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.
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.)
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 asCelestial 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!
(As before, blue links are informational and I receive zero financial benefit from them. Any pictures which aren’t The CEO’s are linked to their sources, and please don’t steal his.)
Monday, Nov. 21 – We’re up early and breakfasting on the veranda in the open air before we take our beach things to the rental car and head downtown to Belize City. Bookworm successfully navigates us through the one-way streets (and one intersection where the stoplights are nonfunctional) to the Museum of Belize. Louis pooh-poohed this institution last night, but he doesn’t know us.
You know how some people love the beach so much that they go every vacation? And how some people make the trip to Disneyland every few years? (Actually, I have a college friend who loves Disney World so much that she and her family go every year… and now she’s a travel consultant for Disney. I haven’t used her services, but if you’re thinking of visiting any Disney facility anywhere in the world, I know Holly would arrange something awesome for you:Holly’s Holidays.) Then there are people who vacation somewhere new each time, people who only go skiing, people who visit the same resort in the Poconos every year.
Us? We’re Museum People. Wherever we go, we find the museum(s).
So this morning, we park Big Red on a city street across from the museum and right near the Baptist church school, having on the way passed the Catholic school, the Apostolic Pentecostal school, the Methodist mission school, and the Assembly of God school; the windows are open and we can hear what’s going on in class. (Gaze and Taz are missing two days of school this week, and they’re not sorry!) As we walk to the entrance, we see a sign that states the museum’s hours… and they’re closed on Monday.
The security guard hears us wondering what we’re going to do, and motions to us. “Come on in,” he says. Really? Apparently so. The guy at the front desk tells us that we’re welcome. The CEO asks about the jade head from Altun Ha, and the desk guy explains that it’s kept in a vault within a vault within a vault in the central bank building behind the museum, which itself used to be a prison, and is not available for viewing. “They got it out for people to see it for half a day in 2012, you know, when the Mayan calendar was supposed to end. But bang, put it right back away safe.”
The museum is small, built of stone, and you can clearly see where the cells used to be. There’s an exhibit of Belizean stamps, and a small exhibit of glass and ceramic containers from Colonial times. There is an intense exhibit on slavery in Belize, during the days when it was British Honduras and shipped fine mahogany all over the world. Upstairs, there is a display of Mayan jade ear ornaments and necklaces, and a case containing the skeleton of the elderly man found in a tomb at Altun Ha with the jade head. Here, the head is clearly a replica and not nearly as well done as the replica in the exhibit at Altun Ha; I hope that the skeleton is a replica as well and the real bones have been buried with dignity. There are some really beautiful examples of Mayan pottery as well. All in all, the small museum our host dismissed as not worth the time keeps us engaged for just under two hours.
Then we grab our beach bags from Big Red and walk past two more schools (Anglican and another Catholic) toward the water taxi. The ferry ride takes 45 minutes to Caye Caulker, and although the sky is clouding up, we walk down the island hoping to see if we can find a place to eat the sandwiches we brought. It begins to rain just as we’re passing one of the businesses that advertise snorkeling tours, and we step in to inquire, grateful for the shelter. It’s after noon, and the tour for the day left at 10:30, but they have slots for Tuesday.
We have a tour lined up for Tuesday, to visit the Mayan ruins at Lamanai. Wednesday, then? Wednesday. We take the contact information for Hicaco Tours and walk on.
The rain stops, though everything is still very wet. Behind a sandwich shop that seems to be closed (we’re here at the very end of hurricane season, before the high vacation season starts in December), we find a picnic table and devour our lunch. Gradually the sun comes out and we walk on toward “the split,” the place where a hurricane washed away part of the island in the early 1960s, leaving those who lived or owned property on the northern bit without a good way to reach the southern bit, where the water taxi docks. “They thought about building a bridge,” the guy at the boat tour place told us, “but they figured that another hurricane would just wipe it out again.” I would have thought that a pontoon bridge might be sensible, since the area to be bridged is not large, but apparently the idea has been dismissed.
At the split, we visit the only public restrooms on the island. They’re hard to find and cramped, poorly lit. (This seems like a terribly tourist-unfriendly idea to me: Waikiki has public restrooms. Virginia Beach, Nags Head, Daytona: all have public-access buildings with showers and toilets and stalls where visitors not staying in hotels right near the beach might change into their swimsuits. True, those are all American beaches, but Bondi and Manly, near Sydney, also have public loos.)
The sun finally comes out, and it’s a beautiful day again. We keep seeing open-air kitchens and restaurants with odd hours along the two streets. Whatever they’re cooking (I’m guessing grilled chicken? seafood and plantains?) smells fabulous, but we can’t eat dinner here because the last ferry leaves at 5.
Bookworm and The CEO discover a low-tide area where empty conch shells are strewn about; they pick up three. One of them is a peculiarly greenish color outside, but its inside lip is a gorgeous pinky-orange, like sunset. Hardly anyone is on the beach here, just a few people sunbathing. We find a section of beach and put down our towels; I find several tiny spiral shells, perfect, and some scallop shells so pure and white they could be ceramic. The water is cold, and the sand is so fine it feels like mud underfoot. Farther out there are patches of seagrass. I’m not digging it. I avoid swimming in lakes for just this reason, gross stuff underfoot! We find some grass-free zones and swim around for an hour or two, before we get tired and decide to trudge back up to the split to change out of our suits.
At the ferry terminal, there’s a feisty little chihuahua wearing a nametag that says “Leo,” who amuses himself by sniffing everyone’s bags and shoes before returning to his repeated attempts to eviscerate his stuffed platypus. My feet hurt from walking around in flip-flops, and I’m definitely not well-hydrated, which is my fault for not buying enough water bottles.
Gaze leans against the bulkhead and falls asleep. Bookworm leans on her knees and does the same. Taz produces a paperback book from his backpack (good lord, the child can read anywhere), and The CEO reviews the pictures he took on the beach. Back in Belize City, we’re starving and stunned that all the restaurants near the water taxi entrance are closed now. You’d think they’d stay open and catch tourists taking the last ferry of the day back to the mainland.
We drive around the city looking for an open restaurant, but all the little mom-and-pop “fast food” shops doing brisk business selling garnaches and plates of stew chicken with rice and beans have closed up. It’s 6:30 pm, and the only option we find is a Chinese restaurant. We introduce the boys to the (American, probably) Chinese-restaurant custom of ordering several dishes to share, by asking for Chicken and Broccoli, Pepper Steak, Sweet and Sour Pork, and Vegetable Fried Rice. With it, we get Fantas and Coke and Sprite.
Fanta is everywhere here, in flavors we don’t get at home (pineapple, fruit punch, a weird root beer that tastes like licorice), which reminds me of my childhood. Taz has become fond of red Fantas. The other thing I notice is that the soft drinks are all made with real sugar, and they don’t have that weird whangy aftertaste that ruins nondiet sodas for me nowadays.
Tuesday, Nov. 20 – Lamanai day! The CEO has been thrilled about this jaunt since he booked it last week: an hourlong drive north from Belize City to the boat location in Orange Walk, then an hourlong boat trip through “crocodile-infested waters” to Lamanai and a tour, lunch included, then the boat trip and drive back to our guest house.
We start early. Ian the tour guide is a careful driver; we have to pause several times for uniformed students to exit school buses. There are government schools, Ian says, but most everyone sends their children to the church-run ones. On the way, we marvel at the various colors people have painted their houses here — mostly pastels, some vivid sherbety colors. It would look silly in Virginia, we agree, but in the tropics it’s delightful. Ian stops once, to buy plantain chips for the monkey we’ll get to feed on the trip, and we see a farm truck hauling Brahma-cross cattle. “For market in Guatemala,” Ian tells us. “We mostly eat chicken and seafood here, some pork, some beef.”
When we get to the boat dock at Lamanai Belize Tours, it’s cool under the trees, but we sunscreen up and bug-spray ourselves anyway. Our boat includes the five of us, a couple from Louisiana, and Ian, and we’re ready! We go a little ways upriver to see the spider monkey that hangs around (literally) in the same spot most of the time, and about half of us choose to feed him plantain chips. He poses for pictures.
Then we’re speeding back down the Rio Nuevo, which is particularly funny to us since the river we live near in Virginia is also called the New River. (Generally considered by geologists to be one of the five oldest rivers in the world, its name is contrary.) The vegetation ranges from small trees at the edge of the water to bushes to water lilies, and we see many waterbirds.
At Lamanai, “Submerged Crocodile,” we have to hurry the start of our tour because, Ian says, we’re attempting to get through before the cruise ship tours start. Our tour, with no set time to be back at the ship before it leaves port, will be more extensive than the one the cruisers get, but we’d better get going.
Ian tells us that this site was discovered when the people who lived near it started to wonder why there were hills there, when most of the land nearby is very flat. They started to dig, found stone, and realized it was an ancient Mayan site. This one was occupied for over 2000 years and, at its largest, held over 35,000 inhabitants. The site is not fully excavated, but clearly covers a much larger area than Altun Ha.
We first visit the Jaguar Temple, and then living quarters that once housed royalty or high-level religious officiants. We make our way past the smaller Stele Temple, with its beautifully carved standing stone, through the Ball Court, and then on to the High Temple, which is indeed really high. I get dizzy 3/4 of the way up, and refuse to go up any farther. Visibility is wonderful from this high up, but it makes me nervous.
Then we spend a few moments on a gravel path to the Mask Temple, so-called because of its depiction of a deity wearing a crocodile headdress. The masks here are fiberglass replicas too, which seems quite sensible to me in protecting the original from exposure to weather (and careless people). Here we run into not one, but two cruise-ship tours, full of loud people who spend a lot of time taking selfies. I actually hear two people refer to the temple as “Inca.” Eye roll.
(I dunno. I’ve said we’re Museum People and history geeks, and that’s true. We don’t go on vacation with thoughts of tropical rum drinks and tanning on the beach. We’re weird, and we like it that way.)
After the Mask Temple, we’re making our way along the tree-shaded, graveled path back to the entrance when we hear them: howler monkeys. We go to the picnic shelter for our lunch, of traditional Belizean stew chicken seasoned with annatto, rice and beans, fried plantains, cole slaw, pico de gallo, and soft drinks. It’s delicious.
Then we’re back on the boat, breeze blowing our shirts. Taz rests his head on my thigh and goes to sleep. We round a curve and six white herons rise on flapping wings into the air, lifting, lifting — and then we’re around the next curve and they’re gone. The CEO mutters to me, “They told me these were crocodile-infested waters. I feel cheated.”
We’re almost back to the boat dock when we see it: a roiling in the water, something being dragged down. I’m thinking, Ooh finally! a crocodile just grabbed lunch!, when Ian slows the boat to get a closer look, and it turns out to be…
… a tail-less crocodile, certainly dead, floating in the water. Ian speculates that either it had been killed by poachers and its tail taken, or it had been hit by a boat and something else, perhaps another crocodile, had eaten its tail. It was definitely moving when we saw it, though we decide that at that point, another crocodile must have been moving it, trying to drag it away to be lunch. The CEO goes back through his photos and finds one showing movement. SEE IT LOOKED ALIVE SEE SEEEEEE?? THERE WAS SPLASHING AND EVERYTHING.
I nearly drift off during the trip back to Belize City, while Ian and The CEO talk about the possibility that someone might come in and buy a bunch of the land that is just sitting idle here, and start an agricultural enterprise. There were once sugar plantations, after the mahogany had been thinned out, but people don’t really farm around here, other than a few private vegetable gardens, and those cattle we saw earlier. We see lots of little roadside stands selling fresh coconuts, but nobody really raises coconut trees; they find the trees and harvest the nuts to sell.
Dinner is at the Sahara Grille, five minutes’ walk for Mediterranean food. Picky Taz is nonetheless satisfied with chicken kebabs (and red Fanta, of course). The CEO can’t remember whether he likes falafel or not (I remember, and the answer is NOT), so he orders kefte, which he has a vague memory of liking. It’s all good, and although we have to dodge the potholes in the road with care, it’s nice to walk after dinner.
I’m still not wearing any perfume, by the by: too many mosquitoes, too big a chance of Zika virus and other nasty tropical illnesses. Better safe than sorry, though I could really dig a spritz of Tommy Girl at this point.
It may take me three posts to get through the Belize travelogue! We had a wonderful time.
FYI, there are lots of informational links in this series of posts about our vacation to Belize. If you want to read more about something, go ahead and click a link in blue text without worrying that you’ll be directed to a site that wants your money. 🙂
Friday, Nov. 18 – Doing the hurry-scurry gotta-pack-gotta-go dance, making sure we have dog care covered and vehicle ready to make the 4-hour drive to The CEO’s sister’s house near Dulles. I kinda hate this part of a trip. Did I unplug everything, did we turn the heat down, did we get the trash out, did I leave something I will need? Ugh.
Bookworm keeps calling to tell us that she’s stuck in Friday-evening traffic in and around NYC. Poor baby, she really hates traffic, and she’s already tired. She doesn’t get in until after 11 pm.
Saturday, Nov. 19 – Up at 4 am to make a 6:30 flight, double ugh. Security is pretty fast at this time of day, and there are no issues with the first leg of our flight. It’s cold and windy in Chicago (duh!), but we manage to grab some breakfast and make our next flight, direct to Belize City.
It’s warm here. Sort of tropical, but not in the same carefree island way that Hawai’i is tropical. The car rental guys, Ashton and Fitzgerald, are super nice. They give us “Big Red,” a good-sized SUV, help us load our suitcases, and even draw us a map for the Red Hut Inn. It starts to rain, and we manage to get sorta lost on the short 15-minute drive — not because the directions are bad, but because there are no street signs, I mean absolutely zero signs, and also because I am distracted by all the houses and buildings that would probably be condemned as unhabitable here in the US. A road crew is working on the main road from the airport to downtown Belize City, and it’s kind of scary: potholes, narrow places, no shoulder, river on one side, plus people in orange vests with shovels of gravel. The speed limit on this highway is 40 mph, but we get passed by six vehicles, all going well over 40. I don’t know how.
I’m thinking maybe this was not the best idea we ever had, especially when we hit yet another pothole on the street that should be where our guest house is. At least everybody speaks English, I remind myself.
When we find the guest house (it’s a Thanksgiving miracle! no sign out front), it’s in a residential neighborhood on a street that goes almost down to the water. The hosts are welcoming, and our rooms are nice. They’re on the third floor; The CEO and I are in a small double-bed room, and the kids are in a room at the other end of the balcony, with a twin bed and a bunk-bed. We’re dying from the humidity until we turn on the AC. (Thank you, Lord for AC.) It happens to be aholidayhere, and there are few businesses open. We know we’ll need groceries for lunch tomorrow, so we go to the Asian grocery the hosts recommend and pick up some staples. Then a lovely grilled-chicken dinner cooked by Louis, and then, oh yes, bedtime.
Sunday, Nov. 20 – Adventure time! Our host told us last night that we could certainly manage a three-item tour today, and because The CEO loves a challenge, we’re going for it: Mayan ruins site Altun Ha, thebaboon sanctuary, and the Belize Zoo.
We eat peanut butter sandwiches and raisins for breakfast and drink juice boxes. We’ve been advised that the water is safe to drink here, but because Bookworm is very concerned (“I cannot get sick. There are only three weeks of class left and I have a substantial research paper to finish and FroCo duties and my chem research lab stuff and then there are exams and I. CANNOT. GET. SICK.“), we have planned to drink bottled liquids.
We drive north on the same highway we traveled yesterday; past the airport turnoff construction ceases and the road is pretty decent. We’re in the parking lot for Altun Ha about 45 minutes after leaving Belize City, and we are sunscreening and bug-spraying ourselves for all we’re worth, when a man walks up to us and asks if we would like a tour of the ruins. “How much?” we ask.
“Special price,” he tells us. “$5 American for each of you. At least an hour tour, and I’ve been through the training as a tour guide. You can ask me anything.” His name is Frederick, and although his tour doubles the cost of the entrance fee, it turns out to be absolutely worth it. He outlines the history of the city, explains the general layout and the reason why some of the temples are left unexcavated (they are mostly constructed of limestone, and since limestone is porous, removing the tree roots that have grown into the buildings over time would cause the structures to crumble), as well as giving us a thorough overview of the site and Mayan history in general. He answers all our questions, which are many and vary from, “So why are some of the temple steps white and some of them natural stone?” to “So they think this area off to the right was, what, the priest’s house?”
Altun Ha is a relatively small site, one of the later trading posts of the Mayans, and has several excavated/partially-restored temples as well as two central plazas. One of the most exciting finds from the excavation here was the tomb of an elderly man, either royalty or high-ranking priest, who was buried with exquisite pottery and heavy jade and shell jewelry. Resting near his right hand was a carved piece of jade depicting the head of the sun god Kinich Ahau. This jade head weighed nearly ten pounds and is the single largest piece of Mayan carved jade ever found. It now rests in the Central Bank in Belize City, and a picture of it is on all Belizean currency.
Frederick explains to us that Belize’s population is about a third Mestizo (people of Spanish and Maya descent), about a third Kriol (people of African and English/Scottish descent), about 10% Maya, about 6% Garifuna (people of African and Amerindian descent), and the remaining 12-14% people from elsewhere in the world. A fair number of these are Chinese, he says, which would explain the Chinese grocery we saw.
On the way out, we stop by the souvenir stall that Frederick and his girlfriend keep. They’re selling beautifully made and polished wooden items – bowls, and decorative items like the toucan. We buy The CEO’s sister a gorgeous bowl and a natural wood toucan for ourselves.
Then, with Bookworm reading the map we got at the airport (maps: not ma thang), we find the road going to the baboon sanctuary. Which is not, I discover, for baboons, but for native howler monkeys.
This cracks me up, and you’d have to know my dad to understand, but any time my brother, sister, or I were crying and he was trying to jolly us out of it, he’d call us howler monkeys. He kept that up with his grandchildren, so that when I hear “howler monkey,” I can hear my dad’s voice saying it in my head. It’s an eye roll, but a sweet one.
We find a place advertising itself like this: “Your exciting eco-tour starts here!” We pull in. There are restrooms and a picnic table, plus a small building that looks like a restaurant — or, let’s be honest here, a beer place that serves food, like most of the rest of the places we’ve seen on the side of the road here. But nobody’s around, except a mother dog so tired she just flicks an ear at us and goes back to sleep. We eat lunch (more PB&J sandwiches, more juice boxes), reapply bug spray, and head down the trail.
There are monkeys right there. Before we’ve gone three minutes’ walk, there are two males, a female, and a baby in the trees overhead, and we carefully step across a long line of large ants carrying pieces of leaf. The male howlers are making theirweirdly loud booming noises(clearly we are threats), and The CEO gets several good pictures. Insects are flying around, and this is making Bookworm nervous, and we’re all hot, so we decide that the car’s AC sounds good, and we don’t want to miss the zoo hours, so we leave.
Bookworm navigates us back to Belize City down a different road, and we hit the Belize Zoo parking lot with plenty of time to see everything. The zoo tries to replicate natural habitats as much as possible for its animals, which are all native species and are all either rescued, orphaned, zoo-born or rehabilitated (i.e., nobody went out and captured animals in the wild to display here). Taz is excited about the tapir (“mountain cow” in Belize), and Gaze likes the colorful birds. But it’s a big thrill for us to run across an enclosure for two pumas, AKA cougars, AKA mountain lions, AKA panthers. Puma concolor is long gone from eastern North America, but it once lived here in the mountains of southwest Virginia, and of course our high school mascot is the cougar. (Although the last authenticated report of a cougar in our state was in 1884 in Washington County, my grandfather, born in 1912 in neighboring Lee Co., swore that he’d heard a cougar — a “painter” in local parlance — in the woods as a child. “Sounded just like a woman screaming,” he said.) A zoo employee happens to be standing by with a covered pail, and the larger puma stops near the enclosure fence to watch him. He keeps showing the puma something in the bucket, and the puma makes a sound very like a cat’s meow.
I suppose that the keeper is intentionally keeping the animal near the fence for our benefit, and Bookworm tells me that these cats are more like house cats genetically and behaviorally than they are like big cats such as lions or tigers. The smaller puma sneaks up and playfully pounces on the larger one, and there’s a yowl and a pursuit through the vegetation that would look very familiar to anyone who’s ever owned cats.
By the time we’ve made it back to the zoo entrance and someone suggests checking out the reptile cages, I am about done. I have bug bites despite the bug spray, and I’m desperately thirsty, and you can keep the snakes, thank you, even if they’re behind glass.
Louis makes us dinner again, snapper with a delicious savory sauce. Yum. We mention to him that we’re thinking of visiting the Cultural and History Museum, and he snorts. “It’s crap. There’s nothing to see there, don’t waste your time.” Bedtime is very welcome.
No diary this week. Just nope. Come Wednesday night, I couldn’t manage to focus long enough to write about the week.
Though I will tell you that I wore Chanel No. 19 EdP on Election Day. And that I was very proud of Gaze for giving up a free day to go and hang out at the polling place to distribute literature for our Congressman running for reelection. As for the current political situation, I’m not happy.
George is ticked off.
(I would probably have been about 80% this unhappy had Hillary Clinton been elected. I’m embarrassed by the whole thing. Couldn’t we have managed to find people more qualified to run the country than an egomaniacal, disgusting boor with no experience and a person ambitious enough to use her office to excuse away her extremely poor judgment with regards to the security requirements of her job/borderline-treasonous acts? But enough about the mess here, except to say that if we don’t at least start trying to understand each other’s concerns, we’re gonna make it worse.)
I wore Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea and Teo Cabanel Early Roses and Le Galion La Rose (yeah yeah I promise I’ll get around to reviewing that one soon), as well as Frederic Malle Iris Poudre – a no-brainer comfort scent for me – and a dab of FM Musc Ravageur. I wanted the cinnamony goodness of Organza Indecence at some point, but it seems to be still packed away in the bedside chest, so I didn’t go digging for it.
I did notice, however, that I still have a few “end-of-summer/early fall” frags in the Hatbox of Current Rotation, so I should probably put them away and go digging for some cooler-weather scents now.
Want to hear some good news? We leave on Friday to drive to my sister-in-law’s house near Dulles, and on Saturday, we’ll fly to Belize for a week. The whole family this time, because it’s been seven years since we vacationed with all three kids; summer internships and college tours and summer school have all interfered with taking a trip together. But since The CEO and I got booted from not one, but two flights on our trip to Hawai’i in July and had vouchers of $2600, we were able to swing the airfare for Belize.
We will snorkel over a reef, visit a tropical-animal zoo, and make a trip to some Mayan ruins. I hope the AC in the hotel rooms works as promised. I may or may not get a chance to post or check in via internet there; we’ll have to see how things go.
I’m sorry to be missing Thanksgiving at home; that’s Gaze’s favorite holiday, and one of my favorites as well. We may have to come home and do a family meal the next weekend!
This is how I’ve been feeling about the current presidential race.
I’ve been longing for this day, because it means that the political ads will stop, and (I hope) my friends will stop posting political stuff on Facebook. But I’ve been dreading this day, because it means that as a responsible citizen I have to exercise my right to choose between two major candidates I find entirely unsatisfactory, both of whom disgust me and one of whom actually frightens me.
Or I could vote for the Green Party (eco-socialist nut jobs), the Libertarian Party (what, this is the Wild West ca. 1871? Good Lord, don’t you people own cell phones?), or a Republican running as an Independent because Trump stole the right to have that big fat “R” next to his name on the ballot (which I think he did, but only because Republicans couldn’t agree amongst themselves on a real candidate).
No political party is running a moderate.
No moderate is even close enough to touch this race with a 4000-foot pole.
There is no candidate on the ballot I feel even vaguely comfortable choosing.
We got up at the normal time, because Virginia Tech is holding classes and The CEO is on a normal schedule. Gaze surprised me by getting up at his normal time, too. Several schools serve as polling places around the county, so there is no school today, and I’d expected him to sleep in late. (Taz is a morning person; he’s up around 6:30 a.m. or sometimes earlier, weekday or not.) Gaze decided to volunteer for our current Congressman’s re-election campaign.
I waited until I expected that the morning rush would be over – that’s a luxury, and I know it! – and got in the car at 9:38. I arrived at the NRV Fairgrounds at 9:42 and spent two minutes parking and walking to the building. I said hello to Gaze, who was handing out materials for Morgan Griffith, and then walked inside at 9:45.
There was a line.
There was a line! I’ve been voting at the fairgrounds since 2002, and the longest I’ve ever had to wait has been behind seven people (for three voting booths). Didn’t count bodies today, but the line was considerably longer than it has been in the past.
With all the vociferous whining, on Facebook, in print (digital or otherwise), and in person, that people have been doing about their choices in this election, I thought those of us not already committed to a candidate might stay home.
I’m very, very glad we didn’t — at least in the West Cloyd District of Pulaski County, Virginia. We’re also electing a Congressman and voting on two proposed amendments to the state constitution, and those items are at least as important as the presidency.
I saw twelve people I knew in line, including my mother-in-law. Had a nice chat with some people we used to go to church with.
Gaze told me that he hadn’t had a chance to vote yet, but would do it when the line died down. This will be his first time to vote! He just turned 18 last month, and procured his voter registration on his own, without parental guidance. I’m proud of him.
I wore Chanel No. 19 edp, for backbone and comfort. I needed it.
So for whom did I vote? Was it Devil, or Deep Blue Sea? Rock, or Hard Place? Scylla, or Charybdis?
Neither. With heavy heart I wrote in the name of a person who, in my opinion, should have run for President. I’ve never done that before. I hope that my future choices are more reasonable, and that I’ll never feel forced to write in a candidate.
I hope that we Americans look back at this election and say, “Dang, y’all, that sucked. We have got to come up with some better options, because we can’t do that again.” If it happens again, I may wind up voting for my sister’s cat, Fergus, who at least would be better than the options on the ballot today.
Monday, Oct. 31 – It’s never very Halloweeny around here. The CEO doesn’t enjoy the holiday, and we no longer have little ones to dress up in costume and take trick-or-treating, and living out here in the boonies we don’t get trick-or-treaters coming to the door. So, no Halloween. (Could have gone to our church’s block party at a member’s house, but I was just Not In The Mood.) Wore L’Arte di Gucci, which smells like I imagine Endora would: loud, proud, colorful, in-your-face witchy.
Tuesday, Nov. 1 – First day of NaNoWriMo. I was seriously on the fence about doing it again this year, given my recent lack of success in revising an earlier novel, but I did decide to go ahead and write a story that’s been in my head for years. Switched it up, though: instead of writing it from the perspectives of the college lovers, I’m now writing it from the POV of the wife of one of them. She’s going to be absolutely blindsided by her discovery of the 20-years-ago affair.
It’s gloomy and windy today, perfect for vintage Magie Noire. My mini is super-old and still smells amazing, but it sort of eats my head and I can hardly think of anything else while I’m wearing it, so it’s a rare occasion when I do.
Wednesday, Nov. 2 – Very foggy in the morning, gorgeous later. I only managed to get 932 words down yesterday, so I had some catching up to do today. Getting excited about this one, now, so I got up to 3759 before the end of the day. Working title is “Personal Injury,” because two of the characters are lawyers, but I may not keep that.
Mowed the grass for what might be the final time this year. The lawn is decorated with scattered fallen leaves, but I never mind that; they’re not thick enough to kill the grass, and I figure the soil can always use the organic matter, once I crunch them into bits with the lawnmower. SOTD probably should have been Arpege, because it’s amazing in the fall, but I wound up testing a bunch of samples. Bedtime scent was Le Galion La Rose, which I thought was going to be a soliflore. It’s a warm woody rose, though, pretty and comforting.
The boys went off with the cross country team to the Regional meet today, after last week’s triumphant Conference 24 win. They were, however, non-triumphant today. Nobody on the boys’ team ran well today. We did have two girls qualify for State, but that was it. Bummer.
Thursday, Nov. 3 – Warm again. The bathroom is finished TA-DAAAA!! and I’m pleased with it. SOTD was samples in the morning, and Le Temps d’une Fete in the evening.
Friday, Nov. 4 – Met my parents and aunt and uncle and we drove two hours to Bristol to meet another aunt and uncle for lunch. Nice. I wore sunny Chanel 1932 edp, and my mom told me I smelled good (well, she would, she’s a Chanel girl). Chatted with Bookworm and my sister A while we were there together, too.
Then home and a few chores before it was time to go to the high school for Senior Night. Before the football game starts, the seniors participating in fall sports (football, volleyball, golf, cross-country, cheerleading, and marching band*) are introduced and walk, escorted by parents and/or other significant people from the end zone near the field house down the track, in order to be recognized for their efforts. *Yeah, band. A couple of years ago — oh, I guess this was after the year that booster parents wound up taking five kids to the ER during band camp — the school began requiring that band students take the annual sports physical as well.
This final game of the regular season was against Salem, our school’s traditional rival, and a bitter rivalry it is. (I didn’t attend this school; the two of my cousins closest to me in age went to the rival school and I didn’t have a poor opinion of it until I got fed up with the treatment the band received every time we played there. Typically, the on-field nastiness does not reach the band, and there is friendly feeling between fellow musicians. Not at Salem, and that’s all I have to say on the subject.)
Salem returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and the game went south badly from there, ending up with a score of 56-14. Worse, the band seemed to be having a very off night. Star Spangled Banner sounded awful, the stands tunes were rough, and the halftime show lackluster. I don’t know why. It was an emotional time for me, seeing my band kids together for the last home game. Some of them I’ve known for five years, and I’ll miss them very much. I was kind of a wreck; it’s Gaze’s last year at home full-time, and since Taz quit band, this is the end of an 8-year run as Band Mom for me. Stupid thing to be sad over, but there it is: I was very sad.
Saturday, Nov. 5 – The CEO and Gaze went off to watch Virginia Tech play football at Duke. Taz had declined a ticket, so he and I stayed home, cleaned the house, planted two chrysanthemums, ate pizza, and hung out together. It was pleasant.
SOTD was Pierre de Velay No. 11 extrait – one of those creations based on a recipe book from defunct French perfume house active in the early 20th century, given new life by Roja Dove’s perfumery in the UK. It’s very much a classical chypre: the bite of bergamot, some beautiful rose and jasmine, patchouli and oakmoss and amber to ground it. It reminds me a great deal of Coty Chypre parfum, except it’s sharper, not nearly as soft as Chypre smells now (after a good 50 years of maceration, of course). It’s also similar to Soivohle Centennial, also based on a classic chypre recipe, but Centennial has a peculiar and lovely animal fuzziness I can’t pin down. The de Velay No. 11 has no fuzz at all. It’s toothy and joyous and very, very retro. I love it. Picked it up at Surrender to Chance, which I think is the only place that has it (unless you want to contact Roja’s place and see if they’ll ship to you).
Sunday, Nov. 6 – GAH I AM SICK OF POLITICS. Sick, I tell you. I think the worst part is that after one of the candidates wins the election… that person has won the election. And then we have to live with him or her.
SOTD was By Kilian Sweet Redemption. Taz told me I smelled like lollipops. I’d roll my eyes, but the thing is, I do smell kinda like lollipops.
Monday, Oct. 24 – Busy week ahead. It’s windy and chilly (which I happen to love in the fall), and I wore Samsara to the high school’s fall band concert. The kids can choose to dress in costume – poor Gaze was so flustered at forgetting, after cross country practice, that he had to just throw together a cowboy costume. He has a pair of hand-me-down boots that he hardly ever wears; the jeans and hat were easy. He added an old suit vest and a kid’s metal badge saying “TEXAS RANGER” I bought in San Antonio, and a big buckle belt he borrowed from a friend. Looked pretty good! Sounded good, too, during his solo. He gets a really beautiful tone out of his baritone horn.
Tuesday, Oct. 25 – More chilly-windy. Neb’mind, I’m painting the bathroom. Looks pretty good. No scent today because the smell of paint (even the low VOC stuff) covers up everything else.
Wednesday, Oct. 26 – The boys headed off early from school to the Conference 24 cross-country championship meet, hosted by Bassett HS. (Pretty place, but a huge pain to get to from here because you either go over a couple of mountains on small twisty backroads, or you go 50 miles out of your way to Roanoke so you can drive on something that’s paved the whole way. I’m not even kidding! We played a football game there earlier in the season, and I went with another band mom who was driving separately from the bus. Her GPS was set to “shortest distance,” and boy, lemme tell you: an hour and forty minutes of potholes and mountainsides each way, not to mention getting lost on the way home in the dark.)
In any case, the varsity boys won their second C24 title in a row, and the girls came in a good solid third. However, Gaze had a horrible race and ran his slowest time of this season, and didn’t make the all-conference team (the top 15 runners). He was pretty disappointed, because if he’d run his average time, he would have been 12th, and this was his last chance for the honor since he’s a senior. I’m disappointed for him – sometimes these things just happen and you have a bad day for no obvious reason.
Scent of this sunny, chilly day was DSH Perfumes Giverny in Bloom. Gosh, it’s good. If you love galbanum or green florals, snap some up.
Thursday, Oct. 27 – The CEO and Gaze went to a local Republican dinner meeting, while I skipped out of choir practice to stay home and hang out with Taz instead. (I try to stay away from political stuff whenever possible, even if food is involved. I just don’t enjoy these things at all. Wouldn’t enjoy this kind of event if they were Democrats, either. Just no.) Taz and I ate leftovers and watched “Apollo 13” together. He put his head in my lap and asked me to rub it, which was nice… gotta get those teenage boy snuggles when you can!
SOTD was Iris Poudre, because it was easy. (I usually don’t feel that aldehydes are too dressy for normal wear; I’m comfortable in them. Your mileage may vary.)
Friday, Oct. 28 – No football game tonight! Our opponent shares a field with another high school in Roanoke, and the other team was playing on it this evening. Game tomorrow; the band can’t go because they’ll be hosting a competition.
Instead, we had The CEO’s birthday dinner. His mother came and brought shrimp cocktail, and I made his favorite broiled herb chicken. Good times. SOTD was Cuir de Lancome.
Saturday, Oct. 29 – Gaze and I were gone all day to the competition (a success, though there were fewer bands than last year). We had beautiful clear, sunny, warm weather. I’m going to miss being a band mom. Never put any perfume on because I was too busy, and then I was too tired.
Sunday, Oct. 30 – another lovely day. SOTD was Mariella Burani, because it’s an easy aldehydie. Did some cleaning, did some cleanup-touchup on the freshly painted bathroom (pics to come soon). Man, I’m tired.
Only this commendation I afford her, that were she other than she is, she were unhandsome, and being no other but that she is, I do not like her.
Shakespeare, “Much Ado About Nothing,” Act I, Scene 1
I could say the same thing about the most recent flanker to what may be the most iconic and easily recognized fragrance in the world: Chanel No. 5.
Created in 1925, with the addition of aldehydes – not widely used in perfumery at that time – to suggest the aroma and sparkle of clean snow, this floral creation is still the best-selling fragrance worldwide. This wasn’t the first commercial, or even successful commercial, use of aldehydes in a fragrance (those would be Armingeat Rêve D’Or, 1905, and Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, 1912, respectively), but No. 5 is overdosed with them, specifically C10, C11, and C12. As a consequence of its popularity and the growth of aldehydic florals in the industry, the use of aldehydes came to be so closely associated with Proper French Perfume that soap manufacturers began scenting their products with aldehydes, and now we tend to think of aldehydes as smelling soapy.
Full disclosure now: my mom wore No. 5 parfum, the mid-1960s stuff, until her bottle ran out in the early 1980s. It was her “dress-up” fragrance (the everyday one being Jovan Musk for Women, another aldehydic floral musk). My dad bought her a bottle of EdT for Christmas, but she didn’t care much for it. She took to wearing clean florals like Coty L’Effleur and Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue instead, until recently, and now she is devoted to the No. 5 Crème Velours pour le corps, the body cream. It is truly wonderful on her!
Although I always liked No. 5 on her, I didn’t want it for myself. What young woman wants to smell like her mother? Not this one.
Also: those blinding aldehydes. Klieg lights in the face, dude, at least before the florals pop up. I like them now, but No. 5 has always had that aggressive alde-slap opening, and it takes some getting used to. I’ve never smelled the early-90s Elixir Sensuel version (reportedly focused on ylang, with the aldehydes toned way down), but I liked 2007’s Eau Premiere very much, so I was looking forward to trying the new L’Eau variation, created by Jacques Polge and released this year (2016).
The SA who’s been working at the New River Valley Mall Belk since the mall opened in the late 1980s was there when I popped by last week, and offered me a manufacturer spray sample of L’Eau. L’Eau’s notes are Rose de Mai, lemon, mandarin, bergamot, orange, aldehydes, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, cedar and “cottony” musk notes.
I was excited about trying it, and sprayed more liberally than I am wont to do, thinking that it would be a light scent that would need the three spritzes I gave my wrist.
At first sniff, it was recognizably a light, citrusy version of No. 5, with the aldehydes damped to barely-there levels. (Which is fine; I was expecting any new version of No. 5 to be updated in this way.) As the minutes passed, the beautiful mix of florals that is the heart of No. 5 came up and the citrus receded, and it was even prettier. Lighter weight than Eau Premiere, and less rosy, it was more light-hearted and, probably, more wearable for many people.
Half an hour later, the florals were faint and there was an undeniable savor of white musk in place of the attractive woody-rosy-musk drydown of Eau Premiere. Two hours after first spritz, there was white musk, period.
Instead of No. 5’s glorious rose-jasmine-ylang-iris-sandalwood-skin musk, instead of the luminous and lovely Eau Premiere version, L’Eau smells mostly of… laundry. The first 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how much you put on, are really beautiful, a cheerful lighthearted summer-sundressy No. 5 being all friendly, and then? Dryer sheets in attack mode. GAH.
Now listen up. I don’t mind white musk per se; a lot of other reviewers hate it with a passion I don’t share. If it’s the only noticeable note grounding an otherwise-lovely floral, and it starts disappearing into my skin shortly after the florals recede, leaving very little drydown, I’m okay with that.
No, really, I am. Witness my fondness for Chanel’s own 1932, a sparkly citrus-jasmine-iris that ends in musk. (I just bought a decant of the soon-to-be-rolled out EdP version of the Les Exclusifs collection, having recently drained my 5ml decant of the original EdT. See? I don’t hate it when Chanel uses musk in a light floral.) I didn’t like No. 19’s flanker, Poudre, because it stripped out all the Amazonian qualities of the original and made her a Stepford Wife, all her individuality gone. But Poudre is not awful taken on its own merits; in fact, when I think of it as “a greener take on Prada Infusion d’Iris,” I find it cool and calming and very pleasant.
See, I don’t really mind a Chanel frag ending in musk… unless the musk comes across as vapid. And in this case, I think it does. Chanel could very well have sent No. 5 L’Eau in the same direction as No. 19 Poudre: musk, yes, but a nice woody or skinlike one shaped with iris, vetiver, and tonka, a cool smooth drydown very poised, groomed, and collected. Chanel-like. Instead, they gave us a laundromat.
Lasting power on me is about as expected with a light eau or cologne: 3 hours with one generous spritz on each wrist, a little over 4 hours if I follow the Annick Goutal spray-until-wet protocol. Sillage is soft to moderate, again depending on amount applied. I have no complaints for either. I am less happy, however, that the last two hours of L’Eau are so laden with clean, cottony, boring, dull white musk.
No. 5 L’Eau still smells enough like No. 5 that I’m encouraged. There’s no froot, no sugar, very little vanilla. It’s not a disaster. It doesn’t stink. Chanel could have screwed it up in a bazillion different ways. It pays homage without smelling overtly retro, and as such, might convince some young things with disposable income to spend it on Chanel fragrance. Being other than she is, she were unhandsome.
But there’s that laundromat. … andbeing no other but as she is, I do not like her.
Monday, Oct. 17 – It was downright warm for October today, into the low 80s. Indian summer, I suppose… I went out to do errands, and had to roll the windows down for comfort. Among other places, I went by TJ Maxx to see if they had any more of those Paddywax Pumpkin & Spice candles that are a gorgeous mix of PS and mellow tobacco, but of course they’re gone. Did some grocery shopping, had the MDF molding boards for the bathroom mirror-framing project recut to the CORRECT SIZE 😳 , and picked up a pair of black dress pants for Gaze since he’s been wearing his suit pants for every. single. FFA activity (he’s an officer). As I came home, I could smell that beautiful dry-leaf scent, as my tires crunched over them.
Sigh. Autumn is wonderful. Annnnnd – I later found a couple of those candles for sale on eBay, too. Yay me. 😀 SOTD was Le Temps d’une Fete, because I can’t resist it on sunny fall days.
Tuesday, Oct. 18 – ‘Nother warm one in the low 80s. I don’t particularly enjoy it. In some ways, I wonder if I should just move to England and live most of my life in weather between 32 and 65 Fahrenheit, except of course I’d have to learn that in Celsius. (The quick-and-dirty formula for F to C is: Subtract 30 and divide by two. That’s not entirely accurate, but it’s close enough for government work, as they say. So, 5C to 20C. Once I’d spent a few months living with Celsius, I’d probably be okay; I just don’t have the reference points, such as 17C feels like 65F.)
SOTD is Amouage Myths Woman, which I like just fine, and which feels like Le Temps d’une Fete and Jolie Madame extrait made a baby. I adore LTdF, and I have five little bottles of JM parfum stashed away because it is just. so. good, but somehow I don’t love Myths. It is maybe too dry for me? Maybe not quite floral enough (the narcissus is there, but not very petally)? Dunno. The drydown does last for hours, even on me.
Wednesday, Oct. 19 – Warm again. Dang it, I want my sweater weather back! And by “sweater weather,” I mean the kind of weather in which one only needs a light cardigan or jacket outside. Like, 65-75F, or late August in Kensington. 😉 SOTD was a sample from SIXTEEN92, one of six that I’ll be reviewing in two batches soon.
Bookworm was supposed to be driving home for Fall Break today, but she fell during an Ultimate Frisbee tournament on Sunday evening, and hit her head. They didn’t think she had a concussion – she had no memory loss, no nausea, no changes in vision or eye focus, no passing out – but she’s had some headaches since then, and I insisted she go to student health yesterday to get it checked out. We decided it would be best for her to stay in Connecticut and just rest as much as possible instead of subjecting herself to a 10-hour drive home and another one back on Sunday. Which is fine. I want her to feel better, and we’ll see her at Thanksgiving when we take that family trip to Belize. But I’m bummed. (But I’m FINE.)
Thursday, Oct. 20 – I miss my girl. Snif. I’ll see her in a month, when we go on our family vacation to Belize(!), but I would love to hug her now.
Today: warm again, though it’s supposed to start raining tomorrow. Wearing another SIXTEEN92 sample.
Friday, Oct. 21 – Aaaaaaand fall is back! We had an ugly storm this morning: torrential rain, plus wind whipping through the trees and ripping off leaves everywhere. It was gone by noon, and the weather was back to chilly, windy October. The rain was gone by late afternoon, in time for the stadium to dry out for the football game. SOTD was Tom Ford Tuscan Leather, sweet coziness that kept me warm in the concession stand. (Or maybe that was the heat lamps.) We ran out of hot chocolate before halftime, and for some unknown reason, the athletic department had failed to stock the always-popular Dr. Pepper, but we sold tons of popcorn. Taz came and helped; he isn’t allowed to handle food because he’s not 18, but he can take money and pass prepared food across the counter. He did a great job, not only distributing drinks and foil-wrapped hot dogs, but also keeping the stations stocked between customers. Proud of my boy.
Saturday, Oct. 22 – Went to my cousin’s renewal of wedding vows ceremony. The boys were at a cross-country thing, and The CEO had a work thing, so I went on my own. Susan and Richard started dating in high school and have now been married almost 26 years, with three lovely daughters and a son as well as a granddaughter. Congrats to them! The weather was far nicer than yesterday – windy and chilly but at least there was sunshine.
SOTD was Teo Cabanel Early Roses over a small application of Tauer Rose Delight body oil. Nice. On the way home, I stopped to sniff things at Macy’s and was disappointed to see that the perfume department at the Roanoke store seems smaller than it was a few years ago. It’s now about the same size as the one at Belk’s, and while there are a few differences in the fragrances stocked, there still aren’t many interesting scents there, and only a few that Belk doesn’t carry – Armani Sì, for example, and the Vince Camutos, nothing that caught my attention.
Having tested No. 5 L’Eau from a manufacturer spray sample the Belk SA gave me a few weeks ago, I wasn’t tempted by that tester. (I’m currently working on a review.) No. 5always smells like its wonderful self, and Eau Premiere is still lovely, so I grabbed the EP tester and gave myself a spritz for the drive home. It was still great when The CEO and I went out to dinner at the Mexican restaurant.
Speaking of our Mexican restaurant: El Ranchero has upscaled since they moved out to the strip mall near Wal-Mart, just off I-81, a couple of years ago. They’re not just offering that list of numbered specials consisting of various combinations of burritos, tacos, and chimichangas; now they’re doing seafood and steaks, too, as well as mixed drinks they didn’t serve when they were in the old building. I mean, I don’t kid myself that it is Real Authentic Mexican like you would get in Mexico (or in Texas, for that matter!), but they’ve made a move toward higher-quality ingredients. I’m so glad to see that they’re thriving. The restaurant is clearly a family enterprise, too. All members of the service staff speak English, but most of them have noticeable accents except the two younger guys who must have grown up here, given their Southwest Virginia drawls. There’s this one guy who has been there since the restaurant opened sometime in the early 2000s, and he regularly carries six plates at once. Six!! He puts a long hot mitt on his upper arm and one on his left hand, and loads that side up, then gets another plate in his right hand. Now that is some skill.
Sunday, Oct. 23 – Looks like we’re settling back into the normal October weather I love so much: clear, bright, cool. SOTD was Cuir de Lancome. Gosh, this is good stuff. I’m sad it’s discontinued (and feeling juuuust a little bit smug about the two backup bottles in the bedside cabinet).
Mostly on my Kindle, mostly free fiction I pick up from my Book Bub subscription (also free, and you can subscribe for e-book bargains here, and btw I’m not affiliated but I’ve been pleased). Also books from the library. By the way, most of the links in this post are to Goodreads, except the one to Book Bub, the one to IMDB, and the one to an author page. Not pushing you to buy anything. 🙂
I told you how I finished The Wheel of Time recently, but I also read Roomand Bastard out of Carolina (both heartbreaking, both worthy). I started Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, whose prose can sing when she’s not flat-out hectoring people, but she began to hector, and I stopped reading.
Kingsolver’s technique reminds me of the story about the minister newly installed in a church in Virginia horse country. The first Sunday he preached a sermon warning of the evils of alcohol, and afterwards was greeted by an elderly churchgoer at the door. “Mighty fine sermon, preacher, mighty fine,” she told him. The next Sunday he warned of the dangerous risks of dancing all up-close-and-personal, the way people do at honkytonks (how shocking!), and his parishioner pronounced his sermon “mighty fine” again. On the third Sunday, he preached against the uncouth and troubling habit of cursing, and again his favorite member of the flock congratulated him on his fine sermon.
On the fourth Sunday, fired up from his success at renouncing ordinary evils, he preached an inspired message against the evils of gambling. He warned against playing cards for money, or gambling on a game of pool, or betting on the ponies. Even those $1 lottery tickets down at the Piggly Wiggly, he claimed, were instruments of the devil, for making people believe they could gain riches from anything other than the word of the Lord, and for taking the bread out of the mouths of babies. He shook hands at the door afterward, already planning his next sermon to address the sin of smoking tobacco and expecting to be congratulated again by this elderly lady.
However, she set her cane close to his toes with a thump and pointed a finger at his chest, and said, “Preacher, you have quit preachin’ and gone to meddlin’, and that’s about enough of that.” He watched her high-dudgeon exit with his mouth open, and it was only then that one of the deacons explained to him that she owned a string of racehorses and had been involved with the racing industry since her childhood, and any criticism of gambling on her beloved horses was bound to meet with stony disapproval.
Am I criticizing Kingsolver for having an opinion on issues and trying to convince people that her view is the right one, through her novels? Nope. I’m not. I am, however, criticizing her for going at it all ham-handed and pretending that she’s “just telling a story,” when she has a thinly-disguised agenda. Her subtext has become her text, and it’s clumsily done, poor noveling, and I do not approve.I have also been reading some lightweight romance novels – largely because that’s the genre that most often shows up for free on Book Bub. #sorrynotsorry Some of them aren’t bad. Some of them, are just awful. Unbelievable characters, improbable plots, ridiculously perfect best friends… Sigh. Trouble is, you never know just from the description which ones are going to be good, and which ones clunkers. You have to get at least a couple of chapters in before you can tell. I think I won’t bother to tell you which ones I enjoyed and which were duds; it’s kind of pointless because these books are like popcorn and it’s hard to distinguish between kernels.
The other thing I’ve been reading lately is The Circle of Ceridwen, by Octavia Randolph. This is a four-book series set in Angle-land (England) of 871, a time of war and politico-cultural upheaval on this island that would become so powerful centuries later. Ceridwen, aged 15 when we first meet her, is the acknowledged illegitimate — and only — child of a Saxon thegn (thane, a minor lord) in Mercia. Her mother was Welsh, enslaved through war, and Ceridwen thinks she might be dead because she has never met her. Her father died a few years before, and the local priest seized his lands on the grounds that he was a heathen, devoted to his Saxon gods. Ceridwen came of age in the priory, having been taught to read and write, as well as to perform tasks expected of a highborn wife and hallmistress: spin, weave, direct servants, and oversee a household. As the book picks up, she has decided to refuse both of the choices for husband the prior has offered her, and to run away to find a situation more acceptable to her. On the road, she meets Ælfwyn, daughter of a higher-ranking Saxon lord who has promised her as peace-making bride to one of the most powerful Viking raiders now gaining a foothold in the country, and proposes to serve her as friend and companion in the Norse town where Ælfwyn is bound.
The four novels cover the next 12 to 15 years of Ceridwen’s life, which not only involves the marriage and childbearing that would have circumscribed the life of a typical woman of her time, but some extensive travel, war experiences, and changing circumstances. She’s an enjoyable character — quick to take sides and make judgments, brave, resolute, and warm-hearted. Sometimes that warm heart and impulsive judgment gets her into tangled situations, but her deep desire to improve the lives of those around her allows her to salvage much.
The mixing strains of Welsh, Saxon, and Norse cultures point out how much of a “melting pot” England itself was, back in the day. Interesting. Much food for thought.
The series was recommended to me thusly: “If you love Outlander, you’ll enjoy The Circle of Ceridwen.” It’s not a terribly valid comparison, except that they’re both historical novels that also have elements of romance, everyday life, battles, and strong heroines. I can see them appealing to the same kind of reader, but it’s more a Venn diagram thing; there will be people who like one and not the other, as well some who have overlapping tastes. You might try if it you liked Karen Cushman’s YA historical novel-in-journal-format,Catherine, Called Birdy. Bookworm had to read it for class in middle school, and liked it so much that she bought a copy at the book fair, and then she made me read it too. How do you not love a teen novel that begins, “Corpus bones! I utterly loathe my life”?
(I do love Diana Gabaldon’s massive Outlander series, now comprised of 8 giant enormous main novels, 3 shorter emergency backup novels, 6 tangential novellas and a short story. Very highly recommended, but only if you don’t read slowly.)
Monday, Oct. 10 – Jenny the donkey is settling right in – and no sheep jailbreaks since she got here. We moved the sheep from the shop lot right next to the house out into the large pond field pasture, in with the cows. (They could get out under the gate, but why would they want to? No grass on the road that runs next to it.)
The leaves have juuuuuust started to turn. YAY FALL!! SOTD is Cuir de Lancome, gorgeous almost-smoky floral leather.
Tuesday, Oct. 11 – I am still digging that Paddywax Pumpkin Spice candle, because it smells a lot like drinking a PSL coffee* while wearing Tabac Aurea. Yum.
*Er, not that I do that often. I’m actually not a big Starbucks fan: it’s too expensive for me. I’ve had a Pumpkin Spice Latte exactly three times in my life, and while it is delicious, it is also pretty much more dessert than beverage.
SOTD is beautiful Le Temps d’une Fete. The weather is cloudy and chilly, and I needed some green-and-gold sunshine today.
Wednesday, Oct. 12 – Big day. Beeeeg, big day. Our cross-country team hosted a 12-school invitational meet, our first at the new course, and The CEO was just totally crazy right now with organizing stuff for it.
The meet turned out quite well, actually, no major problems. The closest thing to a hiccup we had was with some runners taking a much longer time than anticipated to finish, and I think most people understand how that can cause delays. Typically, high school female runners’ times will range from 19 minutes to just over 30 for a 5K distance, but we had a couple of runners take more than 45, and one almost 50. (For comparison, the slowest varsity male runner was just under 27 minutes.) As it turned out, our boys’ varsity, boys’ junior varsity, and girls’ JV teams won, and we had the first individual finisher in each race. On top of that, most of the coaches were pleased with the course and meet organization, so we hope they’ll come back again next year.
SOTD was Le Temps d’une Fete, with a little dab of DSH Chypre to amp up the base notes. Nice.
Thursday, Oct. 13 – Happy birthday to sweet Gaze! He’s 18 today. Can hardly believe it.
I made four batches of cupcakes for the band kids, since they would be playing in the Fire Parade this evening and boosters were providing food after school. SOTD was the friendly Hilde Soliani Il Tuo Tulipano. It’s a floral, but a creamy fruit-salady one. Nice.
Friday, Oct. 14 – Gray and chilly today, a real contrast to Wednesday’s absolutely-perfect autumn weather. I should have done laundry and hung it out on Wednesday, but was too busy, so today it’s all going into the dryer. 🙁 The weather is, however, wonderful for SSS Tabac Aurea, which I lurve, and The CEO smelled really fabulous in his sexxaay Halston Z-14.
Incidentally, a number of fragrance reviewers, mostly the guys who do Youtube videos, have called the current formula of Z-14 an abomination because it’s so different from the old stuff. They say it used to be chock-full of moss and patchouli and other good stuff now restricted (and expensive), and that now it smells mostly of cheap furniture-polish lemon oil and Big Red gum. I don’t want to call them crazy, because we allll know that reformulations have messed with so many of the classics. And I don’t want to call them whiny, because I certainly have complained about the changes to Le Temps d’une Fete (yeah, before it finally got the axe 🙁 ). BUT. I picked up a tester bottle for Z-14 in the summer of 2015, and spritzed it on a card… and my knees got weak. I was reduced to near-incoherence at how wonderful it was. Reader, I bought it on the spot. There’s cinnamon in there, but it only peeks out from the woods from time to time, and the citrus note is subdued. It smells like a Rainbath Intense EdP, and I love Rainbath. Shrug. I don’t care that it’s been messed with, I just know it smells great. If the old stuff smelled better than this, my knees had no chance.
Chaperoned the band to the football game… where we lost, to a local rival who has been so awful in prior years that they didn’t win a single game. Apparently they’ve got their stuff together this year.
Saturday, Oct. 15 – Even though we got home late (after 11 pm) last night, poor Gaze had to get up at 5:30 to get breakfast before he and Taz got to the high school to go to an all-day cross-country meet just south of Richmond. It’s a four-hour drive, and neither The CEO nor I felt compelled to go. SOTD was By Kilian Sweet Redemption, yummy candied orange blossom. (OB tends to go either sweet or soapy on me, and I much prefer the sweet version.) We cleaned up, and he watched college football, and I searched the internet for “upgrade bathroom mirror,” because the one in the powder room just off the kitchen is showing its age.
Most of the stuff in this house was builder grade to start with, which was fine with me at the time. Building a house is expensive, and I didn’t feel the need to ask for high-end finishes when we were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the entire house! I didn’t mind the cheapie mirrors put in with metal clips, and I didn’t mind the very basic faucets. Over time, I’ve managed to replace some of the towel bars and toilet paper holders, and paint most of the rooms, as well as replace some of the horrid baseline light fixtures. But now this mirror is losing its silvering, and like I say, it’s never been interesting. That’s about to change. Pics to come, as the project is complete.
The boys got home after 10 pm, with the news that Gaze had run something similar to his previous times, and Taz finished 8th out of 297 runners in the JV race. He’s got a new 5K PR time of 18:20, as well.
Sunday, Oct. 16 – Taz came down with some kind of stomach bug last night, right after he showered. I felt so bad for him! And Gaze has been just run off his feet lately. We let them sleep and went to church without them. SOTD was Tauer Une Rose Chypree, from a large sample I’ve now had for… gosh, must be 7 years now, because I got this sample when the fragrance was new. It’s almost gone now, despite the number of times I’ve worn it; URC is sort of nuclear in its lasting power so I only wear a tiny bit at a time. It’s perfect at this time of year.
I mowed the grass, The CEO did laundry, Gaze did homework, and Taz recuperated. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, 68F, sunny, with the sky that stunning autumn blue. Sigh.
After I mowed, I had to shower – I’m allergic to grass, and my lawnblower blows bits of it everywhere, so I itch and itch until I shower it off. I used a small bottle of gel I picked up on a whim for $3 at TJ Maxx recently: The Body Shop Smoky Poppy.Now, I know that Smoky Poppy was supposed to be sort of an homage to YSL Opium, which you probably remember that I haaaaaate. And I didn’t like the fragrance spray when I tried it at the Duty Free shop, but the shower gel smells great and goes quite well with URC, if you were wondering. I was a little freaked out to find that not only is the bottle black, so is the gel! Oy. Creepy… but I do smell good. Gaze told me that when he hugged me good night.