Just Chill!

One woman, many hats.  CEO.  Teacher.  Home manager.  Wife.  Minister.  That’s a lot for one person, and the potential for me to get super stressed out is high.  Obviously, stress is neither good for myself or for the girls, so I have to find ways to reduce stress in ways that don’t involve eating copious amounts of chocolate.  At the same time, I want to do things that are good for my brain, good for my body, and somewhat productive.  But not soap.  Ninety-eight percent of the time, making soap is for business, though I do enjoy playing with it occasionally.  I choose activities that can stand separate from soap.

For my body, I’ve been doing some resistance exercises daily, and in the past week or so, the girls have been joining me, so we can count that as part of school as we learn about how our muscles work and how these exercises help us.  I started out with planking, wanting to strengthen my arms and tone my core.  Then I decided to add push-ups to the routine so I can get rid of annoying upper arm dimples and tone the muscles there.  Next, I got this wild hair about doing crunches.   Like that’s not enough, a friend posted on Instagram a brief video of her doing roll ups.  If crunches are like a street gang’s tag artist, roll ups are Al Capone.  Yep, that much more evil.  Supposedly, each roll up is comparable to four crunches.  This is what they look like.


I started with where I was then, even though my counts were pitifully low.  However, I’ve steadily increased my counts, my seconds planking, and my strength.  It feels awesome!  My first goal?  Get these arms toned to look great with my red sleeveless dress before attending a wedding next weekend and the abs smoother so I won’t have to wear a body shaper under it.  My second and long-range goal is overall fitness and tone.

For my brain and body, I’ve been spending time knitting.  Studies have shown that knitting is good for the brain, as well as stress levels which positively impacts the heart as well.  I’ll knit about anything, and I’m constantly pushing myself to learning new patterns and techniques.  Last week I finished a long-term project – my first lace shawl.

Lace scarf made of a black wool-blend yarn spangled with multicolored sequins
Lace scarf made of a black wool-blend yarn spangled with multicolored sequins
2015-10-01 10.42.09
A close-up of the lace, both body and edge

Pair the relaxation of knitting with the absolute peace that comes from having a cat curled up next to you asleep, and that’s the way I end many of my days.  I’m so chill by that point that I can barely make it upstairs to bed.  This leads to a sound night’s sleep and a refreshed awakening, which is a great way to combat stress!

What do you do to just chill?

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?

A Whole Lotta Makin’ Goin’ On!

I’m back, and it feels great being back!  The soaping supplies have been lonely, meditating on the meaning of life while we’ve canned the mid-summer harvest and celebrated the first of two birthdays.  The kittens I’ve been featuring in every blog post have found their forever homes, including the Momma cat.  This does, of course, include the one that adopted me.  And because I thought it might be a good idea for that kitten – I named her Lily – to have a companion besides the big cats, we also rescued a kitten from the pound, named Severus.  Harry Potter fans will understand.

The first party revealed that the Polish dill pickles are the most popular pickles to date.  I took a quart of them, it wasn’t a huge party, and the jar got wiped out completely.  So, we made sure that we got in two more batches of them.  Here’s the first of those two.

Picture of Polish dill pickles
Polish dill pickles. Some kind of awesome good!

Since then, the hubby has requested watermelon rind pickles.  I had never tasted them, nor had I ever made them.  I was always taught, “Never eat the rind.  It’ll make you sick.”  But, willing to try anything once, I found a recipe for cinnamon watermelon rind pickles and started the process.  They’re not quite my thing, but they’re pretty good.  We harvested another watermelon this week, and we’re going to try another trick with the pickles this go-around.

Last night, I finished the scarf for my older daughter’s birthday present, and tomorrow, my younger daughter is going to help me make a muslin bag to store it in.  She’s really excited about this!

Now that that is wrapped up and in my “done” pile, I have a scarf in process that’ll go to Scarves in the Port City for their ministry to homeless people.  Since I tend to have two projects going at any one time, it became time to start a shawl for a wedding I’m attending in October.  Oh, this is absolutely gorgeous!  Well, it will be, I’m sure.  I chose a black mohair and wool blend lace yarn with tiny multicolored sequins woven through.  It’ll be warm, and the sequins give it a festive look and offset the severity of the red-black color blocking I’d have otherwise.  I’ve started it and unraveled it twice now; this is my first time with knitting lace.

Of course, you’d think I’m nuts, trying to get any yarn work done with two kittens in the house.  You’ve seen Lily already, but I haven’t shown Severus off, yet.  Here he is.  He’s a rescue from the local animal shelter, and isn’t he just absolutely beautiful?  With silky fur and the most lovable disposition, he’s the most perfect companion to me and to Lily.  I thought Lily should have a companion to play with (since the big cats aren’t into playing with kittens), and I couldn’t have chosen better.  She’s half his size, but certainly the more dominant kitten. 

Severus, my black cat
Severus at the vet doing kitty corsage

And here are the two of them this afternoon, napping together.  Lily sleeps in the middle; definitely my kitten.

Kittens sleeping
Lily and Severus recharging

So, for you readers who aren’t into Harry Potter, you may be wondering what the story behind the names is.  In the series, Lily is Harry’s mom, and it was Severus Snape, Professor of Potions at Hogwarts, who revealed to Lily why she was different; they were themselves at Hogwarts together.  I can’t say much more without a spoiler alert.  Severus is depicted as being dark:  Black hair, dark robes, stern (severe) demeanor.  Plus, there’s just something about a black cat being named for a wizard.  There’s a wicked part of me that’d love to train Severus to perch on my shoulder; then at Halloween, I could go around with the girls in my black cape with a black cat perched on my shoulder, freaking out superstitious people.  No, I won’t do that, because no amount of fun is worth putting my sweet boy at risk, but it’s still fun to think about.

Stay tuned for peeks at the soaps that are new for your pleasure and restocked for those of you who have your faves.  Hint:  Sweet Cinnamon & Clove beer soap is back!


Weekend Ta-Da’s

Last week was the week of frustrating unpluggedness (is that a word?).  Tuesday evening, my darling younger daughter in a fit of pique threw her sister’s beach ball across the living room to her, knocking a cup of water over onto my laptop, rendering it inoperable for a few days, especially considering it was spread out in parts on the kitchen table.  At the same time, I was working on backing up all the files on my old, very slow desktop computer in preparation for having the hard drive replaced and upgraded.  That means I was stuck cooking and traveling.  Hey, there are worse things.

I put my laptop back together Friday, and Saturday, my oldest and I headed up to my parents’ house for a cookout.  Sunday saw me back in the garden.  I have so many cucumbers, enough for at least two more batches of pickles.  I also harvested more basil for pesto, which I whipped up Sunday afternoon.  In the quiet moments, I worked on my older daughter’s birthday present – a scarf in Gryffindor gold and burgundy – and finished another project.  (Yay!!!)

Scarf picture
A glimpse of the Gryffindor scarf I’m knitting for my older daughter

Our weekend ended with a visit to the kittens.  In two weeks, I’ll be able to bring my new one home.  They’ve gotten to be so playful – climbing, tackling, and chasing strings.  One little one kept exploring the crack under the door, and Momma Cat was not happy with that.  Momma went to carry her back to a safer spot in the room, and the kitten was ducking and dodging, trying to figure out how to scoot by her.  So funny!  Of course, there must be the requisite weekly kitten pic…

Cute kitten picture
My next furbaby

There will be more wonderment this week, including some fabulous new soaps that are soon to be ready for your enjoyment.  Stay tuned…

Getting Back to Basics

Once upon a time, I was a suited-up professional working in a healthcare environment, punching a (mostly) 8-5 clock.  Some days I worked until 7 or 8, and I was on call every single weekend.  I was rocking the soap biz on the side, working markets one weekend a month.  We lived in a townhouse in a nice urban area and could walk to the grocery store if we wanted.  Unfortunately, it was uphill coming back.  In fact, making soap was the closest I came to doing the neo-hippie-slash-homesteading thing.

A couple of years after leaving that position, it became very clear to us that we were going to be trading urban life for coastal rural life.  I was pregnant at the time, so finding a new job wasn’t high on my list of priorities, but making a home was.  I had visions of biking places, eating fresh-caught fish on a regular basis, and having our own little garden spot where we could grow our own fruits and vegetables, enough for our family.  One out of three ain’t bad.

In the six years since we moved, my business has taken off in unexpected ways, and I have changed in unexpected ways.  I never dreamed I’d be home educating my daughters.  Our “little” garden spot has had really bad years and really great years, but those great years haven’t yielded just enough for us to enjoy, but enough to share.  This year, it’s giving us some to can, too.  That’s another thing I never expected to be doing – putting up my own canned goods.  We tend to gravitate towards condiments (cranberry mustard, jellies, jams, and butters) and dessert stuff (pie fillings and chocolate sauce), although we have made and put up pickles, Brunswick stew, and chicken soup.  These, too, we are able to share.

jars of chocolate sauce
Jars of homemade chocolate sauce that Mary made. Taste better than Hershey’s!

When we lived “in the city,” I didn’t own a working sewing machine; I’m on my second one since we moved, one that my fellow business owner said is “a good one for children” (thanks, Sarah), but which is most definitely a step up from my Singer.  I used to sew; when I was a teenager, I made pillows for myself and for gifts, and I’ve done some of that since being married.  My long-time customers have seen the bags I’ve made for gifts or to hold bars of soap, too.  I’ve made a messenger bag and three purses.  Most recently, I’ve sewn curtains, a rather large project, as they’re covering a sliding glass door.

Soapmaking.  Canning.  Sewing.  Knitting.  (My oldest daughter is over my shoulder, or I’d show you what I’m working on for her.)  I look around at all these things my hands have made, at all the ways I’ve stretched myself to create a warm home and the ways we’ve worked together as a family to achieve it, and I am pleased.

(Next week, look for pictures of homemade pesto and more pickles.  I wish I could share our bounty with you.)