Math Revised: A Minus and a Plus Make a … Plus

From the early school years we learned that multiplying or dividing negative and positive numbers results in negative numbers. Recently I witnessed a social interaction that proved that math rules do not always apply to outcomes with people instead of numbers.

A month ago I wasn’t participating in the NTS’s community project “Reeking Havoc Friday” because while in my spare time I periodically test 5-6 perfumes at once, to the office I can barely wear one. But since the idea itself was not foreign to me (unlike, for example, one of the previous projects – skanky perfumes), I still enjoyed reading what other people were doing that day.

When I came across a totally unexpected strange passive-aggressive comment:

In #confessyourunpopularopinion, I have to say that I hate perfume samples. I am a grown woman, not a child. I don’t need freebies in plastic vials like some cheap concert giveaway. And I’m certainly not going to pay 10 dollars just to try some fragrance. I either buy the bottle or pass. I have also never bought a perfume bottle from a sample. So, I must sadly miss out on these challenges, but instead, adore my full-size collection on my vanity.

… then level-headed Robin’s response:

There is nothing at all wrong with confessing unpopular opinions, but perhaps you could have found a way to say that you disliked samples without implying that the rest of us were children? Just a thought.

Anyway, to each his own! The majority of my bottles were purchased after trying a sample.

… and an even stranger rebuttal from the “offender”:

Yes, apologies for any offense. I was just expressing my frustration with this entire blog and should have chosen my words more carefully. It just seems to have more and more name dropping as free advertisements rather than essays, articles, and meditations on perfumes. It is a fun blog, no doubt, just not for me. Forgive my interloping.

… my knee-jerk reaction was to strike back. In my head I was constructing some sarcastic remark about sending rescue to the poor commenter who had obviously been chained to the computer with access limited to only the NST site… But since my office life not only prevents me from wearing loud perfumes but also urges me to spend most of the time actually working, I had to postpone the fight until later.

 

Rusty ready to jump

 

When I came back, I was amazed by the responses from other members! There was no hostility or combativeness, people were trying to engage that strange commenter – either joking (“Personally every time I sample first before jumping in to the cost of a full bottle, I congratulate myself on my maturity! :)”), or telling their stories (“I need to try something fully before I buy. I’m not a risk taker, I just can’t blind buy, no matter how much I think I’d like something. […] I wouldn’t have a fraction of my FBs without samples.”), or asking friendly questions (“What perfumes have you collected and like to wear?” and “Are you reeking havoc with your full size bottles?”). She never came back to respond, but it felt really good to see the kindness and high spirits of the group. It was totally unexpected and I’d even say unprecedented in my virtual life. I don’t want to say that Perfumeland is inhabited only by good-natured kind and considerate people – we probably all know examples of the opposite, – but there are such oases where you are more likely to come across that level of positivity that cannot be negated by random remarks of strangers.

A minus and a plus produced a plus – despite everything we learned in math classes. And it felt really good and positive. It is great to be a part of the environment that allows you to slow down, relax and smell the roses (or daisies, or great perfumes) and share your delight of doing that with others.

 

Rusty and Daisies

 

Images: my own

Advertisements

Everyone Likes a Good Story, Right?

Last week, when I read the title of L’Esperessence’s post (How important is the story of a perfume to you?), I had a feeling of déjà vu: I could have sworn that not only I previously read something on that topic on the same blog, but even planned a post prompted by thoughts on the topic. After I failed to locate that post on my own, I asked the author, and she was very kind to point me into the right direction: it wasn’t a topic of that post 10 months ago but in conclusion of the review of a “story-less” perfume she did pose that same question.

So this time I decided not to wait another year and write my thoughts on different types of stories that accompany perfumes. Since I do not want to draw attention to perfumes, descriptions for which I use to illustrate the idea, and would like to make reading these blobs of text more entertaining, I’ll use pictures of Rusty that might or might not convey same ideas.

Descriptive Stories

This type includes more or less poetic description of the actual smell that perfume is trying to recreate.

[…] the smell of fresh bread from the bakery takes us back. The feel of warm bread against the cheek even more so, evoking a familiar sensation from my childhood.

I like these descriptions: they give me enough warning of what to expect (or to avoid).

 

Rusty and Lilac

Lilac always smells of lilac

 

Associative Stories

These stories describe not as much the actual scent but rather circumstances, places or events that perfume intends to remind of, images it conjures.

You don’t need to be Proust to let an aroma surround you with memories – sometimes, it can be a simple as the fresh, aromatic cologne of a departed lover, filling a room with bergamot, herbs, and a uniquely compelling whiff of rosemary. Even more than on his skin, the scent lingers and lingers, compelling us to eagerly wonder if and when he might return…

I do not mind these but I know that I’m easily suggestible, so I would rather read something like that after I tried that perfume: my nose isn’t that great as is, so I prefer to give it a chance to have a “blind sniff impression” first.

 

Rusty

Actual picture, no post-processing

 

Motivational/Inspirational Stories

These usually tell you what kind of a person wears such perfume or what one would feel while wearing it.

The new XXXX man […] is a modern dandy. Blessed with an instinctive sense of style and elegance, he effortlessly blends sophistication and casualness. Unbound and free, he remains true to himself in every circumstance and never needs to pretend. Confident without arrogance, naturally seductive, he radiates a form of charisma that leaves a deep imprint in the hearts and minds of the people around him. For him, life is like music and he is perfectly in tune with its inner rhythm and melody.

or

XXXX – the best ingredients for flirting and seduction, skilfully mixed into one unique scent. It’s the fragrance that remains at your side while you’re making your move, boosting your self-confidence in that all-important moment.

I’m still not sure if these are better or worse than the one for Amouage Blossom Love that I quoted in the recent Second Sunday Sample post, but I dislike this type of stories. Luckily, these usually accompany mainstream releases, which I avoid anyway.

 

Rusty and Doors Motivator

 

Fictional Stories

Whimsical, romantic or philosophical, these stories, abstracts and quotes from non-existent literary works are created to illustrate and enrich perfumes they are attached to.

She would do anything to climb the social ladder still further.

Her latest scheme is to poison her husband, Lord George, inheriting his wealth and burying his secrets for ever!

Her fragrance reflects her very essence: a green floral narcotic.

This type of stories usually amuses me more than anything else and neither add to nor subtract from the perfume’s appeal.

 

Rusty in a Hat

In my defense: it was Halloween; normally I do not dress up Rusty

 

“Real” [hi]Story

It belonged to a queen in the Trianon rose gardens, far from the splendors of the Court, before the turmoil of history was unleashed. Entrusted to a noblewoman and very dear friend, it has come down to us through the ages to be reborn today.

Usually I’m skeptical about any historical references, be that Marie Antoinette secret recipe or scented theater curtains, which makes me immune to this type of stories. But once I believed the story…

When I read that Edmond Roudnitska created what is now known as Le Parfum de Theresa for his wife, and it was publicly released only after his death, I was enchanted. Not only it was a truly romantic story, but it had some parallels to my own love story (I used Roudnitska’s Diorella to scent a secret note to my first love). From everything I read, it was an amazing perfume!

I tried it and was greatly disappointed: it wasn’t unpleasant or bad but I wasn’t in love with it. If to think about it, it wasn’t unexpected: nothing can live up to an image in one’s head…

When I came back to it several years later, I liked it much more. Not sure I want to wear it but I appreciate it and think I could have loved it, had I been exposed to it from my childhood. Or had I tried it without expecting the most romantic perfume ever based on the Story.

 

Rusty "helps" me to work

Eight out of ten lines on the screen were typed by Rusty. True story.

 

Have I missed any other types of perfume stories? Do you usually read official stories before trying perfumes? Do they influence you?

 

Images: my own

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).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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.

Small Things that Brighten Life: Unexpected Thunderstorm

With all those unwelcome atmospheric visitors to several of our states in the last couple of weeks it feels like “naming the halter in the hanged man’s house” but I can’t help feeling great: yesterday we had a real thunderstorm! For those of you who live in “regular” climate areas it is probably nothing but I haven’t personally experienced a full-blown thunderstorm for over a decade.

In Northern California summer is a dry season: from May to October it doesn’t rain. At all. In my many years here, even before the big drought we had recently for four years, I can remember counted occasions when we had some kind of precipitations during those months. A couple of times I saw remote lightnings and heard thunder but it always was somewhere far away. And in winter, when we’re getting our rains (when it is not a drought), it is too cold for thunderstorms.

Yesterday we had tropical rain and a thunderstorm right here.

SF Bay Area Thunderstorm 2017-09-11

As a child I spent my summers at the grandparents’ house. On one hand, heavy rains and thunderstorms usually meant that I had to stay inside, which was a little boring since I couldn’t run outside with friends the whole day, eat fruit from the trees and do other fun stuff kids do during a summer break. On the other hand, rainy weather meant that I could sleep as long as I wanted without disproving glances and comments from my Grandma; I could read a book the whole day not listening to suggestions to go outside; and I didn’t have to do anything to help in the garden. And after the rain was over, I could put on rain boots and conquer the deepest puddle on the unpaved street, on which my grandparents lived. Since I used to spend there at least two months every summer, a couple of rainy days from time to time weren’t something to be upset about but rather to look forward to.

So yesterday I was enjoying that unexpected rain – for the rain itself, for the memories it brought and for the wonderful smell… Did you notice that summer rain smells not the same way a cold rain does? I was thinking about that scent: I wouldn’t want to smell like that myself, it is not what I would consider a pleasant personal scent but I would love to be able to recreate it as an ambiance aroma.

I have to mention that not everyone in our household was happy yesterday: Rusty was terrified by thunder, and while I was enjoying the weather on the balcony trying to capture a lighting on my phone camera*, he was trying to figure out the best place to hide. And for the rest of the evening any sudden move or unexpected noise would startle him and make his pupils dilated:

Rusty Scared

Today the rain is gone and forgotten. It’s summer again. And Rusty is peacefully sleeping next to me on a chair.

 

Images: my own

*It took be about 5 minutes to come to the realization that the combined my and my camera’s response time weren’t enough to capture a still photo of a lightning; then I switch to iPhone’s “Live” mode – and it worked perfectly.

Small (?) Things that Brighten (?) Life

It has been a while since I published the last post in this series. Back then the topic was holiday lights that had brighten my life in all senses, including literally. Today’s post is kind of the opposite.

As we suspected it would be, this morning we woke up to an overcast morning not looking promising for the impending solar eclipse. As I looked at the sky before driving to work, I couldn’t see anything but grey clouds. I thought about how it should be disappointing to all those who had planned on watching the eclipse, started my car and called a friend to discuss the mischance.

I: What are you doing?
F: Watching the eclipse.
I: Where?!!
F: … On my backyard…
I: I mean, how?
F: (for the next 30 seconds my friend was explaining to me the physics of looking at Sun through a tiny hole in some device)
I: I mean, where do you see the sun? It’s cloudy here (our houses are about 5 miles part)
F: It comes and goes.

At this point I noticed that clouds parted a little, and there it was – a small sliver of sun.

I: I see it! Wait, I should take a picture…

As I parked along the road, rolled (wound – for my British friends) down the window and started taking pictures, my friend was explaining to me how it was impossible to do it without special black lens…

Solar Eclipse August 24 2017 SF Bay Area

It’s hard to call sun a “small thing,” a solar eclipse is hardly something that is associated with illuminating things, and I’m sure that there are thousands of better pictures taken of this event. But for the rest of the day I kept proudly showing my “impossible picture” to friends and colleagues. And it did make my day brighter.

 

Image: my own

The Perfume Museum of Barcelona

As I promised in the Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 2: Barcelona post, I’m sharing some of the pictures I took in the Perfume Museum of Barcelona while my stoical vSO was silently suffering from boredom. He admits that it wasn’t all bad: he enjoyed the first part of the exposition – bottles and other vessels from ancient times until the last century arranged by the origin and period. The rest, according to him, was also interesting – just not taking-240-pictures interesting, not counting time I was actually looking through the collection and pointing to him items I considered especially interesting and just had to share.

Lighting conditions were not the most favorable but I tried my best – sorry for shadows, reflections of my fingers and some color distortion. According to the museum’s website, the exposition holds 5,000 pieces – so even after you see all the pictures in this post, you’ll still have more than enough to look forward to on your visit to this museum. I decided not to do a slide show since it doesn’t allow enlarging images. To view larger images, click on any image in each section and keep clicking through.

The historical part of the exposition, while interesting, was not particularly unique: you probably saw similar vases, pots and other pottery in other museums that cover those time periods and geography. Can we imagine that some of these were used for something scent-related? We could thought I wouldn’t have thought about it if it weren’t for where I saw them.

 

 

This is where it started getting interesting: these are still pre-industrial bottles and containers but they were clearly created for perfume, powder and other beauty products:

 

 

It was surprising for me to see that many perfumes from the USSR: I recognized just a couple of names – Красная Москва (Krasnaya Moskva or Red Moscow) and Шипр (Shipr) but most others I had never seen or heard of before. As I mentioned previously, perfumes were rare in my childhood.

 

 

The rest of the exhibition is organized by the brand, older and newer bottles together without the obvious rhyme or reason for perfumes or brands represented:

 

 

I couldn’t help taking multiple pictures of my beloved Miss Dior but was a little disappointed that my life-long love Lancome Climat was “mentioned in passing” – though, I should probably be happy that it made the cut at all:

 

 

There is absolutely no doubt as to which brand is the most dear to organizers: not only there is a full case of different Guerlain bottles from different time periods, but before you are done with the visit you can smell all the current perfumes:

 

 

It is a small museum – just a single large room in the back of Perfumería Regia. They do not have much space left for any of the modern brands; and with their admission price 5 Euro that didn’t change at least for the last 4 years (see Vanessa’s report here), I do not envision significant expansion – so you’re on your own making history of modern perfumery in your perfume cabinets.

 

Images: my own

Stash Rollerball and 6 Samples Winners

I decided to use one post to announced winners for two giveaway draws I ran recently.

The winner of the SJP Stash EdP rollerball is Vernona:

SJP Stash Draw WinnerRusty has accepted that it won’t become his toy.

Rusty and SJP Stash

And the winner of the 6th anniversary’s six samples draw – Amouage Ubar (vintage), Armani Prive La Femme Bleue (limited edition), Krigler Lieber Gustav, Ormonde Jayne Tsarina, Shaik Chic Shaik No 30 and Tommi Sooni Eau de Tommi Sooni II (discontinued) – is Lyubov:

Sixth Anniversary Draw Winner

Winners have a week until the end of Sunday, February 5th, 2017 to contact me with their shipping addresses – or the prizes will go to another random winner.

Using the opportunity, I want to show you two pictures of Rusty… that I’ve previously shown on my blog … just a week ago. The reason I’m doing it again is that I’m not sure everybody realized what one of them was. It isn’t just a blurry picture – I get those in dozens every time I’m trying to capture Rusty with my perfumes, and usually I just delete them.  These 2 pictures were taken seconds apart, from the same position: as I was taking a picture of Rusty who was sitting on the floor, he decided to jump up (he does that trick from time to time). I managed to take that second shot and catch him (you can see my foot through the jumping cat image). I was very proud of myself.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.