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Scent Diary, July 25-31, 2011


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Monday, July 25: Considerably cooler than the weekend, thank-you-Lord! Rained buckets at lunch time, and I had to haul the clothes in off the line. SOTD: Throwdown between Ferre by Ferre and Gianfranco Ferre. Winner will be pitted against F Malle Iris Poudre and possibly against Ferre 20.

Bookworm’s “pre-camp” band camp week started today. As a section leader, she’s involved in teaching rookies the fundamentals of marching. She said it went fairly well. SOTE: Balenciaga Paris.

Lon Chaney's Phantom, photo from Wikimedia Commons

Watched a DVD of The Phantom of the Opera on my ‘puter. I’ve long been fascinated by the story, probably after seeing a portion of the 1929 movie starring Lon Chaney as the Phantom. I’ve read the novel (translated from French) and am familiar with the music, but have never managed to see the theatrical production, so it was great to finally get the chance to see the movie. I have a lot to say about it, and I may wind up doing a separate Phantom post.

Tuesday, July 26: Temps in the high 80s today, but only slightly less miserable. Bleargh. SOTD: Ferre aldehydics again – Ferre by Ferre, and Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre (edt). The boys weeded the front walk, while Bookworm was off to band pre-camp today. The CEO repaired a tractor – I don’t know what was wrong with it, I didn’t want to know! Waited for the Verizon technicians to come and fix the buzz on my landline, which has been there for three years and has gotten ridiculously worse in recent months. It was supposed to be repaired two summers ago when they moved our line from the top of the house to underground, but it didn’t help. Today, the repair guys didn’t even show. And when I called to find out the status, the first CS guy I talked to (in India, judging by his accent) was super-nice, but the American woman in dispatch that he transferred me to was a total witch. I hate Verizon.

Wednesday, July 27: Hot again, mowed the grass. Made a sour cream pound cake from a recipe that I found for my sister. SOTMorning: Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre (edp this time, and it’s different from the edt). Waited for the phone company to come fix the buzz on the line; they didn’t show. SOTEvening: Amoureuse. Yum. I’m still missing the green notes that should be there, but the honey and cardamom almost make up for that.

Thursday, July 28: Waited again for the phone company to come fix the buzz on the line; they didn’t show. Jerks. They did call to say that they’d be in the area tomorrow… yeah, right. Look, I scheduled the appointment a week in advance. Why did I have the option to pick Tuesday if it was really going to be Friday, or even later? Total jerks.

SOTD: Balenciaga Paris (thanks for the sample, Undina!) Update: just received a call from the Verizon technician, saying he’d be here to fix our phone some time this afternoon; he mentioned that he had just gotten the assignment ticket this morning and he was surprised to see the scheduled date of 7/26 on it. Not his fault – I knew Verizon’s Customer Service was totally full of it.

Okay, so now the phone is fixed… but we can’t connect to the internet. I know these two are related. We have DSL through the phone company, and it was fine until the technician showed up, and not-fine since. Waiting for internet service. SOTE: gorgeous, fluffy Iris Poudre. Still not getting the Ferre resemblance.

Friday, July 29: Hot and humid, in the mid-90s. I hate summer. SOTD: Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre edp. I like it, it’s nice, it reminds me quite a bit of Ferre 20, but it still doesn’t call Iris Poudre to mind much. I don’t know where people are getting this from…

The CEO and I went out to dinner at Applebee’s and picked up “Lincoln Lawyer” from the Redbox on the way home. An enjoyable movie, with more of a twisty-turny plot than I had thought it would be. The CEO was thinking that the premise might make for a pretty good drama series: sleazy colorful LA lawyer has a straight-arrow Assistant DA ex-wife with whom he’s still friendly, sleazy colorful PI’s with whom he works, and sleazy colorful clients you know are guilty but still wind up rooting for. It would a fun show to watch, I think. However, I’m not sure that anybody would have the budget to produce it – it needs real scriptwriters.

After that we weren’t quite ready to go to bed, so we watched the ending of some youthful modernized-period-drama thing called “Virgin Territory” on TV. Cheesy dialogue, starring Hayden Christiansen (I swear, he must be wearing guyliner) and Mischa Barton, two of the worst actors evah… the twenty minutes of it that we watched were amusing in a so-bad-you-have-to-laugh way, although I don’t think I could have stood much more of it. SOTEvening: Ferre 20. I’m getting’ my aldehydie groove back, I think.

Saturday, July 30: Yet another mizzerble hot day, 88F at 10am and humid enough that we’re wondering if the clothes we hung out on the line to dry actually will. The Verizon guys are supposed to come by and fix our DSL connectivity problem this afternoon…

and the technician guy actually did show up and fix the problem. Of course, now The CEO is using the internet a lot, getting ready to go to his National Cattlemen’s meeting in Orlando on Monday. SOTD: Le Temps d’une Fete.

It poured buckets for about two hours this evening. SOBedtime: DSH Chypre.

Sunday, July 31: More hot-and-humid. Went to a picnic/cookout with friends from church this afternoon, and then came home just before a massive thunderstorm. It’s still humid, but the temperatures dropped about 15 degrees F, which is good – Bookworm has the first bit of Band Camp this evening from 5pm to 8pm. SOTD: Mary Greenwell Plum.

Apparently, two kids were overcome with heat this evening and had to sit under the tent with cold wet towels for twenty minutes until they cooled off, but it turns out that they hadn’t hydrated well. The chaperones will be insisting on that this week. SOBedtime: Cuir de Lancome.



Scent Diary, May 30-June 5, 2011


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Part of my mini collection

Monday, May 30 (Memorial Day): Happy birthday, Bookworm! 16 today.

Hot and hectic… I rushed around a lot and cooked a lot for the birthday dinner and had about six things go wrong, and it took foreeeeeeverrrrr… Dinner was pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions, with salad and rolls, and the birthday girl chose red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and vanilla bean ice cream. It was good – but who on earth wants pot roast in 88F weather?? SOTD: Lauren by Ralph Lauren, vintage used bottle via ebay. This is “80s week” for some perfumista friends on Facebook, and although Lauren was released in 1978, it smells like the 80s to me. I had college friends who wore Lauren, and if I tell you that I graduated from college in 1990, you can do the math there.

Tuesday, May 31: Can May really be gone already?? Guess so. It’s 91F today. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and it smells like grass and honeysuckle and locust blossoms outside. I hung out six loads of laundry, and it all got dry. SOTD: Yves St Laurent Paris, vintage mini via ebay. Boy, this thing is a humongous floral bomb. I like humongous floral bombs (you were not in doubt of this, were you?). The CEO has been waiting for pretty weather for weeks, and now that we’ve got sunshine, he’s makin’ hay.

We went to the band banquet this evening. Bookworm has been selected as one of next year’s section leaders for the alto saxes, and I’m proud of her. (Warning: Mom Bragging coming. Skip if this bugs you.) She started out on clarinet in 6th grade, but in 8th grade switched to saxophone because the only sax player in her grade moved away. Since then she’s also played bass clarinet in concert band. As a freshman, her section leader asked if she could march with a tenor sax because the band was short on tenors, so she tried it – but since she’s 5’1” on a tall day, the tenor kept hitting her in the knees. That didn’t work, obviously. This year, her 10th grade, she’s done the following: marching band, cross country, indoor track, concert band, outdoor track, and MACC Science (an academic competition). She’s maintained a 4.0 GPA in high school, and was selected to attend the magnet school for math and science next year. She’s done right good, I think. Also, she is terrific, and her dimples are sooooo cute I have to pinch her cheeks every now and then.

Oh, and we’ve got good news and bad news: The bad news is that one of the calves died for no apparent reason. The good news is that Sampson, the twin calf abandoned by his mama that we’ve been bottle-feeding, now has a new mama.

Wednesday, June 1: The 80s Scent Week just came to a screeching halt. I wore [Karl Lagerfeld] Chloe for a little while today, until it just got Too Hot. Too Darn Hot, people. I was outside most of the day, weeding and planting and mowing and hanging out laundry, and I have a headache and I want to cut my arm off. Gah. Washed. Contemplated some of the other scents on my potential list and couldn’t see trying any of them.

The CEO says that he’ll only have time to make two cuttings of hay this summer, instead of the usual three, because he’s mowing so late. The trade-off is that the hay’s very thick for a first cutting; I suppose all that rain was good for something.

Went to Gaze’s 6th grade awards assembly at school today. (You don’t mind if I brag just a little bit about him, do you? If you do mind, just go ahead and skip to the next paragraph.) He’s a good kid, and I’m very proud of him: Academic Achievement Award Silver Seal (GPA between 3.75 and 3.99), 20+ Accelerated Reader Quizzes Passed, and National Physical Fitness Award. He played the trombone in band this year and joined the track team as a distance runner, and is a terrific, likeable kid with a penchant for puns. Also, he has beautiful eyes.

Thursday, June 2: 80s Scent Week is back on, with Revillon Turbulences parfum. This one was released in 1981, and I bought a boxed mini for about $8 from parfum1 or one of those online places, because Fragrantica calls it an aldehydic floral. Had not yet worn it. As of today, I have, and I’m puzzled at the aldehydic part of the description: if aldehydes are there, they’ve decomposed into total baby powder. This is unusual, because my experience with older aldehydic perfumes with wonky topnotes is that they go to acetone (nail polish remover), not to powder. It’s nice. Not exciting, and I can’t see myself wearing it much, but nice. I think I might pass it on to my mom.

The CEO came home at lunch and tried to wheedle me into learning how to run the tractor with the rake, so I could rake hay for him before he baled it. I didn’t want to. I demurred on the same grounds with which The CEO himself, as a teenager, refused to learn how to milk cows (at one point, his dad and uncle were running a dairy as well as the beef cows): he knew that once he knew how to milk, he’d have to do it. I don’t want to become the backup tractor person if Jeff gets sick.

Also, The CEO seems to be concerned that I spend my time at home doing pointless tasks, since I left my paying job. He should be concerned that I’m spending enough time working on my writing, but he is obsessed with efficiency, and with packing every single moment with work. He gets like this in the summers. It’s almost like when he’s not working at the university, he thinks he’s bleeding money. True, the farm does spend money in the summers – there’s labor, and fertilizer costs, and animal meds, and baler twine and fuel for tractors and trucks, and not a lot of money coming in. But that’s why we have the cushion in the bank. Typically, he’ll get just a couple of big checks a year, when he sells yearling calves at the livestock market. Stretch the gross income, minimize the outgo, and whatever you have left over, well, that’s how much you made, and you never know how much you have left over until you finish the year.

This afternoon, Taz came home with a freshly-tie-dyed tee shirt that he just handed over to me to wash. “Here, Mom. Fix it.” (Good grief. Am I the maid-of-all-work, or the magician?) It’s come out looking pretty good, though.

SOTAfternoon: Retesting Laurie Erickson’s new “summer scent” for Sonoma Scent Studio, two versions (B and C). Last time, I preferred C; this time C is too incensey-woody and B is nicer. Weather might be playing a part here.

Friday, June 3: Last day of school. (Now, to plan the summer so that nobody kills anybody else…) It’s less hot and humid than the rest of the week has been, but still good hay weather, with temps in the mid-80s. Considered the big 80s fragrance Sand & Sable: no can do, too sticky outside.  80s Week is back off.

Chauffeured The CEO and helper Corey to a field today, and went out to lunch with The CEO after he finished baling one field. Our local gathering place has been the recently-opened Tha Dawg House, open for breakfast and lunch, with traditional Southern-style breakfasts (biscuits and all the accompaniments, such as sausage, sausage gravy, bacon, eggs, cheese, ham, grits, etc.) as well as burgers and hot dogs with homemade chili. Not the most romantic place, but it was nice.

Finally got round to testing Maison Martin Margiele Untitled. I had been enticed by the green notes but scared off my someone’s mention of an ashtray note. As it turned out, I found the fragrance a very pleasant smell – green, quiet, calm, reflective – but not what I would call a Proper Perfume. I might like to smell it in my house. Oh, well.

SOTEvening: Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, gorgeous creamy tuberose fragrance. Ahhhh.

Saturday, June 4: Mid-80s again today, beautiful haymaking weather. In consequence I spent a good part of the day ferrying various people to and from various hayfields. Bookworm ran the rake under The CEO’s supervision, and field reports state that she did an excellent job. Still too hot for big 80s scents, so the SOTAfternoon was Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete, my answer to cologne wearers who cannot figure out what I do wear in hot weather – either that, or Moschino Funny!, or Annick Goutal Petite Cherie.

My parents happened to be coming through town, and suggested they take one or more grandchildren with them for a week of “Camp Nana,” but Bookworm is going to be busy this week with marching band leadership activities and with taking a math placement test at the community college for next year’s classes at the Governor’s School for Science and Math. (Good news: college credit in high school. And since it’s through a VA community college, these credits must be accepted at any Virginia college. They’re also accepted at many other colleges. The bad news: Classes start at 7:10 a.m., in the morning. I’ll be dragging her out of bed by her hair, poor baby…)

Sunday, June 5: Another not-too-hot day in which I considered several 80s scents, including the floral chypre Leonard de Leonard, and rejected them. Went with Mary Greenwell Plum.

Took cantaloupe to the church cookout (yum!), then took Bookworm to the University Mall to pick up a new pair of running shoes for her. After the sales guy (a runner himself) watched her jog around the store, he pronounced her an overpronator with a normal foot arch, and brought her six pairs of shoes to try on. She wound up with the same kind of shoe she bought last December. “It just feels right,” she said.

In the afternoon, Bookworm and I helped The CEO move a bunch* of cows with older calves from the Back Side Near Weston’s House field through the Back Side field, into the Whittaker Woods field, and from there into the Seven-Acre Field, in preparation for their receiving an anti-pest topical medicine (similar to Frontline for dogs, it keeps off the flies, fleas, and ticks) and other vaccinations tomorrow. This ought to be the last bunch that hasn’t yet had this treatment this season.

*Because this “bunch” is merely a subset of the entire group of cattle we own, it isn’t a herd. “Herd” tends to imply “the whole group.” But generally, our cows are separated out as to their stage on the reproductive cycle. This bunch was cows with calves who were born last fall.

After all that chasing cattle around the field, we watched “The King’s Speech.” I was dubious about it, first because of the swearing in it, and second because of Colin Firth, who is a fine actor but who for some unknown reason usually gives me the total willies. Bookworm assured me that she’d heard far worse swearing at school (probably true), and other than the swearing, there was nothing objectionable in the film. And Colin did not give me the creeps. I’ve never understood my aversion to him anyway, so the lack of aversion is just as baffling. SOTEvening: Ines de la Fressange (the Calice Becker one from 1999).



Memorial Day, 2011, and a happy birthday to Bookworm


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Iwo Jima Memorial, photo from Life magazine

In memory of those who gave their lives in service to their country, and in honor of those who served…

Today I remember Army 1st Lt. Terry L. Plunk. “Killed on February 25, 1991, while clearing mines at As-Salam Airfield, Kuwait. Graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. Lt. Plunk was the equivalent of the valedictorian at his graduation and the top CE graduate for 1988 at VMI.”  [courtesy of]  Terry graduated two years ahead of me in high school, and a nicer guy there never was.  Valedictorian, wrestler, yearbook staff, class president, Prom King, all that – and still he managed to notice the quiet kids, the ones outside the popular circle, and give them a smile and a kind word.  Before heading off to duty, Terry told his worried mother, “I know it’s dangerous.  But Mom, if I die over there, I’ll be in Jesus’ arms before my body hits the ground.”  Thanks for your service, Terry, and for the smiles.  I’ll see you again.

I honor my dad, who served as supplymaster aboard a destroyer tender in the Navy in the early 1960s.  He ws stationed at Portsmouth, VA, and his ship never went any farther than Florida; at the time, the Atlantic Fleet was not deployed.

I honor my brother-in-law Bob, who served  in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and who has recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

My deep thanks to the veterans, and those currently serving in our armed forces. 

Bookworm, May 2011, holding the Girls' Track team district trophy

Sixteen years ago on this day, I held Bookworm for the first time.  I’ve always been very proud of her, but never more so than now.  She is a fine young lady, and I thank God for her every day.  Sweetheart, my butterfly girl, I love you.  Happy birthday!




Posting delays.


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Sorry I’ve been mostly AWOL this week.  I have spent a lot of time at the rehab center with my father-in-law as he nears the end of his life.  And the routine goes on as usual, too: kids to get to school, laundry to be washed, meals to be cooked… and everybody is sad.

I will plan on posting something on Sunday (thank goodness for the scheduled publishing option).  Next week we’ll try to get to the mini-reviews from the prize draw, as well as reviews of two of the new Jean Desprez fragrance variations.

If you were one of the prize draw winners, and you have a brief review of two to three sentences for me (or more.  I’ll take more!), please email me.  I tried to send out email requests, but Gmail has been weird lately and I’m not sure they went through.  I’d like to have them by Wednesday, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, of course.  THANKS.

Everybody take care.



In Progress:


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  • The Malta-Rome travelogue, complete with pictures
  • Fragrance Throwdown: vintage Coty L’Origan vs. Guerlain L’Heure Bleue parfum
  • Review: Xerjoff Elle
  • Updates to the Huge List of Green Scents
  • And…
  • The 2010 tax return – which I’m sure nobody is really interested in hearing about, but which must be finished before I get seriously into posting…

I also owe several people emails.  Sorry for my laxity (laxness? no, must be laxity.  I’m even too lax to go look that up).  I promise, I will get back to you.



Back Home!


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Will be posting soon with pictures and comments about what we saw and did and ate and smelled… but right now, there’s a mountain of laundry to do.  Ciao until later – and thanks for all the good wishes!



Scent Diary, Feb. 21-27, 2011


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I’ll warn you now, it’s going to be another busy-busy-boring week. Paint and Kid Taxi and stuff like that… and I really must get out those swaps I promised.

Monday, Feb. 21: Feels like spring! Temps in the 60s, a stiff wind… SOTD: Cuir de Lancome. Sprayed some on just before I left the house, and The CEO said, “You smell great! What’s that you’re wearing?” The level in my 50ml bottle is dropping; I love it; I’m not sure that The CEO loves it but every single time I put it on he asks what it is; Cuir is discontinued; Parfum1 is having a 15% off sale. That combination of facts leads me to think that a backup bottle is a wise idea, particularly since I can get one for about $33 with shipping.

Started painting the family room today: that turquoise blue color I mentioned last week. I’ve done three of the nine walls of the U-shape, including the long wall. The blue actually looks very striking with the browns and bricks in the room, particularly if I’m going to touch up the moldings and trim, as I need to do, in a glossy cream color.

Tuesday, Feb. 22: Sunny, but considerably cooler today at 46F. SOTD: Chamade, vintage EdT. My “eBay steal” bottle has wonky topnotes, but it is a lovely scent after fifteen minutes.

Painted another third of the family room. Am very tired.

Wednesday, Feb. 23: Cloudy, chilly morning sliding into sunny, warmer afternoon. SOTD: Xerjoff XJ Elle, from a carded sample Dear Daisy was kind enough to send. The notes include galbanum (squee!), but there is no actual galbanum to smell in here. It’s all crème brulee gourmand. Smells like a quieter version of the cotton-candy/caramel half of Angel. It lasts allllll day, too. I’m just not much of a gourmand fan, I suppose. I do really love Hanae Mori (Butterfly), but only in small doses and only at home as a comfort scent.

Side note: I thought about nabbing another small bottle of Hanae Mori Haute Couture, because it’s discontinued and ridiculously inexpensive. I was buying a pair of curtains at for our family room, and on a whim checked to see if Overstock had any fragrances I’d want. They have 50ml Haute Couture – beautiful aldehydic citrus-jasmine – for about $17, and I was tempted, but then I remembered I still have most of a 50ml bottle and some Ines de la Fressange (the Calice Becker one, aldehydes-peach-rose) and the lovely citrus-rose of Moschino Funny! for summer wear. Aaaaaanyway, my point was that I looked at the reviews at Overstock for Haute Couture and saw a comment from someone who’d bought it unsniffed because she liked HM Butterfly, but was “disgusted” by Haute Couture, calling it “heavy” and “smells like old ladies, not light and fresh like Hanae Mori.” I can see how the aldehydes in HC might be deemed old-fashioned, but Hanae Mori, light and fresh? Crazy.

Did some prep work – cleaning, taping, spackling – for painting, but didn’t have time to paint.

Thursday, Feb. 24: Same temperature as yesterday, but raining as well. SOTD: Cuir de Lancome again. Such a pretty thing. I’m starting to wonder if perhaps that vial of Xerjoff Elle was mislabeled… there’s nothing on the vial itself to identify it, just the card it’s stuck into. I floated the idea to some Facebook friends who’ve tried Elle; the consensus seems to be that Elle is very floral, so what I tried clearly must be something else, possibly Xerjoff Verona, a gourmand containing (yes!) caramel notes.

Bookworm twisted her ankle at a track meet about three weeks ago, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. The school’s athletic trainer has been taping her ankle up for practice, and she’s riding a bike around the track instead of running, but it’s still swollen. Took her to our family doctor, who says she has a mild sprain that nevertheless isn’t healing very quickly. She’s on anti-inflammatory Aleve twice a day for the next two weeks and forbidden to run for another ten days.

Respackled part of the wall – the spot just under the window where our cat, Silvia, used to leap up into the wide sill and sit. She left behind numerous clawmarks. She hasn’t been able to jump four feet up like that for a couple of years now; she’s 17 and arthritic. Getting old stinks.

Friday, Feb. 25: (This time next week The CEO and I will be on a plane to Rome! Very exciting.) Rain in the morning, changing to sunny and very windy in the afternoon. SOTD: Mary Greenwell Plum. This had largely worn off by the time I got home from work, so I put on some Cuir de Lancome in the afternoon. I don’t know why I’m craving it lately, but I am.

Painted the wall behind the TV (hahaha, no TV! The CEO is grumpy) and the wall containing the sliding door. Almost done; only the wall behind the computer desk remains. I can’t move the desk by myself, so that’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Saturday, Feb. 26: Normal weekly cleaning day. It’s chilly but sunny outside. I usually don’t put on any fragrance until after I’ve cleaned up and showered, but I knew it would be later than usual today, so I put on a couple of goodly spritzes of Le Temps d’une Fete.

Finished painting! It looks good. (Just in time, too: Virginia Tech is playing Duke in men’s basketball tonight. Risking the Wrath of The CEO is not a Good Idea.)

Later, I sampled Carthusia Via Camarelle and Profumi di Capri Luna Caprese. The Luna Caprese is a nice quiet laundry-musk thing, rather pretty but not considerably different from a laundry detergent a coworker of mine uses. Via Camarelle is also quite nice, a more-citrusy version of Miller Harris Fleur de Matin, which I enjoyed very much on vacation last summer. I am still looking for a fragrance I’d like to buy in Rome and use for our Malta vacation – something “Italian” and light but not citrus-focused or of traditional cologne structure. This is turning out to be surprisingly difficult.

Put on some Mariella Burani just before bed and woke up in the most delicious cloud of benzoin-tonka-musk. (Wow, four fragrances in one day…)

GO HOKIES!  VT beats #1 Duke… The CEO is stoked.

Sunday, Feb. 27: Went to church wearing a sample of Bois 1920 Vento di Fiore, which sounds like it would be like its namesake, a “flowery breeze.” It’s so not. It is a bit of galbanum to start, and then an accord of woods, moss, and patchouli that reminds me quite a lot of Polo. I’m not going to wear it… unless… hey, this might work: if I layered it with a pretty rose soliflore like Tea Rose, it might approximate DSH Perfumes‘ lovely Rose Vert. (Well, minus some of Rose Vert’s citrus. It’s amazing to me how rose does a lot to counteract bitter green notes and make them palatable to me. And I’m sure that for some people, it would be the other way around – mossy greens do a lot to make rose palatable to them!)

Moved all the furniture out of the family room and vacuumed it, and then The CEO pulled up the old carpet. I knew it had been cheap carpet when we built our house nine years ago, but I hadn’t realized exactly how cheap… I’ll be so glad when we’ve got our modest upgrade carpet in.

SOTAfternoon: sampling Nobile 1942 Pontevecchio W. Now this is more like what I wanted: light and floral, quite feminine, with either a salty-marine or a citrus angle. It feels very much “me,” so this one goes on the short list. (I should go and check what a full bottle costs, and hope that it isn’t out of my range, because Pontevecchio W – there’s also a masculine with Pontevecchio in the name – is really up my alley.)

Image is from the collection of Morepink at Fragrantica.  Lower image is from







Scent Diary, Jan. 17-23, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image from Nat13 at Fragrantica.



Scent Diary, Jan. 10-16, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image is from iris_iris at Fragrantica.



Family Stories, Part I


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

Duh, you say. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And promptly coughed my head off.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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