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Thursday, April 15, 2010

"If you're going to San Francisco" - The wonderfully enchanting world of Laurie Stern

By Beth

“If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation such a strange vibration
People in motion
There's a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion people in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there”
San Francisco has been the scene of many a wonderful time for me and it came as no surprise to me at all when my teenage son fell in love with it too. Alex has spent so much time wandering around that city that it’s almost like another home for him. When we visited one summer several years ago our son insisted on taking us on an incredible walking tour of the city! My husband had never seen this wonderful city and we had a ball. Up and down the steep historic streets we walked , stopping for fresh fruit here, nutella crepes there and fragrant flowers everywhere. At one point, Alex and I smiled at each other knowing that we’d saved the best for last. The Haight - Ashbury District was no more than a five minute walk away, a fact made clear to us immediately by the perfume of patchouli, tea and incense that still seeps from almost every house in the district . Sure enough , my husband was as enchanted as we knew he’d be and all of the memories of my fairly frolicksome and notorious youth came into the present as quickly as a flashback. I am the youngest daughter of passionate antiwar activists, with an older sister and brother who were a wonderful influence on my over active imagination and the hippie lifestyle came as naturally to me as breathing. I was one of the flower children and I still have the beads, dresses and go-go boots to prove it so it came as no surprise to anyone when I began to spend as much time as possible in Haight- Ashbury and Berkeley visiting my friends. Those were wonderful days! Tie Dyed shirts were everywhere still and I loved wearing my jeans and beaded Indian tops with all of my funky beads. I loved scenting my long hair with lilac and rose oils that I purchased from the local incense store. My memories of that time are so strong that it seems like only yesterday that I was sharing a Passover Seder in the wonderful apartments above that famous cross street sign. I’ll never forget that day. We drank local wines, shared homemade matzo and organic honey, ate vegetarian curries and huge steamed artichokes dripping with California olive oil. We smoked a goodly amount of questionable substance and went dancing all evening in Golden Gate Park.

Today’s San Francisco is still a passionately vibrant and artistic city and is currently home to one of the most magical natural perfumers that I’ve ever met, a fragrantly luscious and completely lovely little Hedgewitch named Laurie Stern. I first made her acquaintance when I was gifted with many luscious samples as well as a bottle of her Honey perfume and it was then that I discovered firsthand her almost legendary legendary powers of “scentual” persuasion. In a city known for its uniqueness, Laurie stands out as one of the most creative and original people that I’ve ever experienced. In her beautiful botanical paradise across the Bay she tends her incredibly lush gardens and I love to fantasize about all of the afternoons that she spends wandering with her gorgeous cats Velvet and Sweet Pea, while she touches each pregnant blossom with her fingertips, coaxing the sweet nectar for her perfumes to the glorious petals. I love talking to Laurie, for her laugh is completely bewitching and instantly you become aware that this is a woman who has all kinds of secrets that you are longing to know.....

I am told that Laurie’s gardens where she grows many of the botanicals that she uses to create her wonderful perfumes are simply living love spells. They are powerful and instantly evocative of something a bit bacchanalian in nature although her designs are full of Victorian beauty and whimsy. Opening any package from Velvet and Sweet Peas Purrfumery is an instantly orgasmic assault on every one of the senses, not just for me but for my cats Zoe and Pantoufle who were generously gifted with a beautiful bag containing literally the strongest “bud”....(catnip that is!) that I’ve ever had the pleasure of inhaling as well as an amazing catnip hydrosol to enhance their sniffing pleasure. Before I’d had the sealed envelope on the table for even 5 minutes, my kittens had dragged in down and were frantically trying to rip open the package. But that was only the beginning for many truly delicious and fragrant surprises awaited me.....Emboldened by my kitties obvious enthusiasm, I tore open the envelope and settled in for a long and pleasurable evening.

Laurie Stern’s packaging is precious, velvet bags with crystal fastenings and colorful dupioni silk purses with handmade flowers strewn around the top with exquisite care. Her beautiful crème perfumes come in containers topped with colorful gems and her bottles are French crystal and labeled beautifully with delightfully gilded photographs of her cats. But as beautiful as the packaging is, the perfumes completely outshine them. Each one is incredibly interesting , titillating and utterly gorgeous.

Her fragrances delight me, especially the “Kittylicious” Black Cat, a sensual and almost edible (at least my husband thought so) fragrance that completely enchants with it’s beguiling blend of cocoa, blood orange aniseed myrtle and vanilla.
Then there is “Narcissus Poeticus” an intoxicating blend of spring blooming Jonquille and French Violets. Thrown into the cauldron with mandarin , lime , iris and rare Chinese osmanthus and allowed to brew, the resulting potion is a glorious fragrance that is so completely seductive and narcotic that it should be illegal!

Most mesmorizing to me though is Lauries “Honey” perfume. “Honey” is a completely erotic masterpiece of blended orange blossom, roses, vetiver, vanilla ,honey , beeswax and propolis finished with rare antique clove, pomegranate and pink grapefruit. It is bewitching, a bottled love potion and how you unleash it is up to you. I personally love it when worn in my hair, cleavage and inner thighs. It warms up as you do and becomes sweeter with your heat. It has an energy all its own and I love it because I can wear it during the day, yet it becomes completely captivating at night. It’s one of those fragrances that draws a man towards you like a honeybee to pollen. Quite frankly, my husband didn’t know what hit him but he was delighted to be completely spellbound. The first time that he noticed it, I was going on and on about Laurie and her perfumes and her cats. He took one look at me, nipped my catnip scented wrist and proceeded to kiss me in a way that made my knees weak. Enough said. She truly has the gift.

You can purchase all of these perfumes and more through the completely enchanting Velvet and Sweet Peas Purrfumery website at

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Blogger tmp00 said...

I am so there...

12:07 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

You cheeky little monkey !

Boy, are we all JONESING to smell these ;-D

Now, for ze cold shower, my dearest ........

6:44 AM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

I don't think that I ever really left:)

7:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

They are INCREDIBLE! Glad to leave you lusting for more my dear!

7:55 AM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

For all who are wondering, somehow the link to Lauries site didn't come through correctly. Here it is

7:58 AM EDT  
Blogger Lisa Abdul-Quddus said...

How can one not try these after reading this?

8:43 AM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Lisa BTB!
Thank you so much! I am so glad that my review inspired you to want to try Laurie's perfumes! They are luscious!

8:50 AM EDT  
Blogger La Bonne Vivante said...

What a lovely article! I checked out the website too, and everything looks scrumptious!

9:10 AM EDT  
Anonymous Raphaella barkley said...

Dearest Beth,

Thank you so much for covering my dear friend Laurie Stern.
I giggled out loud when you called her a “delicious hedge witch” because it is so true. I personally know Laurie and she is a top natural perfumer who deserves more recognition for the quality of her highly artistic perfumes. Her house in the hills outside of San Francisco is a place filled with magic that resembles a house out of the Hobbit and is filled with magical gardens and roses. There are many natural fragrances that I cannot wear as sometimes they are just too strange on me but Velvet and Sweet Pea Purrfumery is one line that suits me because they smell like perfume…

I am hoping that she will present her work and be a Guest Speaker at the next Sniffapalooza Fall Ball event in October, 2010 in NYC. Thank you for making my friend happy and covering such a great small artisanal perfumer.


12:04 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

La Bonne Vivante,
Thank you so much for your incredibly kind response! I'm so glad that you loved the review and that you went to Laurie's site. So much fun to be had there indeed!

12:56 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...


I am so glad that you loved the review. I adore Laurie and her magical world. I dream about visiting her someday! Her world just delights me. I find these smaller artisanal perfumers to be incredibly passionate and deeply interesting in a way that fragrance loaded with impersonal advertising and synthetic products could never be. I am pleased to be a part of the "team" that's bringing them the recognition that they so deserve!

1:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

Oh my... I am SO there. Goodness, Beth. I need a fan.

1:54 PM EDT  
Anonymous Scent Hive said...

What a fabulous review and ode to Laurie. She really is an incredible perfumer and lovely person. I always enjoy the chance to speak with her on the phone, or get a cheerful email from her.

You picked my favorites from her, Black Cat, Narcissus Poeticus and Honey (I reviewed all of those too!) :-)

I am also a *huge* fan of her Body Frostings which you of all people need to try! Talk about a sensual experience.....

1:57 PM EDT  
Anonymous Laurie said...


Thank you so much for your beautiful article, I am speachless! From your ode to San Francisco to your mind blowing review, I'm honored. Your writing is so much fun to read!

Big hugs and thanks to you Beth, and also to Raphaella for your generous comments and for sending the treats to Beth, and to Trish for your sweet sentiments!

Merci Boucoup Perfume- Smellin' Things!

Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery

4:36 PM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

So glad to see this post! I love her perfumes, especially Honey and her Orange Blossom Body Butter is beyond heavenly. Haven't tried Narcissus Poeticus, but it sounds like a potential new addiction. I also love the feeling that her gardens and home exist in a sort of Narniaesque enchanted place outside of ordinary time and space. It simply makes me happy to feel I'm wearing a scent that didn't just come to me across the country, but somehow went through a boundary of magical space. Yes, brings out my inner child. :-) Anyway, your post has confirmed my beliefs.

8:11 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

So sorry about the extra heat...NOT! These are indeed incredible! If you haven't experienced any of them yet, you must!

10:42 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

I'm dying to try the body frostings! Which one do you suggest? Maybe we are scent twins:)

10:43 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Actually the pleasure is ALL mine...or shall I say WAS all mine:) I'm so glad that you loved the was so much fun to write! A literal trip down memory lane for me and I do so love your perfumes! My hope is to someday get to San Francisco to experience the Purrfumery myself. Sooner than later I am sure!
All my love,

10:50 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

You actually wrote that better then I could! Thank you for sharing your lovely thoughts with me. Lauries perfumes are indeed wonderful! I must try the orange blossom body sounds amazing!

10:54 PM EDT  
Blogger indieperfumes said...

Wow, this stuff sounds so delicious, we must try! Thank you for bringing it to the front of the line!

7:58 AM EDT  
Anonymous Marian said...

I serendipitously came across Laurie's site a couple of days ago and it was instantly enchanted! For the last few days I've been wondering which of the lovingly described and beautifully packaged and photographed scents to order. Thanks for guiding me down the Velvet and Sweet Pea path. I'm sure my coming explorations will be trips to remember!

10:19 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Oh YUM! Wonderful post, Beth! You have woven your special magic once again.

(I must send my San Francisco friend this link, she has a cat who needs some of that special catnip too.)

I really want to try that Narcissus Poeticus perfume, it's one of my very favorite flowers. That Web site is so very enticing, I want it ALL!

12:57 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am probably the only person on Earth who has failed to be charmed by San Francisco, but I never fail to be charmed by your writing, and Laurie Stern's wonderful products.

I have samples of everything, and just cannot decide between Jasmine Dawn and Dusk, Jewelry of Heaven, and Songbird. Her packaging is beyond gorgeous, especially the Gift Collections. The bath salts are every bit as amazing as the body butters.

My correspondence with her has been delightful; she is warm, gracious, and just utterly charming.


1:58 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

You do need to try some of her'll love them! Narcissus Poeticus? Amazing!!!!!!
Let me know what you think once you do!

10:35 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

I'm enchanted that you've found your way to Lauries site and that you want to try some of her fragrances! they are amazing! I'm really glad that you enjoyed the review. Please let me know which you finally choose!

10:37 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Thank you! I'm so glad that you enjoyed this review and you of all people MUST try her perfumes. YOu have such a love of fine vintage fragrances that these will be right up your alley as they are so reminiscent of something older and really wonderful!
Let me know!

10:39 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Thank you so much for such a lovely compliment. I'm really so pleased that you enjoy my writing and I know what you mean...its really tough to choose. And Laurie is awesome! All of her perfumes are lovely and I'm really looking forward to getting to know her body butters too. Please write me and let me know what you finally decide!

10:41 PM EDT  
Blogger AnyasGardenPerfumes said...

Beth, you really bring the beauty of Laurie's natural perfumes to life, and it's obvious you're besotted with her. When I think of all of the students of Mandy Aftel who have gone on to create fragrant jewels, Laurie will be at the forefront, I'm sure. Her fragrances sound delightful, and I'm always so happy to see a natural perfumer featured - thanks. ;-)

5:50 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all "naturals" are created equal, thank goodness! And not everyone goes through or belongs to clubs or groups.Many Natural perfumers stand alone and I respect that!
You rock Laurie and I know that you have studied on your own for many years with private perfumers as well. Hope to see you sometime in the future and I am placing an order for samples right now!

8:33 PM EDT  
Anonymous Laurie said...

Au contraire, dearest Anya! You must be confusing me with another natural perfumer? While I certainly know of Mandy and her work, I am a student of the earth. I take my lessons each day from the flowers, plants, and woods that grow in my Perfumer's Garden. They are the only teachers I will answer to.

Peace, love, purrfume, and kitty cats. ~Laurie
Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery

3:15 PM EDT  
Blogger Illuminated Perfume said...

Keep on trunkin' dear Laurie, I'm with you!

4:51 PM EDT  
Blogger AnyasGardenPerfumes said...

Ah, Laurie, I'm glad you straightened that out! It seems I and the anonymous poster both got it wrong. Confusion aside, congratulations on such wonderful reviews. Many wishes for much more success in the future.

And I see Roxana posted here too, good to see support from the NP community for your endeavors.

PS a long way from Atlantic City, eh? ;-)

5:34 PM EDT  
Anonymous Scent Hive said...

Beth, it's hard to choose! I'd say if you like tuberose, the Tuberose Gardenia is a must have. It's buttery and rich, made via enfleurage.

But if rose calls you, then Kashmir Rose is your heaven!

I also adore the Orange Blossom, but the other two are really really special.

1:22 AM EDT  

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