Big Island Vacation, Episode III: Trivia Edition

As my friend Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) usually does it, here’s a disclaimer: this is not a perfume-related post. But you know what? If you read my “perfume” posts and are still around, I would bet that this one can’t be that much less interesting/useful.

This trip to Hawaii was quite educational, and I do not use it as a euphemism for something unpleasant. Quite literally, I learned many new and interesting trivia bits and had interesting experiences, mostly food-related, which now I plan to share with you.

Did you know that…

  • Between 1790 and 1870, sandalwood was a major part of Hawaii’s agricultural industry1. Too bad it’s not any more – it would have been interesting to compare it to sandalwood from other areas.
  • In the 1960s, Hawaii was responsible for 80% of the world’s pineapple. Today, Hawaii produces only 2% of the world’s pineapple. But 90% of the world’s macadamia nuts are still produced there [1].

Big Island Macadamia Nuts

  • Peaberry coffee (oval, pea-shaped coffee beans) is not a special coffee variety but rather a rare (about 5%) mutation produced by regular coffee trees.
  • Roasted coffee beans are bigger than green ones [2].

Big Island Roasted Coffee

  • Passion fruit is a vine.

Passion Fruit

  • Strawberry guava is considered the most invasive plant in Hawaii [3].

Big Island Strawberry Guava

  • Left not picked, a tea bush can grow higher than the tallest person.
  • Both green and black tea are grown on the same bush but, counter-intuitively, green tea is “cooked” (leaves are heated in a special appliance, shown below, to stop the oxidation), while black – isn’t [4].

Big Island Tea Roasting Machine

During this trip I’ve seen for the first time:

  • Tea flowers and tea seeds: you can propagate tea by either cuttings or seeds [4]. Tea flowers look beautiful both in rain and on a sunny day.
  • Growing vanilla: it looks like green beans!

Big Island Vanilla

  • Cinnamon tree: I didn’t realize before that it’s made from the bark is harvested from a live tree [4].

Big Island Sinnamon Tree

We experienced:

  • Mead from local honey infused with local tea: it tastes great on a hot day.

Big Island Tea Infused Mead

  • Chinese tea ceremony during which I smelled strong floral scent of one of the black teas: it wasn’t an imaginary or pretend-I-know-what-you-mean scent as it happens sometimes with wine tasting but it actually smelled of flowers [4].

Big Island Chinese Tea Ceremony

  • Freshly baked homemade scones with passion fruit curd: we were treated to these in the end of the tea ceremony, and they were so tasty that I started contemplating making them at home.

Scone and passion fruit curd

  • Hot and sunny mornings, perfect tropical rains and the most beautiful sunsets – and all that within an hour-drive distance

 

1 Source https://www.to-hawaii.com/agriculture.php

2 From our visit to Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation that offers free coffee farm tours lead by enthusiastic staff members, sampling of coffee and other products in their shop, as well as inexpensive nature walks.

3 Wikipedia

4 From the private tour in Onomea Tea Company – three-hour event that included the tour and tea ceremony. It was probably the best experience of this type in my life, so I would highly recommend it.

 

Images: my own

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A Postcard from Undina: Happy Rainy Thanksgiving!

I know that for many people rain isn’t something pleasant or desirable. But here, in California, after several years of serious drought, rain is always welcome. But even more so today: it brought us a beautiful Thanksgiving gift of “Good” Air Quality Index – after a week of fluctuations between “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy” because of the devastating and the deadliest in California history Camp Fire that is still ruining our beautiful state (it’s 75% contained as of now).

I’m thankful for the rain. I’m thankful that my loved ones are alive and safe this holiday. I’m thankful I have people with whom I will be celebrating this holiday that hasn’t been mine when I grew up but which I grew to appreciate over years living in the U.S.

 

Happy Rainy Thanksgiving 2018

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers!

Image: my own taken earlier today

The Big Easy: Food, Music, Cats and Perfumes

New Orleans seems to be one of those places to where everybody either always wanted to go or had been to and remembers it fondly. Somehow nobody I spoke about New Orleans had mentioned the local weather.

Neither my vSO nor I like hot weather. Hot and humid is even worse. So I’m not sure how it happened that we agreed to go with our friends to New Orleans mid-June. It just hadn’t crossed my mind to check in March when we planned the trip what to expect. Most likely, I wasn’t paying attention because the dates were set (our friends had an annual event to attend there, and we were just piggybacking on their special hotel rates). So for the six days we spent there it was above 30C/90F during the day, which put a strain on our ability to explore the city. But we did our best.

Ambiance

When arriving to a new city, nothing puts you at ease better than seeing a new security feature introduced by Uber…

 

Uber Safety Feature

 

I swear: it wasn’t there several hours earlier when I used the app to get a ride to the airport in San Francisco! So, while I thought it was a clever idea, and whenever I used Uber before, I was always making sure to inform somebody where I was, I started questioning immediately how unsafe it was there that they felt like running the onboarding for the feature specifically on my first use of the service in New Orleans. But during the stay everything seemed to be quite safe, even though (or thanks to?) I’ve never remembered seeing that much of police presence on the streets anywhere else.

Food

Food we had during our stay in New Orleans was good. I wouldn’t say it was spectacular but it was good. Expensive but good. We even found a place that served an afternoon tea. What pleasantly surprised me was that practically all cocktails we had in different places were well made, which I cannot say about many restaurants around where we live. Looking back, the day was broken into small chunks of doing something else in between finding ourselves at the next café or restaurant – to cool off while eating or drinking something.

 

 

Entertainment

Recommendations we got from friends and colleagues were food (everyone started with food!), swamps (it was too hot to attempt that), a couple of museums (did that) and music events. We were too busy before the trip to research where we’d like to go, and it was a mistake. The first night in New Orleans a group of us went to some jazz club for a drink and some music. Drinks were fine. Music… Some people just do not understand that “improvisation” doesn’t mean producing random sounds with a saxophone. For the next 6 days, as we were coming across different musicians on the street or at different venues – be those marching or seating bands or even lonely drummers, I kept saying: “Even that is better than what we heard the first night!”

 

 

I get easily bored at museums: there’s that fine line between keeping me interested for 2-3 hours and making me yawn in 15 minutes, and I rarely can predict the way it would go with one museum or the other. But since it was very hot outside, Louisiana State Museum seemed like a good alternative to just returning to the hotel room and trying to watch Netflix streaming of some next show episode.

It wasn’t the most interesting or entertaining exhibition but it had its moments, so I cannot really complain about it (it was much better than numerous museums I’ve visited in different parts of the world before). But one stand captured my attention, and I spent probably more than 5 minutes in front of it.

New Orleans Music

 

I did read the text (and you can too if you open the picture: I purposefully didn’t resize it); but what attracted me the most, were two telephone handsets (wired) that you could use to listen to the same song – The Battle of New Orleans – performed by Johnny Horton and Lonnie Donegan. I still can’t say which one I like more. Can you?

 

 

 

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium wasn’t something that anyone had recommended but one night while walking around our hotel we came across a bright lit window with live butterflies, got curious and came back the next day. I have no idea how it came to that, but this museum, the largest free-standing American museum dedicated to insects, is located at the U.S. Custom House Federal Building. The security measures to get into this museum were stricter than those we went through at the airport. But I really enjoyed the exposition. We all probably read about mimicry and saw some nature documentary about it on TV, but when you see up-close insects that resemble flowers (Orchid mantis) or leaves (Dead Leaf mantis or walking leaf Phylliidae) it is very impressive. (Can you spot all of them on the pictures below?) And butterflies that just float all around you and sit on any available surface (including you) were just beautiful.

 

 

Cats

Even while on the best vacation, we miss Rusty a lot. I wish he could travel with us. But I doubt either one of us would enjoy it. So he usually gets a cat sitter to keep him company. And while we were getting the “proof of life” as I called those daily pictures that a cat sitter was sending us, we kept coming across New Orleans cats everywhere – on the street (either sleeping in shadow or even walking on a leash), in the store (in an eyewear shop Art & Eyes where we went because our friend wanted to get a new frame, we met Hamilton, a store cat; another one we saw sleeping on a half-finished carpet still on a loom), or on pictures and prints sold at the art fair on Frenchman street (I couldn’t pass that orange cat print – so now it hangs over my Zen Garden in the office).

 

 

Perfumes

I plan to do the next post focusing on perfumes I discovered while in New Orleans: it won’t make them justice to cram them in the end of a long post. But since it’s a perfume blog, I cannot not to touch on the subject completely (and it wouldn’t be true to the story since perfumes do play an important role in my life).

Since I knew it would be hot and humid, I brought with me perfumes that I thought would work well in that weather. And all of them were great and added to positive side of the trip. But the one that stood out was Byredo Bal D’Afrique.

Before falling in love with it, I tried it several times. The issue was that two samples that I got from friends earlier stayed neglected in the pile “to test” until they went off leaving rather unpleasant impression and regret about wasted skin “real estate” once I finally got to test them. And then I got a fresh sample – and it was a completely different story.

Even then I, being me, did not go for a bottle but instead bought a decant from one of the split groups on FB. Partially it’s explained by the fact that I think that Byredo’s minimalistic bottle and packaging design doesn’t suit this perfume. Those clean lines, good for the tender La Tulipe, seem wrong for this bright and sexy perfume.

I do not see myself wearing it too often since most of my life goes at work, and Bal D’Afrique is not even remotely office-friendly, but it is an extremely interesting oriental woody perfume that should work equally well both in the dead of winter and on a tropical vacation. It seems like a truly unisex perfume but not one of those anemic citrus-y numbers that can be considered as such just because none of genders would claim the ownership, but rather a bold statement that perfectly fits anyone who wants to wear it.

If you find interesting such perfumes as Byredo Pulp, L’Artisan Traversee du Bosphore or DelRae Bois de Paradise, definitely give Bal D’Afrique a try.

 

Rusty in Grass

 

Since my decant of Bal D’Afrique isn’t too picturesque, and I do not have any Africa-inspired or related items to make a nice shot, I decided to illustrate it with the photo of Rusty on my backyard (à la African Savanna stroll).

 

Is New Orleans on your bucket list?

 

Images: my own

Small Things That Brighten Life: Two Suns

Today was a good day: first of all, it was a weekend after a busy week. Second, I didn’t have to be anywhere so I almost missed the heat wave that was happening outside (“almost” because at some point I had to turn on the A/C – just to make sure my perfumes were comfortable, I myself could have easily stayed downstairs without it). Third, I managed to finish a couple of chores at home, which gave me some sense of accomplishment (something that I don’t get at work recently because of the size of the project I’m working on). Forth, I got a chance to do some serious perfume testing since dictated by the weather short sleeves of my lounge wear allowed for multiple “test sites.”

And at the end of the day overcast that will bring us tomorrow a relief from the short temperature spike today, once again, served as a sophisticated camera lens that allowed me to see a very unusual sunset.

 

Sunset June 2018

 

… and about 10 minutes later

 

Sunset June 2018

 

Have a nice Sunday and stay cool (warm – for those on the opposite side).

 

Images: my own (pictures were not color edited)

Perfumes, Wine and Ocean

This was planned for the previous week, but time just ran away from me. So, it’s a Second Sunday Samples post on the third Sunday of the month.

* * *

As we were planning a short getaway with friends, I was facing the usual perfumista’s dilemma: which perfumes to bring. Not only we had really vague plans that included wine and cheese tasting (not at the same time), eating oysters and beach walks, but also those activities were spread in two distinct temperature-wise areas – wine country (+32C/90F) and oceanside (23C/73F). Since I wasn’t sure how long each part of the trip would take, I didn’t want to subject any of my favorite perfumes to hours in a hot car trunk, so I didn’t consider either full bottles or even travel ones. At the same time, as a rule, I do not wear perfumes from samples that I test – unless I’m trying to decide whether to buy more. So I took with me samples for perfumes that I’ve either already included into my collection or considered for that.

 

Perfume Samples

 

I ended up wearing just one of the perfumes featured in the picture above – Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia: it was wonderful on a hot day and somehow managed not to clash with aromas from wines that we tasted that day, even though theoretically I wouldn’t recommend this perfume for the activity. I did a mini-review for it almost seven years ago in my post In the Search for the Perfect Pear, and I still enjoy wearing it but I still haven’t bought a bottle because I haven’t finished the decant and several samples that I got. It is though one of my strong favorites from this brand, and just in case you missed it in the sea of Jo Malone’s releases I encourage you to try English Pear & Freesia. Unless they change it beyond recognition, I see a bottle in my future.

 

 

One more Jo Malone perfume – Wood Sage & Sea Salt – I brought with me because it seemed like a good fit to the aquatic part of our trip. Created by Christine Nagel in 2014, with a short list of notes – ambrette seeds, sea salt, sage, seaweed and grapefruit, it felt right in place during our walk on the beach and later for the oysters and champagne dinner at the house that we rented with our friends. Wood Sage & Sea Salt wears nicely both on the tropical beach and on a cool NorCal shore (but I’m glad that I do not smell seaweed in the composition: even though I do not mind smelling it from time to time in nature, I wouldn’t want to smell of it). Will I buy a bottle once I finish my decant? I’m not sure but I might.

 

 

The biggest surprise for me was Mito EdP by vero profumo: I have tried it soon after the release and even remember liking it, but somehow I didn’t go through with the thorough testing – and the sample just stayed in my library for the last several years. It felt right for the occasion, so I took it with me, wore it on a sunny warm day for another round of wine tasting – and loved-loved-loved it.

Most of my readers had probably tested Mito before (and some even reviewed it), so I won’t go through the complete list of notes. But I want to mention my most favorite moments in this perfume development: prominent citrus opening that manages not to take this perfume into the summery cologne territory, slightly bitter greenness of galbanum in development and sweet warmth of … I have no idea what produces that effect but I keep bringing my wrist to my nose trying to figure it out… I think my almost empty sample isn’t enough to finish my study of this beautiful perfume, so I’ll just have to do something about it – in the interest of science, you know.

 

Vero Profumo Mito

 

Images: my own

Timeless Beauty

I have a friend whose hobby is to lead guided tours in San Francisco. Last weekend she invited us to join one of her tours – San Francisco Waterfront Walk. I had no idea what topic she had chosen but it didn’t matter because we went mostly for a walk itself and to spend some time with her and her husband later that day.

The tour started from The Palace of Fine Arts. It was designed by Bernard R. Maybeck and constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition as a temporary structure to exhibit works of art. It was intended to last for a year or so and be torn down after the exposition was over. But the Palace was so beloved by citizens of San Francisco that it was spared the demolition. Consistent with his design concept (it was supposed to evoke the impression of a Roman ruin), Maybeck had intended that the Palace should just fall into ruin, and so it did for a long time while serving all possible purposes – housing multiple exhibitions, lighted tennis courts (1934-1942), storage of trucks and jeeps (during the WWII), limousines motor pool for the UN representatives after the war, and other odd uses. By 50s “the simulated ruin was in fact a crumbling ruin” but in 60s it was rebuilt to its current state and is being maintained since then.

 

 

From the Palace we passed the streets that replaced the exhibit halls in the years that followed the exposition. We went by beautiful Art Deco buildings, through blooming jasmine, lilacs and irises, all the way to the Marina from where you can see one of the world’s largest examples of the Art Deco style – the Golden Gate Bridge on the left and Alcatraz Island on the right.

 

Up the hill, through the park and Fort Mason Community Garden, to the Haskell House and back down to the shore. It was a wonderful 3-hour walk on a sunny, breezy and, surprisingly for San Francisco, clear day.

What perfume does one choose for such tour?

 

Paris, 1926. ‘Art deco’ is all the rage, exoticism fascinates, and jazz stirs passions. People dream of faraway lands and precious woods. Once again, Coco Chanel shakes up the history of perfume by launching the first woody fragrance for women. An intoxicating, enveloping, warm, sensual, spiraling scent. It’s all there: the precious woods, the opiate scents and magnificent, languid flowers. The fragrance is a mysterious, faraway continent in itself.

 

That is an old quote from Chanel’s website. They’ve changed the description at least a couple of times over the last several years (I wonder if it coincided with reformulations) but you have probably guessed already that I chose Bois des Iles as my Waterfront Walk perfume. Since I didn’t know any details of that walk in advance, my perfume choice was just a serendipitous one. But it felt just right – airy, with a whiff of lilacs, jasmine, iris and rose, warm, slightly sweet and woody. Same as The Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate Bridge, this beauty has survived all the years and reconstructions and is still mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.

Chanel Bois des Iles

 

Images: my own

Small Things That Brighten Life: Wildflowers

I can’t believe it has been more than six months since I published something in this series. It was not because nothing good was happening but somehow I would get distracted – and then some other topic would come up. So this time I decided not to wait.

One of our local parks – Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve – is known for its wild flowers. We used to go there often in different seasons but in the recent years for many reasons, none of which is a good excuse, we stopped spending time in parks. This year we remembered in time about the wildflowers season and decided it was a perfect opportunity to re-institute some of better habits.

I knew that the best time for this area is mid-late April but hoped that because of the warm winter we had and all the rain that has finally honored us with its presence in March blooming season would start earlier. It has started but it’s not in full swing yet. Nevertheless, there was a nice variety of flowers on sunny grasslands and just amazing greenery in the shade of woods. It was a well spent Easter Sunday.

 

 

When was the last time you saw wildflowers?

 

Images: my own