Category Archives: Soap & Such

To add or not to add….

….that is the question.

Rose Lotion

For quite some time now, we’ve been struggling with the idea of preservatives in lotion.  We have come to a decision that we are at peace with for now, but we have been asked about it many, many times so I wanted to share our thought process with you.

Initially all our products were 100% natural.  We started the business with that in mind and every time we had to make a choice, we would return to that underlying decision and use it to guide us.

Lotion has always been a problem for me.  Like soap, I have a hard time using what is available in a grocery store or drug store.  My face in particular was in issue.  My skin is very dry and very sensitive and anything with a fragrance was literally painful to apply.  For many years I was stuck using a dermatologist-recommended lotion that I had to buy at a pharmacy.  Very expensive and full of ingredients that I couldn’t read or pronounce if I tried.

It was an easy step for me to being making natural lotions.  I used my skin and face as a test to see how things felt to me and how my skin felt after using them for a period.  After quite a bit of trial and error, we found a recipe that seemed to work.

After doing a significant amount of research on natural lotions, I became quite concerned about customer safety.  The short version is this: natural lotion is a mix of oil and water.  It is moist on purpose and is kept in a closed container.  People apply it to their skin by taking their fingers and dipping it into the lotion, then using fingers and hands to apply to to their skin.  Unfortunately, this means there is no way to avoid introducing bacteria.  Most of us know that if you add bacteria to a moist, dark place, it will thrive.  Bacteria heaven.  Also fighting against us was the idea that this bacteria is not always visible.  Sometimes you will see the mold, other times it will just live in the lotion and you may not realize it.

It’s hard for us to say our goal is to be natural because it’s healthier for us and the environment if our choices are exposing people to anything potentially harmful.

With that in mind, we made the decision to include some sort of preservative and moved on to decide what would be the best option. We’ve spent several months trying desperately to find something that worked for us. We had finally decided on pottasium sorbate only to find out that it  would not truly protect from bacteria and that it was significantly changing the texture of our lotion.

After contacting fellow natural care product sellers and much hesitation, we chose to use Liquid Germall Plus. It’s not what I would like to use in an ideal world, but it honestly appears to be one of the better options. We chose it because it is paraben free and the minimum amount required for effectiveness is very low (.5%).  The perservative is made up of: Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, and Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.

For anyone who is interested in researching the contents of cosmetics (I highly recommend it….it’s an eye opening experience), the Skin Deep’s Cosmetic Database is a fantastic resource.  If you were to search each of the preservative ingrdients mentioned above, the item of concern to most people is iodopropnyl butylcarbamate.

As I mentioned, Liquid Germall Plus is .5% or so of our lotion recipe.  Of that .5%, 0.002% is iodopropnyl butylcarbamate. To put that number in perspective, we make everything in small batches and at most pour 16 ounces of lotion at a time. In that entire batch, we add less than 0.01 ounce of the preservative which means that we’re adding approx. 0.0003 ounces of iodopropnyl butylcarbamate. That batch makes 8 jars of lotion.

As soon as someone releases a natural preservative with proven effectiveness, I plan to switch even if it means changing our formulation.  In the meantime, our only other option is to discontinue our lotion line completely, which we discussed many times, but I truly feel that having a lotion that is 99.9% natural is a much better alternative than the commercial options available.

I hope this open dialog helps to clarify the decision we have made.  If you have any questions or concerns, we would be happy to answer them.


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Wrap-up: Atherton Market

Last weekend was our very first Saturday at Atherton Mill & Market.  Wayne and I both adore this market and we had a fantastic time.  I, of course, ran around with my camera a bit, but I didn’t get a good picture of the entrance.  Thankfully another blogger came to my rescue.  You can even see Wayne and I in the picture below (a rarity since I’m always behind the camera!).

Atherton Mill & Market(photo borrowed from Life Undeveloped)

Saturdays at Atherton are quite a bit busier than the weekdays.  There are more vendors, more visitors, and some entertainment.  We had a fantastic time listening to Mike Bustin for a good portion of the morning.  He had everyone singing along or (at least) tapping their feet.

We spent the day outside under one of the orange tents.  The weather cooperated and it was quite pleasant.  There were four or five of the vendors outside.  We tried a slightly different setup and were quite happy with the result:

Belle Terre at Atherton

Next to us was Round Table.  Lots of sweets and breads. Yum!  She had quite the following and sold out early.

Round Table

And beside that was Red Dirt Ranch.  Wayne has spent a bit of time talking to them other days.  We were excited to learn that they are off grid!

Red Dirt Ranch

The other side of us was a pasta vendor – Rio Bertolini’s – selling pasta made in Charleston.  I pre-ordered a mess of stuff for Wayne to bring home including a beet and goat cheese ravioli.  Doesn’t that sound amazing?

Heading inside, the building itself is absolutely gorgeous.  It’s an old mill that was converted into areas for several businesses.  The market portion was left open with high ceilings.  It retains that industrial/rustic charm that is so appealing.

Inside Atheron

More Atherton

And oh the produce….everywhere I looked it was so colorful.   There’s a wide selection of farms to choose from including JW’s, Coldwater Creek, Houston, Lomax, and Windy Hill.




Although Atherton is a comparatively small market (for Charlotte at least), it has everything you can imagine.  Literally.  Seafood, meat, cheese, veggies, fruit, honey, even pickles:


Simply Local offers a fantastic selection of local cheese, butter, eggs, and milk.  It’s like a mini grocery store.

Simply Local

There is also no shortage of sweets.  There’s a chocolate vendor and Wayne is particularily fond of the cookies at Cardais Gourmet.

Cardais Gourmet

And Dukes bread is amazing.  That’s Ellen, one of the owners, hiding behind the sign.  Not only do I love their bread, but I tried their tomato oil for the first time on Saturday and left Wayne very specific instructions to bring some home on Tuesday.  So yummy.

Duke's Bread

There’s also a chocolate vendor, roasted nuts, and several other non-food vendors.

All that, and this little food truck was the highlight of my day.  I’ve read quite a bit about the food at Roots, but had not yet had the opportunity to try it.  What a surprise to see them pull up!  I wandered over early and ordered a breakfast burrito.  It was amazing.  I saved a bite for Wayne who headed over for the breakfast hash – it was even better (if that’s possible).   I would have taken pictures, but the food honestly didn’t last long enough.


If I lived in the area, I would definitely be doing my Saturday shopping at Atherton.  I’m excited to bring my mother & sister along next time we head this way to spoil them with the selection.

Wayne will be at Atherton most Tuesdays and Wednesdays and we hope to join our fellow vendors for more Saturdays soon.

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Festival Wrap-up: Big Love Fest

After spending Saturday in Cary at Spring Daze, we jumped back in the car on Sunday morning to head to Asheville for the Big Love Fest.

With the festival name in mind, I must pause here to gush.  Asheville is our favorite place ever.  Seriously.  I’ve been in love with it since high school and my adoration has only grown over time.  It is the place I’ve always felt most at home.   Wayne and I diligently searched for over a year for land in or around the city, but were not lucky enough to find anything that worked for us. We hope as we transition to Morganton (just down the mountain) we’ll have the opportunity to spend more time enjoying the gorgeous city and all the amazing people who inhabit it.

Okay, back to business: Downtown Asheville is busy on a normal day.  The Big Love Fest was timed to correspond with Just Economic’s homebrew competition, so the place was literally flooded.  People started walking around while vendors were still arriving.  Then the food trucks pulled in…and the party officially started.

Downtown Asheville

While we were unloading I was continuously distracted by the painter who was setting up directly across from us.  Her work was amazing.  So colorful! It just drew me in.

I kept wandering across to peek at what they were hanging.  I got Wayne involved and we switched off for a while.

Her name is Deona Fish and her work is wonderful.  I finally decided that we had to pick something before they all disappeared, so we purchased the painting at the very top of this shot.

It makes me thing of our land and the little house on the hill that we’re {hopefully} building shortly.  Wayne promises me the painting will soon make it onto the wall in the office where I can stare at it anytime I like.

The festival stayed busy enough that I didn’t have too much time to wander around, but I did get a few shots of some of the amazing artists who set up camp for the afternoon.

I recognized Pennywishes from Etsy.  I love her little signs….the sayings make me smile.  Example: “Wherever you go, no matter the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”

I also recognized this amazing pottery from Patty Bilbro.  I imagine I must have seen it around the Asheville area.

Some more pottery from Terri Friday

Very cool peacock earrings…(unsure of the seller)Peacock EarringsAnd adorable tin signs from Two Sisters.

I am drawn to plant-ish things.  Our house is quite full.  Naturally, I was fascinated by the Air Plants that Kambra was selling.  She had a whole tree of sculptures made of air plants.  I wanted to talk to her a bit, but she was crazy busy when I wandered over and I didn’t want to interrupt.  I’m kicking myself for not buying a pair of these wild earrings:

Another plant-ish find were the terrariums by Treesan Art Productions.  They were little worlds all unto themselves (click the picture to view it larger.  It’s worth it….I promise).  If I had another shelf available, one of these would have probably come home with me.

Of course, we also took a few minutes to eat some scrumptous food.  I had some veggie Indian and Wayne had falafel.  Yum on both accounts.  The Lebanese food truck was by far the busiest thing there.  So much so that we didn’t even get to take a look at the menu!  We did; however, sample the brownies and squares from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.  They come very highly recommended.

French Broad Chocolate Shop

And, as seems to be the case at any festival, there was a certain degree of unexpected fun.  The Asheville table tennis club (who knew?) was playing….

Table Tennis

…and I’m pretty sure this guy was discussing detailed recycling options with Spiderman, but I wasn’t close enough to find out for sure.

We had an amazing time.  Thanks for having us Asheville….we hope to be back soon.

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Festival Wrap-up: Spring Daze

Belle Terre had an incredibly busy weekend.  On Friday we hopped in the car and drove to Cary to paticipate in Spring Daze.  This was the 18th year for the festival, but the first time that we attended.  The festival itself was held at Fred G. Bond Metro Park on Saturday and the weather (thankfully) turned out to be absolutely gorgeous.

We were up early (I really mean it….not just Julia early….early early…like 4:30am) to head to the park and set up.  Here’s the booth when we were done:

To give you an idea of just how pretty the park was, I wandered around a took a few pictures.  The booths meandered down walking trails.  In between craft vendor sections there were organization booths.  Who knew that Cary had a Caligraphy club?

Spring Daze also included an Earth Day section which had a display of painted rain barrels and tons of information about the Town of Cary’s green initiatives.  It was pretty impressive.

Somewhat randomly (for me at least), I ran into a few pirates.  I imagine there was an explanation, but rather than seeking it out (and ruining the fun), I giggled a bit and took a few pictures.

We spent a good bit of the day visiting with our lovely neighbors – Donna of Illuminated Designs and her husband.  Donna creates stunning stained glass pieces.

We would have taken one home had we not had an overally full car that would have likely led to broken glass in the end.

I always enjoy seeing how others set up their booths.  Some are simple, others are extravagant.  Many are just beautiful.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Fiddler Forge – gorgeous hand-forged garden decor

Redman Pottery – love the colors

I adored these birdhouses from Home Tweet Homes….

and these baskets from Apple Creek Trading Co…

Cute ceramic flowers from Creative Works (she had owls too!)

I loved the set up SSD Jewelry used…so earthy
This shows only a smattering of the artists….there were 180 (!!) in all.  We enjoyed the show although it was quite a bit of driving for us.  We’ll be back that way again in August for Lazy Daze.


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And we have a winner…

A set of our new naked soap goes to Serafinamia – just one of the fantastic comments we got on our Earth Day blog post.  Wayne will not stop repeating the slogan.   Serafinamia, please email belleterrenc[at]gmail[dot]com with your address and we’ll send your soap along.

Thanks to everyone who participated – you guys are amazing!  Check back in May for our next giveaway.



Hi – we compost every veggie bit, buy organic to reduce pesticide use and eat vegetarian to reduce the environmental cost of producing meat (among a host of other reasons). We recycle everything – sometimes even the neighbors’ cardboard or cast-off TVs. We also don’t poison our own yard, because ‘native grasses’ (aka, weeds!) are neat when mowed to uniform size!

The old WWII slogan, ‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,’ just might be useful again.

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Festival Wrap-up: The Handmade Market

This weekend I had the opportunity to venture to Raleigh to participate in the Handmade Market for the first time.   The event has been taking place since 2006 (!) and the Handmaidens have held it twice a year since.

There was a fantastic mix of vendors at the show and the Handmaidens and the volunteers were lovely.  It was my first event sans Wayne, so I was a bit nervous about getting there and setting up alone, but other than one broken box and a missing in action display piece, it went quite smoothly and everyone was more than willing to help.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that although we lived in Durham for over a year, this was my very first time to visit downtown Raleigh.   Cobblestone Hall itself and the area around it was gorgeous.  I’d like to go back when we have time to visit the shops & restaurants.

Normally I ditch Wayne part of the way through the event to run around and take some pictures to share on the blog.  As I was flying solo, I set up and then took some shots while others were finishing up their booths.  I do wish I had more pictures from during the event so you can see all the activity.

Here are a few shots I took of the some of the vendors as well as links to their sites:

Phil Barbato had cute plush toys

One of the handmaidens had these amazing paper flowers.  You have to click for a larger version to appreciate the detail involved….so pretty!

Samantha at Reborn Designs had some gorgeous earrings

I loved the little books that Linen Laid & Felt had….so beautiful!

And the scarves from Flytrap are gorgeous!

Everytime I looked over at Jellykoe I giggled a bit.  Their stuff was so fun.

From the moment I walked in, I wanted to visit Rosy Revolver.  I heard two different people mention getting very cool jewelry from her.  By the time I made it over to the booth she had been cleaned out!  I took a picture all the same and promptly feel in love with a pair of earrings.

Maybe it was better that I was tied to the booth?  This could have been a very expensive show for me!  I did manage to get a mother’s day gift from Twist (shhhh…don’t tell Bonnie) and treated myself to Thai AND veggie sushi over the course of the trip!

I was able to talk with several of the vendors and even met a fellow teamie from Etsy (how fun is that?!?).  Michelle S. and Twist Style were on either side of me and I did the most visiting with them, but I also met two of the other soap vendors who wandered over and introduced themselves.  Everyone was so kind.

The short version of this long post?  If you are in the Raleigh area, you should definitely check out this show in November.  It was lots of fun and we’re looking forward to participating again.

Like us on Facebook to find out what other events we’ll be attending this year.  Our calender is filling up quickly!


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Earth Day Giveaway

Earth Day  is (appropriately) quite close to Belle Terre’s one year anniversary, so this is an exciting time for us. We frequently take an inventory of what we’ve done to ensure we are environmentally conscious and this is a great time to focus on that a bit more.

Personally we are trying to transition to a life that allows us to live closer to the earth, in a much smaller home, and to grow our own food.  We are expanding our apiary, working on plans for our home, and we’re developing our land to provide fruit and veggies for us.

From a business perspective, we started Belle Terre with the promise to ourselves that we would create a product that would be as eco-friendly as possible and we’ve held to that.  Our packaging is minimal and typically recycled, we use recycled shipping envelopes whenever possible, and we research our suppliers in order to choose only sustainable ingredients.

We recently asked ourselves how our packaging could be more sustainable and the answer was basically not to have any.  Sounds crazy?  It might be slightly nuts, but others are doing it and we think it works.  So, meet our new line of Naked Soap:

The bars are round (woohoo!) and are currently offered in three options:

  • Simply Shea – our basic soap recipe with added shea butter
  • Charcoal Shea – our basic soap with charcoal and shea butter
  • Tea Tree – our basic soap recipe with tea tree oil

The Simply Shea & Charcoal Shea soaps have no added essential oils so they are perfect for sensitive skin.  Tea Tree oil is known for its antibacterial properties.  All three are just soap.  Pure and Simple.   These new options are available now on our Etsy site.

The giveaway: What are you doing personally or professionally to increase your commitment to the environment?  One commenter will receive a free three pack of our new Naked Soap!  The winner will be chosen Wednesday April 27th.


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