Friday, May 27, 2011

Headline: Chaos at the Djinn 'Fume Factory!

Chaos reigns! But that is par for the course here at the Djinn 'fume factory. Just when I was lamenting the disarray that is my studio, planning and plotting to put it all together for once and for all, one of my previously coop flown progeny has returned -- with guests. They're camping out in my garage with an apartment's worth of furniture and assorted home sundries until their new house (really, it's an old 1930's house in the Tower) is ready for occupancy and then they're out of here. Theoretically. Not that I don't love my child and his newly cobbled family, but my house is bursting at the seams as it is, and one more item, a speck of dust or a lint ball will tip the scales and pop the whole mess open. Thank heavens this is one of the more organized children, the one who likes cubes and straight lines and perfect orderliness. I can only imagine how this upheaval, all these circles and curvy lines and disorderliness currently in his life is affecting him emotionally.

Life gives you lemons; you make hydrosol and soap.

Laurie Stern, the lovely perfumer at Velvet & Sweet Pea's was a guest at the perfume exhibition on May 14th and with her brought a flat of gardenia blossoms. An. Entire. Flat. As soon as they were home from the event, I prepared them for a bath in organic grain alcohol. They had been bathing until this past Tuesday when I strained them off and discovered I have just a titch over one pint of lovely fragrant gardenia evulsion. The evulsion smells of rich, creamy gardenia with lots of green leafy notes and a touch of the banana flesh essence that I, in a previous post, mentioned the jasmine grandiflorum growing in my garden possess. Gotta love those white florals, all creamy and indolic and sweetly intoxicating and tropical fruity.

I'm thinking of changing things up again with the perfumery. The stars are telling me to, my intuition is telling me to, my new marketing strategy is telling me to, so I'm thinking I'd better listen. I won't say anything about it now, fickle woman that I am, but I will say that it will be . . . maybe not surprising in a 'why didn't I think of that' kind of way, but more like 'ah, now that's the ticket!' kind of way. Nothing terribly dramatic, just a breath of fresh air -- for me, for the perfumery, for my clientele.

Last Saturday's soap class was great, despite the fact that I was dead tired after having been up most of the night driving people to and from a huge traveling rave an hour away. But I managed to muster the energy to get through, and somehow the exhaustion from the lack of sleep actually helped curb the usual nervousness I get before doing one of these classes. Thankfully there were people attending the class who asked a lot of questions and seemed genuinely curious and receptive to learning the art of soap making -- as they should have been! They paid for the instruction and information. Normally for a class I just make a 1 lb batch of soap and layer scent in much the same way as building a perfume formulation, but this time I decided to make another batch of my old Delicia favorite, Drunken Lout Shampoo. Beer makes excellent shampoo bars, and guinness makes the absolute best shampoo bars. Normally I don't scent these as the guinness imparts a delicious nutty, sweet fragrance to the finished soap, but this time I opted to add patchouli. And we made a 4 lb batch. I think I'm going to make more soap today. I'm inspired by the class and by some of Ana's latest offerings. I want to make a floral neroli lemon hydrosol frankincense soap -- I wanted to add in some fresh elder flowers but I wasn't able to get the flowers picked when I went up the hill to help my son move back down to the flatlands yesterday. So no elder flower in the soap, but maybe lemon leaf and verbena and lemongrass and tuberose and jasmine and petitgrain and labdanum and vanilla to go along with the lemon hydrosol, neroli and frankincense, and maybe when they're cut I will press fresh rosemary into the sides . . . I will use up the last of the olive leaf infused olive oil and super charge the whole thing with rich coconut milk. Something nice for a summer that is slow to arrive.

The air quality here is really bad. The wind has been whipping up for three days and you can see the dust and crap in the air. When this happens, I get thoroughly clogged up. And the weather, aside from the wind, is strange for this time of year. It should be hot, or at least very warm, yet we're still experiencing mid-spring-like weather. My tomatoes definitely do not like it. Neither does the okra or the cucumber. I'm sure by summer's end all these unhappy veggies will be thriving and producing like crazy, just as they do every year. All of my chamomile is going like gang busters. So are all the other herbs -- the basil, garlic, thyme, oregano, chives and rosemary seem to go with the flow. But in the wee hours of the morning, I can hear the tomatoes lament, their fried green tomato twang lilting woefully in the dawn tinted air.

Ah, well. Such is life.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream ~ Ready, Set, Go!

Today is the last day to mail out submissions for this event, and I have, in my procrastinating manner, waited until today to mail them! Aaah! But mailed they are. (No, I'm not channeling Yoda.)

I'm so excited about this event, I could spit *patooey* ~ and I love the brief for this project. I created two perfumes for this event, but alas, in the end, I chose only one. Puck's Love Juice is staying home with me until I put the samples and bottles up for sale. My submission is Peaseblossom eau de toilette. That's all I'm gonna say. You'll have to wait until the blogging kicks off in June.

If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

der Wunderkammer

I would love to create this in my home -- a room of wonder, a miracle chamber, the cabinet of scented oddities and wonderments, my studio. I began over two years ago to transform my dull family room from frumpy to perfume-creation fabulous, but things are at a standstill. Only one wall is painted. The flooring isn't complete. Only some of the shelving is installed. Things are in a state of mild disarray, but, to dream of a beautiful space in which to create and bring in visitors and teach classes and encourage an apprentice . . .

It's tough when your workspace is in your home. There are so many details to think about. How your family will react when visitors arrive, will the cat hiss at them, or will the dog bark and lift its leg on their shoes? Will the kids behave and not pick a fight over who ate the last frozen burrito or who drank the last bit of sweet tea? Will the husband decide that he should demonstrate his home maintenance skills by hammering loudly on a wall, any wall, whether it needs hammering or not, or will he choose this time to change the exhaust system on his motorcycle and rev the bike so it makes big noises over and over again? Will my mother arrive unexpectedly, her fingers dirty with Miracle Gro, wearing her favorite t-shirt that reads, "I'm a grandma. Ask me how to raise your kids," and amble past the guests and out the back sliding door to squat in my backyard and pull weeds? Or will my neighbor show up for a cup of coffee, her enormous bra-free bosoms drawing gasps from the mouths of my guests? Or, heaven forbid, one of my guests asks to use the restroom and discovers that my 16-year-old son still doesn't know how to flush the toilet, or that my daughter's cosmetics' case is always empty because its contents have been spread across the sink counter, or that there's an enormous blow-up duck in the bath tub.

The minutiae of my life prevents me from preparing my in home studio for guests. But I can still dream, even if the space currently looks like Baldini's basement.

*Photo still from the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bloody Spring!

Darned frickin' frackin' stoopid bloody spring! I am soooo congested right now I can't smell a thing! I have evals to conduct and perfumes to compound and a garden to weed, but nooooo! Spring has sprung and thrust pollen up my nose! My poor sore nose vacillates between clear and runny and thoroughly clogged. I've neti'd 'til my head feels like it's full of water, and steamed 'til my face is baby butt smooth, but still . . . almost makes me want to go back to the allergist and get those flippin' shots again.

In the meantime, I've made gardenia tincture ~ ha!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Perfumers Are Like Rock Stars

Forbes Magazine's June 6, 2011 issue, by Hannah Elliot ~ "the days of sniffing in obscurity are a thing of the past. Like couturiers and chefs before them, perfumers are stepping out from behind the brand names and becoming status symbols-- and selling points--themselves."

This really isn't news to those of us in the trenches. Some perfumers have groupies, fans, followers, avid admirers.

It was only a matter of time before the rest of the world caught on.

Friday, May 20, 2011

GCI Magazine

In the November 2010 issue of GCI there is an interesting article by Jeb Gleason (Allured) about Harry Fremont, the perfumer who composed Tom Ford Grey Vetiver and ck one. Mr. Fremont states that the success of a fragrance is based (usually) on the quality of the ingredients, and oftentimes on a new ingredient. "Natural products and molecules". He goes on to say that headspace technology has changed perfumery, but he keeps coming back to the issue of naturals. The vetiver in Grey Vetiver is used in proportions not usually used -- in other words, when these perfumers are given a brief, they are also given a budget, so some materials, usually naturals, can't be used to their full potential because of financial constraints. There appears to be a movement to increase the quality of the materials used in perfumes, which translates into using more naturals at higher concentrations than previously used. I just found this entire article striking in that Mr. Fremont seemed to be referencing a movement of sorts toward more use of naturals.

NBP's, if you don't already, I highly recommend you subscribe to GCI by going to their website at and requesting a free subscription. Yes, it's free and it's published by Allured business media, the same people who sell Arctander's books, as well as many, many other perfume-related technical, science and teaching texts.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Soap Making Class May 21

I will be teaching a beginning soap making class this Saturday, May 21, at Seasons Gifts & Gardens in Sanger, CA (actually, between Fresno and Sanger just off Belmont Avenue on Nelson St.)

This is my first soap making class of the year. If you're nearby or just want to visit a beautiful private botanical garden, come on out! This is a retail business and their hours of operation are Tuesdays through Saturday 10 am to 6 pm.

The class cost is $40.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In the Garden

The sage in the herb box went crazy with the blooming this spring ~ long spires of purpley-red blossoms sprouted almost overnight, bringing the bees. Bazillions of bees! This morning something had to be done -- the flowers were dead-headed (not all, just most) so the leaf growth would continue (so I can harvest and dry and use in food). I left a few so the bees would continue to visit while the other flower bearing plants get ready to bloom. The mint along the wall is going like mad, as well as the chamomile. It's nice to sit in the house as a breeze starts in the back and blows through, bringing all the scents of the garden inside. Right now my hands are reeking of sage blossoms, kind of lemony and sweet and "sagey". The wheat grass I planted earlier this spring is already gone golden on me, the wheat heads nearly ready to harvest. There are just enough wheat heads that I might get a bun out of it, or a tortilla ~ ha!

The purple carrots have finally sprouted. I worried about them. They were taking so long to pop up I wondered that they would do it at all. But they have and I'm excited for them to grow big so I can roast them with yellow beets and artichokes sprinkled with olive oil and oregano. Oh! And the golden potatoes have come up too! I had some blue or purple or whatever color they are but the dog found them and ate them post-planting. So no blues this year. Perhaps next year when dog learns her place on the food chain here.

Nearly ready to plant the rest of the tomatoes I have popping up. They're in the germinator along with some green beans that are just about ready to go into the ground, their protective chicken wire covering in place giving them something to cling to as they grow. I'm going to have at least 20-30 tomato plants going, all different varieties. Plus mum has hers going out at the farm and they're already twice as big as mine. We'll be flush in tomatoes this year. I can hardly wait. This is one of the best things about living in the valley, despite the heat, or because of it, things grow like mad and our season is very long allowing rotation of crops in a single growing period.

The jasmine has stopped blooming for now and the honeysuckle has taken over, though I'm in no hurry to tincture them. This year I think I'll just enjoy their sweet honey scent wafting into the house. Besides, I'm tired. I want to enjoy the bounty instead of always trying to figure out ways to capture it forever.

I'm gathering the goods for the Perfume Exhibition -- the al embic, the antique bottles full of different tinctures, vintage raw perfume materials, my perfumes, literature, chairs, table cloths, cups, plates, spoons, display trays . . . oh, and so much more.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Ruh Khus

Thanks to a generous perfumer and her creative use of vetyver root as packing peanuts for an order I received, I now have a liter of fresh ruh khus hydrosol -- and, yes, there are lovely deep green globules of ruh khus oil floating on top of the bottle and stuck down at the bottom of the bottle.

I like this idea of packing orders in vetyver root. My vetyver sustained a mild concussion a few weeks ago while they were "resting" from their long trip from Florida. The dog, god bless her little black heart, couldn't resist the vetyver sitting out on the back patio in its flimsy packaging and decided to chew on them. For fun and entertainment. Thankfully, I was able to find them all (scattered from one end of the back yard to the other) and resuscitated them in the window sill of the kitchen. They're now ready for the dirt, in a good way, that is. I have six healthy bundles, so I think three will actually go into the dirt near the swampy end of the yard and the other three will go into big pots for harvesting. I look forward to both using the root to distill for hydrosol and packing a bit into little boxes for cushion in shipment. If I can stop myself from using it all in the still.

The hydrosol is delicious smelling. Earthy and musky. I'm going to begin carrying a bottle of this Water of Tranquility around in my purse for spraying the air and myself when things get crazy.

Thanks again to K. for the roots! I cherish these things, y'know.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Gourmet Baking Essences

I finished up a small batch of the gourmet baking essences to be "exhibited" at the perfume exhibition next Saturday ~ they're cute! I used these lovely little 3ml corked apothecary bottles I have a habit of acquiring -- they somehow manage to find their way into my shopping cart no matter what my original purchasing intentions may have been. However, I am always able to find something useful for them to do, and they are currently holding three of the gourmet baking essences I use most often ~ Rose Otto, Jasmine Sambac, and Petitgrain Sur Fleur Neroli.

A few of my favorite recipes using the gourmet baking essences are ~

Rose Scones with Lemon~Rose Curd

Petitgrain Sur Fleur Neroli Shortbread Cookies


Jasmine Vanilla Cake

Also, a little eye candy for all you moms ~ this is the baby djinn at The Scented Djinn, displaying mild surprise that you asked for that as one of your three wishes! Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 07, 2011


Some of you may be wondering what all this "PLAP" business is about ~ it's a mindset, friends. I am a pragmatic woman who allows small bursts of levity to flourish in my life -- I have to. As crappy as things get, giving oneself a break or taking a deep breath or a nap or any number of things that relieve the stress of life is necessary. Otherwise, I'd be locked up in one of those institutions with deceiving names like, "Heritage Center" or "Rose Hill" wearing a very long-sleeved sweater and spending my days attempting to lick my eyebrows.

So let's all get our PLAP on -- when you're feeling particularly icky, give yourself a PLAP, turn on some Mano Dibango and let the music and the PLAP flow!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Seasons Gifts & Gardens

Shannon Wing Higgason is the owner of Seasons Gifts & Gardens right up the street here in rural Sanger, CA. Shannon hosts a vast number of events each year beginning in the spring and continuing on to the winter holiday seasons. Some of the events include Native American healing rituals, psychic faires, tarot readings, healing workshops, picnics, weddings, birthday parties, and soap making classes.

This year I will be teaching a basic soap making class at Seasons Gifts & Gardens on Saturday May 21, 2011, from 11 am to 2 pm. Shannon has a beautiful garden featuring spectacular flowers and herbs -- she's particularly proud of her white sage and sweetgrass beds, as she should be! They're lovely. The entire property is imbued with peacefulness, from the adorable gift shop (loads of stuff here! soaps, candles, crystals, books, jewelry, herbs) to the gravel work space surrounded by blooming trees and shrubs and metalwork garden art, fire pits and gathering circles.

I invite you to come on out to Seasons Gifts & Gardens, open from Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 6pm to hang out and soak in the good vibes. Sign up for a class or workshop or lecture while you're there. Come out to the soap class I'm hosting!

Soap class fee is $40.00
Call or email Shannon Wing Higgason at:

Website info:

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Canopy ~ A Really Big Canopy

We, and by we I mean my son and his friends, set up the canopy for the perfume exhibition to "stage" the yard. I wasn't there, so when done, they sent me a picture via cell phone with one of them standing next to it.

Canopy ~ a really big canopy. Enormous. I could have a small wedding party under it, and room left over for the careless caterer to trip into the cake.

It's very warm here today -- a slightly breezy 95 degrees Fahrenheit. I feared the weather would turn in this direction just before the exhibition, but the forecast predicts the weather to be somewhere in the low to mid-70's on Saturday, May 14, so we're saved from the trickling sweat.

This turn of the weather also means that body butters at The Scented Djinn Apothecary (Etsy) get stored away in the cold box until next fall.

My mum has been digging up volunteer tomato seedlings from her box gardens for weeks now to give to me, one of my sons and my neighbor. Yesterday I ran over to pick them up and 'lo and behold, there were something in the neighborhood of 30 heirloom tomato plants! Mum has these marvelous little yellow cherry tomato plants that reseeded and I'm so happy to have a few of those. This year I plan to can extensively.

*I searched in my archived photos (MY photos) for a pic of a homegrown tomato from last year's crop but I couldn't find one -- sorry, no tomato porn today.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Big Book, Events, Gym Socks and Enobling

While rifling through a bin of notebooks from my earlier days of scent adventures, I ran across the "Big Book", the one used to document the formulations for the products created at Delicia, my beautiful natural botanical skin care store in the Tower District (Fresno, CA). The Big Book is chock full of beautiful formularies written by both myself and my then-business partner, Monica R. -- her handwriting is steady and even with big loopy, perfectly drawn vowels and flourishes on the tails of 'y's and 'g's and 'j's, while mine is block print on this page, cursive on another, with no regard to comparative letter dimension, and appearing to have been written by many different authors. There was so much going on back then -- a dam break of ideas from both of us, me the creative, she the analytic. While I focused on procuring the best raw materials and creating the lushest of natural skin care, she sought out inexpensive advertising and planned promotional events. I clearly remember our grand opening gala, which occurred one month after our official open date. The tables were set with refreshments, all the shelves in the store were loaded with fresh product -- chunky hand made soaps, jars and jars of body butters and scrubs, mineral cosmetics (and perfumes from Opus Oils which drew the most attention. I think that Kedra's creations, more than any other one thing, prompted me to make the move from 'blending aromatics' to becoming 'a perfumer'). We, Monica and I, spent the entire morning prior to the Grand Opening fretting over details -- will anybody come? will the newspaper make a showing? will anyone like what we've done? what if this doesn't work? It was nerve-racking. But, as these things usually do, the event went off without a hitch, with the exception of the odd young man from the bong store across the street repeatedly making an appearance to fill a plate of food and disappear back into his store. As it turned out, everyone loved what we were doing, the newspaper didn't show but they did appear a week or so later for an interview, the house was full, and so was the bong man. So this successful event is what I go back to when I worry about my current event, or when I wake in the middle of the night, my heart pounding because I'm afraid I haven't collected enough chairs or I'm not planning to disperse the "right" information. However, I know in my heart that everything will be fabulous. I am an artist and a people pleaser and a closet extrovert. I'm allowed my eccentricities.

The Big Book also contains possibly the most atrocious scent combination ever created. When my friend Tonie reminds me that in her early days of blending, she was more likely to create a scent reminiscent of "sweaty Sumo wrestler taking a sh*t on burning tires", I have to admit that this horrendous creation written in the Big Book was much worse. And this from a somewhat seasoned scent blender. As some of you know, I love patchouli, and I love vetyver, so of course my horrendous, worse than Sumo's pooping on hot tires scent would include those two -- and a lot of cocoa absolute. Though in theory it doesn't sound like these three together would make anything so disgustingly gross, rancid and evocative of decay, it did. There is a specific reason why. Me, in my blind passion for the smokiest of vetyvers and the dirtiest of patchoulis thought that these two, plus another densely scented and heavily 'sweet' scent would somehow create a fragrance nirvana -- a sort of holy grail of darkly beautiful essences. Boy, was I wrong. I chose two vetyvers -- a dark bourbon and a smokey Indonesian, as well as a super dirty Indian patchouli that I thought would really ground the sweet, thick liqueur-like essence of cocoa. Again, boy, was I wrong. Something went terribly, terribly awry -- all those elements that I so dearly loved about the smokey vetyver and the dirty patchouli beat the living crap out of the sweet milky scent of cocoa. It smelled like dirty gym socks. Bitter, burnt, smokey, way dirty, sweaty, poopy -- there was even a heavy cloud of eau de mildew about the whole mess. Since then I have managed to blend the three together effectively, even to the point of creating something very balanced and beautiful. But I shudder each time knowing that the wrong vetyver or the wrong patchouli or the wrong ratio or the wrong dilution is all it takes to turn something potentially lovely into something that makes one want to run gagging from the studio.

Enobling. Nice word, isn't it? Enobling -- say it out loud now ~ Enobling. Ahhhh, lovely. Has a regal tone to it, yes? What does it mean? Well, to us perfumers, it means adulteration of a raw material, i.e., the addition of less expensive natural and/or (more likely) synthetic raw materials to another more costly material in an effort to enhance its scent, thereby creating a demand, thereby lining the manufacturers pockets with honest money gained through dishonest practice. I've heard of cases of enobling being committed to create in full or enhance hyacinth absolutes, jonquil absolutes, black currant bud absolutes and other rare and costly raw, natural materials. That's not to say one cannot acquire the real raw material, just saying enobling happens.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Gourmet Baking Essence

Formal introduction at the May 14, 2011 Perfume Exhibition & Scent Event.

The Gourmet Baking Essences can be used in all sorts of baked goods and other foods, from cakes to pies to cookies, in frostings, honey, and cocktails. The sample pictured here is 3 mls, enough Baking Essence for up to 6 uses as the recommended use amount is 1/8th to 1/4th tsp for baked goods, and 1/16th to 1/8th tsp for uncooked (honey, frosting, whips, etc.)

Natural Botanical Soap Class May 21, 2011


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