Smells Like Home

dustmotesby March

Hey there — filling in for Anita, who’s laid up with some killer sciatica (ouch!)  It’s been awhile, but I want you to know I still stop by and lurk on the Posse.  Let’s talk about smells today; it’s getting colder and with various holidays coming up, it’s the time of year I get to thinking about the smells of home — mine, yours, other people’s.

I moved last spring; it was bittersweet (more bitter than sweet at the time, frankly).  We’d built the house we were living in and I thought it would be our forever home, or as close to forever as life gets.  But life made other plans and so I found a tiny rancher in the same neighborhood, trying to minimize the disruption to the kids, g*d knows they’ve had enough disruptions the last couple of years.  We’re like the children in the shoe over here, but … it’s kinda nice, actually.  The rancher’s regulation-ugly from the curb, but fortunately I don’t live on the curb, and we’ve made it cozy inside; I’d go so far as to call it charming.  I probably got rid of 80% of our stuff.  I also downsized my perfume collection, although (don’t worry) I still have enough to last several lifetimes.  We’re still sorting out the new normal, and it’s beginning to dawn on me that the sorting process goes on as long as we’re alive, doesn’t it?

I love the way different houses smell.  My dad still lives in the house I grew up in, and it still smells the same — dusty books, radiator heat, leather and old wood floors, with a hint of Old Spice and toothpaste.  The house we left smelled new when we moved in, although we did our best to give it our own scent while we lived there.  I miss that smell.  The house we’re in now had that generic rental house smell at first, which I found disconcerting, as if I’d arrived home to find everything I owned was gone.  Which, in a way, it was — replaced by something new and, in its way, fresh and lovely.  There are advantages to living in a small house — only so many spots I can misplace my (watch, keys, purse, glasses, phone, etc.)  We all spend a lot more time hanging out together, and the kids were involved in what we brought and where it would fit in here.  Hats off to my decorator friend for fitting the things I really wanted into my new bedroom.  I think we could fit most of this house into the first floor of the last one.  But we’re here and happy, which is what matters.

So.  Our new house smells like books, because what could be more important?  Our bookshelves line one wall of the living room.  The house is mostly bare wood floors, which I love, onto which we threw our many pretty carpets.  The kitchen is pretty sweet; often the whole house smells like cookies, or roasted chicken.  This winter I’ll be teaching the big girls toffee-making, at their request, so they can carry on that tradition.  While we’re cooking we’ll have a CD player for our favorites — hits from the 1940s, Paris cafe music, or the soundtrack from Pride and Prejudice.  We all hang out together in the living room, which is just big enough for the five of us, and read.  When the front door opens, I breathe in the smell of damp leaves and the slightly frosty smell of winter on its way.

I popped into Saks recently and discovered the inside had been re-done.  I strolled around a bit; Saks isn’t really in the budget right now, but it was still fun.  I stopped in front of a display of unfamiliar room candles and sniffed.  They were lovely, but not something I’d splurge on.  The next day I was in TJ Maxx and I spotted the same brand — Aquiesse — at a fraction of the Saks price (the candle containers aren’t as fancy, just plain glass).  So I did splurge — a little splurge — on two.  Both smell delicious in a subtle, background way.  According to the Saks website, Spiced Embers is “a lively accord of Indian saffron and aromatic cardamom blended with smoky olibanum and antique woods. Evolving the essence of rich incense and a warm fire.”  White Tea & Mint is is a light-handed blend of white tea leaves, jasmine and spearmint, perfect in the open kitchen/dining/breakfast nook area.  They had some other pretty ones, including a currant and a pine that smelled amazing.  Here’s a random link to Aquiesse on a luxe website that has some wonderful-sounding candles, including one by Amouage.

What smells like home to you?  Do you notice what other folks’ homes smell like?  (I can still conjure up the smell of a childhood friend’s home — they kept birds and guinea pigs and other critters, and my friend and her home smelled a bit like a pet store, in a nice way.)  Do you take the smell of home with you on your travels (wee candles, scented pillowcase, etc.)?  What are some of your favorite home smells?

image — dust motes, Lucrecia Fernandez via Pinterest

  • jilliecat says:

    Dear March and Posse Peeps – abject apologies for the numerous postings made by me and my kindly broadband provider. I had computer glitches today, which meant that everything went mad, and I’m really sorry that you now have all those comments above. Except that I really do want to say welcome back to March!

  • jilliecat says:

    Just wanted to say welcome back, March!

  • jilliecat says:

    thanks guys

  • jilliecat says:

  • jillieh says:

    sorry for further testing

  • jim says:

    Sorry for the testing!

  • jim says:

    this is a test

  • Marion Geller says:

    So great to ‘read’ you, March. Such an evocative post in so many ways. Definitely down-sized in the past couple of moves — and surprised at how much could be given away. Things that had simply moved with us, but that I hadn’t given real thought to. I definitely sniff other people’s houses. As to ours, at the moment, it smells of the almond/brioche scent of Joe the lab (still) puppy, the rosemary oil I use on the floor to keep him from chewing the boards, whatever perfume is of the day, and last night’s dinner. My fave candles currently are a fig (I can’t recall who makes it) and a l’Artisan which smells of summer garden (to remind me of warmer days as it gets darker and colder here). Good wishes with everything.

  • Caroline says:

    I moved last year as well, to a larger home, but with drastically smaller closets. Last place had 4 huge walk-ins, and this one has the ’50s-’60s micro-style, with 1 bar & 1 shelf. I did Elfa a couple of them, but that just means I have to fetch a stepstool to reach the high shelves. Wound up donating a fair amt of clothing. Did some renovations prior to moving, so the place smelled of paint & polyurethane for awhile. Just picked up some vetiver incense, and Diptyque’s ecorce de pin candle. May have to spring for Frasier Fir this season, too–either the diffusers or candle.

  • tammy says:

    Hello, March! Allow me to join the chorus of those who are delighted to “see” you again!

    It’s funny to me that while I couldn’t possibly be tied down to just one perfume, I love the idea of our home having a signature scent.

    I’ve been told it smells good, but no one can tell me what it smells of. I think it’s probably just a generic blend of perfume and all the other scented things I have ( candles, incense, diffusers, etc). I once heard my little nieces talking about how much they liked coming over because there was always glitter everywhere and I let them drink out of fancy glasses, but they never mentioned the house smelling good!

    Now I am off to find some jasmine vanilla plug-ins online…

    Feel better soon, Mizz ‘nita!

    • March says:

      Love your story of the nieces! I have a *bit* of that relationship with my 12YO niece because it’s girl central over here, and she has one brother and a mom who’s just not into the girly stuff. She got a “care package” from me for her birthday with nail polish and some lip gloss.

  • Rhonda Colbert says:

    We have dear friends that we get together with during the football season. Each time we go over to visit their house smells “like home”(not my home) a comfortable cozy non-descrpit scent. I thought I was the only one who noticed until one day my 16 yr old son left his hoodie at their house. After several weeks had passed he finally retrieved it. He smothered himself and inhaled deeply and sighed, “ahh it smells like Colby’s house!” So I had to ask…she uses jasmine vannila glade plugins.
    We all have childhood memories of what grandma’s or mom’s house smelled like. I hope to leave a good memory of my own but with five boys all I can manage is a “locker room” no bueno!

    • March says:

      Stunned by Jasmine Vanilla plugins but I totally get the cozy home smell…. I can tell when my kids have been to certain houses, some of them smell sooo good but it’s like a whole house smell, not something easily replicated. And one house where they cook a lot and she always comes home smelling like garlic 🙂

  • ElizabethC says:

    Hmmm – needed to go to the post office today and there just happened to be a Marshalls next to it. Just came back with an Aquiesse White Birch and Bergamot Candle. I am officially a candle lemming 🙂

  • Teri says:

    As the others have said….what a pleasure to ‘see’ you among us again, March.

    Aaaah, candles. I’ve always loved burning them. From the time when I was young and would squint my eyes to look at the flame because it was so pretty and magical that way through my hippie days when they smelled of patchouli and clover and were home-made to more recent times when they have become the perfect accessory to my well-dressed home.

    I don’t actually burn them much these days because I have an enormous white long-haired cat (Catius Maximus) who is as fascinated by the flames as I used to be and I’m always fearful that if I leave him alone in the room with a candle, he’ll bat it over and start a fire.

    I adore my scent memories of my grandmothers’ homes – one always smelled of delicious things baking and the other always smelled of flowers and perfume. My childhood home smelled mostly of two chain-smokers, so those memories aren’t so sweet.

    As a young wife and mother, my home smelled of children (the good – freshly washed child; the bad – athletic uniforms and socks; and the downright ugly – chemistry experiments) and pets. I bemoaned many of those scents while they were there, but miss the bloody heck out of them now that they are gone.

    These days my house tends to smell a little bit unloved, as I work and travel a lot and I live alone. But occasionally I’ll come home and find that my dog walker has just left and the house smells of happy dog and of the outdoors. That always makes me smile.

  • Kim B says:

    I think it is the smell of outdoors in the house that is so wonderful to me – always reminds me of celebrations, the doors opening and closing as guests and family come and go, that gust of the outdoors swept into the celebration.

    As for candles, I have gotten into glassybaby votives – gorgeous hand made glass, coloured in layers that glow when a votive is lit inside. Sometimes I use a scented votive but usually unscented – cheaper and I love to light a whoooole bunch of glassybabies in different colours. Gorgeous!

  • Portia says:

    Hey there March,
    What a treat to see you here. One day I’m going to come visit you in your new home.
    I am back living in the house my parents built, both of them are dead and it took me ten years of living elsewhere before I could face living here again, I miss my Mum most days still. The front yard has many of the smells I remember from childhood, especially when raking liquidamber leaves in Autumn, and still looks similar but we lost a huge crabapple tree. The back yard still smells of earthy humus, eucalyptus and salt water pool, and a little of dogs. There is no more curb or incinerator burning in Sydney suburbs sadly because that is a smell I miss keenly.
    Sometimes when I cook Mum’s Spaghetti Bol the smell is so profoundly reminiscent of my times cooking with her in this kitchen that I get a gush of bittersweet so fierce it can take my breath away for a moment.
    This house has always smelled like safety to me. Everyone that comes here feels welcomed and somehow cut off from the big badnesses of the world.
    Thanks for sharing your story, sorry if I rambled.
    Portia xx

    • March says:

      Oh, this was so evocative, thanks… my dad’s house has the same feeling of safety and refuge. And I too miss the smell of the fall leaf burns, although I know they’re bad for the environment. You can come visit any time, hon.

  • Ann says:

    Dear March, how lovely to hear from you on this chilly Wednesday (although I do hope Ms. Musette gets to feeling better very soon). Change is so hard, and as you so eloquently put it, “the sorting process goes on as long as we’re alive.” But so glad you’re adapting and finding a new avenue of happy and that you and the kids can enjoy each other in your cozy new abode.
    I haven’t been to our Saks in a month or two, so who knows what I will find, but I will be on the lookout for those candles, to sniff only. And I love the music to “Pride and Prejudice”; I need to get that soundtrack soon. Sending you good thoughts and prayers, and as always, big hugs.

    • March says:

      We own the movie, and my 17YO bought herself the book recently 🙂 The music is lovely, she gave me the soundtrack and we all enjoy it.

  • Johnnie says:

    Lovely post.
    I just ordered holiday candle from Our Own Candle company who in my estimation is far more long lasting and fragrant than some of the big name companies. Ordered some Balsam Pine, head start on the holidays, Smell My ……, a bad name if funny and a great room filling scent and some gift packs.
    Enjoy the moment

  • Sherri says:

    March, I am soooo glad to “see” you again !! What a major life change I am glad to hear the five of you are getting to spend time close together. In the summer I still make my youngest five (who are all teenagers now) bring a book and read in the family room for an hour. They used to complain but I know they secretly enjoy and need the time together rather than everyone going their own separate ways with all their various electronic computer/ipads/etc. and I know you will cherish these times of the five of you all together.

    Yes, I obviously notice the smells of people’s homes. My home is a constant battle. I seem to always have passions that contradict one another: why does one have three dogs, three cats and now two kittens, and a bunny when one is smell-phobic, really?? I am in a constant state of smell-vigilance–spraying, burning, sifting, etc. I use those little Yankee candle plug in thingies. I hope–hope–the house smells good but it’s really hard to smell your own house. One time when my daughter was going thru a rough spot in those lovely years around age 14, she thought she might hurt my feelings, I think, when she said “and why can’t we just be normal? all my friends say our house smells!!” Oh dear, not “smells!!” “So darling daughter, smells like what???” “Like, like all those candles you burn…it’s just not NORMAL, Mom!!” Touche, but thankfully it didn’t sound like a letterbox issue…LOL!

    Anyway, I do hope everyday gets better and brighter, and that you have wonderful awesome times in this new state of “normal” Much love to you, March xo Sherri

    • March says:

      I thought she was going to say it smelled like animals, not candles! And to me people’s houses smell so different from each other, not just ours… and thanks for the kind thoughts!

  • Gina says:

    Wow, followed your link and lusted over a bunch of candles until I saw that a $490.00 candle is a thing that exists. Cire Trudon, if anyone else is curious.

  • Gina says:

    I bought a new candle by Soi, with a scent called Goddess. It smells just like Angel and these candles are advertised as candle/skin moisturizer. Weird, but it actually does nicely on the hands and smells great.

    • March says:

      I have noticed scented candles leave a nice residue on my hands, I assume beeswax and oils… I’ve dabbed it behind my ears.

  • Jackie b says:

    I hate it when houses have an unpleasant odour…my parents place smells of stale air. God forbid that they open a window and let in The Weather!
    It’s hard to smell your own house but I am loving my Dr Vraanjies Cuoio Radica diffusers, soft and leathery, like an old library.

    • March says:

      It is hard to smell your own house, isn’t it? I notice it most when I’ve been gone awhile… and my dad would never let the fresh air in, I do it for him, lol. Okay, when he’s not looking.

  • Catherine says:

    We just recently moved, too—now to New York City. We went from a super big house to a studio and threw away most of our stuff. Books and photographs fill our place, as well as a textile collection and a handful of perfume bottles (5 down from 80+ back in the day). I love the smaller place; everything that’s meaningful is closer at hand.

    What I didn’t give up is my stash of incense—Japanese and Mariage Frères. Lighting those instantly makes me feel at home.

    • katrin says:

      That must have been a tough choice, from 80+ to five! I admire you!!!

      • Catherine says:

        It was—it took about four/five years to do that. I don’t know what it is, but somehow it’s easier and happier to grab the same bottle for a month or so. Trying to figure out what that means . . . 😉

    • March says:

      New York — you are having your adventures, so happy for you! And I’m impressed by your whittling down of your fragrances… how on earth did you get it to five? I justify mine with the fact they don’t take up much room, although they are a pain to pack 🙂

      • Catherine says:

        Years of assessing what was most used and easiest to throw on—and the lovely detail about not minding it all in my scarves and dresses. 🙂 Oh, the packing! That thought generated the final cull, because I couldn’t stand the thought of precious bottles sitting in a POD in the Oklahoma sun for a month in summer . . . I carried in the suitcase what I had left.

        BUT, no worries—I plan to make up for my minimalist ways now that I’m in such a great city for perfume. I’m shopping with a friend tomorrow . . . Ha!

  • eldarwen22 says:

    A couple nights ago, I splurged on some Bath and Body Works Candles. I love the Farmstead Apple, Evergreen, and Fresh Balsam that they offer this time of year. This morning, I had to spend almost $400 to pay the doctor for my stupid teeth and they wouldn’t accept a credit card, only a check.

    • March says:

      Those candles sound perfect for this time of year… I think I got a couple Slatkins there awhile ago like that. Sorry about your teeth!