Saturday, October 31, 2009

You Win Some, You Lose Some

You know who holds the record for the most losses by a major league pitcher?


Denton True "Cy" Young.

Yeah, that guy.  The one they named the award for, the one that honors the best major league pitcher each year.  The guy that pitched 21 seasons, the one who still - even close to a hundred years after he retired, in 1911 - holds the record for the most wins by a major league pitcher.

Total losses: 316.
Total wins: 511.

A lesson for us all.

Especially for me.  This is my second attempt at NaNoWriMo.  I failed last year, only racking up 47,000 words ("winning" means you wrote 50K during the month of November).  But that was last year.  Ol' Cy lost a bunch of games, too, and it didn't stop him.

So it can't stop me.

I probably won't post full-blown articles here for awhile, just brief notes on how things are going, with the occasional Scent of the Day comment, or something short like that.  I'll be back in full swing in December.

Image is from wikipedia.  Click on the link to read more about Cy Young at baseballhalloffame.org.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Perfume Review: Magie Noire (vintage)



All Hallows' Eve approaches. I've been waiting to review this perfume for months, and so I suppose I've had months to think about it but had not yet written a post before today. I first heard of Magie Noire last spring, from a commenter on one of the perfume blogs. I no longer remember which one. In any case, the comment was something like, "Magie Noire is the most sensual potion I've ever smelled, I'm so sad they've reformulated it." I didn't know much about what to expect from a list of notes at the time, and I thought it would be a good idea to find a home for vintage Magie Noire, so I trolled ebay for it. What luck! A mini bottle of vintage edt for something like $12 including shipping. The seller had several on hand, having inherited her parents' pharmacy. She was attempting to clear the back room of old fragrances they had bought in the 80's and stored.

I bought it. On the day it was delivered, the weather here was warm and characteristic of early spring. Daffodils were out; I was wearing a spring green blouse. I came home from work and found my package in the mailbox. The box was ugly – black, with russet, orange and gold curving stripes and zodiacal symbols on it. I rolled my eyes (those crazy mystical types! The things they'll buy!) and opened it, expecting the tones of the spicy floral oriental of Fragrantica.com's listing. The top was a bit tight, so I had to work it loose, getting a drop on my fingers in the process.

This is what went through my head: What the heck? This is NOT an Oriental! I jerked my hand away from my nose. What the heck IS thi – wait a second, I want to smell that again. I did smell it again. And again and again. I sat at the computer desk in the basement for what seemed like hours, just sniffing. I didn't have to bring my hand to my nose; the sillage was tremendous.

I was immediately transported to an evening from my first year at college, when I was walking back to my dorm after a choral dress rehearsal that had gone late. It was not raining, but it had rained earlier in the day, so that the dead leaves, oak and maple, felt like just-made papier mache' under my feet. A huge harvest moon sailed overhead, shining pale orange as clouds scudded behind it. The wind blew in swirls. I remember being stunned by beauty. I didn't stop at my dorm; I kept walking in this windy November night: through the little cemetery, through the Dell, up Observatory Hill. It grew chilly. I walked back to my dorm. I barely slept, for the moonlight and the drama and the silence, for the romance and the longing.

Coming back from the past on that spring afternoon, I realized that the weather had changed. It had been sunny and pleasant, but while I was dreaming the clouds had come in and covered the sun. It had begun to rain. I had the eerie feeling that Magie Noire had effected the change all on its own.

Notes for MN: Created by Gerard Goupy, released by Lancome in 1978. I keep seeing it classified on perfume forums like fragrantica and basenotes as a floral oriental. This is crazy talk (at least for the vintage version). It is clearly a woody chypre with floral elements, and a Big, Honkin', I Mean Business Chypre to boot. A man could wear this, if he had enough confidence and a very, very light hand on the applicator.
Top: Blackcurrant buds, galbanum, raspberry, hyacinth, bergamot.
Heart: honey, tuberose, orris root, jasmine, ylang, lily of the valley, cedar, narcissus, Bulgarian rose.
Base: spices, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, musk, civet, oakmoss, vetiver.

Some fragrances are far, far more than the sum of their notes. This is one of those fragrances. I could not tease out individual notes at all the first few times I wore it. I still cannot identify more than a few: the cassis buds stand out as always. Narcissus has become a favorite, and after falling in love with PdN Le Temps d'une Fete, I can pick it out now. There is a ton of oakmoss and vetiver in this, too. And although it's not listed, I seem to smell something quite herbal, like coriander, in the top notes. Everything else is a blur, even tuberose and rose, two more favorites of mine. I freely admit that my bottle may not have been stored properly. In fact, I can't imagine that it was kept properly in a warehouse in California for 25+ years. It doesn't matter to me whether it smells the way it did when it was created, because it smells amazing.

I cannot wear Magie Noire frequently – I have only worn it a handful of times, and only in very small doses. For one thing, it seems to call for cool weather, and particularly weather in which one might wear a sweater and boots. For another, the sillage is so enormous that it seems wrong to subject other people to it. Lastly, Magie Noire hijacks my thought processes. If I wear it, I can think of nothing else, but am lost in the sensuality, the elemental earthy quality of it. It makes me think of people who worshiped the Earth and its powers, its changing seasons, in centuries past and – who knows? Even now. I am not comfortable in it, but when I wear it I do not want comfort. I am like Bilbo Baggins, unceremoniously yanked from his cozy burrow and set on a quest for treasure.

Magie Noire turns. It turns like the turning of the seasons - it cartwheels, rotates, opens doors ponderous on their hinges. The wind blows in with a blast when the door is opened into November forest, floor damp and spongy with leaf mould, glowing rose at the heart like shafts of sunlight through treetops. It is the death of many leaves and the life of trees, the heart of the earth beating under a blanket of dead leaves and moss. It is warm under the blanket, when the night air is chilly. There now, don't cry at the loss of the summer: we will make our own. It will be fecund and humid with exhalations from our mouths, and this will be our own summer. It is a kind of magic, do you see?

One of the songs we'd been rehearsing that November night was a piece by Samuel Barber, with text by James Stephens: The Coolin (The Fair Haired One). Here is the poem, and following it is a link to a beautiful rendition I found on youtube.

Come with me, under my coat,
And we will drink our fill
Of the milk of the white goat,
Or wine if it be thy will.

And we will talk, until
Talk is a trouble, too,
Out on the side of the hill;
And nothing is left to do,

But an eye to look into an eye;
And a hand in a hand to slip;
And a sigh to answer a sigh;
And a lip to find out a lip!

What if the night be black!
Or the air on the mountain chill!
Where the goat lies down in her track,
And all but the fern is still!

Stay with me, under my coat!
And we will drink our fill
Of the milk of the white goat,
Out on the side of the hill!

Reincarnations: The Coolin (Barber/Stephens), about 3:45 minutes long.

I have no info on the top image, having found it on a free image site - but I can't remember where or when.  If you know, please tell me and I'll credit it properly.  Bottom image is my own bottle of Magie Noire, bought off ebay.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Random Thoughts

My nose is stopped up.  This is rotten.  Not only can I not smell anything, I wake up at night because I can't breade drough by dose.

Watched The Outsiders recently with Bookworm.  The DVD she has is the more recent 20th anniversary release, with scenes that were deleted from the 1983 theater release.  Still a great movie, still a terrific book.  When the movie came out, only a year or two after I read the book as an 8th grader, I spent my babysitting money to go see it at the theater - twice!  Partly because it's a great story, filmed well, and partly because it is an ensemble cast of, let's be honest here, really cute guys.  Seriously: C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, and Leif Garrett.  At the time, I was a Tommy Howell kind of girl; I had a poster of him up on my corkboard in my room.  Ralph was too sweet for me, Matt too edgy, and Rob too pretty.  Now, 25 years later, what I notice about the boys in the movie (who were all in their late teens while filming, except for Patrick, who was 30, and Ralph, who was 20) is different.
  • Tom Cruise has a gap between his front teeth, and really great biceps. The less said about his acting skills, the better.
  • Emilio is, actually, a pretty good character actor. Too bad Charlie got the looks in that family!
  • Ralph looks like a middle-schooler.  Or maybe a human puppy.  Also, I cannot believe Casting bothered to audition anyone else for the role of Johnny; Ralph is perfect.
  • Rob is seriously gorgeous.  Apparently it is possible for a human being to approach physical perfection.  And I had no idea that the guy actually could act.  Sadly, a lot of his work wound up on the cutting room floor in '83, but his scenes as middle brother Soda have emotional punch.
  • Patrick cannot act.  I knew this already, but I still don't care.  Fab abs.  And that jaw...
  • Leif makes me think of Justin Timberlake.  Same frizzy blond hair, same cheesy acting skills.
  • Tommy Howell is a little out of his depth, but he has beautiful eyes.
  • I dissed Matt Dillon for years as having no reason to be in front of a camera other than his bad-boy good looks, which I claimed were overrated anyway.  Matt, I wronged you.  I apologize.  Now I know why all my friends had posters of you in their lockers: it was your mouth.  Or maybe those cheekbones.  Or perhaps the "provoking charm of [Matt] altogether."  And your intensity dominated the whole film.  Every scene you were in, Matt, wound up slipped into your back pocket.  You rule, baby.
Sigh.  Well, I suppose I wouldn't go back to being 15 again, but I can watch The Outsiders and pretend that it was a lot better than real life.

Fisher-Price has released a new toy: Elmo Live.  This animatronic wonder sings, laughs, stands, sits, tells jokes, and plays games. Holy cow, what's the world coming to?  I hereby confess that I always hated Elmo.  Kermit was cool, Big Bird was dumb but sweet, and Oscar said what I always wished I had the guts to say.  Elmo is a toddler in red fur.  What's so great about that?

NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday.  I'm getting ready.  Squee! 

And, most importantly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to The CEO!  Lots of love to my favorite husband (yes, I know you're the only one), and many years of happy life ahead.  Mwah.

* Apologies to Sir John Suckling, for cribbing/messing with his poem "The Constant Lover."  Image is from moviestore.com.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Perfume Review: Rochas Tocade


In 1994, Rochas released this honkin' ugly bottle of wonderful stuff, created by Maurice Roucel.  Thank goodness I read a positive review of it before ever seeing the bottle, which is one of the cheesiest things I have seen in my life.  The bottom part of it reminds me of the pretty shape of the Femme bottle, but it's topped with a cylinder and a coolie hat in plastic Made In China colors.  It's a shame, really, about that cap.  It's too tall.  It's pointy.  It's plaaaaaaastic.

Ahem.  Muses in Wooden Shoes never, ever, buy perfume for the bottle.  And isn't that lucky for us?  Tocade - which means "Infatuation" in French - is just lovely, and a genuine bargain at $25-30 for a large 100ml bottle. 

Here are the notes for Tocade:
T: green notes, bergamot, freesia, geranium
H: magnolia, iris, orchid, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose
B: patchouli, amber, musk, cedar, vanilla

Tocade is primarily a rose-vanilla-patchouli fragrance, and like Organza Indecence, it's right at the edge of my low patchouli tolerance.  Other people might not find it very patch-forward, but I do.  Tocade opens with a breath of galbanum and a whisper of something my brain calls "fresh" - it's probably the freesia - before heading full tilt for that rose-vanilla combo.  It's a lovely rose, neither the fresh lemony rose you smell in, say Perfumer's Workshop Tea Rose, nor the winey rose of Parfum Sacre or Voleur de Roses, but, rather, a glowing deep pink rose, smooth as painted china.  I do smell the magnolia and lily of the valley, and although I can't pinpoint the orchid, there's a smooth floral quality to the heart that seems to be common to orchid scents.  And although the base skates toward the sweet side, it's not the marshmallow variety of vanilla/amber - there's enough backbone in the cedar and patchouli, and enough dirt in the musk, to keep it honest.  Although it doesn't smell like Shalimar, it does have that dirty, smoky vanilla vibe in the drydown.

This is one of my sexier perfume options, I confide.  It's a casual, comfortable, party-girl kind of sexiness, a white tee shirt and jeans sort of sexiness, not the femme fatale variety.  It's so friendly and affectionate that one imagines Tocade to be unable not to flirt outrageously with everyone (yes, everyone) she meets.  In fact, I usually refer to it as That Slut Tocade.

Which is probably unfair, but since it amuses the heck out of me while expressing that "friendly sexiness" that is Tocade, I'm going to keep using it.  That Slut Tocade.  Heh.  Beavis and Butthead would be so proud.  (By the way, according to a French-speaking friend, it's pronounced toe-COD.  Just in case that might be helpful.) 

True story:  I bought Tocade this past spring, just about the time the weather was getting too warm for it.  I promptly put it in my closet, inside a box with a few other cold-weather scents.  Two months later, I opened the closet, and a big waft of Tocade stumbled out and threw her arms around my neck, slurring, "Hiiiiiiii!  I'm Tocade.  I'm a little druunnnk (hiccup) and I've somehow (giggle) lost my panties, will you take me ho-ome?" Whew.  I promptly made sure the (ugly) top was on firmly, and then put the bottle inside a plastic bag inside the box.  That was three months ago, and I continue to get hints of Tocade when I open the closet.

(So be careful with this stuff, willya? Don't, you know, spill it on your closet floor or anything.)

I've used the phrase That Slut Tocade often enough now that I think I'd better clarify: I like it.  I really, really like it.  It's comfortable without being a real wallpaper scent, and my husband likes it too.

But it really deserved a better bottle.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Five for Fall, 2009


Inspired by the Fall Picks posts on many perfume blogs this week, I’m doing my own. And I was going to make it Ten Picks, but since I’m hoping to be doing this again next year, I’ll keep the list short so I can explore different scents in 2010.

I love fall. Love it, love it. The temperature’s generally comfortable. The sunshine (when we get it) is a golden shade we never see in any other season. The wind is bracing rather than icy. The trees change colors; hickory nuts and black walnuts drop onto the drive. Squirrels and chipmunks are busybusybusy. Woodsmoke begins to fill the crisp air, and there’s frost on the ground in the mornings. More than that, autumn has always been for me a time of new beginnings. Feelings rise up in me and can’t be quashed – or forgotten.

For those warm golden days when the sun pours warm cider over distant tweed hills: Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea. To me, it smells of dry leaves, pipe tobacco, fresh hay, a worn leather bomber jacket, and the warm skin of one’s sweetheart, and an aromatic mossy forest floor, with spiced cider wafting by from somewhere in the distance.

For cold rainy days when you just want a sweater (and a good raincoat!), I want Givenchy Organza Indecence. This is spice cake eaten near a bonfire, so that you smell the spice and vanilla just as much as you smell the smoke and the wood. Cozy, it sticks fairly close to my skin and only wafts gently when I move. I like that.

For romantic evenings, Ormonde Jayne Ta’if casts a spell, with its peppery rose and saffron creaminess. It is delightful, sensual, and a bit dreamy, as if it can’t quite keep the memory of stars out of its head.

For dreary days, when the sun is slow to wake and the sky remains gray, I love Lanvin Arpege. I have a small bottle of the reformulated EdP, and also a tiny bottle of vintage extrait. I really, really wish there were some way to merge the top and heart notes of the reformulation with the drydown of the vintage – the new stuff just disappears when it gets past its harmonic floral heart, but the basenotes of the old are symphonic and jaw-droppingly gorgeous, with creamy sandalwood and crisp vetiver. The middle stage of development in the original is so rich it feels almost decayed. Of course, that effect still seems to fit with leaf mould on the ground and the richness of fruit that ripens in the fall.

For anytime I need a close-to-the-skin veil of loveliness, I would want to wear Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. I still haven’t smelled the original Black Orchid, but VdF has plenty of personality, and I think the original would, um, scare me. VdF races through plum and very smooth florals (ylang and gardenia, prominently) through cinnamon and woods to a very creamy, luxuriously feminine ending. It’s like a bowl of Feminite du Bois with milk poured over, and it doesn’t disappear on me like Feminite du Bois.

Others I'm enjoying: Lancome Magie Noire, Chanel 31 Rue Cambon, Amouage Lyric, Gres Cabaret, and Shalimar Light.  It might soon be cold enough to break out the Bal a Versailles, too.

Image is Fall in Forest from nancymeowdrew at flickr; it was taken in Virginia in 1991.  This is very much what fall looks like around here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Few Swoony Rose Scents


I feel like going off the deep end with some luxuriant, voluptuous, carmined, velvety Dark Rose scents.  SOTD is Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur (did anybody think a name that long was a good idea?), and while it is lovely, I'm waiting for it to wear off. 

I simply want Take No Prisoners Rose at the moment.  I want to reread Philippa Gregory's sensual and frightening Wideacre; I want rose petals in my bath; I want a cashmere sweater in the richest deep red.  I am longing to sniff a couple of new ones - the Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire PourFemme (you can read Helg's voluptuously-written review here- she's clearly smitten!), and DS&Durga for Anthropologie East MidEast (Kevin's more straightforward review is here).

I'm not sure what to wear next, but here are a few of my options.  Most of these are decants, the full bottles being a little out of my price range, which is why I'm careful with dosage - something in my brain goes cha-ching! every time I spray.  Not to mention that most of these are also Grande Dame Perfumes with corresponding sillage...

Amouage Lyric Woman - deep wine-y rose and dry, smoky, astringent incense.  Piercingly beautiful, Leontyne Price singing Vissi d'Arte.  Quite expensive, but in this case, price indicates quality.
Ormonde Jayne Ta'if - a rose of the desert, sweet and deep, dusted with pepper and saffron, standing barefoot under the stars.
Caron Parfum Sacre' - lemon-spice-pepper and rose, flowing into warm vanilla-woods and cool myrrh.  This is the mother that tenderly kisses her sleeping children before becoming a lover again in the bed of her marriage.
Gres Cabaret - rose curled atop a down comforter before the fire, letting its smoke twine through her hair.  Wonderful fragrance, ugly bottle, unbelievably great price.  I think I said something about "toasted marshmallow" before, but it's not sweet - what I was getting at was that cushy, pillowy musk.
Juliet Has a Gun Citizen Queen - rose dolled up for the nightlife, in a violet bustier, fishnets and leather stilettos - and a killer-diller red lipstick.  Very, very sexy.

That Slut Tocade is little too flirty and shallow for the current mood, L'Arte di Gucci a little too imperious.  I'll take my roses rolling in passion today.

Come slowly, Eden
Lips unused to thee.
Bashful, sip thy jasmines,
As the fainting bee,
Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums,
Counts his nectars - alights,
And is lost in balms!
                                   - Emily Dickenson

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

At Home in Orientals



When I was young, Opium was the Hot Ticket in Fragrance. And not just Opium, but Cinnabar, Coco, LouLou, Poison, Obsession, Tabu, Youth Dew, and Shalimar. Seems like everyone was just drenched in resiny, spicy, heavy Orientals that, to my young nose, were related to Chemical Spills, Nuclear Power Plant Accidents (anyone remember Three Mile Island? Or worse, Chernobyl?), and Industrial Waste. Opium ruined more cultural gatherings than I could shake a stick at, and all I really knew about it was that it was, duh, an Oriental.

I had a friend at college who seemed to be going through the same things that I was – we suffered through first year together. We conferred, discussed, and giggled over all manner of issues. And we sighed, in tandem and at a distance, over Smoky Charles, who had stunning smoky gray eyes, and Gorgeous John from the Basement, who was as Cary Grant as a college freshman could be. We liked performing in musicals; we both played the piano (she far better than I); we both sang in the chorus; we loved novels and poetry and romantic English love stories. Suzanne and I dithered over whether or not to ditch our long-distance boyfriends, and rolled our eyes at our mothers' ridiculous worries. We haunted the thrift store for elegant vintage night wear and cashmere shrug sweaters – which, at the time, were long out of style - and diamante' brooches. Occasionally she let me borrow that thrift-store black velvet dressing gown with ivory crocheted lace. Together we counseled our friend Beth on how best to flirt with a fun, handsome boy we all knew: Mark ImpossibleLastName.

Three years later, Mark and Suzanne would marry, a few months before the end of college, telling her worried mother that they "just couldn't wait to live together." Gasp! How shocking! Getting married in order to have, you know, S-E-X!!

Suzanne had long wavy strawberry-blonde hair, loved Asian d├ęcor, and enjoyed making toast over the bulb in her desk lamp. She could make waiting for a bus fun. Her faults? 1) She simply could not manage to arrive anywhere on time. 2) She could be oblivious to other people's moods. 3) And she wore Cinnabar.
She wore it discreetly, instead of bathing in it as so many Opium-lovers seemed to do, but it was the one most frustrating thing about her. I remember saying to her once, when I was having a supremely bad day (it involved a calculus test, among other things), "I could never wear those Oriental perfumes. They're so heavy and dusty and strong."

She serenely told me, "I know you couldn't, but they're very Suzanne." She shook back her hair, releasing a wave of Cinnabar (ugh), and then smiled at me. "Let's go find something for you." The Something turned out to be a very, very small bottle of Coty Ex'clam-a'tion!, a straight-up sweet rose floral that I eventually ditched along with that boyfriend (um, yes, the one that SSS Tabac Aurea reminded me of). I don't regret saying goodbye to either one.

I spent years afterward saying to people, "I like perfume, but no Orientals please. I don't like them at all." I had no idea what, exactly, an Oriental was, but I thought it meant, "nasty thing that smells like Dust of the Crypt."


Fast forward fifteen to twenty years, and I've gotten interested in perfume again, now that the bombastic 80's and the soap-and-clean laundry smells of the 90's have fallen out of fashion. I rediscover an old love, Coty Emeraude… and am utterly stunned to find out that my Darling Emeraude is, yes, an Oriental.

Oh, yes, it is. And it turns out that many of the scents that I love, that I just adore and feel the most "me" when wearing, are Orientals too. Shalimar Light comes to mind, as does Natori, Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, Amouage Lyric Woman, Ormonde Jayne Ta'if, Bal a Versailles, Parfum Sacre', Citizen Queen, L'Heure Bleue, Organza Indecence, Bvlgari Black, Rumba, Bois des Iles, Dolce Vita, La Myrrhe, and Tocade.  Whew. And I don't even own all of those – but all of them feel comfortable and warm and lovely, and in some way like a second, beautifully-scented, skin. They're weighty and smooth – ornate and lushly detailed – luxurious and beautiful.

Suzanne and Mark did finish college; they've been married now for nearly twenty years and have four lovely children. I haven't seen her since 1999, when Gaze was a baby and Suz was pregnant with her third. We've only been corresponding through Christmas cards for years, but I have recently found Suzanne's email address and will be contacting her soon. I'm hoping for more news than will fit on a Christmas card. I can't wait to find out what perfume she's wearing these days, and I can't wait to tell her how wrong I was about Orientals!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Perfume Review: Bath & Body Works Moonlight Path, Clone No. 3

Okay, today we’re going way downmarket for the review of our next Chanel No. 5 clone: Bath and Body Works Moonlight Path. I’ve long been a customer of B&BW – largely because if I want anything fancier than drugstore body products, they’re it. I do have a few favorites among their offerings: I dearly love their Aromatherapy Orange Ginger lotion, their Velvet Tuberose is a terrific, low-budget Fracas Lite, and I wore the Freesia bath products all during my honeymoon.

On the Late & Lamented List: Freesia is gone. It’s been replaced with Sheer Freesia, which is simple and pretty but lacks the crisp greenness I remember smelling in the old one; I think there may have been some aspect of lily of the valley along with the freesia in the old version. Sigh. Well, I still have some Diorissimo.

My husband’s sister and her husband once gave me some really rich hand cream scented with Moonlight Path for a birthday. I opened it, sniffed and exclaimed, “Chanel No. 5!” My brother-in-law gave me the fish eye, and I hastened to explain that it wasn’t exact, of course – it just reminded me of my mother’s scent. And then I had to explain that I liked No. 5 but didn’t wear it because, well, it was my mother’s scent, “and you know how that is, right?” And then I shut up, because I was Just Making It Worse. (Sorry, K. It was a nice gift you and E. picked out – I used it all up with pleasure, and it smelled nice, and you have good taste. And I love you both. Which you know. Grin.)

So when I began seriously sniffing No. 5 Smell-Alikes, I remembered Moonlight Path, and went back to the Bath and Body Works store at the mall to retest it. It’s not as close to the icon as Mariella Burani is, and even farther away than Eau Premiere, but it does echo some of the facets of No. 5, particularly the powdery aspects.

Here are the notes for Moonlight Path:
Top: Bergamot, lavender, mandarin, coriander
Heart: Rose, jasmine, violet, tuberose, ylang, lily of the valley
Base: Sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, vanilla, amber, musk, patchouli


I never smell the lavender in Moonlight Path, which is probably a good thing, lavender being an un-favorite of mine. The congruencies of notes between the two scents include bergamot, rose, jasmine, ylang, lily of the valley, and all the base notes. Indeed, it’s the drydown of MP that reminds me most of No. 5, and since MP is fairly light, it’s the drydown that I spend the most time in while wearing it. I do smell that rose-jasmine-ylang-LotV combo that is such a pleasant part of No. 5 for me, and that’s enjoyable in Moonlight Path, but sadly, it doesn’t last very long here. It is powdery.  Very powdery.  Intensely powdery, even – and I’m not all that big a fan of powder. The list of basenotes sounds more complex than it actually is in Moonlight Path, contrasted directly with No. 5’s rich and shimmery sandalwood and musk base.

It’s perfectly nice. But powdery, you know… and if you like that kind of thing, the body products might layer very nicely (and, um, cheaply, if you care) with No. 5.

Top image: Moonlight Path body butter at B&BW; bottom image is Fillable Puff Patter with Powder at ebay, which my late grandmother would have absolutely adored.  She'd have bought one for every woman she knew, bless her heart.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oasis in the Desert


This is going to seem ridiculously familiar to some of my perfumista friends: The American Mall – at least in bucolic suburbia – is a perfume wasteland.

I had the rare chance to go to the mall yesterday. The CEO insists that all errands be combined as much as possible, so I don’t often go to the small city/big town in which the mall is located. It’s twenty miles away, a good half-hour’s drive – but I had a dentist’s appointment today, and afterward hit the mall. Our mall has four anchor stores: Sears, JC Penney, Belk, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Only one of those, Belk, has sniffies available. They’ve got a big sale going on at the moment, so I went in.

I should explain that it always sort of depresses me to read a blog entry about some new commercial release, because I know that I’ll maybe possibly someday get to sniff it – but only if it’s at Belk, which is mainstream all the way, baby. I won't get to stroll into Aedes and smell the new L'Artisan, but things like Marc Jacobs Lola, Idole d'Armani, and Lancome Hypnoses Senses are available.

There were testers for all three at Belk. I sprayed each on a card, and they were either “Bleah, too sweet” or “Meh, boring.” What a waste of aisle space. Belk has all the Estee Lauders, except the new Private Collections – which does me absolutely no good because of that Horrible Lauder Base. They’ve also got some Escadas, the Jessica Simpsons, Queen, Juicy Couture, Ed Hardy, a few Lancomes (Tresor, Hypnose, Magnifique, and Hypnose Senses – no La Collection here), and Ralph Laurens. Oh, and of course they have Chanel (no Les Exclusifs, obviously).

The SA who came over to talk to me about Chanels… doesn’t like them. Oh, except for Chance Eau Fraiche. Which she pronounced Aw Fresh. I mean, I grew up here and I’m used to the local accent, but really. I told her that I liked Eau Premiere and got a blank look, like “what’s that?” I pointed. “Oh. I don’t like No. 5, it’s too heavy and old fashioned. But try this, it’s nice and soft.” She sprayed Allure on a card for me. This SA, at a guess, is at least 40, judging by her skin (and yes, I know that’s not nice of me). Hey, I’m 40… ish… too!

I asked to sniff Coco, having heard from a longtime wearer that it smells softer these days. “No, it hasn’t been changed,” the saleslady says. “You like that? That’s an old one.” She sprayed it for me anyway. I was hoping it would be less Opium-ish than it used to be. I don’t hate it as much as I used to, but… still NO. Dear God, NO.

So now I get why people are always complaining about the arid landscape of mainstream, and why they hate that SA’s are so uninformed about what they’re selling. True, all true. Recently over on Now Smell This, Angela reviewed vintage Millot Crepe de Chine as something of an antidote to an unsuccessful sniffing trip; the comments about perfume SA’s are interesting to read. You can access it here. I just hadn’t realized how bad it is – gosh, if you’re going to sell something as luxurious as perfume, perhaps you should find out something about it, hm?


Lost in the scented desert, trying to find my way out, I finally saw an oasis: Shalimar. At the bottom of the case, lovely blue-and gold tester bottle locked up, the only Guerlain in the place sat on a shelf and glowed at me from amid the dreck. I don’t even wear it – it goes pretty tarry on me and can scare the horses, if you know what I mean – but boy, did it look good! Shalimar is still the Grand Old Diva – and to quote Luca Turin, “God bless Guerlain for still doing this stuff.”

I went home and put on a drop of vintage Shalimar parfum de toilette, and then topped it with a little spritz of Shalimar Light.  It was lovely; the Shalimar TarNilla was just right in the woodsmoke-laced rainy evening.  Ahhhh.
Top image: Sahar (Kavir) by Hamed Saber at flickr; Shalimar extrait at ebay.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Random Thoughts


In my rant of yesterday, I completely forgot to wish Gaze a happy birthday.  Dear Gaze, Noticer Par Excellence, you'll never completely know how wonderful you are.  I consider myself privileged to be your mother.  Many more years of life to you, sweet baby.

Two drops of vintage Magie Noire EdT does indeed turn out to be way too much.  In a glorious sort of way.

Scent of the Day: Parfums de Nicolai  Vanille Tonka. The weather is cold and wet and nasty, and VT is a good antidote.  For some unexplained reason, this scent always makes me happy.  I love the way it makes me feel like Miss Piggy, sipping champagne (fine sparkling muscatelle, actually, a bargain at 95 cents) and complaining that the bubbles get up her nose and make her all giggly.  Limes, vanilla, carnations, Dr. Pepper and frankincense - what's not to love about this scent?  Heck, no, it's not Serious Perfume, but it's not some candy-coated fruity teenybopper blah either.  And for your viewing pleasure, here's a small clip from The Muppet Movie, showing Piggy and Kermie on their first date and featuring Steve Martin.  It doesn't go long enough to show the bubbles, but they're there.  Trust me. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiGAAHG0O1A

I'm off to sniff the bottle cap, myself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rant: I Don't Want to Smell Like Shaving Cream!


If I can manage to keep from swearing, I would like to say something about fragrance that smells like shaving cream:

I hate it with a passion.

 Shaving cream actually smells good. It’s a good clean soapy smell, on its own, and I do really enjoy snuggling up to a freshly shaven man (thank you, CEO), but I don’t want to smell like that. Really. Seriously, Perfume-Creating Folks, JUST STOP DOING THAT. Please. I’m begging here.  It ruined another drydown again today, and I'm just getting really sick of that.

A short list of scents I’ve tested – either unisex ones or those intended to be marketed as feminines – follows, delineating scents I’ve found to contain whatever-the-&*##-it-is that smells like shaving cream.
  • Pilar & Lucy Tiptoeing through Chambers of the Moon (tuberose, amber, shaving cream)
  • Ava Luxe Midnight Violet (violet, earthy woods, shaving cream)
  • Caron 3rd Homme (jasmine, woods, shaving cream) Okay, okay, this one’s ostensibly a masculine… but worn by many women.
  • Les Nereides Imperial Opoponax (soap and shaving cream)
  • Parfums de Nicolai Eau Turquoise (citrus, cedar, shaving cream)
  • PdN Cedrat Intense (lemon zest, shaving cream)
  • L’Artisan Iris Pallida (anise, florals, vetiver, shaving cream)
  • L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer (pine, lily, and shaving cream)
  • Slava Zaitsev Maroussia (spice, rose, and shaving cream)
GAH.  If I knew what note combination equals shaving cream, I could avoid it. (Lavender, tonka bean, musk? Opoponax?) I don’t even know. And half the time the lists of notes are so sketchy that even if I did know what combo creates sharp-edged-bathroom-sink angst for me, the accord might not be listed so that I’d know to avoid that scent.  Okay, I get it that not all people get “shaving cream” out of those scents. But I do, and I’m not happy. GRRRRRRR!

Fine, I give up, I'm scrubbing this off, and then I'm going to put on way too much vintage Magie Noire (two drops should suffice) and go for a windy walk.  A girl has to do what a girl has to do.

Image is "Angry Woman" at Acclaim Images (no, it's not actually me).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Perfume Review: Mariella Burani, Clone No. 2

This is one of several posts in which I’ll be reviewing perfumes that are similar to, or are based on, or that remind me of, Chanel No. 5. Today we’ve got Mariella Burani, which I have in EdT. I first heard of it through Abigail’s review on I Smell Therefore I Am, which you can read here, and when ScentScelf (of Notes From the Ledge) approved, I had to try it. People, this stuff is dirt-cheap and lovely, which is a combination that always sacks me for a loss. I bought my bottle on ebay, slightly used, for $15.50.



This is one of the prettiest bottles I own. If I didn’t worry about light damage, I’d leave it out for decoration – I adore the hefty glass rectangle topped with the red-orange resin roses that should be tacky, but instead are kitschy fab.

Mariella Burani starts out with the sunniest, happiest citrus ever, with a sheer fizz of aldehydes. The aldehydes don’t give the impression of soapiness here; they sparkle briefly and evanesce. This citrus is miles away from furniture polish, and although the notes don’t list orange, I infer it. In fact, MB reminds me of childhood Florida vacations and the tangerine sherbet we’d eat at Baskin Robbins at the beach. It seems soft, rather than bracing. This citrusy veil seems to cling to the perfume as it develops. But as the scent moves into its floral heart, it begins to smell reminiscent of No. 5. When I look at the list of notes, it’s clear why: ylang, rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, and iris are listed for both fragrances. MB’s floral heart is blended very well, and the effect is smooth, voluptuous, and Just Plain Pretty.


I should explain that I am a sucker for Just Plain Pretty. I’m never put off by such girly articles of clothing as cotton sundresses trimmed in eyelet, or by fluffy blue sweaters, and Mariella Burani is no exception. It’s not that I never want something complicated or interesting or tough – it’s just that a pretty, feminine, fragrance always makes me smile.

My favorite part of the scent story is the part where the floral heart begins to fade, and the orientalesque base begins to turn up. There is, as Abigail mentions, a creaminess about it that makes me think of pearl necklaces. The effect may be due to the benzoin-tonka bean-vanilla combination. Geek alert here: I checked my Excel perfume file for the notes on some of my very favorite perfumes – Emeraude and Shalimar Light – and bingo! Benzoin, tonka, and vanilla.

Another attractive aspect of MB is that it seems weightless – neither a light, refreshing cologne for summer, nor a richly gourmand oriental for winter. In this, too, it is reminiscent of No. 5’s uncanny knack of being Appropriate For All Occasions. Also like No. 5, it seems ageless to me as well – my teenage daughter and my mother could both wear it as well as I can.

If Mariella Burani has any flaws, they are that a) it doesn’t last very long on me, and b) I don’t get much sillage. It zips through its development, from sunny orange through pretty-lady-florals to creamy base, in about three hours. This is, of course, normal for my skin experience with EdTs, and my bottle was so inexpensive that I don’t mind spritzing with abandon. Our weather has been what I call comfortable (60-70 degrees F), which may not be warm enough to show off MB. On two successive nights, I sprayed my wrists and neck one time each, and woke up warm and cosy the next morning, smelling the most gorgeous creamy floral scent; I was actually sad that it was time for my shower. Perhaps warmer weather would encourage the scent to bloom into the air a little more. And I think the EdP might suit me better; one would hope that the longevity would be better than the EdT’s lasting power.

This scent is lovely on its own; it’s an excellent alternative for those who find classic No. 5 difficult to wear. If the edp comes within my reach, I will snap it up.

Notes for Mariella Burani:
Top: tarragon, bergamot, rosewood, lemon
Heart: ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, iris
Base: amber, sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver


Top image: my bottle, purchased at ebay.
Bottom image: 50's cotton sundress at syriekovitz.com

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Perfume Review: Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere


This is the first of several posts in which I’ll be reviewing perfumes that are similar to, or are based on, or that remind me of, Chanel No. 5. First up is Chanel’s own flanker, No. 5 Eau Premiere, created in 2007 to modernize No. 5 for the current taste.

Opinions have been rather divided on Eau Premiere, with perfumistas typically taking one of two positions:
1) It’s No. 5, slimmed down and warmed up, palatable to modern consumers and quite wearable.
2) It took all the glory of No. 5 and sold it out, dumbed it down, ruined the perfection.

I take Position 1. Bear in mind, though, a few facts: I like aldehydic florals. I have generally found No. 5 to be a little on the cold-and-powdery side, at least until I discovered that vintage parfum I wrote about in the last post. Slight differences from classic No. 5 actually make me happy, because I can wear the scent without smelling exactly like my mother. And lastly, I tested Eau Premiere before I found that vintage parfum.

The listed notes for both No. 5 and Eau Premiere are, duh, pretty much the same:
T: aldehydes, neroli, bergamot, lemon, ylang-ylang
H: rose, jasmine, LotV, iris
B: vetiver, sandal, patchouli, vanilla, amber

I suspect that the differences in smell come from changes in the proportions of the notes. Eau Premiere, which is an eau de toilette, starts off with a burst of juicy citrus, only lightly veiled with aldehydes. I never smell citrus in the original, and I’m guessing that the aldehydes simply overpower the citrus – or maybe the citrus is only there in light proportions, to keep the aldehydes from smelling too soapy. From that pleasant, smiling citrusy start, EP moves fluidly into its floral heart. This is the point at which it tends to smell most like its famous ancestress – that creamy ylang, the floaty jasmine, the cool powdery iris. The rose is more prominent to my nose in EP than in the original, and that seems to make EP more friendly, more romantic, and, possibly, less whip-smart, as if the EP girl has taken off her reading glasses to entice her chem lab partner into asking her for a date.

(No. 5 wouldn’t have bothered. She’d have stared him down through those lenses, model-beautiful nonetheless.) This floral stage lasts about two hours on my skin – by and large, Eau Premiere seems to develop less than No. 5, with stages flowing into each other instead of the striking changes of No. 5.

EP finally moves into a sandalwood-vetiver-vanilla-and-musk drydown. It is nicely balanced between dry and sweet, between the vetiver and vanilla, but it is quite light, and does not amaze like the cool-warm/dry-rich base of vintage No. 5. The sandalwood is, sadly, not the full-bodied and gorgeous thing one finds in the vintage No. 5 – but then, what is these days? I don’t even smell the same sandalwood in modern No. 5 parfum – it’s nice, but not jaw-droppingly beautiful as it is in the vintage. I have read several complaints that Eau Premiere’s drydown seems to just disappear, but that hasn’t been my experience. Scents, especially edts, don’t last very long on my skin: usually I can expect three hours from an edt, four tops. Eau Premiere, on the other hand, lasts 6 hours + on me, with the last half of it emanating a decidedly citrus-musk blend. I think – I am not entirely sure, but I think that I’ve read that there exists a particular musk that has citrus overtones, and my guess is that this musk is present in EP. Toward the end of the story, it is all I can smell – a light, clean musk, with a hint of citrus.

As promised, the skin difference anecdote: I bought a small bottle of EP for my mother, the No. 5 girl, for her birthday. While I was visiting her, she gave me one spritz on my neck and one on my wrists, then spritzed her own. An hour later, we were in the kitchen peeling potatoes and I leaned over to sniff her neck. Hmm. I sniffed again. Mom smelled like your average ditzy fruity-floral mall frag. I sniffed my own wrists: Hmm. No. 5. Mom again: peachy floral mish-mash. Me: No. 5 (except less powdery). No peach. Three hours later, she smelled like No. 5 (more powdery than I had smelled), and I smelled like citrus musk. Weird. Of course, this may all be simply my perception, but it is odd that it doesn’t smell the same on me as it does on her.

I find Eau Premiere very lovely, and like its famous precursor appropriate to any number of occasions. It is more citrusy, more rosy, more friendly, more linear, while being less aldehydic, less cold, less complex, less powdery. In short, it is designed to suit the modern taste. I think it does so admirably.

Images are Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere at fragrantica.com and glasses model 0072 by gwg_fan at flickr.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Mother Wore Chanel No. 5



I came to the investigation of perfume with emotional baggage (don’t we all?): Chanel No. 5 is the scent of my mother. I cannot smell it without thinking of her – the person who is my mother, and my mother who is a person, by which I suppose I mean both the individual and the role.

Sometime in my teens, it began to feel odd to me to call my mother “Mama,” since all my friends said “Mom” instead. So I changed. But in my early childhood, “Mama” she was, and Mama wore Chanel No. 5 eau de cologne. She’d grown up in a very frugal household, and my father was also quite a frugal person, and like many others of her generation, perfume was only for special occasions, and if she was wearing pantyhose, the perfume would follow. I remember watching her get ready for some social event – a concert, probably, or perhaps a Christmas dinner for my dad’s office – and as soon as she’d gotten dressed and put on her shoes, it was time for perfume. She’d dab some from the bottle onto the base of her neck, her wrists, and behind each ear. I always asked to sniff the bottle, and I always recoiled from the bright-lights and bug spray smell that came from it. It was hard for me to understand that that nasty smell would turn into a floral, intensely powdery, very feminine scent on Mama’s skin.

Eventually that bottle of No. 5 ran dry. It was replaced, briefly and unsatisfyingly, by Anais Anais, and then later by Coty L’Effleur, and still later by Elizabeth Arden’s 5th Avenue, all of which are strongly floral and containing at least some element of bathtime, either soap and/or powder.

As a young woman looking for a scent to call mine, I automatically crossed No. 5 off my list. I’d pick up a bottle in a department store from time to time, sniff, and think, “Nope, too powdery and cold. And anyway, that’s Mom’s perfume.” As recently as last year, I was still thinking, “Oh, I can’t wear No. 5. It’s too powdery. It smells like my mother.” And that was my mindset: Chanel No. 5 is a classic, an icon, a lovely scent that resembles the cold marble perfection of a Michelangelo statue, giving off Don’t Touch Me vibes. Uh-uh, not for me, not this girl, no way no how.


And then… dum dum DUM… the ebay auction. I was looking for a bottle of parfum to give Mom, since the miniature bottle of Eau Premiere I had found for her was perfectly pleasant, but somehow not as nice on Mom as it was on me (more on that in a few days.) Then, too, the perfume blogs were full of outrage over the IFRA restrictions on fragrance ingredients like jasmine and oakmoss (both of which are components of No. 5), and how awful it was that many classics were going to be reformulated, if they hadn’t been already, and how it might be time to go hunt up vintage bottles of this and that on ebay…

So I bit. I started watching auctions for “vintage No. 5 parfum.” Bid on a few and lost. Bid on a few and got horrified at the prices. Read many many blog comments saying, “Watch out for fake Chanel perfume on ebay!” and “Beware of ebay sellers filling an old parfum bottle with new cologne!” Checked on the price of a new bottle (eek! $155 for half an ounce). Bid on an old, opened-and-slightly-used 1-ounce bottle of parfum… watched over the auction like a mother hen her chicks… and it was mine, for $33 including shipping.

The bottle arrived. I opened it, deeply suspicious – how could it be such a pale color, when we know that jasmine scents tend to go orange with age, and the box was clearly so 1950’s? – and was surprised not to be knocked over by the aldehydes. They were there, but quite muted. “Cologne,” I sighed out loud. “Cheaters.” Ah, well – it was recognizably No. 5, and even if it was cologne, it was worth something, right? I smeared two healthy dabs onto my wrists and went to eat lunch, musing that aldehydes are weird molecules, smelling as they do of soap, candle wax, and glacier ice.

Half an hour later, I became aware that I was moving in a cloud of gorgeousness, and my mouth dropped open. This wasn't cologne, this was No. 5 parfum, the Grand Dame of Classic Perfumery. This was No. 5 as I had never smelled it: intensely floral, seamlessly blended, with a sort of golden glow that made me think of angels. I wandered about the house kicking myself because I could have been smelling like this, instead of all those drugstore fragrances, all my life! Still later, as the florals began to subside into a base dominated by real sandalwood and a glowing musk, I was astonished at the way the scent seemed dry and cool, yet at the same time rich and smooth. This was a drydown in the grand old-fashioned style, seemingly composed of nearly every base note in the perfumer’s lexicon. Amazing. Amazingly beautiful. Women should indeed smell like this, I thought.


I have now worn No. 5 extrait de parfum from five different bottles, four vintage and one modern (thanks to Daisy and Belle de Sud, my swapper friends), and every one of these bottles is different, although clearly recognizable as No. 5. I’m sure that most of the differences can be attributable to age and storage conditions, but it’s so strange that the scents are now so divergent from each other. One has loads of aldehydes and a musky drydown; one has wonky topnotes that smell a bit of floor polish and a heart that seems heavy on rose; one is mostly jasmine, iris, and sandalwood, very powdery; one is the bottle I just described – glorious – and one is a modern bottle, which seems to be all there, in the proper proportions, and is crisply edged as a brand-new hundred-dollar bill.

What I like best about No. 5 is its versatility. It seems weightless and ageless; it is unaffected by weather or by events of the day. It could be worn as easily to a fried-chicken picnic as to a symphony concert, and as easily in winter as in summer. Then, too, it seems to smell of money and class: both expensive and beautiful. I even like the fact that it’s fairly ubiquitous among a certain age group, and nearly everyone has smelled it enough to identify it, therefore making it an ideal mask of sorts. If I feel the need to hide my vulnerable, emotional self behind a competent costume, No. 5 is perfect for that. I’m not saying it’s absolutely perfection, mind you, or even that it is the pinnacle of the perfumer’s art. But for what it is – cool, elegantly lovely, and aloof – it is wonderful.


And I’m struck again by the fact that my mother, who’s always preferred tailored to frilly, classic to trendy, plain to fancy, has great taste in scent. I still can’t smell No. 5, in whatever incarnation, without thinking of her. I always smile. For early scent memories, for hugs and kisses, for peanut butter and apple sandwiches, for not killing me outright after I walked nonchalantly across the top bar of the swingset, for homemade dresses and baths and haircuts, for teaching me manners and for the millions of things you've done for me... many thanks, Mom. I love you.

Listed notes for No. 5:
Top: aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, neroli, ylang-ylang
Heart: jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, iris
Base: vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, patchouli, oakmoss, musk


No.5 was composed in 1921 by Ernest Beaux, the fifth of nine options created for Coco Chanel to choose from.  It may be an apocryphal story, but M. Beaux commented that he was inspired by the smell of snow.  (Indeed, having been close to an actual glacier in New Zealand, I can understand the reference.) 

Images, from top to bottom: Chanel No. 5 parfum, from chanel.com
1973 Catherine Deneuve photo Chanel No. 5 pefume ad #2 by 237 at ebay
1959 Elegant Woman Chanel No. 5 perfume ad, from magicelectron at ebay
Mom at my sister's wedding in 2002

For Christmas, Mom will be getting part of my favorite vintage bottle – I can’t bear to give it up entirely! – and perhaps a bottle of her own. (Sssh, don’t tell her.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Life, the Universe, and Babies.

No perfume review today, as I'm anxiously awaiting a call from my brother, announcing the safe arrival of his firstborn.  Today also happens to be the birthday of my youngest child, whose nom de blog will henceforth be Taz, for obvious reasons.  (I considered, and then rejected, Genghis as being a tad too bloodthirsty for this affectionate whirlwind.)  His older brother - whom I'll be calling Gaze - is a little disappointed that this cousin won't be arriving on his birthday next week, as we'd been told was a possibility. Their older sister, Bookworm, is torn between wishing for a girl cousin and wanting to be the only granddaughter on that side of the family.

Therefore, of course, as a mother I've been dwelling on the miracle of a new baby. (I'm aiming for philosophical rather than sentimental here, but please forgive me if I roll all the way down the hill.)  I don't mean the miracle of reproduction; every plant, animal, and insect on the planet is set up to make copies of themselves.  And I don't really mean the miracle of birth, that most of the mammal babies on the planet manage to extricate themselves from the birth canal without damage to themselves or to their mothers.  You see it on Animal Planet all the time (especially if Taz has control of the remote)!  I don't even mean the miracle that all that complex genetic code gets read correctly, producing perfectly healthy human babies, so often.  How amazing is that?

What's miraculous, and a little eerie, about a baby being born, is that the baby changes from the Imagined Baby into its real self.  Before it's born, a baby is UNLIMITED POSSIBILITY


It could be a girl or a boy, or it could look like its father, or its mother, or Great-Aunt Doris... it could have Dad's eyes, Mom's chin, and Grandmom's fingers.  Or Dad's feet, Granddaddy's jawline, and Pop's eyebrows.  Mom's musical ability, Aunt Amy's artistic skills, Aunt Ellen's gift for compromise, Dad's stubbornness, Bambaw's talent for making a party out of a cucumber, some pudding, and a cup of apple juice... not to mention some heretofore-undiscovered-among-the-family talent for, I don't know, synchronized swimming.   The kid in there could be the next great left fielder for the Boston Red Sox, or the scientist who discovers a cure for cancer, or the greatest American novelist of all time... the possibilities are literally endless. 

(I acknowledge that Kid could also be a future Skid Row bum, among other unpleasant things, but we prefer not to entertain those possibilities, and I'll thank you to not kill my buzz.)



At the moment of birth, when Imagined Baby turns into Real Baby, we parents feel an unexplained sadness for all the things this baby could have been - but isn't.  The universe shrinks to the size of something that fits in newborn-size jammies, something noisy and rather damp, something that keeps us awake at night.  But very soon, the joy at what this baby is grows much larger than the diaphanous regret for the lost possibilities, and we're caught up in everyday miracles: the perfect rosebud of this baby's mouth when she sleeps, or the steady, dreamy, regard of his eyes, or the beautiful hazelnut shape of his head.

God bless this baby, that New Universe in a Diaper.  God bless the New Universe's parents.

God bless us all.


Top image: Andromeda Galaxy, posted by clownfish33 at flickr
Lower image:  Nace' un bebe', nace' una mama (A baby is born, a mommy is born) by happy-mami (Rebe) at flickr

Update:  New Universe is here, and will be living on Earth under the name of Airin.   Mama and baby are well and healthy, and dad is very happy!  We're all proud.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Perfume Review: Feminite de Bois and Dolce Vita

Shiseido Feminite de Bois and Dior Dolce Vita share some DNA; they may as well be sisters.  Both creations of Pierre Bourdon, with Christopher Sheldrake for Fem de Bois and with Maurice Roger for Dolce Vita, both perfumes are woody orientals focusing on cedar, seen through the prisms of fruits, florals, spices and vanilla. 


FdB was created in 1992, and then disappeared about the time that Serge Lutens left Shiseido to found his own perfume house. Partly in order to have a line of fragrances readily available for sale without starting from ground zero every time, Lutens and Sheldrake created several fragrances from the starting point of Feminite du Bois, highlighting different aspects of the original scent: Bois et Fruits, Bois de Violette, Bois et Musc, Un Bois Vanille... are there more? could we go on ad infinitum?? Never mind. FdB has been rereleased through the Lutens house, slightly reformulated.  I tested the Shiseido version, and it is a gorgeous, dark, smooth scent that cascades over the skin like plum liqueur into a glass. It has body, it is opaque, it is startlingly strong and feminine at the same time.

FdB starts out with a honeyed, spiced plum note that never really leaves. From there, it moves into a deep, rich floral-spice heart that feels like a heavy satin robe the color of blackberries. I begin to smell the cedar at this point, and it is sweetly aromatic, highlighted by rose and violet and spice. Unfortunately, two hours in, the scent all but disappears from my skin. I suspect that perhaps a musk is at fault. Five hours from application, I can smell it again - very close to the skin, but present - and it is glorious. I'm always a fan of a good rich benzoin-vanilla-woody drydown, and this one is rich and robust. I cannot wear FdB without thinking of a shadowy paneled room in the evening, with a fire that has gone to coals in the fireplace.


Dolce Vita, on the other hand, was released by Dior in 1994. Bourdon won the brief for a new Dior fragrance, having submitted an early draft of Feminite du Bois. (I somehow wonder if that was embarrassing, or whether it might have been vindication that Here Is a Great Smell.) Dolce Vita was at one time unavailable in the US, but is apparently available again. Perfumista friends say that it has been reformulated and is much thinner; my own bottle of edp is older. I also own a tiny bottle of parfum, which is amazingly rich.  Please ignore the fruity floral Eau de Dolce Vita - I'm sure it's nice enough, but it's a totally different scent.

Dolce Vita, in contrast to the soft deep texture of FdB, sparkles off the skin with bright tangy fruit and the heady spiciness of lily. Instead of curried stewed fruit, I experience the fizz and sweetness of a bellini. DV's heart is a floral-spice as well, and I seem to smell carnation as well as the lily and magnolia notes listed.   I begin to smell cedar and sandalwood (a bright, almost floral woody note - perhaps it is Australian sandalwood?) along with the florals. I do not smell the listed coconut, but the drydown is sweeter and less rich than in FdB, with heliotrope softly lingering on my skin with the woods. The texture here is not the satin-smoothness of FdB, but a rather pleasing irregularity, possibly like shantung. I cannot wear DV without thinking of a sunlit autumn afternoon, and I find that I prefer its golden, sunny disposition to the melancholy of Feminite du Bois.

Notes for Shiseido Feminite de Bois, from fragrantica.com:
Top: honey, carnation, ginger, cinnamon, cedar, rose
Heart: orange blossom, plum, peach, violet, beeswax, cloves, cardamom
Base: sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, vanilla, atlas cedar


Notes for Dior Dolce Vita, also from fragrantica:
Top: lily, peach, bergamot, grapefruit, rose, cardamom
Heart: apricot, magnolia, lily, cinnamon, heliotrope
Base: sandalwood, vanilla, coconut, atlas cedar

Images, from top to bottom: forest shadows by AsAutumnDies; golden light by ..Peter...is back; both from flickr.
Shiseido Feminite du Bois and Dior Dolce Vita photos from fragrantica.