Karisma by Kara – Eye-catching accents

When you pick a piece of jewelry, you make a statement about your personal style. With Karisma by Kara jewelry, you’ll not only find a selection of beautiful jewelry, but you might just find a piece that says something about your personality, too.

mountain necklace

The design is gorgeous on this miniature mountain necklace, but check out the oxidization—such a beautiful touch that adds depth and detail. PC: Karisma by Kara

Kara began making jewelry shortly after marrying and moving to Greenville, South Carolina. Inspired by a group of artistic friends who had opened shops to sell their products, Kara decided to open an Etsy shop to share her handmade jewelry.  The success of her uniquely designed and intentionally crafted jewelry eventually created an opportunity for Kara to open her own physical shop—a long-time dream come true.

bear studs

You can’t help but smile at these little bear studs. Was your first though “Mama Bear?” Yeah,  mine too. PC: Karisma by Kara

After having a baby last year, Kara’s moved her studio back home, though she’s still working as hard as ever on designing and making jewelry, oftentimes filling custom orders. A few years down the road, Kara would love to open a shop again and even offer classes to the community.

work bench

Kara’s creative process is definitely hands-on. Her craftsmanship ensures quality and a unique touch. PC: Karisma by Kara

Kara’s background in art makes itself known in the clean, elegant designs of her jewelry. Kara makes each piece by hand, which often involves complex metalwork. One thing you’ll notice about Kara’s jewelry is that each piece is loaded with personality—whether you’re admiring a rustic mountain range or smiling at a bunny pendant.


Kara says she likes working with wire best—and I can see why! This adorable corgi necklace and dozens of other designs are available in Kara’s shop. PC: Karisma by Kara

You’ll find that Kara has no shortage of ideas when it comes to designing jewelry, and it’s a pure joy to explore her website and Etsy shop. Bracelets, rings, necklaces, and earrings—she makes it all!

sleek earrings

I love the intricacy of Kara’s jewelry, but she also creates very chic, streamlined pieces like these strikingly elegant dangle earrings. PC: Karisma by Kara

Bar Soap – A worthy conversion

Over the past six months or so, I’ve discovered a product preference: bar soap over liquid soap. Specifically (of course) handmade bar soap over store-bought liquid soap. Seems like a simple switch, but let me share with you some reasons why I’ve switched almost entirely to bar soap.

Liquid soap is drying

Something all soaps advertise: moisturizing properties. But, especially in the cold months when I’m washing my hands more frequently and having issues with dry skin, I noticed that my hands were especially papery after washing my hands. By contrast, every handmade bar soap I’ve used has been noticeably moisturizing (note: some commercial bar soaps I’ve used in the past had the same drying issues as liquid soap. Not all bar soaps are made equal!)

Bar soap encourages good hand-washing

Confession time: recently I realized that, when I use liquid soap, I’m actually not washing my hands well at all. When using liquid soap, I realized that most of the time I got a dollop of soap on my fingertips, which immediately slid off once I put my hands under running water. With bar soap, you actually have to handle and rub the bar in order to stimulate the lather, which in itself creates a good hand-washing technique. Sounds trivial, but you’ll be amazed at how much more thoroughly you wash your hands when using bar soap.

Bar soap lasts longer

Most bar soaps from Etsy shops and local makers cost a few dollars each, and they last for MONTHS. With liquid soap, it’s easy to pump out a big ole squirt that’s way more than you need. Bar soaps last longer and are a better value in the long run, not to mention better for your skin.

So, now that I’ve shared the big three reasons why I’ve converted to bar soap, let me introduce you to some soap makers I’ve been using (and loving).

Muddy Mint

Muddy Mint

Pictured here is chamomile and lavender soap, with Simi’s signature gorgeous decorative finish. PC: Muddy Mint

Though based all the way out in Colorado, Muddy Mint was the first soap/body care shop I tried way back in the summer of 2017. Simi, the soap-making hands behind Muddy Mint, makes some incredible body care products (still dreaming about her cocoa butter cashmere body butter), and besides her soap being lovely to use, I also think she has some of the most beautiful soap on the market. Follow her on Instagram, if only to marvel at her gorgeous creations.

Gifted Hands Artisan Soap

gh artisan

Black tea and patchouli soap: clean, elegant scent to match the design. PC: Gifted Hands Artisan Soap

I met Javela, the owner of Gifted Hands Artisan Soap, at a farmer’s market last year and purchased some of her soap to try. I was so pleased with the product, and also enjoyed perusing the variety of scents she had on display. Gifted Hands Artisan Soap features some luxuriously feminine scents, like honeysuckle & almond milk, but also stocks a wide variety of man-friendly scents (think lemongrass & rosemary; peppermint; cedar wood, orange, and clove).

ILY Soaps

ILY soap

This bar is currently residing in our bathroom, where my husband and I both use it regularly. We’ve been using this bar for about a month now, and see how bulky it still is! Bar soap goes a long way.

My most recent discovery is ILY Soaps based out of Easley. Besides soaps, ILY Soaps also has a wide variety of bath and body products, from bath bombs to facial care. The bar pictured above is a garden mint soap that I’ve really enjoyed. It has a rich mint smell and a really robust lather, which I love.

Good Juju Herbal

Good Juju soap

I received Judith’s Rose Clay and Geranium soap for Christmas, and it smells divine. PC: Good JuJu Herbal

If you’ve followed my blog, then you’ve seen my review of Good JuJu Herbal and how much I applaud her all-natural approach to body care. I’ve used several of Judith’s products and have particularly enjoyed her soap. Judith infuses her soap with gentle, all-natural scents, and her soaps have a uniquely soft and gentle texture. Ideal for sensitive skin types!

Valentines ideas for him – gifts & dates

Let’s face the reality: most men are hard to shop for.  So, if you’re a thoughtful lady looking ahead to Valentine’s day, you may find yourself wondering how to make your sweetheart feel special.  I’ve rounded up a bunch of ideas, from gifts to date nights, that are guy-approved (reviewed by my husband for confirmed quality control). Read up!

Backroads Goods – Beard Care


PC: Backroads Goods. Check them out: https://backroadsgoods.com/

Backroads Goods has a whole host of beard care products available, from aftershave to beard oil to handmade beard combs. The grooming products are made with natural ingredients and are no-fuss, good quality, and a great gift for your bearded fellow.

The Greenville Jerky Company – satisfy the carnivore


PC: Greenville Jerky Company. Order some here: http://www.greenvillejerkycompany.com/the-jerky.html

For the carnivorous man in your life, you can’t beat some locally-sourced jerky from Greenville Jerky Company.  This makes the perfect snack–and maybe consider throwing in a case of your man’s favorite beer or soda (jerky makes you thirsty!)

A Dapper Sandlapper – handmade accessories 

dapper sand

PC: A Dapper Sandlapper. Check out handmade bow ties, pocket squares, and more: https://www.adappersandlapper.com/

For your dapper man, there’s A Dapper Sandlapper, makers of bow ties, pocket squares, key chains, and more.  These are well made and the patterns range from tame to wild & funky–perfect for your expressive, stylish guy.

LaRue Fine Chocolates – specialty treats

LaRue choc

PC: LaRue Fine Chocolates. Have fun drooling over their website: http://www.laruefinechocolate.com/

Hey, chocolates aren’t just for the lady. I know plenty of fellas who would die and go to heaven over these specialty chocolates: especially the boozy “Sweet Kentucky” and the sophisticated tea-flavored “The Earl.”

Our Board Boutique – custom engraved products

bottle cap openers

PC: Our Board Boutique. Check them out: https://www.etsy.com/shop/OurBoardBoutique?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Though based all the way up in New Jersey, I’ve been seriously impressed with Our Board Boutique They have beautiful wood products on their Etsy shop, but I was particularly drawn to these engraved bottle openers. This is the perfect guy gift: both personalized and useful.

Sidewall Pizza – Ice cream date

Side Wall icecream

PC: Sidewall Pizza. Take a peek at the menu: http://www.sidewallpizza.com/

How about some date ideas? I’m a sucker for the classics, and I don’t know anyone who would turn down a good old-fashioned ice cream date.  Around here, Sidewall Pizza is known for (duh) their pizza, but did you know they have daily ice cream flavor specials? They’ve got both classic and creative flavor combos–all winners.

Sweet Sippin’ – Valentine-worthy events all weekend long

Sweet Sippin

PC: Sweet Sippin. Stay up-to-date on their events here: https://www.facebook.com/sweetsippinsc/

Sweet Sippin in Simpsonville pulls together fun events on a weekly basis, but they have a particularly fun lineup of events over Valentine’s weekend. Attend a salsa dance classthe Valentine Wine & Dine event, or go head-to-head at the trivia nightAll of these, of course, are accompanied by excellent beer and wine (shout-out to my favorite, City Scape Winery!)

Swamp Fox Donut Day – go sugar crazy

Swamp Fox donuts

PC: Swamp Fox Donuts. Follow their popup schedule: https://www.swampfoxdonuts.com/

Hosted monthly at the Birds Fly South Ale Project, this is a fun, laid-back event that is perfect for both the sugar and beer lover. Swamp Fox Donuts make some pretty spectacular doughnuts!

There’s a dozen other ideas I could throw out there; Greenville is a thriving community with tons of fun events, restaurants, and shops. But I hope this gives some worthwhile ideas for those of you planning a special day for your sweetheart.

Saskatoon – Meat Lover’s Dream

If you’re looking for a special dinner destination (and craving red meat), you have to try Saskatoon in Greenville. Around here, Saskatoon is renowned for their exotic meats (think ostrich, antelope, alligator) as much as their prime aged steaks (or “tame game,” as they like to call it). Saskatoon has been a no-brainer for my family for years when it comes to special occasions, which is why I treated my husband to a dinner there last night for his 23rd birthday.

Birthday dinner

The new location is huge, and has countless fun and surprising details. Check out the gorgeous mural on the wall behind us.

Though I’ve been to Saskatoon on multiple occasions, last night was a new experience for me as we dined at their new location. Though only just down the road from their smaller Haywood Rd spot, the transformation is remarkable; the new restaurant is a full-fledged lodge, with their customary rustic elements balanced with elegance. The roaring fireplace with strings of Edison bulbs criss-crossing the vaulted ceilings makes for a dramatic and cozy atmosphere.


You’d expect good bread from a steakhouse, but Saskatoon kicks it up a notch with their flavored butters–berry, cinnamon, and honey butter, to be exact. Mouthwatering.

Obviously, Saskatoon is an automatic “yes” for anyone who loves red meat or trying something new, but the service is also a big plus. The staff at Saskatoon are markedly attentive, gracious, and knowledgeable about the menu.  You’ll really get a personalized experience and great service.


I ALWAYS fail to take a photo of my meal before diving in. This time, though, at least my impatience let me show off that incredible color inside my sirloin.

Saskatoon is an excellent choice for a special night out.  You get top-notch food without the stuffy atmosphere.  Be sure to peruse their excellent list of wines and beers (Benjamin ordered a locally-made ale from Thomas Creek Brewery…it made for a killer combo with his elk chops), and save room for dessert, too. The chocolate mousse pie is a famous hit, though I have to say that our personal favorite is the bread pudding.

front doors

Go check out Saskatoon’s new location–you won’t be disappointed. 

Hochstetler’s Country Store – Seneca’s Hidden Gem

Though it may not look like much on the surface, Hochstetler’s Country Store in Seneca, SC is a neighborhood gem and a long-time favorite among my family.  The Hochstetlers set up shop in 2006, and in their country store you’ll find all the old-fashioned charm and friendly service you’d expect.


Hochstetler’s has an intimate setup, with the store leading directly into the deli. I love traditional places like this!

Being only about a five minute drive from my childhood home, I’m well acquainted with Hochstetler’s.  They’re your one-stop shop for bulk and local foods, in addition to their bakery and deli.  The variety of goods nestled in that tiny store is impressive; you can find anything from baking ingredients and supplies, spices, candies, tea and coffee, snacks, and much more.


They carry a HUGE variety of snacks and candies, anything from gingersnaps, peanut butter cups, yogurt-covered pretzels, sour gummy worms, spicy snack mix…you name it!

The prices at Hochstetler’s alone are reason enough to drop by.  My father, a self-proclaimed foodie, buys all his spices there: not only are they cheaper, but he swears by their freshness, too.  Before I got married, I stocked up on all sorts of spices and seasonings from Hochstetler’s; their all-natural lemon-pepper seasoning is my husband’s favorite.


Hochstetler’s stocks all kinds of spices and herbs, whether common or more exotic.

For you Christmastime bakers, please do yourself a favor and get your ingredients from Hochstetler’s.  You’ll find an excellent variety of nuts and dried fruits (which add up to $$$ at most grocery stores) at a fraction of their normal price.  Furthermore, you can find specialty flours (gluten free, anyone?), gourmet sugars and salts, different cooking oils, and more to fit virtually any recipe.  Take a peek at their refrigerators, too; Hochstetler’s stocks local meats and cheeses, as well as raw milk.


Hochstetler’s has “bake days” three days a week, churning out delicious breads, pies, and sweets.

After you’ve collected your basket of amazing snacks and ingredients, be sure to get a sandwich and bowl of soup from Hochstetler’s deli.  Everything is freshly prepared, with meats cut right before your eyes.  Did I mention you can also purchase deli meats and cheeses there?  They’re absolutely delicious, and (you guessed it) way cheaper than at the grocery store.

store front

What a great hometown treasure. Hochstetler’s is a relaxing, fun place to shop and eat.

This no-fuss, no-frills store is a true delight to visit, and I’d be there weekly if I still lived in Seneca.  As it is, I drop by and stock up on spices, dried fruit, popcorn (Benjamin loves their “mushroom” popcorn–you know, the kind of huge popcorn kernels that they use for caramel corn!), and more whenever I visit my parents.  Take my advice and drop by Hochstetler’s, pick up a fresh-baked pie or loaf of bread for dinner, and make it your regular destination for all foods fresh and local.

Unforgettable Christmas Gifts

This time of year, it’s so easy to get into a gift-giving rut. Personally, I think revamping one’s gift list is important so that gift-giving returns to being something meaningful instead of merely obligatory.  Plus, it’s fun to discover new options!  Below, I’ve outlined 6 one-of-a-kind gifts from small businesses that would please any number of people in your life.

Milltown Leather – Passport Wallet

passport wallet

For the man in your life, be it father, brother, or significant other, you can’t fail with quality leather goods.  Even no-fuss men insist on good quality, and I have yet to meet a guy who doesn’t love the smell and feel of genuine leather.  This passport wallet by Milltown Leather would make a classy gift that only gets better with age.  Check out Milltown Leather’s new Etsy shop to explore their other listings, too!

Casting Cares – Weighted Blanket

blanket variety

Have a hard-to-shop-for family member? Yeah–everyone does. Instead of going with an ambiguous gift card again, consider gifting a weighted blanket. They’re helpful for conditions ranging from insomnia to anxiety to sensory issues, and everyone who tries them finds them instantly comforting. Casting Cares has dozens of blankets ready for purchase, but Kathy can also customize the weight and look in a flash.  These make truly heartfelt gifts!

Oak Leaf Pottery – Garden Fairy House

fairy houses

I can’t think of a more fun or unique gift idea than a fairy house from Oak Leaf Pottery.  This would make a wonderful gift for the avid gardener in your family, as these little clay cottages look great nestled in a flower patch. Allison’s fairy houses would make an equally lovable gift for any imaginative little girls in your family.  You’d be remiss if you didn’t browse through Allison’s other gorgeous ceramics, though, so check out her website!

Local Coffee – Give a Cup ‘o Joe


Who wouldn’t love to receive some fresh, high-quality coffee for Christmas? This is a guaranteed win for any coffee-drinker in your life. Virtually all local coffee shops sell their own house blends, and they’re a treat to brew at home.  I’ve got a soft spot for All In Coffee Shop‘s java, but here in the Greenville area, Due South is very popular (for good reason!). We’ve received coffee as gifts on multiple occasions–and I have to say, it’s one of my favorites.

Lauren Sumner Pottery – Christmas Tree Ornament


Benjamin and I have already received several Christmas ornaments as we enter into our first holiday season together, so I can testify that ornaments make really sweet, personal gifts, especially for young couples or families who are starting off.  Lauren Sumner makes all sorts of ceramic ornaments commemorating births, marriages, special events…anything you can think of. I especially love her ornaments shaped like U.S. States!

Local Activities – Classes, Seminars, and more

tasting class

For the people who have everything, sometimes the best gift to give is actually an activity. You can find tickets or gift certificates to local events, classes, and seminars that create fun experiences and memories for your loved ones.  If you’re in the Upstate, check out wine & beer tastings from Sweet Sippin’, purchase show tickets from a local theater, or explore Skillpop class options (like intro to brush lettering!). Once you start searching your area, you’ll be surprised by how many options are available. There’s truly something for everyone!

Always think outside the box

At the end of the day, a gift is meant to be a loving gesture, so pull together something special for your loved ones.  You can support small businesses by purchasing handmade items or giving patronage to local restaurants, but you can also support small businesses in unexpected ways. For example, if one of your friends really wants a particular board game, try searching a community gaming store before heading to Target.  Gaming centers are popping up everywhere, and they always sell a great variety of board and card games.  That’s just one example–take a look around, get creative, and find something special this Christmas season.

Christmas Giveaway Box – All the Details

If you’re reading this post, then that means you’ve discovered Ivy&Branch’s first Christmas giveaway box (enter on Instagram to win).  The sneak peak photo, while tantalizing, doesn’t give each item and shop the detail they deserve, so here I’ll be showcasing each shop + their donated item, so you can know exactly what you’ll be getting if you win! Let’s plunge right in, shall we?

Being Sara Dixon – Lantern print, stationery, and ornament

sarah's items

Shop more of Sara’s work on her Etsy!

A perfect trio: Sara’s signature woodblock printing skills shine in both the lantern print as well as the pack of four holiday stationery cards.  And let’s not overlook that sweet little wood-round ornament wishing “& to all a goodnight.”  Sara’s rustic yet clean style fits in with all kinds of decor themes.

The Artful Sojourn – Druzy earring studs

druzy earrings

Check out all of Lisa’s jewelry on Etsy!

What more could you want to add some sparkle to your Christmas party ensemble?  These druzy earrings catch lots of light and go with just about everything.  And, should you find yourself browsing through Lisa’s jewelry gallery on Etsy, remember that 20% of your purchase goes to help orphans in India.

Grace Under Pressure – Inspirational canvas

nancy's items

Shop for paintings and more calligraphy on Nancy’s Etsy shop!

This small canvas would be perfect propped up on a desk, or is lightweight enough to be hung on a Command hook (perfect for that dorm-room wall that won’t allow you to install picture hooks).  Nancy’s calligraphy is always a thing of beauty!

The Vintage Home Studio – Holiday tea towel

vintage home towel

Michelle has a whole line of adorable Christmas tea towels out–go look on her Etsy!

How festive is this tea towel?  I love the woodsy pine cones + berries + leaves.  This towel would be a darling draped in the kitchen to add a little Yuletide spirit (along with all your Christmas baked goods!)

Sunny Mullarkey Studio – Feather print

feather print

Enjoy more of Sunny’s work on her Etsy shop.

Sunny’s linocut prints have caught on like wildfire here in Upstate SC, and for good reason.  The creativity and precise details she puts into her work are unparalleled, as shown in this gorgeous feather print.

Modern Forestry – patchouli teakwood candle


Modern Forestry has some AMAZING holiday scents. Have fun browsing their Etsy!

This hefty 16-oz candle is a universal crowd-pleaser.  Modern Forestry’s patchouli teakwood scent strikes a perfect balance between delicate and woodsy (i.e., would make a great gift for anyone, male or female!)

Cotton and Cursive – pencil case, scrunchie, and notecards

Rachel's items

Head over to Rachel’s Etsy for more!

This trio from seamstress + calligrapher Rachel highlights the fun range of items you’ll find in her shop.  Scrunchies (yes, scrunchies!) are coming back big, and not just for the kiddos. This festive tartan scrunchie would make a fun accessory for your holiday outfits.  The pencil case is made in Rachel’s signature quilted style–as for the print, you’ll just have to wait and unwrap it! The note cards come in a pack of three, and showcase Rachel’s pristine calligraphy (Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!)

A Gilded Line – pair of three bangles


Personalize your own cuffs on Allie’s Etsy.

I love Allie’s stamped cuffs–so much that they were part of the gifts I gave to my bridesmaids!  These three cuffs, each with their own inspirational phrase, showcase the range of metals and fonts you can get from A Gilded Line.  Lightweight, adjustable, and (when worn together) make a cheerful jingle!

I Say Grace – set of post cards and tree ornament

Meg's items

Have fun exploring Meg’s Etsy shop!

For the watercolor-love (ME!), Meg’s shop is a dream come true.  These set of three post cards make a darling vehicle for this beautiful seashell painting.  And take a peek at that adorable Christmas tree ornament–I love the fun little drawing, and the festive striped string.

January Jewelry – $25 Shop Credit

january jewelry

Definitely check out Melissa’s Etsy and start daydreaming on how to use this gift card!

Melissa’s jewelry is truly one-of-a-kind. As a trained metal smith, Melissa crafts every element of her breathtaking pieces, and offers all kinds of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and more.  This coupon card awards you $25 of store credit, which can be used on any item you like–so have fun browsing!

Joe’s Place – Literary and Community Hub

As a long-time bookworm and former English major, bookstores have a special place in my heart.  As I’ve been scouting out exemplary bookstores in the upstate SC area, Joe’s Place Bookstore has marked itself as a must-visit, must-support, must-love location.

sunny window

There were lots of cozy rooms at Joe’s Place, but this sunny room with the window seats completely won me over.

Let’s not sugar-coat it: bookstores often struggle to stay in business.  In my hometown, two used bookstores I visited frequently both abruptly shut down due to patrons doing more browsing than actual buying.  However, I’ve noticed several small bookstores beginning to revamp their business by pairing book selling with using their space for social and educational opportunities.  Joe’s Place is a great example of this store/community center hybrid, and they’re hitting it out of the park.


Benjamin bought a stir-fry cook book from Joe’s Place, and we enjoyed picking recipes while sipping cappuccinos on the porch.

You’ll find Joe’s Place’s new location in a beautifully transformed home on Williams Street.  I was absolutely smitten with this place not just because of the incredible variety of books, but because the owners at Joe’s Place have maintained a true homelike feeling in their new space.  In every room, there are comfy chairs and sofas or spacious tables where you can spread out your bookstore finds.

coffee station

All the snacks, coffee, and yummy teas you could want after you’ve selected a good book.

Downstairs, you’ll find a little cafe with pastries and local chocolate treats, plus excellent coffee drinks using locally-roasted Due South coffee beans.  Directly across from the coffee station is Joe’s Place’s beautiful wine bar, with rows of gleaming bottles and plenty of vintage charm.  Whether you have a glass of wine or a steaming cup of java, the outside covered porch is a serene place to sip, chat, and enjoy flipping through a book.

wine bar

Joe’s Place’s wine bar; just look at that beautiful architecture, plus those poofy armchairs–perfect for leisurely sipping.

Joe’s Place also hosts a variety of weekly events, anything from topical crash-courses, introductory classes on wine, book club meetings, and trivia nights.  They’ve formulated an excellent business model that blends merchandise, food and beverage, and resources for the community.  Their comfortable environment and spacious rooms offer the ideal place for coffee dates and study spots, and they’re filled to the brim with excellent books–a true delight to discover.  Follow them on Instagram, and definitely go visit…and when you do, browse AND buy!

Mona Does Concrete – Time to Rethink Concrete

When you think “concrete,” you probably think of sidewalks, industrial floors, etc.  When Mona Patel thinks concrete, she thinks kitchen ware, wall art, and even jewelry.  Prepare to see concrete transformed into elegant merchandise that beautifies and offers a refreshing aesthetic when you browse Mona Does Concrete.

Small Geo Planters- Display (1 of 1)

These petite geometric planters beg to be placed in a sunny window, or would be perfect to cheer up a desk.

When Mona met her husband Mike, a jack-of-all-trades, she was introduced to several skills from building to carpentry, but she took a special interest in his work with concrete.  Mike used concrete to make polished kitchen counter-tops, but Mona saw an opportunity to take this diverse material and make items that were smaller, more affordable, and useful in the home.


Mona certainly thinks outside the box when it comes to concrete, and her products are unexpected, chic, and fun.

People are often surprised with the kind of items that can be made of concrete, and often mistake Mona’s products as stoneware.  This is because of Mona’s special process in forming and finishing her products, particularly her kitchenware, to make it both smooth and food-safe.  Mona uses a beeswax seal on her concrete wares that not only makes the items kitchen-friendly, but also gives them a smooth finish–very different from bumpy sidewalk!

cheeseboard_context (2 of 1)

Mona stains her cheese boards with tumeric, giving the concrete that beautiful amber streak.

Mona loves the unique advantages of using concrete, one of them being the immense diversity of the material.  According to Mona, if you can make a mold, you can make almost anything with concrete.  The key, though, is making a mold that can be removed from the final product without shattering, thus allowing the mold to be reused. For her standard items, Mona likes using rubber molds, though she’s always willing to experiment for the sake of creating something unexpected.

Lauren_geometric necklace (1 of 1)

Ever considered concrete jewelry? Mona has lots of beautiful concrete necklaces, and says people are surprised to find that the pieces are no heavier than normal pendants.

For concrete kitchenware, you’ll want to hand wash in order to preserve the beeswax seal, but otherwise concrete products are very durable.  Mona likes to tell her customers to expect the concrete to change colors over time, much like leather taking on a patina.  Each product adopts an individual character over time and no two items are exactly the same. Check out Mona Does Concrete on Etsy or follow her Instagram!

Spoon rest (2 of 1)

Stylish, whimsical pieces for the home or to wear–clearly concrete is a medium worth noticing!

Good Juju Herbal — Mindful Skincare

Natural skincare is a trend that is quickly catching on, and for good reason.  As people do research into what is in their commercialized skincare (and the side effects all those chemicals bring), you see more folks turning to natural options.  For Judith Jones, the need was even more urgent: born with eczema, Judith already struggled with sensitive skin, but at 19 she began to develop dramatic allergies to some of the most commonly used chemicals in commercial products.


Judith’s compassion shows through in her warm smile and bubbly voice.  You can tell she cares about the people who use her products! [PC: Three Regions Photography]

Even in dermatologist-recommended skincare lines and products advertised as “natural,” Judith repeatedly found the artificial ingredients and chemicals that she was allergic to.  As a result, Judith began making her own products.  What started out as soap for her own use rapidly caught on with friends and family, until soon folks began insisting she make her products available for purchase.


Judith’s soaps are simple in their ingredients, but dramatic in the way they nourish your skin.  

Today, two years later, Judith is running Good Juju Herbal as a full-time business, with a hopping Etsy shop as well as partnering with West Elm and other North Carolina-based businesses. Judith quickly found that natural skincare–we’re talking 100% natural, with no complicated chemicals–was not only popular, but much-needed for many people.

When asked about her favorite product, Judith admits that she’s tremendously proud of her soap.  While you’ll find lots of other artisan soap makers at on Etsy, Judith is one of the only ones that doesn’t fiddle with artificial colors, fragrances, and chemicals.  But that doesn’t mean her soaps are boring–while some are purposefully unscented, many have a bright, natural scent that comes from essential oils, spices, and flower petals.

Good Juju

Not only are Judith’s products all natural, but ethical as well.  She is conscientious about the packaging she uses, and regularly donates a portion of her proceeds to charity.

Because of her passion for helping others, Judith initially had intentions to become a nurse, but through Good Juju Herbal she’s found an entirely different way to practice healing.  Judith spent months crafting her own skincare line that includes a facial soap, toner, and moisturizer.  Judith finds the skincare line most rewarding to make because she receives dozens of testimonials from customers who have been rid of conditions ranging from acne to dryness.  Judith painstakingly developed this skincare routine to not only be friendly to sensitive skin, but also to suit a wide variety of skin types and issues.


When Judith calls her skincare line “Skin Food,” she’s not joking–that stuff’s jam packed with nutrients to make your skin happy!

There’s no shortage of products at Good JuJu Herbal, and no end to the goodness Judith’s creations provide.  A couple months ago I ordered one of her gift sets (which includes a bar of soap, lip moisturizer, a cedar soap dish, and felted soap) and fell in love with her products.  Whether you have sensitive skin or not, once you try Judith’s soap you can never go back to liquid pump soap; her products are deeply moisturizing, luxurious, and tastefully scented.  Especially if you suffer from acne, eczema, or other difficult skin issues, Good Juju Herbal is an essential to try out.