Nerikoh

Handful of Nerikoh

Here's a handful of shaped and rolled nerikoh - incense balls from a Saturn planetary blend. The last one to complete my series of Planetary Incense Pastilles. It was a long journey to get to this point, so let me share the steps with you. Unbeknownst to you, I hav been working on a series of incense pastilles for the Seven Ancient Planets. It all went swimmingly well (not counting the years of trial and error prior to that, which began in 2001 when I first tried to make such pastilles, and abandoned it pretty quickly to move onto making the perfumes you've been enjoying all these years).

When I came to compounding the incense for Saturn, I got stuck. I went back to some of the ingredients I've used originally, and that are associated with Saturn: Myrrh, cassia, patchouli, vetiver, cedar and cypress. I changed the formulation to make it a little less harsh. Also I had actual Arizona cypress, which smells amazing - both leaves and twigs - added to this blend, rather than cypress essential oil which I used in the original formula. I was rather happy with the smell albeit it dry and bitter/acrid character (which is rather typical to Saturn energy). However, there was one problem: despite the large amount of resin, these did not form into pastilles when alcohol was added. I really did not want to turn these into incense cones. After consulting some of my incense friends, they've advised me to turn these into Nerikoh, which are Japanese incense pastilles. These are made with any compounded fragrant woods, spices and resins but are glued together with sweet sticky materials such as plums or honey.

Nerikoh for Rosh HaShanah

I made a tiny experiment with just one ball of Nerikoh before leaving for my trip to Canada. It worked well, and didn't get super hard, even though I added some makko powder prior (with the thought of turning this into incense cones). Adding honey to my Saturn planetary incense blend on Rosh Hashanah seems very appropriate. And this is what I did on Rosh Hashanah even. Of course, I added too much honey, so I left it to dry for a few days... In the above photo you can see the first step in making Nerikoh. It looks and feels very much like baking - but smells quite different!

Nerikoh
Now the honey is all mixed in to form a dough. This has a very sticky consistency, not unlike the  honey cookies I make every year for Rosh Hashanah!

Shaping Nerikoh

Shaping the nerikoh begins with making a "pitta" from the sticky "dough" and scoring it into stripes and then further cutting into small tiny squares. From these we'll make little balls, as close in size as possible. The tricky part is that it's a very sticky dough! A little like making honey cookies for Rosh HaShanah. Of course, if your mass is less sticky than the one I made, it would be easier. I also imagine that having a better surface would also help. I imagine a granite or marble surface would be better than the screechy stainless steel I have here. Although it does work quite okay.

Making Nerikoh

Forming the nerikoh dough into tiny balls. A little like making minature chocolate truffles... But way stickier! I used extra powder of sandalwood to avoid stickiness. And even then I had to go over the balls several times in the following days because they kept sticking together. Blame it on humidity. Oh, and the overdose of honey which obviously haven't dried out quite well yet.

Nerikoh
Nerikoh is ready... Almost. Needs to be cured for 6 months though before it is properly dried and develops its full character. And then it can be warmed on a micah plate atop charcoal buried in ash to fully enjoy its aroma. This can be also done with an incense heater, or even an aromatherapy diffuser (a little bowl set above a tea light).


Chypre Perfumery Course - Sign Up Now!

Lightree

The island of Cyprus (Chypre in French) is where the most ancient perfume factory was discovered. Just like these first Cypriot perfumers, we'll roam the Mediterranean garrigue and discover how to infuse local wild plants in olive oil, for both healing, beautifying and fragrant properties.
Chypre is most iconic fragrance family for fall, as it is inspired by the scent of sun-baked earth and Mediterranean plants, and the damp forest floor. There is no better time in the year to craft Chypres than the fall and in their original natural habitat where so many of the raw materials grow wild!
This week-long course covers studying the raw materials, perfume structure, how to blend a formula, how to write a formula, building accords and creating simple oil-based perfumes using oil infusions that we'll be handcrafting ourselves, and basic Chypre formulation in an alcohol base.
For those who can't attend in person, you are welcome to browse Ayala's classic collection of Chypre  perfumes.

Featured Workshop: 
Oil infusions from wild plants and/or making Oiselets de Chypre (Medieval potpourris shaped into birds)

Fragrant Field Trip:
Exploring the Mediterranean Garrigue

Featured Guest Speaker:
Local vintner, owner of a local boutique winery plus wine-tasting the "Garrigue" wines they offer


Location:
The course takes place at Ayala Moriel's new studio in Clil, Israel. This little off-the-grid organic village has scenic is in one of the country's most fascinating regions, the Western Galilee - and has a view of the Mediterranean sea (gorgeous beaches are only 20min drive), Haifa Bay and Mount Carmel. Clil provides a unique experience for students who choose to stay here (although you don't have to - there are also plenty of places around, but keep in mind that in that case car is a must). The village is solar-powered and has small population of under 1000 people, who live in custom-built homes and semi-temporary dwellings (yurts, teepees, modified train cars and shipping containers, etc.) that are scattered among ancient olive groves and wild bush and Mediterranean garrigue (comprising of carobs, oaks, pistachia and thorny bushes). Despite its size, the village is a community bustling with life and culture: our neighbours are the village's cafe (inside a tent) that is opened Thursday-Saturday and hosts live concerts, and there. A large percentage of the population are alternative healers (we're just across the "street" from an integrated holistic clinic offering massage, acupuncture, ayurvedic treatments, and more) as well as creative artists, who have their ateliers in the village - and some would also be happy to show you around - painters, sculptors, potters, glass artists, silversmiths and goldsmiths, basket weavers, etc.

Amenities:
There is a bakery that is opened twice a week (Sunday and Thursday) and offers Pizza Nights on Tuesdays. On all other days bread can be pre-ordered or purchased at the local Organic Garden (which tops off their own produce with other fruit and vegetables and organic goodies produced in the village and by nearby artisans). Thursday evenings there is a little market in the village's playground, weather permitting. Also less relevant but sometimes handy are the village's book exchange and clothing exchange, which is open 24/7 and is completely free (take what you want and leave what you no longer use).

Accommodations within the village include one boutique hotel, one guest house (India-style "hostel" on the second level of one of our neighbours) and several cabins for rent - some also offering breakfast. Sublets among the village's inhabitants are often listed and could be arranged if booked enough in advance, and also near Cafe Clil there is a small campsite for those who enjoy a fully rustic experience. If you choose to stay outside of the village - we are only 20-30min drive (depending on traffic) from lovely towns that offer also many wonderful attractions to visitors - i.e. Acre and Nahariya.

In short - there are plenty of places to explore and people to meet in Clil, so I'm sure you will enjoy your visit and find things to do and discover outside of the classroom.

There are only 2 spaces remaining in this session. Sign up now to secure your spot!



Traditional Honey Cake

Great Grandma's Honey Cake

When visiting my dad in Montreal I overheard him and a friend talk about his two wonderful family recipes for honey cake. Not having been raised with my father, and knowing very little about his side of the family - I couldn't pass on the opportunity to connect to my paternal ancenstors via culinary traditions. One of them was from a friend of my grandma and seems a bit too tricky to make. The other, which I'm sharing here, seems very authentic and has even more honey than my Savta Ruthie's recipe which I grew up on.

It is very moist, and having less spices (and no cloves at all - fathom that!) it has a definitive honey flavour, which is a good thing. Honey is a strong flavour when added to more delicate things; but can easily get lost in a recipe such as cakes and cookies. It has very little oil, and is immensely moist and with a long shelf life. It is wonderful accompaniment to either tea or coffee. And also makes a very big cake, that you can cut into squares and share with family and friends as a gift - simply wrap in a wax paper and tie with a bow.

The cake has a bit of an unusual mixing method, so pay attention to the instructions:

Preheat oven to 350F/180c

Mix together ("Honey")
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup suagr
3 Tbs vegetable oil 
1 lb honey, liquid (place in hot bath prior if it has already crystallized) 

Mix together ("Tea"):
1 cup dark tea, cooled + 1 tsp baking soda

Sift or mix dry ingredients:
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp allspice, ground
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground

Additives:
1/2 cup nuts (such as pecans, walnuts or sliced/slivered almonds)
1/2 cup raising or dates, dusted with some flour first (if you don't do that they will sink to the bottom of the pan and burn or caramelize at best) 

Juice of 1 orange 

Alternately add the tea blend and the dry ingredients to the honey blend. Mix well. Add the nuts and dried fruit and the orange juice. 

Place in a a round spinrgform pan lined with a baking sheet (or in a large rectangle pan) and bake for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Keeps well but if you don't think you can eat it within a week, keep it refrigerated. 

Forest Medicine


Mini Witch Cauldron
Anywhere in nature, including deep in the woods, the trees teach us self-healing and the plant-teachers provide medicines for body and soul. I brought my little witch cauldron to burn incense (redcedar chips and Palo Santo) without risk of burning the forest with me.

Forest Medicine
There were so many witch-inspiring finds in the forest, from intimidating-looking fungi (of which I'm yet to know any medicinal properties, but I know some of them do have that gift). To saps dripping from trees' wounds. Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) is a famous one (it is NOT the one in the photograph!), which is used for protecting the liver, for anti-inflammatory conditions, boost the immune system, ureduces anxiety and depression, aids sleep and more. In Chinese it is called lingzhi mushroom, which literally means "mushroom of immortality" and is used by many TCMs. In any case, you should not be foraging it in the woods without getting proper training in mycology, and also use it responsibly with the guidance of an herbalist or trained TCM. 

Forest Medicine
Spruce pitch and sap, for example, can be infused into oil and made into a salve that can be rubbed on the chest and relieve coughs and respiratory infections, and massages onto aching muscles. 
Plant Medicine
This collection of plants grow side-by-side on Alouette Lake. Can you recognize them all?

Plant Medicine (Pearly Everlasting)
First, as seen clearly on the foreground, there is Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea). Although it is similar in appearance, and also from the Asteraceae family, it is not as closely related to immortelle (Helicrysum). It is not so much in use in Western herbalism or medicine, but was used by First Nations to treat mostly respiratory ailments, including asthma. This is because it has both antihistamine and expectorant qualities. It is also an anti-inflammatory, astringent, diaphoretic and a mild sedative. It is used for treating headaches, colds, fevers, sore throats, allergies and asthma. To read more about how to use it, visit Wildness Within and Natural Medicinal Herbs.  It can also be used as incense - preferably on a hot stone or Japanese Koh-Doh technique on a micah plate.

Next to it also grows St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), the world one and only incredible medicinal plant that can actually treat depression. It is why it is so heavily regulated in the USA, because it's properties would threaten the existence of fluoxetine (or in its famously known brand name, Prozac) and other very profitable antidepressants. Additionally, St. John's Wort oil extract (an oil infusion that has a deep red colour) is used for treating skin diseases such as eczema and also joint pains. This is a powerful plant, and must only be used with the guidance and supervision of a licensed Herbal Medicine practitioner. Some of the side effects known for St. John's Wort are photo-toxicity (burns upon exposure to sun), and counter-acting certain drugs.

Last but not least, the shiny green leaves (more at the bottom of the pic) are those of Black Cottonwood, AKA Western Balsam Poplar (Populus trichocarpa), which contains salicin (the aspirin compound that also present in willowbark). The buds' extract (either in oil or alcohol) is also used medicinally, mostly as an anti-infalmmaroty, especially for joint and muscle pain. A salve can also be prepared from the oil infusion. Also it smells great - sweet-balsamic and ambery, which makes it a good medicine for the soul. I used it in Komorebi perfume to create the beautiful amber-like scent of the rain forest in autumn. 

Anatomy of a Tree

Spruce
Trees are infinitely inspiring to me. It is not for nothing that trees are used as a metaphor for humans. There are many lessons to learn from the trees and their way of being.

First their leaves, reaching out for the light and photosynthesizing it into energy. For instance - these feathery spruce needles smell divine and I can never go for any forest stroll or hike without rubbing a bit between my fingers and sneaking it into my water bottle. They add a citrusy-forest aroma to the water, and also contain vitamins C.

Like the tree, we reach up and for the light, and aspire to become more than just our flesh and blood. Incorporating light into our life brings an energy that is not possible to obtain by other means of nourishment.

Leaves not only absorb but also filter the light in so many ways, creating Komorebi patterns on the environment beneath them. This is perhaps also a way to protect the areas that cannot handle too much light from blinding the darkest areas. Gentle or dim light is valuable for allowing other life forms to exists, allowing also our shadow parts to develop and express themselves.

Forest Magic
Tree branches spread their arms as if in prayer or dance, and act as a host for many birds, squirrels, other critters and on their own are like a forest for various lichens, mosses and even ferns! Some of these life forms give nourishment back to the tree, that the tree cannot absorb form the light or the soil on its own.

Our hands are capable not only of creating, but also of nourishing and allowing or enabling others to create and be productive. Our hands not only give but also receive.
Woodpecker's Braile
This tree trunk was marked by a woodpecker, who searched for bugs within the bark, and while at it writing a whole novel in Braile letters! Different types of woodpeckers leave a different pattern. Can you read what it says?

Woven Bark
Redcedar bark is thick, strong and flexible, withstands decay for decades. Strips of inner redcedar bark is used by First Nations of the West Coast to craft many useful artifacts - from ropes and fishing nets to baskets and even garments. Woven into ponchos and hats, they would protect the person wearing them for getting soaked wet. And they also smell wonderfully dry, woody and, well, cedary!

Weeping Spruce
The bark is protective and strong, but when damaged - it oozes healing sap, like this (resin-) weeping spruce. The sap is not only healing for the tree itself - protecting it form dehydration, fungal infections and further decay. It also has healing properties for humans. Spruce pitch is used in various herbal medicine preparations, for example, in a salve to relive chest colds, muscle pains, sprains, and more.

Weeping Spruce
Our tears too are healing. And our wounds, although make us appear damaged, also allow us to open up and give more of ourselves and express our love to the world around us.

Old Fella
Really old dude... Smiling tree stump.
Even though it was chopped up by ignorant loggers almost a hundred years ago, it keeps smiling. I don't know how one does that, but I sure hope to learn that skill before I turn 100 years old.

Interwoven

Intertwined roots that seem to have a life of their own, reaching for symbiotic embrace. People can live all their life wondering and exploring, but there is always the deep desire underneath to go back to one's roots. This is not a metaphor, but an essential soul need: the desire to connect to and nourish from the deepest part of our psyche. The one that grounds us, protects us from swaying to far from our truth, and also the part that draws nourishment from the depths of the earth. Our roots, like the tree's, connect us to our ancestors and also to the earth (from which we come and to which we shall return).

Moss Meditation

Lightree
Wake up to the sunrise caressing your tent's screened window.  Crawl out of the tent quietly. Don't bother with the shoes. Tiptoe under the canopy of trees. Walk softly on the moss-covered forest floor. Slowly and softly place each foot on the ground. Feel the moss tickling your heels and foot arches and toes, then slowly yielding to your weight, then remove each foot slowly from the ground. Look back. Have you left a footstep? How long till the moss recovered its original density?

Droplets of dew may tickle your feet and cool them down. Don't let the chill stop you from taking another step and another step. Try not to break any branches. Listen to the birds that have already woken up. Can you see any of them?

Find a moss-covered log and walk on it, placing heel in front of toe in front of heel. See how far you can go walking only on moss-covered logs. When you've given up,  collapse on the moss, looking up at the canopy. Burn a little cedar wood chip or spruce bough as a morning incense. An offering of gratitude.

Moss meditation




Water

Alouette Lake
The flow of it, the glow of it.. Broken sun rays reflecting on the lake's surface and breaking into glitter, like thousands of golden leaves on an autumn tree. Other times it is ripples of grey satin silk, cool and smooth and in a canoe gliding quietly among fallen tree stumps.
Gold Creek
Gold Creek descending from the Golden Ears, cool and deceptive. Sometimes still, and a few curves away creating violent currents, white water and waterfalls. A deep emerald-turquoise pool carved into the rock, water rushing down its height collecting energy and then dispersing into the rocks... curving lazily among spruce, cedar and fir.

Moomin Watermill

Water-carved quiet creekside beach, with smooth pebbles and wild clay banks, pools where dogs and children swim despite its chilly promise, and little whimsical watermills can be built from leaves, with the kind instructions of the Moomin book. The little things you find time for only in the summertime.

Featured Post

Nerikoh

Here's a handful of shaped and rolled nerikoh - incense balls from a Saturn planetary blend. The last one to complete my series of Plane...