Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Honest Scrap

The Daily Connoisseur has presented me with an "Honest Scrap" award. She says such nice things:

Scentscelf’s witty and humorous fragrance observations are life-affirming and never fail to bring a smile to my face.

{Blushes} awww.....

I have procrastinated putting together my "10 honest scraps about myself" list, largely because I don't like this blog to be about me. (Though apparently I have no trouble blogging what I think. Hmmm.) What's that you say? Perhaps there is another reason? Oh, okay; yes, it could somewhat be because I am a procrastinator. Or more than somewhat. WAIT...I get ahead of myself...that could have been #1 on my list of "honest scrap about me," the first of the two requirements for accepting the reward. Here, then, are ten pieces of honest scrap about me:

Ten Honest Scraps
  1. I tend to put off the oddest chores, sending out packages/mail chief among them. Oh, I love writing letters, old style; I love preparing packages. I just have trouble actually posting them.
  2. I'd rather not talk much about myself, I think possibly because I could easily develop a nattering habit.
  3. I wish I could capoiera. I can't.
  4. I love tending to my garden much more than I love tending to interior tasks, such as the laundry pile. Which means the laundry pile is inevitably taller than the compost heap.
  5. For much of my childhood, I was pretty sure that was biting into alien life forms whenever I had to eat raw tomato.
  6. I sometimes apologize to greenery when I trim it.
  7. Languages I have studied: Spanish. Middle English. Old English.
  8. A film I co-wrote has been screened on every continent but Antarctica. (Two magical words: "independent film.") One that I partially shot has been on POV, but since it was B-roll shot on a lark, I didn't get credit.
  9. Blond in my youth, brunette as an adult. Always my own color. Always true to my fashion.
  10. I have "murderer's thumbs." Also known as clubbed thumbs. They are atypically short and wide, and look kind of like big toes, and made my high school Spanish teacher gasp in horror when she saw them. (That is to say, noticed them in my third year of class with her.) I read about them in some true crime fact book when I was a kid--a higher percentage of convicted murderers have this, um, variation than the general population. And, as long as I'm starting to natter, when I hold my index fingers up next to each other, one starts to point east and the other west--they curve away starting at the first joint. My big toes, should you be wondering by this point, look like big toes, and are the tallest of the bunch.
...erm, #2 became prophetic, no? Just think, had I but started with the original #1, you never would have known...
And now, I am to award blogs that I enjoy with the Honest Scrap Award. As is my wont, I'm going to spread the love around a few of the subjects I enjoy poking around in...perfume, books, gardening, literature, parenting, music, what have you.

10 Blogs I Enjoy and Would Award Honest Scrap To
  1. Spy Vibe. Because there's no better way to start surfing bloggery on the intertubes than with a little fun. Focus is spydom ca.1960's. Groovy.
  2. Mr. McGregor's Daughter. While I think of myself as related to Mr. McGregor because becoming a gardener led me to understand Mr. McGregor's issues with Peter Rabbit, I think that McG's D is more about being down with the plants than coming down on the rabbits.
  3. Scientific Blogging. Not only did certain entry into adulthood involve developing a taste for documentaries, teaching hungry minds opened up my inner scientific curiosity. Scientific Blogging helps me explore without having to tip my hand in terms of just how rote a beginner I am.
  4. Okay, here's a benefit of doing this list: I go back and peek at blogs that have been off my radar for a while, like Music Cognition. In one place, I can unify my inner geek, my brief but always a part of me foray into cognitive psychology, and my recurring passion for music.
  5. Bibliophile? Design nut? If you haven't been, you'll love Book-By-It's-Cover, which does indeed judge a book by its cover.
  6. I'm tossing this one in, though it is brand spanking new to me, and I wouldn't have known about it if Gaia, The Non-Blonde, hadn't posted about it just today: a place where artists are invited to create projects based on a perfume (unidentified) they are given. The blog presenting the results of these projects, Inspire, is French, so it gives me a fresh opportunity to ask my kids to practice their translations. (Perfumista mom calculations: Guerlain's website, safe to ask for translations...Denyse's awesome blog, not always, but fortunately she writes in both French and English...)
  7. For home design, I love Mrs. Blandings (aw, go ahead, see her here), but have plugged her before. So today I offer restoration fun, in the form of Retro Renovation. They've got plenty of mid-century modern, with other tossed in. As a person who once carefully, slowly, laboriously, lovingly, respectfully, cursingly lived with the never ending project that was a 115 year old balloon frame Victorian, helped restore a "modernized" pink & blue flat (that I *rented,* mind you), and now lives in a post-mid-century modern ode to suburban split, I feel the many vibes of restoration issues. I particularly enjoy being able to now simply contemplate, rather than worry if the bathroom renovation might adversely affect the cloth & paper electrical wiring, which can't be updated as yet because we are paying for the bathroom renovation.
  8. I love looking at images. Shorpy culls wonderful specimens (HD, from 19th c through 1950's) from the Library of Congress to post. I have a friend who has some great prints from the Library of Congress, ordered from them back when you could get a print cheap. REALLY cheap. Before the New York Times and other newspapers started charging for reproductions as a high-profit margin business. I, foolishly, considered myself too poor to spend that much money (" ") on photography. Little did I know what the future would hold...not only would I like perfume, I would spend money on it. More on one bottle than on one LOC print.
  9. Okay, so it's clear that I like design...in books, in perfume, in home decorating. Also in building themselves, so the photos and brief essays at Life Without Buildings are a fun way to peek at thoughts about architecture. Don't be mislead by the title...it's not a variation on The Earth Without Us. Though, come to think about it, that could be cool.
  10. As my final shout out for this group, I'd like to acknowledge the honest scrap I see in Vintage Books My Kid Loves, which is about just what you would think. This appeals particularly to me, because a) the memories of childhood books are particularly visceral, and b) I have been priviledged to be a part of other children's discoveries of favorite and influential books, both as a parent and as a teacher. VBMKL includes photo illustrations of each book discussed, and whether or not you actually have read the book, you will enjoy checking it out. If you are a parent, you'll enjoy finding fresh oldies but goodies. If you are into graphics, you'll have fun perusing the various styles.
So, me and my green murderer's thumbs are done for the moment. Do you have a favorite? Quirky, insightful, informative, beautiful, other? Please do tell. I love surfing. (Oops, that's another scrap...)

image is from a Make magazine article on ScrapFu, which you can read here. I dig Make magazine, incidentally--and there you have piece of (honest) scrap #13.

Monday, September 28, 2009

From soul of pine to PineSol: Wazamba, Fille en Aiguilles

This time I didn't bury the lead, I put it in the title.

Let me make clear up front, I think that my reactions to Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles and Parfum d'Empire Wazamba have as much to do with "your mileage may vary" and my own backstory as they do with the contents and delivery of the juice itself. That, and I am apparently a perfume philistine. But I share my story anyway...

First up was SL Filles en Aiguilles. I was excited to score a sample*--FeA was getting a fair amount of love from bloggers who I respect, and often line up with when it comes to what works for me. The heart of the pine forest and all. I'm down with that; I proudly claim the 45th parallel as my comfort zone, and a mixed deciduous/evergreen forest is part of the experience. Pine isn't just about the cutting down of trees or branches to decorate your home for the holidays; it's about the smell of needles as you brush by, the warm crunch of dead needles underfoot, the unbelievably sticky sap that won't leave your clothes or hair (or windshield) and makes for little spectacles when put on the fire. It is sharp, with a hint of warmth. It would be much better at clearing your sinuses than say, coffee beans--or at least that how it feels. (Avery Gilbert explains that the clearing of the nasal palate is a bunch of bunk in What the Nose Knows, but I shall tackle his debunkery in a different post.)

That's what pine is, to me. Then there is this other creation, an all-purpose cleaner for your house, the one a woman in a television commercial will tell you provides an odor that tells you your house is clean. (I have a friend who swears that Murphy's Oil Soap is the smell of clean, but I digress.) This other creation has always been oddly sweet, peculiarly fake, and definitely the smell of other people's houses.

This second creation appeared on my wrist as the opening of Filles en Aiguilles. Big time. And then the opening got pinpoint holes, and honey started to come through, but PineSol didn't leave. Eventually, I got to a warm Lutens-like sweet woody drydown, but ask me if it was worth the trip. I had to scrape through PineSol to get there. I'd rather skip the production and get to the final act, and to do that, I could just put on Chergui.

Hence, I ordered a small decant of Wazamba with no small amount of trepidation.

After all, another prickly pine, right? Wrong. Oh, happy space of well played pine. Mellowed by spicence (spice + incense?), as if you could do that. An evolution that plays with smooth interactions, not some odd stippling effect. I've been waiting for somebody to play the forest-as-cathedral. I don't think Wazamba captures the forests I am accustomed to inhabiting, but these will do just fine, thank you very much. And, oh happy day, it sits close to my skin, not requiring me to snorfle to get a hit, nor wafting beyond my safety circle. Just right for wearing to orchestra rehearsal: something that settles into comfort but remains inspiring and well composed. And stays by me.

I'm going to run around the block a few more times with both of these, but I'll say this: I've already gone back for seconds of Wazamba. Thank goodness for decantery. Next up is going to be a split or a swap. Because far from needling me, Wazamba keeps me thinking while wrapping up all cozy and nice. Filles en Aiguilles just gets under my skin.

*I've said it before, but it bears repeating: carrying vials with you at all times can prove worthwhile.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Autumn heart in a bottle: Bois Blond

You know, people can get gloomy in the fall. Shortening of the days, plants going underground, chill in the air, blah blah blah.

I love it. I love every season when it comes, to be honest. But now it's autumn's turn to get the love.

There is something powerful about the sun at this time of year; it is sweet and warm in character as well as color and temperature, if shorter in duration. The earth gets warmed just enough to have a good loamy smell before settling into a cool uncomposted leafy something. There is a gentle urgency to the chores in the garden, the knowledge that they must be done now, even as a few moments of basking are allowed.

That pause between urgency and lounging...the overlay of one on top of the other...put into relief both the beauty of sunny warmth and greyish brownish chill.

Bois Blond is all about the foreshortened sunny warmth of a fully lived season. It's the hay after a full day of sun, cooked ambery, still sweet with greenish vegetation. It's an embrace on a bright autumn day. It opens all about the tobacco and the hay, and ends up with both cooked in the sun, part of a moldering compost heap that has hints of the sweet Guillame-ade. "I heart BB," says the text to my BFF. It's so wonderful on a sunny autumn day. It's all joy that understands melancholy--it might even have been there before, but isn't going to go back...yet.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Equinox: Balance

We just passed an autumn equinox. While the equinox is commonly understood as the point at which day & night are equal, it in fact refers specifically to relative placement of sun to equator. Day/Night equality has not been reached for most, not quite yet. Every point on the globe is now approaching its day in which day and night will be in balance, in equal length.

So here we thought balance had arrived, when it was truly just ahead...

...a story I know all too well.

In terms of perfume, I profess to be the person who would much rather spend time with a scent, inhabit it, let it inhabit me...discover what season, time of day, weather, mood all do to what happens after I put it on. I shall profess and protest it to be true for always. One side of the pendulum...be in the moment, explore the moment, savor the moment, discover the many moments across time.

But I am also a collector and a preserver, and a person who has rudimentary knowledge of how to operate spreadsheet software. Combine that with the desire to learn and discover, and you get the other side of the pendulum...what is out there, how does this one note get expressed in these various formulations, ooh what's that...and the pendulum swings the other way, putting me smack dab in the midst of an orgy of scent and finding the many moments in one spot of time.

Where is the balance? Not sure yet. I think the escape is in the sabbaticals I take...in the realm of perfume, total stoppages of scent. Sometimes, it gets to be all too much, noise of many kinds, and I need a time out. The first time that happened, I freaked out a little bit. I thought that something I had just started to learn about, that I really had taken an interest in, fell off my radar never to emerge again. Lost in a Bermuda Triangle of my brain. Very disorienting, and a bit disconcerting...what about the investment? what about the STUFF?

And then, when guilt panic abated, sadness. What about the joy that the solid hits had brought, time and again? Would I never experience that again?

Then the desire came back. And I realized that my foray into perfume was merely echoing other passions in my life...intense soaking up of all possible input periods, equally intense soaking up of single/unique expressions periods. It would seem that, much as has been true of other creative endeavors like music for me, I would require a period (or periods) of complete hibernation. And I would have to accept that I could not predict when it would return.

So, I'm going to continue to think of myself as capable of a committed relationship to certain perfumes, even as I accept there will be times when I explore the field. There will even be times when I'll be ignoring every one altogether. But I'll always be thinking about our history, and our current moment, and ponder our future.

Therein will be my balance. I think.

Monday, September 21, 2009

DSH Celadon: L'Heure Verte

Last summer, a very generous friend in perfume surprised me with a beautiful little bottle. I had no idea what was inside...and as curious as I was about the contents, I was enchanted by the potion's presentation. No clues... Beaux Arts, said the label... its appearance reminded me quite a bit of a couple of vintage Coty minis I have (L'Aimant and L'Origan). I became distracted just by the bottle. What a beautiful little something, my eyes said.

My nose did not yet know.

I dabbed some on, and was immediately happy. Neither clean nor green, but not far from either, it started off bright and cheerful but not in a high voice. Not long after, it moved on into other territory. Other territory meaning at first it introduced a bit more depth, then left the light for the opaque depths, molting the brightness nearly entirely. It became...powdery, a bit, but that's not quite right. Denser. Hints of richness, but easily breathed through. I'm thinking of a fog that isn't oppressive.

When I tried it again today, it was those things, with a big "a-ha!" as the drydown proceeded. It is the feeling of L'Heure Bleue (and some of its descendents), if blue was green. There's a certain palpable element to the space the scent inhabits. You can kind of taste it, kind of feel it...whereas in Bleu, that piece is violet-ish perhaps melancholy perhaps the trailing denouement of a happy story arc, here in Celadon the miasma breathes in green with cheer dominating the pondering.

Both are scents that make me daydream, and continually (if often absentmindedly) return to my wrist for a gentle huff, which keeps the creative thought zone gently humming. Celadon has a bit more lift, L'Heure Bleue a bit more transport. I'm happy to ride with either...both are a bit of a magic carpet for me.

Celadon is from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz' Beaux Arts "aroma color" collection. See her website here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Smooth Operators: DKNY Gold, Ormonde Jayne Woman

Smooth, baby...not a harsh edge or transition in sight, never anything too sweet or too sharp...just enough butterfat to sloodge the flavor across your tongue...sliding it would be too fast, you wouldn't have time to let it rest, savor the flavor...yet doesn't sit idle clogging up the inputs, either, always a bit of movement or loft....

Here's the thing. One is greenish, one is goldish, both in color and flavor. Ormonde Jayne Woman makes a confection out of things from the woods, DK Gold makes a confection out of a bodacious flower. Neither whomps you, and neither one will ever back down. They combine at your skin with a little hovering. Not suitable for a light pick-me-up, is either one, nor will they knock you down with just half a punch like, say, Shalimar.

They are just creamy enough to be rich without excess. Someday, I'm going to find a way to indulge the love of Woman to get more than I've been able to via swappery. Gold, on the other hand, is well in hand, because you can get edt and edp concentrations online for nearly a song. Back up bottles - check. Gift bottles - check.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ack! I need a comfort scent

Help. My brain, which I enjoy using, is being taxed a bit.

I planned on spending this post either taking another trip down testing lane (yesterday, I had three scents running up the left arm and two up the right), or talking about a couple of smooth operators (DKNY Gold and Ormonde Jayne Woman), or maybe my reluctant discovery that the House of Chanel might bring me a number of happinesses.

Plus, I've got to discuss how I've had a conversion, and come to understand how a person could find Mitsouko pleasant.

Instead, I'm taking a quick moment to say "UNCLE!" I've been responding to Avery Gilbert's First Nerve blog, and getting into a dialogue that has moved into "is perfume art?" territory. I've obviously been thinking about this for a while...you've heard some of my connections between perfume and music, for example...but am neither an olfactory expert, nor fully thought out on this topic. That was part of the point of starting the blog...not just to natter on about playing with perfume (though I enjoy that, thank you very much), but to figure out where perfume sits in my concept of the world.

Why? I don't know. Some people explore the secret life of bees. Others ponder the virtues of microeconomics. Me, I was having an existential crisis in my personal life, and appreciated having fresh fun territory that I knew my colleagues wouldn't be paying attention to. Plus, I could dive in without worrying about academic posturing. Academic posturing being something I gave up over a decade ago. Now, the alert among you might be saying, wait a minute--sounds like she was just unhappy with intellectual rigor. Not quite true. I was just wanted to keep a sense of play and creativity in my life, and it wasn't happening down the academic path I was forging.

In other words, I said to Academe: It's not you, it's me. And I left.

But I still have fun yammering, and I opened my yap. And, like a dutiful person, once committed, I shall follow through. But methinks I'm going to be schooled.

Speaking of being schooled...Mr. Gilbert runs a wonderfully amusing and informative blog. If you haven't been, do check it out.

Meanwhile, I'm going to get back to my bellybutton, erm, my thoughts about Mitsouko. Actually, given recent events, I think maybe I'll conjure a pairings post first...it's been a while since I came up with cocktail-perfume combinations.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Once more around with the laundry

Look what I found today. Right after pronouncing Byredo Blanche laundry-worthy, I discover Le Labo and The Laundress had recently combined forces to create a laundry detergent scented with Le Labo's Rose 31.

Who knew? Well, okay, someone, but I wasn't paying attention. Back in the day, I used to scent my own laundry detergent with essential oils. Oh, I could get all boil, boil, toil and trouble with my potions, adding in that which would calm, or kill bacteria, or smell good, or some combination of that or other.

I'd avoided thinking of doing that with a perfume...potential allergans, cost return for amount of edp required to scent a batch of clothes, etcetera. Though it did occur to me that a good elixir might be cost efficient.

Now this news of the Le Labo/Laundress product has opened a whole new series of ruminations: Diorella, laundry scent? Chergui on the sheets? Kingdom on the unmentionables? (Might as well...)

Nah. For now, I enjoy dabbing or spraying my personal scent. And that's part of the trick, isn't it--personal scent can't come out of the batch laundry. So, back to nothing, or maybe a simple lavender, when it comes to scenting the laundry.

With the leather sprayed on after I dress.

If I have my data correct, you can make a basic laundry powder out of basic soap, borax, and baking soda. For examples, see The Simple Dollar, or the variations on a recipe at TipNut. There are green cleaning books that have recipes, too. Creating my laundry soap is a time investment I'd rather devote to other projects, so I have used premade product such as Moonworks, which will ship to you with no s/h fees.

I also found a post and discussion of the LeLabo/Laundress product over at NST last March. Robin's got a great blog; I'm there all the time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Byredo "Blanche"

It's really nice. I sprayed it in the store, found myself wanting to huff it, took a sample home. (Quick PSA for carrying your own vials: It's worth it.) Sprayed it at home on me. It's really nice.

But you know what kind of "smells good"? Yummy clean clothes. It's what I'd want my laundry to smell like. And, in fact, I think I've gotten this out of other laundry products. Not quite as well done in those, perhaps, and with no hint of development...yes, the Byredo has a hint of development...but still. I like it as a smell. I just don't think I like it as a perfume.

Time will tell if I am an unperceiving rube. Could be. If you wear it, you will smell good.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Zapf goes pow -- Font Reformulation at IKEA

Today the New York Times examines the case of the adjusted IKEA font. It seems the hip queen of ready-to-assemble wants a ready-made typeface for their catalog, one that supposedly is more in line with their simple design / ease of use ethic. Being the sovereign of serifs is not their bag.

There has been an accompanying hue and cry regarding the change. Some folks disagree stylistically, saying the new look is cheap. Others just don’t like it. None of the opposition seem to be buying the philosophical reasoning, but are sticking to how it makes them feel.

The advantage to the new font, in addition to its ready to assemble in many languages for a world-wide audience aesthetic? It is pixel friendly. Goodbye, oakmoss...erm, ink.

The Times article points out that the IKEA logo itself remains unchanged, it is just the catalog that is affected. How one maintains a consistent identity but allows for variance between the catalogue--a major point of eye contact for the consumer--and what is splashed across the front of the building is a bit of a puzzler for me. But hey, what does it matter if the customer’s experience of the top notes...erm, shopping...is any different? If they came for a bookcase they could have a fighting chance of successfully assembling for a mallet, so that in the end they’d have a place to put their books, with a fillip of style, then what does it matter?

Personally, I think it matters, because enough IKEA customers are style conscious enough to want the illusion of somebody knowing what they are doing when they offer up the goods. You know when purchasing IKEA that you are sacrificing at least one element in your product: labor. That’s yours, baby. No pretense at merely having the beautiful object arrive at your door, shrouded and babied by gloved delivery folk. Nope, you wrestle the box into (or onto) your wincing vehicle, take it home, swear at how incomplete the instructions are (no matter how functional the font), and sweat your brow to put it together.

You probably are also aware of fit and finish. You know that even if you were an RTA finish, anything consisting of assembly line components starts off at a handicap. Furthermore, being subjected to your own three-day weekend mallet artistry is likely to subject it to a wayward whomp or two. Veneers are tricky, joinery has a hierarchy that isn’t going to reach its apex inside your box. But that’s all okay, because you’re saving a boatload of money on something that will look decent, reflect your general design aesthetic, and offer the same prosaic functionality a higher end version would.

But it sure would be nice if the presentation suggested that the powers that be understood all of the fine points of design, even if every body openly winked and nodded about what you are ultimately resting your plate/book/body on. And how better to do that than in the initial presentation, the catalog?

This is why I think folks are complaining.

I also think there is some area of overlap with perfume reformulation. You kind of have to be a font geek to see it in the font itself, but you can translate it to the IKEA product. If, in a fantastic re-rendition of an Eames chair, you were able to substitute less expensive glues in the veneer, use a different metal for a brace, hollow out some area in a key but non-visible non-performance affecting way, would it still be an “Eames chair”? Forgetting any claims of authenticity, would it still be perceived as, function in, the same way?

In terms of the font, if by interpreting the same philosophy with pixels instead of ink, are you blaspheming the original? Or are you being realistic about bringing it to the next generation?

I oversimplify. I’m only on my second cup of tea, and I wanted to put down the words before I moved on to the next thought of the day. (Which is going to be “life rights,” and has nothing to do with health care. Go read the story on the film projects on John Delorean if you want to chat with me later.)

Oh, and a fragrance to scent this post?

Silences by Jacomo. Something changed in there...and so did their packaging. I prefer the older, I think, but am happy there is still the current one being offered.


Arpege Another tweaked beauty. When choosing a scent for an occasion/the weather/mood, I could pick either the vintage or modern version--my choice would have to do with games I am playing with myself than any projected effect upon anyone else. I like them both. What they "do" is essentially the same. But how they get there...to me, at least, they are different. But then, I know from serifs, and alternate between printing and cursive depending on occasion or purpose.

123456789 abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

Go play with fonts at these sites: find a font at Identifont (helps you find the name for a particular font, or look up a font by name); look for a font at Fontscape (a visual, rather than logical, typeface directory); or create your own font at FontStruct. Oh, and the image with this post comes from a post discussing celebrity portraits done in fonts at Geekologie.com.

image found at geekologie.com