Mangofruitylicious

So I’ve done a 180 on mango, y’all.

Ataulfo on the left, more-common Haden variety on the right

If you’d asked me last year what fruits I enjoyed, I’d have said, “All of them . . . except mango. It’s got a weird ‘off’ taste to it, and I don’t like it.” Of course, I haven’t tried every single fruit in the world, much less all the varieties of each fruit! (On the “haven’t tried” list: persimmon, pawpaw, custard-apple, feijoa, jackfruit, pitanga, quince, sapodilla, sapote, tamarind, soursop, rambutan, dragonfruit, pomelo. I’ve also never eaten fresh dates or figs, though I do like them dried. I have eaten gooseberry preserves, but not fresh gooseberries.) I have, however, eaten such unusual fruits as uglifruit (Jamaican tangelo), pluots/apriums, carambolas (starfruit), guavas, lychees, papayas, fresh blackcurrants, and boysenberries.

I mean, I’m not as limited as Taz, who, despite all my efforts to accustom him to different tastes, will only eat apples, grapes, and canned mandarin oranges. It’s sad.

But mangoes? Bleah. Too much, um, whang. (“Whang” is a slangy southern word that refers to a taste that isn’t what it should be and indicates that the particular food you’re eating may not be fresh, or that the food is considerably more sour or bitter than you were expecting. See this short clip from Sh%t Southern Women Say, starting at about 1:19, for more.)

Plant Medicine News breaks down the scent of mangoes, listing the chemical names of the aroma compounds and their qualities. I won’t get all sciencey on you and share the chemical names, but the scent descriptors range from peach, fruity, pineapple, cucumber, green, caramel, maple, and coconut to sulfurous, terpenaceous, vinegar, cabbage, barnyard, metallic, sweaty and rancid, with cooked rice, cooked potato, and hay somewhere in the middle.

I’m pretty sure I was getting a lot of sulfur and terpene, and maybe a tad of rancidity out of mangoes — in short, whatever it is that makes tropical fruit smell and taste, you know, exotic and weird and tropical. (As Luca Turin asks in his review of Fraiche Passiflora in Perfumes: The Guide, “How do fruits know when they’re in exotic places? Who taught them to samba?”) I was not a fan of mango.

However, last week, I was at the grocery store buying ingredients for fajitas because I had run across a new fajita marinade recipe from Isabel Eats, and I saw a different variety of mango than I had tried before. The only mangoes I was familiar with were the large red-and-green ones, and these were smaller, S-shaped, a uniform gold color. I bought two on impulse, largely because my mother used to buy odd fruit at the grocery store in order to let us kids try something new. (I still remember my first taste of kiwifruit. I was twelve. YUM.) These mangoes were a tiny bit wrinkled, and they smelled delicious and ripe.

I looked up the technique for slicing mangoes on Mango.org, and found that the golden mangoes I’d bought were the Honey or Ataulfo variety, as opposed to the Haden or Tommy Atkins varieties I had eaten before.  Ataulfo mangoes are generally known to be sweeter and less fibrous than other varieties, and have a thin cling-free pit. They also have less of the “whang” I found so objectionable in the past. My first taste of the Ataulfo was sheer heaven. Sure, there was a tiny undecided moment of wait-is-this-thing-rotting?-oh-I-guess-it-isn’t, but I came down on the side of finding it addictive.

The very next day I went back to the store and bought more, after reading that June is the last peak month for Ataulfos. Now I’m hooked. The CEO likes mangoes — he says, “Eleven million fruit bats can’t be wrong,” — and Gaze, who is a Fruit Omnivore and will probably be in Tropical Fruit Heaven while he’s in the Philippines later this month, doing ROTC training, does too. Bookworm and Taz? Big nopes. Taz wouldn’t even try them, and Bookworm is overcome by the Dreaded Whang. Which, you know, I get, even if I have come around on the edge of possible wrongness that probably comes from those sulfur compounds.

I keep thinking of a Perfume Posse post in which March rhapsodized over the angelic dichotomy of lush almost-decay that is a perfectly-ripe mango, but I cannot find it. This happens to me pretty frequently. I was sure that Abigail of I Smell Therefore I Am posted about the first Ines de la Fressange, because whatever it was that I remembered her saying about it was what made me buy a 1-oz. bottle from Fragrancenet for like $12 in 2010. As it turns out, I can no longer find that post, or another perfume blog post at all on the subject. There are two from Perfume Posse, actually, but both of them also mention the second Ines de la Fressange fragrance, and neither is the ode that I remember reading. So huh. Did I imagine reading posts back in the day, or have they simply disappeared in the interim?

Anyway, back to perfume: now I want a mango perfume, complete with ripe juiciness and that subtle hint of danger. Jo Loves makes two mango scents, but because they haven’t yet gotten a US distributor, I can’t sample either one. (I could buy a bottle online untested, but that seems idiotic, not to mention spendy.) Then there’s a Pacifica Brazilian Mango Grapefruit, and Parfums de Nicolai, which is now to be known as Nicolai Parfumeur Createur, did an eau fraiche with mango that somebody (Robin of Now Smell This, maybe? Eau Exotique?) loved, but the PdN is discontinued. There are a bunch of mango solifruit fragrances by outfits like Demeter and The Body Shop, but I don’t know how good they are or how long they’d last. Vilhelm Parfumerie makes something called Mango Skin which sounds great, but it’s Vilhelm and it’s niche, so it is certain to be more expensive than I really want. Ditto for Manguier Metisse by Pierre Guillaume’s Huitieme Arte brand. Neela Vermeire’s Bombay Bling is fabulous, but also probably out of my price range. Nava at Perfume Posse mentioned that Ed Hardy’s Hearts & Daggers for Women smelled to her like Thai mango salad, minus the onion and hot pepper. That appeals, and it’s a cheapie brand. Wonder if my Wal-Mart would have a tester for it?

All this despite my conviction that I have more perfume than I need to finish out my life. Shrug. I’ll probably look for a mango scent desultorily until I give up on finding The One, and by then I’ll be craving something else.

Maybe just those Ataulfo mangoes. I will fight you for them.

(Incidentally, those fajitas were fabulous. Make them now.)

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Robert Piguet, old and new

Robert Piguet’s fragrance line was originally an extension of its couture fashion line, established in the 1930s. Its first fragrances, Fracas and Bandit, were developed with Germaine Cellier and quickly became big perennial sellers. The couture house closed in 1951, shortly before Piguet’s death, but the brand continued to develop and market fragrances into the 1960s. The house, now exclusively selling fragrance, was sold several times, the last time to Fashion Fragrances and Cosmetics in the late 1990s.

Since that time, Robert Piguet has reformulated its classics to adhere closely to their original versions, albeit with modern materials, and has also released several entirely new fragrances. The house nose seems to be Aurelien Guichard; I have only seen his name and no other perfumer’s connected with the newer fragrances, and we do know that he designed the reorchestrations of Piguet’s classic scents.

I very rarely get the chance to smell the newest, latest, hottest niche perfumery, much less all the indies, but for whatever reason, I’ve had the opportunity to test a fair portion of the fragrances from this house, and wanted to do a few thumbnail reviews here.

Image from the Piguet website

I’ve divided these as Robert Piguet has suggested in its marketing materials: unisex fragrances are highlighted in green. Women’s in (Fracas) pink, of course. Ones I’ve smelled are in bold. I have not listed limited-edition anniversary versions, because typically there is nothing special about the juice. (I’ve also not listed Fracas for Men, which is produced by a licensee of the name from the ’70s era and is generally not regarded as being a legitimate Piguet fragrance.)

Alameda 2013 – Modern chypre. Really, a sweetened patchouli-rose with lily, something like Calypso but without the cheerful fruit, heavier on the patch and castoreum.
Baghari 1954 – Aldehydic woody floral. I bought a small portion through a split. Obviously, vintage bottles age differently, but this thing was intensely animalic on me, so much so that the grocery clerk actually leaned away from me while ringing me up.
Baghari Refo 2006 – Still an aldehydic woody floral, but cleaner. Candlewaxy aldehydes, an intense orange, woods.
Bandit 1944, reformulated 2006 – Mean green chypre leather in both iterations, though the modern ingredients took some of the bulk out. Tried to shiv me in the nose, then went for the eye socket. I had to duck. Bandit indeed. (Hmph.)
Calypso 2010 (Original released in 1950s) – Floriental. Candied orange peel, rose and geranium, a greeny herbal patchouli, a bit of suede, and iris. Fun and pretty. I’d have bought it if I didn’t already own at least two other rose-patchouli scents.
Cravache Refo 2007 (Original released in 1960s) – Aromatic woody chypre.
Douglas Hannant 2011 – Fracas Lite, with pear (also see Petit Fracas, below). To be honest? I liked it. And I’m not sorry. I mean, it sho’ ain’t Fracas, but then absolutely nothing else is.
Fracas 1948, reformulated 2006 – Iconic Giant White Floral. My in-depth review is here. I’ve tried both 1960s parfum and the current EdP; both are very good, though the modern is streamlined (to some degree!) where the vintage was plussshhhh and narcotic.
Futur Refo 2009 (Original released in 1960s) – Green floral. I was sure I’d love this, but I don’t; it is standoffish and almost unfriendly, in my opinion, and now I understand why some people hate green florals. There is a ton of violet leaf in this, which I don’t mind, but also a ton of vetiver, and I wanted more florals than I got. There’s no reason Piguet should classify Futur as feminine, other than that the original was intended for women. I’m convinced a man could wear this successfully.
Gardenia 2014
Jeunesse 1975
Knightsbridge 2013 (Harrods exclusive) – Leather. This scent is still exclusive to Harrods and more expensive than the rest of the line (which is not exactly cheap), at $325 for 50 mls, but I found it really enjoyable. It’s a rose made out of smooth glove leather, sprinkled with nutmeg and drizzled with Calvados, resting on a bed of makeuppy iris powder. Not quite edible, almost addictive. If only it were priced reasonably . . .
L’Entier 2018
L’Insomnuit 2016
Nuit Velour 2017
Oud Delice 2015
Oud Divin 2015
Petit Fracas 2012 – Fruity floral. Like its name suggests, it’s a youthened version of Fracas; actually,  it’s Lite-Fracas-Lite, with a fruity topping and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. (I preferred Douglas Hannant for a modernized Fracas.)
Rose Perfection 2013 – Rose soliflore. Wisps of powdery violet and a little mean-green smack of geranium surround a very pure, pretty rose. I’d probably rather have YSL Paris, but this is nice.
V Intense 2014
Visa 1945
Visa Refo 2007 – Woody oriental. Part of this I liked (the candied-peach/vanilla/suede thing), part of this I really really hated (the Angel-esque, piercing patchouli). Overall, I found it nauseating, but if you liked Angel, give it a shot.

Les Celestials de Knightsbridge Collection:
La Lune 2017
Les Etoiles 2017
Les Soleil 2017

Nouvelle Collection:
Bois Bleu 2013
Bois Noir 2012 – Woody incense. Sometimes I like a nice woody incense (Comme des Garcons Zagorsk, anybody? Amouage Jubilation XXV?), so I tried Bois Noir. Smoky guaiac, aromatic cedar, frankincense and some fairly harsh woody aromachemical lead into dirty patchouli and labdanum. Sigh. No.
Casbah 2012 – Oriental spicy. This one is what I expected Bois Noir to be: woods and incense, with nutmeg added. Not something I’d buy at this price point, but really nice.
Mademoiselle Piguet 2012 – Floral woody musk. Basically, soapy orange blossom, screechy neroli, and shaving-cream tonka on me. I didn’t love it.
Notes 2012 – Herbal fougere. I didn’t realize it was a fougere before trying it (Fragrantica calls it a chypre), but IT SO IS. And therefore, Not My Thing.
Oud 2012

Pacific Collection:
Blossom 2012
Chai 2012
Jeunesse 2012 – Fruity floral. I thought I might enjoy it — I like a good fruity floral, emphasis on good — but the Pacific Collection was patently made for the Asian market, which tends to favor very light florals, and Jeunesse (“Youth”) is an olfactory raspberry macaron, sugared berries over a floral background so light it’s almost not there.

Overall, there are only a few Robert Piguet fragrances I would wear on a regular basis: Knightsbridge and Douglas Hannant (forgive me, Fracas, but that cold-cream orange blossom sometimes just does me in). Maybe Calypso, if I wasn’t already stocked up on rose-patchouli scents. On the other hand, I think the line is fairly well-composed and varied, and Fracas is so iconic that everyone should at least smell it, even the modern iteration.

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Early February, 2019

Posting has been spotty of late, as I work through some plans for the empty-nest life coming as Taz leaves for college in the fall. My original plan was to stay at home until the first two children entered school, and then return to full-time employment.

But then there was Taz (surprise!), and since in my experience, life gets exponentially more complicated with each additional child, I did not knock myself out trying to find another accounting job to replace the one I left when I married The CEO and moved to this semi-rural area. In fact, I wanted to return to college and earn the degree in English I’d always wanted, but there wasn’t money for that. Instead, I wound up working a series of part-time jobs just to supplement the farm income: delivering newspapers, providing childcare, transcribing recorded depositions and interviews for a court reporter business, and handling the books at our local NAPA dealer.

When I left the bookkeeping job, my intent was to become a full-time novelist. I have to this point written two books, but have not found a publisher. Truly, I feel that my fiction could really benefit from some more education, and I would love to pursue a master’s degree in literature, but we’ll have to see how that goes.

In terms of posting here, I do have another set of mini-reviews to put up soon, so look for that.

So the polar vortex spun through and then we had spring-ish weather for a few days, and now the cold is back. Feels like a normal February.

I’ve been wearing a mixed bag of fragrance favorites: Jolie Madame, Ralph Lauren Lauren (vintage) and Safari, Guerlain Floral Romantique, Chanel 31 Rue Cambon. Tried a few new vanilla scents from CocoaPink (Frosted Eyelet and Snowflakes, which were nice but no Triple Vanilla Dream, wink wink). Retried my samples from January Scent Project for a review I think I might have promised a year ago — just the three original scents of Eiderantler, Selperniku, and Smolderose, since I can’t get my paws on the newer Vaporocindro (though I don’t think it’s up my alley anyway).

No news on the Essure removal front, because I can’t get anyone at the allergist’s office to return my calls about testing me for allergies to nickel and titanium. I think it may be time to go see a different allergist.

The knee is still weak but recovering. Plantar fasciitis is mostly at bay. Gained four pounds back, so I must regroup with the diet.

Attended an alumni function for my small college, at the Taubman Art Museum in Roanoke with a former housemate. It was so nice to see Laura, and to see that her post-separation life is gaining a shape it maybe always should have had.

I plan to eventually add links here to my other — long-neglected — blog, the one focused on my fiction. I’m currently working through a program called DIY MFA, and am working on a third book as well as some historical-fiction short stories.

And Taz made the official decision to attend Emory & Henry College next fall. He’ll be majoring in history (with an intent to teach), and if all goes well, will be running cross-country for the Wasps. We’re so proud.

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Mini-Review Roundup, End of January 2019

(Wow, it’s been a while since I saw this image… and I still have no idea where it came from. Yee-HAAAA!)

Here are some mini perfume reviews for you today; generally speaking, these were not winners for me. I could have titled this post “What Was I Thinking?” and you would wonder along with me why I bothered to mess with orientals when I have such a poor track record with them.

I dunno. It’s winter? It’s really cold? There are some orientals I do like? I felt like being inclusive and equal-opportunity? I was wearing my Bad Idea Jeans?

Or . . . it’s winter? Srsly, I got nothin’. I guess I feel like whining about these.

Guerlain Le Parfum du 68: (How did I even get this? Was this a freebie someone sent to me? I can’t possibly have thought this would suit my tastes.) Fragrantica calls it a “woody spicy,” not an oriental, but on me? oriental. Very powdery, not woody-spicy — there is a ton of tonka bean in this. Official notes: spicy notes, immortelle, tonka bean, benzoin, incense and leather. But it’s really like a no-citrus, powder-bomb version of Shalimar: boring.

Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche — I’m not much of an amber fan, as you might know. Honestly, I can’t remember why I got this sample, unless it’s because I picked it up for cheap when The Posh Peasant was going out of business as a decant service.

The official notes are “amber, frankincense, labdanum, styrax, benzoin, iris absolute, vanilla, and Russian leather,” but what this thing smells like to me at first sniff is root beer. Eventually a nice bit of what smells like church incense (heavy on the benzoin, yum) pulls up, and I think some woods, but it’s unable to overcome the initial impression of root beer. Good thing I like root beer. This one lasts forevvvver, which is unusual on my skin and probably due to its focus on basenotes. I like it, but it’s a one-trick pony.

Annick Goutal Myrrhe Ardente — I tend to like myrrh wherever I run across it. (Why? Dunno.) It’s not as universally beloved as frankincense, and it often smells medicinal, but [shrug] there it is. Official notes: myrrh, benzoin, vanilla, tonka, gaiac wood, and honeyed beeswax.

I read at least a couple of reviews of this scent that called it “all root beer, all the time,” but I don’t get root beer out of this one. (Unless, of course, somebody mixed up my samples. Possible.) There’s something very sharp and not-quite-unpleasant but not-entirely-pleasant about it. Herbs? It reminds me just a tad of the wackadoodle opening of Serge Lutens’ almost universally reviled Serge Noire, except that I liked Serge Noire, and I don’t like this.

Actually, I begin to believe that maybe someone did mix up these samples. There is a crap-ton of labdanum in the sample labeled Myrrhe Ardente, and no noticeable labdanum (which often smells like a mildewed rubber tent to me) in the sample labeled Ambre Fetiche. But . . . I dunno. Meh. It occurs to me now that there was literally no point in my testing oriental fragrances, even if they did come from Annick Goutal.

Incidentally, Goutal has revamped their line and changed all their packaging within the last few years, and I miss the old stuff. The new bottles seem less charming and more commercial. But the lovely Songes and Heure Exquise are still on the website, and I’m relieved.

Annick Goutal Encens FlamboyantePSYCHE!!! I never actually managed to get a sample of this well-regarded (Tania Sanchez gave it a 4-star review in Perfumes: The Guide) third member of the Les Orientalistes collection, and now the collection is defunct if I remember correctly. Oh well. Supposedly smoky, piney and frankincensey, which is kinda not my thang anyway. Just thought I’d mention it since I was testing the other two.

SIGH. I think I will go put on some vintage Coty Emeraude and call it a day.

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A Life Update, late January 2019

Having whined so loudly and bitterly last fall about my personal health issues, I figured I was about due for a lemme-sum-up post. If you’re here for the perfume, check back on Thursday for a Mini-Review Roundup.

Still a long road to walk

So an update on my weight: down 25 pounds from last June. I kinda went off the diet in December and have had some difficulty really following the plan this month, but have only gained two pounds back. (So far, anyway.) Since I had many more than that to go, I’m back on the diet now. It’s a reduced-carb, lower-glycemic-index, lower-fat regimen, the original South Beach Diet — not the one you see ads on TV for now, because Nutrisystem bought SB out. I could probably lose weight on the ketogenic diet, but could I sustain the diet for long? I doubt it. And even if I could, it seems that cutting out an entire category of healthy food is probably not great long-term. So. SBD it is.

I have not yet lost enough weight for the Essure removal surgery I was considering, so I’m still trying to do an end-around run through getting some allergy testing, because there’s a different doctor who would probably be willing to remove it for that reason. He’s in Virginia, at least, and if I had an allergy test showing sensitivity to nickel, he’d code it as necessary for insurance to cover at least part of the cost. HOWEVER — the allergist my old GP sent me to has yet to actually order the tests, even after my repeated calls to check on it. So I need a different allergist, too.

The plantar fasciitis in my left foot abated enough for me to stop physical therapy . . . and has begun to recur, so I need to step up my PF exercises again. I think it may just be an ongoing issue for me the rest of my life, and it may be associated with SITTING a lot. Which, as you know, a writer does a great deal of. Therefore, I need to be dividing my time between sitting and exercising my fingers on a keyboard, and moving the rest of my body around.

Red ginger at Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden, photo by Joe Guthrie

I messed up my knee on vacation in Hawai’i — it was that long, long steep hill down to the beach at Hanauma Bay on O’ahu first, and then that long, long steep hill at the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Gardens on Hawai’i a few days later, plus the walking from terminal to terminal at airports. (If those two places hadn’t been absolutely AMAZING, I’d be kicking myself now for visiting them.) Plus twisting my knee on unstable ground at home the following week, twisting it again the day after that, in the long grass in the shop lot in the dark, getting wood, and then twisting it badly again two days later on snow. The new doctor in my primary care office said he thought it was probably arthritis, exacerbated by my weight, and gave me a prescription for heavy-duty naproxen sodium for the inflammation, as well as suggesting lots of R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, in case you’re not familiar). It helped to some degree but the knee is stiff and painful most of the time now. I’ve definitely been seeing the wrong GP! I’ve officially changed my primary care physician to the new guy in the practice, who was sympathetic but practical and didn’t dismiss my concerns.

In any case, I’ve now had a baseline x-ray, from which the orthopedist determined that I have mild osteoarthritis and mild narrowing of the knee joint. He gave me exercises to do, and suggested that if things are not considerably better in a couple of months, we’d try a steroid shot. The orthopedist was terrific, too. Listened to me, didn’t treat me like an idiot, gave me common-sense advice without throwing a prescription at me in the hopes that I’d just go away. Taz had actually seen this guy last year when he was having hip pain, and Dr. Maher was just that great with him. It feels good to rediscover medical professionals who take exam-table-side manner seriously.

Still a long road to walk. But I’m still walking, and still jumping through those hoops.

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In Pursuit of My Vanilla Scent

So. Who doesn’t love vanilla?

I do. Lots. I almost always prefer vanilla-flavored desserts to chocolate ones. (Well, except truffles. Because truffles, y’all.)

Because of that flavor preference, I’ve always thought I should love a vanilla fragrance. However, I’m beginning to realize that I’m probably wrong. I mean, honestly, I would love to smell like vanilla extract — and I’ve often heard of people wearing it as fragrance. The one time I tried it, the vanilla was gone in less than an hour, so clearly that inexpensive trick is not going to work for me.

Hand pollinating vanilla orchids in Madagascar, click through for photo link.

The first vanilla-named scent I remember running across was Coty’s Vanilla Fields, back in the 1990s — and I didn’t much like it for myself, though I found it pleasant on other people. I seem to remember my sister wearing it in her teens/early 20s.

I would like to smell like vanilla, sometimes. Thing is, vanilla fragrances often are “too-something,” by which I mean too powdery, too smoky, or too buttery-oily for my personal tastes. My ideal vanilla fragrance would smell like a very deep, rich vanilla extract, with zero powder, and minimally sweetened.  The vanilla fragrances I enjoy are not simply vanilla: Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka, which despite its name smells like a rum-and-coke with lime, Shalimar Light (lemon-vanilla woods, without the mildewed-tarp aspect of the original) and Coty Emeraude (vintage only, please). Sometimes the cocoa-powder bit (it’s the dreaded patchouli) of Givenchy Organza Indecence gets to me, but I like the spicy-vanilla-woods part pretty well.

When I say I want a vanilla fragrance, I’m pretty picky about what Will Not Do. I don’t want floral vanilla, I don’t want powdery vanilla, I don’t want musky vanilla, I don’t want berry or fruity vanilla, I don’t want cookie vanilla, I don’t want smoky vanilla, I don’t want sugary vanilla, and I most definitely do not want that horrible cheap-vanilla-candle oily vanilla. I might take a boozy vanilla if the alcohol part wears off quickly enough, but pretty much I just want plain-old vanilla-vanilla.

Vanilla fragrances I have tried and dismissed for various reasons are numerous, especially after I made the big push to find “my vanilla.” Here are the ones I had the biggest hope for and yet was disappointed by:

Too powdery (by FAR the biggest category of vanilla fails for me)
Bulgari Black
(Mind you, it’s sort of genius. I like the new-sneakers/bicycle-tires rubber note, but the vanilla part of it is flat and powdery.)
Dame Perfumery Black Flower Mexican Vanilla (Nice stuff, not as powdery as some but still too powdery for what I want.)

Too smoky
Le Labo Patchouli 24 (Does not smell like patchouli. Instead, smells like an incinerated vanilla ice cream cone lying on the floor of the smokehouse on my grandparents’ 1860 farm.)
Guerlain Shalimar, of whatever vintage or version or strength (Shalimar is shockingly drrrty on me and very cigarette-ash smoky. It’s gorgeous on the right person, but that isn’t me.)

Too buttery/oily/waxy
Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences (Vanilla cake with artificial butter flavor.)
Lavanila Pure Vanilla (that weird vanilla-candle note I cannot STAND)

Too boring
Indult Tihota (Vanilla bean musk. I thought I’d love it; instead, I nearly went to sleep.)

Vanilla beans, by Ted Major at Flickr, some rights reserved.

Vanilla fragrances that were close to being right but juuuust a tad off perfect:
Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille (Delicious boozy vanilla that somehow did not render me smitten, for no reason I can articulate. Shrug. Good thing, because it’s über-spendy.)
Tom Ford Vanille Fatale (Interesting but wacko off notes interspersed with gorgeous vanilla. Drydown is gorgeous and pretty much a dead ringer for the MUCH cheaper PdN Vanille Tonka.)
Seveline Vanille a Madagascar (Really nice, close to a non-powdery vanilla extract linear experience. Unfortunately unavailable in the US. I guess I could have someone mule it to me from France, but I don’t love it enough.)
Lawrence Dumont Vanille de la Reunion (After a frightening three-minute waltz with that horrid buttery/rancid-oil Yankee Candle smell, it smoothed out and went linear vanilla extract. That part I liked, but it’s discontinued anyway.)

I did not bother trying to test the much-beloved and long-gone L’Artisan Vanilia. I want a Cheap Thrill Vanilla, not something I have to hunt down, pay through the nose for, and mourn when there are no longer any dregs to be found.

I started this post in late 2016 and then held off publishing it while I did more research and tried more vanilla scents. I may now have found my vanilla, though: CocoaPink, an independent fragranced-body-care maker that I originally found on Etsy, that now seems to have its own website, produces a wide variety of fragrances and leans heavily on the foody ones. I tried a good dozen of theirs, either secondhand from other fumeheads or ordered directly from the site, in either oil format and alcohol-based, and a couple of them I tried in both formats. There is a lonnnnnng list of vanilla scents there. Many of them were too sweet for my taste, but I came up with a couple of contenders.

The winner? CocoaPink’s version of Spiriteuse Double Vanilla (description from the website: Based on Guerlain’s famous vanilla. This duplication is high quality and made with notes of pure vanilla, real benzoin extract, frankincense, spices, cedar, pink pepper, bergamot, and ylang-ylang) mixed with their version of Tihota (website description: essence of pure, unadulterated sugared vanilla beans with a soft hint of musk), to create a thing they call Triple Vanilla Dream. It’s got the deep, rich, long-lasting complexity of vanilla extract that I’d been longing for, yet with the simplicity of straight-up vanilla, and it lasts for hours on me. Bonus: that sucka is cheap — 10ml for less than a double sawbuck and 60ml for a half-C-note, both in “Smell me across town” strength.

I liked it in both alcohol and oil formats, but I’m strongly tempted to get it in their Voluptuous Body Butter, because a) the body butter is super-emollient and lovely, and b) again, you can get the big 4.75 oz tub for way less than $20.

For further reading about vanilla fragrances, check these out:
Best Vanilla perfumes, Perfume Posse  (list of noteworthy vanilla scents)
The Vanilla Series, Perfume Shrine (four lists by category, and an overview)
The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Vanilla (eight vanilla scents to explore)

See also my Sexy Cake post from 2010 for more on the subject of man-pleasing fragrances.



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Perfume Review: Amouage Fate Woman

(Yikes. It’s been so long since I did a full fragrance review that I can’t even remember the last time. That’s embarrassing.)

I finally got around to testing Amouage Fate Woman. It’s now been more than five years since this one hit the market, garnering praise from Luca Turin and Kafkaesque, and I’m just now giving it a sniff. (Probably because on occasion, I have violently differing opinions from those two respected fragophiles.)

I still have mixed feelings about Amouage fragrances. They’re all rich and complex, which is awfully nice in these days when department store frags seem one-dimensional. But they’re expensive. And given that they’re so strongly art-directed and tend to have strong characters, you really have to appreciate the concept. My feeling on them is, if you make the choice to buy an Amouage, you’d durn well better wear the thing, or you’ve wasted your cash. Generally, too, the lasting power tends to be good, and I put that down to quality materials in adequate concentration — which is important to me, given the twice-aforementioned high price point.

I’ve enjoyed several of them without feeling the urge to buy: Jubilation XXV (the men’s version), Bracken Woman, Myths Woman, Dia Woman. I do own a cherished decant of Lyric Woman from 2010, before they amped the ylang-ylang and muted the rose in it. But Gold Woman was seriously filthy on me. And I hated both Epic Woman (sour ashes) and Jubilation 25, the women’s version (curdled fruit, as most fruity chypres go on me). Beloved Woman was a greasy powder-monster, Honour Woman had this weird brackish pondwater thing (Bertrand Duchaufour’s favorite vetiver, I’m pretty sure) that ruined the pretty florals, and Interlude Woman was simply a hot mess. I thought the chemical flatness of Sunshine Woman had to be a joke. Frankly, Interlude and Sunshine put me off trying another Amouage for a couple of years, and I have never managed to get my nose on any of the Library/Opus series.

Memoir Woman blew my mind for a good couple of weeks before I fell in love with it; it took me four years of scraping by on tiny decants before I found a tester bottle and snapped that sucker up. I still adore the stuff, though I admit it is oddball and definitely not to everyone’s taste. I don’t wear it often, though, because the weather has to be cold enough or it will smother me. I mean, c’mon, a leather-herbal Big White Floral? Freaky, and a monster in summer. Plus, the thang has beastly sillage and you can smell me coming around the corner. But I lurve it when the weather is right, and in our current low-30sF temps, I’ve been craving it like nobody’s business.

Ahem. Back to Fate Woman . . . I bought my sample so long ago that I discovered I’d actually purchased two samples from different decant services: one splash 1ml vial, and one 2ml spray. Last week I decided to combine them, and in doing so, managed to spill a bit on the top of my (paper-and-cardboard) Hatbox of Current Rotation. It beaded up, and I wiped up the excess with a tissue, leaving the tissue on the dresser before going on to something else I wanted to wear. But ever since, I keep entering my bedroom and getting whiffs of something deliciously old-skool perfumery: rich florals, plus resinous woods and, as the French might say, un peu de gousset (a hint of gusset, because so many classic perfumes smell a bit naughty).

(I can’t find an attribution for this image; I found it on Pinterest, which is so awful about linking to the original source. If you know where it came from, please share.)

Fragrantica classifies Fate Woman as Oriental Chypre Floral and describes it as a “spicy floral.” I’ve already said that it comes across to me as a floral on a rich, retro base, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone given its gigantic notes list: bergamot, chili, cinnamon, pepper, rose, jasmine, daffodil, incense, labdanum, vanilla, patchouli, benzoin, leather, oakmoss.

Angela at Now Smell This was underimpressed, mentioning that on her, Fate Woman was primarily a narcissus floral with an overwhelmingly powdery cast. I don’t get huge powder out of Fate W at all, especially on paper (that tissue I blotted the spill with is still sitting on the dresser, radiating boudoir smells). I also don’t get the oakmoss/chypre angle. It’s a tiny bit spicy, but mostly a rich incense-floral on my skin, faintly dirty with castoreum and narcissus. It has moderate sillage and lasts for several hours on my scent-eating skin. Quite nice stuff. I’ve really been enjoying the waft of that tissue on my dresser.

Am I impressed? Do I want to buy it? Nope. If a bottle fell out of the sky, I’d probably sell it. But then, I’m not much of an oriental-chypre fan; it’s just not my style. And then, too, I think it seems very 1950s-elegant-dressing-table to me. If I wanted a fragrance like that, I could pick up something considerably cheaper on eBay. It’s good; it’s not to my taste.

Carry on.



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The January Drear

So we’re having Mud Season again, the Cold Variant: after a year in which the area where I live received 56.54 inches of precipitation, 53% more than our average yearly rainfall, this year is looking just as damp.

Bleah.

Frankly, I’m so over Mud Season. I like Winter, except when it turns into Mud, and I’m thisclose to petitioning God for a cold snap, so at least the mud will freeze. I’ll take snow. I’ll take wind. Just — if it’s going to precipitate like last year, can we please have some cold weather??

I’ve been wearing scents with notable citrus lately, due to a Facebook perfume group’s weekly challenge. Despite thinking that I was never going to make it a whole week on citrus scents — which generally last all of three nanoseconds on me, and three very boring nanoseconds they are, too — I’ve managed, and very pleasantly, too. I’ve worn Shalimar Light (bergamot, lemon), Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka (lime), Alahine (“citruses”), Chanel 1932 (lemon, grapefruit), DSH Chypre (bergamot), and Pierre de Velay Extrait No. 11 (“citruses”). Of course, none of these are technically citrus-focused fragrances, which is probably why I like them. And, true, they are cheerful in the middle of January Drear.

WordPress has updated their editing platform (again), and I can no longer highlight snippets of text and change the color, the way I used to assign certain colors for each fragrance. That’s why the above paragraph looks odd: I tried highlighting “Shalimar Light” and giving it its classic blue color, but it turned the entire paragraph bloo, so I had to send it back to “dark gray,” and only then did I notice that “dark gray” is not actually the default shade. I can’t fix it now, either. I don’t mind updates, generally, but I think I’m unsure about this particular WP version.

I was born in the said middle of said January Drear. Today is my birthday, and today I’m wearing Alahine (again).

So, are you a citrus-scent lover, or are you like me??

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I’monna try this again . . . weekly posting schedule

I spent the last few weeks of 2018 creating some goals for this year, and one of those was to post regularly again. However, I am spending much less time trying new fragrances, so I probably won’t talk a good deal about recent releases. It’s difficult to get my hands on New Shinies without ordering samples, and I’m increasingly unwilling to do that. Not to mention that the market has simply exploded in the past five years or so, and the New Shinies number in the hundreds, possibly even the thousands. Then, too, many of the New Shinies come from niche or independent companies with limited distribution, and I just don’t have the mental space.

Sorry.

So I will talk about how certain fragrances make me feel, even if I’ve mentioned them before. If I come across a few New Shinies here and there, I’ll write about them. (Speaking of which, I have some St. Clair Scents to review; unfortunately, I bought the sample pack before the newest scent, Casablanca, was available. And I really want to try that one, because it’s a BWF and totally up my alley.)

I’ll talk about family, and the farm, and my fiction writing, as well as my current health struggles. I’ll also discuss whatever strikes my fancy, so that’s nothing new. Love to everyone, and here’s to a fabulous new year.

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Turn of Seasons, December 2018

Ah, yes.

The woods behind the house, from the back deck.

As I write, it is the tenth of December, and the winter equinox lies more than a week in the future. It snowed fifteen inches yesterday; today’s temperature was about 40 F and much of the snow is gone now. Tonight’s low, however, will be about 15 F, and whatever didn’t melt will be ice by tomorrow. Brr.

This feels, in point of fact, very much like my 1970s childhood, also here in Virginia. We typically had had at least one snow and sometimes two or three before Christmas, and then there would be several more snowfalls through the winter. (Anybody remember the widespread fear that we were entering another ice age? Seems funny now.)

My sister’s husband is stationed in upstate New York, not far from Lake Erie, and they get snow. They’ve already had two snows, and the most recent dumped more than two feet on the ground. No school closings or delays, either; my poor nephew had no respite from 9th grade despite the weather.

The CEO left before the snow started, because he and another instructor from Virginia Tech’s Agricultural Technology program had been invited to do a seminar on Virginia agriculture for some Chinese officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. That was scheduled to take place in the Northern Virginia area, near DC, and he didn’t want to get stuck in the forecast snow here, so he took off on Saturday afternoon.

The snow started around 3 a.m. Sunday. I woke up once — you know that eerie stillness in the air when it snows? I heard the silence, if such a thing is possible, and it made me restless in my sleep. There was already snow covering the ground when I went to look out the window at 4:10 a.m. It didn’t stop until late in the evening.

It was feathery, powdery, fluffy snow. Taz tried sledding, but the snow just packed down underneath him and  refused to allow sliding across its surface. It was gorgeous, though, like angel feathers.

The CEO, calling to see how we were getting along, suggested that we were in dire straits and we all should have come along with him, to escape the snow. I scoffed. Miss all this beauty? No way, man. No way.

Besides which, we never lost power, and Bookworm was able to get the all-wheel drive vehicle out and to work this morning with no trouble. So there.

With winter in the air, I changed out the contents of the Hatbox of Current Rotation.

I love doing that. I love marking the seasons with my smells. There’s undoubtedly something to the idea of wearing whatever you want, whenever you want, regardless of the weather, and I don’t make fun of those who wear incense in the summer and citrus in the winter. Matching fragrance and weather makes me happy, though.

The Current Rotation includes:
Guerlain Shalimar Light (discontinued)
Coty Emeraude (vintage)
Soivohle Centennial (discontinued)
Amouage Memoir Woman
Guerlain Charnel Elixir Floral Romantique
Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere
Lubin Epidor
Fendi by Fendi (discontinued)
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire pour femme
Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur (discontinued)
Ralph Lauren Safari
Frederick Malle Editions de Parfums Iris Poudre
Prince Matchabelli Potpourri (discontinued)
Caron Parfum Sacre
Teo Cabanel Alahine (vintage)

It’s disheartening to look over that list and see so many discontinued fragrances. (Even worse: darling Alahine, my Christmas fragrance for the past ten years, has been absolutely gutted by reformulation. Over the years, so has Emeraude, but at least you can find plenty of vintage on eBay. Original Alahine — gloriously full of naturals, rococo in its concept, but European and never in wide distribution — is utterly gone. I mourn.)

Christmas preparations continue apace. No tree yet, but the nutcrackers and the Nativity and the snow village are on display; a tiny lit tree set in my grandmother’s pickle crock and my father-in-law’s childhood wooden sled ornamented with a wreath grace the front porch. The community chorus concert was snowed out this weekend, but it should be presented next week (Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise).

As for health considerations, those continue. I finally got a measure of relief from that persistent plantar fasciitis with a month’s worth of physical therapy; I’ve lost 26 pounds. But there are more (many) more pounds to go, and recently I did something horrible to my knee, so I know the joint issues continue. Also, I cracked another tooth up into the root so it had to be pulled — another dubious gift from Essure.

My mother had one of those Christmas compilation records — you know, one song by The Carpenters and one by Andy Williams and one by Robert Goulet, that sort of thing — and it contained this gem. I’ve heard a lot of versions of this song, but this is my gold standard. I never hear this song without hearing Mahalia in the back of my mind.

Onward. I leave you with this wonderful recording of Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel, singing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” with such joy and conviction.
He came to redeem every sinner
and to wash their sins away — hallelujah!

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Still Jumping Hoops

(This post was originally begun on September 17.)
So, okay, an update.

Last time I wrote about the medical stuff, I was still in the process of seeing specialists. I have now seen the allergist and the podiatrist, and one one of those fronts I’ve had some success.

That was the podiatrist. Actually, I’ve seen the podiatrist twice, and the first prescription anti-inflammatory did not help. Neither did the insoles. At the second visit, the podiatrist gave me a prescription for a stronger NSAID and asked if I wanted a cortisone shot. “Or would you like to treat your plantar fasciitis more aggressively?” she asked.

“Oh, yes, please, let’s be aggressive,” I said. “I’ve had it three years. I need some relief, and I want to be able to walk so I can lose some weight.” So she sent me to physical therapy. (Lord knows that should’ve been done at least a year ago, if not sooner. Should’ve been done at least in June.)

The PTs have asked me to continue the stretches I was doing, and gave me another couple to try. They’ve also done ASTYM on me, twice, and I have to think that’s helping a great deal. My heel feels a lot better. I’m not pain-free, but at least I can walk about 7000 steps without being crippled the next day. I’m hoping that over the next few weeks of treatment, my heel pain will lessen more.

The allergist did not test me for allergy to the Essure device or its components, largely because he did not have those tests in-house at the time, but also partly because they’re expensive and partly because he thought there was something else going on. He did order some blood work on me; it turned out to indicate that I do not have systemic inflammation going on. So that’s a dead end for Essure removal. He suggested I see a dermatologist for the rash on my arms. (It’s not that bad. I’m used to it now, used to the scars.)

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels (no, this isn’t me).

As for the diet, well, I’m starting to get frustrated with it. I am tracking everything I eat. I am exercising regularly, 5 days a week, usually about 35 minutes a day, and keeping my caloric intake about 1000 calories under what I expend (based on Fitbit’s estimate). I’m drinking about 80 ounces of water a day and have stopped drinking the one diet soda a day I had been allowing myself. This should have led to about a two-pound loss every week. However, I haven’t lost any more weight at all. It occurs to me that this is the point where I got frustrated with South Beach Diet last time, too — when I had lost 18 pounds and the scale refused to budge any further over a month’s time. GAH.

I have to persevere anyway, because I have to get healthy. I have to.

A lot of dieters swear by weighing once weekly, or weighing not at all and only gauging success by the fit of clothes. I have found in the past, however, that if I skip weighing every day, my brain tends to go straight to thinking, “Oh, we’re not dieting. Go ahead and eat the banana bread.” So I weigh once a day, in the morning after I’ve peed and before I’ve eaten anything. And I’m generally pretty patient with fluctuations… it’s just that I haven’t seen any loss since Sept. 8 (and I’m back up 2 pounds since then, pretty consistently). It’s so frustrating.

I begin to wonder if the NSAID I am taking for my plantar fasciitis is making the scale not move. Hmm.

In other news, though: I had been having a great deal of acne, almost more than I’d had as a teenager. That’s abated, and my face is clearer than it’s ever been since I was, oh, twelve. Low-sugar diet? Maybe. Perimenopause? Maybe that, too.

And now I have a few fun outfits to exercise in, too. This is good.

Updated update, October 1.
My sleep study showed no sleep apnea or diminished oxygen during sleep, so I think we can rule that out as a cause of fatigue.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels (also not me).

I’ve now had a full month of physical therapy, from ASTYM to stretching and icing, and can report that my heel pain is maybe 20% of the level it was in May. This is an enormous relief. I’m not completely pain-free, and might never be completely pain-free due to that heel spur, but I plan to continue for another week or two, to try to reach toward zero pain. I’m consistently walking at least 7000 steps a day, and more often 7500 or 8000, which was just unthinkably painful back in May.

I have lost all of two pounds since September 17th. This is frustrating.

Before you ask: Yes, I’m drinking enough water (at least 100 oz., sometimes more). Yes, I’m eating enough healthy food (5 cups of veggies a day, lean protein, one serving whole grain, one serving fruit, limited fats). Yes, I’m exercising 5 times a week (deep water aerobics, walking, low-impact HIIT videos). Yes, I’m logging everything I eat (including those three pecan halves I ate after dinner this evening). Yes, I’m still eating approximately 1000 calories less than I burn every day (which should lead to a two-pound loss every week). Still, no movement on the scale or in my clothes. I may need to exercise 45 minutes/day instead of 30. Gah.

I know a number of people who’ve had success on the ketogenic diet. I might not be able to sustain that diet for very long — it seems crazy, what with the extremely low carb limits — but I wonder if I should try it, just for a jump-start? I don’t think two weeks of it would kill me.

The allergist wants me to come back to do some specific allergen tests soon. I see the endocrinologist next week.

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Scent Diary, August 20-26, 2018

Monday, Aug. 20: Taz started his senior year of high school last Thursday; Gaze and The CEO started classes at Virginia Tech today. (Means I get the house to myself again. 😀 Maybe I can get some writing done now.) SOTD is Guerlain Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique. I always feel like I have to justify loving this thing. Yeah-yeah, derivative overpriced pink mall juice, yada yada whatever, I don’t care. It’s a floral with a deliciously bitter edge and I love it. Besides, I got a slightly-used bottle at deep discount on teh ‘Bay. Nyah nyah.

Tuesday, Aug. 21: Intermittent thunderstorms all day. SOTD was Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere. It had cleared up by 5 p.m. and the sun was shining, so I left beef-veggie kabobs in the fridge for Bookworm to cook when she got home and went on to deep water aerobics. We’d only been in the pool for about 18 minutes of class when lightning struck nearby and we had to get out. Sad — especially because by the time I got dried off and in the car to leave the YMCA, skies were clear again. I had thought I might go for a walk after dinner, but it got dark while we were eating. The kabobs were SO GOOD.

Wednesday, Aug. 22: Again, intermittent showers. I managed to do a ton of errands and wash two loads of towels. SOTD was Chanel No. 19 edp, which I love. I had planned to go do exercise bike at the Y, but then I ran across a low-impact high-intensity interval (HIIT) workout on Youtube for people with wonky knees, and decided to do that instead. WHEW. Hard. Really hard. I liked it, though.

Talked to Gaze recently. VT is so packed with new students that dorm space is extremely limited and there was talk of moving noncadet students into any extra rooms in the cadet dorms… but there’s no room in the cadet dorms. The Corps is so full that most cadets, even upperclassmen, are jammed with four people in triple rooms and three in doubles. Gaze is one of three in a double room in the basement, and Housing even had to convert the study lounges to sleeping spaces. Yikes. All this because Tech’s president is making a push to “grow the university.” Which would be fine, except that the infrastructure to do that is not yet in place. Dorm space doesn’t spring up out of the ground overnight, and although there is plenty of apartment housing in Blacksburg, freshmen and cadets, as well as the honor dorm residents like my nephew, perforce must live on campus. I hear that the dining halls are particularly crowded at midday, as well. (There are four main dining halls plus several snack places, and at least five food trucks.) Grr.

Thursday, Aug. 23: Sunshine! That means laundry! I washed six loads and hung them out on the line, brought them in, and folded them. Yay me. Also, Deep Water Aerobics this evening, which I have decided to call Happiness Time. SOTD was Hanae Mori Haute Couture, big friendly citrusy jasmine fruit thing. (Discontinued, probably because it smells nothing like the original Hanae Mori berry-‘nilla scent.)

Friday, Aug. 24: Showers again. I had two loads left from yesterday, but managed to hang them out in between the rains. SOTD was softly powdery Rose d’Ete, my first niche purchase and still a love. Delicious New York strip steaks for dinner, plus mushrooms, cauliflower rice, green beans, roasted chunky potatoes (which I didn’t eat), and grilled zucchini. Yum.

Saturday, Aug. 25: Taz overslept and missed the 6:45 a.m. bus to his cross-country meet; I wound up driving him to Blacksburg. Once I was in Blacksburg, of course, the only sensible thing to do was to . . . go to Aldi. 😛 I did some grocery shopping before coming home and doing some cleaning. SOTD was Leonard de Leonard.

There are cows in the 20-Acre Field behind the house, so we are right now suffering a Plague of Many Flies. UGH. You swat one and three more come in the door.

Sunday, Aug. 26: I don’t feel well. Went to church anyway and was glad I went. Then after a quick lunch, we all went to see a local production of “Chicago.” One of Taz’s classmates was in it, and she was fabulous as Velma Kelly. (Frankly, I wondered why she wasn’t cast as Roxie — who was also good, but in my opinion, less fabulous than Velma.) So I was glad we went to that, too! SOTD was Lubin Epidor, which is somehow both golden and dusky-plummy. I like it very much.

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