Friday, May 30, 2008

and now, for something completely different...

Okay, it's not completely different, just different from the usual work day. It's been so sunny and nice here that I just can't stay out of my garden. It's hard to be inside and work and blog even when I know I should! So I've been out taking pictures instead. And digging in the dirt. I have three new raised beds for my veggie garden, and I've been puttering in the perennials, too. All last weekend when I was digging and planting, every breeze brought the scent of lilac. And I seem to have more lily of the valley every spring. (My daughter calls these popcorn plants--I can see why!)

Every so often I think about discontinuing these spring fragrances, but I just can't do it. They have a small following, and I count myself among those who appreciate these gentle florals. Do you know someone who loves lilac or lily of the valley? All of our products come in these fragrances, but the Spring Flowers Bouquet shares both of them. When I finally come in from the garden, I'd love to make some spring flowers to send to you or a friend. Lily of the valley is May's birth flower, you know...send a belated birthday gift! (And we still haven't given away all of our coupons...contact us for details on how to get your discount!)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Laughter is the Best Medicine


Two weeks ago my son and his friend down the street were doing a little batting practice, and my son's face got in the way. An ambulance ride, multiple x-rays, a CAT scan and three stitches later, Tristan said to us, "I've always wanted a scar." We all had a good laugh and somehow in all of that stress we felt a little better. (I also spent the next few days inhaling lavender! It really does help.)

I can't count the number of times I've gotten the giggles at what might be considered "inappropriate" times. I think in every case I was stressed or anxious. Somehow I think we aren't meant to feel upset or worried for long periods of time. We're supposed to lighten up periodically to stay healthy. A recent MSN article backs me up on that, and gives tips for using humor to improve your memory as well as your mood.

I can't help but include some funny quotes and stories here every so often because I think it's so important to have a good chuckle on a regular basis. Please share your own tips for finding humor in everyday life! I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tapadh leibh

Several months ago I decided to start learning Scottish Gaelic. My dad's mother was a Graham, and it's only a few generations back to Scotland from their now-Vermont-based family. I've always shared this name, and it's made me feel connected to them and to this place.

As I suspected, there are not enough hours in a day for me to give this amazing language the attention it deserves (and requires) to develop any sort of fluency. I listen to the practice CDs with amazement, and follow along in the book as well as I can, but I am fairly certain that my level of skill will hover somewhere around "appreciation" indefinitely!!

But an interesting thing happened when I started "learning" Gaelic: out of the blue, I began to get email inquiries from Scotland! Just today I was preparing to ship to the Isle of Lewis, and had to do some Googling to add this to my mental map (see the map above with the Isle of Lewis in red). This is part of the Outer Hebrides, and Barvas (Barabhas), as it turns out, has the highest concentration of Scottish Gaelic speakers in Scotland (around 75%). Isn't that amazing? Just for comparison, in mainland Scotland the concentration of Gaelic speakers is not higher than 25% in any parish. The lucky thing for me is that most of these folks also speak English! But it definitely has encouraged me to keep at my studies.

I have to say this is one of the coolest parts of my job. I spend time working with people on their weddings or bridal showers (or hen's nights) halfway around the world, and as Laura in Renfrewshire told me, "it certainly doesn't feel like you're so far away." So here's a big Tapadh leibh (thank you) to Laura, and to Rachel in Barvas, and to Lynne, whose project is still in progress--it's been so much fun working with all of you!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Your time is too precious..."

"Never allow anyone to rain on your parade and thus cast a pall of gloom and defeat on the entire day. Remember that no talent, no self-denial, no brains, no character, are required to set up in the fault-finding business. Nothing external can have any power over you unless you permit it. Your time is too precious to be sacrificed in wasted days combating the menial forces of hate, jealously, and envy. Guard your fragile life carefully. Only God can shape a flower, but any foolish child can pull it to pieces."

Og Mandino

Friday, May 23, 2008

Colcannon

Colcannon is a mashed potato dish that originated in Ireland but also is prepared in Scotland. Also known as Rumbledethumps, Kailkenny, and in Irish, cál ceannan, it traditionally contained boiled cabbage with the potatoes; in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, it includes turnip and carrots. Put the leftovers into in a frying pan and it's similar to the English "bubble and squeak". Here's one version--add the cheese for a complete meal, or serve as a side dish.

1 pound potatoes, washed but not peeled
1 pound shredded cabbage
1 large onion, chopped
1/3 cup milk (or soy milk) for mashing potatoes

1 tablespoon butter (or margarine)

Optional: 4 ounces cheddar or other hard cheese (or soy cheese), grated and divided

Salt and black pepper to taste


Boil potatoes until tender but not overcooked. Drain them, setting aside to cool while reserving liquid to boil cabbage and onion. (Add more water if necessary to cook cabbage and onion.) Boil for about 5 minutes, then drain.

Peel cooked potatoes, add butter and milk, and mash until smooth. Stir in cabbage and onion, 2/3 of cheese (if using), and season with salt and pepper. Spoon into greased casserole dish and sprinkle remainder of cheese on top. Bake at 350 - 400° until lightly browned.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Veggie Minestrone

Veggie Minestrone

1/2 medium onion, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
2 cups vegetable bouillon
3 cups diced or crushed tomatoes, fresh or canned
2 potatoes, cubed
1 sweet potato, cubed
2 large carrots (or handful of baby carrots), chopped
2-3 cups of additional veggies, fresh or frozen: green beans, peas, corn, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, etc...any combination you like!
1 cup cooked or canned beans or chick peas
handful of orzo or other small pasta
1/2 tsp oregano (or more to taste)
black pepper to taste
serve with grated parmesan or romano cheese, croutons, crusty bread, etc.

Place olive oil in a large stock pot and add the onion and celery. Saute until translucent. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes, then add veggie bouillon and tomatoes. Add 2-3 more cups water. Add potatoes and carrots, simmer until nearly tender, then add beans or chick peas, and fresh or frozen veggies as desired. Remember that some veggies (such as spinach) will cook faster, so they can be added near the end. Add a handful of pasta, then serve when pasta is tender. Top with freshly grated parmesan or croutons.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mexican Lasagna

Veggie Mexican Lasagna

15 -oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (you can also use pink or pinto beans)
2 cups salsa
4-oz. chopped green chilies
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/3 cup minced onion
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
8 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese (Vegans: this can be omitted, or soy cheese can be used.)
Additional salsa, sour cream, or guacamole for toppings

Preheat oven to 400. Combine beans, salsa, chilies, corn, onion, cumin and oregano.
Oil a 2 qt casserole or baking dish. Line baking dish with 4 tortillas, overlapping if necessary. Spread half of bean mixture over tortillas, add half cheese. Repeat.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. Let stand 1 or 2 minutes, then cut into squares. Top with sour cream, salsa, guacamole, etc. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

National Vegetarian Week

Did you know that May 19-25 is National Vegetarian Week? I never knew there was such a thing, but my mom forwarded an article about it earlier today. I've been a vegetarian for nearly 25 years, so every week is veggie week to me! But there are lots of good reasons to replace some meats with veggie-based foods on a regular basis. Here are just a few:

1. Weight loss: if you're trying to lose weight, try replacing meat with beans or soy-based proteins as lower fat alternatives. ("Meat-eaters have three times the obesity rate of vegetarians.")

2. Health: Reduce your risk of lots of diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Just as an example, vegan diets have been shown to prevent and reverse heart disease.

3. Going Green: Eating greens is definitely a way to "go green"! A vegetarian diet is healthy for the environment, too. According to "Diet for a New America" by John Robbins, seven times more deforestation in the US is due to the creation of grazing land and livestock crops than to creating housing, parking lots, etc.; 85% of our topsoil losses every year can be attributed to livestock grazing; and a pound of meat takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce.

If you're someone who has been known to ask, "Where's the beef?" maybe all it takes is finding out how great veggie alternatives can be! I'll share some recipes this week and I think you'll agree that it's pretty easy to take the Veggie Challenge!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Purse Favor

We're discontinuing a few packaging options, so for a short time you can get some cute purse favors or eurototes! Check out our Specials to see these favor ideas and some of our other discounted items!

Monday, May 12, 2008

10% off!


Hey, does anyone want 10% off their next order? Maybe you just realized your friend has a birthday coming up and she'd like a gift set, or you need a big jar of sugar scrub to get your toes summer-sandal-friendly! Or maybe you want to buy some party favors for that girls' night next month?

Whatever you'd like to spend it on, just email me to get your 10% off! Put "I want a discount!" in your subject line--the first 10 emails I receive will get a coupon code to use at the site anytime through May and June! (You can contact me at emilyATgcdspa.com.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Friday, May 09, 2008

New Fragrances for the Guys

We've always offered our shaving sets and soaps in a Spiced Orange fragrance for the guys. It's a really spicy, invigorating fragrance that's become popular with the ladies, too (especially the spiced orange lotion).

My in-house tester for the men's products really liked the frankincense and myrrh fragrance (which we use in the Gifts of the Magi salts at Christmas), so I made up some bath gel for him. He liked it so much I had to make the lotion, too. And then the shaving soap, as well. This fragrance is the new favorite around our house...it's a great scent for everyone.

I think the guys were feeling a bit left out because I kept adding new fragrances to the women's product lines but hadn't expanded the men's fragrances. So in addition to the new Desert Air (frankincense and myrrh) fragrance, we've also started making Bay Rum products. All of our men's products, from shaving sets to bath gel and lotion, are now available in these three fragrances! And just in time for Father's Day, we've also reduced the prices! Let us know what you think!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Green Wedding Favors


I've been working on these for the past few weeks (sourcing the materials for months, really), and I think we're finally ready to go green with our favors! This is one of our new green wedding favor options, the Lavender Glassine, which joins our other lavender favors (packaged in organza sachets). We are also now offering a green lip balm option, with biodegradable and recyclable packaging.

Besides offering our favors with recycled, recyclable, earth-friendly containers and packaging, we're also donating 5% of our Green Wedding Favor sales to The Nature Conservancy! So how can you go wrong?!

Please take a look at our Green Wedding Favors and let us know what you think! (And consider them for other events, too...they'd be great for bridal teas, for example, or showers or bachelorette parties. We'll print any of our designs on your choice of recycled paper!)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Swash and Swirl

LOVE these new tags and labels, designed for "nearly family" up in Belfast! Navy and baby blue together are so nice...as with nearly all of the designs, though, I can customize to other color themes, so ask for Design #1259!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tapestry

Or maybe this is more like damask? Anyway, I love this new tag! I've done it in turquoise, but it can be in any color. Match to balm flavor and bow! I'll add a link to it soon, but for now you can order tag design #1258, and specify your color! (You can choose one to match your winter wedding colors, a Something Blue theme, for fall party themes--whatever you'd like!)

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