Appreciate the Grease that Got You Here

Appreciate the Grease that Got You Here

For all the cooking I do, I did not own a cast-iron skillet. I must have mentioned this to my mother in passing because, in maternal tradition, she, like her mother did before her, and my grandmother’s grandmother did before her, presented me with a beautiful cast-iron skillet for Christmas this year. I was so excited! In our family, a cast-iron skillet is the purest form of cooking craftsmanship. The person who can truly master this beast is the understood, albeit unproclaimed, chef.

Last night I decided to whip it out for the first time. I hand-washed it, dried it, covered the bottom in extra virgin olive oil (and I add dried spices like thyme, rosemary, and basil), placed it in the oven, and let it drip-bake off for an hour. After, I pulled it out again, gave it a good washing, and prepared to make my cauliflower rice-and-mozzarella stir-fry.

When I was done with cooking, Frank, my husband, came over the skillet and looked horrified at all the crusty pieces that had browned the skillet. “You ruined the skillet your Mom gave you!” I looked over at the skillet and knew it wasn’t ruined, it was seasoned.

That’s when it struck me. In the New Year, we’re so focused on the shiny and new, whether it’s the new gifts we receive or the new promises we make to ourselves, that we don’t look deeply at what brought us there.

2017 was a rough year for me. I suffer(ed) from depression, I gained weight, I lost touch with friends, I struggled with my career, I made business decisions that I wouldn’t make again – I burnt out. For every metaphorical and clinical determination of the words, I sincerely burnt out. I lost myself inside of myself.

This week was the first opportunity I gave myself to actually relax. I read, I cooked and baked, I finally cleaned my house, I made soap, I spent time with my family and my dog. Despite breaking out with some crazy rash that made me look like a red crocodile, I allowed myself to just be. I refused “opportunities,” I said no, I stayed home, I made a planner, and I’m working on a vision board.

I realized I am not unlike my cast-iron skillet. I have grease that won’t wash off, stains from my past, but beneath it – or better yet – because of it all, I am a cast-iron skillet.

While I am not one for resolutions, because real change takes real time, I am all about being reflective and I decided that the grease is what got me here. Of course, I have made mistakes, and I would chalk it off to being human, but it’s so much more than that. I don’t believe we ever conscientiously make the mistakes we do, we do what we think is best for our happiness at that moment in time.

What we need to realize is that the grease, our choices, are all part of the composition of ourselves. Sometimes they weren’t right, but I think it’s more like our wiser selves seeing a new picture because of that grease. Without it, we would just be a shiny, new cast-iron skillet with no flavor, no culture, no essence of being.

Kristen Fusaro-PizzoPresident.png

Moments of Skin Mayhem: Surprise Reasons Your Skin Isn’t Cooperating

Moments of Skin Mayhem_ Surprise Reasons Your Skin Isn't Cooperating

With the skincare industry expected to reach $130 Billion by 2019, it’s safe to say that the concern for your skin is not just yours alone. There are hundreds of medical reasons why your skin may not be as you want it to be, with the most common in the United States being acne, eczema, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, and rosacea. Your skin is your largest organ, so you can almost bet that it indicates when there is an underlying issue. While all of the aforementioned issues should be treated by a medical professional, there may be some other factors in your daily life that are affecting the condition of your skin.

  1. Dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your skin will react in two possible ways. It will become dry and inflexible, or you can over-produce oil. Both circumstances can lead to redness, inflammation, dry patches, brittleness, and even itching. Be sure to consume enough pure water every day to flood your skin’s cells to aid in the rejuvenation process.
  2. Diet. As the old adage exclaims, you are what you eat. Eating too many foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates can create acne breakouts. The sugars themselves don’t cause the issue, it’s how our body reacts to it. We’re not meant to over-indulge on simple carbohydrates (bread, pasta, sweets, etc.) so our insulin levels will fluctuate when our body is trying to digest these sugars. This creates a hormonal imbalance which can turn to a development of acne and dull-looking skin. Balance your nutrition with protein, fresh vegetables, and complex carbs, like from legumes, to help regulate your blood sugar.
  3. Phthalates and Artificial Fragrances. In our daily lives, we inhale thousands of particles of unhealthy fragrance. From canned air fresheners to cleaners, to scented and harsh detergents, we’re breathing in the unhealthy air all the time. Minimize the use of phthalate-rich products by switching to phthalate-free products (like our soy candles), and avoid using artificially fragranced products on your face. We created the Resting Beach Face soap using essential oils because they minimize the risk of skin reaction, but every person is different and should monitor how he/she reacts to various fragrances.
  4. Your Face Wash or Toner. Many commercial face washes and toners use harsh surfactants, parabens, phthalates, and detergents to cleanse your skin. While these products may be effective for some people, many people don’t need such harsh cleansing ingredients for their daily life. Try switching to a natural face wash that is skin-sensitive and moisturizing; you want the product to be a soap, but not a detergent which can cause irritation. The same goes for facial toners; they may be too harsh with ingredients like salicylic acid. While salicylic acid is a useful chemical if you’re suffering from acne, we often only need to tone the portion of our face with the acne with these products. Instead, try using micellar water or hydrogen peroxide once per week which kills bacteria (one of the main culprits of skin issues). Don’t overuse hydrogen peroxide, though! While it’s killing off the bacteria on your skin, it’s also damaging some skin cells. Follow-up with a gentle moisturizer that contains oils rich in Vitamin E and C.
  5. Dirty Pillows, Jackets, & Scarves. You may not realize it, but your pillow is dirty! From sleeping on it every day, a normal pillow will have the remains of dead skin, drool, oil, hair products, make-up (don’t lie, you’ve gone to sleep without washing your face once or twice). This build-up all rubs into your skin while you sleep! The same goes for the collar of your jacket and your scarves. Just be sure to wash these items regularly (ideally would be once-per-week) to keep a clean environment for your face.
  6. Your Cell Phone. You touch your cell phone hundreds of times per day. Sometimes your hands are clean, sometimes they’re not. You stick your phone in your purse, your pocket, your hoodie, tables, hand it over to your kid who wants to play a game, use it in the restroom… all of this causes millions of various germs to grow on your phone. Then, that one time you go to answer it, poof, that’s all over your face! First thing is to keep your phone in a case to avoid all of those germs to actually get into your phone; this makes it much easier to clean, also. Then clean your phone case with rubbing alcohol every day (or, at least as often as you can remember!).
  7. Your Hands. You probably touch your face dozens of times per day, and while you do wash your hands every time you use the restroom, you’re still touching your face after you type, touch door handles, the office coffee pot. While we can’t live in a bubble, just remember to continue to wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face as much as possible.
  8. Your Pets. While you may not be distinctly allergic to pets, their dander is generally a human irritant. Your face may be more sensitive to pet dander causing some inflammation. Plus, we all love having our dogs kiss our faces, but the old myth about their mouths being clean is simply not true… if you have ever had a dog, you know just about everything goes into their mouths, and in turn, onto your face.
  9. Your Cosmetics. Not all makeup is created equal and some brands use ingredients that may be irritating to you without even realizing it. If you suspect your cosmetics may be the cause of your skin irritation, spend a few days without wearing any to see how your skin responds.
  10. Vitamin Deficiency. If you’re lacking certain vitamins, your skin could be one of the first places your body demonstrates this deficiency to you. The best way to check this is to visit a medical professional to test yourself for vitamin deficiencies, in the meantime, eating a balanced diet and taking a daily multi-vitamin will help cover these bases.
  11. Pollen & Dust.  While “hay fever” is a common allergy, you may not realize how it’s also affecting your skin. Common allergies activate our body’s histamines, which often cause reactions like runny noses, itchy eyes, and inflamed skin. You may notice this the most during certain times of the year, especially spring and fall (when flowers bloom and when trees drop their leaves). Speak to your medical professional first, but often over-the-counter antihistamines, like loratadine, will help deter these effects. Also, being sure to dust and vacuum frequently to eliminate these from your home will help minimize their effects.
  12. Air Pollutants. We’ve all heard the term “free radicals.” Free radicals are air pollutants that come from our daily lives like carbon emissions and cigarette smoke. Of course, if you smoke cigarettes, this damages healthy skin cells amongst hundreds of other harmful effects on the body. While you can control whether or not you smoke, you cannot control your environment completely. The best protection is to keep your face clean and protected with deep moisturizers that create barriers on your skin. This will not prevent all free radicals but will reduce the amount that reaches your skin.

The most important point to remember is to listen to your skin. If it’s suddenly not cooperating with you, it’s trying to tell you that something isn’t right.

*Disclaimer: Please note that none of the above replaces the advice of a medical professional. If you suspect there is something wrong with your skin, seek the advice of your medical professional before making any changes or starting a new skin routine.

Kristen Fusaro-Pizzo

Fragrance Spotlight: Why You Need Lavender in Your Life

Fragrance Spotlight_ Why You Need Lavender in Your Life

I’m in love with lavender. I’m so in love with lavender, I was once tempted to make my business solely based on all things lavender. I settled for purple as our brand coloring, but there’s no doubt you’ll see my obsession with lavender if you simply searched the term on our website. So, what exactly makes lavender the most sought-after fragrance in the bath, body, and candle market?

Lavender itself is a plant, actually part of the mint family, distinguished by small, purple flowers grown upwards in grass-like fashion. It has a gentle, floral aroma which makes it incredibly popular for uses in cosmetics and home aesthetics. It’s relatively easy to grow, as long as it has proper drainage; the lavender plant does not tolerate saturation very well. It needs a good amount of light and does well in warmer climates. If you’re in a colder environment, lavender takes well to being potted.

Dating back to the time of Ancient Rome, the origin of the word lavender comes from the Latin, “lavare,” which means to wash. The Romans would often use the lavender plant to scent their baths, and while they did so, they discovered the properties it has to create a feeling of soothing and relaxation.

According to WebMd:

Lavender is used for restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, and depression. It is also used for a variety of digestive complaints including meteorism (abdominal swelling from gas in the intestinal or peritoneal cavity), loss of appetite, vomitingnausea, intestinal gas (flatulence), and upset stomach.

Lavender’s known relaxing properties are what drove me to create the Rest Easy aromatherapy spray. A beautiful blend of lavender essential oil with Roman & German chamomile, this spray can be used in an aromatherapy necklace, as a perfume, as a linen spray, for baby, as a facial toner, as a make-up remover, and even on medium-large dogs. Lavender and chamomile are a few of the only essential oils safe for babies; however, I always recommend you check with your pediatrician first – every child is different! Also, as a warning, while lavender is generally regarded as safe (GRAS under the FDA), it is best to avoid using lavender essential oil when pregnant, while on medication that could induce drowsiness, or when undergoing anesthesia.

Regarding its fragrance, lavender is beautiful on its own but is also known for blending well with numerous scents. In perfuming and blending, lavender is considered a middle floral note, and it blends particularly well with other florals, cleans, and fruit scents, though mixing it up with sweet scents also creates a wonderful blend, such as our famous Midnight in Paris bath bomb which is a blend of lavender and chocolate. I like to also bend the rules a little by blending lavender with woodsy/musky scents, like sandalwood. Our two best-selling candles are lavender blends: Unstressed, which is lavender and chamomile (two florals), and Weekend Getaway, which is lavender and sandalwood (floral and woodsy).

While lavender is now grown all over the world, and has been grown for over 2500 years, the most coveted lavender comes from Bulgaria. Surprisingly, if you sought to purchase lavender essential oil, there are so many varieties with numerous differences in price. Market prices change drastically pending crops, but as of right now, the general going rate, per pound:

  • Bulgarian Lavender – $100 – floral, sweet, choice for aromatherapists
  • French Lavender – $85- simple, sweet, floral
  • Lavender 40/42 (most common essential oil) – $40 – herbaceous, floral, and woodsy (main choice for soaps)
  • Population Lavender – $107 – green and a little sweet
  • South African Lavender – $50 – actually a hybrid, known as lavandin; the notes are fresh and sweet
  • Spanish Lavender – $67 – fresh, floral herbaceous odor

One of the best sources regarding lavender is the blog written by New Directions Aromatics; an excellent read for anyone who wants to learn even more about lavender!

Kristen Fusaro-Pizzo

A Moment to Rise Up: Body Shaming For Business

A Moment to Rise Up_ Body Shaming For Business

I am fat. This is not a secret. Aside from the pragmatic fact that I can’t hide this reality, it is something I have accepted about myself. I recognize the health risks, the lack of clothing options – I am painfully aware of weight limits on rides, of my hips on airplanes, how I choose to stand on subways. I am extra cognizant of sweat, of keeping my hair long, and avoiding sleeveless dresses like they’re the plague. I can tell you how many points, calories, carbs, sugars, and the fiber of nearly every common food.

Growing up as a fat child, I grew a very thick skin… pun intended. I was “baby beluga,” “fat ass,” “piggy,” and everything in between. I have been told “But you have such a pretty face,” “maybe if you lost weight,”  and what I shouldn’t be wearing more times than I can count. I have avoided reunions and social gatherings; I have exercised until I vomited. I have tried juicing, drinking shakes, gone carb-less, went Meditteranean, counted everything under the sun.

The very topic of weight is my Kryptonite, but I have embraced this reality.  That being said, it’s not something I want someone to offer to “fix” unsolicited.

It should be as equally socially unacceptable as if someone suggested, WITHOUT BEING ASKED, acne medication, hair growth treatment, anti-aging cream, deodorant, breast augmentation…. you get the picture. Nonetheless, people view my weight (and based on my conversations, not just me) as a gateway to promote their health business to me.

Exhibit A
The top message is a private message I received to my business Instagram, and the bottom message was my response:


When I initially received this message, I was hurt, shocked, and quite indignant. While the hurt and shock dissipated, I remain indignant. As a professional and as a business owner, I was tempted to just reply “no thanks,” but I am tired of being considered broken. I am tired of being considered less worthy of respect than anyone else with an issue.

So many thoughts ran through my mind – Who is this person to think she has the right to believe she is better than I am? What level of arrogance does one need to impose her lifestyle on mine? Does she have any idea of who I am?

I am a friend, a daughter, a granddaughter, an aunt, a sister, a niece, a wife, a teacher, a soap-maker, a business owner, a colleague, a network leader, a community member, a dog-mom, a New Yorker, a home-owner, a tax-payer… I am so much more than my weight.

Yet, in one fell swoop, everything that embodies my identity came down to my body. My body that is not acceptable. My body that others believe I should change. Do I recognize all the repercussions of my weight? – Absolutely. Do I walk around and point out how others are flawed and recommend I should change them? – Absolutely not.

Body shaming in business, sadly, is nothing new. While not all marketing uses tactics that are so direct and personal, all body shaming approaches are equally grotesque. Every day we are blasted with before-and-after photos, with photoshopped images of celebrities, with idealized caricatures of people.

Even the champions of body image, like Melissa McCarthy, Chrissy Metz, and Ashley Nell Tipton have all suddenly embarked on a weight-loss journey. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthier, and even wanting to be thinner (I know I still want to be thinner), there is something dreadfully wrong with the concept that we, as fat women, are not enough – as who we are, where we are.  There is something dreadfully wrong with the idea that the solution for weight loss is as simple as eating less and moving more – even science has proven that the psychology runs far deeper.

There is something even worse with the movement for inclusion and “fatness” is still something to be ostracized, separated, and unaccepted. The idea that all “fat” people are lazy, sitting around eating fast food. I am fat and I work three full-time jobs and I haven’t had fast food in over ten years.  When it comes to business, I should want to buy into whatever you’re selling, not be shamed into buying it.

But “It’s about health and living a healthy lifestyle” – yes, true, but it should also be about living life in the current moment. It should be about loving who we are at this very moment and not just what we could be, and more so, what others think we should be.