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Super Fancy Natural Soap! Why do I love Soaptopia?

Natural Decorative Soap: Jabon de mi Corazon from SoaptopiaYep, I’m blogging about fancy soap. Really. I can’t help it. I’m not a fancy soap kinda guy. I like Ivory for it’s plainness. But Soaptopia has turned me into some kind of hygiene product fanatic.

I got a little stocking stuffer for the holidays. Oh, great, soap, I thought. Then I noted how beautifully made — colorful!  And wrapped — funky! And smelly — delicious! You know there’s something good inside by the fantastic slightly irreverent packaging and silly soap names. Plus they have all natural and organic ingredients — you can even see chunks of lavender and other goodies in some. But, yea, still soap.

Eventually I got around to using the stuff. Whoa! I could just feel the all natural goodness. Instant aromatherapy. And each bar seemed to last for countless soapy sessions. My showers suddenly became just a little bit more happy. When I finally saw my last bar dwindling down to nothing, a sadness came over me. Oh no! I was hooked! So I hatched a scheme. I can’t justify six bucks for a bar of soap for myself. But I figured I’d gift some back to my partner in a secret plot to keep my shower stocked with yummy natural soap.

So I checked out Soaptopia’s website — holy crap! They have TONS of amazing soap! All cute and decorative and natural and eco-friendly and fun. And names like “Staying a Lime” and “Aloe be Thy Name” — ooh, I’m a sucker for a good bad pun. I realized they are right around the corner from Santa Monica in Los Angeles, right in Mar Vista. (12228 1/2 Venice Blvd. – Mar Vista, CA  90066). So I bopped on over. Visiting the shop is even better than buying online — they are cranking out the goods right there in the store / happy goodness factory. It smells delicioso. In addition to being able to touch, feel and smell all the beautiful soaps, you can buy from the freshest creation. The owner Jolie sliced off fresh chunks of soap from the latest batch. Just for me. But hey, even if you don’t live in LA, don’t despair. Feel free to shop online — you can trust that these soaps are brilliant! And the soaps appear in other fancy boutiques all over. (If you have a fancy boutique you can load up on wholesale natural soap and body products here.)

So that’s it. I’m hooked. Now you too know where to get the very best in funky handmade all natural soap (made from olive oil, shea butter and organic ingredients). Also, good to know, they sell other amazing bath products. Natural lip balm (shea butter), natural shaving soaps, natural bubble bath, massage candles, massage oil and body moisturizer and the groovy natural soap gift boxes.

1 comment April 20th, 2009

New Onine Ceramics Gift Store for Jennifer Joyce

Jennifer Joyce, Santa Monica potter and ceramic artist, has launched a new online ceramic gift store! I take ceramics classes at Jennifer’s Santa Monica pottery studio and helped her set up the online store.

With the opening of the store, Jennifer announced some new designs and products. She has been working on some new glazes and designs including her Citrus line of bowls and mugs with a beautiful green texture on the outside and bright orange inside. I also really like the Moonscape bowls that have a stylish black and white texture outside and a blast of chartreuse on the inside.

Jennifer has also been working with a photo transfer technique in which the photo can be reproduced in sepia tones on tiles and ornaments. It has a very classic look and Jennifer adds beautiful glazed designs around the photos. Online she advertises pet memorial plaques and pet ornaments, but the process can be used for any photo.

Jennifer has also been working on a wedding section but it is not yet live. She can make custom bridal party gifts, on-of-a-kind table decorations and centerpieces. I also think her bowls and other table ware make a much better wedding gift than typical registry items.

A few of Jennifer’s ceramic sculptures and tiles are also available. And it is possible to sign up for pottery classes or purchase pottery class gift certificates.

February 15th, 2009

Quixo Board Game — I found it on Amazon

Quixo Board GameCool. You can now purchase Quixo, the board game! No, it is not the home version of your favorite quirky online zine. It is a strategy game that comes from France and has been around for a few years. Mensa picked it as a Mensa Select mind game way back in 1995 so you know it is brain-candy-good. It is Tic-Tac-Toe meets Othello and, best of all, it is slick looking and wooden. So you can place it in the middle of your fancy remodeled living room on your Danish modern coffee table to add an inviting, warm, natural touch to the minimalist yet comfortable feel of the room.

You can get Quixo, the board game, through Amazon: Quixo Classic Game.

(Ya know, you think you come up with a funky original name and then you find it everywhere. There’s a CD company in Italy, a cheap airline ticket company that people can’t spell correctly, and now this.)

Quixo Classic Game

33 comments December 4th, 2008

More Toy Recalls — Buy Fewer Toys, Buy Natural Toys

Hoo boy. More toy recalls. I really don’t buy into the hysteria and I think there is probably too much emphasis on a few bad toys right now. Generally I’m glad to live in a time where we have monitoring and product recalls.

But the real issue is this — there is a constant market for the newest, cheapest, character branded trinkets. So companies just keep churning out new plastic crap that has an unnecessary environmental impact all the way from production through transportation and finally to its disposal.

The real solution isn’t to more closely monitor China. Really we make better toys that last longer. We don’t need to come up with a new line of toys every few months. Concentrate on making a few simple toys.

And that all comes down to us. Buy the good stuff. By less…

(Here’s our list of the top toys that our kids enjoyed as toddlers and babies. We focus on the best toys that last a long time. Some are plastic and there is a place for plastic. But only when it is not used for some disposable crap that is just going straight to the landfill.)

September 27th, 2007

Crafty Goods for Kids

I’ve fallen in love with a website for hand-crafted kid stuff. Well it is more like a crush, I’ve only known about the site for a few days, but I just dig the whole hand-crafted movement, the beautiful design of the site and the idea of one-of-a-kind toys that are not plastic and were not made in China.

Mahar Dry Goods is a Santa Monica based web store with clothes, toys and other paraphernalia for kids. The site and brand are reminiscent something by retro comic hero Chris Ware. It is a wonderful world to visit where you can buy hand made objects or just check out the blog for the latest on hand crafted toy food or inspiring crafty art.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a bunch of the best toys that were our favorites when my kids were small. It was a few years ago that we struggled in our search for more obscure and natural toys. I even designed a bunch of odd custom stuffed toys for babies and almost even finished sewing one (hey, twin babies are a little time consuming). And now it seems like there are tons of crafts people making brilliant original toys. (We also used to, by the way, search long and hard for cool, interesting or punk toddler clothes, and now you can’t open a trendy magazine without getting them crammed down your throat — hello, it is not cute any more. And toddlers shouldn’t have ‘juicy’ on their butts.) Anyway…
What I really enjoy about Mahar Dry Goods is that there seems to be a movement of people creating craft that is art and is still new and modern and is anything but mass produced. And the latest internet mumbo jumbo makes it possible for online communities to develop and share these very low-tech pleasures. It helps me understand a little better my appreciation and enjoyment of pottery. We are hooked into and inspired by this digital world, but there is still a place for tangible objects that are made from the earth and show the imprint of the person who made them.

1 comment August 26th, 2007

Eva Zeisel exhibition comes to Los Angeles

Eva Zeisel’s body of work will be on display in Los Angeles in celebration of the industrial designer’s 100th birthday. The exhibition will run from September 9 to December 30, 2007 at the Craft and Folk Art Museum on Museum Row at 5814 Wilshire Blvd between Fairfax and La Brea. The show is coming from a run at San Diego’s Mingei Museum of Folk Art.

Eva Zeisel Book, Designer for IndustryZeisel is an industrial designer who, throughout the last century, has produced ceramic dinnerware for mass production. Approaching her 101st birthday, she continues to work from her studio in New York. Her strikingly simple organic shapes are so unique and personal, they are being presented at the Folk Art museums (unusual for mass produced items). In addition to dinnerware, Zeisel designs furniture and decorative pieces, crystal and tea pots, many on view at the exhibition.

I’ve come to admire Eva Zeisel’s work through my parents whose collection appears in the exhibition. Years ago they fell in love with some everyday china that had been used in the family in the 1950s. They got curious and, just a little naively oblivious to the fact that Eva Zeisel was already an icon in industrial design, contacted and befriended her. After years of crawling Ebay, thrift stores and estate sales they’ve amassed an extensive collection of her work and a brilliant network of Eva enthusiasts. They even started the Eva Zeisel Forum (formerly the Eva Zeisel Collector’s Club). (They have a Forum site and a site where they post their latest Eva collectibles up for sale).
There are some excellent books on Eva Zeisel. Eva Zeisel, designer for industry is a beautifully produced book with amazing photography. It is out of print but available through Amazon sometimes, so grab it if you can. Eva Zeisel by Lucie Young is a lighter read with a good amount of biographical information. It is a much smaller book but fun. If you want to hear it straight from the designer’s mouth, Eva Zeisel On Design is a much deeper look at the craft of industrial design, presented through various essays and articles by Eva Zeisel herself.

Eva Zeisel Nambe BowlYea, she’d an icon, she’s in museums and she is producing some very high end work that nobody can afford. But you can still buy her latest work. Nambe is currently selling a very sheik line including polished metal bowls, vases and various wine glasses and goblets. You can see them here.

The one I’m gonna pick up for is the Eva Teakettle, mostly because I really need a tea kettle.

Eva attended the opening in San Diego (which I missed) so I’m hoping she’ll make the LA event!

2 comments August 13th, 2007

Betty Lou’s Spirulina-Ginseng Balls are the Best

Betty Lou's Spirulina Ginseng Balls from AmazonBetty Lou bakes bountiful bundles of satisfying Spirulina-Ginseng Balls, so when you are buying Spirulina-Ginseng Balls, be sure to buy Betty Lou’s Spirulina-Ginseng Balls. They’re the best. I know Betty Lou makes all kinds of healthy organic sugar-free healthy snacks including lots of vegan items. And she has many other treats like Almond Butter Balls, Coconut Macadamia Balls and Fudgie Filbert Balls. And not just balls, she also makes all kinds of bars. I just thought it was kinda funny to find Amazon selling, of all things, Spirulina Ginseng Balls. But then I remembered they just started the new Amazon Grocery Store. And it looks like their store has a much wider health food section than say, Costco. You might not be able to do all of your shopping through Amazon Grocery — they only offer non perishable items. But it can be a good alternative, especially when you are looking for the cheapest prices on items you know and love. Oh, and it is covered under Amazon Prime! (Do you know Amazon Prime yet? It is completely worth it! Quick free shipping on all of your orders. I easily pay for it on a couple of last minute birthday gift orders a year. And you can share your membership with people in your household.) While you are at it you can order some Ka-Me Satay Noodles in a Microwavable Box — man those peanut satay noodles are good. Yea. From Amazon.

August 6th, 2007

Packing List for a Vacation Trip to Peru

Catherine Criolla has provided another helpful entry on the Quixo Peru travel site. Her Peru Vacation Packing List is crafted to help plan for a two week trip to Peru with travel in the highlands and on the coast. The list focuses on travel between April and November with a supplemental list for Peru’s summer, December through March. The list has all you’ll need for you trip, plus luggage recommendations and a Kids packing list. Seems like a good list if you are looking for bon voyage gifts for any adventurers headed to South America.

1 comment July 30th, 2007

Best Toys for Toddlers, Babies and Kids page updated

The new Best Toys for babies, toddlers and kids page has had such a great response so far so we’ve polished it up, added some pictures and added some detail. We list some truly great toys, several extremely trustworthy brands and our experiences with the best tricycles around. If you prefer natural, educational and durable toys over cheap plastic junk, this is the list for you.

AND this Top 10 Toy list is better than all rest — it goes up to 11.

July 30th, 2007

Ceramics in Construction, Remodeling and Design

Jennifer Joyce Potter Studio WindowI take weekly classes with Jennifer Joyce in her Santa Monica ceramics studio. It is not easy being a traditional potter in Los Angeles. Amazed at the variety of work she produces I thought I’d share her work through a little interview. Jennifer creates all kinds of amazing sculpture and functional items in here studio. She hosts wine and clay parties and even helps Girls Scouts get their badges in pottery. But some of her most intriguing projects are larger scale works she produces for home construction and interior design. Check out this interview with Jennifer Joyce to learn a little more about the difference between creating small ceramic forms and large pieces for architectural use.

If you have any comments or questions, this is a good place for em.

July 23rd, 2007

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