Fragrance Friday and Saturday Snippet: Le Petit Prince

Fragrance Friday and Saturday Snippet: Le Petit Prince

I am reposting this from my other blog, “Old Herbaceous”, where I post about gardening and garden-related books. It seems appropriate for a “Fragrance Friday” because this rose, “Le Petit Prince”, has won awards for its fragrance and that is a major reason why I bought it for my garden. I am growing it in a large pot that can be moved around until I learn more about its habits and where it might grow best. It is, indeed, marvelously fragrant!

Old Herbaceous

This is a tardy Saturday Snippet, posted on a Sunday because I spent most of yesterday actually planting things in my garden! But I have the perfect reason to post this weekend, complete with literary tie-in: my new rosebush, Le Petit Prince.

Also known as La Rose du Petit Prince, this beautiful rose is named for the classic novella Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which features a Rose who is the Little Prince’s responsibility and love, in spite of her flaws.

Illustration from Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Le Petit Prince and his Rose

But here’s some additional, wonderful information about the actual rose, from the blog www.thelittleprince.com:

“For over 50 years the Pépinières et Roseraies Georges Delbard nursery gardeners have been creating exceptional roses. Very possibly you have a Claude Monet or Comtesse de Ségur rose bush growing in your garden … It was back in 2008 that they first thought of…

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Fragrance Friday: The Scents of Easter

Fragrance Friday: The Scents of Easter

Easter is my favorite holiday. Yes, I love Christmas too, but Christmas involves more work over a longer period of time than Easter, and it has been so commercialized that it’s hard to hear the church’s messages over the din of jingle bells and cash registers. We seem to have managed to keep the focus on the religious meaning of Easter; the secular hasn’t taken over as it has with Christmas. After all, as our minister said on Sunday, no one even likes the song “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” (Although one small boy piped up from the congregation, “I do!”).

I know one of the reasons I love Easter so much is that it comes with the start of spring, a particularly beautiful season in my part of the world which calls to my gardener’s soul. Flowers and trees blooming everywhere, days getting longer, sunnier and warmer — plus there is chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Especially in my house. The scents of Easter and spring are my favorite ones: hyacinths, daffodils, lilies of the valley, Japanese magnolias, even an early rose or two. Lots of fresh greenness bursting from the earth. We always have a pot of Easter lilies in the house for the holiday, and pots of forced spring bulbs. Our church’s floral guild goes a little crazy and blankets the entire church in garlands of roses, lilies, and other fragrant flowers.

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It should come as no surprise, then, that this is the season when I happily break out my favorite floral fragrances: Penhaligon’s Ostara, for instance, named for the pagan goddess whose name is also the root for the word “Easter.” I’ve also been wearing Chanel No. 22, a heady concoction of white roses and other flower notes, Jo Loves‘ White Rose and Lemon Leaves, Berdoues’ Somei Yoshino (cherry blossoms), Jo Malone’s Lily of the Valley and Ivy, Lili Bermuda’s Lily, and others. I’m hoping to make our annual spring visit this weekend to an amazing private garden that is home to tens of millions of daffodil bulbs planted up and down hillsides:

Woodland daffodils, GIbbs Gardens, March 2016

Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens, March 2016

I love the sheer over-the-top exuberance of these floral outpourings, and that is what the whole season of spring is like here, all over our city: flamboyant azaleas in Easter egg hues layered under the floating white and pale pink blossoms of dogwoods and Japanese magnolias, underplanted with all shades of yellow and white narcissus or extravagantly bright tulips, combined with swaths of the light blue starflowers that spread here like weeds. Welcome, Spring!

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Fragrance Friday: SJP Stash Unspoken

Fragrance Friday: SJP Stash Unspoken

I developed a strange liking for the original SJP Stash when it came out — strange, because it really is not my usual vibe. I didn’t like it much when I first tried it in store, but I sprayed some on a paper slip and took that home. Lo and behold, every time I found myself sniffing the air, thinking “what is that alluring scent?”, it was the slip with Stash on it. And this went on for a week! At the end of that week, I caved and went and bought one of the gift sets on sale at Ulta.

Now there is SJP Stash Unspoken, a flanker. And I really like that too, though they are different in many ways. Stash Unspoken has these notes, according to Fragrantica:

Top: Pink pepper, Quince
Heart: Wisteria, Honeysuckle, Peony
Base: Musk, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Frankincense

In contrast, Stash is described as having “notes of fresh grapefruit, black pepper and aromatic sage. Its heart notes include Atlas cedar, patchouli, ginger lily and pistachios, laid on the warm woody base of olibanum, massoia wood, vetiver and musk.” Only one floral in the whole pyramid: ginger lily.

Grid collage of fragrance notes of Sarah Jessica Parker's fragrance SJP Stash.

Fragrance notes of SJP Stash; image from http://www.sjpbeauty.com.

Stash Unspoken, whose heart notes are entirely floral, occupies the ground between woody, aromatic Stash and Sarah Jessica Parker’s first commercial fragrance, Lovely, which is a softer, lightly fruity floral with some spice and woody notes. To my nose, Stash Unspoken is warmer than Lovely. Its opening is fine, didn’t really excite me but didn’t bore or repel me either. Pretty quickly, the floral heart notes emerged. Among them, peony seems the strongest to me. All are light and evoke late spring/early summer; they are very pretty. Then the base notes start to take over, and that’s when I think Stash Unspoken really comes into its own. As the SJP website says: “Stash Unspoken layers brighter, softer notes of floral woods with the sensuous base notes of original Stash.” Although the two scents do not have the same listed base notes, the drydown of Stash Unspoken definitely shows its Stash DNA. There is a woody warmth, lingering on the skin, that suggests intimacy without being as “sexy” as Stash. You could absolutely think of Stash Unspoken as your daytime scent and original Stash as your nighttime scent. One would segue into the other very nicely!

Many reviewers and commenters felt that the original Stash smelled like a quality niche fragrance; it was different from the mainstream, it is quirky, it holds your interest. Stash Unspoken maintains that niche feel, while being a little more approachable than the original. Similarly, I love the bottle of Stash Unspoken. It is the twin of the original, but in a delightful shade of rose gold. Very feminine, but modern; it feels a little more mature than Lovely without being staid at all, and softer than Stash without losing the quirkiness.

Have you tried the original or the flanker? What did you think?

Fragrance Friday: Excellent Customer Service

Fragrance Friday: Excellent Customer Service

Facebook Fragrance Friends recently posted the question: where have members received excellent customer service when trying/buying fragrance? I thought that was a great question and it offers the opportunity to articulate the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. While I appreciate comments that warn about particularly bad experiences, I also value (maybe even more) fellow fragrance-lovers’ input on particularly good ones; and I also like to give a shout-out to the folks who extend themselves to make a customer’s experience as pleasant as possible. So here is my random list, in no particular order, and I apologize in advance if I’ve left anyone or any place out! I’ll do another post on customer service online, and outside the US.

In-person experiences in the US:

Neiman Marcus. It may be partly because I live in the South, though I’m not a native Southerner, and it really is true that Southerners seem to take a little more time and extend a little more warmth and courtesy with customers. Not all of them, and not all the time, but overall this is true to my experience, including at a large store like Neiman Marcus. I go to the one in my city occasionally; without exception, the sales associates in their large, top-of-the line fragrance department have been courteous, helpful, enthusiastic but never pushy about offering various fragrances to try even when I have said candidly that I was just browsing, or they didn’t have what I originally wanted. Several have been very knowledgeable, not just about a couple of the brands they carry, but about fragrance generally. All have been kind, and usually able and willing to offer small samples. If I were wholly devoted to a high-end house that is rarely available online, I would absolutely develop a relationship with one of its sales associates at NM.

Scent Bar. Such a fun boutique to visit! On my one and only visit to LA, a few years ago, I sought it out with a friend, at their first location in Hollywood. I understand they now have two locations in addition to their website LuckyScent. The store has a delightful set-up, with fragrances displayed by categories on open shelves along all the walls (floral, green, spicy, etc.), fronted by a long bar-like counter. The sales associate responded knowledgeably to my interest in florals, especially lily of the valley, pulling out a wide range of fragrances for me to try, including some I had not heard of before. I ended up buying a terrific Byredo sampler and was also given several samples of the other suggestions she made. I love supporting an independent business like this, btw.

Nordstrom. This department store chain is famed for its customer service, and our local store fits the claim. It has open containers throughout the fragrance department with small, empty sample atomizers that one is invited/encouraged to fill oneself from the many testers on display. Now THAT is nice. Sales associates there have been less expert than those at NM or ScentBar, but still very helpful and courteous.

Sephora. Although service can be hit or miss, depending on the store you visit and who’s on duty that day, I have had several excellent experiences at Sephora, with enthusiastic young sales associates. What they might lack in detailed knowledge, they have compensated for by their willingness to suggest and offer samples of various fragrances, in sincere attempts to help. As a result, I’ve bought more at Sephora than I otherwise might have, because most of what’s in its stores just isn’t “me” — I don’t really experiment with make up, or use most of the products they carry.

What have others experienced that counts as excellent customer service? Praise and compliments only, please, we are dwelling on the positive in this post!

Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray/Colette

Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray/Colette

I’ve now tried something that has tempted me for a while: fragrance for one’s hair, which seems to be a lasting trend. It makes sense, because many people think that fragrance lasts longer on hair than on skin, hair won’t react to allergens as skin might, and most of us are used to scented shampoos. Hair fragrance is a logical next step, and probably more effective than shampoo that gets rinsed out.

When I found two of Tocca’s hair mist fragrances on sale locally, and they happened to be two of their scents that I have previously liked, Liliana and Colette, I pounced. The first one I’ve used is Colette, and I’m happy to say that it is delightful! Fragrantica describes the EDP as “the natural scent of a woman”, a “warm, spicy and sweet” fragrance, with  notes of “bergamot, mandarin, lemon, juniper berry, pink peppercorn, jasmine, violet, cyclamen, incense, sandalwood, musk, amber, vanilla and cedar.” The hair fragrance seems to have the same notes, but it is based on a light, sheer oil instead of alcohol. I don’t detect any oiliness on my hair after I spray it on.

The hair mist definitely opens with a nice light burst of citrus notes, then it quickly moves into a more floral middle stage. None of the flower notes are strong or overpowering, including the jasmine. The vanilla note emerges soon after that, and remains as the base note most evident to my nose, while the other warm base notes gently support and enhance it. It’s a little powdery, and very pretty. It is a peaceful kind of fragrance; it would work well for a quiet afternoon reading at home, or a walk in the park with a friend, or a cuddle session with someone you like — romantic partner or child. I have worn it to bed a couple of times, and it is a soft, serene scent to waft one to sleep. The bottle is really pretty too, heavy with an ornate top. This design may have been discontinued, however; I saw smaller, simpler bottles on the Tocca website, in other scents.

If you like soft, feminine scents and want to try something in your hair, I can recommend this one. Have you tried any other hair fragrances, from Tocca or other brands? Has anyone tried the Chanel No. 5 hair mist?

Bottles of Tocca hair fragrances

Hair fragrances from Tocca; photo from Fragrantica.

 

 

Fragrance Friday: Incense

Fragrance Friday: Incense

A little over a week ago, I had started writing a post about fragrance gifts, in particular how to give someone a fragrance when you’re not sure what that person might like, or whether the recipient might want to try something new. Then on Friday, December 15, we found out that my beloved mother-in-law had died early that morning. My post about holiday gifts suddenly seemed frivolous, and I didn’t have the heart to post anything that day or in the week since; we scrambled to get to her funeral, which was held in another state on Tuesday.

We have just returned home, and I’m trying to resume normal routines, as I know she would want us to do. So for this Fragrance Friday, I’ll write about the beautiful service that celebrated her life a few days ago. My mother-in-law was a devout Roman Catholic; church, faith, and family were central to her life. She and my father-in-law were married for 60 years. He knew exactly what she wanted for her memorial service: a mass, attended mostly by her large extended family and close friends. It was perfect. My mother-in-law loved Christmas and was one of those enthusiasts who decorated every surface with Christmas-themed items starting in mid-November. She often left them up until late January, which we loved, and she made us all many Christmas-themed items, like a handknit Christmas stocking for every grandchild, which are hanging right now from our mantel, and beautiful pieces of needlework like the birth samplers she also made for all her grandchildren. The church where her funeral service was held was filled with evergreens, including several simple trees, bare of all decoration except a few pine cones on their branches and bouquets of scented white flowers — lilies, roses, delphiniums — at their base. She would have loved that, as well as the snow that had fallen the day before, leaving a soft white blanket over the ground.

The priest led this traditional service very capably, including his use of a thurible to cense her casket. This is an ancient tradition in the Roman Catholic church; the fragrant smoke of the incense symbolizes the prayers of the faithful rising up to heaven, as in Psalm 141 (140), verse 2: “Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight: the lifting up of my hands, as evening sacrifice.”  It can also symbolize the soul rising to God. The priest swings the thurible, which is a type of censer used to contain burning incense, always in multiples of three times to stand for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The incense is often made with frankincensebenzoinmyrrhstyraxcopal or other aromatics. These are associated in many cultures with sacrifices, gifts to divinities, and purification, leading to the tradition that the Magi who came to find the newborn Jesus brought him those as gifts, recognizing that he was divine and also that he came to sacrifice himself to save and purify us.

The sadness of the funeral service was gentled by the music and beautiful surroundings, by the loving family gathered to honor my husband’s mother, and by traditions like the use of incense. Its fragrant smoke lingered in the air, sweet and aromatic, as we bade her goodbye. It seems impossible to understand that we won’t see her again in this life; but we are glad she is released from illness and suffering, and we pray we will see her in the next.

Pope Francis, incense, Mary, and Christ Child

Pope Francis, incense, Mary, and Christ Child

Fragrance Friday: Cranberry Chutney

Fragrance Friday: Cranberry Chutney

Like many of you, I’m sure, I spent most of yesterday (Thanksgiving) in the kitchen, happily cooking my way through a number of favorite recipes. One of them is a fragrant chutney I discovered a few years ago, made with cranberries and an excellent replacement for the ubiquitous cranberry sauce that lingers, uneaten, on too many Thanksgiving tables.

Cranberries are considered one of the quintessential Thanksgiving foods, probably because cranberries are native to North America and were known to have been eaten by the Native Americans, and by English settlers in North America as early as the first half of the seventeenth century, according to Martha Stewart. They are highly nutritious, a true superfood with a lot of nutrient bang for the caloric buck as they are low in sugar. However, traditional cranberry sauce recipes tend to add a lot of sugar to this otherwise healthy fruit. As a lover of Indian food, I was happy to find several different recipes for cranberry-based savory chutney; the version I make includes much less sugar, and one of my favorite spices/fragrances, cardamom.

Cranberry Chutney recipe (adapted from Food and Style):

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