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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yule is Coming, 2011. @ 11:18 AM

Large machines rumble and beep outside my apartment. Just across the fence, a bunch of sweaty guys are building something and pushing dirt around with bulldozers. But, in the stillness of this moment in time, I can open the glass door to my screened-in porch and smell deeply of the mild air, this air that passes for winter here in this godsforsaken tropical waste, and feel good, because the air feels lovely on a deeper level than just what the five senses can understand.

Our new apartment is in a lovely little cul-de-sac of a place here in Westchase, the newest part of Tampa. This part of town is probably no more than ten or fifteen years old; when Lindsay and I were kids, this place was all primordial swamp. Now, construction rumbles and trendy new buildings spring up for young professionals. Down the street, struggling moms that make twenty five to thirty thousand a year have dressed in the best they could afford, molding their plaster faces into masks of snooty disdain. They're trying to sell apartments and condos to people in the forty to sixty thousand range, and they're all doing their best to feel like they're worth six figures. I'm glad we don't live there. No, I'm happy where I am. It's probably the nicest place I've ever lived...I know for a fact that the me of five years ago would be gnawing enviously at her liver to see me in this apartment. I'm sitting in a little alcove built especially for a computer workstation, typing on my tiny laptop. We occasionally use this as witchy ritual space, and it's perfect. Huge boxes are stacked high in the corners, teetering precariously against one another in an attempt to spill coffeemakers and strange kitchen devices all over the floor. Our bunnies are stacked contentedly against another wall, occasionally let out to run and binky around the mostly empty living room. Unpacking is slow and gradual, but we're happy.

And I am happy, despite my anguish at having no days below seventy degrees; actually, most are eighty or so. But the heat won't get terrible again until February, so for now, in this happy little place in time, things are okay.

And ahead of me looms the home stretch of my novel, my last bit of work before the dread task of revision. Very soon, I'll have to get off my ass and work. It is time.

But we have to put the chaos of moving behind us, and more urgent (and less pleasant) tasks lie just ahead. Very soon, though, life will resume.

Very soon.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Introspection, November 2011. @ 4:38 PM

If I told you that all the color was bleeding out of my life, you might respond in any number of ways. A common response would be to recommend that I see a shrink and ask for some SSRI's. You should totally get some Paxil. Or maybe some Zoloft. I have a friend that took Zoloft and it turned her totally around. Go to that shrink I mentioned and ask for some of that.

But somehow I'm thinking that's not the answer.

You know what I think? I think our minds and bodies respond in any number of ways when there's something wrong in our lives, when there's some imbalance. I don't think it's a coincidence that diagnoses of depression continued to increase over the course of the twentieth century as our world became more urbanized. Don't get me wrong, I love cities and I couldn't live without all the luxuries they allow for. But it's been my own personal experience that most cities feel dead spiritually. Urbanization and technology, wonderful as they are, seem to me to have a way of draining the essence and the life right out of an area...and out of me. In most cities, there aren't that many places to go reconnect with nature, and if there are, they simply don't feel the same for some reason.

Regardless, Tampa is about the worst there is. It's not just a city; it's a haven for filth and decay. It's miles and miles of dirty little streets, lined with dilapidated houses in shades of pink and yellow and sky blue, peeling and rotting into the hot, cracked pavement. It's swamp conifers and those miserable, depressing-looking trees with the dark green tendrils that droop miserably in search of humid swampland. It's unkillable hordes of roaches, ants, and other vermin that spawn like bacteria. It's all of Cuba's poverty and squalor, imported and copied meticulously, down to the last obscene sticker on the clunker of the van waiting at the stoplight. I've been known to be a bit of a city girl and I'm usually the first to point out a town's good qualities. Tampa has none.

From where I live now, I would have to drive forty five minutes to get out of town and reach someplace pristine, like the beach. That's forty five minutes in any direction. When Lindsay and I did go to the beach this past spring, it was easy to feel the essence of the sea, the wild, untamed feeling you get when you're near a natural body of water. But the spritual richness I was looking for...I simply didn't find it. Was it there? Maybe. But if it was, it didn't do the trick for me. I went home feeling numb in much the same way I would have after rubbing local anesthetic on my skin.

So where would I have to go to have that feeling of spiritual fulfillment again?

Well, I'd probably have to go home.

One of my recent ideas is that seasons and circadian rhythms have a profound effect on our well-being and the myriad nuances that make up a functioning person. I'm used to nice, clean-cut, definable seasons. Summer is brutally hot, fall gets cooler and colorful, winter is bitter and buried in snowdrifts, spring is colorful. No such definitions exist here. Regardless of what Florida natives say - and they tend to get defensive and highly offended - there are no seasons here. Florida is year-round summer, without remorse. I once heard that in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are only two seasons - the dry season, and the rainy season, and they come in extremes. This describes Florida perfectly. For a northern girl like me, used to chilly fall mornings, bundled up with a hot mug of cider, or snowy, frostbitten winter nights, this is hell. Not waking up to the year's first frost or to brightly-colored leaves in late October has made me depressed, I think. I sleep less. I eat less. Nothing brings me enjoyment anymore and I'm desperately unhappy with life outside of my relationship. (My relationship still brings me joy. But that's about it.)

But everything is a metaphor for something else, isn't it? This feeling of misery in this foul, unfamiliar climate, this growing sense of isolation and loneliness, has made me ponder other things. I've found myself thinking about my connection to my Nordic ancestral faith again, a religion that has brought me a lot of serenity and contentment but also a lot of conflict and unhappiness, too. But I think what comes into our lives is based on the energy we allow into it, plain and simple. If I find my heart coming home to where it belongs (even if my body can't), it's far more personal, far more private. I used to be open about deeply personal things like faith, inner philosophical questions, whatever. I'm not anymore. I think keeping things like this private keeps them sacred.

Even if I might not have verbalized it all very well, I think my point with this entry was this: Sometimes you have to go far away to find your way back home. And taking a pill can't cure a ton of other imbalances, which are in turn the symptom of one big problem. Finding out what that problem is and doing your best to solve it is your only salvation.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Arcana. @ 2:57 AM

I always thought Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab was the only authority when it came to indie fragrances.

Then, today, I met Arcana face to face for the first time, and I'm crushing really hard.

It's hard for a fantasy fan or a student of history not to be turned on by the bottles, packaging, and themes. The labels all look the same worn shade of sepia, but all written with different fonts, all illustrated with the same creepy woodcut images and haunting artwork. They have names like "1816" and "Filthy Viking", whose descriptions let you know that someone studied history. But you can't judge a book by its cover, can you? And unless you have an unlimited budget - and who has one of those? - you can't just order these on a whim. When you're in a position to get yummy perfume, and that may not be very often - you have to choose wisely. Usually, I go with what I know...I don't like gambling on perfume that may or may not be good. I'd wanted to try Arcana for months, especially a scent of theirs called "Frilly Underpinnings", but I was never brave enough to ask Lindsay to get me a whole bottle. I'd be devastated with guilt if it wasn't absolutely excellent.

Then I stumbled on The Soap Box Company, probably one of Arcana's biggest vendors. And they, my friends...THEY sold SAMPLES. We had to try a couple.

Lindsay ordered "The Huntress" - "Sweet clove, black pepper, aromatic mint, blood orange, and a whiff of [Artemis's] sacred oak groves." She was drawn in by the woodland theme, by the image of an independent feminist goddess of old.

I got a sample of "Frilly Underpinnings", a fragrance I'd been dying to try for so long - "Pink, white, and black pepper lace delicately through sweet cream, bourbon vanilla, caramel amber, white musk, two sugars, spice, and everything nice." Lindsay had cautioned me many months ago that this scent sounded almost disgustingly gourmand and would turn sweet, cloying, and nauseating on my skin, especially since I amplify cream and vanilla notes so well. I'm ecstatic to tell you that our fears were totally ungrounded. It's sweet, bright, and cheerful, not nearly as cloying as I expected. White musk is an automatic win on my skin; it always turns sweet and lovely on me, and the white musk in Frilly Underpinnings lent the fragrance a quiet, pleasant gravity that kept it from getting out of control. Immediately on touching my skin, Frilly reminded me of a snowy winter day, cuddled up on a cozy window bench with a book and a thick, soft blanket. It took me home, back to chilly northern winters, which I miss terribly here in Florida with its year-round summers.

Sadly, Lindsay didn't like Huntress nearly as well. She was hoping for something more arboreal, I think. I told her that I'd happily take it off her hands. The orange and clove come out in this one and it reminds me of tart and tangy holiday punch, hot in a steaming mug after coming in out of a bitter northern winter. I love that one, too.

Since Lindsay rocks the pine and woodsy notes, I convinced her to get a bottle of "Filthy Viking", which is a far more piney, frigid scent. She's skeptical, convinced that it will smell terrible. If she doesn't like it, I'll take it. We're two for two. If all of Arcana's smells are as good as the samples we got, even a smell like that will be delightful on me.

For BPAL fans, the main difference we noticed between BPAL and Arcana is that BPAL'S smells tend to be a lot darker, and I think this suits their gothic theme and the sensibilities of their creators. Arcana seems to be smell a little more bright and cheerful, and I think this suits me and certainly my partner a lot better. It's a good illustration as to how, even when a designer makes two completely different fragrances, they put enough of themselves into those fragrances to give them some sense of common mood to tie them together.

I like Arcana's mood a lot. Smelling their stuff makes me genuinely happy, and that's exactly what I like art to do for me.

I think this could be love. <3

The Soap Box Company
sells most of Arcana's scents in 5 ml glass bottles for $13.95. Samples of their year-round smells are $3.00 (worth every penny, trust me). Some smells are sold in 3.7 ml glass bottles, and prices may vary.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Redhead...or just Red Hair. @ 6:07 AM

"I'm a redhead now."

I think most natural redheads would have something to say if I actually uttered this out loud. At the very least, I might get a raised eyebrow. Red is probably one of the only hair colors that women rally around as a statement of identity; natural redheads tend to be fiercely proud. And why shouldn't they be? Red hair is a recessive trait, and it's one of the most rapidly dwindling ones on the planet. Red hair holds an allure and a mystique over people of all genders; it's sexy and I doubt you'll find anyone to disagree with you on that. In 200 years, it might be gone. Red hair comes as a package with pale skin; you rarely find it on women with darker skin tones or outside of Northern European ethnicity, and that's a perfect indication as to whether a girl is a bottle redhead or a natural one.

Why all the hype about red hair?

Well, I dyed my hair red a few weeks ago.


Would I ever turn around and go to a Redhead Pride rally? No...I'd feel like a fraud. But that doesn't mean I'm not slowly edging toward referring to myself as a redhead (as opposed to Redhead). I've got the milky white Scandinavian skin to complement it, and not everyone's got that. And it makes my blue eyes pop. Add to that that it's a wonderful statement about my sense of Nordic ancestral and spiritual identity; a lot of people associate red hair with Ireland, but it never existed there before the Vikings brought it in the 800's. Red hair is a Germanic genetic marker, not an Irish or Celtic one.

What has it done for me? It's softened my disposition. I don't come off quite as severe and bitchy anymore. I *feel* softer, mellower, somehow sexier and yet a little less assertive. I think it's brought me into alignment with myself. I don't get the same uninvited hostile looks from strangers. I guess red goes better with the personality I naturally project, or it softens the one I've got. I'm not sure which it is, but I feel incredible.

Outside opinions, however unimportant they should be, all agree that it makes my skin look lovely and my eyes look stunning, that it really works for me. And Lindsay thinks it's crazy sexy. Hers is the only important opinion...after all, she's the one that has to wake up next to me every morning.

I've known more than one non-natural redhead that's gone red and have it look perfect and natural. I've joined their ranks. I may not be a Redhead, but I'm definitely a redhead now.

And I love it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Writing Practice. @ 6:14 PM

It's true. If you write, you need to write a little something every day or you'll lose your momentum and get really awkward.

My novel has been coming along beautifully, and today I didn't write in it, so I turned to my blog instead. I think for a long time I used this blog to write about fragrances and what not, and I still think that's its best purpose. Writing about my everyday life has become awkward for me; I've really become a very private, secretive person and I don't like revealing details of my life to anyone, because there's hardly anyone I trust anymore. Lindsay and I tend to go about our daily lives and say very little of them to anyone on the outside. I rather like it that way.

As you may have noticed if you looked for me, I got rid of my Facebook months ago. So did Lindsay. I love the silence. We both do. We left partly because of legal reasons around our car accident, but I think we left mostly for us. Nobody really spoke to us on there and neither of us had any reason to stay. The daily feed seemed filled with really nasty political gripes...just reading it made me feel dirty.

Leaving Facebook and leaving World of Warcraft seemed to be huge steps toward happiness for Lindsay, and now when we want to play something, we turn to Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, or the consoles. I play a lot of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion; you can literally create your world around you and play in it...clothes, houses, anything. It's also a huge help with writing; the main character in my new novel is the character I play most in Oblivion. For me, it's a really good way to reconnect with her or just unwind. There's nothing quite like relaxing in a cozy house you made yourself.

We're both still in some pain from the accident, but life goes on. We're happy. The animals are happy. And my introversion has reached a point to where it almost seems clinical. I really don't like the company of other people now. I guess that's for the best. :)

There...now I've gone and written an awkward post. Blogging is a whole different thing than writing fantasy.

I think I prefer writing fantasy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dreams. @ 2:29 AM

I woke up around one or one thirty after a few hours of sleep. It seems I can never sleep at night anymore. That's just as well, though; I write better at night.

Most nights I write for Lindsay...or mess around on this game or that. But tonight felt more serious for some reason, and I woke up feeling disturbed and lonely and very, very serious. I began to think about exactly what I want out of this little life of mine.

I've long matured past the point where things like pieces of paper - masters' degrees and the like - appeal to me. Most people seek these for ego reasons, or because they feel like they have to. I guess, for me, when I looked inward and sought my own happiness, a piece of paper hanging on my wall didn't do it for me.

What, then?

I'm not like everyone else - I knew that from the time I was very young. I used to envy the kids that could win the approval of their parents and teachers so effortlessly, but it seemed I was doomed to be different. It seemed I'd been given something they weren't...I'd been given a muse. I'd been given the ability to create. But create what? I think that question has been one of the most disturbing questions in my life, this shadow looming in the background of my awareness for years.

I think distinctions between individual career paths might be meaningless. What I think I'm trying to say is, no matter what I create, I want it to inspire others, to take someone somewhere else completely, to share my heart. It's that simple, I think.

What I do know is what I want. I want simplicity. I don't care about finding some corporate niche and winning the approval of people (I used to). What I do want are mornings in a cabin in the mountains with the sunlight streaming in through the windows, writing my heart out over a delicious cup of chai (No milk. I don't do milk.). I want simple elegance in the way I dress, in the way I live. I want a quiet life; no abundance of people I don't really care about, no accolades, no fanfare. I want a quiet life with Lindsay by my side. That's it.

I used to want to fit in better with people, and to adapt myself to their ways. Now, I'm coming to prize the opposite. I want to embrace who I am; all the weirdness and the awkwardness, the beauty of being that person whose words cut that much deeper because of their profound truth. I'm okay with being the girl that speaks at the table and makes the whole place go silent. Life is too short to be someone else. I've come to love not having anyone else around other than Lindsay; I love my own company, and I love hers. We are a party unto ourselves.

This is what I want. I woke up feeling the need to write something from the heart, and here I have. These thoughts bring me happiness, and I think that alone is proof that I'm onto something.

Happiness, then.

I feel better now. :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Silent Light. @ 11:41 PM

My newest fragrance is called "Silent Light", named for a song from the Chrono Trigger soundtrack.

As any video game fan probably knows, Chrono Trigger is lauded by many as the best RPG ever produced, and its soundtrack is also well loved. The song in question is a quiet, reflective tune, a little lighthearted but somber. It always used to make me think of being snowed in on a day in the deepest part of winter, with bright morning sunlight streaming through the windows.

That sense of quiet reflection is exactly what I tried to capture in this fragrance.

I used base notes of Virginia cedar and dark amber - cedar for a clean sense of groundedness and dark amber for softness. I used a mid note of fresh linen for a sense of purity and a top note of peach for brightness. My hope was to create a sense of looking out a very bright window in quiet solitude.

I hope I don't sound too egotistical, but I was really happy with how this one turned out. I plan on experimenting with other linen notes in this one as I develop them, but I'm almost afraid to do any more work to this piece. I'm quite pleased already. :)

amanda cassandra

A young woman who is learning to intentionally create her reality, one fragrance note at a time.


Loved Ones

Lindsay, my darling girlfriend

Links of Interest

My Scent Base profile
Arcana Perfumes (courtesy of The Soap Box Company)
Villainess Soaps
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
Perfume Shrine (blog)
Now Smell This (an amazing blog and an *excellent* collection of resources!)
Perfume Glossary at Now Smell This
Gala Darling (fashion, spirituality, astrology)

Perfume Resources (libraries, forums, etc.)

ScentBase - Keep track of your fragrances
bpal.org - BPAL forums
Base Notes


Louis Vuitton


American Eagle


May 2009, June 2009, August 2009, September 2009, October 2009, March 2010, April 2010, June 2010, September 2010, October 2010, November 2010, December 2010, January 2011, March 2011, June 2011, August 2011, October 2011, November 2011, December 2011,


Designer: anna astrid
Credits: image by Amanda Cassandra. Photo: Original found here. Brushes found here.