Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12.12.12 smells

At 11:11, we wish, and on 12/12/12, we list: 

1) Smell of generosity: Perfume-world-mensch Andy Tauer is in the midst of his annual advent calendar giveaway-spree. May each of you win something fragrant! 

2) Smell of paper flowers:  Courtney Mandryk is selling her beautiful conceptual calendar. 'Tis the season!

Smell of stars: My spacesuit arrived! Thanks to those of you who encouraged this purchase via Facebook.

3) Smell of innovation: The Institute for Art and Olfaction is launching soon, and has already taught me that John Milton invented the word fragrance (along with moonstruck, pandemonium, and lovelorn).

4) Smell of superheros: Special Powers and Abilities is Raymond McDaniel's awesome new book of poems for your brain & your heart.

5) Smell of heartswell: Adam rescued Billy from a place that smelled horrific, and, as my friend Hillary put it, we all cried and gave Billy money.  

6) Smell of Wisconsin gone Hollywood: Since we last saw her on Nosy Girl, Emma Straub published her dazzling debut novel, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures

7) Smell of cocktail sparkle: Mandy Aftel introduced Aftelier Chef's Essence® Sprays just in time for you to flavor-up your holiday cooking.

8) Smell of sweet music: We're lucky that Nitsuh Abebe has shared his rad list of 50 favorite songs of 2012 (you can listen here via Spotify).

9) Smell of Dancing Girl: Lucy Biederman's wonderful chapbook, The Other World, has gone on sale since she graced us here on Nosy Girl.  

#10's smell, but not one of his library books
10) Smell of library books: My husband, Nosy-Interviewee-to-be & PhD-student extraordinaire, is nearly finished with his toughest semester of graduate school yet, and I admire his work ethic & his restless intelligence more than ever.

11) Smell of new baby: Since her interview posted, Katie Miota Stolzman started a badass blog (and became a mother)!

12) Smell of va-va-voom: Charlotte Boulay (the first-ever Nosy Interviewee) had her gorgeous poem, "Talking to the Dead," in last week's New Yorker. Wowee!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nosy Interview: Alyssa Harad

 Alyssa in a rotated Clouds in Cygnus,  © Bob Caton, Al Howard, Eric Zbinden, and Rogelio Bernal Andreo

In a dusty corner of my drafts folder, I have a few eager paragraphs responding to Alyssa Harad's "The Perfume Diet," published in the June 2011 issue of O magazine. I never managed to make my response presentable, but in November of that year, Alyssa contacted me to say she was enjoying Nosy Girl. I was so flattered! Hers was one of the very first encouraging e-mails (from someone not obligated in any way to offer one) about this here endeavor, and she has since been a great supporter of the nosy blog. I was thrilled to learn that Alyssa was working on a much bigger project related to the essay: Coming to My Senses, her smart & beautiful memoir, is available now (and it would make a great holiday gift!). Additional Alyssa to tide you over until you get your copy: this super-insightful interview (conducted by Elisa), and Alyssa's blog (I especially loved this post). 

What do you smell like?  
I suspect most of us would be as disconcerted to find out what we smell like to others as we are when we first hear our voices on tape. That said, I probably spend a lot more time sniffing myself than most people do, because I collect and write about perfume and I love to follow along as it unfolds on my skin. On any given day I might smell like an orange grove in full bloom, a New York dowager in diamonds and furs or the inside of a Japanese temple. When I'm not wearing perfume, and perhaps even when I am, I'm guessing I have the rumpled, slightly musty, libraryish smell of someone covered in cat and dog fur who drinks tea all day at home, alone, in front of the computer, surrounded by old books. In the evenings, and on weekend afternoons, I smell of whatever I'm cooking. 

A perfumer I know named Neil Morris--a big friendly bear of a man--once thoroughly snuffled the skin between my inner wrist and the crook of my elbow, up and back and up and back again,and declared that my base scent was milky, sweet and slightly woody. He wanted me to try a perfume of his called "Scrumptious," because he thought it  would meld with my skin. Though I have no doubt he was right, I was smitten by another perfume from his line, one called "Midnight Shadows," a dark, smoky number with just a touch of burnt caramel. Make of this what you will.  

What do you like to smell?  
As long as I have an escape route, I'm up for a quick whiff of nearly anything, though I do get overwhelmed by too much scent in an enclosed space. I can't go into Abercrombie & Fitch, for example. (That may not be the only reason)

For some reason, whenever I get this question I think of scents that conjure up beloved places. I went on a trip to Seattle and the San Juan islands this summer, my first visit in many years, and it made me remember how much I love the scent of old pine forests--not just the sharp, turpentine scent of the needles, but the combined scent of living and decaying trees and damp humus underfoot. I love everything about  the smell of a ferry landing, too--the creosote and old wood smell of the dock and the diesel engine of the ferry mixing with the briny salt and seaweed of the harbor. I've written about the dry summer dust, blonde grass and sagebrush scent of the foothills that surround my hometown of Boise, Idaho, and the first time I drove down the coast of California I went crazy for the mixed scents of the ocean and the eucalyptus trees--eventually I just pulled over and piled a bunch of old branches into my rental car. But I think, even more than all those wild, outdoor smells, I love the smell of a crowded city street in New York in the fall--that crazy mixture of car exhaust, road tar, bourbon, concrete, sweat, dying leaves, damp wool, garlic, roasted nuts, hairspray, metal, coffee, cigarettes and a thousand other things appearing and disappearing in rapid succession like bits of overheard conversation. My perfume makes more sense on a New York city street than it does anywhere else.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

nosy girl gift guide vol.2

It's that time of year again! When the gift guides multiply like wet mogwai, and my debit card, melty due to overuse, starts to smell like a perm. Gross! Here are some gifts that smell so good you'll forget you were really trying not to buy so much this year: 

1.  Topping my personal wishlist is this tremendous vanilla fragrance from CB I Hate Perfume. Even before reading the story behind 7 Billion Hearts, I thought it smelled like it had a soul. 

2.  For my money, Theo is the best bean-to-bar chocolatier in the country (and if you're in Seattle, a factory tour would make for a fun & fragrant gift to share). Choose their Eastern Congo Initiative Bars for their festive packaging, amazing flavor (The Pili Pili Chili has a real kick!), & support of important work being done in a troubled region.

3. Help fill your friends' kitchens with delicious aromas courtesy of two cookbooks I loved this year: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman and Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Aftelier’s Chef Essences Food 52 Starter Kit makes a lovely addition for a more experimental chef. (You should probably buy yourself something from this section as well, and bring a homemade treat for your host.)

4. A scented candle in a pretty package is still my go-to hostess gift, and you can find sweet little mercury glass votive holders all over these days. (Some of my favorite candles are discussed at great length here.)

5. If you've deemed Campfire Cologne a safety hazard, or your mountain man is beardless, I recommend Juniper Ride Natural Room Spray, as it's the most forest you can get indoors (all real tree, no Little Tree-rearview-window-dangling tree). If you want to help someone smell irresistibly dapper, go with the grown-up, balls-to-the-wall beauty of Sir by D.S. & Durga.

6. For the nosy writer in your life who still hasn’t finished her novel, why not pair the promise of a fireside celebratory toast from a bottle of this cheeky whiskey with Freedom, a tool to help her spend less time online (and more on her writing). You're such a good friend! 

Bonus ideas: Everything on last year's inaugural gift guide still smells great, and I recommend stuff all the time around these parts, including & especially these amazing books by past Nosy Interviewees. Happy gifting, and may everyone you love enjoy the smell of your hugs.