There’s A Fragrance In The Air

I ran out of my favorite perfume last week. Since my birthday is next week, I’m hoping that one of the people who love me will rectify the situation…Anna, Ryan, Matthew…Mom needs Viva La Juicy Perfume!

No, of course I’m not completely out. According to the website, women today have fragrance wardrobes of at least six different perfumes, rather than a single signature perfume like our mother’s generation did. That fits me perfectly as I have five perfumes now that I’ve run out of my favorite. Here’s a list of the ones I still have:

Burberry Brit (My second favorite)
Coco Mademoiselle Chanel
Miracle by Lancome
Chanel No 5
Pure Tiffany

I think most of us have a favorite that we wear for every day and then possibly another favorite for evenings out. One of my perfumes (Pure Tiffany) I don’t really like but it cost so much that I won’t get rid of it. The others I wear sporadically when I begin to feel like I’m in a bit of a scent rut.

When I was a teenager, I began wearing the same cologne as my best friend, Karen. We both wore Jovan Musk Cologne all through high school. Then, for my birthday in August before I left for college, my mom gave me a bottle of her signature perfume, Chanel No 5. It’s the perfume I have worn for special occasions for most of my adult life.

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Sometimes a scent has personal significance because it is connected to someone, to something, or to a special memory. I have a perfume bottle that belonged to one of my grandmothers. It’s a bottle of Chantilly with just a bit of perfume left at the bottom. After my grandmother died when I was just 11, I asked if I might have it. Whenever I would be really missing her, I would open the bottle so I could remember how she smelled. I still do that sometimes, even after 45 years.

People have been wearing perfumes of different kinds for thousands of years. The word perfume is derived from the Latin word “per fumus” which means “through smoke.”

The Hungarians first introduced modern perfume, but France quickly became the center of perfume and cosmetic manufacture. Cultivation of flowers for their perfumes grew into a major industry in the south of France. Today, France remains the center of European perfume design and trade.

In earlier days, perfumes were used primarily by royalty and the wealthy to mask body odors resulting from the different standards for hygiene. If you didn’t bathe, a little perfume helped with the smell!

In Victorian times, there used to be something called “perfume buttons” which included a piece of fabric inside a button worn on clothing that would be dabbed with a woman’s favorite perfume. Handkerchiefs, fans and gloves were also dabbed with scents to help people smell better.

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Perfume is made from about 78% to 95% specially denatured ethyl alcohol added with essential oils. The more essential oil in the fragrance, the more it costs. There are also major fragrance categories…Floral, Oriental, Floriental, Chypre, Green Marine and Fruit.

Here are the fragrance variations and their names with the most to least essential oils in the mix:

Perfume is the costliest with 22% of essential oils.
Eau de Parfum has 15 – 22% essential oils.
Eau de Toilette has 8 – 15% oils.
Eau de Cologne has just 4% essential oils.
The lightest, most diluted fragrance is Eau Fraiche with 1 – 3% essential oils.

Today, perfumes and other fragrances are an over 10 billion dollar per year industry. I was curious to see what the most popular perfumes were and I found a list of the 10 top selling perfumes in the United States.

America’s best-selling perfumes for women are:

1. Coco Mademoiselle Chanel
2. Flowerbomb Viktor & Rolf
3. Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue
4. Miss Dior (new version) Dior
5. No.5 Chanel
6. J’Adore Christian Dior
7. Burberry Brit Burberry
8. La Vie Est Belle Lancôme
9. Guilty Gucci
10. Angel Thierry Mugler for women

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Fortunately, today we can take regular baths and showers and don’t have to wear perfumes to hide bad smells. We can wear them to enhance the way we smell to others.

It’s suggested that perfumes are best applied to pulse points such as the inside of one’s elbow, the wrists, back of knees, neck and cleavage. Spraying into the air and walking through the perfume is a good way to diffuse it all over your body.

Author’s note: Do you have a favorite perfume and do you wear it every day? For the guys…do you have a favorite perfume for your wife or girlfriend to wear?

Jammin’ About Spreads

One day at work, we began talking about the differences between jelly and jam and preserves. And then someone said, “What about marmalade…how is that different?”

None of us really knew the difference, so the next time I went to the grocery store, I stopped in front of the jelly and jam section to try to figure it out. I discovered that there were also fruit spreads, conserves, fruit butters and chutney and I was more confused than ever.

I turned to some of my cookbooks and to Google for the answers. I found a great-looking strawberry jam recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and several websites that explained the differences. I bet some of you already know the answers but just in case you don’t, here they are!

Jellies are clear gels made from fruit juice, sugar, and pectin. They are thick enough to hold their shape, but also spread easily.  Jellies last about a year and are often paired with peanut butter.

*For those of you who are not familiar with pectin, it’s extracted mainly from citrus fruits and other plants and is sold commercially as a white or light brown powder. It’s used in jellies and jams as a stabilizer and as a gelling agent.

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Jams are made with one or more fruits, sugar, and pectin. In jams, the fruit is crushed or chopped so that bits and small pieces are in the soft spread. Jams also are good for about a year.

Fruit spreads are jams that are made without sugar using just the fruit pieces and pectin. Since sugar acts as a preservative in canning, fruit spreads don’t last as long as jellies and jams. They are good for about six months.

Marmalades are soft spreads made with one or more citrus fruits such as oranges, kumquats, bergamots, mandarins, grapefruit, lemons and limes. They are made from the juice, peel, and fruit pulp and are boiled with sugar. Since pectin occurs naturally in citrus fruits, it does not need to be added. The end product is a clear jelly spread with bits and pieces of the fruit and rinds in it.

Preserves seem to have two definitions. Some people consider preserves to be a form of a jam with small whole fruits (such as whole berries) or larger fruit pieces than a jam would have, suspended in the soft spread. Others use “preserves” as a broad blanket category of foods that are cooked or changed to last longer or to be “preserved”. This would include all jellies, jams, fruit spreads, marmalades, chutneys, conserves, and fruit butters.

Conserves also seem to have two definitions. One version says they are jams made with dried fruits and/or nuts. The spread has a thick and chunky texture and sometimes might contain liquor. Some people call conserves “whole fruit jams” which are made from whole fruits stewed in sugar. Conserves are especially popular in Eastern Europe.

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Chutneys originated in India and are a spicy spread made from fruit and/or vegetables, spices, sugar and vinegar. They are sweet and tangy and have a texture similar to jam.

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Apple butter and other fruit butters are smooth spreads made from larger, pureed fruits such as apples, plums, and peaches which are mixed with sugar and spices. They are cooked slowly until they thicken to a spreadable consistency.

When I was a girl, my mom and I would pick strawberries at a local farm every summer. Then, she would make the best tasting strawberry jam. To this day, I’ve never tasted jam as good as my mom would make. I’m hoping the recipe I found today might be the one she used since she had the same cookbook!

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Besides strawberry jam, my personal favorites are apple jelly and pear or mango chutney, but now I want to try some of the spreads that are new to me. What are your favorites?


A Unique Hospitality

About four years ago, we discovered the fun of staying in a bed and breakfast. We were on a week-long trip traveling up the coast of Maine stopping for the night whenever we got tired.  One evening, we came across a quaint looking bed and breakfast with a vacancy sign so we stopped and knocked, not quite sure what to expect.

We were welcomed like long-lost family and asked how many nights we would like to stay. Our hostess asked where we were from and invited us to sign the guest book. As she led us to our room, she told us some of the history of her beautiful, old home.

Our room was at the end of a long hall and was airy and clean with an adjoining bathroom. As she handed us the key, she told us how to get on the house WIFI and the time and location for breakfast the next morning.

There was a newer model TV on a chest in the room and bottles of water and wrapped chocolates on our pillows. The bathroom was stocked with soaps and shampoo and there were clean terry cloth robes in the closet. It cost us $99 and was as nice as any other place we stayed all that week.

That first bed and breakfast we stayed in, or B & B as they are called, had seven guest rooms and was larger than most of the others we’ve visited since. Bed and breakfasts are usually run by the owners of the home and typically have from 3 – 10 guest rooms with 6 being the average number of rooms for rent.

Breakfast is cooked and served by the owner of the home and the dining room table is shared with the other guests. Meeting the other guests is one of my favorite parts of staying in a B & B.

We once stayed in a bed and breakfast in Indiana that was in an old refurbished jail, and we were disappointed to find that breakfast the next morning was in the form of 2 free meals at the coffee shop next door. We were looking forward to meeting the other guests who had been in jail with us the night before!

Three weeks ago, we returned to the Ivy House Bed & Breakfast in Fortville, Indiana for our second stay there. We had really liked the owners, Linda and Jim, the first time we stayed and we especially enjoyed the candlelight breakfast with the other guests.

With only three guest rooms, the Ivy House is smaller than some B & B’s but that is part of the charm. It feels like we are guests in a friend’s home. There was a sign on our bedroom door welcoming us back and homemade cookies on the dining room buffet. One of our favorite things about the Ivy House is their covered side porch complete with a porch swing and comfy chairs for relaxing in the morning or afternoon with a cup of coffee.

The weekend we were there, we met an adult mother and daughter on their annual weekend at a B & B together, a newly married couple on their honeymoon, and another married couple who were visiting from Michigan to see a Florida Georgia Line concert.

The Ivy House, like many B & B’s, keeps DVD’s and books available for guests who are looking for entertainment. They also often have beautiful gardens for the guests who prefer to sit outside.

Bed and breakfast owners are often a great resource for finding out about other fun places to visit in the same area. The best catfish we’ve ever eaten was at a restaurant in Medicine Park, Oklahoma. We were told about the restaurant by our bed and breakfast hosts. They also told us about a local pottery artist who had a shop on one side of her home. We visited the potter and ended up buying several of her pieces.

We’ve only had one night in a bed and breakfast that we didn’t enjoy. It was in a small town in Northern Oklahoma where we had gone for an Alan Jackson concert a couple of years ago. We were given the address of the house over the phone and the owner met us there. It was then that we realized she had multiple houses she rented out and that we would be alone in the house.

The house was divided by floors and we would have the downstairs with no one staying upstairs that night. The furnishings were big and heavy and looked and smelled old. There were cobwebs connecting the curtains to the ceiling and the house was very dark. I whispered to my husband that the inside looked like a haunted house in a horror movie.

That night after we returned from the concert, it began to storm and it stormed for hours with big booming thunder and bright flashes of lightning that lit up the big dark bedroom we were in. About 1:00 in the morning, we heard footsteps overhead and we didn’t know if the guests above us were new or old ones. Needless to say, neither of us slept that night and we left for home at the first crack of dawn!

The custom of opening private homes to travelers dates all the way back to Colonial America when there were very few places to stay. Once the railroads went in, hotels became more common and bed and breakfasts went out of style.

During the Great Depression from 1929 to 1939 people again would open their homes to travelers as a way of earning some much-needed money. Signs would be posted that read “Guests” or “Tourists” and travelers could rent a room for the night for around $2.00 which was cheaper than the cost of a hotel.

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There are approximately 17,000 bed and breakfasts operating in the United States today. Most have websites which show pictures of the individual rooms and where previous guests can post reviews. Many of these B & B’s are members of professional associations that require their members to meet certain standards for quality and safety.

My husband says he enjoys staying at bed and breakfasts because each one is unique and they usually have some history or a few good stories about the properties. With the exception of the scary B & B in Northern Oklahoma, every place we have stayed has been clean and very comfortable and our hosts have been very attentive to the needs of their guests.  And, staying in a bed and breakfast is a way to see some interesting homes and to meet some really nice folks!

Recipes For A Cool Summer

Many folks have this entire week off and I’m seeing all kinds of fun pool and lake pictures on social media.  Our week is a mixed bag as we’ve had some time off as well as some work days this week.  We were able to get our new shed finished yesterday and to see some great fireworks last night.

One of the things I most enjoy this time of year are some of the delicious summertime recipes I have.  Some are recipes I’ve developed myself over the years and others were shared by some of my friends who are great cooks.

I’ve always liked hot food in cold weather and cold food in hot weather, and living in the hot Texas heat makes the cold summer recipes even more refreshing!

Since it’s a vacation week and my brain is in semi-vacation mode, I thought I’d do something a little different and share some of my most requested (by family and friends) summer recipes.

Chicken Salad

3-4 grilled chicken breasts chopped (You can substitute canned chicken)

2-3 celery stalks chopped small

1 Granny Smith apple peeled and chopped small

Red seedless grapes cut in half…as many as you want

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional if you are a nut lover)

Mix all ingredients with Hellmann’s mayonnaise to your desired consistency.

I don’t use any seasoning because it doesn’t seem to need it with all of the flavors in the recipe.  I have served this over fresh tomato slices, on top of a lettuce salad, and on croissants for bridal and baby showers.  It’s also good on regular bread or by itself.

Spinach Pasta Salad

1/3 bag of baby spinach

1 container of grape or cherry tomatoes and slice tomatoes in half

½ of a large red onion chopped small

2 small cans of sliced black olives

2 packages of crumbled feta cheese

1 pound box of penne or rotini pasta

1 package or bottle of zesty Italian salad dressing.  I use the Good Seasons dry mix and make my own with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  You can make the salad dressing the night before and refrigerate.

Cook pasta and rinse in cold water.  Wash spinach leaves (I pull off the stems). Chop onion. Slice tomatoes in half. Drain olives.  Mix all ingredients in a really large bowl and add salad dressing.  You may not need all of the dressing.  Chill and serve.

This is a really popular and much requested salad at carry-in dinners.  Thank you to my friend, Renee Lange, who shared it with me many years ago!

 My Family’s Favorite Pasta Salad

1 pound box of rotini or penne pasta

8-ounce block of mild or medium cheddar chopped in small cubes

1 green bell pepper chopped small

2 stalks of celery chopped small

2-3 green onions chopped small or use onion powder

Optional if you want to add some protein:  1 cup cubed turkey or ham

Mix ingredients in a large bowl and cover with creamy dressing.

Dressing:  ½ – 1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise, ½ – 1 cup sour cream and ¼ – ½ cup milk, salt and pepper to taste.

I’ve been making this recipe for over 30 years and it’s my dad’s favorite so I often make him a bowl of it for Father’s Day or his birthday! I think the original recipe came from my friend, Elaine Michael in Cincinnati but I’ve tweaked it a bit over the years.


Baked Bean Casserole

3 lb can Bush’s baked beans

1 lb ground beef

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 onion chopped small or onion powder

¼ cup brown sugar

1 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Brown meat and onion or add onion powder.  Add other ingredients and simmer.

This recipe is from my friend, Nancy Fehrenbacher, and is another popular one at carry in dinners and can be taken in a crock pot to keep it warm.  It can also be made without the ground beef.

 Summer Cheesecake 

1 8-ounce block of cream cheese

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 8-ounce Cool Whip (I use lite)

1 large graham cracker crust

Fresh strawberries or blueberries for garnish on top

Beat cream cheese until smooth in large bowl and add in sugar.  Mix with vanilla and sour cream.  Fold in Cool Whip and mix well.  Spoon into graham cracker crust and top with fruit if desired.  Chill for 3 – 4 hours before serving.

I don’t remember where this recipe came from originally because I have been making it for so many years.  It is quick and easy and tastes really good on a hot summer day!

Ice Cream Pie

1 chocolate graham cracker crust

1 container of chocolate chip ice cream

1 jar of hot fudge or plain old Hershey’s Syrup

Soften ice cream in large bowl for 10 – 15 minutes and stir to a smooth consistency.  Pour into crust, cover with plastic lid and refreeze for several hours.  Heat fudge right before serving and drizzle over individual slices of pie.

This is a quick and easy to make dessert that is always a hit in the summer!  My friend, Lora Eminhizer shared it with me many years ago and it remains one of my personal favorites. You can use whatever flavor of ice cream you love but we like chocolate chip the best.  I’ve also made it with a regular graham cracker crust and chocolate ice cream.

 Are you hungry yet?  Feel free to share any of your favorite summer recipes.  I am currently in search of a really good banana cream pie recipe.  Hope you have a fun and safe vacation week and summer!