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Archive for July, 2010

So it’s the height of summer. Boy, is it ever summer around here! Hot, muggy, lots of wasps and ripe tomatoes… Here are five things I’m enjoying in this weather:

  1. Smooth and CoolingJacomo Silences.  I hated it the first time I tried it last fall, finding it “screechy” and “frightening.” Since this past spring, it has become a must. This fragrance is all texture and color to me – a beautiful, smooth silk satin that stays cool in the heat. It’s a changeable color, too: that beautiful shifting shade, from icy-green galbanum through soft pink rose and purple-gray iris root to a beautiful mossy green.
  2. Light and RefreshingMiller Harris Fleur de Matin. A little wisp of a scent that somehow manages to stay crisp a long time, with galbanum, citrus, jasmine and honeysuckle, and some herbs.
  3. Fruity Cocktail, complete with little pink paper umbrella Ines de la Fressange, the first one in the octagonal bottle with silver lid (not the gold leaf bottle). This one always reminds me of mimosas and fuzzy navels and cheese straws, consumed with friends wearing either big hairbows and tea dresses or khakis and striped ties, amid juicy gossip. Aldehydes, citrus, tangy peach, rose, violet, sandalwood and musk, very girly. Basically, it’s a Brunch Party On the Lawn with the University Singers, and it just smells good.
  4. Fun and FrivolousHonore des Pres Vamp a NY. Sometimes you just want a root beer float, my friends. Vamp is just the ticket: root beer, spices, a big friendly tuberose, and vanilla. As open and uncomplicated a scent as I’ve ever come across, trashy but wonderful. Goes great with popcorn, by the way.
  5. Happiness is a Rose GardenParfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete. This one smells just like yellow roses to me, my very favorite, plus a bit of Golden Delicious apple. Another simple and friendly scent that sweetens my days.

I know you’re wondering, Where are the woody citruses? The colognes? All we see here are florals – rose and jasmine and tuberose. Don’t you wear anything else?

Well… no. I just don’t do cologne. The closest I come to cologne is the aforementioned Fleur de Matin. Or maybe Moschino Funny!, a happy grapefruit-rose-tea thing that is sprightly and uplifting. Or possibly, maybe, if the planets align and I’m in the right mood, Eau Sauvage. I’ve come to realize that I always seem to feel like I’m wearing someone else’s underpants when I try to wear cologne. It’s Just Not Me. And I’ve come to terms with that.

Stay cool…

Image is from foxandfeathers at Flickr.

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Monday, July 19: Just signed Bookworm up for Running Camp – next week, all week, at a college not too far down the road. Hope she doesn’t die in the heat. My desk at work was piled a good foot high with papers, even though Allan and Brad managed to keep things fairly well up to speed while I was gone on vacation (thanks, guys). SOTD: Vintage Emeraude pdt, mmm. It had worn off by the time I finished work and headed to the grocery store, and I had a spray sample of Vamp a NY in my purse, so I put on a spritz of that. It’s just this side of delicious.

Tuesday, July 20: The kids spent the day at their grandparents’ house, because The CEO’s mother needed to go to an all-day meeting, and these days his dad needs the same kind of care a toddler might. My FIL, while still quick with a joke or a story, is physically rather frail – he’s 85, he has a hereditary blood clotting disorder for which he’s been on Coumadin for 40 years, he has Type II diabetes, he’s rather deaf (I blame the farm equipment), and a few years ago he was diagnosed with a degenerative type of ailment that is similar to Parkinson’s disease. In the past ten years he’s suffered a broken arm from being knocked down by a cow, a back injury from falling off a truck, a moderate stroke, a heart attack, a milder stroke, and now the Parkinson’s-like thing, which makes it hard for him to get around. So he needs help in the bathroom, and he can’t prepare his own food. (To be honest, he’s never prepared his own food. My MIL used to ask me to come over while she was gone on the occasional 3-day trip, so that I could heat up his meals in the microwave. Seriously. He was perfectly capable of choosing his food and carrying a plate to the table, and of putting dishes in the dishwasher afterward, but he didn’t know how to run the microwave, and refused to learn.) In any case, the kids went to “ride herd” on their grandpa while I was at work. I think they were bored silly, but nobody complained… what sweethearts.

SOTD: one drop of vintage Guerlain Parure edc (courtesy of Queen Daisy the Enabler) on my thumb. I hate this thing. (Sorry, Daisy.) This is a fruity chypre, isn’t it? Bleargh. Every single one of those I’ve tried, I’ve hated, and I mean I hated them all enough to blowtorch the lot. Parure? Mitsouko? So Pretty? Yvresse? All utter, utter disasters. After a couple of irritable hours, I gave up, washed my hand, and got out the never-wrong Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere. This is the thing I always keep in my purse, because while there might be another choice that would be more perfect for the situation at hand, Eau Premiere seems to fit just about anytime. I’m never sorry I put it on.

Wednesday, July 21: We have garden TOMATOES! I’monna make myself a mater sammich for lunch: two slices white bread, the softer the better, real mayonnaise (Duke’s, please), a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper. And a 3/4-inch slice of the biggest, ripest tomato I just picked right off the vine. It’s best if your tomato is big enough to cover most of the bread slice, but you can layer slices from a smaller tomato if you must. Yum. Some people add American cheese, but I think that’s sacrilege. SOTD: Divine L’Ame Soeur, because I was in a hurry and aldehydes are my no-brainer choice in the summer. P:TG calls this one “pale, vegetal, and sour.” Pale I get. Vegetal, no. Sour? Huh-uh. It’s actually rather sweet on me, not quite the sugary crunch of Chanel No. 22, but heading in that direction.

SOTEvening Two Hours Right After Supper: Parfums DelRae Coup de Foudre. Gorgeous for an hour, then it’s gone. I ought to swap this thing (a 10ml decant) away, because it just frustrates me. Actually, I ought to swap away several things I’m not wearing… like maybe keep a small decant of my 2006 Diorissimo and trade the rest. Or the Ivoire de Balmain, which is pretty if I’ve got enough time to let it bloom, but the weather never seems quite right for it. Or the Le Prince Jardinier Labyrinthe Libertin, which is a nice herbal cologney thing but I just don’t care much for colognes. Gah.

Thursday, July 22: Hied Bookworm and myself to the dentist for maintenance cleanings, and while we were there they kindly fixed my tooth where an old filling had broken off and gotten rough. SOTMorning: AG Heure Exquise edp, from a sample sent to me by AnnS, who loves the stuff. We split the difference on HE and No. 19: I love 19, and just like HE, and she feels the opposite. She’s still trying to convert me, and I’m still wearing samples of HE and saying to myself, “You know, this stuff is pretty good, but it makes me want to wear something else. Like No. 19. Or Silences.”

So after taking Bookworm shopping for a few things she’ll need for running camp next week, I applied Silences where HE had worn off. Then I went to work, which freaked all my coworkers out. They hate it when I come in to work in the afternoon, instead of my usual morning hours. I think it messes with their brains. “You’re here? My gosh, is it Friday already?”

Friday, July 23: HOT HOT HOT again, mid-90s and humid. I’ve been feeling guilty about wearing old favorites, thereby neglecting samples people have been kind enough to send me. SOTD: Guerlain Metallica. Which I knew had been renamed/rereleased as Metalys, and judging by its name, I thought it was some sort of lily+helional thing. Wa-RONG. It’s aldehydes +carnation +vanilla. Which I totally dig, although the vanilla (the official notes say amber, but it’s the same variety as in Bvlgari Black) is a little more powdery than I would find ideal. And now I find that Metalys is still available (at “discontinued Guerlain” prices), but it’s less carnation and more vanilla, which is the exact opposite of the proportions I’d like. And then I went looking for a source of real carnation absolu, which is a whole ‘nother story…

SOTE: Shalimar Light (blue juice). Shalimar would probably kill me in the heat, but SL is great for bedtime. I happen to find it a lemon-vanilla heap o’ sexy.

Saturday, July 24: SOTD: the dregs of Shalimar Light, which does hang around a long time. We’ve been cleaning the house and mowing grass, and this afternoon we planned to visit the local pool, and that meant I didn’t bother with applying more scent.

Post-pool, though, I put on a bit more Shalimar Light. I don’t know why it’s so appealing to me right now, but it is. It’s probably a little too heavy. Watched The Bourne Identity again on TV. Chris Cooper is, as absolutely always, pitch-perfect. And I love Franka Potente – you know she doesn’t get cast because of her looks (although I think she’s lovely in an unusual sort of way) , but because of her talent. Her face is so open and expressive. I like Matt Damon a lot; I think he’s a talented actor and a really bright guy. But I keep wondering if he wasn’t the wrong choice for Jason Bourne because Damon is so patently nice. He doesn’t look like a hardened assassin who has suddenly developed a conscience.

Sunday, July 25: Saw Bookworm off to running camp (thank goodness for carpools! We didn’t have to drive her ourselves) and went on to church. I was working with the preschoolers again and didn’t want to be radiantly perfumed, so went with Prada Infusion d’Iris. It’s a nice little wallpaper scent, but I wish I’d picked something like Lancome Mille et une Rose instead.

I finally mowed the yard, after three and a half weeks of dry weather.  It rained about two inches this week, and the yard has greened up and started to grow again.  It’s full of weeds, of course, because poor weather favors the brazen plants: Queen Anne’s lace and chicory, pigweed and sandbriers, plantain and chickweed, bull thistle and musk thistle and the truly-prickly Scotch thistle.  Oddly, you know, thistle blooms smell really lovely: a milky, honeyed sweet fragrance.  Butterflies love them. 

Image is “Inside display cabinet” by yarnwench on Flickr.

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I’m trying to catch up at work after vacation… eek.  I’m working on a post about some raw materials from the lovely/ kind/ knowledgeable Helg at Perfume Shrine, which I won in a giveaway, but there are twelve samples and it’s taking awhile.  I also have a short list of seasonal scent picks that isn’t quite finished.   (Also, the house is a MESS.  And I have to mow, which will take about an hour and a half.)

To tide you over until I can post something worthwhile, here’s a fun video from my childhood:   Yellow Lollipop – Electric Company.  I actually woke up with this in my head today.

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Monday, July 12: We got a later start than we’d planned (when do we ever leave on time?), but the trip was smooth and uneventful. SOTD: Mariella Burani. Cheapie Wendy’s lunch, with trail mix and Gatorade in the car later in the afternoon. On the way to Charleston, we went so close to Columbia that The CEO thought it would be good to stop there and have a look at the SC State House. When we parked on the east side of the State House and put coins into the parking meter, Eddie said it was 97° F. My MB was pretty much gone at that point, and that was a good thing in the heat…

Side note: I’d better warn you, The CEO and I are those irritating people who give things cutesy names. As in, his vehicle, a Toyota Camry, is for obvious reasons called Cameron. My bought-used Dodge Caravan is Eddie Van, as in Eddie Van Halen. And the microwave is Mike Jr., the water pressure booster pump is Hans-and-Franz (it’s here to Pump YOU Up!), and the ice maker is Fidel (it’s always cubin’). There are more, but I’ll stop now. You’re welcome.

The SC State House is indeed quite beautiful: marble floors and glass mosaic windows and gorgeous wrought iron balustrades and handrails. They have cool bronze statues of George Washington and John C. Calhoun, and portraits in oil of historically significant South Carolinians, including Mary McLeod Bethune and Edgar Allen Poe. We were surprised to see portraits of Virginians Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (okay, okay, he was actually born in what is now West Virginia, but lived much of his adult life in Lexington, VA) prominently displayed in the SC House of Representatives room.  

Another side note: How about those South Carolinians keeping the War Between the States alive, hmm?  I thought we Virginians were bad. Funny/sad/true story: for years, beginning in the early 20th century, there was a state holiday in January called Lee-Jackson Day, celebrating RE Lee’s birthday.  (A kid from Pennsylvania asked me once, “Who’s this Lee Jackson guy?”)  Then when the federal government declared a national holiday celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., guess what day that fell on?  Yep.  So in Virginia, for about a decade or two, we celebrated Lee-Jackson-King Day, until the state holiday was moved to the Friday before MLK Day.  If that isn’t irony for you… 

The State House grounds were lovely as well, and I finally got to smell live osmanthus! A gorgeous floral-apricot smell. And magnolia is too – it smells like creamy, floral lemon custard. Which I knew, but I don’t get to smell magnolia much since it’s just a wee bit too cool where we live for most magnolia trees to thrive. We can grow a variety called the sweet bay magnolia, though it doesn’t smell quite as lush as the ones here in SC.

Tuesday, July 13: Visit to Ft. Sumter via ferry. Hot. Honestly, it’s like living in a sauna… (said the spoiled mountain-dweller). SOTD: Moschino Funny!, a lovely grapefruit-rose-tea thing that I liked much, much better than the way fancier Hermes Pamplemousse Rose, and that I once denigrated for being a pretty little wisp of nothin’ special. Which just goes to show that weather is important. First time I tried it, I wasn’t sure I was wearing anything at all, but it lasted several hours in miserable heat today.

I’m not sure whether we enjoyed Ft. Sumter, or the ferry cruise to the island that houses it, more. Taz found the cannons and their emplacement in the remains of the original fort engrossing, and we practically had to drag him away. “Look, Mom, you could slide it along this curved track like this, and you had to get away from the back, or it would recoil after you fired it, and it would knock you dead! And see… this one’s got a rifled barrel…”

After Ft. Sumter, we drove over the coolest bridge I’ve ever seen – the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, that’s it up top – and visited the naval museum on the decommissioned WWII-era aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. The Medal of Honor museum aboard the Yorktown was very moving. The boys were in absolute heaven exploring the flight deck and captain’s bridge, as well as the numerous types of military aircraft stored on the flight deck. They were less impressed with the crew quarters and mess hall, not to mention the machine shop and torpedo shop. (Although I think it gave them a new appreciation for their granddad, who served aboard a destroyer tender – a much smaller ship – based in Norfolk, VA in the early 1960’s. “Wow… he had to sleep on a weird bed like that? And climb up ladders like that? It smells like the cabins at summer camp in here…”) The WWII-era diesel submarine, the USS Clamagore, surprised us all with how tough, and how impervious to claustrophobia, sailors had to be to serve on a tin can like that.

Wednesday, July 14: The CEO just realized that he has to be back home for a very important meeting on Friday (what, he couldn’t have read his email messages from three weeks ago? Apparently not.), so we’re going to go home a bit early. That pushes up some of our plans. Today we drove around historic downtown Charleston, visited Ft. Moultrie, and hit the beach at the Isle of Palms. SOTD: Miller Harris Fleur de Matin. I really like FdM – a bit of galbanum up top, then a hint of citrusy-herbal stuff like lemon balm, and then light florals like jasmine and freesia. For something so light, it wears fairly long (4 hours) in the heat.

The old part of Charleston, particularly near The Battery (the row of cannon facing Ft. Sumter across the Cooper River) is what people have been cooing over for a couple of centuries now: charming, tall, gracefully-proportioned houses with beautiful wrought-iron details, in ice-cream pastels like pink and lemon and cream. There is a sense of these houses being delicate, lacy, decorative, and hedged in by whalebone and wrought iron fences and cast iron cannons – the Flower of Southern Womanhood guarded by Masculine Might. It’s a little eerie, to be honest. I do see why Charleston highlights this part of town, and its military history. It’s good marketing, and it pays off in terms of drawing paying tourists to the area. But I imagine it’s not so much fun to be black and living in the unkempt area five blocks from The Battery. There’s a sort of willful neglect of the downtown area that isn’t historical, and I find myself wishing Charleston would spend a little money putting in some civic improvements in places that really need them.

We’re not really Beach People. I enjoy the beach for a few days at a time, and then I get sick of it and want to go home. I like the ocean, I love bouncing around in the waves, I like building sandcastles, and eating ice cream cones and seafood, and sitting in a beach chair watching the tide come in, and walking on the wet sand early in the morning to watch the sun come up and pick up shells. Doing it for more than a few days feels unproductive and just plain wrong to me. That said, the beach at Isle of Palms is really nice. The sand’s clean, and I couldn’t see any detritus of horseshoe crabs or dead jellyfish, like you see at Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks. The houses along the shore are even brighter than those in Charleston: an apple green-and-white one flanked by a sherbety pink-and-lemon one and a periwinkle-and-sky blue one. Farther down, there’s a cream-and-mint green house, and a peach-and-dove gray, and on the other side of the hotel, a purple-and-lime ice cream shop. It’s pretty and bright, and the houses seem at home here against the sand and sea grass. I just know I couldn’t live here.

Thursday, July 15: I’ve been noticing: unlike home, where it’s so dry that our grass has started to go brown, SC has been getting lots of rain. It’s really humid here. I know saying that is a little like commenting that it sure is cold at the North Pole, but I was surprised at just how humid it is. It’s been a good twenty years, maybe, since I traveled south of Virginia in the summer. Yikes. I’d probably enjoy cologne more if I lived here. Temps have been running in the mid-to-upper 90s, too, while at home it’s been upper 80s to low 90s.

No fragrance this morning; we visited the waterpark just north of Charleston, and of course scent would have been wasted. This was a lot of fun: a mat slide, a wave pool, a climbing obstacle course with various fun water things, some slides, and a “lazy river” ride. We all got a little bit sunburned, despite putting on water-resistant SPF 50 sunscreen three times during our five-hour visit. Gaze, despite being the blondest of us, only had a bit of pink on the bridge of his nose and cheekbones. Bookworm, who’s a freckly strawberry blonde, is diligent about her 70 SPF, and applied it four times, but still wound up with pink ears, nose, and shoulders. So did I. The CEO, who has a classic “farmer’s tan,” with forearms and neck tanned brown, got his shirt area burned despite the sunscreen. He’s still uncomfortable, poor baby.

SOTDriveHome: Vamp a NY. I love the Vamp – big ol’ white flowers, root beer and vanilla. What’s not to like? It’s like vacation in a bottle.

Friday, July 16: The dog was really happy to see us when we got home last night. (The cat was simply annoyed that we had gone away. If she was glad to see us, she gave no indication of it.) Since I have the whole week off work, I stayed home today and we worked through some of the Laundry Mountain we brought back with us. Ever notice how, even if you put the dirty clothes in a big garbage bag instead of in your suitcase, the clothes you didn’t wear come home smelling weird anyway? I think I need some sachet things to keep the duffel bags and suitcases fresh when they’re not being used. SOTD: Mariella Burani, for comfort.

Saturday, July 17: How on earth does a house get dirty when you haven’t even been in it all week?? But it was a mess: dog hair and crumbs all over the floor, dirt on the carpets (guess we dragged that in on Thursday night)… sigh. We cleaned. SOTD, once I finished mopping floors and cleaning bathrooms: Manoumalia. I keep hoping.

We had a thunderstorm that dumped a very, very welcome 1.3 inches of rain before moving off and leaving the day about 20 degrees cooler. That brings us up to a total of about 2 inches this month. We’ve been getting far less than our average 37” annual inches of rain so far this year. Good thing we’ve still got hay left from last summer.

Sunday, July 18: Lovely day, mid-80s and not humid, but the grass has greened up since yesterday. SOTD: Carnal Flower, which is sooooo beautifully green and florist-case chilly over that big lush warm tuberose. Swoony stuff.

We were all set to host a group of inner-city kids from Atlanta for a hayride and lemonade this afternoon, when the heavens opened up and just dumped down the rain!   Luckily the storm didn’t last long, and we did get a bit more much-needed rain.  The kids from Bright Futures Atlanta, as usual, were terrific and lots of fun.  Some of them have never been out of the city, so taking them close to the cows is like going on safari.  There’s a lot of “Wow, they’re big!” and “What do you do with the dead ones?” and “How big is this place?”  Hayley, our beagle-yellow lab mix, is in absolute heaven with this many people around to pet her.  We had thirty people visiting (26 kids, 4 staff), and we blew through 4 1/2 gallons of lemonade and two pans of brownies in record time.

All images except the last two are from Wikimedia Commons.  The image of the woman washing clothes is from Flickr’s commons.  The photo of the kids on the wagon is from Bright Futures’ website, of last year’s visit, and yes, that is indeed The CEO piloting his John Deere 4230.  The kid in the orange shirt – not that you can see him – is Gaze.  I also notice how very, very green things looked last summer, as opposed to now.  Boy, did we need that rain!

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Manoumalia was composed in 2009 by Sandrine Videault, in an homage to the island of Wallis in the South Pacific.  Ms. Videault lives on the island of New Caledonia, not far from Wallis. The Wallisians have a richly perfumed heritage – not only those gorgeously scented tropical flowers used in leis and floral bracelets, but also sandalwood dust used as a hair coloring agent and curcuma (related to turmeric) as makeup.  Ms. Videault also comments, in this article by Helg at Perfume Shrine, that Wallisians often wash their hands in classic French perfume, favoring old-style chypres, ambers, and white florals.  Indeed, the composition of tuitui perfume includes L.T. Piver’s Pompeiia, a 1907 French fragrance.

The name makes references to “manou,” a tribute gift, and Malia, the Wallisian woman that shared the scented traditions of her island with Ms. Videault.

Of the Les Nez line, I’ve only tried this one and The Unicorn Spell.  I liked TUS, with its notes of raw green bean and violet, and its silvery aura, very much, but I know that the Les Nez fragrances are widely divergent from each other, and I wasn’t expecting anything like TUS from Manoumalia.  What I was expecting was a rich and luscious tropical white floral.  My tropical experiences are fairly limited – I’ve only been to Hawaii once, for five days.  We spent three days in Honolulu, Oahu, visiting the Pearl Harbor memorial and the University of Hawaii as well as the touristy but beautiful beach at Waikiki, and then hopped over to the Big Island of Hawaii, staying in a little mom-and-pop hotel in Hilo and visiting Volcanoes National Park and the observatory at Mauna Loa.   I sniffed every flower I could get my nose on (plumeria, wild ginger, orchids); I smelled bus exhaust and suntan oil and rummy drinks and sulfurous volcanic fumes and lots of green plants.  That’s the extent of my tropical experiences, and while I enjoyed them very much, the fragrances that have recalled Hawaii to me, so far, have been Ormonde Jayne Frangipani and Maoli Colonia Dulce.

Notes for Manoumalia: fagraea, tiare, ylang-ylang, sandalwood dust, vetiver, amber.  I’m not a huge vetiver fan, but I do love a tropical floral.  White flowers make me sigh with pleasure, and I get on well with sandalwood (who doesn’t?) and amber.  I was enticed by the Perfumes: The Guide review that calls Manoumalia “soft as lips, caressing like a sea breeze, and as lush as a sunset,” and by several blog reviews that praised its uncliched tropical angle, its contrast between big white flowers and earthy darkness.   Helg at Perfume Shrine calls it “kiss-me-stupid beautiful.”  How could I resist?

And then, a few weeks ago, there was a mention of it on Perfume Posse (Musette started it, in the comments, about 2/3 of the way down the page).  I knew my sample had been languishing in the “to test” basket until I could have time to devote to it, but in the comments, Musette described it as “powdery grease,” and that was so far from the other descriptions I’d read, I had to go and put it on, hoping I’d get “beautiful” instead. 

Was it the power of suggestion?  Was I simply looking for “powdery grease” instead of “soft as lips”?  I still don’t know.

Because I really didn’t get either.  That is, there is a powdery aspect to Manoumalia that I have to assume comes from the sandalwood dust, or possibly the vetiver.  It’s not exactly unpleasant, but the dusty bit reminds me of my great-aunt.  And there are gorgeous white flowers in there, too – sweet, luscious, lolling tropical flowers.  What I wasn’t expecting was a meaty, fleshy, almost bloody angle that knocked me sideways.

As you might remember, I got “rotting raw chicken” plus camphor out of the acknowledged-to-be-difficult opening of Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle.  The camphor didn’t throw me, and neither did the really lovely, shiny tuberose that followed.  But the misfortune of having cleaned my fridge that week just ruined TC for me, because of the two lonely pieces of raw chicken that had gotten lost in the back of the fridge.  Ugh.  I gave TC several wearings, hoping to get past that garbagey note.  Alas.  No hope.

Manoumalia probably contains some tuberose – fagraea and tiare being flowers that, like lily of the valley, don’t actually yield scented oil and therefore require reconstruction via other means.  I suppose it’s possible that I’m getting this meatiness out of some part of the white floral composition.  What it really reminds me of – WARNING, this is about to get icky, so if you’re squeamish, skip to the next paragraph – is that post-partum discharge called lochia that contains blood, mucus, and placental tissue.  It smells sweetish and fleshy in a not-totally-disgusting but utterly-memorable sort of way.  Give birth once and you’ll remember the smell for the rest of your life.

So what I’m getting from Manoumalia is this mixture of tropical flowers, earthy wood, and… lochia.  While I recognize that for some people, the hint of decay just makes Manoumalia realistic and reminiscent of the tropics, for me it’s completely unwearable.   I asked my children and husband what they thought of this fragrance, and they said, “Nice.  Flowers.  Pretty.  We like it.”  Huh, I said.  You don’t smell anything weird?  Anything… odd?  Anything that doesn’t smell just like flowers?   “Nope.  Nice, pretty flowers.  We like it.”

So it’s me.  But if I’m the one wearing it, and I’m the one getting “fleshy” out of it, it’s my perception that counts.  It’s perfectly understandable to find a particular scent well-done and interesting, and yet not enjoy it.  That’s my position on Manoumalia: it’s well-done, and I don’t  like it. 

Like most tuberose scents, it does last well and project nicely.  I typically get four to five hours of service from two spritzes.  Compared to other niche fragrances, it’s not unreasonably priced (though I admit that if I liked it, I’d only own a decant, as it’s out of my league) at $105 for 50ml.

Links:  Article on fagraea at West Hawaii Today; review at Perfume Shrine; Grain de Musc; Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things; Tom at PST; Abigail at I Smell Therefore I AmLegerdenez; March at Perfume Posse (read the comments on this one, they’re instructive); Olfactarama.

Photo of Manoumalia from LuckyScent; photo of fagraea from WildSingapore.

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Here’s the recipe of the dessert that Tauer Perfumes’ Une Rose Vermeille reminds me most of — it’s a favorite “special summer treat” of my family’s, and I’ll be upfront with you that it takes some time and effort to make.  It’s worth it, though: light as a feather, ethereal and yet rich.

The CEO did his master’s degree in Agricultural Economics in New Zealand, on a Fulbright Scholarship.  Pavlova was a dessert he encountered there and immediately enjoyed, and when I made a dessert called “Fresh Berry Meringue Torte” from my much-loved copy of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, he sat up straight in his chair and exclaimed, “But this is Pavlova!  How did you know I love this?”

A brief history of Pavlova-the-dessert: it’s named, of course, after Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian prima ballerina.  Both Australia and New Zealand claim to have originated it as an homage to Anna Pavlova during one of her tours there in the 1920s.  Pavlova is essentially made of three components: baked meringue, whipped cream, and fruit.  The meringue can also incorporate such varied ingredients as cocoa powder, espresso powder, and ground nuts.  The baked meringue specific to Pavlova is supposed to be a bit soft in the center, with a crispy meringue-cookie texture on the outside.  Traditionally, the topping is whipped heavy cream with strawberries and kiwifruit, the tangy fruit contrasting with the sweet meringue and cream, but of course you see pavlovas made with all kinds of soft fruit: raspberries, blueberries, peaches, grapes, even passionfruit pulp.  Here’s a link to some other recipes which are perhaps more authentically Kiwi and/or Aussie, but I’ll also share mine, which is made in layers (not authentic, but yummy anyway).   The proportions and basic directions are from The Cake Bible, but interjections (and faux creme fraiche recipe) are mine.

I really like to use dacquoise (sometimes called meringue japonais), as the ground nuts in it cut some of the sweetness of the meringue.  Also, creme fraiche is far tangier than straight cream.  Peaches and blackberries sometimes grace my pavlova.

I admit this is one of the most involved and fiddly desserts I ever make, and I don’t make it often. Brownies tend to be more the kids’ speed anyway. The directions are long, but it’s really not all that complicated, and it doesn’t really require special equipment. You will need, at minimum, a large baking sheet, a whisk, a blender or food processor, a spoon, a rubber spatula, an electric mixer (I used to have only a hand mixer, and it turned out fine), an oven, and a refrigerator. Basically, if you’re going to cook anything, you’ve probably already got what you need on hand, in terms of equipment. So don’t worry.

Here’s Part I: Dacquoise Discs

¾ to 1 cup toasted, peeled, and finely ground almonds or hazelnuts

1 ½ Tablespoons cornstarch

½ cup + 1 Tbsp. superfine sugar (if you can’t find this at the grocery, just pulse regular sugar for a few minutes in your food processor or blender, then measure to get the right amount)

¾ cup powdered sugar, lightly spooned into cup

4 large egg whites (fresh – don’t use the packaged variety)

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Optional: whisk 2 Tbsp. cocoa into the powdered sugar. Only add this if you’re using fruit that marries well with chocolate, like raspberries and strawberries.

All ingredients should be at room temperature (yes, even the eggs). Preheat oven to 200° F. Important: don’t bother trying to make this when it’s humid. Seriously. It will be a soggy mess. If your kitchen is air-conditioned, though, you’re probably okay. You’ll know whether it feels humid in your kitchen or not.

Line a heavy baking sheet with a nonstick liner (like Silpat) or heavy foil. Trace a 9-inch cake pan onto the foil, or make a template to slip under the liner. If you’d like, you can make three 7-inch discs instead. Don’t line the baking sheet with parchment paper because meringue and dacquoise will frequently stick to it.

Place the ground nuts, cornstarch, half the superfine sugar, and all the powdered sugar into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Set aside in a small bowl.

In a large mixing bowl beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat at medium speed. When soft peaks form when the beater is raised, gradually add the remaining superfine sugar and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.

Fold in the reserved nut mixture with a large rubber spatula. Be gentle. As soon as it’s mixed, spread the dacquoise mixture onto the foil or Silpat liner. You can pipe it on if you want to be fancy, but I never bother.

Bake. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, bake the dacquoise for an hour and then leave it overnight in the turned-off oven. If, like me, you have an electric oven, bake the dacquoise for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until it’s dry but not browned. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR FOR THE FIRST 45 MINUTES, or the dacquoise will crack. Of course, it will still taste fine.

Let the dacquoise cool completely before trying to move it from the liner or foil. The best way to get the discs off the foil, I’ve found, is to cut around the discs with scissors, leaving an inch or so all around the dacquoise. Then pick up a disc and hold it upside-down in your nondominant hand, while you gently peel the foil away from the disc. Don’t pry the dacquoise off the foil; that way lies madness and dacquoise crumbling in your hands, as I know to my sorrow.

Meringue variation (I admit I like the dacquoise because it’s less sweet, and because I love the flavor of nuts, but not everyone can eat nuts):

4 large egg whites

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

½ cup + 1 tablespoon superfine sugar

1 cup powdered sugar, lightly spooned into cup

 Optional: whisk 2 tablespoons of cocoa into the powdered sugar. This has the benefit of reducing the sweetness level somewhat, although chocolate doesn’t go well with some fruits.

As with the dacquoise, have everything at room temperature, preheat oven to 200° F, and don’t make on humid days. Also prepare the pan with foil or Silpat liner, just as described above. In a mixing bowl, beat whites until frothy, add the cream of tartar, and beat at medium speed while gradually adding 2 tablespoons of the superfine sugar. When soft peaks form when the beater is raised, add 1 tablespoon superfine sugar and increase speed to high. When stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly, gradually beat in remaining superfine sugar and beat until very stiff and glossy.

Sift the powdered sugar over the meringue and fold in, gently, using a large rubber spatula. Immediately spread (or pipe, if you insist) onto the baking sheet, creating 2 large or 3 small discs. Bake as directed in the dacquoise recipe. Cool completely before removing from the foil or liner as described above.

And Part II: Creme Fraiche Filling

 There are three ways you can do this… well, maybe four, if you are lucky enough to find real crème fraiche at your grocery. Assuming you aren’t, here are your options.

 Option A: If you have a coupla days, make your own crème fraiche:

1 ½ liquid cup heavy (whipping) cream

4 teaspoons buttermilk

1 ½ tablespoon sugar

Combine the cream and buttermilk in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and place in a warm spot. The top of the fridge is fine, or near the stove. Allow to sit undisturbed for 12-14 hours or until thickened but still pourable. This may take as long as 36 hours.  When it’s thick, add the sugar and whisk lightly until soft mounds form when dropped from a spoon.

Note: the high fat content makes this possible – don’t stress about not refrigerating it. Like butter, it doesn’t spoil or mold or grow bacterial colonies when kept at room temperature for a few days. After you’ve got it to the right consistency, though, put it in the fridge, where it will keep for up to three weeks. Crème fraiche is tangy yet sweet.

Option B: Quick crème fraiche:

1 ½ liquid cups

½ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Beat just until soft peaks form when the beater is raised or until it mounds when dropped from a spoon. You can store this in the fridge for 24 hours, but rebeat lightly before using to restore airiness. This is the version I usually use.

Option C: If you’re seriously worried about the fat content (are you sure you want to eat dessert?), make this vastly less good but still edible faux crème fraiche:

1 8-ounce package of frozen whipped topping, thawed in the fridge until soft

1 8-ounce carton of vanilla yogurt (I recommend Yoplait – it’s far tangier than many brands) OR a 6-ounce carton of plain Greek yogurt plus 1 teaspoon sugar

Whisk together until creamy. Will keep in the fridge for 24 hours.

 Aaaaaand Part III: Assembly

First, decide if you want a crisper pavlova or a soft and airy one. If you’d like it crisp – which is more traditional – assemble about an hour before you’ll be serving the dessert. I like mine soft, because the topping soaks into the dacquoise discs and the whole thing gets light and ethereal as angels’ wings, so I assemble up to four hours before serving. You’ll need about a pint to a pint and a half of fresh raspberries, and a pretty plate wide enough to hold your dacquoise discs.

Drop a small spoonful of your creamy topping, whichever you made, onto the center of the plate. Then place one of your discs on top of it. (This will keep the pavlova from sliding off onto the countertop and smashing into globby bits, thus preventing your tears and rending of garments. Don’t ask me how I know this.)

Assuming you made two larger discs, top the bottom one with about half, or slightly more than half, of the topping. Then add half the berries (save the prettiest ones for the top). Top this with the second disc, and then add the rest of the creamy topping. You can swirl it with the spatula if you want it all pretty, or pipe it if you’re a Martha-Stewart-in-training. Then add the remaining berries in a decorative fashion. You can add a few chocolate shavings or a restrained sprinkling of ground nuts, if you like.  Of course, if you made three discs, apportion the creamy topping and the berries so you can have three layers (duh).

Store in the fridge, preferably in a cake or pie holder to keep it safe, and away from the Honey-Soy Glazed Salmon with Wasabi you had for dinner last night, until you’re ready to serve. Cut into wedges and serve. Eat with joy. Toast the New Zealanders (Kiwis). Then, just to cover all the bases, toast the Aussies.

A few years ago, The CEO got to revisit that part of the world through a different scholarly fellowship program – and I was able to join him for three weeks of the tour.   Australia was interesting, and friendly and clean and enjoyable.  I’d go back anytime.  But I fell in love with New Zealand, and from time to time I daydream of retiring to Wellington someday.  (The CEO says, “Not Wellington, it’s really windy there.  Aucklanders make fun of Wellington weather.”  I remind him that although Auckland was very nice, it felt more like Florida to me than home, and constant 70F temps would bore me.   “We could try  Te Awamutu instead; it’s not far from Wellington, and the weather’s better.  You’d like Te Awamutu.”)   Whether we actually go or not, we’ll probably be eating pavlova in the summer.

Image is Timeless Pavlova from (heart)babybee at Flickr.

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Monday, July 5:  A little cooler today than last week – and very dry.  The grass is getting really crunchy.    SOTMorning: Kate Spade.  Someone asked me whether it was the first one or the second, and I have to admit I don’t know.  It’s an attractive, soft Big White Floral with muguet as well as tuberose.  Although I don’t know much about Ms. Spade except that she designs handbags coveted by many fashionable women, of which I am definitely not one, I like this.  It is discontinued, of course.

SOTE: Les Nez Manoumalia.  I thought it would be another Big White Floral of the tropical variety, but holy crap.  Remember how Tubereuse Criminelle had aspects of menthol and camphor (which didn’t bother me) and of raw meat (which did)?  Manoumalia – while escaping the Rotting Raw Chicken of Death that is TC – is similarly disturbing.  Review coming soon.

On a positive note, after dinner we watched the 1954 movie Moby Dick, with Gregory Peck as Ahab, and I am very proud to say that Bookworm and Gaze were picking up on some of the symbolism with which the story is rife.  This is second nature to Bookworm – she began noticing symbolism in books when she was about 9 and I was reading her The Lord of the Rings (editing some of the archaic language on the fly). Gaze is less sure of himself with language-arts-type-stuff, and I was glad to see him looking for layers of meaning.

Tuesday, July 6:  Temps in the mid-90s, back to HOT again.  SOTD: Tauer Une Rose Vermeille, delicious little thing.  Funny: Bookworm and Gaze are Not Fans, although Gaze thought it was nice in its raspberry-rose stage.  The CEO liked it.   I hereby dismiss the kids’ opinions – these are the people who thought Manoumalia was “just pretty flowers.”  (Gah.) 

At some point today, Gaze and Taz got into one of their frequent pitched battles with their Nerf guns.  (Should this bother me?  It doesn’t.  They’re boys – if it weren’t Nerf guns with foam bullets, it would be water pistols.  Or water balloons.  Or wrestling.  Or plastic light sabers.  Or something.)  In any case, I overheard the following exchange:

Taz (trash-talking as he fires):  IN YOUR FACE!   POW POW POW!

Gaze (philosophically): Actually, that kind of was in my face.

Taz (with glee): HA!  Literally and metaphorically!

I thought I was going to die laughing.  What nine-year-old uses that phrase, and, moreover, gets it right?  I called him on the carpet for shooting at faces, though, and threatened the permanent removal of the Nerf guns.  He knows I’m serious.  (The boys in the pic are not mine, by the way – mine are older.  And blonder.  But when I went to Flickr and searched for “boys nerf guns,” no fewer than 118 photos popped up, and my point is, Boys Love Nerf Guns.)

Wednesday, July 7:  The CEO and I are finalizing vacation plans for next week.  Good thing we’re not waiting for August – this weather is hot enough, thank you.  SOTD: Nuit de Tubereuse.  I still hate the jungle-dirt-mildew opening.  But I like the friendly tuberose shading into light woods and incense.  (Bookworm really enjoys it.  I’m still not getting the reason for her intense dislike of the Tauer scents, except that they tend to be rich and opaque.)

Thursday, July 8:  Still hot, still dry.   SOTD: Marc Jacobs Daisy. Go complain about my pedestrian taste somewhere else if you’re unhappy.  There are some days you just need a wallpaper scent, and for that purpose I like Daisy a lot.     

Friday, July 9:  Planning for vacation next week.  Taz needs a haircut, the dog needs a bath, Bookworm’s trying to schedule around band and cross-country practices… how to get it all done?  Groceries… laundry… I already paid all the bills… honestly, this is like playing Whack-a-Mole.

SOTD: Lancome Mille et une Rose.  Back in January when I bought the La Collection set (Magie, MeuR, Sikkim, and Climat), this one struck me as dull.  It must have been a weather thing, because it’s nothing short of comfortable, ladylike elegance now.  Basically, it just smells good: lemony, peppery, ambery rose, all of it muted and swirled into a bold sort of prettiness, if that isn’t an oxymoron.   Another wallpaper scent, but one that reminds me of those Jacobean fabric prints.   

SOTE: Les Nez Manoumalia again.  This is a schizophrenic sort of thing – lovely big white flowers, and… um… meat?

Saturday, July 10:  It rained last night!  Not enough, but it did rain.  And I trimmed Taz’s hair myself.  It’s not entirely straight, but I absolutely dare you to notice it upon casual observance.  Oh, well, Nancy the friendly local hairdresser can fix it in a couple of weeks, he’ll need another haircut by then anyway.   SOTD: Manoumalia.  Because I’m writing a review.  The things I suffer through to write these reviews… sigh.

Sunday, July 11:  Church.  Then getting Bookworm’s new cross-country shoes.  Then packing up for vacay.  SOTD: Nuit de Tubereuse.  I mentioned it before, but I’m getting accustomed to the mildewy bit.  I don’t like it, but it’s bothering me less.

Just found out that our hotel suite (one king size bed, one sofa bed, one pull-out reclining chair) will have free wi-fi.  So we’re taking my laptop, and I may get the chance to pop by and respond to comments.  I have two posts (a Manoumalia review and a post on the Raspberry Pavlova dessert that Tauer Une Rose Vermeille reminded me of) already scheduled to publish while I’m gone, so there will at least be something for you to read here, even if I don’t get back to you in the comments until the following week.

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