Scent Diary, January 1-8, 2017

Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017: Chilly. Rainy. My thought on 2017, as it begins, is that it would have to work really hard to be worse than 2016, so let’s be good to each other this year and see how it goes. SOTD is Cuir de Lancome and I smell nice.

We went to see Rogue One (Star Wars) at the movie theater today and had a great time. I practically had to twist The CEO’s arm to go — he’d heard that it was “not a real Star Wars movie,” and he usually hates to spend the money to go see a film in the theater unless he’s really excited about it. As it turned out, we all thought it was enjoyable: a tight, exciting story exploring the history of how the Rebel Alliance actually got hold of those Death Star plans in the first place. We went to the “good” theater, too, which is a half-hour’s drive away via Interstate but modern, comfortable, uncrowded and quite reasonably priced ($6.75 for matinee tickets, wow).

Monday, Jan. 2: Warmer and dry today, and I’m glad the weather is more comfortable for our trip to see my parents. They were gone over Christmas, visiting my sister and her family (including that new baby!), and Mom’s back is still bothering her. SOTD is Caron Parfum Sacre.

Kids and Hayley, Christmas 2010

Tuesday, Jan. 3: SOTD, the golden and joyous and Christmassy Teo Cabanel Alahine. It’s time to take down the Christmas decorations. We usually start decorating about the second week in December, and then unless there’s an event we need to schedule around like there was this year, we un-decorate on New Year’s Day. That’s about as long as I want the Christmas stuff up, honestly. I’m not judging folks who put their tree up at the beginning of November…

Kids and Hunter, Christmas 2016

… well, okay, maybe I’m judging them a little bit, but in an “I just don’t get it,” sort of way and not a “That is so trashy,” sort of way. I love decorating, but I really don’t want Christmas stuff up while I am still enjoying the end of autumn. If you are perfectly fine with celebrating Thanksgiving with a Christmas tree and a Nativity set up, good on you, but my preference is generally to finish up one season before I start on a new one.

Wednesday, Jan. 4: SOTD is Ferre 20 by Gianfranco Ferre, which I bought from a little shop in Rome; I was just in the mood for this comfy aldehydic floral musk. The CEO came home from his checkup and said, “Hey, you know we’ve been talking about trading in your minivan for a small crossover SUV, right? They’ve got a couple of nice ones at the certified-used dealership…”

We are typically the kind of people who consult Consumer Reports and shop around for sales and good deals over a couple of months, whether we’re buying a car or a dishwasher… but somehow we wound up buying a 2013 Kia Sorento, after test-driving it and having our mechanic check it out. I’m still shocked at the quick decision! I was okay with continuing to drive the 2007 Grand Caravan, but the low gas mileage (20-22 mpg) was starting to feel like a burden, especially since we’re not hauling around multiple kids in car seats anymore, and the van wasn’t getting any younger. I’m very pleased with the Sorento.

Thursday, Jan. 5: No scent of the day today. Bookworm has a cold and feels yucky, and I’m hanging out with her, so I just skipped fragrance today.  We watched The Commitments and I ironed clothes: boring, low-key, nice.

Friday, Jan. 6: SOTD is Dior Poison. I really used to hate it back in the day, when everybody was wearing six spritzes too many, and you couldn’t walk through a girls’ dorm without needing a gas mask to survive the Poison fumes… now? potent but cuddly dark-berried white floral. My bottle is ca. 2003, and it’s missing that truly toxic vibe it used to have; I don’t know what that is. Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am thinks it’s the old musks… well, maybe, but that resinous cough-syrup-of-death thing that used to scare me so much seems to be missing as well. In principle, that might be good, but I notice that I hardly ever wear Poison, and I think that’s because it’s both nicer and less interesting than it used to be.

Since we’re supposed to get snow over the weekend, the boys’ indoor track meet has been canceled so they’ll get to stay home tomorrow. We stacked up a big pile of firewood and I’ve made cider for tomorrow, and we’re ready.

I’ve been playing around at Allrecipes.com and saving my favorite recipes there, since Bookworm has expressed a need for a cookbook with all the family specialties in it. I figure this ought to work just as well as a paper cookbook.

Saturday, Jan. 7: SNOW! Not enough to go sledding in, unfortunately, and with the wind, it feels like 4F outside BRRRRRRRR. We drank hot chocolate and cleaned up the house, and then when the boys went over to a friend’s house in the evening, The CEO and Bookworm and I watched Birdman. (My thoughts on it: How on EARTH did this pretentious, artsy-fartsy, depressing nonsense win awards? Gah. There’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.)

SOTD was Amouage Gold, and I know I’m going to horrify at least one person, but — I don’t like it. I know, I know! I’m the AldeHo, I should like Gold. I kinda like Dia, though I wasn’t tempted in the least to buy it, and the Gold body lotion is wonderful on my mom. I had tried it from a sample someone sent me back in, oh, 2010 maybe?, and I didn’t like it then. My notes say it was “too big,” and I don’t think that anymore, but like vintage Arpege parfum, Gold is… thick. And heavy. And animalic. I didn’t feel elegant in it, I felt stinky. (And also like I ought to lose my AldeHo card.)

Sunday, Jan. 8: All the local churches were canceling services today, and I expected ours would as well, since we meet in one of the local elementary schools and there’s no guarantee the school system will scrape the parking lot before Monday. However, we all overslept, and when we woke up with half an hour to eat something, get dressed, and leave the house, the NOAA website said that the temperature with wind chill was -8F. That’s -22 Celsius, btw. DOUBLE BRRRR. So we decided to stay home. I made choc-chip pancakes for breakfast, chili for dinner, and put on some Soivohle Centennial for the warm fuzzies effect.

 

 

 

 

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Recipe: Hot Spiced Cider Punch

For Bookworm, with love.

This is the basic for-a-crowd recipe that I always make around Thanksgiving and Christmas — with everybody hanging around the house, it just sits in a big pot on the stove, next to the mugs and the ladle, and I add to it as needed through the day. I don’t know how to cut it down for fewer servings, unless you were to make it once and freeze it in small batches.

I have, in the past, taken the time to deliberately dry orange and lemon peels (see link for a how-to) and store them for use in this cider punch, and that works fine. However, I find that we typically have citrus fruit in the house this time of year anyway since the high school FFA citrus orders arrive the first or second week of December, so I just slice up fresh and add them to the pot.

This recipe has a lot of stretch and give to it, and will accept any number of substitutions, so long as you keep tasting and adjusting. Like it sweeter? add a little more brown sugar, or maple syrup if you have it on hand.
Like it tangy? Add a bit more lemon juice, or leave the sugar out.
I love spice, so I throw lots of cloves and ginger in, but you can adjust the amounts of whole spices however you like. Add a few green cardamom pods or whole star anise if you have access to them (I don’t). If you hate having stuff floating around in your cup and don’t have a strainer to ladle the punch through, you can tie up the spices in a cheesecloth bag.
If you can’t find cider at the grocery, wing it with apple juice instead. Use the frozen juice concentrates if you have to. Because there are are so many flavors in this punch, I can’t taste that much difference. Cider does have more “body” than plain juice, but it is considerably more expensive, too. You decide; either way it will be good.
I tend to buy decaffeinated tea because there are people in my family who are very sensitive to caffeine, but of course the regular works fine.
Like it spiked? Add in a few ounces of bourbon, applejack, or spiced rum, to your taste.
See? That sort of thing. Play with it, have fun. I always enlist Bookworm as my taste-tester when she’s home.

Ingredients:
3 quarts to 1 gallon apple cider or apple juice
2 whole oranges, sliced (or substitute 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, or 3-4 large pieces of dried orange peel)
1 whole lemon, sliced (or substitute 2 tablespoons of juice – bottled is fine)
2-3 individual teabags of black tea, chai, Earl Grey or herbal spice (or combination)
2-4 cinnamon sticks, broken (I hit them with a meat tenderizer – small pieces give more cinnamon flavor)
1-2 tablespoons whole cloves
1/2 – 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
3-4 small pieces crystallized ginger, or 1-2 peeled disks of fresh ginger
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar, to taste

(For variety, I sometimes add a thawed can of this apple-cherry juice, and a cup of water. The apple-cranberry juice is good, too.)

Directions:
Pour juice or cider into a large pot and add the citrus slices and whole spices. Heat over medium-low heat until mixture begins to simmer (tiny bubbles forming at the bottom, and/or wisps of steam rise from the top). Then turn heat to very low.

Steep the teabags for 4 minutes separately in 2-3 cups of boiling water. Then, unless you are only using herbal tea (such as Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice), remove the teabags from the liquid. Heat and time will make black tea taste bitter. Add this brewed tea to the cider mixture, and then add brown sugar until you’re happy with the taste.

Ladle through a strainer to remove the spices and citrus peels. Enjoy!

 

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Scent Diary, Christmas week 2014

HNY 2015Actually… looks like the last time I wrote any sort of Scent Diary entry was four months ago. It is hopelessly out of date, and I include it here simply for reference.

Monday, Aug. 18 – First full day of school this year – it was a two-hour early release last Friday. Taz almost forgot his lunch, and Gaze forgot his trombone. I had to take it to him.

RAIN. Super rain. All-day rain. It was like the weather on Venus in that Ray Bradbury story, “All Summer in a Day.” (Which, do not read it if you are a) concerned about the scientific feasibility of constant rain on Venus, or b) emotionally sensitive. It will annoy the crap out of you Sheldon Cooper types who have to have all the facts right or the story doesn’t count, in the first case. And it will flat break your heart in the latter case. Oh, but Bradbury is such a genius of the short story.)

SOTD is Ralph Lauren Safari. Again. Man, I could get addicted to this stuff. Fragrantica calls it a Floral Green, but elsewhere I’ve seen it described as a green chypre. Don’t care. I suspect that its style was, well, out of style when it was introduced in the early 1990s: too perfumey. Too green, too loud, too far removed from the smell of “clean” in the days of cKOne and L’eau d’Issey. Not that it’s a dirty perfume exactly; it’s not Joy or Bal a Versailles by any means, but neither does it smell like Windex.
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Wednesday, Dec. 24 – The CEO’s sister J has been visiting. We went to the Christmas Eve service at the church where my mother-in-law attends, and ran into one of my aunts along with my cousin and her husband, so that was lovely too. SOTD was Prince Matchabelli Potpourri, a wonderfully clovey carnation-woods scent (long discontinued, of course – I paid $12 for a full 1 oz bottle via eBay), with a spritz of Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka for the evening.

I notice that my newish bottle of Vanille Tonka is missing its spritely, delightful lime opening. The lime’s still there, but it’s very subdued and there’s more of a root-beer feeling to the scent now. This is not bad, exactly, but I really adored that lime+spice thing. Sigh.

Was up late, but I managed to finish  not only my MIL’s chenille hat but also Bookworm’s Minion Hat. It is ADORABLE. (Here’s a link to the pattern, in case you would like to make it.)

Thursday, Dec. 25 – a quiet Christmas. The kids slept late, we slept late, and it has been so warm that there was no reason for The CEO to go out and have to feed cattle, so we dove into stockings first, and then had breakfast, and then opened presents. No scented gifts for me this year. (Which is okay. To a large degree I feel satisfied with my current collection, though I would of course love a bottle of Iris Poudre. I’ve gotten through a 5ml decant and I have two partial 10ml decants I’m still working on. The only thing that worries me is the impending purchase of Frederic Malle by Estee Lauder… Lauder owns Jo Malone as of Jan 1, 2015, in case you didn’t know that… I would hate for IP to be irrevocably changed because I love it.)

Bookworm loved her crocheted hat! She knew I was making her one… but when she opened her package she kept repeating, “It’s a MINION! It’s a MINION!” and didn’t take it off all day. Success, I proclaim.

We had a lovely dinner with The CEO’s mother and both his sisters, as well as his sister E’s husband and their kids. Very nice. SOTD was Teo Cabanel Alahine, because it smells like joy and Christmas to me, and it’s become tradition over the past five years to wear Alahine on Christmas.

Friday, Dec. 26 – We spent the morning of Boxing Day at home, straightening up a bit, before heading on to my parents’ house for Christmas Part II. I wore Alahine again, of course, because that is My Christmas Perfume, Period. I love Alahine so much. We had a nice time with family – a nice meal, an excellent time Skyping with my sister. My father recently replaced his 10-year-old Sebring with a Jeep crossover vehicle which seems rather sporty for him… in any case, he gave us the Sebring for one of the kids to use. I think he’d intended it for Gaze, who will be eligible for his driver’s license next month, but we decided that it might make more sense for Bookworm to drive it back and forth to Connecticut. Even with the $400 garage fee charged by the university, and the gas for it, it might be cheaper than airline flights! We’re still waffling on its name. Sebastian? Sabrina? Seabiscuit?* And Gaze, in any case, wants to drive the Ranger, which is way more “manly” than the Sebring.

*Yes, we are those annoying people who name their cars. Cameron (The CEO’s Camry, which is blue) and Stevie Ray Van (my Caravan, which is red) and Walker (the Ranger, which is black) refuse to share the driveway with an unnamed vehicle. 😉

Saturday, Dec. 27 – sunny day, temperatures in the 50s. Niece and nephew came over before the Virginia Tech – Cincinnati bowl game and hung out, and then The CEO’s mom and sisters and brother-in-law came over to watch the game. (My mother-in-law doesn’t have ESPN. In fact, she doesn’t have cable. Nor does she have internet access, or a computer, or even a touch-tone phone. She does have a cell phone, but only turns it on when she’s away from home and wants to ask someone a question. On the other hand, she seems to be getting along just fine.) So we did the basic house clean-up super-fast, and then settled in with some pizza to watch the Hokies trounce the Bearcats. SOTD was Caron Parfum Sacré, reapplied before dinner back over at the MIL’s house.  VT won the game, btw. Everyone was happy.

We have now determined that Gaze is a couple of inches taller than his same-age cousin Curiosity, Taz is now just a hair under my 5’4” height, and the cousin that’s Taz’s age, Primrose, is maybe half an inch taller than Bookworm. Everybody’s been growing except Bookworm, and she finally seems to have accepted that she’s just going to be a peanut. She did comment to me, however, that her friends have told her that she seems like a bigger person than her actual size – possibly because of her confidence and her grown-woman speaking voice.

By the way, I still don’t know why none of the Carons have captured my heart. True, the classic ones seem to have been reformulated badly, but even the vintage-ish stuff I’ve tried has seemed flat and dull to me. I did like Aimez-Moi, which was a more modern composition, but to be honest I never wore it so I traded it off to someone who loves it. Have I been influenced by the lukewarm reactions of Perfumes: The Guide? Perhaps. But I think it’s more likely that I simply don’t have an affinity for the style. I expected to find Narcisse Noir interesting, but the current stuff is way more orange blossom than narcissus, sort of a little girl’s yellow dotted-swiss dress, and the vintage sample I tried was so boring that I kept checking to see that the sample service hadn’t given me Narcisse Blanc by mistake. Tabac Blond is a wack combination of sweet, oily and musty, and Nuit de Noel is all that plus moss. The lovely Blacknall of A Perfume Blog sent me a sample of Or et Noir, which is said to be the precursor of Parfum Sacre, and I found that one difficult to wear, as its first hour or so is a sour, insistent rose soliflore before it relaxes into a beautiful soft ambery, mossy-woods drydown. (I suspect that it’s geranium I dislike so much in the rose scents that go sour on me.) Now, I do like Poivre, very much.

Sunday, Dec. 28 – a gray morning. Niece and nephew came over and played with our kids; I took a nap. We all went to church in the evening (our church, which normally meets at a local school on Sunday mornings, uses the sanctuary of another local church on Sunday evenings in the month of December) with my mother-in-law, as well as E and K, Primrose and Curiosity. Leftovers for dinner and football on TV… rain outside. SOTD: Organza Indecence, so cozy.

Monday, Dec. 29 – RAIN. Bleargh. A quiet day. SOTD was Shalimar Light. My first bottle of it (after the 5ml mini) is half gone; luckily I have one more stashed away. Best Lemon/Dirty-Vanilla EVAH. Made a batch of Nell’s Boiled Custard (YUM)!

Tuesday, Dec. 30 – The CEO’s laptop, or at least its screen, died last night and all attempts to revive it have failed so far. This is the Horrible! Clicky! Computer that I hate and despise because its “enter” key noise is so, well, offensively clicky that I literally cannot bear to be in the same room with it, so I am ambivalent about the matter. I’m sorry he’ll have to deal with the annoyance of a nonfunctioning computer, but maybe Virginia Tech will give him a new laptop that’s quieter.

Incidentally, over the month of November I found out that I have misophonia. That is, there is a name for the irrational feelings of rage/frustration one feels when hearing certain (generally soft and repetitive) noises. There is a NAME FOR IT, PEOPLE!! I am not (entirely) crazy! Gum chewing/popping… chewing sounds in general… the sound of toe/fingernails being clipped… that blasted clicky computer… gah. I have to leave the room. I cannot stand to sit in front of people who are innocently, but ANNOYINGLY, crunching popcorn at the movie theater. It is with the greatest difficulty that I restrain myself from turning around and killing them utterly dead. But at least I am not craaaaazy, even if very few people believe me about the soft-noise rage.

Yesterday’s rain turned to snow overnight, and we woke to a light dusting of the white stuff outside, though it isn’t particularly cold. SOTD: Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. Mmmm, white florals.

Wednesday, Dec. 31 – Glad to see 2014 go, for some reason. The CEO and Gaze have been watching college football bowl games most of the day, and I’ve been writing some, and doing a few year-end errands. My new Tracfone Android phone arrived today but is not completely functional yet; Taz will be getting my old phone when my new one works. Hope he doesn’t lose this one as he did his first phone and his second (a castoff from his brother); I’ve been fond of that phone.

The Christmas decorations come down tomorrow. Three weeks of those are about all I can manage, though I have friends who enjoy having theirs up for nearly two months. I can’t do it. I don’t mind leaving my nutcrackers out into the second week of January, but the tree has to go, and the garland and lights on the porch railing do too. Incidentally, the whole my-Christmas-tree-is-trying-to-kill-me thing seems to have been confined to the Canaan fir varietal. We had another Fraser fir this year and I’ve had no problems. And it was lovely, too.

SOTD is Memoir Woman. Mmmmmmmmm. I got an order from Beauty Encounter today – a candle that was on clearance/sale, plus a few samples and some mini shower gels. And my new crockpot, ordered from Amazon with my gift card, came today too! Yay! Delicious ham for dinner, and I’ve got an El Cheapo bottle of pink moscato (HEY! Don’t judge me!) in the fridge for The CEO and I to share at midnight.

 

Wishing everyone a wonderful, fragrant 2015!

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Goodbye 2014

Goodbye-2014-card2014, we hardly knew ye.

Or maybe I’d just prefer to skip over the year, filled as it has been with political crap and turmoil and…

Oh wait. That’s hardly unusual. Nebmind.

It wasn’t a bad year, I suppose, at least personally. The family is generally okay. The fiction writing is going slow but not badly. The blogging stunk this year… and I really don’t have a reason for that, except maybe that one new commenter who skeered the bejesus out of me earlier in the year. Or the gazillion changes to the blog theme/image. Or the fact that everybody else seems to have so much to say about perfume, and lately, I kinda just want to smell it without talking about it. I dunno.

There have been some changes here in the house, too: Gaze suddenly got tall! He’s now standing even with his dad at 5′ 10.5″. And Taz got tall-er! He’s shot up four inches since this summer, when he passed Bookworm, and now he’s only got about a quarter of an inch to go to be as tall as I am, at 5′ 4.5″. Gaze now has five ewes for his FFA project, and will be eligible for his driver’s license next month. (You may pray for me at any time, thank you.) Bookworm had a difficult and stressful fall semester of her sophomore year at Yale, but seems to be settling down now. Taz insisted on giving up trumpet in his last year of middle school, which makes me a little sad because someday I won’t be a Band Mom anymore. Gaze has both sets of braces, upper and lower, on his teeth now. He says it affects his trombone playing, but it doesn’t mess too much with his good looks. 😉 The CEO is still teaching business classes in the Agriculture Technology school at Virginia Tech, and we still own seedstock bulls.

I plan to be posting one article a week this year, or at least one a week. I’ve got a haphazard sort of Scent Diary to post, and I hope to pick it back up on a regular basis, but I may write some new reviews as well.

Wishing anybody who might still be reading, after four months of silence, a wonderful year. Smooches.

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Labor Day, 2014

Happy Labor Day to my fellow Americans!

I have, again, sorely neglected to keep my Scent Diary up to date, so you’re getting a summary.  That’s The Way It Is. (Heavy sigh.)

outlanderI’ve been watching “Outlander” on Starz.  I’ve loved the books ever since I picked up the first one in the series (which now stands at eight books, with at least one more in the works), in 1995. It was a good fat book, and it seemed to involve Scotland and a romance, so I figured it might be good reading material for what I was doing at the time. Namely, sitting on the couch and nursing my first baby. Bookworm did not have a good handle on this breastfeeding thing – and neither did I, to be honest. Besides that, she was a small six-pound baby and wanted to nurse every two hours around the clock.

Let me repeat that: around the clock. Every two hours. Without fail.   So I was spending something like 10 hours a day parked in one spot. I needed stuff to read.  And I was quickly engrossed in the story of Claire, a WWII nurse suddenly transported back 200 years in time, without a way to get home, forced to escape the perverted interest of an army captain by way of marrying a young Scotsman.

Ah, Jamie Fraser… if you can find me a woman who’s read the books and not fallen for Jamie Fraser, I’ll tell you that she is either a newlywed or has no heart.

Taz at Grand Tetons, a selfie using his dad's camera and tripod.
Taz at Grand Tetons, a selfie using his dad’s camera and tripod.

I’ve sampled a few new things, as well as a few fragrances new to me. More about that coming, but here’s the list: Carven Le Parfum, Robert Piguet Douglas Hannant, and Dame Perfumery Pear, Waterlily and Amber.  I have re-explored Monyette Paris (oil format) and Robert Piguet Fracas, plus Sonoma Scent Studio Yin & Ylang.

What I would love to know is, why can’t I find a manufacturer sample of the rereleased Carven Ma Griffe? I read somewhere that it was considered a “soft” launch, not much fanfare… but NO samples?  Perhaps this is a US problem only, and there are at least testers available in multiple places in Europe. I did once buy a mini of the vintage stuff on eBay, but it was truly spoilt so I still don’t know how it was meant to smell.  I’m very interested in smelling the new, anyway.

Bookworm with her sax.
Bookworm with her sax. Photo by YPMB Photogs.

Bookworm went back to school on the 23rd. She seems to have settled in just fine. She’s in a suite with four other girls – Kat, Maya, Sophia, and her roommate, Ring – and practices for the Yale Precision Marching Band have already started.  (Ring is Chinese, and that’s her English-language use-name because apparently her Chinese name is difficult for Americans to pronounce.)

Gaze is a sophomore in high school, and Taz is an eighth-grader.  They’re out of school today for the holiday, and so is Bookworm, for that matter, but Virginia Tech held classes today, so The CEO is teaching today.  We’re going to a potluck meal with my extended family for lunch today, and when we get home, I intend to rearrange my perfume cabinet. There are some bottles in there that I’m not wearing, and I want to organize them and prepare them for sale on eBay. Never done that before, so that will be a new experience.

(Perhaps I shall offer them for sale here first? Think I will. Don’t expect any hidden gems, though.  It’ll be mostly mainstream stuff – no 1930s Vol de Nuit or anything like that.  I probably will slough off my two purchases of 1980s Coty Chypre, however. That is tough to find. I just don’t love it, not the way I adore the really vintage stuff. In any case, I will take pictures and post things for sale here, and leave that post up for a week or ten days, after which everything goes straight to listing on eBay.  I’m sorry to say that I will only be shipping within the US; attempts to mail out of the country have gone very badly for me. Paypal only.)

Gaze with his trombone.
Gaze with his trombone. Photo by Stacey Utt.

The high school had their first football game Friday. We lost 28-8. Miserable.  The band did well, though.  Weather’s been odd for August – very wet, continuing the rain that marked the last half of July.  Just in the last week or so, it’s been hot and humid, which is more like our usual August. I hate August.  And last week, the cross-country team hosted a scrimmage against a school from a neighboring county. The course was laid out over land that we own or rent, and it’s an extremely tough one: hills and varying surfaces (paved road, gravel road, grass).  Finishing times were  slow, and although that must have been partly because the course was so new that no one had run it before (except Gaze, who’d run it once) and partly because the temperatures were brutally hot.  We did not exactly cover ourselves with glory, but we had all of our boys finish, including the two middle-school boys, Noah and Taz.

 

The dog is driving me crazy. It’s like living with a toddler.  Out! In! Out! In! Investigate the goats! Bark at nonexistent threats!  Attempt to steal food and eat inappropriate things like quarters and pieces of plastic! On the other hand, he’s sweet. And he hasn’t really destroyed anything… much.  Except three shoes, one of his leashes, several used tissues, a plastic bag, one of The CEO’s socks that he bit a hole in, one of Taz’ socks that he bit the heel completely out of, his plastic Frisbee, and half a pan of cinnamon rolls he snagged off the counter (I don’t want to know what acrobatic feats he accomplished to even reach the pan).  I can’t watch him every single second! Sometimes I have to go to the bathroom!

Hunter is spoiled rotten!
Hunter is spoiled rotten!

Fragrances I’ve been wearing recently: Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete, Mary Greenwell Plum, Penhaligon’s Eau Sans Pareil, LeLong pour Femme, Chanel 1932 edt, Guerlain Vega, Dame Perfumery Black Flower Mexican Vanilla, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire pour Femme, Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete, and Ralph Lauren Safari.  I even pulled out Amouage Memoir Woman for a bedtime spritz last night. (It was lovely.)  I’ve been trying to wear decants, and I’m going to try to continue that focus into the future.

I purchased two inexpensive blind buys off eBay recently: Lucienne von Doz Lucienne, and a nearly-anonymous vintage thing in a vaguely Avon bottle, called Chypre d’Amboise and labeled Paris. I haven’t worn it yet. I’ll report on Lucienne soon as well.

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Five Favorite Green Perfumes for St. Patrick’s Day

There’s such a wonderful freshness to green fragrances, it would be a shame to only enjoy them on a day honoring the “wearin’ o’ the green.” Green florals – especially galbanum ones – are some of my perennial favorites, so here’s a short list of some I really love:

narcissus bouquetFirst, and always: Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete. This lovely green thing has, as I’ve mourned over the past year, been first reformulated to be lighter and then labeled by the perfume house as “available on demand.” (It is nowhere to be found on the PdN website, though Parfum1 and LuckyScent* have the 1 oz bottles in stock, $45 to $50.)  Notes: galbanum, narcissus, jasmine, hyacinth, styrax, opoponax, oakmoss, sandalwood, patchouli, woody notes.

Green-gold perfection, love at first sniff for me. I have waxed rhapsodic about it many times since I started blogging in 2009.

green gold creamGuerlain Chamade. Another beautiful green floral, but one that melts from chilly green through golden heart to creamy-yellow drydown, a transformation I like to think of as being extremely romantic. I have a decant of 1980s parfum de toilette that’s quite powdery, a bottle of 1970s eau de toilette that has deteriorated aldehydes up top but smells wonderful after ten minutes, and a cherished 2ml bottle of parfum. Gorgeous. I hear it still smells, unbelievably, like itself. Notes: aldehydes, galbanum, hyacinth, jasmine, bergamot, rose, lilac, clove, muguet, tolu balsam, peru balsam, sandalwood, amber, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver.

floral-centerpiece-04Chanel No. 19. Another chilly one, but so beautiful in its reserve. I have some vintage EdT (the new stuff is thin, I say) and recent EdP (rosier than the EdT, far less vetivery and without the hint of leather present in the old EdT). Oddly, I never liked the parfum. It’s almost too backbony for me – too much iris, I think.  Nobody does iris more thoroughly than Chanel.  Notes: neroli, green notes, bergamot, iris, narcissus, rose, muguet, vetiver, sandalwood, oakmoss, and leather.  A silvery, elegant green.

RosesPink-IrisJacomo Silences.  Another silvery green, this time with streaks of pink and cool gray-lavender.  There’s so much juicy galbanum in my bottle of parfum de toilette that it practically slaps you upside the head before trailing those silky rose-and-iris ribbons past you.  I have not smelled the EdT, but I am guessing it would be perfectly at home on a man; the PdT is a little rich and floral, perhaps, for the typical man’s usage. Notes: orange blossom, galbanum, bergamot, lemon, green notes, cassia, iris, jasmine, narcissus, hyacinth, rose, muguet, vetiver, musk, sandalwood, oakmoss, cedar and ambrette.

[The fragrance was “updated” in 2013 and rereleased as Silences Eau de Parfum Sublime. I whined about it until I smelled it, and then I changed my mind: it smells lighter than original Silences and has a more floral, less mossy character.  Notes for the updated version:  aldehydes, galbanum, blackcurrant bud, pear, rose, iris, narcissus, woodsy notes and musk.  Silences Sublime, as I like to call it, smells a great deal like the way I had expected Chanel No. 19 Poudre to smell. It is better than No. 19 Poudre, if you ask me, and worth smelling if you can get your hands on it. (New London Pharmacy has it in store and online; that’s where I got my bottle.)]

green and whiteCrown Perfumery Crown Bouquet. Green and white, that’s all. I find it spectacularly beautiful and refreshing, though you absolutely must like galbanum (it’s another smack-in-the-face with this cool green note). Sadly, this was discontinued when Clive Christian bought Crown Perfumery and then axed all its products so he could use their lovely crown-topped bottles. (Curse you, Mr. Christian. For shame.) Notes: galbanum, green notes, hyacinth, tuberose, orange blossom and gardenia. Described by Crown Perfumery as “the greenest of all green florals,” it was composed for the… um… interesting Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee for whom King Edward renounced the throne of England. The fragrance is, once past its green attack, very simple and garden-like, and I find it very lovely.

*I’m not affiliated with any commercial fragrance operation in any way. You probably already knew that.

What about you? Floral greens that you love?

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Christmas 2013

Okay, so this is my house. This is my house at Christmas. As you can clearly see, it is being guarded by a demon dog with glowing eyes.rsz_dec11_jan_12_012(Okay, not really a demon. It’s our Hayley-dog. But she looks scary enough here.)

Christmas was lovely. Got to see my parents, and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Sunday, we had dinner with my aunts and uncles and my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew Doodlebug, who is really growing!

Got a nice little ELPH camera for Christmas so I don’t have to keep asking to borrow The CEO’s big fancy one. A nice sweater, a scarf, some books, a cute pair of sterling silver & cubic zirconia earrings, a trial size of LUSH Rose Jam shower gel, some Amouage Memoir lotion, and a 15ml bottle of Hermes Kelly Caleche EdP.  A nice haul!

I’ll be reviewing Kelly Caleche soon, the EdT as well as the EdP if I can find my sample of the EdT.

Hope everybody else who celebrates had a lovely Christmas as well.

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Happy Memorial Day, 2013

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Cameron Davidson.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Cameron Davidson.

Today we remember.

My deep thanks to those that are serving our country, especially to my brother-in-law. And to those that have served, especially to my dad.

My deepest thanks to those that gave their all in serving our country, with a special remembrance of my friend, Army 1st Lt. Terry Plunk, who died clearing minefields in the Gulf War.

My Stars and Stripes is flying in their honor.

Scent of the Day is Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete.

 

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Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, Interpreted in Fragrance: a Joint Blogging Project

a christmas carolIt’s not for nothing that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, first published in 1843, is a perennial favorite. Its tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, miserly in finances and in emotional ties, rejoining the human race after his encounters with the ghost of his former partner and with three Spirits of Christmas – Past, Present, and Yet To Come – is heartwarming in the best sense. It restores one’s faith in the power of redemption and the ability of humankind to improve the lot of the poor. Every few years or so, I get out our copy of A Christmas Carol and read it out loud to the family, and despite its old-fashioned language, everyone enjoys the story.

This year I’d like to contemplate the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come in terms of fragrance, along with my fellow sister bloggers (I just noticed, we’re all female). I’m choosing to interpret Dickens’ Spirits in perfume, but the assignment was loosely structured and I’m sure we’ve all taken slightly different directions in addressing the theme, defined as “Ghosts of Perfume Past, Present and Future.”

ghost of christmas pastThe Spirit of Christmas Past, in Dickens’ words, is small as a child, or rather an old person who has shrunk. It has long white hair but is unwrinkled, with a complexion of “tenderest bloom.” (Anybody who’s ever kissed the rosy cheek of a toddler knows how absolutely delicious the experience is.) It wears a white tunic embroidered with summer flowers, while its feet and legs are bare. It holds a sprig of holly in its hand, and out of its head shoots a jet of light.

This spirit leads Scrooge past many scenes of past Christmases, touching his heartstrings with long-buried memories of joyous celebrations and of the loving, warm-hearted boy he once was, before he closed himself off due to loss and disappointment and pain.

It’s pretty difficult to think of a fragrance that combines the effects of wise age and tender youth, of strong bare limbs and diminutive size, of summer and light and prickly leaves. So I focused on a fragrance that seems to embody nostalgia for me: Tableau de Parfums Miriam.

Miriam opens with aldehydes – a nostalgic touch these days, when aldehydes practically scream, “Old Lady Perfume!” – and continues with a soft and tender rose-violet accent, undergirded with a soft ambery sandalwood. It is above all a tender fragrance, one that recalls for me the soft smell of my own mother when I was a child, and one that never fails to remind me of children who have missed out on the miracle of motherly love. It’s something we’re born to need, I think, and if we don’t get it we wonder if it’s our fault. Knowing that your mother loves you is one of the most basic human emotional needs, and when this need goes unfulfilled, it’s one of the saddest things in the world. Ah, but the love of a mother is an invisible cashmere blanket. Wear Miriam and feel it wrapped around you like a blessing.

A few other nostalgic fragrances to consider:

Parfums de Nicolai Kiss Me Tender is a sweet little smile of a perfume, with rose, violet, anise and heliotrope, a happy-memory smell.

Sonoma Scent Studio Nostalgie, true to its name, is another tender nod to times of the past. Similar to Miriam, but with perhaps more aldehydes and less sweetness in the base.

ghost of christmas presentThe Spirit of Christmas Present is a generous, joyful one. Many of the trappings of what we now consider to distinguish “an English Christmas” are mentioned in A Christmas Carol: the holly, the evergreen garlands, the singing of carols, the Christmas punch, the family gathering, the roast goose or turkey or suckling pig on the table, surrounded by all kinds of feast foods. Christmas in England, before the publication of A Christmas Carol, had had more of a religious focus than a family one, quietly celebrated (if celebrated at all) by attending a church service and lighting candles in honor of the Light of the World, the other trappings being seen as pagan and sinful. But people responded so positively to the idea of joyous celebration in Christ’s honor (or was it, perhaps, simply the idea of a good party in a good cause?) that the old once-pagan ways resurged.

Well, I like a good party myself. As far as that goes, Jesus probably did too, given that we know he attended a wedding and often used feasts and weddings in his parables of the Heavenly Kingdom. Haul out the holly! Bring on the clove-orange pomanders! Light the candles, our Savior is born!

Dickens describes his Spirit of Christmas Present as being tall, genial, cheery, with a holly wreath accented with icicles in its long brown curls, wearing a simple green robe trimmed with white fur, and barefoot, holding a glowing torch shaped like a cornucopia. This Spirit leads Scrooge to witness several Christmas celebrations, from lonely sailors at sea singing carols to poor people huddled over outdoor bonfires to keep warm, from the glow of family togetherness at the Cratchits’ meal to the elegant, jovial feast at Scrooge’s nephew Fred’s house (Scrooge having refused the invitation). The Spirit also shows Scrooge less delightful Christmases in the lives of poor people beset by the terrible twins “Want” and “Ignorance,” which makes him ashamed of his earlier suggestion that the proper place for poor people is in the workhouse or in prison.

The central quality of the Spirit of Christmas Present is joy, I think, and one of my favorite joyful perfumes is Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka. I experience Vanille Tonka as being a giddy romp through an oversized forest of carnations and cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans and incense sticks, with a lime canopy overhead. Silly, I know, but it’s like Candyland to me, so much fun! Such a glowy, happy scent.

Here are a couple more joyful Christmassy perfumes to consider:

Teo Cabanel Alahine, my default Christmas fragrance, always reminds me of the Christmassy Madrigal Dinners my college choir used to put on. It’s essentially a floral amber with some aromatic and spicy notes, and it recalls every aspect of those delightful days.

DSH Perfumes Festive, a wonderful fragrance encompassing evergreen notes, spice, orange, sandalwood and incense. It’s a happy sort of smell.

Christmas Carol - Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come

The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come is an enigma. Dickens describes it as being solemn, tall, stately, mysterious. It is draped and hooded in black which shrouds any glimpse of head, face,or body, except that lone outstretched hand. Certainly Scrooge seems terrified of this Spirit, and with good reason: the Spirit shows him first the effects of the death of the much-beloved son of Scrooge’s underpaid clerk, and then the contrasted effects of Scrooge’s own death. I can only imagine that this Spirit might appear differently to each of us, depending on how we make our way in the world, and I’d guess that it would not necessarily show us each our future deaths.

The characteristic of the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come that I’d like to highlight is its silent mystery. What might the coming year hold for us? God knows.

 

One of the most mysterious perfumes I’ve ever smelled is Stephen Jones for Comme des Garcons, which is a tiny whiff of violet wafting over a blackened lava field, borne on the feathery wings of aldehydes. Originally I had been very disappointed in it, as it had been recommended to me as “a violet perfume.” It’s not a violet perfume. It is a strange, blasted moonscape seen through violet-tinted Victorian spectacles. It’s weird, and eerie, and mysterious, and fascinating.

A few other mysterious and wintery fragrances to consider:

Lancome Magie Noire, which is such an eerie thing (particularly in the vintage) that I shiver a little every time I smell it. One has the sense of a storm gathering just over the horizon when wearing it. Herbs and rose, moss, vetiver and oriental notes add up to an otherworldly character.

angel highgate cemeterySerge Lutens La Myrrhe, the incomparable. I find it absolutely beautiful, but I recently ran across a blog comment at Perfume Posse, I think it was, that called it mysterious. The commenter said it reminded her of “those mossy angel carvings in Highgate Cemetery: exquisite, grieving, eternally silent.” Although I don’t experience it in the same way, that is a perfect and beautiful description. La Myrrhe’s aldehydes, soft floral notes, and woods create a beautiful glow around its myrrh heart.

Please visit the other blogs participating in this joint exercise:

All I Am – A Redhead

ChickenFreak’s Obsessions

EauMG

Olfactoria’s Travels

Suzanne’s Perfume Journal

Undina’s Looking Glass

Another Perfume Blog (Big thanks to Natalie for organizing the joint blogging project!)

A very merry Christmas and holiday season to you all!

 

 

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Be That Aunt

Christmas is a-coming.  And if you’re like me, there are nieces and nephews that need presents…

A couple of years ago, I ran across this post at Perfume Posse that caught my imagination, where March was talking about Dior Poison, and various commenters mentioned that their aunts or other special people had gifted them with that fragrance, and the discussion moved through an exploration of how often aunts seem to be the ones who ignite our passion for good scents. The concept stayed with me, especially after EauMG started doing her delightful “Holiday Gift Guides for Nieces and Teens” series (check out the 2012 guide here).

I only have one niece.  Just one, so far.  I have three delightful nephews, currently ages 14, 8, and 3.  And there is a slight, slight possibility that someday I may have another niece (or nephew), via my baby brother and his sweet wife, but I’m not betting on it.  And while it is very satisfying to give a nephew a scented gift – I gave Curiosity a mini bottle of Chanel Egoiste for his birthday in June – it’s more a matter of Preventing Axe Abuse than anything else, when you give a teenage boy a fragrance.

In any case, right now, as regarding nieces, Primrose is it.  She just turned twelve, and of course I gave her perfume. In the past I’ve given her various smelly stuff, like cucumber shower gel and vanilla lotion and Bonne Bell Lipsmackers in Dr. Pepper, as well as a mini bottle of L’eau par Kenzo (a watery fruity-floral) and one of Cynthia Rowley Flower (a pretty, clean lily scent).  This year, she got a Grab Bag of Joy, comprised of a pink sparkly notebook, pretty gel pens, some raspberry shower gel, some Lip Smackers, some hair things, some horse stickers, and a mini bottle of Juicy Couture parfum.

I had mixed feelings about choosing that perfume. I don’t approve much of Juicy Couture the clothing line, what with their propensity for splashing “JUICY” across the hind ends of people who really should not be wearing sweatpants in public, not to mention their propensity for encouraging people to wear sweatpants in public in the first place.  I’ve seen more JUICY sweatpants in airports than I cared to, y’all.

But the perfume is pretty nice. I admit, I don’t care much for the EdP, which smells like Watermelon Bubblicious to me.  Gah. I loved  Bubblicious when I was Primrose’s age, but I’m no longer Primrose’s age.  Haven’t been for a loooooong time… but I digress.

Back to the Audacious Aunt concept, though: I love what Magpie says on that Perfume Posse Poison post about her “crazy/fabulous aunt” giving her Je Reviens and Niki de Saint Phalle, which she can’t imagine being appropriate for a nine-year-old.  Then this:

 March Reply:
December 22nd, 2008 at 4:49 pm Let’s all say a prayer of thanks for crazy aunts.

sweetlife Reply:
December 22nd, 2008 at 1:41 pm It’s always an aunt! I’ve been working on a little series of posts about Other People’s Perfumes — the one magic bottle that my non-perfumista friends often seem to have lurking around–and in 75% of the cases to date it has been the gift of a crazy, fabulous aunt.I am now aspiring to become that aunt.

March Reply:
December 22nd, 2008 at 4:45 pm BE THE AUNT. I get regular emails that start off, “I’d like to get some Perfume X for my niece and her mother says blah blah blah inappropriate blah blah.” And of course I always say BUY IT. What the he** are aunts for?!?!? My 7YO niece already has a sample collection.

I can’t remember who gave me that 30ml bottle of Karl Lagerfeld Chloe edt when I was twelve, but did I ever love that stuff!  It left the Avon Sweet Honesty (a gift from my grandmother Sarah Lou when I was eight) in the dust.  Was it my grandmother Nell who gave it to me, or one of my three lovely aunts? I have no idea.  Nell’s gone, and so is Sarah Lou, and none of my aunts remember… I wore Chloe for a decade, dabbing it on wrists and behind ears so that I could smell it, and anyone sitting next to me could smell it, but so that anyone outside my personal space couldn’t. That one little bottle lasted me until shortly before I got married, and I loved it.

But the reason that perfume was so magic wasn’t just the smell. It was the feeling of it: the luxury, the beauty, the promise of womanhood it held. Chloe is a bosomy, flirty fragrance, ripe with peach and tuberose and jasmine, undergirded with a mossy-woody base, and for decades it’s been my concept of a womanly perfume.  Although my ideas of what constitutes proper perfume have expanded exponentially, Chloe still sits in the pantheon, smiling benignly down at me and giving me permission to grow up, to be a woman.

My darling Primrose is a girly girl, extremely so. She loves pink and purple and horses, and unicorns and stars and flowers and rainbows, and nail polish and and jewelry and sequined shirts and headbands… And books, she loves books. I adore her. And I’m looking forward to giving her that tacit permission to explore womanhood as well as girlhood, as the time rolls around.  This year it’s the tangy fruit and white flowers tied with caramel ribbon of Juicy Couture. By the time she’s sixteen, it may be, say, the greenery and honey and ripe florals of Amoureuse – or the incense and spice and roasty wood of Aomassai.  Or the outright sensuality of Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Lumiere Noire, with its rosy narcissussy patchouli. Or the reserved stern-librarian dry gorgeousness of Iris Silver Mist.  Whatever.

I’m going to Be That Aunt.

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Scent Diary, Nov. 19-25, 2012

Monday, Nov. 19 – A nice warm day, for mid-November. Testing Donna Karan Black Cashmere and Tauer Perfumes L’Air du Desert Marocain. LAdDM is very nice, but perhaps the Tauer base (characterized by labdanum and Ambroxan, I think) is too thick and sweet. I think it’s a little too assertive for what I was looking for. But Black Cashmere could very well be the eye-opening, “this-can’t-be-perfume!” smell that captivates my shy character in one of my novels, the thing I’ve been looking for.

Noticed today that one of the houses on Maple Street in town, close to where we lived before moving to the farm, is ALREADY decorated for Christmas. Already! It’s SIX WEEKS until Christmas! It looks nice, actually: two 7-foot artificial trees on either side of the front door, trees and front porch decorated with white lights and gold ribbon, eye-catching but not garish. All the same, I do not get it. The town put up Christmas decorations last Thursday, and I don’t get that either. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t enjoy Christmas decorations or Christmas music or Christmas anything until about the first weekend in December, and we don’t start decorating the house until about Dec. 10. We don’t get our tree before the 15th! I find that when I start seeing decorations this early, I’m extremely tired of them before Christmas even shows up, and what’s the point in that? I know people like to do it, and there’s nothing wrong with it exactly, I just don’t understand how they don’t get completely sick of trees and wreaths and garland and ribbons and what-not in about three weeks. Maybe I have low tolerance, I dunno.

Bookworm had a relaxing night, very little homework. So glad for her. She watched part of “Chicago” on TV with her dad and me (and was shocked by the women’s costumes, judging by her frown) before going off to bed at a decent hour.

Tuesday, Nov. 20 – Another warmer day, in the mid-50sF. Virginia Tech is on Thanksgiving break, so The CEO is home, doing laundry and entering grades online. I’m home, doing some straightening up/cleaning, some mending, some holiday planning, some online Christmas shopping, and a teensy bit of writing. SOTD: YSL Nu EdP, another floral incense. Nu is… well, weird. I like the cardamom-incense, but there’s a strange dry-sour uncomfortable thing in there that I don’t like. Could be vetiver, I’m not sure.

Nu, I have to say, makes me think of the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the part where Sir Arthur and Sir Bedivere run into the threatening Knights Who Say Ni! in the forest, and they ask for a shrubbery… Arthur and Bedivere torture an old lady in a nearby town for information about shrubberies, by saying, “Ni!” to her. That is, Arthur says ni to her, but Bedivere can’t quite get it right at first. He says “Nu!” and Arthur has to coach him. (Watch it at Youtube here, if you like – the part I mean runs from about 2:47 to 3:00.) Continue reading Scent Diary, Nov. 19-25, 2012

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