Glasswork astonishes me. Funny how we are each drawn to our own paths in creating. Kei says,
"what makes you *click*? everyone has something that'll make them go "wow, this is it". while i don't understand what *clicks* for accountants, maybe its the fact that it's a real job *click* with good pay *click, click* but nothing had grabbed hold of me. i come from a very artistic family and have always had a pull towards the arts, but it wasn't until the first time i grabbed a rod of glass and started melting that it just **clicked**. i still don't fully know what i'm doing, but it is something i just have to do. that *click* has turned into my drive!"
One of the neat things about Kei's shop is that all of her jewelry is named after cities, places, or landmarks around the world, "to help express my love of travel. MOST of the places i have actually visited!!"
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Glasswork astonishes me. Funny how we are each drawn to our own paths in creating. Kei says,
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Of course, since I can't knit and rarely find the time to crochet, it's a safe bet that I won't be making my own any time soon. Thank goodness for Taylor House, whose gorgeous cowls make me want to curl up on a chair with a cup of tea. Vibrantly colorful and still totally comforting, they're high on my list of Things I Must Have.
You can learn more about Taylor House at http://thesearched.blogspot.com/, follow them on twitter at http://twitter.com/chaucee, or become a fan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Taylor-House/247108804861?ref=ts
Friday, May 14, 2010
That's the great thing about buying from a small bath and body company. You're getting just the goods.
And that's the premise behind a wonderful shop on etsy by that same name - justthegoods. They make handcrafted shaving solids, body butters, natural toothpaste, bath melts, and some facial skin care items "without unnecessary exposure to petrochemicals, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and artificial fragrances, dyes and flavours."
From their Etsy shop: "Every day indulgences shouldn’t cost the earth or our health. It is affordable to look and feel great without unnecessary exposure to petrochemicals, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and artificial fragrances, dyes and flavours. Everything I make features “just the goods” and nothing else. Most of my items are made without animal-derived ingredients and I am striving toward a 100% vegan selection."
Monday, May 10, 2010
So, what's so great about birch sap? Birch is a natural analgesic, antiseptic, astringent, purifier, disinfectant, diuretic, fever reducer, insecticide and tonic.
How can it do all that? Birch actually contains significant amounts of methyl salicylate (the compound closely related to aspirin). The bark and leaves are often used in Alaska Native and folk medicine for headache and rheumatic pain, and are recommended for use in liniments and massage oils for sore or strained muscles. Birch infusions are often recommended for people with urinary problems and kidney stones. Birch twig facial steams are reported to be good for clogged sinuses, and supposedly birch decoctions added to one’s bath water will help those troubled by skin eruptions. A home birch tea rinse is recommended for scalp infections and dandruff. Oil of birch tar is used in Russia to repel bugs.
Not bad for something that grows free in your own back yard!
Plus, it tastes good. Like the sap of the maple tree, birch sap can be made into a delicious syrup. However, it takes enormous amounts of sap to make the syrup - usually about 80 gallons of sap will product 1 gallon of syrup. That's a lot of tree tapping. Instead of syrup we use the sweet sap for jellies and in mustards. If there's time, I'll sometimes boil it down and make a crunchy candy for the kids.
We don't claim that any of our products that contain birch have any medical qualities. For example, our birch sap soaps won't make your muscles stop aching or your fever go down. For one thing, any of those qualities in the sap would be seriously diminished (if not totally erased) by the saponification process. For another thing, all our soaps do is makes you nice and clean and good-smelling. The sap does make the soap lather beautifully though.
We do put the sap into some of our lotions and facial toners though ... as do many high-end, spa-quality cosmetic lines. BelAir Beauty sells a purifying cream for acne containing birch sap for $54 (1.7 ounces), or next time you're shopping at Saks 5th Ave you can pick up a bottle of Fresh's Men's Skin Soother with birch for $38 (1.7 ounces).
Ours is a little more reasonably priced.
Tapping the trees doesn't hurt them at all. We love our trees, and want them to be around for a long, long time and so we take good care of them. We tap each tree for a day or so, and stop when the tree starts putting out leaves. Then we patch up the hole with a bit of tree putty and pretty soon you'd never know there was ever a hole there at all.
The sap only runs for a few days or maybe a week or two each year, and when it's done, that's it until the next year. And just about the time the birch sap ends, the dandelions start popping up ... which begins the crazy time of year when we pick dandelion flowers like crazy!
But that's another blog post.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
And how did the patients become infected? According to the Annals of Internal Medicine (published by the American College of Physicians), "The outbreak was ultimately traced to a contaminated, commercially available, pharmaceutically prepared skin lotion." The outbreak ended after the skin lotion was recalled.
As a maker of bath and body products, I have a very, very healthy respect for bacteria, germs and fungus. I do not want them anywhere near my products.
And yet, as a consumer - and as a mother - I want to make and use products that are as natural as possible. After all, this is one of the main reasons I make these products, to get away from the synthetic, petroleum-based, chemical-laden junk on store shelves. So the question is, how "natural" is safe? Which is better, "all-natural" or "natural but with preservatives?"
For me, after several years of studying preservatives and the nasty little bugs they are designed to kill, the answer is simple. The preservatives win, hands down. They may not be "natural," but not everything "natural" is good. Mold is natural, and so is E. Coli bacteria. Death is "natural."
I cringe every time I see "all-natural" lotions and creams listed for sale being touted as "chemical-free," with no preservatives listed in their ingredients. It is literally impossible to prevent the inclusion of some germs and bacteria into a product, unless you make it in an autoclave. Even the best good manufacturing practices only call for a work area to be sanitary, not sterilized. And water - a necessary ingredient in products like lotion and cream - creates the ideal breeding ground for bacteria, fungus and mold.
Now, some people truly believe that Vitamin E or grapefruit seed extract serve as natural preservatives. They are dead wrong. Both are antioxidants, not antibacterial or anti-fungal agents. In other words, they are great for keeping the oils in the products from going rancid as quickly (oxidizing). They do nothing to kill or prevent the growth of the kinds of nasties that can literally eat your skin off.
Any doctor will tell you that the majority of bacterial skin infections are caused by the gram-positive bacteria Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species. In 1997, after a c-section, I developed a hemotoma that became infected with MRSA - a medically-resistant staphylococcus (staph) infection - and it almost killed me. I spent a week in the hospital in a semi-conscious state as specialists shook their heads over me. I know gram-positive bacteria. They are not friends of mine.
So, given a choice between bacteria and chemicals, I go with chemicals. Fortunately there are some good preservatives that are free of parabens and formaldehyde, which are possible carcinogens and some of the things people looking for "natural" products tend to want to avoid. One of those preservatives is Optiphen, which we use in most of our products requiring a preservative. We even use it in our body butters and balms, even though they do not contain water, because people usually scoop those with their fingers.
Our advice? Run, don't walk, away from products that don't contain a preservative. Because if the pros can't manage to keep their products uncontaminated (just last summer, the FDA announced the recall of skin sanitizers and lotions marketed by Clarcon Biological Chemistry Lab), how can the little guys manage it?
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Jenny and Skip Alexander are a husband and wife team with lots of talent and a job they love. "We do everything from construction work to making dainty jewelry," they say. "We are completely self-employed and are loving every minute of it!"
And we love the jewelry in their Etsy shop, AlexandersDesigns. They work with "a unique blend of Swarovski Crystals, lamp work and glass beads, semi-precious gemstones, sterling silver, fine silver, pewter, and gold. Some pieces are playful, bold with lots of color and some pieces are simple yet very beautiful."
Our favorite, which leapt off the page and practically spoke to us, was the ring "Hammered," a handmade Sterling Silver band created by Skip, above.
The couple is celebrating their one-year Etsyversary this week, and are offering a 25%-off sale on everything in their shop from May 5th -12th. Just make sure to type "ETSYVERSARY25" in the message to seller when you buy.
The sale is good in their other two shops as well, so be sure to check those out for some great finds!
Monday, May 3, 2010
He must have gone after the Bonaparte gulls, because they were dive-bombing him as he sat atop that tree. He refused to be bothered by them, of course. He's far too regal a bird for that. Or maybe he's a she, I don't know. There is a pair of bald eagles nesting very close to our house, and I imagine this is one of that pair.
This morning we heard the distinctive call of our dear Sandhill Cranes, who must have just arrived home last night. They are incredibly funny to watch ... they walk like a silly butler in a cartoon. However, their cry is wonderful to listen to, and they surely plan to wake up us with it early every morning from now until September, as is their usual wont.
As funny as they look when walking, though, when they fly they are amazing to watch.
So all we are waiting for now is our beloved loons. Usually we get at least one or two pairs nesting on our lake. Their lonely call is heartbreakingly beautiful. And, they make they cutest babies! We'll post photos when they arrive!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The pair are the driving force behind "Our Home To Yours," a fabulous shop on Etsy that offers a fun combination of items like hand-crocheted childrens' hats and stuffed toys, unique vintage items and home decor, and photography.
Whether or not people can become addicted to lip balm is controversial and debated a lot among researchers and other people with lots of time on their hands. It IS known, however, that balms like Carmex, Blistex, and some Chapstick-type products contain ingredients such as menthol, camphor or phenol, which are actually drugs meant to DRY up skin problems such as canker sores, ect.
Furthermore, these ingredients are much too harsh for everyday use. They do nothing to actually nurture the skin on your lips, and most contain petroleum products, which some feel are very harmful and at the least do nothing good for you.
At Swan Mountain Soaps, we create a natural, nuturing balm for lips that moisturizes with ingredients like cocoa butter, shea butter, pure olive oil, castor oil, and Vitamin E. No drugs, no petroleum products, no nonsense. With flavors like Decadent Butterscotch, Chocolate Orange Truffle, Minty Lime, Apricot Honey, Wild Alaskan Rose and Alaskan Violet, Chai Tea, and even an unflavored version (just for geeks!), we know they're good enough to eat. We don't recommend it, of course, but isn't it nice to know that you can?
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
He itched. He cried. He had diarrhea all the time.
Trying to be a good mommy, I put him in tepid baths with a little ground oatmeal to try to stop the itching. It didn't help. We tried changing his diet - he wasn't eating too many different things yet - Cheerios were his favorite food, and he loved fruits and veggies. Finally, I took him to an allergist.
Lo and behold, he was allergic - very allergic - to oats. And here I'd been bathing him in the stuff.
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphalaxis Network, "Approximately 12 million people in the U.S. have food allergies. That’s one in 25, or 4% of the population. Food allergies are more prevalent among young children – one in 17 under the age of 3 has food allergies."
I eventually had all of my kids tested. Turns out one of my daughters is so allergic to nuts that she was given an epi pen to carry with her. I had no idea.
Parenting a child with food allergies, especially a young one, can be daunting. A trip to the grocery store - which used to take 15 minutes - now takes an hour, since every single label must be read. These days, many foods have ingredients you'd never suspect. For example, I am very allergic to soy. I never would have dreamed I'd find it in lunch meat - until the day I bit into a roast beef sandwich and my throat almost closed up. Sure enough, the meat contained soy. Why it did, I have no idea.
Furthermore, a parent cannot watch over their child's diet when they aren't home. Sometimes it only takes a tiny bite of an allergen to cause a strong reaction. What if someone offers my son a bit of an oatmeal raisin cookie and he says yes?
I came across these bracelets last night, and I am thrilled. What a great idea! Lucinda of Designed By Lucinda on Etsy makes the custom personalized bracelets that kids will be likely to wear because they're cool and pretty.
"My child has asthma, and I know many kids with it," Lucinda writes. "I also know many people with kids who have food allergies. The problem is that the necklaces and bracelets that EMTs are trained to look for tend to be a bit ugly to a first grader or so. These bracelets are a training step for kids for accept the (to them) ugly necklace while sporting a pretty bracelet."
Monday, April 19, 2010
Learn more about Julianne and her work here: http://www.madebyjewls.blogspot.com/
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Well, actually, that's not true. I'm a sucker for Girl Scouts. It's the cute little braids and puppy-dog eyes that do me in. How can you say no to a sweet little 6-year-old handing you a box of Tagalongs? I'm equally as helpess in the face of lemonade stands and Little Leaguers going door-to-door with magazine subscriptions.
Now, I have no trouble passing up these items in the grocery store isles. Honestly, I need a box of cookies like Sampson needs an electric razor. The thing is, it's the pitch, not the product. And that makes me think.
What's my pitch?
A few months ago, I attended a Virtual Lab critique session with daniellexo of Etsy. One of the things Danielle talked about was the shop profile. It is vital, she said, that your profile tell a story about you and your work that will draw potential buyers and make them remember who you are.
Now, just about every craftsperson I know has a story. And it's usually a pretty good one. My own story is all about itching. Grocery store "soap" made me itch. I tried a bar of the real thing and I itched no more. And so, a soaper is born. It's that simple.
However, wend your way through the plethora of shops on Etsy and most seller profiles will have your eyes glazing over faster than a Congressional budget session on C-Span. "Hi! Thanks for coming to my shop!" or "I have always dabbled in one craft or another," or "XYZ's is dedicated to providing the highest quality widget blankets!"
ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...... wha? oh, sorry.
If you want to pull me in faster than a toothless cherub at a lemonade stand with free chocolate samples, take note:
1. Tell me your story. Be specific. I don't want to hear that you're a naturally crafty person. I want to know WHY you make widget blankets that are special enough that you think I need to have one. Maybe you learned widget blanket-making while in prison, and have since turned your life around. Maybe your great-grandmother taught you this family widget blanket-making method on her knee. Maybe you set out to make a blanket for your pet canary but realized it fit your widget much better, and viola - a cottage industry was born. THAT's what I want to hear about.
2. I already assume that you are dedicated to providing the highest quality item. I've already figured that out from your photos, or I wouldn't have gotten this far into your shop. Tell me about your wonderful customer service in your policies section. Unless you are telling me about the time you got on an airplane to deliver one of your widget blankets to Oprah, and Colin Firth was seated next to you on the plane and insisted on having it for himself, but your supreme customer loyalty wouldn't allow it.
3. Same goes for the "highest quality ever" materials you use. If your shop name is "WidgetBlanketShop," please don't announce that you create one-of-a-kind widget blankets. The average shopper is somewhat brighter than you think, and can figure that part out for themself. However, please do tell me if you are in the process of patenting the use of fair-trade organic tomato seeds and Peruvian llama eyelashes for the trim. I'd love to know what makes you unique.
Here are a few examples of fun profiles:
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Some of my very favorite people hail from across the pond ... Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Cat Stevens, Vincent Van Gogh and (sigh) Colin Firth.
So it should come as no surprise that another Brit - Naomi from moonangelnay - has one of my new favorite shops on etsy. Naomi has an amazing eye for beauty and mystery, and manages to capture the essence of everyday items, turning them into works of art.
"I'm inspired by the human form, philosophy, nature, free will and color," she says. "A fine art artist at heart, yet I have an ever changing abstract style which has also drifted into my digital art work."
"I try to bring contrasting duality into my work, highlighting my interests in both light and dark and the veil in between through form, color, mantra and poetry to bring forth my objective to brand my work as more than just physical art or home decor, but something to think about," she says.
Naomi bases much of her work on "the affinity I perceive an object to have with it's environment, which can give a spiritual ambience to what I do. I love spectral brightness and the gothic glamor of monotone, instead of being quite the opposite, can be meshed together like light refracting through broken darkness."
You can learn more about Naomi and her work at her blog, here: http://moonangelnay.blogspot.com/
Monday, April 12, 2010
- In ancient Greece, lavender was known as "nard."
- Nard is mentioned in the Bible (Song of Solomon 4:14).
- Dried lavender flowers have become recently popular for wedding confetti.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using lavender.
- The lavender plant actually belongs to the mint family, Lamiaceae.
We love the way lavender essential oil smells in our Lavender Bliss shampoo bar. We add just a wee a hint of clove essential oil, for an amazing blend that's calming, wonderful, and well ... blissful!
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
We want to know, what spells S-p-r-i-n-g- in your neck of the woods? Leave us a comment below and we'll choose our favorite. We'll send the winner a bar of our Secret Garden soap (free shipping in US only, international contestants must pay shipping - sorry!).
And don't forget to vote in the SAFE team's Spring challenge here too for another chance to win a little bit of Spring! http://etsysafeteam.blogspot.com/
Monday, April 5, 2010
This week's featured Etsy seller is JujuBee Jewelry Designs. All of her items are just so pretty, a person could easily find themself giving in to their feminine side and buying half a dozen items. Of course, then a person would have to get their husband to take them out to dinner so they'd have a reason to wear said pretty things. Guess that's just the price you pay for bee-ing beautiful! =D
Here are a few more of JujuBee's items we love:
You can see more at her Etsy shop, here, or learn more about her at her blog, http://jujubeejewelrydesigns.blogspot.com/