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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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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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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!

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What’s your mood?

What do you crave? Will you enjoy your candle while settled on the sofa with a book? While relaxing with just a glass of wine and your thoughts? Or for romantic ambiance? Maybe for light, when a big snowstorm knocks out the power? Or just because it smells good? Does it help you feel creative when you’re working? Imagine accords that uplift, soothe, and harmonize. Blends that ground you after a rough day, cleanse you after a good work-out, or transport you for a while. Selecting a fragrance to set the mood is an ancient human tradition.

Relaxing & Sweet Dreams:
Rare Earth

Uplifting & Cheer:
Spice Island

Serenity & Meditation:
Rare Earth

Clarity & Concentration:
Ice Mint

Kama Sutra
Rare Earth

Entertaining & Family Time:
Spice Island

Home Selling:
Ice Mint
Spice Island

Spring & Summer:
French Perfume

Fall, Thanksgiving & Christmas:
Rare Earth
Spice Island

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Candle Common Sense


Melt Pool and Burn Time

A soy candle is different in that it develops a “memory” each time it’s burned. We wick our candles to melt all the way across when given sufficient time. The wax melts about one hour per inch of diameter, so it can take up to three hours to get a full melt pool with a three-inch jar.

Like in the picture, the melt pool will be about a centimeter deep. This will give you a full 60 hours of total burn time and the best scent throw. The smell comes from the molten wax rather than the flame!

If the candle doesn’t have a chance to melt fully across each time, it will tunnel afterward. The flame will gutter due to inadequate oxygen and you won’t get much time out of it.

Wick Trimming

The best way to extinguish the flame is blow it out with a quick gentle burst of breath. Be careful not to get too close or to spatter the wax.

Once the wax has cooled, pluck off the mushroom head and remove any debris from the wax. Never drop matches or debris into the wax.

Trim the wick to ¼ inch before lighting your candle each time.

Humidity and Cotton Wicks

We use wicks made of cotton and paper. We do not use metal-core wicks. Burning metal is gross and not ecologically sustainable.

By definition, the job of a wick is to draw liquid from one end to another. The wick pulls the molten wax up to feed the flame. However, when unlit, the wick can also draw moisture down into the candle. Please do not leave your unlit candles outside or in other humid conditions. The wicks could become moisture-laden and become unable to hold a flame!

Safety First

  • Always remove any wrapper from the candle before burning. Do not burn your candle in the wrapper.
  • Limit maximum burn time for any candle to 4 hours.
  • Keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.
  • Place candles at least three inches apart from one another while burning.
  • Burn within sight, on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
  • Keep away from drafts and flammable materials.
  • Keep away from children and pets.
  • Any time you have a damaged candle container of any kind, please do not light the candle or use it in any other way.