Monday, September 21, 2015

Winter is...

...almost upon us and as usual I've spent the last few days in a funk as the mercury drops below 55°. This time of year is gorgeous and I love the cool nights and warm days, changing leaves and the smells of drying grass and tannic leaves in rain puddles and sharp ozone before a storm. I also dread the coming chill and darkness, the four to six months of paralyzing cold when I won't see the sun at all some days, when the house's drafts make themselves known again, my hands and feet freeze, and I don't want to get out of bed let alone get anything useful done. The kitchen is drafty and washing dishes becomes a battle between the hottest water you can stand and the chill air sucking the heat right out and leaving a sink full of lukewarm suds. I hate lukewarm anything, but especially lukewarm dishwater. At that point you might as well just wash everything in cold.

Anyway, my point is that this time of year I start to reflect on what I have (or haven't) accomplished over the last 9 months. The list always comes up far short of what I hoped to have done by now, and I'm beginning to think it always will, but this year I had a resounding success. Just one.

Black currant jam.

Not only is it delicious on toast and bagels and pb&j sandwiches, it's the first thing I've ever made from my own garden that hasn't languished at the back of the fridge acquiring new forms of life before I gave up on it. I, grandmistress of procrastination and couch-weight extraordinaire, managed to not only harvest two pounds of currants from the bush before they went bad (a task I haven't completed with the mulberry tree in years), but store them in the fridge for only a reasonable amount of time (no mold! No shriveled berries!), settle on a recipe, successfully make it (no thin, watery sauce or overcooked rubber!), store it, and eat an entire jar of it in two months. I hereby declare the black currant bush the best plant in my garden this year. The tomatoes didn't stand a chance.

I'm feeling pretty good about that jam. Doubly so because I just enjoyed the last of the jar for breakfast. I have another jar, heat-packed but not canned, which I am hoping will keep long enough for me to crack it open in December and enjoy it. That will feel like a real success, both for my preserve-making and my fight against seasonal depression.

Here's to success!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

New smells!

So because I'm daft for hand-made perfume blends and books, when my favorite perfumers put up an offer of 8 scents designed to match their friend's new novel:

(available now on Kindle!)

...I figured hey, why not.

Herein follows my first impressions of some of the delightful character-centric scents the girls at ZOMG Smells whipped up, in rough order of their appearance in the book.

I'd give this to all the playboys in my life... if I knew any. ;)

Rich, complex and a tiny bit impudent. Regal French lavender overrides the other notes with a little "your reputation precedes you, sir"... and then the party starts. Amber floats through hauling frankincense behind it and gives the middle of the scent a full, sensual musk. The lavender hits its soapy high note ten minutes in and then mellows above the most amazing woodsy dry down where nutmeg and cardamom come gliding in like debutantes fashionably late for their own ball.

If YSL's Opium eloped with Old Spice, this would be their sassy Parisian baby. And while the end result on my hormonal female skin is a gentlewoman's lavender and spice confection I'd love to smell it on a dapper young man who might hang onto the woody notes a little longer.

(This review was also posted to their site)

Captain Westfall:
Smoky, salty, and strangely... green? That's probably the cypress and oakmoss - this scent brings to mind a Hollywood bayou, all moss-festooned cypress groves and dark waters edged by genteel plantations with none of the mud and rot. Smoke from somebody's fireplace lingers in the still, humid air. Grave dust haunts the drydown, unseen but raising hairs on the back of your neck. I have the urge to watch Interview With The Vampire.

The dog likes this one, too. Longevity is great.

"Bitter vetiver, cypress essential oil, a worn leather scabbard, the scent of woodsmoke mingled with the docks he came from, the sweet amber of the wealthy he now mingles with, and the Lady's oakmoss and gravedust."

Earthy, ragged, and a little bit moon struck. Shares some notes with Westfall and Green Lady, which makes sense as Gabriel claims the Lady's favor. Gabriel's scent is heady with frankincense and cedar, and the "grave dust" note lends sharpness to the background just as it does in Westfall's blend. My impression is rich dusty wood and resin, preservative notes that tickle the nose and hints of things old and unseen. Charming and dirty, like Gabriel. Moderate longevity.

"The background of his scent is of the grave: frankincense and myrrh, cedar planks, freshly turned earth and patchouli, the warm skin-scent of sandalwood that he shares with Drake, and the Lady's sharp green galbanum and bitter gravedust."

Bitter medicinal herbs, sweetened only slightly by the lavender poultice. This scent is sharp on first application and mellows grudgingly into something a little warmer as it dries and the resins come out. Brings to mind an apothecary's work-table, the wood stained and infused with the scents of all kinds of poultices and infusions. The result is not unpleasant but standoffish due to the bitter tea; would require conviction to wear this to social events. Fits the character very well, but doesn't seem to fit me and on my skin has poor longevity. I wanted to like this scent because it sounded lovely but it doesn't quite deliver the way I had hoped.

"Bitter black tea, dried herbs and dusty herbal flowers, a fresh poultice with lavender, and the resinous evergreens of the North."

The Green Lady:
If Captain Westfall smells like the Hollywood idea of a swamp, The Green Lady smells like an actual swamp. Her scent is the one from which Gabriel and Captain Westfall take their dusty backgrounds, but there's quite a lot more dust in Green Lady. I don't smell the lavender here until the end (in fact, didn't even recognize it until I read the notes). My husband smells pine and I get the smell of fresh wet earth, mingling with sharp, slightly rot-sweet green things - like burying one's face in a forest floor. The drydown settles into earthy, warm, dusty cedar and the tiniest hint of lavender. The projection on this scent is great at first but drops sharply as it dries down, leaving bare hints close to the skin. Longevity doesn't seem great on me but sometimes woods will cling for hours after I expect them to fade, so who knows? Entirely appropriate for those times when you need a little bit of wildness (or want the perfect scent to accompany that witch costume on Halloween night).

"Sharp green galbanum, fresh wild lavender, cedar coffinwood, vetiver, patchouli and sandalwood for a last touch of the living on their lost ones, and grave-dirt."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Summer Fun

Facebook just notified me of the yearly summer neighborhood block party, which I have not attended once in the five years we have lived here... the first year, I didn't know about it. Every year since, I've either worked or been too socially anxious to show up.

I work again this year, because feeling mentally pretty good right now means that of course my job will ruin my chances of having a social life. It's only when I'm utterly depressed and only want to spend time in a hoodie-shrouded ball on the couch that I get time off which coincides with such things as happy hours and friends' plans.

I keep saying I need to get out of retail but I haven't done much about it. This year, I want to change that. Stay tuned.