Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Just a Quick Note

Just a quick note here (maybe) -- I'm feeling the hay fever in ways that I can hardly describe. I'm in misery. It kicked into high gear yesterday when I began a batch of incense and forgot to wear my face mask. Yes, folks, you HAVE to wear a face mask when grinding herbs and resins or you're more likely as not to have a reaction in your sinuses from breathing in all the powdery dust created. I don't know why I thought I'd be okay, because in the past I've NEVER been okay to not wear a mask while grinding. I suppose it was my enthusiasm taking over, making me reckless and stupid. I was already suffering from just regular old normal hay fever from the oaks and honeysuckle and olives blooming, but I guess I thought I wasn't suffering enough. My eyes are nearly swollen shut (though on an up note, all the baggy eye wrinkles are gone) and my sinuses literally burn.

A couple of projects were begun yesterday; one incense, and one scent formulation for lotions. I'm also writing down the bones for a couple of perfumes for Lylli's Petals. We had a meeting her last visit and she agreed that the peach perfume should be completed before the rose perfume. She seemed genuinely intrigued by a lily-of-the-valley perfume too, and she indicated she'd like a marshmallow perfume some time in the future. So those are on the list for this summer. AND I have a special request for re-batches of Serj, Oshiba, and a custom perfume -- this customer wants 'barrels' of these scents for future use. And speaking of barrels, I've been on the hunt for used wine barrels to use in the production of apple cider vinegar for the skincare toners. What I hope to do is pick apples in the fall at one of the many local organic apple farms, and use them in a single, very large batch of apple cider vinegar to be used throughout the year. Now that I'm working on in-home studio space, and potentially off-site studio space, I'll have plenty of room for these larger, though still quite small in industrial terms, projects.

As I am prone to feats of derring-do, I plan to take a walk today in the direction of the second-hand store in search of another herb grinder (coffee grinder), in the swirling, twirling, pollen-filled wind blowing through the mountains. Wish me luck that I don't die from an accident brought on by a sneezing jag. I might sneeze myself off the curb and into the street, and be crushed under the wheels of a toddler on a tricycle cruising down the bike lane with his mother Jane and his dog Spot.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lotions, and Snow Balls, and Smoothies (oh, my!)

Lotions. What's your opinion on them? I just purchased a gallon of organic lotion base into which I plan to add some delicious organic oils (probably hemp or borage), and then some simple little scents (probably blood orange, patchouli, and vanilla) and put those up in the apothecary. Later, after I finish a bunch of these projects that are piling up, I will formulate pretty and intense perfumery-style scents to add to the lotion base. Some things with more complexity and nuance. You may be wondering why I, the crazy apothecary experimentalist (word?), am not creating my own lotion base. Good question -- or wonder? . . . because I'm not very good at it. The pieces and parts of lotion making are complex, plus there's the preservation issue. It's a bit out of my wheelhouse. The scenting of said lotion, however, that I can do. Why lotions and not oils? No particular reason. I prefer oils during the cooler months as they keep my skin better moisturized, while the warmer months require something a bit less heavy than oil -- a water-based lotion. This stuff is really light, perfect for summer wear, made up of water, organic coconut oil, organic sunflower seed oil, shea butter, apricot kernel oil, aloe vera, a naturally occurring (though perhaps here a 'nature identical') preservative, Vitamin E, and some naturally derived binders (so the oils will mix with the water). Giving this truncated description, you can see why I have no plans to make this stuff from scratch. Getting this to work requires warming and stirring and adding just the right amount of this with that and . . . well, at this point in the game, I am completely disinterested. And relying entirely on the honesty of my supplier.

Now that my life has changed again, I'm thinking of becoming much more pro-active in terms of my health. I'm getting 'up there' in age, and I could be in much better health with some effort. Today I begin with meals of smoothies from the fruit bowl. Right now it's a zesty banana and orange juice smoothie with ginger, celery, cucumber, pear, cranberries, and sunflower seeds. Later I'm thinking more celery, cucumber, red pear, cabbage, and perhaps an avocado. I'm a depression eater, so when I get in a funk, I eat crap. When I first moved here from Fresno, I missed my family so much and felt so out of place here, that I once sat in front of the TV watching 'Where the Heart Is' and ate an entire box of Sno Balls. Now I have a super-duper snazzy professional smoothie making machine, and a new bicycle. And I'm on the hunt for new hiking shoes. And I'm working on building my business and I can't be an out-of-shape moose for the hurdles ahead. Fat I can handle; not being able to walk up a flight of stairs without getting a cramp is out of the question.

The endless hours of free time stretch before me, and I plan to fill them with as much adventure and experimentation as I can.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Kombucha and Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

My first batch of kombucha turned out beautifully -- a nicely fermented, not too crazy pickly, sort of sweet lavender bergamot kombucha, with a second batch already mothering away. It'll be at least three weeks before the second batch is ready to bottle, so I have some time to think about what to use for flavoring, and time to savor the two big bottles I have made. I love kombucha, especially the perfumery flavored types, like lavender, and jasmine, or rose. Rose is rare, so that will probably be the next batch. No one else here drinks the stuff, so I can flavor them in any crazy combination I choose.

I've also been making my own organic apple cider vinegar for skincare purposes, and now I'm going to share these delightful creations -- well, not right now now, but as soon as this batch is finished doing her thing. In early June she'll be ready to filter, then the botanicals will be added, and then another month will go by before that part of the potion has done its thing, so she'll be done and ready to bottle for sale in early July. But she's made beginning to end right here in my little studio. No bottles of Dr. Bragg are hidden away in the HP closet, the botanicals are the best quality around, and my hope is that the ultimate skincare juice is peerless.

These pictures are from almost two weeks into the fermentation process, and it's looking perfect. Well, it's relative as to how perfect it looks -- to you it might look like hot garbage, to me it looks like heaven. And it's beginning to take on the acetic acid smell (vinegar) with a lot of sweet apple nuances.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


It only strikes at night, when I'm here alone (hubs works nights) and little feet aren't digging into my back in the middle of the night. I love my alone time -- passionately -- but this is different. This feeling reminds me of when I lived in the Van Ness house and was alone there in that huge, hollow house in the weeks before I moved to the central coast. It feels like a little bit of my purpose has been shed. But you know me, I'll be fine once I'm elbow deep in a vat of Kyphi mush.

Yesterday I had a very long phone conversation with a dear friend whose marriage of 28 years is coming apart at the seams. She vacillated between being deeply distraught to being righteously angry and borderline vindictive -- y'know, the normal feelings one feels in these circumstances. What struck me was that she, like me, is an artist at heart and spent nearly her entire marriage out of the job market to pursue art and creativity, while raising children, and now that she's forced into the job market, she has few skills one might consider job-worthy. It's especially difficult for women past the age of 45 to be taken seriously, and this is usually a time when we need this type of support the most. We've raised our children to adulthood, often our marriages dissolve, and we're left with cobwebby art studios, a seemingly bleak future, and a decade or more before we're eligible for social security. I plan to do something about that situation, once I'm set up in the studio and it goes retail. Older women have a lot to offer in terms of experience and intuition, and coupled with a few youngsters with wild imaginations and no sense of a ceiling on the possibilities, the combination can be explosively beneficial to a business.

So far this month I've gotten five requests for more Egyptian and otherwise types of Kyphi. I'll probably begin a couple next week. They won't be ready until the end of summer, and one may end up being put away for a year or more to really set the scent. It seems like all my 'projects' are culminating in mid- to late-summer. F12016CH is still ageing in its diluted form, and already I see that it needs more extending notes -- a heavier butt, if you will. It doesn't sit firmly on the skin, but floats away and feels unfinished. I'm surprised how at a higher dilution rate it seems more fruity/violet than it did in its whole form. It's nice, it's just kind of thin. It reminds me of Easter smells -- Peeps and white chocolate and frozen berries, and the scent that rises while rustling through tall green grass and damp soil for hidden eggs. Maybe I'm just taking this sh*t too seriously! Naw.

Oh! The tea shop that I made soaps for has them packaged up and ready to sell:

Nice, eh?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Give Me Civet, or Give Me Death!

I spoke too soon about how easily I'm sailing through spring -- the hayfever is kicking my a** right now. The hubs keeps pushing nasal sprays, and I keep telling him no way. First of all, I like saline sprays, which we don't have right now, and I won't use nasal sprays if someone else has used them. I'm not interested in spraying some booger busting solution up my nose when I know YOU used the same sprayer two weeks ago when you had a cold sore on your lip, and a mucousy case of bronchitis. Ditto with the neti pot. Using your nasal spray or neti pot would be like wearing your dirty underwear. Hiding personal nasal sprays around here is a joke -- even the grown ups have no sense (except for me, of course). I'm not using nasal sprays, but I am using the Benadryl; only at night, though. Otherwise, I'm just honking into tissue and keeping indoors -- where the cats are right now because it's cold outside. So basically I'm miserable no matter where I go.

Despite the swollen nasal passages, I'm still able to smell stuff. Sometimes. It goes off and on like a bad light bulb, but when it's on, it's interesting. I'm still going through the things I received from Dan at AG. I just noticed that there's donkey dung in one of the packets. The words donkey dung are written in quotations, so maybe it's not authentic donkey dung, but something else that's just called donkey dung? Or maybe it really is what it says it is. I'm afraid to open the bag. Last time I did that (with the raunchy tobacco) I got zebra sh*t. Really, today, I'm over the outhouse smells. Give me civet, or give me death! (In this case, death would be preferred).

Things around here are beginning to feel . . . good. I still have moments where I miss the kids' presence something awful, but for the most part, the quiet soothes me. I am filled with peace when I imagine going for a walk completely unhindered, or riding my bike without first arranging babysitting schedules. Or thinking. Or sitting. Or using the bathroom without separation anxiety getting in the way. Or making dinners people will eat without a fuss. It feels nice, like I'm wearing clothes that suit me. I don't know that I'd be this put together if I didn't have my work to look forward to. One thing that's really pushed to the fore since they've all moved out is getting that studio. I'm about to walk down there and slip another note into the mail slot. I've looked at other spaces, and even been offered a space at the tea shop, but nothing else feels right like this spot I've been looking at for six months. It's THE place. Period. If I don't get it, I won't fall to pieces, but I will be very disappointed. And then I'll look for something else -- something that feels right.

Monday, May 09, 2016

It's Done

They've gone. Their new place is set up, they both start work tomorrow, and life goes on. I'm sitting here staring at an empty room in dire need of cleaning, and remnants of childhood tucked here and there -- a wee sock in a corner, an empty bottle of 'bubbles' in the bathroom sink, a torn 'Frozen' poster lying crumpled on the floor. I'm sure the weeks and months will continue to present these pieces of a past life. Changes like these change us. Every time it happens, it's like hitting the reset button, time to begin again, under new and different circumstances. I vacillate between weeping and jumping for joy. Weeping wins more often. I'll get over it. I have so every other time it's happened. Now that it's done, I feel the brakes on the creativity train slowing me down a bit. It's a temporary hitch as there are dozens of new things lined up -- busy work, productive work, inspired work, goal oriented work. Sadness tends to temporarily paralyze me creatively, so I seek escape in books -- which isn't an entirely terrible thing to have happen. I mean, there are worse things to lose myself in, like meth or heroine or bottles and bottles and bottles of blue gin. Tempting as those things are, I think I'll stick with the less destructive book regimen, y'know, just in case I have to drive somewhere later.

The time consuming projects are still brewing away, and beautifully so. These things are mostly hands-off and require only time to finish. Later, like June something, is when I'll be working to get things put together. Packaging happens in July -- early to mid-July. And somewhere in there are a few weeks of R&D scheduled, to make sure that what I'm creating actually does what it's supposed to. It amazes me now how things I poo-poo'd and waved away as too archaic years ago fascinate me to no end today. I blame it all on Kyphi. She is the culprit. It was that slow, ritualized process that did it, bringing to the fore the love and passion of the work. It feels better than it did when I was in the early learning/obsessive phase of perfumery. I'm still pretty obsessed, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't learning something every day, but the ardor is a bit cooler than it was in the beginning. The honeymoon is over and now the deep, respectful love has set in. The enduring stuff.

I got a bunch of raw (and I do mean raw) materials from Dan of Apothecary's Garden. I loved some of the samples so much, I immediately ordered other things, and I've got my eye on a few other items I want, but I'm saving those purchases for later. I got some boswellia thurifera, a frankincense resin, that I'm sure I've never experienced before. It's lovely, and smells like no other frankincense I've smelled before. It's powdery and nearly floral and presents as a whole, complete, compounded incense -- crazy. I can't wait to put it into something. There is also a small sampling of onycha (shells) from the Red Sea. My nose is bruised from all the oak pollen in the air, so I can't get a real hold on what this stuff smells of, so I will have to wait for further evaluation. As it is, it smells of nothing, but it's kind of an interesting looking . . . thing. It is to be used in incense, but since I can't smell it, I can't be certain where it would go in an incense, or why (referencing the lack of scent). There were a lot of other things I got from Dan, strange things, things I've never heard of before, like raunchy tobacco from Ethiopia, which, honestly, I think is probably something like camel or elephant dung because, well, that's what it smells like. Zoo animal poop. A few years back, I was meeting with a very famous aromatherapist/perfumer who had ordered ambergris from someone in one of the many Yahoo perfume groups, and when she got the 'ambergris', she knew something was fishy (or not so fishy) and had the sample tested -- turned out the ambergris was camel poop and grease. Crazy, huh? For all those perfumers who bought that ambergris, tinctured it, and then used it in their perfumes -- yeah.  L'eau de Chameau Porc et Faux Ambergris.

Friday, May 06, 2016

It's Moving Day

Today is the day. All their boxes are packed, the trailer is on reserve at the moving company, the i's are dotted, the t's crossed. We leave at 2 to make the drive across the hills back to the valley and into their new lives. I get an early Mother's Day gift in the form of a little five-year-old who will be traveling back with us and staying for a few days while her mum and step-dad prep their new home. Daughter wants to set up the wee one's bedroom with her new bed, put her posters on the wall, and set out her toy boxes so the move for her is as easy as it can be. We've all noticed her attitude has been a bit off since she received the news of the move. Things like this can affect children in all sorts of ways; for the wee one, it's manifested as easily hurt feelings and lots of time spent at the desk painting abstract scenes. We're all trying to show her that even though the day-to-day will change, the big picture is the same. She's safe. She's loved, and her parents would do almost anything to make her happy. And so would her grandparents. If you had any inkling as to what she's been through this past year, you'd understand how especially important (as normally important in any child's life) those things are to her.

Yesterday I finished up a few things. I finally diluted the master formula of F12016CH. I'm going to set it aside until late June before evaluating and determining if it needs some manipulation. It seems my patience these last few months has improved -- I can actually wait for a project 'to become', and sometimes even forget that I have something brewing. It's primarily because I've got a few things brewing at the same time. And I was able to dilute/tincture a few unctuous elements that needed careful handling. I'm also gathering incense materials at an almost alarming rate (alarming to my bank account, mostly) -- little bits of this and bags of that. I'll stop when I'm satisfied I have enough to keep me busy compounding throughout the summer.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have some things on the burners that will be released this summer -- I've taken the long road on a project that could have easily been finished by now had I purchased all the raw materials instead of brewing them. But brew I do. It's the alchemy of the thing. It's about provenance and creating something exquisite from the ground up. It's about knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, a thing is real. You're going to laugh when you find out what it is, and then, hopefully, you're going to love it.

Lylli's Petals is also receiving some attention, mostly from other perfumers who think it's grand that a little girl is being taught the art of perfumery at such a young age. I plan on sneaking in a LOT of teaching moments during her formulating sessions. She won't even notice she's being trained. The truth is, she's been in training, in a peripheral sort of way, since she was born. She spent her early months in a carrier in the studio, watching me pore over formulas, tincturing, weighing, evaluating. She spent her toddler-hood attempting to break into the studio to lie on the rug in the middle of the room and look at all the pretty bottles lined up everywhere. She spent days at my knee, watching, squirming, lightly touching, as I wrote notes, tested perfumes, ground herbs. A month ago she was helping with the hyacinth enfleurage, and it was then that I noticed how seriously she took the work, and what a steady and delicate (gloved) hand she has with the materials. When we were working on Honeysuckle Rose, she was patient and studious, sniffing everything before adding it, counting drops (even though we were weighing everything), and being very aware of how careful she needed to be. She truly enjoys the work. There may come a day when she becomes bored with it, but until then, I'm here to guide her hands.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Topsy Turvy Day to Day

Ah, here we are, and things have shifted -- again. The kids WERE moving in a couple of weeks, and now they're moving RIGHT NOW. They were able to get a place, find jobs, and daycare, all while still living here. Amazing what people can do when the motivation to do so is strong. I'm kind of tossed on the feelings bit. I'm really going to miss the little girls -- I mean, it's empty nest all over again -- however, I'm really going to enjoy my so-called free time, y'know, the time I use to CREATE! Yep. It's back. I've got a few things brewing, and I mean that literally on a few items, that will be making their debut in the coming months. Exciting stuff. Back to my roots kind of stuff; stuff a friend from years ago hounded me to do but I just wasn't 'there' yet. I'm there now. It's going to be good.


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