Our Highly Productive Weekend

Some weekends are just made for indulging in all sorts of hobbies and fun, with added points for making a home homier.  While the girls were gone last week, I spent a few hours making the curtains for the back sliding glass door.  This project had been on my radar for at least two years with a couple of agendas:  One, I wanted to get rid of the horrendous vertical blinds that had been slowly falling apart, slat by slat, since we moved into this house six years ago.  Two, I wanted to find a fashionable way to block drafts in the winter and the hot morning sun in the summer.  I think I’ve met my goal, don’t you?  I love how they let in diffused light!

New tropical curtains
The festive, tropical curtains now hanging in my dinette
Close-up of curtains and valence
The curtains with their box valence. My chairs are upholstered in this same striped print.

I tripped across a small sniglet of coconut cream in my fridge, and I really didn’t feel like keeping it in there, nor did I want to throw it out.  Plus, for a few minutes, I was bored, so I decided to toss that coconut cream into a small batch of soap.  Gorgeous, n’est-ce pas?  Beautifully swirled with Mad Oils micas with a base of blushing Bazooka Jo pink and swirls of Grape Nehi and Silverfin Blue, this soap is scented with a dupe of SunRipened Raspberry for a fun, fresh, summery finish.

Sun-Warmed Raspberry soap
Sun-Warmed Raspberry Soap with coconut cream. Rich and luxurious? Oh yeah!!!

With our bumper crop of pickling cucumbers coming in now, kindly augmented by one of hubby’s customers giving him five more, it was time to work some magic.  Magic, however, had to allow for the fact that I don’t have any space cool enough to ferment pickles, so I have to make adjustments.  In addition to restocking our cranberry mustard (the dark red stuff), my youngest daughter and I put up 8 pints of Polish dill pickles.  They look and smell delicious, but the recipe says we have to let them cure for 4-6 weeks.  WEEKS!!!  How ever are we going to be able to wait to dig into these?

Jars of food
Jars of homemade cranberry mustard and Polish dill pickles

Hannah, my youngest, decided she wanted to make a mermaid soap for her Grandma, complete with mica.  It turned out so pretty!  She opted for Lemon Grove scent, her Grandparents’ favorite.

Mermaid soap
My daughter’s special mermaid soap

Visiting this sweet girl, her siblings, and her mom topped off our weekend.  This little one has the sweetest face.  Her sister is my next kitten, but she was buried in a kitten pile nursing.  I have to wait another FOUR weeks before I can adopt the adorable little furball.  And who doesn’t like looking at cute kitten pictures?  Instant happiness!

Two-week-old calico kitten. Her sister is my next kitten.

What made your weekend great?  We’d love for you to share it in the comments.


Introducing… Magnolia in Bloom

I don’t know what’s growing in your yard right now, but down here in the South, magnolias are showing off their milky white blooms and their deep emerald leaves.  These make an incredible backdrop to bright orange lilies, purple and pink snapdragons, and the plethora of other beautiful flowers that are springing up all over the place.

Magnolia in Bloom soap
Summer-sweet Magnolia in Bloom

We’ve captured the scent of a yard in summer in this lovely soap.  Magnolia, soft rose and tangy-sweet verbena dance and blend together in this delicately scented soap.  The scent is strong, but not cloying or potent; I’m not much into floral scents, and I am quite pleased with this one.

This is a special edition soap with limited availability at this time, so when they’re gone, they’re gone.  Get yours before next Wednesday and enjoy our special birthday shipping offer.

Rewards of Limitations

It’s one thing to tell myself that I won’t do an event.  I can list the reasons why it’s a good idea to skip it.  I can identify all the affirmations of the decision.  The real test comes, however, in the moment:  How will I feel knowing the event is happening and I’m not doing it?

Friday, the feeling that I was doing the right thing in not vending Saturday’s event continued.  I felt so relieved!  I commented to Mom later that that must have been what she felt the first day after she retired.  She commented, “It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of you.”  Yes!!!  That’s it exactly!  Friday, the girls and I ran some errands around town, and I know I had the biggest, dopiest smile on my face.  We went to the bank to withdraw some money.  The teller took my check and started pulling out bills.  Then she looked at the check again.  She looked at me with some confusion.  Then she looked at the check yet again.  She said, “You usually get more money than this.  Are you doing the festival?”  I replied, “No, which is why I’ve got this huge smile on my face.”  It was getting almost comical.

Friday night, I was sitting on the sofa knitting and watching TV with the Swirl God.  I said, “You see this?  You see what I’m doing?  Or, more specifically, what I’m not doing?”  He didn’t quite get it.  I said, “I’m sitting.  And knitting.  And watching reruns of TV shows I missed the first time.  I’m not sitting at the table labeling a bunch of stuff.  And later I’ll be heading to bed at a decent time, and maybe I’ll even sleep in in the morning.”  My best friend who usually waits up with me while I’m doing my last-minute show prep was also looped into the giddiness.

The day of the festival arrived, and I did, in fact, sleep in.  I pretty much slept until the start of the festival.  Then it was on!  I made cinnamon roll waffles for breakfast, then I started potatoes for potato salad.  Long story short, I made potato salad and a batch of oat bran zucchini chocolate chunk muffins before lunch, and made a batch of pickles afterwards.  The girls and their dad went to the festival, but they were back in about an hour; it was just too hot.  By all accounts, attendance was down and people weren’t parting with their money easily.  It also seems like it was another one like last year when it died 4 hours before the end.

Yummy sandwich slices!

It felt a little bad not being at the festival, not seeing one of my private label customers (another vendor), and potentially not serving my repeat customers.  But only a little.  I got over it.  It just felt so good all weekend!  There was the happy, relieved feeling of all week.  There was the family time before the girls scattered for the week.  There was having the energy to hang in until late with my best friend after his mom got hurt.  There was the simple sweetness of celebrating Father’s Day on Saturday with a movie and a special dinner.  And then there was Father’s Day itself, the first in a few years where I actually got to see my dad on Father’s Day.

Telling myself no to this event was risky; I stood to lose a good deal of potential revenue.  I gained so much more, though, far more than that money is worth.

The Joy of Saying No, pt. 2

This article is part 2 of 2 on the rewards of saying, “no.”  You can read the first part here.

As I mentioned in part 1 of “The Joy of Saying ‘No,'” I found joy and a sense of achievement in placing boundaries on my time and preserving my need to rest, sleep, and spend time with my family, even if it meant telling some special large order customers they would have to wait.  Last year, I started putting some boundaries on myself, telling myself “no” when everything in me was hollering for “YES!!!”

It began at a local festival I had done faithfully from 2010 to 2014, despite seeing the booth fees increase steadily over that five-year period even as revenues dropped.  After 2013’s festival, I crunched the numbers and realized (*gasp!*) I had ended up $150.00 in the hole (and we don’t have to travel more than 2 miles to it).  Yikes!  I still persevered into 2014 and participated in last year’s festival, again with a booth fee increase and diminished revenue.  I decided not to do that event again.  It just wasn’t worth it anymore.  That was a really difficult decision, as a friend and private label customer is one of my fellow vendors, and I have many local customers who find me there.  Deciding to quit had emotional ramifications for me.

One shot of my booth at a local festival I’m giving up.

The weekend following that event last year saw me at a steampunk convention for the second year.  So.  Much.  Fun!!!  I had my costume, I had a fabulous part-time partner to cover my booth, and I was hugging and greeting friends throughout my set-up time.  There was so much to see and so many people to talk to, and it was much less tiring than it had been the previous year.  Again, though, the participation fee had gone up, paired with travel expenses, and my revenues were down.  In fact, it seemed attendance was down for both events.  With a very heavy heart, I decided it was no longer financially feasible to participate in this event, either.

Steampunk contraption
Steampunk contraption

I’m a female with a female’s emotions; I feel sad, happy, victorious, frustrated, and angry.  The hardest lesson for me in making these choices was, I couldn’t let my emotions run my business.  There is room in my business for passion and excitement, but when the ledger books are showing more red than black, then there is no room at that point for emotion-based decisions.

As emotionally upsetting as the necessity of those decisions was, it did not take me long to move past the sadness and embrace the positives.  The steampunk convention isn’t happening this year due to “lack of venue.”  The booth fee for the other event went up yet again.  In addition to that, I found out that attendance really was lower last year, per someone on the committee.  Then the weather forecast proved to be the third affirmation that I’d made a smart choice; this Saturday is supposed to have a heat index over 100 deg.  No way do I want to be out in that all day!

The rewards for me have been tremendous!  This week I’ve supervised my daughter while she made and canned chocolate syrup, made a cover for my older daughter’s Nook, and finished their dad’s Father’s Day gifts.  Whereas normally I’d be pulling everything together, doing last-minute wrapping and labeling, and trying to get my daughters ready for a couple of nights at their grandparents’ house, in addition to getting my oldest ready to go off to camp for a week, this week I’m calm, relaxed, and nearly giddy with how not-stressed I am.  At random times, I’m dancing around and giggling – yes, GIGGLING!!! – because I’m not doing this festival.  I’m not volunteering at our church’s booth at it (this year), I’m not going as a customer, nothing.

Friday we will do Father’s Day, since the oldest leaves at 5 Sunday morning.  Saturday morning we will sleep in, have a special breakfast, and stay in our pajamas until close to noon.  Sunday morning, instead of waking up late, still dehydrated and suffering the remaining vestiges of heat exhaustion, we’re going to wake up for church and then enjoy lunch with my parents.

The psychological effects of telling myself “no” have been overwhelmingly positive.  Sure, there was a little discomfort at first, but like with so many positive changes, those negatives have quickly disappeared in light of the feelings of joy, calm, and excitement I am experiencing this week.  If you’re a business owner, a mom, a teacher, a whatever, I encourage you to embrace the word “no” every now and then.  You’ll be amazed at how liberating it is.

The Joy of Saying No, pt. 1

When I was in divinity school, I studied how to place personal boundaries on my time, my commitments, and my space.  I also learned how to set boundaries on the amount of crap I’d put up with.  Manipulation?  Nope, I’m choosing not to accept that.  Heartfelt pleadings for me to do something for you when my schedule is already overloaded?  Nuh uh.  Not my problem.  Sure, I pissed some people off, but they got used to my “no” and soon grew to recognize that I could still be in relationship with them without the psychological game playing.  (I mean, seriously, who has time for that when you’re in graduate school, working, and raising a family?)

Grumpy Cat No
Love me some Grumpy Cat!

While it is no longer hard at all for me to tell people “no,” I have had a really hard time enforcing my boundaries when it comes to my business.  I’ll work long hours on production or media, or I’ll burn the midnight oil to get a zero-hour order processed for a customer and out the next day.  The transformation seemed to come all at once.  A few days before Christmas, a private label customer sent an order to me.  I informed her that I was closed for the holidays and gave her a specific date when I would begin to process her order.  Ahhh…  Telling myself that it was OK not to work proved to be incredibly liberating to me.

More recently, another private label customer and I were discussing her most recent order, which was all ready to go in the mail.  My agenda for the following day included taking my car to be serviced before heading to the beach with my girls.  As she asked for add-ons to her order – none of which I had expected or had ready – I said, “It’s almost 11:00.  I’m not going to do that tonight.”  She’d temporarily forgotten one part that would have had me up for a while later and agreed to add those into her next order.  Really, truly, I have amazing, understanding customers!!!

In both of these cases, I’d had to say “no” in order to preserve my time, my body’s needs, and my sanity.  No longer do I have to give up family time or sleep in order to meet my customers’ needs.  This wisdom comes with experience and being in business for a long time.  It is wisdom that has seen late nights, high stress, and printer malfunctions (which only happen in crunch times).  It’s wisdom that has cried from being overwhelmed with trying to balance soapmaking and present wrapping.  While it has been earned the hard way, the reward is giving myself permission to stop, rest, and relax.

If you are a business owner of any sort, to what have you had to say, “no”?

Click here for “The Joy of Saying No, part 2.”

Moving Beyond the Fear & Hype

A Casual Affair: The Best of Tonic
A Casual Affair: The Best of Tonic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The petition crossed my inbox more than a year ago.  It was entitled, “Tradition, not Trademark,” (TnT) and they were moving to have the US Patent and Trademark Office remove the trademark for “Fire Cider” that Shire City Herbals had acquired.  I signed the petition.  At this point, a bunch of my friends had started talking on social media about their fire cider experiments.  They posted pictures and recipes (and, frankly, I thought it looked and sounded disgusting, but that’s beside the point).  Since “fire cider” seemed to be the latest trend in old-timey, all-natural cold remedies, it seemed that any attempts (let alone success) to trademark this tonic was, in fact, hording something that’s been around for ages.

I bought everything that TnT said.  It seemed horridly unfair and unjust for Shire City Herbals (SCH) to take possession of an old folk remedy and prevent all others from making and selling it.  TnT has recommended everyone boycott Shire City Herbals’ Fire Cider tonic, claiming that SCH is a huge mega-corporation out to bury smaller herbal companies.  TnT has backpedaled a little on some of their claims, but they’ve offered no real apologies.

This week, I posted something to one of my social media feeds encouraging the boycotting of SCH Fire Cider.  A certified aromatherapist friend of mine had posted it, so I thought she had the real scoop.  Well, I was wrong, and so was my friend.  I heard from someone from Shire City Herbals – one of the founders of that company.  Apparently, they started making Fire Cider to sell in 2011; others started following suit.  This is the way that usually works:  A product hits the shelves that quickly gets a reputation for being from an old-fashioned, all natural recipe.  All the folks who are interested in having some for themselves without having to buy it hit Google for recipes which they then post on their own social media pages, but maybe with their tweaks.  It spreads from there.  It seems that, in this case, someone (not one of my friends) started making Fire Cider in her own kitchen and claimed that SCH stole the recipe from her.

After perusing some information directly from Shire City Herbals, I’m left with a couple of impressions of this company.  One, in light of everything with which they’ve had to deal, SCH has stayed focused on their own business, which led to their controlling their business growth.  While I’m sure the antics of TnT were annoying at best, SCH seems to have worried more about what they were doing than what TnT was doing.  Two, TnT’s call to boycott SCH’s Fire Cider backfired and proved that boycotts tend not to work.  If anything, a call to boycott intrigues the non-customers (turning them into customers) and it makes the company’s loyal customers rally behind them.

TnT was using fear to promote their agenda, and I am ashamed to say that I bought into it.  They created a fear that Shire City Herbals was going to monopolize the Fire Cider market, making it illegal for anyone else to make or sell it under that name.  The thing is, I’m not even an herbalist in any commercial sense of the word, so no part of this ordeal was even going to impact my business.  I guess the unspoken fear agenda could be, “If one company trademarks a generic folk medicine remedy, then what’s to stop other companies from trademarking other generic product names?”

It was, in fact, Shire City Herbals who first claimed the name fire cider, and the recipe they use is one they derived from one of the owners’ grandmother, as you can read about here.  In light of a few years’ worth of trials, Shire City Herbals has not only managed to survive, but their business has nearly doubled. 

  Successful, outside-the-box thinkers and movers will draw their haters and critics, but they don’t stay successful by listening to the hatemongering of their critics, nor do they buy into the negative hype surrounding them.  They create environments of positivity, focusing more on the good that’s going on than the bad.