Friday, January 31, 2014

Day 97 (?) ~ OYON, 365 Days of Olfaction ~ Snake Root

Day 97? Who's keeping track anyway?

So, snake root oil. Nifty little perfumery ingredient. Archaic. We'll talk about that in a minute.

Last night I had Moroccan food -- for the second time since I've been living on the central coast -- at a little place in SLO called 'Oasis'. I'm a huge fan of Mediterranean food, and moving from 'home' to here and finding very little in the way of Mediterranean style food (there is a little food stand near Cal Poly called 'Fattoush', which is great, by the way) with sit down dinners and great ambiance, I was really struggling. I know, sounds stupid, struggling without food types. You have to understand, the woman writing this blog could eat her weight in kalamata olives and feta cheese -- daily, not to mention barrels full of hummos and baba ghanouj and romaine dripping with lemon juice and olive oil and mint. Yeah, I'm the chick who hoards 5 lb dry packs of salted dried black olives, Turkish style, for late night snacks when the other grazers go to bed. So, Oasis serves a Moroccan style of Mediterranean food, the chef trained in Fez, the Moroccan food capital, and highly recommends a trip to Morocco to unwind and relax. Anyway, the point is, the food was fabulous, and the tea! The Moroccan tea that Kamir, the chef, blends himself, is soooo good -- worth the trip alone to get a pot of tea. So last night I had a chicken dish with tomatoes and eggplant and perfumed rice with thick slabs of Moroccan bread on the side. Man. Blissing out! And the dolma and baba ghanouj are, like, the absolute best I've ever had. The tea, though, that's what struck me, I want a soap and a perfume that smell like that gorgeous and tasty tea.

Onto the snake root oil.

Got a big, old bottle. Not ol' bottle, I'm not poking you in the ribs with my elbow here. Old. Vintage. I did a little research as I'd only heard of snake root being used in Native American medicine, but apparently there are varieties of so-called snake root oil, and judging from the scent profile (like calamus and German chamomile and ginger lily and a slight hint of valerian root rolled into one) I'd say it's the Canadian snake root, once used in perfumery. It's different. Not necessarily herbal, but perhaps a combination of herb and musk as the valerian-like undertone kind of takes it there. And I can't get over the similarity to German chamomile. It's got that breathy quality that the initial sniff of G. cham produces, like wind off the hills in southern Montana (it's the sages there), or the smell of the estuary in Los Osos, Ca. Very earthy and primal and vibrant with a hint of a fruity note and a back note of mosses. Kind of all over the place.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Life of Pye

I don't want to seem like a careless pet owner, or rather, a person owned by cats, but I shamefully admit that my sweet Pyewacket, the cute little zombie kitty we picked up in November, is not a 'she' as I had previously believed, but a 'he'. How could I go almost three months not knowing my kitten had testicles? My only defense is that that's not the end I snuggle with much. I prefer the end with eyes. So, as it goes, whilst Pye was bouncing about in the back strip (not technically a back yard because the 'back yard' is literally four feet, ten inches wide and runs the entire length of the back of the house, approximately 30 or so feet -- so back strip it is) I noticed somethings back there under his tail. Yes, those somethings, and upon closer inspection, the somethings turned out to be exactly what I thought they were. Pye is prime for plucking, so a call to the vet is in order. My son asked, "So now that we know Pye is a boy kitty, what are we going to call him?"

"Pye." I answered.

"How can we still call him Pye? Isn't Pye a girl's name?"

"I wasn't aware Pye was gender specific. It's like Stacy or Kelly or Jean/Gene."

"Naw," my son said, "Pye's a girl name."

"How do you know? How many Pyewackets have you known in your life?" I asked him.

"None. Just this one."

"Then Pye it is." I said to his retreating back.

"I still think Pye is a girl name." After a moment of silence, I hear him shout down the stairwell, "We should call him Thor."

Pye is currently bounding around in the trimmings of an overgrown honeysuckle bush that runs the length of the back strip fence. It's being trimmed so we can begin to pretty up the strip, plantings and pavers and a wee table and chair, perhaps a string of twinkie lights for summer sitting under the stars.

I've got a working to do, a candle vigil. You know how there are people in your life whose lives always seem to be in chaos? There's always drama and strife and you wonder why the hell does he/she keep doing this crap? It always seems the most desperate who do this, and desperation is a sad, sad thing to witness, especially in someone you love, someone who you know is so much smarter and better than they are behaving. Even when you tell them, "You're better than this. You're smarter than this. Stop torturing yourself," and they say, "Yes, I know. I don't know what's wrong with me," then they twirl off to the next futile adventure that ends in another chaotic mess of emotion and heartbreak and pain. The problem is (I'm simplifying here) that when you're young, you look for that missing piece and you search it out in others, that piece that you think will make you feel whole and good and 'normal', but the truth is, and we learn this when we get older (too bad it's usually much, much older), that the piece is in us all along. We need to find ourselves. Of course, as I said, this is over simplifying the case here, as other issues are involved -- drugs, alcohol, abuse, mental illness -- far too complicated for this armchair psychologist to work through. So anyway, the working is to calm things down. To give the person for whom I'm doing the working the chance at clarity, if just for a moment, the chance to try to figure it out before the chaos ensues once more.

I wrote about that cocoa resinoid yesterday -- and what lovely stuff that is -- but today I'm going to write about a different oil from the gifted stash of aromatics, a big bottle simply labeled 'MANE' with the handwritten words 'Essence Romarin Tunisie', which translated is: Tunisian Rosemary. I have nearly a liter of this oil, and the scent of it is fabulous -- I mean, if you love rosemary, as I do. It reminds me of the soap shop in Columbia, California. My first exposure to natural handmade soap was in Columbia back in the early 90's. And the first bars of natural handmade soap I used were rosemary and lavender. This rosemary smells like that long, lost Columbia Soap Works rosemary -- fresh and herbaceous, astringent and clean, it digs in deep and really wakes you up with notes of pine and lemon, and hints of camphor. I have enough here to make several batches of rosemary soap. I'm thinking big hefty bars of rosemary soap with a splash of patchouli should do the trick. Then maybe another batch of fat bars with rosemary and spike lavender. Spring may prove to be the season of soap around here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Washing Up the Blues

Today started out okay, then it got better, then (now) I feel so . . . blue. I think it has to do with the fact that I read some really nasty things on the blogosphere about one of my favorite vendors and wondered if they were true. What I receive from this vendor has always been top notch stuff, things I really enjoy, things that work! But reading what I read, man, it just kind of knocks the wind out of the sail of enthusiasm I have for this vendor. I feel very sad for her, and mistrust has crept in. Darn it! I will continue to use her services and products, but there will also be that niggling feeling in the back of my mind about what's gone on. This is common 'out here', in 'net land, the politics within a given community (perfume, magic, soap, candles, authors, underwater basket weavers) can be vicious and unfair and ruin a reputation, if not an entire livelihood. So, in a show of support, because until I personally experience something negative from this vendor, I won't judge. I've just now ordered something from her. I apologize for being cryptic and not naming names. I'm not here to 'out' anybody. I'm just making an observation of why my mood may have taken a sudden nosedive. That's all.

I got a bunch of big-ass bottles of essential oils and stinky stuff gifted to me recently, and I was playing around with the 'cocoa resinoid', a fat liter bottle about 1/3 full of splishy-splashy liquid, and about 1/4 of solid resin. I had to warm the bottle in hot water in order to mix some of the resin into the liquid menstruum, and when I did, wow! When I first sniffed this bottle, I got a weird alcoholy smell from it, not like a diluent, but as a characteristic of the cocoa resinoid itself. Too much alcohol smell. So when I warmed it and mixed it in with the resinoid, I got the full effect of that cocoa -- it is so intoxicating! Animalic, warm, ambery, chocolatey (of course!), hints of tobacco and cherry and plum. It's incredible.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Day 96 ~ OYON 365 Days of Olfaction ~ Vintage Costus, Charabot & Cie

Every day I tell myself that I need to buy a lottery ticket because on the off-off-off-off chance that I might win some day, I dream of taking myself to France and Morocco and Turkey and Bulgaria, and dragging along a few friends for the heck of it, but I find myself feeling so grateful every day, for the relationships I have, the friends I have, my family, the wee ones and the ones not-so-wee, who make every day a love story for me, and I think, who needs the stinkin' lottery?

I'd still like to win ~ ha!

I haven't wrapped my head completely around my mother's passing. I still feel her here, still see her around every corner, hear her voice, so how can she be gone? This soothes me, this idea that she's hanging around, checking in, helping me through this, even if it is a bit daft to believe so. I think she sends people my way who know just the right things to say and do so I don't fall apart or cling too tightly where I ought not to cling. So, it's a process, like everything else in life.

Today is day 96, and the scent of this day is costus from a cache of vintage oils I picked up over the weekend. This particular costus is presented by Charabot & Cie, there is a lot number indicated on the bottle, and a code that I am assuming was the previous chemist owner's system of keeping track of what's what in his/her vast collection.

So costus. This particular extraction smells like a goat. I have a few very old examples of costus, and a single newer extraction, and all of them smell of rubber with a back note of fur. Not this Charabot & Cie costus -- it is straight-up animal, muddy fur, wet dirty hair, goats in the rain. There is a very distinctive sweetness to this costus I've not experienced with other costus extractions. While the previously studied costus smelled industrial and burnt and rubbery, this smells like someone distilled the entire skin of a goat in a vat of sweet butter.

So what is it good for if you can't use it in classical perfumery? Incense, of course! Musky and animalic and goaty, at low doses, would add a beautiful warmth to kyphi incense.

Yesterday was a day of exploration. I walked the botanical garden, strolled along the cliffs by the sea, and had a lovely dinner of sole stuffed with crab and shrimp and covered in fresh Hollandaise sauce. It was a perfect day.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I've Gone and Done it Again.

Stuck my foot in my mouth. Happens every single time I interject something into a conversation about politics, perfume or otherwise. Am I sorry I said it? No. Am I sorry it bothered you? Yes, because now I feel like I have to explain myself to put things back to rights. But I'm not going to.

Cryptic messages to the mysterious unnamed 'you' -- bothersome. So unlike me (anymore).

I'm getting ready to hit up some seed companies for heirloom seeds for veggies, and then in the back strip which serves as a back yard, I'm locating plants to put there that will attract the fluttery and buzzy insects. The deep freeze in December killed the majority of my flowering plants. Now with the balmy winter weather here (I know you folks in the rest of the USA don't want to hear this) all my surviving plants are beginning to bud early and flower. It's warm and breezy today so I opened the sliding glass door to the back strip to let in the air flowing in from the Pacific. Smells of salt and rain. Perfect napping weather.

A shipment of books came in today, mine, the evaluation workbooks. The cover looks amazing. I love the art nouveau look, and the colors. If you hadn't already noticed, I'm partial to autumnal colorations.

I thought I would sit and write a bit here today, but my son's got friends over and they're beating the hell out of a punching bag in the garage and it's terribly distracting.

I think I'll have that nap now. With a pillow over my ears.

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Things to Share

This post serves as a forewarning of sorts. I feel like I'm seeing everything in my life differently. I kind of would like to share a few secret finds and ideas with whoever comes to read this blog. Life's too short and mostly unfulfilled. I'm hoping that in future, 'here' serves as a place to find a tiny bit of what you may be searching for. That is all :)

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Croissants and Soothing the Soul

I'm teaching myself the basics of croissants, then I'm going to fill them with wonderful things. Rose, orange blossom, jasmine, gardenia cream cheese(s), lavender sugar, bergamot sugar, savory bacon, prune and patchouli filling -- oh, the possibilities are just zinging about. I copied a few recipes off the 'net as I have yet to discover which box my Julia Child cookbooks are hidden -- everyone knows what a perfectionist she was, and if it weren't for her, my bechamel would be clotty -- so I don't have the expert's version as yet. As with anything, practice makes perfect, and tweaking (not twerking) is allowed so long as no one gets hurt. I feel I have at least a half dozen more practice batches to go before I get where I would like to be, then the real experimentation will begin. Can't hardly wait.

I've been slowly coming out of the fog, what with mom and the holidays and obligations and expectations and life and death and new beginnings and sad endings -- it's a cycle, and it's how you handle it that makes you who you are. I cry every day, and I laugh every day, so there is somewhat of a balance going on, though I've probably been in my pajamas more these past weeks than in regular clothes, and I haven't gone out much except for what's absolutely necessary. Perhaps still teetering a bit to the sad side. Every day the fog lifts higher, the more intent I become on future plans, future creations. Again, can't hardly wait.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Pink Lotus Kyphi

The newest kyphi incarnation, the batch made with pink lotus wax, tuberose concrete, and persimmon is nearly done. There is a lot of wax in this kyphi, making it burn a bit more smokey, but the scent is ethereal and divine. I added a bit of bee cappings with all the lovely stuck on honey and royal jelly. It smells of warm skin and sugar syrup. I'm upping the price as well since I undercut myself on the kyphi offerings. I am asked all the time why I sell my kyphi so inexpensively and my answer is usually because I feel that it is an offering of sorts, something magical and divine, something otherworldly, and a price cannot be fixed on divinity. But, I'm in business and my time and efforts are worth cash, to put it bluntly. And my kyphi gets better and better with each batch and the lessons learned from each batch. There is a science to ratios of resin to spice and dried fruit to the whole and types of alcohol used to extract scent from various parts of the kyphi.

Half-pound Pink Lotus Kyphi globes "fermenting"

The list of ingredients for Pink Lotus Kyphi is:

Ambrette seed
Sweet Moscato wine
Pink Lotus wax
Dragon's blood
Black sage
Sumatra benzoin
Tuberose concrete
Bee cappings
Siam benzoin
Whole red rose buds
Jasmine sambac absolute

Monday, January 06, 2014

My dear, sweet mum passed away December 22, just hours after I visited with her and gave her a Yule gift. Understandably, I have not been myself these past weeks as the hours drag on and purpose seems to rise and disappear like smoke. I spent a week at her house, cleaning closets and packing away the items of her daily life. She wanted to be sent off to heaven with little to no fanfare, but I don't know how I can do that. We've planned a small gathering, a memorial, for January 18 at my son's house, the son who lives across the street from mom's place, the son who made her feel special by visiting and puttering about the property for her.

All I can do is think about how much was taken from her in her life, but how strong and resilient she was in the face of those roadblocks. And funny to the end. I think mostly about our last conversations, how she'd always remind me that I have to go to Paris (for her, Paris encompassed all of France) and walk the streets, at which point we'd laugh that my mother was implying I'd be prostituting or homeless in France. After the laughter she'd become serious again and say, "No. Really. Live and be happy. Just be happy."

Mom loved to dance. Loved it with a passion. Our last day together was a long lamentation of how she could no longer do that. "No, you don't understand," she'd say when someone would suggest she get up and bust a move, "I'm lucky I got from where I was before to here." COPD, congestive heart failure, and a double aortic aneurism had turned her once busy life (gardening, dancing, traveling) into one of stagnation. That final day she said, "If I can't dance, then I'm done. I'm done." In that moment she may have thought if she could turn back time and go back 40 years or more and put down the pack of cigarettes once and for all, and extracted herself from a harmful and stressful relationship, she would have done so in an instant. But wouldn't we all?

Things for me will get back to normal, or whatever normal will be now, and I'll be creating and dreaming with much more purpose I think.


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