Where is the love?

where is the loveI can’t be the only person whose parents kept the radio station on the Easy Listening frequency, can I? I grew up on Roberta Flack’s recording of this song, about love that was promised and then came to nothing. (Hear it here on Youtube.)

And no, I’m not talking about the Black Eyed Peas version, which is a completely different song and which I did not know existed until I went looking for Roberta. I would feel hopelessly out of date, except that the BEPs are not a group/genre that I tend to follow. I listen to the Alternative station, myself. :)

Annnnyway… I recently opened and used a decant of a fragrance that I had had on my wishlist for a long time, and when one of the decanting services had a 20% off sale recently, I bought an 8ml spray.  When it arrived I set it aside because I was in one of my mini-obsessions with RL Safari, but the other day I decided I was ready for that CdG Zagorsk which I had craved for so long. I sprayed it on… and I no longer love it.

joe-petersburger-a-church-surrounded-by-pine-trees-in-a-hillside-meadowThe several wearings I gave my sample vial took me to an imagined church in a snowy city, where the sky is a pale wintry blue and the church is surrounded by balsams and junipers, the cold stone and the wooden pews combining with the incense to be cool and invigorating. It was whole, all of a piece, a complete sense journey.

Today, I’m getting a piecemeal sort of experience, like this: “Iris. That’s a weird celery-like iris,” followed by “Yeah, there’s that cold stone thing, I still like that,” and “Is that gin?” Then, later, “Okay, yeah, wood. And incense. Knew that’d show up.” But it isn’t the whole church-in-snowy-woods thing that it was in my sample, and I am disappointed.

So I’m sitting here with this thing on my wrist and thinking, What is wrong with me? Is it the wrong day/weather/venue for this scent? Has it changed? Did I only like it dabbed from a sample, did spraying change its qualities? Where is the love, y’all?

My original sample vial (ordered from The Perfumed Court, not affiliated, in 2012) is empty, so I can’t check to see if there’s been a reformulation. But it occurs to me that it’s happened to me before, that I loooooved something from a sample and then found that a decant, or a full bottle, didn’t satisfy.

Has that ever happened to you?

And what do you do about it?

I will probably hang on to Zagorsk and try it again at a different time/in different weather. Mind you, it wasn’t awful, it was just… meh, and I can’t remember why I wanted it instead of the half-dozen other things I considered purchasing in a decant. But I confess, I’m rather cranky about it.


Mid-November 2015

Yeah, it’s been a long time since I visited this site, much less wrote a post. Much less published one.


And I’m neck-deep in NaNoWriMo again, so I don’t have a lot of time to be crafting blog posts and finding images and putting in links and responding to comments (though I will. Promise).  But NaNo is going well: I’m currently up to 36,000+ words and the month is only half over. Moreover, I know where this story is going and I feel confident that not only will I reach 50,000 in plenty of time, I will also have a completed or mostly-complete rough draft of a novel that I will then be able to polish and start shopping around to agents. That “completing the rough draft in a month” was the part I had trouble with before. Instead, I was stretching out scenes and writing miles of dialogue in order to reach my word counts.

proclaimers do nanowrimoNot this time. This time, I have a story skeleton, and I’m just trying to get enough padding to drape over it, with the skin to complete and the finishing touches to come later. I am psyched.

As for perfume, after a period of several months when I wasn’t interested in testing anything new at all and forget writing about it, well, I’m back. :) Have been testing some newer perfumes and some that aren’t newly released but are new to me, and that’s been pretty cool. Hope to have some reviews coming in December.

I could do a “fall perfumes” post for 2015, but every single thing on it would be something I’ve mentioned in previous “fall perfumes” posts. Quick rundown, in case you missed those posts and are not interested in hunting them down: Cuir de Lancome, Smell Bent One, Donna Karan Black Cashmere, Guerlain Shalimar Light, Givenchy Organza Indecence, Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete, and Ralph Lauren Safari. (Well, no, I’ve recommended Safari before but I don’t think for fall. This just in: Safari is one of those things I have fallen madly in love with no matter the season. )

The PCHS band at a football game in October. That's Gaze nearly front and center, with the silver baritone horn. Photo by Fritz Streff.
The PCHS band at a football game in October. That’s Gaze nearly front and center, with the silver baritone horn. Photo by Fritz Streff.

The marching band just finished another successful season. Unfortunately, they juuuuust missed receiving a Superior rating at their state marching assessment, so they won’t be a Virginia Honor Band this year. However, I have no doubt that next year will be a banner year. This year’s show was “The Madness of an Imaginary World,” an Alice in Wonderland theme, with original music, voiceover, and fiendishly difficult drill. (I sometimes wonder if a less difficult show might have gotten them that Superior. But I’m not the director.) The show had to grow on me, but it did grow, and I was very proud of “my kids.” By its final iteration, the show included not only an Alice running across the tops of the drums and dancing with one of the percussion guys, but an “off-with-their-heads” maneuver by the trombone section. It was fun.

Chris, Cole, Gaze, Jake, and Noah (part of the varsity team), at the regional meet. Photo by David Gravely.
Chris, Cole, Gaze, Jake, and Noah (part of the varsity team), at the regional meet. Photo by David Gravely.

Gaze withdrew early on from Governor’s School, after he decided that he did not really want to go on to college to study math or hard sciences. His skills tend to lie in more “soft sciences” like psychology and economics, and he’s not interested in engineering or medical school either. So when we found out that he was miserable, and that the high school offers many, many more AP courses than they used to when Bookworm was there, we decided that it would be best for him to refocus on his strengths instead of staying up half the night to do coursework in subjects he didn’t enjoy.

One-shoe Taz Sept 2015Gaze and Taz both had a good cross-country season. Taz, as a 9th grader, lost a shoe partway through a race, early in the season, but finished well, and his times continued to improve all season. Gaze’s times improved too but not as much as he had hoped. All the same, though, I’m very proud of them and the team in general. The boys’ team did win their conference and finished 10th of 24 in the region. (Check out those ripped quads on ma boy there. Beast legs, man.  😉 )

Bookworm has been so busy with her class schedule this semester that she hasn’t had much opportunity to do anything with the band at college. She’s competed in Ultimate Frisbee tournaments with her team, but I don’t think she’s even had as much time to spend with that group as she’d have liked. But here’s a shot of her being awesome, ’cause she is. Yale Ramona Coffee Cup tournament, 2015

The CEO recently ran for the county Board of Supervisors and won his district. He’ll finish his term on the School Board next month, and take over the retiring supervisor’s seat in January.

I’m so proud of all of them. Heck, I guess I could say that I’m proud of myself too.

So. ‘Sup with y’all?


Random Thoughts, early August 2015

I have yet to get my paws on The CEO’s SD card and post some of his gorgeous pictures from our New Zealand trip, but maybe I can pin him down soon.

I still hate August.

Around here, cornbread is properly made in a cast-iron skillet. God forbid you present Bookworm with any other kind... it offends her delicate sense of order.
Around here, cornbread is properly made in a cast-iron skillet. God forbid you present Bookworm with any other kind… it offends her delicate sense of order.

Bookworm is home for a few weeks! Summer session at Yale ended this past week, and she got home on Sunday evening. Fall classes start on September 2, so she has a little bit of time to breathe and soak in some farm-fresh air.  We made cornbread and pinto beans and country ham – foods she can’t get in CT. Well, they sometimes have cornbread in the dining hall, but it’s made with sugar and a much higher proportion of flour to cornmeal, so that it tastes like cake rather than the coarse savory skillet cornbread she prefers. (The addition of sugar to a cornbread recipe is a much-debated issue among Southern cooks, but of course the American South is such a wide area that “real Southern cornbread” has immense variation. I won’t be insulting and state that a recipe containing sugar can’t be “real Southern,” but my mother’s recipe doesn’t contain any. The first time I ever ate sweet cornbread was at the historic Michie Tavern, near Monticello, when I was seventeen, and I was horrified.)

Gaze started his classes at the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School for Science and Technology last week. Bookworm went through the program, which coordinates its classes through Virginia’s community college system, and found it valuable in teaching her study skills and in preparing her for college. It is a challenging curriculum, but I feel sure Gaze is up to it. SWVGS pulls from the surrounding seven counties, but it is located within a ten-minute drive of our high school, so that’s fairly convenient. Classes run from 7 am to approximately 10 am, and then the students return to their own high schools for the remainder of the day.

This year's marching band show shirts.
This year’s marching band show shirts.

We had a very successful two weeks of band camp (including a week of “pre-camp,” which focuses on fundamental marching techniques). It’s a difficult program this year, all original music, and the marching drill is challenging as well. The show title is “The Insanity of an Imaginary World,” and it is an Alice in Wonderland theme.

Taz has been helping on the farm quite a bit lately, and every time I look at him I think he’s a little bit taller! Can’t believe my baby will be a 9th-grader this year. School starts on Thursday. He’s running cross-country and doing well so far.

Don't know what I'd do without one of these.
Don’t know what I’d do without one of these.

If you ever entertained the notion that Pyrex dishes are indestructible, put it out of your head now. Here’s the transcript of a recent conversation I had with my mother:

Me: I could use another big measuring bowl – you know the kind with the handle and the measuring lines on the side? Mine broke. Do you know where I could find one?
Mom: It BROKE? It was Pyrex! I didn’t think Pyrex could break.
Me: Well, apparently if you drop one Pyrex dish onto another one, it breaks.
Mom: (stunned silence)

And now you know. (I found another one at Wal-Mart.)

Stay tuned for the Aotearoa-New Zealand travelogue.


Back home, July 2015

So I just spent a beautiful two weeks in New Zealand at the height of their winter weather, and now I’m back to so-called “normal life.”  If you want the brief update, it’s this: the planning trip went well, NZ is still gorgeous even in winter, the journey back was exhausting, and I was glad to be home.

Swans on Lake Tekapo, with Aoraki/Mount Cook in the background. Photo by Joe Guthrie.
Swans on Lake Tekapo, with Aoraki/Mount Cook in the background. Photo by Joe Guthrie.

The trip was very successful. The CEO lined up the entire trip for his students for this upcoming January, and it is going to be a wonderful experience, not just for the travel but also for the educational opportunities. They’ll be visiting aquaculture farms (salmon and green mussels), dairies, wineries, beef and sheep farms, and deer and elk farms, as well as government officials who deal in international trade of agricultural items, and a farmer who specializes in precision agriculture and is now marketing the same kind of equipment he made for his own use. Precision agriculture, if you’re not familiar, deals with connecting a GPS to your tractor and, in some cases, to computer software that instructs the tractor as to exactly how much seed/fertilizer/irrigation/soil additives are needed in this particular field, or portion of a field. It’s pretty fascinating stuff.

The trip was a lot of fun. It was, unfortunately, raining in Wellington (still my favorite NZ city so far, though Napier’s nice and I liked Nelson too), so there the CEO didn’t even bother to try to get any good pictures. But we met some terrific people, saw some impressive farms, ate some excellent food and enjoyed some stunning scenery. We ran into one of The CEO’s buddies from his days getting his master’s degree in Ag Econ at Massey U. in Palmerston North. Richard’s no longer with the World Bank; instead, he works at one of the government agencies that deals with international ag trade. We had a lovely meal with his family.

That journey home is killer. KILLLLLLERRRRR. I’m still exhausted. Our Monday 7/12 went like this: 90 minute flight from Christchurch to Auckland, wait around a couple of hours at AKL for our next flight. 12 hour flight from AKL to San Francisco (during which I did not sleep. At all). Then a mad rush to pick up our (gigantic) checked suitcase, which I was going to take home with me so The CEO wouldn’t have to take it with him to Denver, where he was going for a meeting of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. We went through US Customs, and then through the extra bio screening because we’d been on a farm outside the US, and then we rechecked the big suitcase on to Dulles. So then I shlepped my carry-on baggage to the domestic terminal, went through security again, got to my gate and determined that they were loading first-class passengers and I would have time to grab something to eat. I did, but just barely; I bought a sandwich and an enormous bottle of water, which I consumed while sitting on the runway for half an hour (!) waiting to take off. The plane landed (very roughly) at IAD five hours after that, and my sweet brother-in-law picked me up and took me back to his house, where I slept like the dead for twelve hours. Then I ate some lunch and spent the next six hours driving from NoVa back home, through two traffic delays caused by separate construction issues, and one delay caused by an accident. Gah.

But when I did pull into the driveway, Hunter-dog practically wagged his tail off his body, he was so excited to see me. Taz was happy enough that he hugged me several times (and then demanded food. Typical teenage boy). Gaze didn’t get home from cross-country practice until late, but I got my hugs from him too. Home looks good, by the way – rain in July is always welcome, and my stargazer lilies were just opening up when I got back. There are apples on a few of our trees, too.

I did not get the chance to meet with other perfumistas or to smell a lot of perfume while in New Zealand, outside the airport duty free shop. That was okay, I suppose – I did get to try Bottega Veneta Knot (five minutes of pretty orange blossom, followed by two hours of soap, which is par for the course with OB and me) and several other mainstream fragrances, the names of which elude me now.

And I wore a number of warm frags: Organza Indecence kept me company at the glaciers. Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur spread its squashy BWF comfort around.  Tauer Une Rose Vermeille was wonderful on the inter-island ferry. Vintage Ralph Lauren Lauren kept me smelling (relatively) fresh on airplanes.

More details on the trip coming soon, along with pictures The CEO took.


Off to New Zealand!

The CEO will be leading a class/overseas trip next December & January, during Virginia Tech’s 3-week Wintermester class period between fall and spring semesters. It will focus on international agricultural trade in New Zealand, which has a fabulously diverse and strong export business in agriculture. He won a grant that enabled him to go to NZ this summer (their winter) to set up and “test-drive” the trip… and I’m going with him.

Don’t know if I’ll get the chance for sniffery, or to meet up with any perfumistas, but I’ll enjoy the trip very much, I’m sure. I loved it when I visited for two weeks in 2007, and I’m thrilled to go back. It’s a very beautiful place.

I’ll be back with posts in a few weeks!


Five for Summer, 2015

summer wildflowers, from Wikimedia Commons
summer wildflowers, from Wikimedia Commons

HOLY MOSES, it’s summer already. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t like summer. It’s hot, it’s sticky, it’s boring. I’m not a beach person. Gah. But I do change my seasonal perfume rotation to deal with summer, and here are a few fragrances I really enjoy wearing in hot weather.

Cool and refreshing: Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl. Go ahead and roll your eyes, perfumistas. I’ll wait.

You done? Okay then. There is something so unmussable about Tommy Girl, which survives heat and humidity with aplomb. Her hair doesn’t go limp (or frizzy) in the heat; her clothes don’t wilt. She goes on radiating relaxation and freshness for a long, long time, and that effect of drinking iced lemon tea on the porch near the flower beds is very welcome to me when I’m outside in our muggy summer weather. Don’t shoot the messenger, but Luca Turin was right about this one.

So Pretty: Carven Le Parfum. I know a lot of perfume people found this one underwhelming, but most of them have less interest in the Just Pretty than I do. I love a just-pretty, and this one is wonderful if you like that kind of thing. I like that kind of thing. It’s basically mandarin, sweet pea, jasmine, rose and a very cleaned-up patchouli/quiet woody base that lasts fairly well.

Green and composed: Jacomo Silences, the original. My bottle is the old 80s parfum de toilette, which has aged very well, probably due to its black bottle. It’s an air-conditioned blast of galbanum and the restrained elegance of iris and moss, with florals, particularly rose, in between. I have the reissued Silences Eau de Parfum Sublime, and it’s nice, but it lacks the bold eerie calm of the original, which has just been discontinued. Go buy some now, before it disappears from the discounters.

Zingy floral: Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune. Grapefruit, blackcurrant bud, petitgrain, something floral that I swear smells like rose to me, neroli, clean herbal patchouli and woody notes. Yeah, sure, it’s got that almost sulfurous thing going on up top, but I love it, and this citrus/floral thing is really refreshing in the heat. I’m less happy about the patchouli in the drydown, but I don’t like patchouli in general. It’s saying something that I don’t want to scrub this off when the patch floats up; instead I just want to reapply.

Most people love citrus fragrances. I usually don’t – the only traditional citrus/herbal/floral cologne I own is a small decant of 4711, and I don’t use it all that often. But I love a citrusy floral, and Pamplelune hits the spot. I’ve gone through a couple of minis so far, and I keep waffling on whether to buy a real bottle. Perhaps I will, when my Moschino Funny! is all gone.

And of course, I have to have a BWF. Always need a Big White Floral. Doesn’t really matter which one I pick, because they’re all good in the heat. Maybe not so great if you’re trying to get work done, because they can eat your head and monopolize your senses. But there’s nothing more swoony. Suggestions: Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Carnal Flower or Le Galion Tubereuse (the rerelease), if you like your BWFs joyful and lighthearted. Escada Margaretha Ley (discontinued. #sorrynotsorry) or Honore des Pres Vamp a NY (bonus: all-natural) if you like them coconutty and tropical.

(Heh. I just crammed four perfumes into a one-perfume slot – how about me?)

So – what’s for summer wear in your neck of the woods?


Peonies, and Peony Fragrances

Peonies are some of my favorite flowers. I adore them.

My Sarah Bernhardt peonies - blooms six inches across!
My Sarah Bernhardt peonies – blooms six inches across!

One of my grandmothers grew them. The other grandmother adored them as well, would stop anywhere to bend and sniff the flowers. She called them “pinies,” which must have been either some Appalachian pronunciation variant, or a pronunciation specific to her mother, because no one else I know calls them that. My sister insisted on having them at her June wedding. My daughter loves them. When our sweet Hayley-dog died last summer, we planted peonies near her grave.

PinkParfait2I prefer bush (herbaceous) peonies, not the Japanese tree peonies, which look pretty but lack the delicate but pervasive sweet scent of the old-fashioned ones. I like the double-flowering type. And I prefer them in pale pink or white; the dark pink ones are attractive, but I always think the smell matches the color of the lighter pink ones. Maybe that’s simply because the ones my grandmother grew were pale pink (Sarah Bernhardt) and white (Duchesse de Nemours), but there it is, an irrational preference.

Unfortunately, you can’t dry peonies, either whole or in petals, and retain any of the lovely scent, and I presume that’s why peony accords in perfumery often can smell very synthetic. There aren’t all that many fragrances in current production that smell like real peonies, in my opinion, but every now and then one will pop up and gain my affection.

I know that peony scents are not generally loved among the perfumisti. Witness, just for example, Luca Turin’s review of Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pivoine in Perfumes: The Guide: “Like chewing tinfoil while staring at a welding arc,” and his review of Thierry Mugler Angel Pivoine as “Giant Transvestite [that would be Angel] versus Ditzy Blonde from Hell [that would be the peony component]” is hilarious. I think it’s probably safe to say that Dr. Turin has a special dislike for peony perfumes, however he may feel about the flower. And generally speaking, I see a lot of comments like “smells cheap” about many peony scents.

Duchesse de Nemours peonies.
Duchesse de Nemours peonies.

I don’t care. I’m always on the lookout for one that smells like my Sarah Bernhardts, which have a strong overtone of rose along with the more delicate peony scent, and a cool, light freshness. I’ve noticed that the few peony scents that smell most natural to me also contain some rose – and sometimes they’re marketed as “rose” scents, too! Here’s the shortlist for peony fragrances that come closest, in my opinion, to the Real Thing. Some of them are unfortunately discontinued or otherwise unavailable. (Sorry about that.)

rose de siwa fifParfums MDCI Rose de Siwa. First on the list is the one that smells closest to just-cut peonies, to me. It’s also by far the most expensive, and I cannot in good conscience recommend that you buy it, because it is neither wildly original nor reasonably priced. But it’s my favorite. It has notes of litchi, peony, hawthorn, rose, violet, cedar, vetiver and musk, and was composed by Francis Kurkdjian, who has a great track record of success with me. I tested it from a sample vial, expecting a fresh rose, but got an enormous bouquet of peonies and a bit of wood in the drydown. It is basically perfect if you love garden peonies. However, I haven’t yet made up my mind to sell my firstborn in order to buy a bottle.

(Kidding. Kidding kidding kidding. Of course, whoever bought my firstborn would have to fork over for two more years of college, and I don’t see that happening.)

dsh peonyDSH Perfumes Peony. This is a close second, and far less expensive. Lovely stuff. It is perhaps less rosy and more green, but it’s beautiful and the drydown is pleasantly woody. I’ve never smelled a DSH fragrance that smelled synthetic in the least, and this one is very nice.

peony & mossJo Malone Peony & Moss. This one was a limited edition in the “London Blooms” series, composed by Christine Nagel, and the bottles were gorgeous. (See? BOTTLE SO PRETTY.) Wish I’d bought one while it was still available. The notes for it included blackcurrant, green leaves, ivy, peony and moss, and it smelled very green to me. I like that. (Jo Malone is currently producing Peony & Blush Suede, which I haven’t smelled, but I hear that it’s quite pleasant.)

VS pink, fragranticaVictoria’s Secret Pink. I don’t mean Pink Beach or Pink Thong or whatever the heck VS is currently marketing, or even their newer version of Pink, which is not the same as the original early-2000s version in the conical bottle. It’s a green floral with notes of artemisia, juniper berries, mandarin oranges, violet leaf, bergamot, peony, freesia, neroli, muguet, sandalwood, musk, vanilla, and vetiver. It was composed by Annie Buzantian and is more green than any of the others I’ve listed here, even the DSH. Still very pretty, though.

Not included on this list are a number of fragrances with “peony” in the name (including the L’Occitane peony fragrances and Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine), because they don’t smell real to me. Also not included is a really nice fragrance, Penhaligon’s Peoneve – not because it doesn’t smell natural, but because it smells of jammy rose to me with not a peony petal in the mix. Another one I didn’t include was Parfums DelRae Coup del Foudre, because while it is absolutely gorgeously peony-rose for an hour, after that it shrinks down to the skin in a marked manner, and the sudden disappearing act annoys me.

Donna (“Flora”) who reviews for Perfume-Smellin’ Things, has in private conversation recommended Ellen Tracy Peony/Rose. That one is also unfortunately discontinued and I haven’t smelled it, but at this writing you can buy the gift set of perfume and lotion on Amazon for about $27. Donna likes her perfumes lush and trés femme, and we have a lot of overlap in our tastes. The notes list includes peony, rose, and gardenia.

One more I’d like to try is Parfums de Nicolaï Rose Pivoine, which I seem to remember was recommended to me by Blacknall at A Perfume Blog, and has notes of red fruits, rose oil and absolute, geranium, chamomile, woody notes and musk. I am a little concerned about the geranium, which often seems a little screechy to me. But it’s PdN, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and try it when I get the opportunity. (Incidentally, PdN is now listed on Fragrantica as Nicolaï Parfumeur Createur. Which, okay, it’s their company and they can play with the name. I keep wanting to say PdN, though.)

I also hear that Ann Gerard Rose Cut is a lovely fresh rose with peony, but haven’t smelled that one either. Please do comment if you’ve tried it.

Are you a peony fan? Please share your favorite peony fragrances!


May 2015

The mad end-of-school rush has started (middle-school track pizza party, end-of-year band banquet, end-of-year FFA banquet, et cetera, ad nauseam). There’s more to come, too; school here ends on May 29. There’s still FFA state public-speaking competition and the 8th-grade dance to come, and the conference track meet as well.

Bookworm is home for two weeks, before heading back to New Haven for the summer school sessions, at which she will be serving as a residential advisor in the dorms. She doesn’t get paid, but she gets room and board and tuition for one class, which seemed like a good deal to us! I love having her home.

Hunter-doggie has been scratching himself silly lately; we took him to the vet for checkup and shots and flea meds. The technician took him to the back for examination, and I heard him making his grizzling I-don’t-like-this noise… and then growling. Oh dear. The tech brought him back in to see if I could get the muzzle on him, which I did, but more growling ensued, and when the vet came in, she wanted to know if he was a problem at home. I told her that we’d clipped his nails once – and only once – because despite (or maybe due to) being held securely by both me and The CEO, he bit.

The vet suggested training. Which, yes, we probably ought to do. I just don’t know when we can manage to squeeze it in. I’m planning a small party for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, with my siblings, as well as arranging things for The CEO and myself to go to New Zealand for two weeks immediately after that.

The CEO will be teaching a travel class on international agricultural trade during Virginia Tech’s “Wintermester,” a short optional class session between the end of fall semester and the beginning of spring, this coming January.  He received a grant to go to NZ – where he did his master’s degree on a Fulbright scholarship – this summer to do all the logistics planning, and I’m going with him.

This is such a beautiful time of year. We’ve rolled through the redbuds blooming, the tulips and daffodils and hyacinths, the apple trees, the dogwoods, the wild cherries, and now the black locusts are perfuming the air far and wide. Gorgeous. The CEO will probably start cutting hay next week.

bjrHave been watching Outlander on Starz, the second half of the first season (season 2 is already in production, yay!). It just keeps getting better. The CEO is watching it with me now, and enjoying it as well. The casting in this is just so good… the only time I remember seeing Tobias Menzies before was as [Judi Dench] M’s assistant in “Casino Royale,” but he is tearing up the screen as the truly loathsome and sadistic yet totally magnetic Black Jack Randall. GO WATCH, if at all possible. You’ll thank me.

Photo by The Southwest Times.
Photo by The Southwest Times.

Gaze had a really good track meet where he lowered his mile (1600m) personal record to 5:09. That was followed by a mediocre meet, and then one in which he ran a solid first leg of the 4 x 800m relay, threw up, then ran half of a killer 20-seconds-faster-than-his-PR-pace mile, hit the (metaphorical) wall, and finished with half a mile probably slower than his middle school races. SIGH. Poor baby. The track team’s Facebook account ran some great pics, including one of Gaze during that 800m, looking like Death in a singlet, with his coach looking really alarmed on the sideline.  As his mother, if I hadn’t seen him looking okay and consuming food between the time of the meet and the time the photo was posted, I’d have been very very worried.  But I’ll give you one of him kickin’ it in the relay instead.

We are bottle-feeding two baby calves. They’re both girls, with eyelashes longer than a B-list star with two sets of false lashes on the red carpet. The CEO wants to call them Priscilla and Lydia, but Bookworm objects. I’m not sure why. One got separated from her mother when a group of cows was moved to a new field, and the other was found simply wandering and looking hungry – she may have been a twin. They’re very sweet.

I’ve been wearing all my greenies, same as last month. But it’s already getting hotter, and I’m wanting less greenery in my florals now. Time to haul out the summer things and put some of the chillier fragrances away. (Still loving Le Temps d’une Fete, though. I think that’s perennial.)


Bloggity Blog Blog Blog, or In Which I Yahoodle About Pretty Much Nothing

Okay. I know. I knoooooooooow. It’s been forever (well, something like five weeks) since I last posted anything. Why haven’t I?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

Why do I bother to leave this blog up when I’m not posting anything?

And the fact is, I have no idea. It’s not that I have nothing to say. I probably have less to say about perfume at this point in my life, that much is true. But I do have things to say, and I am saying them in another venue every day. I am working on novels (to the point that The CEO is all like WHY HAVEN’T YOU DONE THIS YET AND WHY ARE THERE NO CLEAN SOCKS WHY WHY??? And I have to hang my head and say things that sound really lame coming out of the mouth of an adult. Like, “Well, I was writing.” WRITING WUT?? he wants to know, and I have to hang head further and say, “Well, I was writing the story of this teenager just struggling to get through high school and worried that he will never get into college and his abusive dad will find him now that his mother is dead and he’s totes afraid that his girlfriend will go off to college and forget him.” And The CEO says, DID YOU JUST ACTUALLY SAY TOTES DID YOU YOU DID DIDN’T YOU? DEAR GOD MY WIFE IS DIGRESSING TO THE MENTAL AGE OF A ONE DIRECTION FAN STOPPITTT NOOO!!!”).

keyboard-blurbystriaticatflickrOkay, so I’m not really writing that story. And I don’t talk to him about what I do write, because he doesn’t read fiction. But I only exaggerate to make a point.

And then there is the drama with Taz, who is now an 8th grader. We still cannot read his handwriting. Worse, his teachers cannot read his handwriting, and have now instituted the consequences we have been discussing with them since first grading period: if they can’t read it, it’s wrong. His Algebra I grades are suffering now.

Oh, and Gaze still thinks he wants to attend a service academy for college. Which his worrywart mother, which would be ME, has mixed feelings about. Send my baby into the military? Well, fine, but you better not be sending him into combat, or I will come beat you over the head with my mother angst.

The community chorus just performed our spring concert this past weekend, and I’m glad it’s over because I am just EXHAUSTERATED. We normally sing Serious Choral Music – which I really like – but we just did a Broadway-and-popular-music concert, at our local theater, which has come back from the dead as a community project over the last five years or so. I did a lot of Broadway stuff in high school, probably too much of the same-old same-old, and I don’t find the music challenging at all, so I was sort of dreading this concert. It was only when A) our director announced that we would be costuming and adding some stage action, and B) I realized that a good half of the program would consist of humorous pieces to balance the gravity of the Les Miserables medley that constituted the second half of the program, that I began to feel that it would all be okay.

I like musical theater. As a kid, I performed in several productions at our church – nobody does this anymore, do they? There was one called “Cool in the Furnace,” about Daniel and his three long-named buddies getting tossed into the fiery furnace for disobeying the Persian king’s stricture against worshiping any entity other than himself. And then there was one called “Sam,” I think, about the Good Samaritan, in which I got to be the man robbed and beaten by thieves, later helped by the Samaritan man. I collapsed TOTALLY CONVINCINGLY. Totally. Then there was a valley-wide production of “Celebrate Life,” a musical about the life of Jesus, put on by all the youth groups of the Baptist churches in the area.

My high school drama department did not do musicals. But my first year of college, I did a turn in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” as Tintinnabula, one of the courtesans. SO. Much. Fun.

And this performance was fun, too. I enjoyed creating my French peasant costume: long blue skirt, white peasanty blouse, scarf, vest, mobcap, apron, revolutionary cockade. I enjoyed seeing what everybody else came up with for costumes. I got to ham it up on stage, too, which is always a blast. Stages are MEANT FOR HAMMING, Y’ALL. It’s only since the age of the movie closeup that we’ve come to understand the art of acting to be more subtle.

And now we have, for example, Gary Oldman. (Who can, mind you, chomp up scenery with the best of them, but most often doesn’t.) And My Fantasy Boyfriend Tom Hardy (why, yes, that title is now officially part of his name), who was once described in a review of “Lawless” as doing more acting with the back of his neck than his costar Shia LeBeouf (I am not a fan) did with his entire self.

But I digress. And now I have a confession to make.

The ladies were on the risers, behind the curtain, preparing for our next piece, while two gentlemen from the chorus performed “Agony” from Into the Woods. There was an introduction for this Sondheim musical, which I admit I have only seen pieces of and never the entire thing, either live or the recent movie. Our narrator described this “battle of the romantic leads,” where Cinderella’s Prince Charming meets up with Rapunzel’s prince in the woods and they start chatting… “They compare their swords and their troubles,” the narrator said, in the middle of this intro.

THEY COMPARE THEIR SWORDS. I missed the rest of it because I was laughing so hard I snorted.

Multiple times. On stage. Behind the curtain. You know sometimes when you know you’re not supposed to laugh but you do anyway, and then while trying desperately to stop things get exponentially funnier, and you practically swallow a lung because you are trying so hard but you can’t stop laughing? That.

This is a big big no-no. I’m not proud. Really, I’m not. Please remember, I know from teenage boys. Of COURSE they compare their swords. Or their “swords,” heh. (I am hanging my head in shame right now.)

But anyway, here’s the song, from the recent Disney movie, with Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen.

(If only all Charmings were so open about it, there would be less heartbreak in the world.)
(If only all Charmings were so open about it, there would be less heartbreak in the world.)

I have never been a big Chris Pine fan. For one thing, he looks a lot like our neighbor’s teenage son. My recurrent thought upon seeing the Star Trek reboot movies was, “I can’t take this seriously. They’ve handed the Enterprise over to Jake-the-kid-next-door, and he just got his license last week, for heaven’s sake! Also, Spock is kinda hot, and That’s Just Wrong.” Besides which, I made the mistake of watching This Means War, with My Fantasy Boyfriend and The New Captain Kirk as spies battling over the same girl, and Pine is pretty much a jerk in it. (Actually, that’s a terrible movie in general. Don’t see it. Or Lawless, that’s terrible too although Hardy is great in it – read the book, called The Wettest County in the World, instead.)

But now that I’ve seen Chris Pine sing, I’ve kind of changed my mind about him. Yes, that’s really him singing. And he’s channeling William Shatner here, too, I think, which seems to indicate that he’s got a sense of humor.

I’m such a sucker for a guy with a nice voice, especially one who can make me laugh. I still think he’s more of a ham than a subtle actor, but who says there’s no call for that anymore?

safariSpeaking of which, perfume. 😉

I did not wear perfume on stage. I wanted to, but I wanted to not bother other people more.

I’ve tested some new things recently, but am far more focused on enjoying what I have.

It’s spring, so of course I am wearing All My Greenies. Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete, Chanel No. 19, Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet, Ralph Lauren Safari, Guerlain Chamade. Haven’t gotten out the Jacomo Silences yet, but I probably ought to.

I’m wearing All My Spring Florals, too: DelRae Amoureuse, DSH White Lilac, Penhaligon’s Violetta, Mary Greenwell Plum, and my too-small decant of DelRae Wit. I still haven’t formally reviewed Wit, but to be perfectly honest about it, all I really need to say is, I need more of it.

Claude Monet, Iris Garden at Giverny, 1899. Apres l'Ondee smells like this looks, except through recent rainshowers.
Claude Monet, Iris Garden at Giverny, 1899. Apres l’Ondee smells like this looks, except through recent rainshowers.

I’ve also been wearing my small 2009 decant of Guerlain Apres l’Ondee, which is without doubt a wonderful thing, all Debussy/Monet Impressionism, a gauzy silk scarf of wistful loveliness. It’s been reformulated recently (2013 or 2014, I think), to be less heliotrope and violet, and more iris. Which is a darn shame, I tell you, because the world needs more wistful and less businesslike.

I have only worn my treasured bit of Jean Patou Vacances once this summer, despite its being almost as perfect a spring scent as Apres l’Ondee. Vacances has been rereleased in Patou’s “Heritage Collection,” and I’ve already ordered a small decant of it. Can’t wait to smell it, although I am trying to school myself to the attitude that it won’t smell like it used to, either. I’m just hoping for “pretty good” at this point.

So. I’m going to stop beating myself up about not having anything to blog, and just blog when I feel the spirit move me. Hope that’s okay.


Scent Diary, March 8-15, 2015

Monday, Mar. 9 – Our internet is wonky. In, out, in, out… slllllooooooowwwww. It’s driving me crazy. Also? I’m sick. I have fever chills. My stomach is vaguely unsettled, but mostly it’s the fever symptoms that are making me feel so bad. The CEO left this morning to take some of his Ag students to the Governor’s conference on agriculture and trade, in Richmond. He’ll be back tomorrow.

Remember a few weeks ago when I was whining about the modern version of Tuvache Jungle Gardenia being thin and watery, and Jeffrey Dame offered me a fresh sample to try? Well, the “fresh sample” turned out to be a full bottle. Wasn’t that lovely of him? (Oh dear, now I have a moral conundrum as to what to do with it.)

The new stuff goes by Tuvache Gardenia, and I sprayed a bit on my wrist this morning before taking Taz to school. It’s not thin. No. It is a proper, thick, heady, bleu-cheesy gardenia. I could wish for a few more green notes to it, but basically this is a narcotic floral in the best sense. Wow. Stuck around all day, smelled great.

By evening, I was freezing, and I sprayed some Amouage Memoir Woman to help me sleep.

Tuesday, Mar. 10 – I feel awful. Spent the day curled up under the quilt, huffing my soothing Esprit d’Oscar.  Such a shame that was discontinued – those “makeup” fragrances got popular all of a sudden, and then the trend moved on to something else. Of course, the celebuscents are still sugary-frooty-musky-dumb floral, and (unbelievably) they’re still selling. Oh, for the days when “celebrity fragrance” meant Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds! Or Deneuve.

Actually, let me back up a bit on White Diamonds. You know how yesterday I wore Tuvache Gardenia, and then put on some Memoir at night? Well, bits of both got onto my Yale hoodie sleeve, and now my hoodie smells like a big bouquet smeared with, um… okay, I’ll say it. Feces. You talk about indolic, baby. WHOA.

There is an older woman who sometimes shops for groceries where I shop, and she typically wears enough White Diamonds that you could follow her scent trail throughout the store. Eep. Well, on her, the indolic bits of White Diamonds come to the fore, so that it smells like this big gorgeous hotel-lobby bouquet of flowers… right next to a whole bucketload of filthy used cloth diapers. All the excretions, plus GIGANTIC FLOWERS… if you apply too much White Diamonds, apparently, it gets this noxious cast. And the combination of Tuvache Gardenia and Memoir Woman produces this wonderful/horrible juxtaposition of flowers and toilet as well.

So, please consider yourself warned. I am putting this poor sweatshirt into the laundry forthwith.

Daffodils and tulips coming up in the front yard. Can't wait for the blooms!
Daffodils and tulips coming up in the front yard. Can’t wait for the blooms!

Wednesday, Mar. 11Le Temps d’une Fete, Le Temps d’une Fete!! Spring is on its way, I can feel it, and I’m so happy to be able to switch out my winter fragrances for the early-spring ones. Every time I open the hatbox to choose, I feel bad for the ones I haven’t chosen. Sigh.

I think I’m getting over the fever. My stomach is in rebellion, though – which could be due to the diet I had planned to start on Monday and put off until today.

Thursday, Mar. 12 – I still feel bad. I’m continuing to have digestive issues with this new diet (South Beach), and I hope things settle out soon. I feel fairly sure that having had my gallbladder removed in 2002 has a good deal to do with the way that I’m processing all this increased dietary fiber. Gah. But the scale is down several pounds, so I don’t want to give up too soon.

I’m testing things today, with several things up and down my arms. Fun.

Friday, Mar. 13 – This is the last day of The CEO’s spring break at Virginia Tech. I hope he’s had a relaxing week. SOTMorning was Frederic Malle Iris Poudre, for Now Smell This’ weekly Friday challenge; this week it was “wear something old-school niche, preferably released before 2010.” Iris Poudre I love anyway, and it was released in 2003, if I remember correctly.

By the afternoon IP was slowing down, and I added a dab or two of Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, which would also have fit the bill for the NST Friday challenge, and played nicely with the dregs of IP because of the iris and musk present in both.

And Bookworm is home! So glad we have her for a week.

2 pi r in our kitchen (cherry and chocolate)
2 pi r in our kitchen (cherry and chocolate)

Saturday, Mar. 14 – Hey, it’s Pi Day! So, of course, we made pie. Two pies. Or, as it amused The CEO to say, “2?r in our kitchen.” (Sorry. I’ll wait while you shake off the awfulness of the pun.)

It is so nice to have Bookworm home. I miss her when she’s gone. Looks like she’ll be in New Haven this summer, serving as a residential advisor in Yale’s summer-program dorms. She’ll get free room and board, plus tuition for one summer class.

SOTD is Chamade. Because, duh, Chamade. I love the way this thing turns from chilly to warm. I’m thrilled to break out all the greenies in my wardrobe.

Sunday, Mar. 15 – The grass is starting to green up outside, which is exciting. It’s funny, you know – the seasons change in largely the same way every year, and yet it always thrills me to see the change.

SOTD was Deneuve, which seemed a little more animalic than I remember it. There was the green and the hyacinth, the spring flowers, but also some really dirty musk that was prominent to my nose today. It wound up being a little much for church, to be honest, and after we got home I spritzed a bit of Le Temps d’une Fete over top. That one isn’t spectacularly clean, either, but it’s clean-er. And I love it.

My sister and her son are visiting while he’s out of school for spring break. They spent the week seeing family, and touring many of Virginia’s historical sites – Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, the state Capitol building in Richmond (designed by Thomas Jefferson, of course), Yorktown, Monticello. I think Doodlebug enjoyed it very much, and of course we loved seeing them. Texas is far.



More Blog Housekeeping

Due to an issue that came up recently on a blog I generally admire, I have recently added the following policy on content sharing to my “Blog Policies” page:


If you’d like to quote from any item published on the blog, please either make it a brief quote (two or three sentences or so), or request permission to quote me. Unless you’re clearly content-lifting, I’ll probably grant permission and toss in my blessing to boot. If you quote at all, please attribute the quote to this blog and include a link. All material published here is mine, and copyrighted as of the publish date.

Official copyright logo from Wikimedia Commons.
Official copyright logo from Wikimedia Commons.

I am perfectly fine with portions of the material on this site being shared, as long as they are attributed and linked properly.

I don’t make any money from my blog. Any external links you see on it are for items that I love myself and would like to make it easier for interested parties to find. I don’t accept payment for reviews. If I accept samples for the purpose of review, I make it clear to the provider that I do not guarantee a review, much less a positive one. If I write a review at all, it will be an honest one.

Further, I promise not to quote other blog reviews to an extent that would make it pointless for readers to go and read those reviews for themselves at their original home. That is, you’ll find brief snippets from other reviews on occasion, and you will definitely find links to other reviews, but in deference to the words written by others, some of whom make a living from their online blogs, I won’t be quoting large chunks of them unless permission has specifically been granted me.

I have occasionally in the past quoted from written works such as Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, but have now removed these references until permission can be obtained from the publishers. Nobody asked me to do this, but I have become convinced that I am both breaking the law and being disrespectful to those authors by quoting more than a few words from those works.

Incidentally, the Walter Savage Landor couplet located on my home page is in the public domain. So are the images on my home page.



Winter Perfumes, 2015

Well, it looks like we’re sliding into spring (on all the mud left behind by our late-winter snows and recent rains. MUD, I tell you). And I never did a post on winter fragrances, did I? Well then.

My winter loves haven’t changed much since I started blogging in 2009. I’m still a big fan of “cozies” in cold weather.

First, and always, Teo Cabanel Alahine. Beautiful, warm, forceful and joyous, this floral amber accompanied me on happy days this winter. Smells like church bells sound.

A fluffy thing, in this rich color. Very cozy.
A fluffy thing, in this rich color. Very cozy.

Soivohle Centennial is still the closest smell ever to a comfortable, soft, dark peach angora sweater that I used to own in college. (I wonder what happened to that sweater… probably I sent it to Goodwill, ages ago.) Centennial is based on a classic floral chypre recipe, according to Liz Zorn (it was originally called Historical Chypre), and it is very floral (jasmine and rose, with some ylang, I think) atop a seriously-chypre backbone with plennnnnty of oakmoss and patchouli and amber. I don’t know exactly what it is in the base that feels fuzzy, but it certainly does. I go through stages of being addicted to this thing.

Tom Hardy. Leather jacket. What's not to like?
Tom Hardy. Leather jacket. What’s not to like?

I wore Amouage Memoir Woman a lot this winter, too. Memoir Woman is downright freaky, and I admit that it took me about nine wearings of it to really figure out what it even was: jammed full of every herbal/spicy/medicinal smell you could imagine up top (Band-Aids! Myrrh! Anise! Clove! Other weird stuff that makes you think of witches brewing up potions!), followed by a big luxurious armful of jasmine, ylang and tuberose in the middle, and the whole thing resting on an animalic-chypre platform that is mostly about leather but also smells a bit like fur and civet and incense. This one smells like Tom Hardy… if a bearded Tom Hardy should somehow show up at my door, wearing a leather jacket and bearing white flowers. And a love potion. :) Rrrowwwwwr.

What is this bottle - a mouse? A worry stone? A hot rock from the massage room of a fancy spa?
What is this bottle – a computer mouse? A worry stone? A hot rock from the massage room of a fancy spa?

It doesn’t get any cozier than Donna Karan Black Cashmere. This one was discontinued, then brought back in a slightly-reformulated version (no, it’s a good one) in a boring cylindrical bottle with none of the charm of the original “pebble” bottle. It’s spicy, woody incense with a side of warm milk, and I find it very comforting. Despite the name, it isn’t black at all. It’s a lovely warm deep rusty-brown color in my head.



And of course I can’t get through the winter without a honkin’ Big White Floral!  I wore so many different ones that it’s tough to choose just a single BWF, but Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, ByRedo Flowerhead, Le Galion Tubereuse, Dior Poison, and Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur all figured prominently in my winter wardrobe. Yum. There’s nothing more luxurious than white flowers, nothing. Nothing. And I know they’re actually white, but somehow in my head, they’re pink. Like, Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” pink.

All the same, I’m glad to be turning the corner toward warmer weather. You?