How To Enjoy Our Beaches Properly

*Note: For the sake of this article, “beach camp site” refers to a person’s or group’s spot on the beach. This might be towels and a beach bag, or it may be a 10×10 canopy, wet bar, lounge chairs, DJ, and separate play area for the kiddies.

Part of my brand is all about enjoying our gorgeous North Carolina beaches, and they are here for all people to enjoy, both tourists and locals.  As the girls and I were spending a day at the beach today, I thought of how our beaches’ visitors, both local and touring, could make beach-going better for everyone.

A 30- second beach break

(1) Do not play music loudly on the beach.  The beach has the best sounds:  Crashing waves, cawing seagulls, and happily squealing children.  Many of us go to the beach specifically to enjoy these sounds.  Your loud music drowns those sounds out.  You don’t actually have the right to play your music loudly enough to be disruptive to others.  Sure, listen to your music; that’s what earbuds are for.  Otherwise, if you wish to look at water while you blast music and get drunk, please do us a favor and do this in your bathtub or backyard pool.  There was a group with a serious “let’s party” speaker on the beach today.  I ended up moving our beach camp far down the beach until I couldn’t hear their music anymore.  Never have I wanted to scatter bread crumbs around someone as much as I wanted to today.  This brings me to my next point.

(2) Do not feed the seagulls (aka, beach rats).  You may be thinking, Awww, how cute to see little Billy offering his fries to the seagulls!  It’s so cool watching them flying around!  It may be like you’re in a fun summer movie, but it’s not so fun for those of us around you.  Do you know that stuff goes into seagulls, and stuff also comes out of them?  Those in the 20-foot radius around you really don’t wish to get pooped on while you’re feeding the birds.

(3) Only smoke in designated smoking areas.  Have you smelled the beach lately?  It smells of wet salty air, ozone, and a glorious blend that can only be half a dozen different sunscreens.  You may enjoy the pungent aroma of your nasty smelling imported cigarettes or cigars, but the rest of us?  Not so much.  And while we’re at it, please keep your butts off our beaches – your cigarette butts, that is.

(4) Do not litter.  Do you love ocean life?  Maybe you are big on ocean life because you’re a die-hard conservationist.  That’s great!  My younger daughter is, too.  Maybe, you want to protect ocean life because – let’s face it – shrimp and fish make for good eatin’.  Litter on the beaches eventually makes its way to the ocean where it harms and kills ocean life.  No butts, no bottles, no cans, no plastic bags.  Every beach access has trash cans available, and some also have recycling cans, too.

This simply comes down to, love our beaches and be considerate of others at the same time.  There are a lot of little beach etiquette rules; I grew up with them, and they’re pretty common-sense things.  Things like, don’t shake your towel out where the sand will blow on other people.  Don’t run by people, kicking sand up on them.  Watch out when you’re boogie boarding so as not to run into people in the shallows (sometimes unavoidable).

We want everyone to enjoy our fabulous beaches.  It would really suck if someone came to one of our beaches, had a horrible time because of inconsiderate beach-goers, and forever after vacationed in Virginia, South Carolina, or Florida.  It’s real, folks.  People judge beaches by the type of people that plant themselves on them.  My parents will never again vacation at this one particular beach because of people that were there one time.  I myself avoid a certain beach for a similar reason (that, and the beach is narrow and crowded).

What makes or breaks a beach experience for you?  Drop your comments below.

You Can Take It Back Home With You

Do you ever go to the beach and wish you could bring something back home with you?  Other than the tons of sand in towels, beach toys, and shells, that is?

When I was growing up, we had really hard well water.  After a while, of course, the minerals from the water would build up on our hair.  Every time we went to the beach, Mom would luxuriate in how the soft beach water made her hair feel – soft, light, and conditioned.  When my parents built their house some 20ish years ago, one of their top priorities was a water softening system, because Mom wanted her hair always to feel soft and not weighted down.

Also when I was growing up, my grandparents had the best water.  They lived 20 minutes from us (so nowhere near the beach), and that water made the most amazing coffee!  It was so good and turned this one-cup-a-day drinker to a 3-cup drinker while I was at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  When I was in high school, my grandparents got a place at the beach so Grandpa would have someplace to stay when he was fishing.  Welcome beach water!  It had the same sweet flavor of my grandparents’ water, but even better!

Fast forward several years to my meeting Peter and spending time at his parents’ beach house.  I was living in a place with awful municipal water; I had to add lemon juice to make it palatable to me.  But the beach house…  One sniff and I knew the water would be as incredible as at my grandparents’ home.  I tasted it and was sent back to their house while I was growing up.  Cup after cup of the smoothest coffee went down while I sat or stood on the dock, savoring the delicious flavor dancing on my tongue.

Fast forward a few more years, and since we couldn’t bring enough water back to keep me satisfied, we went to where the water is.  We moved to the beach, and the water is almost as smooth and soft as what my Grandparents had.  (And I certainly drink enough of it!)  A little farther east, and we discovered the water at Kure Beach is reminiscent of that which was at the beach house.  I can bring a little of that back with me, and I do every time we’re there.

Moving to the beach isn’t an option for many people.  Some can’t afford it, some prefer living elsewhere, and still others love the idea all the way up to hurricane season, when the idea doesn’t seem quite as winning.  When you can’t turn your vacation into something more permanent, you can bring the beach back home with you (no vacuuming required).

Wherever your vacation takes you along our glorious North Carolina coast, we have a soap for you so you can savor those vacation memories just a little bit longer.  Starting on the northern part of the coast takes you to world-class surfing, wind-swept dunes, and wildly primitive beaches.  Outer Banks Storm captures this area with its rustic cedar-shingled homes and the sharp tang as a storm blows in from the sea.

Outer Banks soap
Outer Banks Storm


Go south just a little bit and the southern Outer Banks takes you to Crystal Coast Morning.  You know those mornings at my in-laws’ beach house I mentioned?  I captured them in this scent – sans coffee.  Zippy and fresh, this scent is like waking up on a late autumn morning to an empty beach in the off-season when the air is pure and crisp and all that tickles your ears are the sounds of waves kissing the sand.

CCM soap
Crystal Coast Morning

Keep going a little further south and you arrive at our gorgeous Cape Fear beaches.  The Cape Fear River meanders its way from mid-state to the ocean and lends its name to this region.  Surf City, Topsail, Wrightsville, Carolina, Kure Beaches… Each wonderful in its own right, depending on what you’re looking for.  We generally go to Kure Beach.  It’s a quiet beach with a fishing pier and lifeguards, as well as a public bath house and free parking.  And I mentioned the water, right?  Kure Beach Afternoon is pure ocean with a slight tangy zip underscored by a whisper of sunscreen.  It’s hanging out at the beach with a bunch of other local home educating families on a beautiful late summer day as clouds scuttle overhead.

Kure Beach soap
Kure Beach Afternoon

And finally, we come to Ocean Isle Beach, easily one of the jewels of our Brunswick County Beaches.  This island is paradise just after the season ends when it’s still warm enough to enjoy the beach but the isle isn’t thronged with tourists.  My teen and I enjoy weekends away each year to a resort on the island.  Wide, powdery, sandy beaches; calm waters; and the rustle of palm fronds overhead as we sit on our balcony or float in the pool.  It’s a beach vacation made for chillin’ and sipping something cold and fruity while all the stress melts away.  That moment became Ocean Isle Beach.  A crisp ocean scent mingles with sweet fruits as you remember what it was like to watch your cares blow away on a warm breeze.

Ocean Isle – Weekend in Paradise

Which one of these jewels of the beach would you want to bring back with you?  What memories will you love to capture in your shower?

What the Coast Life Looks Like

I was talking to my newish friend Joy a few weeks ago, and being that Joy is a newish friend, we’re still in that getting-to-know-your-life-story stage.  I asked her, “What brought you to this area?”  Come to find out, Joy and her husband moved here from the same basic area we did.  Most people down here with young families are either natives or moved here for work.  Then there’s Joy and me.

Why did we move here?  What did we envision life would be like down here?  The why is easy:  It’s the coast!  And what did I expect life would be like?  Picture it…  You drive down to the beach for a weekend or a week, and along the way, winding along two-lane state highways, you see road-side stand after road-side stand, selling fresh fruits and vegetables.  As you get closer to your destination, the scent of briny sea air teases your nose and fills your lungs.  You think, What I wouldn’t give to live down here!  We’d hang out at the beach all the time, eat fresh vegetables and fruit every day, and have locally caught seafood a few times a week.  At least, that’s pretty close to what I thought.

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

I threw in, “Ride a bike around” and “Live a fit, healthy lifestyle” along with that.  Sure, we’d have to work, but we’d be living the working vacation.

Come to find out, Joy and her husband had similar ideas.  As I shared my vision, Joy nodded and “uh-huh’ed” in that tone that says, “Sounds familiar.”  Their vision – being childless when they made the move – included sitting on the beach watching the sunset and the stars come out.  They also saw themselves dining on fresh produce, freshly caught seafood, and living the healthy coastal lifestyle.  They were able to catch some sunsets early on, but then life happens.

So, what is the coastal life like?  I wake up in the morning and watch the world wake up as I sip my water (part of the HCLS – healthy coastal life style).  Weather permitting, I open the sliding glass door, breathing deep draughts of fresh morning air.  I’ve gotten good enough to determine the direction of the wind based on how the air smells.  Fresh and clean means the air is coming from the north or the south.  Tinged with l’aroma du pigs indicates the wind is coming from the west.  Laced with the pungent scent of chemicals, and the wind is coming from the southeast.  But the best breeze smells fresh, clean, salt-tinged, and just a titch fishy.  This is the breeze from the due east or the northeast, where it’s blowing off the sea and coming inland.

After exercising, eating breakfast, and showering/dressing for the day, it’s time to start school.  In between courses, I deal with emails.  Once school is over, it’s time to get to work.  Usually I’m able to knock out some to-dos right after the school day ends.  The past two months and going into now, I spend time looking at soccer drill videos and drill instructions, planning what my players need and how to keep practices fun.  After a little bit of work on two days of the week, we head out to the soccer fields for practice.  By the time we get home from running up and down the fields many times, it’s late, and we’re ready for dinner.

This is where planning happens.  If Peter is home, he’ll take care of dinner.  On those nights when he’s at the fields, too, dinner goes into the slow cooker.  It’s awesome coming home to a pot of soup or chili when it’s late and you’re famished!

Tomato soup in the slow cooker

On evenings we don’t have to go anywhere, we can spend more time and creativity on our dinner.  After dinner, the girls go to bed, I get a little work done, and then Peter and I watch TV for a bit before bed.

Sounds pretty familiar, huh?  This could be life anywhere in the state, anywhere in the country, except for different air and different work.  Coastal life is simply life.  Sure, we can take free days to hit the beach, and it’s easy having fresh produce without making a special farmer’s market run.  Other than that, we work, we play, we have school, and we live life to the fullest.  It’s not terribly romantic, but it’s the best we’ve had.

Charming Beachsides + Delightful Mermaids

Travel along with us to some gorgeous beaches with sparkling blue water and powdery sand.  Relax in a hammock under gracefully bowing palm trees.  Watch a summer storm rolling over the beach, clouds building and seagrasses swaying.  Hunt for seashells and build sandcastles.

Love mermaids?  You’ll find those here, too.  Maybe looking at mermaids isn’t your thing.  You’re awesome and fabulous!  YOU are a mermaid!  Find mermaid seashell bras and tricks for the latest in mermaid-inspired makeup.  Create your gorgeous tail and top off your whole ensemble with a fanciful seashell tiara.

There is but one place to find such amazing treasures, and that’s on my Pinterest boards.  That’s not all you’ll find!  I feature our incredible soaps with some on-location product pictures.  (Those are soooo much fun to take!)  You’ll also be able to grab some inspiration for living our healthy coastal lifestyle with yummy recipes and workout tips.

Coming soon, I’ll be adding recipes that are quick, easy, healthy, and family-friendly.  We’re busy people, and no way do we want healthy, delicious meals to rob us of precious family time.  (Hint:  The first one is for an absolutely delicious slow cooker tomato soup that’s welcome after a late soccer practice or a long day at work.)

Cruise on over to my Pinterest boards and follow us to get the latest updates on all sorts of fun, creative, yummy, and inspirational ideas.  Got a board you’re proud of?  Share your link below in the comments so we can check it out!

Making the Change, pt. 2

In the first part of this account, I shared my thought processes behind rebranding my business and went over the “why” and the “how.”  Not just a few business people have expressed interest in what was behind all this and how I did it.

The What – There were two necessary tools I used the most in all my plotting and planning, and I carried these tools with me everywhere!  They went to my parents’ house, my in-laws’ house, church, the orthopedist, my best friend’s home, and sometimes even to bed.  What was so important that I couldn’t leave them behind?  A legal pad and a pen.  So cheap, so simple, so necessary.  If I go through the muscle exercise of writing something down, I’m going to engage with it more.  Plus, computers crash; I’ve stuck with hand-written notes (think HOURS of research in Div school) even when most people are keeping their notes on their tablets or in their computers.

The first thing I had to do was decide on a new brand name.  Since we live at the coast and want to stay at the coast, it had to be something to do with the coast.  But what part of the coast?  We live in the Cape Fear Region, but we want to live in the Crystal Coast.  Given that, the brand couldn’t be specific to either area, because then I’d have to rebrand yet again, perhaps before I’d be ready to, business-wise.  Christmas night, I was in bed at my parents’ house thinking about a new name and Googling my ideas on my phone to see if they were already in use.  Luckily, Coastal Carolina Soap Company was free, so I claimed it.

(I’m outlining the big steps, but in the background, I was reading articles, listening to recordings of industry success calls, watching webinars, etc.  And always – always – making notes on my trusty lavender legal pad.  So while I’m not going into great detail about my accessing those resources, that was a huge part of the process.)

Next came determining my niche, and this process took a few months, to be honest.  OK…  Coastal…  Beachy…  Salt bars?  Pain to try to swirl and temperamental to make.  Make soaps with sea water?  Hmmm…  Winter.  Beach and ocean are COLD!  Knee wasn’t quite recuperated enough to be traipsing on loose sand down to the ocean.  Extra labor time sterilizing the water leads to higher product costs…  Nothing was quite clicking, so I pushed that to the back burner, trusting that the answer would fall out of the ether eventually.

Business was continuing to go on for Sara’s Soaps ‘n Such – restocking ingredients, making products, filling orders.  For all anyone knew, it was still business as usual.  I wanted an image to go with this snazzy new business name, so that was the next step for me.  I’d conceived of a logo and my older daughter sketched it out.

Drawing of logo design
The first conception of my logo. I’m thinking about framing this for my office.

I found a graphic designer.  I answered his 15-or-so-question design questionnaire (after writing the answers long-hand in my pad).  I sent him the file for this image.  Let’s just say that he didn’t quite grasp the vision, and after a couple of weeks of frustration, it was time to move on.  A fellow Indie recommended Natalie Dalton of Natalie Dalton Designs, and within the agreed-upon time period, magic happened.  The logo she’d created based on my daughter’s drawing and my affinity for Art Deco literally took my breath away.  I remember being at my parents’ house when I opened the file and getting to share this beautiful design with the three females to whom I’m closest – Mom and my daughters.  Even my older one who’d drawn the design agreed that Natalie’s design was fantastic.  And she’s a bit embarrassed at the idea of my wanting to hang her drawing up, but she’ll get over it.

Natalie's logo design
Natalie’s logo design.  Soooo pretty!!!

Next came what was probably the most arduous part of this whole process, and that was, setting up my property on the World Wide Web.  I’m no novice when it comes to websites, but website design is far from my forte.  I purchased my domain and rolled up my sleeves over our Spring Break, ready to get started.  Only…  <eeerrrrk!> Screeching halt as I was unable to get into my new store’s admin (the back room of the site where a lot of the work takes place) and my web host was far from helpful.  My launch date was tentatively set for 1 June, the beginning of my business’s anniversary month, and my web developer Donal and I had 10 weeks to get this site built, developed, tested, and live.

Weeks went by in which I was still getting no practical help from my host.  Donal, in the meantime, was having health and family issues, so neither of us could get anything done.  I wasn’t sweating it; he’s good at what he does, and we had a plan in place.  After way too many weeks of wasting time with my host, I shopped for and signed on with a new web hosting company.  I installed the shopping cart I wanted to use, and Donal and I spent a few afternoons a week for a couple of weeks fine-tuning the vision while the girls were vacationing with the Grands.  We were looking good for the launch date.

Backing up a bit…  Being slowed down and in the company of my beloved daughters day-in and day-out for a few months had begun to wear on my mind and soul.  Don’t get me wrong; my daughters are fantastic – smart, creative, compassionate, loving, innovative, and beautiful – but they are sisters to each other and sometimes drama ensues.  (And I think I need to take Drama Appreciation again, because apparently it didn’t take effect the first time.)  So after church one Sunday, I zipped down to the beach for a few hours, just to sit, meditate, and pray.  My prayers consisted of “thank you”; I couldn’t think of a single supplication to make beyond the on-going prayers for sick loved ones.  In the midst of this time, it came.  The focus.  The niche.  I breathed the air and felt the sensation of being at the beach, and suddenly I figured out what sorts of soaps to make.

That’s long enough for today, don’t you think?  Stay tuned for the next part, coming up soon.  Be sure to subscribe to receive articles delivered right into your inbox.


Time for a Little Caretaking

As most of you know, not only am I an entrepreneur and CEO of a growing bath + body business, but I’m also a mom and a home educator.  My days are often busy, but I don’t declare that to make myself look superior; it just is what it is, and most days, what may look like busy work to some people is productive hobby time for me.  With all these responsibilities and duties, there must be time to completely unplug, relax, and unwind away from it all.  A little over a week ago, Mary, Vice President of Product Development and COO of Girly Arts Made by ME, and I struck off to the beach for the weekend.

This was exactly what we needed.  You may have caught my write-up last week about the impressive guest care skills of Garison at The Winds Resort at Ocean Isle Beach.  That whole weekend was exactly what these Corporate Divas needed.  Just picture white powder beaches with warm water, lush tropical landscaping, and restful moments reading in a hammock under waving palm trees.  Yeah, it was that good.  There were cold beverages, good eats, and restful nights’ sleep accented by a friendly, accommodating staff.

That picture-perfect postcard that mocks you with, "It's beautiful.  Wish you were here."
That picture-perfect postcard that mocks you with, “It’s beautiful. Wish you were here.”
A peek at some of that luscious tropical landscaping The Winds is known for.
A peek at some of that luscious tropical landscaping The Winds is known for.

We enjoyed our time immensely and returned home feeling loose and mellow.  I truly haven’t experienced that much calm time in forever, and it was amazing!

It’s important, now that we’re home, to maintain that peaceful feeling, to take moments to do things that help promote a calm spirit.  Knitting is my mini-vacation of choice these days.  Studies have actually shown that knitting helps lower blood pressure.  I find having a cat lying beside me also helps me feel incredibly relaxed.  Between the two of these things, most nights it’s a serious struggle getting upstairs to bed, because I’m half asleep with my knitting needles in my hand.  My current project is a lace shawl.  This is it in process:

Sneak peek of the black and sequin lace shawl I'm knitting to go with a red dress.  And jeans.  And...
Sneak peek of the black and sequin lace shawl I’m knitting to go with a red dress. And jeans. And…

This is our secret for chilling out and relaxing, and in the process, we returned home with grand ideas and fresh energy for taking care of orders going into the busy holiday season.  How do you recharge your battery?

Customer Service Excellence

Part of being a business owner and home educator is giving myself permission to take breaks, like escaping to the beach on occasion.  There is, of course, great value to this, as I come back well-rested and refreshed, sometimes with new ideas for ways to serve my customers better.  When I can experience the epitome of excellent customer service in the search for a much-needed break, all the better.

I first encountered Garison online.  No, it wasn’t at any place sordid – no Ashley Madison dot com or match dot com-type places.  I first became aware of Garison through Trip Advisor.  Garison is the Customer Service Manager for The Winds Resort at Ocean Isle Beach, where Mary and I enjoyed a very relaxing weekend away this past weekend.

A view of the beach through the lush tropical landscaping around the resort
A view of the beach through the lush tropical landscaping around the resort
Mary and me in front of one of the cool, kitschy, totally necessary signs directing you places
Mary and me in front of one of the cool, kitschy, totally necessary signs directing you places

So, what made this guy stand out?  Simply put, it was how he handled all reviews, both positive and negative.  While Garison hasn’t been at The Winds very long (18 months or so), he made an effort to address reviews that predate the start of his tenure at the resort.  Dealing with complaints from what a predecessor did takes some integrity, and I admire integrity.  To reviews that end with, “I’m never coming back!” he replies with a smooth, “Even if you don’t stay with us, we hope you’ll come back to Ocean Isle Beach for your next vacation.”  A 5-star review got a response of, “Navigating The Winds’ many pathways can indeed be challenging. (There’s a reason we hand out maps! <g> ).”  There are winding paths around the property, so the maps are quite helpful.  To another 5-star review, there was this comment, which I found amusing, given that it was overcast and lightly raining until the morning we had to leave:  “I do apologize, however, that we failed to maintain sufficient control of the weather for you. I will speak with our staff about that and see if we can’t do better for your next visit.”  Garison did more than just blow off the reviews with a “Thanks for staying with us and we look forward to seeing you again soon”; he took the time to read each and every review, and he went so far as to accept responsibility on behalf of the resort for things that truly were their fault or failing and using well-placed humor on issues that weren’t.

My daughter and I were already looking forward to the trip, but looking at the online reviews (interesting to note that there’s only been one bad review in the past year) and reading what people were saying, as well as Garison’s responses, just heightened our anticipation and made me want to meet this guy.  As a business owner and one who wants to make sure every customer is happy (not just satisfied), I respect and admire that same quality in others in the customer service sector.  Garison helped at check-in, and he was willing to let me get a picture with him.  On top of that, he was extremely patient with Mary’s efforts to get a clear picture, even though it was time for him to go home for the rest of the weekend.

Garison and me (Photo credit: Mary Nesbitt)
Garison and me (Photo credit: Mary Nesbitt)

I have great respect and admiration for all that Garison has done as Customer Service Manager at The Winds – guest services, managing the staff (and giving them their due for good work), and also taking the time to deal with online comments.  The pleasure Mary and I had as we enjoyed our mom/daughter weekend led us both to declare, “We’re definitely coming back here!”  Garison and his top-notch staff sealed the deal on that.

When’s the last time you took a break from the hustle and bustle of your daily life?  What did you do?




I Quit!

CHOC Walk 2009
CHOC Walk 2009 (Photo credit: Denise Cross Photography) – Thought this was appropriate, as one of our movies was “Aladdin.”

Last week, I quit.  I quit work for the most part.  I quit the business for a week.  In fact, I quit everything but motherhood.  My older daughter was at camp, leaving me home alone with my younger daughter for a whole week.  What a treat, as we haven’t gotten to do this in about a year!

We did all sorts of fun things!  We went to the library and got books.  We went to the beach with my mom.  We got haircuts.  We watched movies – lots of movies.  We read books.  And we cuddled.  That was the best part, that cuddling.

I checked my business email once a day, and the Wee Princess and I went through boxes and boxes of soaps to parcel out which ones we’d be donating.  Then she helped me organize those in my storage space.  I made phone calls, did housework, and made products while she napped,  A couple of days, I napped, too.  So, I didn’t quit completely; it wasn’t a planned break, so I didn’t think it would be fair to my customers just to close up shop completely for the week.

The break was restorative and a great lead-in to beginning school this week.  It taught me something valuable, too; it taught me that I can, in fact, give myself a break from running my business full-tilt, and the world won’t come to an end.  It reminded me that my goal isn’t to build a lasting legacy through my business.  My primary goal is to raise two kind, compassionate, giving, loving, brilliant daughters.  Teaching them those character traits is the legacy that’s most important to me.