Thursday, April 17, 2014

Walking In A Cloud

Take a guess: Where was this picture taken?



Here's another hint, from the same place:


Whistler? Vancouver Island? Oregon Coast?
Not even close!
I'll give you another visual hint:



Oaks plus moss plus fogs - must be Northern California?



Non of it! These photos (and the ones to follow) were all taken on Mount Meron in Israel. This is one of the most luscious spots in the country, as the mountain blocks the rainclouds from the Mediterranean, thus keeping for itself 900mm of precipitation annually. Just a little more to the east from Mout Meron, the Eastern Galillee rapidly becomes about as dry as a desert, leading all the way to the Sea of Galilee, which is surrounded by rather dry, barren and rocky mountains.



The mountain has a very round shape, like a mound, elevation of 1,208m. The mountain also has a religious significance, as the tomb of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai is burried there with his son, Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon. Rabbi Shimon was a disciple of Rabbi Akiva - one of the most influential rabbis at the times of the Roman invasion (right after the ruining of the 2nd temple) and beyond. He was executed by the Romans, who did not allow the Jewish people to practice their religion; and Rabbi Shimon  and his son both had the same fate awaiting them - so they hid in a cave near Peki'in (a village in the Eastern Galilee - now mostly inhabited by Druze people). They lived there for 12 years, getting their nourishment from a well and a carob tree at the entrance to the cave, and dedicated their entire time to study the Torah and it is also said that this is when Rabbi Shimon has written the Zohar - the mystical book that is the foundation for the Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism). Although the authorship of the Zohar is historically questionable, it is certain that Rabbi Shimon's significant influence on the Kabbalah and the much later Hassidic movement is with his assertion that the intent behind performing or observing the Mitzvot (Jewish laws) is of utter importance - the internal motive, not just the outer actions need to be observed. This is very unusual for Judasim, which is fundamentally a religion of laws and deeds, and doesn't quite tell people what to think or believe in, jsut what to do... In celebration of his life, every year at the anniversary of his passing in Lag BaOmer, Hassidic people particularly from Safed and the entire country make a pilgrimage there, lighting bonfires and giving their 3 years old sons their first haircut and celebrate Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's spiritual legacy.



On the slightly overcast morning of March 25th, 2014, I set to hike on this beautiful mountain with my energetic teenaged daughter. The original route (suggested by my tour guide brother Yotam) as we originally were supposed to meet my other brother and his 3 young kids. We were supposed to drive all the way to the peak and walk on a circular trail called "The Peak Trail" which surrounds the military base at the top of the mountain. I stopped on the entrance to the nature reserve, and saw a sign leading to the peak. Even though the surrounding did not match my brother's description whatsoever, I set on the trail. Which turned out to be everything but an easy 1 hour stroll around the peak... We had enough food, water and first aid supplies to last for a whole day, so I was not worried and even when I suspected we were on the wrong trail, we just kept climbing the mountain.



At first, we were walking up through many shady oak trees. There was no sign of any of the rare spring wild flowers my brother raved about, and I must admit I was a tad disappointed. But after about 20 minutes of hiking, there was a bit of a clearing the landscape changed ever so slightly, to include some arbutus trees (in bloom, as pictured above - with little honeyed white flowers, reminiscent of linden, mimosa and araucaria), as well as more open patches of rocky earth. That's where I spotted the first pink orchid (probably an Anatolian Orchid). I was so excited I snapped a few closeups... But later on this little orchid turned out to be the most common seasonal wild flower on the mountain - so much there there were entire meadows of it!





We kept climbing up and up, reaching a sort of a plateau and marveling at the impressively tall Cedars of Lebanon (pictured at the beginning of the post), until we reached a little resting area built of rocks, and facing the west. We sat down to eat our lunch (we were already hiking for an hour then, and it was getting later then I planned). We bought sambusac on the way - a Druze flatbread that is baked in open fire taboon and is filled with various delicious condiments - labneh (yogurt cheese), za'atar (mixture of wild hyssop, sumac and sesame), and kishek (a condiment made of roasted peppers and walnuts). All were still piping hot from the fire! We were not even halfway through lunch, when all of a sudden I felt a cool tickle on my bare arms. Before I even registered what was going on, grey clouds gathered from the west, and we were at the midst of a thunderstorm! We got our sweaters back on and took cover under the oak trees, continuing to munch on our sambusac, taking our time, and hoping that the storm will pass by the time we finish our food. And fortunately, it did. We emerged from our cover to find the entire mountain blanketed in a rather thick, foggy cloud. The unmistakable clear petrichor fragrance  emanated from the earth, which has been dry for a couple of weeks now. It felt like walking on a cloud, literally: We were almost at the peak by now, and we could barely see anything beyond the trail.



And then we spotted some more rare wild flowers! Tulips, and other bulb flowers which I am yet to identify.







We went all the way to the top, and then glided all the way back (and much faster by then, as we were skipping and hopping down the trail like restless mountain goats). We then drove all the way through the fog to the peak (from where we were supposed to take the circular trail) and on the way we spotted another type of orchid.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Bahá'í Gardens in Akko


This spring I visited the Baha'i gardens in Akko (aka Acre). At the gate of the gardens, there's a beautiful marble fountain with red and white flowers planted around it. It is not only beautiful, but serves a purpose: cleansing one's mind in preparation for meditative, slow-paced walk on the garden's coarse gravel trails, and prayer inside the fragrant holy temple. You see, bathing is not merely an act of rinsing off dirt, but also bring on the clean, through the pure water that seeps through your pores; and the sound of water alone has the power to clear the mind's worries and establish a sense of peaceful calm.


The Bahá’í Gardens at Bahjí in Akko was built around the historic mansion where Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, resided during the final years of his life (he spent most of his life imprisoned by the Ottoman empire - first in prison and then in a house-arrest in this Turkish mansion near Akko - where he wrote the Kitáb-i-Aqdas - the central book of the Baha'i faith); and the shrine around his tomb. And quoting from their website: "The approach to the circular garden is a long, straight path framed with cypress trees and informal plantings. As you walk, the silence seems to grow in intensity. Entering the heart of the site is like arriving in a world of peace and serenity, a wall-less sanctuary that is protected without being enclosed. Here the formal, precise gardening flows around historic buildings and natural elements that include a centuries-old sycamore fig tree and the remains of an ancient olive grove".



The style of a Baha'i garden reminds me of the Persian miniatures book I would look at for hours at my grandmother's home. Everything is very manicured and precise. Each bed is tended daily to remove old and dying flowers - which are hand collected or even vacuumed by the gardeners. Flowers are cut at their peak before they come into seed to avoid any chaos in this orderly garden. The result is a vast space with defined areas for flowers, greenery, white gravel, black pebbles... Everything is very orderly and symmetric, like the artistry of a Persian carpet.

At the innermost part of the garden, there is the temple where the prophet-founder Bahá'u'lláh is buried. After removing one's shoes, one can enter this sacred space. Complete and total silence is demanded at this holy place, and touching of any of the objects is prohibited. In this total silence, you surrender entirely to the light, sights, sounds and scent of the place. It is sprinkled with copious amounts of rosewater, and together with the skylight and hanging greenery that grows towards the naturally-lit ceiling, the soft Persian rugs under one's feet, there is a sense of harmony, peace and serenity in this place. Yet, there is also a certain heaviness that is hard to quite pinpoint or explain, but it is felt - perhaps because the Baha'i faced prosecution at its beginnings in both Persia and the Ottoman Empire.




Roses seem to have a symbolic place in the Baha'i faith and were favoured by the Bahá'u'lláh, and surrounded his roses picked in the gardens:
Every day," Nabíl has related, "ere the hour of dawn, the gardeners would pick the roses which lined the four avenues of the garden, and would pile them in the center of the floor of His blessed tent. So great would be the heap that when His companions gathered to drink their morning tea in His presence, they would be unable to see each other across it. All these roses Bahá'u'lláh would, with His own hands, entrust to those whom He dismissed from His presence every morning to be delivered, on His behalf, to His Arab and Persian friends in the city." 

 I can't know for certain their significance, but in other traditions, roses symbolize harmony, love, peace - the core values of the Baha'i faith, which tried to create a unity of faith across the globe. Although a different faith - the Sufis (mystics of Islam) practiced meditation in rose gardens, which are the most important theme in Persian art – Persian miniatures as well as carpet designs depict such rose gardens. And not unlike the Sufi poets - they have noticed the relationship between the Rose and the Nightingale:

"One night," he continues, "the ninth night of the waxing moon, I happened to be one of those who watched beside His blessed tent. As the hour of midnight approached, I saw Him issue from His tent, pass by the places where some of His companions were sleeping, and begin to pace up and down the moonlit, flower-bordered avenues of the garden. So loud was the singing of the nightingales on every side that only those who were near Him could hear distinctly His voice. He continued to walk until, pausing in the midst of one of these avenues, He observed: 'Consider these nightingales. So great is their love for these roses, that sleepless from dusk till dawn, they warble their melodies and commune with burning passion with the object of their adoration. How then can those who claim to be afire with the rose-like beauty of the Beloved choose to sleep?'

Visiting the gardens I learned a few things - not just about the Baha'i religion history and heritage; but also about how important it is to dedicate a space for meditation, prayer and spirituality. Making a space for that in your physical world makes it also easier to give it space in our packed and fast-paced timetables. 

And tying it back to spring cleaning (my seasonal obsession): As daunting as clearing and organizing one's personal space may seem, it is also truly therapeutic and a spiritual process in which you rid your home of negative and stagnant energy, and make room for positive forces to flow. Beyond cleaning, one’s home should be an oasis from the outside stresses of the world. This is why in so many Eastern cultures there is a custom of removing one's shoes before entering a place of worship, or even someone's home. In the Middle East, washing the feet was an important part of hospitality.

In this day and age of fast-paced living, creating a barrier between work and rest, secular and holy is always a challenge. Using incense and candles to scent the home also creates a warm and inviting atmosphere, and ultimately forces us to pay more attention to our breath, subconsciously coaxing mindfulness into our hectic schedule, and will make us feel more connected to our surrounding. If you work from home, using a special scent at the end of the day to mark the beginning of your "off" time might also be beneficial. Additionally, burning a natural wax candle (made of bees or soy wax) candle helps create negative ions in the air, contributing to a sense of well-being and clarity of mind.

Sprinkling of water - especially fragrant ones - can also be a cleansing experience, both spiritually and physically. Regardless of one's religion, or lack of it thereof - there is power to such rituals of cleansing that goes beyond what meets the eye. The intention of the action has a lot more impact than the pure science of these action (using anti-bacterial agents; or using plants - in incense or water - that symbolize those values to you: Are you cleaning your home to make it bacteria-free? Or are you doing it to make space for positivity and renewal?

By the way, there is an important Baha'i holiday coming soon: the Festival of Ridván, beginning April 21st, this 12-days-long festival celebrates the public declaration of Bahá'u'lláh's mission. 

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Cleaning Naturally

Fresh all-natural tips for spring cleaning - and year-around! 


Cleaning brings a sense of renewal and revitalization (sprinkled with a healthy doze of self-torture and discipline). Through this handout, you will find recipes and tips on how to use the most basic ingredients which can be easily found in most corner stores, drugstores and supermarkets - all of which are perfectly harmless yet surprisingly effective for getting the job done; plus some wonderfully smelling essential oils to add fun to the process!

To be perfectly frank, even though I love a clean home - cleaning is not my favourite thing to do. The strong smells of ammonia, bleach and all the other toxic chemicals found in most bottle of house cleaning products smell more than unpleasant - they pierce the nostrils like sticking to sharp knitting-needles up your nose, and in no time I will develop the nastiest headache. Not exactly a motivator for getting those chores done, is it?

In my search for better, safer and more environmentally-friendly solutions, I found numerous sources online for using basic fragrant and cleansing essential oils and other pure ingredients. The recipes available out there are so exhaustive it's amazing we are still buying house cleaning products... But not really surprising. DIY is a lifestyle change, not just changing your purchasing choices. Some might find it intimidating to go search for a recipe before they go about doing their laundry and dishes. The truth is, that if you make the commitment, the initial investment in all the supplies and a good handful of “recipes” - it really is quite easy and requires only a little bit of “practice” (during which your house will get clean) - and the process as well as results are far more satisfying, knowing you’re using sustainable methods to keep your nest orderly and fresh.

I hope this workshop and handout will inspire you to re-think your house cleaning habits and enjoy your home chores even more: Effective housecleaning is possible without the harsh chemicals – and what’s more, it can also be fragrantly enjoyable!


Mission:

House Cleaned from Top To Bottom – chemicals-free!

Bonus:
Great smelling home = less headache. Mmm.. 



Weapons:

Spray Bottle/s
State-of-the-art Reusable Cleaning Cloths, such as micro-fiber, Skoy, etc.
Old Newspapers
Scrubbing brushes (including toilet scrubber)
Stainless Steel Scrubber
Gloves (if desired – most of the cleaning we will do here is non-toxic and non-irritating to the skin).

The Ingredients:
Baking soda
Salt
Distilled Vinegar
Castile Soap (bar and liquid)
Borax
Hydrogen Peroxide
Vegetable Glycerin
Pink Solution
Fresh (or old…) Lemons
Essential Oils (see more details below)
Soap Nuts

Let’s talk a little bit more about these basic ingredients and how they can help you clean the home without the extra chemical footprint on Mother Earth and our water supply:

Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate):
Deodorizer (refrigerators, carpets, upholstery, and more); gentle scrubbing/abrasive agent, dissolves grease and dirt in water, laundry cleaning booster (remove unwanted odours and remove dirt and grease). 

RECIPE: Soda Paste All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1 part water with 3 parts baking soda to create a paste consistency for cleaning surfaces such as sinks, bath tubs, stoves, etc. This can be customized with different essential oils to boost its effect (i.e.: anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, cut through grease, etc.). 

Salt: Abrasive cleaner, helps to remove old food from pots and pans etc. Use in combination with baking soda.

Distilled Vinegar: Acidic, breaks down limestone, combats fungus and mold, fabric softener, stain remover.

Castile Soap: Olive-oil and vegetable oil based soap, available both as a bar and a liquid soap. This pure, old-fashioned, tried and true soap is a much more powerful cleaner than many of the high-impact chemicals used for stain removal (for instance). The olive oil soaps produced by the Druze women in the Galilee is an unassuming, extremely rusting-looking (no fancy molds and there may even be some olive pieces in there) chunk of soap removes anything from tar, grease and old blood stains and soiled diapers, to any every day handwashing laundry as well as cosmetics (that's for another post though). As far as household cleaning and care purposes goes: Castile soap is mild yet powerful all-purpose cleaner. In different concentrations it can be used for cleaning nearly anything - dishes, windows, floors, cars, upholstery... Also can be used in combination with other ingredients to create your own cleaning product (it has foaming, cleansing and surfactant qualities).

Borax (Boric acid): Borax is a mineral that acts as a water softener, laundry brightener/bleach, stain remover, surfactant, insect repellent.

Hydrogen Peroxide: Disinfectant, blood-stain remover.

Vegetable Glycerin: Surfactant, humectant (attracts moisture), can be used in creating your own cleaning products to carry other cleaning agents such as abrasive cleaners (salt, soda) and disinfecting and/or degreasing essential oils.

Pink Solution:
Non-toxic, bio-degradable, vegetable and enzyme based multi-purpose cleaner that cleans almost anything you can imagine except for leather, wood and rust stains. Works like magic, very concentrated and therefore economic. They are local too (based in North Vancouver).

Lemons (fresh, or old): Acidic, natural bleach/brightener, cleans and shines oxidized copper, both lemon oil and juice cut through grease and grime.  

Soap Nuts:

Soap Nuts are a berry shell that naturally contains soap.


Window cleaning:The best and most old fashioned way to clean windows requires only water, vinegar and newspapers. If you have a reusable sprinkling container – all the better.

RECIPE: Window Cleaner
Mix 50/50 of distilled white vinegar and tap water, fill a reusable spray bottle and spray on the windows. Rub the windows till they are squieaky clean with newspapers that bear only old news...

Your view of the outside world will never be clearer. I admit that white vinegar smells rather pungent to say the least - so you might want to add a drop or two of citrus oils to temper it a bit. And either way - keep the windows open to bring fresh air after you're done. That alone is a good practice, year around, so that the home keeps getting a good circulation of air.

Lavender & Soap Nuts for Laundry:
Lavender’s scientific name (Lavandula officinalis) comes from the word Lavera (to wash) and points to one of its most important functions since medieval times. To freshen up your laundry after washing, place a few drops of lavender or geranium (or both) on a little gauze or cloth - or one of the new felted wool balls - instead of the polycyclic-musk-laden
 scented dryer sheets. Your laundry will smell clean and beautiful but not overpoweringly so - and what’s more, it will be truly clean, without all these unnecessary toxins and strong fragrance that lingers forever.

Soap Nuts:

Soap Nuts are a berry shell that naturally contains soap. They grow on the Sapindus mukorossi (Soap Berry) tree in the Himalayas.

The natural soap found in these berries is called saponin. Saponin is a natural cleaner that works as a surfactant, breaking the surface tension of the water to penetrate the fibers of your clothing, lifting stains from the fabric, and leaving dirt suspended in the water that is rinsed away.

Soap Nuts are gentle on both clothes and skin, making them ideal for those with sensitive skin, eczema, allergies and psoriasis. Because they are so mild, they are perfect for baby clothes and even cloth diapers. Unlike commercial soaps, that have artificial foaming agents, soap nuts do not produce lots of bubbles or foam. While commercial detergents and soaps have marketed heavily around that visual, foam simply is not an indicator of cleaning power.

Eco Nuts Soap Nuts:
are wild-harvested, they are gathered from trees without any kind of chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides. Saponin actually tastes bad to insects so no pesticides are needed, and the trees naturally love poor uncultivated soil. They are organically grown and certified USDA Organic by Oregon Tilth. To bring you the very best product, the soap nuts are both de-seeded and sterilized.

How to Use Soap Nuts:
1.    Place 4-5 Eco Nuts in the reusable wash bag provided and tie it closed.
2.    Put it in with your laundry and wash as normal, per manufacturer instructions.
3.    Remove the bag at the end of the wash and set aside to dry or do another load.
4.    Re-use up to 10 times* until they start to disintegrate and then they can be composted in your garden or simply add new Eco Nuts to the bag.

Very Heavy Soils:
Pre soak 4-5 soap nuts in the sack in hot water for a few minutes and add the “tea” with the sack and put fewer clothes in the machine to provide the most agitation.

Brighter Whites:
Wash whites by themselves, and add a cup of lemon juice or 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar for their bleaching effect.

Hand Wash:
Soak 2 soap nuts in bag provided in hot water and add the “tea” to your cool water basin.

Stains:
Like regular laundry detergent, soap nuts will not remove very greasy stains. Pre treat grease stains with a stain remover prior to washing.

Kitchen Cleaning:
Nothing like aromatic oils to make the kitchen smell delicious and clean. These oils are both antiseptic and good-smelling. Use them to clean the kitchen floors too and it will even make you smile!



RECIPE: Stove & Oven Cleaner:
1 Tbs water
3 Tbs baking soda
30 drops orange essential oil

RECIPE: Countertop Cleanser:
1 (4 cups) Liter tap water
2 Tbs white vinegar
2 Tbs concentrated Liquid castile soap
2 Tbs Hydrogen Peroxide
20 drops Lime
5 drops Basil

Lemon for Dishwashing:
Lemon’s popular use in dishwashing detergents is not an arbitrary decision: both lemon oil and juice help with breaking down limestone and for brightening copper dishes. To clean copper dishes, simply rub it with an-already-squeezed lemon wedge (or half) and a teaspoon of sand. The sand will help rub out the oxidized particles from the copper; and the lemon acids will help to bring back shine to what’s left from your copperware.
Soak your dishes in a bowl of simple castile soap and a few drops of lemon oil to help breakdown grease and make your dishwashing experience fragrant and energetic.

Oranges to get out of sticky situations:
Use pure orange oil for rubbing off the remainders of adhesive labels and even to remove stubborn chewing gum. You must try to scrub off the sticky stuff “mechanically” first (i.e.: with a knife, etc.) as the orange oil dissolves it very thoroughly; so if there’s too much stickiness left all it’ll do is spread a thin coat of adhesive or gum all over the object… Otherwise, it’s extremely effective!
A great product for degreasing ovens, removing stickers and gums, etc. and many other uses is CitraSolv.

Tea Tree Oil for Bathroom Cleanliness:
Tea tree’s medicinal scent might be an acquired taste, but it’s worth it: this oil singlehandedly combats bacteria, virus and fungi! This makes it an ideal boost for cleaning anywhere where moist and warm conditions prevail, such as the bathroom. You can also use tea tree oil to prevent and treat mildew and mold in other areas.

Prepare this solution and wash, scrub or spray it on the affected area. Wait for 30-60minutes and then scrub and rinse with water:


RECIPE: Mold/mildew treatment:
1 Liter Distilled White Vinegar
1 Tbs Tea Tree Oil

No doubt, one of the dirtiest spots in the home requires some attention… Of course we’re talking about the toilet bowl. In addition to the baking soda and Castile soap mixture, you may want to disinfect the area with the clean-smelling oils that have anti-microbial, anti-viral
and anti-fungal properties such as these oils – either alone or in combination. Thankfully, they are also extremely affordable.

RECIPE: Toilet Bowl Cleaner:
1/2 cup Baking Soda
1/2 cup Liquid Castile Soap
10 drops each Tea Tree essential oil, Eucalyptus and Pine
30 drops Lime essential oil
1 Tbs Vegetable glycerin (this will help preserve the mixture for a while longer than just a one-time use)

* You may use a similar formula with a different scent to clean the bathtub, sink and shower (i.e.: 10 drops each lemongrass, lemon and orange).

Mopping Time!
RECIPE
Floor Cleaner (for ceramic tiles, hardwood or laminate floors ):
1/4 cup borax
Bucket full of warm tap water
1/4 cup white vinegar
5 drops Lime oil
5 drops Pine oil
5 drops Lemongrass oil
5 drops Lemon oil
-    In a large bucket, dissolve the borax in some of the warm water. Add the vinegar and essential oils, and top up the bucket till it’s full.
-    Soak a mopping cloth in the mixture, and mop the floor. This can be also used to wash walls, doors, etc. 

Now your home is all clean, for real! It might be a little more work, but it’s so much more rewarding knowing that your home is truly clean, smelling great and so much fun to be in!
Let the fresh air come in and enjoy a cup of tea while marveling at what you’ve achieved here: a clean abode without contributing to the pollution of our water supply and messing up with the hormonal balance of wild-life habitats... You can kick back and relax with a good book, invite friends for tea to show off and pass on these recipes to them, and pat yourself on the back for making our home planet just slightly cleaner too...


Additional Resources & Suppliers:
For more Natural Healthy Home Cleaning Tips, visit:
Giving Gifts & Company (4570 Main Street) sells sustainable and eco-friendly products such as reusable cloths, soap nuts, wool dryer balls, and now also Ayala Moriel's RealClean scents for your housekeeping needs, in 4 scents: Laundry Day (for dryer balls), Crisp Linen (for laundry and/or wool dryer balls), RealClean Kitsch (for kitchen & degreasing) and RealClean Bath (for bathroom and to combat mold/mildew).

The Soap Dispensary (3623 Main Street) and Homesteader's Emporium (649 East Hastings Street) in Vancouver both provide workshops as well as many eco-friendly unscented basics for body and house cleaning. Maybe you have one at your own town? If not - perhaps there's a business idea for you!
Organic Gardening
Mother Earth Living
Canadian Living
Pink Solution
 CitraSolv
Dr Bronners Magic All One Castile Soaps 
CitraSolv
Eco Nuts Soap Nuts
Ayala Moriel's RealClean Line

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Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Word About My Discontinued Perfumes



Last year, my decision to remove unnecessary clutter from my life and return to my core has also been translated to some trimming of the collection of perfumes offered. In response to some of you, who were worried your favourite scent is being discontinued I would like to explain 2 things:
a)    To make room for new scents, I do need to clear our shelves a little bit – both at the studio, and on the virtual  boutique. There is simply no ample space in both to keep moving forward AND dwell on the past simultaneously. Especially with the size of our screens constantly shrinking (not to mention attention span). It was a tough decision, but it had to be made.

b)    With that being said, I will continue to re-blend discontinued fragrances on a made-to-order basis. This has always been the mandate at Ayala Moriel Parfums, and I am fully committed to never discontinue your favourite scent (unless, of course, I can no longer find the ingredients to make it).
To further clarify how this would play out: I’m currently working on a new website. When this will take place, the discontinued fragrances will no longer be part of the virtual boutique; but will still appear in a designated section where their descriptions and notes will be at your fingertips to peruse. There will be a minimum order of 15ml for either an Eau de Parfum and Parfum Oil. Both will be priced the same way a refill for a Signature Perfume is priced 15ml EDP in the splash/spray bottle for around $180-$250 (depending on the scent); and 3 x 5ml parfum oil roll-ons for $315).

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Friday, April 04, 2014

One Year Anniversary for Giving Gifts & Co. + Blue Heart Campaign

Giving Gifts & Co is turning one!
Help us Celebrate this incredible milestone by stopping by the co-op boutique (4570 Main Street & 30th Avenue):

When: Saturday, April 5th, from 11 am - 8 pm

What: Food, Beverages, Live Music and Tons of Sales throughout the whole store!

Why: All in support of our HUGE 'Traffic against Trafficking' Campaign. For every person who visits the store for the ENTIRE MONTH OF APRIL, we'll donate $1 to Somaly-Mam, an organization to help women in Cambodia escape Human Trafficking and re-build lives as artists & entrepreneurs.

We are donating all proceeds from our limited edition ORCAS candles (with a blue heart vessel) to support the campaign. Which is befitting, because we're decoraitng the store with wooden hearts, and for every $100 raised, we will paint one heart blue! In other words - if you buy the candle at the store, $100 will be donated to Somaly-Mam, to support her cause against human trafficking in Cambodia.   

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wild Chicory



Wild chicory is unbearably bitter. But it's exactly what your liver needs in springtime, to cleanse and renew itself after the long winter struggle with reduced sunlight, and the body's tendency to go into hibernation mode (i.e.: storing fat, reducing circulation, and general stagnation). It is one of the many wild bitter herbs that pop up in early spring.

Chicory is a useful medicinal plants with several properties and uses. The leaves are mostly known for their cleansing and liver-protecting properties (either when eaten raw or cooked; or when dried and used in teas or other medicinal preparations). Leaves also can be used to redue skin inflammation and swelling.

The roots are often dried and roasted to prepare a coffee substitute, or are even added to coffee to extend its nutty flavour. It's interesting to note also, that chicory root also balances the stimulating properties of coffee.



Aside from the medicinal properties, chicory leaves provide a marvellous culinary experience for those who appreciate wildcrafted foods and the often neglected benefit of bitter flavour. Fresh leaves may be added to salads (use only the tender young leaves). Larger leaves may be steamed or sauteed and prepared similarly to kale, as a warm salad drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. You may feel the need to balance the bitterness with a little sweet touch of Silan (date molasses), honey or coconut palm sugar, or a handful of chopped almonds and raisins.

The Arabic cuisine in the Galilee includes a fascinating pastry, in which simple flatbread layered with with a mixture of steamed chicory leaves (known as "Elt") are seasoned with red chili pepper, salt and fried onion. The dough is than rolled and baked, and served along with other mezze and dips, or as a side dish with more hearty dishes such as mujadarah or lamb stew.

Note: Cultivated types or relatives of chicory include radiccio (also extremely bitter) and endive, which is grown in the dark to keep the leaves pale and tender (and also a little less bitter).

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vernal Equinox & Hyacinths

Wild Hyacinth by Ayala Moriel
Wild Hyacinth, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Happy Persian New Year!

Today is the vernal equinox, where the Persian New Year begins. Hyacinth is one of the symbols of this ancient holiday, and I’m excited to share a photograph of a related beautiful wild plant: the Hyacinth Squill (Scilla hyacinthoides). It may not be as fragrant as the grape hyacinth found on the altar of most Persian homes, but it is a strikingly beautiful flower to find in the wild, in the mountainous Mediterranean woods.

Sonbol (Farsi for Hyacinth) is one of the Haft Seen (7 S’s), and symbolizes fertility and continuation - and brings the blessings of life and beauty to the new year. Think about it: a bulb has been buried in the dirt since last year, survived the dry summer, storing its energy for the right timing. A flowering bulb is an act of faith in life and renewal; but also an act of madness. There is no guarantee that the hospitable conditions that triggered the blossom will continue long enough for it to come into seed. The creation of new life requires gambling one’s own life, in other words: risking death.

Life and death take different faces, shapes and forms as the cycle of seasons evolve. Winter might seem like a deep sleep (if not death itself) in the colder parts of the world, while summer is bursting and buzzing with life; while in the hotter and dryer countries, the harshness of the sun is lethal and only the rainy winter season will bring relief and encourage any growth... In the transitional seasons, it’s a balancing act between the two: life giving way to death in the autumn, as fruit rot and allow the pure essence (seed) to preserve itself. In springtime, the force of life is so strong it will push through anything - ice, frozen earth and even flood - in order to renew the cycle with the visual and fragrant botanical orgy also known as wild flowers.

The aroma of hyacinth is sadly not one that is easily found in natural perfumery. I’ve been fortunate to have had hyacinth absolute on my palette at some point; but those days are long gone. The absolute had a very different character than the fresh flower, as it was sweeter and deeper. But that’s no longer a surprising result for me in the world of extraction. I’ve used it in more formulations than I should have (Rainforest, Tamya, Song of Songs, Sagittarius), but was somehow able to recuperate once my supplies ran out.

Wild hyacinths can be found in the eastern Mediterreanean region (i.e.: Israel, Lebanon, Turkey). There are far fewer flowers on the wild plants, while the cultivated variety (aka “Grape hyacinth”) has very fleshy flowers, filled with water, and with an almost overbearing heady aroma that is both green, sharp yet balsamic-sweet and with fruity, full-bodied undertones. The fresh hyacinth flowers owe their scents to several odorants, including 3,7 dimethyl-1,3(E),5(E)-octatriene-7-ol and (E)-cinnamic alcohol and ethyl 2-methoxybenzoate.

Since the pioneer days of Vent Vert by Balmain (1947), the use of hyacinth note in perfumery was secured in green florals and green-aldehydic Chypres. It is therefore no surprise that hyacinths have been in vogue int he 1970’s, when this genre was at its peak. Notable perfumes with a hyacinth note include mostly these two genres, with the occasional heady white floral such as the original Chloe and Fracas:

Amazone (Hermes), AnaisAnais (Cacharel), Chamade (Guerlain), Cristalle Eau de Toilette, Deneuve (1986), Envy Gucci (1997), First Van Cleef & Arpels (1976), Fleur No. 1 (1000Flowers), Laura Ashley No. 1, No. 19 (Chanel), Ombre de Hyacinth (Tom Ford), Parfum d’Ida (Neil Morris), Pêche noir (Envoyage Perfumes), Private Collection (Estee Lauder), Safari (Ralph Lauren), Silences (Jacomo) and Wrappings (Clinique). Oltremare (Bois 1920) presents an unusual context for hyacinth, comprising of woodsy musks and tea-like nuances.

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