Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nosy Interview: Steven Arnston

Steven (photographed by Anne Mathews) in M1:The Crab Nebula from Hubble, ©NASA, ESA

Steve and I met in the Seattle writing group started by Elizabeth, and it was there that I also met Henrietta, who is a character in Steven's book, The Wikkeling, but who also feels like a real person that I know. Visit Steven's website, and help him meet one of his New Year's resolutions by liking his Facebook page. 

What do you smell like?
A Literature professor of mine once said, "Any poet who writes about a bird other than a blackbird or a sparrow is just showing off." Maybe he was joking, but I really thought about that! Eventually I decided I didn't agree, at least not about birds. I think it takes more than a few extra species to be considered a showoff, and it should be okay for writers to add some local fauna as part of trying to evoke a place. But when it comes to senses other than sight and sound, I often do avoid specifics out of worry that it could seem like I'm trying to show off. Maybe it's because people don't as frequently employ the secondary senses in writing, so the showoff bar is lower. This is sad, though, right? Because sometimes I avoid things in the interest of maintaining the appearance of descriptive humility. Anyway, all of that aside, I smell like a sparrow.

What do you like to smell?
My wife and I frequently walk down to the Seattle waterfront, and I always tell her how much I like the smell at low tide. When I was a kid, my parents and I sailed a twenty-six-foot-long boat around in the San Juan Islands every summer. Our diet consisted largely of things we harvested from the beaches—clams, such as little steamer clams, fluted cockles (the only clams that can swim), big horseshoe clams with strange exfoliating shell rims, buttery butter clams, hard-to-catch geoducks; the pale feet of limpets and chitons; oysters; eels; seaweed. We pulled the clear, longitudinal muscles out of sea cucumbers, sucked snails from their shells, mined the eggs from sea urchins, trapped crabs, netted shrimp in butterfly nets. And we weren't the only ones out hunting for our breakfasts, either—an endless variety of birds joined us daily, picking right alongside us. Squawking seagulls spazzed on the clay tarmac, crows cooly investigated shallow pools, starlings screeched (they've only arrived here in the Northwest during my father's lifetime—isn't that weird?), great crook-necked blue herons stalked, sandpipers skipped just ahead of the waves. And now I love the smell of that place, so packed with all kinds of life. Smelling of sparrow.

Monday, January 30, 2012

triple-wick candle post

via the Urban Daily
Like Drake, I have a weakness for a good scented candle. January is usually my top candle-burning month; the days are still short, the twinkly lights have come down, and people get lonesome waiting for spring. Here are some candles that might bring comfort:

 via Anthropologie
Beeswax Candles are the best! The only hazard is eating-before-burning because they smell so good, and are so texturally appealing. I don't think I've ever laid eyes on a beeswax candle without immediately shoving it up under my nose and, if it's good, groaning about how great it smells (and resisting the urge to eat it). This winter, I'm all about the Bee Hive candles, and in the past I've enjoyed both the scent and the charming shapes of pollenArts' candles. Today in Anthropologie I saw these lovely candles, made by Pollen Arts. These must be the same people, right? Are they still making all these beauties out of their Winnebago?

If you want your house to smell like Anthropologie, go for the Capri Blue Volcano candle, or Voluspa's Crisp Champange. I like to burn the latter in my bedroom during parties, and when ladies go to pick up their coats they're always like, It smells fantastic in here, what is that? and they are not satisfied until I answer "Anthropologie."

My favorite Diptyque was the Essence of John Galliano, but I don't want any Nazi-sympathizers flickering on my shelf (I wish Diptyque would find a new name for this splendid scent by Olivia Giacobetti). If you want to give someone a Diptyque candle, Figuier (warm nights are not gone forever) and Feu de Bois (in the meantime, fire is comforting) are good bets. 

photo by Piotr Redlinski, via NOTCOT
If you're even more of a high-roller, you might consider one of Cire Trudon's incredible candles. Their prices shame me, but their dessert-domed displays and transcendent smells (probably should have punned on transcendent somehow there) get me every time (and they make stink bombs!). Abd el Kader (green green green!) is my favorite, but I also dream of nuns in the dining room, choirs in the study, and surrealists in the den. (In this dream I have many more rooms than in my current apartment, including one half-bath that smells of the moon).

As for candles with more down-to-earth price tags, Pacifica is a go-to for me. The Mediterranean Fig has a nice, creamy throw, and while I feel like I'll never figure Tibetan Mountain Temple out, I want to keep trying. 

via West Elm
West Elm has a good selection of affordable candle holders. These Mercury Votive Holders are dreamy (but do I need like nine?).

Emily Weiss of Into the Gloss has one of her characteristic, super-tempting lists, this one of her favorite "earthy, smoky, full-bodied" candles (and she actually talks about what they smell like!). 

Happy candle-burning! Remember to trim (and dip! this is actually a great tip, but if you google it, go a few results down) the wicks, and please let me know in the comments if you have favorite candles of your own.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nosy Interview: Joe Miota

Joe in Fox Fur, a Unicorn, and a Christmas Tree, © R Jay Gabany

Joe is Jenny's cousin and Katie's brother, and though we've met, he retains some of that mysterious older brother quality. I loved reading the blog he and his wife, Willow, kept of their bike journey across the U.S. this past summer, so I was so happy to learn that he's blogging again, this time at the Enthusiasmist. He can also meet your daily Unicorn Haiku needs.

What do you smell like?
When I first met Willow, who believe it or not is now my wife, I was not washing one of my (two) armpits. We were living at the Kripalu Center, an ashram-turned-yoga center in western Massachusetts that hosted live-in volunteers as a more contemporary version of the ashram disciples. When Willow and I and about 60 other volunteers lived there, there was no longer a guru, his having left in disgrace for abusing his power. Had he still been around, he probably would have decreed that not washing an armpit went against some important spiritual tenet, just to get me to wash it (unscrupulous as he was).  Because, to most folks, that armpit did not smell good.   

To me that armpit smelled like freedom. I’d long ago given up wearing deodorant, as had many of us neo-hippies (those who hadn’t were probably only rubbing that goofy crystal/rock thing under there). I had a (highly scientific) theory that washing away bacteria away only contributed to a vicious cycle wherein more, and more evil, bacteria would eventually flourish.  By washing daily, I hypothesized, I was accelerating the evolution of new strains of bacteria that were more and more soap and deodorant resistant. Thus falling prey to the big deodorant corporations as well as to unnecessary societal conventions, blah blah blah. My washed armpit was the control armpit. It was an experiment.

Probably the only reason that Willow tolerated that armpit’s smell was that it wasn’t quite as gnarly as you might imagine. At the time I was eating only vegetables, taking daily saunas, and doing yoga twice a day. I ingested no caffeine, no alcohol, very little sugar. My sweat was as pure as it had been since before I was a pre-teen and my dad (a physician, mind you) explained to me that it was time to start using deodorant because I was “starting to get glands.” When I ask Willow how I smelled in this pure, unwashed, undeodorized state, she says “like play-doh.”  Keep in mind that she loves me.

These days I’m washing almost daily and using an unscented, aluminum-free deodorant.  I smell either like compromise, or like adulthood, depending on my mood.

What do you like to smell?   
We just moved to San Francisco, which is studded liberally with eucalyptus trees. These have a fabulous scent, rich and tea-like, that always reminds me of my Aunt Helen. Sometimes I’ll be walking among the eucalyptus when someone in front of me lights up a cigarette, and I’ll find myself pulling that smell—something about when it’s first lit up—deep into my lungs. Cigarettes, come to think of it, also remind me of Aunt Helen.  Also on my list is my dog Iphy, especially her little feet. Aunt Helen had many dogs, each with four feet. This is getting weird.

Luckily Aunt Helen does not make me think at all of the morning-after-bonfire smell that makes itself known as I pull yesterday’s shirt on in my tent when I’m camping. If I were to Venn diagram my favorite smells, this smell’s circle would share a bit of itself with a circle labeled “Alaska,” which to me smells glacial and grand and unicorn-pure (yoga armpits notwithstanding). Circles that wouldn’t touch Alaska, Aunt Helen, or camping but would definitely be on there, would be big city smells, grease and exhaust, and somewhere nearby would be one of those big-bowled Riedel pinot-noir glasses I can stick my schnoz way into to take the vapors of a heady red wine directly into the reptile part of my brain. The restaurant would be fabulous and hoity-toity, and everyone would look on happily as I nod at the server to begin pouring. I love this act of smelling mostly for the ritual—so many facets of our polite society are geared towards ignoring or masking this, our most primal sense! Here’s to being nosy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

pining hard

Steep Ravine soap, Cascade Glacier essential oil, and solid perfume in Stag

My piney little haul, picked up in Seattle and pictured above, demonstrates how much I miss the Pacific Northwest. The air there! I was in Seattle all of last week, and on the day the snow finally melted and the wet ground warmed, I was hit with such a blast of green and ice and pine that I felt scrubbed and dizzy and brand-new. It's the opposite of being unable to catch your breath, it's all breath, all freshness. But real fresh, not cleaning solution or cosmetic "fresh," fresh instead like you've been breathing the wrong air for a while, like a gentle glacier just eroded five years from off your face. 

Juniper Ridge products really do come closest to that smell of smashed pine needles in your palm, and the Cascade Glacier oil is so brisk and beautiful that even the whiff off my fingertips from tightening the cap makes me feel like I've just come off an invigorating hike (the actual hikes I took while in Seattle last week were less of the invigorating nature-loving sort and more of the hiking-is-the-only-way-to-get-anywhere-in-town variety). The Stag fragrance is the solid perfume version of my beloved candle (this pine kick won't quit!) and Christen of Knows Perfume in West Seattle told me that the creators at Soap & Paper Factory thought she was joking when she asked them where the solid version of Stag was (solid perfume versions of the other candles in this series were already available), and that when she convinced them that she wasn't kidding, they put it into production for her. Christen told them, "This is Seattle. We want to smell like trees here." 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nosy Interview: Emily Gould

Emily in Bright Star Regulus near the Leo I Dwarf Galaxy, © Chris Cook

Emily Gould writes beautifully observed nonfiction, the sort of writing that risks making strangers on the internet feel like she's their friend. When she wrote about her smell sensitivity shortly before announcing the launch of her independent ebookstore, I definitely felt like we would have a great time eating lunch together. You'll probably feel similarly after you visit her blog, read her book, or join the conversation over at Emily Books.

What do you smell like?
I just made chicken soup so right now I smell like garlic and chicken fat and parsnips. In general I try to smell neutral most of the time. I spend a lot of time in yogaworld, where having an aggressive smell is rightly discouraged, but when I'm getting in people's personal space to adjust them I try to ensure that I at least don't smell like flop sweat.  I use Soapwalla natural deodorant cream, which smells like lavender and clay. For my birthday I asked for and received Hermes Un Jardin en Méditeranée which I like because it smells like the outdoor shower at a rich person's beach house, and I wear it when I know I'm going to a party where I'll be hugging people or when I want to seem rich.  

What do you like to smell?
At the University of Maryland my grandfather became friends with a fellow professor, Norton Dodge, who until his recent death lived on a former tobacco plantation in southern Maryland called Cremona. Norton provided a field there for my grandfather to grow grapes, and a barn that became his winery. We go there in the fall to help harvest the grapes. The smells associated with Cremona are my favorite smells.  Most of the fields there are now given over to soybeans but when I was younger some of the tenant farmers still grew tobacco, and you could walk through barns hung with huge brown drying tobacco leaves.  A lot of people say they like the smell of a freshly lit cigarette on a cold day; this is that smell but only its best aspects and multiplied.  It's how you imagine a cigarette will taste when you've never smoked a cigarette. Cremona is situated on the banks of the Patuxent River, a brackish estuary of the Chesapeake. So there's a salty muddy smell and a dry grass smell, plus all the smells associated with horses and dogs, a sun-baked brick and dusty gravel road smell, and then the smell of the grapes and the winery itself: damp, cork, yeast, cold stone and wet wood.

Other than Cremona I like: the smell of the concrete deck of a chlorinated pool, something being deep-fried near the ocean, and the rotting seaweed and woodsmoke smell of a New England beach.  Basically if it takes place near the water I'm into its smell. Except the Pacific, I have never been as moved by its smells. I don't have a history with them.

Oh I also like the smell of Moscow: harsh rich perfume, dry indoor heat, cigarettes, snow, mud, petrol, unventilated cooking areas, tea, a little vodka-piss.  I guess because I associate these smells with mystery and falling in love!

Friday, January 13, 2012

we others

Ratty & Mole illustration by EH Shepard

My main Mole (he says he's more a Ratty) is rereading The Wind in the Willows, and he read me this passage aloud: 
We others, who have long lost the more subtle of the physical senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal's inter-communications with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and have only the word 'smell,' for instance, to include the whole range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal night and day, summoning, warning, inciting, repelling. It was one of those mysterious faery calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while as yet he could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again; and with it this time came recollection in fullest flood. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nosy Interview: Lola Dvorak

Lola in IC 1805: The Heart Nebula in HDR, © Daniel Verloop 

Lola and I first met through mutual friends at the University of Wisconsin's Campus Women's Center--the best place to meet the coolest ladies. Lola is a science writer and a bookworm, and though she lives in San Francisco now, I bet she still dreams of Wisconsin sometimes.

What do you smell like?
I think I likely smell a lot like an old lady. Not of grandmotherly warmth from wool knitted on a well-polished rocker or everyone’s favorite meal or baked treat. I would love to smell like that because isn’t nostalgia the most wonderful of feelings and scents? It’s nearly as invigorating as anticipation. Instead, I bet I smell of faint neglect and cat hair. I do a good job of brushing my teeth because of my constant coffee consumption (only smoker’s breath is worse!). But I suspect the rest of me evokes that slight offness of belly button and dirty denim. I never seem to be able to pull off the whole preparedness routine of wash, scrub, lotion, dry and clothe. I get distracted and end up bargaining with myself that if I apply lotion, I can skip washing my hair. My nature nut tendencies make me choose natural products without packaging that tend to offgas old lady scents like camphor, vinegar, rosewater, lavender and glycerin, though I do avoid the plagues of patchouli and sandlewood. My inherent laziness and practicality means I often don unwashed apparel with visible funk from the train or the cats. People tend to point out the cat hair and rather than taping it off, I recount just how adorable the snuggle bug looked in my sweater drawer. Maybe I smell more like a crazy cat lady rather than an old lady.

One of my first gifts from my wife was a bottle of perfume. Not because of my dusty smell, as I was still in those early stages of megaprep for every date. I was a little appalled because what kind of dude gives a lady a bottle of fancy expensive fragrance? Would this mean that Valentine’s would bring a dozen red roses? But then I opened the luxe bag and found a brand new scent from Marc Jacobs: Lola. I grew up in rural Wisconsin in the early '80s and always dreamed of selecting a magnet or other tchotchke with my name on it from the rotating display at the kiosk in the mall. Not only had my childhood dream finally come true, but I loved the floral tones of rose, peony and geranium. Check out this link for a review: http://perfumelover.hubpages.com/hub/Review-of-Marc-Jacobs-Lola. Obviously, I adore people who ask me what I smell like because I can shriek with glee: “LOLA!” I’ve got to work on a response that includes a more seductive purr.

What do you like to smell? 
I love the smells of certain places. Stores with books or art supplies, of course, evoke the discovery and pleasure of fresh inks and papers. The library is even better with that in-between smell of new and old books with greasy covers and spaghetti-stained pages. In my neighborhood, the library acts as a community center with aromatic patrons: well-scrubbed kids studying until their parents finish work, displaced folks looking for a free place to spend the evening safely and hipsters who’ve biked over after making coffee all day. My farmer’s market changes with the seasons, of course, and I love the experience of holding my breath past the fish on ice and the cages of live squawking chickens. My first stop is always to grab a hot tamale to eat on the asphalt among cars weaving for parking. Tamales taste better, of course, with the smells of heat radiating off tar and engine exhaust. California offers so much bounty! A list of everything for sale wouldn’t do it justice, but bread, basil, goat cheeses, olives, peaches and strawberries are a good start. So many familiar fresh grown things that smell of dirt and sun. California also holds so much majesty: eucalyptus, the sea, fields of ephemeral wildflowers,redwoods, chaparral, night-blooming jasmine, wildfires, the desert, lilacs, vineyards, beaches, hydrangeas, fecund swamps and estuaries, bay laurels, temporal rivers, the aptly-named princess tree, almond groves and sagebrush.

Monday, January 9, 2012

a modern girl

I thought the dogs would chase me around Fresh Pond tonight. In e-mails, women often confess that they, too, like the smells associated with menstruation (but few say so in the comments).

On Friday, I smelled Kiki Smith's perfume at the ICA and it was enormous. It was juicy and purple and rotted--something much too sweet that had just turned but wouldn't quit with its blooming. In some ways its insistence was awful, but we all kept leaning in to smell one anothers' hands and agree it was much too much. I didn't know until I looked it up just now that she was inspired by the smells of "cat pee and plant sex."

 "Born," Kiki Smith [via]
In December, I scandalized a small cluster of people at a holiday party by admitting that I preferred not to shower every day. They shocked me in turn with their disbelief, their small shudders.

Earlier today I was reading Carrie Brownstein's piece about bearded toothlessness in indie rock, lamenting  "wit and heart [without] bite." Why should we smell nice all the time? Or at all? It's true that sometimes I wish to smell like a buttery angel, but it's also true that I should sometimes stink, smell decay, be fearless, or at least less afraid of "volume, ugliness, and bombast," whether I'm breathing it in or giving it off.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bonus Interview: Mandy Aftel

Mandy in Starburst Galaxy IC 10, © Dietmar Hager & Torsten Grossmann

Mandy Aftel's Nosy Interview was the first I've conducted by phone, and she was kind enough to answer a few additional questions (even after I'd asked her: What do you smell like?). I love Mandy's fragrances, but I think I would admire her even if she were creating artisan doughnut holes (using her chef's essences, somebody probably has). Her commitment to living a creative life--led by her abiding curiosity and her nose, as she says below--is enormously inspiring. For still more Mandy, visit Aftelier Perfumes' Facebook page (and don't miss this great interview, featuring photos of Mandy's gorgeous studio).

Nosy Girl: When I heard you speak in Seattle, you mentioned that in your custom perfume work, you've noticed that the way people present themselves in the world doesn't necessarily connect to how they wish to smell. Could you say more about that?

Mandy Aftel: Most people who do custom perfumes have a questionnaire that they have people fill out about their preferences--their aesthetic preferences, and their smell preferences. From what I've read about other perfumers that's how they operate. And having been a psychotherapist for 30 years, I think people assume that I'm going to ask those kinds of questions too. But I've found anecdotally in my own work of doing custom perfume for many years for hundreds of people at this point, that how people present themselves in the world--the way they talk, the way they look--and then what they choose is lots of times in contrast.  How people present themselves and what [essences] they like have nothing to do with each other. Smell comes from this kind of deeper more animal place inside of a person's being. And words and civilized preferences have nothing to do with things. And so I enjoy very much watching the instinctual, direct experience people have with smell and with different smells when it starts at the root from the essences to find kind of who they are and what they like. 

And for me, the essences have the personalities, so when people pick different things I know more about them because I have a feeling for the essences as being kind of my friends. I sound crazy [laughs], but my essences have all different personalities, so when people pick them I feel like I learn more about them than any other way. It's very intimate.

The story of your becoming a perfumer while researching to write a novel about a perfumer may be of particular interest to the writers around these parts. Can you say more about the connection between your work as a writer and as a perfumer?  

I tend to get very interested in things, and like to go back to the original source of materials. Like my very first book was on Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones and I went over to England and talked to pretty much everyone in that circle, including the Rolling Stones, from Brian's past--I like to go back to the original material, and go down as deep as I possibly can. Nobody could have been more surprised than me that I ended up where I am. My life makes sense in retrospect but not going forward. I kind of do truly follow my nose.

I just got very, very interested in what I was finding out about the materials and perfume itself, and I really fell in love, and just kept moving forward, by passion and not really by design, toward making perfumes and writing books about it, and all of the things I've turned out to do. And I stopped being a therapist a while ago. I mean, I haven't turned my brain off about it but I don't actively do that work anymore. Although I did love it, and I do see a connection between all the things I've done, but I don't think it's obvious to other people. I think it may look more like I'm all over the map, but that's not how it feels to me.  

 Aftelier Perfume Miniatures lined up on Essence & Alchemy
You're involved in every aspect of your business from sourcing to mixing to packaging. How you are able to stay so creative and productive and still be involved in all these aspects of a thriving business?  

I could never imagine doing it any other way. First of all, I would never grow my business past the point where I wouldn't do all those things. I don't want to grow past where I can please myself with the quality of what I do. Stinting on the quality would be very upsetting for me. It's kind of who I am. So I have to do all that stuff because I care about the quality of the customer service from here, acknowledging people on social networks that are so generous towards me. It's all important to me; I don't know what I could do except never grow my business very big which is kind of what I have done. All of those things are important to me. And also: I like them. You know, I like all the packaging stuff which is beyond a nightmare, so hard, and time-consuming and crazy. From getting the essences, to finding the caps, to begging for someone to sell a small amount to me, I get so much pleasure from making this thing that to me is beautiful and unique--I couldn't imagine it any other way. It would upset me a lot more to put out something I didn't feel wholly proud of. Does that make any sense?

Oh, yes! It makes perfect sense. I still marvel... I mean, do you have a secret tea that you're drinking to have this much energy and creative power?

I've always had a lot of energy. I'm not young, at all--I'm old. [laughs] I've always had a ton of energy but I also believe I have the energy because I love what I'm doing. I really, really love what I do. And I am very clear for me that I don't want to grow. A lot of people's goal is to make a bigger business, or to sell their business, or to be in a million stores--I don't have those goals. I don't want that. I don't want anything different than what's going on now, which is to have a very creative life. I feel when you do what you love you have more energy. When you're not compromising you have more energy. You're just in it! 

As an artist, you know, when you think of artists and the amount of work they do, like writers--when I was a therapist I was a therapist for artists and writers. I've always been very involved one way or another in a creative life. Artists do a day job and then they come home and do their art at night. I get to do my art during the day. I feel very, very, very fortunate. To find and connect with people who love what I do and find it meaningful in their lives, I mean, it is a thrill! It is so exciting and a thrill to me. I wouldn't want to miss a minute of it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nosy Interview: Mandy Aftel

Mandy in Star-Forming Region S106, © NASA, ESA 

What a treat to feature perfumer and writer Mandy Aftel as the first Nosy Interview of the New Year! I met Mandy in the spring of 2010 when she gave a talk at Essenza, a lovely shop in Seattle. The volume of notes I took as she guided us through the making of Parfum de Maroc and talked about her life as a perfumer, along with Mandy's encouragement when I had her sign my copy of Essence and Alchemy, helped spur me to start this site. Come back later this week for part two of our interview (the first I've conducted by phone), and be sure to visit Aftelier Perfumes to learn more about Mandy and her dreamy creations.

What do you smell like?
I think I smell kind of neutral, actually. When I’ve gone to IFF [International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc.] and visited friends who are perfumers there, I’ve always noticed when we share perfumes and smell things, they always put them on a perfume blotter, and I always put them on my hands. So I’m always, always putting things on my own skin. And I think I mustsmell somewhat neutral because I can smell things best on the skin, and on my own skin. So I don’t think my skin, my own body smells that much. I think I have a very sort of neutral faint smell. So I’m a dud in that department. [laughs] Yeah, I’m more like a scent strip.

What do you like to smell?
Me, I love to smell everything. But I really like funky smells. I like intense, alive smells that are out of the atmosphere, out of life. I love, which I’ve said before, the smell of a skunk—not too close, but I do like the smell of a skunk.

I like other peoples’ bodies and how they smell. I like animal smells a ton. I love animal smells. I like dirt, flowers, you know the usual things like beautiful flowers and herbs—the regular kinds of things. But I like smells that feel to me like they pulsate with life, that they bring with them the life that’s in them, you know like the forest and resins and trees. I’m kind of a notorious petal and leaf crusher in my backyard. I crush most things so I can get at the oil and smell things in my hands.

Monday, January 2, 2012

nosy new year

My bottle acclimates to its Midwestern surroundings.

Happy New Year, nosy readers!  I wish you a 2012 filled with new smell discoveries as well as familiar or forgotten scents that make you swell with emotion.

The holidays were the usual sensory riot. I had a bit of a cold, but still managed to eat more than my share of cookies and breathe in some nice smells:  
  • The smokiest scotch I've ever smelled (Pop, if you're reading this, what was that delicious scotch?)
  • I drained a full sample of Sweet Redemption for my parents' annual holiday party, and people seemed more eager to hug me than usual (they lingered due to my fragrance rather than their scotch intake).
  • I was so happy to unwrap a bottle (pictured above) of Un Bois Vanille (the ideal fragrance to spray on your wool scarf, and I agree it's perfect for layering) and a bundle of beautiful beeswax candles. Both will go a long way towards making the bitter Boston winter warm. 
  • The weird, unseasonable warmth in Wisconsin meant that I could smell more manure than usual in winter, when the ground is often frozen. For reasons not exclusively olfactory, I dread the completion of a harrowingly gigantic factory farm under construction right off the highway on the route between my hometown and Madison. (The cows, I heard, are on their way from Nebraska in the new year. Not that I'd prefer Wisconsin cows meet their fate in such a place, but I'm puzzled as to why the Dairy State needs to import its livestock.)
  • Alterra Coffee! I visited the main roasting facility on Humboldt, and wanted to set up permanent shop at one of the tables, eating pie, breathing in toasty beans, and talking all day with old friends. 
  • A friend had a Mrs. Meyer's Iowa Pine candle going in her bathroom, and I was teased for emerging from the bathroom more than once exclaiming how great it smelled in there. The candle seems to be sold out all over, but I'll be keeping an eye for one out next winter.
  • Oh man, if you're ever in Iowa, do yourself a favor and purchase some AE French Onion dip. You may be thinking, I've tried french onion dip in a tub before, and it's not that great. I agree! It usually isn't, but this stuff is so delicious that dipping your chip so deep that your hand comes out creamy is one of my family's most sacred holiday traditions. Viva Midwest!