Hyacinths in the Air

still life with hyacinthIn Britain it might be bluebells, but here in North America one of the best clues that Spring has really arrived, is this scent: grassy, pervasive, and fresh.  When I smell it a cascade of images always runs down the surface of my mind: Easter services I’ve sat through in buttermilk colored southern churches, huge bouquets in white wicker baskets, bristling with pink, blue, and yellow hyacinths in front of altar rails, and the bowls of faience pottery we always had at home, with forced hyacinth bulbs in them every March. These last, just because. As my Mother said, we were good and tired of winter. Continue reading

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More Powder to You: Luctor et Emergo and Farnesiana

woman powderingTo powder or not to powder?  It’s not even a question of the nose, no matter how shiny, but of what wafts off your skin.  Powder these days carries with it the suggestion of the infantile. I bet this has to do with a major brand of baby powder co-opting what must have been a popular scent of the thirties or forties, and sending it, in millions of talc bottles, to nurseries around the world with the result that when we smell powder, we tend to say, “Oh, that’s for babies.”  Continue reading

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Over to Spring

snowdropsHow many people who wear perfume are seasonal I wonder?  Many aren’t, the folk who wear perfume as a fashion accessory or who have favorite notes that they always wear.  If you adore vanilla, or if amber is your personal vice, it’s difficult to exile the essence for six months just because of a little planetary activity.  You know what you like and what you like accompanies you all the time-in one formula-or another.

This strikes me as being efficient and polished and disciplined. Selectivity makes so much sense on every level, including the budgetary one, and wouldn’t you know?  I just can’t. No matter how much I talk myself down, there are always about six to ten scents in my wardrobe every year, and I change them as soon as the seasons change.  I can’t help myself. Continue reading

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Working Definition of Beauty: Deneuve and Beautiful

deneuveMy brother as a boy once irritated me very much  by passing unkind judgements on the looks of all (or very nearly all) the females we knew .  In exasperation, I asked just who he did actually find attractive.

“Well,” he said after some long internal deliberation, “I guess Catherine Deneuve is sorta good looking.”

He was not the only one to think so.  Back in the day, around the late seventies, Chanel itself had hit a low point in No5 profits.  Their eventual salvation came with the hiring of Catherine Deneuve as the face of No 5. Her selection boosted sales immediately, and if you think these choices are slam dunks, just consider the recent debacle of hiring Brad Pitt as the face.  You can go wrong no matter how beautiful your model is, if the aforesaid model does not connect in some way with the aspirations of your audience.  All the women in the world wanted to look like Deneuve in 1978, but in 2011 not many of them wanted to look like the Pittster, and there were presumably not enough male buyers of No5 to make up the deficit. Continue reading

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The Green Ladies: Odalisque, Eclipse, Le Temps d’un Fête

DSCN7128Wouldn’t you know it? As I’m writing this the skies are turning that cotton wool gray that proceeds snow,* six to ten inches of snow, the weather channels say, and it’s already March.

This makes me yearn for green perfume, the lateness of this year’s winter aconites and snowdrops, and the non appearance of the crocus, put me in mind of all that I’m not smelling this year. Even if they bloom those flowers are going to be two weeks later than usual, and that’s probably an optimistic estimate, too. Continue reading

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Five of the Best Violet Perfumes

V._sorroria_Red_Giant_sweet violet GrovesSince I started this whole month with a look back at the nostalgic violets of the turn of the century (and their descendants in the perfume world) maybe I had now better step back and consider some more contemporary violets.

This is slightly difficult.  If you want to smell nothing but violets, Penhaligon’s Violetta is a perfectly good way to go, these violets being the green leafy peppery sort.  That is, if you want straightforward violets, but since you’re here, maybe what you want is a few recommendations that take the humble violet and give it sophistication.  If you know the violet theme, in other words, maybe it’s time to look for some variations. Here are some of the best.  Most of these are still in production, where they are not, I’ve checked that there is a plentiful supply online at reasonable prices. Continue reading

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Five of the Best Rose Perfumes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn order to round off the month of February with its romance intact, I decided to write a couple of lists, one for the best violet scents I know, and one for the best roses.  In order to be fair and to make life easier for people who may not have smelled some vintage wonders, all my picks are still in production.  I’m not recommending something you just can’t come across, and one-at least- will be in the under fifty dollar range.  We must have some mercy upon our wallets.  Continue reading

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Chocolate Irises to Love: Iris Ganache and Dimanche

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANearing the end of February I find that I have not gotten around to one of my favorite topics: chocolate.

Perhaps it came to mind because last weekend I was in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and you can’t go far there without chocolate heaving into view in one form or another. Then I started to hanker after a recently discontinued Guerlain, Iris Ganache,  which yearning is sure to wind up making me poorer.   I’m mystified by Iris Ganache’s appeal for me anyhow, since I’m the blogger who said she didn’t own any gourmands. Continue reading

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N’Aimez Que Moi and Other Perfume Epics

WW1Some people clearly think of perfume as being analogous to the movies, but I come from a family of book lovers and to me, perfumes are most closely related to written material.  Maybe that’s how perfumers see them too, as I notice they refer to “writing” a perfume, and their different styles can contrast as strongly as literary ones, from the huge Zola-like effects of Maurice Roucel, to the pithy short stories of Jean Claude Ellena. Continue reading

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Delicious Valentine

IMG_5088Not that I’m anybody’s idea of the late Julia Child.

Let me re-phrase that.  I am NOT anybody’s idea of the late Julia Child.  I would be all about the collapsed half of the soufflé and never about the still standing side, however, even I can sometimes bake.

When I’m baking one of my favorites is the Angel food cake.  You can go wrong here.  Sugar is essentially powdered sugar – or else….  The egg whites have to be room temperature.  The oven has to be a hot oven with no cold regions or your cake will be lopsided, and you have to turn you cake upside down immediately.  No fooling.

IMG_5083 For Valentine’s Day I like to substitute some of the water in the mix (if all else fails) with red food coloring, and a shot of double strength vanilla essence from Penzey’s for the perfect pink vanilla angel food cake.  You are after pinkness of a most unsubtle sort.  This is the basis of my Valentine’s Angel food Cake.  See?  Ridiculous, no?

IMG_5085 It is, however, plenty Valentine–ish, does not interfere with dieting, and eats very well with chocolate, strawberries, a glass of champagne and a spritz of Shalimar!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers!

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