Scenes from on the road…

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Featured Item: Organic Soap Gift Box

There’s something incredibly luxurious about nice soap. So, a box of beautifully packaged soap makes a wonderfully indulgent gift for that certain someone. I think giving someone lovely soap is the equivalent of bringing someone flowers – it’s a sensory treat.

Soap is a great gift for practical reasons, too.  It’s a consumable, so it’s great for people who are weary of accumulating more ‘stuff’ yet there’s no sugar rush involved as with sweet consumables.  And, there’s no guessing about sizes or colors.

The beautanical gift box of organic soap is gift giving ready – four organic handmade soaps in a kraft box (made of 100% recycled content) lined with tissue paper. The box is finished off with a bright green ribbon and a hand-stamped gift card. If you put your message in the comments, I will fill the gift card out for you and send it on its way. This is a truly unique handmade gift that will pamper the recipient for months to come.

And of course, this makes a great gift for yourself :)

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beautanical is on the road for the holidays!

A few shots from yesterday’s show at the Bellevue Club:

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It’s always fun to get to actually talk with people about my soap, to meet new crafters and artists, and to ogle all the creative goodness around me.

I’ll be doing three more shows this season!  Details below :)

November 16 – Queen Anne Artists Trunk Show

Nov. 29 & 30 – The EtsyRAIN Show

Dec. 7 & 8 – The Phinney Winter Festival and Crafts Fair

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Yuzu Bath for the Winter Solstice

This Friday the 21st is the Winter Solstice, and I just discovered that in Japan they traditionally take a hot bath with Yuzu fruits on the Solstice (called TO-JI in Japan).  Yuzu is a cold hardy Japanese citrus fruit, and looks like a small orange with a scent similar – but of course not quite the same – to a mix of grapefruit and mandarin.  The essential oil of Yuzu is especially valued because although it is a top note, it has unique ‘staying’ power and does not dry out as quickly as other top notes.  Like many citrus oils, Yuzu essential oil is emotionally uplifting, which makes it perfectly suited for a bath on the darkest day of the year.  It also has strong antibacterial properties.  The Yuzu bath, called Yuzuyu, is said to ward off winter colds and sickness and bring a general sense of well-being.

Hot springs and public baths put the whole fruit in the water on the Solstice, sometimes squeezing them to release their juices.  The pictures I’ve been finding of bright fruits bobbing in the water are wonderfully fun and appealing this time of year.

Interestingly, my ‘Winter in Seattle‘ blend of bath salts seems to be very similar in spirit to the Yuzu Bath.  The blend of citrus essential oils have strong emotionally uplifting qualities, but I also added the the base notes of fir and cedarwood, which are emotionally grounding.  It’s sort of the Pacific Northwest version of the Yuzu bath, and I’ll be incorporating it into my Winter Solstice celebrations this Friday.

Other Japanese customs for the Solstice include eating pumpkin and walking through fire.  I’m just incorporating the bath this year though.  Maybe I can explore walking through fire next year?

Do you have any traditions for celebrating the Solstice?

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Treating Overworked Muscles with Essential Oils

Summer seems to be prime time for sore muscles.  There’s just a lot more running biking, hiking, camping, weeding, mowing, swimming, walking, digging, building, hoisting — you name it — going on than normal.  Finishing off the day with a few beers you may feel fine, until you wake up the next morning stiff and achey.  And if you haven’t been working out quite as hard before summer, you can be hit with some especially sore muscles.

Rest is, of course, the main cure, but aromatherapy has a lot to offer in the way of sore muscle relief.  These aromatherapy remedies are called ‘pleasure remedies’ because they are effective at treating sore muscles, but are also wonderfully relaxing, soothing and fragrant.  (Try getting all that from a bottle of ibuprofen.)

Since excessive use of muscles causes muscle fatigue, soreness, stiffness, tension, and aches and pains, we want to use essential oils that are analgesic (pain-relieving), anti-inflammatory, and antispasmadic (preventing and easing spasms and cramps).   Additionally, many oils  improve circulation, helping to speed healing.

Pain relieving oils: Eucalyptus, German Chamomile, Lavender, Juniper, Rosemary, Peppermint, Cajeput, Sweet Marjoram, and Thyme.

Anti-inflammatory oils: German Chamomile, Helichrysum, Lavender, and Peppermint.

Antispasmodic oils: Lavender, Rosemary, Juniper, Peppermint, Cypress.

It’s important to rest, and drink lots of fluids (and in more severe cases, maybe even use some ice for spot treatment).  But the following 2 remedies can bring wonderful relief.

  • Warm-Hot Bath with essential oils.  Add 10 drops of essential oils to some Epson Salt; add to bath just before getting in, stir to disperse.  Soak for 20-30 minutes.  Rest afterwards.  Use for 3 consecutive days.  (Beautanical’s Recovery Bath Salts use a therapeutic blend of analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmadic oils mixed with Epsom and Dead Sea Salts.)
  • Massage oil with essential oils.  Mix 24 drops of essential oil (a combination of the essential oils listed above) with 1 oz. vegetable oil.  This is a concentrated oil for treating small areas.  Massage into muscles up to 4 times a day as needed for soreness and stiffness.  Works really well after the bath!
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Green Cleaning 101 (on the cheap and easy)

Skeptics abound in the natural cleaning world.  Noxious smells like bleach are actually associated with effectiveness, so it seems impossible that a cleaner made of non-toxic ingredients, not to mention ones you can mix yourself, could actually work.  Yet, when people  try these cleaners, they’re surprised by how well they work, much in the way that this skeptic, writing for Grist, was won over by homemade green cleaners after conducting his won tests.

While commercial ‘green cleaning products’ are becoming more popular, many people hesitate to make their own, thinking handmade cleaners are only made by the crunchier types and involve all sorts of time-consuming mixing of funky ingredients.  But fear not, handmade cleaners are surprisingly simple to make.  And what’s more, they’re way cheaper than their commercial counterparts.

Over the past few years, I’ve become quite an advocate for making your own cleaners for all of these reasons, but most importantly, to avoid chemicals.  This infographicgives a good rundown of the chemical dangers in common household cleaners.  Consider the following:

  • According to the EPA, our indoor environment is two to five times more toxic than our outdoor environment
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Health Organization have concluded that 80% of all cancers are attributed to environmental rather than genetic factors, including exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, many of which are found in household cleaning products.
  • According to the Silent Spring Institute, women who work at home have a 55% higher rate of breast cancer than women who work outside the home(!)

Some of the dangers of indoor air come from mold, cooking and heating, and building materials, but a big source of indoor air pollution is household products.  Many products contains ethers, terpenes, and other toxins. The good news is that it’s easy and cheap to make your own green cleaning products and yes, even skeptics admit that they do work.  So, here’s the lowdown on green cleaners.

Most DIY green cleaners use just a few ingredients.  These few ingredients are cheap, available at most grocery stores, and can make a huge variety of cleaners:

Baking Soda – Mild abrasive for removing soap scum and residue, deodorizer

Vinegar – Grease-cutter, deodorizer, cleanser

Borax – Natural mineral disinfectant and cleanser (This is on the laundry aisle, and not every grocery store seems to carry it; Use care when using this.)

Castile soap – Mild liquid soap made of vegetable oil. Very versatile cleanser for so many things (including your body!).  This is available at most health food stores and grocery stores.  A popular brand is Dr. Bronner’s – some people use the soap already mixed with essential oil (peppermint is very popular) and skip adding separate essential oils.

Essential oils- These plant essential oils have natural antibacterial and antifungal properties, and they make the products smell lovely.  Popular ones are peppermint, lavender, thyme, eucalyptus, and lemon.  (These are available at health food stores and some grocery stores.) They may seem expensive, but you only need a few drops in each cleaning recipe, so a little bottle can last you a very long time. Other than these ingredients, you’ll need:

  • Empty spray bottles
  • A funnel
  • A spoon or something to stir with

Here are a few of the recipes I regularly use to get you started.

Lavender-Oregano Counter Spray – I came across this recipe in Craft Magazine a few years ago and have been using it ever since.  The recipe is from the Austin-based Purple Fig Cleaning Company, which offers chemical free cleaning services.  Lavender and Oregano have great antibacterial properties, and it smells wonderful.  You can also swap out the Lavender and Oregano for other essential oils – I often use Lemon Eucalyptus (which is hard to find in stores but can be ordered) – but you could use Tree Tree or Peppermint or Lemon, add a little baking soda, and use it as a sort of all-purpose cleaner.  (See All-Purpose instructions below.)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp Borax
  • 2 Cups warm water
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp lavender essential oil
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp liquid Castile Soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 1/2 tsp Oregano Essential Oil

Directions

  1. Mix the Borax and warm water.
  2. Add the Lavender essential oil.
  3. Add the castile soap.
  4. Add the Oregano essential oil.
  5. Pour into a spray bottle, label and enjoy.

Tip: I write the recipe right on the spray bottle, so when I need to refill it, the recipe is right there.  I also make a double batch at a time, which fits nicely in the larger spray bottles. Shortcut tip: You could use a Castile Soap with essential oil in it (such as Dr. Bronners Peppermint or Lavender and skip adding essential oils).

To make this counter spray recipe an All Purpose Cleaner, add 1 tsp baking soda to the mix, and substitute 1 – 1 1/2 tsp of whichever essential oil(s) you like.

Basic Window Cleaner – This recipe hails from “make your place,” a sweet little book my friend gave me that’s full of tips and recipes on “affordable, sustainable nesting skills.” I highly recommend this book not only because it’s full of great useful info, but because it’s one of those small zine-like hand-written and illustrated books that’s a delight to read through.

Ingredients

  • 3 tsp liquid soap
  • 3/4  cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4-8 drops lemon essential oil

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle.  Label.  Shake well before using. Tip: When I used to lifeguard at a huge indoor pool in a glass atrium which we had to clean, my boss gave me a tip on cleaning windows: use crumpled newspaper.  For some reason, it leaves less streaks than paper towels and of course, it’s a great way to use up old newspapers without using up more natural resources.

Cleaning soap scum: To clean soap scum off tubs, you can just sprinkle some baking soda in the tub, then spray with your All-purpose cleaner, using the scouring power of the baking soda and a little elbow grease to remove the scum.  Some folks premix a scouring scrub (2 cups baking soda + 10-15 drops essential oil) but I’m usually too lazy and just use the all-purpose spray with some baking soda.  However you do it, baking soda works great for tubs and sinks.

Unclogging drains: Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup vinegar.  It will bubble up, like a volcano science experiment.  Let it sit for 10- 15 minutes, then flush the drain with a pot of boiling water.

You can also use this technique to clean toilet bowls: Use 1 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup baking soda, plus 10 drops of tree tree or another essential oil for antibacterial action.  You can either mix all this before hand, dump in the toilet and then scrub, or, you can pour the vinegar in, let it sit for 30 minutes, and then sprinkle some baking soda on your brush or int he bowl and scrub.  For a quick scrub, you can also just sprinkle either baking soda or borax in the bowl, let it sit a while (several hours or overnight if you can), and then scrub.

Refreshing old sponges: Old smelly sponges – blech.  Try soaking your sponges in a bowl of water with a few drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil for a few hours to disinfect them.

All-Purpose Floor Cleaner – from Connecticut’s Upper Valley Waste Management site.  Mix 2 tablespoons liquid soap or detergent with 1 gallon hot water.  Mix, mop, and wipe clean.

Tile Floor Cleaner - also from the Connecticut site.  Combine 1 cup vinegar and 1 gallon hot water. Mix, mop and wipe clean.  Tip: To remove scuff marks, sprinkle with baking soda and spray with equal parts vinegar and water. Wipe clean.

Wood Floor Cleaner – courtesy of good old Martha Stewart.  Use a damp – not saturated – sponge mop to wash with warm water. If your wood floor is really dirty, try a solution of 1/8 cup plant-based liquid soap and 1/8 cup distilled white vinegar to 1 gallon water.  You can add add 10 drops essential oil for fragrance.

These recipes should give you a good start into diy green cleaning, but I’ve also complied a board on Pinterest with lots of green cleaning recipes, which I’ll keep adding to.  You can experiment with tweaking different recipes to find those formulas that work best for you.  Try a few and see if your inner skeptic isn’t won over.

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The Magic of Handmade Soap

I love talking to people who have just discovered handmade soap for the first time.  They’re always surprised to discover how different it is from the soap they usually buy at the grocery store.  And they always get excited about how moisturizing it is without being greasy, and how it doesn’t strip and dry their skin out.

Real, handmade soap and commercial soap are two very different animals.  Commercial soap often isn’t really soap at all but more of a detergent bar, made in huge factories with cheaper ingredients and lots of chemicals.

Handmade soap, on the other hand, is usually made from just vegetable oils and sodium hydroxide (aka lye, which initiates the transformation of oils into soap, but isn’t actually present in the final product).  The basic equation for handmade soap is Fatty Acid (oil) + Base (lye) = “A Salt” (soap)

One of the other big reasons that handmade soap is less drying comes down to one magical word: glycerin.  Glycerin is a byproduct of the saponification process, and it is an incredible moisturizer. Commercial soap manufacturers remove glycerin from their soap during the manufacturing process because they can sell it separately to make more money, and because removing it extends the shelf life of the soap so that it can sit in warehouses or on store shelves for years and years.  Handmade soap retains all of its glycerin, making it very moisturizing.

(And while we’re on the topic – transparent soap is often referred to as “glycerin soap” but this is a misnomer, as glycerin is not needed to produce transparent soap.  Transparent soap is just soap that is made clear by adding solvents to prevent crystals from forming as the soap cools.  So, transparent soap can contain glycerin, but not necessarily — and some transparent soap can be quite drying.)

I was in Santa Fe last year for the first time, one of the driest places in the country, and on the shuttle ride back to the airport everyone was talking about how dried out their lips and skin had been during their visit there.  The driver said the key to combating dry skin was glycerin and I thought, of course, the magic of glycerin.  In a desert climate like Santa Fe you had better get you some glycerin.

Beyond the physical benefits, people seem to really enjoy the aesthetic appeal of a handmade bar of soap — these bars of soap are unique and organic looking.  I’ve had several people tell me just seeing their handmade bar of soap sitting on their soap dish made them happy.  They have personality!  And they smell more appealing than the generic chemically-scented “Irish Spring” Bar.   The scents of handmade soap bars are very unique, and there are many options for non-synthetic scents.  I scent all my bars with only natural plant essential oils, which really brings nature into your shower.

Maybe all this handmade soap magic is why I still love giving handmade soap as gifts?  And why I still like receiving homemade soap as a gift…

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The disappearing bees – organic connection

The disappearance of bees has gained widespread media attention over the past few years, and there have been a lot of theories as to the mysterious cause of their collapse. In the beginning, there was speculation that it was caused by some sort of virus or bacteria, and then there were theories that cell phone towers might be causing the bees to die.

I watched the documentary “The Vanishing of Bees” last week, and the beekepers in it offer a compelling explanation: the recent introduction of systemic pesticides on crops.  Pesticides have always killed bess, but in the past the pesticides were of the topical variety; beekeepers could simply keep their bees away while the crops were being sprayed and once the air cleared they could let the bees loose to pollinate the crops.  (They talk more in the documentary about the big business of using bees for pollination of large farms.)

But the new systemic pesticides are applied to the leaf or seed of the plant, and actually become part of its vascular system — and thus its pollen and fruit and everything else — so the bees can’t avoid ingesting them.  These systemic pesticides seem to compromise the immune systems of bees, making them susceptible to all sorts of diseases.
Interestingly (but not surprisingly?) organic farms and beekeepers don’t seem to be experiencing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

This all got me thinking about the bigger picture of choosing organic products.  I think often organics are only valued only for their immediate benefit to the consumer (not containing pesticides) and are often portrayed in the mainstream media as luxury items.  But there is clearly a much bigger picture to choosing organic, and much bigger implications.

The Vanishing of the Bees is a watch now on Netflix.  Here’s the trailer:

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Featured Item: Cleansing Grains

Cleansing grains remove oil and dirt without stripping the skin, making them an ideal cleanser for maintaining the delicate moisture balance of the face.

As much as I’m (obviously) a huge fan of soap, I don’t advocate washing your face with soap.  This is because soap can remove too much oil from your face, upsetting the delicate sebum balance of the face, which can cause your face to become too oily or too dry.  I remember reading an article recently about how dermatologists are discovering that different parts of our skin are like different ecosystems, and I think this is a good way to think about it — the face is a different and much more delicate ecosystem than the rest of your skin.  Cleansing grains are a wonderful way to very gently cleanse and exfoliate your face, without stripping it.

Cleansing grains have been used for centuries in Japan, where they were often made with rice powder and Adzuki beans, and India, where they were often made with sandalwood powder.  Rosemary Gladstar, one of the pioneers of natural herbal beauty care in America, included her recipe for “Miracle Grains” in her classic “Herbs for Natural Beauty.” Made of clay and finely ground herbs, grains, and nuts, she describes them as “the perfect soap replacement.”  I’ve noticed myriad versions of this recipe for sale — all different and all lovely.

Beautanical cleansing grains are my own version of this original recipe.  Since I have oily skin, I formulated my grains with some green clay to combat oiliness, and sell them as the “Normal to Oily Skin” version.  I also sell a “Normal to Dry” version with only milder white clay.  Both versions are full of skin-nourishing finely ground herbs, grains, and nuts.

People often ask me if cleansing grains are an exfoliant, which they are, but they are very different from the harsh scrubs labeled as exfoliants on the market.  Cleansing Grains are incredibly gentle, and suitable for everyday use.  People are often surprised by how soft and smooth their skin feels after using cleansing grains.  They are mild and effective — gently cleansing, removing dead cells, distributing excess oils, improving circulation, and nourishing skin.

Since they are a “dry” products, they don’t require a preservative, and they can be mixed with various mediums for different effects.  Rosemary Gladstar advocated mixing some grains with honey (which is both moisturizing and anti-bacterial) and just a little bit of water.  You can also mix them with floral water, and/or use the grains as a mask.

Cleansing grains are a perfect example of what natural beauty products should be — simple and effective.

Go to: beautanical’s cleansing grains

 

 

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