The Appalachian Herbarium

A stunning blog about life, adventure--and soapmaking.

30 Years…Much Wow

Hello my lovies! I hope everyone is having a wonderful January tenth and stayed cozy warm through this horrible polar blast we have had. I went home to northeastern KY to visit family for the holidays, so the past week has been bitterly cold and icy.

Except for today.

Today is my thirtieth birthday. It is a rainy, foggy day (my favorite kind), and despite a nasty headache, it is off to a good start. I made coffee for my sister while my other sis purchased breakfast for us from a local restaurant. My parents called and sang happy birthday, alternating lines (my mother sang one line, my father sang the next) while my poochies danced around my feet. 

While I would like nothing better than to have a day of relaxation and reflection, I have a Review scheduled in five days. If I don’t pass, I don’t continue my graduate studies, so it is rather important for me. 

As the old joke goes: break’s over, back on my head.

Coming Up This Weekend…!

Just a quick note before I hit the hay. This Sunday (15 December 2013) is another market at the Tybee Island Lighthouse. I, alongside Twin Mephistophelinas, will be set up again. I will have soap, salve, balm, lotion, etc. while she will have just about everything—from handmade jewelry, sea glass ornaments, encaustic photography, to lavender sachets—and we would really appreciate your support. Anyone who comes out there (for my peeps in the Low Country / Coastal Empire) get a free gift with their purchase if they mention they saw this on Tumblr! I will be offering it on Facebook and Twitter as well, just tell me which place you saw it and you will get a free gift with your purchase. 

How fab is that?


Midpoint Jitters

I know I said I would post more often, and I always pop in briefly to try to catch up on everything. All I can say is that I am very sorry, and I have been very busy. 

Case-and-point: Midpoint Review.

For any of you unfamiliar with the term, Midpoint Review is when a committee of faculty evaluate your work—in my case, photography—and decide whether or not you will continue in the program. When I was at SCAD this was a time of hysteria and panic; the event was so traumatic that students were frequently seen sobbing inconsolably in the hallways. 

There, at least, the Review process was simple, if deviously snarky. Pick up the form at the office. Pin photographs on the wall in the classroom assigned. Place copies of artist statement on the table. When the faculty comes in, talk about your intent with your work and you influences. Answer questions. Wait outside while they decide, then either celebrate or wail in despair.


The only issue with SCAD reviews were the petty political machinations that determined whether a student passed or not. Instead of basing the decision on the viability of the student’s work, most of the committees focused on the how well the student fit in their little cliques. (Don’t believe me? Ask around, you’ll soon find out. Talk to Zig Jackson how cruel most of the other professors are, tell him I sent you.)

I am quite thrilled that I found the Academy of Art University. Not only am I learning loads more than I ever did at SCAD (ask a SCAD photo graduate to explain depth of field; most of them can’t even work their cameras), but the staff so far have been warm and very knowledgable. 

Unfortunately, the Midpoint Review process is more…involved. 

First, there is the Written Proposal, professionally bound, 2 copies. It has several elements:
Cover Page
Thesis Project Proposal, 
           Thesis Project Description
           Photographic Involvement
           Project Evolution
           Capture, Process, and Print Specifications
Statement of Professional Goals

Once all that is completed, there is the printed portfolio of 12-16 images,  one of which has to be printed and mounted as you intend them all to be for the final presentation. These must be presented in a professional archival box.

There is a 15-20 minute PowerPoint presentation to be done. It has to cover the information in the Written Proposal, but more succinctly, and the student has to do the actual presenting…yes, continuously speaking about the work, its intent, its placement in current and historical photography, as well as challenges to overcome and its evolution in the coming months.

RAW files (if shooting digitally) and finished JPGs uploaded online AND burned to a disc (with the PDF of the Written Proposal).


It is quite a bit of work. My Thesis involves transfers on to tile, so  in addition to printing the other images on a high-quality photo paper, I also need to transfer a 12x12 image onto tile. So…yeah. 

So far I have completed the PDF of the Written Proposal, gathered the RAW files and finished JPGs, and purchased my tile. I have a rough-draft of the PowerPoint. Tomorrow I start the printing process. 

I have to get my prints, bound Proposals, transfered tile, and CD to California by January 2nd. Ughhhhhh.

After getting everything together and in the proper places, I have to present the PowerPoint, then answer a series of questions. What questions? I have no idea. The committee needs to see that I know my terminology, history, contemporary photography, involvement, audience with their responses, how it will evolve, and challenges I anticipate with completing it. If I do not, then I do not pass, and have to re-present. I have taken every class I am eligible to without Midpoint approval; if I do not pass, I cannot enroll. I live on graduate loans, and therefore cannot pay rent. 

No pressure.

So I am truly sorry for being so sporadic on here. I intend to do better, but for now I am focusing on passing MPR and getting my latest rescue better. (New story about here coming soon!) 

Ta ta,


First Time Craft Fair and Photos!

I just wanted to pop in real quickly and post some pics of my FIRST EVER craft fair. It was an absolute blast, I had so much fun talking to the vendors and shoppers! I have some pics here, I shared a booth with my sister, who owns Twin Mephistophelinas. (The encaustics and jewelry are hers; soaps and salves are mine.) Enjoy!

I am not a great blogger, or reblogger of articles, but I read this today and was absolutely appalled. Never place all your trust in authority figures, just in case.


for anyone whose found this off of tumblr and not from the Medium article I wrote. I suggest you read the article first so this doesn’t seem quite as panicked and messy as it actually is (and makes a little more sense).

edit (11/11): tw- harassment, abuse, medical abuse. I’m sorry to anyone this has triggered who didn’t come here via the Medium article with some idea of what this would be about. 

Read More

Big News and Favor

Hey Peeps! I have some great news to share. Due to my fabulous grade point average, I have been invited to a study abroad in London and Edinburgh this summer. 

Woot woot! 

I am pretty excited. I mean, I have this fantastic opportunity to visit two beautiful, inspiring cities and study the architecture and art. Who wouldn’t be thrilled? As a photographer, this is a dream! 

But there’s a slight hiccup.

Well, to be perfectly honest, a major hiccup. The entire trip is going to cost me around nine thousand dollars.

Yep. $9,000.

Financial aid does not cover it (and I wouldn’t have that kind of aid available anyway), nor will I have that in my own funds. (I’m beyond broke. I scrape pennies for gas.) My family wants to help, but there’s no way they can come up with that kind of cash either, and I need it as soon as possible to register. Only 45 students are allowed to go, and if I don’t make it in before the last seat is taken, I don’t go. 

So what is a struggling photo student to do? Make a fundraising campaign, of course!

And I did.

Please do not let the vast amount of money needed daunt you. Every single dollar helps, and if you can’t give any money (times are tough, I understand) then please please please share this link with everyone you can. Family, friends, colleagues, mail carriers, business owners…anyone and everyone! 

Thanks everyone for being so supportive!

Been a Long, Long Time

Since I posted. Again, life has been in the way. My sister and I adopted another rescue, Lizzie, who was badly (badly) abused by her original owner and rescued by a friend of mine in KY. Lady Lizzie had a checkup where we found out that her eyes have superficial scarring from allergies and absolutely no tear production, so she had drops to help her eyes produce tears on their own, as well as a lubricating gel. She has a lingering bacterial/yeast infection in her foot from past IDC’s (interdigital cysts) that had been infected, so she is on a high dose antibiotic to take care of that. (It’s already much better, after only one day of treatment!) Her heart and liver are great and she is worm-free, which is fantastic. Woot woot!

During all this I am preparing for my MPR (Midpoint Review) at the Academy of Art University. This is one of the most important milestones in my academic career, as it determines my viability as a graduate student in the Photography MFA program. It’s quite a bit of work; proposal, abstract, concept statement, Powerpoint presentation, statement of professional goals, timeline, Q&A, etc etc. Plus I have to have the images to match! 

Can I huddle and cry now? 

Still, I have been able to keep up with some minor soaping. Next week I will start getting ready for the holiday season by making some cold process oven process (CPOP) soaps. Today I received the pigments and scrumptious (mouth-wateringly delicious) cranberry fragrance oil from Brambleberry. Talk about tickled!! I can’t wait to get started, but I have to get the house ready first (fam coming down to visit!) and prepare for Pirate Fest on Tybee Island. (If I get any good pics, I’ll post them for you to love.)

In the meantime, be safe my lovelies. I am including some of my new soaps below for your enjoyment. If you like, don’t forget to check out my Etsy shop to buy! (

The Appalachian Herbarium turned 2 today! Has it really been that long? I suppose, being an absentee-blogger, the time has sped by rather quickly. I cannot promise more reliable posting, but I can promise all kinds of new stuff to talk about. Here’s to another year!

The Appalachian Herbarium turned 2 today! Has it really been that long? I suppose, being an absentee-blogger, the time has sped by rather quickly. I cannot promise more reliable posting, but I can promise all kinds of new stuff to talk about. Here’s to another year!

(Source: assets)

Lovely Laundry Soap Suds

Hello Hello! It’s me again, the absentee blogger. (Perhaps I should have used that as my title. It’s more than fitting.) I’m just popping again for a brief update. My sister and I have had a rough time financially, since her companion dog had emergency, and expensive, surgery. (We should be back on track sometime in October, so it’s only a few more weeks of payment arrangements and bumming money from relatives.) One of our money-saving ideas was to make our own laundry soap.

Now, I know it probably seems pretty obvious thing to do. After all, I am a soapmaker, so why wouldn’t I make laundry soap? Well, to be honest, I was a bit daunted by it. Combine caustic soda with water, add melted fat, yes, I can do that. Combine household ingredients to properly clean laundry? No siree. The very idea gave me the collywobbles. 

Until my sister found a great, simply recipe, that is. Armed with the proper ingredients, a grater, a blender, and a sealable container we set to work. In no time we had a fabulous bucket of clean-smelling powdered detergent! (Thanks to Matt Jabs at DIY Natural for the recipe!) Here is what we used:

1 bar Fels-Naptha laundry soap (or Zote)
1 cup Borax (20 Mule team is a great choice)
1 cups Arm and Hammer washing soda

Unwrap the laundry soap and allow to air dry for a few days. (This is optional, but does make the grating easier and allows it to blend better.) In a large bowl grate the soap. Add the borax and washing soda, mix well, and scoop a cup into a blender. Blend until thoroughly mixed, pour into an airtight container, and add another cup of the mixture to the blender. Continue until the entire batch has been blended. To use, add a tablespoon per load of laundry, two tablespoons for heavily soiled clothes.

laundry soap

That’s it! It’s that simple, and it works great! I absolutely adore the fragrance, it’s clean without being perfume-laden, and it does a fantastic job of cleaning. 

I highly, highly recommend trying this recipe. Let me know how it turns out for you!

All-Purpose Salve

One of the best things that summer brings, more than plants blooming and mornings at the beach, is visitation with my nephew. Every year since I moved to Georgia he has come down and spent about a month, sometimes a little less. 

This year I am proud to announce, he brought down dried herbs from home…to make salves for him and his friends. (They all tell him they’re magic.) Since he was out of the ointments I had made him previously, he wanted to restock his supply. (Did I mention he’s only fifteen? He’s intent on learning to make herbal concoctions, and he’s still in high school)

I’m so excited! He is taking an interest in herbalism and growing herbs, which tickles me to no end. Maybe he will take over the Herbarium when I’m gone. :) 

In honor of his interest, I have included his All-Purpose Salve recipe below. Enjoy!

Gomery’s All-Purpose Salve
1 oz beeswax
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dried or fresh herbs: comfrey, lavender, beebalm, licorice leaf, yarrow, rose       petals
20 drops Tea Tree essential oil

          Combine herbs and oil in a double-boiler or candy melter. Simmer for three to four hours to infuse. Strain. Melt beeswax (again, double-boiler or candy melter) and add infused oil. Stir and allow to re-melt. Remove from heat, add essential oil, and stir. Pour into containers. When cool, cap and label. To use, apply a small amount of ointment to cut, scrape, scab, or blister. DO NOT USE ON BROKEN, OOZING, BLEEDING SKIN OR DEEP CUTS. NOT FOR USE ON BURNS OR PUNCTURE WOUNDS. As always, seek medical attention for anything serious. (This salve is only for minor, everyday scrapes!)