The Beauty of Something Handmade

March 10, 2014 § 1 Comment

Every drop of our pure perfume oil is created by hand with a little bit of the island and our farm included.

Every drop of our pure perfume oil is created by hand with a little bit of the island and our farm included.

I have a secret. When I began making farm-fresh skin care products, I wasn’t sure that anyone would want to purchase them. I was a bit scared to put them out on the table, unsure of the feedback I would receive. After all, my body products are my works of art and I was about to be juried at our local farmers market.  I thought, “Is what I have made special enough?” The answer is yes. There is beauty and appreciation in everything handmade.

With so many products coming from abroad, we can forget the time, care, and thoughtfulness that an individually created item encompasses. In fact, handcrafted is becoming a lost art. Quality and uniqueness is being set aside for mass production. We forget that when someone makes something by hand, they are infusing themselves into the product. Something that can be felt and appreciated. When you run a bar of handmade soap across your body, you feel the difference. Besides the quality of ingredients, you pause to consider all the steps that went into the process of its creation. Having made soap, this is no small feat and worth every penny.

Another reason handcrafted items are beautiful is the relationship that develops between the producer and consumer. When you choose to purchase something that is artisan made, you become a part of their ‘ohana as we say in Hawaii. Think about it. How often do you have direct contact with the person who made with their own hands that product you purchased? You don’t feel that connection when shopping at a drugstore for your face wash or a grocery store for a jar of jam.  Over the past six years, it is those connections that are the best part of my experience as an artisan, farmer, and entrepreneur.

As to the beauty of something handmade . . . it doesn’t get any better than that.


Despite the old adage: Oil & Water Do Mix

March 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Luana Naturals' ili Oil is a custom blend of Hawaiian Kukui nut, avocado, and essential oils.

Luana Naturals’ ili Oil is a custom blend of Hawaiian Kukui nut, avocado, and essential oils.

Like cures like.  Oil dissolves oil.  It is a basic principle one learns in chemistry class.  Cleansing with oil sounds a bit counter intuitive but it is a healthy, simple, and effective way to keep your face clean and glowing.

Washing with harsh soaps and detergents only strips away our skin’s own oil, sebum, and then our bodies have to create more oil to replace that which was lost.  It becomes a viscous circle.

Plant-based oils used in specific combinations balances the skin’s own natural oils.  At the same time,  your body is nourished and moisturized without the use of toxic chemicals.  When you gently massage oil into your skin, it dissolves impurities – dirt and bacteria and hardened oils – found lodged in your pores.  A warm face cloth will open the pores, allowing the oil to be easily removed.  Add a tiny drop of the oil following the cleanse at night keeps the body from over-compensating in its own oil production.

For some individuals, there is an adjustment period when the skin is detoxifying from the impurities pulled from deep within the body and from the chemical “beauty” products used over the years.  This may take a few days.  When done properly and consistently, cleansing with oil over the long term can help solve skin issues such as oily or dry skin, sensitive skin, and blemishes.  The result is a healthy, balanced and properly moisturized body.

The method is simple:

1.)  Use a pure, plant-based combination of oils.  Be sure you can identity each ingredient in your product of choice.  Place a few drops in the palm of your hand and add a drop or two of water.  Massage gently onto the face using a circular motion.  A minute or two is all you need to saturated your skin.  Use a cotton pad to remove gently make-up from around the eyes.  No need to use a separate product for make-up removal.  You can leave your cleansing oil on the skin for up to 10 minutes if you want to clean deep into your pores.

2.)  Follow with a hot washcloth.

Place it over your face and allow the steam to remove the oils and impurities.  Leave the cloth on until it cools, about a minute or so.  Repeat if needed.  You want to remove all the dirt but leave a thin layer of the oil.  If time permits, enjoy infusing a bit of lavender or lemon balm in the basin and placing a towel over your head to capture the beautiful steam.

That’s it.  No moisturizer is needed.  If you have very dry skin, add a touch of the oil.  This can be especially beneficial if you cleanse with oil at night.  In the morning, you do not need to cleanse deep again.  Simply use a cool washcloth and a hydrating spray to freshen the face.  Once a week or so, treat your skin to a bit of mashed, ripe avocado or papaya, or a tad of organic honey to your oil regime.  Just blend it together and massage onto damp skin.  Allow to sit for a few minutes and then follow with the very warm washcloth.

Simple – balanced – good food for the skin.  Give it a try and enjoy your new found glow.

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

June 18, 2012 § 5 Comments

This expression reminds us not to try and make something into something that it cannot be.  Yet, for the past four and half years, I have been attempting to turn a coffee shack into something more than a shack.  And while I am all too familiar with the saying, I’ve decided to see it as a challenge and push forward.

I have had the pleasure of owning some beautiful homes in my life.  Tim and I have a weak spot for old places in need of restoration.  There was the Victorian Farmhouse – an English Manor home – the Mid-Century Sarasota School of Architecture jewel.  And in some previous life, I know I was an interior decorator.  I LOVE to arrange furniture, play with paint chips and fabric swatches.  Give me a good design book, and I’m in heaven.  And while you would not know this by my current situation, I love everything to be organized and with no clutter in my way.  I love old things – objects with a past and patina.  I love the color white.  (Yes, it is a color – so many shades and possibilities.)  I love functional art.  Every day objects should be beautiful and useful.  Form and function.  Simple and comfortable.  Heavy sigh . . . I have a long way to go with my current home.

When we first visited the property in Hawaii, our agent noted that there was no house, only a tear down structure.  But when Tim and I first saw the coffee shack, we looked at each other and thought, “We can do this.  It’s so small.  Easy.”  We had no clue what was in store.  The difference between doing a 6,500 square foot Manor house and a 1,000 square foot shack had to do with three things:  1.)  Bank account; 2.)  Time; 3.)  Foundation.  We started this project with no money in the bank, so much work to do on the farm proper, and little foundation or walls or doors for that matter.  The chickens roosted in the old bathroom.  The goats visited the pantry.  The rain came into existing rooms.  It is a challenge to be sure.

There has been progress over the years.  We have a kitchen, a dining room, a bathroom.  And lots of other projects are in process.  So I thought I would take the next month or so and share our coffee shack with you.  Our goal is to move from tear down shack to rustic cabin to comfortable cottage.  We’re getting there; we have definitely moved into the rustic cabin part of the tale.  And the fact that I will be documenting the project over the next 6 weeks motivates me to think of options and reminds me to be thankful for the changes.  What can I do with this “sow’s ear?”  Where can I find doors?  What cool object will Ed make for me for my door hardware?  What story will Bill tell today?  Does Ernie know that I think of him every time I eat dinner with my family?  What will someone think one day when they come across the beautifully organized and labelled wires in the dining room wall that David planned and marked?  Thank you for helping to create a home for my family.  You see, it is more than picking a color for a wall; interior design is filled with memories and people that are forever connected to the space.

So here is the first project:  The foyer.  We call it this because I always imagined it as the first space you would enter from the garden . . . a front door seemed to be the right move.  It is a dark space that is filled with boxes and market “stuff.”  It is the place where I attempt to sew, do my paperwork, and store my craft supplies.  It is not a pretty room.  Bookshelves were given to me by a friend moving off-island.  Tim built closets to store our skin care packaging.  And we have gone through every box, evaluating its value and usefulness.  This past week, Bill has brought light and the garden into the cabin with the opening of a wall.  Recycled doors seem right at home.  So begins the transformation from dark room to a place that inspires

We are on our way.  I yearn for a peaceful, organized place that will allow me to think clearly.  Be creative.  Enjoy with my family.  I have always been connected to my “nest.”  It’s an important part of me.  You see, interior design is a means to an end for me.  The end is living comfortably.  I don’t need a “silk purse.”  But I want my “sow’s ear” to be soft, well kept, and beautiful.

We’ll watch it unfold,


“True wealth is the riches of the earth on your table.”

April 30, 2012 § 2 Comments

Gardening and cooking are intimately connected in my life.  Both are creative processes that feed the body and the soul.  To be involved in the creation of food from planting, harvesting, and preparing is extremely rewarding.  I enjoy the aesthetic consideration of planning the garden.  I love pouring over the endless possibilities of seeds to be sown.  And while I am not a great cook, I love the pictures in cookbooks and designing my own meals with what I have available on my farm.

Reynaldo developed our lettuce garden . . . a little bit more organization to the beds.

Your garden does not need to be very big to sustain a family.  A small plot filled with a few veggies will do.  What about that front yard?  Do you really need all that lawn to mow?  Do you see some batch of dirt to the side of the house?  Perhaps, containers filled with edibles on the apartment balcony.  Even a windowsill filled with herbs will be rewarding once plucked and added to your favorite dish.

My garden is far from the neat rows and blocks such as I created in Ohio.  This Hawaiian garden is definitely more a “portage” that organically (both figuratively and literally) evolves based on the available space.  In goes some celery if that tomato plant expires yet again.  Fresh lettuce seedlings go in each week to cover our needs.  My raised beds are far from uniform as I stack lava rocks to work around roots and the un-level ground.  Right now, the lemon cucumbers are climbing on makeshift trellises built from bamboo and coffee limbs.  My hope is that I’ll enjoy a few fruits despite the melon fly that makes growing zucchini and other similar plants next to impossible.  Hard to believe – I know – especially when in Ohio you couldn’t give that vegetable away come summer.  What I wouldn’t do for a basket of zucks and toms in August.  And I’m still searching for the hardy tomato.  I think I might be on to something here with the volunteers that came up around the garden from the compost I used a few months ago.  They’ll be a small variety but so appreciated if they make it to the table.

I have new loves in the garden:  papaya, white pineapple, poha and thimble berries, tree tomatoes and this small, sweet red pepper given to me by a neighbor when I lamented the fact that all the peppers I usually grew in Ohio didn’t seem to like the conditions here in Hawaii.  While I have a year-round growing season, gardening has been a challenge for me.  There is either too much rain – not enough – too many strange bugs – or blights I can’t identify.  Gardening is a lot of trial and error here.  Before, I planted in spring by way of holidays just like my father did and his father did.  The potatoes went in on St. Patrick’s Day.  Cold crops such as the broccoli and cauliflower went in on Good Friday.  After Mother’s Day, I could transplant the tomatoes.  Now, it is more about the rain cycles than the temperature and that too is a lot less predictable with the world’s changing weather patterns.  I’ll pay attention and record my findings for subsequent years.

It’s well into spring now on the mainland and time to cultivate a garden for you and your family.  Time to dig in the dirt and thumb through old recipes for something new to create for the table.  We have time for these two life sustaining practices.  For they are essential, rewarding, and nourish us from the inside out.  When Thomas Jefferson wrote, “True wealth is the riches of the earth on your table,” the eighteenth century required household gardens and small farms for the new nation’s food supply.  More than two hundred years later, we have an industrial food system that is rich in greed and poor in health.  This spring, make a difference.  Decide to grow and prepare some of your own food and take time to enjoy it with your family.  It is a small step but it has a profound impact.  And the best part, you just might tap into a new source of wealth.

Please share the names of some of your favorite seeds you like to grow, your favorite garden catalogs, and I always enjoy a new veggie recipe!

Happy growing,


Cheese . . . not as difficult to make as you might think

April 17, 2012 § 3 Comments

When we were milking two goats, there were times when we had surplus milk.  We’d make ice cream and yogurt with the extra.  With only Brie providing our milk needs now, I have to forgo my chai tea for a few days in order to gather three or four quarts of milk to make something wonderful – goat cheese.  I always wanted to try my hand at making cheese, but the process seemed at the very least, daunting, and at the very most, magical.  How did one go from milk to this solid yet spreadable substance?  I had no idea how it was done.  A quick YouTube video – again – and I learned that the art of making cheese is not rocket science.  It’s just a few simple steps and a couple tools of the trade.

Brie, our Nubian and Saanen cross, is still providing us a quart of delicious milk each day.

The first time I made cheese, my cousins Uli and Peter were visiting from Austria.  Peter had cheese making on his Bucket List and I needed a partner-in-crime in order to attempt the feat.  We prepared our supplies.  All was moving along smoothly but when it came to separating the curds from the whey – no go.  We kept adding more lemon juice, tried vinegar, went back to the lemons.  Just as we decided that making cheese did require some magical words that we did not know, we looked back into the pot and there it was:  curds holding together surrounded by the whey or liquid.  In the end, we had made a tasty, herb goat cheese resembling mozzarella.  I haven’t been able to reproduce this exact cheese since.  That’s the thing about my cheese – sometimes it’s soft and spreadable.  Other times, it is more like feta and crumbles over the salad.  No matter.  I remind myself that it is an art and embrace the fact that it is handcrafted – does not require magical words – and is always enjoyed.  Here is my simple recipe for an easy cheese to make – fromage blanc.

The most important tip when making cheese, is that you need clean and sterilized stainless steel tools.  Gather together a large pot with lid, spoon, strainer, bowl, fine cheese cloth, a fabulous culture, rennet, and of course, goat’s milk.  Not all of these things are readily available in one’s pantry but I’ll include a web source for the supplies at the end of the entry.

Next, warm your milk in the pot over a medium heat until the milk is right near a boil.  (Here I attempt to do several other things while the milk comes to temperature.  The outcome when I refuse to stay focused on one task is always the same:  the milk boils over and makes a mess.  It doesn’t ruin the cheese – just makes a mess.  Stay focused and enjoy the quiet moments without doing anything.)  Hold the milk there for about 10 minutes or so.  The idea is that you need to kill off any bacteria in the milk because you are going to add a new culture and you don’t want anything to fight with it or your cheese will not be what you are planning.  Let the milk cool to about 80 -100 degrees F before adding the culture.  Remember, this is a living organism and if you add it when the milk is too hot, you’ll kill that bacteria too – and then – not the cheese you were planning.

After you have stirred in the culture, add a drop – yes – only a tiny drop of rennet to a gallon of milk.  Traditionally, rennet is made from the lining of a young animal’s stomach.  But the rennet I use is an all-vegetable product and is now readily available.  The results are the same:  the enzyme action of the rennet causes the milk to coagulate in an hour or two.  (This was the part that Peter and I did not understand – it takes a little time for the magic to happen.)  The curds will separate from the whey.  Works every time.  Voilà.  Cheese!

All that is left to do is to strain your curds through a piece of fine cheesecloth.  I wrap the top of the cloth together and let the curds sit in the colander over a bowl in the fridge overnight.  Do not discard the whey.  It is an amazing source of protein – extremely nutritious.  Mix it in your smoothies, bake with it, or at the very least, give a protein boost to the dogs, cats, and chickens.  They love it!

In the morning, if you find that your cheese is too dry, stir in a bit of the whey until you have a consistency that you like.  Next, add finely chopped garlic, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and herbs of your choosing to the cheese.  Mix in well and enjoy.  The longer the cheese can sit in the refrigerator and take on the flavor of the garlic and herbs, the better.  Day three or four is when the cheese is at its best.  There are countless recipes for making so many different varieties.  This one is my favorite.  Easy and delicious.

When Tim begins talking about “goat stew’ because one of my goats has done something very bad on the farm – like eating the new growth coffee – I know it’s time to make him some cheese.  So far, I still have all of my goats.

Find all your cheese making needs at:

Oil Baron and Baroness

April 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

When Tim and I purchased our coffee farm four and a half years ago, we were obviously focused on the coffee for our income.  Well . . . a couple of droughts, Pele’s vog, and a few nasty beetles later, we find ourselves thankful that we have 200 avocado trees on the property.  In fact, Luana Farm is one of the largest Sharwill avocado producers on the Big Island.  The first two years we sold 90% of the fruit to a wholesaler.  Since then, we have moved most of our avocados through our local markets, small restaurants, and natural food stores.  Now, it is time to take the next step:  producing the first Hawaiian avocado oil.


Tim oversees the avocado orchards on Luana Farm

Avocado oil is beautiful for the body whether consumed or absorbed by the skin.  It has heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and is rich in vitamins, minerals, beta carotene, and omega 3s.  The fruit contains no cholesterol, sodium, or gluten.  Research is finding that eating avocados, and avocado oil, helps to reduce and remove plaque from our arteries.  That is a lot of goodness in each bottle.

The products we make from the fruit provide a more consistent and profitable revenue stream than selling just the fresh avocados.   We use avocado oil in most of Luana Naturals’  bath and body products, including herbal oils, exfoliating scrubs, lip balms, body butters, serums and hair conditioners.  It takes time to build the brand and educate the public about the benefits of avocado oil and even more to produce the oil.  With the business growing, we have found that we have outgrown our small hand-crank press.  A few years ago, we went to the local natural food store looking for avocado oil and found that the oil had traveled all the way from South Africa.  Why is this when on our way home, we found the roadside littered with Hawaiian avocados?  Having the fruit on island, not using it, and then importing the product from Africa does not make sustainable sense.

Avocados are a large part of our local agriculture here on the island.  We celebrate them every year in Kona with our Hawaii Avocado Festival.  Unfortunately, the fruit has been a difficult product for farmers to sell.  You see, we are not permitted to ship our avocados to the mainland thanks to early 20th century legislation.  Yes, you can find avocados in mainland stores from Mexico and Central America, but not from the 50th state.  Someday, I’ll post a rant about this – Stay tuned!  This prohibition being in place means farmers need to look to other ways to utilize their crop.  Value-added products allow small family farms to earn a living and stay in the business of farming. We’re looking forward to developing Luana Farm’s avocado oil.  We can still sell our premium fruit at market and retail stores and the small or blemished fruit will be saved from the compost pile and be turned into a raw, emerald green oil.  Did you know that avocado oil does not taste like the fruit?  It has a citrusy flavor.  It is delicious on salads and cooks beautifully due to its high heating point.  The fruit is terrific to eat, wonderful to cook with, and fabulous as a body moisturizer.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

As a sustainable coffee AND avocado farm, we want to make sure nothing goes to waste.  We’ll start small and build from there.  The goal:  to produce a local, unique, and organic product that tastes and feels GREAT!

good food for the skin

April 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Inspiration comes to you at the most random of times.  One morning last week, while stirring my tea, I remembered a cleansing product I had used 20 or so years ago. I liked it because it served many purposes. I wasn’t wild about all the ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce or the crazy price tag, but I liked the way it cleansed and moisturized my face.  With that in mind, I put on my “alchemist’s hat” and decided to create my own version using one of my key ingredients:  ground avocado seed.  The result was Kēlā Mea (Hawaiian for “all things”)  – an “all-in-one” cleansing powder.  Not all my experiments work but this one is a keeper.

Often, folks ask me how I arrive at the products in my skin care line, Luana Naturals.  I tell them that I look to items I enjoy using for inspiration.  I remove all the toxic chemicals and substitute ingredients that are “real food for the skin.”  I especially like to utilize those botanicals and oils that grow well on my farm and come from the Hawaiian islands.  I also give them an eye opening exercise:  Go to your medicine chest and pull out your favorite beauty cream.  Water or “aqua” will be the first ingredient, quickly followed by 3 or 4 petroleum-based products.  After that, it is chemical fragrances and artificial colors and preservatives.  Nowhere can you find an ingredient that translates into good food for the skin.  I believe if you are not willing to put something IN your body, you should not put that something ON your body.  Remember, your skin is your body’s largest organ.  And it is a digestive one.  80% of what you put on goes in and women put more than a dozen products on their skin per day.  How do these work together?  How much byproduct of the gasoline industry can your liver process over time?

The official looking women in the lab coats at the major department stores never told me about this; they talked about “the regime.”  The implication is that you better not even LOOK at the Shiseido counter, for if you mixed products, your face would certainly explode.  Crazy.  But I’m a lotions and potions kind of girl – an easy target for them to spot, for I love beautiful things in beautiful packaging.  My friends here in Hawaii might find this hard to believe, but I’m an expert when it comes to expensive cosmetic lines.

When I made a commitment to be educated about what I eat, by default I had to become educated about what I used on my body.  If you read the labels on a can of soup, you need to read the labels on a package of body wash.  I was heartbroken that my favorite beauty finds were filled with toxins.  Most of the ingredients the cosmetic industry uses have not even been tested to be safe.  The policy is that if there is no known cause of harm, then we can put it in the items we use every day.  That is not good enough for me.  I know what is in my own, organic, avocados.  I know that the fruit, oil, skin, and stone all have important ingredients to benefit my body.  The avocado has been called “Mother Nature’s moisturizer.”  With their healthy fats and phytonutrients, they offer remarkable food both inside the body and out.  So the next time you’re at the mall, skip the cosmetic counter and buy yourself an organic avocado instead.  Eat half right from the shell with a bit of sea salt, fresh pepper, maybe a dash of garlic, and use the other half for a natural facial treatment.  Simply remove your makeup, wash your face, mash the avocado (you can mix in a bit of honey, or milk, or oatmeal) and apply it to your face.  Leave it on for 10 minutes or so and then rinse off with warm water.  Lunch and a facial for a few bucks.  This is information the women in the lab coats do not want you to know.

As for Kēlā Mea, my packaging and label design will evolve over the next few weeks.  When I have it just right, I’ll post it to my website.  For now, I’m sharing my new product at the local farmers markets and enjoying the positive feedback.  Not sure what product will come next but I do know what I’m having for lunch.

Kēlā Mea is an all-in-one facial polish. It is hand-crafted from organic, Hawaiian, avocado seed. Avocado oil, natural witch hazel, and ylang ylang make it the perfect cleanser, exfoliate, toner, and moisturizer - "all things."