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Archive for December, 2009

Winners of Drawing, Dec. 2009

Well, there were four commenters, and I still have a bunchaminis… tell you what: Taz drew names out of his plastic knight’s helmet one by one, and you’ll each get to pick a mini or decant in the order in which your name showed up in his little paw.

1. Odonata9
2. pitbull friend
3. mittens
4. Patty

Please contact me at malsnano86 at gmail dot com with your email address, so I can offer you the list.  And thanks very, very much for commenting!  I may not mail these until after New Year’s, but I promise they’ll be forthcoming.

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When I was at college, my university chorus group put on a Madrigal Dinner every year.  It was a longstanding tradition that our director would prepare us to sing eight or nine madrigals, and the students would be in charge of everything else. 
And I do mean everything else, from arranging to rent the ballroom to organizing costumes, meals, publicity and tickets, from creating an original play to obtaining the services of the medieval-music club for instrumental music and the fencing club for demonstrations, from learning medieval dances and extra pieces of music for serenading guests during the meal to preparing decorations, including fabric wall hangings, fresh evergreen garlands, and clove-orange pomanders, and placing the hangings and garlands in the 14-foot-high ballroom.  There are 50 students and twelve weeks in which to get everything done – Ready, Set, GO!  
 
We called it Mad Dinner, and those four evenings were some of the happiest of my life.  (They were also some of the most stressful, especially the year I was Costume Co-chair.  I think I still have a bald patch on the back of my skull from that experience.)  I loved it – every Mad minute of it.  Pure joy, from wandering minstrels to cloved oranges to funny hats to candlelight to beautiful music.
For me, Teo Cabanel’s Alahine is Mad Dinner.
 
Notes for Alahine:
Top: Lavender, bergamot, ylang-ylang
Middle: Jasmine, Bulgarian rose, orange tree, pepper plant
Base: Iris, cistus, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla, sandalwood, musk
I probably wouldn’t have gone after Alahine on my own – I like amber, but if you’ve read my posts about Opium you know how I feel about resiny Orientals (hint: I’d rather slide down razor blades than spend any time cooped up in a room with them).  I’d ordered a sample of Oha, a dark spicy rose chypre that I thought I’d adore, and a sample of Alahine arrived with it in that package from The Posh Peasant.  Oha I found very beautiful but eclipsed by the stunning L’Arte di Gucci, with which I had already fallen in love; Julia, a soft floral with tangy fruits in the top, is also beautiful in a wistful, innocent way that feels a little naive for me to wear at this stage of my life.  I wasn’t expecting to love Alahine, and in fact upon my first test of it, its opening notes skated close enough to “Citrus-aromatic-masculine” that I almost wrote it off then and there.  But by the end of an hour, I found it heavenly.  Upon second wearing, I knew I wanted a bottle.
If I am paying attention to the notes – to what I actually smell – Alahine opens with a zesty burst of lavender and bergamot, which is highly aromatic and therefore difficult for me.  I am coming to expect it, and I know all I have to do is wait ten minutes before a lovely, creamy ylang-ylang will appear and soften the aromatics to a level I enjoy.  Shortly after that, the curtain rises to reveal a floral heart so well-blended that I can’t tease out any note except rose, and then only because I’ve become familiar with the deep winey rose in Caron Parfum Sacre’ and Ormonde Jayne Ta’if.  Spices swirl around these abstract flowers, spinning down into the ambery labdanum that is weighty and smooth as a heavy gold-colored satin shawl.   The scent hovers over this rich amber for hours afterward, caressing it with vanilla and patchouli and benzoin, and wrapping it up with a resiny thread.  I don’t actually smell any iris, but there is the effect of something cool there that I think must be due to the iris – it does seem like satin, after all, rather than velvet.
If I don’t pay close attention to what my nose tells me, but lift my head and go through my day only registering my impressions, I smell this: pine branches, curried fruit, flowers, mulled cider, cloved oranges, candle wax, vanilla liqueur, and the very faint mustiness from a costume that has been stored in the basement under Old Cabell Hall for several months.  I sense candlelight, and laughter, and the faces of friends, voices raised in song, and the excellent feeling of hard work that has paid off handsomely. 
 
When I wear Alahine, I smell joy.
For a few other reviews of Alahine, click on these links:
First image:  Natural  Christmas decorating! by LDHumes at flickr.  Second image: Medieval Group by tights&costumes at flickr.  No, it’s not my group, although we dressed similarly – I haven’t been able to find any photos of the Real Thing, probably because none of us could carry cameras in our costumes!
 
Madrigal Dinners produced by the University Singers of the University of Virginia are no more.  When Dr. Donald “Coach” Loach retired in 1994, they went by the wayside – seen, I think, as being too much work.  I raise a glass of mulled cider in honor of Coach, who was pictured recently in the alumni magazine, still looking his natty self in a pink polo shirt. 
 
(I hereby remind myself to someday post about the Kamikaze Tenors.)

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Yeah, I know… it’s Christmas, that wonderful time of the year when we give each other STUFF, in honor of the greatest gift ever – which was not, I remind you, wrapped up in paper printed with Santa faces and tied with red sparkly ribbons.

I have way too much STUFF.  (The CEO tells me this all the time.  He’s right, but I hate to admit that to him!)  Probably all of us have too much STUFF, and what we really need are things that can’t be wrapped up in Santa-face paper:  Time.  Family.  Love.  Kindness.  Grace.  Patience.  Contentment.  Forgiveness.  Relief from worry.

How often do I assume that my friends and family members just need another gift card or sweater or jar of homemade raspberry jelly, rather than my love/kindness/forgiveness?  Pretty often.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s easy to spend money and hope that some of the feeling that inspires me to do so comes through, without making sure the gift recipients know that I love them.

I gave up making handmade presents a long time ago.  It was even more stressful than spending money, and difficult to make the right thing for the right person.  Cross-stitch makes my hands hurt these days.  So does crochet, and besides, once you’ve made someone a fuzzy scarf, you really can’t give them another one.  Food gifts are handy, and making them doesn’t induce unpleasant finger tingling – but they’re not very personal.  Once you’ve made twelve jars of mulling spices, for all your aunts and cousins and the newspaper carrier and your hairdresser, one jar isn’t very special, is it?

And if I do nothing, nobody has any fun.  Maybe the way to do this is to spend a small amount of money, and spend some of my personal time as well.  So I’ll go ahead and get my brother that kitchen thingy he wants – and write him a personal note, too.  It’s a plan, people.

As a side note to all these STUFF comments, I looked over my perfume collection and found things that I’ve discovered I just don’t love.  I’d like these scents – they’re mostly miniature bottles, with a few decants – to go to good homes.  So I just posted them on my notepad at makeupalley.com, and will be listing them on my profile at fragrantica.com as well (I’m mals86 at both sites).  There are a few small decants I’d love to swap for, but other than that, I just want these little bottles to go to people who’ll enjoy them. 

If you’re interested in picking out one of the mini bottles for yourself, post a comment.  I’ll get Taz, my nine-year-old, to draw a name out of his bicycle helmet.  Winner gets to choose a prize from my list of Adoptable Minis.  Drawing closes on Thursday 12/10 at 12 midnight.

Image is 3 Presents Waiting by jonmatthew at flickr.

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Amaranthine by Penhaligon’s London, New for Fall 2009
Amaranthine is a corrupted floral oriental for those private moments when everything is anticipation. It opens with a dramatic flourish of spices and tropical green. This unsettling lick of drama is beautifully ambushed by an unctuous accord of jasmine and ylang-ylang, a heady bloom renowned for its aphrodisiac properties, and clove swathed in spices, tea, musk and the rounded beauty of tonka bean absolute.  The perfume is reportedly “reminiscent of the scent of the inside of a woman’s thigh”. *

Head notes – Green Tea, White Freesia, Banana Tree Leaf, Coriander Seed Oil, Cardamom Absolute  Heart – Rose, Carnation, Clove Oil, Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang Oil, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute   Base  – Musk, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Condensed Milk, Tonka Bean Absolute

You know what? For once, the ad copy is pretty accurate, although perhaps it overstates the “drama” and “aphrodisiac properties.”  * The hilarious quote about thighs is purportedly from composer Bertrand Duchaufour, from cosmeticsinternational.  It alone made me want to smell this thing, and people seem to be associating the scent with the word “thigh” now.  Maybe it’s just that “thigh” is a funny word, which it is.  Say it six times in a row: thigh thigh thigh thigh thigh thigh.  Kudos to you if you said it without snickering; I couldn’t.

And look at those notes, too – does that sound anything like thighs to you??  The notes say “tropical floral with oriental base” to me, and that’s a category I like in general.  So here it is the beginning of winter, and I’ve spritzed Amaranthine four days in a row, to make sure the experience isn’t a freak occurrence.  I think, honestly, it would be better in warmer weather.  It’s a bit light when one is wearing sweaters and shivering in a cold rain.  But even though it’s been less satisfying in early December than, say, Alahine (about which, more coming next week), I say this:  Amaranthine is beautiful.

It starts out with fresh, dewy florals only lightly dusted with spices.  I get very little tea from it, although other reviewers find it more prominent; I get more general “green” notes.  And yes, there’s a banana hit to it, probably from the ylang, although it’s a green banana thing, not an overripe squishy vibe.  I can’t identify rose in there, but the carnation is prominent, as well as the orange blossom. The jasmine is grassy and fresh, as opposed to that indolic heavy Joy-type jasmine that makes me think of dirty panties, and it doesn’t stand out. 

Eventually I get down to the base, which is soft and clings to the skin, and still retains a veil of freesia and orange blossom.  I was a bit worried about that “condensed milk” note, but although Amaranthine is a little sweet, it reads as floral sweetness to me rather than gourmand.  At this stage, it smells a bit like skin smells if the weather is warm and it’s been most of a day since it’s been showered: not squeaky-clean, but not smelly-sweaty either.  Like, you know, skin, warm and slightly moist.

It may be my nose, but I’m not getting of the weirdness some other reviewers have discovered.  Nor do I get the smuttiness that some people have described.  Is it just too cold and/or dry? Is my brain twisted? I’m not sure.  All I get out of Amaranthine is tropical, relaxed, fresh beauty.  I’ll be putting my decant away for a few months, at least, and wearing things more appropriate to this chilly weather.  When the time is right, I’ll know.

On a related subject (THIGHS!), I’m going to talk about body image.  I have a daughter in her early teens.  She’s healthy and fit; she’s petite; she’s still wearing a few things from the girls’ department, particularly dresses, as she finds the juniors’ department offerings immodest.  (I’m not complaining.)

But she said to me the other day after track practice, “You know, Mom, I have big thighs.” I looked at them and raised my eyebrows.  “They’ve got muscles.  I mean, you can actually see my thigh muscles. They’re runner’s thighs.”  I nodded.  “I think that’s the reason I have trouble finding jeans that fit.”  (Yeah, tell me about it.)  But I’m not going to apologize to my kid for giving her the thunder thighs genes, because – honestly? – she’s got great legs.  She complains that her broad shoulders make her shirts fit funny, and her muscly thighs make her jeans tight, and how her jeans are always too big in the waist if they fit her hips.    

And she’s looking around her high school at all the girls with thin thighs and thinking, How come I don’t look like them?, while I’m looking at her and thinking, Hey, that is my basic body shape, just younger and shorter and much, much thinner, and it’s beautiful.  It’s a swimmer’s body (okay, a short swimmer’s body!), and it’s healthy and athletic and beautiful. 

And I think I want it back.  I’ve been avoiding exercise for way too long.  Time to remedy that.

Ad copy from Penhaligon’s.  Top image: Amaranthine in the limited edition crystal flacon, from Penhaligon’s.
Center image: Shield Bug on Globe Amaranth by innermt at flickr.
Bottom image: 2008 Cross Country by nmhschool at flickr.  No, it’s not Bookworm, but she runs cross-country and distance track.  I’m so proud of her.

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Holy Cow, It’s December!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s the last month of the year.  Time does march on… (duh!)
I have so much to do.  I’m really glad I completed my National Novel Writing Month project a few days ago (yeah, okay, I’ll shut up about it now), but I’m very far behind on the whole Christmas thing.  It’s December 3:  three days before Bookworm marches in the local Christmas parade, ten days before my community chorus concert, twelve days before we’ll go get a Christmas tree, and three weeks before the Small People Living In My House will be pounding down the stairs, demanding to open their stockings and eat homemade cinnamon rolls.
I need a lot more time.  I haven’t bought any gifts; I haven’t baked anything; I haven’t decorated anything.
Next project: Make Christmas happen, simply.  I mean, I need simple and inexpensive and easy ways to make it feel like Christmas around here without doing a lot of the work myself – and I could pick up Better Homes and Gardens or Woman’s Day or some other magazine, but that would feel like wasting time.  (Blogging’s not a waste of time, is it?  Please tell me it ain’t!) Might have to go check out the emergency holiday missions at FlyLady.org, too.

As I’m formulating the Christmas plan, I think I’ll start by cleaning up the joint.  (Eek!)  Get all the fall stuff put away, help the kids pack up anything they won’t need over the winter months, ditch the “I haven’t used this in months” items lying around.  We’ll see how it goes.

As an aside, I smelled the Laura Mercier Minuit Enchante’ parfum that people are raving about on my favorite perfume blogs.  I don’t live anywhere near a Nordstrom’s, but managed to hit the one in Richmond a few days ago, in the course of  attending a farmers’ conference and, incidentally, visiting my brother in order to hold the new baby.  (He’s precious, of course. I got to snuggle him and kiss his little fuzzy head, but not for long enough.)  Anyway, I was expecting a big ol’ dusty resiny Opium-like thing, and instead what I got was a gorgeous spice overload.  It spends about twenty minutes in the too-sweet zone, but then it’s a pileup in the spice aisle, with freshly ground cinnamon tackling clove, and nutmeg jumping on top of vanilla bean.  I thought it was terrific.  Better, I got some on the inside wrist of my jacket sleeve, so my jacket still smells great too.

On the other hand, my brother, when invited to sniff my wrist, jerked his head back as if he’d been slapped and asked what I’d done to tick off the sales assistant.  As if you couldn’t guess, he doesn’t care for perfume. Minuit Enchante’ is a bit linear, and seems more like a Generally Good Smell than a serious perfume.  I’d rather have Teo Cabanel Alahine, otherwise known to me as Happiness In a Bottle, Winter Variation.  But ME is a nice thing to see in a mainstream release.  Bottle’s pretty, too, with that heavy magnetic cap.

Well.  I’d better get cracking on that cleaning-up thing.  I plan to be back tomorrow with a review of Penhaligon’s Amaranthine (better known to my swap buddies as Amaranthigh, or Amaranthingy).

Here are links to a few other reviews of Minuit Enchante’:
Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am
March at Perfume Posse
Angela at Now Smell This

Image is Advent Calendar by laurasjoquist at flickr.com.

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