The Smell of Trouble

There is Candy at the end of this post. But first there is Trouble.


On Saturday I smelled trouble. In our house I often smell trouble rather than hear it, because trouble is preternaturally quiet; in fact, the absence of the usual level of screaming is a good sign in itself that trouble is on the hoof.


I figured out the nature of Saturday’s trouble well before I entered the twins’ bedroom. A visual inspection confirmed the worst: they’d located a long-forgotten economy-sized tube of petroleum-based diaper rash salve, which they’d managed to squeeze and smear over various parts of the room and themselves. Two baby-shampoos of the girl-child’s hair failed to put a dent in the gunk, which is why I’ve been shampooing her long tresses in the backyard three times a day with Dawn dishwashing liquid while she stands there naked. Her hair is extremely well-conditioned right now. I am assuming the room will eventually absorb all the salve I couldn’t remove.


The twins are almost four, and they are Trouble. The boy-child of the pair (let’s call him Buckethead, which is, in fact, what we call him, among other things) generally confines his trouble to more limited collateral damage, content to hurl Barney videocassettes into the empty fireplace until they break, or toss his used cereal bowl into our farmhouse sink for the satisfying sound of crockery shattering.

The girl-child (let’s call her Hecate) is more of a visionary. She prefers her trouble Installation-Style — the sort of Trouble that takes creativity, planning, and effort to execute, and leaves a lasting impression, like Christo and his miles of fabric. She was the force behind the Sharpie Fiasco, Water Damage On The Ceiling (I and II), and the Toothpaste Debacle. She hears the siren call of Trouble and answers, which is why visitors to our house can’t lay their hands easily on staples like pens, liquid soap, scissors, tape, and (for awhile) toilet paper.


Their two greatest Trouble Achievements are easily recollected — indeed, I will probably never forget them. The first was the nap-time installation of Poopfest (they were still in diapers,) the horrifying details of which I will leave to your imagination. The second was another nap-time installation I will call Rash-Salve I, which involved an industrial-size tub of Balmex, a jumbo bottle of baby powder, and every reachable surface in their room and on their persons. I was so stunned by the sheer magnitude of the mess that I beat a hasty retreat and called my sister-in-law to talk me down before I Went Back In. That marked the official end of naptime.


I have two older girls, who at the twins’ age were the sort of friendly, compliant children who allowed me to sneer at folks whose kids were pitching tantrums in Wal-Mart or being escorted around on leashes, which I viewed as borderline child abuse. The Twins and their Trouble have given me the gift of a complete re-evaluation of my assumptions about parenting, along with a higher degree of tolerance for chaos, plans gone awry, and human foibles. It has taken me almost 40 years to relinquish my control-freak persona and accept the bumper-sticker truism that Shit Happens, in my house on a daily basis.


So I am crossing the days off on my calendar until the twins start pre-school in the fall. I have carefully selected a nurturing, stimulating environment staffed by seasoned educators who’ve seen enough rough road to be prepared for Hecate and Buckethead. These women have eyes in the backs of their heads, and the perimeter seems secure, which is more than I can say for our house. In fact, Shit is Happening right now. In the time it’s taken me to write this the twins have dumped all their books on the floor, scribbled on the wall with a contraband crayon (probably smuggled illicitly in a Pull-Up) and tugged all the potty wipes out of the container, just for grins. They are outside, rearranging the landscaping, and I suppose I will get a cup of coffee and go join them.


Now, the Candy:


Dorissima Goldmund — tonka beans, vanilla, iris root, rose, powdery carnation, benzoin, sandalwood, soft musk, balsam notes, Peru balsam, allspice. Ina, I am really trying with this one. I know, everyone is wild for this, and I went back and re-read your post and Marlen’s review on Now Smell This, and all I am thinking is, skin chemistry? It is difficult to believe this is what you and Marlen are raving about as a comfort scent and/or infatuating. I think it’s the combination of iris and tonka (or maybe just the benzoin?) doing something very mercurochrome-ish on me. It is medicinal to the point of smelling like an antibacterial agent, and nothing else. How sad is that?


Divine by Divine. This one is breaking my heart. Notes: peach, coriander, gardenia, Indian tuberose, May rose, oak moss, musk, vanilla, spice. Not a timid fragrance, with the gardenia/tuberose sillage ranking somewhere between Fracas and Carnal Flower. The peach is there but not overt, and there’s a wicked sashay of animalic skank running around naked in the middle, although it gets dressed and leaves during the drydown. With those top notes you’d think it would be insanely cloying, but that oakmoss base holds it together. Ina, I Kneel At Your Feet. Logic says this white-floral bomb should fall outside my general parameters of adoration, but adore it I must. You know what I want to layer this with? DK Wenge. Or Montale Jasmin Full. Do you think my arm would run off, looking for a more exciting life? Only complaint: on a scale of 1 to 10 in the Fragrance Olympics, the first five minutes of this are a perfect 10. But then it amps itself down to maybe an 8.5 and I’m disappointed. Which seems so unfair and churlish of me, given the opening; I really need to try this in an atomizer, in cooler weather.


Parfumerie Generale Ilang Ivohibe — Pierre, mon ami, my French is pretty much nonexistent. I am perpetually mixing up words like eau and au. But this is far, far worse. I have to study the label like it’s Sanskrit. But I forgive you and give you, mwah! mwah! the cheeky French kiss, because your fragrances are so unlike anything else I have ever smelled. No, I do not love them all. But I do love Ilang Ivohibe, in spite of its name. Madagascan ylang-ylang, Californian orange and Egyptian jasmine. Here, let me post the translation from “Parfumerie of generals – Ilang Ivohibe EDT is a florale smell creation with a Zitrusakkord. Romantically, feminine and exotically fruchtig. White blooms form the heart note and with a vanilla note on the basis are softly fitted with springs.” I’m not so sure about the exotic fruchtig, getting mostly zitrusakkord and the strange green clang of ylang, sans the fitted springs. I think the reviews have been meh on this, but I am smitten — it’s not anywhere as sweet as you’d think, given the notes — much greener and denser, and a little peculiar, in a very good PG way.


PG Grand Siecle — this is a classic cologne, and there is nothing unconventional about it, so if that holds no appeal, don’t bother. For those of us who love classic cologne, however — from 4711 to Guerlain du Coq — another option is always welcome. Lovely as it is, for the money (I assume it’s priced the same as the rest of the PG line) I’d pick something else. So far, what I’d pick would probably be Iris Taizo, Ilang, or …


PG Hyperessence Matale. Citrus, jasmine, black Matale tea, cedar leaves, musk, pepper. Everyone else loved the Harmatan Noir, which smells like sweet, soapy hell on me. This, on the other hand, is a glorious woody tea — with the faint smoky-tarry note I love so much in lapsang. The really cool part is that it pings back and forth between that somewhat peppery, very fine-smelling lapsang and something like Dior Cologne Blanche holding a chainsaw. The Matale refers to tea rather than metal, but I’m sorry, I smell what I smell — it has a sharp edge that reminds me in the best possible way of that compelling wet-metal-fence note in En Passant. I get essentially no jasmine, which is fine, because the rest of it is so captivating.


A note here: Having smelled most of the second chapter of PG fragrances, I am joining Patty’s Impressed as All Hell club regarding the Parfumerie Generale line. Even the ones I don’t like are very interesting. In my own personal, eccentric mental filing system I have placed them somewhere between L’Artisan and Serge Lutens. They are richer, more complex, and stronger than L’Artisan (and I mean no disrespect to L’Artisan, which contains some of my favorite scents.) They are not quite so dense as, and less challenging than, Serge Lutens (and I mean no disrespect to SL, either.) To me they combine L’Artisan’s overall accessibility with Serge Lutens’ excellent lasting power, and that is no small feat.


image: Hecate in her favorite hat. Look at her. Isn’t she adorable? Cute as a button! Do you know what she is thinking? She is thinking, tonight I’m going to get up at 3:47 a.m., turn on the overhead light and wake my brother up by singing the ABC song really LOUD until mommy staggers down the hall and tells me to knock it off…



  • BBliss says:

    Good! I bet you can be REALLY persuasive. I’ll sign any decree you draft about the Orris – because with every squirt I get a little sadder that the level on my vial is going down! :(( I really think it is wonderful and would hate to never smell it again!

    Safe trip back for all the NYC sniffers!

  • marchlion says:

    BBliss — I’m gonna do a long, begging post on that Orris. We can start a campaign. We can call on the higher powers — the Perfume Gods. But I HAVE to have more Orris.

  • marchlion says:

    Elle — our babysitter from Thailand gave her that headband (I had to research that question) and it’s from Thailand, and she didn’t think she could lay her hands on another one. Sorry.

  • BBliss says:

    Oh NYC – what a romp for you two! There will be so much to report on.

    No pressure on the Divines – they are just all different and well-done. And Iris Taizo isn’t as woody on me until WAY down in the drydown -so it is like A-C for awhile in the middle, and then fascinatingly, not. I adore it.

    Oh yes! Andy’s Orris IS spectacular – it is perfect from every angle! I will beg and beg (and maybe nag) him until he decides to produce and sell this. I would pay really silly money for it. Funny, I used to think iris wasn’t my thing. Now quite happy to be so wrong!

    Have FUN!

  • Elle says:

    Help! I’ve searched the net for a headband like that, but to no avail. Do you remember where you got it? It’s just so impossibly cute!

  • March says:

    Twibbet — Andy Tauer’s new Orris is unbelievable. Maybe you should also try the lighter, sweeter iris scents? Like Santa Maria Novella. Maybe it’s all that woods that’s doing you in. Or Hiris, that’s different.

  • March says:

    BBliss — I’m holding off on the other ones until after NYC — I’m almost afraid to try them now, because the Pressure is Really On. I want them to be as stunning as Divine, and how can they be? Sigh… The Iris Taizo is also probably bottle-worthy. It and Andy’s orris (I will be writing a post on that soon) are my big iris loves. I get a lot of powder in A/C, in that Guerlain manner… Taizo is much woodier on me. So I guess the short answer is, no!;)

  • March says:

    Katie — Evaporation! That’s hilarious.

    The Goldmund — well, I’ll be curious what you smell, because we like a lot of the same things, you’re right. It is just WRONG on me, I know it’s supposed to smell different.

    I loved that book in high school. I should re-read it.

    Oh, you would love Divine! Yes. Try it. I can see you transported with joy.

  • Twibbet says:

    Harmatan is weird – loved how it smelled on paper, but on my arm it settled into this dull woody dusty note that went nowhere. I was very sad.
    I’m still trying to learn to love iris – so far it just doesn’t do it for me in any perfume.

  • BBliss says:

    Love the explanation for “Buckethead” – our toddler #2 does this with any pail he can’t fit his whole body into! I originally thought it was a call of developmental distress then my mother chalked it up to being All Boy (exact words as yours)- wise woman (women).

    Divine is definitely FBW – it’s on my fall list. Have you tried the others in your Candy? L’Ame Soeur is a universal favorite, and while I love to smell it, it never settles right on me. However, L’Infante is just perfectly me. Floral and green – happy. Others have said too sharp or soapy, but not on me. Strangely reminds me of a much more refined version of Fleurs d’Orlane. This is the one that made me laugh out loud with joy when I opened the package, but I had to try them all to figure it out. Homme de Coeur suits Mr. BBliss and keeps us both serene. This line is really something special.

    I’m definitely on the PG bandwagon – who IS this genius guy??? Haven’t decided if I need the fun of the whole sampler, or will hold out for full bottles. The Iris is scrumptious – maybe a little Attrape-Coeurish. Anyone else get this?

  • Katie says:

    Twins at any age are Trouble.

    I naively made the mistake of thinking it would be fun to start my twins out with fun kid-sized science experiments around that age. We began with the water cycle, and learned all about evaporation. It came back to bite me in the ass. One day I discoved a huge pool of water from a tipped-over glass. “Boys! Look at this mess! Why didn’t you tell Mommy or get a towel? What do you think is going to happen with this water?” They both looked at me with derision, and one of them spoke up with an exasperated, “Evaporation, Mom.”

    I’ve got a sample of Goldmund, but have yet to work up the nerve to try it – Narcissus und Goldmund is one of my most favorite books, and I’m scared to find out if this fragrance disappoints me at all consequently. Weird, yeah? You’re the closest thing I have to a “scent twin,” and now I’m even more reluctant to try it.:(

    I need to try the Divine. Clearly. Thanks!

  • March says:

    Chaya — yes!!! I want to be your Stinky Friend Forever!!

    — March, your SFF;))

  • March says:

    Dusan — Guerlain! Of course!!! Sure, I knew that.:^o Just, heh, testing you.:”>

  • March says:

    Vi Noir — is that another chance with the Ilang? What I mean is, were you not thrilled the first time? It’s not at all what I expected.

  • March says:

    Sybil — see, that’s the catch. I am not entirely sure whether she’ll be using those powers for Good … I need to root up a photo of Buckethead. We call him that because he literally runs around the house with a Lego bucket over his head, bouncing off the walls and laughing… he is, as they say, All Boy.

  • March says:

    Pam — well, they aren’t dull, are they? Has he ever gotten into your fragrance? That particular thought terrifies me.

  • March says:

    Shab — thanks for stopping by.

  • March says:

    Twibbet — the Matale, the Ilang and the Iris Taizo are my favorites. Did you smell the Iris? I think it’s a stunner. BTW what do you suppose “fitted with springs” was supposed to mean, anyway? Spring-like? Or something like buoyant? I keep puzzling over that one. What did you think of Harmatan? It smells really bad, right? Right?;)

  • March says:

    V-Ron — dawg! Oh, wait — that was the last post.:-”

    LMAO at Hecate and the eunuchs. Check for scissors indeed!

  • Dusan says:

    Habit Rouge is a Guerlain, a 1960s classic men’s Guerlain, shame on you 🙂 I’m having trouble with not having empty vials, but asa I get them, I’m going to send to you some HR along with other stuff. I know, I was supposed to do this a long time ago…

  • chaya ruchama says:

    Oh, Cait-

    March is right-don’t let us stop you from reproducing…

    I realize how corny this sounds, but one of the many positives is the fact that you evolve very differently…

    Another benefit, is that you quickly learn that there is no axis within your rectal orifice around which the world revolves- and that’s cheaper than having your head surgically removed from your ass…

    Ms. Veronica-

    Say YES to “no scissors”-ever! Truer words…

    P.S.- I love this discourse with you all- a group which my better half, “B”, refers to as “your stinky friends” [ I think he means”perfume pals”].

    Have a great day, and beware those terrifying German translations…

  • March says:

    Emote — PS — yeah, En PAssant I actually don’t like that much in hot weather, it does the same thing on me — strong metallic note. It’s more a spring/fall love for me. Definitely try some PGs, they are so interesting.

  • March says:

    EMote — LMAO — eeeeeewwwww with the toilet brush! That is so disgusting, I am howling. The ketchup is bad, too.

    They bathe together, or sometimes just sneak into the bathroom, and the plan is to get as much water on the floor as possible (upstairs.) And there was the toilet overflow (entire roll of TP down there.)

    The Divine is FBW. Definitely. How did I miss this one?

    PS Yep, listened to the Boohbah sound effex. Veeery nice.

  • March says:

    Carol — dang! I need to get to the post office! If the lines are too long, it might not go out until tomorrow…:(

  • March says:

    BBliss — Mentholatum — hah hah hah! There’s a smell that sticks around! I suppose I should be grateful.

    Yes, Divine is Ysatis, elevated to a much higher plane (I find Ysatis to be somewhat candied, actually). Divine just blew me away. If I did a Top-10 Discoveries New To Me right now, it would be on there.

  • March says:

    Cait — it’s the oldest trick in the book — don’t ever listen to parents complain. If it is your own child – birth, adopted, whatever — those stories become grist for the family lore mill, but there is nothing that comes remotely close to the good stuff. My kids have opened my heart in all the best and terrifying ways. And, yes, there was a fairly long period of time that they went out on leashes if accompanied by only one parent. They liked to bolt in opposite directions…

  • sybil says:

    March…your little Hecate is cuter than a box of kittens (as my brother would say.) And what great taste in hats! She and Buckethead sound like a lot of fun…With the planning and execution skills she’s showing at not yet 4, just think what she can do in the future if she uses her powers for good, not evil!

  • March says:

    Ina — sometimes you can HAVE my life. But most of the time I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I grew up in a very quiet house, and what I wanted from life was excitement and not to be bored. And that’s pretty much what I’ve gotten.\:d/

  • March says:

    Marina — ah, yes — the Goddess of Destruction! Hey, let’s get them all together at YOUR house.;)

  • March says:

    Gail — thanks. Their real names are only marginally better.:d

  • March says:

    Elle — Hecate’s hat is sort of a head-band thing, with antennae — you can see one on the right side of the photo. I like to wear it too, but only if she lets me.
    Don’t worry, I’ll retry Goldmund. I pull reversals all the time. Divine is … well, divine. I’m trying it with the wenge shortly.

  • March says:

    Dusan — Habit Rouge — yet another to add to the list.:-? Hermes, right? I’m still catching up on those. I have to smell Rouge while I’m at it…

  • March says:

    Chaya — thank you for the compliments. I think unrepentant incubi sums it up nicely. Your patter song reminded me of one of the funniest things I’ve seen recently, in Talbots Kids of all places: very preppy, pretty mom at the check-out counter, baby-talking to her cranky, beautifully dressed baby. And mom’s cooing and singsonging as she jiggles her 11-month-old, apologizing for not being home by nap-time, but what she’s saying over and over is “SHITTY mommy! I am a SHITTY mommy!” The clerks were completely weirded out. I thought, hon, I’ve walked that mile in those shoes…

  • violetnoir says:

    Gotta love the little buggers! What else are kids for anyway? 😡

    I need to try my sample of Ilang Ivohibe again. I love ylang-ylang, just love it, so I need to give this one a chance.


  • Pam says:

    Y’all, I have laughed so much, between March’s fabulous post and everyone’s response. I have a boy who can hold his own in the energy department, and I have a lot of grey hairs to prove it, too. Thanks to all for adding such a bright spot to my own harried day. 🙂 BTW, I love chaya’s phrase about self-medicating with perfume. ITA!

  • Shab says:

    March – you write a book and I will scamper to buy that baby! Thanks for the most delightful spot in my afternoon.

  • Twibbet says:

    Sheesh, I thought three cats could get into trouble. Definitely no kids for me 😉

    I went to the Perfume Shoppe in Vancouver a few weeks ago and tried as many PGs as I could possibly sniff – I came home with the Hyperessence Matale, which smells of wonderful smoky tea and wood and not really any flowers at all on me. Naz liked the Ilang on me, but I’m withholding judgement until cooler weather – maybe it’s the fitted springs :d

  • Veronica says:

    Always check for scissors – even Tommee Tippee scissors – just as if you are a Transportation Security Administration officer at the airport. Especially if the outing involves petting zoos / animal contact.

    “Look, Aunt Veronica! I have a pony tail!”

    The best thing about nephews and nieces is that I CAN GIVE THEM BACK to their X and Y chromosome donors at the end of the day.

    Cologne Grand Siècle. A reference to the latter half of the 17th through 18th centuries. I’m immediately thinking du Coq, Imperiale, Jicky. Contains the magic ingredient: VETIVER.

    Chercher la vetiver!

    (Note: The goddess Hecate was served by eunuchs. Always check for scissors.)

  • Emotenote says:

    You brave, brave, brave woman. We only have one that we call Kali, the other older one we call Krishna. (both girls though) And you are right, it is the frightening sound of silence that causes alert. The biggest was the ketchup in parent’s bed, the next best being the brushing of the teeth with a toilet brush (While dad was on duty, mind you) You will be so happy when the little loves are in school. Sounds terrible, but we entered Kali early and heaved a HUGE sigh of relief when it went well. Now the main problems are the floods from the supposed ‘tea parties’. Is that how your ceiling bit the dust? Oh yeah, perfume, my escape from the wars of Kali and Krishna.

    I must must get some samples of the PGs, they sound so good. I’ve been wearing Divine for the last couple of days, it seemed like a good anniversary scent (thanks for the best wishes) and then I couldn’t put it down. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks En Passant has a metalic note, especially in hot weather. I smelled like a metal playground jungle gym covered in sweat. And I LIKE en passant most of the time. When I’m down and out, defeated by the chaos, I go for tea scents and visit my happy places, forests, Johnny Depp, ice-cream and Evonavich.

    ps balmex is really good to water-proof stitches under the band-aid.
    pps you must turn up the volume on the booh bahs.

  • carol says:

    I’m agog. Many thoughts pop up after reading this post (and the priceless comments), but the primary one is this: It’s more-than- nifty to be able to read March for free. For now.

    Triple sorry for the sample mix-up now that I understand your context a bit better. :^)

  • BBliss says:

    Trouble always makes for such terrific stories afterward, but in the middle of it, feels like you might just lose your mind (or sense of humor)- huh? We had a Mentholatum Hairstyling Incident, that allowed toddler #1 to have shiny, wet-look hair for about 1 week, too. So we had conditioning and aroma! 8-| Love your real-life writing!

    I agree with Cait on 2 points – Divine is like Ysatis but much, much better (and I do like it best in cold weather) and your children’s resourcefulness is just a sign of how clever they are! How very lucky!

    Can’t wait to discover the other PG’s – they sound fabulous! Here’s to a Trouble-Free Day!

  • cait says:

    That’s hysterical! I think you are tipping me toward the “there are so many other things to do with life other than reproduce” side of things with your Trouble story. But they are extremely adorable and their trouble must be proof of their intellect and creativity. So, do you have one of those double leashes? Heheh.

    I lurve Divine. It was one of the first reviews I did, actually. Maybe I’ll wear it today. It reminds me of Ysatis. Whaddya think?

  • Ina says:

    March! First of all, Hecate looks JUST LIKE YOU. I kid you not! Second, I’m glad you love Divine and not so glad you hate Goldmund. :(( Oh well. I’ll have to totally try layering it with Wenge! Thanks for such a hilarious post! I want your life.

  • Marina says:

    That is hilarious, although does make cry a little, since all this is so familiar to me too. Hecate and Buckethead would become fast friends with our Kali, Goddes of Destruction. :d

  • gail says:

    Hecate and buckethead

  • Elle says:

    OMG. LMAO. I only have a canine child who spends far too much time meditating (translate: sleeping) to get into much trouble, so I appreciate having been able to vicariously enjoy it via the *totally* adorable looking Hecate (I WANT a hat like that!) and Buckethead.
    But…my beloved Goldmund…medicinal? OK, more left for me in the world, but are you sure you weren’t able to find the heavenly Peru Balsam in the base? I had never thought of layering Divine (another fav) w/ Wenge – *must* try that now.
    Thanks for the great morning laughs!

  • Dusan says:

    My belly hurts with laughing and I wonder how often you paint the walls in the twins’ room :=)) .Hecate *is* angelic, and I’d like to see a photo of her sidekick Buckethead, too.
    Now how can I better chaya ruchama’s lyricism? I can’t. I won’t even try. I’ll just agree that you really are remarkable, March.
    Talking about remarkable, have you tried Habit Rouge? My DG got me a bottle (a single 100ml bottle I serendipitously found disgracefully tucked away on the bottom shelf) for my birthday last week. It’s simply aaaahhhh…

  • chaya ruchama says:

    March, you are a wonder!

    Domestic divinity,queen of candor,sniffer sans semblable…

    Will you lead my cult of Subcontinental Wannanbes?
    One of the dubious aims of this group, is to evolve all those extra arms so that multitasking becomes more feasible…

    Those little momsers can really cook up a storm, can’t they?!

    The faces and voices of cherubim, the sudden destructiveness of poltergeists,the persistence of unrepentant incubi… somehow, they manage to keep us balanced, humbled,and in tune with that which matters most.

    It’s a good thing that we maintain creative passions which sustain us.

    One of my favorite methods [other than self-medicating copiously with perfume] is inventing patter songs, often musical plagiarisms, with scathing new lyrics befitting the troubling event…

    The average listener thinks you’re just a happy soul, but the lyrics usually manage to singe off your eyelashes![try it, it’s really effective!]

    Thank you for the cunning photo of Hecate [which unfortunately, didn’t cure me of my insatiable daughter-lust], and for taking the time to shed light on some of the fragrances I’ve heard so much about, but not yet sampled.

    I always marvel at your ability to express yourself…

    You are a remarkable woman, and very, very dear.

    Tell Mr. March how blessed he is- he will never be bored while you and your minions walk the earth!

    Many kisses!