Friday, October 31, 2008

Great Natural Soaps From Texas!!!!!

For about 4 and ½ years I traveled as a wardrobe assistant with a touring show. I have had the chance to see most of America’s major cities and some small towns also. If we stayed in a city more than one day or had a day off I would definitely try to eat and do shopping at some local spots. During my shopping, I would always look for cool local, handmade items-especially food and beauty products. And I found some great soaps while in Austin, TX.

I must mention that I had barely anytime to do any shopping while in Austin. Our tour bus arrived at our hotel at about 1:30 pm and we had a show that night. I, being a wardrobe assistant, had to be at the show place 3 hours before showtime (8 pm), so I had to be back on the bus at 4pm to head to the venue. That just gives me a few hours to grab something to eat, and what ever else I could squeeze in. So, as soon as we pull up to the hotel my friend and I got off the bus (we usually wait to get room keys from our road manager) and walked around the see what was nearby. Our hotel was one of those residence type places and it was in sort of a secluded area. We walked quite a while before we saw anywhere to go. Then we came upon a Whole Foods store. We were glad because at least we could grab a decent lunch and some healthy snacks for the road. Along with shopping for food and snacks, I also shopped for toiletries. I can never enter a Whole Foods or any other health food store without checking out the bath and body product. And Whole Foods usually have some products that are made by locals companies. As I was looking for soap I found a few local Texas brands that I really like. Here they are:

Austin Natural Soap - These soaps are handmade in Austin,TX and are all natural. Essential oils, plant extracts, and moisturizing oils and butters are used to make these soaps. I bought the Barton Springs Eternal soap bar which is scented with clary sage, rosemary, vetiver, and rosewood essential oils. This bar also uses shea butter and almond oil to moisturize, and spirulina gives the bar a green color. Plus, 10% of the proceeds of this bar go to preserve Barton Springs in Austin. Austin Natural Soap also sells perfumes, massage oils, lip balms, and other bath and body products.

A Wild Soap Bar - Soaps from this company are all natural and some of them are organic. They use olive oil, essential oils, botanicals and other earth friendly, human friendly ingredients. I bought the Mustang Grape Soap which is made with antioxidant rich grape skins and essential oils. I really loved the scent of this soap and their website says that Mustang is a best seller. I also bought a few more soaps from A Wild Soap Bar, but this was after the tour ended so I bought the others online. Here are the others I got: Bluebonnet, Passionflower,Sea Scrub, and Prickly Pear. A Wild Soap Bar also sells body balms, products for men, children, pets,your teeth, and the laundry. Plus they donate some of their proceeds to a few good causes.

Anne's Naturally - These soaps are natural and made with all type of moisturizing oils and scented with essential oils. There wine and goat's milk in some of the soaps. I bought a few of the specialty wine soaps which are Champagne and Chardonnay. I really loved the scent of these two soaps-they were kindy fruity but not overpowering. Anne's Naturally also sells lotions, bath gels, bath salts and other bath and body products. Plus they have products for men, babies, children, gardeners, and pets.

Well, this little shopping trip was all I had to chance to do in Austin,TX. We left pretty early the next day so maybe I will get to visit again sometime. I did enjoy scenery on my way in and out of Austin. The houses on the hills were really nice.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Healthier Treats!!! My Top Candy and Snack Picks!!!

Healthier Treats!!! My Top Candy and Snack Picks!!!

When is comes to passing out candy or snacks (for Halloween, or parties or just for a treat) there is always the dilemma of should I go for healthy or fun. If you are a parent or concerned adult you usually want to pass out treats that kids (or adults) will love. However, many "fun" candies and snack contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), dyes, chemicals, and preservatives that are not so healthy. And nowadays more people are becoming concerned with what they and their children eat - am one these people. I do not have children but I have plenty of nieces, nephews, and cousins. Plus, I have always been a sweets lover and in recent years have been looking for better sweet snacks and candies. When I look for sweet I usually want them to be either natural, or organic, or vegan. I would also like them to not contain artificial flavors, unnatural dyes, HFCS, preservatives and chemicals. On my search I found a few websites and companies that have these healthier choices. Here they are:

Yummy Earth (, which was invented by two dads who wanted organic candy for their children. Yummy Earth sells organic lollipops and candy drops which are also kosher parve, nut-free, and gluten-free. These lollipops and drops come great natural flavors (pomegranate, watermelon, grape, etc...). Plus Yummy Earth uses veggies, fruits and juices to create colors for their candies. I and my kid relatives had tried these candies and we all think they taste great. I would recommend lollipops for the younger children as the drops may be too small for them. Yummy Earth candies can also be found at and Whole Food Stores.

Yummy Earth is a website I linked to from sell all types of candies (chocolate, hard candies, lollipops, caramels, gummies, etc..) that are all or either organic, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, allergen-free, fair trade and corn-syrup free. Naturalcandystore also has pre-made mixes and goody bags for halloween and parties. They have a wide variety or brands that kids and adults alike can enjoy!!! have candies and sweets that cater to more of an adult palate such as salted butter caramels, nougats, fig confections, and more .

Vegan Gummies
Vegan Gummies is a website I found when I was searching for healthier baked goods. Veganstore offers a few different brands of baked goods including Alternative Baking Co., Late July, and Enjoy Life. However, the Vegansweets brand has been my favorite. The item I have ordered the most are the plain VeganSweets donuts w/carob frosting. These donuts come two in a pack for $2.99 or you can buy a bakers dozen for $32.28. VeganSweets also offer cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, truffles, jelly beans, caramels and more. Veganstore also carries and assortment of hard candies, gum, lollipops and gummies. Plus there are also non-food items you can shop for such as clothes, bodycare, petcare, etc.

Healthy Handfuls ( offers organic baked snacks ( cookies, pretzels, and crackers). These snacks are free from hydrogenated oils, HFCS, gmos and preservatives. Many of these snacks are a great alternative to the over processed cookies and crackers (which are marketed to kids) on the market. I especially like the Lucky Duckies which can be an alternative to Goldfish. Healthy Handfuls snacks come in a variety of sizes including convenient single serve pouches which are great for halloween, lunch boxes, and parties. Healthy Handfuls are available at Whole Foods stores, Jamba Juice, and

Healthy Handfuls

Healthy Handfuls Organic Lucky Duckies, Cheddar Cheese, 6-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 12) Healthy Handfuls Organic Crocodile Cookies, Oatmeal Raisin, 6-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 12)Healthy Handfuls Organic Lucky Duckies Crackers, Cheddar Cheese, 1.5-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 12)

Snikiddy (, like Healthy Handfuls, offers baked snacks such as cookies, cheese puffs, and other flavors of puffs. Their products are organic and they taste pretty good too. Their products can be found at Whole Food Stores and


Snikiddy Snacks Chocolate Chippers Sharing Pack, 5-Ounce (Pack of 12) Snikiddy Snacks Banana Nibbles Sharing Pack, 5-Ounce (Pack of 12)Snikiddy Snacks Chocolate Chippers Adventure Pack, 5-Count, 4.25-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 6)

When it comes to chocolate I have to mention Endangered Species Chocolate ( Endangered Species Chocolates offers dark and milk chocolate bars and 10% of their net profits go to help animals on endangered species list and they support other causes. They offer a few bite size choices of their dark and milk chocolate which includes their Halloween bites that are wrapped in brown and orange wrappers (seasonal), Bug Bites which have little trading cards with info about all types of insects, and Chimp Mints which have info about chimps in each wrapper. Bugs Bites and Chimp Mints sell for $32 for about 64 .35oz pieces.The Halloween chocolates sell for $6.72 for a 24 piece bag (.35 oz). Endangered Species Chocolates are also available on and at Whole Food Stores and most health food stores.

Endangered Species Chocolate

Bug Bites-Dark Chocolate (Organic) - 0.35 oz - Bar Endangered Species Organic Bug Bites, Dark Chocolate, .35-Ounce Packages (Pack of 64) Endangered Species Organic Bug Bites, Milk Chocolate, .35-Ounce Packages (Pack of 64)

I know there are many other companies that sell organic and natural candies and snacks, but these are my picks for now. Especially when it comes to party favors, goody bags, lunch time treats, etc...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Great Finds from Seattle,WA!!!!

For a couple years I traveled as a wardrobe assistant with a touring show. I have had the chance to see most of America’s major cities and some small towns also. If we stayed in a city more than one day or had a day off I would definitely try to eat and do shopping at some local spots. During my shopping, I would always look for cool local, handmade items-especially food and beauty products. I bought some of my best finds in Seattle, Wa.

The hotel I stayed in was just a few blocks from Pike Place Market, so a friend and decided we would go there. And we only had a half a day to spend so we spent most of our time there. However, we first stopped at a coffeeshop (sorry, I cant remember the name-not Starbucks, Tullys, or Seattle's Best) to get a mocha, and tea. I also bought a couple of really good local made chocolate bars from a company called Theo ( The chocolates I bought were from Theo's 3400 Phinney collection which are uniquely flavored milk and dark chocolate bars. I tried the Chai Milk chocolate and the Coconut Curry Milk chocolate-both were good. By the way, 3400 Phinney Ave. is the address of the Theo chocolate factory at which they do give public tours. I would also like to mention that Theo is organic and fair trade certified. Theo Chocolates are also available on and .

After getting coffee, tea, and chocolates we headed toe Pike Place Market.
While walking through we got samples of fruit, dried fruits, and nuts from a few vendors.Then we found ourselves at Tenzing Momo ( which is a store, or sort of apothecary which sell herbs, vitamins, fragrance and essential oils, incense, tinctures, soaps, lotions, etc... We spent some time looking around and there was a lot to look at - even though the space was relatively small. My final purchase was incense matches, bee pollen gum, and soap from a Washington based company called Lilie de Vallee ( I got a nice big chunk of natural, olive oil soap (Arabian spices) for about $5-I love the nice, warm spicy smell of this soap. Lilie de Vallee soaps are also available on

As we were finishing our go round of the market I stopped at a vendor who was selling some bath and body products (I'm such a fiend). There were soaps, salves, and body butters made on a family farm called The Fay Farm ( I bought three 2oz. body butters for $21 (cucumber jasmine hemp butter, amber fig shea butter, orange honeysuckle shea butter). My friend bought the Warming Muscle Rub which she swears by. I wanted to buy some of their goat's milk soap but I was quickly running out of money-but there is a website so I'll buy soap when I run out of my other stuff. All in all, I was pretty satisfied with my purchases-I only wish I had more time to check out the city.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Design Your Own Cereal!! Why Didn't I Think of This?

Have you ever seen a product or company that is so cool you wish you had thought of it? Of course, every has!! Well today I came across a website that let's you design your own cereal. Yup, that's right, customize your very own cereal. The name of the website is and on this site you can mix and match all types of natural goodies to come up with your own cereal concoction. First you choose a base cereal of which there are 4 choices- artisanal, flaxed and flaked, samurai wheat, and raw 5-grain muesli. Then you can enhance that base with more grains or cocoa covered treats-there are about 13 items to choose from for this step. Next, you can choose from 13 types of dried fruit (papaya, mulberry, goji, plus the classics) to add to your cereal. The last step gives you 14 types of seed and nuts to choose from and at last you can give your creation a name. I must also mention how simple this whole design process is - it's basically all drag and drop. You start from step 1, see images of your choices, drag and drop that choice into a bowl and go to the next step. Meanwhile, there is a counter on the right side of the screen that adds up nutrition facts and cost. Speaking of costs, the price of cereal ranges from $4.90 for 600g (21 oz) to however much you want to spend on grains, nuts, and fruit. The cereal is shipped in a capsule type container and right now you can purchase a pink tag to support breast cancer awareness. You can also purchase a green tag to offset CO2 emissions from the making and delivery of your item. Cool Right? Plus they have some pre-mixed cereals and recommendations for those indecisive folks. The pre-mixes also includes a cereal called pink& goji of which some of the proceeds will support breast cancer awareness.

Now, If you're like me, you are probably thinking this is a great idea. You're also thinking I can probably design my own cereal by going to the health food store and mixing and matching some bulk items. However, you still really want to do this. I know I do. And I will, just not right now. Why? Because these tough times have caused me to really tighten up on my spending-so much so that cereal has become a luxury item. I know that might sound ridiculous to some but it is a reality for me. The last time I went shopping for groceries, I had to shop twice as long because I could not make any impulse buys. That sucks!!! I even had to buy the cereal in the bag. They were puffed kamut and cost $1.99. Hopefully things turn around for me and the country soon. At that point I will design my own cereal at then it's puffed kamut with a little cinnamon and agave.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Top Fave Fragrances

Over the years I have bought many fragrances and I often got tired of them once the bottle is half empty (or full- depending on your perspective). I then gave away whatever was left because I could not barely stand to smell the scent anymore. Nowadays, I never buy full bottles of fragrance anymore-I buy samples instead. I get these samples from,, and So I get a chance to try many different scents without committing to them. I do however have 3 fragrances that I have used some time and I still love them. The first of these fragrances I would like to mention is Apothia IF. A couple of years ago I received a sample of Apothia IF along with an order I got from I tested it on my wrist and I thought it smelled wonderful. It was fresh, light, and clean but not squeaky clean. I bought a full-size bottle for $58 and I have bought 2 more since then. I don't think I will ever get tired of this fragrance. Apothia IF is sold online at and I have also seen it on There is also a Apothia IF eau de parfum spray but I personally prefer the roll-on.

The next fragrance I want to mention, which is an all-time classic for many, is Kiehls Original Musk Oil. I became interested in Kiehls during the mid-90's while in college. I remember seeing their name and products pop up in fashion/beauty magazine, so I wanted to find out more about them. I called for a catalog (yes, a catalog-the web was too new at that time) and I received it along with some free samples. I saw some products I was interested in one of which was the Original Musk Oil. Plus at that time you could order a few samples from Kiehls at no charge. You did not even need to place an order or pay for shipping. So I ordered the musk and a few other products. I really liked the Original Musk so I bought a small bottle which lasted for what seemed like forever(in a good way). I still wear it from time to time and it never gets old to me. This is one fragrance I will always buy and wear. Plus it is great for layering. Original Musk can be found at, free-standing Kiehls store, Nordstrom, and some other higher end department stores.

Last but not least is Hesperides by Fresh which is a lovely, uplifting, citrusy scent. Last year I was in a department store and Fresh had a few really inexpensive ($38) box sets that included an 8.8 soap, a 4.2 oz lotion and a 1 oz eau de parfum. I figured that was a lot of products for just $38 so I bought it and was so glad I did. I loved the way Hesperides smelled on me then and I still do. I also love Hesperides for layering. Fresh Hesperides can be bought at,,, sephora stores, and some department stores.

Honorable Mention- There is one more fragrance I want to mention. It is called Untitled #5 by Maria McElroy and although is it not a top fave yet, but I think it will be soon. I received this scent as a Christmas present and I think it is very yummy. It has notes of Brazil nut, chestnut, cassis, honey, clove, honeysuckle, orange blossom, brandy, patchouly, tobacco, vetiver. This is one of those scents that I thought smelled so great that I wanted to eat it (not literally of course). There is sort of this sticky, pleasant sweetness to it - not that gourmand, cake-like, chocolaty , vanilla sweetness that was popular for fragrances a few years ago. Untitled #5 by Maria McElroy can be found at

I do still sample lots of fragrances but the top 3 are my mainstays and the closest thing I will ever get to a signature scent.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lush Toner Tabs

When it comes to skin and body care, I am a big fan of novelty. I will try some products just because they seem cool, different, and new. One such product I have tried recently is from Lush Cosmetics which always have new, fun, and interesting products. The product I tried is called a Toner Tab. This product it basically a toner in the form of a fizzing tablet. The way to use it is to drop the tablet in a medium-sized bowl of very hot (not boiling) water, quickly drape the towel over your head and the bowl and let the steam lift all the benefits to your skin. The salesperson also told me that you could save the water and use it as toner. There are 3 types of Toner Tabs: Tea Tree for troubled Skin, Vitamin E for dry skin, and Vitamin C for tired or mature skin. I tried the Tea Tree because I tend to be a bit more on the combination/oily side. In general I did like the product and I usually do not steam my face but I could not help but to try this. Afterward, my skin did seem a bit more tone and clean. And I did reuse the water but not as a toner- I used it to wash and rinse my face. I bought the Toner Tabs at a local Lush store at $1.50 each(yay cheap) or seven for $9.oo. You can also buy these at