Scent Diary, Jan. 17-23, 2011

Monday, Jan. 17: Every Monday, Gaze comes down for breakfast and bangs things around sullenly. If you ask him what’s wrong, he says, resentfully, “It’s Monday.” He’s not even a teenager yet. Huh. I don’t hate Mondays. I don’t even remember hating Mondays as a teenager.

Well, maybe as a college student.   SOTD: Mariella Burani.

Tuesday, Jan. 18: The Malta trip planning is going forth! We bought our airline tickets last night and booked a Malta hotel which looks really nice but seems inexpensive. It will be Carnival Week when we go, which I’m not all that thrilled about, but I should probably loosen up a little.

SOTD: Santa Maria Novella Gardenia, which was a lovely green, tropical gardenia for two hours and then became increasingly unpleasant on my skin for the next two hours. I can’t even identify why it’s unpleasant – just that it went all chemically and weird. After the weird two hours, it went to plain white musk.

SOTEvening: Mary Greenwell Plum, to take the chemical weirdness of SMN Gardenia off my mind. Meant to mail a couple of swap packages today but didn’t get to. Too busybusy.

Wednesday, Jan. 19: Windy all day, windy all night, windy enough to bang the shutters and make the pleasantly-tuned wind chimes a cacophony and blow the trash cans across the porch. I finally sat down and ordered some thermal curtains online for the sliding glass door to the back deck. Our December electric bill was $286, and January is turning out even colder.

SOTD: Si Lolita. Which is still pretty, a light floral oriental with pink pepper (pink-pepperophobes, stay away!) that lasts far less long than you’d think, for a floriental. Respritzed twice. My 5ml mini is half gone.

Thursday, Jan. 20: I’m behind at work. It’s freezing cold, in the wake of that wind: 20F and windy, feels like 5F. SOTMorning: the purportedly-risque Agent Provocateur. Which turns out to be merely nice, not slutty. I find that I mind patchouli much less than I usually do when it’s paired with a strong rose presence.

Read a blurb on Now Smell This about how Guerlain will soon be releasing a version of Idylle with the rose and patchouli brought forward, called Idylle Duet. I commented something like, “What, there wasn’t enough patchouli in the first one??” because that was my honest take on it: nice musky floral with way too much patchouli. Then I found my sample and spritzed a bit, and I must have been patch-desensitized by the Agent Provocateur, because the patchouli in Idylle is still too much, too sour, too grating – but it didn’t icepick me in the eyeballs this time. Progress! (Maybe.)

Friday, Jan. 21: Not feeling well today, with digestive tract in an uproar and fever. Stayed home. Slept most of the day. The cat curled up on me and kept me warm, but I honestly couldn’t say whether it was because she was being sweet or that I was simply lying in her preferred nap spot. In the afternoon, put on a bit of Shalimar Light in hopes of comfort.

Watched “Speed” on TV with The CEO, after I got to feeling better. It’s probably the best Dumb Action Movie ever made, not that I’m a big fan of action movies. There are plot holes big enough to drive that darn city bus through, but somehow you don’t care. Similarly, Keanu Reeves has got to be the best-looking bad actor that ever made it in Hollywood.

(Go ahead, argue with me. I’m waiting. 🙂 And I’ll admit I’m really not much of a film buff, so I might have missed something.)

Saturday, Jan. 22: Feeling somewhat better. Boxes of Christmas stuff have been languishing in the guest room, awaiting removal to the attic, and I meant to get to that today, but I’m Just Not Up To It.

Went with The CEO to a going-out-of-business sale at our local furniture store, to look at a recliner. The one we have is at least twenty years old, secondhand, with splitting upholstery – and it’s never been comfortable, much less attractive. We bought a new one. Which is something we almost never do, just up and buy stuff. Especially new stuff. This makes The CEO twitchy.

SOTD: Mary Greenwell Plum. Although later when we built a fire, I got a sudden craving for the lovely smokiness of Cuir de Lancome.

Sunday, Jan. 23: Early church today. Very cold and windy. The CEO went out early to check on an ailing cow that he and Gaze gave an injection of antibiotics to yesterday, on the advice of the vet, theorizing that she had a respiratory infection. However, she hadn’t made it through the night. This has been a bad winter for cows… well, our cows, anyway.

Suggested to The CEO this morning that he could take that Target gift card he got for Christmas and go pick up those new belts he needs (yes, needs – the belts he wore in college twenty years ago no longer fit, and his good dress belt broke last Sunday). His reply? “Now why would I do that, when there’s a perfectly acceptable Goodwill across the road from Target?” (Twitchy. I shouldn’t even have suggested it, so soon after the recliner.)

Put the Christmas stuff in the attic, mended some items, and supervised Bookworm’s first attempt at Lemon Squares. She did good.

SOTD: Amouage Lyric Woman: beautiful stuff. You know, there’s some of that resiny stuff that usually bugs me down in the bottom of this, but it’s not bothering me here at all. Huh. How many times have I worn Lyric and not noticed? The only thing on the (long) list of notes for this one that looks even vaguely suspicious is “incense.” Opoponax, maybe? Must look up the difference between opoponax and myrrh again – I love myrrh (La Myrrhe, Parfum Sacre, Oeillets Rouges). How can there be this big a gap between two related natural smells?

Image from Nat13 at Fragrantica.


Scent Diary, Jan. 10-16, 2010

Monday, Jan. 10: Ugh. Dreadful day, I don’t even want to discuss it. SOTMorning: I Profumo di Firenze Gardenia Royale, with an eye to reviewing it for the Tuberose Series. I don’t know that I’m going to manage it, unless I do a three-fer set of quickie reviews, or something. There’s not much to say about this thing, except that it starts out with the purplest, grape Kool-Aid-iest accord I’ve smelled since Poison, only more grapey. Ugh.

Meant to put something else on in the afternoon, but just did not manage to find either time or inspiration. I said, I don’t want to talk about it. Grr. Ugh. Finally went to bed (late, with a sore throat) wearing some Alahine.

Tuesday, Jan. 11: Well, I’m officially older today. (Is this what was bugging me yesterday? Today getting older seems fine.) Anyway, SOTD is La Myrrhe. Gorgeous. I do get why people call it “cold,” but to me it is like sunrise on snow, all pink and gold on white, sparkling.

Wednesday, Jan. 12: Snow last night – not much, about an inch, but still enough to scare our new superintendent of schools into canceling school today. I know there are remote places in the county that the buses can’t negotiate easily when the weather’s bad, but an inch of snow? Whatever happened to the bus “snow routes” of my childhood? Where’s this guy from, Atlanta?

And speaking of Atlanta, The CEO’s flight from Greensboro, NC to Denver was canceled today because of delays in Atlanta. Before he left, he’d checked to see that the Greensboro airport was open and allowing flights to depart, and the website said it was, but he didn’t actually call to see if his particular flight would be on time. So he drove two hours, only to find out that the backlog of flights in and out of Atlanta had led to the cancellation of his flight. The nice people at Delta said they could get him out of Greensboro at 5am Thursday morning, routed through Philadelphia and landing in Denver at 10:30am, but that would have meant he’d miss half the conference (National Cattlemen’s Association), so he bagged it and drove home.

Darn. I thought I’d be in charge of the remote control while he was gone.

SOTD: Smell Bent One. I have not been at all interested in investigating new stuff recently; I’m wanting to wear everything I already own. It’s good to want what you’ve got, I suppose, however difficult that makes reviewing things.

Good news, though: my 2009 NaNoNovel, the one I didn’t finish because I ran into a roadblock on how to do part of the story 20 years before the current time? I think I’ve figured it out. It’ll take some serious reworking, and some very serious slashing, but the story will definitely be better for it. Now, the next issue is finding time to do it…

Thursday, Jan. 13: Cold. SOTD: Prada No.2 Oeillet Parfum, which is gorgeous for twenty minutes (fresh carnation, with a hint of almond underneath) and bitter-soapy for ten minutes (a la Caron Bellodgia, a total disaster for me), then just very nicely floral (clove, rose, carnation, ylang) for a couple of hours. All this is followed by a dry, powdery base that smells like a dead ringer for my dad’s Shower to Shower talc. Urgh. At least it’s quiet at that point.

I took pictures of my miniature collection. The photo up top there is the close-up of the entire thing, except that Coty La Rose Jacqueminot was in my purse, and I forgot, so it’s not pictured. I’ll probably stick the more detailed photos up with future Scent Diary posts. Can I just say? It’s scary. And it’s my fault. And I need to cull the blasted thing, “references” be darned.  And, no, they don’t all live out on top of the dresser. Current-season decants and minis live in the shabby-chic, easily-accessible hatboxes on my dresser; vintage, reference, and out-of-season decants and minis – and full bottles, too – all live in (get this for trashy) empty plastic dishwashing-detergent-pack boxes inside the cabinet.

SOTE: Mariella Burani, because I missed her. There’s enough “clean” musk in MB that if you hate clean musk, MB’s not going to be for you, but there’s also enough of that lovely smooth benzoin-tonka base that this scent isn’t all cheapo laundry smell, either. The drydown reminds me quite a bit of F Malle Iris Poudre – or a less-oleaginous Dior New Look 1947.

Friday, Jan. 14: SOTD: Givenchy Ysatis, from a mini described as “vintage,” but since I got it slightly-used on ebay (i.e., dirt cheap) last winter, I don’t know how vintage it is. It’s certainly quite… dirty, so it might actually be vintage.

I got bad on ebay again: a mini of Ferre by Ferre, one of Bill Blass Classic parfum (I blame Barbara of Yesterday’s Perfume), and one of Omar Sharif pour femme, which I’d never heard of, but the notes sound lovely – heavy on the tuberose, of course – and it’s old enough that I think I can expect at least 1980’s-quality ingredients. I checked around, and you can buy larger bottles for just under, say, your average Kenzo price, so I’m hopeful.

I had actually tried to buy the Ferre by Ferre a few weeks ago, based on the picture associated with the ebay item, but what showed up was the newer but confusingly-named Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre (puhlease, GF, will you exercise just a little more imagination in naming your fragrances?!). When I sent a message to the seller to complain and ask how I should send it back, the reply was, “Oh, we’re sorry. Hey, just keep it and we’ll refund your money.” Really nice of them. The newer Ferre scent I’ve sampled and found it pleasant – I seem to remember it as being quite an interesting fruity-floral-oriental, with pineapple and melon in the topnotes, but nothing as icky as those notes would seem to indicate.

Well, I say I “got bad,” but the whole haul cost about $26. I’ll call that my birthday present, along with my fur hat. Oh, and my hat came too: it’s kewwwl. Very 1960s. Feels nice to the touch. Looks cute. (Unfortunately, it does expose my ears, but I’ll make that sacrifice. I have plenty of scarves, after all.)

Saturday, Jan. 15: The CEO is sick with some sort of digestive-system bug, and I’m trying to keep everyone else, including myself, away from him. Urgh.

I just looked out the window to see two of our neighbor’s seven steer calves in a head-butting brawl. They’re yearlings, so they’re essentially teenagers, with the accompanying teenage behavior. One of the white ones ran at the tan one, and the tan one didn’t back off, so they butted heads and circled around, and butted heads and circled around again, and darned if it wasn’t just like high school: two guys start doing that Threatening Shoulder Thing at each other, somebody yells, “Fight in the cafeteria!” and everybody else comes running to see. After several head butts, the tan calf finally turned his tail and ran away several yards, and all the calves milled around under the trees for a minute, and then Tan Calf ran toward the opposite end of the field, and all the others followed him too. Exactly like teenage boys, if you ask me.

SOTD: Nothing. I got busy, the day just slipped by… oh well. I’m not exactly scent-deprived. I can smell Ysatis from the little bottle on my dresser. (Next question, where’s my Ubar decant?)

Sunday, Jan. 16: Drove to my parents’ house after church for a birthday lunch (roast chicken, stuffed potatoes, green beans and brussels sprouts, scalloped apples, popcorn shrimp, and birthday cake, yum), where my sister made mock of my nose.

Mom gave me a Bath & Body Works hand soap – she knows I like them in the kitchen – and I popped it open to smell. “Huh,” I said. “I thought this was Lime Basil, but it smells like there’s coconut in there.”

A scoffed. “No, that’s their Coconut Lime Verbena.” She took the soap and sniffed it herself. “I just smell lime.”

Well, definitely lime,” I agreed. “And I like Coconut Lime Verbena, but this doesn’t smell like that one. Wait a minute, they’ve changed the name – now it’s called Fresh Lime Basil. They probably changed the formula, too. I knew it smelled different, less herbal than it used to.”

Mom (long accustomed to stopping sibling arguments, bless her) took the soap from A and proceeded to read us the list of ingredients, long chemical names and all, and lo and behold, coconut oil.   HA. I’m not crazy.  Vindication is sweet.

SOTD: Penhaligon’s Amaranthine. Some of you did not believe me when I told you that I wear this stuff to church, but there it is: I wear this stuff to church. Not one hint or intimation of skank on me (though there are things I wear that come right out and yell SKANK, forget hinting at it – Bal a Versailles and Citizen Queen, I’m looking at you).


Scent Diary, Dec. 27, 2010 – Jan. 2, 2011

Monday, Dec. 27: The snow we got yesterday was the dry, light sort of stuff that gets blown into drifts if you get any wind afterward, so of course we got wind all night. And I mean, serious wind – it blew the (full) trashcans around on the porch, and repeatedly banged the porch swing into the railing. All night. Whew. We had trouble sleeping.

When I got ready for bed last night, I wanted to put on scent to snuggle into, so I picked up every full bottle in my “fall and winter” seasonal rotation and sniffed it, in order to choose. In the interest of time, I ignored all the decants (and, it occurs to me now, the bottle of vintage Emeraude in my bedside cabinet, which probably would have worked a treat). Tocade? Too smoky. Cuir de Lancome? Smoke level good, but too floral and light. Shalimar Light, Mariella Burani, Parfum Sacre? None of my usual going-to-sleep scents seemed right. DK Gold and Aimez-Moi were too cold, Tabac Aurea too sex-ay (what does that say about me? Likely nothing, I wear it before sleep pretty often), Jolie Madame and No. 19 too austere. Alahine too rich, Climat too aldehydic on top (though gorgeously warm underneath), Black Orchid Voile de Fleur too much of a floral veil.

Then I picked up Le Temps d’une Fete, and it was like Baby Bear’s porridge: Just Right. Which is weird, given that I usually don’t long for it in the winter. In warmer weather, I get lots of green notes and flowers out of it; in autumn I get the patchouli and woods as well as that haylike narcissus. Last night, I smelled warmth in there, and a promise of spring, and it was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist.

So I wore it again today. Lovely. (Except I’m a little concerned – the topnotes seem sort of wobbly. Is it getting age-damaged?!? It’s been stored away from light and temperature extremes. Or is my memory faulty?)

Semi-bad news on the farm front: 14 cull cows to market today. One cow with a prolapsed uterus (the vet had to come and stitch her up; likely she’ll recover but that particular condition always makes me cringe in sympathy). One cow with a broken leg – she’ll be in someone’s freezer, but not ours. Ours is too full of the last cow who broke her leg. (Technically, she had it broken for her, probably by the bull attempting to breed her on an icy spot of ground. I could make some rude remarks about males and their libidos, but it probably would not be much appreciated.)

Tuesday, Dec. 28: I got home from work at about 2pm to find The CEO pacing the kitchen like a caged tiger, snarling under his breath, “Should’ve been here two hours ago! And now all my help is leaving… Jeff’s going to his other job… Bookworm’s going to track practice… you just get home with the pickup… cows all penned up in the barn lot since 10 am and no medicine delivered yet… can’t do anything until it gets here… he said a little after noon, and he’s not here!”

(Is it any wonder I was hoping he’d get that job, so he wouldn’t be hanging around here snarling over vermifuges? Never mind, don’t answer that.)

SOTD: Dior Couturier Collection New Look 1947 from a decant. I’m attempting to review this, and since I feel that repeated wearings are the only way to get a handle on a scent for review, I’ll probably be wearing it again tomorrow.

Gaze wound up helping The CEO this afternoon, and apparently did a great job. It’s not surprising, he’s a conscientious sort of kid. Come bedtime, he was tired enough to be punchy, and while he was eating cookies and milk, he started to giggle for no reason. Then he came out with, “I’ve landed on an uncharted planet. No sign of intelligent life here!” and explained, through snorts of laughter, that he thought his 6th grade math class – in which he’s got a 97 average – was a wasteland of intellect. Then, he started wandering around the kitchen pretending to open and drink several (imaginary) cans of beer and then to toss the empties away. After the sixth pretend can, he exclaimed, in his most outrrrrageous redneck accent, “Well, that’s the whole six-pack. I’m out of beer, guess I’ll go meditate now. OMMMMMM!” while closing his eyes and holding his fingers in the prescribed position.

I shooed him off to bed, once I’d had a good laugh, but I could still hear him giggling to himself in bed. Taz doesn’t do that – if he’s horizontal and the light’s off longer than three minutes, he’s out cold. And then Taz is up with the dawn, singing quietly (insofar as Taz ever does anything quietly) to himself from under the covers. It’s funny. They’re funny.

Wednesday, Dec. 29: The CEO, Bookworm, and Gaze spent all day working cattle, giving them vaccinations against a plethora of cattle diseases, including blackleg and brucellosis (no, don’t go look that up, it’s gross, you don’t wanna know). I got home mid-afternoon and took care of my one chick left in the house, Taz, who wanted to play board games. Luckily my sister-in-law – the single one, who totally digs being an aunt – came over and played with him. I just don’t have the attention span to play board games these days, especially not with Taz, who is basically Napoleon in size 8 slim jeans. Seriously, do not play Battleship with him.

SOTD: Dior New Look 1947 + By Kilian Beyond Love. I wanted to amp the white floral notes in New Look, so I tried putting on a dab of Beyond Love and three sprays of New Look. Utter fail. All I could smell for the first three hours was tuberose (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and then after that the nice quiet drydown of New Look, which reminds me somewhat of my dear Mariella Burani, all ladylike powdery tonka-benzoin.

Thursday, Dec. 30: Dull boring day. Wore New Look 1947 again in the morning, and then the afternoon was taken up with Le Labo Aldehydes 44 + a bit of Teo Cabanel Early Roses to amp the rose notes in the LL. Eh, it’s not bad.

Patty’s got a nice pithy review of New Look ’47 up over at the Posse today, and from what people say about it, I’m not getting what they’re getting. I wanted what they’re getting. I feel cheated.

Friday, Dec. 31 : Gosh, where’d the year go? I don’t even want to talk about it, it’s depressing. Another year older and deeper in the rut… sometimes I think I’m never going to get out of here. I mean, “here” isn’t all that bad, as places to live go, but, well, it’s boring.

On the other hand, muggings (for example) are practically nonexistent. I live in a fairly rural county that contains two small towns and one larger one, the county seat, which was once an industrial center, before the Interstate bypassed it, and which is now home to the same ills as many inner cities. My policeman friends say we have a lot of drug crime – mostly oxycodone, locally known as “Redneck Crack”, speed, and methadone – manufacture or illegal sale, and the petty theft and the occasional B&Es associated with drug abuse. Not much in the way of impaired driving, though; I guess people on redneck crack either don’t bother to drive, or maybe they don’t have cars. We’ll also have a rash of stolen lawnmowers in the summer when people leave them in their yards, and of course we’ve got domestic violence, but everywhere seems to have that.

This past spring, a woman in her 30s who was trying to kick her Oxycontin addiction bought some illegal methadone. Suspecting that she’d been shorted, she poured the dose into the dosing cup she’d been using to give her three-year-old his cough syrup, and then walked into the other room to complain about the shortage to her boyfriend. Meanwhile, the three-year-old drank the methadone. What’s horrifying is that the woman kept the kid at home, just “hoping he’d get better,” for six hours, because she’d been previously arrested for drug abuse and was on probation for that, and she was concerned that she’d lose custody of her kids if authorities found out she had drugs in the house. She finally took the kid to the hospital when he began having trouble breathing, but by then it was too late, and he died. Her trial was held last month, and now not only is she in jail for breaking probation, for drug abuse, and for criminal negligence and child endangerment, but she’s lost one child permanently and lost custody of the others.

This is the kind of crime we’ve got: stuff that breaks your heart.

SOTD: New Look 1947 on one wrist, Le Labo Aldehydes 44 on the other. Try as I might, I’m not enjoying New Look like I should. Before midnight, I put on Mary Greenwell Plum. I’d thought of Iris Poudre, but when it came down to choosing, Plum won.

Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011: Whoa, gotta get used to writing that number on all my checks. We took down the Christmas tree (I have never understood why some people put their tree up the day after Thanksgiving and then remove it on Boxing Day – there’s nothing wrong with that, but it just seems no fun at all to me) and did our usual Saturday cleaning, and the TV was focused on football games all afternoon. SOTD: Parfum Sacre edp.

Aargh, and now I’ve got to get the farm checkbook up to date. A sensible person would have done this already; clearly, I’m not one.

Sunday, Jan. 2: The snow’s gone. (Finally.) After church – wearing New Look 1947 again, trying to make some sense of it and finish my review – The CEO dropped me off at his office so I could do a bit of editing on my NaNoWriMo novel while he took the kids to a Virginia Tech basketball game. I had a nice afternoon, and so did they.

Dinner was Beef-Vegetable Soup, which I always make by my mother’s recipe, but mine never quite tastes as good as hers. I notice I’m getting closer to it, though – home-canned tomatoes, of which we certainly have a gracious plenty, seem to make a difference. She uses an herb blend that I can never find at the grocery store; mine’s close but not exactly the same.

Image is from iris_iris at Fragrantica.


Family Stories, Part I

In the wake of the passing of my last remaining grandparent, I’ve been meditating a good deal on what makes a family “us,” and I’m coming more and more to believe that it is two things: a commitment to being a family, whatever “family” might turn out to be, and shared experiences, even if the sharing is one family member telling another about an experience, long afterward.

Duh, you say. 

But bear with me, here.  I’m also coming to understand that in each generation, there’s one person who serves as the repository for family stories, and apparently, in my generation, in my family, I’m that person.  Might be because I’m the oldest.  Might be because it feels a little like a responsibility, to remember and to tell and to preserve. 

But it might be because I’m a sucker for stories, too, because I am that.  I’ll be telling some family stories here on the blog from time to time. 

This is my favorite Nell story, and I think it’s my favorite because it involved just her and myself, and because it’s such a lovely example of the “teachable moment.”

When I was a child, Nell used to smoke.  She was a light smoker, as I remember, consuming no more than a handful a day, and her big house held only the faintest whiff of tobacco.  She told me once that it was because when she was young, “Everyone smoked, so of course I didn’t want to be left out.”  I didn’t question it at the time – if I’d thought of it, I would have: Did Uncle Fred smoke?  Did Big Aunt Doris?  If everyone smoked, why didn’t Pawpaw J.T.? 

Smoking, as I heard in Sunday  School, was not only bad for you but an insult to the Lord who made your body.  No one went so far as to say that smokers were bad Christians, but I once overheard someone making an objection to the inclusion of one man on the deacon board, on the grounds that the man smoked.

My mother’s cousin Hazel smoked – a lot – and a visit to her house was both exciting and faintly nauseating, because I’d get to play with the only cousins close to my age, but I’d get headaches while I was there, and come home smelling like an ashtray.

Smoking, then, was an activity that I couldn’t fit into my worldview.  Mama said it was bad, my Sunday School teacher said it was bad, and it smelled bad.  But Hazel smoked, and she loved me.  And Nell smoked, and she loved me more, and they weren’t bad. 

One Sunday afternoon, the summer I was eight, on a visit to Nell and J.T.’s house with my parents, everyone except me and Nell were out on the side porch, sipping tea and chatting and watching my sister run around on the grass.  Nell was in the kitchen, making more tea at the sink, and I was sitting at the kitchen table playing with her deck of cards: counting them, fanning them out, trying to teach myself how to shuffle and waiting for her to come play Rummy with me.  Nell had finished her cigarette, and came over to the table to crush it out in the ashtray. 

She put it down and went back to stirring the pitcher of tea.  I had a idea.

I picked up the cigarette butt and smelled it.  It was no longer lit, but a wisp of smoke still curled up from it.  It smelled like burning leaves, which it was, I realized, and her lipstick – and like – like sin, too.  With a quick glance over my shoulder at Nell’s back, I put the butt up to lips and breathed in through it the way I’d seen her and Hazel do. 

And promptly coughed my head off.

Nell spun around and regarded me without comment, her groomed eyebrows high on her forehead.  I managed to meet her eye, still coughing, tears running down my face from the effort.

Finally she pointed a long, big-knuckled forefinger at me and said, levelly, “Don’t start.” 

She took the tea out to the side porch, came back in, and sat down with me for my Rummy lesson.   Nothing more was ever said about it – I don’t think she even told my parents – and I never had the slightest desire to smoke from that point on, but great compassion for people who did.  Nell quit for the first time shortly after the incident.  She would later take up smoking again, and quit again, re-start and re-stop, finally giving it up for good twenty-five years later, after her youngest daughter’s father-in-law died of lung cancer.

There is a danger, of course, in only remembering the good stories –  the ripping yarns, the gut-busting-funny ones, the sweet ones.  My mother might ask, “What’s wrong with that?” but I know, and you probably know, too, that such a philosophy makes the hearer woefully unprepared for Real Life.  People turn on their brothers, they scream, “I hate you!” at their mothers, they poke fun and cry for no reason and get drunk and fall down stairs.  And then we forget


I don’t want those stories to be forgotten.  Because what makes up a family is people, and people have warts as well as the “family nose.”  So I’ll be telling a few warty stories, too.

My grandmother Sarah Lou, whose parents are buried in a small family plot on a farm not our own, was once grieving that the plot wasn’t kept up as she’d like, and I admitted to being puzzled.  “Why does it matter?” I asked.  “Once you die, you’re not in your body.  I don’t think it matters to me what happens to my body or my grave after I die.  Put me in the ground with a little respect, and then I don’t care.”

She was, to say the least, upset with me.  It mattered a great deal to her, and she grieved that she wasn’t able to go visit her parents’ graves.  She was always like that – physical things meant a lot to her.  She could point to every single item in her crowded apartment in the basement of our house and tell you exactly where she got it, and when, and why: “Willie Maude gave me that singing stuffed bear for my birthday.  I bought that big shell in Florida, visiting Maurice, when your mother was a college girl.  That big iron pot was my mama’s laundry washpot.”  Physical things were important to her because they stood for people, and gifts meant love.

Granted, I was a teenager at the time, and not a particularly tactful one, either.  But I still feel like that.  I don’t feel a great need to put up big fancy headstones or place flowers every week.  At my other grandmother’s funeral last week, two of the grandchildren were overcome with tears at the graveside, thinking of her body in the cold ground.  I myself was overcome with the reading from Revelation: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labors,” because in my head I was hearing the lovely chorus with those words from John Rutter’s Requiem, “Lux Aeterna.”  I’ll see Nell again someday, and Sarah Lou too.

I can see them, and hear them, in my head right now, telling me stories.  The photo up top is them, of course, at my brother’s wedding six years ago, Nell on the left and Sarah Lou on the right, taken by my sister (I think).


Smell Bent Winners!

Winner of the Smell Bent Holiday 2010 edt spray sampler: Tiara.

Winner of the other Smell Bent samples: Karin.

Congratulations – please email me with your mailing details, and I’ll get these out in the coming week.

Wish I’d had enough to give everyone a little taste of Smell Bent!  Thanks to everyone who commented, and better lucky next time.

Image is Winner at the Delta County Fair, Colorado, by photographer Russell Lee, Oct. 1940, courtesy of the Library of Congress via Flickr.


New Developments Afoot… and Upcoming Smell Bent Prize Draw

I meant to have posted a set of mini reviews on the 2010 Smell Bent holiday limited edition scents Friday, but didn’t get to it. 

Why didn’t I?  Well, first, I wanted to give one of the scents another chance before I finished the review.  I got Bookworm to put this particular one on and give me her opinion, just to see if she agrees with me.   She does.  

Second, being away during the first week of the month has made catching up at work really, really tough.  I’ve been working more than I usually do per day (I work part- time) to make up for the days I was gone. 

Third, and this is the stunner, it looks like The CEO may be taking a new job.  This would be a significant career change for him.  Four years ago, he took the job as instructor at the school of Agricultural Technology at Virginia Tech, and that was a change from farming every day.  Now he’s considering a job that popped up out of the blue, and which would require considerable life changes.

We’ve been doing some heavy-duty discussions, and some ducks-in-a-row herding, over the last couple of days.   If this job comes through for him, the changes will come fast – I mean, in the next three weeks.

So.  I’ve been, yeah, a little busy.  Will be back soon, with reviews and a prize draw for the holiday sample set (slightly used) from Smell Bent.



Just found out that a guy I went to high school with has apparently killed his estranged wife and himself, in a murder-suicide case in our small home town.

A divorce – an ugly one – was underway, and both parties allegedly had other love interests.  The couple had two children.

I am shaken and grieving, although neither of these people were great friends of mine, and I probably last saw them about 15 years ago.  It’s shocking when violence touches a small, close-knit place such as the town where I grew up.  This was not just some couple in some town on some street, and the phrase “this hits close to home” is really true.  It hit me.  It hurts.

It’s not so much that domestic violence is less likely to crop up in small communities; it’s not less likely at all.  And domestic violence touches all our lives in some small way or other, no matter where we live or who we know.  It’s that if you’d told me at graduation, “One of your classmates will kill his or her spouse more than 20 years from now,” I’d have believed you – I’d just have guessed a different person entirely.  In fact, I’d have probably guessed at least a hundred other people before getting to this guy – and my graduating class was only 244 people. 

The couple lived on a street I’m very familiar with: a close friend lived there, my piano teacher lived there, some close friends of my parents’ from church still live there.  My sister lives a few blocks away, and heard the sirens.  The image of fire, rescue, and police vehicles clogging the street, lights flashing, is haunting me.

I can’t stop thinking about those kids.

If you are so inclined, prayers for the family, and for the people who love them, would be much appreciated.


New Page: “Shop my ‘fume stash”

I’ve been wanting to streamline my collection of perfumes, but I really don’t want to have to deal with selling on eBay.  As an alternative, I decided to offer my extras here.  If that goes well, great!  If not, I’ll bite the bullet and haul ’em over to eBay (and its apparently-weird seller rules). 

As you’ll see, if you go click on the tab next to “Comment Policy” in the header line, I’m not going to make any money on these items.  Most of them are mainstream and fairly easily gotten elsewhere.  A few are even free.  Basically, I just want them Out.The.House.

All proceeds will go, of course, to supporting my decant habit.


Manly Cupcakes


A former securities attorney in NYC, fed up with the tendency of cupcakes to be frilly-pink-sparkly-unicorn thingies, has opened Butch Bakery, which produces Manly Cupcakes.  

These things come in flavors like Driller (maple cake with bacon and milk chocolate icing), Sidecar (lemon cake soaked in brandy with white chocolate/ orange filling) and Beer Run (chocolate beer cake with beer buttercream icing and crushed pretzel topping), with each cupcake  topped by a flat sugar decoration in your choice of Camo, Plaid, Houndstooth, Wood Grain, Checkerboard or Marble. 

The owner says he wanted to eschew the usual “make it masculine by adding a golf tee or a baseball” idea, and concentrate on things that just make men happy.  I approve.  (Now, if I could get my hands on some tools that are made for women: handles that fit our hands, easy to use – and not pink! – I’d be happy.)

And whether it’s manly or not, I want a Tailgate (caramel cake, salted caramel swirl filling, vanilla buttercream)… mmm.


Scent Diary, June 7-12, 2010

Monday, June 7: Cool, in the mid-70s F, with low humidity. My desk was piled with stuff from the long weekend, and I wasn’t enjoying work today. SOTD: Hermes Eau de Pamplemousse Rose, which I thought I’d like. Grapefruit and rose? Yum. Perfectly summery. Unfortunately for me, EdPR is an hour of wonderful followed by a couple hours of the Ghost of Cologne. It is basically a classic cologne structure topped off by a citrusy rose, and since I find cologne dull in the extreme, I can’t make a case for this scent for personal wear. I think I’ll go back to DSH Rose Vert (where’s my sample of that?) for citrus-green-rose. Or Moschino Funny!, that was a nice grapefruit-rose.

Tuesday, June 8: Warmer (80s) but still low humidity. If the weather stayed like this all summer I would enjoy summer a zillion times more. Typically we’ve got mid-90s and sticky, and that’s not pleasant. When I was a teenager, I read the following phrase and wondered greatly at it: “The two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘summer afternoon, summer afternoon.’” Whoever wrote that has got to be out of his gourd, I thought then – but it must have been written with a day like today in mind. SOTD: vintage Coty L’Aimant parfum de toilette. These vintage 1970s Coty scents like Emeraude and L’Aimant, and even the chypreish Imprevu, are far, far more attractive than their current drugstore iterations.

Gaze is sick with stomach troubles. I’m having trouble getting him to keep anything down, even ginger ale and jello, so we’re off to the doctor’s office tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 9: HOT. 90S and humid. Gaze has “the bug that’s going around,” poor baby. SOTD: Divine L’Ame Soeur, more aldehydes. I really love them in the heat, they’re so sparkly.

Thursday, June 10: Hot again, our standard summer weather. LAST DAY OF SCHOOL, AAAAARRRRGHHGH! Gaze was somewhat better, and I managed to convince him to shower before school today. It was 5th grade “graduation,” and the enticement of coming home right afterwards, as is customary at this elementary school, got Gaze moving in the right direction. I was proud: he had all A’s this year and three perfect scores on his standardized tests. (To be fair, Bookworm took two of the Standards of Learning, or SOL tests this year and made perfect scores on hers as well – and Taz, who’s been downright lazy about homework this past year, made FOUR perfect scores. I’m proud of all of them. Especially since Taz has recently managed to make his cursive handwriting, as opposed to his printing which is dreadful, actually legible. I do get to brag on them a little bit, don’t I? I’m their mommy. Of course I do.) SOTD: Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere, still more aldehydes.

Gaze went to his baseball game and played four innings (two hits, a walk, an RBI, three stolen bases, and two runs scored) before getting overheated and tossing his cookies right behind second base. I felt so bad about that. He’d claimed to be feeling well before the game, and hadn’t run a fever for more than 40 hours.

Friday, June 11: Hot, humid, and miserable. We didn’t get the rain we should have gotten on Wednesday night, so everything is getting crunchy. I’m having to water my hanging baskets every three days. SOTD: Honore des Pres Vamp a NY, from that terrific giveaway at Grain de Musc. You know I love tuberose, and this one is fabbo. I’ve sniffed that little bit of Nuit de Tubereuse which everybody is going on about and been less than impressed (what is that weird opening – wet dirt? Potting soil? Mildew?), but the HdP is just lovely.

Saturday, June 12: Same weather we’ve been having all week. Two baseball games – Gaze (who’s feeling much better!) at the local park and Taz at the one twenty minutes away. As soon as I unlocked the van for Taz to chuck his bat and glove into the back, it started raining – and has really not stopped all day. You can feel the grass go, Ahhhhhh, that’s better. SOTD: L’Aimant again.

The bad news of the week? Busted mower. One of the discs got maladjusted in its timing and started banging into the one next to it, and that caused wear in the gears on the cutter bar (okay, I admit that I don’t really understand what I just said, either). But I understood how much the repair bill’s going to be: $4000. Ouch. This is a mini-lesson on How Expensive It Is To Run a Farm – you have to have some hefty cash reserves, or you’re just toast.

Sunday, June 13: Cooler again, in the 80s. SOTD: testing Van Cleef & Arpels Orchidee Vanille. Which, to be honest, is not very orchidee and lotsa plasticky vanille. I get about fifteen minutes of amorphous floral, um, thingy and then sticky generic vanilla, and I was wondering what was wrong with my nose until I asked the kids what they thought. Bookworm turned up her nose: “Smells like cotton candy, the kind in the plastic tub at the store.” Gaze was more direct: “I don’t like that at all.” So then I go and check out Octavian’s take on it at 1000Fragrances and he says something like, “Cheap generic cotton-candy vanilla.” Vindication!

SOTE: Petite Cherie, straight outta the fridge. It’s the only bottle I keep in the fridge, just because of the accusations of instability in the pear topnote, which is the part I love best. I love this innocent white-eyelet sundress of a scent, and I don’t apologize. Sometimes it’s just what I want.

Image of Guerlain perfumes at perfume convention from parfumgott at flickr. If you get the chance, click on the photo to enlarge it so you can check out what’s there.  I’m lusting after that gorgeous Vega bottle on the bottom left, but there’s also L’Heure Bleue and Chamade and Djedi as well as something I’ve not heard of, Elixir de Guerlain.


Rescued from the fire…

I had a particularly vivid dream last night that my house was on fire.  I dreamed that the smoke detector went off just after we went to bed, and we were able to get all the kids and pets out immediately, but the house burned down because the fire department’s pumper truck could not negotiate our narrow, twisty gravel drive.  So we had to stand out in the field and watch our house burn, and a more horrible feeling I can’t imagine (unless it’s to stand by and watch your child die, which would be far worse).  I heard the little ting-pop-roars as each perfume bottle caught fire and the glass broke, adding alcohol to the fuel mix and accelerating the fire.  It was dreadful.

Our smoke alarm actually did go off one Sunday morning in early summer a few years ago, right after I’d gotten out of the shower and dressed.  I went into the kitchen and put on my apron – and there it went, and if I had ever worried about whether the alarm would be loud enough to wake everyone up I worried no longer.  It was loud.  It was loud enough to bring all three kids down the stairs within thirty seconds and loud enough to hurt the dog’s ears.  We called the fire department from our neighbor’s house, and the trucks arrived (sans pumper truck, which truly could not negotiate our narrow, twisty gravel drive) within eight minutes.  The firemen – most of whom we knew, this is a small town – went all over the house and found no fire, just a little dust in the smoke detector.   The whole episode was both frightening and reassuring: the smoke alarm works, the fire department’s response is fast, but if there were ever a fire in our house or the farm shop next door, there likely would not be enough water available to put it out.

I tend to have vivid dreams anyway, and if I happen to mention them to The CEO, he likes to analyze them for me.  This one, he says, means that I’m anxious about basic safety and that I feel guilty about having too much stuff. 

Well, yes.  May 4 would have been my grandmother’s 96th birthday, if she were still with us.  This was the grandmother who lived with my parents my whole life, the one with bipolar disorder, the one with major packrat tendencies probably engendered by an extremely penurious childhood… the one that stored a 40-gallon crock of homemade soap in her kitchen closet for, no kidding, nearly fifty years.  She died four years ago, and my mother is still cleaning out her stuff.  This grandmother was the one that saved every greeting card she was ever given, old letters, photos, knick-knacks, things she “might use someday”.  She collected bird figurines, Harlequin romance novels, interesting bottles, rocks, shells, “Ideals” magazines, and anything with owls on it: lamps, salt and pepper shakers, trivets, you name it.  Every inch of wall space in her basement apartment was taken up with furniture. 

A lot of her stuff has come to me: the pink Depression glass dishes, her yarn collection, her miniature-pitcher collection, some of the china she painted.  And I have my own load of stuff too: paperback novels, DVDs, clothes I don’t wear, the cross-stitch supplies that I may never use now that the craft hurts my hands, not to mention my perfume collection. 

It’s time for a little closet-and-attic purging.  It may have to wait until after baseball season, but that’s my plan for the summer.  If I don’t use it or love it or need it, if it’s not a truly cherished piece of family history, out it goes

All this turmoil got me to thinking, if there really were a fire in my house and I could rescue only one bottle of perfume, which one would it be?  One of my very favorites:  Le Temps d’une Fete, Parfum Sacre’, Tabac Aurea, vintage Emeraude, the decant of Amouage Lyric Woman, the decants of Apres l’Ondee and Carnal Flower?   One of those Discontinued Saints, the gone forever or hard to find: Crown Bouquet, Mariella Burani, L’Arte di Gucci, vintage Magie Noire?    But most of those could be replaced.  I think I might choose to save the Stunning Vintage Bottle of Chanel No. 5.  There’s nothing else like it, it’s irreplaceable. 

What would you save in that situation?  (Fine, I know it’s an artificial construct, but I’m okay with that concept in the pursuit of proper prioritizing.)

Here are some resources if you’re thinking of decluttering your own living space: ,  And our dear Chicken Freak has a whole blog devoted to the topic, as well – I haven’t been checking out Declutter of the Day, but I think I will be doing that regularly.  I’ve actually been a member at Flylady for several years now, but I admit that the relentless “love yourself,” mushy-gushy vibe there really just gets on my nerves from time to time.   Nevertheless, I need to do this.  I’ll probably sleep better.

Image is Perfume fire on a bathroom floor, from bethyreese at


In Memoriam, April 16, 2010


Today marks the anniversary of the deaths of 32 students and faculty members at Virginia Tech.  I still grieve with the families and friends of those killed.  I also grieve with the shooter’s family, who lost a child as well that day.

I am grateful that The CEO made it home that day (the building where he teaches is the closest academic building to the dorm where the first shootings occurred).  I am grateful for the efforts of local law enforcement and emergency responders, and those of medical workers.  I am grateful for the outpouring of support that came from all over the world. 

Today we pause and remember the bright stars we lost.   If you go visit the Virginia Tech memorial website, on the right sidebar you will see the names of those killed.  Clicking on a name will open a brief bio, each one a picture of a vibrant, unique person whose loss diminishes the human community.   If you have time, I highly recommend your investigating Dr. Liviu Librescu, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, who at the age of 76 held the classroom door closed against gunfire, in order to give his students the opportunity to escape through the second story window.  I am in awe of that sacrificial love in action.


Photo is Hokies Thank the World, by Michael Kiernan,  from the site.