Friday, October 17, 2014

American Made Vendor: host and toast

Bleu de Toi started as a husband and wife team, and today we're highlighting another husband and wife wedding company: host and toast in Denver, CO. David and Carlen Arnold were both doing other things when they got the bug to start their own wedding design company: Carlen wanted a change from being a teacher, and David was making handmade custom frames. Carlen had started escaping to wedding-decor blogs as a way to wind down at the end of the day and one day, it occured to them: we have the skills to do this too!

host and toast specializes in accessories for wedding ceremonies and receptions, including signs, cake toppers, chalkboards, table pieces, and picture frames. What we especially liked about toast and host is their categorizing system: they divide their products by themes like, Romantic, Rustic, and Modern. No matter what kind of wedding you're having, there's something for you in host and toast's products. David and Carlen emphasize this diversity as a strength on their American Made site:

We both have a passion for different areas in design, so we constantly challenge each other to make our collections more well-rounded. David draws inspiration from masculine, industrial dark woods and metalwork, and I am inspired by anything soft, light, airy, and natural.

Below are bride and groom chair signs from host and toast's "Romantic" collection:

The "Modern" collection emphasizes clean lines and geometric shapes:

We love the "Rustic" theme with its woodsy cake toppers:

The tree cake topper reminded us of BDT's "Signature Conifer Tree", a favorite for rustic weddings:
We had fun imagining host and toast's decor at a woodsy event. For more rustic inspiration, also check out our "In the Mountains" Pinterest page. 

Thanks for the look into your company, Carlen and David, and good luck in the American Made contest!

American Made Vendor: Little Belgians

I spent my sophomore year of college living and studying in Heidelberg, Germany. (Hilary was next door in Lyon, France, going to school down the street from a little restaurant called Bleu de Toi...). While in Europe, I became enamored with this Christmas cookie called Speculoos--crisp, lighter than gingerbread, but still with a hint of spice: it was the most delicious thing I'd ever had. Every Christmas now, I search international food markets for speculoos, usually settling for some packaged cookies that don't quite hold up to my memory of speculoos magic.

Imagine my delight, then, when we discovered Little Belgians--a company out of Berkeley, California that hand-makes speculoos from quality ingredients: local butter and eggs and fair trade sugar. In fact, Little Belgians doesn't use any preservatives, which means I'm tossing out the packaged cookies I still have in my pantry and buying these fresh, real cookies for the holiday.

Little Belgians was started by Evy Ballegeer, a native Belgian who moved to the U.S. in 2003 to be with her boyfriend, now husband. They moved to the Berkeley area in 2009, where Evy noticed that all the coffee shops sold big, chewy cookies and muffins to go with the coffee. She missed Belgium, where a cup would come with a sweet-but-not-too-sweet and crispy speculoos cookie. So in 2013, she started baking speculoos, using traditional Belgian methods, and in 2014, her company was born.

On her American Made site, Evy notes that, as far as she knows, she is the "only artisanal baker of speculoos baker on the West Coast, maybe even the US." Sharing a kitchen with two other cookie makers in Berkeley, she crafts her speculoos using specially-designed molds with shapes that remind her of growing up in Belgium. 

As Evy mentions on her website:
Speculoos was traditionally made using wooden molds. In 17th- to 19th-century Europe, bakers would commission a carver to create a cookie board with images that reflected popular trends of the day. In honor of that tradition, our speculoos have custom-designed shapes.

The bird, for example, reflects the Belgian national sport of pigeon racing (who knew?!). And the house shape features the architecture of Evy's favorite Belgian city Ghent.

Evy currently sells her cookies in some specialty food stores in California, and you can also purchase them online. We loved the aesthetic of her website and her cute cookie packaging. If, like me, you want some holiday speculoos in your life, Evy is offering Bleu de Toi customers a special $5 discount! Enter the coupon code littlebelgians4bdt at checkout. Thank you, Evy!

Speculoos cookies are a unique holiday present for friends and family, and an ideal treat to snack on at holiday parties. On the Bleu de Toi website right now, we're also featuring special guestbooks for seasonal gatherings. We have Holiday versions of our Signature Conifer Tree (Check out our blog post featuring all the ways you can decorate the Holiday Pine). Our Wreath design, with the right ink colors, can also be perfect for the season.

Thank you again, Evy, for sending us pictures and for offering us the coupon code! Best of luck to your charming company!

Photography credit for Little Belgians:
©Lies Willaert 
©Erin Scott

Thursday, October 16, 2014

American Made Vendor: Crunchy Mamas

We were immediately drawn to the Crunchy Mamas, Ashley Kahl and Katie Newman, not only because of their amazing organic beauty and wellness products, but because they look like they are having so much FUN.

These two friends and in-laws got the inspiration for their company when, as they say on their American Made site, "Ashley got knocked up." (Ashley has four boys with her husband Steven; Katie is married to Ashley's brother Dustin, and they have two children.) Having children made the two re-evaluate the products they were using on themselves their precious little ones:

A vital part of having babies is making the best decisions you can for them on their behalf. Both of us agreed that we wanted to be as chemical free as we could for our children's sake and because those certain products were not readily available to us we began making them ourselves. 

The Crunchy Mamas first started by making lip balm, hand sanitizer, vapor rub, and toothpaste. Now, they offer a wide array of product for babies and adults: everything from diaper rash cream to deodorant to bug spray. Everything is organic and made with chemical-free, natural ingredients. Despite the company's growing demand, Katie still makes all the products and labels by hand in her kitchen.

What we especially love about the Crunchy Mamas is their sense of humor and their desire to be real and transparent with their customers. Their Instagram page takes customers into fun personal moments and also the process of making and marketing their products. These two women truly believe in what they are doing, and they want their customers to share in their mission to lead natural, healthy lives. 

And now to the best part! When we reached out to Ashley and Katie about featuring them, they awesomely offered to let us do a "Mama Basket" giveaway of some of their best products for mothers or expectant mamas-to-be! 

Here's what the basket will include (along with Ashley's explanation of the products):
Baby Lotion Stick - our lotion is amazing.  It's not water based so it is really rich and creamy.  This particular lotion is lavender-chamomile.
Hand Sanitizer - contains witch hazel, aloe vera gel, and organic lemon and grapefruit essential oils.
Scab Stick - our organic first aid ointment.  Comes in a stick for so it is easy to apply and easy for kids to use themselves.
Menth Head - organic vapor rub.  Also comes in a stick so that your hands don't get gross wiping goo.
Baby Butt Balm - organic {cloth diaper friendly} diaper rash ointment. What do you know, also comes in a tube :)  This is loaded with lavender, tea tree, and chamomile essential oils. It is by far my favorite product!

To win this incredible basket, simply LIKE or SHARE our post from the BLEU DE TOI Facebook page. We'll keep track of everyone and randomly draw a winner this evening. 

We think these products would make a perfect baby shower gift for a future Crunchy Mama. Here at Bleu de Toi, we have a wide array of fingerprint guestbooks that work especially well for baby. Mamas of the crunchy persuasion can feel confident that we use the best (acid-free, dye based) archival materials for our guestbooks. Also, a reminder that all BDT items are 17% off through October 19th for our anniversary sale. 

Thank you Crunchy Mamas for the peek into your company and for providing that awesome gift basket! We can't wait to try your products, and good luck in the American Made contest!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

American Made Vendor: Handcrafted Honey Bee

Today we're showcasing Handcrafted Honey Bee, a skin care company out of the small mountain town of Tehachapi, California. Founded by Stacia Guzzo and her husband Robert, Handcrafted Honey Bee offers body care products with an ingenious twist: you make the product yourself! The company provides you with a DIY kit for the product, be it lip balm, or facial cream, or deodorant (to name just a few of their offerings.)

Founder Stacia recognized a need for her company when she moved from the city to more rural Tehachapi and began experimenting with creating her own body care items. With two small children, she wanted "to learn a little more about what we were putting on our bodies on a daily basis." She learned to make her own soap and lip balm, and eventually began to teach classes about homemade goods. Realizing that demand for self-made products was high, she conceptualized a company where she could help customers get started with the process. 

Each kit is specially formulated with natural ingredients and comes complete with all the jars, labels, containers, and tools you will need. What we especially appreciated was how explicit Handcrafted Honey Bee is about the exact ingredients and materials that come in your kit. Take, for example, the "Just Face It" Nightly Facial Kit

On the page for this kit, Honey Bee lists each specific ingredient you will receive (Almond Meal and Rosehip Oil, for example), the four different products you will be able to make, and the approximate time each product will take to create. The company also lists possible substitutions for ingredients if you have a potential skin worry. In fact, this level of customization is one of the things Stacia feels is so special about her company. On her American Made site, she explains: 

I think there are two distinct characteristics of Handcrafted Honey Bee that set us apart. The first is the ability to completely customize the kit according to your skin type, to substitute ingredients due to allergies or personal preferences . . . The second characteristic that sets us apart is our emphasis on the educational component of making skin care. We believe that making skin care isn't just about learning how to follow a recipe or a set of instructions, but instead is an opportunity to learn a new skill set. This is one of the reasons that we include information about every single ingredient in each recipe, including its source and benefits. 

We were drawn to Handcrafted Honey Bee not only for its great products and mission statement, but also because we loved the concept behind the name. Just as honey bees work to create their own sweet and natural product, so we conscious-minded consumers can use nature's goodies to make our own balms and creams. The idea brought to mind one of our favorite Bleu de Toi prints: the Buzzing Honeybee Guestbook.

Stacia offers kits and mini-kits for gatherings like kids' parties and "Girls Night Ins". We especially loved the "Lava Lamp Lip Gloss" kit. For 9.99, you can make two groovy lip glosses with your girlfriends. We had fun envisioning the different kind of DIY-events you could host with your girlfriends: baby showers, bachelorette parties...maybe even a honeybee-themed gathering! 

As a special promotion for Bleu de Toi, Stacia is offering a a 15% discount on ALL products through November 15th. Use the discount code: BLEUDETOI

Thank you Handcrafted Honey Bee, and good luck in the American Made contest!

Photos courtesy of: Courtney Sacket Photography