2020: What Went Well

For the last probably 5 years, as the next new year celebration was approaching, I kept reading/hearing from people that they were glad “this year” was ending and looking with hope for the next one. And all those years I was thinking – and even using it as a celebratory toast more than once – that I hope that personally for me the next year would be at least not worse than the year we were seeing off.

Several years ago, I came across What Went Well Wednesday series on the Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities blog. As Old Herbaceous has described, it is a gratitude exercise when you’re on a regular basis list three things that went well and explain why (“Adding “why” allows one to pinpoint times when acts of one’s own or others contributed to what went well”). I mentally played that game for a while, and even contemplated “borrowing” the idea for my blog but had never implemented it.

As challenging as 2020 was for everyone, believe it or not, I still stand by my New Year mantra: I hope that for me and my loved ones the next year will be at least not worse than this awful, strange, “unprecedented” and totally unexpected 2020. And I want to share with you what went well for me this year.

Health

First, nobody from my close circle of family and friends got sick so far. Mostly, it is just luck (though we all are trying to do our part), and I realize that we’re not out of the woods yet. But I’m glad that until now we’ve been lucky.

Second, an unpleasant health issue that started for me last December has finally resolved (at least temporary) without a surgery that seemed inevitable mid-year. I’m so relieved! I did all I could, including some folk remedies and postponing the surgery until I found a surgeon I trusted (we had a hilarious conversation about those folk remedies, none of us really believing in them but not completely dismissing either) and not going with the one who suggested to go ahead with the surgery right there and then. My vSO was so helpful, supportive and patient through the whole ordeal, that whatever role the moral well-being might have played in fighting infection, he deserves all the credit.

Finally, Rusty who had some stomach issues, seems to be better now when he doesn’t shed as much. And his lab work results are all good, which was a huge load off our minds. But it reminds me that I should brush him more regularly.

Rusty on the Bed

Job

We both stayed employed, and our jobs allow us to work remotely. Moreover, though much better than it was the previous year and with a better staffed team, my work kept me so busy, that I barely noticed the “stay at home” part.

Also, this year I got a great performance review from my manager. I’m mentioning it because it was the first time ever in my life. I’m quite used to not getting any feedback or getting (and, frankly, giving) formal and meaningless reviews. The fact that somebody made an effort and expressed in written words what I know I did good was an absolutely new experience. If I ever write a performance review for anyone again, I’ll need to remember how it feels to get a deserved acknowledgement.

And the last in this section, this year we finally were able to take time off during the winter holidays and get some so needed rest.

Family

Our state was partially open just in time for the local trip that my vSO and I planned for our big anniversary this year. Originally, the plan was just for two of us to get away for several days – spas, wineries, eating out. But after four months at home and most places still take-out only or outside seating, it felt less of a getaway. And since the house we rented was big enough for more people, we invited four of our closest friends whom we knew for decades to join us – and they did. It was a very pleasant mini trip. Picture below is taken from the balcony of the rebuilt tasting room of our favorite winery – Paradise Ridge, that burned down three years ago in the first big North Cal fire. They opened earlier this year, which I also write down in the positive column.

Paradise Ridge Winery

Friends and Hobbies

I’m lucky to have friends to talk to, exchange news and share worries. These are people I’m ready to help, and who is ready to help me. I miss seeing many of them, but I hope we’ll have more time to spend together, to travel and celebrate important events next year or the year after that or…

I’m also glad I have my Perfumeland friends. Not only we share our love of perfume, which is even more important now than it ever was, but we also help each other to stay informed about what’s happening in different countries and parts of the World, which allows us to better understand the situation, compare experience and get prospective.

Thanks to Portia who passed on me the APJ’s weekly Saturday Question series, I got what I always wanted for my blog – a continuous conversation with perfumista friends and loyal readers. And thanks to, again, Portia, Narth, hajusuuri and Christine W, my wonderful guest writers, the blog got more inhabited and diverse. I’m also thankful to all who’s reading this and other posts, commenting or not (though, I would prefer to have a chance to talk to everybody, even from time to time).

Thanks to Tara’s (A Bottled Rose) Beauty Reviews, I revisited my skincare routine. I don’t know if I’m getting any results, but at least it’s something new and it’s a pastime that I enjoy. The next thing will be to follow her and Vanessa’s (Bonkers about Perfume) suit and start reading again.

I’m thankful to Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle), my scent twin (well, triplet with hajusuuri, to be precise), who keeps reviewing new perfumes, even in this environment with limited access to new releases, so that I do not have to wonder whether to get samples for any of those: our tastes do not coincide 100%, but they overlap significantly, especially on perfumes that can be qualified as “unisex.”

And I’m grateful to hajusuuri who, in addition to being an inspiration with her daring 8-spray perfume application, just single-handedly provided me with a month-worth daily testing subjects. So, not only I got a wonderful gift under my New Year tree (see the photo below), but I also have something interesting to look forward to every day in January when all the holidays that I love so much are behind us.

NY Tree and samples

Speaking of Christmas/New Year trees. This year, we managed to decorate not only our house outside (seeing decorated houses makes me happy, so I wanted to help brightening this gloomy year to others who also enjoy holiday decorations) and inside (spending that much time at home, I wanted to make it more festive), but in addition to the big tree in the living room (on the postcard below), I decorated a tiny one for the bedroom (that’s where all those samples went to be safe from Rusty). And for the latter I used ornaments that are more than 4 decades old: my grandmother bought them for my tiny plastic tree when I was a child, and I saved them and brought with me when I moved to the US. The wooden decoration with a reindeer is a gift from Lucas, and the orange cat is an ornament that I bought in Hawaii several years ago and painted to resemble Rusty.

And finally, this year allowed me to wear my favorite perfumes more freely, not worrying whether it would bother my co-workers. I re-tested many of the samples I accumulated over the years, finished some, passed on some, got new ones to test, and found new perfume loves. Same as in years before, I haven’t tested enough new releases to do my own top N releases of 2020, but I will be back early next week with my 2020 Year Round-Up Entertaining Statistics post, in which I’ll mention my favorites from this year.

Rusty and New Year Tree 2021

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers! I will take mine 2021 at least not worse than 2020, but to all of you who felt that this year was too much of a leap (pun intended), I wish 2021 to be kinder, calmer and more joyful.

Will you share at least one thing in your life that went well this year? (But you do not have to stop at one)

Puredistance Rubikona Giveaway Winner

The winner of the draw on this blog is: VerbenaLuvvr! Please contact me with your address.

Puredistance Rubikona Draw

Instagram winner will be announced there soon.

For everybody else – a bonus Rusty shot. In the next second with his claw he pulled the bottle towards himself, played with it for a second, dropped, scared himself and jumped away. I decided not to let him play with it any more because usually the next experiment would be pushing it off the table and hunting it on the floor.

 

Rusty and Puredistance Rubikona

Saturday Question: Staycation in the Time of Pandemic – What to do?

Today I’m asking a question to which I have no answer. So, it’s not a “how-to” type of post where I would share my ideas inviting you to add yours as a hypothetical exercise. I’m actually asking for you advice.

Being too careful, in many years of blogging, I mentioned my traveling during the trip just a couple of times (when we had someone staying at our place). On all other occasions I would publish something about it only post facto.

This year it’s different: not only we had to cancel our Hawaii vacation (I so looked forward to it!), but now, at the last moment, we have to figure out what to do with the vacation week we took, since because of the still expanding wild fires we cannot go to Napa and Sonoma, as planned. And because of the air quality, all those parks, beaches and city walks that I was always so proud of when telling anybody about the area I live, are out or reach. Combined with the COVID-19 limitations, we cannot go almost anywhere. But since both my vSO and I are tired (luckily for us, pandemic hasn’t affected our jobs yet), we’re still taking that time off. Now I need to think of what to do to maximize the positive effect from the vacation and not to fall back onto doing something work-related because we can’t occupy ourselves.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #33:

Staycation in the Time of Pandemic – What to do?

Taking into the consideration that the air might not improve significantly, and we’ll try not to spend outside too much time, is there anything you could recommend?

I’m asking for rather specific than generic advices (I mean, “listen to a podcast” is a solid advice, but I would appreciate a link or a name, or where to find it).

Suggestions do not have to be “free,” but it would be great if they were implementable (so, no “New Zealand is great this time of the year, please :) ). Perfume-related suggestions and other activities that are not necessarily engage both of us are welcomed as well.

 

Staycation in the Time of Pandemic – What to do?

 

Eau de Lockdown

Since this post isn’t a review, I didn’t want to add the author’s name to the title, but still I bring it to your attention that this post is written by Narth. (Undina)

* * *

I write to you in hard lockdown. My state of Victoria has declared both a State of Emergency and a State of Disaster. If you find the double declaration confusing don’t worry, so does everyone. Double states of badness are upon us! We have a curfew and cannot travel more than 5 km (3 miles) from our house. Everything is shut. The post office has called for volunteers. The children are completely glazed over and exhausted from doing schooling online for months and I’m sure it is even worse for the teachers. We’ve been in varying stages of this new normal for 6 months now. Mental health seems to be a tug of war between trying to throw ourselves into new interests and claim and reclaim who we were during the before times. “Don’t try this at home kids!” is an expression that no longer has any relevance to anyone.

My perfume love is just as battered and bewildered as the rest of me. I’ve always said, “I wear perfume for myself, not for other people”, but now that there literally are no other people (!!!) I’ve seen that this is only a half truth. I wear perfume as a tool for interacting with other people, for moving through public spaces, for deciding who I am that day. I always knew this, but I am suddenly painfully aware that my identity for a day, an evening, has been a core reason for my wearing perfume. It isn’t just that sillage is irrelevant, it’s that choosing who I will be today is irrelevant because every day is the same. A lifelong introvert, I never realized just how much time I spent with others until suddenly I am alone. All my whining in the before times that “I wish I could have just one day to myself” has come back to haunt me.

In the beginning of this lockdown I went a bit mad with the online purchasing. It was easy to rationalize a blind buy bottle, after all I wasn’t eating out anymore, and I was saving a fortune in train fares. A steady flow of books, perfume and wine in the post was surely good for me, I wanted something to look forward to! I was even buying “Mystery” wine because I felt like I needed a surprise to counter the tedium of sameness. Thank goodness there were no Mystery perfume offers, which would have been even worse than some of my blind buys I suspect. While waiting for the highly delayed post, I began hardcore going through my samples, I was going to catalog and take notes on them all, I was going to wear multiple samples a day for science! This kept me occupied for all of a week and then, suddenly, I was over it. I spent a month wearing only a handful of favourites, regretting blind buys and wondering if I could exist on Penhalgion’s Sartorial and one random rose scent for the rest of my life. In between these quite obsessive phases were long weeks when I forgot perfume existed despite my desk being covered in it.

This is a post with no conclusion. My current resolve is to sell some of my mistakes and to try and bring balance to the Force, not just in perfume but in my other interests. Reading ten hours a day or power watching K-dramas until 2am is also a little unbalanced. In the beginning we were all okay about that, these were strange times and we encouraged each other to just do that thing, that thing that felt good. But the strange times are now the new norm. Where to from here, fragrance my friend? I have plans to start matching my perfume to books and tv shows as a kind of substitute for happily overthinking what to wear to the pub for Trivia night. I’ve worn Mugler‘s Alien to every sci fi movie I’ve ever been to since it came out 15 years ago, so these plans are not without precedent but… perhaps without a (sillage) audience they feel a little forced. I need my perfume mojo back, friends!

Perfume Samples

Photo is of everything that was on my desk! Some of it was in a box and some of it was not…

Portia in the Looking Glass

Hello! My name is Portia, and Undina has invited me to come do some guest posting at Undina’s Looking Glass.

It’s very exciting, and nerve wracking, to jump into another person’s creation. They have worked so hard to produce a brand, and I hope that it’s a good fit for Undina, you and me. We all have perfume in common, and many of you I know already from around the scentblogoshere. Up till now, I have written for a few other blogs, including Olfactoria’s Travels, Perfume Posse, A Bottled Rose and Australian Perfume Junkies. Undina was the very first person I never met to subscribe to APJ, and we have been friends ever since, she has been also brains trust, confidant, blog rescuer and aspirational icon. We also bonded over the naming of her cat Rusty: my very first cat was a gorgeous ginger and white tom called Rusty. Synchronicity! Every time I see pics of him, it brings back some happy memories.

Continue reading

Winner(s) of the Puredistance Gold Giveaway

All four blogs that ran this mini-joint-project have announced the winners:

Bonkers About Perfume: Hayley

Chemist in the Bottle: Alen

Australian Perfume Junkies: Narth

And finally I went to run a random number generator, but when I typed the search in the search line (I have no idea why: random.org isn’t that hard to remember, and it’s less typing than “random number generator”), Google just presented its own generator – and I decided to try it.

Puredistance Gold Winner

The winner is #11 – congratulations to rickyrebarco. Please, send me your shipping address.

In the Search for the Perfect Lavender, Take II

It’s not exactly true: I think I found my perfect lavender perfume – Lieber Gustav 14 by Krigler. Since I published that Take I post, I finished the decant of Serge Lutens Gris Clair and bought a bottle of it. And I’m still contemplating getting Fourreau Noir if I ever get somewhere where I don’t have to pay $300+ for the bell jar. Maybe I should go for a travel spray.

    

Rusty and Lieber Gustav

 

But lavender is still on my mind, and I seek it in many different forms. Earlier today, for example, I had a cocktail with lavender syrup. It was probably the best part of the dinner.

For the recent 3-4 years I kept planning to go to a lavender festival. But every year I was either traveling somewhere else at that time or would remember about it only when I saw some lavender at a store – and it was already too late for that year: the main flowering time would be over.

Before I proceed with my story, I want to remind you (if you haven’t read it before and/or didn’t follow the link I shared above) that lavender came into my life relatively late, so I wasn’t really familiar with many aspects that probably would be obvious to those of you who grew up in countries where it was widely used.

 

Lavender

 

A couple of years ago I bought a lavender bunch at a local farmers market and, as I do with other flowers, put it into a vase with water. It smelled nice but a week later it started dropping buds and, what was even worse, the stems were rotting. I cut off everything that was in water, fasten the remaining stems with a blue rubber band, and put that improvised lavender sachet into my linen closet. Unlike it happened with Le Labo’s Rose 31 (if you weren’t around 5 years ago, see my post Know-how [not to]: Freshen up a linen closet), this haven’t fended me off lavender, though, as it was drying, it kept losing its petals, which made it a little messy… But I put it on some napkin and kept moving that napkin from place to place when I needed to take something out of the closet or put in.

 

Rusty and Lavender

 

The next year, when I got another lavender bunch, I was smarter: I hanged it to dry in the spare bathroom and then, once it was dry, I used one of a bigger organza bags that I’ve got either with a purchase of something else or from a swap with a perfumista friend to put the bunch in to prevent a mess.

 

Lavender Sachet

 

You can’t imagine how proud I was coming up with that novel idea! What’s more, my vSO was very impressed with what I’ve done. I was (and still am) using it in our bed putting it between pillows during the day. By now I have probably half of it just bouncing in the bag loose, but it still smells nice though very faint. I bet Rusty can still smell it strong.

 

Rusty and Lavender Sachet

 

And then one day Robin from the NST posted in her Daily Lemmings this:

 

Diptyque Lavandier Wand 2018

 

I was gobsmacked: it was so beautiful, so elegant, so… in a different league compared to my creation. I don’t remember if it was still available when Robin posted it, but by the time I thought of getting it, it was sold out. And since it usually means that it isn’t coming back, after researching it online and discovering that, even though there were many similar products offered, nobody does it exactly the way Diptyque did, I started planning on trying to make one myself next time I get a lavender bunch.

I studied instructions, found ribbons to use (2 different sizes and colors!), and was waiting for the lavender season… It must have happened this summer, right? Every weekend I was on a lookout for the main ingredient for my DIY project – without much success. I don’t know how but I managed to miss it again. I blame my work schedule. I should try again next year.

Meanwhile, I keep adding from time to time a drop or two of lavender oil into my sachet. And I also found and was enjoying Lavender Lip Mask from Bite Beauty – a brand that makes my favorite Agave Lip Balm.

 

Lavender Bite Lip Mask

 

Images: all but Diptyque’s wand – my own

Do “Bad” Perfume Samples Circulate Better?

What does a perfumista do while being sick to the degree that wearing any perfume is temporary out of question? She thinks about them. And thoughts might flow in an unpredictable direction.

But first let me explain what I meant by the title. Did I mean samples of bad perfumes or perfume samples that are bad? Either. Of course, “bad” is a subjective term: tastes differ, and for almost any perfume there is someone out there who adores it. But we all know that some perfumes get everyone’s love while others pass by to be forgotten half a year later. These “others” are those that I called “bad perfumes.” Besides, most people (though, not all) prefer spray samples, hence, the other ones (those messy 0.7 ml dabbers from Luckyscent and other similar places) are “bad samples.”

What I’ve noticed over years of swapping perfumes: when it comes to exchanges not with friends and usual “sparring partners,” percentage of perfumes that I didn’t care for at all would go up significantly. When I started thinking about it, it made sense. I’ll share with you my train of thought.

 

Small Perfume Samples

 

A perumista (let’s call her P.) gets a sample, tries perfume and likes it. If she doesn’t love it enough to buy, P. wears it until it’s finished (or keeps in her collection planning to finish it eventually). This sample never leaves P.’s possession.

If perfume goes onto the “to buy” list, P. continues using that sample waiting for a bottle, especially if it’s a convenient spray sample. By the time that bottle finally joins P.’s collection, the sample is either gone or is so depleted that it feels wrong to send it to anybody else. The sample stays with P.

Unless it was a dab sample because then it wasn’t worn as much; or let’s say it was, but even a 0.25 ml in a dab vial is still suitable for testing, especially it it’s a “freebie” that P. adds to a split or a swap.

On the other hand, if P. didn’t like perfume, a nice spray sample of perfume that everyone else praises has a better chance to go into a “maybe” or “try again later” pile (and die in it), while a sample of perfume that nobody else proclaimed to love, especially in a dab vial, seems like a good candidate to be sent unsolicited and, most likely, not to one of the friends whose tastes P. knows. It is easier to just throw it in than spend time asking if the recipient even wants to test it.

… Another perfumista, S., gets a sample from P. – and everything repeats. In the end, those “bad perfumes” and/or “bad samples” get to move from one perfumista to another much more often than “good” ones amplifying the common perception of the recent years that niche perfumery becomes worse and worse.

What do you think? Were those just feverish emanations of my perfume-deprived brain?

If It Looks Like Perfume, If It Costs Like Perfume…

During my trip to Barcelona two years ago perfume was constantly on my mind, which wasn’t surprising since I managed to try about 700 perfumes while there.

One evening, while walking aimlessly in the neighborhood where we were staying, I noticed an interestingly looking small shop with some unfamiliar perfume bottles on display. I came in and tried several perfumes that, as I discovered, were all from the Spanish brand Daniel Josier.

 

 

We walked in, I sniffed perfumes from the bottles and tried some on paper. I liked several but they were quite expensive, and since none of them immediately spoke to me enough to risk putting them on my skin, I kept sniffing. One bottle that I noticed in a slightly unusual basket arrangement attracted my attention.

 

Barcelona Vintage Eyewear Shop

 

I picked it up and started examining… I’m not sure if I would have sprayed it before reading the label but the store owner couldn’t risk it: “Wait! It’s not a perfume!”

 

Chateau D'Estoublon Olive Oil

 

I know, I should have bought it as a souvenir from that trip but somehow it didn’t even occur to me then. I took a picture planning to write about it – and then forgot about it since I had enough perfume-related material for several posts. But recently I came across that brand’s condiments on the Neiman Marcus site. I know that readers do not usually click on the links, but I do recommend checking out this one to see how much all Chateau D’Estoublon products’ packaging looks like perfumes.

But if until that trip I haven’t seen that type of chameleon packaging, since then, as it often happens, encounter one more example of that approach. From a friend of mine I got a Christmas present – a 50 ml bottle of Linea Solitario Limited Edition 8 year old Italian Balsamic Vinegar.

This limited edition, unique and intense flavoured balsamic, aged for 8 years in oak barrels. Linea Solitario Ltd Edition 8 year old Italian Balsamic Vinegar comes in a glass bottle, elegantly boxed with a synthetic diamond on the label. […]

For 160 years, tradition and production secrets have been passed down through the family. Today Massimo, who represents the 5th generation of the family, is the current president of Acetaia Malpighi. Acetaia Malpighi is internationally recognised as “Made in Italy” brand taking its products on the main markets all over the world.

Linea Solitario Balsamic Vinegar

 

As with many of my “special” perfumes, I still wait for the right occasion to try this vinegar. Maybe this upcoming tomato season…

 

Rusty and Linea Solitario Balsamic Vinegar

Have you ever encountered anything that looked like perfume while not being perfume (or some body product)?

 

Images: my own