Friday, July 31, 2009

Christmas in July?

If you're still not getting our newsletter, you can read more about our Christmas in July (or is that August?) in the online version.

I also invite you to take a look at our specials. We've got some new products we're trying to make room for, so we have lots of sales going on.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Laughter is the Word EVERY Day

I'll be celebrating my 15th wedding anniversary in a few months. While this photo was taken several years ago, it could have been yesterday. Or today. We're goofy, and it works for us.

When I first met my husband in college, he described me to his family by saying, "She laughs at my jokes." He has lots of other great qualities, but if I had to pick my favorite, it would be his sense of humor. He's just plain funny, and even in hard times and through some of the difficult days we've had, his humor has helped me to put things in perspective.

I recently read Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure. I started the book thinking I was getting some kind of diet book, or at least a cookbook, with explanations of what is good (and bad) to eat. This book is much more a recipe for living, with the French joie de vivre front and center. In my favorite part of the book, the author describes her early relationship with her husband Edward. When Edward's mother asked him how things were going with Mireille, he said, "She makes me laugh." Guiliano writes, "Over the years we've laughed a lot, and when I ask him, 'Do you still love me?' he always answers, 'As long as you make me laugh.'" We can certainly relate!

The verdict is still out on whether laughter really is "the best medicine." Some scientists insist that laughing is almost a form of exercise, with health benefits to match (burning calories, boosting immunity, and reducing blood pressure, among others). Others believe the benefits are mostly from feeling connected in social situations, where laughter is often shared. What seems clear is that a good belly laugh helps to relieve stress and release tension, which certainly improves your feelings of well-being. I don't need scientific proof to consider that a serious health benefit (or to see how it could help a long-term relationship)!

In her book, Guiliano mentions that adults laugh an average of 15 times a day, compared to the hundreds of times that children laugh. Her point illustrates the belief that "laughter keeps us young"--and who can argue with that? There's nothing like a hearty laugh to make you feel alive and energized. My own opinion is that laughter is good for your health AND your relationships. Whatever tickles you, find it and indulge in a generous dose daily. (And it's Monday, right? So take a bigger dose today!)

I'd love to know what you think. Does laughter keep you feeling young? Do your relationships seem better when you can share a laugh? What do you find funny? Please share your comments!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wearing Chucks to Your Wedding is Pretty Sneaky

A friend of mine got married in Chucks a few years ago. The groom wore them, too. I thought that was cool. This might be even cooler.

Imagine custom Chucks for all of your bridesmaids, hand knit in your theme colors. I'm thinking argyle, or maybe the Fair Isle pattern shown here.

These sneaks are the brilliant creation of Katie at PrettySneaky. Katie's grandmother taught her to knit, and now she makes this unique footwear from her home in Portland, Maine. Check out the one-of-a-kind (or would that be two-of-a-kind?) sneakers at her Etsy shop, and keep up with news at her Facebook page.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Word of the Week: Yare

Yare is a Middle English word dating from before the 12th Century. It's an adjective, and it means "set for action; ready." Can you think of a better way to start the week? Ready, set, Monday. Have a great week!

(Following us on Twitter? We're offering a special coupon to followers all day today! Join us there for more coupons coming soon!)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Set Your Own Pace

Confession time: a few months ago I was stopped for speeding. I've been driving for over 20 years and this is the first time I've ever been pulled over. The officer told me that I was going 9 mph over the speed limit, and let me go with a warning. I took it gratefully, and sheepishly crawled off.

When I got home (on jelly legs...wow, is that intimidating or what?), I realized I had been really preoccupied that day. I was driving on autopilot, traveling a familiar road, following a safe distance behind another car. Unfortunately, I allowed that other car to set the pace rather than carefully monitoring my own speed. Of course that's no excuse, but I made a note of that tendency so I wouldn't let it happen again.

Some time ago I decided to embrace "social media" so most days I spend a bit of time on Twitter and Facebook. The good thing about this is that I can see all of the exciting things that other business owners are doing--opening retail stores, branching out to new wholesale accounts, writing books. The bad thing about it is that I start to wonder if I should be doing these kinds of things, too. I made a decision not to sell wholesale, but should I reconsider? I don't have a retail presence apart from my website--is that wise? It's tempting to throw away my own game plan and step on the gas. Gotta power up to keep up with these other businesses, right?

The thing is, following these other business owners at their pace is just as likely to get me pulled over. Maybe I'll be lucky and just get another "warning", but every time I've ever followed someone else's direction at their speed, I've gotten into trouble.

So I'm going to keep trying to set the pace myself. Maybe this sounds crazy, but I'm not interested in getting the whole world to use my lip balm, lotion, or other product. I really enjoy working directly with folks to make custom, personalized gifts that are just right for their events. If I offered things wholesale, I would become a factory and all of this conversation and collaboration would be gone. Working this way is almost the complete opposite of other companies, who make their products and then sell them. We're making to order specifically for one special person. It's part of what makes us different, but I'm not doing it just to be different. I'm doing it because I like it, and it means something to me. I think it means something to my customers, too. So as hard as it can be to set my own course and keep my own pace, I try to stay off "autopilot" and remain mindful of what makes my work so interesting and fun.

What do you think? Do you set your own pace, or do you let other people choose your direction or speed? How do you feel about setting your own pace? I'd love to know what you think!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Learn by doing

"Bad books are about things the writer already knew before he wrote them." Carlos Fuentes

Someone just tweeted this quote, and it struck me as very inspiring. If you think you have to know everything before you start (whether it's writing, or painting, or making music, starting a business--you name it), think again. You always learn about things by doing them. So just start.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Word of the Week: Kindness

When I decided that this week's word was "kindness" I looked it up to see if there were any interesting quotes using this word. What was I thinking?! Every "important" person you can think of has something to say about kindness. Here are some of the quotes I really liked. Hope this helps you start your week! Happy Monday!

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." -- Aesop

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." -- Philo

"My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." -- The Dalai Lama

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless."
-- Mother Teresa

"Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind." -- Henri Frederick Amiel

"So many gods, so many creeds, So many paths that wind and wind, While just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs." -- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

"Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always try to be a little kinder than is necessary." -- Sir James M. Barrie

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tropical Twist Granola!

I heard on the news the other day that in the past 33 days here in Maine, we've had rain on 26 of them. It's been a wet, cold summer so far, which is not my favorite kind of summer. But I'm trying to stay positive, and one good thing about having a cool summer is that I can continue to bake granola a couple of times a week.

I love to eat granola on yogurt, with fresh fruit, and as a topping on desserts. A couple of months ago I decided I'd try making my own. I'd tried before and had always been disappointed (and left with piles of granola that no one wanted to eat). This time I was determined to come up with a recipe that everyone enjoyed. These were a few things I learned:

1. Do not overcook. This is easy to do and was clearly the biggest problem I had all along. Cook at a low temperature for a longer period of time, and remove before oats and nuts get "singed".

2. Add the extras after cooking. I used to throw in dried fruits before baking. Doh! They're already dry and not only don't need extra cooking, they become pellets if they get it. Add them when the granola is cooked and cooled.

3. Add the nuts halfway through the cook time. Almonds are my favorite, but if you want to add other nuts and seeds, they may not need the full cook time to become toasted. Add these items later on when you stir the granola.

Here's my new favorite recipe for Tropical Twist Granola:

4 cups oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 to 1 cup wheat germ
1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup (you can also use honey)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp of citrus oils (I enjoy 1/4 tsp each of lemon and lime, but orange is also good) Please note, I'm not talking about essential oils here, but citrus oils. I buy mine at King Arthur Flour.

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until moistened (easiest to use your hands). Spread onto cookie sheets in thin layers (use pans with raised edges). Bake in oven at 250° for 20 minutes, then stir and add any nuts/seeds you want to toast. Bake for another 20 minutes. Stir a final time and bake for another 5-10 minutes, but no longer! (Much better to undercook a little than to overcook, in my experience.) Remove from oven, allow to cool, and add dried fruits, other nuts and seeds, etc. Dried papaya, mango, and pineapple would be great in this Tropical Twist Granola. Or you can store the basic granola in a sealed container without fruits and seeds, and then add fresh or dried fruits to each serving.

For Spicy Cranapple Granola: Try substituting vanilla for the citrus oil before baking (I'd add about a tablespoon of vanilla in this basic recipe), then adding dried cranberries and apples, 2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg to the finished recipe. How about Chocolate Cherry Granola? Add 1 tsp almond extract, then dried cherries and mini chocolate chips. Making your own granola is fun, and ideal since you can control the amounts of oil and sweeteners you add. It's also much more economical than store-bought.

Have you ever made granola before? What flavor combinations do you like? Please share in the comments below!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Word of the Week: Reformulate

re⋅for⋅mu⋅late
-verb (used with object), -lat⋅ed, -lat⋅ing.
1. to formulate again.
2. to formulate in a different way; alter or revise: to reformulate our plans.

This week's word refers to some changes we've been working on. I sent out a newsletter earlier this year and mentioned that we'd be reformulating a few of our products. Well, nothing is ever as simple as you think, so it's taken us a bit longer to make the decisions about our reformulations. We are still working on our sugar scrubs, but have changed the micas, pigments, and other colorings we use in our lip balms.

First of all, please know that all of the ingredients in our balms are lip safe, and always have been. The base of all of our balms contains oils (almond, coconut, avocado), beeswax, and butters (cocoa and shea), along with Vitamin E for its antioxidant properties. We know what kinds of ingredients we want to include in our balms, but it's just as important to decide what to leave out: petrolatum, mineral oil, and artificial preservatives have always been at the top of that list. We revisit our formulations and reconsider ingredients every so often, and have now decided that bismuth oxychloride and the FD&C and D&C colorings also belong on that list.

Bismuth oxychloride is a by-product of the refining of ores like tin and copper, and is further processed to get rid of lead or any other dangerous elements. The resulting white pigment is used in many cosmetics as a skin protective; it has a nice, silky feel and adheres well to the skin, and also has a pearlescent appearance, so it can help to reflect light to "mask" imperfections on the complexion. It can also cause allergic reactions. Though we've never had any reports of adverse reactions to our products, we decided to eliminate this ingredient from our lip-safe micas.

The lip-safe FD&C and D&C colorings we have used in some of our balms also started to concern us. Though they are approved by the FDA for use in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics (FD&C) or Drugs and Cosmetics (D&C), many of these colorings are derived from coal tar and are known carcinogens (when injected into the skin). They are also capable of producing allergic reactions; again, we've had no reports of any reactions to these colorings in our balms, but we decided to play it safe and reformulate with other colorings.

As an aside, let me mention that lots of other companies safely use bismuth oxychloride and the FD&C and D&C colorings in their products (we did for years with no problems or reactions). We have simply decided that there are better alternatives for our lip balms that will further reduce the risk of allergic reactions.

It's easy enough to decide not to use certain ingredients, but it can be complicated to find substitutions. For example, I wanted a nice, true pink to replace the CI 15850 (Red 7) that was in some of my balms, and many of the pink micas contained carmine, a pigment that comes from ground up beetles. The ick factor alone prevented that choice! After a lot of research, I decided that micas and pigments are my favorite ways to tint lip balm. (Remember that our balms still won't leave color on your lips, and that we can make your custom balm without color, if you prefer...contact us for details.)

Here is the new list of the pigments and micas we have started to use:

• Red and some pink balms contain red mica, which has mica & iron oxides.
• Pale brown balms may contain bronze mica, with red oxide & mica. (Some brown balms also contain Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa!)
• Yellow and orange balms contain gold mica, with mica, titanium dioxide and iron oxides.
• Purple balms contain manganese violet.
• Black or deeper color balms may also contain black mica, with iron oxide, mica, and titanium dioxide.

As always, these ingredients are all lip-safe, but please let us know if you have any concerns about them, or if you prefer to have your balms prepared without any added color. We have already started using these new pigments and micas, and will be updating our flavors page to reflect this change as soon as all of the previous formulations are out of stock. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about these changes!

Read more about bismuth oxychloride, iron oxides, and the safety of other cosmetics ingredients. A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients is also a fantastic book if you want to check out what all of that gobbledygook on the label really means!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Beauty Tips for Summer Skin and Hair

I actually saw the sun for a few hours yesterday (after weeks of rain here in Maine) so of course I'm imagining some of the skin challenges I may face if the sun actually returns for the Fourth! Sunburns, tan lines, dry and peeling skin...this is a bit of a dream considering that the afternoon of sunshine was followed last night by thunderstorms and heavy rain. But if you're lucky enough to be somewhere with heat and sunshine, check out this slideshow for skin care tips to prepare, protect, and soothe your skin.

(I would personally add lavender to the sunburn treatment they mention. My daughter's friend was nursing a sunburn a few weeks ago when she was visiting, and I applied a few drops of lavender essential oil to the red spots. She felt so much better, she is now requesting a lavender lotion that she can bring with her on vacation!) I have had great luck treating burns with this essential oil. While most people are not allergic, please use with care and dilute with a carrier oil (like olive or grape seed oil), or discontinue use, if irritation occurs.

And exfoliation for tan lines was something I never thought of. Sugar scrubs are great for pedicures, of course, but evening out a tan was a great new idea. Check out our mini pedicures if you're in need of a little exfoliation.

Hope you are having fun in the sun this Fourth of July! Have a great day!

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