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May 2016

Lux Aromatica voted Best of Virginia 2016! We are so grateful for our wonderful customers! Thank you for selecting us as Best Apothecary for the Best of Virginia Living Magazine‘s 2016 season!

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Hiatus is over: The shop is open!

We are happy to be together again!

We had a very busy break, with a big wholesale show in Philly, a week of the flu afterward, and a lovely sunny week in Florida being with family. Our month flew by, and here we are open again.

Brian is manning the shop as I write this, so throw away that nasty commercial stuff and come on over for your fresh handmade soap! We have a new shop layout, new smells, and have restocked the discount basket too.

We are grateful for all of you, and welcome you back. We got so many lovely emails from well-wishers, and have more great news for everyone who’s been patiently waiting to hear:

We are finally getting to plant LAVENDER!

We’ll be ordering baby plants soon for our sunny, south-facing upper field. While our local terroir won’t produce the chemical profile necessary to distill oil from the lavender, it does produce lovely sturdy plants with abundant flowers. We hope it will be ready for u-pick this summer!

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Together Again

Thank you so much for an excellent 2015!
The shop has continued to grow, as each week new customers find themselves coming through the door. We are grateful to every new face we meet and all the familiar ones coming back in for more handmade goodies!

We are grateful also for the friends we’ve made, who’ve helped us during the challenges of Brian’s deployment. It is with complete joy that we approach the end of the separation we’ve faced, and we’re ready to write our next chapter together. Brian will finally be home in a matter of days. When he told me his flight number, the endorphin rush was better than all the aromatherapy in the shop!

While we cannot get back the past two years, we’ll own our time together going forward. We’ve decided to take advantage of the quiet of February to temporarily close up shop and begin to re-connect.

The shop will be closed Jan 31 and will re-open March 8.

We know you’ll need to get your fix before we close, so we’re giving fair notice! The shop will be open normal hours through Saturday Jan 30. Website orders can be placed during our holiday. There will be mass-mailing mid-Feb and again when when we re-open.

(I have a feeling the February closing may become an annual thing.)

Have a safe, warm & blissful snow season!

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Moisturizing vs Emollient

This time of year, it’s critical to hydrate your insides & moisturize your outside. The lower humidity, sweeping winds and dry forced-air heating suck the moisture out of our skin. Hot showers aren’t quite the answer – they dry us out too! Warm showers, warm baths, good quality non-drying handmade soap and plenty of water-laden lotion help.

Water is moisturizing. Products with water deliver moisture to the skin. Think lotion. Nothing can replace good lotion as a moisturizing base after shower, and lotion is ideal for quick moisture when you need it throughout the day.

Oils, butters and waxes are emollient. They make the skin more supple and provide nourishment and protection. Think lip balm & salve. They do not moisturize, but salve can seal existing moisture after putting on lotion. This double layering is a great way to protect against chapping when you’ll be exposed outdoors as well as to help replenish overnight.

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In four month’s time I’ll walk back into my life.

Pictured here is Heian jinju Shrine in Kyoto. What does Japan have to do with a little apothecary in Orange? Absolutely nothing, on the surface. This portion of my once-every-never posts is reserved for a peek into our private lives.


The convo about Brian’s picture:

Me: “Is that a Shinto Temple?”

Brian: “Shinto Shrine. Buddhist would be Temple. The Bell is outside the sacred ground and is used by the priests to wake up the gods. This shrine is surrounded by Buddhist stuff everywhere. The Japanese celebrate both. They’re pretty laid back about it, accepting both. Above all they appreciate harmony in all things and disharmonious attitudes are unwelcome.”

In other words, you have to be laid back and nice to fit in, kind of like Hawaii.

A bit more of Kyoto in October. Gets me in the mood for fall.

In four month’s time I’ll walk back into my life. That is to say, what I though was my “normal” life before this deployment was sprung upon us. Being a sailor’s wife isn’t for everyone, and while I avoid wishing away any portion of my life, I’ll be glad to welcome my sailor home to begin civilian life, together. We know there will be an adjustment phase after a two year deployment, but that’s what private retreats are for, and February is a good time for that.

(I sense a hiatus coming…)

Meanwhile, the apothecary is my happy place. So until Brian rolls into town during the cold embrace of mid-winter, I’m busy making fantastic stuff for you and teaching some shiny new classes.

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You can’t make this stuff up!

I like to start our rare company emails with a little tidbit about family life. We’re halfway through Brian’s deployment in Japan! About one year to go… The ship is in dry dock and Brian has been enjoying the kinder schedule and better opportunities for connecting with home.

We recently had a conversation that went something like this:

Him: Now that the ship is in dry dock, I have several trips per day between ship and (Navy-speak for whammy-dyne) barge. It’s about a mile each way, and I’m so tired when I get off work.

Me: Why don’t you just use a shipyard bike for getting around efficiently?

Him: Because using a bike involves getting a helmet, a bell, a lock, a light, a reflective vest, a license plate, and a bicycle driver’s license.

Me: (silence, digesting this…)

Him: Bike parking places are limited, so if you park outside a bike parking zone or double up in a bike parking zone, the Bike Police will come cut your lock and take your bike. Every so often they’ll hold an auction and then you might get your bike back.

Me: (still silently digesting…)

Him: Things are very orderly and organized. You can’t make this shit up! But I have been enjoying the cherry blossoms.

That’s this episode’s glimpse into Navy life. Our big Apothecary news is that we’ve been in our brick-and-mortar shop nearly a year, and are throwing a soiree to celebrate! We used the quiet winter months to expand the workspace into a bright sunny back room, leaving more shopping space up front… and we’ve filled it with many good things. Our favorite thing is our new PERFUME BAR

This is the most exciting thing to happen to perfume since Mr. Selfridge put perfume at the front of the store over 100 years ago. Use to be, you’d have your own blend created by a local perfumer who knew your tastes and the most important part of your perfume was YOU. Things changed with mass production and the introduction of cheap synthetics.

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Recent Update

We like to keep it dressy-casual around here and not bog you down with too many posts. It’s just not sexy. One customer eagerly awaits our rare updates and described them as chapters of a Southern Gothic tale. So let’s get to it.

Whether we met you at a craft show or in our (relatively) new shop in Virginia, you know the saga. Brian is deployed in the Pacific while I’m starring in my own home-alone movie.

Brian and his fellow squids spent many long weeks riding out the heavy summer tempests of the Pacific. Around here, we call ’em hurricanes. Over there, typhoons. Yes, there was ship-wide seasickness, and yes, there were patches on the butts of all those poor guys. And by guys, I mean that it is an all-male ship.


They went all over the Asian Pacific Rim. He has now literally been around the world. Back in Japan, he climbed Mt Fuji in July! When he got off the train, it was 65ºF, and at the top was freezing with hail. Brian: “About 0530 in the morning – great view! The clouds, yep I will end up climbing past them! Over the alps is Edo city or Tokyo. Fujiyama is the town below. Good morning Japan!”

Vintage Lights

But enough about Japan. Let’s get to why you’re really here. I’ve been working out the details of new exciting products for you, some of which have been in the design pipeline for years

Vintage Lights candles are hand-poured into upcycled winebottles from our favorite Virginia wineries. The bottles are smoothly cut and finely polished by a local artisan whose work as a jeweler, metalworker and gunsmith spans several decades. Jim uses a particular process. Each bottle is cut with a diamond blade, then polished on the top edge, then the outer bevel, then the inner bevel.

Muddy Paws

This little street urchin scooted under the car at the shop one early Fall morning. So now we have a new furry kid. Everyone, say hi to Zoe. Who could say no to this little winky face? Her first act of initiation into casa Bertolino was a bath. Zoe became our first little furry customer to to be cleansed with our brand new pet soap bar: Muddy Paws!

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Grateful for a restful 4th.

I’ve traveled for family reasons or had shows (or both!) for the last 11 consecutive weekends. Being fully booked can be a good way to deal with…whatever, but this weekend, I got to stay home.

I spent yesterday morning installing (with pro electrical help) our whole house fan, taking two naps, hanging with friends for 4th bbq, and then slept 12 straight hours. S’pose that means it’s time to come to a complete halt. SO very grateful for 75º temps, and last night, 70º felt cold!!! Hope you’re all having a restful long weekend.

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Today the door was locked.

Today the door was locked. I was working with the magic of chemistry to make my luscious handmade soap, and it gets a little hot. The lye gets to 195º F when it hits the water. So days when the production studio is closed to the public are good days for hot mess. Today’s recipe is now in the oven, forcing the gel so the soap will be ready tomorrow rather than six weeks from now. It’s a heavenly vanilla with lemon verbena and clary sage. I’ve added yogurt & aloe to love your skin. My soap and I will be at your beck & call at the Summer Solstice Wine Festival in Amherst, Virginia this weekend.

Once I was done pouring soap, I waited a while to let it set up before bringing it home to the oven. What to do? Lotion? Lip balms? Ahh, clay masks! I quickly whipped together a rose clay mask, with dried chamomile herb, rosewood essential oil, aloe powder, and a touch of bamboo powder to exfoliate at the end of your spa experience.

Oh. Mah. Gah. It’s amazing. My skin glowed. It was polished. And did I remember to say that the clay is housed in a lovely Italian-made recycled glass jar. You just need the tiniest smidgeon! I used a teaspoon and it would have been enough for my whole bod. One jar lasts approximately forever.

Tomorrow: purple clay with lavender, Rhassoul red-brown clay with frankincense, volcanic green clay with rosemary. Oh baby!

I open the apothecary doors to the public Wed-Sat. See you then!