Sunday, June 8, 2014

12 Ways to Fill Your Home With Natural Fragrance

Nothing like the sense of smell can evoke pleasant childhood memories of sunny summer mornings or lazy afternoons in the hammock. Think of the scent of new-mowed grass (unless you were the one who just had to do the mowing or allergic)- what a glorious fragrance! Natural smells are the best, and once you get used to them you'll wonder how you stood the chemical smell of commercial air fresheners, detergents and cleaners. Fresh, clean and natural is the way to go, and here are some good ideas to bring that fragrance into your home:

1. Make sachets out of dried lavender. Go to the Farmers Market and buy fresh or dried lavender or even better, cut from your own garden. Cut the heads off of the stalks. Put 1/4 cup in a vintage handkerchief or another lightweight piece of fabric like muslin, gather up the edges and tie with a ribbon or piece of twine. It's okay if the ends are unhemmed and raggedy- more Shabby Chic that way. Tuck in your underwear or shirt drawer. Re-crush the bag with the lavender heads inside occasionally to bring the fragrance back to life. You can also tuck a cotton ball soaked with a few drops of essential lavender oil in with the lavender heads for an even stronger fragrance.

2. Put 1-2 drops of essential oil on a cold light bulb. 

Go to a natural foods store or shop online on etsy and purchase a small bottle of essential oil in a fragrance you like. Go to a lamp that is turned off and the light bulb is cold and drop 1-2 drops of the essential oil on the lightbulb. The next time the light is turned on the heat from the bulb will warm the oil and add the fragrance to your room. 

3. Have a vase filled with a bouquet of fresh flowers
Go to the farmers market or any grocery store (Trader
Joe's has wonderful bouquets at a good price) and buy a bunch of flowers. Take a sniff of the bouquet before you buy. Look for bouquets that include fragrant flowers like lilacs, lilies, roses, freesia, carnations, hyacinths, lavender, heliotrope, and tuberose, or fragrant leaves like eucalyptus. If you don't know your flower names, just stick your nose in the bouquet and inhale the scent (barring any allergies!). Change the water daily and put some of the packet that comes with the bouquet into the water every day rather than dumping it all in at once to make the flowers last.

4. Put a few drops of essential oil in boiling water
In the room you want to scent, take a glass bowl, set it on a trivet or folded kitchen towel and pour boiling water in it.  Add 1-9 drops of an essential oil you like and your room will be infused with sent immediately. 

5. Open the windows!
As long as you don't live in a dense urban area, open the windows and doors and let the fresh air sweep through the room- it helps if you have two
windows open on either side of the room or a window and door. The best days are sunny weekend mornings when people have just mowed their lawns or the sun is warming the plants in the garden. Rainy days can also bring a wonderful fresh smell into the house. 

Vogue UK

6. Boil citrus or apple peelings on the stove
If you make a fruit salad or fresh ingredient cocktails, take the orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, tangerine, or apple peelings and put them on the stove in a pan of water. Bring it to a boil and then just let it sit. The smell will waft through the room. To refresh the smell, bring it to a boil again. For a spring and summer smell, you could also add fresh herbs like mint, rosemary, thyme or sage to the water, and for a fall and winter smell, add cinnamon sticks and whole cloves or the tips of pine branches. 

7. Make your own room freshener spray
Most commercial air freshener sprays smell
overwhelming or chemical-y. Make your own by putting distilled water (or soft tap water) in a plastic spray bottle and dropping 6-12 drops of the essential oil of your choice. Spray throughout the room whenever the air needs freshening. So much better than the artificial- smelling brands like 
Febreze, Air Wick, Renuzit or Glade. 

8. Light scented candles
Scented candles are one of the easiest ways to bring fragrance into your home. When shopping for candles, look for those in the natural foods store or section rather than those made by the commercial air freshener brands above. Soy candles burn up and leave no wax reside. Handmade scented candles can be purchased at Farmers Markets, handmade craft fairs, or on etsy. Scented candles should not be used at the dinner table or during meals- let the good smell of your home cooked food do its magic at that time.

9. Make your clothes, towels and sheets smell good 
Until you switch to natural cleaning products, you don't realize the sickly sweet chemical smell of commercial laundry detergent, liquid fabric softener and especially dryer sheets. You can walk down your street on Saturday morning and smell the laundry products in the air the artificial fragrance is so strong. Instead, switch to a naturally fragranced laundry product made by companies like 7th Generation, Ecover, Method, Mrs. Meyers, Ecos, or small batch ones on etsy. The scents are things like citrus, lavender, pine, sage, rosemary or eucalyptus.  To make your own dryer sheets, put a few drops of essential oil on a damp cloth and toss into the dryer with your clothes, or buy one of the dryer packets filled with lavender available at Trader Joe's. The smell of naturally clean clothes and linens will fill your bedroom and bathroom with natural fragrance.

10. Burn high quality incense for a short time
Go to the natural food store or etsy and purchase some quality 
incense sticks and an incense burner. Light the stick and let it burn for a few minutes and then put it out- that should be plenty of time to get an exotic, spicy scent to your home. Letting the whole stick burn might be too intense.

11. Make a orange and clove pomander
This has been a winter tradition in our family for years and smells like Christmas. You need an orange, or for a smaller version, a tangerine; whole cloves and a toothpick. Pierce the skin of the orange with the toothpick and stick the pointy end of the  clove into the orange so the head of the clove still shows above the rind. You can make patterns in the orange like snowflake stars, stripes or whirls and leave some of the skin showing, then let the orange dry on a plate, giving off fragrance. You can also cover the orange entirely, which is even more fragrant and will last for years. For the most fragrant option, cover the entire orange with cloves and then roll in a bowl filled with a mixture of 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground cloves, 1 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1 tsp. ground allspice and 1/4 cup orris root. Roll the orange around in the mixture occasionally for a couple of days and then put on a plate. Ohhhhh the smell.....

12. For a long term supply of natural scents, plant fragrant plants and herbs in your garde
Gradually plant fragrant plants in your garden so you have easy access to natural good smells. Fragrant plants for cutting include daphne, lilacs,
daphne on wikipedia
jasmine, abelia, lilies, hyacinths and roses. Go to a general garden book or website that lists plants that can grow in your climate zone like Sunset Magazine. A sprig of daphne in a vase will lift your spirits like nothing else after a long winter. Perennial herbs to grow for fragrance (and cooking!) are mint (grow in a pot-invasive), rosemary, sage, lavender and thyme. Plants like basil and tarragon also smell good but usually need to be replanted annually.  

Now sip one of those fresh muddled cocktails and enjoy the amazing scent of your house. Don't know how to make a  muddled cocktail? Tune in next week!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dad's letter

A great man died a couple of weeks ago. Born in a small town in Nebraska in the 1920’s, he decided at age 8 he wanted to become a doctor to help and heal people. His parents were of modest means and not college-educated, so this ambition and love of learning was innate within him. He had paper routes and worked in the fields to save money for college and medical school. After serving in the navy in WWII he began his medical training. For over 40 years he practiced medicine, fulfilling his dream.

 In the mid 1980’s his father died of Alzheimer’s disease after suffering from it from many years. Even then, Dad said he would not suffer the same fate. A couple of weeks ago at age 87, he decided that his loss of the ability to learn and his logical thinking had hit the tipping point, and he chose a rational suicide to prevent the onset of dementia. His son-in-law found him in the garden he loved so much where he shot himself.

He decided he wanted the family to share the 11 page suicide note he prepared well ahead of time to explain that there truly is such thing as a rational suicide. Here is some of the note he wrote:

I’m sorry it had to be this way, but it could have been no other way.

Consider it like a sudden heart attack when no good-bye can be said.

I wrote this suicide note some time ago and this has been a source of great anxiety for me. When I decided that this was the day a great calm came over me.

It’s the right thing to do.

Sorry, but there is no way I could have prepared you for this. I’ve tried in the following to explain my rationale and to explain it wasn’t a spur of moment decision.

It’s inconceivable to most that someone would choose to take their own life. It is usually a pathological state of mind and done on impulse. But it is possible to have a rational suicide. Mine is rational and long-considered and not impulsive. This is something I have to do to prevent far worse consequences.

I have long vowed to myself I would never allow myself to die the way my father died, demented and dehumanized. He had no knowledge of who he was, who I was, or where he was. He remained in a nursing home, curled in the bed in a fetal position, diapered for fecal and urinary incontinence, he couldn’t hear, he couldn’t see, he couldn’t speak and had only enough brain function to allow him to swallow. He had lost his “being.” There are things worse than death, and this is one of them; and it lasted 3 years.

I know what lies ahead for me and it is what has caused me to act now while I still have enough judgment to do so.  I am advantaged by having no religious proscription or stigma attached to suicide.  My secular humanism beliefs attach no stigma to suicide done for valid reasons. You may think this is premature, but it isn’t. Dementia is a slow, insidious but unrelenting process with one inevitable conclusion.

I am increasingly aware of this slowly progressing process. I’m becoming more and more dysfunctional. It’s harder and harder for me to function in unfamiliar situations and settings. The memory loss was bad enough when names couldn’t be recalled, now its words that are just out of reach in mid-sentence.  I can no longer read and remember what I have read. Dementia has stolen the joy of learning from me. The ability to reason has been fairly intact until recently and I now notice some failure there also.

I can tolerate the usual infirmities of aging; the thing I can’t tolerate is the loss of cognitive function. I don’t want to wait too long and risk sinking into the abyss of advanced dementia, unable to make the inevitable decision to control my own destiny.

I am 87 years old, and death is no more than a few years away in any circumstance, and I don’t want to spend them demented. I don’t want to be a burden to my family or myself, and I don’t want the “long goodbye” of Alzheimer’s disease, because there is eventually no goodbye at all, just demented oblivion. It is time to go;  I have reached the level of dementia I can tolerate.

I love you all. No one but me is responsible for what I am doing. There is no failure on anyone’s part not to have foreseen the sequence of events, and there I nothing you could have done about it, nor is there anything I would have wanted you to do.

I have led a good life. I fulfilled my ambition to study medicine and become a physician. I had an excellent wife- better than I deserved; I have two delightful daughters who make me proud to be their father; I have four grandchildren that have been a joy to their grandmother and me.

So instead of mourning my death, celebrate my release from dementia.

Goodbye. I hope you go with fond memories of me and forgive me my transgressions and the memories of my death. In any case, the poem says it all.

Your loving father, grandfather and father in law, DEM

'Reparation' by Franz Wright

The day’s coming

when I will no longer consider

my mere presence inexpiable.

I will place my hand in that flame

and feel nothing.

I will ask nobody’s forgiveness again.

Or I will just go

Among people no more-

I may writhe with

remorse in the night, but

the operation must be

undertaken by

me, anesthesialess.

No one must be asked to relinquish

A grievance that can’t be removed

without further destruction, it may be

it is lodged in who he is now

like a bullet in a brain

whose removal might only worsen its change.

The forgiveness! I know it

will be freely offered

or it won’t, and that is all-

and no one may bestow it

on himself.

If it is to come

it will come of itself like a separate


a mystery, working

unseen as a wind causes still

leaves or water to move once again.

And hide me in the shadow of Your wings.

Let the heart be moved again.


-Poem by Franz Wright









Thursday, February 13, 2014

Februrary is for Armchair Traveling

When February comes, so does the cold, wet, snowy, sleety weather.
Image from

Image from

What a perfect time to snuggle in a comfy chair by the fire and look to travel souvenirs to remind us of fun places we've been or trips we'd like to take......if they're vintage---all the better! Enjoy----

Vintage souvenir postcards Long Beach California Art Deco 1930s view folder
Vintage Long Beach postcard set
Think Long Beach has changed since then?

Two vintage travel stickers decals souvenir Oregon coast 1950s
Vintage Oregon Coast travel decal souvenirs
We rolled down the sand dunes, but this looks more fun!

Vintage souvenir Knotts Berry Farm Ghost Town pamphlet brochure travel 1966
Vintage Knott's Berry Farm souvenir brochure
Remember this fun little tourist stop on I-5 in California?
Next stop, Disneyland!

Two vintage travel stickers decals souvenir California redwoods 1950s

Vintage California Redwoods travel decals
What a thrill it was to drive through the giant tree!

Vintage Sun Valley and Hearst Castle travel decals
Vintage Sun Valley and Hearst Castle travel decals
I remember seeing the zebras around Hearst Castle
and the lack of movie stars at Sun Valley in the day....

Eight vintage souvenir photographs House of Mystery Oregon Vortex black white
Vintage House of Mystery Oregon Vortex photos
One of Oregon's weirdest and coolest tourist attractions- still operating and family owned.

Vintage postcards desert view folder retro souvenir 1950s
 Vintage desert postcard set souvenir
Looks so warm and inviting-
in February, at least.
Vintage aquarium postcards tourist souvenir Seaquarium Miami Florida
Vintage Seaquarium postcard set
Attractions like this may not be around in a few years---

Book that trip today!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fairies Welcome

Fairies flit through English and Irish culture, and people really believe in them. Not long ago, a road building project in Ireland was diverted slightly to avoid a well-known fairy glen!

Want to attract fairies to your house? Try a fairy door made from scrap wood pieces and vintage findings. Hang or lean one against a wall and see what happens. Something magical, I bet!

(Created for Hidden House Artists' Gift Sale in Portland, Oregon November 22-24, 2013.)

Place them this way: 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Thanks for the inspiration, nature!

As the long, cold Winter slowly gives way to the burst of a hopeful Spring, a woman's attention may be turning to......
Elvis at the waterfall by
 ......the beauty of nature! Nice looking men don't hurt either.....but let's get back to topic. 

Hey! How did that get there....oh well.....he can stay.

Hopeful Spring brings us back outside and into sweet nature. Nature can be so inspiring, and it is the one thing I go back to over and over for artistic inspiration. Nature is just so.....natural!

Here's how the diversity of nature can translate into artistic creations. 
Vintage cigar box embellished roses mountain landscape postcard
Vintage cigar box embellished
with roses from aVelvetLeaf

Vintage nature assemblage deer wall hanging
Nature assemblage with deer by aVelvetLeaf

Vintage owl nature assemblage framed wall hanging
Owl on branch nature assemblage by aVelvetLeaf

Bird nest assemblage architectural finding wall hanging
Bird nest assemblage by aVelvetLeaf

Vintage tan gloves mid length hand painted pine branches
Vintage gloves with hand painted pine needles by aVelvetLeaf

Vintage train case strange creatures swamp
Vintage train case with swamp life collage by aVelvetLeaf

Metal box black embellished seascape postcard blackbird
Seascape collage on metal box by aVelvetLeaf

Vintage cigar box woodland embellished rabbits bird postcard
Vintage cigar box embellished with rabbit postcard by aVelvetLeaf

Faux leather box brown embellished ceramic lion figurine
Faux leather box with vintage lion by aVelvetLeaf

Vintage cigar box embellished strange sea ocean life black
Vintage cigar box embellished with sea life by aVelvetLeaf
Vintage white gloves mid length hand painted woodgrain
Vintage gloves with hand painted
faux woodgrain by aVelvetLeaf


Vintage bird figurine upcycled assemblage cameo
Flying bird nature assemblage by aVelvetLeaf

Happy Spring everyone! 

It's coming......really.....


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