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.

Why This Indie Can’t (and Won’t) Touch Black Friday – pt. 2

In my last blog post, I began discussing insider Black Friday retail tips that give huge retailers that all-important edge in the market.  Here are the rest of the tips:

6. BI (Business Insider):  “(Retailers) will even sometimes increase the ‘normal” price of an item before the holidays to make the discount seem bigger.”  They will hike prices from 8% to as much as 23% on toys and tools.

CCS:  No.  That absolutely will never happen here.  If I offer discounts, it will be to benefit you, my customers, not to further augment my bank account.

7.  BI:  “Some items are made specifically for Black Friday and are lower quality.”

CCS:  We offer one quality:  High.  Holidays or not, we’re still going to make our products in small batches to ensure the highest possible quality.

8.  BI:  “If you’re not nice, you may pay the price.”

CCS:  No one likes an impatient jerk, especially not retail workers during the holidays.  That being said, I have an entire array of fabulous customers, so I don’t have to worry about anyone not being nice.  Besides, I have two children, so you can’t scare me.

9.  BI:  “When associates say they’re out of something, they usually mean it.”

CCS:  I do my level best to keep stock quantities up-to-date on my website.  Some items I can restock quickly, but others take weeks to turn around.  So, if I say I’m out, unfortunately, such is the case.

10:  BI:  “If you want Thanksgiving back, stop shopping on Thanksgiving.”  Hint:  Employees don’t want to be there.  Some have to hire sitters for their kids, they have to leave early from dinner, and they miss family time.  You can bet the CEOs are enjoying dining with their families around the table while their employees are losing their own family time.

CCS:  Thanksgiving is family time.  We start with a special breakfast and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Then we go to my parents’ house for dinner and spend the night, waking up refreshed and recharged before coming home.  We’re not going to work this day.  I won’t take calls, reply to emails, or deal with customers in any way.  How will you spend the holiday?

Whether you’re spending Black Friday at the stores or at home, you can now go in to your shopping a bit more savvy.  I invite you to spend part of your day with us, cruising our website and tagging us on social media.

 

Why This Indie Business Can’t (And Won’t) Touch Black Friday – pt. 1

I read an article Sunday morning at Business Insider entitled “Things Most Black Friday Shoppers Don’t Know.”  You can read it here.  Even for a seasoned retail employee who’s seen her share of Black Fridays, the wife of a retail worker who had to get up early after Thanksgiving at the beach so her husband could get to work on Black Friday, and an indie manufacturer and business owner, there was some new and interesting – but common sense – facts here.

In this two-part series, we’re going to look at the realities of retail and how my indie business is different – and better.

  1. BI:  “The mall doesn’t open before the anchor stores do.”  Those big stores – Macy’s, Belk’s, and Dillard’s – determine what time the mall opens, and there are huge fines for not being open when they open.  (Some stores bite that fine, and some malls allow retailers to choose for themselves.)

CCS: On Black Friday, all that weekend, and Cyber Monday, we’re here for you.  We may have limitations on our availability (e.g., Sunday morning during church and most times when we’re driving), but for the most part, we’ll be free to answer questions for you.  You don’t have to fight screamin’ hordes of shoppers to get to us.

2.  BI: “Black Friday sales are usually on older models and are often the same deal as last year.”

CCS:  Our prices are our prices all year and our merchandise is made in small batches to ensure freshness.  Small, indie retailers can’t compete with discounted stuff made in overseas sweatshops, so we aren’t going to try.  Our products are worth the price, and when’s the last time you saw a sweat shop slave do a happy dance because you bought that TV?

3.  BI: “These products would probably have gone on sale, anyway.”

CCS:  We save our clearance sale prices for our annual clearance sale.

4.  BI:  “You rarely ever need to be there when the stores open – the sales last all day.”  The reason for getting there uber-early is to ensure you get your preferred sizes.

CCS:  One soap fits all sizes, and our sales also will last throughout the weekend.  We’re not so big into early bird promos.

5.  BI:  “In fact, most (sales) start before Black Friday.”

CCS:  We will be running a special free shipping promotion, but it won’t begin until Black Friday.  It will last all weekend, though, and on into Cyber Monday.

6.  BI: “Stores will use all sorts of tricks to get you to spend more.”  I saw this the last time I worked mall retail.

CCS:  No tricks, though we will suggest add-ons to your purchases, especially for gifts.  The reason is simple:  When I’m selling in person, my wares are spread out before you, and you can see what goes with what (like Orange Blossom soap and Orange Blossom & Amber Creme, or Christmas Candy Soaps with our Christmas Candies Lip Balms).  You don’t have that online, so we will help point you to those complementary items.

Come back tomorrow as we look at the other half of this list.  Do any of these retail tricks surprise you?  Are there others you’d add from your own experiences?

The Death Throes of Black Friday

Black Friday as we know it is beginning to die.  With retailers pushing sales and specials earlier in November, it is looking like the event of Black Friday is losing its significance as a holiday shopping day.  When Cyber Monday came on the scene several years ago, buyers discovered they could wait a few days, avoid the crowds, and still get great specials, all ordered from their desk at work.

Black Friday is so named because it is the official start of the holiday shopping season.  As crowds surged, retailers’ profits for the year went from the red to the black, ensuring that they would end the year on a high note.  To entice shoppers to go to their store over other stores, the retailers then began to offer insane specials and deals – a percentage off.  Then a larger percentage off.  Then a large percentage off and doorbuster deals.  People would literally end up hospitalized or dead trying to beat someone else to this amazing deals.

That money you saved on the 64″ flat-screen TV will go towards your hospital bills.

And when all this simply wasn’t enough for the corporate greed, retailers then began opening earlier and earlier on Black Friday, eventually going so far as to opening doors on Thanksgiving afternoon, desperate for shoppers and little caring that their employees just might want to spend that day with their families before the craziness that is working retail during the holidays begins.

We have seen major retailers shuttering their doors this year.  Sears and Toys R Us both come to mind, and these stores closed for specific reasons.  I know a couple of ladies from church who have a tradition of staying up late and shopping early, and one of the stores they’d hit in their dark-of-night mania was Toys R Us.  Their kids are tweens and teens now, but shopping will take on a very different look for those shoppers for whom TRU was a staple.

Over the course of the past week, I have seen Black Friday deals advertised on Amazon, Facebook, and Google.  I’ve seen such retailers as The Disney Store promoting the opportunity to take advantage of Black Friday specials this week.  You don’t even have to wait for the actual day of Black Friday anymore.  A few clicks and you’re done.  No crowds, no battling for parking at a bustling mall, no getting dressed in three layers of clothes to endure the chilling cold that typically is Black Friday morning while you wait for stores to open.

When stores discount their prices for Black Friday, something happens the week before:  They raise their prices.  A recent article at Business Insider states that retailers will increases prices from 8-23% in the days and weeks prior to Black Friday so they still will get their same profit margins.  I’ll be spending time in an upcoming blog post discussing that some more.

As this Friday comes up, what’s your plan of attack?  Will you be hitting the shops or clicking “buy now”?  Have you finished shopping?  Or do you shop artisans throughout the year?

Keeping The Healthy Coastal Lifestyle a Life Style

As a way to promote my business and practice my writing, particularly with constraints, I have been responding to HARO (Help a Reporter Out) queries.  Three times every weekday, I receive lists of topics from reporters who are looking for source feedback for their articles.  Categories include business/finance, health & medicine, lifestyle, entertainment, travel, and so forth.  Interested persons reply to the queries and, if accepted, their responses are included in the article, either digital or print, with mentions of their business.  I got my first mention in a blog post that came out yesterday.  You can read that article here.

This morning I responded to a query from a reporter looking for success tips from people who have lost 20+ pounds and kept it off.  I thought I’d share with you what I shared with that reporter.  I’m not including the “common sense” stuff about cutting sugary drinks for water and exercising every day.

My tips for healthy lifestyle success:

(1) Just do it, anyway.  When I don’t want to go out for that walk, I grab the sneakers and walk anyway.  When I don’t really feel like going to aerobics, I grit my teeth and do it, anyway.  I find a “commitment” activity.  Though it was humid out this summer, once I grabbed a pair of socks, I mentally committed to walking.  (I keep a pile of clean, paired socks beside my bed, so I can just reach down and grab a pair.  Boom!  Commitment before I get out of bed.)

(2) Ignore weight.  The scale just tells us about our relationship with gravity.  When you’re improving your health through changing food choices and adding exercises, it’s common not just to lose fat but also to build muscle.  A pound of muscle weighs as much as a pound of fat (so no weight change between losing that fat and building that muscle), but a pound of muscle is denser and has significantly less volume than a pound of fat.  Your weight may stay the same while your body shape is noticeably changing.

(3) Record everything you eat.  With the holidays coming up, this is tedious – heavy family dinners, parties, socials, etc.  This helps you see patterns in your eating and helps you make adjustments to make sure you’re getting enough carbohydrates, fats, and proteins without consistently overdoing any one of these.  I use an app in my phone to keep up with this.

(4) Move.  Grab extra steps whenever and however you can.  Some days require long periods of sitting, but break them up by walking and stretching.

(5) Be gracious with yourself.  You’re not going to exercise when you’re sick.  That’s OK.  There’s no walking outside when it’s 30 degrees.  Ate 2400 calories on that day of the office Christmas party followed by your spouse surprising you with dinner out?  It’s one day. You haven’t failed as long as you get right back to it as soon as you reasonably can.

(6) Eat the dessert.  In other words, don’t do a deprivation diet.  Eating a little bit of that “bad food” will stave off cravings for it and the potential for bingeing on it.  Denying yourself carbs or fats or whatever to lose weight just makes you want those foods that much more after you meet your weight-loss goal.  I have seen, time after time, people regaining unhealthy amounts of weight after following low-carb diets or diets where the foods/meals are provided for them.  Just be sure to record the food in your food journal and possibly add some extra exercise to the week.

I had already cut out sugary drinks (tea and sodas) in favor of water, so that isn’t something new to me.  I also don’t drink many alcoholic drinks (max 2-3 a year) or fancy coffee drinks, all of which pack on a lot of empty calories.  I am still losing weight, but this lifestyle change has become a part of me.  Simply put, the side benefits make me feel good, so I’m more inclined to keep with it.

Once you make a healthy lifestyle yours, it goes beyond such mundane things as dieting for weight loss and trying to bulk up.  With a slow and steady progress, the healthy lifestyle becomes just that – a life style.  Or, a better way to look at it is, a style of living for the rest of your life.  It’s a style of living that includes healthy, balanced eating; regular exercise; and overall choices that lead to a longer, happier, healthier, more active life.