Purrfume Party to Benefit Cat Group
Laurie Stern makes perfumes at her El Cerrito home with the pink jasmine, spearmint, peppermint, lavender, honeysuckle, gardenia and other items she grows in her backyard garden. Stern has 12 perfumes, three body frostings, five hydrosols, also known as floral waters, and five bath salts that she sells online and from her home.
And because her business is named Velvet and Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery, after her two beloved cats, she also has a catnip hydrosol for kitties. We asked Stern 10 more questions about her love of cats and flowers and how she will put on a kitty tea party June 5 to beneift the Friends of Roman Cats group. Here is what she had to say:
ANNB: What is your background before you started Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery?
LS: I have always loved to make fun and beautiful things out of amazing, luxurious materials. I made one-of-a-kind lingerie pieces for high-end boutiques. Then I started my wedding flower business, which began as a small flower stand in Kensington. That business was very successful, but after 15 years I wanted to do something that didn’t require me to wake up at 2 a.m. and work 80-hours a week.
ANNB: How did you get involved with Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery?
LS: I spent several years experimenting with essential oils from all over the world. I kept a journal of how the scents of various essential oils made me feel, and I read every perfumery book I could find. My favorite is The Art of Perfumery, written in 1855. I was completely intrigued by the romance and mystery of perfumes made during what I call “the golden age of perfumery.” I put my perfumes in antique French bottles and tucked them into silky purses with pretty ribbons. Making these gifts represents a coming together of all my passions: my love of flowers, animals, Victoriana, of collecting little jewel boxes and antique bottles, and making unique gifts out of beautiful materials. In 2007 I started Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery.
ANNB: Purrfumery stems from your love of cats. Have you always been a cat lover and who are Velvet and Sweet Pea?
LS: I have always been in awe of animals and I particularly love to celebrate cats. I have had too many kitties to count and I have five now. I have always been involved in local animal rescue projects and cat adoptions. I would love to see a more humane world and I think it starts with the individual. Velvet and Sweet Pea are two of my kitties. I like to say that anything is possible because Velvet and Sweet Pea came from horrible beginnings and now they’re running a perfume business.
ANNB: We understand you have an amazing garden at your home. What do you grow?
LS: My husband, Gary, is a landscape architect. Together he and I created my Perfumer’s Garden. We grow citrus, herbs, roses and about 20 varieties of scented geraniums. I adore the scent of jasmine and roses, so there is plenty of jasmine. We also grow spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, lavender, lemon verbena, gardenia, and irises.
ANNB: What do you do with the items you grow?
LS: I use many of the plants and flowers in my perfumes and other personal care products. I infuse organic alcohols with honey, vanilla, and roses and I also hand-tincture many of the geraniums. I make moisturizers from the beeswax from our bees and jasmine. I also teach classes on making scents from items in your garden. Each of my products is almost entirely organic and I don’t use any animal products – ever. Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery received a “Leaping Bunny” certification 2 years ago, which certifies that I do not do animal testing and that none of the ingredients I use have been tested on animals by the companies we buy from.
ANNB: Tell us more about your work against animal testing.
LS: This is a really wide topic that includes more than 100 million animals that are used every year in the United States as models in biological and medical research. I have been a member of the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) for many years and support their work to end animal experimentation. While the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Products Safety Commission regulate cosmetic/personal care and household products, neither of these agencies require that companies test their products on animals. Companies make this choice for themselves. Animal testing by cosmetic, personal care, and household product companies involves exposing animals, usually rabbits, to high-doses of irritating and toxic substances. There are many alternatives including in vitro that could make animal testing for cosmetic products a thing of the past.
ANNB: What do you love most about what you do?
LS: Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery embodies all that I love: perfume, the natural world, sensuality, and kitties. The hours I have spent learning the art and craft of perfumery have been some of my very favorite moments. Making perfume is very meditative and solitary. I also love my social events, like my Kitty Tea Parties and classes, when I get to meet others and share my perfumes with them. A big part of my work with the Purrfumery involves educating perfume lovers about what is in the perfumes they wear. I believe it’s important to know.
ANNB: We understand you are holding a Kitty Tea Party on June 5, tell us what that is.
LS: This is a very special event because it benefits Friends of Roman Cats, a San Francisco-based group that helps homeless and feral kitties in the United States and abroad, especially in Italy, and provides emergency funds for surgeries and other veterinary care. The group also leads tours of gardens and community cat colonies in Venice, Florence and Rome. We sit among the roses in bloom and enjoy high tea and yummy, homemade desserts - this time it will be vegan blood orange and almond scones, Russian perfumer tea cookies with patchouli, lemon rose dew drop cookies, and our famous jasmine and orange blossom chocolate truffles. We also give each guest a Purrfumery goody bag filled with delectable scented treats.
ANNB: What is your connection to the Friends of Roman Cats?
LS: FORC does a tremendous amount of work here and abroad to fund Trap-Neuter-Release programs and support No-Kill laws for homeless and feral cats. That means they are always looking for ways to spay-and-neuter homeless and feral kitties and release them back into the community, rather than euthanize them. They also have a fund to help people pay for veterinary care, which is amazing because sometimes caring for a sick kitty can be very costly. I have supported FORC for years because I have always really believed in their mission to help stranded and sick cats. I have wanted to have a benefit for them for a while. Recently, I turned to FORC to help me provide love and care to a family of cats after their owner died in March. The June 5 party fee of $25 benefits FORC. I will donate 20 percent of everything sold in the Purrfumery that day to FORC.
ANNB: How can people find your products or more about the Tea Party?
No Kirstie Alley Collection for this Woman
This is my 30th week on the Weight Watchers program. I am really happy with my progress, despite gaining weight while on vacation in April. This last week I lost 1.2 pounds for a total of 36 pounds.
I have been reflecting quite a bit lately about losing weight and realized that it has relieved a lot of stress I was feeling. Yes, I was concerned about getting dressed every day.
I feared that one day I would wake up and nothing I owned would fit. I would have to shuffle around in pajamas bottoms and men's XL T-shirts or accept shopping in the stores for plus-sized women.
My rationale for being overweight was always, "Well, I'm a mom. I'm allowed to look like this," or "I have two small kids and work full time - what does anyone expect?" Buying a minivan in November of 2007 coincided to a large extent with my weight gain, and I have often wondered if, subconsciously, the van gave me more freedom to be fat.
It certainly helped complete my transformation to fat mom. I love that the lease is up this November and the minivan is going back. I
'm now looking for something more hip. I tried to make jokes about my weight gain, as well. I cracked that I'm now shopping in the "Kirstie Alley Collection," thinking that her well-documented yo-yo dieting and mine were very similar. But, there was never more than a chuckle from my friends. It just wasn't funny what had become of me.
Another depressing change was how I felt about attending professional events, something my job requires. As I gained weight I remember feeling sad when events were approaching. I was not my normal outgoing self with those 36 extra pounds. Often I wanted to disappear, blend in to the wall, crowd, or whatever. I didn't have a lot of interest in getting together with friends, going on vacation or seeing anyone that I had not seen in a long time.
I dreaded facing people and feared that I would see a look of surprise or disgust on the faces of people who were used to seeing me much thinner. I rationalized that if no one said anything to me about gaining weight (i.e., is everything OK with you?) they had not noticed.
I figured if we were still getting invited to events and parties, I must still be a nice person to be around. Maybe I was, but this desire of mine to blend in really quashed my confidence. That confidence is slowly coming back and I'm so much better for it. My true personality is starting to shine through again.
Thanks for reading. Chime in with comments if any of this resonates with you. ---AV
Wine and Music Under the Stars
Wente Vineyards in Livermore has nine artists lined up this summer. Starting the series off will be The Frey on June 17.
Other performers headlining will include Liza Minelli on June 24, Barenaked Ladies on July 20, Huey Lewis and The News on August 10, Chris Isaak on August 19, ZZ Top on August 25, Earth, Wind and Fire on August 30, Willie Nelson on September 13 and rounding out the series, Harry Connick, Jr on September 21.
Wente offers many dining choices as well as terrace seating.
The Mountain Winery in Saratoga is well known for their summer concert series, which also feature not only musicians, but some of the best stand up comedians in America, inclduing Chelsea Handler. The winery offers their concert dining packages that include a threeicourse prix fixe dinner and choice of wines from their private reserve. Other pre-concert options are available.
Mountain Winery has scheduled more than 60 acts this summer. This is truly a "something for everyone" concert lineup that features classic rock, country western, pop and legends such as Diana Ross and Ringo Starr.Most performances start at 7:30 and again, ticket prices vary.
Wardrobe Consultant vs. Good Friend Fashionista
So what does a wardrobe consultant really do?
1. I do a lot of public speaking. I want to look professional and confident but I don't want to wear a classic suit because it doesn't go with my personality.
2. I just turned 50 and even though my size hasn't changed, the clothing I have doesn't fit the way it used to. I don't want to shop in the juniors department but I don't want to look matronly, either.
3. I recently lost a lot of weight and nothing from my closet fits anymore. I also feel something more than my body has changed, and I want this positive change to be reflected in my clothes.
4. My career is taking off and I want this success to be projected in my image.
5. I have been recently promoted to a manager's position in my department, where I'm the youngest. I want my image to project authority and professionalism, but showing my personality and youth is equally important to me.
6. I'm a massage therapist and yoga instructor and I wear mostly yoga clothes. I want to be known as a beautiful young woman and successful entrepreneur.
7. I have a well-established career, grown kids and I finally have time for myself. I want to travel, date, and enjoy life to the fullest. I want my image to be in tune with how I feel now: hip, youthful and happy.
If you have worked with a financial advisor, you know that if you don't assess where you are now and where you want to go with your finances, the real results won't come. The same goes with your image – you need to be very clear about where you are, who you are, and where you want to be. This is the most critical step in starting off right.
Believe it or not, it will save a lot of money, too. A good friend fashionista can serve you as a great support, but if you're really serious about achieving results working with a professional is always a better choice. And remember: “whatever else it is, style is optimism made visible. Style presumes that you are a person of interest, that the world is a place of interest, that life is worth making the effort for." ~ Hara Estroff Marano
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Ride of Silence in Danville
This evening, Wednesday, May 19, cyclists worldwide will ride their bikes in a silent and slow-paced ride (no faster than 12 mph) to honor fallen cyclists and also encourage people never to drink and drive.
In Danville, the Ride of Silence meets at 6:30 p.m. for a 7 p.m. ride from Sycamore Valley Park on Holbrook Drive (off Camino Tassajara Road) to out past Diablo Vista Middle School on Camino Tassajara Road and back.
Helmets are mandatory for the 8-mile ride.
The Danville ride will honor John Greaves, (www.Ride4John.com) a 44-year-old Walnut Creek man, avid cyclist and triathlete, who was hit by a car last June while bicycling on Camino Tassajara Road near Dublin. A woman driving a Honda Civic lost control of her car and struck Greaves, a married father of two, north of the Contra Costa-Alameda county line.
The road where the bikers will travel tongiht iis the same road where Alana and Troy Pack were killed by a drunken driver in 2003. The 7-year-old girl was riding her bike while her 10-year-old brother was riding a scooter on the sidewalk. Their mother, Carmen and friends were walking behind them as they headed to get Slurpees in Danville.
Jimena Barreto, a 45-year-old nanny with four drunken driving convictions on her record, was later convicted of murder in the hit-and-run deaths of the two children. Since then, Bob and Carmen Pack have worked to strengthen the state’s drunken driving laws and raised money for scholarships, traffic-safety programs and an educational DVD for high schools.
The Ride of Silence was first launched in 2003 by Chris Phelan of Dallas in memory of cyclist Larry Schwartz, who was killed when hit by the mirror of a passing bus.
The Ride of Silence is a free ride that asks its cyclists to ride slowly and remain silent during the ride. There are no sponsors and no registration fees. The ride, which is held in May, National Bike Month, aims to raise the awareness of motorists, police and city officials that cyclists have a legal right to the public roadways, organizers said. ---KB
Andrea Back on Track
I haven’t quite gotten over the shock of my recent 6.2-pound gain, but last week I had a one -pound loss for a total of 34.6 over the last 29 weeks. I’m not back to my pre-vacation loss of 40.2 pounds, but I'm heading in the right direction again.
It shouldn't have been such a shock to see the number on the scale, considering that lately I have been ignoring my food tracker and my need to exercise.
I've basically been living in denial that I have a problem with food. My experience tells me how disastrous this mind-set can be. After all, the last time I joined Weight Watchers at work, I fell so far off the wagon I regained all 17 pounds I lost within two weeks of the program ending. I know the damage I am capable of. I am not cured, by any means. I have to give this weight loss 100 percent attention or the weight comes back - quickly
In this week's WW meeting we talked a lot about support. Attendees were asked many questions about support systems: the friends, family members, and co-workers we interact with regularly who encourage us on our weight loss journey.
I stayed quiet during the discussion because I was listening intently to the stories other members told about people who sabotage their weight-loss attempts. One member talked about her sister who bakes cookies in advance of her visits, despite the woman requesting fruit. Another person described a family member who said, "you're so thin, your collar bones poke me when I hug you."
Others said that certain friends often urge them to "take a night off" from the program or "just taste" an unhealthy treat regardless of the member politely saying "no thank you." Still others remembered friends who get offended when they had made a dessert and the WW member won't try it.
I didn't have much to offer because I don't have any weight-loss saboteurs. Everyone I know is completely supportive of my weight-loss journey. My friends and loved ones encourage me by checking on my progress, sending healthful recipes, providing healthy food at gatherings and suggesting healthy restaurant options when we dine out. My best friend is a fitness nut who plans weekly runs for us. She even slows her pace so I can keep up.
That's why I feel like I'm not just losing weight to look better and live a long, healthy life, I'm losing weight for all my friends and loved ones who are pulling for me. They understand what I'm doing and hopefully respect my decision to take good care of myself. More importantly, they adapt to the new me and are genuinely happy for me.
I couldn't really ask for more.
See you next week.---AV