Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!

I don’t think I’m usually superstitious, but I feel as if this New Year of 2022 needs all the help it can get! So I’m repeating the rabbit mantra everywhere I can online and in person.

Avon fragrance bottle shaped like rabbit
Avon perfume bottle; image from ebay.com.

Happy New Year to you all! Thanks for joining me here in 2021; WordPress says I posted my 600th post yesterday, the last day of 2021. Don’t forget to look out for Scent Semantics, coming soon to several blogs near you! May 2022 bring us all health, happiness, and good luck!

Perfume Chat Room, December 31

Perfume Chat Room, December 31

Welcome back to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, December 31, and it is the last day of 2021! Good riddance, I say. What a strange year it has been — we started off with most of us unvaccinated, then many of us were able to get vaccinated by the end of May, then we had a summer when we were able to see most of our extended family members after long absence. We were able to attend two family weddings, one in June and one in early October, the June wedding having been postponed from September 2020. We were also able to drive to New Hampshire and stay for two weeks to see my dear father-in-law at his assisted living residence; we rented a small lake cabin and worked remotely in the mornings, then went to see him every afternoon between lunch and dinner, which was lovely. On our drives up to NH and back, we were also able to visit some spots I have long wanted to see, mostly Civil War sites like Gettysburg and Antietam, but also the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville and the Biltmore Estate. Our economy rebounded far better and faster than even an optimist like myself could have hoped. The fall started off with most colleges and universities returning to onsite operations, including the one our son attends. All three of our children faced and overcame challenges in 2021, and are finishing the year in good health, good spirits, and good jobs, and housing situations with good friends.

That was the good stuff. The bad stuff? Aside from some painful challenges our kids had to overcome, here in the US we had the extraordinary experience of a sitting US President claiming that the election he had lost was a fraud and playing a part (specifics still to be detailed by investigators) in a violent attack on the US Capitol and Congress on January 6. Rewatching some of the coverage from a year ago still boggles the mind; and that’s all I’ll say about that. After a somewhat normal summer, the highly contagious delta variant of COVID started to surge, and it was followed by the even more contagious omicron variant in the fall. Many of us got boosters as soon as they were available, which seems to have protected the vaccinated from severe illness (excellent news, btw). But cases are surging again worldwide to record highs, and frontline healthcare workers face another winter of extreme stress — too much stress and not enough gratitude, in my view. Many schools will start their spring semester with remote classes again, which feels necessary but discouraging. I’m just thankful that all my family are fully vaccinated and boosted, and thankful for the brilliant scientists and others who made that possible.

This may be the year I finally retire, so stay tuned! All in all, I’m perfectly happy to bid 2021 farewell, and I feel hopeful for 2022, despite the looming and already nutty midterms elections! I plan to ring in the New Year wearing one of my all-time favorite fragrances: the eau de toilette of Chanel No.22. Our evening plans have just changed and so will our dinner menu — our college student son had planned to be here tonight, so we were going to have pizza, albeit the local gourmet option, but now he has other plans so I can upgrade our dinner menu! Decisions, decisions …

Do you have any exciting plans, or have you already celebrated? (Looking at you, Portia!). What is your chosen SOTNY?

Fireworks exploding over water, Sydney, Australia
Sydney fireworks for New Year, 2022; image from theguardian.com.
Perfume Chat Room, December 17

Perfume Chat Room, December 17

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, December 17, and I am steeling myself for a visit to an endodontist in a few hours. Had to go to the dentist on Monday morning due to a rare and awful toothache, and she referred me for a consult and possible root canal. Ugh! Wish me luck! At least I will smell lovely; today’s SOTD, at least for the morning, is Carner Barcelona‘s El Born. And the endodontist prescribed meds that have taken away the pain, at least for now.

Young child with toothache
Toothache; image from consumerhealthnews.com

I plan to choose a different SOTD for the afternoon to align with today’s community project over at the blog “Now Smell This“, which is to wear your best fragrance buy of 2021. That can be interpreted however one chooses: best bargain, favorite purchase, whatever you like! Yesterday, after my Advent SOTD had faded away, I chose Rose Petals by Zara as my “best bargain” of 2021. I haven’t reviewed it yet because I hope to do that in another “Roses de Mai Marathon” this spring!

My work month is officially over, as I’ll be on vacation next week and my workplace is closed between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I’m so happy that I can now focus on home, hearth, holidays, hobbies, and family! I love Advent, but it’s hard to get and stay in the mood while work concerns and tasks still demand attention. I’m still planting things outside, as our local climate allows for cool-season flowers and vegetables which will grow all winter and into the spring. Many are very colorful, even the vegetables, which makes it more fun.

What will you be doing this week? Are you able to wind up work soon? Any fragrance items on your holiday wishlist now?

Scented Advent, December 16

Scented Advent, December 16

Today’s Advent SOTD is Dior’s Gris Dior, created by François Demachy and originally launched in 2013 as Gris Montaigne. It is a very beautiful, modern, rose chypre, with the classic bergamot opening, floral heart of rose and jasmine, and base notes that include oakmoss and patchouli. The latter are used with a light hand, though, and are joined in the base by cedar, amber, and sandalwood.

The name Gris Dior refers to Maison Dior’s signature shade of pearl grey, which is one of my favorite colors. It is so much more than a combination of white and black; it has a soupçon of lavender and even pink. It is one of the softest, most elegant colors I can imagine; and this fragrance evokes it to perfection. The photo below, borrowed from a favorite blog, Bois de Jasmin, is of the earlier version, Gris Montaigne, but it captures the idea of the colors so perfectly (as well as the pink rose and the grey oakmoss) I wanted to share it:

Bottle of Christian Dior fragrance Gris Montaigne with pink rose, grey background
Dior’s Gris Montaigne; image from boisdejasmin.com.

Interestingly, the paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore (whose colors are exceptional, imho) sells a paint color called “Dior Grey”, but it is darker than what I think of as Dior grey, although it does align more closely with the darker accent colors on Dior’s flagship store on the Avenue Montaigne:

Facade of Dior flagship store in Paris
Dior’s flagship store, Avenue Montaigne, Paris; image from kafkaesqueblog.com.

Another favorite blog, Kafkaesque, had this review of the original Gris Montaigne, with some charming reminiscences of the actual store, which is painted in the house’s signature pearl grey. (I had a more positive view of the fragrance than Kafkaesque did; she loved the opening stages but was disappointed in the drydown). In couture, the combination of that pearl grey and pale pink was a favorite of M. Dior, dating back apparently to his childhood home, a rose-colored villa set above grey rocks. I have that combination in a favorite set of scarf and matching gloves in soft pink and grey cashmere (not Dior!); it’s such a pretty, feminine color scheme, and I’m now reminded to pull those out now that the weather is cooler. I can spray them with Gris Dior!

My experience with Gris Dior has been very satisfactory so far; I’m enjoying the drydown, as it gets warmer and cozier after the bright bergamot opening and soft floral heart. The use of oakmoss here is very clever; it evokes one of the most legendary chypre fragrances of all time, the original Miss Dior, named for M. Dior’s sister Catherine, a heroine of the French Resistance. It also lends the grey tones to the pale pink of the rose and jasmine floral accords in Gris Dior, because it is so lightly blended in that one doesn’t get the full force of what many perceive as the dark, inky influence of oakmoss in fragrance. Nevertheless, it is definitely there. Kafkaesque was troubled by the purple patchouli she smelled as dominating the base, but my nose doesn’t really pick that up. The amber and sandalwood accords in the base, undergirded by cedar, add to its warmth and soften the oakmoss.

Really, Gris Dior is a disarming and elegant fragrance that I could see wearing more often. Perfect for wearing to an office, and also lovely for a quiet, candlelit dinner out with a loved one. It is part of Dior’s “Collection Privèe”, and priced accordingly. Have you tried it, or any others from that collection?

Scented Advent, December 12

Scented Advent, December 12

My Advent calendar surprise today is a sample from a brand I’ve been wanting to try, Maison Trudon. That company has a long history as makers of fine candles, supplying Versailles and cathedrals with famously white, less smoky, beeswax candles, a business that continued through revolutions and restorations. In this century, the company has focused mostly on very high-end, perfumed candles; and in 2017, it began producing perfumes under the simple name “Trudon”, working with noted perfumers such as Lyn Harris, Antoine Lie, and Yann Vasnier.

The latter was the creator of today’s scent, Mortel. M. Vasnier has a real gift for accords that involve spices and resins, which is on full display in Mortel. According to the brand’s website, it has notes of: Pimento, Black Pepper (top); Mystikal, Somalian Frankincense (heart); Benzoin Resin, Pure Cistus, and Myrrh (base). Fragrantica also lists nutmeg as a top note, and woody notes in the heart and base. Mystikal is a Givaudan captive molecule that specifically smells like burning incense. Wow, it really does! It doesn’t smell particularly smoky, which I appreciate.

Bottle of Mortel eau de parfum, from Cire Trudon
Mortel, by Cire Trudon; image from brand website.

I’ve written before about the use of incense in traditional Christian services, including the funeral mass for my late mother-in-law. As I wrote there, she absolutely loved Christmas, and I always think of her at this time of year, especially because she had made for us three beautiful pieces of cross-stitched embroidery with depictions of Father Christmas, which we bring out in December. She had just taken up the hobby of counted cross-stitch when I joined the family, and she became a very accomplished needlewoman; her later works had the tiniest stitches, on real linen fabric. I began doing it myself after she showed me how, although I haven’t cross-stitched anything in several years (three children and a full-time job outside the home ensure that there isn’t much time for embroidery). But as I contemplate my own retirement in the next few years, and as my youngest child is no longer even a teenager, I’ve started looking again at the patterns I’ve collected over the years, and organizing my materials, thinking that I’d like to take it up again.

Back to Mortel! The heart phase that really smells like incense and frankincense lasts a good long time. It’s not overpowering as a dabber from a sample vial; if I owned a spray bottle, I would proceed with caution! I cannot emphasize enough how much this stage smells exactly like the fragrant smoke that emanates from a thurible in church. Here’s what I think is very clever, aside from the obvious quality of the materials (which one would expect in a product from a company that has specialized for centuries in creating candles for cathedrals and palaces). The opening of black pepper and pimento is bright and a bit sharp — as if a match has been struck and is flaring up, to ignite a censer. The heart phase is all about incense and frankincense, as if one is smelling the actual incense while it burns in a church or other place of worship (the tradition of using incense in religious rites is observed in Judaism and other ancient religions).

Pope Francis, incense, Roman Catholic mass, statue of Mary and Christ Child.
Pope Francis uses incense to venerate a statue of Mary during Mass at the Verano cemetery in Rome (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

As that dries down, the woody notes emerge, and the impression is that of an old church, whose wooden pews and structures have been so imbued with incense over centuries that the scent still floats on the air when no incense is burning. I’ve smelled that so many times, in many visits to old churches and cathedrals in Europe. Note — Mortel doesn’t have any of the damp, musty smells that can also permeate ancient churches. (A favorite family memory recalls the time when we lived in Brussels, when my sisters and I were children; our parents took us to many historic sites on weekends, making the most of our sojourn in Europe. My little sister, who was about 5 or 6 at the time, as we entered yet another cathedral on one occasion, wailed “Oh, no, not another smelly old church!”). So, to my nose, Mortel traces the progression of incense being used in a church, from the time it is lit to the time when it lingers in the wood and air as a fragrant memory. M. Vasnier himself has described the setting as an artisan’s fiery forge, but there is no doubt that this son of Brittany would know the smell of an ancient church.

Mortel and its evocation of church are especially appropriate today, which is the third Sunday in Advent, also known as “Gaudete Sunday” in more traditional liturgies. Gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin; so this Sunday, sometimes also called “Rose Sunday” because the clergy can wear rose-colored vestments, is an occasion to focus on the most joyful aspects of Advent. It is sometimes symbolized on an Advent wreath by a pink candle.

Advent wreath with colored candles
Advent with candles, including Gaudete pink candle

Have you tried any Trudon fragrances? Any favorites?

Perfume Chat Room, December 10

Perfume Chat Room, December 10

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, December 10, and it’s the last official day of final exams at my workplace! Hurray — it has been a long, long fall semester with several unexpected challenges. Although I’ll still be working next week, it will be very quiet with most of the faculty and students having departed for their winter break. I’ve been diligently posting daily about the little surprises in my DIY Advent calendar, which has been great fun.

We’re looking forward to our son’s return from college next week; although he is so close by that we can see him any time, we try to give him his space and only show up at his side of the campus when he requests it (he attends the same university where I work). I’ve been having a hard time getting into the true holiday spirit, and I think it’s because this is really the first Christmas when we haven’t had at least one kid living at home the whole month. Last year, both of our daughters had moved home during the pandemic, so they were here even though our son was living on campus for his freshman year. Now, they live elsewhere with roommates, though still very close by, and they’ll probably come here around December 23 and stay through Boxing Day.

I’m very excited because I found a gift for my husband that he hadn’t already chosen and bought for himself! He is famous for just getting the few things he wants, which makes it hard for his family to surprise him. I did show it to him online before buying it, to make sure he would like it, but he was delighted and surprised by what I had found (it’s a framed print of one of his favorite places). Yay! I’ve caved to his way of doing gifts, though, in that I buy fragrances I want for him to “give” me. He has actually done very well when choosing fragrances for me on his own, but he’d rather I choose as he knows I usually have something particular in mind that I’d like.

I still resist the cash transfers that many young adults request as gifts. To me, that’s not a gift — it’s a transaction. Even if I give cash or gift cards, I still add an actual physical gift. How do you and your family manage holiday gifts, if you exchange gifts?

Hands exchanging holiday gift; image from triplepundit.com
Holiday gift-giving; image from triplepundit.com

Perfume Chat Room, November 26

Perfume Chat Room, November 26

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, November 26, and it is “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving in the US and traditionally a major launch to the holiday shopping season. As usual, I encourage supporting independent or small businesses, and as usual, some wonderful independent perfumers have holiday promotions.

First up is DSH Perfumes, by perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. To get 20% off sitewide (except for one fragrance), use the code light20. This includes her annual set of Heirloom Elixir fragrances; if you haven’t previously subscribed, you can buy the whole 2021 set!

Next is 4160 Tuesdays, the company founded and owned by English perfumer Sarah McCartney. Today, which Sarah calls “Hot Pink Friday”, you can buy two, get a third free — and the third one can be the most expensive of the group! In Sarah’s words: “This is how it works: It is for 30ml, 50ml and 100ml bottles of 4160Tuesdays and OML perfumes. Here’s the unusual part. The free bottle can be the most expensive one. All three bottles in the offer must be the same size. You buy two bottles of perfume, then write the name of the third one in the notes as you finish the checkout process. You get a free perfume for every two you buy. This happens until 30th November.” Sarah and team can ship 30 ml bottles to the US.

Rogue Perfumery, owned and run by perfumer Manuel Cross, has 25% off at his Etsy site, November 26-29.

Do you have any recommendations or codes for weekend sales by independent perfumers or perfumeries? I include perfumeries, because they’ve had a tough time during this pandemic, and their support is crucial to independent, artisan, and niche perfumers.

Row of shoppers with bags
Black Friday shopping; image from waldengalleria.com
Perfume Chat Room, November 12

Perfume Chat Room, November 12

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, November 12, and I’m taking my husband to get his booster vaccine later this morning, after physical therapy (he’s recovering from knee surgery and can’t drive). Wish us luck! The Christmas ads are proliferating, as are store decorations. In the past, I was a bit irritated by the displays that went up the day after Halloween, but this year I am enjoying them! I’m really ready to celebrate a more normal holiday season, as evidenced by a recent errand I ran to Target, which is completely overrun with holiday-themed everything — and not only did I not cringe, I beamed.

I keep seeing ads for gorgeous Advent calendars with lovely miniatures of various cosmetics and fragrances. The ones from Chanel, Dior, and Guerlain are spectacular! I’m not really tempted, though, because most of the calendars include many products I probably wouldn’t use. I’ve only ever bought one such Advent calendar; it was by Atelier Cologne, and each daily offering was a sample or mini vial of one of their scents. I may create my own Advent calendar for fun, and just fill one with minis and samples I haven’t tried yet, which would encourage me to work my way through more of them!

Have you ever bought a fragrance or cosmetic Advent calendar? Which one? Are you tempted by any of this year’s offerings?

Collection of beauty product Advent calendars, 2021
Advent calendars; image from oprahdaily.com
Scent Semantics, November 2021

Scent Semantics, November 2021

The inimitable Portia has come up with a new game for us perfumistas, to take place on six different blogs, every month! The chosen day for “Scent Semantics” is the first Monday of each month. The bloggers will take turns choosing a single word, then write a fragrant reflection on it. That could be a memory, of a scent the word evokes or something else, an actual name of a scent or note, a favorite work of art, whatever comes to mind. And readers can play in the comments, or just comment on the post!

The participating blogs are: Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum Girl, The Alembicated Genie, Eau La La, Undina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. I hope you’ll all check out the Scent Semantics posts on each blog!

Scent Semantics blog list

Portia chose the first word: “brave.” I have a fragrance I like to wear to feel brave, on days when I want a little confidence boost. It is Chanel No. 19. I hadn’t really thought of it that way until I started reading more about fragrance a few years ago, and learned that many people find it challenging, elegant but remote and even, one might say, a bit bitchy.

I feel it helps me straighten my shoulders and stiffen my backbone. This is just a conceit, of course, but No. 19 is undoubtedly cool, elegant, a bit unapproachable. I wear it when I anticipate conflict of some kind, especially at work. It reminds me to stay cool, and use my intellect instead of my emotions while I navigate whatever the conflict is. The version I have is the vintage eau de toilette, which means that the galbanum and oakmoss are full-force presences. I love both of them, there is just something about their bitter greenness that appeals to me (I also love bitter greens and vegetables, like arugula, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, etc., and we know that the senses of taste and smell are closely linked). Bergamot is another astringent note, one that I also associate with the color green.

Bitter greens; image from Splendid Recipes

Among No. 19’s floral notes are also some of my favorite flowers, which I think my subconscious must find comforting as well as empowering: hyacinth, iris, rose, lily of the valley, narcissus. Perfumes aside, those are flowers I grow myself, and grew up with, since my parents were avid gardeners. The heart of No. 19 is not bitter, or particularly green although the galbanum continues to make itself felt, but the most prominent flower notes are cool ones, like iris, orris root, lily of the valley, and narcissus. This is the stage when I think many perfume lovers find No. 19 lovely but remote — a bit standoffish.

The base notes are stern, dominated by oakmoss, vetiver, and leather. Minor players are cedar, musk, and sandalwood — all warmer notes than the dominant ones. Taken together, No. 19 gives me a quick burst of energy at the start, with bergamot’s brightness and galbanum’s assertiveness, then comes a heart phase that is more cerebral than ebullient, finishing with the formal base of its chypre structure. If that won’t stiffen a woman’s resolve and backbone, I don’t know what will! All of these impressions align with the presentation of my vintage EDT; I have the tall, refillable spray canister, with its square but rounded edges, its sleek columnar shape, its brushed silvery metal casing. If I had to pick a female incarnation of this fragrance, it would be another fashion diva, sometimes compared to Chanel: Diane von Furstenberg as she was in the 1970s, building a fashion empire on a simple wrap dress.

Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg in office
Diane von Furstenberg, 1974

What fragrance or fragrant memory might you associate with the word brave?

Perfume Chat Room, October 29

Perfume Chat Room, October 29

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, October 29, and I have exciting news to share! Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies, now posting on A Bottled Rose, has organized a group of us bloggers to engage in monthly “Scent Semantics”, when we will post on the same day (first Monday of each month) a fragrance-related reflection on a single word, linking it to a particular scent. We’ll take turns choosing the “word of the month.” You’ll have to check back on Monday to find out which word is first! And I hope you’ll join in this word game in the comments!

Portia provided this wonderful definition, by way of explaining the name of the game:

Scent Semantics, from “Semantics (Ancient Greek: σημαντικός sēmantikós, “significant”)[a][1] is the study of meaning, reference, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct disciplines, including philosophy, linguistics and computer science.”

I love this name because in college, I majored in Classical Languages and Literature, with an emphasis on Ancient Greek. My official WordPress account name and email is The Wise Kangaroo, which is a mnemonic used by English speakers to remember a particular Greek metrical pattern from Ancient Greek lyric poetry and drama, about which I wrote my thesis.

The participating blogs are:

Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum Girl, The Alembicated Genie, Eau La La, Undina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. I hope you’ll all check out the Scent Semantics posts on each blog next week!

In other excitement this week, Halloween is coming up on Sunday and here in the USA, public health officials have given a green light to the traditional trick-or-treating. As they noted, it is by definition an outdoor activity that usually includes masks, lol. So now I have to stock up on candy, because our neighborhood of old houses placed close together and linked by sidewalks is a very popular destination for families with treat-seeking children. Not only do we get kids from the neighborhood itself, other families drive here, park, and walk around with their kids. All are welcome! Even the long-leggedy beasties.

Halloween costumed dogs
Dogs as long-leggedy beasties

Do you have any Halloween plans? Any favorite scents to wear on Halloween? I think I may have to pull out some of my spookier samples from Solstice Scents.

Colorful jack o' lanterns with face masks
Pumpkins with face masks