STUFF. Christmas presents. Perfume divestiture. Giveaway drawing.

Yeah, I know… it’s Christmas, that wonderful time of the year when we give each other STUFF, in honor of the greatest gift ever – which was not, I remind you, wrapped up in paper printed with Santa faces and tied with red sparkly ribbons.

I have way too much STUFF.  (The CEO tells me this all the time.  He’s right, but I hate to admit that to him!)  Probably all of us have too much STUFF, and what we really need are things that can’t be wrapped up in Santa-face paper:  Time.  Family.  Love.  Kindness.  Grace.  Patience.  Contentment.  Forgiveness.  Relief from worry.

How often do I assume that my friends and family members just need another gift card or sweater or jar of homemade raspberry jelly, rather than my love/kindness/forgiveness?  Pretty often.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s easy to spend money and hope that some of the feeling that inspires me to do so comes through, without making sure the gift recipients know that I love them.

I gave up making handmade presents a long time ago.  It was even more stressful than spending money, and difficult to make the right thing for the right person.  Cross-stitch makes my hands hurt these days.  So does crochet, and besides, once you’ve made someone a fuzzy scarf, you really can’t give them another one.  Food gifts are handy, and making them doesn’t induce unpleasant finger tingling – but they’re not very personal.  Once you’ve made twelve jars of mulling spices, for all your aunts and cousins and the newspaper carrier and your hairdresser, one jar isn’t very special, is it?

And if I do nothing, nobody has any fun.  Maybe the way to do this is to spend a small amount of money, and spend some of my personal time as well.  So I’ll go ahead and get my brother that kitchen thingy he wants – and write him a personal note, too.  It’s a plan, people.

As a side note to all these STUFF comments, I looked over my perfume collection and found things that I’ve discovered I just don’t love.  I’d like these scents – they’re mostly miniature bottles, with a few decants – to go to good homes.  So I just posted them on my notepad at makeupalley.com, and will be listing them on my profile at fragrantica.com as well (I’m mals86 at both sites).  There are a few small decants I’d love to swap for, but other than that, I just want these little bottles to go to people who’ll enjoy them. 

If you’re interested in picking out one of the mini bottles for yourself, post a comment.  I’ll get Taz, my nine-year-old, to draw a name out of his bicycle helmet.  Winner gets to choose a prize from my list of Adoptable Minis.  Drawing closes on Thursday 12/10 at 12 midnight.

Image is 3 Presents Waiting by jonmatthew at flickr.

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Perfume Review: Penhaligon’s Amaranthine, or Amaranthigh, or Amaranthingy


Amaranthine by Penhaligon’s London, New for Fall 2009
Amaranthine is a corrupted floral oriental for those private moments when everything is anticipation. It opens with a dramatic flourish of spices and tropical green. This unsettling lick of drama is beautifully ambushed by an unctuous accord of jasmine and ylang-ylang, a heady bloom renowned for its aphrodisiac properties, and clove swathed in spices, tea, musk and the rounded beauty of tonka bean absolute.  The perfume is reportedly “reminiscent of the scent of the inside of a woman’s thigh”. *

Head notes – Green Tea, White Freesia, Banana Tree Leaf, Coriander Seed Oil, Cardamom Absolute  Heart – Rose, Carnation, Clove Oil, Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang Oil, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute   Base  – Musk, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Condensed Milk, Tonka Bean Absolute

You know what? For once, the ad copy is pretty accurate, although perhaps it overstates the “drama” and “aphrodisiac properties.”  * The hilarious quote about thighs is purportedly from composer Bertrand Duchaufour, from cosmeticsinternational.  It alone made me want to smell this thing, and people seem to be associating the scent with the word “thigh” now.  Maybe it’s just that “thigh” is a funny word, which it is.  Say it six times in a row: thigh thigh thigh thigh thigh thigh.  Kudos to you if you said it without snickering; I couldn’t.

And look at those notes, too – does that sound anything like thighs to you??  The notes say “tropical floral with oriental base” to me, and that’s a category I like in general.  So here it is the beginning of winter, and I’ve spritzed Amaranthine four days in a row, to make sure the experience isn’t a freak occurrence.  I think, honestly, it would be better in warmer weather.  It’s a bit light when one is wearing sweaters and shivering in a cold rain.  But even though it’s been less satisfying in early December than, say, Alahine (about which, more coming next week), I say this:  Amaranthine is beautiful.

It starts out with fresh, dewy florals only lightly dusted with spices.  I get very little tea from it, although other reviewers find it more prominent; I get more general “green” notes.  And yes, there’s a banana hit to it, probably from the ylang, although it’s a green banana thing, not an overripe squishy vibe.  I can’t identify rose in there, but the carnation is prominent, as well as the orange blossom. The jasmine is grassy and fresh, as opposed to that indolic heavy Joy-type jasmine that makes me think of dirty panties, and it doesn’t stand out. 

Eventually I get down to the base, which is soft and clings to the skin, and still retains a veil of freesia and orange blossom.  I was a bit worried about that “condensed milk” note, but although Amaranthine is a little sweet, it reads as floral sweetness to me rather than gourmand.  At this stage, it smells a bit like skin smells if the weather is warm and it’s been most of a day since it’s been showered: not squeaky-clean, but not smelly-sweaty either.  Like, you know, skin, warm and slightly moist.

It may be my nose, but I’m not getting of the weirdness some other reviewers have discovered.  Nor do I get the smuttiness that some people have described.  Is it just too cold and/or dry? Is my brain twisted? I’m not sure.  All I get out of Amaranthine is tropical, relaxed, fresh beauty.  I’ll be putting my decant away for a few months, at least, and wearing things more appropriate to this chilly weather.  When the time is right, I’ll know.

On a related subject (THIGHS!), I’m going to talk about body image.  I have a daughter in her early teens.  She’s healthy and fit; she’s petite; she’s still wearing a few things from the girls’ department, particularly dresses, as she finds the juniors’ department offerings immodest.  (I’m not complaining.)

But she said to me the other day after track practice, “You know, Mom, I have big thighs.” I looked at them and raised my eyebrows.  “They’ve got muscles.  I mean, you can actually see my thigh muscles. They’re runner’s thighs.”  I nodded.  “I think that’s the reason I have trouble finding jeans that fit.”  (Yeah, tell me about it.)  But I’m not going to apologize to my kid for giving her the thunder thighs genes, because – honestly? – she’s got great legs.  She complains that her broad shoulders make her shirts fit funny, and her muscly thighs make her jeans tight, and how her jeans are always too big in the waist if they fit her hips.    

And she’s looking around her high school at all the girls with thin thighs and thinking, How come I don’t look like them?, while I’m looking at her and thinking, Hey, that is my basic body shape, just younger and shorter and much, much thinner, and it’s beautiful.  It’s a swimmer’s body (okay, a short swimmer’s body!), and it’s healthy and athletic and beautiful. 

And I think I want it back.  I’ve been avoiding exercise for way too long.  Time to remedy that.

Ad copy from Penhaligon’s.  Top image: Amaranthine in the limited edition crystal flacon, from Penhaligon’s.
Center image: Shield Bug on Globe Amaranth by innermt at flickr.
Bottom image: 2008 Cross Country by nmhschool at flickr.  No, it’s not Bookworm, but she runs cross-country and distance track.  I’m so proud of her.

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Holy Cow, It’s December!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s the last month of the year.  Time does march on… (duh!)
I have so much to do.  I’m really glad I completed my National Novel Writing Month project a few days ago (yeah, okay, I’ll shut up about it now), but I’m very far behind on the whole Christmas thing.  It’s December 3:  three days before Bookworm marches in the local Christmas parade, ten days before my community chorus concert, twelve days before we’ll go get a Christmas tree, and three weeks before the Small People Living In My House will be pounding down the stairs, demanding to open their stockings and eat homemade cinnamon rolls.
I need a lot more time.  I haven’t bought any gifts; I haven’t baked anything; I haven’t decorated anything.
Next project: Make Christmas happen, simply.  I mean, I need simple and inexpensive and easy ways to make it feel like Christmas around here without doing a lot of the work myself – and I could pick up Better Homes and Gardens or Woman’s Day or some other magazine, but that would feel like wasting time.  (Blogging’s not a waste of time, is it?  Please tell me it ain’t!) Might have to go check out the emergency holiday missions at FlyLady.org, too.

As I’m formulating the Christmas plan, I think I’ll start by cleaning up the joint.  (Eek!)  Get all the fall stuff put away, help the kids pack up anything they won’t need over the winter months, ditch the “I haven’t used this in months” items lying around.  We’ll see how it goes.

As an aside, I smelled the Laura Mercier Minuit Enchante’ parfum that people are raving about on my favorite perfume blogs.  I don’t live anywhere near a Nordstrom’s, but managed to hit the one in Richmond a few days ago, in the course of  attending a farmers’ conference and, incidentally, visiting my brother in order to hold the new baby.  (He’s precious, of course. I got to snuggle him and kiss his little fuzzy head, but not for long enough.)  Anyway, I was expecting a big ol’ dusty resiny Opium-like thing, and instead what I got was a gorgeous spice overload.  It spends about twenty minutes in the too-sweet zone, but then it’s a pileup in the spice aisle, with freshly ground cinnamon tackling clove, and nutmeg jumping on top of vanilla bean.  I thought it was terrific.  Better, I got some on the inside wrist of my jacket sleeve, so my jacket still smells great too.

On the other hand, my brother, when invited to sniff my wrist, jerked his head back as if he’d been slapped and asked what I’d done to tick off the sales assistant.  As if you couldn’t guess, he doesn’t care for perfume. Minuit Enchante’ is a bit linear, and seems more like a Generally Good Smell than a serious perfume.  I’d rather have Teo Cabanel Alahine, otherwise known to me as Happiness In a Bottle, Winter Variation.  But ME is a nice thing to see in a mainstream release.  Bottle’s pretty, too, with that heavy magnetic cap.

Well.  I’d better get cracking on that cleaning-up thing.  I plan to be back tomorrow with a review of Penhaligon’s Amaranthine (better known to my swap buddies as Amaranthigh, or Amaranthingy).

Here are links to a few other reviews of Minuit Enchante’:
Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am
March at Perfume Posse
Angela at Now Smell This

Image is Advent Calendar by laurasjoquist at flickr.com.

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NaNoWriMo 2009: I DID IT!!!

Okay, so technically it was more like 29 days and 51,094 words… but who’s counting? 
Ha ha.  Me, obviously.  And the nice people at NaNoWriMo, too.  In fact, my OpenOffice document swears on a stack of Bibles that my novel is 51,787 words; I don’t know what the heck the difference is between the two word count widgets, but BOY, am I glad I wrote that extra scene. 
Here’s some more statistics for the month of November:
Extra cups of coffee: 23
Loads of laundry done solo by The CEO, graciously picking up slack: 26
School lunches for Gaze and Taz flung into bags at the Very Last Minute Before We’ll Be Late, because Mom had a hard time dragging herself out of bed: 15

Pounds of food (turkey breast, ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry gelatin salad, celery sticks, and pumpkin pie) prepared for Thanksgiving, unfinished novel notwithstanding: 29
Blog entries posted, including this one: 8
Late nights: too many to count
Christmas gifts purchased: zero  (Ack, better get crankin’!)

Here’s the kicker: I’m not even finished.  There’s more story… I only got through 68% of the scenes I intended to write.  The ones I did write – well, they need careful editing.  It might be more accurate to say they need lopping with a chain saw, so there’s still a lot of work ahead of me.

But now I know I can do it.  It might take me another month (how’s, oh, February?  February’s pretty quiet), but now I know what I’m capable of.  I’m so proud of me.

NaNoWriMo 2009 Winner’s Badge from nanowrimo.org.  Go check ’em out, seriously.

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Thanksgiving 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! 

My NaNoWriMo word count stands at 45,027.

The turkey breast is in the oven.  The ham and the sweet potato casserole await their turn. Cranberry gelatin salad, green beans, and pies are done.  Guests are bringing rolls, dressing, fruit, and broccoli casserole.  Gravy is a last-minute project.  Floor has been mopped, bathroom has been cleaned.  (Kitchen is still a mess, but there’s time to clean it.)  The house smells good.

My family is all healthy and together.  We have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet.  We’re warm and comfortable and well-fed and we love each other. 

I often forget that many people don’t have those things. 

I will be making time in the next month to do something that makes life a little better for someone.  This month was for me, but it’s time to turn my focus outward and let God love someone through me.  That is, to me, what “giving thanks” should mean – that we not be complacent about what we have or envious of what we don’t have, but that we set our faces toward making things better for everyone.

May your Thanksgiving be so blessed.

Image is Happy Thanksgiving by *Gracie at flickr.

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Week Three, NaNoWriMo 2009

So here’s what’s burning my britches:

Sunday afternoon I’m counting up all my words from all the scenes I’ve written, most of them through the fabulously stern Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die widget, and I’m excited because I’m ahead of schedule now – 38,203 words written, according to my math, and I should be at the 36,674 point. Yay me… so I go and start saving all these scenes into a big long (and I mean long!) document so I can upload it to the NaNoWriMo official word counter.  And then I check the word count for the entire document, and it says, “34,959.”  What?!? Less than 35K? 

Less than 35K?  So where did it go?  Is my math that bad?  You wouldn’t think someone with a degree in accounting would have that much trouble adding stuff…  Oh, okay, forgot this little piece of a scene I wrote and somehow saved in the wrong spot; let’s add that in.  New count: 36,003.  What!?! Where are my other two thousand words?!?

Turns out, see, that the WriteOrDie wordcount works differently than the OpenOfficeDocument wordcount –  WriteOrDie being the cheerful optimist with rose-colored glasses, curse it.  Totally out of character for a program that punishes you for seven seconds of no keystrokes by playing the most heeeedious noises you could imagine (babies crying, air raid sirens, untuned violins, shrieking alarm clocks, you name it).  To get the noise to stop, all you have to do is start typing again.  Simple but brilliant, right?

Actually, it is brilliant, and I’m going to keep using it.  I’ll just be checking word counts very thoroughly in a serious word-processing program from now on.  New word count as of midnight, 11/22: 38,482. So there. 

And the other thing I want to know is, Why is my face all broken out?  Am I that stressed?  It’s not That Time, I haven’t been eating loads of chocolate (all right, fine, I did have a square – ONE square – of NewTree Dark Chocolate with Ginger last week), and I haven’t had any Diet Dr. Pepper, which, although I love it, tends to break me out.  And I have been cleaning my face with the same cleanser and using the same brand of noncomodegenic makeup I always use.  I don’t get it.

Scents worn in Week Three:
Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea, custom samples of three versions: Zero Patchouli, Half the Patchouli of the Original, and Different Patchouli than the Original. Winner: 50% Patch.  Gorgeous.  Exactly what I wanted – pipe tobacco, dry leaves, grass, spice cookies, damp moss, golden sunshine, leather jacket, warm skin, and stolen kisses. Whoa baby. Laurie Erickson is a genius.
Chanel Bois des Iles, Les Exclusifs, decant: sandalwood, cool iris, warm gingerbread. Why does this seem thinner than my sample?  It smells like the right smell, but disappears faster and has less presence.
Teo Cabanel Alahine sample: a mellow, happy Party In a Bottle, complete with “candles at the window, carols at the spinet.”
Guerlain Chamade parfum de toilette, decant: a green-and-gold springtime.  (Is it sacrilege to say that this is beautiful but not as good as Parfums de Nicolai’s Le Temps d’une Fete?  I’m sayin’ it anyway.  Luca Turin’s right, Guerlain (LVMH) should hire Guerlain granddaughter Patricia de Nicolai as head nose.) In any case, I’ve now written the Chamade scenes into the novel.  Now I can stop feeling so seasonally disoriented – no wonder I’ve been reaching for the cool-weather stuff when I’m not at the laptop. I can’t believe, now, that for so many years I wore one perfume at a time.  Freesia and peony in the winter? Thank goodness I can leave the whole “signature perfume” idea behind.

Top image is wordfind by thinkroni at flickr.com.  Bottom image is Alahine, from fragrantica.com.

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Week Two, NaNoWriMo 2009

I’m a little behind.  (Ba-dum-bum.)

Hindered by feeling yucky, and the fact that people need clothes ironed and lunches packed and bathrooms cleaned, yada yada, and the fact that in all this mess, somehow I’m actually expected to go to work, I haven’t been working as hard as I should.

Not to mention that I got mad at one of my characters and didn’t want to write about him at all, and I got bored with the other major character – she was too nicey-nice.  Well, I fixed that all right, mwah ha ha!  She’s going to do a few questionable things, and that’s fun to write about. And I started fleshing out an uninhibited minor character, so that should help too. Tonight, the 18th, I should be at 30K words, and I’m not – I’m sitting on 29,213.  But it’s still doable.  In fact, if I stop blogging right now, I could probably go write another 1000… okay, probably not. 

Scents worn in week two:
Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur – stupid name, lovely scent.  Plum, white flowers, and a milky, ambery base that is sweet and smooth without being sugary. In fact, the drydown reminds me of creme brulee.  One of the few that lasts and lasts on me. Makes my sweaters smell great.

Teo Cabanel Alahine sample – Wow.  This freebie sample is a favorite of Abigail’s – see her review at IsmellthereforeIam blog here.  Smells like, for some reason even I cannot pinpoint, Christmas.  In fact, what it’s reminding me of is the Madrigal Dinners we chorus students produced at college: clove oranges, curried fruit, dusty music books, lit candles, slightly-musty costumes, evergreen branches hiding the Federal style mouldings on the ballroom walls… not that I actually smell all of that, but I think I’m getting olfactory illusion here.  Which is nice, actually.  Mad Dinners were so much fun.

Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea custom blend – I had this huge, head-over-heels emotional reaction to the standard version, only slightly marred by the patchouli it contains.  It’s nice patch, actually – grassy and fresh-smelling, not dusty and not the synthetic-y “clean” patch that seems to inhabit so many mainstream scents lately.  But patchouli has a way of simply hijacking my nose away from the whole composition, so that all I smell is patchouli.  Laurie Erickson was kind enough to make me a few custom samples to choose from: one with no patchouli, one with 50% patchouli, and one with a different grade of patchouli.  I think the 50% patch is winning, at this stage.  I love it.

Just like last week, I highly recommend that you go smell something good, read something good, and hug someone you love.  And I’ll add one more: eat something good.

Image is Butt by Shooting the Kids at flickr.

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Perfume Reviews: Guerlain Shalimar Light/Eau Legere, or The Story I Really Wanted to Tell You

By the time I came to The Kingdom of Perfumistas, Queen Shalimar had an acclaimed flanker, which was widely praised and subsequently discontinued. This modernized version was known variously as “Shalimar Light,” or “Shalimar Eau Legere Parfumee.” Even more confusing is the fact that the version concocted by Mathilde Laurent was later tweaked by Jean-Paul Gaultier, after Ms. Laurent had a falling-out with her boss and went to work for Cartier.

I have done some research on this phenomenon, which I’ll share briefly with you.  Also, I highly recommend reading yet another one of Helg’s terrific posts on the subject, here.  (One of these days I’ll stop pointing you in the direction of Perfume Shrine, but she’ll have to stop writing so beautifully and thoroughly first.  Like that’s going to happen.)

Shalimar Eau Legere, composed by Mathilde Laurent, was a pale straw-colored liquid, presented in a pale blue bottle with dark blue lettering that brought that distinctive Shalimar bottle to mind, pictured at left. The sprayer mechanism was located in the fluted ventaille top, which does not come off.  This is the version that most perfume-lovers call the better iteration. It’s nearly impossible to find these days.

The second version is generally known as Shalimar Light, although all bottles of SL/SEP bear the same two descriptions (Shalimar Eau Legere Parfumee/Light Fragrance). The second version, with notes similar to the first, is light blue liquid in a clear bottle with gold lettering. This bottle has a removable cap, with spray mechanism underneath.  This version is slightly easier to find, although it’s getting scarce too.  I have a photo of the two bottles side by side, but am experiencing camera problems at the moment.  I’ll post the photo when I can.

Recently, a bottle of SEL (first one) came into my possession, so now I have both it and SL , as well as some vintage Shalimar proper, in the rich parfum de toilette concentration. Of course, I had to test them simultaneously. The review of the newest version, Eau de Shalimar, in the quarterly updates to Perfumes: The Guide seems to indicate that only the top notes were slightly changed for the J-PG version, but I would disagree. These two are definitely versions of the same fragrance, but I smell differences throughout. (Be aware that my bottle of Eau Legere came from someone who had bought it in a duty-free shop several years ago, and I have no idea in what conditions it has been kept in the meantime. My bottle of Shalimar Light, blue juice, came from an online discounter.)

Up top, SEL (Laurent) has a ton of citrusy bergamot. It’s very elegant citrus. But right away I smell the familiar Shalimar TarNilla base, much gentler than in the original, but there in its recognizable ice-cream-on-the-asphalt glory. This glowing bergamot slowly slides into a blended floral heart, a lovely creamy jasmine and ylang mixture that seems augmented by something herbal (rosemary? sage?), and to be honest, this is the very first time I’ve gotten the reference to the Shalimar Gardens. It does make me think of gardens, albeit not fresh dewy gardens. This is a woody garden, with stuff like rosemary and sandalwood underscoring the florals. Eventually this subsides into that smoky-tarry-vanilla base I mentioned. However, the base isn’t strictly vanilla – it’s at least as much about benzoin and tonka bean as it is vanilla. And although it’s very much like original Shalimar, I get no patchouli sticking out to my nose; it’s very smooth. There’s just that hint of tar…

As for the Jean-Paul Guerlain version of Shalimar Light, pictured at right, it’s subtly different. The first five minutes are strongly reminiscent not of bergamot, but of lemon oil furniture polish, intense and inedible. I love the smell of lemon oil, but I’m not enthused about smelling like the maid, so I turn my attention elsewhere for the first five minutes.* After that the strength of the bitter lemon note softens and becomes very enjoyable. This citrusy facet seems to stick around longer than it does in SEL, and is still faintly apparent in the drydown. The florals are less apparent in this version; I do smell jasmine and ylang, but this iteration of Shalimar Light seems more focused on the citrus and vanilla, without the floral focus the first version seems to have. The drydown is far less smoky, but the vanilla is smooth and unsweetened, and augmented by the rich creaminess that tonka bean and benzoin provide. This one is pretty much lemon-vanilla-tonka all the way, delicately garnished with a single jasmine flower. It’s somewhat less complex than the Laurent version, and bears less of a resemblance to classic Shalimar.

I think the first Eau Legere, the Mathilde Laurent composition, is a better fragrance. It’s as detailed as tapestry; it takes the wearer on a scent journey; it keeps surprising with things one might not expect (the 3D florals, the herbs, the smokiness).

BUT. (You knew this was coming, didn’t you?) I actually prefer Shalimar Light, the version tweaked by Jean-Paul Gaultier, or as I like to call it, SL 2.0. I think there are a couple of reasons informing my preference. One, I smelled the blue juice first, and liked it. I didn’t compare it to anything, I just enjoyed it, unburdened by any idea of trying to identify which I liked better. Two, SL 2.0 has become a comfort scent for me in all seasons except summer, when I find it too heavy. It’s one of those wonderful perfumes that just plain smells nice; I don’t have to think about it, or process it emotionally – I just put it on and feel like myself. Three (and Three is actually related to Two), it reminds me somewhat of My Darling Emeraude in feel. It’s a “me” scent. Shalimar Light shares that velvety benzoin-tonka-vanilla base with Emeraude, and with Mariella Burani, another one I feel very comfortable in.

Notes for Shalimar Eau Legere/Shalimar Light:
Orange flower, lemon, bergamot, jasmine, rose de mai, iris, opoponax, tonka bean, vanilla, ambergris, incense
Notes are quite similar to Shalimar (well, duh), but the basenotes have been pared down considerably – no vetiver, no leather, no sandalwood, no civet, no patchouli. No musk is listed, but Shalimar Light can smell fairly “dirty” on me at times, and I think there’s some musk in there.

If you went and checked out the Perfume Shrine post, you probably read that comment from Guerlain’s PR rep stating that Eau de Shalimar is the same as the Jean-Paul Guerlain version of Shalimar Light.  I’d disagree.  I tested a sample vial, and assuming it’s representative, Guerlain has thinned down the Blue Juice even further.  The opening smells like lemon baby wipes, not even as assertive as the lemon oil furniture polish in Shalimar Light v. 2.0.  The florals are thinner, and the base smells more straight-up vanilla than that creamy, deep benzoin-tonka-vanilla thing that I love.  This one’s all watered-down lemon cream soda, too sweet and thin to be worth something.  There’s a good reason it’s clear liquid in clear glass, seems to me, and in my opinion, Eau de Shalimar is a mess to be avoided.

Images are all from ebay and fragrantica.com.  Like I said, I’ll try to post that one I took myself sometime soon.
*And I AM the maid around here. 

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Perfume Review: Guerlain Shalimar, or The First Story

My father-in-law is a storyteller. What he especially likes to do is tell you a story, and then say, “I told you that story in order to tell you this one…”  The second one is always better, but it would not make any sense unless you’ve heard the first one.

This is sometimes true of perfumes, and of perfume reviews.  In this case it’s true: I’ve been wanting to review Shalimar Light for some time, but have thought that it was pointless to do so without reviewing Shalimar first.  Shalimar is one of the oldest extant Orientals, along with Emeraude.  (Emeraude’s been mangled so many times by reformulation that the current version is utterly unwearable.  But we won’t discuss it.)

Officially released in 1925 by the house of Guerlain, home of several of iconic classics – Jicky, Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue – and named after the Shalimar Gardens of Lahore, it’s been called the “reference Oriental,” and is famed for its combination of bright citrus underscored by creamy, yet smoky, vanilla. It’s also been known for decades as the scent of indecent, sensuous women… if you want more information, check out Perfume Shrine’s review here.

But you know all this. Let’s dive right into the shallow pool of my own opinions about it.

I think the bottle is one of the most distinctive and beautiful ones ever. It’s hard to mistake a Shalimar bottle for anything else, with its shield-shaped flacon and blue fluted top. Yes, I know Shalimar has been presented in a number of different shapes over the years. My own miniature bottle of vintage parfum de toilette is not the classic shape. My point is that, as far as I can tell, no other scent has been released in the classic Shalimar bottle, thus making it distinctively identifiable as Shalimar.  It may also be Guerlain’s biggest seller. Devotees seem to stick with it – and indeed, nothing else smells quite like it. It’s not like my replacing a worn-out bottle of Revlon Xia Xi’ang with one of Elizabeth Arden’s True Love… no, for Shalimar wearers, only Shalimar seems to do.

I’ll list the notes here, not so much because they matter, but because these notes are the pattern for later development, and also because I am something of a geek who likes to compare lists of notes both to what I smell in the fragrance, and what I smell in fragrances that are similar.
Notes for Shalimar: bergamot, lemon, mandarin, rose de mai, jasmine, orris, vetiver, heliotrope, opoponax, vanilla, civet, Peru balsam, benzoin, tonka bean, patchouli, leather, sandalwood.

Before I “fell down the rabbit hole,” as they say, I used to pick up the lovely tester bottle from the department store counter, sniff longingly, and then quickly put it down. All I could smell was bergamot and patchouli. Ick. Now I know that I seem to be extremely sensitive to patchouli, picking it up in quantities unsmellable to the general public. And now that I have smelled many other Orientals, the patchouli doesn’t stand out to me as it used to; now what presents itself to my nose is the small amount of birch tar added to the vanilla to replicate the smell of the original composition, which had a particular impurity that caused it to seem smoky. I like to call Shalimar The TarNilla Godzilla – it’s tar, it’s vanilla, it’s loud, and it’s one of the few scents that seems to last for days on my skin.

I like that bottle of parfum de toilette a lot more than I ever liked the EDT in the tester, which just proves my belief that classic Guerlains (the ones I mentioned above) are difficult for me in the lesser concentrations, but more easily wearable in parfum or PDT form. You don’t want to know what I had to say about L’Heure Bleue in EDT – but the parfum is probably my favorite classic Guerlain. (I leave aside the gauzy silk chiffon of Apres l’Ondee. I suppose you could call it a classic Guerlain, since it’s old and it’s still in production, but it’s so light that people never seem to hate it. They might not find it compelling, but nobody is wishing it out of existence. Or at least not to my knowledge.)

A drop of Shalimar is lovely when it’s chilly outside, and particularly when there’s woodsmoke in the air.  What I like better, though, is a drop of Shalimar followed by a spritz of Shalimar Light 2.0… and now we come to that second story I was talking about.  To be continued…

Image is Shalimar pure parfum by bhperfume5mor at ebay.

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We Won’t Forget

Veterans’ Day, 2009
To my dad, who served in the US Navy in peacetime
To my brother-in-law Bob, who served in the US Army in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and who will soon be serving again
To my friend Army Lt. Terry Plunk, who died clearing landmines in the Gulf War
To all those who gave their lives for their country
To all those who served
To all those who are serving now
To all those who will serve in the future
And to their families
My deep and heartfelt thanks.

 Photo is Arlington National Cemetery, by RuthannOC at flickr

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Week One, NaNoWriMo 2009

So, how’s it going?

Pretty good.  At least, I’ve written five of the seven days, and am sitting at 13,912 words with loads more to come and no writer’s block so far.  Also, everyone has eaten this week, including two bottle-fed calves named Davy and Beth, and no one has run out of underwear.  (Must give props to The CEO for doing laundry, though: ten loads.  Eek.  Note to self:  don’t add any more children to the family.) I’m still looking waaay, way up at the top of the hill, but I can see it.

Scents worn this week:
Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille sample.  Smells like gingerbread, which is kind of nice if you like that sort of thing, which I do, but it’s ungodly expensive for something that smells like, hello, gingerbread.  Honestly, I’d rather just bake some.
Guerlain Chamade vintage parfum de toilette.  Smells like spring.  Is allllll wrong for this time of year, but one of my characters wears it. 
Coty Ex-clam-a-tion!  Smells like rose+violet+face powder, drenched in syrup.  Was this an advance entry into the “I’m a teenager, I must smell like dessert” running?  Same character wears this one at a different stage of life.  She prefers Chamade, and I must say, so do I.
Guerlain Shalimar Light/Eau Legere, two different versions.  Review may show up this week, if I manage to post it.  Watch this space…

I have instructions for people who want something good to happen to them this week:

Go smell something good, even if it’s just dry leaves outside and some homemade gingerbread inside.  (There, now you won’t owe Tom Ford $170 for the 50ml bottle.  Or you could put a pouch of flavored pipe tobacco next to a bottle of Bath and Body Works’ Ginger Vanilla body wash, and pretty much get the same experience.)

Go read something good.  Comic books are fun, but they do NOT count.  Sorry. You only get a pass on this one if you have a newborn baby at home.

Go hug someone you love.

You have your instructions.

Image is Montsant, climbing up hill, by Monique vd Hoeven at flickr.

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You Win Some, You Lose Some

You know who holds the record for the most losses by a major league pitcher?

Denton True “Cy” Young.

Yeah, that guy.  The one they named the award for, the one that honors the best major league pitcher each year.  The guy that pitched 21 seasons, the one who still – even close to a hundred years after he retired, in 1911 – holds the record for the most wins by a major league pitcher.

Total losses: 316.
Total wins: 511.

A lesson for us all.

Especially for me.  This is my second attempt at NaNoWriMo.  I failed last year, only racking up 47,000 words (“winning” means you wrote 50K during the month of November).  But that was last year.  Ol’ Cy lost a bunch of games, too, and it didn’t stop him.

So it can’t stop me.

I probably won’t post full-blown articles here for awhile, just brief notes on how things are going, with the occasional Scent of the Day comment, or something short like that.  I’ll be back in full swing in December.

Image is from wikipedia.  Click on the link to read more about Cy Young at baseballhalloffame.org.

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