When Laurie Stern of Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery has invited me to stay at her cottage in El Cerrito - little did I know that I signed up for an aromatic retreat among her bees, cats, fruit and flowers. And most importantly - made a new perfumer friend!
Laurie and I passed each other's paths virtually at Persephenie's shop (then called Blunda). Laurie was there in March 2009, and I arrived a month later for my Hanami exhibit. I fell in love with her whipped body frostings, and we exchanged emails, samples and beautiful greeting cards.
It wasn't till last year when we drove to Yosh's party that I finally had the pleasure of experiencing her genuine warmth in person. She's literally as sweet as the honey made by the bees in her garden, which is redolent of the many aromatic plants growing within: jasmine, honeysuckle, lavender, geraniums and mints (the beehives are in the photo below).
Nothing beats a morning stroll, getting my feet wet with fragrant dew from the mint and geranium; counting the petals of yellow roses shed in the bowl of water just outside my cottage...
The garden is so full of life, and the aromas weave from all directions. Laurie had a flower business in her past life, and her husband is a landscape architect. Together they make a wonderful team, and their home is just beautiful and full of little treasures to feast the eyes and the nose on. The sealing of the living room and kitchen is decorated with dried bouquets of hydrangae, and even the kitchen window is a beauty.
At nightfall, the garden and my room filled with the sweet, citrus and heliotropin confectionary maddness of Angel's Trumpet. I put a flower right by my bedside, and it never failed to bring a restful sleep.
Melon and helicrysum sweetened the last evening of my trip; including the company of a few perfumer friends who stopped to say hello (and goodbye).
Of all the things in the world, Laurie Stern reminds me of the Lady Oyolaela in the Neverending Story (excuse my spelling: I cannot find any reference to this wonderful character's name). She's a lady of the garden, and is the garden - and it is always in full bloom and brimming with luscious ripe fruit that put her guests under a spell: time stops at her garden and one would forget they need to leave and go about their business... Which was like a gift from heaven on such an action-packed trip.
And indeed, I didn't want to leave this place of serenity and friendship, and if it wasn't for my daughter I probably would never have... My only consolation was that I'll be back in San Francisco in less than a month, for the Artisan Fragrance Salon, and will be able to see all my perfumer friends again!