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.


blueviolet said...

I am scent sensitive too. I get instant long lasting headaches very easily. Anything floral will kill me. The ones you mentioned are ones that work for me too. We have this in common, my friend!

Kathleen said...

Ugh! I'm with you on the smells! I can't take perfume. I've had to move seats in church (people probably thought hubby and I were fighting), and when I was prego at work, I had to ask a girl sitting across the room to PLEASE not wear her terrible perfume anymore. Wish we had signs around here requesting people not show up smelling terrible!

5thsister said...

I love colognes but gave up the habit when my daughter was young due to her sensitivity (asthma), so I understand this issue well. She has now outgrown it and we both are experimenting with what type of scents work. A little definitely goes a long way. It's unfortunate that so many are heavy handed in their use of scents.

Oh, and I featured herbs in my post as well! I dried a bunch yesterday and my kitchen smells like heaven!

Pines Lake Redhead said...

Fragrances don't mix well with my astham either. In fact, I ready an article about a study done in the UK - people who grew up with air fresheners in their homes are more likely to develop asthma as adults. But I do love all natural aromas! I should get off my butt and plant an herb garden in a container on my lanai.

Together We Save said...

I never were perfume... just seems to strong to me.

Tracie said...

My mother has a super sniffer, too. It's one of her super powers.

Mixing cinnamon with baking soda is a genius idea. I'm trying that in my basement this week.

Gropius said...

I always thought if I had to lose a sense it would be the sense of smell. But then I heard (just last week) this story on NPR about a lady who temporarily lost her sense of smell...and there were all of these phantom smells lingering. It's bizarre. If you do a search on NPR, you'll enjoy the story. She wrote a book about it. So back to YOUR smells, that photo just looks like summer to me. It looks like calm. I love it. And it makes me smell what's there! Good tips about the carpet too. Our Flanders tends to get a little greasy in the summertime.

Jen said...

I used to wear all kinds of perfumes and then it seems when my kids were born I couldn't handle the smell anymore. Now, if someone has a strong scent on and they even walk by me I can get a headache that lasts all day. I love the natural smells of baking cookies, coffee brewing (one of the best smells in the world) and the ocean, but I can't do any manufactured smells, no matter how lifelike they are.

Holly said...

Awesome...You are going to be tickled pink with this post this week as part of the spotlight. This is the kind of stuff I LOVE!

Erin said...

it just so happens i have a TON of basil in my pot outside and it's not quite enough to make this seems the next best thing!!!

you are so creative. and when you get back we need to coordinate a date for our fleur de lis posts. cynthia, i cannot begin to tell much i love it. and i don't want to spoil what will be in mypost, but esp. with everything new orleans has been going through in recent years, the symbol has come to mean so much to me....and you've made me a gorgeous concrete reminder.

lots of love,

Debbie said...

I'm so glad that I happened upon this at 504 Main! I am another one who responds very strongly to fragrance. During the winter months, I have a simmer pot of homemade spices out all of the time. I miss it in the summer months, but that scent makes me feel "warm".

I'm in southeast GA. I do not want to feel warm right now. I am heading outside to grab some herbs to doctor up as you have with the lime wedges. I have all the ingredients and the simmer pot. THANKS!!!

Perhaps this will improve my mood.

Jenn Erickson said...

Hoppin' by from 504 Main. I'm definitely inspired to try some olfactory mixology of my own. Your idea about the coffee burner and pot is ingenious. Love your combination of the fresh herbs and lemon balm. Mmmm....


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