Rituals: 12 posts

5 Scented Ways to Put The World on Pause

“Take a pause,” says my mother when I complain about some specific problem or just the general stress that wears me down. She means inhaling deeply, tuning out all of the worries and giving myself a break. It’s a simple concept, and I like the image of the whole world around me freezing in mid-movement as I readjust myself and regain balance.  Scents often make my breaks more satisfying, even if they are nothing more than a pellet of aromatic resin or a few drops of floral water.

sandalwood chips

Sandalwood and Cashmere

If you want your garments to smell of roses and cream, tuck a few sandalwood chips in your closet; wool and other natural fabrics absorb the scents readily, and the fact that sandalwood repels moths is a bonus point. Picking up a sweater and inhaling its perfume jolts me out of my sleepy state in the morning as I select my outfit and it instantly puts me in a better mood. Since I’m cranky before my first cup of tea, anything that makes me more socially adjusted in the morning is worth its weight in gold.  Catching a delicate whiff of sandalwood throughout the day is such a comfort.

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Holiday Gift Ideas : Soaps, Creams, Makeup and More

In the last part of my holiday gift series, I’ve put together another eclectic collection of my favorite things. Some of them are scented, others are simply pretty: beautifully wrapped soaps, decadent body creams, jewel-like makeup … and cat shaped lipsticks.

Rancé Iris Royal Box of 6 Soaps


Rancé has been making soaps since 1795, and purportedly the formulas remain unchanged. While I highly doubt it, the quality of their soaps is excellent. They’re triple milled, which means that the bars stay firm and last well. They’re scented with high-quality essences, and the aroma lingers delicately on your skin. Even those with sensitive skin–and I’m one of those people–won’t find this soap drying or irritating. Finally, the packaging is stunning, making Rancé’s soap sets a beautiful present.

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What to Buy in Paris : French Pharmacy Finds

Perfume shops, chocolate stores, lingerie boutiques, pâtisseries… When I’m in Paris, I can’t resist any of them, especially since the fine-tuned French sense of design extends as much to the products as to the window displays. But I will tell you honestly that if I had to pick my favorite shopping ground, it would be a pharmacy. It’s a treasure trove of finds for anyone who loves scented products and skincare, or simply enjoys searching for affordable and interesting brands.


Of course, pharmacies are not a Parisian phenomenon. If you travel in Europe, you will quickly notice stores with a neon green cross. Within two blocks of my apartment building in Brussels there are about 5 or 6 pharmacies. It’s more than a store where you get your medicine. It’s the place where you go to complain about your illnesses, the weather and the lack of government (although in my observation, Belgians don’t complain much about the latter; in fact, they can go for months without electing one). You can also buy skin and hair care products, perfume, soaps, vitamins, and an array of bizarre slimming supplements advertised by close ups of perfectly tanned behinds.

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Persian Beauty Rituals & Fairytales


Every couple of weeks, I devote an evening to beauty rituals. They are not fancy, nor do they require an appointment at a spa for an expensive treatment, but my evenings of beauty, as I’ve taken to calling them, are just as satisfying. I make a sugar and lemon juice scrub, a yogurt and rosewater mask and a colorless henna treatment that leaves a sweet leathery scent on my hair and everything else it touches. Sometimes I listen to music as I wait for my treatments to work their magic, sometimes I read, but most often, I simply lie down and fall into a daydream.

As I carefully apply the sticky brown paste to each lock, I remember my mother and aunts sharing their beauty secrets and relationship advice as they painted their nails, mashed strawberries for a gentle facial scrub or applied a chamomile and egg yolk mask to enhance blonde highlights in their hair. The taste of strawberry as it dripped from my cheeks and the stickiness of honey on my fingertips is how I remember those long summer evenings. I hope that when I have a daughter, she will instinctively know, just as I now know, how long one needs to rub honey into the skin to make it glowing and how to listen to a story of heartbreak before offering words of support.

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Sweet Honey Water : Perfume Recipe from the 17th Century


Despite the name George Wilson gave to his book, The Complete Course of Chemistry, he was not a chemist by training. Instead, the volume first published in London in 1691 and subsequently reprinted contained an impressive collection of recipes for herbal preparations, elixirs and alchemy experiments. Glancing through this fascinating compilation, I came across a recipe for Sweet Honey Water that Wilson used on King James II. He describes it as having many wondrous effects on one’s well-being, but it was his remark that this water “gives one of the most agreeable scents that can be smelt” that finally caught my attention. Honey, vanilla, coriander, cloves, and musk certainly sound wonderful together, don’t you think?

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