Saturday, December 15, 2018

On the Fourth Day of a Feminine Christmas

This is one of my favorite Victorian Christmas images.  The lovely chatelaine is receiving a large white package,  red roses, and an accompanying note.  Whatever is in that box, I bet it makes her feel beautiful.

Two years ago, for my daughter's Epiphany birthday, we went to the city to have lunch and shop.  It was a magical winter day with snow flitting around us as we traveled by train.  As I waited for my daughter to try on some clothes, I wandered over to a small wooden kiosk that was wonderously decorated to mirror the snowy outside.  My eye lit on an amber hair clip with a tracery of fiery crystal.  It was lovely.  I've never been hair-proud - my locks are baby-fine and require gobs of "product" to stay in place and therefore, hair accessories always slip off.  But this one looked like it might actually work on me.

The lovely, soft-spoken proprietress of the hair accessory kiosk saw me admiring the pretty amber clip and offered to help me try it on.  She pulled the sides of my hair up and off to the back and attached it with the clip.  Then she took a photograph of the back showing me that even on my hair, I could wear a hair accessory.  And to my delight, I saw my highlighted locks cascading attractively around the twinkling clip.   I plunked down the last of the money in my Christmas budget and watched while she carefully wrapped my purchase in gold tissue and then placed it in a snowy white chiffon bag with a ribbon.

It is no exaggeration to say that I have worn that hair clip every day for nearly two years.  Not always to work but on weekends and at night after work.  It elevates everything I have on - my shorts and t-shirts in summer, and my at-home loungewear in winter.  It makes me feel beautiful.

The other day after a long day at work, I heard a slight snap when I attached the clip in the usual way.  The piece had broken in two right in my fingers!  And although it had given me a lot more service than it was probably meant to, I felt sad and knew I was going to miss it.

I googled and then emailed the company that made the clip.  In my subject line I wrote "I broke my clip!" and I attached a picture.  Ten minutes later, I received a response from "Joy" who wrote back with "Oh no, Donna!" in her subject line.

Joy instructed me to take one more picture of the other side of the clip and send it to her.  She then wrote that it could be fixed and gave me the company's address and told me to email her the tracking number once it was on its way.  And as I stood in line at the post office with all the others mailing out Christmas packages, I realized that it was not lost on me that the hair clip company's representative was named "Joy".

When I wrote with the tracking number, I asked Joy how much it would cost to fix my hair clip.  She shot back that it would cost not a penny and I would have it back in my possession by Christmas.  I should tell you here that I did also write her about the snowy Epiphany, my daughter's birthday and how the sparkly hair clip became my private keepsake.  Afterall, is it not true that the best shopping excursions imbue the objects of our affection with loving thoughts of the day it was purchased, who we were with, or even the sweet salesperson who assisted us?

Now I don't expect a grand entrance by the US Postal Service on the day my treasured hair clip is delivered -  no livered postal carrier, no roses...not a whit like our grand Victorian lady's - just a plain box tossed onto my porch.  But that box, like hers, will contain something that makes me feel beautiful.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

On the Third Day of a Feminine Christmas

The Betsy McCall paper doll was first introduced in McCall's Magazine in 1951.  I distinctly remember my mother tearing out Betsy McCall and cutting her clothes out for me while we sat on a braided rug in our living room.  It could have been the 50's but no later than 1961.

I read once that Caroline Kennedy dressed her children in very conservative clothing when they were small.  Surprisingly conservative, even down to the pajamas she selected for them.  She patronized particular shops in New York City that were known for their adult-styled suits for little boys and searched out sources for Polly Flinder dresses with their trademark elaborate smocking.  I wore Polly Flinders and well-recall some of my dresses. 

My mother always made sure that at Christmas, my sister and I wore Christmas colors.  I remember a forest green jumper with a white blouse, a red dress with snowy lace trim, and most spectacularly, a jewel-blue velvet dress with glass buttons that my grandmother made.  I still have one of the floral glass buttons tucked away.

Betsy's clothes were conservative too but with a lot of charm.  There was a lovely inconsequential elan about the way she dressed.  I love her little booties as shown above.  And although there were several artists who drew Betsy, there is a common theme of good taste in her wardrobe.  Everything was just so adorable, even down to her Christmas nightgowns, robes, and the slips worn under her festive dresses.

I especially liked when Betsy was with her dog, Nosy.  He often wore red bows around his neck at Christmas and was part and parcel of Betsy's personal style.  I always looked forward to McCall's Magazine because I knew I would have the chance to visit with Betsy again and see what seasonal thing she was up to.

Betsy McCall ran for a long time in McCall's and it may be likely that Caroline Kennedy's mother shared Betsy with her too, having been quite a fashionista in her own right. 

As for me, I love a little sparkle at Christmas:  a sumptuous fabric like velvet, a crystal hair accessory, maybe some red tartan shoes.  It honors the meaning of Christmas especially when we think of the Wise Men who brought those nice gifts for baby Jesus.  Or the Star of Bethlehem that hung above to tell us that the light had come back to the world at last.

Betsy had the right idea with her lovely Christmas ensembles.  And so I ask - what will you be wearing to honor Christmas this year?

P.S.  The world is ripe for a Betsy McCall book.  Nearly all of Betsy can now be found online easily.  A study of the artists, impact, history etc. would make an interesting coffee table book and I would be first in line to buy it.  McCall's archives must surely be held somewhere...

Sunday, December 9, 2018

On the Second Day of a Feminine Christmas

In school, we sang traditional carols and a few "modern" ballads in our annual Christmas recitals.  Over the years, I've retained a special place in my heart for that type of Christmas music.  The radio stations that play all day/all season Christmas music never give enough play time to my favorites.  So the other day, I brought a friend-made CD of Rosemary Clooney singing lovely old and new carols out to my car.  That's Clooney above dressed in her Christmas finery in the marvelous film White Christmas.  I love her rich soulful voice singing carols.

But while I was caught in traffic, I listened to a piece on the CD that I had heard many times over the years but never truly heard.  It is called Christmas Memories.  Later, I investigated other artists' versions of the song, like Frank Sinatra's, and although still melodic and quaint, they were not quite as nice as the "womanly" voice of Clooney's.  And as I considered it, Christmas Memories is a woman's song because it's really about a woman looking back with wishful longing at all her Christmas' especially her sweet memories of her now-grown children.  It's touchingly poignant and as a new grandmother, I found myself listening with misty eyes...

So I tell you about this particular piece of music and the way it is sung by a certain lovely artist because I want to remind you that memories will invade your present Christmas.  But the sadness we feel increases the joy.  Without the sights, smells and sounds of the past, Christmas would be just another day.  Those are OUR gifts under the tree.  Trust me.  Our remembrances bring the holiday to life and twinkle from every light, whether you are baking your mother's spice cake or unwrapping a worn and dilapidated manger scene.  It's all part of the beautiful holiday where ghosts of who we were, where we were, and most importantly who we loved and who loved us come back to gently sit upon our shoulders for another season in time.

Christmas music is a personal thing - we all have our treasured favorites but it makes me sad to think that children aren't exposed to the old carols.  This is not to say that very contemporary Christmas music doesn't have a place...I actually like Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas, just not every time I drop into TJ Maxx.  I do wish everyone would listen to Handel's Messiah at least once but also not to forget more "modernish" ballads such as Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas or I'll be Home for Christmas or anything sung by Nat King Cole.  And I especially crave the music I grew up with and sang out from a little wooden school stage straight to my mother in her seat all those years ago.

But back to Rosemary Clooney's Christmas Memories.  If you read the lyrics, you will see that the song is of a grandmother reminiscing about her past Christmas' and how they've rolled together, one after the other until she sees her own small children before her, now grown with children of their own.  I couldn't find out much information about the song online but I present the words for you here.  And I ask you listen to Clooney's rendition and please expect that you may weep a bit as she tells you of her bittersweet memories of motherhood, love...and Christmas.  Sing it Rosemary!

Christmas Memories

Singing carols, stringing popcorn
Making footprints in the snow

Memories, Christmas memories
They're the sweetest ones I know

Cookies baking in the kitchen
Cards and ribbons everywhere
Frosty, Christmas memories
Float like snowflakes in the air

And, oh the joy of waking Christmas mornings
The family gathered 'round the tree
We had a way of making Christmas
As merry as can be

I close my eyes and see shining faces
Of all the children who now have children of their own

Funny, comes December
And I remember all the Christmas' I've known

~Bergman and Costa

What are the Christmas songs that take you back?

Monday, December 3, 2018

On the First Day of a Feminine Christmas

No artists thrills me more at Christmas than Tasha Tudor and her idyllic depictions of children during the holidays.  They tug at heartstrings that thread through my Christmases and make me long for the lovely people who no longer fill my rooms.  And it is because of the honoring of them that I enduringly keep Christmas alive to the best of my ability and budget.

An artist who is a close second favorite is Trisha Romance.  Her piece above, Christmas at the Cottage, touches me from every corner and not the least of which are the industrious children enjoying a quiet family hour on an afternoon leading up to Christmas Eve.  Or perhaps it is Christmas Eve and father is about to return home at last and fit himself into that cozy chair near the tree.

Christmas alternately makes me feel bittersweet nostalgia and over-stimulated angst.  But it is the former that drives the latter.  Without the memories I am trying to recreate, I would never be able to keep up the pace the Advent weeks bring.

So you shall find me searching for the recipes my grandmother used and plucking evergreen boughs and Sweet William from the yard.  I want to buy a pedestal bowl just like Nana's and fill it that delightful mixture of nuts, raisins, and sugar that said it was Christmas Day at last and dinner was cooking in the oven.  I wander aisles of stores and shops, looking for sugary mini-churches and cottages like the ones my mother placed on our mantle to form the poetic snowy villages that set our imaginations soaring.  I've trawled catalogs hoping to find colorful ribbon candy that tellingly shattered like thin glass whenever I pilfered it from the milk glass bowl by the picture window.  That's the window my mother sprayed white "snow drifts" on that looked so real we had to poke our fingers in it just to see if it was cold.

By carrying on the traditions that meant so much to us as children, we keep our loved ones close at Christmas.

~Tasha Tudor

P.S.  I found the ribbon candy and a boxy little church that is charmingly lit from within.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Staged Lives

Do you ever feel you know too much about strangers?  Maybe you feel you know too much about me.  Instagram can be a nice way to learn how other people live.  I especially enjoy seeing what other women are knitting.  Some of their knits are gorgeous and I aspire to that.  But what about the people who have massive followings and seemingly flawless lives?  The outfits, the sunny family portraits among the colorful fallen leaves wearing the most perfect tartan scarf and the boots of your dreams, announcing the new baby on the way.  Should we care about them?  And how much of it is real?

I prefer to follow people who have quirks...faults.  I like those that have a little something "off" in their posts.  Is that linoleum on that kitchen floor???  From the 80's???  I shall love them even more.  Or, what about the kids' birthday parties that don't have designer decorations and designer cakes?  I prefer the parties with a homemade cake front and center in all its lopsided, glorious splendor.  Don't you?

Recently, I ended my following of some vapid types.  It seemed the more "groupies" they accumulated the more staged their lives became.  I'm not sure if its the sponsorships they were granted which allowed for designer clothes and stylists or if they simply believed that they were super-important to their followers and always had to post a performance of some kind with each and every shot.   I ask you, and not unkindly but realistically - should I care about a young wife with oodles of money and clothes, an angelic face, beatific children, and an incredibly handsome husband, not to mention the center-chimney farmhouse designer home and all its accouterments who lives several thousand miles from me?

Could I be jealous?  Maybe a little.  But I'm amused too.  Because I know that underneath that veneer are in-law problems and dirty diaper pails and someone has to get out of that photo frame to pick up the fried chicken for supper.  I'm not sure they really have time to cook.  But mostly I'm sad.  Sad for the followers who then look at their own lives and think they must be truly pathetic.  Yet like a car-wreck that they can't turn away from, they tune in every day, day in and day out, for more of "Look how great my life is"!

In a way, I think Instagram is the modern version of the old computer-printed Christmas letter of the 90's.  You know the ones - sister Celia is off on her 3rd trip to South Africa and we feel so blessed that Jimmy got into all of the Ivy League schools on scholarships.  Way to go Jimmy.  Woohoo.

I think Instagram has a great place in our lives if you're so moved to join.  Besides the knitted garments, I made a scrumptious cheese tart, bought some awesome storage bins, found the perfect neutral nail color last summer and learned a new thing or two.  But I won't make any "insta-friends" the center of my world.  And I won't mistake them for the real pals who come over for tea on winter afternoons when I have a cold and need company.  I know my insta-friends belong right inside my cell phone where I can click "unfollow" anytime I want.

So that brings me to you, Dear Readers.  Don't believe that my life is perfect just because you come here to read pretty things.  I may take poetic license but I won't ever lie to you.  I really do try to focus on all the good stuff in my world but know that I have more bad hair days than good.  And I may not have any linoleum lying around but I do have a carpet that needs replacing.  Bad.


PS:  Regularly scheduled postings including Feminine Christmas series soon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Velvety November

All the way back to Jr. High School, I despised November.  It could have been the cold hard rains that still come.  Or the darkness.  Or the scurried November walk we used to have to make through an ancient cemetery in pitch black to reach our CCD class after late study hall.

But now I love November, especially the velvety darkness that accompanies it.  An acquired taste, I have finally abandoned my schoolgirl fears about this misunderstood month.

Although the image above doesn't quite show the dark velvety nights I now love, I think it is an atmospheric representation of  dusk in November.  It is called The Sea Captain's Wife Praying by artist Charles Wysocki.  The stark tree divides an early twilight sky and the moody clouds moving above a church spire report down to the foreboding sea.

I'm always shocked anew at how dark November really is.  The month takes its turn at last and slams the door shut on any summer light left behind.  It doesn't help that Daylight Savings ends and dark falls just after 4 o'clock in the afternoon.  At first it's disconcerting to come home from work in blackness but after a few days, one gets used to it.  And velvety November arrives bearing gifts...

The fact that it grows dark so quickly signals to the world-at-large that it is nighttime.  I like the peace and quiet and don't miss the motorcycles zooming by and the endless traffic from the beach enclaves near me.  There are less sirens and chaos - it's almost as though everyone got the memo that it's time to hunker down, close in, relax, breathe.

The lack of light gives me permission to enjoy home pastimes without a whit of guilt or thoughts that I should be outdoors still working in the yard, washing the car, and doing other tasks best done with light.  In November the earth slowly drops a velvet throw about our shoulders and we have no choice but to slow down and hide.  I love it.

Here are my velvety November suggestions - what are yours?

~Culinary - I crave warming soups and now is the time to make them.  If you have a slow cooker, find simmering soup and stew recipes with delicious aromas that will welcome you as you turn the latch.  And it's not too early to think about Thanksgiving dishes and pies.

~Pastimes - Period films and handwork go well, hand in hand...I'm knitting a baby blanket and enjoying ethereal Cornwall via the marvelous PBS series Poldark.

~Style - keeping my hands moisturized begins in November.  I'm using Mary Kay Satin Hands.  It's the only thing that tames my hangnails this time of year.  Also, I am pulling out all my deep silken colors:  a darkly verdant teal blouse paired with velvet-cords, chocolate-brown mitts for my cold hands, a woolen shawl of lavish plum, and a darker cherry lipstick.

~Books - I love reading stacks of cookbooks in November to prepare for the holidays.  Old favorites on my shelf are always engrossing because they are authentic without a lot of New Age hype.  I prefer cookbooks with quaint and charming hostessing ideas and menus that are accessible, attractive and reassuring.

~Tea - Afternoon tea is imperative in November.  Choose something new and aromatic.  I love peach teas for summer but deep into fall, I desire aromatic fushions with herbs and flowers.  Tea Forte's African Solstice is a newly discovered favorite that I tried while lunching with a dear friend recently.


My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walked the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

Robert Frost

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Remembering the Girl I Used to Be

Although many light years have passed, the girl I used to be still visits occasionally.  She infiltrates my day dreams on quiet car rides and some nights she flickers before my eyes just before I go to sleep.  But until recently she seemed as separate from me as a lost limb...

It could be because of my new grandmother status - one can't help but marvel at being a newly-minted grandmother when just yesterday I was a newly-minted young lady.  Now as I ponder the full life in front of my little grandchild, is it any wonder my younger version appears so often now?  I read once that we should remember the things we had a passion for in our younger years and revisit them in our older years.  I think I'm more comfortable with that than the feeling of being nostalgic for one's own self.

Looking back, "my" girl was actually quite endearing.  She meant no harm although she made a few mistakes.  She was sweet, shy, authentic - far more authentic than I am now since my long work history has stolen some of the power my girl came by so naturally.  She loved pretty things:  small floral china boxes, love songs, powdery scents...the moon.  She read romance novels but only really good ones.  She perused the newspaper.  Every day.  She adored the sea, poetry, and embroidery.  She drank tea with sugar and milk and wore antique combs in her hair.  She picked flowers and made bouquets, kept a recipe box and baked chocolate chip cookies.  Her favorite pastimes were reading and watching old movies but she loved parties too, and dancing.  She especially loved the ballet:  practicing it, studying it, and watching it.

Ballet was part of my girl's world from the time she was 3 until age 22.  She craved the beauty and grace, the costumes, the shoes, and the drama.  She rolled the French words for balletic movements off her tongue as if she were a Parisian.  But life intervened and it was time to hang her shoes and find a job.  And a husband...

You may be happy to know that I have dusted off my ballet dream and joined an adult class near me (Dear God, don't let me fall on my face).  I feel so joyful when I put on my classic black ballet shoes which were surprisingly affordable.  My classmates are all women of a certain age and our teacher is very kind.  We wear leggings and long t-shirts now and there is already a sympathy among us - we intuitively know that this is the place where we are honoring the girls we used to be.  After all, who in their right mind would take ballet lessons in middle age?  We know we will never light up a stage, or even be really good.  But we love it anyway and cheer each other on.

The image above is very special.  It was forwarded by a good friend, who has also had some visits from the girl she used to be.  She remembers vividly the day her father brought home a Magnus chord organ with a few specialized music books ordered through the Sears and Roebuck catalog.  She quickly learned to play the organ and pounded out songs with all her heart and soul.  Her favorite audience member was her granddaddy who banged his arm in time on his chair as she clunkily worked her way through Litszt's Liebestruam, and other hymns.

And since playing the chord organ for her family was one of her happiest memories, she acquired not one, but two organs recently and is playing her heart out in her upstairs atelier.  She said she feels like a girl again, stealing back a dream that was long hidden though her marriage and motherhood years.

I think the girls we used to be want more than just to be remembered - they want to see some of those ardent aspirations reach fruition in some capacity.  Perhaps we owe it to them...those lovely dream-filled creatures who used to be us.

Indeed, the copy on the ad above states that we should pick up our fancies right where we left off all those years ago.  What does the girl you used to be want you to do?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Cozy People

I love the fall outfit above.  It's looks very cozy.  This is the time of year that I begin to look forward to warm and soft garments to wrap myself in.  But nothing is a cozy as a cozy person. 

A cozy person is the friend who, when you mention that you adore eggrolls, tells you that you must find a source for wholesale eggrolls so that you can freeze them and have them all the time.  And this is said without a whit of compunction for either cholesterol or freezer space.  Cozy people want you to have pleasure and comfort and think of ways that you can have it all the time with abandon.  And I've discovered what drives cozy people is pure love.  They simply love us and want us to have as much of what we love as possible whether it's ice cream, maximum lollygagging in Lazy-Boys, or eggrolls.

I had an aunt who was a cozy person.  As soon as we sat down on her comfortable and ridiculously-oversized circular couch in her teeny tiny apartment, she would ask benignly, "Does anybody want some M & M's???"  Of course the large crystal bowl of M & M's was right under our noses on the coffee table already.  She shirked all responsibility to our mother and proffered copious amounts of M & M's - as much as our fists could stuff in our mouths - along with endless Dixie cups of "tonic" (soda pop to non-Bostonians) - tonic also being banned at our house.  My Auntie Mame was a legendary cozy person.

But a cozy person doesn't just offer forbidden foods - they also create an atmosphere of cheer and contentment.  They put people first;  always and forever.  Cozy people drop everything when someone is in need.  It doesn't matter if dinner is boiling over on the stove or a meeting is about to start and they're not dressed yet - they pause, look you straight in the eye, draw a circle of coziness about you and start helping.  They make you feel good.  And safe...

I knew a cozy person who went to the 24 hour pharmacy to get my sick baby's medicine when I couldn't leave the house.  It was midnight.  And snowing.  This cozy person did it without a bit of resentment and wouldn't let me thank her.  She is also the cozy person who sent her cozy husband out into the night to check my furnace when it wouldn't start one frigid day after the repairman didn't show up.  Cozy people come in pairs sometimes.

I had a friend who had cozy parents and when I picked her up to go out dancing, I found all I wanted to do was stay indoors with her mother and father and snuggle into their overly-cushioned sofa and watch Love Boat with them and thumb through all their back issues of Ladies Home Journal and Family Circle.  And I wanted to do this with a mug of cocoa in their fancy but decoratively-challenged built-in cup holders too.

But back to food... A favorite cozy friend of mine makes an amazing grilled cheese sandwich.  On the night I lost my job she came over with her electric griddle, bread and cheese and made a feast with her sandwich skills.  Then this cozy person took my wet laundry and hung it to dry.  I never visited her house without leaving stuffed to the gills with grilled cheese, comfort and solace. That's what makes cozy people so special.  For them, it's all about caring.  And love...

Life without cozy people in it would be very sad indeed.  Do you have any cozy people in your life?


Special Note:  This post is dedicated to Ed, my egg-roll pimp and King of Cozy.

Friday, September 28, 2018


I love the autumn for many reasons - my birthday, the fresh cool air, the warm sunshine of an Indian Summer (which only comes after the first frost and not before), apples, pumpkins, woolens, and many other things.  I also enjoy that fall heralds in the run up to the holidays which still excites me even at this advanced age.  And if we are harvesting and reaping what we have sown in summer, the fall can be a very happy season. 

Unfortunately, our New England summer left me wilted and drained and as Jane Austen once said about hot weather, "It keeps me in a continual state of  inelegance".  The humidity, although not the highest ever, was chronic and every day was a bad hair day.  I'm ashamed to admit that I let myself go - my food plan, exercise, and a few other things.   Thus, my harvest is meager this fall.

Any time that I've made a big change in my life, I've done it on my own.  My transformations were executed and completed without the assistance of groups, therapy, or self-help books.  I simply went inside, decided what I wanted and made an active blueprint.  My method worked when I needed to get in shape, find a new job, or renew my appearance and style.  Once I made a decision that a change was in order, nothing could stop me.  And if I could have bottled my motivation, I would be very rich. 

So I've bought a pair of black Capezios and subscribed to a few online ballet classes.  I'm walking a lot more in the fresh air.  I've stocked my fridge with some lovely and healthy fall foods such as apples and citrus fruits, healthy whole cheeses and yogurt.  I've circled the wagons and purged some things that have been weighing me down around here for far too long.  For instance, why was I keeping an old wedding present that I never used?  Soon I will store my backyard summer things and plant some bulbs for next spring.  I have painted my front door a new deep velvety blue and hung a basket of dried flowers from a crisp brown satin ribbon.  I turned my closet around and let go of things that I no longer love.  I kept only those pieces that make my heart sing -  shoes and all.

And I'm still in planning mode.  I'm holding everything up to the light, searching for the watermark that says "this is for me".  I will only visit places, see people, read the books, wear the clothing that uplifts and inspires and that even includes not visiting the online places I've been blindly going to for years. True freedom is just the ability to say no which is a gene I was never given.  Now it's time to learn.  So this season, if it doesn't feed my soul and produce a bountiful harvest, I will gently bow out.

What kinds of things are important to you this autumn?

Here's my list:

Apples and pies
Home-cooked nourishing weeknight meals
October sunshine and walks
Dear friends who want to laugh
A special picnic near the sea at least once
Making coffee at work before everyone arrives each day
A new long-sleeve nightgown to keep me warm
Purchasing a de-piller for my sweaters
Giving to the charities I support
Opening my home to my niece and nephew whenever they are in town
Finding the perfect pair of brown leather boots
Read inspiring books that either entertain, center me, or inspire me
Finally take inventory of all my dishes and figure out which ones need to be replaced 
Volunteering at the library when I can
Making lists for Christmas
Finding the perfect chic tortoiseshell headband to hold my hair back (scored at JCrew yesterday)
Finish knitting my winter sweater and casting on a baby knit
Re-watch Anne of Green Gables, You've Got Mail, and Mona Lisa Smile while I knit
Visit my farmer's market for tomato tarts and blueberry iced tea one last time before winter


(I've always loved the evocative woodcut above which is from Clare Leighton's sweet gardening book,  Four Hedges).

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Perfume Imprints

When I was expecting my daughter and for a time after she was born, I wore Coco by Chanel.  I had a beautiful lacquer-black refillable eau de parfum that looked so glamorous on my dresser.  I tried a sample recently and my daughter exclaimed, "You smell like the 80's!"  I'm not sure if that was a reaction to a genomic imprint left on her when she was not yet fully whole or whether she really meant the scent DID smell like the 1980's because of its cinnamon-y, big hair and Opium-esque notes.  No matter...I had to go to the mall to explore.

I scored another sample of Coco just to see if the perfume would be a happy remembrance to the pleasant and bittersweet long-ago days I spent as a new mother.  I'm still not sure.  But while at the mall, I had a chance to sample Chanel's three new highly-heralded indie fragrances:  Biarittz, Vernise, and Deauville.  Each scent is a sensory souvenir to Chanel's favorite vacation spots.

The bottles reminded me of flasks - the kind that would slip easily into a man's silky inner breast pocket.  Like all Chanel's perfume bottles, they are utilitarian-looking (she designed Chanel No. 5's to look like a laboratory bottle), with her signature black and white label - very chic.  But within a few minutes, I had all three as mixed up as if I had watched a magic act of Hide the Walnut.  

Accompanying the scents were sister bottles of shower gel and body lotion.  Here's where I thought it was interesting...the body lotions seemed very emollient, redolent with full-bodied fragrance, and far less expensive than the perfume.  Also in that great flask-like bottle, they held the scent tightly and seemed quite luxurious.   

Playing in the back of the merchandising stand for the scent trio, was a loop of music that I remembered from the lovely 2009 film, Coco Before Chanel.  It was moody and melodic and I felt I was in a private room of Chanel's atelier on the Rue Cambon in Paris.  

In the end, I was able to sniff out that I probably preferred Chanel Vernis, named for Venice - the city Chanel cited as providing her with jolts of creativity.  Its wispy floral at the end of the highest top note really reached out and looped itself around my throat like the warmth of a soft wool scarf.  It felt familiar to me and yet it didn' a happy premonition of good luck that you so want to be certain of but aren't quite sure.  I was told Vernis had a touch of vanilla with its feminine iris accord and when I finally left the mall, I realized it had woven a spell and in fact, had became so irresistible that for the rest of the afternoon, I kept burying my nose in the neckline of my blouse.

If I splurge on a bottle of Chanel Vernis, I have no idea what my tomboy daughter will have to say.  But I have a new granddaughter who may just be ripe for the imprinting.