Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sniff vs. Sniff: Shalimar EDP and Shalimar Parfum Initial

Another classic. My impression is that Guerlain's Shalimar is treated with fractionally less contempt by its keepers than poor Miss Dior, though that may only be due to the large population of women who know, by God, what Shalimar is supposed to smell like. To my mind, it's second only to Chanel No. 5 in population nose recognition. Of course, that reflects the age and prejudices of my nose. The most recognized and best-loved fragrance is probably really Angel or Lovely or Coco Mademoiselle or something I've never heard of.

Anyway, I want to learn to like Shalimar. Correction: If I'm ever going to like Shalimar, I want to start soon, while the current parfum is somewhat well-regarded and eBay is still packed with vintage and semi-vintage bottles. So far, I've failed to bond with it. In fact I'm nursing a minor Shalimar trauma, the result of encountering a spray parfum tester at Saks. My brain, rather than sitting me down to explain, "Parfum. Parfum. Do you remember what that means?" instead said, "Oooh!" and I snatched the bottle and applied a full spray.

Urgh. I think I've mentioned that even an hour or three later, Himself threatened to boot me out of the car and make me take the bus home. If I do learn to love Shalimar, I will be dabbing the parfum, not spraying.

Today, I'm working with fresh samples from the Vancouver, BC downtown Holt Renfrew. (We travelled. We ate. I bought perfume. Did I mention this?) The current Eau de Parfum (Shalimar, in the discussion below) is on my left arm, and the Parfum Initial (Initial) on my right. The Shalimar sprayer is broken, so the left arm is the equivalent of a dabber, rather than a spray, test.

The notes for Shalimar, according to Basenotes, are bergamot, iris, jasmine, rose, vanilla, opoponax, and tonka bean. Initial's notes are bergamot, orange, jasmine, rose, patchouli, musk, tonka bean, and vanilla.

When I first tried the Shalimar sample a few days ago, I perceived the top notes that came after the initial citrus sparkle as aggressively synthetic. This time I'm not so sure--what I'm categorizing as "synthetic" is a pencil-eraser, new-Barbie-doll note, and I know from experience that when I envision pencil erasers I'm smelling iris. I'm not sure what morphs that into the Barbie doll (aka New Rubbery/Plastic Toy) note; the opoponax? I'm assuming that this is what others perceive as burnt rubber.

Anyway, Shalimar's (this Shalimar's) opening is interesting, with strong acquired-taste elements, and not overly eager to please. In fact, it manages to make vanilla, one of the eagerest-to-please notes I know, back off and snarl, "Ya wanna make something of it?" I like that in a fragrance. Yes, I'm a cat person.

The top notes of Initial, on the other hand, are desperate to please. They smell pink. Sweet-sour. Flowery. I see a girl who's been costumed in scratchy pink ruffles and ordered to "Smile!" She's smiling, even giggling, but through clenched teeth. Now, I could give this scent credit for not being syrup-soaked fruit punch, but... I can't. I just can't.

In the first half hour, both of them calm down. Shalimar's vanilla starts to relax, with an occasional rattling purr, though it's still far from sweet-tempered. Initial's shriller notes start to fade--a little--under a veil of vanilla. The girl in pink has released her smile, found a chair, and slipped her feet out of tight shoes. But she still doesn't want to be here. And there's a tangy and faintly bitter thread that I perceive as an appropriate seasoning for a sweet or animalic note, but there's nothing here for it to season. It's the wedge of lemon without the clams, the salt without the steak, the olive without the martini, the lime and salt without the tequila...OK, you get the idea.

In fact--to digress to a completely different perfume line--it gives me a clue as to the purpose of that chewy, slightly meaty base that puzzles but pleases me in some of the Jo Malone fragrances. The fruity, tangy, flowery notes that define the Jo Malones are seasoning notes; they need that chewy base to give them a reason for being, as if the clams exist for the benefit of the lemon rather than the other way around.

Initial improves as time goes on. Remember Firefly? Remember Kaylee at the ball, miserable and snubbed by the mean girls, then suddenly finding her confidence at the center of a cluster of men who want to listen to her talk engines? Two hours in, Initial's morale improves. Soft, tangy powdery flowers are still soft, tangy powdery flowers, but now they smell good. I think that the difference is balance; the bitter-sour is now balanced just right against the vanilla and powder. It's no longer a condiment in search of an entree.

At the same point, Shalimar is still an ill-tempered, shaggy cat--relaxed, comfortably snoring, occasionally allowing me to stroke her warm vanilla-scented coat. But she still doesn't like me. I like her, but so far, I'm not getting a bit of glamor or even femininity. This is not the Shalimar I've read about.

Several hours after that, Shalimar is warm vanilla and rubber; still not friendly, but I like it. Initial's grown thinner, again sour without anything for balance, feminine but sad and very young. She wants to go home and put on her bunny slippers.

Review Roundup for Shalimar Parfum InitialBasenotes and MakeupAlley and Perfume Shrine and Bois de Jasmin and Now Smell This and Olfactoria's Travels and Katie Puckrick Smells and Muse In Wooden Shoes and Perfume-Smellin' Things and The Non-Blonde and 1000 Fragrances and The Perfume Critic  and Post Modern Perfume and cafleurebon and Adventures of Barbarella and Perfume Posse and The Scent Critic  and Perfume Decadent and The Candy Perfume Boy and peredepierre and This Blog Really Stinks and Persolaise.

Review Roundup for ShalimarBasenotes and MakeupAlley and Perfume Shrine and Bois de Jasmin and Now Smell This and Olfactoria's Travels and Katie Puckrick Smells and Muse in Wooden Shoes and Perfume-Smellin' Things and The Non-Blonde and it's weird that it's harder to find reviews of Shalimar than of her flankers, though I suppose there's some logic in it; most everybody already has an opinion of the original, right?

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Perfume Review: Miss Dior (Originale, but not original.)

Perfume classics.


I always think of a "classic" as being something stable and well-known. Something that barely needs any comment, because it's so well understood. Of course, this idea inspires (bitter) laughter when applied to perfume, because the classics won't sit still.

Today's classic is a perfume whose name, even, won't stand still: Miss Dior. There's Miss Dior, and Miss Dior Cherie. Miss Dior Cherie dropped her Cherie and poses as Miss Dior, and Miss Dior picked up an "Originale" and may or may not be recognizable as a variant of her original self. That's ignoring Miss Dior Le Parfum, and the two different major versions of Miss Dior Cherie, and the EDT versus EDP versions and the flankers.

No more of that - I'm going to point to this invaluable chronology post on Perfume Shrine before my head explodes.

What I have is a quite new bottle of "Miss Dior EAU DE TOILETTE ORIGINALE" from the Vancouver airport duty free. (I'm sorry, I just couldn't stop myself. All that perfume, and barely a bottle to want!) Textured bottle, yellow juice, white label, gold printing. Long ingredients list on the box. There's nothing vintage about this one. The ingredients list mentions oakmoss and treemoss; I'm choosing to be pleased about that.

Yesterday, I sprayed some on a tissue and dabbed it on my arm for a minimal barely-damp evening first taste. If I were coming to it with an open mind rather than a suspicious "What have you done to her?" attitude I would have said that it was very nice, just short of "lovely", the first word I typed before correcting. Floral and fairly sweet, but grounded with a good pseudo-vintage vibe that I'd guess is the oakmoss. No real vintage attitude, no tappity-tap-high-heels feminine power, but Really Very Nice. Of course, if I'd ever smelled the vintage, my attitude would probably be different.

Today I put on one full back-of-the-neck spray, and a wet dab on my hand. The first few moments had a dismaying, um, urinal vibe. I quite like animalic odors, but I don't think that this one was intended in quite the way that it manifested on my skin. But it passed almost imemdiately--I take points off the top-notes score, but I'm not going to reject a perfume for fifteen seconds of oddity.

Then there was a fairly modern synthetic chorus that I'm less quick to forgive, because it's less quick to go away. I was seeing the flowers through a veil not of oakmoss, or galbanum, which would be just dandy, but something more modern. I'm guessing that it's the part of the top notes that are supposed to be "green-aldehydic", but for me it's more "shampoo-aldehydic." (Ah; I see a mention in Perfume Shrine of "a peachiness that I have encountered in hair products". Maybe that's it.)

Then, just a few minutes later--less than half an hour after application--ahhh. The modern shampoo is gone and I'm getting a nice, very slightly leathery, gentle pseudo-vintage vibe. Flowers in the background. Not aggressively sweet. Not cloyingly pretty. No fruit. Admittedly, there's still no attitude, still not enough oakmoss or bitterness or animalic growl from any source. Miss Dior...

OK, analogy: We recently saw a performance of The Drowsy Chaperone at our local high school. No, we don't have kids, but we're seeing school plays; I was a little amused by that, but I was rewarded because it was an extraordinarily good school play--in fact, it was a quite good play, period. Clever sets, impressive and convincing costumes and, most importantly, very good performances. But it was on a high school stage, so you knew that it wasn't going to get too mean, too dirty, too sexy--it was going to maintain a certain level of decency.

Miss Dior wears the costume of a vintage perfume, and plays her little heart out, but she's going to stay decent. And in fact, Miss Dior is a good deal less edgy than the play; if she took as many risks as it did, I would like her better.

But if she keeps wearing this costume for a few more hours, the new Miss Dior Originale will have earned the price of her bottle. She hasn't bought me out of the sin of funneling that price to the corporation(s) responsible for vandalizing the Dior classics. But that's my shame, not hers.

The modern Miss Dior is feminine, elegant, well-behaved. She's not necessarily young, but to my nose she's not thinking about anything that would be unsuitable for the very young. My understanding is that the vintage has a distinctly different focus--elegant femininity, yes, but that Miss Dior had less high-flown thoughts.

The perfume is, of course, directly linked with Dior's New Look of 1947. I wandered back to Linda Grant's The Thoughtful Dresser (Read it. Really.) to recall the impression that she'd given me of that moment. Dior's audience was made up of women who had spent the war years struggling to scrabble fashion from the flimsy and the scarce, to look beautiful in a patriotically morale-building way in spite of clothing rations and streamlined and skimpy styles. Dior presented these women with a vision of "frivolity, pleasure, wastefulness." Ballerina-length skirts, yards and yards of expensive fabric--so shocking that, given that postwar rationing was still in place, the collection faced substantial disapproval from some. Grant tells us that British Vogue's editor was forbidden to so much as mention Dior.

To quote Grant again: "What was new about the New Look was not new in the sense of modern; it was new in the sense that it was reviving a sensation that had long been suppressed in wartime: Pleasure for the sake of it."

Pleasure. Not just femininity and elegance and beauty of line and form, but pleasure and freedom. That, presumably, is what the vintage Miss Dior is thinking about. I need to smell some.

Review (and Discussion and Gnashing of Teeth) Roundup: Fragrantica and MakeupAlley and Now Smell This and Bois de Jasmin and Bois de Jasmin again and Perfume Fountain and Perfume-Smellin' Things and I Smell Therefore I Am and Perfume Shrine and Perfume Shrine again and Perfume Shrine again.

Also, I rambled about The Thoughtful Dresser here and here.

First, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth images from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Blogging: Hello, my name is...

I'm thinking of calling myself Martha.

No, I'm not picking a name out of a baby book--that's my real name. And it's always been findable if you click here and click there and follow one profile to another profile. When I created this blog, I made a conscious decision that I wasn't going to hide my identity. But because my name was hidden behind a couple of clicking-around layers, I had the comfy feeling of kindasorta anonymity.

I'm a shy person. Anonymity, even the very thinnest kindasorta layer, has often worked for me. Writing this, I remember a grade-school teacher on whom I had a sustained crush. At show-and-tell, my mumbling nervous real self was quite unable to lure him in to look at my rock collection. But on Halloween, when I wore my green-faced witch mask to school, I remember being delighted (and puzzled) at his amused (and puzzled) response to my "role" self.

Did I play the fairy tale witch, cackling and making finger claws? I wish I could remember. But I know that I've felt a freeing excitement at every opportunity to play a role, in childhood or adulthood. Even the thin veil of the workplace role allows me to make scary phone calls. And my many online roles say things that I suspect I'd never have been able to say in real life. Once they're said, I seem to be able to keep talking as myself, but I needed the virtual costumes and masks in order to get started.

Why ChickenFreak? It's not a name that defines my very core being, except in a purely joking Cookie Monster-ish way. ("C is for chicken....") I chose it when I started this blog, typing handle after handle into Blogger to find that they were all taken. My first blog post was going to be about fried chicken, my very favorite food and my defining dish as a cook, so chicken was on my mind. Chicken is usually on my mind, when I'm hungry or depressed or happy or in any way defined by appetite or emotions. So ChickenFreak it was.

But it's a weird name. It has issues. And circling back around, what's my problem with using my real name? The problems with renaming my blog and its URL--I expect I'll do that next--are moderately obvious, but what's the issue with changing my name?

It would, of course, help if I liked my real name. Martha. Bleah. I was named after nice people, and if I'd known those nice people, I might like the name better. As it is, it feels like a name for a well-behaved churchgoing girl of my grandmother's generation.  And that's not--well, no, maybe that is too much me. I'm not churchgoing, but I am well-behaved, irritatingly so. At least, it irritates me.

Remember the scene in Buffy where the Scooby gang, all seniors now, were leaving campus for lunch, and they had to drag Willow along with them? ("What if they're lying in wait to arrest me and throw me in detention and mar my unblemished record?"). That's me. Rule-abiding and a bit cranky about it. Going back to the Biblical Martha, I can certainly imagine myself griping about having to do all the work while Mary bogarted all the time with the visiting celebrity. And in fact, I still struggle to see exactly how Martha was wrong in that story--yeah, yeah, all that trivial feminine work is unimportant; are you still going to say so when there's nothing to eat? (You may see why I'm not churchgoing.)

So using my own name on this blog may be the first time that I'm (1) eliminating even the kindasorta veil of anonymity while (2) playing no role in a situation where (3) I really want to feel comfortable expressing myself.

Sounds scary. But I guess I am ready to use my real name. Though I still wish that name were something else.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Perfume: Artisan Chocolates for Thanksgiving

Haaaaaaappy Thanksgiving! Are you eating turkey? What are you wearing? Chergui? Eau de Gravy? We are not cooking this year; we're on vacation, watching home improvement shows in the hotel, and seriously considering just going with room service. That sounds so perfect that it must surely be wrong.

Yesterday, in anticipation of the celebration of Eating Everything, I tried some artisan chocolates. No, not candy--perfume. I dabbed on samples of Ayala Moriel Film Noir, Ayala Moriel Guilt, and Aftelier Cacao. None of them are going to quite fulfill the role that I had them fitted for, but I want them anyway.

For some reason, I thought that Film Noir had vanilla, but it turns out that I was misreading the combination of soft patchouli and cocoa. It does have a similar mood--edible, sweet, soft, and friendly. The patchouli is earthier than the vanilla would have been, and with the chocolate, it gives me a feeling of falling into soft dust. Like a leaf pile of cocoa. I still don't get "noir"--there's nothing dark or threatening here. But I think I want a bottle. (Notes: Benzoin Siamese, Cocoa Absolute, Myrrh Patchouli)

Guilt starts out orange--gorgeous, bright but dense, sweet but with just the right amount of peel. It's not like eating the orange or the peel or candied peel--it's like the fog that rises after ripping open a really good orange, but more concentrated. I discussed it just a few days ago, but I'm not going to go read that post to see if my perception is consistent, because who wants consistency? There's chocolate, too, less powdery than the chocolate in Film Noir: I can imagine dark shiny melted chocolate. But it's also farther away; in the fantasy created by the perfume I can smell it, but I'm not eating it. Over time, the orange fades away and the chocolate settles into cocoa powder again, and then it's all gone, faster than Film Noir--about twelve hours after application, the Noir arm still had a gentle puff of patchouli, while the Guilt arm was almost scent-free. (Notes: Amber, Benzoin Siamese, Blood Orange Cocoa Absolute, Honey Absolute, Jasmine Grandiflorum Orange Blossom Absolute, Rose Otto) So Guilt won't be my all-day orange perfume, but I want it too.

And the Cacao arm? At that same twelve hour point, it was back to a very faint breath of orange. It had started out as a gorgeous and gorgeously weird combination of chocolate and bright orange--a little brighter and more aggressive than Guilt--and. And. Um. And what? Something animalic, something absolutely not edible, something that I would have predicted would be just wrong with those food scents, but it worked perfectly with them. Looking at the notes (Blood Orange, Pink Grapefruit, Jasmin Sambac & Grandiflorum, Chocolate, Vanilla), I have no clue what it is, except maybe a delightfully dirty aspect of the jasmine. The orange fades, the stinky animal fades, and for a few hours it's hard to tell Cacao and Guilt apart. But at that twelve hour mark, oddly, the orange seemed to be back--a faint breath of it--and I do like that as a final note.

I want a full bottle of them all. So there.

Go eat more gravy. Hurry. Image: By Alchemist-hp. Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rambling: Courage and Lipstick

In my last ramble, I said that "'s somehow appropriate that it's Birdie, who was able to find joy no matter what, who has the courage to act." Since Mom's death, there's been some vibe in my thoughts about her that I haven't quite been able to get my hands around, and I realized just today, "Duh."

See, I don't grieve the loss of Mom's life as much as the loss of opportunity in that life, and the fact that that opportunity can never be recaptured. Mom, at least as long as I'd known her, never had the courage to act or to feel joy.

She was smart, but she actively concealed that intelligence, going out of her way to seem empty-headed, a Gracie Allan personality without a George to love her. The simplest of everyday competencies--balancing her checkbook, learning how to lock a newer model car, even writing a check to pay a bill--were opportunities for a show of what she surely saw as attractively feminine confusion. She cared greatly about religion, philosophy, art, politics, but she again never allowed herself to think seriously about those things, to express considered opinions, to understand or even be aware of gray areas. Her opinions rarely went beyond, "Well, I just don't think that's very nice," or "Aww, I think that's cute."

But I don't think that she was content behind that facade--I think that she always longed for someone to bring her out, to recognize the sharp mind behind the powder and lipstick. Maybe--and this is no doubt just a thought that I manufacture to make myself feel better--maybe to some extent I gave her that, because I was never willing to just accept Gracie: I was always arguing with the mind that I knew was there. Maybe she liked that. But I doubt it.

She was beautiful, and she valued her appearance immensely, but in my memory she never allowed herself to tend to it the way that it deserved. She insisted on wearing lipstick, but she never once bought a lipstick that cost more than a drugstore brand, and she never changed the color from the 1950's bright red that she'd always worn. She fussed incessantly over her hair, but she never treated herself to an expensive, or I suspect even mid-priced, salon. When she abandoned her straight short-cut hair for permed curls, she waited months between perms, so that often she had several inches of straight hair adorned with little bobs of curls at the very end.

She bought the cheapest of clothes, sometimes buying two of a garment because she knew that one wouldn't last. I remember her pleasure, early in my childhood, at a purchase of three pairs of very nice pumps at a deep store-closing-everything-must-go discount, but I rarely remember her wearing them. Her underpinnings were held together with safety pins and sometimes she wore two, one on top of the other, to do the job of one. Some of her blouses were so thin that she had to carefully plan layers so that you couldn't see through to skin.

And she was always, always worried--Does this blouse look OK? Do you think this needs earrings? Do you think the earrings are wrong? Should I tuck this in? Does this need a belt? She paused at every reflective surface to check her lipstick. For most of my life, I saw this as self-absorption, as vanity, but vanity would have been healthier. A vain woman would enjoy all this fuss and planning, and would obtain the toys needed to make it enjoyable, even if they had to be the cheaper toys. Mom, she worked and worried incessantly to follow what she saw as society's expectations of her, while ensuring that she took absolutely no joy in the process. And I still don't know why.

Was she always this way? Was there ever a time when she felt courage and took joy in life? In her youth, she was beautiful, and judging from the saved finery from that time, she took pleasure in that beauty and tended to it. And there's evidence that she was ambitious, that she did things that surely required her to express a considered opinion, perhaps sometimes even against opposition. Am I misreading the evidence?

What happened?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rambling, and writing, and Spoiler Warning! about Rumer Godden's The Dolls' House

So, it doesn't look like I'm going to finish the NaNoWriMo web insanity. There is plenty of month left, and I'm taking some time off for Thanksgiving, so in theory I could catch up. But I don't know what to write.

Well, in part I want to write about writing. But that feels all naval-gazey. And that may be the problem, that I stop myself when I get all naval-gazey. Maybe there's something on the other side of a lot of self-absorbed babbling.

So, let's ramble, without any pretense that I'm not also keeping an eye on maximizing the word count. One question is, what do I like best to read?

Rumer Godden. The list of authors is much longer than that, but Rumer Godden has headed it for...well, forever. At least, I think forever. I was just thinking that in my mind I can still walk to the shelf in the children's room of the library where her books were kept, but I realize that that library was in the town that I moved to when I was eleven. Surely I was reading Rumer Godden's books earlier than that?

Let's think about that.

I wasn't happy to move. The old town had a few memories of parents that were part of the world--the man next door asking my father to help him tie his tie on special occasions, a store or two where the employees knew us. When our things went away on the moving truck and we had one more night in town before we followed them, a friend in town let us stay with them that night--not such an odd thing for most people, but very much so for my parents later in my childhood. So, a few weak, watery links--links as a family--to the community.

And I had some links of my own. The high school across the street where I rode my bike, the one with the old sinkhole that the kids told tall tales about--and I _knew_ kids to be told tall tales by. The odd football-field-shaped lawn shared by all the duplexes where we lived, which felt like my territory, where I knew a few kids. I knew the drugstore. I knew the grocery. And I was rather fond of my school, something that didn't happen again until I went away to college.

After the move, I longed for home. For years--for decades, well into adulthood--I had dreams about trying to get to my old school. I'm not sure what miracle would occur if I got there, but I wanted it, in the dream, more than anything.

Is it odd that I longed for the old school, not the old house? I suppose I pictured the old school as unchanged, a happier past that I could return to. At home, on the other hand, my parents were still around. More unhappy, less engaged, less part of the world. There was no point in dreaming about returning to those happier versions; they were long gone. (I did, however, have dreams about wide-eyed people who wandered around the house impersonating members of my family, I think both before and after the move.)

Anyway, that's where we come back to Rumer Godden, who so often writes about people who long for home, whether a literal four walls or a metaphorical home, a place where they have a purpose and a worth and people who recognize those things--like, come to think of it, Hogwarts. I thought that I'd always loved Rumer Godden, but maybe I discovered her on that shelf that I remember so clearly, in the new town that never felt like home.

In The Dolls' House, a family of dolls--frightened doubt-filled Mr. Plantaganet, bright scattered Birdie, plush lovable Apple, and solid sensible wooden Tottie--long for a home. They get that home, only to see it threatened by...well, yes, I'll call it evil. And in the end Birdie, despite being unable to hold more than one thought in her bell-like empty head, throws her celluloid self on a candle-flame and flashes out of existence in order to save Apple. Even one of the human little girls in the story realizes it:

"She gave her life for Apple."
"I suppose she did in a way. I suppose--if you like to call it that."
"She gave her life for Apple."
"Don't go on and on, Charlotte."

I think that the best children's books are sometimes more painful than the best adult books. I hurt for Mr. Plantaganet and his fears and his nervous pride when he gains not only a home but a proper job in a fold-out toy post office, and then his bewilderment when it all begins to be taken away. For Birdie, when she never quite remembers that her pink room has been taken away from her, and the way that she can nevertheless take joy in her feather duster and the tinkling of a music box. And it's both sad and somehow appropriate that it's Birdie, who was able to find joy no matter what, who has the courage to act.

Rumer Godden is my favorite author, but I still haven't read all of her books. When I look at lists, in fact, I've read less than half. And I think that's because they are painful. And maybe that's the problem with getting to the other end of my self-absorbed babbling, too--maybe I'm afraid that something there will hurt.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Blogging: Sniff.

So you my have noticed that it's been, well, a while since I updated my blogrolls. A long while. A good long while. Some of you have had a different blog address for halfway as long as I've had a blog, and my blogroll still doesn't reflect it.

And lots of folks out there have shiny new perfume blogs that I'm not linking to. Or reading.

So I'm organizing. I've (sniff) deleted links to blogs that haven't had a post since roughly 2010. And moved blogs that have been quiet since roughly August of this year to a separate page that will be on my Links page as soon as I get it tidied up. And removed links to non-blog sites like Fragrantica and Basenotes, though they might come back in a general perfume links page. And I've tried to link to the latest incarnation of several moved blogs.

The next part is the fun part--adding new blogs.

And if I've deleted you, or I'm still not pointing to your latest site, please do let me know and I'll fix it.

Sniff. I love all you guys! But hoarding links is bad, right? Right?


Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


So, one thing that I've learned is that even a liiiitle bit of editing slows down the word flow. In past NaNoWriMos I could go to... um... that thing... you know, that software where you type frantically? Write or Die! That's it! And get hundreds of words written in minutes. When I'm gonna post the things? Noooo, not so much.

Though...hey, let's give it a try!

So, yes, here we are, in Write Or Die with a goal of three hundred words in thirty minutes, setting "strict". Write, Chicken, write!


Yeah, the motivation isn't motivating all that well. I can, of course, find random things to say. For example, six feet away is our first wood fire of the season, which is always a nice thing. Himself and I were noticing that no matter how much you turn up the house heat, there's something about a fire that makes you and the room heat-soaked in a way that you just can't get otherwise. For me, bubble baths do the same thing.

Speaking of bubble baths, I was realizing the other night that I rather envy the Captain of the B Ark his job. You know the B Ark? Hitchhiker's Guide? He's carrying one-third of his planet's population to a new home on a giant spaceship, and he spends all of his time commanding the ship from his bathtub. That sounds nice. The 24-hour bubble bath part, not the responsibility part.

Though I shouldn't envy, because I do have a very, very fine bathtub. It's the best bathtub I've ever lived with, and it's mine, mine, all mine! Not that Himself can't use it, but he has a very fine shower and I have a very fine (vintage, footed) bathtub, and we definitely own our respective bathing territory. Mine is, of course, decked with scented products--three kinds of bath oil, five or six kinds of bath soap, four or five kinds of bath salts, two foaming bath bomb things.

Speaking of all that soap, I encountered a sort of overcoming-hoarder-genes epiphany a few weeks ago when I realized that, y'know, the world will always be filled with more glorious bars of soap than I have room for. And I can therefore use the world as a place to store my soap, and only get more when I'm running low. Yes, yes, that's obvious see what I mean? Maybe you have to have hoarder genes for it to make sense.

Unfortunately, I don't feel that I can trust the world as a place to store my perfume, because the world is doing a lousy job of it, with all those bleeping regulations. While releasing the Need To Archive Soap is a nice happy relaxing moment, trying to release the Need To Archive Perfume is a constant battle.

Hey, look. Three hundred and eighty-eight words. In less than ten minutes. Maybe Write or Die does work.

OK, let's restart and try to duplicate that: Four hundred words in ten minutes. Go!

By the way, Write or Die has "consequences" levels that ramp up to Kamikaze Mode and then Electric Shock mode. I've always been vaguely curious as to what that means, but I've never tried it. Or risked it.

So. Bathtubs and soap and hoarding. Oh, my. Speaking of hoarding, I just ordered several spray samples from Sonoma Scent Studio, plus an unsniffed half-ounce bottle. And I'm still debating that "where to spend my perfume money" philosophy. I suspect that I want to focus on artisan perfumers, and I think that Sonoma Scent Studio qualifies? Hey, all you guys, who do you list under artisan, as opposed to indie, as opposed to just niche, perfumers? Moriel? Sonoma? Aftelier? Brosius? Hurwitz? Who else? Why do I think of Brosius as somehow being bigger--is that sheer illusion, or is he indeed a larger operation?

Yeah, I know, I'm writing a blog, I should be doing my research and telling you, right? But I'm asking you for information all the same--who are the artisan perfumers that I should be looking at?

Um. I just hit the end of that topic. Um. Um. You know I'm just typing "um" to keep Write or Die from applying an electric shock, right? OK, not really an electric shock, I hope, but I do get nervous when it just makes the background pink and then red.

Also, um.

It's reeeeed! Fear!

Ahem. Speaking of bath salts, what is the function of bath salts? I've traditionally thought of them as something that makes the bath water all nice and scented and doesn't (unlike oil) make the bathtub slippery underfoot. That's probably not the idea--though, really, who knows?

OK, I have to write two hundred and seventy-five words in the next two minutes and twenty-four seconds. That doesn't seem all that likely. I could, of cousre, just type la la la for a few dozen lines and then plan on editing later, but that's cheating. Not that people don't do plenty of cheating on NaNoWriMo, but I think that you should at least be writing coherent words and sentences. And ideally paragraphs. Expecting an entire coherent page may be too much of a demand.

You notice, I haven't written even a little bit of fiction yet in NaNoWriMo. And I thought I would--I was remembering those stories that I wrote in Story A Day and thought I'd probably do several more of them, and I was looking forward to it. But it seems that writing fiction, and writing fast, are not compatible for me. And why is that? I realize that writing fast and writing good fiction are logically incompatible, but why can't I put my head into the mind of a fictional character and type at madcap speed as them and their thoughts?

OK, well, I made four hundred and sixty-one words in ten minutes.


Speaking of writing, you may notice that I haven't been writing anything about That Woman lately. The one in the one about the lunch and the one about the Christmas presents and the one about the junk and to some extent the one about the marriage, and the one about trying to please her, and the other one about the junk and, well, I suppose the other one about trying to please her. The one who is, whether I recognized it at the time of writing or not, aspects of Mom.

And sometimes when I'm feeling at my most sympathetic, I suspect that Mom may also be the cat.

I suppose that to some extent, Mom is my muse. And I don't want that. I don't want to do all my fiction writing about aspects of Mom. I don't want it to all be angry writing about Mom, and--and maybe this is wrong--I even more don't want it to be sympathetic writing about Mom. I just don't want it to be about Mom.

Is that my choice? Or do I need to write myself out, about Mom, before I can move on?

I guess I'll find out.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Rambling: Braaaaaaains!

I get bored easily.

There's a theory that people with ADHD don't just have a problem with attention, but also with rewards. Brain rewards. As normal people work on a task, the "gratification/pleasure" circuits of the brain provide reinforcement even before the real-world reinforcement of a completed task is reached. So all those people who sneer about will power and staying on task may just be people who have a functioning brain reward system that agreeably gives them intermittent mental biscuits for working on a task.

This suggests a model of the brain that's disconcertingly...well, not random, but driven by semi-random events. It's as if our brains are Rube Goldberg machines that just happen, due to millions of years of evolution, to end up with the ball bearing dropping on the cymbal and waking up the hamster--or whatever the machine's supposed to do. A tiny failure in adjustment and the ball bearing just falls into space and the hamster keeps on sleeping. Or, as seems to happen in my brain, the hamster runs through the maze chasing shiny cheese when he's supposed to be exercising on the wheel, or vice versa. Except that an ADHD-brain-hamster would never exercise on the wheel. Because it's boring. Cheese, on the other hand, is tasty. (Reward.)

This post is not primarily about ADHD or staying or task or any of that stuff. It's more about that reward system. My brain seems to crave rewards, and it increasingly seems that it's worthwhile to arrange rewards for it. A while ago, I posted that my perfume shopping moratorium seemed to produce a creative depression, and in fact a mild general depression. I proposed that regular perfume browsing was giving me a dose of dopamine and keeping my brain on a contented creative even keel, and that eliminating that browsing threw all that off. Actually, it's more specific than that--eliminating browsing with the option of purchasing threw all that off.  No purchase option, apparently no reward in the browsing. Returning to a situation where I was allowed to buy perfume, even if I bought it very rarely or in fact just considered buying it, got the creativity back online.

Which is...weird. And leads me to wonder what other activities might have a non-obvious brain-feeding reward.

Because I suspect that there are any number of them in my life. In fact, I suspect that I'll find that most of my habitual, comfort habits are about feeding happy neurotransmitters. Remember when I discovered that most of my lifelong snacks were tryptophan-rich foods combined with the carbs that are needed to help tryptophan-rich foods produce serotonin? Yeah. Does perfume itself, sniffing it and wearing it, help straighten up a brain that's on Tilt? Does reading? Forum posting? Writing?

Why is it that I can do boring repetitive tasks for hours in the garden once I've dragged myself out there? I love sewing and cooking, but I have to push myself through the boring bits; I don't have to push myself through the boring bits of gardening. And the rare occasions when I can just sit and stare, mindlessly, without doing things, without thinking through things, are usually occasions when I'm staring blankly at leaves and plants. If my brain isn't driving me to go get it a biscuit, dagnabbit!, then I assume that it's somehow already getting fed.

It's a puzzlement. I was hoping to end this post with some sort of conclusion, but, well, apparently not.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rambling: More big plans

You may have noticed that I tend to make Big Plans That Fall Down. The latest ones involve food.

See, I've been resolving to do more cooking. Partly to save money, and partly so that if we keep up the "farm"ing, we actually eat a decent percentage of the crops. And partly for better control over my diet. "Diet" in the "foods habitually consumed" definition rather than the "trying to lose weight" definition. Though both definitions are relevant.

But we've learned that we tend not to properly cook on a nightly basis. So that leads me to cooking for leftovers, and cooking-and-freezing, and so on. It could even lead to canning, except for my fear of botulism. I know that many people have canned without dying, but it makes me twitchy.

There's Once A Month Cooking, a concept that probably doesn't need a whole lot of explanation. You buy a lot of ingredients, you spend a chunk of the weekend making large batches of several dishes, you freeze 'em, and boom! You have a month's worth of food ready to reheat. Well, I don't suppose there's anything magical about the month, it's just a tidier acronym than, say, "once every five weeks cooking."

We even have the freezer, so there's really nothing to stop me from making a giant pot of...

OK, do you have recipes (maybe "recipes" is too dignified a term) that you make when you're going to be eating alone, when no one else can see just how much of a food barbarian you really are? One of mine is...Goop. There's Chicken Goop and Pea Goop. Really, Chicken Goop is essentially simplified Chicken a la King (chicken, frozen peas, perhaps slow-cooked onions, in a cream sauce), but to be most authentically Goop, the cream sauce is overcooked and overbuttered to the point that it "breaks", the fat separating from the thickened sauce. Pea Goop is what you make when you want Goop but you don't have any chicken. They're both morally wrong. Yum. I could happily make a giant pot of Goop, divided it into Ziplocs, and eat it whenever I'm in a sad butter-craving comfort-food mood.

Not that that's relevant to the farm. We don't grow chickens on the farm (They grow on vines, right? And the features are green until they're ripe?), and it's unlikely that we'd grow enough shelling peas to need to stash the leftovers in the freezer. Fresh shelling peas are so good that I'm not positive that they'd even make it inside to a buttered pot. But I wonder how other vegetables would freeze in a cream sauce? Would they do that thing that so many frozen vegetables do, where the freezing seems to tear them apart from the inside, or would the magical blessing of butter prevent that? Sugar snap peas, for example, come to mind--a much more plentiful crop than shelling peas, but similarly pleasing.

I would have assumed that onions would be ruined by the freezer, but I recently read that caramelized onions freeze extremely well. The obvious realization comes to me just as I type this: That means that I can grow quite large quantities of Copra onions next year and caramelize them en masse, rather than struggling to make space for the bulbs in the freezer. In fact, I could caramelize this year's modest crop, and the remains of last year's crop (yes, they did survive a full year) and put the results in the freezer. Though the crops are small enough that I might be tempted to just eat all the finished  onions with a spoon.

I could similarly cook a great volume of tomatoes down into freezable tomato sauce. The difficulty with that is that tomato sauce is available at every grocery under the sun, or a least in the state, and I don't know if the homemade kind is significantly better, especially after a few months of freezing. Now that I've had the onion inspiration, I'm tempted to forget the tomatoes and just grow more onions.

Big plans.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Interrupted Review: Ayala Moriel Guilt

I feel as if I've been called out in the middle of a fascinating play, and no one can tell me how it ended.

See, I finally got around to trying my sample of Ayala Moriel Guilt this week. And, Oh. My.  I've mentioned my question for just the right orange perfume, right? This may be it.

Most orange perfumes are too sweet or too floral or, in the case of the admittedly lovely Theorema, too mulled-cider to truly be the essence of orange. I always want more bitter, a good sticky dose of orange peel. But the few that give me any peel are usually dry, mouth-pinched pith traveling with bitter humorless companions. It's a misunderstanding--I don't want a bitter perfume, I just want a perfume that acknowledges that bitterness is an important part of the charm of an orange. This appears to be that perfume.

It started out with the citrus peel, the glorious drippy-oily-sweet-bitter citrus blast that I've been craving, but it's doused with honey and sweet-buttery flowers and not too much chocolate. And not just for a few fleeting top-note seconds, but for long enough to really settle in and drown in the orange.

While I was still reveling in orange but juuuust starting to entertain the thought that maybe, someday, after snuffling it for a while longer, I might find it overwhelming, it started to subside, ever so slowly, into something gentler, the peel stepping back and gesturing the flowers forward just a little.

And then I got distracted! Did the flowers take center stage? Did the chocolate bully its way forward? Did the orange get juicier and sweeter? What happened?!

Tell meeeeeee!

OK, OK I'll try it again and I'll let you know.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Perfume: Rambling, organizing, and a couple of Ayala Moriel mini-reviews.

It's the weekend.


I note that I'm several thousand words behind on my NaNoWriMo Blogging Thingie, and I see no hope of catching up. But I'm going to ramble incessantly all the same. So there.

I've been waiting for a chest cold to go away, and it's been raining outside, so gardening has been out. And the weekends have been a little too busy to allow for large blocks of sewing time. So what to do after work? Inventory my perfume, of course! (Oh. I should have been writing? Yeah. Well. Um. Moving on....)

I've entered every sample into OmniOutliner, complete with house, perfume name, whether it's a sample or a decant or a mini, and where it is. (For example, "Paperclip sorter" or "A->D Baggie.")

Don't mock me.

I have slightly under two hundred samples, including a couple of dozen decants. I'm surprised that the number is that small, and I'm embarassed that I'm surprised.

Putting samples in different places has made me realize (duh) that I could also put bottles in different places. This is an obvious but dangerous realization, because when I was keeping all of the bottles in one place, then that place limited the collection. If I start moving them, well...

I could move the For Reference bottles into boxes. I have, for example, modern LouLou, waiting for me to get my hands on a sample of vintage LouLou. The plan is to get the sample, wear them both, learn what there is to learn from the comparison, and then give away the modern, because I don't actually like the modern. Now, that was also the plan for Vent Vert, and now that I have a vintagesque bottle of Vent Vert (right bottle shape but script logo, no string, screwcap instead of stopper, plastic outer box, so it's not the oldest) that I love, I find that I'm able to love the modern Vent Vert because I'm less resentful of it for being a travesty of the original.

And then there are the bottles that I own because they're classics and I want to learn to love them. This is really not a good category to have; it's pretty hoarderish. Right now, it's very small, consisting of Coco and Mitsouko. It used to be Coco, Mitsouko, and No. 5, and then I actually learned to love No. 5, so, yay! sometimes it works. But I'm threatening to add Shalimar and Jicky and Coco parfum and for that matter Shalimar has more than one modern and infinite vintage options. And that's without looking at any lists.

Anyway, so, I moved the bottles for the ill-fated Under Twenty project, and some other "Hey, a full bottle is less than twice the price of a decant!" modern things into a box, awaiting my attention. I should really make an "attention or freecycle" deadline; Lady Stetson has been waiting for at least a year.

I moved all the dabber bottles into a drawer. Originally, it was a bedroom sock drawer, but then I opened the drawer and realized that there's no way Himself is going to put up with a slow-building bedroom perfume fog, so I moved them into the one and only drawer in my den. Which means that the power cords and foot pedals for my sewing machines had to go from that drawer to the sock drawer, but, well, so be it.

Oh, and the tall skinny minis and decants all went into a Ziploc in the drawer, because I'm tired of tiny Hermes Discovery Set bottles falling all over the place when I take anything out. It's like horizontal Jenga.

This left mostly niche and a few designer... well, mostly niche and Chanel in the breadboxes. OK, and a Fendi and a Lancome (the other Lancomes are in the dabber drawer) and a Lauder and a Miyake and a Piguet and a Balmain, but, wow, my collection is really niche-heavy.

I used to organize the bottles by categories--fresh greens! Boozy Orientals! Bombshell florals! And then I'd approach the collection asking myself something like, "OK, did I categorize Un Crime Exotique as an Oriental or a gourmand?" and never, ever thought anything like, "Hey, I'm feeling prim and ladylike today." So I abandoned that whole idea and re-sorted it mostly by house. Parfumerie Generale and Lutens each make up a looming mob of bottles, Chanel is a mismatched gang, there's a modest Jo Malone contingent and another of l'Artisan, and then there's a random jumble in the middle.

Speaking of bottles falling like dominoes, I'd like to communicate my preference for short, squat bottle designs. The Different Company's fat little cube. Aftelier's short columnar parfum bottles. Serge Lutens' bell jars. You could shake a drawer like you're popping popcorn and they wouldn't fall over. On the other hand, the Lutens export bottles seem to chatter nervously if I just walk by.

Just to add to the crazy and to the failure to NaNoWrite, I added all the samples to my Basenotes wardrobe, and I'm updating the bottle list. And putting decants and minis in the "used to own" list. And generally geekishly tracking it all far more than it needs.

But it's all getting me more interested in playing with my samples, and that's worthwhile, right? Right? Right!

In accordance with the recent theory that I should put my perfume money where the good stuff is being made right now, I've been testing a Moriel a day ("that's all we ask") and I'm in ever so much financial danger, because I like them all.

Espionage? Gorgeous; leather without that synthetic vibe--which seems illogical, because isn't the scent of leather said to be the scent of the chemicals used to treat it?--that dries down to gorgeous squishy vanilla.

Film Noir? It starts out friendly - I can imagine a dark film in front of me, but I know what's going to happen, and I have chocolate, so I'm not scared. It dries even friendlier, and (pause for dramatic effect) Himself likes it. Himself hasn't liked a perfume since Habanita. He gets cookie-vanilla-vibe from it. I'm not sure why I haven't put in the order for this one already.

Immortelle l'Amour? Yum. Sweet. Yeasty. Bready. This is not good for my low carb diet. I got distracted that day and didn't follow it to the end; I'll try it again.

Guilt? Ooooooh. That's the next post.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Fragments

So, an observation about this NaNoWriMo Rebel Blogging thingummy: I'm starting posts, getting them to a point where I'm not quite sure where to take them, and hanging on to them. I don't usually do this--I usually write a post in one sitting, even if I may return and edit it before actually posting. If I get lost, I just throw out the post. But my reluctance to throw out words is motivating me to write out as many thoughts as I can spit out reasonably fully formed, and then hang on to them for another later effort. This may end up with me having more patience for thoughts that take a while to sculpt. Or it may just end up with a lot of broken posts. We'll find out.

That is all.

Ramble: Writer's what? Noooo, not me!

There is no such thing as writer's block. Nope. Doesn't exist. It's a fig newton of your imagination. Really. So this erratic NaNoWriMo-rebel-blogging post is brought to you by Not-Writer's-Block.

Now, when I argue that there is no such thing as writer's block, I generally say, "You could always just look down and write about your shoes, right? Right?" Right now, I'm not wearing shoes. So that's out.

I recently burbled at length about writer's block on a writing forum, though I ended up concluding that its existence or non-existence is a matter of semantics. My argument is that you always _can_ write, in the sense that you always _can_ reach out a hand and pat a dog on the head. But if you have a serious phobia of dogs, then the fact that you physically know how to pat a dog, and you have a brain-to-muscle apparatus that allows you to pat things, does not actually mean that you can pat the dog. Your brain may get the order for the muscles, take a look at the patting target, and say, "Very funny," as it instead gives orders to your running-away muscles.

I think that that's what writer's block is like. You can always write. If you can type, you can write nonsense. But if your brain is afraid of writing nonsense--afraid of what it might say about you as a writer, afraid that you'll reveal yourself to yourself as being a talentless hack, afraid that writing even a single bad sentence means that you have no standards and no work ethic and no taste and you should just crawl under the bed and stay there--then it may not relay your orders to your typing muscles. It's not about not being talented or inspired or having ideas--it's about fear. Usually perfectionist fear.

I also frequently use the learning-to-play-the-piano example. If you wanted to learn how to play the piano, you wouldn't refuse to sit down and even touch the keys if you weren't assured of immediately playing something worth selling for $14.99 on a CD, right? You would assume that your first efforts would be laughably dreadful. But people seem to assume that their first efforts at writing should be of publishable quality.

In fact, I have a clear memory of assuming exactly that back in grade school sometime. Our class was assigned to write a story, and it truly never occurred to me that I couldn't be expected to write a story that was as good as the books that I checked out of the library. I feel a faint grudge against the teacher for not explaining that but, really, how could she anticipate that I'd ever think such a thing?

How does perfectionism happen? How do people go from having moderately high standards, to standards so high that success is impossible and it looks like a better idea to just not try? Is it taught? Is it inborn? Is it brain chemistry? Is it a refusal to deal with the anxiety of possible imperfection? Is it an inability to balance priorities--that a ninety percent clean bathroom today is a higher priority than holding out for a one hundred percent clean bathroom, cleaned "right" on some distant day in the future? How is that even a priority balance? I suppose if you throw in the fear that by cleaning "wrong" you might permanently embrace "wrong" standards, but...

I don't get it. I'm not confident that I'm completely immune to it, but I still don't get it.


See, I don't like this post now. But refusing to post it would be a perfectionist decision, right? Right. Up it goes. Along with a picture that I thought would surely provide some inspiration, but aside from being a nice picture, well, it doesn't.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Rambling: "What does it mean, exact change?"

I'm three hundred and eighteen words behind on NaNoWriMo. More blogging is called for.

Last year, when my inspiration was limited, I used to go to Wikimedia Commons (where almost all of my imags come from) and click the "Random File" button until I ran into a picture that seemed right.

Today, this one appeals to me, though it's not really inspiring either stories or thoughts. Well, except that for no logical reason it reminds me of that Star Trek movie where they park the shuttlecraft in the middle of somewhere with its cloaking device on and Kirk reminds everyone to "Remember where we parked!" That's my favorite of the Star Trek movies. While it doesn't compete with, say, The Trouble With Tribbles, it's the closest to the funny episodes of the series, and I always like the funny episodes best.

You can see it out there in that field, right? The invisible shuttlecraft?

I like the funny episodes of most dramatic series best. When re-watching the X Files from DVDs, I tend to skim right past the arc episodes and pay close attention to the ones with the...well, I'm about to describe them with spoilers, and that would be wrong. I love the one with the weirdness at the trailer park ("Come on Scully, get those little legs moving!") and the one with the weirdness at the gated community ("Mulder, if we ever go undercover again I get to choose the names, okay?") and the one with the baseball and the nontfat Tofutti rice dreamsicle. Actually, that last one is definitely an arc episode, and it's not all that funny, but I love it; maybe "funny" isn't a complete description of what I ilke. I suppose I like the moments when you get a good look at the characters and their, er, character.

I had hopes of more funny; I was hoping that after the Trek crew rescued Spock and got in trouble, they'd decide to forget all this bureaucracy and steal the Enterprise and just go joyriding through space without all that Prime Directive nonsense. Sort of like the folks in Firefly, but with a lot more weaponry. I would have enjoyed that.

That is all.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Perfume: Turin and Sanchez and triage

Are we all preparing for hibernation, with our credit cards?

OK, forget "we"--am I?

Ever since the temperatures started to turn, I've wanted to buy things. Socks. Scarves. Patterns. Fabric. Fancy canned goods. Hats. Books. Chocolate. Garden tools. Of course, perfume. I've mostly resisted--I keep emptying my online shopping carts into ever-growng "save for later" lists--but the urge is there.

It's logical to have an instinct to fatten up before retreating to the cave for cold weather, but does it make sense for that instinct to extend to snatching up non-edible pretty things? Am I making up for missing sunshine-serotonin with shopping-serotonin--or, since I'm not buying much, browsing-serotonin?

I suppose I am shopping against famine, when I'm shopping for perfume. In a way. In this madly-reformulating world, you really can't count on any perfume being what it was when you last heard someone describe it. I've been reading the Turin/Sanchez Little Book, and eagerly reading the little added paragraphs that tell me whether the perfume was still decent in 2011--but that was 2011. We're nearly at the end of 2012. That leaves a year or more for those perfumes to have been destroyed, and the regulating bodies have a strong and dedicated perfume-destroying work ethic. What should I have bought in 2011? What should I buy now?

OK, there is no "should". Looking back to my recent post about hoarding and choosing to be in control of the stuff, it's not as if I really need any perfume. At all. Even one bottle. If I never smell the classic vintage greats, well, I'll live.

But it is exciting that I have vintage Diorella parfum on my arm. Both arms, one dab each. From a sample--I didn't spring for a bottle or even a sizable decant. I'm still absorbing the experience. First it was an OhMyGod vintage blast that I simultaneously wanted to embrace and flee from. And then a sweet smooth odd thing that I wanted more of--I almost went on eBay to pay for a bottle then. Right now it's a gorgeously self-conscious powdery ladylike. I'm sure that it will keep developing.

"Diorella" is still sold, but is it any good? I could try to get a sample. I could try to sniff it somewhere. But will the sample be the same stuff that's in the bottle? Will one or the other be a different reformulation generation? If I take fifteen minutes to decide, will it have changed again?

I tried a sample of Robert Piguet Bandit and fell in love; I bought a bottle and it wasn't the same stuff at all. The sample was a sweaty cat in the sun; the bottle was a clean ladylike leather purse. I've been tempted to buy other Piguet fragrances. I like Fracas, I like Cravache--but, do I? I like the samples. The specific samples that I have. That offers no assurance whatsoever that I'll like the bottle.

Is this level of complete distrust really a good way to sell a product? I realize that some folks in the industry might prefer that we just admire the pretty bottle and obediently buy it--for all I know, maybe they don't really care if we ever wear the stuff. Maybe they'd rather we didn't. Maybe in their eyes, perfume is like those books with the pretty leather bindings that decorators buy by the foot, and they're a little startled and dismayed if we try to actually read them. Er, smell them. I return to edit this because I realize that yes, yes, there are many individuals in the industry who care very much about their perfume. But when the behavior gets up to the large-corporation level, that's not so much what it feels like.

I feel the urge to gobble up all the fading perfumes before they're gone. But which ones? What's most urgent? What are my triage rules?

Do I start with the ones that can still be bought new at a fairly modest price at the discounters, avoiding the vintage price premiim? Is Diorella still good? Miss Balmain? Jolie Madame? Shalimar? The Little Book says that Shalimar has actually improved, but that was 2011; has it been pulled over and cited for excessive artistic merit between then and now? How about Azuree? Poison? Missoni? White Linen? I've never smelled most of them; am I too late?

Or do I chase the niche bottles that I've craved for months or years, before they're gone? Do I get a bottle or a decant of Douce Amere? Or neither? What about Chene, that rummy thing that I one hated and then abruptly fell in love with? Is it still love? Which of Nicolai's work am I too late to catch? Do I really want Lann-Ael? Will I regret Bois Blond when it's gone?

They're killing birch tar. I love birch tar. Is it too late to buy Patchouli 24? Is Eau de Fier gone forever? I have Chanel Cuir de Russie; will that do the job?

What about the expensive designer houses? Are the Chanel Exclusifs still any good? I secured my No. 5, both EDT and parfum, but what about 18 and 22 and 31 Rue de Cambon and all those Chanels that don't even have numbers in their names? Will I run out of Osmanthe Yunnan? I have two Discovery Set bottles, and for almost any other fragrance that would be plenty, but a nice fog of Osmanthe Yunnan requires a good four or five sprays.

Or do I--and, yes, this is what I should do, but that doesn't mean I will--save my money for the small artisan perfumers? Their perfumes go away, too, but the perfumer has a face, and they're absolutely not selling books-by-the-foot. They care if you smell it and wear it and love it. That would be the sensible thing, and somehow it feels vaguely non-hoarding as well--forget the past, and pick and choose, non-urgently, among the present, even as bits of the present slides gently into the past.


Image: Wikimedia Commons.

SOTD: Indult Tihota


See, when I tried Indult Tihota--from a sample--I loved it. Adored it. Wanted it. Longed for it, and stared endlessly at its page on LuckyScent. But I just couldn't quite get myself to pay the price for a bottle. And then its limited-edition self went away, and that was that for a full bottle.

And I thought about it and thought about it and finally decided that before it vanishes from the decant market too, I'd better buy myself some. I did, a nice little 5ml sprayer for an alarming price. It came today. I was delighted. I sprayed some on.

I... um... am not so sure that I like it any more.

I want to be clear, there's nothing wrong with the decant. It's the same sweet lovely vanilla that I loved back then. But back then, I was early in my perfume obsession, and I still liked the lovely, the simple, the pure and beautiful. I'm pretty much over that now; I like things with claws or mottled skin or a good threatening growl.

I'm not sorry I bought it. I'm sure that there will be comfort-scent days when I'm delighted to reach for it. But it is a lesson in just how much I've changed--and in the need to re-sample. The alarming price of the decant was just about the right price and the right number of milliliters for how much I like this scent now; if I'd paid the original $250 full-bottle price, or more, I'd be a bit cranky.

But given my new issue with the beautiful, I'm a little worried about my future relationship with Un Lys. I'd better wear it tomorrow and see how it goes.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ramble: Clutter and hoarding

So, a large part of hoarding is denial.

"I'm not a hoarder, I just don't have enough storage."
"I'm not a hoarder; it's all your stuff!"
"I'm not a hoarder, I just don't have time to get organized."
"It wouldn't be a problem if you people would help out around here! Don't touch that! You don't know where it goes!"
"How can you call me a hoarder; have you seen how many RubberMaid organizers I have?!"

So I like to keep an eye on my collections. My stashes. My hoards. I don't usually call them hoards, but I suppose I like to keep myself from avoiding the word, in case that slides into denial later. To me, these words all signal "excess"--not necessarily evil or irrational excess, but definitely an excess beyond what I need. If I keep reminding myself that, yes, I am storing things that I don't actually need, then I will hopefully remember that if those things get "out of control", that's because I chose not to control them.

I think that's one of the places where hoarding starts to slip off the edge. If you start to feel that you have an obligation to keep the stuff, then you start to think that you no longer have a choice. That sense of obligation can take a lot of forms:

"Auntie June gave me that, and she's dead now!"
"That's a family heirloom; I have to keep it for the kids."
"The kids might want to give those toys to their kids."
"There might be a natural disaster and I'll need that food."
"I spent good money on that; I can't get rid of it."
"We might need to touch up a spot with that paint."
"I might lose my job and need to sew my clothes with that fabric."
"I spent good money on that sewing machine; I have to buy fabric to sew with."
"I neeeeed it!"
"I waaaaaant it!"

I would argue that the vast, vast majority of the time, the reasons come down to the last one--you want it. Even if you don't want that thing because you love it and use it, you may "want" it because you'll feel guilty if you give away Auntie June's last pair of bedroom slippers, and you'd rather keep the thing than feel the guilt. You've converted a preference--the preference to avoid anxiety and guilty--into an obligation. A false obligation.

You want to avoid the bad feelings of admitting to a mistaken purchase. You want to avoid worry about future deprivation by keeping things that might (but probably wouldn't) help with that deprivation. You want to avoid worrying about whether your kids might be mad--or you want to avoid the guilt of keeping so much stuff by attributing that stuff to other people's desires and needs.

You want to avoid bad feelings. So you transform all this avoidance into obligation; you declare that you have no choice. You're taking orders from the stuff. Because, at some level, you want to. The stuff is your shield against bad feelings, and after avoiding those bad feelings all that time, you don't know if you can handle them.

OK, maybe this isn't true of "you". But it is true of a lot of people. They create the illusion that the stuff is out of control when, again, they're choosing not to control it. So I'm trying really hard to choose to control my stuff.

For example, I'm working on eliminating deep storage in favor of open, handy, displayed storage. The majority of my fabric stash lives in two open shelves in my den, where I can gloat over all the colors and textures. The majority of my perfume lives in three bread boxes on another open shelf, lids usually opened for display and gloating.

I did, admittedly, say "the majority". There's some fabric in bins, and some excess perfume here and there. That needs to go. But having most of it in a defined space makes it perfectly, visibly obvious how much I have. And if I refuse to re-overflow the space, it sets a boundary against future acquisition. It's under control.

Other things aren't under control. Boxes of books. Untidy stacks of sweaters. Too many bath potions. A little pool of shoes. They're not goat-trails hoarder chaos, but they're just not satisfactory. They give me that feeling that they're out of control. They're trying to give me orders. That just won't do.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

NaNoWriMo: Again, type faster!

Hey! NaNoWriMo has started!

As previously mentioned, this year I'm being a NaNoWriMo rebel--my plan is to write and post fifty thousand words in November. That would mean a roughly 1700 word post every day. I rarely write a post that long; the initial Farm Diary post, which seemed endless, was only about nineteen hundred words.

One traditional way to achieve one's word goal in NaNoWriMo is to add a whole lot of excessive and unnecessary and numerous words that one would not otherwise under normal regular everyday circumstances use while composing and planning and writing one's NaNoWriMo prose or fiction or other sorts of writing.

See what I mean? Yeah. I hope I'm not going to do that again. I'd prefer to actually have something to say, or, if not, at least sound relatively normal while saying nothing in particular.

Another, closer to universal, NaNoWriMo strategy is to refrain from editing. Some people recommend, in fact, not even watching the words appear on the screen; they cover the screen, or close their eyes (presumably only the touch typists; sheer gibberish is going a little too far), or set their font to white on a white background. I approve of this--too many writers seem to be afraid of letting an un-edited senence exist. However, if I'm going to post my words, there is going to be some editing. Probably.

Actually, the idea of editing only for typos is interesting. I pretty much never see my raw writing after it's cooled down, because I edit it while it's still warm. (Where is this analogy going? Is it about cookies?), that's not true, because in previous NaNoWriMos I have done the "don't edit" thing, and I didn't make any exciting new discoveries about my writing.

So. Did I make it clear that the fifty thousand words won't necessarily be fiction? I'm hoping that some of them will, but vanilla nonfiction like, for example, this post, will count.

Wow. I just did the count, and this post up to this point is about three hundred words. That's slightly less than one-fifth the daily goal. This may be more of a challenge than I really thought. I suspect, now that I think about it, that rather than writing a 1700-word post every day, I'm more likely to write, oh, three 600-word posts. Or so. Because I just don't know how long I can rattle on about one topic.

Though--as I think back to why I had this crazy idea in the first place--I think that writing longer pieces was part of the point. Longer pieces, longer paragraphs, longer thoughts. Suppressing the fear of people staring at my writing with the horrified fascination usually directed at decaying roadkill, pointing at me, and shrieking, "She wants someone to take her writing seriously! That's hilarious!"

I think I've mentioned before that when I write forum posts in forum posts where I'm anonymous, I am much more likely to be serious and to rattle on at length. Probably because nobody knows me. They get to know me, as that serious long-posting entity, and sometimes they like me, and then I'm irritated at myself for concealing my identity, because I'd like to combine all the people I interact with online. But by then I've generally said a dozen or so embarassing things, on the theory that no one will ever trace them to me, so it feels like it's too late.

Hmm. Five hundred and fifty words.

Speaking of embarassing things, it'll be interesting to see if the need to fill the daily quota will inspire me to open up on a wider variety of personal issues. While I'm certainly not the kind of writer that tries to pose as a dry and formal professional, I'm also not all that big on personal confessions. Yes, yes, I haven't shown all that much discretion when it comes to my relationship with my mother, but that seems to be an exception.

So are my rules for this rebellion perfectly obvious? Let's list them, just in case they aren't. Not to get more words, no, no, I would never do that. At least not on the first day. OK, rules:

  • Write fifty thousand words.
  • Of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, whatever.
  • They don't need to be one unified work, except in the sense that a blog is one unified work.
  • Post them all to my blog. Or my other blog.
  • In November.

Yeah, that's pretty simple.

By the way? Seven hundred and thirty-eight words. Your mileage may vary.

Let's circle back around to why I'm doing the Rebel thing instead of a novel. Partly because the was it three? novels that I wrote in NaNoWriMo failed to actually be novels. They ended up being a fairly random mishmsash of fictional scenes, and the third one wasn't all that more interesting than the second one. So it feels like time to do something different--for, yes, just the sake of being different--and see what I learn from it.

And then there's the posting part. It's my view that NaNoWriMo is all about poking perfectionism in the eye. (I occasionally consider what a T shirt to that effect would look like, but the graphic would be rather unpleasant, right?) But I have no appreciable perfectionist hangups about writing that I'm not going to show to anyone else. I want a new perfectionist front to attack, and writing that I am going to show to others, in the blog, seems like a good one.

Now, a better front would be breaking through my perfectionism about plotting. My NaNoWriMo novels are a series of random scenes because I hesitate to actually keep going with a sustained plot, because my plots look silly to me. That is without a doubt an example of perfectionism, one that gets right in the way of my goal to do more fiction writing, and I should be poking that one in the eye this year. But I'm not going to. So there.

Just about one thousand words. Seven hundred left to go for the day. Goodness me.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.