Thursday, September 18, 2014

Refining Formulations and Those Limiting "Little Darlings"

The Kyphi perfume oil formulation is giving me fits. I think it's because my nose, rebounding from a summer-long upper respiratory something-or-other (bronchitis?), isn't picking up the molecules the way it should. I'm not working with optimal equipment here. Moving from Fresno has had some unexpected physical outcomes -- for example, my sinuses and my entire system has to get tuned into the 'new' allergens that live around here, which, I'm sure, are made worse by the deepening drought. Things aren't spreading their spores the way they normally would, the dirt is dry as a 4000 year-old Egyptian mummy, fires pop up, and in the same day, the marine layer decides to grace us with her presence, turning the atmosphere muggy and smelling of dessicated seaweed. Anyway, I've been testing the Kyphi perfume oil on skin and strip for the entirety of this week and every day it smells like something else. First it was predominantly myrrh-y, then yesterday it was as if frankincense were the only ingredient, today I'm getting this really pretty sweet resinous smell, like orris and rose with frankincense. I've been waking up having to irrigate the snoz every morning in order to smell anything at all, so I attribute the chameleon-like character of this perfume oil to that problem. On the day that all I smelled was frankincense, I really -- and I mean REALLY -- wanted to doctor it with some of my little darlings (rose, patchouli, neroli, petit grain, vetyver, vanilla). I resisted as those things weren't normally used in Kyphi incense -- not a version of the 'authentic' Kyphi anyway -- so much to the chagrin of my ADD, I settled for adding a titch of a gorgeous iris absolute that was shared with me by Laurie Stern of Velvet and Sweetpea's Purrfumery fame. It's actually a library piece, something I'm savoring and sharing as a curiosity with novice perfumers (sharing as in letting them sniff a bit). I'm hoping it satisfies my temporarily broken olfactory system. 

Speaking of those little darlings, I've noticed a trend that began in cooking. Some years ago I read somewhere that adding nutmeg to a dish was the equivalent to adding love, so a lot of what I prepare gets at least a faint dusting of freshly ground nutmeg. I'm using a lot of nutmeg in soap formulations. It's seemed appropriate to the formulation at the time, but perhaps it's connected to the 'adding love' thing. Or maybe I just have a lot of nutmeg essential oil!

Let's talk a little bit about natural isolates. The Perfumer's Apprentice is now carrying a small selection of natural isolates that I've been slowly acquiring one by one over the past few weeks. First up, octanol natural, also known as alcohol C-8. To my nose, it smells oily, like used cooking oil after, say, chicken's been fried in it. Not exactly like that, but tones of that, and sweat. Maybe old running shoes? Mold? Mushrooms? Unscented paraffin wax? This is straight from the bottle undiluted, so I'm sure once the nose is in good working order, and I've diluted this isolate, I will get something else -- or something more. So, what could this be used for in a perfume formulation as I smell it today, you're wondering (I'm guessing you're wondering, I have no idea, really), well, lots of things. Dark perfumes, such as an earthy perfume with loads of patchouli and cepes, to help deepen the tone; floral perfumes to offer a platform off of which the roses and jasmines and orange blossoms can rest, or even kewda and davana, adding even more greenness and a sharp biting note. I actually like this isolate. It is unusual, but I see possibilities for enhancing a number of different formulations in several perfume families.

Next is cocoa essence natural. It smells like cocoa powder. Not rich and dark like a hunk of bittersweet chocolate, but powdery and strangely intense and slightly bitter unsweetened cocoa powder. This can be used almost anywhere in a formulation. Cocoa has some of the same fix-it-all benefits that vanilla has. Except when poorly formulated with patchouli and vetyver, then watch out! Go ahead and play with that one to see what I mean. Sounds good on paper, but . . . again, it's a ratios game.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kyphi Perfume Formulation

The Kyphi perfume formulation I began working on in September is nearing the point at which it can be added to the menstruum, either jojoba, fractionated coconut, alcohol, or a balm base of beeswax and shea. The formulation possesses some unexpected characteristics. It's bright, for one. Bright and clean and deeply resinous with high lemony notes and warm honeyed tones, and the richness of dried fruit and low lying spices hover along the edges. Once the concentrate is formulated with the menstruum (whatever it is), it will continue to mature and evolve, just as whole botanical and honey based Kyphi does. The more well tended and mature Kyphi becomes, the better the scent profile.

A couple of years ago when the Kyphi Project began at the Natural Perfume Academy, I was hell bent on creating straight Kyphi; not Kyphi oil, not Kyphi perfume, but real (or as real as I could get it) Kyphi incense. A couple of the participants of the Kyphi Project did formulate oils and perfumes, and one in particular, one created by a graduated student, really sticks in my mind. It was intensely sweet, like honey, and had mad masculine tones to it -- like a lovely bay laurel soap with shadows of frankincense and the barest hint of rose. Much subtler than the formulation I'm working on, but no less intense and, if I do say so, beautiful.

At this stage in time, the ingredients in true Egyptian Kyphi is anyone's game. I have seen references online and in books about Kyphi that state copal was an ingredient. My understanding is (was) that copal is a New World resin, grown in parts of Mexico, as in black, golden, and white copal. But after some research, I found that 'copal' has been used as a term to simply mean incense, or resin. These references to copal being used in 'authentic Egyptian Kyphi' are mainly coming from sellers of incense who have, understandably, substituted a resin or ingredient in place of those which no one really knows the true identity. Like peker, and camel grass -- though camel grass today is identified as cymbopogon schoenanthus -- we don't have any way of knowing if this is the camel grass the Egyptians used. And cyperus grass -- if cyperus grass is correctly identified as the cyperus grass of today, I had that stuff growing out by my pond in Fresno! However -- you knew that was coming -- cyperus is a sedge, and there are over 600 species of sedges, which include cyperus grass, papyrus, umbrella sedges, and -- well, over 597 more. See? Narrowing down what goes into authentic Egyptian Kyphi isn't an easy process, as over 2000 years of speculation has proven.

Most folks out there making and selling Kyphi are selling the recipe from the Edfu Temple writings. This included raisins, wine, honey, frankincense, myrrh, mastic, pine resin, sweet flag, aspalathos, camel grass, mint, cyperus (grass or...?), juniper berries, pine kernels (?), peker (?), and cinnamon. The problem here is with the cyperus grass, as previously discussed, peker, and aspalathos. According to the blog Root and Rock, aspalathos might have been misinterprested as 'asphalt', though later explains that it might be something like rooibos (red bush) as it is a member of the aspalathos plant group, peker is an unknown entity, and cyperus may be nutgrass, which not coincidentally is a member of the sedges I talked about here. So we're all kind of spiraling around the truth here. Now, I know referencing a blog isn't research per se, but it is a way for a researcher to discover who's done what thus far. Not everyone is a scientist.

Here are the common Kyphi recipes which are found online and in various books:

Papyrus Ebers ~ honey, frankincense, mastic, sweet flag, pine kernels, cyperus grass, came grass, inektun, cinnamon

Edfu Temple ~ raisins, wine, honey, frankincense, myrrh, mastic, pine resin, sweet flat, aspalathos, camel grass, mint, cyperus, juniper berries, pine kernels, peker, cinnamon

Manetho ~ raisins, wine, honey, myrrh, resin, mastic, bitumen of Judea, cyperus, aspalathos, seseli, rush, lanathos, sweet flat, cardamom

Harris ~ raisins, wine, honey, mastic, pine resin, camel grass, mint, sweet flag, cinnamon

See the similarities?

Then there is Kupar, also Kyphi, of which there are three common recipes:

Syriac-Kupar ~ raisins, wine, honey, frankincense, myrrh, spikenard, saffron, mastic, aspalathos, cinnamon, cassia

Rufus of Ephesus ~ raisins, wine, honey, 'burnt resin' (?), bdellium (guggal, false myrrh), sweet flag, camel grass, cyperus grass, saffron, spikenard, aspalathos, cardamom, cassia

Dioscorides ~ 'sun raisins', 'old wine', honey, myrrh, 'pure resin' (frankincense?), juniper berries, sweet flag, camel grass, aspalathos, cyperus grass

Some ingredients' lists are shorter than others, but they all resemble each other very closely. I've read (somewhere, can't find my notes) that there were Kyphi recipes that used upwards of 50 ingredients!

But, as important as the ingredients are, the process by which Kyphi is made is just as important. Kyphi making isn't a paint-by-numbers gig if you're doing it right. Sure, you can whip up a batch in a day with a good herb grinder and a lot of impatience for the process -- like waiting for the wine to soak into the herbs, boiling the honey and frankincense and pine resins, soaking the raisins sufficiently. You might even make a nice Kyphi.

The Edfu Temple recipe -- and remember, this was literally written in stone -- was made up of 16 ingredients, beginning to end, but not including your reverence. Those 16 ingredients represented the pieces of Osiris, who was murdered and chopped to bits by his brother, Set. The 12 days taken to create a traditional Egyptian Kyphi represent the 12 days Isis spent locating those pieces and putting her husband/brother back together. The making of Kyphi is a recreation of that process -- this is why the reverence is necessary! Through the creation and building of Kyphi, you are resurrecting a god.

Sources: Karl Vermillion, Ancient Egypt online, Root and Rock blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Egyptian Kyphi Doctoring

Added sandalwood powder and whole saffron to the mix. Smells divine.

Monday, September 15, 2014

On Creating

Twenty or so years ago I took my first official writing class, a night class at the local high school taught by an esteemed artist and published poet, Don Parkey. He wrote beautiful poetry, and his art was stunning -- it was what he called dream art, and he'd literally wake in the middle of the night and begin to draw with pen and ink what he dreamed. The imagery was intricate, delicate, stunning and otherworldly. This clip below is the only one I've found of his work, but the artwork he shared with us in class was much more fine and dreamlike with lots of Asian influences (think flowing kimonos and flagrant peacocks in black and white, 3-D imagery, busy landscapes). Anyway, he was a different sort of person than what I'd been exposed to before, eccentric one might say, but oh, so very, very talented.

The first assignment we were given in class was to write a paper on why we wanted to write, what was our purpose being in the class, what did we hope to discover. I wrote, "I want to know if I can cut the mustard." Just that. He returned my assignment with a note attached that read, "It doesn't matter. And of course you can."  He later explained in class what it meant to be an 'artist', or creative, in my case, since my fingers were, and still are, in many different creative pies at once, as someone who simply did. They wrote. They painted. They drew. They threw clay. They cooked. They made something new out of different things (ideas, pigments, energy, dreams, etc.) that they could share with others because it was a compulsion, a calling, a niggling itch that wouldn't stop, despite whether or not it was deemed 'good' by the artist or by their critics.

The first story I ever wrote in that class was what some might deem a graphic novel. I hadn't put the artwork to the story when I turned it in for a grade, because, well, I can't draw, but it was all there, in my head, like a movie reel from the 1930's, black and white and stuttering away on the projector, and it was just stunning. Mr. Parkey made me read the story aloud in class. I'm not an aloud reader. I mumble, shuffle, turn shades of red, sweat, tend toward monotones, and this story was long. Thirty pages of single spaced type, 500 words per page, imperfect paragraphing (for which I was not adversely graded) about gangster spiders. Yes. Gangster spiders circa 1932. Big Daddy Long Legs had been found murdered by his lovely black widow wife, Evangeline. And so the story goes.

This was written on a word processing machine. Remember those? Not a typewriter, not a computer, but a machine that could crank out perfect page after perfect page once the return button was hit, and just as quickly as I could type, which back then was about 95 words a minute. I wrote that story in a weekend because I was inspired. The story just came to me and I too would wake up in the middle of the night, ideas bursting to get out, to finish the piece. It was epic. I did it with a houseful of kids, too, all wanting this or that or crying or needing a diaper change. I did it with an angry husband who demanded to know what had happened to the TV remote with the same level of emotional upset as was applied to real issues, like a huge medical bill, or a broken down car that there was no money to repair. I wrote in the midst of a madhouse.

The story was a big hit in class. The other students wanted to know when I would be writing more 'episodes', offering advice on how the story should go, asking me where I got my ideas. You'd think I'd be basking in the glow of their approval, but I wasn't. I was terrified. I was afraid because they now expected something of me. Now they, and more importantly, I, knew what I was capable of. I'd felt the agony and the sacrifice of living as a creative (writer), the shutting off, the shutting out, the long days and sleepless nights of having one foot in the world of domestic goddessness, and the other foot in the world of artistry. And I've been doing that ever since, though not to that degree. So what I'm saying is, if I can do it, with all the turmoil and bullshit that I live with on a day-to-day basis, so can anyone. And I think sometimes we are at our best when we are being tested by the Universe. When the car isn't running and the kids have gone wild and the husband is having a mental breakdown over burnt toast and the dog's torn its stitches and the cat needs neutering and the door's been torn off its hinge and the -- you get what I'm sayin'? If you've got the itch, scratch it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Egyptian Style Kyphi ~ The Trinity Batch

Weird title. All it means is that this post is about that Kyphi that was made during the workshop on August 30, 2014. The trinity represents the three people who worked the Kyphi (though technically there were four as one of the participants was pregnant).

My personal opinion is that group Kyphi following the Egyptian Style formulation I worked out is better than the Kyphi I've made alone, and even those that I've enhanced with essential oils. There is something about the multitude of hands and positive energy that make that Kyphi vibrate with scent and spiritual intensity.

The Kyphi is now 12 days old, and this is how it appears today:

If you look closely, you can pick out different materials -- a piece of orris root here, a wisp of rose petal there, the skin of a raisin.

As you can see, this is a rough grind batch. We simply did not have the time to spend on each raw material, getting them ground down to powder, so we did what we could in the time allotted. It looks a bit like pasture plunk. I assure you, it's wonderfully aromatic in a good way. Rich and sweet and resinous (think myrrh). It's got some really lovely characteristics. What you see rolled in a hunk up there is my third of the Kyphi, and it weighs in at 19 ounces, give or take a gram, so the full batch would come in at around three-and-a-half pounds. That's how I broke down the mother formulation from a recipe of either 10 times or 100 times less than what I figured out from the research I conducted into making Kyphi. So the original batches were either 35 pounds each, or 350 pounds each (right?) -- math is not my first language. The amount would be easier to determine if I knew how often Kyphi was made, or if it was a continuous process, one batch after another being created, then sitting and fermenting and ageing in rotation. More research is necessary here.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Friday, September 05, 2014


Today was an early day for me -- still kind'a is. I was sufficiently turned off of Facebook for the day ~ some days I get good vibes, some days it's a festival of depression, most of which I can do nothing about. Today was a festival.

I tried to 'fix' the soap problem I had, specifically rebatching the Drunken Lout & Nettles Soap, not by melting it down, but by chopping it up and cutting it back into a fresh batch of soap. But again, the soap seized on me, then it dawned on me -- and you'd think an experienced soaper would have a better grip on these things -- I was using a seizing essential oil, pimento berry, aka allspice. As soon as that pimento berry essential oil hit the soupy yet traced raw soap, it immediately heated and seized. So, long story short, I'm keeping this batch as the house soap. Again, it's a cosmetic issue.

Now I'm going to disappoint some of you, especially some of my long-time natural enthusiast clientele when I admit that I'm making a partially synthetically scented soap this season to fulfill a familial holiday request. The synthetic in question is a perfumery grade aromachemical that mimics the scent of freshly blooming lindenblossom. This lindenblossom synth smells exactly like (and probably is) the so-called natural lindenblossom that was circulating around about -- gosh, ten years ago?! At any rate, this stuff smells really nice. Subtle and not chemical-like at all. I won't be selling these soaps at the Etsy apothecary. Which reminds me, back 'in the day' when I was making 20 pound batches of soap daily, I made one with a sunflower fragrance oil that I couldn't keep on the shelf. The one and only non-naturally scented soap I actually put up in my shop and it sold like it was made of fulfilled dreams and unbroken promises. And I got many return requests. For a soap scented with a completely made up flower scent. Trust me. Go smell a sunflower and tell me what you get. Maybe sunshine and green grass, but nothing floral, and certainly nothing strong enough to scent soap with.

By the way, real lindenblossom smells nothing like the synth I'm using. Real lindenblossom smells dark and pruney, slightly juicy, with fruit notes (think prunes and figs). Not blossomy at all. Even diluted, it's kind of dark fruity, slightly rotty smelling. Not what you'd expect after actually smelling a live lindenblossom. There is a sweet honey note in real linden -- pink clouds and bees and dandelion fluff. Epic.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Makin' Soap

So. I was excited last night, getting prepared to make a coupl'a big batches of soap. It was late, kind of quiet, so I scrubbed down the work station (kitchen counter), re-washed the tools (pot and blender and spoons), actually decided to use a mask and gloves this time. Then once the work station was in place, I went to the cupboard to pull out the oils and whatnot, and that's when I realized that I'd stocked up on everything except the lye. I had enough sodium hydroxide to make three bars of soap. Meh. Today I'm heading out to the post office to ship a few orders, and I will just so happen to pass the hardware store that sells the lye I like. But I hate when that happens! It's like the Universe is saying, "Naw. Wait a while. You haven't been feeling well, you've been running yourself ragged. You need a rest." But I'm like, "Nooooo! It's almost autumn! I need to make something! I'm programmed to do this. Right. Now!" And the Universe says, "I'm thinkin' no." And I'm like, "Stupid Universe."  I ended up making a peach cobbler with organic peaches I picked at my friend Shannon's ranch in Sanger. 

Green Clay & Clary Sage Soap circa 2010

Life's too short to be unhappy. And by that, I don't mean that a person should be ecstatic all the time and nothing bad ever happens in their life. To be happy is to be content, fulfilled. I think most people would agree that if they were those things, they could go to their grave with satisfaction in their hearts. Satisfaction. That's an interesting word. To be sated. To have your fill. This is how I feel when I work with aromatics, whether it's working through a perfume formulation, a soap blend, or something to do with creating perfumed food, or writing. I feel sated. Nothing enters the bubble I cast around me when I'm doing these things. Angst has no place, nor do tears or hatred or pain. Although there have been times when someone who isn't capable of controlling themselves, or didn't want to, blasted their hate-horn in my face while I was trying to work. I will get a little jolt of panic, then I settle myself down and wait for my hands to stop shaking -- because what I'd really like to do to people who do this is either punch them hard in the nose -- multiple times, or run as fast and as far as I can from them -- before I continue the work, re-creating the bubble which they've just temporarily popped. What I actually do is self-soothe. Mostly because I'm not a gorilla working on pure instinct, which is how I mentally picture them as they're ranting and raving over a bug in their french fries. It's a mess, man. It's what happens to us empaths who can feel your emotions before you even walk into the room. It's like a built-in (fill in the emotion) barometer right in my chest. As an added bonus, I get to live with a couple of these people and I'm finding my response to their fits is becoming less harmful. It's difficult to feel any serious concern when a person throws the same exact ridiculous tantrum when spending too much at the auto shop to fix the car as they do when they spill a soda. The level of importance of ALL the issues they grapple with drops -- and drops, and drops, and drops with each progressive fit. Or perhaps my bubble is becoming stronger. The older I get, the more I learn that things and people -- hell, everything -- cannot be controlled, and worry is a word and emotion best left to itself because to engage in it is to do nothing but hurt oneself. Suicide by stress. I'm not into it.

Djinn Mini circa 2010

The two perfume oils I'm working on -- Yasmina and Kyphi -- are nearing their maturity. Nearing, but not quite there. The Kyphi may need a bit more work, and the Yasmina is just settling in. I may once again begin working on the Chon perfume I started a few months back. I kind of sat that one on the back burner a while as I waited for the dilutions created for it to settle. After deciding to sell of those perfumery items I'm not using or have too much of, the 'studio' has been an even bigger mess than it was before. I had temporarily buried the Chon dilutions, so, out of sight, out of mind. I really need a better system. Ha!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Kyphi Class

The Kyphi class on Saturday was successful, and we made some super fabulous Kyphi. It was based on a traditional Egyptian-style Kyphi (with some substitutions), and then 'sealed' with rose petals at the end. Since the raw materials didn't get the traditional day-long grinding treatment, this Kyphi is chunky. Someone told me it looks like farm animal something-or-other, which, in all honesty, it does. Cow plop comes to mind. But rest assured, it smells nothing like farm animal something-or-other. It's very intensely and beautifully sweet and resinous and reminiscent of the last batch of class made Kyphi. It still has to be massaged to fully incorporate the ingredients since it was a one-day event and not a month-long, as it usually takes to make a batch, but the energy from the multitude of hands that went into the batch really shines. This Kyphi hums.

We are considering doing a Kyphi gathering once a month, or once every other month, to pull as much energy into the final product as possible, because I swear, that's what makes Kyphi fabulously fabulous. Also, making Kyphi with no power tools (aka coffee grinders) always makes for a better end product. Kyphi deserves this by-hand treatment beginning to end. I believe we've tentatively set the date for the next Kyphi event for the 20th of September, wherein we will wild-harvest as many of the ingredients that we can that we will be using for the new Kyphi (a Native American themed Kyphi), drying them, then beginning the process of grinding, mixing, praying, singing, and more grinding. We won't be using frankincense and myrrh in this blend, but will be using lots of pine, fir, and pinon resins, plus cedar wood and leaf, white sage, sweet grass, juniper berries, maybe a bit of manzanita, and the fruit portion will be played by wild-harvested elderberries. I am also seriously considering making some of my own wine for these Kyphi projects (and I have used homemade spirits in a previous Kyphi project). I've made wine before and they've run the gamut from okay to meh in the drinking department, but I think they would work nicely in Kyphi. Perhaps some day I'll make a mead-based Kyphi. The possibilities -- I'm telling you -- are as limitless as the natural raw materials one can gather. The more I learn about Kyphi and it's possibilities, the more I see how many people have walked this path and found a calling with Kyphi.

The administrator at The Natural Perfume Academy and I are considering opening a Kyphi course soon. If anyone is interested, please let me know. The course will be done entirely online and can be self-paced if you need the extra time. I think we may set it up as a two-month course. Our courses are constantly being updated, and once you're a student, as long as you remain engaged, you are welcome to check in on future courses without having to pay all over again. The Kyphi course will include additional information that isn't in the booklet. The Kyphi booklet was written to be included in a class, workshop, or course setting, however, it can be used as the first stepping stone toward creating awesome Kyphi incense on its own.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

No More Ugly Soap?

Who needs it, eh? I've decided not to use the ugly Drunken Lout & Nettles Soap as-is, and have chopped the bars into tiny little pieces to add to other batches of Drunken Lout & Nettles Soap, for a little extra punch. I watched those bars as the days rolled by and saw how they became less and less attractive, not that they were cute to begin with, and realized, ugh! Can't do it! I reiterate my initial pledge -- I will NEVER make hot process soap again. Now that that's out of the way, I must admit it's been a pretty stressful week for me. The changing seasons always bring with it joy and expectation and hope, but also hay fever and sinus goop and headaches. This time it brought bronchitis, though somewhere along the line I must have picked up a virus because it's my understanding that's how bronchitis begins. It must have been that day back in June when I noticed my throat felt a little scratchy and I chalked it up to all the traveling between home and the valley. I'm not contagious or anything, and when I was, by my best recollections, I wasn't even home. I left the virus in Fresno, along with the dust and heat and salt-sweat crystals in the eyebrows and vacant eyes and anger. The longer I'm away, the more I realize what a cesspool it is. Don't get me wrong, I love my home town, but compared to other places less wracked with poverty and homelessness and screwed up local government and the extreme haves and the extreme have nots, gangs and addicts and urban sprawl, loss of identity and loss of hope, it looks pretty darned bad. And I'm going back over there tonight, prepping for my Kyphi class on Saturday. I keep having dreams that I'm there and ready for the class to begin and realize I didn't bring any of the supplies! The equivalent of those junior high dreams where you go to school without pants or a shirt -- it's just jitters.

Just a bit of wailing here -- last month, or was it July? -- anyway, I got a semi-poor review of my book, Working the Bench. Basically, it's one of only two reviews, so no pressure guys, but if you bought my book, liked the CONTENT, please speak up! I could use a good word here and there. So, I got this poor review that basically said the formatting was bad and that would be a reason to return the book. I fixed the formatting issue (I think I wrote about this in an earlier post here), but since that review, my book sales have been poor. I've temporarily reduced the price on all the books I sell at Amazon trying to encourage potential readers to buy. The price goes back up in October, so if you're interested even a teeny bit, I fixed the problems, AND the books are cheaper! I've friended and liked a lot of authors on Facebook over the years, and one of their biggest complaints (from the self-published authors) is that once a bad review hits the stands, sales tank drastically. What people don't understand is that a review is just one person's opinion (even the good reviews), or in the case of something so specialized as soap making or perfume making, it could be someone intentionally setting up the writer to deliberately tank their sales -- like a competitor or a jealous colleague or just a nasty human being. Not only is what they write just an opinion (like those movie reviewers who consistently get it wrong), a lot of writers and authors rely on the sales of those self-published books to live. On the other hand, I've been tempted to leave poor ratings for some of the Nook books I've read from the ninety-nine cent bin . . . it's a conundrum. There have also been several times I've based a book purchase on good reviews only to find later, after reading the book, that it just wasn't my cup of tea, or it was plain bad. So it does go both ways.

The Kyphi perfume oil is coming along beautifully. All the players are present and accounted for -- there's frankincense, myrrh, orris, santal, galbanum, and a host of other Kyphi-like elements. I'm using a gorgeously deep and sexy smelling passionflower extract as the raisin/fruit element, and a little beeswax and cappings infusion for the honey. I do have a little honey absolute but it smells strange to me. Too good to be true strange, so I'm leaving it off and going a more natural route. I've also simultaneously begun one of the non-Kyphi perfumes, a patchouli and jasmine number that's so intense I've twice considered diluting it, but have resisted. This is what I want to be known for -- deeply rich and intense smelling perfume oils. Oh, and Kyphi. Soap. Soap too. And perfume. Regular alcohol-based perfume.

The Kyphi class I'm teaching is this Saturday, August 30th, from 1 to 3 PM. The address is Seasons of Spirit, 60 Academy, Sanger, CA 93657, phone number (559) 284-6213.

The Natural Perfume Academy is beginning its fall course September 22, where I teach perfumery. We're recently opened a payment option that includes a monthly payment for the entirety of the six-month intensive. In other words, you don't need to come up with the bulk of the course costs up front.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ugly Soap, Allergies, and Kyphi

Cranking out soap, that's what I'm about these days. I just want to make batch after batch, play with combinations of scent, and pour, or plop, something decadent and delicious and ridiculously rare and expensive into the pot. The decision to be less focused on strictly perfumery was a good one. I'm almost back to my old creative self, experimenting, messing with ratios, pushing the envelope. I'm not good at following rules, even my own, which is why I've been making errors in soap making. I decided, after very little self debate, to make a hot process batch of soap -- a shampoo bar, to be precise -- obviously having forgotten that making hot process requires more attention and less of the languid, meditative, laissez-faire attitude I usually work within. One must be in a mood for intensity, and lately I've not been. So I cranked out a lumpy, ugly soap. Not my best work. Smells good, though. And I'm still going to sell it, warts and all, because there was no mistake except that the bars are cosmetically challenged. No more experiments in hot process for me. The next shampoo bar will be smooth and lumpless.

I've offered custom perfume oils in jojoba on the Etsy shop and I've been getting bites! Not to sound unusually excited since I've been doing this for a few years, but hey, when I was offering customs in alcohol, I didn't get anywhere near this kind of attention, and it's kind of nice.

It's weird, I always feel like I've nothing to do creatively and then I look at my log and say, oh, yeah, I have that custom, and that order, and that formulation I'm working on, and that, and that, and that -- then I remember I am busy, I'm just overwhelmed with life stuff, as usual, and can't think straight. I'm considering a big white board with a calendar on it so I can write in all this stuff I'm working on, so the people here don't think my only reason for existence is to clean the litter box, feed the dog, wash laundry, scrub toilets, and fix something fabulous for dinner. Oh, and be at their beck and call when they need a car registered or a special part from the auto store, or some doohickey from the hardware store that ultimately ends up not getting used. Yeah, I have that kind of life.

At any rate, I've been struggling with allergies lately, more or less in my lungs and head than in my sinuses. Roaming back and forth between the blast furnace heat of the central valley to the cool climes of the central coast have ripped my poor respiratory system to shreds. Lots of irrigation and steam bathing has gone on. And I'm going back to the hot valley later this week to teach the Kyphi class at my friend Shannon's shop in Sanger - Season's of Spirit. I'm really looking forward to building this Kyphi with the class. I'm thinking about doubling my usual recipe to get even more out of it. The energy raised during these group Kyphi-making classes is astounding. The Kyphi always turns out so much more -- vibrant. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sensational Headline

Ignore the title, it's an inside joke between me, myself, and I.

Life is funny, isn't it? Just when you think you have it figured out, or you think you know what you're finally doing, something comes along and totally changes your perspective -- again. I'm not sure, but is this normal? I mean, is it supposed to feel like a roller coaster ride? Or is it supposed to be a cool, lazy swing in a hammock? I often wonder if it's just the crazy machinations of my mind and -- and, well, that there is no 'normal', and turmoil reigns, and stress is a given, and death lurks in the tiniest crack so that we can't see it until it seeps out and surprises us with a visit. I'm being morbid. Sorry. It's just been a lot of life happening lately.

I've been charging organic virgin coconut oil with the honeysuckle, which you know if you read this blog regularly, and I'm not really noticing any difference in the scent of the menstruum. I've charged the oil four times so far, once in a fit of experimentation I took an entire arm of live honeysuckle branch and wound it up into a spiral to place under the glass. I even wrapped the cut end of the branch with a wet paper towel so the buds at the end of the branch would live long enough to bloom. That's about the time I noticed the oil wasn't really picking up any scent. So now I'm back to cutting blooms and piling them up under the glass. I think this blooming season will last a while since the weather's been fairly mild. The lack of water might be an issue since there's really no way to water the honeysuckle bushes without lugging buckets from inside the house.

I've also been emptying more boxes from the move six months ago. Nearly all of the boxes are perfume-related materials, treasures. Going through everything slowly feels like a smoother assimilation process than trying to empty them all at once -- this new house lacks storage and willing bodies to help put things to rights, so that the terrain of the house changes from day to day, something moved from here to there, something else hung on the wall, tucked in a closet, shoved in a drawer, or displayed in the middle of the room. I've also found some things of my mother's that she'd given to me prior to her passing, things she wanted me to have or sell. There are antique knick-knacks, textiles, and a few dresses from the 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's. It's pretty cool stuff, and if I had anywhere to keep them all, or I could wear them, I would.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Working on the Base Formulation for a Lovely Kyphi Perfume Oil and Body Balm

Fall is coming, I can feel it in my ... sinuses! I've been working on a Kyphi project, not a Kyphi incense, but a Kyphi perfume oil. I've been asked repeatedly to do this, and I just didn't give the requests much credence before. I am now because of the change in direction with the biz and all. Again, I reiterate, I'm not out of the smells business, just not the froo-froo bottles and accoutrements that go with high dollar alcohol-based natural perfumes. I've got this really cool idea to make bath bombs again and calling them Djinn Fizzies. Y'know, like a sloe gin fizz? Or maybe you don't know. Sloe gin was really popular back in the 40's and 50's, gin made with sloe berries tasted a little bit like cough syrup, which is why you cut that medicinal bit with some carbonation (the fizz). Back when I was a youngster hanging out with the older crowd, we'd hit up a steakhouse in the oldest part of Fresno where the owners would freely and without question serve me and my equally underage best friend cocktails. We got talked into sloe gin fizzes and the rest was history. Well, not really. That was the only time in my life I ever drank them, but the fun established through those drinks remains firmly branded in my old brain. To make a sloe gin fizz, you'll need two ounces of sloe gin (pretty red wine colored alcohol) poured over two or three ice cubes, one ounce lemon juice, one ounce of simple syrup (more sugar!), and top off the glass with soda water, the fresher the better. If you've a mind to be silly, make sure the glass is very sturdy, heavy bottomed, place your palm over the opening of the drink, then holding the glass with the other hand, bonk the bottom of the glass onto the counter (make sure that won't break either), so the bubbles erupt, then drink it all down in one shot. Anyway, now that you've had your alcohol lesson for the day, let me move onto what I was originally talking about -- Djinn Fizzies for the tub.

 I made a lot of bath bombs back when I ran Delicia, the skincare store in the Tower District. Lots. We had buckets of those babies -- Hot Buttered Hippie, Your Mama Wears Jasmine loaded with real jasmine grandiflorum absolute and sparkling green and pink glitter; Ylang-Ylang; Caramelita with shea butter, burnt sugar, and jasmine grandiflorum; Meditatio with frankincense, myrrh, pink grapefruit, santal, and bergamot; Evangeline with bergamot, lemongrass, ylang and geranium. There was also Antonia, Mocha, Padrino, Stella Negro, Stella Vermiglio, Aromatizzare (clove, frankincense, bergamot), Seaweed, Sophia (rose and vanilla) -- we were the bath bomb hub in our little corner of the world. The problem was the molds. We were using those Christmas ball molds, the ones where you put your own Christmas whatever inside and snap the two halves back together. They wore out quickly. Then we had a mold that made bath bombs the size of a newborn baby's head. No kidding. You could almost go bowling with those bath bombs. Then space became an issue again once the store front shut down, I didn't have anywhere to store the big bags of raw materials necessary to make the bath bombs, plus I kept getting requests for plain vanilla or plain chocolate and that got boring very quickly. I don't do plain well. Then I really got caught up in the perfumery biz and let all the other fabulous stuff I made go by the wayside. Well, it's coming back! I can't help myself. The scent formulations will be much more complex and perfumey than what I did before, but that's okay, right?

So soon on the menu will be Djinn Fizzies in varying scent combinations, and Kyphi Perfume Oils. I've been treating the Kyphi perfume oil formulation with the same reverence I do when I make incense. Each oil is given a day to meld and marry into the whole, I play soothing music, burn incense, have a 7-day candle burning, and repeat the process daily, adding one more oil to the formula. The current Kyphi Perfume Oil formulation I'm working on is based on a more traditional Egyptian style Kyphi recipe. Thus far it contains three different frankincense oils, two myrrh oils, and a vintage lemongrass oil. Next up is the cognac (wine element), then galangal, calamus, santal, mastic, and more. So far it smells very cathedral.

Friday, August 15, 2014


It was another one of 'those' days yesterday, a day of sadness and reflection, some regret, and ultimately, acceptance that it is what it is. I actually hate that. 'It is what it is' means giving in, something I don't do well. And this news came on the whipping tail of another tragedy, another friend lost, this one at his own hand. Last Tuesday a man I knew some 30 years ago took his life after years of addiction. I guess one might say it was inevitable, considering the track he'd found himself on. But that's not fair, really. He was brilliant in a non academic way. His Bull-Shit-O-Meter was set high -- or low, depending upon where the low tolerance level is on a Bull-Shit-O-Meter -- and he had a way of seeing clear through the lies one tells themselves into the soul of the problem and then stating them with a sink or swim attitude. Too bad he didn't see it in himself soon enough to do something about it -- or maybe he did and just didn't care anymore. The other tragic loss, the one from yesterday, was my friend (and I call her that because we had a connection, though we rarely spoke or saw one another) Sara Barillas (Phillips) of Kitchen Sink Collective aka Lobeliarama fame. Brilliant doesn't even begin to describe her intellect. And yet another with a Bull-Shit-O-Meter set at the lowest tolerance level. She was quick-minded and saw the world with such clarity. I envy people who don't let expectations cloud their judgements, and Sara was definitely one of those people. Plus, she was ethereal. I mean, it was difficult to believe, once you met her, that this diminutive, sweet-faced fairy doll of a woman could possess such a whip cord wit and intellect. The last time I met with her, we had lunch with our friends at a Pakistani buffet (which, as weird as it sounds, was actually pretty damned good), and even with the meds and the ever present exhaustion she experienced, I could still feel her curiosity-filled eyes taking it all in -- even caught her staring for a moment, figuring something out about me in my profile, I suppose, and then she smiled and looked away. There was a lot of love in that last meeting, and I felt, as I walked away from her house, that it would be the last time I'd see her, and I hated that feeling. I will miss her. So much.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Not So Idle Hands

Lest you think I've been sitting idly by as I watch my perfumery being sold off to the highest bidder (literally), I'll have you know that I have not -- been sitting idly by. I've done some distillation, and I've reconsidered my perfumery involvement and come up with some pretty good goods to sell at the apothecary. The next project will be oil perfumes based on the Kyphi formulations I've already made. I've been asked for years to create oil-based perfumes and I stubbornly rejected the idea. I'm not doing that anymore. Oil-based perfumery is still perfumery and can be as beautiful and classy as a mist of spray from a pretty little bottle of natural perfume.

Here's what's up:

Tuberose & Patchouli Body Mist 2.5 oz

Rose Geranium & Olive Leaf Hydrosol 2.5 oz

These are going up on The Scented Djinn's Etsy Apothecary right .... now!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Question for Ya

I've posted this on my Facebook business page, and on my private page, but have only generated a couple of answers (basically, it's one or the other), so I'll ask here, and feel free to elaborate ~ to those of you familiar with the central coast of California, which would you consider a better place to open an incense/perfumery/botanical shop, Pismo Beach, CA, or Cambria, CA?


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