Friday, July 29, 2016

1804 George Sand

"There is only one happiness in this life, to love and to be loved" (George Sand)

The perfume dedicated to the controversial author George Sand, has a complexity of a real person and a feeling of rummaging through the old bureau of an author to find her own inkwell and notebook. I am not familiar with her work (except for La Petite Fadette which I read translated to Hebrew when I was in elementary school). She lead an unusual life and was ahead of her time in insisting on doing things that were considered taboo for women, most memorable of which were sporting men's attire and smoking in public and her reputation was an androgynous type (apparently, having a masculine pseudonym was common at the time, otherwise no publisher would risk taking on a woman's work). But more importantly - her independence, breaking free from her marriage, following her heart into many tumultuous relationships, the most famous of which is her 10 years love affair with Frédéric Chopin - all the while still raising her two children. She sounds to me like one wild woman.

1804 is a classical spicy oriental, in the great tradition of Tabu, Opium and Asja. Like the latter, it also has some fruity surprises. And like Opium before it - there is a fascinating contrast between coolness and warmth that keeps the tension and interest of the reader from the get go.

The beginning feels earthy and cool yet spicy, with the Mellis accord centered on patchouli, cloves, carnation and jasmine and a hint of plum-like rose notes in the midst. The earthy quality is a bit musty, like a jar of clay or like spikenard. There is a certain cool and sharp edge to this, but as the perfume continues wearing on the skin, it seems to switch over to ambery-oriental world. The patchouli is still there, but it's more of a spice or a nuance, giving the sweet, rich and soft amber a dirty-sultry undercurrent.

Top notes: Peach, Pineapple, Gardenia 
Heart notes: Jasmine, Carnation, Rose, Lily of the Valley Cloves, Nutmeg 
Base notes: Patchouli, Spikenard, Vanilla, Benzoin, Amber, Sandalwood

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Attention: Perfume Collector's Moving Sale

Perfumes to a good home

Turns out most of my perfume collection of perfumes brings me a whole lot of joy. The ones pictured above are in search of a new home. I that you, SmellyBlog readers and avid perfume lovers (and collectors), will find something that brings you joy among these, as they are up for sale. I also promise to include fun samples with each transaction.

More details about the ones pictured above (from left to right, top to bottom):

Private Collection Jasmine White Moss (Estee Lauder) - Pendant decorated with blue semi-precious stones, with solid perfume that makes an impressive statement piece. The solid perfume inside has discoloured from the metal, unfortunately, and the scent has faded. Consider this as a costume jewellery purchase :-) Also keep in mind that this is discontinued $50

Stella in Two Amber (Stella McCartney) - solid perfume with compact - gently used - discontinued. $50

Agent Provocateur x 2 25mL purse atomizers with chain attached. I got a set of 3, and I only need one of them. They can come in box if you purchase both ($40) or individually $25).

Cognac (Aftelier) 2mL mini $30
Lumiere (Aftelier) 2mL mini  $40

Ezra's Poem  (Soivohle’) 4-5mL mini $20

Kelly Caleche (Hermes) 7.5mL mini $10

Narciso (Narciso Rodriguez) body lotion + sample in pouch (boxed and unopened) $10

Narciso Eau de Parfum (Narciso Rodriguez) 50mL very gently used - almost full and still in box $50

Yerbamate (Lorenzo Villoresi) Eau de Toilette unusual, gorgeous fouler with maté and tomato leaf notes 95% full 100mL $100 (paid $150)

Un Jardin Apres la Mousson dry oil (Hermes) 100mL $30

Dioressence vintage mini cahrming retro style, about 80% full $15

Sweet Lime & Cedar (Jo Malone) - 30mL 95% full  DISCONTINUED $50

Femme (Rochas) 100mL new version practically full $90

Aqaba (Miriam Mirani) 50mL box is covered in woven straw that is falling apart. Otherwise it’s in perfect condition and about 95% full $40

Ma Griffe with OAKMOSS! Older formulation (bought at the store but labeling tells me it is from about 12-15 years ago), practically full $100

KISU (Tann Rokka) 50mL no box, opaque black glass bottle. Received this in a swap so can't guarantee how full it is - but it was rather full when I got and I have not used it much. Just to be safe - I'm estimating it's 70% - $40

Notorious (Ralph Lauren) 50mL barely used DISCONTINUED fantastic modern gourmand-Chypre with vetiver and cacao notes $40

Deseo (JLo) 100mL about 80% full Discontinued albeit the best JLo fragrance IMHO - a very dry, mineral modern Chypre $20

Vaara (Penhaligon's) boxed manufacturer's purse spray/decant $20

Sugar (Fresh) 30mL eau de parfum, no box, about 70% full $7

Something About Sofia (BeneFit) 30mL hardly ever used $20

Harajuku Lovers - Sunshine Cuties - Lil’ Angel 10mL hardly ever been used - adorable doll-like bottle - and a perfect summery fragrance that smells like angel's food cake! - $12

Lolita Lempicka, boxed purse atomizer 7mL (from the manufacturer) - not in the picture $10

Apple Blossom - charming vintage mini. Scent is not all that great. $1


Decants

I'm also putting out my perfume decant collection. All of the following are spray bottles unless otherwise specified. The following are for sale + $16 shipping (International airmail with no insurance; Within North America this includes tracking & insurance). From left to right:

Sacrebleue (Parfums de Nicolai) 30mL almost full $15

Piper NIgrum (Lorenzo Villorsei) 10mL almost full $10


Casma Cologne (vintage) - about 4mL vial $4


Goccia di Cristallo (Borsari) - about 4mL vial $4


Izmir (Neil Morris) 5mL - $5


Vision in Black (Neil Morris) 5mL - $5


Mousse II (Oliver & Co) 5mL - $5


Vetiverus (Oliver & Co) 5mL - $5


Teinte de Neige (Lorenzo Villoresi) about 5mL left $5


Citta di Kyoto (Santa Maria Novella) about 20mL left $15

Bonus - not in the picture - Rare!
Guardian's Sous la Vent 100mL vat - I bought this myself in the Guerlain's flagship store in Champs Elysees.
Unfortunately the original bottle cracked enroute from Paris, so I had to transfer it to an amber,  lab-style bottle. You may also receive the original box and (glued up) bottle if you purchase this. - 100mL $100

Please note:
All prices are in USD. Shipping is $16 for packages up to 500g (this includes insurance + tracking within North America; International shipping is airmail with no insurance). Larger orders (heavier than 500g) will require extra shipping charges. Payment via PayPal or Interac money transfers (if you're inside Canada).

Please email me if you're interested or for more information.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Positive Packing

Studio

I've been preparing for this moment for three years. I knew it would be hard. And I knew I want to do it differently this time.

I hate moving, and a testament to that is the fact that I moved as little as possible in my life time - only a few times. The place I live in now has been my home for 11 years. And it's abundant with storage space for things small and large. I am still yet to determine if this is a blessing or a curse. I am grateful for this home as it enabled me to flourish and live the lifestyle I want - working from home immersing myself in creative projects that give me joy, and enabling me to share my passion and life's precious moments with my family, friends, studio guests and many students who've been an important part of my Canadian journey.

But how do you pack 18 years of such creative and abundant life in only a few months (or weeks, really)? Any perfumista worth her salt knows that this is not an easy task. But if to that you add the logistic complexities of moving overseas; the tedium of packing precious liquid gold in glass bottles, you must know that this is a challenging task both mentally, emotionally and physically.

So for many months (or maybe even 2 years, really), I've been considering how I can do it differently. I've always been one to get overwhelmed with big sorting tasks, especially for so many details. I get easily lost in little details and take forever to tidy up, not to mention pack... Each objects brings so many memories, emotions and requires to make a harsh decisions - discarding it or keeping it, which seems like such a huge, life-changing event. Even if it's about something as small as a button or a perfume sample or a greeting card. And I don't even want to imagine how this would go for sorting through volumes of essential oils and my insanely well-stocked perfume collection...

Like I said before: I knew I would have to tackle things from a different angle. I thought to myself, instead of sorting the items individually, the traditional way, and making piles for "Donation", "Sales", "Trash" and "Keep, Pack & Move" - I would just pick all the things that I absolutely love and want to ship over two oceans and a sea. Everything that goes into the boxes has to be something I will be thrilled to unpack and place in my new home (when they arrive a couple of months later).

I knew I was onto something, but I also knew that it would be hard to remember that all the time while facing many tiny knickknacks and memorabilia from 18 years of life that I'm parting with forever. I'm a sentimental type and you don't even want to imagine how many little things my home (which is also my workplace and my creative space) is burdened with. There is not a single room in the house which does not have something liquid and fragrant roaming around - be it the perfume display in my living room, bottles of essential oils which I use anywhere and everywhere in the house - because I add them to my cleaning products and sometimes even my cooking and baking (however, the only oil that is always in the kitchen is eucalyptus oil, which I use in honey instead of a cough drop); and samples of fragrances I'm about to blog about (which turn up in the oddest of places!), not to mention my den which serves as my designated studio space and where I design, create, produce, bottle, pack, and ship all of my perfumes and products. Essentially, my home is a big lab, and my life is an ongoing olfactory experiment.

So I was absolutely thrilled when I came across the Konmari method and am absolutely grateful to Tamya's teacher who told me about it. I have seen it pop up in various newsfeeds and even ads, so naturally I was skeptical (which I always am about things that are trendy). This method is rather simple - and is essentially exactly like what I had envisioned - keeping only the things I love. But of course the author has years of experience and has many details and stories to tell that keep that vision clear in the mind. Also, it does not really have rules like other tidying methods have. It does not tell you how much is too much or random and elaborate storage methods. It is very intuitive, and is a really great guidance so far in my journey through those 18 years and into the future, to the life I envision for me, my daughter and my little business.

Hand-painted samples

I haven't even really began to tackle the fragrant portion of my possessions. They are going to wait till the end, until I am well practiced in the process of discarding and learn to focus on what I keep, and not cry over the spilled milk of what I had to let go of. But I have already came across some curious things which I know I will have to get rid of - but still have hard time parting with. Such as these hand-painted samples, circa 2003. I can't believe to what lengths of effort I went to prepare my samples... This makes the notion of frequent "free samples request" even more ridiculous. I also found this old tester/demo kit, including the long discontinued Zodiac perfumes and other treasures... They still smell pretty great!

Old Demo Kit

And way before I had my own branding or bottles, I'd clean, polish away old screen-printed logos, and rebrand old minis with hand-painted perfume names, some of which are still among my best sellers. All of these are circa 2001.

Hand-painted minis

This method has a very reasonable progression from the easiest to the hardest - starting with clothes, then books, then miscellaneous and only in the end all the sentimental stuff that is the hardest to let go of. I have only done this for a few days, and most of my week has been devoted to packing. Usually I find this kind of process draining emotionally. Instead, I am feeling excited: about how many boxes that I've packed are actually things I'm going to get rid of (so maybe I will not need to buy more storage boxes after all!); and also about how many wonderful things I decided to keep. My closet is already looking happy and inviting, and that gives me more energy to proceed with this process. Also, I'm feeling quite invincible at the moment. Pack up my house AND business in only 7 weeks to ship it overseas? Of course I can do it!

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Citrus List

Citrus List

Citrus are universally liked, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who does not find citrus notes appealing to at least some degree or another. Despite the fact that citrus trees are rather picky about growing conditions, their protective peel makes them easily transportable and therefore most people in the world, even in sub-polar climates are usually familiar with them. Growing up with a family citrus orchard, I've known many citrus varieties quite intimately, from twig to flower to fruit. Also, I've got plenty of fond memories from citrus-scented herbs that we'd grow in our herb garden and brew as relaxing and delicious tisanes: lemongrass and melissa (lemon balm) and lemon verbena (aloysia citriodora). The latter is perhaps one of my favourite smells from a very young age.

With all that being said - the words "interesting" and "citrus" do not generally go together in my world. Citrus are the one fragrance family that I don't care for - they are short-lived, lack depth and complexity, and generally leave me unimpressed. On days when I choose to wear citrus in the morning, I know that it will be covered with something else by lunchtime or at least early afternoon. They are fleeting, noncommittal, and therefore wearing them should be easy and fun.

Most citrus fragrances are like the fragrance equivalent of ADHD kid in the classroom in the perfume world. They may get your attention quickly with their opening burst of freshness, and may even have a bit of an intrigue from the start; but this will quickly fade away, and give in to a yawn-inducing phase of the fixatives that were used (generally without much success) to make the scent last long(er). These tend to be along the lines of sandalwood, orris, benzoin tonka bean, musk, vetiver and sometimes a bit of deeper notes such as oakmoss or even patchouli. And it is often apparent that this phase was not very well thought through.

Disappointment from the cologne and citrus family can come in many forms, for example - trying to "upgrade" what needs to remain a very simple and humble. The delight of citrus is precisely in their simplicity and utilitarian origins. For example - in my humble opinion, Chanel's Eau de Cologne, which has a very balsamic heart, and a very woody, almost acrid dry down that tries to make it smell "expensive" and fit with the rest of the collection. I don't think this does much to the genre - not really creating anything new (it makes it very clear from the start that it wants you to think of it as an Eau de Cologne - yet pay an arm and a leg for it). Then, of course, there is the horrid modernized approach, loaded with Iso-E Super (Mugler's Cologne took that to the extreme, but it would be a lie to say it's the only one that tries to turn the natural cleanliness of citrus into a chemical treatment). And of course there are the faux high-class colognes, such as Tom Ford's Neroli Portofino, which is exactly how I'd imagined the WWII hookers in Catch-22 to smell like - a cheap cocktail of linalyl acetate and bleached musk, bottled in an icy looking clear blue bottle that makes it look there is more to it.

Last but not least: many modern citrus and colognes are fathomed after the "tea" fantasy accord, and vice verse - many of the so-called "tea" perfumes are more like a different interpretation for the bergamot-linalyl acetate accord that is central to eaux de colognes, only with ionones added to the mix to create that ephemeral tea connotation. This genre gets me less annoyed than others, because there is something elusive about them, and they are so difficult to smell (I must be partly anosmiac to ionones) - and how can you get angry with something you can barely smell?

The following roundup is more than just a citrus list, but generally summarizes ten citrus treatments that work, and themes that I actually find interesting - or at least fun and enjoyable.

1. Orange Blossom Replacing Neroli:
The main challenge I have with eau de colognes is that they are dominated by neroli and petitgrain, two notes that simply don't smell too great on my skin - smelling sharp and overbearing even though they could be quite wonderful when not so dominant. I find that when orange blossom is used instead of neroli, this problem disappears and I can enjoy the citrus more. Also, more depth to the base notes also helps a great deal. Case in point is Jo Malone's Orange Blossom Cologne, which is lovely, and Eau d'Orange Verte with which I fell in love when waiting in Heathrow between flights many moons ago. It remains my favourite citrus, and probably the only one I actually own.

Eau d'Orange Verte is undoubtedly one of the best citrus ever created, and never disappoints. Oh, wait, except that is was reformulated by Jean-Claude Elena to smell nothing like the glorious green bitter orange zest, neroli and oakmoss and cedarwood elegance that it used to be - replacing all this goodness with something flat, synthetic shadow of itself, whose only sorta-redeeming point is some green mango accord, which makes it a bit more interesting. But it is still disappointing nevertheless. Stick to the original!

2. Classic (Read: Old World) Eaux de Colognes: 
As much as I try to love 4711, it just always smells too sharp, too linen-like on me. But guess what? It is not the only classic eau de cologne that deserves our love and attention, and not all of them are as sharp an dominated by neroli.
Eau de Guerlain is a prime example. It begins very fresh, classic eau de cologne accord with hint of mint. But it has more facets to it than what meets the eye at first. There are some florals in its midst, and the dry down is the famous guerlinade - tonka bean, orris, vanilla and even a tad of patchouli and oakmoss. There is a floral richness to it so if you want a "deep" eau de cologne fragrance, this is it. It lasts for a long time as a result, and also has different stages and evolves on the skin, inviting the wearer for wrist-re-sniffing rather than reapplying. At some stage the tonka bean is more apparent, and at a later stage the orange blossom surprisingly shines through. 
I also fondly remember Eau de Clogne de Coq and Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat - but it's been many years since I've had access to either, so I can't pinpoint now what I liked about them. All I can say is Guerlain sure knows how to make citrus well (and more about that in a bit). 

3. Spicy Citrus:
Citrus and spice are as old as potpourri. But this is not the only way to utilize this bacteria-busting combination.
Florida Water is a modern-ish play on the eau de cologne theme, using New World aromas such as Mexican lime and a healthy dose of cloves and cinnamon to create a mouthwatering, refreshingly disinfectant concoction for the tropics. Florida Water have become also an interesting part of Shamanism practices on North America, and are used for cleansing and multiple other purposes. This past couple of years I've been honoured to work with a Angela Prider, local healer and shamanic teacher and practitioner, and have created an all-natural Florida Water type of fragrance for her, and customizing it for her particular energy work, which is greatly inspired by feminine archetypes from New Mexico, Ireland and Australia. I can't wait to share more with you - but I must wait till her website is up.

4. Citrus Fantasy: 
Whenever I meet a citrus I actually love, I usually discover it really belongs to the "Citrus Fantasy" sub-family. Which also proves that my citrus "problem" These truly are Chypre citrus compositions and can be very different from one another. They all have a prominent citrus top note, of course, but there is also something intriguing in the heart (more floral notes, for example) and of course there's got to be some oakmoss in the base as well (which ultimately contributes to their longevity. Innovative perfumes such as Eau Sauvage and Ô de Lancôme, Le Parfum de Thérèse and Diorella belong to this category.

Eau Sauvage perhaps does not only belong here, because it also can be categorized as a Chypre Fresh. It has plenty of depth and longevity - so all the things that I like to complain about citrus don't apply here. But honestly, I like anything with basil, really (so no surprise that I also like Lime, Basil & Mandarin Cologne by Jo Malone and Aqua Allegoria Mandarin Basilic, and have created ArbitRary with a very similar core of basil, citrus, oakmoss and jasmine). What makes Eau Sauvage so exceptional (before they messed up with the formula and removed all the oakmoss) is the play on hedione (a jasmine-inspired synthetic molecule), which makes up no less than 40% of the formula. It gives the heavy oakmoss, vetiver, hay and patchouli a "lift" and opens them up to receive the airy, fleeting citrus. To this day I find Eau Sauvage jaw-dropping gorgeous, a very similar reaction if your man walked out of a shower with a towel like the illustrations that made it so famous. Other fantastic citrus fragrances of that genre include Ô de Lancôme - but it does not work on my skin quite as well.

5. Citrus Tisane: 
Herba Fresca, from the Aqua Allegoria line, is another proof that Jean-Paul Guerlain really knows how to make citrus and is not afraid of adding depth and complexity to this shallow family, without taking away from their cheerful glee. Herba Fresca always reminded me of the herb garden of my childhood I've mentioned before. It's dewy and green and citrusy all at once. My only problem I have with it is its sharpness. It has a powdery-green-musky element that is just too piercing to my nose - creates an effect that is almost like screeching chalk on the blackboard. So after using it more as a room spray for a while - I had to give it away to my citrus-loving brother. Curiously, he also used it in the same way.

6. Citrus & Greens: 
Another winning combination that makes citrus more interesting is adding green galbanum note to it. It simply makes the citrus smell more alive. One of my favourites from this genre is Artemisia's Yuzu Citrus. It's also in Cristalle by Chanel (which is more complex and floral than your typical citrus - it belongs to the Citrus Fantasy/Chypre Fresh families. And recently I played with this theme in Lost Lagoon (which FYI is more on the Chypre and Floral Green spectrum rather than citrus per se).

7. Citrus Woods
The combination of citrus and conifers is nothing surprising, but it simply works. There is a certain elegance and harmony to it that can't be denied. Limonene is a common molecule and they seem to work well together., effortlessly. But what if the part of the conifer used was the heartwood, rather than the needles? There are several fragrances that rely on this marriage of woodsy notes and citrus, and often (but not always). there is cedar involved.
Citron Citron  (Miller Harris) with its elegant underscore of dry Virginian cedar, and piquancy from cardamom and pepper is a citrus that I find thoroughly enjoyable; and Sweet Lime & Cedar (Jo Malone) breaks free from the classic eau de cologne by using not only a lot of musk, but also petitgrain combava (AKA kaffir lime leaf) and sweet notes of Atlas cedar.
Last but not least, Eau d'Hadrien (Annick Goutal) uses cypress note, which although it is actually distilled from the leaves and twigs - but possesses a very woodsy, dry character that smells like a tree, rather than straight-up coniferous. It is an elegant, clean citrus with a very Mediterranean character. 

8. Sulfur, Yesss!
Pamplelune has always been a controversial fragrance even amongst Guerlain's fans. The reason being that the sulphur is really obvious here, even more than with actual grapefruit oil. The grapefruit is lusciously fruity,  robust and almost velvety; and its floral character is accentuated by ylang ylang and underscored by patchouli - both of which give it a dirty, sultry persona. Other treatments of grapefruit I find to be too masculine and untrue to this delightful zesty note (Jo Malone's Grapefruit Cologne); or too mineral and pretentiously "minimalist" (Hermes' Eau Pamplemousse Rose, which is really a replay of the flinty qualities of Terre d'Hermès). However, when I do crave that mineral type of grapefruit quality, I prefer Pure Turquoise (not technically a citrus either - and categorized as a modern "Chypre") -  which really takes this idea to the extreme with its dryness.

9. Citrus Candy:
When I created Fetish I wanted to create a citrus that isn't boring, lasts a bit longer than average, yet at the same time remains true to the playful and fun attitude of the family. I did that by using lemony heart notes (lemongrass and litsea cubeba) and echoing that citrus quality with fir absolute at the base, which gives the vanilla extra sweetness but also balances it a bit. Later on I also "met" Sugar by Fresh which has a very similar attitude, only with an abundance of musk at the base that gives it more of a  cotton-candy feel.

10. Yuzu & Etrog Mysteries:
The novelty of new scents from faraway lands never fails to surprise and excite, and yuzu is case in point. This Japanese citron is rarely found fresh outside of Japan, and smells like a delightful mix between grapefruit and Meyer lemon, but with much more pizzazz and oomph than either.

Oyédo by Diptyque is dominated by this note, and has an unusual composition with similar structure to traditional eaux de cologne, yet makes a bold, intense statement. Its vibrancy and originality is always nose-catching and enjoyable. What it does is take all the usual eau de cologne elements - wood, citrus and herbs - and amplify them ten-fold. Yuzu is a dominant, unmistakable note to begin with, with a sulphuric pungency not unlike grapefruit's, along with the orange-blossom like floralcy of yellow mandarin; and instead of sticking only to the typically sporty mint - the perfumer also added thyme, which has an unusual bitter and almost pungent bite to it. The base is that of the wonderfully elegant and mysterious Japanese wood, hinoki and has a slightly fruity musk at the base as well.

There are only two fragrances I'm aware of that use the elusive citron fruit: L'Etrog by Arquiste, and my very own  Etrog Oy de Cologne. If I could have my way, there will plenty more of them. Both have more depth and layers than the average citrus - in l'Arquiste's, this comes from a balsamic date-like note, and a woodsy-musky vetiver base.

P.s. Please note that although typically tutored as "summery" scents, citrus oils are highly phytotoxic and should not be worn on areas of the skin that are going to be exposed to direct sunlight.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer Sentiments

Thimbleberries

Summer is time of lightness: we wear less layers, we worry less (or at least we try), we spend more time outdoors and generally feel more carefree and relaxed. But it is also a time when exciting things can take place - trying new things, going on adventures, traveling, meeting new people, or making big changes in our lives before things supposedly turn back to "normal" in the fall.

It's been a few years since I've made a summer scent list. This summer I'm feeling particularly sentimental, as it's the last one of my daughter's childhood, and our last summer spent in Vancouver. So consider yourself warned: the following post contains an extra dose of nostalgia that will permeate my selection.

Berry Picking:
Whether in the forest or in U-pick field, berry picking is something unique to the northern hemisphere. And in Canada we are blessed with some many wonderful berries. I will never forget my first time picking wild strawberries in Bic (Quebec) and the bushes of bright red raspberries that grew in my dad's garden at his country house (my stepmom was complaining about how much she dislikes them, and I was amused that anyone could hate such an exotic thing as berries). Wild strawberries are seem nowhere to be found ever since I moved to British Columbia, except maybe I recall seeing something similar near Alice Lake in my first year here. But we have the bright orange (and mostly flavourless) salmon berries which appear in late spring; the tiny red huckleberries which were my first local berry love. They pop in your mouth with bursts of tart red juice, and bigger purple ones too. We have native blackberries, that taste like bubble gum (and I mean it in the best possible way), and the less known thimbleberries, which look like a red velvety cap and taste like apricot compote - tart and smooth and full of flavour. Then there are the invasive blackberries from the Himalayas, which grow in every possible corner including along the beaches, and taste musky at best, or watery, or in the worst cases - are full of tiny invisible black bugs that give them an unmistakably disgusting aftertaste. But they do make amazing jams and syrups (I cook them with maple syrup to make a sugar-free topping for pancake and ice cream), and are especially good when paired with sage. Either way, no walk in the forest is complete without them in the summertime.
Is there any perfume I love with berry notes? Not really. Mure et Musc and Angel are not my type, and Hanae Mori Butterfly, although doused with every possible berry (wild strawberries, blackcurrants and bilberries) - it is just too sweet to my taste. I'm curious to find something that is interesting and not overly girly that incorporates strawberry as a noticeable note, but is not so sweet and gourmand.

Toad's Stool

Summery Forest Strolls:
No matter how hot it could get here (which is not very hot, but never mind), there is always the forest to escape to. Strolling under the shady trees is both protective and refreshing; and when it's warm there is always a different scent to the forest - sun warmed coniferous needles and a more dry-earthy note although some dampness is normally still there as well, and you can spot (and smell!) mushrooms in the rainforest pretty much year-around. One of my favourite places to visit during the summer is Golden Ears Park, which also has plenty of refreshing water to enjoy: Gold Creek and Alouette Lake.
Perfume to match: KomorebiForest Walk by Sonoma Scent Studio.

Gold Creek

Beach:
In the summertime I wear some of my scents more as ancillary products than anything else. And when it comes to beach time, they also have to match and complement the Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen that I love (it smells like a combination of mango, guava, pineapple and coconut and just a hint of plumeria and gardenia - I will have to stock up on that before I leave, because nothing comes close to this...).  Some of the best matches for this tropical goodness are many of the Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille series, in particular Vanilla Pineapple and Vanilla Banane, which smells like "shoko-banana" ice cream bars. Which reminds me of the awesome peelin' banana that they stopped selling for some ridiculous reason - a modern take on banana flavour which me and my daughter also adored. And admittedly, a summer is not complete without at least wearing Azuree de Soleil/Bronze Goddess Body Oil a handful of times.

Beach Cherry Picnic

Picnics & Iced Tea: 
One of the things we look forward to the most in summer is picnic - by the beach, lake or forest. The weather doesn't have to be that great for that - just as long as it doesn't rain. The classic picnic affair include cold cooked and marinated salads of all sorts, cherries for desserts, and either kombucha, homemade soda, elderflower cordial or iced tea for sipping. Few tea-scented perfumes actually capture my attention more than a fleeting moment (which is shortly they stick around), but summer is exactly the time of the year when all of this don't matter much. That's when I enjoy lavishing myself with the barely-there Osmanthe Yunnan (which is cool and restrained as iced osmanthus-scented tea with a sprinkle of pepper on top), and also can make peace with the fact that Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne has its character maintained for about fifteen minutes before it turns into a musky nondescript mess. In summertime it somehow seems less of a missed opportunity - rather an invitation for noncommittal olfactory flirting.

Skunk Xing
Skunks:
Come spring, all the skunks come out of hibernation. As they roam the neighbourhood freely they also often get spooked by the colourful population of the neighbourhood that must be foreign to their black-and-white universe, and release their underrated elixir of potent strengths. It's not so much that the scent is all that unpleasant, but it's so pungent and intense that it makes one recoil and want to cross to the other side of the street (or close all the windows - it just depends when that happens). The West End is home to countless skunks, and also to skunky smells of other neighbourhood (and alley) favourites that try to compete with it: freshly ground coffee beans, which never manage to surpass the odour of the striped creature; and cannabis, which almost succeeds to do so). No scent that I know of uses skunk as a note, but some try to emulate cannabis, without much success; and the ones that include coffee so so in such a non-intrusive way that I'm just going to leave this category blank.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle:
Although native to the Mediterranean region - and not at all unique to Vancouver - I now associate honeysuckles with summertime and Sunset Beach - a favourite place that has several botanical treasures around it, for those with a keen nose. There is a big cluster of honeysuckles that grow right there by the pipe crossing along with clematis (probably to mask the nasty whiff of sewage). Come midsummer, and their scent stops me on my tracks overtime I go by on the seawall: their long eyelashes tickle my nose as I take in their aldehydic, sexy floral scent reminiscent of human skin, peaches and just the tiniest underscore of indole - yet somehow also smells very clean and elegant, a tad citrusy even. My favourite honeysuckle fragrance of all is vintage Diorella, of which I've stocked up for a lifetime with a 200mL splash vintage bottle I scored on eBay. Diorella is the essence of summer personified - it is carefree, effervescent, bright and clean with notes of melon, basil and vetiver; yet also very soft, rich, expansive and sophisticated with all that hedione, honeysuckle, peachy aldehydes and powdery orris and violets.

Crisp Cantaloupe

The Farmers Market & Summer Fruits:
When the West End Farmers Market opens, it's a sure sign that summer is around the corner. And this has been an important part of our lives here for many years. It's that rare place where you really feel the community comes together and a place where my daughter can safely shop around for her own weekly treat and practice her money handling skills and make new friends among the generous and friendly vendors. These markets take place right next to the Nelson Park Community Gardens, which are filled with fragrant herbs and flowers (anything from marigold and melissa, lemon thyme and fennel to heirloom roses, sweet peas, iris and peonies). The market itself is full to the brim with fragrant, freshly picked berries of all sorts, apricots, white champagne peaches, fresh basil leaves and vine-ripened tomatoes, pungent garlic that hasn't even cured yet, smoked Sockeye salmon, coronation grapes, corn on the cob (and that incredible corn husk smell!) - and of course pastries galore which don't tend to have that much connection with seasons. Sometimes you'll even smell Tire sur la neige (maple taffy that is cooled down on ice instead of it native Quebecois snow). And if you're really lucky, you may find fragrant flowers such as white peonies and sweetpeas to take home and enjoy for a week. All this goodness is reflective of what's unique to this place and its abundance, and it's always touching that farmers go from so far away to connect with us city dwellers and bring  this richness to our lives. Even though farmers markets are everywhere now (a growing trend, thankfully) - I will terribly miss all the farmers and vendors that have been an important part of our weekend routine; and all those little details, the specifics that make this market so fun even though it's very small.

For celebrating summer fruits, here are my few favourite recommendations:
Cantaloupe: Un Jardin Apres La Mousson (Hermes) is juicy and sweet yet refreshing and no boring, due to the balance of spices and vetiver that go with it. It's effect reminds me of the feeling of creek-soaked gauzy white shirt on the skin and getting the dry desert breeze cool it off as it's drying the fabric.
Fig: Philosykos (Diptyque) and Premier Figuer would also do, in a pinch, as would Fig Leaf & Sage.
Apricot: Vanille Abricot (Comptoir Sud Pacifique) and Saveur de l'Abricot (Artemisia Perfume)
Melon: Le Parfum de Thérèse (Edmond Roudnitska's creation that was "published" by Editions de Parfums).

Summer Camps & Corn Maze: 
You know that smell your child has when they come back home after a day spent outdoors chasing butterflies with their friends, or wondering inside a corn maze? The sweet, sweaty child smell, which perfectly matches the exuberant expression on their face after they've truly enjoyed themselves and will pretty much agree to anything after a long day of activities. And by "anything" I usually mean: doing nothing at all, which is usually best achieved on a  picnic blanket by the beach, listening to the water and knowing that the day is complete.

Poolside and the Water Park:
Since moving to Vancouver, I only go to the pool when it rains. Outdoor pools are not my favourite thing in the summer here, as I prefer outdoor swimming in the ocean, lakes and creeks. Besides, the neighbourhood's only public outdoor pool is situated in a very windy corner at 2nd Beach, and I haven't paid a visit there for so many years I can't even count... But every summer my daughter goes to camp and gets to do things I always only dreamed of doing as a child, such as going to Splashdown (an adventurous waterpark full of slides and the like). And I'm happy that she gets to experience it. As for me - I will always associate the smell of chlorine with that freeing feeling of the beginning of summer, and skipping down the hill in the kibbutz to the pool for the first P.E. class that took place there as soon as the pool opened. This event always meant that the "big vacation" of summer was just around the corner... And I also have earlier fond swimming pool memories from the long vacations I spent at my aunt's in Be'er Sheva (in the southern Negev desert, which was very far from where I grew up - in the north of the country). Some scents simply remind of the pool's wonderful chlorine smell, which comes from a combination of synthetic musks, which smell like scrubbed-clean tiles, and aquatic-smelling synthetics such as calone. l'Eau d'Issey is one such fragrance, and for the boys reading this blog I recommend a scent I only recently paid any attention to - Eternity for Men, which is actually a very well-done aquatic Fougère that has a very distinctive oakmoss and vetiver dry down.

Aquatic Garden

The Flower Gardens:
Summer at its peak here means many fragrant flowers and impressive gardens, and all the roses blooming all at once. I don't know that there is anywhere a better climate than this temperate, British-like Pacific Northwest. Although the botanical gardens are the famous ones, as is Stanley Park's rose garden - there are many "unofficial" gardens as well, such as the many community gardens (Nelson Park's is a favourite which I visit daily), and the aquatic garden that pops up every summer at Beaver Lake, full of invasive irises and waterlilies (pictured above).  There is no scent that gives any of those visual and olfactory experiences justice, so I'm just going to mention here Anaïs Anaïs, which I've re-discovered this summer, and brings me memories of my grandmother and her love for botanical gardens. I will always cherish our joint visit to those in Montreal, which have beautiful garden of lilies, and at the heart of Anaïs Anaïs  are lush Madonna lilies and greenery.

Linden Blossom

Linden Blossoms on the Robson Street:
Another one of those natural scents that simply does not receive justice when perfumers try to bottle it. Although the note appears in several fragrances, non of them truly satisfies the tillia lover's desire to be surrounded by the airy smell of honeyed skies and treetop greenery. That is the kind of scent you just have to get out of your house to catch as you stroll down Robson street, Stanley Park's Pitch & Putt or Main Street (to name just a few areas that really get properly lindened every June).

Previous summer lists of interest:
Ultimate Summer Wardrobe - Scents for Every Occasion (2009)
Barbershop Scents (2015)
Super Summer Scents 2013 
To The Ends of the Earth: Ten Fragrances That Will Transport (2013)
What Summer? (2012)

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Thursday, July 07, 2016

Climbing the Mountain

Climbing Mt. Daniel

Last Thursday, we were vacationing in the Sunshine Coast, and I decided to climb up Mount Daniel with my daughter. It seemed especially appropriate because this mountain was traditionally used by the Coast Salish people (the region's First Nations) to initiate their young girls into womanhood. Our vacation was all about celebrating my daughter's high school graduation - so this seemed meant to be...

We packed some snacks and water, my handmade mosquito spray, lavender oil for bites and cuts, and started going up the trail. It was supposed to be about 45-60min hike, climbing up to 440m elevation. My daughter is significantly fitter than I am - she never gets tired when we walk the beautiful trails in the parks around us, and there is no shortage of uphill and downhill where we usually walk. She always walks way ahead of her old mamma. I thought she'll enjoy the challenge. I was so wrong. She was still walking ahead of me, but made clearly audible signs of discomfort and discontent with the whole ordeal. Five minutes into the walk I was already worried so I asker her if she wants to go back to the car or walk on and she wanted to go back. She complained about headache and looked kinda pale too... Or maybe I was just imagining this.  I have no idea why, I decided to continue... But insisted that we stop for breaks and drink water and snacks on the way up. And also that she walks behind me (in old mamma pace, that is) rather than lead in her super-girl stride. Things got a little better then, and she was not in as much distress as before.

We kept walking up what turned out to be beautiful but not at all easy trail. Which meant that we couldn't really enjoy the flora and fauna all that much because our gaze was too focused on the trail and what our next step should land on. And the summit is always invisible, which adds to the uncertainty, anxiety, and anticipation. It's really easy to lose the big picture when climbing a mountain, forget why we are even here... Each step, and sometimes breathing itself is so painful and we get too focused on the rhythmic stride and breath-mechanism and feeling the suffering - unable to converse or sing or really pay attention to anything else that makes striding along a path in nature enjoyable on most other occasions... And from a caregiver's point of view, it is much harder to pay attention to my daughter's needs and state of mind if I'm struggling myself. It's so much easier to help others and be mindful of their needs when you are well yourself.

Mushroom Heart

In the end, it took us more than an hour to get up there (we stopped about 4 times to catch our breath). And when we got to the first summit I thought we got lost - because there was non of the view that everyone who told us about this trail raved about... But we enjoyed the grass and moss covered rocks, and the warmth of the sun, and the smell of West Coast Garrigue - the mingling of arbutus, berries, sun-warmed grass, conifer needles and moss-covered rocks. I even found a heart-shaped fungus! We peeled an orange and Tamya drew a little bit and began to feel happy and proud again.

Pride

Thankfully, we quickly found our way back to the obscured trail, and less than five minutes later the second summit with the promised view unrolled in front of our eyes. We stopped there for a while, snacking on wild blueberries, drawing and writing in our journals, meditating on the meaning of climbing a mountain and dragging your children into an adventure that perhaps has very little meaning to them... But is important for you. And now after watching this trailer, I'm also seeing the other broader analogies to this very stressful transitional time into adulthood. As a society, we expect our children to fly the coup at 18 (or 20 at the most). We equate "independence" as "success". But what when this is not possible? Where do you draw the lines between what your grown-up child's needs and what you need as a human who's been a caregiver for over 19 years, and mentally should prepare to remain in that role for as long as you live? How do you keep that balance of respecting another person's choices (or even giving them choices), when it is very unclear which understanding they have of major life decisions? Which brings me to - what do we know at all about major life decisions? And what happens when all your mistakes don't just affect yourself, but also your dependant yet grown-up child?

Mt. Daniel, Pender Harbour

All my life I've been told that "What's good for the caregiver is better for the dependant too". This seemed like golden advice when my daughter was still a minor. Somehow, it feels really selfish and icky to take on that responsibility of potentially ruining your most beloved person in the world just because you need to do something for yourself for a change. And then you realize, that like anything in life, decisions are never cut and dry "good" or "bad". That even a "better" decision will always leave you with a huge chunk of gut-wrenching guilt and sadness. And that sometimes you don't really know that you made a mistake until 20 years into it...

Pender Harbour Self Portrait

P.s. You should watch the trailer (or the whole movie) "My Brother is Brave" 

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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Anaïs Anaïs

Anaïs Anaïs

The 70s were all about soapy-green florals: Ivoire, No. 19, Laura Ashley No. 1, etc. Cacharel released Anaïs Anaïs  in 1978, and it fits-in nicely with that trend, but also has its own personality, even if understated in comparison. While the others in that genre tend to come across as sharp and angular and exude an air of intimidating and cool-headed professionalism - Anaïs Anaïs is soft, feminine and lady-like. It is very pretty, approachable and agreeable, yet at the same time it's not at all boring - in fact, it is a classically structured Chypre, yet with more modern ingredients that still to this day make it smell fresh and dewy.

In the late 80s and early 90s it was a very popular and "safe" scent to wear for younger girls - or give as a gift - as you'd be hard-pressed to not admit that you at least tolerate if not like it. It was the precursor for many pleasantly scented double-milled soaps.  Which is why I probably felt it was too soapy when my grandmother gifted me one of those after a trip abroad. It was also too heady and too floral for me. I guess my tendency towards deeper scents has began early on... The other important reason I was disappointed with it was that on another trip to Greece, my grandmother brought me a clever little pot of porcelain that had Anaïs Anaïs knock-off in a solid perfume form at the bottom, and a liquid one inside the lid (pictured above, next to the original). Strangely enough, that knock-off was much better than the original: it wasn't as sharply floral, and the base was a gorgeous incense.  The florals were not too heady - and had a slightly waxy, lipstick-like quality about them which made them softly purr. I remember wearing it in the wintertime and just sniffing my wrists all the time, near the wooly smell of the sweater... Rather quickly, I finished the whole thing - both liquid and solid. This was the first perfume I've ever owned - and still do (not only because I'm so sentimental that I keep little objects like this; but because the smell remains in that pot, after all those years!).

Anaïs Anaïs opens with a fruity-floral melange that is at once freshly green and soft. How is that achieved is beyond me - because there is a definite presence of galbanum, cassis, hyacinth and Madonna Lily there - neither of which is particularly shy or soft on its own. This bouquet is so well-balanced, and only moderately aldehydic in a very tasteful, seamless way (perhaps owing to the honeysuckle note) - that it's difficult to pick one note in particular, and to me this is part of the magic of perfume, but jasmine and rose peak through if you pay close attention... The heart continues to be green and floral and elegantly leads to the oakmoss-laden base, where vetiver and white musk have a strong presence, as well as modest hints of sandalwood and patchouli (the latter adding more of an earthy-green dimension rather than any allusion to hippie-ness). But before that dryout phase completely takes over, you'll find a surprising incense phase, that is not exactly like any particular incense "flavour", and combines sandalwood with a little peppery greens and cedarwood notes.

Recently, I found a little 30mL bottle of Anaïs Anaïs eau de toilette - and immediately purchased it for my daughter. I tell her that her great-grandma used to wear it and gave it to me when I was a young girl. She calls it "Pink Flower Perfume"...  I thought it would be fun to have it around, and get her some early perfume education about what young girls should wear (instead of those horrid celebrity scents that are kicking around). Also, I won't lie, I was planning to steal some from her so that I can sneak in a review of it at some point...

It may not smell exactly like the original did (even though it is subtitled L'ORIGINAL). But I didn't know it well enough at the time to notice the change. I do, however, find a resemblance to a much later scent, Calyx (1987), although of course not quite as fruity as that; but they both now have a very strong connection with ancillary products (Calyx is the mother of all Herbal Essence type of shampoos and hair products, which are still highly in demand). They both have a very similar structure, with green and fruity notes at the top (Calyx has more tropic fruit notes, i.e. papaya, guava, passionfruit and mango; while Anaïs Anaïs uses more "traditional" black currant bud to achieve the fruitiness). Both have Madonna Lily and Lily of the Valley at the heart, and both conclude with oakmoss, vetiver and white musk. Both also smell wonderful on my young daughter's skin, and I only wish we'd smell more real perfumes on young girls these days, instead of the fruit-punch cocktails sprinkled with polycyclic musks and vanillin that have long overstayed their welcome (IMHO).

Top notes: Galbanum, hyacinth, lily of the valley, bergamot, cassis
Heart notes: Madonna lily, honeysuckle, ylang ylang, orris root, jasmine, carnation, tuberose, rose
Base notes: Oakmoss, vetiver, musk, sandalwood, amber, patchouli

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