Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

programming note no.4: happy holidays!

Nosy Interviews will be back in the New Year! Starting Tuesday, January 3rd, your regularly scheduled weekly interviews will return. In the meantime, I hope you're smelling (& eating) all the best foods with your loved ones.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

must be swell

image via

There are too few side-profile shots of Steve Martin (and his superior nose) on the internet. Finding the image above led me to this smell-related moment from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (good viewing choice for the holiday season):  
Del (John Candy): I got the seat just where I want it, but I can't reach my feet 
to get my shoes off.

Neal (Steve Martin): That's just fine. Leave your shoes on.

Del: I can't relax if I've got my shoes on.

Neal: I don't care to breathe your foot odor. Leave the shoes on. 

Del: Gee it must be swell being so perfect and odor-free.
These lines immediately precede what must be the finest exchange about ball-adjusting in all of American cinema. You can watch here, but you really need to see the whole movie to appreciate the moment. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nosy Interview: Nancy Lili Gonzalez

 Nancy laughs in As Above, So Below, © Boris Štromar

Nancy has a special place in my nosy heart as she was one of the first strangers to wander over here and leave a comment. When you put a new blog out into Internet-oblivion the idea that someone who doesn't know you could find it is both a surprise and a comfort. We haven't met in person, but I've gotten to know her a bit better by reading her blog,  La Linterna del Monstro (where you might head next to leave an encouraging comment for a relative stranger).

What do you smell like?
Artificial smells I rub on:
* Vanilla cupcake scented shampoo by Sephora (birthday gift, will run out soon)
* Mandarin scented conditioner by Herbal Essence (because I'll always love their 1990s-orgasm campaign)
* Oatmeal scented body wash (smells more like sweet milk, not oats)
* Sometimes (very rarely, to be honest) an orange-scented deodorant
* Amber and mahogany scented body lotion (I think it's sexy, but my partner thinks the amber's too strong)
* Cetaphil facial lotion (how would we describe it's smell-less smell? I like it.)
* Vera Wang's Princess perfume, two sprays each morning (in my defense, it was a Christmas gift three years ago that won't run out. The second half of the bottle sits there in it's little heart-shaped container, taunting me. To be honest, its lady apple and "vanilla chiffon" smell has grown on me. Which scent will I switch to when I've finally used this up?)
Natural smells I pick up:
* Argentinian coffee (because I grind it, brew it each morning for my partner and myself. After working as a barista for four years, smelling daily as though giant, dirty beans lived inside my pores, I now prefer this subtle hint of coffee that stays on my hands and in my breath, making only one pot's worth.)
* Car's leaf deodorant, the black leaf that smells like men's soap (This smell that doesn't seem to fade. Considering I hop in my car at least twice a day, I'm sure some of this man-smell rubs off on me, my pants.)
* Amber- sandalwood- bergamot- scented Glade spray stuff (sprayed in apartment on a regular basis, and sometimes the spray particles follow me)

What do you like to smell?
* Winter and cigarettes-- particularly because this is the clearest smell I identify, and it smells like road trips to Devil's Lake with my dad, when my brother had fallen asleep in the back seat, and it was just us two up in the middle of the night, staring at the lone road ahead of us, everything black except the blue lights from the radio, a talk station on
* My partner, between his armpits and his ears (a mix of Calvin Klein's One and Cetaphil and cedar and sweat)
* Marijuana (Can I say that? I don't smoke it, cross my heart, but I used to-- who hasn't?-- and practically everyone I know still does. When it's good marijuana and it's extra-skunky, I love to smell it, just love it. Sue me. Or walking into a room in which marijuana has been smoked, the quiet, almost clean smell of it is nice, too.)
* Cinnamon sticks (and cinnamon tea!)
* The pines
* Mint (is there such a thing as mint-scented candle? I'd like one of those.)
* Freshly baked bread and freshly made pizza (how to melt a human, deeply inhale this)
* Puppy breath (never dog breath)
* Heads of babies (all babies smell like potato chips!)
* Bleach (every now and then, it's almost refreshing-- in a bathroom, in a pool. Too much of it, however, and it is what a migraine smells like.)
* Toothpaste
* Crayola Crayons

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

nosy gift guide

There's nothing like a good gift guide to bring out my shamefully rampant inner-consumer. Here are some gifts to put under your nose:

1. Bring your host or hostess a Soap & Paper Co. Patch NYC Stag Votive. Somehow the raspberry and cilantro conspire with the Siberian fir to make this candle more pleasing and perfectly Christmas-tree-like than any others I've smelled (and I always try a few around this time of year). I would recommend this especially as a hostess gift so that the recipient can enjoy its considerable throw throughout December.  (I upgraded to the larger size this year, and it's filling the room even unlit).

2. Encourage your nosy writer friends with a Write Like a Motherfucker mug paired with something fragrant and energizing to sip from it. I recommend Mariage Frères' gorgeous Marco Polo Tea, the yummy Jaipur Avenue Chai sampler pack, or a kit to make Blue Bottle's scrumptious New Orleans iced coffee (delicious year-round).

3. Lavish your nearest and dearest with anything from Aftelier Perfumes.  I would like my whole bedroom giftwrapped by Mandy Aftel, please. Everything I've ever purchased from Aftelier, down to the tiniest samples, has been elegantly packaged in gorgeous little pouches and richly printed papers in deep purple and molten orange. And everything smells as good as it looks. My favorites are her jasmines: Cacoa is sumptuous and comforting, and the Jasmine solid perfume is a sunny, sexy dream. 

4. These crystal bits are made from Acacia tree resin, and they sparkle, smell like amber, and class up any surface on which you place them. A great gift for anyone with a vanity table or aspirations for an elegant powder room.

5. A new, giftier volume was just published, but for my money the original is still tops. Perfumes: The Guide is the gateway book for many a perfume addict, and it's fun reading for anyone who is curious about fragrance, or even smells. If a book of perfume reviews isn't really your speed, might I suggest something from the Nosy Book list?

6.  Lush's Snowcake is the soap equivalent of a hug. Give a bar of this creamy, almondy goodness to anyone needing comfort during the cold winter months to come. 

7. Everybody knows that charitable people smell better. Get them a goat!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nosy Interview: John Balsley

John in the Light Echoes from the V838 Mon, © NASA

John and I first met on the internet in 1999, when it was harder and weirder to meet someone online. He deserves some kind of special designation on the nosy blog (Patron Nose? Nosy Hero?) because this summer he sent the most generous, amazing learning tool I could have received--a kit of notes! I dreamed of such a box set when first starting this blog, and having these tiny vials in my apartment has been such an enormous treat. Visit John's professional website, and then come back here to leave suggestions for the nosy knighthood ceremony in the comments.

What do you smell like? 
These days I smell like a kid -- the outdoorsy life in Wyoming leaves remnants of campfire, charcoal briquettes, bicycle grease, and mud on my clothes. Sunday, my laundry basket is a pastiche of whatever adventures I've gotten into during the week: "oh yeah, Tuesday I pet that wet dog while wearing this shirt."

My hands tell a more immediate story -- the floofy natural hand-soap my landlady buys, or permanent marker from creating a puzzle for the kids I work with. The mildly decaying, pleather steering wheel in my ancient Hyundai remains on my fingers, a smoldering plastic-cum-french-fry tableau. Some nights, it's John Varvatos cologne, which invariably devolves into beer and Parliaments. Or more dog. I don't even like dogs, but it feels right when you're out West.

What do you like to smell?
Sometimes my memory fails me; perhaps a misspent youth smoking away synapses is to blame for forgetting who was there, what song it was, the non-punchline part of the joke. But smell can transport me instantly to visceral memory, smashed together with other times that share the same odors, a family reunion of similar recollections, even if in truth they haven't much in common. A whiff of cloves takes me to a dozen Greek Easters; gasoline in the hot sun recalls countless trips in my first car. Nostalgia, that false emotion, nonetheless seems important when triggered by smell, and the details I mix in my mind may be as incomplete as ever, but it feels more real, correct. Chlorine will always bring to mind holding Jack, then an infant, in a rooftop pool in downtown Chicago, grinning at each other as we bob around its perimeter, and just as quickly I'm a pre-teen at Sunset Beach in Claysville, Pennsylvania, almost feeling the sandpapery diving board under my feet as I try not to chicken out.

It always starts positive, these remembered smells, and even if the delicious clove-infused ham Yiayia prepared was tempered by obvious tension between my father and the Republican contingent of the family, or the teenage, windows-down freedom of the '87 Chevy Sprint ultimately ended as a broken down heap on Route 19 (still stinking of gasoline), I still like those smells, those triggers. I've lived a lot of places, and sometimes smelling things links DC and Milan, Chicago and Seattle, Wyoming and Claysville, New York and Pittsburgh. A family reunion of the Diaspora of memory.

Monday, December 5, 2011

advice for all time

[image via]

If you search for Paul Newman nose (no quotes) the first result is a wikihow page called "How to Deal With Having a Huge Nose." I guess their best advice is to look like Paul Newman and, when that fails, look at Paul Newman.

Friday, December 2, 2011

bloodhound gang

One nugget that has stuck with me from Rachel Herz's The Scent of Desire is the idea that a dog could smell a single Hershey's Kiss in a city the size of Philadelphia. I love the specificity of that chocolate drop, imagining it lonely on some street corner, a dog hot on the chase. I also like the way it makes us think about dogs' powers of smell being so beyond what we could really conceive of. (We couldn't see candy in a city of any size, and we so often compare dogs' sense of smell to our sense of sight.)  

Tonight I came across the Congohounds, a project based in DR Congo's Virunga National Park. These beautiful bloodhounds are being trained to help sniff out human activity in the park; they'll help prevent gorilla poaching, as well as locate critically injured park rangers (at least 11 of whom have been killed in 2011 alone). When I last checked, the project had raised 0% of its $7,428 goal. (Edit: A closer look reveals they have raised closer to 12% of their goal, but the donation thermometer is malfunctioning).

I was lucky enough to visit the mountain gorillas (on the Rwandan side of Volcanoes National Park) this summer, and I was so moved by the relationship between the gorillas and the guides, many of whom are former poachers. Watching this video of Christian, a park ranger, and Sabrina, a bloodhound, I thought about the pure joy that animals can bring to our lives. This project aims to protect rangers' and gorillas' lives, provide meaningful employment, and help to invigorate Congo's tourism industry. All good and noble goals, but maybe you just want to give because you can't resist those sweet droopy bloodhound faces, or the light in their human partners' eyes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

redolent byredo read

 [Ben Gorham in bed, image via Into the Gloss]

Woah, I loved this Into the Gloss interview with dreamboat Byredo perfumer Ben Gorham. Lengthy (by internet standards), but worth reading in full, the piece is bursting with insights into the process of a perfumer obsessed with memory and storytelling (the best kind of perfumer, in my estimation). His thoughts on developing a vocabulary for scent are so encouraging: 
For me it was about awareness. If I took you in the lab for two weeks, and showed you a spectrum, you would probably be able to show me things that remind you of specific memories. You would be able to develop your vocabulary to create a perfume. And that was the first phase for me, trying to understand the possibilities. Now when I walk down the street I can smell a lot more-dirty laundry, etc. I don't think it's a heightened sense of smell, it's just awareness. 
I too have been curious about how a place maintains its smell over many years and much change:
If I had to pick a favorite [from the line]--I don't know, they all have a special place--but I did, quite early, a fragrance based on a place in India where my mother was born and raised. It's outside Mumbai, it was a place that was very green, I remember visiting it as a child-it was a picnic spot. And when I came back, semi-grown up, it was massively developed, but it smelled the same. So I became very intrigued, I thought--how is this possible? What has changed, what hasn't changed?
I'm not especially familiar with the Byredo line (in part due to the lack of samples at my local Barneys), though I would have purchased Oud Immortel on impulse (a rarity for me when it comes to perfume) had it not been beyond my budget. After reading this piece, I'm itching to get to the Byredo counter and smell everything--especially Green, the fragrance inspired by the "green bean essence" of Gorham's absent father, and an upcoming scent that inspired the exchange "More goat...less goat."

I understand completely what one of the commenters said about liking reading about perfumes as much as smelling them--I felt that way reading this article, imagining milk on skin, what Mexico smells like, and why Gorham's girlfriend rarely wears perfume, and I even feel that way reading lists of notes, the promise in those simple lists, so like musical chords in their potential to be new again each time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

brother love

I printed out a fellowship application tonight (on my Brother laser printer, pictured in all its splendor above) and it smelled incredible! Granted, it's been a while since I've printed so many pages at once, but I don't remember my past print-outs yielding the yummy, papery, pasty (the minty kindergarten kind), sort of vegetable-meets-machine smell that these hot pages emanate. I'm taking it as a good sign.

Nosy Interview: Sharon Pomerantz

Sharon in the Pelican Nebula Close-Up, © Martin Pugh

Though Sharon and I haven't met, the caliber of our mutual friends assures me I would enjoy her company in real life as much as I have online. Sharon's novel, Rich Boy, is now available in paperback, and you can learn more about the book and Sharon by visiting her website. After reading Sharon's interview, and learning that her novel was rich with scent descriptions, Rich Boy shot to the top of my to-read list. 

What do you smell like?
I asked my boyfriend, Bill Richert, and two of my oldest friends, Marcie Wald and Ricki Lowitz, what they thought I smelled like, and I'm sad to say that everyone agreed I have no discernible smell! I guess this is better than smelling like onions and garlic, or fertilizer, but considering how attracted I am to smells, and how sensitive my own nose is, I think that's rather depressing. On the other hand, because I'm so smell sensitive, I think I'd notice pretty quickly if I had a nasty smell, so maybe that's a good thing. The closest I could get to an actual answer to this question was from Marcie. She's known me for over thirty years, and she said she identifies me with the smell of coffee brewing because whenever I visit I make coffee every morning and the smell fills her apartment. Since there are few smells I like better than fresh brewing coffee, I can live with that.

What do you like to smell?
Well, coffee brewing is one of my favorite smells. Another is a perfume I sometimes wear called Spring Flowers by Creed; they are one of the oldest perfumers in the world and made this perfume in honor of Audrey Hepburn. It really smells like spring to me, and like elegance--hey, that's how they sell perfume, right? They want you to buy into the fantasy. I feel like I have a lot to live up to when I wear Spring Flowers

I think the pheromone thing is real because I love the smell of my boyfriend--he smells like soap and home to me. I love to stick my nose in a glass of white wine that has a lot of grapefruit and citrus, that's a very summery smell to me. And I love the smell of apple cider with a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg, that's a fall smell, along with burning leaves. Who doesn't love the smell of burning leaves? The smell of baked apples makes me think of the house I grew up in, as does roasting chicken, two favorites my mom made a lot when I was growing up. My father has been gone for five years now, but I still remember his smell when he came home from work, where he did a hard physical job--all my life I've identified that smell, of sweat and metal, with masculinity and hard work and security; my dad was someone who made me feel very safe. Babies, that's another great smell, newborns especially; they smell pure and sweet, like baby powder and new life and hope. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

crazy sale on crazylibellule

[ image via]

If you weren't the lucky winner of the first Nosy Giveaway, but still hanker after a stick of Crazylibellule and the Poppies solid perfume, HauteLook is selling them for $3.50 each (and even less per stick as part of sets). My favorite, Encens Mystic, is not available (and neither is Aimee's), but there are some nice florals to choose from if you're looking for some sweet, affordable, nosy stocking stuffers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nosy Interview: Courtney Mandryk

 Courtney in HH-222: The Waterfall Nebula, © Z. Levay, T.A. Rector, & H. Schweiker

Courtney and I met at the University of Michigan, probably first at a welcome-students barbecue. But I better remember a later barbecue where she gave me one of the nicest compliments I have ever received, one that managed to be both morbid and effusive (a combination I often aim to achieve). She makes beautiful things; you can see for yourself at MOTHDRAWN.

What Do You Smell Like to Smell

Cilantro of August, calendula into September,
the pink cream I rubbed on the bites of October.
Now the leaves are holding onto their sugars,
the leaves are letting go of their branches.

The fire is lit. My black dog's warm fur-smell
is of fleece blankets inside of a dryer, a womb.
My gun dog has always smelled like the pound she came from.
I wonder if the dogs smelled the baby through my skin.

My boy was born already not smelling like me.
He smells warmer, a smell beyond me: church incense under Burt's Bees.
Today he made a painting using apples for a brush,
the smell of apple juice and tempera heart-shapes on paper, 2011.

I am the dirt the rain kicks up.
I used to press my nose to window screens in a storm
when I thought rain was the smell of its metallic mesh.

I smell like sun-dried clothing - I smell like clothing half-dried in the rain.
I smell syrup and chlorine on my wrists when I'm afraid.

I dislike the smell of hamburgers and teenagers
and teenagers' painful perfumes even though I have smelled that way.

Stephen smells like a pencil box.
I have never owned a pencil box. I never knew him as a teen.
I never knew him in his twenties.
My furnace husband, the stronger heart that heats a room.
He is right now somewhere in the fields
tending a fire in the rain, rain-face dripping.

I want to be the smell of ginkgo and coconut but I am not that coconut girl,
though sometimes I want to take my arms and whip them around
and around like a helicopter.

I am the smell of skunks far away on a summer night's drive.
I am tomato plants bowing in the garden.
I am leaves loud on the sidewalk.
Original chapstick. A match just blown.
When I smell basil I know I am home.

Now the gun dog smells of rot she found by the pond.
The boy smells of pee and a hot Midwestern sky,
his breath the scent of Elmer's glue.
Now there is a flower blooming that smells like the day is done
but I can't find it in the fields to cut it down.

Monday, November 21, 2011

game changers

 Detail from Panel V of Romare Bearden's The Block

The seasons are changing, every day it seems, and sometimes over the course of a single day. Last Thursday, in New York again, I could feel the air lean towards winter, in that way that makes it harder to take a very deep breath. But the night air was mild, even a little warm. I was running late, and wearing too many layers, but also wearing Bois de Paradis. Just as you sometimes read the right book at the right moment, there are days when you make the exact right choice with your perfume. Bois de Paradis was a fine choice that afternoon, but as I ran down Lexington Avenue on a weirdly warm nearly-winter night, it became perfect. Sometimes I'll honestly forget that I'm wearing something lovely, and ask around about what smells so good. But that night I didn't wonder; Bois de Paradis was like some golden amber orb around me, pulsing with a beauty that grew as the evening warmed, and darkened.  

Two days later, on the dress I was wearing again, I could still smell the wood. The sweat had lifted, and some of the sweetness was gone, but there remained this sturdy beauty that I love. I wish I could explain to you all the reasons that this was the perfect fragrance for this week, for the things I heard, the people who showed me something of what it means to do more than endure, but most of that has already faded into the fabric, and it will take some running on my part to remember.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nosy Interview: Ayelet Amittay

Ayelet in The Butterfly Nebula from Hubble, © NASA

Ayelet and I met in Ann Arbor, where we were both candidates in the MFA program at the University of Michigan. I think she can bring down people's blood pressure with her comforting voice alone (though unlike Ayelet, I don't have a nursing degree and so my theories are not necessarily medically sound). Definitely don't miss her essay, "Igloo."

What do you smell like?
Ever since my first job, I’ve always smelled like work. Summers working as an art camp counselor I came home smelling of paint, of clay, of the darkroom with its liquid trays of metallic scent: developer, stop bath, fixer, fixer remover. After every 8-hour shift at the university library, my hands would smell of ink and binding paste. In nursing school, I would drive home after a shift at the hospital, strip as soon as I walked in the door, and beeline for the shower to scrub the scent of the med-surg or pedi floor off of my skin. It didn’t matter how many times I’d changed my gloves during the shift, or how many power washes I gave my scrubs. The scent of sweat in the sheets, of plastic tubing freshly opened, of urine, of feet, of sadness, of televisions with the sound off, of blood, of macaroni, of open sores, of fluorescent light—these followed me home.
Now I am a psychiatric nurse practitioner and what I smell like seems more complicated. Whenever a patient comes into my room I smell them, and their smell becomes a part of our interaction. Sometimes the way that happens is obvious—if the smell is alcohol, or cigarette smoke, or unwashedness. But usually the smell is something quieter, like an emotion, but more characteristic of the person in that it doesn’t seem to change from session to session. Honey. Black lab. Marijuana. Jasmine perfume. Sweat. When each patient leaves, his or her smell remains in the room,building on the smells that came before. I drive home with the windows down, even if it’s raining. I try to air out the space that is around me. I am trying to learn to leave work and go back to smelling like myself. 

What do you like to smell?  
Green things: tea, grass, leaves, moss. I live in the Northwest where the rain always smells green and the green smells rainy. I like to smell tea, and coffee, even though I don’t drink coffee. Popcorn. Cookies in the oven. The crooks in the body of my love: nestling my head under his chin or against his back. Newly washed sheets. My mother’s shampoo. 

There are also some smells that I specifically associate with Judaism and that really bring me into whatever season they are linked to. Right after Yom Kippur there’s a holiday called sukkot, which involves (among other things) shaking a bundle of different long branches and a small yellow citrus fruit called an etrog. There is nothing like the smell of an etrog, summery and bright in a season where fall is coming on. Some Jewish smells are in harmony with the season (think apples and honey in the fall for the new year) but some, like the etrog, seem to suggest a time that is already ahead of or behind us, that we’ll catch up to ourselves in some other time soon enough. For me, those are the most reassuring smells.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

nosy about (again)

Sometimes I think the best reason to have a blog is to see what sorts of things people search for.  I told you before about being tickled by the search for "my brother picking friend nose" but here are two more recent lists: 

I wish I could offer more insight as to how to be interested in a girl's life without being nosy. Ask questions! But don't read the texts on her phone. 

This list is a whirlwind! Barely pregnant to interspecies friends playing with childhood toys, to those manure girls again (I'm starting to get too creeped out to google them), to monkey balls nut--so many smell possibilities--to what must be among the finest ways to end any list or evening: sharing a beer with Tim Riggins.


[image via]

If the quarter machine has temporary tattoos or animal-shaped erasers, I'm probably buying one. The same is true of nearly any perfume under ten dollars, which is how I wound up with a bottle of With Love...Hilary Duff. (I'm pretty sure the ellipsis is part of the name, but what is being whispered in that pause? With love and...what?! Affection? Squalor? Sunshine? Hilary, you elusive minx!) The opening is too sweet and coconutty for me (Chandler Burr's description of being "hugged close to the suntanned neck of a pretty volleyball player on a Malibu beach" fits perfectly), especially now that it's pitch black by 6 p.m., but it dries down into such a pleasing, shimmery, woody powder that I'm counting the purchase as the best $5.99 I spent this weekend. If you spot the satisfyingly-faceted little bottle at your local T.J. Maxx, snap it up. It's a fruit-bomb at first, but it grows up fast.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nosy Interview: Emma Straub

 Emma in the Young Suns of NGC 7129, © Johannes Schedler

Though I haven't met Emma in real life, I have it on good authority that I'd like her if I did. In the meantime, I like her writing. You will, too! Visit her blog and buy Other People We Married, her book.  

What do you smell like? 
I often smell like vanilla, or melting chocolate, or cat spit, but that's just when I'm at home. When I leave the house, I smell like a teenager (Perscriptives' Calyx), a sex goddess (Kiehl's Musk), or some fruity combination of jasmine and gardenias. It is my life's ambition to smell as good as Lorrie Moore.

What do you like to smell?  
See above, plus all the old faves: my dad's ancient leather couch, tomato sauce, suntan lotion, my husband's t-shirts, my mother's perfume, anything made with butter and sugar that is fresh out of the oven, hamburgers, the ocean. Smells I don't like: the subway in July, wet dog, tacky beer on a floor.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

new york notes

 Your nosy host poses with our mascot at the Sensorium exhibit. 

We spent this past weekend in New York, and smelled winter. On Saturday it snowed on and off all day, big fat wet clumps of snow, turning all the wool I wore wet. But I don't mind that wet wool smell, and I don't mind the first day of snow; it still feels clean, smells like air and mineral. And I love how everybody heats up when they come inside from the cold, how they're stinkier even in some ways than in summer, wearing all those layers, sweat and perfume rising thick off their sweaters. 

Other nosy New York highlights:
  • The entryway to my aunt's apartment. Why is it that some homes--some rooms, even--maintain such powerfully specific scents over time? Her foyer was probably the first smell I distinctly associated with New York and, as such, it remains one of the most New York smells I know.
  • The Sensorium exhibit, where my favorite part was smelling the "flights of fragrance" in unmarked wine glasses. I liked having so little information about the fragrances (I wouldn't say that I had no information, as the perfumes were organized thematically on four trays: playful, polished, casual, and addictive, and I also knew they were all for sale at Sephora). My other favorite part, and this is very unMidwestern of me to admit, was the tickle of pride I felt when the attendant, Ranfi, remarked that I'd correctly guessed more of the fragrances than some of the perfumers and noses that he'd seen come in and sniff. Apart from my deeply-ingrained aversion to boastfulness, I don't know why it's so uncomfortable for me to admit I am getting better at identifying scents. Of course I am improving; if you smell a lot of fragrances, you get better at remembering and naming those fragrances. And wasn't that part of the point of starting this blog in the first place? To improve my fragrance vocabulary, to reduce the number of times when identifying a scent is, as it so often becomes, frustratingly similar to the experience of hearing a melody to a song you can't name, or having the right word forever on the tip of your tongue.
  • We finally made it to MiN New York, a gorgeous little store that feels like the well-appointed personal library of a fragrance-obsessed, tweed-wearing grandfather. The beautiful built-in bookshelves displayed all sorts of fragrances--many lines I'd never had the chance to smell before--and, book-related bonus, MiN is super close to two actual (and awesome) bookstores: Housing Works and McNally Jackson
  • At MiN, my husband fell pretty hard for the Parfum d'Empire line. He just brought the shirt he was wearing when we were there in to the kitchen to have me smell it, and the Fougere Bengale he'd sprayed still lingered. It smelled warm and alive, like it could take on any weather. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nosy Interview: Margaret MK Hess

Maggie reads in a Sky Panorama over Lake Salda, © Tunç Tenzel
Maggie was another reason that working for Seattle Arts & Lectures was so much fun. You can get in on the good times by reading her piece for the Funny Women column on the Rumpus, and by visiting Dear Mr. Postman, where Maggie writes open letters to everyone.
What do you smell like?
I think I most likely smell of curl cream. At least, whenever someone sniffs me, and compliments me on the results, and tries to identify the source, their nose generally gravitates towards my hair rather than my feet or my armpits or my teeth or knees.

My curl creme smells like (according to the ingredients label) Parfum, or "fragrance" as it is known among scientific circles.

What do you like to smell?
I have such clear memories of the smell of my first dog, the radiator in my first room, the first boy I ever kissed, and the damp mud of a Pacific northwest spring (a little bit of dog poop mixed in with the dirt on my childhood soccer cleats). Now-now I've had years of sinus infections and allergies, and I'll smell almost anything that reaches my nose, confirmation of its (the nose's) existence in the world. I can smell cinnamon and garlic, onions, dumpsters. Cigarette smoke. I can smell pine trees and rotting bananas and hot tar.

On the no-smell list: airplanes and their recycled, stale air fill me with dread. It's amazing the shift of scent along that threshold.

I have trouble smelling people-- their scents, usually, are subtle, require a certain proximity, and for me, that involves burying my nose in your skin and leaving it there (turns out there are few I am interested in engaging in this exercise, and few who wish to participate, and the intersection point is small...I'm still waiting for Matt Damon to return my call).

Salt. I can smell salt when I return to Hawaii, where my father grew up, and plumerias if I put my face right up into the branches of a tree.  And I can smell the clear, clean slate of the mountains, the Rockies, where my mother was raised-really, a smell of no smell at all, a lack of smell, an absence that is particularly noticeable when you first open a car door upon arriving at a lookout point, some place of significant elevation that makes you catch your breath-for lack of oxygen, for dizzying altitude, for shock of recognition.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

nosy winner

Everybody wins! (This photo has nothing to do with the giveaway; I just can't stop looking at it. via)

The winner of the latest nosy giveaway, selected using, is: LOLA!  Lola, please e-mail me your mailing address and I'll get your prize in the mail. I hope you love Jesmyn's book and enjoy the Whipped Pudding. Everybody else, thank you for spreading the nosy word! There will be future nosy giveaways, and I hope you'll play again next time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nosy Interview: Andy Tauer

Andy sniffs in NGC 7635: The Bubble Nebula, © Larry Van Vleet

I'm thrilled to feature Andy Tauer as the first perfumer in the Nosy Interview series. Andy is responsible for Tauer Perfumes, a line I fell for hard after Elisa introduced me. Andy lives in Switzerland, and though we've never met, our correspondence has completely convinced me of his reputation as the nicest guy in perfumery.  Visit his blog, connect with him on facebook or twitter, and by all means, do whatever you can to get your hands on his glorious creations

What do you smell like? 
First, I smell amazingly different on the outside than inside. In general terms, I find it remarkable that nature found a way to mostly make sure that whatever happens on my inside will not permeate somehow just like that through pores or so. But it does permeate a bit. And hence, my scent is always a scent presenting itself in the moment. My body chemistry, the food and drinks I put it: It all matters, at least a bit. 

Now, how do I smell? I smell in a way that I personally like. I am convinced that nature sends us out there with a scent that we mostly find ok. A lot of aversion towards body odor is cultural, conditional. It is put onto us. We should learn again to say a bit more “I like the way I smell.” As a perfumer, I wish perfume lovers to enjoy my fragrances not to cover up, but rather to vary and to explore new paths of how we might smell. 

Like all humans, I smell differently on different parts. Some parts of my body are hard to explore by myself, though. Human beings are best smelled on the back of their heads, towards the neck. It is there where hair and the skin of the neck are meeting, where we smell most interesting, and where our body odor is less prone to be mixed with musky, sweaty notes. I cannot tell you how I smell there. But in general terms: 

I think I smell slightly sweet, a bit on the ambery side. There is definitely sweetness to my smell; with the slightest hint of a ripe fruit. It does not compare to any fruit, but maybe a ripe avocado comes closest. I like the way I smell. 

What do you like to smell? 
I like to smell almost everything, natural, manmade, be it made for the purpose of being smelled or not. 

I like to stick my nose into a lot of what other people would call ugly, putting off scents. There is something interesting in everything. Contrary to what you might expect: I do not visit perfumeries that often and smell things there. I am/was always worried that it might influence subconsciously my own fragrance creations. I wanted to avoid this. I learned for myself quite recently that I should not worry too much there. 

At the end, it is very simple things that I like to smell. My bed and the pillow, leaves or pieces of wood picked up on my way, the fresh humid air on a foggy November morning. A fresh green apple. I guess I just like to smell a lot of different things. This list could go forever. Perfumes are also many lines in this list.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

nosy giveaway: the sequel

[whipped pudding image via Oyin]

To celebrate the fact that Jesmyn's gorgeous new novel has been named a finalist for the National Book Award, I'm holding another nosy giveaway. This time the lucky winner will receive a copy of Salvage the Bones as well as a 2 oz. tub of Oyin Whipped Pudding. The Whipped Pudding is Oyin's first product, and can be used on skin as well as hair. I have smelled this pudding in Jesmyn's hair, and it is distractingly delicious. And Salvage the Bones, the big prize, is staggering. Here's a scent-related excerpt:
Skeetah is a smell before I see him: the oily sweat of dog, pine needles growing green, and an unwashed smell like milk set too long out in a hot kitchen.
To enter, first share the link to this giveaway on facebook*, twitter, or your blog. If you do not use any of these platforms, I salute you. You can e-mail someone or tell them in person. Next, please leave a comment on this post letting me know how you shared the link (as with last time, honor system reigns around here). I'll announce a winner (selected randomly from the comments) on October 27. Thanks for spreading the nosy word, and good luck to all the great-book-and-scrumptious-smell seekers!

*Why not "like" Nosy Girl while you're at it?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nosy Interview: Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn in the Star Factory Messier 17, © ESO, INAF-VST

Jesmyn and I met in an elevator and, over the course of the short ride, decided to live together the following year, when we'd both be starting graduate school at The University of Michigan. I wish more of my decisions were made as quickly, and led to such happy results. Jesmyn's second novel, Salvage the Bones, was just named a finalist for the National Book Award, and you can congratulate her on her blog or via Twitter.

What do you smell like? 
I smell like food. When I am my smelly, dirty worst, I still smell like food. If I've been running, I smell like onions--big, fat, yellow Vidalia onions. If it's been a few days since I've taken a bath, I smell like pancake syrup: no, not maple syrup, but high fructose corn syrup that's dried to gum on a plate. Dreadful, I know. On a good day when I am freshly washed and showered, I still smell like food. This is in large part due to my hair. It is prone to be frizzy and dry, which means that I have to use plenty of products on it to keep it healthy and make it behave, and all my product just happens to smell like things you'd like to eat. The leave-in conditioner I use recalls navel oranges. The shea butter mix I use smells like chocolate. The hair milk leave-in I use smells like cocoa. On top of all of that, I often layer coconut oil. This means that on a good day, strangers want to eat my hair. (P.S.--You can buy these scrumptious products at're awesome.)

What do you like to smell?
I love the sharp, briny smell of the ocean because it reminds me of California and the Pacific Ocean: that smell is very different from the Gulf of Mexico, which smells sort of salty and fecund, I think. I also love lily of the valley because I smelled it for the first time in Michigan, and the smell of figs because it reminds me of savoring them on our small balcony during the waning summer in Ann Arbor. When I smell burning pine needles, I am instantly in DeLisle, it is the fall, everyone's raking up and burning leaves, and I feel such love. Sappy, I know, but true. I like all the smells associated with the places and people I love. I also like food smells: chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, coconut, cumin, and coriander (as you can tell from my story about my hair).

Monday, October 17, 2011

my little jasmine memory

I was once the proud owner of My Little Pony Baby Bonnet School of Dance. [photo via]

This weekend, a friend gave me a vial of Royal Jasmine Roll-On Hanky Perfume that he picked up on a recent trip to India. Jasmine is one of my favorite notes, and this particular version is lovely. Thick and bright green at first, it dries down into a scent that matches exactly a toy I recall, but can't place exactly, from childhood. Something sweet and rubbery, something I held often, something worn. My suspicion that some of the My Little Ponies (Hasbro introduced scented ponies in 1987) may have had this soft jasmine-plastic scent led me to this perfume review which in turn led to this article about fried bubblegum "tast[ing] like My Little Pony turds." It doesn't shame me to admit that this description makes me want to try the marshmallow treat described more rather than less. 

Do any readers remember a jasmine-plastic scent coming from their My Little Ponies? Or maybe you remember a different toy-of-the-80s having a jasmine aroma? I wish I could send a little puff of what I'm sniffing through the screen, so you could smell exactly what I mean, see if it transports you, too.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nosy Interview: Katie Miota Stolzman

Katie gets down in the Dark Tower in Scorpius, © Don Goldman

Katie, as Jenny's cousin, is a member of my favorite non-related-to-me family. As is suggested above, she's a great dancer, and I recommend you attend any event where she might be present, given the opportunity.

UPDATE: You can now find more from Katie at her badass blog, Word to Your Mother. 

What do you smell like?
Don't know, so I asked some friends. Here's what they told me: 
a. "haha! i can't pinpoint a smell on you (must not wear heavy perfumes or oils) but if i were to say what i think you would smell like it would be a new pair of shoes!!! and yes, that is a distinctive smell, and one that generally makes people happy."
b. "a bed of roses."
c. "Comic genius"
d. "Well, surprisingly, NOT like cats." (ok, I capitalized the NOT for emphasis, but I did NOT want that one misread)
e. "a mom, but a good one..."
f. "Why did someone say you smelled?"

So, I guess I would say I smell like me.

What do you like to smell?
I like to smell the usual: summer rain, crayons, the cottage, cinnamon toast, etc. Then I have my quirky ones like Scotch tape. Yum. And it has to be Scotch tape, generic brands don't have the same homey, comforting scent. Sometimes, when I see Scotch tape, I can't resist cutting a piece and taping it under my nose for extended fun. Another one is the core of old, musty, books. My first experience with this smell was in 4th grade. I just transferred schools and was a nerd, so would check out books from the school library, like Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Another yum. Perfect smell of great writing, neglected.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

stinky links c/o sweet friends

Friends! I love it when you send me stinky links. I'm trying to cut down on both Google Reading and Facebook, so e-mails with smelly bits I've probably missed are even more welcome than usual. 

Lola (who will hopefully be featured in the very near future as a Nosy Interviewee) sent me a fun link that proved I love reading about what people like to smell even if I've never heard of them (it also further proved that I simply must smell this CK One Shock for Him!) as well as an interesting piece from SF Gate that included a section on fragrance trends by decade suggesting a link between our stressed-out tech-(dis)connected world and a rising popularity in warm and cozy gourmand fragrances. 

Anne sent me this quote from Perfumes: The Guide, and the magic of Google Image Search (you know you can drop in images to search, right? So fun! And unsettling!) tells me that it comes from a window display at Shakespeare & Co. Books in Berkeley:

(If you want that smell in bottle, In the Library by CB I Hate Perfume is lovely, and Karl Lagerfeld is also at work on a book-smelling perfume that I have a hard time believing will actually be called Paper Passion. If you want to read some books about perfume, author and perfume-lover Denise Hamilton gives five suggestions in this super-informative interview.)

Somewhat related (though it proves I've done a poor job staying off facebook, which has lately become a collection of these quotes-on-photos, no?):

Their apartment won't smell as sexy anyway!

Speaking of sexy: Bus musk! I like saying that. Thanks to Janet for this cartoon, "Smells Like a First Date":

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nosy Interview: Natalie Bakopoulos

 Natalie glows in The Great Carina Nebula, © Robert Gendler, Ryan Hannahoe, & ESO

The main reason to go to graduate school for writing is in the hopes of meeting a lifelong reader and friend like Natalie. Her first novel, The Green Shore comes out in 2012. While you're waiting, you can read Natalie's work in Granta or in The PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories 2010.   

What do you smell like?
I followed Charlotte’s lead and asked my own husband what I smelled like. He didn’t say I smelled like a person, though he’s been known to say like a pup. Warm, he said. You smell warm. I don’t think that’s specific enough, but there it is. I think it’s the sandalwoodsy smell of my hair products and the orange blossom of my perfume. When I smell his head it smells like powdered donuts. My hair is long and thick and it absorbs smells, from cigarette smoke (which I love when it’s smoking but hate when it lingers), to whatever it is I’m cooking for dinner, though I must say I don’t like arriving somewhere smelling like my kitchen. If I spend too much time in the coffee shop I smell like coffee. I love to wear perfume, though I haven’t always, but I’ll save that for What I Like to Smell. I love knowing what my friends like to smell, too (Ooh! You smell so good! What are you wearing?), and Nosy Girl has provided the perfect place to find this information.

What do you like to smell?
Dill and mint, and oregano, particularly when it’s blooming. Beer, all beer, from the skunkiness of Heineken to the wet-dog-smell of some IPAs, though I prefer the former. Ouzo. Anis. Fennel. Sun-baked earth, with the salty sea and the smell of grilled meats in a taverna. Cinnamon. Red wine. The smell of white wine provokes this unpleasant back-of-the-throat thing, like mall perfume (see below). 

I love chicken noodle soup but don’t love the smell of chicken noodle soup cooking, and this aversion was in place long before Michael Cera’s character in Juno noted, pejoratively, that another character’s house “smelled like soup.” I love to cook when not exhausted and otherwise like the way cooking, and obviously baking, make the house smell. Cloves and allspice and cinnamon when I’m cooking stifado, a Greek beef stew. Chicken with honey and figs (thank you, Zuni Cafe), baking tiropita, and is there a better smell than Thanksgiving, what with the mulled wine and the turkey and sweet potatoes? Roasting chestnuts? Pumpkin pie? My friend Beth took me to City Bakery in New York and I remember falling in love with the smell of that place, and the hot chocolate. Earl grey tea, even though I prefer to drink English breakfast. There are certain teas whose smell is so intense that they nauseate me. I of course love the really strong smell of roasting coffee but understand why it drives pregnant women to wretch.

I like the way building exhausts systems smell in Athens, something about the air conditioning. Walk past a department store or apartment building door opening into the heat of July and you’ll know what I mean. Like fresh tar, almost, another smell I like. The smell of street-food souvlaki and gasoline, the way they mix in Monastiraki, with the smells of the bakeries and leather goods. I, too, like chlorinated pools (several of the Nosy Girl features have noted this, I think?) and the smell they leave on skin. New leather bags and new Frye boots. Lilac bushes, crunchy autumn leaves,sun-drenched pine. Lemons and limes and leather. Wool.

The smell of night-blooming jasmine could drive me to madness—I am not in control or responsible for my actions when flooded with such intense olfactory sensation.

Once while riding with a friend on a train from Piraeus to Athens, in the summer, he had with him an assortment of delicious stinky cheeses from the island of Naxos. It must have been 100 degrees and I think the entire train was offended. I don’t think I ate cheese for a while after that. I lived for three months in France and I thought that would help me appreciate the more pungent, runnier cheeses, which I have come to really like in an open-aired space. The smell of milk makes me gag; in general I suppose I could do without the smell of dairy.

Ann Arbor is the skunk capital of the world.

A box of crayons! New pencils! Library books! Antique wooden desks! Of course these things. There’s a particular smell of this brand of crayons—Prang, not as good as Crayola but particularly distinct—I remember from my childhood, which I had forgotten all about until I smelled Korres’s fig body wash, which I like but it is not my favorite fig scent. I guess I prefer it in a box of colors. The rest of Korres’s smells are much more lovely.

The smell of fall, the way the cold smells on a sweatshirt when you’re back inside, snow, or brisk air. Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves. You don’t come in with the same smell in the summer. Can you smell the salt of the sea on someone’s skin, or only taste it? I think I can smell it, salt and sweat and sunscreen maybe all in one. Skin. Why is it that the discussion of smells almost always leads to the sentimental?

I love perfume. I haven’t always. I once worked with a woman with horrible migraines and we had to all be scent free, which made me anxious, and I understand chemical sensitivities and the way in which many find our world to be overperfumed. It is. Most cloyingly sweet and un-complex mall perfumes that you can feel in the back of your throat for hours make me sick. But I feel sad when people need things to be scent free for their quality of life, or when Scent-Free becomes a part of one’s identity, like Greek-American, or Dancer. There are so many good smells! If I’ve ever been overscented, I’m sorry. Nosy Girl herself introduced me to Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger, which is now my favorite, along with lots of other orange blossom scents, though I think this one is the best. It’s so warm and sunny. I bought the Jo Malone one once at Barney’s only because Parker Posey was also at the counter and I was intrigued by what she was buying, so I lingered. I also like Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille. I’ve long loved Robert Piguet’s Fracas, so heady. Hermes Eau de Pamplemousse is nice, as is Diptyque’s Philoskykos and anything figgy. I love figs. I love Acqua di Parma and particularly love Britta’s description of the type of woman who wears it; in the summer I like the Blu Mediterraneo Fico di Amalfi; I love Creed’s Tubereuse Indiana, which was a very special gift. If I’m in Paris soon (yes, please) I will try Le Labo’s Vanilla 44. I love Le Labo’s Jasmine and Neroli and would like to try the Iris. Some day I will be the type of woman with a signature scent.

Other beauty products: Neutrogena’s Rainbath body wash, Nuxe’s Huile Prodigieuse dry oil, Korres Basil Citrus shower gel and the Nutmeg lotion, though I haven’t been able to find the latter recently. Lever 2000 soap. Philosophy Amazing Grace. I don’t love lavender and the way it seems to dominate so many organic beauty products.

I would like to go into the smells I like on men but worry it might become too revealing, the way writing a sex scene can be revealing: she likes it like that? But there’s something to be said about the nose and nostalgia, so I’ll say this: my male best friend in high school smelled like fabric softener, and it was fantastic, but even when I or anyone else used the same fabric softener—this was how good he smelled; we all tried to mimic it—it didn’t smell like he did. I don’t bother with fabric softener and now prefer my laundry to be less scented. But I like the smell of European laundry soap better than American, and love the way my clothes smell when I drop them off at a Greek laundry and they come back so neatly folded. I am attracted to faces, men’s and women’s, with distinct noses. My brother has a particularly cute snoot: check it out.