Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Aaaaaaand, We're In . . . Sort'a

Took long enough, right? And it hasn't been without it's major problems. More recently, it was the 'explosion' of the work car's transmission all the way over on the Central Coast -- this happened Sunday, the day before we were scheduled to close escrow. Late yesterday afternoon, before we got the call to pick up the keys, we got a call from the Chevy dealership in Arroyo Grande, where we left the work car, with the estimate for repairs -- $3,700 plus. The 'plus' was to cover the leaking manifold, which we didn't even want to hear about. We only paid $5000 for the car in 2007 and it's been very, very good to us, with over 270,000 hard miles on its leaky engine. We've had our eye on a little Toyota hoopty for $3000 and I think we're going to move on it now. G'bye old hoopty, hello new hoopty. Then, yesterday, when we were waiting for the call from the builder to come get the keys, we got crickets instead. Two o'clock came 'round, the time we were told it would be done, then three o'clock, then four -- then we had enough sitting on pins and needles. The hubs called to find out what was going on and the salesperson who sold us the house was as in the dark as we were, anyway, four phone calls later we discover the county's computer system was down and the house closing escrow hadn't posted, but everything was done. Damn. We got the keys anyway. Not allowing a little computer glitch to set us behind. Then as we were driving to get the keys, the new non-hoopty car decided to flash some danger dash lights -- looks like we'll be needing some new brakes soon -- but, Universe? Now? Geez. Haven't we had just about as much as we can handle for the moment? Spread this crap out a little, would you? But all will be well, once the dust settles. It always is.

We spent the night last night sealing grout and granite. Don't let anyone tell you it's easy. Well, technically it IS easy, it's just extremely time consuming. And the fumes can be a little much. Thank heaven there were five of us in rotation or it would have taken one person two days to get done.

I've been writing my bum off these past couple of weeks in hopes of getting done with the teacher's manual for the new course before the move, but it didn't happen. There are three major sections of the course that still need coverage and I'm pretty sure they won't be getting done this week. I did have the foresight to print the course out in its entirety so I could work offline on the teacher's manual, so there is that.

The moving van will be here shortly and I need to get moving. It's going to be another long day.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The New Ballgame

It's only one week before the move and I'm beginning to have feelings like I did in the days before giving birth -- calm and nesty. I had long ago stopped dreaming of how I would be setting everything up in the new place -- the sofa over here, the Tiffany lamp over there. All I've thought about for the last few months is that I just want out of where I am right now. With each set back, with each change in the move-in date, I'd lose a little bit of my shine. But now that it's nearly time, now that I'm on the verge of getting there, my patience for the process has come back. I'm planting the fragrant garden in my mind. I've got gardenia here, and jasmine grandiflorum there. A wee tuberose and hyacinth bed against the back fence, the damascenas and centifolias in the front where the sun shines brightest, yuzu and bitter orange trees in back on the west fence, and the iris pallida in clumps here and there.  Moving isn't going to be fun -- it never is -- but once the dust settles, everything will be rosy.

Plum Palace
I have a big 50% off sale going on at the Etsy store, which I'm closing on the 9th of August (two days from now). I won't reopen until some time in October, and I probably won't have the same items in stock that I do now. And the actual website will be opening up with new product. (www.scenteddjinn.com)

Changes all around this year. We (me and my business partner, Ruth) completely redesigned the Natural Perfume Academy. I've been working on the curriculum for the new certified course all summer long, and Ruth's been working on the overall design and function of the course. We even have a new logo. It's a whole new ballgame.



Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Time

I miss my Bama dog. I miss his annoying bark and how he was always underfoot. I miss his deep stares and the way he cuddled up with me to watch television. I just miss his big dopey butt.

I've been writing like a fiend lately, burning the midnight oil, getting a couple hours of sleep, drinking half a pot of coffee, and going at it again. I'm running out of time. The new perfumery course begins on the 18th of September, and I'm moving in two weeks, so I'm going to miss a week or so of writing time. Crucial writing time. The course has literally one module left to flesh out, then it's on to the teacher's manual, where the meat of the course's potatoes will be.

I'm at a place where I'm missing things to the point of pain. Emotional pain. I miss being able to take good photos with my fancy pants camera (that is packed). I miss working out formulations and experimenting with natural raw materials (that are packed). I miss having space to set things out, to study them, give 'em a good stare and a sniff (because everything's packed!) All of these things were my escape chutes. Ways to get away from the daily stress of unhappy people making certain everyone knows they're unhappy. It's a vicious cycle. They're upset and unhappy, that makes me upset and unhappy, that makes them upset and unhappy, so on and so forth. I just don't know how much more of this sardines-in-a-can life I can take. I feel like my whole life has been put on hold since November because of a damn house! There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the closer it gets, the farther away it feels.

We blue tape tomorrow. It's the official walk-through where we're instructed how to use the appliances, where the warranty information will be, how the AC works, the on-demand water heater, the communications' hub, how to switch on lights, where the exhaust fan switches are, where to plug in the phones to charge them, the type of tile, carpet, paint, insulation, light fixtures, piping, etc., that they've used in our house. Then we get to go around with rolls of blue tape marking the spots we feel need repair. Wee cracks. Badly patched walls. Ugly tile work. Nicks and dings and scrapes. The last time we checked on the house, there was a big crate of peaches in the fridge, a Klondike ice cream wrapper on the newly carpeted stairs, and an empty bottle of jamaica Jarritos in the kitchen counter. It's a little disconcerting to realize we're not going to be the first people to use the fridge, or the toilets, in this brand new house.

Some strides to make it a home have been made, though. Long ago we put a bunch of towels and bathroom items on layaway, mostly because we had no where to store them until the move. We've ordered and received the living room curtains -- a cream with mauve watercolor flowers for the panels, and cream linen-like sheers. I know I've called the house the Plum Palace, but I'm not looking to go full purple here. Shades of purple are the main color scheme, along with pale greens, soft greys, and creams, with the occasional aubergine and royal purple thrown in. And magenta. And maybe some ox blood. And orange. Ha!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Last Saturday's Soap Class

The soap class went very well, with one minor slip-up -- the soap mold we were using decided to bust a seam and began leaking soap, so it had to be dumped back into the pot and a new mold used, which had problems as well, but we got it figured out and moved on from that disaster. We started early for a class, 9AM, which was a godsend since the day began heating up around 11. We were done by lunch and most of us went on a field trip down the street to the Blossom Trail Cafe for lunch. Now we're getting requests for more classes in soap making, incense making, and perfume making. I'm not doing anymore classes until I'm moved into my house. And then once I'm set up there, I'm going to create a portable perfumer's box so it's always at the ready and I don't have to scramble anymore to collect things -- I'm going to do the same with soap and incense. These will be used for classes and demonstrations only and restocked as they are used. Living out of a suitcase for the past 10 months has taught me that having what I need at hand will save me days (months in this case) of frustration and anxiety. Being separated from my art is having a profound effect on my mental health, so I'm now sure, with unwavering certainty, that I could never stop doing what I do or I just might go crazy -- er.

I didn't get pictures of the class because I was busy teaching it. There is a slideshow on FB via the Seasons of Spirit and Curio Apothecary page. It's short and sweet, like 15 seconds, and shows the participants and a little bit of the soap making process. Not the disaster, though. Perhaps in the future I will hire a photographer to take snaps while we're working and make a slideshow that includes all the mishaps, and then how they were corrected and post them to a FB page or website specific to the classes I teach. I think I just created more work for myself.

I've been working on the course curriculum for the past few weeks. I've rewritten a large portion, perhaps 80%, of the new International Perfume Foundation certified course, and nary a word on the new teacher's manual -- which looks like it might turn into a book. I am not saying I'm turning it into a book, just that there will be material in it that isn't in the course and that it will be -- crap, it'll be so much more work! I've got notes and research materials and sources and how-to information spread from one end of my desk (it's my bed, actually) to the other that have to be gathered daily and sorted through and put into a fat, bulging binder every night before I go to sleep. Then the next day, they all come out again, with additions, and I pick through it like a junker at a peddler's fair, trying to find something that will fit into a specific section's narrative.

Sometime last year or the year before I got a YouTube review for my Kyphi booklet. I remember the woman conducting the review said a little bit about how small the book was, but then expanded that commentary to include that it was, what she called, 'a can of tuna'. A can of tuna in relation to this review meant that my little booklet was packed full of information, no fluff, no airy fairy details, just 'meat'. That's what I'm working towards with this new course. The whole thing from beginning to end, including the teacher's manual, is going to be one big can of tuna.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Soap Making Day

Today is a soap making day. We'll be making it to 'serve' to our students on Saturday after making another batch of the same soap for demonstration. The scent formulation is fairly simple and straight forward -- petit grain sur fleur neroli is the main raw material, then there's orange oil, lemon oil, patchouli, and a wee bit of labdanum. We made the scent potion last week and it's been 'stewing' ever since. We're hoping to have a full house, upwards of 20 students, and instead of what I usually do, it's going to be a straight demonstration type class. Usually, I allow students to measure and mix, but with a class this size, it won't work out. People bump into each other, everyone wants a turn at the hand blender, plus I am required to provide aprons, gloves, goggles, and sometimes paper face masks. It's too much of an expenditure when I cut the price of the class as low as it is now. This area is a hard sale area -- I've charged anywhere from $40 to $65 everywhere else that I teach this soap class, but here, I'm lucky to get $20. It's not the fault of the good folks who live here, it's the fault of the local economy. You know something isn't right when you drive through town and a huge billboard (more than one, actually) proclaims: "50% of (blank) County is on Medicaid". I haven't quite figured out if the billboard's message is condemnation or praise of the current health care plan provided by the state, but one thing is for certain, if 50% of the residents of this county actually are on medicaid, then something's wrong with the economy here. Under these circumstances, it's a miracle anyone comes out to learn any kind of craft on a warm Saturday morning for more than $15 a person.

I am looking forward to it. These days I'm lucky to have some creative work besides writing to do. As some of you know, I'm rewriting the natural perfumery course at the Natural Perfume Academy where I teach, and it's turned out to be quite the challenge. For example, there is literally one topic left to complete before the edit, final edit, and addition of a full teacher's manual, slide shows, videos, and audio files to the course, and I'm at a standstill. I worked and worked and worked yesterday, poring through books and notebooks, writing and rewriting, researching online, doing everything I could to get this cohesive piece of work done, and I got nothing. What I wrote, I erased. I was confounded by lack of sleep, too much on my plate, and grandbabies busting in shouting, "Grandma!" every 10 minutes. I'm hoping to get back at it tomorrow with a clear head and new perspective. Working in the arts is a moody occupation -- you can be simultaneously depressed and tortured over the outcome, and at the same time feel intense exhilaration from the act of creating alone. A double-edged sword.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bama's Last Walk

A year ago last June my ex-husband was killed in a car accident. He was with his 12-year-old-daughter (not mine) on his way out of town to a classic car show in Carson City, Nevada, and he was driving his custom 1928 Ford Roadster that he built from the ground up. His Roadster was a convertible, had no seat belts, and, ironically, carried a custom made coffin in the truck bed. Both my ex and his daughter were thrown from the vehicle and landed in rush hour traffic on the 168/180 interchange. Fortunately his daughter survived the wreck with minor scrapes and bruising. My ex, however, sustained major head trauma from which he did not recover. There are a half dozen folks in the world right now carrying bits and pieces of him inside of them -- kidneys and corneas and who knows what else. A month after he passed, my son, one of two children I had with my ex, reluctantly handed over his father's dog, Bama. Bama was a foundling snatched from the streets, a little worse for the wear and happy as a clam that someone found him, got him out of the heat and put some food in his belly. Bama's always been an exhuberant guy. Always happy to see people, always there with a big toothy grin and a vigorously wiggly bum. He's a well-mannered young man. Fully house and leash trained, gentle with children, and adores kitties. Basically, the perfect dog. Today we are having him put to sleep.

Osteosarcoma is bone cancer that is common in larger breed dogs. Bama is a pit bull, robust, barrel chested, and long-legged with a healthy appetite and penchant for long evening walks, or as we like to call them, drags. He hasn't wanted to do those things so much lately. His appetite comes and goes. His love of getting harnessed up and out into the yard has diminished. He sleeps long hours and often doesn't move except to lap up water or ask to go outside for a wee. Last October we noticed Bama had a bit of a lump on his snout, halfway between his eye and the tip of his nose. We took him in and the vet diagnosed an abscess in his gums above his big teeth in the back of his jaw, and recommended having the tooth pulled to relieve the pressure, and then put Bama on a round of antibiotics. During the two-week recovery period we all noticed that the lump got larger. The vet put him on another round of antibiotics. Two weeks later the lump was four times as large. We sought the opinion of another vet, one who came highly recommended as a straight shooter. He shot us all straight through the heart when he said Bama had bone cancer and wouldn't survive for more than six months. He recommended we put him to sleep right then and there to spare him the pain of the tumors that would spread, if they hadn't already, to his lungs, liver, and throughout his bones, but we just couldn't do it yet. Over the past month Bama's health has diminished, just as the vet said it would, to the point that he isn't able to hold his bowels long enough to get outside, his feces are watery and mucousy, his mouth bleeds profusely, when he sleeps, his lungs make sounds like an old bellows. When we walk into the room he is in, he no longer raises his head to check who it is. He just lays there, thumping his tail on the floor, as if he's too exhausted to give a proper greeting. He still growls and barks when someone knocks on the front door, and I think that his doing that, as he always has, has given us a sense of false hope that he is okay. It takes a lot out of him to jump up and bark as he saunters to the front door. There are signs of false hope everywhere, signs that we interpret as it not being time just yet, like last night when I set down his food and his companion dog's food and Bama went to town eating both. He hadn't done that in weeks. In fact, he's never done that, not like that. He usually waits for Mary Jane, his dog friend, to eat a little off her plate before stealing the rest, but last night he just butted his way in and ate it.

Today is the day. Bama isn't himself. He's in pain. His body is failing him. At 10:45 we take him in for his last walk.

RIP Bama, 7-12-2017, 11:07 AM

Saturday, July 08, 2017

108 and No AC

It's predicted to be 108 degrees Fahrenheit today, and I woke early this morning, 5 am, to heat that I learned was the result of a broken AC unit. Great. It's the capacitor or the contactor. The outside compressor thingey clicks but doesn't come on. Of course, we'll probably have to wait for an HVAC "professional" to fix it, which could be hours, or could be days. Either way, it's 6:15 am now and 83 degrees Fahrenheit in the house and rising, and I know these people, it's going to one miserable damned day.


Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Experiential Intuition

The past few days have been difficult, and not because of the hou -- oops! Forgot that I'm not going to talk about it anymore! I have been having a really hard time sleeping and moving around because I tore the cartilage on a lower rib reaching for, of all things, my little granddaughters 'baby', aka, stuffed pink teddy bear. In order to get baby, I reached over the hard wooden arm of a love seat and under the end table next to the love seat to reach baby and over extended in my haste to stop the screaming (baby! baby! baby!) and *crunch* that's all she wrote. It's six to 12 weeks of tenderness and pain and restless nights and not picking up heavy objects.

2010 Academy of Perfuming Arts Promotional Perfumery Kit

This down time has given me the opportunity to read through notes as I found the box in the garage with all of my old notebooks for perfumery going back to 2005 with all of my grand ideas about how perfumes are created, and I came to realize that nearly all of my work -- all of the good work -- has been the result of intuitively selecting raw materials and intuitively formulating them into perfumes. That word 'intuitively' is a loaded word, though. It means 'without conscious reasoning, or by instinct'. How can a first-time perfumer create something good using only their intuition? They can't.  In order for the work to be intuitive (?), there has to be a good, solid base of experience, which is counter to intuition. What I teach my students is that they have to study the raw materials, inside and out. That's the basis for becoming "intuitive" in natural perfumery. Knowing exactly which patchouli within the working palette will elevate a formulation over another patchouli, and knowing -- or at least having a very, very good idea -- how rose otto 5% dilution will behave in an accord of sandalwood 10% (Mysore) and a weak tincture of Siam benzoin. This is where intuition comes into play -- experiential intuition. This is intuition based on what you already know about the character and behavior of any given raw material within a composition, and it takes years to master.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Writing Again

It's been nearly two weeks since I started rewriting the course curriculum at The Natural Perfume Academy, also known as The Academy of Perfuming Arts. I'm taking a break from it today while the course administrator, Ruth, works on some technical issues. The school is down for maintenance and even I can't get in. I'm getting time off from this enormous pile of notes and print outs and the long list of add ons and fixes. I can't say I haven't enjoyed it, because I have. This newer course is truer to my feelings and beliefs when it comes to the art of natural perfumery. It's real. It's also much less overwhelming for a six-month course, and much more revealing. The exploration of natural perfumery moves away from basic facts and plodding themes to getting down and dirty with the experiential exercises.

What all this writing has revealed is that at the core of it all, I'm experiencing a lot of depression over not having a proper studio. Making soap here and there is fine and well, but it doesn't go far enough to feed the creative fire. My perfumer's studio, my work space, my art, is my anti-depressant. Whenever things get tough -- and believe me, the last 5 months have been nearly intolerable -- I always had my art to turn to. I don't have that right now, and my only recourse -- my only creative outlet -- is to write about perfumery, like a long, lost love.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ah, Life

It's a funny, fickle jerk for sure. I came as close as I've been in a long time to a break down yesterday -- over that damn house! Move in date is August 11. I should be happy, right? I'm happy that there's a definitive date, not happy that it's all the way in August! Back in November we commissioned the house and were told April or May -- yeah, yeah, I know, add a month to six weeks to that and that's the real date. But in December it began raining, and it didn't really stop until last month. So add another month. Throw in a shortage of house painters, and add yet another month. And here we sit. Firmly planted in August. The house is soooo close to being completed, I actually already see my furniture in there. There's even landscaping in the front yard. But there it is, naked of trim, carpetless, no appliances or lighting fixtures. I know I go on too much about that house, but to truly appreciate my frustration, you need to understand the situation in the current home. It is my daughter's place, we were invited to stay, but since we made that agreement one of my son's had some family issues and ended up moving in, then another son who moved out of state came back and is just getting back on his feet, so he moved in. Then the first son mentioned here sorted out his family issues and his family moved in. We are all waiting on this house. It's a multi-family type of thing and close to 3000 square feet. My daughter's house? It's about 1000 square feet and it's busting at the seams with bodies. There are ten of us now, plus a dog. Thank heavens most of us have somewhere to be during the day, or this situation could get ugly. So far everyone's been very patient. I'm trying to be patient, but this situation got old way back in December when I couldn't get a foothold with the perfumery, so . . . I probably won't say anything about the house here until we're moved in. Subject temporarily laid to rest.

I'm going out to open the store and farm today. By myself. My partner in crime is with the bookkeepers out of town for a while, so I go it alone. It's okay. I'm bringing a book and some snacks, plus there's always something to pluck or plant out there. I'm waiting on a shipment of shea butter and then we'll be back in the soap game. I've got a fat bottle of petitgrain sur fleur neroli just screaming to be made into soap.

Feeling kind of de-energized right now. Because of -- well, you know why.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

More Shuckin'

Part of yesterday was spent shucking the other pile of white sage flowering head/branch things. Which means a little more resin came my way. Because we've run out of drying space, and because there is still so much more to dry, we decided to let go of the tippy top of the flower heads instead of drying them for incense (we have four more white sage bushes to trim, so there's plenty left). A local artisan is coming to pick them up this afternoon and use them for whatever purpose she chooses. For free. Sometimes the bounty is more than we can handle. If we were more, and had the extra woman power, we'd be okay. But with just two of us handling the minutiae beyond the basic stuff that keeps everything going -- and we do have help with the watering and weeding and planting and whatnot -- it can become overwhelming. It took two hours to shuck the first pile of white sage, and another hour-and-a-half to shuck the second. It was tedious, but it was also a good time to think. I don't get a lot of thinking time anymore, what with the house becoming fuller in preparation to move, and the ebb and flow of various and sundry personalities and moods pushing against one another. It gets downright stressful and stays that way for days on end. Too many bodies crammed into too little space and that big house just sitting there waiting for baseboards and carpet to complete it and no movement on that front, it just gets to be too much. I fear I am quickly reaching a breaking point.

I was going to schedule a soap making class for this upcoming Saturday, but decided against it when the main road to the farm became more difficult to traverse. Now they're paving, and I'll give those guys their due, it's a lot of paving they have in front of them. However, when I can't get through via either end of the route and I'm told by the guys holding the stop signs to go the other way, well, I kind of lose my patience. After the second time being told to go the other way after just coming from the other way, I told the guy no. I just came from there and they sent me here. Finally I made it through after almost 30 minutes of back and forth, and mind you, this is less than a five minute trek -- heck, it may be less than two minutes! But there I was, going this way, and then that way, burning gas and time. Not a good way to start the work week. This crap, along with the current housing crap, and the future housing crap, it's just too much crap right now. My enthusiasm wanes.

But good things are happening. After hitting a few hitches and bumps, we finally got the Natural Perfume Academy's big announcement out of the way. We've teamed up with the International Perfume Foundation to present the New Luxury Code, and to become a certified natural perfume school with the IPF. Our graduating students will now receive a one-year membership to the IPF and certification from the IPF along with a course completion certificate from NPA. It's really more of a big deal for our students than for us as it gives our fresh new graduates opportunities internationally to attend workshops and classes given by other IPF certified teachers. It isn't so much about permission as it is about access. And community. And a hand up instead of a foot in the face. If you're interested in what the IPF is all about, follow this LINK. And more good news -- we are going to have a Spanish language course to add to the Academy soon.

It isn't all about dire personal struggles and self-doubt.


Monday, June 12, 2017


I Want A Yurt


Pricey, but what fun, right? Take the yurt camping, to the beach, hanging out by the river, or -- or use it as a portable classroom. I mean, how fun would it be to reserve a spot in a beautiful park and then set up the yurt to learn perfumery?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

White Sage Resin

I spent a little bit of time this morning 'shucking' white sage stems gone to seed. What I was doing was removing the few leaves and cutting the bare stick (wand) leaving only the flowering end. All parts of this will be used somewhere -- the leaves, the sticks/wands, and the flowering heads.  By accident I discovered that the white sage shucking left a heavy resin on my cotton work gloves. It so reminded me of the stories I'd read about labdanum and how it is harvested with big rakes hung with strips of fabric to pick up the resin on the bushes. The 'ancient' way this was done was by scraping or pulling the bits of resin off of a shepherd's goats after they walked through the rock rose covered hillsides. That type of extract created a labdanum that had a hint of animal funk. Anyway, I digress. I scraped the resin off of my gloves and rolled a 1.5 gram ball of white sage resin that smells so intense, so deep and soulful. I'm thinking of performing some experiments with boiling the flowering heads to find out if I can get some resin to rise. Or maybe the stems. Probably both.

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