Scent Diary, Dec. 13-19, 2010

Monday, Dec. 13: Cold and windy, with dry powdery snow, and highs in the low 20s. Brr! SOTD: Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere. Hasn’t been wrong yet.

Concert went fairly well – bits of the Vivaldi were better than Sunday’s concert, but the basses got the bit between their teeth and dragged the rest of us through the Cum Sancto Spiritu movement way faster than we’d intended going. Eek. “This Christmastide/Jessye’s Carol” was gorgeous, though. (Here’s a link to La Norman singing it herself, along with a boys’ choir, at Ely Cathedral. Swoon.)

The CEO was expecting a call today regarding his potential new job – when he interviewed, it sounded to him as if the job were his. Since then, he’s talked to the person hiring twice: once to tell her that he was definitely interested and that he’d made arrangements concerning his current job, and once last Friday to ask for a status report, upon which he was told that the office had been very busy making arrangements for other things (not a polite brush-off, we hope, since we know what they’ve been busy making arrangements for). But no call today.

Tuesday, Dec. 14: Colder and windier. Highs in the upper teens. Brr brrr. SOTD: Mary Greenwell Plum, which I continue to wear first because I think it’s beautiful, and second because I’m trying to review it.

Missed out on the local Messiah sing-in this evening in order to go to Gaze’s middle school band concert. The 6th grade Beginning Band played “Jingle Bells,” and the Intermediate Band played some (more difficult) medleys of Christmas music. It’s not the Boston Pops, but that’s okay… my kid was on stage playing a trombone! How cool is that?

No call from the Mysterious Them today either.

Wednesday, Dec. 15: Same weather as yesterday and the day before. Only colder. Triple brrrr! SOTD: DSH Perfumes’ “designer duplicate” of Caron Nuit de Noel. I’ve heard this one’s pretty close to the way NdN used to smell before reformulation, though I don’t think people are howling over the refo of this one the way they do over the current version of Narcisse Noir. I’d believe the claim that the DSH is faithful to the original, because this thing smells, well, old. The aldehydes are dry and powdery, the rose-jasmine-ylang blend is rich, the famous moss is exceedingly powdery. Eventually it goes sweet and deep with sandalwood and amber, and I like that, but not enough to wear the whole thing. As usual, I get overwhelmed with the mustiness.

SOTA: Bois des Iles. If I’m going to wear sandalwood and aldehydes, this is the way to go. (Well, either that or vintage Arpege, but I have to be mentally up for Arpege. It eats my head, it’s so rich.)

The CEO bought a Christmas tree, for the first time ever. We’ve been married eighteen Christmases, and it’s been cedar trees all the way, baby, until now. (Cedar trees are like weeds around here – everybody with land has got ’em, nobody wants ’em.) This year, he found a nice one, but its trunk simply would not cooperate with the tree stand, and he was getting frustrated, so off he went to the Lions’ Club lot and bought a lovely nine-foot Frasier fir. It smells fabulous. Cedar trees also smell gorgeous, but they are prickly, and they drop needles all over the floor; it’s almost a given that at least one of us will get a cedar needle stuck in hand (or foot) at some point over the three weeks we keep our tree up. We won’t have that fun little exercise this year.

Thursday, Dec. 16: It snowed last night and into the morning; no school. This morning, my mother called with the news that my grandmother had died. It wasn’t unexpected – Nell was 91, and she’d had Alzheimer’s for the past three years. I will miss her, of course. But she’d had a good full life: she finished high school, in a time and place when that was unusual; she married and had four children; she worked at several jobs over her life while maintaining a clean house and a half-acre garden. She taught Sunday School and made beautiful quilts. She had six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren; she had a wry sense of humor. She cooked the best-tasting green beans I’ve ever eaten, and as a southerner, I can tell you I’ve eaten my share of green beans! She nursed her husband through five years of Alzheimer’s disease, keeping him at home until he fell ill with pneumonia. She had a love of deep cherry pink and gold, and a fondness for telling stories about her children. Until the Alzheimer’s got the better of her, her Christmas dinners were marvels of family cooperation, and the circle kept getting bigger. “Come and join us!” she’d tell people, and it was no exaggeration that on Christmas Eves, she was regularly entertaining thirty people with every evidence of joy.

I’ve been missing her for several years, to be honest. It’s not just losing her, really – it’s also that her generation is gone. I was lucky to have known her, and, too, it feels a bit odd to no longer be anyone’s grandchild.

SOTD: For comparison, Victoria’s Secret Victoria, Mary Greenwell Plum, and the original (Karl Lagerfeld) Chloe, with Coco Mademoiselle on a handkerchief nearby. The kids are decorating the Christmas tree, with CDs of carols on the stereo and spiced cider on the stove. I put a few ornaments up high, and got a glob of fir sap on my fingers, which smells great. I lit my Bath & Body Works Winter candle, too.

Friday, Dec. 17: Warmer today; the snow/slush mix largely melted. The Mysterious They called The CEO today, only to tell him that they had not made a decision yet. (Aaarrgh.) I think that means they’re going to choose the other shortlisted candidate, but we’ll find out. Eventually probably next week.

SOTD: L’Arte di Gucci. I got some on my hands while making samples, and it smelled lovely, so I put on a bit more.

Saturday, Dec. 18: SOTD: SSS Champagne de Bois, a lovely choice for a family Christmas gathering. My brother and SIL, and their sweet little boy, made it in for the weekend, so we celebrated. On the way home, The CEO kissed my hand and noticed first the Mary Greenwell Plum on my coat, then the CdB on my wrist. He’s got a strong preference for Plum, but said that the CdB was very “citrus-spice” and therefore appropriate for Christmas.

Drifted off to sleep in a cloud of Parfum Sacre.

Sunday, Dec. 19: Chilly, with snow still on the ground, but less disconcertingly cold than the temps-in-the-teens of last week. Our church has been holding services in the evenings in December, so our Sunday mornings have been lazy. We attended visitation for my grandmother this afternoon, at her church, and a meal for the family afterward at my aunt’s house. I do hate to put it this way, but the timing of Mawmaw Nell’s leaving us was somewhat fortuitous, in that most of my far-flung cousins had already arranged transportation to Virginia for this weekend, and we were all able to be together. SOTD: Mary Greenwell Plum.

 Image is Parfumesse-in-holland by parfumgott at Flickr.

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The Thanksgiving Chair

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6znqpPaYzM4]

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

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

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

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

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

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Scent Diary, September 13-19, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scent Diary, August 23-29, 2010

Monday, Aug. 23:  Lovely weather, for once: sunny and in the low-to-mid-80s.  Humid, but not unbearably so.  Classes started at Virginia Tech today, so The CEO is officially Back to School as of now.  SOTD: La Perla Eclix, from a swap friend.  It’s nothing like the original La Perla scent, which was a classic rose chypre hiding some Opium-esque balsams in its drydown.  (I liked it until then.)  Eclix – which comes in a bizarre, sci-fi bottle that looks like a golden eye – is supposedly an Oriental Vanilla, according to Fragrantica.  It starts out with some light citrusy florals, but quickly slides into a strange, smooth, pink, spongy-powdery  thing that has the smell of artificial vanilla extract and the exact, weird texture of those rubber balls we used to play with in gym class at elementary school.  I’ve heard people discuss “doll head smell” on fragrance forums, and had not yet run across anything I’d describe as that until today.  I don’t like it.  But it’s funny: people who love this scent really love it.  Go figure.

Mom’s Taxi Service was rolling today: Bookworm to cross-country practice, and then Taz to the elementary school and Gaze to the middle school for their respective Open Houses.  Gaze managed to open his locker two times out of five… he’ll get it soon enough.  I was sick of Doll Head Smell by 4 pm (it being a truism that the more you hate something, the longer it sticks around), so I put on some Lancome Mille et une Roses, as being a quiet, pleasant sort of perfume.  It has enough vanilla in it that it didn’t fight with the Eclix.

Tuesday, Aug. 24:  Rainy and chilly this morning.  SOTD: Lanvin Arpege, the recent reformulated edp, because of the cool weather.  Also because I had been planning to mow the lawn this afternoon, and for some totally inexplicable reason, mowing always makes me think of Arpege.  I like Arpege very much, but every time I wear it I remember too late how uncomfortable the floral heart of it can be – it’s so rich and ripe, and almost dirty.  This one’s a definite Old Lady Perfume in the best sense: distinctive, solid, powdery, perfume-y, with nothing at all “clean” or “fresh” about it.  The drydown of the vintage parfum is absolutely stunning, a beautiful sandalwood-vetiver base decorated with moss and musk and, yes, civet.

The sun came out early in the afternoon, and I was able to mow the entire yard – it’s too big, it takes me an hour and forty minutes to mow it on the riding mower – before we left for Bookworm’s marching band event.  Just as we left, the skies opened up again, and I knew we wouldn’t get to see the marching preview.  We did get to hear the band play inside the Commons area at the high school, but it was too wet to march.  SOTE: Cuir de Lancome, because I’ve been craving its dry, restrained, smoky-floral, “Mother’s Best Handbag” goodness.

Wednesday, Aug. 25: Gaze’s first day as a 6th grader!  In a rush this morning, I had to stick with the scents available in my purse: a decant of No. 5 Eau Premiere, a sample of ELDO Putain de Palaces, and one of Guerlain Liu, which I chose.  It’s pleasant enough, but I like Vega, and No. 5 itself, and Eau Premiere far better. 

Thursday, Aug. 26: BACK TO SCHOOL!!!  Thank the Lord.  That’s all I have to say about it – except that this year, and next, promises to be fairly hectic due to the fact that I have one kid in high school, one in middle, and one in elementary.  Arrgh. Three PTOs?  Just Kill Me Now, please.  SOTD: PdN Vanille Tonka, one of my first loves of the current scentmania, and still a favorite “Just for Happiness” scent.

Friday, Aug. 27:  I am totally digging this weather – in the low to mid-80s, with the occasional rain shower.  It’s green and it’s cool, but most days the sun comes out, a little preview of fall.  First high school football game tonight, and the first official marching band performance – which I didn’t go to because I didn’t feel well.  SOTD: Van Cleef & Arpels Bois d’Iris, an attractive, quiet woody iris that certain bloggers fell in love with – but not me.  Honestly, I think I’m just not much of an iris fan – I love it as an accent, as in No. 19 and 31 Rue Cambon and Silences, but as the focus of a scent, not-so-much.  

Saturday, Aug. 28:  A gorgeous day today, with the light all golden and warm.  I was too busy for perfume until bedtime (housecleaning, tomatoes, corn, ugh), and then I put on some Thierry Mugler Alien, which I find too sweet for everyday wear but just right for sleeping in.

Sunday, Aug. 29: Another warm pretty day.  SOTD: Parfums DelRae Mythique, which is still attractive with its apricot-iris focus, but so quiet that I might as well not have bothered with scent.  More proof that Iris and me are not BFF, it made me want something with much more presence.  SOTA: Honore des Pres Vamp a NY

I’ve been rereading Alice Hoffman’s reworking of Wuthering Heights, Here on Earth.  I continue to be charmed and amazed (and made envious) by her mastery of the art of Point of View.  Technically, I suppose, it’s an “omnicient narrator POV,” but it is both so specific-personal and so completely seamless that it is more like “shifting third-person POV,” to the power of genius.  Sigh. Must work more… why didn’t I just major in English Lit?

Image is “I am a perfume lover” from marina_ht at Flickr.

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Scent Diary: August 16-22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Fear

It’s probably a bad idea to blog while emotional.  But until the Blog Cops show up and pull me over, I guess I’ll write, because this is for me.

As late as this past Sunday, nobody knew where 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington was, three months after she disappeared from the Metallica concert she’d been thrilled about for weeks.  I took one kid with me to Wendy’s after church before we zipped into Target for a pair of jeans for him (poor kid, he was down to three pairs without knee holes), and as I opened the door I noticed yet another of the FIND MORGAN posters that have covered the area.

When the story hit our local paper in October of last year (2009), about how her parents had set up a reward fund, and how Metallica had donated to it, and how her family and friends were determined to get her home, I remember looking at The CEO and saying to him, sadly, “They’re not going to find her.”  And he looked back at me and said what I hadn’t: “Not alive.”

As of yesterday, we know where Morgan is, and some part of me wishes I still didn’t know, so I could pretend that maybe she would still come home under her own power and not in a box.

I really, really wish I hadn’t read all those Patricia Cornwell novels.  Every so often, my brain skitters off into wondering what Morgan’s last hours were like, and I don’t know whether that’s due to empathy, or to horrified rubbernecking, or whether I’m just examining The Fear again.  Probably all three.

If you’re female, you probably know The Fear more intimately than you’d care to acknowledge. These days, it’s less for my forty-year-old self than for my daughter, but we all know it: that tickle at the back of your neck that says, “Somebody is looking at me and thinking of destruction, because I am female.”  The Fear keeps us from walking down dark streets alone and leaving our doors unlocked; sometimes The Fear keeps us from wearing that really hot dress or speaking to strangers.  Because You Never Know.  For most of us, The Fear will stay ghostly.

For some of us, it won’t.  I’d like to change that.  I don’t know how.  All I can do is raise my boys to respect women, and my girl to respect herself, and vice versa.

Morgan’s family loved her very much, and she loved her family.  What’s kept me going today is the memory of a choral piece I sang in college, a setting of a couple of verses from Song of Solomon:

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm
For love is strong as death –
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it,
For love is strong as death.

Here’s a link to a recording of it on youtube: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart,” by Sir William Walton, recorded by the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge. (I’m American enough that I find it a little creepy for choirboys to be singing this one, although that doesn’t usually bother me. I think it calls for the passionate sound of women’s voices rather than the purity of boys’ voices. And this performance is a little slow and bloodless, too – I always felt it was a tempestuous piece. But the only other recording I could find had serious pitch problems, so St. John’s it is.)

Hold your loved ones close.  Pray for the missing.  Pray for the ones that miss them.  Hold The Fear at bay.

For love is strong as death.

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R.I.P. John Deere 4040, and Other Important Stuff

The 4040 is dead.  It caught on fire yesterday afternoon – probably due to something electrical – and although we were able to put the fire out, the tractor is sitting a blackened, immobile hulk out in the middle of a field.  (Many thanks to the New River Valley Regional Airport, and the Dublin and Newbern Volunteer Fire Departments.  You guys are the best.)

The tractor will probably continue to sit there, useless, for some time.  The ground is very wet because of all the rain and snow we’ve had, and there’s no way to tow it at this point without creating a mud quagmire. (Ever see My Cousin Vinny? That kind of mud.)

The CEO is understandably bummed.  The thing’s insured, but not for anything near its replacement cost. Also, that tractor is one that’s typically used every day to feed hay to cows in the winter; one of the other tractors will have to be modified with a hay carrier. This means: a lot of extra work, a lot of cash out of pocket, and a lot of worry.

Heavy sigh.

The good news is that no one was hurt.  Which brings me to the Other Important Stuff: please, if you haven’t already done so, consider donating to organizations offering relief to Haiti.  We only lost a piece of equipment, not our home or our hospital, church, school, police department, food, clean water, neighbors, or family members.

Here are a few reputable organizations who’ve been doing good work in Haiti for decades, if not longer, and who could use a little help right now:

Partners in Health  (over twenty years of service to Haiti – highly recommended by givewell.net)

Medical Benevolence Foundation  (affiliated with Presbyterian Church, USA)

World Vision  (a Christian humanitarian organization)

UNICEF, the American Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders you’ve probably heard of as well.  All are well-regarded for their everyday charitable work and for fiscally responsible behavior.  I have personally donated at one time or another over the years to all of these organizations and am satisfied that none of them are scams.

Image is 1982 John Deere 4040 tractor at fastline.com.  It’s not our tractor – ours is a lot older, and a lot dirtier.  I just couldn’t get out to the field to take a picture of ours. Plus, it would probably depress me.

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Commitments for 2010

I’ve committed to embracing a healthier lifestyle (exercise?  Who, me?) this year. 
I’ve committed to finishing my novel and editing it by the end of 2010.
I’ve committed to an Act of Kindness (random or planned) each week this year.

I’ve committed to being Myself, and to appreciating those around me.

Enough insufferable smugness – the purpose of this post is really to remind myself of what I’ve promised to do.  I’ll be revisiting the matter throughout the year.  (And there’s another commitment.  I’d better stop now, these things are multiplying like drunken bunnies.)

Here’s to being a “new bloom, spreading fragrance around.”

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Perfume Review: Penhaligon’s Amaranthine, or Amaranthigh, or Amaranthingy


Amaranthine by Penhaligon’s London, New for Fall 2009
Amaranthine is a corrupted floral oriental for those private moments when everything is anticipation. It opens with a dramatic flourish of spices and tropical green. This unsettling lick of drama is beautifully ambushed by an unctuous accord of jasmine and ylang-ylang, a heady bloom renowned for its aphrodisiac properties, and clove swathed in spices, tea, musk and the rounded beauty of tonka bean absolute.  The perfume is reportedly “reminiscent of the scent of the inside of a woman’s thigh”. *

Head notes – Green Tea, White Freesia, Banana Tree Leaf, Coriander Seed Oil, Cardamom Absolute  Heart – Rose, Carnation, Clove Oil, Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang Oil, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute   Base  – Musk, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Condensed Milk, Tonka Bean Absolute

You know what? For once, the ad copy is pretty accurate, although perhaps it overstates the “drama” and “aphrodisiac properties.”  * The hilarious quote about thighs is purportedly from composer Bertrand Duchaufour, from cosmeticsinternational.  It alone made me want to smell this thing, and people seem to be associating the scent with the word “thigh” now.  Maybe it’s just that “thigh” is a funny word, which it is.  Say it six times in a row: thigh thigh thigh thigh thigh thigh.  Kudos to you if you said it without snickering; I couldn’t.

And look at those notes, too – does that sound anything like thighs to you??  The notes say “tropical floral with oriental base” to me, and that’s a category I like in general.  So here it is the beginning of winter, and I’ve spritzed Amaranthine four days in a row, to make sure the experience isn’t a freak occurrence.  I think, honestly, it would be better in warmer weather.  It’s a bit light when one is wearing sweaters and shivering in a cold rain.  But even though it’s been less satisfying in early December than, say, Alahine (about which, more coming next week), I say this:  Amaranthine is beautiful.

It starts out with fresh, dewy florals only lightly dusted with spices.  I get very little tea from it, although other reviewers find it more prominent; I get more general “green” notes.  And yes, there’s a banana hit to it, probably from the ylang, although it’s a green banana thing, not an overripe squishy vibe.  I can’t identify rose in there, but the carnation is prominent, as well as the orange blossom. The jasmine is grassy and fresh, as opposed to that indolic heavy Joy-type jasmine that makes me think of dirty panties, and it doesn’t stand out. 

Eventually I get down to the base, which is soft and clings to the skin, and still retains a veil of freesia and orange blossom.  I was a bit worried about that “condensed milk” note, but although Amaranthine is a little sweet, it reads as floral sweetness to me rather than gourmand.  At this stage, it smells a bit like skin smells if the weather is warm and it’s been most of a day since it’s been showered: not squeaky-clean, but not smelly-sweaty either.  Like, you know, skin, warm and slightly moist.

It may be my nose, but I’m not getting of the weirdness some other reviewers have discovered.  Nor do I get the smuttiness that some people have described.  Is it just too cold and/or dry? Is my brain twisted? I’m not sure.  All I get out of Amaranthine is tropical, relaxed, fresh beauty.  I’ll be putting my decant away for a few months, at least, and wearing things more appropriate to this chilly weather.  When the time is right, I’ll know.

On a related subject (THIGHS!), I’m going to talk about body image.  I have a daughter in her early teens.  She’s healthy and fit; she’s petite; she’s still wearing a few things from the girls’ department, particularly dresses, as she finds the juniors’ department offerings immodest.  (I’m not complaining.)

But she said to me the other day after track practice, “You know, Mom, I have big thighs.” I looked at them and raised my eyebrows.  “They’ve got muscles.  I mean, you can actually see my thigh muscles. They’re runner’s thighs.”  I nodded.  “I think that’s the reason I have trouble finding jeans that fit.”  (Yeah, tell me about it.)  But I’m not going to apologize to my kid for giving her the thunder thighs genes, because – honestly? – she’s got great legs.  She complains that her broad shoulders make her shirts fit funny, and her muscly thighs make her jeans tight, and how her jeans are always too big in the waist if they fit her hips.    

And she’s looking around her high school at all the girls with thin thighs and thinking, How come I don’t look like them?, while I’m looking at her and thinking, Hey, that is my basic body shape, just younger and shorter and much, much thinner, and it’s beautiful.  It’s a swimmer’s body (okay, a short swimmer’s body!), and it’s healthy and athletic and beautiful. 

And I think I want it back.  I’ve been avoiding exercise for way too long.  Time to remedy that.

Ad copy from Penhaligon’s.  Top image: Amaranthine in the limited edition crystal flacon, from Penhaligon’s.
Center image: Shield Bug on Globe Amaranth by innermt at flickr.
Bottom image: 2008 Cross Country by nmhschool at flickr.  No, it’s not Bookworm, but she runs cross-country and distance track.  I’m so proud of her.

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Holy Cow, It’s December!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s the last month of the year.  Time does march on… (duh!)
I have so much to do.  I’m really glad I completed my National Novel Writing Month project a few days ago (yeah, okay, I’ll shut up about it now), but I’m very far behind on the whole Christmas thing.  It’s December 3:  three days before Bookworm marches in the local Christmas parade, ten days before my community chorus concert, twelve days before we’ll go get a Christmas tree, and three weeks before the Small People Living In My House will be pounding down the stairs, demanding to open their stockings and eat homemade cinnamon rolls.
I need a lot more time.  I haven’t bought any gifts; I haven’t baked anything; I haven’t decorated anything.
Next project: Make Christmas happen, simply.  I mean, I need simple and inexpensive and easy ways to make it feel like Christmas around here without doing a lot of the work myself – and I could pick up Better Homes and Gardens or Woman’s Day or some other magazine, but that would feel like wasting time.  (Blogging’s not a waste of time, is it?  Please tell me it ain’t!) Might have to go check out the emergency holiday missions at FlyLady.org, too.

As I’m formulating the Christmas plan, I think I’ll start by cleaning up the joint.  (Eek!)  Get all the fall stuff put away, help the kids pack up anything they won’t need over the winter months, ditch the “I haven’t used this in months” items lying around.  We’ll see how it goes.

As an aside, I smelled the Laura Mercier Minuit Enchante’ parfum that people are raving about on my favorite perfume blogs.  I don’t live anywhere near a Nordstrom’s, but managed to hit the one in Richmond a few days ago, in the course of  attending a farmers’ conference and, incidentally, visiting my brother in order to hold the new baby.  (He’s precious, of course. I got to snuggle him and kiss his little fuzzy head, but not for long enough.)  Anyway, I was expecting a big ol’ dusty resiny Opium-like thing, and instead what I got was a gorgeous spice overload.  It spends about twenty minutes in the too-sweet zone, but then it’s a pileup in the spice aisle, with freshly ground cinnamon tackling clove, and nutmeg jumping on top of vanilla bean.  I thought it was terrific.  Better, I got some on the inside wrist of my jacket sleeve, so my jacket still smells great too.

On the other hand, my brother, when invited to sniff my wrist, jerked his head back as if he’d been slapped and asked what I’d done to tick off the sales assistant.  As if you couldn’t guess, he doesn’t care for perfume. Minuit Enchante’ is a bit linear, and seems more like a Generally Good Smell than a serious perfume.  I’d rather have Teo Cabanel Alahine, otherwise known to me as Happiness In a Bottle, Winter Variation.  But ME is a nice thing to see in a mainstream release.  Bottle’s pretty, too, with that heavy magnetic cap.

Well.  I’d better get cracking on that cleaning-up thing.  I plan to be back tomorrow with a review of Penhaligon’s Amaranthine (better known to my swap buddies as Amaranthigh, or Amaranthingy).

Here are links to a few other reviews of Minuit Enchante’:
Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am
March at Perfume Posse
Angela at Now Smell This

Image is Advent Calendar by laurasjoquist at flickr.com.

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Thanksgiving 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! 

My NaNoWriMo word count stands at 45,027.

The turkey breast is in the oven.  The ham and the sweet potato casserole await their turn. Cranberry gelatin salad, green beans, and pies are done.  Guests are bringing rolls, dressing, fruit, and broccoli casserole.  Gravy is a last-minute project.  Floor has been mopped, bathroom has been cleaned.  (Kitchen is still a mess, but there’s time to clean it.)  The house smells good.

My family is all healthy and together.  We have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet.  We’re warm and comfortable and well-fed and we love each other. 

I often forget that many people don’t have those things. 

I will be making time in the next month to do something that makes life a little better for someone.  This month was for me, but it’s time to turn my focus outward and let God love someone through me.  That is, to me, what “giving thanks” should mean – that we not be complacent about what we have or envious of what we don’t have, but that we set our faces toward making things better for everyone.

May your Thanksgiving be so blessed.

Image is Happy Thanksgiving by *Gracie at flickr.

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