Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

As I write this, the extreme cold continues in the US — so cold that a friend who lives in Boston posted this photo of a bottle of Creed Viking in the window of the Copley Square Neiman Marcus, frozen solid:

Creed Viking frozen bottle at Boston Neiman Marcus

Frozen bottle of Creed Viking, New Year’s Day 2018.

She reports that other bottles displayed in the window were cracking and leaking from the cold! Let’s hope they were all factices filled with colored water. Although it does seem amusingly fitting that a bottle of Viking should be frozen solid …

I have many hopes for 2018, but let me simply say, if you are reading this, I appreciate your presence at Serenity Now and any comments you’d like to share about scents and sensibilities! Happy New Year!

 

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?

Festival of Scents: A History Through an Olfactory Lens

Fascinating exploration of scent in a historic setting. I agree, I hope more museums do this kind of exhibit.

I make scents

It has been a while since I last composed a reflection. But despite the hectic period with personal decisions and career transition, I have not forgotten to pen my thoughts here and there, and with this piece, I assemble them together to describe my fascination with scents from a recent visit to a festival dedicated to olfactory experience.

Festival der Düfte, literally for ‘Festival of Scents’, took place between 17th and 22nd October 2017 at Wildegg Castle. It aims to expose members of the public to the rich history of scents and perfumes. With the help of perfumers, some of the rooms and halls of the baroque-ised castle were equipped with scents inspired by their historical contexts.

schloss wildegg view

As I made my way through the rooms, I was greeted by olfactory exhibits that brought their histories to life. Suddenly, these chambers could narrate the lives of the Effingers…

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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

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah perfumes (candle menorah) apped by Robert H Hannukah perfumes? We will get to that … first some history. Almost every religion worldwide has a winter celebration dedicated to the return of the light in the dark days of winter. After the Roman Saturnalia or Solstice celebrations, the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah is one of the…

via The Eight (plus 1) Perfumes of Hanukkah + Hanukkah Perfumes Draw — Cafleurebon – Perfume and Beauty Blog

A Black Friday Weekend Deal for Gourmand Lovers

A Black Friday Weekend Deal for Gourmand Lovers

After I had written my last post, about Montale’s Intense Cafe, I started looking for other coffee-based scents. Lo and behold — a new independent perfume line called Ganache Parfums consists entirely of gourmand scents, and it has a whole “Joe Project” collection of coffee-based fragrances! It also has a wonderful deal this weekend, so there are a few more hours within which to benefit, and to support an independent small business. Not only does Ganache Parfums have a 45% off discount code site-wide, d@rkchocolate, but it also offers two “Taste of Ganache” Flight Sets for $55 each. Each set (“Just Desserts” and “Coffee and Dessert”) has five 30ml bottles of some of their most popular gourmand fragrances. Two more 30 ml scents will be included as a gift with purchase, and shipping is free for orders over $50! Now that’s a yummy deal. Please share in the comments anything you know about this line, or whether you have tried it.

Scent Sample Sunday: Montale Intense Cafe

Scent Sample Sunday: Montale Intense Cafe

I received Intense Cafe as part of a fragrance subscription service and it has quickly become a favorite. Classified by Fragrantica as an “Oriental Vanilla”, its main floral note is a rich rose, supported by notes of coffee, amber, vanilla and musk. This is my first Montale fragrance and it’s a hit! I’ve been complimented on it by an elderly lady while buying plants at a local nursery, and by my son while driving him to a gathering with other teenaged boys, as well as by my husband even through his recent head cold.

Intense Cafe is a great rose scent for cooler months. After an initial fruity rose burst, the coffee notes hover in the background and are more like a latte; in fact, much like the way I like my lattes from the local baristas: double shots of espresso, lots of foamy milk, and a sprinkle of vanilla powder on top. Kafkaesque sensed cocoa too, sometimes even more than coffee, but that was not my experience. Unlike many Oriental fragrances, Intense Cafe isn’t spicy; it is creamy and a bit sweet, though not overly so and not a gourmand scent, to me. Some commenters on Fragrantica think it smells like oud; I think Kafkaesque is probably right, that they are smelling another note she says is typical of Montale, Iso-E Super, as I’m not picking up anything I recognize as oud (not that I’m an expert).

The fragrance has great longevity; a few small sprays in the morning and I am set for the day. I emphasize “small sprays” because it is quite potent. Apparently sillage is excellent too; I was at a local nursery recently to buy pansies for my winter planters (yes, they bloom all winter here — lovely!) and an older lady came over to me from at least 20 feet away to ask what fragrance I had on, because she liked it so much. Keep in mind that we were already surrounded by nice flower scents from living plants, and Intense Cafe still made its presence known.

To my delight, there is actually such a thing as a vanilla rose latte! Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Company (from which I borrowed the featured image above) has this recipe: Vanilla Rose Latte. Even Nespresso has a recipe for a Rose Caffe Latte with Vanilla, though ironically, the recipe for their automatic espresso machine seems much more complicated than the one from Barnie’s. I think I will just add some rose simple syrup to my next order from Starbucks once I get it home, and see how that tastes!

There is even a rose variety Cafe Latte, available through a marvelously named flower wholesaler in Holland, The Parfum Flower Company. Honestly, the photo below looks exactly how Intense Cafe smells to me: less of a red, fruity rose and more of a soft, dusty capuccino pink with lashings of cream.

Rose Cafe Latte from flower wholesaler Parfum Flower Company

Rose Cafe Latte; image from Parfum Flower Company.

The Parfum Flower Company specializes in highly scented garden roses for special occasions. As they note in their YouTube video (!), most commercially grown roses now have little or no fragrance. The Parfum Flower Company grows roses like my beloved David Austin Roses, as well as other very fragrant varieties from other hybridizers. Just look at that gorgeous color!

Intense Cafe will likely be one of the few scents I’ve sampled that will move to “full bottle” status on my wishlist. With Christmas approaching, maybe Santa will oblige!

Montale Intense Cafe snowflakes

Montale Intense Cafe; image from http://www.11street.my.