Tag Archives: smell

Spring in Baltimore

Notes from my extremely glamorous life: Spring!

It’s grey and rainy here in Turin — must be spring! Though to be honest, after a year of nearly non-stop dry weather, the rain is a welcome change.

We’ll see if I’m still saying that after it rains all week like it’s forecast to.

Actually, the rain is making me a bit nostalgic. I arrived in Turin 4 years ago this month, during an April where it rained every day except one. (I kept track.) I had been in Turin for weeks before I realized the Alps were close enough to be visible, because they were covered with clouds the entire time. I wondered what on earth I’d gotten myself in for. I said things like, “Well if this is what the weather’s going to be like, why don’t I just move back to Scotland where at least the beer is good?”

In the end, things worked out, and I made friends and I’ve come to love this city, even if the weather here is frequently terrible.

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How could you not love this?

(By the way: If we’re counting milestones, it’s not just 4 years since I moved to Turin, it’s 5 years(!) since I accidentally moved abroad. Woah.)

Even with the rain, it does feel like spring here. It’s noticeably warmer, and the trees are blossoming and budding leaves. Of course I haven’t gotten around to getting a photo of this in Turin yet, so the picture for this post is from Baltimore the other week.

Fortunately, I don’t get hayfever, with one exception. On International Women’s Day in early March, the tradition in Italy is to give women wattle flowers. There’s a whole separate blog post that could be written about “getting flowers” vs “getting equality”, but I have a more immediate complaint about the practice: I am allergic to the flowers. Sitting on the tram in the evening of March 8, with every woman on board carrying a sprig of wattle bloom, was a rather eye-watering, itchy-nosed experience.

(Also eye-watering was the terrible pun thread that resulted when I posted about this on facebook, starting with, “Wattle you do, Zoe?” and going downhill from there to a horrifying low from my own mother of, “Aunty Hesta means to provide her some relief soon”. Muuuuum!)

In other nose-related news, though: I was at my friends’ annual Easter Monday barbeque last week, and I could smell the meat cooking. This was quite exciting, because a) it was delicious, and b) last year, I wondered why everyone was so politely talking up how good the food smelt when there was clearly no odour coming off the barbeque — this was just before I realised I’d lost my sense of smell. So… Progress!

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Macerating dried fruit

Bravery and baking.

I was reading a fantastic blog post the other day about how we shouldn’t tell women (and, I think, people generally!) what is brave for them. Which is so true! I moved to Torino not knowing anyone here and I wouldn’t call that brave, for me. Maybe it would be brave for you! I’m not saying it to boast. But for me at that time it just felt like an interesting thing to do.

On the other hand, here’s a story about how I felt brave about baking a cake. Continue reading

Zoe’s grumpy hot beverage reviews.

You may remember a few weeks ago I declared I was going to find a good (herbal) tea to get me through the winter, with the requirement that I want to be able to actually smell the tea even with my wacky sense of smell. I remain optimistic! I have learnt all kinds of things about what I can and can’t smell at the moment! I have consumed litres of hot drinks! I am yet to find something that really works for me.

Here’s what I’ve been drinking, all chosen because they were readily available at the supermarket or in Eataly:

Pam Supermarket own-brand instant coffee: Not a tea, but I have been drinking a lot of this recently, since I can’t smell/taste the difference between good and bad coffee. It’s cheap. I can use it to make a mug of coffee, which I realize I’ve kinda missed while living in Italy. I can leave it in the office kitchen and no-one will ever steal it. It gives me a stomach ache if I drink too much and it’s not Fairtrade which gives me middle-class guilt if I drink it at all. Still an overall top pick at the moment.

Clipper Zen Again Infusion: This lemongrass, eucalyptus and ginkgo infusion made me angry. It started with the packaging. Pink flowers. It was a good thing I’m not a man, because apparently lemongrass and eucalyptus has a gender. “For that moment of peace”, printed on the front. I picked it up. On the back: “A … spa-inspired blend … Perfect for those moments of reflection.” This was the women laughing alone with salad of herbal tea packaging. Well, for the price it was being sold at, I was going to need a moment of peace. Several hours of peace, probably. I gritted my teeth and decided to take a risk and give it a shot.

Image from

Image from Clipper Teas.

Turns out I can’t smell eucalyptus. Or lemongrass. At least I can taste the nettle they’ve added to fill out the bags.

Clipper Orange and Coconut Infusion: The box is orange and says “tropical”. It probably would be, if I could smell the coconut. I can taste the orange, at least, but without the coconut it’s awfully reminiscent of the orange oil we used to use as a cleaning product when I volunteered in an Oxfam shop as a student. Despite this, it’s not unpleasant and I will definitely finish the packet.

Overpriced organic Rooibos: (I can’t tell you the brand-name because I accidentally left it at my desk at work.) Comes in dinky foil-wrapped teabags which don’t sit well with me as someone who watched a lot of Captain Planet as a small child. I can’t smell the rooibos, but I’ll be optimistic and say it’s a subtle smell. The taste is adequate, but, well, it’s also quite subtle. (“Subtle” is my new favourite euphemism.) The next rooibos I buy will probably be the cheaper non-organic stuff.

Pam Supermarket own brand black tea: This smells of tea. It tastes of tea. It doesn’t smell or taste of anything more sophisticated than that, which doesn’t bother me at all, since I doubt anyone can smell or taste anything much in this 1.19 Euro for 25 bags packet of tea. I used to think of myself as a bit of a tea snob so I hate that I like this tea, but ehh, life’s an amaing journey and all that.

Got any good recipes with no onions or garlic? Or: What it’s like to have a wacky sense of smell.

African elephant warning raised trunk.jpg

(True confessions: I had to check on wikipedia that elephants actually use their trunks as noses and that’s not just something we pretend when we talk to small children.) African elephant warning raised trunk” by Muhammad Mahdi Karim Facebook

If you’ve been following along for a while, you might remember that back in April I realised I couldn’t smell anything. Not in the sense of, Yup, I’m living in a clean (enough) apartment without any unpleasant odours, but in the sense of smelling nothing. A sort of silence for the nose. The realization came as something of surprise for me, since a working sense of smell is something you tend to take for granted, but apparently losing your sense of smell is a thing that can happen when you injure your head, which I had done a few weeks prior.

(As an aside, there’s an extremely nerdy drinking game to be had by looking through neuroscience journals and taking a shot whenever you encounter a variation on “olfactory disorders are among the most common sequelae of head injuries” in the introduction to a paper. As an aside to an aside: how cool is sequelae as a word?) Continue reading

Paper flowers

Losing my sense of smell just ruined gorgonzola cheese.

So… The most blog-able thing I’ve done recently was to lose my sense of smell.

Not quite sure when it happened. Maybe last weekend. Do you know what’s really hard? Wracking your brains trying to think when you last remember smelling something. Seriously, try it — see, now you’re also wondering if you haven’t smelt anything for weeks.

But I like to think it was fairly recent, because surely I wouldn’t have gone very long in Italy of all places without noticing I couldn’t smell. Continue reading