Friday, February 22, 2008

A Lovely Fragrance In The Air

Right on schedule, our Carolina Jessamine is in glorious bloom along our fence. The vine covers both sides of the fence; the neighbors enjoy seeing it as much as we do from our sun room/office windows.

Not only is it a beautiful hardy vine, it also has a lovely scent as well.

It is vaguely like the scent of daffodils. It is a nice mimic, seeing as how the blossoms look distinctively like daffodils!

Not only does the Carolina Jessamine bloom on our fence, all our forests are sporting pine trees with curious yellow blossoms; the vine has entwined within the pine tree branches. Carolina jessamine is rampant in our area, and it grows freely. No effort is needed to get this plant to thrive.

This morning I was doing my usual blog hopping, and stopped by Dressaday. Erin has made Friday her day to post various links to other blogs of interest. Erin, if you don't know, is a dress and sewing enthusiast, who also happens to be the editor of the New Oxford English Dictionary The girl can write and has a wacky sense of humor, along with an adventurous spirit.
I merrily clicked through today's links...taking the time to view the link about the person who has made a dress crocheted out of Ono cards, and the link about people who dress in only one color (I have been tempted myself....) and the link to sewing pattern light switch plates.
I mean really, is not this kind of rollicking through blogland just the best???
Then I hit her link to a perfume critic's blog entitled Invisible Magnet.
Even Erin was like whoa...she usually doesn't wear scents, but this site may have flipped her to the scented side.
Within the link there was this paragraph:
"And when I was in Paris as a wee sir I noticed that the women there laid their Amarige on THICK. That complicated mix of flowers, fruit and spice hung in the air everywhere and added to my experience of the city."
A little click went off in my head.
I have had that exact same experience.
Being somewhere and having a perfume become part of the experience forever in my mind.
Recently Laura had helped me clean out my bathroom vanity (this cleaning out process just goes on and on and on...) and we found a cluster of samples sized bottle of Givenchy perfumes.
I had not really liked any of them, and had handed them over to her.
(An aside: Laura has difficulty finding perfumes that smell good on her. I have known other red haired women with the same complaint, and when given the opportunity to talk with a representative of a major perfume company, I learned that it is not just an assumption, but rather a chemical fact. Red heads are physically different in many way; one of which is the body chemistry and skin structure. Their skin absorbs the perfume, whereas non-red heads skin hold the perfume on the surface, suspended by the fragrance fixative. The solution, the representative suggested, was to buy the perfume in lotion form, layer on the lotion to seal the skin, then add the perfume.
Or search and search for a perfume that just some how does work with red headed chemistry.
Seriously, it is so strange how awful perfume can smell on Laura, as the fixative part of the perfume winds up being the remaining scent, and it is a very unpleasant odor. We spend a lot of time sampling perfumes to find ones that will work on her.)
I wondered if I had a sample of the Amarige.
I did.
I tried it on, and ummmm...happy love!
Interestingly it was the only Givenchy sample that I had kept in my regular collection of fragrances.
Reading Invisible Magnet made me want to take another look at my perfume collection.
(Please note that I must have been a little loopy on fragrance when I labeled these binds...that should be p-e-rfume, not p-u-rfume. Memory device for the future: there is no P-U in perfume.
It smells nice!)

Wearing perfume is such a tricky thing these days. Everyone seems to want to dab some on to go to church, but actually that is kind of rude: you never know if the scent will bother someone nearby. Supposedly wearing it to work is iffy mustn't bother co-workers with your choice of fragrance.

In fact, in consideration of others, it seems to be most thoughtful to skip wearing any fragrance at all, except in your own home.

Now I have loved dabbing on perfume behind my ears, and on my wrists ever since I was old enough to have received a set of "Tinkerbell" toilet water and lotion as a little girl.

Anyone else out there remember "Tinkerbell" toilet water?
And how confusing it was to have something that smelled so nice be called toilet water?

I just loved taking a bath and dabbing on the little fragrant droplets. Later I got a perfume making kit. I was immediately smitten by the violet scented lavender colored fluid. I think the others were gardenia, rose, and maybe honeysuckle. A tiny, tiny plastic funnel was used to pour the fragrances into the empty little postage stamp sized bottles.

Now that was my idea of fun. I could do that all day!

Later as a young teen I started wearing "Straw Hat" by Faberge. The idea of having a "signature" fragrance had caught my attention, and I had decided Straw Hat would be mine. Later I flirted with Yardley's April Violets (Yardley products being part of the groovy English trendy/Twiggy/Beatles/All things British movement), and also got into Dior's Doirissimo, a lovely young Lily of the Valley based fragrance.

In college I experimented with the "natural" fragrances.
Would you believe I was silly enough to wear a perfume that smelled exactly like fresh mowed grass? No wonder the boys ran; it must have triggered memories of having to do yard work back home!

Aside from a few Avon perfume adventures, as a married lady I didn't bother much with wearing perfume for many years. Scented candles were the new in thing, and blue jeans and flannel shirts didn't make me feel perfume wearing worthy.

I never recalled Bernie ever reacting to any Avon perfume I sampled, save to occasionally remark that the latest Avon perfume sample "smelled like Avon."

Sigh. day when we were first in New Orleans, we visited Yvonne La Fleur's millinery shop. We walked in, and there was a cloud of fragrance in the place that Bernie just fell head over heels in love with.

I tried it on...his heart pounded....and in a flash he bought me the perfume, lotion, powder, bath gel, soap...and was asking if there anything else in the fragrance available?

I love it...he loves it... and one whiff of Yvonne La Fleur is all it takes to make the man darn near swoon.

Powerful stuff, that. He never fails to comment happily whenever I am wearing YLF.

Prior to YLF I had decided that I needed another "signature" perfume to wear everyday.
Jeff was consulted on this; he is a total men's cologne connoisseur, and at the time, his girlfriend was big into perfume as well.
He had opinions on every perfume...clearly this girl had influenced him big time.

I don't remember exactly how it all went down, but Bernie and Jeff decided that Chanel's Allure was THE perfume for me.

Oddly, I have no feelings for it one way or the other. It smells slightly powdery to me, with no particular association to any other scent. I spritz it on lightly before heading to work and from time to time people ask me what fragrance I am wearing, and say that it smells very expensive and elegant. is a Chanel product, so I guess it lives up to it's hype. It seems to work with everything from jeans to suits. And it comes in everything too: Powder (a must have in this humid climate) soap, lotion, bubble bath, deodorant, it all!

After I got settled into those two fragrances, I wanted a fragrance for the hotter than you-know-what days. Ralph Laurent "Romance" was just the ticket a few summers back.
I still love it...and Bernie can not smell it at all, regardless of how much I spray on.
How weird it that?
It is a pretty soft scent.

Then there was the memory scent of a place.
A visit to Hawaii...and all the tropical scents of ginger and such in the air.
It was the Pikake scent that did me though.
One whiff and I felt I was Hawaii.
I bought one small bottle while I was there visiting Laura; she later gave me a serious sized bottle of the stuff the following Christmas, along with the lotion.

All I have to do is slip into one of my Hawaiian printed cotton shifts and touch on Pikake, and I'm back on vacation again.

The search for a cooling scent is always an adventure. I loved this perfume's scent of lemon verbena, and lemon. It is a light splash, and I feel as refreshed as if I had sipped an ice cold glass of freshly squeezed lemonade out on the porch next to the verbena when I wear it.

My two always ready with a critique fabulous children assure me I smell exactly like Lemon Pledge when I wear it.

A trip to the original Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas gave me an opportunity to sample the newly released Prada perfume that I for some reason had read about in a magazine.


Asked for it for Christmas from Jeff, and he was happy to give me two bottles; one a tiny travel sized bottle and the other with a cap that could be changed out to the atomizer. atomizer. How chic!
OF COURSE I wanted to have it on my counter top with the atomizer in place!

(What I didn't know was that the atomizer allows the perfume to evaporate in a blink of an eye.)
I still have the travel sized bottle. And I still think it is one fabulous perfume.

Yes, here are the two little sample perfumes that started this whole long, long blog.
I touched some on, and wandered into the office let Bernie take a sniff.
(He got home safe and sound last night after a long and bumpy flight on a very crowded plane. He is SO glad he made it out...thanks for your prayers!)

The Bernie says: I like it! I like it alot.
He then went on to give it a critique (Jeff has influenced him I think.) Perfect for day time, rich, floral, sensual, not really a night time perfume, very womanly etc etc.

Well now. How about that. And to think this sample was almost over looked.

I will be curious to get a review from traveling Laura when she returns though.
When we shopped for perfumes down in Harwin a week ago, she was quick to dismiss many perfumes as smelling "old lady."

Seeing as I am rapidly approaching "Old Lady" status, I am not really pleased to hear that smelling like an old lady is something to be avoided. I am not really sure what "old lady" smells like exactly, except that quite a few of the fragrances that I liked were deemed to have that particular scent.

Perhaps the more interesting question is: Does it appeal to older men, or younger men?
Because frankly I am just not interested in attracting oversexed teenage boys, or even young men in general.

While several of my friends have hitched up with younger men, I frankly just don't see the advantage of having a boy toy when instead I can be with an interesting man.

Invisible Magnet had a bit to say about perfume that smells like food. I tend to agree, but I did give into the Bath and Body Shop's Brown Sugar and Fig scent a few autumns ago. It just smells like autumn to me. Makes my mind travel to the land of crisp fall weather and pumpkins and colored leaves...
It also somehow makes me want to bake something, like pies and cakes.

But if I want to get the same autumn buzz on a more sophisticated level, Chanel delivers via "Coco", a scent I got on a trip to Toronto Canada a few years back.
I have to confess, the exchange rate then was spectacular. I had been on my own in the Toronto underground six mile long shopping tunnel, and I hadn't found anything else to buy on that day.
Call it an impulse buy...

Another spring and summer fragrance: Cherry Blossom, sprayed on cold from being chilled in the refrigerator. Cherry koolaid, cherry Popsicles, cherry all comes blasting back.

(I should have worn some today, in honor of George Washington's birthday and the silly cherry tree story. Google blew George's birthday off too...)

Wow, I'm afraid I have written a marathon post. If you are reading this, you are amazing!
Thank you!

Now I want to know: What is your signature fragrance? Do you have a fragrance that brings back memories of travel? What fragrances have you worn at different times of your life?
Please leave a chatty comment if you would like.
I seriously want to know.

And in case you are wondering...

This is how those bins are stored under my sink.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Walking between the downpours

Yesterday we got two inches of rain here in Kingwood. The airport got 3/4 of an inch, and it is just 20 minutes away, but we got under a cell that really packed a punch. Our backyard looked like a pond.

More rain fell this morning around 11, and still more is expected tonight. Bernie is in Pennsylvania, where it was snowing heavily last night, and it is expected to turn into an ice storm there tonight. He is trying to catch an early flight home; I sure hope he makes it.

Laura is driving up to Dallas to visit some of her friends up there over the weekend. I called to see how her three hour drive was going; she says it has been raining the whole way.

With such weather goings on, I decided I should get in a walk during a break in the showers.
Want to come along to see what we can see?

I never get tired of seeing trees in bloom like this.

At first I thought our neighbors had added a ceramic squirrel statue to their front yard.
The squirrel held it's pose for the longest time, and I finally decided it was a real squirrel.
I had time to whip out my camera and get this shot just before it scampered away.

Great. Now we have a cat AND a squirrel around here who are into posing.
What next?

At the edge of the forest is this fenced facility. It think it is a power station, or a pumping station...something....whatever.
My eye was caught by a slight irregularity in the fence as I hiked by.

Do you see it too?
It is at the bend of the concrete crack.
Well hi there Mr. Froggie. So...why are you up on the fence instead of hanging out by the rain puddles?
Do you know something about the rain that I don't know?
Should I be seeking higher
The forest floor was totally flooded. I was walking on the raised wooden walkway.

It was very warm and muggy; very little of interest to see, but I did think this patch of clover was cute. Actually it is wood sorrel, but I'm calling it clover.
(Laura has already decorated the house for her favorite holiday: St. Patrick's Day. Guess Mother Nature is in the mood for the holiday too...)
Rain does make greenery look pretty.

The pink flower at the edge lof the clover/sorrel looked pretty tuckered out from the rain too.

Next to the wooden walkway a white flower was in bloom, just like if someone had deliberately planted it there.
After I got the shot, I stepped back up on the walkway and slippped big time. The wood was so wet it was almost slimey; I had been trying to walk carefully to avoid a spill before.
And to think that one of my biggest fears about living where it is cold and icy is the possibility of slipping on ice.
Guess I should be wary of slipping on slick in my own steamy environment, and be careful as I go about my way.
If you had really been with me, you would be wanting to take a shower about now, just to rinse off the sticky humidity that has you warm and damp all over. Your hair would be lank, and as you stepped into the house after you got home you would be happy to find that it is cool inside.
I am so very sorry that I can't package up a box of this muggy warmth and send it to all my friends in the northern climes. Just know that I do think of you as I walk...and I wish you could walk with me as I go about my walks.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Valentine's Tryst: Day 3 Sunday Feb. 17, 2008

Sunday morning was bright and sunny, and breakfast was served to four couples this time. The figure competition Air Force girl wore a nice blouse and shoes for the occasion. As we made small talk over our juice and coffee, we discovered the Dentist couple from Alabama were motorcycle and NASCAR enthusiasts.

It was hard for me to image the ruffly sweater wearing wife dressed instead in a leather jacket and riding on a motorcycle or enjoying watching cars going around in a circle FIVE HUNDRED TIMES!!!! but that just goes to show that you never know about a person just by looking at them. They were quite proud of the fact that they had earned their "Iron Butt" certificate for riding on a motorcycle somewhere for 24 hours.

My own cute backside thanks me for not even trying to get that award. And I personally thank heaven that Bernie got his motorcyle/long hair/soul spot bad boy years out of the way before he met me.
As B. later observed: When you have been a real life bad boy at age 20 you have no desire to go on a long distance motorcyle ride again at age 50. Been there, done that, know all about peeing blood.

Yish. More potty talk at breakfast....sorry!

The new couple at the breakfast table were from California, which lead to an extended discussion of California issues.

You kind of have to be from California to enter into these kinds of discussions; the rest of the table fell silent and I cringed at our manners. It is so rude to discuss things in a group setting if all can not easily enter into the conversation. To our discredit we didn't even try to include the others.

It turned out the new couple were in Natchitoches because she was a still photographer for a movie being filmed in the area. Bernie really had seen a "celebrity" the day before! The movie being filmed is titled "Year One", starring Jack Black. Other films are also in production around the state as well.

Miss Figure Competition was thrilled to hear this. When told that the film companies are always looking for extras, she absolutely beamed, and just about jumped up from the table to get going on becoming a movie extra.

The photographer cautioned her that the film was about the year 1AD, and the women in the film wear skimpy wraps, and bikini tops, sometimes dressed almost like belly dancers.

Talk about things getting better and better....this was right up her alley!

When I eventually see the movie, I will of course be watching to see her shapely form in the crowd scenes.

Eventually we had to check out of the hotel. While Bernie settled the bill, I got to talk more with the woman photographer and her husband (a director and published author) in the front parlor. It turned out they had been married 28 years, and are happily living a life together following movie sets and returning to California in between films. It was really neat to hear another happily married couple speaking highly of marriage even in such an unconventional lifestyle!

Now Bernie is a Starbucks kind of guy, and he hadn't had a "quad shot" in two days. We headed downtown and got him his "real" coffee, and took some time to enjoy the river and shops.

Another old house was next to where we sat with our coffee. It still makes me marvel to see such old buildings just casually located next to a modern street.
The hanging flower baskets reminded me of my trip to visit Lovella in Canada. Canada wins, hands down, in the hanging basket contest, but the pansies here were charming too. This is the area in the Steel Magnolias movie when at the end they are racing to get to the hospital.

We got several free tour maps for Natchitoches. One was a guide to all the houses that were used in the movie. Above is the house that was the set of the beauty shop.

Note the typical Louisiana flag, and the wreath on the front door. Oddly, a lot of the houses still had Christmas wreaths up; this one had a more spring like style wreath.
It was windy and crisp out. The huge storm that skirted around us had cleared the sky to a gorgeous clear blue. We headed back down the Cane River Road to a plantation known as Oakland.

Oakland Plantation is owned by the US Park Service, and they provided boots for us to wear. I was glad, as the grounds were extremely muddy.

Bernie got comfortable in a rocker under a tree. I think his southern plantation (in Maryland) roots were showing a bit here.

See all the standing water?

And how huge the trees were?

These trees were planted around 1820. They are planted in an alley formation to channel breezes up from the river through to the big house.

The Big House, completed in 1821.

This house didn't look very big to me compared to modern houses. One family, the Prud'hommes lived in this house for almost 200 years. They finally sold all the property and all the buildings to the US Park Service. It is unique in that all the buildings on the plantation are still in their original locations.

The oak alley seen from the front gate of the house. It must have felt great to ride up the alley on a hot day!

I'm not sure what kind of blossom this is, but it was on a bush in front of the plantation hospital.
(Update: A commenter tells me this is quince. Love helpful comments like that!)

French law required that slave owners provide medical care for their slaves. After the slaves were freed the property owners still housed a doctor and kept a hospital on the grounds. Oakland Plantation was established under French Creole Law.

Elderly slaves that were too old or infirmed to work were to be sent to a hospital to be cared for until their death. The French "Black Laws" were kinder than the English laws, and oddly began with the admonishion to drive all Jewish people from the French colonies. It also granted freedom to blacks born in the French colonies, and gave detailed information about the status of slave children.

The Prud'homme family never threw anything away. The attic was stuffed to overflowing and thousands of bottles were found up there. The family even used bottles to line their flower beds.

The magnolia (aka tulip) trees were so beautiful in the sunshine. Their petals had the most wonderful purfume; I walked around with petals between my fingers so I could breath in the fragrance as I went.

Nice for me...I could imagine how the plantation must have smelled in the heat of summer long ago. I'm sure such times were not nearly as nice as what I was experiencing.
The park service had a self guided walking tour, and everything on the plantation was neatly identified.

Bernie is standing just beyond the pecan was an amazingly tall tree. I wish I could have bought some pecans from the tree; there are many kinds of pecans, and they each taste a bit different.

The chicken coop.

The pidgeonnier (or dovecote) was a sign of status. In France only the wealthy and royal could have pidgeonniers. Once people arrived in Louisiana, they immediately set up a pidgeonnier next to the road for all passerby to see.

Breakfast of squab (pidgeons too young to fly) was considered to be quite tasty.

All I could think of was how messy it would be to kill and pluck and fry up a bunch of baby pidgeons each morning.

Especially horrid if the temperatures were high and the air was humid.

A three hole privy was down the path from the main house. I wondered if it was for the family or for the field hands. Or maybe both? Imgine trotting down the path in a long hooped skirt and using this structure after breakfast. I don't you ask your friend to go with you to the privy?

On the floor of the privy was a baby potty seat.
Much better than having the kid fall in...ahem.

Out in the field were more narcissis.

And this truly odd flower. It is about the size of my baby finger, and the rangers didn't know the name of it. It had a texture like a wet mushroom. Isn't it weird?

I thought the clover was charming, considering that it was Valentine's Day weekend.

Little red hearts on the little green heart shaped clover leaves.
Sometimes all the romantic touches in nature just amazes me.

After we had poked around the grounds and seen the overseer's cabin, the cook's cabin, the store, carriage house, blacksmith house, carpenter's house, smoke house, corn crib, laundry house, seed house etc etc etc we finally got to take the official guided tour of the Big House.

Talk about a shock.
(Above: The Big House kitchen)
Inside the Big House was a home last refurnished in the late 1950's.
A colored television set sat in the front parlor. Another one was in the kid's bedroom.
Pictures of family ranged from painting from the early 1800's to colored snapshots on the book case.Yes, the Prud'homme family lived here, generation after generation for almost 200 years.

Each generation had lots of kids.
The one "kids" bedroom had two big four poster beds and a trundle bed. We were told that the kids were just piled into the beds in the one room. The master bedroom had a very nice bed, and between the kids room and the master bedroom was a modern bathroom with pink tile and metal cabinets. Modern as of 1950 that is.
The dining room still had the overhead board that was was swung back and forth to keep out the flies and to cool the guests at the table. I imagine flies were a big problem through the years.
The ranger shared that after the Prud'homme realized that they couldn't keep up with the property tax in the late 1990's, they agreed to sell EVERYTHING on the property to the Park Service.
One morning they sat and had breakfast in that kitchen, pictured above, back in 1998, then they got up and just walked out the front door.
Leaving 300,000 items for the park service to catalogue. TWO HUNDRED YEARS of "stuff" in the attic. Letters and ledgers, bottles and dodads.
It was a brilliant move really.
The family can come visit the home and all the contents anytime they would like.
No decisions must be made about who in the family gets what.
No worried that great great grandma's spectacles might get tossed by the second wife of the third son.
Such a deal. Wish I could do that some day!
I also marvelled at how simple the house was inside. I had to laugh at the Hollywood image of the rich plantation owner. In truth, sometimes they were just farm folks trying to make a living off the land.
After the Oakland house tour we drove back into town for lunch. We decided to hit another place recommended by our Ranger Stephen. He assured us it was the best place to get crawfish, but that we should be aware they tended to be a little bit spicy.

Oh who wouldn't want to get crawfish from a place like this?

You order crawfish by the pound. They shovel the crawfish into a plastic sack, weigh the filled sack, then bring the sack on a big plastic tray to you at your table.
The table has a hole cut out in the middle over a trash can. After grabbing a bunch of paper towels, you proceed to snap off the head of the crawfish and pull out the tail and eat.
I ordered boiled shrimp myself.
Bernie ordered crawfish on a baked potato that had been whipped and restuffed.
As I write this I want to go back for some more.
Oh. My. GOSH.
The best shrimp EVER!
Bernie's potato dish was unbelievable too. Soooooo good.
Yup, it's all about crawfish around there...

Tin roof, screened window, good times.
(Crawfish coming out of his hut...I've seen those huts in real life!)
After that we drove home.
It was a nice and easy drive, with lots of good conversation and pipe dreams and memories of a really great time.

(PS: Yesterday's post mentioned that the woman who lived in Melrose Plantation was an excellent loom controlled design weaver. On her rocking chair was one of the coverlets that she wove. The design is created by the way the loom is warped. The loom threadles lift various patterns of the warp each time, so the weaver's foot work is what creates the pattern using the warp design. The threads that go side to side are a straight shot. A weft face design is when the weaver controls the design by the weft or side to side thread, laying in the shots of yarn in patterns that are not repeats. I'm sure that is about a clear as mud, but I thought I'd try to explain what I meant. I studied both styles, but in the 1970's weft face free style weaving and textures such as loops was really modern and "in", the patterned weaving were considered very old fashioned. Now I am rather charmed by warp controlled design!)
A couple of last minute pictures from Bernie's camera.
I think this picture could be the weekend's signature shot.
Maybe we should use it next year to send out Valentine's Day cards!