Monday, February 28, 2011

Holly Wood

“Hollywood has always been a cage…a cage to catch our dreams.”
- John Huston

The name for the city of Hollywood was due to a native California plant which bears similarities to the European holly plant because of it's red berries. The indigenous Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia, grows abundantly in the wilds of the hillsides and is also referred to as Christmas Berry.

In March of 1910 In Old California was released by D.W. Griffith, this was the first motion picture created in Hollywood, setting a precedent for the birth of an industry.

The closest I have gotten to involvement in the film industry has been through husband #1 Ben and current husband Greg. Both gentlemen work in the industry as well as a plethora of friends including actors, animators, concept designers, etc.

Two weeks ago an e-mail was posted on the Backwards Beekeeping (BB) group from a casting agent looking for someone to play the part of a real Beekeeper for a Kashi cereal commercial. I decided to respond, figuring I had nothing to lose.

The auditions took place in Santa Monica with several rooms devoted to the casting of commercials. I showed up carrying my bee suit in my basket with no idea what to expect. Several other local beekeepers were there including members of my Backwards Beekeeping club. To my surprise I got a callback! When I returned to the audition location I felt like I had walked into an alternate universe. First I noticed there were loads of fellas that looked like security guards, after a short while, they all disappeared and were followed by motor cycle bikers with tattoos.

Regrettably I didn't get the part, but fellow BB member Max Wong did, so look for her once the commercial comes out. She will be decked out in a white beekeeping suit.

In other related news two of our friends won Oscars last night at the Academy Awards. Wally Pfister for his visionary cinematic contribution to Inception and illustrator Shaun Tan for his animated short The Lost Thing.

This morning I am off to save and hive a wild swarm living in an abandoned garage here in Woodland Hills. I say save because they were going to be exterminated. More details on that adventure shorty. HapBee Day!

Images: Toyon berries and Hollywood sign via Wikipedia by Sörn on Flickr.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bee Fever

Honey bee swarms are now being reported to the Los Angeles Bee Rescue Hotline on a regular basis. I responded to one in Sherman Oaks on Tuesday, however my journey there was cut short by a mysterious overheating of the engine on my car. Much to my dismay I ended up calling AAA to tow my car to the mechanic. Strangely enough the fellow from the shop that gave me a lift home had a bright yellow truck with a honey bee emblem on the back.

Thus, this morning I awoke at 5:30am and treked out to snatch up the sweet little bees. The swarm was about the size of a small football and hung from a small shrub in the front yard. My bee capture gear included the white nuc box with prepared frames, my new bee suit, tape and a garden shears.

First thing I did was access the situation and then put on my suit, although I didn't need it. Typically a swarm will be extremely docile, contrary to popular brain washing by the media. Add to the equation very cold temperatures and you get bees that barely move, like these.

Next I trimmed away a few small branches, positioned the open nuc box under the bees and cut the branch. The intention was that the entire branch would swiftly fall into the box with all the bees. Instead about half of the bees went in with rest of the half remaining on a limb. Thus I gently and firmly shook the limb and the rest of the bees fill in. After a few minutes of rounding up stragglers that were climbing on my suit I placed the frames back into the box, put on the lid and taped it up. Wah-lah, the Bush Bees are now here at the Villa Splaenka, feasting on sugar water and a pollen patty. Intending they will make themselves at home, but one never really knows.

The term "bee fever" has been defined by Captain Kirk as a condition that occasionally transpires to one who begins working with bees. I most gleefully suffer from this condition and look forward to more bee adventures!

If you see a swarm or have unwanted bees make sure to call the hotline to SAVE the BEES.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Perfume Illuminated: Elder

In the dry, hot dessert climate of the chaparral biome a pretty white to pale yellow flower blooms in the Spring. This native dweller goes by the name Sambucus mexicana, commonly known as Mexican elderberry or Tapiro. The Elder grows all over the world in diverse conditions depending on the variety, today we highlight the genus Sambucus for our ongoing Perfume Illuminated Project.

“Your mother was a hamster and your father reeked of elderberries”
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail

When I hear the word Elderberry I immediately think of delicious cough syrups that we have in the medicinal section of the pantry. The small berries grow in clusters are a terrific food source for local fauna, particularly birds. Prior to the berries, the tree produces tiny little flowers that resemble one large bloom.

Here in my local woods the native Sambucus mexicana has already started blooming in the area. We often see a plethora of the local community feasting on the plant including the cute native ground squirrels, hummingbirds, and butterflies. I haven't noticed the honey bees in there, but be more conscious this year and probably plant one of these on out lot.

While on a plant walk with my knowledgeable friend Meghan she mentioned that you can make fritters with the flowers of the native Elder. She also mentioned that the original people of this area of California, known as the Chumash, created clapper sticks made from Elderberry wood to make ceremonial musical instruments.

Since the plant that I have here outside my studio is not currently blooming I am not able to provide you with a description of the scent. I do however has a sample of a Elder Flower C02 from Bulgaria that I just recently received. This extract is from the European Sambucus nigra.


The aroma of this essence is warm with carmel, hay and herbal notes. Other odors perceived in this extraction are: balsamic, tobacco, spice, chocolate and anise. According to Steffen Arctander there are also extractions of Sambucus nigra available to the botanical perfumer as an absolute, a concrete and an essential oil. In France the essential oil of dried Elder flower is known as " essence du surreau."

Speaking of the french, here is a snippet from Monty Python where the aroma of elderberries is used as an insult.


Besides the use of Elder berries for cough syrups and the flowers for fritters the little fruits are also used o make a cooling cordial, jelly, jam, chutney and even ketchup!

Please journey over to Beth at the Windesphere Witch blog for more savory notes on the flavor of Elder.

Resources: Fabulous site for ElderBerry recipes and information.

Images: Elderberry Flower Fairy by Cicely Mary Barker, all other is ©Roxana Villa

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless

Among the stars that have a different birth,--

And ever-changing, like a joyless eye

That finds no object worth its constancy?

"To The Moon" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Full with the expectation of the Spring the Moon shines her light brightly upon the new edition of Gracing the Dawn. Long before our calendar was invented humans paid close attention to the cycles of the season and thus gave each full moon a name specific to what was transpiring at the time. The current lunar lantern was referred to as the Snow Moon by the native people and the Worm Moon according to the Farmers Almanac.

In reading about the February Moon I've discovered that Violets are one of the symbols for this month. Out from drifts of snow these little purple blossoms poke their heads out to remind us all of the shift that soon will take place.

Although not technically a violet perfume by note, Gracing the Dawn does contain violet leaf, orris root and a tincture of violets. Her fragrance is very much in tune with the color purple. Read about her construction and impressions at this link here at the journal.

Finally ready, after recreating all her chords and patiently waiting for the alchemy to take place Gracing the Dawn is ready. Like her sister, GreenWitch, she shares the same chords and is very complex to construct. The new edition has shifted slightly as I felt she needed a bit more grounding and permanence without suffocating the rich floral heart.

Here in the wooded hills of the Santa Monica Mountains we don't get a profound seasonal shift or snow. However, the trees are now all blooming including the native oaks and the fruit trees. Soon the honey bees will be feasting as the pollen levels rise after this new rainfall.

Thus under the luminessence of this lunar spectacle the apparition of the three winged graces has returned for a limited time.

1. Heart of Snow by Edward Robert Hughes
2. Queen of the Night by Henri Fantin-Latour
3. Violets by Henry Meynell Rheam
Gracing the Dawn Natural Perfume

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

It's the day of lovers here in the US, officially deemed Valentines Day. Wafting my sweetest and most sensuous of scents your way. Roses and chocolate are most often associated with this day thus I brought back Petales, the artisan chocolate and rose natural perfume.

Here in the studio I've been working on a deep, rich Amber accord which I'm not totally clear on what I will be using it in. All I know is that I really love it and am quite happy with the aroma which is currently all over my fingers and hands as I type this post. Thus, my scent for the day of love is the ubiquitous, cross gender Amber.

Image: Bee Mine heart boxes ©Roxana Villa

Saturday, February 12, 2011


MinxShop Natural Perfume Locket #10

The advertising team here in the wooded hills consists of myself with added input from husband #1 Ben, current husband Maestro Gregorio and daughter Eve. Occasionally friends will be added into the synergy as well. Since Greg has contributed imagery for corporations and people like Lorree Rodkin, Ben does film advertising and Eve is a fashionista blogger I feel we've got a nice mix contributing.

Saturdays is the main day of brainstorming because the four of us are all here. These sessions tend to be very intersting because there are multiple POV, points of view. Often the discussionsalso lead down the path of comedy and belly laughs. Today was such a day.

In the midst of this Anne Marie of MinxShop sent me some photos. She took some shots wearing her Victorian perfume locket with Chaparral solid natural perfume. Here are a few, which is your favorite? The number of the photo is under the image.

MinxShop Natural Perfume Locket #6

MinxShop Natural Perfume Locket #8

MinxShop Natural Perfume Locket #7

MinxShop Natural Perfume Locket #5

MinxShop Natural Perfume Locket #4

MinxShop Natural Perfume Locket #3

MinxShop Natural Perfume Locket #2

MinxShop Natural Perfume Locket #1

All photos by Anne-Marie of MinxShop.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bee Season

Several indicators have turned up signaling the start of the honey bee season. The first is Captain Kirk alerting us to rains followed by warmth and sunshine and secondly pollen levels are up and my allergies have kicked in.

Here at our little woodland abode we've prepared a new area up on the top slope under one of the oaks for a new hive. We are curious if the golden alchemists will be happier up there away from humans, wireless devices and in more sunshine.

Thus, on this day devoted to Venus, my dear friend Meghan and I will be treking out to LA Honey to pick up suppllies. Meghan has appeared often on this blog, she is at the core of my interest in native plants and I must say I absolutely adore spending time with her. We will be setting up hives on her property in Malibu Lakes. It's an ideal location for the honey bees since her land is right on the edge of Malibu State Park which is abundant with the California native flora that the honey bees adore.

I'll be back to report on our adventures soon. I'm super excited because I will be getting my bee suit today, finally!! Wish you all a marvelous day as we go into the weekend.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Sometimes a good laugh in the morning is the perfect way to start ones day.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rangeland Honey

Gather and taste wild honeys from bees foraging native plants in the Arizona rangelands while supporting local organic beekeeper, Dee Lusby. Learn about the history of mead making & try your hand at wild mead making!

Sunday, Feb 13th
836 north 11th avenue 4-6pm

$20/person includes some light foraged snacks and tastings of honeys and aged wild mead.

All interested in making mead should bring 3 empty wine bottles(or similar bottles with necks), a cup of the best honey they've tasted and a 1 quart glass jar.

Ecological (since 1888) Arizona Rangeland Honey from Dee Lusby of Moyza/Arivaca will be available for purchase as well as airlocks.

Arizona Rangeland Honey, produced by beekeeper Dee Lusby, is from bees that live in the remote desert rangeland of southern Arizona. These bees forage entirely on wild desert flowers and blooming trees on ranches and wildlife preserves, far from cultivated agriculture. The honey that they produce is very thick (around 14% moisture content) with a natural crystal that ranges
from smooth and creamy to slightly crunchy as the seasons progress. The flavors and textures of each barrel of honey vary by bee yard location and time of season but generally have a unique buttery undertone with hints of caramel and citrus.

Questions? Contact Nance.

Image ©RoxanaVilla, honey bee painting on parchment, signed prints available.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Perfume Illuminated: Coffee

"Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Don't wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee. "
~ Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks

Once again we delve to the intersection of flavor and fragrance by highlighting one ingredient. For todays feature we venture into the forests of Africa to encounter a small berry with energizing affects. This red berry is the outer coating of the renown coffee seed which we call a bean. Coffee is one of the worlds most important cash crop and as a commodity compares only with oil.

The origins of the drink stem in Yemen with the roasting and brewing tradition from Arabia. In 1475 we have the first coffee house establishing itself in Constantinople. Two hundred years later coffee arrives in Venice and then onward to the Americas.

Coffea the original coffee tree native to North Africa, comes from the Rubiaceae family and is often referred to as a shrub. Coffea arabica, is the species which is most valued among aficionados of the dark liquid elixir.

FRAGRANCE: Roxana Villa

Within the palette of the natural and botanical perfumer we have a three delicious coffee extracts at our disposal: the essential oil, the absolute and C02 extract. All of them like the drink, are dark in color and mimic the aroma perfectly. The absolute tends to be extremely viscous and has the ability to overtake a blend if not used with mindfulness. The note, in general terms is described as rich, earthy, slightly bitter with a nutty, woody character and back notes of carmel.

The other raw material from this popular leafy shrub is the rare Coffee flower absolute produced in Madagascar. The aromatics of this flower when experienced in the forest is said to be quite a wonder. The absolute shares some similarities with other tropical flowers with heady, narcotic, rich notes.

Coffee as an aromatic material is closely knit to the culinary fragrance family. One can use it in miniscule amounts as an alchemic shifter in a perfume formula, in small quantities combined with wood and earthy notes or with wider strokes to impart the aroma of a rich cup of Jo. For the latter one can get super creative by blending it with vanilla, spices such as cardamon and cinnamon.

For Christmas 2000 I made a detoxifying coffee salt scrub by mixing the coffee grounds with salt and almond oil. The scrub was enlivening in the morning with the extra benefits of exfoliation and detoxification all in one!

Currently here in the studio I've got a Mocha Chocolate perfume to share with you all. I'd like to introduce you to it next week, if all goes smoothly, stay tuned.

The idea for this post today came when husband number 1, Ben, sent me a link to the 20th anniversary of Twin Peaks. Can you believe it's been twenty years since that massively successful, weird, creepy and wonderful show!? Here in Los Angeles there is an art exhibition that pays homage to the legendary tv drama opening on February 12th featuring the work of many friends as well as David Lynch. Check it out at TwinPeaks20.


We mostly think of the drink when we hear the world coffee, or perhaps one of the numerous associated beverages like Café au lait, Cappuccino, Frappuccino or Liqueur coffee which has one titled Witches Coffee. Coffee is featured as a flavor ingredient primarily in desserts like ice cream, cakes and chocolate.

Now please hop on over to Beth at the Windesphere Witch blog for her contribution to this topic from the perspective of flavor.

Images and text ©Roxana Villa, pilfering content is a violation of copyright, don't do it. Coffee cup black and white photo generously loaned by CartaForBicesasso on Etsy.

Health Benefits of shade grown Coffee
An Obsessive's Guide to Coffee
History of Coffee website

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A New Green Cloak for Spring

The last batch of the solid perfume synergy for Q ran out. As I pondered the formula and moved to make more I choose to reassemble the composition with an intention of creating a few subtle shifts. Sometimes when a fragrance formula gets translated from a liquid to a solid state the fragrance will shifts. Mind you, this doesn't always happen, only sometimes. For example Lyra and Aurora have the same ingredients in the solid and liquid synergy bases and the expression in aroma is almost exact. There is also the added element of the beeswax aroma in the solid embodiment.

Sierra Solid Gold is the only one that has a different formula from the liquid, not hugely different but the prosperity chord contained within really shifts the aroma into a much more gourmand space.

When I first made Q solid I was bothered by the difference between the liquid and the solid. I much preferred the liquid. The aroma in the solid was a little too smokey and heavy for my taste and didn't have some of the beauty and subtle qualities that the liquid possessed. Thus, in making more of the synergy I altered a few things and am super happy with the results!

The original Q solid natural perfume contained a complex wood chord that I first constructed in 2001 and fifteen other botanical essences. In the new synergy I decreased the amount of two of the heavy, smokier ingredients and added a sixteenth. Since the base is now lighter some of the beautiful heart notes have more space to breath and express themselves, this has also triggered more sillage of the fragrance.

As you can see I follow my nose with my product line, despite the fact that sales for Q solid were just fine I choose to shift it because of my own preference. This is the main difference that you will find with a uber niche perfumer who has no investors to answer, only a very lively art spirit with a zest for aromatic perfection. Although must say investor funding does sound appealing but not if it at the expense of authentic expression and integrity.

I am thrilled with the results and look forward to the feedback from the fan base. Enjoy the new green cloak of Q for Quercus agrifolia. How auspicious, the other native oak Quercus lobata, a deciduous tree, has lost all its leaves and is about to debut it's new cloak for the Spring.

For further reading about Q perfume and it's construction here is a list hosted on this blog with reviews and related features.

All photos ©Roxana Villa, Q illumination has been created by Greg Spalenka and is ©Greg Spalenka and Roxana Villa

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chocolate Kisses

February has arrived beckoning the Joie de vivre associated with Spring. This month we move into the Chinese New Year of the Rabbit, the Superbowl, New York City's Fashion Week, Valentines Day and birthdays to celebrate for those born under the Sun of Aquarius and Pisces.

Today's focus ties into Valentines day with an announcement. I have been working on new chords for the chocolate perfume series and will now offer them in larger sizes. The new formula has proved to be stable and thus will work as a body butter nicely. Chocolate body butter for you and your sweetheart for Valentines day, doesn't that sound fun?

More new on this front appearing shorty, just wanted to give you all a heads up and send you some chocolate scented hugs and kisses. By the way, we've spotted lots of cute cotton tailed bunnies here in the local oak woodland.