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It may seem like the ultimate in alchemy – transforming different aromas into one stunning signature perfume – but it is not completely shrouded in mystery. In fact, you can create your own perfume, one that is unique to you. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment, but you do need some ingredients before you get to choose your essential oils, and create your own blend.

You will need an alcohol base for your perfume. Vodka is a popular choice as it’s odorless, and there is always some left over for a cocktail. You will also need a collection of old perfume and cologne bottles and sprays that can be opened. These should be thoroughly washed and dried to remove all traces of old scent.

Now you need to consider the structure of your perfume before you start experimenting. A classic perfume consists of top notes, middle notes and base notes. The top note is the ‘zing’ of your perfume that will be evident as soon as you put it on, but it doesn’t as long as the others. The middle note will come into play after the top note has faded. The base note is a long lasting aroma that anchors the rest.

You will see from this that you need to structure your perfume to fade gracefully. The very best perfumes do this – they don’t just vanish all at once, as lesser perfumes do, or fade to a cheap base note. The best base notes are the heavy, warm scents such as sandalwood or patchouli. Both have an oriental aroma although patchouli is much stronger. Amber is another common base note that is suitable for most perfume types. Musk also popular and anchors a perfume very well. Note that it is synthetically made now instead of taken from an animal. Greener base notes can be found in vetiver, rosemary, cedarwood and oakmoss. Once you have decided on your base note (or notes, you can combine them) you can move on to the middle notes.

These are the aromas that give your perfume its character, and set its direction – this can be floral, classical, sensual, youthful and so on. Among the middle notes you will find the longer lasting floral scents, such as rose, jasmine and ylang-ylang. Herbal scents such as thyme, clary sage and rosemary, and spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger are all popular middle notes.

The lighter top notes can be chosen from among many floral and citrus scents – here you will find lavender, violet, mimosa – lemon, lime and orange. Let your own taste guide you in choosing the notes for your perfume, but don’t be afraid to experiment. A touch of spice may be just what your floral mixture needs to set it apart and make it your own, a hint of sensuality may be just the right note to anchor your green and woody scent to your own personality.

The real secret to blending essential oils is to use a dropper and a glass bottle. Put in your chosen base notes first, then add the rest, adjusting to get the scent you want. You will need only a few drops or less of each. Then add your oil mix to the alcohol, filling the bottle to the top. You will need a fine funnel to do this, or you can fill it with a dropper, which will take more time.

When you have created your own signature scent, you can also create your own range of products. Add it to fragrance-free products like baby shampoo for your hair and baby oil for after bath care. Sprinkle a few drops into fine arrowroot powder for talc and add to plain sorbolene for skin care.

You can also sprinkle it on patterned paper to scent your underwear drawer, on writing paper and envelopes to make your letters extra special and add to potpourri to give your home your own very personal touch.

Lastly, give your signature perfume a name. Take a leaf out of the celebrity book and use your own name and a word that inspires you. Use your computer to create labels for your products. In other words, be your own ‘It Girl’.

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Ten ‘Never Leave Them Out’ Traveler’s Checklist Items

There is nothing worse than finding yourself overseas on that “dream vacation” and suddenly realize that the dream is now a nightmare. Plan carefully because it will not do to run off to Africa on safari at a moment’s notice, trusting in a lucky rabbit’s foot keychain for protection. Sure, grabbing a passport and mosquito repellent will get you there, but you can’t imagine the inconveniences that arise without the items below. The following will tip the scales in your favor.

1. A visa is required to enter a country, and specifies on what terms the visitor is there (tourist, business, work), and how many days the visitor may stay. Sometimes the visa can be obtained at the customs desk of the destination country, but often the visa must be requested and obtained from the country’s embassy before the visitor leaves home. This process takes time, and some embassies are notoriously slow in approving visas, or even reluctant to do so at all.

2. If you plan on renting a car in the destination country, you must find out what is required in order to do so. Will your passport or current license do the trick, or should you apply for an international driver’s license? How much will insurance cost?

3. Photocopies! Make photocopies of your driver’s license, passport, credit cards, social security card, and any other important documents you’ll be carrying with you. One extra set should go with the traveler in a separate place in the luggage from the originals, and a second set should stay with a trusted relative or friend. If, for some reason, you lose the paperwork, you can call home to get the necessary numbers, or a friend can fax them to the officials.

4. Traveler’s insurance is always a good idea. Always. Even if it is never used – which, by the way, would be a good thing, it’s inexpensive and worth it.

5. Prescription medication should be packed, along with the actual written prescription from the doctor. An extra set of eyeglasses or contacts is also a good idea. The medication should always be packaged in original correctly-labeled bottles. An obscure, unmarked bottle or bag of drug in the luggage will tie things up considerably in the airport customs department.

6. A credit card company will become suspicious if an account based in, say, Iowa begins making charges in Madagascar. Always contact the credit card companies to alert them that you’ll be making charges in specific locations, preventing their alarm and temporary suspension of the account.

7. Mentally prepare yourself for an exhausting trip to and from the destination. Be ready for it, overseas travel is grueling, even if all goes well.

8. Take a record of important contact numbers, including close family, the doctor, the dentist, the lawyer, the bank, credit card companies, and the numbers for U.S. Embassies in the destination locations. Relatives should have an itinerary, and an option of emergency contact numbers.

9. Will your cell phone work in the destination country? Probably not. You should investigate his options, but in most cases, it is worth the extra expense and effort to have a cell phone available for use overseas.

10. Search online for forums run by Americans (or natives of the traveler’s country) who live in the destination country as expatriates. They will have experience and wisdom that other tourists may never discover about life in that country. A simple thing like knowing that certain vegetables or street vendor foods are prone to causing stomach upset can make all the difference in enjoying a vacation spot.

Preparation for an overseas vacation is key to getting the most enjoyment from it. In this case, it helps to think like a pessimist, “Something is bound to go wrong,” and be ready. Of course once you reach the destination, it is important to have fun!


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