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The first perfume I ever fell in love with, and still my favorite, is Youth-Dew by Estee Lauder.

I received my first bottle of it when I was in high school? college? (It as a long time ago!) as a Christmas gift from my mother. I don't know why she thought it would be a good gift for me, but I was grateful. Youth-Dew was complex and elegant, very unlike the light sharp florals that were considered, back in my day, suitable for girls. Over the course of a year or two I used that bottle up and got more. Sometimes I bought it, and sometimes I found it under the Christmas tree.

As time went on I discovered more perfumes that I like (in particular, my obsessions with jasmine and rose) but I never lost my taste for Youth-Dew. Sometimes I'll smell a new perfume and have an immediate WANT WANT WANT reaction--this used to confuse me until I figured out these perfumes all reminded me of it.

Last month I realized that my current supply (a small spray bottle suitable for slipping into purse or train case) was not going to make it much longer and I needed to plan for a replacement. I was straining the web to see if I could find a deal on it when I ran across a blog that did perfume reviews. Naturally I had to see what it said about my true love! "Classic fragrance blah blah blah Lauder's marketing brilliance blah blah blah fragrance notes rose spices patchouli...."


You need to understand here that I hate patchouli with a large, irrational hatred. No, I'm serious: I think that marijuana needs to stay criminalized because it's a gateway drug to patchouli use. And I work at a natural foods co-op, which means I'm forced to work with people who think it's The Best Smell Ever. None of them, I will point out, can explain to me why one would want to smell like a pile of fresh autumn leaves that was lightly moistened with rainwater and then locked up in a attic closet for 50 years. I'm very bitter about this.

Since I hate patchouli and love Youth-Dew, I decided there had to be a mistake. Going to the Estee Lauder website I located their page for Youth-Dew. Top Notes: Rose, Jonquil, Lavender. Middle Notes: Jasmine, Muguet, Spices. Base Notes: Moss, Vetiver, Patchouli.


After I got over my sense of cosmic betrayal, I decided to approach this news rationally. Just this once. It was only one note out of nine. More than nine, if once considers the plural spices. And in the hands of a skilled perfumer, maybe patchouli could serve a useful purpose in a blend. There isn't the slightest hint of attic in Youth-Dew, so maybe it's ok in perfumes where I don't actually have to smell it. (This leaves out anything most of my co-workers are likely to wear, but there's little I can do about that. And no, I wasn't kidding about being bitter. I'm like the only person in the kitchen who hasn't destroyed their sense of smell with cigarette smoke and I have to work with people who buy patchouli-scented shower gel. You'd be bitter too.)

So I decided that I wasn't going to argue with one of the century's great perfumers over her choice of scent notes. And I got myself a big new bottle of Youth Dew--I'm wearing some now. I can't smell it at the moment; my sinusitis flared up last week and temporarily shut off my sense of smell. (It's weird--I didn't think it was possible to wear Youth-Dew and not smell it. If you've ever worn it you know what I'm taking about here.) Still, it makes me happy--and that is what perfume is for, right?
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A quotation attributed to St Augustine of Hippo:

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.


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In junior high I discovered one of my favoritest books in the world: The Guns of Naverone by Alistair MacLean. We met by pure accident--I had actually been looking for Force 10 From Navarone, because the movie version had just come out starring Harrison Ford and, well, Harrison Ford. My jr high library didn't have Force 10, but it did have Guns, so I checked it out instead. (I never did manage to see the movie of Force 10, and I don't even know which character Ford played. But if I was casting a remake of Guns, I would put him as the tough, slightly world-weary Mallory. Type casting? Maybe. But it is such a good type for him!)

Having gotten the book I settled down to read. At the time I knew very little about WWII and nothing on the finer (or even large scale!) points of naval warfare, so the exact reason why Navarone was so important didn't quite take with me. It didn't matter. From the first page I was utterly absorbed, and no sooner had I finished it than I turned back to the first page and started over. I read it three or four times before I had to give it back to the library, and then I checked it out a few more times after that. (Eventually I got a copy of my own, along with a lot of other MacLean books--my love of used book stores flowered early in life.)

It's difficult for me to say exactly what I found so gripping about it--I haven't reread it since I started writing seriously, so I've never read it with my writer-brain engaged. The fact that it has a first-class roller coaster of a plot probably helps. (Unlike, say, Where Eagles Dare, whose denoument makes me want to throw it with great force. [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, do not, under any circumstances, read that book. There are not enough sporks in the world for it.) And there is also that Guns presented a world that I somehow hadn't noticed before, a world where people made decisions that mattered and lived and died by inches and errors and ideals.

But over all this, when I sift through my memories, what impresses me most is the amazingly textured gorgeousness of MacLean's writing. A sun-washed dock in the Mediterranean, with the wild hills of a Greek island in the background; the cellar of an ancient manor house; the smokey insides of an island taverna; all of it is rendered in a loving detail that would give Tolkein a run for his money. People don't just drink wine, they drink hock or Moselle or retsina and they don't eat food, they eat olives and figs and bread, and when they stop to smoke you hear the flare of the match and see how the fire makes their face more visible in the darkness as they light the cigarette.

Somewhere in the maze of boxes that is my apartment is my copy of this book. If that isn't an incentive to finish unpacking I don't know what is.
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I have two rose-scented geraniums. One I've had for years; it's the last survivor of a handful given to me by a co-worker about umm, 5-8 years ago. (This is not, I note, the oldest plant in my collection; that honor goes to a geranium that dates from my grad school days, though I think the older spider plant might be almost as old. But I digress.)

The other I bought last summer in a fit of frivolousness when the grocery store across the street had its nursery stock on clearance. It was labeled as a citrus-scented geranium, but when I brushed my hand across the leaves what I got was a rich rose smell. There is a variety of scented geranium whose scent combines lemon and rose (and someday I will own one!) but the little plastic stake in the pot stubbornly insisted that this was a citrus-scented geranium that would terrorize any bug that ventured too close to my porch. I ignored the plastic stake, put down my money, and hauled an armful of rose-scented goodness home on the bus. I can only hope that my fellow passengers enjoyed that trip as much as I did.

When I moved into my new apartment I put them, along with all of my other cold-tolerant plants, in the unheated sun porch. They would get lots of sun there, and though they can't take a freeze being chilly doesn't bother them much. But I started the first batch of seedlings for my garden today, and I started to think about where I was going to put things when they started growing and got bigger.

I had an unused south-facing window in my bedroom, so I carried them in there and arranged some improvised plant stands to make sure they got all their leaves up into the light. In the process, the leaves got bumped around a bit and first my bedroom, and then most of my apartment, started smelling of fresh-cut roses. I enjoyed it a bit, and then forgot about it.

Later I went out to the grocery store to get some light bulbs. The kitchen fixture had one of its two bulbs go out, and rather than wait for the second to fail I decided to replace them both with some of those energy-efficient florescent bulbs. When I came out of the store it was snowing flurries: the clouds that had been creeping in from the west had finally arrived. I walked home in the speckled dark, cold wind nipping at my coat. I unlocked my door, walked in, and--

Roses, said the air in my apartment. I stood there with winter three steps away and let the summer memory wash over me.
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I kinda stopped watching TV in high school. It wasn't a dramatic stoppage; I'd just become steadily more irritated by the lack of things I wanted to watch and the general stupidity of commercials. So I'd hang out in my room and read when my parents and sister were watching TV in the living room.

There were a few scattered exceptions--one Friday night I came across The New Avengers, which led to my discovery of The Avengers. As a teen-aged girl, Purdy and Emma Peel were who I wanted to grow up to be. Not (necessarily) the secret-agent part, but the cool, intelligent, resourceful part. Also, Mike Gambit? Was HOT.

A little after that my local PBS station started carrying Doctor Who, and I was in love: bad special effects, good storytelling. I also developed an inexplicable fondness for The A Team, and as an undergrad even convinced my new (at the time) best friend Karin to watch an episode with me. (Sadly, she didn't appreciate it as much as I did--she noticed early on that the 'South American jungle' the Team was hacking its way through was, in fact, a cornfield and completely lost the thread of the narrative.) (Admittedly, it didn't have a lot of narrative to lose. Deep plot was not this show's strong point.)
Talking about 'my show' )
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Silly internet quizzes--or 'potato chips', as I usually call them--are a source of endless mindless amusement to me. How do people think these things up? Don't they have better things to do with my life? And is my favorite color blue or black? (That one always trips me up.) Today [livejournal.com profile] yoritomo_reiko had a color quiz on her lj that looked interesting. I took it and decided that I didn't care WHAT it said, I was NOT olive drab. The very thought is horrifying. However, the site in question had a few other quizzes, so I took them.Are you curious? )
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My Story Team duties kinda ate up all my writing time last week, so I'm running behind on TMOL. However, I persevere!

On Friday I was chatting on the phone with the charming and talented [livejournal.com profile] yhlee and I told her I had a list of possible topic for TMOL but that a lot of them were about food. "That's good!" she said, "food is important!" And so with no embarrassment I'm going to talk about my love for radishes.

I suppose of all the vegetables to have a passion for, radishes are an odd choice. They aren't hideously expensive, like fennel, and they don't require you to kill a tree, like hearts of palm, and they aren't a nutritional power-house like spinach, and they don't take three years to grow like asparagus. They are available year-round, and anyone with a small patch of well-watered ground can grow a crop in about a month. They are common.

I love them. They are sweet and crunchy and snappy, and because they are almost always eaten raw they are quick to prepare. I say 'almost always' because you can cook them; I've found that the really hot ones at the end of the season can be mellowed by braising them in butter. (But hey, what isn't mellowed by being braised in butter?)

I didn't realize how much of a radish fan I was until a few years ago at the local farmer's market, when I observed that in the moments before the opening whistle everyone else was lined up in front of the stalls with piles of asparagus and I was alone, standing in front of the stall with the best-looking radishes. It was kind of an odd moment.

Looking back on my childhood I guess I should have noticed this earlier. In my growing-up years, we had a large vegetable garden in the back yard and I liked to go out and eat radishes right out of the garden. I'd pull them up, rub the dirt off on my jeans and eat them right there. It's kind of amazing that any of them lasted long enough to be picked for the table. (Of course, it was a big garden. And you can continuously sow radishes. Yet another one of their many virtues!)

And so it is. Spring is around the corner. Soon the farmer's market will reopen, and I can feast on fresh radishes, radishes that still have their leafy emerald crowns and have never seen the inside of a plastic bag. *bliss*

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I was training a new baker earlier this week and as a result my sleep schedule is all messed up, and it's going to stay messed up for a few weeks. I hate that. In spite of that I usually enjoy it, because it involves teaching someone to bake bread and I love baking bread. As far as I'm concerned, baking cake and cookies and whatnot is horribly dull. Breadmaking, on the other hand, is exciting because you are dealing with a living organism--yeast--and a complicated mechanical structure--the gluten network formed through the kneading process. These two things combine to make the tasty food we call bread. I love bread. (REAL bread, that is. None of this Wonderbread nonsense.)

Bread-making uses all the senses. You feel the dough constantly to judge how the dough is coming together. You look at and feel the rising dough to determine if it has risen enough. If you think you've forgotten the salt then a taste of the dough is needed--a saltless dough has a distinctive flatness. In baking you look to check the color, to see if it is baking at the right rate. Smell helps you know if it has baked enough--does it smell like bread? Or does it have the alcohol scent of dough? You listen to the loaves as you tap tap tap to see if they are baked through. And all the while your mind is sorting through the information your senses are generating, comparing it to all the batches you've baked before and deciding what to do next. More flour? More kneading? More rising? Slash it and bake now, or wait just a little more? Will it rise more, or just collapse? Bread baking is never dull.

And best of all, and the end of it you have bread.

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One of my favorite songs, ever, is John Hiatt's "Slow Turning". (Truthfully, I love the whole album. But that song is my favorite on it.) I fell in love with it almost as soon as I heard it, and its charm has not faded with time. When I was setting up this blog one of the names I considered for it was Slow Turning, and it was a long, long debate between it and the one I finally settled on.

Why it? (Why not it?) Well, I've always had a weakness for a good, steady guitar line. And for slightly craggy, rough-hewn voices. (Paradoxically, I'm also a fan of Roxy Music's polished lushness. A foolish consistency is not, apparently, one of my problems.) I think it's mostly the lyrics, though, which to my ear have a kind of enduring, patient hopefulness. Yes, I'm messed up and far too much of my life has passed by, but--

It's been a slow turning
from the inside out
A slow turning, baby,
but you come about
A slow learning
but you learn to sway
A slow turning, baby
Not fade away, not fade away, not fade away

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I know people who simply refuse to go to restaurants that feature "non-American" food because they fear they won't find anything they would want to eat. I find that confusing, because from my childhood on I have been a huge lover of "non-American" foods.

One of my earliest restaurant memories is of me and my sister being taken to a Chinese restaurant by our parents. Now, I will be the first to concede that Mr Chu's Chop Suey House (yes, that was really its name) was probably not a bastion of authentic Chinese cooking, but it was something clearly alien to my Mom's cooking. Bite-sized chunks of meat covered with sauces that weren't spaghetti sauce or gravy; brilliant-colored, crunchy vegetables that had never seen the inside of a can, and piles of snowy white rice which instantly became the best rice I had eaten in my life. (This, because my mom refused to make anything other than Minute Rice. If you have never eaten it, don't start.) Also, instead of everyone ordering one thing and eating it, there you ordered a bunch of things and everyone shared, so you got to try lots of different stuff. BEST. RESTAURANT. EVAR. Even better than Mr. C's, the Italian steak-and-spaghetti place that was lit entirely (and solely) by the hundreds of strands of white Christmas tree lights that had been affixed to the walls and ceiling. (I am not making this up. Ask any Omahan; they'll tell you.)

Then there was the annual ethnic fair down at the Civic Center. I have no idea what the event's real name was (I was in elementary school during the years we went), but the various ethnic clubs, societies and associations would put up booths displaying their cultures and selling foods. You could, and we did, wander around the Civic Auditorium for hours looking at displays of clothing and goods and eating foods you had never heard of before. It was Dinner As An Adventure, and I loved it. Especially the Korean Barbecue Chicken, which confused me with its lack of actual barbecue sauce but which made up for that by being served on a stick. And the baklava, which got all over my hands and clothes but was so totally worth the effort of licking my fingers clean afterwards.

Eventually I grew up and moved out and started cooking on my own. My mother was not an inspired cook, and she had never bothered to show me how to cook her dishes, so I was left with my copy of The Joy of Cooking and my memories of what I liked to eat in restaurants to guide me. As a result, my recipe collection is a little strange. Chicken Adobo, Painted Rooster, Curried Lentil and Spinach, Mujadara... It isn't quite fusion cooking: more like wanton Cultural Appropriation on the domestic level. But it's nourishing, and oh my is it tasty.

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Today is the first of February, a month I have grown to hate because its middle is marked by St. Valentine's Day, a holiday dedicated to pointing out how much I truly suck.
As you can see, I have developed something of an attitude about this.
This year, I have decided to try a different approach. Instead of stewing over the fact that I am not going to be getting flowers, chocolate, and a fancy dinner (again), I am going to spend this month chronicling things I love. I won't get to them all, I'm sure--even in a leap year February doesn't have enough days. But it will keep me busy.

I love winter.

I am not here to deny the problems it causes in transportation, or the annoyance of having to shovel the sidewalk, or the sticker shock of ones monthly heating bill, or the newly-discovered knowledge that flu viruses live longer in cool, dry environments. I'm talking about Winter As An Aesthetic Experience. I love winter because it is beautiful.

I love all the different shapes and textures of snow, from the delicate miniatures to the giants that race down to earth and glitter like mica planes in the sunlight. I love the full moon shining through bare trees, and those same trees embracing the thin blue sky of daylight. I love how removing the profligate colors of summer makes the nuances of color plain; I can drive from Lincoln to Omaha and see it all played out in the dead grasses in the margins: beiges and tans that range from foxy-blushed to bonewood pale and on to tinted with delicate hints of lavender. I love them all. I love the ice storms that cover the world with crystal and the sun that makes it all shine even as it destroys it. I love those days when snow has edged the trees and bushes with white and the sun is a silver pearl behind a silk veil and the whole world has been transformed into a charcoal sketch of itself. All these things, yes, and more.


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