Sunday, June 27, 2010
Summer Blends, or Olfactory Experiences 2
I always like to think of my little online habitat as a place where readers can sit back, kick up their feet, and take a deep breath. Although the wording is typically figurative nature--to sort of suggest a general demeanor of relaxation—for the sake of this post, why not go ahead and take a whiff of your current surroundings. Don’t be shy. I’ll wait.
Did you detect a subtle hint of citrus and fresh herbs? What about undertones of cinnamon? Did you catch the scent of some freshly ground coffee? Those are the scents wafting around my place at the moment, and I’d like to share.
In December, I shared my holiday blend of aromatic simmering spices, along with tips on how to festively package and share the potion as an inexpensive gift idea. Consider this a companion post, a sort of summer edition, chock full of options for aromatic adventures that have the added bonus of being environmentally friendly.
Smell is our most powerful sense, and the one most closely tied to our memories. I’m blessed with a pretty keen sense of smell, which has its flip sides along with its benefits. In my family, I’m the first to ferret out an indiscretion made by one of my five furry friends, or, on a few unpleasant occasions, the stench of death in the form of a departed rodent deep within the bowels of the house.
I’m sensitive, also, to artificial aromas emitting from perfumes, colognes, or various air fresheners. Those signs you sometimes see at libraries, asking patrons to enter sans fragrance? Those signs are for me, and others of my allergenic persuasion who happen wheeze, cough, hack, and display general respiratory unrest when forced to breathe chemically tainted air. It’s a problem that has become steadily more pronounced in recent years. A decade or so ago, I spritzed myself with a certain Dior scent after every shower. A year or two ago, I misted myself with a single spray and became overcome with nausea. (If anyone out there would enjoy a bottle of Christian Dior’s Poison, minus a squirt, let me know. We’ll work something out.)
I’m likewise afflicted by many run of the mill air fresheners, and have actually learned that these and other artificially scented products can be fatal to my pet bird, which makes them even more unwelcome in my home.
But I enjoy a good olfactory high as much as anyone. Freshly mowed lawns, chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, simmering sauce, brewing coffee, the ocean, clothes fresh from an outdoor line…these are the scents that invigorate and comfort me, at once.
The common element in these intoxicating aromas? They weren’t manufactured in a lab. They’re genuine. Natural. Pure. It’s this simple concept to which I find myself repeatedly turning in my quest for a fresh smelling home.
Of late, I’ve turned to my herb garden to create my custom aromatics. If you don’t have an herb garden, let’s fix that first. At this time of year, a trip to virtually any garden shop and an investment of something less than twenty dollars will buy you a good set of starter herbs. If you’re at all daunted by the cost, just take a look at the price tag on the bottled dried forms of the same spices on your next trip to the grocery store. With the live version of the same spices, you’ll have the best flavors for cooking—year round, even, with some luck—and all the air freshener you’ll ever need, to boot.. I typically keep over twenty different herbs on hand, but if I had to pare it down to five, I’d make sure I had basil, oregano, cilantro, lemon balm, and some sort of mint.
I’ve been experimenting with different combinations, but I’ve found that tossing a few leaves from various basils, a mint sprig or two, some lemon balm, and a lime wedge into a simmering pot never disappoints. I have kept it on the back burner, but a recent heat wave and accompanying complaints from my husband about open flame caused me to get creative and set my little metal pot on the coffee burner. I used to have a little electric pot that would have been perfect for tucking away in the back of the house, or a bathroom—but I suspect I may have sent it along in a recent purge. There’s no set “recipe,” I mix, match, and experiment, and encourage you to do the same.
While we’re on the topic of a fresh smelling home, let’s talk carpets. As I’ve mentioned, I share my home with five furry friends, so fresh carpets are always a challenge. Like many people, I rely on the odor-eating power of baking soda in my quest for fresh floors. But I like to do more than subtract the funk—I like to add a little something extra. So I make my own blend of carpet freshener with a 50-cent box of baking soda, along with a large bottle of generic cinnamon and a shaker bottle, both from the dollar store. I mix the cinnamon and the baking soda in the bottle and shake it on my carpets. I let it do its magic for an indeterminate amount of time, and then I sweep it all up. The added bonus? My furries smell of cinnamon, too! Carpet fresh and animal deodorizer in one $2.50 solution!
Finally, let’s head to the coffee pot. The Official House brew here is Dunkin Donuts, by default. But lately, I have to admit to a rival flavor that’s become our summer blend. I discovered Green Caffeine at our local farmer’s market, and I can’t keep it in stock. It’s lacking absolutely nothing in flavor, and I have to admit: the environmental benefits give the experience an added boost. perhaps my son said it best. “I just love the taste of justice, Mom,” he said, standing in line at the pot with his waiting mug. Granted, I had to scrawl the word “tips” across an empty bag last week to support our habit—justice, as it would happen, doesn’t come cheap—but tips from the children alone allowed us to get two bags instead of one the following week. Which is good, because we’re going through more than ever, in the form of iced coffee, due to the aforementioned heat wave. My friends tell me the iced coffee I serve up is exceptional, but my only secret is that I make it double strength, to allow for ice meltage. Which means, of course, that we’re financing a whole lot of justice.
I hope you’re inspired to put your own spin on some green summer blends of your own. And if after all this natural goodness you still happen to be interested in the Dior potion, let me know—I’ll give you a good deal!
P.S. I'm linking this post up with Holly's Tickled Pink Blog Hop over at 504 Main Head on over to fine and share summer inspiration of all kinds.