I like my living/teaching environments (they're highly overlapping) to smell good. To me, it is important that every one of my 5 senses — and those of my visitors/students — gets triggered with pleasant stimuli. (Or at least 4 out of 5. Ironically for a food blogger, taste is the sense that I invoke the least in my professional work.) I have gone to great lengths to choose restful colors for the paints and fabrics in my teaching room, to provide soothing white noise that masks harsh sounds from outside, to touch my clients with respect and gentleness, and to make the room agreeably, but not overpoweringly fragrant.
This last step, to bring about a pleasing olfactory environment, has not been easy to bring about. In short, most of the scenting products out there stink.
Would you like to read about my aromatic journey? I'll start by proclaiming that in our house, artificial scents are anathema. We are sensitive to any chemically scents — like those in many commercial household cleaning and grooming products — and buy or make only products that have their fragrance imparted by essential oils. When you stop to think that whatever you smell has already entered your system, you will likely decide like us that harsh, toxic chemicals are verboten. Anything that your body absorbs through your skin or nasal passages must be processed by your liver and other internal organs just like the foods you eat. (A good rule of thumb, which I abide by about 80% I guess, is that you shouldn't rub anything into your skin that you wouldn't put in your mouth. Thus our use of almond oil as a facial moisturizer and raw organic eggs as a toner.)
The danger of toxin absorbtion is the real reason we avoid commercial air fresheners, Febreze, Renuzit, Yankee Candles, and (horror of horrors) Bounce dryer sheets like the plague. Besides the fact that their smells make us want to retch.
So please don't recommend a Glade Plug-in for my teaching room. I don't want to poison my students or myself with scents fresh out of the test tube. OK, OK — I'm coming down off my soapbox now. Not that we even use soap.
Here are some scenting methods I've tried and largely abandoned:
Incense. As my co-worker Jason used to say, "It smells like a Pakastani whorehouse in here." Those sticks and cones smell delicious. . .until you light them. Then they smell like something delicious is burning. And most of the fragrances are cloying and too heavy for a room where people will be singing.
Sage smudgesticks. This is really just a sub-category of incense. But instead of a whorehouse, it leaves my teaching space smelling like a pothead's bedroom. For at least 3 days. I don't care how many evil spirits the sage exorcises, I can't have my students thinking that I spend my evenings lighting up big doobies in the room they are learning in.
|Me and Cathy, as we might look after lighting up a big doobie. (I am straining here to shoehorn into my theme some pictures that in all truthfulness do not belong in this post. But they're too fun to miss out on.)|
Salt crystal lamp with receptacle for essential oils. I love love love this lamp, but only for its cozy orange glow. Its 5-watt Xmas-tree lamp bulb simply does not produce sufficient heat to effectively disperse the scent of the oils. The (supposedly Himalayan) salt crystal is also supposed to give off healthy positive (or is it negative?) ions, but I can't really say I feel more ionized than before I bought it.
Nebulizer. I ended up giving this away to a friend. Not a good friend — I gave it away because a mold I thought might be poisonous was forming in the tank in which you are supposed to put a mixture of water and essential oils. I was sorry when the mold problem arose, because, otherwise, this was a satisfactory scenting system — it silently dispersed a perfect amount of natural scent into the air. (I wonder how my friend is doing....)
Scented candles. Ah, how I love the scented candle department in stores! I can entertain myself for a half hour, sniffing each one in turn, and going back to re-sniff my favorites. But back in the reality of my home, I have yet to find a scented candle that works for me. There are, in my experience, 3 categories of this product:
1. Cheap-ass (but not necessarily cheap) artificially scented candles. These smell chemically in the store, and nauseate me when they are lit, particularly at mealtimes, when their sickly-sweet miasma competes with the food aromas. This category includes the kind of votives you find in Hallmark stores and drugstores as well as Yankee candles and their ilk.
2. High-end luxury candles, usually costing over $20. Like Votivo and similar brands. They have fancy poetical names like After the Rain or My Gigolo's Musky Pits and smells to drive you wild with hunger and/or desire, but I find that, when lit, they produce too great a concentration of scent, which easily overwhelms a room. If pretentiousness had a smell, it would be Votivo's red currant flavor. I am looking for (smelling for?) something a little subtler.
3. Lower-end luxury candles, usually costing under $20. These often have a soy base and names that are more like ingredient lists (lilac & ylang ylang, lavender & rosewood). I am forever falling for products like this, which are enticing on the shelf in the store, and am invariably disappointed when I get them home and find that, lit, they have about as much scent as glass. I recently got duped (by my own apparently unteachable brain) into bringing home these beauties:
I believe the pink one is lavender/rosewood and the green one is rosemary/mint. It doesn't really matter, though, because they "smell" unscented once lit. You will notice that they came with kicky little wooden lids whose purpose, other than denuding the nation's forests, I cannot discern. They also came with kinky little embossed labels suggesting that I use the melted wax as a massage oil. I tried this out on myself — only on my hands, lascivious readers — and was informed of the resulting putrid effect in a series of comments of gradually escalating pointedness by my not-so-subtle partner, Peter. I believe the final straw was "I feel like I'm sitting next to the bathroom on a Greyhound bus!" after which I raced to the bathroom to scrub off the offending scent.
Please remind me to stop expecting scented candles to take my life to the next level. I'd rather spend the same amount on a nice Cabernet, which might have a bouquet I — not to mention Persnickety on the other end of the sofa — could truly appreciate.
So how do I scent my teaching room? I am currently (NOT currantly) using this diffuser:
As you can perhaps see, one attaches a little bottle of essential oil (without water) onto the back, with a little diffusion cone on top to direct the mist where it's desired. The controls can be set to determine the length of time it stays on, the length of time it stays off, and the level of scent. My little ultrasonic pal lends just the right amount of scent to my room; my students are always appreciatively commenting on the aroma (usually lavender/peppermint) in the air. My only complaint is that I can use it only BETWEEN students, not during lessons, because it sounds like a jet engine when running. (Its loudness is variable depending on the level of scent dispersal you dial up, but I find that I need it to be on max to work effectively.) Also, with its plasticky mechanistic look, it's not nearly as charming an accessory as a lit candle. So I guess my search for the perfect scent producer is still not over.
Do any of you have recommendations? I would love to find an aroma delivery method that 1) is silent, 2) is clean and non-toxic, 3) is capable of delivering an amount of scent that is discernible but not overpowering, 4) is attractive to look at, and 5) uses only natural scents.