Our customers love our sea salt soaps and we love them, too! But what kind of salt do we use exactly? Since all of our soaps are all natural without any synthetic crap in them, we wanted a sea salt that met those same exact requirements. After testing about a million salts ...Read More
Welcome to the Vermont Cowgirl blog where you'll live life in Vermont through the lens of our camera, get sneak peeks of new all-natural products, behind the scenes peeks and much, much more.
A customer recently asked us straight up "does your Complexion bar clear acne?" We could have said "Sure, it's a pimple busting miracle." Or "My sister-in-law tried it and had great results." Or we could have said "It contains Anise essential oil which is known to be an anti-epileptic, anti-hysteric, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, aperient, carminative, cordial, decongestant, digestive, expectorant, insecticide, sedative, stimulant and vermifuge." (I'll admit, I had to look that one up!). Our answer, however, is always the same:
"Our soap doesn't cure any diseases. It simply cleans."
That's it. Our soap cleans. It's an awesome, rocking, amazing, skin-loving soap that smells and feels awesome and cleans your skin. It doesn't feed the hungry. It doesn't cure cancer. It doesn't make your arthritis go away. It's soap, not a magic pill. :-)
Also, making any such claims is strictly against the FDA's Cosmetic Act (which is as much fun to read as one might imagine). As per the FDA, a drugs "... are intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease and/or are articles intended to affect the structure or any function of the human body." (under section 201(g)(1)(B) and/or (g)(1)(C) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1)(B) and/or (g)(1)(C)])
So the law is pretty clear. Anytime anybody makes a claim that either a product or a single ingredient used in that product "makes wrinkles disappear", "helps against insomnia, spider veins, acne, prevents sun burn, heartburn" is making an unlawful drug claim. We don't want to do that. For a couple of reasons: we don't want to mislead our customers and we most certainly don't ever receive one of these warning letters from the FDA like these folks here.
We've all seen claims such as "Eucalyptus oil functions as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial ingredient. The oil is also a skin-conditioning agent used to treat skin infections and help alleviate skin irritation.” - and everybody seems to be doing it. Looking at Etsy, Amazon and on people's websites, claims like the ones we posted above are every.where.
I get it. It's a great marketing angle but unfortunately, that's all it is. Marketing. Words. Not evidence.
What does this mean for North Country Soapworks?
We don't want to mislead our customers. We're not making any claims. We simply list our amazing ingredients and will proudly tell you that we follow FDA guidelines and that our all-natural products rock!
Our herbal sea salt soaps are here! Seems like our customers can't get enough of our sea salt bars so we're introducing some additions to the family. Meet our Nettle Leaf sea salt soap with nettle tea instead of water, Mediterranean sea salt and a refreshing blend of rosemary & mint essential oils.Read More
I owe Kombucha a massive fat apology. Turns out Kombucha doesn't suck. You just need the right recipe. Which I found and am super stoked to share here on the blog.Read More
Sunshine in a Jar!
As much as I love our Chocolate Body Butter, I was definitely missing something light and refreshing for summer. Enter: Citrus Kick!
Our Citrus Kick Body Butter is the perfect body butter for summer skin. With its unique citrus-y scent, it is super refreshing with just a hint of basil for an incredibly well balanced and delicious aroma. If opening that jar of summer-y goodness won't put a smile onto your face, I'm not sure what will. :-)
To top it off: our Citrus Kick is also completely and 100% vegan, absolutely cruelty free and has not been tested on animals.
A little dab will definitely do it so the 4 ounce jar goes a long way. Unlike commercial lotions, our all natural body butters contain no alcohol (which can cause dry and flaky skin), no preservatives and they are EDTA, BHT, paraben and synthetic crap free!
What they do contain though is a power punch of skin loving ingredients. We combined five ultra-hydrating & moisturizing ingredients (fair trade organic Shea butter, organic cocoa butter, mango butter, macadamia nut oil, sweet almond oil) to make a decadent moisturizer that melts into your skin. To make it super light and non-greasy, it also contains a dash of organic arrowroot powder.
Our amazing body butters are handmade in small batches right here in Vermont on demand to ensure freshness.
Ingredients: Butyrospermum Parkii (organic Shea) Butter, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Theobroma Cacao (organic Cocoa) Seed Butter, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Maranta Arundinacea Root (organic arrowroot powder), Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange) Oil, Citrus paradisi (Grapefruit) Oil, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Essential Oil, Citrus limon (Lemon) Essential Oil, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Oil
And holy cow - we've been sending orders across the country every day non-stop. Thank you all so very, very, VERY much for embracing the new North Country Soapworks (although I caught myself trying to answer the phone saying "Vermont Cowgirl ... ah, North Country Soapworks - but after over 5 years, it's probably normal). In any case, I digress.
You're all super awesome. And totally vindicated the purchase of roughly 200 rolls of branded tape we made a couple of years ago. To quote Col. John 'Hannibal' Smith: I love it when a plan comes together!
Kat & Damian
How did we get here?
Back in August of 2016, we decided to file for a federally registered trademark for "Vermont Cowgirl". That trademark was granted and we thought we were all set. We clearly thought wrong. A company named "Cowgirl Cosmetics" who had been dormant for the last 4 years decided that nobody in the entire USA could sell cosmetics that had the term "Cowgirl" in it.
We contacted our attorney and learned that being right (which we were) and being found right in a court of law are two entirely different things. Cowgirl Cosmetics filed an appeal to have our trademark cancelled and we received a court schedule that would have tied us up until the fall of 2018 had we decided to fight their appeal. As much as we knew that were were right, as much as we knew that they were just corporate bullies who didn't have a legal leg to stand on, we also knew that they had millions of dollars on their side and could easily drive us into bankruptcy.
My initial instinct was to fight this until the bitter end based on principle alone; it just felt so entirely wrong. We were being bullied and there wasn't an awful lot we could do about it. In the end, we decided that it would be best if we focused on the positive (our products), not cling to a name and move forward instead of spending the next 18 months in court. We said "screw it" and rebranded.
As of June 5th, 2017, Vermont Cowgirl is officially North Country Soapworks and we couldn't be more excited. We took the time to completely overhaul our packaging, our logo, our design, our photography and are pretty stoked with the results. We also added quite a few products to the lineup. The hugest of THANK YOUs to our amazing families, friends, team mates and coworkers who supported us through thick and thin, tested, purchased and cheered us on - you truly are an amazing group of people and we're super grateful to call you friends.
Kat & Damian
is about to happen
Stay tuned, you don't want to miss this. It's going to be bigly. :-)
Kat - Vermont Cowgirl
One of my dreams has always been to have a small herd of goats, sheep & chickens (and maybe a pig) happily roam the pasture. Only our property borders the woods, the hawks & foxes killed quite a few chickens last time we tried .... despite having their coop secured like a small Fort Knox. That and having a pig would almost certainly mean the end of us eating bacon (or anything pork really) and would most likely result in the pig moving in with us.
So instead, I greatly enjoy our neighbors sheep, who are now back on pasture and come up right to the property line. They're super cute and not phased by our dogs in the slightest.
We're super stoked. For a couple of reasons.
We just finished the final design of our new soap packaging. Woot. We had previously used cigar bands but it looked never quite professional enough but at the same time, we didn't want to contribute to the landfill by adding unnecessary packaging either.
The solution: Recycled craft boxes. Custom labels that still showcase our soap but make the easy to store, easy to display and easy to sell. Added bonus: we get to include a better product description on the package and the full list of ingredients on the back.
Secondly, we just completed our first private label order. Stop on by the 33 Foundry Street Gym in Morrisville, VT to pick up a bar of our post-workout-sweat-smell busting sea salt soaps:
Happy first week of May!
With the exception of the first bill from our attorney, not much has happened in the case of Cowgirl Cosmetics vs. Vermont Cowgirl. They've laid low. We've been in touch with several other companies, who have also receive "cease & desist" letters from CC. Like us, they've also been awarded federally registered trademarks for names containing "Cowgirl" so clearly, the US Trademark Office never saw an issue with regards to anybody producing soaps/cosmetics under the brand "Cowgirl Anything". CC didn't defend their trademark (nor were they particularly active elsewhere) so my hope is that this chapter is behind us and we can move forward full steam ahead into spring and summer. But who knows ... it is, however, reassuring to not only have a kick-ass attorney on our side along with an entire community full of proud Vermonters but emails of support have been pouring in from near and far - it's pretty awesome.
In the meantime, we've tweaked a couple of recipes and are getting ready to launch an entirely new line of Spa Bars (sea salt soaps with different herbs - comfrey, nettle, neem, arnica and peppermint just to name a few), have completely overhauled our packaging and are getting ready to get Vermont Cowgirl into more stores, spas and breweries across the state.
Winter also finally decided to call it quits (although I did stoke up the fireplace again today) and the first spring flowers are popping up!
Enjoy & have a great weekend.
Our house is on medical lock-down as Vermont Cowboy came down with the flu. After whipping up my famous Chicken & Dumplings in addition to a newly discovered Curry/Ginger Carrot Soup, I set out to create a "Pick me Up" bath salt to get him up on his feet a little sooner.
Eucalyptus essential oil: it is commonly used for respiratory issues (it's also one of the main ingredients of Vick's Vapor Rub - which also uses camphor (synthetic) as well as menthol). It has been proven to relieve cough symptoms as well as runny nose, stuffy nose, sore throat, and overall icky-ness so I felt this was the perfect ingredient for this bath soak. Unintended side effect: it also worked in deodorizing the entire house with the smells wafting through - while I wasn't in the bath myself, I felt oddly invigorated - which may or may not have been the effect of the warmer weather (finally!) and sunshine outside.
Clove essential oil: My grandmom used to recommend chewing on a clove bud to ward off infections ... since we're no longer in Christmas season and out of clove buds, I grabbed the next best thing, clove essential oil. You want to be careful as clove can be a major skin irritant and should never be used on the skin "neat" (undiluted) nor should it be ingested as some MLM companies suggest. It also doesn't cure cancer, HIV or Cholera nor does it vanish cavities (seriously, who makes up these absurd claims?). Under 0.5 % of the overall percentage of essential oils is what you're striving for - meaning if you're making 1000 grams of bath salts, you do NOT want to use more than 5 grams of essential oils total (1/2 teaspoon).
In any case, clove oil supposedly supports a healthy immune system and is commonly used for respiratory issues. And, as I said, my grandmom said so. So into the mix it went.
Ginger essential oil: Vermont Cowboy loves ginger. Ginger Kombucha, Ginger Beer, Ginger Soap, Ginger Candies, Ginger Tea ... you get the idea. ;-) Ginger has "warming" properties and I typically use it more in massage oils for sore and achy muscles and bones, I figured it would be a good addition as VT Cowboy just entered that particular stage of the flu - the one where everything hurts. Just like clove, be careful not to overdue it with the ginger essential oil.
The ratio is 4 parts Eukalyptus, 1 part Clove and 1 part Ginger. As for the actual salt part of this soak, you can use Epsom Salts with a pinch of baking soda and sea salts or just Epsom Salts. And remember: the essential oils should not make up more than 0.5% of the weight of your bath salts.
The end result: the house smells AH-mazing, Vermont Cowboy doesn't look any worse for the wear and reports that he feels slightly invigorated with a slightly tingly feeling on his skin (as I said, EASY on the clove & ginger there!). Invigorated enough to tackle a giant batch of Kombucha - with, you guessed it: Ginger.
Our super senior Jakebert underwent dental surgery today and for a large breed at 14.5 years, this isn't a small feat. Him and Vermont Cowboy headed out to Burlington this morning and with us girls holding down the fort. After staring at my phone for the better part of two hours, we finally got word that the landing party had made it to Burlington safe & sound, just waiting to be taken in for surgery.
I have to admit, I was pretty much useless until I finally heard back that he had made it out of surgery just fine although the surgery had been more invasive as originally planned. Luckily, one of my fabulous friends had given me an awesome idea months ago: to pre-cook meals so we can just pop homemade meals into the microwave on days like this. Not sure why this hadn't occurred to me in close to 12 years of failed house-wife-eyness but there you have it - my friend Stacie is a genius and I had food. Boom!
Today was the perfect day for my patented German split pea soup - which is my grandmother's recipe and simply delicious. I almost felt human again after having a healthy serving.
In case you'd like to cook along, here's the recipe (in metric since ounces & cups never made much sense to this former Germany. Metric babies! ):
300 grams organic split peas (dry), 1 liter water (or broth), 300 grams pork belly, 200 grams leek (if in a pinch, you can also easily omit this), 200 grams carrots, 100 grams celery, 300 grams of potatoes (eyeball it), two onions, pepper, broth, Kielbasa
Start this process the night before by soaking the peas in one liter of water for 12 hours (give or take).
Pour the soaked peas into a large pot along with the water they were soaked in, add your broth and bring everything to a boil. Boil for half an hour and make sure that your broth doesn't evaporate. Add more broth as needed so the peas are always covered in water. At this stage, you'll see green/grey foam bubble up - this is perfectly normal, just make sure that things don't spill over.
Cut your pork belly into a couple of not-too-small pieces and add to your peas & broth. Make sure the broth covers the meat. Continue to cook for another half hour.
Cube & slice the carrots, potatoes and leeks and add to the mix. Cut the onion into cubes and cook in olive oil (or butter) until they're glazing over. Add to the soup. Although I've also skipped this step in the past and added the onions directly to the soup whenever I feel lazy.
Remove the pork belly from the soup and let everything simmer. Wait until the pork belly has cooled down and then cut it into small pieces. I personally prefer to cut off all the fat because the texture on cooked fat wigs me out but that's personal preference. For us, I only add the lean pieces of meat back into the soup but my grandmother used to use everything. Instead of making this soap with pork belly, you can also use pork hook and follow the same process.
BEFORE you add your pork back into the soup, give everything a quick stir with the stick blender so things blend nicely (there's really no right or wrong here - some people prefer a more "coarse" soup, others a more smooth texture - either one is yummy). Slice your Kielbasa into slices and add to your soup. Add the pork belly. Heat up everything and enjoy!
I usually double this recipe, which feeds the two of us for two meals with plenty to freeze into portions for those lazy days to come.
I'm not usually a fan of Monday mornings but this morning made me decidedly LESS a fan of Mondays. Or mornings. Particularly Monday mornings.
In my inbox: a cease & desist letter from a lawyer in Colorado, representing a Colorado business making lotions under the business name of Rocky Mountain Natural Labs, LLC. They wanted me to cancel my existing trademark for Vermont Cowgirl because they apparently sell some of their lotions as "Cowgirl Cream". I guess as per them, nobody should be allowed to use the name "Cowgirl" in anything related to skin care.
What makes their demand so utterly ridiculous is that they claim that the "Vermont" in "Vermont Cowgirl" is the less dominant portion of our name. Yep, you heard that right. About a company that's all about Vermont. That proudly does everything to use locally sourced ingredients. Does it get any more Vermont than "Green Mountain Mojito Soap", "Vermont Beer Soap" or "Vermont Maple Lip Balm" or "Vermont Honey Soap"?
Clearly, this wasn't something we were going to take on ourselves, as much as I was tempted to hit "reply" and tell them to pound sand. I really, really wanted to. Because a) their claim is frivolous b) their claim is frivolous and c) they're banking on the fact that we don't have the unlimited resources they have to defend this. Did I mention that their claim was d) frivolous? Oh, and I hate flipping bullies.
So needless to say, we won't roll over. I'm off to Burlington this week to meet with an attorney who specializes in trademark protection and successfully represented Rock Art Brewery in their "Vermonster" suit, where ... you guessed it, the local guy won. Goliath lost. We intend to do the same. We won't be intimidated by corporate trademark bullies and we'll take this head on. Don't mess with Vermont! Oh, and Colorado just got a lot less cool. :-)
We set up a Go Fund Me page to fund our legal battle against these folks and truly appreciate any and all donations & shares. Thank you so much!!!!
A special lip balm for a very special wedding coordinator: Jay Peak's event & wedding planner extraordinaire: Amanda. It's always so much fun to design a custom lip balm/business card for other local Vermont businesses and vendors alike. Go Vermont!
We've been using Vermont Cowgirl lip balms in lieu of business cards since the dawn of time (almost!) because people will remember the lip balm much more that just a regular old business card "Aren't you the guys with the lip balms?". Yep, that's us. Vermont Cowgirl with the custom lip balms.
Let us know what design you'd like to see on your custom designed lip balm - we're always excited to see what cool ideas our customers come up with.
Happy Monday and enjoy the snow before Mud Season hits us with a vengeance. :-)
Kat - Vermont Cowgirl
We use the term "all natural" a lot here at Vermont Cowgirl.
As it turns out, the term "all natural" is not protected in any which way, shape or form. Anybody can slap the term "all natural" onto any product and they wouldn't be in any violation of the law. Ethically, it's a crappy thing to do but legally ... it's apparently perfectly fine. Theoretically, I could offer an "all natural" body butter chock-full of artificial ingredients and plenty of people actually do just that. Just because something says "all natural" doesn't mean it's actually "all natural".
When we use the term "all natural" here at Vermont Cowgirl, we guarantee that our products never contain any of the following:
- artificial flavors
- artificial colorants
- mineral oils
- synthetic dyes
- sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
... and so much more. This is our promise to you. All natural to us really means "all natural". No artificial crap. Period.
Our oils are carefully infused with organic herbs for color and scent and we then use these "colored oils" in our lip balms, body butters and soaps for a true, all natural color. We also frequently use clays to impart color.
While I would love to claim that none of our products are tested on animals, that claim went out the window after Jake ate a jar of body butter and Shelly later took a bite out of a bar of sulphur soap (imagine a dog who is burping and farting sulphur for the better part of the weekend). We will, however, say that all products are tested on humans first before they're ever tested on animals. :-)
If you have any questions about any of our products, just give us a holler in the comments.
Have a great weekend!
Vermont Cowboy has been brewing his own Kombucha made with organic ginger & turmeric tea and organic sugar for well over a year now and I"ve faithfully tried the various flavor concoctions. However, it all just takes like vinegar to me. then I had an epiphany (or so I thought)/
After some reading, I figured I'd start making my own Kombucha and use a honey-eating SCOBY instead of the sugar eating variety. Instead of Turmeric/Ginger I'd use my favorite: Organic Green Tea with Lemongrass. I optimistically ordered 24 easy cap bottles on Amazon, a Scoby and was giddy with excitement. My package arrived and I set off to brew. LET'S BREW (in Walter White's voice)!
Two weeks later, my Kombucha was ready and ... tasted just as vinegar-y as the "sugar kombucha" to me. So while I'm not a fan of drinking that stuff, it's phenomenal to soap with. With or without leftover Scobies, just using Kombucha instead of water makes an awesome skin loving Kombucha soap that is just super mild and phenomenal. No kidding. So I guess Kombucha is pretty great after all. After vigorous testing, our Kombucha soaps are going to hit the store within the next couple of weeks.
On the brew side of things, I haven't given up and just placed yet another Amazon order for Water Kefir Grains! Wish me luck!
Beer & Soap? Sounds odd at first.
Until you give it a try and realize that the beer soap (which doesn't smell of beer!) gives the soap extra bubbles due to the added sugar and creates a super smooth and silky bar that feels incredible on the skin.
We're incredibly lucky to be surrounded by this many local breweries here in Vermont and we came across Kälte Brewing out of Morrisville - their lager is delicious and I positively can't wait for the German style Pilsner. In the meantime, we managed to not drink all of the lager and save some for our soap making efforts.
All soap is made with lye and mixing lye and anything containing sugar (milks, beer etc.) can lead to the mixture erupt into a volcano due to the heat of the chemical reaction. Nobody wants that. So in order to be safe, we let the beer sit overnight to get it stale (sacrilege!) and then freeze it into individual cubes before adding the lye. It looks downright sexy at this point!
We then carefully pour the lye over the ice cubes and watch them melt and create the base that is needed to turn our oils/fats into soap.
The other half of our soap, the oils and butters, have been melted and are cooling down, just waiting to have the essential oils added. This particular batch has been scented with thyme, pink grapefruit, litsea cubeba and sweet orange essential oils for a fresh citrus scent with an herbal undertone - it perfectly compliments this beer soap.
Once the lye/beer solution has been poured into the melted oils/butters, we stick blend it briefly and pour into our molds. Usually, I would freeze any beer/milk soap but last time, I had some partial gel develop so this time, I was trying to actually have the soap go through gel phase without overheating.
A tricky experiment that almost worked. Almost. You can see the darker parts of the soap, that's the soap continuing to heat up in the mold (this process is called saponification) and volcano just a little bit out of the right mold. I quickly grabbed the molds and put them into the freezer, where things started to cool down. In the end, we had beautiful soaps that were fully gelled without overheating! Boom!
Our special "Kälte Brewing" Beer Soaps are now on the curing rack and will be available at the shop in five weeks.
Each year, our customers ask us "When is your Winter Woods Body Butter coming back". It's exciting to hear because we love this amazing and smoothing body butter oh so much. If it were a drink, we'd sip it by the fireplace. But alas, all we can do is slather it across our bodies when it's too cold to go outside.
A walk in Vermont's winter woods - that's the smell of our limited edition Vermont Winter Woods Body Butter. We've combined luxurious skin loving oils and butters with the finest essential oils for a truly one-of-a-kind body butter that feels like a mini spa treatment. Let the subtle scents of fir needle, cedarwood, orange and tangerine take you into Vermont's winter woods.
Each batch of body butter is made from scratch right here in the heart of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. We only use the finest all natural ingredients in our body butters, organic whenever possible and never any synthetic ingredients. No artificial colors, flavors, stabilizers ... just plain good ingredients.
This body butter will only be available until the end of February 2017 and will be back at the beginning of December next year.
Ingredients: organic cocoa butter, organic shea butter, mango butter. macadamia nut oil, sweet almond oil, sweet orange, tangerine, fir needle and cedarwood essential oils.
I get the driest of dry skins in the winter. The cold and the wind don't treat my face well. Add a fireplace to the mix and you're in for a treat. :-)
So I tinkered around with about a bazillion different oils and butters until I finally came up with the ultimate recipe for soft, smooth, glowing and supple skin. No more dry and patchy skin. Since some of my friends & family members suffer from the same New England winter skin, here's my famous recipe for you guys to try at home. As a former European, I'm using the metric system since grams are so much more precise than ounces (that and I suck at fractions).
50 grams Beef tallow (you can use Shea Butter for a vegan-friendly version), 10 grams each of Ucuumba Butter, Tucuma Butter and Chaulmoogra, 5 grams each of Andiroba, Black Cumin Seed Oil, Perilla Seed Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Meadowfoam Oil, Kukunuit Oil, Sea Buckthorn Oil and Flax Seed Oil. I added a couple of drops of orange, clary sage and frankincense essential oils (under 1% of the oil weight).
Now that I typed this up, I am realizing that these aren't necessarily oils & butters that anybody but a crazed DIY'er who turned their hobby into a business could possibly have sitting around in their pantry. So I guess over the next couple of weeks I'll test a couple of simpler recipes and report back.
In my defense, I whipped up a batch some two winters ago and the jar is still half full (I'm a half-full type of person anyways!) so this really goes a long way.