Saturday, July 31, 2010

perfume riddle VII


It’s that time of the week again, and lo and behold, what do I hear with my own little ears, but a sphinxlike perfume bottle, galloping up to riddle you this and that. Who will be the great hero today, craking the code and naming the bottle who sings to you its siren song?

A raging volcano covered with snow,

a goddess in white pearls, row after row.

A bright smile, a tender glance,

a gauzy dress, a twirling dance

across a brightly lit studio floor.

This lady danced once—she will dance no more.

A bright crown and a Barbizon cool,

a castle and husband who made ladies drool,

A hint of iris, a bit of leather

and plenty of roses to remind you I’m clever

like my idol—I never whip you too hard,

but ever play my graceful winning card

close to my magnificent chest.

I share part of my name with one of the best

bottles in the stable; you could say the same

of the second half of my nostalgic name.

Who am I?


La Granja de san ildefonso, Sphynx, Spain, taken by Håkan Svensson (Xauxa).

Friday, July 30, 2010

5 years ago today

5 years ago today, I married my husband, at my family’s cabin in Red Lodge Montana.001_13A

I know you may all be tired of hearing me ramble on this week about our anniversary, but the 5-year mark has me thinking a lot about that day.


It was a very homemade wedding—family members, friends, and I made all the food; my mother, mother-in-law, and I sewed the wedding dress, and a large contingent of friends arrived at our cabin about a week early to help decorate the place.



I loaded up my old station wagon with flowers, and we spent the day before the wedding making bouquets and corsages, among sundry other things….I will never forget the way my car smelled as  I drove up into the mountains.


In the evenings, the intrepid wedding party relaxed from their labors with a hookah and some drinks down by the creek (I therefore always associate the sweet smell of hookah tobacco with my wedding. Go figure)


And of course, I was a bit preoccupied and nervous about the big day.


Our homemade bouquets turned out great, and smelled delightful; like Montana wildflowers.


But then, it rained!!!!!!


what to do? all the guests had arrived, but the wedding was outside! I waited anxiously upstairs while hearing all my friends and family milling about the cabin, wondering if the rain would hold—I couldn’t come down because my husband had yet to see the dress…


luckily, the rain cleared up and the wedding went off without a problem (except my Grandpa got up and peed on the ‘altar’ after we had said our vows. The guests were amused at that, of course)


My dad, a choral director, led some folks in a choral rendition of ‘set me as a seal upon your heart’ and Vaughan Williams’ arrangement of “See the Chariot at Hand”




but then, the best part; the reception at the back of the cabin. The beers and wines were cooled in the little glacial stream that ran by the cabin; the cake was covered in rose petals and whipped cream (YUM)


everyone looked incredible in the romantic evening light. It was a joy to see so many people we loved in one place.


My parents, my brother (far right) and his best friend were the band.

00020 (2)-1  I think my mother is very beautiful.

00029 (2) everyone danced into the wee hours.

018_5A but I think my favorite part of it all was seeing my husband’s delighted smile


All pictures taken by our close friend, professional photographer Annie P. Warren

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Olympic Orchids luzonica review

File:Surprised-Rousseau.jpgOlympic Orchids’ Luzonica is a sour/tropical/musty/dusty beast of a fruit salad. I find it to be larger-than-life, vibrant, and intense—tropical fruit (pineapple?) spliced with tuberose and orchidesque flowers. It is very unique indeed, and exciting! The musky vanilla base is VERY sexy on my skin, drying down to a salty, animalic floral which really does seem dangerous! There is also a slight bubblegum quality to it, especially in the opening, but it doesn’t push the scent into the Lolita category as far as I am concerned. This is just a surreal, tropical, sexy floral that thrills me and gives me wee palpitations of the heart! I am definitely a fan of new perfumer Ellen Covey’s compositions, no doubt about it! She clearly has a fabulous imagination, and a creative nose. I am having a blast reviewing and enjoying her portfolio.


Rousseu’s “Tiger in a tropical Storm” courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

done with ‘-ista’

File:Nicholas Hilliard 019.jpgI don’t know about the rest of you, but I am suffering from a glut of ‘ista’ suffixes. First, there was barista—annoyingly euro showoff, but ok…. Then there was the rise of the ‘fashionista’. Ok, what des that mean? Someone who likes fashion. Um hmmmm, like someone who is ‘fashionable’ or ‘fashion-conscious’ or trendy? DO we really need to call them ‘fashionistas’ if we have all those other ways of putting it? Something about the tone of that word just strikes me as wrong. Too Sex and the City, or something.

Then of course, there we are, the ‘perfumistas,’ and maybe I’m biased, but this one makes a little more sense to me since there really wasn’t any kind of name for our group of weirdoes before—smell-obsessed? Nah. interested in perfume? Eew. perfume-lovers? noooooo! etc.

SO I was willing to stomach the obnoxiously ubiquitous neologism for the time being, since it worked as a descriptive noun for our folk. But then, ‘recessionista’ happened… and a whole slew of similar new splicings that just make my hair stand on end.

And then, there’s the problem of the hypercorrection. IN the romance languages, from which the model words, barista/artista, etc. originate (although the ultimate origin is Greek, I believe), the -ista ending can be both masculine and feminine, unlike most words finishFile:Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp tüdruk kukega.jpging with an ‘A’ which usually designate a feminine gender, like reina [SP],  strada[IT], and galinha[P]. SO a male coffeemaker is not a baristo. He is, like his female coworker, a barista. A male perfume lover is not a perfumisto, but a perfumista. Granted, no one’s expected to know this, but it is an annoying hypercorrection in my nitpicky little book. Now I just sound whiny, so I’ll try to stop ranting.

The bottom line is that I’m done talking about us, us perfumeheads, as perfumistas. I draw the line. After all, this isn’t a fad—this is serious business, this smelling of potions, and we shouldn’t give it such a Johnny-come-lately, wannabe name. (I’m mostly joking about the high seriousness of our endeavor, but not completely {smiles})The question is, of course, what SHOULD we call ourselves?

Any thoughts?


Painting of Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia by Hilliard, Nicholas  and “A girl with a rooster” by Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spoiled rotten

File:Szinyei Merse Szerelmespár 1870.jpg

I am a very lucky girl, I remind myself almost every day, especially when the annoyances of slogging though a busy graduate life seem especially irritating. I have a family who loves me and I love them. I have many interesting and intelligent friends, who enrich my life daily. I have an interesting job, and I work on something that inspires me. I get paid to go to school and get a doctorate. I have many hobbies that keep me from getting bored. And I have a wonderful husband who loves me and spoils me rotten. I have nothing to complain abIMG_5908out.

Our 5 year wedding anniversary is on Friday, and as my husband came home from a three week business trip yesterday, we found ourselves exchanging gifts early, impatient to see the smiles of delight on each others’ faces. Granted, my present to him was not hideable—where, I ask you, does one hide a leather armchair in a small condominium?

My husband’s presents to me were very sweet and thoughtful. First, a pair of Montana sapphire stud earrings, to remind us of our beloved home state whenever I wear them. You can see them on the left.

And….a box…..saying:


on it. Could it be, the Exclusif I have been wanting for so long? I dared not hope as I opened the box and saw….


another box---It may very well be…


It is, and oh what a lucky girl am I! Now I have a ginormous bottle of Bois des Iles to last me for a really long time. Maybe I’ll be able to spritz some on on our 50th anniversary, should we be so lucky.

It feels good to be spoiled rotten. It feels even better to be loved.

Painting of lovers by Szinyei Merse Pál, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Monday, July 26, 2010

notes from my lunar insomnia: the Mighty Boosh moon

well, here we are again—the night of the full moon, the night of my discontent. As usual, I am up at an ungodly hour, musing about this and that, to the great

detriment of my students tomorrow morning, who will have to deal with a zombie TA… Ah well, I guess this kind of sleeplessness reminds me I am human, and a little bit nuts. Speaking of madness, I have found one of the best depictions of lunacy—and here, it is as literal as possible—on my new favorite show, “The Mighty Boosh” which is positively surreal, and beyond hilarious. IN each episode, the moon emerges in the sky, only to ramble meanderingly through a series of bizarre non-sequiturs—well, you have to see it to know what I mean, so luckily someone has posted a “Best of the Moon” montage on youtube.

There is a long tradition of depicting the man in the moon as a madman, and Noel Fielding’s (my GOD right now, but more on that below) latest interpretation is but the latest of these. Perhaps you may remember the classic Mother Goose nursery rhyme, in which:

The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon - Mama Lisa's House of English Nursery Rhymes 2

the man in the moon is a helpless imbecile, an illegal immigrant in the foreign land of Britain, who is incapable of fending for

The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon - Mama Lisa's House of English Nursery Rhymes, Comment Image

himself, or even eating hot foods correctly.  I remember feeling sorry for this out-of-place man in the moon when I was a little girl, especially since Crane’s illustration in the Mother Goose my mom read to me was so apt. This man in the moon just looks like a sorry, slow fool who has hurt himself quite badly.

And then, of course, there is the medieval man in the moon, who pops up from time to time in the poetic record, and who also seems to have a tendency toward madness, although his brand seems a bit more violent than more modern moons’.

The Man On The Moon

The man on the moon stands and strides;
On a forked stick he bears his burden;
It's a wonder he doesn't drop;
For fear he'll fall he shakes and swerves.
When the frost falls he freezes;
The terrible thorns tear him apart.
There's no man alive who knows when he rests,
Or--unless it's a hedge--what clothes he has.

Where do you think this man goes?
He sets one foot in front of the other;
He looks like he's sweating; I see him shake;
He's the slowest man ever born.
He slumps on his stick like a grey friar.
This bent bum is always worried.
It's many days ago since he was here.

That man up there was here
Before he made the moon his home.
Once on a Sunday he was fixing his fence,Medieval Moon God
Hoping thorns would stop the holes;
He makes bundles with his two-bited ax
So the cows wouldn't eat his corn.
He wasn't lucky in his work:
He cut those briars on a Sabbath
And was therefore sentenced by a harsh judge.

But, hey, come down, get that judge,
Lift your leg, step over the sty.
We'll have the judge over to my house
And settle him down with the finest,
Drink to him dearly with good booze,
And my wily wife'll sit by him.
When the man's drunk as a drowned mouse
We'll have him lighten your load.

But the Man on the Moon doesn't hear me yelling;
I think the low-life's deaf; the devil take him!
No matter how I holler, he won't hurry;
The meely-mouth doesn't have manners.
Hump on, Hubert, you hoarse magpie!
I've had it up to here!
I'm so mad my mouth's locked;
That lout won't come down till day dawns.

(translated by Brown. See original Middle English Here)

IN this case, it’s unclear who is crazier—the poet, or the lunar fool, and I love this about the poem, since I think it highlights the pathetic fallacy of almost all literature dealing with lunar madness. The man in the moon is a projecNoelFielding.jpg image by clairerhiannontion of our own cyclic insanity….

Back to the Boosh, I just have to say that I am absolutely in love with Noel Fielding, and I am not usually the kind of person who forms bizarre crushes on untouchable celebrities.  But there is just something about his kind of surreal humor that strikes a chord deep within me. I don’t know how else to say it.

What? Did I hear you ask what all this has to do with perfume? Nothing really, although I can tell you what I chose to wear as I muse about madness and moons this brilliant night. The fabulous, exotic Malak Jasmine, with its indolic, milky, overblown white folds of fleshy, waxy flower. Gorgeous, and kinda spooky. Or maybe that’s just me…

CREDITS: Images of the man in the moon found on

man on moon from

Sunday, July 25, 2010

perfume riddle VI


ZUT ALORS! It is time again for a riddling perfume bottle to sing you a little song! Who can it be this time? Kudos to the first to guess correctly:

I’m the best of a lot of second rate spinoffs

from a first-rate perfume house, I guess that’s the tradeoff

when the bee-bottle people must needs pay the bills;

they must create potions that give girls sweet chills

of delight when they spritz my citrus elixir.

They’ll think; it’s like breakfast, or perhaps in a mixer

for cocktails, that juice, so sour and so ruby.

That’s me indeed; I’m the fruit with the mostest,

acidic and pulpy, I please every hostess--

on her skin, in her belly, it is all the same.

By now I imagine you have guessed my name.

If not, I’ll give you another sweet hint:

I come in a bottle with a netting of glints

of gold so special you’ll shell out the lucre

for me though I’m named for a medieval genre

of literature distinctly au passé now.

You’ve guessed me, I’m sure, so I’ll take a bow

and exit the scene to watch this full moon.

My name: _____________________!


Fernand Khnopff, “The Sphinx” or “The Caresses”, in Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, courtesy of The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

some days, I feel sincere and insincere at the same time……

My beloved, who has been away on a business trip for two weeks now, sent me this in an email last night as a sweet gesture. I was charmed, of course, but now I’m musing about the way Frank can seem both interested and uninterested in what he’s singing at the same time.  Can you guys do that? I know I can be both into something and not all at the same time…..

bathing beauties

Let’s all go to the seaside together, shall we? We can splash in the surf, make sand castles, drink green coconut milk and talk about fragrance!

What scents do you all associate with the beach?

image found on

Thursday, July 22, 2010

TOTD: Mitsouko Mayhem

From an email sent to me from my perfume pen pal, Tamara:

File:Hupin, Jacques - -A still life of peaches, grapes and pomegranates in a pewter bowl, an ornate ormolu plate and ewers, all resting on a table draped with a carpet - 17th century I gotta tell yah what happened to me today! I got a generous sample from a new PPP [perfume pen pal] of mine- God bless her!

In these samples is thee infamous Mitsy edp!

And whoa bebe, I'm excited to try her on for size.

I've read so many threads on her and reviews galore.
I am ready to dive into her legend that is alive and well in  Perfumistaland.

I'm puttin' on my 'big girl panties' for this one!

I get her on me.


It's Mitsouko Mayhem to my nose.

I recognize the smell of too many a lady in a too small office, so much peachy spicy Mitsouko love these women had!

Where is that love now- on me?  She is murdering me, assaulting me with her delicious death moan. I do my best to fend her off- "Be nice Mitsy, love ME Mitsy!" I try to scream at her but she attacks my open mouth , I shut it and quit huffing her. But to no avail- she clobbers me  nearly to death with a wicked smile on her classic face, "I am not for youuuu dahhhling, I am only for them."

I stumble away to scrub her off and bemoan my sorry state of affairs.

Many a lady has loved her but I will not be one of them.

I think the feeling is mutual.

Love ~Tamara


Hupin, Jacques - -A still life of peaches, grapes and pomegranates in a pewter bowl, an ornate ormolu plate and ewers, all resting on a table draped with a carpet - 17th century, courtesy of

and secretaries in the Pentagon, courtesy of the early office musem

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jameel: scented djinn fantasy

File:James Tissot - Holyday.jpgJameel is ready to go on a postprandial stroll, so he calls ringingly out to his friends with a fresh green citrus shout! Once they have all convened, he opens the hike through the southern Mediterranean citrus groves with a brace of bitter petitgrain or neroli,  but then, just as quickly, he kicks up some dust, then squats down in the middle of the dirt path. He Isn’t going anywhere till he gets his lemonade. And a brandy and a cigar. For he is a well-travelled and coddled sophisticate, this Jameel, even if he is a bit indolent.


James Tissot, the holiday, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

in the bakery

IMG_5816-1 I have been away visiting my best friend and his cousin, who owns a French bakery up in Crown Point NY, which is right on the border, practically, of Quebec. I had a blast helping Yannig (his name is an old Breton one, from his dad’s side)  to bake his  artisanal bread in the great stone oven he built by hand, even though it was like 110 degrees in the bakery. IMG_5776

To the right you can see Laurel, my best friend Robert’s girlfriend, getting ready to load unbaked dough into the oven.

When the oven door opens, a blast of fragrance explodes out with the incredible heat, redolent of woodsmoke, whatever spices and fruits may be in the bread and pastries inside, and the yeasty, supremely comforting fragrance of baking bread.


when the bread comes out of the oven, my nose can differentiate between the different kinds; Crown Point Bread’s signature pain rustique,with its hearty, full, wheaty smell,


the more delicate, tantalizing odor of baguettes,



and, the absolutely irresistible smell of croissants, packed with butter, and some overloaded with chocolate or almond paste.


A good bakery is always a compelling fairyland—but unless you’ve worked in one, it is hard to comprehend the incredible, overblown odors in the back, where the real magic happens.


One of my many jobs was to brush egg glaze on rack after rack of croissant dough—that also has a unique smell- the somewhat sickly, rich smell of raw egg, the living, warm smell of the dough itself, its yeast, water and flour negotiating their ever-changing relationship within, and the gorgeous smell of French butter, liquefying in the intense heat.

tedious, yet beautiful work. yet the consolation was within sight:


the finished product, warm from the oven, the chocolate still melted, the layers of crust falling apart like pages in a book, the incredible flavor of the handmade croissant, beyond description….


A variation on the theme, the classically Gallic combination of coffee, Pain au chocolat, that sweaty, yet attractive hot human smell, and a cigarette—now that is an exceptional perfume….

live well, my friends!

Monday, July 19, 2010

TOTD: in which the lady comments on the value of Bvlgari Black

File:A Priestess by Godward.jpgExcerpted from a personal email written to me by Tamara, my guest commentator:

Things that make you go hmmmmmmmmm? :p
Bvlgari Black is not bad but I do not want to smell like a vanilla condom.

Amen to that, Tamara!


Paintings, both entitled “A Priestess” by John William Godward Courtesy of Art Renewal Center at













Sunday, July 18, 2010

ormonde man

Some of you may remember I really liked the mystery aFile:Paul Gauguin 038.jpgnd dark depth of Ormonde Jayne woman, but complained that its longevity left too much to be desired to justify Full Bottle Status? And then the lovely Mrs. Trefusis recommended OJ man to me in the comments, suggesting that might give me the satisfaction I crave? Well, a long, lingering encounter with OJ Woman’s masculine counterpart has lead me to conclude that this is the real candidate for possession!

As witchy as Woman, but considerably more bold, this is a soft, sweet, dusty, cardamom, vetiver, birch tar party. A good, mysterious scent, perfect for any shaman you know, or you could wear it yourself, whoever you may be. I see it as definitely unisex, as well as well-composed—no component or note stands out from the rest in the composition. The oudh--sometimes a stand-out centerpiece in fragrances in an annoying way-- is blended in here very well—it does not scream oudh. Rather, I find myself wondering—what IS that faint woody smell? I love that….

I find it to be a bit tight in the opening, then it  opens up richly and dangerously like a back flower a half hour in.

I like it a lot, see it as a more intense, longer-lasting interpretation of the signature scent of OJ woman, which is a delight, but fades far too quickly.


Gauguin, “the magician of Hiva-Oa” Musée d'Art moderne courtesy of wikimedia commons


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