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Archive for January, 2011

(Sorry for the posting delay… I had difficulties in getting the farm 1099s and W2s finished on time.)

Monday, Jan. 24: No school today; scheduled teacher work day. Which is insane: because of snow days, the semester has not ended. Ergo, a teacher work day for the purpose of finalizing semester grades is completely pointless. I hear that the teachers petitioned to reschedule the work day and the school board refused. Why? Are they nuts? I’m increasingly frustrated with these ridiculous scheduling decisions. There’s half an inch of snow on the ground? Oh, we can’t run buses in that, let’s cancel school. The forecast is calling for sleet? Well, let’s not wait to see if that materializes, let’s just do early release two hours into the school day. Oops, turns out that we got no sleet whatsoever, looks like we let ’em go early for nothing. GRRRRR. Seriously, if you know, tell me whatever happened to snow routes for buses?

SOTD: Champagne de Bois, two spritzes. Got complimented by a coworker and the teller at the bank. My poor coworker mentioned that his wife is faithful to Obsession; even though he’d tried buying her other fragrances, she likes the Obsession and won’t wear the Eternity he picked out for her. I don’t really care for either one (well, to be honest, I hate Obsession), but anybody with half a nostril can tell that if a woman likes Obsession, she ain’t gonna be an Eternity girl. I thought of suggesting Shalimar, but then I figured that if a woman likes Obsession, she probably ain’t gonna be anything other than an Obsessed woman.

Bedtime scent: Shalimar Light, the Blue Juice, which is lovely for sleeping in.

Tuesday, Jan. 25: Went unscented at work all morning due to time constraints. Then tested a bunch of swap samples, got all wild and put them on various parts of my body: Lalique Encre Noire (hey, a masculine I actually like! A vetiver I actually like! Whee!), Bvlgari Blv pour homme (nice ginger note in the middle of a chemical dump), Paul Smith London Woman (compared to Shalimar Light in Perfumes:The Guide, but not a good substitute at all), the new version of Robert Piguet Baghari (has this sample gone off? It’s utterly gaggity. And I even like aldehydes).

It is, apparently, that time of the year when all the skunks dehibernate and come out to risk their lives crossing the roads. I passed four dead skunks today while on my way to work.

Oh, and I saw a weasel running across our lane on Saturday! This quiet tree-lined road is home to many squirrels, which we see all year round, and chipmunks, which are frequent panicked road-crossers in the autumn, but I’ve never seen a weasel before. The CEO laughed at me when I told him I’d seen a small animal running across the road: bigger than a squirrel, dark brown, with a pointy nose and a tail almost half the length of its body. However, research indicates that North American weasel are indigenous to most of the eastern United States, and the pictures of this animal make me sure it was a weasel I glimpsed. (Fast, sleek little bugger, too.)

Wednesday, Jan. 26: We were supposed to get “wintry mix” today – freezing rain, sleet and snow – but we only got about half an inch of snow and then it warmed up, so we got rain instead. SOTD: Kate Spade, the original fragrance – not the new Fruit Smoothie Twirl or whatever it is. It’s a Big White Floral Bomb, and I’m thinking I should review it for the Tuberose Series. Funny, you know, I can see why some people hate the BWFB type of thing, but I love them, so much so that it is rare for me to dislike a BWFB. (So what BWFBs did I dislike? Tubereuse Criminelle and Manoumalia. And why did I hate them? They smell like bloody meat. Urgh. Question for discussion: do you like BWFBs, and why or why not?)

Built a nice fire this afternoon and drank Chinese green tea. Also attempted to finish the W2s. I hate W2s.

Thursday, Jan. 27: Kids in school, woohoo! The clerk at the pharmacy complimented me on my perfume… too bad I couldn’t tell which one he was talking about. I didn’t have any on my person at the time, and my wool coat is redolent of both Champagne de Bois and Mary Greenwell Plum. I suspect the Plum, though I could be wrong. And also, I think there may still be a whiff or two of Portrait of a Lady on my inner cuff, from about six weeks ago. SOTD: Kate Spade again.

Friday, Jan. 28: Another inch of snow melted by noon, another day of no school. At this rate, the kids won’t be done until June is half over… and our school district is allowed to start before Labor Day, due to our history of snow. SOTD: i Profumo di Firenze Tuberosa d’Autunno. Nice. Also brings up the question: Why do I keep running into a grape-flavor smell in tuberose & gardenia fragrances lately? Is it a latent angle of the tuberose that is accented in some compositions (I don’t notice it in tuberose absolute), or is it a vague-but-deliberate echo of Poison?

Saturday, Jan. 29: Temps in the mid-50s today. Cleaned the house, took The CEO’s suits to the dry cleaner’s so he can have them by Tuesday for his trip to Denver for the National Cattlemen’s Association Board Meeting, took Taz to buy some new sneakers. (Seems like I’m buying at least one pair of new sneakers every couple of months…)

SOTD: Mary Greenwell Plum. Gosh, I still love this thing. I am positive that certain people would comment disdainfully that it is not a chypre. I don’t care how you want to categorize it, it’s lovely. (And, yes, it is a modern chypre, with oakmoss. True, it’s not got a lot of oakmoss, but oakmoss is clearly discernible, along with labdanum and bergamot and a pinkytip’s worth of patchouli. Worn alongside other floral chypres like L’Arte di Gucci or Leonard de Leonard, it’s clearly got a family resemblance to them. I repeat, the oakmoss isn’t all that heavy a presence, but it’s there.)

SOBedtime: Alahine. Which was either fighting with the remnants of Plum, or the topnotes are deteriorating… this unnerves me.

Sunday, Jan. 30: Another gorgeous sunny 50-degree day in which my kids went outside and shot hoops/ threw baseballs to each other/ went running. SOTMorning: Si Lolita. SOTAfternoon: iPdF Tuberosa d’Autunno again, as I work on another Tuberose Series review.

SOBedtime: Alahine again.  I fear that the topnotes are slightly off already.  This bottle’s barely a year old – and I love this stuff!  It smells right ten minutes into a wearing, but still, it smells wrong for ten minutes.

Holy moly, the month is gone already…

Top image is from Allinug at Fragrantica. Second image is of Mustela frenata (Long-Tailed Weasel) from Wikipedia.

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A kind swap friend sent me a sample of this lovely, discontinued mixed-white-floral scent.

Perfume Review: Kate Spade EdP (Beauty)

Date released: 2002

Perfumer: none listed

Sample provenance: sample from swap via friend’s personal collection

Sub-category: Gentle white floral with tuberose

I’d never heard of this scent before it showed up in a swap bag. I know very little about Kate Spade herself, except that her handbags seemed to be the de rigueur purse accessory for fashionable women over the last decade or so. Since I’m not a fashionable woman, there’s where my knowledge stops.

I had no idea what to expect before I popped open the sample vial and dabbed on the fragrance, but immediately after applying it, I knew I had one of those big bosomy white floral bombs on my wrists. I went straight to Fragrantica to find the notes, which are: jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, honeysuckle, lily of the valley, and coconut. Those are the only notes listed.

And those are the only notes I get, too. There is a faint opening whiff of camphor, and then the scent sort of moves around from white flower to white flower, as if it were a handheld video camera trained on a group of debutantes in white ballgowns, focusing briefly on each girl. First the focus is on Tuberose; her fashionable gown is satin and her lipstick and precision-cut hair are perfectly glossy as she smiles and waves at you. The next ready for her closeup is Gardenia; her bouffant dress is tulle and perhaps a bit too decollete, her hair is down in soft waves and her pink lipstick is smudged, as if she broke off kissing the best-looking boy at the party to come and join her friends. The camera moves on to Honeysuckle, too shy to look directly at the camera; her lace dress is simple and modest, and then we’re on to jasmine. Jasmine is the most conventionally pretty one of the bunch in her taffeta dress, everything about her carefully chosen. Lastly, the camera focuses on Lily of the Valley, slender and regal in a tailored silk shantung gown, with a simple loose chignon and a wonderful smile. She’s got her arms around her friends, chatting happily, and the camera lingers on her, and you begin to realize that the cameraman must be a little in love with her.

The longer this fragrance wears, the less about tuberose and the more about lily of the valley it becomes. It is above all a blend of white flowers, with the lily of the valley keeping the fragrance from being very tropical and perhaps too sweet, but never too antiseptic, as muguet fragrances can sometimes get. It is not linear, exactly, but a panoramic view of a range of white flowers is not going to change all that much, and its character stays a soft floral melange. I actually do not smell the coconut, but it is probably there in small quantities, just to keep the scent from going too bathroom-cleanser (as L’Artisan’s La Chasse aux Papillons did on me).

Lasting power, like most white floral scents, is good on me, about six hours, even dabbed.

Quality: B+ Smells fresh and fairly natural, even the lily of the valley note.

Grab-scale score: 7 If this were still being produced, at the current prices of Kate Spade’s new fragrance, a fruity floral called Twirl, I’d have a bottle.

Short description: White floral blend.

Cost: $$$ or $$$$ Discontinued, and extremely rare on eBay, so that when a bottle comes up for bid, it’s quickly pushed into the over-$100 range, whether 50ml or 100ml. I could “buy it now” for $200, if I were desperate.

Earns compliments? Yes, of the “you smell pretty” variety.

Scent presence: Moderately strong, with moderate sillage. Lasts several hours; after 4 hours, the sillage is much less and the scent stays close to the skin.

Review report: No reviews available, other than brief ones at Basenotes and Fragrantica.

Image of Kate Spade eau de parfum from Fragrantica.  Image of debutantes at the Royal Debutante Ball from Artsopolis.  They actually look quite a bit sluttier than the ones in my imagination.

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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.

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When you live in Virginia, seems like there’s a Historical Something-or-other everywhere you look: Jamestown, the Governor’s Palace, the State House designed by Thomas Jefferson, the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University. There are frequent signposts pointing out things like the battlefields at Manassas and Yorktown, and other sites such as the Natural Bridge, and the place where Mary Draper Ingles and her two children and sister-in-law were kidnapped and taken as slaves by Shawnee Indians from Ohio. And it seems Virginians are fairly proud of these things, although Lord knows that many of our historical occurrences we shouldn’t be proud of at all. If we put up historical markers for some of those significant places, they might read like this:

This is the county that was so incensed at the idea of our nice children sharing classrooms with black younguns that we refused integration. In order to keep that going, we refused to accept any state support for schools for years.”   (Prince Edward County)

This is where the first slave market was held in Virginia.” (I can’t actually find out the first place slaves were sold in Virginia, though slaves were part of the Jamestown settlement and Richmond had a large slave market)

This plantation boasted a lovely manor for its influential owner, with marble and inlaid wood, while its slaves lived in dirt-floored board huts 10 feet long by 8 feet wide.”  (Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson)

Indians were massacred here.” (1622, near Jamestown)

Yeah. Why do we remember? When your history stretches back far enough to encompass such atrocities, the only thing to do is to learn from them. Which we cannot do, if we forget them.

Which brings me to this set of family stories. (They’re not, technically, my family stories; they happened to The CEO’s family, so they are my children’s family stories.) And I’ll start by telling you that The CEO’s ancestors, two brothers I’ll call the McWhatsits, came to this part of Virginia in 1795. Their parents had taken ship from Scotland a generation before, in the starving wake of the 1745 Rising, and these boys had been born in Pennsylvania.

Side note here: The CEO’s aunt and uncle visited Scotland about fifteen or twenty years ago, and while they were looking at a church window showing clan names, a Scottish man sidled up to Uncle R and asked – and here, you have to imagine his Scottish accent; Craig Ferguson’s will do – “So, are you Camerons then?” No, McWhatsits, Uncle R told him. “Ah. And you’re from America?” Uncle R nodded and explained that he and his wife were on vacation. “I see. I suppose you know that all the McWhatsits that went to America were sheep thieves, cattle rustlers, or wife stealers?”

But back to the brothers: All grown up, they traveled south down through the Valley of Virginia – good farmland there, but all spoken for – looking for a place they could farm. And they got to this part of Virginia, in the Ridge and Valley region, and pieces of it were still available. So they went about looking for a homestead, and they came across a family who was planning to sell part of their land. Richard looked at John and asked, “You think?” and John scuffed the ground with his shoe, nodded, and agreed, “I think.”

And so the McWhatsit brothers bought the Old Homeplace from the family who bought it from the family who stole it from the Indians, and they moved in. Old Jacob Harmon, patriarch of the family who settled here not realizing that the area was summer hunting grounds for Shawnee from Ohio, was actually killed by an attack not long before, and people were still a bit uneasy about Indians. The Cecils, who bought the farmstead from the Harmons, had worried about Indians. But the McWhatsits persevered, marrying and begetting nice little Scottish children, building on to the cabin to make a proper two-story house with a porch and turning the old cabin into the kitchen. They built another house just a little further down the road from the cabin for John and his family, while Richard and his family stayed in the original house.

At some point, John moved on to Indiana, but Richard stayed. He married a local girl, and had several children, including a son named William McWhatsit. Time marched on – the McWhatsits turn over generations slowly, on average every forty years – and at the time of the Civil War, William, in his late fifties, had one son. William Addison McWhatsit was twelve years old when the Federal Army came through in May of 1864, intending to cut the railroad bridge over the New River.

Unlike in other parts of Virginia, there weren’t many Civil War battles on this end of the state. It was far less developed (well, truth be told, it still is), and there really wasn’t much reason for an army to come through, except to forage – or to disrupt the other side’s supply line. The Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain took place about two miles from the McWhatsit farm, and never touched it directly, except in two incidents.

Up across the mountain, where their troops were camping on the Shannon farm along the Back Creek bottom, a Union sergeant was instructing his men to build fires with wood from the fences. The outraged homeowner came stomping across the field to pick a bone with the sergeant, shouting about the depredations of the troops amongst his livestock and the holes dug in his cropfields, adding, “And now you rascals have chopped up all my fence rails!” The sergeant, listening to the tirade, finally spat tobacco juice at the farmer’s feet and explained, “No, old man, those ain’t fence rails. Looks like you cut your firewood too long, and my boys is helping you out.” (Heard that story from my father-in-law, who heard it from, as far as I can tell, a member of the Shannon family.)

I won’t get deeply into descriptions of the battle, other than to say that it involved Union troops led by Gen. George Crook, made up of units from Ohio and Pennsylvania, with some artillery units from Kentucky, and two small Virginia units (the 45th and 60th) led by Brig. Gen. Albert Jenkins, along with Home Guard local troops generally made up of boys and old men. It was a rout. After about an hour of fierce fighting, most of it hand-to hand, the Union forces broke through and then had a clear path to the railroad crossing at the river. The Union plan was to destroy the bridge and disrupt supply lines from Tennessee.   Casualties were very heavy on both sides.   (If you want more information on the battle, you can check out the article at Wikipedia, or this detailed look at the battle, complete with modern photos of the site. Of further historical note: Future presidents Col. Rutherford B. Hayes and Major William McKinley both served under Crook in this battle.)

Another unsubstantiated story The CEO tells (no idea where this one came from, other than from his father, but at least partially borne out by official descriptions) is hilarious. Gen. Crook intended to completely destroy the bridge over the New River at Radford, VA. The troops were able to dismantle the rails at the Dublin depot, and they did indeed burn the railroad bridge – but that was because they’d made a big mistake. You can imagine it:

The Union troops have finally dislodged the small group of rebel defenders here on the west bank of the New River, and they’re all standing around the railroad bridge, digging their boots in the dirt and spitting curses, when General Crook comes riding up on his horse. “Well, boys, what’re you waiting for? Light the fuses, blow it up!” He looks closer. “Wait a minute. All I see there on the bridge is hay. Where are the explosives?”

Nobody answers. He asks again, eyes narrowed, voice dangerously quiet, “Where’s the gunpowder?”

A red-faced colonel gets up the courage to raise his face to the general and explain, stammering, “Well, sir – I’m sorry, sir – we seem to have left it in West Virginia.”

And this starts the shouted recriminations: He left it! No, you were supposed to have packed it! We thought they were getting it. Well, it was on the wagon last time I saw it, so where’s the dang wagon? Not my responsibility… well, it weren’t for dang sure my lookout!

And General Crook smacks his forehead and drags his hand down over his face, thinking, “This has got to be the dumbest thing that has ever happened to me…”

Poor guy. Apparently, no heads rolled and nobody got demoted or court-martialed, so you wonder what actually did happen to the explosives. No official account I’ve read has ever mentioned this story, but since the wooden bridge was burned while the stone supports were left standing, that’s at least some small amount of confirmation.   Armies were certainly using explosives to destroy bridges at this time.  However, the Confederates were able to rebuild the bridge and replace the rails within weeks, and continue running the railroad, at least through this area.

The McWhatsits come in here in the aftermath of the battle (and this story is family lore, passed down without any outside corroboration): some Union foragers rode by looking for whatever edibles and valuables they could find, and what they found was a small farm by a spring, with a few mediocre horses standing around under the trees. The soldiers started to round up the horses in preparation for commandeering them, but two teenage girls came out on the porch of the house and begged them not to take the horses. “There’s nobody here but us and an old man and a little boy, and if you take the horses, we’ll starve.”

Such a predicament would hardly have swayed Billy Butcher Sherman, he of the Scorched Earth policy that devastated so much of the South, but these Federals were fresher from home. Likely they had sisters, too, and they must have taken a good look at the weathered house and the sunbrowned girls with their homespun dresses and sharp-bladed Scottish noses, and been struck with pity. The soldiers tipped their hats and rode on, leaving the horses behind.

Not long after that – probably the same day, and this is acknowledged fact – Union medical officials commandeered the house as a hospital, and pressed the McWhatsit girls into service as nurses. Most of the wounded were taken to the larger Cloyd house, closer to the battle, but the wounded Confederate officers were taken to the McWhatsit house. General Jenkins of the Confederate army was among the wounded brought into the house, and Union surgeons amputated his damaged left arm. More acknowledged fact: after most of the Union forces withdrew from the area in the next day or so, having accomplished their objective and gotten wind of Confederate reinforcements coming their way (this news being merely a telegram full of bluff), Confederate cavalry burst into the house and attempted to take the Union surgeons prisoner, and it was only General Jenkins’ insistence that they be allowed to finish treating the Confederate officers that made the cavalry back down.

The family story, handed down from William Addison McWhatsit to his son, William Crockett McWhatsit, and to his son, William Meek McWhatsit, and to his son, The CEO McWhatsit, was that young Add had been handed a grisly package all wrapped up like a joint from the butcher shop and told to bury the general’s arm. So he did.

Back to the corroborated fact: after a few days, General Jenkins was moved to a more commodious home-hospital in the nearby Belspring area, where he seemed to be recuperating well for several days, even beginning to work on his official report of the battle for General Lee. Then an orderly accidentally knocked his ligature loose with some rough handling, and the general bled to death in a very short time.

And once again to the family story: the general’s family was dreadfully upset at the prospect of burying him without his arm, and so young Add was bidden to go disinter Gen. Jenkins’ arm, so that the general could be buried whole. As a grown man reminiscing to his son, Add was wont to shake his head and observe that the weather had been quite dry for some weeks, the ground was extremely hard, and it was no picnic digging up the general’s arm, which was of course in a state of some decay.

The Old Homeplace is still standing, though no one has lived there since the late 1960s. There’s no trace of the Civil War left behind, no bullets in the dooryard or bloodstains on the wood floors, but people keep coming by to look at it. As far as we know, it’s one of the few historical sites still owned by the family that was living there at the time.

Top image was taken by The CEO from our back deck, looking over the farm.  Just a little to the left is the battle site.  Image of the railroad bridge is from the Virginia Tech special image library.  Images of Gen. Jenkins and of his grave were taken from rootsweb.  Note the inscription on the tombstone stating that Gen. Jenkins died at Dublin Station.   We have several pictures of the Old Homeplace, but  none digital.  I could go down there now and take one, but it’s kind of muddy and I’d rather not right at the moment!

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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).

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Monday, Jan 3: Chilly again this morning. (Or have I just forgotten what it’s like in the morning, having been lazy and not arisen before 8am at any point over the last two weeks, while the children have been out of school?) In any case, brrr. Forgot to scent myself, in the rush to get out the door and drop the kids off at their respective schools on my way to work – and I had cleaned out my purse recently, so I didn’t even have any samples on hand.

Statement Day at work again. I hate Statement Day.

SOTEvening: Amouage Lyric Woman. Gorgeous stuff. Gaze’s comment was, after walking past me, “Hey, are you wearing perfume? That’s nice. It’s… woody, right? And vanilla. And something smoky – or is that the fireplace?” I let him sniff up close. “I like it. It’s… sort of weird. Not flowery. But I like it. A guy could wear that.” I told him there was rose in it, and he gave me the skeptical face. “No, really – rose. Imagine what cooked rose would smell like,” I said. He sniffed again. “Oh. That. It’s nice.”

The CEO and our offspring are right now glued to the TV, where they are watching Stanford whomp up on Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. This is Not Good… and then, after halftime, it got Worse. ‘Nuff said, I think.

Tuesday, Jan. 4: It was supposed to be sunny and in the mid-40s today, but it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, it was cloudy and only in the low 30s. SOTD: Parfumerie Generale Ilang Ivohibe. I should try more PGs, they’re good. Tuberose Couture was very good (though nothing touches Carnal Flower for tuberose, IMO). Iris Taizo/Orientale was very good too, and (again IMO) totally kicked the uber-pricey L’Artisan LE Iris Pallida in its pricey, unavailable butt. I’ve been wanting to try Rose Brulure and Aomassai for some time, too. Ilang Ivohibe is quite nice, all comfortable jammy ylang and vanilla for a couple of hours before making a final descent via that “amber” material that reads as shaving cream on me. It’s not just my nose, either. I stuck my wrist in front of all the males in this household, and their first comment was, “Vanilla,” and their second one was, “No, wait. Shaving cream.”

See? See? I’m not crazy.

SOTA was SSS Champagne de Bois. I’ve been waiting for the SSS website to come back online with things other than samples – I want a 5ml purse spray of CdB at least. Also, I’m getting really excited about Laurie’s new scents-in-progress: the white floral and the vintage-inspired one.

Wednesday, Jan. 5: Annoying day. Cold. SOTD: Dior New Look 1947 again, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything in my review. (Nope, it’s pretty dull, IMO.)

Thursday, Jan. 6: I meant to start back with testing various tuberose concoctions – samples mostly amassed last winter when I started the Tuberose Series reviews – so I picked up three out of my little box and took them to work: Creed Tubereuse Indiana, AG Gardenia Passion, which I have worn before and liked but never reviewed, and Il Profumo Gardenia Royale, which I’ve also worn before and liked but never reviewed. However, when it came right down to putting something on skin, I just rebelled. Nope, I said. No, I want Mary Greenwell Plum. Grabbed that decant out of my purse and spritzed away. It’s got white flowers in there, but also some other stuff going on too, and the tangy fruits and soft chypre angle just seemed right.

Tonight we started up the second semester’s practice for our community choir. Coming off a pretty decent concert (okay, okay, decent for a small-town volunteer group, anyway) of Vivaldi’s Gloria and some other middlebrow music, we picked up several new members, several of which are ditching the local Sweet Adelines to join us. Which is pretty gutsy of them. I’m not dissing the Adelines’ musical talent, but they do a very, very different style of music, much more oriented to popular music of the past, not your standard straight-up choral style. I mean, we have a lot of fun at practice, but our director’s something of a martinet: screw up in a dress rehearsal, or, God forbid, a concert, and you get the evil eye. (Maybe she reserves that for people who know better than to screw up? I don’t know.)

In other news: The CEO stepped in for a colleague who left the university suddenly last summer (got married and moved to be with her husband), for which he was told he’d be compensated $5000 to teach one class in the Agricultural and Applied Economics Department. When that cash didn’t show up in his pay packet at the end of the year, he went asking some questions, and it turns out that AgAppEcon did not have the budget to pay him cash. Instead, AgAppEcon transferred $5K to Agricultural Technology for “professional development,” and that money can only be used to reimburse The CEO, or someone else in AgTech, for continuing education, or a seminar, or something. He could buy new equipment, but of course that would remain property of Virginia Tech. Worse, he has to go and do whatever-it-is before June! He can’t apply the cash to a doctorate in the future.

And just as I was beginning to be appalled at this situation, The CEO told me he’d come up with a solution: He had found an international interdisciplinary seminar on Malta, held during Spring Break. And he intended to make plans to take me with him. Since most expenses would be borne by “his” $5K professional-development money, we’d only have to pay for my airfare and possibly some meals. He figures he’ll come out ahead, since he won’t have to pay taxes on cash income. Huh. I think he’s got a devious mind, but if it gets me to Malta, I might not complain. We’d have to fly into Italy to get there, so we might even stay in Rome a few days.

Quick, somebody tell me what the perfume shop landscape in Rome is like. And whether I’d need some Italian phrases, or if I need to just point and grunt and wave my credit card.

Friday, Jan. 7: Chilly. SOTD: Fifi Chachnil, which has been described to me as “girly.” Well, maybe it is, but if so, Fifi is a bad, bad girl. She starts off a little like Shalimar, all lemon and rose and vanilla powder, and then this sweet tobacco-leather thing comes in, like Fifi has been doing a raunchy mattress dance with a guy wearing English Leather. Dries down to Shaving Cream Amber, but for awhile it’s pretty sexy. I wasn’t embarrassed wearing it to work, because dabbed from the vial it’s not all that loud and I doubt I was scandalizing anyone but myself. Whooee…

Hey, it’s snowing. Little dry-ish flakes, coming straight down, with no wind. Huh. Wonder if it’s going to settle in, or just do what I call “spitting snow.”

Saturday, Jan. 8: It snowed a long time, but it was those little dry flakes, and it got windy, so the snow blew around a lot and not much stayed on the ground. The CEO came in from feeding cows this morning and glared out the window, muttering something about not knowing if he needed to put chains on the tractor or not.

SOTD: Tauer Eau d’Epices. This reminds me quite a bit of Orange Star, but without the Tang Dust (orange) and Soap (orange blossom) bits. I like it. I don’t need any, but it’s nice.

Bookworm’s indoor track meet went well – she came in fifth in the 3200 meters, earning points for her team, behind her teammate Grace, who came in third. She apparently had to fight for space, too: she passed a girl at the fourth turn on one lap, and then the competitor wanted her space back, and threw an elbow at Bookworm. (“Throwing an elbow” is using your natural arm movement while running to make or maintain personal space on the track by jostling another runner. The CEO tells me this is pretty standard practice, which I didn’t know. I was a swimmer. Swimmers stay in their own lanes.) So Bookworm threw an elbow in return, keeping the other girl from taking the inside lane back, and the two of them duked it out for a little while, until the other girl stumbled at some point and Bookworm took off and left her behind. The 3200m was the last event to finish, so she and Grace were last onto the bus, to be greeted with cheers and clapping for her toughness.

I’m so proud of her. She’s The Little Engine That Could, five-foot-nothin’ of grit and baling twine. (And dimples.)

Sunday, Jan. 9: It was 6°F when we got up at 7:30 this morning. That is darn cold, at least for here. But Gaze says, “There comes a point when you can’t tell the difference between ‘cold’ and ‘colder.’”

SOTMorning: Montale White Aoud. I have worn this sample before and was on the fence about it. I still am. I like the initial medicinal note, I like the rose, I like the woody vanilla. What I don’t like is that balsam-y Opium note that shows up after a couple of hours, before it finally leaves you floating in a cloud of sweet vanilla.

I haven’t tried many Montales; they’re hard for me to access and not many of them seem to appeal on the basis of notes. I have, however tried Oud Queen Roses and Aoud Roses Petals. And yes, the names are awkward. Why the different spellings of oud? Why the relentless plurals? I liked the rose oud ones but found them relentlessly rosy, with only a few moments of nice bandaid-y stuff in the beginning. Montale strikes me as being a relentless sort of house, judging by what other people have said about it, in terms of a “thisiswhatweDOhere, take it or leave it” mentality. For what it’s worth, I had a slight preference for Queen Roses. But I already have SSS Velvet Roses, so I consider my collection complete on the straightforward armful of roses type of scent.

(I quite like the bandaid-type oud accord, to be honest. Rubber and medicine? Cool, count me in. Balsams? No thanks, count me out. There’s just no telling about taste, is there?)

SOTAfternoon, as I’m helping Taz with his salt dough map of Virginia – topographical, delineated by geographical region and labeled with rivers, bodies of water, and several cities, with inset maps of Native American tribes and agricultural products by region – Le Labo for Anthropologie Poudre d’Orient. Hmm. No opinion yet, although early reports mention New-Barbie smell and, of all things, cucumbers. Later reports mention that this is a Heck, No choice.

Taz used to play with Bookworm’s Barbies: he would make them jump off the piano stool into the area-rug “ocean,” and then make his toy shark eat them, with sadistic glee apparent as he voiced the Barbies’ shrieks of alarm followed by drowning sounds. (If he weren’t such a gentle kid in real life, I’d worry about him.)

Photo of perfume collection from true68 at Fragrantica. Aren’t those Merveilles bottles pretty?  Mae West photo from mindspring.com.  Image of Virginia’s Indian tribes from Virginia’s First People site.


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Incomprehatsible.

I’ve been feeling for some time now, over these past couple of Really Cold Winters, so like the 1970s winters of my childhood, that I need a winter hat.

I used to wear hats, usually toboggans, all winter – well, for one thing, my mother pretty much insisted on it.  By the time I was in high school, though, I was a) worried about my hair and b) not very cold without a hat.  Our winters had become much less cold, as well.  So I eschewed hats.  I went through a (ridiculous) Earmuff Phase in college, during which I think I had three pairs of them – a white faux-fur pair, a maroon pair to match my knit gloves, and a fuzzy teal pair.   But earmuffs don’t keep your actual head warm, either.  I’m not even discussing their fashion, um, wrongness.

In my late 20s, I did sometimes want a covering for my head that wouldn’t ruin my hair, and bought one of those hood-scarf thingies to wear with my good long wool coat.  But it’s acrylic knit, and it’s pilly and decrepit now, and, to be honest, cheesy.  I expressed displeasure.

So Bookworm crocheted me one out of some bulky blue-and-green marled yarn, as a Christmas present.  It’s super warm, and the color makes my eyes look pretty.  It also makes me look like one of the dwarves from The Hobbit, which is not an especially good look if you are short and plump, as I am.

And then, last week, there was a picture all over Yahoo! of Queen Elizabeth II leaving St. Mary’s Church in Sandringham after Christmas services, wearing a fur hat.  Immediately, I wanted one.

A fur hat! I exclaimed to myself, and considered the possibilities.  It wouldn’t squash my hair.  It would be warm.  It wouldn’t look like a toboggan hat, or a beret – which always seems to give me the effect of a toad looking out from under a toadstool – or a Mad Bomber hat.  And hats are stylishly quirky these days; not everyone wears them.  I am not stylish, but I am happy as a lark being quirky, so there you go.  I am also well aware that Queen Eliz is not known for being fashionable, and emulating her attire is an iffy proposition.  I just don’t care: I like that hat.

So I went to eBay.  They have tons of women’s vintage winter hats, did you know?  Crocheted, knit, felt, fur, faux fur, wool, velvet, with veils, with feathers… the contents of Great-Aunt Mildred’s closets are displayed for all to see there on eBay, stuff made in a time when they knew what they were doing: hand-stitched linings, smooth seams, everything built to last.

I thought faux fur or wool at first, unsure that I really wanted to wear real fur and definitely not up for confrontation with paint-flinging animal rights activists.  But I live in Hunting Central.  People who spend their weekends in tree stands or duck blinds tend not to be affronted by other people wearing fur.  And I certainly wouldn’t buy a new fur item, but the idea of wearing such an item made before I was born doesn’t bother me.  Contradictory?  Maybe.  What are we supposed to do with all those old fur coats, give them proper burial?  Burn them?  I’m all for banning the continued manufacture and import of fur; unlike leather, fur is not a byproduct of food.  I do feel that with vintage fur, throwing it away would be even more of a insult to the animals that were killed to provide it.

And so I bought a vintage fur hat for $20, a third of which cost was shipping – a bargain, if you ask me, a rescue of somebody’s past, and maybe even a rescue of mine: I have a photo of my grandmother wearing just such a hat, sometime in the 1960s, with a green tweed suit and ecru gloves.  The hat hasn’t arrived yet.  But yesterday, The CEO asked me what I’d like as a birthday gift, and I told him.  “A vintage fur hat.  Oh, and a small bottle of Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois, whenever the website opens up again.”

He looked at me, nonplussed.  “A fur hat? Where am I going to get such a thing?”  Then he blinked.  “Where are you going to wear such a thing?”

“Oh,” I said.  “I think I’ll manage.”

Feel free to share your stand on fur, but please keep it civil so I don’t have to shut down comments.

Image of Queen Elizabeth in fur hat from Huffington Post.  There’s no official confirmation that her hat and cuffs were real fur, though they certainly look like it to me.  Accompanying the Queen was her daughter-in-law Camilla, who was also wearing a fur hat.  Camilla’s hat, which seems to be mink, was apparently made from a coat belonging to her grandmother.  The Huffington Post article contains a poll on attitudes toward fur; at the moment, the poll seems to be running like this:

FINE:  38%        OFFENSIVE: 45%        LESS OFFENSIVE if vtg/repurposed: 17%

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