Friday, February 29, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Hi Friends. My perfume today is L'Artisan Dzing! And yours?

I am sorry again for the lack of posts. I seem to have a real case of the blahs. At first, the samples were still calling, but the words wouldn't come. Next thing I new, the samples stopped calling. I look in my little sample drawers (That's right! I forgot to tell you--I upgraded from Box O'Samples!) and just think "meh," and then go put on something in my own collection. This week Iris Poudre, Flowerbomb, and Dzing! have been in heavy rotation because it's been cold and I've needed something cozy but beautiful.

It must be the season, because I had the exact same symptoms this time last year! I'm ready for spring already, I guess, and I'm just waiting for nature to catch up with me. I may need to buy a decant of Champaca so I have something to look forward to...a little pick-me-up!

Have a happy Friday!

*image from

Monday, February 25, 2008

Won't You Play Me...Le Jazz Hot, Maybe

Bob and I have undertaken the arduous task of copying all of our CDs to computer. We've done this several times over the last six or seven years, haphazardly at best. The result was a bunch of files in different folders, random file types, some songs copied three or four times here and there. This weekend we decided we'd had enough, so we're copying everything we own to one location (which we'll backup the second we're finished) and in ONE format.

The fun part of this exercise is going "shopping" in our collection. Tonight I found a bunch of jazz CDs that I've neglected way too long. I never think to copy this stuff over to my iPod because I usually only listen to it while I exercise, but I'm going to change all that! Here's some of the stuff I found again:

Earl Harvin Trio/Quartet. Earl was a college friend of mine. Now he's Seal's drummer with many successful projects, jazz and otherwise, on the side.

Medeski, Martin & Wood, Shack Man. Very groovy.

Now, how can anything get me down this week?

*images from

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Reader's Journal: Pub Challenge Selections

You might remember that I joined two reading challenges this year, the Short Story Reading challenge and the Pub Challenge 2008. For the Pub Challenge, I'm supposed to read eight (or more) books published in 2008, four of which must be fiction. It seems that several people who joined this challenge are at least halfway through, while I've been waiting for something worthwhile (well, worth my while, as I don't read mysteries or romance, and the majority of releases seem to be in those areas) to be released.

Obviously Chandler Burr's The Perfect Scent is one of my choices, and I am hoping (fingers crossed) to win one through Sniffapalooza's contest, as one of my 2008 goals is to cut spending on books by at least half. If I don't win it, I'll splurge and buy a copy. That will count as one of my non-fiction selections (although I suppose they could all be fiction--easy for me!), but picking out the novels is another thing. Here's what I have so far:

So that's one down, but what else to read? Lucky for me, several terrific writers are releasing (or have released) books this spring, so finally my list is beginning to take shape. Here are come of my choices:

River of Heaven, by Lee Martin (April 15). Lee Martin was a Pulitzer finalist in 2006 for his novel The Bright Forever, which happens to be one of my favorite novels of all time. Martin writes so cleanly and with crystal clear emotion. If you read and loved Kent Haruf's Plainsong, Don Kurtz's South of The Big Four, or Dan Chaon's You Remind Me of Me, then you must read The Bright Forever. The initial reviews for River of Heaven seem to be mixed, but enjoy Martin's writing so much that I'm sure it will be worth the read.

The Soul Thief, by Charles Baxter (available now). I admit, I've only read Charles Baxter's short stories, but he writes so well I'm anxious to read one of his novels. Here's the description from Publisher's Weekly:

" The author of the National Book Award–nominated The Feast of Love, Baxter returns with this ninth book, an assay into the limits of character, fictional and otherwise. The first half of the novel follows the brief arc of Nathaniel Mason's graduate career in 1970s Buffalo, N.Y., which centers on his friendship with the sexy but self-dramatizing Teresa (which she pronounces Teraysa, as if she were French) and her lover Jerome Coolberg, a virtuoso of cast-off ideas. Coolberg, obsessed with Nathaniel, begins taking his shirts and notebooks, and claiming that episodes from Nathaniel's life happened to him. Coolberg drops a hint that something bad will happen to Jamie, Nathaniel's sometime lover; when it actually comes to pass, Nathaniel's world begins to collapse. In the novel's second half, decades after these events have occurred, Coolberg enters Nathaniel's life again for a final, dramatic confrontation. Baxter has a great, registering eye for the real pleasures and attritions of life, but the book gets hung up on metafictional questions of identity (the major one: who is writing this first-person narrative?). The results cheat readers out of identifying with any of the characters, perhaps intentionally. (Feb.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri (April 1). I read both her story collection Interpreter of Maladies and her novel The Namesake, and I do think Lahiri is a fine, fine writer along the lines of William Trevor and Alice Munro. I admit that I enjoyed her novel a bit more than her story collection, but I am very much looking forward to her second collection. Here's the description from Publisher's Weekly:

"Starred Review. The gulf that separates expatriate Bengali parents from their American-raised children—and that separates the children from India—remains Lahiri's subject for this follow-up to Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake. In this set of eight stories, the results are again stunning. In the title story, Brooklyn-to-Seattle transplant Ruma frets about a presumed obligation to bring her widower father into her home, a stressful decision taken out of her hands by his unexpected independence. The alcoholism of Rahul is described by his elder sister, Sudha; her disappointment and bewilderment pack a particularly powerful punch. And in the loosely linked trio of stories closing the collection, the lives of Hema and Kaushik intersect over the years, first in 1974 when she is six and he is nine; then a few years later when, at 13, she swoons at the now-handsome 16-year-old teen's reappearance; and again in Italy, when she is a 37-year-old academic about to enter an arranged marriage, and he is a 40-year-old photojournalist. An inchoate grief for mothers lost at different stages of life enters many tales and, as the book progresses, takes on enormous resonance. Lahiri's stories of exile, identity, disappointment and maturation evince a spare and subtle mastery that has few contemporary equals. (Apr.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

Four for the list. Not too bad for the first half of the year! I'm not planning to overshoot the goal of eight books, mainly because I have so many unread books of my own that I would like to read this year, plus I still have all those short story collections to get through. Looks like I'll be quite busy.

*images and descriptions from

Friday, February 22, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Hello Friends! How do we smell today?

I'm wearing L'Artisan Tea for Two today. In Atlanta, the rain has been coming down for the last twenty-four hours, and it's chilly. Still, spring is in the air, so something too spicy or heavy would seem more claustrophobic than cozy.

My apologies for the lack of posts the last couple of days. Sometimes when I sample a perfume and I find myself loving it, I get a strange form of writer's block and can't think of anything to say beyond, "It's so pretty! I love it!" Notice, I'm not telling you what said fragrance is. I'll only give you a has tea. (Nope, it's not Tea for Two.) I guess that's a rather broad hint. Okay, one more: osmanthus. Can you guess?

I must be off to work...Have a lovely Friday!

*image from

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rose Showdown: Rose Ikebana vs. Bryant Park


On this wrist, one of the Hermessences created by Jean Claude Ellena for Hermes in 2004, meant to convey the feel of silk, sold exclusively in Hermes boutiques, and weighing in at 100ml for $170—ROSE IKEBANA!

And on the other wrist, created by Michel Almairac in 2007, meant to represent that district in New York associated with one of the city's greatest events—Fashion Week, sold at the Bond boutique, Saks Fifth Avenue, and various online retailers, and weighing in at 50ml for $130—BRYANT PARK!

Before our showdown begins, let's get to know these two fragrances a bit.

Rose Ikebana, with notes of rose, peony, magnolia, pink peppercorn, rhubarb, grapefruit zest, and vanilla honey, grew up in Paris. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne before embarking on a career in journalism that led her to Paris Vogue. Her pastimes are painting, sculpting, and skiing. She also loves to travel.

Bryant Park, with notes of lily of the valley, rhubarb, pink pepper, rose, patchouli, raspberry, and amber, was raised in Manhattan, home-schooled by her artist parents, and joined a punk band at the age of sixteen. They had a few hits on college radio and were at one time signed to an independent label on the Northwest coast. The band broke up in the late 1990s, when Bryant Park started writing plays. She has yet to have anything produced.

Let's cut to the action—BELL! And they're on the wrists!

Rose Ikebana may look sweet but she's feisty! She comes right out of the bottle with a hit of grapefruit that's sharp and potent, and mixed with the sweet rose and tart rhubarb, packs a juicy, juicy punch! Indeed folks, it makes my lips pucker just thinking about it, and I'm not sure if Bryant Park can stand up to it. It's like a mind-boggling hit of Hawaiian Punch, my friends!

Bryant Park, she also comes out swinging, and she means business folks: This lily of the valley isn't lily-livered, and that pepper may be pink but it's potent, it's dry folks! It might be overwhelmed by the juicy zest of Rose Ikebana, I think it might be going down, but—OH! Folks, there's the patchouli coming in strong and clean! Not going to let this rose back down, not going light or sweet even for one second!

Rose Ikebana is hanging in there, but she's lost a bit of her zing, and she seems a bit bitter, but it's working for her! It's working for her! She's still standing, and the rhubarb is helping her keep it clean, but it feels like she might be going a little soft friends, a little soft with the peony and magnolia. I don't know if she can hold up...

And Bryant Park is mostly patchouli and rose now, patchouli and rose and every now and again she sends out a hook with the pepper, and it seems like both of these ladies are going around and around until—WHOA! Bryant Park has raspberry, she has amber—I'm not even sure if that's legal in this state folks! But she's using it to her advantage, giving a bit of interest to the patchouli again, turning it up another notch before it settles in with the amber!

Rose Ikebana appears to have conceded, folks! She's dried down to vanilla honey, there's nothing left of her but the sweet dregs like a fragrant tea in the bottom of a fine china cup.


WHEW! What a night here!

**Author's note: Okay, so Rose Ikebana was the Kool Aid (Tropical Punch, by the way), but really, only for a very short time at the top. On the whole it does remind me of a smooth, cool, pale yellow silk. Still, Bryant Park remains my favorite rose, except for one thing: the real magic happens when these fragrances are together. I haven't formally layered them (yet), but just wearing them together on separate wrists creates one of the most beautiful rose perfumes ever. The patchouli and pepper in Bryant Park makes the grapefruit in Rose Ikebana more subtle, and the floral notes blend heavenly. They also both have terrific lasting power, which is impressive. I thought Rose Ikebana might give out, but it didn't disappoint. If only these weren't so darned expensive! Now I want them both!

*images from Basenotes

Monday, February 18, 2008

Clean Fragrances

Something about last week's article in The New York Times, “The Sweet Smell of...Nothing,” got me thinking. One perfume trend I've never understood much is perfume that smells like...nothing. By “nothing,” I don't mean absence of scent in general, but instead, perfume that doesn't smell like perfume. Instead, it smells like laundry detergent or dryer sheets or little girls. Enter, Clean fragrances (I can't bring myself to call it perfume).

What I am about to say may invoke the wrath of many readers out there. Probably I am doing myself in from the get-go by immediately stereotyping the sort of woman I think might wear Clean fragrances, but I can't help but get a picture of this:

Woman in her thirties, pushing an SUV stroller through the mall. She has that Meg Ryan You've Got Mail haircut. She wears khaki capris, a denim shirt, and Keds. She wears lip gloss and the tiniest bit of mascara, perhaps a bit of blush if she's daring. One of her children is named Taylor. She goes to church every Sunday. She votes Republican. She's pushing the stroller and her children (most likely, there are three, all under age five) are all over the place, running and screaming and wreaking general havoc. She is talking on her cell phone and remains completely oblivious to both her children's behavior and the nasty stares she elicits from the other mall patrons.

If this sounds sort of like you, but you regularly go to the mall wearing Jicky or Lonestar Memories or even Poison and you keep a close eye on your well-behaved kids, just hear me out. Stereotypes exist for a reason. Here in Georgia, the description above fits a large portion of the female population. These women could just as easily be wearing something mass market that's prettier or more daring, Stella or Donna Karan Gold. But I would hazard a guess that if they're wearing perfume at all, they're either wearing a Clean fragrance or the ubiquitous philosophy Amazing Grace. But my question is, why?

Are these scents supposed to be a trend akin to the “no makeup makeup” thing? Let's consider this for a moment: To apply one's face in a manner that makes one seem one is wearing no makeup—that takes skill and well-made product. We all know that “no makeup makeup,” or le no makeup, looks far better than the natural thing. It's polished, refined. Even Coco Chanel herself could get on board with this sort of thing.

But soapy, girlish perfume? Coco must be spinning like a drill bit in her grave, and with good reason, for I think the great lady would agree: Such a trend seems to be the hallmark of something more disturbing, and that is women who no longer act like women, but girls. I've spent enough time cruising the blogs and MUA to know that most of us grew up with mothers who wore womanly perfumes: the Chanels, Private Collection, Chloe, just to name a very few. I aspired to wear sophisticated scents when I grew up, and I loved it when my mother would let me wear a little bit of her perfume. My mother is very much alive, but I can even now smell Clinique Aromatics or see a bottle of Norrell and be moved by it. To me, those scents are hers alone. I cannot imagine having any memory buttons pushed by something as generic as these Clean scents, but as I hadn't worn them myself, and so I would not be speaking out of turn, I decided to sample two, Baby Girl and Fresh Laundry.

The notes in Baby Girl are: in the top, lemon, cyclamen, orange and Egyptian geranium; in the heart, African violet, heliotrope, lavender, ylang-ylang, and cinnamon; and in the base, white musk and cedar. The list of notes isn't bad, and the scent itself is rather plain and inoffensive, and luckily, happily smells nothing like a baby girl. (Uh, the synthetic, commercial version. I'd like to go on record as saying I love the smell of babies—on babies, that is.) No baby powder here, nothing overpoweringly sweet. The violet and heliotrope are the most prominent notes to my nose, and overall the scent is rather soapy and, well, clean. And also, dull.

The notes in Fresh Laundry are Brazilian orange, Mexican lime, fresh mown grass, cyclamen, rose otto, night blooming white jasmine, petals, heliotrope, and musk. Folks, buy a bottle of Febreze, spray a little behind each ear, and be done with it, for this one smells just like what its name advertises: highly perfumed laundry detergent. While it smells very clean and fresh, again—what's the point? I suppose smelling like laundry might make a man love you for your housekeeping skills, or make your friends believe you possess some extra virtue (cleanliness next to godliness, and all that), but who on earth with any sense of self-worth wants to be loved for that? And if you simply want to smell more clean to yourself...well. I suggest therapy. And a bath.

Of course, in this day and age, women should wear what they like, but that doesn't have to stop me from continually wondering: What is the appeal of smelling like a tween or a basket full of laundry? Do their husbands really like this? Do their husbands' mistresses wear this sort of thing, or are the mistresses wearing Piguet Bandit? Is this how husbands tell them apart? (Kidding!) Of course, I say this, but in an age when people seem to be more and more intolerant of perfume (cheaply made and badly applied—I hazard a guess that few people would refer to any of the Guerlains as a “carnival,” as one man referred to his wife's Elizabeth Taylor-brand perfume in the NYT article), perhaps these are the only choices we'll have left.

Personally, I find this trend rather coy, and coyness irritates me, particularly in women over thirty. I once worked with a woman (single, over thirty) who practically bathed in Amazing Grace and Clean fragrances. She thought they were romantic and would help her find a husband. He would love her purity; he would find her precious. You know, that's perfectly fine. But me, I'd want to be a little more mysterious than that, if I were in guy-getting mode. Come to think of it, I'm married, and I still want to seem mysterious.

My take: These perfumes are expensive for what they offer consumers, which is the smell of soap and clean clothes. If you want to smell like soap, take a shower and don't wear perfume, and then wear clean clothes. Don't spend $40-$55 a pop to smell the way you already smell. These scents aren't “you, only better.” They are “you, only cleaner.” I have to say overall, it's the safety of these perfumes that bothers me, or the illusion of safety, of cleanliness and order, and the sheer lack of sexiness. Perhaps I lack the Puritan spirit to understand, or perhaps I lack the lie of modesty. I don't trust women who don't act like women, or who want to act like little girls or pious Madonnas. And besides, what sort of special memory will your grown daughters have, ladies, if all they remember about you is that you smelled like a basket of laundry?

There is a happy medium, you know. If you don't want to smell like a siren, there are better options. For a sexier, more adult clean scent, run down to the drugstore and pick up a bottle of Skin Musk for ten dollars. For powdery, go online and get Caron Farnesiana or Etro Heliotrope. For freshness, a soft white floral or a hint of green, like La Chasse aux Papillon or CB I Hate Perfume Wild Pansy. Or try a vanilla, like Lea Extreme, which is comforting and sexy in a soft way, or Hanae Mori Butterfly with its gourmand undertones.

Be a bit more daring, ladies!

*images from Sephora and

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reader's Journal: Shiloh and Other Stories, by Bobbie Ann Mason

Bobbie Ann Mason is one of those authors whose works I'm always meaning to read, but when it comes right down to picking out books and reading them, I forget about her. When I was casting around for titles to put on my Short Story Challenge reading list, her name popped right into my head, so I suppose it was meant to be—I chose her first collection, Shiloh and Other Stories. Particularly with stories, I like to begin with first collections and work my way forward, because I think a writer develops differently through short stories than through novels. Short stories are a specific craft, and they feel more personal—even if they aren't biographical—because you can see the writer change, get better, develop tics and drop bad habits. With novels, the writer conducts an orchestra—if the story hits a false note, you might not recognize it, distracted as you might be by other subplots, by suspense. A short story, though, is the author alone with an acoustic guitar and a spotlight. One mistake can ruin an entire set, put the whole show on the wrong course.

In Shiloh and Other Stories, Mason explores simple territory, the lives of small-town dreamers and earnest farmers trying to get through retirement, illness, divorce, or just the changing times. Almost all of the stories are set in Western Kentucky, that point where the South meets the Midwest, so her characters tend to be less dark, less plagued by the dense woods, alcoholism, religious fanaticism, or all-around Gothic sensibility than those of more Southern writers like Flannery O'Connor or Larry Brown. In many ways these stories made me think of Haven Kimmel's wonderful memoir (published several decades after these stories), A Girl Named Zippy. Both writers have such a talent for looking at the most everyday people and events through their microscopic lenses and finding the tiny hairs and moles, the cracks and hiccups and strangeness that make the ordinary unique. Just as Kimmel's stories are so vivid and well told that they read like the best fiction, Mason's stories are so grounded they seem to be true.

In my favorite story from the collection, "The Rookers," Mary Lou Skaggs comes to realize the burden of her growing power over her husband, who becomes more reclusive with each passing day: "Mary Lou suddenly realizes that Mack calls the temperature number because he is afraid to talk on the telephone, and by listening to a recording, he doesn't have to reply. It's his way of pretending that he's involved. He wants it to snow so he won't have to go outside. He is afraid of what might happen. But it occurs to her that what he must really be afraid of is women. Then Mary Lou feels so sick and heavy with her power over him that she wants to cry." This is a thread that runs through all of Mason's stories, the quiet power women have in families, the binding ties they create with the lightest and most ethereal threads that hold their worlds together like the thickest rope no matter how far family members might stray. I suppose what Mason is ultimately exploring here, though, is that thing called home, the people and the place that make up a person no matter where she is in the world.

In "Nancy Culpepper" (which is also the name of Mason's latest story collection), Mason explores these ties through the story of a woman torn between her childhood home and her marriage home, between two versions of family. Nancy Culpepper travels to Kentucky to help her parents move her grandmother into a nursing home, and while she's there she hopes to find pictures and learn about an ancestor of hers by the same name. The story weaves through time, back and forth between Kentucky and Nancy's wedding day in New York (her parents unaware of and uninvited to her nuptials), between her vision of her family and her husband's: "After supper, Nancy showed Jack the farm. As they walked through the fields, Nancy felt that he was seeing peaceful landscapes--arrangements of picturesque cows, an old red barn. She had never thought of the place this way before; it reminded her of prints in a dimestore." Nancy's husband Jack is a photographer, and Nancy herself is searching for the elusive photo of her ancestor, but the story seems to question the notion of what is seen and what is real, how vision of a person or a thing is skewed by the seer, by his or her need for the person or thing to be something else entirely than what is presented. In the end, Nancy finds the photo, an old wedding portrait of her ancestor Nancy Culpepper and her husband on an old brocade sofa: "The woman looks frightened--of the camera perhaps--but nevertheless her deep-set eyes sparkle like shards of glass...The man seems bewildered, as if he did not know what to expect, marrying a woman who has her eyes fixed on something so far away."

All of Mason's women seem to have their eyes fixed on some point beyond the horizon, even as they're bound to families and farms. They are as knowledgeable and aware in many ways as women in the stories of, say, Alice Munro, but they are also less likely to run. It's as though, by staying rooted in one place, they expect their true selves to appear one day, walk across a field, and announce they've come home to stay.

*image from

Friday, February 15, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Last week I called this "Personal Choice Fridays," which sounded vaguely political and in the case of perfume, sort of stupid. I named it on the fly, without thinking about how it really sounded. You might have thought I suddenly decided to have some political forum on Fridays. Or perhaps you had the sudden idea that during the rest of the week I must be performing for some sample editorial board hovering over me and making me do their bidding. All of my choices are personal.

I have changed the title to the startlingly original, "What's Your Friday Perfume?" Breathtaking, to be sure. You must wonder how I come up with these things. But at least it get the point across.

I think today I'm going to wear Rochas Femme.

And you, friends? Come on, tell!

*image from

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What Did I Tell You? White Florals...

Sometimes the teenager in me cannot help but fall for these quizzes. This one seems fun for Valentine's Day:

You Are a White Rose

You represent youthfulness and purity.

Your vibe: Sweet and heavenly

Falling in love with you: is like falling in love for the first time

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to you all, dear friends! Today I'm wearing Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. Bob does love white florals. What is your scent for today? A loved one's favorite? A selection for yourself? Or perhaps you're wearing no perfume at all?

Very interesting article today in the New York Times about the growing number of women who have stopped wearing perfume. While I think even the most serious perfume fans out there are feeling a bit fatigued with all the new releases of late, I can't imagine any of us would give up fragrance altogether. One person in the article comments that the issue is not so much perfume, but the application. I tend to agree with this, although I also know that sometimes Bob tires of me smelling like something new every single day. He misses the smell of "me," he says. I have always worn perfume, so he's hardly pining for Greeneyes au naturale, but he misses the constant comfort and association of the identifying mark of my perfume. It stands to reason that whatever sort of identity our perfume might lend us, we want that to be a positive experience for our loved ones as well.

So if you have time today, share with me: If you could pick only one scent to identify yourself, what would it be and why? My pick is the perfume I'm wearing today, not just because Bob loves white florals (plenty to choose from there), but because out of those I've tried, this one feels the most "me," or at least the me I would like to be: classic and straightforward, yet utterly feminine.

Have a lovely day, my friends!

*image from Yahoo

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tann Rokka Aki

Sorry, no rose showdown today. I did not think my nose could handle it, as neither of the fragrances in the showdown is, if you will, a shy flower. I thought about wearing something comforting and safe, like Theorema, but I am about done with my winter perfumes, even if the weather today (cold, grey, sky spitting tiny bits of frozen precipitation) demands it. Enter, the powdery fragrance. I almost picked up Etro Heliotrope, but then I remembered I had this sample of Tann Rokka Aki.

The notes in Aki are amber, cedarwod, patchouli, and vetiver. The top is almost unbearably sweet and powdery. In college I lived in a dorm full of music and art majors, and the top notes in Aki remind me of the smell of the hallways just after the dinner hour on Thursday and Friday nights: baby powder and incense, that weird mixture of innocence and seduction as we girls prepared for a night out, going to see a band or look for a party and always, always to look for someone to love, for a night or for a lifetime. Up and down the corridors girls would go in and out of open doors, borrowing clothes, sneaking beers, asking each other advice, waiting on boyfriends or friends or phone calls from boyfriends or friends. Music poured into the halls and out open windows (my dorm, built in the 1920s, had stuffy radiant heaters and no air conditioning, so windows were always open, even if just a little). I had not thought much about those times in a very long while, until I smelled this today.

After about thirty minutes, Aki begins to lose some of its sweetness, and it feels like night coming on, the patchouli moving across the amber twilight like a darkening sky, the vetiver lighting it up softly here and there like stars. This phase is decidedly more grown-up than the opening, and easier to wear overall, even though I did enjoy the trip down memory lane that the opening notes provided. Aki is pretty and uncomplicated, like youth is or should be, but unfortunately I find it a tad expensive ($185 for 100ml) for what it finally offers. Still, I haven't encountered anything else like it really, and it's got to be cheaper than an actual ticket to go back in time. Can you imagine what that might cost?

*image from Luckyscent

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Soldier On, Indeed

Friends, I am still out of commission. I recovered from my bug only to suffer the worst allergy attack I've experienced in months. Earlier in the day I thought I might recover, but I found myself requiring a second dose of antihistamine and a long nap. Sadly, my nose is still tender, and I dare not tickle it or taunt it with anything. I had planned a little rose showdown between Hermes Hermessence Rose Ikebana and Bond No. 9 Bryant Park, but it will have to wait until my nose recovers.

I can share with you, though, Bob's impressions upon being offered each wrist just after perfume application: "That one smells like Kool Aid. That one doesn't smell like Kool Aid."

I'll leave you to guess which is which. I hope you all are having a lovely week so far!

*image of Roses et jasmin dans un vase du Delft (1880-1881) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir from WebMuseum

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Under the Weather

I'm sorry for not having a Reader's Journal post today as planned, but I seem to have picked something up at work this week. I hope to be up and running again on Monday.

Have a happy weekend!

Friday, February 08, 2008

What's Your Friday Perfume?

Friday is the day of the week that I wear whatever I want, whether it's something from my own stash or an extra day with a perfume I've sampled during the week. I thought it would be fun to share my Friday selections with you--but there's a catch. You have to share yours with me!

Let me know in the comments what your Friday perfume is. Today, mine is Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. You might think I'd had enough Lauder after January, but this is one of my favorite perfumes.

Happy weekend! I'll be back tomorrow with Reader's Journal.

*image from

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I Want Candy: Delices de Cartier

Candy comes in many different forms. Candy might be some fine chocolate, or candy might be a Cartier tank watch. For those of us watching both our waistlines and our budgets, candy might be nothing more (or less) than something sweet in a bottle. If candy is what you crave, consider Delices de Cartier.

I've had a sweet tooth all week. I had lined up Balenciaga Le Dix for today, but last night I found myself going through my sample drawer like an angry dieter rummaging the refrigerator in an attempt to locate a three-year-old squeeze bottle of diet Hershey's Chocolate Syrup. The pinker and the sweeter, the better. The thing is, my tastes don't generally run to pink and sweet. They run to white or yellow, they play around with red, and they like a little spice. I have lots and lots of white florals, ambers, incense, but very few selections that resembled anything Elle Woods might wear to her Contracts class at Harvard Law. I'd already worn my most obvious choice this week, and I didn't think you all would let me get by with a "Juicy Cooter, Part Deux." Seriously that fragrance just isn't that complex. I suppose I could have come up with some semiotic premise about their ads, claiming I only wore the perfume whilst deconstructing as an inspiration. But that would have made me pathetic. And also a nerd.

I was pawing my way through the tiny vials and carded samples when out popped Delices de Cartier. This fragrance, released in 2006, was all over the blogs when I first started sniffing. Anxious as I was then to plunge into the world of niche perfumery, I studiously avoided it. I lumped it in with all the other fruity florals everyone seemed to be complaining about, and went on my merry way with my Serge Lutens and L'Artisan. Never would I say that was a mistake, but I am happy I pulled this out last night and decided to wear it. If ever there were a fragrance for a very rich Barbie, then this is the one. I'm talking the kind of Barbie that had her own tailor, not the kind that wore those store-bought outfits from K-Mart, pinned to cardboard and shielded with a molded plastic casing. I'm talking about the Barbie who had the horse, and the car, and the townhouse, and the plane, and not one Ken but two--not the Barbie who only owned the camper and also used it as her home and had to share it with Skipper.

Please don't think you shouldn't try it just because I invoked Barbie. Because really you should, you must. True, this is pink and sweet, but it's also effervescent and feminine and wonderfully...well, delicious. The notes in Delices are iced cherry, bergamot, pink pepper, violet, jasmine, freesia, amber, tonka bean, musk, and sandalwood. It starts off with a tart cherry pop, a spicy pucker of fruit and pepper. As it develops the zing! subsides and the flowers bloom, pale and tender, making me long for the cherry trees around town to light up in all their pink glory. The dry down is sexy, sweet and intimate. I personally think this would make a lovely Valentine's Day selection, either for a gift or to wear. Occasionally a woman needs something to make her feel like a girl again. A little candy, if you will. You should. You must!

*image from Sephora

More Congratulations...

To Robin and company over at Now Smell This, for being listed as one of the best blogs in the March issue of Real Simple magazine. I could not agree more! NST was the blog that got me started on my journey, and I read it every day. Cheers!

The Laws of Evening Giveaway

Alica, you are the winner of the draw! Please send your address to me at


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Parfums Delrae Debut, in a Roundabout Way

The last few days here in Atlanta, Spring has been flirting with us, flexing its biceps, or hiking up its skirt and showing a little leg--depending on your metaphor of choice. Yesterday was positively sticky, and I decided I needed to wear something light but not too springy. Enter Annick Goutal's Mandragore. I've worn this and planned to write about it twice, and each time something goes awry. The first time I missed the opportunity because of holiday madness. Yesterday, things didn't work out for a couple of reasons. First--and this is going to sound crazy but I'll say it anyway--I find that certain types of lighter perfumes actually feel sticky when it's humid outside. I can't explain it, but it feels like they won't dry, like they just suck up the moisture in the atmosphere and amplify it. This is particularly true when the temperature is mild, in the 60s or 70s. It's as though there isn't enough heat to keep the moisture at bay, or for the perfume to simply melt away (not that I want that, either).

Anyhow, I went to work Tuesday wearing Mandragore and feeling sticky sticky. (Not a typo. I was double sticky.) Mandragore is pretty (And look at that butterfly flacon! We wants it!), and I'll give it proper time another day, because honestly, the second thing that happened yesterday knocked it right out of my mind. On my lunch break I went to the post office, which is right near Ulta, and I decided to run in and sniff a few things I missed the last time I was there: Valentino Rock n' Rose (must try for real), Bulgari Omnia Amytheste (need to sniff again), Pleasures Exotic (um, no), and Lancome Poeme (which Katie featured on her Top Ten Fragrances of Winter). Problem? I managed to spray Poeme all over my hand. I don't know if you've ever actually smelled Poeme, but if you have, then you know it isn't exactly light. One spritz of Poeme on my left hand, and it was as though Angelina Jolie had walked into a room of fairly attractive housewives. The Mandragore was completely eclipsed. I was a little miffed--until I went outside. No sticky! It occurred to me then that in certain types of humid weather, one needs a perfume with a little bit of body to it, something that can fight back against the damp air and take the edge off that little bit of chill accompanying it. Poeme was getting the job done, and now I know I must also give that one a proper test.

As for the roundabout: With my new lesson learned about a heavier fragrance to combat the heavier humidity, this morning I chose Parfums Delrae Debut. (I have a bad habit of referring to this house as "DelRae," as though it's my cousin Del Rae**, who lives in a trailer with momma and them down the road apiece.) Debut has notes of bergamot, lime, green leaves, lily of the valley, ylang ylang, vetiver, sandalwood and musk. Parfums Delrae is a San Francisco-based perfumery, so I know they are familiar with damp, slightly chilled air, and I trust them to create a scent to withstand such weather. Debut certainly does, opening to a bright lime-aid green at the top that deepens quickly into a luxurious floral. The main heart notes, lily of the valley and ylang-ylang, form a union that does not smell like but reminds me of roses, for it has that same splendid headiness. It is the deepest purple, velvet to the touch, but at the same time the most accurate representation of spring on the verge of summer. In the base, the sandalwood and musk dominate, and I appreciate this. I worried that the vetiver might pull the base back from its deeper heart, and that would feel like a cheat, like a concert where the opening act is better than the headliner. The floral notes linger like the promise of a loved one's return.

Tomorrow it should be cold (well, cooler) again, but I feel hooked on flowers. Even with the warm weather the last few days, I feel the winter doldrums more than ever. A return to amber and incense feels like a resignation instead of a comfort. I'm in fragrance limbo. Does anyone else feel this way? If so, what do you wear these days? Please share in the comments. I know I can't be alone!

*images from
**Not an actual cousin.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Juicy Couture

Juicy Couture was featured on Robin's list of 100 Perfumes Every Perfumista Should Try. First of all, let me go on record: I believe Juicy Couture is responsible for one of the worst crimes possible against fashion, and that is bringing back the sweat suit. The sweat suit didn't need to be brought back. It was fine where it was, back in the Eighties with elastic ankles and cut-out necks and novelty socks that matched it perfectly (worn with Keds, no less). In fact, it was better back then. Why? Because I didn't have to see any woman stuffed into pink velour low-rider sweatpants that were two sizes too small with “JUICY” emblazoned across her butt. I didn't have to see her at the grocery store or the mall or the ChickFilA. I didn't have to see the top half of the tattoo on the small of her back (you know, that's what low-rider sweat pants are for) because the matching jacket was actually three sizes too small (to show off the boob job).

I mean, think about it. If you saw that woman out shopping, would the first thing that popped into your mind be: “Hm, I wonder what perfume she wears?” or something more along the lines of “Girlfriend needs to pull up those pants...or maybe buy some that fit.”

I admit, though, that Juicy Couture does have some cute bags. They also have some really cute shoes. And I also admit that the advertising campaign for this fragrance was eye-catching and fun--and I also admit that this scent is none-too-terrible. There. I said it.

Juicy Couture contains notes of watermelon, mandarin, pink passion fruit, marigold, green apple, water hyacinth, crushed leaves, tuberose absolute, wild rose, princess lily, tuberose, caramel creme brulee, vanilla, precious woods, and patchouli. The top is actually my favorite part, even as fruity as it is, because it bubbles up like a pink champagne cocktail and tickles the nose a bit. It dries to a creamy floral sugary vanilla, and it pretty much stays there, progressing into a soft patchouli and woods at the end that are almost barely discernable. It's pink and playful, warm and cuddly, sugar sans the spice, but it's really rather nice. (Oh shut up. It's already been one of those weeks.) Really, you can't expect harsh patchouli or deep woods from anybody who brought the world pink velour sweat suits, but I can tell you I'd be way more likely to buy a bottle of this perfume than I would to buy low-rider sweat pants. It's much more forgiving, and if I may say so, it's sexier. This is a much better way for a woman to channel her inner Playboy Bunny than tight clothes.

*image from

Monday, February 04, 2008

Barbara Bui Le Parfum

My reader pal Gail sent me a vial of Barbara Bui Le Parfum because she knew I liked Sonia Rykiel Woman. I'm game to try anything a reader sends me, plus I completely trust Gail, so this weekend I wore it around.

Barbara Bui contains notes of spices, incense, jasmine, white musk, sandalwood, heliotrope, cedar and amber. It opens with sweet, spicy flowers, and develops a slightly sharp powder underneath through the heart. To me it feels like the same sharp candied undertone I get from Poison, although without the strength. Le Parfum is more intimate, more "Psst, stand next to me," than "Hello world! I am here!"

As for its likeness to Sonia Rykiel Woman, there are moments in the development of both perfumes where it's difficult to tell them apart. The top notes especially are similar, although I find the Rykiel Woman a bit spicier than the Bui. The heart is telling (isn't it always?), because while Bui evolves into a powdery floral, the leather note in the Rykiel becomes apparent behind the flowers, making it powdery without the sharp candied edge I find in the Bui. In the dry down they again become more similar, although the Rykiel maintains a heavier undertone, again because of the leather. It's funny, but when I wear Rykiel Woman on its own, I don't notice the leather as much. I notice more the amber and spice.

Truly, these perfumes seem like two sides of the same coin, and it would be easy to divide them along seasonal lines, wearing Barbara Bui in spring and summer--as it's more tender and a bit sprightly--and saving Rykiel Woman for fall and winter, when it's powdery leather can lend comfort. Sadly, Barbara Bui Le Parfum was discontinued, but you can find it now and again on eBay. Rykiel Woman is available at several online discounters.

*image from osMoz

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Reader's Journal: The Laws of Evening (and a Giveaway)

My first selection for the Short Story Reading Challenge was The Laws of Evening, by Mary Yukari Waters. Last year I went a little crazy at a Barnes & Noble online sale, and this was one of the books I picked up. Since then, it's been hanging around the house, moving from pile to pile. I realized I could use the challenge to force myself to read it. Force myself. Poor choice of words on my part, because this book is so beautifully done, all I can think now is, what took me so long?

I struggle to review short story collections. In a way, I feel as though I've been tasked with describing someone else's photo album. It's as though, when I'm reading, the author and I have the album spread across our laps, and as I turn the pages, she explains to me the context of each photo, its back story and its meaning for her. How then do I describe this to you in words, with no pictures of my own to show, and you with no pages to turn? I must try, so I consider moving through the book, story by story, but short summaries seem like so many advertisements, literary classified ads.

These stories, set in Japan and China, deal as much with the collective conscious (and conscience) of a nation during and after World War II as with the lives of the men and women who inhabit them. The protagonists are mostly women, and mostly elderly, looking back on lives of considerable losses, through war and illness and change. No historical account I have read about Japan after WWII has presented such a clear picture of a nation walking the fine line between its ancient culture and a modern, more Westernized way of life.

As an American reading these stories, I'm reminded again and again that I do not know what it is like to live in a country conquered and then occupied by its conquerors, no matter how short the period of occupation might be. What strikes me is that the occupation is not only physically invasive, but mentally so as well. It is difficult to believe that regeneration after such devastating loss could feel unwelcome, that somehow the emptiness is more fulfilling than the thing replacing the loss.

Waters' characters face not only the loss of spouses and children and parents, but of whole villages. People are stripped of their family history, their culture. Waters shows this not through a physical picture of war-torn cities, not through a list of items lost in bombings, but through the smallest details of life. In one story, "Since My House Burned Down," an elderly Japanese woman watches her daughter-in-law teach her daughter to eat with a knife and fork: "What a barbaric way to eat, I thought. Wielding iron spears and knives right at the table, stabbing and slicing--chores that should be performed in the privacy of a kitchen, leaving diners' energies free for thoughts of a higher order. At that moment a strange foreboding rose up in my belly: a sense that my world, indeed my entire understanding of it, was on the threshold of great change."

In another story, "Kami," an elderly woman, Hanae, follows advice she hears on the radio in her effort to stay healthy and vigorous in old age. She lost her husband in the war, and then married a man she did not love. "[In] the period after her second husband's funeral, Mitsu's condolences had brought home the truth: despite anything else fate might still hold in store, the basic outcome of Hanae's life was complete. Mitsu's formal dress and prostration had impressed this onto Hanae's mind like a huge red stamp on a shipping crate: Unfortunate Life. Dashed Hopes." But each night she lulls herself to sleep by imagining her body repairing and strengthening itself, her mind "[resolving] emotion and memory into increasingly healthy patterns; each cell knowing, without her intervention, exactly what to do." Her resilience, however small, tells the story of a nation. Hopes are not dashed, and life continues. In another story, "Circling the Hondo," (a hondo is a hall of worship in a Buddhist temple) a character says, "'The ancient sages said we all have in us some larger consciousness that keeps growing, widening, with time. And they said: That is all that matters. Our bodies must evolve, and our minds must evolve, in order to accommodate it."

This is as true for lives as it is for relationships in Waters' stories, although where love and death are concerned, adaptation can be painful. My favorite story in the collection is "Rationing," which appeared in the Best American Short Stories 2003, where I first encountered it. I read that collection every year, and in that edition "Rationing" is the first story. It might not be fair, but each year I tend to make a snap judgment based on that first story, and I remember thinking the collection would be particularly good that year. I was surprised when I saw it here again, because I tend to gobble up singular stories like vending machine snacks, enjoying them immensely at the time and forgetting them later. It felt lucky, finding this story again, about a father and son, their relationship over time, the complication of generations and cultures clashing. At the beginning of the story, Saburo is a teenager, his father a professor of astronomy at a local university. As he ages, Saburo's father loses his sight, and his son cares for him, taking him on weekly outings, listening to his lectures about the cosmos. The plot is less than original, but it's so beautifully and touchingly told through Waters' graceful prose, it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

For my anniversary this year, I received an iron vase adorned with cherry blossoms. The vase, reflecting the Japanese tradition of ikebana, the art of flower arranging, has three sides representing heaven, man, and earth. Traditionally, these arrangements do not involve floral bouquets as they do in Western culture, but instead are an arrangement of branches with carefully placed floral elements. To me, Waters' stories reflect this same tender care, arranging the bare bones of a life and then carefully placing those events, like flowers, that make them magnificent to behold.

Not only would I recommend that you read this, but I would love to pass on a copy. If you're interested, please leave your name in the comments. I'll keep this "open" until Wednesday, February 6, and then I'll draw a winner.

*image from