One of my favorite things that my friend, The Non-Blonde, does on her website is a monthly series called “Currently” in which she does a brief round-up of various personal things in the area of books, music, television shows, cooking, or random thoughts. I look forward to each month’s entry, particularly to see what she’s reading or listening to (’80s music forever!) or because I’ll know that I’ll smile at one of her random thoughts. (“Why are there gummy bears in the soda of Candy Crush soda?” or “Please tell me that the Oscars are a Kanye-free zone.”)
So, with full credit to her for her wonderful idea, I’d like to do something similar, though with a few differences. First, because it’s me, I’ll never manage to have any entries that are just one sentence long. Second, I don’t have time to read books any more, alas, but I do read a lot of things around the web, so I would like to share instead articles or sites that have caught my interest lately. So, here’s March’s Grab Bag.
General Perfume News:
- From The New York Times: “Designing a Bespoke Perfume” and the general cost thereof. Interesting tidbit: in the 1970s, roughly 90 fragrances were launched a year. Today, according to Michael Edwards in other work, more than 1,600 fragrances are released each year.
- From The Smithsonian Magazine: two allegedly fake pheromones submitted by a perfume company for study back in 1991 caused scientists decades of wasted research into human pheromones.
- From UPI: A Nielsen report states that American Latinos have become a key consumer in beauty (and fragrance) sales, showing a “staggering” difference in their purchases as compared to how low sales are in those areas for other demographic groups. One quote: “The Nielsen report also indicated Latino men take their beauty and appearance very seriously. Compared to non-Hispanic men, sales on shaving cream, hair spray, mustache dyes and after-shave all grew significantly, especially when it comes to fragrance as sales increased by 15.5 percent.“
Music: Bon Jovi. Yes, I said Bon Jovi. I’m unashamed of my love for the group. This month, I’ve also been returning to Fleetwood Mac due, as always to the fantastic tv series, The Americans. (“TUSK!”) And I may have spent a wee bit too much time one day listening on repeat to Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio.”
Television – Good to Great: Some of you regular readers know just what a TV junkie I am, as it’s the only way I manage to slow my mind just a little bit, so this is always going to be the biggest category in the Grab Bag. Late last year, I went on a binge of all the Scandinavian television shows I could get my hands on, and became utterly obsessed with Borgen. It’s about an idealistic female politician who unexpectedly becomes Denmark’s prime minister; how much she changes through political intrigue; the impact on her family life (there is a reason why one of the tag-lines is: “Sacrifice everything for your family… except power”); and the impact of the media and PR on coalition politics. Borgen is essentially a mix of The West Wing, House of Cards, and a (better) News Night. I love it passionately, but it ended after only 3 short seasons. Who can we bribe for another one? I need more Borgen! I must have more Borgen. I have withdrawal symptoms! Putting Borgen aside, last month I was entranced with Grantchester more than Downton Abbey. This month and last, my favorite 1980s KGB spies/moles have kept me riveted in Season 3 of the fantastic show, The Americans. The Breaking Bad spin-off, Better Call Saul, is improving, but I’m a bit bored by the The Vikings so far this season. Basically, I’m just counting down the days (30!) until Game of Thrones returns, while also looking forward to Season 2 of Outlander. Same for Hannibal, the best show that I can’t watch without contorting my body to hide my eyes and close my ears at least twice each episode. (The ripping and flesh-tearing sounds in the human tableau episode last season continue to haunt me.) And my sheepish confession is that Grimm is my guiltiest pleasure.
Television – Eh to Bad: In contrast to my love for The Americans, the modern KGB spies in NBC’s new show, Allegiance, got on my nerves right away and I gave up after one episode. Same with Shonda Rhimes’ How to Get Away With Murder. I’m starting to “hate-watch” Scandal, especially after the kidnapping arc. I think I’ll give up entirely soon. I’m similarly unenthused with S2 of Broadchurch, David Tennant notwithstanding, but I’ll endure for now. I’m usually a fan of The Good Wife, but both the election story and the Carey prison one have left me cold this year.
Cooking: One of the best cookbooks I’ve seen in a while is “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi.” He’s a London chef, and his best-selling book has a mix of Israeli, Arab, and Middle Eastern recipes. Articles from The Boston Globe and The New York Times talk about the craze that it began, and how it has a sort of Julia Child/Joy of Cooking appeal. I recently wow’d my family with the recipe for eggplants stuffed with mince meat. I altered the recipe a bit to use regular ground meat instead of lamb, and pomegranate molasses in lieu of the tamarind one that I had thrown out the month before. It was delicious, though, and I recommend the book for anyone who loves Middle Eastern food. I bought my copy on Amazon for about $20, and it’s about £12 on Amazon UK.
Food but not cooking: Asian food is my favorite cuisine, and my passion for dumplings continues unabated. The foodie site, Serious Eats, had an article yesterday on the best frozen, pre-prepared dumplings. Trader Joe’s was one of their four recommendations, the rest seeming to be Asian brands that may be in speciality stores. I already buy the Trader Joe ones. Now, I’m determined to find the other 3. In terms of other frozen foods (I don’t have a lot of time to cook these days!), I’m sorry to report that Paul Newman‘s Chinese Beef with Broccoli is utterly heinous. Extremely weird tasting and with a mushy texture. P.F. Chang‘s frozen Mongolian Beef, though, is just like the one in their restaurants and not bad.
Bane: the extent of my sleep deprivation. I’ve had an unfixable sleep disorder since I was a child, but it’s been especially bad lately. The worst thing is being too tired to sleep. At one point last week, I’d slept a grand total of 45 minutes in almost 3 days. The second bane of my existence these days is emails, but that’s a story for another day.
Joy: Arabian Oud in London sent over a box of stuff which includes Kalemat concentrated fragrance oils! Kalemat Amber, Kalemat Floral, and Kalemat Musk. A few readers had reported on just how good Kalemat is in the Amber oil version, but Holy Mother of God! And the floral one! Plus, these things have nuclear sillage! I wore just a few dabs of one when I walked to the post box the other day, and I swear, it was like the perfume was an advance guard for me. I’m taking some over to my parents’ house later today to have a family testing session, and reviews should be forthcoming this week. Alas, the oils are not sold on Amazon. Arabian Oud has returned there, by the way, but is only selling regular Kalemat EDP spray and Woody. Nothing else. I’ve actually sent a few pleading emails to Arabian Oud in London to have them ask their home office to expand Amazon or U.S. distribution and they said they will let the Saudi office know. To be honest, I don’t hold out much hope. I’ve asked the London head manager if they ship worldwide, and am waiting to hear back, but I don’t think they do. Arabian Oud’s main Saudi site has text in their shipping section that would seem imply they ship out of country, but an attempt to see how much the cost would be if I went through the checkout process was unsuccessful because it doesn’t give me a list of countries for my address and seems limited to Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the fact that I was doing so via the “guest” option instead of the regular registered user is the issue. I will try again.
New Obsession: space photos from the Hubble telescope, NASA and its European counter-part, ESA. Specifically, nebulae in the Cygnus and the Cygnus X-1. The latter is “a black hole candidate,” according to Wikipedia, but the Cygnus (Swan) region as a whole seems to be a breeding ground for new stars. And what unbelievable photos there are out there. Staggering in their beauty, indescribable in their colours.
Random Thought: if space photos were given one-tenth the daily coverage given to the Kardashians, the world might be a very different place.
Random Thought #2: Whenever I see the main chap in 50 Shades of Grey, Jamie Dornan, I immediately think “serial killer!!” (You might have to be a fan of the BBC series, The Fall, with Gillian Anderson to understand that comment.)
Hairy German News: My Teutonic Overlord likes musk scents. Really, really likes them. I applied a few drops of hyraceum as a base layer to something, and he went quite crazy. You would have thought the memory of his fight with a skunk some years ago would have given him pause, but apparently not. For the record, that fight ended in a draw between the two of them, with a slight edge to the skunk who got in a nasty facial bite as well. But I was the real loser. The clean-up at 2 a.m. (on my birthday no less!) was a nightmare, with me half-naked in a tub washing him over and over again with a mix of tomato juice, hydrogen peroxide, and dish-washing liquid. The red splatters that went all over the walls every time he shook himself made my bathroom look like a slaughter house out of Hannibal. The baths went on for days with not a lot of reduction in the smell and, yes, it is as bad as anything you have imagined. Skunk mating season will start up again here soon and they will be out in areas where they don’t usually venture. Also, there is apparently a big skunk den somewhere under a bank just up the street, and they can’t seem to get rid of it. I live in fear once more….
So, that’s this month’s Grab Bag of random stuff. I’ll be taking a few days off to try to get some rest, catch up on my beloved television, test perfumes, and just basically try to avoid typing as much as possible, but I’d enjoy hearing about any of your recent loves, rants, book or television interests, or random thoughts. I may not have the energy to respond, but I’ll be eagerly reading anything you’d like to share.