It sat on my bathroom counter for years, “it” being a large cork with a styrofoam hemisphere glued on top and seashells covering the styrofoam. I’d had it for years. Way back when Peter and I were dating or engaged – I honestly can’t remember which Christmas it was – his brother and his family had given me a glass jar filled with red and green m&m’s and topped with this seashell-covered lid. The majority of the shells were augers, a small spiral shell that is easy to find along the Crystal Coast. Once the m&m’s were history (my love of m&m’s is legendary among my friends and family members and was a running gag in grad school), that jar made a lovely addition to my bathroom counter, often filled with cotton balls.
A few years ago, my younger daughter accidentally knocked the jar off the counter, leaving me with just the lid. I’m pretty sure my husband’s sister-in-law had painstakingly glued all those shells onto the lid herself, had designed it from shells gathered over the course of numerous trips to the family’s beach house. Because of that, I couldn’t bring myself just to trash it, and as I was striving towards decluttering the counter top, I really didn’t feel replacing the jar was a high priority.
One morning over breakfast as I was staring out the window at the grapevine trellis edging its way to winter’s dormancy, it came to me. I could make grapevine wreaths! I wouldn’t even have to buy them; I could harvest my own grapevines and make them myself. A little later that morning, the shell-covered lid caught my eye, and the idea of making beach-themed wreaths for Christmas gelled.
I immediately set about twining the vines into wreaths. I think I got a bit overly ambitious in my harvesting. My husband, Peter, got into the action, too. After a little trimming and tucking, they looked great! (These are before the trimming and tucking.)
I made a video of the designing of these, complete with a view of the final results.
I hung these right beside the front door, and I am pleased with how they turned out and how they look. Although it looks like they’re strung together, I left them separate so I could hang them differently in other years. I’m also excited to be able to showcase the beautiful shells that were originally on the jar lid and give them new life.
Happy crafting, and please post your project pictures! I’d love to see them!
About 13 1/2 months ago, I set out on a new health improvement regimen with four specific goals in mind:
Lose 50 pounds.
Improve my knee health.
Prepare my body for mission trips.
Be able to wear my favorite velvet choker again.
The rebrand of last year and the beginning of my new health goals that came just a few months later led my business in ways I couldn’t have even conceived when I was sitting up in bed late at night, legal pad on my knees, scribbling away at ideas. No longer was my brand just about enjoying the beach with every bath, but it became instead how you can enjoy this beach life with us as I invited you along on beach trips, the ups and downs (and bruises and road rash) of getting fit, and how we eat in our healthy coastal lifestyle.
So, here it is, over a year later. How did I do? Pretty well, but I’m not done, yet. I haven’t yet lost 50 pounds. I’ve lost 22 pounds and a LOT of inches. My knees feel awesome! The aggravation in my left knee from trying to be active with too much weight on it is gone, and my compromised right knee is doing just fine. In fact, my knees made it through two soccer seasons with no brace and just the very occasional use of NSAIDs. Back in May, I had the opportunity to go on my first mission trip since starting this journey. My dad was concerned that all the walking would stress my knees, leaving me unfit for the real work, but I was fine after some light stretches each evening. And today… This morning, I took a few moments and tried on my beloved choker, discovering to my delight that it fits again.
The past year saw some frustrations as I tried to get the rest of the family on board with my goals. However, it didn’t take more than a few months – OK, somewhere between a “few” and “several” – for my other half to stop preparing 900-calorie dinners on his nights to cook. On the other hand, it also saw me learning how to cook tasty, filling meals that weren’t horrendously laden with calories. I also got stuck on a plateau. The same weight for MONTHS! Oh my gosh, that drove me crazy! It’s only been in the past month that I’ve broken that plateau and continued dropping. But, oh, the joy! The joy of trying on jeans that are one size smaller than I had been wearing (and hiking up all the time) and instructing my poor, beleaguered daughter to “take these and see if there’s a pair smaller.” Then there is the delightful hilarity of modeling those jeans and appreciating how well they hug in all the right places. There may have been singing and dancing involved in the appreciation.
After the fall soccer season ended, I wanted to do something to keep that activity up. Nothing beats running up and down a football pitch with a dozen littles for burning calories! Our church offers aerobics once a week, so I decided to take advantage of it. This is what last week’s class looked like on my fitness app.
Aerobics has become fellowship time as we talk through the workouts. Some walks present holy moments with one of my daughters, usually the younger. Other walks clear my head and help me be more creative. Today’s, for example, gave me space for some crazy poetry writing, as well as drafting this article. Everything I do for me ultimately benefits my family and my business, as well.
I’m so thankful for this journey, because it has helped me get healthier, helped me be able to enjoy the beach more, helped my business grow, and helped my family. On top of that, it’s also made it possible for me to meet several new people and get to know many others better. I’m thankful that you, my customers, have willingly traversed this road with me, and I hope we continue to grow in healthiness and all that brings with it. After all, what good is living the beach life if we’re not in shape to enjoy it?
You are invited to continue to follow my progress as I continue to push to that 50-pound mark. I’ll be posting new winning recipes as I discover them and grumblinggrunting sharing what’s new in my workouts. (My aerobics instructor is talking “steps” for January, and I think half my Christmas list is from Dick’s.) And just… Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.
They’re he-ere! The absolutely adorable flip flop soaps are poured and nearly wrapped, all ready to deck your bathroom in coastal Christmas flair. I decided to take you behind the scenes and show you how I make these soaps. They’re a bit of work, but the results are so totally worth it! Check it out!
These charming soaps come in two festive scents: Sleigh Ride, a brisk fragrance that blends mint, vanilla, and pine; and Christmas Spice, a lovely spicy seasonal scent that has been a favorite among my customers for fifteen years. Not only would these look awesome in your bathroom, but they make unique stocking stuffers and thoughtful gifts for the beach lovers in your life. I invite you to pick yours up today. Quantities are very limited, and I don’t think these will be around for long.
How’s your last week been? We solemnly and with a good deal of relief enjoyed our first week post-soccer season. In one respect, I was a little lost. The time came when I would normally have prepared my practice plan, and there was no practice for which to play. However, my younger daughter and I got to take a great – if not also occasionally creepy – walk while the older one was at dance. Halloween came and went with a late night, tons of fun with friends, and almost as much candy. In short, it was a good last week of fall break.
One of the major things I accomplished this past week was submitting the reservation for my spot for my absolute favorite show of the year. Caveat: I only do two events a year. One I call my favorite local show, the other is my absolute favorite event of all. My fave event is one I call, in short, the EPA Show. Its long name is the Annual EPA Holiday Bake and Craft Show, so you can see why I’d shorten it.
There are four things that make this event my favorite.
The people. Each year that I work this show gives me the opportunity to reconnect with people who have known me since I was five – the few who are left, anyway – and those who I’ve met in the years of doing this show. Some are fellow vendors, others are customers, and then there’s Romeo, the kick-butt line cook in the cafeteria who can bring a smile to my uncaffeinated lips as he slides an omelet to me.
The set-up. Tables already in place. A simple display. Reduced product line. All these go into making the schematics of setting up for this show quick and relatively easy. Granted, I have to get through the security necessary in a government building and schlep everything from the underground loading dock to my spot – all without coffee! – but it’s easier than most other events. Tear-down is even easier.
My selling team. This is the one event that my mom helps me vend. One of the girls usually comes along, too. Having help is always valuable, but having moments to sit back and watch them in action is delightful. My younger daughter (then 7) had her first turn behind the table last year, and she totally rocked it!
The booth fee. Free is always good, right? Well, it’s not entirely “free.” I have to account for my time and gas, but I don’t have to pay to be there.
This year’s show is just a hair over a month away, and I started the grinding prep work last week as I wrapped and labeled soaps that have been happily curing for months. I’ve got a few new products I’ll be bringing out for it, which I’ll be telling you about in the days and weeks ahead. It’s gonna be great! We can’t wait!
Do you have troubled skin? Problem skin? Skin that acts like a hormonally moody teenager – acting right one moment, irritating you the next? Then have I got a soap for you! At event after event, through Facebook messages and emails, customers often ask me,
I have psoriasis and eczema. Do you have any soap that will cure that?
My answer is always, “No. None of my soaps will cure skin diseases.”
However, I have a lot of customers who have tried Au Naturel (formerly known as Soap of Milk & Honey – and Oatmeal) and have come back with nothing but praise for it with reports that it has helped their skin tremendously.
So, what is it that makes people desire this soap? It’s true that it won’t cure anything. The goat’s milk is vitamin-rich, containing vitamins A & E, both excellent for the skin. The oatmeal helps soothe skin. The honey acts as a humectant in addition to the naturally occurring glycerin, drawing moisture from the air to the skin. There is no added fragrance in this soap, and it has a lovely natural toasted oatmeal scent that comes out as the soap saponifies. If I had to sum up what, exactly, makes this soap so skin-friendly, I’d say its nakedness makes it shine.
Because very little I experience in my life as a professional soapmaker and vendor surprises me, having people tell me last year that they needed soap that’s even more naked than Au Naturel about knocked me off my feet. I learned that some people are very sensitive to oats and can’t use products containing them. Yet, they wanted an incredible goat’s milk-based soap without fragrance or oatmeal. For those people, I whipped up this little gem in January.
To call this a Castille soap would be a misnomer, though its only oil is olive oil, so it has the gentleness of Castille soap. It contains goat’s milk, with all its rich moisturizing properties and vitamins. It also has honey to lend its moisturization. This little jewel is Nude Beach, an ultra-gentle soap that will make your skin feel spectacular. Like Au Naturel, this one, also, is unscented.
So, which is it? Do you want to go Au Naturel or take a detour to the Nude Beach? Either way, both of these soaps will be kind to your skin, whether it’s young or old, particular or easy-going.
If you are in my branded Facebook group, then you likely saw the live video I posted last week about these amazing little samples with the incredible fragrance. First, a little backstory… (aka, How in the world did I get to these?)
Ages ago when I was making smaller amounts of lip balms (not many hundreds a year), I ordered my tubes from Rustic Escentuals/Aroma Haven, a supplier out of South Carolina. Their prices were fair, service was great, but the UPS shipping was brutal! Let’s face it: Lip balm tubes and caps are not terribly bulky or heavy to ship. At around this same time, I discovered a then-Kentucky-based company that offered the same product for a comparable price, but which had a priority mail shipping option, which cut my shipping in half or more per order. I abandoned AHRE for that particular product.
The second company moved operations from Kentucky to Colorado, and the shipping went up accordingly. (Hey, I get it. It happens.) Over the past couple of months, I have gone back to buying smaller quantities of tubes at a time from AHRE. The per-item price is a titch cheaper (we’re talking a fraction of a penny here), the shipping still makes my gut clench, but the basic, cheap-o Fedex home delivery is here the next day if I place my order before lunchtime. This amounts of overnight delivery without paying a premium for it!
I placed my first order in a long time with AHRE and was delighted to have the opportunity to get a free fragrance sample. I LOVE sniffies, and when I get enough of them, I throw down a batch of one-hit wonders. Being on the seemingly endless search for a good Orange Blossom fragrance, I happily clicked the button to add a free sample of Orange Blossom & Amber fragrance oil to my cart. Imagine my surprise and delight when my package arrived the next day (overnight shipping – woohoo!) and I discovered a one-ounce bottle of fragrance! With a happy mix of excitement (Hope it smells awesome!) and trepidation (What if it smelled awful?), I opened the bottle and took that first sniff. It smelled amazing! It’s got the orange blossom scent I was expecting with bottom notes of warm, musky amber.
The question came, What to do with these 28ish grams of awesomeness? I had a small amount of coconut avocado lotion base in my shop fridge, so I warmed it a little bit, added the fragrance, and poured it into bottles. The largest bottle made it into my backpack. The rest of the lotion went into the adorable little white bottles you see up there ^^^ to be shared with you, my customers.
This, of course, led to another question… I used to offer a line of luxurious body cremes, and with winter’s dry air coming, is this something you’d like to see again? This would be a limited time offer of a very exclusive variety of scents, and I’d use the to-die-for coconut avocado lotion as the base.
In the meantime, I have three samples of this Orange Blossom & Amber creme available, and the next three customers who order will receive one so you can see what has me so excited.
Again, would you like to see a limited engagement of body cremes for the winter? And what fragrances would have you turning cartwheels?
Brrr! I woke up a couple of days ago to discover that someone had turned off the heat! We went from summer to fall in a blink! I’m not a cold-weather person, so while Autumn is perfectly lovely, it’s not my favorite season, because I know what’s coming. (Then again, I did use the phrase “when Summer returns in December…” last night.) Be that as it may, Autumn is the perfect time of year to cook up something warm and comforting for dinner with planned-overs for either another dinner or lunch. Usually, “comforting” equals high-calorie and high-fat, but we don’t want to give up healthy for satisfying. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do when it’s cold is to go outside to exercise. In fact, so many of us come as close as possible to hibernating when it gets cold, and all those pounds we lost in the spring and summer find us – and they bring friends with them! LOTS of friends!
Poking around on Facebook, I discovered this incredible slow-cooked tomato soup recipe. I love some good tomato soup on a chilly day – or any day, really – and it’s not unusual for us to have some cans in the pantry, at the very least. When I found out, though, that I could easily and quickly whip up some soup in the slow-cooker, I got happy and immediately decided to let my family be the guinea pigs for this experiment. Again, this isn’t my recipe, but it’s definitely worth sharing.
I have to keep my people to just one serving per meal, especially my teen daughter after soccer practice or a soccer game.
She’s usually famished after being on the field for an hour-and-a-half or so. Here’s the recipe, step-by-step…
56 ounces Diced Tomatoes, Canned
2 cups Vegetable Broth/Stock
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 cup diced carrots
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon garlic Powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 whole Bay Leaf
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup half & half or whole milk
Add all ingredients in slow cooker in the order listed.
Turn on slow cooker to high and cook for 3-4 hours. If you are cooking on low cook 6-8 hours.
Pour 1/2 of the slow cooker into a blender and blend until smooth, repeat with the remaining 1/2 of the soup. Pour all of the soup back into the slow cooker and serve immediately or keep warm until ready to serve.
Using half-and-half, this recipe came up to 143 calories per serving, calculating 8 servings. I prefer cooking this low and slow, turning the heat down to “warm” once the carrots are soft. Pair it with grilled cheese on whole wheat, and you’ve got a wonderful, fairly healthy dinner*. (My health app clocks this one at 400 calories, 55.7 g carbs, 22.5 g fat, and 19.7 g protein.)
Give this one a try, and drop a comment below letting me know what you think of it.
*Caveat… My health goals focus on overall health. I don’t concentrate on reducing any one nutritional element in my endeavors, choosing instead to strive for balance. If you have health needs that require you to watch your carbohydrates, fat, cholesterol, or sodium, it is your responsibility to adjust the recipe to meet your unique needs.
I was talking to my newish friend Joy a few weeks ago, and being that Joy is a newish friend, we’re still in that getting-to-know-your-life-story stage. I asked her, “What brought you to this area?” Come to find out, Joy and her husband moved here from the same basic area we did. Most people down here with young families are either natives or moved here for work. Then there’s Joy and me.
Why did we move here? What did we envision life would be like down here? The why is easy: It’s the coast! And what did I expect life would be like? Picture it… You drive down to the beach for a weekend or a week, and along the way, winding along two-lane state highways, you see road-side stand after road-side stand, selling fresh fruits and vegetables. As you get closer to your destination, the scent of briny sea air teases your nose and fills your lungs. You think, What I wouldn’t give to live down here! We’d hang out at the beach all the time, eat fresh vegetables and fruit every day, and have locally caught seafood a few times a week. At least, that’s pretty close to what I thought.
I threw in, “Ride a bike around” and “Live a fit, healthy lifestyle” along with that. Sure, we’d have to work, but we’d be living the working vacation.
Come to find out, Joy and her husband had similar ideas. As I shared my vision, Joy nodded and “uh-huh’ed” in that tone that says, “Sounds familiar.” Their vision – being childless when they made the move – included sitting on the beach watching the sunset and the stars come out. They also saw themselves dining on fresh produce, freshly caught seafood, and living the healthy coastal lifestyle. They were able to catch some sunsets early on, but then life happens.
So, what is the coastal life like? I wake up in the morning and watch the world wake up as I sip my water (part of the HCLS – healthy coastal life style). Weather permitting, I open the sliding glass door, breathing deep draughts of fresh morning air. I’ve gotten good enough to determine the direction of the wind based on how the air smells. Fresh and clean means the air is coming from the north or the south. Tinged with l’aroma du pigs indicates the wind is coming from the west. Laced with the pungent scent of chemicals, and the wind is coming from the southeast. But the best breeze smells fresh, clean, salt-tinged, and just a titch fishy. This is the breeze from the due east or the northeast, where it’s blowing off the sea and coming inland.
After exercising, eating breakfast, and showering/dressing for the day, it’s time to start school. In between courses, I deal with emails. Once school is over, it’s time to get to work. Usually I’m able to knock out some to-dos right after the school day ends. The past two months and going into now, I spend time looking at soccer drill videos and drill instructions, planning what my players need and how to keep practices fun. After a little bit of work on two days of the week, we head out to the soccer fields for practice. By the time we get home from running up and down the fields many times, it’s late, and we’re ready for dinner.
This is where planning happens. If Peter is home, he’ll take care of dinner. On those nights when he’s at the fields, too, dinner goes into the slow cooker. It’s awesome coming home to a pot of soup or chili when it’s late and you’re famished!
On evenings we don’t have to go anywhere, we can spend more time and creativity on our dinner. After dinner, the girls go to bed, I get a little work done, and then Peter and I watch TV for a bit before bed.
Sounds pretty familiar, huh? This could be life anywhere in the state, anywhere in the country, except for different air and different work. Coastal life is simply life. Sure, we can take free days to hit the beach, and it’s easy having fresh produce without making a special farmer’s market run. Other than that, we work, we play, we have school, and we live life to the fullest. It’s not terribly romantic, but it’s the best we’ve had.
Travel along with us to some gorgeous beaches with sparkling blue water and powdery sand. Relax in a hammock under gracefully bowing palm trees. Watch a summer storm rolling over the beach, clouds building and seagrasses swaying. Hunt for seashells and build sandcastles.
Love mermaids? You’ll find those here, too. Maybe looking at mermaids isn’t your thing. You’re awesome and fabulous! YOU are a mermaid! Find mermaid seashell bras and tricks for the latest in mermaid-inspired makeup. Create your gorgeous tail and top off your whole ensemble with a fanciful seashell tiara.
There is but one place to find such amazing treasures, and that’s on my Pinterest boards. That’s not all you’ll find! I feature our incredible soaps with some on-location product pictures. (Those are soooo much fun to take!) You’ll also be able to grab some inspiration for living our healthy coastal lifestyle with yummy recipes and workout tips.
Coming soon, I’ll be adding recipes that are quick, easy, healthy, and family-friendly. We’re busy people, and no way do we want healthy, delicious meals to rob us of precious family time. (Hint: The first one is for an absolutely delicious slow cooker tomato soup that’s welcome after a late soccer practice or a long day at work.)
Cruise on over to my Pinterest boards and follow us to get the latest updates on all sorts of fun, creative, yummy, and inspirational ideas. Got a board you’re proud of? Share your link below in the comments so we can check it out!
It has been called “the beautiful game,” and when you watch it, it’s easy to see how this can be so. Twenty-two players on the pitch, running, blocking, passing, and kicking, their only protection a pair of shin guards. They don shorts and jerseys, cleats and socks. No matter the weather, the uniform is always the same. Watching soccer played well affords viewers with examples of a clean – though physical – game, good sportsmanship, and the sense that rivals on the field are rivals only for the ninety minutes of regulation game time. Otherwise, they bond over the beautiful game. I have often watched professional or college games and enjoyed the play of muscles under skin as they bunched and released, the contour of a thigh as a player kicks the ball, the elongation of the back and neck when heading it.
As you likely know, our family is big into soccer. My husband played as a child, coached our older daughter, and still loves teaching the sport to younger players. We often see former players he coached, and parents and players smile and call him, “Coach Peter.” I’ve been coaching younger children for quite a few seasons now, even though I didn’t play as a kid. For me, I get to teach them to love the game and play it with joy. Our daughters both have played several seasons each, and our older now referees and will help coach my teams at every opportunity.
When I coach, I have three rules for my team, and we go over these weekly: Have fun. Do your best. Be good sports (both within our team and towards other teams’ players). I was reflecting on these rules over the weekend after watching them play so beautifully in Saturday’s game, and it dawned on me that these same rules can apply to business as well.
(1) Have fun. If you’re not having fun, what’s the point? It can’t be all fun and games all the time. In soccer, I have yet to meet anyone who loves running wind sprints (though I did have a player last season who smiled through three disciplinary laps at the end of practice). There has to be work. Likewise in business, sometimes it’s a lot of fun. For me, creating the soaps and engaging with customers are what makes running my business most enjoyable. Those are the things that make it fun and that see me through hours of creating content and bookkeeping.
(2) Do your best. There’s an unofficial family motto in my family: “If you’re going to do it, might as well do it right the first time.” Yes, there are times when we make mistakes; that’s not what Grandpa – and probably his Grandpa before him – meant by “doing it right.” We don’t take shortcuts. We invest the time and attention into doing a good job from the start. For example, when building a shelving unit, it’s easy to suspend boards between other boards and screw them into place. However, you’re going to be left with a unit where the boards sag in the middle, the wood splinters around the nails, and the entire thing falls apart. Sure, it may have only taken half an hour to construct, but it won’t be long before you’re having to tear it apart and start over. Alternatively, you could take a little bit more time, adding supports and changing the construction to make it stronger. It might take four hours to build, but it will last through anything but fire.
That’s the same in running my business or any business. I want to invest the extra time and care into making something strong and long-lasting. I could go about it half-assed, but whatever business endeavor I’m tackling won’t last very long at all. It’ll be sloppy and careless, and in addition to being structurally weak, it’ll be unpleasant for people to see. When I’m perusing businesses’ social media offerings or websites and see poor spelling, grammar, and punctuation, I wonder how much care they give their products if their presentation to the world is that sloppy and shows that great a lack in care and proofreading. In this, too, I have the mindset of, “If I’m not doing my best, why bother doing it at all?”
(3) Be good sports. On my teams, good sportsmanship involves how players treat each other and how my players treat opposing players. Even in practice, I don’t allow players to criticize each other or to harp on each other’s mistakes. In play, this means not only watching elbows, pushing, and tripping (all illegal fouls), but also not saying things like, “You suck!” or “You call that a kick?” Taking this a little further, I also encourage them to at least recognize when the other team does something well. Praise such as “Good hustle!” and “Nice save.” demonstrates that they have the best attitude for success on the field and off.
In business – and life – raising others up costs us nothing. In the maker community, we often praise each other’s efforts, and we laugh together on mistakes. It’s nearly impossible not to laugh in commiseration when one’s young child strews black oxide powder all over one’s work space. And kitchen. And powder room. And living room. Then, because they’ve walked through it, they leave little black footprints up the stairs and down the hall. (Can you tell I have firsthand experience with this situation?) It takes more effort to follow a maker in order to point out their mistakes and to slam them publicly than it does to follow that same maker and give them “likes” and affirmations on their work. My business requires all the time and energy I can give it, so finding time to insult another maker is pointless to me. However, seeing their picture on IG or FB and clicking the “heart” or the “thumbs up” takes no discernible time out of my day.
My goal with the kids on the team is not only to give them skills to be tremendous soccer players, but also to give them skills for life. The rules I created and enforce will help them be better students, better workers, and better citizens.
What rules can you think of that would benefit both players in youth-league sports and in life?