25X: The Bath & Body Works Holiday Scent Challenge


25X: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It’s 8:00AM as I’m writing this. Do you know where your favorite Lance+Jeff contributors are?

Nope, not Japan. Or Hawaii. Or even New York City (just an expensive hop, skip, and jump away from us normally). Nope, y’all, we’re currently in Gatlinburg, Tennessee to find our Christmas spirit; Dolly Parton is our guide.

A lot of us will travel for the holidays: some to see family, some to vacation, some to visit the model tour bus in front of Dolly Parton’s museum, Chasing Rainbows (I think that’s also the name of Liberace’s museum…too soon?). Travel, for many, is synonymous with the holidays, and if you can find a way to enjoy “the journey,” maybe singing along at the top of your lungs to really cheesy Christmas songs, then it can actually be a fun, memorable component of your holiday.

A few years ago now, Lance and I were on our way back to Michigan to visit my family for Christmas. When I was a kid, my immediate family lived in Maryland while most of my extended family called the Great Lakes state home, so I was familiar with this drive and knew how grueling it could be. But let me tell you, having the back of our Honda Fit (good riddance) stuffed to the brim with Christmas presents, so full you couldn’t open a door without something falling out, all the while sipping Salted Caramel Mochas and listening to Kenny and Dolly sing “A Christmas To Remember”…that was a good time. It felt a little magical, like we were two dentists bringing in tow a sleigh full of misfit toys.

Now, normally I’m all about packing up a bag and having a bit of an adventure, sometimes (::cough cough::all the time::cough::) to a fault–sorry, bank account. That’s why we flew down to Disney World for like 38 hours last weekend, and why we’re here now for Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas (we’ll save the musings regarding Lance’s Mecca-like religious experiences at Dolly’s theme park for another post.)

And it’s not like I usually mind long car rides. But something about yesterday’s drive just had me in such a foul mood (except for the gas prices, which are under $3.00 a gallon here in Tennessee! Now I know why Connie Britton wanted to film Nashville on location!). We left at least an hour later than planned, then hit lots of inexplicable traffic, tacking on an another hour or so to the trip. I couldn’t sleep in the car because no matter how low you keep the volume on the stereo, our Fiesta’s so small that your head is always near a speaker.

Then Lance had us route through Johnson City, Tennessee on the way to our hotel in Gatlinburg, The Mall at Johnson City being home to a Bath & Body Works test-scent store. A test-scent store, as you might gather, is where the company sells products before they may be released nationwide, taking stock of what does and doesn’t sell before mass producing it. This means Lance could get his well-moisturized hands on some candles that would normally not be released until next year, if they were going nationwide at all.

I’m all about “the hunt,” so to speak: devoting an illogically large amount of time to procure something you most likely don’t need. I do this a lot with couponing, re-buying things multiple times in an effort to get the best deal (though I’m sure an argument could be made that the amount of time and money wasted on this make it totally not worth it.) But at the end of what at that point was an 11-hour ride, all the while being constantly stuck behind people on I-81 that considered the speed limit a wild, dangerous proposition, the last thing I wanted to do was stop at a mall.

Then Lance plugged the hotel’s information into the GPS to see the time to the hotel from the mall.

“When’s it say we’ll get in?” I asked.

“Umm. Never mind.”

I reached for the GPS. “What’s it say??” I began to panic.

“9:30,” Lance whispered.

“9:30???” I yelped, a mix of shock and outrage. That meant another two hours in the car, after we were done at the mall.

The mall would end up being about an hour out of our way. With that realization, I lost it, becoming filled with irrational, boiling irritation. I wanted to cry and scream at the same time. Let’s appreciate the journey and not just the destination? That concept was so far lost from me.

So I sat in the passenger’s seat after stopping at the mall (had to stock up on Tiki Beach three-wicks!!), stewing with some unnecessary, indescribable mix of emotions: anger, irritation, sleepiness. I was DONE with this effing car ride.

Then we pulled off the highway and into Sevierville, Dolly Parton’s hometown and just two towns over from our hotel. That’s when I saw this:

The whole road, for miles, was framed with these gorgeous, enormous Christmas light displays. None of this blow-up lawn Santa shit here–these we’re beautiful, complex-but-simple for the fact that they were all made from lights.

It was something that just took my breath away a little. Something so simple, yet tapping into the part of my instinctual brain which finds comfort with light in the darkness.

In those moments, as we were passing by these wonderful displays, I didn’t think about the drive at all.

25X: The Great Christmas Purge

UntitledDay 1: Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes 

Day 2: Holiday compilation albums

Day 3: This is a relatively new tradition, but one which I’m glad we started.

Last year, the Perfect Storm of moving and having no money forced us to find a way to pay for Christmas presents any way possible, just short of selling our bodies for food (though we do have a mutually agreed-upon Sugar Daddy Master Plan, to be discussed in a later post).  Given that we’re both 1) lazy; and 2) cheap, we started looking at things around the house that we could sell off to literally lighten the moving load while also putting some cash in our pockets.

Hence, the unofficial, annual Great Christmas Purge was born!

We accumulate a lot of STUFF this time of year, from presents to great sales that we “can’t pass up,” and suddenly we have such a tall stack of STUFF that we don’t have nearly enough time to get to it all, or we watch/read/play it once and then it goes back on a shelf or in a drawer never to be considered again.  I have such a backlog of STUFF to get to (books, movies, video games) or STUFF that I haven’t addressed in such a long time that sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it all.

The holidays are a great time to assess your material possessions before you bring more stuff into your life.  Do I really need to own a copy of the cinematic masterpiece Elektra? Or am I ever going to re-read Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By? And what about all those Gamecube games, when I have a stack of 15+ Wii games I either haven’t beaten or ::shame:: haven’t even started?  This purging process allows you to pare down your STUFF a little and makes you really evaluate what you actually “need” (this post is loaded with #firstworldproblems. Oy.)  If you’re like me, you’ll spend some time reminiscing on a particular item, and you may think about keeping that copy of Starsky & Hutch on DVD because the night you saw it was also the first time you went to a party in college, but then you have to ask yourself, “When am I actually going to want to watch this again? It’s got Snoop Dogg in it, for chrissake.”

Once you decide what you can let go, shop around for the best “trade in” value to get some money for these items instead of just throwing them away.  Amazon is my retailer of choice, as they seem to offer the best trade-in price for your stuff as well as free shipping for you to send your stuff to their facility.  Best Buy and Target run their own trade-in programs in-store and via their website, but Amazon accepts a larger variety of items.  As far as I know, most of these places only offer to pay you in store credit (FYE and, I think, Gamestop will also offer cash, though at a lower amount to encourage you to take the credit and shop at their store).

Last year, I traded in a lot of DVDs and old books to Amazon around the holidays and walked away with almost $400 in store credit, which I in turn used for gifts.  This year, Lance is selling off shelf-fulls of old candles and body lotions to crazy old ladies on eBay, and has made enough money to pay for that shiny new iPad he charged on my Target credit card on Black Friday for the 5% off. (When are you going to give me that money, by the way, darlin’?)

What kind of STUFF do you have lying around that could be recycled into shiny new Amazon store credit (which, let’s be honest, is basically like cash)?


Birthday Boy


Let’s all wish Lance a happy seventh anniversary of his twenty-fifth birthday! Huzzah!

Unfortunately, friends, even though Lance loves birthdays, he does not like his birthday being acknowledged by restaurant waitstaff (this is part of a larger issue with public attention being directed toward Lance at all.  Must’ve been due to his legendary turn as Motel in his high school production of Fiddler on the Roof.)

Every year when we go out for his birthday dinner, I joke about how I’m gonna get the waiters to sing whatever copyright-abiding “Happy Birthday” ditty they’ve written for the restaurant.

…And every year, Lance’s death-stare and verbal responses get more and more extreme:

2008: “If they sing, I will immediately walk out of this restaurant.”

2009: “If you make them sing, I will slit your throat.”

2010: “If they sing to me, I will rip out your intestines and churn them up in a blender.”

2011: “If they sing, I’m going to stab out your eyeballs and pour a cauldron of boiling oil on you.”

Who knows what 2012 will bring…!!!!

Legends of the Fall


Friends, it’s fall! Fall is here! Hip hip!  So long, summer, you horrible, humid beast! (Keep in mind that it’s currently, like 110% humidity in Philly and 85 degrees. It’s all psychosomatic.)

There isn’t a time of year Lance and I love more than this increasingly crisp stretch of reds and oranges and yellows, of sweaters and fingerless gloves, hot cider and college football (okay, maybe that’s just me) leading up to Christmas, than fall.  It’s our element.  Maybe it’s because our birthdays are both soon approaching (hint hint) and we’re therefore just biologically predisposed to this time of year.

Even eclipsing our birthdays (wink wink nudge nudge) is our anticipation of fall products, the very items that evoke a sense memory every time you sip or sniff (because, I mean, what’s tradition without buying consumer goods? Yay capitalism!):

  • Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. Duh, this one is pretty obvious, and although they released them toward the tail-end of August this year, we both had to wait until today, the first unofficial day of fall, to get one.  Much like the Gingerbread Latte around Christmastime, the PSL is an amazingly rich fall explosion in your mouth.  I’m a cheapsake, though, so I’ll spend the $6 once to get one, then resort to the spice-less pumpkin latte at Dunkin’ Donuts for half the price for the remainder of the season.
  • Cider and donuts from the orchard. Getting them from the grocery store is not the same!  That’s why you must spend the extra $5 in gas to get to the orchard and then pay whatever upcharge applied by the orchard.
  • Sweetzels Spiced Wafers.  Though these are available year-round in the Northeast (at least), they become omnipresent starting in August. I love chucking one or two of these into my mouth at once and sucking the ginger flavoring out of them until the wafer dissolves from a rock-hard cookie to a mushy mess. Evocative!
  • Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory.  The Cheesecake Factory is kind of a gigantic mess, a cacophony of menu items served in a weird, pastel Egyptian/stencil-paint theme.  Nevertheless, the food is solid and this cheesecake is bangin’.  It’s only offered from mid-October on (and I missed it last year since we were in Hawaii and Hawaiian Cheesecake Factory doesn’t believe in pumpkins!!!) and I will move mountains to gorge myself with it this year.
  • Bath and Body Works’ bajillion fall candles.  Don’t ask me to justify the difference between the Autumn and Autumn Day scents, but I do admit there is a difference.   One probably has notes of “cider” and “cool breeze through the orchard,” while the other is mixed with “the sound of leaves crunching underfoot.”
  • Little Debbie Fall Party Cakes.  Actually, not only the Party Cakes, but anything fall-themed, regardless of how loose the theming or how awful the actual product, is something I will probably enjoy.

This is understandably the time of the year when Lance and I both gain about 10 pounds each through pie/dessert coffee consumption. But that’s okay, since it’s also the time of year when you move away from shorts and tees and into more forgiving sweaters and hoodies.

A Crisis of Fragrance

Last night, Lance was standing near his cologne station (see large image below), nervously fretting, eyes darting back and forth.  No, he wasn’t tweaking; he was plagued with indecision.  He turned to me and said, “Honey, I’m having a crisis of fragrance.”  He is going to Las Vegas on Saturday and didn’t know what scented body products to take with him.

[Before I go on, I should stress that I really wanted Lance to write this post, as it’s a long time coming.  Please feel free to harass him on Twitter (@lancegriffith) and encourage him to write more posts for this blog!]

And these are just the body products–I haven’t even gotten to the candles!

Now, this sort of internal struggle is is not unusual for Lance.  Scent is very important to him. While I have a weak sense of smell, Lance’s nose is like that of a bloodhound: highly trained and super-sensitive.  He actually can pull out the “notes” of a fragrance; he’d be great at wine tastings if he could even stand to be near the smell of fermented grapes (y’know, one bad experience in college accidentally drinking a whole bottle of wine and all that…).  This trait, coupled with his penchant for extreme couponing (where do you think my love of airline/hotel points got its inspiration from?), has left our home overflowing with Bath & Body Works products: body lotions, shower gels, body sprays, foaming soaps, eau de toilette, ..and yes, even shimmer mist.

Some people don’t understand this appreciation for smells, for Lance’s skillful Scentology.  They chuckle whenever he tells the story of the time he bought 90+ candles during a Bath & Body Works semi-annual sale.  The cashiers at Bath & Body Works know him by name, and he’s careful about revisiting an individual location too often, especially during spurts of high returns (B&BW has a very generous return policy).

However, people should not scoff–this Scentology is an art, and people routinely compliment Lance on the immersive experience he provides.  Heck, he’s basically Scent Imagineer (hint hint, Disney!).  I’ve told him he needs to scam a bunch of rich old ladies into hiring him to scent-decorate (scentorate?) their homes for a nice fat fee.

Lance is very particular about balanced and seasonably appropriate scents.  You’d best not be burning a Cranberry Woods three-wick in July (that’s strictly a Fall/Winter scent), and all active scents in each room must compliment each other (you’re not going to have a Pineapple Mango Wallflower going at the same time as a Green Grass candle, are you, you heathen?!).

This Scentology isn’t necessarily a passion, but it is a hobby that borders on obsession.  How many Bath & Body Works have we been to in the last two weeks trying to track down the Bonfile Maplewood fall release candle?  How many times have we driven across state lines to go to a larger store with a bigger inventory?  How many hours have I spent waiting outside of a Bath & Body Works??

At some points, it’s also borderlined on hoarding (how long have you had that Buttered Mashed Potato candle, hon?).  Our television cabinet is full of Wallflower bulbs, and the candle collection not only has its own shelving unit, but a separate cabinet as well.  There are  currently 22 different shower gel scents “in rotation” in our bathroom.  My dad, on one of his first visits to our apartment, looked under the sink in the bathroom and later asked me why we had so much shampoo.  No, Dad, that’s Bath & Body Works’ fall line of shower soaps.

I don’t begrudge Lance his complex, obsessive need to buy scented products (“Jungle Kiss is being discontinued?! Hurry–to the outlet!”), re-buying them every year in the new packaging even if he already owns three of the same scent.  Heck, why would I discourage him? Do you know how much money I’ve saved over the years in body wash??

I’m confident Lance will figure out what scents are best appropriate for his girls’ weekend in Vegas.  If not, he’ll just do what he always does during indecisive packing: fill up half of my luggage with his overflow stuff.