Sunday, August 31, 2008

This was when things were just starting to happen.  No bricks, tomatoes, yet.

When are you no longer a newbie? ( exploration)

It's not been so long when measured in time, this perfumed trail, this journey down the rabbit hole of scent.  It was early last winter that I decided I might like to try fragrance, after years of assiduously avoiding perfumes.  I used to get headaches from fragrances, an effect exacerbated during my pregnancies.  Plus, I work with kids whose sniffers can be HYPER sensitive, and I rehearse with fellow musicians I enjoy in close quarters.  No need to offend.

But I find myself today questioning a purchase I made not so long ago, when I realized I really was going to try to find a perfume to wear.  (I didn't PLAN on becoming a perfume nut.)  I am wearing Bulgari Omnia Amethyste, which seemed like such a reasonable, pleasant choice, back in the day, 9 months ago--but I think I've gone through a gestation period and emerged on the far end of newbie.  I don't like it today.  What happened?

Let's see.  I'll attempt to start from Newbie Gestation: Day 1.

I was at Target, and saw they had a mini of Red Door.  Hmmm.  I had kind of liked that back in the day.  Back in the day, mind you, was Anais Anais teendom, followed by KL in the "independent" late teens/early twenties.  There was a small bottle of Caroline Herrera I got for my wedding, because I didn't like the Jessica McClintock that came with my dress.  Then the Red Door, because I worked near a Red Door salon and had both opportunity and "personal connection," as well as liking it.  For some reason, I looked at that red cap, and I thought I would like to try wearing a perfume.  So, I picked up the Red Door, and a Sung "Shi" in the same display-- I liked the little water drop bottle, and figured that it would be fresh/clean/safe.

Tried the Red Door.  It was as I remembered, but didn't excite me.  The Shi...interesting.  Not exactly watery; noted something else, and kind of liked it.  So I explored.  Tried Issey Miyake, and liked it.  Threw caution to the wind, asked for a bottle, and was given it.  (My goodness, life was behaving oddly.)  Wore it, rather liked it, and still no horrible headache reaction.  (Notice, no testing or living with a small amount of fragrance at this point.)

Then came the infamous Norell moment.  I had tried to find Norell a few years before, when I read an article that discussed how it had fallen from grace and onto the shelves at K-Mart.  Norell was my grandmother's perfume, and somehow, the discovery that it was a "fine" fragrance gave me a fresh eye onto Grandma--that, and the Kodachrome image of her in a Peter Max print caftan.  Anyway, my search had not yielded a bottle, and what was a purely intellectual exercise was stymied.  Cut to a few years later:  I found myself wearing perfume (Miyake), staring a bottle of Norell on the shelves in a discount clothing store.  I picked it up, curious to finish the earlier investigation, and bought it, thinking I could give it to my mom, who would enjoy it for nostalgia.

I sniffed it, and was taken in.  I wondered if my mom might find it too painful, or too weird a gift.  I stored it on my own shelves.  I started researching Norell, to find out what others said about it, and found the universe of perfumista blogs.  I started learning about perfume.  I learned about decants.  I embarked on a training mission.  Many print-outs, a few sample collections from online decanters.  A purchase or two from online auction.  (I scored big time on a nearly full bottle of 24 Faubourg, but wouldn't realize just how much so until later.)

Time passed, and I was still intrigued by the Norell.  The Miyake had become...watery.  I had a wealth of sample vials, introducing me to vintage fragrances, families by note, different concentrations.  I ventured beyond the pre-set collections and ordered samples based on what I was reading and what captured my curiosity.  

Enter the second trimester.  I had been mostly testing samples, going slowly, but things started moving fast.  Lots of samples, and plenty of bargain bottles, began entering the house. Bulgari Rose Essentiale was available in a large tester for less than $20; purchased, and enjoyed.   That success led to me picking up Poeme, since the discount store had it for so cheap and I had to admit that I liked it. To be honest, there was an online auction and discount perfumer run there for a while.  The result was a fair number of full and partial bottles along with the many vials and decants.  A mini of Van Cleef and Arpels First was proving to be a pleaser; I went back and tried 24, Faubourg again, and found it growing on me; I explored other "modern classics."  AT the same time I stopped denying I liked Poeme, I discovered I like leather.  I explored other florals, other leathers.  Since a sample of Un Reverie au Jardin from the first trimester continued to haunt my thoughts, and I bought my first large decant.  I found a bottle of Bandit for a smidge more than a decant; I bought it.  And so on.

By the way, those recommendations to stick with samples and decants for a while when you start exploring perfume are a GOOD IDEA.  I wish I had listened more.  My Issey Miyake, while a welcome visual component to the collection, is still largely full.  The Norell is largely full, too, since warm weather came alongside the start of the intense exploring.  There are others there...not so necessary, probably not so needed.  The regrets of the collection can be catalogued later.

To be fair, other bottles were acquired and I have no regrets.  For example, there's a full bottle of Magie Noire, because the sample I "wristed" my spouse with had such a positive visceral effect that he went out to purchase some THAT DAY.  Goodness, my habit encouraged, my discovery that I might like something a little "dirty" in my perfume tricks for both my nascent perfumista and my marriage.  ;)

The third trimester was marked by big epiphanies and big purchases; overall, a sense of what I was going to eventually like started emerging.  I stopped fighting my love of two big guns that haunted the second trimester:  Tauer's Un Reverie, and PG Bois Blond.  Having already invested in a large decant of Un Reverie, I purchased a bottle of Bois Blond.  This was/is a big deal.  My flufferies budget is not large, and not half a year before, perfume wasn't even on radar, let alone being accomodated on the expense sheet.  But oh, my, the thought of not having enough of that to wear for a variety of occasions, to let it be a "simply me" scent...didn't make sense.  I hadn't smelled, read about, and test driven all of those scents to hold back from taking a plunge when I thought I was ready.

Meanwhile, dear Nancy was closing up shop, and there were SOOOOO many others yet to try.  So, I started my own little Osmotheque/School of Sniffery, a few ml's at a time...became a champion troller at the online auction...participated in my first two swaps, one through the mail, one in person...started feeling comfortable commenting on the blogs...spent my summer vacation with various vials and mini collections sitting at my little writing station.  Summer vacation: start the day with a few test dabs, let them develop while watering plants/tending to housework/checking e-mail/getting WiiFit time in.  Take notes.  Scrub.  Start over.

Which lead to where I found myself today.  A slew of samples, a fair amount of decants, more bottles than I'll end up keeping, and a Numbers spreadsheet that while full of data, is already woefully behind what it could be.  And Omnia Amethyste lotion 
+ perfume on my arms that is...dare I say?...nice, but meh.  Inoffensive.  But no hint of the "iris blossom" I had read of (I grow a LOT of iris types, and would love to have the smell of any one of many choices in a scent, but it's not here).  Just a pleasant, rather girly smell.  Actually, I'm not sure that I even find it pleasant.  It simply brings me the sense that I'll generally smell clean and scented without offending anyone.

So, I think third trimester is over.  I feel I should do today's exercise, scrub off, and change channels to Bandit.  Or YSL Nu.  Or perhaps the third of my current hallowed three, Fleur de Narcisse.  Something with more there there.  Or, at the very least, a nice inoffensive but interesting smell, like Mandragore or Au The Vert.  (Fleur de Narcisse, btw, is my third and final gift of perfume, one purchased for our anniversary, and a kind of bookend to perfume gestation.)

There's still so much to learn.  I'll probably never be handy with rattling off notes through the drydown as part of my assessment, and much as I want to, I may never come to love vetiver.

Yet, I think I might be a newbie no more.  Still, however, very much a freshman.

Anyone want to swap for the Omnia Am?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Objects: Scented Laptops

I kid you not.

Scented laptops in four flavors:  Floral Blossom, Musky Black, Morning Dew Aqua Ocean.

No word on a trendy wood scent.  Yet.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Michigan!

Had to provide a link to a particular post in a rather interesting blog I found, which looks at books as interesting objects:

The link I provide will send you directly to a book featured in the "Handmade" category, and is by Gwen Frostic.  If you are from Michigan, and/or spent time in NW Michigan near Sleeping Bear Dunes, there's a good chance you've visited Gwen Frostic's studio or at least are familiar with her wood block prints.  I have been fascinated by that place since the owner of a cabin I rented recommended it as a place to visit, and of course emotionally connect it to a favorite corner of the universe.  

For a long time, Gwen's work was seen as "quaint."  Now it's cool.  I think that's keen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Joy in Objects: Scent

The thrill of trolling.

Every now and then, salvaging/garage sale haunting/online auction trolling leads to victory.  I now have in my possession a happy little something.  A little something that is very big to my perfume geek self.  10 tiny bottles, lined up so nicely in their somewhat yellowed box.  But let me start at the beginning...on a familiar online auction site...

In the listing picture, I was sure I recognized Balenciaga, and thought I could read "Le Dix."  I could not make out anything else.  But, given the opening bid, and the recent posts on Le Dix, I decided it was worth a shot to get the Balenciaga and take a gamble on the rest.  At least I'd have some fun playing for a little bit, even if it would be simply to learn about obscure bad scents.

I win.  The package arrives.  I open it.  I do believe my mouth dropped open.

What to my wondering eyes should appear....  all in a row, vintage miniatures of: Weil Antilope; Worth Je Reviens; Gres Cabochard; Dana Tabu; Givenchy L'Interdit; Balenciaga Le Dix; Raphael Replique; Jean D'Albret Ecusson; something I don't recognize--the only one to be missing a lablel--Chloe Narcisse??; Carven Ma Griffe.  All perfume, not edt.

Oh!  Oh, oh!!  Oh, oh, oh!!!  I pick up the Le Dix first.  Tragedy.  It is empty.  I open and smell the residue on the sides.  It is hard to be too upset, because I am starting to process what else I have here.  Now I can read all of these interesting perfume blogs and do some Apply & Sniff as I read reviews of Great Scents From the Past You'll Never Have.  

I figure I fall somewhere between Blase That's a Nice Little Thing people and What are You Talking About How Do You Know the Scents Aren't Vinegar folk, but for me, this is way cool. There are a lot of scents I'd just like a chance to experience, and only so much egg money to spend.  Decants are great, but even those add up.   

So many vintage beauties out there...but the Osmotheque is an ocean away, and I am ready to smell now.  Score!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Pairings: others explore

Perfume Smelling Things is back from vacation, and today's entry explores a specific cognac/perfume pairing:

Having just discussed the concept of scent & spirit pairings here On the Ledge, a few folks have weighed in with their own suggestions.  Scroll down to "First Variation: Pairings" to see their comments.  Add your own if you have thoughts on the subject!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Poll Results: Favorite Parallel

Folks are divided evenly between the 45th parallel, and 15 degrees to either side of the equator.

Thanks to those who voted.  I'll happily visit both...but the 45th is close to my heart.

Next poll:  First day of school--before or after Labor Day?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thick as a Brick

That would be me, the implied subject in the title.

There are bricks out in my garden.  Salvage.  I'm going to incorporate them into a path I've been wanting to build.  Nope, they are not treated, they are standard masonry.  Yes, I know the net effect on their lifetime in the dirt (and wet, and freeze).

To make matters worse, I am not going to prepare any screed to lay those bricks into.  (Screed in my blog?  You decide.)  They are simply going to rest within the dirt, in a pattern I used at my last house.  Each pattern will create a landing point, at regular intervals, to guide you through the garden.  And to help keep you from stepping on the plants you're not supposed to step on.

The bricks were a gift, and I find myself incredibly grateful to have them.  The fact that I accepted them is a tangible representation of me finally settling into this "new" house of ours (I've been here over three years now).  We moved from the city to this suburb by choice, and based on the circumstances, it was the right thing to do--yet incredibly difficult for me.  On the surface, the switch might appear to be a slam dunk:  I left behind a 100+ year old house that was in need of work, offered a myriad of challenges (hmm, is that CLOTH wiring behind that lath? could this pipe really go nowhere? two closets TOTAL?) and oddities (gas pipes capped but still protruding from bedroom walls; niche for your block of ice; degree of slope in the upstairs hall that offered a launch for wheeled toys).  I cursed some, but enjoyed most; that house and its neighbors became a part of my identity.

That yard reflected my new and growing interest in gardening, from bone dry novice to a moderately experienced gardener with a Master Gardner course under her belt.  After 10 years, that yard went from a square of grass with some squared off bridal wreath spirea to the home of a moon garden, vegetable garden, "seasons" border, rescues from neighbors, transplants from grandparents, experiments successful and not.  Abandoned bricks from remodeling projects in the neighborhood became the edges for raised beds, or "steppers" for a path.  Rescue plants from local construction projects blended with "hand me down" plants from my grandparents. Eventually, I designed a small patio and path that actually got installed "properly," with screed and tumbled belgian block pavers.  After nearly a decade of work and learning, it was really coming together.

Then we moved.

And life was different.  The children, one of whom was born in the old house, required different kinds of attention.  My new job required attention, period.  My hours at my not-the-parenting-job increased.  I waited the recommended year to watch what came up in the yard.  I tried to learn the bones of the new yard to respect what worked and make plans for what would work better.  I spent a fair amount of my free time helping a non-profit near and dear to my heart. Other challenges.  And the garden waited more than a year.  

At dinner a couple of weeks ago, magic words:  "We have bricks.  Do you want them?"

I actually paused before I said "yes."  I was thinking practically.  I didn't realize what a gift they would be.

I need to write our new friends a note, to express just how special their old bricks have turned out to be.  As the summer winds down, they gave me an inspiration that helps me face its close: a reconnection to who I once was, and a sense of who I might be.  Because it's not just that the garden is going to look better when this project is done.  No matter when the brick project is actually done, I already feel better.

Sometimes a path connects more beginnings and ends than you can see.

First Variation: Pairings

I wish I knew more about both bar chef-ery and perfumery.  I'd be so much better at this post.  Nonetheless, here goes...

I have a fantasy party.  Two variations.  One revolves around pairings of scent and beverage.  The other, presentations of "flights" of scent along the lines of the increasingly popular flights of (champagne/scotch/wine/beer) available at certain establishments.  Today, variation #1.


Let's run this as a game.  I'll go first.  

I met a delightful liqueur last winter.  St. Germain.  Made from elderflowers, but I spent a number of weeks thinking of it as a violet based beverage.  Maybe because I had recently been reading about violet liqueurs (not that there are many in that realm); maybe because when I first tested Apres L'Ondee, I was reminded of when I tried St. Germain.  Now, is that because they smelled alike?  Because I was so happy-surprised when I first encountered each?  Because each made me wistful-happy?*

I don't know.  This needs research.  Party #1.

But there should be other pairings available.  I'm thinking there are certain ambers that will go well with a good scotch.  Maybe a Midori concoction to accompany Un Jardin Apres le Mousson--but I've been too afraid of losing my, erm, composure over the melon in that one to have given it a go yet.  

Black Cashmere with ... no, need something more peat-y.  Oooh, layer Black Cashmere with Black March; accompany with a shot of Jameson's?

My kids, when allowed to indulge in soda pop at a fountain, like to concoct what they call a "suicide," which is essentially a blend of everything dispensed at that fountain.  However, there are certain combinations that they say are guaranteed winners, and they particularly like root beer with orange (heavier on the root beer).  What is the spritzer to accompany that?  

I'd like to compile a list.  Beverages can be hot or cold, alcoholic or non.  Thoughts?

*BTW, St. Germain is lighter than the heavy sweet violets on one end of the perfume spectrum, and not as earthy as the other.  There is some dark sugar lurking...maybe it's a Chanel with a Guerlain uncle?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Chelada. Now you know.

Bud Light.  Clamato.  Put them together in a can, and you have "Chelada."

I was driving home, and saw a billboard advert with two cans, one sporting a jalapeno pepper, the other, a lime.  

Now, I am familiar with a few beer cocktails...after all, what is a Black & Tan, or a Black Velvet, or a beer + a shot (even if not mixed), or a fruited ale....  I'd say today's discovery is more like a Wisconsin Lunch Box (beer, OJ, shot of Amaretto).  You decide:

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ha! A popular new note in fragrance...

My spouse is going to be all over this one.

I think I'm going to follow the woods trend, regardless.

...though I do have a bottle of budget-minded "Cafe" by Cofinluxe, just in case...

Hind Sight...Fore Sight...and not much in between

I had one of those "a-ha" moments today, which I allowed to roll around in my head a bit because it seemed so logical and delightfully metaphorical.  A reading of my past that seemed to provide insight and new knowledge.  But, like many of these moments, it also seems like the kind of handy b.s. you spin in grad school/art school because it feels good, but might not really go anywhere.

Let me segue to the lead:  Last summer, I spent most of my time largely sightless.  Last winter, I quickly descended into the third ring of manic obsession, and became a perfumista.  HO! thought I as I brushed my teeth this morning, you don't suppose the loss of my vision led me to expanding my use of my sense of smell?  do you??


About a year and a half ago, funny things started happening with my vision.  I thought at first that I had a problem keeping my glasses clean.  Then I realized that I had trouble spots even when wearing contacts.  By that time, my eyes felt a bit...well, itchy in an irritated way, and I decided it was my *eyeballs* that needed cleaning.  Indeed, my eyes, especially the one, had started producing extra goo.  So, clear it off or out, and move on.


I was driving to work one morning and it dawned on me I only had about 50% of the available area of vision out of my left eye.  It was a beautiful spring day, the kind when the trees have truly leafed out, and suddenly it's green, green, green.  And I had trouble seeing the trees.  (Which meant--slowly dawning on me--that perhaps I wasn't in the best shape to drive.)  No matter, just two weeks left until the end of the school year.  So, I perservered...

And ended up not seeing at all in one eye, and only somewhat in the other.  Turns out my eyes really WERE irritated.  By amoebas.  Living.  On.  My.  Eyeballs.

Things you need to know about me:  1) I spent precious free time studying to be a master gardener--and loved it.  I rescue plants, for heaven's sake.   2) I have spent considerable time and energy as, and still identify myself as, a filmmaker.  3) I read and write for a living as well as for joy.  4)  I live a not so secret life as a decent amateur musician.  I play flute, so of course I rely on printed music.  And am a demon sight reader.

Erm, noticing a pattern of dominant sense here???


So there I am, at the bathroom sink, concocting my would-be brilliant moment for the day.  And the bookend moments replay themselves: 

  • Last spring:  me, going out to garden, thinking that if I can't read, or play music, or take a picture, I can at least trim a shrub and pull some weeds.  But I take clippers to branch, and realize 1. a safe cut is a somewhat iffy proposition, for both the plant and my digits, and --worse-- 2. I have no way of calculating an artful cut.  I can't judge the effect of the cut I'm about to try, can't use depth and periphery to look at overall effect, can't even think of its effect on the branch.  The best I can hope for is cutting a random branch without causing harm to limb, phyto or mammalian.
  • This spring:  me, walking up the front path, seeing a grass frond sticking up among the irises.  I think.  I instinctively reach in, am right, and yank it up (roots included, natch).  The impact of what I was just able to do flummoxes me, and I nearly cry.  
And I think, duh. 


Oh, but wouldn't I love to let it lie right there.  But I don't think I can.  Because, truth be told, I tend to operate in waves.  Highs and lows of energy.  Intense projects, then intensely down time.  (Oh, filmmaking was SO good for that.  Academia, of course, had a built in rolling terrain of activity.  Music, too, for that matter.  No wonder I didn't ultimately like HR.)  Intense delving into learning about things.  (I did so love being a documentary researcher.)  And, from childhood, a collector and a saver.  

Ultimately, it was probably just inevitable that researching my grandmother's Norrell would lead to a collection of decants, full bottles, partial bottles, duplicates for swapping or gifting, a penchant for saying "chypre."  (My kids speak French, so they got me to say it correctly.)  I am simply left wondering if I should invest in a small refrigerator to hold them properly, rather than the shelves or boxes that do such a nice job for the books, the vintage jewelry, the vintage dishes, the vintage tools, the rocks from places I've been....

Wii Fit / Do you trip when you walk?

The small white platform and remote are popping up in as many diverse locations of cyberspace as in the country, it seems.  WiiFit blogs abound, but it was the chatter about WiiFit on one of my favorite perfume blogs that got me to thinking:  I do believe this device is seriously here.

Well, that and the fact that we were a devoutly non-game console family...until Wii came along.  And I had no game addictions (that day long marathon of Guitar Hero aside) until my fitness age was calculated and I was asked if I tripped much when walking.

ZOIKS!  That ain't no way to treat a lady...especially one who harbors a not-so-secret admiration for Mrs. Peel and that Alias girl.  Game on!!