Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Winner of Handcrafted Soap Give-Away

Thanks to everyone who entered for our give-away!  Using's random sequence generator, the winner was selected and it was Silver River Jewelry, a fellow artisan on ArtFire!

Because this was our first contest, we wanted to give all of you who entered a little something special, so we will be setting up a coupon code for 10% off your next order.  If you'd like to take advantage of this, just email us here or through our ArtFire site.

If you haven't already, be sure to like us on Facebook or follow our blog to be alerted to any future contests.  Thanks again!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Handcrafted Soap Give-Away

National Clean Hands Week was started to promote the fact that washing one's hands is the best way to ward off illness.  Being soap makers, we thought this would be a good time to give away some of our handcrafted soap through two random drawings!  Each winner will receive a package of two bar soaps and one foamer bottle, all in the scent of their choosing (we’ll cover the shipping fees).  Please visit our online store at to view the available selections.
FOR THE FIRST DRAWING:  leave a comment here on our blog, letting us know which type of soap you would like to win.  If you do not have a Blogger account, be sure to leave your name so we can identify you if you are the winner.  Only one entry per person is allowed.
FOR THE BONUS DRAWING:  you will receive an entry if someone likes our Facebook page through your suggestion.  Just have your friend comment on our Facebook wall, letting us know who referred them.  The number of entries you have to this drawing will correspond with the number of friends you get to like our page.  
Entries for both drawings will be accepted until midnight central time next Tuesday (9/27/11).  
Numbers will be assigned to each entry as they come in.  The winning entries will be randomly selected using’s sequence generator.  Please be sure to check back with the blog as we’ll post the winner here within 24 hours after the close of the entry period.  To receive their prize, the winners need to then email us their contact and mailing information.  
This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook.
The contest is open to residents of the 50 states of the U.S. and the District of Columbia who are 18 years of age or older as of the beginning of the contest period.

This contest is now closed.  By liking our Facebook page or following this blog, you'll be updated as to any drawings we hold in the future!

The Philosophy of Belle Journée

Choosing Organic Makes a Difference

As we planned out our business, we had a particular philosophy that we wanted our handcrafted products and practices to reflect.  Believing there are too many synthetic ingredients in the majority of personal care products, we wanted to keep our line simple and as natural as possible.  Limiting environmental impact through minimal packaging made of recycled materials was also important.  Much time went into formulating the right balance of vegetable oils for our soaps, developing scent blends using safe amounts of essential oils and designing a look using only natural colorants.  It is those aspects of our products that are well received by our customers.
There is one factor, however that is generally not considered by our customers that I felt was important to write about; that is the use of mainly organic oils.  You might ask why we bother with organic oils at all.  With soap being a wash-off product, what’s the sense in using ingredients that are more expensive?  In considering our choices, we took into account the many ways in which conventional farming exposes our bodies and the environment to toxins.  
Aside from applying non-organic cosmetics, lotions, etc to our bodies and eating produce that is conventionally farmed, pesticides also affect our health through secondary exposures.  Their application in farming alters the soil, and through runoff and erosion the ground water is contaminated.  These in turn affect the health of the ecosystem, often harming organisms that aren’t being targeted such as beneficial insects and birds.  Too often such man-made environmental impacts are discovered too late.  DDT is a tragic example.  Despite its ban nearly 40 years ago, DDT's breakdown products continue to be found in food supplies, human blood and our homes .
The human health risks of pesticides are well documented in research.  Their presence in cord blood and breast milk reveal how pervasive pesticides are as well as the risk they pose to the healthy development of our future generations.  Through young adulthood, the development process is highly sensitive to the effects of pesticides, which can contribute to neurological and metabolic issues, as well as chronic disease.  Low dose exposures over the long-term have been linked to ADHD and cancers.  When you consider that most crops use a variety of pesticides, even a low dose within safe limits can be harmful due to the combined effects.  
While there have been technological advances, such as the development of systemic pesticides that limit their exposure to farm workers and are more specific in what they target, those advantages don’t come without problems.  The systemic pesticides are more persistent in the environment and have been linked as a possible cause of the Colony Collapse Disorder of bees.  Because they actually become a part of the plant tissue as it grows, they are not able to be washed off the food, thus increasing dietary exposure of humans and any other organism that consumes it.  
The cursory safety reviews of the pesticide companies, who have in recent years become the seed manufacturers, lead one to question how much more is unknown about the effects of these pesticides.  And let’s not forget the heavy herbicide usage that has created super weeds which will require even heavier applications of weed killers.  Recent research also found glyphosate, the key ingredient of Roundup that has been linked to birth defects, in the air and water of the two farming states tested.  Over a 2 year period glyphosate was found in every sample taken from streams and in most of the air samples.  The government response was that more research is needed to fully understand the implications.  How much additional damage will have occurred before those studies conclude?  

It can be overwhelming to consider all the harmful things we are exposed to.  One feels powerless to effect any change in the established practices of distant corporations or the workings of government.  It’s also easy to forget when the effects don’t impact us immediately, and in a way that is readily apparent.  When the topic of choosing organics is considered, a typical response is that we will all die anyway of something so why worry about it. 
This way of thinking avoids the fact that the health of our future generations relies on us; they will face the full impact of our choices.  Will we continue practices that endanger human health as well as the world’s eco-system or will we choose safer alternatives?  
We have the power to effect change through our purchases and our voice.  Companies do pay attention to anything that affects their sales and have been known to change their practices accordingly.  There are also groups actively engaged in the fight for our health.  The Organic Center and The Pesticide Action Network are two of them and they can always use more participants.  Each of us as individuals can make a difference in our own way.  
It is with those thoughts in mind that we began Belle Journée Handcrafted Soaps.  Aside from wanting to provide a product line that considers health and environmental impact, we hope to encourage others to contemplate these issues when making life choices and decisions.  That is our vision and hope for a beautiful day!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fabric Flower Tutorial for Lavender Sachets: Holiday Gift Idea

Knowing how quickly the holidays can arrive, I’ve started thinking about gift items to make.  One idea is a Belle Journée gift set that will include a sachet of lavender with our lavender handcrafted soap and some bath salts.  Muslin bags are frequently used for sachets, but are a bit plain on their own.  Using a decorative stamp helps, but it still lacks some flair.  
After looking around, I found a great tutorial on making fabric flowers.  They were so easy to make and the materials are inexpensive.  Best of all, the flowers are beautiful and they could be used in so many ways.  You will certainly be seeing them on our lavender sachets (the start of which are shown below)!

Just a note that from my experience, using tongs on the smaller petals saves your fingers from too much heat.  Also, I singed some of the areas more than others just to get a bit more color contrast.  Lastly, you might try laying the petals with the curled sides facing down.  It gives it a different look that I liked.

Much thanks to Emily Rose for the tutorial!  Be sure to check out her page as she has many other projects.

Lavender sachets to-be that will be included in a Belle Journée gift set.

Handcrafted Fabric Flower

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A little bit about us...

Hello readers and welcome!  I’m happy to be starting this blog, which has been on my to-do list for some time.  Hopefully you’ll find something of interest here.  While this blog is connected to our business, that will not be the sole focus. I envision an eclectic mix that will range from health, social and environmental issues to cooking and the arts.  For my first post, however, I’ll just start with a brief intro to our business.  
My husband and I run a handcrafted soap business from our home.  We started with a desire to help those with allergies and sensitivities.  Many, such as myself, experience itchy skin, headaches or wheezing from an encounter with allergens, which unfortunately are often found in standard personal care products.  It can be difficult to identify the offending ingredient when products typically contain a long list of unknown synthetics and proprietary fragrances.  That creates a challenge to find products that don’t cause a reaction.
Our soaps are formulated to gently cleanse without harsh detergents you find in store bought products (which generally are actually detergents).  We have several varieties that are unscented as well as free of colorants.  Castile, made of 100% organic expeller pressed olive oil, is the most gentle in our line; it is ideal for those with extremely sensitive skin.  Pure-fection is also gentle, yet provides more cleansing power through the addition of Palm Kernel and Coconut oils.  You can find those as well as other varieties of unscented soaps at our store front.  They are perfect for those with the most sensitive of skin, from infants to the elderly, cancer patients going through chemo, couples going through in vitro fertilization, or those who wish to avoid synthetics in their products.
For the soaps designed with color, we use only natural colorants such as herbs and clays.  Our liquid soaps are neutralized with citric acid rather than the frequently used borax (aka sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate).  Borax is a known skin irritant that is banned in the European Union for products used by children under the age of 3.  My husband can tell you from first hand experience that it irritates the skin of those of us older than three as well.  In addition, borax is also not safe to use on broken or damaged skin.  Knowing that even natural ingredients can cause allergic reactions, we disclose all ingredients on our labels.
For those who prefer scented products, we also have soaps scented with essential oils.   We are careful to avoid essential oils that are known sensitizers (such as Peru Balsam) and use the International Fragrance Association as a guide in amounts used.  
Please visit our website at to see all of our beautiful handcrafted soaps.  You can access it directly or through the links provided on the right side of this page.  We welcome any questions you might have about our products, whether here or through our storefront.  Thanks for stopping by!