Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Natural Perfumery Course Begins March 22/23 ~ Preregistration Required


We are beginning a new class in natural perfumery in March. You can pay in 6 Monthly payments of 146 USD (with the first payment securing your place and the other 5 coming out automatically every month). Read the FAQ for more info. To avail of the early bird special offer please go to http://tinyurl.com/lkzhwax click on the course entitled: "Natural Botanical Perfume Six Month Intensive (Spring 2015)" If you are already a member of the academy then login to be taken to the payment page. If you are not a member please click the Create New Account button and follow the instructions. You will then be taken to the payment page where you can complete your enrolment. This offer only applies for one week from the 24th of February to the 3rd of March.

Photo: We are beginning a new class in natural perfumery in March. You can pay in 6 Monthly payments of 146 USD (with the first payment securing your place and the other 5 coming out automatically every month). Read the FAQ for more info. To avail of the early bird special offer please go to http://tinyurl.com/lkzhwax click on the course entitled: "Natural Botanical Perfume Six Month Intensive (Spring 2015)" If you are already a member of the academy then login to be taken to the payment page. If you are not a member please click the Create New Account button and follow the instructions. You will then be taken to the payment page where you can complete your enrolment. This offer only applies for one week from the 24th of February to the 3rd of March.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It's Been a While

Still working on Working the Bench II almost daily now. I also have another writing project in the works helping out a friend get her book to the public. I'm really excited about that. I've also been busy creating things again. It gets like this when I write about perfumery and perfume-related things. I get inspired to create, and then that folds itself back into the writing. I'm in a good place right now and I'm going to take advantage before things change, as they inevitably do.

So I leave you with these words of wisdom:

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Working the Bench, Now With Expanded Table of Contents and Somewhat Useful Index!

So the newest revision of WTB is complete and only for sale through Createspace's estore -- availability through Amazon and the other sales channels will be ready by the 15th of January (2015). In case you're in a big hurry to get your copy 'n' all that.



The new Table of Contents is nice -- very useful, and makes me wonder for the one hundredth time why I didn't think of it before. This is what editors are for, but when one is one's own editor, these things manage to get away.

The index feels strange to me. I'm a big index searcher so when I created the index, I tried to think of all the keywords I'd want to know more about, but I'm almost certain to have forgotten a half dozen or so. I would hope that anyone reading the book would offer some constructive criticism about what they feel should be included in the index -- what types of keywords they searched and couldn't find. I'm done with all the nasty folks with ulterior agendas who take swipes under the moniker 'anonymous'. You people can go kick rocks. Yeah, I'm a tad bitter about the snarky 'you're caca, your mama's caca, your family's caca, so that's why I didn't take your book seriously, but read it anyway before returning it, you fat caca' remarks. Okay, maybe I'm a lot bitter - haha! So much for not taking these things personally, eh? I'm working on it. I am!

Some of you may know, if you were paying attention to previous ramblings here, that I've started a second book, Working the Bench II, that covers more advanced work, offers more formulations (real ones), and expands into other scent-related topics that will help a perfumer move forward in their work. It will cover topics ranging from how to utilize accords in perfume formulations, use of natural isolates, evaluation of base materials, creating functional fragrance, creating rare extracts from enfleurage, a perfumery in food chapter, setting up shop, networking, mentors and mentoring, regulations, financial management, and a whole bunch more stuff for the serious minded perfumer. Again, as I say in the introduction to WTB, I don't have all the answers, I just know what works for me and I think it might work for a few others as well. Date of release: sometime in the future. I'd thought initially to get it done in a few month's time, dedicating myself to writing and researching at least two hours a day, but life and work and normal human things got in the way. Working the Bench, the original, as shown above, is about 45,000 words; WTBII is currently at 8,300 words. Writing daily stopped in August. But I've started a challenge, to myself for myself, to write every day for at least an hour for 30 days and see what it gets me. How far this can get in that amount of time. It might inspire me, and then again, it might make this whole endeavor seem endless. Either way, it's getting done.

Speaking of books, I've been reading a lot lately. Just finished a book about kodo written by Pybus, and am now embarking on 'Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices' by Andrew Dalby. Also knocked out 'Night' in a couple hours because I'm a glutton for emotional punishment. Currently on the lookout for a book on tea leaf reading, so if any of you reading this blog post can recommend one, please do. On the 'fume front I've been gathering the goods for body incense (zukoh) and it's a tricky thing to find ingredients which are to be used in their raw form that won't cause an allergic or sensitizing or irritating reaction. Traditional Japanese zukoh formulations almost all have cinnamon and/or clove spice in them. Neither needs to be included in vast amounts to impart their scent but there are sensitizing and irritation issues to consider there. I plan on either not incorporating those spices into my body incense formulations, or using them very sparingly. This isn't going to be 'traditional' zukoh, but straight up gorgeous body incense. More to follow on that as well.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Buddha, Branding, and Makko

I spent most of last evening working in the kitchen/studio hopping between three projects and finally feeling like some headway was being made. I am enamored of incense these days -- all sorts of incense from all corners of the globe, and working on projects which will reflect the growing love. It's all about the raw materials in the right hands. From cooking to sewing to gardening to scenting, the quality of the basic ingredients (foodstuff, fabric, seeds and soil, herbs and spices and woods and flowers) in the hands of a skilled artisan are paramount to creating a top quality end product. But sometimes, the raw materials sing alone, their quality and beauty unmarred even in the hands of a bumbler.

The stillpot was bubbling last night with a lovely mash of Buddha's hand citron -- the hydrosol is delicate and sweet, slightly tangy and floral. It's very nice. I used Buddha's hand citron tincture earlier last year in a Florida Water formulation (Farat) and it added to the neroli and petit grain notes, creating a seamless transition from the tart of lemon to the sweet of neroli, so I really enjoy the scent of Buddha's hand citron. Buddha's hand is seasonal, showing up in the markets in late December and early January, so if you intend to work with the stuff, now is when you should jump on any that you find. They can be tinctured, distilled, and even made into a pomade. The dried skin can also be used in cooking and incense.

The days have been spent going through the incense raw materials, finding lost treasures and getting reacquainted with old friends. I'm really digging makko right now, as an ingredient for scent rather than as a binder. The scent is beautiful -- masculine, woody, spicy, like cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger, warm. It blends well with santal and frankincense, creating a 'handsome', bold and full scent. Some experiments with body incense have commenced -- the results to be announced some time this year.

Last night was also spent working on 'branding'. I realize it's a little late in the game, and my ideas for labels and logos and branding over the past 15 odd years resemble the actions of a squirrel crossing the street in heavy traffic, but it wasn't for naught. I have a clear vision of what I want, I simply am incapable of executing that vision, and I'm not in a position to hand over thousands of dollars to someone else with more skill than I to do the work for me. I am closer, though, and below is an example of what I'm working toward. I plan to stick with this label for the year before deciding whether to fine tune and embellish, or get rid of it entirely and start from scratch -- again. It isn't a matter of reinvention but a matter of definition.

Basic label
Label with product information included

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Table of Contents and Indexes

I've started a blog post here and then deleted it about a half dozen times in the past seven days. My mood was one of angst and aggression, feeling like I had to call out my detractors (whoever they may be) and give them a verbal pounding. But the truth is, I really can't care. I do care, for a moment, yes, then I sleep on it, work through it -- usually by creating something fabulous -- and my higher self dissuades me from exposing their insecurities and envy and general dissatisfaction with life. Yes, haters are going to hate, and yes, sometimes their target is me. I'll let that darkness eat away at them because I'm going to continue doing what I do -- apparently, that's pissing people off one anonymous critic at a time ~ ha! I have received valuable feedback that can be used to fix a problem with the book Working the Bench. Being criticized in a way that allows for growth is criticism I can get behind. Being flippant, snarky, mean-spirited, and pretending to have personal insight says a whole lot more about your crazy head than it says about mine.

Table of Contents and Indexes



CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1 ~ In the Beginning

Perfume History – Aenone – Aphrodite’s Island perfumery - Persian kings – Stabon - Ancient Egyptians - Kyphi – De Materia Medica, Dioscorides – Modern Kyphi Formulation – Cleopatra – Ancient Greeks – Ancient Rome – Silk & Spice Trade Routes – Crusades – Abu Ali Sina – Distillation – Middle Ages – Renaissance – Black Plague – Jean Valnet – Four Thieves – Alcohol Perfume – King Charles V, France – Carmelite Water – Queen Elizabeth, Hungary – King Charles VIII – Catherine de Medici – Rene de Florentine – Henry II, France – Scented Gloves – Grasse, France – Elixers of Nostradamus – Tombarelli – Perfume Industry Born – Josephine & Napoleon – French Revolution – Armand Gustave Houbigant – Joseph Farina – Eau de Cologne – Historical Perfumery Ingredients – Rose – Jasmine – Frankincense – Myrrh – Tuberose – Neroli – Citrus & Petit Grain – Civet, Musk, Ambergris – Orris – Benzoin – Belle Epoch – Loie Fuller – Art Nouveau                                                                                                            1
 


Yep. Those are what are left out of the book. Well, there is a table of contents, but it's minimal and only states the chapter names -- very creative chapter names -- that may or may not alert the reader to what's actually within the chapters. I've fixed that issue, so when I upload the contents of the latest revision, anyone ordering a WTB book after, say, April or so, will have a more comprehensive table of contents. I'm currently working on the index, and can I just say that this is not easy? I love indexes -- in other folks' books mostly and mainly because I didn't have to put them there, and because they're invaluable. I'm actually excited about the index. Now even I will be able to find where topics are located in my stupid book!

I have not sat idle these past weeks since the frenzy of buy, buy, BUY! has ended. I've been quietly gathering the goods for more Kyphi, specifically a nice boswellia neglecta resin that's rich and balsamic -- warm, resinous, slightly spicy, with tones of cedar and dust. I've got my hands on my juniper berries again -- I go through juniper like mad, can't seem to keep the stuff stocked! I love juniper berries for a lot of reasons. They remind me of comfort and security. When I was a kid growing up in the mountains, we did eat our fair share of venison, and venison roast was nothing without juniper berries. And then there's gin. Though I don't imbibe often, gin is my poison of choice. I've even used gin to soak the fruit for Kyphi!


And, once again, I'm attempting to create universal labels with The Scented Djinn logo on them that can pass as 'branding' -- finally. The current soap labels are very close to what I want to have as the permanent universal label, just not 100% yet. Tweaking is involved.

I am currently distilling two beautiful Buddha's hand citron, found at the farmer's market, into hydrosol. The farmer's markets in this area are the best I've ever encountered, though it does seem quite funny to me that in order to get good valley produce, one must live near the coast because those valley farmers can't, or won't, sell locally. Their locally, not my locally. I've met cheese makers from Kerman, citrus farmers from Orange Cove, and honey people from Lindsay at the Monday market in Los Osos.  These same sellers are at the Templeton market on Saturdays, and some are even at the Thursday market in San Luis Obispo. So. Makes one wonder if anybody is getting good produce in the valley if all the growers are selling over here.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Happy New Year


Wishing you all a very happy, prosperous, fulfilling, joyous, creative, loving new year!

2014 and the tail-end of 2013 were doozies for me -- mostly a 13-month spree of loss and affirmation, the message that life is short so you'd better get your sh*t together, or appreciate the sh*t you have, or get out of a sh*t situation that isn't serving you, or any number of other things involving, um, sh*t. Y'know?

This was a great year for The Scented Djinn ~ the biz finally made some financial headway. And, much, much, much more importantly, I'm finally creating scented art I love and feel comfortable standing behind. Truly and completely. Though not entirely commercial successes, 2014 introduced two really great perfumes from The Scented Djinn ~ Farat, a lovely and intense eau de cologne in the vein of vintage Florida Water; and Modhlim, a rich, spicy, dark floral eau de parfum. Kyphi was the other truly wonderful thing that happened to The Scented Djinn this year as well. Incense in general, Kyphi in particular, it's taken the biz on a journey that has yet to end.

Collaborations have sprung from this closing year as well -- collaborations with folks who are interested in beginning a journey into aromatics, distilling for oils and hydrosols; collaborations and study sessions with other scentophiles, and the boon of receiving a cache of vintage oils that have greatly expanded olfactory knowledge for both myself and those with whom the cache was shared. It's been an extraordinary year on nearly all fragrant fronts.

Happy and Blessed New Year! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Make perfume you would like to wear. That goes for soap, body butters, body oils, balms, even incense (though you may not want to wear it). You can't go wrong if you follow your muse.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Potions from the Apothecary

I've talked about doing one of these little formulation booklets for ages, something simple, real, taken directly from the formulation notebooks I used for Sierra Soapourri, Delicia, and older formulations from The Scented Djinn.

This one in particular is from around 2003, from the archives of formulation notebooks in the Sierra Soapourri era.

There are nine formulations in total, four butter soap formulations, three scrub/masque formulations, and two body oil formulations.

This little compilation of formulations is available for instant download at my Etsy shop.


Friday, December 12, 2014

From the Apothecary of Dabney Rose

Calycanthus, Carolina sweet shrub, spice bush ~ I know nothing about this except that it arrived in a package from across the country, along with a few other things, which I will be discussing here. My Carolina sweet shrub arrived in the form of a wee bundle of sticks, trussed up to look like a miniature packet of kindling. My first impression upon breaking one of the sticks was one of resin, bitterish and green with a spicy punch -- crushed pink peppercorn, galbanum, violet leaf, labdanum, pine pitch, and juniper berry. It's an edible scent with an agrestic twist, like a lovely spice from far away that one might add to a savory cream dish or sprinkle atop wild fowl. This bundle will definitely be dried and added to an incense in the future.

Long leaf pine ~ ooh! This scent, I'm sure, can be smelled everywhere this tree grows. It's loud and lovely and not pine-like at all. It smells of the sweetest alfalfa ever mown, tremendously grassy and green with a sweetness that verges on floralness and juicy fruit (raspberry, mango). The resin from the branch holds all the piney notes, and yet the resin isn't pitchy and sharp or camphoraceous, but again, sweet and green and slightly floral with a fruity overtone.


Now those are just the raw materials in their original forms, and as stunning, surprising, and beautiful as they are, they are mere shadows compared to what Dabney Rose can do with them given a little time and a lot of ingenuity and imagination. Though my affiliation with Dabney Rose has been a long one, a few years at least, it hasn't been until very recently that we've been in fairly regular contact with one another in collaboration, not of projects, but of ideas, and this harkens to my belief, and apparently Dabney's as well, that we can be friends and competitors in this business, and do both quite well without harming the other. She and I bring a lot to our little table and we both of us share this information freely, like two old friends sipping tea on the veranda discussing apple pie recipes. I am deeply envious of her abilities to extract scent via enfleurage -- she's a magician when it comes to this technique, and if you're ever given the opportunity to purchase one of her enfleurage creations, do yourself a favor and buy it. You won't regret it, I promise. Her creations are pure and fuss free and original -- she's the real deal. 

Long leaf pine CONCRETE ~ yes, a concrete! This is long leaf pine plus a thousand. If one were to sniff this without knowing what it was, it would never be guessed as pine. It is floral. Straight up like bulb florals -- jonquil and narcissus which fold back to reveal a mellow greenness more like river moss than grass. It's absolutely amazing.

Hyacinth Extract 2012 ~ Stunning. This IS hyacinth in a wee vial. Unlike the hyacinth evulsion I made a few years back, this extract is clear and sparkly without the muddy, earthy notes, so I'm guessing this is an extract of enfleurage, which is a much better way to extract the scent from hyacinth or any delicate floral than is direct contact with the flower and alcohol. It's that initial hyacinth hit one gets when hyacinth introduces herself to your olfactory organ. It begins with a gentle little poke of powdery sweetness and quickly expands into blinding sweet headiness and floral drunkenness. The longevity of this extract is impressive. I applied a drop to my hand about 20 minutes ago and the scent lingers yet.

Ginger Lily & Santal Co-Emulsion ~ This is so beautiful. Sublime. It's a rich, warm, sweet santal with a gorgeous white floral cloak. Exotic and tropical and sexy. This could get someone in trouble in the sexy-time department, if you catch my less than subtle drift. It's got the gut punch impact that fragrant aphrodisiacs possess. I'll stop now ~ ha!



Thursday, December 11, 2014

It is true what they say about a business' name and reputation being spread more by word of mouth than by blatant advertising. My attempts at blatant advertising in the only venue for which I can advertise, Facebook, have led to ZERO sales this holiday season. Zero. Nada. Zilch. I checked the statistics over at the Etsy apothecary and found that over the past 12 months, 38 individuals arrived via FB, and of those 38, less than five purchased from the shop, and none of those has been in the last three months. So again I ask, what's FB good for in terms of small business? Nothing. Not a flippin' thing. Oh, well, except to keep some of your friends updated on the fact that you are indeed still in business. The good news is that the Twitter peeks are picking up.

For kicks I mixed together a little Yule Incense using common smells we experience this time of year -- ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and then added a little bit of punch to the mix by adding in freshly ground black pepper. No eo's, a bit of makko, and they're good to go. Not selling them, though. I'm adding them to orders, about three little buttons of intensely fragrant hand crafted incense go into each and every order until I run out.

Can you believe I still do not have a proper incense burner? My few attempts at buying a nice electric burner have been thwarted -- no details, just saying blockage was present and prevented follow through. I'm currently burning all the incense on an oil burner with a wee tea light in the bottom chamber, and the incense itself resting upon a piece of aluminum foil on the top chamber. Makes for very long-lasting scents -- subtle and sublime and sneaky and sweet. The problem with this method of incensing the home is that those tea lights don't burn very long, certainly not long enough to exhaust the scent in the incense, so I'm having to go back and swap out a used up tea light for a fresh one every hour or so.

The promised butters from earlier this season did not manifest. I've run out of space here and am cutting down on some things, mostly unnecessary packaging and obsolete offerings. And focusing more and more on custom perfume oils and creating fab Kyphi and other incenses. When space is limited and small, then the number and size of the shop offerings must comply and also be limited and small.

It's rainy and windy and cold here today -- the big storm that's almost happening here on the central coast has arrived -- and I've work to do. Not to sound like a drudge, but it feels like the holiday shopping season is over for me at the Etsy apothecary and I'm already working on putting things away and inventorying what's left.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Incense

This incense gig's really got me. I mean, REALLY got me. To the point where I'm ashamed of my past behavior when I was presented with handmade incense from an incense artist. An underwhelming response would be an understatement. While deep in the throes of another intensely captivating art form (perfumery) I failed to see the potential of the original form of perfumery (incense). I'd written it down time and again, in preparation for a workshop or class, while drafting the perfumery books, but I never took the time to investigate the history and importance of incense making in perfumery until a student suggested we learn to make Kyphi. Then all hell broke loose.

I think that one of the reasons I felt so ambivalent toward incense making was because I'd already gone down that road -- sort of. Not as a study, but as a means of making money and to use in casting. I used Scott Cunningham's book 'Incense, Oils & Brews' as the template to create Zodiac themed powder incense, again, using tons of sawdust as the medium into which all the other elements went. As I progressed through that, and eventually got rid of the sawdust, I began to see the value of incense -- a little. I was then in the throes of soap making and hadn't the time to thoroughly research incense making (which is why I was using the Scott Cunningham book), plus I hadn't quite nailed down the importance of collecting the very best raw materials I could find in the making of -- well, then, just about everything. I was still using soy oil as the soap base and sawdust as an incense base, for Pete's sake. I was probably still eating Hamburger Helper back then too.

It's been a rotational progression of revelations and serendipitous events that have whisked me from one scent-filled art form to the next, each one imparting its wisdom so that the next can be better understood, until I stand again at the beginning of the circle, this great pool of information shimmering before me. So what do I do with it all? Continue to fill the pool, what else? I am no where near done learning about anything I do, and that's the exciting part. Learning again and again that I am a fool to stand so staunchly beside flimsy bits of understanding, and that I am wrong about this or that, and the whys of it, then finding the truth of the thing and throwing it into the pool with the rest of the good stuff. I swear, though, if I don't start writing it all down, it'll trickle out and be lost forever. I learned that from writing class. Ideas become like dreams and no matter how full of meaning and impact, they disappear into the ether if not documented.

Vetyver Compounded Resin Incense

Kyphi ~ Step One

Edfu-style Kyphi

Frankincense tincture

Boswellia sacra Omani sourced (white hojary)



Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Ruminations

I think I'm done with the soap making for the season. There might be one more batch in here somewhere, but I don't know if I'm up to building it. Or what I'd build it from. I pulled out all the stops with these last four batches ~ Sweet Lemon Spice, Amber, Poppymint, and finally Winter Solstice. Is it too much like patting one's own back if I say they're fab? I mean, they really, truly are. Most of the base oils are organic, and in the case of the Winter Solstice, the whole of the base oils are organic. Plus there's a beautiful infusion of white howjary Omani frankincense involved. I am stunned at how much essential oil is in this white howjary. I took a break from the incense making to focus on the soap since soap is the bulk of the gift giving this year, though I've reserved enough to put online to sell/share. I know, not very good business practice.

On getting the 'word' out there about my stuff, and selling it, primarily, I can honestly say that Facebook has been a bust. If I post some weird non-commercial thing on The Scented Djinn page there, I get stats back that it was 'served' to, like, half a zillion people, but when I'm actually trying to sell something, I'm lucky if I 'serve' five people. And onto my Etsy stats, where my stuff is sold from, almost NOTHING comes from Facebook. Yeah, I know, I've said this before, and it's actually prompted a change in the way I promote my wares for the shop. In the last few months I just haven't been posting them on FB (except for these soaps -- they're blasted all over my page). Some here and there, but not with the same frantic effort I used to. Now I just post the listing on Etsy, maybe post something on The Scented Djinn blog, and that's that. It leaves me a lot of time to contemplate and then make more stuff rather than staring blurry-eyed at the computer screen for ways to make my stuff look more appealing online. On FB, actually. So maybe it's time to trash the page, eh? Or simply not give a crap about it anymore since January heralds in FB's newest scheme is unveiled where in less than 0.01% of people see the business-related posts. What's the point having a page then? Unless a business is fortunate enough to have such a loyal following that those people purposely click into the page on a daily basis, there isn't much reason to have a page at all. I'm over thinking this.

Back to incense. I've done a lot of experimenting, some that have failed miserably, and others that were surprising and presented a few ah-ha moments. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I absolutely cannot stand combustible incenses -- those which burn on their own or are burnt on charcoal. I don't like what the direct heat does to the incense -- at all. I'm finding my little $1 oil burner from the Dollar Tree an invaluable tool to 'listening' to the incense and its true notes. A $1 oil burner and a bag of tea lights, and it's on. Instead of gobs of smoke and hacking housemates, it's subtle scent and lightening of moods and unbound notes. It's incredible. Never in all my years of creating scent have I felt so free. So unleashed. Non competitive. Incense making has taught me the meaning of being as good as my last (whatever). I'm always striving to perfect the end product, and that's the fun of it all -- and it is always achieved by my mistakes. Onward and upward on a spiraling plume of scent, not smoke.

So perhaps I should get onto wrapping this soap and mixing another batch of Apiana Sacra to be burned on a heater. Revelations, man, they're like a punch in the gut.




Sunday, November 30, 2014

Soapmaking Day!

Today is a soapmaking day. Made the first batch in the wee hours of the morn, and just started the second batch about 20 minutes ago. The first one is a so pretty, with lemongrass and vanilla and a really pretty powdered herb blend of sarsaparilla root, organic cinnamon, organic orange peel, organic ginger, organic licorice root, organic cloves and organic yellow dock root -- spicy and citrusy and sweet, like golden faerie kisses. I sprinkled some pink Himalayan sea salt over the top to give it a little bit of a spa quality. The second soap batch is much bolder, amber with streaks of rose and jasmine sambac. This one is truly perfumed. I contemplated the formulation for a while, since a custom a few weeks back required an amber tone, and played off that to make something warm and sweet and floral. That formulation was brewing for a few days before it took its final dip into a soap base of extra virgin olive oil, organic coconut oil, organic avocado oil, and shea butter. The next batch (batch #3!) will be comprised of sweet spike lavender -- really simple since some of it is to be used on the new grandbaby who is arriving in January.

I'm being very gentle with the ingredients, something I'm not often able to be when the chaos of the house is in full swing. The kids are at work or visiting friends, and the man is sleeping the day away to prepare for his graveyard shift at the hospital. So it's quiet. Except for this dog. This dog is driving me bonkers, two steps behind me, and always with her muddy paws and strangely golden eyes looking beseechingly at me, as if to say, "Chicken nugget?" The goodies prep room is a no-go zone, so she sits with her dirty feet on the invisible line, her tail thumping whenever I go near. Dogs are such strange people.

The incense experiment from the day before yesterday was only slightly disappointing. I still want to get some incense on a stick, but I think a few more months of playing with ingredients will get me there. For the time being, I'm enamored of the cones. To smell a dry, unburnt cone, is to smell makko and a hint of resin, but to burn one of them, that's different -- it's almost 100% white sage with just a smidge of spice and no discernible frankincense whatsoever. Back to the formulation drawing board. The white sage is a beast yet to be tamed ~ ha!


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Trials of a Thurifer

So this happened ~


Yeah, the stuff didn't quite make it onto the bamboo splits the way I would have liked for them to. My base wasn't tacky enough and literally slid off the stick. I have some ideas to help with that but all are very time intensive. But hey! I'm willing to see what it will take and then take it there.

So I've got some nicely scented cones, which don't exactly embody the scent I wanted -- not precisely -- too much makko smell and not enough of the gorgeous white sage and frankincense. The makko scent really expanded when I added the liquid portion to the dry ingredients, even though I used white sage hydrosol (mine) to wet it. It's a bit too spicy for what I was going for. However, I did take a pinch of the pre-wetted powder and put that on a burner, and wow! The scent is absolutely where I want this incense to go.

Making cones was kind of fun. At first I was feeling a bit defeated, like I'd wasted all this contemplative energy to work out the incense only to have it fail. Well, as a stick it failed, as a cone it's pretty darned nice. Still a bit too spicy for me, but I haven't yet burned one of the finished cones, so who knows?

I'm thinking of all things incense now, and cones were on the list of things to make in the future. The future came a wee bit early, though, and the process has piqued my interest. I made cones in the past (20 years ago or so) and they never really turned out how I wanted them to -- hard to burn, smelled 'off', but that could be because I was a dimwit when it came to distinguishing between 'fragrance oils' and 'essential oils'. Plus, if you're using really nice herbs and resins in powder form (for this type of incense), why bungle it up with essential oils anyway? With a few years of learning the character of the raw materials under my belt, I think I can make a go of cones now.

Pastilles, like little scent buttons, are on the agenda as well. Like cones but not conical (duh). Same process for creating the incense, but without the self-igniting element (makko) so they are to be used on a burner (not charcoal).

Speaking of 'not charcoal', I'm really starting to hate the stuff. What a pain in the arse they are! Hard to light, burn up quickly, and totally destroy the integrity of a finely crafted incense like nothing else does. If you're into the whole smoke thing, that's fine, use charcoal to your heart's content, but if you're into simply listening to the incense, hearing its heart fill the room, use an oil burner or an electric heater. No smoke, gorgeous scent -- every time. And your incense will last ages longer.

Using indirect heat makes listening to incense so much more enjoyable. The scent creeps up on you, subtle tendrils of delicate scent entangle you, the movement of the incense is so slow, so determined, that you may not even notice right away that there is scent in the room -- until you leave and come back into that room. Then BAM! Right in the schnogils! Some of you old-timers out there are probably chuckling at me right now, saying to yourselves, yeah, I knew that. I'm an experiential learner of the highest degree, and I receive quite a lot of joy from working my tail off to make something work first-hand. When I'm learning to do this type of art, I will take the instruction and use it -- the first time. After that, it's all about twisting and turning and adding this or taking away that. I was never good at paint-by-numbers.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Bright Friday

I woke this morning to a beautiful bright day. Surprising considering how danged cold and bleak it was last night! Not Northeast cold, but cold for us warm-blooded California people. I never did get around to making soap yesterday, having underestimated the amount of shelving, counter, and storage space in this house -- every available inch of workspace was covered with cookery gear. I also never got 'round to grinding this fine and beautiful white howjary frankincense with white sage and a few other glistening golden aromatics to make that incense, so that's what I'm working on today. Right this minute, in fact.

Blank Bamboo Splits
I'm going to roll this newest creation onto bamboo splits, something I've never worked on before -- the bamboo splits. I've done the dipping of pre-makko'd incense stick punks into DPG laden aromatic oils, but never created the makko-herb-resin mixture and rolled it onto the sticks from scratch. This should be yet another fine adventure in incense making. This newest creation already has a name ~ Apiana Sacra, a blending of the Latin names of Salvia apiana (sacred white sage), and Boswellia sacra (sacred white howjary frankincense). I just hope it lives up to its potential.

Today is also a wrapping up of loose ends day -- mainly getting all the soaps and other items in the Etsy shop labeled and put away. And I'm dehydrating fruit for future incense and aromatic uses. A friend of mine recently discovered that the scraggly citrus tree throwing off small, brilliantly orange/yellow, and super sour fruit was a bergamot tree! It's not been well cared for over the past few years of drought, so the pickings were slim and quite small when we went out to harvest. What we got are being dehydrated right now. I've asked my friend to better care for this tree in future, so hopefully next season will be a much nicer crop.  Fuyu persimmons, which are added to our famously gorgeous Pink Lotus Kyphi, are in the dehydrator as well, and I've got apple slices drying for Yule projects for the grandbaby to work on.

It's turning out to be quite the busy day here at The Scented Djinn's home apothecary.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holidays

The holidays are creeping up on us. But this year I'm prepared. I think. Maybe. I'm getting there. Okay, there's a little work left to do.

Tomorrow's my birthday and I get to cook! Yay! I don't mind, really. Cooking is another passion of mine, and this year since none of the non-living-at-home kids are going to be visiting for Thanksgiving, I'm downsizing, and man, what a relief that is. In years past, I would make a half dozen pies, roast the biggest turkey that I could find in the market, and make enough green bean casserole to feed a zombie horde (which begs the question, will zombies eat green beans if brains aren't readily available?) In years past, I'd work in the kitchen from noon Wednesday until well past dinnertime on Thursday to make sure everyone had enough -- geesh, what a joke. Enough? There was enough to feed us for a month! Tomorrow, though, once the bird's in the oven and the other limited numbers of side dishes are put together, I'm making soap. And maybe going to work on a new incense project called Apiana Sacra (I've already made a few pre-batches to get the increments correct), and I'm rolling this incense onto blank bamboo splits. This should be interesting, and believe me, I'm not altogether confident it will work out.

Now, I'm off to plant some tuberose bulbs, then it's to the market to wrestle someone for the fattest turkey.

Y'all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!




Monday, November 24, 2014

On the Road Again

I travel a lot. Not far, just a lot. My bottom is in a car seat or bus seat or train seat at least four hours on the days I travel. And, I travel. A lot. I'm traveling again today. Two hours on a bus/train, an overnight stay, then two hours home in a car. This is one reason it amazes me that I'm able to get orders out and actually get feedback stating 'fast shipping'. It didn't used to be like that way, and if you've read this blog for any length of time, you know my track record for expediting -- well, anything -- was poor. Was. Things changed a bit for me over the summer and I was forced into a frame of mind more conducive to positive business practices. Basically, I got a bill that I was 100% responsible for, and now I'm doing what it takes to pay it off. I know, it's a lame excuse for finally, after nearly 20 years of doing this, to take it more seriously than spouting the 'this is my art' bs. Even artists have to eat.

When I return from my brief travels, I intend to make soap. I've had all the makings here for a while, just haven't eked out the time to create.

I'm feeling a bit rushed by all the early Christmas advertising this year, and I finally pinpointed why it pisses off people, myself included, when Christmas starts in October, as it did again this year. Stress. Pure and simple, it's the stress. The stress of preparation, the stress of stretching, straining, and then ultimately breaking the bank to buy sh*t for people who may or may not like what you get them. My answer is to make stuff, food, baked goodies, soap(!), homemade liquors, bitters (for cocktails), anything that actually passed through your hands for longer than the time it took to pick it up, drag it to the check out, then remove it from a sack and wrap.

Anyway, I gotta run. Time's ticking and I have a bus to catch.

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