Sick & Chic

Sick & Chic by Ayala Moriel
Sick & Chic, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
I've been struggling with a cold since Sunday, and been trying to keep my cool about it and not feel too sorry for myself (probably the worst part of being ill). That's how I came up with the idea of Sick & Chic - maintaining your dignity through illness.

Of course this is not an easy task when you’re as sick as a dog and can’t even get out of bed. And I don't know that it would be effective or relevant for someone suffering from a serious condition. Nevertheless, just like in healthy living - it’s those little details that make the not-quite-pleasant experience just a little more bearable and ever so slightly less depressing.

Instead of drowning in used tissue, surrounded by empty mugs and 80’s workout attire (I'll be the first to admit that the ugliest clothing tend to be the most comfortable) -- bring out your finest china to drink that medicinal brew, your coziest sweater (or sweater dress), up-cycled cashmere underwear and mukluks and try to be a little bit more glamorously ill... I guarantee it will lift your spirits up. At least a little. And after the spirit, the body will follow - slowly but surely.

While we’re speaking of brews to ward off those flu bugs and chase away the chills: not all medicine tastes awful. Here are a few examples that are easy to brew even if you don’t have a personal nurse or a cook at your disposal. The key is to keep the body warm and hydrated, so it can flush out the toxins and whatever else it's fighting with... So as long as it's not coffee and alcohol - you'll probably benefit from a hot tea or tisane. But some are, of course, more effective:

Fir needle tip tea, which was the aboriginal’s only source of vitamin C throughout the winter months. It has a delicate citrus taste, reminiscent of mandarin oranges. Harvest the new growth needles in the springtime and dry for later use; or purchase from Juniper Ridge.

Another wonderful source of vitamin C is hibiscus flower tea (aka Jamaica), Besides, its ruby-red jewel tones are another reason to bring a smile to one's face. Brew it alone or throw in a few slices of fresh ginger or even a few blueberries (frozen will do) to enhance the flavour and amp up the medicinal properties (ginger is a great warming and anti-microbial brew that's wonderful for chest colds).

If hot water and lemon is your thing, why not spice it up a bit with Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech? Reminiscent of Moroccan pickled lemon and cardamom, it's sure to add some intrigue to your run of the mill lemon and hot water remedy. Besides, it's got the beneficial "side effects" of relieving fever. 

Ginger, lemon and honey is my long-time go-to whenever I have a cold. It seems to take care of it all - vitamin C, soothing the throat, aiding digestion and warming up the body. Honey also helps the immune system fight foreign invaders, and the whole thing just tastes great, in my humble opinion. Simply slice about a thumb-length of fresh ginger root, top with hot water, add a teaspoon of local unpasteurized honey - and squeeze as much lemon as you can take (up to 1/2 a lemon, preferably organic). You can also slice 1/2 a lemon instead of squeezing it - and eat the entire thing once you finished the brew. It's actually the white pith that contains the most vitamin C in the citrus... 

Sick & Chic

Feeling extra glamorous - and your nose is not 100% plugged and useless? A little perfume won't hurt to lift up your spirits. This is the time for those otherwise in-your-face spicy orientals: they won't feel nearly as overpowering as before (though you still should be careful of overdosing, in case you are surrounded by humans whose noses are not as plugged as yours). Opium, Tabu, Youth Dew - the time is now! And what with their slightly medicinal air of all those oriental spices and patchouli, medicine chests and the Chinese clinic are not an unpleasant association.

Not surprisingly, I'm partial to my Zangvil, which I created exactly when I was feeling cold and sick. It never fails from bringing that feeling of coziness and well-being and just warms me up, with magnolia lily, ginger lily and ginger.

Speaking of ginger lily - it is a rather unusual note that shares some characteristics with ginger root: effervescence, complexity, warmth and sensuality. It started showing up in perfumes such as Dark Amber & Ginger Lily, where it disappears in a blink of an eye and gives way to sheer amber and woodsy musks. In Providence Perfume Co's Ginger Lily, this note is paired with rather bold spices - clove and cinnamon - to create a modern spicy oriental that is all-natural and seductive. But also perfect for those under-the-weather days, when you're not sure if you want a medicine or a perfume.

If your cold has reached the point of needing to steam with eucalyptus or camphor - try a dab of 1000 by Patou, or better yet - Shiso by Aftelier will make you feel glamorous about it. After all, borneol camphor is what the geishas used to scent their kimonos with; and their milky white skins were adorned with a powdered form of incense containing camphor, cassia, sandalwood, agarwood and other sweet spices and herbs. 

Chinatown is one of those powerhouse modern fruity chypres, where more is less (so you might not be as overwhelmed by it when you have a cold!). It also has an unusual concoction of spicy medicinal notes reminiscent of the TCM's clinic, where powdered Don Quai permeates the air, numbing pain an bringing up memories - alongside many other sickeningly bitter herbs.

Mitsouko is another go-to-favourite when things don't go quite so well. It has proven to withstand the test of time (read: bad memories) and even though I was wearing it during a very traumatic time when my daughter was hospitalized - I still enjoy it very much. It's one of those friends that will never leave you, even when all hell breaks lose. It's that good. Besides, it is so perfectly balanced - dry yet sweet, fruity yet spicy, warm yet clean and elegant - that it never fails.

And if nothing at all seems to satisfy you - you can make an aromatherapeutic diffuser blend to keep all those winter bugs at bay, clearing your space while infusing it with a lovely, refreshing smell. You may also use 10-20 drops of this blend in a bath:
20 drops Eucalyptus oil
20 drops Lemon oil
10 drops Ginger oil
10 drops Thyme, Linalool
3 drops Allspice oil

What do you wear when you're feeling ill? Do you just go au-naturelle - or do some scents seem to help you get out of it?

Shiso Parfum

Shiso parfum is said to be based on a Geisha powdered-perfume formula (also known as “body incense”), and it certainly smells that way, only far more intense and medicinal. Shiso parfum smells immediately of mysterious, dark tea houses, where the accentuated facial features of expressionless pale-faced Geisha. The many layers of silk kimonos that enrobe these geishas, wrapped up in obis restrictive etiquette, were stored in protective camphor chests and smell of such. While there certainly is shiso oil in this perfume (that unusual Japanese herb that looks like a cross between basil and patchouli leaf and is used to wrap meats and sashimi has a complex aroma that is both green-herbal, powdery and spicy – very similar to cumin). But it could have also been called kusu no ki (camphor in Japanese) with a similar effect.

Other apparent notes are camphor, which reminded me instantly of a little bottle my aunt gave me eons ago of "Eucalyptus oil" that smelled too good to be just that. In Shiso parfum the medicinal, cool temperament of camphor gains a heady, perfumy edge as it's escorted by nasal screw pine (kewda) and fresh sophistication of green peppercorns. Rose petals are not quite easily made out, but they are there and just as soft as a young woman's cheek, slightly dusted with rouge.

Agarwood and antique sandalwood are essential for this perfume's aunthenticity as there is no incense or any Japanese perfume without either one component. Spices such as dry-warm cassia and eugenolic cloves, also make an appearance but they are all blended to a powdery, woody, herbal and spicy-warm concoction that it’s difficult to smell any note in particular besides the shiso, camphor and agarwood that realy stand out. This is exactly how I would have imagined the perfume that would emanate from a Geisha’s kimono sleeves, white-washed skin and artfully-made-hair as she tiptoes by with frozen expression floating atop skyscraping Geta.

Top notes: Camphor, green pepper, kewda
Heart notes: Rose, shiso, antique cloves
Base notes: Agarwood, vintage patchouli, cassia bark, antique sandalwood

Clean Agarwood Incense

Lichen, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Opposites do not only attract; they are also very similar. The musty, damp, rotting-wood scent of agarwood oil is precisely what makes it clean smelling. It's a strange olfactory paradox that I'm unable to explain.

I've created Bon Zai in 2001 as a custom scent to my ex-husband, who for no reason that I can explain, reminded me of Japanese garden. Bon Zai was meant to be minimalistic, woody and off-beat, like nothing else but at the same time with a sense of tranquility and purpose, harmony and balance like a bon sai tree in a zen garden with cool moss-covered rocks, flowing trails and trickling water; yet at the same time still evoke a very old tree at the top of a cliff.

Bon Zai was one of my very first perfumes and the skeleton for the formula was something that I found in Poucher's book called "Japanese Bouquet". I followed the formula similarly to how I follow recipes from a cookbook: I read it, imagine what it should be like, and try to make it ten times better.

The perfume you have recently experienced is different from the original 2001 creation because of a little transformation it went through just by adding two essences that characterize Japan's olfactory world: shiso and agarwood.

Shiso is a very strange herb that looks like small patchouli leaves (or large mint leaves), with serrated edges. It is one of the most finicky things to cook with, as it reacts very badly to heat: it looses all of its aroma. In Japanese cuisine, green shiso is eaten fresh, as a whole leaf to wrap sashimi, or thinly sliced to garnish cold soba noodles. There is also purple shiso, but that's another story...

What shiso did to the formula was transport the coniferous pine and juniper from the forest into the top of the mountain, where the air is clear and clean, and the forest is so healthy and pure that lichen grows on the wind-swept pines. It adds water and space to the wood, making it feel even more airy and light than it was ever before.

The agarwood adds a very subtle touch: the base otherwise has woody notes of sandalwood, vetiver and antique patchouli. The accent here is on the sandalwood though. Vetiver and patchouli in that particular context and ratio reads "woody" rather than "earth" or "dirt". The agarwood, although sharing some similarities with both sandalwood's precious woods and incense characters, and with the mustiness of vetiver and patchouli, goes all the way to the direction of pure smokeless incense. It's like a sheer veil of incense or the trail that a sandalwood fan leaves in its wake...

Aftelier's Orchid

The star of the show in Aftelier's Orchid is orange blossom, masked by a contrasting olfactory context to reveal an imaginary fragrance of an exotic orchid hidden in the midst of a tropical swamp. The flowers are floating above musty jungle-dust of toxic purple mushrooms and thick marsh water that is bubbling with silent life and violent decay. The euphoric and intoxicating fragrance lures us through the deadly water to find out more about its mysterious source and become illuminated by its beauty.

There is no true orchid essential oil (except for vanilla, of course, which is produced from the fermented pods of the vanilla orchid). In fact, orchids have a long history in perfumery of being "faked” by the perfumer using what is often referred to as a "compound" - an array of natural essences and synthetic molecule to portray either an imaginary scent or to replicate a scent in nature that cannot be distilled from the original plant or flower.

Mandy Aftel, one of the pioneers of Natural Perfumery, does it with her Orchid solid perfume. While I can't say that this scent reminds me of any particular orchid I’ve ever smelled - I can attest to the originality and imagination that shines in this perfume.

In Orchid, Mandy Aftel artfully paired the sunny, cheerful and spring-like floral note of orange flower absolute with the mysterious and deep aroma of shiso leaves. Shiso (aka Perilla) is a Japanese herb used to flavour meats, soba noodles and sushi. It has a strange and unique scent - warm, herbal and powdery all at once, green and with a slightly cumin-like undertone. The result is stunning and unusual. The base is a subtle sweet vanilla. The only problem I have with this scent is that it doesn't last on my skin for as long as I’d like it to; yet the immense pleasure of dipping my fingers in the elegant silver compact makes up for that, and exemplifies Mandy’s infectious passion for solid perfumes.

Images from the film Adoptation, courtesy of IMDB.com.
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