Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Modest Weddings Revisited

Way back in August I wrote about modest weddings and a designer in New Jersey who kept the conservative bride in mind. I just came across this new article the other day that talks about Suzanne Novak's wedding gowns for Mormon brides.

Suzanne's Bridal Boutique in Gilbert, Arizona, sells gowns to hundreds of brides and has developed quite a following. Mormon brides come to her because she will alter wedding dresses to cover the LDS garments that Mormons must wear under their clothing. Adding sleeves, higher necklines, even bodysuits to gowns, Novak allows Mormon brides to enjoy more modern styles of dresses without the spaghetti straps or strapless styles that don't offer the coverage they need.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Swiss Biberli Cookies

My husband grew up in Switzerland, land of mountains, Alpenhorns, and village mushroom experts. One Christmas early in our marriage, he mentioned how much he missed the biberli cookies he used to enjoy at the holidays. Without realizing exactly what I was in for, I excitedly offered to bake some for him.

Ten years and dozens and dozens of okay-but-not-quite-right cookies later, the food critic approved the recipe and now our kids get to enjoy Swiss biberli cookies at the holidays, too. And I'm even allowed to share them with the neighbors! Here's the recipe. (They're a little fussy to make, but so worth it. I usually double this recipe.)

Swiss Biberli Cookies
Cookie Filling:
1 7-oz tube almond paste or marzipan
2 Tbsp apricot jam
1 Tbsp honey
1/8 tsp lemon oil in 1 tsp water (or 1 tsp lemon juice and rind of 1/2 lemon)

Mix all ingredients and chill in refrigerator or freezer.

Cookie dough:
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup white wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves

In large bowl, cream the butter and add sugar, egg and molasses. In separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add baking soda to boiling water, then alternate the addition of dry ingredients and water to the butter mixture until dough is smooth. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.

Drop dough by teaspoon onto cookie sheet and spread into 2 inch circles, leaving 1-2 inches between cookies. Add flattened spoonful of filling to top of dough circles, then cover with second spoonful of cookie dough, spreading dough around the edges to cover the filling completely. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies. Once cooled, serve with milk...or dip the cookies in chocolate...or add a sugar glaze...or drizzle melted chocolate over the tops (as in the photo above). Yum! Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One Day Sale

We have one more day before we stop shipping for Christmas. We also have a bunch of overstocks. Guess what that means? Last chance, one day sale!

Get up to 50% off our in-stock and seasonal balms, soaps, salts, etc. Order only from our in stock and specials pages for shipment on December 17 (items on the rest of our site are not in stock and may not arrive by Christmas).

Order these discounted products through midnight tonight. Thank you!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Say "I Do" with Lego

I hesitated to send this link to my husband, because we are looking for new wedding bands and I know that when he sees these the search is over.

If you're confused about what this picture shows, it's a silver band with a "stud" on it that allows you to attach a Lego. You can get the rings with one, two, or four studs (that's the semi-official name for the little bumps on Legos), so you can modify your ring to your own taste. Or even build elaborate finger-based constructions during office meetings. The possibilities are endless. Follow the link to see a gallery of the options.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Turn over a NewLeaf

If you're in Atlanta and looking for a beautiful gift idea, consider a visit to the Four Seasons Hotel on 14th Street. Featured in a case in front of the elevators is the work of Deborah E. Goebel, a jewelry designer whose work combines the ancient with the contemporary to create something timeless.

Deborah's education at the Pratt Institute, her internship at the Met, and travels throughout the U.S. and Europe have inspired her career as a designer and artist. They have also afforded her "a love of history and heritage" which is made tangible in her newest work mixing vintage beads with materials from all over the world.

Her move from Maine to Atlanta several years ago was an opportunity to "turn over a new leaf," which led to the birth of her new business, Newleaf Designs. Visit Deborah's site to learn more about her and her gorgeous one-of-a-kind jewelry designs. And take a trip to the Four Seasons in Atlanta to see her work up close. Deborah says that there are "some great styles in all lengths and materials." Nicole Miller, the Spa Director at the Four Seasons, can answer any of your questions about Deborah's work.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cactus & Ivy Soaps!

I've always been intrigued by the idea of making soap, but with little kids around I've also been paranoid about the dangers of working with lye. There have been some pretty amusing soap making "experiments" in my family, and stories about filling the kitchen with fumes made me even more hesitant. I won't mention any names, but this is something I can (sadly) imagine doing myself. So a few months ago when I was in the market for a natural handmade soap, naturally I headed to fellow Indie Beauty Network member and Twitter friend, Cactus & Ivy.

Cactus & Ivy has a half dozen options for soap by the bar, and I chose two to try. The Calendula Sunshine Body Soap contains olive, palm, coconut and jojoba oils along with exfoliating calendula petals and the fresh fragrance of lemon grass. WOW is this a refreshing soap! The fragrance is wonderful, it lathers well, and it's very gentle to the skin. Great soap to help you wake up in the morning! My husband and kids really like this soap, as well.

The second soap I tried was the Serene Face & Body Soap. I have always had very sensitive skin on my face, and more recently have had stress-related breakouts (delightful!). When I read the description of this soap, "fabulous for all skin types, including babies and sensitive," I knew this was the one for me. I've been using this soap for about six weeks now, and I think I'm in love. If my skin could talk, it would say, "Ahhhhh!" This soap has olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, apricot kernel oil, macadamia seed oil, and kukui seed oil. It is super fatted and let me tell you, my face can tell. There is no rush for the lotion to avoid that skin-too-tight-for-my-face feeling that commercial soaps leave. There is no drying out, no redness, no blotchy areas. My skin has really calmed down. What a relief!

I also have to point out that this is an unscented soap, which gave me pause while I was ordering. I've been a vegetarian for 25 years and have frequented health food and whole foods stores for ages, and in my experience "unscented" sometimes means "no fragrance added, but nasty natural odor included at no charge." With Serene Face & Body, unscented means extremely mild vegetable oil fragrance. Very cool!

Cactus & Ivy have recently eliminated the honey and beeswax from their products so their line is completely cruelty-free and vegan. And not that I needed another reason to order from them, but I've been following Lisa Rodgers, the owner, at Twitter and I discovered that she has a goat. Check out this goat-milking photo from my personal archive. Yes, this is me. And yes, I do harbor a secret desire to go back to farm life and become a crazy goat lady with several dozen goats to milk and lots of skin-friendly goat's milk soap to make. But until that happens, I'll be getting my soap at Cactus & Ivy! Check them out for some great holiday gift ideas. (And some kickin' soap.)


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