Thursday, January 31, 2013

Only 936 Hits Away!

Believe it or not, your humble apothecary is only 936 page hits away from 100,000 hits total for this silly little blog. That's celebration worthy, no? I'll have to think of something spectacular to celebrate -- giveaways? Free classes? Well, it is a way off, now isn't it? That 936 could take a year . . .

In the meantime -- I've just come off a week of the flu. Yes. I got the bug. First time in years. Misery and anti-emetics prevailed. I can honestly say I have not been this ill since I was a child. There were moments when I literally wanted to dig out of my skin and lay raw somewhere else besides in that sick body. I slept 36 hours straight, then another 16 after being awake only eight hours, my head burning from the inside out, my stomach in knots, my skin prickly and chilled.

So now that it's over, or very nearly over, I am ever so grateful to awaken to sunny skies and my lovely window garlic stretching for light, my car is mobile once again, I have a job, and aside from the bout with the flu, I am relatively healthy. Good things, all of them.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nine Heavens

The new soap is up on our Etsy shop ~ I'm very pleased with how it turned out, yet another lesson in scent alchemy.

Last week I made a lovely bread that I'd like to share with you now -- no, I'm not mailing you slices -- I'm offering the recipe so you can try your hand at it and find out for yourself whether you feel the same as I do about scentedibles -- or perfumed food, or whatever you'd like to call it.  I didn't begin with a recipe, just a nose for delectable fragrances, and 30 years of bread making experience under my belt (and it shows -- also under my belt).

You Name It Bread (yeah, name it)

6-8 cups of whole wheat or white flour
2 cups warm water
2.5 tblsp. active dry yeast
3 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tblsp. dried lavender buds
2 tblsp. fresh rosemary, or 1 tblsp. dry rosemary herb
2 tblsp. honey
2 tsp salt

The warm water needs to be at 120 to 130 degrees F (49-55 degrees C) in order to activate the yeast. In a large bowl pour the warmed water and take its temperature, once it reaches the required markers, add in the honey and yeast and stir well, then add in the lavender, rosemary and salt and allow the mixture to set in a warm place until the yeast becomes bubbly and foamy, then add in the oil and stir. Slowly sprinkle in the flour one cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough becomes too difficult to stir, then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and add in more flour until it can be kneaded without sticking to the hands and fingers. Knead for five minutes or so, then roll the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl and cover the bowl with a warm wet dish towel and place the bowl in a warm place. When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, roll the dough into a baguette or long loaf shape, place the dough on an oiled cookie sheet and allow the dough to rest and rise, about half an hour. Place the cookie sheet into a 400 degree F (204 degrees C) for 30 to 40 minutes until the crust is light brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and let the bread cool before cutting (if you cut it while it is still hot, it will deflate). While the bread is still slightly warm, cut slices and smear the slices with honey and serve.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Oh, the Horror!

So this is what I get for all my hard work during the holidays? I'm certain you would like to know what I am talking about, right? I'm talking about the scale I stepped on a few weeks ago, the one that ruined my day, my week, and may be working on my month as well. The scale told me I had gained six pounds since October 2012. Six. Read it and weep (or laugh, I don't care). I knew something was off! My pants were a bit snug, and I was feeling a tad more winded than usual after biking to work. You have to understand, six pounds is a big deal because I am a very short deal. Six pounds on my frame feels like a mush ball has been attached to my butt crack, just sitting there, dragging everything down with it. And since I am not thin, an extra six pounds can feel like a thousand. It's the difference between bending over to tie my shoes, or hiking my leg up on a chair to tie my shoes; the difference between the second set of hooks on the bra, or the first set. The difference between standing at the blending table to put together elixirs, or having to slide a cheek onto a stool for balance. I lay full blame for those six pounds on the scentedibles I created over the holidays. Those goodies changed my life in more ways than one. What was I to do? I am the perfumer, I have the discerning palate, so who else was going to give those goodies the proper attention? I still, to this day, dream of those mocha tangerine patchouli mallows -- tossed into a cup of hot dark coffee -- heaven.

So now I'm working on shedding those scentedible induced pounds, and more if I can manage it. I've put the scented food idea to better use seasoning raw food, cooked vegetarian, and steamed rice. I've been eating healthier since Saturday, the 19th, and already I've dropped three pounds. I've also been biking harder, pushing myself on the ride home (wouldn't want to do it on the way to work and show up a sweaty smelly heaving mess) to expend a few extra calories, instead of meandering through the neighborhood looking at all the old homes and odd people and strange 'happenings' that are a constant around here. I would not be kidding if I said it is possible to be witness to at least two very weird things a day, and dozens of mildly strange things, if one sat upon my porch and watched the neighborhood be itself. Weird as in two men sword fighting with fence posts, in earnest, until one gives up and they both split before the police show up, or a panhandler walking up the walkway and onto the verandah, plucking a columbine flower out of the pot, and then asking for spare change ... and a cigarette. I find it very odd that someone would just walk up to a house and ask for money and a smoke, and odder still that two grown men would go after one another with big sticks right out in the street, but hey, that's the Tower, evidently. They even have a Facebook page. The Tower District. Bonkers, man.

Off to work at the J O B. Some day my ship will come in and I won't have to do that gig anymore. Dreams are great, aren't they?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I had the strangest and most disturbing dream last night. I dreamed that I had failed to review an up-and-coming perfumer's perfume and because of it, he claimed I was the reason his perfume business went out of business. He was very angry, and I was very bothered by it, thinking, how can I have any influence on whether this person's business goes bust? Who am I to hold that much power and control? Now, don't get me wrong, I don't believe that I do hold any power or control over anything, within or without the perfumery realm, as demonstrated by the complete rearrangement of my personal life this past year, and my failure to create an acclaimed perfume in over three years.

I think the deeper issue hidden within this dream was about expectations. Mine and his. During the dream I felt his pain, remembering distinctly, especially during the early years, how it felt to send my creations off and wondering what they must think, that their approval means my success, that they could 'make or break' me with their public reviews. I still get a little jolt of anxiety when I hear someone's written something about one of my creations, I just don't let it dictate how I feel about myself, for one, and my future as an artist, for two. But back to that dream. I did accept some responsibility for this person feeling the way he did, I mean, I should have done the review, right? That would have been the conscientious thing to do. I mean, you don't request samples with the intent to review and then forget about it. But the sad truth is, I have. I have done so, and it's been done to me. It's not personal, but it can be damned aggravating, and it's certainly not cause for giving up one's dream.

The soap I made yesterday was cut this morning after a few pokes in the rib and some winking about the 'design' embedded on top. No, it wasn't entirely on purpose, and absolutely no, it doesn't contain any of the real stuff in it -- gross that you asked, though, thanks for that, I mean, really, that goes way beyond Fight Club disgusting, and since when is it green? Ew.

I've been reworking the damned course manual into something more public-user-friendly and it's not going so well. I don't feel confident enough in my writing skills to allow someone with real expertise on the subject to edit or go over the draft, and I wouldn't want to burden anyone with it, and I have to have this newest version done by mid-February or so. It's not a complete rewrite so the bones and some meat are already there, but it's adding and subtracting and streamlining, and the streamlining is kicking my ass. Is the history of perfume really important to a perfume apprentice? As interesting as the history of perfume is, the sheer volume of information regarding the subject is unmanageable for me. And who's perfume history to include? All of them, from Japan to the shores of Morocco, to the temples of the Maya? Or just condense it down to the biggies? Arabia, Rome, Greece, Egypt, early European? Then there are the discrepancies -- was it Elizabeth of Hungary who's perfumer 'invented' the first alcohol based perfume, or was it the court perfumer of King Charles of France? Or does anyone really freakin' know?! Does it matter to a perfume apprentice anyway?  Personally I think it's just a lot of words taking up space (in my book) that would be better served being written by someone else with much more access to information and resources than I. Though the bare bones of history might serve to pique the interest of a perfume apprentice -- see? This is what I'm talking about.

And another subject I've been bandying about is the restructuring of the course. Over the past four plus years since the Academy opened its cyber doors, we've had a string of promising perfume apprentices apply, study, and eventually complete the course -- we've also seen a number of them drop out and return later, quit halfway through, and even those who've paid their tuition and never bothered showing up to the classes -- ever. We began the course with a one-year, moved on to a 6-month, and are now toying with the idea of creating a 3-month super course, more in line with a workshop. It requires immersion from day one, which I think better matches the expectations of the students. Who wants to spend the first three months of a 6-month course reading? Certainly not me, and, unfortunately, it has taken me all these years to figure that out. I think the crucial question I had not asked myself when structuring the course is 'what would I want from a course like this?' What would be my expectations? What would make me feel that my time and money were well-spent? I thought it was bombardment of information, dazzle with the depth and breadth of information pertaining to the subject, keep 'em busy reading and pretend that's enough until reaching the meat and potatoes of the course. But it's not enough. Obviously. What would I want from a course like this? Immediate, impactful, unbalancing immersion. Like learning a new language, which in a sense creating perfuming is like learning a new language, the best way is to jump in with both feet, no hesitation, no time for second thoughts or insecurities, just get in there and get started.

So that's where I'm at. So much to do, so many distractions and interruptions, so little time, so many excuses.

Now I'm off to make bread. Yesterday's excursion to the Tower was fruitful -- I found a lovely Italian style (made in Taiwan) hand painted 5-quart stew pot with a lid and brass handles at the thrift store for the price of bus fare across town. I'm going to put it to good use today and make an onion rich potato soup to go with that bread I'm getting ready to put together.

Nice talking to you.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday Soap

We woke extra early this morning, especially for a weekend. So I conducted my usual morning ritual ~ set up the teapot, warmed the honey, and sat down in front of this thing, the computer, in hopes of finding inspiration, and realized for 1,297th time that it's not here. For some reason which I cannot pinpoint, Facebook was especially depressing, except for the bit of magic posted by Patrick Contreras regarding his educational tour of Senegal. That was nice. But everything else seemed hollow, self-aggrandizing, infommercial-ish. So I made soap instead of recklessly following links and came up with a little number I like to call Nine Heavens Alchemy, a simple soap base formulation of just pure extra virgin organic olive oil and virgin organic coconut oil, into which I poured a lovely aged perfumery formulation of musk root, patchouli absolute, labdanum absolute, ginger root, ginger lily, jasmine sambac, saffron absolute, frangipani, rose otto, petitgrain combava and bergamot and a wee bit of coconut milk to give it that lovely slide. Smells like -- well, nine heavens! Please, no snarky remarks about the familiar yet odd design atop the soap ~ ha!

Now we're off to shower and then we're prowling the Tower -- the thrift store beckons ...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Day 86 ~ One Year, One Nose

Welcome to the wonderful world of tea. Nothing seems quite so aromatic and titillating as a box of exotic tea samples -- I suppose only if you are me is that statement true. You know how I adore opening a box of olfactory wonders. So tea. Lapsang Souchong to be precise, China black, organic, purchased as a sample from the Upton Tea Company (who, by the way, give generously sized samples and a huge variety should you choose to go completely tea-crazy on them). I've been drinking quite a lot of these 'sample' packets of tea from Upton lately. For example, breakfast was a wedge of plain toast and a mug of Chun Mee, China green, that was delicate and floral and sweet with nary a bitter edge, followed up by a mug (which I am currently sipping now) of Darjeeling TGBOPI (I'm not sure if that's a word or an anacronym, but just try to pronounce it) that is smooth and full-bodied and enhanced with a drizzle of local honey and a splash of cream. But I'm here today, day 86, to discuss Lapsang Souchong. My friend Tonie turned me onto Lapsang several years ago, she also pointed me in the direction of the Upton Tea Company. Lapsang Souchong is a smoked tea, and the wood used, pine, contributes to the resultant flavor profile as much as the black tea itself. This particular Lapsang Souchang is perfume note worthy. It literally smells of the wet tarry remains of a snuffed inferno. I remember my first cuppa Lapsang, how I hesitated taking that first sip, scared senseless that it would roll across my tongue like a steaming cow pie, just as it smelled brewed, and I'd have to go back to Tonie and tell her, "Ack! What the hell are you thinking drinking that stuff?!" But that didn't happen. It tasted strong, for sure, but it wasn't at all a flavor closely related to its scent. It was heady and dark with very little of the smoky tarry aspects coming through. And surprisingly, not bitter at all (unless you goofed and left the bag in the water too long). In a word, that Lapsang was smooth.

Lapsang Souchong, day 86 ~ burnt campfires, blackened barbequed beef brisket, cade, nagarmotha, choya nakh, all these things have scent profiles very similar to that of this well smoked Lapsang. There is even a strong barbecue sauce tonality to it, something honied and sweet, like burnt sugar. It's an appealing and repulsive scent at once, but I attribute that more to what the scent is coming off of rather than the scent itself. If this scent were wafting from a big hunk of barbecued tri-tip beef, it would be salivation-worthy, however coming off a packet of tea -- well, kind of boggles the brain. I opened this packet of Lapsang this morning with the intent to drink a big mug of it to give myself a bracing push to go out and meet the day, or rather, meet the J O B head-on. But when I smelled it, I thought, naw, I'm not going to drink this, I'm going to tincture it. So perhaps within the upcoming days (which could lead to months, or even years, you know how I work out my timelines) I will discuss the tincture of Lapsang Souchong, and what I put it into perfume wise.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Day 85 ~ One Year, One Nose

I had to check which day I was on -- all this time, since the last OYON post in November, I've been thinking I was on day 87 or so -- wishful thinking on my part.

So here we are, day 85, and I have again received a box of aromatic goodies from far, far away. Not really that far, but farther than I can ride my bike.

I am dumbstruck by guiacwood, Albert Vielle, lot 24917, origin Paraguay, date 3/2007. This is the essence for day 85.

I have other examples of guiacwood and they all seem to be more on the leathery side, smoky, robust, dark, reminiscent of a tobacconist's shop. But not this guiacwood. It's sweet and floral, like waxy, buttery tuberoses, a hint of delicate pink rose, a drop of spicy carnation upon a bed of soft, creamy suede. I've read this particular material being described as tarry, leathery, smoky, harsh -- but I'm not getting that here. This guiac pops, it fizzes, it rolls out of the bottle like a lush carpet of heady florals with a hint of cassia and the most delicate of smoky tones.

I shall hoard guiacwood A.V. #24917.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

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