When Embarrassing Hobbies Bite Back

We’ve been pretty serious here on the blog this week, talking money, money, money. I thought we’d lighten it up as we head into the weekend. So I give you THIS…

Remember the other day when I shared about my long history of embarrassing hobbies? And I admitted that I’ve been trying to make my own hand cream, and had purchased some things to branch out from there? I said I’d report back.


Friends, it was not good.

Things started out well enough. I made the one good hand cream. And then some lip balm that only sort of stuck my lips together. The trouble started when I gave place to a single evil thought: Maybe these things shouldn’t just feel good…they should smell good too! And then I got sucked down into the rabbit hole of essential oils SO FAST, Steve & the Cherubs were left asking, “Where’d Mom go?” and “Why does everything smell like Patchouli?”

It started so innocently. A Google search for “homemade sugar scrub.” A kindly blogger who offered me her free downloadable e-book. A trip to Market Basket, where I found small brown bottles of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, and Sweet Orange. A sense of victory as I pulled the sugar from the bottom shelf of our pantry that was last used in the Great Oatmeal Cookie Debacle of 2013. I decided to make a fresh peppermint scrub, dreaming of the way it would “brighten” my skin and my mood. 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a few drops of peppermint wonderfulness. This was a recipe even I could not mess up!  It smelled a bit like mediterranean chewing gum, but whatever. Minty freshness from a warm climate! What’s not to love?

I couldn’t wait to try it out, so I took a shower. Before starting the water, I remembered ANOTHER great tip from the free e-book, and put a drop of eucalyptus on the bottom of the tub, right where the hot water would hit. I was filled with happy anticipation and fond memories of eucalyptus wall decor, circa 1991. It was a good moment.

Then I turned on the water.

Holy Vicks Vapor Rub, Batman. Our bathroom turned from a steamy escape to a medicinal holding cell in less than fifteen seconds. And the scent kept intensifying, as that tiny drop of oil was empowered by the water. I grabbed Steve’s shampoo and squirted it all over the bottom of the tub, fending off the attack. Thankfully, the bubbles won the battle, and soon the smell of hospital ward faded into the background. Score one for liquid chemicals.

Then I tried the sugar scrub. What awesome olive-y goodness! This was a moment of redemption for me, because back when my friend Kristen & I had just graduated from college (read: were incredibly wise & sophisticated), I bought a new product called SELF TANNER and brought it to her NYC apartment for us to try. The instructions said to “exfoliate” before using, and I’d read in some magazine that what that meant was to mix sugar into your lotion and put it all over your face. So we pulled out the Jergen’s & the box of Dominos, and proceeded “tan.”  There has been MUCH TEASING about this in subsequent years. So I was excited to realize that I was onto something back then!  Imagining the funny conversation Kristen & I would have, I applied the sugar scrub to my face.

By which I mean, I SET MY FACE ON FIRE.

It was only then I remembered the fine print in that free e-book: something about Peppermint being a “hot” oil, one that should not be applied to sensitive skin. It also said that hot oil was like hot sauce: water made it worse, not better.

I was in the shower.

Thankfully, I had the ONE WONDERFUL HAND CREAM within reach. I dove from the shower, ripped it open, and smeared it all over my burning face.

Friends, my nose and cheeks are STILL bright red, four days later.

That’s when I decided to take a little break from my natural beauty endeavors. You know. To heal.

Meanwhile, back in my inbox, there were no fewer than fourteen emails from my new essential oils blogger friend. Did I want to know the cheapest way to get my very own oils? She asked. I was pretty sure the answer was Market Basket, but sure, I thought, tell me. So she did. Fourteen times.

According to her, the cheapest way to get the oils was to sign up with her for an introductory package, where she would send me 10 or 12 oils for my own personal use, all for the discount price of $275! Now I’m not ALL that great at math, but I was pretty sure that worked out to a bit more per bottle than the $4.50 a bottle I payed at Market Basket.

Then I made the mistake of Googling, “Why are these oils so expensive?” This small blunder landed me in a vast ocean of ESSENTIAL OILS TRAINING VIDEOS FROM AUSTRALIA.  I was mesmerized. There were business videos about getting tough, believing in yourself, and doing the work to meet your goals – those were actually pretty good. But then there were videos on how to use the oils, and it all just got BIZARRE.  One woman bragged that her daughter was 11 and had never been to a doctor…because she used the oils. Another woman talked about smearing oils clockwise around her stomach to heal digestive issues. And then there were these two women, standing awkwardly in a living room, saying something impossible to believe about the use of oregano, black pepper & frankincense oils as an aphrodisiac. I was like, “Your idea of a romantic smell is pasta sauce???”

Maybe I’m too Irish.

The next day, emails fifteen & sixteen landed in my inbox, at which point I was totally annoyed, and yet at the same time wondering, Maybe I DO need $275 worth of my very own oils, two of which I already own that tried to kill me…

I found health food store where there was a WALL of little brown bottles. I was irrationally excited to check these out on my own. I twisted the top off of a bottle of something called Clary Sage and took a little whiff… And that’s when things got REAL. There were notes of barnyard cow, mud puddle, and more than a hint of #1’s dirty soccer socks. I just kept blinking, trying to get the smell out of my EYES.  Certain that strange potion must be an outlier, I moved on to Frankincense. It smelled like wet dog rolled in garlic. It went on like that through all the oils. There was a rose one that spoke of “grandma goes to the nursing home,” and one that started with the letter B that reminded me of mustard mixed with strawberry jello.  My confusion grew as my sinuses begged for mercy. Then I realized: I don’t really like things that smell.

A few days later, I mixed up another round of THE REALLY GREAT HAND CREAM. It smells mild, like an olive sat down under a palm tree, but even that scent fades out pretty quickly. I’ve abandoned my small oil collection, all except the cheery orange one, which I take a whiff of from time to time to remind me that somewhere, it’s spring and the sun is shining. (We’re expecting 6-8 inches of snow tomorrow.) I’m not sure what I’ve learned from all of this, other that that the world is a big, surprising place, and some folks find the smell of pasta sauce irresistible.

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