Small Things that Brighten Life: The Beautiful Duck(ling) 2

Almost four years ago I wrote about the unusual inhabitant of the nearby pond: a domestic white duck.

Since then I kept watching him (for whatever reason I decided it was a drake) almost daily, feeling happy when I saw him in the company of other birds or sad when he was alone. Unlike other birds, this domestic duck seemed to be more “stationary”: most of the days he would be somewhere around the pond. Some days he wouldn’t be there, and I’d be worried that something had happened to him. But the next day he would be back, and the order of things would be restored.

One day, while walking in the neighborhood about a mile from our place, we came across another group of ducks with one white domestic duck. Was it our duck that got that far away from his regular spot? Could it be another white duck that also joined a wild life (after escaping from the same farm from the legend we came up with for the previous one)? We weren’t sure. I took a picture of that other group. As we came back that evening, our duck was back where it usually was, in the company of wild mallards, very similar to the one that we saw thirty minutes earlier. I took another picture and spent some time comparing the two birds. “Our” seemed bigger but then the distances from which I took those pictures were also different, so I couldn’t be really sure one way or the other.

In the following seven months we kept meeting a white duck here and there on our evening walks. We even found a “feeding spot” where two women from the apartment complex said they were feeding that white duck almost every evening. And we knew that there was a woman who fed all the birds next to our pond in the morning. And since after that one time it was back to seeing the white duck just once a day, I finally decided that probably it was the same one bird just migrating between several places that provided morning or evening meals.

A couple of weeks ago, driving by, we suddenly saw TWO white ducks in the same group of birds. I thought my eyes were playing a trick since there are other while birds around here – egrets or seagulls – whom from the distance I confuse with our duck from time to time. So we had to stop, I got out from the car, disappoint all the birds that rushed towards me expecting treats – but now I have a proof that at least two domestic white ducks live around here among wild birds. So, the title of this sequel post should have rather been: The Two Beautiful Duck(ling)s but that would have given the plot away.

White ducks and other birds

Image: my own

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Perfume Roulette

In the post for my blog’s 8th anniversary I asked my readers to name a date from the last 8 years that had some significance for them with the idea of checking my records for perfumes I wore on those dates and wearing those perfumes during February as a personal project.

It was interesting to see which events my readers chose to offer as a significant date in their lives. Birthdays are probably the easiest when it comes to selecting dates (so, just a reminder: do not use them as your passwords or pin numbers!), and it was the most popular reason for selecting a date (6): 3 personal, one mom’s, one son’s and one friend’s birthday (I liked that reason because February is my and my mother’s birthday month). Romantic occasion was the second most popular reason (5): a first date, meeting a boyfriend, two weddings and one wedding anniversary, which also was very fitting for February (Valentine’s Day). Three readers considered meeting with perfumista friend(s) special enough to offer those dates for my list. Two commenters didn’t specify the occasion for their date choice (though, I’m sure those were some special events). And one date was related to the move to a new country (or, maybe, it was returning to that country – it wasn’t clear from the comment).

In total, I got 17 comments with dates, some even with several, so I had a good set to choose from (thank you!).

It was just the fifth time in my life when I planned perfumes to wear for a month ahead. But previously I did it for a specific note: twice I wore amber perfumes for a month of November (Perfume Diary: NovAmber and I did it again: NovAmber 2018 ), once I participated in Lucas’s (Chemist in the Bottle) project of wearing rose perfumes (A Month of Roses) and once for my own project (A Month of Irises). This time I had no rhyme just reason for selecting these perfumes, so it felt a little strange. But I decided to go ahead with the project.

Did I learn anything new from it? I did!

First, even though I do not officially rotate my perfumes and haven’t got (yet?) to adding a seasonal attribute to perfumes in my database, my perfume wearing is seasonal intuitively. So being “forced” to wear in a colder season (and our winter this year is uncharacteristically cold for the area) some of the perfumes that I normally choose to wear in spring or summer, I enjoyed them less. The lesson: I should probably stick to wearing perfumes that feel right for the moment even when choosing them for some project.

Then, I realized that I didn’t like saffron in a leading role. For a while I wasn’t sure and tried to persuade myself that I liked it but the most recent experience with Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense confirmed what I suspected for a while: I get tired of saffron soon after I stop being amused that I recognized the note (as I mentioned before, it doesn’t happen too often with me, so when it does I tend to transfer my feeling good about that occurrence into false positive impressions about perfume itself). So, after coming to that realization, I’m happy that I have just a decant of this perfume and not a bottle.

And finally, I really really like Vol de Nuit in extrait concentration, so I should probably just bite the bullet and buy it. Rusty clearly votes “Yes!”

Rusty and a Test Strip

Images: all but Chanel No 19 (hajusuuri) are my own

In the Search for the Perfect Magnolia

Those of you who like me grew up in pre-Internet era, probably can remember a phenomenon of knowing about something from books, articles or even songs but never actually seeing those thing or knowing how those looked. I’m talking not about remote planets or exotic places but about rather mundane objects – plants, foods or articles of clothes.

Magnolias came into my life with a song of a popular band Ariel from 70s. It was one of those songs that are catchy and pleasing – as long as you do not think much about the lyrics (translation is approximate, just to give you the impression):

Without sorrow, sorrow, sorrow
Sea splashes in the land of magnolias
Young boys are sitting on the fence
Stirring melancholy feelings in me

Couples are dancing, dancing, dancing
Tune is familiar and even old-fashioned
And sweet sound of a bass guitar
Brings back memories… Oh, well…

If you’re curious, listen 20-30 seconds of this video: this is exactly how I remember hearing this song (though I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it before I found it recently).

 

 

It wasn’t before I moved to the U.S. that I saw the actual magnolia tree and flowers. The first encounter I remember was many years ago in a park to where we went for a walk on my birthday. It was amazing to see those huge and untidy flowers on bare branches mid-February.

Since then I saw magnolias many times and took numerous photos of this unusual bloom but when I realized how many magnolia perfumes I tried and decided to do this Single Note Exploration post, I realized that I didn’t remember how real magnolias smelled. So I waited until I spotted a blooming tree not far from my office, and today walked to it to check the scent of live magnolia flowers. On the positive side, I know now that I wasn’t just absent-minded or not curious: magnolias that grow around here just do not smell. It means that, on one hand, I have absolutely no reference point in my search for perfect magnolia perfume. But on the other, I’m not limited by the realism factor. So, to balance it out, I decided to consider only perfumes that were unequivocally designated by their creators as magnolia-centered ones (judging by the names).

 

Magnolia

 

Two years ago, while in London, I almost bought Tom Daxon Magnolia Heights. The notes include gardenia, violet leaf, ylang ylang, magnolia, jasmine sambac, cedarwood and musks. Perfume was created in 2016. It is a beautiful floral bouquet, and I like it very much but, as I mentioned in the post then, being a floral perfumes fan, I have at least several perfumes in this genre that I like more. But give it a try if you ever come across Magnolia Heights, or if you’re looking for another floral favorite.

 

Tom Daxon Magnolia Heights

 

Perfume that I keep testing and seem not to be able to put off my mind is Magnolia Grandiflora Michel by Grandiflora. It was created by Michel Roudnitska in 2013. Notes include lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, magnolia, vetiver, patchouli and musk. Michele is beautifully blended, and I like the composition though I can’t tell most of the listed notes; maybe some citrus in the opening. And in development it reminds me of tea. I think it is jasmine that gives me that impression. Had the brand launched it as a travel spray, I would have bought it already. But even with the only offered size 50 ml I still might go for it (though I must say that I really dislike their new bottle design and cannot explain the change by anything but a desire to save money on packaging).

A sister perfume, Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine, created the same year by Sandrine Videault, is one of rare perfumes that actually repulse me. It evokes a smell of something overripe, maybe even decaying. Interestingly, for a while I thought that this scent might be characteristic of magnolia flower. Why? Because I smelled it (and disliked there as well) in another magnolia-centric perfume – Sud Magnolia by Atelier Cologne. But as I discovered, Sandrine’s notes do not even list magnolia! So, I’m not sure what smells that unpleasant to me: lemon, grapefruit, white pepper, fresh garden accord, dry wood accord, marine-aquatic accord or musky accord.

As I mentioned, Atelier Cologne’s Sud Magnolia didn’t work for me either. Jerome Epinette who created it in 2015, is a nose behind several perfumes that I like both from Atelier Cologne and other brands, but Sud Magnolia, after starting even nice, develops unpleasantly on my skin. I thought of listing all nine notes mentioned on Fragrantica but since that site doesn’t allow copying, I went to the brand’s site where I learned that the only notes they cared us to know about were Magnolia accord, Grapefruit from South America and Cedarwood from the Americas (sic). Well, since the brand doesn’t want to overwhelm customers with these details (other than with the required by law, I assume, list of used chemicals), I won’t bother either.

 

Magnolia

 

I wanted to love Eau De Magnolia created in 2014 by Carlos Benaim for Frederic Malle: I like the brand, and I was looking for another perfume from them to cross that like/love line. Bergamot, magnolia, vetiver, patchouli, cedarwood, moss and amber sounded promising but, in my opinion, Eau de Magnolia hasn’t become to magnolia what other perfumes of the brand have done to the respective flowers. It is quite pleasant and wearable but I don’t find it memorable.

Bottega Veneta’s Parco Palladino I: Magnolia seems to be even less memorable. Floral perfume with some green notes. It is nice, but I did expect much more from the first perfume in the “high end” collection of the brand whose first perfume was as impressive as their one was. But since the notes list proudly and openly mentions Iso E Super that I like in perfumes (in addition to bergamot, grapefruit, orange, lily of the valley, magnolia, rose, green notes and white musk), I urge you to give it a try if you can do it without paying for it.

After running all these tests, I think I recognize how magnolia note is represented in perfumery. But until I smell real flowers or find perfume that I’d like even more, I’ll consider Magnolia Grandiflora Michel the perfect magnolia perfume.

 

Magnolia

 

Have you ever experienced aromatic magnolias? Do you like this flower in either natural or recreated form? Do you have a favorite magnolia-centric perfume?

 

Images: my own

Groundhog Day Perfume

Living in the area where the weather is great most of the time (if not to count drought that we had for several years, but it didn’t feel like bad weather, I just knew that it was bad for us), I have only a memory of how awful cold weather might be, and how tired one gets with the winter and wishes it to finally end. But from the time when winter and cold weather were still an unpleasant part of my life, Groundhog Day movie has been one of my absolute favorites. I won’t claim that I re-watch it every year but I watched it more times than most other movies in my life, which is both ironical and symbolic if you’re familiar with the plot of the movie.

What I find interesting about this movie is that while it is a comedy, there are no that many one-liners in it. And still for me it’s one of the best comedies ever.

Just in case you’ve never seen the movie: “Phil Connors, a cynical TV weatherman (Bill Murray) finds himself reliving the same day over and over again when he goes on location to the small town of Punxsutawney to film a report about their annual Groundhog Day.”

In one of the scenes, after many-many repetitions of the same miserable day, Phil says:

I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank piña coladas. At sunset we made love like sea otters. That was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get that day over and over and over?

That made me think about… well, perfumes. Neither I nor most (all?) of you are a signature-perfume-wearer-type. When five years ago I invited my readers to participate in an experiment of [thinking of] wearing the same perfume for a week, most of the readers admitted to not being able to do that. I barely went through the experiment myself (with 1-day interruption). But what if I were to get stuck in February 2nd somewhere away from home (and my collection) on a one-day trip (so no back-ups) – what perfume would I want to be wearing?

Any choice would be an impossible one: I don’t want to be wearing any one perfume for days or months, leave alone years (according to different sources, Phil Connors spent from 8 to 10 years in Punxsutawney). But if I had to choose, I would probably go with one of the original Miss Dior perfumes in my collection.

My Miss Dior Family

And if you were wondering why I haven’t chosen my eternal perfume love Lancôme Climat or one of the later top favorites, e.g., Ormonde Jayne Ta’if or Amouage Ubar: these three are too special for me to wear any of them every day – and I would want to wear perfume even under those dire circumstances, but I’d need something I think I would be able to tolerate for many days. And with Miss Dior I have a long history of warm relationship. So, I hope it would support me during the endless winter (and as an added bonus: I would have never risked running out of it since every morning the bottle would be full to the same level as the morning before).

 

How about you? What would be your Groundhog day perfume choice?

 

Image: my own

Infinity in Blog Years, or Undina’s Looking Glass is 8

This year, as seven years before, I was thinking about what to do for my blog’s anniversary. And then I missed it. I didn’t forget about it, I wasn’t busy with something else (well, I was busy but it wasn’t a reason) – I just mixed dates. Somehow in my mind the 8th anniversary was supposed to be on January 28th whereas in reality I published my first post on 24th, which I realized only two days after the date. For some reason it upset me so much that I couldn’t make myself to finish this post even for the wrongly remembered date. I was I know that I’m not the first blogger to miss a blogoversary. But I find it ironic that I managed to publish something else on the date (though, serendipitously, it was a story about Ormonde Jayne Tsarina – one of the perfumes I previously mentioned in my blog’s sixth anniversary post; back then it was the only perfume in the list without a story).

Anyway, what is a couple of days compared to the infinity of the Universe… or even to 8 years of blogging (which, if you were to tilt your head, would look like the infinity symbol ∞)?

Eight

When I started this blog eight years ago, I didn’t plan to do perfume reviews. The idea was to tell life stories that were more or less related to perfumes. All these years later I still do not think I can do what many of you, my readers, easily do in your blogs or comments to other people’s posts: describe in details how perfumes smell to you. From time to time I venture into putting what I smell into words, especially when it comes to perfumes with which I do not plan to go beyond samples, since that minimizes their chances to become one of my stories. But I do it as an added feature, to be more diverse in topics but not because I ran out of stories: to my surprise, I still have a Word file with pages of ideas for future posts. I just wait for the right time or mood to tell those.

Also, as I was planning this blog, I didn’t know Rusty would become such a star. But I’m glad to have such an adorable mascot (mascAt?).

Rusty MascAt

Since I’ve just recently done a year round-up statistics post, I don’t want to play with numbers for the anniversary post. But out of curiosity I looked up what perfumes I wore on that date in the past: on four occasions I wore Lancôme Climat – purposefully to mark the date; one time for each Chanel No 19, Amouage Lyric, Mona di Orio Vanille 44 and Parfumerie Generale Felanilla. And the day I published my very first post on this blog I wore La Prairie Life Threads Platinum.

In 2010, as I get from my notes, I’d already started the descent into the rabbit hole of testing niche perfumes, so I wasn’t specifically looking for another mainstream perfume to add to my collection. There were other precious metals and gemstones in La Prairie’s perfume lineup, but only Life Threads Platinum attracted my attention, and after trying it several times at a store I ended up buying a box of 1.5 ml samples from eBay (for less than $10!).

La Prairie Life Threads Platinums Samples

I enjoyed wearing it for a while and even thought I would buy a bottle eventually. But then Perfumeland happened. How many of you knows about this perfume or tried it? The brand wasn’t popular with perfumistas. Nobody discussed it or wrote posts about it. And there were so many interesting new perfumes to try and discuss!

January 24th, 2011, the day I published the first post on my blog was the last time I wore Life Threads Platinum. In the following years I shared some of the samples from my box with others during samples exchanges, probably secretly hoping that someone else would also find it interesting and validate my feelings. It never happened. And when I found the remaining 7 samples recently, I discovered that they evaporated leaving just a half-drop of a very concentrated liquid on the bottom of the plastic vial, not enough to do an actual testing but maybe just to give a vague reminder of how it smelled.

Thanks to the records of each wearing that I keep, I can tell that, without comparing them side-by-side, Life Threads Platinum reminded me of Chanel No 19. I checked: they have just 5 officially listed notes in common – rose, oakmoss, galbanum, iris and vetiver. These are 5 out of 7 notes of my rainbow colors mnemonic perfumista-style from my seventh anniversary post.

These days I could buy a bottle of Life Threads Platinum for half of its original price, if not less. I’m tempted but shouldn’t I rather wear No 19 more often? We’ll see. At this point I sniffed the remaining smidgen of perfume from the vial and let Rusty play with it (on the pictures below that out-of-focus object flying off the sideboard is a vial Rusty propelled to the floor and then watched it rolling there before jumping down to continue the hunt).

While writing this post, I came up with an idea for this year February. I previously did a Month of Roses with Lucas in 2017 and Februiris in 2018. This year, if you play with me, I’ll do a “Readers’ Choice Month.”

How would it work? It’s simple. Tell me any date (day, month and year) from the last 8 years that had any significance to you (you can elaborate on why you chose that date or leave it a mystery). I will check my perfume database and one day in February will wear perfume that I wore (or tested) on “your” date, and in the month’s round-up I will reveal perfumes chosen for me and tell you how my impressions of it these days compares to how I felt about it on the date you chose.

 

Images: my own

Change of Plans

For some perfumes you have a mental picture. For me Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess is strongly connected to a tropical vacation, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt is a stroll on a NorthCal beach, and Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles reminds me of Christmas. And I always associated Ormonde Jayne Tsarina with winter and snow. Why? Beats me. Until last week I haven’t ever worn it in cold weather. Probably, some cultural stereotypes: tsarina -> Russia -> winter -> bears… OK, the last part has nothing to do with perfume but you got the picture.

Winter

Being not a morning person, I try to plan all of my trips to start not too early and prepare everything in advance. So for this New Year’s trip to New Mexico, with a flight scheduled in the afternoon and all our suitcases packed the night before, I felt pretty good: all I had left to do in the morning was to figure out what perfumes to take with me and pack them – after I slept in on my first day of vacation.

That morning, on December 28th, I haven’t heard anything because of the Do Not Disturb mode on my phone, but something made me check it out before it was time to get up. Text messages from the friends who were joining us on this trip from Texas urged me to contact them. A series of calls and messages between them and the other couple in our party painted not an optimistic picture: our friends got from Austin to Dallas, where they learned that their next flight was cancelled… until the New Year Eve. And even though the four of us from California could still fly into the airport 2.5 hours’ drive away from the destination, weather advisory for the area didn’t recommend traveling to there because of the strong snow storm, and our friends from Texas couldn’t get their luggage back from the airline to even attempt driving to the rented house in New Mexico.

It was shaping up to become a disaster instead of a pleasant holiday with friends, so we had to figure out something quickly. We changed everything and had just a couple of hours to get tickets to Austin (luckily, our friends could accommodate four more people at their house), rent a car, re-pack suitcases (clothes suitable for 5F/-15C mountain retreat would be out of place in a mild Texan winter) and choose perfumes for the trip. And same as wool underwear and snow boots, Tsarina didn’t get to accompany me to Austin because it seemed not quite right for the weather there.

Everything came together nicely, and we had wonderful time with our friends, but it was the second New Year trip where I didn’t wear Tsarina even though I planned to: since I was sick during my last year’s trip, I haven’t got to experience Tsarina in cold weather then as well. But at least last year with my friend’s help I managed to get an appropriate winter picture with it.

Ormonde Jayne Tsarina

On my recent short trip to the East Coast I finally managed to find the right weather to wear Tsarina: there was no snow but it was cold-cold-cold! And Tsarina was just right then and there.

Tsarina was created in 2012 for Ormonde Jayne by Geza Shoen. Official notes: mandarine, bergamot, coriander, cassis, hedione, freesia, jasmine, sambac, iris, suede, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla bean, labdanum and musk.

Tsarina is very polite suede, iris and amber perfume with each of the three named players being even more timid than the previous one. I’m not sure what the brand meant when describing it as “a powerhouse perfume” but on my skin Tsarina is gracious and well-behaved – as a true royalty. I wish iris and amber were more prominent but probably for that I’ll have to turn to Tsarina‘s relatives – Ormonde Woman and Vanille d’Iris.

If you haven’t tried this perfume yet and want to know more, read this review by Kafka, who is responsible for Tsarina in my collection: not only she did that nice review but she also shared a sample with me. And I liked it enough to buy travel sprays.

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: 2018 Year Round-up

Another year is behind us. Once again, it was not that bad for me. Would I want 2019 to be better? I would. But I would settle for it to be not worse than 2018.

Perfume-wise 2018 was a solid year for me. I keep “diversifying”: I wore 196 perfumes (vs. 178 in 2017), from 79 brands (vs. 72) on more occasions (372 vs. 314 in 2017). And if you are wondering how I manage to wear more perfumes than days in a year and also do a lot of testing, just look at the brand I wore the most: with its tenacity I could have worn probably twice as many perfumes if I were to carry extra ones with me to apply later during the work day.

Brands I wore most in 2018

Jo Malone and Chanel keep the first two positions, the next 6 brands changed places but are still on my Top 10 list, and only two brands are new compared to the previous year – Dior and Frederic Malle.

I still rotate perfumes daily, so I do not wear any one of my favorites too often. Perfumes I wore the most often in 2018: Lancôme Climat (10 times), Ormonde Jayne Ta’if (7) and Chanel Bois des Iles (6), which isn’t surprising since the first two are my absolute favorites and the third one was a new bottle purchase this year.

Chanel Bois des Iles

Also, I managed to test more perfumes than I did last year (if to count only perfumes I tested at home): 380 perfumes (vs. 300 in 2017) from 139 brands (vs. 103). Out of these 380 perfumes 145 I tested for the first time.

The only position where I did “worse” than the year before is 2018 releases tested: I managed to try 44 perfumes released last year (vs. 45 in 2017) and liked several of them enough to add to my collection. But I plan to tell their stories in future posts, so for now they shall stay unnamed.

I used 51 pictures of Rusty in posts in 2018 (I didn’t count them before, so I have no comparison point here but you can see all of them if you filter my posts by the “Four legs good” CATegory).

Rusty on the Stairs

How was your 2018 perfume-wise and in general?

 

Images: my own