Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jen says.

Short Fiction Inspired by & A Review of Demeter Fragrance Library Dregs

Jen is standing on the trunk of Cal’s car, and he is really pissed about it. Jen doesn’t care. Three sheets to the wind on some of the foulest red wine I have ever had the misfortune to taste, Jen needs a platform for her latest magnum opus, a free form poem entitled, “Why Rivers Cuomo is a Total Douche.”

Jen says Rivers is a sexist pig, and if you don’t believe her you can read that Sady Doyle piece that proves it. Jen says she already knew everything Sady said, like way before Sady did, but that’s okay, Jen still loves her anyway.

Jen says she can see the skepticism on my face, and I try hard not to roll my eyes at her as she stumbled over to point to the exact location of said skepticism. Jen says it’s somewhere around my eyebrows. Cal tries to persuade Jen to come down, but she isn’t fooled by his faux concern that she might fall and knock her teeth out.

“Stop crying about your car,” Jen says, and Cal winces as the broad trunk of his ’69 Pontiac GTO, which he spent most of the summer and every penny he made mowing lawns painstakingly restoring, flexes under her weight as she stomps around. “You’re such a materialistic bastard,” Jen says, cackling. “This is no longer a symbolic representation of your masculinity! I appropriate this giant phallic instrument in the name of the oppressed! This is the Peoples’ car!”

Cal stares at the ground, really regretting that he agreed to buy us booze with his fake ID. I can’t say I blame him.

Jen shakes the bottle in my direction, offering me more of the foul wine. I can see crap floating around in the bottom of the bottle, and I shake my head at her with a grimace. Shrugging, Jen throws her head back and drinks deeply from the bottle. When she pulls it from her lips, her mouth is red ringed, like a kid with a grape popsicle.

All the sudden, I see a flashlight moving fast in our direction. Cal panics, and tells Jen he knew he shouldn’t have listened to her when she suggested we drink in the high school parking lot because it’s the last place anyone would think to look.

Jen says Cal shouldn’t be so uptight as she launches herself at him, half-jumping and half-falling off the trunk. Cal catches her right before she hits the ground to prevent her from landing, as expected, face first. Cal pulls her upright and suddenly they are almost kissing. I blush and turn away, wishing I wasn’t there.

A voice calls out “Hey you!" and we all recognize it as the old school security guard, Stan. "Stan the Man," Jen says giggling, and pulls away from Cal, who stands frozen in place, arms still wrapped around the space Jen occupied. The fog is so thick it creates a barrier between Cal’s car and Stan, but as soon as he sees the distinctive Pontiac, we’re all doomed and we know it.

Jen says, “Come on, Cal,” throwing open the passenger side door and flinging herself into the back seat. Cal and I spring into action on her command, running for the open door. He jumps in and slides across the seat and I follow, barely pulling the door shut when he guns the engine, tires squealing against the asphalt as we pull away.

“Do you think he saw us?” Cal asks, and I shrug. If so, I know we’re screwed. Cal is a nice guy, but he’ll fold like a house of cards if they ask him who was with him tonight. It’s too bad, too. If he was the type to lie, Jen probably would have kissed him.

Jen says nice guys finish last, and with her, she means it.

Jen wraps her arms around my neck from the backseat, and I pat at them as she sticks her head over the seat between us. An old Jane’s Addiction song comes on the radio, and Jen mumbles along, making up her own lyrics to make the song about her. I laugh as she sings loudly in my ear, ignoring the off-key parts and the nonsensical words she adds because she’s too drunk to think of real rhymes.

“You’re the best, you know that?” Jen says, planting a wet kiss on my cheek. Cal can barely keep his eyes on the road. Waves of jealousy reverberate off him and into me and I feel angry at Jen because she always says that, and I know she doesn’t really mean it. Not with Cal; not with me.

“I love you,” Jen whispers, resting her head sleepily on my shoulder and closing her eyes. I can feel her breath against my cheek, and the foul wine smell on her breath should repulse me, but it doesn’t. Like everything else about Jen, I think it’s weirdly beautiful.

“I love you, too,” I mutter, resting my cheek against her forehead.

Jen doesn’t say anything.

I wish she would.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

People Who Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘bout Hurricanes Call Us Crazy

Short Fiction Inspired by & A Review of Demeter Fragrance Library Salt Air 

I knew I should have left. Most people left the peninsula days earlier, when the first warnings came out. The big one was coming. It was a topic often belabored during hurricane season in these parts: a hundred year storm. Over due by almost a decade, the weather men, the politicians, the local LEOs were all clear on one point: if you’d never evacuated before, now was the time to start.

A Galveston, Texas cemetery
flooded after Hurricame Ike.
The stories of the last one were famous. The dead floating up out of their deluged graves, the wooden caskets suddenly buoyed by the onslaught of water, six feet of  storm soaked earth nothing in the face of the swirling currents washing through the city. Those left on the island who survived never got over the terrifying sight of their dearly departed coming up out of the ground and parading through the streets, a sure sign that if you’d made the choice to stay, you were already dead.

Issac’s storm wiped out the island, turning a bustling gem of a city into a waterlogged ghost town that had to be rebuilt from the ground up, literally. After the storm, the city brought in tons of earth to shore up the water fronted edge of town, covered the area in six foot tall slabs of concrete to create a wall between the residents and the sea. The dead were no longer buried in wooden crates; they were stacked in mausoleums or cemented into the ground, a pledge to returning residents that such horror would never befall the city again.

Except now it was.

The new storm was set to wipe out the town again, perhaps forever if it was as bad as anticipated. The news people said anyone who hadn’t left either had a head full of delusion, a love so strong for the city they’d rather die there than contemplate living anywhere else, or was certifiably insane. There was no two ways about it, said the radio and tv folks. Staying in the city was a resignation of your life to the Fates and the Furies.

Knowing all that, I still stayed, and I wasn’t even in the city. Given how dire things were on the main island, staying on the long narrow spit of land that made up the peninsula I lived on was more than pushing your luck; it was a death wish written on paper, stuck in a bottle, and cast into the sea begging it to claim you. Some people went for death by cop; this, quite simply, was death by hurricane.

So what was I doing here? Watching the hundred year old pear tree in the yard next to the rickety house twist and sway in the increasing winds, even I couldn’t say. If I had to put my finger on it, though, I’d have said because it was the only place I’d ever known peace and happiness and love, and if it was going, then maybe I didn’t want to remain in the wake. Looking at the peeling wall paper and fading paint, I knew the little two bedroom house wasn’t anything much to look at. Built on stilts with a room downstairs that various male relatives had talked about finishing but never got around to, it was a crazy place to ride out waves estimated to top well over the second story.

The kids had said as much when they’d called, pleading with me to head to Houston. They’d begged, but I knew they were all too far away to get here fast enough to force me out and I wasn’t having any of it anyhow. First of all, I didn’t have a car to get there, because I couldn’t drive after my cataracts developed, and I wasn’t about to go begging strangers for a ride. I had more pride than that. Second, I told them what I told them every single time a storm came. I’d made it through the ones that had come before; I’d survive this one. I wasn’t about to leave my home and all my worldly possessions abandoned for looters to get at if it took me too long to get back to the peninsula.

But it was more than that. I’d buried my first dog in that yard, and squinting into the wind, I could just make out the little row of stones shaped in a cross where his bones laid. I’d had my first love in that rickety house, I’d unexpectedly given birth to my first baby in the old claw foot bathtub, and after the kids had grown up and moved away and the old neighbors had sold their houses to summer people and my husband of thirty years had up and died on me too old to remarry and too young not to be lonely, this house was all I had.

Standing on the porch, I curled my gnarled fingers around the banister that encircled the balcony, and let the wind slap me in the face as it pulled my wispy white hair out of its bun. Looking down at my hands, I could still see the ghost of younger ones in their place, and I wondered when so much of my life had passed me by, like sand washed out to sea. Everyone I loved had left or died. I was eighty-one years old. I loved my house. It was all I had left.

Inhaling deeply, I caught a whiff of the storm wind pulling the ocean closer and closer to the bay side of the peninsula, where the house sat waiting to make a last stand, and me with it. The air was so salty it stung my nose and eyes, and the brackish edge told of all the driftwood and kelp and sea creatures being dragged in along with those thousands of gallons of water, pushed harder and closer every passing minute.

Looking up at the sky, I said a prayer to God. If this is it, Lord, then you can take me. I’m ready. I just want to know that the last thing I’ll remember is this place – the way it felt, the way it looked, the way it smelled. If you gotta take me now, then I’m leaving this world knowing the last thing I’ll ever see will be my home.

Nodding as if in agreement, I wandered back inside. I couldn’t hide in the tub because I’d filled it with water in preparation for the storm, so I curled up on the floor next to it with a blanket and a book and waited for the beginning of the end.

A single surviving house in Gilchrist,
Texas after Hurricane Ike.
Three days later, the house and I were still standing. Rumor was only about ten houses in our little town had survived more or less intact. Mine was one of them. 

 When the search and rescue people brought me a little prepaid cell phone with some groceries almost a week later and I called my daughter, she burst into tears and yelled for a half hour that the next time she was coming down to drag me out if she had to, but she wouldn't let me take that kind of chance again. She’d been sure I was dead. I told her to hush, that I knew enough about living and dying to know that if it was my time, no amount of her caterwauling was gonna change things. The good Lord would take me when he was ready, I told her. And apparently he wasn’t ready yet.

He took the pear tree, though, and I was awful sorry to see it go.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A week of Demeter Fragrance Library Reviews, with a Twist

Reviewing perfumes that veer toward ultra-realism is tough because if it’s done right, it smells like the platonic ideal of the thing it’s supposed to smell like. If it’s done badly, well, it smells nothing like the thing you think it should. So it’s tricky, reviewing ultra-realist perfumes. I think Christopher Brosius takes a good tack on the expectation game by telling the consumer the story of what he thinks the scent smells like. It creates a scent from his memory, which means it isn’t necessarily going to be yours.

Demeter Fragrance Library goes the other direction by asserting the thing is what it says it is (for the most part). Salt air is supposed to be salt air; vinyl exactly what the name says in the title. This is a risky maneuver on Demeter’s part, because if the first scent of theirs you try smells like you think it should, then you’re sold on the line, and much more forgiving of the miss here and there based on that first bull’s eye. If that first try is a miss, though, you may dismiss the line completely.

Luckily for Demeter, I never give up on the first try.

This isn’t say that that Grass, which I reviewed here, is a bad scent. It’s not even to suggest it doesn’t smell like cut grass. It mostly does. However, there’s another aspect floating around in there that makes it not quite grass. I liked the experience, but Grass, well it wasn’t the droid I was looking for.

Because these scents are, for the most part, what they purport to be, I'm taking a different tact this week.  I'll tell you what the scent is like when worn, though that part will be mostly self-explanatory.  I'll also tell you a story.  Sniffing some of these scents evokes the idea of a place or circumstance  so strongly, you just find you want to write about it. Thus I decided I would.  This week you get a handful of short fiction/perfume reviews, courtesy of Demeter and my crazy brain.

I hope you find it entertaining.

People Who Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘bout Hurricanes Call Us Crazy - A story inspired by Demeter Fragrance Library Salt Air.
~ Jen Says. - A story inspired by Demeter Fragrance Library Dregs.
~ Lucky. - A story inspired by Demeter Fragrance Library Fresh Hay.
Mrs. LaClette's Roses - A story inspired by Demeter Fragrance Library Pruning Shears.
The First Ozarkiana State Fair and Barbed Beecue Competition - A story inspired by Demeter Fragrance Library Mesquite.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Congrats to Starling, winner of the Demeter draw!

List Randomizer

There were 7 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
  1. Starling
  2. beanphed
  3. cKate
  4. ccdouglass
  5. Carrie Meredith
  6. frill
  7. Alnysie
Timestamp: 2011-08-22 03:08:25 UTC
Congrats! Please email me an updated address so I can get your package in the mail!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lately I’ve been living for the weekend...

Perfume Challenge Week 30: Monday, 8/8/11, to Friday, 8/12/11

Thanks to Undina, I now have wonderful ammo cases to store my samples in. I initial bought *muffled sounds* hundred sample slots worth, and I managed to get my estimate pretty close. I also managed to get some of them organized by house immediately, which was great for being able to, you know, find things. Now I need about twice as many boxes so I can take all the scents I don't have enough of to merit a house section and break them up by notes. Because I'm completely neurotic, and as Rob Gordon so succinctly put it in High Fidelity, "Fetish properties are not unlike porn. I'd feel guilty taking their money, if I wasn't… well… kinda one of them."

I'll try to post some photos next week, but if you look at Undina's post you get the basic idea. I need more of those grey ones though...

Perfume has taught me so many things. One of them is that the word 'need' is entirely relative.

Monday: L'Artisan Navegar - Notes: Lime, Red pepper, Ginger, Rhum, Star anise, Black pepper, Cedarwood, Guaiac wood, Incense. 

Lime and pepper are all over this opening, and the woody base is very strong on me. It's like a super classy version pencil shavings (always my thought when it comes to cedar) but then it turns into a pretty lime flower.  I find this less about the fruit and more about the plant when it comes to the lime aspect which I don't often encounter. (It's usually all about the fruit flesh or the fruit peel, or even the fruit leaf...but never the flower.) This is exactly what I wanted Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin to be. Refined and elegant, yet youthful. Pret-tay nice. 4 of 5 nods.

Tuesday: Atelier Cologne Grand Neroli - A romantic ingenue; wraps elegant orange blossom flower around layers of clean herbal notes, warm musks and addictive brushstrokes of vanilla.” Additional notes include neroli, lemon, bergamot, petitgrain galbanum, moss, birch leaves and white amber.

WOOHOO! An extremely light dry citrus aspect makes Grand Neroli even more orange than your usual neroli. It is so pretty, and the first almost edible orange flower scent I've encountered. The vanilla aspects are much like those of Atelier Cologne Vanilla Incenseé as Grand Neroli has a similar dryness to it that gives the scent an open air quality I find unique and enjoyable about several of the Ateliers. It's a very crisp scent and not at all weighed down by the vanilla sweetness.  At a mere $55 for 30ml, a great bargain for neroli lovers everywhere; I'd chose it over a lot of other comparable scents. I like wearing my Jo Malone Orange Blossom in the warm weather, but this would make a great Fall neroli/orange blossom thanks to the dryness of the vanilla. 4.5 of 5 nods.

Wednesday: Comme des Garcons Series 2 Red: Carnation - Notes: red carnation, essence of red pepper, red rose, cloves, absolute Egyptian jasmine, absolute red pepper.

My first carnation. One critical review I saw called it "big red [chewing gum] in a bottle" but I think that really undersells this  Comme des Garcons. It is decidedly traditionally 'feminine,' which naturally makes me want to spray on the most dudely dude I can find just to see how I like it. Carnation is not overly peppery and the clove is smooth like the finest grained powder instead of sharp the way I find in so many clove heavy scents.
It does smell like carnations, which I would have thought I'd hate; my only instructions to my wedding florist was that I wanted funky arraignments and NO CARNATIONS. FN1. So when I tell you I find this carefully balanced scent that is equal parts rose and carnation frosted with clove delightful and compelling, no one is more surprised than me. I do question if I'd like it as much if they had used something other than rose, since roses are one of my addictions. That I suppose is a question for another day, a different carnation. Today, this carnation, for me? Wonderful. 4 of 5 nods.

Thursday: Penhaligon's English Fern - Notes: Geranium, Lavender, Clover, Patchouli, Sandalwood and Oakmoss.

My first Penhaligon's and it turns out to be one of the nicest fougeres I've ever encountered. The geranium is very strong in the opening, and the lavender makes a nice accent without being overwhelming. Apparently considered more of a masculine (I'm sure the complimentary scented shaving soap helps), I actually think this is lovely for a woman, particularly when the opening moves off and the sweetness of the clover and sandalwood come in. It's like a woman wearing an expensive men's dress shirt as a nightshirt. Sexy as hell due to, rather than in spite of, the 'traditional' gendered item juxtaposition. Some find it a difficult scent to tame, but I find it classic, sophisticated, and a wonderful scent for summer. Be careful, though. It's got strong legs, lasts forever, and has generous sillage. At $125 for 100ml, this bottle would last you approximately forever given the strength of the scent, so it's probably best for a bottle split. 4 of 5 nods.

Friday: Parfums de Nicolai Week-end à Deauville - Notes: basil, peppermint, tarragon, calone, helional, jasmine, lily of the valley, cardamom, galbanum, apple, cedarwood, leather and white musk.
Week-end à Deauville is a lot of white flowers with healthy accents of peppermint and basil. I like the basil here, because it isn't overwhelming and fuses together with the peppermint for a fresh bright opening best fitting for Spring. Unfortunately, that part burns off too quickly on my skin, so all I get is white flowers and light musk. I do get some apple sweetening the middle of the drydown, but not enough to suit me.

Bois de Jasmin describes it as "salty-sweet", and I can see that. Week-end is pretty and floral, so if you like those things, try this. It's supposed to be a beach scent of sorts, but this isn't any beach I've ever known. For me, this scent suffers from the same problem I have with L'Artisan Mure et Musc. It's just so...nice. That doesn't make it boring, it just feels so young and...naive to me. It doesn't feel innocent necessarily, just the opposite of worldly.

When I young I had this old anthology of poetry that divided love into two categories: "Young Love," and "Love, Older Grown." This is decidedly the former. There is no passion here or bitterness, just sweetness and romanticism. It's about as scandalous and sultry as Rebecca Black's idea of fun on a "Friday" night. Like if an extra wore it to the filming of Weezer's "Buddy Holly" video, they wouldn't be in on the irony. All that said, it is very pretty, so pretty that I can imagine it scenting the air during the filming of the scene from West Side Story when Maria tells us how pretty she feels because she's in love with a "pretty wonderful boy." So if that's your wheel house, get yourself a sample.  Also, only lasts four hours on me, which I don't generally think of as long enough. 3 of 5 nods.

Winner of the Week: Atelier Cologne Grand Neroli edges out Penhaligon English Fern, but barely. Oh Wait! Comme des Garcons Series 2 Red: Carnation! Sigh. Okay, once again, I cannot choose.

Also, I want to give a special shout to my friend LillieMae, who is moving to Chicago this weekend for graduate school. Study hard, be all smart, and then come home.  I miss you already.

"Every Friday, just about midnight,
all my problems seem to disappear.
Everyone that I miss when I’m distant.
Everybody’s here.
Yeah, my friends cause they’re so beautiful
Yeah, my friends they are so beautiful
Yeah, my friends...
~ "Friends," Band of Skulls

FN1. Arrangements; not arraignments. Sometimes lawyer life is bleeds over into my blogging...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Your heart is dark as a hemlock grove where the sun never shines and nothing grows.

Perfume Challenge Week 29: Monday, 8/1/11, to Friday, 8/5/11
A week of DSH Pefumes

When I was in junior high and early high school, I had a wonderful best friend, Marti. Marti was smart and funny and sharp-tongued and beautiful, like so many teenage girls are, and we could talk on the phone for hours after school after spending almost every class together. We grew apart in high school, in same the way I was systematically isolated from everyone by the growing random horror of my home life and my inept and desperate attempts to deal with it (hello, cycle of violence), but I never forgot Marti. Years have passed now, and we've reconnected thanks to ye olde intertubes, and I'm happy for that. It's nice when technology occasionally brings people together rather than isolating them from one another.

Never turn your back
on Mother Earth.
Recently Marti reminded me of something it's possible completely escaped my attention at age thirteen: her mom is a huge perfumista. To quote Marti, "she has more perfume than is natural for a human to own." I'd say that described me, too, at this point. I always adored Marrti's mom for so many reasons -- she was smart, she was funny, she was an excellent nurse who specialized in difficult deliveries, and when she was angry at the world, she watched nature videos of tornadoes destroying things as a coping mechanism. The perfume thing is icing on a cake of amazingness I've long admired. When I'm in Houston next, I'm hoping to hook up with them both for some perfume shopping.

If you're reading this, Lillian, thanks for always being kind to me after my mom left. I never forgot it.

Monday: DSH Perfumes Spring Moss - A dewy moss with subtle cool melon and cucumber nuances. Notes: Cucumber, Melon, Moss.

This is a bright, fresh scent that on me is almost spearmint-y. I know the notes say melon and usually that would be the death knell for me, but in this case it is light and fresh scent with the melon no where to be found. It lacks the decaying earthiness I'd have expected from a moss, but maybe that's what is Spring-like about it. Spring Moss is very much a new growth scent and great for warmer weather, so I suspect it wears very well at the cusp of Spring's change to Summer. I'll be sure to try it around that time next year. A solid 3 of 5 nods for scent, 5 of 5 nods for longevity (like all DSH perfumes oils, a little goes a very long way - 6 to 8 hours), and 5 of 5 nod for pricing (1/3 oz pulse roller on sale for $18), which for me was a whooping $14 for what I suspect is a three to five year supply with frequent use of this Fond Farewell item.

Layering Experience: I tried layering Spring Moss with Jo Malone Red Roses, after thinking I'd like a fresh green rose and finding the combination of Red Roses and Jo Malone Fresh Mint Leaf left me wanting a stronger green aspect. I found the combination a huge success, the Spring Moss being strong enough that a few pulsepoint dabs balanced very evenly with a light spritz of Red Roses. The effect was is a youthful and fresh rose scent that makes for nice wearing in warmer weather.

Tuesday: DSH Perfumes African Violet - A powdery, almost candy-sweet, violet flower note. Notes: Violet, Orris, Violet, Violet Leaf Absolute, Orris Concrete, Orris Root.

Well, helllllllllo violet. Attention lovers of soapy, powdery violets. Do not be fooled by the description, because this is definitely not the sweetest or most candied violet I've tried. No this is the kind of violet that once made me opine that violets were hard for me to love. That was on September 30, 2009, almost two years ago. My, how things change. Had I tried African Violet back then, I would have hated its intense soapy powdery florality. Now I think it is really quite pretty, though, it is not in the vein of violets I tend toward (like CB I Hate Perfume Violet Empire or Serge Lutens Bois de Violette.) Despite my newfound affection for African Violet's soapy, powdery beauty, I still prefer those less traditional violet approaches; turns out my nose is, at times, pretty consistent. But if you want a voluptuous violet of the soapy, powdery bent, I insist you look no further. 3 of 5 nods for the scent (based on my preferences, not the quality) and again, amazing longevity and price point (1/3 oz pulse roller on sale for $19).

Wednesday: DSH Perfumes Sweet Gardenia - A thoroughly tropical interpretation of gardenia with island flowers and a hint of sensuality in its base notes. Notes: Coconut, Orange Blossom, Gardenia, Tuberosa, Ambergris, Musk.

The opening is, as promised, very tropical. I think the tropical aspect comes from a balanced overlay of coconut and tuberosa, though the tuberosa is supposed to be a base note. This is one unusual gardenia, and more what I expected from Pacifica Tahitian Gardenia than what I got. Also, and this is a bonus for me, I get the rubbery part of the tuberuse/gardenia combo, which I truly enjoy. If you want a pretty gardenia for a beachy date, this is a nice option. Also a Fond Farewell item; 1/3 oz pulse roller on sale for $14. 3 of 5 nods.

Filmed in Oregon!
Thursday: DSH Perfumes Hemlock - Based on Canadian Hemlock Spruce, this scent has a bright and shining lightness with subtle drydown notes that come straight from the dark forest floor. It's the perfect compliment to the winter chill. Notes: Green Mandarin, Green Peppercorn, Silver Fir, Tanacetum, Angelica, Balsam Fir, Spruce, Atlas Cedarwood, Patchouli, Peru Balsam, Rhum, Treemoss.

 Hemlock spruce, as it says right there on the label. To me, this reminds me of the many, many, many hours spent in Decembers of my youth wandering around car lots full of fresh Christmas trees, if someone had dressed all the trees with decorative balls made of various kinds of peppercorns. In other words, it has a great scent memory embedded, and really makes me miss those times. Though I find it very sexy for anyone, there is wonderful potential here to sell a perfume-adverse man on a scent that feels like it goes with the latest episode of Ax Men. Personally I love it and will be leaning on it heavily when we get closer to the holidays. 1/3 oz pulse roller on sale for $19. Again, a Fond Farewell item. 4 of 5 nods.

Friday: DSH Perfumes Almond Blossom - A delicate floral scent with hints of almond in the top note and warm lily/musky nuances in the dry down. Notes: Bitter Almond, Jasmine, Lily of the Valley (Muguet), Amber, Musk.

Dear Fates, if I'm meant to die of poisoning someday, can you make sure it comes in the form of cyanide baked into some sweet dessert items so it smells like this just before I die? At least I would die happy.

Almond Blossom is an attempt at the floral and not the food, and the result is sweet but not too sweet and very almond, in an almond extract way, not a roasted nut way. It lasts forever, and is as delicious as it is pretty, but not nearly as sticky sweet gourmand as DSH Perfumes Lush Honey. The floral notes ensure you get a sweet scent that runs less toward the almond food and more toward the flower, as promised. 1/3 oz pulse roller on sale for $18. Available for a limited time and quantity. 5 of 5 nods.

Layering Experience: I tried layering Almond Blossom with Jo Malone Orange Blossom, and it turned out to be another wonderful surprise. The dryness of the Orange Blossom kills almost all of the gourmand aspects, turning it into a decidedly lovely floral combination. This is a combo I will be revisiting with some frequency. If you have the two on hand, give it a whirl. Two to three generous dabs of perfume oil to one full spray works for me.

Winner of the Week: I'm not going to pick this time. Every one of them are truly lovely and available for less than $20 each. I am pleased to say I own a third ounce off them all, which I suspect will last me a blissfully long time.  Also, with that kind of variety, you can hit almost an mood, weather or seasonal inclination, and all for under $100. Definitely shop the DSH Perfumes specials and sales while you still can to find all of the above at more than reasonable prices.

"Love is crooked as the teeth in an old man's smile,
as the stones in the graveyard, as a country mile,
but I'll drive all night to get there if you let me stay awhile.
Your heart is empty as winter in a tourist town.
Your heart is dark as a hemlock grove."

~ "Hemlock Grove," Mark Erelli

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Honey, you're so fine...

Challenge Week 28: Monday, 7/25/11, to Friday, 7/29/11
Scent Spotlight on DSH Perfumes Lush Honey

Life. Sometimes it gets in the way.

No, seriously. Often times I'd rather be here. I'd rather be sniffing new perfumes and talking to you about all the ways scent can pop me out of a dark day and reset my mood because it reminds me to appreciate the magic and beauty of the world I live in.

I was supposed to do a week of reviews, but instead I'm just going to review one scent I have worn in excess of five days easily since I got it.

But before I do, let me give you a little unsolicited, friendly advice. I rarely ever talk about my job, because honestly? I love this. I love writing. In my head, I’m not a lawyer. I’m a writer. Even at work, I write, all day long. Because writing is what I love and do best and feel proud of. Being a lawyer? Not high on that list.

That said, let’s just say that I work in law and in the insurance industry. Being in insurance, I am always thinking about the worst possible scenario. In my world, one of the things that means is the idea of something happening to my home, like an earthquake or a fire. I worry about how I would evacuate my cats, should I keep a go bag with copies of critical records and cherished items, do I have enough renter insurance.

It’s this last one that bothers me most. I have ordered a copy of my renter’s policy, but I feel pretty sure it won’t cover perishables like my perfume collection. I did a little loose math last week. If I had to replace my collection, without any consideration for time and effort, it would take a lot. It wasn’t until I was moving it all for the second time this summer, carefully wrapping it and boxing it and unwrapping it, devising new storage, etc. that it dawned on me. In four years, I’ve amassed a large collection that is monetarily worth as much or more than my car. I don’t even know how or when it happened, but my perfume collection has taken on a large place in my life, larger than I had realized. How the hell can I protect it?

I’ve reached out to some specialty collectors and insurers, companies and individuals who are collectors or ensure collections of things like antique dolls and stamps. I’m looking to find out if my perishable but beloved collection is insurable, if an appraising methodology exists and what it might be, and how much it might cost. If I find out, I’ll let you know. But I thought I’d tell you about my dilemma and my progress, because some of you are just as protective of your collections as I am.

And speaking of perfume…

On to DSH Perfumes Lush Honey. I have been wearing Lush Honey at least part of a day a couple of times a week since I bought it back in April. Sometimes I put it on in the morning when I’m having a bad day. Sometimes I dab some on just before bed and drift off to sleep with it scenting my sweetest dreams. It’s been like a secret love affair, Lush Honey and I. I have no idea why I didn’t write this review earlier except to say that I can’t remember I was so crazy for a particular scent. Usually when I like something I wear it for a few months maybe twice a month. By comparison, this has been hot, heavy, passionate, obsessive. So let’s talk about my amor secreto.

Lush Honey is described as follows:
Luscious and seductive honey with a light, sweet, floral top note and a super sexy, musky-gourmand dry down. Va Va Voom! Notes: Bitter Almond, Muguet (Lily of the Valley), Violet, Hazelnut, Honey, Honey Beeswax, Ambergris, French Vanilla, Heliotrope, Musk, Tonka Bean.
This scent is by far the sweetest thing I own. Sweeter than Il Profumo Vanille Bourbon, sweeter than Guerlain Shalimar or Guerlain Spirituese Double Vanille, sweeter even than By Kilian Love. In other words, so sticky-heavy-sweet it could choke you if you wore enough, and since it is a perfume oil it packs quite a wallop.

Giant cinnamon roll!
I’d tell you it smelled, you know, like honey, but that seems completely inadequate. FN1. It is edibly sweet and spicy. Name every sweet bakery scent you can – maple syrup, cinnamon, honey, frosting, brown sugar, hazelnut coffee syrup, baking vanilla. You’re likely to use any of these to describe the scent if you try it yourself. Personally, I think it smells like the famous dinner plate-sized cinnamon rolls they serve out at Camp 18 on Highway 26 between here and the Oregon coast if they covered it in honey.

 It would be overwhelming if it weren’t so snuggly, cozy, fantastic. I mean, I want to lick my own arm; I assume in a close moment it couldn’t hurt the mood. Take note though: this is not a scent for the edible faint of heart. If you don’t like smelling like a bakery, run, don’t walk, in the other direction. For me? It’s heavenly.

Sadly, Lush Honey is discontinued. In fact, that's why I bought it in the first place. It was a unsniffed purchase, bought in a mad rush of DSH rollers I grabbed at the beginning of the spring and summer during her sale. I loved almost everything I bought, but this? A-mazing. It's a shame it is discontinued because it is the ultimate tribute to over-the-top gourmand decadence. I loved it so much I actually bought a second 10ml roller almost immediately. I hope it comes back. Everyone who loves sweet and gourmand scents should have the chance to try it.

"I wanna be with you all of the time.
I couldn't tell you just how much I loved you,
but now that you're mine I'll tell you all the time.
Honey, you're so sweet.
I wanna be with you every week..."

~ "Honey," Best Coast

FN1. Anyone who knows anything about honey knows the taste is significantly impacted by the kind of flowers the bees who make the honey are feeding from. Clover honey is the most common in the U.S. Alfalfa honey is also very popular. If you’re into gourmet foods like flavored salts and varies of flavored oils, though, you know honey comes in all kinds of varieties and blends. Personally I’m a big fan of sag honey and fireweed honey.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

And she was lying in the grass, and she could hear the highway breathing.

Scent Spotlight: Demeter Fragrance Libary Grass, also PRIZE DRAW and head-to-head scent delivery method comparison.

In case you missed it, we've been experiencing some technical difficulties here at Feminine Things, which are hopefully now resolved. Also, life has been crazy, with the moving twice and being short staffed at work. But enough about the bad; let's focus on the good in life. And in my world? That means the perfume.

I bring you a strange challenge today. I was talking on twitter to Victoria and Carrie (and I think Gaia as well) about Demeter Fragrance line. I love the CB I Hate Perfume line, and Demeter is Christopher Brosius' former employer. I had never tried Demeter scents and, given the low price point, asked what people thought before I went nuts about bought 10-15 of them unsniffed. The general response from the tubes – great scents but not terribly long lasting, better suited for room sprays than perfumes.

Considering my purchases and related powers of acquisition, I noticed in my dithering of do-I-or-don’t-I that Demeter added a perfume oil version available in a rollerball. Would a perfume oil last longer, as advertised, and fix the major criticism of the line? Or perhaps the alcohol based spray or splash was fine, but needed the spray-until-wet technique I learned from Mals at Muse in Wooden Shoes? Only one way to find out.

So I did exactly what any truly insane perfumista would do – bought the same scent twice in both forms.

Yes, that’s right. I couldn’t buy two different scents because I wouldn’t truly be able to tell if the scent lasted longer because it was stronger or I noticed it more or the method of scent delivery (oil roll on vs. alcohol spray) was the better choice. Nope, the only option was two buy two bottles of the same scent. I managed to pick up a 15ml cologne splash for $6 and the 8.8ml roll-on for $10, so for a whopping $16 plus shipping, I got my mad wish, though I admit that the entire over-the-top endeavor is probably inspired by my most recent Top Gear binge.
Random thoughts about grass...

After scrolling through the extensive list of Demeter scents and considering everything from Basil to Birthday Cake to Salt Air to Mulled Cider, I finally settled on, of all things, Demeter Grass. FN1. Yes, Grass. What can I say? It’s summer and I love a good freshly mowed lawn. The description, which is lengthy, is as follows:

Playing in it.......lying on it......or even mowing it....Grass smells wonderful. Centipede grass, the most widely used lawn grass in the southeast United States, has something of a romantic history. Around 1918, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a Dr. Meyer, a plant explorer, to China in search of plants that might be economically useful. Tragically, before his return home Chinese bandits killed Dr. Meyer. His suitcases arrived in the U.S. where a collection of seeds was found, including a packet of Chinese centipede grass seeds. That packet of seed was sent to a USDA experimental station near Savannah, Georgia. In the early 1920's, Jack Renfroe took four sprigs of the grass to his father, Mr. Riley Renfroe, who had a 400 acre farm near Quitman. Three of those sprigs survived and were planted in a pasture. In 1950, Ray Jensen, a soil scientist for the USDA, visited the Renfroe farm to make a soil survey. Although 96 years old, Mr. Riley Renfroe wanted to accompany Jensen on the survey. That evening the two settled down to a wonderful southern dinner and that is when the story of the centipede grass on the Renfroe farm was told. Ray Jensen had just finished building his home on 20th Street in Tifton, Georgia. Mr. Renfroe insisted he take a pickup load home with him for his yard, where Jensen planted all the grass. The following year Jensen contracted Mr. Renfroe to produce centipede seed from the 40 acre pasture he had developed from just three live sprigs of the Chinese grass. Ray Jensen had a vision to produce and sell this wonderful grass and seed and offer it as a foundation to southern homes and businesses. From China to Washington, DC, to Savannah to Quitman to Tifton, to the entire southeast and beyond, from one small packet of seed and three live sprigs, today centipede grass can be found on lawns and ornamental turf areas around the world. In Demeter’s Grass Pick-Me-Up Cologne, we have captured the freshness and sweetness of a lush green grass pasture, much like the pasture that Mr. Riley Renfroe planted with centipede grass from those three live springs over 80 years ago.
...contained in footnotes below.
First let’s talk about the scent. I grew up playing and lazying about on those fabled lawns of the American South and I know that smell, so familiar it plays on repeat in the memory of summer when I think about my life. As a ‘grass’ scent, let me say this – the scent itself is wonderful. It does smell like fresh cut grass, but less like the real deal spread between the fingers of your outstretched hand and more like an intense sculpture of grass, or like a wild Van Gogh-esque painting of fresh grass. It is a very sweet grass, and almost has a little bit of a soapy edge, but is really quite beautiful. My friend, Kate, said she thought it was more like clover, and I can see that.  For someone who wasn’t sure if they liked scent, or thought all scents were too “perfumey” this might make a good offering, though I can also see some critique of the scent reminding folks of a clothes detergent, as I suspect that this is what they’re always aiming for when they aim for grass or nature scents. I also want to say that this isn't so much real grass as the intense experience of grass, like grass as one might imagine experiencing it on a perception altering substance. FN2. I give the scent itself a solid 3.5 to 4 nods for originality and closeness to reality.

But to the more important question, in a head-to-head scent off, which lasts longer – perfume oil or alcohol splash, and how long is that, exactly? Here are my totally subjective findings.

The cologne splash lasted longer than the perfume oil on me, though when I first applied them, the oil was stronger on my skin. The dry down between the two, at least for Grass, was virtually identical, so you’re going to get the same ride either way. The cologne splash lasted a little over five hours in the slightest lingering, slightly longer than others warned me. The oil lasted even less than that, only about three and a half hours, which really surprised me, particularly when it started out so much stronger. Either way, a disappointingly short skin life.

Hmmm... grass...
Just to give it a last run, I took the splash and stuck some in a sprayer, then sprayed until wet, and that got me to almost seven hours, though it was very weak by then, and you’d go through a bottle pretty fast to use that much. Plus, it sprays on so wet you’d need to apply it before getting dressed so it didn’t run all into your clothes. In other words, it takes work to make it last, and even then it’s not a scent you'll still be catching whiffs of at the end of a full day.

So is it worth it? Well, I guess that depends. On the one hand, the scents aren’t going to last long in any iteration. On the other hand – so cheap and so many options! And on the gripping hand, some days you don’t want to wear the same scent for your morning and your evening plans, and in those cases this is a fine option. For a mere $18 you could go through three scents in one day. I don’t recommend the line for those looking for a ‘signature scent,’ but for those who like to play with scent wardrobe, for the price of one $60 scent, you can have ten completely different ones here. That makes them not only a fun addition to my extensive collection, but a great source for assuaging impulse shopping and stocking stuffers.

Which brings me, finally, to this: Your August prize draw. A bit late, sure, but here nonetheless. Winner gets my extra roller ball of Demeter Grass, a $10 gift certificate to Demeter Fragrances which is almost enough to buy you a 15ml cologne splash of your choosing and cover shipping within the U.S. (sorry, international readers, you’ll have to pay a little more for the shipping) and of course, a mix CD made by yours truly.

To enter, go to the Demeter Fragrance site (which is not AT ALL attractive, but at least appeals to the utilitarian in me), look through the list, and tell me what you might buy if you win!

Open to all readers anywhere, and very excited to hear your thoughts.

To enter please post by: 12:01AM, Monday, August 22, 2011 Pacific Standard Time.

"And she was drifting through the backyard...
And she was taking off her dress...
And she was moving very slowly...
Rising up above the earth...
Moving into the universe, and she's
Drifting this way and that...
Not touching ground at all, and she's
Up above the yard...
and she was."

"And She Was," Talking Heads

FN1. I actually changed my mind so many times that I would have sworn to you with the delivered box unopened and in hand that I'd bought Salt Air, because I love going to the beach and do that a lot during the summers here, but apparently I changed my mind at the last minute. I think I decided I had a lot of 'beachy' scents already. I honestly don't remember. Now that I've been convinced it was coming, though, I want it. And I did just get paid today...

FN2. Not that I would know anything about that. It just seems that way, like when you look at a Van Gogh and you think, "Whatever he was on must have been wonderful!" or look at a HR Giger and think, "Holy Jesus, keep whatever he was taking away from me!"
I bet David Lynch could even make this
creepy...oh, wait! He did! In Blue Velvet!

FN3. I just want to make a note that there are a creepily large number of photos that turn up when you google image search "girl laying on grass" or even "person laying on grass" and you can make out the individual's identity in every one. Apparently artsy shots of obscured human figures on grass are not common, and now that I think about it, would probably come out looking sinister in a Lynch-esque way.

FN4. The Demeter description reminded me. I had this friend once who did her thesis on the history of the American lawn and how it's basically an environmental catastrophe as well as a socio-cultural catastrophe since its inception in the 1950s, single family homes destroying urban centers, creating horrible gridlock, and social isolation for women of the Feminine Mystique variety. It made sense, but also made me a little sad. In the way I tend to festishize small town Americana, I do love a good village green...

FN5. Does anyone else think the invention of astroturf was basically a one of the plastics/petroleum industry's most horrible ideas? Like terrible bad?

FN6. Ditto for golf courses? Does anyone else start ranting about how much they hate golf courses every time they drive by one?

FN7. Who knew I had so many thoughts about grass, lawns, and grass/lawn-related things?

A word about the slowness of posting...

I am in an epic battle with Blogger right now.  The kind of battle less akin to technical difficulties and more akin to the Doctor and the Daleks.  Seriously, it's bad.  I keep losing posts and comments.  Despite my best attempts, I haven't been able to properly update in three weeks.  Please stick with me, though, because I think I've almost got the issues worked out with Blogger tech support, which means lots of new posts coming down the pike.

Thank the gods I draft everything in word now.  I could do it here, but I'm a combination of paranoid, lazy, and a lousy typist, which means I depend on Word autocorrect to cover my shiny behind when it comes to the mistypes more than I should.

Anyway, more to come.  I'd tell you more, but as Dr. River Song would say -- "Spoilers!"

Monday, August 1, 2011

Last night I dreamt I had forgotten my name...

Perfume Challenge Week 27: Monday, 7/18/11, to Friday, 7/22/11

NOTE: Unbeknownst to me, Blogger ate this post last week. I don't know why. Everything else went up fine. I'm reposting now and will post this past week's reviews tomorrow.

Come on, cool and rainy days!
Dear universe, I am ready for fall. That's right, it's not even August yet, Spring was long wet and late, and yet I am ready if not eager for Fall to arrive. I've spent so much time being cranky about this summer that, despite the days I spent in the winter longing for the warm lengthy days of June, July, and August, now I just want it to be over.

I cannot wait to run back to the dark cool days and even darker long nights wandering around the Olympic Peninsula and Northwest Coast again this Fall. Every time I don't think I can love this area more, I spend one of these weeks on one of my crazy adventures and then I do. So I say bring on the Fall.

Monday: Pacifica Perfume Malibu Lemon Blossom spray perfume - This fresh scent captures the free spirit of the Pacific Ocean with Lemon Blossom, Litsea Cubeba, flowering Angel's Trumpet, fresh herbs and salty sea breezes.

This scent is a quick turn, and longevity is minimal (~ two hours). At first a very light, almost bitingly acidic citrus is followed by a mouthful of lemon fruit dipped in baking sugar, which turns again to a bitter lemon peel. A wonderful scent for unbearably hot weather of the kind I experienced in Texas, and for $22 there are worse buys out there. 3.5 of 5 for the scent itself, but 1 of 5 for longevity.

Tuesday: Pacifica Perfume Tibetan Mountain Temple spray perfume - Vetiver and Indonesian Patchouli are the base of this tranquil, incense-like blend, while Ginger sits lightly in the middle and Orange provides expansive lift for these distinctive essential oils.

"Incense-like" is on the right track. Did you ever get slathered up with Tiger Balm and think, "This would make a great perfume if it weren't quite so pungent?" Great news! Someone has a made a perfume just for you. Clove-y, sweet, and medicinal with flesh and coppery blood undertones, its a one trick pony but reminded me so much of the smell of sleeping next to my mildly congested husband it made me smile, and I give it credit for that, 2.5-4 hours longevity. 3 for scent itself, 1.5 for longevity.

Wednesday: L’Artisan Premier Figuier - Notes: Fig, Fig Leaf, Milk of Almond, Sandalwood, Coconut. 

Dry, mossy, and green, this fig is neither particularly sweet or fruity. If fig trees flowered, this is what I'd expect such a bloom to smell like. It reminds me of some southern plant, something deeply ingrained and familiar to my youth, but for the life of me I can't figure out what it is. Bois de Jasmin described it as "a vision of green figs oozing milky sap" and I can get behind that description. I really like it, and think it is really nice for summer because it's less sticky sweet and has cooling accents. I haven't tried the Extrême, but I'd like to. 4 of 5 nods.

Thursday: Odori Tabacco - Notes: Sicilian bitter orange, Somalian incense, Chinese eucalyptus, Egyptian jasmine, Haitian vetiver, Madagascar vanilla, oak moss, tobacco leaves.

About seventy percent of the show here is a dryer, less sweet tabacco scent that on my skin falls somewhere between drying tobacco leaves and processed cigarette tobacco. It has a slightly medicinal edge that is almost chemical. It would make a nice masculine, but the dryness also makes it a chic and sophisticated feminine. The sweetness over most of the scent is very gently sweet, but strengthens substantially toward the end, around the two hour mark.

Despite that, if you want a less sweet tobacco but don't necessarily love the floralness of say, Etat Libre d'Orange Jasmin et Cigarette, don't want the strong sweet incense of Bond no. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory, and think slumberhouse Kote is too weird and harsh, you might like this one. 3 of 5 nods.

Friday: Le Labo Neroli 36 - Notes: Orange Flower Essence, Rose, Calone, Musk, Mandarin, Jasmine, Vanilla, Tonka Bean.

This is the first time I've encountered a strong neroli without it being welded to an equally strong orange blossom. This means this is really my first encounter with a true neroli scent. People, it has taken me five different tests several hours long, but I finally see the beauty.

I'll be honest, if you're new to perfume and you smell this, it's going to remind you strongly of Aquanet. I urge you to perservere! Now, fifth try along, I can discern the musk and vanilla and even the tonka bean. I don't have a strong frame of reference for nerolis, but let me say this one is pretty in a clean aqautic way. Neroli 36 is a good floral for warm weather. It is light and floral enough to read as feminine, I do wonder if I would like it on a man. *Sigh.* I really need a male guinea pig. 3.5 of 5 nods.

Winner of the Week:  L’Artisan Premier Figuier is the winner for being so lovely and figgy and yet...different.

"Chimney falls and lovers blaze.
Thought that I was young.
Now I've freezing hands and bloodless veins
as numb as I've become.
I'm so tired.
I wish I was the moon tonight..."
~ "I wish I was the Moon," Neko Case

Photos from the author and Eye on Spain, respectively.