Autumn Harvest Seasonal Subscription Box

Autumn Harvest Seasonal Subscription Box

The Autumn Harvest seasonal subscription boxes have gone out September 21st, and I had so much fun creating them I had hard time holding back sharing images of some of the goodies. I waited those who ordered them would receive them, to not ruin the surprise. If you intend to get one for yourself, consider this to be your spoiler alert!   

Part of the fun is that each box is a surprise. To be perfectly frank, it is a surprise for me as well. I can't know exactly what will each season unfold. I have a certain vision for the aesthetics and the concept, and a few core pieces that I know I want to include for each season. The rest of the detail kind of unfolds as I add bits and pieces to customize each parcel, making it unique and reflective of both what's happening in my studio and garden; as well as the recipient of the box.

I knew in advance that the Autumn Harvest boxes will be wrapped in Furoshiki - a  Japanese technique of wrapping presents with a square cloth. This is a sort of a 3D soft origami that folds itself around the object it is meant to protect and conceal. Mine were printed with botanicals that I created over the spring and the summer - a backdrop of yerbamate tea, and sparse botanicals such as Wild Carrot, Dyer's Coreopsis and various leaves. I've sewn each napkin myself, and wrapped it around a cornucopia of botanical treasures.

The core theme of the Autumn Harvest collection is a hand-sewn Dream Pillow. Fall is a time for shifting the focus inwards, becoming more introspective,   gathering-in and sorting (harvests, thoughts), etc. It is a natural opportunity to start looking inwards, with spiritual daily practices such as dreamwork, and meditative, repetitive crafts such as weaving and embroidery.

Dream Pillows are an age-old tradition of medicine women and witches, which are simply a small sachet stuffed with herbs that one would tuck into their pillow. The choice of herbs and fabric is what makes a dream pillow as unique as the person it is supposed to lull to sleep and inspire dreams in. These particular ones I've made are sewn from upcycled cotton fabric I have printed with gorgeous medicinal botanicals such as artemisia and geranium, and filled with mugwort, lavender, catnip and other botanicals that will bring on a restful sleep, with dreams to follow. 

The other obvious candidates for this lineup were the autumnal soaps - Black Licorice (colourful and playful, looks just like something you'd eat on Halloween!), and Pumpkin Soap Bar (made with organic kabocha pumpkin puree, and pumpkin seed oil, which is very nourishing). 

All in all, included in this unusual bundle:
Dream Pillow
Furoshiki Cloth
Black Licorice Soap Bar
Pumpkin Soap Bar {Unscented}
Bone Flower Creme Parfum
Dance of Fire perfume sample
Tree of Life Incense Cone
Prayer Leaf
Bonus Track for the first 3 people who signed up for the box: 3ml Zodiac Parfum Oil from one of the three Autumnal signs - Virgo, Libra, Scorpio




The Many Colours of Fall

Fallen Leaves by Ayala Moriel
Fallen Leaves, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

As I was driving northbound on Blenheim street yesterday afternoon, I noticed the many colours that draped over the trees: there was a deep plum from the Japanese sour plum trees, ochre, mustard yellow, burnt orange, citrine, olive, and sprinkle of scorched crimson red and burgundy from the Japanese maples. And all that beauty set against the backdrop of the North Shore’s Coast Mountains. Breathtaking!

Fall’s glorious colours resonate with how I experience its subtle outdoors aromas: the cedar and fir mulch that lines gardens and the forest floor in the Pacific Northwest; ripe rosehips falling on the ground and becoming one with it; the robust fruit aromas and flavours; burning leaves from an unseen law-breaker; that crisp, brie-like fungi smell that permeates the air from the sprouting mushrooms after the rains; and all the traditional comforts of scents and flavours that are designed to warm one from within as the temperatures drop: spiced teas, wood smoke, warm cider, and aromatic fruit being poached and baked to much delight.

So, to make this fun and a little different from previous years’ autumn lists, here comes a colour coded one to wrap up fall (the moment after Halloween’s midnight, I already came across Christmas oldies on the radio – yikes! We still got Rememberance Day before we should get started on that!). So let’s celebrate whatever is left from summer’s bounty.

Citron, of course!
This is where fragrance and flavour are one this season, surrounding the theme of Etrog.
This fall I’ve been obsessed with the fruit in all manners possible: candying etrog fruit, making marmalades out fo them, tincturing for liquor and for the next batches of Etrog Oy de Cologne.
I’ve also just recently receive a sample of l’Etrog by Artquiste, which is utterly delightful though very much in the realm of fresh citrus. Reading the ad copy I was fascinated to find that Arquiste’s interpretation also alludes to dates (which is what I have incorporated with the balsam poplar buds absolute). And the myrtle note is rather inevitable, but still nice to see the recurrence in two creations that knew very little of one another. Although you could argue that

Sous la Vent, with it’s breezy, fresh and sunny personality with a dark edge, and is equally fougere and chypre. A man should be able to wear this without threat to his masculinity.
Flavour: The aromas of just-picked green olives, before they were pickled or pressed into an oil. Perhaps it’s too literal, but it’s exactly the

Fragrance: Golden osmanthus is in bloom in late October in Japan – so to me it’s always a seasonal symbol, echoing the sakura theme of the spring. I’ve been rotating between a few osmanthus fragrance for an upcoming theme on SmellyBlog. But admittedly, I’m rediscovering my own Kinmokusei in oil parfum form. It has a surprisingly honeyed base more so than the alcohol based eau de parfum. Which I have no explanation for except for concentration. And I’ve been enjoying the quite animalic interpretation by Artemisia which I will elaborate on in my upcoming osmanthus series (yes! Coming this week!). Last but not least in the osmanthus world is the beautiful, haunting incense that my friend Noriko brought me from Japan. Nothing natural about it, but it does smell just like the real fresh flowers I’ve met at Ineke’s garden this summer. Soapy, sweet and effervescent.
Flavour: Osmanthus green tea. Visually beautiful tea blend of grassy green tea from China, specked with fragrant golden osmanthus. And the liquor has a bright citrine colour and a flavour that is refreshing and mysterious – like a mixture of violet, apricots and green tea, of course.

Fragrance: Un Crime Exotique, with its soothing comfort – it is reminiscent of poached pears in star anise. The warmth and comfort I derive from this scent is only matched by how soothing I find the right shade of mustard yellow to be…
Flavour: Quince. Incidentally, there is also an Italian tradition of making quince mustard! The rosy nuances in fresh ripe quince’s aroma are sublime; and strangely enough, quince turns a beautiful pink once cooked. It’s quite magical!

Fragrance: Cognoscenti No. 19 (Warm Carrot). It’s so unusual, refreshing in concept and execution, both with carrot seed being the main theme, and also the structure or how the notes are orchestrated. It’s up there with Bois des Iles in my opinion.
Flavour: Golden Curls tea from Yunnan region (imported directly from the farmer by O5 Rare Tea Bar). It has notes of roasted butternut squash, and smooth, delicately toasty and sweet.

l’Artisan's Tea for Two. Everytime I wear this I ask myself why I don’t wear it more often.
21 year old aged oolong (O5 Rare Tea Bar)

Forest Walk, by Sonoma Scent Studio, evokes that magical time of the year in the deep Pacific Northwest forests, where coniferous leaves begin to rot and the first rains bring out a spurt of wild mushrooms. The warmth of oak leaves, and the coolness of damp soil. And there is also an incredible labdanum incense by Airs, which my aunt gave me years ago and I can’t find anywyere. I’m down to my last 2 sticks.
Flavour: Freshly picked wild chanterelles and black trumpets. And cooking them too.

Omniscent 0.96 with its luscious, multi-layered festival of flowers, incense and fruits. It makes a bold statement like carrying an orange bag.
And there is also a candle to go with this colour: Harvest by Gabriel’s Aunt. Literally, the scent of a burning Jack O Lantern with hints of pumpkin pie. We are talking real pumpkin and spices, not that fake fragrance that takes over the dollar stores at this time of the year.
Flavour: Guavas, which occasionally make their way to the grocery stores are a tropical fruit that I will forever associate with fall and the time when my daughter was born. Their aroma has green aspects, as well as spicy, herbal and even woodsy notes, and an ever so slight reminiscence to strawberry and stinky socks.

Chinatown, with it’s strange juxtaposition of peonies, gardenias, 5 spice, juicy peach and modern woody-chypre base. It’s the warmth and quirkiness in it that makes it very suitable for fall. It can be a little too loud for most other seasons.
Flavour: Poached red Bartlett pears in star anise, vanilla and Zinfandel.

Mitsouko. There is no fall without it.
Flavour: Cask Aged Ghorka Estate black tea (O5 Rare Tea Bar). Full-bodied, with hints of baked apples. Do I need to say anything more?

Nuit de Noel, which I’ve been craving earlier than usual this year. It’s rosy without being rosy, and is reminiscent of roasted chestnuts.
Flavour: Plum & hazelnut coffee cake muffins. The nutty, caramelized aroma of roasting chestnuts on charcoals – a unique scene on Vancouver’s streets which begins in the fall and goes on through the colder months until the chestnuts run out.

What are your fall colours? And which scents and sensations make this season for you? Share your favourite fall flavours and fragrances, and enter to win a little sample set of some of my own favourites, teas included!
Lucky draw entries close on Friday, November 9th, at noon.

Incense & Chocolate

Chocolate Smoke

The sensual world connects between the physical and the spiritual. It is with mindful observation of sight, touch, taste, sound and scent that we are able to connect to the world's divine beauty and discover the divinity that lies within us and pulsates through the universe.

Incense & Chocolate is a perfume that combines elements of two ancient rituals of offerings - burning of incense, and drinking a sacred beverage (hot cocoa, consecrated wine, etc.) as offering to the gods. In ancient Mexico, where chocolate originated, it used to be only the king who was allowed to drink cocoa, and otherwise it was offered to Quetzalcoatl, the god of cacao.

In our modern life, those little rituals that are often viewed as over-indulgences and are immersed in guilt, self criticism or worries about being judged by others - might in fact just be our little gesture towards our ancestors who were wiser than us with their choice of daily routines (for example: burn incense and meditate in the morning before checking their email... oh, wait, there was no email then!) and our way to connect to earth and ground ourselves in the modern world where almost everything turned virtual and disconnected reality.

Incense & Chocolate is a perfume that combines elements of two ancient rituals of offerings - burning of incense, and drinking a sacred beverage (hot cocoa, consecrated wine, etc.) as offering to the gods. I created it this summer, inspired by the two daily rituals I noticed have become important little moments each day: burning Japanese incense, which seems to calm me down and centre me, and savouring dark chocolate - that literally nourished my body, as well as my soul. I know it sounds very dramatic, but I really don't think I would have survived this summer without chocolate...

So exhale all your worries, uncork this bottle of magic and breath in the aroma of dark chocolate, olibanum, prehistoric fossilized amber resin and oud.

Incense & Chocolate is a One Of A Kind perfume - I created only one bottle of it, and the person who picks it first will be the only person I will create it for again in the future. It is bottled in our new EDP splash/spray bottles.

Top Autumn Sensory Discoveries

Naked Ginger
This ties in nicely to my Autumn Aromas & Fall Flavours series of posts, but is actually part of a joint blog project for the season that Helg at Perfume Shrine has invited us to participate in. Visit the blogs at the bottom of this post to expand your sphere of sensations!

This year I have discovered the sense of touch. Not that I lived without it or wasn't aware of it before; but I feel that I have been re-acquainted with it, and after living my life through my nose for many years, I'm now connecting these sensations with the tactile world... Reading Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses certainly helped me to notice that and understand better the meaning that the sense of touch plays in my life. There is more to skin than appearance...

And this spills over to my creative efforts of perfumery in surprising ways that I could have not expected - particularly with Zangvil which is due to launch 20.11.2011, on which I will talk about at much length as its release date approaches... For now I'd like to touch upon a few new sensory delights I've discovered recently.

Touch: Wool & Cold Skin
Wool, as it turns out, is not always itchy and irritating... And in the Pacific Northwest it is our best friend, hairless creatures that we are... I stumbled upon a rare find - a 2-way stretch wool tights by Metalicus that I can spend the whole day in without feeling the urge to undress or scratch my thighs; and we all know how marvelous Cashmere wool feels, and how little of it is enough to keep us wrapped in warmth... And me and my woolen shorts (often paired with over-the-knee socks and colourful boots) are pretty much inseparable, regardless of how sunny or rainy these fall days may be. They also make me either look very happy or very ridiculous - eitehr way I don't care, because it sure garners smiles from passers by whichever way I go.

The other extreme of fall is that of the dropping temperatures. And while it can be sunny and beautiful out, the water temperatures drop significantly once October rolls in. Not that this stops me from the occasional ocean swim... I find it interesting that my friend Jolanta, who was the first lady that fell for my perfume Zangvil, likened its scent to the experience of swimming in a cold glacier lake up in the Rocky Mountains: An experience that was all about the extremes: bracing cold water contrasted by the dry hot mountain air int he middle of the summer. Perhaps it is that extreme sensation that I crave when I go for my ocean swims. The hot/cold confusion that makes the blood rush and circulate so much faster, making the cold air feel warm, and makes life feel tangible after every cell of my exterior wrap is punctured by an icy needle of ocean water below 15C.

Flavours: Black Cardamom & Star Anise
New spicy discoveries include, undoubtedly, black cardamom. But I'm also feeling an increased love for star anise - which has a mysterious yet very sweet and licorice-like taste, using it in both savoury and sweet treats. It's marvelous in Vij's recipe for black chickpeas in date & star anise masala, and it's phenomenal for poaching pears. I'll be posting more recipes using either or both black cardamom and star anise in the next few days (and I have a project on the horizon of a pomegranate & black cardamom chocolate torte).

Culinary Textures: Pear & Quince
Not that these are the only textures I enjoy with food, but they are certainly evocative of the season. The texture of cooked or baked quince is matched only by that of poached pears (which are more delicate - less grainy - though Bosc peras are quite similar). Because quinces are so tough to cut, I usually buy them only once a year. This time around, I'm planning to poach them in red wine, then bake them in a chocolate frangipane tart!

And speaking of pears, for a little taste of heaven, make yourself a a brie & pear sandwich on fresh croissant - begin with spreading a bit of cassis mustard, top with a slice of room-temperature brie cheese, and finish with ripe sliced red Bartlet pear.

Sight: Red
I've been avoiding wearing red for at least a couple of years now, for reasons unknown to me. It used to play a huge role in my wardrobe, especially with contrasting black and white... I've moved into the real of cool colours instead - teal, sea blue, kelly green and even electric blue! But fall (and Apothic Red...) is my pitfall for enjoying reds all over again - there is nothing quite as soothing to the eye as Japanese maple leaves at this time of year. A picture is worth a thousand words:

Japanese Maple Hands

Sound: Acoustic Guitar
About anything in my life goes back to skin, somehow... Which might explain why now of all times I'm drawn to guitar music (Flamenco, jazz, blues but especially flamenco). When played by master musicians that are more than just virtuoso, listening to a guitar is about as close as it gets to caressing the skin...

Oh, and I love listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela when I'm doing Pilates. It gets the heart pumping at the exact correct rate!

Scent: Dying Rosehips
There is nothing that I like better than start my day with a morning stroll in Coal Harbour as the sun rises. And thankfully, we can still see many sunrises in the autumn, even in Vancouver. There is something soothing about watching the aquaplanes coming in and out of the harbour, leaving a vanishing trail of whiteness in the water as their jet-fuel excrement mingles with intense saltiness of seaweed and clammy odours of sea barnacles drying on the rocks at low tide.

Tonight, as I strolled on the seawall in Coal Harbour and noticed a new scent as I passed by a rose bush, I noticed a new smell: decaying rosehips. Reminiscent of the forest floor's rotting fallen leaves mingled with wine-like fermenting sweetness.


Last But Not Least: Perfume
Fall is when I return to old friends such as Mitsouko, who await me patiently while I spend most of my year trying different scents that I'm working on at various stages...

I've been also returning to wearing Agent Provocatuer occasionally after a couple of years of hiatus, and really enjoying a lot its saffron facets and intense, bluntly sexual/animalic personality, saved only for the softness of rose.

And a comfort-scent to turn to is the gourmand Un Crime Exotique (poached pear, this is when you enter again...).

Aside from these three, I've been mostly wearing my own intense killer-tuberose which won't be launched till way later in 2012, and another narcissus perfume I'm working on with costus... Overall, I've been craving costus a lot lately, and I even included some in my creation for the Clarimonde project (you will read more about it over the weekend), which is another thing that is scenting my nightlife (you will see why very soon... Trust me!).

My other olfactory discoveries lies in non other than fine Japanese incense sticks (I'm yet to learn how to warm incense properly koh-doh style) - particularly the one that I'm burning tonight: Fuin Kyara stick that has just arrived in the mail after some major messing-up on behalf of Canada Post (I ordered it in August!) and I'm immensely enjoying its woody, sweet and slightly animalic aroma underlined with earthy, musty nuances and an overall sacredness that reminds me of the effect of burning frankincense - only with much less smoke. The incense keeps changing aromas as it progresses through the stick, which makes me think that it is designed that way...

I've also received a precious gift of hand-rolled Rose Nerikoh from Yuko of Phyto Perfume, and a loose incense blend from Ross Urrere. But these deserve their own post at another day.

Incense is one sure way to connect through our breath and the olfactory world into our subconscious mind and the depth of our heart... But that's already looking like the beginning of another post.

Discover more sensory delights over at:
Perfume Shrine
Katie Puckrik Smells
Scent Hive
The Non Blonde

Autumn Aromas & Fall Fragrances 2011

Every year, I like to observe the change of seasons, and watch what the new season brings along with it - some familiar scents and sights, and others are new and exciting.

This fall, I find myself strangely lured into the kitchen more than simply necessary - for baking and cooking experiments that create more food than necessary to feed my 2-person family. Thankfully, I have a brother in town who seems to be always starving, and our friends, as well as studio guests, help us clear the baking dishes for new experiments...

I'm more fascinated by cooking than I ever was before (I'm usually more excited about baking - both savoury and sweet pastries and breads, cooking has always been in my mind just a necessity, and I cook decent food but don't think of it as particularly creative or original...). And so this blog has turned into more of a food blog as of late... But that does not mean that I'm any less interested in perfume. I think what's happening is that the knowledge and experience of creating balanced perfumes is spilling into my flavouring world, and I just can't sit around when all these new recipe ideas pop into my head! Besides, while perfume formulas are not something that is advisable to share - recipes for food, desserts and libations are meant to be shared.

The following fall posts will be dedicated to autumn aromas, as I did last year, only with new fragrances, aromas and flavours. This time around, I would like to offer three posts: New aromas that I encounter this fall; Fall flavours (including a recipe or two...), and last but not least - a list of my favourite fall perfumes!
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