Luxurious Solutions for Winter Dry Skin

It is not at all unusual for me to get special orders for products or for people to tell me about their skin conditions and ask me to pair them up with products that will meet their needs.  Usually, for complaints of psoriasis, eczema or sensitivities to fragrances, I recommend Soap of Milk & Honey (and Oatmeal!).  I received a call, though, from a long-time customer who was looking for products similar to what she had been getting from another company.  That’s not something I usually like to do, but she gave me the name of the company and the products, so I started investigating.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered these products which were earth-inspired and “natural” were made of premade bases with a few things added!  They even made claims about the healing properties about an ingredient that was in a product’s name, and the only hint of that ingredient was the scent!

No, I could not duplicate these products for my friend; I could make them from scratch even better.  I relayed to her my findings and warned her that I couldn’t make these products cheaper than she was getting them.  In fact, they would be more expensive.  She said, “I don’t care.  Yours will be better, and I’d rather buy from you, anyway.”  Here are her skin treats…

Handmade Lotion & Soap with an all natural lavender and pink grapefruit fragrance
Handmade Lotion & Soap with an all natural lavender and pink grapefruit fragrance

For bathing, I’m hooking her up with gloriously luscious body wash.  This mild soap made of a blend of premium, skin-loving oils builds lots of fluffy lather and leaves skin scrumptiously silky and richly supple.  The fragrance is an intriguing blend of herbaceous lavender and juicy pink grapefruit.  To hit those troubled dry spots, the lotion is a creamy blend features coconut milk and contains avocado oil, a great addition for her slightly more mature skin.  This also has that same incredible scent as the soap, so she’ll get to enjoy the light scent without inflicting it on everyone around her.

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It’s All About Customer Service

Today is my birthday, and the sweet treats of the day started this morning when one of my Divinity School professors guest preached at church, and my parents came down to join us for worship and to take us out to lunch.  My parents love fried seafood, and since miserable winter weather had prevented their trip to the beach last month, they wanted to go to this great local seafood restaurant, which was fine with us.  The restaurant serves delicious food, and we’ve always had enjoyable dining experiences there.

We arrived at the restaurant, and wow!  Was it crowded!  We put our name on the list, and the hostess told us it’d be a 20-minute wait.  We could hold out that long.  That twenty minutes ended up being much longer than imagined.

We waited more than 20 minutes, and still no table. My husband checked THREE times to see how much longer, and he was told, “You’re the next big party on the list. It shouldn’t be much longer now.” FINALLY, OVER an HOUR later, we hear the hostess call our name (barely) from inside the restaurant (She had been poking her head out to call customers who were waiting outside). We go inside, and she’s seating a party of 6 who had just come in. I pointed out how long we’d been waiting, and she simply said, “Sorry.” I informed her that we had two very hungry children in our party, and she said lamely, “Oh, I didn’t know you had children with you.” What should that matter? She didn’t even offer to make arrangements for us to sit down until after I asked to speak to the manager.

She sat us at a very cramped table for five and said she’d get a chair for our youngest (age 4). Ten minutes later, and still no chair. Another five minutes pass before the manager comes over. I explained how the actions of the hostess were far from the standards of even halfway good customer care, and he apologized, told me he’d inform the owner (cynical me doubts that will happen), and assured me it’ll never happen again. I was unpleasantly surprised that he didn’t offer to comp us anything for the extraordinarily long wait or the hostess’s lackadaisical attitude. I would have expected him to offer to comp us drinks or an appetizer at the minimum.

Our server, Ashley, did redeem the bad service experience with her own warm, energetic, courteous, attentive service. The hostess and the manager both had opportunities to practice what I call Super-Amazing Customer Care, and here’s where I think their learning opportunities lie:

(1)  When you have made a mistake, admit it.  The hostess first gave a flippant “sorry,” followed by a bit of sarcasm, topped off with an I-don’t-care shrug.  In reality, however it happened, she skipped our names.  No one likes being wrong, and being caught messing up at work is pretty embarrassing.  Been there, done that.  This happened to me in December.  I had missed a whole product subcategory when I was updating my inventory numbers on my website; as a result, a customer ordered soaps I didn’t have in stock.  I contacted her about the problem and offered her a solution to make it right.

(2)  A little sacrifice now will prevent a bigger loss later.  To be honest, I would have liked for the hostess to unseat the group she pushed in front of us and explained her mistake.  That doesn’t seem just to me.  At the absolute very least, the manager should have offered to comp us something – drinks (tea, Coke, chocolate milk, water) or an appetizer.  The actions of the hostess and the manager make me rethink returning to that restaurant, and I posted a less-than-favorable review which could possibly cost this restaurant business.  In the mistake I referenced from a sale in December, I shipped her the one soap I did have in stock, two other nice ones, a small lotion, and I promised to ship at no cost the soaps she ordered that I didn’t have as soon as they became available.  Sure I will lose a little money off this, but at the same time, it’s worth it to me to make a customer happy.

(3)  One person can turn around a bad customer service experience.  In our case, our server redeemed our lunch time, providing warm, prompt, enthusiastic, energetic customer service. We did almost, however, leave the restaurant, not wanting to expose ourselves to more poor service and giving another restaurant the opportunity to give us the service we deserved as paying customers.  That reality is there, regardless of the business you’re in.  Whether you’re a mechanic, restaurant owner, doctor or soapmaker, if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.

What are some customer service lessons you would add, either as a business owner or as a consumer?

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So I have to write a blog post…

Woman's one-piece bathing suit, c.1920
Woman’s one-piece bathing suit, c.1920 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The creative well seems to be a little dry today.  So, what’s new?  Well, my birthday is this weekend, and this weekend is my last weekend of freedom until sometime in May.  Soccer season starts next Saturday with draft day, and I’ll be coaching my younger daughter for her first season.  I think this will be fun.  And chaotic.  Very very chaotic.

I really want to go shopping.  It’s warm and pretty(ish) here, and it’s putting me in the frame of mind to go bathing suit shopping and shopping for my Spring/Summer wardrobe update.  However, I do NOT want to take my children shopping with me.  I wonder if I can escape tomorrow, maybe treat myself to some fun self-spoiling?  At the same time, I need to take my older daughter shopping for her bathing suit.  Soccer season will eat up our Saturdays.

There’s something else I’ll be buying, something I’m very excited about using for my business.  You know that blog post I wrote about the Traveling Soaps?  I really, really wanted to make that a vlog post, and I even tricked out the camcorder so it’d fit on a tabletop tripod.  I recorded it, and in all modestly, I have to say it was good.  I trotted back to the office to edit and upload the video, and… Oh no.  Why isn’t my faithful camcorder communicating with my computer?  Hmmm…  The 4yo has been playing with my ziplink cable; maybe it’s the cable.  Just to see, I tested this out with the digital camera, and suddenly the pics on my camera started uploading perfectly.  So, sigh…  It wasn’t the cable, an easy, inexpensive fix.  No, it was the camcorder.

I spent hours yesterday combing for reviews and Best Buy to compare.  I love the idea of the waterproof action cams, but they don’t have a zoom feature, and I’m not going to be around water with it all that much.  I’m still comparing and contrasting, indulging my not-very-inner technogeek.  (My technogeek is completely out of the closet!)  I’m excited about this new camcorder, not just for home movies and vacation videos, but also for my business.  I’m hoping to be able to get interviews with two area small business owners to share with y’all.

Hopefully with bad weather behind us (for now), germs behind us and day trips behind us, Mary and I will get back on track with our posts.  Look for new product pictures and business updates.  The next month will be full of exciting news.

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Post Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine's Day...
Happy Valentine’s Day… (Photo credit: Јerry)

How was your Valentine’s Day?  Ours was pretty nice.  We’re not so much into the hearts and roses thing here.  For us, it’s a day to celebrate loving each other in our lives, and we’ll use it as an excuse to make a special dinner, but that’s about it.  The girls and I made this pretty scrumptious cake for their dad, he made beef stroganoff for us (my favorite), and we popped the cork on a bottle of wine.  I received some sweet cards, including a handmade card from my girls, and the perfect card from my husband.

The girls and I get to extend the celebration this week while we visit dear friends and my Grandmother.  For us, Valentine’s Day isn’t a one-time holiday to share love or to celebrate loving the special people in our lives.  Valentine’s Day is just another day for us.  We believe in celebrating our relationships with those we love every day.  We say “I love you” and “You’re pretty great” on a regular basis.

What are your thoughts about Valentine’s Day?  Is it something special, or just another “Hallmark holiday”?

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Eschewing the ‘Poo, One Month Later

It’s been a month since the girls and I have used shampoo to wash our hair, and this has been a great step in our less-processed lifestyle.  You can read all about how our journey began here.  Going “No Poo” has been a very positive experience for us.  Here are some of my thoughts and observations:

It took me a couple of weeks to get through the “transition period” as my hair got used to maintaining its own natural level of sebum.  The first week I used conditioner to wash styling product out of my hair (that’s called “co poo,” using conditioner to wash), and my hair felt super greasy.  I won’t be doing that again!

I read about using aloe vera gel as a styling product and aloe vera juice for detangling spray/leave-in conditioner/light styling gel.  I whipped up some aloe vera juice thickened with xanthan gum to use to help hold my curls naturally.  It worked!  My curls held through some gusty winter winds and a lot of activity.

If you’ll remember, my younger daughter started this journey with pretty dry baby hair.  Her hair is growing out nicely from her last trim, and it’s so soft and manageable!  With it being so dry, it was very tangly, and brushing her hair was a misery for us both because of that.

My older daughter has long, thick hair which tangles easily.  She complained that the baking soda/apple cider vinegar combo wasn’t getting her tangles out, so it was very difficult to brush.  I grabbed my bottle of thickened aloe vera juice, sprayed her hair and set her loose with her brush.  She came back ten minutes later exclaiming, “Oh Momma!  This stuff is a miracle!  Look at my hair!”  Her hair was smooth and shiny with no tangles; she said the spray had gotten all the tangles out.  I also made up a batch of beer conditioner for her hair to help give it a little extra moisture.

After a couple of weeks of going no poo, I was distressed to notice flakes in my hair.  LOTS of flakes!  Ew yuck!  And my scalp was beginning to itch, too.  Oh dear.  We simply cannot have that!  In addition to that, my older daughter had flakes along her part.  Back to the Facebook No Poo group and a whole bunch of handy links to determine how to take care of flakes when you’re no poo’ing.  Ah-ha!  Our old trusty aloe vera comes through again.  A mixture of aloe vera gel and honey (2 parts aloe vera gel to 1 part honey) really hydrates the scalp.  So I whipped up some really quickly and ahhh!!!  My scalp felt heavenly again.

Over against all this, I have to admit that I just can’t let go of my styling mousse and hairspray, and I’d just bought a brand-spankin’ new can of hairspray before going no poo.  I was prepared to use some of my artisan made liquid soap to wash the product out of my hair.  After all, while soap isn’t ideal for daily use without a vinegar rinse weekly, it should be OK once in a while, right?  So, imagine my excitement to discover that the aloe vera and honey combo breaks down all that styling gunk while it hydrates.  Score!!!  I get to use my products and have clean hair without having to use soap.  Triple win!!!

I’d learned in the FB group I’m in that you can use any acid (within reason) for the rinse, not just vinegar.  Coffee and tea are both acids.  I didn’t know that.  I really wanted to try a coffee rinse with some leftover coffee…  Wait.  “Leftover coffee”?  What’s that?  Most of my friends, colleagues and family have no concept of “leftover coffee”; they drink every last drop.  Anyway, I discovered about 4 ounces of leftover coffee, so it went up to the shower with me on Tuesday.  Best.  Rinse.  Ever!  I did smell a little bit like coffee, but no one here minded.

I’ve learned what “plopping” is.  When my mom and I go on our next trip together, she’s going to be looking at me sooo strangely!

This is my hair after a month of no poo. That is NOT a silver streak in the back; it’s where the sun came in. Just had to clarify that.

That’s my hair after a month of no poo.  These are my experiences of it:

  1. My hair has grown faster than usual.
  2. I commented to my husband that my hair was curlier and softer than it’d been, and I mentioned the aloe/honey mixture.  He said, “No wonder your hair’s been looking happier lately.”  I have happy hair!  Woohoo!
  3. My hair is curlier than it usually is this time of year.  It’s generally fairly straight during the dry winter months.
  4. After my last trim, my hair was lank and straight, much like my Grandma’s had been, which was not the look I wanted, especially not at this age.  Now it has new bounce and body.
  5. Of course, I use artisan soap every time I bathe, and this time of year, I expect my skin to be a little drier because of it.  (Real soap contains glycerin, which draws moisture to itself.  When it’s humid, it draws it from the air; when it’s dry, it takes it from my skin.)  The sulfates which are in commercial shampoos dry hair out.  I’ve noticed that, as I’ve gone without those sulfates in my hair care regimen, my skin isn’t nearly as dry as it usually is.  That makes me wonder if the shampoo was drying my skin as I rinsed?
  6. My hair has so much bounce and body that it’s been looking cute and styled even when I don’t do anything with it.  Another win!

It’s times like this, I think I’m a hippy in the making, but I absolutely refuse to give up my razors!  Does going No Poo sound like something you’d dare to try?



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Warm Up Your Valentine’s Day!

We’re sh-sh-sh-shivering our way through the week here in Coastal North Carolina with our area looking like a beautiful Winter Wonderland as ice coats trees and lawns with icicles dangling from our mailbox, flag stand and grill.

With all this cold weather and ice, I’m trying to warm up with some warm thoughts.  I’m thinking about Summer beach trips or snuggling with my sweetie beside a roaring fire.  I’m pondering hot soaks and even hotter massages.  Maybe there’s a reason that the most romantic day of the year falls in the dead of winter.

We have all sorts of goodies to warm up your Valentine’s Day, whether you’re of a mind to warm that special someone’s heart or warm that special someone’s body.  Check out all the totally scrumptious offerings!

Chocolate AND Roses AND a long, hot soak.  What a great way to say, "I appreciate all you do!"
Chocolate AND Roses AND a long, hot soak. What a great way to say, “I appreciate all you do!”
This soap will put you in the mood for l'amour with its lovely romantic floral scent.
This soap will put you in the mood for l’amour with its lovely romantic floral scent.
Warm her heart with these lovely Victorian Heart Soaps. Aren’t they charming? (And much fewer calories than chocolate!)
A full body massage is the best way to heat up cold nights. There’s nothing like the feel of oil warmed in your lover’s hands before your lover rubs it on your skin!
Just for her, roses that will last longer and smell better than the overpriced long-stem variety so popular at Valentine’s Day. Treat her to a soap, lotion and lip balm that will make her body feel special.

If the weather is yucky and you can’t get what you need by the big day (Friday!), don’t hurt yourself trying to buy something.  I promise, if that special person is truly that special, he or she will understand, and you can stretch the celebration out for the whole weekend.*

What special way will you treat your Valentine this year?

* Due to inclement weather here, orders won’t go out before Thursday, so I’m afraid I can’t guarantee Valentine’s delivery.  Gift certificates, however, can be there within hours.

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Learning and Geekgasms

Memorial plaque, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Zionskir...
Memorial plaque, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Zionskirchplatz , Berlin-Mitte, Germany Koordinate: 52°32′4″N 13°24′14″E / °S °W / ; latd>90 (dms format) in latd latm lats longm longs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m currently reading The Cost of Discipleship by DIetrich Bonhoeffer, and as soon as I’m done reading this book, I’ll be studying it with a good friend of mine.  As I read the book, I kept thinking, I really need to learn biblical Greek.  That’ll be fun.  I’ve been told I have a very strange idea of “fun.”  This will be learning Greek for the sake of learning it; other than increasing my knowledge, this won’t benefit me significantly.

Yeah, I really love learning new things, be they academic, theological, soapy or technological.  Part of the learning is also a way for me to keep my brain active.  I firmly believe in the old axiom, “Use it or lose it.”  By learning new things, especially at my age, I’m forcing my brain to work in different ways.  Today has been a day of learning, and it has been so exciting to me!  The fact you’re reading this blog HERE at my website shows you one of the things I learned today.  After over a year of wanting to move my business blog from Blogger to WordPress, all while harboring a secret desire to be like “the big kids” and have my blog directly on my website, it finally happened today, pretty much all in one swell move.  One colleague suggested one thing, everything clicked into place, and then it was purely a matter of putting it together.  I called it a Geekgasm!  It was awesome!!!

I’m also learning my way around Google+.  I participated in a phone conference about leveraging G+ for my business, and that was so incredibly informative!  I learned things about G+ that convince me it’s far better for my needs than Facebook, and the things I can do with Hangouts…!  Oh.  My.  Gosh!  Those are going to be a whole ‘nother blog post.  I’m so excited about the possibilities for my business, and being able to share these with you!

What great and wondrous things have you learned lately?

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The BIG Reveal – Traveling Soaps

I love to travel.  I love home, too – my bed, my cats, my own kitchen.  But with being home so much, I really welcome the opportunity to get away, to see new sites, new parts of the state, or even to have that moment of seeing a familiar site in a new way.  Whether it’s a day trip, a weekender or a major vacation, I like exploring.

Our last family trip was a weekender in December to Beaufort, NC.  It’s an absolutely lovely little coastal town, and the people in that area are just so friendly, too.  In fact, I was driving through the town leading to Beaufort when one of the police officers pulled me over and issued a personal invitation for me to return to Beaufort next week, actually.  Well, he issued me a speeding ticket, but he was really nice about it.  Since getting that ticket, I learned that one of the pilots on the ill-fated space shuttle Challenger was from Beaufort, and as many times as I’ve been in that town, I’ve never paid attention to the memorial to him.  I’m going to go check that out next week after I’m done at the courthouse.  I have a friend with a shop in Beaufort, so I’ll stop in and see her, too.

Of course, with all this traveling, I absolutely MUST have good soap with which to bathe, so I always take a small bar of my own soap just in case my only other option is the dreaded “deodorant bar.”  Thanks to my mother-in-law, I decided it’s time to make these small travel-sized soaps available to my customers, too.  My soaps want to travel!  They want to see the sights!  They want to travel the world!  Will you give them this opportunity?

Lovely little 1-ounce bars of travelin’ soapy goodness

These lovely little gems will be ready to own by the very end of February, and they will be ready for you to tuck into your travel bag and take with you as you hit the road this Spring and Summer.  As you travel, I invite you to take pics of your soap and you and email them to me (please, no naked pics) to be featured in an upcoming blog post.  Let’s see where these soaps find themselves.

Where will your travels take you this year?

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