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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Orange Cats in My Life – Part… X*: Rusty turns 10

As I told in the story of Rusty coming into our lives (Part IV: Those that have just broken the flower vase…), we consider Rusty to be our Christmas cat and celebrate his birthday on Christmas Eve.

Cats are not dogs, so when choosing a cat as a companion, I knew what would be missing – loyalty, affection and obedience. Obedience is clearly not in Rusty’s repertoire (though I did manage to teach him not to come and ask for food before he hears the alarm clock), but in terms of loyalty and attachment, Rusty is probably the farthest to the right on the long tail of the statistical distribution of these qualities in felines.

Rusty's Tail

Rusty is also an extremely social cat: not only he spends a lot of time with me and my vSO, but he also inserts himself in the middle of any gatherings at our place: if there’s a free chair at the table, he’d sit on it and, at some point, he might feel comfortable enough to try to steal our food.

So this year I decided to invite some of my perfumista friends and their furry kids to the to the virtual celebration of Rusty’s birthday. This still being a perfume blog (at least from time to time), I also asked all of the guests to tell us what perfume(s) they plan to wear this Christmas and, optionally, why.

* * *

H

Hajusuuri, my lovely guest-writer and one of the most generous people in the Perfumeland, is known to many by the avatar of this extremely handsome dog. It’s not her pet but a part of the extended family, so he was invited officially to Rusty’s big 1-O celebration.

He decided to stay anonymous, so we’ll just call him H. Two of his siblings, F. and S., were also invited – not to be left out, you know how it can be in a family…

S, H and F

Hajusuuri: As to what perfume I will wear on Christmas, the theoretical answer is Chanel No. 5 L’eau from my Red bottle. The practical answer is I will be nice to my scent-phobe family members and wear a swipe of Al-Rehab Choco Musk or perhaps a teeny tiny dab of Aftelier Vanilla Smoke.

* * *

Truffle

Meet Truffle, a beautiful three-year old companion of Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume), who (the cat, not V.), when is not trapped in one of the neighbours’ garages, attends to her human in time of need.

If you want to know more about Truffle, her tricks and mischief (or just to see more pictures), take a look at a Christmas post on Truffle as a kitten or a post for her second birthday.

Vanessa: On Christmas Day, after much deliberation and auditioning of samples, I have decided to wear By Kilian‘s Amber Oud. As Undina is the ‘hostess’ of this Christmas post, my selection is a nod towards her recent ‘Novamber’ sniffathon and ongoing love of the note, as well to the fact that she has given me samples of Amber Oud at least twice.;) I like Amber Oud because the older I get, the more my tolerance for sweetness in perfumes increases, and this scent, with its comforting, almost maple syrup-type amber laced with lashings of vanilla, is judiciously tempered by spices, a more austere cedar note, and of course the oud, and ends up less sticky and more sheer. I would never normally be drawn to a scent with ‘oud’ in the name, in case it is too medicinal and sharp, but the blend here is marvellously mellow and will create a warm festive hum around my person on the big day!

* * *

Boxer on his beach chair

Admit that you didn’t expect to see a rabbit at this virtual party. Boxer lives with Suzanne (Suzanne’s Perfume Journal). To keep him fit and healthy, Suzanne developed a special morning exercise routine for him. Judging by the way he looks, it works. After holidays Rusty and I should be probably consulting her to start preparing to the bikini season.

Suzanne: When I think about the perfect Christmas perfume, I think of Caron Parfum Sacre. It has a very beautiful nutmeg note intertwined among its rich layers, and nutmeg always reminds me of Christmas since it’s a featured spice in eggnog, plum pudding and the like. The nutmeg lifts the deep, velvety expression of rose, the bewitchingly syrup-and-evergreen scent of myrrh, and the custard-like vanillic base of Parfum Sacre. There’s even a small, purring amount of civet in this perfume, of which I think Rusty, the Christmas cat, might approve. ;-)

* * *

Vega

Follow the link to learn how a shy rescue kitty who graciously accepted Asali’s (The Sounds of Scent) companionship got her shiny (and perfume-related!) name Vega.

Asali: For Christmas, I will 1) wear the to me unknown perfume of my Advent Calendar#, and 2) wear Nez a Nez Marron Chic.

# Here’s the post about Asali’s DIY Advent Calendar. I’m borrowing the idea next year!

* * *

Paris Jinx Jan 2018

Two handsome greyhounds – Paris and Jinx (can you guess which one was named by Portia (Australian Perfume Junkies) and which one by Jin?) – as Portia informed me, were “so excited that Rusty is turning 10 and wish him many more happy years on this earth with you. Plus all the treats, cuddles, pats and smooches that should go along with being a pampered pet.”

Surprisingly, there’s no dedicated post on the APJ but if you read Portia’s weekly updates, it’s hard to miss that these two guys play important roles in their owners’ lives.

Portia: Nuit de Noel by Caron for Xmas Eve watching the Carols by Candlelight; UR ± Silk 19 by UER MI** for Xmas lunch. It’s a fig tea, jasmine and woods fragrance that seems good for the heat of our Xmas Day.
For Xmas evening Mohur by Neela Vermeire Creations, its spicy rose and woods fits all occasions perfectly for me, adds luster to whatever i’m doing.
Boxing Day will be spent BarBQ-ing and swimming so L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme Intense will get a whirl.

** I thought one of the dogs had interrupted Portia, and it was a random set of characters but I checked: it’s a name of actual perfume!

* * *

Meepsy

If you were to scour Val’s, the Cookie Queen, Instagram feed (@armadilloscookiequeen), you would have probably conjectured that this Snow White’s name is actually “Cat” – and would have been wrong. Her full name is Meep Meep or Meepsy (“When she was a tiny kitten she ran around the apartment so fast you could not see her”).

Val: I will be wearing vintage Chanel N°5 parfum on Christmas Day, 25th. It feels very suitable and elegant, like me. Hahahaha. Family will be here, and wearing any kind of leather and smoke would be too much. I’ve been in a N°5 binge.

* * *

Duncan

Duncan, who is just 15 years young, is enjoying an early retirement with his humans in sunny Mérida. Steve (The Scented Hound) says that “for Xmas, I will be wearing my vintage Caron Nuit de Noel (of course).”

* * *

Mila

Mila, the youngest guest on today’s party (so, probably no valerian root beer for her), will grow to be probably one of the most well-traveled pets, as she accompanies her mom, Tara C on her seasonal migration between Canada and the U.S. Look at those ears!!!

Tara C: I normally wear Nuit de Noel on Christmas eve and Chopard Wish on Christmas day.

* * *

Ophelia, Border, Rita and Lucy all live with Marcella. They all decided to join the celebration, and I’m using this opportunity to introduce them to the Perfumeland since their human doesn’t have any public social media accounts where she’d be proudly demonstrating each of these beauties.

Marcella: This year I will be wearing vintage Shalimar perfume. I bought it for myself for my birthday this year. I wore it extensively in the 70’s and nostalgia prompted me to order a bottle. It’s still unbeatable. Absolutely glorious.

Actually, I think I will start off in Parfum de Thérèse which was a pre-Christmas gift from my hubs, and then transition to Shalimar once the cooking is done. Yes. That makes sense!

* * *

I don’t think I’ll surprise anybody who reads my blog for a while if I tell that on the Christmas Eve I plan to wear Climat by Lancome: not only it is my #1 all-time favorite perfume that I wear for special-special occasions, but also it was the first ever perfume that I took a picture of in general and the one with Rusty and perfume in particular (though, not the best or the last one with that perfume). And it was the first post about Rusty on this blog.

For his birthday Rusty got a new pure wool artisanal cat cave “handcrafted by women in Nepal.” He seems to like it.

Rusty in Cave

What a great party (and wonderfully smelling at that)! I’m so happy to have all of my real and virtual friends and their graceful companions to join me in celebration of the 10th Birthday of a very special orange cat in my life who is kneading and purring loudly on my lap as I’m trying to finish this post.

If you’re reading this, and you’re blessed with a furry companion, please introduce them and share a link to their pictures with us – so they could join the party and increase the enjoyment we all get from seeing each others four-legged friends. And, of course, tell me: what is your Christmas perfume this year?

 

Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers!

 

* For those of my readers who hasn’t read the previous episodes: no, I haven’t told 9 stories before this one but I thought that a 10th Birthday is a good reason to skip a couple of numerals.

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

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