough snow that they closed the dining hall. Luckily, she had some microwave meals in her room.
We had a fire going and it was nice in the house. The lamb was eager for another bottle by the time Taz went to check on him early in the morning. He is now taking bottles like a champ, and frisking about the laundry room with bright black eyes. We’re pretty sure he’s going to make it now, and we named him Snowflake.
I cleaned out the upstairs linen closet and came out with a PILE of old raggedy towels and worn sheets to take to the local animal shelter. I confess that I’ve been following the unwritten dictum that guests get the best towels, adults the next best, and the kids use the ones that are less nice; that’s how things were in my house when I was a child. I’ve gotten three sets of new towels in the past year, so it was time to do some towel-shuffling.
Gaze went to check on his sheep in the late afternoon, and found that one ewe was having trouble lambing. The CEO went out to help, and together they pulled the lamb and got the pair settled in a warm spot in the hay barn. The rest of them are doing fine.
SOTD was Shalimar Light, very cozy.
Sunday, Jan. 24 – Sunshine today. It melted much of the snow off the vehicles by the afternoon, which bodes well for The CEO getting to class in Blacksburg tomorrow. Sampling things today, and grooving on the lamb. He is so cute.
Sampling L’Wren Scott for Barney’s, an interesting floral chypre with anise! Rather quirky.
Hunter-doggie is ABOUT TO DIIIIEEEE to go down to the laundry room and play with Snowflake. He excitement-whined all day yesterday. I mean ALL DAY. About 11 pm I had had enough (because he might say he wants to play with, but he really means taste), and fussed at him to shut up, and then he pouted. See?
Monday, Jan. 11 – Weather is windy and chilly, but sunny. It’s my birthday, and Bookworm took me to the new place in town for lunch. We shared potato skins topped with shredded beef, cheese, and fried onions, and then I chose a sandwich of sliced turkey and pepper jack with chipotle mayo on a toasted baguette while she had a mushroom swiss burger. Yummy.
SOTD is Mary Greenwell Plum, over some Juicy Couture body creme because the two smell startlingly alike, especially in the top and heart: a tangy-fruity white floral with rose that just makes me smile every time. The Juicy Couture in parfum and body creme diverges, in my opinion, from the more-commonly-worn EdP, which I find ridiculously Watermelon Bubblicious-y. You know, that highly artificial watermelon flavor? That’s all I can smell in JC edp, but the creme and the parfum skip the watermelon for citrus and green notes. JC never actually gets to its gourmandy basenotes on me, it’s all top/heart. Which is okay, because it’s so closely related to Plum and Plum has a lightweight modern-chypre base that I like very much.
No birthday party yet; the boys had a MACC (academic challenge team) match and then I had to attend a band booster meeting. Bookworm was on the MACC science team, so she enjoyed watching the meet. Gaze and Taz, however, are on the social studies team; Gaze is the geography expert and Taz specializes in 20th century Western history. Social Studies has been good for the past several years, and they did win convincingly tonight.
Tuesday, Jan. 12 – Warmer today. Wore RL Safari during the day and did some errands with Bookworm, in between loads of laundry.
Then my MIL brought fried chicken from the local grocery store deli for dinner. I made my own cake, which was fun although I couldn’t get the icing swirls to go where I wanted them to go (boooo). I did get to unwrap the deeply-discounted bottle of Penhaligon’s Ostara I had bought for The CEO to give me. It’s really nice stuff.
The highlight of the gifts, though, was the copy of The Dragonbone Chairwhich Taz picked out for the kids to give me. I had a copy, but it’s been read so often that its pages are falling out, so he thought I’d like a replacement. I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I’ll plug it again: if you like classic epic fantasy and don’t demand a fast pace, give this Tad Williams three-book series a try. There’s a lot of world-building and character introduction in the first, oh, 200 pages, but if you can slog through that, things pick up afterward. Taz is not naturally a thoughtful person, but I think he’s developing some sensitivity. Proud of him.
Wednesday, Jan. 13 – COLD again, windy and well below freezing. Gaze had to gather up his sheep and put them in the small lot near the hay barn, so that they could have access to shelter in this weather. He kept the one ewe lamb born last year, and he’s borrowed a ram, so there are seven sheep… and one lamb! Wish I had a picture, but they’re pretty far from the house (that’s the drawback of the hay barn) so I haven’t snuck out there with my camera. This is a shot of a lamb from last year. #sorrynotsorry
Ostara, though it’s ostensibly a spring floral, has enough heft to it that it hasn’t been overpowered by the cold. I’m getting a good deal more ylang in my bottle, as opposed to the manufacturer spray sample I had used up. I’ve heard some complaints about the white musk in the drydown, but I don’t smell a lot on me; it just sort of tails off into a quiet woody thing. (Maybe I’m anosmic… no, I did get a whiff of it in my sample spray, but very little in this bottle. The base here reminds me a little bit of the drydown of Chamade, actually, though less vanillic. It smells a bit like Amaranthine… hmm…) It actually smells yellow.
Thursday, Jan. 14 – It’s far less cold than yesterday. SOTD is Mariella Burani.
Bookworm is packing to go back to school. I’m not looking forward to being the only person in the house that’s lacking a Y chromosome… sigh. Also, I just miss her when she’s gone. We did some errands, like picking her car up from the garage; it needed a current inspection sticker, and it was burning a good deal of oil on its trip home last month, so we had the local garage check it out. It needed its head gaskets replaced (!!! $$$!! ouch) and a tie rod end.
We also had to hit the DMV for a valid registration, because I had renewed it online but we hadn’t received the updated copy and the 2016 stickers for the license plate. I know people love to hate on the DMV… but I have to say, I’ve never had any extended wait times or poor service at ours. It might be because it’s a small office, but I give my local DMV workers kudos. We hit the door at 11:10 a.m., took a number from the check-in station, and were called to the first of the four service desks before we’d even sat down.
Watched the Kenneth Branagh-Emma Thompson noir thriller “Dead Again” (trailer here) with Bookworm after dinner, while the boys were at another MACC match. I do love “Dead Again,” especially for Robin Williams’ scene-stealing, disbarred psychiatrist, who dispenses advice from the meat cooler of the Hispanic grocery store he’s now working in. And for Andy Garcia’s sexy, chain-smoking reporter, who “misses the war.” (I wonder if Ken or Emma ever watch this thing and get a pang; they were married at the time it was filmed, and the attraction shows, but only a few years later, he left her for Helena Bonham-Carter.)
Fri., Jan. 15 – Chilly again. No SOTD; instead, I tested several samples.
Bookworm left to go back to Yale. She called around noon, to tell me that the car was making funny noises and she was concerned. We called the local garage; they put her in contact with a garage close to where she was (somewhere in PA). Turns out the car needed its alternator belt replaced, yikes. They got it fixed and she made it back to her dorm room by 11 pm – several hours late, but safe.
Sat., Jan. 16 – Spent the day cleaning and doing laundry, so I was commando all day. Tired. My ankle where I have a cracked bone (stress fracture) really hurt from all the up-and-down-stairs hustle. The CEO made it safely back to LA, and from there back to Dulles. He went to his sister’s house to spend the night.
Sun., Jan. 17 – I was expecting The CEO to show up around lunchtime, assuming his body clock didn’t get completely bollixed up and he slept too long. However, he came in at quarter to seven in the morning SURPRISE!!! He managed to go to church with us and have lunch before collapsing into a good long nap.
SOTD was Ostara again, and I am increasingly puzzled by the resemblance to Amaranthine. Now this is not bizarre in itself; these two are both from Penhaligon’s. Also, I have begun to notice that many of Bertrand Duchaufour’s creations have a certain indefinable something in common. When I was testing Ostara this past summer, it seemed similar in feel to Neela Vermeire Pichola. But I really should get out my manufacturer spray sample of Ostara and compare it to the bottle, which I bought considerably discounted. I’m starting to wonder if perhaps there was a compounding incident at Penhaligon’s and somebody decided to add the little bit of Amaranthine that might be leftover (it was discontinued this past year, I think) to the Ostara mix, so when someone noticed, the company decided to shove that batch of bottles off to a discount site. No factual basis for this guess, of course, but I’m exceedingly puzzled. Will report back on the wrist-to-wrist, sample vs. bottle test.
Catching up on the personal stuff: The CEO is in New Zealand at the moment, shepherding eight undergrads and one graduate student/assistant around Lincoln University, near Christchurch, at the very beginning of a two-week short-course study abroad that deals with international trade in agriculture and will cover a goodly portion of New Zealand, from the Haast Pass on South Island to Waiheke Island north of Auckland. This is the trip that I was able to go on the planning trip for, back in July (when it was frigidly cold).
Bookworm is home from Yale and doesn’t return until the third weekend in January. Gaze has returned from his marching band trip to Florida, to perform in the halftime show with several other bands at the Russell Athletic Bowl (the Bears of Baylor University, in Texas, beat the University of North Carolina Tar Heels 49-38). Taz seems to be in that odd stage where he’s visibly growing every single day. I swear, the new jeans I bought him for his birthday in October are too short now.
And I have almost completed one novel, as well as beginning to revise and edit another one. Yay me!
As for perfumes released this past year: I didn’t manage to try even half the 2015 releases that many fragophiles enjoyed. As I’ve said before, my lame testing status is largely due to the fact that I live in the back of beyond, with nary a Scent Bar or Twisted Lily or Arielle Shoshana brick-n-mortar testing site within driving distance. (Please note: Arielle Shoshana is within about six hours’ drive of my house, but less than an hour away from my sister-in-law’s place, so I’m not ruling it out. I hope to get to Northern Virginia SOMEtime this year.)
Another reason I didn’t test a lot of new fragrances was that I wasn’t really tempted by many of them. I always like to get my mitts on a new tuberose, and fresh sparkling aldehydes grab me too, as well as greenies – you know I love my greenies. However, there seemed to be a great number of woodies and Orientals and twists on the traditional cologne formula, and those just aren’t my cup of tea.
Here’s the short list of fragrances mentioned as worthy by some other perfume bloggers – generally mainstream and established niche fragrances, with some indie ones as well – that I did not manage to smell. No brand-new, super-spendy, Eurocentric avant-garde lines like Stephan Humbert Lucas or O’Driu or Xerjoff (okay, that one’s maybe not so “new”), and I also didn’t test much from natural/botanical indie perfumers like Providence Perfumes or Aftelier, either. Oh well. I have become accustomed to the concept that a good part of the parade is going to pass me by, and I’m okay with that. I’ve only got two eyes, anyway. Stuff other bloggers liked that I didn’t even get around to trying (as always, please forgive the lack of diacritical marks): Aedes de Venustas Palissandre d’Or– a woody thingy, i.e. Not My Cup of Tea. Annick Goutal L’Ile au Thé – I had been interested in trying this one, but when somebody calls a Goutal “thin” in a review, it’s sure to be as thin as Kate Moss standing sideways. Arquiste Nanban – an Oriental thingy, really NMCoT. Atelier Cologne Pomelo Paradis – a cologney thingy, NMCoT. Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au Thé Bleu – a twist on Bvlgari’s classic green-tea thingy, which I found boring as heck anyway, so adding a lavender focus was not going to help. SOOO NMCoT. Byredo Rose of No Man’s Land – I’d like to try this one, a woody rose. Just haven’t gotten around to it. Dame Perfumery Scottsdale Dark Horse – a spicy woody thingy. It’s not that I dislike spicy-woody things, but with a bottle of Smell Bent One and a small decant of F Malle Musc Ravageur, I feel like I’ve got my needs covered. That said, Dame Perfumery is doing a terrific job at a low price point, and the world needs it. Dior Feve Delicieuse – With the exception of Cuir Cannage, I’m kind of burned out on Dior creations lately. I like tonka bean, but I just didn’t think I needed to test a frag based on the Delicious Bean itself. Diptyque Florabellio – salty floral thingy, NMCoT. Hermes Jour d’Hermes Gardenia – Should be My Cup of Tea, but I’m not going to risk it after the original Jour went all Sharon-Stone-Basic-Instinct-Icepick-y on me and the Absolu version threatened to boil my bunny, a la Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Just not gonna. Hermes Le Jardin de Monsieur Li – I can totally resist nearly every Jean-Claude Ellena fragrance ever created, as they tend to last about 19.2 seconds on me. (Luckily, the only one I really wanted to last on me was Osmanthe Yunnan.) L’Artisan Rose Privee – if I ran across a tester I’d be all over it. Might consider a sample.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Ciel de GUM – I really would like to try this one. Oddly, I keep seeing it written “Ciel de Gum,” which is a little unfortunate in its wording because it makes me imagine “Bubblicious Heaven.” Actually, it was created for the Russian department store GUM, which used always to be referred to with capital letters in all those Cold War novels I read. In any case, it’s a floral oriental and it’s by Francis K, whose fragrances I tend to have decent luck with. Want – at least to test. MFK Oud Satin Mood – powdery woody rose-vanilla, apparently, which sounds nice. Again, if I ran across a tester bottle I’d definitely give it a shot. Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre – I have yet to try any scents from this house; they’re expensive, and none of them have appealed on the basis of notes. This is no different. Ashes of Iris? Uh, thanks, I’ll just be over here… um… okay, fine, you caught me, I’m sticking to No. 19 and Heure Exquise for my iris hits. Ormonde Jayne Vanille d’Iris – Again with the iris. Sigh. Papillon Salome – an animalic floral oriental, emphasis on the oriental? Y’all, I can’t even manage Joy! Perfectly well-mannered ladies wear Joy to church and have for decades, where on me Joy smells like post-coital satin underpants worn for three days straight in a heat wave. I think Salome would be a waste of time for me. (I mean, I do wear Memoir Woman, and White Diamonds, which are both pretty indolic. And Salome might surprise me. At the same time, if I have to buy a sample, I know it’s not a good risk.) Puredistance White – Puredistance has had two chances to win me over despite its astronomical pricing, with Puredistance I and Antonia. Both turned out to hide Something Extremely Stabby well underneath their truly gorgeous florals. I have my doubts that either White or Opardu would avoid this problem. Serge Lutens La Religieuse – aspirational pricing, incomprehensible and overly-artsy ad copy, plus jasmine and incense. I just don’t see this one working out, even if it were at export bottle prices. Slumberhouse Kiste– I’m super-glad that somebody is making Slumberhouse perfumes. They all sound utterly fascinating, if risky. At the same time, they’re not composed of notes I find very comfortable and I just never hear the notes list for a Slumberhouse and think, “Ooh, yeah, that would be a winner for me!” Never. Not even this one, which might come closest (peach and pipe tobacco). Tauerville Vanilla Flash– Vanilla. Ehhh. The Body Shop Smoky Poppy – people have been comparing this limited-edition mall-shop scent to Opium, which is practically a skull and crossbones for me. Not just no, but HECK no. The Different Company I Miss Violet – I like violet. Again, if I run across a tester, I’ll jump right on testing this one. Then again, it’s a Duchaufour… dunno.
That was a very long list. Now for some shorter ones, starting with the 2015 releases I managed to test but didn’t like, or was disappointed by, or found lacking in some way. Didn’t like/Disappointed by/Meh: Amouage Sunshine (technically a 2014 release but it didn’t get to the US until ’15) – I liked Sunshine, except… okay, honestly I still can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s so opaque, is maybe the best description. It’s pretty and happy, but I keep getting the feeling it’s hiding something unsavory from me. It’s like that blonde cheerleader who’s relentlessly cheerful, but secretly two inches from getting out a machete and going postal on the varsity squad. I get unnerved before I even hit the drydown. Bogue Maai – I didn’t do a full review of this one, and I really ought to. I really ought to give it a third skin testing, just in case, because what I got out of it was like NOTHING anybody else got out of it. Jungles and big cats and luxurious tuberose? Uh, no. I mean, it was fascinating, with a two-sided clean/dirty, dirty/clean aspect that was not unpleasant, just nothing like I expected. Really cool, except that I am just not okay with smelling like my mechanic cousin Theotis’ bathroom ca. 1978, complete with coal tar soap. (No, not pine tar soap. Coal tar soap – look it up.) Also, I never smelled much tuberose in it, much less any chypre. Bruno Fazzolari Seyrig – I blind-bought a 5ml split of this and expected I’d love it. Aldehydes and rich florals, and a vintage flair? So Me. Except that this one is sitting on a rich amber base that overwhelms the florals too soon and becomes a straight-up ambery oriental within about an hour’s wear. It then stays in the amber mode for five hours, which is So Not Me. Disappointed. Chanel Misia – I should have loved this. I don’t. I did buy a 2ml spray sample and have been spritzing it with abandon, and it is pretty, really pretty. But it is very buttoned-up and aloof and I find that that aspect really bothers me, which is odd because you’d think Misia merely carries on its Chanel heritage. No. 19 is buttoned-up and aloof – but it has a soul. I think that’s it, Misia is silent and empty-eyed, a mere aloof model with not a thought in her head, or if she has thoughts she’s not speaking them to me.
Jean Patou Vacances rerelease – This one isn’t bad at all. Not at all. It’s just that I was hoping for it to be the reincarnation of the 1980s rerelease of the Ma Collection version of Vacances, which is the most perfect and tender lilac scent ever, buttressed as the lilacs are with gentle green leaves. Ma Collection Vacances is, as I just said, basically perfect. This? Just nice. The lilacs are soft and I smell some hyacinth in here too, but hardly any leaves, and the whole thing is sitting on a clean musk that verges on laundry detergent. I suspect the old version had just a tiny smidge of heliotrope, and it’s as missed as the beautiful tender leaves are. I blind-bought a split portion after longing and longing for the rerelease to finally show up, but as Otto says in “A Fish Called Wanda,” I am DISAPPOINTED. Nina Ricci L’Extase – Ecstasy? Uh, nope. No, it’s another Modern Floral with Clean Patchouli. Dull. I probably tried a bazillion more mainstream things that smelled just like it in the Duty Free shop in the Auckland airport last July, but this is the only one I remember.
Sniffery wasn’t allll disappointing, though. There were at least a handful of fragrances I really enjoyed. I Liked: Tauer Perfumes Sotto La Luna Tuberose – I was so, so disappointed in the heaviness of Sotto La Luna Gardenia that I held back on testing this one. However, the Tuberose SLL is just lovely – green and fresh and floral, until it slides into Andy’s signature ambergris base. I’ll be using up the rest of my generous sample, but I don’t feel the need to stock up. Tauerville Rose Flash – Very much like the lovely and super-spendy By Kilian Rose Oud. Not a twin, exactly, but the same jammy rose, the same rich woody vanilla. So very pretty and almost juicy, a simplified rose-vanilla. A mood-lifter. Neela Vermeire Pichola – gorgeous florals, a smidge of spice, a bit of sandalwood… a really pretty drydown… but to me, the whole thing was spoiled by the traditional Duchaufour accent of rotting vasewater. I get that effect a lot with Duchaufours, and I suspect it’s the grade/preparation of his preferred source of vetiver. The fetor only lasted about half an hour, and I seem to be more sensitive to it than many people are, but it’s a jarring note in the middle of something lovely. Teo Cabanel Lace Garden – a BWF gone moderately-sized and a bit restrained; it only overwhelms you with its beauty. This comes the closest I’ve ever smelled to the beautiful and sadly discontinued original Kate Spade fragrance, a mix of gardenia, tuberose, orange blossom, lily of the valley and ylang-ylang. Everything is balanced, but lush. I’m still not sure why I didn’t immediately fall head-over-heels.
And I reeeeeally liked: Penhaligon’s Ostara – I tested this the same week that I tested Pichola, and was mildly surprised to find a great resemblance between the two, not exactly in smell but in feel. Shouldn’t have surprised me; Bertrand Duchaufour composed both of them. In any case, where Pichola had that murky-mucky pondwater fetid thing I get so often in Duchaufour frags, Ostara was just pure happiness. It smells of sunlight and spring, and while it does tail off into a very quiet white musk at the end, I’m so taken by the first two-thirds of it that I can ignore the musk – or spritz something else.
Reader, I bought it. I found it on a 40% off sale at Haute Look and snapped it up for my own Christmas present. (Usually The CEO gets me to pick out something for myself. This year he actually bought me a gift, a nice ceramic vase for flowers, so the Ostara is waiting for my January birthday.) Eric Buterbaugh Apollo Hyacinth – Green, cool, fresh and floral, a floral with backbone, a wonderful blending of bloom and stem, softness and strength (though not big sillage). Lasts for hours. Perfectly unisex. I have been avoiding buying any more Buterbaugh samples lest I fall desperately in love, because they are desperately, desperately pricey.
Here is to a fragrant and successful 2016! Wishing you and yours a year full of good things.
I can’t be the only person whose parents kept the radio station on the Easy Listening frequency, can I? I grew up on Roberta Flack’s recording of this song, about love that was promised and then came to nothing. (Hear it here on Youtube.)
And no, I’m not talking about the Black Eyed Peas version, which is a completely different song and which I did not know existed until I went looking for Roberta. I would feel hopelessly out of date, except that the BEPs are not a group/genre that I tend to follow. I listen to the Alternative station, myself.
Annnnyway… I recently opened and used a decant of a fragrance that I had had on my wishlist for a long time, and when one of the decanting services had a 20% off sale recently, I bought an 8ml spray. When it arrived I set it aside because I was in one of my mini-obsessions with RL Safari, but the other day I decided I was ready for that CdG Zagorsk which I had craved for so long. I sprayed it on… and I no longer love it.
The several wearings I gave my sample vial took me to an imagined church in a snowy city, where the sky is a pale wintry blue and the church is surrounded by balsams and junipers, the cold stone and the wooden pews combining with the incense to be cool and invigorating. It was whole, all of a piece, a complete sense journey.
Today, I’m getting a piecemeal sort of experience, like this: “Iris. That’s a weird celery-like iris,” followed by “Yeah, there’s that cold stone thing, I still like that,” and “Is that gin?” Then, later, “Okay, yeah, wood. And incense. Knew that’d show up.” But it isn’t the whole church-in-snowy-woods thing that it was in my sample, and I am disappointed.
So I’m sitting here with this thing on my wrist and thinking, What is wrong with me? Is it the wrong day/weather/venue for this scent? Has it changed? Did I only like it dabbed from a sample, did spraying change its qualities? Where is the love, y’all?
My original sample vial (ordered from The Perfumed Court, not affiliated, in 2012) is empty, so I can’t check to see if there’s been a reformulation. But it occurs to me that it’s happened to me before, that I loooooved something from a sample and then found that a decant, or a full bottle, didn’t satisfy.
Has that ever happened to you?
And what do you do about it?
I will probably hang on to Zagorsk and try it again at a different time/in different weather. Mind you, it wasn’t awful, it was just… meh, and I can’t remember why I wanted it instead of the half-dozen other things I considered purchasing in a decant. But I confess, I’m rather cranky about it.
Yeah, it’s been a long time since I visited this site, much less wrote a post. Much less published one.
And I’m neck-deep in NaNoWriMo again, so I don’t have a lot of time to be crafting blog posts and finding images and putting in links and responding to comments (though I will. Promise). But NaNo is going well: I’m currently up to 36,000+ words and the month is only half over. Moreover, I know where this story is going and I feel confident that not only will I reach 50,000 in plenty of time, I will also have a completed or mostly-complete rough draft of a novel that I will then be able to polish and start shopping around to agents. That “completing the rough draft in a month” was the part I had trouble with before. Instead, I was stretching out scenes and writing miles of dialogue in order to reach my word counts.
Not this time. This time, I have a story skeleton, and I’m just trying to get enough padding to drape over it, with the skin to complete and the finishing touches to come later. I am psyched.
As for perfume, after a period of several months when I wasn’t interested in testing anything new at all and forget writing about it, well, I’m back. Have been testing some newer perfumes and some that aren’t newly released but are new to me, and that’s been pretty cool. Hope to have some reviews coming in December.
I could do a “fall perfumes” post for 2015, but every single thing on it would be something I’ve mentioned in previous “fall perfumes” posts. Quick rundown, in case you missed those posts and are not interested in hunting them down: Cuir de Lancome, Smell Bent One, Donna Karan Black Cashmere, Guerlain Shalimar Light, Givenchy Organza Indecence, Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete, and Ralph Lauren Safari. (Well, no, I’ve recommended Safari before but I don’t think for fall. This just in: Safari is one of those things I have fallen madly in love with no matter the season. )
The marching band just finished another successful season. Unfortunately, they juuuuust missed receiving a Superior rating at their state marching assessment, so they won’t be a Virginia Honor Band this year. However, I have no doubt that next year will be a banner year. This year’s show was “The Madness of an Imaginary World,” an Alice in Wonderland theme, with original music, voiceover, and fiendishly difficult drill. (I sometimes wonder if a less difficult show might have gotten them that Superior. But I’m not the director.) The show had to grow on me, but it did grow, and I was very proud of “my kids.” By its final iteration, the show included not only an Alice running across the tops of the drums and dancing with one of the percussion guys, but an “off-with-their-heads” maneuver by the trombone section. It was fun.
Gaze withdrew early on from Governor’s School, after he decided that he did not really want to go on to college to study math or hard sciences. His skills tend to lie in more “soft sciences” like psychology and economics, and he’s not interested in engineering or medical school either. So when we found out that he was miserable, and that the high school offers many, many more AP courses than they used to when Bookworm was there, we decided that it would be best for him to refocus on his strengths instead of staying up half the night to do coursework in subjects he didn’t enjoy.
Gaze and Taz both had a good cross-country season. Taz, as a 9th grader, lost a shoe partway through a race, early in the season, but finished well, and his times continued to improve all season. Gaze’s times improved too but not as much as he had hoped. All the same, though, I’m very proud of them and the team in general. The boys’ team did win their conference and finished 10th of 24 in the region. (Check out those ripped quads on ma boy there. Beast legs, man. 😉 )
Bookworm has been so busy with her class schedule this semester that she hasn’t had much opportunity to do anything with the band at college. She’s competed in Ultimate Frisbee tournaments with her team, but I don’t think she’s even had as much time to spend with that group as she’d have liked. But here’s a shot of her being awesome, ’cause she is.
The CEO recently ran for the county Board of Supervisors and won his district. He’ll finish his term on the School Board next month, and take over the retiring supervisor’s seat in January.
I’m so proud of all of them. Heck, I guess I could say that I’m proud of myself too.
I have yet to get my paws on The CEO’s SD card and post some of his gorgeous pictures from our New Zealand trip, but maybe I can pin him down soon.
I still hate August.
Bookworm is home for a few weeks! Summer session at Yale ended this past week, and she got home on Sunday evening. Fall classes start on September 2, so she has a little bit of time to breathe and soak in some farm-fresh air. We made cornbread and pinto beans and country ham – foods she can’t get in CT. Well, they sometimes have cornbread in the dining hall, but it’s made with sugar and a much higher proportion of flour to cornmeal, so that it tastes like cake rather than the coarse savory skillet cornbread she prefers. (The addition of sugar to a cornbread recipe is a much-debated issue among Southern cooks, but of course the American South is such a wide area that “real Southern cornbread” has immense variation. I won’t be insulting and state that a recipe containing sugar can’t be “real Southern,” but my mother’s recipe doesn’t contain any. The first time I ever ate sweet cornbread was at the historic Michie Tavern, near Monticello, when I was seventeen, and I was horrified.)
Gaze started his classes at the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School for Science and Technology last week. Bookworm went through the program, which coordinates its classes through Virginia’s community college system, and found it valuable in teaching her study skills and in preparing her for college. It is a challenging curriculum, but I feel sure Gaze is up to it. SWVGS pulls from the surrounding seven counties, but it is located within a ten-minute drive of our high school, so that’s fairly convenient. Classes run from 7 am to approximately 10 am, and then the students return to their own high schools for the remainder of the day.
We had a very successful two weeks of band camp (including a week of “pre-camp,” which focuses on fundamental marching techniques). It’s a difficult program this year, all original music, and the marching drill is challenging as well. The show title is “The Insanity of an Imaginary World,” and it is an Alice in Wonderland theme.
Taz has been helping on the farm quite a bit lately, and every time I look at him I think he’s a little bit taller! Can’t believe my baby will be a 9th-grader this year. School starts on Thursday. He’s running cross-country and doing well so far.
If you ever entertained the notion that Pyrex dishes are indestructible, put it out of your head now. Here’s the transcript of a recent conversation I had with my mother:
Me: I could use another big measuring bowl – you know the kind with the handle and the measuring lines on the side? Mine broke. Do you know where I could find one?
Mom: It BROKE? It was Pyrex! I didn’t think Pyrex could break.
Me: Well, apparently if you drop one Pyrex dish onto another one, it breaks.
Mom: (stunned silence)
And now you know. (I found another one at Wal-Mart.)
Stay tuned for the Aotearoa-New Zealand travelogue.
So I just spent a beautiful two weeks in New Zealand at the height of their winter weather, and now I’m back to so-called “normal life.” If you want the brief update, it’s this: the planning trip went well, NZ is still gorgeous even in winter, the journey back was exhausting, and I was glad to be home.
The trip was very successful. The CEO lined up the entire trip for his students for this upcoming January, and it is going to be a wonderful experience, not just for the travel but also for the educational opportunities. They’ll be visiting aquaculture farms (salmon and green mussels), dairies, wineries, beef and sheep farms, and deer and elk farms, as well as government officials who deal in international trade of agricultural items, and a farmer who specializes in precision agriculture and is now marketing the same kind of equipment he made for his own use. Precision agriculture, if you’re not familiar, deals with connecting a GPS to your tractor and, in some cases, to computer software that instructs the tractor as to exactly how much seed/fertilizer/irrigation/soil additives are needed in this particular field, or portion of a field. It’s pretty fascinating stuff.
The trip was a lot of fun. It was, unfortunately, raining in Wellington (still my favorite NZ city so far, though Napier’s nice and I liked Nelson too), so there the CEO didn’t even bother to try to get any good pictures. But we met some terrific people, saw some impressive farms, ate some excellent food and enjoyed some stunning scenery. We ran into one of The CEO’s buddies from his days getting his master’s degree in Ag Econ at Massey U. in Palmerston North. Richard’s no longer with the World Bank; instead, he works at one of the government agencies that deals with international ag trade. We had a lovely meal with his family.
That journey home is killer. KILLLLLLERRRRR. I’m still exhausted. Our Monday 7/12 went like this: 90 minute flight from Christchurch to Auckland, wait around a couple of hours at AKL for our next flight. 12 hour flight from AKL to San Francisco (during which I did not sleep. At all). Then a mad rush to pick up our (gigantic) checked suitcase, which I was going to take home with me so The CEO wouldn’t have to take it with him to Denver, where he was going for a meeting of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. We went through US Customs, and then through the extra bio screening because we’d been on a farm outside the US, and then we rechecked the big suitcase on to Dulles. So then I shlepped my carry-on baggage to the domestic terminal, went through security again, got to my gate and determined that they were loading first-class passengers and I would have time to grab something to eat. I did, but just barely; I bought a sandwich and an enormous bottle of water, which I consumed while sitting on the runway for half an hour (!) waiting to take off. The plane landed (very roughly) at IAD five hours after that, and my sweet brother-in-law picked me up and took me back to his house, where I slept like the dead for twelve hours. Then I ate some lunch and spent the next six hours driving from NoVa back home, through two traffic delays caused by separate construction issues, and one delay caused by an accident. Gah.
But when I did pull into the driveway, Hunter-dog practically wagged his tail off his body, he was so excited to see me. Taz was happy enough that he hugged me several times (and then demanded food. Typical teenage boy). Gaze didn’t get home from cross-country practice until late, but I got my hugs from him too. Home looks good, by the way – rain in July is always welcome, and my stargazer lilies were just opening up when I got back. There are apples on a few of our trees, too.
I did not get the chance to meet with other perfumistas or to smell a lot of perfume while in New Zealand, outside the airport duty free shop. That was okay, I suppose – I did get to try Bottega Veneta Knot (five minutes of pretty orange blossom, followed by two hours of soap, which is par for the course with OB and me) and several other mainstream fragrances, the names of which elude me now.
And I wore a number of warm frags: Organza Indecence kept me company at the glaciers. Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur spread its squashy BWF comfort around. Tauer Une Rose Vermeille was wonderful on the inter-island ferry. Vintage Ralph Lauren Lauren kept me smelling (relatively) fresh on airplanes.
More details on the trip coming soon, along with pictures The CEO took.
The CEO will be leading a class/overseas trip next December & January, during Virginia Tech’s 3-week Wintermester class period between fall and spring semesters. It will focus on international agricultural trade in New Zealand, which has a fabulously diverse and strong export business in agriculture. He won a grant that enabled him to go to NZ this summer (their winter) to set up and “test-drive” the trip… and I’m going with him.
Don’t know if I’ll get the chance for sniffery, or to meet up with any perfumistas, but I’ll enjoy the trip very much, I’m sure. I loved it when I visited for two weeks in 2007, and I’m thrilled to go back. It’s a very beautiful place.