What 2013 Taught Me About Perfume

New Year postcard

On my refrigerator is a placemat from an outdoor dinner I attended this past Midsummer’s Eve. It says, “A year soon runs its length and never returns the same, and the end seldom seems to belong to the beginning.”1 That’s how I feel about 2013. I can’t say anything earth shattering has happened this year, but life feels subtly different — including how I feel about perfume.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past year:

Give certain fragrances a second chance. As I wrote in yesterday’s Best of 2013 post, this includes perfumes you know you like. A good perfume can be like an absorbing painting. It continues to reveal nuance, giving new perspectives the more it’s worn.

Use up your decants! I had one treasured decant go sour and another — vintage Balmain Jolie Madame extrait, no less — vaporize this year. Decants in glass generally survive longer than those in plastic, but they’ve all been exposed to more air, light, and monkeying around than most sealed bottles have. Wear them or give them to someone who will.

You are who you are, and you like what you like. Oh sure, I’ve known this forever, but it’s felt even more true lately. I have a few friends whose style and savoir faire awe me, including with perfume. I have a choice: I can feel intimated, or I can enjoy their taste and accept that, rube or not, I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. Sure, I can savor a multi-course tasting menu at a chichi restaurant as much as the next person, but I also take a lot of pleasure in an evening of macaroni and cheese with a side of trashy mystery novel. Similarly, I have to admit that I have a rough history with Byredo and the newer Amouages, even if chicer people than I love them.

I like perfume nearly as much for the people as for the fragrances themselves. I’ve met wonderful people through perfume and had crazy memorable experiences. All I have to do is think back to my September trip to Paris to be reminded of the smart, aesthetically rich, and fascinating people who like perfume.

I’m a failure at social media. Despite all the interesting perfume people on Twitter and all the hoopla about building a social media platform, I didn’t last there very long. Heck, I don’t even care enough about myself to read my tweets — why should anyone else? Maybe I’ll give it another go this year. Maybe. (Don't even get me started on Facebook.)

For a bottle of perfume to join my collection, it has to either fill an empty niche or be too beautiful not to own. I have way too much perfume. How many intriguing leathers or elegant irises does a girl need, anyway? My perfume buying has tapered off over time. This year I bought a set of travel sprays of Frédéric Malle Dans Tes Bras and bottles of Cartier Baiser Volé parfum (a 30-ml tester for only $75 — couldn’t resist) and Etat Libre d’Orange The Afternoon of a Faun. That’s it (I think).

Bonus lessons: These aren’t perfume-related, but I put them here in case they'll help someone else. In 2013, I learned that gardenia bushes need a lot of fertilizer; roasted delicata squash is better than candy; carry your own wine glass to office parties or you’ll end up drinking out of plastic; don’t cut your own hair if you don’t have special training (I already knew this one, but some habits die hard); losing a dog is painful, but the loss is paid for a thousand times over in love; to keep ants out of the cat’s water dish, smear a belt of Vaseline around it; and a dose of P.G. Wodehouse remedies many ills.

What did you learn in 2013, about perfume or life in general?

Note: image is A Happy New Year [altered] by andyket at flickr; some rights reserved.

1. The amazing printmakers and artists at Cumbersome Multiples made the placemats as well as the dinner bowls and cups. 

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93 Comments

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  1. Ericgmd says:

    Hi Angela,
    Happy New Year. Lovely article as usual and so much wisdom from you. I will take all you wrote today very seriously.
    (Use up your decants really made a strong point)
    My perfume-related resolution for 2014 is to stop hoarding discontinued scents. There is a lot of truth in some articles and write-ups I read about scents going bad. That half-full bottle of Mystere de Rochas with all the air inside is probably not going to smell as nice as it must have in the 80s.
    And for God’s sake, I am stopping the looming and buying just because a bottle looks good. Jour d’Hermes in your lovely heavy bottle, I’m looking at you here. You last all of 15 minutes on my skin and your price per ounce is outrageous!
    A happy and nicely scented 2014 everyone!

    • Angela says:

      You’re not alone! I’ve been tempted by that lovely Jour d’Hermes bottle many times. I’ve even convinced myself that the fact that it’s a light scent is a plus–that way I can switch scents or simply use it as a refreshing eau de toilette. And who knows? Maybe when my ship comes in I will. Until then, I’m sticking to what I have.

      • Ericgmd says:

        I also learned one more thing in 2013:
        My clothes that reeked of tobacco smoke from bars and clubs back when I was young and careless and when smoking indoors was still allowed. I ended up throwing away tons of pieces when dry cleaning was not an option.
        In 2013, we started spraying ourselves and our clothes with new fragrances that duplicate the same effect once they settle down.
        Only we have to shell out the big bucks to do it now. Just try Tobacco Oud, Sahara Noir and all the new Oud-Leather-Smoke combos on your clothes.
        People around us who are still into the ozone-aquatics-clean-muscs react in the same exact way they reacted to lived-in and gone-out-clubbing dirty clothing.
        It is amazing how tastes change and the pendulum swings.
        At least we perfumistas are trend setters, even if not the ones complimented about smelling clean nowadays, that’s for sure!

        • Angela says:

          Isn’t it funny how it somehow *seems* more clean if it comes from a perfume bottle?

  2. Marjorie Rose says:

    Good Morning, Angela!
    With regards to giving scents a second try–I’ve likened it to a good symphony (or opera)–the depth of experience and how important your mood and circumstances are at the moment to your interpretations of the art. Who wants to listen to the Ode to Joy when they’re feeling cynical?

    In fact, thinking about this, I’ve wondered if I’m doing myself a disservice to more or less randomly sample scents at Nordies or Our Lady–after all, unless the first whiff just happens to suit where I’m at in the moment, am I giving it a fair try at all? Or I suppose the flip side of that would be to argue that I would be justified to go out and do that more often–to give scents many more samplings before writing them off!

    In any case, I’m glad to hear that you’ve rediscovered Shalimar, a personal fave of mine!–any others take you by surprise recently?

    • Angela says:

      I think all fragrances need numerous samplings, but I ignore my own advice all the time. I’ll keep a small list of fragrances I’d like to buy at least decants of, and then I’ll go drop money on a bottle of something I’ve barely had the chance to smell.

      As for rediscoveries, I wore vintage Cabochon parfum yesterday, and it was wonderful! Really, I have no reason to shop for perfume when I can “shop” in my own perfume cupboard.

  3. hajusuuri says:

    These are great lessons learned, Angela. Thanks for sharing. Here’s mine, in no particular order or theme:

    - Do what makes you happy as long as you don’t harm yourself or others. If buying perfume makes you happy, only do so if you have the cash to pay for it (well, besides gift cards, if you are using a credit card to earn points, make sure you are able to pay off the balance within 1 billing cycle to avoid any interest charges).

    - Slow and steady saves lives. My dad got into a horrible horrible car accident that was 100% horrible (I saw the car and it was totaled). Had he gone any faster or had he swerved to avoid it, my siblings and I would have had to plan a funeral. He basically walked away with one fractured rib from the seatbelt.

    - Gender labels for perfumes serve no useful purpose. Cross the aisle and if you love the “other” fragrance, wear it proudly.

    - We all love a bargain but sometimes you get what you pay for – a scrubber.

    By the way, even though I have a Facebook account (by “necessity” since my high school alumni group switched to it from yahoo and it’s also how I get news from my 30+ first cousins), I have never considered joining a fragrance discussion group on Facebook. I also value my privacy and appreciate those with whom I’ve swapped and/or corresponded who continue to keep me anonymous.

    • Angela says:

      All great lessons! And your point about “slow and steady” is an excellent one–and chilling. I’m so happy your father was able to walk away from the accident. I commute by bicycle, and I keep a similar rule in mind, “steady and predictable.”

    • Holly says:

      Happy New Year, hajusuuri.

      • hajusuuri says:

        Happy New Year to you, too, dear Holly. I am enjoying your enthusiasm for your re-found love :-)

    • nozknoz says:

      Hajusuuri, I agree with you about Facebook. I like to keep my perfume persona separate from the personal and professional ones. Plus I enjoy having a screen name and gravatar.

      So glad your father was driving with care and wearing a seat belt. It’s amazing how many people tailgate and take other unnecessary risks. Safe habits become easy and make a huge difference. Happy 2014!

  4. ringthing says:

    Great list, Angela! Do you think the subtle difference in a year’s time has something to do with being just that much older and wiser? I also learned about how hard it is to lose a pet, but it won’t stop me from adopting another. I learned (again) that samples can overrun my life and need to be culled and rehoused. I also didn’t acquire much perfume (and many other things) this year and I like the feeling of appreciating and enjoying what I have, so simplifying is going to continue. Stay safe and warm, everyone.

    • Angela says:

      I’m down to one cat now, and it’s not yet time for me to have another dog–I still miss my old one so much–but I’m toying with going out to the county’s animal shelter for another cat. Having animals makes life so much richer, I think.

      Good point on the samples! Mine are a disaster. And excellent point about appreciating what we have.

  5. chandler_b says:

    P.G. Wodehouse has got me through some tough times, Ahh if only I could live in that world in which he wrote! Can some niche house do a scent inspired by rundown country houses and people named Bertie smoking pipes in raggedy tweeds?

    Thanks for your posts and Happy New Year!

    • Angela says:

      I love that idea! How about something named after the Empress of Blandings? It would suit the fetish crowd, at least.

      • chandler_b says:

        Yes, PLEASE!

        • Angela says:

          What a surprise people would have when they sprayed it on, expecting maybe a full-bodied rose floral, and they got champion sow instead!

  6. Deva says:

    I have never been without a dog. Not in my entire life, from birth and hopefully up to my death. I have loved and lost many over the years. There is no other animal on the planet that serves humankind in so many ways and asks nothing in return except to be loved and lovingly cared for. Adopt a shelter per if you can. I did and she is a most amazingly gentle, funny, and sweet dog!

    As far as perfumes go, I have learned that what I knew all along is the most important thing- if a scent moves you on an emotional level, pay no attention to perfumer, company, label, price (within reason!) and just wear the heck out of it and enjoy every minute of the ride! No need to explain your choices to anyone :)

    Hope everyone has a happy and healthy New Year!
    Ramona :)

    • Angela says:

      I am firmly in the shelter pet camp! I love a mutt above all. There are so many dogs who need good homes. Cats, too.

      You’re so right about choosing a perfume that speaks to you and wearing the heck out it. That’s the way to go.

  7. Holly says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Angela, and Happy New Year.

    I’ve learned so much from you and everyone here at NST. I must admit sometimes I feel frustrated: I’m so far behind, everything’s so expensive, I don’t have the time or opportunity to explore as much as I’d like. One of the best ways to remind myself to get a grip is the saying “like what you have, not have what you like.” I’m working on that one….

    Some wonderful things I’ve learned;

    How to treat my family with as much respect and kindness as I would my friends. Really listen even when it’s a struggle, and acknowledge that I’m responsible for how I behave. We have never resolved our “issues” and so what?

    Groundbees are not bad. Getting rid of one “pest” brings in another pest. Are they pests?

    Weeding never, ever ends. Professional landscaping and lawns = work. I prefer wildflowers as opposed to lawns and I should pursue encouraging their use in public places, including highway medians.

    Dealing with a parent/loved one with dementia is incredibly difficult.

    Medicare does not provide for home health care.

    If I don’t get what I want or need from friends and family, there’s a lot of help out there.

    Cats are quirky, and I really enjoy that about them.

    I can seek creative ways to incorporate what is personally meaningful to me in my work and in my life. And I thank you, Angela, for being the spark for that.

    • Angela says:

      Oh, caring for parents is such a challenge. I can imagine all the frustration–not that it doesn’t have a reward or that there really is a good alternative. I hope the coming year smooths some of the rough edges of it for you.

      I hear you on lawns! I’ve completely eradicated my backyard lawn and turned it all into vegetable garden, flower beds, and gravel paths. I’ve chipped away about two-thirds of the front lawn, and I’m ashamed to call what’s left “lawn,” to tell the truth, since it’s mostly dandelions. *big sigh*

      • Holly says:

        I love floral ground covers: annual forget-me-nots, Ozark evening primroses, violets, chamomile and johnny jump-ups are some of my favorites. They’re cheap, prolific, gorgeous and they smell lovely . All of them spread to cover really well, and another great thing about them is that they’re hardy and you can dig up what you don’t want and share them.

        • Angela says:

          I love even the sound of the names of the groundcovers. Gardening season feels so far away right now.

          • Holly says:

            Everything I mentioned is a plant or sow and forget. So if you have a mind to, they’re a lovely alternative to traditional gardening. They spread or self-sow without you lifting a finger.

          • Angela says:

            That sounds perfect.

      • Rappleyea says:

        The dandelions are just more of your garden. Harvest the leaves in the spring (as long as you haven’t sprayed them) for salad – they’re delicious!

        • Angela says:

          I’ve always meant to do that, but never have! And yet I buy bundles of dandelion leaves for salads. Go figure. Well, in 2014 I will eat my own dandelion leaves for a change.

          • Rappleyea says:

            See? Now that final 1/3 of your front lawn is under cultivation!

          • Angela says:

            Yeah! Take that, picky neighbors!

    • nozknoz says:

      Thank you, Holly! I am so dismayed by the industrialized lawn care in my area and the use of pesticides to get rid of clover, of all thing! OTOH, there is one house in my neighborhood that has huge oak trees and no grass – just a sort of natural understory with mostly local shrubs and plants. I go out of my way to walk past it. Happy 2014!

      • Angela says:

        There are certain houses I like to walk past, too, because of how colorful and creative their gardens are. Sadly, I’m sure no one detours past mine…not yet, anyway.

  8. Ida says:

    Hello Fragrantfriends -
    Coming up for air, after I was determined to finish off some chores and tasks for the year. Not doing too badly, what a nice change!
    What I learnt is: before rushing to buy, close your eyes, think and breathe deeply and ask if life will be all that unbearable not to have it and also: isn’t there something you already own which is really similar and makes you feel roughly the same? I am really trying hard to save and to reduce the clutter – to all the more appreciate the truly sublime scent joys out there.
    I also learnt that we are all different and that perfume allergies are real: a woman next to me on the ‘plane the other day had a 6 hour wheezing fit from the (to me) wonderful Amouage Fate I had sprayed on at Schiphol airport. This taught me also to be thankful for not being allergic to the thing that gives me so much joy!
    Have a wonderful nose friendly 2014!

    • annemarie says:

      ‘ … isn’t there something you already own which is really similar and makes you feel roughly the same?’

      You put your finger on why collectors – of perfume, books, teapots, whatever – go crazy. They like they have to have the complete set of variations on a tiny theme: all the *powdery* irises ever released … all the *leather* irises ever released … a complete set of Wodehouse first editions … all the recordings ever made by Jacqueline du Pre to add to all the Yo Yo Ma recordings they already have of the same music …

      Well, each to their own, but there’s a sort of madness lurking in there if you are not careful!

      • Angela says:

        Wow. I think you just described my ideal life…madness and all.

      • nozknoz says:

        Ha, yes, circa 2008 I had a rough goal of one bottle from every good brand. With the explosion of brands, I’ve realized that’s impossible and not even desirable. Of course, I do have multiple bottles from many brands, but it’s getting almost impossible to justify a FB.

    • Angela says:

      I love the question “will life be unbearable if you don’t have it?”. Perfect. And yes, I am so grateful not to be allergic to fragrance! Fate would be a whopper to have to deal with in an adjacent airplane seat.

      Happy 2014!

  9. annemarie says:

    Oh many thanks for the tip about gardenias. I have one small plant in a pot and it is blooming successfully. I’m inordinately proud of its three blooms at the moment – three! I’m like Edmond Roudnitska – I stoop to the ground to smell and worship those things, like he did lily of the valley.

    And my only bit of perfume wisdom is related to that: it’s just as rewarding, or more rewarding even, to cultivate the fragrant plant than to won the fragrance in 15 different expensive perfumes, none of which may be as good as the original. So I’ve stopped bothering with rose perfumes and just look after my rose bushes, and while my orange tree in a pot does not replace my lovely orange blossom perfumes, it’s great to have the real thing for reference. As for gardenia, I have not chased any gardenia perfumes yet; I’m taking things slowly. But eventually I will try a few, starting with Une Voix Noire, perhaps. But I notice that a tiny 1 ml sample of that will cost more than I paid for the gardenia plant …

    • Angela says:

      I learned about the gardenia bushes the hard way after a summer of yellowing leaves and sorry blossoms. A friend at work told me to buy a giant box of fertilizer and to fertilize the heck out of them, plus to keep them evenly moist, even through the winter. It works! And I love the scent so, so much. As you say, no perfume can touch it. Now that I have two bushes, I like to give flowers to people who come over. One gardenia flower floating in a liqueur glass scents a bathroom for a week.

    • nozknoz says:

      There is a small garden on one side of the Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC, that seems to specialize in fragrant plants in the summer – white ginger, frangipani, gardenias and more. No perfume is as beautiful as the real flowers. (Of course, as LT has noted, it doesn’t make sense for a person to smell exactly like a flower, and Denyse has noted on Grain de Musc that perfume has other notes to adapt it to the skin.)

      • Angela says:

        That garden sounds divine!

      • annemarie says:

        Love frangipani. I’m in Australia but I live too far south to grow it (too cold). I don’t chase it in perfume because I’ve never found one I like, not even the Ormonde Jayne. There is a local company that makes frangipani soap, so I settle for that.

  10. Emily says:

    Angela, I weep for the evaporated Jolie Madame extrait. I took your words to heart and am spending some quality time with my decant of vintage Farnesiana.

    Your Twitter experience reminds me of the time 10 years ago when I thought it would be fun to have a blog. It wasn’t.

    Thank you for another wonderful piece of writing, and happy new year!

    • Angela says:

      I hope you are loving every sniff of the Farnesiana! In fact, you remind me that I have some of the extrait around somewhere, dang it. I’m going to find it right now and spray some on…

  11. Suzy Q says:

    Great post, Angela. Thanks for sharing today and in 2013. NST is a very special place.

    • Angela says:

      You are so nice, and I’m glad you’re here! Happy 2014.

  12. flannery says:

    First I must say I share your feelings about P G Wodehouse and any lover of the Plum shouldn’t miss the Blandings series that came out this year.

    I too have scaled back my purchases this year, buying mainly decants and being sure to use them, good advice.

    I’ve also learned that our brains need to be exposed to a scent several times before it can really give us a true ‘reading’ of its true self. So I definitely try and try again these days.

    Lastly, I’ve decided there are far too many wonderful new fragrances today to worry about the ‘lost’ vintage ones. So many of them disappointed me when finally obtained so why waste time, effort and funds that could go for samples of the new?

    Happy New Year!

    • Angela says:

      You’re so right about vintage fragrances. As much as I love them, I’m using up my bottles and taking pleasure in every use, but not sweating having to track down replacements.

      I’m going to chase down that Blandings series ASAP!

  13. Abyss says:

    I agree about decants. Been there, had evaporated decants of Attrape Coeur and Vetiver Pour Elle to show for it. Mercifully they both were only small, but this is one of the reasons that I don’t buy decants.

    I’m not sure what lessons 2013 taught me. It was a better year after several rubbish ones, so I’m grateful for that and only hope that things will continue to improve in 2014.

    SOTE is Tubéreuse Criminelle. Happy New year everyone!

    • Angela says:

      My heart bleeds for the loss of the Attrape Coeur. And here’s to an even better 2014!

  14. Rappleyea says:

    You are so very wise, Angela. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. :-) I love the quote at the beginning too.

    Perfume-wise, I was forced by a cut back at work to stop spending. It was very interesting to find that fragrances that I previously thought I *had* to have, I didn’t really want or need once I was forced to wait and think about them. This isn’t especially breaking news here as you and Robin and others have preached this to us for years, but do not buy impulsively, or even after sampling a time or two. Live with a fragrance, walk away – for days or even months – use it some more and then see how you really feel about it.

    I too have a rough history with Byredo and Amouage. The first and only Byredo I tried was Pulp. It was such a nauseating scrubber on me that I never tried another thing from that house. And sadly (or not), the Amouage line gives me a headache; it’s the only line to do so.

    And finally, M. C. Beaton (aka Marion Chesney) is my cure for what ails me.

    Happy New Year all!

    • Angela says:

      Such good advice. Listen up, everyone!

      And thanks for the recommendation of M.C. Beaton. I’m always looking for someone new to read, and I know I’ve read something by her, but it was too long ago to remember. She goes on the “to read” list.

  15. CobraRose says:

    Thanks for the ant/cat dish tip! Here’s hoping it doesn’t keep the cats out as well.

    • Angela says:

      It’s a tried and true remedy, and my cat doesn’t seem to notice. You don’t even have to smear much–really, a sheer smear about a finger’s width wide is ample to keep the little buggers out.

  16. platinum14 says:

    1- 2013 has seen a marked decline in the number of FB that I have bought. I only bought 29 FB compared to the 60 from last year and 48 from the previous year. Do I need so many bottles? What’s need got to do with it?
    2- FORGET ALL RULES!
    3- Do no waste your time arguing with a teeager or an elderly person. You’ll never win. Both will do the opposite of what you think they should do.
    4- SHOES ARE FUN! Like most men I spent most of my life with either black or brown dress shoes. This year I bought blue shoes, green shoes, yellow shoes, orange shoes, camouflage print shoes, and pale lavender shoes…. and I wear them to work. (see rule #2)
    5- Buy what you want-if you can. ($$$) there is nothing worse than regretting what you almost bought, but didn’t.
    (That bottle of Chanel Bois Noir, those red boots, that caramel coloured cashmere coat)
    6- Saying a final farewell to a favorite pet is a painful, life changing moment. Saying hello to a six weeks old new kitten helps anyone become a child again.
    7- Cherish your loved ones. Some people go way before they should.

    • Angela says:

      Wise words!

      Bright shoes are especially brilliant if you find you wear a lot of black, as is a sassy coat.

      And you’re so right about arguing with certain people!

    • nozknoz says:

      platinum14, have you seen the weather man Nikes (with colorful weather patterns)?

  17. MikasMinion says:

    Happy New Year to you! I, too lost a beloved pet this year but feel sure that she will send me a new little furry soul as so as I am needed. I have an uncanny knack for finding kittens in parking lots.
    Between P.G, Sayers, Marsh and Pratchett I am laughing and detecting my way through my grief. Count me in on the Empress fragrance!
    I have tried practically none of the new releases and bought very few full bottles this year. I figure if I don’t finish the sample, I don’t really love it that much and have found several gems in my sample collection that I had previously written off as scrubbers or uninteresting. For instance, I am considering a bottle of ELdO Rein after accidentally grabbing my sample for a weekend trip and finding that it is not just black pepper/leather but a really lovely chypre-ish woodsy thing. I don’t even know if I had tried it on skin before or just sniffed the stopper.
    Anyway, my only advice to offer is to choose your battles. If someone else is willing to really argue about something, think it out. Do I really care that much or am I just reacting? I have found that it is much more satisfying just to concede gracefully in many situations (and then I can be privately smug about it).

    • Angela says:

      That’s such good advice about choosing your battles. I often find myself backing off, not because I agree with the other person, but because the particular topic just isn’t worth the effort.

      Your reading list is great!

  18. scentfromabove says:

    Happy New Year Everyone!
    The lesson that I learned in 2013 was to not wait to wear that amazing fragrance you own. Some folks will only use their “good smelling” perfume for special occasions. Why wait? Wear your favorites whenever the mood strikes you. Cherish life and make each day a special occasion. – Scentfromabove

    • Angela says:

      So true! And the last thing you want is to pull out that special bottle of scent and find that it’s turned.

  19. Jillie says:

    A beautiful and wise post, Angela, and I hope that I can follow your advice, especially about using up decants, which is also good for all my precious vintage scents.

    The perfume community is pretty amazing – its members are invariably a happy, generous and witty lot and I have rarely seen any unkind comments such as those that appear on the social media. When someone is sad, it seems that there are so many friends coming forward with support and comfort. I just love you all!

    • Angela says:

      I agree! People here are amazingly kind. Ridiculously smart, too. Perfume seems to attract people with broad interests. Here to another year of more of the same!

  20. nozknoz says:

    Angela, thanks for these wise words, great tips and for all you do to help make NST such a wonderful place for perfume lovers.

    I’m still trying to learn that I don’t have to have a bottle of every perfume that I love. If there were nicer decant bottles, this would be a lot easier. I guess I should thank Eau d’Italie for having such ugly bottles that I only own decants of theirs. ;-)

    I guess one thing I have learned is to persist in doing things I’m not at all good at, particularly Chen Tai Chi. I never took dance classes or anything else that involved complex movements when I was young, so I am embarrassingly slow at learning the Chen Tai Chi forms. But I can tell how excellent it is and how much I need to be able to do it as I age, so persist and try to contribute good humor to the class for what I lack in skill.

    All the best for 2014!

    • Angela says:

      Chen Tai Chi sounds rewarding. Some of the best things are those that you have to challenge yourself to do, I find. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to push myself out of my comfort zone a little more often.

  21. Dixie says:

    Angela,
    Thank you for wise article-and I love everyone’s responses. My biggest battle is being satisfied with what I have. The society I live in is sooooo materialistic that it is easy to lose sight of how blessed I am. I have a husband who loves me, is supportive, and cooks me breakfast almost every morning. Our relationship is rich in love and friendship and we both want to work to keep it that way.
    So really, what could be lacking? My husband has lost 2 jobs in the last 18 months and we and our 3 large dogs and 2 cats and saltwater fish tank are crowded into a small town home. No house and yard here. My house is never clean enough. Yet when I go to others homes they are like BHG. Really? Do people really live like this? Under such pressure? Not that I would like to have my house to look like an HGTV makeover, but the effort is overwhelming to me.
    And like many, I have more perfume than I could ever use in a lifetime. So, I’m trying to settle myself by preaching the truth to myself. My life is so rich in so many other ways our society just does not reward or recognize. Some of the kindest and most generous people I have met have not been at church but on this perfume blog and swapping perfume.
    Ok, I’m babbling. Happy New Year everyone and may we all (especially me) be thankful for what we have!

    • Angela says:

      It’s so easy to start judging our own lives by other people’s. I do it all the time, but as you say, there’s no way to win that game, so why not appreciate all the amazing things we have now. With a sassy name like Dixie, as well as a house full of pets and a loving husband, I bet you are a total inspiration.

      As for BHG-style houses, blegh. No originality, no soul there. I’d rather have a little mess and a lot of style.

    • kindcrow says:

      My husband and I like to say that our house reflects our interests and our priorities. I think that that’s an excellent way to describe the appearance of the inside of our house :-)

      • Angela says:

        I like to say I have “bohemian” housekeeping skills. Somehow it sounds better than “haphazard.” In any case, I’ve always been more comfortable with a little untidiness: stacks of books, rumpled throws, the odd (or not so odd) cat hair.

        • Dixie says:

          “Bohemian” housekeeping skills! I readily identify!!!! Could be a future article!

        • kindcrow says:

          Bohemian housekeeping skills. I’ll have to use that sometime. The word “housekeeping” reminds me of an excellent movie that I saw in my teens — Housekeeping, starring Christine Lahti. The book was excellent, as well. It’s set in the 1950s (in the Pacific Northwest, as I recall). It’s quirky, beautiful, and sad. Christine Lahti’s character freighthops/trainhops — something that I thought was pretty cool to see a woman doing.

          • Angela says:

            That book is one of my all-time favorites. I adore it.

          • kindcrow says:

            I’ve read it a couple of times, but it’s been many years. I seem to remember a passage about wild strawberries that was beautiful …

      • Dixie says:

        Love that! Thank you!

    • scentfromabove says:

      Dixie,
      I was just reading your post and I know exactly how you feel. I am a school counselor and am now working in a new school district (this is my 2nd year in this particular district). The community that I work in is a very prominent area. The homes are million dollar homes where doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, and a few television newscasters reside. Even my coworkers are well off. The secretaries drive Escalades, BMW’s, etc… I have a reliable, dependable Toyota Camry (LOL). Its easy to be on the outside looking in wishing you had what they have, but we never really know what people are going through.
      My mother always had a saying that has still stuck with me when I start doubting myself: There will ALWAYS be someone who’s prettier, smarter, richer, has a bigger house than you, nicer, etc…..
      The list goes on and on. We can never live our lives trying to be like or live like others we know. We will never win Instead, we should always be thankful and feel blessed for what we have. We all have different journeys.
      I say all this to tell you, both of us are truly blessed. You have a loving spouse who cooks for you and cherishes you. So many people are wishing they could be LIKE YOU!
      I will end by telling you what makes us stand out………we smell so much better than probably everyone we know! LOL!
      Here’s to us, my NST friend. May 2014 bring us good fortune, good health, and even better -smelling than we were in 2013!
      -ScentFromAbove

  22. Celestia says:

    I save my tiny amount of Mitsouko Shower gel that I have left, for Xmas and a very few, other, special fall/winter occasions. When I put on my 7.5 ml extract, it had turned. Sob! It had been kept in the box in the dark too! Why do all turned juices smell the same? Terrible! When I became heavily immersed in collecting bottles, I regretted having ever opened it. I wear perfume every day and do believe in using it up but I, too, have enough others for the rest of my life. So I wear the EDT instead now. I will leave my extracts intact for future better re-sale value.
    Our neighbours are young newly-weds whose old-growth lawn is a field of dandelions, buttercups and morning glories, and sometimes even stretching vines of brambles. They are too busy to be interested in gardening so once in a very long time professional gardeners descend on the property and clean things up, thank goodness. The dandelions are knee-deep in summer and do get mowed down about four times a season by the husband but they spread to the other immaculately kept properties, causing grumbling among the neighbours. The guy who lives behind me is a Type A personality and cannot abide mess of any kind so he considerately comes over to kill my buttercups. Having accomplished that, he is now onto my wild violets. His m.o. is that my weeds will not spread to his perfect lawn. Luckily the morning glories don’t affect my land but I do try to eliminate them whenever I can surreptitiously pull them out just over the property line! I also prune whatever I can get away with. I’m the Ghost Gardener.
    I tried my gift vial of Fleur de Lotus and love it because it has an aquatic note. Too bad it cannot be easily had outside of Paris and Japan.
    As for gardenias, I think that Nature/God made a terrifically scented plant, but in a fragrance, it could be headache-inducing. For me, it’s the same with freesia, tuberose, and frangipani. I am an aquatic/marine/ozonic lover.

    • kindcrow says:

      Oh, killing buttercups and wild violets sounds so sad. Lawns bore me — they are biological deserts.

      • Angela says:

        Lawns are a lot of work! One of the houses in my neighborhood converted their front lawn into a mass of lavender bushes. I thought that was a great use of the space, and I could imagine drying linens over it.

        • kindcrow says:

          Your sheets would smell good!

    • Angela says:

      I have to admit that I actually like Mitsouko EdT better than the extrait, anyway! I’m so sorry yours turned, though. That’s heartbreaking.

      Morning glories–bindweed, that is, not proper morning glories–are the devil to get out of a yard. I must have spent three summers pulling them out of the back of my garden so they wouldn’t take over the vegetable beds.

  23. Celestia says:

    When I first started gardening in earnest, I found it difficult to throw out a living plant, weed or seedling because they were God’s creation and alive but, with time, I realized that plants can overpopulate the earth, if left to their own devices. Like us, they are here to reproduce to keep the species going. But all must be kept under control lest they become so predominant as to be a detriment. Killing wild violets and buttercups (not to mention ivy)does sound mean but one learns to hate the bloody things when they choke the life out of everything else beautiful that is attempting to grow. I came to the conclusion that even a nuclear holocaust would see a few buttercups survive. Now I adopt the attitude that what I pull out is recycled from my green bin and thus the cycle of life (Samsara) continues.
    Lawns are a lot of work and for what end? To make a great space look good? Unless one has dogs or kids running around, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to maintain one. Curving gravel paths with ferns, small bushes and flowering trees are more interesting.
    I have found that a fragrance that has turned may be all bad to the base note while yet others may actually be okay once the top notes have evaporated. Funny, eh? It must have to do with the chemical composition of the specific ingredients as well as the quality of them.
    What is a BHG house?

    • Angela says:

      I love your description of a curving path planted with ferns and shrubs. It makes me eager to get into the garden again! Maybe this will be the year I keep up on it.

      I’ve noticed the same thing as you in terms of fragrances going “off.” Often, if I wait I find it’s only the topnotes, and the rest of the fragrance smells all right. But when the whole thing is off, it’s toast.

    • kindcrow says:

      BHG might mean Better Homes and Gardens?

      Ferns and gravel paths sound lovely. I find all of the “primitive” plants, like ferns, moss, and liverworts to be so charming.

      Our front yard is almost all plants that are native to the area. The neighbors had the nerve to call them “weeds,” but they are just the opposite of that! We use very little water in our front yard, and the diversity of birds and insects (several species of bees, dragonflies, butterflies, etc.) is so much higher than when we had a lawn.

      I totally support eradicating non-native plant species that are running wild and choking out the native plants — especially in open space areas where the native plants and animals need all of the help that they can get. Let’s hear it for biodiversity!

      • Angela says:

        Yes! Better Homes and Gardens. I forgot to say that. And yes, hurrah for biodiversity.

  24. floragal says:

    So much wisdom here – thank you all! I’ve said it before, but can’t help saying it again and that is that I’m very grateful for this blog and community of special people that bring a healthy daily dose of fun, happiness, inspiration and joie de vivre to the messiness of life. Still a newbie, but really appreciate ‘you are who you are and like what you like’. Always a good reminder.

    Best bonus ever: P.G. Wodehouse ;)

    • Angela says:

      I, too, am grateful for the blog and its community. For all my complaining about social media, I do love writing for NST. Happy New Year!

  25. tora says:

    I enjoyed this article. Especially the comment about re visiting a perfume a few times even when you think you might not like it. if I had not revisited Rose Oud, Seville a L’Aube, Chypre Mousse and Ashoka, I would have missed out. What I did not get at first, I came to love!

    Thank you for sharing your insights. Happy New Year!!

    • Angela says:

      That’s great! (And now I’m hankering to put on some Seville a L’Aube.)

  26. Green note says:

    Great post Angela, and I’ve loved reading all the comments. I’ve been splurging on perfume blogs over the last couple of days. The first was the NST damage poll. There are all these people buying cheap bottles of perfume. Where are they getting them from?! So I went looking on the discounters and had to continually remind myself to focus on what I was there for (oh, bright shiny thing! another bright shiny thing! would I actually use a body lotion? Um, no. So I don’t need the set. And even though the bright shiny bottle is cheap, I’ve never sniffed it…the 100ml is cheaper per ml than the 50 ml, but would I actually get through it?). I’m sure you’ve all been there.
    The funny thing is that I’ve always worn perfume. And always from bottles… until I fell down the rabbit hole around 5 or 6 years ago. I was living in very regional Australia and couldn’t get a refill for my #19 locally, so I bought a tester online and discovered the decant suppliers while I was looking. I haven’t bought a full bottle since. I just use my samples. But I recently realised that there were scents lurking in the cupboard that I wasn’t sure I could actually tell you what they smelt like. So I resolved to use them and take notes as I went and not be tempted… And then I read the damage blog and went looking for full bottles or at least large minis. I’ve also been looking at more samples…
    So when I read Olfactoria’s blog and now yours, both beautifully reflective pieces dealing with less is more, it was rather ironic.
    My plan is to really be sure I don’t need them in my life and then do the Fairy Godmother over on Perfume Posse.
    For me it’s strange to read of the community, splits and swaps that seem to happen so freely amongst those of you in more populated areas (the sheer force of population numbers, and therefore interested perfumistas, particularly in the States). Even buying sample sets from some of the perfumers websites isn’t always possible to this part of the world (they just don’t ship here), or else the postage doesn’t make it a financially viable option – it’s easier through the decanters when they have a sale. Maybe these constraints have contributed to my (relative) restraint.
    Hmm, somewhat more of a tirade than I’d anticipated! Actually I guess I was trying to say (in a very roundabout way) how lucky many of you are to have easy access to indie and niche perfume.
    So, after lurking for many years, I wanted to thank you all for contributing to my decision making over the last few years! I particularly relish the comments. I don’t think I’ve discovered my scent twin, though Robin aligns reasonably closely.
    And you’re a bunch of readers as well! How good is that! Best thing I’ve read recently was the entire Game of Thrones series. Absolutely recommend it. One day I’ll watch the series. I’ve heard that’s great too.
    Happy 2014!

    • Angela says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying NST! The people here are pretty great (if I do say so myself).

      Splits and swaps do happen in some pretty remote areas, so don’t rule them out–although it really is nice to have local perfume friends.

  27. investiie says:

    very wise article, Angela. my lesson was a classic one that everyone should have known: you define the perfume, don’t let the perfume define you.

    in the first few years of perfume-smelling i have always thought i’d choose what i want to smell like, but most of them ended up swallowing me. now i guess i am a bit smarter to choose what complements my (original) smell (cough).

    happy new year!

    • Angela says:

      That really is a good lesson. Some fragrances can almost melt into you and become part of who you are, while others always feel like a put-on layer of frosting. They don’t blend at all.

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