Merry Christmas, you smell

By Mir
November 20, 2007

I love Christmas. I love everything about it. This is what happens when you grow up Jewish and realize that accepting Christ into your heart means pretty shiny ornaments on a twinkling tree and stockings hung by the chimney with care. Overdone commercialism aside (can we put that aside? can we pretend to, at least?), I love the whole season of anticipation.

Plus, we already know that I love to shop, so what better way to indulge my love of a good bargain hunt than to go searching for goodies for all of my loved ones? It’s a little slice of heaven.

(And just in case there was any doubt at all as to my shopping prowess and patience when it comes to The Big Deal, this year Santa is bringing Chickadee a doll which was purchased over seven years ago, is now discontinued, and sells on eBay for roughly ten times what I, er, he, paid for it. Oh yeah, baby. I think I need a cigarette.)

Last year we did Christmas with Otto’s family, and Otto’s lovely sister-in-law did stockings for everyone. I mean EVERYONE. The kids AND all the adults, and the tally comes to a number in the double digits. It was, I’m sure, a lot of work and not an insignificant amount of money. (There was nice stuff in there! And Lindt truffles, if I remember correctly.) (I so totally married into the right family this time.) So I offered to help with the stockings this year, figuring that it was not only The Right Thing To Do but that surely I could score us some great stuff on the cheap, so, you know, good times all around.

What this means in practical terms is that I now spend a good portion of my day emailing my extremely patient sister-in-law to say things like “How about THIS?” or “TELL ME WHAT SIZES YOUR BOYS WEAR” (okay, that was not stocking-related, but related to my need to procure matching pajamas for all the cousins for a photo op, because I am a gigantic dork) or “I think I’ll buy these things.” To her credit, she answers my emails no matter how many times I bother her. And TRUST ME, I am annoying.

Over the weekend I came across a deal at Bath and Body Works, a coupon for $10 off of $30 which folks were reporting was also giving free shipping if you did it correctly. Right now most of their stuff is on a 5 for $25 sale, so between the two I figured this would be a great way to pick up goodies for the ladies’ stockings. I called up my sister-in-law to discuss it, and she gave me some advice (like, don’t buy bubble bath for my mother-in-law, but stick to lotion or cream) and gave me the go-ahead. I hung up the phone and sat down to order.

Well. I couldn’t get the coupon code to give me free shipping for love or money. It was probably a loophole that had allowed folks to do it in the first place, but no matter how many things I tried (emptying my cart! starting over! different browsing! clearing my cookies! restarting the computer!) it always wanted to charge me $7 for shipping. I sat here at my desk, muttering at my computer screen to JUST LET ME ORDER THESE VELVET TUBEROSE SHOWER GELS ALREADY and making no progress.

I spent longer on it than I’m going to admit, and finally gave up. I was pretty sure there’s a store over by the hospital where I had to go for my MRI yesterday, so I printed out the coupon and vowed to go there after my appointment.

Well, after my MRI I met Tammy for coffee RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the Bath and Body Works place. “Do you need anything at Bath and Body Works?” I asked her. “I have COUPONS!”

“Need is a strong word,” Tammy responded, at which point I twisted her arm and made her go smell lotions with me.

Now, here’s the thing: It was a blessing in disguise that I’d been unable to make my order go through, this weekend, because that velvet tuberose scent—although the containers are very pretty—is a lot stronger than I expected. I found myself quite relieved that I hadn’t ended up with a cartful of it, as I don’t want every female in my new family to hate me. Tammy and I scurried along the displays of gooey things, removing lids and smelling various concoctions, and I found myself gripped by indecision.

This one smelled pretty good. But that’s sort of a particular scent and maybe not everyone would like it. Oooh, this one was nice, but very fruity. Ack, this one is terrible. I kept sniffing and Tammy offered hilarious commentary while I did. “This one smells just like a Strawberry Shortcake doll!” she declared. Later: “I find this one very palate-cleansing.” (That was the coconut lime verbena, by the way, and she was right, but I prefer that my lotion not make me HUNGRY.)

After a period of time I’d finally settled on a scent that I figured was light enough that no one would be too offended by it. It’s called sensual amber which is rather more porny-sounding than I would’ve liked, but the scent—being the important part, right?—seemed like a good choice. I then agonized over what TYPE of product to get for everyone, because bubble bath? Shower gel? Lotion? TOO MANY CHOICES. By this time Tammy had wandered off to pretend she didn’t know me, because who wants to admit to knowing the woman who’s standing in front of the product display wailing “I can’t decide!”?

I’d just about made peace with my selections for the women when I realized that I simply could not give my mother-in-law anything with the word “sensual” in the title. So then I had to start over and find a different scent for her. (Do not argue with me. This is simply a fact.)

With all of THAT done, I then had to agonize over the different American Girl lip glosses because Chickadee is certainly not old enough for lip gloss and I simply won’t allow it because I am a big meanie, but occasionally Santa doesn’t listen to me, you know. I’m just sayin’.

At long last we collected our purchases (which included new $10 off of $30 coupons, because apparently Bath & Body Works is now just admitting that everything there costs too much) and went on our merry way. I was feeling very pleased with myself for having FINALLY accomplished what I set out to do, and then while I was writing this I happened to come across the fragrance description on the web site:

  • Fragrance Top Notes: Bergamot, Wild Berries, Succulent Plum
  • Fragrance Mid Notes: White Rose, Orange Flower, Lotus Petals, Iris
  • Fragrance Base Notes: Amber, Creamy Sandalwood, Vanilla, Patchouli, Praline, Musk

The ONE piece of advice my sis-in-law had given me about scents was that one of my other sisters-in-law hates vanilla. Um. Oops? (I swear, it doesn’t smell like vanilla! I don’t even know what a fragrance base note IS!) Oh well. I hear you can exchange scents at the store, anyway. And I ended up getting full-size bottles for less than what you’d normally pay for the little ones, so I WIN AT SHOPPING regardless of whether I picked something that everyone else will hate despite having spent hours in the store trying to get it right.

And that’s the true meaning of Christmas. Or something.


  1. Sara

    Um…Creamy Sandalwood? Frankly that is more concerning than vanilla. What the hell is creamy sandalwood?!

  2. Karen

    I have a love/hate relationship with holiday shopping. Not to make you insanely jealous or anything, but I am sccored a coupon for 30% off the total order at Bath & Body Works for their early bird special on Friday morning. The early bird coupon can be combined with any other discounts and coupons too. And I know the part you are jealous about is that I will be in the outlet center – in PA where there is snow on the ground already – at 5:30 AM. Oh the things we do for a bargain.

  3. All Adither

    Hates vanilla? Wha??? Vanilla is sublime. There’s nothing better on a blustery, winter day than lighting a vanilla candle. Now, peach. That’s disgusting.

  4. MomCat

    Most people absolutely adore scents with cucumber. It makes me literally nauseated, and I am always in trouble when I visit my in-laws. Their powder room typically has nothing but cucumber scented soap, lotion and candles. Let’s just rinse those hands, shall we?

    I agree that vanilla is sublime and peach is disgusting (though not sickening).

  5. Leandra

    I’m with All Adither. Peach = YUCK! And I’m with you that you absolutely cannot get your MIL anything with the word sensual in the title.

    The problem that I have with MOST of B&BW products is that they are ALL too strong. Have you smelled Sea Island Cotton? In theory it should be very light and airy, but it is sooo cloying.

    And finally, I think the matching pajama photo op is a fabulous idea!

  6. tuney

    Ok, I hate vanilla, too, except in ice cream and all things cookie. What makes me wanna run right out and sniff the lotion bottle out of sheer curiosity (I can understand now why dogs like to roll in dead stuff) is the combination of “musk” and “praline.” OMG. EW.

  7. Aimee

    Now, see, I wouldn’t mind Vanilla as one of the (many) notes in a fragrance. [digression] BTW, what is Succulent Plum? Are they just specifying that they didn’t use some dried up OLD plum? Or is it a separate species? [/digression] Vanilla as the MAIN scent, though, is usually much too sickly sweet for my taste. I don’t mind peach if it’s mellowed with something spicier, like Pier 1’s Ginger Peach Tea candles.

    And yes, you did win shopping.

  8. dad

    Fragrance top notes? mid notes? base notes?
    Every scent known to man and chemistry. What ever happened to just calling it “potpurri” or better yet, “confusion.”
    It sounds like trying to explain the taste of a wine by defining it as “mother nature surrounded by her young.”

  9. Contrary

    To the single girls out there who are looking to no longer be single girls, and you also don’t mind every man you meet sticking his nose into your neck and sighing deeply, get yourself some vanilla body spray. Or just put some vanilla extract on your neck. Or maybe just tape some cookies to your neck. Totally up to you how you achieve the vanilla-ness.

    However, letting your married man friend sniff your neck is frowned upon and also you will get the glare of death from his wife, who actually liked you just fine right up until the point that her husband acted like your neck had a tractor beam on his schnozz.

  10. MaryP

    Sensual amber? Wasn’t that a book? :-)

    I love Christmas shopping, but you’re way more daring than me, buying scents for other people. I’m always sure I’d pick something I love — vanilla, say — that would have everyone else gagging into their eggnog.

  11. Paula

    Stockings for adults is VERY IMPRESSIVE. You are hardcore. I’m lucky if I score at all with grownup gifts: they either love what I buy or stuff it into a drawer. Two problems this year: (1) my daughter is limiting her Xmas list to live animals, and (2) I’m dreading my gift from my (Russian) in-laws. They’re sweet, but for some reason give me a skin-tight, low-cut top every year, usually made of Lycra. Maybe they are mistaking me for a prostitute from Odessa.

  12. Flea

    See peach can be a really gross scent. But in college I kept a peach sachet in my underwear drawer and it was FABOO. Yummy, yummy, yummy. Subtle but delicious. All other peach scents – PTOI!

  13. Jo

    At least you didn’t get the japanese cherry blossom scent. That scent smells like 30 old ladies in an aveo. I received it as a gift and tried to give it to both my mother and MIL and they both refused to take it!

  14. Crisanne

    I love how we can always count on your dad for a good laugh. I guess we know where you get your great sense of humor.

  15. Otto

    I’m with your dad.

    And why isn’t there a men’s section at B&BW? I mean, “1966 Ford Transmission Fluid” is a very specific scent. As would be “Goodyear Eagle Burnout” and “Sunoco 104 Fumes.”

  16. Erin

    Oh man. This is so totally me. My mom is wanting a set of canisters for her kitchen–a big one with no lid for her utensils, and two smaller (but not too small!) ones with lids for flour & sugar. They should match. They should be black or white. This is what she REALLY wants for Christmas.

    So this weekend I went to a local specialty kitchen store…and found…the PERFECT big canister for the untensils! YAY! It was ON SALE! WOO! But there were not smaller matching canisters with lids. There was wailing, gnashing of teeth, cell phone calls to my father who predictably said “I…don’t know? Just buy them for me?” and my husband sweetly endured my dithering and worrying and stressing. Only once did he say, “Um…why are you so stressed out about this?”


  17. Flea

    Hey! I have the Japanese cherry blossom. My mom gave it to me. someone gave it to her and she didn’t like it … HEY!!

    For the adults on my Christmas list this year, I’m buying livestock. You read that right – LIVESTOCK. One of our favorite missions organizations has a program which allows you to buy a pig, goat, cow, chicken, etc., for a family in another country. They either milk, shear, whatever, as a continual source of food and income. So the adults are getting that as a gift. They’re all so dang hard to shop for!

    And my husband prefers that I hang the little pine tree car fresheners around my neck …

  18. ScottsdaleGirl

    Patchouli is a scent to mask body odor in hippies, that is what *I* would be concerned about.

    Just sayin…

  19. Cele

    Okay I stand up for peach, but Apricot is better. Vanilla is devine.

    I love Christmas Stockings and I buy all year for them. In my household everyone gets a stocking and everyone can contribute to stockings. After midnight Christmas morning you can sneak out and get your stocking…armed with flashlights is best, taken under the covers to discover all the goodies. Awesome. priceless. the makings of a Mastercard commercial in more than one way. But totally fulfilling and heaven.

  20. jennielynn

    The creamy nutmeg candles are the yummiest things in the world. Seriously. Better than beer bread.

  21. Wendy

    Aren’t all scents’ purpose to lead to a sensual encounter? Just asking and adding to your weird problem of not getting anything with the word sensual for your MIL.

  22. Tootsie

    Now see, I’m with you Mir. I love putting that kind of effort into my gift selection. It’s almost better than spending the day at a spa. Almost. I don’t even mind if the receiver takes the gift back to exchange…I got my satisfaction from it already. Now, a certain mother in law whose name will not be mentioned thinks buying gifts is too much work (and tells us so every holiday and birthday) and gives cash and gift cards instead. But she still wants to know (and we must inform her or we’re on the “list of people who don’t appreciate her” of course we’re already on it no matter what we do, I digress…) what we bought and how much effort went into shopping with aforementioned cash and gift cards.

  23. hannita

    Coconut lime verbena = my favorite scent ever. Perhaps because it reminds me a tiny bit of Thai food.

    Otto – they do have a men’s section. At least they used to. You can smell like piney woods or some such thing.

  24. Kate C.

    You have obviously gotten all, and I mean ALL, and I mean ALLLLL and HOW! my bargain interest.

    I just don’t care about that stuff. I mean, if it’s on sale and I want it, I win twice. But if it’s not on sale and I want it, and it’s, like, professional clothes or some such, I buy it. And if I can’t afford it, I save up and then buy it.

    The time spent on bargain hunting, I believe, is time wasted when I could be reading a book.

    Can I have my bargain interest back please?

  25. Lady M

    A while back, we got a Bath & Body lotion that was “Cucumber, ” and I ended up getting so hungry for salad every time we opened the container.

  26. Felicia

    I am actually wearing velvet Tuberose as I write this. I used my coupons! It is strong but it wears down to a beautiful, subtle scent. I have received so many compliments on it, and I want to make out with myself whenever I get a whiff. And now my next purchase will be the christmas candles from B&B Works because mmmmmm…the smell of christmas!

  27. Maddy

    Oh dear! I haven’t had a moment to think about Christmas yet, we have to get through Thanksgiving and two birthdays before I can even begin to think in green and red. I don’t know how Americans survive this season.

  28. Jenni

    I’ve noticed over the years that just because it says Bath & Body Works instead of Walgreens on the bottle, people will put aside their usual fragrance preferences……

  29. amy

    Can you take me shopping? I hate shopping (well I hate spending money that I don’t really have iykwim). I LOVE vanilla!!!

  30. Lou

    Oh my gosh, you so got her an American Girl doll. WHICH ONE? I USED TO HAVE SAMANTHA. (SHUDDUP, I’M 20 YEARS OLD. 10 YEARS OLD WAS NOT THAT LONG AGO)

  31. Heather

    I need some new smelly stuff, I think. Most of these are sounding quite delicious to me.

  32. Momma Em

    Otto, I’m just guessing here….but I think if you smelled like burned rubber…Mir might not like being near you so much. Heck, I doubt anyone would want to get within ten feet of you, no matter how well you cook. =)

  33. Daisy

    Husband can’t stand cucumbers, coconut, or melon of any kind. No cucumber melon scent for me. So…when they bring back that ginger and vanilla combo, I’m there.

  34. stephanie

    gotta know…..what doll!??!?!

  35. Brigitte

    I love that doll deal you (pre)got for Chickadee – I’d have to hide it from my husband if it was me, as he’d otherwise make me sell it on eBay for profit and get my daughter some cheap doll instead. That man holds nothing sacred.

  36. angie

    I love that “I win at shopping” comment. Shopping stresses me out so much that I know I would have started crying had I realized that someone hated vanilla that may or may not be in a fragrance base.

  37. Suebob

    The scent description reminds me of those wine reviews: hints of blackberry, sage, black leather and spice, with fresh linens in the nose. Who can get all THAT from one glass of wine?

    This post explains a lot. When I met you, I would have sworn that you were one of those Smart Funny Jewish Girls. But then there was the church choir…Now all the pieces fall into place.

  38. Ayla-Monic

    Top notes are the smells you smell right away – they’re usually fairly volatile and dissipate quickly, leaving you with the mid-tones and the base notes. the mid-tones last a while longer, and they’re usually not as exciting as the top notes.

    the base notes are the last and final scents. they last as long as the perfume lasts and they’re usually you can smell anymore by the time most of the perfume has worn off.


  39. Amy

    You are so lucky to have bath and body works. It is not a chain here in Canada.
    I think your mother in law is lucky that you refuse to give her anything that has the word “sensual” in it. I just received from my mother in law for my birthday some lotion called “pure seduction”, and some body splash called “My desire”. To top that off, she gave me a pick baby doll teddy. Yes that is from my MOTHER IN LAW!!! Not sure what else to say about that. I would love a Bath and Body works store in my city…

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