Bidding Farewell to a Fellow Maker

It always sad losing someone you know, sadder still when you didn’t get to know someone as well as you’d have liked.

Our artisan community lost a special member yesterday. Denise was a rare talent and a master soapmaker. (She had the certificate to prove it and everything!) She loved blending fragrances to create unique scents and had an exceptional eye for color.

Denise’s history in cake decorating served her well in soap design. Her bars were masterpieces with delicious swirls, lucious frothy-looking tops, and charming little embeds set on top to make soaps that were visual delights.

Denise also rocked body care products. As makers are wont to do, when we sell unneeded supplies for whatever reason, we also have to include some sample goodies, too. We absolutely love it when other makers try our products, and we love trying other makers’ products, too. Denise was helping me master cream soap and using that base for scrubs. She’d sent me a sample of one of her cream soap-based scrubs along with a small pot of this amazing scented body butter. I was touched in a way only a maker can be and I fell in love with that body butter. It truly was Zen. (We won’t talk about what happened to the scrub when my younger daughter discovered it. The little bit I got to use was nice, at least.)

Besides being an exceptional artisan, Denise was a kind soul, too. We got to know each other in the early days of her business as I helped her with new phases and approaches she wanted to try. She had a bright light that perfectly reflected her fun, whimsical soaps and her flair for the dramatically artistic. Simply put, she was a joy to know.

I have only one regret: We never met outside of Facebook. We messaged, were Facebook friends, and were in a few groups together. There’s no great excuse. We only lived about two hours apart. Often, when I’d go to that part of the state to do things – shows, visit people, field trips with my daughters – I’d stay with my parents. I am always reticent about using Mom and Dad’s as “base” merely for the sake of going off and visiting friends who live up there. It seems selfish and ungrateful.

My take-away is this: Make time to get to know people. Friendships are valuable and need to be nourished so they grow. I thought I’d have another “later” to arrange to meet Denise, and now all the laters are gone.

Accomplishing a HUGE Goal

This truly wasn’t one of my goals when I started embracing the healthy coastal lifestyle a little over three years ago. I had no idea at the time that I’d push my body to the lengths I would, trusting it to take me all the way to the finish line.

A little over a week ago, I completed my first 5K. That may not be entirely accurate. I participated in 10Ks when I was a tween/teen for charity, and I took part in the Walk for the Cure 5K fifteen years ago, again for charity. This was my first “official” 5K, complete with bib and medal.

My bib and medal. Hard won!

It was a sultry, humid day in the Bahamas. Our cruise ship had been delayed arriving in port, so we didn’t get as early a start as hoped. We were truly hoping to be done with the walk by 10 before the heat really set in. That didn’t happen. We couldn’t even dock until 9:30. Half the ship’s guests were disembarking down the same gangplank as we were, and then there was the half-mile trek from the ship to the starting line, again amongst hordes of fellow travelers that slowly thinned as we passed each beach spot.

By the time my younger daughter and I got to the starting line, it was nearly 11:00 in the morning and the 5K was already twenty minutes underway. It was a warm and humid 84 degrees with a heat index in the 90s (I didn’t look, because I didn’t want to know). My tween and I were set, right down to the bibs safety-pinned to the backs of our shirts.

The track was mostly sun-exposed with just scant pockets of shade. We were lucky to have intermittent breezes to help cool us down. I had my phone’s fitness app to track my progress. I’ll spare you the details (We passed a pink flower. We passed a sign warning people to stay on the trail, etc…). Although my daughter and I ended up getting separated, I waited beside the trail when my app said we had just under a half mile to go so we could finish together. When we finished, my app didn’t show the 3.1 miles I was expecting for that distance, but instead, 3.4 miles – and this was on top of the half mile or so we’d had to walk to the starting line, not to mention the trek from our room, using the stairs, of course.

At the 2/3 of a mile left (WOOHOO!!!) mark, I announced it to my fellow walkers. One responded, “You sound excited about that.”

“There’s a big, beautiful, blue sea just over there, and it calls me!” I sang the last part from the song from Moana. They’re Disney people, so they got it.

I’d seriously considered finishing the walk, ripping off my shoes, socks, and phone, and plunging, fully dressed, into the Caribbean Sea. I practiced the modicum of restraint required to resist doing that. Instead, we went into the bathroom to change into our bathing suits. This was a feat in balance and coordination. You know how hard it is to put a bathing suit on, anyway? Well, imagine that but add in sweat-dampened skin, a decent-sized bathroom stall, and standing on sport sandals; additionally, being solitary, my daughter and I couldn’t help each other make the necessary adjustments. Once properly changed, we stepped around to the side of the building to the showers and flushed all the sweat and salt off of our skins. The rest of the day was a smorgasbord of delightful flavors and carefree frolics in the sapphire blue sea.

At the finish line. My smile is looking a bit manic here.

I never planned or expected to participate in and finish a 5K. With my knees giving me so much trouble, including having a blood vessel burst behind my right knee the first day of our cruise, I wasn’t sure how the 5K would go. We had been active all week with stair-climbing, swimming, walking, and exploring volcanic caves. Yet, all that activity kept my knees moving. (A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Basic physics.) Even though I found myself wishing I’d heat-trained throughout the summer, I was still proud of my time – under an hour with an average speed of 3.6 mph – and proud of the fact that I did it. Even being a little slack, I’d kept myself in good enough shape to meet this new goal.

Getting Exactly What You Need

I have learned so much in the past year about taking care of myself as I pursue the healthy coastal lifestyle. One of the key things I’ve learned is the importance of making sure I get exactly what I need. What I need may not be what I want or what I think is best, but it’s what my body needs.

This past weekend was my teen’s and my mom/daughter weekend away. We always go to this one beach, stay in the exact same room at the same resort, and eat at the same places both nights. We like the routine, we’ve made our mark in our room (to make it helpful for us and others who stay there), and at no time have we ever been starving on a Saturday evening and playing the “Where do you want to eat? I don’t know. Where do you want to eat?” game. It’s easy, because we can also be flexible in what we do as need be. This past weekend was a miracle in and of itself, because the island had shut down ahead of Hurricane Dorian and just reopened to the public two hours before check-in time.

As a result of the hurricane causing so many to cancel plans, my daughter and I were only two of five people Friday night and into Saturday morning, and throughout the weekend, we had the entire back half of the resort to ourselves. There was no fighting for seats at breakfast or crowded beaches (though the beach usually isn’t bad). The concierge said it could be a little eerie. To us, it was just fun.

The things we did this past weekend were just what we needed. They may not look like “typical” weekend vacationer things, but we’re not typical vacationers. Instead of a heavy dinner Friday night, we were satisfied with a shared appetizer and chowder. We opted for movies in the room when the sun or mosquitoes got to be too much. And in a rare moment, we grabbed late afternoon naps before dinner on Saturday. So many times previously, we would’ve pushed through our fatigue, but we didn’t this time.

We obeyed our bodies. We took hold of exactly what we needed for optimal health. It seems like a silly thing to have learned, but I’m not very good about allowing my body to dictate my activities. I push through, force myself to keep going, to perform, to take care of everyone and everything. However, when my head is pounding from being tired or when the anxiety begins to creep in, I can’t keep going, I can’t perform, and I can’t even take care of myself, let alone others. Because I have started doing this, my teen has been able to give herself permission to do it, too.

My favorite rest moments come in savasana naps. Savasana is final resting pose in a yoga practice, and practitioners are supposed to hold the pose for five minutes per hour of practice. When I grab a savasana nap, I lay down across my bed in savasana, drop my tongue from the roof of my mouth, and focus on something mindless – rain on the roof, the whirl of the ceiling fan, my own breathing. My mind stops thinking, stops racing, and simply rests. After twenty minutes and a good stretch, I feel like I’ve just slept for eight solid hours.

A minor version of this is simple meditation. It allows my mind to rest without going all the way into a nap. Today, for example, I could breathe into the headache pounding away behind my forehead and breathe that discomfort out. I came out of it refreshed, headache-free, and ready to tackle work. A year ago, I would have pushed through the work and the headache, but now I’ve learned that I need these moments to be my healthiest and best.

What are some tricks you’ve picked up to be the healthiest and happiest you can be? Where do you see yourself needing to give yourself permission to take moments for rest? Drop your strategies in the comments.

Hopping Back on the Fitness Wagon

Yoga poses
Yoga has been a constant for me in living the #healthycoastallifestyle.

This blog hasn’t been the only area in my life where I’ve been slacking off in the last few months. It’s like everything I’d been grooving on in my life that I’d been neglecting really gelled in the past few weeks. Whether it’s slaying the cleaning, developing new soap creations, or exercising, I have reclaimed these things for my life with boldness and renewed energy.

The #healthycoastallifestyle has been one area that has suffered the most in the past months, and that has had the most significant impact on my life. Spring should’ve brought gorgeous weather for getting out and walking, but temperatures climbed quickly, as did the humidity. When I went for my annual check-up, my vitamin D levels were low, which is suprising, given how much I’m usually outside. Early summer brought scorching temps, though low humidity levels. It was simply unbearable being outside for more than a few minutes. I kept up with my yoga practices; they’re essential to my physical and mental health.

We spent a lot of time being active as we focused on cleaning. While my phone didn’t acknowledge my progress (it generally stayed on a table), I felt it. This week marked a new energy in my lifestyle. Cooler morning temperatures leave me no excuse for not lacing up first thing in the morning to walk. Yesterday morning I dug out the weights for the first time in months and did some upper and lower body training. Then, yesterday evening, I embraced every masochistic tendency I ever thought of having and did a half-hour core-strengthening pilates workout. I’m pleased to say that I can actually move, laugh, breathe, and bend over.

I am a little achy but I’d forgotten how glorious it feels feeling strong again. When I was at my peak, I moved in confidence and strength, and the months of being lax on my cardio and weight training had taken some of that from me. But now I’m back and it’s back! I felt it this morning as I’ve moved around the house.

In the intervening months, I maintained my weight by watching what I ate and keeping my calorie intake lower than my calorie burn – for the most part. I messed up some days, and that’s OK. There were also many days in there when it digitally looked like my numbers were flipped, but I knew I’d burned way more calories than my fitness app thinks I did.

While it would be so easy to just give up now, to admit defeat, that isn’t a happy place for me to be, and I’m not a quitter. While I may get lax attending to things in my life that are important to me, I never give up on them completely. That mindset and attitude has breathed new life into my healthy coastal lifestyle, my home, and my business.

What do you do when you’ve gotten slack on meeting your life goals? How have your turned your momentum back around?  Let us know in the comments below.

What Did You Learn?

I’ll confess, I have been horrible at keeping up with this blog. Between school and all the girls’ activities, there were other things demanding more focus and more time. In the time I’ve been away, we’ve seen some pretty tremendous milestones in our family, both involving my teen. In the space of two months, she has applied to and been accepted at the local community college to start her dual enrollment process, and she has taken driver’s ed and received her learner’s permit.

Once she got that precious little piece of paper in hand, she has wanted to drive everywhere. Her first day driving was very much a trial by fire as she conquered the interstate and city driving. It was while she was driving in the city that she had her first driving scare. She was trying to execute a lane change on a multi-lane road, needing to go from the right lane to the far left turning lane with traffic and while not disobeying any driving laws (i.e., not changing lanes within 100 feet of an intersection). She had given her signal, checked her mirrors, checked her blindspot and was just executing her lane change when a truck came up out of nowhere, forcing her to retreat back to her lane.

Later that night, she was still ruminating over the “What ifs” and “Ifs.” “If I’d hit that truck, it’d have been my fault.” I could tell her confidence in her newly burgeoning driving abilities had been shaken and was afraid she’d let fear keep her from driving. I told her, “It’s in the past, and you didn’t hit the truck.” Then I asked her, “What did you learn from this experience that’ll make you a better driver?”

Whether we’re operating 2000 pound motor vehicles, parenting, teaching, or making soap, we are going to screw up at some point. I have beaten myself up many times over for neglecting my blogs and my writing in general. I have sighed with frustration at the terrible lag in our Konmari Method tidying quest. (It’s bad to the point that the last bags of clothes have finally made it to my trunk to be dropped off this week!) It would be so easy for me to say, “I haven’t blogged in over three months. Why bother now? Why not just quit?”

What have I learned from this? I have reconnected with the grace I so often need to afford myself. I remember the words of lost frustration of my maker friend Jennifer who was so relieved to know that I also neglected my business last summer. “You mean I wasn’t the only one?” we exclaimed together, relieved.

I’ve learned this is something that happens in seasons. There are simply some times when I find myself completely lacking in inspiration and don’t want to bore you with mindless mutterings. I’ve learned I’m not the only maker who goes through these times. And I’ve learned it’s OK. In the media-quiet space between, I’ve been making soaps and other products. I’ve filled orders and am even getting ready to debut something totally new for a belated anniversary celebration. Stay tuned for that!

What mistakes have you made lately and what did you learn from them? Share in the comments below.

When the Healthy Coastal Lifestyle Bites You in the Butt

I did everything that I was supposed to do. I watched what I ate; walked, jogged, and did cardio classes; weight-trained; and practiced yoga. As a result, I dropped a good bit of weight, improved my overall health, toned up, and started feeling quite amazing. In short, I made significant strides to taking a bunch of weight off my knees so they would be stronger and not hurt.

In the epitome of kicks-in-the-teeth, the cruelest of ironies, improving my health to make my knees happier wore one of them down. It’s the classic, “Well, shit.” moment.

Earlier this year, my left knee started swelling and staying swollen for no discernible reason, and it started twinging a bit. My daughter pushed me to go to the doctor to see what was up. A doctor’s appointment, x-rays, a follow-up, and an orthopedic referral later, I have an answer, and I don’t like it: Arthritis. My orthopedist compared images of my left knee from three years ago to Tuesday’s images and noticed some definite degeneration. The very things I had been doing to improve my health hurt my knee. That was really disappointing.

I’m trying to be positive. One, I was doing everything right, and my doctor was pleased with the improvements I’d made to my health, because that’s part of the treatment for the knee. I didn’t damage it doing stupid stuff. Two, I’m under no restrictions. I can still walk, run, take aerobics classes, practice yoga, and do weight training. In fact, he was kind enough to give me even more exercises to do! Granted, they’re dreaded wall squats and lifts, but the quads and knees are already feeling more settled. Three, he sees no reason why I shouldn’t be able to achieve my goal of completing a 5K later this year or doing some hiking.

I simply have to add things to my life I wasn’t prepared to add at this point. I have to add anti-inflammatory medications or supplements to my life – and I really don’t like having to take medicine if I can avoid it. I have to add rehab exercises to an increasingly busy schedule. I have to add the reality of considering cortisone shots versus pill-popping – and I HATE needles!

This is my new reality: A body that is beginning to show some signs of age. Now, I have a choice. I can either accept this new reality and deal with it; or I can pretend it doesn’t exist, give up, and undo all the progress I’ve made. That choice is pretty easy to make. I’ve just gotta grab my turmeric and knee brace, and I’m back on the move.

Joy Begins with Gratitude

As soon as the teen declutters her folder in my Dropbox – she’s got a video in there she’s working on for a cool project she’s doing – I’ll begin talking more about our Tidying Up a la the KonMari Method, complete with pictures.

I read Marie’s book, and some of her beliefs and how they translate into her method strike me as strange. Her beliefs, not so much, but how she ties them in with tidying… That’s another story. If you catch her show on Netflix, she begins each home visit with a time of meditation in which she introduces herself to the home and thanks it for what it does for the home’s owners. It seems strange to thank an inanimate object for anything.

In Marie’s book, she advises thanking your home each time you enter. She suggests thanking everything you get rid of for what it did for you or taught you. The focus of the KonMari method is being intentional about what you keep, not what you discard, and keeping only those things that spark joy. When we express gratitude for what we have, we find our attitude towards it changes.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a “stuff” person, so finding joy in what I have is rather a reach for me. That being said, I’ll try almost anything once with the belief that, if it doesn’t work for me, I can always go back to what I did before or try something new. No big deal. Following the KonMari Method, I became intentional about making the bed every day. Then I decided that the last person up should make the bed, so I only do it half the time. It’s nice sinking into a nicely-made bed with fluffed pillows each night. My husband, though… He has to put up with some girly pillows. Poor guy.

I don’t verbalize “thank you” to my house when I enter. Generally, I’m simultaneously kicking my shoes off, hanging up my purse, and keeping a cat from slipping out. At night is when the gratitude is most available to me. I slip my day clothes off and let them rest on my bed before changing into what the evening holds – loungewear or workout wear. When I get ready for bed, I put my day clothes away and thank them for what they did for me. Same with my lounge wear and workout wear. As I do this, I’ve noticed a couple of new things. One, no matter how tired I am, I will still take the time to put the clothes away. Two, I am becoming more grateful for these clothing items.

Gratitude is also part of the practice of yoga. One of our instructors says every practice, “Think of someone you’re grateful for, maybe someone who made it possible for you to be here tonight.” My thoughts immediately go to whoever is home and cooking dinner while I practice. It’s one thing to think, It’s so nice of my teen to make dinner while I’m at yoga! It’s still another thing to feel grateful in my heart for her doing this. When I go home, though, and tell her “thank you,” that gratitude is out in the open. It becomes a tangible thing that fills her heart and mind so she can then share my joy. She blooms in front of me in those moments.

With these expressions of gratitude comes an understanding of joy in my things. I have always appreciated my things and taken great care of them. Now, I will know the joy they spark when it comes time to tidy again and to cull out.

Part of the healthy coastal lifestyle is having good mental health and a healthy space. These are interconnected, and feeling and expressing gratitude helps promote good mental health and good, healthy relationships. How do you express gratitude for the things you have and for the people who help make your life possible? Drop a comment below.

So far, we’ve done clothes and books. My trunk is filled with bags of clothes and my living room still holds bags of clothes and boxes of books, all ready to donate.

Joy-Sparking Soaps

“Does it spark joy?” This seems to be the question we’re hearing most commonly lately as the Konmari Method of tidying up sweeps throughout the country. We started “doing the Konmari thing” last weekend, and I’ll be talking about that process soon in future posts. As I was spending time to myself yesterday, letting thoughts drift in and out of the ether, I spent a bit of time focusing on my products. I make them, I use them, and I so often take them for granted, so this was a great chance for me to remember the joy in each product.

How to approach this? Do I start chronologically to my making journey? Do I begin with the core four of my brand? I’m going to begin with Au Naturel. This soap began as Soap of Milk & Honey (and Oatmeal!), and it brings happiness. When I made my very first batch of this soap, I knew pretty much nothing about gelling temps and how both insulating the soap and sugars in the soap increased them. I’d insulated my mould and left it alone. When I unmoulded my soap the next day, it was dark and had caverns, complete with soapy stalactites and stalagmites. Plus, it oozed oil. What in the world??? My gelling temperature had gotten so hot that it caused separation. Over time, the oil absorbed into the soap, but there was no fixing the caverns. It was divine to use, nonetheless. It’s so rare that a bar of this soap makes it to my shower that I do a happy dance when the stars align and it happens. This one is an incredible, gentle, uber-moisturizing head-to-toe treat.

The next soap that harkens back to my humble beginnings is Goat’s Milk & Lavender, originally Ooh La Lavender. This is another goat’s milk soap, and I still have a bar from the original batch stashed away on a rack. I want to use it, because after nearly 11 years, it’ll be so incredibly mellow, but then again, I don’t, because it’s special. This is another one of those soaps that brings happiness when I get to use it, partly because of the rarity of the event. It has lavender oil in it along with vitamin-rich goat’s milk. It’s incredibly moisturizing and has a completely relaxing fragrance.

The next soap that has been a part of my collection from the early days is Lemon Grove Gardener’s Soap. Back in the days when I made soap exclusively by the melt & pour method, I made and sold this scent in a bright yellow glycerin bar. In fact, one night I dreamed about how to make, package, and market four soaps that were scented with these four custom created scents I’d developed. Lemon Grove was one of them. It is a special blend of essential oils, and when I started making cold-processed soaps, I decided to craft this into a gardener’s soap, complete with cornmeal for grit and calendula petals for interest. This one shows up in my shower more frequently than the other two soaps mentioned here; in fact, there’s a sniglet of a bar of this one in my shower now.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing with you the joy that I feel with my “core 4”: Outer Banks, Crystal Coast Morning, Kure Beach, and Ocean Isle.

Which one of these is your favorite or on your must-try list?

Slayin’ it in 2019

It’s 2019 – new year, new beginnings. Where are you in your life? Settling into your resolutions okay and ramping up your goals? As I’m heading into an exciting year, I wanted to pass on some thoughts about ways I’m planning on making 2019 all mine. Feel free to use these tips and hints to make 2019 an amazing year.

  1. Set goals. Make goals, not resolutions. Think about what you want your life to look like in December. Now, figure out what you need to do to get there. Creating smaller goals as stair-steps toward your final goal (or next big stair-step goal) will give you a feeling of accomplishment all year.
  2. Give grace. Grace needs to be like glitter at a tween princess party – that craps needs to be everywhere! Someone rub you the wrong way? Give them some grace. Got a child who’s missed her responsibilities one day because she’s not feeling well? Give her the grace. Most importantly, though, spread some of this same grace to yourself. While glitter may be the herpes of the craft world, grace is like the warm sunshine after weeks of winter cold; you want that stuff to pour out and spread everywhere.
  3. Move it. Walk, run, or bike. Find an aerobics class. Practice yoga. Stream pilates workouts through your TV, computer, or phone. Just do something to be more active. Now, do it after the Superbowl, too, not just for the first few weeks of the year. The World Health Organization and the US Department of Health and Human Services both recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous activity. I’m proud of the fact that last week, I averaged 58 minutes of activity each day. That’s over 400 minutes total! Some days were heavier on the activity than others, and that’s OK.
  4. Eat well. Part of eating well includes eating good tasting food. It also includes not depriving ourselves. You’ve heard me say before and I’ll say again, “Just eat the damn dessert!” Need chocolate because your day sucked? Eat chocolate. Your spouse cooked a hearty, hot, calorie-laden meal on a cold night that is comfort on a platter. Savor every. Single. Bite. As my family was planning a get-together with friends for the Flotilla, my friend said, “I’ll just make that my cheat day.” Ha! December was my cheat month! But I still got out and got moving a few times a week. But then it rained. (That’s where #2 comes in.)
  5. Live. Find reasons to do that one thing that will make your year memorable. Forget about buying stuff; instead, have experiences and make memories. What if there was that trip you wanted to take? Make this the year you take that trip or at least start planning that trip.

This year is rife with promise. Claim this year as an amazing year, the year that you make amazing things happen. How are you going to do this? Let us know in the comments below.

Introducing Caribbean Carnivale

Caribbean Carnivale Soap

Earlier this year, my younger daughter wanted to take a stab at making soap.  She was (and is) a bit young to fly solo, but she was able to plan and design her soap and handle the inert ingredients.  In all, she did enough to make this soap hers.

As you can see from the pictures, these soaps are totally gorgeous!  They perfectly capture the exuberance and effervescence of Carnivale on a Caribbean island.  They’re bright, bold, and lively.  Their scent, you ask?  A fresh, zesty bergamot and tangerine blend will practically make your head spin with its citrus blast.

Close-up of the Swirls

My daughter says the swirls are like the sunset on the ocean.  You can see the fiery blaze of the setting sun around two of the edges and the sun burnishing the waves with shades of red and purple.  What an amazing way to bring the beach to your bath – an exotic, Caribbean beach!

To bring this little bit of the beach home – and Caribbean beaches are absolutely gorgeous! – take a stroll through our web boutique and pick up one of these special, limited edition soaps before they’re all gone.

I’m always on the lookout for amazing beaches.  Got a favorite?  Tell us all about it in the comments.