Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Random observations

I'm on a skiing holiday.

It is raining so we're not anywhere on the pistes, instead, I'm slurping my umpteenth coffee as usually at non-holiday time, checking the internetz, carefully poking my research project and generally doing nothing.

Yesterday, the police car stopped under our balcony, the cops got out and started poking the contents of a trashbin. Then they photographed it. Later, they returned, met with the hotel owner who was in charge of the trash bins and had a talk which made the hotel owner not happy at all. Then we went skiing (snowboarding in the case of your truly).
Later in the afternoon, the hotel owner and two more folks were sorting out the trash.
Even later, there were two more guys, all of them had long rubber gloves, they were taking apart the trash bags and processing them somehow.
Today, the police came to check whether the trash has been dealt with.

The last time I was snowboarding was five years and twenty five kilos ago. I feel muscles of whose existence I did have a clue, after all, as a kid with artistic vein, I redrew half of the anatomy atlas. I just wouldn't believe where it can hurt after a bit of physical effort. I should go to the gym more often, apparently.

A while ago, the Swedes that stay above us came back from the pistes, drenched to the bone from the sleet. Mom hid under the duvet and keeps waiting for spring.

On a related note, how long may it take to lose 25 kilos?

The weather is not improving. Dad is making coffee umpteen+1. I'm joining in.

I should've taken some knitting with me. I was told I was an intolerable pessimist when I packed a first-aid kit. At least I have books.

A bit of introspection

I spent some time going through old posts and old comments - maybe I'd better get a filing folder and keep printouts of my blog posts because sometimes I seem to lose track. The thing will be pondered upon, I don't have a printer at hand anyway.

For some time, I kept thinking where the blog is going. Like, what is it about. I discovered that it's going nowhere in the sense of having no definite purpose of existence, and that it's about random stuff that catches my attention (1). Guessing from the comments, most of the readers seem to be caught by the perfume stuff which means that I should advertise the blog among knitters and gardeners and whoever else, or that only the perfume rants are worth commenting. Now, do I toss knitting and random book comments and what else is there? Or my blurbs along the lines of I have a new sweater and it rocks are studip, I wonder? Should I add kitten pictures because everybody likes kittens? Should I start reviewing chocolates or wine (2)? Should I throw in another totally unrelated theme? Should I get another drink? And, where does one buy prefabricated answers to any question by dozen?

I think I need another drink.

I started saving yoghurt cups. I saw lots of interesting flora in the curbs and I plan to enrich my garden. Just sayin'.

(1) such things don't necessarily need to be shiny but it helps
(2) which is another can of worms. I've wandered into the deepest cellars where mom insisted spare flowerpots should be hiding. There were no spare flowerpots, just some planks to be used for a fence which might be slowly succumbing to dry rot over the ages, and in a rather dark corner, my small and not particularly exquisite shelf of wine. The question is, do I drink them, do I keep them, do I keep only the reserve ones and drink the rest?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


The other day, there was a discussion on the smell of tobacco in the interiors and I recalled my late grandma and promised some stories.

Well, grandma died in the ripe old age of 80 minus a week (life is ironic and so is death, her burial was on her birthday day), she succumbed to a metastased melanoma, or in normal words, the cancer ate her liver. Which is another irony, she would hardly go out because it's dangerous out there etc. so sun exposure, a major cause of melanoma (or so they say) was negligible. She was alcoholic, she dosed her medicines depending on weather and actual mood (nobody wanted to know any details) and she smoke a hundred a day, the modest guesses say. Also, she was overweight. Like, 180 cm around the hips overweight. One would say that she'd get cirrhosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes, lung cancer or at least chronic bronchitis but she was the healthiest person ever (but for cancer, of course).

She smoked a lot, did I mention that? Her apartment had that particular smell of full ashtray, that tarry goo on all surfaces and stale tobacco. My parents were reasonable so however odd my both sets of grandparents may be, they just let it be. At one grandma, I could watch the chicken hatching,bring cats and bunnies to the kitchen and didn't have to brush my teeth, at another grandma, it stank, she constantly watched telly and I could do whatever I wanted, also, importantly, grandma always had chocolates.
I became wary of her habits in a tender age, though. She was an alcoholic, as I said, that type which hardly ever gets really drunk, she needed to keep a stable level of alcohol in the system, though (and the theory says that due to disinfectant properties of alcohol, no bug ever got her). To mask her drinking habit, she would hide a bottle of something in the flowerpot, masked by some ugly bushy thing, and she would pour vodka into water glass. One hot July day, we climbed the three storeys sans elevator, I was thirsty, grabbed the water glass, which, in my 3-years-old brain meant that it contained water, and gulped - so far I remember it. My throat didn't catch fire nor did my eyes pop out, but almost, the legend has it that my father nearly commited a matricide and that I slept well that afternoon. I won my personal battle against alcoholism more than 25 years ago although at a certain point, I was a laughing stock because every normal person drinks beer, yeah.

I like flacons that have a screw-on spray nozzle. First, I like to reuse the bottles, second, I make decants from time to time, third, I like spraying myself. High five to Shiseido for this.
A few weeks ago, I got a handful of purse atomizers and I discovered that some scents are totally different when sprayed. I still don't know for sure what causes the difference although in most cases, it may be the sheer amount applied and in less potent colognes, I might underapply.

However, now I can pour my various miniatures, samples and stuff from all those cute flacons with glass stoppers into the atomizers, I can carry it around and I'm using it with much more pleasure.

Sagamore was one of these newly discovered scents. For some reason, I've hoarded a handful of miniatures of the older version. A dab from the 7,5 ml bottle and a spray is continents away. I was vaguely aware that Sagamore was somehow woody-aromatic... while it is very woody, aromatic and smoky fougere. I haven't found tobacco among the notes neither at Fragrantica nor at Perfume Intelligence (which also says that it's a masculine chypre... odd) but I'm telling you, I recognize an ashtray and all that brown goo that sticks to the walls when I smell it.
The opening is.... well, I should say something like green and citrusy but for me, petitgrain is akin to paint thinner. No offence meant, I love the smell of paint thinners but when it's paired with that something green and citrusy, I tend to perceive it as turned. Thinking of it, I need to reasses my opinion on Nina Ricci's Bigarade because the opening is exactly the same and many times I've whined that it has turned, o woe upon me. Back to Sagamore. Launched in 1984 or 1985 (sources vary) so it stands side to side to the 1980's monsters with tons of sillage and muscle mass. Because, after citruses waft away, there's that smoke and a sweaty tone.

Graham Greene defined adventure as something that's hell to go through but it makes excellent stories to tell at the fireplace years later. Sagamore would speak of a house of a lady who had walnut furniture, tons of books, smoked like an old sailor, cursed likewise, had a full and well-supplied liquor cabinet. And possibly two Afghans curled at the fireplace but that would be somewhat overdone, I guess. Nobody needs to know the pesky details like walnut being only veneer, yeah?

Sagamore was advertised as a masculine fragrance in the original version but bite me. Now it's reissued in Lancôme's La Collection, available in 15 and 50 ml bottles (which is what I saw around, the Lancôme website doesn't say anything.)

top notes: lavender, clary sage, petitgrain, bergamot, lemon
middle notes: carnation, ginger, cinnamon, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose, geranium
base notes: sandalwood, amber, patchouli, musk, benzoin, vanilla, styrax

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


Don't mistake for arthritis which is sick joints. Startitis is when one starts way too many things at once. So:

Green sweater for Olga, a part of my personal challenge filed as Get rid of old yarns.

Blue-grey sweater for me.

I wanted to knit a shawl, sometimes I get cold shoulders when messing around the house in a tank top while it's too cold for a sweater. I got only three skeins of yarn on Friday and today I hurried to get the two remaining from the LYS because I rethought the whole thing over the weekend.
Then there are the two other sweaters on the needles. I ordered two more skeins of the brownish-pink yarn so I'll be able to finish this one in a reasonable timespan and have it ready half a year before the right season, i. e. winter.

There's something extremely satisfying about yarns being knitted up. I have a stash of doom and making things brings it a reason to exist.

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Perfumista Challenge - results. Part III.

The third specimen is again from Mark, with the provisory name of Myrrh Cologne.
Which it is, there are citruses, there's myrrh... and now let me digress.

The other day, I met one of my perfumista friends downtown and for some reason, we went through the courtyard of the National Library. We went past the library annex and at a certain point, the smell of forest materialized. We both inhaled and started sniffing in an attemt to locate the wearer of that perfume... to find out that the teeny tiny garden was alive with gardeners who were raking the mulch there, mulch made of pine bark chippings. I pondered whether there is a perfume that smells like a forest, wet soil, mushrooms and such, and neither me nor Jerry were able to come up with anything that smells of mushroom. Maybe Demeter Fragrance Library or someone out there has one such, I don't know.

Back to Myrrh Cologne. It has a definite mushroom undertone. Heap of freshly cut wild mushrooms (think of Boletus sp.) with lemon. It contains ginger, though. Ginger seems to be a bit of chameleon to me, sometimes it smells like chocolate, sometimes like whoknowswhat... and there is indeed something mushroomy about it, which came to stand out in this fragrance. Or it's the contrast between musky base and aldehydes? I don't know.
Funnily enough, although myrrh can be smelled for a while after application, this is not a fragrance that would evolve around myrrh. Nor would I say that it's a typical cologne, the musky base renders it a bit heavy for something that could be used in large amounts in summer..
I'm of two minds here. If it were me, I'd rework it in two directions: get rid of that mushroomy undertone, cut the musks and leave citruses, aldehydes and myrrh, adding more myrrh. And, to the contrary, add musks, a touch of some warmer spices or woods, get rid of lemons and aldehydes to create a deeper forest fragrance. At this point, Myrrh Cologne is rather bizarre, it's not as if two distinct perfumes were layered as in Mark's previously reviewed All the Things (You Wanted), in this case, the two perfumes I sense in the blend would better be separated.
But I might be wrong - for me, early spring is not the right time for citrusy fragrances, I'd need a bit more sun.

Sunday, 21 March 2010


There's an abandoned garden across the street. An old guy used to tend it until a few years ago, then it fell to abandon and last winter, some drunkards settled in the garden shed and set it on fire. It's owned by the railways, the tracks run directly behind, so some railway maintenance guys checked it, nothing happened for a while, and then a bunch of 'landscapers' came, hacked down the fruit trees and roses and other shrubbery, planted a few trees I wasn't able to define yet but it's not fruit trees but some council green crap, my preliminary guess being some everything-resistand lindens.
(We hold hopes that nobody builds anything there. First, because, second, it would ruin the view, third, I wouldn't see the trains. For some reason, trains are an integral part of good view for me.)
But, before turning to illegal dump, it was a garden and a million of snowdrops appeared. Yesterday, I got a shovel and went to loot. Mom was slightly opposed because after all, it's trespassing and who knows what but I found that someone was already there, replanting. I salvaged two bucketfuls of said snowdrops, along with some narcissi (we're waiting to see what colour they are), spring snowflakes - these poor plants were buried under a heap of splinters that stayed after the idiots who hacked down the tree nearby and they are long and yellow from lack of light, and also some scillas (Scilla, I need to identify the species yet).
In the autumn, I got a real heap of various bulbs, I happily forgot which they were, but for saffron and tulips from the box that said 'various colours and breeds', or in other words, Plant and See.
I also ordered a few black irises (Iris chrysographes (1)) and Meconopsis betonicifolia, known as Himalayan poppy. Looks like poppy but with bright blue blossoms, I found at Fragrantica that it's used as a perfume accord (2). The nursery folks added a nice leaflet strating with I'm sleeping, don't plant me now yet! but the plants already sprouted long pale leaves. Irises are already in the front garden, blue poppy, since I hear that it's fickle, was placed at the windowsill and it's being cute. The leaves are hairy... and imagine fragile pale yellow leaves with black hairs. Funny.

And, yeah, I talk to plants. I talk to inanimate objects too, the other day, I mistakenly bought three skeins of Malabrigo, you know, I fell so unfortunately that the card slid into the terminal, just a shopping accident, and I caught myself petting the skein telling it that it's pretty. No worries, I'm already taking psych meds. And although I do carry pointed objects at my person, my needles are too valuable to stick them into you, fellow human beings, they would get dirty. (3)

(1) and, Helg, when you pass around, feel free to ponder aloud why the hell it's chrysographes, it means something around writing in gold but then it has nothing to do with the damn plant, or I'm completely wrong, or I'm puzzled.
(2) ... with two fragrances listed. Il Profumo's Coquelicot may be somewhat hard to find but Lancome's Poeme is available just about anywhere, if I'm right, so I'll check. And if the damn plant blossoms, I'll check that one too.
(3) now imagine diabolical laugh, if you fancy.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


Tee hee.

I'm working on umpteen things at a time:
I cannot wait when I have finished the second sock because the first one fits nicely exquisitely. Yarn: Unicorn by Fyberspates. The fibre content is already revealed, it was a secret for some reason. Silk, cashmere, llama. Llama I had already guessed, the yarn is smooth and alpaca-ish slippery. Silk, too. The rest I would have bet on lambswool. I guess that one skein could make two pairs of ankle socks.
I also got somewhat fed up with my current sweater and wanted some instant gratification project. The bluish cluster is Noro's Suzuran, pure wool, same pattern as the Ravelympics sweater - when I got an idea, it's such a rare occurence that I stick to it. To the idea, I mean, not to the occurence.
Tape measure. Comes handy while knitting.
A handful of samples to review: Idylle, Basala, Sagamore, Sira des Indes, Courreges in Blue, Detchéma, Naked Honey, Vetiver Dance, Derby, something from Susanne Lang.
Anti-wrinkle cream: did I say that I have body image issues? Well, and I'm fighting my wrinkles before they get serious. I seem to have a hint of bags under my eyes. Welcome, middle age.
Psych meds. Allergy meds.
The glass brick is a stand for the flacon of Quand vient la pluie. I don't have the flacon so I stick needles in it.
Knitpicks Harmony: that's the needles. They are interchangeable, I can screw the tips onto cables and it was one of the best buys in my life. Smooth joints which I particularly appreciate after having knit quite a bit with circulars made of indefinable grey metal that splintered. Cables that don't tear off the needle - ditto. They are smooth, pointed and pretty. I could stand the needles a bit longer, I have big paws, but still.
Blotters. I'm careful with applying fragrances on skin without trying beforehand. That could be said twice for Idylle which is crap.
Chanel's pressed powder in Sickly Pale. Nope, the shade is called Lilas, lilac (Syringa for the sciencey types) and it's sickly pale, my natural colour if you forget the freckles.
Coffee = fuel. I've slept badly and the psych meds do a bit weird things.
Snustad's textbook on genetics. Exam looming ahead.

Life as if nothing had happened. Not that there would be anything going on. I'm still somewhat shaky although the side effects of the antidepressants are slowly diminishing. I'm reading and knitting, no big deal. I take an immense pleasure in knitting, that mindless sort. It probably does something to the serotonine levels.

Something will happen.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Belated happy birthday

Some two days ago, I finally finished the shawl I made for Laura's birthday. Which was some time ago. Well, now it sits neatly packed on the chair next to me and I'll take it to the post office tomorrow.

The pattern got a bit wild at the end but upon discussing it at Ravelry, I was told to name it Theory of Chaos and ignore the inner itch to rip the last half metre and do it better.
This is what I like about knitting. You take a string and you make it into a fabric. Having an idea regarding the sort of fabric is nice but I don't have to stick to it - I can change colours, materials, textures, patterns on a whim. Which is what I do pretty often so working on an item often involves lots of ripping back.
I've been knitting a lot this week. Finished a sock and I'm halfway through the other one (and socks take time), finished Laura's shawl (could be 1/4 of the whole thing) and advanced quite a bit with the Ravelympics sweater - that's the last picture. It should be in theory made while watching the Olympics but I didn't watch too much, I was writing my ass off. I should be doing that even now but the antidepressants still make weird things to me while they still don't work as they should. Coordination is tough tomorrow today I fell on the stairs and got two bruises on each of my shins, yesterday I had to run away from the gym because not only my extremities were shaky, my stomach joined, too, and I was on the verge of throwing up. And, as apparent, I still don't think too well so I'm sticking to easy tasks. No math, no perfume decanting (shaky hands, need to read labels), no translating from Latin. Also, no perfume blogging, due to faulty wiring, my smell plays nasty tricks.
However, while not able to do some intellectual work, I cleaned my table and Jesus, Buddha and Elvis know that it was needed at least since I spilled the stuff that should treat my rash (and peeled off the skin on my fingers instead); salicylic acid made neat layer of shiny crystals at the far right end of the table but it wasn't too convenient. I also dug up some interesting yarns and planned a few upcoming pieces of knitwear - as much as I can plan anything in this field. And... I knitted. Knitters agree that there's something meditative about it, or, as the maxim goes, I knit to keep my hands busy or else I'd strangle people.

I love this sweater. I didn't trust the colours and I still somehow don't really trust the yarn, it's heavyweight and most likely it will sag making the sweater too long. It's going to be fixable by hemming it in, should it be the case. The cerulean and yellow strip is already ripped, I decided to place it in the middle of the front part.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Pain in the arse

Once again, I got depressed. Which should explain my lack of witticisms lately. I'm tired like hell, tired like let me fall in the curb and die there because I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and I can't anymore. I have attention span of a kitten - if you talk to me, use short sentences and talk slowly, please. Reading is fine but slow, though. And, also, the textbook symptoms: feelings of guilt and in... un... being useless.
Around a week ago, when I was too tired to coordinate my legs while walking, I decided that it was doctor time, fixed an appointment, got a script and went to pick my antidepressants. So far so good.

The funny thing is that what kicks in first are the side effects. I also started feeling much better the very first day and thought it the placebo effect but upon reading the insert, among the side effects listed was also happy mood. I haz it. Along with trembling hands, general lack of coordination and no feeling of thirst. So, I'm tired, uncoordinated dumbass in a damn jolly mood.

I discovered that it's only that happy mood, not actual brain complex brain work that reacts with feeling happy to that sun outside. I needed to discuss my paper with the professor and my major participation to the conversation was staring blankly.

At least I can knit passably.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Perfumista Challenge - results. Part II.

I got seven samples in total so I suspect there'll be seven short reviews in the upcoming days. The main reason is rather plain, I just don't feel like writing one long ranty rant, the stuff needs undivided attention and I don't want to spent a week labouring over the longest blog post in recorded history.

Time for another tidbit, then.

Sample marked #3 rose-violet from Pat of Olfactarama.
Pat wrote that she used perfumer sets to compose her mixtures and since her letter rests in the splendid company of Mark's letter (Mark kindly sent the descriptions again so there'll be minor corrections to yesterday's post), I'm afraid that until Pat wanders here, I'm not able to provide any detailed information regarding the materials used, bad, bad me.
Anyway, Rose-violet No. 3 has extreme evocative power for me. It's like eating violet bon-bons on a sofa upholstered in pink satin. It is indeed rose and violet with a strong note of red fruits. Not the generic blah, there are fresh wild cranberries with white bellies which are bitter, sour and sweet at the same time. There are two things that I could live without, a metallic edge and... wet chalk. And, somewhere deep underneath, a sweetish velvety base. After a while, something pretty soapy emerges - either more rose or a nearly lethal dose of aldehydes. Also, I expected some base accord to appear but it is as if there was no base, no drydown, just an abyss of violets, roses (well....), cranberries and whatever else, something that never ends. It gives an expectation of something resiny.
This is one of the really interesting things I have sniffed lately. There is something harsh about it, I think it's the metallic (nitriles?) bits and the wet chalk. Also, it's not fresh as the fruity-floral might imply. Neither is it superficial. Exactly the opposite, it is a difficult fragrance with several facets.
It is not a thing I could wear these days, either it's the building depression or just a bad time of the year or just not my style in general but I can imagine many people who would quite enjoy it.

Coming next: Have you ever come across mushroom fragrance?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Perfumista Challenge - results. Part I.

I got a handful of samples, see:

The vials are from Pat of Olfactarama fame and the little bottles are from Mark known as Margin Perfumer (no website I'd know of. I asked Mark and he said he had none. I could try and search but first, he said he had none and I don't see a reason why not to trust him and second, I'm lazy).

I'll take the liberty to start with Mark's All the things (you are). I got a nice explanatory letter from Mark which lay on my table for two weeks, I re-read it many times and then I put it aside so that it wouldn't get stained by my endless cups of coffee and now I'm unable to find it. So, Mark said three noteworthy things: that the compositions are not necessarily to be considered finished, that large orders are welcome and that this one contains damascenones and galaxolide (and a handful of other things, I vaguely recall) methyl anthranilate and cinnamic aldehyde which react to something called Schiff's base, creating a strong and pervasive scent (1). Should be orange blossoms and thinking of it, it may be right, there's something that I call unripe strawberries for myself and what is orange blossoms to the rest of the world
So, it's musks and something green and rosy, with roses sans soap. I love roses as long as they are neither candy sweet nor soapy. I suppose I can say I love damascenones but I've never had the chance to meet one in pure form. Let's assume so.
The perfume is... well, I don't want to sound mean. It's like two perfumes put side to side. There's that musky base which reminds me of Annick Goutal's.... which one was that? searches frantically the samples at hand due to lack of willpower to stand up and go and look at the bottle which is three metres away yup, Encens Flamboyant which is glowing embers to me. All the things has this element, it's less of glowing embers and more of all-embracing warmth. Musks, those little buggers. And then there's another layer, separate and distinct, of not-exactly-roses. It might be roses but I'd have to go to the botanic garden to check which one exactly, it's not a generic rose. My synaesthetic brain bits now try to kick me in the shin by pusing an image of pink camelia in front of my eyes but... not that one either. A rose, that which just surrounds you on a dry cold morning. Not that sweet-smelling as the one at our porch. (2)
I'm somewhat inclined to say that this perfume needs to be worked on so that the two distinct qualities blend. Or communicate better, that's a more suitable description. But, before that, could I have a bottle, pretty please? Mark? Please? Because, I love it exactly as it is.

I'm afraid that I'm developing a depression. I might be more self-depreciating and, well, everything-depreciating than usual. Most likely, in the next few weeks before I resolve it somehow, I'll be writing about how crappy I feel and how the whole world sucks and that it's all my fault. I'll do my best to be civil. Have patience. No need to send booze and chocolate, I've lost my appetite too.

You were warned.

(1) I don't know what is this all about. I'm paraphrasing Mark who kindly sent me a copy of the accompanying letter, allowing me to correct my imprecise description.
(2) Dorinia by Firmenich. See above. Damn chemistry, it has totally different poetics than the everyday associations.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Back to life

I had to write some stuff and since I'm a terrible procrastinator, I obviously did it it just before the deadline. So, I've thrown my papers at the teachers and now I'm back to my regular mixture of lazying around, knitting, reading and some editorial work. The latter nowadays includes very ecclectic tasks, such as writing blurbs about glassmaking or Japanese swords - I could sum up my knowledge of both mostly to I know that these exist somewhere out there, which adds to the adventurous nature of being an editor. It also explains why I read a lot, and on just about anything that catches my interest (1) - it's likely that I'm gonna need those random pieces of knowledge in future.

Speaking of future:
The Perfumista Challenge yielded the most interesting results, exoect a blurb someday soon (and hi Mark, I want a bottle of one of your thingies, as long as I can afford it).
I got some new yarn. Yes, I'll plague you with some knitting, too, so that it's not that monothematic here. And sure, I remember that I promised Laura a shawl for her birthday. It's not finished yet for the reasons stated above but I'll work on it as fast as I can. (And I do feel guilty. Sorry.)
Spring has started so apart from knitting and perfumes, expect some interesting flora. I've finally found a nursery that has Meconopsis betonicifolia.... well.

(1) and as always, I'm bound to add that I prefer books with lots of pictures in colour because I haven't changed from that happy primitive during my break in writing