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Fragrant New Year 2015

noseWishing all a fragrant, happy New Year, filled with diversity, color, creativity and love. May you draw nourishment from all the resources around you, both seen and hidden, send your roots down into the deep rich mucky muck of Mother Earth, breathe in the unconditional love that surrounds you in the very air itself.  Sending wishes for all good things.

(Scent note: Enjoying the first day of 2015 in sweet and spicy Fleurs d’oranger by Monsieur Serge Lutens over the warm cedar and tea notes of Bulletproof creme by Margot Elena of Tokyo Milk)

Scented Interlude with Chanel No. 18

IMG_2727Call me 19. No. 19. Since the 70’s this has been my favorite Chanel. In 2006, 19 was my gateway fragrance to enter the world of first exploring, and then collecting fragrances. I traipsed through the House of Caron, traditional, white gloved and proper, was seduced by that scoundrel Serge Lutens, with his rich, indolent potions, and was captivated by the sometimes cerebral, sometimes not too serious Frederic Malle offerings. In eight years I have sampled literally hundreds of fragrances, from unique, boutique formulations of New Orleans’ Bourbon French Parfums to the creations of talented artisans like Ayala Moriel, Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studios and the underated Serena Ava Franco of Ava Luxe Parfums, to vintage incarnations of classics like Shalimar, Bandit and Opium. I’ve even had a number of one night stands with Angel. She’s so gorgeous on others; our encounters invariably end badly.

I keep returning home to the bitter and sweet juice of Chanel no. 19. That first bracing hit of green that pads softly, over long hours to a creamy sweet velvet mantle holds a subtle complexity that never bores and a solid familiarity that keeps me coming back for more. Often described as austere, aloof, cold or calculating, to me, 19 is none of these things: she just needs your time and patience to experience the unfolding of her beauty. If Angel slips into your lap, flinging her arms about your neck without introduction, 19 has a slower approach, she engages your brain and then your heart, in that order.

But this post was not meant to tout the praises of Chanel no. 19, but rather to nudge me out of the scent monogamy I find myself sinking into of late. I tend to enjoy the numbered Chanels: No. 5, especially in its parfum and eau de toilette versions, No. 22, which is sheer beauty in a bottle, No. 19, my decades spanning soulmate, and more recently, No. 18, the weird bird of the bunch.IMG_3180No. 18’s herbaceous top notes say “wood” , but not the dark ancient wood of a forest, nor the aged, aromatic wood of a spice casket. Instead, I get the impression of a vibrant bush with it’s branches reaching out into the sunlight. After about five minutes, a sweet, intense note emerges and I am reminded of white tea, lightly sweetened with honey. This contrast of dry herbs, foliage and sweet intensity relates No. 18 to the split personality of her cousin No. 19, but they are not otherwise similar. If No. 19 is green, No. 18 is a soft toasty gold, or the color of straw. The overall impression hearkens back to the days of the natural look, when girls went braless, wore lip gloss and straightened their hair with the household iron.

No. 18 imparts a feel of easy intimacy when, after about 30 minutes, I get an imaginary whiff of baked bread dressed in creamy butter with a dash of salt. I think that No. 18 is wonderful for both casual, everyday wear or out to a classical music performance. This fragrance offers you a sunlit golden ambiance without intrusive sillage. Why don’t I have a bottle in my collection? (yet) It seems, after all these years, that I find myself married, and nearly ( or currently?) monogamous to Chanel no. 19.

Images: my own from Asheville Botanical Gardens and High Line Park in NYC


Satan’s Hot Sauce and My Streetcar to Happiness…

IMG_3480“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. “ Thomas Merton

These were my thoughts exactly as I found myself on the north (?) bound streetcar in the grand old city of New Orleans, the day after Christmas beside hubby and with three nearly adult children in tow – oh the pressure! How confounding! Sure, if you know your way around a public transportation map and the minds of teens, you may think I am being overly dramatic.

“Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.”

And though, brother Thomas, though you prayed this the God of your faith, I was praying this to my kids – so wanting to please them, with the ever increasing revelation that I had no idea what the heck they wanted! In spite of a few blips in our trip planning, like the three hour delay at Newark airport due to a cockpit door malfunction, being one day late for the much anticipated Reveillon dinner, and last minute show cancellations at the Spotted Cat, our family’s holiday trip to the Big Easy really was a delicious one, in every sense of the word.

sauce(This ain’t duck sauce…)

Though I fell in love with New Orleans during a Basenotes meetup where we visited Bourbon French Parfums and Hove Parfumeurs, this trip was more about food than fragrance, though the two certainly go hand in hand. In the olfactory dimension, it was about experiencing the aromas of the creole spices, sweet pralines, the zing of satanically hot sauces, sipping various cocktails (Zen Garden made with rhubarb bitters, ginger liqueur and vodka with a hotly spiced rim was a favorite) and the effervescence that goes along with it all.  I was enthralled by catching the wafting aroma of a fragrant flowering shrub along the neighborhood sidewalk in the garden district …the whiff of fragrant tobacco in the French Quarter and the chicory cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde … incense floating out of the church doors on Christmas Eve…

pralineWe stayed at the warm and welcoming Chimes Bed and Breakfast on Constantinople, an easy stroll to amazing eateries on Magazine Street and a hop on the streetcar or bus to the business district or the French Quarter. Our hostess, Jill Abbyad, was a sweet guide and outfitted us with all day passes ($3 per person for unlimited rides) and recommendations for the sights and sounds of the city. I recommend this excellent guesthouse with its charming, pristine rooms and artistic, yet cozy aesthetic without reservation.IMG_3545

Some of the places we ate that were blocks from the Chimes included Ignatius Eatery, where we had our first taste of fried green tomatoes, to which I am now devoted, and Dat Dog, a favorite of the kids, where we were initiated to the joy of alligator sausage dogs and something called white trash fries. Arnaud’s was an unexpected disappointment in logistics only, when I discovered that either by my mistake or theirs, we booked the wrong night for the Reveillon dinner, but Jonny, our gracious waiter, dried my silly tears and salvaged our Christmas Eve with a French 75 cocktail, fried frog legs (Tim couldn’t eat these – too many dear pet frogs in his childhood, apparently) and a personal tour of the Mardi Gras gown museum housed upstairs. (merci, Monsieur!) From the tres chic gourmet cuisine of Arnaud’s we literally RAN to Cafe du Monde for a dessert of powdery, sugary beignets, chickory cafe au lait and hot chocolate.IMG_3531Christmas dinner was spent in the infamous turtle room at Cafe Adelaide, another recommendation from Jill at the Chimes. Cafe Adelaide delivered a great family dining experience with their festive atmosphere, friendly staff and delicious menu. Did I mention the Zen Garden cocktial?

IMG_3526On the morning after Christmas, we were treated to a taste of home with a New Orleans twist by my high school chum, Roseann Roestaker, owner of Red Gravy Cafe. Red Gravy is warm and bright and was the perfect sendoff for our family on our last day in New Orleans. Hubby and I started off with Mimosas at Roseann’s brilliant suggestion and I treated myself to the delicious Sicilian Egg Pie with grits. (my new motto: grits every day!) Another star dish at breakfast was the Pomodoro omelette with fresh tomato, basil and provolone.

On a fragrance note, I wore Aftelier’s Cuir de Gardenia daily.  The skin scent was perfect as the lush gardenia beautifully complemented the southern aura without competing with the melange of scents that make up the New Orleans experience. Cuir de Gardenia also has just the right touch of skank and edge, akin to catnip. Antique castoreum absolute and real tiare absolute give a rich dimension to this creation that is not to be missed. Samples are available here.  I recommend trying the solid perfume version for amplified dirty (in a good way) effect.

In keeping with the waxy floral theme, I alternately wore a light spritz or two of Heart of Glass by Ava Luxe, with notes of orange flower, tuberose, jasmine and musk.frenchquarterJe t”aime New Orleans…. a bientot!IMG_3520Images: 1)Dat Dog Magazine Street window 2) The Hottest  *uckin’ Sauce, (just a drop’ll d ya) purchased along with some delectable Magnolia Pralines 3) Recycling my praline box with perfume samples and an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe ornament by soulful artist Kate Cartwright 4) Chimes garden courtyard, for room views visit their website at above link, please 5) son, Josh at the Turtle Room on Christmas 6) Zen Garden Cocktail 7) French Quarter views 8) Me and hubby in front of the Cornstalk Fence.

Intermission: Madame Batifole Rouge G visits Chicago

Chi2I just returned from my very first visit to the dynamic city of Chicago where I connected with about 17 of my fragrant fragonista friends from Basenotes. As my second experience at a meetup, it was all that I hoped it would be and more. You can read about the trip on the forum, but a funny thing happened to me at the security gate of O’Hare Airport…

Chi5I traveled light with a small carryon and a purse, but was detained because of my hefty James (or Jane) Bond worthy Rouge G lipstick compact, pictured above, alongside my mother’s vintage Stratton compact. Don’t they make a lovely pair?

Chi9Now, my Rouge G is a weighty instrument indeed, and the security staff needed a few moments of convincing that it was indeed merely a cosmetic. (Paris B of My Women Stuff may find it amusing to know I was stopped by the TSA because of my weapon of beauty!) Afterwards, though, I think I may have won a couple of new customers for Guerlain. The limited edition shade, Madame Batifole, made me splurge for the first time on such a pricey lippie.

When I showed my husband, he asked me if the tube was refillable. I wish that Guerlain would take a hint from the historic Stratton cosmetic company and make their drool worthy Rouge G something I could enjoy beyond the life of one tube of color and hand down to my daughter. (You can read Jane Johnston’s helpful blog for more details about collectible Stratton compacts by clicking on the link in this paragraph.)Chi7The case was designed with a hands free release so that the face powder compartment springs open when the case itself opens, and the lipstick holder presents itself for access, protecting the well manicured owner from chipping her nails.

Chi6The repetitive motif of the engraving on the back of the cover would have been quite at home in the art deco loving city of historic Chicago. My visit yielded a bit of insight for me about where Mom’s early sense of aesthetic was formed. I hope to return in the not too distant future.


IMG_3314Images taken walking through Chicago near the Art Institute with my dear friend Mademoiselle Kathleen and Madame Batifole, and in my garden at home in NJ.

My Travel Scent Companions

IMG_2993Perfumeurs do it all the time – dedicate a scent to a city, using the sights, sounds, flora and fauna plus that ineffable something that defines a place. The travel post by lovely Undina, Have Atomizer – Will Travel, got me thinking about which perfumes from my collection I have taken or will take on trips this year. Invariably the destination has a huge influence on what I decide to bring along and I wondered what my fellow fragonistas fill their travel atomizers with?

When visiting my mother in a law and other members of the Cincinnati clan, I wish to be prepared for any situation and want to make a “nice” impression always, so I select my most proper, classic or conservative loves to bring along. Just this past month, I simply grabbed my bottle of Chanel no 22 for my tote bag and it served me with versatility and beauty. Other selections I considered were, not surprisingly, from the house of Chanel: No. 19 and the recent release of 1932. IMG_0638A trip close to home for me is NYC. Scents I like to wear for a trip to a museum, a stroll in Washington Square or Central Park are modern creations like Iris 39 or Rose 31 from Le Labo, or a bit provocative like the stunning Carnal Flower. IMG_1803

Nostalgie from Sonoma Scent Studios sometimes layered over a bit of Iris 39 body oil blended effortlessly in the pristine air of Taos, New Mexico and never took center stage over the smell of sage, burning wood, or the metallic, spicy taste of Red Hot Mama local wine. Nostalgie’s composition of rose, orris, amber and sandalwood fit right into the outdoor ambiance and will always be a special favorite of mine.

poboyVibrant New Orleans demands scents with a gourmand character and my scents of choice were Kus Kus, a warm yummy formula from 1843, a keynote creation from Bourbon French Perfume, Anima Dulcis by Arquiste (how can you resist indulgent chocolate loving nuns?) and of course, opulent Shalimar. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, on my trip to Saugerties, a number of summers past, hubby and I visited this unique granite quarry, Opus 40, the handiwork of Harvey Fite, sculptor and quarryman. This sculpture park is breathtaking in scale and our stroll through the village of Woodstock was a definite anticlimax after spending time amongst the stones. My perfume companions for this trip were Bandit by Piguet and Rasa by Ava Luxe. Stinky Rosie Rasa won out for most of our hot sticky trip.

Which scents have you taken along on trips with you and why?

Images my own: 1. Suspension Bridge, Cincinnati, OH, 2. NYC Chelsea neighborhood, 3. Painted bench from Taos old town center, 4. Side of truck in NOLA, Bunny Matthews artist 5. Shot of Opus 40

Intermission: Bois de Paradis by Parfums Del Rae

IMG_0946Bois de Paradis composed by Michel Roudnitska for Parfums Del Rae opens with a sweet, juicy topnote evoking the taste of pineapple at the height of exquisite ripeness, the moment when a bite sends dribbles of nectar down your chin and you know that if you had waited a single day longer to partake, the fruit would cease being luscious and teeter over the brink of readiness into disappointing funk.

Much the way I felt about this past weekend spent at the beach at Sandy Hook National Park in New Jersey. Sun and water worshippers could not have asked the marine gods and goddesses for more sublime weather. The cloudless blanket of blue sky combined with the water and air on skin to provide a kind of fountain of youth alchemy for all present. It was the kind of carpe diem weekend where you are able to appreciate that which surrounds you, here and now, as a gift that must not be refused. The older I get, the more days like this I tend to notice. When I pay attention to those opportunities for beauty, and am smart enough to slow down, taste the ripe pineapple, bask in the sun, or make time to pick up the phone and hear the voice of a dear friend,  I consider myself lucky. Bois de Paradis is a happy scent that complements these kinds of moments.

IMG_3329So how come this scent that was birthed in San Francisco was “the One”, my apres soleil annointing of choice on this Monday morning? Because it makes me feel like this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFruit is not all there is to Bois de Paradis. Where there is sweetness, there must be balance and that must be where the woods (is it sandalwood that I am sniffing?) and amber offer their support.

According to notes listed on luckyscent, (Citrus, French rose, blackberry, fig, spices, woods, and amber) technically there IS not pineapple in this, I’m just relaying the overall impression this beauty yields for my nose.  Perfect for extending that sensual feeling of the exotic as a new work week begins.

Hope all are having, had or will have a Happy Monday, wherever you may be in the time zone.

Some wonderful reviews of Bois de Paradis can be read at Bois de Jasmin, The Non-Blonde, , and The Scent Critic.

Images my own: digital photo, Honeysuckle from the garden, Pastel and mixed media, beach abstraction from In Reverence of Water series, digital photo: Dream

Scented Stylings, Getting more from my Fragrance Wardrobe

photoSince early July, I have been in a creative slump. Just taking care of business, as necessities of each day keep coming at me fast and furious. Sunday is the proverbial day of rest, and so I opened up a jigsaw puzzle that had been gathering dust since the winter holidays – 1000 opportunities for joy, as one fellow puzzler puts it – a Ravensburger fantasy scene from the fairytale of Cinderella.

Something in the atmosphere was missing, so I absent mindedly fingered a collection of decants I have in my perfume bag and touched upon one of a seventies vintage Chanel no. 19 edt. Next my eye fell on my little 15 ml bottle of Iris 39, blended for me in NoLiTa by Alex last year. The 39 felt a bit too earth bound for me, the 19, just a tad sophisticated for my mood. I went with a spritz of 39 at the wrist and a spritz of 19 at the forearm and the opposite wrist. Perfection ensued.

There are countless blogs about styling pieces of clothing by accessorizing, mixing and matching, as well as a hundred and one ways to blend the latest makeup palette or collection. With perfumes, not so much. Nobody wants to mess with Shalimar, Joy or No 5. Some might consider doing so as sacrilege, akin to drawing a hair ribbon on the Mona Lisa. Except for the DIY fragonistas, we appear to leave the blending and composing of notes to the perfumeurs extraordinaire and select the fragrance of the day or night or occassion accordingly.

Or do we? Every so often threads pop up about layering fragrances on a fragrance forum.  My beloved Basenotes had The Great Layering Challenge back in 2007, and that  same year, Robin of Now Smell This wrote some great tips on layering.

I’m not referring to layering an edt with a pure parfum, or a pure parfum with a matching body lotion version, but rather, pairing one fragrance with another that may in turn highlight particular facets of the chosen partner.

My 19 and 39 combination did just that. The moist deep rooty quality of the Le Labo creation grounded and centered the elevated aspects of the Chanel. Brought the goddess down to earth. Like a sophisticated lady kicking off her shoes and strolling barefoot through the garden after summer rain, in an understated sheath of cool clean linen…natural and refreshing, yet elegant. Gracious, yet approachable. There are those who perceive No. 19 as aloof and armoured. At times I would agree, but to me, 19 always winds down to a sweet creamy note if I pay attention long enough. Iris 39, on the other hand, never goes sweet on me, always remains direct, straightforward, bright but not floral, and equally mesmerizing on man or woman. No. 19 brings me roses. Sweeps me off my feet. The first is a study in naturalism, the second an impressionistic masterpiece. Together they are perfect for a Sunday afternoon of leisurely puzzle play. Cinderella’s Transformation indeed! Does playing with puzzles and pairing perfumes banish writer’s block and boost one out of artistic dullsville? I’m counting on it.

Which fragrance pairings do you enjoy? I’d love to hear about your fragrance stylings.