Practical Magick

This simple Himalayan salt diffuser is perfect for summer. It’s small and portable and doesn’t use water or electricity or add humidity to the air – just a gentle waft of fragrance. You can set it on a bathroom or kitchen counter, bedside table, coffee table, desk – wherever you want a delicate aroma to calm and relax, refresh or wake you up!

You only need three items: a few drops of your favourite essential or fragrance oil stirred in to a handful (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup) of coarse pink Himalayan salt in a glass or ceramic container.

A small dish works best to diffuse the scent. I found this cute little bowl at a dollar store. An old teacup would be a pretty touch! You could also put the salts in a small jam or mason jar so that you can close it up when not in use to preserve the fragrance (and take with you, if you’re on the go). Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a dedicated container that will not be used for food later.

Himalayan salt is mined in Pakistan near the Himalayas, not from the mountains themselves. Like common table salt, it contains up to 98% sodium chloride; the remainder is made of trace minerals and elements such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and copper, which give the salt its pink colour. Himalayan salt is generally less processed than table salt, which leads to claims of it being the “purest” salt available. Find it at health food stores, some pharmacies, online and, if you’re lucky, at your local bargain store. (After splurging on a box at a health store, I found a bottle of perfectly good stuff at the same dollar store where I bought my dish.) Some Himalayan salt comes pre-scented (e.g. lavender, eucalyptus, cedarwood, citrus); choose the unscented variety if you want to add your own fragrance. And fine-, medium- and coarse-grain all work for this project, but I think the coarse pink salt looks prettiest!

Use your favourite essential or fragrance oil in the diffuser, either a single note or a blend. I used a few drops of strawberry fragrance oil. Every few days, I give the bowl a bit of a shake to revive the aroma. Simply add a few drops more oil when the scent has completely faded.

Here are a few suggestions for summery scents – use these essential oils singly or in a blend of your own:

Citrus:  bergamot  •  grapefruit  •  lemon  •  lime  •  mandarin  •  sweet orange  •  tangerine

Floral:  geranium  •  jasmine  •  lavender  •  neroli  •  palmarosa  •  rose  •  ylang ylang

Blends:  bergamot + jasmine  •  grapefruit + jasmine + ylang ylang  •  lemon + lavender  •  rose + lemon  •  sweet orange + sandalwood

When you want to change out the blend, don’t throw the old mixture away! If you’ve used skin-friendly essential oil (not fragrance oil) such as lavender or rose, scoop up a little of the salt for a scrub as you wash your hands, making sure to rinse well. You can also sprinkle a handful into your bathwater for a nice relaxing soak.

You can pretty this idea up even further by nestling a small candle amongst the salts in your heatproof container. (I suggest a small jar for this.) The warmth of the candle will help release the fragrance.

Caution: Keep out of reach of children and pets.

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Soul of a Gypsy

Patchouli has a bad rap, it seems, being so firmly tie-dyed to the hippy-dippy flower children of the ’60s and ’70s. Undiluted, this strong fragrance, derived from the Pogostemon cablin plant, can be overwhelming. Some describe it as heavy, dirty, musky or earthy. In small quantities, however, patchouli can anchor a fragrance, give it depth and help it last longer. It’s also a popular ingredient in incense, which of course can aid in meditation and relaxation.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books about witches (reviews to come), so I’ve been living in a world of shadows and dusty attics, whispered secrets, rustling parchment, dripping beeswax, fortune tellers and mumbled spells. Then the solstice came and went, and suddenly the summer’s abloom with riotous colours, floaty fabrics, al fresco dining and bare feet. Heart’s Little Queen (with that fabulous album cover) has been in my car’s player of late, and all of a sudden, I’m feeling (feeling, I say … not looking) very bohemian – very gypsy.

Trying to harness my inner Stevie Nicks and capture this mood, I felt the urge to create a new perfume. I wanted something that hinted of dark corners and tattered lace, but with sunshine peeping through the cracks. It would be like emerging bleary-eyed from a curtained bed to sit on laddered steps, nursing strong, smoky tea as the sun kisses awake a peach-coloured dawn. Think: 19th Century Grubby. I call this perfume Gypsy Caravan.

In this rollerball recipe, patchouli essential oil is the base note along with ylang ylang, a floral which is pretty heady stuff, too. (I hate it on its own, but it takes on a new persona when blended with other oils.) Pink grapefruit lends a bright, effervescent top note, almost champagne-like, which prevents the other two from gettin’, like, all heavy, man. (That would totally not be groovy.) I think sweet orange or tangerine would work well, too, if you don’t have or like grapefruit. The apricot oil imbues the liquid with a deep golden glow.

This perfume is strong, so only one swipe is needed. The citrus top note will give graceful way to the exotic blend of patchouli and ylang ylang, which lingers on the skin like an ancient mystery.

Gypsy Caravan essential oil perfume by Gillyflower

  • 5 mL glass rollerball bottle
  • 14 drops patchouli essential oil
  • 12 drops pink grapefruit essential oil
  • 2 drops ylang ylang essential oil
  • apricot kernel oil (or other shelf-stable carrier such as fractionated coconut, sweet almond or jojoba oil)

Add the essential oils to the bottle • Top up with carrier oil, leaving enough room for the rollerball insert • Insert cap and shake thoroughly • Perfume can be used right away, but its full character will be achieved if left to mature for several days • Shake before each use • Do not expose perfumed skin to sun • Keep bottle away from heat and direct sunlight

Dance on, Gypsy Souls!

It’s All Cool

Time has flown in more ways than one. Here we are halfway through summer, and today is the one year anniversary of this blog! I haven’t been able to write much in the last few weeks, and I know I’ve missed a lot. Things have been happening – things I needed to take care of – but now they’re done, and it’s all cool.

A major project has been revitalizing my Etsy shop. I chose a fresh new name, thereby uniting my shop, blog and Facebook page with a single identity. After careful consideration, I finally settled on Gillyflower Faire, which resonates with me on multiple levels: it’s a little bit archaic, a term for a marketplace, a nod to the Wee Folk, and a description (hopefully) of my handmade baubles. So, I said a fond farewell to Wood So Wild, and set about the many tasks necessary to incorporate this change.

I’ve added many new listings to the shop, including a line of beaded jewellery. The beaded pieces feature genuine gemstones – each chosen for a specific meaning – or wood or glass seed beads, accented with sterling silver and other metals. The styles are sleek and uncomplicated – the type of jewellery I like to wear. And I enjoy working in themes, so I’ve done a few chakra/rainbow pieces, evil eye talismans, and even some using Canadian gems to celebrate this country’s 150th birthday! Here you see just a few examples; there are many more to come.

This flurry of change and activity, combined with the sultry summer heat and the lack of air conditioning at home and in my now-defunct car, has left me in a sweat. My internal temperature control has been broken for years, and now, at this stage of life, it takes very little (stress, or any ambient temperature above 0° C) to turn me into a raging inferno. My friends and co-workers, being kind souls, tell me that when I’m in the grips of a hot flash, I don’t actually show it – aside from my frantic fanning of any item within reach – but I don’t see, or feel, how that can possibly be. You ladies of a certain age know precisely what I mean.

I’ve written before about a few items I keep handy to combat those uncomfortable moments. I continue to use arrowroot powder, either as-is or scented with a few drops of essential oils, as a herbal body powder. Arrowroot powder, also known as arrowroot flour or starch, is made from the powdered rhizomes of several types of tropical plants, notably Maranta arundinacea. It was once used to treat poison arrow wounds, hence the name, and is used as a food thickener as well as in cosmetics. Natural and safe, lightweight and silky, it’s the perfect alternative to cornstarch or talc. Arrowroot powder is inexpensive and found at bulk food and grocery stores.

The batch I made this summer has a fresh, invigorating herbal fragrance and uses essential oils known for their antiseptic properties (lavender, thyme) to combat nasty, sweat-loving bacteria, as well as ones reputed to relieve menopausal symptoms (clary sage, grapefruit). If you can get the shaker top off and on again, go ahead and reuse an empty baby powder bottle. I found 4 oz. plastic shakers at one of my favourite suppliers, Voyageur Soap & Candle Co. Here’s my recipe:

Talc-free Herbal Body Powder

  • small container with shaker lid
  • arrowroot powder
  • essential oils of lavender, Roman chamomile, clary sage, white thyme and pink grapefruit, or use your own favourite combination

Fill container halfway with arrowroot powder. Add 5 to 6 drops of each essential oil. Cover top of container and shake to combine. Fill the bottle with more arrowroot and snap on the lid. Shake thoroughly. Use as a body powder, avoiding eyes.

Another way to beat the heat is a cooling body mist. I found this recipe on Pinterest and dressed up my bottle with snowflake stickers. This lovely-smelling mixture contains soothing, skin-loving witch hazel, which constricts blood vessels to create a cooling sensation that lasts for several minutes on the skin. It’s especially good on hot, tired feet. You can keep the mist at room temperature or in the refrigerator for an extra icy blast.

Peppermint Mist Cooling Spray

  • 2 oz. glass spray bottle
  • 2 tbsp distilled water
  • 2 tbsp witch hazel
  • 4 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 4 drops lavender essential oil

Combine water, witch hazel and essential oils in bottle, add cap and shake thoroughly before each use. Do not use on the face.

Blessed Beltane!

Today marks Beltane, or May Day – the ancient Celtic fire festival of fertility and new life, health and love, prosperity, abundance and protection.

In the old days, farm animals were driven through the smoke of two purifying bonfires to ensure health and fertility for the coming year. Folk would dance around maypoles, weaving ribbons as a symbol of unity and interconnectedness – the joining of male and female. Wise women would pretend to ride a broom around fields, jumping as high as they could to “teach” the crops how to grow. And couples would take themselves into the woods or hills for a night of passion. Afterwards, they might stay together for a period of trial “marriage”; at the end of it, if mutually agreeable, they would undergo a handfasting ceremony later on in the summer.

If you celebrate May Day – or if you don’t, but the budding, flowering, lush greening of the Earth is getting your sap rising – you may want to incorporate some of the following, all associated with Beltane, into your day or the next few weeks:

Colours: green (fertility, life) • pink (love) • red (blood, fire) • white (the Moon)

Symbols: besom/broom • cauldron or chalice (female) • daisy chains, flower garlands and wreaths • eggs (life, fertility) • fire • Maypole (male) • ribbons

Plants, Herbs & Spices: bluebell • clover • coriander • daffodil • dandelion • dogwood • fern • flax(seed) • hawthorn • marjoram • mint • paprika • radish • rose • saffron • violet

Food: dairy products • eggs • green salads • honey • mushrooms • oatmeal

Animals: cat • goat • honeybee • rabbit • swallow

Crystals: bloodstone (courage & protection) • carnelian (the Sun, blood, life force) • emerald (success & abundance) • fluorite (protection, stability) • malachite (loyalty, faithfulness & harmony) • rose quartz (love) • ruby (healing) • tourmaline (cleansing, release from worry)

Oils & Incense: frankincense • jasmine • lilac • musk • neroli • passion flower • rose • sandalwood • vanilla • ylang ylang

Clockwise from far left: Emerald, carnelian, rose quartz heart and Emma egg, fluorite, bloodstone, pink tourmaline in lepidolite matrix, ruby, pink tourmaline

Beltane Activities
Bring fresh flowers or herbs into the houseWear the colours of Spring
Burn candles or incenseEat a light springtime mealTake a walk in the woods

Beltane Blessings Blend
Frankincense to honour ancient ways, night-blooming jasmine for the cycles of the Moon, grapefruit for freshness and hope, rose for love, and sandalwood for protection.

This is a lovely combination to use in your diffuser (number of drops indicated below), or add a few drops of each to a small spray bottle of distilled water for a fresh and romantic body mist.

3 frankincense • 2 jasmine • 1 pink grapefruit • 1 rose • 2 sandalwood

6-drop Diffuser Blends for Spring

Fresh and floral, clean and fruity, relaxing or invigorating – try these essential oil recipes in your diffuser to clarify and refresh the air in your home.

These are blends I’ve formulated and tested in my ceramic tealight diffuser, which holds about 2 tablespoons of tap water. If you own a different type, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

To Use: Add water to the bowl of your diffuser and drop in the essential oils. (Adjust amounts as desired.) Light the candle and enjoy! Caution: Never leave open flame unattended, and check the water level frequently.Sunrise:  2 lemon • 2 sweet orange • 2 peppermint

En Plein Air:  1 lavender • 2 cedarwood • 3 tangerine

 Raindrops:  1 vetiver • 2 peppermint • 3 lemon

Spring Cleaning:  1 rose geranium • 2 lime • 3 pink grapefruit

Herb Garden:  1 lavender • 1 rose geranium • 2 chamomile • 2 bergamot

Fresh Citrus:  1 lemon • 1 tangerine • 2 pink grapefruit • 2 lime

Springtime in Paris:  2 rose • 2 sweet orange • 2 sandalwood

Gillyflower:  3 clove • 3 lemon

Orange Grove:  2 sweet orange • 2 lime • 2 frankincense

And my absolute favourite:

Like a May Morning:  1 jasmine • 2 pink grapefruit • 3 bergamot

Parfumerie the Natural Way

Making a “natural” perfume is easy: simply combine essential oils with a carrier oil in a glass container, shake, and you’re done, right?

Well, sort of. There are some challenges: figuring out which scents work together, how much of each to use, and how to give your perfectly-blended perfume staying power. The following are some perfume-making basics I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, as I’ve blended, stirred, sniffed and blended again in the apothecary lab (okay, my kitchen):

Choose Your Oils
Use the scents you love, and stick with a small number – from a single note up to four, plus a fixative. Test combinations by dispensing a drop of each oil into your bottle, onto a cotton ball or makeup remover pad, or try out in a diffuser first.

Here’s a variety of essential oils suitable for making a fresh springtime or summer scent: (top, middle and base notes are indicated – see Get Blending, below)

Citrus: bergamot (t) • lemon (t) • lime (t) • Litsea cubeba (t) • mandarin (t) • sweet orange (t) • tangerine (t) • verbena (t)
Floral: geranium (m) • jasmine (m) • lavender (m) • neroli (m) • Roman chamomile (m) • rose (m) • rosewood (m) • ylang ylang (m)*
Herbaceous: German chamomile (m) • clary sage (m) • petitgrain (t-m) • rosemary (m)
Earthy/Woodsy: cedarwood (b) • cypress (m) • lemongrass (t-m) • patchouli (b) • sandalwood (b) • vetiver (b)
Refreshing: ginger (m-b) • grapefruit (t) • peppermint (t) • spearmint (t)

* I hate ylang ylang with a passion, so you’ll never see it in any of my formulations!

How Much?
If you don’t have a recipe, experiment, and be prepared for some failures* before you settle on the perfume you want. For a 5 mL bottle, I use a total of about 40 to 60 drops essential oils (taking up about ¼ of the bottle) diluted in a carrier oil. Start with a minimum number of drops per oil, keeping in mind that the mixture develops over hours and days, and strong-smelling oils tend to get stronger. Citrus oils are the most volatile, so use up to twice as much relative to your other ingredients. Don’t forget to record the amount of each oil used, including any adjustments, so that you have a final recipe that can be reproduced at the end of your labours – and the end of your bottle!

* Use up not-quite-perfect rejects in a diffuser, make into a foaming hand soap, add to bathwater, sprinkle on bedlinens, etc.

As you work, don’t forget to write down your formula!

Get Blending
Try to include top, middle and base notes so that you have a balanced formula that performs well and gives each scent element its fair due.

The “note” is the role each oil plays within a blend. Top notes (citrus, mints, delicate florals, soft herbals) provide an initial burst of fragrance which fades first, so you can usually use more of these compared to middle and bottom notes. Top notes give way to middle notes (more intense florals and herbs such as lavender, rose and jasmine); these are the heart of the fragrance. The anchoring bottom notes (rich, woodsy, earthy or resinous) support the others, add depth and are the longest-lasting components. Generally, the richer and stronger the smell of an oil, the more likely it is to be a middle or base note.

Set It So You Won’t Forget It
For a fragrance to last longer once applied, it’s important to include a fixative, an essential oil that is usually also a base note. Keep in mind that an essential oil perfume is never going to have the punch and staying power of a commercial perfume which contains a host of synthetic chemicals. Natural fragrances tend to be more subdued and wear close to the skin, which means you won’t give yourself a headache or knock over a room – a very good thing for you and everyone around you!

Some of the fixatives listed below, which are on the lighter side and suitable for spring and summer perfumes, can be harder to find in stores. You’ll probably have to buy them online, but they’re a worthwhile investment; I’ve found they make all the difference in the longevity of my blends. Since they’re less familiar than, say, lavender or peppermint, I’ve included their scent profiles for quick reference. How much to use? 5 to 8 drops of a fixative in your blend ought to be enough, especially if you’re using other base notes.

Benzoin (Styrax benzoin): (b) Warm, sweet, soft, vanilla-like, powdery • Possibly the most effective of the fixatives listed here, benzoin blends well with black pepper, copaiba balsam, coriander, cypress, frankincense, ginger, jasmine, juniper, lemon, myrrh, rose, sandalwood • Caution: Too much benzoin can lend a medicinal smell, so don’t go overboard. Also, it’s a sticky resin that may be difficult to dispense from the bottle.

Cistus (Cistus ladaniferus): (b) Sweet, woody, warm, resinous, with evergreen notes • Blends well with bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, frankincense, juniper, lavender, oakmoss, patchouli, pine, sandalwood, vetiver

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera officinalis): (b) Mild, sweet, balsamic, vanilla-like • Blends well with cedarwood, citrus, clary sage, jasmine, rose, vanilla, ylang ylang

Frankincense, aka olibanum, boswellia (Boswellia carterii): (b) Woodsy, earthy, balsamic, spicy-sweet with slight lemony note • Blends well with bergamot, black pepper, cinnamon, cypress, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, mandarin, neroli, orange, palmarosa, patchouli, pine, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, ylang ylang

Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha): (b) Warm, earthy, balsamic, resinous, dry, sometimes bitter • Blends well with bergamot, chamomile, clove, cypress, lemon eucalyptus, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, jasmine, juniper, lavender, lemon, neroli, palmarosa, patchouli, pine, rose, rosemary, sandalwood, tea tree, vetiver, ylang ylang

Peru Balsam, aka Balsam of Peru (Myroxylon pereira): (b) Soft, sweet, balsamic, mainly resinous with floral and vanilla undertones • Blends well with black pepper, ginger, jasmine, lavender, patchouli, petitgrain, rose, sandalwood, ylang ylang

Sandalwood (Santalum album or S. spicatum): (b) Mild, soft, woody, dry, sweet, somewhat balsamic • Blends well with benzoin, black pepper, chamomile, cistus, clary sage, clove, geranium, grapefruit, frankincense, jasmine, lavender, lemon, mandarin, myrrh, neroli, oakmoss, orange, palmarosa, patchouli, rose, rosewood, vetiver, ylang ylang

Happy blending!

Herbal Hearts & Hand Wash

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Just For You: a pretty heart of dried lavender buds and rose petals. May your day be sweetly-scented and filled with flowers, champagne, chocolate and lots of love!

Here’s a body product I’ve been meaning to make for some time now: organic scented foaming hand cleanser. This easy-to-make soap requires only three main ingredients:  liquid castile soap, distilled water and the essential oils of your choice (omit the fragrance if you wish). If you don’t have any essential oils kicking around, you can purchase the scented varieties of castile soap. If you want to try your own fragrance combinations and aren’t sure which scents work together, try the oils out first, drop by drop, on a cotton ball or makeup remover pad.

A note about Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap: It’s billed as organic, certified fair trade and 100% biodegradable and contains the following ingredients: water, coconut kernel oil, potassium hydroxide, palm kernel oil, olive fruit oil, hemp seed oil, jojoba seed oil, citric acid and tocopherol (Vitamin E). In addition to the unscented variety, it also comes in lavender, peppermint, almond, citrus, tea tree, rose and eucalyptus. Although it’s rather expensive, you only need a small amount for this recipe, and the soap has a multitude of other uses, including facial packs and body rub, for shaving, dish washing and laundry detergent, to mop floors, etc. Keep out of eyes.dsc_5418-3

Scented Foaming Hand Wash

• 500 mL (16 fl. oz.) pump dispenser bottle
• ¼ cup Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap in Baby Unscented
• 1 cup distilled water
• 6 to 12 drops essential oils of your choice

Combine ingredients in bottle and shake (with the dispenser cap in closed position) before using. Makes about 250 mL. It’s important to use a larger bottle than the amount you’ll make to allow space for the mixture to foam up without overflowing.

I made my softly-scented Citrus Rose hand wash (shown here) using 4 drops each of rose geranium, rosewood and lemon essential oils, reusing an empty hand soap container.