Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bogarting My Favorite Perfumes

Do you ever bogart perfume?

I do it all the time, especially when it involves a perfume that was formulated for me alone.  And, honestly, there are quite a few.

My current stinginess revolves around Montale's Black Aoud.   I don't talk about it, I don't share decants, and I hid it out of sight on Thanksgiving, certain it would be discovered - and bogarted - by someone else.

That bitch is mine.

Writing about Black Aoud in any meaningful way is impossible because there is no language of rapture to describe it. 

Well, except for Holy Flurgarten Maflurgen Grenlata.

If you don't know what that means, just stay there in the corner with your Love's Baby Soft.  

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

How magical is it that the stars aligned as Pierre added that last little somethin' somethin' to Black Aoud for reasons he just could not explain?

Hello, it was for me.  For me, damn it.

No one else wears Black Aoud until I say so.


Picture from parfumneroli.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

Grief's Unspoken Flip Side

Grief has a flip side that no one talks much about.

As many of you know, my mother died in February, and this blog was created to honor her life and her love of perfume.  My thoughts, and my grief, in the wake of her death, have shown up in numerous posts. 

There are other thoughts I have yet to express because they extend beyond the typical conversations of grief.  I hesitate, even now, to share them publicly.

You may not understand. You may think I'm disrespectful.

You may judge me as a daughter who does not love her mother enough. 

God knows I have judged myself.

Nevertheless, I feel compelled to be honest about my journey, which brings me to say:

Some things are easier now.

I feel completely free now.

One of my mother's best attributes was her ability to observe small details and take great pains to make sure her endeavors turned out right.  In other words, she was a classic perfectionist.  

As any perfectionist knows, this quality is a double-edged sword.  It created a challenge in our relationship because I am quirky and stubborn and I resist being managed. 

For Mom and me, the details of our individual differences often got in the way of intimate connection.  The end of this journey results in feelings of sadness, and also, relief.

Our family is striving to find a new normal and figure out where everyone fits.  We are all forever changed, discovering each other as new people - different than we were before.

From here, anything is possible.


For the past two days, I've been wanting to write this post.  Tonight, influenced by Inner Critic, I talk myself out of it and decide to write something else.  


For an hour, nothing comes.

Paralyzed with writer's block, I call Dad for a brief chat.  Cautiously, I mention this topic to him, not sure how he will respond, hoping never to hurt him with my written words.  He listens carefully and then gives me the very best advice. 

'It's important to write what you feel, to write what's in your heart.'

I will always love you, Mom.

picture from commons.wikimedia.org

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ode to Lolita Lempicka

 Cabbage Patch Kid
Pencil Shavings
Blueberries & Cream
Moonlit Evening
New Leather Interior
Crackling Fireplace

Picture from Fragrantica.com

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post Thanksgiving Blues

Me and Dad on Big Red early in the morning over coffee

Dad went home this morning after staying with us for the past three days.

I'm feeling a little blue.

While he was here, we talked, we ate, we shopped (if people watching at the mall counts) and visited both of my sisters.

We got up early and drank coffee on Big Red.

We played on the computer.

Dad and Paige bonded.

That's because he fed her ham and pieces of dinner roll with strawberry jam.

We cried about Mom.

He cried when he left.

I cried after he left.

Thanksgiving Day was beautiful.

My perfume?  Borneo 1834.

Picture my own, taken by B-man

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Fashion Guru

Say hello to my Baby Sis.  


What she learns yesterday, during the lounge-around interlude following Thanksgiving dinner, is that even though I can buy great items (accidentally, it appears), I have no idea what to do with them once they are home.

After Baby Sis sifts through my closet, observing one piece after another with the tags still attached, she stops, takes my hand and slaps it.  

I know.

I know.

Actually, this gesture fits nicely with the rest of our champagne giggle-fest.

Within minutes, she whips together four amazing outfits, arranging items in a way I have never imagined.  

'Wait, wait, wait...how did you do that?' I ask.

'It's what I do,' she says.

My new stuff now has a purpose in life.

Most exciting?  Baby Sis has agreed to do a guest post outlining her own fashion 'do's and don'ts to help those of us who need a little, well...help.

Coming soon.

Picture my own, taken yesterday

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Synthetics Need Love, Too

The Art of Perfume has entered a new era.

While cheap, synthetic perfumes have always existed, there seems to be more crap on the market now than I remember in previous years.  

A big round of applause for Britney, Mariah, J-Lo and, of course, Paris.  

Adding insult to injury, some of our most beloved classics have been dumbed-down and reformulated with cheaper materials.


In the meantime, natural perfumers are popping up everywhere, challenging the synthetic world to a duel and churning out more products than I, for one, can keep up with. 

For me, the issue isn't synthetic vs. natural.

It's mediocrity vs. excellence.

Synthetic materials are not inherently wrong - nor inferior - but perfumers have not yet succeeded in utilizing their creativity, and their skill, when it comes to these materials. 

In fact, synthetics add qualities that are important.

For example:

1)  I want perfume that will last on my skin 6-8 hours without reapplication.  Most of the natural perfumes I have tried are beautiful, but they don't hold up for much more than an hour, maybe two. 

2)  It's not important to me that an ingredient is the 'most pure' representation of the perfume note.  Is it a fragrance of intelligence, longevity and interest?  I care about the end result.

3)  Close-to-the-skin perfumes may appeal to some, but I want a perfume that makes a statement.  Not one that clears the room or exacerbates asthma, but a perfume that confidently occupies the two foot circumference that I consider my personal airspace.

Sillage matters. 

As perfume lovers, and consumers, we have choices.  One is to protest the IFRA in the interest of  Keeping Things the Way They Are or Going Back to How Things Were.  

Lots of energy, low success rate.

At the other end of the spectrum, we can completely switch genres, to challenge the status quo, and risk throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  

Yet another option is to accept change as an inevitable part of growth, open our minds to new perfume possibilities (natural and synthetic) and keep the focus on excellence.

That's the one I like.

picture from fotosearch.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Feminist Rant

Yes, I'm a feminist.

For clarification, the definition of a feminist is not: A Militant Ball-Busting Emasculating Bull Dyke Biatch.

No, feminism is simply the pursuit of equality for 
all people.

The other day, after several events in succession, I began pondering the following questions:

*  When was the last time a man was featured in an ad for cleaning products?

*  Why is it considered hilarious when a man dresses up like a woman with a huge ass and breasts?  Imagine a woman dressed as a man with a huge penis.  Would that also be a comedy hit at the box office?

*  How many men do you know that are struggling with 'perfectionism?'  

*  Why is it referred to as 'babysitting' when children are with their fathers?

*  If men began starving themselves to emaciation to fit the equivalent of a size zero, wouldn't society become alarmed? 

*  Why aren't women speaking up, as if feminism died in the 70's and further self awareness is unnecessary?

Just askin'.

picture from fixitwithwine.wordpress.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

What Is The Perfect Thanksgiving Perfume?

Thanksgiving rules as the Best Holiday Ever Invented.

Not all of you celebrate this day (it's an American thing), but I have to believe you would love it.

Thanksgiving is all about people, food and gratitude.  No exchange of gifts, no dressing up in costumes (don't get me started on Halloween), nothing to compete with what matters most.  

Of course, even great traditions can be tweaked.

See that turkey in the picture?  We won't be having one.  Lately, I can't tolerate eating anything that includes the handling of internal parts and leaves a carcass to clean up afterward.

That's just nasty.

We're serving ham instead.

Yes, I realize that ham is a pig.  But, because I don't have to touch (!) its gizzard, neck and liver, and clean up what's left of its bones (okay, watch B-man clean up), I can tell myself anything I want.  

Like, for all I know, Honey Baked hams grow in a garden where they are lovingly cultivated and sweetened by bees.

I may not be a vegan, but I have a good imagination.

What is Thanksgiving's scent of the day?  Not sure yet.

My criteria:

1)  Must go well with food
2)  Must play nice with others (people and perfume)
3)  Must add interest - and warmth - to the day

After narrowing the field, here are my tried-and-true contenders:

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 - nothing goes better with food.  In fact, at one point, Borneo actually smells like food with its roast beef loveliness.  Borneo has interest out the wazoo, and patchouli out the wazoo, too.  While I find it warm, others may find it annoying. 

L'eau du Navigateur by L'Artisan - great with ham, doesn't fight in the sandbox (although it will kick back if provoked) and warm-ish with notes of tobacco, coffee and incense.

Fracas by Piaget - didn't see that one coming, did you?  Fracas is one of the only florals that works well with food.  That's because it is so over-the-top with tuberose and black ink that it doesn't scream FLORAL.  Interesting, for sure, but too sexy to be considered warm.  Plays with no one but flirts with everyone.

Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens - amazing with food because of the herbal and cannabis notes, interesting and warm, too, in the deep, amber drydown.  However, it has been know to crush others and take over the room if not applied sparingly.

Tea for Two by L'Artisan - nice with food because of it's chi tea vibe, interesting because it's smoky like a fireplace. The epitome of warm due to its slight sweetness and spice. Tea for Two mingles well with others and has more fun when everybody plays.

If you were me, which of these would you choose?  

What perfume would you wear?

Picture from babble.com

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winter Is Here - Let It Snow!

B-man and Paige (Daddy's Little Helper) shoveling snow
Having a chat about Paige biting the shovel
Paige settles for the occasional bark to keep the shovel in line

photos my own, taken this morning

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ode to Niki de Saint Phalle

Irish Spring Soap
1950's Hair Tonic
Sawdust over Dandelions
Dry Cleaned Clothes
Mossy Rocks
Cold Ashtray
Crushed Mint Leaf

picture from pinkmanhattan.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Laurel & Hardy Buy A Car

Tuesday, in the midst of my olfactory weirdness, we buy a new car.

That's because Monday, when B-man took my car in to get serviced, he discovered the warranty had lapsed.  We both thought it went for another six months.

B-man was pissed, feeling we had been misled.

He doesn't get belligerent, but his green eyes flash and he's smart enough to know how to tweak people without their knowing exactly how to respond.  He's not one to posture, but isn't opposed to mentioning his legal background at the right time, just to shake things up.

Relaying this to me over the phone, he says,' I told them if they think I'm upset, my wife is really upset.'

Okay, I'll play Bad Cop.

Life is too short to drive a car without a warranty so we agree to meet at the dealer's at 3:00.

I arrive first and Car Guy greets me in the parking lot with the keys to the car we've been eyeballing, probably afraid I will kick his ass if he doesn't. 

You know, because I'm Really Upset.

B-man shows up and we go for a test drive.  He drove it earlier.  Now it's my turn.

'Yup, love it, let's get it,' I say, in my usual, 3-minute deliberation.

However, Car Guy doesn't know that. 'Hey, we need to seriously discuss this for a while - we'll let you know,' I tell him.

So B-man and I mingle around the free popcorn and talk about our day and about Paige and what to cook for dinner, letting enough time tick away to set the scene for negotiation.
The process begins.

After negotiating all the freebies possible, we decide to finance a portion of the sales price.  Car Guy asks us to list a relative and a friend as references. 

Then, we just get slap-happy.

Me:  'Wow, they think we have friends.'

B-man:  'We've probably pissed them all off.'

Me:  'If we haven't yet, we will.'

B-man: 'Do you need reading glasses?'

Me: 'Yeah, I have no idea what this contract says.  Give me yours.'

B-man:  'Now I can't see squat.'

Me: 'Okay, you use the glasses and tell me where to write.'

Car Guy: 'What is your position at work?'

Me:  'Administrative Director.'

Car Guy:  'Work address?'

Me:  'I have no frigging idea.'

B-man:  'I have it' (he finds the address and turns his phone toward me).

Me:  'Now I can't see - give me the glasses.'

Somehow, we get through the rest of the process in time for me to make a 5:00 meeting.  B-man stays behind and takes a tutorial on the navigation system and other new features.  

He can tell me everything I need to know later.  Just let me find my reading glasses first.

photo from bootsalesounds.blogspot.com

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bird Dog Nose Gone Bad

My nose is always sensitive.  That's a given.

But yesterday, my sense of smell was bionic - distorted, really - in its intensity.

First, I applied Gris Clair by Serge Lutens as my Scent of the Day.  This is a perfume that I love with notes of lavender, sage and wet concrete.  Yesterday, though, I experienced it as screechy and bitter. 

In an attempt to tone it down, I added a spritz of 'Dirt' by Demeter.  This worked, but I was hyper aware of my perfume all day.

Later on, I attended a lunch meeting for about 20 people.  Our menu included boxed salads, rolls and various dessert items.  The following scents were swirling through the air:

)  Unwashed hair
)  Halls cherry flavored cough drops
)  Day old lettuce
)  Sliced meat
)  Metal back chairs

The combined assault of these smells prevented me from eating my lunch, even though I was damn hungry.  I poured a diet Dr. Pepper into a Styrofoam cup early in the meeting, but the smell of the soft drink and the cup, each time I took a sip, was simply overwhelming.

My surroundings had become aromatically intolerable.

What caused this hypersensitivity?  I have no idea.  

Today, I'm back to my regular old bird dog nose.

photo from kickapookennels.com

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Favorite Dog & Pony Show Perfumes

Lately, I've had a lot of opportunities at work to present new ideas, ask for funding and generate interest in big, new concepts. 

You know, dog and pony shows.

Typically, I am allotted about 10 minutes to Light Things Up, Be Brilliant and Make Them Think It's Their Idea. 

Honestly, it can be exhausting, but I keep chasing the Next Big Thing like a moth to the flame.

Three perfumes continually fuel this addiction:

Jardin en Mediterranee by Hermes -  Intelligent peppiness in a bottle.  Didn't sleep well?  Doesn't matter.  Hung over?  No problem.  JeM makes me  - and everyone in my company - embrace the unbelievable and be damn happy about it.  Figs, herbs and woods combined to absolute perfection.

Agent Provocateur - Smart and sexy with a touch of spice. With notes of rose, saffron and cardamom, AP is a 'don't mess with me' perfume without the ball-busting, horse stench of, say...Paloma Picasso.  It invites negotiation but never loses ground.

Black Aoud by Montale - Neither peppy nor inviting, but incredibly smart.  Rose, sandalwood and aoud simmer with depth and medicinal grace.  When I want to say 'this is how we're going to do it,' Black Aoud says it first.  To stun my audience into consent, Black Aoud is the ultimate offensive plan.

How about you?  When you're pitching the Big Idea or Closing The Sale, what is your favorite 'dog and pony show' perfume?

Picture from arklite.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Day Of Reconciliation

This morning, Dad sends me an early text as he often does on the weekends. 

'The headstone is now installed - looks good.'

I know that Dad ordered the headstone a couple of months ago, unable to face the prospect until then.  I know that he has talked to us - his children - to get our approval on the design, the correct spellings and the best color of granite. 

I know it is coming. 

And yet, after receiving this simple text, I cry like a baby over coffee.

A few minutes later, on the phone, Dad says he discovered the stone yesterday on one of his routine visits to the cemetery.  Fortunately, my brother was with him to share in his grief and buffer the loneliness prompted by this final marker.  

All I want to do, after talking with Dad, is get in the car and make the two hour drive to see the headstone.  B-man cautions me because rain and possible snow are forecast this afternoon.

But I continue to watch the clock anyway, wondering how quickly I can shower, throw on my clothes and be gone.  

Then I remember I am on bioethics call for the hospital until tomorrow and must be in town and available, just in case.

Resigned, I spend the day at home doing menial tasks that are somehow soothing in their tedium.  Organizing my closet, giving myself a manicure, straightening my areas of the house and throwing out old magazines.

Tears have come several times throughout the day as I begin to reconcile the finality of my mother's death.  

She is never, ever coming back.

photo from kozerawski.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ode to White Aoud by Montale

 Honey Dew Melon
Antiseptic Wet Wipe
Holiday Punch Bowl
New Linens
Wooden Swings
Soccer Ball

Photo from Basenotes.net

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Feeling Fifty-One

Actually, my birthday was in September.

But the seasonal shift into winter has caused me to think a lot about aging, changing and cycling through life. 

So, how does fifty-one feel?

- In so many ways, it's a relief.  I look how I want, feel how I want, say what I please and I'm less concerned of what others think.

- I have street cred.  Life has taught me a thing or two and I don't mind sharing that knowledge if I'm asked.  And sometimes when I'm not.

- Men treat me differently.  Now, in addition to staring at my rack (just kidding), they often defer to me when decisions are being made.  Honestly, it's a buzz.

- I'm damn sick of coloring my hair.  Currently, because I'm rebelling, my hair is a golden brown/gray combo.  Sometimes, I just stare at it and think, 'huh.' 

- My knees hurt sometimes, and my back.  Generally, I ignore it.

- I'm uninterested in looking younger, acting younger, feeling younger or even smelling younger.  For perhaps the first time, the way I look matches exactly the way I feel inside.

- Why aren't all women feminists?  I'm just sayin'.

- Lose those extra 10 pounds?  I may get to it someday, but I prefer to think more about my life and less about my weight.  

- A sense of urgency permeates my life.  Mom's death punctuated how quickly time passes.  The message is Do It Now.

- Personal authenticity reigns supreme.  
At fifty-one, I still have so many ways to grow as a woman in the world with many things yet to learn.  But, for this snapshot in time, life is interesting and complicated, poignant and rich. 

And very good.

How does your age feel to you? 

Picture from piece-a-cake.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shoe Shopping vs. Playing with Perfume

My newly re-arranged perfume cabinet

Do you ever use 'perfume play' as an excuse to procrastinate?

All last week, I swore I would go shopping on Saturday because my shoe selection is hideous.  Hyperbole is a typical part of seasonal wardrobe changes.

In a charitable frenzy last Spring, I gave away most of my fall/winter shoes and boots, assuring myself that I would have plenty of time to replace them before it was time to put the sandals away.  

Apparently, I was in such an altered state of give-away euphoria that I even imagined how much fun this shopping would be.

Wine must have been involved.

Last weekend, Baby sis (my personal shopping consultant) offered her suggestions for the best shoe selections to be found.  I was armed with information and ready to go, motivated by a dwindling choice of work shoes.

I meant to go.  Of course, I meant to.  I said I would go, and I Almost Went. 

In my defense (shut up, Inner Critic), B-man made it clear that he wanted to catch a football game on TV Saturday so I would be on my own shopping.

We know that's a bad, bad idea.

After working through multiple images of myself wandering shoe stores all day, only to return with nothing, I started feeling clammy and sick to my stomach.  These symptoms could mean only one thing.

I was coming down with a case of the fuck-its.

To cheer myself up and regain my peppiness, I watched two recorded episodes of In Treatment.  

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Still feeling kind of 'lurpy,' I meandered into the Smellie Room to check on my perfume.  Suddenly, re-arranging my perfume cabinet seemed critically important and soon took first priority in the triage of my day.

My peppy was finally coming back.

Some people cook for relaxation, others read or listen to music or do yoga.

I play with perfume.  Smelling it, arranging it and trying out new layering experiments all soothe my mind and my soul.

It's Monday, however, and my shoes are still hideous.

Photo my own

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Farewell to Fall

This view from our deck, highlighting the colored leaves, will be one of the last before the snow comes.

Snow is predicted tomorrow. 

Last night, we enjoyed a glass of wine and toasted farewell to our long evenings outside.  

B-man cooked salmon on the grill.  

White Aoud by Montale perfumed the crispy air.

Photo my own

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sniffapalooza - Time for an Update?

Olfactorama writes an informative piece about the 2010 Sniffa Fall Ball.  Here's the part that caught my attention: 'But I’m wondering if the reps from the established perfume companies saw us as annoying, rabid freebie hounds.'

Well, wouldn't you?  After all, that's how the event is currently structured.  

Attending the 2008 Fall  Ball was quite an experience.  
I got to meet new people, visit multiple locations and smell more perfume than I ever imagined.  

But, I must admit, parts of it were annoying and tedious.

For example, we were often crammed together like sardines, bumping into each other trying to access perfumes.  After two days of wandering the city to sniff everything in sight, it starts to feel a little, well, rabid.  

In the end, I found myself wishing the event was more sophisticated, deeper...smarter somehow. 

To that end, I offer the following suggestions:

1)  Change the name.  Inner Critic is right - 'Sniffapalooza' is dated and pedestrian.

2)  Shake up the itinerary.   Even though the presenters change, the itinerary stays the same, over and over.

3)  Provide less information with more depth.  Perhaps one day devoted to a great perfumer's lecture, instruction, history and portfolio.  Another day devoted to uptown or downtown sniffing.

4)  Lose the perfume reps.

In a nutshell, more meaning.

Less clusterfuck.

If we want to be viewed as people with both knowledge and respect for perfume as art, the event itself must be structured differently.

It's New York City.  Raise the bar.  

Picture from www.oswego.edu

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ode to Dirt by Demeter

Wet Paint
Beefeater Gin
Creekside Wild Grass
Oak Cabinets
Elmers Glue
Plastic Easter Eggs
Green Thistle Weed

Picture from Demeterfragrance.com

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What I've Learned About Grief

As the holidays approach, I'm thinking a lot about this time last year.  Almost nine months out from losing my mother, here is what I have learned so far:

1)  Grief is nebulous.  It comes and goes at its own speed and in its own time

2)  The more demonstrative others are about their grief, the more reserved I am about my own

3)  Just because one does not show grief does not mean one doesn't feel it

4)  It's okay to be happy

5)  Feeling relief and freedom is normal

6)  Family dynamics change completely when a loved one dies

7)  Regret for all that was - and was not - lingers

8)  Crying about loss is easier with those who don't expect it

9)  Relationships shift

10)  Rituals are important 

On Thanksgiving last year, I knew my mother was dying.  Working in a hospital, one comes to know the language that physicians use when there is nothing more to be done.

'Now we are going to work on managing the condition.'

'Perhaps we should start looking at alternative treatment.' 

While everyone else was holding onto hope, certain that with the right amount of exercise and monitoring, things would be okay, I knew that we were nearing the end of our journey.

That was the loneliest time.

B-man and I spent Thanksgiving night in the Emergency Department with Mom and Dad.  Mom couldn't breathe, so we went to have her lungs drained, assuming they were again holding fluid. 

But there was no fluid to drain that night, just lungs, and a heart, that were failing.

The sadness of that day - and the moment when I heard the ER physician say, 'we're just managing the condition now' - clouds the path to Thanksgiving this year.

11)  Learning more about grief does not diminish its impact. 

Picture from worldphoto360.com


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