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Archive for July, 2011

I’m Baaaaaaack!

Repairs to correct the heinous crackly static on our phone line last week caused our internet service to go out for several days.

If I’ve been ignoring your email or comment, that’s why.  I’m so sorry. 

In any case, we’re back online, and I’ll be posting Scent Diary, a review of (several years old) The Phantom of the Opera, an update on the Ferre Fragrance Throwdown post, and at least one serious perfume review.  Possibly also a not-serious perfume review, but we’ll see… I may replace it with a teaser excerpt from one of the novels I’ve been working on.

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Photo of wrestlers via Wikimedia Commons

I went looking for these in the first place because of Iris Poudre. I had read in comments on a ‘fume blog that Ferre by Ferre was a close cousin of Iris Poudre, which I love. Then there’s a review of Gianfranco Ferre in Perfumes: The Guide stating that it is a more-polished, fully-developed version of Iris Poudre. However, I’m still not absolutely convinced that the confusingly similar names of the Ferre fragrances haven’t caused a mixup in at least one case. Here are my thoughts on the matter, developed through multiple wearings and side-by-side comparisons over several months, as well as some good old-fashioned internet research. I confess that I’m still puzzled by the P:TG review.

(In case you are wondering, “old-fashioned internet research” was a joke. A terrible joke, but nonetheless.)

Both fragrances tested are minis acquired on ebay, with Ferre by Ferre in the black hand-grenade bottle (also produced as a goldtone mesh hand-grenade) and Gianfranco Ferre in the rectangular Ferre bottle, the same shape as my golden Ferre 20 bottle except clear glass with gold top. (see pix) This was the other blog comment that kicked up my interest in these Ferre fragrances: Commenter Melissa on Perfume Posse: “I am also amassing bottles of a few of the entirely underrated discontinued Ferres. Specifically, the older Ferre by Ferre (“classic”) in the round grenade shaped bottle, a modern floral aldehyde. And Ferre 20, a floral with a rich, woody-vanillic base. The latter has become crazy expensive, if you can find it at all.” That was the reason I was so happy to snag that bottle of Ferre 20 in Rome – well, that recommendation, and the fact that I think it smells great.

I warn you now – if you hate aldehydes, these two are not going to change your mind. But if you like them, these are both enjoyable and attractive fragrances, and the 2005 version is still available at a reasonable price at discounters (currently selling at FragranceX at about $37 for a 50ml bottle).

Ferre by Ferre from Fragrantica

Notes for Ferre by Ferre: Top Aldehydes, orange, green notes, peach, neroli, bergamot, lemon. Heart Mimosa, passionfruit, carnation, violet, orange blossom, ivy, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, rose, oakmoss. Base Spices, orris root, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver, styrax.

It reminds me more of Le Labo Aldehydes 44 than of Iris Poudre, but I can see the IP reference. It never develops IP’s delicious, angora-fluff benzoin drydown, though.

In fact, nothing does, so far as I have been able to find out. My opinion is that Iris Poudre got robbed in Luca Turin’s three-star P:TG review, which states, in part, “Simply stated, the problem with iris-root smell is this: everyone loves its gray, nostalgic, romantic powderiness, but the stuff is, truth be told, as funereal as it gets… [Pierre Bourdon’s] expertise in making resolutely sunny, fruity compositions very quickly dries iris’ tears. After a restrained initial gravitas appropriate to the occasion, Iris Poudre veers toward a happier disposition reminiscent of Bourdon’s Dolce Vita… A good fragrance, but not true to its name or material.

I’ll concur, Iris Poudre isn’t all that iris-y. Which is fine with me, for to be honest I am not the World’s Biggest Iris Fan. And true, it’s sunny and fruity; this is also fine with me because I like Dolce Vita very much. I would, however, quibble with the assertion that IP is “powdery.” It isn’t all that powdery; rather, it is as fluffy as a marabou stole.

Okay, true: I admit that I got pretty snarky about Elizabeth Taylor’s Violet Eyes having violet in the packaging, violet in the name, but no violet in the fragrance – but it is after all a very attractive floral that I might have bought if it had been just a little more distinctive. Dr. Turin gets similarly snarky when a fragrance name references either gardenia or iris, and turns out to not have much of whatever’s advertised, so I can’t blame him all that much. All the same, here I am looking for an Iris Poudre clone because I love it so much and it’s so expensive, and I still haven’t found one. Various fragrances replicate pieces of it – Ferre by Ferre and Ulric de Varens pour Elle mimic the sweet aldehydic top, Dolce Vita and Ferre 20 do the fruity bit, and Mariella Burani does something close to IP’s wonderful drydown. An all-of-a-piece replica? Doesn’t exist.

As a matter of fact, Ferre by Ferre happens to be discontinued and very difficult to find. Minis still float around on ebay, and I know of at least one fragrance seller on ebay that has a bottle or two of it, at approximately $100 for a 100ml bottle.   However, it’s still not all that much less expensive than a bottle of IP, so I’m still totally stuck on that “find a replacement for Iris Poudre” quest.

Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre (edp) from Fragrantica

After the fun start, GF turns into floral soap for some time, prim and opaque, flat as a piece of Sheetrock. The contrast with the sparkly topnotes is drastic. I don’t get a lot of iris in it, nor much rose. What does pop out, to my nose, is the lemony-creamy note of magnolia, and a sullen pouty jasmine, with just a hint of sugared violets. The drydown – primarily woody-musky-vanilla – is very comfortable, and easy to wear, though sweetened with amber.  It lasts well, about four hours on me (dabbed).  In my opinion, GF seems very little like Iris Poudre, despite the same perfumer and what is claimed to be a similar structure.

Notes for Gianfranco Ferre: Top Pineapple, melon, iris leaf, bergamot, [aldehydes]. Heart Magnolia, iris, freesia, jasmine, ylang-ylang, violet, rose. Base sandalwood, amber, basmati rice, musk, vanilla, orris root.

Now here’s Tania Sanchez, reviewing this fragrance (referred to as Ferre from the house of Gianfranco Ferre) and giving it four stars where Iris Poudre received three: “Five years after doing Iris Poudre… Bourdon polished the idea for Ferre. Slightly more vegetal than the Malle fragrance, Ferre is nevertheless a close match: powdery, woody-sweet in a violet way, and slightly too bright, like overexposed flash photographs.”

I admit here that I am not at all sure that I’m smelling the same fragrance that TS was reviewing. The notes list for this scent seems congruent with what I’m smelling – the fruit in particular, which TS doesn’t even mention, is prominent. “Powdery” is not at all a phrase I’d use to describe what I’m smelling here. Neither does “too bright.” This thing seems sort of dense to me, and, yes, sweet. It’s a fruity sweetness, but it’s true that sometimes violets (ionones) can seem fruity and sweet.  I am totally Not Getting the Iris Poudre reference, not in the least bit.  I noticed, too late, that my miniature bottle is Eau de Toilette, while the larger bottles are Eau de Parfum, and that may be the  issue.  Please weigh in if you’ve tried both the EdT and the EdP – and if you think I have the wrong one!

Over on Fragrantica, I notice that people keep putting reviews on the wrong Ferre fragrances. Someone has done a long, thoughtful review of the original 1984 Ferre fragrance, a rich floral oriental, on the 2005 Gianfranco Ferre scent. (FAIL!) Someone else has posted a lovely review of GF on Ferre by Ferre; I know it’s GF because it mentions a strong presence of fruit. Aargh. I think we have to blame Gianfranco Ferre himself for that. Was there ever another designer so enamored of his own name?! (Well, maybe. But nobody else has committed the marketing mistake of confusing potential customers with similar-sounding fragrances.)

A few other blog reviews of the Gianfranco Ferre fragrance: Bois de Jasmin and Legerdenez.  Enjoy.

Once again, we have a Throwdown where the winner is decided on points: While I think the 2005 Bourdon fragrance is a good one, a lighthearted sweet fruity floral with aldehydes and vanilla, I prefer the older fragrance, the hand-grenade bottle one, much more. It’s much softer, a pleasant powdery veil.  I might actually prefer Ferre 20 to either one of these, but they’re both lovely.

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So this has been a really frustrating week…

Monday, July 18: Considerably hotter than yesterday; by 1 pm the upstairs floor was completely miserable, several degrees hotter than the 80F downstairs. I turned the air conditioning back on. Went to fetch The CEO from a field he was mowing, and realized that Eddie Van’s left rear tire was absolutely flat, so I put the spare tire on. I got Bookworm to help me, because one of the things my dad never taught me how to do was to change a tire. Everyone should know how to change a tire. Bookworm may be small, but she’s strong, and she needs to be able to do it, so I made her do at least a piece of every single step. SOTMorning: Love, Chloe, which was an utter disaster. People recoiled from my arm in horror.

SOTAfternoon, when I thought we would have time to get the tire fixed or replaced and then get to the theater to see Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: a combination of Cristina Bertrand #3 and Samsara, both of which are strongly jasmine. I had put on the CB3 first, and found it a little too chilly, so the Samsara warmed it up. I don’t usually like to layer, but this one worked out fine. In any case, the tire guys finished with the van after the movie had started, so we decided to try again on Tuesday.

Silvia, The Queen

My mother-in-law Barbara has gone out of town for a few days, to a conference, which means that I am currently in charge of feeding her rotten cat, Fidel. (Fidel is not noticeably more spoiled rotten than Queen Silvia.) Fidel is mostly white, with gray tabby markings on his flanks and tail, and a mark on his face that looks for all the world like a mustache! He was mostly Bill’s cat and spent a lot of the day sleeping on Bill’s lap, so he’s been lonely lately.

Tuesday, July 19: Miserably hot again, 90F and very humid. SOTD: several, actually! I was mostly wearing Lumiere Noire pour femme, but also put on, for comparison’s sake, Agent Provocateur DD and Une Rose. It rained a little past noon, and then The CEO’s uncle called to let us know that there were several calves out on his road. Because The CEO was gone to a New River Land Trust meeting, and we were here without him, the kids and I had to go and get them back into the field. Actually, Bookworm did most of the work. There were six heifers who had jumped the Front Field cattle guard, and it was the second time they’d gotten out today, so we were instructed via cell phone by The CEO to put them into the Airport Field instead since they had figured out how to defeat the cattle guard. However, when Bookworm and Gaze went to get behind them and drive them toward the open gate into the Airport Field, two of them turned around and jumped the cattle guard to get back into the Front Field with the rest of the heifer calves, and one jumped the (really bad) fence into the Pond Field with the cows. Two came down the road nicely and went into the Airport Field as calmly as you could wish for, but one of them went through the fence into the Pond Field at another location, breaking at least two strands of barbed wire. Then she stood there looking at her friends on the other side of the road in the Airport Field, so we opened the Pond Field gate and let her walk across the road into the Airport Field.

And all of this during a thunderstorm, with buckets of rain…

After which, since I was already wet, I took a shower and got ready for our second try at seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. Put on La Myrrhe. I let Bookworm drive the 10 miles to R—-, for the 3 pm showing. We were very disappointed to find out that a local summer camp had bought all the tickets for the 3 pm showing for both today and tomorrow, and the theater was sold out! It’s also playing at 6 and 9pm, but the 9 seemed too late to Bookworm to stay up, and she had cross-country conditioning every day at 6, so that one’s out too. Looks like we’re out of business until Thursday.

When The CEO got home from a Land Trust meeting, he went out to check on a small group of cows in the Dobbins Pasture field, and found a really tiny premature calf. It was alive – unusual for such an early calf – but its mama was too excited to stand still and make it easy for him to nurse. So The CEO came home to thaw out some colostrum (I’ll bet you didn’t know we had that in the freezer!), and when he went back, he found that the calf had rolled under the fence and into the creek. This was not good – a newborn calf’s temperature needs to be kept up for several hours after birth, and being in the creek was dangerous both because of the body chill and the danger of drowning. However, the calf did take the bottle of colostrum and stood up again. He’ll have to be watched, and if his mama is still freaked out, we may have to feed him supplemental bottles.

I just hugged Taz good night, and it made him burp. Which made me laugh.

Wednesday, July 20: The CEO left this morning on a trip to visit all the Agricultural Technology students’ summer internships. I went outside to get into Eddie Van and go over to Barbara’s house to feed Fidel – and found that the front left tire was flat. Really, really flat. So I took the Ranger (his name is Walker, for reasons that should be obvious). Now I need to change the tire agaaaaain, which I’m not happy about, so I can get it fixed. Grr.

SOTD: Jour Ensoleille. Hot again. Mid-90s today, and humid. It must be July. Been watching Season 2 of Glee on Hulu with Bookworm… oh boy, the romance drama! Also, some embarrassing songs.

CEO took off today for his jaunt around the state, checking on the department’s summer internships. He’ll be back on Saturday. Jeff the Hired Guy reports that the preemie calf is standing up and making a good effort at nursing.

Thursday, July 21: Mowed the grass and got horribly sweaty. Did four loads of laundry. SOTD: Mary Greenwell Plum. Finally, finally took Bookworm to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. It’s a pretty good adaptation; I could quibble to a small degree, but by and large, we were pleased. My opinion on movies based on books is generally that the closer the movie is to the book, the better, but often I’m disappointed.

(Cases in point: Smilla’s Sense of Snow and Billy Bathgate – both great books, not-so-great movies. The only two cases in which I like the movie better than the book: The Wizard of Oz and Forrest Gump. The book Wizard of Oz involves spunky, 20’s-slang-spouting nine-year-old Dorothy in a weird world – there’s no epiphany for her that home is wonderful. And I’m not fond of satire as a genre, as inForrest Gump – a cynical romp through a ridiculous world. Many people would say it is a ridiculous world, and I’m not arguing that it isn’t… exactly… I’m just saying that I am not a big fan of satire, except for ThePrincess Bride, which is actually only satirical in parts, and if you’re just after the “good parts,” you can skip the rest of it. The movie, by the way, is the “good parts,” plot-only version. I adore the movie, but the book is excellent as well.)

SOTEvening: Cuir de Lancome. Man, I ought to take every one of my usual “summer” scents out of the hatbox and pack ’em away. They’re not doing me any good at all. Too light, too chilly, too… somethin’. And when I’m not craving galbanum and fresh florals in hot weather, there’s something wrong with me… I’m not sure what.

Friday, July 22: Hot again. This is the week of the fair, and none of us is the least bit interested in going – it’s just too hot. Testing today: Tom Ford Champaca Absolute, and Shalimar Parfum Initial, neither of which are doing it for me. Champaca Abs is pretty for ten minutes and then unpleasant. Parfum Initial is dreadful for two hours and then nice. Guess it evened out. Sort of.

Saw The CEO’s sister E and her daughter, Primrose, who are visiting while Curiosity and his dad are at Boy Scout camp. They’re leaving after the family reunion tomorrow. Went to see Cars 2 – I’d thought it would be silly, but I enjoyed the light-hearted take on James Bond films.

Black calf from Wikimedia Commons (not ours!)

The CEO called and asked us to go give the premature calf at the Dobbins pasture field half a bottle. It took longer than usual to get the bottle ready – Taz snuck up on me and hugged me while I was putting milk powder into the bottle, and it spilled all over the work surface in the laundry room. So I had to clean it up, because that stuff is sticky. Then Bookworm came in and I told her to, I quote, “put the lid on that bottle and shake it up, while I put on my shoes.” I handed her a half-full bottle with half-a-bottle’s worth of milk powder in it, and sat down to put on my shoes… only to look up and see that she’d filled it full to the brim with more water. Bad. Essentially, she’d watered down the bottle such that this calf (only as big as a medium-small dog) would only get half the nutrition that he really should be getting. So we had to start over. And then we got to the field and found that the mama cow (ear tag X13) was standing over something black and lumpy on the ground.

Yep, dead calf. Really, really dead. Then we had a concern that the cow might have had another twin, and I had to go and look closely at the dead calf to see if it was the one that had been born on Tuesday. If it had an ear tag in its left ear, it was the one that fell into the creek. However, the dead calf was lying on his left side, so that I had to get really close to it to try to lift its head and see if it was the creek calf. The mama cow objected, so Bookworm grabbed the Hot Shot out of the back and waved her off with it while I grabbed a stick and lifted the calf’s head up. It did have an ear tag. We left the calf there so that The CEO and Jeff could do a Weekend at Bernie’s with the calf and convince the cow to walk onto the cattle truck to be hauled to the hay shed and checked by the vet.

Saturday, July 23: Yet again, hot and humid. Bleah. SOTD: uhh… I don’t think I even put any – wait. Yes, I did. It was L’Artisan Mon Numero 8, and it was gone in ten minutes, leaving a slight faint smell of baby powder on my arm.

It threatened to rain, but did not actually do it here. After The CEO got home, he took the boys to an autograph signing and Salem Red Sox baseball game. I think they had fun – they came home with a Kris Negron bat and cap from a silent auction ($23). Kris played for the Red Sox a couple of seasons ago, and is now on the roster for the Cincinnati Reds, playing AAA ball with the Louisville Bats. He seems to be a nice guy; he was always pleased to throw used balls up into the stands where the little boys stand with their mitts, begging.

Bookworm would have gone with them, except that she had promised to volunteer at the table for our local Congressman at the fair. When she got back, she and I watched another episode of Glee. Seems like we’re doing a lot of horrified shrieks while watching Season 2, as in “I cannot BELIEVE that just happened!” or “I cannot BELIEVE how stupid these people are! The adults are worse than the teenagers!” or “Did they REALLY put this on TV???” We were particularly appalled by the alcohol awareness (cough, cough) episode.

Went to bed in Shalimar Light. Yes, the Blue Juice. I don’t apologize for it.

Sunday, July 24: Warm and humid in the morning. SOTD: PdN Le Temps d’une Fete, which I lurve beyond all reason. We got home from church, had lunch, and then The CEO and Bookworm took off to rake and bale a small field, hoping to get done before the storms came. Didn’t happen. It rained buckets.  I’m tired…  Scent of Bedtime was Shalimar Light again, yum.

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Remember when The CEO gave me carte blanche to pick out a new fragrance as an anniversary gift? (Wasn’t that sweet of him? Yeah, I think so too.) It’s been two months now – almost three – and several fragrances have been tested, and still no decision on anything from The CEO. I agreed to let him pick out something with me, and I wasn’t getting one “pick.”

I remember that sometime about… gosh, let me think… maybe 15 years ago, I asked him if there was a particular fragrance he liked, so that I might start wearing something he would enjoy. “Well, there was one that A– [an old girlfriend] used to wear, called [Karl Lagerfeld] Chloe. I liked that.”

I used to wear Chloe!” I exclaimed. “I liked it in high school, but I don’t think I could wear it now. Too bound up with high school memories.” Absolutely true. But also, A– was something of a snob. I knew her, of course, since we were all at Governor’s School together. I never liked her, and you could not pay me to wear a fragrance that might remind The CEO of her. “Anything else?”

He shrugged. “I don’t really know any other ones,” he said, apologetically. And we left it there. For an anniversary he bought me a bottle of Elizabeth Arden True Love, which I thought was a sweet gesture, even if I didn’t absolutely love the smell. It was pleasant, and I wore it for a few years, until the bottle was nearly empty and no longer smelled right. (I did not know then about the importance of keeping fragrance out of direct sunlight.) I didn’t buy another fragrance until a few years later, when I picked up the original version of Victoria’s Secret Pink – a fresh, green peony floral. I wore that for at least three years, until it too was gone and I started doing wacky things like googling for “perfume review.” Which led me to Now Smell This. The rest, as they say, is history.

Finally I started the active selection phase. “What do you think about this one?” I asked, of LeLong pour Femme – of which I already have a 15ml decant, but I figured if he really likes one I already have, there’s no need to get more.

It’s very nice,” he said.

Just nice?” I asked, double-checking. He nodded. “Well, which one do you like best?”

Well, I haven’t knocked anything off the list yet. You mean I’m supposed to rank them?”

Yes. Yes, exactly. Tell me which one you like best,” I said.

What, you can’t get all of them for $75?” he wanted to know, eyebrows together. I told him no. “Am I supposed to be telling you what I smell in there? What if I’m wrong? I know Gaze is getting good at this, but I’m not.”

Oh, no,” I assured him. “You don’t have to tell me what it smells like – just thumbs down or thumbs up.”

Well, that I can do happily,” he told me.

So I started the sniffage in earnest, testing new fragrances as well as scents of which I already own at least decants. As the days went past, I got the following comments and recommendations:

Parfums DelRae Amoureuse: “That’s definitely good. You can buy that.” Yeeeah. Like I’ve got $135 to throw around.

Guerlain Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique: “I like that. It’s flowery, but it’s also just – okay, it doesn’t smell exactly like flowers, it’s just that you smell good.” Yeeeeah. Like I’ve got $225 to throw around. Well, at least he’s got good taste.

DSH Chypre: “Ugh. No.” I actually love this stuff – for myself, not for him – so I managed to scrounge another couple of samples, of this and of its inspiration, Coty Chypre. It isn’t pretty by any means, but it’s compelling.

SSS Jour Ensoleille: “Pretty. Lots of flowers.” Me: Really? I smell hay in there. And honey. You smell the honey? The CEO: “Uh, no. Just flowers. Where do you come up with this stuff? Hay? No. I mean, it’s pretty. But it’s just flowery.” I am still thinking about this one because I love how rich and languorous it smells, but it’s not currently in the rotation at Sonoma Scent Studio. It can wait, and it’s rich so maybe a sample or two will do me anyway.

Lancome Tresor: “Eh. It’s okay, I guess.” That’s really a No, if you ask me.

Penhaligon’s Violetta: “Uh, not that. It’s weird. It smells like holistic medicine.” What a shame – I really like Violetta.

Tauer Perfumes Zeta: First, he stared at me nonplussed. “This?” Yep. “Well, it’s flowery,” he said doubtfully. “I don’t know. It smells okay, it’s just sort of – well, boring.” I concur. This is the rare Tauer that I don’t either really like or really hate. I can’t even muster an opinion about it.

Moschino Funny!: “Nice and light. Very clean.” That was a trick question – I bought a bottle last fall for $18.

Moschino L’Eau Cheap and Chic: “That smells like something you clean the floor with.”  Yes, it does.

Mary Greenwell Plum: “Very nice. Flowers and something else, kind of a throwback thing? It’s pretty. Very dressy.” I love this stuff, and my decants (thanks, Vanessa!) are rapidly disappearing. I would have asked for a bottle for Christmas, but the retail outlet that handles distribution in the UK – House of Fraser – does not ship to the US.

Nobile 1942 Chypre: “I guess it’s okay. Kind of boring, actually.” It bored me too.

Michael Storer Stephanie: “It’s… really sweet. I don’t know. No, I don’t like it all that much. It kind of bites my nose.” It’s the pepper. Some people don’t like that.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire pour femme: Full disclosure – this thing gets me all hot and bothered, which The CEO is fully in favor of. So despite the fact that he finds it just “okay,” in terms of actual smell, this one gets two snaps up and a circle. However I have a 10ml decant, and a full bottle’s out of my price range ($165 for 70ml, I think), and maybe this thing is a little dangerous so I don’t need a full bottle… incidentally, Elena at Perfume Shrine says that this fragrance was originally a bespoke perfume composed for Catherine Deneuve, who after it was completed agreed to let MFK market it. I have never smelled the floral-chypre-to-die-for, discontinued, Deneuve perfume, but if it smelled anything like Lumiere Noire, it must have been wonderful.

Penhaligon’s Amaranthine: “I like it. It’s sort of milky. Very calm.” (See, there is a reason I can wear it to church – it’s milky and calm. No sweaty thighs on me. I have a small decant, thanks to Joe A.)

Guerlain Idylle edt: “That’s pretty. Have I smelled that before?” Yes. I didn’t like the EdP original – I mean, I really hated the EdP.  However, the EdT I found in the Philadelphia Duty Free shop, on the way to Malta in the spring.  So I tested it, and it stayed nice for several hours. However, I already swapped for a decant of it (thanks, Karin!).

Vamp a NY: “I don’t like that. It’s really sweet. Sort of weird.” I have a decant – and I love the Vamp, so I’ll just have to wear it when he’s not around.

Guerlain Pamplelune: “That’s pretty. Smells like… lemons. And flowers. I like it.” I like it too, so I swapped for a mini bottle.

Guerlain Samsara EdT (modern): “That’s sort of nice. Is it cheap? It smells sort of cheap. But nice. Vanilla.”

Chanel No. 19 EdP: “That’s rather pretty, actually. Different.” I asked if he was sure, because he’d smelled my vintage EdT (bought on eBay for cheap!) and disliked it. The EdP is softer and rosier, but it’s recognizably No. 19. “I didn’t like it before? Hm. I don’t know why, because it’s pretty.”

Chloe Love, Chloe: “That is perfectly disgusting.” It’s probably my skin, but I concur. It was extremely unpleasant. Gaze actually recoiled from my arm in horror.

Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar: “That’s pleasant. But merely pleasant.” Yeah, that was my take too.

So it actually turns out that I had plenty of green lights and a few reds, but nothing that had lit up The CEO’s pinball machine, except Amoureuse (and Citizen Queen, but that’s another story). And then I managed to swap for a partial bottle of Amoureuse, so I have that now. And I made another last-ditch effort at determining his preferences.

I asked, “So do you have a favorite of all the fragrances I’ve been testing? Is there anything you really, really like?”

He considered. “Well, to be honest, I think I like the one you bought in Rome the best. I really like that one.” So he likes Ferre 20? I like that one, too. Guess I should wear it more often – I’ve been saving it for dates.

The upshot of all this testing was that I stopped waffling around and thinking up things for him to test. I bought a bottle of Mary Greenwell Plum, which I’ve been lusting for for more than six months, since the first time I smelled it. Plum has become something of a fallback fragrance for me, not exactly a signature because I wear so many different things, but the always-right, versatile, Feels Like Me fragrance. It is not yet available in the US, although the word was that it was supposed to hit US distribution by June of 2011. I bought it on eBay, from a seller in the UK.

Yes, I sniped. No, I’m not sorry. I looked at how much it costs to buy a bottle at the House of Fraser website (£60), checked with Yahoo! Finance as to how many dollars that is (way too many) and then bid a maximum of £60 with the snipe site. That was how much I was willing to put into it, and I bid that amount. It turned out that my bid was the highest, and the final sale was at about £41 ($63), so including the shipping, I paid about $78. I know it costs a lot to ship the bottle because of that darn heavy gold-plated cap, which I could not possibly care less about. I just wanted the magic juice.

And it came in the mail, about 10 days ago, and it is perfect. Cute pink box, pleasant-to-hold rectangular bottle, ridiculously heavy cap, wonderful smell: perfect.   Thanks very much, CEO.  Rotsa ruv, as Scooby Doo would say…

 

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A Rose in Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss, at Amazon.com

I have to blame Denyse of Grain de Musc for this one, which she described as a “bodice-ripper rose.” Because, baby, it really is.

(Not that I regularly participate in bodice ripping of any type, since I never wear bodices, except possibly to church, which is not exactly prime bodice-ripping real estate. It might be Frowned Upon. Even if the church meets in a middle school auditorium and sits in plastic-and-aluminum chairs and listens to music played upon drums and electric guitars. Maybe especially then.)

Ahem. As I say, Lumiere Noire pour femme is one of those woody-patchouli-rose concoctions that I seem to be a total sucker for. I enjoyed Agent Provocateur and its limited edition flanker, DD (Diamond Dust). I liked the part of Guerlain Rose Barbare that did not smell like Rose Barbare-shop (I’ve pretty well convinced myself at this point that this effect is due to an “amber” material that smells like Barbasol to me). I liked Parfums d’Empire Eau Suave. I liked Teo Cabanel Oha. I liked Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma – one of the few ELdO scents, along with Putain des Palaces and everybody’s dividing line, Secretions Magnifiques, that I’ve bothered to smell. I liked Parfums de Rosine’s gritty Folie de Rose. I even liked the reformulated Lanvin Rumeur, for heaven’s sake – not enough to buy it, but enough to spray from the sample vial and say to myself, “Hey, this isn’t bad!” The fact that Francis Kurkdjian seems to be fond of this kind of thing, to the degree that he keeps playing with variations of it (i.e. the aforementioned Rumeur, Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance, Rose Barbare), doesn’t really bother me at all, despite the blogospheric sneers that we’ve smelled it all before: Derivative. Smells like Stella smells like Rose Barbare smells like Sisley Soir de Lune smells like Lady Vengeance smells like Perles de Lalique smells like Coriandre. Boring. Show us Something New.

And I agree, woody-rose-patchouli has been Done Before. L’Artisan Voleur de Roses might have started the revival of this style of fragrance, according to some sources, but it was dreadful: a choking cloud of earthy, oily, yet sharp patchouli, dusted with dried rose petals. I lived through it, but I was definitely not cheerful afterwards.

Also a fact to keep in mind: I really don’t care much for patchouli. Okay, full disclosure: most of the time, I hate patchouli. I seem to be very sensitive to it and can pick it up at extremely low levels, in fragrances where it’s not the focus. It tends to dominate fragrances, so that even if it’s not a star player, it seems like one to me. I don’t have any overtly headshoppy or hippie references for that; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been around any serious hippies and I’m quite sure I’ve never been in a head shop. It’s just that usually, patchouli seems dirty to me – musty, dusty, funky like old shoes, and I find it unpleasant.

I’ve seen a number of scent bloggers complaining in the last twelve months or so about the proliferation of “clean” patchouli in mainstream fragrances, and how boring that is, how un-patchouli-like, how unimaginative. But all I can say to that is that I rather like clean patchouli. It can be a bit astringent, when stripped of its earthiness, but that is preferable to me. Sometimes you’ll see this referred to as “patchouli heart note” or “refined patchouli,” and it is indeed a grade of patchouli oil that has been refined to remove certain aspects of the natural material.

Another thing I’ve noticed about my reaction to patchouli is that I seem to get on much, much better with it when the patchouli has been aged. It seems to soften and become more herbal and grassy, less dusty and earthy, as if the dried material has been revived to become fresh green leaves. It’s still pungent and aromatic, and almost camphor-y, but it seems that I like patch that way – surprise, surprise! Some of my very favorite fragrances contain a nice herbal-smelling patchouli note, I realized recently: Le Temps d’une Fete comes to mind, in particular.

I like patchouli still better when it’s paired with rose, as I was mentioning earlier with all that talk about Agent Provocateur and Rossy de Palma. There’s just something about sweet, lemony, floral rose that marries well with the herbal-woody-aromatic strength of patchouli; the materials contrast, but somehow share a vibrancy and brightness. The combination is something like a good duet, where the two voices have similar timbres and vibratory frequencies, though they’re singing in different octaves.

Im Boudoir, by Karoly Teuchert, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Lumiere Noire pour femme does not disappoint me. Right after applying it, I get a moment or two of bright, lemon-candy patchouli, and then I can smell the rose-patchouli duet. There is a period when I really notice the lily of the valley, although I might simply be familiar with the rose-patchouli-muguet combination from smelling Guerlain Idylle EdT (not the original EdP), which has quite a lot of muguet in it as well as those other items. After this bright start, the heart notes settle more deeply into the rose-patchouli territory, the fragrance darkens, and I begin to notice the slightly warm and dirty influence of narcissus and of cumin, both leading toward thoughts of sweaty skin and (dare I say it?) the boudoir. There’s also a hint of something dry and smoky in the drydown, perhaps just a tiny bit of frankincense? It has the sort of lime-pine effect that frankincense sometimes does, and that’s what I think I’m smelling. The entire effect of the fragrance is of light shading toward dark, as if the neon lights and chandeliers of a dressy evening out have led to a passionate personal encounter in the dimness of a private room.

Needless to say, I find it very sexy.

During the short period of time that I owned a small decant of Frederic Malle’s hugely-popular Portrait of a Lady, I compared Lumiere Noire pf to PoaL, one on each wrist. Before that, I would have described Lumiere Noire to be a Dark Rose, a dark gothic rose with kohl-lidded eyes. But next to each other, Lumiere Noire glowed like a candle, while all light disappeared into the far, far darker Portrait of a Lady, proving PoaL to be the true Darkest Rose I’ve come across. Eventually, I grew tired of the heavy balsam in the drydown of PoaL and sent my decant off to a good home with a friend. Although I think PoaL is a truly wonderful fragrance, I just couldn’t manage to wear it myself.

Theda Bara as Carmen, movie still from 1915, Wikimedia Commons

Then I tried Lumiere Noire next to Agent Provocateur Diamond Dust. APDD is recognizable as another rose-patchouli fragrance, but it is another mood altogether, flirty and girl-next-door-sexy compared to the serious, vampy Theda Bara all-out-seduction of Lumiere Noire. The Agent Provocateur is sweeter, with lighter florals (I think I smell jasmine), and friendlier, with more wood and light musk than patchouli.

Notes, according to the MFK site: rose, narcissus, pepper, lily of the valley, patchouli, balsam, orris, cumin. I don’t smell orris or pepper, and I’m not sure what FK means by “balsam,” unless it’s that note I thought might be frankincense. It is available at LuckyScent and Neiman-Marcus, as well as Liberty in the UK, and the Maison Francis Kurkdjian website, at $165 for 70 ml. My decant is about half gone, though I save it for special occasions.

Other reviews:  Denyse at Grain de Musc, Patty at Perfume Posse (brief), Octavian at 1000Fragrances.  In brief blog mentions or comments, Katie Puckrik called it “bombshell rose”, but Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am was underimpressed.  (I was disappointed.  Brian and I often like the same sort of thing.)

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Monday, July 11: Hot today – 95F – and humid. I’m enjoying my new haircut. SOTD: Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. I noticed on Saturday that Eddie Van’s inspection sticker has expired, and I’ve been driving around in an illegal vehicle for more than a week! Went straight down to the auto service today and waited while they took care of him.

Bookworm and Gaze went out in the Gator to feed the weaned calves some grain this morning. I think The CEO is relieved to be able to turn over some tasks to them. Gaze is getting cash in consideration. Instead of paying Bookworm directly, we’re putting her wages into her band trip account. The marching band will be playing for the All-American Bowl in Orlando in December, and of course there are hotel fees and food and bus expenses and tickets to the amusement park associated with the trip. Luckily, they’re doing band camp as a day camp at the high school, instead of going to a college or summer camp as they’ve done in the past.

I’ve been teasing Bookworm because every band camp I went to was at our high school – and we didn’t have a nice cool grassy field to practice on, as her band does. We practiced on the asphalt parking lot. In August. Talk about hot – I might have mentioned before that the town where I grew up is, on average, about five degrees cooler than here… except in August, when Roanoke gets temperature inversions due to the bowl-like configuration of the mountains, and it gets even hotter. It is not unheard-of for summer temperatures in Roanoke to top 100F, with 90% humidity. Gah. Bookworm’s lucky and doesn’t even know it.

Tuesday, July 12: Miserably hot, 98F. SOTD: Moschino Funny! Spent part of the day quite upset because WordPress had suspended my blog due to “concerns about some of my content.” Worse, the supposed 24/7 Support was offline due to an upgrade until the middle of the afternoon, so I didn’t even know why there was a concern. Turned out that I had used a copyrighted image on one of my older posts. WordPress removed it and unsuspended my blog. In the past six months or so, I’ve been very careful about using only my own, public domain, Wikimedia Commons, or permission-with-attribution images, but in earlier posts I wasn’t so careful. I’ll probably need to go back through my blog images and replace ones that might be under copyright.

The CEO and kids watched most of the All-Star Game, which I avoid because it is So Darn Boring. Went to bed in vintage Emeraude.

Wednesday, July 13: Bookworm and Gaze went with their dad again this morning, to give the weaned calves a pour-on dewormer. I mowed the grass, wearing DSH Chypre (in oil). Gosh, I love the stuff. I don’t know why I do, because it really isn’t my taste at all and I don’t know if I’d ever wear it out somewhere. I like to keep it for myself. It is bitter, green, sour, and amazing. I do wonder if it would be easier to wear if it were diluted in alcohol, but I’m a little afraid to try, lest I waste the little bit I have. I do have a couple of samples of the (reissued) Coty Chypre, which is a little purring kitten next to the DSH beast.

It’s a lot cooler today, 82F, but very very humid. According to the National Weather Service, our current humidity is 74%. Even though the house is 78F, it is heaven after you’ve been outside. SOTA: L’Artisan Mon Numero 8, which I’ll be reviewing soon.

Took the kids to the library and watched the librarian’s eyes goggle as we put book after book after book on the desk to be checked in. I think we had maybe thirty books for four people. We’d finished reading them before the two-week checkout period was over, but I hadn’t had a chance to return them before today. Taz is currently into the Hardy Boys series, as well as Harry Potter (since starting Sorcerer’s Stone on Saturday, he’s now in the middle of Book 3, Prisoner of Azkaban – but of course those are Bookworm’s copies, not library books). I just finished Prayers for Sale, by S Dallas.

We made an afternoon of it; after the library, we dropped off some items at the Goodwill collection box, then went by the fruit stand for some tomatoes and peaches, mailed Bookworm’s Governor’s School forms and a swap package at the post office, and then went to Wal-Mart for water softener salt, water pitcher filters, and milk, as well as a new bike helmet for Gaze. (Poor Taz is wearing Bookworm’s old helmet, blue with pink flowers on it, which doesn’t seem to bother him.) While we were there, I had to dodge a Youth Dew-wearing woman you could smell from, I swear, fifteen feet away. Gah.

Small rant: Why is it that nobody ever wears that much Chanel No. 5 parfum? No, it’s always the stuff you hate that other people are wearing too much of. I’d certainly notice if someone was wearing enough, say, No. 19 or Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur or Knowing (which I like on other people, just not on me) to be smelled from that distance. It’s just that the people who are wearing enough perfume that you can smell them coming around the corner are always, always wearing something I despise.

SOTEvening: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire pour femme, another one I must review soon.

Thursday, July 14: Not quite so hot today – though humid enough, with the power going out for about three hours in the middle of the day. SOTD: Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune. I had given my sister-in-law a miniature of this, and she loves it. I wangled another one in a swap, so I could enjoy it myself. Luckily, it’s not cat pee on me.

Also received my little miniature of Love, Chloe in the mail, so I’ll have to try that one soon.

Friday, July 15: Lower temperatures today – cool, cloudy and windy, but no rain. The windchimes are going crazy this afternoon, and we turned off the A/C. SOTD: Le Temps d’une Fete, which I totally adore, with a squidge of SSS Tabac Aurea. They’re playing nicely together, though I know that if we were having hot humid weather as we did earlier in the week, they’d be conspiring to asphyxiate me. I wonder how it would be to live in the same kind of weather from day to day. Weird, I’m guessing.

Have been trying to catch up on Glee Season 2 with Bookworm – but since the full Season 2 is not out on DVD yet, we’re watching it on Hulu, on my laptop. Which stinks because a) my laptop screen is weensy, and b) there are commercials, and c) you can’t fast-forward through the galling parts, like the Finn-and-Rachel “Born Again” duet, or the Brittany-and-Santana smoochfest (which I did not think was appropriate for 12-year-old Gaze, and I made him leave the room, and he’s still mad about it). Plus, we’re trying to catch up on this free trial – and if we don’t finish soon, we’ll wind up either paying $9 for it, or making up new email addresses and doing multiple free-trial weeks. Granted, $9 for 23 episodes, lasting about 45 minutes each, is not all that bad a deal, given that sooner or later, she and I will also be shelling out for the last installment of the Harry Potter movies. But still, I think The CEO would object. Netflix does month-long free trials, but they don’t offer TV shows not out on DVD yet, not even for streaming. Grrrrr.

Saturday, July 16: The CEO is planning to run for the School Board. Lord have mercy.

It’s raining. My stargazer lilies are starting to pop open, so I took some photos from cover of the porch. Silvia, our cat, refuses to pose for photos: she’ll look right at me, and then just as the flash goes, she’ll turn her head. Ever the we-are-not-amused queen, that one. SOTD: Cristina Bertrand #3.

Bookworm cooked dinner: steak, baked potatoes, salad, rolls. It was delicious.

Sunday, July 17: Warm today, in the mid-80s, but not too humid. Air conditioning is still off, but we’ve got the fans going and it’s nice. SOTD: DelRae Amoureuse, which Bookworm hates but everyone else seems to enjoy. The Bright Futures kids from Atlanta are visiting today, so I’ve got four gallons of lemonade in the refrigerator and three pans of brownies made. Those kids can eat – no matter that they just finished a potluck lunch at the Church of God on Bobwhite Boulevard and they’ll be eating again at 6 pm or so, the brownies disappeared.

We always look forward to the kids coming. The Church of God in P—- sponsors them to come and spend a week staying in the area, going to the county recreational park and the pool and hiking and rock-climbing, just seeing things you can’t see in inner-city Atlanta, widening their horizons a bit. Essentially, Bright Futures is an after-school program for youth at risk, helping kids live safe and work toward better futures. A lot of them live with grandparents or foster parents because their parents have drug problems. They’re great kids. The CEO likes to take them on hayrides through the fields and past the cows; he says that for some of them, it’s the first time they’ve seen farm animals up close, and he might as well be taking them on safari, for the wonder in their faces.

If I had the opportunity to do perfume sniffing with them, I’d do it. Unfortunately, there are too many of them. Sigh. I’d send them all home with samples if I could.

It was chilly when I went to bed – The CEO was still up watching the Red Sox – Yankees game, which went 16 innings, with the Sox winning 1-0. I was craving something potent and warm, so I dug the Alahine out of the cabinet. It was delicious.

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Pamplelune was composed in 1999 by then-in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent (also responsible for one of my favorite comfort fragrances, Shalimar Light), as part of the simple and lovely first round of Aqua Allegoria fragrances. Pamplelune and Herba Fresca are the only fragrances that remain in production from that first release of these Guerlains With Training Wheels, both deservedly so. Pamplelune, despite having lost that first blush of newness, is still getting press – and wear – among fragrance fans.

Here, in part, is what Luca Turin of Perfumes: The Guide had to say about it:

“… without question the best grapefruit fragrance ever, and has that magical quality, typical of perfectly conceived and executed fragrances, of being much more than the sum of its parts… Laurent married grapefruit… with an intensely pink floral accord and somehow gave it durability and that elusive quality of radiance: the ability to project an accurate image of itself at a distance. A sunny masterpiece.”

I ran across this description in P:TG and promptly dismissed it. I don’t really care for citrus scents. They smell fine, but they tend to bore me to tears, and the phrase “a good citrus,” strikes me as having the same appeal as “a good car chase film.” Sure, there are people that like that sort of thing, but I am not one of them.  It turns out, though, that grapefruit might be an exception for me, as in Pamplelune and in Moschino Funny!

I first smelled Pamplelune at the Duty Free shop in the Rome airport. I was already covered in Lolita Lempicka Si Lolita and Chanel No. 19 EdP, so I figured that if it bored me I’d still have other things to smell. However, Pamplelune surprised me: I was pleased that, first, I’d found a citrus fragrance that didn’t for once bore me silly, and second, that didn’t disappear at Minute 34. I had already bought a set of four Aqua Allegoria minis in Malta intending to bring them back home as souvenirs for various relatives: Flora Nymphea to my mother, who likes soapy-clean scents; Bouquet Numero 1, a citrus-fresh floral, to The CEO’s mother; Herba Fresca to The CEO’s sister J who loves fresh gardeny unisex smells, and Pamplelune to his other sister E, who used to wear Dune and had been looking for some lighter summer fragrances. E reported to me later that she really enjoys the happy, light-hearted cast of Pamplelune.

If you go to Basenotes or Makeup Alley or Fragrantica and read what’s written about Pamplelune, you will find widely divergent reviews. Some of them are as enthusiastic as the encomium written by Luca Turin in P:TG, and some of them condemn Pamplelune as being quite possibly the worst thing the reviewer has ever smelled, ever. The aromachemical making the difference seems to be the sulfur compound in grapefruit: to some people it smells quite strongly of sweaty body odor, and to some it smells unmistakeably of cat urine.

I had warned E about Pamplelune before she put it on. “Try it before you take the bottle with you,” I said. “Some people say it smells unpleasant, and if you don’t like it I’ll give you something else. I like it, but your nose might perceive it quite differently.” To her it smells of lemons, oranges and flowers. No locker room, and no incontinent cats.

I have lived with a cat in my house for most of my 43 years, excluding only my college years and the year I lived in my own apartment. Mr. Deedee, an orange cat, was succeeded by Smoky, the gray one. Then Midnight, who was exceedingly grouchy with everyone except my mom (who fed him) and my sister (who was a baby). Then Mittens, a tall tabby cat, came to live with us, and he was mostly my sister’s cat – she could hold him and ask for a kiss, and he’d lick her cheek. I found Callie, the stray calico, when I was a teenager and brought her home. Mittens and Callie were still with my parents when I moved out, Mittens living to the age of 14 before developing a brain tumor and Callie finally succumbing to old age when she was 17. Meanwhile, my brother brought home Buju, a chunky gray girl; when my grandmother’s beloved dog died, I brought her Herschel, a white-and-gray kitten from the litter that was born in the backseat of our neighbor’s car. Later, my parents took in Rosie, an enormous calico that I like to call “Meatloaf,” when her owner had to move into an apartment. And during the year that E lived with The CEO and me after we were married, her cat Tiger lived with us too.

The CEO, who had grown up with cats like Smoky and Morris and Dwayne (so named because he’d been found as a kitten in, yes, a dwainpipe), brought home two kittens he’d found starving and crying their heads off in a barn, with no sign of a mama cat anywhere. The black one he called Lucky, as a sort of joke that turned out not to be so funny when she crossed the street unwisely and was hit by a car. The small fluffy tabby with a bottlebrush tail we named Silvia, after a delicately feminine character in a Scott Turow novel. Silvia would place one tiny white paw on the side of the bowl of kitten chow and eat one kibble at a time, while Lucky planted both front feet right in the bowl and plowed in. Silvia, now old enough to vote and rather thin, is still with us.

So. I know the smell of cat pee, yes? Yes, indeed. I do. And despite the fact that an open cup of peach-flavored yogurt abandoned on the kitchen table often causes me to sniff suspiciously and check the litter box, I don’t smell any cat pee in Pamplelune.

What I smell in Pamplelune is bright citruses, mostly grapefruit but also an intense orange peel, followed by a floral note that I thought at first was orange blossom but now think must be neroli, because it does not go soapy and flat on me the way orange blossom usually does. Rather, it’s sparkling and has a happy feeling to it. The citrus phase by itself lasts almost twenty minutes on me, which is remarkably long for citrus, in my experience. The citrus+floral phase lasts a much longer time, perhaps an hour, before the citrus drops out altogether and the florals take over. I smell quite a lot of rose in Pamplelune along with the neroli (orange blossom?), and it is a classic, perfumey scent at this stage. Eventually, I smell the quiet woody base, which includes a faint, unsweetened hint of vanilla as well as a dry, herbal patchouli that does not send me screaming the way patchouli can. The whole fragrance is attractive and pleasant, shifting gears without a hitch throughout. My mini bottle is a dabber, and when I dab, the scent lasts about three and a half to four hours – extraordinarily long for an eau de toilette on my skin – while sprayed, it lasts about five or five and a half hours. It is not particularly loud, but it does have rather a nice gentle waft, well within my three-foot radius preferred wafting distance.

The notes for Pamplelune, according to Fragrantica, include lemon, orange, bergamot, blackcurrant, petitgrain, sandalwood, patchouli, and vanilla. There is no orange blossom or neroli listed, nor rose, but neither is grapefruit specifically listed. (I’d swear there’s rose.) Also, I think there might be just a little bit of musk, as a longevity extender.  The entire fragrance has a cheerful, smiling face without that relentlessly perky clenched-teeth airline hostess perma-grin, and I find it both uplifting and easy to relax in.

It might be that the blackcurrant+citrus combination creates the grapefruit effect, and since these are topnotes that might be affected by skin acidity, I do recommend that anyone interested in Pamplelune try it before buying it. But do try it, won’t you? If it works on you, you won’t regret it.

Bottle image and notes list from Fragrantica.  I note that Fragrantica also claims Jean-Paul Guerlain to be the nose for this fragrance, but I don’t think I’m buying that.  Cat image is from cat-lovers-only.com (because Silvia is camera-shy!)  Grapefruit image from Wikipedia.

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