A Groom In Full Military Dress Is A Poignant And Patriotic Wedding Day Look

When it comes to wedding ceremonies, there is perhaps no more poignant and memorable moment than seeing a member of the United States armed forces in full dress uniform as they exchange vows.

For Alyssa Yock, the one thing she will never remember most fondly about her March wedding at Holman Ranch is her former Marine Corps husband Anthony Sozio in his full dress blues.

“From where I was hiding in the corridor near the patio I could see him in his uniform across the green lawn,” she said. “That moment took my breath away. Time stood still. I just loved this idea and he was the one who came up with it!”

Anthony served in the Marine Corp for 6 years and was deployed to Afghanistan. After returning stateside he worked hard to get through fire academy and paramedic school. After all his hard work he landed a job as a firefighter/paramedic at the Palo Alto Fire Department.

Alyssa says she will never forget that moment.

“I was alone waiting for my dad to walk me down the aisle,” she said. “I felt extreme peace knowing God was watching over us and I was staring at my soon to be husband. Then the moment hit me that my dad would walk me down the aisle. And there we went, one step at a time, to my amazing future.”

The two met through an introduction from Alyssa’s cousin. Their first date alone was an adventure to Half Moon Bay. “He asked if he could pick me up and go pick out some pumpkins together,” she said. “I thought at that point, ‘I think I found my match.’ What guy asks to go pick out pumpkins?”

He picked Alyssa up in the morning, they stopped for some coffee and made their way to Half Moon Bay. “We had lunch at Barbara’s Fishtrap and then picked out six pumpkins and enjoyed a nice foggy day.”

Anthony popped the question on Christmas Eve of 2013.

“Each year my family has a big Christmas Eve party,” she said. “Anthony thought that was the best time to propose because my whole family would be around to witness it. He knows how much family means to me. Christmas Eve will always be my favorite holiday now.”

That previous summer Anthony joined Alyssa’s family on a trip to Maui, and everyone decided to make personal videos of the trip to screen on Christmas Eve.

“My sister Ashley went first, and everyone loved her video. It was great,” she said. “Then Anthony popped in his video. It showed fun highlights of our trip and then it started to show pictures of just us. Still having no clue, I thought it was weird that he just had pictures of us. The video kept rolling and then all of a sudden the screen read ‘Alyssa Gabrielle Yock … and next thing you knew I was standing up and he was down on one knee! I couldn’t believe me eyes. I looked to my dad first to see if this moment was real and he shook his head yes. The time finally came that every girl dreams about. I couldn’t believe it was happening. Let’s just say Anthony’s video won that year.”

The couple chose Holman Ranch for many reasons, mostly for the grounds and the picture-perfect venue.

“It seemed so private and that our wedding day would be surrounded by the people we love,” she said. “Other venues seemed too uptight and snooty.”

Alyssa is currently in nursing school, so the couple will delay their honeymoon. “Although when I finish we are taking a cross-country trip in our renovated RV and travel through numerous states that we want to visit.”

The plan is to go hot air ballooning in Arizona, antique shopping in Texas, eating in New Orleans, finding their country roots in Tennessee and ending up in North Carolina, before they fly off to Greece.


Other Vendors

Wedding Planner: Patty Speirs — Every Last Detail

Caterer: Paradise Catering

Photographer: Francesa Penko Photography

Videographer: Blair Wedding Studio

DJ/Band/Musicians: SOS Entertainment: Eric Shalem

Bakery: Freedom Bakery

Hair and Makeup: Blush Hair and Makeup Designs, Ashley Mendes

Florist: Tumbleweed Floral Truck

Corporate Retreats Gaining Favor Seven Years After Public Backlash

In 2008, after receiving government bailout money, AIG executives spent nearly a half million dollars on a corporate retreat. Hosted at the lavish St. Regis Resort and Spa in Monarch Beach in Southern California, the executives lived high on the hog during the weeklong party. Understandably, the public backlash was fierce and furious.

Because of that unethical malfeasance and other similar examples, the public thinks “extravagance” when they hear the term “corporate retreat,” and could explain why interest in corporate retreats fell nearly 90 percent from what it was in 2005.

Corporate Retreats

Slowly, corporate retreats are making a post-recession comeback because a smart investment in the right kind of retreat is a proven business tool.

Rather than spending often-limited company resources on in-office training by guest speakers, more and more companies are putting retreats on their business’ radar because they offer something better.

The self-contained nature of retreats prevents consistent time waste, and surveys show that employees look forward to the outings. Here are some reasons why businesses should budget for off-site retreats:

  • Personal reflection: A retreat provides the perfect platform for business owners and key decision makers to step back from their busy work life and take a more wine-angle perspective to their work or management style.
  • Morale building: Like spending vacation time, going on a corporate retreat allows your employees to renew their enthusiasm and excitement for work. It’s often desirable to choose a sunny climate, so employees can get that dose of Vitamin D and recharge their batteries. Getting in touch with nature also is beneficial, and can improve work performance back at the office.
  • Employee bonding: Companies may spend time trying to encourage employees to build relationships within the office, but this often results in some challenges. These attempts can feel inauthentic. And if an office has difficult employees, the efforts spent managing them can place an expensive strain on company time and resources. Spending time at a retreat, however, places employees in common activities they can talk about later. This allows them to genuinely get to know each other better and develop authentic friendships based on shared experiences.
  • Training: The retreat environment is a great place to develop creativity, teamwork, problem solving and other valuable skills that result in increased productivity. Use skill building training at retreats as a way to focus in-office training efforts throughout the year.
  • Recruitment: Inviting a prospective hire to a company retreat can quickly integrate her or him into the corporate culture, and highlight company strengths. People often show their true colors in a more relaxed environment. HR managers can take this time to evaluate potential hires, evaluate management relationships and behaviors among team members, and assess new employees acclimation in the office.
  • Reward: Studies have shown that happier workers are usually more productive. Taking time to reward employees for all of their hard work and letting them unwind a bit is a smart strategy. Corporate retreats allow management to show their gratitude and appreciation toward their employees, and reward them for professional growth.

To begin planning your corporate retreat, work out a budget, choose the perfect location and make a smart investment for your company.

Nestled in the tranquil Carmel Valley, Holman Ranch offers plenty of options for the perfect corporate event, retreat or team-building excursion, where you can schmooze in a black tie or rope “dummy” cattle in denims.

Head-Over-Heels-In-Love Couple Proves That Romance Is Alive And Well

Romance today doesn’t often resemble what you read in John Keats’ love letters or Shakespeare’s sonnets. And the cynical among us ask: Is romance in the modern world dead?

Today, people looking for love find it at their fingertips on OkCupid, Tinder, Match, or dozens of other cyber-dating sites. Intimacy arrives in a well-executed string of emoji. Conversation comes in the form of a “good morning” text. And romance is putting the smartphone down long enough to gaze in each other’s eyes at dinner (after posting a photo of the food on Facebook).

 It seems as though there is a lack of personal connections among today’s couples. But it’s important not to generalize, because we might run into a couple like Charles McBrian and Stevi McCartney.

Charles and Stevi each work in the technology field, but immediately felt a deep, meaningful bond on a human level. Their first date? A night in the big city.

“Charles took me to San Francisco and showed me a night on the town,” Stevi said. “He took me up to Coit Tower and we enjoyed the twinkling city lights below. We sipped cocktails at the top of the Mark Hopkins hotel. It was a magical night. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him and knew something spectacular was in our future.”

Charles went on to propose to Stevi during a helicopter tour on the spectacular Napali Coast of Kauai, Hawaii.

“I had always wanted to go on a helicopter ride to see the island from above as I heard it was magical,” Stevi said. “That afternoon we got to the tour and I was so nervous (not a very good flyer). Charles was holding my shaking hands the whole time.”

Charles had arranged for the pilot to fly into a canyon where he would pop the question.

 Over the noise of the helicopter, wearing headphones, Charles screamed: “I can’t exactly get down on one knee, but I love you so much. Will you marry me?”

Stevi answered: “Yes! A thousand times, yes!” But she forgot to push the button on her microphone. “So I said it again, this time so he could hear me, “YES! The rest of the ride we both couldn’t stop smiling.”

When it came to choosing a wedding venue, the couple knew they wanted a vineyard wedding.

“I have a divine love for wine and all its glory,” Stevi said. “I feel at home when I’m in the rustic countryside with vineyards hugging me from all sides.”

They researched both Sonoma and Napa regions, but “those seemed so over-done and not unique,” Stevi said. “I had never been to Carmel Valley before so I was curiously intrigued. I began researching online and Holman Ranch had this ridiculously perfect view of all the things we wanted: mountains, vineyards and a touch of European style. We planned for a visit and instantly knew it was it. The grounds were heavenly, the wine was great, and it just felt like our fairytale.”

The entire day was perfect.

“The dramatic weather and misty rain with the sun beaming through the dark clouds just as we were saying our vows was a moment I’ll never forget,” Stevi said.

The couple even wrote their own vows.

“When we held each other’s hands exchanging the wonderful words that continue to make me smile to this day, a feeling so intimate and powerful made our connection unbreakable,” she said. “Everyone we loved was there to support us.”

Shortly after exchanging those vows, a rainbow appeared behind the couple.

“It was an ethereal dream with the flowers hanging from the wooden beams and market lights intermixed over the romantic kings table with everyone we loved surrounding us,” Stevi said. “It was truly a blessing to remember.”

So, is romance dead in the modern world? Not for Charles and Stevi

“I knew that we were meant to be together, that it was … inevitable,” Charles said. “When we started dating, I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and today I still can’t. She’s is a wonderful person, she has a beautiful soul.” 

“How lucky I am to share my life with the greatest man I ever met, my true best friend,” Stevi said. “I fall in love with him every day and it’s the best feeling. I think that’s because I’ve loved him forever, even in lifetimes before now. He’s taught me to enjoy life. To live, to love, to dream. But he is my dream.”

The New Generation Of Sommeliers Shuns Egos And Focuses On A Fun, Relaxed Wine Experience

Remember the days of the snooty sommelier? It wasn’t that long ago, but now there exists a new wave of wine experts rolling through the restaurant world. These days, you will find most sommeliers to be approachable, friendly, informal — and often even female.

Sommelier by Avalonis

http://avalonis.deviantart.com/  – Art by Avalonis

Sommelier is a French word, derived from a Middle Age term to describe a court official charged with transportation of supplies. In the height of nouveau cuisine, the sommelier was a trained and knowledgeable professional who specialized in all aspects of wine service, including food and wine pairings. They also developed the restaurant wine list and held a stature on par with the executive chef.

With that responsibility came a reputation for being stiff-suited, sneering and haughty, whose purpose seemed to be to upsell the customer something they couldn’t afford.

Fortunately, these days, diners are more likely to encounter a more evolved professional that will stray far from the conventional wine lists to bring the diner something new and exciting that fits with the customer’s palate.

A decade ago, sommeliers complained that wine critics had too much power, but now the tide seems to be turning. The rise of young, influential sommeliers has affected the way wines are made. Consequently, wineries now try to produce wines with more acidity because modern sommeliers value that attribute (they are more food friendly) and tilt restaurant wine lists toward brighter, lower alcohol wines.

Today’s sommeliers are trying to make wine just as exciting as brew masters and bartenders have made beer and cocktails. Today they are dubbed “somms” and are just as smart about wine as their nattily attired predecessors — but won’t make you feel bad for not knowing that a Riesling can be dry, or that there is such a thing as orange wine. You may not recognize every wine on their lists, but they describe them in a manner that makes you want to taste them all. (And, by the way, ask for tastes because today’s somms love to oblige; in fact, they all seem to be the type you would want to swig back a glass with after hours.

It used to be that sommeliers confined themselves to their fine dining restaurants, but now the American somm is ubiquitous. They appear on magazine covers, in documentary films and across social media as the public face of wine (there is even a new publication called The SOMM Journal). The New York Times even published a guide to talking like a somm.

While today’s new generation of somms respects the past and all its traditions, they can also be more flexible, encouraging diners to drink what they like — even if it’s a chilled red wine with fish and chips, or a glass of bubbly with your steak frites. In the end, wine is about enjoyment — and everything is more fun when old rules are broken.

Equine Therapy Proves Beneficial To Veterans With PTSD Or Traumatic Brain Injuries

War always brings a staggering loss of life, but for those who survive it can also lead to invisible wounds. The consequences of psychological and cognitive injuries take a toll, with untreated mental health problems among returning troops costing our nation up to $6.2 billion over two years in medical costs, lost productivity, and lives lost to suicide.

 According to a study from the RAND Corp., more than 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or major depression, and about 320,000 may have experienced at least a mild concussion or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in combat.

PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders. It also leads to physical complaints such as chronic pain, fatigue, stomach pains, respiratory problems, headaches, muscle cramps or aches, cardiovascular problems and can include self-destructive behavior such as alcohol or drug abuse and suicidal tendencies. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, individuals with a TBI are twice as likely to die as a similar non-brain injured cohort and had a life expectancy reduction of seven years.

There is no cure for PTSD, and TBI patients find conventional treatment frustratingly ineffective at times. But Equine Therapy has shown to be effective in treating patients, including combat veterans with PTSD, depression, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorders, dissociative disorders and other chronic mental illnesses.

When it comes to treatment, more and more medical professionals see the benefit of using horses in a therapeutic setting. Equine assisted psychotherapy is an emerging form of therapeutic intervention in which horses are used as tools for clients to gain self-understanding and emotional growth. It’s a field of mental health that recognizes the bond between animals and humans and the potential for emotional healing that can occur when a relationship is formed between the two species.

Most therapy programs involve equine activities set up and facilitated by a licensed mental health professional and a horse professional. These activities are most often performed on the ground (rather than riding), and include such things as grooming, feeding, haltering and leading the horse. During the process of working with the horse, the therapist and veteran engage in talk therapy, processing feelings, behaviors and patterns. The ultimate goal for the client is to build skills such as personal responsibility, assertiveness, non-verbal communication, self-confidence, and self-control.

More than 30 Veterans Administration medical centers are participating in Equine Assisted Activities (EAA) programs all around the country, as noted by the Supervisory Recreation Therapist Department of Veterans Affairs. Horses are highly reactive, and mimic human emotions — requiring calm and nonreactive communication that promotes emotional awareness, emotion regulation, self-control, and impulse modulation.

Working with horses in a therapeutic setting offers instant and constant feedback to participants, requires physical strength and balance, and is highly motivational — combining to make an exceptionally effective rehabilitation environment. 

horse and rider with sidewalker

PATH International Equine Services for Heroes assists military veterans through services provided by PATH International members and by providing leadership and guidance for equine assisted activities and therapies.

PATH stands for Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, and it’s a nonprofit organization in Denver.

 “Appreciating the power of the horse to change lives is our goal,” said PATH past president Dr. Paul Spiers, “and PATH International wants to provide positive change for these very special lives. Our service personnel have fought to preserve our freedom, and, for many, at a very dear cost. We must be certain that if our wounded service personnel and veterans need and want this kind of help, they will get the best PATH International has to offer.” 

To accomplish this mission, PATH International (www.pathintl.org) centers connect with Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and Clinics, as well as individual veterans. Veterans of any age can benefit from the program and by being involved with equines. The website features a search engine so veterans can find a participating equine program in their area.

From Cowboy Tuxedos to Horse-Drawn Wagons, Rustic Wild-West Weddings Are Hot

Peak wedding season is almost upon us, and experts predict that Wild West Weddings will emerge as the hottest trend of the season. Look for rustic ranches, bales of hay, cowhide rugs, wildflower bouquets and lots of leather accents to help inspire this fun, relaxed theme.

Western-inspired weddings create the perfect combination of simplicity and elegance, giving brides and grooms a way to have a formal wedding without it feeling stuffy.

Here are some Wild West ideas you may see at your next wedding:

  • Western-themed announcements/invitations: Inventive brides and grooms are sending friends and family engagement printed material in the style of a Pony Express letter, or a wanted poster. Often they try to push the theme with their choice of wording, such as “we’re getting’ hitched” or “have a boot-stompin’ good time.”
  • Men’s wedding attire: A traditional cowboy tuxedo includes such amenities as satin notch lapels, etched bone buttons, corded yokes and a western bolo tie, but that look may be difficult to find in some parts of the country. The men in the wedding party will certainly be well dressed in their new jeans, western vests, boots, and 10-gallon hats. To set the groom apart from the other members of the party, have him wear a different color hat.
  • Women’s wedding attire: There are several styles available to the western-themed bride. For a more formal look, many brides opt for a modern, lacy, western dress. Look for the style of Victorian gown you might see in a vintage photograph. Attach the veil to a feminine western-style hat. Less formal attire can include denim skirts or new blue jeans with a white blouse that has a lace collar. And of course, no western outfit would be complete without cowboy boots.
  • Flowers: Of course, hothouse flowers and formal arrangements would not have been available in the old west. To maintain the theme, many brides try to keep floral arrangements simple, perhaps yellow roses in a decorative boot-shaped vase, or a bunch of cut flowers in decorated galvanized tubs. For bouquets, the trend is to use long-stem flowers tied together with a bit of rope. A hot trend is to pair bright-colored flowers with succulents. The contrast in color and plant life creates a wonderful bouquet.
  • Transportation: More and more couples hire a horse-drawn wagon to transport the wedding party to the reception, while others arrange for an old-fashioned hay-wagon ride.
  • Wedding reception ideas: Whether there’s a live band or a DJ, it makes sense that country music is played at the reception. Have a dance expert show the crowd how to line dance or perform the two-step, or go a step further and have someone call out an old-fashioned square dance. When making toasts, some western weddings have on hand a cowbell (replacing the clinking of crystal). Reception fare can be served on long picnic tables and fare can include barbecue, fried chicken, potato salad and baked beans. Western receptions bring margaritas and bottled beer instead of the traditional champagne. Moscow mule mugs can replace mason jars, which fit perfectly in a Wild West wedding. Guests can also sip on specialty craft beers or mix their own heirloom bourbon cocktails in those copper mugs.
  • The wedding cake: A neutral-hued buttercream cake is the way to go. Couples try to keep the color and flowers simple and let the texture of the wedding cake be the focal point. Details such as a cake stand made from a slice of wood, or branchy accents and horseshoes on the cake table can pull it all together.

Earth Day Shines The Light On Sustainable Grape Growers And Vintners

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.

The United Nations sanctioned McConnell’s idea, but shortly after U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded a separate Earth Day on April 22 of that year. McConnell’s original idea faded away, and Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in recognition of his work.

Purists remember McConnell’s dedication for demonstrating support for environmental protection, and now the idea has spread around the world. For at least one day, most of the planet’s inhabitants will take the time to promote ecology and sustainability.

Many industries have embraced the concept, and California winemakers and wine grape growers are no exception. In that state, water is an increasingly precious resource, and pressures from population growth, management policy, and climate change all threaten its availability.

Earth Day Collage

Vineyards must also deal with habitat conservation, energy efficiency, pest management, economic stability and human resources. Farmers who claim to be sustainable must take a wider view of their operation, taking into consideration: the workers, soil fertility, cover crops, wildlife, native plants, irrigation, and more.

Certain standards are laid down by third-party organizations such as SIP Certified, helping growers, vineyards and consumers rethink their approach to sustainability.

While many consumers are dedicated to looking for wines labeled as “green wine” or “organic wine,” SIP Certification is a unique combination beyond those two labels. Imagine a wine that builds community between vineyards, workers and the land. A new way to look at sustainable agriculture to ensure that:

  • Fertile soils exist to produce hearty grapes for years to come.
  • Vineyards and their workers are both dedicated to the same sustainable practices.
  • Green wine and eco-savvy consumers have yet another choice they can make — one that supports both the land and the people that create their favorite wines.

The partnership between Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (established nearly a decade ago in the form of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance) has well positioned the California wine community as a leader in sustainability. The various certification programs and other regional educational programs have been embraced by California growers and vintners and have bolstered the environmental and sustainability credentials of the industry in public policy and market arenas.

Participation in both self-assessment programs and third-party certification continues to grow. Over a 10-year period from 2002 to 2012, 1,800 vineyard and winery organizations, representing 72 percent of California’s wine grape acreage and 74 percent of case production, have self-assessed their operations. In addition, CSWA has held 232 targeted education workshops for 10,737 participants. As of 2012, 56 wineries and 178 vineyards were CCSW-certified, and countless others have sought certification from other third parties, including SIP.

Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley is certified by SIP, which requires a lengthy process of accountability. The winery will celebrate Earth Day on April 22 by treating the first 22 visitors at its tasting room (at 19 E. Carmel Valley Road) that day to a complimentary glass of its SIP certified, earth-friendly wine.

Wine drinkers may not be able to readily taste the difference, but they can certainly feel the difference. And that’s what Earth Day is all about.


How John B. Stetson Changed Cowboy Culture Forever With His ‘Boss Of The Plains’

In the early 1860s, a man named John Batterson Stetson headed west to find his fortune in the gold rush of Colorado. He never found much gold, but he stumbled onto wealth anyway — around a campfire.

While on a hunting trip, Stetson entertained his friends by creating a smooth, soft felt from animal fur. By dipping the fur in boiling water and kneading it with his hands, he created a unique material that he fashioned into a hat, one he wore for the remainder of the trip as a joke. He soon realized, though, how well the hat protected him from the rain and harsh sun.

At that time, men (and a few women) on horseback had a choice of wearing floppy felt hats, raccoon skins or derbies. None were perfect for a life in which the rain, wind, dust, sun and cold took turns tormenting them.

So Stetson began to think about marketing his newly invented accessory, and he stitched together fur felts to make a wide-brimmed hat with a tall crown. He called it “The Boss of the Plains” and it was about to take the West by storm.

With only $60 dollars loaned to him by his older sister Louisa, he purchased tools and fur, rented a small room in Philadelphia and took on two workers. By the early 20th century, Stetson owned the world’s largest hat factory. Covering 9 acres of ground, the factory employed 5,400 people and produced 3,336,00 hats annually. Stetson had 10,000 retail merchants (1,125 in foreign countries) and 150 wholesale distributors.

Stetson had created his own gold rush. Every horseman, plains drifter and wannabe cowboy had to own a Stetson, and they all ponied up $5 (expensive in those days) to buy one.

Stetson began to produce the first incarnation of “The Boss” in 1865, and he was considered the sole maker of this newfangled headwear.

Because Stetson’s hats were pricey, each cowboy only ever bought one, and they wore them until they fell apart. Soon enough, throughout the west, every cowboy wore an often-battered Stetson hat. That gave birth to an aesthetic that represented the untamed West — the pursed, rolled cowboy hat. And anyone wanting to fit in had to have one.

Even after the wild aspect of the West was somewhat tamed, the cowboy hat never really lost its ability to lend that reckless and rugged aura to its wearer. It has become a symbol of Western pride and bravado, gracing the heads of America’s most treasured Western heroes, from old-time favorites like actor John Wayne, Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger, and country singer Gene Autry, to modern-day popular artists like Garth Brooks and Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing on the television series “Dallas.” J.R.’s hat is now displayed in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s contemporary Americana exhibit. Furthermore, the Stetson hat has also been worn by prominent country singers from Dale Evans to Trisha Yearwood, spurred on by legendary female maverick Annie Oakley, proving “that females can carry off this most essential Western look, too.”

In 1965, Stetson marked its 100th anniversary by publishing a booklet called “The Stetson Century.” In it, the company’s then president said this: “It is, I think, possible to say without too great exaggeration that America grew up under a Stetson. Today our business is so truly world-wide that there can be but few corners of the globe where the name Stetson is not known and honored.”

Still, the company fell under hard times (many blame a hatless John F. Kennedy’s oath-of-office speech of 1961 for the decline of hat fashion), and in 1970 Stetson ceased manufacturing.

The company reentered manufacturing in the 1980s, but went bankrupt in 1986, and Hat Brands purchased it. Since 2009, Pro Equine Group has owned Stetson, and it continues to sign on new partners and manufacturers to bring Stetson belts, wallets and home textiles.

Today the hat has become an optional accessory rather than a requirement for proper dress. But the name Stetson will love on forever.


Olive Oil Fraud: How To Ensure That What You’re Tasting Is Authentic And ‘Extra Virgin’

The next time you reach for that bottle of extra-virgin Italian olive oil in your cupboard, be aware that it’s probably not extra-virgin, it may not be from Italy and — here’s the shocker — investigations reveal that it may not even be 100 percent olive oil.

Here’s what occurs regularly on the open market: Spanish and North African olive oil is shipped to Italy, cut with soybean oil and beta carotene, and nefariously mislabeled. The adulterated oil is shipped around the world, to countries such as the United States, where it’s estimate that 70 percent of the olive oil offered for sale is doctored. That’s according to The New York Times, who in January of 2014 furthered the investigation after a string of shocking revelations over the past few years.

Journalist Tom Mueller first broke the story in the New Yorker in 2008, and even wrote a book on the subject. “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil” studies how the once symbol of purity has become deeply corrupt. Mueller has become an expert on olive oil and olive oil fraud — and the book tells a story of globalization, deception and crime from ancient times to the present, and is a powerful indictment of today’s lax protections against fake and even toxic food products brought into the United States.

The reports have inspired olive oil lovers to try to avoid getting duped in the future. But how can you tell if your olive oil is fake or real, extra-virgin or extra-tainted?

The University of California at Davis has conducted a series of studies on the topic of olive oil sold in California, and it can be read at http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/research/files/report041211finalreduced.pdf.

In short, the college found that domestic olive oil from single producers or co-ops was always real. In the foreign oil market, it helped to buy from growers who bottle their oil directly for retail sale.

So consumers who want pure olive oil can buy from a single-family farm or small co-op of growers. That’s because almost all olive oil fraud happens with the middle men — the people who buy olive oil in bulk from individual farmers and collect it in bulk to sell to corporate buyers, who mix, sort and sell it to grocery stores.

holman olive oil

When it comes to domestic oil, California is one of the leading olive oil producing states. In order to give consumers some piece of mind when it comes to purchasing real extra virgin product, the California Olive Oil Council has implemented a seal certification program. This program ensures that every bottle with the certification seal is 100 percent authentic.

It’s North America’s only quality control program that actually exceeds the strict international standards for true extra virgin olive oils. For an olive oil to be seal certified, it needs to adhere to strict guidelines:

  • All olive oil must be mechanically extracted without the use of chemicals or excessive heat.
  • There must be less than .5 percent free oleic acid in the oil itself.
  • Must pass a blind taste test, performed by a certified tasting panel, to ensure positive taste elements and no defects.

If you want an absolutely definitive test done on your store-bought olive oil, you can send in a sample to UC Davis’ Olive Oil Center. They will perform the same testing on your sample that they performed in their original study. For information visit olivecenter.ucdavis.edu.

Or you can develop your own taste test. Real olive oil — the good stuff — will be powerful and peppery and it will catch in your throat. You may actually cough, ad your eyes may water. But these are in fact good indications that what you’re tasting is authentic. It is also full of the reasons, especially flavor and health, that we’re drawn to olive oil in the first place.

Modern Wedding Parties Bend Gender Roles, Leading To “Best Woman” And “Man Of Honor”

Tradition dictates that a “best man” supports the groom and a “maid or matron of honor” supports the bride during a couple’s journey to becoming husband and wife. But in this modern age where gender roles become blurred and tolerance rules our thoughts and actions, more and more wedding parties feature simply “best people.”

 In recent years many more brides and grooms are being accompanied by opposite members of sex — all to make way for something that suits their day.

Leah Ingram, author of “The Balanced Bride: Preparing Your Mind, Body and Spirit for Your Wedding and Beyond,” said the opposite-sex attendant trend has a lot to do with the fact that today’s brides and grooms are older than in previous generations.

“People are out on their own, out of college, living and working and making their own friendships,” she said.

In these modern times, non-romantic friendships between men and women occur quite frequently. Under those circumstances it only makes sense to have your best friend at your side — regardless of gender.

As usual, it’s celebrities who tend to kickstart trends. When musician Jamie Hince got hitched to supermodel Kate Moss in 2011, he chose his bandmate Alison Mosshart as his “best woman” instead of having a best man.

But eliminating strict gender roles actually gained traction in 2001 when Peggy Post updated her great-grandmother-in-law’s wedding etiquette book to include protocol for opposite-sex attendants.

As one can imagine, the name “best woman” can cause a bit of friction among couples. Who else can be called “best woman” but the bride herself? And does a bride-to-be really want a woman planning her future husband’s bachelor party? Probably not. Similarly, a potential groom may not find it entirely comfortable having a “man of honor” on the other side of the aisle, someone who is helping with the lingerie shower.

Most modern couples simply say: Get over it! But if you feel you must explain, in the program the groom’s friend can be listed as “The Best Wo-Man.” When it’s time to announce the bridal party, the DJ can something like: “Here is the maid of honor, ‘Diane,’ being escorted, not by the best man, but the ‘best woman,’ Todd’s childhood friend, Ms. Melanie Jones.” She can also be referred to as “best friend of honor to the groom.” And when a bride has a maid of honor who is male, he is usually referred to as “man of honor to the bride” or “best friend of honor to the bride. 

So what are the clothing rules for these friends-era weddings? Do “bridesmen” wear hot pink suits if the bridesmaids’ dresses are pink? Do “groomswomen” wear tuxedos?

Post says opposite-sex attendants should try to blend in with the rest of the party.

A man on the woman’s side can wear a tuxedo. A woman on the man’s side can wear a dress that matches the bridesmaids’ dresses. Or perhaps she would feel more comfortable in a pantsuit or a dress that matches the men’s clothing.

If you decide to have opposite gender attendants, you should ensure that your photographer is fully briefed so that the man of honor or the best woman gets included in the right groups in the wedding pictures, or that they don’t get left out altogether. A traditional photographer may easily overlook this, so pointing it out may become necessary.





Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.