my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?


Jill Carroll

fog of war edit: Since I wrote the following, yesterday, more information has surfaced about the nature of Jill Carroll's captivity, including the possibility that she may have been forced to make a propaganda video as a condition of her release. I don't know what the truth is. I am glad she was released.

I kept this picture of Jill Carroll alive in my photo file until I could -- hopefully -- write this post of gratitude for her release.

I'm grateful she was released, seemingly intact and seeming to suffer only the emotional dissonance that an experience of that type would have to bring on.

But I will not extend effusive gratitude to the Iraqi militants who released her. I will only congratulate them on acting upon their better natures.

They acted like human beings in an environment that does not encourage it. And I extend to them my heartfelt wish that we -- Americans -- leave their homeland in the very near future.


Guerlain Rose Barbare

I should not read reviews of perfume before I've made my own mind up ... and yet. I do.

This morning, in the middle of plumbing problems that will involve snakes and seals and tree roots, I needed something to cheer me up. But not too cheery ... it's a typically rainy early spring day and I didn't want to jar my system. Any more than the plumbing had.

So I dig in my sample pile and pull out one of the recent Guerlains, Rose Barbare.

I love rose in all its manifestations. It is the only fragrance in which I can tolerate fruitiness ... because I know it doesn't really mean it. If it is fruity now, it is only a metaphor for greater things later, and I can be assured no syrup is intended.

Rose Barbare, whose name had prepared me for something a bit more ghengis-khanish, is sweet and fruity. And I don't care. Ordinarily a fragrance like this would have been kicked out of bed forthwith, but this is rose. And I have to give it a chance to reveal its true nature.

While I'm waiting for the revelation, I google the scent and find that Chandler Burr, of Emperor of Scent authorship, has opined.

His elaborately researched and documented thought: Rose Barbare, created in three weeks by the briefless (Oh. That's not right. Briefless means he was given very little direction on what the scent should become. Not that he's missing his boxers. Although I don't know the man and am unaware of his underwear proclivities.) Francis Kurkdjian is a reconceptualization of the vaunted Guerlain, Mitsouko.

That's right. Plug in rose for the jasmine, toss in some C-14 for the peach, add the aldehyde C-11, some Hedione and musks ... voila.

This does not move me. Vast expanses of who knows what teratogenic chemicals in my fragrance do not move me. Do you understand now why I should not have read the review?

But I did. And I'm still enjoying Rose Barbare. That is the wonder of fragrance, its ability to overcome intellect and grab your heart.

Behold, the revelation is at hand ... I can feel the chypre quality moving slowly toward me and the sweet rosiness.



Faith and Illusion

A minister's wife shoots her husband. Her children are taken from her and given to their paternal grandparents.

All that is left is a sad-in-retrospect photo of the perfect family unit and the parishioners' questions.

All that's left of what? The parishioners' illusions and the illusion of a perfect family unit?

Having been part of that illusion at one point in my life, I can tell you no one knows who that minister truly was, and what has gone on in that perfect family unit.

Yes, she may be mentally ill. And he may have been a dynamic paragon of Christian faith.

Or the reality may have been nothing like the illusion.

America's attitude toward religion and its clergy is interesting. In my experience, a pastor -- note the nomenclature -- pastor: leader of a flock -- is often placed in a role that absolutely encourages megalomania.

Take an individual who already has an ego spacious enough to permit belief that s/he is an appropriate representative of God's intent, add the mantle of religious authority and ...

In addition, expectations of a congregation weigh in. The role of example-setter often extends to the minister's wife and family.

My mother was the perfect example; having taken the role late in life, she took to it with a vengeance. Saint Connie was as loved for her forbearance of her patently flawed husband and her antagonistically wild-assed daughter as she was for her own (many) good deeds.

From crocheting the finest afghan for the Christmas bazaar to cleaning the church kitchen until it sparkled, my mother was all over that role. In some ways it was penance for her, I think. Divorce your first husband after a well-publicized affair with the local minister and spend the rest of your life atoning.

And I was the perfect preacher's stepkid. From a hit-and-run in the church parking lot to sneaking cigarettes in the choir loft, I was determined to play my part.

Especially in today's heated environment of faith-based wars, the role of spirituality (often distinct and separate from organized religion) is more overtly with us than it has been in perhaps centuries. There is much more light shone on religion and its representatives. This can be for the good.

Illusion has a much harder time existing in the light. It's not bad to have truth revealed. But, especially in a pressure cooker of societal expectation, it is preferable that truth be revealed before a situation explodes and violence is the result.


Ormonde Jayne Frangipani

I've finally found it. This is the smell of our Philippines garden at dusk ... pungent whiteflower, beautiful. Rich, rich deep scent that holds so much memory for me.

To me, Ormonde Jayne Frangipani is the ultimate tropical scent.

Its notes of linden blossom, magnolia flower and lime peel, white frangipani, jasmine, rose and tuberose absolutes, water lilies and green orchid oil have a perfect floral balance with a touch of citric sharpness. A subtle, rounded quality of plum gently underpins the scent.

And it's early in the fragrance. I still have the basenotes of amber, musk, cedar and French vanilla absolute to look forward to.

I'm not much in the mood to rhapsodize about what this scent brings up ... but it includes my darkly tanned, perfectly fifties-coiffed Mother. Loud bright red flowers on the chintz cushions of rattan sofas. A lot of bamboo. Me running around in a sundress, barefoot, screeching at my little brother. Making whistles out of banana tree (or were they palm?) leaves. Sucking the nectar out of some kind of flower in the garden. My Dad, in khakis, coming home from the base. The smell of gin martini on his breath when he put me to bed and kissed me goodnight.

This is what scent can do. Encapsulate your past and present it back to you.


Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus

What I have learned about the series of whiteflower fragrances I have been trying is that --at least with the Ormonde Jayne Champaca, Sampaquita and now the Osmanthus -- I will never like them initially.

In one case, I will say, "where's the fragrance? I don't smell much." With the others, I will sneeze, my nose will run, my chest will tighten and today, worst of all, I will think "fruity!"

This is my problem. Not the fragrances.

These are beautifully made scents. But these three of the four "sunny" fragrances of the OJ line simply do not agree with me. (I have a sense that the upcoming OJ Frangipani will be an exception.)

Until I get to drydown. And then the scents are quieter (except for the very quiet Champaca, which develops some personality) and whatever darkness there is about them emerges. I am much happier with the basenotes in all these fragrances, especially if I get lucky and the signature Ormonde Jayne pink pepper is present.

Anyway. Today is Osmanthus. Most of my asthmatic reaction occurred here -- and I may still have to make a trip to the sink with this one.

Its notes are pomello (thought to be an ancestor to the grapefruit), davana (sweet Egyptian herb), pimento, Osmanthus absolute, water lily and sambac (Indian Jasmine), cedarwood, labdanum resin, musk and vetivert.

Looking at those notes, I know I'm going to be happier in about 90 minutes. I just have to live through the sweet tart top layer of this scent and get to the other side, where the friendlier (to me) softer-edged woody and herby notes reside.

Next: Frangipani. I have a good feeling about this one.


Criticism and the City

This morning, emailing a friend about an acquaintance, I was more honest than kind. And my friend, on the opposite side, chose compassion. I do feel she's the better person for it, and I'm having a hard time letting go of the episode.

I've been sitting here for over an hour stewing over it.

How honest is it good to be? And how much does criticism say about the critic?

A lot, I think. What we dislike in others is often an entrenched part of our self. And I am the obsessive type that digs at embedded flaws, in myself and others.

What's the point? Why not let it go?

I'll reserve answering that while I talk about how different it is to be in the work world, after a five year absence. But maybe it's connected, this culture shock and my irritability this morning.

Just being in the sharp-edged city -- buildings blocking out the sky, crowded into other people, the noise and the dirt.

To be exposed to so many people again, after being able to choose the two or three beings you like to be with daily: it's a shock. And I feel drained today (I only am in the office three days a week).

I feel as if I spent nine hours in a psychic storm -- remember, I'm fairly clear and thin-skinned right now. I've been in school, sure -- but I didn't feel the pressures there I felt in the work environment yesterday.

Intense. People who need to make something happen, who need to get other people to help them do it. Environmental pressure of things that must be done -- it shapes you, to be exposed to that pressure for long periods of time.

I remember being harder, more brittle, much less patient when I left work five years ago -- and I see that influence seeping back in after only one day.

Jim says it's fear that calluses me in this regard. I have an autoimmune reaction -- unfounded fear that I won't succeed at what's being asked of me -- and I bring forth all sorts of defenses to address that fear.

I guess that's another of my embedded flaws. I need to work on my environmental susceptibility. I need to remember who I am, remember the core self, the me that I actually like.

And not let it be shaped as much as it had been, by negative externals.

Ormonde Jayne Sampaquita

In an earlier blogpost, I talked about wanting a fragrance that evoked the humid, sultry florality of my childhood time in the tropics.

Although the sweet Sampaquita (sampaguita or jasminium sambac) is the national flower of the Philippines, this scent isn't it.

Not to say it isn't lovely. Just not lovely for me.

It's fruity. Yes, there are flowers in abundance here -- but the syrup sweetness of the lychee note (although I've never smelled a fresh lychee that I can recall. Do they have this sweet fruitiness?) and magnolia really pull this into the way fruity realm.

The notes are lychee, grass oil, bergamot and magnolia, Sampaquita absolute, freesia, muguet, rose and water lilies, musk, vetivert, moss and ambrette seed.

I can't tell whether it's a function of maturity -- which I think it might be, because I wore some teeth-achingly sweet fragrances as a young woman -- or inherent taste, but now I seem to lean always toward darker, drier notes. And these are singularly missing in Sampaquita.

The vetivert and moss are overwhelmed by freesia and muguet. But, again, this is not a bad thing. It just isn't what I want.

Objectively, I think Sampaquita is another artful example of Ormonde Jayne's ability to find and seamlessly weave exquisite materials into a perfume whose whole is more than the sum of its parts. A must try for those who want a masterpiece of flowers and fruit, dripping with sweetness.

postscript: I'd be interested in what order these fragrances were created. Because one seems to be a reaction to the other ... the pale Champaca vs. the florid Sampaquita.


Ormonde Jayne Champaca

A restrained whiteflower fragrance, which should be applauded, since subtlety and a light-handed touch is a rarity in summer scents ... but I come away disappointed.

Champaca seems dilute, somehow. As if something was missing and I can't figure out what.

It's as if a very reserved, elegant Anglo perfumer applied her skills to the tropical scent stream and somehow "whitened" everything up. No color, no passion.

The notes are neroli, pink pepper and bamboo, Champaca and freesia absolutes, basmati, myrrh, green tea notes and musk.

Too much rice and tea. Bland. Even the signature pink pepper doesn't liven it up. There's no there, there.

But the scent has been on me less than an hour, and I've noticed Ormonde Jayne fragrance often develops stronger scent characteristics over time, as the pepper base further develops. I'm hopeful.


Amusing Myself

Cleaning house today, I came across my list of Scents I've Sampled.

And I must have -- literally -- fifty more squirreled away that I need to sample. Plus there are some I'm sure I haven't recorded.

At one point I had a spreadsheet with notes on each fragrance. I think I need to do that again, but keep it up this time. What is the point of experiencing these fragrances -- some of them rare and hard to get -- if you don't remember anything about them. I guess I'll need to start over.

Well. It keeps me off the streets.

Narcisse Noir
Floris Gardenia
Crown Stephanotis
Sage Sage
Crown Tanglewood Bouquet
KM Osmanthus
MPG Freezia d'Or
Mimosa pour moi
L'Artisan Chasse Papillion
Sage Amethyst
SL Datura Noir
Vicolo Fiori
Bulgari Extreme
Terre d'Orient Myrrh Acquoprofumo
SL Fumerie Turque
SL Fleurs d'Citronnier
SL Fleurs d'Orange
Exact Friction of Stars
To Twirl All Girly
KM Osmanthus
SMN Verbena
TDC Bergamot
DelRae Bois de Paradis
Sage Jade
Sage Turquoise
SL Un Bois Vanille
Seve Exquise
10 Corso Como
Escada Collection
24 Fauborg
Vanille Boisee Madagascar
Sage Pearl
JM French Lime Blossom
JM Lime Basil Mandarin

More Amusement
Anne Pliska

Etro Shaal Nur
Tam Dao
Teint de Neige
Sage Amber
USP Funeral
Gres Cabaret
Sage Topaz
Sage Garnet
Perfect Innocence
Perfect Love
Perfect Twilight
Perfect Veil
Mea Culpa
Molinard Feuilles de Rose
Alexandra de Markoff Essence Mist
AG Ce Soir ou Jamais
Guerlain Rosa Magnifica
Clearing's Winter Rose
MPG Opulente
DHS Baroque
SL Sa Majeste La Rose
Ecume de Rose
Rochas Tocade
DSH American Beauty
LV Donna
Un Zeste de Rose
Muguet de Rosine
Ete d'Ete
Rose Muskissime
DSH Ivoire
CDG2 Red Rose
Stella Sheer
Crown Rose
Diptyque Opone
Yosh Whiteflowers

Amusement III
JM Red Roses

Aftelier Perfume Maroc
TDC Rose Poivree
Oudh Queen Rose
FSBT Breathe
Guerlain Nahema
Rosa Flamenca
SL Rose de Nuit
Creed Tubereuse Indiana
MPG Jardin Blanc
JM Orange Blossom
Weleda Wild Rose Oil
Rykiel Rose
Molinard Vanilla Patchouli
Miller et Bertaux #2 Spiritus/Land
Nanadebary pink
Floris China Rose
OJ Ta'if
C&S Dark Rose
Chantecaille Darby Rose
LMDV Givree
LMDV Mexique
LMDV Madagascar
Demeter Belladonna
Crown Marechale
Elizabeth W. Rose
Henri Bendel Rose Petals
Floris Malmaison
SIP Con Brio
SIP Black Rosette
Rich Hippie Wild Thing
Clearing's Green Woody Roses
Lagniappe Oaks Cameo Rose
YSL Roses de Bois
FM Une Rose
BPAL Empress
DSH Un Robe de Zibelline

To Be Continued...
BPAL Seraglio

BPAL Alice
BPAL Zombi
BPAL Old London
BPAL Persephone
KM Loukhoum
PdN Vanilla
L'Aromarine Vanille
KM Mogador
KM Damascena
L'Artisan Drole Rose
KM Bois de Santal
Calypso Rose
Rosine Poussiere de Rose
SSS Tranquility
SSS Marrakesh
SSS Amber Rose
SSS Rose Kissed


A Short Note on Patriotism

This morning, Jim read to me from NewsMax, a right wing e-newsletter he subscribes to because he firmly believes in balanced reportage, even if he has to seek out the other side (while not as left wing as I am, Jim is probably the most liberal individual I know).

The quote, loosely, was "If you listen to the left wing liberal media, you'd think we should be ashamed of our soldiers."

And I muttered, "No, not the soldiers. Never the soldiers. I'm ashamed of the administration. There's nothing wrong with our soldiers that being home wouldn't cure."

I leave breadcrumbs about my history strewn about this blog. Information about what and who I came from ... and a recent post pointed out I am the daughter of an Air Force officer.

There's sadness connected with his early absence from my life -- through no fault of mine and reasons I can't understand on his part.

But nonetheless, I remember him proudly. I have a vivid memory of him in dress blues ... and I remember being a very proud little girl, proud of this man who stood so straight and seriously told me when I winced at lowflying aircraft over the base, "Don't be scared of that. That is the sound of freedom."

He fought for this country -- shed blood for the U.S. -- and I remember being told how fortunate we are to live in the best country in the world.

It's a sadder, more complicated time now. I choose to believe it is incompetence, rather than malice, that is so deeply wounding this country right now.

We have gone places we should not have gone, with poor policy, poor planning, poor administration ... that have resulted in thousands of American kids dying.

And I have bled out my frustration with sniping remarks on blogs. What good does that do?

I resolve to keep my thoughts to myself -- and within my blog -- from here forward. My feelings on this issue are too serious to be used as sarcastic blogfodder. I am angry at myself for that.

I will write about it again, here. But I will write seriously, as I am doing now. And not waste the thought and the energy through misplaced sarcasm that is rarely understood and that never changes minds.

I won't be able to change minds as I write about it here, either. But I can hope for well-considered, thoughtful understanding from other Americans -- and friends of Americans -- who are as concerned about this country -- without kneejerk lockstepping to the administration's mistakes -- as I am.

And a note on removing comments: as I approach c'est chic's one-year anniversary (with nearly 500 posts), I'm rethinking blogs and my relationship to them.

I'm grateful for all the people I've met through this blog -- and theirs. I have affection for many of you and hope you'll accept my thanks for reading, and for the many kind comments you've made.

I started the blog as a writing exercise, to keep that part of me alive as I prepared for work in a second career.

With the limited time I'll have going forward, it's time for me to reorient the blog to that purpose, of writing for the sake of writing.

And I'm not sure many of you will be that interested, to be honest, in my essay exercises. My perfume treatises. My self-absorbed soul searches. My pickled-in-vinegar political rants.

(How will it be different from what you do now, you ask? I won't be playing to an audience.)

But I thank you for the influence you've had on me, and on the writing. I'm better for it.


On St. Patrick's Day, An Irish Poet

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming!
Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats


Soda Bread

I make two things for St. Patrick's day and soda bread is one of them (corned beef and cabbage, naturally, is the other).

Soda bread sounds like something dry and gnawable. This version is sweet (I add slightly more sugar) and rich -- it's almost a dessert bread.
I laugh when I think of what my impoverished Irish ancestors would think of this bread ... and I hope they're laughing up in heaven. With full stomachs.

Martha Stewart's Irish Soda Bread
1 loaf

"By adding egg, sugar, caraway seeds, and butter to a traditional Irish soda bread recipe, you create a loaf that is fit for a Sunday breakfast or brunch. Wrapped well with plastic wrap, it can be stored at room temperature until the last crumb is eaten. Like all Irish soda breads, this freezes well."

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
2 cups golden or dark raisins
1 1/2 scant cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream

1. Heat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and caraway seeds until well combined.

2. Using a pastry cutter or two knives in scissor fashion, cut in butter until the mixture feels like coarse meal. Stir in raisins until evenly distributed.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and baking soda until well combined. Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour-and-butter mixture all at once, and stir with a fork until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture begins to hold together. It should resemble a rough biscuit dough. Using your hands, press the dough into a round, dome-shaped loaf about 8 inches in diameter. Lift the loaf from the bowl, and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.

4. In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and cream together. With a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the loaf. With a sharp knife or razor, incise a cross, about 1/2 inch deep, into the top of the loaf. Transfer to the oven. Bake, rotating halfway through, until it is deep golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center, about 70 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer bread from the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.


On Being Irish

It's obvious I feel kinship to the French side of the family, my mother's people.

Who weren't that different, in social class, from my father's.

But I know so much less about my father who, for all intents and purpose, left the family when I was eight.

What I do know is that they were, are, Irish. Oklahoma farmers who were probably pushed out of Ireland by the potato famine in the 1850s -- who fought the dusty Oklahoma soil for their existence, especially during the Depression. Tough people who give survival its real meaning.

During the Depression, my father joined the CCC, Civil Conservation Corps, right out of high school. I know he graduated, because one of the few stories he told was about attending his graduation ceremony in denim overalls, his only clothes.

And I know that he somehow moved from that into the military, where he seems to have found a structure that suited him.

It is rare for an individual with my father's background to become an officer ... and my father retired from the Air Force a lieutenant colonel, with a bronze star and a purple heart, having served with honor in combat, in the Pacific theatre of World War II and Korea.

So, the Irish are courageous.

And they drink.

My father was a sad man ... I rarely saw him after my mother left him -- and then I rarely saw him without a drink in his hand. A high-functioning alcoholic, I think. Self-medicating his depression.

Not a poet, my Dad. But he liked to paint. Especially nature scenes. And he liked to build things, I remember a brick-and-mortar chimney in particular. And he loved power tools. And he kept bees.

So, the Irish are industrious. And melancholy.

But what I value most of my father's Irish heritage is something he would never have admitted -- but I swear he had it in him. Because I have it in me. And I didn't get it from my mother.

It's a kinship to magic. A belief in things we can't see. Knowing the way things are, even when you have no way of knowing.

The Irish -- the Celts, the Gaels -- are magic. Against all odds, again and again, their magic has surfaced, even when they will against it. How else do you explain this people who have survived so much ...

and still they sing, they write great poetry, they dance ... they inspire.

The Irish.

Beware the Ides of March

The term Ides comes from the earliest Roman calendar, which organized its months around three days, each a reference point for counting the other days:

Kalends (1st day of the month)
Nones (the 7th day in March, May, July, and October; the 5th in the other months)
Ides (the 15th day in March, May, July, and October; the 13th in the other months)

The rest of the unnamed days of the month were identified by counting backwards from the Kalends, Nones, or the Ides.

So days in March would be: March 1: Kalends; March 2: VI Nones; March 3: V Nones; March 4: IV Nones; March 5: III Nones; March 6: Pridie Nones (Latin for "on the day before"); March 7: Nones; March 15: Ides.

Also: the Ides of March is the day, famously Shakespearian, when Julius Caesar was assassinated and we have centuries of feeling that, somehow, this day portends something wicked this way coming ...

Here's hoping we get through unscathed. Put on some more perfume.


Well, It Is. Isn't It?

*Shakespearian verbal abuse is a higher quality than other verbal abuse*


Nothing to Say

(cartoon in which Adam is passively-aggressively criticizing Eve for being naked. He's naked, too.)


Five Weird Things About Me

Thanks to bela, I'm here to tell you five weird things about me. This is harder than it looks, because what may look like weird to others is, naturally, natural to me.

Lemme think. I really am not sure these are so weird, but anyway:

1. I like to hibernate. Especially in the winter. Nothing makes me happier than to know I don't have to go anyplace for two or three days, the weather is rotten outside, everybody I love is safe, and I have enough Cadbury chocolate to last the duration.

2. Can't stand having a particular place on my neck/back touched. Again, this seems natural to me. I have a six-inch incision on the back of my neck. Beneath that scar is a steel plate and six screws. Beneath the plate is a bone graft from my hip. DON'T TOUCH ME THERE. Thank you.

3. I feel I have an integral navigational and safety officer role to play when Jim is driving. It involves screaming at intersections: STOP! STOP! WE'RE GOING TO DIE! STOP! When we're on the freeway, I also like to point out non-safe drivers, the mistakes they're making and will make, and I like to give them dirty looks as we pass them.

4. I provide constant color commentary during political talkshows. It usually involves muttering, "He's an idiot. He's such a jerk. Liar. What an ass. (Directed to interviewer:) If you believe that, you're stupider than you look." Jim sometimes watches FoxNews to get a view opposing all that is right and true, and he deals with me during that time by hiking the volume up and drowning me out.

5. I love any kind of true crime television, especially the ones that involve highly descriptive autopsies. Sometimes I like to give my diagnosis before the pathologist does. I often am right. (Especially fun when there is much discussion of specific body parts thrown around, i.e. scapula, femur, tibia, clavicle. Or soft tissue stuff. I love that language.)

There you have it. I ask that, if you would like to share five strange things about yourself, you tag yourself. *MWAH*


Aged Beauty

In the same fashion that I wanted to run from the room whispering "I am not worthy" when I reviewed Caron Or et Noir ... I put my head in my hands (so my wrist is still in sniffing proximity) when faced with the challenge and honor of describing Nombre Noir.

Much, much better fragrance reviewers than me (including V, R and M) have parsed the heritage and delineated the notes of this vaunted classic.

The objective information I can provide is that Nombre Noir was created by Jean-Yves Leroy (d. 2004) for Serge Lutens and Shiseido in 1981 and then immediately discontinued so that fragrance fanciers might be tormented for the next 25 years.

It is difficult to get hold of even a sniff and it is only by the grace of clearing and her generous nature that I have been able to experience it.

Where do I start? Oddly, with Serge Lutens' more recent creation, Rose de Nuit. I believe -- and the reference made to this scent in most reviews of Nombre Noir underscores my belief -- that Rose de Nuit must be the fresh faced daughter of the dowager queen Nombre Noir.

Nombre Noir, of course, would sneer ...

But I scent a definite relationship between Nombre Noir and Rose de Nuit. In my review of the younger fragrance, I had noted: "Initially, I experience an intense fruitiness in Serge Lutens' Rose de Nuit, with the apricot note in ascendance for much of the first hour. This is replaced by the lush richness of yellow jasmine with a total combined effect of deep sweetness -- but not an overwhelming sense of rosiness ... as drydown progresses, I can discern amber and sandalwood, with the musk notably absent to my nose and the chypre very subtle."

V has noted that the damascones forming a prominent aspect of Nombre Noir are reminiscent of the apricot note I found in Rose de Nuit. Then substitute the jasmine florality of RdeN with the osthmanthus supposedly in NN (not many of us can pull that one off, the topnotes of our aged samples obliterated by time) ... add the drydown woody quality that is present in RdN and predominant in NN ... and I think an argument can be made for the relationship.

Mother/daughter ... crone/maiden ... wth. Do jewels appreciate with time? Does beauty appreciate with age? Is NN an "old lady fragrance"? You know better than to ask me that.

I did appreciate this aged beauty.


Uncle Seth's Cookies

478 calories of heart-attack-waiting-to-happen.


Love and Work

I have two finals left and then I've officially made a mid-life career change. I'm not a copywriter now. I'm a paralegal, in name and certificate if not in certainty.

At what point do you become what a piece of paper says you are? I've had lagtime with all the important pieces of paper in my life.

Take a marriage certificate, for instance. For my first marriage. Please take it.

I remember waking up a week later and thinking, "Is THIS what it was about? All that yearning and hoping and planning and dreaming of white dresses and veils?"

"But nothing is different. I am the same person. With a lot more responsibility and not that much more happiness."

And in that case, the happiness quotient got smaller and smaller as the years went by.

It took me a long time to accept my divorce decree, too. Although a sad relief, that piece of paper didn't automatically unburden me of the weight of my marriage.

I'm trying to figure out what I'm aiming at here. I think it has to do with acknowledging one has a core definition. One has a Self. And all the things -- pieces of paper -- we surround it with really don't touch it or change it.

But Freud said, "Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness."

Ok, this I also believe.

Relationships, for instance, are integral to my happiness. I have learned the hard way that I am constitutionally unable to "go it alone." And I am so fortunate to have become lucky in love later in my life.

And I know I need to work for my sense of well-being. I need to feel productive. And it makes me unreasonably happy to earn money.

So while they are not me, who I'm with and what I do add to what I am.

And I guess that newest piece of paper will acquire more meaning, become more real to me, the longer I live with it.

The piece of paper doesn't define, or change me. But my reasons for acquiring it, and what I do with it, underscore what I intend, and what I can create, if not what I am.


An American Photographer

Gordon Parks
1912 - 2006

Outside the drugstore on a thousand Midwest streets
(Galesburg, Illinois)

I Can Get A Discount On 2500. Want One?

This creative input ["No One Cares About Your Blog" button] also courtesy of Sarasotagirl.

I heart her.


Group Presentation



There is a well known literary blog called Chicklit frequented by chicks of the lit persuasion, such as my friend Sarasotagirl, who sent me this great ad:

"Me: young, cute, erudite T-shirt seeking a soulmate for comfortable, long-term relationship.

You: smart, witty, and literate as hell.

I like well-built dictionaries, voluptuous reading chairs, and online library reservation systems. You adore correct spelling, word geekery, and scintillating book talk with like-minded women (and the kind of men who are secure enough to hang out at a place called Chicklit). I can swing either way on the Oxford comma, but "impactful" is a dealbreaker, baby.

Your personal mantra? "There's no such thing as too many books."

Let's hook up and make beautiful Amazon wish lists together."

Order your Chicklit tshirt at *They make great gifts, she said. Batting her eyelashes*


Visualize Calm

A lake in New Zealand. Where I wish I was.



After a hard morning antagonizing everyone around me, I like to hang upside down in my favorite tree doing what every fruit bat likes to do best.

Snack on some fruit, grin my grin and plan my next move.



Group Presentation

Ok, I have two Krispy Kremes under my belt, two slurps of my latte and I'm heading down the home lap of homework, forever. I hope. But then, I said that in '74.

*Never say never*

But first let me talk about group presentations. Only because the other three members of my group do not now, and never will, have this blog address, can I have a full and frank discussion with you about HOW VERY AMAZING THEY ARE.

Psychologically, we run the full gamut. A is passive, passive, passive. B is passive aggressive (always a favorite). C is aggressive and ambitious but "too busy" to do the groupwork. D is aggressive and ambitious and old and wily.

You can just imagine the funfest that was our online collaboration last night. And the cold sweat I broke into as I argued C to the mat over who was going to present their @#$% side first in the little lawsuit we're arguing. And the terminology. And the attempt to baffle me with bull$hit because she could not dazzle me with the bright white light of her intellect. So why was I sweating?

Because I hate conflict. But I will never back away from it. It is the strangest thing, an inheritance from the many "intellectual" brawls that constituted dinner table conversation in my family.

My anti-intellectual mother, my pseudo-intellectual stepfather, my passive brother ...

Oh dear God, I've just realized something. My group recreates the pathology of my family of origin.

No wonder I'm sweating.

Wish me luck. It's Tuesday night.


Fear of Fennel

I've just made meatballs and am congratulating myself on being (uncharacteristically) a cuisine coward.

I had come into possession of a bulb of fennel ... what a weird vegetable ... and had been so tempted to dice it, saute it and put it into the meatballs.

But one whiff of that STRONG anise-y scent ... and I knew it wasn't coming near my meatballs. There were fennel seeds in the Italian sausage and I think adding the actual vegetable would have orbited the meatballs into a whole different, inedible sphere.

I'm a little ashamed of my timidity. Go ahead, tell me I made a great error. I can take it. What do YOU do with fennel?


Today is the the thirteenth anniversary of my mother's death. I remember her in love and confusion.

She was contradictory: a Kansas farmgirl who eventually had servants ... a primly compliant officer's wife who stopped his career in its tracks with her during-the-divorce appraisal of him to his commanding officer ... nearly Puritanical, but had an affair with and later married a defrocked (later re-frocked) minister ... teeth-grittingly loyal, but capable of surgical precision in cutting people out of her life ... an aesthete, with shocking lapses in taste ... beautiful, but never quite certain of it.

I was never quite certain of you, Mother. But I loved you. And still miss you.


Rabbit! Rabbit!