Friday, February 26, 2010

Also, drawing winner!



Congrats to Left Coast Nose! Email me contact info at femininethings@gmail.com and I'll get your package out as soon as I can. For those of you who did not win, I'll post the mix track list here after I get it in the mail so you can see what my fellow Left Coaster will be spinning soon.

Thanks to all who entered. Keep an eye out for more drawings in the future.

Shades of gold displayed naturally.

Balmain Ambre Gris

Hello, dear readers. Long time, no talk. I’d have posted this earlier today, but...

...I took a nap.

Yep, sorry. Totally passed out. Had to get up early to take my friends Becca and Steven to the airport so they could go to Becca’s sister’s bat mitzvah, and by this afternoon, I was tired.

Then there was a knock at the door. Since I live on campus, and David is the first line of defense in any problem any student could be having, really, they knock all the time. In this particular case, it was two guys who were locked out of the campus co-op, which we live above, and were looking for David to let them in. When I opened the door, my Papaya made a run for it as she often does, and the two young men standing there grabbed her for me. When they handed her back to me, I was immediately slapped in the face with….stale cigarette smell.

Oh. Em. Gee.

Having not been around a smoker of extremely cheap cigarettes since I got into perfume two years ago, let me tell you – THAT IS NOT A PLEASANT SMELL. Wow. I never enjoyed the smell of stale cigarette smoke, but now? Yick. I may love many tobacco scents, but the actual smell of cigarettes? Ruined by all the chemicals added to make them more addictive I’d wager. Once upon a time, as someone who very rarely was a social smoker (like I went through a pack every 3-4 months because I only smoked at shows where I would have been second-hand smoking anyway), I at least had the good sense to smoke Nat Sherman MCDs, which back then cost $5.50 a pack ($11.65 now) and I had to drive across town to purchase. So let me tell you that when I say here that I think a particular scent smells like the sweet smell of wet tobacco or the plume of smoke rising from a long cigarette holder, know that I do NOT mean the wet dog and ash smell I associated with these boys tonight.

Moving on.

I got a package full of lovely samples today from the always lovely Ines, so I thought I’d share one of the scents I got today.

Here is what Luckyscent has to say about Balmain Ambre Gris:
We have been longing to have a bottle of this ever since we saw a magazine article featuring the uber-glam disco ball topper. Happily, we love the juice just as much. The opening is unexpectedly fruity and sweet, with a hint of salty ocean breeze, and just when we start wondering if we might be headed for a pina colada, velvety woods and exotic spices insinuate their way into the mix, and the fragrance becomes rich and luxurious and warm. There is an ever so discreet purr of animalic muskiness, and the immortelle adds an autumnal sweetness to the cedary woods– but there is also a surprising airiness from the tuberose that makes this a definite year rounder of a scent. The elements are so smoothly blended that it’s difficult to pick out notes – but the overall feeling is elegant, sophisticated and delightfully easy to wear. This isn’t a fragrance that is going to jump out at you and say “wear me to a gala!” This is an everyday sort of scent: soft-spoken enough for the office, lovely enough for a date night, distinctive enough to stand out from the masses without making a big fuss about it. Like that perfect cashmere cardigan – it goes anywhere and everywhere and you can’t imagine how you ever got along without it. Effortlessly beautiful.

Notes: Pink pepper, cinnamon, tuberose, immortelle, myrrh, smoky gaïac wood, benzoin, white musks, ambergris
The immediate impression I get is sweetly spicy. I strongly get cinnamon and myrrh but underneath that I definitely get the animalistic notes straining through. It’s very strongly ambery, reminding my of my middle school best friend Shannon’s penchant for burning amber incense all the time, so her room always vaguely smelled of it. It stays pretty consistent throughout and has decently large sillage, so it’s fairly strong.

I want to say more about this, but I’m fairly new to animalistic scents as an area of perfumery, so I don’t know what else to tell you. This reminds me a little of Lorenzo Villoresi Alamut, but this is less salty and more sweet. It has a little bit of tobacco and menthol in my nose, but I could be imagining that since I don’t see where it is coming from based on the notes listed. It doesn’t wow me, but it isn’t and, either.

You can buy 100ml of Ambre Gris for $135 from Luckyscent, though I spotted the same size bottle around the internet in various places for less than $25. And for $25, this is a nice buy that, trust me, if you decanted half the bottle and gave it away, it would still last you forever. Also, that bottle is adorable. I really love the disco ball top!

"This phenomenon, I had to put it in a song
And it goes like...
Whoa, amber is the color of your energy..."

- "Amber," 311 (You can listen to the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ A review from I Smell, Therefore I am
~ A review from The Non-Blonde
~ A review from Perfume-Smellin’ Things
~ A review from One Thousand Scents
~ A review from The Scented Salmander

Monday, February 22, 2010

What It's Like to Grow Up in Texas



Exam tomorrow. Preparing myself to choke like no one has choked in the history of the Oregon bar. To entertain you whilst I am away, I leave you with this clip from The Big Bang Theory. I don't normally watch the show, but was watching it tonight because my brain is fried and I was too tired to get off the couch to get the remote. This episode is great because Sheldon explains football, and why he knows anything about it, to his roommates. The pertinent part begins at the 1:15 minute mark. This is basically the same reason I know anything about football. The first time David took me to a game and I jumped up screaming "go, go, GO, GOOOO!" the first time there was a completed pass, he looked at me like I'd been possessed. I had to explain that no, that's just the Texan in me.

Sheldon: "I grew up in Texas. Football is ubiquitous in Texas. There's pro-football, college football, high school football, pee-wee football... In fact, every form of football except the original, European football. Which Texans believe to be a commie plot. If you're interested, I also know all about frying meat that isn't chicken as if it were chicken."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I know you're getting twisted and you can't calm down.

Etat Libre d'Orange Jasmin et Cigarettes

Still busy as a little tiny bee. Couldn't resist, though. Keep trying new things and wanting to talk to you about them, but I'm supposed to be studying the rule-making powers of the executive and fee simples and joint tenancy and adverse possession and the four corners test....etc. Lots of fancy law terms I might never use again. At this rate, I might not even use them next week -- I'd have to remember them first.

Speaking of foreign tongues and arcane vocabulary, unfortunately, I do not speak French, which is the only language Etat Libre d'Orange's website is available in. Consequently, I turned to Luckyscent for a description. They provided the following:
A tailored suit, a fedora, a blond bob, scarlet lips and a cigarette – that’s Jasmin et Cigarettes. Etat Libre d’Orange’s homage to femmes fatales of days past, this is a glamorous vamp of a perfume. Think Dietrich or Garbo. The jasmine note, sweetened by apricot and tonka bean, has a husky, honeyed quality akin to a sensual, throaty whisper. And just like Marlene and Greta, Jasmin et Cigarettes has a distinctly androgynous side that coexists so unexpectedly well with the obvious femininity of the blend. Tobacco, woods and musk represent the touch of masculinity that was the trademark of the two great divas. Fresh and sultry, transparent and smoky, Jasmin et Cigarettes is a stunning tribute to the allure of contrasts.
Notes: Jasmine absolute, tobacco, hay, apricot, tonka bean, turmeric, cedar, amber, musk
Up top I get mostly jasmine and with a hint of apricot and the hay, thought the dry, sweet hay smell is fleeting, and quickly replaced by cedar, amber, and tobacco. I really get a lot of apricot in the middle and less of the tobacco than I'd like, but the woody notes make up for that. It's a great apricot, too. Strong and a little jammy, but not at all fake. Is it possible this smells like a bar I'd really like to hang out in?Or maybe the lobby of a hotel I'd like to use for romantic rendezvous? The scent one might catch over one's should strolling through a garden around midnight, tipsy on liqueur? There's just something provocative and romantic about the mixture of polished wood and sweet tobacco and jammy fruit.

David and I, when we go on weekend getaways, tend to go to McMenamins, which is a chain of historic buildings retrofitted as pubs and hotels across the Pacific Northwest. It's the pub part that I'm reminded of here. We sleep late and have brunches in bars with lots of polished wood, eating fancy omelets and flaky biscuits covered in sweet jam. The scent of smoke from cigars and pipes of yesteryear seem to cling to these old rooms, and the fresh air wafting from a window in Spring or Summer wafts in the scent of newly blooming flowers. When I smell Jasmin et Cigarettes, I am reminded of such trips and their adventures into the small towns around the Northwest we've made, and I look both backward, savoring the memory, and forward, anticipating happy futures.

After all that, how can I not love it?

You can buy 50ml of Jasmin et Cigarettes for $69 from Luckyscent. You can get samples from Luckyscent and The Perfumed Court. Outside the US, I found it available through distributors as common as AmazonUK. Given the wide variety of responses I noted in reviews I definitely recommend trying it first, but I just love it.

"I see you under the midnight, all satins and bows.
High shoes with the cleats a-clickin'.
A tempermental glow, but then you let me go.
Oh, got a hold on you, got a hold on you, I got a hold on you, tonight.
Oh, oh, it's magic when I'm with you.
(Oh-o, it's magic!)
Oh oh it's magic, just a little magic.
(gotta be magic)
You know it's true I got a hold on you..."

- "Magic," The Cars (you can listen to the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ A review from Bois de Jasmin
~ A review from I Smell Therefore I am
~ A review from Perfume-Smellin' Things
~ A review from Pere de Pierre
~ A review from Perfume Queen
~ A review from Aromascope

Postscript: Ines helpfully pointed out how to change the Et at Libre site to English. I love these people. They're so tawdry! I want to try them all now!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not Perfume: Jay Smooth is a genius.



Look, here's the deal. I am VERY political in real life. VERY political. I'm one of those people who talks about oppression and privilege in real life so much that other people can find it, well, oppressive. (Pun intended.) But I do think about oppression and privilege ALL.THE.TIME. I can't watch the news, or read the paper, or look at the internet, or hell, watch one exceedingly bad episode of "Jersey Shore" in an attempt to figure out what the hell people are so enamored by (verdict? There's 45 minutes of my life I'll never get back and could have been spent reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Six Tales of the Jazz Age"), without thinking about racism, sexism, ageism, ablism, classism, our ability to define our own singular or layered identities, etc.

I grew up in what I consider to be, yes, an extremely and sometime intentionally ignorant environment filled with people who either ignored issues because it served their privilege to do so or who worked so damned hard every day of their lives to survive they did not have time to stop and worry about the socio-economic structures that kept them running on the hamster wheel. I recognize that being obsessed with privilege as a white, well-educated, young, married, childless, fully-able bodied American IS A PRIVILEGE itself, even if I also identify as a queer woman who survived domestic violence, homelessness, and poverty. I have had the room to make choices; I have made good ones. But I am reminded constantly about that other place I could be right now, that place -- literal and metaphorical -- where other members of my family reside permanently.

And frankly, I try like hell to keep it out of this blog because most of this thinking and thinking and not knowing how to change it makes me sad or angry, and I try really hard to keep this a positive place, focused on enjoying the art and beauty in a world that frequently does not make sense to me. But I just want to take moment here to say that I love Jay Smooth. He's funny. He's smart. He's thoughtful. He's articulate. And he makes me hopeful that I can figure out a way to harness my pain and grief and anger and concern to my creative impulses and make something that says something about the world and helps make things better someday.

So check him out.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day


Happy Valentine's, everyone. As always, I'm later than all my fellow perfume bloggers with my best of lists and holiday posts. Also, I've been smelling some very nice things lately, but I am only eight days away from my licensing exam, so expect reviews to come soon of the following: Stella McCartney Stella Nude, Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir, and Etat Libre d'Orange Jasmin et Cigarettes.

Because today is the day of love, complete with three kinds of cookies (Peanut butter, chocolate chip, and chocolate mint), bags upon bags of Neco Candy Hearts (David's all time favorite candy), home made mix CDs, and last but not least, breakfast for dinner complete with heart shaped homemade buttermilk biscuits, it's a happy day here.

In honor of the special occasion, I'm doing a drawing. You can enter until Midnight, February 24, 2010, at which point I will be done with my exam! The winner will receive my special holiday CD mixes and 3-4 random samples from my collection: probably a mix of things from places like Tauer Perfumes, Bond no. 9, L'Artisan, etc. Definitely I'll include a sample of S-Perfumes 100% Love, because what could be more appropriate?

Also, I'll just take a moment to point out that today is not just a day for lovers. The modern feminist in me demands I also point out that today is V-Day, with a special focus this year on ending rape in the DRC. Our campus V-Day celebration and fund raising event is next week, but that doesn't mean we can't think about it today...and every day. Founder Eve Ensler is always quick to point out that women are one of our greatest natural resources, and one we are perpetually exploiting.

Until the violence stops...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China...

L'Artisan Fleur d'Oranger 2007

Fleur d'Oranger is part of L'Artisan's limited edition Harvest Series. Released in 2005 and then again in 2007, L'Artisan describes it as follows:
Once upon a spring, the flower of the orange tree blossomed as never before in the fresh, green, honeyed atmosphere of the Nabeul orchards.

A suave, delicate perfume, with very feminine tones, reminiscent of the intoxicating scent of the orchard at the end of a day's harvest and the almond sweetness of oriental pastries.
Fleur d'Oranger is beautiful and strange. The citrus is so light it seems evanescent. It's more about spice and a bitter edge, like an orange rind that has been cured in salt and pepper. What is so interesting is that this isn't sweet or spicy in the way most scents are. It isn't overtly masculine or feminine. It doesn't smell like anything else. I've tried it several times, in different seasons over the course of a year, and this one still baffles me. Other reviewers have used words like "light," "airy," "gauzy," and "almost ethereal." I'd say all of those are right on the money. When I first tried this, I really had no use for it. Now, a year later, it seems...more complex. It's like being able to see subtle differences in color or taste subtle differences in food that one couldn't when we were younger or less experienced of the world. After about half an hour I get more citrus from it, but it still floats above the skin for me, separate, apart, chaste and beautiful. The sweetness gives it a little hint of tea like notes on me, but very gently.

I see the beauty and complexity of it, and while I appreciate having tried it, and would probably appreciate a small sprayer of it (say 8-10ml decant), I am truly flummoxed for when I would wear it. Quite honestly, none of my daily goings on seem appropriate for this. Marie-Helene said in her review for The Scented Salamander
This is a fragrance for aesthets, people who like rare perfumes and appreciate the idea of wearing a vintage. In final analysis, buying it might constitute more of a powerful vote for a way of life than for the scent itself, which is more like a subtle trace, since it is not a perfume centered on the wearer and meant to magnify him or her but rather meant to celebrate the beauty of orange blossom captured from a field in Nabeul.
I think this might be dead-on. This definitely is a scent that seems like artistic endeavor, and I applaud it as a unique effort. Certainly if I found myself in a "lottery winner" type situation, I'd buy a bottle just for the sake of having one.

You can only buy Fleur d'Oranger in 100ml for a whooping $295. Luckily, if you want it, despite being an LE, you can still get it all over: direct from the perfumer, high end departments stores, and online from Luckyscent, Beauty Encounter, and Beauty Habit. But if you can't handle the cha-ching and still want to try it, you can get samples from Luckyscent and The Perfumed Court, as well as larger decants from The Perfumed Court.

"Now, Suzanne takes your hand and she leads you to the river.
She is wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters.
And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbour.
And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers.
There are heroes in the seaweed. There are children in the morning.
They are leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever..."

- "Suzanne," Leonard Cohen (you listen to the song here)

Want more reviews? Tons available for this one. Try...
~ A review from Robin at Now Smell This! (note: review is of the 2005 edition)
~ A review from Bois de Jasmin
~ A review from Perfume-Smellin' Things
~ A review from The Scented Salamander
~ A review from Sakecat's Scent Project
~ A review from He Smells, She Smells
~ A review from Fragrantica
~ A review from Sakecat's Scent Project
~ A review from Pink Manhattan
~ A review from Perfume Shrine (note: 2005 edition)
~ A review from Scent of Abricots
~ A review from Invisible Magnet

Saturday, February 6, 2010

She can't tell me that all of the love songs have been written, 'cause she's never been in love with you before.

Housekeeping side note: so I'm folding and putting away a ton of laundry that David washed over break. The man has 3-4x as many cloths as I do and he did all his laundry over break. I mean all of it. Shirts I don't think I've seen in a couple of years are clean. And David, who does not wear scent, per se, has always worn sandalwood oil. Specifically The Body Shop Woody Sandalwood perfume oil that, apparently, The Body Shop is no longer making. (He's going to freak when he finds this out, btw. Perhaps I should grab him some off EBay while I can?) He wears it straight, and also puts it in his body soap for showering.

Apparently, the upshot of this is that all his clothes, even the ones that have been unworn for literally YEARS, and have been washed really thoroughly, they all still smell like sandalwood. So right now, I have his shirts all around me, which means it smells like him everywhere. I love that smell. I don't think I could ever imagine this scent as anything but David. And I don't know many good sandalwood scents, so if you know of any, tell me. I'm sure I'll love it. After all, it will smell, to me, like comfort and safety and affection and...love.


"Your skin smells lovely like sandalwood.
Your hair falls soft like animals.
I'm tryin' to keep cool, but everyone likes you."
- "Sandalwood," Lisa Loeb (you can listen to the song here)

The real me is crying to come out...

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue for Women EdT

Oi. Today is not a good day in my house. My mister overslept a work thing that is VERY IMPORTANT TO HIM, and he is really upset about it. I'm supposed to be studying, but -- and in some ways this is a really ironic thing to post right after my little feminist diatribe -- I am taking some of the day to clean up around the house because David finds it calming and comforting when the house is clean. Yes. I'm cleaning for my man. Because truthfully my man does quite a lit of the cleaning, generally, and certainly the lion's share of the crap-Diana-can't-be-bothered-to-do, and I feel like this is something I can do for him to make him feel better.

Though, honestly, I'd give my right pinkie for a decent and cheap bulk laundry service in this town right now. So whilst I an hi-ho-ing around my house this AM, I thought I'd spritz on a little som'em-som'em to talk to you about.

According to Neiman Marcus, one of the MANY places you can buy Light Blue, the scent is described as follows:
This stunning perfume captures the joy of living with:
• Lively Sicilian citron.
• Cheery Granny Smith apples.
• The spontaneity of bluebells.
• Feminine jasmine.
• Fresh bamboo.
• Charming white rose.
• Deep and true cedar wood.
• The fullness of amber.
• Embracing musk.
Light Blue starts out as a mixture of oranges and lemons, but quickly turns to a strangely sour cantaloupe. This lasts less than a minute; then it just fizzles. It goes strangely flat. I saw a review recently that referred to a scent as "linear" because it didn't really change on the wearer over time, and while that doesn't quite match this experience, i8t's similar. Light Blue has a clean smell to it, which isn't bad. It just doesn't have a lot to recommend it in my mind. When it comes to scents, I tend to either like big scents or unique experimental scents, and I tend to stray away from the straight forward, which may explain my difficulty in developing an appreciation for most of your mass market, department store fare. After about twenty minutes Light Blue does change some, and on me it turns to a non-descript fruity smell in the way smarties taste fruity -- very candied. They recently reformulated the taste of the Valentine's Day candy hearts, which are David's absolutely favorite candy year round and bar none, and when I was handed a pink one, I chewed a moment and then said, "It tastes...PINK. And pink is not a flavor." That's the way this smells fruity in this middle section to me. It's fruit, but don't ask me to specify what kind. Just fruity. By the forty minute mark the non-descipt fruit turns into a light, but obviously synthetic apple scent at the fore. In this stage, where Light Blue ultimately lingers, it becomes a light and pleasant, if not very distinctive, scent. It's not a bad scent; I just don't find an overwhelming amount to recommend it, and in a world as full of scent as mine, my dance card feels just a little too full for this one to make the cut.

Also, and I am all about the inner beauty of the juice and not the exterior appearance of the packaging when it comes to good perfume, this bottle? Not attractive. It's not necessarily ugly; certainly it would never make the ugly perfume bottle hall of fame. But the bottle, like the scent, seems to be designed to be inoffensive and not really worthy of comment, which seems like the opposite of the way I want to smell. That description to me is a good one for a household cleaner, not good juice. But then, that's probably my bias again. I suspect the girl I shared an office with last year probably wished I had been a little less in love with Dzing! and Songes and a little more in love with something mild and inoffensive like Light Blue.

This gets at a larger issue for me, though. I tend to think of good perfume as falling largely into two camps. It needs to be art, in and of itself, or it needs to enhance the natural beauty and uniqueness of the wearer, helping them to express themselves or a mood or a feeling in a more complete way.

When I say it needs to be "art," I mean it needs to contribute to the world of scent in a unique way that makes it stand out as something -- and again, here, I think of your classics (Patou Joy, Guerlain Shalimar, Guerlain Mitsouko, Guerlain Jicky, Chanel No. 5, etc.) or some of the work done by Christopher Brosius (Black March, Fire from Heaven) or Andy Tauer (Lonestar Memories, L'air du désert marocain) or something like Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory -- or it should be one of the scents that comes along and so captures the scent imagination it launches a thousand imitations (CKOne, Thierry Mugler Angel, CK Obsession, etc.). It can be a meditation on a moment or a theme or it can simply try, in its best possible way, to be unique to the world of scent, but it should be approached, both by the creator and the some significant portion of the receiving community, as something unique or special or difficult to get right. It needs not to feel like the newest thing to roll off the factory line; it needs to feel worthy of a turn on the catwalk at Spring Fashion Week in Paris.

Wearer enhancing scents, on the other hand, maybe aren't the iconic expression of an entire movement in the form -- like da Vinci's Mona Lisa or Van Gogh's Starry, Starry Night or Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can -- but they are good enough to make a collection or show when you thought of putting all the great "vanillas" or "violets" in a room, in the same way a museum collects works that, as a collection, demonstrate a movement in scent, like impressionism or the Hudson River School. They seem to evoke a specific mood (Annick Goutal Songes, S-Perfumes 100% Love) or are just really beautiful examples in their own right, which might also put them in the "art" category, like some effort to create a platonic ideal of a certain note or aspect of a note (L'Artisan Iris Pallida, Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist, Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille). They might collections that reflect attempts at a movement in scent (ultra-realism) or the right scents for critical life moments (weddings, births, funerals) or a collection that attempts to express an emotion, like sadness, through perfume or all the aspects of a single note (like collecting the very best roses -- the patchouli rose, the real rose, the leather rose, etc.). These are scents that might not be the next "CLASSIC" we know and love for a century, but in their beauty or their mood-setting make the wearer a more complete expression of self in the moment.

So when I run across a scent that seems intent on being light and inoffensive and not saying a lot for itself or about the wearer, I admit that I tend to feel slightly irritated because it just seems like such a waste of money and time when it comes to the creation and marketing of scents that don't intend to make any kind of statement. Like good music of any kind, if the juice doesn't move you at some level, what is it for? And perhaps that judgment, try as I might to avoid it, influences my nose a bit. I recognize that all that juice creation in general is what gives us the space to create the scents that endure the ages, but I can't help feeling like they represent a missed opportunity both for the creator and the wearer, and that makes me a little sad. At the same time, I suppose there are a whole lot of people out there who don't love Uta Barth or Renoir or Mark Rothko or James Turrell and genuinely perfer Anne Geddes and Thomas Kinkade, and who am I to deny them the right to hang something on their walls that appeals to them? And who am I, therefore, to deny them their right to smell inoffensive and unremarkable? I guess I just look around at the wonder and beauty around me and it makes me hope that everyone wants a little more of that in their world, their life, so I am disappointed when they choose otherwise. But then, I've always been demanding.

Wow. Did not think I had that much to say about Light Blue. Back to cleaning.

You can buy Light Blue basically anywhere, from Amazon and Overstock.com to Sephora and Saks 5th Avenue. This obviously means it comes at a number of price points. If you try it and like it, you can probably get a bottle for 1/3 to 1/2-off high end retail, so for those of you who love this one, it's your lucky day.

"Oh the scupltor Michaelangelo
was asked how he got in the flow
and made the lovely David
from a giant block of stone.
He said, "He was in there waiting.
My job was simply excavating.
I just took away what did not belong...
Let me be the way I was created.
Let me find a pure and simple heart.
I'll chip away all jealousy and hatred..."

- "Perfect Work of Art," Karen Taylor-Good (you can hear the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ A review from Bois de Jasmin
~ Also, the Make-Up Alley gang gave this an overall 3.7 of 5, with most of the 5 star reviews coming from women who are eight to ten years young than me or more. Maybe I'm just not in the target audience here? <starts making notes for post about age, marketing, and scent...>


Images are from Dolce & Gabbana, Renoir's Dance at Bougival, which hangs at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, Mark Rothko's work in the Rothko Chapel , and Uta Barth).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Am the Feminist My Father Warned Me About

When I was young, I grew up in a very traditional family. This is not the family I tend to talk about now: my adoptive family with my 3 sisters, mom, and pop. They’re traditional, too, but in different ways. My family of origin, the only member of which I am still very close to being my brother, who is currently in the Army, was working-class and Republican. Most of the men are or have been in the military or work in law enforcement or some combination thereof. Most of the women have been homemakers, even if that wasn’t their aspiration (as it certainly was not my grandmother’s). I am the first person in my directly line to go to college, and I am the only person to achieve a doctoral level/professional degree even in my extended family.

From a young age, I was a very smart and assertive little girl. I talked a lot. I am the oldest child and grandchild, and consequently got a lot of attention from my grandmother and grandfather. My grandmother in particular was very intent that I make something of myself and not get tied down to a man too young. My mother took off when I was twelve, and I spent my teen formative years under the thumb of my father. My dad tried to encourage me, but at the same time he was a real man’s man. Consequently, when I first had my heart broken by a young man who I loved, and who loved me right up until my desire to wait beyond my fourteenth year to have sex summarily dumped me for an older girl who had sex with him in a booth at the movie theatre they both worked in, my father’s solution to my moping was to buy me a t-shirt stating, “BITCH OF THE HOUSE” on it to let me know how I’d ruined the holidays for everyone. When I tried to assert that perhaps my brother could share the household chores with me, or maybe make his own dinner instead of it being my responsibility to stop studying and cook for him, I was told that I was being a “FEMINAZI” which was tantamount to being a fascist in his mind. A “feminist” was a BAD THING to be. A terrible thing. A thing men did not appreciate, want, or like in a woman, and to be something unappreciated by men was to be an untouchable. There were a lot of things women did or did not do back then. They ALWAYS shaved every potentially visible part of their body. They never expected men to cook, and if they chose to, a woman’s role was to lavish praise while assisting in any way necessary. You can imagine. The list went on and on.

Every March, Lewis & Clark’s Gender Studies Department hosts a three day academic symposium. It happens, every year, right around my birthday. So I always get nostalgic about the birth of my own feminism through my experiences here at college around this time of year, and since I first attended the Gender Symposium back in 2002, I haven’t missed one yet. When I came to Portland and Lewis & Clark, I didn’t really know what a feminist was. Most of my ideas came from the things my father mocked as feminist, and from the riot grrl music of the 1990s. Somewhere in a box in our basement I still have my copy of the Rolling Stone Magazine that declared the “Year of Women in Rock,” which helped me discover the influences Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde and Joan Jett and Tina Turner and Joni Mitchell on the ‘90s rockers I already adored. To this day, I love Liz Phair, who taught 14 y.o. me to sing, “And I kept standing 6’1” / Instead of 5’ 2” / And I loved my life / And I hated you.” Even now, when Tori Amos croons, “She’s been everybody else’s girl / Maybe one day she’ll be her own” or “And I’ve been here. Silent all these years” I feel like she is speaking directly from *my* soul. My heart. And that music came at just the right time to save a girl who was trying so hard to hide the physical, emotional, and psychological abuse happening at home, who was nursing two elderly and chronically ill grandparents, parenting a younger sibling, and trying to keep an increasingly non-functioning alcoholic in check. But for all it gave me, I still didn’t know what feminism really was. I just knew I wanted to scream, like Hole and Belly and Le Tigre and Throwing Muses. I wanted to scream until someone listened.

It was here, in this beautiful green living world, at age 22, that I took my first course in gender studies. I read "A Room of One’s Own" and "Bliss" and "The Yellow Wallpaper." I read philosophy and learned about de Beauvoir and Foucault and about the concept of the female body experience and so many other nuances that are now just part of my general operating system. I am grateful for many opportunities I’ve had, but none I think has changed me so much or been as valuable in shaping me as my gender studies work.

I’m presenting at the Gender Symposium again this year, this time on gender in the perfume industry. I’ve also been asked to guest lecture on feminist jurisprudence for a Philosophy of Feminism course I audited while working at another university. I jokingly like to tell people that my dream job is to be a professional feminist and get paid for it. Perhaps I’ll just have to settle for it being my volunteer side gig. And when I am feeling nostalgic and, frankly, deeply appreciative of all the women and the handful of men who have schooled me in my feminist ways, I am touched by pieces like the one Tavi wrote today. Here is a girl not much older than I was when I discovered the same music, the same message, the same feeling of solidarity in feminist values. I hope she gets her high school feminist club going. And I hope when I am as old as the women in the video below, I am still rocking out and being feminist in any way I know how.

Because I am the feminist my father warned me about; in fact, I'm worse.

And I'm proud of it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You strike with dry poison; I am possessed.

SOTD: More thoughts on Tauer Perfumes Une rose chyprée

Hilariously, I realized after writing this review and posting it that this is my SECOND TIME reviewing Une rose chyprée. The first review is here. I'm leaving this posted, though, because I honestly think Une rose chyprée is good enough to deserve double the raves. Think of this as a reflection on the scent of the day, since Une rose chyprée is what I am wearing.

. . . . . . . .

At the other end of the rose spectrum from DSH Perfumes la Rose fleurette (Rose No. 2), you have Andy Tauer's rose creation, Une rose chyprée, the first in a line called "The Mémorables." According to the perfumer
All of [The Mémorables] are like a praline: I offer them in small 15 ml flacons and all are bottled and packed by hand. They are delicate and precious and truly hand made in Switzerland. The Mémorables are fragrances that I compose around hard to get, outstanding, traditional materials. They are rich in essential oils and absolutes.

Une rose chyprée is an oriental rose on a chypre base. It is an elegant perfume built around two natural extracts from rosa damascena: The absolute and the steam distilled essential oil. 15 ml Rose chyprée contains one pound of fresh rose petals, steam distilled in the traditional way.

Its heart is lifted by spicy Bay and hot cinnamon and a fresh accord built around bergamot, lemon and Clementine essential oils. Green Bourbon geranium oil lets the rose petals shine and contrasts with the dark resinous accord in the base, built around labdanum, oak moss, patchouli, vetiver and vanilla.
The immediate rose note is overwhelmed quickly by the hot, spicy, medicinal scent. "Dark, resinous accord" is right; somehow Andy, that genius, has made a rose where I smell the rose, I smell the vanilla, I smell the geranium, but balanced with the spices and labdanum, it becomes the most muscular rose I've ever smelled. Like so many of Tauer's creations, I have never smelled anything like it. Une rose chyprée is wholly original, and I make it a point to stop and smell the roses (in life and perfume) when I have the opportunity. It's warm. It's hot. It's spicy. And yet, it also somehow smells like a wonderful hard candy, held in the mouth until it melts, slowly, all over your tongue, oozing into the different corners, so that you get the different aspects of the taste -- spicy, sweet, tangy -- over and over again. If it were a lip color, or better yet, a nail polish, it would be red, brown, black, and gold all at once, depending on how the light hit it. Over time, the medicinal notes fade out and the mix gets sweeter, and more reminiscent of a hot spicy drink.

I just love this. I love it for being big (it is -- your neighbor will be smelling this one on you), for being bold, for being muscular and strong and yet vulnerable. I strongly recommend trying this, just like EVERY SINGLE OTHER TAUER PERFUME I HAVE EVER SNIFFED. You can buy everything in one fail swoop right here. Don't think. Just buy. Frankly, I'd recommend just buying the bottles unsniffed because they are excellent, reasonably priced scents, but I recognize that not everyone has that kind of money. (Sadly, I am unemployed and do not. But when I get a job -- woah nelly!) Une rose chyprée is a highly concentrated 15ml for only $75 either direct from the perfumer, or here in the US, from Luckyscent. And should you do so, and hate what you get, send it over. Whatever it is. Truthfully, I want them all. <sigh>

Want more reviews? Try...
~ A review from Angela at Now Smell This!
~ A review from Perfume Posse
~ A review from The Non-Blonde
~ A review from Perfume-Smellin' Things
~ A rather steamy review from Legerdenez
~ A review from Sorcery of Scent
~ A review from Nathan Branch
~ A review from Sniffapalooza
~ A review from Fragrantica

"How can I be drunk?
You strike with dry poison. I am possessed,
still engaged in some kind of advanced shackling.
Girl, you got to find you the man who
can smoke this out, Bad Medicine.
Girl, you got to find you the man who
can smoke this out, more Good Medicine."

- "Fast Horse," Tori Amos (you can hear the song here.)

And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong...

DSH Perfumes la Rose fleurette (Rose No. 2)

I didn't manage to finish rose week last week, so I'm wrapping up today. I am now T-minus 3 weeks and counting from the dreaded Bar exam, which is the licensing exam for practicing attorneys. This means that I want absolutely nothing more than to talk to you all the time, and also that I have absolutely no time to do so. Forgive me if the posting becomes a bit sporadic over the next three weeks. I promise to make a list of topics that occur to me during that period to bombard you with.

Since the last time I posted I was talking about Papaya, I'll give you an update. Her heart appears to be enlarged slightly. They can't tell us more until we get an echo-cardiogram. It may be a small problem that will have little to no impact on her life expectancy, or it may be...more serious. My tendency is to assume it is worse; my husband is the opposite. I'm trying to take his approach for the time being since it will be a few months before we get the echo done to see if the hole closes on its own, which sometimes happens in kittens. Meanwhile, despite ridiculous vigilance on our part and a 24/7 sentence to a short collar of shame, she has managed to get at her stitches, so she and I are headed back to the vet today. Also, I have to keep her away from our second youngest, Aldor, because they play too rough for her right now, which has led them to sit on either side of our closed bedroom door like they're Romeo and Juliet.

And speaking of ill-fated love, let's talk about roses and attempts to bottle their essence, shall we?

DSH la Rose fleurette (Rose No. 2) is my third and final DSH rose. According to the perfumer, la Rose fleurette is "Delightful. Blushing. Flirtatious." and has the following notes:
Top notes: Apple Blossom, Bergamot, Violet
Middle notes: Centifolia Rose Absolute, Damask Rose Absolute, Egyptian Rose Geranium, Moroccan Rose Absolute, Sweetbriar
Base notes: Heliotrope, Honey, Honey Musk
This is, as it says, a light, flirty rose. It is another true rose, which is an impressive feat because it's a hard perfume get and Ms. Spencer Hurwitz has managed to create two: this and American Beauty (Rose No. 1). It does not fall into either of the popular rose camps of late, the patchouli rose or the honeyed rose. Instead it is fresh and light and delightful, with a little but of a soapy edge from the violet and a little bit of fruit sweetness from the apple blossom. This is a rose I think a man could wear, though I don't think anyone think of it as manly on first sniff. The apple blossom bit reminds me, on immediate application of the taste of apple brandy, but the whole production isn't overly feminine. It just seems...authentic. Though all three of the DSH roses I've tried -- American Beauty, Beach Roses, and this one -- are well made and worthy of owning, I think I might choose this on for its originality and versatility. By being not what all those other roses are, it becomes something better. At the same time, anyone could easily make an argument in favor of one of the other two over la Rose fleurette and that would be totally legit.

You can buy la Rose fleurette direct from the perfumer in 1oz EdP for $30, as well as the parfum in various sizes and presentations, including antique bottles and limited edition charms. American Beauty is also available in shea butter body lotion and foaming creme, which is currently on sale.

Just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed
that with the sun's love
in the spring
becomes the rose.

- "The Rose," Bette Midler (you can listen to the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ A review from Fragrantica