Monday, November 30, 2009

Food: Puritan Chocolate Chip Cookies


OK, it's not exactly a recipe, it's a minor modification.

I'm never entirely happy with chocolate chip cookies. I always find myself wanting more soft, chewy dough with fewer of those annoying chocolate interruptions. And I want more flavor beyond the sugar and chocolate - specifically, more salt and vanilla. And those big chocolate chips interrupt the structural integrity of the aforementioned soft, chewy dough, and that annoys me.

It took me this long to realize, hey, I'm making the things, I can make them how I want. (Or, well, I can then the way I want if I make two batches. It's cruelty to Himself if I don't also make the traditional ones.)

So I took the standard Tollhouse Cookie recipe. I put in about fifty percent more salt. (Next time I'll double the salt. The salt will continue to increase until I'm completely happy.) I put in double the vanilla. I tossed in a handful of itty bitty mini chocolate chips. (Next time I may make it two handfuls; I do want to be able to taste a little chocolate.) And I squished it all into a nine by thirteen glass baking pan to make cookie squares. And I underbaked it just a tiny bit to make sure they'd be soft.

Yum.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

SOTD: L'Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two


Today, I have to return to work from vacation. That makes it a Not So Good Day.

So I'm wearing a well-established feel-good scent, rather than risking a new scent with associations not yet set. Tea for Two. Happy, satisfying, comfortable.

I've discussed Tea for Two, so just for today I'll leave it at that.

Photo: By Apoc2400. Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, November 29, 2009

SOTD: Parfumerie Generale Iris Oriental (Formerly Iris Taizo) and value through association


Last time I tried this one, I disliked the beginning, but I liked the whole package better and better as it developed.  This time, I still didn't like the top notes for themselves, but I associate them with the later stages that I do like, so I enjoyed them.

This is a phenomenon that I also experience with Serge Noire. I don't like the beginning - I find it odd and camphorous and watery and over-aggressive at the same time. But I still "like" this stage because I strongly associate it with the later stages, which I adore. I can "smell through" the unpleasant parts, and detect traces of the gorgeous dusty darkness that's coming. To a lesser extent, the same seems to be true of yesterday's Musk, and now of Iris Oriental.

I have a similar reaction to Chanel No. 19 Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette - I don't actually like those fragrances, but I love Chanel No. 19 parfum, and the other two strengths remind me of the parfum, so I like them by association. In fact, almost anything with a clearly perceptible galbanum note gets free points by riding Chanel No. 19's coattails, as far as I'm concerned.

I think that the fact that people form mental associations with scents so quickly, including associations with other scents, may make perfume a particularly subjective art form. An objectively beautiful perfume may remind you of a teacher that you hated. A dreadful one may remind you of the aunt that you adored. A rather average one may start with an accord that reminds you of the sweet peas that grew in your favorite place in the world when you were four, and that makes it magnificent for you.

So when am I going to get back to talking about Iris Oriental? Well, this wearing didn't teach me much more than last time, except that, yes, I do like it. Enough to be debating a decant or even a bottle.

Illustration: Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, November 28, 2009

SOTD: Lorenzo Villoresi Musk


OK, I like it.

I had doubts before. But I've discovered that this is a Distance Scent. It works best sprayed on the back of my neck, and not on my wrists.

Most scents are fine as nose-glued-to-the-wrist scents. They smell good both close and at a distance.

But there are a few, now including this one, that for me are at their best at a distance of at least a few inches. I've read that this has something to do with the proportions of aromachemicals - that since the lighter and heavier chemicals travel differently, the proportion, and therefore the scent, is different far from the perfume than close to it.

So that's my guess. And anyway, I like this new bottle. This is reassuring.

That is all.

Photo: By J.M. Garg. Wikimedia Commons

Friday, November 27, 2009

SOTD: The Different Company Sublime Balkiss (But no review)

The Different Company interests me. I like the idea of a perfume company that is run by perfumers (Jean-Claude Ellena and his daughter, in this case), rather than just employing them. So I requested samples from Luckyscent, and I've been excited to try them.

Today, I applied several dabs of Sublime Balkiss. But I'm afraid that no suspense will be resolved today, because all I learned is: dabs are not enough. Like many Ellena fragrances, this one is light and subtle and needs a generous application.

I got a brief whiff of what I read as a very good grapefruit (a note that isn't even listed for this fragrance, though other fruits are), got briefly distracted, and then all I could smell was something vaguely spicy-wood-like. I liked that initial fruity sniff very much, and I may go so far as to get a decant on the strength of it, so that I can really try this one out. But no review today.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and Legerdenez and Fragrantica and Basenotes and I Smell Therefore I Am and Nathan Branch and Feminine Things.

Edited to add to the Review Roundup.

Photo: By Aleph. Modified by Leafnode. Wikimedia Commons. Click for more detailed credits and license

NaNoWriMo: Fifty Thousand!

Specifically, fifty thousand and eighty three. I completed NaNoWriMo!

The novel is, of course, Swiss cheese, with endless plot holes. But my initial goal was to write fifty thousand words of fiction, period.

And I've gotten at least a little more out of it than that. I wrote the fifty thousand words, killed my problem with writing dialog, wrote a male character that I understand from the inside out instead of painting from the outside in. And ended with a weird, surreal premise for a novel that I could imagine truly completing someday.

Woohoo!

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

NaNoWriMo: Final Stretch!


When I buy a sandwich, I have a tendency to leave the last bite uneaten. For some reason, that last bite is supremely unappealing, no matter how good the rest of the sandwich was.

I'm getting some of that feeling as I stare at my word count for NaNoWriMo. I have just under six thousand words left, and they're looking like that last bite. A little bit of crust, a fragment of limp lettuce, and the bacon's all gone. No good reason not to finish up, but I just don't wanna.

I need to go set Write or Die to Kamikaze mode now. I'll be back after my fingers fall off.

Photo: By Oilylain. Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, November 26, 2009

SOTD: Parfumerie Generale Tubereuse Couture (Again)


I'm wearing the same scent two days in a row. Inconceivable.

This makes me think of of the appealing but unlikely concept of the "signature scent".

I've always liked the idea of choosing a single fragrance that represents me, that I wear almost every day. The idea that if someone who knows me well smells that scent, they'll think of me. There's something very grown-up and classic and elegant about the idea.

It is, of course, never going to happen.

I also like the idea of a fragrance wardrobe. I once prioritized my fragrances, not by how much I liked them, but how urgently I'd want to replace them if I lost them. I was surprised to find that the top ten would actually make a very nice, pleasantly varied wardrobe.

A proper fragrance wardrobe would have one representative in the major fragrance categories - green, leather, incense, floral, wood, gourmand, and so on. And it would have at least one for every occasion - summer casual, winter dress-up, comfort scent, and so on. It would be a nice orderly group of six to twelve bottles, and I'd always know what to wear.

The top ten scents on my list filled the slots nicely - Chanel No. 19 as the green and also a dress-up scent, Tea for Two as the gourmand and winter comfort scent, Sushi Imperiale as - well, another gourmand, but also the holiday season scent, and so on. There were a couple of gaps, including "dress up floral", and no doubt Tubereuse Couture would now fill that opening. I could cut my collection down to ten bottles.

That's not going to happen either.

So the defensiveness begins: You don't see a person saying, "I want to have a signature entree", do you? That is, they don't say it meaning that they'll eat that entree for nearly every meal, and that they want their friends to think of them whenever they see a plate of corned beef and cabbage, or round steak, or whatever is their favorite.

They may make a fabulous corned beef and cabbage, or they may pride themselves in knowing what restaurants have the best vegetarian pot stickers. And they may have a "wardrobe" of several dishes that they make well and frequently. But that won't keep them from eating a dozen dozen other things, when they can get their hands on them.

So that's my excuse for the slightly excessive number of bottles and the incredibly excessive number of samples stored next to my desk. And if that excuse won't do, I'll come up with a new one tomorrow.

Article Roundup: Takes on the signature scent concept, or related thoughts, from Bois de Jasmin and Fragrance Bouquet and Perfume Posse and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Perfume Posse again.

Review Roundup for Tubereuse Couture: Is here.

Photo: By Mr. Checker. Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SOTD: Parfumerie Generale Tubereuse Couture


I finally wore my new Tubereuse Couture! And I enjoyed it immensely.

I've been noticing that wearing a perfume that I own as a bottle is always different from wearing a perfume from a decant or sample.

Of course, this is partly because I can use the perfume lavishly. Given the number of bottles that I own, for me a bottle of perfume is not a temporary supply of something consumable, so much as a little machine that will dispense a given scent on demand, forever. Even a one ounce bottle is likely to be around  much longer than "permanent" possessions like the television or the refrigerator. So once I own a bottle, I can spray at will.

But there's also something about acquiring a bottle. About completing the transition from wondering, "Am I the kind of person who would own (whatever perfume)?" and becoming, indeed, a person who does own that perfume. A person who smells like that perfume, regularly.

So what kind of woman is scented with Tubereuse Couture? Well, tuberose is a classic ingredient of aggressive, knock-'em-dead femme fatale perfumes, a beautiful but thick, enveloping, smothering floral note. But Tubereuse Couture chooses not to smother - it adds a cold, sharp green note that chills and lightens the tuberose, so that the perfume withdraws a bit, keeps its distance, chooses not to exercise its power.

So it's feminine beauty and elegance, held at a distance, with hidden strength. Is that me? Not really, but apparently I'd like it to be. And the right scent can't hurt.

Review Roundup: Is here.

NaNoWriMo: Forty Thousand! (AKA Caught Up!)


Woohoo!

I'm where I'm supposed to be in NaNoWriMo! Heck, I'm a handful of words ahead!

I was behind. Way behind. You can understand how far behind I was when I tell you that I caught up by writing fifteen thousand words in two days. (And I would like to say that Write or Die is a fine, fine thing. It didn't actually take that long to pound out the words, with Write or Die sitting there nudging me at every momentary pause. Himself being sick, so that we stayed home, also got more words written.)

Now, while these fifteen thousand words are not lovingly crafted words that slip together into lovingly crafted paragraphs that form the structure of a lovingly crafted plot... they are fiction. Coherent sentences and paragraphs of fiction. Without any of the extra blatant cheats like, say, having characters sing a round of "Hundred bottles of beer on the wall" for seventeen pages. And I'm confident that I know my two main characters well now, so when I rewrite the whole thing from top to bottom sometime after November, I'll enjoy writing them a lot more than I did at the beginning of this process.

So as progress for this year's NaNoWriMo goal, I'm very pleased. This year's goal was to write fifty thousand words of fiction. Period. And it's looking like I may make it. And if the goal of NaNoWriMo is largely to silence your inner editor, I can assure you that the last two days has my editor hiding in a corner, whimpering.

Photo: By Nick McPhee. Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SOTD: Raphael Replique


So, remember that vintage bottle of Raphael Replique? I finally got around to teasing it open and putting some on today. I was going to apply it to the traditional wrists-and-earlobes, but decided to start with one drop on one wrist.

This was a wise move, at least based on the top notes. I don't know if this is the original 1947 formula or the 1975 reformulation, but this is definitely a scent from When Perfume Was Perfume. It's not about fresh spring air, or vanilla syrup, or strawberries. It has never heard of the fragrance-free workplace. I can feel that it highly disapproves of the fact that I am wearing neither lipstick or earrings.

In spite of all that, it's brighter than I expected, so it may be a good starting point in my quest to master sillage monster orientals. According to the reviews, it contains notes of bergamot, lemon, sage, and vetiver, a combination that infuses light and air into the dark cloud of musk, amber, patchouli, spices, and white flowers. The result is that while I'm very much aware of the scented fog around me, there is no phase where I'm drowning.

The top notes are aggressive and medicinal - maybe they've gone off or maybe I'm just reacting with a 21st century nose. At this point, I couldn't begin to imagine how some of the reviewers could possibly be calling this fragrance "creamy".

Then I got to the heart notes, and, yep, there it is. An airy sort of creamy, like a meringue scented with musk and wood. It's a good deal quieter than I expected - perhaps this is an eau de toilette. (The bottle doesn't say.) While I'm just a little disappointed at not having something that can make me woozy at first sniff, it's also nice to know that I could wear this around other people, at least if I wait an hour or so after application.

Review Roundup: Perfume Posse and Basenotes and Fragrantica. And here's the writeup on Replique from Long Lost Perfumes, which makes a "dupe" of the perfume.

Illustration: Wikimedia Commons

Perfume: The Care and Feeding of a New Bottle


You know how some things are so obvious that you can't see them? I recently (and less recently) puzzled over why I so often wear a sample the day that I get a spanking new bottle of perfume. I realized the obvious answer today - it's about scent associations.

The first few times that I wear a new perfume are likely to be the times that determine the associations - happy and excited, relaxed and comfortable, sad and frustrated, sleepy and hungry, whatever - that I have with that scent.  If a scent develops an association with something unpleasant, it's going to be difficult to fix that association. If I can't fix it, that's pretty much that for my nice new bottle.

The day when I get the bottle is no more guaranteed to be a good day than any other. (Well, receiving new perfume gives the day some extra points, of course.) So odds are, that day doesn't qualify for actually wearing the new perfume. But it feels weird to wear any other full bottle if I have a new one. So, I wear a sample. I just, apparently, do this whole reasoning process without actually noticing that I'm doing it.

Makes sense to me now, in a thoroughly nonsensical sort of way.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Click for details.

Monday, November 23, 2009

SOTD: Parfumerie Generale Iris Oriental (Formerly Iris Taizo)

Today my long-debated and long-awaited bottle of Parfumerie Generale Tubereuse Couture arrived in the mail. So my SOTD is my sample of Parfumerie Generale Iris Oriental, formerly named Iris Taizo. Don't ask me; I don't know. I used to be sane.

The listed notes for this are Guatemalan cardamom, iris, jinkoh wood, fig-tree honey, Mexican vanilla, and balsamic resins. I always wish that whoever writes these notes lists would make a point of specifying "iris root", because that's what "iris" is in perfumes - it has nothing to do with the flower. Somehow, I always forget that, so I always expect an iris perfume to be at least a little floral. At least in this case, nope. No flowers here.

It starts out heavy, dusty, and incense-like, though incense isn't in the listed notes - perhaps it's the cardamom. It's simultaneously dry and very thick. I can smell something inviting at the core, something sweeter and less dusty, and I want to brush all that incense away to get at it.

And that happens naturally - the incense seems to slowly burn away and fade to the background. An hour after application, it was all the same notes, but with the proportions tilted, with the wood facing me, and the whole thing a good deal less dry, though still very far from sweet.

A couple of hours after that, the incense seemed to be back, but an entirely different incense, softer and powdery. I went out to the grocery at this point, and kept walking through a lovely cloud of gentle, dry, lightly powdery oriental, and wheeling around to try to see who produced it. I suspect, in the end, that I was smelling myself. So it seems that I like this, or at least I like the heart and base notes. I'll have to wait for the next wearing to see if the top notes have grown on me.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and The Non-Blonde and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Fragrantica and Basenotes and Perfume Posse (brief) and Aromascope (brief) and MakeupAlley and Scent of Abricots and Tea, Sympathy, and Perfume and WAFT and parfumieren and Perfume Patter and Beauty on the Outside.

Updated to expand the Review Roundup.

Photo: Mine

Perfume: Luca Turin Perfume Reviews


Now Smell This has a post today pointing to new Luca Turin perfume reviews requested by the UK Times online - the published versions, and his originals. So I point to their pointer. Good reading.

And if you're wondering, who the heck is Luca Turin? I point you to my earlier post about his perfume guide. And once again feel silly for saying so little about his primary work as a world-class, quite likely Nobel-class, scientist. But, well, I'm a perfume freak. There it is. At least I'm focused?

Illustration: Wikimedia Commons

NaNoWriMo: Thirty Thousand!



Woohoo!

Yes, I realize that people who are Caught Up wrote their thirty thousandth word a few days ago. Specifically (hang on while I get the calculator) on the eighteenth.

I choose not to care. I hit thirty thousand!

And my novel, while it still doesn't even remotely resemble a novel, is finally starting to have a theme rather than just being one long plot device. Unfortunately, it's a theme that actually doesn't fit the first, oh, twenty-two thousand words, but, hey, that's for editing in December. Right? Right.

Woohoo!

Illustration: Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, November 22, 2009

SOTD: L'Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two


Today we're lighting our first fire of the winter. Tea for Two is the fragrance for this occasion.

Tea for Two is tea, spice cookies, and smoke. Sweet smoke at home. The smoke of the fireplace or burning leaves. It's a comfortable scent, but one with an air of celebration - today, celebration because We're On Vacation!

Review Roundup: With my earlier review here.

Photo: By Ryan Mahle. Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, November 21, 2009

SOTD: Lorenzo Villoresi Musk


Today I'm wearing my brand new Lorenzo Villoresi Musk.

I bought this fragrance indecently quickly, based on twenty minutes' wearing and one review on Now Smell This, and, mostly, my surprise at seeing fragrances from this hard-to-find house available where I didn't expect. I don't think that I'm going to be sorry. But I have doubts, because I usually wear a fragrance many times before I purchase it.

I can't decide if Musk is or isn't a scent that I "should" like. The notes include galbanum, bergamot, and woods, things that I love. But cardamom, geranium, and according to some sources, amber, are also present, and I have a more doubtful record with those - and with musk notes, for that matter.

Like Yerbamate from the same house, Musk is complicated. I visualize both of them as a dancing swirl of different fragrance notes. But Yerbamate feels like an organized if shifting pattern, a situation where the perfumer knows the boundaries of where the fragrance will go. Musk is a wilder ride.

It starts out quite floral, more aldehydic and feminine than I expected, and more powdery. The musk is there, and while it's not laundry-detergent musk, it's also perfectly clean. Any earthiness comes from the wood, not the musk. I expect something at least a little animalic in a musk, so this takes some adjustment for me. At this point it also has a mix of rose and spices that reminds me of my objection to certain "dark floral" rose and incense scents, as discussed in my post about Une Rose.

As time goes on, it turns less sharp, with the wood more dominant, and the troubling rose/incense note suppressed. The more it develops, and the more the sandalwood comes through, the better I like it.

It's a puzzle. I expect that I'll be talking about it again, when I understand it better.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and Fragrantica and Basenotes.

Painting: 'Doubts' by Henriette Rae. Wikimedia Commons

Perfume: At the airport?!


Yesterday, I bought a bottle of Lorenzo Villoresi Musk.

At the airport.

This is not normal. Lorenzo Villoresi is an Italian perfume line that is rarely found in the United States. I had never seen an actual live bottle before. My closest hope of in-person sampling was The Perfume Shoppe in Vancouver.

But yesterday I walked into Harmony Pharmacy and Health center in the San Francisco airport, to find Lorenzo Villoresi (only two scents, admittedly), Tokyo Milk, Santa Maria Novella, ElizabethW, and a number of other fragrance lines that you simply don't find on pharmacy shelves.

At least, not on American pharmacy shelves - apparently Harmony follows the "European-style pharmacy" model. I don't know much about that model, but if it means that I can shop niche fragrances while I'm waiting for a plane, I like it.

Grumble: Change Bad


So, I recently fell in love with Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia at Neiman Marcus. The normal sequence from here to purchase is:

  • Go to Neiman Marcus and smell it again. A couple of times.
  • Get a sample. Wear it until it's gone, probably two wearings.
  • Get a decant. Wear it until it's gone, probably five to ten wearings.
  • Look at the price of Velvet Gardenia. Stare at my credit card. Repeat every couple of months.
  • Shuffle my list of I Really Want! fragrances.
  • A year or two later, when Velvet Gardenia rises to the top of the list, or I'm hungry for lunch and staring at it on a pretty glass counter, finally buy it. Or I might have forgotten the whole thing by then.

This is my perfume buying process, for anything above the deeply discounted cheap thrills category. It's the way that I have managed to keep most of my shelves full of books instead of perfume. And avoided that whole perfume-induced bankruptcy thing.

I just read - and registered; I probably read it before - that Velvet Gardenia is being discontinued. If I want it, I have to accelerate the whole dance.

Not only is Velvet Gardenia being discontinued, but Robert Piguet Bandit is rumored to be in danger of reformulation. As is Chanel No. 5. Shiseido Feminite du Bois has already been reformulated but is still temporarily available in the old format.

Fendi Theorema, a legendary fragrance, has been discontinued but is still temporarily available from discounters. Cristalle, another legend, is rumored to be in reformulation, as is practically every oakmoss or jasmine perfume in existence, due to IFRA regulations.

Oh, and there are new regulations on percentage of citrus oils, so add every classic citrus perfume to that "probably about to be reformulated" list. And oakmoss - add the chypres.

Can't buy them all. Perfume-induced bankruptcy bad.

Grumble.

Photo: By Erin Silversmith. Wikimedia Commons

Friday, November 20, 2009

SOTD: None


This evening I will be in assigned seating with no way for anyone to escape my wonderful perfumedness. So, no perfumedness.

The longer I remain a perfume-every-day person, the weirder it is to not wear perfume. This must be the way that my mother feels when she's not wearing lipstick. (Which is, pretty much, when she's not awake.)

Really, that's all I have to say, except to note that I'm posting with nothing to say because apparently I want an ongoing log of Every Day In Perfume. So why is that? I'll have to think it over.

Photo: Wikimania 2009. By Damian Buonamico. Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

SOTD: L'Occitane Bergamot Tea, and unintentional layering


I intended to wear, and review, L'Occitane Bergamot Tea today. But I failed to account for the longevity of yesterday's Chergui. Today's application turned out to be a layering experiment.

So instead, I can tell you that the green sparkle of Bergamot Tea contrasts beautifully with the honey-thick spice of Chergui. I plan to do this on purpose in the future.

But that's about all. I'll discuss this fragrance properly another day, when it doesn't have to fight with anything else.

But still, review roundup! I Smell Therefore I Am and Fragrantica.

Illustration: Wikimedia Commons

Perfume: Monsters and Civet and Patchouli, Oh, My!


Hunting for earrings in a vintage shop recently, I found and bought a tiny vintage "violin" bottle of Dana Tabu, and another tiny vintage bottle of Raphael Replique.

Then I read up on them. I suspect that I should be very much afraid.

Perfume Posse post on Tabu compares the fragrance to King Kong. And Godzilla. It also quotes a Now Smell This post that states that the infamously strong fragrance Youth Dew is "almost prim in comparison" to Tabu.

And a Perfume Posse post on Replique describes Replique as  a cross between Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles and Tabu. King Kong and Godzilla both come up again.

So what's my response?

"Where can I get some of that Bal a Versailles?"

As it turns out, Bal a Versailles in multiple strengths, even the pure parfum, is highly available and cheap. I may well be ordering a quarter ounce of the pure parfum before the weekend.

Be afraid.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SOTD: Serge Lutens Chergui

Chergui is popular in the niche world. (Though there is a contrary feel about combining "popular" and "niche", isn't there?) Very popular. People speak of it with the same fondness that they have for Tea for Two, with an added measure of swooning.

People who think that Serge Lutens' brews are sheer elitist madness still love Chergui. People who think that Serge Lutens has sold out to the masses make an exception for Chergui. It pleases nearly everyone.

I'm, um, not quite sure if it pleases me.

At first spray, Chergui is almost alarmingly thick and sweet, as if it's draping your brain in a coat of syrup. Tobacco-infused syrup. With honey. A hearty sniff at this stage can make me a little dizzy.

While the name refers to a hot desert wind, to me Chergui smells more like a British gentleman's club in a world where tobacco never gets stale. Sweet tobacco, leather, spices, honey - well, I'm not sure what the gentlemen are doing with all that honey, but it's in there. Maybe they eat scones while they smoke their pipes.

Serge Lutens fragrances often undergo a complete metamorphosis between the top and heart notes. Serge Noire, for example, starts out as a drenching of viscous camphor, and dries to sheer black-dust magic. While the change is not as dramatic, Chergui, too, turns a little dusty and a lot less impenetrable as it dries. I can imagine the honey turning crystalline, letting the air through.

I like Chergui better the longer it develops, but I'm always in a hurry for the changes. I'm happy to wait the two or three hours that it takes for Serge Noire to reach its prime; I just need the same patience for Chergui.

Review Roundup: Bois de Jasmin and Aromascope and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Perfume-Smellin' Things again and PereDePierre and The Non-Blonde and Parfume da Rosa Negra (scroll down for the English version) and Perfume Patter.

Edited to add to the Review Roundup.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Link: Chicken Karaage

It's been far too long since I offered a fried chicken post. I ran across this delicious looking post for  Chicken Karaage on Monster Munching, which points to a recipe on Chowhound. I'll be returning to update when I try it.

SOTE: Chanel Cristalle EDT

I first discovered Cristalle on a fool's errand - I was looking for Cristalle Eau Verte, under the mistaken impression that I'd prefer the sweeter, fresher, watery modern flanker.

Feh. I smelled them both, and Eau Verte was forever forgotten. Okay maybe not forever - it is a green, after all, and it's hard for me to ignore any green. But it has to do a good long penance for daring to use Cristalle's name, before I'll consider it again.

Because Cristalle is Cristalle. Nothing else should be using its name. That is, Cristalle Eau de Toilette is Cristalle - the Eau de Parfum should also run along and get another name. Cristalle EDT, 1974 formulation, by Henri Robert, is Cristalle, and irreplaceable among the greens.

And you should go get a bottle, before it gets reformulated out of existence, if it hasn't already. I, personally, have two medium and two mini bottles, so I'm taken care of for a while. Though I admit that I'm tempted to send off for a gross of bottles and a fridge to keep them in.

So, worshipful maundering aside, what does it smell like? To me, it smells like galbanum (bright, sharp, merciless green), osmanthus (soft, gentle, creamy flowers), and oakmoss (oakmoss). Officially, it smells like Sicilian lemon, bergamot, rosewood, hyacinth, oakmoss, and vetiver. I'll take their word for most of that, and I can pick out the hyacinth once I'm told, but I can't believe that there's no galbanum in there.

Again, go buy some before it's too late.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Bois de Jasmin and Perfume Posse and ScentsOfSelf and MakeupAlley and Fragrantica and PeredePierre and Yesterday's Perfume.

(Edited to add to the Review Roundup.)


Photo: By Juni. Wikimedia Commons

SOTD: Chanel No. 5 Parfum

Sound the alarm: Chanel No. 5 may be in danger of reformulation, due to IFRA regulations.

OK, many people have been sounding the alarm for months, so there's no need to push any buttons. Perfume wearers have expressed themselves vehemently at length, and are being ignored.

But this raises an important question that I've been trying to resolve for years: Do I like Chanel No. 5? Because if I do, or will, it's time to buy a bottle of the extrait. Preferably a bottle that's a year or two old, in case the reformulation has already happened.

To throw jargon around, Chanel No. 5 is the queen of abstract aldehydic florals. Not the matriarch - there were others before her - but definitely the long-time ruling queen.

I'm not so big on aldehydes. The people who like them say that they give fizz, or lift, or sparkle, to a fragrance. The people who don't like them tend to refer to them as "perfumey", with a Tone, and a wrinkled nose. There are times when I appreciate them - such as the opening of Ivoire - but that's an exception.

Abstract? Well, Chanel No. 19 is abstract - I can't point to a specific flower or other smelly thing and say "it smells like that" - and I love No. 19. So I guess abstract isn't a problem. Though in No. 19 I can get a grip on the galbanum as a stabilizer as I ride through the other notes; No. 5 doesn't have that same loved core note. It might be different if I adored jasmine the way that I do galbanum.

Floral? Meh. I tend to dislike sharp, "high pitched" florals, and No. 5 has its share.

And No. 5 is a classic, and smells like a classic. And, sadly, I haven't yet learned to love the classic pefumes. Mitsouko, L'Heure Bleue, Vol de Nuit, Shalimar, Arpege - my scale is still at "appreciate", at best, for all of these.

I'm wearing a few good dabs today, from my ittybitty bottle of the extrait. It started out sharp and, yes, "perfumey", and with that odd dark note that's common to so many of these perfumes, and I don't know what it is, since No. 5 doesn't list oakmoss as a note. By now, it's softened, but I'm just not feeling the love. Maybe I need to be wearing pearls?

Review Roundup: The Non-Blonde and Now Smell This and 1000 Fragrances and 1000 Fragrances again and Bois de Jasmin and Blogdorf Goodman and For The Love Of Perfume and Nathan Branch and The Perfume Heretic and Pink Manhattan and ScentsOfSelf and Yesterday's Perfume.

Link Roundup: A post and a poem from Feminine Things, and a post from Muses in Wooden Shoes and a reminiscence from The Scentimentalist.

Edited to add to the Review Roundup.

Photo: Copyright BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 16, 2009

Answers: What's a decant?


Sometimes I mention spraying from a decant, or that I'm going to buy a decant. And I've never actually defined what a decant is.

A decant is a small bottle (or vial, or other container) of perfume that was poured, sprayed, or otherwise removed - "decanted" - from a full-size regular bottle. The amount can range from a fraction of a milliliter to an an ounce (thirty milliliters) or more, though I'd say that five to fifteen milliliters is an average size decant. A decant is useful when someone is craving a perfume but doesn't want, or can't sanely afford, a full bottle. It's particularly useful for perfume freaks like me, who want to own everything.

You can buy decants from full-fledged business like The Perfumed Court or The Posh Peasant. You can buy them from other perfume freaks. Or you can swap them around or inflict them on friends that you're trying to turn into perfume freaks. Sadly, you can no longer buy decants on eBay - eBay's forbidden it. Being the kind of person who sticks with the first thing that works, I get all my decants from The Perfumed Court, and I buy all my supplies for making decants from Accessories for Fragrances.

Another term is "split". It's the same as a decant, but the context is generally several people getting together to buy one bottle of perfume, and splitting it into several bottles. Normally, the organizer of the split is the one that gets to keep their share in the pretty manufacturer's bottle. Each bottle is referred to, pretty interchangeably, as a "split" or a "decant". The whole transaction is called a "bottle split" as in, "Who wants to go in on a bottle split of Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille? There are three shares left." There's an entire wiki devoted to scent splits, called, naturally, scentsplits.

The line between decants and samples is a little fuzzy, but if you're looking for just a sample sized bit of a currently available perfume, you can also check LuckyScent and Aedes, among others. And many of the perfume houses themselves sell or give away samples. And Sephora will cheerfully make you a sample of anything in the store. But samples are a whole separate topic.

And I should mention that postal regulations on mailing perfume are pretty stringent, because perfume contains alcohol and is therefore flammable. I've never cared to navigate the complexities, which is another reason why I just buy from The Perfumed Court and let them worry about it.

There's plenty of useful information out there about decanting and how to decant, including:

Perfumista tip: how to decant perfume, on Now Smell This.
Perfume Decanting 101, on Perfume Posse.
Resources for Niche Perfume Decants and Samples, also from Perfume Posse.
I couldn't resist including the very funny How to Decant Your Perfume into a Vial from Make A Mental Note, which makes the process sound like as much fun as bathing a cat.

Image of the making of perfume in Ancient Egypt photographed by Gilliaume Blanchard. Wikimedia Commons.

Meta: Apologies For The Updates


So, I'm new to blogging.

I'm new to exactly how I want to organize this blog, including tags and such things. And I just discovered why the search isn't working the way I want, and that it's because my tags are all wrong.

I'm telling you this to explain why, if you're in any way subscribed to this blog, you're about to get several zillion updates as I fix up the tags on just about every single post. This won't be a trend. I hope.

My apologies. Will it help to look at the kitty?

ChickenFreak

Photo: By Petra15. Wikimedia Commons

SOTD: Bond No. 9 New Haarlem

Memory is a strange thing.

This fragrance raises memories of urban coffee. Late night urban coffee. With all that clattering and steam-hissing. And patrons shouting at one another to hear themselves over the rest of the crowd.

Occasionally it shifts, and it's memories of coffee at home in the morning sunshine, with sweet pastries and the newspaper at hand, and no one expecting coherent conversation.

The thing is, I don't drink coffee, and never have. New Haarlem doesn't care - it hands me memories that don't belong to me.

I like that.

To actually discuss the fragrance: New Haarlem is one of the most satisfying of gourmands, with rich coffee, sweet vanilla, patchouli that seems edible, and cedar, lavender, and bergamot to calm it all down a bit. It was created by Maurice Roucel, a perfumer with a long, long resume of fragrances, almost none of which I've tried. I must correct that.

Calmed down or not, New Haarlem is, I should note, sweet. Not an edge of sweetness, not a little touch of sugar to counteract coffee bitterness, but syrupy sweet. I sprayed this lavishly today, on the theory that I usually underapply my fragrances, and I'm finding that it is possible to get too much of New Haarlem's vanilla-coffee syrup. It's better in occasional wafts than as a constant cloud.

But it's delicious. I hope I was clear about that? Yum.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and Bois de Jasmin and The Non-Blonde and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Aromascope and Feminine Things.

Edited to add to the Review Roundup.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, November 15, 2009

SOTD: Several


We were near Neiman Marcus. I sniffed. Of course.

Van Cleef & Arpels Muguet Blanc: When I first smelled this, I thought it was beautiful but was unmoved. A few days later, I couldn't forget about it.

Then today I tried it again and no longer even thought it was beautiful. (Fickle!) About forty minutes in, I did get several minutes of woody-powdery gorgeousness. But before and after that, it was just rather unexciting white floral - too sharp before the gorgeousness, and too bland after it.

I'll give it another try, but I'm no longer in any danger of losing control and buying a full bottle.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and 1000 Fragrances and Perfume Posse and Perfume-Smellin' Things.

Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia: Buttery. That's usually a metaphor used to describe a thick, soft scent but this time I mean it fairly literally - there's something quite foody in this. Rather like the smell of a big pool of melted butter that's cooked out all its water but hasn't quite started to brown yet. I also see beeswax in the notes, and I've been looking for something that satisfies that particular craving. I'm sending off for a decant.

Review Roundup: Bois de Jasmin and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Perfume Posse and PeredePierre and Perfume Posse again.

Tom Ford Italian Cypress: I intended to try Tuscan Leather, and grabbed the wrong bottle. The top notes were a little too much for me - sharp cypress and resin, without anything to calm it down. I got distracted and missed the middle notes entirely. The bottom notes, several hours later, are very nice - gently woody/resinous. I could develop a craving for that final scent.

Review Roundup: Perfume Posse and... well, that's all I can find so far.

Holiday Stuff: The rumored Van Cleef & Arpels coffret appears to be, well, a rumor. The Christmas Chanel coffret is back - I assume that it's pure parfum, again. A good price per milliliter, if you like all five scents, which I don't.

Photo: By Kozuch. Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

SOTD: Lorenzo Villoresi Yerbamate

Some of my favorite scents for winter are based on notes that fit the season - smoke, amber, wood, musk, leather, and rich sweet foods. And some are based on summery notes, giving me what I don't have and am longing for - fresh flowers, green grass, sweet fresh fruit.

Yerbamate straddles these two positions, and does it very well. It has the sweet grasses and herbs and flowers of summer, but they're dried, with the more concentrated, spicier scent that comes with drying. These herbal, tea, and resinous notes are the remains of summer that can be enjoyed in winter.

Today, this seems more satisfying than those fantasy fresh-fruit scents, because it doesn't taunt you with the impossible. Yerbamate doesn't inspire a longing for the fresh dripping peach that you can't have, but for things - tea, or herbs, or ginger cookies - that you can.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and Fragrantica and Basenotes and WAFT and SmellyBlog and Eiderdown Press and Confessions Of A Perfume Nerd and I Smell Therefore I Am.

Link Roundup: An interview with Lorenzo Villoresi, from Now Smell This.

Edited to add to the roundups.

Photo: By I. Sacek, Senior. Wikimedia Commons

Link: The Marshmallow Test

Today seems to be Point To Other Sites day. This link points to an interesting article about an experiment that tested children's ability to delay gratification. That's the serious, scientific part of this topic.

This link points to a funny modern short film inspired by the experiment. Small children are given a marshmallow and encouraged to delay eating it, with a promised reward of another marshmallow.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Link: Sesame Street Yip Yip Video

You know how you find funny things on the Internet and you make a note of them so you can find them again? Well, I don't keep track of my notes very well, and surely you want to see the funny things, too? So I thought I'd point you to this one. Watch the video.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

SOTE: Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange Solid Perfume


Maybe I have a loyalty problem.

I got tired of all that light, dry lavender from Cravache, and applied some Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange for the evening, from the little solid compact.

I love this perfume. It has enough sweet orange, enough bitterness, and almost enough of the richness that I was longing for earlier today. In fact, maybe it is rich enough - often, when you get as much of something as you want, you find that you really would be happier with a tiny bit less.

And all I have to do is be willing to get my fingers a little greasy applying the perfume solid, because the liquid version isn't the same. Is that such a big down side that I need to keep hunting through fragrances that are much more expensive (Fire and Cream), discontinued (Theorema) or both (Alpona)?

This is inexpensive. The scent is beautiful. Even the packaging - a tiny orange tin that you can carry anywhere and don't even have to declare to airport security - is adorable.

What more could I want?

Review Roundup: EauMG and Fragrantica and Basenotes and MakeupAlley and Feminine Things. And an overview of Pacifica perfumes at EauMG.

Photo: By April Killingsworth. Wikimedia Commons

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lost Food: Za'atar Dipper


Occasionally, I'm driven to reminisce about Lost Foods - fabulous foods that no longer exist. The dessert that I described in my dessert rant was one of them.

A discussion of Greek-style yogurt on Perfume of Life reminded me of another one. A restaurant in Ashland, Oregon used to serve what they called the Za'atar Dipper. It was Greek-style yogurt - a thicker, tangy, strained yogurt - served with a well of olive oil and their za'atar spice mixture.  They served it with warm fresh pita for dipping.

They took it off the menu, and now the restaurant itself is gone, so I'll have to duplicate it myself.  I can get Greek yogurt, or make a reasonable facsimile by straining it myself. I can get olive oil. I need to research za'atar. And I don't know where I'll ever get such wonderful pitas. But if you have access to all of these things and never thought to combine them, do.

Photo of za'atar by Sjschen. Wikimedia Commons

SOTD: Robert Piguet Cravache, and an orange roundup


I've been on a quest for the right orange perfume. And I'll eliminate any suspense - Cravache is not it, but I do like it for what it is.

But to discuss the other "not it" oranges - Bois de Copaiba was too challenging for me.  Fendi Theorema was a very nice gingery-spices perfume, but didn't smell of orange (to me), plus it's discontinued.  Hermes Eau d'Orange Verte is too cologne-like - I'm looking for more richness.

Pacifica's Tuscan Blood Orange, which I must review someday, is a lovely orange with some richness and enough but not too much sugar. The solid version is close to my ideal, but the spray version is too light and sprightly. I want to be able to spray my orange perfume, marinate myself in it on a miserable cold winter day.

Caron Alpona is discontinued - though now that I remember it, I'm sending off for a decant, just to give me another perfume to grieve. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's The Color Orange may be The One, but it didn't announce itself as such at first sniff. I want to own some, but I think that again it's a little too fresh and cheerful.

And all of the orange blossoms are out - I'm looking for the fruit.

So. Cravache. Cravache is another reformulated Robert Piguet classic. It was originally introduced in 1963, and reformulated (by Aurelian Guichard) and re-introduced in 2007. I understood that the original had a base of leather and other rich, un-sparkly things, so I was excited. Sadly, the remake seems to have lost that richness.

Given that the other Piguet perfumes were so different when dabbed versus sprayed, I tried Cravache dabbed for an hour or two. It smelled very much like Eau d'Orange Verte - disappointing, but no great surprise, given that they're both orange men's colognes. Light, refreshing, pleasant, fresh-orangey, and not what I'm after.

So I sprayed. It started out like the dabbed version, but within minutes it was light, refreshing, pleasant, and lavender. Eh? Where'd the orange go?

Okay, yes, this one isn't named after an orange, so no promises were made. From the reviews, I read that it was named after a riding crop, but with the leather removed, the name no longer fits. So the hope of a rich orange was entirely my expectation, imposed on an innocent cologne.

So it's not going to be my orange. Let's move on. It is a nice, light, dry lavender scent, with enough traces of orange to blunt the bitterness of the lavender and keep it from being Old Lady's Sachet, but not enough to make it sweet. If I ever go on a lavender quest, it will be on the top of the list.

Review Roundup: Perfume-Smellin' Things and Basenotes and 1000 Fragrances.

Orange Roundup Review Roundup: Outside reviews or mentions of Theorema and Tuscan Blood Orange and Alpona and The Color Orange.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Books: Growing Up On The Chocolate Diet, by Lora Brody


We have books. Many books. A whole lot of books.

When we move, the books are in different classes. There are the books that we sell to the used bookstore to reduce the load. There are the books that we send with the movers. And there are the books that we carefully and watchfully move ourselves, because we're not willing to take any chance of losing them.

Lora Brody's Growing Up On The Chocolate Diet: A Memoir With Recipes is in the third category. In fact, we're so determined not to lose it that now that it seems to be not so reliably in print, we have three (count 'em, three) copies.

Part of this is the recipes. Really good chocolate recipes, some of which are firmly embedded in our cooking repertoire and food traditions. Recipes that have imagination and quality and flavor.

And part of it is the stories. Some qualify as heartwarming, some as delightfully snarky, some as both.

I recommend that you go buy a copy. Because you want to read it, believe me, and if you want to borrow one of our three, well, I don't know about that.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

SOTD: Parfumerie Generale Drama Nuui


OK, I'm confused.

Absolutely everyone smells jasmine in this. I smell a weird back-and-forth of something melony and aquatic and... civet? I'm theorizing a misidentified sample.

This doesn't match any of the reviews, so I'm just going to present the review roundup and wander around in confusion.

Review Roundup: Perfume Posse and 1000 Fragrances and Legerdenez and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Fragrantica.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hoarding: Compromise


So, yesterday was the day for the renewal of our community garden plot. This means that it was the day for the inspection of our community garden plot. If you can't get it junk-free and beat down the weeds at least once a year, they don't so much want you to have a plot.

So I did some cleanup a few days ago, and a little more day before yesterday, and yesterday morning I went out there to do the final touches.

Looking at it, I realized that it didn't look so good, if you don't know the reasoning behind the decisions that I made. Much of the path was full of salad burnet, a nice little plant that is great for weed suppression, but is tall for a neat-looking path plant. What wasn't covered with salad burnet was covered in natural dead-leaf mulch, which is also good for weed suppression but looks as if you're too lazy to rake.

The vegetable beds were scattered with desirable volunteers - California poppies, salad burnet seedlings, and a green mist of something that might have been a weed and might have been a resurrection of a desirable clover cover crop. I planned to leave it there for another couple of weeks until it revealed its nature, and only then weed it out if it turned out to be the weed.

This is how I garden. I don't know what it's called - I believe that the opposite, where you clear out decaying matter and weed out all uninvited plants, is called clean culture.

So I was rehearsing how I'd explain all this when the city representative came for the inspection. He's a nice guy, but he likes a tidy garden.  I was afraid that he might tell me to change things, that I'd have to make another appointment for another inspection, and that there might not be another appointment, because I'd left it late.

Then I thought: I could just clean it all up to his standards.

Blink.

That simply hadn't occurred to me before.

Just because I have a preferred gardening style doesn't mean that I have to follow that style when outside forces make it a problem. Going clean culture, either for the inspection or even all year, wouldn't violate any core principles. It's not as if I'd need to use any chemicals or engage in any other practices that I strongly disapprove of - it's a tiny plot; I can just weed. And mulch with more conventional mulch. A compromise would be no big deal.

But compromise simply hadn't occurred to me before. My thinking was entirely focused on how to justify doing things exactly the way that I wanted. The "is it worth it?" question never entered my mind. Now it did, and I asked myself whether my not-that-strongly-held gardening preferences were worth the worry about whether I'll pass inspection, and worth the possibility that I could lose the plot if a re-inspection isn't possible.

And, no. They weren't. So I cleared the path down to dirt, slaughtered the volunteers and the green mist, and generally got the garden pretty darn tidy. I don't know if this was necessary, but we passed inspection without a hiccup.

I think that this blindness to possible compromise is a large part of the motivation behind hoarding. I never understood it in hoarders, and now I understand it much better.

I love my home, and it's very important, but specific details of cleaning and housekeeping aren't a big issue for me. Being a good housekeeper isn't a big part of my identity, so once I realized This Clutter Doesn't Need To Be Here, I was able to get rid of a lot of it. And any housekeeping methods that keep the place reasonably clean and reasonably tidy are fine with me.

I can see that it would be different for someone whose identity is partly composed of their view of themselves as a good housekeeper, or their view of themselves as being free of errors or compromise in standards. It would be hard to throw out something that they could donate, to donate something that they think that they might use, to fail to recycle every little thing. I've always argued that perfectionism is a huge part of hoarding; now I guess I see a bit more of what's driving that perfectionism.

My identity as a gardener is important to me, so I think that's what caused the blind spot. I liked the idea of being an uncompromising natural gardener. But realizing that, yeah, compromise is not only possible, but fine, was a good experience.

Salad burnet photo: By Jstubblefield. Wikimedia Commons
California poppy photo: By Paulaobw. Wikimedia Commons
Clover photo: By unknown. Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

SOTD: Parfumerie Generale Musc Maori


Yum. But puzzling.

Musc Maori starts out as powdery chocolate flowers - and that's as odd a combination as it sounds. Odd, but very nice. Now Smell This compares it to an egg cream, and while I've never had an egg cream, I agree that there's definitely a fizzy quality about the beginning.

As it dries, it stays... well, the word that comes to mind is light, but 'light' is a word with negative associations for me, when it's applied to food, and since this is a gourmand, I'm talking about food.

Maybe a better word is 'airy' - like silky whipped cake frosting, or mousse, or meringue. Airy and sweet, but not sugary-sweet. The powder recedes as the fragrance develops, making it more definitely a gourmand. And the chocolate gives way somewhat, so that I can more clearly smell the coffee and vanilla.

But the floral notes never quite go away - oddly, because no one but me seems to smell flowers at all, and they're not in the notes list. I imagine that a white flower in Willy Wonka's garden would taste the way that this smells - soft, flowery, but still delicious.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and The Non-Blonde and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Fragrantica and Nathan Branch.

Photo: By Mike Lehmann. Wikimedia Commons