Monthly Archives: September 2010

Medicine Woman Soap


As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in an herbal class called “Cultivating the Medicine Woman Within” taught by Kami McBride here in the Bay Area. Once a month, our class meets in gorgeous Marin County and we go over all kinds of things from herbal use to diet and history. Next month will be our last class, and I’m pretty sad about it. Kami mentioned that for this class, the students usually bring some kind of token for the other students.

And of course, guess what my token is?

If you didn’t say soap, I’m going to be disappointed.

After I left class, I was debating what kind of soap to make for my classmates. Should it be froo froo or highly herbal? Should I make it super fancy with designs or leave it simple? I kept asking myself what I could do to make a soap that really involved my classmates. I started thinking about the herb walk and how we picked herbs together as a class. I got to thinking about my infused oils and the only one I hadn’t used was the rosemary/lavender blend.

BINGO! Rosemary and lavender herbal soap.

The day I’d picked both herbs was the day we all came together and hugged and cried and hugged each other some more. These herbs were already harvested with love and gratitude and I had grown to love the infused oil I’d made out of it. What better way to use it, than to share with my classmates?

I decided to stick with my basic formula but to use a little more lavender essential oil to enhance the lavender scent already in the infused oil. Between the two herbs, rosemary had the stronger smell, so I wanted both to be represented equally in the bars. I also decided that the bars were to be two different colors (green and lavender) so I did a two level design.

This is how it turned out:

I was actually surprised the lavender came out at all. For some reason when I was making the lavender layer, during the liquid/gel phase, it was a rosy/orange color. I added a little more of the lavender colorant but all the soap did was get even more orange. I figured that after I let the soap sit for a few days (to harden) the color could change. I kept my fingers crossed and hoped that my classmates would be accepting of an orange lavender soap. Lucky for me, it did get a little more purple.

This was the actual lavender I was shooting for:

Medicine Woman soap left, Nahko’s French Lavender soap right.

I used the same lavender colorant and the same amount (initially anyway). I guess with handcrafted, you never know what you’re going to get.

I hope my classmates enjoy the soap I’ve made for them. I know I will miss seeing them and learning from Kami. If you’re interested in herbs and learning more about them, I highly recommend this class. It was one of the best things I ever did for myself.



Happy Birthday Baby Boy


This little guy is Alex. To be more precise, Alexandre Dumas.

Those of you who are also pet parents understand my almost insane love for this furry little creature. But, I’m even crazier about him because of his background and how he came to live with us.

My mom does animal rescue in her neighborhood. Around Halloween 2008, she found Alex and his sister, both around 4 weeks in very bad shape. I don’t remember all the circumstances, but some kids had tortured them in the most gruesome fashion and they both barely got away. Sadly, Alex’s sister had already died and Alex’s condition was severe. His back left leg was completely mangled and my mom didn’t know if he would survive.  My heart still gets a pang when I think of what those kids did to these two kittens.

My mom took Alex to the emergency vet and called me to join her while waiting for the vet to see him. When I got there, she was cradling Alex in a blanket. When she lifted the blanket and he popped his head out, it was love at first sight. Shortly thereafter, Alex was called in and the vet was able to stabilize him. He then came out and told us that most likely to survive, Alex’s mangled leg would have to be removed. Needless to say, we shed a few tears.

The next day, my mom took Alex to our regular vet, Dr. Griffin. Dr. Griffin began Alex’s care program and like us, was against removing his hind leg.

Alex in the hospital.

Alex’s initial healing was slow and it was because fleas were eating him alive. Once we got that under control, he started to heal over night.

Alex a few days after we got rid of his fleas.

News of Alex’s plight had gone out and many people offered homes and donations to help with his medical bills. The love and out pouring of support for our little guy was amazing. There was even a doctor who gave us medical advice on how to decide if Alex’s leg should be amputated or not. We decided to let his new family make that decision, because none of us wanted to. It was too hard to think about.

He stayed in the hospital for more than three weeks. Once he was discharged, Alex came home with me. I fostered him for the next few weeks to make sure he would be completely healthy when going to his new family. When the time came for Alex to move, for some unknown reason, his new family backed out. I was not upset by this turn of events because Fernando had pretty much declared that Alex was his cat and that meant Alex would stay and live with us. Alex had managed to sneak into his heart too.

This is Alex today.

Aww c’mon, more pictures again?

This would have been a good shot! How could you cut off my tail?

This is my better side anyway.

We decided not to amputate his leg. He runs full speed on it, climbs over mountains of boxes and jumps just as high as our other pets. Sometimes he does limp and doesn’t use his back leg, but it’s not often.

Alex is the most rambunctious, noisy and messy cat I’ve ever met. He’s also one of the sweetest, most lovable and happiest of cats too. He loves to jump into my arms and give wet nose kisses. I’m glad the other family backed out in giving him a home. Now I get to love and see Alex every day.

Happy birthday baby boy. I love you.


All Soap Is Not Created Equally


This summer, while on vacation with Fernando in Jamaica, I came across a store selling naturally crafted bath & body products. Of course, being a soaper, I was more than happy to buy a few of the local bars to bring home with me.

Blue Mountain Coffee Scrub (bottom) and Milk & Honey with Ginger

Blue Mountain coffee is my absolute favorite coffee to drink. It was only natural that I would totally pick this soap. Plus my own attempt at making a coffee soap had been disastrous at best, so I was more than happy to try someone else’s. Honey is another favorite of mine and I grabbed this bar as well.

I finally got around to using both soaps and I have to say I was disappointed. It reminded me that no matter what ingredients are used, not all handcrafted soaps are created equally.

The first thing I noticed was that the bars were much lighter than what was stated on the package. The package claimed each bar was 4 ounces, but in reality they were more like 3.2 and 3.3 ounces. (Yes, I totally busted out my scale to weigh these) In my experience, most soap makers will tell you the exact weight of the bar or give you a range, but will not sell you something that’s under weight. That’s just poor business practice.

The second thing I noticed was lack of suds between both bars, with the coffee bar being worse then the milk & honey bar.

Blue Mountain Coffee Scrub

Milk & Honey with Ginger

My friend and fellow soaper, Danielle of skycovespa also makes a honey soap that is amazing.

Danielle’s Honey Bar

Look at the difference between the suds of the top two bars compared to Danielle’s bar. And with Danielle’s bar, I didn’t have a tacky feeling after I got out of the shower. It could be the Jamaican bars are not balanced between the ingredients used, but either way, I would not buy these again. I think that they are okay for kitchen/garage sink use because they will get you clean, but I’d prefer something else for whole body use.

Even though these soaps were a bust, I’m glad I got to try them. In the future though, I’m going to stay away from coffee soaps. I just don’t have any luck with them. But to drink, pour away!


New Products!


Hi gang,

Just a quickie post…

I’ve just discovered some awesome new products and guess what? They will be at the grand opening! Unfortunately, this does push back the store open date, but I’m sure you will love what’s coming aboard.

Some new gift aways will be coming up, so as always, stay tuned!


Cherokee Purple


Every now and then, I think about something other than soap. For example, earlier this year I decided I wanted to have my own tomato garden. I didn’t know much about tomatoes, (other than I liked to eat them) so when it came time to pick my plants, I just grabbed whatever looked healthy. I came home with 2 cherry tomato plants and a regular sized tomato plant.

Well, regular is far from what I got.

As my plant grew, the tomatoes started to turn purple.

Yes, I said purple.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia’s entry on Cherokee Purple tomatoes.

I got online and looked up purple tomatoes and found that what I had were Cherokee Purple tomatoes. It’s a beefsteak (why a vegetable is called “beefsteak” is beyond me) and an heirloom variety. I finally had one ripe enough to pick and cut into and boy, was I excited.

My cherokee purple and cherry tomatoes

Look at that color

I was surprised at how beautiful the color was upon cutting into the tomato. It was almost hot pink or dark pink (like a watermelon) and the picture above doesn’t capture the color exactly. The taste was even better than the color. Light, but sweet and tart, it was the best tasting salsa I had ever eaten. Even Fernando commented on how tasty the tomato was.

So yes, I have to agree to the hype. Homegrown heirloom tomatoes do taste a million and one times better than anything you can buy in the store. And, if you can get your hands on one of these Cherokee Purple babies, let me know what you think.


Infused Oil Update


Last week I finally decanted the infused oils from the herbs I harvested in August at Mt. Madonna.

I made three infusions:  calendula, rose petals/lavender and rosemary/lavender. The calendula and rose petal/lavender oils came out exactly like I expected them to: deep gold, a little cloudy and with little beads of essential oils floating around. But the rosemary/lavender came out completely unexpected.

Rosemary and lavender when I first made the infusion:

Rosemary and lavender infusion decanted after one month:

What the?

Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself because I was completely dumbstruck at how dark my oil had become. I knew rosemary would not create a light golden color based on it’s own coloring, but man, this looked like swamp water. I tried some of the oil on my skin and it felt a little heavier than the rose petal oil. As rosemary and lavender are both strong aromatic plants, the dueling scents overwhelmed me a little but I got used to it. I think this is one oil that I may have to use in moderation, whether I use it for food or soap. I know it sounds like I’m disappointed in how my infusion turned out but I’m actually just surprised at the outcome.

Any thoughts on how to use an infused blend like this? I’d love to hear your ideas.


Hearts Ease Herb Shop


NFL Sunday!

While most of America is watching football, I wanted to show you some pictures of Kathryn’s herb shop (Heart’s Ease) in Cambria, California. Just to refresh your memory, Kathryn is one of my good friends that I met in an herbal class series last year. (She was also going to be my savior in case the Blair Witch got me in this post)

Hearts Ease is the kind of shop you don’t want to leave. When we first met and Kathryn told me about her store, she mentioned it was an herb shop and that she also sold soap and other things. Boy, does she ever sell “other things!” I thought she meant she had a small collection of things other than herbs, but she has a whole houseful of goodies that every woman (and man!) could ever want.

Here is her wall of herbs. The jars are 2 rows deep.

All of the dried herbs smelled and looked so beautiful. Kathryn gave my aunt two ounces of dried peppermint and I could not stop smelling it on the car ride home. It was such a clean and refreshing smell, but it also made me think of fall and leaves falling off of trees.

In front of the herb wall, Kathryn had a table filled with herbal potpurri and tea blends. Next to the table, were all her essential oils.

My little cousin checking out the potpurri blends.

Speaking of other things in the room, I was immediately attracted to these foodie items:

Flower syrup? Rose petal confit? Right up my alley of wants!

Another wall of more edible goodies:


Looking for lotion and soap? Oh yeah, she’s got that covered too.

Lotion, soap and perfume. I just love the perfume. Mmmmmmmm…

I did mention she had a lot of soap selections right?

The soap wall

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that in addition to all the must have products inside the store, outside is just as amazing. Kathryn has a huge open garden for you to meander through. She even has two minature faerie villages! Her garden is a magical place where you can sit for awhile and just enjoy the scenery.


 A little sneak peak of the garden

Around a bend is one of the faerie villages…

I want this sign!

Oh and before I forget, she also has seeds and fresh plants you can buy too.

The seed wall

See how easy it is to fall in love with Heart’s Ease? If you ever find yourself on the central coast, or you just want to check out Kathryn’s shop, it’s a great place to stop. You can also visit Heart’s Ease website by clicking here (or try Kathryn is one of those rare shop keepers who can answer just about any question you have on selecting the perfect gift, picking the right essential oil and really, anything you want to know about the products in her shop. And with that said, I’m ready to go back myself. Anyone want to join me?