Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Whine and thou shalt receive

It's around -14 (Celsius, for the information of my occassional stray American reader).

I was discontent
with the mild winter and now there we are, it's damn cold as it should be in January.

My SAD is still acting up. There's still no snow to make the evenings at least semipleasant for walking home, it's unreasonably cold (I had to wrap my scarf around my head this morning lest my ears would fall off) and I'm stuck. Depression is physically debilitating to me first of all, I'm of bright mind, maybe grumpier than usual but that's beyond recognition to those who don't have finely tuned grump-o-meters or are just normal and don't bother to recognize. But, hell, I feel like lying like a piece of rag.

Which is the most likely reason why I gained weight. I'm at nice round 103 kilos and I'm totally pissed. I feel like curling up and waiting until spring. I feel like pulling some piece of clothing in size 40 and not eating until it fits excellently. I'm afraid that I'm going to do the latter no matter how rationally I can assess it as a rather idiotic thought because the human tendency to do things and think about the consequences when they arise, and if they arise at all, is present even in yours truly.

The gloomy mood caused by some family and work problems doesn't help either.

I wish very badly not to feel that bad but I just do. Le sigh.

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Winter 2012 Top Smells - a joint blogging project

I had a reliable trio of winter fragrances: Donna Karan's Black Cashmere, Annick Goutal's Encens Flamboyant and L'Artisan Parfumeur's Dzongkha. Especially Encens Flamboyant which smells like fire.

It's either because I'm getting old or because this winter is taking a toll on my nerves. Or because this is not a proper winter. I just didn't feel like using my winter classics and way too often, I went around without any fragrance at all - me who carries a bottle or two in her bag, just in case. (I would still carry those without using them.)

I got a Christmas bonus just before, well, Christmas so I decided to invest it wisely. I bought a few books, an Issey Miyake purse (no idea what I will do with it but it could hold a small knitting project, I envisage), a pair of Blahniks and a few other things I'll be painfully decluttering in a few years' time... and somewhere between a crapton and a shitload (the decision which of them is bigger hasn't been reached yet) of raw materials.

It all happened to arrive within three days - four different orders from four different directions, mind you. I'm often surprised how raw materials smell differently from the plants they come from (I haven't had a chance of a close encounter with a civet cat and I know the musk ox only from the fine fibre it yields). I'm a wood freak so now I'm richer by one big bottle of Atlas Cedar essential oil, which is so much nicer and more interesting than the generic cedar oil I used to get in the local fancy faux handmade cosmetics store, more smoke, more of a certain harshness. Or oakmoss - the absolute is dark green, smells faintly of crushed vegetation and glowing embers and it's totally different from the smell of actual oakmoss or whatever I thought it in fragrances that contain it.

Should a dear reader remember some of my former perfume musings, I have a certain predilection for weird stuff. Eyewatering leathers (such as Cuoio di Spagna by Santa Maria Novella), patchouli that needs three or four baths to disappear from one's skin (I'm looking at you, Patchouly Indonesiano) or just something plainly extraordinary.

Being pretty choleric, once again I chose the DIY path. Upon careful reading and considering my financial situation, I ended up with several bottles of basics - Siberian fir, vetiver, cedar, cypress, rosewood or benzoin, and hear me say, there's never enough benzoin and cedar, several bottles of basics I was able to afford only due to huge discounts, such as neroli or vanilla absolute.... and then the odd stuff. I wouldn't believe what can be distilled, dissolved, absoluted or extracted.

I spent a fruitful evening trying to render a cuir-cologne version of a perfume I've been making for myself for a few years but that needs maturing or I need to mature and find out what my opinion actually is. I don't really like citruses and I can smell that damn petitgrain and neroli in it but day after day, it appears to be more and more promising

Meanwhile, the ugly brown jus made of birch tar and many a viscous dark thing is living its own life. I blended the dark and viscous things with all things leathery I could think of (which amounts to exactly two, ylang-ylang and vanilla) and some odd-smelling plants - mainly but not exclusively tagetes. I wanted to render a salty floral and I was hugely disappointed when it smelled of vetiver and vanilla - nice in itself but not what I wanted. Things kept happening, though, and this is the magic of natural materials - they keep changing. Now, four days later, I'm wearing the would-be salty floral which is actually.... sweet and leathery. I need to find someone to blame yet but meantime, to put it in Elena's words, I'm walking around wrapped in an olfactory equivalent of expensive fur - warm, pleasant, protecting one from however evil the surroundings may be.

Speaking of fur, I got half of a fleece the other day. For those who don't happen to be fibre maniacs, fleece is what comes off a sheep. Half of a fleece... go figure, my dear smart readers. Almost a kilo of sheep fibre along with an occasional bit of twig or grass. It was washed but not totally devoid of both lanolin and vegetable matter so bit by bit, I soaked it in hot water with some soap and it's then when wool yields the most beautiful smell of lanolin. I did a cursory search but I couldn't find any information regarding possible existence of a lanolin absolute or any other sort of extract of whatever the fragrant bits from the complex composition may be.

And now excuse me while I go and bury my nose in my virtual fur. Meantime you can check variations on the same theme at Abigail's, Katie's, Gaia's, Ines', Carol's and Elena's blogs.

Added two hours later: Reconsidered. My newest thingy was a virtual fur yesterday. Today it's approaching towards the salty garden. Life is interesting.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Only words

I bought a new battery charger, which means that the misplaced one will precipitate in the middle of my table tomorrow. Anyway, there will be pictures and with pictures, more knitting rants and perfume rants and other rants that deserve to be illustrated. Not now, though.

I spent a part of my Giftmas bonus on raw materials and I devoted one afternoon to a bit of alchemy. I got a bottle of birch tar which pleased me quite a bit. Well, after I wiped my ears and nose because it smells salty and sort of meaty. It's an important ingredient for the old-school leather fragrances (I guess that it's banned in all civilized countries because it smells good and someone claimed that it caused him a bit of itch) and I'm a leather fiend. They say Bottega Veneta is a leather fragrance (reviewy rant to follow when I run my camera again, I have a bottle on my table) but it's rather some nice flowers with a bit of what the crowd out there calls leather and I call it chalk.

Anyhow. I also got vanilla absolute which is somewhat leathery too, and tagetes oil which is positively weird, Crithmum maritimum oil - I don't remember how this plant smells but it's broken easily with a typical sound and feel and the oil corresponds well to this. It's somewhat tangy and green and with a hint of something salty.

Etc. The birch tar is strong like hell, I had to place the blotter at the far end of my table so that it wouldn't mess with the other smells but I'm afraid that my room still smells like a den full of smoked meat. The main task was to overshadow the salty smell with something reasonably complementary... or not complementary. I decided to go for the contrast between salty and leathery accords and dry, sweet stuff. Thus fennel, neroli and what else contrasted with said birch tar, vanilla, ylang-ylang, crithmum and tagetes. Plus Siberian Fir to add another eye-watering quality, oakmoss just because and a few other things.

I'm quite happy with the result. It's a dark, suspicious-looking liquid and it came out sort of as I wanted. I need to dilute it first to see how it wears. It's all natural so it may be really different on skin. And, it's called Halophyte Garden. Salty floral - sometimes I'm very simple.

I couldn't resist and made some leathery cologne. I'm afraid that I overdosed it with geranium - it seems that any amount of geranium is an overdose because that drop overshadowed quite an amount of the stinky birch tar and the Siberian Fir which could drill holes in the wall. Well, either I'll make the sample into a candle or I'll add half a bucket of petitgrain. We'll see.

And, well, serves you right. Blame the Illuminati and Universal Jewish Conspiration for these bad stupid internetz that cannot convey smells.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Eternal end of November

The weather is still misplaced.

In general, I detest discussing what the weather is, was, will be next Thursday. That's what we have windows for, to look out and decide whether it would be useful to add a layer of woolens and rubber boots to the outfit. And my problem is not actual weather but the wet, semicold days typical for late autumn. They're getting on my nerves.
And on my unconscious.
Today I had a dream, in which I was sitting in a small public park or a large flower pad in front of a railway station in a different climate zone because they had real spring. There were almond shrubs blossoming - not the proper Amygdalus nana (1) but something that reminded me of garden anemones coloured surgical appliance pink - and some other stuff grew there (a cross between wisteria and kapok, I dare say....) and I started digging up bulbs thinking that I may grow them on my window sill.
I woke up, went to water my seedlings and bulbs growing on my window sill and cussed the weather.

Apparently, it is Caturday today.

I went to the post office for some more fleabay loot. I don't know every cat of the neighbourhood in person, some are not exactly stranger-friendly and I believe that there are some strictly indoor cats, too, but I thought I was well acquaintained with the local feline population.
On the way there, I met a big and well groomed orange and white tom who looked at me with keen interest when I was making sounds and gestures in order to lure him to the fence. On my way back, I spotted two white and tabby kitties, one big and one small, sauntering around the Big Villa.

It's still dark, wet and cold outside. I'm going to hide under my comforter, tell me when the spring arrives.

(1) wikipedia decided to irk me a bit and says that it's actually Prunus tenella. It's the dwarf almond, there's a growth across the street and one day I'll steal some.

Friday, 13 January 2012

On evil nature of things

I must admit that I'm slacking the work because I finished the book for proofreading yesterday and I'm simply mentally drained. I should be creating some more materials but I opted for browsing library catalogues for something inspiring, dealing with backlog of mail and similar shit and packing for Prague. A business trip on Monday means that I can spend the whole weekend there.
My flatmate lodged his friend in my place and I gave them the spare keys I've been using. My regular keys lived on the table and I forgot to grab them in the morning so I abandoned my work station and left for home to grab them. I got caught in a horizontal snow, so horizontal that the snowflakes ended in my ear canal, which is not important to the story, just interestingly silly, came home, headed for my table and the keys weren't there.

I grabbed a stapler, tape measuer and 4,5mm cubic needles, the two former I forgot and the cubics are intended for another winterproof white sweater which I plan to knit over the weekend (yes, hope springs eternal). I rummaged some more more, keys kept missing.

At the end, I grabbed the spare spare keys with the old key from the flat and now I hope that the entrance door lock hasn't changed. My lock did change but since it comes with some speshul code card from which a locksmith can make a spare key, I found the card, called my smithlock cousin and picked my keys later on.

I'm very positive that in a week's time, I'll find my keys. Several sets of keys of mine are living in a pocket universe. I'm not losing shit, I'm just misplacing it and then it creeps away to some umpteenth dimension. Since there is no reasonable explanation based on physics or psychologi, I hereby claim that it must be the inherent malice of Universe.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

I hate this winter.

I don't hate winter as such but this year, it's getting on my nerves quite a bit.

(1) I got immersed in botany last year, now it's totally wrong season for plant hunting or related activities and I have an URGE. You may say that I can spend all the time when I'm not outside with botany books. I'm doing exactly this but somehow, it doesn't do much of the trick. It only worsens the matters because the URGE only grows, I want to go out and touch some of the real plants.

(2) SAD aka winter depression.

(3) No snow. Which worsens the SAD as the rotting leaves and rubbish and stuff are not a pleasant sight and it's always so dark.

(4) All of the above result in one thing: I'm sitting at home, rotting away with a book, some knitting and chocolates. Which adds to some extra frustration from the inevitable weight gain.

This winter is pretty warn, though, so I hold high hopes that it will remain so and we'll get a nice spring in February. I have no clue how I can survive this for two more months, though.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Startitis! It itches!

I'm not a great friend of New Year resolutions so I didn't make any. I'm decluttering for its own sake, and I also miss a thing or two which totally should be just somewhere around.

However, since it's another year starting, I joined a 12 swearers in 12 months group thing. Been in this since 2010. For your information, it was 6 sweaters in 2010, 8 sweaters in 2012. Some of them are too small to wear, though, of which I may talk later. However, this year I decided to make it 12, for realz. The rules are that the sweaters don't need to be started in the year in question so I counted sweaters in progress and there were...

Nine. One is two rows away from finishing but that involves some serious fiddling around. Many are in transitional phases when they need some fiddling, counting and thinking. The remaining four are in the seminal stage of small gauge samples and big ideas.

The result: I have nothing to knit.

I'm having really busy days at work, I'm coming home intellectually drained and I don't really feel like counting something, trying whether it may work and such, I want just some nice mindless knitting. Thus the urge to start something new, totally simple-stupid.

I've been digging in things and I have a beautiful cashmere blend that just screams to become a Greta Garbo shawl. (1) And there are more.

I decided to at least try and be a good girl and finish a few things before I start a new one. But the urge to start something new, exciting and promising is so... strong... I... must... resist...

Hey, this nice handdyed wool could make a good sweater. Is that a 3mm needle that miraculously appeared in my hand?

(1) 'Greta Garbo' is a lace pattern used for Haapsalu shawls, named after the allegedly first recipient. It's lace herarts with nupps but I'm totally skipping the nupps, I don't like them. I know, I know, Haapsalu patterns need nupps but there's no knitting police.