A Whirl of Fragrance

Several years ago, I had a horrible skin reaction to an artisan soap. I suspected a fragrance oil the soap maker had used. Naturally, she was horrified and offered me a free bar to make up for it (I chose an unscented bar based on olive and avocado oils). Since then, I’ve been careful around scented products. Since then, I’ve come to realize it was probably a natural essential oil that caused my reaction, but I still vet fragranced items quite carefully. As I also get migraine headaches, I have yet another reason to be careful.

Sadly, fragrance is one of my favorite things. A scent can evoke so much feeling and memory. So I’ve spent a fair amount of time searching around for fragrance companies that really pay attention to the ingredients they put into their fragrance. I don’t always get completely all-natural items, but I prefer companies that avoid the major nasties and focus on naturally-derived scents.

Recently, I placed an order from Demeter Fragrance, a company that has been on my radar since I was a teenager and they were releasing really weird scents like “Dirt.” They focus on single-note scents and encourage blending and layering. As someone who favors simple scents and florals, I love this idea. Rather than getting a designer fragrance with a dozen notes in it, I can blend my own, really letting each element shine.

So I put together an order of samples, along with a small bottle of one of their completely 100% natural scents. I went with an assortment of florals (violet, Bulgarian rose, and jasmine), along with two spicier scents to use as bases (bourbon, and whiskey and tobacco), a sample of vetiver (for grounding), and a bottle of the 100% natural rose scent. They also included a free bottle of magnolia perfume.

I have to say the scents are lovely. The 100% natural rose is very rosy, though I can detect the distinctive scent of rose geranium. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to stay strong on my skin for long, but I appreciate it as a nice, natural-smelling scent.

The other florals are wonderful, too. The jasmine is a rich, syrupy jasmine, probably sambac rather than grandiflorum. The violet is very, very light, but has a lightness that I will revisit in the spring time. The Bulgarian rose is a fantastic, real-rose scent. Some people think florals smell grandmotherly, and while I’ve never seen that as a problem, none of these have that powdery scent that can make floral perfume smell odd.

The whiskey and tobacco has a strong pipe tobacco note, with a bit of whiskey’s sharpness underneath. It has a bit of vanilla to it, without smelling too sweet. The bourbon smells, well, like my bottle of Eagle Rare. It’s just sweet enough, just sharp enough, and with a brightness that will be fantastic in spring and summer. And vetiver is likely going to become my favorite base note.

I have to say, I was most impressed so far with the sample of magnolia. It’s not overpowering, but it’s very floral. When I was in high school, on my walk home, I would stop and stick my nose in the gigantic white blooms on the magnolia trees along my route. This captures the faint rosiness, the notes of honeysuckle and jasmine, and that special fragrance particular to a magnolia. It brings back memories, which is the ultimate goal of most fragrance for me. Despite the fact that it’s very much a spring-y scent, I will probably wear it throughout the dark days of winter to brighten my mood.

As far as the samples go, my plan to start blending and layering them to see what combinations I like. Then, I can order larger vials for blending a custom scent. So far, I believe I will try mixing jasmine with whiskey and tobacco, and vetiver. I may also try rose, violet, and bourbon.

I’m so excited to play with my little order of fragrance. I haven’t yet seen how the synthetic fragrance blends last on my skin, but I’m looking forward to experimenting.

Note: I purchased all these fragrances with my own money and have not received anything in return for this post. Even the sample was a standard gift-with-purchase.


Pursuing Less But Not Little

As I’ve mentioned previously, throughout my life, I’ve flirted with the idea of minimalism. I like the idea of a simple life with only a few possessions. When I travel, I take what will fit in a small bag. On a day-to-day basis, I stick to a capsule wardrobe that is practically a uniform, with makeup that requires only 4 or 5 items.

But I am not a minimalist. I will never again be the kind of person who tries to limit her possessions to an arbitrary number. Perhaps that seems a bit like a woman who believes in equality but says she’s not a feminist. But I truly believe I don’t belong among the ranks of true minimalists, who eschew accumulation of any kind (except perhaps snow).

Because I don’t count or trim. I clear out what needs clearing, but I enjoy receiving and buying when I need it. I may have 5 dresses, 5 cardigans, and a single pair of shoes that I wear to work almost every day, but I have a proliferation of scarves that I refuse to curate. I have jewelry that I receive as gifts or buy as it strikes me. I have probably a dozen red lipsticks because I still haven’t found The One (I think I’m close). And I still have little bits and bobs that I use to decorate.

But I avoid unnecessary indulgence. I live my life with less than I could. It started when I got my first job after graduate school. At a time when I was living in a room in a shared house, scraping together what I could to pay the bills while going through a divorce, all of a sudden, I found myself making much more money than I was used to. But I was still living like a poor student. And instead of going out and blowing all that money, getting a luxury apartment, and filling the space my new salary afforded me, I stepped back. I examined my finances, indulged in a few things, like a private, one-bedroom apartment, and some furniture (not enough, my family told me), and then put the rest into savings.

Less than one year after getting my new job, I crashed my car. I went three months without a car of my own, relying on carpooling, my bicycle, and public transportation, while I saved most of each paycheck. Then, I bought a car, paying upfront. And by the time I was two years out of graduate school, I had paid off my student loans from college. I was debt free fully eight years before I thought I would be.

But I still live in a house where I get one room entirely to myself, other than the bedroom I share with Boyfriend. We certainly have more space than we strictly need, and we could live more frugally without too much sacrifice. But the extra cost of a house with a yard is worth it when the weather is beautiful and I can plant herbs in the ground instead of in pots.

It is a quiet sort of cutting back, and one that rarely gets touted on blogs or websites, I think, but I think it’s worth sharing how I was a minimalist, but I’m not really anymore. And that’s okay. It’s peaceful to live my life in a sort of moderate minimalism, having neither an excess, nor a paucity.

My All-Natural, Homemade Body Butter

As promised, I have decided to share one of the recipes I mentioned in my No More Dirty Looks profile.

When I switched to safety razor shaving, I decided I needed some decadent way to moisturize my legs after shaving. Of course, because I tend to do my shaving in the evenings now, I don’t want to draw out the process much more than needed, so I wanted it to be easy, quick, natural, and not too messy. I started out using a little of my tallow-and-rosehip oil balm, but I found it didn’t absorb very easily and Boyfriend found my slightly slick legs off-putting.

When I ordered babassu oil for my soap-making, I looked it up and found out that it is also a lovely skin care oil. It absorbs fast, and, despite being used similarly to coconut oil in soap, it doesn’t clog pores the way coconut oil can. So I looked up a recipe to use it in a body and lip balm.

I found one at Swifty Crafty Monkey, who has a wealth of information for the beauty formulator. She gives her amounts in percentages, which is handy. I altered her recipe to forgo fragrance (I added the fragrance percentage to the babassu oil), and ended up with a recipe like this:

49% babassu oil
25% mango butter
25% beeswax
1% vitamin E

I measured out in grams on my soaping scale, making a 100-gram batch for simplicity (1%=1g), and found that gave me exactly 5 lip balm tubes and one 2.65-oz. deodorant container. The lip balm is lovely and silky and absorbs so nicely that it’s my new favorite base for lipstick. I use that right after I shower, then I have a lovely beverage while I gather my things for work, and by the time I do my makeup, I have only a bit to blot off before applying lipstick.

The body butter in the deodorant container is hardly an idea I can claim as my own, but I must admit, it is significantly more convenient than trying to grasp a slippery lotion bar with warm, damp hands after a shower. It glides on slightly damp skin and absorbs almost instantly. I use it every time I shave, and then after a few showers when I’m feeling scaly.

It definitely lends a lovely finish to my shaving ritual, as well.