Saturday, February 27, 2010

Having fun after 62 years

This was too fun not to share. This was taken in the Mayo Clinic, where Fran and Marlo Cowan spotted a piano and couldn't resist. They've been married 62 years. I hope we'll still be having this much fun when we're nearly 90!



(Don't you just love how he "dances"--and she giggles?! Love it.)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Green Clover Gifts on Feedback Friday

It's Feedback Friday!

Feedback Friday is our way of sharing a fragrance or flavor you might not have tried before by offering a free sample that you can add to your next order. It's also a way for you to share your opinions if you've already tried it (or come back and share once you've received a sample). If you're nervous about sharing a comment (or don't know how to go about it) please check out our description of how to add your own comment.

Our first week we featured Lemon Blueberry, and the second Feedback Friday was Lilac. A few samples of each of these are still available, along with this week's fragrance.

Got Green? Green Clover and Aloe, that is. With St. Patrick's Day a few short weeks away, we decided that our greenest fragrance was the perfect one to share! It will still be months before I can enjoy the smell of green, growing things in my own yard, but Green Clover and Aloe is a fragrant reminder. This green fragrance has a hint of aloe and is so fresh it's bound to tide you over until greener days.

Need an even bigger boost of green? I thought you might! This week's free sample is a Travel Pack containing Green Clover and Aloe lotion and a tube of our Blarney Balm! Picture this: you smooth on our most popular March Lip Balm Flavor of the Month, Irish Cream. You smack your lips and when you open your mouth to talk, suddenly you're the most charming person in the room. You have the "gift of gab!" Sound like Blarney? That's why we call it Blarney Balm!

Now, we can't guarantee that you'll be sweet talking, but the shea butter and soothing oils in our Blarney Balm will leave your lips smooth enough to say, "Kiss me! I'm Irish!"

Green Clover and Aloe is available in:
hand creams
lotions
bath gel (with emerald jojobas for gentle exfoliation)
sugar scrub (also with emerald jojobas)
purse potion (roll-on perfume with glitter)
shower smoothers gift set
other gift sets

Let us know what you think!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tilting at Windmills: The Colorado Safe Personal Care Products Act

I am fortunate to be connected with other small business owners who alert me to potentially harmful legislation before it is passed. (You can read their calls to action here and here. And more here and here.) A bill proposing the creation of the Colorado Safe Personal Care Products Act has been introduced in that state; if it passes as is, I will no longer be selling my products in Colorado. If you're a Colorado resident, be aware that your state legislators will soon be deciding whether to place severe limits on your choices of personal care products. There's still time to act; you can read more here about how to contact your legislators.

If passed, this bill will "(prohibit) a manufacturer from knowingly selling, offering for sale, or distributing for sale or use in Colorado on and after September 1, 2011, any personal care product that contains a chemical identified as causing cancer or reproductive toxicity." What a great idea, right? In theory it's super. The problem is that their list of "known or probable" carcinogens, "potential occupational" carcinogens, and substances "known or reasonably anticipated to be" carcinogens is so broad that they are found in nearly every personal care product on the market. Some components of fragrance oils are considered harmful, for example, but manufacturers who look to essential oils, the "natural" alternatives, would also be out of luck: many essential oils naturally contain small amounts of other "carcinogens."

Why this bill at this time? The bill is the effort of the Women's Lobby of Colorado, sponsored in the CO State Legislature by Rep. Dianne Primavera. The Women's Lobby of Colorado is an endorsing organization of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, founded in part by The Environmental Working Group (did you get all that?!) The EWG has been collecting "evidence" to support its belief that cosmetics are unsafe (see the Campaign's database at Skin Deep for more details). While the campaign's goals were initially aligned with many small personal care products manufacturers, more recently their tactics have included misrepresenting overall risks and singling out manufacturers whose ingredient lists they didn't approve of--pressure akin to blackmail. Some of the companies who had signed with the group early on requested to be removed--and were initially ignored. (Read about Bella Lucce's experience.) The EWG's misinformation has spread to the general public, who are understandably nervous after recent public health scares involving contaminants in food, toys, and other products. The EWG is promoting the perception that personal care products are unregulated and are encouraging consumers to demand legislation to "rein in" the cosmetics companies. Though the EWG's work is pressuring legislators into taking action, they are tilting at windmills.

The truth is that cosmetics are regulated, and have been since the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. This Act prohibits "The introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any food, drug, device, or cosmetic that is adulterated or misbranded" [FD&C Act, sec. 301(a); 21 U.S.C. 331(a)]. Adulterated means that it "bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to users." There is a list of prohibited and restricted substances at the FDA's site; there is extensive information about color additives, including those permitted for use in cosmetics as well as overall safety. And there are regulations about labeling, which means that none of us can "get away with" putting things into our products that our customers don't know about (unless we want to break the law by misbranding).

The truth is that if cosmetics were a huge health problem in this country, we would see many more cases of injury. According to the Personal Care Products Council, cosmetics are the safest of the products regulated by the FDA. "Of the 11 billion personal care products that are sold annually, an average of less than 150 adverse reactions are reported-most of which are minor skin irritations." There's a larger percentage of kids in my community (and in yours) who are seriously allergic to peanuts, but you can still buy Skippy at your local grocery store. The moderate, reasoned approach that most of us take toward food allergies is sorely lacking in the EWG's approach, and in this proposed legislation. Reason and science are exactly what we need to successfully navigate this issue.

We all understand what Paracelcus meant when he said, "Everything is poison, there is poison in everything. Only the dose makes a thing not a poison." Most substances are not intrinsically good or bad, but harmful or helpful in certain contexts and certain quantities. Too much of a "good" thing (like water) can be harmful or even deadly. A little bit of a "bad" thing (consider botulinum toxin, or chemotherapy drugs) can sometimes be helpful. We rely on good science and research to determine safe usage levels or doses so we can minimize the harm AND reap the benefits. In Colorado, they want to use the research to list "probable," "potential," or "reasonably anticipated" carcinogens and, in the absence of usage context or quantity, remove them from everything. This preemptive, knee-jerk response to misrepresented science is intended to "protect" us from the carcinogenic substances in essential oils (present in minute and SAFE quantities) in turn depriving us of so many of the other beneficial substances they possess. It's an all or nothing approach that benefits no one.

There are countless substances present in our world that pose a threat to our health. We owe it to ourselves to maintain a calm, rational approach, using all of our available research (and doing new studies when necessary) to determine whether the dangers of these substances in quantities commonly used really do outweigh their benefits. Small cosmetics companies have been consumers' greatest allies in bringing healthier alternative products to the market; ironically, if this act passes and other states follow, small companies will likely be some of the first to go out of business. The real danger here is the ignorance that makes us focus on the harm rather than the benefit, forcing us to throw away the good because of a perceived bad. Tilting at windmills always makes us ignore the real dragons.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bridal Essentials Gift Set

Moisturizers? Check. Fragrance? Check. Cute little bag to carry them in? Check!

Every bride has a long list of essentials to bring with her on the big day, and this Bridal Essentials Gift Set will get her started on that list. It includes hand cream and purse potion perfume in our new Wedding Cake fragrance (a custom blend of sweet buttercream and sexy vanilla), and wedding cake lip balm with a light vanilla cake flavor and a hint of rich buttercream frosting. Our new goodies feature a pink wedding cake design and are wrapped all together in a reusable, engagement ring-patterned cosmetic bag made especially for us by Dungaree Dolly's--just the right size to tuck into a purse.

This would make a cute bridal shower gift! Add a few extras, like a clear nail polish, small sewing kit, or pocket mirror. Set comes with gift tag for personalizing your message to the bride.

What do you think? What other essentials do you think the bride should carry with her? Please leave your comments below!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Word of the Week: Single-tasking

Did you know that today is Single-tasking Day? We have all grown so accustomed to juggling umpteen things at the same time; Single-tasking Day is an opportunity to step back and refocus on one thing at a time.

A while ago, I wrote about how I was having a hard time reading books, how my time online was adding to an alarming "distractibility." I came across another piece that talks about the inefficiency of multitasking, particularly with media. Researchers at Stanford did a study to find out exactly what gave multitaskers their advantage. I found this shocking: the study's lead author, Eyal Ophir, said, "We kept looking for what they're better at, and we didn't find it." The multitaskers were easily distracted, did not have better memories, and could not switch easily between tasks. They were unable to filter out irrelevant information, which ultimately slowed them down. So, in fact, multitaskers DON'T have an advantage. Who knew??

That's all I needed to read. I'm determined to spend at least today doing just one thing at a time. What do you think? Do you find that you can successfully tackle lots of jobs at once? Or do you find that you do better when you do each task in turn?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blog Disclosure Policy

I'm not in the habit of reading through long documents like FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 16 CFR Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, but as a blogger it's been important to read and understand. In order to comply with these new FTC guidelines, which went into effect on December 1, 2009, I'm writing this post to share with you my policies about endorsements and testimonials.

I am the owner of Graham-Caswell Design, LLC, and GCDSpa.com is a venture of that company. In this business blog I often talk about my company's products (so if I say, "my products" or "our products" or "GCDSpa products" I am referring to items for sale at my site, gcdspa.com).

I also talk about other companies' products quite frequently. When I review them or offer opinions about them, it is always after I've purchased them. I have never been paid to blog about products, and I have not, to this point, received products for free for the purpose of reviewing them. If this happens in the future, it will be clearly noted.

I also maintain a website called ElegantMaineWedding.com, which shares information about wedding vendors in Maine, including GCDSpa.com. Advertising appears on this site (as Ads by Google) which are clearly marked; we do not receive any compensation directly from vendors for their inclusion on the site.

I occasionally provide links to Amazon products, and I am an Amazon affiliate. My recommendations are based on my own opinions and not provided for the sole purpose of generating income. I don't run ads on this blog at this point and do not currently have sponsors; when and if I do, I will label this clearly.

I encourage readers to share their opinions by commenting at this blog, but I reserve the right to edit or delete comments based on their content. Rude, disrespectful, or profane comments will be edited or deleted. Spam will be deleted. Please contact me directly if you have any specific questions about this disclosure policy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

How to leave a comment

If you have left a comment at this blog (or another blog) in the past, today's post is not for you. I was talking with a friend the other day who said that she liked reading blogs but didn't like leaving comments. "I feel self-conscious," she said. She also added that she didn't have a website of her own, so it wasn't clear how she should post a comment. What do you put in for a URL? What if you don't have an account?

It occurred to me that other readers might feel this way, too, so I wanted to walk through how to leave a comment here if you are interested. Please don't feel pressured to do so! I enjoy hearing from you in all of the other ways we connect, on Twitter, Facebook, and via email, so it isn't necessary to contribute here. But if you've felt like leaving a comment and just didn't know how to go about it, please continue reading!

Below you'll see the bottom of one of my recent blog posts. (I've highlighted the words that I often conclude with--"Let us know what you think"--because I really want you to!) Just below that line, you'll see the Comments link (where the arrow is pointing). This is where you will click to add your own comment.


Once you've clicked there, the following window will open. You'll see that I've added the comment, "Wow! I love leaving comments" to the comment area, and then below that you will see the pulldown list for the options to identify your comment (which says, "Comment as:") This is where I think a lot of people stop: if you don't have a blog or Google account, you won't have the account information for WordPress, TypePad, or Google, but you can still leave a comment. Please feel free to select the "Anonymous" option and then add your name to your comment if you'd like me to know who you are. Once you've selected your ID, click the Post Comment button.


Once you've clicked the "Post Comment" button, you will see the following window with a preview of your comment, and a word verification screen. Simply type the letters you see and then click "Post Comment" and you're done. (This last step helps to prevent a lot of spamming of the comments.)


I hope this is helpful to those of you who might have been hesitant to leave a comment. Please let me know if you have any questions at all!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Word of the Week is Coral

I try to keep track of wedding trends--particularly the popular colors--so I have all of the ribbons and packaging in stock to prepare favors. Last year's Spring and Summer Palette included salmon rose, but we saw lots more requests for coral and vermilion. That's continued right into this year--perhaps a reflection of the Spring 2010 Palette, which includes Fusion Coral. In addition to a huge number of searches for coral wedding items, we're now seeing persimmon as a popular wedding color, too.

For a coral wedding theme, you'll want coral favors, and we have lots of ideas to choose from. Poppies, peonies, and gerber daisies are perfect floral designs with a pop of that warm, bright color. Pinstripes of persimmon or bold stripes in coral and brown are more understated designs. Designs inspired by textiles, such as houndstooth and damask patterns, add texture to your gifts, while polkadots, retro swirls and bubbles in coral, persimmon, peach and brown are whimsical choices.

If you're planning a coral wedding theme, check out our designs and contact us with any questions. Almost all of our other designs can be customized to match any palette, so let us know if you'd like to see something different!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Labels

I really like the look of clear labels on clear jars and bottles. I've always liked to be able to see as much of the jojobas' color as possible in our products, so our bath gels and sugar scrubs have always sported clear, matte labels. That the labels sometimes wore off after a while in the shower seemed unimportant when compared with the shelf appeal. I know that sounds crazy, but remember that most of our work is personalized and sample-sized, so in our testing the labels lasted until the product was gone. Sometimes what works for little bottles doesn't apply to big ones! (Doh! Live and learn!) We used the same clear labels on lip balm tubes and a few other products, too.

Recently the manufacturer changed the clear labels. They are now thicker, and we found that they lifted off easily and the toner just didn't stick as well. So this is our new label. It's white and weather-resistant. We've tested it and the toner doesn't come off in water. This material will replace the labels on our gels and the covers of our scrubs. And all of the lip balm tubes will now have these weather-resistant labels, too. I'm keeping the clear labels on the scrub sides (for now) because I'm stubborn and I like how they look. (They don't peel off because the corners are rounded.) But eventually I may replace those, too.

Those of you who shared your label experiences with me: thank you for helping me to make this decision. I know it seems like I dragged my feet on this, but I needed to try some different options and make a decision that would work for personalized work as well as our standard labels. So thanks for your patience, too!

If you ever have any questions or concerns about our products, please let me know! And feel free to share your opinions and comments here, too.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lilac for Feedback Friday

This is our second Feedback Friday. If you missed our first, please read about Lemon Blueberry or share your feedback on that fragrance. (If you'd still like to try lemon blueberry, it's available--along with this week's fragrance--for the next two weeks.)

Feedback Friday is our way of sharing a fragrance or flavor you might not have tried before by offering a free sample that you can add to your next order. It's also a way for you to share your opinions if you've already tried it (or come back and share once you've received a sample).

What do Crabtree and Evelyn's Wisteria Eau de Parfum, 5th Avenue by Elizabeth Arden, Fleur D'interdit for Women by Givenchy, and Lancome Tresor all have in common? Each of these fragrances has notes of Lilac. You cannot escape the scent of Lilacs in springtime here in Maine. In late May when spring is (really and truly) here and I can finally open all the windows, the fragrance wafts into the house on the warm breeze. I have always loved this scent, so it's been in my fragrance line since the beginning. I've written about lilac before, and even before that. You can see it's my "spring fever" fragrance.

Last year's fragrance trend seemed to be toward florals, with lots of bridal showers and baby showers favoring Rose, Lily of the Valley, our own Bridal Bouquet blend, and Lilac. These fragrances still seem to be in demand in 2010, along with the fruity florals. Our Lilac is not as heavy a floral as jasmine or gardenia, or even rose. To me, it has a sweetness and a hint of green that makes me think of the cut bouquets I'm always tempted to share.

If you've tried our lilac fragrance, please leave your comments below. If you'd like to try it, add one to your order. And then please come back and share your thoughts!

(Incidentally, Lilac is showing up in more than fragrances these days: Pantone's spring 2010 report included Violet, a lilac-purple hue predicted to appear in home and fashion this spring. And Lilac is a popular color in makeup and most notably in nail color this spring, as well. So it's a perfect trendy choice for all spring and early summer events!)

Lilac is available in:
hand creams
lotions
bath gel (with violet jojobas for gentle exfoliation)
sugar scrub (also with violet jojobas)
bath salts
gift sets

Let us know what you think!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Quiet Voice

This has been a hard day. Lots of days there are things that don't go just right, or don't go well at all, but I can find some bit of goodness in them. This week has been full of challenging days, and today seems to be the most difficult. No particular reason, just a lot of little reasons.

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a quote that another friend had shared on their wall. It seemed like a good reminder then, and it was just what I needed today: "Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'" ~Mary Anne Radmacher

Thank you, Kelley, for sharing that. And yes, I will try again tomorrow.

What helps you when you have a hard day?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Word of the Week: Old

“One of the greatest titles we can have is 'old friend'. We never appreciate how important old friends are until we are older. The problem is we need to start our old friendships when we are young. We then have to nurture and grow those friendships over our middle age when a busy life and changing geographies can cause us to neglect those friends. Today is the day to invest in those people we hope will call us 'old friend' in the years to come.” ~Grant Fairley

Friday, February 05, 2010

FAQ Friday: Turnaround Times

I thought it would be a really fun idea to do a "vlog" post every few weeks and answer some frequently asked questions. With my cameraman still in China on business, I figured I'd just use my web cam and record a little message. How hard could it be, right?

Hmm. Well, here are just a few of my attempts. A few. There is a long, long listing on my laptop. *sigh* I will try again soon, but for this week I decided just to share the information without my fumbles and goofy faces!

I have a FAQ page on my site which does answer lots of questions, but every so often I get a question that I haven't answered there. I've gotten several calls lately about turnaround times for weddings and other events. Lots of people plan months or even years ahead of time, so they call because they're wondering when in that planning process they should order favors, gifts for the bridal party, or bachelorette favors.

The answer is, call anytime. If you'd like to work out all of the details of your favors and gifts, we can work with you whenever it's convenient for you. We will schedule delivery of your items no earlier than 6 to 8 weeks before your event, though, because we want your products to be "fresh" and have the longest possible shelf life AFTER you've gifted them.

The other question we hear a lot is from those of you looking for a rushed order. You have a party in a week or two and just found us--is it possible to get favors or gifts? The answer is, usually yes. We often have items in stock that are easy to personalize for you, and we can use Express shipping to get packages delivered in a day or two. But in both cases, please call us or email so we can make sure we can fit you into our schedule!

If you have any questions at all, please let me know--I'll be sure to get right back to you, and I might even answer it here, too! And maybe even in a goofy video, if I can ever figure out how to get it to work! :0) Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Lip balm tubes

So have I mentioned that lots of people are asking for tubes? (Or sticks. You know, like a Chapstick shape.) I have always made a few flavors of lip balm in tubes, mostly to go with gift sets. Like travel packs. And Dolly bags. Most of the time I make balm in jars because most of the balms will eventually become favors.

But a few customers have always preferred tubes. If you're one of them, I am making it easier to order them. We do have a number of flavors in stock, and you can also special order other flavors (which may take us an extra day or two to make for you).

I'm going to start making more flavors if people are interested, so please let me know if you have any favorites. You can order lip balm tubes here.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Word of the Week: Hope

A few weeks ago I wrote about my three words for 2010. One of them was aspire, and what I said was, "I'm going to consider ideas and plans that might be too complicated or impractical (a larger work space, perhaps?), and allow myself to long for things that might be just out of my reach."

This week's word is very much related: hope. I have been working on this plan to have a bit more space for my business, and I've taken the first step to make it happen. It's hard to let myself get excited about it at this early stage (I'm back in that "is this impractical? Is it ever going to happen?" place), but I am hopeful. I'll share more details if and when I get to the next stage.

How about you? Are you hoping for something this year? Are you working to make it happen? What do you hope 2010 will bring for you?

“Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all.” ~Emily Dickinson

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.” ~Barbara Kingsolver

"Once you choose hope, anything's possible." ~Christopher Reeve

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