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Archive for September, 2009

Over the weekend I wore Mauboussin. A Swap Friend sent me a mini bottle of it to test, and it warmed me considerably in the chilly rain-bucket weather we had these past few days.

I have to comment on the bottle: it looks like some futuristic paperweight, doesn’t it? Weird cropped pyramidal shape, iridescent glass… yet this mini bottle (splash type, no spray mechanism) feels nice in the hand. I feel certain that the large spray bottle would feel similarly substantial, but that it might require two hands in order to spray successfully.

Mauboussin is a fruity oriental, and if I had to describe it in one word, I’d say: fruitcake! Please don’t run away… no, really, it’s nice. I happen to like fruitcake, particularly when it’s dark with molasses and rum flavoring. Yummy. Mauboussin opens with a burst of juicy, plummy goodness, and is almost boozy in its richness. (I’m dabbing from the bottle, not spraying, which may make a difference here. It has the potential to be overwhelming, at least for a few minutes.) There is a strange note apparent in the transition from top to heart; it smells rather artificial in some unidentifiable way – a reviewer on fragrantica.com calls it “blueberry bubble gum,” which I don’t get, exactly, but it’s weird in the way that very artificial candy-type flavors are. It may be a component of the “white peach” note. After ten minutes or so, that neon note tones down, and I begin to smell a honeyed peach overlaying the florals, which include a winy rose, a ripe and creamy ylang-ylang, and a wisp of jasmine. It’s rare for me to smell all the listed notes, and there may actually be other stuff in there, of course, but I can actually tease out all three floral components here.



My favorite part of Mauboussin is the drydown, which is deep with woods, benzoin, and vanilla, and like really good cream cheese icing, has a dense, smooth, almost-tangy sweetness. This stage, upon first wearing, reminded me both of Shalimar Light (a favorite) and Fendi Theorema. However, with repeated wear and comparison to both of these other fragrances, Mauboussin is clearly different. Fruitier than Shalimar Light’s fluffy lemon-custard, richer and less dry than Theorema’s spiced woods, Mauboussin retains its not-quite-gourmand dried-fruit mantle throughout. Although amber and patchouli – both aromas that tend to stand out to me – are listed in the notes, I don’t find them to be prominent here.  The florals and woods do keep it from being entirely edible, but it is still fruitcake-y, and would be lovely in sweater weather.

During my Theorema-Shalimar Light-Mauboussin comparison experiment, one thing became quite clear to me: I love Shalimar Light (I don’t mean Eau de Shalimar, which is the updated and ruinous successor to Shalimar Light/Shalimar Eau Legere) better than either of the other two.  I didn’t mean to pull a bait-and-switch on you with my “I review one fragrance and then comment I like something else better” bit, but looks like that’s what happened.  Sorry ’bout that.  Hey, Shalimar Light is getting really tough to find, by the way.  It’s been discontinued for a few years, but I bought my bottle in May from a discounter. It now seems that SL has disappeared from all the usual discounter sites.  Curses!  I did find it, though, at bayho.com, for approximately $41, including shipping, for the 2.5 oz bottle – but just got a message from bayho that it’s “backordered.”  Which means, I’m guessing, gone.

Notes for Mauboussin, from fragrantica.com:
Top: yellow plum, bergamot, red tangerine
Heart: white peach, Indian jasmine, ylang-ylang, Turkish rose
Base: amber, patchouli, sandalwood, cedar, benzoin, vanilla

Top image: Mauboussin for Women, from 99perfume.com.
Lower image: Free Range Fruitcake from gnuf at flickr.

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Holy cow, it’s nearly the end of September, and you know what that means – October.  And once October is over, then that means it’s November.  (Duh.)  And you know what that means…
NaNoWriMo!

If you have somehow been living under a rock… oh, no condemnation here!  I barely know the roster of the  Virginia Tech football team, which amazes my husband and children; they think I live under that rock… here’s the scoop, straight from the NaNoWriMo website:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.
 
Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
 
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

Now… what am I gonna do this year? Write that romance story that’s been in my head for, oh, 13 years? Sounds like a plan. I didn’t finish last year. I got to 45K words and just had to stop and Deal With Life. It’s terribly sad for my poor characters; Sara and Mariella and Tony and Colin and William all languish somewhere on a floppy disc. Which is bad, because I now have a new computer that has no floppy drive. And I never finished the thing because I lost my momentum, trying to keep a house clean and people fed and the like. How on earth do they expect a mother to take the time to do this sort of thing?
 
I hereby direct myself to cease and desist the whining.  If I’m going to do it, I’m just going to have to do it.  I mean, the world will be just fine without the story of Deena and Troy, but if I write them down, maybe they’ll get out of my head and leave me alone… 
To visit the NaNoWriMo home page:  http://www.nanowrimo.org/   (If you set up your own account, you can look me up – I’m Mals86.) 
Top image is keyboard- blur by striatic at flickr.   NaNoWriMo web badge is available to participants and kindly provided by nanowrimo.org.

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I’ve been reading with interest the posts and commentary at Perfume Posse over the last couple of days: “Taking My Sweet Time” and “Serge Is Not Your B*tch.” March and Patty are true perfumistas, fun and engaging to read, and I try not to miss their blog. (I enjoy reading Lee, Nava, Musette, and other posters there too, but March wrote the first post I’ve listed, and Patty the second. (Link here: http://www.perfumeposse.com/.)
The thrust of these articles is that sometimes, perfume critics/lovers get bored, either with the dreck currently being produced for the mass market, and/or with having to wear and review new things and therefore missing out on the scents they love. Or, with wearing a favorite scent but having to be very cerebral about it and thinking all the time about how one might write a fresh review – spending more time in one’s head than in one’s nerve endings.
Which I can understand, very easily. I like to cook, but some days it’s a struggle to get something edible and nutritious on the table… the only reason I do it is Because I’m the Mom. Because I Have To. And this blog is fun, really fun, but that may be because it’s not my job! I love to write, but I don’t have to do it, so it’s like a vacation.
And I love to sniff perfume, but it’s also true that I don’t have to do that. I’d be sniffing new things anyway, just for me – and since I’m pretty new to this perfume thing, everything smells new to me, whether it’s Lucien LeLong Indiscret (1950’s), Yves Saint Laurent Paris (1980’s), or that new Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles (this month!)… It’s the first time that “behind and needing to catch up” has any sort of benefit for me. And I haven’t smelled a lot of dreck, either, although I have smelled a whooooole lot of “Nice, but not thrillin’ me.” Setting out to smell “the classics” really sorts out the dreck automatically. If some 1950’s aldehydic floral or other didn’t stick around for a decade, it was probably dreck, and therefore would not even hit my radar screen, unlike a lot of the fruity floral calone fresh berry melon patchouli blah that seems to bore so many perfume writers (and who can blame them?).
A quote from a favorite book of mine, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt:

“Well, it’s nine-thirty A.M., said Joe, “and I ain’t bored yet.”
Joe goes on to describe his morning, describing the busload of tourists scheduled to stop by for a tour of his Savannah house and have lunch, the hairdresser friend working in the kitchen, and the naked couple he found in his bed when he woke up.
“Anyhow,” he went on, “my two newest naked friends got dressed. The boy had tattooes on his arms… at this very moment, both he and the girl are in the kitchen helping make shrimp salad for forty polka dancers. Jerry’s in there too, cutting Mandy’s hair, and that’s why I say I ain’t bored yet.”

And I ain’t bored yet either – there’s too much going on. So. There you have my two cents’ worth (I take checks, if you’re wondering) on the matter. Bear in mind that I am still new to perfume interest and new to blogging, and who knows? In five years I may be so sick of perfume that I’ll choose to live the rest of my life with only a bottle of vintage Emeraude for sustenance. But I don’t think so. We’re fresh out of ennui here. If you’re all stocked up, you have my sympathy.


Go pick up Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil at your local library, if you haven’t read it yet, by the way. It’s a fascinating read – an unusual beast of a nonfiction book that reads like a novel, based on the time that the author spent in Savannah, GA in the early 1980’s and focusing on a murder trial that took place during that time.

There also exists a movie based on the book, by the way, in case you haven’t seen it either. I have seen it, and although I do luuuuuv me some John Cusack, I wasn’t impressed. “Midnight” is the kind of book that loses a great deal in adaptation for film, since so much of the book consists of the author’s commentary (or – equally striking – lack of commentary) on the eccentric people inhabiting Savannah, and the bizarre set of events he reports. Cusack does a great job, as usual, with his detached, ironic mien, but odd characters always seem less odd on the screen than they do on the page. I found myself not caring much about the drag queens, disturbed scientists, freeloading musicians, and rich antique dealers running around the set, although I found them rather compelling within the book covers.

Well, it’s Friday afternoon, and I’m about to enjoy another utterly thrilling wet and chilly weekend, jam-packed with housecleaning, laundry, and cooking… but I’ll be wearing Mauboussin and rereading “Midnight” at bedtime. My thanks to Bergere for the Mauboussin!

Top image: “Ennui” by Walter Sickert, at unframedart.com. (Note: Walter Sickert [1860-1942] was a painter of German-English extraction, who was a student of James Whistler and friend of Edgar Degas, and whose Impressionist paintings are sombre and often brooding. This is one of Sickert’s paintings that helped to convince Patricia Cornwell, acclaimed murder-novel author and fellow Virginian, that Sickert was Jack the Ripper. If you’re not easily terrified by suspense, pick up “Portrait of a Killer/Jack the Ripper: Case Closed.” That one scared me for months. I won’t comment on her conclusions, which are derided by many Ripperologists, but her research was extensive.)
Lower image: Jacket art for “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” photo of Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, by Jack Leigh, at amazon.com.

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Very brief post today, ya’ll. Yesterday I tested Sonoma Scent Studio’s Tabac Aurea, and was absolutely knocked flat by my emotional reaction to it. I’d like to review this gorgeous thing, but I’m not sure I can be objective at all. You see, Tabac Aurea smells just like an old boyfriend of mine. I spent all yesterday in a tailspin, and I can’t manage to be coherent about the scent.

Here’s perfumer Laurie Erickson’s description, from the SSS website:
Tabac Aurea has an enticing golden amber drydown and a pipe tobacco note that is gentle enough to be enjoyed by women as well as men. It’s smooth and softly gourmand, with notes of amber, woods, spices, tobacco, leather, tonka, labdanum, patchouli, and vanilla. The amber accord combines earthy, dry notes with some sweet notes and subtle fruity notes to create a beautiful, woodsy, golden aura.

Just for the record, I am happily married (to someone else). I don’t miss this guy; I don’t want him back; I haven’t seen him for twenty+ years and I’m not about to go looking for him. But he smelled amazing – and it was just his natural smell, he never wore cologne.

I burned through my sample already, and I neeeeeed some Tabac Aurea, smelling as it does of autumn and nostalgia. If my heart stops turning over, and I can manage some objectivity at some point in the future, I’ll review it. In the meantime, though, just go visit the SSS website and order a sample: http://www.sonomascentstudio.com/FragranceShop.shtml

Thanks to dear Daisy for the sample.

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It’s fall. You know how I know? Well, the air is getting crisp; leaves on the maples are turning red and yellow; we have fall calves in the field behind the house; my husband – who, for blogging purposes, I call The CEO – is deeeeeeep into college football. And the biggie: marching band season has started.

My daughter – she needs a nom de blog – is a 9th grader this year. She’s playing alto sax in the marching band, and she loves it. Just loves it, and she’s terrific at it. I’m so proud. What’s really fun about that, of course, is that I get to go to all the competitions and cheer on her band.

And relive my high school experience, too. See, I was in the marching band. I didn’t play an instrument; I was a stalwart member of the choir, and there just wasn’t any way to do both. So I took choir class and marched with the drill squad – the best of both worlds, in my opinion. I got to go to regional, state, and honors choir, and I got to eat lunch daily with the rest of the band geeks!

Recently, some friends posted some pictures of our high school band on Facebook. (Isn’t Facebook great? Fun to see where your friends have wound up and what their lives are like now.) Here’s one of the band the year before I joined it (I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a credit for this photo, except to note that it was an “official” one taken at the VA state marching band competition, West division, held at our high school in 1982. I’ll be happy to add a credit and/or purchase rights if anyone recognizes it.)

Yes, that’s right, your eyes work fine… our colors are orange and maroon. The band uniforms themselves have changed over the years. After I graduated, they moved to white military-style uniforms with lots of orange trim, gold braid, and brass buttons. Ick. Saw the current band yesterday at a competition, and their uniforms are mostly black, which I can’t get used to, with white, orange, and maroon accents. They’re sharp. I’m not in this photo, but I look it over and see so many friends… thanks for the memories, guys. Who are you? BYRD!

Nobody else – and maybe this is a good thing – had anything like our big orange plywood letters. They were great for parades, fun for football games, but difficult to choreograph for competitions. No judge ever knew what to do about our letter squad, except to treat us as a drill squad, and of course we never scored very high. I loved being “a letter,” and hangin’ with the girls. Jackie, Angela, Betty Jo, Stephanie, Nita, Dawn, Laura, and especially Angie, Carlynn and Trudy – you rock. I miss you. 

Here’s another photo, taken at a football game in October 1984 by Angie’s dad. The uniforms have changed – hey, how about those yarn tassels on our boots? Quality items right there! – but there we are, with our big orange letters in all their funky, hard-to-wield glory. (I’m the one carrying the R.) And you can’t see the scoreboard, but I’d be willing to bet we were losing the football game.

Ah, I miss those days. I didn’t realize until yesterday how much I missed cadence… here’s a youtube video, about 2 minutes long, of a really fun high school drumline cadence. (Questions for percussionists: when your high school band director issues you a school-owned percussion instrument, does the Drumline ‘Tude come standard with it? Do you have to pass a test on the proper method of crossing your arms percussion-section style before band camp? I just wondered.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOPq92zoCsA&feature=response_watch

Yep, ol’ Mals has got Band Geek Syndrome again. And she’s got it baaaaad.

The top image is from the website devoted to my daughter’s band. For safety reasons, I’m not identifying it, but will be happy to provide a link; just email me. Thanks to Rick Lawhorn, Trumpet Extraordinaire, for posting the second image. And thanks to Angie Chaszar for the photo of the Letter Girls. You sparkle, girl.

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L’Arte di Gucci is gorgeous, a lushly sensuous and rich-smelling rose chypre. It is bottled elegance, all cheekbones and red lipstick and swan neck, a sophisticate in a fitted suit, with naughty black satin-and-lace undies. Which is very much not my personal style – but I adore L’Arte nevertheless.

Or perhaps I love it the more for being what I’m not but would like to be. There’s very little room in my life for expensive naughty undies; I gave up fitted suits aaaages ago, before I got pregnant with the first of three children; I’ve never had a swan neck or long legs. I look horrified (and horrifying!) when I wear black, particularly the sort of slinky black thing that seems to just go with L’Arte di Gucci. Think evening gowns in black lace, hats with veils, stiletto heels, Singapore Slings and cigarettes in holders. Think Alexis Carrington, from Dynasty. Think everything that says Expensive and Haughty Heart-breaking Female Here; if you fall in love with her, it’s your own stupid fault for not resisting.

And let’s have a word about that bottle at this point, shall we? Can you say UGLY? Can you say Tacky, boys and girls? Somebody done hit it with the Ugly Stick, as we used to say when I was growing up. (We also said, “Ugly as homemade sin,” but clearly the word “homemade” has no discernible relation to the bottle of L’Arte, as tarted up as it is in black and gilt.) Holy cow, is that thing ever a bottleful of Boogie Nights! On the other hand, it is opaque black* glass – super for keeping the fragrance safe from exposure to light – and quite satisfyingly heavy, with a subtle curve not apparent from the photo. *I refer to the edp version; the edt has the same shape and hideous gold squiggle, but its glass is clear. This is my bottle:

L’Arte di Gucci was released in 1991 – but smells very retro to me, with the saucy backbone one expected of fragrance in the late seventies. If you have smelled Ungaro Diva, another Big Rose Chypre which was released in 1983, L’Arte di Gucci will smell familiar to you, although L’Arte seems more focused on the rose, more forceful, and less symphonic.

From Fragrantica.com, here are the notes for L’Arte di Gucci:
Top notes are aldehydes, coriander, fruity notes, green notes and bergamot.  Middle notes are mimosa, tuberose, orris root, jasmine, muguet, rose, geranium and narcissus.  Base notes are leather, amber, patchouli, musk, oakmoss and vetiver.

I do not smell much in the way of aldehydes here, but bergamot and green notes are prominent. The unspecified “fruity notes” undoubtedly include cassis bud, with its intense, shocking-pink tartness. I notice that spraying the scent makes the cassis – which can read as “cat pee” to some – far more noticeable and bitter, and I also typically smell a plasticky note when I spray that I do not notice when I decant and dab instead. I very much prefer to dab this one.  When I read the back of the bottle, and (ahem, attempt to) translate the French, I see that tagete (marigold) and cassis bud are both listed, but aldehydes and “green notes” are not.


The heart is nearly all rose-geranium, with the other florals very much in the background, simply adding some roundness. I do smell the cool iris here, and the deep haylike nuance of narcissus serves as a bridge into the drydown, rich with the bitter edge of moss and patchouli and sweet with amber and musk. I do not smell leather, nor much vetiver, but I do often smell a fuzzy, skinlike note that I believe to be the costus (listed on the bottle, not on fragrantica).  I like it.

Once the Joan Collins/Disco Era/Big Hair Glam effect of the opening is over, my general impression is that of a wildly overgrown garden, roses and thorns, exotic flowers and bizarre Gothic vines snaking about the cast-iron seating, with late afternoon sun shafting down through the clouds and creating an intense pink-and-green light and shadows effect. I’d say chiaroscuro, but in my mind at least, that refers to black, white, and graytone, and L’Arte is decidedly colorful.

L’Arte di Gucci was discontinued in 2007, probably done in by the one-two knockout punches of 1) the general taste tending toward the sweet and gourmand, and 2) the IFRA regulation of oakmoss. A sad situation. I’d hoard the bottle I have, but I love it too much. It can still be found, particularly in the edt version (which I have not smelled), on the odd online discounter, or at ebay. The 5ml bottles of edp seem readily available at ebay, however, at the time of writing. Try to pick one up if you can.

Top image is of Joan Collins as the superbly nasty Alexis Carrington, from flickr. Second image is of Bianca Todd, a photographic portrait made by Peter A Juley & Son, from Smithsonian Institution at flickr. (Ms. Todd was a painter in the 1880’s; I’ve never seen her work but I’d like to. She certainly looks as though she was really having fun, and not simply showing off her opera costume. I’ll bet she was a fireball.) Third image is from the author’s collection. Fourth image is Hottest Pink Rose by julev69 at flickr.

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Fragrant quote

“Fragrance is the only thing that’s about your being, your soul, and it’s for people size zero to twenty two and ages twelve to ninety.”

-Michael Kors
 
 
 
 
Image is of “Morning with Rocks 1994” by Alex Katz.
My gratitude to Divina of Fragrance Bouquet blog for the quote.

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