Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Prepping for the Feast, and a Fair Bit of Banging of the Head on Hard Surfaces

Since completing the book, things have slowed down considerably in the production area of things. I must remember in the future to not plan a book's completion to coincide with American holidays. The house is a mess of platters and boxes of foodstuff that don't fit into cabinets or closets, so they're lying around awaiting their 'day'. I've still got to pack up and temporarily store the shop goods so sticky, picky visiting fingers don't help themselves. It's happened before. Not that I hold a grudge or anything. It's just that product count means something when a customer orders the last of an item and I discover it is nowhere to be found. That can get pretty tricky. Even though the book is done, it's not. I'd forgotten this bit. The formatting of the thing so it jibes with the publisher's template. I've been up early and late into the night trying to get this straightened out, nearly rubbing the skin off my face with frustration, and during the night last night I had an epiphany of sorts about the formatting, so I'm trying it out as I type this. Crossing all phalanges that it works.

I'm planning a bit of a blow out sale after Thanksgiving (26 November) so the new stuff has space to live for a while. Plus there are a few things in the production line, one nearly done, the other still being tweaked a bit here and there.  All in all, it's been a very slow production year for me. It's the fault of the book. When something takes up so much of your time, it's a miracle anything gets done at all.

*UPDATE! The formatting for the book is finished! What a nightmare. Now more waiting as the publisher checks it out, then I have to change some things in the print specs because as it is, a normally $35-$40 book is pricing in at about $90. Can't have that. So just a week or so more and it's go on Working the Bench II: A Practical Guide for the Apprentice Natural Perfumer. 


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Profiles in American Perfumery at Cafleurebon

Remember when I talked about bios the other day? The reason I mentioned it was because I was asked by Michelyn Camen, editor-in-chief of Cafleurebon to write up a bio for her online perfumer spotlight series 'Profiles in American Perfumery'. If you click on the link and follow the instructions provided, you can win some perfume -- from me.

Another bit of news, which feels more like a heavy burden being unloaded, is -- the book is done. A little more than two years, dozens of studies, hours of research, early mornings, late nights, and all day ticking away at the computer keyboard have built this severely edited for content book. Basically, with all the discarded content, I can begin yet another book. But I need a break. I've been knocking myself out daily since last May to get this done, and honestly, I'm a little disappointed with myself. Why? Because I feel like I let myself down with this new book -- I feel like having to edit out entire chapters and honing it down to basic bones is a reflection of my impatience to see a project through completely and properly. I'm not saying the book isn't good (but what author/writer would admit their book isn't good?) What I've learned about submitting a book for publication is that once the editing is complete, do it. Submit and walk away because if you sit there second guessing yourself, you'll put that book back down on the desk and start writing in it again. You'll edit it to death, rewrite, cut out, add in, and generally fudge the thing up. Save all that other stuff for the next project. I'm currently adding the index, and let me tell you, what a rabid pain in the bum that is! Last night I spent hours working on it, leaning over the keyboard with my face mere inches from the computer screen scrutinizing page numbers and words until I actually cut off the circulation to my lower half and got a stomach ache. I also have this bad habit of holding my breath when I'm in deep concentration, which also makes me a bit light headed sometimes. So, yeah, I'm a weirdo.

Friday, November 20, 2015

International Orders, Some Smelly Things Stewing, and The Speeding Train of Holidays

I'm currently in the process of changing all the shipping destinations on The Scented Djinn's Etsy to exclude all places outside of the continental US. Why? Because of the ever increasing shipping costs and the inability to track the packages once they leave US soil. That does not mean that I won't ship internationally, it just means that if you're outside of the continental US and wish to purchase something from the Apothecary, you need to set up a custom order with me so I can calculate shipping costs and some ground rules about refunds and re-shipments. To be honest, the idea of international shipping strikes fear in my pocketbook. It's a crap shoot shipping outside of the US -- just recently I sold a three-book combo pack to someone in South America and calculated the shipping at what seemed a fairly reasonable rate, but when I got to the post office, that 'reasonable rate' tripled and it ended up costing me out of pocket, and that after I had deeply discounted the books in the first place. Just this past summer a package to Mexico City went -- well, no one knows where exactly. It made it to MC main post office, but the tracking information after that indicated it was 'in route' -- it's been in route since June 2015. The customer never received the order and I ended up repackaging a new order and paying postage again, all out of pocket. That package, thankfully, made it. I've had international packages go astray for months only to show up on my doorstep, return to sender status, looking like it made the walk of shame with its panties tucked in its pocket -- all the way from Rio. More and more countries are taken off the tracking list by the US Postal Service, so basically anything going to Canada and a couple of other countries can be tracked, everything else? Well, good luck, buddy.

I've got some perfume oils stewing in bottles over here -- one is made using some natural isolates and is sweet, fruity, violety, soft, and powdery. It smells like Chowder's Violet Mints and tart fruit. Very girly. The other is a gorgeous patchouli perfume oil with jasmine and clary sage absolute, a rare purple bouquet lavender, yuzu, and some other pretty things. Plus there are some gorgeously scented bath fizzies (9-10 ounces each!) up on the Etsy Apothecary. They're filled with myrrh and frankincense and oudh, rose otto, sandalwood, powders and woods -- I'm calling them Temple Bath because they 'feel' like they should be used in ritual cleansing. I'm thinking of dusting off the old formulation books and making a couple oldies but goodies for the shop.

Is it just me, or are the holidays, particularly the gift-giving variety, rushing toward us at the speed of an out of control freight train? I feel like I was just anticipating Halloween and now -- well, now we're mere weeks away from Yule and Christmas. It's mind boggling how slowly the summer months pass by with their unbearable heat waves and outrageous utility bills due to constant AC use, but the fall and winter months, unless you're blanketed under 12 feet of snow with no electricity or running water, seem to rush by in a flash and flurry of food fests and twinky lights, wrapping paper and nog -- and dread for the upcoming credit bills. 'The season' takes me by surprise every single year.

Monday, November 16, 2015

So Far Behind

I can't believe how far behind I am in restocking the apothecary for the holidays. I'm so behind! I've made stuff, just not a lot, not like I have in the past, not like I know I can. I just feel so beat up by this book. I mean, as much as I've cut out I can start a new book with, yet there's still so much left to write! Basically I want to open up possibilities with this new book, new ways to look at the perfume building process, different ideas for using scent (cooking, for example), and in the process of bringing all this in, I have over thought it, tried to include way too much information. If anyone thinks for a second that writing a book, even a poorly written book, is easy work, they're deluded. Writing for an audience is a struggle -- it's mentally and emotionally exhausting, like having an existential crisis of the 'who do I think I am' variety, while diapering a  baby octopus with your ears. 

All the goods are here to stock up the apothecary -- the yums for the bath fizzies, a gallon of oil for the new perfume anointing oils, loads of stuff for new soaps -- the only thing missing is the decision to make them all. Once I've written a few hundred words, checked off notes, drunk a pot or two of tea, done some research, perused a book or two, stared out of the window in a daze, and gotten up 30 times to work the kinks out of my back, the rest of the day is shot -- even if it's only 11 AM when I peel my bum off the computer chair to get to the domestic chores. I'll get my groove back, I just hope it's before the holidays so I can make a little stocking stuffer money.

I am getting closer to the end of the writing of the book, though. I resist the urge daily to add more to it. However, when the end of the book does arrive, the editing begins, and then the page numbering, then the indexing, so the next few days (weeks?) will be me hanging with the octopus.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bios and Such

Things get blurry as you age, even your own life. I've written my own bios in the past, and had someone else write one for me after talking with them for a few hours, or after answering a handful of key questions, and usually the writer inserts a few things that aren't necessarily true, embellishments and personal impressions. When writing our own, we tend to focus on what we think the person requesting the bio wants to hear regarding the subject -- in most recent years, the 'subject' for me has been perfume -- and skip over all the other stuff, like the teen pregnancy or the horrible first marriage or the cause of a lifelong battle with anxiety. No one wants to hear about their favorite perfumer, author, sculptor, actor, etcetera, dealing with real issues -- well, more and more people do, thank you reality tv. So bios. I've written a few for myself and each one is slightly different than the last, as if I've rewritten my past. We cannot think of how we arrived at a specific place as a result of walking in a straight line from point A to point Z (where we are now), because life doesn't work that way. One bio will state I made my way to perfumery via my maternal grandmother's gardens, another that my entry into perfumery began at my maternal aunts' dressing tables, or in a discovered box of old perfumes in a closet, or the geraniums in the front walk, or time spent living in the back country (twice). They're all true. The story told that particular time is based on the audience that will hear it, and the limit on word count. Regardless of how stained our past, we all want to appear squeaky clean for 'the big day', whatever day that is. The truth is, we come to our present via many paths from the past. We come from despair and joy, we come from loss and bliss, we come from pain and happiness. I can remember times as a child when I felt fear in the scent of mums because mums meant death (always mums at the family funerals), and I can remember a time when I felt joy smelling the green, earthy scent of geraniums (geraniums meant I was home). Everywhere in our lives our memories are imprinted with scent, some good, some horrible, and when we recount our past, we tend to avoid making a big deal out of the horrible. Well, I do anyway. One thing I will say is that creating perfume, all the devil-in-the-detail work, all the frustration, all the patience necessary, has changed me. I was never very detail oriented in the past, and I scored about a -3 on a 1 to 10 scale for patience.

I've begun working out the recipes for the final chapter in the book. Thus far I have two of ten finished. Salted Yuzu Shortbread Cookies, and Moroccan Mint Tea. I've played with other recipes that I was thinking of using, but those didn't work out -- the flavors might have been off or I just couldn't pull it off. Subtlety is key here. No one wants to bite into a deliciously fragrant cookie and feel as if they'd just eaten a bar of soap.

Sunday, November 08, 2015


Now, with the end in site -- it's the book I'm referring to here -- I can let a cat out of the bag. Sort of. I had studied freesias and had experimented with raw materials through trials to create a faux freesia scent using naturals and natural isolates to add to the book. It was a bit of a flop. Not entirely, but -- yeah, it was a flop. Freesias are tough! Their scent is delicate and wispy, and there cannot be anything else around them when they emit their scent, or you'll miss it. They smell ever so slightly of lemon juice, with a hint of lime peel, and then a pinch of white pepper pops up, then a cool, green leaf scent -- not quite like violet leaf, not like galbanum, not like rose leaf -- cool, stemmy, airy. Basic leaf. One of my experiments came really close, and I imagine if someone wanted to give the faux freesia a little fantasy -- as in, freesias don't really smell that way -- then it could be done. So the winning composition for faux freesia was a highly diluted blend of lemon juice essential oil, lime peel, white pepper, leaf aldehyde (and this is where the fantasy part comes into play -- leaf aldehyde dries to brown banana, and is very unfreesia like), rose oxide, hydroxy citronellal, and violet leaf absolute. By using a very diluted sample (2% or so) it came close to the almost-not-there lemony, peppery, leafy scent of freesia. Close. Anyway, this one didn't make it into the book because I just wasn't confident enough that it could pass as a faux fantasy accord. But you can try it out. I may work on this more and release it as a spring scent. A scent found in the realm of the fay.

UPDATE! I think I've found the 'magic' ingredients for that pepper note in this faux freesia -- long pepper and grains of paradise tinctures -- with a wisp of white pepper and voila! We're closer.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Culling Pages and Editing 'The Book'

After much consideration, I've decided to cut yet another chapter. This decision was based on the fact that it entailed production, something with which I have very little experience. The desire to step into large scale production of anything fled as if its ass were on fire years and years and years ago. This happened about the time I fell in with a distributor shortly after turning my garage into a soap studio. I hear some people dream about finding distributors to disperse their goods all over the globe, I did too, until one found me. I quickly discovered the experience to be stressful, disheartening, financially unsound in both the short- and long-term, and depressing as all hell. Talk about sucking all the life from a creative endeavor. I was gutted. Gutted, I tell you! This culled chapter consisted of buying loads of bottles, having them designed, getting them embossed, buying enormous quantities of raw materials, making contracts with suppliers and points of sale, distribution of goods, submitting goods to big fragrance awards' committees, and so on and so forth. None of these are in my area of expertise. I shun the spotlight, so nix on the awards, and I don't have a pirate's chest full of investor's money, so nix on everything else. I know about them, I know who to contact, where to go, what to do, I just haven't done them. Nor do I ever intend to. My focus on my own perfumery and in this book has been on the slow building of scent. Small scale, artisan (much overused word), low distribution, intent driven, with emphasis on the experience rather than the dollars to be generated. As long as my work pays my bills and leaves enough leftover for investments and a nice dinner once in a while, I'm a happy camper. Travel would be nice too, but I'm not holding my breath (or a grudge) if it never happens.

Culling and editing out this chapter has made the work on the book flow again. This final chapter is related to edibles -- not the pot variety, but the 'fume variety. Cookery is another passion of mine, and I've done a fair bit of work utilizing raw natural materials (essential oils and absolutes specifically) in the creation of edible goodies, with a lot of success. I just purchased a new set of stainless bake ware and sheets of silicon upon which to bake. So baking is happening. A few items on the list to be included in this edibles' chapter are saffron shortbread cookies with ginger lemon curd, lavender infused cupcakes, potato soup with nutmeg essential oil flavoring, a vegan version of Moroccan bastilla, among many other perfumed food creations, including teas, cocktails, flavored wines, and perfumed finishing salts. Since this chapter discusses something I truly, passionately love, my hope is that the writing will just flow. And the experimenting will be divine.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Winter is Coming, So Are Bath Fizzies

So here I was, thinking I'd lost my mojo. Truly. For the past few weeks, actually since the last post here, I've been struggling to find inspiration. Inspiration to write, inspiration to create, just plain old inspiration to get out of bed! I couldn't figure it out. I wasn't sleeping that great, was troubled with nightly headaches and general body aches, but nothing really seemed amiss, I thought, oh, the weather's changing, I must be getting old and rickety. I even blew off Halloween, my favorite night of the year. So not me. I thought it was a sinus infection creeping in, yet again, so I was irrigating and steaming and resorting to otc pain medications only in the direst of moments, but the quiet little affliction continued to linger, however unformed. I was even resorting to Benadryl at night just so I could sleep and not feel the headache that moved around inside my head. I was contemplating a trip to the doctor, something I haven't done in over a decade. Instead, I quit all the otc meds, the Benadryl and the acetaminophen, stopped contact irrigating and only steamed a few times instead of all day, increased the medicinal spices in my diet, like ginger and horseradish and turmeric and onion, swallowed tablespoonsful of apple cider vinegar, drank gallons of fresh-made green tea, and today I'm back to normal. Okay, my normal. And I'm here. Talking about the odyssey of the snozz. Again. One day I will have to go to a physician and get this sinus thing figured out. In a way that won't permanently damage my sense of smell. Although this time the sinus issue never fully formed, it was strong enough to sap my energy, play fast and loose with my sleepy time, and cause me to feel that my creative life was doomed. I know. I'm being dramatic. One thing that I have noticed over the years is that sometimes the sinus issues liven up when I'm under stress, and this entire past year, since August of 2014, has been a roller coaster ride of stress, some financial, some personal. I think this last bout was caused by the wrapping up of a huge financial burden -- the final payment came, a moment of stress and joy, and stress won. The crash was hard -- all those months of worry and now it's done. I think I was having a bit of an existential crisis -- what am I to do now that the purpose for working my arse off this past year has disappeared? Point inward, the voice said (voice, singular, not voices) and apply all that energy to fulfilling the dream. The thurifercorium. And more books.

I have some writing to do this weekend for a non-book project, so I'm probably not going to wear myself out on the final chapters of the book. I will, however, be experimenting for one of the final chapters of the book. And for the record, I missed my book deadline. Imagine that! A new deadline has been set and I have every intention of making it, with time to spare. I just need to pay better attention to my body and notice more quickly when things begin to go awry so they can be remedied before they cause me to become catatonic.

And, as usually happens when I'm burdened with a broken olfactory organ, I'm getting student submissions for evaluation almost daily. By tomorrow I should be able to get them worked out. Today I'm playing catch up. With everything.

Loads of new stuff are coming to the apothecary -- during the lull in creativity, I had been gathering the goods for when I was feeling better. The studio table is loaded down with raw materials raring to be turned into something exquisite. Patchouli bath fizzies, anyone?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hand Rolled Incense on the Menu

I'm going to be all alone this coming weekend. Everyone has plans to be off somewhere and I don't, so the house is mine! I'm working on a new incense formulation with Hawaiian santal wood, a gorgeous Somali myrrh and Omani frankincense -- the good stuff -- and I'm toying with the idea of adding some of this honey powder I've been hoarding as a binder. I'm also debating whether to roll the incense paste into long sticks sans the bamboo, or roll it onto the bamboo. Decisions, decisions. And there's soap on the menu as well. That hops and artemisia formulation has been stewing for a few days and is almost ready to go in the pot. There's also the writing, which has suddenly taken on a life of its own. The chapters I've been putting off writing have awoken and are very nearly writing themselves! Most of the time I think of myself as an amateur in this 'fume gig, and I am, actually -- no formal training and nearly all avenues of education leading to closed doors, I've struggled to dig up as much as I can about perfumery on my own, and the most important bit -- how to go about getting a hands-on education. It hasn't been easy. Digression! What I'm trying to say is that as much as I think I don't know stuff about building perfumes, once I begin to plumb the old brain pan for useful information to impart, the floodgates open and all this stuff I'd forgotten about comes pouring out! It's all about the 'bird-by-bird' idea -- taking each process and breaking it down into its parts and explaining from step one to step two and so on, and really focusing on imparting that information in a useful and understandable way. In this book, I'm trying very hard to make building perfume something anyone can do with minimal gadgetry, because creating natural perfume -- using those lovely rare aromatics -- isn't about how many toys you have to make them. It's about the sheer beauty of the perfume created. Right? A magnetic stirrer has never 'stirred' my senses ~ ha! But a beautiful aged absolute of frankincense has sent me to other worlds. Just sayin'.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

On Writing and Creating Perfume

I'm back to writing again -- well, I never truly stopped. The flow might be more stilted and jolty these days, but the writing is still happening. I tend to get too wordy, too explanatory, perhaps even over explaining things, so I am forced to go in with the editor's blue pen and mark, mark, mark until all those ragged edges are smoothed down. It's a bit like creating perfume. Smoothing down the rough edges in a composition can be very much like writing a chapter on perfumery. And much like my perfumery style, my writing on the same subject tends to be bold and risky -- I have ideas about how one puts together a perfume that others have not yet begun to entertain. There is certainly a process, but the process only works if the perfumer can make it work.

To date, the new book is over 46,000 words. With two chapters remaining -- well, three, one is halfway done, while two are still just the bones of the story. I've put much of the focus on the ART of creating perfume rather than the BUSINESS of creating perfume, and I'm finding that I dream about it often and lightning bolts of inspiration and ah-ha moments are found in those murky, misty dreams. I have a notebook and pencil next to my bed for when I'm able to rouse myself to write them down, otherwise they're lost to the ether of my subconscious, or I find traces of them in my memory when I wake. Like this sunflower graph. I was thinking of all the ways I've graphed perfume on paper using circles within circles, and colors within colors, and once even tried building a musical composition using Piesse's odophone (disastrous), and because I was working on a sunflower accord, this happened. It made sense in the dream state. I can see room for improvement in the light of day, but since it is conceptual . . .?

I fret overmuch.

I would also like to share a RESOURCE with you perfumers and perfumery students. My son-in-law works for Acme Vial in Paso Robles, CA (to my absolute glee) and they sell -- what else? -- vials! All sorts of vials up to 4 drams (14.7 milliliters = roughly 1/2 ounce) to anyone who wishes to buy them. The 5/8ths shorties are here, as are the tall clear with rubber corks, and glass dropper bottles in wee dram sizes too. They offer amber, green, and cobalt bottles (and clear), AND perfume sampler vials in 1/6th, 5/16th, and 3/8th sizes.  As far as I know, they do not have a minimum order requirement.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Oh, No!

For the past day and a half we've been under the gloomy stare of some seriously wicked thunderheads -- the humidity is off the charts (90-100%) and the soap I was planning to wrap today, the Honied Ginger, is in a bit of trouble. I poured powdered honey over the top of the soap loaf before cutting, and now the bars are weeping honey because of the high humidity! I'm going to pop them into the dehydrator for a while, then quickly wrap them and store them before the humidity gets to them again.

Windows 10 and Lost Computer Stuff

A few days ago I downloaded the new Windows 10 onto my chugging old computer, since then I haven't been able to figure out how to upload pictures from my camera! It used to be practically automatic -- plug in camera cable, and then *ding!*, a sound prompt and a window would open asking me what to do next, and then I'm happily on my way to both uploading pictures and erasing them from the camera memory card in one fell swoop. Now I plug in my camera, the *ding!* sounds, though a bit more aggressive and deep-throated than the previous *ding!*, and then nothing. No prompt screen, no window, nada. I'm definitely not a computer person -- I bought my first computer to connect with the internet for research and for writing, and to set up shop, and still that's all I do -- beyond that it's all in Martian context for me. I'll figure it out eventually . . . until then, I'm using a very convoluted method of getting photos of my stuff onto this dread box!

I'm nearing the end of what I can do with soap. Not really. It just feels like that because the soap rush has slowed. I'm still deeply intrigued by this honey powder, and then there's that hops soap I'm going to be making. The granddaughter was 'helping' grammie with soap stamping and wrapping and we were discussing soap scent and I whipped out the bottle of hops and an accompanying bottle of artemisia afra for her to sniff, expecting the typical reaction of someone who smells hops -- scrunched up nose, watering eyes, and a loud shriek -- "yuck!" But none of that happened. Instead, she inhaled deeply through her wee nose with her eyes closed, then opened them quickly and said, "It smells like something a witch would wear!" So that's it then. The designated Halloween soap of the season is hops and artemisia, both on the upper end of the narcotizing spectrum, both very strong, potent, and deeply green smelling. This will be a dreaming soap. Something to help calm rattled nerves and allow the user to settle into the dark side of the seasons, all warm and cozy and relaxed.

Here's something -- when I talk to people about natural perfumery, people who never experienced natural perfumes or didn't know they existed before meeting me, they almost always ask how did you get into that? And my answer is always because of natural soap. Yes. If it weren't for a trip back in 1996 to a little ramshackle wood building on the edge of the Columbia State Park in Columbia, California, and a beautiful mossy green bar of natural rosemary soap, I might never have grown into the perfumer I am today. Working with the natural soap making materials for all those years allowed me a slow and naturally progressing education in aromatics. I've never, not for a moment, given a rat's patootie about aromatherapy, no disrespect toward all the great and fabulous aromatherapists out there, but I just didn't care about what oils were used for an ailment. My approach was completely hedonistic in nature. I just wanted to make stuff that smelled gorgeous, period. So when the natural perfume revolution happened in the late 90's, early 2000's, I was on that ride. And what a ride it was! The roads back then were bumpy and poorly paved, and there were 'bandits' at every turn waiting to knock someone off the cart. It was little scary, and a lot of fun. Then I got off the ride because -- well, because it was all a load of pucky. I began to walk the side paths, deeper and deeper into the woods, and found a place I love to be. Right here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

More Soap

Poppymint ~ extra virgin olive oil, organic virgin coconut oil, organic hemp seed oil, with organic poppy seeds and peppermint essential oil

Honied Ginger ~ extra virgin olive oil, organic virgin coconut oil, organic hemp seed oil, honey powder, ginger root essential oil, rosemary essential oil, and Egyptian basil essential oil

I've been toying with the idea of a narcotic-like soap, something to put a person to sleep that isn't lavender or chamomile -- so hops soap is on the list. If you've never smelled hops, let me cue you in -- it smells like the skunky nuance found in artisan beer . . . or pot. As in weed. Mary Jane. Ganja. So if you use it, do so just before bedtime and not before work or school . . . or a job interview. Aromatherapy books suggest people who are in the throes of a 'deep depression' abstain from using hops essential oil as it can intensify the depressive situation.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Soaps! Finally . . .

Soaps are finally up at The Scented Djinn Apothecary at Etsy ~ making more today, so I'd best get this post done so I can get into it.

This is Original Kyphi. This soap was made with the leftovers of unfermented Kyphi incense made on September 19, 2015 at the Kyphi workshop I hosted. Nothing else was added -- no essential oils, no absolutes, no scent boosters of any kind -- it's just this -- this wonderfully dark and fragrant Kyphi soap. It's really quite unique.

This is Sunflower, comprised of whole raw aromatics like tuberose floral wax and marigold concrete and vanilla and galbanum resin. It's sweet and rustic, like wind rustling through the late fall harvest of golden wheat. Very nice grounding fragrance.

Herbal Yin is made up of perfumery alchemy at its best -- it started as a plain old spike lavender soap, a little bit medicinal and somewhat boring, but then I threw in some myrtle and then a bit of palmarosa, and just for fun, I chopped in four whole vanilla pods and then added a dash of vanilla to the mix. It's turned into something pretty interesting -- balancing and super fragrant and just lovely.

This is Djinn Rising, also very fragrant; a firey scent with resins and woods, ginger and angelica, and a bit of choya loban providing the char. The 'flames' in this soap are made of turmeric powder, patchouli powder, and dragon's blood resin powder. Enchanting.

And finally -- for the time being -- Honey, a surprisingly intense and beautifully warm scent made up of myrrh resin powder (lots) and honey powder (lots) enhanced with vanilla and jasmine sambac, clary sage and spicy warm mace. It's just stunning. I have a bar in the shower right now and I can't even describe how wonderful it is to use -- super bubbly and soft, and the scent that lingers on the skin is incredible -- warm and floral and sweet.

Well, I'm off to make a few more batches. I've got the usual Poppymint soap on the roster, then after that? I'm not sure. Wherever my fancy takes me, I suppose. I'm toying with the idea of pink lotus, or something else with that honey powder, maybe a cinnamon and honey concoction, or a cocoa and honey mix. Ta ta!

Sunday, October 04, 2015


The past week has been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows -- as usual. My very best friend in the world went in for surgery, and thank heavens, came out the other side better than she went in. I knew something was going on before I received the news she was in the hospital -- I had this pit of anxiety in my gut that kept waking me up with her on my mind. The next day she texted to say she was sick. A lot of emotional energy goes into worry. To let off a bit of steam, I went to Cambria, CA, about 30 minutes from home, with one of my older son's who was here for a day trip. I'd forgotten how lovely and pleasant Cambria was. They're in the throes of their annual 'Scarecrow Festival' and every shop and corner in the wee little town had a scarecrow on display. I found a sweet shop there called 'Verde' which is based around tea and fairies, and found bags of honey powder for sale, so, of course, I bought three. Honey soap is on the agenda this cool, cloudy, and damp Sunday. The shop keep offered to mail more honey powder to me if I was ever in need, then asked if I was a local, which I guess I am, so I turned down her offer of sending powder by post -- Cambria's too fun to miss even if I'm only going for a bag of honey powder. And the beaches there are divine. Not your summer fun-in-the-sun California beach, but a windswept, salty sea spray fogging up your glasses, coastal pines bending low to the ground, and tremendously vicious surf and rip tides kind of divine. Very grounding kind of environment.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Soap List -- She is Growing

So this is what I got so far -- a batch of smoky, pitchy, piney, resinous goodness; a batch of straight up Kyphi incense soap (those lovely dark bars), and a batch of herbal yumminess in the form of a spike lavender, palmarosa, myrtle, and wee bits of vanilla soap. All very fragrant, all made with organic oils, including hemp seed, all made chunky and big. The next batch on the list is the Poppymint, then sunflower (if I can pull it off), and then maybe something with pink lotus in it, perhaps a little red champa for 'sparkle', and a dollop of cananga to deepen and sweeten the soap. Then something else after that. Maybe. I'm a little rusty in the soap making department having not made any in a couple of months, and then none before that for even longer. I really should make an effort to make soap at least once or twice a month just to keep the skills honed.

I did write a bit yesterday, mostly a couple of recipes I was working on. The book is coming along, however, the plodding pace is beginning to wear me down. To my own credit, there is much more black print than red these days. When I started, the entire thing was a mash of red notes and outlines to flesh out at a later date. Once I got the pace the book writing was setting, I was able to fall in and get more work done. But still. It's just taking forever.

While doing some research, I found this diagram in a book written in 1917 entitled 'Sex and Sex Worship (Phallic Worship)' by Otto Augustus Wall. The source of the diagram was just as surprising and intriguing as the diagram itself, which outlines Piesse's Odophone in use.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Kyphi Incense Soap -- the Real Deal

The idea of turning a small batch of Kyphi incense into soap has been bouncing around in my mind for a couple years now, but until just today, I hadn't made the move to bring that idea to fruition. Today, with the remains of the Kyphi workshop after the students took their share, I built a lovely and oh, so very fragrant all natural zero essential oils included Kyphi incense soap. I had about a half pound of still quite gooey Kyphi resin which I melted into the base oils on very, very low heat. That took the bulk of the soap making time, the melting of that Kyphi, because I didn't want to injure the oils or the Kyphi's unique scent profile. I knew beforehand I'd have to move quickly because of the honey content in the Kyphi -- honey, as most soap makers are aware, heats and seizes soap very quickly -- so despite being aware, I still ended up plopping the soap into the mold. I didn't wrap it or warm it because I knew the honey would do the work for me, and boy, did it! The Kyphi soap gelled within 10 minutes of being plopped into the mold. Cooling quickly was the next step -- again, to preserve the fragrance. Now it's a waiting game for the soap to cool completely and solidify, then it's out of the mold and onto the next batch.
Kyphi Incense Soap 9/29/2015

I've got a spike lavender and some other stuff (clary sage, etc.) soap on the roster, as well as the Poppymint soap that everybody requests. I'll probably end up making more than one batch of the Poppymint soap this season. After that I think I'll make up a faux sunflower soap, maybe a hydrangea, and then back to the pure raw materials, sans natural isolates, for the remainder of the soaps.

I really should get going on the book again -- I do write in it every day, even if it's just a sentence or two, but I haven't written pages in a week or more, and I'm really behind on the deadline.


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