May Melange Marathon: Thank You

May Melange Marathon: Thank You

I pondered and pondered what would be the subject of my last May Melange Marathon post today. How could I pick one out of so many lovely scents? How to choose? It has been easier when I’ve focused on a single note, like muguet or rose — that limits the candidates quite a bit. But this year, when my May Marathon has been a somewhat random mix of “May flowers”, the selection is more difficult.

So instead, I am writing to express my thanks to the many perfumers whose work has given me and others so much pleasure, especially during this past year of pandemic. Trying fragrances and writing about them has been a welcome distraction from the turmoil of 2020 and even into 2021. I am especially thankful for the independent perfumers who have labored through the most difficult economic times I can remember; the independent perfumeries who have done the same; the reviewers, posters, and bloggers whose work I admire and enjoy; and especially the readers who are kind enough to read my blog and others, and who form a supportive community worldwide.

So thank you, in no particular order, Diane St. Clair, Sarah McCartney (and Nick!), Liz Moores, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Jeffrey Dame, Pissara Umavijani, Christi Meshell, Shawn Maher, Jean-Philippe Clermont, Undina, MMKinPA, Neil at The Black Narcissus, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin, Robin and the community at Now Smell This, Portia Turbo and Jin, Megan In Ste. Maxime, Sam Scriven at I Scent You A Day, Tara at A Bottled Rose, The Candy Perfume Boy, Wafts From The Loft, Bloom Perfumery, Perfumology, LuckyScent, Krystal Fragrance, Tigerlily, Indigo Perfumery, CaFleureBon and all its writers and editors, Colognoisseur, Mr. Cologne 76, Sebastian, American Perfumer, Scent Trunk, Fragrantica and all its writers and editors, and so many others I’m sure I’ve left out. I appreciate you all!

Featured image from Dreamstime.com.

Perfume Chat Room, May 14

Perfume Chat Room, May 14

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, May 14, and my “May Melange Marathon” continues! I’m very excited to have received this week several samples from two kind readers (thank you!) and will write about a couple of the scents this month. This weekend is a big occasion for my family — one of my daughters “graduated” from college in May 2020, meaning she got her degree but there was no ceremony, and the only festivities were what we could do for her at home with just her parents and siblings. Luckily, her university is holding a special graduation tomorrow for the May 2020 graduates, so she’ll get to walk with quite a few of her friends, and we’ll be able to celebrate her properly. I’m so happy — she worked really hard all four years of college and graduated summa cum laude, but she missed out on all the pomp and circumstance to go with that. She was a really good sport about it, but it was yet another sadness in a sad year. So this weekend will be a special “What Went Well” weekend, for which I’m very grateful.

So that’s most of what I’ll be doing this weekend! You?

Perfume Chat Room, February 26

Perfume Chat Room, February 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, February 26 — almost the end of the month! We are two months into 2021 — how is this year going for you so far? On some of the other blogs I follow, readers are sharing their experiences of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and their relief at having done so. I’m very happy for them, and I look forward to achieving that milestone myself as soon as possible. It seems so strange to think that it has been just about a year since the world began to shut down. I remember helping to distribute information to university students last February, about a new virus that had recently appeared, and the recommended (at that time) precautions such as frequent handwashing. At the very start of March 2020, we kept to our plan of taking our son to Jamaica as part of an organized trip by many seniors’ families; it was his “big” graduation gift. I took sanitizing wipes with us and wiped down our seats on the plane, to my son’s chagrin, then the high-touch surfaces in our hotel room although at that time, Jamaica had not yet had any cases of the novel coronavirus.

We had a wonderful time, we came home, and by the end of March, my husband and I were both working from home, school went remote, spring sports were canceled, and all the traditional events of our son’s senior spring in high school and our daughter’s senior spring at college were canceled. Her graduation was entirely remote; his was postponed until the summer, when it was held outside with limited, distanced, and masked attendance. We were so glad that at least we took that last trip, since we had to cancel all our other travel plans, which had included a family summer trip to London, Paris, and Normandy to celebrate the two graduations, two big birthdays in 2020, and a major wedding anniversary. Our oldest daughter moved home after having lost the two jobs she was working, one in theater and the other in trade show planning. All of that and more, just within the last 12 months.

Yet I’m very thankful that no one close to me has suffered the worst of COVID-19, though sadly some friends lost elderly parents, and we haven’t been able to visit my father-in-law in a year. He was safely vaccinated in late December, so we hope to be able to see him as soon as we get vaccinated ourselves. Miraculously, the continuing care community where he lives had not one case of COVID-19 among residents or staff in all of 2020 (and to date, as far as we know). One daughter, who teaches, had COVID herself in the fall but she had a fairly mild case and seems to have recovered fully. I was thankful to have her living at home where we could take care of her. We haven’t yet revived any travel plans further afield than anywhere we can drive to, but Paris is still calling! Think of all the $$ I will have saved to spend on perfume by the time we get there …

This has turned into more of a “What Went Well” post. So in that vein, what went well for you this week, or month, or year so far? Or, to bring it back to fragrance, if you were planning a trip to Paris, what fragrance sites would you visit and what fragrances would be on your Paris shopping list?

Perfume Chat Room, December 25

Perfume Chat Room, December 25

Merry Christmas, and 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 25, and it is Christmas Day! Happy Christmas to all who celebrate it! This year, it is a strange holiday, with church services online, many fewer gatherings, less Christmas shopping, etc. Not to mention the ongoing distractions here in the US from our crazy-making election year, which seems never to end. But, as “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” reminds us, “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. ‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.’” And so it does.

At Christmas 2020, my family is so thankful for our many blessings. As some of you readers know, I occasionally do a post on “What Went Well” which is a mindfulness and gratitude exercise also called “Three Blessings.” The idea is that one lists a number of things that went well, or turned out to be blessings, in a given period of time. So here are some of mine, for 2020:

  • Good health for all of us, despite one daughter having had COVID 19 this fall (thankfully, she recovered quickly);
  • An effective COVID 19 vaccine, which was given this week to my beloved father-in-law (our sole remaining parent/grandparent) at his assisted living facility;
  • Continued employment for 3 out of the 4 working adults in our family, and an upcoming callback interview for the 4th in the New Year;
  • A roof over our heads in a home we love, in spite of unexpected plumbing repairs and gaping holes in plaster ceilings beneath dismantled bathrooms (!);
  • The ability to afford the repairs;
  • Our loving family that has been able to live together amicably, back together under said roof, during this pandemic;
  • The opportunity and ability to give gifts to each other and to various charities in these troubled times.

What about you, what are the blessings that come to your mind? Or what went well for you recently? And of course, since I mostly write here about fragrance, what fragrance are you wearing for the holidays? I’m currently in Bond No. 9’s I Love New York For Holidays. I expect to try out some of Jo Malone’s Christmas Cologne Sampler later today!

Perfume Chat Room, November 20

Perfume Chat Room, November 20

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 20, and Thanksgiving is next week! Do you have any special plans, given that the CDC is strongly discouraging travel and large family gatherings? One friend of mine with young adult children who no longer live at home has rented a beach house for the week, with elaborate plans for home tests for COVID-19 and a few days of “podding” in quarantine with family meals taken outside. The young adults are traveling by car. If my children lived far away, this plan would tempt me! But two of mine live at home, and the third is at college close by (he’ll return home on Monday for the end of semester, including remote exams, and then for the duration of winter break, as his college won’t reopen until the last week of January.

Our Thanksgivings have mostly included just the five of us anyway (with an occasional friend in need of turkey), since both my husband’s family and mine are based in New England. With two fulltime jobs and three kids, it was never a holiday for which we were willing to travel, after moving South. And the weather here is often very beautiful at Thanksgiving — cool, crisp nights with clear, sunny days. I still have roses blooming!

It’s definitely the season for autumnal fragrances, though. I took out Clinique Wrappings yesterday, which really suited the weather. I’ve been wearing L’Ambre des Merveilles quite a bit, and different versions of Cabochard. What are your favorite autumn scents?

Lastly, what makes you thankful in this weird year of 2020? This blog started out as a way to practice more mindfulness (“Serenity Now”) and occasionally I have posted about “What Went Well“, a gratitude exercise. I’m thankful that my friends and family have mostly stayed safe and well; I’m thankful for one daughter’s recovery from COVID-19 after a relatively mild case; I’m thankful that my children are all here in the same city. I’m so thankful for the dedicated healthcare workers who are showing up every day to help the rest of us. And I’m thankful that so many people drop by this blog to read, whether or not you comment! Thank you!

Featured image from AARP.org; let’s hope they all use hand sanitizer, too!

Fragrant Highlights of 2019: What Went Well

Fragrant Highlights of 2019: What Went Well

Happy New Year! Rather than listing my favorites or “the best” among the fragrances launched in 2019 (other blogs have done that so thoroughly!), I am going to list some of my own fragrance highlights of 2019. Some are actual perfumes, others are fragrant items or experiences. I feel so fortunate. I write about my many blessings in this blog to remind myself that, in spite of challenges and losses, I am thankful for the love and beauty in my life.

  1. First trip to Tuscany, Florence and Venice, with many perfume stops. I will not forget the aromatic scent of the Tuscan hills and the timeless beauty of their landscape — not to mention the fragrances of the vineyards and wines, and the cooking class I took. Florence and Venice were as magical and amazing as expected, and I brought back souvenir fragrances from perfumeries like Santa Maria Novella, I Profumi di Firenze, Aquaflor, Farmacia SS Annunziata dal 1561. Back home, I treated myself to Flower Fusion by The Merchant of Venice (gorgeous glass bottle, lovely fragrance); and my husband gave me Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur la Lagune for Christmas.
  2. Visit to 4160 Tuesdays’ studio in London and meeting Sarah and Nick! If you’re a fan of 4160 Tuesdays’ fragrances, and you wonder if Sarah really is as cool and interesting as she seems, the answer is YES! She and Nick graciously spent time with me, talking about their fragrances. And yes, I came away with several purchases, including the beautiful Truth Beauty Freedom Love and the silk scarf designed to go with it. I’m excited to see their new studio on Raynham Road when I visit London again! I also took part in the crowd-funding (such a brilliant idea) of some 2019 launches by 4160 Tuesdays, including Clouds’ Illusion, Christmas Concert, and Meet Me On The Corner
  3. Perfume-making workshop in Nice, at Parfum Et Vous, recommended by Megan of the blog “MeganInSainteMaxime.” It was a beginners’ workshop, but so much fun! And I was introduced to a line of fragrances I hadn’t tried before, Baruti.
  4. Meeting Megan in Cannes, and visiting the office of Atelier des Ors, including meeting its founder, Jean-Philippe Clermont and trying several of its fragrances which were created by Marie Salamagne: Nuda Veritas, Crepuscule des Amesand Choeur des Anges.
  5. The publication of Neil Chapman’s wonderful book, “Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent.” Neil writes one of the longest-running and best blogs about perfume, “The Black Narcissus“; he is a true connoisseur and collector of fine fragrance as well as a very interesting, creative person. It was so exciting to read about his work on the book and its eventual publication and launch!
  6. Learning how to use Instagram!
  7. Two very special fragrance sets/Christmas gifts, which I can’t wait to explore: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ 2019 Heirloom Elixir Collection, and Sarah McCartney’s “January Joy Box” from 4160 Tuesdays.
  8. Giving in to temptation and ordering Papillon Perfumery‘s Bengale Rouge. It hasn’t arrived yet, from Ave Parfum, but I expect it shortly! This has been one of the most highly rated perfumes of 2019; given how much I love Dryad, I’m excited to have this.
  9. The continued success of St. Clair Scents, another independent artisan perfumer, whose fragrances Gardener’s Glove, Frost, Casablanca, and First Cut I thoroughly enjoyed in 2018. Although I haven’t yet reviewed them, this year’s issue of Pandora and Eve , the “Audacious Innocence Collection”, shows us that Diane St. Clair is here to stay, thank goodness, in perfumery as well as her legendary butter.
  10. Getting to try L’Iris de Fath, thanks to the wonderful associate at Jovoy Paris’ London store.

Some of the blogosphere’s “Best of 2019” lists:

Australian Perfume Junkies

Bois de Jasmin

A Bottled Rose

Cafleurebon

Colognoisseur

I Scent You A Day

Persolaise

What were some of your fragrant highlights of 2019? Feel free to comment broadly, it’s a broad category! Thank you for reading my online musings this year.

Featured image: Fleurs et Flammes, Antonio Alessandria Parfums.

What Went Well Wednesday

What Went Well Wednesday

I only do this occasionally now, but for a while on this blog I had a regular feature called What Went Well Wednesday. It was based on a gratitude practice also called Three Blessings, in which one lists three blessings, or three things that went well, and sometimes WHY they went well. The idea is to refocus one’s attention on what is going well in life and how that happened, including one’s own agency.

Tonight is Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving here in the US, so I’m counting my blessings.

  1. I am so thankful for my husband and three children, who are all happy, nice, healthy people; and I’m thankful that my children get along so well that they are currently out, just them, having a “sibling bonding” dinner and movie together. Because they are good people making good choices, becoming young adults who make us so proud!
  2. I am thankful for the rest of our extended families: siblings, siblings-in-law, nephews, nieces, and one elderly father-in-law, who is the only surviving parent of the original four parents of myself and my husband. Because they are also good people, doing good things in the world, living their best lives as best they can, living conscientiously in the world.
  3. I am thankful for the daily blessings of good health, a loving spouse, a pretty home, a garden to enjoy, a temperate climate, an interesting and well-paid job (even with its many challenges), the opportunities to keep learning, and the privilege and safety that come with being an American citizen.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate it, and blessings to all of you who don’t. I’m also thankful for all of you who do me the honor of reading this blog and offering your own thoughts here. What makes you thankful?

What Went Well in 2017

What Went Well in 2017

“What Went Well” is a gratitude exercise also known as “Three Blessings.” The idea is that on a regular basis, daily or weekly, one lists three things that went well, and why. (Adding “why” allows one to pinpoint times when acts of one’s own or others contributed to what went well). When I started this blog, while recovering from a broken bone, and during a very stressful period at work, I posted my three blessings weekly, on “What Went Well Wednesday.” I still pause regularly to count my blessings, but I no longer post them. However, a reader recently suggested that I do so again, so here is the year-end wrap-up of “what went well” in 2017! Please feel free to chime in with your own!

  1. I was able to avert a dreaded change in my workplace, that would have had me report to a colleague who has been undermining me for several years, thereby putting my job at risk. This was possible because a new chief executive arrived before that change was made, who had known me, my good work, and excellent reputation for many years — and because I mustered the courage to speak to him candidly about it, so he reversed the plan of the outgoing leadership. My work life now feels less stressful and insecure than it has for several years.
  2. In the face of loss, this year’s deaths of my mother and my husband’s, our extended  families were drawn together and supported each other better than might have been expected. Because we made the effort to recognize each adult child’s different experience and grief, and responded to each other with gentleness and empathy.
  3. Our three children continue to delight us with their growth, resilience, gifts, and love. Because all three have faced various challenges endemic to adolescence and young adulthood with grace, humor, kindness, and perseverance.

I don’t normally post much or speak much about faith, because that is such an individual matter for every person: whether or not one has faith, and how one chooses to honor or express it. In the Lord’s house, there are many mansions. I am also frankly horrified at the misuse of religion to justify the unjustifiable, such as cruelty to others and a domineering will to power regardless of others’ beliefs. It often seems that those who are most outspoken about their own religion are most intolerant of others’, and I want no part of that. However, I pause now to note that my own faith (progressive mainstream Protestant Christian) and our family’s worship community, filled as it is with kind, intelligent, thoughtful, decent people, who try to make the world a better and more beautiful, charitable place, have been especially important to me this year. I take comfort in knowing that our mothers’ long illnesses are over, and that they have been restored to their best essence. So I’ll wrap up my year-end three blessings with my favorite prayer, from the end of each Sunday’s service:

Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

May we all enjoy a peaceful, happy 2018! What went well for you this year?

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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What Went Well: Thankful

What Went Well: Thankful

It has been a while since I posted my weekly “three blessings” on What Went Well Wednesday, but I feel the need to do so in light of the tragedy in Orlando last weekend. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed by the evil and anger that prompt such an act. But it is better to remember to light one’s candles in the dark. My three blessings this week:

  1. I go to an amazing church that rallied quickly to hold a beautiful service of remembrance on Monday night, to mourn and honor the victims in Orlando. And it was straight clergy who did that, understanding that our LGBT congregants were so grief-stricken that they needed our community’s love and support.
  2. At that service, our extraordinary Bishop spoke eloquently, lovingly, passionately, inclusively, about how evil is real but God is much, much more real.
  3. I have been reaching out to students and getting very appreciative responses, which reminds me of what I enjoy about my work.

Do you have “three blessings” to ponder in this week of sadness?