Archive for April, 2011

Rose-violet is a classic perfumery accord. The two notes combine to make something that smells neither like rose or violet, but something else, something soft and pillowy that often reads as traditionally feminine, familiar from its use in scenting lipstick and face powder. Probably the most well-known rose and violet scent is Yves Saint Laurent’s classic, Paris, which was composed by Sophia Grojsman and released in 1983, with numerous flankers released since then.

A brief listing of rose-violet scents:

Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose

Guerlain Insolence

YSL Paris and its Printemps flankers

YSL Parisienne

Ralph Lauren Lauren (vintage)

L’Artisan Drole de Rose

Houbigant Demi-Jour

Juliet Has a Gun Citizen Queen

Etat Libre d’Orange Putain des Palaces

Coty Paris (long discontinued, but a very pretty aldehydic floral based on rose, violet, and hyacinth)

I had tried Lieu de Reves a few months ago, from a battered, nearly-empty swap sample vial, and had not liked it: it was powdery to the nth degree, with that musty violet note that I typically have trouble with. Bleargh, I said, and tossed the empty vial in the trash. But I recently received a fresh sample directly from Sonoma Scent Studio, and I’m fairly certain that the earlier sample I tried had gone off. This is a lovely scent best described in one word: soft.

Notes for LdR, from SSS website: Heliotrope, violet, rose, jasmine, cedar, amber, vetiver, tonka, orris, vanilla, musk, and very soft aldehydes. Perfumer’s Comments: I’ve had this blend in mind for a long time, wanting to use violet, rose, and heliotrope in a powdery scent with a gourmand touch but with some soft woodsy notes and less vanilla than most scents of this genre. The heliotrope, rose, violet, and cedar make nice companions. Like most rose and violet combinations, this scent feels a bit romantic to me, but the drydown is on the quiet and reflective side rather than being a full-blown floral.  Released 2009.

Lieu de Reves pulls up a memory of 5th grade for me: Bonne Bell Lip Smackers in Dr. Pepper and Root Beer flavors. Looking at the notes, I’m not quite sure why I’m getting “Lip Smackers” out of it – but I am, and every single time I pull my wrist up to my nose, I smile. (And then I remember that I’m not eleven years old anymore.)

If I try, I can pick out the violet and heliotrope, as well as the orris and vanilla, but nothing else. It is powdery, but in a creamy, nearly-edible sort of way. I like it. It’s lovely, and settles down fairly quickly to a skin scent that lasts about four hours on me, albeit only perceptible at 2-centimeter range. Lieu de Reves is very, very pretty and feminine; The CEO gave it a thumbs-up.

Reviews of LdR:




To Dream is a variation on the soft rose-violet center of Lieu de Reves, but with more of the woody, resiny notes that perfumer Laurie Erickson does so well.

Notes for TD: Violet, rose, heliotrope, cedar, amber, frankincense, oakwood absolute, vetiver, tonka, orris, vanilla, musk, sandalwood, oakmoss, subtle suede, cocoa, and aldehydes.Perfumer’s Comments: I wanted to create a new scent for the Boutique Collection inspired by the floralheart of Lieu de Reves but with a more complex woodsy base. Frankincense and a new oakwood absolute added nice accents, as did cocoa and suede. Afteradditions, subtractions, and re-balancing, the new variation is quite different but still shows lineage to Lieu de Reves.   Released 2011.

To Dream begins with aldehydes and the intoxicatingly sharp smell of oakwood. Other reviewers have mentioned wine barrels, but I associate this particular note with freshly split firewood, and also with the turpentine that my grandmother used to clean her china-painting brushes. As it develops, the familiar soft rose-violet comes to the fore, and then eventually a woody-incense base that is sweetened by tonka and vanilla. I love the juxtaposition of the soft, powdery, feminine floral notes with the strong, almost aromatic woody notes. This scent also settles down into a skin scent after about an hour or so, but it stays more interesting to me than Lieu de Reves. I do not pick up any oakmoss at all, or any cocoa, and To Dream hangs around with me for about four hours.

Gaze sniffed this fragrance on my skin and commented first that he liked it, then that he thought he smelled aldehydes. (I’m so proud.) The CEO’s comment was that it smelled like a freshly-cleaned hotel room to him; he’s not a fan. (Dang. I still think it’s beautiful.)

I’ll be nursing my small spray sample of To Dream, because I already have a rapidly-dwindling decant of Citizen Queen. Who knows, maybe The CEO will change his opinion. Mind you, I don’t necessarily wear perfume to suit him, but I do try to take his preferences into consideration.*

Reviews of To Dream:




*He once told me that he “really disliked” Chanel No. 19. That was a couple of years ago. When I spritzed rather generously from a tester of edp in the Rome airport Duty, though, he commented that I smelled nice. “Really?” I asked. “Because you once told me that you don’t like this one.”  He looked puzzled.  “I did? Well, I was wrong. It’s nice.”  So perhaps he’ll have a change of heart. And if not, it’s okay; I’ll wear To Dream for me.

I found both of these fragrances to be lovely, individual, well-made, and very wearable.  My preference is personal, and you may very well decide you prefer Laurie’s original take on rose and violet.  I like the woodier one; it smells like… freedom.

Fragrance notes and photo of To Dream from Sonoma Scent Studio.  Wrestlers photo from Wikimedia Commons.  Photo of Lieu de Reves from Fragrantica.

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Monday, Apr. 18: Gaze is still sick, and I don’t feel all that great myself. Also still very bummed about the busted screen on my laptop; I’ve got it hooked up to the big monitor that is usually attached to our old Dell desktop, the one that we only use for the kids’ games and Microsoft Money. It’s usable, but weird.

Jeff the hired guy came over and mowed our yard today. He also took our lawnmower to the repair shop, thank goodness.

I was concerned that poor Gaze might be getting dehydrated, since he seemed to be, er, losing fluids at every opportunity (I’m attempting to phrase this delicately here). Our family doctor checked him over and pronounced him “heading toward dehydration, but not there yet,” before giving him a shot of Phenergan, an anti-nausea medication. He seems to be better this evening – he’s drunk 32 ounces of Gatorade and eaten a half-cup of plain applesauce. It’s stayed in his system so far.

SOTD: Well, I started out with a spray sample of something I thought would be pleasant and innocuous: Jo Malone Dark Amber and Ginger Lily. I’d heard good things about it, and the notes list indicated that I’d like it. I was wrong. It was sour and bitter, like the smell of ashes in the fireplace when rain comes down the chimney, or like freshly-spread mulch. It reminded me, at the time, of something else I didn’t like but couldn’t place. I scrubbed it off, and replaced it with Mary Greenwell Plum. (Mind you, I like the smell of mulch. But outside only, please.)

Later, I put a dab of Guerlain Apres l’Ondee (edt) on the back of one hand. It’s been months since I’ve worn it, but now I see that it sits between Caron Aimez-Moi (violets, anise, heliotrope) and L’Heure Bleue (Guerlinade). So pretty.

OH! Now I know what Dark Amber & Ginger Lily reminded me of: Paestum Rose and L’Artisan for Aedes de Venustas, neither of which I like. I think it’s the Japanese incense and cedarwood that’s coming across as sour to me.

Tuesday, Apr. 19: Pretty weather today: 80 and sunny. And windy, too.  Barbara, my mother-in-law, called this morning to see if I would go over and check on The CEO’s dad while she went to teach her Weekday Religious Education class today. He had fallen in the bathroom that morning. When I went in to check on him, he was in bed and feeling very weak.

SOTD: Ulrich de Varens pour elle, nice powdery-aldehydic thing.   Bookworm came home upset from school – the mother of a friend of hers from band has died, very suddenly.  She was the same age as The CEO; in fact, she and The CEO graduated in the same class year.

Barbara called again after dinner and asked for help getting Bill back in bed, so The CEO went over to take care of that duty – and then she called again past midnight to tell us that Bill had fallen again and she needed help to get him off the floor.  The CEO came home and told me his dad had joked that lifting him would be easier if he had handles.

Wednesday, Apr. 20: Gaze headed off to school today. And just as I was about to call Barbara and suggest that I come over and help her get Bill in the car to go see his doctor, she called first to tell me that his doctor wanted Bill to go to the hospital right away for some tests, and the rescue squad would be there shortly.

Results: he may have had a stroke or TIA, and he also had a severe urinary tract infection. This is hard on anyone, but perhaps especially hard on people in their 80s.

SOTD: Cuir de Lancome, which I seem to turn to any time a hospital is involved. It’s not a comfort scent; nor is it an invisible-armor scent. But perhaps it’s a combination of the two – a scent that says, “Don’t push me around” to others and “Everything is going to be fine” to me.

Thursday, Apr. 21: Went to the hospital to check in on Bill, and found that there was no word on whether or not he’d had a stroke on Tuesday, but he’d definitely had a stroke on Thursday morning, between doctors’ rounds and the time that my sister-in-law arrived.

SOTD: Mary Greenwell Plum, because I wanted to smell beautiful. It fills that purpose very well.

Friday, Apr. 22: Rain. Lots and lots of rain. Had all five kids (Bookworm, Gaze, Taz, and their cousins Curiosity and Primrose) here at the house in the morning. There were several fought-to-the-death Connect Four battles, plus a free-for-all involving the three boys, plastic swords, light sabers, a cardboard shield, and six Nerf guns. I don’t know who won. I took them to the hospital after lunch; Bill was visibly glad to see them and seemed more lively.

SOTD: I thought of Le Temps d’une Fete, but decided to save that for another day, and chose YSL Paris Pont des Amours because I was decanting a bit for my sister-in-law’s birthday gift. It’s pretty, powdery and comfortable.

Weird to have Earth Day and Good Friday on the same day.   Went to Good Friday service held at the Virginia Tech chapel – a good service, but sort of bare and unsettled.  Bookworm just barely managed to get home from the funeral service of her friend’s mother in time to go to church with us, and she’s pink-eyed and shaky.  I just held on to her as much as she’d allow me to.

Saturday, Apr. 23: Temperatures in the low 80s, and my grass is getting tall. SOTD: To Dream, a sample of the new woody rose-violet scent from Sonoma Scent Studio. Very, very pretty. (Will review soon.)

A guy came by the farm today to use his metal detector on the ground surrounding the old homeplace. The oldest part of this building was constructed of logs sometime before 1795, which we know because The CEO’s ancestors bought this land in 1795, and the house was already there. This house was also the structure used as a field hospital for Southern officers following the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain in 1864. Metal Detector Mike found several old coins, an old ring made of copper, some very old buttons, and some other odds and ends we haven’t had time to investigate yet. He’ll come back at some point and dig down a little farther next time.

No change in Bill’s condition.

Had Easter dinner (ham, steamed broccoli, scalloped potatoes, fresh rolls, fruit salad, and lemon cake) this evening, to celebrate my sister-in-law’s birthday because she’ll be leaving before we get back from church on Sunday. It was delicious.

Sunday, Apr. 24: I know there won’t be lilies at church, so I’ll wear them instead. SOTD: Donna Karan Gold. (Lilies or no, church was great today.) Temps were cool in the morning, back up to the low 80s in the afternoon.

Went by the hospital right after dinner to see Bill. He seemed quite tired, but that may have been the time of day. He and Barbara have been going to bed by 8:00 pm (yes, I’m serious), so the fatigue may just have been due to imminent bedtime, or by an exhausting day with several visitors. I’m concerned by the chest congestion he’s developed since Thursday, though.

By the time Gold had worn off, I figured I had arm space for Cristina Bertrand #3, which I think might have lily in it along with lily of the valley, though I think of it as being primarily a jasmine-white floral fragrance.

Image is Parfumesse in Holland by Parfumgott at Flickr.

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Lilies for Easter

The Easter Lily 

The Easter Lily, also known by its Latin name Lilium longiflorum, has become the traditional Easter flower. With all the different flowers available in the spring garden, it is this beautiful white flower that has come to symbolize the spiritual values of Easter: purity, life and renewal. The flower’s trumpet shape is a reminder of the heralding of Jesus, returning triumphant to Jerusalem.

The Easter Connection

According to Biblical scholars, the Easter Lily was found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane where Judas is said to have betrayed Jesus. Legend tells that white lilies miraculously sprung up from the ground where drops of Jesus’ sweat and tears fell during his last hours.  The Easter Lily also has close associations with Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary. In early religious paintings, the Archangel Gabriel is pictured extending a branch of white lilies to Mary, symbolizing that she had become the virgin mother to the savior.    Today, many churches use large bouquets of lilies to adorn their altars and crosses during the Easter season.               – from holiday.net

Lilies were always a big part of Easter celebrations when I was a child – our church used those big white ones all over the sanctuary, and sometimes my mother would have one in the house – and the church we attended previously used them near the pulpit.  You could donate an Easter lily in honor or in remembrance of loved ones, and there they’d be on Easter morning, lined up on the dais and on the rail in front of the choir loft, trumpeting fragrance in dizzying waves.  They smelled wonderful, but every Easter Sunday, I’d be sniffly and unable to breathe by halfway through the service, with three dozen lilies all clustered less than ten feet from my face.

The church we attend now is different.  For one thing, we meet  in the middle school auditorium because we don’t have a building.  For another, dress is very casual; it’s common for people to show up in jeans.  I’m singing with the praise band, and I’ll probably wind up wearing jeans along with all of them.  In some ways I miss having a new Easter dress and an orchid corsage, the way I always had as a kid.   I miss not singing “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.”  And I do miss those lilies, symbols of purity and joy and new life, pollen machines or not.

I’ll be wearing the smell of lilies, in any case, and thinking about purity and joy and new life.  Lily perfumes never make me sneeze, and I never associate lilies with funerals.  No, for me lilies are Easter.

There are some lovely fragrances featuring lilies – here’s a short list of soliflores and lily-centered scents:

Serge Lutens Un Lys – Lovely soliflore.  Notes: lily, vanilla, musk.   It’s pretty but doesn’t make any emotional impact on me.  Robin of Now Smell This likes it much better than I do: her review is here.  Victoria of Bois de Jasmin reviews it here

Frederic Malle Lys Mediterranee – This is beautiful; it’s mostly lilies, but with a waft of salty breeze, and a hint of floral aqueousness from water lily.  I have a sample that I enjoy very much.  Notes: sea water, ginger, lily, angelica, orange blossom, lotus, vanilla, musk.  Bois de Jasmin review here.   Review of several lily scents, including Lys Mediterranee, by Marina of Perfume-Smellin’ Things here.

Donna Karan Gold – This is what I’ll wear.  It’s discontinued (what a shame!), and I got my 1oz bottle of edp on ebay for $8.  Notes: lily, acacia, cloves, jasmine, amber, patchouli.  Very spicy, yet satiny-cool.  Robin at NST reviews it here, and Victoria of BdJ here.  Also, For the Love of Perfume here.

Cynthia Rowley (for Avon) Flower – Notes: freesia, citrus, violet leaf, lily, water lily, jasmine, cashmere wood, vanilla, sandalwood.  I have a small bottle of this.  It is pretty, and higher-pitched than many of the other scents on the list.  Like many of the Avon scents (I grew up on them), it does smell a bit cheap.  Having said that, I think this would be a terrific scent for a young girl.  No blog reviews available.

Annick Goutal Des Lys – I have not smelled this limited edition scent, but I am sure it’s just as uncomplicatedly pretty as the other scents in the Goutal soliflore line.  Notes: lily, ivy, cassis.  Angela at Now Smell This reviewed this scent, here.

Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Lys Carmin –   Notes: cinnamon, pink pepper, lily.  Review from Patty of Perfume Posse here and from March at PP, here

Cacharel Anais Anais – I haven’t smelled this in years, but my mother used to wear it.  It’s a rich composition, but clean-smelling and focused on lily.  Notes: galbanum, citruses, honeysuckle, lavender, orange blossom, hyacinth, black currant, lily, jasmine, carnation, tuberose, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, rose, leather, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, musk, oakmoss, vetiver, incense, cedar.  Reviews here:  Donna at PST, Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am.

Tocca Stella – Another composition I haven’t smelled.  Described as being mostly citrus-lily in reviews on fragrance forums.  Notes:  orange, freesia, lily, orchid, sandalwood, musk.  Reviews:  Victoria’s Own, Blogdorf Goodman.

I wish you a wonderful, meaningful Easter: He is risen.  He is risen indeed. 

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I’m re-reading Martin Cruz Smith’s wonderful novel, Rose, set in a coal-mining town in Victorian England. The protagonist, an American mining engineer named Blair, has just been hauled out of the Gold Coast, disgraced and suffering an acute malarial attack, back to England to face the indignant Board of the National Geologic Society. He’d come through miles of jungle, with five native porters he was supposed to have paid, to the Society’s headquarters, only to find that his funds had been spent on a hunting safari for a visiting British noble – so he took the Bible fund to pay his porters, foregoing his own salary.

This, of course, is not at all the Done Thing. The Board members are in high dudgeon; no person of consequence would be unable to cover the matter with personal funds. Blair’s desperate to get back to Africa, not only because he loves it there, but because he’s left his young daughter of mixed race behind. Bishop Hannay, one of the Board members and owner of a profitable coal mine as well as a weathy estate, promises to get Blair onto the roster of another Africa expedition, and to pay him his expected salary, if Blair will just do him one tiny little favor.

Hannay’s daughter’s fiance, the local curate, has gone missing. Blair is commissioned to look for the Reverend Maypole, and to console Charlotte Hannay… and he has to do it in Wigan, the coal town containing the Hannay mine. Wigan is where Blair was born, a fact he’d mentioned to the Bishop some months prior in Africa, over late-night drinks. Blair doesn’t want to return; he was four when he took ship with his mother for America. She died on the voyage, and an elderly bachelor mining engineer on the ship unofficially adopted him. Blair took the engineer’s name; he can’t remember the name he was born with, or even his mother’s name.

Nothing, in Wigan, is as it seems. While investigating Maypole’s life, he meets a “pit girl” named Rose, one of the last people Maypole was seen speaking with, and she fascinates him. He suspects that Maypole’s interest in Rose was becoming an obsession, and he’s just about to pursue this line of inquiry when he finds out that there was a massive explosion at the mine, with more than 60 people dead, the very morning of Maypole’s disappearance.

Smith is a genius at settings. I’ve never been to Russia or the Bering Sea or East Berlin – but because I’ve read Smith’s Arkady Renko novels, I’ve chased spies through Moscow, gutted fish on a factory ship, dodged bullets on a subway and wolves in the forests near Chernobyl. In Rose, Smith is masterful with putting his reader right in the soup along with his protagonist. Here’s a passage from Chapter 2, when Blair’s train is pulling in to the Wigan station:

The dark sky turned darker, not with clouds but with a more pungent ingredient. From the window, Blair saw what could have been the towering effluent plume of a volcano, except that there was no erupting volcanic cone, no mountain of any size, in fact, between the Pennines to the east and the sea to the west, nothing but swale and hill above the long tilt of underground carboniferous deposits. The smoke rose not from a single point but as a dark veil across the northern horizon, as if all the land thereafter was on fire. Only closer could a traveler tell that the horizon was an unbroken line of chimneys.

Chimneys congregated around cotton mills, glassworks, iron foundries, chemical works, dye works, brick works. But the most monumental chimneys were at the coal pits, as if the earth itself had been turned into one great factory. When Blake wrote of “dark Satanic mills,” he meant chimneys.

The hour was almost dusk, but this darkness was premature. When enough chimneys had passed one by one, the sky turned the ashen gray of an eclipse. On either side private tracks connected pits to the canal ahead. Between the pall and the lines of steel lay Wigan, at first sight looking more like smoldering ruins rather than a town.

Coal was worked into the town itself, creating coal tips that were black hills of slag. On some, coal gas escaped as little flames that darted from peak to peak like blue imps. The train slowed along a pit as a cageload of miners reached the surface. Coated in coal dust, the men were almost invisible except for the safety lamps in their hands. The train slid past a tower topped by a headgear that, even in the subdued light, Blair saw was painted red. On the other side, figures crossed single file across the slag, taking a shortcut home. Blair caught them in profile. They wore pants and coal dust too, but they were women.

The track bridged the canal, over barges heaped with coal, then traveled by a gasworks and a rank of cotton mills, their high windows bright and the chimneys that drove their spinning machines spewing as much smoke as castles sacked and set ablaze. The locomotive slowed with its own blasts of steam. Tracks split off to goods sheds and yards. In the middle, like an island, was a platform with iron columns and hanging lamps. The train approached at a creep, gave a last convulsive shake and stopped.

See? Genius. Not only does the reader see Wigan in vivid detail, the reader understands that Wigan is black, smoking, despairing, the anteroom to Hell.

I won’t go into plot details (go check it out of the library, or better yet, buy a copy!), but here as in all the Renko books, there is a mystery, there is a love interest, there are characters with secrets of their own, and there is great physical danger to the hero from unforeseen directions. People lie. Situations are not as they seem on the surface. Conversations and observations are reported in a matter-of-fact manner, such that if the reader is not paying minute attention, important information will be missed.

It occurred to me today that I approach each revelation of a Smith novel with such delight because I tend to take his characters at face value. One person’s speech is at odds with her social status? She’s extraordinary. One person tells the protagonist he knows nothing about the disappearance? He’s telling the truth. In my life, I’m suspicious: you want me to invest in your business plan? Forget it. You say you had no ulterior motives in asking me that question? Yeah, riiiiiiight.

But reading Rose? I’m watching the scenery, listening to Blair’s deadpan sarcasm, witnessing his increasing fascination with the pit girl Rose, keeping a furtive eye out for Rose’s violent boyfriend. I miss stuff. And I’m surprised by occurrences and admissions of truth. They blindside me, even the fourth time through, even though I already know they’re coming.

Now, that is how you write mystery. I love mystery novels… cut my teeth on Agatha Christie. Never got into the hardboiled style, though I’ve read my share of Ngaio Marsh and Dashiell Hammett and Ellery Queen. Tony Hillerman is a good read, but I don’t love his stuff either. So who do I love? P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Elizabeth George. James is so economical – she can tell you worlds about a character in about four sentences, even a minor character. Ruth Rendell’s books scare the crap out of me; they tend to concentrate on ordinary-seeming characters who are mentally unstable, and who create convoluted tangles of situations around innocent people. The ground seems soft under my feet when I read Rendell.

Elizabeth George has a set of recurring characters who have relationships; each of her books (I think there are fourteen at this point) concerns itself not only with the murder at hand, as it were, but also with her major characters (a Scotland Yard investigator and his sergeant) and events in their lives. George’s murderers range from a student at a prestigious boarding school to a disturbed obese daughter to a respected doctor to a charitably-inclined owner of a printing company, but the themes of her books touch on family relationships – What does it mean to be a parent? A child? A sister, a wife, a grown son? What are each person’s rights and expectations and responsibilities? Where do the joys lie, and where the dangers?

At one time, I enjoyed Patricia Cornwell’s early Scarpetta novels, but no longer. I began to be disillusioned with them after a major character was killed in a gruesome way, and when it became apparent to me that her major characters, each of whom has significant emotional difficulties, were not making any headway toward personal growth at all, and seemed to actually be regressing into self-destruction. The novels became too depressing for me to read, beginning with Hornet’s Nest, and I found that I did not even like to reread the early novels, because I knew what was to come years later. I’ve also noticed a change, from her carefully-crafted climaxes of action to too-short, choppy scenes, dizzying and uninformative, without the self-reflection of the major characters I saw in the earlier books. I haven’t even read her most recent novel, and I doubt I will.

I saw on Amazon recently that Martin Cruz Smith has a new Arkady Renko novel out: following Gorky Park, Polar Star, Red Square, Havana Bay, Wolves Eat Dogs, and Stalin’s Ghost, there is now Three Stations. I’m going to nab me that baby right quick and prepare for a good read. Hope the library has it.

Note:  I actually wrote this about three weeks ago, and I have yet to get to the library.  What with my laptop screen being broken (still using it with an external monitor), Gaze being sick (he’s better now)  and my father-in-law in the hospital (not out of the woods yet), I haven’t been blogging much.  If you feel so inclined to pray for Bill and the family, that would be much appreciated.

Image of Rose in hardcover from Amazon.

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Minis in the Hocking Manhattan berry bowl: MJ Daisy, vtg Shalimar, Nina Ricci Nina, K de Krizia, Encre Noire, DSH Oeillets Rouges

Monday, Apr. 11: A rainy morning, followed by heat in the 80s (ugh, steamy). SOTD: Cuir de Lancome, a choice I’m now regretting given that I have another concert tonight. It turned out that no one had remembered to turn on the AC at the church… or open the windows… and it was miserably hot. I smelled a bit like Overheated Leather Handbag.

The middle school track meet scheduled for this evening was cancelled, due to the tornado damage in the area and the 6 pm curfew imposed for part of the county. These things happen, but Gaze was disappointed.

Tuesday, Apr. 12: More rain. All day. I feel like Noah’s wife*.

SOTD: original Nina Ricci Nina – not the modern tutti-frutti thing, but the earlier floral. I don’t remember smelling this particular scent before, but it smells familiar somehow, like an amalgam of the two fragrances I wore most frequently in the 80s: Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, a kitchen-sink white floral with a rich base, and Prince Matchabelli Cachet, a soft floral chypre. There is a pleasant powdery-soapy cast to Nina. It’s not terribly distinctive to my mind, but it is very pretty and soft, with that faintly-chypre hint that suggests that the wearer of this Nice Girl’s Aldehydic Floral could probably clobber her date in a Trivial Pursuit grudge match, if she chose to ignore his ego.

*Joan of Ark, of course. (Apologies to those of you who’ve never seen “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” which is right up there with “Princess Bride” and “Monty Python’s Holy Grail” for quotability percentage in the Woodenshoes household.)

SOTE: Le Temps d’une Fete. After reading Victoria’s lovely review at Bois de Jasmin, I decided not to try something new, but to put on something I already love. Watched “Tombstone” with The CEO last night (hey, another quotable movie!) and wondered exactly why it is that I still find Kurt Russell so gosh-darned attractive, even after all these years. I would blame Disney, but that theory doesn’t explain the Tommy Lee Jones phenomenon.

Wednesday, Apr. 13: Chilly and damp. I am annoyed, and not just because of the weather. The grass in the yard is getting ridiculously thick, and I’d mow it if it would ever stop raining. Also, I just made my 2010 tax-year IRA contribution, and while the numbers on my statement have been getting bigger year by year, I look at the total and think, “No way can I retire on that. NO. WAY.”

Retesting the mystery bottle that Donna (Flora, of Perfume-Smellin’ Things) found and alerted me to: Cristina Bertrand #3. It’s a pretty, gentle white floral. Review here.

Thursday, Apr. 14: Lovely weather. Too busy to mow today; I had errands to run. I deposited donations from our concert, I bought more milk, I took some packages and our federal tax return to the post office. Also, I had to take Eddie Van in to the garage to get a checkup before The CEO takes it on his field trip. He’s got five students doing an honors project, and this is part of it – they’re going to the VA Beef Expo and visiting various agricultual businesses (a seedstock breeder east of Richmond, groundskeeping at Camden Yards, a dairy operation in the Shenandoah Valley, etc.). Anyway, that shimmy in Eddie’s undercarriage, noticeable when going more than 45 mph, turned out not to be “something loose under there,” as The CEO thought it was.

It was a busted sway bar. Thank heavens I took it in when I did. I’m $452 poorer, but safer… thanks to Woodyard Auto.

SOTD: vintage Dior-Dior. Nearly indescribable, but I’ll have a shot at it for a full review later.

SOTE: Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau. Green, fruit, and rose; I can’t figure out why they called it “Shadow on the Water.” I amped the rose with a teeny dab of Montale Highness Rose, and the combo was pleasant and cheerful all through Gaze’s middle school track meet. He did okay. He said he felt nauseated while running, which could have been nerves, or – more likely, IMO – a combination of nerves and low blood sugar. He hadn’t eaten anything since lunch, and he ran at about 7:25 pm. The first thing he did upon finishing the race was go get his backpack and eat a protein bar, and then when he got home he ate a full supper of chicken and veggies and some fruit. His 800 meter time wasn’t all that bad for a 6th grader, though (3:13).

Friday, Apr. 15: The chance of heavy rain for tomorrow is 100%. I figured I’d better mow the grass while I had a chance, but the lawnmower had other ideas. I filled up the gas tank, pumped up the tire, checked the oil, and started out, but I’d only been mowing for about three minutes when the blades stopped. Jeff the hired guy came by while I was messing with the mower, and took a look at it. “Your belt’s stretched,” he said. “There’s no tension on it, so the blades aren’t moving properly.”

Can I fix it myself?” I asked him. He just laughed. So I put the lawnmower away until The CEO can deal with it. There are many things I can do, but my lawnmower repair skills are sadly lacking.

SOTD: Nothing in the morning. I was feeling bad, so I took a mongo nap on the couch. Woke up just before Taz got home, and took a shower so I could go get Bookworm and Gaze from their track practices. SOTA: Dior J’Adore L’Absolu. Looks like I’ve just killed a 2ml spray sample; I have one left. I don’t need any more – there are other Just Pretties out there, not least of which the Cristina Bertrand #3, and that’s a big bottle.

My DSH samples came: some of her Essense Oils Designer Duplicate scents (Chypre, Norell, and Chypre Grass, a recreation of Jovan Grass) and some Parfums de Beaux Arts scents (L’eau d’Iris, Route d’Iris, Lili, and Vert pour Madame). I asked Bookworm to smell the Jovan Grass one because from the vial it smells very much like grass to me, but she says all she can smell is galbanum. “No moss? No grass?” I asked. Nope, just galbanum. Which she hates. She sniffed the Chypre recreation too, and said it smells just like the liniment that the high school’s athletic trainer uses… ouch.

Saturday, Apr. 16: Wore SSS Tabac Aurea to bed last night, as it was chilly and windy and starting to rain. It did indeed rain buckets and buckets this morning, but the afternoon was sunny and windy. The dregs of Tabac Aurea were still there this morning, so I put DSH Chypre on the back of my hand to test. This is an intimidating thing, all steely-eyed witch, intoxicating and dangerous and, somehow, self-centered. Perhaps it should have been called Morgan Le Fay.

It also has made my skin tingle and burn… perhaps there is something after all to those IFRA regs. I’m sure there’s a ton of oakmoss in this. Of course, the oils are pretty concentrated; I might not be bothered by an alcohol formulation of it. I don’t remember having a skin reaction to the other chypres I have (L’Arte di Gucci, Leonard de Leonard). Of course, those are floral chypres, with presumably a lower percentage of oakmoss.

Gaze woke up late and immediately dashed for the bathroom to be sick. Poor baby. Perhaps I had a touch of the bug yesterday? My stomach was fine, but that long nap makes me think perhaps I was fighting off illness.

Sunday, Apr.17: Windy and in the 50s today, but with sun. It could be worse. I gave Taz the opportunity to choose my SOTD from several samples, things I’ve tested before and deemed wearable but not full-bottle-worthy. He picked Lys Mediterranee: “It smells like flowers.” Unbeknownst to the two of us, Bookworm had already picked Donna Karan Gold, and together we were a walking lily bouquet.

Gaze is still sick, poor baby.  I’m a little worried that I’m going to get his bug, too. 

Worse, my laptop fell off the desk while I was trying to hook up the AC converter, and busted the screen.  It appears that the screen is the only thing damaged – I hooked up the laptop to the PC monitor, and everything seems to be working fine – but STILL.  We’re talking minimum $120 for a replacement screen, and that’s if I fix it myself (and don’t screw it up).  I could replace the whole laptop for $200.

Top photo mine.  Photo of Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in “Tombstone” from imdb.com.

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Giveaway winners reminder

I still need to hear from Barbara, helenviolette, and Samm.  Please send your mailing details to me at malsnano86 at gmail dot com.  Thanks!

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It’s Donna’s fault. 

You know Donna, right?  She writes, beautifully, for Perfume Smellin’ Things, and also writes a column on perfume for The Portland Examiner.   She’s also probably the perfume blogger whose taste I most closely share; if she likes something, chances are very good that I will enjoy it as well.

A couple of months ago, she posted a link on Facebook to a listing for a white floral fragrance being sold at $80 for 100ml on Amazon and asked if anyone knew anything at all about it, because Donna (who describes herself as the White Floral Queen) was intrigued by the description.  No one knew anything other than what the Amazon listing itself stated, which was this:

A radiant, fresh, floral orchid fragance, with a transparent, green and light bouquet aspect, which remains over a long period.     Top notes of Bergamot, Wild flowers and Orange Flower; Heart notes of Orchid, Jasmine and Tuberose; Core notes of Heliotrope, Sandalwood and Musk.

Blue Orchid from cristinabertrand.com

But the description intrigued me, too.  I’m not a huge orange blossom fan, but I am a sucker for orchid and tuberose, particularly together.  $80 seemed a little steep for something I’d never heard of before, so I thought I’d go check ebay to see if  it might be available at a discount… and I found one: a listing in Florida, Buy It Now, brand new in box, 100ml for the princely sum of $8, plus $4 shipping, $12 total. 

I bought it, unsniffed.  I figured that if it turned out to be good, I could split the bottle with Donna, and if not – well, what’s $12 for a nice room spray?  Time passed, the box arrived, I was busy and put the box away until such time that I would be free to test it… and promptly forgot where I put it.  In the meantime, Donna found another bottle for cheap.

(You ever do that?  I’m not as organized as I’d like to be.  Sometimes I’ll buy Christmas presents in August and then have to do the mad search on December 22… have never lost anything, but have occasionally misplaced things for six months.  Oopsie.)

And then last week, I found it.  In the pantry, of all places.  (Why there?  Who knows?)  So I opened the box and spritzed – and was pleasantly surprised: it’s nice.  It’s very nice, as a matter of fact, and for once the ad copy manages to be both accurate and attractive.  It is a fresh white floral without a hint of modern fruitiness, and it is indeed transparent and light but remains on skin for a long time.  (I myself would not call it “green,” but I suspect that my standards of greenness are probably at a higher threshold than those of most people.)

Wild Daisies, from cristinabertrand.com

I was right to be a little bit leery of the bergamot/orange flower combination: the first fifteen minutes do contain a hint of the back-of-the-throat Tang Dust Effect that I dislike.  There’s also a hint of a “fresh floral” note that’s a bit chemical; it may be a peony or freesia note.  However,  once that’s over, Cristina Bertrand #3 does become a quiet, yet radiant, soft accord of white flowers.  I can pick out all three of the featured florals, and they smell like natural materials to me: mostly tuberose and a nice fresh (non-indolic) jasmine, with the creamy-satiny effect that orchid seems to impart.  I also seem to be getting just a little bit of lily of the valley as well, though it’s not listed.  The drydown is  mostly a bit of quiet musk, not too laundry-esque, and pleasant woodsy notes.  I do not get any heliotrope at all.  It is somewhat linear, but in an attractive, relaxed fashion; this is one of those fragrances that is Simply Pretty.

#3 does last a fairly long time – five to six hours on me, on the far side of average for an eau de parfum.  I like it a lot, and I imagine I’ll be getting some wear out of it on warm days.    The bottle is simple but attractive: a squared rectangle of glass, with a frosted  plastic cap and a sticker depicting one of Bertrand’s paintings, called Blue Orchid.   I’m not sure I’d have associated this particular piece with this fragrance; I’d have picked “Wild Daisies” (pictured above).  There’s a gentle innocence to #3 that would not be out of place on a young girl, and yet I do not find it to be too young for me.  If my mother liked white florals, it would be fine on her too.

I did a little research on Cristina Bertrand: she’s an artist who was born in Spain, lived for 20 years in the US, and has done several projects in China.  She has done a set of illustrations for the I Ching, a philosophical/religious document that is deeply embedded in Chinese culture and thought.  From Wikipedia: ” [The I Ching] centres on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.”  Her art, which seems to be primitive (don’t quote me on this – I didn’t check it with my art-historian sister), focuses on Miami, California, and Spain, particularly on landscapes and flowers.  Ms.  Bertrand has also created a line of jewelry, fragrances, and scarves based on her depictions of flowers. 

Viejas en la catedral (Old Ladies in the cathedral), from cristinabertrand.com

It is somewhat odd that I cannot find any mention of #3 on the Cristina Bertrand website.  There are three fragrances, each based on a painting of a flower or plant: Blue Orchid and White Jasmine for women, and Red Bamboo.  Blue Orchid, although the bottle and list of notes are different, uses the same painting, and the description starts with the same sentence as the one for #3:  “A radiant, fresh, floral fragrance with a transparent, green and light bouquet. Ideal for wearing all day.”  I suspect that #3 may have been an early prototype, or a fragrance that was discontinued and retooled into Blue Orchid.  All the fragrances now referenced on the website seem to be in 50ml bottles, and are only sold in China, apparently.  There is a business listing for Cristina Bertrand in Miami, and I wonder if my bottle came from there.   

I blame Donna… for finding mention of this graceful fragrance.  Thanks, Donna!

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Gaze and the Magic Whiteboard

Breaking news: I bought a new whiteboard recently. I put it on the fridge, so we can use it to write notes to each other, because some of us are developing teenager schedules and are not here all the time.

First, it looked something like this, complete with two round magnets and a black pen:

After Gaze saw it, it looked like this:

I said it was cheerful.

The next morning, when I saw it, it looked like this:

I rolled my eyes.  West Virginia jokes being a common form of humor in this place, I’ve heard a lot of them.  (My favorite:  Why don’t West Virginians eat a lot of M&Ms?  Too hard to peel.)

Shortly after he got home from school that day, the whiteboard looked like this:

I laughed. “Very clever,” I said.

And the next day, it looked like this:
And then, this:                                                           And this:





And now, this:

I have the uncomfortable feeling that I may have created a monster. (A really funny one. But still.)

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Giveaway drawing winners!

Samples up for grabs:

  1. puredistance Antonia
  2. Xerjoff Elle
  3. DSH Jitterbug
  4. SL Bas de Soie
  5. Diptyque Philosykos
  6. vintage Coty L’Origan & Guerlain L’Heure Bleue

Those eligible for the draw, in order of entry:

  1. Dionne
  2. Elisa
  3. Taffynfontana
  4. Samm
  5. Monica
  6. Isa
  7. helenviolette
  8. Undina
  9. Tulip
  10. TaffyJ
  11. Elise
  12. Barbara

Taz helped me pull names out of my grandmother’s pink Depression glass bowl*.  The idea was that the first person chosen would receive their first choice of sample.

Winner #1:  Tulip, who has won the sample of Philosykos.

Winner #2: Barbara, who has won the sample of Bas de Soie.

Winner #3: Undina, who has won the sample of Antonia.

Winner #4: TaffyJ, who has won the sample of Jitterbug.

Winner #5: Helenviolette, who has won the sample of Xerjoff Elle.

Winner #6: Samm, who has won the samples of L’Origan and L’Heure Bleue.

Those of you whose names came out of the bowl, please contact me by email (malsnano86 at gmail dot com) and send me your (real) names and shipping addresses!  I will get these out in the mail by next Monday afternoon.

*Pattern: Hocking Manhattan (also produced in green and crystal), in the berry bowl size.  My grandmother — this was Bambaw, the grandmother that lived with  my parents from the time I was 6 months old until she died, at age almost-92 — collected all kinds of Depression glass, in various pink and green patterns.  My sister got the green dishes and I got the pink ones.  There are at least five different patterns that I can identify (Anchor Cameo,  Hocking Mayfair, Hocking Manhattan, Hocking Old Colony Lace, and Indiana Glass Windsor).  I’m thinking of keeping only some of them.  There’s a good collection of Mayfair luncheon plates, bowls, candy dishes, and cups, and the Manhattan pieces are so pretty; the rest I don’t love but someone else might.

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Seaside town of Xlendi, Gozo

Monday, Apr. 4: Well, finally some warm weather! (It won’t last. Might get snow tomorrow) My first non-working day was spent by updating the farm financial files so that we can finish up the taxes.

Scents of the day: vintage Coty L’Origan on one arm, Guerlain L’Heure Bleue on the other.

It rained all night. Nowth wind bwow! South wind bwow! Snow! Wain! Huwwicanes! Earfquakes! (Sorry, my Elmer Fudd soundtrack kicked in… Oh, hey! No kidding, we actually had an earthquake in the area last week, which I forgot to mention because, well, we didn’t actually feel it: 2.6 on the Richter scale, with the epicenter about seven miles from our house. It should not surprise anybody we’ve got tectonic activity – our mountains may be small compared to the Rockies, but that’s because they’re so old. How do you think we got mountains in the first place? Even more interesting, there are ocean fossils in them, if you know where to look.)

Tuesday, Apr. 5: Rainy icky day. Another throwdown on my arms: L’Origan and L’Heure Bleue. Finished the Fragrance Throwdown review.

Fielded about five calls from work, asking questions. I don’t mind answering them, but it’s awfully nice to have the problems not be my problems!

Wednesday, Apr. 6: Finally, some sun!! Went unscented in the morning, while busy with some around-the-house things like laundry. Sat down and wrote for awhile, and then after lunch noticed a comment on a Now Smell This poll that suggested Mary Greenwell Plum and the original Juicy Couture were somewhat similar. I dismissed it immediately – you know how much I love Plum, and I was less than impressed with Juicy Couture – but then decided to try it out, one on each arm, and darned if they don’t smell very much alike for about three minutes! Kudos to commenter helenviolette (hi, helen!) for noticing.

I got tired of the Juicy Couture fairly quickly – that nice citrusy-fruity note that smells so much like Plum’s goes away fast, and then there’s a watermelon bubblegum angle I don’t like much. Also, it’s got a “fresh floral” cast that makes me think there must be some chemically-based freesia or peony notes in there with the soupcon of tuberose, and then it begins to smell like a faded version of Sand & Sable, with a beachy coconut under the tuberose. I do not care that Tania Sanchez Luca Turin*, in Perfumes: The Guide, describes it as “a delicate, transparent tuberose,” because what it smells like to me is fruity bubblegum. So there. Based on the P:TG review, I had planned at one point to review it myself for the Tuberose Series. Then I tried it and immediately wrote it off. There’s hardly any tuberose in there, for one thing, and what there is smells artificial. Not My Thing.      *Thanks to Elisa for the correction.  I’d forgotten.

So I put on some more Plum. That makes me happy.

Bookworm had a track meet today, a Quad Meet comprised of four teams from their district. She is usually a distance runner, comfortable with the mile or two mile, but today she ran the 800 meters, a middle-distance race, and did fairly well: she came in 15th out of 27 runners. Considering that it’s not “her” distance, I’m proud. She also ran a 4 x 400m relay, which is even less her thing than the 800, but the relay team came in fifth (scoring position).

Thursday, Apr. 7: Beautiful weather today! I am now responsible for feeding Samson, our orphan calf, his morning bottle. He’s a sweetie.

Testing two Ferre fragrances today: Ferre by Ferre, the one that’s supposedly like Iris Poudre, on my left wrist, and Gianfranco Ferre (edt) on my right. I feel a Fragrance Throwdown comin’ on…

Gaze had a track meet at a nearby school this afternoon and evening. We’d expected him back by 9pm, but according to the coach, the meet was too crowded and poorly run, very chaotic. It ran for six hours. Poor Gaze didn’t get home until nearly midnight, having only eaten supper at McDonald’s twenty minutes before! (He told me later that he’d eaten a Big Mac, part of someone else’s untouched hamburger, a large order of fries, a cup of mandarin oranges, and a milkshake, as well as the fruit snacks, granola bar and dried cherries I’d packed him as a snack for the meet. Teenage-boy appetite, here we come…) He didn’t know his time for the 800m, but he said he finished in the middle of the pack. That’s pretty good for a sixth-grader, and I’m proud of him.

While we were waiting for him, after my last community chorus rehearsal of the season (concerts on Sunday afternoon and Monday evening), I put on some Diorissimo. So pretty.

Friday, Apr. 8: Cloudy, chilly day. The CEO has no classes to teach on Friday, and so he stayed home to finish up the tax returns. He did actually finish the federal, and after some roaring about capital gains taxes on investments, settled down and realized that we will actually be due a small refund. You know, honestly – tax returns are not all that complicated if a) you only have W2s and 1099s, and b) you don’t itemize deductions. Otherwise, PITB.

SOTD: something light and uncomplicated, YSL Paris Pont des Amours, rosy-powdery with green notes and a hint of carnation.

I am currently going through the most recent novel, tentatively titled Good Enough is Perfect, and finding the holes I need to patch with bridging scenes. (I typed “scents” instead of “scenes,” and had to edit, ha!)

Saturday, Apr. 9: We had hail and rain last night, and there was actually a tornado two tornadoes about six miles west of us. (Some property damage, some of it major, but no one seriously hurt.) We do get tornadoes from time to time, but because of the mountains, the winds never get up to Really Scary they way they do on the plains. Thank goodness. One of them was a Category 1, the other a Category 2; it appears that about four hundred homes were damaged but injuries were limited to minor cuts from glass. I feel so bad for the people who’ve lost their homes.

Bookworm is off to another track meet, which is likely to have been a miserable experience – it’s rained alllll day. Hope she doesn’t get sick.

I meant to do another Ferre Throwdown, but it just didn’t happen. SOTD: more Paris Pont des Amours, a lightweight comfort scent.

Sunday, Apr.10: Warm weather for once! Our community chorus concert this afternoon went very well. (Now to repeat on Monday evening…) The chorus made a decision to donate any contributions from today’s concert to the local tornado relief fund currently being organized. Contributions were up about 50%, which was nice; we can donate $456.25 to the fund. SOTD: Mariella Burani – the quieter, sunnier alternative to No. 5. No one notices when I wear it to concerts, or if they notice they never say anything.

The woman singing next to me today was wearing something deliciously peachy, slightly at odds with her age (early 60s) but not ridiculously so because it was fruity but didn’t smell like candy. I’ll have to ask her what it was. I don’t know her well, because all semester we’ve had at least two people sitting between us in rehearsals, but concert formations are a little different, and I sometimes wind up standing next to someone I’ve never sung near. Which can be a little disconcerting, given the variations on voice timbres.

This evening, I was very tired of the well-bred nature of Mariella Burani’s drydown (lovely iris-musk-benzoin I usually enjoy very much, somewhat similar to that of Iris Poudre), so I went for the loudest thing I own: L’Arte di Gucci. Nobody’s calling L’Arte well-bred. Beautiful, yes; quiet, no.

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