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

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Celebrating Missed Opportunities

As I’ve mentioned more than once, I live in the area where we have two seasons: summer and the rest of the year. I do not complain: I love our weather (even when I wish we’d have more rain) and think that our climate is one of the best possible. But from time to time, especially around winter holidays, I get a pang of nostalgia for real winter with snow, icicles and colder weather. Then we go to nearby mountains – and it cures those feelings for the next couple of years.

Since neither my vSO no I are into the downhill skiing, on our winter trips we usually enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Because of the drought we had in 2012-16, for several years we didn’t go “into winter”: while skiing resorts were making artificial snow for quite expensive downhill rides, our preferred winter activities were out of question. And without snow there wasn’t much sense in going there.

So when after five years of snowless New Year celebrations I wanted my snow fix, we decided not to rely on unpredictable California weather and planned a trip to Utah. Nobody in our “party of six” had ever been to there, and it was promising to be a perfect New Year getaway.

 

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Panoramic views from the dining room of the cabin where we stayed were spectacular, including what felt like a private viewing of the supermoon… And that was almost the full extent of my winter experience this time since, following my vSO’s steps (which almost never happens in these matters), I got extremely sick soon after the arrival.

 

Utah 2018 Supermoon

 

It was perfect winter outside: not too cold, fresh snow, sun during the day and full moon at night. And all I could manage was to crawl downstairs to the living room to spend time with our friends (when they weren’t outside), watch TV (re-watching Monk TV show was surprisingly comforting), work on a mystery puzzle (2 x 1000 pieces without a hint – and we solved the murder!) and eat great meals that our friends cooked. And these simple things would take up all of my strength and resolve.

 

 

Not long before the trip I bought two travel sprays from Sonoma Scent StudioWinter Woods and Fireside Intense. I had an idea that where we were going would be just the right setting for wearing both of those perfumes. I planned to take some appropriate pictures and make a post out of it once I got back.

Despite being sick, I wore some perfumes during this trip but none of the two SSS’s perfumes felt right to wear while being stuck in the cabin: both seemed too strong and intense. But what was even worse, I felt too weak to even try to put on warm clothes and try to go for a photo shoot outside. So my friend agreed to help and in between producing all that food pictured above spent 15 minutes outside taking pictures according to the general directions I gave her from my sick sofa.

 

Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods and Fireside Intense

 

I was barely out of the woods (both literary and figuratively speaking), when I got the news that Laurie Erickson was retiring from the business. Combined with my failed vacation, it seemed strange to write about perfumes that nobody could either try or buy any longer. Then my blog’s anniversary, a Month of Irises and my birthday came, and I put all that out of my mind.

March is being great this year: we got a lot of rain that we needed. And with it cold weather came, which allowed me to wear many of my winter favorites that I didn’t get a chance to wear earlier in the year. Including Winter Woods and Fireside intense. And I enjoyed them both very much.

Many years ago I wrote about Winter Woods. It took me 6 years to go through my 2.5 ml sample. So, I think I’ll be fine for a while with these 5 ml travel sprays. So, as much as it makes me sad to see this brand go (or changing hands, which, in general, is the same thing), I’m glad that I got to know it, and there will be many more chances for me to wear these perfumes – with or without snow around me. It’s a pity that those of you who haven’t tried them (or my most recent favorite Bee’s Bliss), won’t get to. But there will be other winters, other perfumes and other opportunities. And I hope that Laurie Erickson who created perfumes that touched so many people will be successful in pursuing her new opportunities.

 

Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods and Fireside Intense

 

Are there any perfumes that you wish you had bought before they disappeared?

 

Images: my own

Merry Christmas!

Rusty and Christmas 2017

 

Best wishes to all my friends and readers who celebrate Christmas. I hope your holidays are filled with joy and love. And good food (Rusty can relate to that last part).

 

Please join me in wishing many healthy and nutritious years to Rusty who turns 9 today. He is a wonderful cat who brightens our life and brings a lot of positive emotions to many other people.

Happy Halloween 2017!

Halloween 2017

Happy Halloween to all who celebrates (and those who don’t – you should: it’s a fun holiday!).

We’re having a Mad Tea-Party tomorrow in the office. I’ll be wearing a Zorro hat (hats are the theme) and a combination of Jo Malone Earl Grey & Cucumber and Sweet Milk (it’s more a story than a review – for those who weren’t around 6 years ago).

What are you wearing this Tuesday – related to Halloween or not?

A Postcard from Undina: Sonoma – Love and Tears

Almost 10 years ago our friends took us to one of the wineries that they liked – Paradise Ridge. It was the last day of a beautiful 3-day Sonoma trip mid-December, right in between two big holidays with inevitable crowds, so we had most of the places to ourselves. It was a magic trip.

There are many good wineries in our region. Some of them look like a small castle or château. It wasn’t the case with Paradise Ridge: it looked quite ordinary from the outside.

 

Paradise Ridge Winery Tasting Room

 

If you expected that the next phrase would be about the great interiors, I tricked you: while it was very nice and perfectly suitable for their specialty – wine tasting and weddings, a large second floor banquet room, a ground floor tasting room and even a wooden deck with tables for picnic under a huge oak tree – weren’t the best part of this winery experience. But the view that opened from each of those areas was just breathtaking.

 

View from the Paradise Ridge Winery Tasting Room

 

That view alone would have been probably enough to visit that place from time to time, but they also produced wine that we liked very much. And about 8 years ago we became Paradise Ridge Wine Club members. Since I haven’t been to wine regions in any other country, I do not know how common are wine club memberships in countries where my readers live, so I’ll just quickly explain that in the U.S. it usually means that you “subscribe” to get a certain number of bottles during one year, and the winery sends you those bottles (of their choice but with 15-20% discount from their regular prices) 3-6 times a year. This is done either prepaid for that year or in installments when they ship (or, as we prefer to do, when we pick up our shipments). Small family owned wineries like Paradise Ridge rarely sell their wines to retail stores: they do not produce enough to benefit from volume sales. So wines that they produce are sold mostly to the club members and in their tasting rooms.

 

ParadizeWine haul from the Paradise Ridge Winery

 

Over years we went there dozens of times – just two of us, with local friends and with friends and relatives visiting from other states. We became… not friends but very good acquaintances with the wine maker and several people who worked at the Paradise Ridge winery. So we kept coming back for great wine, beautiful views and an improvised park with periodically changing strange metal sculptures – just a perfect setting to spend time walking and taking pictures in between visiting other wineries and doing more tasting. One of those sculptures became Paradise Ridge’s trademark (and I shared it with those who were here five years ago in one of my “postcard” posts).

 

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On October 9, when we heard about fires that broke out Sunday night in that region, my first thoughts went to Paradise Ridge and Sunce (our second most favorite winery). As always in such cases, at the same time there was too much and not enough information. I kept telling myself that what were the chances that the fire happens there? Moreover, Paradise Ridge was on the top of the hill, away from other houses and structures… Midday their Facebook page brought the news I feared: the winery completely burned down. I cried. It felt like a personal loss. Pictures below are from their Facebook page taken hours after the fire. You can see all the smoke in the air.

 

 

It was Monday last week. We didn’t know yet how bad the fire would get. Eleven days later, it’s about 80% contained. By estimate, so far it scorched more than 210,000 acres, burned 6,000 houses/buildings and killed at least 42 people, most of them elderly residents of the area who couldn’t evacuate in time – the fire moved extremely fast. 50 people are still considered missing, and about 20,000 people still didn’t return from the mandatory evacuation.

Official air quality in the area where I live (70 miles from the closest affected area) is back to green “Good” (from scary red “Unhealthy” last week) and it is “Moderate” in the area of fires. It a big catastrophe from which we will be recovering for months if not years to come.

When we hear or read about such events somewhere in the world, we sympathize and feel sad, on some level, but we do not feel it as acute as when it happens close to us or to somebody we actually know – and its normal, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to live and function in our age of communications, where every week brings bad news from somewhere, hopefully far-far away from us and people we love.

So while I predict bad fallout from this situation for the area and many-many people, I can’t help feeling relieved and rejoicing from (finally) good news: all people who I care about are fine: Paradise Ridge owner families are alive; Laurie Erikson (Sonoma Scent Studio) safely returned to her house and studio after a week of evacuation. And, according to the most recent reports, Paradise Ridge vineyard survived – so there will be crop next year.

 

SSS Samples

 

Drinking “boutique wines” is luxury (same as wearing perfumes), and we would have been fine with or without our favorite wines. But running wine business, same as producing artisan perfumes, is not a luxurious undertaking: it’s a lot of hard work and very low profitability (at least until a big brand comes and buys you out). So I’m happy not as much for the fact that we’ll get to enjoy Paradise Ridge wines or Sonoma Scent Studio perfumes but mostly that they will be able to keep creating them.

 

Rusty and Paradise Ridge Wines

 

As I’m finishing writing this post, it has started raining outside. It would have helped much more had it happened a week ago but I’m happy about this rain: it is time the Nature joined us in crying.

Address Change Notice

For many years undina@myway.com was my main address for everything blog- and perfume-related. It was an OK service – if not to count that some of the providers were blocking it from time to time, that it went down for several days around New Year or that it was impossible to check e-mail from a mobile device. But I got used to it; I used it for all registrations, subscriptions and to communicate with my friends in perfumes. Not being big on changes, I would have continued tolerating all its quirks but it has been decided for me.

As of October 2, 2017, MyWay Email will be shut down. If you are a MyWay Email account holder, please log in and save all information you wish to save. After October 2, 2017, you will not be able to access your emails.

Well… I kept postponing it for as long as I could but from September I started moving everything I could think of to my new address. I think I’m mostly done. The last steps in my plan – to let know about my address change to all of you, here on my blog and in direct e-mails that will follow in the next week. So, if you have a strict spam policy in your inbox, please add my new address to your address book.

Rusty and Postcard

Image: my own (if you’re curious, the card Rusty brought is a reminder post-card from the vet)

Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 3: Stockholm

“Vacation” is usually not the first association when you hear “Stockholm.” On our itinerary this city got by chance: we live so far away from Europe, that there is a limited number of direct flights between us and the Old World. Barcelona did not have any, so to get back home we’d have to do a plane change. If you were to add an extra flight and a couple of hours for transfer, the trip would easily stretch for 17+ hours – something that I try to avoid whenever possible. So while planning the vacation, we decided we’d do a couple of days’ stopover in one of the direct-flights-reach cities. Stockholm was the one with the best combination of schedules and fares. The fact that all three destinations were monarchies had dawned on us much later – at Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armory in Stockholm) as we were discussing that not a single Royalty has acknowledged our presence in any of the visited countries…

Accommodations

For a change, for that last part of the trip we went for a hotel room. It was a pleasant hotel decorated in the style of Roaring Twenties. Our room was quiet, had heavy curtains and a very comfortable bed, in which we finally had a good night sleep (the first night we slept for 12 hours straight).

Haymarket Hotel Stockholm

It was rather cold (+14C after +26C in Barcelona) and raining; we discovered that Stockholm was a very practical and minimalistic city, even its old town part; but somehow it felt very comforting and friendly. The first evening as we walking in the rain enjoying clean and orderly streets, we came across a small park inside the Art Nouveau building of Stockholm’s Central Pool (Centralbadet) built in the beginning of the previous century. It was an absolutely magical experience: beautiful lilacs and other blossoms in the drizzle of evening rain. I felt happy.

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Three days that we spent there was a delightful coda to our vacation.

Perfumes I took with me

Following the idea of bringing to this vacation only perfumes local to the destination, I packed a couple of decants and a sample from the only Swedish brand I had in my collection – Byredo. La Tulipe was just amazing, and I might re-consider wearing it only as a summer perfume: it was wonderful in the colder weather. Pulp was predictably good. I hope these both perfumes are still available once I finish the decants I have. Bal D’Afrique, which I brought with me for further testing, was nice but not enough for me to go for a bottle.

Perfumes I tested

After my London and Barcelona perfume escapades, I didn’t plan to do much more perfume testing but I still managed to visit a couple of perfume spots – a perfume department in the luxury department store NK and a standalone perfumery Insanto.

Both places had interesting selection of perfumes but not too many of the brands not available elsewhere, and I concentrated my testing mostly on those brands, to which I do not have an easy access.

Insanto Stockholm

Perfumes I didn’t buy

Perfume prices in Sweden do not impel spontaneous perfume purchases. Also, there weren’t that many Swedish brands – so most of the tested perfumes did not fit the original intent to get “souvenirs” from the countries I visited. But several perfumes that I liked while testing on skin are worth mentioning: were they “Made in Sweden,” I would have considered buying one of these.

I love and own two perfumes by Keiko Mecheri but because this brand is not available where I live I’m not too familiar with their line. That’s why I was interested to try at least some of the perfumes – even though I didn’t think I’d buy them there. I thought that Bois Satin smelled very nice, and I hope to be able to test it again soon.

For a long time I stayed away from Xerjoff: even though I tested occasionally some of their perfumes that came my way one way or the other, I didn’t make any conscious attempts to follow their new releases, and of those perfumes that I tried before I didn’t warm up enough to any to go even for a decant. They clearly like Xerjoff in Sweden: I saw it in both stores where I tested perfumes (and I want to remind you that one of them was a department store). So I gave up and tested some of the perfumes. I liked several on paper and then one on my skin. I don’t know why I happen to like the one that is sold out almost everywhere – XJ 1861 Naxos. Now I’ll have to locate a sample to test it again before I start scavenging eBay and FB groups for a bottle.

I’ve never heard of either the “famous Costes Hotel in Paris” (Fragrantica) or the eponymous perfume that Olivia Giacobetti created for that hotel in 2004, but when I tested Costes for the first time, I liked it. I’m not completely sure yet how I feel about perfumes that perfume shops create under their own brands – let alone perfumes for hotels, so I will try Costes again if I come across it somewhere but I won’t probably be actively looking for it.

Stockholm Blotters

Speaking of hotel perfumes, the only perfume I was seriously considering on this part of the trip was perfume sold in the hotel’s gift shop: No 1 Haymarket Eau de Parfum. The scent is described as: “Velvetly vanilla, powdery ambergris, and smoky sandalwood united with modern and surprising tones of bergamot, citrus and a hint of pepper.” For a couple of days I would be stopping by the gift shop to apply this perfume and then would keep smelling my wrist… for the next couple of hours while perfume was still discernible. I thought it was nice. It was local. And it wasn’t even expensive (less than $30 for a 30 ml bottle). Why didn’t I buy it? I realized that with all the great perfumes that I already had in my collection (and several more that I might be considering after more tests), I would just never have time for this pleasant but nondescript little number – no matter how warm I felt about that hotel that sheltered us in the final part of our turbulent vacation.

Haymarket Hotel EdP No1

Just in case you got drowned in the endless parts of my trip: it was the last one, and in the next post Rusty and I will finally reveal what perfumes I brought back with me.

 

Images: all but the last one – my own; No 1 Haymarket EdP – from the hotel site.