This was first posted in Perfume Smellin Things! Photographs are not mine, but the true sources are unknown.
I've been meaning to write this for several weeks now, but the truth is that I've been too busy in my garden! The summers intense heat has required me to water constantly, but we've had a bit of rain this week so I'm taking a moment to really enjoy some quiet time and to reflect upon the last few months. Many of you know that in January I began a year long certification program with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York, which will be complete in Midwinter 2013 which I am loving. I thought that would be enough to keep me occupied for a while, but since my father died I feel an urgency to get to it...to grow all of the seeds that were planted in my heart so many years ago. So I'm about 20 days from finishing up my Reiki Masters level training and in a month or two will be embarking on a three year journey to become a Community Herbalist. Oh and did I mention that in a few months I will be certified to teach David Wolfes theories of Raw Food and Longevity? Phew...I am studying all of the time right now and it really feels good! Right now, this monastic life suits me...I'm a bit like a cloistered monk with gorgeous gardens full of healing plants, ripening raspberries and plenty of cats....The life I've always wanted!
I must say that It is facinating to be reinventing myself at this late date but I seem to have no choice in the matter! I'm exploring possibilities for this next part of my life that I've never even considered….like a new career with my husband combining everything I/we love…life coaching, healing work, organic food, sustainable living, herbalism, social media and beautiful living and entertaining….I don't know what this looks like, perhaps it would be clearer to say that I've already started to plant this particular hedgerow, but not ever really fertilized the soil so that they could grow!
For me, the healing work has always been something that I came to reluctantly, although from the time that I was very young I showed real talent for it. I almost started a blog once called The Reluctant Healer, but I didn't..that's how reluctant I've been! Hence this new category of The WIndesphere Witch! For some reason in this part of my life (I'm 52) it feels really appropriate to finally let the genie out of the bottle…..I don't care anymore what others think and that's a true blessing. I've learned that you can't ignore yourself forever without losing a huge chunk of your soul….When my dad died recently, being a part of his process brought it back to me. I can't , nor do I wish to turn back the clock simply because of what anyone might think or say about me. I've been a happy little good witch since I was a little kid and although I laughingly have acknowledged it, I've never fully embraced it. I'm ready to have the full out crystal filled,wand waving, spell casting magical life that I always dreamed was possible..that I've kept hidden in the closet because of my "social standing" and what others might think…… truth is, I've never really been able to hide it..people always knew....I guess I'm just ready to enjoy it. So what about you? Are any of you feeling a push to recreate your life and what steps are you taking to do it?
Today I’m thinking about my mother, who died three years ago but is still very present in almost everything I do. I hear her voice when I’m cooking and can’t find the right spices and I cook her specialties regularly. I totally miss her mashed potatoes, a secret that she took with her to the great test kitchen in the sky. She was a really great cook , nothing fancy, just simply gorgeous food and she WAS the Barefoot Contessa long before Ina Garten even thought about picking up a chefs knife. She could throw a party for 50 without a fuss with 24 hours notice. My mom was a working woman but it was her way to have dinner every night at the dinner table, with candles, wine and cloth napkins. By the way did you know that if you want to use cloth napkins but dread ironing them that all you need is a brick? This was one of my mothers best tricks…she kept a brick right by her dryer and when the napkins came out she’d fold them while still warm, stack them and then place the brick on top leaving her with perfectly pressed, ready to use napkins at anytime!
My mother is the reason that I can cook and I loved watching her in the kitchen. She could throw a dinner party on a moments notice because she was always prepared to entertain. She had one part of her freezer and pantry stocked especially for such occasions and always kept her bar ready for drop- in guests. I still do too because you never know who’s coming through the door and for me just like my mother before me, Food= Love. She taught me that entertaining well didn’t have to do with how grand a spread you put out, but everything to do with how welcome you make your guests feel. A wedge of runny Brie with some crackers and a tin of smoked oysters and a bowl of camponata were her staples, she always had them around as well as a loaf of thin white Pepperidge Farm tea sandwich bread. A simple tomato bisque, usually from a can, enriched with a touch of cream, flavored with sherry and served in her mothers demitasse cups, became another great conversation starter. When you have an entire roomful of people who don't really know each other well, talking about the different cup patterns really does work as an ice breaker!
She also always kept a bag of frozen shrimp which she could thaw in an instant. Take those shrimp, mix them up with about 1/2 a cup of Hellmans mayonnaise and a 1/2 a cup of sour cream, add about 5 tablespoons of chopped fresh chives and season with cayenne, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir and serve with little forks or toothpicks and buttered toast points. Those 5 things, arranged graciously and set on her coffee table with pretty little plates a good bottle of wine or champagne and a vase of flowers were simple, delicious and satisfying. If you don’t have flowers, walk out into the garden , scoop up a few posies that you’ve planted dirt and all and repot them in some pretty tea cups. I promise that they’ll never notice that they’ve been gone for the short time that you’ll have them inside! When I’m teaching people to plan simple parties I always encourage them to have a signature cocktail that they can throw together at the drop of a hat. Mine is a delicious mixture of things that I always have around, lemon soda, Crème de violette (this is succulent heady stuff all you perfumistas!), limoncello, citron vodka, peach bitters and blackberries, fresh when in season, frozen when not! Just take a tall glass, fill with ice and a few of the blackberries. Then pour a jigger of citron vodka into it, and a tablespoon each of the crème de violette and limoncello. Top off with the lemon soda, a dash of the blood orange bitters and garnish with some fresh thai basil. That’s all! A signature drink that you can whip up in an instant kicks off the conversation on a surprise evening beautifully!
I guess that I’m saying all of this because to me it’s more important with whom you’re eating than what you’re eating and I want you to always feel comfortable having people in your home and enjoying their company. My mother had tricks that made it easy to entertain well and she was always prepared to use them. I think that we miss a lot of opportunities for relatedness because we’re so concerned more with what it looks like instead of simply just enjoying ourselves and life’s just too short. The world is spinning faster than ever before and now more than ever we need to sit down , break some bread together, drink some good wine and really talk about what matters. Don’t be intimidated, just try it! Trader Joe's is a great source for appetizers that you can keep in your freezer and serve at a moments notice. Go to TJ Maxx and get a few good glasses, some pretty little plates and some napkins. Keep it all in a special place and don’t touch it except for occasions like these. You’ll thank me, I promise.
Happy Mothers Day to you wherever you are and whomever your with. All of us are mothers to something or someone. If you’ve ever given birth to a great idea, or a project you’re a mother. If you’re gay and you have a child , you’re a mother. If you’ve got a dog, cat or even a chicken you’re a mother. You don’t need a uterus to be celebrated today, just a whole lot of love.
I love you all and hope that you have a wonderful Mothers Day! How are you going to celebrate it? Send me your signature cocktail recipe in the comments and I'll choose my favorite and send the lucky winner a bottle of my favorite blood orange bitters!
This post originally appeared today on my favorite perfume blog Perfume Smellin Things!
Photo of Crème De Violette from www.thekitchn.com Photo of Camponata from www.wellonwheels.blogspot.com
Photo of Family from source unknown
Over the years I have discovered several things that I return to over and over again because they work so very well that I always have them as part of my healing arsenal. French Green Clay is one of those things. I learned about the healing properties of clay originally when I was a very young girl. I had horse trainers from England and Ireland who swore by the old ways , eschewing newer synthesized medicines for the herbal and natural remedies that they brought with them from their countries. One of my trainers taught me that clay makes the loveliest poultice for a horse with any sort of muscular strain because it's so absorbent...I love to mix it with warm water, a bit of olive oil and some essential oils of birch and lavender. I just pat it when its warm onto the tendons, wrap it up under a bit of saran wrap, top that with a layer of vet wrap and then let it do its magic for a few hours. Rinse off and voila....You've got a firm leg again without any trace of edema and a very happy horse! Here in Ohio we have generous deposits of blue clay and when I had my horses at a barn where they allowed it I would line the floor of their stalls with about 9 inches of it before bedding them in fresh straw. Their feet always stayed healthy and I didn't have the sort of lameness that can occur when horse stands on a floor of concrete. The clay absorbed everything and every other year I'd dig the stall out and replace it, backbreaking work but completely worth it. Hoof problems were non-existent and the smell was so much better!
One of my favorite places to be in the world is in Western North Carolina up in the Blue Ridge mountains.The are many wonderful stream and waterfalls that run through that part of the world and it's also well known for rich deposits of sapphire and other semi precious gemstones, even the occasional diamond and veins of gold. This clay is mineral rich and flecked with mica and I love to spend hours there with my feet soaking in the warm mud. Clay of any sort makes a fabulous drawing salve , but French green clay in particular seems to have a magical quality to it that is subtle yet strong. I have literally brought animals (and a occasional friend !) back from the dead with it. The French drink it in their juice routinely as a tonic to purify the system and draw parasites from the deepest recesses of the colon. I discovered it's ability to draw poison one night long ago when one of my dogs came in from outside and was dragging his hind end. Upon further inspection I saw that his tongue was blackened and he was panting heavily, pretty sure signs of poisoning in a dog. Because this was well in the day before emergency pet clinics, I had to think fast because he was slipping. I mixed up a loose soup of chicken broth, a few grains of white rice and some of my precious green clay and began to slowly spoon it down his throat. Slowly but surely the clay worked it's magic and by morning a trip to the vet wasn't even necessary. Last summer when a friend of mine was very ill and suffering from terrible lupus like symptoms, I started her on a course of French clay which she mixed with her juice. It took about a month but she continued drinking it for several weeks and when I next saw her the Rosacea was almost gone and she reported a substantial reduction in inflammation.
Whenever I have a stomach pains from my IBS or a bit of nausea I mix a teaspoon of French green clay with some spring water, raw honey and freshly minced ginger and I always feel better in no time! For a springtime (or anytime) cleanse I have a son who is allergic to bees and when he would get stung often I'd make a poultice of vinegar and green clay to neutralize the venom. It never replaced the trip to the emergency room , but often when we'd get there the clay had already worked it's magic and drawn out most of the venom and reduced the swelling. For a beauty mask there's nothing better than a couple of tablespoons of clay mixed with a bit of almond or coconut milk and a little bit of hydrogenated coconut oil.The clay powerfully absorbs dirt and oil as well as the bacteria and other toxins that can make our skin dull and listless. Mix into a soft loose paste and apply to a freshly washed face for about 15 minutes or until fairly dry. You'll notice a soft drawing sensation and when you rinse it off with cool water you'll notice that your skin will be smooth and feel really refreshed. Then rub a bit of olive oil between your hands until it's warm and then work it into your skin. This is really nice to do right before you go to bed especially if you combine it with a warm bath. You can turn it into a facial scrub by substituting raw sugar for the almond milk and adding more oil...it's super soothing and really effective.
French green clay and many others can be purchased online but I do think that this is one of the best sources of infomation that I've found as well as Mountain Rose Herbs which you will love. I urge you to try some green clay, both internally and externally. Don't be squeamish because you'll barely taste it or notice any grittiness. It's funny to think about because it's dirt, but French Green Clay is something that my body perceives as food, unlike synthesized supplements that barely resemble the plants they came from. Make it a part of your weekly or daily regimen and your body will thank you with glowing skin, fuller hair and nails and a brighter disposition. At the very (my dogs will tell you!) least it should always be in your medicine cabinet for emergencies. I love it for those at home spa weekends when you just need a bit of something extra and so will you!
Check out these excellent articles:
Photograph of Blue Clay from : http://nineappletrees.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/blue-clay-blues/
Photograph of French Green Clay poultice from: http://shimfarm.blogspot.com/2011/06/benefits-of-green-clay.html
Because I spent so many years in a town whose primary industries were maple sugar, apple butter and sweet corn when it comes to syrup season I'm a serious sap! Indeed, Burton Ohio and the surrounding territories make a big deal out of sugar season and I used to love to wake up to the smell of the woodfires burning in the sugar cabin on the square and the sweet smells that always hung in the air in the months of February and march when the sap would begin to run. Maple syrup is one of natures most perfect sweeteners and always amazes me with it's simplicity. It's a perfect example of food alchemy, take gallons of maple sap, pour them into a condenser, boil them for quite few hours and suddenly you've got golden ,sweet, perfect dense rich ambery maple syrup.
Research has discovered what those of us who are addicted to it have known for years. They've finally labeled it a superfood and for good reasons. Maple syrup has some pretty serious anti -inflammatory and antioxident properties and is high in zinc making it a fabulous slow food tonic for your immune system! For years I've used it as part of my master cleanser which is a delicious lemonade of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and a bit of olive oil. It's a wonderful pickmeup for a system that's sluggish for eating so much heavy winter food!
They've also discovered that maple syrup could be very useful in the fight to stabilize blood sugar, making it a boon for diabetics. I don't know about you but I'd always take a tablespoon full of maple syrup in my coffee over a teaspoon of splenda anyday! It's the one treat that I can give my horse and pony both who have Cushings disease, because it doesn't cause an infammatory response in their bodies, unlike other commercial horse snacks. One maple sugar leaf is a huge treat for them and I notice that after that they're satisfied unlike when I give them a premade treat. It would seem that empty calories do the same thing in all creatures, by giving us a taste that we crave but no depth to the experience. Give me one perfect chunk of maple cream anyday over a candy bar. It's practically a religious experience for meespecially when it's laced with black walnuts!
When we moved from Windesphere, I knew that I would miss experiencing the annual sap run so I do go back every year. However this year I was to get a surprise! I walked out of my house the other day to find that one of my wonderful neighbors had hung sap buckets on all of the maple trees on the street. Now I live on a little brick street in the middle of a fairly busy city so this was definitely a sight that was out of the ordinary. I stood there with tears running down my face, I seriously did. There was something so touching to me about creating this perfect food wherever you could find it and not relegating it to a certain place . I called him immediately..."Phil, you hung sap buckets!". "Yep" he said...I thought that it would be fun to do with the kids. My street has tons of little kids who were about to learn something very important,that you can farm wherever there's land, that you can take the power into your own hands and control your food sources yourself. I thanked him and he promised me a taste of the syrup if he got enough.
Three days later I came home to find my husband grinning from ear to ear. "You just missed Phil and the kids" he said, but there's a present in the refrigerator for you. I opened it up to find a little container of Haagen Dazs ice cream and an adorable little mapleleaf shaped bottle of syrup. I was astonished. More tears and then such an intense joy came over me. I ran down to their house to get a picture of my pals Frances and Griffin with their syrup and of course Phil was eager to tell me all about it. "I was up until three am...I really got to know it, how the sap would boil down and I could tell by the way that it looked if I was close. This batch is too thin, but now I know what to do with the next. Next I'm making cheese. Did I tell you that I love this guy? It just doesn't get much better than that! The syrup is amazing, with a taste that is so fresh and wild and infused with an extra ingredient called love. My first plantings this spring will be sugar maples and maybe some birch trees too. I've got a goal to fill up the whole street with trees so that we can have buckets in front of every house. How amazing would that be?
I use maple syrup for all kinds of things...mixed with bourbon, teriyaki and a bit of olive oil, it becomes a perfect marinade and glaze for fresh fish or chicken. That same marinade with a touch of lemon juice and a wee bit of mustard and fresh garlic makes a perfect salad dressing! Try it baked on a wedge of fresh brie cheese with handfuls of buttery cinnamon toasted walnuts. A bit in my coffee with a touch cardamom and cream is a perfect winters drink, to say nothing of a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup, bourbon and a bit of lemon juices shaken over ice and poured into a cocktail glass. A little known fact is that maple sap over ice with a little bit of lemon juice and agave nectar is one of the healthiest things that you can drink, full of vitamins, minerlas, natural sugars and electrolytes, it's the perfect apre' sports drink and of course who could forget the time honored tradition of maple syrup on snow or hot maple stirs, that simple gift of booiled mple syrup in a bowl with a wooden spoon. You simply stir it quickly until it becomes maple cream....I lived for that treat every year as a child and I can tell you that life doesn't get any better,sweeter or richer than that!
All pictures are mine with the exception of the maple sugar owl which is from the website Pieces of Vermont.
Today after watching Dr. Oz, I sent this out to my neighborhood,
Usually one of the annoyances of working from home is the background TV. However this morning I was listening to Dr. Oz while I was writing who was doing a very compelling show addressing hunger in this country. Turns out that for the price of my large morning latte' and a bagel (5.00 ) I can feed a child for a day and hunger in America is reaching huge proportions. The stories featured were of middle class families who are falling through the cracks and it was pretty tough to watch when I realize that I:
- Throw out way more food than I should
- Drink way more latte's than I need
- This problem is as large as all of us.
- Hunger in America is probably affecting someone that you or I know right now.
- I may not be able to fix climate change or make our Congress work together…..but our citizens are struggling and I could do something about that.
- 1825.00 can feed one child for a year.
- Bitch if I can't afford my expensive perfume habit for a month.
So I was wondering. This is the most generous neighborhood that I've ever lived in. Would anyone want to donate money or canned goods somewhere? The normal give a family a Christmas is nice, but I'd like to do something a bit more that could affect a larger percentage. I'm entirely open to suggestions though. If no one wants to I'm fine with that too . I will be happy to drop off whatever we decide to do wherever we decide to do it!
Please let me know what you think and we'll get the ball rolling and please add anyone to this list that I may have missed.
So far, I've received replies from 7 families willing to donate as well as my 24 year old son. I am feeling pretty damn great. Truth be told, I wasn't really paying attention to hunger until this morning. I'm a cook and I write about food, so there's fortunately plenty of that in my refrigerator, including all of the latest ingredients to play with. ONE of the families that was interviewed by Dr. Oz's team was a lovely middle class family with 4 kids, completely down on their luck. They simply don't have enough to eat. Their food benefits have run out for the time being and they are struggling here in America where there is so much abundance. I can't deal with that. I will never forget the site of this mother opening her trash can to find that someone had thrown out three stalks of celery, picking them out and rewashing them so she could use them . I throw out enough food on a weekly basis to feed that family and I am ashamed of that. My cats eat better daily than her kids do. I'm not inclined to bash myself for what I have, but this made me really sit up and pay attention. And I'm compelled to do something about it.
Dr. Oz showed that for 5.00 dollars a day a child could be fed in this country. Pocket change. One Starbucks not even so good for you latte' and a cookie.
One little known story in my family's history is that my mother was born into a very wealthy family in Champaign Illinois. During the depression, the banker ran off with everyones money and turned it into a ghost town. My mother and her family had to go live in Shaker Heights with her grandmother, who was very well to do, but quite patrician. My mother who was self admittedly a bit of a princess was completely horrified. Not enough help (she was used to a huge staff) and she had to go to a fancy all girls school. It's my understanding that she moped and pouted until one day my great grandma grabbed her and took her down to the soup kitchens . "Barbara, you are going to work down here everyday after school so that you can see how people who really have nothing live. I've had quite enough!" As my mom tells it, that experience changed her life. She became a rabid activist almost immediately after that and spent the rest of her life fighting for social justice. She made sure that we did too.
If my mother were alive today, I know what she'd be doing. She'd be feeding everyone, just like she did back then, working to make sure that our government safety net programs stayed intact and railing against people like the newscaster in the clip above who just don't seem to understand how big this problem really is. The extreme right wing forces would be calling her a socialist and she'd smile, my very Patrician mother with her diamonds,pearls and platinum and say "Of Course I am....and I'm proud to be if that's what it means if someone takes care of their fellow man."
I am not a Christian but I do believe in the words "What you do for the least of them , you do for me". What I want to know is why our country is currently so fixated upon not doing. It just feels so very sad, but we CAN do something about it!
Here's the link Share our Strength
If you feel so moved to start a neighborhood food drive of your own, let them know by tweeting to #DrOzHunger. Let me know too. Work at a foodbank, cook at a homeless shelter, expose childhood hunger for what it is...a senseless crime against our future.
This was originally printed in my favorite Perfume Blog
Of all of the meals that I cook every year, the Thanksgiving meal is truly my favorite. There's just something so incredibly abundant and homey about it, the smells are so appetizing and the mood so sincere. The meal itself was traditionally my mothers domain and she really enjoyed cooking it, setting about in her lovely kitchen early in the morning making apple and pumpkin pies, pumpkin cheesecakes and stuffing. I'd wander in early to find her chopping apples sautéing onions in butter with a glass of sherry by her side. My mother was a fabulous cook, but this was the meal that she loved cooking the most all year. The one and only time that I prepared it when she was alive she was furious. I was trying to do her a favor but she was unbelievably frustrated the entire evening and I swore that I would never do it again. Finally the onlything that I could for her do was brine the turkey, because even she allowed that it made the bird taste better.
My mother always made the holiday wonderful, full of wine, laughter and family. Her table was always beautifully set with brass candlesticks and a abundantly filled cornucopia. She always used her favorite Coalport dishes, a lovely rust colored pattern called Indian Tree Coral, her Baccarat crystal and all of her Grandmothers sterling. There were always plenty of extra plates waiting on the sideboard for all of Alex's friends who would start coming in after they'd finished their family dinners and we'd sit around the table for hours eating, drinking and discussing politics , music and current events. There is a cassette tape somewhere of the "Dance of the sugar plum fairies " played by the entire Schreibman family & friends on those same wine glasses. Mom was pretty cool...she let us fill her precious crystal to the levels needed to create all of the different scales and then we used her knives as mallets to play the notes. We laughed for hours and practiced, finally getting it right. There was always too much food and she made sure that there were plenty of tin foil plates so that everyone could take home leftovers, a tradition that I love to continue to this day!
When she died several years ago I found myself faced with the daunting task of carrying on the tradition for my family and I spent the entire day preparing the meal. It was a tough day though, Alex was in Central America learning to be a dive master and he wouldn't be home until right before Christmas. I went through all of the motions , stuffed the turkey, mashed the potatoes and set the table. We picked up my father from the nursing home and just as we were about to sit down the doorbell rang. Thinking that it was my friend Bethane and her husband Ijust punched the buzzer and went back to work on the gravy. We lived in a penthouse at the time at the end of a very long hallway. I walked to the door, flung it open and burst into tears as I saw Alex's best friends Chris and Josh coming down the hall. " Did you think that because Alex wasn't here that we were going to miss the fun?" "We told him we'd take care of you!".
What a great dinner that was! We ate until we burst, drank an entire bottle of expensive Rye and went at midnight to the uniquely strange and thoroughly American experience of Black Friday shopping at the mall. Alex called earlier that evening, thrilled that we were all sharing each others company and having such a great time. I've cooked many a Thanksgiving meal since then and I don't deviate too much from my mother’s recipes. I make her mashed potatoes (3 sticks of butter) and her pumpkin pie and this year because I have a strange and sudden craving for them, her decadent , buttery scalloped oysters. I brine my turkey the night before, and stuff herbs and butter under the skin and roast and baste it generously for hours.
It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks and last year I learned a secret that's improved the flavor and texture of my turkey and turned my stuffing into the "stuff" of legends! I don't know about you, but the dressing is my favorite part of the meal , well that and the creamy garlic spinach! I always cook it in the bird and it's always delicious but never fluffy enough. I went to a friends house for an early Thanksgiving meal and her stuffing wasremarkable. I went through my mental checklist of ingredients and found all of the usual suspects. So I asked her what made the difference and what she told me was truly surprising! The secret ingredient? Shredded mozzarella cheese,about 5 cups of it! Nothing fancy, just the basic Kraft variety. So I tried it. I made the stuffing and while it was still warm stirred in the cheese and stuff the turkey. The result was superb, moist, fluffy and flavorful, just the way that you want it to be. There was also an oozy meltingly quality to it that was a perfect foil for the turkey. My friend surges me that it works with any stuffing recipe, but if you want to try mine here goes. I’m giving you only the ingredients here, not the proportions because everyone likes it made just alittle bit differently.
Diced Butternut squash
Cornbread stuffing cubes
Chopped , COOKED and drained sage and onion sausage
Onions and celery sautéed in butter
Plenty of fresh sage, parsley, rosemary and thyme
A touch of cayenne
Cidre' ( French hard cider)
Choose your proportions and mix. Be sure to stuff the cavity of the bird loosely, because the dressing will expand.
So what are your favorite recipes for the holidays? Traditions? Memories?
One of my families favorite Thanksgiving traditions is that that while we are eating we each share something that we are especially thankful for. I hope that all of you know that I am always thankful for all of you. Your love and support of me make "Foodie Sunday" not a job but something that I look forward to sharing with you every other week. I count all of you as my family too..and that makes me a very wealthy woman. Wherever you are this Thanksgiving please know that in my mind you're all sitting around my table.
For the last month I have been swept up in Venetian visions and pre-raphaelite fantasies, dreaming night after night of a beautiful woman whose angelic face hides a sad and terrifying secret. She is the vampiress Clarimonde, the haunting protagonist of the short story written by Theodore Gaultier. Clarimonde is the beautiful golden haired , green eyed 18th century undead courtesan who tragically falls in love with a young priest named Romuald who is on the very threshold of taking his vows, a promise that locks him forever into the biblical struggle between good and evil, right , wrong … and his own personal Heaven and Hell.
The story begins when Clarimonde comes to Romuald on the eve of his ordination, promising to make him happier than he would ever be in Paradise if only he would leave the priesthood for her. Although Romuald takes his vows he becomes romantically obsessed with the beautiful woman and when her page hands him a calling card that is engraved with the words “Clarimonde , Palace Concini” , he immediately regrets his decision to commit to the priesthood. Shortly afterwards , Romuald becomes the priest of a countryside parish where he continues his studies, yet pines over his lost opportunity to create a worldly life with the beautiful Clarimonde. It isn’t long though before a young steward comes to him in the middle of the night, begging for his assistance in saving the life of the mistress who employs him. Romuald arrives at the palace too late and discovers in his dismay that it is the dead Clarimonde upon whose lovely face he gazes and in his sorrow falls to his knees, kissing her passionately upon the lips, bringing her back to life while falling madly in love with her beautiful spirit and glittering decadent world.
From that moment on his life becomes complicated; Romuald and Clarimonde travel to Venice where he lives as a priest by day and a Seignior by night, enjoying the love of his beautiful Clarimonde , as well as pleasures of the flesh which he had never known could exist. The day arrives though when he discovers that she has been giving him a sleeping draught all along , so that she could drink one drop of his blood each night. Eventually Romuald becomes so tortured by his double life that he tells his mentor, an older priest name Serapion his story. The older priest takes him to the cemetery and opens her tomb , where Romuald discovers her resting peacefully , glowing with life from the gift of his blood. The priest, driven to destroy what he cannot understand , pours holy water upon the sleeping Clarimonde who instantly disintigrates into ashes and dust. She comes to Romuald one last time in a vision, asking why he has destroyed the bond between them, sadly reminding him that she had asked for almost nothing in exchange for the love and beauty that she’d brought to his very existence.
I must admit right now that I hated the end of the story. I wished that Clarimonde had been able to choose a man that could value her for her true self without guilt , a man who could take what she offered him passionately and return it back to her without fear…..a man who could have honestly CHOSEN her. I have lived with one who was so scared of my femaleness that he sought to destroy my very essence through his violence, he could not CHOOSE me so he sought to destroy me. I think that every woman experiences a love like that once and perhaps that is why we all have related so strongly to her story. We are familiar with our blood, we know it’s taste and smell. We have bitten our lips many times in sorrow as we bandage our children, quiet our tongues or bury our dead. We know what it means to choose life, to choose to open ourselves up to love even though it may destroy us. We need men who are fearless in the face of our passions and our frailties. It saddens me that Romauld and Clarimonde lived in a time when she couldn’t be honest with him about who she was and because it was a time when women were by their very natures suspect, it would have impossible for her to have been honest with him, she who held such a deep and forbidden secret. I have always thought that within the bonds of secular religion live the very intolerances that destroy any real possibility for love to grow. I would have liked him more if he hadn’t chosen to have been such a spineless martyr , betraying her in the end to preserve his façade, his piousness. In the end he willingly took everything from her yet clearly didn’t trust what she offered him, choosing to destroy her instead of just allowing her to be , to choose another who could truly love her. I was saddened that she felt that she couldn't be honest with him and wondered what their possibilities would have been if she'd been able to ask for his passion outright. Women know that their lives are inextricably intertwined with natural cycles of life and death. We stare headfirst into the chasm of the unknown to turn our bodies inside out, riding the painful waves of childbirth , thinking that for sure we are dying until the very moment when life emerges at the bitter end of the spiral. We are not afraid of that which we do not quite understand nor do not seek to destroy the essence of the experience. We would gladly spill our blood for our passions and are left emotionally battered and violently scarred when we find out that the object of our affections was simply not willing to do the same but sometimes as it was with Clarimonde we feel that we are not worthy of asking for our hearts deepest wishes.
I had never read the story of Clarimonde until my friend and fellow blogger Lucy Raubertas proposed to several of us that we might discover and create a perfumed project around it. She started a secret page for us and very quickly we began to breath life into her vision. The Clarimonde Project is a scented collaboration that began with about 11 of us but it quickly blossomed into so much more. From the start I knew that this was going to be an extraordinary project and for weeks I have lived immersed in a world of 18th century art , music and literature , waiting for the moment when I could claim Clarimonde as my own. I read hungrily as extraordinary perfumers like Mandy Aftel, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz , Monica Miller, Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl and Ayala Moriel began to describe the scents that they were blending for this project and it wasn’t long before I felt the compelling need to create something of my own. I became obsessed with the idea of scenting a pair of gloves. I looked for days for just the right pair andeventually I found them…a pair of vintage French kid gloves, embroidered and in perfect condition. It took a month for them to arrive, but they are beautiful, worth every penny and the eternally long wait. Armed with a wonderful article by Jeanne Rose about scenting leather I began to work. Leather and I are not strangers as I’ve spent many a moment caressing and cleaning my saddles and bridles. But the softness of the kid demanded a different respect, so I made a simple solid perfume of beeswax and jojoba which I scented with chocolate, rose, a bit of oud that I had, some sandalwood and cinnamon. I rubbed the creamy mixture all over my hands until they were very warm and took a sniff. Delicious yes, but something was missing. I went over to the beautiful parcels that had arrived and took out the precious vials. Slowly the scent began to take shape as I rubbed drops of each delicious perfume into my hands. 5 wonderful perfumes, each of them so very different and yet they blended so well together. I took another deep breath and was stunned by the sheer beauty of them all, It was as if I could smell the essence of each yet blended together it was the most potent mixture of scent that I’ve ever smelled, beautiful, sexual and feral. It was as if we’d all been dreaming the same dream, yet each of us had brought back a different piece of her soul.
It was the scent of Clarimonde and it permeated my senses, filling me with an odd mixture of joy and passion tinged with a touch of regret. It was amazing to realize that we had ventured into unknown depths to bring her most intimate secrets into the light.
I plunged my hands into the gloves and after what seemed like an eternity I removed my hands to find that they were not greasy at all, the fine kid had absorbed all of the oil and sweet perfume. I folded several pieces of tissue that I’d scented with the mixture and placed them into the palms of the gloves, wrapped more tissue around them and buried them for several days in a pile of warm autumn leaves. When next I saw them they were infused with not only the scent of all of that lovely perfume but the golden warmth of the leaves that they’d been resting in. They were lovely to begin with, delicate and soft with age but they are even more beautiful now. They glow with the luscious scent but there is something else, an aura of love and loss, to me they smell of redemption and rebirth. The bitter ending of this story finds Romuald torn with regret, warning his readers never to look at a woman because most assuredly they will meet the same fate as he. It can’t help but be obvious that his real regret is that he lacked the courage to choose love over fear, to embrace passion instead of destruction, hope over resignation.
All over one tiny drop of blood.
The image that you see above is my tribute to her, an altar outside in my little herb garden that I have dedicated to Clarimonde and these scented gloves are my offering. Instead of being reviled she is worshipped, an 18th century Goddess of incomparable darkness and unfathomable light who was betrayed by the one that she loved , reduced to tricking him for the scraps of his passion that he could never openly offer her , the sadness being that she generously and openly offered him so much. She has become my muse and in my ending, Romauld lovingly collected the ashes from her tomb and took them to a secret place where he built a shrine to the beautiful woman that he loved and kept her safe from harm. I can imagine no other.
To Mandy, Monica, Dawn, Maria and Ayala I am grateful, the scents, balms and precious gifts that you have each created are beautiful beyond description, elegant and provocative. I have been thrilled to be a part of this project. Warning. These beautiful perfumes are not for the faint of heart, nor are they for one who is not ready to be blown wide open to passion. Each of these lovely scents manages to grasp the past, the present and the knowledge that no matter how much we wish it, that we cannot, must not live forever, that life by it’s very nature is fleeting and impermanent. Everyone of these perfumes begs the wearer to live in the moment, each perfumer has interpreted the story of Clarimonde in her own way. Sleep one night on Ayala Moriels exquisitely scented dream pillow and you’ll know what I mean. The beautiful lip stains in shades of purple and blood red created by Monica Miller are sumptuous and sexy leaving my lips feeling as if they’d just been delightfully bitten. I am in awe of these perfumers and their abundant creativity. I have been blessed by their generosity and love receiving the packages that they have obviously crafted with such care more than they will ever know. Artists all of them, they are in it for the dream of creating something that is lasting and beautiful, perfumes that transcend time and space and provide the lucky wearer with a whole range of individual emotion. In this day and age of mass marketed mystique, that means everything to someone like me. Try every one of these wonderful fragrances and discover for yourself. They are all truly individual, inspired and wonderful.
Oud Luban is a wonderful perfume, rich and smoky and with an overtone of Frankincense fairly oozes a lovely tension, a delightful struggle between duty and passion. In this perfume passion clearly wins because the incense that she has layered between all of magnificent resins fairly scream of exotic opium dens and sensual thoughts. There is something balsam like as well, a tinge of sweetness , a hint of citrus , sweat and leather. The smoky choya lends a complex fairly religious austere emotion to the scent. Oud Luban is a perfect solid perfume, elegant and raw, yet sensual and buttery. Oud Luban is dirty and I mean that in the very best way because it grounds and relaxes me. It’s a scent to wear when you’re completely naked because it loves sweat and skin much like a perfect caramel tastes even better with a bit of sea salt and chocolate. It layers beautifully with florals and gives them an unworldly depth. I think that Oud Luban is fascinating because It’s a little bit conflicted, yet very complete which makes it all the more delicious and provocative to a girl like me. The yearning…the torment…..the inappropriateness of it all…..bring it on…..I love it! I’m one of those peculiar (maybe not so!) ladies who finds her passions completely aroused when she’s in the least appropriate of places so anything that smells remotely monastic is a delightful temptation for me, an audacious invitation to misbehave. Thanks to Mandy for giving me the perfect excuse……
When I opened the parcel that I received from Ayala I was transfixed even before I saw its contents. I didn’t need to see what was inside, I could tell simply by the scent wafting from the envelope that I’d received an extraordinary gift and that I was going to enjoy it very much. Inside was beautifully handmade dream pillow, of creamy silk with a single precious garnet sewn into its folds that I am sure symbolizes the one drop of blood that she needed to survive . A dream pillow is a beautifully simple thing, a precious little parcel that’s been filled with herbs designed to enhance the experience of sleep or in Romaulds case something that he would have filled with herbs from the monastery gardens to banish his impure thoughts of Clarimonde. Ayala’s interpretation of the scent is very pretty and has an absolutely ethereal quality that is disarming, because the fragrance is very sexy. The beautiful pillow itself is filled with relaxing herbs and flowers such as valerian and lavender that by their very nature should easily promote an easy restful sleep, but Ayala has also perfumed it with her beautiful “Clarimonde” , which is sumptuous , exotic and twisted with a heavenly wisp of violet that windsthough her gorgeously spicy oriental/floral blend and gives this perfume its very otherworldly and deeply spiritual quality. My husband described it as remarkably beautiful and I agree. My dreams have been exquisite and happily filled with very impure thoughts.
The package that I received from Monica Miller was absolutely intriguing . From her label which is a fabulous celtic knot of intertwined bodies to the contents inside, an exquisite little vial of her lovely Sangre Eau de Parfum and two remarkable lip stains, one called “Purple Shadow” and the other aptly named “Scarlet Kiss” , the experience from start to finish was delightful. For some reason, I felt as if I had to be dressed to wear these, so I put on a lovely shirt of purple velvet and some gorgeous black velvet trousers. That wasn’t enough so I swept up my hair and fastened it with a golden comb of my grandmothers that I keep for such an occasion. That seemed to be better so then I did my eyes in a soft kohl pencil and swept a hint of blush across my cheeks. Then I stroked the Sangre across my throat and onto my wrists and finally applied the lips stains, mixing them until the effect was dark and winey. I looked in the mirror and felt incredibly elegant , practically of anotherworld. Monica’s lip stains not only feel delightful but they taste wonderful because they are filled with essential oils, resins and herbs. The base she used is shea butter and my lips loved it and responded accordingly by looking bee stung and beautiful. Sangre, her scented tribute to Clarimonde is gorgeous. I loved the deep dark fruit essences that she used along with a fresh sweet chamomile and the way that she’s blended them with the rich floral heart and base of musks, honey and sticky resins creates a bacchanalian feast of a perfume that manages to be both Bohemian and classic at the same time.
Immortal Mine: Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl
Immortal Mine is a lust, passion filled and wildly untamed perfume that delighted me from the second that I opened the vial. First of all, it was beautifully presented, covered with bloody red sealing wax that was oozy and dripping all over the cap and down the sides like a fabulous candle or a vial of blood. It made a delightful crack and what emerged was one of the most fascinating perfumes that I’ve ever smelled filled with incense, lust and magic. It was instantly arresting. Immortal Mine came with the most remarkable list of ingredients; Soil from an unmarked grave, wyverns blood, amber, longing , smoke, wax, myrhh ,words from a dead mans mouth, desire and much more…..I loved it and I haven’t stopped wearing it since the moment I put it on. I must admit that I’ve never smelled a perfume that instantly suited me as much as this one does. Permit me to reach into another vampires world for a moment but there’s something of Immortal Mine that if you know the story of Lestat and you remember back to his days on the stage in Paris at The Theatre of the Vampires you’ll understand. The only words to describe the beauty of Immortal Mine are indulgent and hedonistic and of all of these perfumes it is the one that is the most wicked. There’s nothing kind or sweet about this one…it takes you, spins you around dizzily and doesn’t let go until you’re completely drunk with desire. To me it occurs like a dreamy, hypnotic spell, a few drops of this in a glass of port and I would probably give up everything……
A Twilight blue Oriental Perfume”. What an amazing description and it absolutely speaks to the evocative and complicated emotions that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has captured in her elegant and refined perfume “Paradise Lost”. There is a moment in the story where Clarimonde lays dying , waiting for Romauld to come to her castle. The room is misty and silken, there is a page with an ivory cane keeping his vigil by her side. In her bedchamber, there are quilts of gold and silver and a vase of faded flowers. Clarimonde herself is pale and wan, slipping quietly in between the dreamlike veils of life and death. Into this scene wanders the innocent and love stricken priest. DSH’s Paradise lost is gossamer and beautiful, the scent of that bedchamber, of that lost innocence. He kisses her and is lost within time and space from that moment on. Paradise Lost is full of amber, sable, chamomile, candlewax and so many other luscious accords that give this lovely perfume the aura of an oriental opiate. The effect of Paradise Lost on the skin is akin to a robe of soft velvet and rich brocade , forming a cloak that pulls you seductively through the bedroom door and forever into her unforgettable and unfathomable world.
If you haven't discovered Halloween Radio yet you are missing out on some of the creepiest fun to be had this Halloween season! I'm having a party on Monday night (as I'm sure that many of you are!) and I've been trying to assemble the ultimate spooky dance mix. Halloween Radio has already done it for me with one station devoted to atmosphere (read chainsaws, screaming cats and witches howls!) and another that has all of the wonderful scary tunes that you remember! Two sides of the house, two computers, one television playing the Munsters and I'm all set for a wonderfully spooky time!