Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Flakiness of the Creative (me)

I have this problem. Well, I actually have a lot of problems, but I'm talking specifically about creating wonderful smelly things for skin and hair, the environment and spirit, and the problems I have within that arena. For example, I procrastinate. Some days I'm really good and can get those orders cranked out and in the hands of my customers within 48 hours or so, but when I'm in one of those procrastination modes, which is becoming the norm for me and shouldn't be, I know, and I try to snap out of it and not use the fact that we're down to a single car now and my husband works out of town for days at a stretch and I'm virtually car-less during that time as an excuse for not sending things out on time and asking for a ride from one of my mobile children, or even from my mum, is an exercise in humility, but still not as awful as sending out orders late and (here's the next problem) with the wrong number of items packaged inside. Did you get all that? Yeah, problema numero dos, if you order two of something from me, you'll probably only get one -- in the first package -- I'm sure to make it up to you in the second or third package. I'll gather up your two whatever that you ordered, get 'em labeled and ready to go, however, when it comes to the packaging part, putting the item(s) in the box, only one makes it in. It's like some sort of self-destructive mental block. My friend L would tell me it's because I don't want to send stuff out, and in a way, she's right. The creative part is my gig -- I love, adore, cherish! -- making the skin care or spray or perfume or cleaning thingamabob more than anything; the play of ingredients against one another that eventually, through time, patience and experimentation, bond to create a harmony of . . . whatever. Packaging, even labeling (that includes designing labels, which I hate) is a pain in the patooty. Which brings up the next problem; I sometimes give too much irrelevant information at inappropriate times. Yes, this is a business! Yes, customer service is supremely important, and I do try to make up for my shortcomings by offering discounts and store credits to the nearly disenfranchised, but I also somehow manage to fudge that up as well. And the inappropriate information? Well, that's this entire flippin' post! This is something I've done my whole life. My friend M would say I blurt out inappropriate things because it's my way of alienating myself from people so that, in essence, I've "rejected" them before they have a chance to reject me. Whatever. As an example of one of the more inappropriate things I've said--out loud--was when I caught someone watching me pluck the elastic band of my bra with my hand under my blouse, and the plucking commencing at the frontal boobage area, while attending a Parent/Teacher meeting at my sons' elementary school, and I loudly blurted out, and unfortunately during a lull in conversation, "I need a new bra." Then realizing the ridiculousness of what I said, I began laughing hysterically and had to excuse myself from the rest of the meeting. Needless to say, I never attended another Parent/Teacher meeting at that school again. See? Now was any of this in any way relevant to perfume or skin care or room sprays or scenting or anything creative? So, yes, back to the topic -- flakiness and general unintended fcuk ups -- I'm sorry.

It's probably a good thing that I'm redirecting my energy to non-toxic housecleaning, a relatively lonely sport, because I might be inclined to tell the lady or man of the house that their 16-year-old son in full swing puberty needs to stop putting his boogers on the bottom side of the toilet bowl because, for crap's sake (no pun intended), he's sitting next to an ample supply of toilet tissue in which to properly deposit them!

Okay, I'm sorry again.

Happy 1001st Post Giveaway!

OTA has just hit 1001 posts with this one (I wanted to do a 1000th post giveaway, but I inadvertently posted something and forgot that that one was the 1000th . . . ah, well, 1001 is just as auspicious).

In celebration of my 1001st post, I'm giving away a 2 oz bottle of patchouli hydrosol and a 2 oz bottle of white sage hydrosol. Just comment this post and you are entered in the drawing.

Good luck!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Natural Soap Making Class in August!

I will be teaching a soap making class at Seasons Gifts & Gardens in Sanger, CA on August 20th. Please call 559-876-9000 or contact Shannon at to reserve your spot.

Distillation, Co-Distillation & Possibilities

Thanks to my friend Shannon allowing me free range in her botanical garden, I've distilled lavandin for the first time. And now white sage. And in a few hours, English lavender. And in a few weeks, once it's dried and reaches the desired aromatic level, sweet grass. In the meantime, I've been entertaining myself with other distillation projects; a co-distillation of lime and kombu sea kelp, to name one. And the roster for "what's next" is quickly filling up. Co-distillations intrigue me at the moment. Imagine a lovely winter room spray made with pure water, orange and mandarin peels and a pinch of cinnamon stick. Clean, fresh, non-toxic, non-olfactorily invasive. The white sage hydro can be used as a body spray, but it's 'calling' is in spiritual cleansing, so marketing it as a room or space purifier for spiritual work is a possibility, especially helpful to those who cannot tolerate the smoke from smudging or burning incense. I can't even begin to tell you how spectacular the white sage hydro smells. And the oil yield is amazing. I cannot wait to get to Shannon's again to pluck more fat, fragrant leaves for the pot. So what can't I distill? Well, dead cats, for one; fig leaves, tomato leaves, peanut butter and gold. But I can distill heirloom tomatoes with basil, black figs, clay, sugar, salt, honey, valerian, catnip, chamomile, spearmint, mugwort, amber resin, green tea, black tea, rose petals, chai, pine cones, cedar bark, rosemary -- and even patchouli leaf.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Patchouli Hydrosol

Well, I did it. I bit the bullet and made another batch of patchouli hydrosol. I swore I never would again, but I did. Because I'm fickle like that.

The first batch I made a couple years ago was an unmitigated failure. It burnt, and me being me thought, oh, well, what's that going to hurt? It hurt. A lot. Boiled potato skin hydrosol, anyone? Yes, it smelled like boiled potato skins.

This batch doesn't. It smells like patchouli. I even poured about an ounce over my head last night before bed to help cool down. It worked beautifully, and I didn't smell like a boiled potato peel.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kombu Seaweed and Key Lime Co-Distillation

Today's work includes a distillation for hydrosol of kombu seaweed harvested prior to the tsunami and a huge bag of key limes. There is a distinct possibility that there will be a significant amount of oil from this distillation as well -- salty sea lime oil, anyone?

Y'all have a good day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

First Batch of Books for Sale ~

Contact me privately at if you're interested in purchasing any of these perfume-related books.

Perfume Album by Jill Jessee ~ $10 (no spine cover; repaired; inside fine)

Perfumes and Spices by A. Hyatt Verrill ~ $12 (has dust jacket but is tatty)

The Woman Beautiful by Ella Adelia Fletcher published 1901 ~ $100 (is slightly worn but in okay condition, no dust jacket, includes several natural botanical perfume formulations, for example:

Woodland Violet

Extract of violet . . . . . . . 6 ounces

Extract of rose . . . . . . . . 2 ounces

Extract of tuberose . . . . 2 ounces

Extract of cassie . . . . . . . 2 ounces

Tincture of orris root . . . 2 ounces

Tincture of ambergris . . . 1 ½ ounces

Oil of bitter almonds . . . . 20 drops

Rose water (triple strength) . . 11 drachms


Violette de Parma

Extract of Clove Pink formulation



and more)

The Science and Art of Perfumery by Edward Sagarin~$20 (good condition) SOLD

Fragrance The Story of Perfume from Cleopatra to Chanel by Edwin T. Morris~ $10 (1984 edition; has tear on spine but otherwise in acceptable condition)

The Mystery and Lure of Perfume by CJS Thompson reprint copy from original 1927 edition~$50 (excellent condition)

The Complete Book of Natural Cosmetics by Beatrice Traven~$10 (original 1974 hardcover edition with dust jacket; edges of dust jacket are a bit tatty, as is the top edge of the binding) ~ SOLD!

What the Nose Knows by Avery Gilbert~$15 (2008 hardcover with dust jacket; good condition)

Perfume Through the Ages by Roy Genders~$40 (original 1972 edition; library copy in great condition with dust jacket included)


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Everything Must Go!

After thinking long and hard, I've decided to let go of a vast majority of my perfume making supplies and materials, including books.

I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coming Soon!

Or probably, most likely, next year! Betty Yi cleaning products.

It's funny how an idea just takes you over. I've been doing the green clean (or what I thought was green clean) for years, but now that I've started to really research this, I'm discovering that green might not be the correct nomenclature for some of the base ingredients used to make those so-called green cleaners. Baking soda, for example, is mined. How green and earth-friendly can that be? Hydrogen peroxide (which I've never used for cleaning house) is also considered a green cleaner, but is it really? And how about vinegar? Depends on whether it's sourced from petroleum (oh, yes, Ms. Yi, most white vinegar is a petroleum by-product) or from botanicals. How green is your white vinegar?

Some of these basic green cleaning products aren't green, but they are better for your health than quite a lot of the more chemical laden, commercial cleaning products. Unless, of course, you're allergic to them.

Anyway, back to the research.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Slush of Alcoholic Distillations

So I was anticipating siphoning off about a milliliter or two of the co-blend of gardenia tincture and fresh lemons from the distillate after a stint in the freezer to separate the hydro from the oil, but I forgot to factor in the alcohol effect. As in, alcohol don't freeze. What I ended up with after 12 hours in the freezer was a super smelly semi-solid slush. I guess if you order some you'll have to deal with the free floating balls of oil in the hydro-alcoholic mix -- oh, and yes, the bit o' alcohol as well. Organic grain alcohol isn't the same as isopropyl alcohol. It doesn't dry you up like a prune and suck out all your internal juices. This saucy little experiment would be more like a simple summer scent; light, delicate, daintily walking on its tippy toes. I think you're going to like it.

*Update: I thought about it, thought about it, thought about it . . . thought a little more and decided NOT to distill this again to separate the alcoholic portion from the hydrosol. When I performed the second distillation, I got about 3/4 of a cup of super clear fluid (alcohol, perhaps?) with huge drops of oil floating on top, during the first hour of distillation. However, the longer the juice stewed, the more cloudy the results. So, what happens when you put too much water in the alcohol? It fogs. But again, as much as I'm fighting the urge to do further experimentation on this hydroalcoholic batch, I won't. What you see is what you get, mmm hmm!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Gardenia Hydrosol Co-distillate

Gardenia. Can you believe it? Just imagine what a few cups of gardenia tincture (and heavily tinctured, I might add) plus a big blender full of juicy fresh lemons straight off the tree smell like distilled together. Nirvana. It's heavenly gorgeous! Indescribable. I'm afraid to use it! And I got some oil -- lord have mercy!-- maybe a ml or two, but hey, beggars can't be choosers, can they? It smells like I've simply distilled a super fragrant summer parfum. It's luscious. So after I freeze off the oil, I'll put this new co-distill up for sale. I ran it through twice (it's on the final run) -- first run was to get everything from the lemons and gardenia into the pot; second run was to help clear it up a bit. It's just a bit cloudy, but I suspect that's from the alcohol in the tincture. Hopefully a full day or so just sitting will help settle it out.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

More Distillation Experimentation

There was 10 mls of lavandin grosso essential oil, but I siphoned off about 2 mls to store away -- the rest goes to Shannon at Seasons Gifts & Gardens in Sanger, CA, from whom I received the lavandin bundles and buds to distill.

After completing the lavender- um, lavandin-distillation, I moved on to those cucumbers. So now there's about 30 ounces of cucumber hydrosol waiting around to settle (still notes settling). The weird thing about these cukes is that they're the pickling kind and they already smell a bit pickly when they're cut into. They even have a strange tartness to them when tasted. Then I got a wild hair in me ar-- eye and decided to do a co-distillation of overgrown rose geranium and languishing frankincense oleoresin. Oh em gee. The still notes are crazy wild, but the gist of the hydrosol is all there -- deep, lush, herbally, rosey rose geranium with a snap of pitchy, resinous luban. Holy cow! It's inspired me to do more weird, wacky and wild distillations, so I think next is a co-distillation of lemons (going to mum's to pick lemons today) and about a cup of a strong tincture of gardenia (compliments of Ms. Velvet & Sweet Pea - Laurie Stern). It's not a co-distillation in the strictest of terms -- I don't know what to call it -- I'm just going to make it and see what comes of it. And hope that the little bit of grain alcohol in the al embic doesn't catch fire or blow up! I will have to make the fire extinguisher handy for this experiment.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lavandin, It's What I Got

Grosso. I got just less a little than a gallon of hydrosol. And 10 mls of lavandin grosso essential oil. This morning I'm finishing off the last 10 ounces or so of the hydro, then it goes in the freezer to separate out the oil, then the oil goes into the small bottle to separate out the water, then the oil is again poured off into another bottle that's just -- um -- oil.

The next grosso harvest is in the fall and I think I'm going to teach a distillation course on site at Seasons Gifts & Gardens. See what we get.

Shannon at SG&G said she has another patch of lavender that's much more fragrant and is meant for oil specifically. I think it's either a pink Hidcote or a Jean Davis, and it is more fragrant than any other lavender I have ever smelled. Oh, and it's an English variety. And it's not a hybrid.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Call From Betty Yi

I woke this morning in the midst of a dream in which my cell phone rang and the caller id identified the caller as "Betty Yi". I don't know a Betty Yi, but she had a message for me from the other side (dun dun DUN!), but as I was answering the phone call in my dream (with feelings of hopefulness, happiness and a sense of a new beginning) my cell phone did ring and it woke me up before the dream was fulfilled. It wasn't Betty Yi. It was my husband telling me that he thinks he just got screwed out of a full-time position at the hospital he's been working for on a per diem basis for over a year. Except he didn't say it as nicely as I just wrote it. While I'm still thinking, Betty Yi, Betty Yi, what is your message? he's huffing and puffing over the inequities of life, using words like "desperate" and "grievance" and "quit".

Perhaps, based on those feelings I had while answering Betty's call, that was the message. Not that the husband may be staring down the barrel of impending unemployment, but that this is a time of hopefulness, happiness and a new beginning, because even after receiving husband's message, I really didn't care. I'm not rushing for the valium, as it were. As snarky and pessimistic as I may seem at times, I am, at heart, the world's biggest optimist, and being optimistic in the face of crushing doom has never let me down. Crushing doom never actually happens. Another avenue always opens up and there I go.

Over the past few weeks I've been thinking, and thinking long and hard, about the future of NBP. Ever since the Perfume Exhibition and Scent Event in May, I've had this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that perhaps there's something else to consider here, something more profitable, more fulfilling than just making perfume for sale and trying to rope in students to teach.

The problem with being profitable in any business may lie with the poopy economy, as the media so love to ram down our throats (do you hear the words desperate, grievance and quit on the wind?) Who is going to buy perfume or pay for a perfume course if they can't even put food on the table, or keep the power bill paid, or pay rent or a mortgage on time? And perhaps for those who aren't worrying about these issues because they are happily, and luckily, employed, what is it that they worry about not being able to afford? It's about prioritizing luxuries. I think. So what luxuries are worth their price?

Please bear with me as I ramble on . . .

Recently, my currently unemployed son and I had a sit-down regarding what types of businesses might work in this economy. His field is refrigeration (big diesel trucks carrying our groceries are his specialty) and he has every type of license, certification and accolade that is achievable within the field at the ripe old age of 25. He feels he's topped out. Prior to being laid off, he was making as much as people working in the business 20+ years were making. His only shortcoming in determining his candidacy for lay off at his old job was that he didn't have kids and a mortgage. More of that inequity stuff going on. This left a sour taste in his mouth about this business in particular, and working for someone else in general. So we talked.

"But I'm an artiste!" I tell him, tongue firmly in cheek, when my son, prompted by my husband, suggested I get a J-O-B outside of the home.

"Well, that kind of sentimentality goes right down the toilette if the primary bread winner loses his bread, mom. I'm an artiste too, but it isn't paying my bills."

Who raised this smart ass? Oh, yeah, I did . . .

He was right, of course. I do need to do something to generate a steadier income than the hit and miss sales of perfume-related things. But here are the problems, and I will list them in no particular order:

1. I'm old.

2. I'm fat.

3. I'm visibly tattooed.

4. I haven't worked outside of the home in over six years.

5. Competition is stiff.

6. Jobs are scarce.

It appears, judging by this list, that the only job I might possibly be a shoo-in for is the circus. On a temporary, part-time basis. Like Thursdays at 3pm. In March.

Notice I didn't list that I'm not qualified to work. I am. I can do anything I set my mind to, especially if it means the preservation of my family. It's the convincing of the hiring party at the potential place of employment that is the hurdle I never seem to hop high enough to get over.

I come from entrepreneurial stock, even if I can't spell the word without spell check. My dad was one of those guys who worked for someone else to get what he wanted, then worked for himself when he was flush in cash. And he did everything from trucking, commercial fishing, building furniture, construction, art -- a jack of all trades he was. He never lived long enough to fulfill his dream of owning his own business, but he had plans -- big plans.

"What can we do together, mom?"

"Stripping is off the table," I answered, opening my robe burlesque style to expose my favorite summer nightie.

"Fine with me! But seriously, let's figure something out. Let's figure out what we can do with what we already know and turn it into something else," he said.

"Look, all I've done with any kind of consistency is raise kids, make stuff and clean house. I'm not interested in running a day care, making stuff doesn't always generate the money, and cleaning house -- ugh! Cleaning house is just cleaning house."

"That's it then."

"What's it?"

"What have you been doing around here?" he asked, sweeping his arms out. "Green cleaning! I've never met anyone else but you who doesn't have sixty cans of bug spray or weed killers or bottles of furniture polish and Mop'n'Shine under their kitchen sink! All someone's got to do is hand you a bottle of vinegar, some baking soda and a lemon and you can make their house shine like a janitorial service went in and did it! You make all your own cleaning supplies, you reuse cleaning rags, you make linen sprays, you put sachets in the cupboards, you have experience scenting stuff! What the hell, mom! Think of the possibilities! You could clean their houses and market your--"

"Wait! What?"

"-- supplies!"

And then it dawned on me. He was right. There was the opportunity. This was the luxury that someone would happily pay for.

So. That's it then. We just signed our first two clients. And I can't help but think that my dream phone call was the "go ahead" signal (along with the real phone call) to get this thing going. Many happy returns, Ms. Betty Yi.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lavender Fine and Lavender Green

I've decided to use these two names to differentiate between the two hydrosol distillations of lavender that I've been brewing up this past weekend. Lavender fine is the distillate from the flower buds and smells smooth and rich, while lavender green is the distillation of both the buds and stems and has a slight medicinal, piquant green note to it, and is not as smooth. I've managed to get a little bit of oil out of both these distillations, but still notes persist -- heck, the brew is only a few days old! -- and won't settle down to its lavender goodness for at least a month or so.

Though the process is more efficient, it's still a pain in the arse. I distill early in the am and late in the night because the peak of heat in the daytime prevents me from firing up the metal monster to work its magic. By day's end I will have a gallon of lavender hydrosol. Finally.

The black velvet apricot hydrosol is to die for! It smells of the fresh fruit; the tang of plum, the juiciness of apricot and back and forth. Verrah nice. The blackberry hydro is a juicy berry rush -- I stuffed the al- embic and squiged the berries down as much as I could, letting the juices flow, before adding the water. This made for a super berry scent with some earthy back notes. Also verrah nice. I don't have much of this hydro, just 32 ounces, as I used up all the blackberries in the one distillation. I didn't even get to nibble a few before they went in. Blackberry season is over in the valley this year, so there won't be any more at least until next summer.

I don't ever get tired of making hydrosols, I just get tired of the house warming up too fast when I do. Otherwise, the metal monster would be fired up 24/7, kicking out delicious smelling skin waters non-stop.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Internal Frenzy of Fragrance Fabrication

My kitchen is a slip-n-slide. A few years back I wrote about a set it and forget it style of distillation I was interested in creating, a process that doesn't really exist. You know how it is - you come up with a nifty way of streamlining the process (this can possibly apply to any process) and think you've discovered some kind of technical/mechanical gold mine, only to realize that all you've done is mopped the kitchen floor. For the 10th time in a week. Clean kitchen floors are important, especially when you have a pre-toddler in the house 80% of the time, but if it isn't the goal of the new spiffy gizmo, then in some sense, you've failed. Or, rather, I've failed. Once again, Ron Popeil, leader of the set-it-up-and-walk-away generation, you've led me astray . . .

Let me 'splain. And if I repeat myself from previous posts, please forgive. For years I was in need of a circulating water system for my al- embic, and I dreamed up a bucket system (I did not come up with idea, so I take absolutely no credit for its invention -- in fact, I think I might have seen it in reference to illegal spirits distillation) wherein a big bucket, perhaps the one normally used to make soap, becomes the cooling water container, and a small immersible pump, such as one used for table fountains or fish tanks, is set up inside the water bucket pumping water through a tube and into the container holding the cooling coils of the copper al- embic and then circulating back into the water bucket, into which a few plastic bottles of frozen water are placed to keep the free-flowing water at its coolest. The idea is sound. It works. But it isn't the leave it go for an hour type of arrangement I thought I'd bought myself. No. Instead my time is spent almost as it was before when I was draining the warm water from around the container holding the cooling coils and replacing it with cool, icy water every 15 minutes or so. My task isn't to keep the water cool, it is preventing the water level in the cooling container (around those coils) from dropping too low, or just as bad, keeping the cooling container from overflowing. The problem lies in metal and plastic tubing's ability to expand and contract according to the temperature of the water flowing through them. If the water in the water bucket is really cold, I can set the flow of the water so it fills the chamber but doesn't overflow, however, once that cooling water in the water bucket heats up, even by a couple of degrees, the flow of water needs resetting. At least twice during an hour's time, which is less than the amount of time I was spending before with the draining and replacing system, but is still not optimal for indoor distillation. If I ran the distillation outdoors, this wouldn't be a problem. Any overflow would end up watering my garden and not be mopped up repeatedly.

So I suspect the next project is to set up some kind of heating table in the backyard to accommodate distillation there instead of in the house. I would no longer be so concerned with the slip-n-slide effect, and the house wouldn't suffer the effects of a hot piece of metal warming the air in the house for hours at a time. Once again, I am back to the distillation drawing board.

I've pretty much been distilling things non-stop since a week ago, between visits with my mum, who had been really sick and in the hospital. She's home now and doing better, but I still run out to her house to check on her every so often during the day, running her errands and keeping her garden watered. When home, however, the reggae gets turned up, the al- embic is fired and some odd thing or another gets tossed in the chamber for distillation. Right now it's running the black velvet apricots through for a clarifying distillation, then before the lavender is too far gone to finish, I'm going to run another 32 ounces of water through that (giving me a total of 64 ounces of hydrosol and a few milliliters of oil), and then run all that through again to clear it up. Then it's on to those organic cucumbers that have been piling up. I've got a patch of cukes growing, as does mum, so I'm cuke heavy at the moment. And I can't wait to make that hydro.

And then there is the rose geranium that's just going bananas. It has to be cut back -- and, yes, I will distill that as well. We're expecting the temperatures to cool down some for the next week or so, so I am going to take advantage of it and distill, distill, distill!

Building the hydrosol stock is fun, despite the funky set-backs. And since it is a funky wild process to begin with, singing reggae to the al- embic seems a perfectly normal thing to do.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Ugly Soap

I reeeaaallly gotta stop making ugly soap. It doesn't look good for my business.

Ok. Off to care for mum. She was let out of the hospital yesterday and I've yet to make it to the druggist to pick up her five-hundred-sixty-two-thousand-three-hundred-and-ninety-nine pills she's got to take, not to mention the five different flavors of blood thinners, and on that point, I am not kidding. Oy.

Black Velvet Apricots

Black Velvet Apricots seem to be all the rage these days, do a google search and see what comes up. Here's the skinny ~ they're a hybrid fruit, more commonly known as a pluot or an aprium, aka a plum/apricot marriage. From what I've read, most plum/apricot hybrids lean heavy on the plum making a heartier plum-type fruit with some apricot attributes. The Black Velvet apricot is a 50/50 hybrid, which gives this fruit its characteristic fuzzy black skin and plummy, juicy innards.

They're grown in Kingsburg, CA, just a hop, skip and a jump from where I live and even here they're exorbitantly expensive at $3.99 per pound. And not organic. The fruit sticker number is 3251, which means it's grown conventionally.

Anywho, I made a 32 oz batch of Black Velvet Apricot hydrosol last night and will redistill it later tonight to clear it up. I overfilled the chamber and some of the fleshy bits boiled up through the steam chamber and into the hydrosol. It smells really nice.

May's Perfume Scent Event & Exhibition Here in Ol' Fresburg

I know, I know -- I've been pretty much mum on the about Fresno's first ever perfume scent event and exhibition, and by now everyone's probably already forgotten they were waiting to hear how it went. I started at least a dozen different times to put down in words how the event went, who was in attendance, what we discussed, the display, exhibit and food, but for some reason I just couldn't get it right. And yesterday I figured out why I was (and am) having such a difficult time writing about it -- to me, it was special, personal, less an event and more of a "family" gathering; something private and, in some sense, surreal. Beautiful.

The day couldn't have more perfect. The venue was the back yard of an old mansion in the Tower District; the lawn perfectly manicured, brickwork patio covered tip to tail with a gorgeous canopy, a gentle breeze on the wind, the water in the pond trickling quietly. I, on the other hand, was a hot mess! I was late to my own party! The food, thankfully, was prepared in advance so all that had to be done was to cook it and serve it, but with only moments before the big opening and at least another hour before the food was ready, and only one me doing the setting up of the display, the arranging of the tea table, and the preparation of the food, it seemed an impossible task. My rescuers came by way of Berkeley, CA, bearing accoutrements, good will, helping hands and gusto. Lisa Camasi came with a lovely antique brocade table cloth upon which to showcase my perfumes and perfumery collections to their best advantage; Laurie Stern of Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery came with a huge tea/coffee pot to heat water for the various floral teas that were being served, as well as gifting me with a case of fresh, fragrant gardenia blossoms from the flower market in the Bay Area; and Yuko Fukami of Parfum Phyto came to help prep and serve food for the guests. More support came by way of San Jose, CA upon the arrival of Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes and her husband Rich.

Much of my family and a smattering of local friends were also in attendance, turning the event into something akin to a family reunion with new and wonderful "family" joining in. The whole exhibition part of the event went out the window as everyone talked and mingled, ate and drank, brainstormed and commiserated on the difficulty of being an NBP in this economy with so much competition and . . . well, it was a non-stop gab fest from beginning to end! And something I would do again and again just to get perfumers together to talk freely about their work, their ambitions for the art form, their techniques, their ideas for the future -- there was a real feeling of camaraderie amongst the perfumers gathered that day, so much so that even friends and family outside of the perfume community were listening intently to what we discussed.

The food ~ oh, the food was extraordinary, if I do say so myself. There were rose flavored scones with lemon curd, jasmine cheesecake with jasmine whipped cream, petitgrain sur fleur neroli shortbread cookies, and fresh picked strawberries; rose tea, jasmine green tea, blooming tea and a lovely sweet osmanthus tea, as well as wine and champagne (the champagne was courtesy of Lisa Camasi who also brought a big bottle of Hangar One Mandarin Blossom vodka for the now famous Camasi Tea ~ recipe to follow). I shared my bottles of homemade lemoncello and strawberry liqueurs, and it turned out they were pretty darned good too.

I also arranged to make dinner for my out-of-town guests, which turned into making dinner for the entire guest list of attendees, which was wonderful for everyone to sit and talk some more and get to know one another better, perfumers and non-perfumers alike. Dinner was baked apricot chicken, a delicious ratatouille, pasta, salad, and garlic bread.

As I mentioned before, it was hard to write about this because it wasn't like a stuffy gathering or a teaching affair, or what I had intended -- a means of marketing NBP to the local community -- it was a family affair, a gathering of friends intent on one purpose -- to build community within NBP. It was a party!

I couldn't have put this event together without the help of my son Scott, his girlfriend, Becca, and their roommate, Jade. They made sure the guests were comfortable, their glasses full, and their plates overflowing, not to mention providing the gorgeous venue, help with cooking and cleaning and serving . . . they were unimaginably wonderful.

The only downside to this post and the event? I didn't get a single photo I can use here! I literally became so enraptured by the setting up and then the conversation that I completely forgot about the camera. So, no photos.

Now for that recipe ~ Camasi Tea

1 gallon freshly brewed jasmine green tea
1/2 cup (or to taste) raw honey
1 cup (or to taste) Hangar One Mandarin Blossom vodka

Pour into tall glasses filled with crushed ice and drink through a straw. You won't even taste the alcohol, but you will feel it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Going Nowhere With Nowhere To Go

Just a quick note about mum -- she's doing better; still in the hospital but doing much, much better. She had two procedures and her cardiologist said her heart was "100% better than when she came in", but they're keeping a careful eye on her and will for the next month or so, then her dancing shoes can come down from the closet shelf . . .

Now to perfume ~ someone recently reminded me about something that I'd forgotten in these past few years of trying to *'be somebody' within the NBP community, and it's kind of changed my perspective (perhaps it occurred in part due to the hours waiting in the CICU waiting room for news of my mother) on the whole darned mess. What if I just want to study perfumery? Just study it, learn it inside and out, take courses from other perfumers, go to France to study, delve into the subject completely, with no goal in site other than being in perfume? Then all the stress of this business would fall away, wouldn't it? No more competition, no more sides to take, no more modalities to promote, no more silly bottling issues, no branding, no nothing to do with marketing, no more pointless Wikio ratings. What if? There is a certain amount of romance in the notion that I might some day train my nose to distinguish between a rose otto oil from roses grown on the west side of a hill in Bulgaria as opposed to the east side of the hill, in what region and soil type, for the sheer knowledge of it. Or a lemon oil from lemons grown in Spain compared to a lemon oil from lemons grown in California. There is something harmlessly appealing about that.

To dream, eh?

I've finally completed the first (successful) distillation of lavender, and got quite a bit of oil from it, and will start on the second this evening as the days are way too hot to have the al-embic running. It raises the temperature in the house a good 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Between these two batches of lavender I managed to distill a couple pounds of blackberries for hydrosol. I have 32 ounces of crystalline blackberry hydro that I plan to bottle and put up for sale by the week's end (plan, remember that word). Once the lavender distillation is completed, I plan (hehehe) to distill the wads of cucumbers coming up in my organic garden. Cucumber hydro is on the roster, as are some pretty little black apricots. Peaches, apricots and nectarines are in season here in Cali and a lot of organic growers are selling them for a song,

At last, my love has come along. my lonely days are over, and life is like a song! Oooohh, yeah, yeah!
At last, the skies above are blue-ooh ooh my heart was wrapped up in clover the night I look at you I found a dream that I could speak to; a dream that I can call my own I found a thrill to rest my cheek to; a thrill that I have never known Oooh, yeah, yeah! You smile, you smile, oooh, and then the spell is cast, and here we are in heaven, for you are mine at last!

Maybe that song will work, eh? Or maybe I can sing Georgia on My Mind to the peach vendor ~ ha! Needless to say, if I catch the season just right, I will add more pit fruit hydrosols to the stock.

So I'm off to package up orders and then to the PO before heading over to the hospital to see if mum is feeling up for a visit.

*'be somebody' is meant facetiously as in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't fecking matter

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Smell My Finger ~ Summer of Patchouli Love in the Flesh

Summer of Patchouli LOVE aka Patchouli Bliss, aka Smell My Finger, My Hand, My Arm!, aka Have I Died and Gone to Heaven?!

Choosing only three for the top favorites wasn’t an easy task, but here goes.

My top three favorites are:

#14 ~ Kama Sutra, baby! This is edible honey dust, sugary sweet and powdery, lusty nights and cause for blushing in the morning!

#13 ~ Sweet, buttery, berry-floral intense incense ~ absolutely beautiful. Edible yumminess.

#7 ~ Boozy, sexy, gourmandy-green with wild animalic and water notes. Did I say sexy?

There weren’t any “bad” perfumes in this bunch. The diversity and range of interpretations of patchouli in these perfumes was spectacular – all of them utilized the key ingredient beautifully.

These patchouli perfumes were presented unnamed and unrepresented by their makers, so choosing the “winners”, as it were, was a completely fair and unbiased exercise. I also assigned a rating system of points from zero to five, zero obviously being the least impressive, and five being the most impressive.

The following is the list of perfumers with their corresponding perfume #’s, and the notes I took prior to the perfumer’s being revealed ~

#1 Indienne- Perfumer Alfredo Dupetit, Bio-Scent by Dupetit ~ this perfume is deeply woody with a powdery, tonka-smooth backnote, very creamy; the dry down is strong and tenacious lasting a few hours. ☺☺☺ and ½ ☺’s

#2 River Walk- Perfumer Liz Zorn, Liz Zorn Perfumes ~ this is a fruity-sweet perfume with smokey pungent notes, there’s a dichotomous sticky/powdery note throughout this composition that I find intriguing. ☺☺☺ and ½ ☺’s

#3 Go Ask Alice- Perfumer Shelley Waddington, EnVoyage Perfumes ~ soft, smoky-floral, green, very feminine and “light”. ☺☺☺

#4 Haight and Ashbury- Perfumer Jane Cate- A Wing and A Prayer Perfumes ~ floral-fresh, powdery, feminine, delicate. ☺☺☺

#5 Bohemian Spice- Perfumer Tanja Bochnig, April Aromatics ~ this is a sparkling citrus, mostly orangey, with sweet powdery notes threaded with green. ☺☺☺

#6 Happiness- Perfumer Ambrosia Jones, Perfume by Nature ~ this is a bright green citrus with a warm smoothness, summery. ☺☺☺

#7 Rose Boheme, Perfumer Charna Ethier, Providence Perfume Company ~ boozy, green, gourmand; has a lovely animalic backnote with surprising watery aspects making this perfume “feel” languid and lustful. The dry down is sweet and smooth and has nice longevity. (my #3) ☺☺☺☺☺

#8 Patchouli Paisley- Perfumer Lyn Ayre, Coeur d’Esprit Natural Perfumes ~ this perfume is peppery and green with delicate floral notes; nice balance, though a bit fleeting.☺☺☺☺

No #9 (we omitted to use the number nine in order to avoid confusion with number 6 for the Patch test Bunnies)

#10 Tetu- Perfumer JoAnne Bassett, JoAnne Bassett Perfumes ~ dark, smoky, green leather; tenacity, tenacity, tenacity! ☺☺☺☺

#11 Bodhi Sativa – Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, DSH Perfumes ~ this perfume is sharply green and fresh; tangy with juicy, fruity notes throughout; good tenacity. ☺☺☺ and ½ ☺’s

#12 Queen of Punk – Perfumer Amanda Feeley, Esscentual Alchemy ~ this perfume is minty and animalic, like iced fur (?), with powdery, woody and resinous notes holding it all down; good tenacity. ☺☺☺☺

#13 Wild Child- Perfumer Kedra Hart, Opus Oils ~ this perfume is bodacious; sweet, buttery, dense berry notes with heavy florals and an intense incense note – beautiful. I just love the way the fruit notes mingle with the incense notes, like a head shop and a lingerie store smell all wrapped into one. (my #2) ☺☺☺☺☺

#14 Royal Water- Perfumer Rodney Hughes, Therapeutate ~ this perfume sparkles and shines, like polished gold; it’s super sugary, honeyed, lushly powdery and exotic. This is probably giving away way too much personal information, but it reminds me of Kama Sutra honey dust and all the anticipation that that scent entails, but more. I’d be a little concerned that someone might lean over and whisper in my ear, “What did you do last night?” if I wear this perfume out. But that certainly isn’t going to stop me. I’d definitely wear it out, over and over again. (my #1) ☺☺☺☺☺

This was such fun, and as I said before, there wasn’t a bad perfume in the batch. I’d wear them all, and I will. In fact, I’m wearing #12 right now, floating down the river to the Summer of Patchouli Love.

Baby there’s a DRAW!

Comment on this post at Perfume Pharmer to be entered in a DRAW for a 5ml flacon of Patchouli #14 Royal Water by Rodney Hughes for Therapeutate

To be eligible for Perfume Pharmer Draws please be signed up at the top left of the Perfume Pharmer blog page for their feed or email.

DRAW ends July FULL MOON xoxo

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Lavender Distillation to Date

It's been slow going with the lavender distillation. My mum was put into the hospital for heart-related issues and will probably be there for a few days yet. It goes without saying that getting this lavender distilled isn't in the forefront of my mind at the moment, but I am doing it for the few hours in the evenings when I am home and "present". The first go-round went belly up -- I burned the batch and had to toss it and the 32 or so ounces of hydrosol into the garden mulch pile -- this happens when your mind isn't really on your work. And the circulating water issue has had me in knots since I started distillation a few years ago. Checking the cooling chamber every five minutes to see if the water needs draining or icing isn't exactly the most efficient way to create nice hydrosols. Completely by accident, while strolling the aisles of the massive hardware store down the street, I found a small immersible table top fountain pump. I was at the massive hardware store down the street to buy new hosing for the al -embic -- after a half dozen go 'rounds the hose becomes so saturated with the scent of one or another of the oils/hydrosols running through it that it is impossible to get clean again, so frequent replacement of the hose is required. It was just a happy accident that I happened to be poking around in the garden area of the store and saw the little "on sale" sign for the pump. I've been mulling the idea of setting up a recirculating water system for the al -embic for years but never got around to doing it. Finding the right kind of pump was the most difficult part -- if I did manage to locate a pump sufficient for the job, it often came with a very large price tag and extra equipment I didn't want or need, and an old style fish tank pump would have been perfect for the job, but they're becoming a rarity as the newer style running water immersible pumps are the "in" thing with fish lovers. That definitely wouldn't have worked with water spilling into and around the cooling coils . . .

So I got my pump and tubing home and spent the next two hours trying to figure out the best way to get a consistent flow running, and voila! cool recirculating water is in the house. Every so often I have to add a bit of ice into the water pot from which the cooling water is taken, but not nearly as often as before without the pump set-up. I can literally walk away from this and allow the distillation to continue for an hour or two at a time without having to babysit it.

Even with mum not well and sitting alone most of the time in the hospital I am determined to get this distillation business done and done well (so long as mum's got a deck of cards, a pencil and a crossword puzzle book, and some people to watch, she's pretty well entertained for days on end. The only thing missing from her day that would be considered a part of her normal routine is pulling weeds in her gorgeous food garden, which, by the way, is throwing tomatoes like Cy Young, making my big salad bowls verrrry happy). Doctor's orders, once mum's released she is not to be allowed to work the garden for at least a month, no more daily walks, and definitely no more cigs. And the funny thing about mum is this; she isn't worried about dying (it is a definite possibility at this point in time), she's more worried that if she lives, will she be able to dance again. You just gotta love her for that.

Distillation at this point in time is more like meditation than ever before. On the line-up for distillation after the lavender are organic blackberries. That is, if they last without being eaten first.


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