Scented Advent, December 20

Scented Advent, December 20

Okay, I didn’t choose an unknown scent today for Advent. I confess. I knew I was going to have a tough day at work (I’ve been back for less than a week) and some difficult conversations, so I pulled out my fragrance armor: Chanel No. 19, the green witch herself. If you want to read my thoughts on it, please click on the link and it will take you to a “Scent Semantics” post from September, when I wrote about No. 19 at some length.

Elphaba and Glinda from "Wicked"
Stars of “Wicked” production in Boston; image from the Lowell Sun

I’m something of a “goody two-shoes” so one might think I would identify more with the character on the left. But as we learn from “Wicked”, Glinda the Good isn’t as good as she appeared; and Elphaba isn’t as bad as she appeared. But Elphaba puts up a formidable facade, and that’s what I needed today. I think I emerged unscathed.

And you know, I always remember what a long-ago boss told me (TBH, I didn’t like him much, but he did occasionally have some good insights). He had been an airline executive in his earlier career, and he said more than once, “It’s been a good day at the office when no plane has crashed.” He’s right. No planes crashed, or were at risk, in my job today. Onward to the holidays!

Two of my three kids are home for the holidays, yay! One is still in college, so he’ll be with us well into January. The other is fully independent, but arrived today and will stay at least through Boxing Day. The third, another fully independent young adult, will arrive on Thursday. It’s really great to have them home, even just for a short while; they make us laugh. We will go to a friend and neighbor’s house on Thursday evening for an informal holiday party in their backyard, which will really put me in the holiday spirit. I’ll get back on track with the Guerlain samples tomorrow!

Meanwhile, I am mulling over what scent(s) I want to wear on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. I do have Caron’s Nuit de Noel, always a good option. I really like the gingerbread accord and spices in ELDO’s Like This. I also have a set of small sizes of Jo Malone’s special Christmas scents, like Orange Bitters and White Moss & Snowdrop. Fille en Aiguilles would be suitable, as well as Nuit Étoilèes, if I want evergreen vibes. Any suggestions for those three occasions? What will you wear?

Perfume Chat Room, December 10

Perfume Chat Room, December 10

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, December 10, and it’s the last official day of final exams at my workplace! Hurray — it has been a long, long fall semester with several unexpected challenges. Although I’ll still be working next week, it will be very quiet with most of the faculty and students having departed for their winter break. I’ve been diligently posting daily about the little surprises in my DIY Advent calendar, which has been great fun.

We’re looking forward to our son’s return from college next week; although he is so close by that we can see him any time, we try to give him his space and only show up at his side of the campus when he requests it (he attends the same university where I work). I’ve been having a hard time getting into the true holiday spirit, and I think it’s because this is really the first Christmas when we haven’t had at least one kid living at home the whole month. Last year, both of our daughters had moved home during the pandemic, so they were here even though our son was living on campus for his freshman year. Now, they live elsewhere with roommates, though still very close by, and they’ll probably come here around December 23 and stay through Boxing Day.

I’m very excited because I found a gift for my husband that he hadn’t already chosen and bought for himself! He is famous for just getting the few things he wants, which makes it hard for his family to surprise him. I did show it to him online before buying it, to make sure he would like it, but he was delighted and surprised by what I had found (it’s a framed print of one of his favorite places). Yay! I’ve caved to his way of doing gifts, though, in that I buy fragrances I want for him to “give” me. He has actually done very well when choosing fragrances for me on his own, but he’d rather I choose as he knows I usually have something particular in mind that I’d like.

I still resist the cash transfers that many young adults request as gifts. To me, that’s not a gift — it’s a transaction. Even if I give cash or gift cards, I still add an actual physical gift. How do you and your family manage holiday gifts, if you exchange gifts?

Hands exchanging holiday gift; image from
Holiday gift-giving; image from

Scent Semantics, December 6, 2021

Scent Semantics, December 6, 2021

Last month, organized by Portia, a group of us fragrance bloggers embarked on a collaborative project called “Scent Semantics.” On the first Monday of each month, we all take a word — the same word — as inspiration for a post that has some relationship to fragrance, broadly interpreted. There are six participating blogs: Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum GirlThe Alembicated GenieEau La LaUndina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. I hope you’ll all check out the Scent Semantics posts on each blog! I’m also counting this as my post for Scented Advent, Day 6.

Scent Semantics blog list

This month’s word is “angelic”, which is so apropos for this time of year. Lest you think angels are only relevant at this season to Christians and Christmas (my own faith tradition), I have learned that there is also a beautiful, traditional Jewish song, a zemirot, or “table hymn”, to welcome angels to a family’s Shabbat table, and it is often sung during Hanukkah, which ends tonight (December 6). It is called “Shalom Aleichem“, translated as “Peace be upon you.” What a lovely tradition! And of course, the angels of Christian tradition come straight to us from Judaism and the Old Testament, most notably the angel Gabriel, who appears in all three major Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and their scriptures as God’s messenger.

Gabriel is very busy during the months before and after the birth of Jesus Christ, according to Christian gospel and tradition. It is he who announces to Mary that God has chosen her to bear His son (the “Annunciation”). He also visits the husband of her childless cousin Elizabeth, a rabbi named Zechariah, telling him that he and his wife, despite their age and infertility, are to be blessed with a son. When Zechariah, doubting, asks for a sign, Gabriel strikes him dumb until his son is born and named (the baby boy will grow up to become John the Baptist, who presages Jesus’ ministry). Mary and Elizabeth spend part of their pregnancies together, Elizabeth recognizing that Mary has been blessed among women (the “Visitation“).

Tradition also holds that when Mary returns to Nazareth and her betrothed husband-to-be Joseph, visibly pregnant and not by him, Joseph is understandably troubled. Gabriel appears to him in a dream and assures him that he should go ahead and marry Mary, because she had not been unfaithful to him or unchaste, and that the child she would bear was to be the son of God and the long-awaited Messiah.

On the night that Jesus is born, the angel Gabriel appears to shepherds in the hills above Bethlehem and tells them that the Messiah has been born, and where to find him and his mother. Here is one of my favorite illustrations of that scene, which I think captures the essence of angels better than any:

Vision of angel wings, appearing to shepherds on Christmas Eve
An angel appears to shepherds outside Bethlehem. Art by Gary Blythe,, for “This Is The Star.”

I’ve left the illustration in a larger format so you can see the details. So what, you are asking, does all this have to do with fragrance? I am now the happy owner of several “Heirloom Elixirs” by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, and one of them is a gorgeous fragrance called Angel’s Wing.

It is based on the scents of two plants, both of which have varieties named “Angel’s Wing”: milkweed and jasmine. Jasmine, of course, is very familiar to lovers of perfume; but milkweed? In Dawn’s words:

Both are exquisitely beautiful, and both have geneses that are colloquially named “Angel’s Wing.”   And perhaps you didn’t know that both have fragrant blooms of distinct loveliness.  Angel’s Wing, the perfume, takes both the milky / sappy plant notes, as well as notes from the blossom of the milkweed plant and fuses them with the haunting scent of Angel’s Wing jasmine.  Together they create a lush, verdant, and rich scent that balances both cool and warm sensations, which makes it a perfect scent for this very time of year (and to guide us through our own transformations, too).

Angel’s Wing is ethereal but powerful, like the illustration above. It doesn’t smell like any other created fragrance I know, despite the familiarity of jasmine (which treads softly here, dancing in and out but never dominating the scent). It has an aura of yellow pollen, and there is an actual milkiness to it, combined with green sap, but it’s not dairy milk; it’s more of a perceived creamy texture than an actual milky smell. It reminds me a bit of honeysuckle nectar. Milkweed is an essential food source for the endangered Monarch butterflies, and butterflies fired Dawn’s imagination for this scent of the transitional season from September to October: “the inspiration came from a palpable sense of our own transition and transformation.  It started with the butterfly: the symbol of transformation itself.” Transformation. How — angelic.

Milkweed seeds are remarkably graceful; they burst from their pods with feathery white parasols ready to carry them on the wind, far and wide. They float with the lightest puff of a breeze — ethereal, yes, but persistent in their pursuit of the plant’s survival and spread. Their delicate fluff reminds me of the feathered yet powerful wings illustrated above, as Gabriel visits the shepherds.

Single milkweed seed floating over prairie
Milkweed seed floating over grassland; image from

The angel Gabriel’s last appearance in the Nativity story is just after Jesus’ birth, when he again visits Joseph in a dream. Gabriel warns him to flee with Mary and the newborn child, to evade the soldiers who will shortly raid Bethlehem and murder its infant sons, seeking to kill an unknown but prophesied child who is seen as a threat to the reigning King Herod. Joseph and Mary escape safely to Egypt and the holy child survives. This tragic end to the Christmas of the gospels is often ignored, as our traditions become more and more secular, but it presages Jesus’ own fate when his presence, words, and acts become a threat to the reigning powers in Jerusalem.

On a happier note, and speaking of angels and Christmas traditions, if you ever get a chance to visit New York during the holidays, the best Christmas tree in town is not the one in Rockefeller Center (glorious as that is). No, it’s the annual Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is installed every year in the museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall together with a Neapolitan Baroque “crèche”, or Nativity scene. Together with the usual villagers, shepherds, Holy Family, visiting kings, and all the structures and animals imagined for Bethlehem by these Baroque artisans, there are angels. Dozens and dozens of angels, hovering above, suspended from the 20+ foot-tall tree’s branches.

Christmas tree and crèche, Metropolitan Museum, New York. Image from
Nativity scene and angels on the Met Museum's annual Christmas tree.
Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; other side,

It is a breathtaking sight that never grows stale, no matter how often I’ve visited. New York exudes magic at Christmastime, and this tree is an essential ingredient in the magic.

Of the Heirloom Elixirs I’ve tried so far, Angel’s Wing is one of my favorites. It has won my heart with its somewhat odd combination of ingredients. I think it would suit any season, really, though if you avoid floral scents in the winter, in favor of spices, resins, incense, etc., you might want to save it for spring. It doesn’t change much over the time I’ve worn it, although it does become slightly warmer and it has a soft musky base that emerges from behind the milkweed and jasmine.

What do you think of when you hear or read the word “angelic”?

P.S. Everything but one particular scent on DSH Perfumes’ website can be had for 20% off for the rest of this year, using the code “light20”. This is Dawn’s annual “thank-you” sale, and it includes a set of this year’s Heirloom Elixirs that you can buy even if you hadn’t previously subscribed. I did both, as one of my small efforts to support our independent perfumers (many of whom have faced hard times during this pandemic).

Perfume Chat Room, November 12

Perfume Chat Room, November 12

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, November 12, and I’m taking my husband to get his booster vaccine later this morning, after physical therapy (he’s recovering from knee surgery and can’t drive). Wish us luck! The Christmas ads are proliferating, as are store decorations. In the past, I was a bit irritated by the displays that went up the day after Halloween, but this year I am enjoying them! I’m really ready to celebrate a more normal holiday season, as evidenced by a recent errand I ran to Target, which is completely overrun with holiday-themed everything — and not only did I not cringe, I beamed.

I keep seeing ads for gorgeous Advent calendars with lovely miniatures of various cosmetics and fragrances. The ones from Chanel, Dior, and Guerlain are spectacular! I’m not really tempted, though, because most of the calendars include many products I probably wouldn’t use. I’ve only ever bought one such Advent calendar; it was by Atelier Cologne, and each daily offering was a sample or mini vial of one of their scents. I may create my own Advent calendar for fun, and just fill one with minis and samples I haven’t tried yet, which would encourage me to work my way through more of them!

Have you ever bought a fragrance or cosmetic Advent calendar? Which one? Are you tempted by any of this year’s offerings?

Collection of beauty product Advent calendars, 2021
Advent calendars; image from
Perfume Chat Room, November 5

Perfume Chat Room, November 5

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, November 5, and I am remembering that it is Guy Fawkes Day in the UK! That only occurred to me because I was making sure I had today’s date right, and “Remember, remember, the Fifth of November” popped into my head. I’ve written here before that my late mother was English, so my childhood had an odd mixture of American and English books, stories, and traditions. Most American children probably never hear of Guy Fawkes Day! We never celebrated it, though.

This week also marked the launch of “Scent Semantics”, a fun collaboration between me and five other bloggers, organized by Portia (of Australian Perfume Junkies and A Bottled Rose). It’s a word game! I love word games.

This weekend, we in the US will set our clocks back an hour for the annual end of daylight savings time (“fall back, spring forward”). I don’t actually mind, because it was so dark this morning at 7:30 that I will prefer having that occur earlier, at 6:30. The weather has gotten downright chilly at night, quite suddenly, so it really feels like fall now. We’ve now entered the period that I used to call “the forced march” between Halloween and New Year’s Day, which was such an incredibly busy time when my children were small. From all the holidays beloved of children, to two family birthdays (one in November, one in December), to the end-of-semester work crunch, it all got a bit overwhelming at times. We simplified matters years ago when I decided we wouldn’t travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas, dragging three kids through crowded airports, especially since there were years when I was working right up to December 23.

Last year was so strange, though, even just celebrating at home as we always do — on top of the pandemic isolation, we had the plumbing disaster that damaged much of our living room, so it was off limits for celebrations of any kind. All three of our kids were living back at home, and one was recovering from COVID (she’s 100% fine now). There were unexpected outbursts of emotions on a regular basis, and the conflicts to be expected when five adults are living together in close quarters with limited outlets for interaction. Whew!

So I’m actually quite looking forward to this holiday season, with our house now almost fully restored to lovely order — repaired, replastered, repainted, refurbished. The young adults have been able to move out and relaunch, which makes them very happy. They live nearby, which makes ME very happy. My husband had a knee replacement almost three weeks ago, and he’s recovering very well, so he should be in great shape by Thanksgiving and thereafter.

He very sweetly suggested that I should pick out a really special perfume gift I’d like to have this Christmas, as a thank-you for all the care-giving and household tasks I’ve been handling since his surgery. Any ideas, perfume friends? What’s on your wishlist?

Guy Fawkes holiday, costume, gunpowder
Guy Fawkes Day; image from
Perfume Chat Room, December 25

Perfume Chat Room, December 25

Merry Christmas, and 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, December 25, and it is Christmas Day! Happy Christmas to all who celebrate it! This year, it is a strange holiday, with church services online, many fewer gatherings, less Christmas shopping, etc. Not to mention the ongoing distractions here in the US from our crazy-making election year, which seems never to end. But, as “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” reminds us, “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. ‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.’” And so it does.

At Christmas 2020, my family is so thankful for our many blessings. As some of you readers know, I occasionally do a post on “What Went Well” which is a mindfulness and gratitude exercise also called “Three Blessings.” The idea is that one lists a number of things that went well, or turned out to be blessings, in a given period of time. So here are some of mine, for 2020:

  • Good health for all of us, despite one daughter having had COVID 19 this fall (thankfully, she recovered quickly);
  • An effective COVID 19 vaccine, which was given this week to my beloved father-in-law (our sole remaining parent/grandparent) at his assisted living facility;
  • Continued employment for 3 out of the 4 working adults in our family, and an upcoming callback interview for the 4th in the New Year;
  • A roof over our heads in a home we love, in spite of unexpected plumbing repairs and gaping holes in plaster ceilings beneath dismantled bathrooms (!);
  • The ability to afford the repairs;
  • Our loving family that has been able to live together amicably, back together under said roof, during this pandemic;
  • The opportunity and ability to give gifts to each other and to various charities in these troubled times.

What about you, what are the blessings that come to your mind? Or what went well for you recently? And of course, since I mostly write here about fragrance, what fragrance are you wearing for the holidays? I’m currently in Bond No. 9’s I Love New York For Holidays. I expect to try out some of Jo Malone’s Christmas Cologne Sampler later today!

Perfume Chat Room, December 18

Perfume Chat Room, December 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, December 18, and it is exactly one week before Christmas Day, as well as the last day of Hanukkah. What fragrant gifts do you expect to give, or hope to get? I have a few ideas: for instance, IKEA still has in stock its line of scented candles from its collaboration with Byredo’s Ben Gorham. I bought some when they were first in stores, and they’re very appealing: nice scents in pretty ceramic jars with matching lids. Everyone in my family likes scented candles, so they’ll get some of those. Zara has finally brought its “Zara Emotions” line to the US, the fragrances created by Jo Malone of Jo Loves, that launched last year in Europe. I’ve bought the discovery set, I’ll be interested to try them. There are several gift options on the website, including sets with candles in matching scents.

I’m planning to assemble a box of unused or underused fragrances from my collection for my kids to rummage through and choose what they like. I don’t have many options to put in there for my son, but he likes Cool Water, so I’ll give him that, and I’m going to see if he likes Gucci’s Memoire d’Une Odeur. I have plenty of options to offer my daughters! I’ve bought a few things for my husband to “give” me, lol, mostly from independent artisan perfumers like Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, and Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays.

I sent my two sisters in New England sets of Stash’s “Christmas in Paris” tea, with china mugs decorated with scenes of Paris. The tea is supposed to combine flavors of chocolate, lavender and mint! It sounds lovely and I may have to get some for my own family to try. I’m also looking forward to starting some real holiday cooking, which always makes the house smell wonderful.

What are you planning?

Scent Sample Sunday: Bond No. 9 I Love New York for Holidays

Scent Sample Sunday: Bond No. 9 I Love New York for Holidays

As I’ve been learning about and exploring more fragrances, I find myself doing something I never used to do: picking fragrances to suit seasons of the year. I’m sure this is because I am paying more attention to the fragrances themselves and their notes, instead of just spraying on something I’ve always liked and used, lovely as that might be. So I used to rotate reliably among a small group of floral fragrances, no matter what the season, weather, or time of year — nothing wrong with that, but very predictable. Now that I have a larger collection, and one subscription (Scentbird), I am more intentional in what I choose to wear on a given day.

This fall and winter, I sought out fragrances that emphasized fewer floral notes, though those are still a major love of mine, and had more of a cold weather vibe. Two that come to mind are ELDO’s Noel au Balcon and Bond No. 9’s I Love New York for Holidays. I’ve enjoyed both very much.

I’ve found different descriptions of the notes for the Bond No. 9: Now Smell This and Basenotes listed them as: tangerine, blueberries, plum, freesia, osmanthus, sandalwood, white amber, teakwood, vanilla gelatto and musk, when it was launched in late 2013. Fragrantica, however, says the notes are: mandarin orange, apricot and pomegranate; middle notes are fennel, nutmeg and freesia; base notes are patchouli, leather, musk and praline. It is no longer listed on Bond No. 9’s own website (I think it has been discontinued), so it’s hard to know which is correct, although I would guess that the notes listed when it launched were the ones announced by the maker. Based on my own nose, the opening seems closer to Fragrantica’s description: I get mostly a strong apricot note, which I like. I definitely smell the freesia in the middle, with the apricot still going strong, and there is an astringent middle note which could be nutmeg or fennel. Not smelling any blueberries, plum, or osmanthus. When I first apply it, I get a little pop of something green, almost like balsam, but it vanishes quickly.

There is certainly a sweetness that emerges as it dries down; to me, it smells more like the praline described on Fragrantica than the “vanilla gelatto” listed elsewhere. Other commenters have said this fragrance smells like Angel to them, because of the praline and patchouli notes, but I don’t like Angel and I do like For Holidays; they don’t seem similar, to me. The latter’s sweetness is never overpowering, while I find Angel both overpowering and cloying.

CaFleureBon had a great review back in 2013, and the reviewer listed notes that were a combination of both lists, including a comment that it was osmanthus that gave off the apricot smell. I have an osmanthus in my garden, and I don’t smell it in For Holidays; I smell spot-on apricot. Regardless, this is an excellent summary of my own experience with it:

An unlikely trio of mandarin, the fruit of good fortune, blended with osmanthus flower, with its buttery smoky peachy/apricot aroma, and tart pomegranate all create this delicious “fantasy” fruit compote that had my mouth practically watering. I Love NY for the Holidays is unisex from start to finish, and despite the listed usually feminine fruits it stays balanced thanks to heart notes of crisp licorice-tinged fennel, alluring nutmeg and a soft silken (not powdery) freesia. Perhaps the fennel is where the green came from and the spices flowers and fruits are arranged just so that the sublime scent of Christmas at home comes wafting through. The finish here is beguiling. At first it is almost oriental and floral smelling and veers very close to the feminine before settling into a comfortable pseudo-gourmand haze. Labdanum, woody warm and resinous, lingers with soft skin musk and a caramel-chocolate praline note. Woven together not unlike a fine colorful tapestry, this unites fruits, a hint of flowers with herb and spice and frames it in sensual and oriental deliciousness; resulting in a festive modern gourmet/floral blend. This is a genuine beauty and truly a gift worth giving…and owning! Sillage: very good. Longevity: excellent.

Truly, although only a few of the notes are traditionally “holiday” fragrance notes, like apricot/orange and nutmeg, this DOES evoke winter holidays! I have spent many holiday seasons in New York City, and that season is magical. The tree in Rockefeller Center, the ice skating, the elaborate lights and store window decorations on Fifth Avenue, the festive events all over the city — everyone should experience them at least once. One of the ultimate holiday experiences in New York is to see the ballet The Nutcracker, performed by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. Ultimately, THAT is what For Holidays evokes in my mind: a dance of fruits, flowers, spices and sweets that lingers after the last orchestral strains have ended.

Two ballet dancers in the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker

The Nutcracker; photo from New York City Ballet.


It’s Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas …

It’s Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas …

Is there any season to compare with Christmas in the range and variety of lovely fragrances it evokes? From the balsam-scented boughs of wreaths, garlands and decorated trees to the delicious smells emanating from kitchens; from the incense of Midnight Mass to the smoke of fireplaces hung with stockings; from the spiced scents of oranges pierced with cloves and meat roasting with rosemary and garlic, to the narcotic perfume of paperwhite narcissi forced in pots — the fragrances are everywhere.

I make some holiday drinks mostly because of their wonderful smell, although they also taste terrific. One favorite is the Scandinavian mulled wine Glögg, a concoction of red wine, port, aquavit and brandy mixed with fresh ginger, orange zest, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, raisins and almonds. I make it in a slow cooker and let it simmer all day. Heaven! One must approach it with care, though — one mug makes you feel lovely and warm inside, with holiday goodwill toward all coursing through your veins, and a second mug will likely leave you on the floor, relying on others’ goodwill to take you home and put you to bed. There are many variations on recipes for Glögg, easily found online; I encourage you to try it. So easy and festive.

One of my favorite blogs, Bois de Jasmin, has had posts in which readers recommend various perfumes to wear on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and throughout the holiday season. So much fun to read what others recommend and enjoy! I decided to layer the gorgeous attar of Taif Rose that my husband brought me from Dubai with Aramis Calligraphy Rose, for the notes of rose, frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense and myrrh are obvious candidates for Christmas, but rose, you ask? “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” is my response.

On a more serious note, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin is again running an online fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders, an admirable and effective organization that provides medical care to civilians and refugees in some of the most dangerous, war-torn parts of the world. As the Christian world gathers to worship the homeless newborn of a refugee family, born at a time of armed strife and conflict, we should remember the children and families who today find themselves in similar danger. My teenaged son’s Christmas gift to me was an IOU for a gift of fragrance that I could choose; I will ask him to donate to Victoria’s fundraiser and Doctors Without Borders on my behalf — the fragrance connection being that each such gift enters one into a drawing for some marvelous fragrance-related prizes. Check it out! You can enter until January 15, 2017.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), treating refugee mother and baby in Africa

Doctors Without Borders treating mother and child; photo Stephanie Christaki/MSF

The weather here has been so unseasonably warm that we are running around outside doing errands and chores without coats! I plan to do some gardening this week while I am away from my office, which will surely bring more scents to my attention.

What does Christmas smell like to you? Or if you celebrate another holiday at this time of year, what are its most evocative scents?


Christmas altar with Nativity creche and roses