Friday, December 15, 2017

Patchouli Royale ~ A Delightfully Perfumed Natural Soap

I made a luscious soap last night, half of which will make it into the shop, and the other half to be used as one-of-a-kind gifts for family & friends. I'm calling it Patchouli Royale, but I could have also called it Neroli Royale, or Royal Cologne Soap. Why the royal designation? Because it's over the top decadent. It is made with organic olive oil, organic coconut oil, raw yellow shea butter, and scented with a few different bottles of aged and vintage patchouli oils, petitgrain sur fleur neroli, bergamot, oakwood, vetyver, rose geranium, and linden blossom CO2 (the real stuff, not the natural isolate hydroxycitronellal that was floating around some time ago -- well, it's still around, but no real natural perfumer believes it's the scent of linden blossom anymore -- it's derived from citronella oil, not linden). This soap has all the hallmarks of a rich and deep eau de cologne. And it's kind of pretty.

I'm putting it up in the shop later today. I know, you've heard all that about 'curing' for four to six weeks, well, as long as it's gone through the process of saponification, which it has, and the pH level isn't crazy, which it isn't, and you use a water reduction method, which I have, and curing soap relates more to the release of excess water than anything else, well, then, it's kind of already there. Wait too long and it loses scent and may even become rancid if it got too hot during the heating of oils or overheating during the gel phase. Handmade soap has a shelf life, and each batch is different. Some last months or years, and others go off within weeks. 

More awesome stuff is getting made later today. Bath bombs, ooh, and some whipped body butters. It's going to be another busy day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Special Orders

I'm finally getting 'round to those special orders -- 10 bars of soap, a custom fabu butter, etc., and the house is reeking of peppermint and juniper and I'm already considering making another batch for the shop it smells so flippin' ALIVE! I'm also thinking of putting together a simple soap of frankincense just for good measure. I've got a lovely 10 year aged frankincense that will do the trick.

The house is just coming awake now and I can feel the energy rise. I'm hoping for those who tend to wake up on the wrong side of the bed that they find the intoxicating scent of juniper and peppermint altering and invigorating to their moods. 

I'm starting to get into the holiday spirit, finally. There's still a bit of stress and trepidation, people tend to get snippy and stupid this time of year. I'm sure it's because everyone is running around like chickens with their heads cut off while some of us are just trying to go about our non-rush business. 

Off I go. The soap is ready to mix and I haven't a moment to spare on these special orders.

Oh! Starting tomorrow and through until Saturday the 16th I am offering free shipping on all orders over $50 at The Scented Djinn Etsy shop. I'm adding new stuff in the next few days, so there will be a slightly wider selection for you.

Have a lovely and fragrant day!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Work & Play

It's going to be a busy week here at the Plum Palace. Last night my son and I had a chile verde throw down and invited some friends to taste test the results. He won, but I already knew he would. Years ago he was gifted the 'secret family recipe' from a now defunct (but not because of their food) taco stand he loved. I remember the day he was given the recipe. We were shopping at the local grocery store, and he saw the man who used to run the taco stand and they got to chatting about this and that and how the man became disabled and wasn't able to keep his business going, and then my son mentioned that the man's chile verde was the best he'd ever had, so the man whipped an old receipt out of his wallet and wrote down the recipe and handed it to my son while stating, "Don't forget to pop the tomatillos before you cook 'em." My version of this same recipe has been only slightly altered, but my son's been building on the original recipe, tweaking the spices and using different techniques to get the best flavor from the meat and the verde. He is a trained chef, after all. He's been perfecting his spice blend and has now decided to package it as gifts this holiday season for family and friends. Next year he hopes to expand this into a real business.

While he's working on that, I'll be working on some custom holiday orders -- 10 bars of peppermint and rose geranium soaps, custom nilotica shea face butters, more tub mud, and probably more soap. I might also make a pretty little roll-on oil-based perfume featuring jasmine grandiflorum. Like I said, it's going to be a busy week. I'm also going to be making some cookies featuring juniper berries as flavoring, and others with a fir sugar icing to gift family and friends. I got these recipes from the blog 'Gather' that features wild food recipes. I've only just begun reading this blog and so far I love it. I wish I had the energy to create a blog like theirs with videos and hefty content. Instead you get this ~ ha!

I've been rolling the idea around in my head to write an expanded version of the Kyphi booklet. I'm actually getting emails and FB messages from people who've bought the book asking questions about it. This has been going on pretty much since the book was published, so it isn't anything new, it's just that now seems the time to focus some attention there. I've learned so much more since I wrote that book, so much more about incense in general, and a lot about the raw materials thanks to some very generous and adventurous suppliers. I've got reams of research and first-hand evaluations of incense raw materials that I'd like to sort out and share. Since I know that Kyphi making, and burning, can be a transformative venture, now, in this time in history, a positive transformation is necessary if we are to thrive.

Friday, December 08, 2017

A Little Tasseomancy With My Tea

I have been drinking tea since I was about two-years-old, coffee since I was 10, and I still regularly drink coffee, but tea holds a special fascination for me. There is so much variety in tea, so much potential. A nice cup of Earl Grey with honey can start your day on a positive note, and it's even better in late afternoon when coffee would be too much. My tea preference has always been loose leaf as I love to see and smell the swirl of tea dust and leaves in the cup. Jasmine green is an especial favorite and I pair it with madeleines, Earl Grey is always paired with pecan shortbread or my own homemade petitgrain sur fleur neroli shortbread cookies. Pu-erh tea is for introspection, matcha for inspiration. Lapsong souchong is for dark, cold nights when comfort is required. I also love the ritual of tea. It's my own ritual, and it's relatively new to this fall and coming winter season, but it is a ritual nonetheless. Hot tea must be drunk from a tea cup with a saucer, otherwise it doesn't feel right. It must be sniffed while sipped, the cup held with two hands, as if to cradle it. When the liquid is gone, the cup is inverted onto the saucer for a moment, and then tea leaves clinging to the inside of the cup are 'read'. What is in store for me today, sweet tea? And the leaves tell me in dots and shapes that today will be good, or bad, or ugly. Sometimes the leaves tell me nothing at all, but leave a lingering shadow of bitterness and rust on my tongue. 

A recent class I've been taking has brought back all these memories of tea leaf reading from when I was a kid. I've always been a voracious reader, and my mother, also a voracious reader, would get boxes and boxes of old books donated to her from well-meaning relatives and friends who knew how we whiled away our days. In one of those boxes was an old fortune-telling book missing its front and back covers. It was a fascination to me, and I devoured it with my eight-year-old eyes, and took to heart what was written in its pages. I learned palmistry, iridology, scrying with mirrors and crystal balls, reading tarot with playing cards, how to use pendulums for divination. It was a treasure trove of information that fed well my very active imagination. There was also a small section on tea leaf reading, and I remember trying to use chopped Lipton tea in a drinking glass to 'divine' my near future. It was all relatively tame stuff, and that book is long gone, lost in a move or left behind somewhere. Also lost to the ravages of time, and a fair bit of stress in my life, is what I learned from that book. So I've been on a quest these past few months -- actually since a friend and I put on a high tea in October -- to relearn tea leaf reading, or, rather, tasseomancy, the art of divination through tea leaf shapes. In October I asked everyone I could think of if they knew a tea leaf reader and no one did. In fact, it seems to be a dying art. Too quaint for some of these hard-core divinators who use multiple tarot decks, stones, blazing candles, and chicken blood to get answers from the universe or the other side or wherever.

So I'm relearning tasseomancy. I think it's the sweetness of it, the practicality of it, that has drawn me in.

But, I also love tea. Just drinking the stuff. Finding nice blends of teas and savoring them, and it's been a dream of mine for some while to create my own tea blends, but there was always something else to do, soaps to make, perfume to invent, incense to conjure, and tea blending was pushed further and further away. Until tasseomancy came back into my life. On a spur of the moment decision, I ordered a mess of tea blending raw materials and have created two teas for drinking and tasseomancy. 


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Jingle Bells

I went out the other afternoon, alone, to shop for gifts for Christmas. I got caught up in the rush, the anxiety, and the stress of the it's-not-enough-stuff-or-time-to-buy-it syndrome. In my mind's eye, I see how I want to celebrate the holidays. It's quieter than what it's been, it's resplendent with love and sharing and food and lacks the trappings of a so-called 'good Christmas' -- fewer gifts under the tree, more hot cocoa and shots of Bailey's (for the big 'kids'), fewer familial obligations and more juniper short bread cookies, fewer hurt feelings and more joy. When I see the absolute insanity that this time of year brings to America, I wonder what our forebears might think about it. How we've turned a ritual of introspection into the biggest tool for creating unsecured debt in the history of ever. While I was shopping the other day, my arms loaded with stuff that I knew in my heart would go unappreciated, and thus were unnecessary, the woman standing in front of me, her arms also loaded with crap, looked down at her phone and proclaimed, "Shit! I have to pick my kid up from school!" She sprinted out of the line, dumped her armful of useless junk into a sock display bin, and headed out of the door. It was then that my heart won. I slowly and methodically replaced everything I had picked up for purchase back where it had come from and left the store. All the way home, as I drove past tree lots and weaved through shopping traffic, I thought what an absolute waste of time and resources this holiday economy has wrought. I could have been at home, working in my studio, putting a half-made batch of Kyphi together, or sewing wee bags for wee soaps and incense pastilles, not flipping out over a pair of sparkly leggings my granddaughter may or may not like.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Bobbling Tub Mud

I've been very busy lately, not just with business business, but with life in general. Been doing a LOT of babysitting in spurts. There will be days when I don't see hide nor hair of a grandbaby (except for the quiet one who lives here), and then for three days in a row the ones who don't live here are staying the night and I'm driving them to school and picking them up and changing diapers or potty training a very stubborn one, making buckets of mac 'n' cheese (organic, of course), pouring gallons of juice and cutting 5 lb bags of apples for their pleasure. I've even learned how to create bath stuff with them here playing chase and throw-the-ball-grammy-said-not-to-throw-in-the-house and Let's Scream for No Reason -- love that game. The trick is to include them, even if they're not really doing anything but making a mess. 

For the older, more coordinated one, she actually got her gloves on and helped, then had the most fun with the wee bit of leftover tub mud mix, stirring in dishwashing detergent and making a huge gelatinous mess of the whole thing. For the littler, diaper-bound ones, they got flour and cocoa and the odd stirring implement and went to town. I've mellowed in my old age because I never would have allowed my kids to make messes like this. 

While these little guys were making whatever it was they were making, my assistant and I got these done.

Coffee & Cardamom Bobbling Tub Mud

Each of these bobbling tub mud things started out with this in the middle:

That's right, a little truffle of raw yellow, unrefined shea butter. You will have to wash your tub out after this one for certain. Shea butter is one of the best butters for winter skin, not so great for the tub, though. 

The original plan for these coffee & cardamom bobbling tub mud things was to add some rose damascene concrete, but I changed my mind halfway through and decided to use the rose concrete in a nice soothing soap. I'm going to use my little 2-lb soap mold for this, and maybe add some neroli and a 20-year-old patchouli, just a splash, and maybe a smidge of jasmine grandiflorum -- or sambac! The point is to make something beautifully scented and totally extravagant. Oh! I found a supplier of sodium hydroxide (lye), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and citric acid (citric acid, duh) right here in the valley who offer same-day delivery, which roughly translates to tomorrow shipping. Anyway, I ordered pounds of baking soda and citric acid yesterday and just got a call that they will be delivered by noon. Noon. Guess what we're going to be doing later today?

Just a bit of a side note here: None of this is easy, but all of it is magical to me. What I mean is that I put my heart and soul into the products (and I hate using that word) that I create. I do it because it's important. I won't get into the blah blah blah of self-care and all that bullsh*t. I believe in being good to yourself because the world isn't going to do it for you, and if a stupid little bath bomb or a silly little soap helps with that agenda, then so be it. For me, it's creating these things, that's my idea of self-care, along with some meditation and avoiding social media except for the daily ads for the shop. 

The studio is in the beginning stages of being put back in order. The shelves are up, and so is a single table (out of three), and I'm beginning to think that the bulk of the studio won't be worked on until the new year. However, I've not been idle, as you can see. I'm using a corner in my bedroom as a mini-studio, which is mostly just baskets and boxes of raw materials newly purchased and tools for making soap and butters and muds. I was gifted a new chest of drawers so my old dressing table drawers are now storage for finished product. Someone recently walked into my room and backed out immediately stating, "The energy in there is amazing! How do you sleep?" Quite comfortably, actually, as I am surrounded by all the things I love most in the world. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tuberose Tuberosing

Remember a few weeks back I said that a single tuberose bloomed? Well, now there are two more, and I just picked one for a photo shoot. It is beautiful! And it smells like heaven. I can't wait to get these babies in the dirt (once they die back) for next year's crop. I already have the hyacinth in the ground for next season's enfleurage crop.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Exorcising Ugly Soap

I am my own worst critic. Nothing you or anyone else could say to me could possibly make me feel worse than the nagging voice inside my head does. Nothing. I tend not to trust people, so their opinions of me, or my work, mean little. But I trust myself completely, and if I say to me, hey, that last batch of soap you made was a real dud, I believe me. I was in a rush yesterday and had just finished creating a gorgeous custom soap for a client and wanted to keep up the momentum, so I grabbed what was nearby -- a jar of tuberose concrete, some rose damascene absolute in oil, a lush 10-year-old natural amber composition, and mixed them all up, put together a half-batch of soap base, threw in the scenting elements aaaaaaannnnndddd the whole flippin' mess seized in the pot! So I plopped and glopped and slopped (sounds a bit like a Dr. Seuss story) the soap into my 'signature' lotus molds and into a wee loaf mold. Hours later I popped them all out of the molds aaaaaaannnnnndddd they look like crap! They smell pretty good, though. I'm debating whether I should make a small soap base of olive oil and tuberose floral wax and chop some of this ugly soap into it and call it Tuberose Soup -- yes, soup, not soap. Or I could take this heinously-slow-to-dry orange blossom incense I made last year and create a soap from that mixed in with this ugly stuff . . . options. 

Ugly a** soap ~ smells good, though!
Needless to say, I was pretty glum for the rest of the day after this soap tragedy, to the point of near grouchiness. I even went to bed early I was so mad at myself, and I kept staring down the ugly soap, threatening its life with a swift flush down the toilet. I will chalk it up to A) I'm out of practice, and B) bad residual energy in the house. I will sage and calm myself down with a shot of gin (or two), then get back into it. Or maybe I'll just sage and take a nap and do all of this soap sorting later.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Scented Djinn's Super Fantastic Sugar Scrubs & Tub Tonics

I never did get around to making the facial sugar scrubs yesterday, but I did get three fabulous, botanically enriched lusciously scented super fantastic neck down sugar scrubs and tub tonics done. I have spent months researching the raw materials used in these new sugar scrubs, and besides some of the scenting elements, there isn't anything in these scrubs that don't have some super fantastic skin benefit. Not only can you scrub with these, but you can toss a tablespoon or two into the bath and still reap some of the benefits of the extracts and oils without scrubbing. These are the scrubs I wanted way back when I was using other folks' scrubs, sugar or otherwise. The best parts about these -- they're natural, botanical, vegan, with a few organic ingredients thrown in, aaaand they smell really good.

Chamomile & Cardamom Super Fantastic Sugar Scrub & Tub Tonic

Chamomile & Cardamom Super Fantastic Sugar Scrub

Ingredients: Demerara sugar, non-gmo unrefined cane sugar, rhassoul clay, chamomile extract, baobab oil (unrefined), German chamomile essential oil, and Guatemalan cardamom essential oil.

Demerara sugar ~ exfoliating, contains alpha hydroxy to slough off top layer of dead skin, acts as a humectant to attract moisture

Non-gmo, unrefined cane sugar ~ exfoliating, contains alpha hydroxy to slough off top layer of dead skin, acts as a humectant to attract moisture

Rhassoul clay ~ rich in skin-loving minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium), and an excellent exfoliant

Chamomile extract ~ known to soothe and calm irritated skin, has been known to help soothe conditions of eczema and psoriasis

Baobab oil (unrefined) ~ high in vitamin C (crucial for skin's elasticity), rich in omega fatty acids, Vitamins A and B, and antioxidants, all contributing to hydrate and protect the skin

Chamomile essential oil ~ soothing to irritated skin, and it smells really nice

Cardamom essential oil ~ can contribute to the overall tone of skin, and it smells really nice too

Roses & Rosehips Super Fantastic Sugar Scrub & Tub Tonic

Rose & Rosehips Super Fantastic Sugar Scrub

Ingredients: Demerara sugar, non-gmo unrefined cane sugar, rhassoul clay, sacha inchi extract, argan oil, red rose petals, rosa damascene concrete, rosehip extract, oakwood CO2

Demerara sugar ~ exfoliating, contains alpha hydroxy to slough off top layer of dead skin, acts as a humectant to attract moisture

Non-gmo, unrefined cane sugar ~ exfoliating, contains alpha hydroxy to slough off top layer of dead skin, acts as a humectant to attract moisture

Rhassoul clay ~ rich in skin-loving minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium), and an excellent exfoliant

Sacha inchi botanical extract extract ~ this fabulous organic botanical extract is a miracle! Rich in omega fatty acids and Vitamins A and E that combine to retain moisture in the skin and improve its elasticity

Argan oil ~ contains Vitamin E, carotenes, and essential fatty acids, all of which help maintain healthy skin

Red rose petals ~ rich in Vitamin C (a crucial Vitamin for skin elasticity), and an exfoliating agent 

Rosa damascene concrete ~ beautiful, all natural, rich rose scent that smells beyond nice

Rosehip botanical extract ~ rich in Vitamin C (another dose), has antioxidant and astringent properties

Oakwood CO2 ~ smells divine!

Neroli & Green Tea Super Fantastic Sugar Scrub & Tub Tonic

Neroli & Green Tea Super Fantastic Sugar Scrub & Tub Tea

Ingredients: Demerara sugar, non-gmo unrefined cane sugar, rhassoul clay, camellia seed oil, green tea botanical extract, petitgrain sur fleur neroli essential oil, bergamot essential oil

Demerara sugar ~ exfoliating, contains alpha hydroxy to slough off top layer of dead skin, acts as a humectant to attract moisture

Non-gmo, unrefined cane sugar ~ exfoliating, contains alpha hydroxy to slough off top layer of dead skin, acts as a humectant to attract moisture

Rhassoul clay ~ rich in skin-loving minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium), and an excellent exfoliant

Camellia seed oil ~ absorbs readily into the skin to help maintain suppleness, especially in mature skin types

Green tea botanical extract ~ potent antioxidant, contains Vitamins A and E

Petitgrain sur fleur Neroli essential oil ~ delicious and rich floral/citrus scent

Bergamot essential oil ~ also delicious and rich with a floral/citrus scent

So there they are, the fantastic three sugar scrubs*slash*tub teas in two sizes, 2.1 and 3.5 ounce jars.

Now to make the labels. Thank heavens the jars are bigger than the other jars I use -- how much space do you think the names of these products will take up?

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Sugar Scrubs

Big deal, right? Right. Folks tend to underestimate the value of a good, nourishing sugar scrub. Salt scrubs, however, seem to get all the praise and adoration of the masses. Yeah. But salt scrubs hurt! Heaven forbid you have a scratch or cut somewhere you don't know about and nonchalantly stick salt in them. Ow. Sugar doesn't do that. Sugar won't dry out your skin the way salt does either, and sugar melts a little quicker than salt so there's less junk on the bottom of your shower or tub when you're done scrubbing.

Here are the facts about sugar skincare -- sugar contains glycolic acid. That's an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) the stuff that was in every anti-aging serum on the market a few years back. And it's still out there in the hundreds, Alpha-this, and Alpha-that, promising to turn your leathery elephant skin into a baby's fragrant and sweetly soft bum. Apparently this stuff packs quite the punch as it is used in amounts of less than 10% in products and still works by dissolving the upper layer of skin to reveal the fresh, new, baby butt stuff underneath. So, sugar's got this.

Sugar is a natural humectant. Remember what I wrote up there earlier about salt drying out your skin and sugar doesn't do that? This is why. Sugar attracts moisture, which explains the brown sugar brick in your pantry that you're chipping away at to make those really good shortbread cookies. So, sugar's got this too.

Sugar is exfoliating. What? Who'd have thunk it? All joking aside, sugar is a much gentler scrub than salt, and one I've preferred over salt for these past 15 years or so for all the reasons above, even though I didn't know about the alpha hydroxy thing until about 5 years ago. Sugar's got it.

Sugar scrubs are great in baths. Just like salt baths, sugar can be dissolved into your bath water and you can reap all the benefits of sugar, except for, obviously, the scrubbing part. Because you've melted the sugar into the tub water. But won't it be sticky? No. You'd have to put a couple of bags of sugar in your tub for it to become sticky. Watch, a couple years from now some obscure scientific study will show that putting exactly 2 four-pound bags of plain sugar into the bath will turn a woman into Venus when she bathes with it.

Needless to say, but I will anyway, lush, fragrant, botanically enriched organic sugar scrubs are on the work list for today. Two types -- one for your face, and one for your body, in a couple of flavors, including rose. Watch for it.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Super Duper Extra Squishy Soft Launch

Well, that was a bit anti-climatic, but then I always work myself up doing these things and then find that it wasn't the least bit necessary. It was the turtle who won the race, am I right?

The new re-launch of The Scented Djinn reloaded was met with a single piece of confetti and a pathetic toot of a horn somewhere far off in the distance. In fact, it may not have been a horn at all, but a lonely toad near the canal. Still, I feel a sense of satisfaction that I'm back in the game, even if I am standing on the field of an empty stadium. My re-emergence into the world of luxury skincare has garnered me a custom gig, for which I eagerly await more details before the work begins. After the custom gig is sorted, I'm going to be working on more 'stuff'. Soap, more than likely, because the shop is in short supply. But then when the months become darker, the work turns inward, and more incense and perfume oils will be born. It's just how I work. But now I have assistance so the work will be organized and purposeful and less, well, disorganized and sporadic. I've actually got dry erase boards, calendars, and a cork board up in my office, things I've never had much use for in the past. I'm beginning to feel a bit grown up.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Here's what I've got done in the past couple of weeks ~

Taking photos of product, creating labels for product, creating product itself, marketing, advertising, doing the best I can to get this re-launch in order, yet doubt still lingers. I worry about price points, are they too high? Or are they too low considering the long-term goals of this newly revised 'edition' of The Scented Djinn? I still have very little in the way of goods to sell as I've been making very, very small batches, in numbers that I can manage and still call 'fresh'. I've learned a few things over the years, like don't make too much of a single product because
you don't know how quickly it will sell, but do have the goods to recreate that product if it turns out to be a winner. I can't tell you how many times I've had to give stuff away or throw it away because it was past its expiry date or very close. Working with naturals is a tricky business. You're either in or you're not. You can't just dump stuff into a jar, slap a label on it and call it done. There's work involved. Research. Experimentation. A willingness to lose a little money in those endeavors. I have spent thousands of dollars over the years just to see if something I've thought up would work out in real life. I've pored over research papers, books, correspondences for hours on end trying to figure something about about, let's say, green tea extract. You really have to love the materials.
I've watched as people in my field have come and gone, and also watched some rise. I always like to see them rise because it gives me hope that I might rise as well, and it's possible that I have, a little anyway, and just don't know it yet. I've been in this business for over 20 years. I started with conviction when my youngest son was 9 months old. He celebrated his 22nd birthday last month. I've been in it this long and it still feels new to me. I'm still excited to receive a big box of organic cocoa butter, or a package filled with petitgrain sur fleur neroli, rose otto, and geranium oils. I still get a thrill when I open the bottles and boxes to begin evaluations. I love pulling out perfume bottle catalogs (Brosse!) and digging through the pages of a Uline
catalog for cool packaging ideas. Eco-friendly, of course. I love learning about new ideas, new ingredients, innovations. I also love the solitary and meditative life all of this affords me. And I equally love the people with whom I share this passion, perfumers who are artists and stewards of a vibrant planet, students who want to change the world one enfleurage at a time. 
Once this stage of production ends, a new one begins. The old formulation books will be pulled out, and the best of the best will be reformulated and made into oil, butter, and alcohol perfumes. And incense will be reborn. I know a few people who are waiting anxiously for more sultry sticks of The Ram. 

See you on the scented side.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Despite the Delays

Nothing ever goes as planned around here. There's always something stepping in the way of progress, usually related to jealousy and spite with a bit of paranoia (mine) thrown in for good measure. I must get beyond all that and remember that I'm running a business here! I've been so long away from the work that I feel I'm on a permanent vacation. Not a very good vacation, either. I've not gone anywhere exotic or historically significant, I've not learned anything new beyond the four walls of the houses I've been living in for the past year. The places I used to love to visit for inspiration are dessicated from years of drought or burned to dust. The world is changing too quickly for my not-so-elastic mind to keep up.

I just want to create.

As soon as I'm off this box, I'm headed to the brand new kitchen to cook up some beautiful lotion bars for the shop. Jasmine and Green Tea Extract lotion bars, to be exact. Part of a wee set of natural nourishing skincare that includes a rhassoul-based facial mask and a jasmine and green tea extract infused soap. The soap is incredible smelling! Everytime I pass the drying rack, I'm hit with the strong and intensely beautiful scent of jasmine pearl tea. Like I said, incredible.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Skincare ~ Almost There

I'm working on a small batch of soap today made with organic olive oil, organic coconut oil, raw shea butter, and organic cocoa butter enriched with green tea extract and infused with brewed green tea. To scent it, very lightly, I'm adding jasmine sambac concrete, bergamot, and vetyver oil.

Tomorrow I'll work on the solid body butter to somewhat match the jasmine/green tea theme.

All of the new soaps will more or less match the enriched masks, and the solid body butters will match the soaps.

Every day brings me a little bit closer to the finish line with this very carefully constructed natural skincare line. Once these are up and going, I will refocus my energy onto new natural perfumes and incense. 

Right now, I'm almost too tired to be doing this. We had our tea on Thursday and I prepared way too much food for the number of people who showed up. It was a fun evening, but by the end of it, I was whipped. After this afternoons soap making session, I'm going to take a bit of a rest before starting over again tomorrow.

Keep an eye out for the new skincare. I've been using these masks once or twice a week since I made them (about three weeks ago now), and my favorite by far is the rhassoul and banaba leaf extract formulation. The texture of my skin has improved quite a lot since using that one. It's just good clean skincare.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Phase 6,963

Organic apple cider vinegar brewing. This is the first batch made at the Plum Palace, and the first new batch made in over a year. I used a wee bit of the dregs from the last batch to help start this one. This stuff is like liquid gold. I used previous batches for my business as luscious infused skincare, and the soupier stuff I used at home for cleaning, as food, and as medicine. If you've got gut issues from using antibiotics or from a bout of gastroenteritis, take a shot glass of organic unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with your probiotic of choice to get your gut right again. Using it as a facial wash or toner makes your skin glowy, but you can't use it every day or you'll dry out like a prune, and it works wonders for my granddaughter's eczema flare-ups. She once had a stubborn patch of eczema that didn't respond to any of the otc or prescribed creams we used, but a couple of apple cider vinegar baths later and that stuff was shut down for over two years. Now, all of this is anecdotal as I'm not a scientist, but there is some evidence that apple cider vinegar helps with all of the issues I've brought up here. Once this batch is done, it will be divided into three jars and infused with botanical extracts for the shop, then I'm starting another batch for the house.

The rest of the skincare is coming along. I'm awaiting the arrival of a couple more essential oils for argan infused butter bars and balms, get those finished, then it's on to the soaps. I'm also going to whip up a batch of Yasmina oil perfume. I've had more than a few requests for this lush perfume in the past year, so I'm bringing it back and keeping it. And maybe a rose oil perfume too.


I've missed this.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cat's Outta The Bag

Today, my assistant and I are going to start phase two of three of the Djinn's naked natural skincare, butters 'n balms. There's also a batch of phase one product, a lovely frankincense extract infused facial mask, left to complete. And then in the coming days we will begin phase three, extract infused natural handmade soap. Eventually perfumes, alcohol, solid, and oil, will be added, as well as incense. I've got Kyphi brewing at the moment. Plus I have some compounded incense resins that were being worked on this time last year that are just about ready to go.

It's coming together -- now if I could just get the shop off of Etsy and onto the new website, it'll be legit.

Monday, October 09, 2017


Tuberose bud, Justine's garden, October 2017

I got another single flowering tuberose this year. Last year I got one that bloomed in a different pot than this one. They all grow, all the wee bulbs, but I'm not getting any flowering except for one at a time, two years in a row. So. They get their own bed now. Out of the pots, where my hope is they've multiplied, and into a permanent bed where they can be harvested in a year -- that is, if they all decide to bloom instead of taking turns like the polite little flowers they are. I clipped the single bloom last night and put it in water and set it on the kitchen counter. It has filled the kitchen and dining area with scent. Everyone keeps calling it 'honeysuckle', which kind of bugs, but what do they know? Perhaps tuberose is progressive and would link arms with honeysuckle in defense of all flowers. I'd rather think their hermit-like behavior is rooted in a strong sense of self and confidence rather than in flower class snobbery.

I just overheard someone here call them 'two bros'.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

New Beginnings

I have a Roundup neighbor.

The house to the right of ours had been unsold and vacant since we moved in in August until about two weeks ago. The house is enormous with two master suites and 3 additional bedrooms, a large open concept living/kitchen area, and a formal dining room. The backyard is dinky, though, apartment sized. Yet the two people who moved in take turns with the Roundup sprayer shooting every square inch of their property, both the landscaped front and unlandscaped back, almost daily. I've never seen a weed phobia like this before. I can't use any of the rosemary planted on the right side of my driveway because of the Mr.'s Roundup, and I'm beginning to wonder how saturated the fence boards on that side of the backyard have become. I'm planting all of my vegetables and perfumery plants in raised beds with liners to avoid weeds, and I guess to some extent, Roundup now too. I may have to have a talk with them if they keep up with this poisoning business.

I hope and pray the neighbors on the left don't get chemical crazy. So far they seem to appreciate plants as they have a jungle of potted plants in their backyard. There is life in suburbia after all.

I'm setting up shop again in the new place. Today we begin mixing and formulating some really fantastic all natural mineral and botanical skincare. A package of organic cocoa butter arrived here yesterday and my new assistant proclaimed, as I walked in the door from being gone all day, "I don't know what's in that bag, but it smells just like chocolate!" It does indeed!

One problem I'm finding living in this new place is postal delivery. The neighborhood is so new, and so far out of the city limits that it doesn't have a regular post office delivery service but a contract delivery service. If what is being shipped to my house isn't a big box that won't fit in the box at the end of the block -- the big boxes get delivered to the door -- the contract worker will send them back to the post office marked return to sender if the mailbox parcel cubicle already has someone else's parcel in it. I've had three packages sent back because of this, so now I will be looking into getting a PO box, which, honestly, I should do anyway. I'm sure the contract worker is run ragged and probably isn't obligated to keep trying to re-deliver mail, but it's damned inconvenient not getting my stuff on time. Hence the delay in getting The Scented Djinn up and running again. Well, that and everything else that's been going on around here.

I count myself very fortunate despite these minor set-backs, because they are just that -- minor.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Getting In The Groove Again

Both classes, the natural perfume intensive and the Kyphi incense class, are full with energy and synchronicity. It feels like a bit of a let-down when I have to shut down the computer and put the courses to bed for the evening. I'm enjoying myself immensely with this new group of people.

I'm also making Kyphi again. I've yet to get to those boxes in the garage as late Wednesday I began to feel the ticking scratch of a cold coming on. I've been on 12,000 mgs of C a day, zinc supplements, plus otc meds. The sinuses are congested, but I don't feel terrible like I did when I woke up Thursday morning with a pounding headache and a sore throat. It's never a good time for a cold, is it? Such a damned inconvenience no matter when they strike.

Once I get off the computer, in about a half an hour, I'm going to get to cleaning the house. When I'm not well and my energy is petering out, everyone here scatters like rats off a sinking ship. Once I feel better, today, actually, I'm left to clean up. I know. They're all adults. But that's what makes talking to them about cleaning up after their dirty bums so difficult. I get lots of, "I know." And, "I'll do it later." So maybe not quite adults yet.

Once I'm done cleaning the house, I'm going to start the goods for an early supper, and then get to tackling boxes in the garage. It seems like nobody is concerned with what's left out there since the cupboard's are full, the laundry is washed, the dishes are done, and there's food on the table. They're like cavemen -- ha!

I'd better get going then. There's Kyphi to make, and the skincare line -- oh, yeah, I'm starting a new skincare line. It debuts mid-October. Watch for it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fall and All She Brings

Now that the mad rush to finish the course is over, and the time it takes to do daily instruction has considerably whittled down the time I spend on the computer, I can get back to the house! I've got tons of boxes to unpack, warranties to fill out and mail, repair issues to deal with, and a string of birthdays coming up. And the central valley here in California seems to have let go of summer, finally. Just in time, too, for the official change into fall. You know you've gotten way to used to hot weather when 90 seems like a pleasant break. That means moving around is easier in terms of what gets done inside and outside.

We've begun the back yard, but there's a lot of work left to do. The soil is what we here in the valley call hardpan. Basically, it's like cement. The builders removed the top layer of soft soil when they leveled the lot, exposing all that lovely red hardpan. It's a mess to deal with, and will take a while to get it in shape for planting. We'll have to add some lime, gypsum, and lots of organic compost and churn it all into the ground. This will take a few weekends of all day digging. Again, the cooler weather helps immensely. Then I can start bulbs in raised beds and get some other plants in the ground. And get some grass growing so the grands will have somewhere to play next spring.

I received a shipment of oils yesterday, and, man, there were some nice ones in this lot. Cardamom CO2 is exquisite, beautifully green and fresh, with lovely floral back notes, and a slight twinge of eucalyptus. The CO2 is deeper and warmer than the cardamom essential oil from Guatamala (also in the box). The Guatamalan sample is brighter and more green with more of those eucalyptus notes and less of the warm floral note. Oakwood CO2 is a revelation. It is gourmand, warm, edible, with vanilla and cognac notes. I really love this stuff! The blue Egyptian chamomile (matricaria chamomilla) is stunning! Sweet, herbal, fruity, and surprisingly warm. Coffee CO2 is like a strong cuppa joe. Another winner. A gorgeous floral/fruity clove bud oil also arrived, reminding me of the turning of the seasons from hot to cool and the long nights spent in my garage studio creating tons of soap for the holidays. The bergamot oil, traditional, non FCF, smells brightly citrusy and sweet with hints of those famous floral notes. This one smells absolutely delicious! And last, but not least, juniper berry oil. This one is sweet and breathy and warm and fabulously beautiful. It reminds me of making Kyphi, the moment after crushing the first berries in the mortar and the sharp, sweet sting of scent that bursts forth.

Speaking of Kyphi, we're finally going to start our Kyphi batch for the course tomorrow on the eve of the new moon. I'm really looking forward to beginning this project.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

New Beginnings

The brand new International Perfume Foundation certified natural perfume course at The Natural Perfume Academy officially begins tomorrow -- well, if that isn't a mouthful. The interest in this course by the public has been astounding. Ruth and I busted our bums for months getting this new course up to par, and I think we're very nearly there. Our tutors have been working hard to update their courses, and we've begun translating the course into Spanish for a new course set to begin next year. This first six-month course will be the pilot course, and tweaks will occur both during and after the end of this run. It's exciting as hell, and a little bit scary as well. I can't help but to get a little nervous before each new course begins, but this one has me in knots. We've got videos -- with me in them (ugh) and I'm not the least bit sure of myself in this arena. We've got slideshows, which are far easier for me mentally -- ha! I've got a programmer working on a perfume formulation program for the course so the students can create their perfumes with ease -- aka, without all the maths involved. We even got an 'official' US and Canadian perfume kit supplier, Sunrose Aromatics, on board with us. We're still working on setting up the same kits with UK, EU, and Australian suppliers. Let me tell you, this isn't easy. Oftentimes, it's simply the politics that prevent forward motion. But we are persistent -- we've been doing this since 2008, so, yeah, we've learned a thing or two about how to get around, under, or barrel right through a problem.

This is where our 2017 Fall six-month course students live. It's pretty darned cool.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Garage Blues

Today I tackle the garage. Again. It's getting to the point where I don't want to anymore. Especially kitchen wares. The builders are coming out today to fix or replace the brand new dishwasher. I've been hand washing everything that comes out of those kitchen boxes because of the dishwasher being on the fritz and I'm well and done with it. I am in a rush to get the garage cleared out so I can set up my tables and shelves and get my studio wares sorted out, get some soap going and start on the new products for the shops. I'm under the gun here and it feels like I'm making very little progress. I know I said I work best under pressure, and I do, but there are only so many hours in a day, so many days until the looming deadline, and I'm moving as quickly as I can. It feels a bit like chasing my own bum.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Jasmine Sambac

So, yesterday was a shopping day, gathering things for the new house to make it habitable, or at least pretty. Things like shower curtains, trash bins, cleaning supplies, etc. While digging around the end-of-summer offerings at a popular department store, I stumbled upon an entire shelf of Maid of Orleans Arabian jasmine, aka, jasmine sambac. And, they were practically giving them away! I got three, but I plan on returning and getting a few more. In my area, this type of jasmine has the potential to bloom year-round, with the best coming in the spring. Right now, these three wee plants are blooming like mad! Especially since getting them here, setting them up on the porch, and giving them a good drenching. 

They weren't blooming like this when I found them, in fact, most of the sambac at the store had very few flowers blooming. 

The scent is heavenly. I will be getting a jar of deodorized coconut oil later today and performing an enfleurage of these blossoms until they stop giving me flowers. It's going to be very hot, around 109 degrees F, a record breaker, and it's been unusually humid -- conditions, I've read, are best for growing this type of jasmine.

Friday, September 01, 2017

The World

Social media is killing me right now. For two weeks here at the new place all I had was my phone and it was plugged into FB constantly. With no internet to do extensive research, study, and writing on the computer itself, I got sucked into the vortex of bs. I'm just now beginning to extricate myself and work on real world projects. My heart just aches for the 'real world', too. I think I'm suffering from information overload, real and bogus.

Not only am I still working on the teacher's manual on the desk top computer for the new perfume course (with help now -- I have an assistant! -- and while sitting on a step-stool and a throw pillow because my office chair was ruined in the move) I'm also starting the first round of Kyphi making in the Walking the Kyphi Path online course I teach. Can I do it? Of course I can.

I found the brand new soap molds that I had been searching for during the entire 10 months we were living at my daughter's house, so I'm going to be making soap again soon -- for myself, and for the shops. I found these gorgeous lotus soap molds too, so those will be the fancy pants perfumed soaps I'll be selling on my official website,

Gotta run. There's still so much to do setting up the house -- the garage is a jumble of boxes and furniture that have not yet made their way in. It's a work in progress, and especially taxing since most of the boxes contain kitchen contraptions that require washing before storing, and our nifty new dishwasher doesn't work. The builder's coming to fix that next week.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Incense & Perfume

Today the new washer and dryer arrived. They're on their second load now -- the second of many more to come. It's lovely having a washer and dryer inside of the house again, rather than in a cramped garage. It's just plain lovely having something that works the way it is intended to work.

The unpacking continues, and I suspect it will for many months to come. My main priority now is getting the course work done, sorting out the studio, and getting a Kyphi batch started up for the course on Kyphi making I teach at the Academy. It opened in May and so far we haven't created a single batch. I still have the second half of that gorgeous blue lotus Kyphi I made last year. It's ripe and delicious smelling and ready to be sold again.

It still amazes me how incense -- real, natural, resin-rich incense -- behaves over time. It's like a beautifully crafted natural perfume that ultimately ages into something exquisite and sublime. I've been going through a few of the boxes of old finished perfumes and discovered that the ones crafted with water -- the eaux -- are not as pretty as they once were. The water degrades them a bit, I think. Something about the pH level -- I'll have to test them to see if my theory is right. Which means only one thing (to me) -- natural perfumes don't need water. Over time, water does not benefit the perfume, and, in fact, might harm it -- a lot.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

New Course Begins September 18

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

Did you miss me? It seems like forever since I was here. I just got internet yesterday and hooked up the computer last night before bed. It is now sitting in its own little cubby just off the dining area, kind of out of the way but still in the middle of the 'action' around here.

What an ordeal this move has been. So many situations popped up out of the blue (and some not so out of the blue) that tested every patient bone in my body. Basically, anything that could go wrong, did, starting with the moving van being the wrong size and ending with a possible job termination. One of my two precious kitties got very nervous about all the moving around in the old place that he decided to hide out for four days. My daughter brought him home to me late Thursday night after she caught him rooting around in her garage. He was skinny and starved and so happy to see us. Everything in between all of that was absolute hell too. I can't even accurately express how badly things went, and I really don't want to revisit. There were moments during those two weeks that I seriously considered packing a bag and hitting the road as a vagabond perfumer. I'm only now, two weeks in the house, feeling a stirring of excitement for it. I am no where near done unpacking. In fact, the garage where we've stored everything for the time being is as full as it can be and still be maneuverable, and the house inside is an absolute mess. There are still boxes stacked in the dining room waiting to be unpacked. There are pieces of art leaning against walls, curtain rod boxes and loose books lying around. We've got a list of things that need to be addressed by the builder, such as the non-working dishwasher and a crack in a cabinet door. Other than that, the house is perfect. Now if I could just get someone to come finish unpacking and clean this monstrosity for me . . .

At least all of my shop wares are in one place instead of scattered willy-nilly throughout the garage, and there won't be any trolls crawling on and through them to find their lost box of treasures they're sure are underneath. Everything is finally and truly in one place.

Tomorrow the washer and dryer will be delivered, and let me tell you, I need them right now. With all the cleaning going on, I've got a nice stack of dirty house rags in dire need of a wash. Plus I'm running out of clothes!

Once I get things a bit more settled inside, I'm going to begin working on the shop. I promised to have the online shops open by October, and that I will do. It's going to be a little bit different from what I have been doing -- going more into what I was up to this time last year, before the first move. Skincare will be featured, along with gorgeous scented stuff. And then there's the new online perfume course that I am still working on. The teacher's manual is only three units shy of completion, and while I've been out of the game for the past two weeks, I've been burning the midnight oil writing, with a pen, all the things I want to research and add to the manual. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, but as I've learned in the past, overwhelmed is my default setting, and it's the condition under which I operate best.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Aaaaaaand, We're In . . . Sort'a

Took long enough, right? And it hasn't been without it's major problems. More recently, it was the 'explosion' of the work car's transmission all the way over on the Central Coast -- this happened Sunday, the day before we were scheduled to close escrow. Late yesterday afternoon, before we got the call to pick up the keys, we got a call from the Chevy dealership in Arroyo Grande, where we left the work car, with the estimate for repairs -- $3,700 plus. The 'plus' was to cover the leaking manifold, which we didn't even want to hear about. We only paid $5000 for the car in 2007 and it's been very, very good to us, with over 270,000 hard miles on its leaky engine. We've had our eye on a little Toyota hoopty for $3000 and I think we're going to move on it now. G'bye old hoopty, hello new hoopty. Then, yesterday, when we were waiting for the call from the builder to come get the keys, we got crickets instead. Two o'clock came 'round, the time we were told it would be done, then three o'clock, then four -- then we had enough sitting on pins and needles. The hubs called to find out what was going on and the salesperson who sold us the house was as in the dark as we were, anyway, four phone calls later we discover the county's computer system was down and the house closing escrow hadn't posted, but everything was done. Damn. We got the keys anyway. Not allowing a little computer glitch to set us behind. Then as we were driving to get the keys, the new non-hoopty car decided to flash some danger dash lights -- looks like we'll be needing some new brakes soon -- but, Universe? Now? Geez. Haven't we had just about as much as we can handle for the moment? Spread this crap out a little, would you? But all will be well, once the dust settles. It always is.

We spent the night last night sealing grout and granite. Don't let anyone tell you it's easy. Well, technically it IS easy, it's just extremely time consuming. And the fumes can be a little much. Thank heaven there were five of us in rotation or it would have taken one person two days to get done.

I've been writing my bum off these past couple of weeks in hopes of getting done with the teacher's manual for the new course before the move, but it didn't happen. There are three major sections of the course that still need coverage and I'm pretty sure they won't be getting done this week. I did have the foresight to print the course out in its entirety so I could work offline on the teacher's manual, so there is that.

The moving van will be here shortly and I need to get moving. It's going to be another long day.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The New Ballgame

It's only one week before the move and I'm beginning to have feelings like I did in the days before giving birth -- calm and nesty. I had long ago stopped dreaming of how I would be setting everything up in the new place -- the sofa over here, the Tiffany lamp over there. All I've thought about for the last few months is that I just want out of where I am right now. With each set back, with each change in the move-in date, I'd lose a little bit of my shine. But now that it's nearly time, now that I'm on the verge of getting there, my patience for the process has come back. I'm planting the fragrant garden in my mind. I've got gardenia here, and jasmine grandiflorum there. A wee tuberose and hyacinth bed against the back fence, the damascenas and centifolias in the front where the sun shines brightest, yuzu and bitter orange trees in back on the west fence, and the iris pallida in clumps here and there.  Moving isn't going to be fun -- it never is -- but once the dust settles, everything will be rosy.

Plum Palace
I have a big 50% off sale going on at the Etsy store, which I'm closing on the 9th of August (two days from now). I won't reopen until some time in October, and I probably won't have the same items in stock that I do now. And the actual website will be opening up with new product. (

Changes all around this year. We (me and my business partner, Ruth) completely redesigned the Natural Perfume Academy. I've been working on the curriculum for the new certified course all summer long, and Ruth's been working on the overall design and function of the course. We even have a new logo. It's a whole new ballgame.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


I miss my Bama dog. I miss his annoying bark and how he was always underfoot. I miss his deep stares and the way he cuddled up with me to watch television. I just miss his big dopey butt.

I've been writing like a fiend lately, burning the midnight oil, getting a couple hours of sleep, drinking half a pot of coffee, and going at it again. I'm running out of time. The new perfumery course begins on the 18th of September, and I'm moving in two weeks, so I'm going to miss a week or so of writing time. Crucial writing time. The course has literally one module left to flesh out, then it's on to the teacher's manual, where the meat of the course's potatoes will be.

I'm at a place where I'm missing things to the point of pain. Emotional pain. I miss being able to take good photos with my fancy pants camera (that is packed). I miss working out formulations and experimenting with natural raw materials (that are packed). I miss having space to set things out, to study them, give 'em a good stare and a sniff (because everything's packed!) All of these things were my escape chutes. Ways to get away from the daily stress of unhappy people making certain everyone knows they're unhappy. It's a vicious cycle. They're upset and unhappy, that makes me upset and unhappy, that makes them upset and unhappy, so on and so forth. I just don't know how much more of this sardines-in-a-can life I can take. I feel like my whole life has been put on hold since November because of a damn house! There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the closer it gets, the farther away it feels.

We blue tape tomorrow. It's the official walk-through where we're instructed how to use the appliances, where the warranty information will be, how the AC works, the on-demand water heater, the communications' hub, how to switch on lights, where the exhaust fan switches are, where to plug in the phones to charge them, the type of tile, carpet, paint, insulation, light fixtures, piping, etc., that they've used in our house. Then we get to go around with rolls of blue tape marking the spots we feel need repair. Wee cracks. Badly patched walls. Ugly tile work. Nicks and dings and scrapes. The last time we checked on the house, there was a big crate of peaches in the fridge, a Klondike ice cream wrapper on the newly carpeted stairs, and an empty bottle of jamaica Jarritos in the kitchen counter. It's a little disconcerting to realize we're not going to be the first people to use the fridge, or the toilets, in this brand new house.

Some strides to make it a home have been made, though. Long ago we put a bunch of towels and bathroom items on layaway, mostly because we had no where to store them until the move. We've ordered and received the living room curtains -- a cream with mauve watercolor flowers for the panels, and cream linen-like sheers. I know I've called the house the Plum Palace, but I'm not looking to go full purple here. Shades of purple are the main color scheme, along with pale greens, soft greys, and creams, with the occasional aubergine and royal purple thrown in. And magenta. And maybe some ox blood. And orange. Ha!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Last Saturday's Soap Class

The soap class went very well, with one minor slip-up -- the soap mold we were using decided to bust a seam and began leaking soap, so it had to be dumped back into the pot and a new mold used, which had problems as well, but we got it figured out and moved on from that disaster. We started early for a class, 9AM, which was a godsend since the day began heating up around 11. We were done by lunch and most of us went on a field trip down the street to the Blossom Trail Cafe for lunch. Now we're getting requests for more classes in soap making, incense making, and perfume making. I'm not doing anymore classes until I'm moved into my house. And then once I'm set up there, I'm going to create a portable perfumer's box so it's always at the ready and I don't have to scramble anymore to collect things -- I'm going to do the same with soap and incense. These will be used for classes and demonstrations only and restocked as they are used. Living out of a suitcase for the past 10 months has taught me that having what I need at hand will save me days (months in this case) of frustration and anxiety. Being separated from my art is having a profound effect on my mental health, so I'm now sure, with unwavering certainty, that I could never stop doing what I do or I just might go crazy -- er.

I didn't get pictures of the class because I was busy teaching it. There is a slideshow on FB via the Seasons of Spirit and Curio Apothecary page. It's short and sweet, like 15 seconds, and shows the participants and a little bit of the soap making process. Not the disaster, though. Perhaps in the future I will hire a photographer to take snaps while we're working and make a slideshow that includes all the mishaps, and then how they were corrected and post them to a FB page or website specific to the classes I teach. I think I just created more work for myself.

I've been working on the course curriculum for the past few weeks. I've rewritten a large portion, perhaps 80%, of the new International Perfume Foundation certified course, and nary a word on the new teacher's manual -- which looks like it might turn into a book. I am not saying I'm turning it into a book, just that there will be material in it that isn't in the course and that it will be -- crap, it'll be so much more work! I've got notes and research materials and sources and how-to information spread from one end of my desk (it's my bed, actually) to the other that have to be gathered daily and sorted through and put into a fat, bulging binder every night before I go to sleep. Then the next day, they all come out again, with additions, and I pick through it like a junker at a peddler's fair, trying to find something that will fit into a specific section's narrative.

Sometime last year or the year before I got a YouTube review for my Kyphi booklet. I remember the woman conducting the review said a little bit about how small the book was, but then expanded that commentary to include that it was, what she called, 'a can of tuna'. A can of tuna in relation to this review meant that my little booklet was packed full of information, no fluff, no airy fairy details, just 'meat'. That's what I'm working towards with this new course. The whole thing from beginning to end, including the teacher's manual, is going to be one big can of tuna.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Soap Making Day

Today is a soap making day. We'll be making it to 'serve' to our students on Saturday after making another batch of the same soap for demonstration. The scent formulation is fairly simple and straight forward -- petit grain sur fleur neroli is the main raw material, then there's orange oil, lemon oil, patchouli, and a wee bit of labdanum. We made the scent potion last week and it's been 'stewing' ever since. We're hoping to have a full house, upwards of 20 students, and instead of what I usually do, it's going to be a straight demonstration type class. Usually, I allow students to measure and mix, but with a class this size, it won't work out. People bump into each other, everyone wants a turn at the hand blender, plus I am required to provide aprons, gloves, goggles, and sometimes paper face masks. It's too much of an expenditure when I cut the price of the class as low as it is now. This area is a hard sale area -- I've charged anywhere from $40 to $65 everywhere else that I teach this soap class, but here, I'm lucky to get $20. It's not the fault of the good folks who live here, it's the fault of the local economy. You know something isn't right when you drive through town and a huge billboard (more than one, actually) proclaims: "50% of (blank) County is on Medicaid". I haven't quite figured out if the billboard's message is condemnation or praise of the current health care plan provided by the state, but one thing is for certain, if 50% of the residents of this county actually are on medicaid, then something's wrong with the economy here. Under these circumstances, it's a miracle anyone comes out to learn any kind of craft on a warm Saturday morning for more than $15 a person.

I am looking forward to it. These days I'm lucky to have some creative work besides writing to do. As some of you know, I'm rewriting the natural perfumery course at the Natural Perfume Academy where I teach, and it's turned out to be quite the challenge. For example, there is literally one topic left to complete before the edit, final edit, and addition of a full teacher's manual, slide shows, videos, and audio files to the course, and I'm at a standstill. I worked and worked and worked yesterday, poring through books and notebooks, writing and rewriting, researching online, doing everything I could to get this cohesive piece of work done, and I got nothing. What I wrote, I erased. I was confounded by lack of sleep, too much on my plate, and grandbabies busting in shouting, "Grandma!" every 10 minutes. I'm hoping to get back at it tomorrow with a clear head and new perspective. Working in the arts is a moody occupation -- you can be simultaneously depressed and tortured over the outcome, and at the same time feel intense exhilaration from the act of creating alone. A double-edged sword.


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