Nostalgia

As the crinkly crackle of autumn fades into a windy whisper of winter, my thoughts drift back to my childhood. This precise time of year, more than any other, makes me crave for the carefree comfort of youth. The holidays are still wrought with memories and emotion for me and probably will be for some time. A few weeks ago, the first snowfall in my area actually brought tears to my eyes. The change of seasons reminding me of time passing, another season gone and a new one beginning with the absence of a loved one on my mind.

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An advent calendar is a joyous bit of nostalgia to herald the Christmas season

For these reasons, I plan to drench myself in nostalgia this Christmas. Why fight it when it’s better to embrace it? I can’t turn back the clock, no one can, but I can surround myself with comforting rituals and simple pleasures this season. Time passes by so quickly, especially during the hurried holidays.

My mantra: I will slow down. I will spend meaningful time with my hard-working family and busy friends. I will take care of myself and do something good for those less fortunate than I am. I will remember…

Childhood comforts:

It started this week. Tuning in to catch the kiddie Christmas specials that I’ve passed on in recent years because I’ve been busy or working. How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer thus far, with A Charlie Brown Christmas coming up tonight. From the library, I’ve just ordered complete television seasons of shows I loved in my youth- Family Ties and Eight is Enough-shows that celebrated family and made me laugh. (Eight is Enough was a little before my time, but I must have enjoyed watching the re-runs) More modern feel-good TV, for me, would be The Office or Parks and Recreation. I’ll see how long this mid-west winter gets before I start binging past seasons of those too.

Nostalgia has become big business for my generation, in my late 30s, and those around my age recently. It seems as if every toy that was popular when I was growing up is having a renaissance moment. Nintendo’s reboot of the classic NES game system selling out in minutes demonstrates how powerful the lure of reliving one’s childhood can be. I’ve scoffed at the remakes of beloved 80’s classics like Ghostbusters and other commercial attempts at cashing in on my nostalgia. However, I do understand that yearning to relive the past and reconnect with my inner child. I’d be soundly happy playing board games and completing jigsaw puzzles all my winter days. Maybe building a snowman or two.

Fragrant pleasures:

Bath and Body Work’s even got into the nostalgia game in recent years when it re-released favorite body care from the 1990s in it’s “Flashback Fragrance” campaign. Although I have the fondest memories of spritzing on Cucumber Melon mist, my beauty tastes have matured to the point that I couldn’t oblige in buying any. But I understand how powerfully linked scent and memory can be.

The Christmas scents that I connect to fond remembrances of my past are; hot cocoa with melty marshmallows, soggy woolen mittens from playing in the snow draped over the heater to dry, my grandma’s pumpkin pie and nutty kolachi, a colorful jar of peppermints, butterscotch and Christmas candies at my other grandma’s house and the unforgettable incense wafting through the church pews at midnight mass. 

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The not-so-Christmasey candles I’ve bought recently. We never had a live tree growing up, so I can’t reminisce over that fresh balsam smell, but I’ve grown to love it. One of my most uplifting Christmas scents to light.

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This retro Santa tray was a happy recent Target find.

I’ve refrained from purchasing any of Yankee’s new Festive candles for the first time in years. Those redesigned labels weren’t helping their cause. Thankfully, I spied a few holiday treasure tarts before they were gone. Some of these classic scents haven’t been released as wax tarts in years. My nostalgic inner child couldn’t resist.

Which scents conjure up your childhood Christmases? Are they able to be recreated? Any nostalgic activities that you long for this time of year?

-jaybird

 

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Fall fun-Cranberry Apple Cider Punch

With Pumpkin Spice Latte season in full-swing…I try to avoid Starbucks and Dunkin completely. I’m just not into those syrupy, whipped-cream topped, furry-teeth beverages like I used to be; therefore I don’t actually have a fave fall drink, per se. (Well, I do love my Oktoberfest craft brews this time of year, but I wanted to feature a festive drink that required fall-centric ingredients) A friend saved this Pinterest recipe a while back and it looked very appealing, so off I went searching for the source. Because it requires fresh-pressed cider, autumn is likely the best time of year to find the ingredients. I enjoy regular apple cider, but the cranberry and soda make it holiday worthy!

I have high hopes of making (or at least drinking) this punch during Thanksgiving this year.

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photo credit: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.com

Sparkling Cranberry Apple Cider Punch Recipe:

Yield: Makes about 2 quarts

“The flavor of this punch is best using apple cider that is fresh-pressed, meaning, not the kind that is clear like apple juice – it should look slightly cloudy (but you could use the kind in the juice aisle in a pinch). Also if you can’t find 100% cranberry juice, you can try using a blend but you might want to cut down on the sugar in the recipe.”

*Mel’s Kitchen recommends Vernor’s ginger ale, but I find it too sharp. I prefer good ole Canada Dry, I might try this with Diet if I can find it.

If you want to make some of this ahead of time, combine everything but the ginger ale in the pitcher and refrigerate for several hours. Add the chilled ginger ale when ready to serve.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar*
  • 4 cups apple cider (see note above), chilled
  • 2 cups ginger ale, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups cranberry juice, chilled
  • Crushed ice

*Too much sugar for me, I’d go to 1/3 cup

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries and water and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the cranberries pop and split. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Let cool to room temperature (or chill in the refrigerator).
  2. In a 2-quart pitcher, pour in the cranberry mixture. Add the apple cider, ginger ale, lemon juice and cranberry juice. Mix.
  3. Serve in cups with crushed ice.

http://www.melskitchencafe.com/sparkling-cranberry-apple-cider-punch/

If punch isn’t your thing, my sister makes an incredibly addicting recipe using whole cranberries rolled in sugar-I’ll save that for my Thanksgiving week post:)

**I’d certainly try this recipe with vodka or even ginger beer, and I actually know someone whose parents make it…hmm, this could be coming together sooner than the holidays!

Beverage inspired melts:

While reviewing Yankee Candle’s new festive collection, I realized that I have quite a few beverage-inspired fragrances, here is a rundown of a few favorites.

Vendor wax:

The Great Gatsby– by House of Phoebe wax, a sophisticated fizzy champagne

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Gin+tonic is the light green sun shape, also loving my cute apple and sage melt

Gin and Tonic- Candles from the Keeping Room. Received as a sample from my October order, I thought this fragrance was really different-so refreshing and I must say smells just like a gin and tonic. Must be the juniper berries. I enjoyed it, but the melt only threw for 4 hrs, I got nearly nothing the second day. Should I be curing Carol’s wax?

Yankee Candle:

Hot Buttered Rum- such yummy, buttery goodness! One of my favorite warming winter candles too.

Vanilla Bourbon- Yankee’s biggest fall hit in 2015, it’s an interesting combo of coffee and cream with a wee dram of thick, rich bourbon.

Vanilla Chai– a smooth/spicy retired scent. For some reason this fragrance reminds me of being at my grandma’s house as a child, which is strange because she never made anything similiar…it must be my olfactory memory playing tricks on me.

Apple Cider & Cranberry Twist– I like Yankee’s Apple Cider, but not the Cranberry Twist on its own. Together I thought they’d make a wax blend version of the Cranberry Apple Cider Punch, especially combined with the fizziness of the Great Gatsby🙂

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The Great Gatsby’s the sparkly golden yellow cup

Plenty more fall fun on the way next week-until then, Cheers!

-jaybird

P.S. This is my 50th blog post! Thanks to all of my lovely followers and friends for reading and sharing.

Lemon Zest

20160313_200528There is an ongoing debate in my household over whether its better to use lemon flavoring in sweet foods or savory dishes.  I don’t care much for lemony sweets, but do believe that nothing brightens up a dish better than tangy lemon zest.  Of course, my husband is the opposite and loves the tart and sweet combo of lemon pies, cakes and lemonade.

In home fragrance, I tend to choose fresh over fruit, but do enjoy most citrus blends. Citrus scents are generally thought of as invigorating mood-lifters, so with Lemon Zest I was hoping for a bright and cheery scent, without the astringent aroma given off by some lemon candles.

photo credit

Fragrance: Yankee candle followers have commented that Lemon Zest reminds them of the classic childhood Lemonhead candies. Due to that reputation, I was bracing myself for this scent to be a little sour.  The tart that I tried wasn’t sour at all, in fact, it was much sweeter than I expected. I’d compare it to candied lemon peel, rather than Lemonhead candy, but definitely not freshly grated lemon zest.

It had a sticky, tangy quality to it that I could almost taste. Which is likely where the candy comparison comes in. A creamy note of vanilla came through, which softened the lemon enough so that it wasn’t overpowering. It had a depth to it that was surprising and pleasant.

Performance: Fearing it would be too strong, I broke the tart in half and used in a Scentsy wall unit in my bedroom and a tart burner in my living room.  20160313_203114It ended up being on the light to medium side in strength. But the result was a fresh, sugary lemon scent throughout the main level of my house.

 

 

Recommendation: Lemon Zest is a retired fragrance that gets reissued in large jars every once in awhile. I would buy this scent again, especially in tarts, because they are the right potency for this fragrance. A strong recommendation for this one, if you can find it. It’s an uplifting sweet and tart mash-up, perfect for spring and summer.

-jaybird

Bonus Post

It’s leap day and I’m taking advantage of this bonus day of the year to write a bonus post!  Okay, it’s mostly because I wanted to wrap up my monthly theme and provide some sneak peek pics of a few scents that I’m very excited about.

Cinnamon Scone

In my hunt for baked goods scents to try from my personal stash, I came across this small pure radiance* jar that I got on the cheap during the SAS and forgot about.

20160228_201053Fragrance: On cold throw, I was nervous.  It seemed a bit too much on the ooey-gooey sweet side for my taste.  Upon lighting, I was relieved. Definitely a buttery note, with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.  I believe the #1 ingredient in a scone is butter, so this scent nailed it.

Performance: On the lighter side, better for a small room, especially in the small jar.  It’s a just-right amount of scent for me.

*One note on Yankee’s Pure Radiance line.  They are soy with a crackling wick. I enjoy the crackling ambiance within a larger setting; however, I’m currently burning this right next to me, and it’s as if someone is holding a sparkler next to my ear.  All that crackling and sparking is kind of freaking me out!

Recommendation: I’m enjoying this fragrance more than expected.  I’m just gonna move it over there…

Freshly Baked Goods wrap-up

First place goes to: Brandy Pear Tart 

Worst place goes to: Sugar and Spice 

Now for these goodies…

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I can’t wait to use Fresh Cut Herbs!

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Just received these retired gems:)

Legendary Rainbow’s End, pretty little Rose and Ivy, and mysterious Mountain Lake.

I just might hoard these!

Bakery Air?!

When I heard that one of Yankee’s new spring scents was called Bakery Air, I thought it might be a joke.  What kind of a silly name is that anyway?  Since then, I’ve discovered not only the sweet scent, but the possible inspiration for its title:

In “The Book of Awesome,” the scent of Bakery Air is included among other awesome phenomena such as, Snow Days, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Popping Bubble Wrap. Might Yankee’s fragrance developers have been reading Neil Pasricha’s book, or the 1000 Awesome things blog that the book was based upon?

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Fragrance: This tart surprised me! I gave it to my mom and as I walked into her living room, I was hit with a wave of chocolate aroma.  I guess I expected more of a buttery pastry, cookie type scent. Along with the chocolaty goodness, there was a milky creaminess to it. Some sugary notes as well, but not too sweet or artificial. I would not have been able to handle this scent if it was purely sweet chocolate.

Performance: A solid throw that filled up a medium sized-room. After the initial wave of fragrance, this tart faded into the background fairly quickly. Not as much staying power as I had hoped.20160210_194939

Recommendation: For some reason, this is an online exclusive scent, but it can be found at Yankee wholesalers. This one was purchased at a craft store.  I predict it will be popular, but I don’t think it has the strength to make it into the full line-up. Compared to the much sweeter scent, Vanilla Cupcake, I prefer the Bakery Air.

As for the “The Book of Awesome” itself, it is a fun quick read. Nothing life-changing; however, like the Bakery Air fragrance, it provides a short, but sweet feel-good experience. Come to think of it, that’s pretty awesome!

 

 

Freshly Baked Goods

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my candle collecting experience, it’s that people really love their food scents. Although I do understand the appeal of dessert-like fragrances, I tend to find them too simple, too sweet, and too much. I tire of them quickly and forego repeat burning of the sweet ones, in favor of fresher ones. 

Now, everybody has their individual tastes, so it’s not very unusual to dislike a certain fragrance type. It’s just that I really do love the actual desserts these scents are based on. I can’t seem to turn those down the way I do their candle counterparts. Oh well, maybe if I burn more sweet scents, I’ll eat less sweets?

In choosing this month’s theme I’m challenging myself to explore ‘baked goods’ scents and give them a chance.  I’m definitely more of a ‘fresh scent’ kind of girl, preferring woodsy, nature-inspired candles, that I find soothing.  But, what better time of year than the chill of February to enjoy a comforting, baked goods scent?

Brandy Pear Tart

Growing up, I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with my little french grandma, Marie.  She was actually from a farm in Belgium, but spent her teen years as a nanny in France during WWII.  I learned a lot from her, including how to make the best ice cream sundaes, or parfaits.  Unfortunately, I never picked up her baking skills.  I will never forget the taste of her rhubarb pie or her legendary nut rolls.

My french grandma is the fitting inspiration for this baked goods review: Brandy Pear Tart.  Did I mention that she also made her own pear brandy? Man, I wish that I had that recipe!20160207_113531

Fragrance: The cold throw on this tart was nil, so I didn’t know what to expect. At first, I got a little note of baked pie dough. Then, I detected the spice: brown sugar, cardamom(yum), and a sort of all-spice. Lastly, the fruit, a real burst of pear became the lingering scent.

This tart surprised in two ways: One, a syrupy molasses-like scent developed (the brandy?) that I really enjoyed. Two, these fragrance notes didn’t really blend into one. It was more of a top note, then a separate middle one, then a lasting fruity note on bottom.

Performance: Sometimes, when you can’t detect much cold throw, you don’t get much warm throw, either. I think that’s true for most candles, but in tarts and scent cubes the plastic can get in the way.

It took awhile to get going, but BPT did deliver.  Upon entering the living room, my husband (one of those baked goods scent lovers) said, “Wow, it smells good in here and strong! What is it?”  The throw was fairly strong, but didn’t have much of a radius. It didn’t carry into the next room and I needed to be within twelve feet to enjoy it.

Recommendation: BPT was a late fall 2015 online exclusive, so it’s now hard to find.  My hope is that it was only seasonally retired by Yankee, and will be brought back next autumn.  I won’t really know until then, but I would definitely pick this up in a jar if I found it.*

*Update: Lucky for me, I just saw this scent is still available in jars online:)

My mom says that my grandma used to make a rustic pear galette that she simply loved. I found this easy recipe from Pillsbury that I’m inspired to try, in grandma’s honor.  So much for eating less sweets!

-jaybird