Perfume Chat Room, July 2

Perfume Chat Room, July 2

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, July 2, and here in the USA, it is the start of the long Fourth of July holiday weekend. We are back home after a long road trip that included two weeks in New Hampshire so we could visit my elderly father-in-law in the assisted living residence where he lives. It was a joy to see him every day! We stayed in a little rustic lake cottage, the kind with plain wood paneling and no insulation, which was very nostalgic for both of us, having spent many happy times in childhood in such cottages. This one had one bedroom, one bathroom, living room, tiny kitchen, and a small screened porch. It was very cozy and comfortable, but wow! that bathroom was TINY.

I brought home some balsam pillows and have enjoyed sniffing them to my heart’s content. I don’t know of any manmade fragrance that quite captures the real scent of balsam fir. We also brought home a large jug of real maple syrup (I won’t use any other kind) and various other maple sugar treats. Since we drove to New Hampshire, we made several stops along the way — Antietam, site of a famous Civil War battle, on the way north; and on the way south, Gettysburg, site of the three-day battle (July 1-3, 1863) that turned the tide of the Civil War in favor of the Union and later President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and Biltmore, in Asheville, North Carolina, the famous Vanderbilt estate that looks like a French chateau.

It’s good to be home, though! We’ll spend a quiet Fourth of July here with our kids; I do hope to see some fireworks this year, as most were cancelled last summer. Do you have any special plans, if you’re in the US? And for everyone — what are your favorite “outdoorsy” fragrances? Do you know of any that smell like real balsam?

Perfume Chat Room, June 18

Perfume Chat Room, June 18

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, June 18, and we have been having some post-lockdown adventures! Most importantly, we have been able to visit my husband’s elderly father for several days, going over to the assisted living facility where he lives for a few hours every afternoon. Since our kids are young adults, they are holding down the fort at home. We are in New England, the part of the US where my husband and I both spent parts of our childhood and that feels like “home” in so many ways. Staying in a rustic lake cottage surrounded by the scent of balsam trees and other vegetation brings back a lot of happy childhood memories! Not to mention the distinctive sounds of loons, which takes me right back to childhood and earlier vacations when our own children were very young.

We also went to a big restaurant the other night, for the first time in over a year. People here are literally giddy with happiness at the ongoing return to normalcy. As we waited for our table, a total stranger turned to me, beaming, and said “Isn’t it wonderful to be in a crowded restaurant again, full of happy people?” Yes, I said. And it was. This particular restaurant is by the side of a lake, with most of the seating in a huge screened porch that runs the length of the building, so we enjoyed plenty of fresh air circulating as well as a gorgeous view.

Since I’m partially on vacation (working remotely most mornings, taking off most afternoons), and it’s easier to focus on fragrance when I’m more at leisure, I brought with me a box full of fragrance samples to try, but I haven’t pulled many out yet. Mostly I’ve been enjoying the smells of New England summer, which are so different from the smells of a Southern summer. Have you been trying any new fragrances lately?

A Fragrant Christmas Eve

A Fragrant Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! That includes this household, and the air is full of festive fragrances, starting with the fresh balsam Christmas tree and wreaths on the front of the house. My oldest daughter baked a model of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in gingerbread (!!) for a local Shakespeare theater, using Mary Berry’s recipe from the Great British Baking Show, with extra ginger for her ginger-loving mother (me); its scent is still wafting through the house from its place of honor in our dining room.

Gingerbread model of Shakespeare's Globe Theater

Shakespeare’s Globe in gingerbread, on display in theater lobby

Soon, I will set up the slow cooker with our annual Christmas Eve dinner: a Greek stew called “stifado”, which combines lamb or beef with red wine, spices like cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, onions, tomatoes, and currants. We began using this recipe in the days when we went to two consecutive afternoon services on Christmas Eve because our three children were in two different choirs at church, singing in different services. We could leave the slow cooker to do its work, and when we came home, dinner was ready for hungry kids and the whole house smelled like red wine, fruit, and spices. Then there’s the scent of mulled cider (real cider, thank you, not the clear apple juice that gets labelled as cider during the holidays; the non-alcoholic kind we used to buy from a local orchard when I was a child).

Hot mulled cider, Food Network recipe by Ina Garten

Ina Garten’s Hot Mulled Cider

Add to those the fragrance of scented candles and wax melts, according to our mood, and the paperwhite narcissi in a pot, given to us every year by a gardening friend, and each room of the house has its own perfume. Somehow, they don’t clash. I haven’t yet tried the candle labeled “White Balsam”, but it sounds delectable: vanilla and mint combined with balsam fir. And of course, I still haven’t decided which of my many personal fragrances to wear today and tonight! I plan to make the most out of the day, fragrance-wise; I’ll choose one to wear until we get dressed for afternoon church (thankfully, we now attend only one service, although I actually didn’t mind unplugging from the world and attending two in a row); one for church; and one for when we sit down to a festive family dinner and the rest of the evening.

Dinner place setting of Spode Christmas Rose china

Spode’s Christmas Rose

Decisions, decisions! I now own a bottle of Caron’s Nuit de Noel, so I think that will have to be one of my choices, probably for this evening. Thinking of Goutal’s Nuit Etoilee for church, as it will be dark out when we emerge, but I could go with something based on incense instead, like Tauerville’s Incense Flash. A warm or spicy rose is always a good option, especially as our church is often filled with dark red roses and evergreens at Christmastime and my festive china has Christmas roses (hellebores) on it, so perhaps Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose or David Yurman Limited Edition, which beautifully combines roses with suede, oud, saffron, sandalwood, and a touch of raspberry. I often amp up the roses in my rose-centered fragrances with a dab of Abdul Samad al Qurashi’s Taif Roses, which my husband brought me back from a business trip to Dubai some years ago. Montale’s Intense Cafe is a strong contender for the fragrance I will wear before; it has a beautiful rosy heart, and it is one of the few fragrances I own that has prompted a complete stranger to approach me to ask what it was. On the other hand, I’ve been wearing Jo Malone’s Tudor Rose & Amber a lot lately; it is a beautiful, warm rose, and it lasts much longer than many Jo Malone scents without being intrusive or overwhelming. And then there’s Christmas Day to consider!

What fragrances mean Christmas or other winter festivities to you? Will you wear something special for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Are you hoping for any special fragrance gifts this Christmas?

Christmas perfume gifts