For Gardeners

New Plans

Autumn is a great time for gardening. Sweeping the leaves, tidying the shrubs and planting out bulbs. Not good on your hands, though.

from Handbook of Bulbs and Perennials - R.E.Harrison

from Handbook of Bulbs and Perennials - R.E.Harrison

So, I'm working on a hand balm, for gardeners!  Something warming, soothing and moisturising. I have made a couple of sample pots and I'm trying them out. The one thing I'm not sure about is what scent to use.  I have an idea for something, but wondered if anyone out there has a suggested preference? Feel free to comment or message me!

Autumn Revelry

A Weekend of Making and Dreaming

There has been a lot going on at chez Shanghai Lil & The Scarlet Fez in the last month, so it has been a pleasure having a long leisurely weekend, catching up with friends, doing a bit of reading, a bit of gardening and a bit of making.

Autumn is probably my favourite time of year, though by the end of winter, I'm probably saying the same thing about spring. Now the sting of the heat has gone, but there is still warmth in the air and soil, everything seems to rush forth in a last burst of growth before settling down for the winter.

I have been replenishing my stock of perfume this weekend. I'm very happy to say that my perfumes have been quite popular recently and so there is a lot to catch up on. I now have a new batch of Sleepy Lagoon, Nightshade and Arcadia brewing and these will be ready for our next market, Gathered, at the end of April.

Also, I will finally be able to release our new scent - Fontaine de Violette. I have written about this new scent previously, and I am so happy with it! I can't wait to share it. To give you a bit of a mood for Fontaine de Violette, here's something which I used to love to read in my younger days, which reminds me of this time of year, is dreamy and best of all, is a pleasure to read out as it trips along your tongue so smoothly - the whole poem is perfect:

'From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewel print of your feet
In violets as blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
And the valleys of Paradise.'

From Come into the Garden, Maud - Alfred Lord Tennyson

I'm also reading Daniel Chamovitz's "What A Plant Knows - a field guide to the senses".  Naturally, it's a fascinating read and I love the chapter on "What a Plant Smells"! If you've ever wondered why an avocado ripens when next to a banana, here is the answer - and it might surprise you! It's an easy read, but one which makes you think.

Well, I hope you're enjoying a lazy long weekend like I am!

Immortal Violet

Creating a new scent

I am currently formulating a new scent based on violet leaf essential oil.  This has proved quite a challenge for me.  I love the scent of violets; the flower and the leaves, and I wanted to capture something of the violet's complex green, earthy and sweet nature.

Starting with a resin base, to anchor the florals, I chose to include helichrysum (immortelle) in the base, as I am mildly obsessed with this scent at the moment. Of course, I added violet leaf and a touch of rose.  I wanted to ground the sweetness of the violet with a smokiness, reminiscent of the autumn air early in the morning, so I added a touch of cade.  The blend is heady, but I think it may prove to be successful once it has matured for a couple of weeks.  I'll see...

The New Melancholy

Autumn, Aspire and Annuals

I know it is stating the obvious, but autumn is here.  It seems to be a bit early, the leaves are well under way to their new colours, there are dahlias out, it smells smokey at night, it's cooler and now, daylight savings is over.  As much as I really don't like (I'm being mild here) the very hot weather, it is sad to see the summer go.  Sad in a melancholy way.  

But I love the small rituals of a change of season.  The decision to pack away the linen and pastel coloured argyle socks, switching from rose scented tea to chai, dusting off the Balmoral boots, raking leaves, ordering violets and looking through bulb catalogues, moving from citrus and herbal scents to woods and resins.   They are small and personal things - I'm certainly not a 'no white shoes after labor day' type of person - but each one is a rediscovery of things forgotten (if only for 6 months), and an anticipation of cool days ahead, rugged up and cosy.

Here's a flower.  A dahlia from our garden, no less, and I see we aren't the only ones keen to have a piece of this:

I was very proud during the week to have picked up a copy of Aspire Magazine, a free publication circulated at various venues around Adelaide, because I am in it!   Well, it wasn't about me in my gracious living room (a la "Hello" magazine), but there was a small article about Shanghai Lil & The Scarlet Fez soaps!  I was very happy about it and I'm chuffed to be in this new, very smart, magazine.   Here's the article, but I recommend reading the whole magazine, of course!

And finally, I am at the Wattle Street market in Fullarton on 12 April 2014, and Pop up at Prospect (Prospect Road) on 26 April 2014.   Come by and say hello and smell the soaps, bath salts, room sprays and perfumes I have on offer!


Upcoming Event

I am happy to report that Shanghai Lil and The Scarlet Fez will be at the next That Dapper Market on Saturday, 29th March 2014.  Here is the flyer for the event:

We had such a good time last time and met a lot of lovely people and got to help them make a selection from the 19 different varieties of soap we had for sale there!   

This time around, there won't be so many varieties, but there will still be plenty to choose from.  I think I will group them into "floral", "aromatic" and "gourmet" to make things easier for people.  

Also, I hope to have bath salts and room sprays there too.   And...fingers perfumes!   

So, there will plenty to see, smell and buy!   Here is a shot of the stall from last year (this year, it will be bigger!):

I am lining up some other market gigs too, so I will keep you informed both here and on facebook.

Autumn Sunshine & Reading

After a grim weekend, it's nice to see some sunshine out on the last of the golden leaves in the garden.   Before settling down with a cup of tea, I thought about which book to flick through.  Here are my current thoughts:

Gone to Earth - Mary Webb
In Youth is Pleasure - Denton Welch
A Natural History of the Senses - Diane Ackerman
The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
Lady into Fox - David Garnett
Raven's Brood - E.F. Benson
Lolly Willowes - Sylvia Townsend Warner

I'm sure the sun won't last, so make the most of it while we can, and then we can just face the music.  And dance!

Back to Business

After a very enjoyable break away, I'm back and full of beans!  Or is that suds?  I could not wait to get back into the soap-making so I have started this week with a batch of rose-scented, rosehip oil enriched fun.  This soap also has apricot kernel and rice bran oil, to supplement the very skin-friendly olive oil, and I have coloured it with a mica to give it a rich dusky swirl.

These little beauties have been freshly cut off the block.  As I'm writing this, the soaps have filled my office with the sweet green and rosy smell of rose and rose geranium essential oils, an evocative contrast to the grey skies and falling leaves I can see from my window.

Happy Mothers' Day to all those mothers out there.