What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


The winner of the latest drawing is CRYSTAL. 

To claim your box of samples, send me at e-mail at olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a comment on the Olympic Orchids Facebook page 

I will be away from the blog, traveling in Europe from September 4-17, so would like to get this drawing finished up and the prize sent off before I leave. 

There will be a new drawing once I’m back in Seattle, once again for a big box of samples and anything else related that will fit in the box. 

Several years ago I wrote about Artemisia, but have become newly fascinated with Artemisia tridentata, also called big sagebrush. You can read a little bit about it here. I have discovered that it grows everywhere east of the Cascades, and last month harvested some, thinking we might want to distill it. Life intervened and we waited too long, but I took the dried-out leaves and tinctured them, thinking it might be interesting. 

Much to my surprise, within a day the alcohol had turned a bright green, and within a week it was dark emerald green, so I removed the plant matter and filtered it. It is so dark now that it is hard to photograph. I think you can see it best when the bottle is turned on its side and the light shines through. The bright green color was surprising given that the plant itself looks grayish. Best of all, the tincture has quite a strong scent that really captures the fragrance of the fresh plant. I think this tincture would make a great perfume!

To enter the next drawing, leave a comment about where you would like to travel in Europe or some association you have with sagebrush.

[All photos are mine] 

Monday, August 12, 2019


The winner of this week’s drawing is EMILY.

To claim your winnings, just send me an e-mail at olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a comment on the Olympic Orchids Facebook page

Years ago I started trying to keep an archive of perfume samples. I carefully tagged and recorded them in a database, put them in baggies with cards, one for each brand, and put the baggies in alphabetical order in shoebox-sized plastic carriers. It’s probably been 8 or ten years since I started collecting samples, and I have recently been dismayed to find that many of the samples are not in good shape. A lot of them have leaked or evaporated, and there’s not a lot of juice left. Some may have experienced other ravages of time – I haven’t checked. 

I discovered this when I took some of the samples out of the archive to send out to winners of my drawings and free up some shelf space. Because of the preservation problems I’m slowly dismantling my archives and sending out the samples “as is”. Some are in perfect condition, some are pretty good, and some are not good. Some are cheap junk perfumes, some are the average stuff, and some are really beautiful, interesting, expensive, or rare. You take what you get because I don’t choose what I send, I just weigh out a couple of handfuls at random. Pick through them, enjoy whatever appeals to you, and use what’s left over to scent your laundry or your bathroom, give away, throw away, use up, do whatever you like with them. Like everything else in this world they won’t last forever, much as we would like them to, so enjoy them while you can. 

To enter this week’s drawing for at least 100g of samples, leave a comment about the transitory nature of perfume or other things. 

[Perishable flower photos are mine]

Monday, August 5, 2019


For the past few months I have been posting on Facebook whenever there was a winner of one of the drawings, and the winner usually responds right away. This last time I got busy with a lot of things and didn’t put anything on Facebook. The winnings are unclaimed, and there were far fewer comments than usual on the post for the new drawing. It seems that a lot of people don’t see the blog unless I put an alert on Facebook. I’ll do it this time and will try to remember to do so in future. 

This week’s winner is TRINITI

Last drawing’s winner was PARROT. Parrot has one week to contact me, otherwise everything will go to Triniti as a jackpot. 

To claim your winnings send an e-mail to olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a message on the Olympic Orchids  Facebook page. I will need your complete shipping address. 

This week’s photo is Phalaenopsis bellina, which is blooming right now. The fragrance is amazing, kind of a citrusy floral, but unique. It diffuses its fragrance all day. 

To enter this week’s drawing for a big box of samples, just leave a comment about how your summer is going, or any other random thoughts that you have. 

[Photo is mine]

Monday, July 15, 2019


The winner of the last drawing is:


To claim your winnings, just send an e-mail with your full name and shipping address to olympicorchids at gmail dot com, or leave a message on our Facebook page

Yesterday I spent almost the entire day packing perfume to ship and supervising the new person who was packing orchid plants. Such a lot of busy work. I’m still trying to sell the orchid business, even as it grows, so that I can spend more time with the perfume and other creative activities. 

In the evening our neighbor invited us over to sit on her back deck and drink a bottle of prosecco. We made a fire in her clay chimenea using wood scraps picked up in the woods. The high point was when we burned parts of an old, decommissioned bird feeder that was so dry that the flames leaped up immediately, crackled, popped, and sent up showers of sparks. The fire eventually settled into a red glow that just took the chill off the night air. We watched the stars come out, and the moon come up. Everything was perfectly quiet. It was like sitting around a campfire, and about as relaxing as it gets. 

There’s something magical about watching a controlled open fire. It invites contemplation, clears the brain, and brings people together in a friendly way. The smell of the wood smoke is part of the magic. 

To enter this week’s drawing, leave any sort of comment about fire. The prize will be at least 100g of perfume samples. 

[Photos of chimenea fire and rising moon are from Wikimedia. We had no devices of any kind with us last night. Moon and campfire painting by Albert Bierstadt, 19th century.] 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019


Finally, I’ve done the drawing, and the winner is 


To collect your goodies, just send your full name and shipping address to olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a message on our Facebook page. Facebook has been having some issues, so e-mail is probably more reliable. 

I was recently reading an article on the US obsession with air conditioning, which pointed out the obvious fact that running all those air conditioners to keep people refrigerated is a significant contributor to global warming, which would ultimately lead to a need for more air conditioning. What should be even more alarming, also pointed out in passing in the article, is that all of the server farms that store our data rely on air conditioning to dissipate the enormous amounts of heat generated by the servers. If the air conditioning should fail, the servers will go down, and who knows what will be lost. Any operations that depend on the server farms will come to a screeching halt. 

I’ve always had my doubts about keeping anything I valued on the “cloud”, so I have jpeg files of all my photos and mp3 files of my music library on my laptop, backed up on an external hard drive. All of my documents are backed up as well. 

It’s only a matter of time until some major server farm fails, either through hacking or through natural causes like a natural disaster and/or power failure. Luddite and jack-of-all-trades that I am, it should not affect me all that much. 

The next drawing will be for a massive haul of samples of all sorts, probably at least 200 g for US shipping, but 100 g international. To enter, just leave a comment about air conditioning, server farms, or how you back up your important data. 

[Fuschia photo is mine, freezing baby and server farm are from an internet search.] 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


It’s been way too long and the cottonwood snow is long gone, but finally here is the winner of the drawing:


If you are the winner, please send me an e-mail (olympicorchids at gmail dot com) or a PM on the Olympic Orchids Facebook page.

I will need your full and correct name and shipping address. If I have not heard from you before I post the next drawing, the goodies will go into the jackpot for the next one. 

Now that the academic year is over, I will have time to get back to posting regularly, at least over the summer. 

Last weekend we were east of the Cascades, admiring the meadow full of wild iris flowers in the photo. 

There is a new drawing for 100 g of assorted samples, so leave a comment about your local wildflowers to enter. 

[Photo of Rocky Mountain iris flowers is mine]

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


The winner of the last giveaway is:


To claim your winnings just send me an e-mail: olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a PM on the Olympic Orchids Facebook page

As usual, when one giveaway ends another one begins. Right now I’m just trying to get through the last three weeks of spring quarter at the university, all the while keeping up with shipping out plants and perfumes.

This week the cottonwood trees are doing their thing, releasing flakes of white material that look just like snowflakes. The cottonwood snowstorm always reminds me of Fellini’s movie Amarcord, where the old man looks at the floating white particles from the trees and says, “vagano, vagano, vagano …” (they drift… and drift … and drift). Around where I live, there are so many cottonwood trees that the white fluff accumulates on the ground, just like snow. 

Do you have any similar phenomenon where you live? Leave a comment about it, or just leave a random comment to be entered in the next drawing for 100 g of perfume samples and anything else that I decide to throw in. 

[Photos of accumulated cottonwood "snow" in a local parking lot are mine]

Monday, May 6, 2019


What with two orchid shows in April, it’s been crazy and I’ve let the blog go for a while. However, now that they’re over, I did get back on long enough to do the drawing for the last giveaway. 

The winner is ROBIN BRENNAN. 

To claim your goodies, please send your full shipping info to olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a PM on our Facebook page

I have so much stuff left to give away that this series of drawings will be going on for some time. I am just going to do the easy thing and say that anyone who leaves a comment and says they’re interested in getting some samples will be entered in the next drawing for 100 g of assorted fragrance samples and other stuff. No need to think!

[African violet photo is mine. The flowers sparkle like fine glitter in the sun]

Monday, March 25, 2019


The winner of the winter flowers drawing has been randomly chosen, and the winner is:

To claim your 100 g sample bag, please send an e-mail to olympicorchids at gmail dot com (quickest way) or leave a PM on Facebook

Well before the spring equinox, Big Brother dictated that we would once again switch time zones, from Pacific Standard Time to Mountain Time (one zone to the east). This arbitrary change is euphemistically known as “Daylight Saving Time”. Logically, nothing is saved by cutting a segment off on one end and adding it to the other. The amount of daylight is the same no matter what you call it. 

What the legislated time switch accomplishes is unclear, but to me it’s depressing to go from finally having it nice and light when I wake up to go to my “day job” to having it still dark. This is not quite accurate in my case because the cat usually wakes me up at dawn no matter what, but now that feline wake-up call comes an hour later in the official scheme of things, I’ve lost an hour of what could have otherwise been productive time in the morning before I have to be somewhere, and/or I’ve lost an hour of sleep. Do people really want to get up an hour earlier so that they can finish work an hour earlier? If so, then why don’t the morning people just do it without calling it something else? Why force everyone to do it?

Time zones were designed to coordinate with the daily cycle of the sun and, with a few exceptions, generally provide the best approximation to it. I know there are movements afoot to do away with changing the time twice a year, but please, let’s not have a permanent move into the wrong time zone!

This week I’m offering the usual 100 g of samples and whatever else I decide to throw in as extras. To enter the drawing, just leave a comment giving your thoughts on “daylight saving” time. 

[All photos are mine. The colors of the crocuses were especially bright this year, maybe because they bloomed a month late.]

Monday, March 4, 2019


The drawing has been done, and the winner of the winter flowers drawing is: 


If you’re the winner, please contact me by e-mail at olympicorchids at gmail dot com or PM on Facebook with your full name and shipping address. 

This past week we’ve had nothing but beautiful blue skies and sunshine during the day, but the down side is that it’s been horribly cold at night, in the 20s F (below 0 C), well below freezing. We still have snow on the ground in shaded areas, and the typical ugly piles of snow and sand on the sides of the roads and in the parking lots. This is completely abnormal for March, and all the plants are about a month behind schedule. We are still cleaning up broken branches and beaten-down bamboo canes from the heavy snow. I hope things will warm up as we get into what should be spring. 

As should be obvious from the giveaways, I always have a huge number of perfume samples on hand. I view sampling other companies’ perfumes as part of my continuing education as a perfumer, partly to learn what is possible, and partly to avoid duplicating what’s already available. I don’t know about you, but the more I sample, the more everything seems the same. These days it is rare that I experience that beautiful flash of discovery when something really new and surprising comes along. It’s all déjà vu (or rather déjà senti) I think part of the problem is that a huge number of new perfumes are released every year in a futile attempt to keep brands in the public eye, and this number seems to increase almost exponentially every year. It’s easier just to recycle the standard scents and try to push them on the public through advertising and gimmicks than it is to be innovative in terms of the perfumes themselves. It’s actually depressing to think of how superficial all of the marketing is and what a glut of products are sloshing around.  

This week there’s another giveaway of 100 g of samples plus whatever goodies I have sitting around that will fit in the box. Just leave a comment about your experiences with perfume sampling. Do they all start to smell the same after you’ve sampled a lot? 

[Pics are mine, all types of flowers that are blooming now, but should have bloomed a month ago.] 

Friday, February 22, 2019


The winner of the snowstorm drawing is MIM.

Because the last prize was not claimed, you will win double the samples (200 g) plus some extra bonuses that depend on your shipping address. Please contact me with your full name and shipping address. You can e-mail olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a message on the Olympic Orchids Facebook page

After two weeks the snow is finally melting, and there are now patches of bare ground. They look so pretty after the solid white! I’m continually seeing new surprises from under the snow. Who would have thought that cyclamen flowers could stand having the weight of two feet of snow on top of them, let alone the cold temperatures? Yesterday, for the first time, I saw the cyclamen flowers that had been blooming before the snow started, slowly uncovered, apparently with no ill effects. Similarly, the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips that have been uncovered seem not to have minded the snow too much. The hellebores, which were in full bloom, got beaten down a little, but the bent stems make nice cut flowers for inside the house.

A week before the show we planted a sarcococca bush, seduced by the strong fragrance of the little flowers. It was completely buried in snow, with not a leaf showing, and I was worried about it. However, now that its covering has melted away, it looks perfectly healthy. The jasmine we planted last year didn't fare so well. It was completely covered, too, and now the leaves look brown. However, the leaves near the base are still green, so maybe there’s hope. Spring will reveal what’s left of it, if anything. 

We’ll have a new drawing for 100 g of samples, so leave a comment saying what surprises you have found when snow melted, or when other natural events changed the landscape. The winner of the new drawing will be announced in about a week.

[Photos are mine from this week]

Monday, February 11, 2019


Today, after a short break, the snow continues coming down hard. New snow falls on top of old in a cycle that has reached the point of absurdity. As the snow event has progressed, I’ve found myself going through stages of relating to it. When the first snow came, I was happy and excited like a little kid because we don’t get to experience much snow, so it’s a novelty. I love to watch it falling even when it doesn’t stick (usually), and it’s even more exciting when it does stick and everything slowly turns white. What I didn’t like was the cold temperature, but I went out and ran a little in it twice anyway. The next snow was bigger, and by then I was kind of blasé about it, to say nothing of being concerned about the state of my orchid greenhouse, which, by the way, is still in lockdown mode. 

The third snow came yesterday, and by then it was mostly just annoying, although there was a little of the morbid curiosity that one feels looking at an accident or a natural disaster (How much more can it snow?). I think the third snowfall raised the total depth to about 14-16 inches (25-30 cm). Today’s snow will pile on top of that. By now I’ve become fatalistic about it and given up on even going outside, let alone going anywhere. Given that we stocked up on groceries last Saturday and our power hasn’t gone off, I can just sit and laugh at it. 

The bright side is that I am getting a lot of perfume-making done, putting together a big wholesale order. Who knows when it can be shipped, but at least it will be ready.

It’s time for another drawing of 100 g of perfume samples, so just leave a comment saying whether you have ever experienced mass quantities of snow, if so, how you relate to mass quantities of snow, and if not, whether you would like to have the experience. 

[Both photos are mine. The top one shows the condition of our street, which has just been getting worse for at least a week. ]

Sunday, February 10, 2019


The snowstorms continue to roll in one after the other. After a break yesterday it is again snowing like mad tonight and accumulating on top of the old snow. At least it keeps things looking pretty. 

The most important thing is to announce the winner of the first drawing of 2019. 

The winner is LISHYPANTS. 

To claim your big bag of samples, just send an e-mail to olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a message on the Olympic Orchids Facebook page. I am more likely to see an e-mail because things sometimes disappear from Facebook, or are hidden. 

Tomorrow I will be just as snowed in as I am tonight, so will start another drawing. Watch for it!

[Photo is mine, just a few days ago, showing the path down into our ravine after the first snow] 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Weather disruptions and an orchid-growing business for sale

As last week’s polar vortex subsided east of the Rockies, the weather was predicted to warm up significantly for a few days, which it did. For most people this wouldn’t really affect their lives, but as an orchid grower who has to ship plants, it was a big deal. It meant that dozens of plant orders that had been sitting around on hold for weeks suddenly had the green light to travel. My assistant and I spent all of Friday and Saturday packing plants nonstop, assembly-line style, and my poor husband Michael had to transport them all to the post office on Saturday, where the avalanche of “live orchid plants” packages was quite the center of attention. There was another batch to pack and go out on Monday, but how quickly things can change!

Sunday afternoon it started to snow here, and it continued to snow through noon yesterday. Sunday night the temperature dropped into the 20s F and last night into the teens F! (It should be teens C this time of year). It has not been above freezing since the snow started. Fortunately I had seen the weather forecast, which as a grower I check obsessively, usually with regard to shipping, but our own forecast looked alarming. On Saturday afternoon I watered the greenhouse, turned the water off and allowed it to drain, turned the heat in the greenhouse all the way up, sealed every opening with bubble wrap, closed the door, and crossed my fingers. The greenhouse has been in lockdown mode since Saturday, and will continue to be until the weather warms up. Luckily there has not been a power outage here, although many people did experience one.

Yesterday and today classes at the university have been cancelled. I haven’t been able to go anywhere except on foot, and I have gotten an amazing amount of work done at home. This episode has once again made me realize how weather-dependent anyone who grows plants is. I knew this already, but periodically go into denial when a particularly choice orchid blooms. The thing about perfumes is that they are (mostly) not weather-dependent, so they fit my scattered lifestyle much better. 

I have definitively decided that I want to sell the orchid-growing business, for a number of reasons. First, it has grown by leaps and bounds, and is now to the point where I need a much larger greenhouse facility if I want to take it to the next level – which is where it’s going, like it or not. Second, I don’t like to be shackled by plants that need care at certain times and have to be protected from weather extremes. I’ve learned that I’m just not cut out to be a farmer, even a farmer of plants that need minimal care like orchids. In case you wondered, Michael takes care of the regular garden.

 I’ve been thinking about selling the orchid business for years, but it’s come to a critical point now, so if you know anyone who would like to become an orchid grower, please send them my way. They would need a greenhouse, but everything else is in place for someone to have a turnkey business. 

[All photos are mine except for the last one, which I grabbed from the local ski area webcam - always a good source of snow pics!]

Thursday, January 31, 2019

No Excuses, No Resolutions

January is gone, so it’s just as well that I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions. I wouldn’t have kept them anyway, and it’s nice to just chug along keeping the day job and businesses going and enjoying the fact that we don’t have below zero weather as most of the US does today. 

Even though I have no real housecleaning or de-cluttering strategies, I still want to continue divesting myself of the enormous piles of perfume samples and other samples that have piled up in my studio, taking up space that should be used for work. I know other people can enjoy the samples, so will keep offering the now-traditional drawings for 100 g of samples, and occasionally other things. 

The one form of self-discipline that I will try to follow starting in February is to spend no more that one hour every morning on e-mails, social media, and reading the news, and no more than  another hour at night. I know that it’s all too easy to just sit at a screen for hours, idly surfing from one place to another. After a while it gets redundant, and not even enjoyable. I also know that it serves as a displacement activity that blocks my doing something more useful that takes more effort. 

Here goes with the first random drawing in a long time. Just leave a comment saying what activity you voluntarily do to such excess that it becomes unproductive and no longer enjoyable. 

The drawing will be held and the winner announced on Sunday, February 10. 

[Photos of snow on tree from several years ago, and photo of our cat spending time on my laptop are mine.]