Sunday, April 11, 2010

salt spray and roses

To wash that t1419703 My Shore Road Harvesterrible Givenchy (Ange ou Demon le Secret) from my nose, I scrubbed myself down, had some coffee, took a deep breath, then applied one of my favorite roses, the lovely, understated Les Parfums de Rosine Ecume de rose, a salty, fresh rose with a certain herbaceous quality to it. Something about the way this interacts with my skin creates that tangy salty smell--or is it a feeling-- that you get when you smell the skin of somebody who has been exercising outside in the cold. it is briny, a bit metallic, tickles the nose ever so slightly, and is very real, and it makes all sorts of memories come flooding in. The vetiver (one of my favorite notes) at the base gives this a woody, rooty, musky slant, and really does summon images of a rose bush growing on some rock overlooking some wild oceanscape. Really quite lovely.

In some ways this reminds me of a beautiful day I spent with my sister last year. She lives near Seattle, and the day before I had to leave we went to a public rose garden that is situated right on the Pacific ocean and smelled rose after rose, all sorts of varieties, then went on a walk through some beautiful old growth deciduous forest, all the while admiring the blue blue sea, and the even bluer sky, and smelling the brine breeze in on the wind. I remember wishing I could stay in that place forever, with one of my very favorite people, and that memory has somehow become entwined with this perfume. Bittersweet, and gorgeous.

the toilette of my beloved

My husband is a lot more meticulous than I am. Where I am slovenly and haphazard,IMG_4156 he is careful and graceful. I especially admire the way he makes his daily routines into aesthetic rituals that have a real depth and beauty to them. For example, while I shower in a dark closet of a bathroom, he bathes in a foggy, luminous steam in the other bathroom, which has a window in the shower area. He uses Guerlain’s Vetiver body wash to wash his body—this makes that steam smell absolutely luscious—and a local company’s equally marvelous Mahogany soap for his face. He washes his hair with lavender shampoo, and sometimes conditions with rosemary mint. He says that on of his favorite things about the process is “smelling all the different stuff as I put it on.”
Once he feels sufficiently steamed up, he wraps his lithe little body in a white towel, and sets to work on his dark, bristly beard. He lathers up some Crabtree & Evelyn Sandalwood Aromatic Shave Cream and paints it on his face with a boarbrush. then shaves with a straight razor. Like I say, he’s a super classy dude. Then he rinses with hot water and then cold, to close up his pores. He then splashes on the now-discontinued Cade After Shave Splash, which he says hurts horribly but prevents breakout, and then follows it with Guerlain’s Baume Apres-Rasage and some moisturizer. Finally, he chooses ‘a cologne or two”—he says I seem to dig Guerlain Vetiver on his neck and Yardley English Lavender on his chest.
He comes out of his room smelling herbaceous, woody, and incredible. He has taste, and he knows how to take care of his body. A good man all around, I say : )


  

Adventures in Sinaesthesia: Red Tea and Morality

IMG_4131 I am a huge fan of Alexander McCall Smith's series of books about the Botswanan lady detective Precious  Ramotswe, all of which are truly a joy to read. McCall Smith's deceptively simple prose somehow succeeds in bringing me on a journey to a place--surely partly imaginary--where life is simple and so is the ethical code, which is based on a lovely notion of traditional values. Precious Ramotswe often finds herself in difficult quandaries, but she always chooses the path that shows care and respect for others while maintaining her own dignity. That may sound boring or too moralistic, but believe me when I say that these books are refreshing, sincere, and 1-no-1-ladies-detective-agency-450hcompletely uncynical.
So to inaugurate my new series of Synaesthetic adventures--blueprints for little themed adventures for all your senses--I give you my plan for a very nice afternoon that challenges all your senses. Put the pot on, and brew some nice Rooibos tea. I like it with milk and a tiny bit of sugar, but you can have it plain, put some masala in it, or just load it up with sugar, like Mma Ramotswe does. Have it alone, or with a side of watermelon or peanuts, or, if you are feeling super expansive, you could make yourself a fruitcake (Mma Ramotswe loves cake).
Play one of my favorite--and one amadoumariamcdimage2 of the most sincere--bands, Amadou and Mariam, who are from Mali, not Botswana. Any album will do; I love these two. Spritz on something nice and unique--I recommend Benetton's Tribù, not because it sounds vaguely 'ethnic' (and typically Benetton) but it somehow works as a very lovely tea scent, and although Red Bush is not technically a tea, I believe it shares some qualities with the admittedly strange Tribù. If I had to describe this fragrance, I would have to say it is a peppery, spicy, vaguely woody, rosy/cedary tea scent, but if you haven't checked it out, do so, since it is both super cheap and very unusual.
Now pick up one of these lovely, comforting mysteIMG_4149ries, find yourself a nice spot where you can be warm enough to pretend you are in Botswana, and read away to your heart’s content.




















   

aftershave for my beloved

IMG_4211My husband and I have been mourning the death of one of our favorite products, L'Occitane's Cade After Shave Splash, and have been casting about for a replacement. Then it occurred to me that we could at least try to create a suitable substitute, since what we really need is a strongly spicy/juniper accord in a super-alcoholic splash--I can do that, I told myself. I'm no perfumer, but I figured trying once wouldn't hurt.

IMG_4215

So I created a base of essential oils of vetiver, cedarwood, rosemary, juniper, and tea tree, blended it, and let it sit. So far so good. Today I pounded down cloves, cardamom seeds, mint, lemon peel, coriander, pepper, cumin, allspice, nutmeg, juniper seeds, and bay leaves into a rough powder in my mortar and pestle, then added a bit of rosewater, my homemade vanilla extract, and a tiny bit of almond oil and pounded again to create a paste. It smelled pretty heavenly, I must say!

I funneled the green paste into my essences, the poured in a bunch of high-proof vodka and some rum, for color, and to emulate the rum-based classic aftershaves. Now it just needs to macerate for a few weeks, then I hope to strain it and present it to my husband as part of his birthday present...that is, if it ends up good enough. We'll see!

IMG_4218Here’s a pic of the macerating muck. Not necessarily pretty, but I hope the finished product is….

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