Sunday, December 30, 2012

Blogging: Identity confusion and stinky cats

I need to change my blog name.


It would be different if the blog were about fried chicken. The first post was indeed about fried chicken, and while I anticipated more than one topic ("obsessions", after all), I expected chicken to have a larger presence.

The world certainly has room for a blog about fried chicken. And a database. Proper "twenty minute wait" pan-fried chicken is harder and harder to find, and even deep-fried chicken worth eating is increasingly scarce. Someone on a layover from the airport in Medford, Oregon, for example, should be able to connect to a website, select "bone in" and "deep fried OK" and learn that the fried chicken at Food4Less is startlingly good. Eliminating "bone in" and expanding the driving distance to include Ashland would let them know that Taroko's Pattaya chicken has a very high-quality crunch, especially if ordered with the sauce on the side. That Lark's fried chicken breast, while it sadly isn't bone-in, has a glorious crust that even stands up to gravy. And so on. The world needs that website.

But I haven't created it, and odds are I'm not going to. So that returns me, to: I need to change my blog name.


But what to call it? I'm hampered by my reluctance to lose the weird altogether. Most of my ideas are sort of...pretty. I thought of names like "Fragrant Trifles" or "Savory Trifles" or names with the word "whimsy" in them. But those names make me feel that they belong to someone who wears high-heeled shoes more than twice in a decade. On the other side, I thought of things like The Stinky Typist, but, well, I dunno.

While searching for deeply-out-of-copyright quotes about perfume, I kept running into the following:

I cannot talk with civet in the room
  A fine puss gentleman that's all perfume.
      - William Cowper, Conversation

I rather like that, in a contrary sort of way--I'm talking not only with perfume in the room, but in large part talking about perfume. And I love civet as a note, and they don't actually torment cats for it any more, right?

A blog named Civet in the Room? I already nabbed the domain name, but that's not a commitment, that's just for security while I dither; I could always release it.


Chicken Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Perfume: A basket of quick sniffs

I've been wearing perfume without reporting back. Shocking. I'll probably review these properly someday, but as I laze around on holiday vacation, I'm going to record my first impressions.

Sylvia Grojsman 100% Love didn't quite hit the right note for me. The vanilla and chocolate were lovely, but the roses and berries seemed to clash with them, rather like... like... OK, I don't know what like. To quote Buffy, "un-mixy things." I did enjoy the drydown, but I don't like having to wait for a clashing note to go away.

Parfumerie Generale Gardenia Grand Soir was just as lovely as it was the day I tried it in the shop--before I broke all rules and bought it the same day. But I didn't have any new thoughts about it.

I ordered a tiny 2ml decant of Mary Greenwell Plum because I remembered it being mentioned fondly more than once by Mals over at Muse in Wooden Shoes. The initial fruit note was exactly what I wanted--an idealized plum, or perhaps plum jam. Dark and intense but not sweet. But then the aldehydes came out, simultaneous with the thought, "Doesn't Mals refer to herself as an Aldeho?" and indeed she does, and Plum lost me for the next hour or so. The drydown turned likable again, but I think that this one is too grownup for me.

Montale Chocolate Greedy was a nice enough vanilla with just a dusting of chocolate. It brings to mind chocolate meringues or other chocolate creations that depend on cocoa rather than melted chocoalte for their flavor. Perfectly nice, but not what I had in mind. Is chocolate always either a fleeting note (Cacao and Guilt) or a dusty background presence (Greedy)?

Lady Stetson was pretty nice, and that's all I remember.

Sung by Alfred Sung was not what I expected. I expected green; I got only the faintest hint of galbanum trapped behind prickly thorny flowers, followed a good while later by knee-deep powder. Meh.

That is all.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Group Blogging Project: The Ghosts of Perfume Past, Present, and Future

Christmas--the secular festival, rather than the religious one--is about fantasy. Elves and sugarplum fairies, and a jolly old grandfather climbing down the chimney to give you sparkly things, never forgetting the batteries.

So as I thought about ghosts of past, present and future for this group blogging project (thanks to Natalie for organizing and Undina for the theme!), I found myself interpreting "ghosts" not as the dead, but as all those fictional spirits of Christmas. Santa Claus. Charlie Brown and Linus. Mr. Scrooge and Bob Cratchitt. Rudolph and Yukon Cornelius. Harry Bailey and Zuzu. Frank Cross.

"Frank who?"

Frank Cross! You know, the gleefully evil work-driven television executive played by Bill Murray in the movie Scrooged. ("When you don't work late, I can't work late. When I can't work late, I CAN'T WORK LATE!") When people of taste debate the best version of A Christmas Carol--the old-fashioned charm of the early Alistair Simms film, the drama of the George C. Scott version, blah de blah de blah, I hold firm to my favorite*. Scrooged. So there.

So... what fragrances would the Scrooged ghosts wear?

The Ghost of Christmas Past is a madly cheerful and cheerfully mad cigar-chewing cabbie who forces Frank to relive his early years. This ghost enjoys life--or would enjoy it if he had one any more. The office party, the young lady handing out portraits of her anatomy at said office party, the love of Frank's life (Claire, played by Karen Allan at her most incandescently adorable)--he enjoys them all, and lectures Frank on his lack of appreciation.

Ghost of Christmas Past: Let's face it, Frank. Garden slugs got more out of life than you. 
Frank: Yeah? Name one!

What does the Ghost of Christmas Past smell like? To look at him, you wouldn't imagine him wearing any sort of fragrance, but we'd all argue that perfume is a part of enjoying life, right? Right? Don't laugh; just humor me here. When I  conjure him up in imagination, in his cab, I smell a tiny thread of artificial pine, one of those hanging car fresheners, in a desperate losing battle with an ocean of stale cheap cigar. But if we imagine him on a date after a hard day of reforming the living, what fragrance does he wear? I struggled with this, until Himself presented me with the only and obvious answer: Hai Karate. Of course.

What about the Ghost of Christmas Present, played by Carol Kane? This spirit is playful, charming, ruffly-pink--and intermittently violent. ("The bitch hit me with a toaster!") She sings, she dances, she plays Trivial Pursuit along with mortals that can't see or hear her. She covers Frank's ears to keep him from hearing about his Christmas gifts. And then she hits him some more. ("The truth is painful.")

This one was a struggle--what fragrance is playful and loving, vain ("Oooh, a Christmas party! I’m so glad I wore my pretty dress!") and occasionally vicious? It occurs to me that that's a personality profile of a cat, but that doesn't give me the answer. After long deliberation, I'm going to go with Chanel Cristalle. It's beautiful, feminine, even swirls-and-ruffles feminine. But that galbanum sharpness hints at claws, perhaps as sharp as those of No. 19, even though they're better-concealed.

And the Ghost of Christmas Future? Dark. Cloaked. A skull for a face. Screaming creatures hiding in the folds of its robes. (Frank: "Did our people do that? We're gonna get letters.") For this ghost, I choose the most frightening, most soulless, most despair-filled fragrance that I know, so horrible that it has no name known to the general public, despite sharing our lives from cradle to grave...

White laundry musk.


That's the end for my scented ghosts. But don't forget to visit the other bloggers in the project!


*(Our household is not unanimous on this--Himself argues for the WKRP in Cincinnatti version as the very best, but he does give Scrooged second place.)

**(A side note: You may recall my Postal Regulation Phobia. I have a similar level of Copyright Regulation Phobia. Therefore, I will be linking you to images of the characters of Scrooged, rather than pulling them into the post.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

SOTD/Review: Byredo Pulp


I almost left the review at that one word, but then I started having thoughts. For example, Pulp is indeed fruity. It's a little abstract; it doesn't conjure up completely realistic three-dimensional fruit. But it makes me imagine warm, overripe, crushed pulp with bees just starting to investigate, rather than candy or sorbet or Torani syrup, as so many other fruity fragrances do.

It also announces "perfume" in the topnotes (Aldehydes? Something else?), as if to assure me, with a wink, that it has read its job description, and that it knows I'm a grownup. But that fades; within perhaps ten minutes it's just squashed fruit. And that's fine.

What fruit? The notes list has a lot of fruit and a few flowers. (Bergamot, cardamom, black currant, fig, red apple, tiare flower, cedar, praline, peach blossom.) But it all blends, so that it smells to me like a single unknown fruit, rather than an orchard or a salad. A stone fruit, I think, related to but very different from peaches or plums. Bigger and wetter and more brightly colored; the kind of fruit that you carry outside to eat over the grass, because it's going to drip that much.

But there's a gesture toward melon--it has a fair bit of that note that can make cataloupe smell just a little bit sickly. I'm guessing that's what makes some people smell decay in this, but it stops before it goes over the edge, and in fact I might like just a little more of it. It's this note that makes Pulp work for me on a winter day; it provides just enough sun and warmth without any risk of seasonal jetlag.

FTC Disclosure: I got the sample for free (bwahaha!) but in my role as a sniffsniffsniffing customer roaming the wilds of the Holt Renfrew perfume floor, not in my role as a blogger.

Review Roundup: MakeupAlley and Basenotes and Now Smell This and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Katie Puckrick Smells and Fragrance Bouquet and Perfume Posse and No Dissasemble Charlie No. 5 and WAFT.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

SOTD: Fracas Parfum

I've been establishing a foothold in some of the classics that are still considered worth owning. A high-quality but small foothold, which to me means a minimum-sized bottle of parfum. Or extrait. You know, that strong stuff. In a stopper bottle, because spraying parfum just seems wrong. And sometimes suicidal.

For a past birthday, Himself gifted me with three-quarters of an ounce of No. 19 parfum--a glorious excess above "minimum-sized." Some months ago, I acquired half an ounce of No. 5 parfum. I'm looking for the smallest possible Shalimar parfum--irritatingly, the only source that I've found selling a small stopper bottle online is out of stock, and another source only had those refill sprayer things. And I just received a quarter ounce of Fracas.  (That tiiiiny little bottle is so dang cute! (Did I say cute? No, of course not.))

I wore it today, and was a bit surprised--not disappointed, just surprised. I expected something stronger, dirtier, and less well behaved. What I got was distinctly...well, pretty. Certainly not a weak and watery kind of pretty, but it wasn't the indole bomb that I expected. I remember, somewhere, discussing whether some people's skins amplify weird notes while others mask them; I suspect that mine masks them. I'm going to have to try that Secretions thing and that Koublai Khan thing and see if they turn all prim and giggly.

Also, it had very little projection and it didn't really last long--or I quickly go anosmic to it. I realize that sometimes parfums blow up a room, and sometimes they are indeed quieter and closer to the skin, but it shouldn't fade so fast, should it? I'm confident in the source that I bought it from, so...well, puzzlement. I'll apply more next time, to see if that amps it up. Maybe I'm just parfum-phobic from my Shalimar trauma.

But it's beautiful. No whining from me there. Better-groomed and sleeker than I expected, but that's just fine.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Free-Association Friday: A glance at Arpege, and then it's just babbling

Lanvin Arpege was one of the first classic scents that I considered. I finally bought a bottle earlier this year, and wore it for the first time today. Aside from quailing at this evidence that I have too many bottles (it took me, what, three months to wear it?),  I'm not sure what I think. I remember my sampling as rich and dark; today's wearing is more aldehydic, prickly rather than silky-powdery, thin rather than rich. I'll try it again soon, and see if I can reconcile what's going on.

I find myself craving more perfume and less stuff. I want to buy bottle after bottle, and I want to sweep through the house and declutter sixty percent (or maybe eighty) (how about ninety?) (do we really need furniture?) of practically everything else. Both urges seem to be increasing as daylight and temperatures decrease.

Come to think of it, I also have an urge to buy teacups. I'm resisting that one entirely, because I rarely drink hot tea when I don't have a cold. But, what? I want the teacup that Giles used in the Buffy episode Inca Mummy Girl. Now, please.

Oh, and books. I want books. I finished The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman and got halfway through The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik and just started Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos. I don't, at least yet, seems to have a strong opinion about any of them. But I want more books. I should haul myself to the library, except I can't safely read library books in the bathtub.

A sample-sized decant of Montale Chocolate Greedy is on its way. And 100% Love. I suppose it's logical to crave foody perfumes in the winter.

Speaking of chocolate, I've been thinking of reviewing chocolate bars in the same way that I review perfumes. Is that weird? Somehow it seems weirder than reviewing tea, which many perfume bloggers seem to do.

We're watching Mad Men. The scene where Joan tells Peggy, "You want to be taken seriously? Stop dressing like a little girl." It makes me consider that I've never dressed like a grownup. I might like to give it a try. I think that those vintage perfumes are having an influence on me.

Speaking again of chocolate, I want some.

That is all.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

First Sniff: Slumberhouse Vikt

Vikt started out somewhere between medicinal and Cola-scented, leaning more toward the medicinal. And deep and dark. Not a lonely-wild-forest deep and dark, but citified and complex. My view at that point was that it was interesting, but that I was just going to enjoy it once as a novelty. Especially since I was getting a note that was just a little bit like cinnamon, and I don't like cinnamon.

Then it got sweeter and tangier (I keep using the word "tangy" lately; what's with that?), while remaining dark and resinous. People mention licorice and anise; I don't actually get those notes, but I get their mood. Now it's a comfort scent, while remaining deep and dark. I like it.

Review Roundup: Basenotes and Smellythoughts and Fragrantica and Memory of Scent and Confessions of a Perfume Nerd and Feminine Things.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

SOTD: Thymes Agave Nectar Body Lotion

It's about the grapefruit.

See, I don't usually use lotion. When I do use lotion, it's usually unscented lotion, and only on my hands.

But I was out sniffing last Saturday, and this stuff had the best grapefruit note that I've smelled since...well, since I last ate a grapefruit. But only in the body lotion. The hand cream had only a faint ghost of the scent. The fragrance had almost none at all. And my hands were chapped. And I love grapefruit, especially in the winter.

So I got a bottle of the body lotion and I'm using it on my hands. Gasp! And I'm loving the scent so much that I'm tempted to buy backup bottles, but I seem to recall that scented lotions don't last the way perfume does. So I'll try to enjoy this stuff for the fleeing pleasure that it is.

But, yum.

Image: Wikimedia Commons. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

SOTD: Providence Perfume Co. Lei Flower


Starts out gentle spice cookie, shifts to comfort scent, ends in a lovely tangy floral.

The website says it's being discontinued. Dagnabbit. I hate hurried decisions.

Image: By Janet Hudson. Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

First Sniff: Slumberhouse Pear + Olive

OK, I'm very confused by this one. It starts out fruity, a nice fruit, the brightness dimmed a little by... Well, not by olive. Not to my nose. It's a nice smell; I like it. But it doesn't make me think of bowls of pears or dishes of olives, it makes me think of one of my favorite places: The office supply aisle.

Paper? Envelopes? Expensive envelopes with expensive envelope glue? Yeah, I think that's it, plus a little bit of gum eraser. I like it, I really do, but my nose definitely doesn't read the note-that-isn't-pear as olive. Or as food, for that matter. Over time the fruit gets a little juicier, and the paper and glue get, well, a little fruitier. When I was a child, I used to have dreams where I'd fly around my grade school and eat the construction-paper decorative displays, and this smells roughly the way that I imagined that edible paper would smell like.

A while after that, it transforms into a very nice comfort scent, something with a vibe that makes me think of vanilla, despite a complete lack of any specific resemblance to vanilla. It's soft and warm and very nice.

And now, about nine hours later, it's a powdery white smell that reminds me of Douce Amere or baby powder.

I like it. But I very much doubt that Slumberhouse really put out a scent dedicated to fruit and office supplies. Therefore, I'm guessing that I'm anosmic to something in this scent, something that would make the olives fall into place.

Interestingly, I've often found that some scents with an "ambergris" note do smell very distinctly and specifically of green olives to me, and to no one else. I feel as if I should be able to form a theory from these two facts, but I'm not sure what it is.

So, I like it very much. But go smell it yourself, because I doubt that what I smell is what you will.

Image: By Peter Milosovec. Wikimedia Commons.

Perfume: The Sample Herd

I've been acquiring a lot of samples. A whole lot. Well, at least by my standards. And a couple of bottles. I can't decide what to write about first. So, anything below that you want an opinion about, from my admittedly-not-so-expert nose? Any that you've sniffed and you think I'd love or hate? Let's talk!

The candidates are:
  • Aftelier Tango, Fig, Candide, Honey Blossom, and Wild Roses
  • Ayala Moriel samples, some of which have been waiting for just about a year: Treazon, Fetish, Cabaret, Espionage, l'Herbe Rouge, Song of Songs, White Potion, Rebellius, Vetiver Racinettes, Viola, Autumn, and Megumi
  • Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Gelsomino
  • Dior vintage parfum vials: Diorama, Diorella, Dioressence, Diorissimo, Diorling, Dolce Vita, Miss Dior
  • Montale Dark Purple
  • Parfumerie Generale Gardenia Grand Soir
  • Providence Perfume Co. Moonflower, Osmanthus Oolong, Lei Flower, Divine, Divine Noir, Moss Gown, and possibly Cocoa Tuberose and Hindu Honeysuckle (The package is in the mail.)
  • Puredistance Opardu, I, M, and Antonia
  • Serge Lutens Santal Majascule
  • Slumberhouse norne, rume, jeke, grev, vikt, sova, and Pear & Olive.
  • Sonoma Scent Studio Nostalgie, Forest Wak, Winter Woods, Incense Pure, Tabac Aurea, Fireside Intense, and Jour Ensoleille
  • TokyoMilk Garden State Mix N' Match Eau de Parfum
  • Guerlain Vol de Nuit, vintage parfum vial.
And some non-perfume oddments:
  • Crabtree & Evelyn Citron honey & coriander lotion
  • Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners Hand Therapy. Not about the scent, but, well, my hands are going into winter dryness, so I'll be curious about how this is.
  • Thymes Agave Nectar body lotion
  • Thymes Eucalyptus body lotion
That's ignoring the preexisting sample backlog, and a few things that salesfolk tucked into bags along with bottles, that are now sloshing around in Ziplocs

FTC Disclosure: The Puredistance samples were kindly provided by the company, to me in my role as a blogger. The last three lotion samples were acquired for free in my role as an Ordinary Customer. I paid actual money for everything else, except for a couple of perfume samples that were kindly added to the ones that I ordered.

Image: By Joy Schoenbeger. Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rambling: FEED ME!

I skipped dinner, and now at eleven at night, I'm watching Julie & Julia. You know, the movie with all the food. So I'm making Pea Goop.  With cream. Ha!

Friday is Treat Day, when I decree that I'm allowed to have a serving of sugar. I skipped it, so I'll probably go get a cupcake tomorrow. Yellow cake, chocolate frosting. The correct cupcake for all thinking people.

We had a tree dropped off on our driveway. Well, OK, we had a cord of firewood dropped off on our driveway. We stacked about three-quarters of it, and the rest is still sharing the driveway with the car. We'll stack it somewhere tomorrow. Probably. I figure the maximum time that you can leave a heap of wood on the driveway without the neighbors looking at you funny is three days.

Actually, I've declared that stacking all the firewood entitles me to another serving of sugar, specifically an ice cream bar. Vanilla. With dark chocolate. Julie's. (Hey! Julie again!) Not that I've had it yet; I plan to go get it tomorrow. In addition to the cupcake. I really have to go strictly back on the low sugar thing. The beverage next to me is unsweetened tea, anyway. And I've resumed the discipline of always always having the availability of turkey sandwiches on crispbread, to reduce the chance of going on a cookie rampage.

I ate the Pea Goop. Now I want fried chicken. Promptly.

I'm ordering a lot of perfume samples. I finally started testing my Ayala Moriel samples, and then I ordered some from Sonoma Scent Studio, and then I declared a need to sniff more Aftelier scents, and then I read about Slumberhouse, and then there was Providence Perfume Co.

At least those are all artisan or small perfumers, which is supposed to be my new spending focus. I was going so far as to think that when I spend money on a perfume from some Evil Empire, I should put the same amount of money into a Good Cause, like NaNoWriMo or Wikipedia or some fine high-quality charity or something really crazy on Kickstarter. If Evil Empire perfumes cost me twice as much, maybe I'll cut it out. (And, no, the good cause can't be artisan perfume, because that just means I get twice as much perfume. No demotivator there.)

That is all.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quick Sniffs: Aftelier Honey Blossom, Fig, and Wild Roses

I was going to wait until I'd tried these thoroughly, done a Review Roundup, written and edited and edited my impressions, chosen just the right cat picture--you know, review stuff. But when I do that, I tend to forget, and I don't want to forget these. So:

Honey Blossom: The top is very tangy wrestling with very very sweet, honey-syrupy flower, which was a little too much for me on the first try, but I suspect that I'm going to learn to love it, because I adore the softer, grainer drydown and I'll need to smell it many more times.

Fig: This one struck me as startlingly similar to Tea for Two--it has a similar comforting foody but not too foody vibe. A similar odd combination of spicy and quenching. That doesn't match any of the reviews, but the reviews don't match each other, so I suspect that this is one of those chameleon scents.

Wild Roses: I rarely like rose perfumes. I love real roses. I love this perfume. I agree with the "candied rose", but it requires a redefinition. "Candied" usually means that any bite has been eliminated from the thing in question, and then the resulting blandness is brought back up to acceptability with sugar. That's not what's going on here. The rose still has its bite; it's tangy-orange-peel-bitter tangled with rose-soaked candied sweetness. And there I run out of words. But in case you had any doubts, I love it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Perfume: My Favorites

I love Hostess Ding Dongs. (I'd better run out and find some before they're gone forever. If they aren't already.) I'm not under any illusion that they're a high-quaity example of the pastry-maker's art, but I love the things anyway.

I mention this because I've been thinking about the difference between the perfumes that I hold in the highest regard, and the perfumes that I love the most. If I were required to come up with a list of the ten finest perfumes, I'd spend a long time fussing and researching and come up with a list of mostly well-regarded creations. If I were required to come up with the ten perfumes that I'd limit myself to for the rest of my life, I'd come up with a different list, after just as much fussing and researching.

When I want to come up with the perfumes that I love best, there's really not much fussing and researching; they just come forward and announce themselves. I'm slightly relieved to see that there are no real guilty pleasures in the lot, but that's just how it turned out, not evidence of any good taste on my part. 

So here they are, with links to the relevant Review Roundup. They're not presented in any particular order, except for their leader.

Chanel No. 19 ParfumWhen the call comes for the favorites to come on stage, most of them gather together, chatting and giggling. They hang back and wait for No. 19 to calmly, coolly, push her way through the curtain and stand--arms folded; why am I wasting her time on this?--before the audience. No. 19 isn't easy, or friendly, or affable; she won her position on grounds of sheer beauty. Clear, knife-sharp green softened with just enough floral sweetness to barely--barely--keep her from drawing blood. I'm a little afraid of her, and so I should be.

Shiseido White Rose: I've been struggling to explain White Rose, and I finally realized what I was recognizing but failing to put into words: Her personality. See, White Rose is utterly beautiful; I can imagine falling down and drowning in the rose and being perfectly happy to die that way. But beauty, however glorious, can be dull without context, some dominant aspect beyond the beauty--without personality. For Chanel No. 19, that personality is the abstractness, the other-worldliness, the razor edge of the green, the fact that I can see her standing on that stage, impassively watching me and daring me to declare White Rose to be her equal.

White Rose has enough beauty to spare for caricature; when I smell her I get a vibe that's exaggeratedly classic. I see debutante balls--not the debutantes, but the still-beautiful mothers in their ball gowns. I see The Shop Around The Corner, the well-dressed lady settled comfortably by the counter, tended by deferential shop assistants scurrying with perfume bottles. I see black and white photos of ladies lunching, and lengths of pink taffeta, and those little hats called fascinators. White Rose is classic, gorgeously so, but she's laughing about it.

Aftelier Cepes and Tuberose: I sniffed this one quite early in my perfume obsession, after reading about it in 100 Fragrances every Perfumista Should Try. It was beautiful then, before I developed my craving for the weird, and it's still beautiful as that craving grows. Tuberose is a wonderful inseparable mix of clean and dirty, bright, clear sweet floral beauty and warm, close, unwashed animalic notes. Cepes & Tuberose adds earthiness and forest floor and fungus as another contrast with the clean and bright, and in time it also introduces an oddly edible browned butter note. The result is deeply strange, faintly repellent, and therefore glorious. 

Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale: Fire; brilliant cold flying sparks. Ginger tapdancing on a shining marble floor. That gulp of ice-cold root beer quenching a thirst that was created just for root beer to quench. An ice-coated winter tree with the sun blazing through it. This is winter joy, but a comfortable joy, not the almost-too-deep kind that nudges up to sorrow and sometimes makes you cry.

Balmain Ivoire: I mean the fairly recent version in the ugly square-column bottle, not the earlier versions, or the newer version in the nicer bottle, neither of which I've ever smelled. It's odd to love this one, knowing, as I do, that it's probably a sad travesty of the original. Odder, given that trumpeting aldehyde blast at the top, when I'm still not sure that I like aldehydes. But I don't care. I love that aldehyde blast, and the dry now floral/now green top that's tippety-tap-heels ladylike, a lady with old-fashioned manners but feminine power. My favorite part is the drydown scent of expensive soap, one of the most luxurious smells of any perfume. 

Serge Lutens Daim Blond: And here's more luxury, a warm silk-and-fur pool of it. Daim Blond smells of suede and fur, but the apricot and heliotrope merge with those smells, making them almost edible. Sushi Imperiale is a dancing scent, one of movement and freedom; Daim Blond is a long nap, wrapped in scented fur.

That's only six perfumes. What happened to Cristalle? Serge Noire? Tea for Two? Cuir de Russie?  don't know; I still love them, but at least today they didn't step forward with the crowd of favorites.

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.