I've made it a huge priority to flit about outdoors as much as possible through spring and summer. As there has been construction outside our house in Cambridge, Massachusetts starting every morning at 7:00a.m., (and our house shakes like a motel bed) there have been early jaunts to Walden Pond, my usual walks near the Charles River on Memorial Drive, and a brief stint over to Appleton Farms (pictured above) while waiting for some spaces in the Crane Beach parking lot to open up. I'm sniffing all of the fresh air I can!
Where have you been off to? Any good-scented plans for the summer? Like me, have you put your nose in every rose you can find?
My best friend’s milestone birthday is coming up and I’ve been thinking a lot about her and all of our funny fun times, like when she taught me how to tie my shoes at five years old, taking ballet classes together and flaring our nostrils like true Russian dancers (or what we thought true Russian dancers might do), indulging my listening to Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend” album on repeat on Siesta Key in Florida, being mercilessly beaten at mini golf on Cape Cod and drowning my sorrows in Red Barn pizza, ill-advisedly taking my first drag of a cigarette after a boy was crappy to me but her not judging me, reciting every word of “Grease,” visiting St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital with my family and it changing our lives forever, her treating me to / plying me with white wine at the Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s Boardwalk so that I would be amenable to her showing me how to Cha Cha Slide and Dougie.
We have some different taste in music but I have to say I unabashedly love Flo-rida because of Stef. At least that one hit about the apple-bottom jeans, boots with the fur, and shorty getting low-low-low.
Growing up, naturally you start discovering cosmetics with your friends and Stef and I always loved fragrance. Who among us growing up in the 80s didn’t have a crush on some boy who wore Drakkar Noir or Polo?
But two of my favorite scents that Stef and I shared that commingled with the smell of the cedar of her family’s vacation rental and the sea on Cape Cod were Agree Shampoo and Design, created by the design house of Paul Sebastian in 1985.
The notes in Design are honeysuckle, spicy carnation, citrus, warm musky tones, and rose, but it really just smelled like nothing else we had sniffed before or would sniff again. I think it holds up today. I remember wearing it and going to Provincetown, all young teen and crushing out on this boy from whom I would get my first real kiss later that summer.
I can still smell Design and the dust of the P-town Army Navy store where I bought my first army jacket and the record store where I bought the boy I liked a Replacements bootleg tape. I felt very illegal in a very sexy way. (Incidentally he wore Chanel for Men. Very grown up for a teen).
Agree shampoo has been discontinued (although you can find it as an import from Japan and on Ebay for upwards of $75 for three bottles). But, you can still find Design (and someone I know might be getting a nostalgic bottle of it for her birthday).
Like Design, Stef and my friendship is timeless and lives on and like Agree shampoo our friendship is sweet and very, very precious and, can only be imported from Japan. Ok, that metaphor doesn't really hold up.
Here’s to another forty (ahem, twenty-nine) years!! Love ya, Stef! XO!
I had the absolute delight of visiting The Arnold Arboretum the other day with my husband and our dear friend, Emily. We stuck our noses in every lilac. My favorite was the Esther Staley. Esther’s a real swoon-machine.
Just look at those wanton pink blossoms! A lilac scent ample with cream and sugar.
This time of year makes me want to put my nose in, ahem, everything. Now I'm over here loosening my proverbial tie, like Rodney Dangerfield.
Before I got into essential oils, as a young teen my favorite spring perfume was Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris, created in 1983, by Sophia Grojsman. You might not know Grojsman’s name but, if you were a big ‘fume-head like I was as a pre-teen in the 80s and 90s, (or grown woman, let’s be honest), her creations probably graced your precious wrists and neck. I’m talking Trésor, Eternity for Women, Calyx (remember its green, Sauvignon Blanc tang?), and that Coty exuberance in the fun black and white bottle: Ex`cla-ma`tion.
I almost can’t think of these perfumes without also recalling in my mind's nose the hallways and dry cafeteria pizza of my high school. I yearned to get out of there and spring perfume was the exact perfect thing that hinted to me all day, suggesting freedom was right around the corner. It lured me with the scent of escape (and yes, Escape) from that building and from the ache of being a teen and even seduced me with the promise of environs full of more romantic and artistic possibility than Ramsey, New Jersey.
I think perfume seduced me more than any boy ever did back then, but sometimes it’s easy to mix up who — or what — is doing the seducing. But a really good perfume should do that.
I get that same feeling of promise the second spring starts to glimmer on the breeze by diffusing some Ylang Ylang essential oil. She’s called the “Queen of Florals” for a reason. What I love about botanicals such as Ylang Ylang is they aren’t perfectly clean like so much we’re used to smelling in our culture. And that’s what’s awesome about Ylang Ylang and Jasmine Absolute, etc. They are the sex organs of the plant and they smell like it. And they look like it, too — if you ever get to visit The Harvard Museum of Natural History’s Glass Flowers exhibit, do it! (I mean, don't like, do IT in the museum. Or do, whatever you want, lover!)
Spring is the time of new life! And you know how that happens, don’t you? As Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Conchords” sings, “It’s business time (oooh)!”
So put a little plant sex, as my friend Emily says, on your person. Dab your wrists with it and let the trees and flowers know you’re down with their getting down. And maybe the rose will rise to meet you, if you know what I mean.
What are some of your favorite spring fragrances? Essential oils, perfumes or otherwise? Kirstie Alley once tweeted back at me that she likes to listen to Led Zeppelin’s “In the Evening” when she makes love. What’s your scent equivalent to that? Don’t be shy, it’s spring! Let’s dish, you dish!
Mother’s Day is not always the easiest for those of us who have lost our moms. No matter how OK I think I am I always miss her on this Sunday in May. But then I start thinking about how she would want me to be. Continuing to cultivate and honor my gentle side is a good start. Anyone who knew my Mom could see her unique gentleness and loved to be near it.
I always try to do something in tribute on anniversaries and holidays. These moments end up being some of the most spiritual cornerstones of my life. It’s crazy the way the universe seems to conspire to bring you absolute gold when you’re honoring someone.
On the tenth anniversary of my mother’s passing I took a reiki training workshop with Libby Barnett (who is amazing) and absolutely fell in love with this healing modality. It continues to further connect me with compassion and a softness of spirit that my mother definitely embodied.
At one point during our reiki training I was working with these two blonde mommies (that’s how I referred to them after, because of course that’s who I ended up with). They were also both nurses. One of them was skeptical of reiki, even though she had heard there was proof it helps patients pre and post-op and her hospital was paying for her to take the workshop. She had her hands on my shoulders during our session.
“I saw you!” she said, after the session, with tears in her eyes. “I saw you running through wildflowers and you had one of those ribbons on a stick! You know what I’m talking about?”
“Yes! I was totally obsessed with that ribbon on a stick,” I told her. “It came in the ‘Get In Shape, Girl’ toy pack. It was my favorite dance accessory.”
And she told me that she felt the intense love my mother felt for me, in that moment when I was little, now, and always. That she could feel that love, too, and all three of us felt it in that moment and wiped away those gratitude tears. It was the hugest gift.
Of course, three gals who were strangers with their hands on each other — sounds weird, right? But it wasn’t that weird. Another reason I had chosen to take this reiki training was that when my Mom died I had barely touched her at all because I had a cold that week and was afraid I would make her more ill. That, in retrospect, is way weirder than sharing the energy of our hands in a carpeted room in Watertown, Massachusetts. Ok, it’s sort of weirder. But you know what I mean.
My point is I really regretted not putting warm hands on my Mom as she was going through that last phase of her life. But reiki training turned that around. (And I love putting reiki energy into everything I do, like my perfumes, music, food, etc.). Sometimes it takes something you could consider unorthodox, just to stretch yourself a little, for the universe to spark up in all its wild majestic weirdness and meet you.
Last summer I went on the most lovely women’s summer solstice retreat on Nantucket that started on my Mom’s birthday. I don’t consider myself to be super comfortable with strangers so that was out of my comfort zone, too. And it ended up being life-changing. It moved me out of this overly-analytical brain into my heart center and I’m looking forward to going on that retreat again this year.
Tribute can be anything. Sing a song. Do something nice for someone in the name of a loved one. Stretch your heart a little. You don’t have to go put your hands on blonde strangers. But if that’s sends a frisson up your spine, by all means, you magnificent weirdo. We’re human, after all, and it’s all pretty strange.
I’ve wasted so much money on perfume it’s not funny. That’s money that could have gone to something worthwhile. And whenever I smell stuff I like I worry it’s just going to give me a rash.
I had this one gorgeous perfume from an enchanting shop in Northern California — I really thought it would be my signature scent. I splurged for the gold-filigreed bottle.
I delicately sprayed on the heady floral scent from this all-natural, organic perfumery, which has its own farm where they get their essential oils.
But after a day of wearing it: RASH all over my wrists. RASH all over my neck. Their beautiful spring scent turned my décolletage to hamburger meat.
Trying to have a sexy scent, I broke out like I rolled around in poison ivy. It’s exactly what you don’t want, too, when you’re trying to have a special night, let’s say. I’m glad I don’t spray fragrance in my underpants, mmkay?
How could a perfumery with all organic scents be so harsh? Because, like The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, perfumes are STRONG as HELL. (Ok, sorry, now you have that theme song in your head).
Which is why I decided when I started my own perfumery to keep my formulas light enough not to irritate even really sensitive skin. My own skin, my friends’ skin. The nice side effect of that is when you’re wearing something formulated with subtlety in mind you’re not ruining the meals of a dining room full of people with, like, overly-strong fragrance. Because I am so not a fan of the message that move sends.
The right blend is about delicacy until someone gets close and then WHAM. Heya, dammit. It’s a MIRACLE!
And no zillion red dots.
And don’t get me started about the other really awesome, groundbreaking perfumery that gave me rashes, too. I wouldn’t name these other perfumeries because I really love them and I still open their bottles and grab whiffs of them. I just can’t wear them. Which is stupid, because perfume is for wearing.
But I didn’t get mad. I just started making my own stuff and filling it with the most love and least crap I could. Sometimes a rash can lead to a rash of inspiration! Har, har.
Have you had scents you’ve loved that make you look and feel like you took a right into Diaper Rash City via Poisoned Sumac Avenue?
It's my sister Nancy's birthday today! I love her like whoa. Also, she happened to buy me this very special and heavenly Virgo perfume back in the day, made by Jean Turmo in Woodstock, NY, that set off some synapses, planting the seeds for a perfumery of my own.
Nancy and I have had many scent adventures together, from remarking on the combo of cypresses and fireplaces in Pebble Beach (I'm still trying to recreate that scent), to smelling everyone's dinner in Oakland, NJ, while we rode down Ramapo Valley Road in early summer with the Beetle's top down.
"All the smells of our journey," she said, and we laughed. Here's to so many more smells of our journey!
Do you have a bottle of perfume that you mostly like but there is something off about it? Too sweet? Too strong? Too je ne sais quoi? Moi aussi! It’s basically why I started my own perfumery. The secret is unless that fragrance is “a scrubber” — what industry insiders call scents you have to wash off — you can make that scent work for you by spinning your own custom magicks.
You know you can cut that overly-strong fragrance by decanting some into a roller-ball or eyedropper bottle with a carrier like jojoba oil? You can often find empty bottles and carrier oils at your local health food stores or online. Voila! You can also buy disposable pipettes for cheap online, too.
So, I have had a few custom scents made for me and even they were not quite right. I am obsessed with musk, which can go a little sweet. So I started dabbing a pinprick of aged patchouli* on my wrist along with that custom scent and boom! Custom-custom scent was born.
Now listen — if you hate patchouli, that’s totally fine. You can find another base note to bring down your Vivienne Westwood Boudoir or Aqualina Pink Sugar or Avon Hollywood Pink or leftover Debbie Gibson Electric Youth (I still have most of a bottle). One of my go-to grounding essential oils is cedarwood, by Young Living, but you can find decent cedar essential oil from lots of sources. We live in the future. Use the Internet. Sandalwood is another good choice to bring it down. And black pepper essential oil takes it in a spicier direction. Just be sure to dab a tiny bit of olive oil or similar on your skin to dilute the pure essential oil. Pure essential oils can make your skin photosensitive.
Here’s a wee guide for choosing your best sweetness-grounder:
•Black Pepper — empowering, smells like spicy times
•Cedar — centering, smells like the forest floor or sauna
•Sandalwood — enlightening/stabilizing, smells like meditation
•Vetiver — grounding, smells like firewood
•Patchouli — relaxing/clarifying, smells like Woodstock, hippie Johnny
*I happened to buy that patchouli years ago in this spellbinding store, The Phoenix Shop at Nepenthe, in Big Sur, California, after a long search for the right combo of oils after smelling a guy on a bus to Providence, Rhode Island, who smelled like fresh cut grass and Chinese flowers. In a journey spanning the entire country I finally found the combo of single notes in Big Sur and wore them together for a long time, and smelled like a guy on a bus reading “Necromancer.”
I’m considering making a little woodsy/spicy roll-on perfume-grounder (name to be determined) for people to bring down fragrances they like but that run too sweet. Would that be something you’d be interested in? What are your favorite sweet perfumes?
Yesterday was Riot Grrrl Day here in Boston. Mayor Marty Walsh proclaimed April 9th Riot Grrrl Day in honor of Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, and the Julie Ruin front-woman Kathleen Hanna, who spoke last night at the Wilbur Theater. According to Stereogum, Mayor Walsh’s chief of policy, Joyce Linehan, introduced Hanna last night. Linehan has known Hanna for years and, apparently, used to give her a place to crash when Bikini Kill was touring back in the day.
Hanna’s Riot Grrrl Manifesto is as alive — and needed — today as it was twenty years ago. I’ll save it for the book and my weekly soap box rather than get into here how little, it feels sometimes, things have changed for women in many arenas all over the world.
According to a piece by Bryanna Cappadona in Boston Magazine, part of the proclamation that Mayor Walsh signed, which is adapted from Hanna’s original manifesto, reads, “The riot grrrl philosophy has never felt more relevant, with misogyny still rampant in many cultural spaces;” and “Riot grrrls redefine the language used against them and continue to fight the newest incarnations of patriarchy. In doing so, they ironically confirm one ex-congressman’s accidental wisdom: ‘the female body has ways to try to shut that down.’ It sure does: women’s voices telling their stories can shut that down.”
If you haven’t seen the Hanna documentary, The Punk Singer, definitely check it out. It was not long after I had seen it that I created my musky musky Girls Like Us fragrance and named it after Hanna’s the Julie Ruin song.
Girls like us might flock to scandals
But girls like us don’t give a shit
Girls like us pick up the hot handles
And burn our hands and we get over it
Let's stand the eff out! Let's be unstoppable!
Do you have a favorite riot grrrl memory? Hanna moment? Just getting to know her? What’s yr take on Cassavetes?
I love the scene in “Napoleon Dynamite” where Napoleon forgets to put the crystals into Uncle Rico’s time machine. And then he does put the crystals in, Kip turns the thing on, and Napoleon zots the hell out of his crotch. He does not go back to 1982 and instead declares the thing a piece of crap.
Anyway — I forgot to put in the crystals! Until now. Well, rather, I didn’t realize I even wanted to put in the crystals. And then I decided that it would be super fun and a little witchy to put crystal chips in each of my fragrances corresponding to the feel of the fragrance. For example, Venus in Furs now has carnelian for ease in transitions, Mature Themes has rose quartz (natch) for maximum love energy, Underground Sun has citrine for sunny happy times, Treasure Chest and Girls Like Us have garnet for karma cleansing, Pink Moon has moonstone. And if you don't believe any of that crystal hoo-hah jujubee woowoo voodoo mumbo jumbo just know they're darn pretty and from The Nature (and will make all of your dreams come true*).
And all the samples will have crystal chips, too!
The best part is that these crystals won’t facilitate zapping your crotch, like Uncle Rico’s time machine. They might even make you feel uplifted. Of course if crotch-zapping makes you feel uplifted, well, I say zap away.
And now I’m going to start a new paragraph because that last one was getting a touch untoward. Onward! I’m putting pyrite in No. 13 Baby for magnetism and grounding! Put the sex in “unisex,” people!
So, I would love to hear from you - what are your favorite crystals and what crystals and scents do you think go together?
*won't necessarily make all of your dreams come true -- only youuuuuu can make your dreams come true. But I'm rooting for you like whoa. What do you think? GOSH.
If you’re obsessed with NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” like I am then you probably already know Burger King in Japan is releasing a Whopper-scented perfume with the tagline “No Whopper, No Life.” Which, like so many perfume taglines, is mysterious to the point of ridiculousness, and nowhere near on-the-nose, even though it’s a smell.
Let me be the first to say, 8-(*). Actually, I’m probably not the first to express that sentiment about Eau d’Whopper.
One of the things about eating a Whopper is that I want the smell off me immediately. I don’t want people to know I’ve eaten a Whopper. Better yet — I’ve never eaten a Whopper. I swear! What’s that onion smell wafting off me? Nuttin’. I’m makin’ a big tomato sauce.
While I am pretty sure this Whopper perfume is going to be an April Fool’s joke (it’s slated to be released on April 1st), one thing I am for is food-inspired fragrances. They are known as gourmands, and I find myself creating a lot of them.
Most recently I put together saffron and bergamot essential oils, musk, and a dark chocolate note (seen above). The beautiful thing about making a gourmand is you can take it sensual with musk and take it away from foodstuffs territory. I know some people like to pull sheet trays of Pastrami into their lovemaking (I’m looking at you, Costanza) because it’s the “most sensual of the cured meats,” but I’m not even a whipped-cream girl. So my gourmand fragrances aren’t like wearing pure strawberry, let’s say. I love a gourmand but I want it out of the kitchen.
I loved making my unisex scent, No. 13 Baby, with sweet orange essential oil, dark chocolate and vanilla accents but you’ve also got redwood in there. Tiger Phone Card, which will come out this summer, is chock full of lemongrass, lime and sweet basil essential oils, with coconut, but some other ingredients and musks that will make you feel like you’re not bathing in a bowl of pho. It’s just going to be perfect for summer.
And according to my very scientific sources, lemongrass promotes psychic awareness and purification. That just sounds better than helping with bladder infections and parasites, doesn’t it? More importantly, lemongrass essential oil smells sweet and inviting, suffused with a spicy cloud a second in. On its own it almost has everything a perfumer could want in a scent. But then isn’t that the way with nature? Doing it better every time.