Friday, May 30, 2008

Texans Can't Spell...

... or maybe we're just lazy?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


We have big stuff coming up very very soon in regards to our adoption, and my nerves are not treating me so nicely. I'm skerrd, I'm skerrd, I'm SKERRD. If you think of us, please pray. :) I'll write more about it later.

We turned in just about all of our paperwork last night along with our first fee. The local director person came to meet us and pick it all up at the last minute. We've talked extensively over the phone and she's very nice so it was good to finally meet in person. Dustin and I had to write autobiographies following an outline that was given to us. I figured I'd get, oh, a page and a half maybe... but oooh no. It ended up being almost four full pages. Dustin's was that long too. I guess we had a lot to say. :) This is a good thing, since the more info we give them up front, the shorter our homestudy interviews will have to be. Now that our paperwork has been turned in, our homestudy should be scheduled pretty soon. It will take probably around 4 hrs total for us, but the paperwork itself will probably take a few weeks to be completed and approved and all. Once we're approved, we get to write a BIG, FAT CHECK (I don't even want to think about that number right now) and wait for a birth family to pick us.

I did not know this until last night, but they wait until the birth mother is just about due before they show her the adoptive families that are potential matches for her. So apparently, when we get a call saying we're picked, if all goes smoothly from there, we will be parents within a few weeks. Weeks! It makes sense that they do it this way since until she has signed off on the paperwork (which, in Texas, cannot happen until at least 48 hrs after birth), the birth mom can change her mind at anytime. She is counseled throughout her pregnancy (or at least for as long as she has been in contact with the agency) so by the time they show the profiles, they are usually pretty certain they are making the right choice, but of course, some do change their minds. We will get a child that is more than likely a week old or less... probably 3-4 days old.

Very soon, we will have to start looking for a pediatrician and also start buying things for the nursery because you know, we only have a crib (sans mattress). I guess we will have to go with a gender neutral thing mostly since we will not have much time for things once we get that call.

There is so much stuff, and it's all so overwhelming, but right now I just need to make it through Monday. One day at a time... one day at a time. I'm very very very much looking forward to Monday. If I survive until then, it's all good.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bad dog... no cookie!

You'll never guess what I found this afternoon as I opened the door to let the dogs in from a potty break.

Trixie (formerly "good dog" now renamed "crazy dog" - still laughing over that photo by the way. I have NO IDEA how I caught that look... it was a one in a million shot!) with her cute, little white furry head buried in my row of green bean plants. Chick-dog was chowing down, people. I'm not sure I could have been more angry if the dog was chewing on an $800 pair of shoes (no, I do not own any $800 shoes in case you were wondering). My green beans. MY green beans! Ding dang dog eating my green beans that we worked so hard to grow.

*Insert smoke-blowing-out-the-ears smiley face here*

After I yelled loud enough to disturb the entire southern Texas area, I refrained from throwing her out into the street with a "will work for food - oh wait, I'll just steal it" sign taped to her chest. She ran inside with a green bean plant stem hanging from her mouth. Now, I used to think she just took after me with her love for veggies. Seriously, these dogs love raw carrots and cooked taters and broccoli as much as they love meat. But for real yo, as veggie-loving as I am, I've never eaten a green bean stem.

I can hear her now, digging in her blanket in the living room, snorting. But I know she's really laughing. She had the best lunch ever and totally got away with it.

I should have known it was a bad idea to feed them a few fresh, raw green beans the other day as a treat. Ding dang dog-mom.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Them are some good eats, right there

I'm talking about chocolate, of course. Brownies, to be more specific. Who doesn't love a good brownie? Rich, moist, chocolaty. If they're made well, they've got to be one of the yummiest desserts.

I have been on the quest to find the perfect brownie recipe for quite some time. I wanted something that used cocoa instead of chocolate squares because I love cocoa, it's easy to keep on hand, and I always have it. It seems like a lot of recipes out there call for the squares. That's just not my "thang".

I tried a ton of recipes. Either the brownies came out too gooey, too dry, too flour-y or too something else that wasn't quite what I was after.

Then I picked up a little recipe booklet of my mom's (you know the kind - the ones that just BEG you to buy them while you're trying to put your groceries on the checkout thingamabop) and found it. The recipe. The brownie recipe to end all brownie recipes.

It's easy. It's rich. It's yummy. My husband says they're the best brownies we've ever made, and I tend to agree with him. They actually taste better than the box mix, which to me is difficult to achieve because box mix brownies are actually good (as opposed to most other boxed food - Amy's organic macaroni and cheese notwithstanding, which just so happened to be my dinner last night, thank you!).

The recipe is originally designed to make a dry mix (equivalent to 4 pans of brownies) you make up and keep in your pantry, ready to add to your wet ingredients whenever you are ready. I have not done that yet. I've just been quartering the recipe and making one batch at a time. They're good enough though, that I'm thinking that making the mix would not be such a bad idea. I'll give you the whole recipe, then give it to you quartered so you don't have to do the math.

Here it is, the recipe for The Best Brownies EvAR.
Try them. They're good.

4 cups all purpose flour (or whole wheat pastry flour if you're a freak like me)
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder (NOT baking soda, Crystal... NOT BAKING SODA)
1 tablespoon salt
5 cups sugar
2 cups cocoa (we love the Special Dark cocoa for these - yumm!)
2 cups shortening (or organic virgin coconut oil if you're afraid of shortening like me - plus it just tastes gooood)

Mix all but the shortening/coconut oil in a large bowl (or your Kitchenaid mixer if you're cool like me). Cut in the shortening with two knives or pastry blender or a fork or whatever other kitchen device you have that you think might work here (Or if you're using coconut oil, the Kitchenaid does a fine job all by itself - I have no clue if it will work with shortening as well because, well, it's scary bad for you and I just don't buy it!) until mixture is crumbly. You can store this for up to six weeks in an airtight container... it should make 12 cups of mix.

To make brownies:

3 cups brownie mix
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I like double strength - because, well, it's just good stuff)
2 cups (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, unless you're in my house where they're not allowed in brownies... *big, loud sigh*)
1/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients and pour (though it's sort of thick to "pour" - shmear would be a better word here) into a greased 9 inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. (I think my square pan is 8 inches, so I have to cook it a little longer than it says unless I want brownie soup. I'm sure that appeals to some people, but not to this salmonella-fearing-germ-freak.) Cool and, well, eat. Or don't cool and eat warm. Or package them up and send them to me (so long as they don't have shortening, you know). The choice is yours, really. I'll leave it up to you since I'm a nice person. But to be honest, I think your best bet is to just send them to me.

If you want to make just one pan at a time, mix the following amounts of the "mix" ingredients and then add in the rest of the stuff from the above list.

1 cup flour
1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup shortening (coconut oil!!!)

I'd show you a photo of these luscious (sorry, Bethany, but they are) goods, but alas, they are so good that they are so gone. Maybe I'll catch one next time. I know I'll be making these often.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Tale of the Crazy Canine

Once upon a time, we adopted a really beautiful dog. All white and fluffy and full of personality, was this little shih-tzu mutt. We found her at the pet store, where a local shelter was adopting out their small dogs and puppies. She caught our attention, this little white and tan ball of fur, as she spun around in circles chasing her tail in her crate.

Sweet as can be, the wonderful little creature captured our hearts. She grew to be a nurturing and loving little girl, watching over and caring for her little "sister" and always anxious to jump on Dustin's lap and welcome him home after a hard day's work.

Her favorite days were when "gramma" and "grampa" came over to see her. She'd show off and love on them and be as happy as a little dog could be. She's never met a stranger. If you move and breathe, she'd be your friend.

She was the best dog a gal could ask for... until today.

Dog-chick snapped, y'all.

My sweet little Trixie turned into a... a... well, I don't know what. A crazy canine? A demented doggy? You tell me.

Because I, of course, just so happened to capture the incident on film (or disc, as it were).

It just ain't right, people. It just ain't right.

But funny? Oh heck yeah. I laughed until my stomach hurt. Poor Trixie.

Poor crazy little Trixie.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

And now for something completely different...

This is a copper pendant made with a fold-forming technique. Actually, I don't really know much about fold-forming. I just sort of winged it, but it came out mostly how I imagined. I've seen some really neat things made with fold-forming. From a funky piece like mine to something really unique such as metal origami! Now that is cool.

Dustin says it looks like it went through someone's intestine. LOL A jewelry buddy called it "edgy". I think "edgy" sounds better than "digested", don't you? ;o) Either way, it's definitely different. Sometimes I like to go outside my little box. But not for long. I'll hop back on the symmetrical bandwagon really soon. I promise.

The second photo shows the pendant hanging on one of those new black steel chokers. They have nickel-free (not sterling, sorry!) magnetic clasps.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Your jewelry questions answered

I have gotten a few questions related to jewelry lately, but instead of replying in the comments I thought I'd make a new post for them.

Catherine asked if some of my new pendants would make it to the Etsy shop. Yep! I can put any of them in there... just let me know what you're interested in. I need to price them and probably re-photograph them (which is why they're not there yet) but I can certainly do that.

Heidi asked how I design my jewelry. Each piece is different, really. I get inspiration from all sorts of things... art, nature, the materials themselves, jewelry I see people wear on tv. It's surprising sometimes what gets my wheels turning. :) I don't usually sketch something out before I do it, but some things I do. For some items, I've drawn out templates so I can easily remember the exact dimensions of the pieces for easier reproduction. I used to be bad about this, so when I would have to remake something, I'd go nuts trying to remember the exact dimensions! Not a good thing. :)

Sometimes I see a gemstone or other component and know exactly what I want to do with it, but other times it takes me months to find the right match. This stuff has a mind of its own too. I've sat down to make one thing and the wire and metal and stones or what have you decided they wanted to be something else instead. There are also some pieces I just can't let go yet! For example, I have a gorgeous strand of absolutely perfect chocolate brown freshwater pearls. I'm not usually big on pearls myself, but these, man, all I want to do is stare at them... no sharesies! *giggle*

Of course there are things that have been around for decades if not centuries. Chain maille weaves, basic metalsmithed items, certain types of wire wrapping... it really is true that there is nothing (or at least very little) new under the sun.

I hope that was interesting to read. I love talking about jewelry, so feel free to ask more questions. :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Deep Thoughts

I had a realization the other day. Without going into details, our infertility is a little complicated. It's not something we fully understand. In talking to the doctor, I think she was surprised to know that at this point I'm not sure I care anymore. For the first time in a long time, it feels like we're on the right track here. I want our soon to be adopted baby. I love it already. It's probably not even conceived, and I already love it. I have no idea what it will look like, where it will come from, what nationality it will be... but it's mine and I am attached. There is no way I want to give it up, even if it meant we could have a biological child in its place. This kid is already mine. It just doesn't know it yet and will be renting a place to live for 9 months until it finds its forever home.

Getting pregnant is just simply not important to me anymore. At all. Which is a huge deal for me because I was in love with the idea for so long. Don't get me wrong. If God decided to perform a miracle (which is what it would take - an honest to God true 100% miracle - not what some people call a miracle either - we're talking water into wine/healing the blind type thing here) I'm sure I would be thrilled. But I just don't care. I'm actually thrilled now that I won't be pregnant. No stretch marks. No morning sickness. I could go on, but I'll spare you. Not that I think those things aren't worth the prize at the end... but our adoption journey has a grand prize too that is just as worthy and to be honest, to me, a little more special in a way. This journey is hard. But I know it's meant for us. There are still things that could fall through and stop this particular leg of our journey, but even if that happens, I know the journey will be completed somehow because... well... I just know. I bought a crib, after all, and it has to be filled somehow.

The hardest part of this ordeal is the total and utter lack of control I have over certain things. I will have no say what happens to our baby during and right after birth. I also do not have the option of breastfeeding. Sure, adoptive mothers can do it, but it's not something I am willing to try at this point because I do not feel it would be healthy for me since I already struggle in the weight department. I'm sure many people will think less of me for not trying, but oh well. This is something I've put a lot of thought into and I just know that at this point, for this adoption, I need to give up that dream and do the best I can otherwise. Perhaps if we adopt again, I will try it.

These are the things I struggle the most with right now... stuff I can't control. I'm a control freak, and it drives me nuts. Two years ago I had very strong feelings as to what would happen to my child during and after birth and how my child would be fed. It's almost funny now (if not frustrating) to realize how sometimes God throws you curve balls and what you previously knew to be best is not so much anymore.

You asked for it

Well, one of you did.

I managed to get most of the blood off without rubbing, so I took another photo. Do you know how hard it is to take a photo of your own arm with a huge, heavy camera? I've figured out that my autofocus stinks for taking photos of 4.5mm red/purple spots on my arm (YES, I'm measuring! I'm paranoid I'll get a false positive!), and it's pretty much impossible to use manual focus while photographing your own arm.

So anyway, for those (the one?) of you who want(s) to see it, click here. The blood and bright red line is where the needle was. The red/purple round spot is where the bubble was.

T to the B

I had my toxin injection today (sorry, Bethany, not botox). No, I have never had one before. I was home schooled through 8th grade and then went to a very tiny (VERY tiny) Christian school for high school and it was never required. It wasn't even required when I went to college. So I guess I read it wrong and it's not the actual toxin, but an antigen. Or something. I don't know. All I know is I don't like foreign matter injected into me, nor do I like things taken out of me that belong in me (such as blood). I'm a firm believer in the fact that if God had wanted my blood in vials, He would have put it there Himself instead of inside my body... where it keeps me alive.

Thankfully, according to my doctor, my "blood work was so good last year" that I did not have to have a work up this year. Go me! I'm actually shocked at this since I've sort of lost some weight since last year. I had gained 6 lbs, then I lost it all. I can't tell you how frustrating that is. #(*&#*($^&*@#$(*#@&$ is all I have to say about that. I tried to get her to prescribe me some calorie pills, but she insists they don't exist. I think she's holding out on me.

Have I told you how much I like my doctor? I really do. She's nice and thorough and puts up with my quirks very well (just like my dentist, who I also love - it's true - despite the fact that I freak out whenever I have to visit either). However, she's leaving the practice at the end of next month. I'm hoping she'll move to another place in town so I can stick with her, otherwise I'll have to find someone else and I don't think that will be so easy. Before she leaves, I'll be visiting her at least once for acupuncture.

People. I was shaking over a tiny TB anti-whatever needle injection. And I'll be getting acupuncture. Lots of little needles. All over. Left in me for several minutes. While I watch. Does anyone see a potential problem here?

For some reason, my doctor laughs when I visit her. I can't imagine why. It's not like I'm funny or anything. I mean, all I did was ask her if my salivary gland was going to kill me, or if a dermatological cream would kill me if I accidentally forgot to wash my hands after using it and before eating (if you know me at all, you'd know that this scenario is impossible), what she was listening to when she put the stethoscope up to my belly (who knew it gurgles all the time? I mean, listening to belly gurgles isn't exactly normal behavior, you know...), and make the connection between my phobias and all the problems in the entire world. We decided that if we can somehow fix my anxiety issues, we can bring peace to the middle east. I know it's true. She agreed. And laughed. It's a good thing I didn't tell her I locked myself in the bathroom... naked. I'm sure that caused some kind of planetary shift that we just haven't yet found. I don't think Lexapro can fix stupid.

The dentist laughs at me too. I just can't figure it out...

So back to my toxin/not-toxin injection. It was a lot less scary than I expected. Not that I'd want to do it again, but it didn't hurt that much. I even watched for a couple of seconds (but not for long because, seriously, who enjoys watching their skin bubble up? I mean, ewe.). The nurse that works there is really cool. He's an older gentleman and quite funny. I have to have my arm bubble "read" on Thursday, but he says that I can just send my arm. I don't actually have to show up myself. Good to know, man-nurse. Good to know.

Because my arm? Phobia free.

It might be phobia free (and now, mostly bubble free) but it sure isn't bruise free. I bruise at the drop of a... needle? I should have taken a picture when I had my blood work done last year. You would have sworn someone punched me, hard. Even this little needle left a bruise. I'm also very clumsy, so really, I'm never bruise free. I promise no one beats me (unless door jambs and the dog gate count).

I took a picture of my toxin/non-toxin arm bubble bruise. But I'll spare you. I can only "dab it, not rub it" so it has crusty blood on it, and no one likes crusty blood. Even I'm not sick enough to blog about that.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Clay is A-OK

Have I mentioned lately how much I love clay? Metal clay, polymer clay... I think I love it all. I'd really love to learn ceramics and intend to play around in that medium one day as soon as I can afford a kiln and pottery wheel (and have room for them). That's probably a few years off at least, so for now, it's metal and polymer clay.

Dustin and I just bought some cold porcelain clay the other day and we plan to play with it soon. We'll see what kind of jewelry bits and bobs I can make with that. :o) Apparently my man knows how to throw clay (like on a wheel!) and sculpt with it and all. *gasp* I married an ahr-teest. But you know, he won't admit how good he is with stuff like that. ;o) He's a man. A tough man. Tough men don't play with clay. They... play XBox?

Here are a couple polymer clay things I've been working on. Various beads and pendants and such. The first one I will probably coat with a shiny glaze, but I was too impatient to do that before taking the photo. *giggle*

And of course, the metal clay. Here are two pendants... a little kitty face (aww!) and cherry blossoms. I have a thing for cherry blossoms. I don't have a thing for kitties (I love kittens, but they do grow up into cats, and cats I can live without, especially their litter boxes and dirty paws on my kitchen counters. Though the last time we were at Petco we DID see the cutest little kitten ever and I so wanted to take it home... but alas, it would not stay a kitten forever and would inevitably end up on my kitchen counter with its dirty paws.) but lots of people adore cats and I did a dog pendant already so it was only fair to give the kitty equal play time. :o)

All of my precious metal clay pendants are, of course, pure silver and can be bought alone or with a variety of chain/cord options. I have sterling box chain (as seen with the kitty), brown, tan, and black microsuede cord, brown and black leather cord (black is shown with the cherry blossom pendant), and these cool new black steel cords that have a magnetic clasp. I bought one for myself and liked it so much that I bought a few to sell along with my pendants. They're insanely easy to put on, look nice and sleek, and are a very affordable way to show off a cool new pendant.

And these are two little heart links I made for a pair of earrings. I'm hanging some gorgeous green amethyst off of them and will be sending them to a secret earring swap pal, but I plan to remake the links soon and can put just about anything with them. I love hearts... so cute!

I hope you like looking at my clay goodies as much as I enjoy making them. :o)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

First Fruits

I walked out to the garden this evening to photograph the alien cucumber babies, and I found a gorgeous zucchini that was perfectly ready to be harvested. So harvest it I did. I also found several green beans that needed to be picked, so they joined their courgette-y friend in a nice veggie wash bath and towel dry.

Ahhh. Isn't it beautiful? I've never seen such a pretty little green thing!

Y'all... Y'ALL... you just have NO idea how proud I am of this little zucchini. I've never grown anything that was edible other than a few little herbs a few years ago, and those didn't last long. But this zucchini is perrrrrfect, and he already has two little friends growing and waiting to join him in my belly.

I must admit that I didn't do a lot of the work. Heck, ok, so my dad did most of the work. But I do weed and water and feed, so I get some of the credit, no? These green beans aren't really the first of that fruit. My dad took some home last weekend. Puuuuurdy little green beans. Dustin says their scent takes him "waaaay back" to when he snapped beans with his grandma. He thinks they smell like apricots. I think he's a little off his rocker, but hey, they do smell sweet and sort of intoxicating so call 'em what you will.

Yes, Jessica, I did take photos of the little baby alien cucumbers just for you! I braved the wind and the june bugs (my freaking heck they're horrible right now!) and the big prickly leaves of the huge zucchini plant poking me in the rear to capture the strangeness of these things. They're weird but cute in their own way. The first one is bigger, only at about 1" long, though the photo makes it look huge. The second one is teeeeeny tiny. Bizarre little creature.

It's so amazing to me to watch plants grow and produce fruit. It kind of blows my mind. But what also blows my mind is seeing that little furry bumpy alien thing and realizing that sometime long long ago and far far away, some person was poking around outside and saw this creature and exclaimed, "hmmm... this is gonna taste gooood! Henryyyyy! Chop up some of that there lettuce... Imagonna make some salad fer dinner!"

I hope she at least waited until it went bald.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


2 Belles & a Bead has donated a $10 gift certificate to a raffle that my friend Jessica is holding for her friend Shelly. Shelly is raising money to help send children battling cancer to a special summer camp just for them. What a gem! Be sure to check out Jessica's post here to find out more - it's a wonderful cause.

I get to have a toxin injected under my skin next week. Sounds fun, no? Why in the world would I ever subject myself to such foolishness, you ask? Well, I don't have a choice. TB tests are required if we want to adopt. Yay. Can you tell I'm less than thrilled about this? I don't normally enjoy injecting foreign matter into my body, especially when that foreign matter is a, you know, disease. I've not been exposed to TB so I think it's silly that I have to be tested for it. But whatever. Plus, it's quite possible that I could have an allergy to whatever it is and end up having to get chest x-rays anyway. Yay. Radiation in my body!

The hoops we have to jump through to get a child are endless. I will not bore you with details of the paperwork we have been filling out. Very personal questions. Very detailed information. We have to write autobiographies, and I am not even kidding. "The more detailed, the better."

We're traveling to attend the seminar required for our homestudy around the end of the month. I'm dreading this.

We have a big zucchini growing and several little cucumbers. Tiny baby cucumbers are very odd looking - like little vegetable aliens. I'd take photos, but it's so windy outside that I'm afraid I'd end up in Kansas.

I've been playing more with my metal clay and have some pretties to show you once I photograph them.

This might be the first mother's day in a very long time that I will not end up in tears.

That is all.

Need some free $$?

Refer A Friend using Revolution Money Exchange

I just got $25 for free, and so can you. No, it's not a gimmick. It's the next "Paypal". I heard about it on Etsy, where a lot of sellers are signing up to receive payments through it. There are no fees (yet, anyway - they all have zero fees when they first start up, but I don't expect it to last for long) to receive a payment so that is appealing to many sellers over there.

I wasn't going to sign up, but then I saw that a gemstone retailer accepted RME payments and her stuff is gooooorgeous. I thought, "hmmm... free gemstones... HMMMM" and the deal was sealed.

So, sign up though the link above and get $25 for your own free gemstones. OR you can buy jewelry. From me. Because you know you want to. And it would be free! I'll accept RME payments for things in my Etsy shop (Click HERE) and if there's something you want from us that isn't in the Etsy shop, just let me know and I might be able to put it up there.
(Plus, I'd get $10 to buy MORE gemstones! Yay! Or if I'm nice, maybe I'll find something for the man... or future baby... or or or...)

Oooorrr if you want $25 but don't want to buy jewelry (though I can't imagine WHY that would be the case!) there is a whole long list of Etsy sellers that take RME. Even some who sell soap. And we all need soap. But I think we need jewelry more. What's the point of being clean if you don't got da bling?

Ok, I'll shut up now. :) Have fun getting free $$!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Things I love Part 2, Or: Do you think I have a problem?

If you're one of my faithful readers, you might remember my first post about things I love, where I mentioned all sorts of yummy goodness. Well, today I'm all about the body stuff. You know, the stuff we use to clean and primp. I'm a simple girl. A simple girl gone crunchy. I'm really not into makeup and my beauty cabinet has very few products. Not that I think I'm gorgeous or anything, I just like my face to speak for itself. On the rare occasion I dress up, I only wear a little mineral foundation with a neutral light brown eye shadow, maybe a touch of mascara and a nice lip gloss.

There are other body things that I love, however.

Take for example my huge collection of soap (and ignore, please, the messy shelf. This is after I cleaned out and organized my linen closet the other day.):

Do you see that? I have developed a strange love affair with handmade soap. Sure, there are a few old bars of Dove hanging out, but except for that, almost the entire section of that shelf in our linen closet is devoted to handmade soap. What you probably can't see is that behind all the soap is... more soap. In our master bath closet is... more soap. In the master bath shower is... more soap. Love that soap. And you know, it's not even that we're really dirty people. I just can't stop buying it. (Shipped just yesterday is, in fact, more soap.) I believe that once this newest bar arrives, I will have acquired enough soap to clean up the biggest of industrial oil spills. Olive oil soap, goat's milk soap, oatmeal soap, charcoal soap... if it's made, I probably have it.

"Wait! Back up! Charcoal soap!?"

Oh yes. Charcoal soap. I found it on Etsy after a friend told me about squalane.

"Squalane?? What the... have you gone mad?"

Yes. Yes, I have gone mad. Mad about these products from Zaja Natural. I'm telling you, this person is on to something. Her charcoal soap may be strange, but it's great. It lathers really well. A wonderful thick, dark gray lather. It cleans my face like nothing I've ever tried. It's great for blemishes, though not so great for your nice, white sink if you're a messy like me. *giggle*

I've even gotten my anti-crunchy husband hooked on it. When he ran out of his toxic chemical-filled shmudge, I handed him my big black bar and said, "dude, just try it" (or something not so surfer-like, anyway). After just a couple of days, he was convinced. Now he uses it more than I do.

As for the squalane, that's just the best moisturizer I have ever tried. While many of the sources out there come from shark, hers is totally vegan - taken from olives. Not that I'm a vegan, but I don't exactly relish the idea of shmearing shark on my face. Yumm. Either way, why coat your precious facial skin with chemical crud made from God knows what when you can put pure, God made stuff on it? I only use 2-3 drops. The bottle will last forever. We're talking baby butt skin. On my face. Ahhhh.

Perhaps my absolute most favorite product ever is the Zaja Dead Sea Mud Foaming Scrub.

People. People. This stuff is aMAzing. Never in my life have I used a product I adore so much. It's completely natural, made from all earthy crunchy granola type stuff. It's fan-freaking-TASTIC. I'm telling you, baby butt skin times ten. It cleanses. It exfoliates. It brings about world peace. Or at least I fully believe it would, if only everyone gave it a try. I mean, who could be all grouchy and stuff if their face felt like a baby butt? Not I... not I. Both my mom and I love this stuff. If Zaja ever stops selling it, I will cry. Then I might just start a war.

My next mention is absolutely shocking. It's *gasp* natural deodorant. I will tell you that natural deodorant is not something I ever... ever... thought I would try. I don't like to smell crunchy granola, thankyouverymuch, but when several people recommended this product called Funk Butter and absolutely raved about it, I really had no choice but to give it a try.

Funk Butter is made by Oyin Handmade, and is a creamy type stuff you shmear on your pits with your fingers. While not the most pleasant of applications, this stuff is really great. I bought the unscented and also the Black Cedar Fig. Dustin loves the smell of the latter, and so do I. I'm not ashamed to admit that when I wear it, I'm strangely drawn to the fragrance wafting from underneath my arms. Perhaps it's just my weird senses, but it reminds me of warm, raw cinnamon roll dough. This stuff actually works. For about 24 hours. I don't get that kind of mileage from the scary chemical stuff! It even works for my man. And we all know that men don't perspire, they sweat.

There is one other natural deodorant I have been very pleased with (and to be honest, I have only tried three. The third - which was actually the first I ever tried - was by Tom's of Maine and it made my skin peel. Pleasant, no?). The Thai Crystal Roll-On.

I've heard horror stories about the rock deodorants, but even though the concept is the same for this roll-on, this stuff does work. I think the idea behind it is it inhibits bacteria from growing where it is applied (you have to apply it to clean skin) and no bacteria = no odor.

I was skeptical.

After two days, I was a convert.

The only thing I do not like about this product is the fact that it is a roll-on, and I feel as though I need to wait for it to dry before fully dressing. It also does not have any odor at all to it, so I cannot walk around smelling myself and getting hungry for a pastry as I can with da Funk Butter. In terms of ease of use, however, it wins out over da Funk hands down. (Besides, every time I use Funk Butter I get "We got da funk! Gotta have that funk!" stuck in my head. And that's never a good thing.)

Also worth mentioning:

Gudonya Too products - I bought my mom and myself one of their body scrub kisses, and they are lovely. Unfortunately, I do not see them in their shop at the moment, but I'd happily recommend anything they make!

Rose of Sharon Acres goats milk soap - This company is in Texas. You gotta love that. Goats milk is wonderful for the skin. They even make tooth soaps. I bought a sample. They're unused in my cabinet. The idea still freaks me out. (While I'm mostly crunchy, I do like my fluoride. Sorry. I do.)

Burt's Bees - I'm sure you all have heard of this company. I simply adore their Milk & Honey body lotion. It's one of the two lotions that actually works on my hands (which love to crack and bleed). Their Citrus & Ginger body wash is great too. Actually, I've not met a product from them that I did not think was great.

So now that you have been informed of my handmade soap addiction and have learned about how cleaning your face with charcoal and mud can stop the ugliest of wars, tell me what you love. If it sounds interesting, might just have to clear a spot on my shelf.

Or buy a bigger house...