Get Luscious Lips this Summer with Dr Bronner

Dr Bronner's Magic LipbalmsNot content with only magic soaps, the leading light in all things organic, Dr Bronner’s now bestows upon us their utterly delectable and certified organic Magic Lip Balms. Scented using only Fair trade organic essential oils and containing no synthetic ingredients or preservatives these make a perfect natural skin treat.

This mouth-watering range of 100% Organic Lip Balms (RRP £2.95) comes in a variety of sumptuous flavours including peppermint, lemon lime, orange ginger, and naked.  All contain jojoba and hemp oil moisturisers which are then locked in with beeswax to rejuvenate tired, chapped lips leaving them silky soft and smooth. The natural ingredients melt into the delicate skin from the very first application leaving you kissable all summer long.  So why am I posting about these lip balm in particulars?

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps are synonymous with old-world quality and time-honored simplicity, which can be traced back to the family’s German-Jewish soapmaking tradition. Born in 1908 to a Jewish family that had been making soap since 1858, Emanuel Bronner was the third generation certified as a master-soapmaker under the guild system of the time. In 1929, he brought his formulas for high-quality liquid and bar soaps to America, starting Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps in its current form in 1948.

Renowned for their quality, versatility and eco-friendliness, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps enjoyed a small but loyal following in the early years. In the late 1960s, however, soap sales started to explode, due to the unsurpassed ecological quality combined with Dr. Bronner’s urgent message to realize our transcendent unity across religious and ethnic divides. Word-of-mouth soon made Dr. Bronner’s the iconic soap of that era, and in the decades that followed the soaps spread into every health food store in the U.S. and then into the mainstream as well – winning over fans from all walks of life on the way to becoming the number-one-selling natural brand of soap in North America.

The fourth and fifth generations of the Bronner family who run the company today continue to make our unsurpassed soaps with care and integrity. 2008 marks both the 60th anniversary of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps in America and the 150th anniversary of our family’s first soapmaking activity in southern Germany. We strive to honor our heritage with progressive business practices, while devoting profits to worthwhile causes and charities worldwide.

Get yourself one of these magic lip balms… it’s the must-have beauty accessory for your travels this summer!

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Forced Journeys – Sayle Gallery Wartime Works Art Exhibition

Martin Bloch's Miracle in the Internment Camp
Martin Bloch’s Miracle in the Internment Camp

Last week the Sayle Gallery on the Isle of Man opened a new exhibition which displays wartime works by German and Austrian internees, marking 70 years since the opening of the internment camps.  The artists were thousands of men and women sent to the island during World War II.  Some were Jewish refugees, arrested by the British as enemy aliens in May 1940.  Others were Germans who had been captured by the British and who expected Hitler to liberate them imminently.

The artists used whatever they had to hand – wallpaper, newspapers, boxes, even a piano; and made anything from collages, to sculptures and paintings.  Martin Bloch’s Miracle in the Interment Camp is probably the most renowned; it shows herrings being transformed into mermaids as five men sit at a table.

The exhibition illustrates that even though the freedom and creation of art was being impeded on the continent, even in the desperate conditions of British internment camps, art lived on and even thrived.

Forced Journeys runs until 23rd May 2010

Sayle Gallery, Villa Marina Colonnade, 1-3 Harris Promenade, Douglas IM1 2HN

www.saylegallery.com

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Escaping Communist: A Biography of Jan Sisolak

It’s very humbling to realise how you could so easily have never been born, how random it is that you were born.  I am half Slovak and half English, born in Canada in 1963 at a time when Slovaks remained behind the Iron Curtain.  Consequently, it is a miracle that my father, Jan Sisolak, while not a notable war hero but indeed a villager who like many others made a contribution to Slovak history, survived a period of repression and terror.

Jan Sisolak
Jan Sisolak

My grandmother, Jan’s mother, was Helena Sisolakova nee Winko, who married Imrich Sisolak of Zavod in Slovakia around 1920.  Helena was one of about 9 children.  At the turn of the 20th Century her parents decided to emigrate to America.  They agreed to leave behind their youngest child Helena for the grandparents to raise and care for (a very common practise among emigrating families throughout Europe).

Helena lived in the village of Zavod where nearly everyone, or so it seems, is named Sisolak.  Helena’s eldest brother was one Vendolin Winko and they were able to maintain a close relationship by post.  This was no mean feat considering the events of history during their lifetimes.  After all, around the time of their weddings the First World War Versailles treaty of 1918 was signed; the regions of Slovakia and the Czech  Republic were united as Czechoslovakia; while the population of villages throughout Slovakia were devastated by the effects of World War I and the flu pandemic of 1919.

Helena married Imrich Sisolak, a local business man and in 1924 she gave birth to Jan.  He lived in the village with many cousins and other relatives.  Jan was encouraged by his father to take exams in business.  When Jan was 14 in 1938 Slovakia declared its autonomy within the federal state.  On the 15th March 1939 Hitler invaded a non-German country for the first time and Britain realised that his desire was not for unity of the German people but instead for world domination.  During this time the Hlinka Guard, a militia force maintained by the Slovak People’s Party until 1945 and named after Andrej Hlinka, drew recruits from all walks of life.

In 1939, neighbouring country Poland was invaded by Germany. By 1942 Jews in Slovakia were taken by train to Auschwitz, the organisation of which fell to the Hlinka Guard. In many respects the situation in Slovakia during World War II was much the same of Vichy France; while the government collaborated with the Nazis the will of the general populace was vastly opposed to Nazism.

Jan Sisolak Wedding
Imrich & Helena Sisolak Wedding

In 1944 Jan and his brother, Martin, answered the call to arms of the Slovak resistance known as the Slovak National Uprising.  It amazes me that in present time of email and internet how a country in the midst of war could organise and galvanise such patriotism, action and courage.  Nevertheless, the resistance movement was successfully orchestrated from Banská Bystrica to oust the government.

Unfortunately, Martin was killed in 1944 in a village called Trubin alongside five other men all aged just 19 years.  To this day his grave and indeed the village cemetery is tended to by villagers and who on All Souls’ Day adorn the graves with flowers and candles.

The exact history of Jan’s service is unknown but it is known he spent much of his time in the forests.  He regularly recalled eating lamb, cooked quickly on a fire at the bottom of the forest so that the enemy did not notice the fire.  This was particularly unusual as lamb was and is not a meat traditionally eaten by Slovaks.  Nevertheless, despite the awful texture of the meat, it provided vital sustenance for the resistance movement.

Unfortunately, despite the valiant efforts of the resistance movement, Germans were victorious; although the Partisans remained active until the Soviets liberated Slovakia in 1945.  Post war Slovakia was grim under Russian occupation.  Those who had acted as Partisans were at continual risk of enduring lengthy prison sentences, torture and worse.  The Communist and pro-Russian government wanted to quash Slovak spirit and those who had or continued to collaborate with capitalists.

Dark Blue World, a Czech film starring Tara Fitzgerald and Charles Dance does a good job of illustrating this era.  The film portrays two pilots who escape Czechoslovakia in 1939 and retrain in England to fight during World War II.

It was in this same era that Jan could no longer cope with the economic, political or social situation in Slovakia.  In August 1951, aged 26, he slipped a note under his nephew’s pram cushion stating that he had to leave.  Jan left with a friend in the dead of night with their clothes wrapped around a tyre. They crossed the Morava River at a narrow but well policed point into Austria successfully evading Russian Soldiers patrolling the border.  From there they made their way to Salzberg to the Refugee Council.

The friends had a choice between Canada and England.  It was due to the assisted passage programme, operating between England, America and Canada, that Jan met his English wife (my mother) and they married in 1962.  Although his mother- and father-in-law never met Jan they took a coach trip in the 1960s to Czechoslovakia and insisted the guide take them to Zavod to meet Jan’s family.  It is important to bear in mind that during this decade, the Soviet Union were willing to use severe coercion to maintain control of the area and thus on 20 August 1968  Czechoslovakia was invaded and its so-called Prague Spring of liberalisation was crushed.  Despite this and somewhat remarkably, the guide was persuaded and at great personal risk, the English couple met Jan’s family.  During the trip they learned that Imrich, Jan’s father, was regularly imprisioned for his Catholic tendencies.

Jan and his wife separated in 1970 and I came to live in England.  Finally, in 1991, Jan and I were reunited in Canada shortly before he died.  I learned that during his lifetime he never wore the colour red as a personal stand against Communism.

The federation dissolved peacefully in 1993 in a so-called velvet divorce.  By 2001 I desired to meet my family and flew to Prague and took a train to Bratislava.  I was almost too scared to get off and when I met the family at the station I looked into their eyes, finally reinforcing my inkling that I truly belonged as part of their family and as part of Slovakian history.

Thanks to the merit of the internet, just last year, Vendelin Winkos’ great grandson, who lives in the United States of America, tracked me down and sent me a photograph of Helena and Imrich Sisolakovci on their wedding day.

When in 2004 Slovakia joined the EU and NATO non-residents were finally allowed to legally own land and property in villages.  I now own cottages built in 1875 which I run as a holiday business encouraging tourists from all over the world to discover this gem of a country.  With a population of only five million people and an incredible 40% of land covered in forest, the country is beautiful with a rich culture and history.

If you would like more information about Slovakia and holiday opportunities please visit www.slovakia-sun-ski-spa.co.uk

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German Expressionism in Leicester

Horse & Donkey (Zwei Blaue Esel), 1912, Gouache, Franz Marc
Horse & Donkey (Zwei Blaue Esel), 1912, Gouache, Franz Marc

This autumn, Leicester’s New Walk Museum and Art Gallery welcomes A Journey out of Darkness, an exhibition of over 100 artworks, exploring the development of Leicester’s German Expressionist art collection.

On display from the 31st October until 28th March 2010, this exhibition celebrates the 65th anniversary of attempts to save the collection from destruction by the Nazis in 1944.  Outlawed in Hitler’s Germany, expressionism was considered revolutionary and pivotal in the evolution of modern art.  The works were brought to the UK for safe-keeping by artists and private collectors.

Showcasing some of the finest examples of German Expressionist art, with additional works which prefigured or were influenced by expressionism, the exhibition features works by Marc, Kandinsky, Münter, Heckel, Schmidt-Rottluff, Kirchner, Kollwitz, Dix, Feininger and Grosz.

Admission to the gallery is free of charge.

For further information telephone: 0116-225 4900 
or log onto www.leicester.gov.uk/museums

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