This year enjoy free shipping on domestic orders through December, applicable on my website or on Etsy. The last day to get gifts in time for Christmas domestically is Dec. 15. International orders placed before Nov. 18 will make it in time for Christmas (unless they get held up in customs). I am away from Nov. 18 - 23 and again from Dec. 21 – Jan. 5. The shop will remain open, but orders placed during those times will ship out in order of arrival as soon as I return. I have shows every weekend from Nov. 25 to Dec. 16 so check out the events bar on Facebook for in-person availability. Happy holidays wherever you are and whatever you celebrate!
As with many festivals and traditions, Halloween can trace its roots back to the Druids – the Celtic peoples who lived in Ireland more than a millennia ago.
The Celts believed that Halloween, known then as Samhain, was the night that the veil between the spirit realm and the living was at its thinnest allowing spirits and other supernatural forces to come cause mischief or harm. To the ancient Celts, people were transformed into cats as a punishment for their bad deeds. Those unfortunate enough to be cursed by black magic were also turned into cats, especially black cats.
After Roman take over, the Catholics began converting the Celts. The two belief systems merged. The church turned witches, those that ancient peoples looked to for wisdom and medicine and made them into devil worshiping hags. It was believed that witches could turn into cats (thus the black cat connection) and other animals such as bats and spiders – familiars.
It wasn’t until the 1400s that witch hysteria spread across Europe. More than 100,000 were accused of witchcraft with upward of 50,000 being executed – most via hanging, but those killed during the Spanish Inquisition were burned at the stake.
America’s witch scare, which culminated in the infamous Salem Witch Trials were largely the end of the mass hysteria and killing of accused witches. While there were autumn festivals that included the telling of ghost stories and other such creepy traditions, it wasn’t until the influx of Irish immigrants that came to America in the 19th century that Halloween as we know it today began to take root. The mixing of Irish and English customs – jack-o-lanterns, costumes, going door-to-door asking for money – led to the current incarnation of Halloween.
Many young women especially believed that Halloween was the best day for divination and would often seek out fortune tellers to find out the names of their future husbands. This mashup of traditions and beliefs across millennia led to witches becoming a symbol of a holiday celebrating the macabre.
I personally love witches and witch stories. Witches fly in the face of societal expectation and convention – after all its always the young girl, the old midwife, the loner woman – who is accused. I see them as feminist symbols of power. From Hocus Pocus, to The Crucible, The Witch and American Horror Story, there is no shortage of intriguing stories of the power of magical women. It was this history and this media that led me to release the Coven Collection last year and I hope to expand on it in the future.
Any suggestions for future Coven subjects?
About a year ago I started going for morning walks. I started this reluctantly as a means of managing stress and anxiety, but soon it became so pleasurable and grounding that now I feel discombobulated if I don’t go for a walk in the morning.
Part of what makes these walks so rejuvenating is that in addition to getting my blood moving and my head clear, I discovered podcasts (I’m behind by about 10 years, I know). There are four I listen to religiously for inspiration or a good laugh then like 50 more that I hop onto when I’m working or doing chores. Best of all, there are soooooo many podcasts out there that focus on history and historical figures.
So I present to you, dear readers, my top five favorite historical podcasts for when you need to engage your brain in something interesting and stimulating.
This was the first historical podcast I found and would put it on whilst bottling all of your perfumes. This show is exhaustive! It has an archive of hundreds of episodes and is updated regularly. You’ll find two types of show formats when you listen: one hour interviews or bite-sized question and answer. The question and answer shows are my favorite as they tend to focus on obscure topics like what did people eat during the middle ages? Inquiring minds must know! I also like that this show has a wealth of information online and resources for teachers. If you like historical deep dives, this is the show for you.
Favorite Episode: Why the Potato Led to the Rise of Modern Europe (My family is Irish ok?)
Ok this is actually an offshoot of a popular podcast called Stuff You Missed in History Class which is delightful. Like History Unplugged, these ladies do deep dives on historical topics most of which is obscure or about little known people which are the people I love to hear about. I like this one over SYMIHC because each episode is only 5-10 minutes and is a fun little “On This Day” type program to start your day off. Pretty much every time I listen my first reaction is, “Oh really, no way!” Recent episodes that have captivated my attention were about Otzi the Iceman and Jack the Ripper.
Favorite Episode: Lizzie Borden’s Parents Were Murdered - August 4, 1892 (Of course this one is my favorite.)
Another lady-helmed podcast, Dressed takes a deep dive into the history of fashion. But it’s not just about gorgeous dresses and fancy shoes, they really get into what the clothing means in terms of society and events of the time. It’s super fascinating and they do a great job of curating topics. I really enjoyed the episode on Rose Bertin, Marie Antoinette’s Minister of Fashion, and the episode on Egyptian fashion because my daughter is OBSESSED with King Tut. She’s five.
Favorite Episode: Murderous Millinery (the Marie Antoinette one is a close second but this one is about how the Victorian/Edwardian obsession with plumage on hats killed millions of birds.)
OLD HOLLYWOOD HISTORY! This super well-researched podcast covers the real stories about old Hollywood starlets as well as other forgotten histories of the film industry. The podcast has more of a storytelling quality and everything from the music to the way she speaks gives it this ethereal, ghostly quality that is just haunting and fun.
Ok this one is not strictly historical but it’s probably my favorite podcast in the world and I will cry when they stop making new episodes. Will and Mangesh (Mango on the show) are the co-founders of the magazine Mental Floss. This show is basically a mash up of culture, history, science and big questions. What I love most about it is the positivity - pure happiness for your ears. Each week, there are two long form episodes about a topic and one short episode called 9 Things that consists of just nine interesting facts about whatever the topic is. This is my go-to when I need a smile.
There you have it! If you’re unsure where to listen, I use Stitcher but there’s Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and a million other ways to listen on your phone or computer. I’m gonna go listen to the poison garden episode again now.
Also, a clue to the new collection was in this post ;)
This is part of a series of posts on the historical figures that are the inspiration for Immortal Perfumes. For more historical figures, check out the rest of the series.
Though she herself was never in love, Emily Brontë penned what is widely considered one of the great romantic masterpieces in English literature, Wuthering Heights.
Born on July 30, 1818 in Thornton, West Riding of Yorkshire, Emily's life was marred by illness, solitude, and tragedy. Her mother died when she was just three years old and her two eldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in a typhoid epidemic when she was six.
Her father was rector of Haworth and it was in the context of this bleak moorland that Emily and her surviving siblings, Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell, occupied themselves creating fantastical lands and writing poetry.
They began with the fictional world of Angria and the siblings wrote stories about the adventures of Branwell's toy soldiers in that strange land. When Emily got older, she and Anne began a new story line about a fictional island nation called Gondal. None of the writings on Gondal have survived but Emily and Anne frequently returned to it in their writing throughout their lives.
When shew as 17, Emily attended the Roe Head Girl's School where Charlotte was already a teacher. Unable to cope with being away from home, she remained at the school only a few months before she was sent home.
Three years later, she became a teacher at Law Hill School in Halifax. Much as before, her health suffered under the stress of the long work day and her extreme homesickness. After returning to Haworth, she remained at home and did most of the housework and cooking. She occupied her free time with writing, the study of German and piano.
A plan to open a school at Haworth with her sister Charlotte didn't pan out and Emily returned to her writing. She transcribed all of her poems into two notebooks - which Charlotte discovered in 1845. Recognizing their genius, Charlotte pushed Emily to publish but Emily was furious with her sister and considered it an invasion of her privacy. Anne revealed her own manuscript and the sisters discovered they had each been writing in secret.
Adopting pseudonyms using their initials, the sisters published their poems in a volume titled, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The book sold just two copies.
In 1847, Wuthering Heights was published. Charlotte's Jane Eyre had already been published and had achieved success. The reaction to Wuthering Heights was mixed - primal passion and violence were a lot to digest for the Victorian audience.
Emily died a year later at age 30 of tuberculosis having caught a severe cold at her brother Branwell's funeral.
Inspiration for Wuthering Heights
Though she was isolated and never knew passionate love herself, there are several interesting stories that could have inspired the characters and locations in Wuthering Heights.
First there was the story of Emily's grandfather, Hugh Brunty. His grandfather was a cattle dealer who frequently traveled to Liverpool. On one of his trips a young boy - dirty, naked, and a darker complexion - was found on board the ship. Brunty's grandfather adopted the child and called him Welsh on account of his complexion. He preferred the child over his own and taught him his trade. Welsh was shrewd and sullen - and eventually took over the business when his master died. He told the family he would continue to take care of things if Mary, the youngest daughter, married him. When the family refused, he cursed them, "Mary shall be my wife, and I'll scatter the rest of you like chaff from this house, which shall be my home!" Like Heathcliff, Welsh spent the rest of his days torturing the family - the house was burned to the ground and he eventually adopted and mistreated Emily's grandfather Hugh in a perverse revenge scheme across generations.
A similar story occurred at Law Hill House nearby. The owner, John Walker, preferred his nephew Jack Sharpe to his own sons. When Walker died, Sharp was in full possesion of the estate. The rightful heirs were able to oust him but not before Sharp destroyed most of the family heirlooms and made off with the silver.
Last, it is speculated that Hindley Earnshaw was inspired by the tortured life of Emily's brother Branwell. Though he was smart and a gifted writer, he succumbed to drugs and drinking and was the subject of many scandals while Emily was writing the novel.
I first read Wuthering Heights as part of my high school summer reading. I was on a camping trip with my best friend, her dad, and two boys she had invited. Reading this book, having teenage hormones, and being in the woods with members of the opposite sex was weird to say the least. And truth be told, at first I couldn't stand the book. But I like evil characters and Heathcliff is pretty ridiculous when you get down to it. The melodrama also spoke to me as a dramatic teenager. I'm not sure that I would still like the story as an adult but Emily Brontë's writing has always made an impression on me so when I set out to create the Literary Lovers collection, it was with Heathcliff and Cathy in mind.
I wanted to capture Heathcliff's brooding, passion and Cathy's free spirit. The Heathcliff cologne is dark and alluring with a warm scent of chocolate. Catherine smells like the rain that drives the moaning branches of the trees.
This is part of a series of posts on the historical figures that are the inspiration for Immortal Perfumes. For more historical figures, check out the rest of the series.
King Henry VIII,
To six wives he was wedded.
One died, one survived,
Two divorced, two beheaded.
King Henry VIII is probably the most famous king in English history. Before he became the rotund, belligerent king of his twilight years, young King Henry VIII was a stylish youth deeply interested in the arts, education, sport, and was a devout Catholic called a Defender of the Faith by Pope Leo X. As the second son of Henry VII, he was never expected to become king, but when he did, he did so with lavish excess and cultivated an image of a Renaissance man. Henry VIII's obsession with producing a male heir (partly his own vanity, and partly a desire to avoid another War of the Roses) is what led to the two things he is widely known for: the English Reformation and his six wives.
When his older brother Arthur died suddenly at the age of 15, Henry, then 10 was thrust into royal duties. Because it was not assumed he would become king, he had not received the same education as Arthur and was kept out of the public eye so he could undergo a crash course in learning to be king. Although he was initially resistant, once his father, Henry VII and the first Tudor monarch, died, he agreed to take Arthur's widow Katherine of Aragon as his wife.
He and Katherine were married for 24 years and had what was considered a fairly happy marriage. Katherine even took over for him while he was on his many military campaigns trying to restore ancestral lands from France. But she could not give him what he most desired: a son to succeed him. In their time together, the Queen gave birth to three stillborns and one son who died after only seven weeks. Their relationship, while affectionate, was full of sorrow but did improve slightly when Mary was born and subsequently survived infancy.
Stewing over his lack of a male heir, Henry turned his attentions to the charismatic Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting to the queen. The king was bewitched by the charms of this intellectual woman and fell deeply in love with her. Anne, for her part, did not want to become a mistress as her sister Mary had and kept the king at arm's length in an alluring game of courtly love. When Henry's appeal to the Pope for an annulment to Katherine was rejected, the king started the English Reformation in his desire to make Anne his bride.
Even though he remained a devout Catholic for the remainder of his life, Henry broke ties with the church of Rome and established the Church of England making himself head of the church. He dissolved abbeys and monasteries and used their riches to fill his own coffers. Meanwhile, finally married after seven years of illicit rendezvous, Henry and Anne were not finding married life to be all that pleasant. An early feminist, Anne did not want to play the role of subservient royal wife. That refusal coupled with frequent mood swings had Henry already contemplating his next marriage. Things eased a little after the birth of Elizabeth, but after a series of stillborn sons, the king was ready to move on with Jane Seymour.
Condemning Anne to death on trumped up charges of adultery and treason, Henry became engaged to Jane Seymour, Anne's lady-in-waiting, the day after Anne was beheaded. Less than a year later, Jane gave birth to Prince Edward who later became Edward VI. Unlucky for Jane, she died of an infection after the difficult birth. Henry, while grieved, recovered quickly as he was euphoric over the son he had so long desired.
Ready to move on and hopefully form an alliance on the continent, Henry was talked into marrying Anne of Cleves. When he met her, just in time for their wedding, he was not happy with her appearance. He followed through on the marriage, not wanting to cause a scandal, but divorced her a short time later. Anne of Cleves had clearly learned from Katherine and did not put up a fight. For this she was richly rewarded and bestowed the title of "The King's Sister," and given houses and an allowance.
Becoming increasingly erratic, Henry then married the beautiful 17 year old Catherine Howard, first cousin and a lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn. Catherine's vivacious and carefree nature soothed the aging, ailing king. But her frivolity was unchecked and she was beheaded after it was discovered that she had carried on two affairs under the king's nose.
He consoled himself by invading France and "Rough Wooing" Scotland before entering his final marriage to Catherine Parr. Through her influence, he reconciled with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth and restored them to the line of succession. He remained with Catherine until his death at the age of 55.
This was a very abbreviated post on Henry's life and focused on his wives because, like most people, that is the story that has always intrigued me most about the temperamental king. It's easy to forget his major accomplishments however, which were the English Reformation and the removal of feudal power of the nobility thus strengthening the monarchy. This ultimately led to England's constitution.
I've mentioned in other posts that I was obsessed with the TV show The Tudors and Alison Weir's books. These piqued my interest in the king and he became one of the first subjects of my cologne line.
England's most famous king had a soft spot for the finer things in life and was said to wear a concoction of ambergris and civet, two of the finest scents of the time. VIII cologne oil, inspired by the illustrious Tudor, has notes of ambergris, belladonna, clove bud, tobacco, bay leaf, fire, and Peru balsam.
While on holiday visiting my family in Los Angeles, I saw the iconic image of King Tut on banners all over the city. I've been living under a rock and didn't know that there was a new multi-city exhibition - the long-dead pharaoh's last time traveling before his final rest at the new Grand Egyptian Museum.
Two years ago we had taken my now 5 year old to a mummy exhibit at the LA County Natural History Museum. She loved it so much (still talks about it!) that we decided King Tut was right up her alley. And boy was it.
On display at the California Science Center until January 2019 before heading to Europe, King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh features 150 artifacts from the Boy King's tomb - 60 of which have never traveled outside of Egypt before.
Multimedia displays gave the exhibit an ultra-modern touch. When you first enter, you watch a roughly 5-minute video on a curved screen (it looks like the images are melting into the building, it's really neat) giving backstory about Tutankhamen and Howard Carter. It had high production value and looked like one of the History Channel's non-alien related docu-shows.
The exhibit was split onto two levels. On the top floor you were immersed in the pharaoh's treasures and information on ancient Egyptian burial practices. The bottom floor was dedicated to the finding of the untouched tomb, new findings about Tut's death and lineage (spoiler: blow to the head), and how Tut has impacted popular culture since he was rediscovered.
I thought it was interesting how the exhibit as a whole really accentuated this idea of Tut and Carter as linked across time. King Tut was virtually erased from history due to the political turmoil of his time, and Carter was about to lose his funding from Lord Carnarvon (Downton Abbey fans! This was one of the owners of Highclere Castle, the house used in filming. Highly recommend you read Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey as they go into detail about his involvement in the find). The exhibit used this theme of the underdog to great effect.
My favorite objects on display were the sentinel that guarded his tomb, the wishing cup, a calcite head stopper (these sat atop the jars in the canopic chest which housed Tut's organs), and a massive broken statue of the king.
At the airport on our way home, my 5-year-old saw a magazine with Tut on the cover and announced to the store, "There's the history." People chuckled kind of confused and then she said, "It's King Toot-ank-ommon," to which the store erupted in laughter. What can I say, my kid is amazing.
Know before you go: Tut's mummy and the famous death mask are not on display. They are forever in Egypt at this point. I had no idea, but the Space Shuttle Endeavor is on display and your ticket to Tut gets you in to see it. Endeavor is absolutely massive and breathtaking. It kind of made me teary. Don't forget to see it.
The tickets to this exhibit are funding the construction of the Grand Egyptian Museum which will house Tut and the country's other major antiquities. For up to date info on the exhibit's travel schedule: https://kingtutexhibition.com/en/exhibit-information/
She was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon when she caught the notorious King Henry VIII's eye. It was for the dark, alluring beauty of Anne Boleyn that the English Reformation was set into motion. While she only got to sit on her throne for a mere three years, Anne Boleyn is arguably one of the most famous queens in English history. But who was the doomed queen?
Sent away to France at a young age, Anne grew up the darling of the French court. Under the watchful eye of the pious Queen Claude, Anne received an exemplary education - academically as well as artistically; she was a particularly skilled singer and dancer. Anne's sharp wit endeared her to the lascivious French court and she learned much of the art of flirtation during her time there.
When war broke out between England and France, Anne was sent back to England to join the court. Her sister Mary had already been cast aside as the king's mistress and left court with a less than desirable marriage and quite possibly, the king's bastard son.
Much as she had at the French court, Anne charmed the young men of the English court with her wit, dancing and exotic French style. She soon became sweet with Henry Percy, heir to the earl of Northumberland, and the two were secretly engaged. However, unbeknownst to her, she was already an object of desire to the jealous king and Henry directed Cardinal Wolsey, his most trusted adviser, to break up the union. From that day, Anne harbored an intense hatred for the Cardinal.
With Percy gone, Henry began his pursuit. Anne was coy and teasing, qualities which endeared her even more to the headstrong king. Her first love gone and having had a taste of power, Anne decided to play Henry's game. Their dance went on for seven years as Henry tried to obtain an annulment of his marriage to Katherine from the pope.
Anne had many enemies at court - she was powerful and hot tempered. Most of the information we have about Anne comes from letters written by her enemies, particularly the Spanish ambassador and confidant to Katherine, Chapuys. She was described as plain and possessive. Her most remarked upon physical attributes were her dark eyes and long black hair.
It came as a surprise to most that Henry was steadfast in his loyalty to Anne during the time of the King's Great Matter. Anne aligned herself with Wolsey's protege Thomas Cromwell, a fellow church reform sympathizer, and actively worked to undermine Wolsey in the king's eyes.
While the farce of Henry's marriage to Katherine continued on, Anne became more prominent. Katherine was ignored while Anne sat with the king at all events and banquets. Courtiers endeared themselves to her and she was soon the most powerful woman at court. In 1532 she was elevated to the peerage with the title Marquess of Pembroke. It is believed, though not certain, that this gift was evidence of a secret wedding and physical consummation of their relationship.
After years of leading on the king, the pope denied Henry his annulment. Enraged, Henry broke with the Catholic Church and had Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury, annul the marriage. He and Anne soon after had a legitimate wedding.
Anne's position was finally secure and she chose the motto "The Most Happy." To her great victory, Anne soon became pregnant. She gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I in 1533. Contrary to popular opinion, Elizabeth was not a huge disappointment to Henry. He was a doting father and at this point had every reason to believe that sons were on the way. Henry immediately made Elizabeth his heir, passing over his first child Mary, then a teenager.
However, Anne's troubles soon began. She miscarried two sons and was (obviously) an enemy to Mary. The people, who derisively called her Nan Bullen, hated the queen and blamed her for every unpopular edict administered by the king. Most were still loyal to Katherine and Mary and saw Anne as a homewrecker. With the miscarriages, Henry became more disillusioned with her, and as he had done with Katherine, began questioning the validity of their marriage. When he began to take mistresses, Anne grew increasingly paranoid and temperamental.
Soon after Katherine's death, Anne miscarried another son. This prompted Henry to action - with both wives out of the way he'd be free to marry a third woman and fulfill his desperate desire for a son. He was hot and cold with Anne and during the time he plotted against her - she was unaware of the depth of his hatred.
Anne was arrested and charged with witchcraft, incest and adultery along with her brother George and three of their friends. Even Anne's enemies such as the Spanish ambassador Chapuys believed the charges were false. Nevertheless, after damning testimony, confessions solicited under torture and a sentence passed down by her own uncle, Anne was sentenced to die by beheading.
Due to her rank, she was afforded the right to die by the hand of an experienced swordsmen. Upon hearing this, she replied, "I have heard that the executioner is very good, and I have a little neck."
She met her end with grace and honor on May 19, 1536 at the Tower. Because her coffin was too small, her head was placed beside her and years later she would be joined by her cousin Catherine Howard, Henry's fifth wife.
Because history is written by the victors, we don't have much information directly from Anne. If you're interested in reading more from her perspective check out my review of Alison Weir's book, Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession. For an alternative history in which Anne does not die(!) one of my very own customers has written a book called, The Most Happy: An Alternate History of Anne Boleyn.
My perfume oil, Boleyn, was inspired by the mysterious, doomed queen. I found an ancient, yellow-paged book that mentioned her affinity for champagne and violets and paired that with a vegan civet (civet was a status symbol at the time) and incense-y dragon's blood. The atmosphere of the blend is opulent with an undercurrent of tragedy.
I don't know if you know this about me, but I LOVE HISTORICAL FICTION. The Marie Antoinette trilogy by Juliet Grey is what led to the founding of Immortal Perfumes. So without further ado, I give you a list of all the historical fiction books being released in 2018 that are going on my TBR pile.
Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell
A book from the perspective of Shakespeare's younger brother! Omg do I love sibling rivalry and now we have one with SHAKESPEARE. This story takes place during the first run of A Midsummer Night's Dream and that is juxtaposed with Richard Shakespeare's gritty life in the alleyways of London.
The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
I used to live in Los Angeles and I absolutely adore old Hollywood lore, especially from the silent era. We even had Charlie Chaplin films projected onto a wall during my wedding. This book is about the friendship of Frances Marion and Mary Pickford. It sounds like Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino make cameos. So I'm probably going to fast track this to the top of my list.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
As you know, I love mermaids (see my story, "The Mermaid of Puget Sound"). This book takes place in 1780s England when a merchant is gifted a mermaid. I'm going to be honest, I'm not sure what the book is about from the descriptions but it sounds so delightfully strange that I am here for it.
Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir
Yes, my pretties. It is time. I've reviewed the first two books in the Six Tudor Queens series, and cannot wait to read this title. As I've made quite clear in my reviews, the first two wives are arguably the most famous. I don't know a ton about the rest so it should be super interesting to hear their side of the story with history's most temperamental king. The release date on this one is kind of all over the place. I saw some say it was available in April, then I saw May 3. On Amazon it says May 15. I'll have my review up in the next month or two. For the reviews of the first two, you can find Katherine here and Anne here.
Another Side of Paradise by Sally Koslow
I used to love F. Scott Fitzgerald because I loved Gatsby. But as I got older and learned more about him, it really jaded me to the author. This is probably an unpopular opinion but I think I loved the Baz Lurhmann Gatsby spectacle more than the book itself. Anyway I'm firmly team Zelda and this book is about Fitzgerald's affair with Hollywood gossip writer Sheilah Graham. I will hate read this. It comes out May 29.
The King's Witch by Tracy Borman
This is the first book in a new series about an herbalist healer during the reign of King James I. After she helps the dying Queen Elizabeth, she is regarded as a witch - at the time punishable by death. This is Tracy Borman's debut novel. She, like Alison Weir, is an historian so I'm pretty excited to see how this one turns out. Release date is July 3.
The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo
OMG SLEEPY HOLLOW TOLD FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF ICHABOD CRANE'S LOVE INTEREST! It needs to be out now! But we must wait until October 2 :(
Dracul by Dacre Stoker and JD Barker
A prequel to Dracula written by a Bram Stoker descendant. The book is about Bram Stoker as a young man who goes out to battle "an ungodly beast" and writes about the experience. My brain is going to explode. Out October 2.
In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt
One of my favorite movies of the last few years was The Witch. It was atmospheric and unsettling, mood horror as I call it. This book sounds similar. A puritan woman disappears in colonial era New England at the height of witch fever. This is out October 16.
Little by Edward Carey
An historical fiction about Madame Tussaud! From the description it sounds like the legendary wax museum founder will be getting the Tim Burton treatment. The book takes place in Revolutionary Paris and has the protagonist saving Marie Antoinette and befriending radicals. This book is released October 23.
It's no secret that I love Renegade Craft Fair. I participate in 2 to 5 per year, and honestly, I wish it was my everyday job. I get so energized being around other vendors and my customers - my day to day is pretty solitary in my home office. 2017 was not great for me and the enthusiasm of being at the shows surrounded by other artists, creatives and enthusiastic visitors got me out of a major funk.
And this show was no different! Below you'll find a selection of all the things I loved and bought. Sometimes I wonder why I do these shows because I end up spending all the money I make on all the other amazing things there. Treat yourself!
I bought two of these jumpers and let me tell you, they look amazing and are ridiculously comfortable. Jumpsuits are my summer uniform and these are cute and affordable. I bought the feather print in navy blue and the mandala print in black. I'm probably going to order one in the dusty rose color, so pretty!
These ladies were my booth mates and I'm so glad I was paired with them. They were so sweet and kind and SO TALENTED. I don't even wear earrings often and I had to splurge when I saw these. They are so quirky yet elegant and the witchiness definitely speaks to me. I feel powerful and gorgeous when I wear these. My friends who came by bought a bunch of jewelry from this vendor. Check them out, they have perfect accessories for summer.
Pins! I love pins and Rather Keen has lots of bookish options. The artist is also super nice and we had a fun conversation. Check out his shop, he also does book covers.
I feel pretty cool for the summer thanks to these vendors. You can catch me next at Crafty Wonderland in Portland, RCF Seattle and Portland (if I get in), Urban Craft Uprising Summer, and Seattle Gift Show. I'll update as more shows come up. For the summer I will be sticking to the West Coast but I'll try to make the East Coast when the holidays come around.
"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts."
Shakespeare. It's difficult to write an introduction to the person who penned some of the most influential stories in the history of English literature. In my own personal life and career, Shakespeare has had a profound influence. From watching A Midsummer Night's Dream (VHS with Calista Flockhart and Christian Bale) on repeat, to watching unwilling 9th and 10th graders come alive as they read and acted out Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest, I've often found comfort and pleasure from these tales. I have three perfumes inspired by characters from Shakespeare's plays - Capulet, Montague, and the latest, Weird Sister. So in honor of the Immortal Bard's birthday, here's a primer on England's National Poet.
William Shakespeare was born on April 23rd 1564 - the feast date of St. George, patron saint of England. His father was a prosperous glover and landowner in Stratford-upon-Avon, a town that dealt primarily in the sheep and wool trade. His mother came from a wealthy family and brought a considerable dowry of money and land. By the time Shakespeare was 12, his father held positions on the town council, including bailiff which was essentially mayor. This is significant because at the time, all traveling theater troupes needed to obtain a license by performing in front of the council before they could play for the public. While there isn't much in the way of surviving records offering hard facts about Shakespeare, this is speculated to be influential in his pursuit of the stage, and could even have been a method of networking for him later on.
There are no surviving school records, but it is assumed that Shakespeare attended a grammar school but not a university - this assumption is due to the inspirations in his plays. Much of his work reflects the literature, history, and Latin standardized in the grammar schools of England but not the concerns of universities as reflected in Christopher Marlowe's work. (Fun story: Marlowe is one of the writers some believe could have been the "real" Shakespeare. In my favorite movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, Christopher Marlowe is an old vampire who still holds a grudge against Shakespeare. I cackled in the theater when he threw a knife at Shakespeare's portrait. I think I was the only one.) I bring this up because Shakespeare, and his father before him, spent much of his life trying to climb the social ladder and bring status to his family - education was a sore spot.
At age 18, the Bard married Ann Hathaway, a woman 10 years his senior. Their first child was born six months later...math! And it was during the next seven years that the already sparse records of Shakespeare disappear completely. Known as the Lost Years, Shakespeare didn't resurface until 1592 when a posthumous pamphlet by popular dramatist Robert Greene was published. In it he called Shakespeare an "upstart crow."
If he was known enough to be hated by a competitor, it is presumed that at some point during those seven years he made a name for himself in the London theater scene either as an actor or playwright.
In 1594 he became part owner of the theater troupe Lord Chamberlain's Men. The troupe became so popular that when James I succeeded Elizabeth I, the name was restyled as the King's Men. He was a principle actor and wrote many of the plays the troupe performed.
In researching for this blog post, I was most struck by Shakespeare's business acumen. Culturally, we have a very romantic view of Shakespeare thanks to his sonnets and the overall cliche of the tender writer's heart. But Shakespeare was a theater entrepreneur involved in all aspects of that business and in later years dealt with land holding and granaries in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. When Shakespeare was still a child, his father had lost most of their land and fortune. In his lifetime, Shakespeare was able to amass even greater wealth thanks to his theatrical popularity and business investments.
The Bard of Avon died in 1616 on his birthday, aged 52. While it is not known conclusively how he died, a century later the vicar of Stratford wrote that he had died of a fever after a night of drinking with Ben Jonson. Tragic, but also kind of an awesome way to go?
Because of my love for so many of his plays, I imagine I won't stop at three perfumes inspired by the Bard. Shakespeare's work drew from history, mythology, and magic which are all the things of most interest, value, and passion to me.
Happy birthday my dear friend from another age!
Fasten your corsets, 2018 is gifting us with a docket of historically inspired period pieces. If you can’t stomach the thought of another gritty superhero flick, here are the five most interesting movies inspired by history coming out this year... and they all happen to be female led, bonus!
5. Mary Magdalene - Starring Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor
People always talk about Mary Magdalene in hushed whispers. The focus is always on the fact that she was a whore, not that she was friends with Jesus. However, Mary’s time has come as new scholarship paints her as a pivotal member of Jesus' circle, and now she gets her own movie to tell her story in her own words.
4. Vita and Virginia - Starring Elizabeth Debicki, Gemma Arterton, Isabella Rossellini
Another much whispered about woman was Virginia Woolf. A superstar in the modernist writing circles, her love life was much speculated upon. In this film, the author’s tragic death is not the main focus. Instead, the heart of this movie is Woolf’s love affair with socialite and popular author, Vita Sackville-West.
3. The Favourite - Starring Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Nicholas Hoult
This delicious excerpt from IMDB says all you need to know: "A bawdy, acerbic tale of royal intrigue, passion, envy and betrayal in the court of Queen Anne in early 18th Century England." Queen Anne was the monarch who finally brought together the kingdoms of England and Scotland. Plagued by health issues her entire life, this film details the intense rivalry of two cousins who each want to be Anne’s favorite.
2. Mary Queen of Scots - Starring Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, David Tennant
There is a plethora of media detailing the lives of the Tudors. Now the story of the Stuarts is finally coming to the big screen. This film details Mary Stuart's attempt to overthrow her cousin Queen Elizabeth I and her subsequent imprisonment. With such a stellar cast, this cutthroat rivalry is sure to be compelling.
1. Colette - Starring Keira Knightley, Dominic West
Keira Knightley is the reigning queen of recent period pieces and to be frank, this story has all the elements of good, steamy, historical drama. The movie is based on the life of Gabrielle Sidonie Colette who married a controlling Parisian man named Willy who was 14 years her senior. Her creativity flourished when he introduced her to the bohemians of Paris, and recognizing her talent, convinced her to publish her writing under his name. Her "Claudine" series was so popular that she and her husband became the first modern celebrity couple. Increasingly frustrated by the lack of recognition, however, Colette began an affair with the Marquise de Belbeuf...a woman.
2018 promises to be a standout year for historical drama. Not only are the ladies front and center in a way history routinely dismisses, but we finally get a diversity of relationships not often seen in period pieces. Happy viewing!
This is part of a series of posts on the historical figures that are the inspiration for Immortal Perfumes. For more historical figures, check out the rest of the series.
Iconoclast. Pioneer of the Beat Generation. Catholic. Dharma Bum. Just a few descriptors that comprise the complicated identity of one of the 20th Century's most famous writers, Jack Kerouac.
Kerouac was born on March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts to French-Canadian parents. (In fact, his birth name was Jean-Louis Kérouac and he wrote a fair amount in French that has only recently been published.) He spoke only French at home and did not learn to speak English until he was six years old. During this time, his older brother Gerard died which drove Kerouac's mother deep into her devout Catholic faith, and his father deep into drink. Kerouac himself believed Gerard was his guardian angel and eventually wrote a book called Visions of Gerard.
When he was six years old he participated in his first Confession. While he was praying the rosary afterward, he believed he heard God speak to him and tell him that while he had a good soul, he would suffer in life and die in pain and terror before ultimately receiving salvation.
A natural athlete, he played high school football and then received a scholarship to play for Columbia University. During this time he wrote for the student newspaper and joined a fraternity. But a football injury led him to eventually drop out of school. This turn of events was fortuitous however as it was then that he met his group of friends who would come to be known as the Beat Generation - Ginsburg, Cassady, and William S. Burroughs among others.
In 1951 he completed On The Road - his magnum opus outlining his road trip adventures across North America with his friend Neal Cassady. While Kerouac was a proponent of "spontaneous prose," contrary to popular lore, On The Road was pre-planned and outlined in his journals before he started his famous marathon writing session. In order to keep the words flowing, he cut up paper into long strips and taped them together to produce one long scroll. The scroll only had to be fed to the typewriter once so he didn't have to waste time reloading pages. Despite the speed at which he completed his work, finding a publisher was another story. In the interim, he was introduced to Buddhism and he wrote a biography of Siddhartha Guatama.
It took Kerouac six years to find a publisher due to the explicit talk of drugs and sex, but On The Road eventually came out in 1957. The New York Times immediately proclaimed him the voice of the Beat Generation.
The price of fame was deeply uncomfortable. While he had helped pioneer the group and coined the term, Kerouac identified as a Catholic first and didn't like being lumped in with beatniks. He continued writing and to this day all of his books are still in print. After years of heavy drinking, Kerouac succumbed to his demons on October 21, 1969 at only 47 years of age.
I personally came upon Kerouac's work when I was an English major in college taking a class called Road Write. Kerouac was definitely patron saint of the nomads and In this class we would read works such as The Dharma Bums and Big Sur and then take road trips to places like Big Sur and Joshua Tree. Once there, we would eat and drink together, go on hikes and then have time for quiet reading and writing reflection. As you can imagine it was a really fun class and while my parents were happy for me, I'm sure they were wondering what it was I was learning.
My Dharma Bum perfume oil was inspired by that trip to Big Sur with my friends. We read both books and I can still see the pristine ocean, the cliffs, the forest, the purple sand beach. I can still smell the trees and the spilled wine and coffee. I'll leave you with my favorite passage from The Dharma Bums.
“I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.”
This is the review of the second book in Alison Weir's series, Six Tudor Queens. If you missed the first one, check out the review of Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen.
I said it in the last review. Anne Boleyn's story is Tudor prime time and A King's Obsession, the second book in the Six Tudor Queens series, did not disappoint.
For the most part, in every history book I've ever read, Henry's wives are just side-notes of history - a list of names in a paragraph, not actual people. When they get more than a mention, it's usually to insinuate that they were women to be pitied, they were conniving, or they were merely vessels for the heir Henry desperately wanted.
What I love about Weir's work is that, even though it's fiction, I'm finally seeing a fuller picture of how complicated all of Henry's wives actually were, not to mention the precariousness of their positions. With that said (I am really long winded, wow), let's get to the force of nature that was Anne Boleyn.
The novel begins with 11 year old Anne at Hever Castle, bored and restless. We see her rivalry with older sister Mary and her close bond with younger brother George. We also see Thomas Boleyn as a man who cared only for his upward mobility on the court social ladder.
Anne is sent to Margaret of Austria's court in the Netherlands and Ladies, it sounds like medieval heaven for women. Anne Boleyn was woke before woke was a word (that I hope I'm using correctly). Intellectual conversations about the role and power of women abound between Margaret, Anne, and the other ladies in waiting. This continues a few years later when Anne is sent to join Mary in service to Queen Claude of France. In France she is exposed to all manner of debauchery and in conjunction with her time with Margaret, she has zero tolerance for men not treating women as their own masters. The rape of her sister Mary and King Francis' sister Margueritte (portrayed as Anne's friend and confidant), enraged the young Anne and solidified her early feminist views.
When she came to serve Queen Katherine, Anne was horrified to discover that King Henry had not only raped her sister Mary (who was married by that point) but had also fathered her child before casting her aside. With this secret knowledge in mind, Anne was initially disgusted by Henry's attentions.
In my review of The True Queen I mentioned how I basically thought the portrayal of Henry and Anne on the TV show The Tudors was real. Sure she initially had her ambitions set on him but theirs grew into a passionate love! According to Weir, not so. Anne, having already had her first love ripped away from her by Wolsey (seems like Tudor queens just did not get on with Wolsey), Anne decided she would never love again. While she initially rebuffed Henry's advances, Anne soon realized she liked the idea of power - for her family's prospects and because she was passionate about women's rights and church reform.
This, however, was the part of the story that had painfully slow pacing. I loved the beginning of the book because her early years were a mystery to me other than she had served in the French Court. While I enjoyed seeing the whiny king grovel over her (seriously when you read this you'll wonder how this "fearsome" king got anything done), they were locked in a flirtatious court game for 7 years. It got repetitive.
The rest of the book was extremely anxiety provoking for me. Even though you know her fate, the things Anne went through and Weir's slow, historian pacing provide an inescapable sense of dread. Having finally gotten her title of Queen, Anne chose the motto "The Most Happy" and dutifully submitted to producing an heir. Once Elizabeth was born and Henry's disappointment palpable, Anne's fate was sealed. She grew more paranoid, especially once she found out about new mistresses including Jane Seymour.
Despite her ambition, unlike Katherine, Weir portrays Anne as being willing to step aside to keep her life. Henry's love - once boundless - turns to unadulterated hatred. Charges of treason were drawn up and she was accused of fornicating with five men including her own brother.
Weir has Anne bravely accepting her fate but I implore you: if you are at all squeamish, DO NOT read the last page. It hit me pretty hard.
Overall, I really loved A King's Obsession. I'm at the point in my life where I'm tired of always getting the dude's side of things and it was refreshing to see a portrayal of a strong, smart, feminist woman of that time period. Weir states in the author's note that unlike Katherine, Anne didn't leave many letters and not much is known about her. I sincerely hope that she was an ounce as strong as portrayed here (she brought about the English Reformation so I'm thinking probably). This book is long and at times slowly paced. However, it's a must read for fans of Anne Boleyn and The Tudors in general. It's also interesting to see Anne's view of Katherine having just read Katherine's side of the story.
The third book in the series, Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, releases in May (check that link for some e-shorts Weir is releasing with the books). Can't wait!
Mardi Gras is upon us. For this installment of the Behind the Perfume series, we'll be visiting one of New Orleans' most famous residents.
In the 1800s, New Orleans was a melting pot of Creole, black slaves, and free people of color. Practitioners of voodoo kept the city spellbound with public rituals and the creation of charms, potions and hexes - that could be bought for a price and used against those who might bring harm...or to entice a reluctant lover.
Marie Laveau, a beautiful Creole woman born of a French plantation owner and his mistress of African and Choctaw Indian descent, rose from humble beginnings to be the quintessential Queen of New Orleans.
On her father's plantation, the devout Catholic Marie trained to be a hairdresser - a skill that would serve her well in later years. It's unclear if her husband Jacques Paris deserted Laveau or died, but once he was gone the young Widow Paris, as she called herself, had two children to raise. She established herself as a hairdresser and owing to her beauty and charm, she was able to ingratiate herself to the upper-class white and Creole women of the city. With a hairdresser's skill for conversation, Laveau's clients saw her as a confidant and told her the dirty secrets of New Orleans' wealthiest.
WITCH OR SAINT?
Voodoo was already popular in New Orleans when Laveau arrived on the scene, however, its dark reputation left much to be desired from the upper crust of society. The Widow Paris, who by this time had entered a common law marriage that produced 15 children, was still a devout Catholic - she even attended mass everyday. But she was intrigued by the traditional African beliefs and rituals imparted to her by her mother. It was after meeting Doctor John, a voodoo doctor, that she learned the craft and incorporated her own Catholic based beliefs to lure in those who might be put off by what was considered dark magic. Her rituals involved possession by loas (voodoo spirits) as well as prayer, incense, holy waters, and snakes.
Her trade consisted of the sale of gris-gris (a protection charm), love potions, hexes, and fortune telling. But it was her lavish rituals and ceremonies in Congo Square that brought her fame and established her as the reigning Queen of Voodoo in a city overrun with purported doctors and queens.
Her earlier days as a hairdresser and confidant to the wealthy gave her an upper hand in her divination practices - secrets, gossip, and paying off servants went a long way in establishing a fearful, all-knowing persona.
In addition to her work as a priestess, Laveau was also a humanitarian who nursed the sick and ministered to those bound for the gallows. It is said she saved several men from the death sentence.
After Laveau died in 1881, her daughter known as Marie II, followed in her mother's footsteps carrying on public rituals and private divination. She was never able to capture the same attention and prestige as her mother and ultimately drowned in the 1890s.
While not interred there, the Voodoo Vault in Saint Louis Cemetery #2 is a pilgrimage site for admirers of the Voodoo Queen. Hopeful visitors scribble XXX and other messages in the hopes the spirit of Marie Laveau will grant them wishes. Flowers and rum are also popular offerings.
Voodoo Queen perfume oil was inspired by the spells and saints held dear to Marie Laveau. The combination of palo santo, saffron, sage, jasmine, black cardamom, rose, and cedar smells like a cross between a love potion and a curse.
Immortal Perfumes came about because of my love for historical fiction. I've always been a history nerd, but I didn't realize that the heroes of history I'd enjoyed reading about could be fleshed out and made to come alive again until the TV show, The Tudors, came out in 2007. After I got hooked on that show, I got past my haughty, self-imposed, English major, "I only read literary fiction" weirdness and began devouring novels based on the Tudors and Marie Antoinette, among others.
Which brings me to the subject of this blog post. The historian, Alison Weir, is one of the foremost scholars on the Tudor dynasty and she had the brilliant idea to write a whole series told from the perspective of each of Henry VIII's wives. I'm only mad I didn't think of it first.
The series is called Six Tudor Queens and the first two books are already out - the third is scheduled for a May 2018 release.
Onward to my review of book one!
Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen
As I said above, I was obsessed with The Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII. Obsessed to the point where I basically thought it was real and it has totally clouded what I think about the actual historical figures in question. In the show, for all his faults and temper tantrums, Henry is the protagonist and you can't help but side with him - he's found his true love in Anne Boleyn, it makes sense that he'd want to ditch his older, pious wife for a saucy, young intellectual! So while I was reading Katherine, I was struck with so much more sympathy and understanding for the doomed queen than TV or brief sections of history books allowed.
In her portrait of Katherine, Weir has done something I hadn't encountered before - giving the Spanish queen her due. Alison Weir is probably my favorite author in the genre because, while the stories are juicy and engaging, she still brings a historian's sensibilities to the writing.
Katherine begins as the heroine leaves her native Spain to wed Prince Arthur - Henry's older brother and the marriage that became the basis of Henry's later claim for annulment. Her marriage to Arthur was unconsummated (according to Weir) and when the young Prince died, Katherine was kept as a virtual prisoner by Henry VII. When the king died she was overjoyed that Henry VIII would still take her as his bride.
So set in motion their 24 year marriage (did not realize they were married so long!) which Weir portrays as mostly happy, positive, and loving. One of the biggest surprises (to me) was how sure of herself and undaunted Katherine was despite her husband's cruel treatment of her toward the end. I never put it together that she was the daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and it is her illustrious lineage where Katherine drew her self confidence and determination to keep her marriage with Henry intact. I had always just saw her as hanging on and being a nag - what a difference it makes when you can get inside a character's head! She really did love Henry, she believed in her divine right to rule and make a difference, and she was just overall a tough cookie who wouldn't take the abuse lying down.
Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen is a book that finally gives the cast aside Queen her royal due. Despite the tragedy of her life (so many miscarriages and the ultimate public humiliation), the book was an enjoyable read and lent a new perspective on the people behind the world's most famous divorce.
I will admit that while I'm much more team Katherine than I was before, Anne Boleyn is still prime time to me. I'm almost finished with the second book, Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession, so look out for that review coming soon.
If you'd like to read along, you can get the books here.
This is part of a series of posts on the historical figures that are the inspiration for Immortal Perfumes. For more historical figures click here.
Frontier life was no picnic – especially not for women. In the Old West, if a woman was to survive she had to have a certain level of luck, charm, and resourcefulness. Enter Eleonore Alphonsine Dumont; also known as Madame Moustache.
Originally born in France (or so she claimed), Dumont was a notorious gambler who made her mark during the California Gold Rush. She hustled from town to town dealing cards and running brothels from Tombstone, Arizona to Nevada City, California. At the time, it was rare for a woman to deal and the novelty of her profession, not to mention her beauty and charm, drew in miners from all around.
In Carson City, Nevada she bought herself a ranch and fell in love with a man of high charm but little substance. Jack McKnight conned her out of her considerable gambling fortune and Dumont was left destitute. She gave up the ranch and with dogged determination she returned to the gambling circuit, traveling around and rebuilding her fortune.
Dumont eventually founded her own gambling house, “Vingt-et-un” (21), for stylish, well-kept men - no ladies save herself allowed. When her beauty began to fade and the attention of the miners waned, she became known as Madame Moustache owing to the line of dark hair above her upper lip - which she wore with pride.
To capture the scent of a well kept lady from the Old West, the Madame Moustache perfume oil has notes of fire, vanilla, tobacco, and (vegan) Egyptian Musk. The tobacco and fire symbolize the dirt and grit of a hard life on the frontier while the vanilla and musk soften it up for a rich, feminine scent.
Haven't had a chance to sample the new Coven Collection? You can get your witch-fix at various shows around the PNW this December.
Dec. 2 - Holiday Pop Up in South Lake Union - private event feel free to email if you'd like to attend.
Dec. 9/10 - Handmade Holiday Show - SODO
Dec. 16/17 - Renegade Craft Fair Seattle
Dec. 22/23 - Renegade Craft Fair Portland
LA --> Seattle --> Portland. See you there!