Advent to Hanukkah

Advent is usually associated with Christmas, but my husband and I have decided to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our house so I thought a mixed title was quite appropriate for my contribution to this holiday blogging event. Yes, there’s the chance my boys will grow up to be very confused about their religious upbringing, but I figure life is confusing enough…why not make is more so? And since I’m not converting to Judaism, many Jews won’t regard my boys as “true Jews” so we’re really stacking the cards against them. But hey, their waspy-goyish mom can make a mean latke. Seriously, they’re beyond. Here’s my secret: you’ve got to hand-grate the potatoes. No food processors allowed. And keep the already grated potatoes in ice-cold water while you’re grating the others so they don’t turn pink and brown.


Friday is the first night of Hanukkah, and we’re having a small gathering on Saturday night. I’m in charge of the organizing and cooking, as I have been the last nine years of our tradition, and I love the smell of frying potatoes, apple sauce, melted wax, and chocolate wafting throughout the house. Kids playing dreidel and running around the house add to the festive scene and I especially like it when Hanukkah and Christmas don’t overlap, so Hanukkah can be the sole focus of the night. Lighting the menorah to commemorate the miracle that a single day’s worth of oil lasted for eight during the purification of the Temple’s rededication is my favorite Hanukkah moment. Bringing light into the dark is a ritual many people cherish, especially during the Winter Solstice. So while the lighting of the candles is on a menorah, it also feels very all-inclusive and transcendental.


I know I joked about religious confusion above, but the crux of this is a warm and loving home with traditions children can hold onto. Love transcends religion and my boys will feel that, regardless of what path they choose. Whether they have a menorah or a Christmas tree, or both (or neither) in their adult homes, they will always remember having playful and loving Hanukkah parties when they were kids. (Even if there was Christmas music playing in the background every now and then).



So what perfume will they remember me wearing this holiday season?  Probably a delicious mash-up since I’m constantly trying new scents, oils and body creams. DSH Perfume’s Epices d’Hiver is getting a lot of skintime this fall/winter. I reviewed it here, but I’ll reiterate that it’s a spicy gourmand, powdery-vanillic comfort perfume that will no doubt become a cold weather staple.


Ayala Moriel Parfum’s Fête d’Hiver has become another winter favorite, and is spicy in a completely different way. It’s richly floral as gardenia, rose maroc absolute and rose otto lavishly glisten throughout Fête d’Hiver’s structure. Just a pinch of allspice and nutmeg impart the piquant edge, while Ayala’s amber accord adds a delicious and cozy, powdery vanilla. A resinous woody base of frankincense and sandalwood, gilded by the winterized gardenia allows us to leave our fête with perfumed snowflakes lingering on our skin as the night comes to a close.


Much thanks to Roxana Villa of Roxana Illuminated Perfume for organizing this Holiday Blogging Event. Please visit the links below to read the other participants’ contributions.


Sunday – November 29th: Guest blogger Jane Sibbett opens the Circle

Monday – November 30th: Guest blogger Wendel Meldrum

Tuesday – December 1st: Roxana Villa

Wednesday – December 2nd: Guest blogger Ida Meister

Thursday – December 3rd: Memory and Desire, Heather Ettlinger

Friday – December 4th: Memory and Desire, Jason Ettlinger

Saturday – December 5th: Guest blogger Jade Shutes

Sunday, December 6th, Eve and Roxana

Monday – December 7th: Indie Perfumes, Lucy Raubertas

Tuesday – December 8th: Scent Hive, Trish

Wednesday – December 9th: Olive Bites, Catherine Ivins

Thursday – December 10th: Perfume Smellin’ Things, Tom

Friday – December 11th: Lillyella, Nicole

Saturday – December 12th: The Non-Blonde, Gaia

Sunday – December 13th: Portland Examiner, Donna Hathaway

Monday – December 14th: Xenotees, Noelle

Tuesday – December 15th: The Beauty You Love, Lee

Wednesday – December 16th: Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom, Mrs. B

Thursday – December 17th: The Artful Gypsy, Wendy Amdahl

Friday – December 18th: Perfume Shrine, Helg

Saturday – December 19th: Notes on Shoes, Cake & Perfume, Wendy

Sunday – December 20th: Grindstone Girl’s Daily, Kathi Roussel

Monday – December 21st WINTER SOLSTICE: Perfume Smellin’ Things, Beth

Tuesday – December 22nd: Guest blogger Davis Alexander

Wednesday – December 23rd: Guest blogger Greg Spalenka, Artist as Brand

Thursday – December 24th: Fringe, Dennice Mankarious

Friday – December 25th: Asking Leah, Leah

Photograph by my husband

Posted by ~Trish

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Scents & Serendipity; Ayala & Persephenie Part I

blunda
 FLOWER PARTY

BlundaAromatics in Los Angeles is an exquisite olefactorium/ artisan enclave/ scent school/ alchemical collaboration run by Persephenie Schnyder. Blunda’s website describes its store hours as Saturday: 11-5, Monday – Friday: By Appointment or Chance. It truly was a magnificent accord of chance, serendipity, a dash of divine intervention, and a dear college friend that dispatched me to Blunda a couple of Saturdays ago to experience natural perfumery in the flesh and to hear Ayala Sender describe her Ezra Pound haiku-inspired scent Hanami.

As I slipped out of the blazing SoCal sun and into Blunda(a Swedish word meaning “to close one’s eyes”), I was greeted warmly by Persephenie herself and an ethereal enclave packed with natural perfume devotees.  The walls were replete with sculptures, art, and shelves — shelves teeming with delicate glass vials of essential oils and jars of all sizes containing exotic substances; Ayala refers to this as a perfume organ.

The desserts Ayala and Persephenie prepared for our motley crew were other word-ly. Neatly stacked rows of sakura mochi (Japanese rice pastries filled with Azuki bean paste and wrapped in pickled cherry leaves) greeted us along withAyala’sperfumed teas, fresh and tiny tea sandwiches with cucumber, watercress, minted radishes, carrots, ginger and cream cheese, and wickedly delicious marble-sized handmade perfumed White Potion and Guilt chocolate truffles. As I tried to control my primal instinct to hoard and/or devour, I wondered how have I missed this genius; this cool lounge-like sliver of smell-hounds in LA? This brilliant speak-easy of taste, intelligentsia, and performance scent-art?  Thank chance and the prodding of Trish for this revelation!

GENUFLECTIONS BY A NEW NOSE

Ayala’s presentation was a wonderful introduction to natural and organic fragrance for the botanically naïve. After describing her personal inspiration for Hanami and reciting the rich Ezra Pound lyrics that inspired the perfume and Heather Ettlinger’s  poetic perfume project:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Ayala began by passing around scent strips dipped in her base notes of Vetiver, Tonka Bean, Cassie, Siamwood, Vanilla CO2, Copaiba Balsam and Bakul Attar. (For photos, check out her own SmellyBlog post here). As we passed and considered each note through the group, it felt surprisingly beautiful, holy and communal. There with Persephenie’s perfume organ as a back drop, we exchanged musical nose notes in quiet revelry.

Breaking Hanami down note by note seemed especially appropriate given the deconstructive nature of the tradition up-ending haiku written by Pound. With its unpredictable metrics (the musical notes/cadence of a poem), the poem shifts between hard clip urban consonants and noun images, and the gorgeous seductive nature of soft dark s’es and sh’s, p‘s and b‘s. Ayala’s base ensemble captures this brilliantly.

Cassie, as she explained, is a type of mimosa used in tanning leather and appropriately, it speaks with a musty earthen, even industrial and honeyed depth. Vetiver, a simple grass root with an incredibly rich and complicated wet woods and marshland scent, bowled me over. Vanilla CO2, she used because it is shearer than Vanilla and has a half milky half watery sense. Ayala identified these choices as a desire to pull a deep metallic, dark and dusty –even gloomy — smell.  The final woodsy, metallurgical accord is spectacular.

Then Ayala moved to the heart notes allowing us to appreciate the individual notes of Pink Lotus, Magnolia, Tuberose, Violet Leaf, and Oleander, before providing the scent strip fan of the Sakura Accord in its entirety. Again this process, especially for a novice like me, was extraordinary. There is something truly mystical and transformative to sit (or stand) in a jam-packed room and reverently pass these deep, dark woodsy and floral scents among one another. And finally, for Hanami’s top notes, she purposefully steered away from citrus and turned instead towards earthy-wooden florals — Cabreuva, Frangipani, Mimosa and Rosewood.

There is a hard softness in the core underpinnings of this perfume that beautifully echoes the elegiac quality of the poem itself.  This heavy metal base creates the perfect enduring and quixotic caesura (pause) in one’s mind, a kind of olfactoric undertow. The floral tip opens up a deep and resonant space for that urban anonymity, the alienation and intimacy of modern living, to transpire in all its crushed complexity.  It is a lot like that final image Ezra Pound leaves us with – Ayala’s final fragrance looms like the enduring apparition of our lives, of our faces, anonymous, mysterious, individual, as petals on that wet, black bough. Ayala’s composition is not just a perfume, Hanami (and Ettlinger’s entire poetry project) should be installed in MOCA or MOMA, as an art experience. It is a stunning and sublime fragrance.

Much to our collective joy, Ayala brought several of her other signature perfumes with her as well as small samples of her entire collection.  I was immediately taken with Bon Zai, another Japanese-derived scent. It is minimalist, woodsy, and the Juniper is fabulous. Juniper! Juniper! Fete D’Hiver I found bewitching as well, although totally different from Bon Zai. It is described as “Spicy roses with incense and amber dries down to a powdery snow on fluffy fur” on the website, and this really says it all.  Now to start saving up so that I may purchase all THREE.


Please come back to Scent Hive on Tuesday for Part II of Scents & Serendipity, Ayala & Persephenie

Hanami is available at Blunda Aromatics.

Written by guest contributer ~duVergne Robert Gaines: a neophyte to the odor order, is a professional feminist and occasional poet.  She lives in Los Angeles near the La Brea tar pits with her partner David Riley Shackelford and their two cat children, Trotsky and MadX.

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