Warming it up with Slow Cooker Tomato Soup

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.

(Tomato soup from Sara Nesbitt on Vimeo.)

I have to keep my people to just one serving per meal, especially my teen daughter after soccer practice or a soccer game.

Tomato soup in the slow cooker

She’s usually famished after being on the field for an hour-and-a-half or so.  Here’s the recipe, step-by-step…

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients in slow cooker in the order listed.
  2. Turn on slow cooker to high and cook for 3-4 hours. If you are cooking on low cook 6-8 hours.
  3. 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.
Cream of tomato soup
Delicious, hot cream of tomato soup

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.

 

What the Coast Life Looks Like

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.

English: Fresh produce Indoor market, Abergave...
English: Fresh produce Indoor market, Abergavenny. The market hall is also home to the September Food Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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!

Tomato soup in the slow cooker

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.

Charming Beachsides + Delightful Mermaids

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!

The Beautiful Game, Life, and Business

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.

Sport in childhood. Association football, show...
Sport in childhood. Association football, shown above, is a team sport which also provides opportunities to nurture social interaction skills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(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?

Don’t Fear the Parabens!

I was cruising along, doing that daily life thing, and I saw yet another label on yet another cosmetic product boasting “Paraben Free.”  It wasn’t an empty or deceiving claim:  The product’s manufacturer used a preservative system that doesn’t contain parabens.

I see this same fear of parabens pop up in “crunchy living” Facebook groups and the occasional post, and I know where it originated.  A 2004 study in Great Britain found parabens in breast tumors.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) grabbed the study and ran with it, using their agenda to push the federal government to ban parabens as dangerous, cancer-causing ingredients.  The study was flawed, though.  The group left out a very valuable component of solid scientific research:  The control group.  The British scientists failed to test healthy breast tissue to determine the amount of parabens present in non-cancerous tissue.

In the thirteen years since that study came out, other scientists have conducted other studies, including those the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) employs.*  The findings have been revealing.  Parabens occur naturally in plants and in humans.  In fact, a normal, healthy woman’s body can naturally have 10,000 times the amount of parabens as are found in a paraben-preserved product.

Let’s look at another factor here.  Parabens are naturally occurring.  They show up in the body and in plants.  (Japanese honeysuckle is sometimes used as a natural preservative in products, such as shampoo.)  This is not something I’m going to freak out about.  Why?  I’m not putting it in my body.  As I’ve said before, the skin is marvelous at keeping things out of the body; that’s one of its primary functions.  The primary way that manufactured parabens could be hazardous is if we drank large quantities of them.  Ew!  How disgusting would that be?!

Water and salt
This image shows 20 ounces of water in the jar and 5 grams of salt in the bowl. The 5 grams represents how much preservative goes into 20 ounces (approx. 560 grams) of lotion. That fills 5 4-ounce tottles.

When you’re trying to determine if something is worth panicking about, consider the source.  I personally like the broad-spectrum protection that paraben-based preservatives give my products.  There are, however, some non-paraben preservatives that are very close to equally as good that I’ve been using lately.  I’ll tell you, “Hey, don’t worry about parabens,” and it’s not because I have some vested interest in the companies that manufacture these preservative systems or the labs that conduct the tests.  I’ve done the research that not many people have any interest in doing and am simply passing those findings on to you, because my informing customers allows you to make informed buying decisions.

At the same time, I could say, “Go ahead and avoid parabens.”  Again, this isn’t because I have an agenda or a vested interest in the organizations or companies that support a ban on parabens.  Interestingly enough, the companies that manufacture the paraben-based preservative systems also manufacture the paraben-free preservatives.  If paraben use makes you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason, that’s fine, and it’s OK to use products that don’t contain parabens.  If, on the other hand, you don’t care as long as nasty stuff isn’t growing in your body products and makeup, that’s fine, too.  Regardless of how I feel about an ingredient or a product, I respect people’s right to use it or avoid it as they choose.

For more information about why it’s important to preserve cosmetics, check out this article I wrote a few years ago.

 

 

*Caveat:  I’m not saying that the FDA is some infallible government agency that never messes up and never has an agenda impact it.  However, in this case, I can’t see any agenda that would influence their research findings, as chemical manufacturers tend to make a variety of preservative systems.

What Are You Selling?

You’ve heard me say before that we’re an entrepreneurial family, with my husband, our older daughter, and I all having our own businesses.  Our daughter’s mowing business has all but died this year, with many people taking care of their own lawns, a customer moving, and so forth – despite her serious hustle to drive new business.  That’s meant she’s had to find other ways to earn money.

My husband’s business continues to grow with requests for some light landscaping and organic fertilization treatments.  The girls go out to work with him on those days and take care of those jobs so he can focus on applying the inorganic chemicals.  They get to engage with the customers and get paid for the work they do.

Suddenly this summer, mermaid soaps have taken off like crazy!  The older daughter is the “Mermaid Diva,” crafting gorgeous mermaid soaps, each one beautifully unique.  I pay her for each one.  Between making soaps and working with her dad, my daughter has made up about half of her usual summer income.  She’s driven, because she is earning the money she needs to complete her soccer referee’s certification course; this will enable her to make even more money over the next year.  She’s saving up for next summer’s mission trip, next year’s sports (soccer, dance, or both), and next year’s awesome Language Arts class, should she decide to take it.

Mermaid soap
Sparkly mermaid soaps in Crystal Coast Morning. They are beautiful!

Yesterday evening, my husband told me about his former employer – now independent – offering customers a discount on their first treatment if they sign up.  It’s similar to what a major corporate competitor does, though on a larger scale.  Thanks to what I’ve learned throughout the time of my business and the years I’ve been a part of IBN and under the mentorship of Donna Maria, I was able to help him reframe how he thinks about driving his business.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  “Big box stores have gotten customers trained to think they must always get a discount.  Big Company XYZ (the corporate competitor) probably averages about $50 per lawn, accounting for both postage stamp-size and high-end neighborhoods.  The local office may get $10-$20 of that for their operating costs and to pay their employees.  Where does the rest go?  It keeps the CEO in boats and vacation homes.  The techs are like worker drones.  That’s it.”

Him:  “No company I’ve ever worked for has ever given customers a discount for signing up.”

Me:  “OK.  And for good reason.  Why do you think that is?”

Him:  “They didn’t need to.  They were selling quality.”

Me:  “Exactly.  How closely do you pay attention to car commercials?”

Him:  “I really don’t.”

Me:  “Think about Chevy, Ford, and Honda commercials.  What do they focus on?”

Him:  “Their features.”

Me:  “No.  Their affordability.  Every single one sells their cars on ‘4000 off MSRP or ‘Just 249 per month.’  They’re selling on price.  Now, think about Mercedes or BMW.  You know the Lincoln commercials with Matthew McConaughey?  What are they selling?”

Him:  “Luxury.  Handling.  Performance.”

Me:  “Right.  And how often do you ever see prices on commercials for high-end vehicles?”

Him:  “You don’t.”

Me:  “Because those car manufacturers are selling quality vehicles, and their customers don’t care about the price when they’re getting quality.  What are you selling to your customers?”

Him:  “My brand.”

Me (smiling):  “Wrong.  Try again.”

He looked at me with a smile, not quite sure what I was looking for.  I smiled back and said, “Let me know when you’ve figured it out.”

As indie business owners, we have to be aware of our motivation and even more aware of what we’re selling.  We’re not selling a product or a service; we’re selling ourselves.  I’ve often privately thought that being a business owner is like legalized prostitution without the sex.  We’re selling bits of ourselves to our customers, hoping fervently that they’ll come back for more.  Packed in with every soap or every lawn treatment, we’re selling ourselves, our back stories, our experience, and our knowledge.  

We’re selling to build our hopes and dreams, to leave a legacy for the next generation, whether that’s the next generation in our families or in the larger entrepreneurial community.

Why do you do what you do?  What are you selling to people?

 

Healthy Every Day

This is a special shout-out to all you parents of children who are or who have been in not-home school (public or private).  Y’all, I am totally out of practice.

It’s no secret that part of our brand’s philosophy involves a healthy lifestyle, because that helps us enjoy our long, active, coastal life, and it’s something we practice at home on a daily basis.  This week, Wee Princess is enjoying a marine biology camp at a local university and having a blast!  Each day, she is supposed to start with a healthy breakfast and have with her a healthy lunch and a healthy snack.  Since my husband rolls out the door with her between 7:15 and 7:30 each morning, I spend a little time each evening putting her breakfast together and preparing her lunch.  Then, in the morning, all he has to do is grab the perishables from the fridge and put them in her lunch bag.

I made the mistake last week of leaving the girls unattended with my laptop and a Pinterest search for “Bento box lunches for kids” while I showered and dressed.  When I came back down, the Wee Princess had a chart listing each day’s breakfast, lunch, and snack.  And we’re talking good, balanced, nutritious options here!  I was surprised, because when I ask her what she wants for lunch, the majority of the time it’s “cinnamon toast” or “quesadilla.”  Most of this week, her breakfast choice is a smoothie of some sort – low added sugar, lots of fiber, tons of calcium and protein – perfect for exploring marshes and beaches!

Blueberry smoothie
Its so purple! Love blueberry smoothies!

I’ve home educated since Little Princess was in second grade (she’s not so little now, as she’s starting high school studies next week!), so having to do the daily lunch and breakfast prep is outside my realm of daily experience.  I had forgotten how much extra work it is, just that little something extra to think about.  It’s not like it’s actual work, but when I’m exhausted and ready for sleep and can finally get into the kitchen, it’s not something I’m dying to do.  And now that so many children are at least sensitive, at worst, severely allergic to peanuts, it’s not as easy as slapping some peanut butter and homemade jam between two pieces of bread.

So, hats off to you parents who do this on a daily basis or used to when your children were little.  Great job keeping it real, keeping it fresh, and keeping it healthy!

How do you do it?  How do you make magic for your kids each day?  Share in the comments below.

I’ll Take My Chemicals On, Thank You Very Much

This picture shows the list of active ingredients for one of my sunscreens of choice – a generic brand of SPF30 Sport, proven by years of use not to sting my eyes when I sweat or play in the water.  (Not pictured is my favorite and considerably more expensive Hawaiian Tropic SPF30 Sport, purchased and used because I LOVE the scent, and because I’m delighted that Hawaiian Tropic has finally made a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 8.)

Sunscreen ingredients
The active ingredients in one of my sunscreens of choice

Why am I sharing this?  Because I want to show you that chemicals are not our enemies and that going “all natural” when drugs do a better job is not the smartest choice long-run.

Chemicals are all around us:  Air, water, food, soap – things we put on and in our bodies – are all chemicals.  Try living a life free of chemicals and see how long that lasts.  Short answer:  Three minutes.  That’s how long we can go without air before we die.  Chemicals are in drugs that we may use on a daily or occasional basis – multi-vitamins, blood pressure meds, and ibuprofen are all safe chemicals that help our bodies.  Although it doesn’t seem like it, sunscreen, too, is classified as a drug, because it changes the makeup of our skin to prevent the damage caused by UV rays.

I’ve heard the concerns.  “The chemicals will get into our skin and poison us.”  “These chemicals aren’t safe.”  “Those chemicals killed laboratory rats.”  Let’s look at each one of those.

  1.  “The chemicals will get into our skin and poison us.”  Our skin is an incredible organ!  It releases toxins through sweat, it protects our muscles and internal organs, and it helps insulate our bodies.  As it protects, it forms a pretty impenetrable barrier against harmful – or not-so-harmful – things that want to get into our bodies.  We come into contact with millions of bacteria a day that never get inside us, because they die on the skin.  We take showers or go swimming, and as small as a water molecule is, we don’t bloat up with all this water getting inside of us, because the skin prevents it from happening.  If our skin can keep something as small as a water molecule out, how in the world could a larger, more complicated nanoparticle of a chemical get past the skin barrier?  It can’t, plain and simple.  So, since these chemicals cannot get into our bodies through our skin, then they can’t poison us.  In fact, the only way these would be harmful is if we were to drink gallons of sunscreen.  Ew.  Just… ew.

So you decide to avoid these chemicals and either take your chances with homemade, untested sunscreen or go without altogether – because you want to avoid chemicals.  Or worse, you’re applying these products to your children, leaving them no choice in how their skin is protected.  It’s ten or twenty or thirty years down the road, and you or they have skin cancer, a particularly nasty melanoma that has also started affecting your internal organs.  You have a decent chance of survival – with chemotherapy.  So now your oncologist is going to inject a stew of chemicals into your body to counteract the consequences of not applying chemicals topically when you were younger.  That’s a pretty sucky trade-off, especially since applying sunscreen generally doesn’t make you exhausted, sick, or bald.

2.  “These chemicals aren’t safe.”  Properly prepared sunscreens are tested rigorously by the FDA, tests which are incredibly expensive to have conducted.  I’m not so naïve that I believe the FDA never approves anything which is unsafe, but in the matter of sunscreens, I have yet to see any evidence, anecdotal or empirical, of harm coming to people who use sunscreens responsibly (e.g., not drinking it) or regularly.  Bottom line, using sunscreen with all its “chemicals” is far safer than not using it or using untested sunscreen.

3.  “Those chemicals killed laboratory rats.”  Do you remember saccharine?  It was the artificial sweetener of the 70s and 80s.  And on each pink packet, there was the warning, “This product has been known to cause cancer in laboratory animals.”  Great scare tactic!  When people started digging deeper into this, they discovered that the labs were basically overdosing rats on the stuff, injecting them with far greater amounts than even the most ardent Tab drinker was likely to consume.  (As an aside, I found it interesting that, when I was pregnant in the early 2000s, saccharine was the only artificial sweetener universally considered “safe” for fetuses.)  The individual chemicals in sunscreens are tested similarly, though finished sunscreen is tested only on voluntary human subjects.

So, if commercially manufactured, FDA tested sunscreens are generally recognized as safe, why do makers willingly put people at risk by marketing handcrafted, all natural sunscreens?  They’re banking on fear and ignorance.  I’ve seen makers do this, though the ones I know personally aren’t doing it out of malice.  They’re just passionate about their products and their all-natural niche, and they want to offer an alternative to their customers.  Unfortunately, this is a terribly dangerous practice that is spreading, despite the FDA firing off warning after warning to small, independent manufacturers for selling untested drugs and making drug claims.

If you haven’t seen it, yet, I posted a link to a video this morning to my page that examines the dangers of handmade sunscreen pretty thoroughly.  It’s several minutes long and easy to understand, even if, like me, Biochemistry isn’t your second language.

Given a choice, do you prefer having your drugs on your body, or in your body?

 

Ingredient Spotlight: Manoi de Tahiti

A few years ago I introduced Tahiti Kiss Face Crème, a custom formulated crème for all skin types.  The initial reviews for it were brilliant, with everyone who tried it loving it.  As I played around with formulas for this crème, I thought about what sort of scent to add, because plain, unscented lotion really doesn’t smell that great.

Tahiti Kiss face creme
Tahiti Kiss, a luxuriously extraordinary face crème, will treat your skin to a taste of the South Pacific

Should it be floral?  Herbal?  Fruity?  Earthy?  Oceany?  None of these spoke to me, because each individual person has his or her preferred scents, and how horrible it’d be to have a gorgeous oceanic fragrance clashing all day with the classic aroma of Chanel No. 5!  This isn’t like soaps or lotions, which are designed to layer scent and be the primary for the day.  No, face crème should be alone, a silent participant in the wearer’s day, not getting in the way of whatever else she’d like to wear.

It was around this time that I discovered Manoi de Tahiti as I was shopping for the ingredients I would need for this extraordinary face crème.  Done correctly, Manoi de Tahiti is an infusion of the gorgeous tiare flower, a varietal of gardenia, in virgin coconut oil.

Tiare flower picture
Beautiful, milky white tiare flower

The native Tahitians infuse the flowers in the oil, then change out the flowers for fresh ones – up to twelve times!  The result is a lightly floral-fragrant oil that is truly a head-to-toe delight.  The Tahitian people use Manoi de Tahiti as a hair treatment, after-sun balm, and a treatment for many different skin conditions.  I also read that they use it as a sunscreen, too, which I do not recommend.  However one uses this glorious Tiare infusion, it promises to be a delightful skin treat.

As my formulation called for coconut oil already, I decided to exchange Manoi de Tahiti for the coconut oil, and that lends its beautiful fragrance in this crème.  There are other ingredients to this crème, both all natural and purely synthetic, all granting a specific and significant contribution to the whole.  They please me, as does the crème itself.  But the Manoi de Tahiti is the piece de resistance of this crème and what keeps me coming back to it every day as my facial moisturizer of choice.

 

Not Going to be All Things

It’s a brilliant reality for both business and life:  You’re not going to be all things to all people.  I’m not going to be all things to all people.  We can read that in two ways:  One is the simple reality that it’s not possible to be all things to all people, and a second is that I refuse to try to be.

I would like to get into a local shop, one in particular.  As I met with the store owner, some of her preferences emerged.  One, because this friend of hers makes soap without palm oil, then that’s apparently best.  (I’ll dig more into the palm oil issue in another blog post.)  Using lard or tallow was out, because some of her customers are vegans.  Alright…  Not my thing, but I can respect folks for whom it is.  In a follow-up email, she didn’t care for the exfoliant in one of the free, full-size samples I’d sent her.  So here it is – three strikes against my soaps.

I addressed the palm oil issue with her and how I handle that myself.  I began to think of ways to get around the palm oil while keeping it vegan (shortening works with the same properties) and even went so far as to reformulate the soap recipe in order to avoid the palm and owing to the fact that my stock is hydrogenated soybean oil-free at the moment.  I graciously suggested a way to use the scrubby remnants of the soap, based on a question I fielded at Spring Fest.

Then it hit me.  Where does it stop?  So I reformulate this one soap, changing up the oils and leaving out the exfoliant.  But then I’d have to change all my wholesale-offered soaps when I have dozens of them ready to go to appreciative customers now.  For fun, I did make the reformulated soap; check out the video of my swirling work!

As I say here, I will not be all things to all people, and I declared that on Friday.  My older daughter in all her teen wisdom said, “I thought it’d be a bad idea for you to do that.”  And so it goes.  I went down that road before, and I ended up stressed out, disheartened, and frustrated.  Lesson learned!  Here are my tips for avoiding the trap of trying to be all things to all people:

  1. Declare now that you’re happy with YOU, however this manifests itself.  Is it in who you are, what you have, where you live, what you make?  Whatever it is, find a way to be happy with it.
  2. Internalize that happiness to find peace with yourself.  It’s one thing to declare something is true, but it’s another thing to feel it.  Geraldine in The Very Fairy Princess declares, “I know I’m a fairy princess, because I feel it inside.”  Maybe you’re not feeling fairy princess-y, but feel who you are deep down.
  3. Be prepared to let opportunities go in exchange for your integrity.  I’m not vegan.  I don’t co-opt to the “organic” label.  I use both essential oils and fragrance oils.  If I co-opt my integrity to any of these trends or preferences just in order to attract customers, then I will no longer be selling me.  I would be inauthentic in my business, which in itself would suck my soul dry.
  4. Always be honest about your you-ness.  Yes, I’m willing to pass up opportunities in order to hold on to my integrity, but I also refuse to sink to dishonesty in order to grow my business.  We prefer to run a fully transparent business, holding secret only those things which are proprietary, like our fragrance blends.  I can say with pride, “This is who I am, and these are my products.  Let’s find the most perfect fit for you.”

Embrace you.  I bet you are pretty wonderful, though not everyone will appreciate your unique wonderfulness.  Be you, anyway.