the perfect orchid substrate

current listens:


“It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science. ” Carl Sagan

I love orchids. And I have many of them. I like how they don’t need a lot of attention and surprise me with their exotic flowers when I happen to forget about one. Every now and then I pour a shot of water in a plant pot and that’s about it. The only problem I constantly have is bad orchid substrate in which orchids can be bought originally. Oftentimes there is already mould or it just uses up after half a year (which is normal btw) and you need to repot it. But I came across a great idea in an orchid forum (one of many occassional procrastination retreats) that will make it very easy in future to kind of repot them. One used those superabsorber water beads I never thought about using for orchids. First I was sceptical if they can release a tiny amount of for orchids harmful components but a quick scifinder session proved me wrong. So I ordered a pack of 1000 water beads and soaked them in distilled water and my favorite fertilizer (see link above). I tested this system out for one one month, which is the time duration in between the big orchid “diving” sessions where Normally I let them soak in water for one day and take them out again. But now I pretty much safe alot of time. I just remove all beads into a big pot and re-soak them in water and fertilizer and use the interim for a quick root check-up. After a month I can safely say for thick root orchids it works pretty well (e.g. Phalaenopsis) whereas you should let your thin roots orchids or natural breeds in normal substrate since they prefer wood chips to stick to. Regards, Ea

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today: b(l)ack to uni




“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein

I’m back. In fact I haven’t been away but more busy with academic stuff and something I have been working on as a sideline project to university for years. I’ve hinted it a few times on Instagram but never got explicit about it because I don’t like talking about unfinished ideas. I was working on my own product. I have been on it for a long time and it started with my interest for cosmetics chemistry. My focus lies on two things which couldn’t be more different: functional and sustainable polymers for cosmetical application and the new integration of long forgotten but effective ingredients. Both of it are things I just can’t stop thinking about and for a year I’ve been getting samples exotic butters and nut oils straight from the junge (I’m not kidding) or new active ingredients like EGF from labs. I have gathered a big collection of antique and new books about herbs, old tribe recipes from all over the world or old german scripts of ointment formulations and tinctures. I formulated little batches of stuff I wanted for myself (and good friends) and thinking about the application of various sustainable nature derived (bio)polymers and any ancient eastern herbs like tcm herbs. When I first found myself using one effective recipe over and over again and saw a visible difference it made for my skin I made a big version of it and did major research how to naturally prolong the shelf life of it. I found a lot of literature of how nature protects itself from stress factors and radicals and as my friend got their hands on it I was encouraged by my best friends to make it a real product. This week the first real prototypes arrived and I am very satisfied. I will keep this blog updated with every step and ideas that lead to the final product. Ea

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today: angles


travel zanzibar





“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” Anaïs Nin

It’s been a while (hell yeah, two months) and a lot has been going on. There was the busy part full of exams, which turned out to my favor and also the ability to be lazy for a while. In addition I traveled a destination I’ve always wanted to visit: Zanzibar. It was a very spontaneous trip and I couldn’t be happier because I love blue warm water, happy people and the smell of fresh spices. And you find it there, all of it. It is still a very untouristy spot and I was told the oldest hotels are only 19 years old. Compared to egypt and other countries I’ve visited it’s incredible how beautiful but uncrowded the beaches are. Above you find a small selection of impressions from Zanzibar.

Suitable for the endeavor to understand the smell of most spices my special someone had a big book present for me and since then I’m occasionally lost to the world of aroma for a few hours. It is incredible how much depth you can add to sensory combinatorics. My favorite Zanzibar spices are the pink curry, the fresh vibrant turmeric powder (which I use as a mask or in yoghurt drinks abundantly) and traditional pilau spice (mostly cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, cloves and garlic) which I bought right off the spice farm we visited. So if you are looking for a destination for your next adventure I can recommend Zanzibar with all my heart. Lonely beaches, very warm and humid climate and glass clear water without the harrassment of minute-by-minute vendors or -any- mosquitos if you travel the right season. Amazed, Ea

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today: nudes


Don’t fear daily sunscreen!






“Everything becomes a little different as soon as it is spoken out loud.” Hermann Hesse

This is probably my most given answer to the most asked question: What helps to prevent skin aging? There is only little so effective but accessible to the public and for every income bracket than sunscreen. Really, you can ask every professional dermatologist on this planet, a good sunscreen is the best protection against skin aging. Some scientists even photographed twins side by side, with one twin being more exposed to the sun than the other, the one with higher sun exposure looked visibly aged compared to the other (see here). I will stop preaching now but I feel like this is the only true advice I can give to the many, many people asking me for skincare advice. Of course a little Sunday Riley, SK-II and MD Perricone make your skincare routine a bit sweeter but sunscreen literally is the bread and butter if you fear wrinkles. It gives me the creeps when I see raw, vegan, ‘chemistry-is-bad’ moms rubbing their baby in coconut oil and letting them roast in the australian sun. Be conscious! So to break down the topic I split it up to the 5 most given objections I received against daily sunscreen:

A good daily sunscreen is expensive:
If approximately 10 USD for a decent daily sunscreen, which protects you from wrinkles and skin cancer, is not worth to you I don’t know what to say. Better prevention than cure, right? I think Shiseido Senka (link on the right bar) is very affordable and does a good job. Also, if you live in Europe you can look out for the next Lidl Supermarket near you, I found out they have a very nice Anti-Aging creme with effective sunscreen for 3 EUR! No joke. Get it.

But there is no sun in my country, so I don’t need sunscreen to safe my skin from aging:
Photostress is everywhere you have sunlight and skin damage accumulates over time which is called Photoaging. It is still the biggest skin aging factor next to chronicle aging and while the other is inevitable you can take photoaging in your own hands and protect yourself. (1, 2, 3).

I don’t understand the long chemistry name labels on most sunscreen products, so I don’t use them:
Okay, I hear that alot. This is a look at the INCIS of my daily spf-creme favorites (see right bar for exact product) and what you mostly find in other, similar sunscreen:

Paula’s Choice
active sunscreen agent: Zinc Oxide
The only thing you should fear in Zinc Oxide sunscreens is the white cast and that’s where the other ‘long-named’ chemistry compounds come into play: to help to perfectly contribute it all over your face. And most of the other long-chained inorganic compounds won’t even do a thing but be a) occlusive b) like a sebum sponge or c) an antioxidant imbedded matrix. I like this sunscreen because it’s so feathery, lightweight and semi-matte.

active sunscreen agent: Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate and Octocrylene
Sunscreens like this are always a combination of UVA- and UVB-protecting chemical agents. They protect you by converting UV radiation to heat. Nowadays it is still the most effective sunscreen compared to amount of application and whitecast comfort and I find this one gives me a nice strobe glow and moisture. Yes, there are controversies and concerns with chemical sunscreen agents like Avobenzone and Homosalate, which are claimed by some to act as endocrine disruptors (stuff that messes with your hormone system). Paula’s Choice has a good list of all agents like the ones mentioned above, if you are concerned, too (see here) and wrote an extensive article with emphasis on cancer protection or cancer cause by sunscreen (read here). And while there is little evidence it is more harmful than helpful (it is still the most effective sunscreen for every wavelength) I would rather use this as a daily moisturizer than to take a swim in the oceans, because recent research suggests it causes decline of coral reefs, which makes sunscreen agents like this not your first choice when step into the ocean.

Shiseido Senka
active sunscreen agent: Octinoxate, Parsol XS, Ensulizole, Uvinul A Plus
Octinoxate and Parsol XS (Avobenzone) can be put in the same category as Aveeno’s mentioned above. Ensulizole is a UVB-protecting agent that needs to be combined with an UVA-protecting one like Avobenzone and usually finds a spot in formulations that should give a matte skin appearance. And that’s what I like about Shiseido Senka and all other japanese daily sunscreens, full of mattifying polymeric compounds like cyclomethicones and crosspolymers, they give such a matte finish they make you look like a porcelain doll.

All natural sunscreen is giving me a white cast and daily sunscreen is to oily for my face:
Particles for good natural (physical) sunscreen like ones with Zinc Oxide are nowadays usually very small, so it looks a bit white when you make flash pictures with your camera but not in everyday life. Don’t worry, if you already think about harmful nano particles, the ones here are still too big to do any harm. And also modern daily sunscreens have little to do with your remembrance of oily faces in the summer when you applied body sunscreen on your face. Unless you do exactly that you can be sure Zinc Oxide based sunscreens come in a mattifying medium like silicones or powdery textures.

I want a deep, dark tan. I cannot get a good tan without the sun:
Check out my take on the perfect self tanner application (click here). None of the Victoria Secret angels sizzle in the sun to get a tan, they rather have a visit by an Airbrush specialist who applies self tanner all over their body. Do they look orange? No. Because new self tanners have a smart blend and give you a nice glow. Many come with tint, so you know where you applied them. Yes, there are ‘natural’, organic options (check out LUSH’s sesame suntan, which is full of juglon-rich Walnut extract). No, you won’t suffer Vitamin D deficiency if you maintain a healthy diet. Be smart and fake tan if you prefer darker skin! Old ladies who where sunbathing their whole lifetime remind me of my velour minnetonka boots. Just don’t.

Pheew, what a long read. Sorry for the rant undertone. I hope many of you start to use sunscreen more frequently, if not already. Stay safe and be smart, Ea Birkkam.

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today: monochromatic beach + sunscreen favorites


Sneaker Love: Nike Huarache NM “White/Sail”



“Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” Isaac Newton

I came across this -sold out almost everywhere- trainers and I have to say I am in love with the design. Probably the most complex all white sneaker out there. So if you like all white, futuristic kicks you might want to go for a little hunt and try your luck to find it in stock where they’re not near the price of brand new Yeezy’s. Best, Ea

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today: all white kicks


Nike Revolutionary Support Bra and EatRunLift 12 – Before


shop this bra:

current reads:
four agreements
the alchemist

“It is paradoxical, yet true, to say, that the more we know, the more ignorant we become in the absolute sense, for it is only through enlightenment that we become conscious of our limitations. Precisely one of the most gratifying results of intellectual evolution is the continuous opening up of new and greater prospects.” Nikola Tesla

It’s nice to have a big bust except for wearing COS dresses or doing cardio workout. Finding a seamless but high support sports bra which doesn’t come in UV disco colors is probably as hard to find as higgs particles or natural painites. The ones I own, which do hold my (european size) 75D, are a pink Victoria Secret and violet Fabletics sports bra, colors I wear like… never. I guess the search has an end with this Nike Revolutionary Support Bra with a “360-degree exoskeleton which surrounds each breast and provides compressive support”. Sounds good. Because it has no seam, it feels like a second skin. Everything is adjustable with the 10 levels flaps of this bra (see picture). I love it.

By accident I came across Rachel Aust’s Youtube channel (see here) and I really like her. She’s not only living a minimalist lifestyle but also really fit (though she studies two degrees at the same time). Rachel and her boyfriend opened up their own gym in Brisbane which looks amazing. If I’d live there I would subscribe in an instant but since I live in Germany I joined their 12 Weeks Challenge which comes with a meal plan and a few exercises. The Challenge starts January 18th, so if you want to participate it’s not too late. It is in the middle of my weeks of exams but I noticed daily exercise helps me to concentrate a lot. I’ll keep you updated with the final results. Looking forward to workout, Ea Birkkam.


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today: monochromatic gym


SK-II Facial Treatment Mask Dupe





shop sk-II:

“An observer of our biological sciences today sees dark figures moving over a bridge of glass. We are faced with an ever expanding universe of light and darkness. The greater the circle of understanding becomes, the greater is the circumference of surrounding ignorance.” Erwin Chargaff

Sometimes something simple can make a big, glowy difference to your skin. At least that’s what I felt like when I tried my first SK-II face mask which is used by many celebrities like Gigi Hadid as a go-to home facial treatment. It’s refreshing, soothing and brightens the skin dramatically. But it is 6 masks for 95 USD, which is a ridiculous amount of money compared to the regular average 3 USD for asian sheet masks. What’s the magic behind it? SK-II’s general key ingredient is Pitera, also called SFF for Saccharomycopsis ferment filtrate, a rich and liquid yeast by-product of the fermentation process full of nutrients like amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and organic acids. “It is said Sake brewers’ hands stay remarkably young-looking to the rest of the skin because of the exposure to fermentation’s by-products like Pitera.” Sounds good, though I only found one paper that explain the miraculous anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant properties partially. So if you don’t feel like spending much money on this sheet face mask I guess the best way is to make our own ferment filtrate. And it is actually really easy!

Before we start we want to make sure everything is lab clean. It is absolutely important to work with very clean containers, spoons and water because we want to avoid the growth of unwanted bacteria.

Step 1: Buy good quality Koji-Kin (yeast for Sake brewing process) and add it to your favorite cooked (glutinous!) rice, if you don’t have sake rice, which you delute with clean, lukewarm water. Don’t bring the mix to boil, it will kill the yeast. Yeasts like temperatures close to body temperature. Let it sit in the warmth for about 1h.

Step 2: Put the mixture in a jar and cover it with a plastic wrap for about 3 days to let the yeast nurture from the rice to produce the desired ferment filtrate. The longer you let it sit the more nutrients you will get (sake brewers usually add a bit Lactic Acid to prevent the growth of unwanted wild yeasts and bacteria. So if you have it in your hands, add a few drops for a small batch.) but not more than 10 days, that should do it.

Step 3: Drain the liquid from the rice, bring it to boil for a short time to deactivate the yeast and store it in the refrigerator.

Step 4: Soak one of Muji’s Compressed Face Masks (super thin woven cotton sheets, about 1,50 USD per package) in the ferment filtrate and leave it on your face (like this if you are new to this).

The effects of this homemade mask were in my opinion comparable to the original. I have the desired glowing and soft skin after I use it and it is fun to make. I hope you enjoy DIY masks, which are not just oatmeal and honey or yoghurt and cucumber, too. Best, Ea Birkkam


today: tokyo minimalist


Writer’s Block and untamed creativity



flame painter


“However, creativity is not simply originality and unlimited freedom. There is much more to it than that. Creativity also imposes restrictions. While it uses methods other than those of ordinary thinking, it must not be in disagreement with ordinary thinking — or rather, it must be something that, sooner or later, ordinary thinking will understand, accept, and appreciate. Otherwise the result would be bizarre, not creative.” Silvano Arieti

Have you ever had a Writer’s block? It’s been 2 months since my last cyber life sign on my beloved realm for thoughts, this blog, and I started many blog entries which sadly ended up as drafts in my WordPress because I was never satisfied or something was missing. It’s not me doing nothing, in fact there’s a lot going on with my product project, a lot of research and quite some work in university since the next round of exams starts right after Christmas. When you live a life so full of creativity sometimes you are very likely to mash up and interfuse different topics which can lead to wonderful new ideas or nothing altogether. Three time consuming topics competed against each other the last 2 months: extensively reading papers and books on Herbology and traditional chinese medicine, travel and the hunt for a good product packaging in small amounts first, which both turned out to be hard work. Don’t get lost in your own projects and ideas!

So all talk and no action, this is a future list of the next topics:

diy – SK-II sheet mask dupes
science – The Science of Aging Part 2
art – Richard Serra
beauty – December Beauty Favorites
science – Magic dust chemistry Part 1: ashwagandha and rhodiola
art – Nino Zardalishvili
science – Magic dust chemistry Part 2: lion’s mane and shilajit

I finished the first one and it will be up by tomorrow. Best, Ea

today: sericin and fibroin


Ákos Major




parasols lined up



akos major

“Ich filtere Dinge in meinem Leben. Ich versuche, Qualität zu finden und Müll zu vermeiden.” Ákos Major for art Magazine

Pastel tones and diffuse lustre. Vienna based photographer Ákos Major’s work is pure serenity to me. What I really like about each photo is that it is never really obvious where and when it was shot, timeless and dreamy but still very down-to-earth.

He started as a hobby photographer in 2008, which he explains in an ND magazine interview: “Actually, I never really had the interest towards photography until I met Michael Kenna’s work. It was a huge load of inspiration for me, I was mezmerized by the graphical taste and the honesty of his photographs. Then my interest has turned more and more into photography, I met other masters’ work. I was on Flickr, surrounded by some emerging or amateur photographers, getting acquainted with their work was also interesting and inspiring”(click).

I selected 6 pictures from different Ákos Major portfolio’s but they all come with the same familiar perspective. Check out more of Ákos’ work at Best, Ea Birkkam


today: pastel cool


the chemistry of religious fragrances



read more:

story fragrances:
serge lutens
teo cabanel
d.s & durga

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?” 2 Corinthians 2:15, Bible

Did you know the world’s first considered chemist was a female perfume maker from mesopotamia? The close link to the limbic system (brain location of emotions and memory functions) gives a hint on where to look for the cradle of perfumery because in this combination the sense of smell (also called Olfaction) is a shortcut link to our emotional past and future. Practical uses of pleasent odors in form of personal fragrances can be traced back almost simultaneously to the beginning of religion around 3200-3300 BCE, that’s about 5300 years from now! Frankincense, calamus, cedarwood and myrtle were used as offerings for the old mesopotamian gods and until now I think everyone who has visited a church (or mekka) associates frankinscense with sacrality and divinity. Since each religion has its own fragrances I break it down to my two favorites this time: frankincense and calamus.

Frankincense (or Olibanum) is the resin of the Boswellia tree. Especially used as an incense it has always fascinated me. Frankincense Oil is indeed a quite complex fragrance (esp. It is a mixture of hundred different olfaction-important chemical compounds. The exact composition of fragrant relevant chemicals depends on weather, region and time of harvest and the amount of harvests that have already taken place before. The most abundant molecules found in frankincense resin are boswellic acids. Boswellic acid has a similar structure to hormones like testosterone. Apart from that there are variable terpenes present like alpha- and beta-pinene and limonene, that give frankincense its signature smell. Numerous pharmacological uses like antriathritic, anti-inflammatory and according to latest research it can be considered as an anti-depressant. Even the euphoric feeling during acts of worship is a result of its chemical structure, which I find quite interesting.

Calamus (or Sweet Flag) is a plant called Acorus Calamus with a thick root that occurs in the edges of streams or other half-aquatic areas. Its Oil has like frankincense hundreds of compounds, but the most important ones to mention are phenylpropanes, monoterpenes and sesquiterpenoids. The oil of tetraploid Calamus is high in the carcinogenic beta-asarone, so it should be used with caution and in moderation. The medicinal usage has evolved quite independently thousands of years ago in ancient egypt, china, rome and greek. The oil of sweet flag is said to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiamebic properties and it’s therefore used as a natural antibiotic. It was used as a allegedly strong aphrodisiac in early Europe and China which stands quite in contrast with the other use of early North America, New Guinea to induce abortion (read more more). There are manuscripts that suggest it is an important constituent of various religious Temple Oils and anointments and this, I would say, was the beginning of the olfactoric use (for the alchemists and esoterics upon us it was used in the infamous Abramelin Oil, too, which became especially important via Aleister Crowley). I particularly like the scent because it smells like the sacral sister of cinnamon. Very woody-balmy!

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to fragrance chemistry and I will do an entry like this more often in future. It was part of my final coursework in school so it has a special place in my heart. It is hard to control my wish right now to shop a few new resinous fragrances like 03. Apr. 1968 Rundholz with frankincense or Etat Libre d’Orange Dangerous Complicity with Calamus. As you might have noticed I am a fan of niche fragrances like this. Best, Ea

today: worship – white silk, black leather