Monday, May 31, 2010

Tauer Vetiver dance review and a virtual picnic

When the generous and enormously talented perfumer Andy Tauer was kind enough to send me samples of all his fragrances—and an adorable sample set to give away (details soon)—I was thrilled. I was especially thrilled to find a sample of his Vetiver Dance within one of the adorable embossed tins, for as you may know, I adore vetiver, and any fragrance with vetiver in the name is pretty exciting for me.
 2010-05-29 18.02.36
SO, I did what any self-respecting perfume-loving bon vivant would on a sunny Memorial Day weekend. I spritzed on Vetiver Dance and went on a picnic, prophesying that a vetiver fragrance would go well with a sunny day down by the river. I was right!

Vetiver Dance opens up with a bouquet of pepper, rose, and citrus—Grapefruit, yes, I can detect that..and stays fruity for quite a while. This makes it go very well with the gin and tonics my beloved had the foresight to pack in our picnic basket!
In fact, this fragrance played very well with all the food we enjoyed on our little tartan picnic blanket—cold herbed chicken salad with lemon, kalamata olives, pan-roasted almonds, a light romaine salad, gummy raspberries and blackberries, dark chocolate, Armenian cheese, and apples—all seemed to agree with the gentle wafting scent of the Vetiver dance. In particular, the aroma of the crushed grasses under our blanket and the lemony herbaceousness of the chicken salad seemed natural complements to the warm grassy aura of the EDT.
2010-05-29 16.02.22 (My darling, post picnic repast, ready to do some serious reading in the sun)
After we ate everything all up, like two little bears, we decided to just lie out in the dappled shade under the spreading branches of two large river-loving trees, and just read to our hearts’ content.
2010-05-29 18.04.48
I am the proud owner of a brand new Sony reader, which I adore, since I can read all my favorite novels for free from Project Gutenberg, so I cracked it out and started reading a book I can’t believe I didn’t read as a child—The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect story for this beautiful afternoon by the river.
2010-05-29 18.04.29 (my e-book, ever convenient.)

As I read of the little river rat and his friend Mole, and their adventures on a river much like the one near which we were camped, the Vetiver Dance became even more of a friend. The tonka bean at the base of the composition kept any sharpness at bay, and the whole thing stayed sweetish and elegant. As I read of the warm summer day on the river, and Rat and Mole on their boat, the grassy, almost wet notes of the fragrance came out, and I imagined I too was sculling along the river.
2010-05-29 17.19.31
  As the friends entered the earthy domain of Badger in a later chapter, the dark earthy qualities of the vetiver, along with the classic Tauer incense and balsamic notes, came to the forefront, and I was no longer rowing under an open summer sky, but in a cozy earthen home before a roaring hearth, nursing an imaginary brandy.
 This vetiver is not like many other vetivers, in that Tauer chooses to bring out different and unusual aspects of that noble grassy root. In his hands, if becomes an ever-shifting, yes, dance of floral, smoke, and green depths, but always retains a certain sweetness of character that is quite unlike other craggy vetivers, which don’t try so hard to make friends.
2010-05-29 18.01.18
It was a perfect reflection of the landscape in which I found myself, I realized. I began to imagine each aspect of the perfume as part of the river meadow. The resinous parts of the fragrance became the majestic trees. The vetiver? Well, it was the grass and the undergrowth all around me, with a bit of swamp thrown in—there was a lovely little wetlands in the meadow as well, full of VERY tall yellow water-irises  
2010-05-29 17.44.21
(See how tall they were? Almost up to my eyes!)
 2010-05-29 17.33.00
The roses in the fragrance were matched by these powerfully indolic and fruity smelling wild rosebushes, with their proliferation of blossoms. My beloved said it was too much scent, but I was in HEAVEN!
2010-05-29 17.49.55
The citrus was the gin-and-tonic, and the lemon chicken salad. The ambergris, lurking at the base, was the salt on my skin.
 2010-05-29 17.35.17(me in heaven.)
the thick sweetness permeating the whole fragrance became, in my sinaesthetic mind,  the shining river, floating through the landscape like a dream of great loveliness and joy.
I felt at one with myself, with my love, with the summer afternoon, with the river and the flowers, with the fragrance on my warm skin, kissed by the sun. I put flowers in my hair, feeling like a woodland nymph.2010-05-29 17.14.59
We read, walked, kissed, smiled, and sat in silence, enjoying this perfect day.
Drunk with such joy, even the sluglike snails on the leaves, dangerously close to our food and our bodies, seemed like friends, lovely in their very existence.  
2010-05-29 18.04.09
Others’ reviews of Vetiver Dance:

sorcery of scent
notes from the ledge
roxana Illuminated perfume
perfume da rosa negra
perfume shrine
grain de musc

all pics mine except the one of Badger, which comes from the Project Gutenberg site.

The Wind in the Willows Household Essentials ML-2660 Woven-Willow Square-Shaped 4-Person Picnic-Basket Set The Moveable Feast - A Picnic Cookbook for All Seasons

Sunday, May 30, 2010

soy loco por coco: Chanel coco review

constant emir One of my favorite moment moments in modern fragrance history is the great Spicy Oriental boom of the Eighties. These fragrances were awesome, in my opinion; Opium, Cinnabar, Shalimar, Poison, Coco—these ladies didn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thought of them. They were huge, domineering, impossible to mistake for another, and were so powerful that they launched the biggest backlash ever—the ultimate domination of ‘quiet’, ‘linear’ fragrances like CK One and Bulgari’s Thé Vert. What nobody seemed to realize, or at least care about,  at the time is that these fragrances were singing the swan song of the great operatic fragrance a la big perfume house. Since then, most new releases—even from the great houses of Chanel and Guerlain—have been nice at times, but never as complex, dense, and intriguingly impossible to completely understand as these powerful creatures of their time. Of course, niche perfumers still create grand fragrances  with lots going on all the time, but the general public, while reveling in all other things ‘eighties’ right now, doesn’t look like it is ever going to shift back to the perfume-friendly aspect of that decade’s zeitgeist anytime soon, if ever.


Chanel’s Coco is, characteristically, one of the most refined of the bunch, and the one I believe wears the best today because of it. It doesn’t scream “I am an eighties oriental!!” which some would say is a good thing, although to me, it just means I need to evaluate the juice on slightly modified terms. It is powdery in a very delicate way, spicy, woody, and dense, but also supremely balsamic and dark. The spicy notes shimmer about and change continuously, and some florals peek through the dense silk brocade oriental curtains from time to time, but only as if to say: “we are still here,but pay no mind to us…” I love its elegance, its indefinable glamour, and its very womanly and mysterious heart.  I wear it when I want to seem cool, collected, but also sensual and indefinably exotic—I guess like Coco herself . A treat for the senses indeed.




Benjamin Constant’s Oriental fantasy “Favorite of the Emir” and the image of young Coco Chanel courtesy of Wikimedia commons 



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Saturday, May 29, 2010

a brazilian feast

First, a reminder to enter your name in my drawing for a book and some fragrance samples here.

IMG_4790 I have been staying with my brother and sister-in-law (who is Brazilian) for the past few days, and last day we had a traditional Brazilian meal. I have adored Brazilian cuisine ever since we went down for a month for my brother’s wedding, and was thrilled to be part of the cooking process. In Brazil, the cook made all the food for the household or we ate out, so I never got to see it in process, so to speak. The three of us put this meal together in a little over an hour, and it tasted SOO good, I had to share it with you all.

the meal pictured at left doesn’t look so great, but let me promise you, it tasted wonderful (I’m just not the best photographer.)


Here are the recipes:

collard greens: couve

1 bunch collard greens, cut lengthwise into small strips

1 onion, cut in small strips

garlic smashed to a paste in a pestle.

Cook onions on stove until soft.


Add collards and garlic paste to taste, and cook until somewhat soft but not mushy, with a bit of crunch still. Serve with meat.

IMG_4789IMG_4778(couve and garlic paste)



ground beef dish (I forget the name in Portuguese)

carrots, quartered and eighthed, then minced

onion, minced

garlic, and red pepper flakes if desired.

salt and pepper: cook all in a saucepan. That’s it.


also, make a rice pilaf with rice, onions, salt, garlic, and pepper, and black beans as sides.

Serve all these things on a plate, with a overeasy fried egg on top.

IMG_4750 my beautiful sister-in-law in the kitchenIMG_4796


Now comes the best part: the decadent milk pudding or pudim de leite, which is very easy to make: 

In blender, 3 eggs, 1 (or a little less) can condensed milk, and a can of normal milk) –blend.

put in a bundt pan with caramelized sugar on the bottom--in a saucepan filled with water. Steam for roughly one hour—until hard--then chill for at least four hours. Invert the pan on the plate and serve your lucky guests.






the strands of leftover caramelized sugar on the saucepan. Mmmm!

It was so nice to share this special meal with my family, and it was made all the more special by my new fragrance combination of Shalimar and shimmering coconut lotion, which made me feel all the more tropical and happy.



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Friday, May 28, 2010

Samples giveaway at Oh True Apothecary

pineapple gift

A drawing for samples of a brand new scent is going on at the Oh True Apothecary blog. Go check it out.

And don’t forget my giveaway, if you haven’t entered your name yet.


King Charles II, receiving gift of a pineapple from the Royal Gardener, John Rose. Painting, 1675, attributed to Hendrick Danckerts. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

my favorite perfume deals #1-All under $15

florida water Love perfume and want to start a collection of well-composed scents but get sticker shock when you look at the niche prices? Never fear, I am here to provide you with a list of really beautiful fragrances you can find for under 15 dollars a bottle. You can build your collection and still stay within budget.

  • Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel—one of the weirdest men’s fougeres out there. Bitter, harsh, and gorgeous.

  • anything by Pacifica—I love this company, and think almost all of their fragrances are well-done, if a bit short-lived at times, The solid perfumes (usually $8-9 a pop) are great for a base layer to make a sprayed fragrance stick around a bit longer.

  • Priscilla Presley roses and more--  a much more delicate rosy-floral. Ultrafeminine. 

  • jovan musk-- If you like musk, this is for you. A straightforward musk. Gold spice adreat for layering experiments as well 

  • The Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose—I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it now. One of the best rose soliflores out there, and you can get it for pennies.

  • old spice—so cheap, but a lovely classic spice/woods fragrance, worth much more than 8 bucks just from the many compliments you’ll receive from nostalgic women.

  • egyptian goddess—a hippy frag, yes, but what the hell is wrong with that?  floral, powdery, and musky, and like nothing else. One of my close friends wears nothing else, and I swear to God more people notice her scent (and like it) than anyone else I know.

  • tabu—loud, loud, loud, yet somehow compelling. 

  • yardley english lavenderan old fashioned cologne, quite calming and lovely. More fougere than straight lavender scent, with a bit of bitterness. 

  • lanman and kemp florida water—one of the oldest cologne splashes, can be had for 3-4 dollars. Refreshing and clean-smelling, citrus and anise. 
pinaud roman

  • pinaud lilac vegetal—a weird old cologne. It smells a bit like its name, but it is also somewhat protean.

  • pinaud clubman bay rum—a classic bay rum, and everyone should own a bay rum.
This is only a partial list of  good cheap fragrances. I have many more up my sleeve, and I am always searching for good cheap things, being on a grad student’s budget myself. I hope you like them. Also, any suggestions would be super welcome for the next installment. Happy sniffing

florida water ad from wikimedia commons
old spice ad from I Love Retro Things
pinaud ad from the great shaving site Badger and Blade

a quick reminder that my book and fragrance drawing and giveaway is still in full swing. don’t forget to enter your name here if you are interested!

If you liked this post, I would be very grateful if you would consider joining my blog,  through RSS feed, email, Facebook networked blogs, google friendconnect, or any other way that appeals to you. I also always love getting comments!

Florida Water By Lanman Kemp & Barclay - 2 Oz Clubman Pinaud Lilac Vegetal After-Shave Lotion 12 fl oz (355 ml) 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

notes from my lunar insomnia and iris nobile review

nielsen moon

Time for my monthly musing on the full moon—I can’t help it, I’m made different by its light shining in my window, inescapable, in ways comforting and maternal, yet also strange, disturbing. All my senses come alive; I am my self, amplified, for better or worse. Over these six years of marriage I have infected my husband, who now suffers the same sea change as I every time that celestial body climbs up in the heaven, redundant, resounding. We huddle together in our bed, listening to each other’s breathing, wondering when, if, how, we will ever achieve sleep. We hearken to the wild night noises outside our windows, the sounds of creatures somehow bigger, invasive. as if they roam the corners of our silver room, lurking and hunting, shrieking and munching.



I smell my skin, scented with the unnatural, or perhaps super-natural, human amplifications of flowers, roots, woods, and unnamable sensations with only a pale chemical for a name, the product of alchemists in sterile laboratories, often far from the moon’s light, but never from her influence. I love my skin, love how the little pale hairs seem to be waving the fragrance slowly up from my arm, as if the moonlight itself were a light breeze that lifted molecules from me. I feel like

I could waft up myself, into the sky, floating above my body, when I am like this. Flying like Wendy hand-in-hand with Peter on the way to some land beyond naming, beyond comprehension.


Tonight, my fragrant companion in this endless expanse of lunar time is Iris Nobile by Acqua di Parma, an elegant, delicate lady whose limpid watery pools of scent softly shimmer--evanescent, seemingly--yet hold up to the intensity of this hot moon-filled night. Soft buttery green notes, like damp reeds in the undulating river of time, and the faintest of orange-blossom indoles, balance out the watery aspects of this fragrance, but all dance together with the moonlight in the most ghostly way. Well, hopefully the water-irises and I can finally go to sleep now, now that I have written this all down and gotten the weight of my thoughts off of my breastbone. We can hope……

Oh Moon, mother of all Fortune,

every plant aches toward you,

the seas are pulled by your gossamer strings.

night plants emit their vapors, breathe out their souls into your sucking light.

beasts prowl your forests, live and die in your image.

blood rises to meet you in the  highest air,

and in my own veins.

lovers come together and apart as you rise in the sky.

my skin glows with your cold presence.

you choose my being, determine my substance;

I am bound to you, by a tie thick as death,

and nothing but death can ever hide me from you.


kay Nielsen’s moon image from “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” found on

recording of Puccini’s ‘Perché tarda la luna?’ from Turandot, the Wiener Staatsoperchor and Wiener Philharmoniker recording, conducted by Herbert von Karajan

a quick reminder that my book and fragrance drawing and giveaway is still in full swing. don’t forget to enter your name here if you are interested!

If you liked this post, I would be very grateful if you would consider joining my blog,  through RSS feed, email, Facebook networked blogs, google friendconnect, or any other way that appeals to you. I also always love getting comments!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

a beautiful home

Before I start, a quick reminder that my book and fragrance drawing and giveaway is still in full swing. don’t forget to enter your name here if you are interested!


First, a brief reminder that my book and perfume sample giveaway draw is still open. Every year, at the medieval conference in Kalamazoo, I aIMG_4646ttend a very civilized dinner at the home of a professor emeritus. He and his wife have spent over 50 years perfecting this home, and I think I can say it is one of the best curated, most beautiful homes I have ever had the pleasure to see. Unfortunately, this professor’s wife died suddenly a few years back, and every year since, I have feared  that these polite, delicious dinners, filled with wonderful food and urbane conversation, will come to an end.

SO this yeaIMG_4708r, I documented my favorite parts of the house by taking snapshots. This is not in any way a fragrance post, but it certainly has a lot to do with the art of living an aesthetically full life.

As you can see, the sitting room is very beautiful, the piece de resistance being a hand-painted Chinese screen that hangs above the couch.

IMG_4651 every detail is perfectly curated, including the placement of the bouquets.

IMG_4655 the dining room is equally beautiful. Here, the console surrounded by antique floral prints.

IMG_4661 an assortment of brass and copper implements line the windows of the dining room, reminding me of a Dutch still life

IMG_4657 curtains and flowers.


My favorite room of all may be the kitchen, with its marble counters, hand built shelving, and interesting implements hung on the wall

IMG_4667 IMG_4664 IMG_4699


IMG_4677 the bathroom is also awesome, with green and white wallpaper, white wainscoting, and clean-as-can-be white porcelain.

IMG_4678 IMG_4674  of course, there are Chinese paintings of birds and flowers throughout the house.

IMG_4683 IMG_4676 the landing.

IMG_4686 IMG_4691

some perfect coffee ends a perfect night

IMG_4703 the lovely Russian china is put to bed.

I almost forgot to mention:

IMG_4632 the peerless garden.

IMG_4628 IMG_4641

IMG_4635 IMG_4640

I am afraid my snapshots haven’t done this beautiful home justice, and end up looking like a real estate ad, but I just had to document it anyway. I hope someday I too can create a home as beautiful as this.

here’s wishing you an aesthetically-pleasing day,

-La Bonne Vivante



If you liked this post, I would be very grateful if you would consider joining my blog,  through RSS feed, email, Facebook networked blogs, google friendconnect, or any other way that appeals to you. I also always love getting comments!


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