Back in the Saddle

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Categories: Create

Or the desk chair. Yes, summer is over and school has started. (Yippee!) I’m shaking small people awake every weekday morning now, packing lunchboxes full of nutritious goodies like applesauce cups and peanut-butter sandwiches, and ferrying my children to school on my way to work. And my husband has gone back to his school-year job, teaching agriculture at the university down the road; he’ll be farming on weekends until next summer.

The house is empty in the afternoons after I come home from my part-time job, and there is time to write! Now I’ve only to go collect up the notes I made regarding perfume testing over the summer, which ought to be no help really, because my usual meticulous notes degenerated into 10-word descriptions. Oh, heck, I’ll just start over with the reviewing!

I hope to be back on a three-to-four posts a week basis as of now. Well, it’s Thursday, and we’ve got a family trip planned for the weekend, so if I get a review finished I’ll post tomorrow and that will hit the average – for this week, anyway.

While testing a vintage perfume today, I had a revelation. Those of you who know me know that I don’t like to wear my perfume so thickly that I can be smelled from ten feet away. I’m a delicate applier, and only people close enough to hug me are the ones to smell my perfume. In the past I have ranted about those who love loud perfumes and apply them heavily, forcing others to share their chosen scent to a degree that verges on invasion. But today – ah, today… I began to understand those people. At least to a degree…

Back tomorrow with a review of Balenciaga’s lovely, discontinued early-80’s Michelle.



Why perfume?

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Categories: The scented life

I’ve been asked that question several times by my husband, usually in a borderline-suspicious tone of voice: “Why are you so interested in perfume all of a sudden?” I’ll have a shot at explaining, because it is a relatively new interest of mine.

A bit of history: I always liked perfume. As a child, I was abetted by my grandmother, who was fascinated with Avon and their quirky fragrance packaging. (At left, Willie the Worm Solid Perfume Compact, ca. 1974. Bambaw bought this one for me. I don’t remember how it smelled.) Growing up, I wore Avon’s Sweet Honesty, which I seem to remember being packaged in a Rapunzel’s Tower roll-on bottle. As a young teenager, I was given bottles of Cachet and Chloe, which I wore but never loved. Later on, I fell in love with Coty’s Emeraude and used up a bottle of eau de cologne. As years passed, I wore Tatiana, Aspen for Women, Navy, Xia Xiang, and The Healing Garden In Bloom. My husband bought me Elizabeth Arden True Love, and when that bottle began to smell spoiled, I bought the bright floral Victoria’s Secret Pink.
My fragrance choices were nearly always drugstore scents – because I believed that perfume should not be expensive. And if it was expensive, I didn’t need it. I laughed at the L’Oreal haircolor commercial that stated, “I’m worth it.” After all, perfume was a luxury item. Totally unnecessary. I could live with the cheap scents. Mom had always made do with her birthday-present Chanel No. 5 eau de cologne, or Anais Anais, or Coty L’Effleur. I didn’t need the designer stuff.
I was slightly envious of my sister’s perfumes: Christian Dior Dune. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. Although they didn’t seem like me, they were clearly classier than anything I’d ever worn.
And then came Velvet Tuberose. I was in Bath and Body Works late last summer, picking up some Aromatherapy Lavender and Vanilla lotion for the aforementioned sister’s birthday, and I was wandering around sniffing things. I picked up Chocolate Amber – bleah. I sniffed Black Amethyst – not me. I picked up Velvet Tuberose and sniffed. Sniffed again. And in a daze, I carried that bottle of Velvet Tuberose ($17, on sale) up to the register to buy it, only remembering the Lavender and Vanilla when it was time to pull out my wallet.
I wore it all autumn, and it garnered compliments as well as making me feel wonderful. But I thought, you know, this is not going to be good for summer. There must be more than BBW and drugstore fragrances. There must be something out there that I will just love…
Futzing around on the ‘net, I found perfume review sites like Now Smell This ( and Perfume Smellin’ Things ( and Perfume Posse ( And a whole new world opened up… I wear perfume for myself. I like the way I feel when I wear it. I might occasionally wear something my husband likes, just because he likes it – but mostly it’s all about me.
I like the way perfume changes the way I think: it brings up memories, or suggests new ideas, or invites comparisons to music, to images, to stories and novels and poems. It opens up windows in my head. Wearing it is no longer an automatic “wear pantyhose, put on perfume” act, or an attempt to attract masculine attention (actually, it never was that for me). It’s become a form of art that I appreciate more and more each day.


Perfume Review: Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka


Categories: Parfums de Nicolai, Perfume review

I’m jumping into perfume reviews with a favorite: Vanille Tonka. I read the notes for this one on a perfume blog: lime, mandarin, cinnamon, carnation, vanilla, tonka bean, and frankincense – and immediately went looking for a sample. It’s rare that I guess correctly whether or not I’m going to like a fragrance, just considering the listed notes, but guess what? I was right. That doesn’t happen often enough in general, so just the fact that I was right (once!) is cause for celebration.

The other cause for celebration is that this thing makes me giddy. Every time I spray it, I get happy. It seems perfect for chilly weather. I haven’t worn it in warm weather yet, and I’m not sure I’m going to, but the happiness factor guarantees that I’ll at least try it once. It starts out with a burst of tangy lime, and a hit of cinnamon oil. Remember those cinnamon-oil toothpicks the boys used to bring to middle school and pass around, before school authorities figured out how dangerous each and every thing brought onto school grounds can be? Those toothpicks smelled great, and if you chewed on one, it burned your tongue and cleared your sinuses. The cinnamon in Vanille Tonka isn’t quite that strong, but it’s not very foody. Likewise, the vanilla is not your average sweet marshmallow/custard/ice cream vanilla; it’s smoky and restrained. The carnation is present, only vaguely floral, underneath the vanilla and tonka base, and the whole thing is covered in a veil of frankincense, with its dry, lime-y, smoky depth.

VT is not universally loved – March over at Perfume Posse said she’d rather stick a fork in her hand than ever smell it again, and Luca Turin, in Perfumes: The Guide, calls it dull next to Patricia de Nicolai’s first perfume, Number One. (I’ll comment that VT reminds me more of Sacrebleu than it does Number One, which has a vaguely chypre-ish groove.) But it does have its fans: Robin at Now Smell This, despite not being a vanilla fan, calls it “lovely,” and Victoria at Bois de Jasmin comments that it is “sophisticated” and “comforting.”

For me, though, Vanille Tonka is all about lime and vanilla, and I always get this mental picture: tipsy limes staggering around, dancing through the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick forest, laughing their heads off every time they bounce into a giant carnation. Sophisticated? Well, maybe next to a vanilla fragrance like Jessica Simpson’s Fancy. When I wear Vanille Tonka, it’s because I want a little fun.



Dream, Create, Believe

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Categories: Create

I live in a newfangled farmhouse on the edge of a cattle farm in the mountains of Virginia. Like most farmhouses, it’s designed more for comfort than for impressing the neighbors, and contains more than its share of dirt and chaos. When we were building this house, my husband commented that he didn’t want a fancy-looking house. “It should be homey,” I said. “Yes,” he replied. “The house should appear to be saying, ‘Come in and have some soup.'”

Blogging is new to me. And since this is the inaugural post for Muses in Wooden Shoes, it would make sense to lay out my expectations for this blog — its floorplan, if you will. The plan is that I’ll post three blogs a week, with the possibility of more, on subjects that interest me: novels, poetry, perfume, memories, the senses, music, God… Comments will be welcome. (Please, come in and have some soup!) I just ask that you keep your language such that your mother could read the blog without embarrassment.

On the top floor of this Homey Farmhouse is my so-called Sewing Room. It’s a small room which contains a twin bed, a nightstand with a lamp, a table with a sewing machine on it, and a chair. It’s crowded. It’s messy. But on the walls are three plaques with vital messages:


These vital messages are all expressed as verbs, and that fact in itself is a vital message. If one wants to BE, one must DO. That’s my hope for this blog: that as I Dream, Create, and Believe, I become more myself than I’ve ever been. Here’s to the journey.

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