A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In which Michael swoons and creates lovely aromas

OMG, readers, you'll never believe who commented on my post from yesterday:

Jeffrey, my other obsession of the hour
For those of you who do not recognize this studly being, he's the OTHER hunky dancer in pleather shorts from last Saturday's concert!  I still have no idea how he found my blog, but I am hoping that more leather- and pleather-wearing hunks, dancing or not, stumble my way.

(Mom, if you're reading my blog today, please know that I am totally inventing this infatuation with partially nude muscle boys for the sake of entertaining my readers.  Rest assured that my priorities are still pleasing you and finding inventive ways to use up leftover beans.)

Well, shall we get back to more blog-related topics?  (Although, with the direction my writing has been taking lately, I shall soon have to replace the final word in my blog title with some other noun.)

You will remember that over the weekend I posted about my struggles in finding the perfect way to scent my teaching space.  Many of you graciously wrote in to suggest products and ideas, and I'm hoping to eventually try out all of them.  Here's a little report on the two ideas I've implemented so far.

1. Fresh flowers.  There seems to be a lot of disagreement over whether the most fragrant varieties are pleasing or overpowering, so I decided not to use fresh flowers in my teaching space proper.  I did purchase a pot of planted hyacinth bulbs for our entryway, though, at the very reasonable cost of $8.   (It's perplexing to me that cut blooms cost more than the whole plant.) Yesterday, the buds were still so tightly furled that I didn't know what color flowers I'd bought, but already today, they're beginning to open up into magenta-ish splendor:

They are also beginning to release their very recognizable scent, which I personally find intoxicating.  (But not as intoxicating as Jeffrey (see above).  Just entertaining the readers, Mom!)  If I see any of my students looking askance at these blooms, I'll just whisk them quickly into my teaching room, where hopefully they'll appreciate more the second scenting method I'm evaluating this week.

2. When my reader Sarah wrote in with a link to her instructions for making an inexpensive version of a wand diffuser, I got excited.  (Not as excited as when I look at Jeffrey (see above), but pretty darn excited.)  It tickles me to replicate a costly product with stuff I find around the house.  The only component I lacked was bamboo skewers, which I was able to pick up for $3 from a hardware store the dogs and I passed on our afternoon walk.  (Sarah had mentioned in her blog a cost of 47 cents, but this is NYC, folks.  We pay a surcharge on everything for perks like easy access to world-class entertainment and pleather-clad dancers.)

I cut off the pointy ends of the skewers according to Sarah's instructions, popped them in a beautiful glass vase we'd picked up a few years back at Goodwill (before they went all let's-charge-people-a-lot-more-than-we-used-to), and added a few drops of peppermint essential oil.  Essential peppermint oil?  Essential oil of peppermint?  Anyway, here's what it looks like:

Could you buy a diffuser that beautiful?

In a matter of minutes, this little beauty was spewing out peppermint smell like nobody's business.  The student I asked told me she thought it smelled just as much as my regular electric diffuser.  It certainly is prettier than that contraption.  And the sound of oils evaporating is much quieter than the motor of the contraption.  So, overall, I am pleased with my results.

Here are some drawbacks:

  • You have to fill it with quite a lot of drops of essential oil.  I can see the thriftiness of this method literally evaporating into thin air over time.
  • You can't turn it on and off.  Even when I'm not in my teaching space — such as right now — it is wafting costly oils into the air like nobody's business.
  • You can't change the fragrance at whim.  Luckily, I am pretty partial to a mix of peppermint and lavender, which I find smells fresh, clean, and invigorating.
I'll give my homomade (a typo I decided to let ride) diffuser at least a week's go before I make my final decision whether to replace my electric diffuser with this silent version.  

Next up for trial: a Lampe Berger.  Until a reader suggested them, I'd never heard of these pretty little burners in which you apparently ignite a mixture of alcohol and fragrance for 2 minutes before blowing it out to deodorize and scent your space, but I am intrigued by the arty look of the Lampes as well as their inherent explosive danger and high cost.  (Just kidding, Mom, I live a very sensible and prudent lifestyle.)

Stay tuned for more updates on my springtime scent-o-rama....


  1. I wonder if you could dilute the essential oil with a cheaper carrier oil, almond oil comes to mind. It would have possibly the added benefit of being slightly less fragrant.

    Thanks for posting today ;-)

  2. What a clever idea! Perhaps you could be on the look out for a vase with a more narrow base so that you wouldn't need so much oil. Although with the skewers being so tall, then it might get tippy. I only looked quickly, but where do the oils go for the Lampe Berger? I'm not sure how it's any different than the alchohol lamps used in high school chemistry.

  3. @Liara: THAT's why I love the Lampe Berger — it reminds me (a huge science geek) of Bunsen burners! Thanks for helping me to make that connection.

    @Elle: Am going to try this out today. A little dilution might be a good thing: I could smell my diffuser when I came home from the opera last night — as soon as I got off the elevator on my floor! My pepperminty mix of oils had permeated our apartment door and was scenting the entire hallway.

  4. I've enjoyed the recent blogs just like your other dedicated readers, Michael. However, thank you for your sensitivity. I love the photo!!! As for the scents in your teaching room, there is nothing like fresh flowers for beauty and scent.

  5. I just talked to my Mom on the phone and found out that she was under the impression that the pic of Jeffrey, above, was actually me dressed up. I wish. In case anyone else is having the same delusion, I mean misunderstanding, that is not I repeat NOT me (or my biceps) shown at the top of this post. Thank you.

  6. I think a Lampe Berger would probably work best. The beau & I use something that I think is similar but far less classy. It's a little carved Buddha candle holder with sticks that hold up a glass dish into which one inserts the desired essential oils. Just a simple diffuser but it works very well, as long as you don't let the oil burn, which of course I have never done...

  7. Hi Drew, I got the impression from my admittedly minimal research that the Lampe Berger is a bit more complex than just a heated receptacle for oils. Somehow the flame is supposed to draw air into the mechanism, which is how the air gets deodorized, and then spewed out with a bit of fragrance incorporated. The physics of this process is a bit beyond my ken.

    I'm ordering a Lampe soon — as soon as I can narrow it down to just one of the charming little burners, as individual and pretty as FabergĂ© eggs — to play around with and will let you know when I have some first-hand experience.

  8. Looking forward to hearing your review! Enjoy yourself.

  9. guess what? i am just in from the store where i went solely (souly?) for you. i picked up my favorite scented candles for you and am sending in the mail. soy, of course, vegan, organic yadda yadda yadda. very clean burning, light and my fav. in little tins. aroma naturals is the brand.
    who knows, maybe you and your students will like.

  10. Yay! Can't wait to get the candles. I'm hoping they're the kind infused with magick energy that will draw pleather-clad dancers my way....