Taking the Waters

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Cold Drinks, Food, Food & Drink, Fragrance, Savories, Sweets, Wellness

Here in Southern California, we’re on the tail end of yet another summer heat wave. It feels like we’ve been pummeled with them this year, barely having time to enjoy a week of “cooler” temps (90s instead of 100s) before the next one rolls in. This latest wave brought some dreaded humidity that made going outside feel like stepping into a wet sauna. Ugh. We’re only midway through the season, so to keep my cool and freshen up when there’s no time for taking a bath, I’ve been taking the waters.

I discovered the culinary delights of rose water and orange blossom water when I got to know my Persian co-workers many years ago. They explained that Middle Eastern cooks use these floral waters in cooking and baking the way that most Americans use vanilla. I quickly learned that the waters also make fragrant and refreshing toners and tonics. During the summer, my favorite cooling trick is to pour them into spray bottles and keep them in the fridge for sweetly-scented spritzing throughout the day.

For years, I could only find Indo-European brand rose and orange blossom waters at Whole Foods and the ethnic foods aisle of some chain grocery stores, but then a large Middle Eastern market opened a few miles from my house and introduced me to a whole new world of culinary waters. There were familiar ingredients, like dillweed, cumin seed, and licorice, alongside less common ones, such as borage, sweetbriar, and willow, but some of the names were unrecognizable to me. What the heck is hedysarum? And fumitary water sounds like a treatment you’d be given on the road to wellville.

I bought them all.

Since I’m more of a baker than a cook, the dillweed and cumin have languished on a shelf, but orange blossom continues to be a favorite scent, and a rose by any other name—whether Naab or Ghamsar Kashan—smells as sweet. A whiff of willow holds hints of violet and rose, while fumitary emits the unexpected essence of peppermint. On sweltering summer nights, nothing beats a mist of mint water on sheets, pillows, and overheated skin, especially under the cooling currents of a fan.

Many of the descriptions online recommend taking these waters as a tonic beverage with plain water and sugar added. According to one, chicory water can “refine the blood,” promoting skin and liver health. Another claims that fenugreek water helps lower blood sugar and strengthen hair. Willow is said to stimulate the appetite, while fumitary (sometimes called fumitory) is beneficial for treating eczema and psoriasis. Hedysarum, which has a flavor completely unfamiliar to my American palate, tastes slightly medicinal, with a sharp earthiness and a trace of fruit that is both strange and exotic … and, apparently, useful for whooping cough.

In addition to Indo-European, I have found culinary waters from Cortas, Al Wadi, and Sadaf, but the largest selection is produced by Golchin. Most of them are only $3-5 a bottle, so stock up this summer and hydrate liberally, inside and out, because taking the waters is (almost) as therapeutic as a trip to the spa.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Culinary Waters

 

If you don’t live near a Middle Eastern market and can’t find these culinary waters at your local grocery store or gourmet food shop, many are available online from Persian Basket.

 

Advertisements

A Faint Whiff

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti Kay, Fragrance

Grab the smelling salts, because The Swoon Society is proud to introduce a Scent Worthy Of Our Noses: SWOON Perfume! Reflecting our signature bouquet, this bespoke fragrance unveils sweet scents of rose and violet…with a twist. Due to the skills of our master chemist, SWOON Perfume contains special aldehydes and esters that will actually make you feel lightheaded. The effect only lasts for a few minutes, but some users have gone weak at the knees, so make sure you spritz while sitting down and never drink in this “eau de sprawlette” before you drive.

SWOON Perfume is the first fragrance on the market designed to literally overcome your senses, so prepare to fall head over heels when you get a faint whiff of our intoxicating new scent.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

SWOON Perfume

 

If something about this post smells fishy, you’re nobody’s fool. Happy April 1st!

 

Essential Soil

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Fragrance, Wellness

terressentials-super-protection-deodorantYears ago, when I developed a sensitivity to deodorant, I tried virtually every brand on the market before finding one that actually worked and didn’t make my underarms feel like the pits. This miracle product was the Super Protection Deodorant from Terressentials, a small company dedicated to environmental responsibility and 100% natural and organic body care. I could devote an entire post to my regard for this roll-on were it not for the fact that underarm deodorant isn’t a particularly swoon-worthy topic. Fortunately, I discovered that Terressentials also makes an unconventional hair wash that functions as a Shampoo Worthy Of Our Notice.

Always on the lookout for simple, natural hair and skincare solutions, I jumped on the “no ’poo” bandwagon a few years ago, using a baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse to clean and condition my hair. Apostrophe slang aside, I loved how this crack combo cleaned my scalp without weighing down my waves, but when I read several articles about the harsh effects of baking soda, I knew I had to find a fresh fix.

terressentials-lavender-garden-pure-earth-hair-washAfter trying several different products and conducting a few disastrous homemade experiments (turns out you have to SIFT the rye flour), I spied Terressentials’ Pure Earth Hair Wash while on a deodorant run at my local health food store. I’d seen this product before over the years, but had dismissed it as not suitable for my scalp, which tends toward oiliness. However, in the interest of research, I decided to try the sweetly-scented Lavender Garden.*

This wash takes some getting used to. Composed primarily of organic aloe vera and bentonite clay, it contains no soap or detergent and does not foam up. You must massage the mud-like paste into wet hair for 2-3 minutes to make sure it comes in contact with all parts of the scalp. It’s also recommended that you repeat this process the first few times you use it in order to thoroughly clean your hair.

terressentials-pure-earth-hair-washWhile it may seem like a paradox, washing with dirt actually works! Without harsh cleansers or heavy conditioners, my hair was squeaky clean and untangled with ease, while the essential oil fragrance surrounded me in scents of lush lavender, sweet orange, and rose geranium. Just a dab of unscented hair gel to tame frizz and flyaways and I was good to go.

When it comes to pure and natural hair care, sometimes you have to get your strands dirty, so dig up this essential soil and bring your shampoo down to earth.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Terressentials Pure Earth Hair Wash

 

*It turns out that Lavender Garden is recommended for normal-to-dry hair, but it works well for my scalp.

Scentuary

Author: Kirsten K., Fragrance, Wellness

olo-violet-leather-perfume-1Kirsti’s recent post about Jasmin et Cigarette perfume prompted recollections of the time she introduced me to a similarly surprising combination of scents, which has played an unexpected role in my life ever since.

Several years ago, I was struggling with some personal issues in the weeks leading up to my birthday and had fallen into depression. Kirsti and her husband Aaron, unaware of my distress, had arranged to take me out to dinner on my birthday. I was not in a mood to celebrate and secretly hoped for an excuse to get out of it, but none presented itself, so I resolved to get on with it.

I arrived at the restaurant to find that Kirsti and Aaron were already seated with a bottle of champagne on ice. They greeted me enthusiastically and had the server fill our glasses to toast the occasion. Over a delicious meal, we shared stories and camaraderie in a cozy, candlelit setting.

After we’d eaten, Kirsti produced gift bags and a beribboned black hatbox filled with presents, including a small bottle of Violet/Leather fragrance from OLO. Perpetually on the lookout for all things violet, she’d come across this blend by perfumer Heather Sielaff in Portland, Oregon, and thought it was curious enough to warrant purchasing a bottle, scent unsmelled.

olo-violet-leather-perfume-2I dabbed the perfume on my wrist and breathed it in. The violet was there, softly lingering around the edges, but the leather was front and center. Having been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, it was not the type of scent I would have chosen for myself, but it suited me at that time. Clean and straightforward, it was both edgy and old-fashioned without a trace of cloying sweetness. I kept returning my nose to my wrist to see how the fragrance evolved.

As I sat there enveloped in violet and leather, I observed diners enjoying their food and each other’s company. There was a tangible sense of fellowship in the dimly lit room. Sated with dinner, pleasantly relaxed from the wine, and basking in the warmth of good friends, I felt a profound shift occur within me. Suddenly, I thought, “You are loved. Life is beautiful. All is well.” And like that, the mood that had been dogging me for weeks dissolved completely.

Studies have shown that scent triggers memories and emotions more than any other sense, so whenever I find myself going through a rough patch, I reach for my bottle of Violet/Leather perfume and inhale. The fragrance instantly transports me back to that birthday dinner and the feeling of absolute well-being I experienced.

While I can’t necessarily credit the perfumer with this transformation, OLO sells a number of intriguing scents with names like Victory Wolf, Dark Wave, and Lightning Paw that are worthy of a whiff. Perhaps one of them will turn out to be the special fragrance that becomes entwined with your own happy memories and creates a “scentuary” that you can return to whenever you need a reminder that all is well.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

OLO Fragrances

 

Jasmin et Cigarette – The Perfume of Every Wicked Temptress

Author: Kirsti Kay, Fragrance

jasmin-et-cigaretteI’m all talk. I know a lot about salacious subjects, strange places, and shocking-but-true stories, but I’ve lived a fairly sheltered life growing up in the Valley. Kirsten’s mom thought I was “too worldly” to be friends with her daughter in 7th grade, mostly because I was reading a lot of my mom’s romance novels at the time. You know, the kind where pirates kidnap a beautiful, nubile orphan named Annabel who just happens to know how to use a sword (and so does the pirate…wink, wink). I can tell you where to go in Paris for a night of carnal intrigue, but I’m in bed before those places even open. And I will always take the conversation to the “Oh no, you didn’t!” place. I want to be a cool kid, but instead I’m a goofball with a dirty mouth who loves pirates.

Because I love knowing about bizarre and interesting things that are outside my smallish world, I’m always on the hunt for the unusual. I happen to have a copy of Paul Lynde’s will. I own an actual John Wayne Gacy clown drawing (but, trust me, it only comes out at dinner parties) and my bathroom is decorated with vintage doll heads. So when I stumbled upon the perfume Jasmin et Cigarette from celebrated French perfumer Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre d’Orange, I was filled with curiosity, delight, and a little fear.

It’s pretty audacious to create a perfume that smells like cigarettes. Oh, and also “a woman’s skin when she exposes her freshness to the dark seduction of night.” But with other scents, such as Fat Electrician, Dangerous Complicity, and Secretions Magnifiques, you know this is not the kind of perfume a lady in Macy’s is going to spray on you while you are trying to find the bathroom. These are fragrances meant to work you up, to scandalize, to cause a revolution. Etat Libre d’Orange has more than 30 scents and I want to try them ALL.

etat-libre-dorange

I thought the bottle would look really fun next to my Demeter Funeral Home and Holy Water perfumes, so I impulsively bought it online without smelling it, but I was secretly hoping I would love it, because I wanted to smell like cigarettes from France! The fragrance contains jasmine absolute, tobacco notes, apricot, tonka bean, curcuma, cedarwood, amber, and musk. My friend Rebecca thought I was crazy to spend $50 on a perfume I haven’t tested that allegedly smells like…oh, you know, an ashtray in a garden of jasmine, but if you have enough guts to name your perfume Jasmin et Cigarette, I have enough guts to give you money for it.

I have to tell you, it does smell like cigarettes! I also have to tell you that it smells amazing, like no other perfume I have ever smelled before. It is smoky and gently floral. It is mysterious and, yes, kind of scary. It makes me feel like a secret agent or a Bond girl or a wicked temptress. It makes you want to lean in closer. And closer still. It definitely does not make me feel like a girl from the Valley who talks a lot of shit. When I wear Jasmin et Cigarette, I’m not telling stories, I AM the story. I might not ever be as cool as an ingénue who can French inhale, but at least I can smell like one.

But now, it is my bedtime and I hope to be dreaming of pirates.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Jasmin et Cigarette Perfume

 

Jasmin et Cigarette can be purchased in the States from Le Pink & Co.

 

A Taste of Your Own Medicine Flower

Author: Kirsten K., Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Fragrance, Recipes, Sweets

Violet Flavor ExtractBoth Kirsti and I have written about our love for floral flavorings and the disappointing search for a true violet culinary extract following our swoon-worthy taste of violet ice cream in the South of France. It can be difficult to find a natural violet extract, since the blossoms only produce a small amount of essential oils. For this reason, violet was one of the first perfume essences to be synthesized, and this extends to the kitchen, where artificial violet extracts are the norm. While they might smell and taste like violet, there’s usually a chemical undertone that tells you this flower was “grown” in a lab.

Violet CupcakeI have purchased a number of extracts that claim to be natural flavors or to taste just like violet, but they invariably turn out to be either analogs (i.e. synthetics) or made from orris root, a member of the iris family that is commonly used as a fixative in perfumes and is reputed to smell and taste like violet. While there is a violet-like quality to the fragrance, it is nothing that a true violetesse would mistake.

I’d almost given up the perennial search when I came across Medicine Flower, an “aromatic apothecary” that sells essential oils, massage and body care products, and genuine, 100% natural flavor extracts…including a violet that is “made from the material named on the label.” Wary, but excited, I purchased a small dropper bottle. When it arrived, I could detect the essence of violets before I’d even opened the package. Here it was at last: a natural, culinary extract that smelled and tasted like true violet.

Rose Flavor ExtractAccording to their website, Medicine Flower’s extracts have a flavor potency that is 30-70 times higher than other products on the market. I have no trouble believing this, because I’ve used my violet extract in chocolate, baked goods, hot drinks, ice cream, and anything else that might benefit from a floral fix for the past couple of years and there’s still some of the precious essence left in the original bottle that I purchased.

True to its name, Medicine Flower also makes jasmine and Bulgarian rose flavor extracts that are as swoon-inducing as the violet. Undiluted rose and jasmine absolutes can run in the hundreds of dollars per ounce, but these natural flavor extracts are only $22 for 15 ml (½ oz.) and can perfume your cooking and baking with just a drop or two, making them a phenomenal value.

Jasmine Flavor ExtractFloral extracts particularly enhance desserts. Add a couple of drops to the batter and/or frosting when making cakes and cupcakes, then garnish with fresh or candied blossoms. The rose is intense and intoxicating, like burying your face in a bouquet of velvety blooms. I like to put a single drop in a glass of lemonade or pink champagne and float a couple of petals on the surface. The jasmine is even more concentrated and has a fruitier aroma than most jasmine flowers I’ve encountered. Mix a drop into vanilla ice cream for a treat unlike any you’ve tasted.

These are only a small sampling of the 65 culinary extracts that Medicine Flower produces, which include flavors as diverse as butterscotch, cucumber, dark chocolate, fig, wildflower honey, and cabernet sauvignon grape. With so many to choose from, write yourself a prescription for several bottles and get a taste of your own Medicine Flower.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Medicine Flower Genuine Flavor Extracts

 

Medicine Flower flavor extracts can also be dabbed on wrists as a light perfume or added to massage oils, soaps, and other body care products (great for birthday or holiday gift giving). Mix and match to create your own culinary mixture or signature scent.

 

Update 3/22/17:

Medicine Flower is ushering in a Spring Worthy Of Our Noses (and our palates) with discounted prices on select floral flavors and absolutes, plus 13% off your entire order when you use the code SPRING17, so stock up and enjoy a scent-sational season.

The following items are on sale:

Bulgarian Rose Flavor
Jasmine Flavor
Violet Flavor

Agarwood (Oud) Absolute
Frangipani Absolute
Jasmine auriculatum Absolute
Linden Blossom Absolute
Orange Blossom Absolute

 

The One Hair Product I Can’t Live Without

Author: Kirsti Kay, Beauty, Fragrance

Lush R&B 1How does a relatively sane person end up going around to all the people she knows and asking them to smell her bangs? How does a mild-mannered girl from the Valley sit smugly at a concert silently thinking, “You’re welcome,” because we are packed in like sardines and everyone is able to breathe in the intoxicating aroma of her fragrant hair? Is it weird to wake up in the night and smile because your awesome-smelling hair woke you up, and then fall back into blissful dreams of jasmine petals and orange blossoms?

Our story begins on a rainy winter’s day in Portland, Maine. After a wonderful visit, our dear friend Treena dropped my husband and me off at the bus station, where we were catching a bus to the Boston airport. It was gray and drizzly and we were sad that our trip had come to an end. When it was time to queue up for the bus, there was an adorable gal with a service dog in front of us in line. Aaron asked if he could pet her dog, and as we started chatting, I was suddenly overcome with the most delicious scent. I could barely concentrate on our conversation because I was just breathing in this strange, invisible perfume that wafted from this woman, hypnotizing me with its floral majesty.

It turns out she was heading to L.A. with her sweet dog Lula to live with her boyfriend in Sherman Oaks. Wait. Sherman Oaks is about 15 minutes away from where we live! And, you say…your boyfriend works in the entertainment industry? Aaron works in the entertainment industry! Oh, and you’re obsessed with your dog? We’re obsessed with our dog too! And, hey, you smell so good and I happen to love good smells! By the time we got on the bus, we were friends.

I said to Aaron, “Wow, didn’t she smell amazing?”
“I guess,” he said.
I thought about it the whole flight home.

Lush R&B 2

The contents of this tiny tub will Revive & Balance your hair while enveloping you in a heavenly floral scent.

The first time she came over with her boyfriend and Lula, I gave her a hug, and not-so-subtly buried my face in her hair like a woman-starved pirate from a cheap romance novel. “Wow, you smell so good,” I said like an idiot. She casually mentioned it was a hair conditioner from Lush. As I poured the wine, I made a mental note to GET THEE TO THE NEAREST LUSH, ASAP!

The next morning, I went straight to Lush’s website, but they had so many conditioners I had no idea which was the one that had bewitched me body and soul. I was going to have to ask her again. I had anxiety. Some people don’t like to reveal their recipes or the name of their perfume…could conditioner fall into this quagmire of personal secrets? Would I be gauche for asking AGAIN?

The next time we met, I was slightly sweaty with anxiety. But the moment I got into her car and smelled that now familiar floral cloud, I just blurted out, “Please tell me again what that conditioner is!” She laughed the confident laugh of a woman who knows how good she smells and said, “It’s from Lush and it’s called R&B.”

I immediately went online when I got back to my office and discovered that R&B is actually a hair moisturizer, not a hair conditioner. The website also said it’s good for curly or African American hair, which was a little concerning, because I have the finest baby hair in the ENTIRE WORLD. Whatever, it shall be mine! And it was.

Lush R&B 3

Just a dab of this Lush-ious styling cream will tame flyaways and smooth curls.

At $24 for 3.5 oz., it’s not cheap, but a little goes a long way. It is very thick, almost like body butter. At first, I put a little bit on my freshly washed hair as a leave-in conditioner and it was too much for my baby fine hair. The best way to use this product is to apply it to dried hair as a styling cream. If you have wonderfully thick and curly hair, this will cradle each curl in fragrant shine and softness. If you have fine hair like me, rub about a pea-sized amount into your hands and smooth down flyways. I also rub a bit into my bangs since that hair is the closest to my nose. Immediately, I am enveloped in the scent of angels, if angels lived in a hair product inside a mall store. The ingredients are vegan and mostly natural, featuring orange flower absolute, Indian jasmine absolute, and organic avocado butter. And, like all of Lush’s products, R&B is cruelty free.

I’m sure I seem like a ding-dong asking my friends and co-workers to smell my hair, but all of my lady friends have swooned right along with me. I made sure to give everyone clear instructions on how to buy and use it. I’m ready to pay it forward, one awesome-smelling set of bangs at a time.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice in this post:

Lush R&B Hair Moisturizer
 

Smell Like Stars – Olivine Atelier

Author: Kirsti Kay, Fragrance
Olivine 1

The Deluxe Perfume Oil Sample Set from Olivine Atelier

Everyone has the thing they obsess about. For some people, it’s The Smiths. For others, it’s electronics. For still others, it’s dry shampoo. For me, it’s fragrance. I love smell. So much that I have often said that if they made a perfume out of the smell of old books or the Pirate ride at Disneyland, I would be so happy (actually, there have been many “old book” fragrances, but none of the ones I have smelled have quite captured that musty and comforting scent of paper and ink and thousands of glorious words perfectly spaced).

Olivine 2Love’s Baby Soft was my entry scent. It smelled exactly like a six-year-old should smell—light and pretty and innocent. In high school, when all the girls were wearing Paris by Yves Saint Laurent, I wore Aromatics Elixir by Clinique and thought I was pretty rad. I wouldn’t date a guy who wore Chaps, but Polo made my knees weak. In college I wore Gypsy Oil made by a funky woman in my neighborhood and got a Rastafarian tattoo. For the past few years, Frédéric Malle’s Carnal Flower has been my go-to, which is strangely described on his website as “spicy and animalic” with “camphorous violence.” I just looked up “animalic,” which is a perfumer’s term for “the skanky smell of sex.” Whoa, I had no idea I smell like someone who just had a Tinder hookup! One year, as part of my birthday present, I begged Kirsten to come with me to Barney’s just so I could smell all the perfume. It was one of my favorite birthday gifts ever.

Olivine 3Recently, I read about a perfume company called Olivine Atelier. I was intrigued by the names of the scents: Amongst the Waves, She Belongs There, More Than the Stars. I went to the website and completely lost my mind over the beauty of the descriptions and the obvious love put into their creation by Julie, the lovely and poetic perfumer. I immediately ordered the Deluxe Perfume Oil Sample Set, which includes samples of 7 different fragrances. I really appreciate it when a perfume company offers samples. There have been so many times I wanted to try a new fragrance that isn’t available near me, and it always surprises me that companies don’t offer samples. You just can’t buy pants or perfume online without trying them first.

Olivine 4

“Imagine walking on a beach in the heat of the day, your toes still in the surf, the tropical breeze washing over your skin still wet from the ocean. You smell the scent of salt air, the coconut oil on your body, tropical flowers from the lush jungle in the not so far distance. At that moment in time, your spirit is soaring Amongst the Waves.” — from the Olivine website

I was so excited when my Olivine samples came in the mail. The packaging was incredibly beautiful—a lot of thought and care was put into the presentation, which included their signature gold-tipped white feather. I couldn’t wait to smell each one. I have ordered a lot of perfume by mail, seduced by cool names or delicious-sounding descriptions, only to be disappointed. Every single one of the Olivine samples was singular and evocative. First of all, they were incredibly concentrated, which is a sign of quality ingredients. Only a small dab was necessary to smell beautiful all day long. And you know what? Amongst the Waves really DID smell like salt air, coconut oil, and tropical flowers. And, unlike other perfumes, I could detect all the different notes in the descriptions. Each scent was complex, pure, totally unique, and 100% gorgeous.

It’s thrilling to have so many new fragrances to swoon over. In addition to being some of the loveliest scents I’ve smelled, all are vegan and cruelty-free, and 5% of each purchase is donated to Every Mother Counts, a charity that works toward improving the health and well-being of girls and women worldwide. I think I’ve found a new favorite. I’d rather smell like the waves or the stars than animalic any day.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Olivine Atelier