First off, everyone – thanks for the many comments on last week’s mope-post of mine, on scents for mourning. I read them all, and there are some great stories and images there. My dad’s doing well, all things considered – he wound up with an incision from just under his eye all the way down to the corner of his mouth, which is not what we thought we’d signed up for, but it’s healing nicely and they’ll take the stitches out in a couple of weeks.
I was working on another post for today but it hasn’t coalesced (congealed?) correctly, so you’re getting this instead – random thoughts about house-smells.
It’s the time of year when folks like me – folks who don’t usually scent their houses with anything in particular – bust out the “Smell of the Tree” room spray or the holiday cinnamon-stick and clove potpourri. I like to think about the way people’s houses smell when I walk into them. I am pretty sure that if you took me blindfolded into the houses of, say, my father and the people in this area whose homes I visit the most, I could correctly identify them. And the interesting part about that for me is, it’s not like there’s one particular smell marker for each house – wet dog, mildew, cigar, etc. Each house is a mysterious accretion of the smells of the lives of the people who live there. I couldn’t name a single “note” in those house-smells. And yet I could distinguish among them.
Our house smells … fine. I hope. When we first moved in it had a new-house smell (new paint, etc.) which I hated. But now it smells like old wool carpets, dust, art supplies and furniture oil, with an overlay of whatever we’ve cooked or baked. Awhile ago I got tired of buying boxes of cookies that disappeared in five minutes – we have a wicked sweet tooth over here – and so I said, if you want sweets, you have to bake them yourselves. I didn’t save any money, and what we make doesn’t last any longer, but frankly, I’d much rather have a slab of pumpkin bread, warm from the oven and smothered in butter, than an Oreo. And the bonus is the baked-pumpkin-bread smell.
We use unscented laundry detergent, in one of those low-water front loaders, and after awhile the clothes get this kind of sour smell, even when they’re clean. Putting vinegar in the bleach dispenser helps, and I tuck mismatched socks dabbed with lavender oil in the drawers and the linen closet, so there’s the faint smell of lavender.
Right now I’m using my Annick Goutal Noel, which I blogged about at some point. It’s a room spray, and I think it’s still available online. What I love about it (despite its somewhat misleading name) is: it’s the exact smell of the inside of a nice florist shop. It’s got a hint of wintergreen and eucalyptus, and/but mostly it’s that unique cornucopia of cold air, cut stems, and walking into the chiller where they keep the flowers. It’s a really fun smell, and it’s a nice, subtle background in a room. It’s not beating you over the head with the pine boughs or bonfire.
In the scent-fail department, a couple years ago I bought those Slatkin & Co. plug-ins from BBW, it looks like they no longer carry the line. The scents were something like “Winter” and “Pumpkin,” and they smelled great in the store. No, seriously. Anyway, I got them home and plugged them in and … no matter where I put them, they were overwhelming. It was like being buried alive in a vat of baked pumpkin, or smothered on the Christmas-tree lot, take your pick. I moved those things all over the house, trying to find somewhere I could plug them in that the miasma wouldn’t be too overpowering, and eventually I gave up and threw them away.
Finally, scented candles just don’t do it for me – with all these kids, I’m always afraid I’ll forget one and the house will burn down. However. I do have an (unlit) L’Artisan Figuier mini sitting next to me as I type this, and it always smells deliciously, faintly figgy. Also, next to my bed is the candle of Annick Goutal Sac de Ma Mere (“my mother’s purse”), which is the scent of a fabulous leather bag with powdery makeup, kind of along the lines of the newer version of Cuir de Lancome, only more suede glove and less powder. It’s a lovely smell, even unlit.
Your turn now – do you boil potpourri on the stove, deck the halls with fir boughs, bust out the orange oil for the pre-Thanksgiving dusting? Could you identify the signature smells of the houses of your nearest and dearest, whether or not you could pick out individual elements? What’s your favorite house-smell?
image: Fireside Friends by John Weiss. This makes me laugh ‘cuz you know that house smells like wet dog.