Monday, December 28, 2015


Sometimes Mochi prefers to wear her sweater as a tube top, sometimes a skirt. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Alison Balsom, Haydn Trumpet Concerto in Eb, 1st mov.


Alison Balsom, international soloist discovers pTrumpet for the first time

One of the world's foremost trumpet players has a go with a plastic trumpet. As stunning as it is to see the fiery flash of brass and sterling instruments on the marching field, those instruments are subject to wonky tuning with extremes of temperature in football season.  I wonder if the plastic is less subject to those tuning issues?  It's also kind of exciting to think of marching bands on the field with gaily colored horns that match their livery. or contrast.  This could be interesting, and it seems like it would probably be cheaper than the traditional construction materials. She certainly makes it sound wonderful. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Chuy in repose

On the recliner with pups (mostly) under a blanket. Chuy is just holding his head up as I scratch his chest. He's so funny. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

How about a lovely palate cleanser from all the bad Christmas music?  The dulcet, clear soprano of the lovely Maddy Prior is always welcome, and add the period instrumentation, and I'm sort of getting in the mood for Christmas.  I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday season. :)
I'll be posting more good music, because I know we've all had too much of the tacky stuff. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

All's well that ends eventually.

The semester concluded well for me, although it was rodeo from weeks seven through week 14.  I have continued my habit of over-scheduling myself, and next semester promises to be crazier still. I may have to shuffle some things around next semester, but my schedule is somewhat set for Spring '16.  I've settled on a new degree plan and I expect to graduate in May 2017. I'd hoped to graduate sooner, but I have three more semesters of Spanish, anyway, so it's just as well to not be in a hurry. 

My schedule is full for this holiday, as I have several creative and organizational projects I hope to conclude at home, but thus far, I've been furniture for small dogs quite a bit for the last week.  This has been wonderfully relaxing, and the pups seem quite pleased with the arrangement.

It's amazing to think that three years ago this week I had my maxillary osteotomy.  The surgery yielded an amazing reduction in jaw pain for me, and it's incredible to find that now I can eat things with ease that I once avoided due to difficulty biting or chewing.  Last week I had a bagel for the first time in many years, and this is the first bagel ever that did not cause discomfort to chew.  Every time that happens, I'm reminded anew of what a wonderful change the surgery wrought.  But I'm glad it was three years ago and not this week.  That is one milestone I'm pleased to see diminishing in the rearview mirror.

It has been grand not to rush about constantly this week.  Until today, the weather has been glorious and spring-like (or like the one nice day we usually get in Spring before Hot Weather™ arrives).  I'm going to try to keep my gadding about down to a minimum for the remainder of the holiday break, although I've got at least one trip to Dallas and a trip to Big Bend planned.  Much to do. Much to do.  Much of it: pleasant tasks.

I hope you have a grand holiday season. I intend to.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gender-specific perfumes are a relatively recent phenomenon.

In January, 2013, while recovering from a major surgery, I was restricted, activity-wise, and spent a good deal of time on the phone with my sister. One day she mentioned she'd smelled an exquisite fragrance on a gentleman, calling it the most beautiful fragrance ever.  The perfume in question was Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle.   My curiosity piqued and being a long-time perfume enthusiast, I ordered a tiny sample right away.  I was soon in love.  As a fan of literature of the Edwardian and Victorian eras, the Henry James novel referenced in the name of this perfume did not go amiss with me.  Turns out, POAL is one of MY favorite perfumes, now, and it is, indeed, not intended for women only. In fact, the idea of a fragrance polarized to one gender only is a relatively recent phenomenon, based largely in the mid to late twentieth century.

In the New York Times today, writer Max Berlinger writes about the new trend of gender-fluid or non-gender-specific fragrance.  The author theorizes that the evolution of gender identity issues drives a consumer quest for unisex fragrances that can be found off the beaten path in niche perfumeries. The article is interesting and capably written, but we sometimes lose our way when we try to tie a larger cultural trend to small subsets of the culture.  Humans ever seek connection and correlation, and the emergence of sensitivity to gender-fluid politics and culture would seem an apt impetus for shifts in aesthetic products such as cosmetics and fragrance, if unisex fragrance did not pre-date the modern era.  As Berlinger says, florals tend to be associated with feminine perfumes, but that is perhaps an oversimplification at best, and a wrong idea at worst.  Accords like carnation figure heavily in the classic "masculine" war-horse Old Spice, as it does in "feminine" classic Opium by Yves Saint Laurent.  Comely lavender, which is a scent traditionally associated with blue haired little old ladies, figures heavy in YSL's male classic La Nuit de l'Homme.  The urge to associate floral fragrances with women shows more about our frame of reference and biases than it does about what actually goes into the blending of accords for perfume.

In archaeological digs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs, small vials of unguents have been found that were used in personal perfumery, as well as embalming.  High-toned Egyptians of that epoch were obsessed with the form of personal presentation, and their toilet included meticulous grooming, including the plucking of all body hair, and immaculate coiffure.  The false beard worn by pharaohs was fabricated of braided goat hair that was heavily pomaded with oil infused with the accord of the labdanum, commonly known as rock rose (Coco and Bleu de Chanel, both by Chanel).  In addition to finding exquisite little vessels with spoon-like stoppers for fragrant oils and pastes, archaeologists found the Egyptians festooned their tombs with images of grooming practices and of the application of perfumes.  These perfumes were worn by men and women, in the same way that men and women wore eyeliner: they sought to conform to a very specifically shaped perception of beauty.

Flashing forward to the Renaissance, the presentation of the best possible image was so important that the likes of Louis IX required all members of his court to practice dance for hours daily. Naturally, one needed to smell nice, and aristocracy of that era eschewed bathing, thinking it an unhealthy practice.  Thus was perfume needed, and in abundance.  At that time, there was no polarity to the fragrance worn by men or women-- everyone needed to smell as pretty as possible.  There must have been fragrance trends at court, human nature being what it is, but generally, the Hot Number would have been worn by all and all alike.

The fragrant, beating heart of the perfume industry is the region in and around Grasse, France.  Here conditions are perfect for the cultivation and processing of a vast range of floral accords that go into the blends that weave magic in the ethereal form of fragrance.  Though we associate perfume with Chanel (No. 5!), the large cosmetic companies that market these household name fragrances is also a relatively new phenomenon.  There are perfume houses that go back scores of years, and even centuries.  Creed, an English perfumer, was founded in 1760.  I Profumi di Forenza formulated their first perfume in 1194, and some of their centuries-old fragrances are still in production.

I'll write another time on the explosion of Chanel fragrances on the market, but probably about the late Edwardian era the masculine classes of Fougere and Chypre really emerged in fragrance.  At this time, perfumers like Santa Maria Novella (Italy, founded 1612) produced fragrances specifically for the gentleman client, as well as fragrances for the ladies.  Indeed, the original Old Spice with its complex blend of accords was formulated in 1938.  Think about this issue in terms of centuries-old fragrance houses though: the span of roughly 100 years is but a trend when compared to the backdrop of four or eight centuries. 

The fact is that our own individual chemistry plays a pas-de-deux with perfume, and what smells divine on me (and to me) may not smell so great on my neighbor in the next cubicle.  We are complex, and finding the perfect perfume is like alchemy.  The trend we see today has more to do with specificity, and a yearning to make manifest an expression of our innermost being.  Just as the discriminating stylista of the Victorian/Edwardian era had disposable income for the latest trends in perfumerie, today's stylista deals with the entirely new currency of easy access to information that helps them to tailor their olfactory presentation.

To address the gender-fluid element of the article, though, it would be tragic for someone to refrain from wearing a fragrance they love simply because a perfume is "for men" or "for women."  The classic 1966 "man" cologne Aramis smells AMAZING on me.  This one features woody, leather, resinous notes, and is considered a chypre (MAN territory!).  My DNA does and does not have everything to do with how perfume affects me and how my body affects my perfume-- the chemistry of the individual adds an entirely new set of variables to a complicated equation.  Like a bottomless pachinko machine, the gender-polarity topic is going to be one that will spark lively discussion until our civilization is pounded to dust.  It's an important discussion, and respect is called for when stepping through such sensitive territory, but I do not believe gender-issues are driving the market for gender-neutral fragrance.  Quite the opposite: the thirst for unique expression of self is what drives that market, and that in itself is the important element of the perfume discussion.

This piece was written using cumulative information I have read and observed over the past several years, so other than the NYT article linked, I don't have a specific source to cite.  For people truly interested in checking out niche perfumerie, there are some great resources available to the seeker. Every season, Lucky Scent markets a sample bag of new or popular fragrances for around $30 that can make exploration fun and more accessible, and certainly less risky than buying an entire bottle.

If you want to understand the science of scent, I strongly urge you to read the highly enjoyable Secret of Scent by Luca Turin.  Also, Turin's perfume reviews are often screamingly funny.  I usually(but not always) agree with him-- taste is a personal thing-- but he brings a scientific sensibility and great wit to the table when discussing his refined love of perfume. 

There are many vendors who sell decants of perfumes on the internet. Some specialize in rare/hard to find.  I most prefer Surrender to Chance. They have a massive selection, and if there's something rare you seek, they may have it, including old formulations of fragrances that are still on the market. Sorry, but due to European Community restrictions, some accords are strictly forbidden or have changed in classic perfumes still in production. THAT is why the Opium you buy at the department store doesn't quite smell like your Auntie did Back In The Day, alas! 

If you are not of a fragile constitution and enjoy film, I highly recommend Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.  There are scenes in the film of the enfleurage method of fragrance extraction from flowers into wax. 

Finally, there are a handful of fragrance databases on the web, many of which contain catalogs of tens of thousands of perfumes. There is much worthwhile reading on those sites, and you may also create a free account and participate in a forum of interest to your particular taste.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: Chuy's First gif

It's all about that ear! This is from a couple Christmases ago. Isn't he a dashing wee boy?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: Praline pretzel

She's so cute when she curls up! This cold weather has brought loads of snuggle time. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: bed, already!

The puppies believe all decent folk are in bed by the time the sun tips below the horizon. When I move bedward, they hop on the bed and seem to say "finally!"

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday, Puppy Sunday: mad skills

Mochi has formidable napping skills. She can hold her head up and sleep. Clever girl!

Monday, November 02, 2015

A story of a hot dog

That season change to cooler weather is a bit awkward. I adjust to the quiet of no air conditioning. The pups get decidedly more snuggly, particularly Chuy with his short, suede-like coat. The pups are like pilot fish and we swim the night with them glued at my sides. At some point in the night, the covers seem to burp out a toasty little Chuy smelling like a hot Frito. My corn chip boy. He will snuggle at my side and will deign to allow me to pet him. 

He's so adorable. 

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: baying 101

Mochi bays with aplomb. Here she decided to bay at the planet, in case anyone was getting saucy ideas!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ruth | Rosa Dear

I love this song. I love this video. :)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sew excited.

Tomorrow I start on a new ensemble. I've also gotten a skirt commission, and if that goes well, I plan to run up some more skirts and sell them on Etsy. 

I've had this gold silk dupioni for maybe 6 years, and it's time to finally start working fabric I have on hand. I think these fabrics look great together.  I'm making a cape of the boucle, and the silk will be the lining. This should be fun. 

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: ginger furballs

My sweet pups are tired after a day of autumn sunshine out back. :)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

I'm sew happy.

I made a dirndl to wear to a friend's Oktoberfest this fall, and it turned out alright. It's by far the most elaborate garment (or set of garments) I've made with some of the more difficult elements. I  ran up a muslin of the bodice, then had to re-draft two pieces to make it fit properly. I ended up with a halfway decent fit that looked pretty authentic. The main fabric featured dachshunds, and I was pretty pleased with the outcome, hobbled as I was by a clunky sewing machine with only a single stitch at only a single length in its repertoire. 

To my delight, a dear friend gave me a whizz-bang sewing machine for my birthday. I vowed to get past mid-terms before cracking into a new garment to sew, so I could get through mid-terms. I have, like, about 20 things I want to make right away. I'm sew excited!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A bolt through the heart

That Dickens crafted sentences 154 years ago that caused the loosening of the bolt holding close my heart is nothing shy of mind-blowing. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Walk turkey

There sure are a bunch of turkeys walking around here. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Puppy Monday

Could Praline be any prettier?
No sooner had I set up this basket for lap quilts did Praline claim it for dog-kind. 
Sorry I missed my Puppy Sunday post, but I'm insanely busy with school. 

I love Spanish, but it's challenging, to put it mildly. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: Chuy is a computer assistant

Chuy would prefer to be between All The Hoomans and their computers. See what a tech whiz he is?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dirndl blouse

Making an ensemble for Oktoberfest from fabrics I had on hand. I love this dotted Swiss handkerchief weight fabric, and this is for the blouse. I don't have a ruffle foot, so I improvised and just tried to be uniform in feeding extra fabric every other stitch. The ruffle alone took an hour just to gather up. It's not perfect, but it's still going to be cute, I think!

The sleeves will go on tomorrow and I'll finish it probably tomorrow night. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: drowsy babushka pup

Mochi loves to burrow, especially near bedtime. :)

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Well, that's done. Again. For now.

My tires wore out so quickly it was astonishing. I had a nice set of Michelins with 90,000 mike warranty, and barely eked out 47,000 on them. The new set is on now. Going for alignment this week, and hopefully I can see a few more miles on this bunch. 

Monday, September 07, 2015

On the penultimate (I hope) triple digit day of the year...

...I have to say that if there's an up-side to living in a ridiculously hot place, it's that I can put an entire basket of clothes on the line to dry at 6PM, and they'll be dry and toasty before the sun goes down. I love the smell of line-dried textiles, and I also love saving electricity. It gets me out of the house some days when I'd rather not, perhaps, and that's good, too. 

It was 102F today, and tomorrow is forecast for 100, but Wednesday is forecast for a positively frigid 90F. 

Fetch me my parka, Jeeves!

As summers go, this one hasn't been brutal, but I will not be sorry to see the back of it. 

How To Study Tennyson:


They need to send the fight-abled people among the refugees back home to Syria with weapons so they can resolve the problem of extremists in their homeland. 

The worst falls on the children. Strife was ever thus. For all the complications and mitigating factors, I know I'm not alone in grieving for all the children in places of great conflict. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: will nap for cuddles

Chuy just came out from under the covers and pressed up against me, demanding I pet him. Of course, I could not refuse. :)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: Mochi's overbite

Waking up to this sight makes me smile every time. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A new chapter begins.

My darling niece left for boot camp today.

No longer the sweet little elfling with a nimbus of fuzzy reddish hair atop her head, she is 18 and stands nearly a foot taller than her old auntie now. 

I'll always treasure the times we had our Girlie Days, when I babysat her and we'd make a list at breakfast of all the fun things we would do that day. We explored world cuisines and she achieved proficiency with chopsticks at the ripe old age of three. We fed a lot of ducks. A lot. 

Now she's off in the world to plan her own lists of grand adventures. I hope she has much health and happiness, and that the world shows her all the best it has to offer. After all, my family is now sharing with the world the very best we have to offer, and it should respond in kind. 

Be safe and happy, dearest Chloe. You'll always be my Little Lamb. <3

Thursday, August 20, 2015

...and it's not even 9:00 AM yet. :)

I have 4 days until school starts, and they must be productive. One little nagging task I've been putting off is taking a puppy-shredded pillow case and cobbling together a smaller case from the remnants. I have a little barley hull pillow I sleep with that needs a smaller case, but I only have two. This project took less than 30 minutes, and I just used the tan thread in me bobbin. 

One of the rectangles was slightly larger, so I bloused in pleats at the center of the top, and also on one side so the ends met properly. This also accommodates some pouf to the pillow. 

I used the French seam technique so all raw edges are contained inside and none are exposed, which will hopefully result in enhanced longevity for the case. The rest of the fabric is for the scraps for future quilty/embellishment projects. This fabric is gorgeous. I sewed slowly to make edges stay in line, but I did not press or use pins, both of which would have resulted in cleaner, more knife-edge lines, but I'm happy- this feels nice, and is therefore good enough for sweet dreams. 

I took the final photo on a regular pillow for scale, and Chuy suggested the tableau would be more fetching with a bit of beefcake thrown in. 



I concur with these thoughts, as it is unproductive to reflect hurtful behaviors, but I would go one further: remove yourself from the presence of vicious people. You do them no service by being their whipping boy, and you are wasting your good humor on people who do not value your precious time and attention. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Self portrait at Gage Hotel gardens in Marathon

I've had a grand time here. This trip has been most restorative. :)

Black and yellow velvet

A bumble bee on a Mexican Fire Bush at the gardens at the Gage Hotel. 

This summer's last hoo-rah.

I've come down to the Texas bootheel to visit my sister in her dream-house-in-progress. I wanted to spend time with her family before school starts, and especially before my darling niece goes to boot camp next week. 

The drive down was gorgeous, and as soon as I was 5 miles south of I-10, I could see why sis and her hubby were so drawn to this region. I know it's not to everyone's taste, but I agree with her that this is an extremely beautiful place to live. Wouldn't mind it, myself. 

Monday the five of us went to Big Bend National Park.  This is apparently one of the largest National Parks, and also the least-visited. It was great to have all this breath-taking majesty to ourselves. 99% of the day, we couldn't see so much as another vehicle in the distance. Definitely worth the drive. 

After the park, we went to the pool at Terlingua Ranch where they own property. It was great to splash in the pool, but i do wish I'd given wider berth to the two wasps that stung me. One of those was my fault, too. The climate there is perfect with its dry heat. There was an astonishing variety of birds, always fascinating to watch. 

We saw tons of jackrabbits, a cotton-tail, some pretty little deer including a fleet-footed fawn with its mama, javelina,  buzzards and a broad variety of roadkill. Fortunately, we saw no bears or mountain lions. 

I'm looking forward to exploring this place more in-depth in future. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

I keep getting out and they keep pulling me back in.

Just when I've sworn off glitter polish, I found one that perfectly matched the opaque coat I was putting on. I love this stuff!

My ginger babies

After a couple nights away, it's so good to be home with my pups. Praline was in my lap, so that's why she's not in the picture. 

Monday, August 03, 2015