Thursday, March 29, 2007

Feelin' the Same Way All Over Again

Singin' the same lines all over again.*

This is about body butter -- really spectacular body butter. No, I'm not humble at all, not when it comes to this recreation of Ana's gorgeous shea, cocoa 'n avocado butter. I made a fat batch of this butter with loads of oudh, patchouli, sandalwood, vetyver, rose, vanilla and blood orange. Ooh, and a bit of that lovely spicy amber. Magical.

I've got about seven jars left, so if you want some, you better let me know soon -- they're going fast.

You can go here and click the contact link and I'll get back to you.

*Written by Lee Alexander, sung by Nora Jones

Notes From Heaven

Reading, music, reflection, study, experimentation, creation, and lots of caffeine (ha!) -- that's been my lot these last few weeks. This wouldn't be the first time I've pared down my ambitions and ended up with the lowest common denominator (from which I build up -- again). This time, though, I think I'll keep it simple. Simple speaks volumes -- quietly and powerfully. And, she says, tipping her capitalist's hat, simple sells.

I was reminded of this via a trip down memory lane. No, not the notebooks, but a website, archived and still brilliant after all this time. Simple. Quiet. But so powerful.

I also had the opportunity to flex my teacher's muscles when two young ladies dropped in for an impromptu lesson in perfume making. I gave them the loose outline tour of 'Fair and Foul' -- first smell the rose otto dilute, then sniff the hyraceum tincture. Back and forth between jasmine grandiflorum and valerian, ylang and cumin, patchouli and cheese tincture, until a picture began to form in their minds. It was exhilarating to watch the revelations bloom in their eyes.

"Wow!" One of the girls said, "I totally get how this works! You sort of can't have something really nice unless there's a little bit of something nasty in it."

I couldn't have said it any better.

Everything's coming up nines, too. Nine tries to get it right, the total is nine dollars even, wishing for eight and getting nine, the ninth song raising the hair on your arms. Nine. Triple Goddess number.

I have an unscented recommendation for you music lovers -- Nora Jones' 'Come Away With Me'. Spectacular sound a la Billie Holliday with a kiss of playfulness. Sweet, simple stuff.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Inspiration & Those Who Inspire

There's nothing quite as inspiring as listening to the words of an inspired person. It's as if their entire being is embedded with light of a spiritual nature. So when they say, 'Get over it,' they're not saying it quite the way your drinking buddies would, but the way your best friend who loves you would, and the words (get over it) take on an entirely different meaning.

In the spirit of inspiration, I'm getting over it. And getting on with it instead.

Part of the inspiration also came from gathering all my old notebooks, the notebooks that have fallen to ruin with pages torn and stained by mystery droplets of essential oil blends. My notebooks remind me of my grandmother's cookbooks -- pages fused together with egg white or frosting or some other ingredient whizzed out of the Kitchenaid onto the text. They're well-loved little books filled with words that remind me where I was in a moment in time. Like the book, Like Water for Chocolate, each day is prefaced with a recipe for a soap or body butter or oil or perfume. I know that if the formula is written legibly, with specific details to amounts of time taken to blend or heat, then that was a good day, an inspired day. But if the formula is scribbled on the page with little or no instruction; when it lacks detail, then I know it was a bad day. My formula notebooks are journals with no personal reference, yet I can feel the mood of each day simply by reading them.

Because of my notebooks, and a custom order, I rediscovered Benedetta, a beautiful Roman chamomile soap stuffed with good things like extra virgin organic olive oil, virgin organic coconut, raw shea butter and organic cocoa butter. Oh, yes, and rivers of Roman chamomile essential oil. When I still had my store, I remember having four or five of these soaps left after a sale and not wanting to get rid of them. So I grated them down and soaked the shredded soap in rose hydrosol. Then when the soap was dissolved, I mixed it with more olive oil until it was cream ~ Roman chamomile and rose cream. It was delicious and decadent -- a simple pleasure. I reserved most for myself and my business partner, gave a few jars away to people I liked, and sold the rest. They sold like stock in Walmart.

But I'm one of those people who bore easily, and I moved on to the next . . . big . . . thing. I didn't revisit this cream soap until a long-time customer ordered some. I revamped the recipe (made from scratch, front to back) and now have the lovely Roman chamomile and rose water soap cream again. While attempting to read a trashy romance novel*, I was plagued by thoughts of this soap. The inner dialogue kept whispering, 'Add sugar, add more oil, add seeds,' and so on. So I did. I took a bit of the cream and added sugar and olive oil, then I took it into the shower with me. I scrubbed from head to toe with it. I felt as if I'd been purified. I know, it sounds corny, but when I stepped out of the shower, I felt as if I'd just indulged in a spiritual cleansing. It makes me wonder how something so simple, so available, can create this feeling of blessedness.

Coincidentally, the original name of the soap, 'Benedetta', is a girl's name which means blessing.

Inspiration -- it's the name of the game, and I'm playing this time.

*Please disregard this statement.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"I'm Not on Fire . . .

. . . but I'm still smokin'" Tommy Castro

This is what I tell myself whenever a project turns sour. Like my sweet little linden themed eau de toilette that went tonka. Tonka tonka boom boom. Smells like old lady. Too sweet, too heavy, too honeyish, too bland. Lost its lift just after take-off. I want to kill it.

Loud Tinctures

Okay. I'll admit it. My ultimate goal with all these tinctures is to create a perfume made entirely of tinctures.

So what was I thinking when I tinctured valerian root? Or cheese? Cumin seeds? Henna?

They're all loud, pushy, obnoxious little tinctures, each one knocking the other off the shelf.

Valerian tincture is rank. Like my ex-brother-in-law's feet. The same feet he had to soak in bleach before bedtime to save the sheets from decaying. In fact, the valerian tincture is so stinky, so vile, so -- blech! that I will have to dilute the tincture. A lot.

The cheese tinctures, well, they are what they are. Rotted rinds of aged goat cheese swimming happily in organic grape alcohol. Smells of sweaty bellybutton lint and toe jam.

Cumin tincture is a strange combination of enchiladas and b.o. Not so bad when considering the funk of the other two tinctures.

Henna tincture is my favorite of the 'fouls'. Like cut grass and digested hay -- cow patties, to be precise. Nasty but almost blissfully good. Earthy and full of deadly stench.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Flowers, Perfumes & Unguents

Books are my other passion, especially old, old books. I think it has to do with the writing styles and the information they harbor, not to mention the gilding, and titles that have very little to do with what's typed on the pages.

The first old book I received as a gift was a collection of horror by Edgar Allen Poe. I got it when I was 8. Gave me nightmares, but also cultivated a deep desire to read everything I could get my hands on.

The newest addition to my growing collection is a first edition 'The Woman Beautiful', published in 1901. There are few books in the world that teach palm reading, perfumery, and includes instructions on how to 'grow the hair'. Amazing.

There are recipes within with names like 'Extract of Mignonette', and 'Rondeletia Odoratissima', which calls for 17 drachms of 'tincture of ambergris'.

Sweet Clover? It's here. Clove Pink? Got it.


No, it's not my name ~ he!

But there sure is a LOT of it getting flung about.

I think I'll tincture some.



Queen of Spices.

Golden, spicy-sweet, a perfume of extraordinary olfactory power.

I encourage any natural botanical perfumer to have a small bottle of saffron tincture at hand at all times, if for no other reason than to lift spirits and calm a damaged soul.

Like the whole spice, saffron tincture is vicious strong. Where a single thread can change a whole pot of rice, so can a single drop of saffron tincture change an entire perfume.

Blend saffron tincture with your reserved antique East Indian sandalwoods, or rose otto, or both. Save it for yourself. Savor it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Aromatic Travel

Put on your walkin' pants, slap on the sunscreen -- it's traveling time.

Aroma Tours

Must read the newsletter story about 'La Champagne'.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sweets & Spices

I love the Indian store.

I love tumeric and curry, garam masala and tandoori, cumin and cardamom.

I buy henna for my hair and a pinch to tincture.

The tincture cauldron is full with white pepper.

Next up is supari, or betelnut.

The picture here is of the real Mata Hari. Interesting woman.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Vegan, too. No animal products, by-products, leavings, droppings, scrapings, heavings or washes.

Oh, you want to know how it smells.

Well, it smells dead sexy, baby! It smells . . . lik'a man, yeeaaahhh. It's firey, smokey, earthy ~ has a pencil-shavings timbre to it that reminds me of my 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Stevens. Ever try studying the core of the sun while you're drooling over something a thousand times hotter?

Leave it up to your man to provide the animal funk.

Pan ~ lust in a bottle.

Opus Oils

Sunday, March 04, 2007



The storm,
an unrelenting lover
curled against dampened skin
and thundering heart.


Tempest is an amalgam of fresh &
dried fruit, dark tea, blossoms
and spices.

Head notes: bergamot, fresh California
strawberries (tincture), and dried
Calamyrna fig (tincture)

Heart notes: rose maroc, rosa bourbon,
French jasmine, carnation, cardamom
and beeswax

Bottom notes: vanilla, green tea
(tincture), oakmoss, patchouli, and
spiced amber

The Scented Djinn

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ye Olde Apothecary

I've started up the tincturing again. I now have new tinctures of ambrette seeds, ooey, gooey beeswax (including the cappings, royal jelly, dribbles of honey and hairy bee parts), and tonka beans.

I saved a single tonka bean to toss into a perfume, just to see what it would do. Still waiting on that.

All this tincturing reminds me of when I used to make vanilla cordials as gifts for Yule. I'd buy a couple of gallons of medium grade brandy or bourbon and load them with sugar and vanilla beans and let them stew in the pantry for 3 or 4 months. Decanting was fun. I'd buy beautiful flip cork bottles and paste old fashioned labels on them, then wrap them in shredded brown paper, then stuff them in cardboard wine gift boxes with lots of curly ribbon. The vanilla cordials were always very well received. The oddest thing is, I never saved any for myself.

Yesterday I received a small order of oils from White Lotus Aromatics. Have I told you how much I love White Lotus Aromatics? Just love 'em. I wanted to wax poetical over their frankincense oils ~ here I go:

Frankincense, Boswellia serrata, India ~ sweet, anisey, delicious, edible, sensuous. Pairing it with the merest hint of spices -- perhaps 1% dilute of clove or cassia -- cardamom, galangal, would bring out that soft anisette.

Frankincense, Boswellia carteri, Somalia ~ incensuous (ha!), resiny, spiritual, catechism (which brings a whole host of strange images to my mind about priests and cologne hovering in the folds of sacred robes and celibacy and lovers lost to God). All in all, Boswellia carteri is my favorite frankincense.

Frankincense, Boswellia sacra, Oman ~ spicy, peppery, hot, wind-swept red desert, dry lake beds and long, lonely journeys; warm, sweet anise tea with bits of gritty sand tumbling across parched tongues. This is a sad frankincense, yet it lives.

I also got cumin eo, which still reminds me of pit funk, tonka bean absolute and *choke* rosewood. Oh, I know. I promised myself ages ago I'd stop buying rosewood. I subbed ho wood with rosewood, or tried to, anyway, and it hasn't worked out for me. I will use my rosewood sparingly, and with great guilt, then I'll never buy it again. At least it isn't civet I'm addicted to.

Rose geranium and fresh ginger complete the small order from White Lotus Aromatics. The fresh ginger ~ ah! Beautiful. And, of course, so is the rose geranium. Top drawer aromatics.


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