Monday, August 31, 2009

Uber-niche


During the visit of the Italian cousins last week I took them on a journey into the heart of ├╝ber-niche perfume, botanical perfume that is. I started their "sensorium" with my palette of essences so that they could experience s few individual notes before migrating to the full fledged perfumes. They were so interested and asked such good questions that I brought them into the studio to show how a botanical perfume is built. It occurred to me that this is crucial in someone really understanding the time and costs of a pure, vital, botanical perfume. Thus, on Sunday when the buoyant and wise Beth Gehring came by I knew that some extensive time in the studio was imperative.


Beth is a beautiful, kindred soul that came my way via another beautiful soul Tom Pease. Both Tom and Beth are writers for the perfume blog Perfume Smellin' Things, aka PST. Sunday, while still buzzing from my Backward Beekeepers meeting, Beth arrived at my doorstep carrying a jar of the golden elixir, Honey, with her very warm and vibrant husband James at her side.


I knew that Beth and I shared a similar fabric in our spirit DNA from her writing and our conversations. The extent of the threads and weaves were a delight to discover. Read some of the perfume reviews by Beth by following this link to Perfume Smellin' Things. She also enchants us with her prose on a variety of other venues including one of her blogs dedicated to enjoying a wonderful life Stirring the Senses.


I could have easily spent at least a few more days with both Beth and James, but alas, they needed to head back down to La Jolla and will be traveling to their home in Ohio within the next day.


Having heard that Beth is an avid horse lover and rider I was very much looking forward to her perceptions of the Equus caballus accord. I began this accord initially as a base for a different perfume. I have grown so very fond of this accord on its own that I have decided to build it a bit further to develop into a stand alone fragrance. This Equine rich accord began with Amberi Attar from India. I've added several other notes that are reminiscent of the sensual pleasures of riding a horse.

To ride a horse is to ride the sky.
~Author Unknown

Images: At top "Blessings" ©Greg Spalenka, all photographs ©Roxana Villa and images at bottom "Fortuna" ©Greg Spalenka from The Eyes of the Unicorn" children's book. See more of Gregs work on his website: http://spalenka.com

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bee Happy


This last week has been a bit of a very fun, wild, roller coaster ride, culminating in an EXTRAordinary Sunday. In the morning I headed into Studio City to attend my first ever Backwards Beekeepers meeting. Yep, I said Backwards Beekeepers.


I've had a desire to have my own bees for years now and am taking the plunge. This was prompted by reading an article in the LA Times about Backward Beekeeper (pictured above) Amy Seidenwurm. Amy was a doorway into a vast universe that includes a new language filled with words like: Drone, caps, nuc frames, beard/bearding mode and trap-out, just to mention a few.

I'll be writing a bit more on this soon, I am so happy to finally be moving forward with manifesting another dream and learning a new skill set. Now, besides saving local Oak trees I'll be going on Bee rescue missions!

Bee Happy.

Images: Original logo for Illuminated Perfume by Greg & myself, photo of Amy by Coral Von.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Page 47


"You are an alchemist, make gold of that!"
~ Shakespeare

A new series of fragrances has been birthed. As you may recall, last year in August I had a few hours to myself and decided to create a bespoke solid perfume. I gathered my favorite essences and quickly formulated a scent. Eventually I released the perfume which has now grown to be my most popular fragrance, Cimbalom.

This year, I took the pilgrimage to the land of Olfactory delights to produce another imaginative sensual Odyssey to christen my new birth year.

I began by sniffing several vials of perfumes and accords I had created over the years . One perfume in particular struck my fancy. I found the original formula noted in a journal and began building the new fragrance. The formula includes three heavenly accords, Jasmine, Frangipani (Plumeria blossoms), Ylang Ylang, an old Vintage of Mysore Sandalwood and a few varieties of Orange for the top notes. There are at least 16 botanical ingredients in this perfume, I need to count each essence in each accord to reveal the exact total.

Since I am a lover of creamy unguents, this was formulated as a solid perfume. One solid compact was made with thirteen samples to share. I have begun selling and dispersing the thirteen solids and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

At an event at our home I shared the perfume and asked the friends and family gathered what they thought would be a good name. The perfume went around the room with everyone enjoying the fragrance and pondering a name. Finally someone said "How about Chapter 47?" This answered triggered my daughter to yell out, "No, it should be Page 47!!!"

Page 47 works for a variety of reasons, those in the know will be able to figure out the primary one. However, there is another aspect to it which is why my daughter felt "Page 47" was ideal. For now I will leave that as a mystery for you to uncover. I love mysteries don't you?

The subsequent edition will change slightly as I enhance the formula. I already have some ideas of my own, but, await your insights to add to the pot.


The colors associated with Page 47 are an old, dusty white and burnished gold. Page 47 is a sweet, fresh floral perfume with notes of incense. Of all our fragrances it shares a similar aromatic experience as Lyra, but, a bit more fresh with Lyra being more warm.

Once the formula is set I will have the fragrance available in both the natural solid and liquid botanical perfume format. Until then, I await your feedback!

All photos by Roxana Villa

Blossom


A new batch of Blossom Eau de Cologne is now available. This is a traditional cologne based on the classic equation of combining herb with citrus. In November 2005 I decided to create a traditional eau de Cologne which spurred on the Lavender perfume titled Vera. In May 2008 I revisited the genre and formulated a light and fresh eau de Cologne that contains some of the same language of a beloved cologne from Argentina titled Colonia de Bebe and 4711. In fact when my mother inhaled Blossom she exclaimed "Colonia de Bebe!"

Blossom has been formulated in the same manner of the colognes of olde. I utilized therapeutic grade essential oils and absolutes, hydrosols, plant tinctures, organic grape and grain alcohol. The fragrance is very fresh like sheer light. The predominant note is Orange Blossom with secondary impressions of herb and wood.

The essences used include: Bergamot, Lemon, Neroli, Thyme, Rosemary, Cistus and Jasmine.
This cologne has a refreshing effect on the skin and uplifting to mind, body, spirit.


As mentioned above, 5 grams of the cologne are contained in a small glass spritzer bottle with a white top and lid. Perfect for a purse, diaper bag, your pocket, etc. This delightful bouquet is also available in a 1 ounce amber glass bottle.

Flowers in Aromatherapy and Morphological systems uplift and blossom open the heart. Hence the name for this cologne Blossom.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Felix Felicis


On Friday I had this feeling that someone had spiked my tea with some luck potion, like the one from Harry Potter termed Felix Felicis. Well, interestingly enough, I just heard from the ever so enchanted Goddess of perfume script that Sierra Solid Gold was featured on a blog that day.

Sierra Solid Gold contains a very special, intention filled botanical perfume accord, specific to prosperity. Cheers to Felix Felicis and the wonder of an enchanted life. Read more about Sierra Solid Gold here at this link.

Thank you Perfume Shrine and The Frisky. Please head on over and show these blogs some LOVE by leaving a comment.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Memory Bank


Normally it is the sense of smell, sometimes sound and taste, that will bring a memory flooding back into our consciousness. This morning as I cleaned one of the windows of the studio for a photo shoot, the quality and temperature of the sun rays heating my back took me to my childhood days in Mar del Plata.

I found this so interesting, primarily because I don't associate the sense of "touch" with memory. Secondly, I was struck that the memory was specific to Mar del Plata, as compared to Junior Lifeguards at Zuma Beach or on a sailboat in Catalina. Both those two later experiences normally took place during the month of August.

In aromatherapy class I teach that there are two portals of entry for essential oils to enter the human body, the nose and the skin. Olfaction, the sense of smell, is more commonly associated with aromatherapy because of the "aromas" of the essences. Essential oils offer powerful and extensive benefits to the skin through massage, the bath or simple topical applications.

In fact, one of the most famous stories in the world of aromatherapy is that of Dr. Rene Gattefosse sustaining a third degree burn on his hand. It was a beaker filled with essential oil of lavender in his cosmetics lab that launched him on his path. Mistaking the lavender essential oil beaker for water, he plunged his hand into the liquid to bring down the temperature of his wound. His realization that the liquid was lavender embarked him on a journey of discovery which led him to coin the term Aroma Therapy and win the title of the Grandfather of Aromatherapy.

When using a botanical perfume you have the opportunity to experience the benefits of both applications of essential oils. The aroma of the perfume will affect how you feel and may even offer some of the beneficial attributes associated with each specific essential oil in the blend. For example Lavender has been scientifically proven in research to include reduce stress, induce sleep, alleviate depression and a host of other properties. Our Vera fragrance contains many different types of Lavender both from France and the Ojai area of Southern California.

The other boon of botanical perfume is that essential oils have the ability, due to their tiny molecular structure, to penetrate the layers of the epidermis. This allows them to get into the body and do their organic healing work.

Getting back to memory, you may want to recall the wealth of advantages offered to you in the form of botanical perfume. Botanical perfumes, in most cases, have been created with vital and pure essential oils, thus you get much more than just a pleasant fragrance. By using aroma therapeutic rich perfume you support organic agriculture and a green and healthy way of life. Instead of supporting large corporations, you empower a small business owner who crafts these perfumes by their very own hands. In some cases they even grow and prepare the materials within the perfume.

All good things to store in our memory banks, as we are illuminated by the sunshine.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

:: White Wash ::

This week I created two Etsy treasuries, one for the Main section and one in the West. The first was for Treasury West created with images I had already been gathering.

Taste of Ecuador


Sunday afternoon we celebrated my birthday by inviting a few family members and friends over to our little house in the woods. To my delight Green Power Girl came by, what a treat, I just LOVE her! She didn't bring her Solar Scepter though. (Darn!)

We decided to do a "Taste of Ecuador" type meal and also showed our photos from the trip while sharing a few stories.

The menu consisted of Banana Chips, Pan de Yuca, Corn Empanadas and Ecuadorian Fruit Smoothies for the appetizers. A main course of Green Banana Empanadas with Tomato Tree Fruit Salsa, Locro Soup, Green Salad and Shrimp Salad. Mostly handmade.

For dessert Marilyn made a Chocolate Cake and a Plum Torte, Green Power Girl brought some delicious goodies from Wholefoods with Vanilla Ice Cream on the side. Lots of Chocolate because of Ecuador AND I am a chocoholic!

The Green Empanadas came out especially good, in fact they were probably the favorite food item of the day! We used this recipe although we modified it just a bit. I made a Tomato Tree Fruit Salsa to go with them. The Tree Tomato Fruit came from Venice, Green Power Girl and her friend brought them over. Since they were frozen I ran the plastic package under hot water to defrost them quickly. Then I followed this recipe, although again, I modified it. This time the modification came by adding some Mango and a little sugar.


For the Locro Soup I adjusted the original recipe I posted on this blog with tips from my Ecuadorian friend Maria. One of the special ingredients is Achitote, also called Annatto. We purchased the Achitote at our local Vallarte Supermarket. We were a bit disappointed that the market only featured mainly Mexican fruits and veggies.


These napkins started out as Mexican fabric that was given to us by Marilyn. Eve and I sewed about one inch from the edge and then carefully frayed them. They were perfect the the theme of the day.


We served Pan de Yuca as an appetizer. These are might good! We purchased the Yuca root flour at the Vallarta market. From what I read Yuca root also goes by the term Tapioca flour which is sold at regular markets. If you know if indeed Yuca root flour and Tapioca flour is the same thing please leave a comment here on the blog. I'd love to know if this is actual true. This was the only recipe I didn't modify.


The fruit smoothies were made from a variety of tropical fruit, some Ecuadorian but not all. We cut pineapple slices and put them on each class. Just like we were served in the restaurant of the Hotel Quito...well almost.


Between the main course and dessert we debuted a 25 minute slide show of all our photos from the recent Ecuador trip. During the slides we told a few stories and provided a bit of an educational aspect. To see some of the pictures from the show follow this link to the posts I've done so far here at this journal.

I forgot to mention, it was Reverend Ricki's birthday too. His name starts with "R" like me AND he was born the same year on the same day. Thus, we had a double R celebration.

After the birthday cake celebration I got out my newest botanical perfume creation. This is following a sequence from last year when I created Cimbalom, titled Birthday Balm initially.
The Birthday Balm perfume for this years christening is titled Page 47. It is a sweet, floral fragrance similar to Lyra, but a bit more fresh. The title Page 47 came when I asked "What shall we call this perfume?" Someone mentioned the name Chapter 47, which prompted Eve to chime in with "NO, it should be Page 47!!" We like that name for a variety of reasons. Those in the know will understand the layers of significance this title has. More on this perfume soon.


THANK YOU's
Thank you to My who contributed photos #2 through #5 . Thank you to Marilyn for the delicious cakes, Green Power Girl and her buddy for the Ecuadorian fruits from the Central American Market in Venice, Martha for the Corn Empanadas. Special thanks to the amazing helpers in the kitchen Peleg, My, Eve and Greg. Thanks to all the family and friends who came to the festivities and those who sent lovely birthday blessings. A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Ricki as well as my other Leonine sisters in New York, Leah and Lucy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

AMAZONA


We awoke early on our first morning in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We were to meet Howard and Eve for breakfast and then hook up with our guide, Patricio. At 8am we met the guide who had us fitted with vinyl boots and ponchos for the rainforest. Next the four of us; Howard, Greg, Eve and myself, walked over the suspension bridge and boarded the little, rundown mini van.

Along the way Patricio stopped to pick up his buddy who hopped into the front seat. After about 30 minutes of beauty filled, scenic drive, we stopped due to construction blocking the road. Patricio got out to discover that a large drainage pipe was being put in. He was told that a drainage pipe was being put in and it would be about an hour before the road would be open again.


An hour later it became evident that the work was not going to end any time soon. Thus we piled out of the van and began our tour by foot. The intention was that our guides friend would wait with the van and catch up to us later. We were thilled to get out of the van and walk, even though it was raining and the way was extremely muddy. The reason for our ponchos and rain boots became quite clear.

Patricio had uncanny skills of perceptive. While walking he stopped us and said "Look a Blue Morpho!" The Blue Morpho is a gorgeous, electric blue Amazonian butterfly. We peered into the thicket of rain forest shrubs and saw nothing, eventually we spotted the butterfly perched on a branch.


Onward we went with Patricio pointing out different flora as we walked. Soon we arrived at a fish farm which consisted of two square ponds in the grass. The water was very cloudy, preventing us from actually seeing the fish. Tilapia were along with another, very large fish that resembled a serpent.

As we left the fish farm and walked on our guide indicated a type of palm-like shrub, that is actually a perennial herb, Carludovica palmata, used to make the infamous "Panama Hats." Using the natural leaf fibers we created a woven headband. It was a bit challenging at first but eventually we were all weaving the long pieces to create our very own handmade headbands.


As we continued along the road Patricio pointed out a cocoa tree with one of the football shaped fruits. We were all surprised at how the reddish pink and brown striped fruit grew right out of the trunk of the tree. Next our guide cracked open a small red spiky fruit which contained white seeds. The fruit is known as Achiote, Bixa orelana. As he rubbed the seeds with his finger they turned bright red. He said this was a water soluble dye used for coloring food, hair and textiles. The plants nickname is "lipstick tree", the dye is utilized in cosmetics as a natural alternative to synthetic coloring agents. In ethno-medicine it has a variety of uses. Patricio proceeded to paint a few marks on our each of our faces with the dye.

We walked in bliss with our bright colored ponchos, red marks on our faces and handwoven headbands. Eventually the weather grew warm and we were able to remove our ponchos. Once again Patricio stopped us as he went over to a large, brown woody-oval mass and placed his palm on it as if conducting a healing. He came over to us revealing tiny little bugs crawling all over his hand. We learned that the large, brown woody-oval mass was a termite nest. He then rubbed his hands together and all over his arms crushing the little bugs. Once done, the bugs were gone and all that was left was a gorgeous sandalwood-like aroma. Patricio said the wax from the termites is a natural insect repellent, extremely useful against mosquitoes. Upon hearing this and becoming completely intoxicated by the aroma I too wanted to try this technique. Lucky for us mosquitoes were no where to be found. I considered tincturing the material but then realized that it was a "natural" ingredient, thus would not work for botanical perfume. The woody fragrance of the termite wax still haunts me, it was sublime.


We walked on, enjoying the sights, and soon met up with the van. This next phase of the adventure began by walking into the jungle, prior to this moment we were walking along the main road. Off road we went, through the tangle of branches, streams, vines and logs that served as bridges. Images from Raiders of the Lost Arc were prominently in mind.


Eventually we arrived at a clearing just at the rivers edge. This small village with thatched huts. served as a hotel, restaurant and departure site for our canoe ride. We left our backpacks with our guide and hopped into a wooden canoe for a ride down the River Pastaza. As we glided across the dark muddy water we were all very silent taking in the beauty of our surroundings and the exquisite sense of peace that impregnated the area.


The end of our canoe ride was upon us, we disembarked and met up with Patricio who took us to a new hotel built right on the edge of glorious lookout point. Although the day was gray and cloudy the expansive view was thrilling. Below us stretched the Amazon in all her splendor with the River Pastaza and her tributaries. During the rainy season the basin fills with water.


The hotel was stunning and would serve as a great location for a workshop, something I noted as we walked back to the van amongst the thriving native flora and fauna.


We headed back to the thatched hut village for our lunch of tilapia, baked yuca root, rice and fruit salad for dessert. There was quite a diverse group of people staying at the primitive jungle hotel.


After lunch we grabbed our packs and followed Patricio across a bridge and into the jungle. Once again as we walked our tour guide educated us on a variety of different plants and their uses by the indigenous community.


Above is a photo of Patricio making a cut into the trunk of a tree called Sangre de Drago which translates as Dragons Blood. This plant shares the same common name as many others, although goes by a completely different Latin name, Croton lechleri . There seemed to have been a tendency to call any bright red resin Dragons Blood. The variety from the Ecuadorian Amazon is , when cut the bark exudes a dark, reddish, resinous latex. Patricio shared that the indigenous people of the area use it specifically for wound healing. Upon further research I have discovered that it is fabulous indeed for wound healing, especially applied to a burned area, as well as a variety of other dis-eases of the body.


As we walked along, Patricio walked down to the rivers edge and brought back with him a gray blue rock. As he rubbed water into the rock a clay-like texture developed. He covered each of our faces with this blue gray material indicating that the clay was good for clarifying our skin. This was the "spa" experience of the journey.


After a long enjoyable and educational walk through the jungle, we came to a wooden bridge over a creek that once again brought up the Raiders of the Lost Arc archetype in my mind.. Across the bridge we could see gorgeous waterfall named "Hola Vida" which translates as Hello Life. It was a spectacular fall with quite a bit of force. Greg and Howard striped down there in the open and took a dip in the cool waters. Eve and I were feeling a bit more modest about changing into our swim suit right there in open view so we did not indulge in the natural pool. Next time I will be prepared and wear my swimsuit under my clothes!


We enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the waterfall for about half an hour and then began our journey back through the forest. Along the way Patricio saw a tree frog on a rock down in the river. Along the way we also encountered several species of ants including some real aggressive ones, large, microscopic and the infamous leaf cutter ants. Here is a photo of a stick bug.


Greg had fun drumming on the hollow Buttress roots of a tree, which made a very loud, reverberating noise out into the jungle.


Once we emerged from the jungle we all got back into the van and drove to the base of a bridge which lead to a village of indigenous people. This tiny community had just recently added a school house for the native children. We were escorted to a thatched hut that acted as their "store" where about five indigenous women sat in a circle, some nursing their children. The elder told birth stories to our two guides in Spanish while we looked at the beautiful wares including seed jewelry, fresh Sangre de Drago in small amber bottles, pottery, packages of Una de Gato (Pau d'arco) Tabebuia avellanedae. We made some small purchases, headed back over the bridge to the van and from there departed the Hola Vida Reserve.


When we arrived back at the hotel we immediately headed to the spa for a bit of time in the wet and dry saunas before dinner.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Into the Amazon


The number eleven is associated with intuition, patience, honesty, sensitivity and spirituality. In most numerology systems it is a master number and the Light Bearer. Thus, on the eleventh day of our visit in the Republic of the Equator, we headed southeast toward an adventure in Puyo, the center of Ecuador’s Amazon.

On the scheduled morning departure we patiently waited at the University for our driver, Howard, to finalize details. The scheduled 12:00pm departure turned into 2:30pm. Howard Taikeff is a New Yorker who teaches sculpture at the University and volunteered to be our driver. A very sanguine fellow who considers himself an atheist and has a deep love of Ecuador and all things Judaic.


Greg rode shotgun with Howard while Eve and I sat in the back. The ride took about five hours along a variety of roads and highways. At times the route would dump us into a town with crowded cobble stone, maze-like streets. Once we found our way out of the little towns we were back on the exhaust fumed highway. This trip was a clear reminder that we were in a third world country far from the paved and organized streets of the City of Angels.

Eventually the landscape changed to rich, lush vegetation. Unfortunately since we had left Quito so late much of the beautiful scenery was shrouded in darkness. The road reminded me of Malibu Canyon but with different scenery. To our right the mountainside veered downward to what I later realized was a the Rio Pastaza.


As we drove in the darkness a series of surreal tunnels through the vegetative mountains presented themselves. The interior of the tunnels were very long and raw with chiseled walls that looked like Batman’s cave. Although dry outside the caves would drip with water requiring us to turn on the windshield wipers while inside the cave. At this point I had the distinctive feeling that we were entering the terrain of the Goddess. Elemental water and life force energy was very strong here. The air felt verdant and the temperature grew warmer.

We had been climbing in altitude and as we exited one of the tunnels fog engulfed us with no visibility. Howard wasn't quite sure how to work the lights or the windshield wipers. This became the first sign that we were indeed on a wild adventure.

The next sign was a huge pile of dirt in the middle of the road. What the heck? Mind you it was night time, no lights on the steep canyon road and thick fog. Howard commented that Ecuador was where all Republicans should come and experience pure deregulation.

When finally we arrived in the city of Puyo, Howard was not clear where our hotel was located thus began asking locals for directions. As was typical many different perspectives were provided. In the end we took a round about route pitted with potholes every two feet. Who needs massage when you can get juggled around in a car as if someone were shaking a can.

Finally we arrived at the end of the street with a gated bridge that crossed the River Pastaza, the third sign of adventure. The bridge looked like it was right out of Jurassic Park. Upon crossing the one way, suspension bridge we had arrived to the end of our journey on day eleven The Hotel Pigual.


The guest rooms were cabin-like structures that reminded me quite a bit Club Med in Moorea, Tahiti. The plant lined pathways, alive with the sounds of tropical animals and a the rich scent of vital vegetation led us to our home for the next two nights.


Next post, Ecuador Day 12, the Amazon jungle!!

Photographs ©Roxana Villa