Artists of the Month: Michael and Mary Devito, Naked Botanicals Apothecary

The following post is by Michael and Mary Devito, Owners of Naked Botanicals Apothecary, the Herban Lifestyle July 2014 Artists of the Month.

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ABOUT NAKED BOTANICALS APOTHECARY

We’re an organic skincare company dedicated to the prevention of violent, brutal attacks by mosquitoes and other little buggers. Our natural insect repellents harness the mighty superpowers of…lavender! Lemongrass! And peppermint! Which smells like you ran nekkid holding candy canes through lavender fields in Provence. (That’s in France.)

Rise up, friends! We’re empowering adults, children, pets–anyone with skin!–to take a stand against unwelcome advances by would-be predators. We’re arming you with certified organic ingredients and intoxicating aromas, straight from our nation’s capital. YUM.

 

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ABOUT ORIGINAL LAVENDER INSECT REPELLENT
Our organic bug spray harnesses the mighty superpowers of…Lavender! Citronella! Peppermint! Which smells like you ran nekkid holding candy canes through lavender fields in Provence. (That’s in France.) And look, Ma! No itchy, nasty mosquito bites. Best. Summer. Ever.
We take a bold, citrus bouquet of lemongrass, citronella plus energizing peppermint then round it out with woody lavender and cedarwood notes to create our signature intoxicating scent. YUM. Not only does it repel biting insects, but the witch hazel-based elixir also refreshes and purifies your skin in high heat and humidity.
  • Certified organic essential oils of lavender, cedarwood, citronella, lemongrass and peppermint are potent, naturally-occurring insect repellents.
  • Effectively repels mosquitoes, ticks and biting insects for up to 4 hours.
  • Biodegradable, vegan and DEET-free.
  • Contains NO nuts, gluten, dairy, chemicals, dyes, fragrances or preservatives.
  • Safe for the whole family: adults, children over 6 months of age, those with sensitive skin, even pets!
  • Proudly made in small batches in the USA.
  • Each durable, recyclable PET plastic bottle contains 4 fluid ounces. Please recycle.

You can find more about Naked Botanicals Apothecary on their website 

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 An Herbal Vinegar Hair Rinse

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One of my most popular offerings is my natural shampoo bars. My customers love them because they are gentle, effective and don’t strip the oils from their hair, so no conditioner is required. But, depending on the hardness of their water, some of my customers find it helpful to do a vinegar rinse once per month to keep their hair its shiniest.

No matter what type of shampoo you use, vinegar rinses are helpful in restoring your hair’s pH balance. They are also great for oily hair, itchy scalp, dandruff, dull hair, and other scalp conditions. You can easily make your own vinegar rinse, and the addition of dried herbs allows you to customize it to the needs of your particular hair.

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To make your own herbal vinegar rinse, mix 4 tablespoons of dried organic herbs with 8 ounces of organic apple cider vinegar.

For light hair, you can use a blend of 2 tablespoons organic rose petals and 2 tablespoons dried organic chamomile.

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For dark hair, you can use a mixture of 2 tablespoons dried organic nettle and 2 tablespoons dried organic lavender.

IMG_8807Place your herbs and vinegar in a clean glass jar, cap tightly. Label the jar with your herbs and the date. Allow to infuse for 6 weeks in a cool dark place, shaking the jar daily.

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After 6 weeks, strain out the herbs and pour your herbal vinegar into a sterilized glass jar with a plastic cap (vinegar can erode metal over time). The infused vinegar will keep for at least a year if stored properly in a cool and dry place.

vinegar8 vinegar9To use, mix 1-4 tablespoons of your herbal vinegar with 1 cup of water. Pour this mixture over clean hair, working into scalp. Allow to sit for 2 minutes, then rinse with clean water. Or, you can leave it in and allow hair to dry. Enjoy your happy, shiny hair!

This can also be used as a facial toner. Simply apply to clean skin with a cotton ball or cotton cosmetic pad. Because this formula is alcohol-free and non-drying, you don’t need to rinse it off.

 

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.

Too Tall Birdie and Friends

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!

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.

Simple Advice for Healthy Skin

Skin Detox unscented soap made with organic oils and cosmetic clay

Skin Detox unscented soap made with organic oils and cosmetic clay

Hi Mary,

Nice to make your virtual acquaintance! I was talking with our friend, Sarah, recently about natural skin care solutions – I don’t really know a lot about the subject, but I’ve found myself buying more and more expensive products while wondering if there’s a better way to take care of my skin. I asked Sarah if she had ever tried any homemade skin solutions, and she referred me to you :)

My biggest trouble is moisturizing – my skin seems to dry out a lot, and I also get small, single hives on my face pretty regularly, which exacerbates the redness and irritation. Do you know of anything that might calm that down?

Katie

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Hi Katie,

I don’t claim to be an expert on skin care, but I can point you in the right direction. I have had a long-time routine of washing my face with just soap (real soap made with oils, not commercial “soap” which is actually petroleum-based detergent), then using a light moisturizer. The simpler, the better. I also stay away from foundation, which tends to clog my pores and dry out my skin.

Many facial products contain chemicals that can dry out and irritate your skin. I recommend that you check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, which lists various personal care products that don’t contain harsh chemicals. You can also look up the ingredients in your current products to see if they are associated with irritation, etc.

Also, it seems that our skin is like the canary in the coal mine, letting us know that something we are putting on our skin or in our bodies is hurting our systems in a bigger way. Here are links to a couple of articles on the most commonly found harmful ingredients in personal care products, one from Care2 and the other from Mother Earth Living magazine.

It also helps to keep an eye on your diet. You might want to keep a food diary for a month to see if there are any correlations between what you are eating and any hives you develop. I, for example, have found that if I eat certain foods, I am more prone to breakouts or hives the same or following day.

Hope this helps, and please feel free to ask me to clarify any of this.

Thanks!
Mary

Meet Us at The Mother Earth News Fair this Weekend!

The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

This weekend, Herban Lifestyle will be exhibiting at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania.

This fun-filled family festival is a three-day event held at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort starting at 12:00 pm on Friday and going until 6:00 pm on Sunday. The event is like a state fair, but better, because it’s all about rocking the sustainable lifestyle. So it’s like a Sustainability State Fair (as this Rogers and Hammerstein geek starts to sing, “Our State Fair, is a great State fair, don’t miss it don’t even be late!”)

Back to the fair… When you go, you’ll find a slew of activities to partake in to boost your sustainable expertise. First off, there are the workshops (with very entertaining titles), featuring hands-on experiences on topics ranging from modern homesteading to composting to DIY solar panels. Then there are the animal husbandry workshops with a variety of animal workshops on chicks, and ducks and sheep (oh wait, that’s another R&H musical) and llamas, alpacas, horses, and so on. I am torn between whether I would get a bigger kick out of “Hare-Raising Possibilities with Heritage Rabbits” or “Everybody Duck! The basics of raising ducks.” For those who are not as amused with word play as I am, there are also classes like “Pastured Pork Basics” and “Incubation 101.”

So where does Herban Lifestyle come into this mix? Well, we will be exhibiting in good company with an array of vendors including Affordable Barn Co., The Apothecary’s Daughter, Featherman Equipment, Flying Fibers, Gita Naguri Yoga Farm and Grandma Whimsy’s Cupboard. And I really like the name, Love at First Sit, which happens to be “portable, fair trade, ergonomic back support systems made of organic cotton and hemp.”

Tickets are $35 at the gate for a three-day pass or $20 for one day. By using this coupon, you can get $10 off those prices. Sounds like we are going to have a blast. I hope you can join us this weekend to get your State-Fair-Fix-with-a-twist. Mmmm pass the raw cultured veggies and vegan goodies this way!

Food, Fun and Funk: Smithsonian Folklife Festival Celebrates Its 46th Year!

I have attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival every year since moving to the DC area. And I am a big fan of this event on the National Mall that features art, dance, food, storytelling and other exhibits that highlight various American and international cultures. So when I was asked to supply huge amounts of my soaps and such for sale at the Folklife Marketplace, I was thrilled!

At the end of last week, I dropped off a rented SUV-full of boxes of products for the Marketplace volunteers to do their magic. And yesterday a friend called to tell me that my products were prominently displayed in the Marketplace tent, so I headed down to take some photos. When I entered the Marketplace, I found that the first three tables were filled with my soaps, men’s products, and Herban Crafts kits!

And the Marketplace is just one of the many features of the Festival. This year’s themes are Campus and Community, Citified, and Creativity and Crisis. I took some photos while I was there, and look forward to really exploring the exhibits when I have more time.

The Festival kicked off last night with a free concert on the Mall featuring George Clinton and other funk legends. The was the first of many free concerts being offered during the course of the Festival.

Citified celebrates the art, music, food and community of the area of DC that sits east of the Anacostia river. As the Folklife Festival website explains, “Citified alludes to the fact that many African American residents living east of the Anacostia River have parents or grandparents who migrated from the rural South, particularly North and South Carolina, and who continue to maintain connections with their southern (although often no longer rural) heritage.”

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Campus and Community features exhibits from several land grant colleges and the USDA, both of which are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year. Several of the colleges have exhibits focusing on the theme of sustainability, such as UC Davis’ exhibit on the ubiquitous problem of plastic bags and the University of Tennessee’s Solar House.

And Creativity and Crisis features the AIDS Quilt, now celebrating its 25th anniversary. In 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation offered hands-on quilt panel-making sessions that allowed individuals and communities to commemorate loved ones, find support and engage in dialogues about how to address the crisis. Today, The Quilt contains nearly 48,000 panels, a portion of which are on display on the Mall.

For those visitors who want to have a hand in adding to The Quilt, participants of all ages will have the opportunity to learn quilting techniques, make panels, and share stories from their own experiences.

The Festival is being held from June 27–July 1 and July 4–8, and is open from 11:00am to 5:30pm.

The Story of the Stinkhorn and the Four Thieves

My husband found something very strange growing in our yard, and asked me to come outside to look at it. Elongated, pinkish with a red tip, it looked like some magical sea creature that nature had guerilla crocheted on our lawn. It was bouncy and spongy to the touch. We had no idea what it was, other than some type of fungus, and I have seen enough Sci-Fi flicks to know that I needed to keep an eye on it…

To try and unravel the mystery of this fungus, I turned to my Facebook network of friends. I posted the above photo and within minutes our friend JT, who is knowledgeable on a surprisingly wide array of topics, responded, “Looks like a stinkhorn. Didn’t know we had any around here. Live & learn.” So, I Googled “Stinkhorn” and found on MushroomExpert.com that they are “notorious for popping up suddenly and unexpectedly in urban settings.” They are member of the aptly-named Phallaceae family of fungi and they are called stinkhorns because of the distinctively stinky slime they use to entice bugs to come pick up their spores and spread them around. Ours being newly formed had not developed the slime, so did not have a scent.

I planned to leave it in the yard to see how it would develop, but the next morning when I went to check on it, it was gone, along with a patch of grass around where it had been. Some critter had gotten to it! However, I found another one near where it had been that was fatter and slimier looking than the first. Not long afterward, my friend Andi warned me with some information she had found on eHow.com’s Facts on the Stinkhorn Fungus, “Whatever you do, don’t uproot it. they’ll just propagate.” On the other hand, she noted that “Because of their suggestive shapes, the Phallus and Dictyophora stinkhorns are sold as aphrodisiacs in China,” so I could start a new business! Andi also found that the “eggs” from which certain stinkhorn varieties emerge are “edible and taste like radishes.”

Intrigued by the possible utility of this newly discovered wild plant in my yard, I did some further research. Perhaps I had discovered some new gourmet edible. I found an article by Wildman Steve Brill, who has tried stinkhorns in a couple of different forms, and came to the conclusion that they are flavorless with a weird slimy texture like “mock squid.” I decided I needed to eliminate the second stinkhorn before they took over my lawn.

In the meantime, Andi had found this method for eliminating them:

1) Locate the fungus.

2) Make a mixture of boiling hot water and bleach.

3) Plug your nose with free hand or with the help of a neighbor.

4) Pour the mixture (still hot) onto the fungus. (Add to sneaker tips too for an extra brightening effect.)

5) Repeat steps once a day until the fungus is gone

I had recently bottled a batch of Four Thieves vinegar, so I chose to start with a natural solution, following the above directions but substituting the Fourt Thieves for the bleach. It has been over a week now, and my lawn remains stinkhorn-free.

As a bonus for those of you who have read this far, here are some images from the Stinkhorn Hall of Fame