Saturday, February 27, 2010

Not Soap

It's been a few days, and we've got a lot of photos to take and work to do on the site, so I thought I'd throw in something a little more personal.  This is a video of our "puppy," Megaera.  She goes by Meg, and is actually 11 years old, but she doesn't realize it at all.

As a half Shetland Sheepdog, half Eskimo, she definitely favors the winter, and absolutely adores the snow.  It's hard to get her inside once she's out!  Of course, only one of us has a luxurious fur coat, so Eric and I prefer to come in quite a bit earlier than she does.

We also have three cats, but we don't let them outside.  Meet (in order) Hunter, Neptune, and Catimus, the youngest of the bunch at about two & a half.  She's also the only female cat:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Artist Spotlight: Part Eight

My spotlighted artist this week is CJ Grand of The Grand Design.  She's a very cool sci-fi costumer and jewelry maker who currently focuses on the Steampunk movement.

For those of you who don't know what Steampunk is, imagine a world in which steam power is still widely used, such as the 19th century or Victorian England, but with prominent elements of science fiction or fantasy, like the fictional technological inventions described by H.G. Wells or Jules Verne, or with real technological developments like computers occurring at an earlier date.  Steampunk can also include the "path not taken," such as analog computers or mechanical computers.

The result in practical terms is Victorian clothing combined with beautiful accessories and jewelry that are made from machine parts, technical bits, and all sorts of morphed and combined elements.  It is this jewelry you'll find at The Grand Design.

This necklace, above, for example, was made from a combination of upcycled parts and vintage jewelry.  And this one, below, is made from a British military button, watch parts, and watch gears, all mounted in a vintage pocket watch.

And these earrings are made from glass fuses wrapped in copper wire.

CJ didn't start with Steampunk, though.  As she states in her bio, she started buying stones and minerals to make unusual jewelry for herself, but found that she had more than she could wear in a lifetime.  Steampunk is her new obsession, but she still displays some of her stone jewelry in her shop.

For more about CJ and the many artists she features, check out her blog too!

Wicked Faire 2010

It was great to have a booth at Wicked Faire this past weekend, tiring as it was.  We got to meet so many people who've been following us, even ones we didn't know about!

And we got to debut so many new things - our Healing Tea soap (made with green tea and eucalyptus essential oil), our facial scrub (made with almond, oatmeal, honey, Bentonite clay, and sweet orange essential oil), and our Heaven Scent salt scrub (made with epsom and dead sea salts, and scented with lavender and rosemary)!

All of these will be available on the site imminently; we just need to rest for a bit after those crazy long days and nights at Faire, and we'll be taking photos and listing them very soon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's Official!

It definitely wasn't easy.

After much discussion and some debate, sleeping on it and thinking about it, Eric and I have come to a single conclusion: We just can't beat a name like Mock Turtle.  We love it!

That, my friends, is the new and official name of what was previously dubbed our "Contest Shampoo."

Our winner, who should be very proud of herself, is Tiffany Calvert.

We would like to truly thank everyone who participated and had fun with this, our first effort to give something back to you guys and to get you involved.  We had a great response, with well over 100 entries, and we appreciated over each and every one, the ones that taught us new words, the ones that made us giggle, and the ones that just plain sounded like pretty damn good ideas.

Contest Update

Our shampoo naming contest ended last night, and with well over 100 entries, we've narrowed it down to the top five.

To do so, Eric went through the emails we received and pulled all of the proposed names, without any identifiers, and printed up a copy of the list for each of us. We each narrowed the list down separately, then together, and then haggled to reach the top five. They are, in alphabetical order (and we still don't know who they belong to, since we haven't checked):

Mermaid Tresses
Mock Turtle
Scentual Morning
Sea Dew
Sun Salutation

After we've had some time away from the list, tomorrow night we'll haggle some more and announce the winner at 10 p.m. EST.

Thanks to everyone who entered! Check back tomorrow to see what we picked!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Artist Spotlight: Part Six (and Seven)

I've been sick, first with a really bad cold, closely followed by some stomach bug, so today you, my readers, get a bonus - TWO artist are being featured!

The first, is Haffina, of South Australia.  You want multitalented?  We've got multitalented!  She does chainmaille:

And for those of you who don't frequent Renaissance Faires, that's a hand-flower, a very pretty adornment that's part bracelet, part ring.  She also works with polymer clay:

That's a Barbie-sized mask!  It's gorgeous, just gorgeous.  And on occasion, she mixes the polymer and maille for some beautiful creations:

Check this out, though, she also knits!

That scarf just looks so incredibly cozy.  And she crochets, too, but get this... she can crochet in wire:

I have to say, I have never in my nearly-40 years seen anything like that, ever.  It doesn't stop there.  Oh, no, of course it doesn't!  'Cause there's also the incredible beading, you see.

To see more of Haffina's wonderful things, visit Beads by Haffina, or Haffina's Creations on Artfire, or her wonderful listings in the Handmade Artist's Shop.  To learn more about Haffina herself and keep up with her, be sure to check out her blog!


The second Artist for this spotlight is the force behind Red Fox Jewelry, a mother of 3 and grandmother of 6, who used to (get this!) drive a tractor trailer for a living!  It was only in May of 2009 that she started making jewelry, and is so talented that everyone around her, including her jewelry teachers told her she should sell it!

She opened her Etsy shop in June of 2009.  In it, you can find wonderful pieces, like this bracelet:

I'm also in love with this choker necklace:

These gorgeous earrings are there too:

And this pendant is phenomenal.

And she just did her very first craft fair this month!  To read about her experiences, check out her blog.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We're Beer Snobs


And it's pretty funny on my end, considering my "start" in drinking beer.  I know most people won't believe me, but I honestly didn't drink alcohol until I was of legal age, which was the summer before my senior year of college.  Even then, I didn't really drink much.  I tried some beer at school parties.  I think Coors Light was the popular one, so you can understand why I hated beer.  Because I really despised beer, I drank only mixed drinks, and only one per semester.  Seriously, at an after-finals party each semester of my senior year, I had one single daquiri.

It wasn't until my second semester, second year of law school (Did I mention I'm also a lawyer?) that I first liked a beer.  After finals that night, my friends Lisa, Sheau-Wu and I went into the city looking for music, any music.

[Note:  Being from NJ and going to Brooklyn Law School, any time I say "the city," you can assume I mean Manhattan.]

We found a guy on the corner in The Village, handing out flyers for the Mondo Cane Blues Bar.

[It was on Thompson Street, and sadly, is no longer there.  It was my favorite place to go for a long time.]

Lisa, Sheau-Wu and I looked at each other and shrugged.  Sounded good.  The band playing that night was Slapmeat Johnson and the Titans.  Yeah, I know, I know.  But I became a huge blues fan that night, solely because of that band.  They were phenomenal.  I can't possibly convey here the talent that band had.  I also discovered that I could like beer - an ice cold Budweiser.  It just went with the atmosphere, you know?

I know what you're thinking.  Bud?  And she calls herself a beer snob?  You're right, but keep reading.

I became friends with some people who were more knowledgeable about beers.  They introduced me to non-American varieties, the kinds that most starving law students didn't bother with because they couldn't afford them.  I discovered nut brown ales, honey brown ales, cream ales.  By the time I went to Ireland in 1998, I found that my favorite beer ever was Caffrey's Irish Ale.  Sadly, like the Mondo Cane, Caffrey's no longer exists.  If you've ever tried Tetley's English Ale, it's close.  I also later discovered the lovely American microwbrew.

What's the point of this all-too-long history?

Well, I became a beer snob.  I also married a beer snob.  In fact, he brews his own beer!  Good stuff, too, I might add, very good stuff.  He does a lot of research (and I mean reading, not just drinking, so quit smirking, people).

So when we decided to make our beer soap, ...

Wait.  Did she just say beer soap?

As I was saying, when we decided to make our beer soap, we knew we had to use the good stuff.  I now present Mashed In:  Spring Seasonal.

This soap is made with the usual stuff, but with Sam Adams Noble Pils replacing the water!  Oh yes, my friends, the very, very good (Really!) Sam spring seasonal is the liquid in this soap.  Also in the soap is a bunch of crushed and fragrant hops.  For those not in the know, hops are actually flowers, so they're soft and really nice.  For exfoliation, we've ground up some Pale Two Row Malted Barley, and that's in there too.

This is now my favorite of our soaps, hands down.  Yeah, it's part of our "Men's Line," but I'm not kidding.  It's my favorite.  Scented with just a touch of cedarwood essential oil, it smells like sweet grain, almost like baking bread, but without the yeast.  Who doesn't like the smell of baking bread?  Hands?  Anyone?  Yeah, didn't think so.

Check it out.  It's a limited run, so you've got a limited time.  Now, that doesn't mean we won't continue to have awesome beer soaps.  It just  means that our beer soaps will be seasonal!  Each season, we'll use a different beer base.  Neat, huh?

Why "Mashed In"?

Says Eric:  "Mashing in" is the process in beer brewing where the grains and water (called liquor when brewing) are combined at a specific temperature to extract the sugars from the grain.  In extracting the sugars, a sweet liquid called wort (pronounced "wert") is created, which is then fermented to produce beer.  The process isn't so different from combining our ingredients at a specific temperature to create soap, so we thought "Mashed In" would be the perfect name for this unique soap.

Meanwhile, don't forget about that Shampoo-Naming Contest!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finally! And a Contest!!!

So here it is, and I must apologize for the wait - the photo of our new shampoo.  I've been using it for the past few days too, and I absolutely love it!  Now that I know how to use bar shampoo (sparingly, that is), I don't have the slightest hesitation over this one.

It's a stronger scent than our first shampoo, which I find great for waking me up with the tea tree and eucalyptus.  In short, it rocks.  You can see it's greener than the other one; that's the sea kelp, said to be great for hair.  I honestly can't rave enough about this one, so I might as well stop here and introduce...

well, that's the thing.  We haven't got a name for it!  Hair Dew (our first shampoo) took much thought and made sense for that product, but with this one we're stumped.  So... we're leaving it up to you.  I should let you know that this contest is not limited to followers of the blog, it's also open to Facebook fans, Twitter followers, members of the Handmade Artists' Forum, members of other discussion forums of which I'm a member... in short, everywhere.  The prize?  A free bar of this new shampoo!  We'll send you one, and we'll foot the bill for shipping too (in the lower 48 of the United States).  If you're outside of the lower 48 states, you can feel free to enter, but shipping charges will be paid by you.

To enter, click here and use the contact form on the Reef Botanicals site to give us your idea for the name of the shampoo.  Unlimited entries per person, and the contest will end on Sunday, February 14, 2010, (yes, Valentine's Day) at 10 p.m. EST.  Just note that only entries emailed via the website contact page will be considered.  The winner will be announced here on Tuesday, February 16, and contacted via email for a mailing address.

Our ingredient list, to help you with ideas:  A variety of oils, cocoa butter, chamomile, honey, sea kelp, tea tree essential oil, eucalyptus essential oil.

For those of you who can't wait and want to buy the new shampoo before it's named, it's available on the site as "Contest Shampoo."

Monday, February 8, 2010


Our new shampoo is, anyway.

Yup, a second option for you.  And me.  We had a request for a shampoo made with chamomile, which is reputed to control dandruff.  Plus, I wanted one with less of the butters.  So we've done it!  This shampoo is made with chamomile tea, cocoa butter (no shea - or nuts of any kind, actually), various oils for a great lather, honey, sea kelp for elasticity (in your hair, not the soap) and hair health, and tea tree oil.  And it's scented with eucalyptus, for a really nice mix with the tea tree.

Yet another success!  And I'll have photos for you tomorrow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Artist Spotlight: Part Five

I'm posting this late this week because I've been sick and couldn't really focus enough to do this artist justice. She's Nancy, of 'Twas Brillig, and she's another incredibly multitalented one!  I'm not sure what this woman doesn't make!  I mean, look at this.  Her etsy shop has jewelry.

And dog toys!

Isn't that nifty?  But that's not all.  Ever hear of a mug mat?  You put it under your coffee mug to protect your desk from the heat, but these have herbs in them to also act as sachets!

Plus, she's a photographer.

And she makes Christmas ornaments that are reminiscent to me of Wedgewood.

I'm most a fan of her paintings, though.  In addition to a wonderful Alice in Wonderland series she's working on, she's got fun pieces like this.


'Twas Brillig, by the way, is also actually a real brick-and-mortar store in Southern Pines, NC.  To get to really know her, hear about the baby wrens in her yard, and see what's new, you need to read her blog.  Go. Read.  It's good stuff, I promise.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Real Luxury

Ever go to a real spa? One of those places, I mean, where they use all the fancy salts and seaweed wraps and spend hours (and many, many of your dollars) using these really weird-sounding ingredients to pamper you? And they work! I mean, seriously, who'd think that salt could ease your aching muscles and skin conditions?  To be fair, probably not any salt does.  I wouldn't suggest taking the salt shaker off your kitchen table and dumpin the contents into your next bath, for instance.  But salt from the Dead Sea, that's a different story.

Did you know that the Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water in the world?  The salt concentration is actually so heavy that it can keep anyone afloat, even people who have trouble floating anywhere else.  No kidding.  And the salt from the Dead Sea is different from any other sea salt.  Whereas most sea salt is approximately 90% sodium, Dead Sea salt is only 10% sodium.  The rest is comprised of various beneficial, even essential, minerals including magnesium, potassium, calcium, and bromine.

The best way to reap the benefits of the salt is probably to go have a soak in the Dead Sea itself, and many do make the trip.  Not everyone can afford to take the money or time to go to that beautiful location, tucked between Israel and Jordan, though.

This is why people spend the crazy amounts of money they do at spas, using products containing Dead Sea salts and reaping the benefits here at home.

And then seaweed?  Who figured out that seaweed was beneficial to the skin too?  Don't get me wrong, I love my sushi, but sea kelp as a skin regimen?  It just looks so... seaweedy.  It's the real deal, though!  It's high in vitamin and mineral content, as well as essential fatty acids and chlorophyll for detoxification.  Plus, it's got a natural elasticity that makes it ideal in cutting-edge anti-wrinkle beauty regimens.  It confers its elasticity to the skin and hair, revitalizing both.

Last, but not least, lanolin.  Lanolin is a wax produced by sheep to keep their coats waterproof!  In cosmetics, though, it's used as a soothing skin cream and in shaving cream.  It's even used as an ointment base because it absorbs so well into the skin, carrying the needed medicines with it.  Don't worry, it's taken from the shorn wool, without any harm to the sheep.

Why all the information?  We've got a new product of course!

The first in our Luxury Line, this Deadwood Spa Bar is part soap, part spa treatment.  It is a soap base, but that's just what's holding it together.  This bar has shea butter, lanolin, sea kelp, and a high concentration of Dead Sea Salt.  It's a pretty bar, very textured, with white speckles and sage green and forest green marbling throughout.

This is not your every day soap.  In fact, we recommend that you don't use it more than 2-3 times per week.  It's a rough bar, with very little lather, but lather isn't the only way to pamper yourself.  This bar is for special occasions.  It's for that tough day when you just really need to take care of yourself.

And I'll give you a personal anecdote.  I've got a bad cold, have since Wednesday or so.  I've been miserable, and everything hurts, head to toe.  Yesterday, I used this bar in the shower, and I swear for several hours afterwards, my muscles weren't hurting anymore.  It didn't last forever, the cold eventually won over the bar, but those hours lifted my spirits unbelievably.

The cold, of course, also means that I can't smell a thing.  It's annoying.  So I can't tell you that I've personally been able to smell this bar.  I know that it's scented with cedar, sweet orange, eucalyptus, and lemongrass essential oils, but I can't know personally yet what that means.  Rest assured that Eric was the one who did this, though, so you aren't relying on my guesswork.  According to Eric, it's great.  As he puts it, it's a very complex scent, very woodsy with tones of citrus and just a hint of eucalyptus.  Sounds good to me!  I'll let you know as soon as I can smell it for myself.  Fingers crossed that it turns out to be later today.
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