כתלה חריפה Chiliadenus iphionoides

Sharp Varthemia (Chiliadenus iphionoides), or in Hebrew Ktela Harifa (כתלה חריפה) likes to grow inside rocks and has the most incredibly resinous, rustic, complex aroma. It truly is like a complete perfume all of its own, exemplifying what Garriague and Chypre are all about.

Sharp Vartehmia

I've stumbled upon this plant by chance, first near Keshet Cave in Park Adamit near the Lebanese border. A beautiful place with gorgeous view. It was one of two aromatic plants i was unable to identify, but intuitively knew they are both of medicinal and aesthetic value. I later found Varthemia on the mountain above my house. But it wasn't until I saw Yonat HaMidbar post about it and rave about its lovely perfume that I was able to identify the plant (it was never in bloom when I saw it, and it's near impossible to ID plants when they are not in bloom).

Vartehmia Incense Cones

Shortly after I was not only inspired to finally make incense cones out of it, but also studied some of the medicinal properties of it. Among others, it is good for heart problems and diabetes - and seems like a very gentle herb to enjoy in tea (as long as it's not overly done). I picked some for a friend who just had a heart attack, and figured my own heart could benefit from it too. So I've been sipping a lot of vartehmia. marrubium and white mint tea. A lovely combination, and feels to be soothing both the heart and the soul.

Heart Soothing Tea


My next adventure with vartehmia is infusing it in both alcohol and olive oil. From the olive oil I will make a single-note vartehmia soap (I will also have it brewed into tea for the water component of the soap making process, so that it is as naturally fragrant as possible). From the alcohol infusion, which turned out beautifully resinous and rich, I've created a rustic, garrigue-inspired amber perfume, which I am debating if you launch this fall or not. It's a further development of an old, old, old formula that was almost sickeningly sweet because the amber base in it wasn't my own and I am quite certain contained some artificial molecules. Frankly, that base smelled more like an ambreine accord. The perfume I made with it included a touch oregano that balanced this sweetness to some degree, but not enough. I want the new perfume to be more authentic and local, and use my own herbal infusions in it - but without taking away from the luxurious character of the perfume. It is very different from the original, and surprisingly has a bit of the Espionage DNA to it - even there is nothing smoky about it. Must be the ambreine accord (which, FYI, is the core of Shalimar, Emeraude and the like). 


Coming Into Seed

Coming Into Seed
The rainy season came and went, the explosion of spring flowers has quieted down, and was replaced by lacy white flowers from the carrot family. Now that the rain stopped completely, we seems to be entering a period of gradual death. First some of the wild oats has taken the bright colour of gold, and bit by bit all the lush green wile plants are changing into the summer foliage: slimmer, and at times thorny leaves that will prevent loss of moisture in the upcoming months.

Artedia squamata
I've been through this season at least twenty times before, but never experienced it this way. There is so much beauty in this late spring, entering summertime. The intolerable heat of summer is inevitable but it is not here quite yet. And there are still plenty of flowers: hollyhocks, lacy white doilies of wild carrots, Queen Anne's Lace and many other from the umbellifera family. The tiny ones look like floating bubbles, the medium ones stick together to form bridal gowns of the wildest designs, and the largest of all make a fashion statement like an Italian straw hat that a famous actress would wear.

Artedia squamata

All of the spring flowers (except of the late bloomers that are still churning up pollen and nectar) have already gone to seeds. My brothers and I are collecting some of our favourites (e.g., Ricotia lunaria) and spread them around so they will grow in more places next year. There is magic in knowing that within all that dry death that came upon the flowers - there is promise for much life and continuity next year. It somehow makes me feel better about my grandmother too.

House Heart Beat

Bidding farewell

It was so hard to leave last night. Everything felt so rushed… Even though the place was practically empty, it still felt like home. I didn’t want to leave it. Tying so many tiny loose ends (and leaving many others to friends, because frankly, I just couldn’t have finished this task alone - both physically and mentally) seem to take forever and I came to terms with the notion that it will be yet another sleepless night in a series of very sleep deprived and work-loaded months. I went room by room and it didn’t feel right to leave. Even with all my furniture and belonging gone, it still felt cozy and sweet. Like all the friends I hugged before going away, there were tears in my eyes and a whisper in my ears to not go.

As I finally made my way out, it felt more like saying goodbye to a friend. A massive-sized friend that housed us in her belly for almost twelve years, and has provided much more than just shelter - it has been a source of comfort and coziness, warmth and connection whenever everything else fails. nothing could have prepared me for how hard this is going to be. I never lived in a place this long. And I have gone through so much in this place - like several lifetimes, really. 

It was a place where friends could stop by unannounced for a cup of tea, or to stretch and chat by the fireplace, break bread or pour their hearts at the piano. It was a steady home and a friend that was always ready to receive me, no matter how harshly I mistreated it. It was a place that sometimes I would not leave for many days because I was broken hearted and struggling with depression - and a place that was actually not that bad to be locked up in even through five months of debilitating back injury that forced me to look up from the window from a lowly place on the floor. It was a place I was proud to call home and celebrate so many happy occasions, make new friends and I think also other people made new friends in. 

In this place I was able to finally bring to fruition the vision I had to my business - simply because it provided the right space for that. I was able to create a little bit of community around me, in lieu of the family I missed so much. And to whom I am now returning. 

I hope I am not going to regret this move. I certainly am going to miss living in this home and the life in the West End and on the West Coast. I am thankful that this neighbourhood has been my home for the last 18 years. It allowed me to grow as a human, artists, and to raise my daughter to the best of my motherly abilities. I don’t think I would have been able to start my business and build this life for my daughter without that elected exile of 18 years. And this is exactly what also enables me to return back to my original home and family. 

As I contemplate this feeling of leaving the house, and feeling the house’s heartbeat - I realize this pulse is a reflection of all the love that we carry around us. Despite much suffering that I’ve endured in this space, it has been filled with love, laughter, friendships and was always a welcoming place for those who needed it.  

My only regret was not being to pay due resect to the old piano… I was so happy when I got it and that my daughter was benefitting from it too. But I have not been playing it much in recent years, and it has become more of a symbol of stability than a musical instrument; an anchor in the household. I was unable to find a new home for it before I left, and had to send it to the recycling station, which is practically a piano’s grave. I am so sad about this and feel that this was very ungrateful of me. My only consolation is a vague hope that maybe someone picked it up from there and is playing it right now… 

Climbing the Mountain

Climbing Mt. Daniel

Last Thursday, we were vacationing in the Sunshine Coast, and I decided to climb up Mount Daniel with my daughter. It seemed especially appropriate because this mountain was traditionally used by the Coast Salish people (the region's First Nations) to initiate their young girls into womanhood. Our vacation was all about celebrating my daughter's high school graduation - so this seemed meant to be...

We packed some snacks and water, my handmade mosquito spray, lavender oil for bites and cuts, and started going up the trail. It was supposed to be about 45-60min hike, climbing up to 440m elevation. My daughter is significantly fitter than I am - she never gets tired when we walk the beautiful trails in the parks around us, and there is no shortage of uphill and downhill where we usually walk. She always walks way ahead of her old mamma. I thought she'll enjoy the challenge. I was so wrong. She was still walking ahead of me, but made clearly audible signs of discomfort and discontent with the whole ordeal. Five minutes into the walk I was already worried so I asker her if she wants to go back to the car or walk on and she wanted to go back. She complained about headache and looked kinda pale too... Or maybe I was just imagining this.  I have no idea why, I decided to continue... But insisted that we stop for breaks and drink water and snacks on the way up. And also that she walks behind me (in old mamma pace, that is) rather than lead in her super-girl stride. Things got a little better then, and she was not in as much distress as before.

We kept walking up what turned out to be beautiful but not at all easy trail. Which meant that we couldn't really enjoy the flora and fauna all that much because our gaze was too focused on the trail and what our next step should land on. And the summit is always invisible, which adds to the uncertainty, anxiety, and anticipation. It's really easy to lose the big picture when climbing a mountain, forget why we are even here... Each step, and sometimes breathing itself is so painful and we get too focused on the rhythmic stride and breath-mechanism and feeling the suffering - unable to converse or sing or really pay attention to anything else that makes striding along a path in nature enjoyable on most other occasions... And from a caregiver's point of view, it is much harder to pay attention to my daughter's needs and state of mind if I'm struggling myself. It's so much easier to help others and be mindful of their needs when you are well yourself.

Mushroom Heart

In the end, it took us more than an hour to get up there (we stopped about 4 times to catch our breath). And when we got to the first summit I thought we got lost - because there was non of the view that everyone who told us about this trail raved about... But we enjoyed the grass and moss covered rocks, and the warmth of the sun, and the smell of West Coast Garrigue - the mingling of arbutus, berries, sun-warmed grass, conifer needles and moss-covered rocks. I even found a heart-shaped fungus! We peeled an orange and Tamya drew a little bit and began to feel happy and proud again.


Thankfully, we quickly found our way back to the obscured trail, and less than five minutes later the second summit with the promised view unrolled in front of our eyes. We stopped there for a while, snacking on wild blueberries, drawing and writing in our journals, meditating on the meaning of climbing a mountain and dragging your children into an adventure that perhaps has very little meaning to them... But is important for you. And now after watching this trailer, I'm also seeing the other broader analogies to this very stressful transitional time into adulthood. As a society, we expect our children to fly the coup at 18 (or 20 at the most). We equate "independence" as "success". But what when this is not possible? Where do you draw the lines between what your grown-up child's needs and what you need as a human who's been a caregiver for over 19 years, and mentally should prepare to remain in that role for as long as you live? How do you keep that balance of respecting another person's choices (or even giving them choices), when it is very unclear which understanding they have of major life decisions? Which brings me to - what do we know at all about major life decisions? And what happens when all your mistakes don't just affect yourself, but also your dependant yet grown-up child?

Mt. Daniel, Pender Harbour

All my life I've been told that "What's good for the caregiver is better for the dependant too". This seemed like golden advice when my daughter was still a minor. Somehow, it feels really selfish and icky to take on that responsibility of potentially ruining your most beloved person in the world just because you need to do something for yourself for a change. And then you realize, that like anything in life, decisions are never cut and dry "good" or "bad". That even a "better" decision will always leave you with a huge chunk of gut-wrenching guilt and sadness. And that sometimes you don't really know that you made a mistake until 20 years into it...

Pender Harbour Self Portrait

P.s. You should watch the trailer (or the whole movie) "My Brother is Brave" 

New Perfume: Lost Lagoon

 Inspired by a hidden garden of azaleas

Lost Lagoon

Happy May Day!
I'm excited to share with you my new perfume for spring and summer: Lost Lagoon.

Every spring, the rhododendrons awaken - first slowly, building anticipation. By early May, they simply burst with colour and aroma, some of the bushes so dense with flowers that you can't even see their leaves and branches...

These fragrant azaleas paint the edges of Lost Lagoon with myriads of flowers of tropical colours and exotic scents as versatile as the number of hybrids planted there: some are reminiscent of lily, others are like ylang ylang and some smell like cool suntan lotion. Bluebells, violets and other bulb flowers and annuals are planted among them; and magnolia, lilac and syringa contribute their luscious perfume to the already fragrant air. Freshly cut grass from the Pitch & Putt is the only reminder you're still in the Northern Hemisphere and not in the tropics...

Lost Lagoon

In case you can't experience this extravagant botanical explosion in person - don't be sad: I've bottled that scent especially for you!

Lost Lagoon is the third installation in "Perfume For A Place" series, which is inspired by my favourite places in Vancouver. This perfume will transport you to a secret lagoon surrounded by tropical flowers. Lost Lagoon is a refreshing Chypre with exotic floral notes of magnolia and ylang ylang and loaded with bergamot and green notes of rhododendron buds, violet leaf and galbanum.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Galbanum, Violet
Heart Notes: Rhododendron, Magnolia, Ylang Ylang
Base Notes: Oakmoss, Amber, Iris

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