Sunday, October 28, 2012

A portable treat for your elbows

My last post was an informational article (yawn) on preservatives. After reading it, you may be wondering what kinds of products you can buy that don't include potentially dangerous preservatives. Well, I just happen to have a perfect example for you! 



These are one of my favorite new products to make. If you like simple, all-natural products, this one is for you! Since I like you all so much, I'll even include a recipe and instructions to make your own at the end of this post. You can thank me later...

My beeswax lotion bars are made with the highest quality ingredients I could find: organic shea butter, pure essential oils, nourishing nut oils (like sweet almond, hemp and coconut), and of course, beeswax. I make them in several popular scents including lavender, patchouli, citrus, cedarwood and peppermint. I also make them without any fragrance, so all you get is the sweet and nutty smell of pure beeswax. Lotion bars make excellent gifts. At just $5 (one ounce) and $10 for the large (3 oz.), they are a great buy!
To make your own lotion bars, you really only need a few basic ingredients in a 2:3:2 ratio. For example, use:
  • 2 oz. sweet almond oil (or any other nourishing oil you have on hand)
  • 3 oz. beeswax
  • 2 oz. shea butter (or cocoa butter)
  • essential oils for fragrance and other beneficial properties (for example, lavender is calming, citrus scents are uplifting). For more information on essential oils, please visit my doTERRA link.

  • You can make lotion bars using either a double boiler or microwave. If using a double boiler, first melt beeswax and oil over a medium heat. Turn off heat as soon as the wax is melted. Then add the shea butter. Stir until the butter melts into the mixture. Do not add shea butter at the beginning because overheating shea can cause it to turn grainy. Once all ingredients are melted together, pour into selected molds. Some great choices to use for lotion bar molds are muffin tins, old laundry detergent cups (wash well first), or ice cube trays. The best time to add the essential oils is after your mixture has cooled a bit.

    If you choose to make lotion bars in the microwave, follow the same basic instructions.  Place your beeswax and oil in a glass, microwave save measuring cup. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stopping to stir after each burst. Once the wax is melted, add the shea butter and stir until it melts. Once cooled a bit, add the essential oil and pour into desired molds.

    You can place your molds into the freezer to help the lotion bars solidify quickly. After 20 minutes in the freezer, you can pop them out of the molds, and they are ready to use!

    I am taking special orders for the holiday season. After November 15, my prices will increase. Please visit my Etsy shop or email me directly for ordering information.

    Sunday, October 21, 2012

    To preserve or not to preserve....

    I was cleaning out my linen closet today, and I opened a bottle of body lotion from Bath and Body Works. Ahhh, the lovely smell of lavender and musk that is "Moonlight Path."  Oh...wait a second... this bottle of body lotion still looks and smells exactly the same as it did when I bought it - AT LEAST SIX YEARS AGO!  YIKES!! 

    I hope that since you are reading this blog, you understand why this creeps me out. If not, let me explain...

    Think about a loaf of fresh bread you have just baked (or maybe picked up from your favorite local bakery). You have to eat that bread pretty fast, right? Otherwise, you can almost see the mold spores multiply in front of you. On the other hand, that loaf of bread you picked up from the grocery store two weeks ago may still be going strong. Why?  PRESERVATIVES.

    Preservatives are not inherantly bad things. Hey, without them, we'd all be making daily trips to the store.  BUT, some preservatives are worse than others. Unfortunately,, my "bible" of harmful ingredients is offline right now.  Otherwise I'd tell you to grab your favorite major brand of soap or lotion and start researching its ingredients.

    Here are a few of the worst offenders:

  • Words ending in "paraben"
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Triclosan
  • Triclocarban
  • Triethanolamine (or "TEA")
  • Diazolidinyl Urea (the preservative contained in this Bath and Body Works lotion)

  • Do you know where to find most of the preservatives on your product labels? Look at the bottom of the ingredient list. You know that product labels (just like food labels) are labeled based on the quantity of each ingredient, right?. The ingredient that makes up the greatest percentage of the final product is listed first, with each other ingredient following in descending order.  It only takes a little preservative to protect a product, so they are usually one of the last few ingredients.

    Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in personal care products; they stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your favourite creams and makeup, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom.  This can be a very good thing until you consider the fact that scientific studies have shown that parabens have been found in many types of body tissue including breast tissue and tumors, umbilical cord tissue and urine. Parabens are known estrogen mimicers and hormone disrupters. What you put on your skin DOES enter your blood stream!

    What would happen without preservatives in our personal care products?  If a product contains water, it must contain a preservative to have a shelf-life of more than a couple of months. Otherwise, you could have a moldy, bacteria-laden mess on your hands! It makes sense for large companies to use preservatives. Otherwise, their products would spoil before they ever reached the consumer.

    Are there alternatives to chemical-based preservatives?  Sure! I refuse to use any of these chemicals in my products. There are several very effective natural antioxidants that can help slow down the oxidation process, thereby slowing down spoilage. Some of these natural ingrediens include Vitamin E, Grapeseed Oil, Neem Oil and Rosemary Oil. Not only are these products safe, but since they are antioxidants, they are actually beneficial for your skin! Now, don't get me wrong. These ingredients will not make a product last forever. To be safe, all of my products should be used in six months to a year. Not unreasonable, right?

    As is true with most things in life - everything works in moderation. When I go to the grocery store, I can't buy exclusively organic, but I do what I can. It is nearly impossible to avoid potentially harmful ingredients like the preservatives mentioned above. The key is to limit your exposure to them when you can. I have made the personal choice for myself and my family to use as many natural products as possible.

    Always read the ingredient labels for the products you purchase. If you can't pronounce the ingredient or can't picture the source it may have come from, chances are it isn't natural. If a product doesn't include an ingredient list (yikes!), don't use it!


    ESSENTIAL8 DISCLAIMER: I am not a licensced health care professional. Any information in this blog is intended for informational purposes only. If you have questions about ingredients in your favorite products, please let me know. I will be happy to help you research them.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    I'm back!

    Hi there! I'm back on the grid after a busy week followed by a long weekend out of town. I've been back for about 48 hours, and I've had a chance to catch up with the kids, go to work, cook a couple dinners, sweep the floor 16 times, fold 27 loads of laundry and mop twice.  These numbers may be a slight exaggeration, but it sure doesn't feel like it!

    Does this scenario sound familiar? You clean your house and do all this laundry to prepare for a trip, but as soon as you get back, you have to do it all over again?! No matter how long I'm gone, the "settling in" always feels overwhelming for a couple days. Thank goodness for our amazing baby/pet sitter. She is invaluable!!

    Anyway, to the three of you who read this blog, I just wanted to let you know that I haven't let this fall by the wayside... I've just been a little busy. In the coming weeks, in between crazy sessions in the kitchen preparing for my holiday shows, I will be highlighting more products that make excellent gifts for the holidays.

    These will include: Beeswax Lotion Bars, Healing Avocado Salve, Aromatherapy Sprays, All-Purpose Cleaner and Hardwood Cleaner, plus a few extras that I am concocting especially for the holidays.

    As a completely random side note, I am really excited about a lecture I will be attending tomorrow. Geoffrey Canada, an educational activist and founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, will be speaking in Utica tomorrow. For more information, please visit


    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Highlights from the Indie Garage Sale

    Ok. Deep breath. My first major event (alone) is done. Woohooooo!!! 

    It went well, I sold out of a few products (yessss!), and I went home with less than I came with.
    That's all a crafter can hope for, right? I will tell you that my biceps were very tired after loading in all of my heavy bins full of products. 

    Here are a few things I learned from doing the show this weekend:

    1. A hand truck or wagon is an investment well worth the money. 
    I did not have one this weekend, but I sure could have used it! As a relatively petite person who is not of brute strength, lifting and carrying several hundred pounds worth of supplies and inventory into a train station left me with sore muscles and tired feet. Luckily, I spotted one of my high-school-aged students as I was unloading and was able to cajole him into helping me. J My very friendly booth neighbor helped me load up when the event was over. Thank goodness for friendly, helpful people! Next time, I’ll bring a wagon.

     2. It pays to be early! 
    On Sunday morning, I was one of the first vendors to arrive to set up my booth. Since the event was at a train station, there happened to be a large crowd of people waiting to board a train. As soon as I uncovered my table, several people came over to browse. Within 10 minutes, I had sold over $100 in products, and the event hadn’t even begun yet!

    Setting up your booth will inevitably take longer than you expect – especially when you are just starting out. Arriving early ensures you will have a few seconds to breathe before you (hopefully) get swamped with customers. The few minutes before an event starts are also a great time to walk around and see what other vendors and crafters are offering (see point #3).

     3. Even if you don’t reach your sales goal, networking can be invaluable. 
    One of my favorite parts about participating in vendor events and craft shows is the opportunity to meet and chat with other like-minded folks. Not only is “talking shop” fun, it can open doors to opportunities you might not otherwise find. I received invitations to other events and spoke to someone about opportunities for wholesaling.  Hey, ya just never know!

    4. Not everyone cares about keeping it natural.
    While I pride myself on my personal business mission to keep things as green as possible, I realize that this may limit my sales. Potential customers often ask me if I make products in [artificial] scents like vanilla, verbena, pumpkin, etc… There are thousands of fragrance oils that come in practically any scent combinations you can imagine, but they aren’t real. Since I only use essential oils for fragrance, I am somewhat limited in my options. I like it when people ask me about this, though, because it gives me the opportunity to explain why I choose the ingredients that I do. Sometimes, this causes eye rolling and quick steps to the next booth, but for others… maybe it’s the start of a new thought process.

     5. Sometimes you just don’t get the right crowd.

    I have been told so many times that the first year of being a crafter or vendor is spent trying to figure out what events are best for your business. This is SO true! I have been fortunate so far that most of the events I have chosen to participate in weren’t total flops– as in, at least I made my booth fee back. You just don’t always know whether your products will be a hit. It’s frustrating but an inevitable part of the learning process. I suppose that little pinch of disappointment when someone walks by your booth without showing any interest goes away after some time, but it still gets me.

    All in all, The Indie Garage Sale was successful for me because the crowd generally seemed to be interested in eco-friendly products. I covered my expenses, plus a little extra. I paid attention to what people were most interested in (my organic cleaners, beeswax lotion bars, bath soaks), and what they weren’t (reed diffusers). I had a great time, met some really great people and bought some cute things, too!

    Now… it’s back to work on the Etsy page!
                     Happy Crafting!