Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Candy Corn Day

Yes, it is National Candy Corn Day. No, I usually don't celebrate. But when there's candy corn around (and honestly, what family doesn't have a big ol' bag or bowl of it this time of year?) why not indulge? After all, it's fat-free! Here are some other candy corn facts:

- Candy corn was first made in the 1880s.

- About 9 billion (yes that was a "b"--BILLION) kernels are made by candy companies in a year.

- Originally made by hand, candy corn is now manufactured by machines.

More candy corn information.
Gourmet candy corn.
Candy Corn lip balm

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pink Lady and Pink Cupcake Review

I had to share this with you! I was really excited to see this review of our Pink Lady and Pink Cupcake products today at Sarah's Surprises. Sarah had mentioned the Pink Lady products earlier this month because the sale of these items benefits breast cancer awareness year-round.

Please feel free to leave your comments here...or better yet, leave some comments for Sarah if you've tried any of our products and have feedback to share!

And remember, you can find this breast cancer awareness gift and others at our Pink Lady products page!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 Action in Brunswick, ME

Last week I wrote 350 words on, and mentioned that I was planning to attend a action in Brunswick on Saturday. Well, I watched it pour Saturday morning and sorta started wishing I hadn't blogged about it...much easier to chicken out and stay home if no one is waiting for the follow-up! But I was marching with the "diehards" so there was no turning back!

We did have a small discussion about the irony of allowing annoying weather to prevent our attendance at a climate change event. Without appropriate action, annoying weather will be replaced by devastating weather, and getting a little bit wet will be the least of our problems. That thought made it easier (for me) to take a walk in the rain. So here we go...

Here are some of the members of St. Paul's Earth Care Commission just before the bell ringing! (My parents are third and fourth from the left.) Here is the group's action report, which you can view with the other photos at the Flickr Photostream:
"St. Paul's Episcopal Church Earth Care Commission rang bells at 2:30 in front of the church. We marched to the Unitarian Universalist Church down the street where we joined with their prayer and ringing of their bell. As a joint group, we marched up Maine Street to the First Parish Church, joining with their group as they rang their bell 350 times. The entire group then marched to Bowdoin College where we joined their 350 climate action."

Here I am looking really dry! That didn't last. But you can see I had my umbrella with me, and fortunately the event at Bowdoin was moved indoors.

And here we are in Morrell Lounge, in Smith Union at Bowdoin College, making our 350. I know, it's hard to see the 350. I'm in there, though, and so are my parents and the rest of their group! This photo was taken by Margot Miller. / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Here are more details about the event at Bowdoin.

I'm so glad I was invited to participate--I truly enjoyed meeting the members of the Earth Care Commission and spending an hour in the rain with them! The event at Bowdoin reminded us that climate change is also a national security issue. There is a lot at stake, so it's vital that we keep reminding our senators and representatives how important clean energy is to all of us.

Did you participate in a action? I'd love to share your photos and experiences, too! Please let us know where you were and what you did!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Word of the Week: Nerd

"My natural enthusiasm about bugs is stronger than any worries about how nerdy I appear..." -Thomas Shahan.

I ran across this quote last week in a tweet by The Today Show. Shahan was a guest on the show, talking about his passion for photographing bugs. Do yourself a favor and visit Shahan's Flickr Photostream. I am not a huge fan of bugs, but his photos are incredibly beautiful. It's like visiting another world. Imagine having the ability to do this--to show people other worlds right there under their noses all the time--and NOT DOING IT because you're worried about looking "nerdy".

So this is what I say to you: if you're a nerd--what calls "
an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit"--embrace it. Many of the truly incredible things that have been accomplished in this world were done by intelligent, single-minded, and yes, obsessed people! You owe it to yourself (and the world) to share it!

What do you think of his photos? Aren't they amazing? Have you ever been called a nerd? Are you cool with it or do you hide your enthusiasm because you're afraid of what people think?

Photo credit. CC BY 2.0

Thursday, October 22, 2009

350 Words on

This Saturday I plan to join a small group at a local church, which will join other small groups marching up the hill to Bowdoin College. At Bowdoin we will join a larger group, including a congressman and a former Maine governor, who will join an immense group of activists from 170 nations. We join all of them to "take a stand for a safe climate future." was founded by Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and other works about global warming and the environment. The number 350 refers to the parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in our atmosphere that is now considered the safe upper limit for life on this planet. Current estimates put us closer to 400 ppm, and it's believed that if we stay at these levels or allow them to get higher, the resulting climate changes will lead to environmental catastrophes, and will ultimately be irreversible.

Here's a video that illustrates what is about:

It's truly amazing what international activists have planned for October 24. In the 170 participating countries, there are more than 4,000 actions planned! Take a look at this article Bill McKibben wrote for Yes! magazine. McKibben writes: "Some of these actions are so beautiful they make you weep: around the dwindling Dead Sea, Israeli activists will form a giant human 3 on their shore, and Palestinians a 5 on their beach, and in Jordan a huge 0. The message: even in places with deep divisions, people understand that the crisis that faces us now calls for real unity."

I'm looking forward to joining others at Bowdoin to pose for our 350 photo on Saturday. Join us where you are! Visit to find an action happening near you, and share your stories with us here on Saturday!

Photo directed and photographed by John Quigley/Spectral Q

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gay Marriage and the Wedding Professional

Here in Maine we're preparing for a big vote on November 3, which is unusual in an off-year election. Last spring our state's legislature and governor passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage, and depending on our response to Question One in November's Referendum, Maine could be the first state to support our gay marriage law with a popular vote. At this point it is difficult to say which way the state will go, so everyone is watching, and waiting. And arguing. What a divisive issue!

I do a lot of reading about weddings, and some time ago I came across this story of a wedding photographer in New Mexico who was approached by a same-sex couple to photograph their commitment ceremony (New Mexico does not allow same-sex marriage). The photographer declined, telling the couple that she was a Christian and because of her beliefs, she didn't photograph same-sex ceremonies. The couple sued the photographer and won: the Human Rights Commission in NM found her guilty of discrimination and ordered her to pay nearly $7,000 for the couple's legal fees.

I've seen this story repeated many times in recent months, often by business owners concerned about being "forced" to offer services against their own beliefs. If we uphold this law in Maine--and if other states follow the six who already have same-sex marriage laws--there will be a lot of lawsuits like this one, and a lot of questions that will need answers. For example, what takes precedence in a business situation: my religious beliefs, or your right not to be discriminated against? If you "force" me to provide a product or service against my beliefs, is this also discrimination? Some states have added religious protections to their same-sex marriage laws to deal with the conflicts between rights. It's still a very complicated issue, with questions I'm not qualified to answer. The question I can answer, though, is how I address this issue within my own business.

Over the years, I've prepared thousands of favors and gifts for many weddings and wedding-related events, including same-sex commitment ceremonies and civil unions. When customers place orders at my site, they specify their personalization, including names, and I add them to the labels and tags as typed. The customer then has the opportunity to make corrections to a draft that I email before printing and assembling their favors. This process is the same for every customer, without exception. I decided a long time ago that my business was about making people feel special, but I've never liked the idea that some people have to be left out in order for others to feel special. This is why I've kept my prices and my minimums low: even the smallest events and the tightest budgets can afford my kind of special. That's also why I'm just as happy to get an order from "Tammy and Steve" as from "Tammy and Lisa". I love that Tammy and Steve AND Tammy and Lisa choose my products to share at their celebrations! I like making them feel special, too.

A question that I haven't seen discussed as often, but which I think should be considered by wedding couples, is this: does "forcing" a business to provide you with a product or service against their beliefs give you the best product or service? While it certainly may be discrimination for a photographer or other professional to refuse to work with you in certain circumstances, the reality is that if for some reason they cannot provide you with their best work, you will be much happier finding a vendor who can. Many same-sex couples are now turning to sites like Rainbow Wedding Network and Queerly Wed to find what the latter site calls "queer friendly" vendors. There are many professionals who will be excited to take part in your celebration, and these sites make it easier to find them. If you own a "queer-friendly" business, check out these sites to see how you can add your business to their lists.

I also think that it's important for business owners to be aware of anti-discrimination laws and how they can affect you. Business owners with certain religious beliefs are already afraid that same-sex marriage laws will put them in the position of having to choose between "your conscience or your livelihood." While businesses turn away jobs every day for a variety of reasons, there are some reasons that may offend potential customers or, at worst, are considered discriminatory. Know your rights, understand the law, and remember that being respectful toward everyone, regardless of whether you agree with them, just makes good sense--from a human and business perspective.

What do you think? Does your state have a same-sex marriage law? Does this issue affect you personally, or impact your job or business? Please share your thoughts!

Cake topper photo from

Monday, October 19, 2009

Word of the Week: Nonsense

"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities." Dr. Seuss

"Nonsense is an assertion of man's spiritual freedom in spite of all the oppressions of circumstance." Aldous Huxley

"Nonsense is to sense, as shade to light; it heightens effect." Frederick Saunders

Enjoy a little nonsense this Monday, and have a wonderful week!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Would a free honeymoon save YOUR marriage?

The government of a Malaysian state seems to think they can save faltering marriages and "create models of exemplary families" with a plan to offer free honeymoons to couples who are considering divorce. Two nights at an island or beach resort may do the trick, according to officials from Terengganu state. (And if not, the counseling required for the participating couples probably will help.)

In other wedding news, The Unification Church had its first mass wedding in years last week when Rev. Sun Myung Moon blessed a crowd of 20,000 at a campus in Asan, south of Seoul, Korea. An additional 20,000 watched from around the world over the Internet. Some of the couples being married had only met a few times before the ceremony--their marriages were arranged by Moon.

Imagine sharing a wedding day and ceremony with so many other people! Imagine the government taking such an interest in the success of your marriage and family! What do you think? Would a free honeymoon "fix" a broken marriage? How about letting someone else choose your spouse--is that likely to result in a happy or successful union?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Take 15% off on the 15th!

Just in case you can't read the coupon above...

Take 15% off on October 15th! Visit us at, place an order before 11:59 pm EST on October 15th and take 15% off!

Add your items to the shopping cart, then enter Promotional Code TAKE15 and click update to see your reduced prices. Please note that coupon does not apply to Pink Lady products or to items already discounted.

Wordless Wednesday is Autumn in Maine!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Word of the Week: Change

For a while now I've been working on reformulating our sugar scrubs so they are paraben free, and I finally have them ready. It's ironic that this change is happening in October, during Breast Cancer Awareness month; an experiment conducted in the UK in 2004 found parabens in breast tumors, and led many to link paraben preservatives with breast cancer. In the years since, lots of beauty products companies have felt the pressure to find alternative preservatives for their products. You can add us to the list: with the addition of a paraben-free bath gel last spring and sugar scrub this month, our entire line of products is now paraben-free.

I don't want to give the impression that our products were unsafe before because they contained parabens, or that other companies' products are unsafe if they still contain them. I've given this issue a lot of thought, and after reading research and opinions I still have mixed feelings about parabens. There are consumer advocate groups in the U.S. who are very vocal about potentially harmful ingredients in cosmetics. These folks hold the cosmetics industry in Europe as an example, since they have much stricter rules about cosmetics and beauty products than we do here. Interestingly enough, parabens are still considered safe in Europe; while they forbid the use of CMR substances (carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction), parabens are not on that list. Colipa, The European Cosmetics Association, lists parabens on its "Ingredients Under Discussion" with the statement, "Scientific safety studies have shown that parabens pose no problem for human health when used in cosmetics. They are listed in the Cosmetics Directive as approved preservatives."

The American Cancer Society lists parabens under the category of "Factors with uncertain, controversial, or unproven effect on breast cancer risk" in their list of Risk Factors for Breast Cancer. The National Cancer Institute, as well as the FDA, also do not consider parabens to be health hazards. Kayla Fioravanti from Essential Wholesale has blogged about parabens in detail on several occasions: her initial discussion answers a lot of paraben questions, while a follow-up blog states the positions of major cancer and health organizations such as the FDA and National Cancer Institute. The bottom line for all of these organizations, in the U.S. and Europe, is that parabens are still considered safe in cosmetics and beauty products.

So why change? I wrote about change when we reformulated our lip balms to change our colorants. I've slowly been increasing the natural and organic flavorings used in our balms, too. These changes are meant to improve our products, to include more healthful and soothing ingredients and remove anything that could cause allergic reaction. We change to reflect new research and information about our ingredients, but we also change in response to our customers. Even if there isn't scientific proof that parabens cause cancer, some of our customers are nervous about it, and we can change that. I hope that changing to paraben-free products will help some of you feel more comfortable. Please let me know if you have any questions about this change, and feel free to leave your comments below.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Baking for Adopt-a-Dog Month

October is American Humane's Adopt-a-Dog Month. We have a couple of friends who have just recently brought home new pups, and since we're enjoying a long weekend, the kids and I decided that we'd bake some dog bones to give as gifts to these new friends!

Our other canine pals really enjoy peanut butter bones, so we did a search online and found this recipe for "Peanut Butter Puppy Poppers":

2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, mix milk and peanut butter in another and then add to the dry ingredients. Mix, then knead the dough. The dough is a little tough to stir and roll out, so kids may need your help with this part. But after the dough is rolled to about 1/4" on a lightly floured surface, give them the cutters and let them go to it! We used three sizes of bone-shaped cutters, but you can use any shapes you like. (My daughter did a few butterflies, too, so someone will be surprised!).

We baked the bones at 350° for 20 minutes, then let the batch sit out overnight to dry out completely. Then we packaged in cello bags and added a tag with the ingredients (just like people, some dogs have allergies, so it's important that you share the ingredients if you're giving the bones as a gift).

If you'd like to print out these tags that we made, click here for the PDF for a free sheet of printable tags. (These are just for your personal use, please! Not suitable for commercial products!) Then punch holes and use the ribbons of your choice.

For more information about adopting your own dog, read about the adoption process at American Humane's website.
They share all kinds of information about the care of your new pet, as well as behavior and training issues and tips.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Word of the Week: Reunited

Imagine working with someone for a few months and then discovering he's your brother. Imagine being in your 30s or 40s before you get to meet your siblings. This is an amazing story that has been unfolding here in Maine in recent months and concluded on the Today show last week.

I find it incredible that there are only a handful of states with open adoption records to allow reunions like this. What do you think about this? Do you think that adopted children should be able to access this information once they reach adulthood?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Reader Reclaims the World Between the Covers

I used to be a reader. When I was a kid, I happily spent 40 minutes on the school bus every morning reading a book. I enjoyed that feeling of entering a different world, of following where the author led me. As I recently tried to encourage this same love of books in my kids, I realized with some shock that I wasn't reading books anymore.

Don't get me wrong: I read all the time. I spend all kinds of time on the internet. But surfing involves a different kind of reading--and maybe a different kind of thinking, too. Last summer, Nicholas Carr talked about this in The Atlantic when he asked, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" Formerly "voracious" readers provided their experiences of being unable to finish books (at least I'm not alone!). This evidence is supported by research in the UK which suggests that people are using a "power browsing" technique for gathering information online rather than reading in detail. Carr's piece describes the ways that technology has changed not only the way we live, but the way we think about things and about ourselves. From the invention of the clock through the development of industrial and manufacturing efficiencies, these changes have shaped us: we place a high value on information and the immediacy and sheer volume of it has changed how we process it. The internet has become part of our intellectual "evolution".

It's interesting to think about who we're going to be five or ten years from now if we're having a hard time reading books now. Of course technology will accommodate this. It already has. I was just reading about hybrid books, which are books with video and web components. Judith Curr, the publisher of Atria Books, says, "You can't just be linear anymore with your text." A reviewer on named Fred L. Gronvall said of the videos, "It really makes a story more real if you know what the characters look like." I don't remember having a problem with that when I used to read books; in fact, I preferred to read a book before seeing the movie precisely because I could imagine the characters and settings myself. Seeing a movie first was like having the work done for you. It removed what Carr calls the "intellectual vibrations" in the brain caused by reading books. "In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book," Carr said, "...we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas." In other words, "deep" reading makes us think.

Those who create the images that accompany the words in "vooks" (or replace them entirely in movies or Youtube videos) are moved by the written word and its "intellectual vibrations". They read a book like Lord of the Rings, for example, and see a whole world that they're inspired to create on screen. What will happen if the next generation of directors and other storytellers no longer read books, and spend childhoods having their stories "spoon fed" to them? What new medium or process will replace these "intellectual vibrations" that have inspired us for centuries?

The staccato nature of our Twitter communications, cryptic length of status updates, and brief summaries of news items that we read on our daily "feeds" are accommodating our appetites for information, and lots of it, but have we sacrificed our ability to think deeply about issues? The sound bite in politics may not be popular just because it's palatable: perhaps it's the only size of information we are able to chew and digest. By filling us up with many tiny, constant meals, new media seems to have rendered us incapable of eating anything larger or meatier. Is this something to be excited about? Are we intrigued? Or alarmed? Will the problems we face as time goes on decrease in complexity to accommodate our thinking style? Will we perceive them as simpler? Or will our problem-solving necessarily change?

When I realized how few books I was reading, I made a book list and started to tackle it. Not on a Kindle or anything else with batteries or screens; not books on tape, not the movie version or Cliffsnotes. These all have their place, but to reclaim some of those "quiet spaces," I'm using my eyes and brain, a library card, and time. It's only been a few months and my thinking already feels more linear. My distractibility has decreased, my focus has improved. I still enjoy my feeds, tweets, and status updates, but I make sure to balance these with the simple pleasures of the world between two covers.

What do you think? Have you embraced new technology completely, or do you straddle the old and new as I do? Do you still read books? Are you conflicted about the role that new media plays in your life? Please share your thoughts!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we have a new product to share! But first, let me tell you about the special products we already have that benefit breast cancer research.

Several years ago we introduced Pink Lady lip balm, with $1 from each balm going to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. A year later came the lotion, hand cream, and moisturizers gift set, and the Pink Lady lip balm favors. We donate $1 from the sale of each individual product--and a whopping $3 from the sale of each gift set--to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Most businesses will tell you that "x% of their sales" (or profits) are being donated, so let me break this down for you so you can compare. Giving $1 for each product means that we donate:

• 36% from the sale of each Pink Lady lip balm,
• 28.5% from the sale of each Pink Lady lip balm favor,
• 13% from the sale of each Pink Lady lotion,
• 14% from the sale of each Pink Lady cream, and
• 17.7% from the sale of each Pink Lady moisturizers gift set. This is NOT a percentage of our profits.

All of our Pink Lady products are available year-round, but we wanted to add something special this year, just for the month of October. Our NEW Pink Ribbon Pink Cupcake lip balm is available through October 31, and $1 from each tube of balm will go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (If you're keeping track, that's 33 1/3% from the $3 retail cost of each Pink Cupcake tube.)

We love these new balms--sweet pink balm, bright pink labels, cute pink caps--and we love donating to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. If you're looking for a breast cancer awareness gift (or favor), please check out our Pink Lady page and let us know if we can help you with personalized favors or special gift sets! Thank you!


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