Her Life Was on Fire, But at Least She Smelled Good

farmhouse_fire_by_fishin_musician
“Farmhouse Fire” by Fishin Musician on DeviantArt (click through for link)

Ever had one of those life-upheaving events happen? Where you’re not sure where you’ll be tomorrow and what you’ll be doing? And you don’t know who will be with you?

Yep.

This has been my life, since April. I’ve managed a couple of posts since then, but it was in the spirit of stiff-upper-lip, steady-the-boat “normality.” That was probably a mistake, but then I’ve made a lot of those at this point.

Things are starting to settle down a bit. Things are looking up a bit, as well. (Counseling, reordered priorities, heavy-duty prayer, stuff like that. The fire is out, for the time being, and rebuilding is going on.)

The constant? You won’t be surprised to hear that I smelled good the whole time. I turned first to sweet, gentle roses, because roses smell like love, and they will heal your heart. Then my greenies came into play — because with me there are always greenies! — for spring, and for delight.

I was a little worried that I might accidentally ruin a favorite by associating it with a time of upheaval. It didn’t happen. I’m not sure why, except that I might have been conscious of wearing perfume for my own comfort, and I tended to choose fragrances I find comforting – nothing “difficult” or odd.

Joseph's Coat climbing roseI even bought something new: a slightly-used bottle of Teo Cabanel Early Roses, on eBay, at a very steep discount. I’d used up two samples, so it wasn’t a blind buy, and it had been on my vague and nebulous To Buy list, but it leapfrogged over a couple of other fragrances because of the bargain. I’m loving it. (FYI, it’s a gentle fresh rose over ambered woods, soft and pretty and uncomplicated.)

I’ve been running around like a no-headed chicken this summer, what with Gaze’s crazy schedule, and then there was a tropical vacation, and then we all got sick, but things are better now. More on The Suitcase Summer later.

Here’s to rebuilding. And smelling good no matter what. Love y’all.

 

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Valentine’s Day 2012: A Dozen Roses, Bottled

The classic – some would say cliché – gift to a woman on Valentine’s Day is, of course, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a dozen red roses, and jewelry. (My teenage daughter’s boyfriend brought her a card and six red roses yesterday; she gave him a handmade card and some candy. All together now: awwww, how sweet!) I don’t like chocolate in perfume, and the idea of jeweled perfumes will have to wait for another day, so here’s a look at some rose perfumes that I love. (Also, it’s an excuse to post beautiful pictures of roses.)

I do indeed love, love fragrances in which rose plays a major part, from light and girlish ones all the way through to dark Gothic ones. So many fragrances contain at least a little bit of rose – even if you can’t smell it on its own, it’s there, making everything smell round and full. I’ll admit up front that it is very, very difficult to find a rose fragrance that smells just like a freshly-cut dewy rose, because in order to obtain rose essence, the rose petals have to be treated in some way – from steam distillation to enfleurage (which involves pressing fresh petals in fat), to the modern scientific method called distillation moléculaire – and you always get “cooked” rose, not fresh. I figure if I want fresh roses, I’ll go to the florist.

For rose perfumes, I have a stash! Some of my favorites, starting from the light and girlish end:

Continue reading Valentine’s Day 2012: A Dozen Roses, Bottled

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Perfume Review: Teo Cabanel Alahine, or A Joyous Christmas Memory

When I was at college, my university chorus group put on a Madrigal Dinner every year. It was a longstanding tradition that our director would prepare us to sing eight or nine madrigals, and the students would be in charge of everything else.

And I do mean everything else, from arranging to rent the ballroom to organizing costumes, meals, publicity and tickets, from creating an original play to obtaining the services of the medieval-music club for instrumental music and the fencing club for demonstrations, from learning medieval dances and extra pieces of music for serenading guests during the meal to preparing decorations, including fabric wall hangings, fresh evergreen garlands, and clove-orange pomanders, and placing the hangings and garlands in the 14-foot-high ballroom. There are 50 students and twelve weeks in which to get everything done – Ready, Set, GO!

We called it Mad Dinner, and those four evenings were some of the happiest of my life. (They were also some of the most stressful, especially the year I was Costume Co-chair. I think I still have a bald patch on the back of my skull from that experience.) I loved it – every Mad minute of it. Pure joy, from wandering minstrels to cloved oranges to funny hats to candlelight to beautiful music.

For me, Teo Cabanel’s Alahine is Mad Dinner.

Notes for Alahine (from mfr sample):
Top: Lavender, bergamot, ylang-ylang
Middle: Jasmine, Bulgarian rose, orange tree, pepper plant
Base: Iris, cistus, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla, sandalwood, musk

I probably wouldn’t have gone after Alahine on my own – I like amber, but if you’ve read my posts about Opium you know how I feel about resiny Orientals (hint: I’d rather slide down razor blades than spend any time cooped up in a room with them). I’d ordered a sample of Julia and one of Oha, a dark spicy rose chypre that I thought I’d adore, and a sample of Alahine arrived with it in that package from The Posh Peasant. Oha I found very beautiful but eclipsed by the stunning L’Arte di Gucci, with which I had already fallen in love; Julia, a soft floral with tangy fruits in the top, is also beautiful in a wistful, innocent way that feels a little naive for me to wear at this stage of my life. I wasn’t expecting to love Alahine, and in fact upon my first test of it, its opening notes skated close enough to “Citrus-aromatic-masculine” that I almost wrote it off then and there. But by the end of an hour, I found it heavenly. Upon second wearing, I knew I wanted a bottle.

If I am paying attention to the notes – to what I actually smell – Alahine opens with a zesty burst of bergamot, which is highly aromatic and therefore difficult for me. Fragrantica and the label on my manufacturer’s sample say there’s lavender too. It doesn’t smell like the lavender I know, but it is sharp and unpleasant. I am coming to expect this opening, and I know all I have to do is wait ten minutes before a lovely, creamy ylang-ylang will appear and soften the aromatics to a level I enjoy. Shortly after that, the curtain rises to reveal a floral heart so well-blended that I can’t tease out any note except rose, and then only because I’ve become familiar with the deep winey rose in Caron Parfum Sacre’ and Ormonde Jayne Ta’if. Spices swirl around these abstract flowers, spinning down into the ambery labdanum that is weighty and smooth as a heavy gold-colored satin shawl. The scent hovers over this rich amber for hours afterward, caressing it with vanilla and patchouli and benzoin, and wrapping it up with a resiny thread. I don’t actually smell any iris, but there is the effect of something cool there that I think must be due to the iris – it does seem like satin, after all, rather than velvet.

If I don’t pay close attention to what my nose tells me, but lift my head and go through my day only registering my impressions, I smell this: pine branches, curried fruit, flowers, mulled cider, cloved oranges, candle wax, vanilla liqueur, and the very faint mustiness from a costume that has been stored in the basement under Old Cabell Hall for several months. I sense candlelight, and laughter, and the faces of friends, voices raised in song, and the excellent feeling of hard work that has paid off handsomely.

When I wear Alahine, I smell joy.

For a few other reviews of Alahine, click on these links:

Image: Natural Christmas decorating! by LDHumes at flickr.

Madrigal Dinners produced by the University Singers of the University of Virginia are no more. When Dr. Donald “Coach” Loach retired in 1994, they went by the wayside – seen, I think, as being too much work. I raise a glass of mulled cider in honor of Coach, who was pictured recently in the alumni magazine, still looking his natty, mustachioed and spectacled self in a pink polo shirt.

(I hereby remind myself to someday post about the Kamikaze Tenors.)

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