Artist of the Month: Michelle Sasscer, Babus Toys

IMG_8997The following post is by Michelle Sasscer, owner of Babus Toys, Herban Lifestyle’s April 2014 Artist of the Month.

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Women have traditionally learned their crafts from their mothers and other family elders, and Michelle Sasscer is no exception – her mother taught her how to knit, albeit over the phone, 3,000 miles away, while Michelle was laid up with a broken leg in a 3rd floor flat in San Francisco.  It was very slow going at first, and she timidly moved from basic stitch swatches to washcloths to eventually scarves.  After a multi-year hiatus, she returned to the craft in earnest in 2011, relishing the opportunity to nestle into an easy chair with gorgeous yarns and new patterns.

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But it wasn’t until 2006 that she learned about felting, and when she finally started to experiment with the technique, she was immediately, completely hooked.  Something about the smooth, fuzzy, warm wool texture and apparent magic of all of those stitches melding into one thick solid material, was irresistible.  And not coincidentally, this all came about while she was making toys and decorations for her newborn son, Nicholas (who was nicknamed “The Babus”, in utero, just like his daddy had been).  The moment she saw Nicky’s reaction to his first set of felted wool teething rings, Babus Toys was born, at least in her mind.  Many years later, Michelle has created toys and treasures for babies as well as children of all ages.  Using choice, sustainably produced yarns from Michigan and Peru, as well as an organic line from Australia/US, Michelle makes every piece by her own design and with her own hands, from that original Gnot teething ring to nesting finger puppet sets, to mermaid dolls, even ornaments (once she even made a bride and groom squid couple as a wedding cake topper). Oh, and her mom Ruth is still helping her out, doing yeoman’s work as a supplemental knitter.  Michelle works out of her home in downtown Silver Spring, MD.

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Babus Toys can also be found in Michelle’s Etsy store, on Facebook, and at Eastern Market in Washington DC.logo

How to Make Gift Tags from Repurposed Cardboard

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I like to offer tea to anyone who visits my studio, so I keep a box filled with a variety of herbal and black teas. Last week,  I refilled my tea box with the two most popular flavors, which happen to be made by Tazo.

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As I broke down the boxes to put in the recycling bin, I noticed the beautiful pattern on the inside of them, and realized they would make wonderful gift tags. You can do the same with any other lightweight cardboard. Whenever I come across packaging that has an interesting pattern or a colorful solid side, I make it into tags.

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A while ago, I purchased a hole puncher designed specifically for making gift tags. While this is a super-convenient way to make them, you can also just cut out your tags freehand.

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I like the classic tag shape of this particular punch. You can find a similar one by Uchida on Amazon.

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I then used a small-sized round hole punch to create a hole for a string or ribbon.

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Finally, I threaded a 14″ piece of twine through the hole. And, voila, a lovely repurposed cardboard gift tag. I was able to make 10 tags from a single box. You can have fun experimenting with different packaging. Happy crafting!

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Green Festival Coming to Pier 94 in NYC on April 26th

600x250_NYC-BannerOn Saturday, April 26th, and Sunday April 27th, thousands of New Yorkers are expected to attend Green Festival New York at Pier 94. Green Festival will bring together the most trusted companies, innovative brands, national and local NYC businesses, pioneering thinkers, and conscious consumers to Pier 94 to promote the best in sustainability and green living.

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Green Festival offers something for everyone, with the widest selection of products and services to work green, play green and live green – from food, fashion, pets, kids, yoga and health, to energy, construction and design. People can shop and enjoy vegan, vegetarian, organic foods, hands-on demos, educational activities and learn from inspirational speakers.

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There will be speakers and performers throughout the day, including following. More speakers will be announced as we get closer to the event dates.

  • Matthew Dillon, Agricultural Policy & Programs Manager at Clif Bar & Company
  • Erin Schrode, Millennial Inspiration
  • JustFood.org Executive Director Jacquie Berger
  • NYCVegFoodFest.com founders Sarah Gross and Nira Paliwoda
  • Holistic Moms network President Nancy Peplinsky Massotto
  • Performances from DJ NappyG

And this year, Green Festival will introduce the new “Green Festival Award,” which will recognize the achievements of companies and brands that are transforming the way we live with innovative green solutions.

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The Green Festival will be held on Saturday, April 26, 2014 & Sunday, April 27, 2014 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at Pier 94 in midtown Manhattan at 55th Street and the West Side Highway. The best subway stop is the 59th Street, Columbus Circle.

For more information about Green Festivals, visit http://www.greenfestivals.org. You can also follow them on Twitter at @GreenFestival.

Green Festivals, Inc. organizes Green Festival®, America’s largest and longest-running sustainability and green living event. Green Festival is a vibrant, dynamic marketplace where companies and organizations come to showcase their green products, services and programs, and where people go to learn how to live healthier, more sustainable lives. Green Festival is inspiring and empowering consumers, communities and businesses to work green, play green and live green. Based in Asheville, North Carolina, the organization produces Green Festival events in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

Artist of the Month: Soyini George, YiniBini Baby

Booties10BThe following post is by Soyini George, owner of YiniBini Baby, Herban Lifestyle’s March 2014 Artist of the Month.

When Soyini George was a little girl living in Guyana, South America, her mother used to take her to visit her Great Aunt Jean. Aunt Jean was a vibrant conversationalist, often waving her scissors about as she pinned and gathered the fabric to make the most pretty dresses. It was here that Soyini learned about the love of handmade. Aunt Jean’s husband, Uncle Reggie had an award-winning, colorful garden, that all of the bees seemed to fight over. These special memories serve as an inspiration for Soyini’s line, Yinibini Baby, adorable handmade clothing and accessories for little ones.

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The Yinibini Baby collection comprises of dresses, onesies, booties, bibs, burp cloths and more! Pieces are made out of cotton, organic cotton or cotton blended fabrics. Her original illustrations are based off of childhood stories and memories. Soyini went through a rapid growth spurt as a child, and so became much taller than her classmates. This was the inspiration behind the “Too Tall Birdie and Friends” illustration that can be found on onesies and the Organic Reversible Bib.

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Soyini’s Yinibini Baby collection of organic cotton onesies, organic bibs and booties will be at the Herban Lifestyle store for the month of March. Stop on by to get cuteness for the baby in your life!

yinibini-baby-and-bump-82For more information about Yinibini Baby, visit http://www.yinibinibaby.com.

Herban Lifestyle Store Grand Opening, Feb 8th!

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At the end of November, we moved into a large studio space in the Merrifield neighborhood of Fairfax. The space has a showroom in the front, which we have turned into the Herban Lifestyle Store! To celebrate our new space, we are hosting a Grand Opening on February 8, 2014 from 3:00pm to 6:00pm. We will have food & beverages (including delicious treats from Thunder Pig Confectionary and Momme Meals), samples, product-making demo, discounts and a drawing to win a free DIY kit! For more information, check out our Eventbrite invitation or Facebook Event Page.

At the store, customers can see and sniff our entire line and learn about the various organic and Fair Trade ingredients that go into them. The store also serves as a gathering spot for people to share practical ideas about sustainability, self-sufficiency, creative reuse, and safer products. You are welcome to join events or use hands-on resources at the store, including:

• Workshops where you can learn how to make your own truly natural personal care and household products, as well as other green crafting techniques, including a Couple’s Valentine Craft Night on February 12 and Make Your Own Organic Spa Products on February 19.

• A learning library for those of you who want to make your own bath and body products, plus a variety of USDA Certified Organic and Fair Trade Certified ingredients and sustainable packaging.

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logoWe hope you can join us!

How to Make Rebatched Soap

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The following post is by Herban Lifestyle Outreach and Operations Coordinator, Lisa Seyfried. 

Here in the Herban Lifestyle Workroom, we have lots of bags of soap ends and pieces sitting around, waiting for us to do some wonderful with them.  I did some research on how to rebatch our soap – ‘rebatch’ means to basically melt down the soap and re-mold it as something new – and found a ton of information.  Site after site told me different ways to rebatch, each site claiming their method was the best.

In the end, I picked two recipes that were fairly close, combined them into my own method, and got to work experimenting.

First Batch of Rebatch Soap - Herban LifestyleMy first batch turned out great! It melted down really well, it molded really well, and it looks really pretty.

Second Batch of Rebatch Soap - Herban LifestyleMy second batch didn’t turn out quite so well.  It’s a little lumpier, a little cracked, and just not as pretty looking. I am chalking this up to attempting to double the recipe and the soap not liking that.

I do think that this recipe will  turn out well again if I keep it in small quantities.  The first batch was enough for three heart soaps, and the second batch made enough for five heart soaps.

To make rebatched soap:

You will need a glass measuring cup, or other microwave safe bowl, grater, your soap, 1/4 cup of water. Ingredients for Rebatched Soap - Herban Lifestyle

1. Grate 4 cups of soap in a glass or microwave safe container.  The smaller pieces the soap is in, the better it will melt.  Grated Soap - Herban Lifestyle

2. Add ¼ cup of water to the grated soap.  Don’t stir it in yet.

3. Microwave for 2 min and stir.  Repeat this process until the soap becomes slightly translucent and takes on the consistency of mashed potatoes.Melted Rebatch Soap - Herban Lifestyle

4. Glob into mold with a spoon.  Fill to the top, then bang the mold on the counter to get all the air bubbles out.  Then squish the soap down with your fingers (you might want to wear gloves for this) to make sure the soap gets into all corners of the mold.Molded Rebatched Soap - Herban Lifestyle

5. Cover the mold with a towel or cloth and let sit for 24 hours.

6. Unmold after 24 hours, let sit out for one week to cure.  One week is probably more time than the soap needs to cure, but just to be safe, I’d go with one week.

This is the rebatch method that worked best for me.  I have a feeling that everyone has their own method that works for them, with whatever kind of soap they are rebatching.  I’d really like to try adding some essential oils or some pigments in my next batch! Have you rebatched any soap? What method did you use?

Artist of the Month: Cynthia Brevil of Karmalades, Household Cleaners with a Conscience

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The following post was written by Cynthia Brevlin, Owner and Founder of Karmalades, the  Herban Lifestyle Store Artist of the Month. During the month of January, Cynthia’s eco-luxurious cleaning products will be featured at our new brick and mortar store in Fairfax, VA.

Physical Therapist by day, eco luxury cleaning maven by evenings/weekends, I take old school ingredients that grandma used to clean her house…baking soda, vinegar,etc and whip them up into fun, natural…and even a little luxurious dare I say … household cleaning products. My concoctions are not only effective but will surely bring a smile to your face every time you use them.

I believe that being green can and should = luxury. I also believe in Karma, or simply put – what goes around comes around. The contents of every bottle that we pull off of the shelf will eventually have some effect on our precious earth.

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With this in mind when developing my line, it was really important to me that my ingredients were easily recognizable to the customer and naturally derived…absolutely no synthetics!  It was also clear that the packaging had to be sustainable. Glass and tin not only look and feel luxurious, but they can also be indefinitely recycled.  And if these materials happen to end up in landfill, they have no adverse effect.

Cynthia Brevil, founder of Karmalades, is a physical therapist, health conscious crafter, painter, tiler, cook, foodie … and a true lover of all things eco-friendly and luxurious.

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Artist of the Month: Anne Ferrari of Vita Pulita

055_0The following post was written by Anne Ferrari, Owner and Founder of Vita Pulita, the first Herban Lifestyle Store Artist of the Month. During the month of December, Anne’s soaps will be featured at our new brick and mortar store in Fairfax, VA.

I was always fascinated by soap. As a child growing up in the Bronx, NY, I didn’t have many soap options, but I was still fascinated with making soap pretty. My holiday gift to my first grade teacher was an ordinary bar of soap on which I pinned a homemade pompom. The obsession with soap remains. It wasn’t until my good friend Mary Kearns shared with me that she had started making soap herself that I was finally inspired to give it a try. And once I did, there was no turning back.

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As a professor with a PhD in psychology, I am accustomed to using research in my work experience. This serves me well as soap ingredients need a great deal of research too. One customer of mine confessed that she didn’t worry too much about what she put on her skin as she believed that it was not absorbed by her body. Unfortunately, research on breast cancer and the use of parabens in beauty products shows us otherwise. Vita Pulita products never contain parabens, as they never contain artificial fragrances or colors. They are products that I feel confident using and sharing with my family. In fact, Vita Pulita was born of necessity, when my pregnant daughter could not find a safe yet still luxurious body butter. I whipped up a combination of unrefined shea butter, unrefined cocoa butter, rice bran oil, and essential oil. I still sell that body butter, and it is a customer favorite.

Although I am not an artist, one of my favorite things about making soap is making it beautiful. Many of us assume that” beauty” and “natural” do not go together and quite frankly, there are some colors that simply cannot be made naturally in soap, such as a vibrant blue. However, natural soap can be just as lovely, especially when one dives into her creative side. Check out my White Wedding Soap, Carrot Orange Soap with Cocoa, Black Charcoal Facial Detox Soap, Cupcake Soap or Pink Sea Salt Bar and see what you think. All of the colors and scents in Vita Pulita Soaps are from natural and healthy sources, such as plant essential oils and ground up spices. If a color or scent cannot be made using this method, then it will not be made.

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It wasn’t until recently that my father shared with me that his mother made soap in Italy from olive pomace left over from the farm. I was shocked, but not surprised. I was named for her after all (over the protests of my mother who did not care for the sound of “Anna Maria”), as I was born on the anniversary of her death. And I chose to name my company Vita Pulita, which means “clean life” in Italian, although I don’t speak Italian myself. Perhaps the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, would say that my need to “soap” is part of my family collective unconscious, inherent in me. It certainly feels that way at times.

You can find Anne’s products online at the Vita Pulita website, on Etsy and seasonally at markets in Westchester County.

Brick and Mortar Friends: Bouquets and More

We want to highlight some of our wonderful brick and mortar stores.  These are stores that  carry Herban Lifestyle’s products. This series will give you some insight into some of our newest brick and mortar friends. Enjoy!

Bouquets and MoreThe U Street Corridor is a great little section of DC, filled with personality and wonderful little surprise stores along the street.  Bouquets and More is one of those little treats.

The flower shop is owned by Vickie and Carmilla, two wonderful ladies who will not hesitate to chat with you when you come in.  The shop itself is filled with wonderful smelling flowers and great little details in the displays.

Bouquets and More has a wide selection of beautiful bouquets, centerpieces, green plants for the office, and even terrariums.  And, of course, your favorite Herban Lifestyle products!

So check out Bouquets and More at their store, or on Facebook! They will be having workshops in the Fall of 2013, so make sure to check their page for more details!

How to Make All-Natural Insect Repellant

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Summer is in full-swing and the bugs are out in full force! Some of my readers have requested a recipe for an all-natural insect repellant, so I developed formula made with essential oils that works well and smells good, too!

Different essential oils repel different insects, so I used a blend of different oils to cover a wide spectrum of pests. For my recipe, I used cedar, citronella, clove, lavender, peppermint and rosemary with castor oil (which repels mosquitoes) in a witch hazel base.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces distilled water
  • 3 ounces witch hazel
  • 3.5 teaspoons of essential oils
  • 1 teaspoon glycerine (optional)

Combine well and pour into clean spray bottles.

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Shake well before each use as the water and oils will separate. Spray onto your skin or clothing, avoiding your eye area, covering as much area as possible. Wash with soap and warm water to remove once you are back indoors. Store in a cool, dark place.

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You can vary the recipe by using different essential oils, as long you keep the ratio of no more than 1 part essential oils to 10-20 parts carrier. Here are some of the best essential oils for repelling insects, along with the insects they repel:

  • cedar oil (fleas)
  • cinnamon oil (mosquitoes)
  • citronella oil (mosquitoes and biting flies)
  • clove oil (mosquitoes)
  • eucalyptus oil (mosquitoes, ticks, and lice)
  • geranium oil (ticks and lice)
  • lavender oil (ticks)
  • lemongrass oil (ticks)
  • orange oil (fleas)
  • peppermint oil (fleas)
  • rosemary oil (mosquitoes)

You can use any combination of the above listed essential oils. And instead of witch hazel and water, you can use olive oil, vodka or straight witch hazel without water.

NOTE: If you are pregnant or nursing, do not apply an insect repellent, natural or otherwise, without consulting your physician

IMG_6725This little nymph recently hitched a ride home on my leg from a hike in the woods. If only I had some of my homemade bug repellant with me, he wouldn’t have had a chance!

NOTE: If you are looking for all-natural pesticide recipes, this post on housekeeping.org has a comprehensive collection, including our neem-based recipe.