A signature scent


You know those little cologne advertisements infused with a designated scent? You know, the ones inserted into department store ad brochures that come in the mail or you find inside a women’s magazine.

I like them. I enjoy getting a whiff of perfume or men’s cologne that I probably cannot afford to purchase. I like those freebie samples so much that I often save them in a little pile on my desk so I can open them, one at a time, one day at a time, to smell the scent of that fragrance.

Some days, after sniffing one, I chuck it into the trash can immediately. Yuk, didn’t like the odor of that one. Too strong. Too flowery. Too spicy. Too….something.

But often I find one that just smells sooooo good to me. And you know what I do? I swipe that rectangle of scent over the inside of my wrists to see if I can continue to catch a whiff of it all day long.  Am I weird or what?

I’m writing this as I occasionally lift my wrist to my nose and inhale a lovely scent of perfume. Right now, it’s Romance by Ralph Lauren, which ironically is a fragrance I happen to actually have.

Thinking about aromas brought some memories to my mind today. I’ve written before that my oldest memory is not a picture or an event but is actually a smell. And some aromas seem permanently attached to memories in my quirky brain.

Take the scent of a perfume named Chantilly for example. You may have never heard of it because it’s an old fragrance and has been around for almost 80 years.  A company named Dana debuted Chantilly in 1941. Even though I wasn’t even born yet when the perfume hit the department store counters, the scent of Chantilly immediately makes me remember someone dear to me – my mother-in-law. Chantilly was the perfume she always wore. You might say it was her signature scent.

After my husband’s mother passed away, we performed the task of going through her belongings and choosing what to keep and what to dispose of or give away. I found it interesting that both of our daughters chose to keep small bottles of half-used Chantilly as keepsakes to remind them of their grandmother. To this day, if I happen to catch a whiff of that perfume, I automatically think of her.

My own mother wore an assortment of colognes, many of them from Avon, from time to time, so I can’t identify one in particular that was her signature scent. I do recall her wearing Here’s My Heart and I even have two small empty fragrance bottles of that particular perfume. But there is another fragrance that always reminds me of my mom – a clean, fresh scent – the smell of bar soap.

There’s another old-time perfume that also reminds me of someone – my maternal grandmother. I have only a few memories of her because she passed away when I was nine years old. But I do vividly recall a fragrance in a cobalt blue glass bottle that she wore and kept in her bedroom. Evening in Paris was created in 1928 by Bourjois, a French company. 

During a trip to Vermont in 2018, I was tickled pink blue when I spotted a bottle of this fragrance for sale at The Vermont Country Store. When I smelled a sample bottle, my grandmother was in my thoughts. Evening in Paris seems to be my grandmother’s signature scent.

I think my father also had a signature scent. He wasn’t one to wear men’s colognes, but he did splash an after-shave lotion on his face every morning. I can remember watching Dad spread shave cream over his face and being amazed at the way he shaved off his daily whiskers by razor without cutting himself. The smell of Old Spice always reminds me of my dad.  Introduced as a scent for men in 1938, the original Old Spice products were made by the Shulton Company. Today this 83-year-old brand is owned by Proctor and Gamble.

I find it amazing that certain fragrances bring particular people to my mind. My oldest daughter dated a wonderful young man in high school, who happened to always wear Obsession for Men by Calvin Kline. They parted amicably when they went off to college and I rarely see him unless it’s an occasional post on Facebook. But if I happen to smell that particular men’s cologne on someone nearby, I think of this fellow. For me, it’s that young man’s signature scent.

My husband truly doesn’t have a signature scent. Over the 40+ years we’ve been married and even during our three years of dating, he has worn a variety of fragrances, from Ralph Lauren’s Polo, Lagerfeld, and Royal Copenhagen to Drakkar Noir, or none at all. Lately though, his signature scent might be coming from a brand of soap he discovered and likes to use in the shower, Duke Cannon.

And what about me? What is my signature scent?

It has changed over the years as I’ve grown older, ahem….become more mature. As a young teen, I liked the flowery and powdery kind of scents. In college, I wore a lot of musk oil based perfumes because they were popular and I liked the earthy aroma of them. Then I latched onto more spicy scents.

I’ve tried a lot of different fragrances in my lifetime, but I keep coming back to one. It’s not a popular, trendy perfume. You don’t see it advertised. It’s not found in the pricey section of department store cosmetics counters. Matter of fact, I can purchase it on Amazon, at Wal-Mart, or in other discount stores.

My signature scent comes in a triangular shaped bottle with a blue cap and is simply named Claiborne by Liz Claiborne.

It’s a throwback to the 1980’s and it’s described as a refreshing, floral fragrance.  According to numerous fragrance websites, it “captures with carnation, lily, freesia, mandarin, marigold, green notes, bergamot and peach at the top, followed by a floral wave of jasmine, narcissus, rose, ylang-ylang, lilac, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, and violet at the heart. Base notes include warm sandalwood, amber, oakmoss, and musk.”

It’s a conglomeration of aromas, some flowery, some fruity, some earthy. Kind of like me, a mixture of various things. That is the essence of me. And I wonder, will my signature scent ever remind someone of me?

“I think a fragrance is more of a signature than even what you wear – something you’ll remember more down the road than a shirt.” ~ Ryan Reynolds

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Turning rocks into gems


It’s just an ugly old rock or is it?


For me, it often appears in a visual form. Words do inspire me, which is why I keep an ever-bulging, tattered, old notebook full of quotations that “speak” to me.

But images. Oh, those sights my eyes behold, art work I may have the opportunity to view, photographs that I manage to coax out of my camera, they provide much of the spark that fires my thoughts and helps me put those thoughts into written words.

That was surely the case when we visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in our nearby city last month. Previously here in my blog, I shared some of my images and thoughts that fired up my brain when I entered the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems there.

The brilliant colors, the sparkle, the glimmer, and shimmer of those ‘rocks’ all lit up and displayed on ebony surfaces spoke to me without words.  Proof of that old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.

“These gems have life in them: their colors speak, say what words fail of.” ~ George Eliot

Viewing the decent photos I managed to take – it was difficult to photograph items behind glass and I’m nowhere near a professional or even knowledgeable photographer – continues to provide creative thoughts in this cluttered brain of mine and I want to share them with you.

We can look at a rock and say, “Well, it’s just a rock.” But what is on the inside of that rock? When split open, what you find may totally amaze you. What looks cold and mundane on the outside may radiate warmth and a magnificent treasure on the inside.


Display in Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems @ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The beauty of it reminds me that those rocks that exist under our feet, in mountains, in the deepest caverns, or elsewhere were all created by the God of the universe. The one God that can penetrate our own cold, stony hearts and fill it with light and love for His Son, a Savior, a Redeemer.

“Let us carve gems out of our stony hearts and let them light our path to love.” ~ Rumi

But even the beauty you may find on the inside of that cracked open rock can be further refined.  A number of processes cause a mineral or gem to form. Various conditions, forceful pressure, temperature changes all contribute to its formation.

Fracturing and friction produces another change into something much more precious and glittery – a gem stone. And that reminds me that we too can be polished up, our hearts made new. We can shine like the finest and most expensive gems in a jewelry store window when we give our lives to the One who loves us most.


Gorgeous gems in the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems

But often it takes going through some rough places, some difficult experiences, some really hard times to become a beautiful gem.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man without trials.” ~ Confucius

And that reminds me of a passage of Scripture in the Bible. One of Jesus’ disciples named Peter wrote to his fellow Christians, praising God for salvation through Jesus Christ, for a living hope that believers can have despite frequent suffering and persecution.

His words are recorded in the New Testament in the book of 1 Peter, Chapter 1, verses 6-8:  “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

Out of difficult trials, as a believer in Christ you can still hold onto a gem of hope, a gem of light, a gem of joy, a gem of love. Aren’t those the most beautiful gems you may ever possess?

“Sometimes the darkest challenges, the most difficult lessons, hold the greatest gems of light.” ~ Barbara Marciniak

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Words for Wednesday: timeless


“To provide meaningful architecture is not to parody history but to articulate it.” ~ Daniel Libeskind


“Architecture is not about space but about time.” ~  Vito Acconel


“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”  ~  Frank Gehry

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Unchanged hall of beauty


Hall of Architecture @ Carnegie Museum

Over 50 years ago as an elementary school-aged child on a classroom field trip, I visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art for the first time. 

Just to offer a bit of historical reference about this famous Pittsburgh, PA landmark, the museums were founded by the wealthy businessman and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, in 1895. The original building which housed the fledgling museum was called the Carnegie Institute and also held the Carnegie Library.

The next year, the first Carnegie International, an exhibition of contemporary art, took place.  After that, the museum began acquiring a vast collection of artwork.

When Carnegie learned that prehistoric creatures’ bones were being uncovered in the western part of the United States, he sent crews of scientists to Wyoming where they discovered the first dinosaurs.

Dinosaur Hall was one of the aspects of the Carnegie Museum that I remember well from my first trip there. The other portion that I recall was the Hall of Architecture. When Papa and I visited the museum last month, I was pleased to find it still looked like it did all those years ago.  It was just as impressive and awe-inspiring as I remember it to be.

blogIMG_0583The Hall of Architecture, which first opened in 1907, is beautiful with its expansive space lit by a skylight ceiling. During that era of time, collections of casts were popular, so Carnegie’s institute began collecting architectural casts, plaster reproductions of classical sculptures, and bronze replicas. Today that collection is the largest in the United States.

blogIMG_0585To say the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art is a gem is an understatement. Those who visit Pittsburgh should definitely include it on their list of “must see.”  They will not be disappointed. We certainly weren’t.

“As an architect you design for the present with an awareness of the past for a future which is essentially unknown.” ~ Norman Foster

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

There’s art and then there’s art

blogIMG_0600There’s an old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I think that not only pertains to life but also to art as well.

Let me be the first to say I am not an art expert in any way, and I won’t pretend that I do know much about that world. But I know I appreciate it, admire it, enjoy seeing it, but sometimes I just don’t understand it.

When Papa and I visited the Carnegie Museum of Art, where some 32,000 pieces of art consisting of paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and plenty of other visual art and objets d’art as well are displayed, I found some artwork beautiful and inspiring, some just was not my cup of tea.  

Many years ago, when I worked as an arts and entertainment reporter/editor for a daily newspaper, I wrote a feature article about an artist who had become a resident in our city. Gebre Kristos Desta was an Ethiopian modern artist and poet, who arrived in the United States as a refugee from his native country’s socialist regime at the time.

Kristos, as he asked me to call him, had studied art in Germany, returned to his homeland, and had been well received by the Ethiopian emperor during the 1960’s and 1970’s.  He became a teacher at the university in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, but when the emperor was overthrown and socialism became ensconced in his country, Kristos was pressed upon to create political propaganda that he didn’t agree with.

In the late 1970’s, he defected from his native land and sought asylum in Germany. Denied refuge there, he eventually gained political asylum from the United States.  In 1980, he arrived in a place that must have seemed quite foreign to him – the plains of Oklahoma.  

I remember visiting with him at his tiny apartment with my co-worker, one of the newspaper’s photographers, and noticing how little Kristos possessed in his meager surroundings. As we talked, I soon realized what he had endured just to be free from persecution and free to express himself through his paintings in whatever ways he was inspired.

In the short time he lived there, some local art patrons embraced him and his work purchasing his abstract expressionism paintings. He was invited to hold an art exhibit as well. Sadly, within a year or so of my interview with him, Kristos passed away at the age of 50.

Through internet research, I’ve learned that a museum, funded by the German government and devoted to this artist, now exists in Addis Ababa where Kristos’ paintings that had previously been stored in Munich are now displayed.

Back then when I met Kristos, I was not well versed in the art world, and while I could appreciate the paintings he showed me, I truly didn’t understand them.  But I could sense the emotion he poured into his work and my memory of this soft-spoken, articulate man who sacrificed so much just to gain some freedom is what remains.

Now, some 40 years later, I’m still not very knowledgeable about art, but I do recall some of the famous artists of the past and their work.  Names like Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, Matisse, Cassatt, Van Gogh, Picasso, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Cézanne, Renoir, Munch, Vermeer, Dali, and Rubens.

So it was most fascinating for me to view a few of those famous artists’ works gracing the exhibit walls at the Carnegie. From Mary Cassatt sketches and Henri Matisse drawings to paintings by Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch, and Paul Cézanne, every display was attention-grabbing.

Those I particularly enjoyed were The Garden in the Rue Cortot by Montmartre Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1876  (top left in photo below); Cliffs near Dieppe by Claude Monet in 1882 (bottom left);  and Le Moulin de la Galette by Vincent Van Gogh in 1886-87 (right).

I find that I’m drawn more to realistic and impressionistic styles of painting than abstract or cubism styles of art. Abstract art work leaves me baffled, pondering just what exactly the artist is trying to convey to me. And often I just don’t know. I’m too literal, I guess.

I have to wonder if those artists who express themselves in those styles understand their work either as I’m reminded of a quote I read once made by surrealist artist Salvador Dali, “If you understand a painting beforehand, you might as well not paint it.”

Some of the artwork exhibits that we saw caused us to be perplexed, scratching our heads in puzzlement. But I did find some of the modern art displayed to be thought provoking.

blogIMG_0591I admire those artists’ creativity and imagination. I appreciate their free-thinking kind of minds and I support the freedom they have in which to present their art.

I just don’t think I’d ever desire having it displayed in my living room. 

“Paintings must be looked at and looked at and looked at… No writing, no talking, no singing, no dancing will explain them.” ~ Charles Demuth, American watercolor artist

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: Spring by Tiffany


Tiffany glass art @ Carnegie Museum of Art

I’m longing for spring. I’m longing for color in my world. 

Green. In the expanse of grass on our lawn. In the leaves budding forth on the trees.

Purple. In the first crocuses of the season that pop up through the soil.

Yellow. In the daffodils that peek their sunny faces through the shrubs around our house.

Pink. In the aromatic hyacinths that make the air smell so sweet.

Red. In the perky tulips that make me smile.


Tiffany glass art @ Carnegie Museum of Art

And if spring won’t cooperate and arrive soon, I’ll have to find those colors in these photos of beautiful Tiffany glass artwork on display at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

For me, they are a complete picture of spring.

“Some days seem to fit together like a stained glass window. A hundred little pieces of different color and mood that, when combined, create a complete picture.” ~ Maggie Stiefvater

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


A perfect day


The first perfect day in the city

A perfect day. How would you describe it?

For some, a perfect day would be one without any mistakes made in everything attempted.

For others, a perfect day would depend on the weather. Lots of snow in the right condition on a mountain for skiers and snowboarders. Lots of bright sunshine and a day on the sand and in the ocean for beach lovers.

Perhaps a perfect day would be a day without arguments, disappointments, and complaints.

Maybe your idea of a perfect day is a day off from work.

Still for some people, a perfect day is time spent with a loved one.

Perfect days are as variable as we as individuals are. We each have our ideas of what constitutes a perfect day.

In the throes of dreary days and cabin fever, I often find it difficult to claim “This was a perfect day.” But recently, I found myself thinking exactly that and I realized that perfect days don’t necessarily depend on whether the sun shines or not, whether I’m at a certain location or not, or even when conditions are right or not.

Perfect days come from my attitude.

Two of those perfect days occurred when we ventured into our nearby city. The first happened when we left our empty nest home in a snow flurry and spent an entire day at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art.

We had a great time together viewing all the exhibits and just enjoying each other’s company while experiencing something different than our usual schedules and routines. When we left the museum, I felt encouraged and invigorated and then astonished to find a beautiful blue sky overhead with warmer temperatures than we had before.

A perfect day!

The second such day came when we accompanied our daughter and granddaughter to the Children’s Museum. After a full day of watching our granddaughter’s eyes light up with excitement and interest in everything she experienced there, we departed from the building to find chilly temperatures and view overcast, gray skies.


The second perfect day in the city

But still, despite the weather, it was a perfect day!

What made the difference? How I viewed each day – with gratitude for the time we spent together regardless of whether the sun shined or not. Gray skies or blue. Warm or cold. A day of life. A day with loved ones. A day of thanksgiving for life.

“Today is a day of completion; I give thanks for this perfect day, miracle shall follow miracle and wonders shall never cease.”  ~ Florence Scovel Shinn

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


The gift of a cat

blogIMG_0851Meet Bentley. He’s a rescue kitty that came from down south to live with our middle daughter and Little One, our first granddaughter.

Bentley was rescued from the side of the road by a family friend, originally from our neck of the woods, who lives in a state several hundred miles south of us. Since she already owned one cat, who apparently is pretty persnickety about sharing her space with another feline, our friend was desperately trying to find Bentley a new home.

He traveled northward with her this past summer while our friend visited her family and eventually, he came to claim some of our family as his own. Named Bentley because of his bent tail, he is a handsome kitty and is now king of daughter’s house.

Little One adores him and he has happily adjusted well to his new home and being the subject of much affection from a child. And just like most cats, he is curious about everything. Gift wrapping paper really captures his attention and he likes to play with it and unfortunately, try to eat it.

Recently, when we celebrated Little One’s fifth birthday, Bentley plunked himself down in the midst of the celebration, curious about all the presents.

I caught this photo of him shortly after Little One opened her birthday gifts.

He looked up at me as if to say, “What? All I get is some wrapping paper? And pink, girly stuff at that? Well, can I eat it?”

“What greater gift than the love of a cat?” ~ Charles Dickens (Great Expectations)

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: Party!

blog party pix

The birthday celebration was grand. The My Little Pony theme proved to be a big hit with the younger set and the adults enjoyed a great time of friendship and fellowship as well.

Little One (our first grandchild) turned five. (How can that be???) The children played pin the tail on the pony (Nana made the pony tails and Mommy made the pony), had pony races, got pony cutie marks (washable tattoos), designed their own bookmarks,  made rainbow edible jewelry with Froot Loops cereal,  and smacked the head off a My Little Pony pinata to gather up candy.

Keeping with the My Little Pony theme by using some of the characters’ names, food served included Twilight Sparkle hay bales (Rice Krispie treats), Spike’s spikes (Bugles snacks), Rarity’s crystals (rock candy), Apple Jack’s applesauce, Rainbow Dash’s fruit salad, and Fluttershy’s bunny food (raw veggies and dip).

And now that Little One is five, she now says she wants to be six! Don’t grow up too fast, my sweet grandchild. Remember that F I V E is Fantastic, Incredible, Vivid, and Energetic and enjoy every moment as you grow and learn this year. 

“Grandkids bring you into a sweeter, slower present. They show you the future at a time when a lot of your friends are thinking about the past. And they take you back to childhood–theirs, the parents’, your own: a three-time admittance to wonderland.” ~ Adair Lara

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Experience: a lasting gift

blogIMG_0836Somewhere along the way, I’ve read that the best gift you can give someone is not a material one but the gift of an experience.

I wholeheartedly agree. Especially when it comes to children.  Too often when we think of gift-giving to children, we think about what tangible items we can purchase – new clothes, toys, games, electronics, or books.

Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with those gifts. Children need clothes and shoes. They enjoy playing with toys. Books and games stimulate their minds. But eventually children grow out of the clothes, toys break, games are relegated to the back shelf, electronics become obsolete, and even books become too simple for them to read.

Those gifts may not last,  but giving a child an opportunity to experience something new, adventurous, or educational will make memories that endure for a lifetime.

Recently, we celebrated our first grandchild’s fifth birthday with her. She enjoyed a fun party with her friends, their parents, and nearby family. Little One’s mommy has a wonderful group of friends from her college days who all get together regularly with their young ones in tow to celebrate special occasions and get-togethers and they were in attendance at the party.   

Little One, as any child would be, was excited to open her presents. But one gift truly made an impression on me and eventually on Little One. One of her mommy’s friends gave her a gift card for admission to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

blogIMG_0769So on her birthday, Mommy, Nana, and Papa took Little One to this place of learning and fun. She had actually been there before when she was around two because a Daniel Tiger exhibit was there at the time and she loved Daniel Tiger. But she only remembers that visit because we have photos to show her.

Now at age five, the experience would make a longer lasting memory. We spent the better part of a day watching Little One explore the many hands-on exhibits, including one about the game of baseball and correlating math and science into the game.

There was so much to see and learn about light, mechanics, building, and even circuitry where Nana and she tried our hand at connecting lights and switches to batteries.  Hands-on exhibits with sand and water fascinated her. An entire floor is devoted to water play where children can pump, channel, and dam the flow of water and even experience rain showers and ice molding.

blogIMG_0793She loved the physical activities of climbing in and out of a two-story tall vertical maze, crossing a “gravity” room (a room tilted at a 25° angle to get to twisty sliding boards, and spinning on large sculptures called “Los Trompos” which resembled spinning tops.

Not only did Little One enjoy herself, but her Mommy, Papa, and Nana did as well. Nana and Papa even joined in creating a virtual puppet show where the puppets on a screen mimicked us as we moved, danced, and jumped.

blogIMG_0826A day to remember. A day to leave the mundaneness of winter and cabin fever behind. An experience that hopefully Little One will always remember.

Little One had a memorable experience thanks to the gift from a friend. And the best part of all was watching her excitement, seeing her eyes light up in wonder, and hearing her laugh. Good medicine for my cabin fever.

“A grandchild’s laughter is the greatest medicine.”  Unknown

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com