Thursday, April 15, 2021

Quest for the Perfect Honeysuckle Perfume

 Not that long ago, I bought some honeysuckle perfume on a whim. And I was a little disappointed by it. I didn’t dislike it as a perfume, but it was called Aerin Mediterranean Honeysuckle and it didn’t smell like honeysuckle. It is a light citrus floral perfume, but the floral does not evoke honeysuckle.

My general disappointment with that perfume started me on a quest. Is there actually a perfume that captures the smell of honeysuckle?

I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and we always had a honeysuckle bush in the yard. I remember going outside when the flowers were blooming and picking them to get the one little drop of nectar each flower yielded. You pick the flower and pull the style through the bottom. The stigma gets one little drop of liquid attached to it from the pull and you lick that. It tastes the way the flower smells, but in a sweet, sugary way.

You know how sometimes you spray perfume or air freshener and you get it in your mouth? That isn’t what this is like. To really capture the honeysuckle scent, the perfume needs to smell like it would taste good, overcoming the natural instinct we have that tells us a perfume will taste terrible. Yes, it will taste terrible, but it should entice you to maybe try it, just to double check.

To my mind, there are three different notes that the honeysuckle fragrance needs to cover. First, it needs to have a white floral scent, because it is, after all, a flower. Second, it needs to have that sweetness to it that makes you want to taste it. And third, it should have a slightly herbal note to remind you of picking the flower right off of the stem.

I bought every perfume with honeysuckle in the name I could find with relative ease. I skipped the bottle of perfume that Anthropologie discontinued carrying because the price on eBay was triple the original price. And I didn’t buy anything where honeysuckle was just included as a note in the ingredients. Some of these are no longer being made, but I found them for decent prices on eBay. So, from worst to best, here are the honeysuckle perfumes I have tried and ranked.

11. Lollia Dream (White Tea and Honeysuckle) from Margot Elena. This was very powdery and reminded me of something my grandmother would have worn. I don’t know if she ever wore anything that wasn’t from the dime store. She used cornsilk powder and smelled like cornsilk powder. The teeny-tiny bottle I bought was $10, and did not include shipping. It smelled really cheap and I will never wear this. The honeysuckle fragrance does not come through.

10. Sparkling Honeysuckle from Mary Kay. It lists the scents as pear, mandarin, honeysuckle, freesia and iris. All of those things added together added up to gardenia to me. That’s all I could smell. The sprayer was good, though.

9. Sweet Honeysuckle by Perlier. This smelled very soapy and powdery to me. It had a bitter tinge, too. I didn’t get honeysuckle at all with this one.

8. Wild Honeysuckle by Bath & Body Works. The notes on this are jasmine, violet, honeydew and cassis. This had a very generic “perfume” smell to me. Not sure how better to describe it. None of the individual notes stand out. The overall effect is a sweet floral, without the sweetness of wanting to taste it.

7. Mediterranean Honeysuckle in Bloom by Aerin. The notes are honeysuckle, tuberose, honey and citrus. This smells pretty good when sprayed on a card, but when sprayed on myself, it didn’t smell good at all. It is the second perfume with tuberose in it that I’ve tried recently and I’m going to say that tuberose doesn’t work with my body chemistry. It smells sweet on the verge of rotten. Really unpleasant, and it also gives me a headache. Why did I rank it so high then? Because it smells good on paper and someone else might have better luck with it on their skin.

6. Green Tea & Honeysuckle by Elizabeth Arden. This is a very inexpensive perfume. The green tea is very strong and the honeysuckle not so much. But because it is cheap, it requires a big spray and it wears off very quickly. After like 30 minutes, I couldn’t smell it at all.

5. Honeysuckle by Caswell-Massey. This is from the New York Botanical Garden line. It smells very close to honeysuckle, but it is missing the note of nectar. It smells pretty, but you know it would taste terrible.

4. Fresh Honeysuckle by Fresh. The top note on this one is very fruity. Peach and black current. The fruitiness is juicy and delicious. That gives way to a honeysuckle and jasmine blend. The jasmine pushes it a little too far into the white floral category, but the top note is so delightful, I’ll put this on just for that.

3. Mediterranean Honeysuckle by Aerin. This is the perfume that started it all. It is a light citrus and I like it. But I do have to spray on a lot of it. And it makes me sneeze. I don’t know what in it makes me sneeze, but after ten minutes or so the sneezing stops. The honeysuckle is there, but very subtle.

2. Honeysuckle and Davana by Jo Malone of London. I don’t know what davana is, but here it gives the perfume an herbal quality. The davana helps provide the idea that the flowers grow on a green plant. The honeysuckle is subtle again. But I really like this perfume. It is not only a good daytime perfume, but something I like to put on at bedtime.

1. Honeysuckle by Demeter. This is amazing. It smells just like honeysuckle. No other way to say it. It delivers.


What I’m doing is wearing either my 2 or 3 pick perfume and adding the Demeter Honeysuckle to it. This pushes the honeysuckle to the front so I can really smell it, but adds dimension with the other notes from the perfumes. The blast of fresh honeysuckle makes me smile. It takes me back to my childhood, and I’m so glad I found the perfect scent to recreate the feeling.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Book Report - Foundation by Isaac Asimov

It is the future. People have spread out all across the universe and the Galactic Empire rules. No, this is not Star Wars. That’s set in the past.

 In the future, a science has developed which is akin to fortune telling. One man, Hari Seldon, is an expert in this science and he has seen the end of the Empire. He sets in motion an elaborate, century-spanning plan to build a better ruling outcome for the universe, hopefully sparing centuries of war and unrest in the process. The start of his plan it to be exiled to the farthest end of the universe with a group of intellectuals, under the pretense of writing the perfect, all-encompassing encyclopedia of everything ever. And to not tell them the rest of the plan. Hari Seldon has recorded holograms of himself which play at pre-determined times, when he has predicted a great conflict or crisis will have just been overcome. They provide the only clue if his vision of the future is happening as he predicted or not. (It is.)

 The whole book is like a game a chess. You know how in chess, before you make your move, you try to calculate all the other moves your opponent could make as a result? Yes. Boring and time consuming. And when done properly, not very surprising. (I’m not very good and chess and never really understood why it was fun. I have not watched the Queen’s Gambit yet.)

 Let me get this out of they way. I counted two female characters in the whole book. A secretary who got one or two lines of mention, and a Commdora. The Commdora got two whole scenes, maybe totaling four pages, but she was just there to be snippy. The rest of the time, any new character who gets introduced - no matter how unfamiliar their name - don’t worry! It’s a man.

 The story is told primarily through dialogue, which makes it not very interesting and difficult to follow at times. At the start of each chapter, a paragraph or two of set-up is presented and then the characters chat. And at the start of each section of the book (there are four), just go ahead and forget all the characters you were just getting to know. They are long dead and it is now dozens of years later. But don’t forget them completely. Their names might come up. But while you try to remember the names of characters who have disappeared and died, also learn the names of all the new characters in the new section of the novel. Names, names, names.

 None of the characters are fully developed. The action, predicted, but kept secret, by Hari Seldon, is not exciting. Things just work out. Wars don’t happen. And if it looks like a war is about to happen, turn the page and it is fifty years later and the first sentence makes it clear the war was, in fact, avoided. The story is all lining up dominoes, but the reader never gets the satisfaction of seeing them knocked down.

 It does have some interesting parallels to modern-day politics. Part of one successful war-avoiding tactic is to build a religion. They use missionaries to infiltrate surrounding worlds, or train priests on those worlds, and ultimately disable power supplies. It is hard to read how the religion is weaponized in Foundation and not see similarities to how Evangelical Christians and Republicans currently work together to push an agenda. It works until the missionaries and priests are no longer welcome on nearby worlds, because they have been revealed to be more loyal to their religion than anything else.

 If putting plans in motion, politics, discussions and a universe where women are virtually nonexistent sounds good to you, then you might like Foundation. It didn’t work for me.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick - Book Report

 In the near future, which ironically already happened, January 3, 2021, the world is a different place thanks to World War Terminus. Not a lot of details are given about the war, but it becomes clear that most life, not just human life, has been wiped out on Earth. Most people have left Earth and live on one of the colony planets, where androids (which are nearly indistinguishable from people) are used as slaves.

If you remained on Earth, you would be lucky if you aren’t affected by the radiation which has poisoned everything. Most people start to deteriorate mentally after too much exposure, and then become ineligible to travel to a colony. But some people just don’t want to go. Like the hero of the story, Rick Deckard.

The androids from the colonies are sentient enough to realize they are slaves, and to want better lives. Because of this, many of them travel to Earth illegally and attempt to blend in with the people. Rick’s job is to hunt these androids and kill them.

When he gets an assignment to hunt down the most advanced version of androids yet, he jumps at the opportunity. An opportunity he only gets because the original (better) bounty hunter has been hospitalized from his encounter with one of these androids. Rick desperately wants the extra money because owning a pet on Earth is now a status symbol, since most animals are dead. And Rick and his wife, Iran, didn’t manage to keep their pet sheep alive and have replaced it with an electric one. If the neighbors found out they were keeping an electric sheep, they would be humiliated. With the extra income from these bounties, Rick hopes to buy an ostrich, despite the exorbitant cost of $30,000.00.

Meanwhile, a man named J. R. Isidore lives outside of the city in the wastelands. The suburbs of the city are filled with abandoned buildings from the mass exodus of people from Earth. Isidore’s brain has started to decay. He lives alone in a high-rise apartment building and doesn’t have a pet. He works undercover for an electronic pet repair shop which is disguised as veterinary services, picking up malfunctioning animals. Unfortunately, he does pick up a real cat and mistakes it for a fake one, hastening its death. He becomes a refuge for one of the escaped androids, Pris, who moves into his building and eventually brings two other androids along.

Rick’s hunt brings him out into the country, crossing paths with Isidore. They each also have weird religious experiences with the Christ-like figure Mercer. Mercer seems to have been created to provide humans with one of the things the androids are incapable of - empathy. But it isn’t entirely clear if Rick’s and Isadore’s experiences with Mercer are real or imagined. Is Mercer real? Is he an actor? Is he an android?

The writing is brisk to the point of feeling like details are missing. I’m so used to fight scenes (in movies) being drawn out, lasting far too long for the people fighting to still be standing, that it was jarring to read a fight scene which started and concluded in just a couple of sentences. I had to go back and read a few paragraphs a second time to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I wasn’t. There wasn’t more. Like if someone was shot in the head, they were shot in the head and dead and the story moved on to the next thing immediately.

For serious animal lovers, you might want to stay away from this one. There aren’t many animals in it, and yet most of them do not have pleasant ends. The androids embody all of humanity’s negative aspects (greed, jealousy, anger and hostility) but they don’t have any of humanity’s positive emotions (empathy, love), so they don’t value life, human or animal, the same way as the humans remaining on Earth do.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a short, easy read. If you are looking for Blade Runner, you don’t get much of it here. Although it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Blade Runner, I don’t remember many of the main elements of the novel in the film. Was Rick married? Did he have an electronic pet sheep? Did he want to buy an ostrich and eventually buy a goat? Did Pris look identical to the other android Rachael because they were the same model? Did Rachael fully know she was an android? I don’t think any of these things were included in the movie. And I don’t think the whole religious, Sisyphus and Christ-like Mercer was in the movie at all.

I wasn’t reading it expecting it to be Blade Runner. I was reading it to read it. But it is impossible to read it and not compare it to the movie as you go along. If you are looking for Blade Runner, or if you love lush prose, then you should skip this one. But if you are curious, then I would recommend reading it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts! Song

 Finally got around to recording another song.  Not my finest piano play, but a silly song I thoroughly enjoy! Thanks to Katherine for indulging me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Spirograph-Inspired Bead Pendant

I made a new crafting video!

If you have things you want me to make tutorials for, let me know. I'm pretty good and figuring out how to make things.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Taking My Perfume Obsession to the Next Level

 I broke down and bought one of the special edition House of Sillage fragrances. Not the limited edition like Mickey Mouse. No. The uber special edition ones. I got Passion de L'Amour because Cherry Garden, the bottle I liked the best, was sold out. I had to go with not my first choice (Emerald Reign) or second choice (Cherry Garden), but my third choice. It is beautiful. In the video I call it a chameleon, but looking at it again, it might be a gecko. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Kathleen Thien - Eulogy

Here's the eulogy I gave at my mom's funeral (my sister helped me with the talking to get through it). She died on December 25, 2018. Yes, Christmas Day. Today, March 9, is her birthday.

Mom grew up on Minnesota Ave. in St. Louis, Missouri in the house her grandparents moved to after immigrating to the US. It was where her mother and aunts and uncles grew up, a five-room flat on the second story of a rickety old building, up the most dangerous staircases anyone would ever encounter. Five rooms, not five bedrooms. A kitchen, bathroom, living room- where Uncle Richard slept- a master bedroom and Mom’s bedroom.

As a child in St. Louis, Mom met Judy Hutchinson, beginning a friendship which spanned seventy years. It is a common theme in Mom’s life that once you became her close friend, you were her friend for life. It was a priority to her to keep in contact with the people who were important to her.

Mom graduated high school at 16 and her father, Grandpa Rome, gave her a choice - she could either move out or start paying rent. Mom decided to pay rent and she got a job at the Federal Reserve. There, she met Rosemary Pechan, who would also become a lifelong friend to not only her, but also to her husband and children once we came into the picture.

After the Federal Reserve, Mom got a job working for a psychiatrist, Dr. Fink. When Dr. Fink moved his practice to New York City, Mom went with him. While living in New York, Mom came back to St. Louis to attend her cousin’s wedding where she met her cousin’s future bride’s brother, George. George was in the military and stationed near Washington, D.C., so they began a not-too-long-distance relationship which eventually led to their marriage.

Dad moved to New York after he was discharged, where he taught school. But a job offer in San Antonio led them here. They moved to Esplanade where Mom met more friends she would have for the rest of her life -- Juanita Mena and the Bushnell family.

Mom was able to be a stay-at-home mom for the first thirteen years or so of my life. I remember her spending time in the kitchen on her arts and crafts. She went through a ceramics phase, getting a kiln in the garage. She also did tole painting, macramé, wreath-making and other crafts. She enrolled us in dance and music lessons starting at the age of four.

I remember hating ballet lessons so much, primarily because I had to wear tights. I would run and hide and Mom would have to chase me, holding me down and forcing the tights only my legs. I don’t think I ever managed to make us late for the classes, though, despite my best efforts.

Because of her own limited options growing up, she made it a priority that her daughters would not have the same limitations. College was mandatory, but she left it up to us what we wanted to study.

At the age of eight, after I saw the Muppet Movie, I told Mom I was moving to California to work in the movie industry. She never questioned that that was my future. It was up to me what I wanted to do with my life, and whatever support I needed, she would provide.

I think it was while I was in middle school that Mom had to go back to work to help prepare for the upcoming college tuitions. She started working at Frost Bank, downtown. She loved the job and made more lifelong friends there, like Cynthia Zunker. She also would eventually reach out to a mother of one of my friends, Mrs. Limaye, and build a friendship which proved invaluable.

She continued to work until she was eligible for retirement, but at several different banks, continuing the career path started at the Federal Reserve in St. Louis. Once her girls were out of college and established in their new, adopted cities, Mom and Dad started cruising regularly.

They have taken a few memorable cruises, including a trip to Egypt where the ship nearly capsized and a trip to the Caribbean where two people fell overboard and were successfully rescued. Despite these upsetting events, she wouldn’t dream of not traveling and cruising. She even took the same Egypt cruise a second time because the events of the first trip prevented making it all the way to Egypt.

On one of the Egypt cruises, Mom met Vicki Tempongko who she would add to her arsenal of friends, visiting her each time she came to California.

After Dad died, Mom slowed down her traveling. She took up quilting and filled her days at the kitchen table, cutting up fabric and stitching it back together.

No matter how many people get up to share their stories here today, or who share their stories more intimately at the reception afterward, we know there will be a common thread. Mom was loving, kind and generous. She took on the role of mother for many of our friends and everyone in this room has had their lives improved for knowing her.