Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm 40

As of 12:12 a.m. today, in fact (as I write this statement, it's 11:56 p.m., which means by the time I publish this post, it'll be a day later).  For a landmark birthday like this, I did a lot of celebrating!

On Saturday, Eric and I went to Mystic, CT for the day, leaving NJ early in the morning, and getting back late at night.  We had a blast at the aquarium, where I got to feed stingrays for the very first time.

The great thing about the Mystic Aquarium is how close you can get to the exhibits.

Is it me, or are jellyfish just wrong?  No, really, where are the parts?  Aside from body and tentacles... where's the brain?  And if there's no brain, what sends the messages do the tentacles to move and sting?  And then there's the fact that they look so mushy and vulnerable, but they're actually dangerous.  Wrong, I tell you.

The funniest thing, though, were these two sea lions.  Hysterical!  I got video...

After we left the aquarium, we headed for Old Mystic Village, where we had a terrific lunch and walked around the shops.

Then we went to Mystic Seaport itself, where we watched some great demonstrations.  And asked another tourist to take this shot of us.

Then, we had dinner at S&P Oyster House, and watched the ships pass through the drawbridge there.  It's not often you're actually at a drawbridge when it's being lifted.

On Sunday, we met with my family early in the morning for my birthday and the birthday of my brother-in-law.  His birthday actually was on Sunday, while mine was today.  There's nothing like ice cream cake for breakfast.  And I got the best gifts!  My parents got me a series of massages at this spa, and I used the first one yesterday - Raindrop Therapy.  The massage therapist used nine different essential oils during the treatment, and it was absolute heaven.

My sister and brother-in-law, though, they got me this!

I've never had a sewing machine before, but I've wanted one for years.  I haven't actually used one since 8th grade home economics, when I made a pillow shaped like a cupcake, so I'm in the process of reading the manual.  I'm so excited!  From my 7 month old nephew, I got a gift bag of spools of thread and a bag of all sorts of nifty decorative buttons!  There was also a note that he wants me to make him things.  Of course I will!

Later in the morning, Eric and I met up with our friends, as well as my sis, brother-in-law, and nephew, to go to the Turtle Back Zoo.

We finished there with perfect timing, as just as we left the sky turned black with an impending storm!  From there, we went to play mini golf at Monster Golf - all indoors, and all lit by blacklight, with everything reflecting in UV.  It was great fun!  Then, it was off to dinner.  One of my friends, knowing me so well, gave me a gift card to Michael's for my birthday.  Today, I went shopping, and used it to buy these:

I'm so excited!  The one on the left has instructions for creating the absolute cutest stuffed animals, to accommodate my nephew's request.  And the book on the right, the one about revamping t-shirts into new clothes or other items intrigued me... you'll see why in a fun upcoming blog post.  (This is what we call foreshadowing, folks.)

So not only will you be seeing new soap here, not only will you be seeing awesome featured artists and blogs, but you'll be seeing my non-soap creations as well!  Heck, I'll even post in-progress shots, so you can see how I do things.

Today, on my actual birthday, Eric took me to WD-50, a restaurant owned by Wylie Dufresne.  If you've watched Top Chef, you might know who he is.  Dinner was amazing.  And just to be an attention-hound for a moment, I have to tell you Eric got me the sweetest gifts!  For starters, there was this box of Godiva chocolates.

To go with it, this tin of rare white tea, my absolute favorite!

And then, to go with the tea, this Lenox tea set!

The nifty thing about this, aside from the fact that it's Lenox, and really pretty, is that it's stackable.  When not in use, the teapot sits on the teacup and fits into it, forming one pretty sculpture.  How great is that?

My birthday week has been amazing!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Artist Spotlight: Part Twenty-Nine

Another blast from the past this week!  We've got Jennifer Mewes of Mewes Mountain Arts.

She's been really busy, so it's a great idea to feature her again and let you know what's been going on with her.  Not only is she a great artist, but on her blog, in addition to information about her own art and the wonderful art of others, she posts a weekly bible study.  Heck, reading her blog, I even learned about Uilleann pipes!

Plus, she's got both a Handmade Artists shop and an Etsy shop.  In them, you can find great pieces like this Jealous Heart bracelet, named after that great clasp.

Or this great Leap Frog bracelet, which also plays into my love of chainmaille.

I also love these great silver plate and pearl earrings.

Definitely check her out!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Words of Others

I decided today that I'd share some of the emails and private messages that we've gotten regarding our products.  I won't bother repeating here the messages you can see on the Reef Botanicals Facebook page, since you can just go there to read them, so these are just private messages we've received.

So... here goes...

"The shaving soap is the BOMB.  Been using crappy razors ... and using them way past when they should've been tossed ... and NOT ONE NICK since I started out using that stuff.  Still have to use conditioner even with your shampoo, but my hair is ridiculously thick and coarse.  BUT ... I got my hair colored right before you sent my package.  I only shampoo about once a week because ... it fades my color like CRAZY and I want to keep the red as long as possible.  So I've used your shampoo about 4x now.  I'm used to seeing the water turn a pinky color when I rinse shampoo out ... and with your shampoo?  NO PINK.  NONE.  Not even on the VERY FIRST WASH after the color.  I am AMAZED.  I'm a hairdresser's kid ... I've used only the very 'best stuff' on the market my entire life.  I've been coloring my hair since I was 14 years old.  And that's NEVER EVER happened."

~Lacey, Oklahoma

"I've been using [Reef Botanicals] shampoo since March.  Still use conditioner and I think that's because it's colored 'cause my hair is fine and short, but I just love it.  Will never go back to anything else and I'm an ex-hairdresser.

On another note I just started using Purity for cleaning [face painting] sponges and man does it rock.  If you aren't using it on your sponges you are surely missing out.  It's great."

~Nora, Texas

"I really do like the Purity.  The dry skin I was having issues with on my hands and the other spots like elbows and feet, has completely eased off.  It works great on our hair too - no tangles!"

"Both mom and I are using Purity soap for our hair.  I don't need to use conditioner either, if I use shampoo I HAVE to use conditioner to get a comb through my short hair!  Works great for us."

~Shannon, Canada

"I got a grease stain on the front of a favorite t-shirt months ago.  Washed it and washed it, pre-soaked it, tried a couple different cleaning sprays, nothing worked.  So I relegated it to wearing around the house.  When I got home from my last gig, the Purity did such a good job on my sponges and brushes that I got to thinking.  What about my t-shirt?  I pulled it out of the laundry basket, wet the bar of soap, and gave the stain a good rubbing.  I let it sit overnight and then washed it in hot water with my regular detergent the next day.  Ta da!  Stain's gone and I get to wear my shirt in public again.

All hail Larissa, Goddess of Clean!"

~Nancy, Virginia

"My order of soaps arrived yesterday.  Thank you for such great service.

As I told you, I was hesitant to try any kind of soap on my face because my skin is so dry and the climate here only adds to it.  Well, I tried the oatmeal honey soap on my face last night and WOW, it was fantastic.  My skin was actually softer afterwards and not dry at all!  I am delighted.  Why don't all soap manufacturers leave out the drying crap?  This is wonderful and I am sold."

~Joan, Arizona

"So, since I spent the whole day decluttering stuff ... I decided to reward myself with a nice, long warm bath scented with  my favorite oils, and finished with [Reef Botanical]'s sham-soap and lemon-sugar scrub.  I SMELL SO GOOD, and I FEEL SO GOOD!  My skin is like velvet.  :)"

~Cindy, Minnesota

"Just wanted to let you know I received my soap and I love it.

The packaging was very nice.  The Cool as a Cuke is my favorite.  Very nice lather, almost no fragrance, and it leaves my hands really soft.  Cleans up the face paint REALLY well on my fingers.  The lavender is nice too, but doesn't seem to lather as well. ... still, very nice and perfect for my guest bath.

I'm sure myself and my family will purchase more.  We love homemade products that are part of the solution for this Earth AND are made by small Mom and Pop businesses here in the USA.  You and Eric have done well.

~Laurie, California

"Today was my husband's birthday and I gave him the shaving products I bought from you.  He loves them, especially the soap!  He says it's the best lathering soap he's ever had, and he's had some expensive stuff before.  Just wanted to let you know.  I'm sure I'll be ordering again!"

~Teresa, North Carolina

Monday, July 19, 2010

Under Construction

If you try to go to Reef Botanicals, you'll see that we're under construction right now.  However, you can still buy Reef Botanicals products at our Handmade Artists' Shop, so don't let that stop you!  Be sure to contact me regarding your order with regard to combined shipping.

Although the HAF Shop program does not allow for automatic combined shipping, we retain our policy of flat rate $5 shipping to all locations in the U.S. for all orders, no matter how large!

Come shop!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Artist Spotlight: Part Twenty-Eight

The artist you get to meet this week is Linda, who calls herself Raedawn on the Handmade Artists Forum.  Her store name, though, is Dreams and Echoes.

Currently hailing from Lowell, MA, Raedawn makes jewelry the same way she has always made visual art - with attention and joy.  Each piece, therefore, is one of a kind and has its own unique character.

She grew up most of her life in Maryland, but sabbaticals in Oregon, Ontario, and Silver City, NM had definite influences on her work.  Her jewelry now includes themes that are primal/mythic, romantic, decorative, contemporary and Southwestern.
Raedawn's beading journey began after working for years as a visual artist, and you can see the influence.  Her visual art had evolved over time into work that was highly symbolic and grounded in archetypal and symbolic imagery, and her beadwork led her to explore the same themes.

Raedawn's jewelry has been sold in several emporiums in Maryland and shown in many galleries in New Mexico in Oregon, but if you want to buy it, you need look no further than her Handmade Artists shop or the Etsy shop.

She's also still active as a visual artist, as is shown by her ACEO drawings.  What's an ACEO?  I didn't know either, 'til I saw her talking about them.  ACEO stands for Art Cards, Editions, and Originals, and are more or less artist trading cards.  They're miniature works of art that you can carry with you, basically the size of a baseball card.

These colored pencil mini-drawings are two from a collection of four of Raedawn's rather poetic ACEOs about the four sacred elements, fire, water, earth, and air.  The left, of course is fire and the right is water.  Both depict the Axis Mundi, the "still turning point," the point just before creation began, where all things are possible.

In her jewelry, she's equally poetic.  She loves to combine seemingly disparate elements, like semi-precious stones with glass, large chunky nuggets with Swarovski crystals, coral and bone with sterling silver accents.

She says she's never met a bead she didn't like, and in the context of her jewelry, at least, neither have I.

She considers her jewelry making to be a journey, and has offered to take you along with her.

To join her, be sure to read her blog, where you'll learn all sorts of terrific things about Raedawn, her art, and her wares.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Winner Has Been Chosen

The giveaway on Confessions of an Overworked Mom has been completed and a winner chosen.  Congratulations to Mari!  She gets one Mashed In soap, one Garden Party soap, and one Romance Fizzy Bath Bomb!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Your Wish Is Our Command

Upon request, Reef Botanicals will soon be carrying luxurious and gorgeous bath salts!  Like everything else we make, when we say we're going to carry bath salts, we don't mess around.  Each bath salt will contain our custom blend of Dead Sea salt, light pink Himalayan salts, French organic grey sea salt, Epsom salt, Dendritic salt, and essential oils.

Why are we taking the trouble to mix all these salts together in a special blend for you?  Why not just dump some essential oils into a jar of Epsom salt, make it pretty, and call it a day?

Well, my friends, because we care about you!  Let me explain...

First, the Dead Sea salt, a salt we already use in our Heaven Scent salt scrub and our Deadwood Spa Bar.  For our bath salts, though, we're using a coarser texture of Dead Sea salt.

For those who don't know, the Dead Sea is a land-locked lake in the Middle East.  It is the lowest point on earth and is known for the high salinity of its waters.  The water of the Dead Sea is 7x more salty than any other lake or sea, and contains rare and beautifying elements that are not naturally occurring elsewhere in high concentrations.  The magnesium in the salt promotes the healing of skin tissue and provides the skin surface with an anti-allergic element.  Bromide soothes the skin, relaxes body muscles, and tranquilizes nerves.  Sulfur is a natural disinfectant.  Potassium is a moisture regulator that maintains a neutral environment in the skin.  Calcium is a building block for corrective tissue.  Sodium relieves stiffness and muscle cramps and maintains a neutral environment in the skin.

Pink Himalayan salt is not just a gorgeous mottled pale pink.  It's mined from the ancient sea beds inside the Himalayan mountains.  It's completely unrefined, and we use it in its raw, natural form.  This salt was formed over 200 million years ago in the primeval sea where the first signs of life formed in the mineral rich water.  Because of its location and how it was formed, it is extremely pure and free of contaminants or pollutants.  It gains its pink color from the high iron content.  It also contains trace amounts of 84 minerals and elements, including potassium, magnesium, calcium, iodine, zinc, and sodium.  Himalayan salt has long been used as a holistic treatment for poor circulation, high blood pressure, dry, damaged, or irritated skin, muscle soreness, joint pain, and detoxification.

And then there's Grey sea salt.  In Brittany near the town of Guerande, France, are marshes and low lying areas suitable for salt fields.  There's a mini climate that is much milder than the rest of Brittany.  The currents of the Atlantic run cleaner there than in many salt harvesting locations.  This confluence of nature makes for an ideal area for a salt farm region.  Guerande has no peer in Europe for the quality of salt produced.  The salt fields of Guerande are long and narrow so the top of the evaporating sea water can be swept by hand to harvest the precious sel gris de Guerande, containing a complex balance of the sea and her minerals, with large grey crystals.

Epsom salt is a pure mineral compound, magnesium sulfate, in crystal form.  The crystals are formed from evaporated brine pools in the Earth's crust.  The two key ingredients, of course, are magnesium and sulfur.  Magnesium eases stress and improves sleep and concentration, helps the muscles and nerves function properly, regulates the activity of over 325 enzymes, reduces inflammation to relieve pain and muscle cramps, and improves oxygen use.  Sulfur flushes toxins, improves the absorption of nutrients, helps form joint proteins, brain tissue, and muscle proteins, and helps prevent or ease migraine headaches.

Last but not least, there's Dendritic salt.  We use just a touch of this.  Dendritic is a finer grain than the others, and it's been crystallized to provide a larger surface area to help retain fragrance.  This is the ingredient that ensures that your Reef Botanicals bath salts will stay fragrant as long as possible, to give you the perfect aromatherapy experience to accompany the other benefits of the salts.

Together, these ingredients create the bath you most want - relaxing, enervating, romantic, or inspiring, based on the scent you choose from our varied menu.

This post has been submitted to:
Get Your Craft On Tuesday

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blogs I Follow: Melinda Lancaster, Author and Poet

I have this friend, Mel.  She's not fibbing with that "author and poet," either.  She's got a poem hanging in the John F. Kennedy museum in Hyannis, MA.  Her currently-published children's book, Tyler and the Spider, is available on Amazon.  Of course, I've already got three copies of it, one for each nephew (autographed to them), and one for me and Eric.  There are more children's books in the works, and I'll be buying those as well, since her first is great!

Tyler was inspired by her 16-year-old daughter, who's got Rett Syndrome, and therefore occasionally confuses other kids with her inability to behave the same as they do.  In it, Tyler awakes to find himself face-to-face with a spider, about which he's heard terrible things.  Meanwhile, the spider is terrified of Tyler, having heard similarly frightening news about little boys.  Of course, the two realize that their differences are OK and there's nothing to fear.

In addition to her children's books and the poem that is in the JFK museum, Mel takes commissions for personalized poems through her business, DKS Verse.  You can contact her about her poetry and keep up with her travels on her Facebook fan page.

I was able to have Mel write a poem for each of my nephews when they were born.  They're absolutely wonderful.  My sister prefers internet privacy, and Mel used the name of each boy as the first letter of each line of the poems, so I'll only post the one written for my nephew on Eric's side of the family, Zachary Artemus Jensen.

Zeal has no boundries-
     it flies throughout the land
And lightens the dark corners
     in every heart of Man.
Casting off no shadow,
     Hope shines in every soul
Heaven's angels' voices sing-
     welcoming him home.
And they are joined in chorus
     by Tara's Harp and kings
Reaching out from Ireland's shore.
     Now hear the church bells ring.
Yet let the din be quieted
     for here lies a sleeping boy,
And wrapped gently in his mother's arms,
     her heart is filled with joy,
Reaching out, his hand is joined
     by his father's, strong and sure.
Together they will face tomorrow
     with love, sweet and pure.
Each passing day will find a boy
     one step closer to a man,
Making his way, slowly,
     in the best way that he can.
Under God's watchful eye,
     his soul will find its way;
Still, time will seem to fly
     from tomorrow to yesterday.
Just beyond the setting sun,
     The horizon waits for you;
Each day upon your journey there,
     may blessings be many, troubles be few.
Never fear that you may stumble
     nor that you might even fall,
So many loving hands will catch you
     and see you through it all.
Earth holds great promise
     it lies not far ahead
Now, though, just rest easy
     for angels are singing o'er your bed.

See why I wanted these?  She's so incredibly talented!

Want to read some more of her poetry?  Know what she's up to?  Know when her next book is coming out?  Follow her blog.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

We've been featured!

Some of our products have been featured and reviewed on Confessions of an Overworked Mom, and she's hosting a giveaway for us too!

Make sure to check it out!

Artist Spotlight: Part Twenty-Seven

The featured artist this week is one you've meet before here, Teresa Rusk of T.Rusk4u.

Not only does she still make phenomenal jewelry and bags, but holy crow, has she been busy since March!

She already had an Etsy shop, which she's updated with many new items like these.

She closed her Winkelf shop and replaced it with a Handmade Artists shop, which she has loaded with terrific pieces like these.  

Besides that, she's opening her own brick and mortar shop in Mebane, NC!  It'll be called Hollyhocks, LLC, and will carry her jewelry and bags for in-person purchase if you're in the area.  The target date for opening is August 1, so she's been painting and building to get it ready to hold her wares.

I wish her all the success in the world!  To keep up with the store formation, and to read more about Teresa and her work, be sure to check out her blog.
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