Saturday, April 26, 2008

Adventures in fragrance

I'm wearing Hermes' Un Jardin en Mediterranee on my right arm, Un Jardin en Nil on my left, Dior's Miss Dior Cherie on my right hand, and Chanel No. 5 on my left.  The first two are because I needed to know what Jardin en Nil was like: when last week I fell in love with J. en Mediterranee, I felt like I'd picked the wrong one.  Karen, the Nordstrom fragrance consultant, told me that a book had been written about Nil, that everyone loved it.  I breezed right by it to Med, bought Acqua di Parma's Arancia di Capri (still my top choice) instead, and second guessed myself on the Hermes.  

Meanwhile, I bought Perfumes: The Guide, which has been a great way to learn more about what fragrance is really about.  Before heading to Nordstrom today, learned how to say "chypre" so I could ask for a fragrance that had it; I studied the guide's top fragrances and researched which I'd be able to find there.  Ten days ago I barely had a vocabulary, and all the names I knew were Chanel No. 5 and Obsession, Poison, White Diamonds -- things that remind me of Elizabeth Taylor.  Now I know the top fragrances, the top chemists/designers and perfume houses -- particularly, thanks to the guide, in a historical context.

So I went to Nordstrom with bare arms and the dual purpose of resolving my conflict about the two Hermes fragrances and of trying Chanel No. 5 (apparently one of the greatest fragrances of all time) and perhaps a Dior or Guerlain.  

The woman who sprayed my forearm with Nil raved about it, said it was her favorite.  As soon as Med hit my skin I knew I liked it better.  When I went back later to ask to try No. 5, she must have thought I was nuts.  On the way out the door I spritzed Miss Dior Cherie, which the guide gave four out of five stars.

The verdict: Miss Dior Cherie doesn't deserve as many as four stars.  It's strawberry and patchouli, mostly strawberry from beginning to middle to end.  

As for No. 5, I would have fled from it if it wasn't so important to get to know it.  The saleswoman pointed out to me that (as I had read in the guide), it was the first aldehydic fragrance.  The guide defines this as, "Characterized by the smell of the straight-chain alephatic aldehydes C10, C11, and C12, first used prominently in Chanel No. 5."  Reminding us that fragrance can really only be expressed clearly through analogy (fruity, spicy).  Suggesting that No. 5 would be over my head.

It was.  My initial reaction to it was that it didn't smell like anything I knew: I had no language to describe it, so I figured I was experiencing the aldehydes.  I certainly didn't like it.  I supposed that the marvel of that fragrance -- which was created in 1921 -- was that it did smell so abstract.  If Arancia is Renoir and Med is Matisse (and I think that's right), No. 5 is Pollack.  I look at a Pollack and I understand that something is going on, but I am not sure why I'm looking at it.  (OK, bad analogy: in Pollack you can immediately see passion; I didn't even get that far with No. 5.)

Unlike a painting, we're dealing with something that evolves.  The No. 5 on my hand has gone through many scent stages, which has kept me interested.  It eventually softened into something I could at least identify as "feminine," floral, and became more consciously pleasurable to me;  and six hours later is still around (probably another way it is marvelous) as a faint, sweet powder.  I can understand at least that this is intriguing.  

I now understand how complex a drydown phase can be.  I think the bit of Nil I can still smell is actually wonderful.  My right hand smells like old towel, which is either a really bad drydown from the Cherie or because I've been doing dishes.  Sadly, I think it's the Cherie.  

The salesperson gave me a sample of No. 5, and I'm going to continue to try to get to know this fragrance, to teach myself what aldehydic means.  Then on to the other classic, reference fragrances.  Next stop: Guerlain's Mitsouko, which is indeed a chypre.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

View from Philadelphia

An email from a good friend who lives in Pennsylvania, commenting on the intensity of campaigning leading up to today's primary. Names changed to protect the (very) innocent. The candidates' names have not been changed.

Even Joe & Julie [ages 9 and 7] did not react after the 20th time I said, "Anybody want to listen to the new phone message from Obama/Clinton?"

Miriam [age 4] has figured out how to get Joe's goat: she keeps saying, "I'm voting for John McCain!"

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Krazy Kat

I know it's been forever since my last post.  The free-roaming part of my brain has been consumed with taking care of my cat, Sophie.  Roaming to possibilities, to concerns, calling vets, wondering what my cat is thinking, and now to the Adventure of the Food.  Really, my creativity has been put to good use.

Sophie developed what we now know was a calcium oxalate stone in her ureter, as we found out when the test results came back from the lab in Minnesota on Wednesday.  Last month, she had five days of fluid therapy in the hospital (bank translation: vacation to Hawaii, staying at the Four Seasons), trying to get her into UC Davis (translation: penthouse), followed by surgery (not at Davis but at the wonderful BAVS) when the stone didn't come out on its own (translation: flying first class).
Vets are awesome people, and she ultimately came through with flying colors.

By my count, she's used at least three lives.  (1) Because Hopalong and I agree she wouldn't have made it on the street, or even just as an outdoor cat, (2) because if the stone hadn't been addressed she would have died, and (3) because she's a head case and seems to have forgotten how important eating is and would not have made it if I hadn't followed her into Crazyland.

That's what brings us to today.

Calcium oxalate stones are "highly recurring" (with no definition of that), which means that Sophie could end up consuming another trip to Hawaii.  Many more trips, in fact.  Oxalates can't be prevented by all those prepared, canned cat urinary tract health diets -- that would be struvites, much easier to control.  No, my Sophie, predictably, produced the more difficult of the two kinds of stones.  The only way to even possibly prevent an oxalate stone is to somehow convince your cat to drink more water.  Dilute the urine, that's our only hope.

On the way home from the appointment when I learned all this, I stopped at the store and bought her a kitty fountain (translation: cab ride to the airport).

Sophie's a dry food cat who is under orders never to have dry food again. But she doesn't perceive wet food -- a major source of water -- as food. She licks the sauce a bit and walks away.

I've learned that cats can have food aversions. They (apparently easily) develop associations with food which makes them stop eating it. Sophie's aversing started with stone pain/hospitalization/surgery, and she came home thinking food was bad. She's on mirtazapine, an appetite stimulant (separately: the Pill Adventure), which is supposed to get her through this, but she's figured out how to resist its effect, resist me, resist her hunger pangs. In the face of all this expensive and smelly wet food! At the same time she's perfectly frisky and playful, acting as if being super cute and loving is all that matters. I end up seeming like the only crazy one here.

I document what I feed her and what she eats.  This way, I won't end up panicking that she hasn't eaten in five days when she might have actually eaten recently.  But it turns out her food aversion extends to bowls and locations, so I have to keep switching things up.  The log from the past two days goes:

Wellness turkey (in BR w/water in orange bowl)
Wellness turkey (in BR near window on plate)
Moved ducken to table
Chicken/grave on table in cruet
Wellness turkey in corner
Chicken/gravy in BR
SO on table while I eat and work on computer
SO with 5 pieces of dry
fresh chicken
fresh chicken

She didn't eat most of this, which means it's all in the garbage.  She will eat the fresh chicken, but only if it's cut into little cubes -- she can't seem to understand it's the same food if it's in shreds.  The vet said I could serve her diluted chicken broth, and that's helping ... so now she has me cooking and cutting chicken, making plain, unseasoned broth, and serving it in a variety of bowls in varying locations.  I have five options in the living room (including two on tables), two in the bedroom, and one in the kitchen.