Yesterday, my neighbor sent her granddaughter to summon me. My neighbor is 84 years old and doesn’t move around easily. I walked over to her house to see what she wanted.

Someone had died. Two people. Make that three. She’d had a bad year. Yesterday was a bad day.

I think we talked for about an hour, and in the course of our conversation something made her laugh. As I watched her, I realized in the 13 years I’ve known her I had never seen her smile. Her face was completely changed, so soft. I can’t stop thinking about it.

 

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L’Ombre dans L’Eau (Diptyque)

I wasn’t interested in Diptyque until recently. About a decade ago, I tried a few scents and they weren’t what I wanted. They were too simplistic, and they all smelled like somewhere I had been before. The sense of déjà vu was so intense it left me feeling irritated.

I revisited Diptyque on a whim when my husband and I were out shopping one day recently. I left the counter with Eau des Sens (a conversation for another day) and a very generous sample of L’Ombre dans L’Eau, which turns out to be exactly what I need in my atmosphere right now.

When I wear perfume, I wear several. I put a little of one thing on my neck, something else on my arm, something else on my ankles, like that. I like to smell different scents when I move around, and that way I don’t get too tired of anything. I like the process of figuring out which scents work together, and of amplifying aspects I enjoy in a perfume, and of downplaying what I don’t.

L’Ombre dans L’Eau goes very nicely with Chanel Nº19, or at least I think so.

Of the two, L’Ombre dans L’Eau is far more literal a scent. My sample is the EdP version, and oh, it is green and so sour and snappish. I can’t get enough of it. The rose is there, too, but I appreciate how the sour greenness never goes away. It makes me smile.

I’ve seen reviews of L’Ombre dans L’Eau, and it’s interesting how memories affect perception of the scent. For some, it is a greenhouse. Others smell sunshine. It’s childhood, in a garden they know.

Do I need to say that’s not what it is for me? I smell the darkness, and the damp. The snapped branches, the crushed leaves, in my memory they exist at the edge of the woods. It has rained, the sky is dim, it is no one’s garden. The overgrowth should have been enough to tell anyone this place belongs to trees, and vines, and thorns, not to a girl. I’m there, though, and I can see it backs up to a home, fenced in but visible, where there are roses and where a woman lives who would never welcome the sight of a child appearing from the bushes.

The yard is quiet, lush, hers. She is not around, but the imprint of ownership remains, despite the rain having provoked each and every leaf to strive against it. Getting caught inside would be terrible, but I need to see the roses.

An Easy Winter Soup

We eat a lot of soup, and this one always goes over well at our house. It’s a corn chowder, and I generally use this recipe, with a few minor changes.

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I don’t use the butter, and often use more garlic. The thyme and parsley are dried, because it’s winter and also because I haven’t planned ahead. I use chicken stock, rather than vegetable, although I’ve made it with vegetable stock and it’s delicious that way, too. More potatoes. Frozen corn (again: winter, poor dinner planning).

This time, I made a topping for the soup, and I want to always have it that way in the future. The idea for the topping came from Sarah Britton’s blog, My New Roots. I can’t find the specific post–she has so many recipes! And I know this idea is from years ago.

As an aside, all the recipes I’ve tried from her blog have been really good. I used her idea as a template, but not an actual recipe, for this topping.

Here are the ingredients, adapted for the person who be neither shucking corn nor storming the grocery for fresh herbs tonight:

2 tablespoons oil

1 onion, diced, or more than one, if you want

4 cloves minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup flour

2 quarts chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream

4-6 potatoes, depending on size, peeled and diced. In this last batch, I used approximately a bag of mini potatoes. I think a bag is about a pound and a half.

4 1/2 cups frozen corn

1-2 tablespoons dried parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

I follow the same basic directions, with small changes. I don’t add the cream with the potatoes, because I don’t want to boil the cream. I’m superstitious about doing that.

The short version is to saute the onion & garlic in the oil for a few minutes, then stir in the flour. Pour in the stock, and that’s when I throw in the herbs, too. And the potatoes. Crank it up to boil hard until the potatoes are falling apart, then add the frozen corn, bring it back to a boil, and let it cook a few minutes. Only after everything is cooked do I add the cream, turn down the heat, and simmer just a little while to let it all meld together. Maybe 20 minutes? That sounds right.

The topping I made has raw garlic in it, so it’s definitely not for a romantic evening. It is so, so powerfully garlicky. And delicious. I live with a provisional faith in the healing powers of garlic, and I think I feel less like I have a cold after eating this for a couple of days.

The topping is about 1 part garlic to 5-6 parts parsley, although you could have more garlic if you want. Chop both very finely, put in a bowl, and add salt to taste. Then, just enough olive oil to make it the consistency of thick pesto. I also added red pepper flakes to mine. You can do this with cilantro instead of parsley, too, and it’s really good to plop onto soup, or if you’ve got a grain & vegetable bowl you can put it on top of that, or on whatever bread you’re eating with your meal.

Hope you have a good weekend, and stay warm.

 

 

Seed Time

This summer, there is a chance both my sons will be working full-time, which will leave me home alone. It has been almost seventeen years since I had that much time to myself. I am a little drunk on the possibilities at the moment. Also worried about being lonely, but trying not to think too much about that.

I’m planning my garden. It’s easy to buy all the seeds in a rush of enthusiasm during the winter, but I am working very hard to keep my expectations manageable.

I order from one vendor, Baker Creek, for simplicity’s sake. Their seeds have been the most reliable for me, and I like the selection.

Here are this year’s picks:

Pole Beans: I love to have a pole bean growing. They’re so pretty.   Blauhilde

Bush Beans:  I don’t love growing bush beans, but crave yellow beans and don’t like the looks of the ones in our supermarkets.  Meraviglia di Venezia 

Cucumbers: We eat so many cucumbers in the summer. On their own, in salads, pickled…I can be sure we’ll eat everything we grow. I’ve chosen two. Marketmore 76 Dragon’s Egg

Eggplant: We don’t eat much eggplant, but I’ve grown this variety before and it worked well in our yard. I’m planning to try some recipes with it. Rosa Bianca

Peas: I’ve been dreaming of these peas, and it’s almost time. Look at all the tendrils you can eat! They sound like the most delicious thing in the world to me right now.  Magnolia Blossom Tendril 

Hot Peppers: We love serranos and pickle them along with cucumbers and other vegetables, and also eat them fresh. I chose the Black Hungarian for excitement, and also because I don’t bother with bell peppers. I’ve never had much success with them, so I figured a mild hot pepper would be a good consolation prize. Serrano Black Hungarian

Summer Squash: I’ve intended to grow this zucchini for years. Last summer, I figured I’d skip growing zucchini since I could find locally-grown ones at the store. Can you believe they didn’t have any? I thought that was the weirdest thing.  Ronde de Nice

Tomatoes: My husband and I always get a little tomato-crazed. I need to calm down and choose only a few.

Green: We’ve grown these before, and they did well. They’re delicious. Green Zebra 

Pink:  This one will be new to us. German Pink

Black: I’m gambling on this one even though I did terribly with the regular pink Brandywine tomatoes. True Black Brandywine 

Blue: I’ve never grown a small tomato or a blue tomato, so I’m very excited to try these. Blue Cream Berries

That’s it! It’s not too much, I don’t think. We’ll see.

Spring Bloom Mitts

I finished knitting these mitts just before the end of the year. They’re the Spring Bloom Mitts designed by Rachel Atkinson for Loop London. It’s a free pattern, if you want to try: link

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They didn’t take long to make. Mitts are are always good for quick gratification.

The yarn is Malabrigo Rios  in Azul Profundo. I had it left over from another project. These took less than a skein. Rios is one of those nice, soft wools that feels almost cottony. It reminds me of Madelinetosh Tosh DK. I’d say the weight is between Tosh DK and Vintage.

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Epiphany

My mother was responsible for grocery shopping, but for some reason my dad was the designated purchaser of toiletries. One of his favorites was Alberto V05 shampoo in ‘jojoba’ or ‘extra body.’ This explains, I guess, why I’ve always considered Alberto V05 default shampoo, it’s what we always had. Anything cheaper, which is almost impossible since V05 is 75 cents a bottle, is bad shampoo, while anything more expensive is fancy shampoo. It makes no sense. Pantene is not fancy, but those things ingrained from childhood tend to stick.

The thing about Alberto V05, though, is that it has no silicone in it, and from my perspective that makes it a worthy bargain. It’s is evil to long hair, at least to mine, but I’ll happily pour Alberto V05 onto my head if I have a short enough hairstyle.

This morning while I was having a wash, surrounded by the same smell that meant ‘hair washing’ from my earliest memories, I heard the voice of my parents saying the name of the shampoo: Alberto Veal 5. That’s how they say it. You can maybe see how, if someone is saying it quickly and with a certain accent, the words can sound that way. Veal 5.

Younger me spent actual hours of life wondering about why a shampoo would be named after a meat. Was it a convention left over from the early days of the shampoo? Perhaps. That became my working hypothesis.

I was confronted with the problem every day, so I thought about it quite a bit: the shampoo, the label which very specifically did not refer to meat, the parents who knew–in the way adults often do, it’s magic to someone so young–what the shampoo was really called, despite the fact the label said something completely different. I couldn’t imagine ever being an adult. How do you KNOW things?

I can clearly revisit the moment when I put it all together. I was still small, alone, mostly submerged and peering out of the water at the bottles lined up on the bath. The room was drenched in light from the window, it was too bright for shadows, and finally, FINALLY, I realized what was happening. A strange pronunciation. That was all.

A different kind of magic, epiphany.

How many moments like that have I had since then? I want more. We need more. That’s what I hope for us this year.

Chanel Nº19

For 26 years, now, I have worn Chanel Nº19. My choice has been almost exclusively the eau de toilette version. There was a brief period during which I had a small bottle of pure parfum. This Christmas, I received a bottle of the eau de parfum as a gift. I love all three concentrations. What a glorious green.

I’ve smelled hundreds of perfumes, and I always come back to this.

Some people call it a bitchy perfume, or a witchy one. I don’t know, is it? Maybe sometimes.

To me, it smells like everything: being a bitch, and not being one. Brittle, crystalline; creamy and soft. Flowers, roots, something freshly snapped, something forgotten on a dark shelf, sealed in a jar. The scent is all those things, it depends on the day, on the air, where I’ve applied it, how long it has been on my skin.

There have been changes to the fragrance over the years. I’ve heard people say the newer versions are too awful to wear. They are certainly not the same. Some moments of the development are not entirely enjoyable, but on my skin that passes quickly, and I’m happy to deal with it. There is no question, I’d rather have a reformulation than none at all.

Questions about favorites have always been difficult to answer, but I am in a time of life when something unique (for me) is happening. I am deciding very little about it, but the extraneous slips away, more and more each day. I’m not working at it, but after all the time I’ve spent wondering who I am, asking myself questions I can’t answer, I’m left standing here looking at myself. I didn’t need to think harder, look harder. I needed to wait.

And I’ve settled into green. Everything that means. I’m drawn to it.

Green scents in general have an appeal: fig, green tea, galbanum, pine, iris in certain light, leaves, snapped branches and roots, grasses, herbs, unripe fruits. Sali Hughes talks about sour greeness in scent, and yes. I get that. It’s pleasing, and it comforts me, feels like it belongs.