Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday Noir

Nope, I still don't feel comfortable with the "Black Friday" phenomenon, which has crept even to the most remote areas of the planet, without any connection to anything besides pure consumerism. It has even pushed aside Canadian Boxing Day, which used to be kind of fun but became an extremely stressing compulsive-shopping event with lineups and even (polite) fights over merchandize.

It's essentially the anti-thesis of what I'm trying to create with my business: inspire people to connect to their senses and to each other through fragrance.

Thanksgiving resonates with me much more than the stressful consumerism that follows it, but whether or not I feel comfortable with the "Black Friday" phenomenon, it has dominated the buying patterns of the holiday season and customers rarely plan in advance, but rather wait for the last minute and all the great deals.

To help you prepare for the holidays and reduce the stress, I'm offering a little 20% discount of you shop now instead of last minute (!). All orders will be shipped via EMS, the most affordable and reliable method at this point of time, trackable, insured and most importantly - delivers within less than a week.

I don't like using you to over-spend. And also, I could never compete with all the other big brands offering deep cuts to their products. This is simply not feasible for a brand like mine. , I would rather encourage you to shop responsibly, both from financial point of view, and ecologically. If you are giving presents this holiday season, please support artisanal, local and green businesses.

If you are not planning to spend any money on presents this holiday season, plant a tree or cook a meal with your loved ones - or: cook a tree and plant a meal somewhere where there was no food before. I've been sharing plenty of fragrant recipes over the years on my SmellyBlog.

If you've read this far and enjoy shopping - I'm very grateful to you for choosing my perfumes and for that I'm giving you a 20% off any purchase on my entire stock, with coupon code Holidaze17. Valid thru November 27.

Wishing you all a cozy and stress-free holiday season!


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Sunday, November 05, 2017

Elecampane Soap Bar

Elecampane Meadow
Elecampane meadow at sunset. This is where me and my mom harvested younger leaves and flowering tops of this Astaraceae plant for my soap making and oil infusions.
Elecampane (Innula viscosa/Dittrichia viscosa (L.) W. Greuter/ Cupularia viscosa (L.) Gren. & Godr.) is a plant with many herbal medicine attributions and healing powers, at least forty different ailments according to the folk medicine of Palestine, chief among them hypertension, relief of swollen feet and legs (common during pregnancy), bruises, diabetes, herpes and rheumatism, infertility and for treating dry skin and for its anti-aging properties.

Modern medicinal uses include: treating intestinal worms, cracked skin, athlete's foot, blood coagulation, topical disinfectant for wounds, and more.

Additional uses: The woody twigs and branches from this perennial bush can be used for bonfires, primarily for baking flatbread. Another useful application is in deterring insects. In Spain entire branches are hang to keep flies at bay. I will have to try this because they tend to get out of control at this time of the year. Extracts of the plant are also used to treat various plant diseases (especially of bacterial or fungal origin), and also the plant itself has a tendency to stop the growth of other weeds around it. Last but not least: Elecampane is what is considered a "pioneer plant": It is the first one to show up in new habitats (for example: areas that recently were devastated by invasive human behaviour such as bulldozers, etc.). It was originally a marsh plant, and likes muddy areas, which is why it is now so commonly found on the sides of the road (where the water tends to build up), the areas around creeks or rivers, and in areas that got flooded in the winter rains.

The young leaves are pickled in vinegar and can be eaten. I'm still trying to find out what this strange flavour and brought texture could go with.

Oil infusion of elecampane flowering tops and fresh leaves. The smell was strong, resinous and true to the plant. It has a bit of a funk to it, very much like marijuana, but different.
Elecampane (Inula helenium) Soapmaking Process
The spent elecampane branches after steeping them to make a very strong decoction.
Elecampane (Inula helenium) Soapmaking Process
Frozen elecampane decoction. If not frozen, the various materials within the water will scorch upon contact with the sodium hydroxide (AKA lye).
Elecampane (Inula helenium) Soapmaking Process
Melting the solid fats along with the oils over very low heat.

Elecampane (Inula helenium) Soapmaking Process
The oils are all melted nicely now! They include an oil infusion of elecampane, by the way. It was very strong smelling, with that funky resinous odour that is typical for this plant; but the scent got completely lost during the soaping process. Next time I will be infusing a lot more elecampane leaves into the entire oil/fat mixture (and this way, by using a gentle heating method, I will also skip the step of aging the infused oil).
Elecampane (Inula helenium) Soapmaking Process
Elecampane ice cubes
Elecampane (Inula helenium) Soapmaking Process
Weighing the lye
Elecampane (Inula helenium) Soapmaking Process
Sprinkle lye over ice cubes
Elecampane (Inula helenium) Soapmaking Process
Waiting for the ice to melt...
Elecampane (Inula helenium) Soapmaking Process
Elecampane decoction lye - don't let this honeyed look fool you. This will burn like hell if you touch it!
There are few missing photos from the process, because when mixing the oils with the lye it's a bit of a time sensitive and very hands-on process. It looks similar to making icing, and the soap mixture looks very much like custard when it's ready for pouring into the moulds.
Elecampane (Inula helenium) Soapmaking Process
The soap bars I got lined up that day. It was a very productive soaping day! Elecampane at the bottom, Mastic at the centre, and Absinthe & Lavender at the top. All of them will be ready November 26th.
Elecampane Soap Logs
Logs of elecampane soaps which were very soft for pulling out of the Mold. I had to wait for ten days to do it!
Elecampane Soap Bar Logs
Elecampean soap logs gradually losing their golden look and turning olive-brown.
Elecampane Soap Bars -Slicing Time!
Elecampane soap logs are finally getting sliced!

Notice the "rind" - it will disappear once the soap is cured, due to oxidation and the gelling process.
Srapping & Labeling Soap Bars
Here is a glimpse into the packing and labeling step. Even though I won't get to wrap the Elecampane soap until November 26th, when they would be fully cured and ready for you to enjoy!
You can, however, pre-order them online already.

Wild Soap Bars

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Friday, November 03, 2017

Yolk Flower (Sternbergia)

Just a few pics from my second sternbergia pilgrimage... This time we actually found the big patch of gold where they are growing! We saw a lot of other kinds of crocus on the way before we got to the golden meadow pictured above.
Crocus Triad
Crocus pallasii 

Crocus ochroleucus
Crocus ochroleucus

Crocus hermoneus?
Crocus hermoneus?

Sternbergia clusiana

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