Monday, March 28, 2011

Fragrant Spring Flowers

Medicinal Birch flowers - another innocent looking flower that does not normally attract much attention as its scent is subtle. But once you have decided to lean over and inhale this beautiful, crisp-linen coloured flower with butter-yellow stamen, you will discover an unusual orchestration of linden blossom and sweet almond flowers combined. Sweet and crisp, reminiscent of an elegant European soap, but so much better than that.

Sweet almond blossoms - from Shkediya, the queen of Tu Bishvat. If you ever come close to one of these flowers, you'll enjoy its honey and almond perfume, that so many trendy soaps attempt to imitate.

Arbutus blossoms... I don't smell much in them (partial anosmia?) but those who do, experience an intense honey-like aroma. No wonder the bees like them!

Bay Laurel blossoms. Smelling clovey, spicy and sweet from an abundance of eugenol.

קידה שעירה Kida Seira (Calicotome villosa), aka Thorny Broom, is very sweet smelling and around late March to mid April the fragrance becomes so intensely sweet that it's almost too much... It's beautiful and although I tried numerous times to tincture this, the results were pathetic. Whomever is going to succeed harvesting and extracting the flowers into absolute would win a small fortune for a labour of love (the thorns that the plant is covered with to protect it from goats and other beasts are a little poisonous actually, resulting in very unpleasant lingering stings). This plant grows in abundance in areas that experienced fires, as the seeds sprout better after fires.

Sweet Valencia orange blossoms. Can there be any other scent more happier and that announces spring in a brighter note than this?!

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Perfume as a Mask

Masks, originally uploaded by Iceman Forever.

"For every path you choose, there is another you must abandon, usually forever". (Joan D. Vinge).

All the late winter carnivals got me thinking about the concept of mask, and how perfume is, in a way, a type of mask. On the superficial level, it masks one's body odour and replaces it with another, just as a mask covers up one's face and facial expression and replaces it with a non-animate object that imitates the face.

On a deeper level, masks share a few other characteristics with perfume that I find fascinating:
- Masks allow a person to come closer to their essence by creating a shield that makes one secure and comfortable enough to release aspects that are otherwise hidden and concealed even from themselves. Similarly, perfume as it is used nowadays, gives a person a sense of safety knowing that they smell good, which may boost their confidence and bring out other sides of their personality that wouldn't come out otherwise.

- Mask comes from the Arabic word "Maschara", also related to "Mascara" - which brings us back to the long-established link between perfume and the beauty & cosmetics world.

- Masks offer an alternate persona that one can step into and interpret their own way (as actors or participants in rituals/carnivals, etc.). Likewise, perfume brings with it a built-in persona that works on a deep and unconscious level to unleash hidden aspects of one's personality and bring forth behaviours that they may not have been otherwise brave or daring enough to show (seduction being the one most obvious of them, but definitely not the only one).

People choose perfume daily based on their mood, the season, the weather and the occasion (admittedly, I often wear more than just one perfume per day, i.e. - one in the morning and another at night time), as if setting the scene and clothing for an act in a show - presenting one aspect of their personality. For example: a crisp and clean smelling perfume might bring out the professional, reliable and organized one for certain situations; or a more sophisticated, old fashioned or glamorous persona with another perfume. It's not always about seduction with the heavier or more complex scents; I find that wearing some vintage perfumes really connects one to the era they are from, just as much as wearing a vintage garment and getting a stiff sprayed hairdo will change an actress' performance and will make it more authentic. I wonder if they are any actors or actresses that use fragrance to enhance their interpretation of a character? Is perfume worn as a mask, to enhance our reenacting of a desired persona?

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Spring!

עדת כרמליות פריכה
כסתה כליל את הגופה
שנשארה פה אפופה
בשלג של ריחות פריחה

Spring is here, and brought with it a myriad of flowers full of fragrances colours. Spring is different in different parts of the world of course, and for me it is always a dichotomy between my longing to the myriads of wild flowers of where I grew up (the Western Galilee of Israel, which I rarely get to see during this very beautiful season); and my recent acquaintance with the tree blossoms of sakura and ume (Japanese cherry and plum, respectively) that grow in abundance in Vancouver (many of which were a gift from Japan). The flowers above are poppies (not particularly odorous on their own) and some type of a daisy that has the typical bitter scent of the chrysanthemum family. The flowers on top, with the pale purple-pink cross shape, are called "Karmeliyot" and are sweetly fragrant, not as heady as sweetpeas, but nontheless, can become overpowering when it's a dry and sunny spring day. In British Columbia, wild flowers are a far cry from the vivid display of colours, shapes and aromas that is in more extreme weather conditions (such as deserts, prairies or alpine climates). It's mostly just green and boring there... In Israel, all the colours of the rainbow can be found in the wild flowers blooming during the month of March.

Mimosas, an invasive species of tall shrubs that are native to Australia and took over the hills of Provence as well as many parts of Israel. The aroma is very subtle and is reminiscent of stamen, iris, wet wood, powder and green leaves. Their use in perfumery is described in much detail here.

Snow drops, which have a nice and fresh aroma that is strangely hard to detect the closer you get to the flower... But floats in the vicinity where they are in bloom. My apologies for not being able to rotate the photo, it looks so much lovelier with the correct orientation... Will fix when I figure it out!

Plum blossoms, with a subtle, bittersweet and powdery like coumarin, which lace the streets of the West End in Vancouver in very early spring.

Jasmine and Spike Lavender make a strangely appealing combination! Spike lavender (Lavandin) in its fresh form is very green, more than herbaceous, and clean smelling - verging on the soapy. Jasmine's indolic undertones creates an intriguing contrast, not unlike what you'll find at the heart of many leading fougeres fragrances.

Pear blossoms. Not much in the way of scent (very subtle), but their whiteness is striking yet delicate. This is the time for all the orchard trees to bloom and prepare the delicious juicy summer and autumn fruit!

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Purim!

Hag Purim Sameach to all of you who are celebrating today!

The photo is from the megillah reading I attended. This is the only holiday where heavy drinking is encouraged (good Canadian whiskey in this instance...).

May the month of Adar be a sign of much happiness in the remainder of the year :-)
Mine is already smelling of wild flowers and that always makes me happy.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Modern Mix Features Guilt Sugar Scrubs

Visit The Modern Mix, to read their review of my new Guilt sugar scrubs.

Hanami vs. Tsunami

Ume Blossoms, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

The tragic course of evens in Japan urges me to do something to help out. And I've decided to donate the entire profit of my Hanami perfume (deducing only costs of materials and bottles) to tsunami relief and helping the community in this time of crisis - and more so, re-building afterward.

The reason I chose Hanami perfume specifically, is because it symbolizes for me spring and re-birth, and I pray for Japan to emerge out of this crisis stronger and more beautiful, and have faith that things will fall into place. These tree flowers are pretty and short lived, yet have a very strong statement about life and putting it forward as a sacrifice. Having faith to put forth all ones' strength at the dead of winter in faith that the sun will shine bright again.

The reason why I usually prefer to contribute to the aftermath of such events (as I did in New Orleans as well), is two-fold: First of all, practically - it takes a bit of time to raise money from sales and so it's more realistic for me to contribute to the aftermath of such a disaster, rather than to the immediate rescue efforts. Secondly, while the events are fresh in everyone's mind, there is a lot of interest, which quickly fades away when the next disaster strikes, or whatever newsworthy piece of information that gets us so easily distracted. And the hard work that is required to bring communities back to their feet and support those who suffered from a disaster is a long term project that will need attention and support well beyond the point when it's in the limelight.

I'm still researching Japanese-based organizations that will benefit the most from this fundraising, and will post about the organization(s) once I found the right one(s). For now, I urge you to please help me to help Japan by purchasing Hanami perfume. During the month of March, all Hanami profits will be donated to the chosen organization. In addition, 10% of any of my other Japanese inspired perfumes will benefit this cause (these are: Kinmokusei, Bon Zai, Megumi and Hinoki).

If you know of a community organization that is based in Japan and is directly affected by this disaster or is active in the tsunami relief efforts, please contact me via email.

UPDATE: I will be donating all money from this drive to the Japanese Red Cross. But still will be looking at community organizations for the re-building stages.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mardi Gras Gala & New Orleans Perfume Launch Party

Mardi Gras!
It's already Thursday, which means that some photos from the Mardi Gras gala and New Orleans perfume launch are in order!
The menu in this cocktail party was all inspired by New Orleans' cuisine and the unique aromas of the city, which are featured in the perfume, of course.

Meyer Lemon Hard Lemonade
Meyer Lemon hard lemonade, with my own killer homemade limoncello!
In the perfume, I used lemon oil as well as Meyer lemon peel that I've tinctured myself.

Cornbread and Mardi Gras cupcakes
Mardi Gras cupcakes (with orange flower water and lemon, which match the aromas of the New Orleans perfume I've created). They were decorated, of course, by the dedicated little miss T, who was also in charge of eating about half of them and discovering the baby doll that's always hidden in the traditional King Cake. That means that she will have to throw a Mardi Gras party (again!) next year :-)

The cornbread (shaped like muffins for easier serving at a cocktail party) are spiced with rosemary I picked at Santa Rosa airport... Rosemary adds an herbaceous, green-fresh and slightly spicy aroma to the perfume.

Cajun Prawns
Cajun prawns, courtesy of my super-talented webmaster and dear friend David Griffith.
It was essential to serve seafood at this party, even though I don't normally eat it (and have no idea of how to prepare it). They were made to perfection and went well with oceanic theme of New Orleans - a perfume that includes both seaweed and ambergris.

Mardi Gras Sweets!
More sweets!
Osmanthus plays a big role in the perfume I created for New Orleans, and here we experienced them in the tea (pure herbal tea - just dried osmanthus flowers, top quality, from Shaktea). The shortbread is also infused with these beautiful, apricoty and slightly savoury flowers.

Revealing the New Orleans perfume and notes
Revealing the New Orleans perfume - it was a very intimate gathering (my favourite type - because than I get to also have fun and interact with my guests, not just run around...).
Now let the sniffing fest begin!!!

Nicole & GK Smelling New Orleans Perfume
Nicole and GK experiencing New Orleans perfume for the first time.

Kaylie & Nicole Smelling New Orleans Perfume
Kylie and Nicole

Lindsay's sniffing fest
Lindsay experiencing an individual note from the perfume.

Lee Smells the Base Notes for New Orleans Perfume
Lee experiencing a whole "fan" of the base notes of New Orleans perfume.

Jolanta & Ayala masquerading
It's a masquarade, after all!

Mardi Gras

Photography by Noam Dehan - all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras!

Happy Mardi Gras!, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!
I'm so excited to launch my New Orleans perfume tonight, with a gala cocktail party to benefit two New Orleans charities -

1) America's Wetland non-profit organization that works towards saving coastal Louisiana, who is losing land at a rate of 25 square miles per year (!).

2) The Tipitina's Foundation which is dedicated to helping artists recover from Hurricane Katrina and preserving the cultural traditions of New Orleans. Can you imagine a Mardi Gras parade without a marching band?!

New Orleans perfume took a few years in the making - since I watched the film When The Levees Broke (about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina), which really moved me and made me realize that even though the hurricane was over 2 years ago, there was lots more to be done to help the people of New Orleans. That's when the concept was conceived to make a perfume that will help New Orleans. I took longer than expected to complete the perfume (which is why I used l'Ecume des Jours as a temporary fundraising perfume for NOLA), because I've never been to New Orleans in person, and I had to rely on my perfume friends from there to fill my olfactory gap. The rest was left to imagination...

Now that the bottling is done, and there is even a new batch maturing (which I have just blended this morning), AND it's Mardi Gras, after all, which is when I planned to launch the perfume, I think it's the right time to reveal to you what this perfume turned out to be, at long last.

The perfume was carefully orchestrated based on Paula Stratton's description of the scent. It took a long time, and several trials until I achieved the desired results. The challenge was combining the herbaceous notes (basil, rosemary) with the sweet florals (sweet olive, tea rose, orange blossom), bright citrus (Meyer lemon) and last but not least - the scent of decay, decomposition, moss, seaweed and oak trees and cypress that is what makes the scent of New Orleans. The various trials were similar in concept, but quite different in scent. Even though they all had an accord of sweet olive (aka osmanthus), orange blossom, magnolia and rose at the heart, they all had a different mood and personality.

I'd like to share with you a bit of the evolution, as well as Paula and her husband Mark's feedback:

Mod 1 (dated August 21-22, 2007) included brown oakmoss (for a more deeply woody aroma than the green variety), blue cypress, spikenard, seaweed and vanilla. The top included basil, rosemary and lemon.

Paula's reaction: "Number 1 is the most genteel. It's the most feminine, and I catch the jasmine and osmanthus. It's my favourite".

I felt it was a little too muddy and that the basil clashed with sweetness of the floral bouquet and the vanilla. Therefore - mod 2 (created just a week after the 1st mod) was to follow, where there was neither moss, nor herbal notes. I added more violety notes, such as cassie and orris root. Paula observed - "Number 2 would probably be the most popular with the most people. It's lively and reminds me of the drink called a Sazerac".

I felt there was still too much heaviness and not enough harmony there, and waited a few more years before I was really able to create something worth sharing with Paula, in 2010. Perfume creation is a time-consuming process. Not only do the scents really need to mature and marry, but also the ideas need to hibernate, interact with one another, and waiting and patience is the essence of the process... Sometimes waiting for the scent to mature; other times - waiting for the right idea, or the right aroma to materialize. In this case, I had to wait for both. It finally dawned on me in 2010, that what I need to create was not something gloomy and heavy, somewhat aldehydic/old-fashioned chypre with seaweed and other unusual notes; but rather - something bright and hopeful. Which I didn't realize till February 8th, 2010.

I moved on and created a 3rd version, a cheerful, brighter and more citrusy. It still had the original concept mossy and salty, woody vetiver base, sweet Southern Belle floral bouquet at the heart, and citrus and herbal top notes. But it was so much more sheer and harmonious, yet not any less intriguing than the first two versions. The key to this lightness was using cedarmoss instead of the potent oakmoss. I also used an abundant proportion of ambergris, which did not appear in any of the previous formulas. The roses of Turkey, Bulgaria and France were replaced by the luscious and voluptuously sweet tea rose from China, and I also added hints of amber for a hint of sweetness (but no vanilla!), and amyris, for accentuated woodsiness that is a little tropical (Amyris grows in the West Indies, which is the heritage of the Cajun in New Oreleans, so I thought it particularly appropriate). Both Paula and her husband loved this version - especially her husband: "...He liked # 3 the most, repeatedly. And after multiple sniffs, I understand why. It's lively and a man can wear it. I'm picturing Errol Flynn in period dress. ;)"

I was already partial to the 3rd mod. And hearing that it was so warmly received by a man only made more sense of this direction - I felt this scent had to be equally loved by both men and women.

Paula's notes about all three versions I've sent her: "Numbers 1 , 2 and 3 are serious winners. I smell them on paper strips and skin and wonder what did you do which captured thefeeling of walking in NOLA, Charleston or Savannah in September. Bumby cobblestone walks, oaks dripping moss, the maturity of the homes. And a touch of women and men in waistcoats pass one in the morning".

I kept on going though, to create the fourth and last version on October 12th, 2010. That was when I finally had the missing ingredient which I felt was important not only for the perfume's composition, but also for the authenticity of its ingredients: Meyer Lemon. I just felt that lemon wasn't enough. Besides, Meyer lemon has such a cheerful, bright citrus aroma that it just belonged in this perfume. New Orleans lives on, and it is happy even though there may be some blue notes in its history. It's all part of life and embracing tragedy (not an easy feat, but possible if your love for life is greater than fear of suffering), rising above them like a phoenix - this is what this perfume is all about. The structure of the perfume and its notes portray this, and although you will be smelling the top notes first, I'm going to present them structurally as I was building it upwards:

Base notes - natural forces of the sea and the land:
Seaweed and ambergris representing the force of the ocean
Cedarwmoss representing decay
Vetiver from Haiti and Sri Lanka for healing and preservation (vetiver roots help to prevent erosion and flooding, and is grown in the area for that purpose)
Cypress and Amyris for strength and dignity.

Heart notes - Southern Belle accord with a little bit of "blue notes":
Magnolia - beautiful and sweet in every way
Sweet Olive (Osmanthus) - sweet and pretty, but with a little bit of melancholy blue notes
Tea Rose,which is very sweet but also has ionone, which is violety and a little moody)
Orange Blossom for pure happiness

Top notes - Cheerful and Ascending:
Hand tinctured Meyer Lemon
Rosemary verbenon - which is sheer, non medicinal and full of life
Mandarin Murcott - an unusually sweet and full bodied citrus notes
White Grapefruit from Israel, which is the best I've ever smelled in my life and is floral and vivacious

And this final version is what you will get to smell tonight at my party, or might need to wait a few days till it ships from Vancouver.

Proceeds (10%) from this scent and all sales at the event tonight will be donated to these two charities, to continue to help New Orleans be the wonderful city that it is. And if all goes well, I am going to visit there this year for Jazz Festival!

And last but not least - you can listen to Mardi Gras music all day today (and to authentic New Orleans jazz year around, from anywhere in the world) via WWOZ 90.7FM!

Related posts:

The Aroma of New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans Today
New Orleans Cuisine
Louisiana in September
l'Ecume des Jours & Rebuilding New Orleans
Re-Building New Orleans
When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
Scent for a Drowned City Re-Emerging

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Stock Updates...

Quick stock update:
Magnolia Petal and Coralle are completely sold out of samples and have 2 minis left of each. Perfect for spring getaway, something light and fun to take in your pocket (or carry-on).

New perfumes that have just now become available in the mini size:
Jasmine Pho
New Orleans (launching tomorrow!!!)

Also, I'm thrilled to announce these One Of A Kind perfumes that are now available for adoption as your own signature scent:

Arborvitae perfume is a complex and evolving elixir for the daring individual who chosen such an ethereal journey. This is a 10ml Roll-on perfume oil in a base of jojoba.

Wintery maple-syrup richness from the everlasting flower paired with velvety-smooth vanilla notes, ambergris and exotic resins to create a mysterious, dark gourmand that is otherworldly. Comes as a perfume oil only.

Opoponax perfume sheds sunny light over the mystery of musk in this bold, leathery oriental. The presence of musky opoponax resin is taken to the extreme when paired with notes that are rarely used in perfumery in such high concentrations. Opoponax perfume is surprisingly smooth and robust, with exotic floral notes from India, a dash of spice and a foundation of amber, tobacco and sunny helicrysum.

Sandal Tree
Sandalwood trees are a rare thing of beauty and unfortunately are becoming extinct. This perfume, made of some remaining stock of Indian sandalwood, with sustainable sandalwood oils from Vanuatu and Australia, is infused with the floral delights of jasmine and kewda, and some spicy cardamom to bring to you the spiritual and sensual joys of India.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Wicked Tuberose

Tuberose have been played quite mellowly so far in my perfumes... In White Potion it is a soft whisper of creaminess with sandalwood and gourmand, bittersweet tonka and coconut. In other scents it's more of a supporting note (Zohar, Razala, Hanami...). I tend to accentuate its creaminess rather than the medicinal and rubbery aspects.

Tuberose is an intriguing material that can be played in many different ways. More often than never I find it overpowering in commercial perfumes, to the point of being unbearable... i.e.: paired with screeching green high notes (i.e.: Cabotine de Gras), and worst of all, smelling sickening, artificial and overpowering (i.e.: Poison, Carolina Herrera). Which is unfortunate - because natural tuberose is nothing like it. It's potent, strong and the fresh cut flower can take up a whole room after nightfall... Of course, there are many examples of bold tuberoses to look up to: Fracas, with its full-bodied, albeit high pitched at first, floral, fruity tuberose; La Chasse Aux Papillon with its lighthearted tuberose laden bouquet and other cheerful greenish airy florals, and last but not least – the dusky, toxic Tubereuse Criminelle, where rubber and wintergreen are boldly used alongside dense white blossoms of orange and tuberose. And I adore the creaminess of Noix de Tubereuse.

Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) is a flower related to narcissus and is native to Mexico, where it is called a "bone flower" in Aztec (Omixochitl). The name tuberose has nothing to do with rose, but with the tuberous or swollen roots of the plant. Therefore, the Latin name of the plant really means a plant with many flowers and tuberous roots. In Victorian times, young ladies were forbidden to roam the tuberose fields after dark from fear that they will lose their innocence due to the seductive influence of the flowers. In tropical countries, tuberose flowers are strewn into leis for ritual purposes (along with jasmine or marigold in India, for example) and for beauty and sheer pleasure (i.e. paired with plumeria and gardenia in Hawaii).

Tuebrose grows in other parts of the world - both for fresh cut flowers (I'm always excited to find them at the flower shop!) and as a raw material for perfumery (mostly in India nowadays, and to a far lesser extent in Southern France). There are 12 species of tuberose, and the one used for perfumery is different than that of the cut flower we are more familiar with, and has to be grown from the bulb for 4 full years before it will actually bloom. In France, tuberose may still processed in the traditional enfleurage method, which involves animal fat (lard and tallow). Tuberose is very unusual in that it releases more scent after it has been removed from the plant, making the process of enfleurage ideal and most efficient way to extract its fine aroma. However, because of religious reasons, neither of these fats can be used in India (Cows are holly to the Hindu, and pigs are forbidden among the Muslim population). Therefore, it is only extracted with a solvent (hexane) to produce its absolute.

The scent of tuberose is different from each locale and of course is different in enfleurage or in absolute forms. The enfleurage seem to capture more of the medicinal, rubbery and salicylic notes (reminiscent of wintergreen). Generally speaking, tubrose is often compared to jasmine and ornage blossom in its makeup, although it has no indole at all. It is rich, creamy, opulent and heady, with some animalic, licorice, medicinal, powdery notes. In the absolutes, I have tuberoses that range between powdery and even a little green, to buttery and milky/lactonic notes with hints of bitter almond (which makes it a perfect companion to tonka bean) and all the way to intensely heady and high in orange-blossom notes (from methyl anthranilate).

I adore tuberose and find it to be one of the most intriguing essences to work with. I even went as far as using it in my White Potion truffles and am planning to find other fascinating culinary uses for it, which I’m sure to share here on SmellyBlog once my experiments lead to a desirable result. But for now, I’m trying to explore its darker sides in perfumery, i.e. the more rubbery, medicinal, wintergreen notes, and see what can be done with that without the aid of synthetic aromachemicals or isolates. Curious minds want to know how far I can push this to… At least my mind is!

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Gearing Up to Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Beads, originally uploaded by jciv.

I'm planning my Mardi Gras party for Tuesday, March 8th.
This is when I will be launching my New Orleans perfume. Those of you who've been following its development on the blog here might remember - the process started in 2007 and it took a while to brew in my head, my lab, and with the assistance of my perfume friends in New Orleans - Paula and Michelle - I'm able to bring it to you this Mardi Gras, even though I'm yet to visit New Orleans in person. I'm planning to go there for Jazz Festival this year though!

The menu for what I hope will be a happily laid back cocktail party is mostly derived from the perfume itself. I'll be serving aromatic nibbles and desserts that are inspired by New Orleans botanicals such as sweet olive (aka tea olive) - in the form of osmanthus shortbread.
Herbaceous rosemary will add a twist to a Southern cornbread recipe, and of course the menu will not be complete without some seafood and cajun appies.

As far as drinks go - there will be also a Meyer lemon hard lemonade, Southern Comfort cocktails, and for the tea lovers among us (me included) - fragrant Magnolia oolong tea.

The Mardi Gras Party is on Tuesday, March 8th from 7-11pm.
We will be serving some Southern finger food, as well as desserts and pastries inspired by the Cajun cuisine and the botanicals used in New Orleans perfume.

9:00pm - the Grand reveal of New Orleans perfume, as well as breakdown of the unusual notes that make it such a unique fragrance.

Tickets are by donation - you can order them online for our suggested donation of $12 at the door. 100% of ticket sales will be sent to charity in New Orleans, and additional donations are encouraged!
In addition, 10% of all sales that night will benefit these two important organizations:
1) America's Wetland non-profit organization that works towards saving coastal Louisiana, who is losing land at a rate of 25 square miles per year (!).

2) The Tipitina's Foundation which is dedicated to helping artists recover from Hurricane Katrina and preserving the cultural traditions of New Orleans. Can you imagine a Mardi Gras parade without a marching band?!

You can support New Orleans' unique culture by attending the event, buying New Orleans perfume online and off-line, and

Tickets can be purchased in advance online at

To RSVP or for more information about the Mardi Gras Party, please contact: ayala (at) or call (778) 863-0806. Or via Facebook.

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Lemongrass Sage Hand & Nail Creme

One of the lovely things about travel is how it randomly brings new scents into your life. I was out of my travel size hand cream and had no alternative (body lotion or what not) when I headed down to Sonoma last Friday, and I just had to do something about it. Across from the gate was Butter London's boutique, so I stepped in, hoped for the best, and the best turned out to be this relatively natural smelling Lemongrass Sage Hand & Nail Creme. It went perfectly well with my Ayalitta perfume I was wearing that day and I was glad to embrace a new scent in my life (at least while traveling). The cream itself is very light, not nearly as effective as my favourite* but it did the trick and saved my hands' skin from falling apart during this trip. I liked it so much that on the way back I got another tube for my dear friend Tina, who always takes care of business when I'm away, and also got me on the plane in the first place. She loves lemongrass and she liked the scent immediately.

* I like using Aveda's hand cream, which is very nourishing, and basically saves my hands from being as dry as the desert with all the frequent washing I need to do as part of work; it also has a surprisingly light scent, unlike most of their other products, and does not clash too much with most of the perfumes I'm wearing.

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Ganache for Lips

Ganache for Lips, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I was pleasantly surprised to find these lovely lip balms at Fireworks Gallery in SEATAC. Ganache for Lips are all natural lip balms, made by Patricia West. She uses Scharffen Berger Belgian chocolate, some fragrant extracts that bring 9 flavours.

I got the Vanilla Mousse and Chocolate Mousse and found them to be both with exquisite texture and consistency, and they smell yummy yet are not sweet or sticky (only unsweetened chocolate is used). They are nourishing and glide smoothly on the lips. All flavours are made with similar ingredients, except that the "white chocolate" flavours do not contain chocolate:
sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, beeswax, shea butter, vanilla extract in fractionated coconut oil, vitamin E and rosemary extract.

They are deliciously smelling, and I could only wish they had more flavours in store (would have loved to experience the lemon mousse and raspberry chocolate!). I tried the Chocolate Mousse (which is subtly chocolatey yet without making one want to binge on chocolate all day...); and the Vanilla Mousse (reminiscent of a white chocolate flavour, even if there is no cocoa butter in there).

For the fine ingredients they are made of (both apricot kernel oil and Belgian chocolates are quite pricey) they are very decently priced at about $5 each.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Little Treasures in Sonoma

Little treasures in Sonoma, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

It's always the little things that make life memorable, and it's the same when traveling. Visual, tactile and aromatic qualities of the local botanicals where I travel always catch my attention, and in California, there were many familiar botanicals, albeit with a little twist. The place feels like a cross between my home village in the Western Galilee and my home of the past 12 years here in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Unusually silvery lichen grows on all the naked large oak trees, and is also found on the groun (taking its nourishment from the air, I presume). I was particularly smitten with their strange shape and structure - they look like a microcopic photograph of some viral attack... And the structure of oak leaves and feather-shaped redwoods caught my attention as well. Did I mention yet that I'm really interested in fractals at the moment?

Sonoma blues, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Blue skies, blue ocean and of course - some blue flowers: Forget-me-nots shyly emerging from the temporarily green grass meadows, and the rosemary bush at Sonoma County airport was covered with so many flowers it's easily mistaken for lavender. I picked three little rosemary branches and can't wait to use it in my cooking, including for my Mardi Gras party (for launching New Orleans perfume) next Tuesday!

Mimosas in Graton, CA, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

The mimosas here are significantly taller (look like trees rather than bushes), but the flowers are the tiniest little fluffy yellow pompoms. The scent, as I mentioned earlier, is that of sweetpeas and fresh cut grass.

Other yellow flowers which I haven't taken photos of, and also haven't seen FOREVER are yellow sorrels. I promptly nibbled on a whole stalk the moment I found one. They are just about as sour as rhubarb, but the stems are much thinner so you get more time to get accustomed to each tangy bite.

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Sonoma County Inspirations

Bodega Bay, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

My unexpectedly extended visit to Sonoma County did not make saying goodbye to that beautiful part of the world any easier… It’s the first time in the personal history of me, when I’m really sad to leave a place and go back home to Vancouver. My favourite part of travel used to be heading back home. I’m sure I’ll be happy in my home just the same. But I would have been happier to just stay right there, if it wasn’t for the fact that my life (family, friends and business) do not seem to fit too well in a carry-on suitcase.

Sonoma Sheep, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Sonoma county is beaming with beauty in and out. The people there are warm and friendly, and wine bottles grow everywhere… The valley is pretty much covered in vineyards and the sides of the road are laced with yellow blooming acacias, and white almond tree blossoms (or at least they look like almond trees...). Giant Californian oaks exchanged their leaves for a coat of silvery lichen and pale green moss, and redwoods stand tall like proud statues. The winding road to the north coast was breathtakingly beautiful. Shy sheep herd on the green hills (or nap in the middle of the road). Red-tailed hawks hover over, just waiting for the right opportunity to snatch a meal from below.

To say that the place is inspiring is an understatement. Taking in all the beauty is a bit overwhelming, and more often than never I find that inspiration, like a seed, needs some time to hibernate, soak some water and wait for the right temperatures and sunlight conditions before it begins sprouting. Shortcuts don’t seem to work. Yet my curiousity is getting the better part of me and I’m already beginning to nudge myself and see what else, besides these blogposts, will come out of my 1st (and hopefully not the last!) trip to Sonoma.

P.s. this year is already the complete opposite of 2010, and I am happily surprised!

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