Monday, November 23, 2009


Not to be dramatic, or anything like that, but I'm really, truly taking a bit of time off. You may have noticed that I already have. Life is up in the air for me right now, so I don't know when or where I'll land. I may add a few delicious items on my Etsy site, but aside from that, I'm out'a here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Story Time

Being busy helps cut through the mundane bore of the daily grind, and I've always managed to find things to occupy my time, which is how I fell into soapmaking, and subsequently, natural botanical perfumery. I learned most of what I know about busy-ness while living in the wilds of Northern California, with sketchy electric, party line phones, and PBS as the only option on the television. Baking served its purpose for quite some time, with berry and apple and stone fruit pies filling the pie safe; bread baked to perfection after the 200th time trying, and making delicious bran muffins without a recipe. I learned about hanging dressed wild game in the pump house to "age" before cutting pieces for dinner, how to sew and mend clothes, when to pick blackberries and gooseberries, and how to make elderberry wine. You'd think that this would be where I'd learn to make soap, but that wasn't until years later, when I was back down here in the flatlands, in civilization. One of my favorite things to do was to make pine cone fireballs for the holidays. I'd gather the fattest, roundest pine cones I could find all during the months of Fall, then in late November I'd doll them up with spices from the cupboard and a precious bottle clove oil and some vanilla extract. The process was never the same, but the results usually were ~ delicious smelling resinous pine cones tossed into the fireplace (with the fire screen firmly in place) to crackle and scent the whole house. No aromatherapy candle or room spray could ever compete with that scent. And I've made a few this year ~ with more essential oils and loads more spice and they've turned out beautifully! Though, I have no fireplace to toss them into. But I do have an oven . . .

Pine Cone Fireballs

10-12 slightly larger than fist-sized pine cones, rinsed and dried

2 TBLS star anise powder

1 TBLS allspice powder

5 TBLS cinnamon bark powder

4 tsp green mandarin eo

6 tsp pink grapefruit eo

2 tsp cinnamon leaf eo

1 tsp clove bud eo


OPTIONAL: frankincense hydrosol (or a few drops of frankincense eo in a little water, shaken well)

Mix dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside; blend the essential oils together and pour by teaspoonfuls onto each pine cone until the eo's are gone and the cones are nice and stinky; lightly spray each cone with water or hydrosol, then dust the dry spice blend over the cones until completely covered; spray with water or hydrosol again and let the mess dry. Store in plastic bags until ready to use ~ just toss one in the fireplace, but watch out for the popping and crackling of the resins in the cones. Put a firescreen up.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Butters, Butters 'n More Butters!

Been blending up butters like a crazed fiend over here ~ adding them to the Etsy site at the rate of about one per day. I love this new formula I've come up with -- it makes the perfect massage butter, not to mention it feels really nice and doesn't leave you greasy or sticky feeling.

Yeah, I'm gonna make some more patchouli butters, but in bigger tins. The patch stuff goes fast.

I'm having so much fun :)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Sweet Leaf

Yeah, I know what some of you old Sabbath heads are thinking, and you'd better stop. The sweet leaf I'm talking about is patchouli. Just finished distilling up a batch of hydrosol, and surprisingly, got a lot of essential oil. I'm not sure I'm going to separate the oil from the hydro, kind'a like the way the little greyish blobs float around in the water, like a stinky lava lamp doing its thing. It's so cold (that's California cold, not REAL cold, like Montana or North Dakota cold) that most of the oil produced during distillation is sticking like glue to the inside of the receiver. I may have to run the receiver under warm water to release the oil back into the hydro . . . thinking out loud here. Oops! That's blah, blah, blah! Okay, so now it's a waiting game -- waiting for those naughty still notes to fly away. It's kind of funny, all still notes smell the same. I've used different receivers for each batch of hydro, and every single batch has the same weird, metallic smell to it in the beginning. It could be the copper.

On another note altogether, I contacted a producer of organic grape alcohol (who shall remain nameless) and received a phone call back from a very confused person who went on and on about how he had no idea how to answer my question (a chemists take on standardizing alcohol content in wine). "We don't employ chemists here," he said. "Really?" I asked, confused because, well, who is there to make sure the alcohol produced at their plant is the same year after year? His answer? Very interesting, indeed. "We grow the best organic grapes anywhere, whereas the other companies who provide this service use grape concentrates from all over the grape growing regions" (I'm assuming this is in the US?), "so our product is the same year in and year out." It is? What about temperature and rainfall and other environmental factors? I'm not trying to pull someone's card here, but WTF? I just don't believe the guy understood what I was asking. I think the word 'chemist' threw him off. I'm going to have to hit up the chemists at the state college down the road. They grow grapes for wine and teach up-and-coming vintners how to standardize alcohol content in wine. Maybe I should just take the freakin' class, eh?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Crushed Velvet & Roses Perfumes

You can find 'em here!

Made by long-time aromatherapist, a former student of the Grande Dame, Jeanne Rose, and editor of the Jeanne Rose newsletter, Ms. Bella Ayers, there is sure to be something amongst her well-planned and well-executed wares to fulfill your olfactory needs.

How can you go wrong with a perfume named Lulu Honeyvamp? Or a collection called Pretty Poisons? Or a lovely aromatherapy remedy called Bitch Balm? Really?

Head on over and take a look. And buy some balm for your mother in law. Ha!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Cost of Smelling Beautiful

Marketing in this economy is tough. Everyone is holding onto their money with a tighter fist than in years past. Economists have predicted that the way people shop is changing, customers are looking for more value-added products rather than just reaching for what's readily available, but not always the best or least expensive. Luxury items are becoming even more of a luxury with fewer people spending the kind of money that they have in the past -- luxury items are shrinking, along with the price, making those extravagant purchases even more precious. Estee Lauder knew what she was doing back in the 50's when she introduced Youth Dew in bath oil form as a means of luring cash conscious housewives. We Natural Botanical Perfumers should be looking toward that horizon as well, offering smaller packaging options with smaller prices attached, alternative scent systems, i.e. soaps, body butters, balms, and yes, bath oils.

Not only have our customers and clients stopped spending exorbitant amounts of money on non-essential luxury items due to cost factors, perfumers too have stopped spending as much on raw materials -- in some places, the raw materials which are utilized to create soap have doubled in price, not to mention the outrageous shipping costs no matter which provider is chosen. For example, I just bought 15 bottles, the cost of the bottles was $18.75, the shipping on those bottles? Ten dollars and change. So a $19 purchase is now staring into the backside of a $30 purchase. Up goes the price on your product! Lye for soap at the hardware store went from $7.49 for 2 lbs in January to $12.49 just three weeks ago. Again, up goes the price of that soap.

It's tough for all of us. Just know that I don't like charging $11 for a 3.5 oz tin of body butter today that you may have bought from me a year ago for $8. But I also don't like spending twice, sometimes three times more for raw materials than I did last year or the year before. It's especially hard on those of us who pack a lot of quality ingredients and technique into a product and have to accept a smaller profit margin because of tough times. I still want y'all to enjoy my stuff without breaking the bank, and I want to be able to have something to put into my bank!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Writer's Guidelines ~

Accepting articles from writers on the subject of natural botanical perfumery, the use of natural botanical perfume in skincare and art for paper publication ~ contact for further details.


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