Update, and some lovely music

I’ve been so busy lately – what with Christmas preparations and funeral/family obligations – that I have not had time to finish any reviews.  I hope to have at least one posted next week, however. 

It will not be the new Malle scent, Portrait of a Lady.  We Did Not Get On, The Lady and I, and my decant has found a new home.  It might be the new Hermessence, Iris Ukiyoe, or one of the new Dior Collection Couturier scents, New Look 1947.  Or maybe one from DSH Perfumes.  Who knows?  At this stage I think I’d better not promise anything!

Over the next two months I will be getting back to reviewing tuberose scents.  I don’t know why cold weather calls for tuberose, but it does, at least in my world.

The CEO did hear from The Mysterious Them on Monday evening regarding the potential job: as we suspected, they decided that they really needed the experience of one of the other candidates instead of The CEO’s writing and public speaking skills, although it seems to have been a difficult decision, narrowing down from five applicants to The CEO and the guy they eventually hired.  I think I had better not identify Them, except to say that this was a political staffer position. 

Has The CEO ever held a political job? No.  After a stellar college career, a stint as a Governor’s Fellow, and his Fulbright scholarship, he came home to run the family farm, and then a few years ago he became an instructor of agricultural economics at the nearby university.  He’s also been an Eisenhower Fellow in recent years, so he’s not your average farmer (Agricultural Industry Professional, as he likes to call it).  But no political experience.  (Yet.)

He’s bummed.  I’m bummed too, especially since I think he feels his skills are going to waste raising cows, and he’s ready for a career change.  But it’s possible that opportunities may arise out of this setback, too.

And now, for your listening pleasure, I share with you my mother’s favorite Christmas music: Pietro Yon’s lovely carol Gesu Bambino, sung here (in English) by the incomparable Jessye Norman.  I know I shared this one on the blog last year, but for me it’s not Christmas without Gesu Bambino.  Enjoy!

Edit:  please note that you will have to click twice on the video to see it, and it will actually take you directly to Youtube.  (This worked more easily with Google Blogger last year.)  Sorry.  Anyway, it’s well worth hearing, five minutes’ worth of beautiful.



The Thanksgiving Chair


Saw this video last Sunday at church, and it’s made an impression on me.  Thanksgiving has always had strong religious overtones for my family, and that’s still true.  To whom to we give thanks, if not to God? 

Question:If you celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and you’re not interested in religion, how do you celebrate it?  I’m not being snarky, I’m serious here.  I can certainly understand that Thanksgiving is attractive to people who’d prefer that God just Butt Out Of Our Lives, Please, for various reasons – getting the family together, the great food, the continuation of a tradition, the parades, the football games, the four-day weekend… 

…so if you don’t consider yourself a religious person and you celebrate Thanksgiving because it is, after all, a national holiday, I’d love to know how the day goes for you.  Is it a day for eating a wonderful meal with your family?  A shared cultural phenomenon you participate in because not participating would be weird?  A good excuse to lie on the couch and watch four football games, interrupted only by sage dressing and pumpkin pie with whipped cream?  Not that there’s, ahem, anything wrong with that.

We’re eating the main meal with The CEO’s parents and one of his sisters today, along with some other friends who are on their own.  There will be the traditional turkey breast and ham, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie on the table, as well as my mother-in-law’s  broccoli casserole and grocery rolls.  There will be football, both on TV and outside (assuming it doesn’t rain).  My father-in-law will pronounce the blessing while we hold hands around the table.

I might have burned the pies.  Taz might have made rude noises about the smoked salmon and then kicked his sister.  Bookworm might have yelled at Taz, Gaze  might have slyly prompted them to have started a fight in the first place, The CEO might have disagreed loudly with his father over some element of farm management, or with his sister over the best way to invest.  But I will have spent some quality time in the Thanksgiving Chair, and not even (unburned) pumpkin pie could beat that.


Random Stuff, No Perfume

Why am I compelled to write this stuff? Dunno. Just becuz. Bear with me. There are multiple digressions and/or rants in here, so be warned. Or if you’re looking for perfume stuff, go skim the archives. There’s a perfume review category over there on the side, eat your heart out.

I’ve been rereading my copy of Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange, after having reread Pride & Prejudice. I also reread Daphne du Maurier’s classic Gothic novel Rebecca, and Sally Beaumann’s brilliant but disturbing Rebecca’s Tale. (Are you sensing a pattern here? Do you reread books, and if so, which ones?)

In any case, now I want to go pop in my DVD of Pride & Prejudice – yes, I am a philistine, I like the movie version with Kiera Knightley and the velvet-voiced Matthew MacFadyen, with its near-hectic pace that reminds me of student plays I’ve been in… oddly, I find this aspect interesting, but then The CEO tells me I have near-inhuman tolerance for the stage experience. Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, Matthew Mac and his gorgeous voice and his blue eyes, his prodigious nose (seriously, check out his profile – that is a nose, baby!) and his sturdy thighs (what is it with me and the thighs?). Not to forget that mouth… honestly, that’s the most decadent mouth I’ve seen on a human being since Liv Tyler, and she doesn’t count since she’s a girl.

Speaking of which, it has recently come to my attention that Joan Jett is a lesbian. I know, I know, everybody else already knew, and my just finding out now is a little bit like being the only one without a touch-tone phone: embarrassing, hopeless fuddy-duddy-dom. I can only assume that such information was not widely disseminated when The Runaways (the real ones) were hot – or if it was, I was too young to have picked up on it. At one time I knew all the lyrics to “Crimson and Clover,” but the idea that Joan was singing about a girlfriend was just way over my head at the time. I’ve always kind of liked Joan… I think I knew that she was the kind of person who, beyond her rock-n-roll looks, didn’t care much about what people thought of her, and I thought that was kind of cool. I’d have bought a JJ & the Blackhearts album with my Christmas money in the early 80s, but my mother thought it was subversive, so I picked Barry Manilow instead.

And don’t you dare tell me that there’s no room in the world for both Barry and Joan: of course there is! And for Pat Benatar, the patron saint of Spandex, and A-Ha, and Sarah Brightman, and… oh, there are more, but I’ll stop there. No, one more: Mandy Patinkin. You know, Mandy PatinkinInigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride”? Played Barbara Streisand’s love interest in “Yentl”? Played a doctor in “Chicago Hope” and a profiler on “Criminal Minds” on TV? Yeah, that Mandy Patinkin… he got started acting in Broadway musicals, and he’s got this gorgeous pure tenor voice, as well as a sense of humor. 

So why am I running off at the mouth (fingers) like this? Dunno. But I think it has something to do with NaNoWriMo, the start of which is rapidly approaching. This will be my third year, and I’ve got my novel outlined and planned out, which is a change – and I decided to take it easy on myself and write a romance novel sans cheesy sappiness (oh, don’t worry, there will be mushy stuff – it is, after all, a romance) after the years I have spent saying, “Wow, I can’t believe somebody published this dreck – I could do better with one hand tied behind my back!” Time to put up or shut up, and I’m Puttin’ Up. It’s a Romance Throwdown, people.

This follows the Ambitious Year of NaNo, in which I conceived of the dramatic saga of grad school sweethearts and their tribulations and years apart… and which ultimately I could not figure out how to tell without resorting to the Evil Flashback, or ellipses during which years pass, both of which are stupid. I haven’t abandoned the thing, just shelved it until I figure out how to tell it.

SO. I’d better be clear up front, November posts will probably be thin on the ground, once we’re past A Week of Violets. I have a few reviews in the can, ready to post, and will probably do an abbreviated Scent Diary and a “Howzitgoin at NaNo?” each week, but that’ll be about it until a couple of days into December.

Back to Joan Jett: We’ve got “The Runaways” on our Netflix queue (oh, not for the kids to see, just me and The CEO) because we somehow missed it at the theater… we hardly ever go to movies, even ones we want to see, and those are rare. I have never been a big Kristen Stewart fan, having avoided the “Twilight” movies because I thought the “Twilight” books a perfect example of self-indulgent, juvenile, crappily-written so-called literature (that nonetheless I would have been crazy about at the age of 15, when I had a taste for self-indulgent, juvenile so-called literature). And yet, I must point out that, yes, I did read all of them. I read the first one because all of Bookworm’s friends were reading it, and it would be negligent of me to let her have a book that could engender such huge mania without reading it first myself. I think it was a pretty decent love story that got caught up in wacky, self-indulgent, juvenile, crappily-written trappings. C’mon… leaving aside glittery teenage vampires for the moment, (because I read most of Anne Rice’s books as a young adult and don’t have a leg to stand on here), the ridiculous coincidences and the adulation of the main character alone make it crappy writing. There’s a writerly phrase for the “Main Character as Unique Precocious Genius Prone to Coincidences That Make Her Life Special,”: Mary Sue Syndrome.  You’re Not Supposed to Do That. It’s, hello, crappy writing.  Here’s a link to a Mary Sue litmus test – if you run it for just about any character in Twilight (except maybe Charlie Swann, Bella’s dad), they’ll come out a Mary Sue.  But somehow Stephenie Meyer has purveyed a decent love story, crappily written, dressed up with glittery teenage vampires and muscled teenage werewolves and angsty music, into a BILLION-DOLLAR INDUSTRY.

I really must stop grinding my teeth. End Twilight rant. End digression. Sorry.

Anyway, Kristen Stewart (I’ll get back to Joan, gimme a minnit)… turns out that the girl who played doe-eyed, mopey, passive Bella is actually a seriously good actress. I’ve seen clips of her as Joan. It’s eerie. Her whole body looks different – she’s fierce, aggressive, a ball of energy, self-confident and vulnerable underneath. There’s talent there. This pleases me. It ought to please Ms Bad Girl Stewart, who when she’s not acting is apparently sleeping with/not sleeping with her Twilight costar, chisel-jawed, strangely emotionally-detached British actor Robert Pattinson. (Who, incidentally, has got nothin’ on Matthew MacFadyen.) But I digress yet again.

SO. Finally, back to Joan Jett and her interest in girls. I can’t say I was all that surprised to find out Joan was a lesbian – well, okay, I was surprised for about ten seconds, but it was mostly a sort of “How has this factor escaped me?” surprised, not a “How can this be?” surprised. Sometimes I pick up on stuff, and sometimes I don’t. It took me several months to realize that a high school friend of mine was really more interested in kissing me than in continuing to discuss fantasy novels. Well, she’d probably have gone on discussing Stephen Donaldson after the kissing, but the point was I wasn’t in the least interested in kissing her, and so the friendship disintegrated. I always felt a little hunted and she always felt a little rejected, and eventually we had very little to say to each other.

 The CEO is a little annoyed with me at the moment: I took a certificate of his, where the governor had appointed him to a state board of regulation, to get it framed, and accidentally, um, crumpled it. Oops. It’s not horrible, but you can see the crease. He didn’t fuss much, but I could see he was really disappointed. I feel bad about it. You can’t unbreak an egg and you can’t uncrease an embossed document, even if you’re really really sorry. I’ll have to think up some way to make it up to him. (Call the governor’s office and tell them what happened, and ask for a replacement? That seems a waste of public resources. Ask for a replacement and offer to pay for it? I still think they’ll find it a nuisance. I don’t know what to do.)

I have this really, really annoying cough that’s not going away. Better go buy stock in Ricola, I’m keeping them in business.


Seasonal Colors

After my Fashion Rant of a few weeks ago, I started getting interested in clothes and styles again – I’ve run across a few fashion blogs and informational sites I like, and will post links to them soon.  Going along with the whole Finding Clothes That Suit Me deal is finding them in the right C O L O R S.

Remember the Color Me Beautiful book from the 80s?  I had one, you (or your mother, depending on how old you are) had one, everyone had one.  I loved the idea that there were colors that suited me, that made me look great. 

I was pretty sure which season I was, too.  Pretty sure.  I mean, I knew I was not a Winter like my grandmother, and not an Autumn like my mother and sister, and two of my aunts.  I knew there was a reason that the sage green dress my mother kept trying to buy me was awful on me and stunning on my redheaded sister.   Both silver and gold look fine on me, neither one being noticeably better.  And my dark blonde hair is really neither warm nor cool, although when I have colored it from time to time, I’ve found that “Light Ash Brown” is an utter disaster and “Dark Golden Blonde” is only marginally better.  “Medium Neutral Blonde” looks like my teenage hair color.

The Spring palette seemed the most right.  At one point, I lived off the printed color swatches of “my season,” attempting everything on the page.  I couldn’t figure out, though, why certain colors that were supposed to be for me didn’t work – and why certain other colors, which didn’t seem to be in my swatches, did.  And I wondered why my favorite tops, the ones that happened to be in “my colors,” looked so great with black pants, when black was not supposed to harmonize with my colors.

Huh.  Go figure.  I mean, I was a Spring.  I should be wearing Golden Yellow, Pale Violet, and Peach.  But they never worked.  The paler colors in my palette, and the yellower ones, made me look like I was recovering from a particularly enervating surgical intervention.  (Trust me, I’ve had two cesarean sections and one gallbladder removal, and the aftermath was fairly hellish on my complexion.)

Ivory looked great.  So did Turquoise, Aqua, and Teal.  So did Watermelon, Bright Warm Pink, Tomato Red, Deep Coral, and Light Rust.  So did Spring Green, Camel, Deep Periwinkle, and Bright Navy. 

Turns out there have been some tweaks to the old four-seasons model: one new scheme has six seasons, and one has twelve.  The twelve-season model seems to make the most sense to me, since it starts with the four basic seasons and then further divides them into three sections, like this:

Clear Winter          Deep Winter          Cool Winter

Clear Spring           Light Spring           Warm Spring

Soft Summer         Light Summer        Cool Summer

Soft Autumn          Deep Autumn        Warm Autumn

After reading descriptions, it appears that I’m a Clear Spring, with hair and skin tones more neutral than warm (but more warm than cool).  It’s no wonder that the Golden Yellow and Pale Peach looked so awful on me – they’re Warm Spring and Light Spring colors, respectively.  And Clear Springs can add Black to their swatch list!  I still don’t want it near my face, but the fact is that it looks great with the rest of my swatches, so I don’t have to drive myself crazy finding the right shade of camel or tan…

Which is horribly difficult, by the way, since Spring colors are among the toughest to find in commercial fashion.  Camel is supposedly hot right now, but I haven’t found any garment I want in that shade yet.  I’d love a nice wool skirt… sigh.

It’s funny how these seasons run in families, or maybe it’s not so surprising.  As I mentioned before, my mother and sister are both Warm Autumns, and both my dad and brother are Springs too (Dad’s a Light Spring and Little Bro’s a Warm Spring – the boy can rock a bright olive green polo like nobody’s business).  And in my own family, The CEO and Gaze are Light Summers who look smashing in pale blue oxford shirts, while Bookworm, strawberry blonde like her uncle, is a Warm Spring, and Taz has exactly my own coloring.

It might be even funnier – or sadder – when seasonal colors clash within a family.  For example, my mother’s mother, who lived with my parents from the time I was six months old until she died (I was 38), was a Cool Winter, at home in gray and magenta and bright red.  Family story: there wasn’t much money in that family when my mother was growing up, and for Christmas her senior year of high school, all Mom wanted was a new winter coat.  My grandmother – working two jobs as a single mother, and taking care of her own elderly parents – laid away the prettiest coat she could find at the nice clothing store downtown, and paid it off in nickels and dimes and crumpled dollar bills, a little at a time.  She brought it home in a box, wrapped it up, put it under the tree.

Now, you have to understand a few other things here too: Sarah Lou, my grandmother, was always a big Gift Person.  Loved to make them, buy them, give them, get them, talk about them, show them off… any gift, big or small, expensive or not.  Was crushed if you didn’t like the gift she gave you. (She could come up with some real weirdies, too – my sister and I both got transistor radios shaped like cheeseburgers once as Christmas gifts, and once she gave Taz and Gaze leopard-print blankets.  The afghans she crocheted herself were much more popular.)  Furthermore, Sarah Lou was a Frills-n-Ruffles person: buttons, sequins, feathers, godets, jabots, faux jewels, lace, the more the better.  Remember the Juicy Couture Couture-Couture bottle? She’d have loved it.  While my mother, Ann, is a Tailored person: plain, streamlined, pearls-and-sheath-dresses and the like suit her style.

So.  Christmas morning, 1957.  Picture it: Sarah Lou sitting on the couch in her robe and slippers, atwitter with excitement as Ann picks up the box with the prettiest winter coat in the world in it.  Ann hoping for a winter coat and thinking brown wool would be nice.  The box is opened to reveal… a deep royal purple velvet coat, with lavish passementerie trim and diamante buttons.  Sarah Lou, smiling, clapping hands, says, ” Isn’t it beautiful?”  Ann, recognizing how much labor it had taken to purchase that coat, but miserable and trying not to cry, “Oh, Mother…”

The first coat Ann picked out for herself, with proceeds from her post-college teaching job, was a very plain, single-breasted, olive-green wool tweed with fabric-covered buttons.  She wore it for years.  Sarah Lou got that purple coat back, and she wore it for years.  I have vivid memories of them going to church together, side by side, purple velvet and olive tweed.

Colors matter, don’t they?  You bet they do.   

Here are some links to color analysis sites:

Color Me Beautiful, the original Carole Jackson format

Flow Seasonal Analysis (12 seasons)

Pretty Your World (more 12-season Flow)

A Woman for All Seasons (6 seasons)

I may, if I have time, come back and post examples of the colors I’m talking about.  It may be futile, though, since monitors don’t show colors very accurately.  (Witness the “deep rose” cashmere sweater my Autumn sister bought online at Old Navy last year, checking the online swatch against her wrist and deeming it to be more of a “rosy brick” color, one she could wear.  It turned out to be a deep blue-pink, a Soft Summer color that aged my sister a good twenty years all on its own.  The sweater looks great on The CEO’s mom, who is, you guessed it, a Soft Summer, comfortable in dusty pink, blue-grey and burgundy.)


Scent Diary, September 13-19, 2010

Monday, Sept. 13:   I think I’m getting sick.  SOTD: another wrist-to-wrist comparison between Champagne de Bois and Bois des Iles.  Hope to have that throwdown written soon…

Tuesday, Sept. 14:  I don’t feel at all well: runny nose, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, possibly some fever.  SOTD: Champagne de Bois

Wednesday, Sept. 15:   I can’t smell anything.  No scent today.  Bookworm is home sick from school, and The CEO stayed home in bed all day too.  (Alert the media and Guinness Book – he never takes a day off, except if he thinks he’s dying.)

Thursday, Sept. 16:  Sniffer still busted, Bookworm still sick.  CEO somewhat better.  No scent today.  Fed our new orphaned calf, who’s named Jonathan.  Andy and Jean, the ones we were bottle-feeding over the summer, have left the small lot and moved into the adjacent lot near the equipment shed, where they seem happy eating grass.  They are intensely curious about the new calf and keep coming to that part of the lot to investigate, especially when the new one’s getting his bottle of milk.

Friday, Sept. 17:  Sniffer marginally better, but no SOTD yet.  Maybe tomorrow.  Since we had had to cut our vacation short a day, we had promised the kids we’d take them to an amusement park “in the fall.”  Well, turns out that this is the only weekend that Bookworm does not have a football game that she has to attend as a band member (it’s a bye week), a band competition, or a cross-country meet.  There’s another Saturday without either a meet or a competition in October, but that day she happens to have PSAT testing, so that’s not going to work.  

Then we found out that Kings Dominion had tickets for $25 per person, 9/18 only. Snapped up those tickets right away, and headed out this evening, so we could get halfway there.

Saturday, Sept. 18:  I can smell!  SOTD: Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur.  (Why does this smell so different from the original Black Orchid?  It’s supposed to be the edt version of the original – which smells like cucumber and dirt to me, which is fine if you’re actually in the garden, but not so good as an intentional perfume IMHO.  Whereas VdF is just a shimmering veil of loveliness.

Kings Dominion isn’t nearly as good a park as, say, Carowinds or Busch Gardens Williamsburg, two other parks we’ve visited within the last five years, but they do have at least a couple of really great rides.  The way our usual amusement park day works is that we’ll ride a few rides all together as a family – Scrambler, Spider, possibly a carousel or around-the-park train, a small suitable-for-kids roller coaster, and then Bookworm and I will head off for the roller coasters you have to be strapped into, while The CEO takes Gaze and Taz on gentler stuff like the big swings or bumper cars.   I can’t do a straight round-and-round ride, either, it makes me sick.

I have a moderate fear of heights, and cannot stand close to the edge of anything that I might fall off of without getting the willies.  The CEO likes to pick on me a bit – we went up to the observation deck of the “Eiffel Towel” scale model that Kings Dominion has, and I had to stay close to the inner platform, while he pretended to lean over the railing.  I suppose, though, that it’s not so much a fear of heights, but a fear of falling: I love roller coasters.  If I’ve got a shoulder harness, I feel secure.   Wooden coasters don’t need shoulder harnesses, but I think anything else does. 

Those Da Vinci’s Cradle-type rides? The CEO loves them.  I hate them.  Big steel coasters with those thigh-bracer harnesses, like Busch Gardens’ Apollo’s Chariot?  I  hate them.  I don’t feel safe in them. 

But turn me upside down, take me on loops and barrel rolls and inversions and long drops – as long as I’ve got a shoulder harness, I’m happy.  I’m not much of a coaster aficionado; bigger/badder/faster/thrillier doesn’t do all that much for me.  Especially since I also hate the chain lift on traditional coasters.  Besides the aforementioned Apollo’s Chariot, I hate and despise and fear Carowinds’ Carolina Cobra, with its double lift chains.  Argh.  Rode that  one with Bookworm last year, and hated every second of it.  TWO lifts? Kill me now.

Favorites of mine: The Shooting Star, my first coaster ever, and a terrific wooden coaster it was.  This was at the now-defunct Lakeside Amusement Park, and while the Shooting Star is no more, it’s still my gold standard.  The Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens, which was my first steel coaster, and still a terrific ride.  Afterburn (formerly Top Gun) at Carowinds is pure exhilaration.  And the new one, Volcano Blast Coaster at Kings Dominion, my first LIM (launch) coaster, really is a blast.  Seats are suspended from the train as in Afterburn but instead of the teeth-grinding stress  of the  lift chain, you get shot straight up into the air, then go through multiple barrel rolls, corkscrews, and complete inversions in which your upside-down weight is all on the harness.  I love it. 

Philosophical question:  Why do people wear Angel to amusement parks?  For that matter, why do people wear heavy hoop earrings and tight jeans and thin strappy sandals, all uncomfortable sexy-date attire to my mind, to amusement parks?  I don’t geddit.  Is the amusement park hot date material? I’ve only visited amusement parks with my family, or in a group of high schoolers…

Sunday, Sept. 19:  After the park yesterday, we drove to my parents’ house and spent the night.  I’d been invited to sing at their church, the one I grew up in, in a service honoring a former minister – he’s now 81 but doesn’t look or sound it.  SOTD: Voile de Fleur again, since it was the only thing I took with me.  I’m still very fond of that church, but I don’t think I’d be happy there now; I like the contemporary service at the church we belong to.  I don’t mind dressing up on Sunday (attire at our current church ranges from jeans, tee shirts and thong sandals to dresses and heels), and I sometimes miss the old hymns, but I love it that church services are not just something to be checked off on your “good deeds” list – more a celebration of the God we try to follow all week.  Our pastor has a motto: “Don’t just go to church; be the church.”

After church services, we had lunch with Mom and Dad, and my sister and her son, whom I  call Doodlebug. (A’s husband is in Afghanistan right now, and if you’d like to send up a prayer for his safety, it wouldn’t go amiss.) 

It was nice to come home and be greeted enthusiastically by the pets, but the house is a wreck.


Scent Diary, August 30 – September 5, 2010

Originally uploaded by ChuChuChewbacca


Monday, Aug. 20: Hot. Didn’t sleep well. Stopped by the CVS to pick up a few things for Bookworm today, and saw a tester bottle of S by Shakira. It wasn’t hideous on the scent strip, so I got brave and sprayed some on skin. This is new (and cheap, $17 for a 15ml bottle), so if you haven’t heard about it, the notes include jasmine, sandalwood, vanilla, and benzoin. Sounds like Samsara, right? But on skin, it smells strikingly like Light Blue for about three hours and then eventually settles into a warmish, not-very-sweet drydown. I actually think it’s nicer than Light Blue. With some real jasmine, and a better grade of synthetic woods, it could have been pretty good. As it is, it has that Inoffensive And Cheap Drugstore/Avon Scent sort of vibe. (Mind you, at one point in my life, I wore both Avon AND stuff you could buy at the drugstore. Considered next to a lot of those fragrances, it’s a winner.)

In the afternoon, as I’ve already mentioned, Gaze came a cropper on his bike and wound up in the emergency room with five stitches in his hand. On the way out the door, panicky and tense, I seized a spray of Cuir de Lancome. I find it a great marriage between Floral Prettiness and No-Nonsense Leather, and it was fairly calming. In Eddie Van on the way to the hospital, Gaze said, “Mom, you smell nice,” so taking ten seconds to spritz was worth it.

Tuesday, Aug. 21: Picked up Gaze’s antibiotics at the pharmacy (the CVS clerk, who seems to like me, was surprised to see me back so soon). Then I went and did battle with the nurse at the middle school, who was disinclined to allow anything that hadn’t been duly documented on the Official Medication Form and directly signed by a physician, as if I could have filled out the form at Open House last week with foreknowledge that my son would slice his hand open and therefore need a dose of Keflex every six hours for a week. I finally convinced her that a copy of the prescription would suffice if attached to the form. I’ve never before met a school nurse who was so unpleasant to deal with. She was rude (to everyone I witnessed her dealing with) when I was turning in the required health form at Open House last week, too. Turns out she’s substituting until the regular nurse returns in mid-September, following some minor surgery. Thank goodness.

SOTD: Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete, my favorite simple rose scent. The summer’s nearly gone, so I wanted to enjoy this one while the weather is right for it.

Wednesday, Sept. 1: Statement Day at work again. Annoying due to the new-and-NOT-improved software. (My Personal Statement of the Day: I Am Not The Maid! Repeat as necessary.) SOTD: Mariella Burani. Wonder how often I wear this on the first day of the month? It just quietly smells good, and lasts a long time. A Go-To Scent if there ever was one.

SOTE: Mauboussin. I always forget how nice this is, a spicy-fruity-woody vanilla for grownups. My mini bottle is sadly depleted, which just goes to show that I’ve been wearing it. It’s not as good as Organza Indecence – but you just TRY to go and find that for a decent price now. 5ml bottles of OI are now going for the same price at which I bought my 15ml bottle on ebay 16 months ago.

Thursday, Sept. 2: Rushrushrush… I was so busy this morning, I forgot to grab a scent. I usually keep samples and my decant of Eau Premiere in my purse, but yesterday I had a Purse Disaster: a can of diet soda in my purse leaked without my knowledge, and by the time I picked up my purse to go home, the entire inside of my purse was wet. Yep. 12 full ounces of Diet Rite alllll in my purse. My cell phone is now residing in a container of dry rice on top of the fridge, in hopes that it will dry out. And I had to dump out the purse contents and dry then out, too. SO. No perfume today.

Wore Guerlain Liu to the first fall rehearsal of the community chorus, though. It’s nice to get back to that, after a summer break.

Friday, Sept. 3: Another rushrush morning. I did scrounge around in my desk and find a sample of ELd’O Hotel Slut (Putain de Palaces), as well as a sample of Fresh Sake that Tamara sent me. I don’t know about the Sake – I sniffed from the vial and thought, Oh Dear, Citrus. So today it was Putain de Palaces, until it wore off in the afternoon.

Just before I left to pick up Gaze from school and take him to have his hand looked at by our family doctor (it’s healing fine, thanks, and the stitches come out next Wednesday), I spritzed on some YSL Paris Pont des Amours – my LE Printemps version from, I dunno, 2006? It’s a sheer-chiffon veil of Paris, not the elevator-clearing version from the 80s. Um, not that there’s anything wrong with Paris, mind you – it’s just a bit… big. Kind of like a life-size model of Godzilla, made with chicken wire and and a gazillion roses, and then a gazillion violets on top of that.

Saturday, Sept. 4: Gorgeous weather – it’s in the mid-70s, sunny and breezy. Good weather for running, as a matter of fact; Bookworm ran in her first-ever cross-country race (5.2 K, over hilly ground) and came in second in the junior varsity division! I’m so proud of her. Her time would have put her 18th overall, out of 152 girls.

SOTD: SSS Tabac Aurea, a golden fall afternoon in a bottle. I find that if I put more than just a teeny spritz of this on, it’s too heavy, and the patchouli, even in my custom 50% patch version, tries to mug me. It’s quite concentrated, which just goes to show that Sonoma Scent Studio is an excellent value for your money. Where else could you pay just $60 for an ounce of complex, well-composed, highly-concentrated scent made from excellent raw materials?

Sunday, Sept. 5: Another beautiful day. SOTD: Ines de la Fressange (first version), with its cheery peach-rose happiness. After church, we went by the furniture store and dropped a bundle on mattresses and box springs for the boys’ beds. Both of them have been sleeping on mattresses, handed down from grandparents, that are at minimum 25 years old, and probably older. They should have been replaced long since. (Bookworm’s mattress is ten years old and still in relatively good shape. I suppose when she moves out on her own we’ll give her a new set. Gosh, that won’t be all that far into the future. Six years? Maybe eight, if she goes to grad school…)

The cell phone can make and receive phone calls, but the screen is blank. Rats.


(Minor) Emergency

I now know not to post a rant (“Please tell me why…”) on a potentially controversial topic and then go make dinner… because Things Will Happen.

Right after I shoved the Jerk Chicken into the oven yesterday afternoon, Gaze stalked into the house, fairly dripping blood.  He’d fallen off his bike and cut his hand, and it was bleeding freely.  I took him into the bathroom to wash it – poor baby, his lips were pale but he was pretty calm – and saw that it was deep enough to need stitches. 

So I left Bookworm in charge of dinner and Taz and took Gaze to the hospital, where we proceeded to spend the next three hours getting X-rays and having his hand stitched, in between periods of staring at the wall posters of burn victims and telling each other terrible jokes.  (“What’s purple and conquered the world?  Alexander the Grape.”) 

Five stitches this kid got in his hand, and did he cry? No.  This is in stark contrast to Taz, who fell off his own bike ten days ago, scraping his knee and elbow, and who wailed nonstop for forty minutes.  But there you have it: Taz is Drama King, and Gaze is the King of Calm.  The CEO and I have been saying to each other for several years now, “If we wind up in the emergency room with any of these kids, it’ll be Taz.”  That’s twice now that we’ve been wrong – last fall, we had an appendicitis scare with Gaze, and yesterday the stitches.  Go figure. 

And then this morning I had to get a prescription for Keflex filled, and take it to the nurse at the middle school, where I spent another half an hour filling out paperwork sufficient that she would be legally able to give Gaze one antibiotic pill a day for the next five school days.  Half an hour!  I know, she’s Just Doing Her Job… it’s annoying to be so hemmed in by rules, though.  I had to leave her the original prescription container with five pills in it and come home with the other 23 pills in a (sterile) plastic bag.

SO.  I’ll get back to everyone who commented on the Fashion Blog issue soon, but for now I’m going to work.



… and here’s how I’m feeling today:


YIPPEE!   In case you’re wondering, I’m wearing my Happy-happy-joy-joy scent, Parfums de Nicolai Vanille  Tonka, the first scent I ever reviewed for this blog and still a favorite.

And a bonus Staples back-to-school ad, with Alice Cooper of all people:


Image is “School Buses Stop” from Steve McCoy at Flickr.


Scent Diary: August 16-22, 2010

Monday, Aug. 16: I still hate this new NAPA software, but I can’t exactly tell you why. Similarly, I don’t know why I don’t like Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose. A woody rose with incense should be right up my alley… but this one never is. It’s just wrong. I think perhaps the patchouli and cedar in the drydown are pushing it sour. You probably already know that I have Issues with Patchouli, and this isn’t helping.

It rained this afternoon, dropping the temperature from 87F to 71F and making me think longingly of autumn scents like Tabac Aurea. SOTE: Clarins Par Amour. This is a nice, quiet woody rose too – it’s a lot simpler than Paestum Rose, but more relaxed too.

Okay, I know why I hate the new NAPA software: it’s unwieldy and difficult to use.  There are places where you have to use both the mouse and the keypad, which is just stupid and inefficient.  I expected that the new system would cause some delays while we tackle the learning curve, but it’s beyond ridiculous.  Turns out the IT guys never bothered to consult with the counterpeople, or the accounting people, on what would make it easy to use – always a bad idea to leave out the input of people who are actually going to utilize the thing.

Tuesday, Aug. 17: The school year is gearing up again. I took the boys for their school haircuts yesterday. Gaze had a tetanus booster shot today (mandatory for all rising 6th graders), and there’s a pool party this evening for new middle-schoolers, sponsored by a local non-profit anti-drug coalition.

SOTD: Guerlain Liu (reissued). This, like Vega, has a top-to-heart structure similar to that of Chanel No. 5: aldehydes and a classical floral blend of rose and jasmine, over the common Guerlinade base. One wonders why Guerlain felt they needed both Liu and Vega. I do actually have a preference – Vega is sparkly and romantic, and Liu has a slight flatness (from amber?) that I can’t place. I’m still puzzling over why Guerlain hasn’t reissued Ode, their 1950s version of Joy, as promised in 2005. Certainly there already existed duplicate aldehydic florals, so it’s not that. Wonder if the IFRA restriction on the percentage of jasmine grandiflorum put a stop to Ode? I don’t know that I’d particularly care, except that every time I run across a mention of a fragrance in a novel, I want to smell it. Ode was the scent worn by the girl James Bond chose to marry, the gambling, fast-driving daughter of the Corsican Mafia, whose child died of cancer and whose first husband turned out to be a slimeball. Tracy, of course, doesn’t live out the book (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) – she’s shot by Blofeld and Irma Bunt – and Bond becomes ever more of a womanizer.

While The CEO took Gaze to the pool party, I put up another thirty ears of corn and four quarts of peaches. Whew. SOTE: vintage Coty L’Aimant pdt. It’s a little too sweet, but I think that makes it cozier for sleeping in, especially with the rain we’ve been having.

Wednesday, Aug. 18: Happy Birthday to my favorite mother-in-law! I couldn’t have wished for a better one. Love you, B.

Cooler and rainy again today. I know it’s not fall yet, but I think half the fun of the changing seasons is anticipating the next one. SOTD: DSH Perfumes Special Formula X-treme again. This still smells like laundry and vague flowers to me, without the warmth of traditional musk scents. It’s very pleasant, and very quiet yet persistent. It’s also a little bit on the dull side, if you ask me. I like my fragrance lightly applied, but I like it to smell like perfume, too.

SOTAfternoon: That Slut Tocade, because I wanted a perfume that smells like, yes, perfume. Today I’m rereading How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell – the book that spawned the recent animated film. Which I haven’t seen, because the book is hilarious, and according to the previews, the movie doesn’t follow the book’s plotline. I’m not sure I’m ready for the politically correct movie version. The illustrations in the book are half the fun – imagine Beavis & Butthead drawn as teenage Vikings, and you get the idea. The other half of the fun is the names: Gobber the Belch, Stoick the Vast, and our unheroic hero, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, not to mention Hiccup’s annoying little Chihuahua-like dragon, Toothless. I know this is a kids’ book, but it’s flat out funny. (You may infer what you will concerning my sense of humor.)

OH! And I smelled something new today: Limburger cheese. No kidding – one of the drivers at the NAPA store brought in some today, along with some German sausage, for his lunch. I’d heard that it smells like feet, but really it’s more like extreme body odor: cheesy, yes, but overripe and sweaty and pretty rank. To quote a coworker, “Good Lord, that smells like butt!” I concur. Really long-unwashed butt, too – think hobos that have been eating nothing but warm cottage cheese and haven’t bathed in six years. I wasn’t inclined to gag, though some other coworkers were. However, the thought of eating Old Unwashed Hobo Cheese was just hideous.

Thursday, Aug. 19: Chilly-rainy again, in the low 70s, although the sun came out and temps rose to the low 80s by 6pm. SOTD: Lancome Climat. Longing for autumn.

Took Bookworm to Open House at the high school and went around with her to check all her classes. Looks like she’s got a solid academic year ahead of her. Then, after coming home and cooking Parmesan Tilapia and steamed green beans for supper, I took Gaze to Band Parent Night at the middle school. He’ll be playing the trombone.

I’m exhausted. I had this whole significant, interesting (to me, anyway) post in mind earlier in the day, but couldn’t get to a computer to record my thoughts, and of course now they’re gone, and I’m tired, and who cares, anyway? Gah, I’ll be glad when school actually gets going.

Friday, Aug. 20: Much warmer, in the upper 80s. I got up feeling like a truck had run me over in the night, and I just don’t feel well. I only have enough mental space for a no-brainer, Just Pretty smell today: Rochas Tocadilly. I like the spring florals + musk.

Celebrated MIL’s birthday with The CEO’s sister and her kids, and some cousins of my FIL’s. A lovely meal. I am exhausterated.

Saturday, Aug. 21: Nice day in the mid-80s. Cleaned house, the cousins Curiosity and Primrose came over to play for awhile, then Bookworm and I made three quarts of tomato juice and prepared another twelve quarts of tomatoes for freezing. SOTD: Ines de la Fressange, Vol 1.  Had a mini-sniffa with Bookworm over my warm-weather bottles, with the following ranking generated by her:

  1. PdRosine Rose d’Ete
  2. Ines de la Fressange
  3. Hanae Mori Haute Couture
  4. Diorissimo
  5. Mariella Burani
  6. Rochas Tocadilly
L to R: Bookworm, Primrose, Curiosity, Gaze, and Taz, with Hayley Elizabeth Wigglebutt Dog in front

Sunday, Aug. 22: Cloudy morning, sunny-hot afternoon. SOTD: Cuir de Lancome. Probably one of the butchiest scents I own, which isn’t saying much. The CEO took our kids, and his sister and her kids, to a Salem Red Sox game. He came home with a nice, heavy, $75 official Red Sox jacket (“They were having an end-of-season sale! I saved $50!”) that he says is his birthday present. I don’t mind, of course – and I’m trying to encourage him to spend small amounts of money on things he knows he’ll enjoy, instead of pinching every penny. I believe miserliness is just as damaging to the spirit as wastefulness.

Some years ago, The CEO’s Scottish-roots family had t-shirts printed up for a reunion, with the family crest and motto emblazoned on the front. I thought it was the real deal until recently, when I did some investigation and found that the family motto is really Sto Pro Veritas, “I stand for the truth,” and not the one that somebody with a sense of humor picked for the shirts: Pietas et Frugalitas. Which although not strictly historical, is pretty hysterical, given the clan proclivities. I’ve never known so many people to boast about giving the money they saved on gas to the church.  They all seem to be Presbyterians, too – except for one of The CEO’s cousins, who converted to Catholicism when she married an Italian-American she met at college.  Seriously, they’re ALLLLL Presbyterians.  Even my brother-in-law, father of Primrose and Curiosity, who’s second-generation, 100% American with 100% Chinese genes…

Top image is “perfume bottles” from michellealincoln at Flickr; center image is from Amazon.  Bottom image is from my own camera.



Don’t tell my sister, but I hate August.

Hate it.  (But please don’t tell her, because her birthday’s in August, and she might take it personally.  I mean, for all I know, she hates January, which holds my birthday, but there you go. I hate August.)

I hate the sticky-hot weather.  I hate the way the grass starts going dull, the way the pool announces its limited hours, the way the garden looks all bedraggled and sprawling, like it has just given birth to some hulking inhuman monster and might not recover… I hate the way my kids get in August, right before school starts – they’re cranky and touchy and everybody has these unwritten rules about how they can be touched and how  loud they can stand someone else’s voice, and how to play some game they made up last Thursday…

I hate the way the sky goes all flat and no-colored in the mornings.  I hate the bushels of tomatoes piling up on the deck because I just canned a load of those already!, and I can’t get to them all before they go bad.  The house is full of dust from the gravel road.

None of my fragrances seem right for the weather.  None of my clothes do either: too casual or too formal, too bright or too dull, too warm or not warm enough, wah wah wah.

I don’t get to go back to school with fresh notebooks and a new pair of shoes.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, except I’m not lying on a beach somewhere with a Mai Tai and a new Elizabeth George novel, either.

This Is Me, right now:

So I need an attitude transplant.  I’ll try reminding myself of the good stuff about August.

The flowers in front of the house are gorgeous right now, and there are swarms of butterflies around – little white ones and sulfur yellow ones, little brown-and-orange ones, those big black ones with startlingly blue spots on their wings.

I have 40 quart jars full of tomatoes in the pantry, plus 80 ears of corn and 10 quarts of peaches in the freezer.  We’ll be eating good this winter.

Football weather and the things that go with it, like marching band and blue skies and autumn leaves, are right around the corner.

Even if nothing seems quite right in terms of scent or raiment, I have choices.  Frankly, I should probably have fewer choices and be happier with them.

I could probably go back to school if I really wanted to.

The CEO doesn’t really do lie-on-the-beach vacations.  (Ever seen a caged tiger? Then you’ve seen him with “nothing to do” on vacation.  It’s a thing to be avoided.)  But he has taken me some really cool places, and here’s a pic of one.

This is the Marine Parade on Manly, just a half-hour ferry ride across Sydney Harbour from the city.  It was taken on July 30, 2007 – and keep in mind that an equivalent date in the Northern Hemisphere would be January 30.  Note the people wearing shorts.  That day, The CEO and I did go and sit on the beach.  We talked instead of reading, and drank Cokes instead of Mai Tais, but we dug our feet into the sand and relaxed.  It was nice.  I can go there in my mind.

Images, from top to bottom: “2010 Book Lovers Calendar” from BookLoversStuff at Flickr, “Have a nice day somewhere else” from Indoorcat629 from icanhazcheeseburger.com, and photo Marine Parade, Manly, Australia from my personal files.  I don’t remember which one of us took this one, actually.


Recipe: Layered Raspberry-Almond Pavlova

Here’s the recipe of the dessert that Tauer Perfumes’ Une Rose Vermeille reminds me most of — it’s a favorite “special summer treat” of my family’s, and I’ll be upfront with you that it takes some time and effort to make.  It’s worth it, though: light as a feather, ethereal and yet rich.

The CEO did his master’s degree in Agricultural Economics in New Zealand, on a Fulbright Scholarship.  Pavlova was a dessert he encountered there and immediately enjoyed, and when I made a dessert called “Fresh Berry Meringue Torte” from my much-loved copy of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, he sat up straight in his chair and exclaimed, “But this is Pavlova!  How did you know I love this?”

A brief history of Pavlova-the-dessert: it’s named, of course, after Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian prima ballerina.  Both Australia and New Zealand claim to have originated it as an homage to Anna Pavlova during one of her tours there in the 1920s.  Pavlova is essentially made of three components: baked meringue, whipped cream, and fruit.  The meringue can also incorporate such varied ingredients as cocoa powder, espresso powder, and ground nuts.  The baked meringue specific to Pavlova is supposed to be a bit soft in the center, with a crispy meringue-cookie texture on the outside.  Traditionally, the topping is whipped heavy cream with strawberries and kiwifruit, the tangy fruit contrasting with the sweet meringue and cream, but of course you see pavlovas made with all kinds of soft fruit: raspberries, blueberries, peaches, grapes, even passionfruit pulp.  Here’s a link to some other recipes which are perhaps more authentically Kiwi and/or Aussie, but I’ll also share mine, which is made in layers (not authentic, but yummy anyway).   The proportions and basic directions are from The Cake Bible, but interjections (and faux creme fraiche recipe) are mine.

I really like to use dacquoise (sometimes called meringue japonais), as the ground nuts in it cut some of the sweetness of the meringue.  Also, creme fraiche is far tangier than straight cream.  Peaches and blackberries sometimes grace my pavlova.

I admit this is one of the most involved and fiddly desserts I ever make, and I don’t make it often. Brownies tend to be more the kids’ speed anyway. The directions are long, but it’s really not all that complicated, and it doesn’t really require special equipment. You will need, at minimum, a large baking sheet, a whisk, a blender or food processor, a spoon, a rubber spatula, an electric mixer (I used to have only a hand mixer, and it turned out fine), an oven, and a refrigerator. Basically, if you’re going to cook anything, you’ve probably already got what you need on hand, in terms of equipment. So don’t worry.

Here’s Part I: Dacquoise Discs

¾ to 1 cup toasted, peeled, and finely ground almonds or hazelnuts

1 ½ Tablespoons cornstarch

½ cup + 1 Tbsp. superfine sugar (if you can’t find this at the grocery, just pulse regular sugar for a few minutes in your food processor or blender, then measure to get the right amount)

¾ cup powdered sugar, lightly spooned into cup

4 large egg whites (fresh – don’t use the packaged variety)

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Optional: whisk 2 Tbsp. cocoa into the powdered sugar. Only add this if you’re using fruit that marries well with chocolate, like raspberries and strawberries.

All ingredients should be at room temperature (yes, even the eggs). Preheat oven to 200° F. Important: don’t bother trying to make this when it’s humid. Seriously. It will be a soggy mess. If your kitchen is air-conditioned, though, you’re probably okay. You’ll know whether it feels humid in your kitchen or not.

Line a heavy baking sheet with a nonstick liner (like Silpat) or heavy foil. Trace a 9-inch cake pan onto the foil, or make a template to slip under the liner. If you’d like, you can make three 7-inch discs instead. Don’t line the baking sheet with parchment paper because meringue and dacquoise will frequently stick to it.

Place the ground nuts, cornstarch, half the superfine sugar, and all the powdered sugar into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Set aside in a small bowl.

In a large mixing bowl beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat at medium speed. When soft peaks form when the beater is raised, gradually add the remaining superfine sugar and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.

Fold in the reserved nut mixture with a large rubber spatula. Be gentle. As soon as it’s mixed, spread the dacquoise mixture onto the foil or Silpat liner. You can pipe it on if you want to be fancy, but I never bother.

Bake. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, bake the dacquoise for an hour and then leave it overnight in the turned-off oven. If, like me, you have an electric oven, bake the dacquoise for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until it’s dry but not browned. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR FOR THE FIRST 45 MINUTES, or the dacquoise will crack. Of course, it will still taste fine.

Let the dacquoise cool completely before trying to move it from the liner or foil. The best way to get the discs off the foil, I’ve found, is to cut around the discs with scissors, leaving an inch or so all around the dacquoise. Then pick up a disc and hold it upside-down in your nondominant hand, while you gently peel the foil away from the disc. Don’t pry the dacquoise off the foil; that way lies madness and dacquoise crumbling in your hands, as I know to my sorrow.

Meringue variation (I admit I like the dacquoise because it’s less sweet, and because I love the flavor of nuts, but not everyone can eat nuts):

4 large egg whites

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

½ cup + 1 tablespoon superfine sugar

1 cup powdered sugar, lightly spooned into cup

 Optional: whisk 2 tablespoons of cocoa into the powdered sugar. This has the benefit of reducing the sweetness level somewhat, although chocolate doesn’t go well with some fruits.

As with the dacquoise, have everything at room temperature, preheat oven to 200° F, and don’t make on humid days. Also prepare the pan with foil or Silpat liner, just as described above. In a mixing bowl, beat whites until frothy, add the cream of tartar, and beat at medium speed while gradually adding 2 tablespoons of the superfine sugar. When soft peaks form when the beater is raised, add 1 tablespoon superfine sugar and increase speed to high. When stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly, gradually beat in remaining superfine sugar and beat until very stiff and glossy.

Sift the powdered sugar over the meringue and fold in, gently, using a large rubber spatula. Immediately spread (or pipe, if you insist) onto the baking sheet, creating 2 large or 3 small discs. Bake as directed in the dacquoise recipe. Cool completely before removing from the foil or liner as described above.

And Part II: Creme Fraiche Filling

 There are three ways you can do this… well, maybe four, if you are lucky enough to find real crème fraiche at your grocery. Assuming you aren’t, here are your options.

 Option A: If you have a coupla days, make your own crème fraiche:

1 ½ liquid cup heavy (whipping) cream

4 teaspoons buttermilk

1 ½ tablespoon sugar

Combine the cream and buttermilk in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and place in a warm spot. The top of the fridge is fine, or near the stove. Allow to sit undisturbed for 12-14 hours or until thickened but still pourable. This may take as long as 36 hours.  When it’s thick, add the sugar and whisk lightly until soft mounds form when dropped from a spoon.

Note: the high fat content makes this possible – don’t stress about not refrigerating it. Like butter, it doesn’t spoil or mold or grow bacterial colonies when kept at room temperature for a few days. After you’ve got it to the right consistency, though, put it in the fridge, where it will keep for up to three weeks. Crème fraiche is tangy yet sweet.

Option B: Quick crème fraiche:

1 ½ liquid cups

½ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Beat just until soft peaks form when the beater is raised or until it mounds when dropped from a spoon. You can store this in the fridge for 24 hours, but rebeat lightly before using to restore airiness. This is the version I usually use.

Option C: If you’re seriously worried about the fat content (are you sure you want to eat dessert?), make this vastly less good but still edible faux crème fraiche:

1 8-ounce package of frozen whipped topping, thawed in the fridge until soft

1 8-ounce carton of vanilla yogurt (I recommend Yoplait – it’s far tangier than many brands) OR a 6-ounce carton of plain Greek yogurt plus 1 teaspoon sugar

Whisk together until creamy. Will keep in the fridge for 24 hours.

 Aaaaaand Part III: Assembly

First, decide if you want a crisper pavlova or a soft and airy one. If you’d like it crisp – which is more traditional – assemble about an hour before you’ll be serving the dessert. I like mine soft, because the topping soaks into the dacquoise discs and the whole thing gets light and ethereal as angels’ wings, so I assemble up to four hours before serving. You’ll need about a pint to a pint and a half of fresh raspberries, and a pretty plate wide enough to hold your dacquoise discs.

Drop a small spoonful of your creamy topping, whichever you made, onto the center of the plate. Then place one of your discs on top of it. (This will keep the pavlova from sliding off onto the countertop and smashing into globby bits, thus preventing your tears and rending of garments. Don’t ask me how I know this.)

Assuming you made two larger discs, top the bottom one with about half, or slightly more than half, of the topping. Then add half the berries (save the prettiest ones for the top). Top this with the second disc, and then add the rest of the creamy topping. You can swirl it with the spatula if you want it all pretty, or pipe it if you’re a Martha-Stewart-in-training. Then add the remaining berries in a decorative fashion. You can add a few chocolate shavings or a restrained sprinkling of ground nuts, if you like.  Of course, if you made three discs, apportion the creamy topping and the berries so you can have three layers (duh).

Store in the fridge, preferably in a cake or pie holder to keep it safe, and away from the Honey-Soy Glazed Salmon with Wasabi you had for dinner last night, until you’re ready to serve. Cut into wedges and serve. Eat with joy. Toast the New Zealanders (Kiwis). Then, just to cover all the bases, toast the Aussies.

A few years ago, The CEO got to revisit that part of the world through a different scholarly fellowship program – and I was able to join him for three weeks of the tour.   Australia was interesting, and friendly and clean and enjoyable.  I’d go back anytime.  But I fell in love with New Zealand, and from time to time I daydream of retiring to Wellington someday.  (The CEO says, “Not Wellington, it’s really windy there.  Aucklanders make fun of Wellington weather.”  I remind him that although Auckland was very nice, it felt more like Florida to me than home, and constant 70F temps would bore me.   “We could try  Te Awamutu instead; it’s not far from Wellington, and the weather’s better.  You’d like Te Awamutu.”)   Whether we actually go or not, we’ll probably be eating pavlova in the summer.

Image is Timeless Pavlova from (heart)babybee at Flickr.


Going on Vacation!

We weren’t sure whether we could manage to schedule a family vacation this year, but The CEO says he’s caught up on farm work to the degree that we could take a week off.

So we’re going.  Yay!

We’ll spend one day at an amusement park, one at the beach, one traveling and visiting an aquarium, one day at a maritime museum looking at ships and also at a historic fort, and one day leisurely driving home.  Should be fun… if I can keep the kids from killing each other in the back seat…

We’re leaving Monday morning, and I will be back to post the week’s Scent Diary on Sunday, 7/18.

Anybody have any suggestions for what fragrances I should take with me?  It’ll be hot where we’re going – the forecast is calling for mid-90s – but near the Atlantic, so the evenings might be bearable.  I’ll probably take a couple of decants in my purse instead of a bottle I’d have to leave in a hot vehicle for hours, but I can make my own decants from my larger bottles.  I’m not going to the trouble to list my wardrobe, but here are a few bits of information:

  • I don’t care much for cologne.  I’m not knocking it, but I just don’t enjoy it on me.  I’m not much of a citrus gal, either.
  • I like light florals and aldehydic florals.
  • I like white florals – but don’t worry, I’m not going to splash on the Fracas just before entering the amusement park. 

Or  just tell me what fragrance(s) you like to wear on vacation! 

I once had a cute little blue leather train case for toiletries and makeup.  It had a sectioned tray and a mirror, and a cushioned handle – so convenient!  It matched my hard-sided luggage set, the one I dragged around all through high school and college and the early years of my marriage, before the latches finally went bad, and before I decided that a rolling suitcase is the way to go.  I miss that train case.  Moreover, I miss the vacations when I could concentrate on my appearance rather than on whether I packed enough wet wipes, juice boxes and Cheez-Its to get us through the day… the image is Fluff Hula Cuties from Amazon, $30.  Soooo adorable.