Monday, April 26, 2010

Word of the Week: Practice

I was ten when I started to play the clarinet, and after a few years of instruction through my school I began to take private lessons. That meant practice—daily practice— which I continued for almost four years.

My kids have taken lessons for different activities but have never found anything they stick with or practice. They're still young, but I sometimes worry that they won't find anything they enjoy enough (or care enough about) to practice. I think that there's something about practicing, or having a practice, that is missing when you simply "dabble."

When you read what people say about practice, it's almost always connected with developing skill, getting better, even achieving perfection. Martha Graham said, "Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired." Ray Bradbury agreed: "I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice."

You probably will get better with practice; I got pretty good after all of those lessons and daily practice time. Most people don't develop real skill at anything without practicing. But I also think there's value in the practice itself. Putting a little bit of time into something day after day changes you. Even as you have success, you fail daily and learn how to keep trying. As you learn more, you realize how much more there is to learn. You understand that it's a mountain you could climb forever without ever reaching the summit. You learn about discipline and perseverance. You appreciate what it takes to really know something.

So much of what we value requires a little bit of effort given consistently over a long time: religious practice or meditation; physical fitness; learning a new sport, language, or piece of software. Even planting a garden requires time every day over months to turn a piece of ground and a handful of seeds into plants and fruits and vegetables. (And let's not even talk about parenting...) None of these things are about instant gratification; there's no easy fix, no magic pill, no shortcut. Even as we value the results of practice, a lot of us find it challenging to keep up in our everyday lives. I wonder if some of these things will ever be appealing to my kids. Will they just consider it all too much work? Have I done enough to encourage practice?

What do you think? Do you have something that you practice? How did you start? What keeps you going? What do you think is the most important thing about practice? Please share your thoughts!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Feedback Friday Thoughts

About a week ago I introduced a new product, a facial moisturizer. This product was added at the suggestion of a customer (actually, a few customers), and once I started talking about it I was amazed at the number of people who were interested. I got an email just a few days ago from another customer who said she had wondered if I would ever make a facial moisturizer but just hadn't asked.

Please, please ask! It will likely take me a while to get something ready to add to a product line, but if you're interested, please let me know! So many of my products have come from customer suggestions; whether it's a flavor or fragrance suggestion, a new ingredient you'd like to see (or one you'd like to see removed...we've been talking about this over at Facebook), or an entirely new item, I am really interested in your ideas.

So I didn't forget that Friday was another Feedback Friday...but I have decided to stretch out the time between "samples" so people get a chance to try them. We still have samples of Sweetini Spa (you can choose from Cosmopolitan, Appletini, or Lemon Drop fragrance) and will have them available for another week.

Just for clarification, the only thing you pay for with a sample is the when I say "add one to your next order" that's just because I assume that customers won't want to pay for shipping to receive just the sample. But you know what they say about people who assume! So just know that you are welcome to add the sample with or without additional items. (We ARE paying for First class shipping for the moisturizer samples, however; and there are a few of those left, so please let me know if you're interested!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Today is Earth Day, a good day to think about our impact on the environment. I've written before about some of the things I do in my business to be "green," including my packaging choices, recycling and reusing shipping materials, and using digital banking and accounting to minimize paper waste. Two years ago we also committed to a 100% renewable electricity supply for our home and office.

These things haven't changed, and since that time we've added more recyclable and recycled packaging, such as gift bags, reusable fabric cosmetic bags, tissue paper, and compostable cello bags. As we plan our new office space, we're also thinking about our energy consumption; of course this new space will also have electricity from renewable sources, but we're also adding water-saving fixtures, fluorescent lighting, propane heating, an on-demand hot water system, and low VOC paint!

I'm also starting to do more business locally. Up to now most of my business has come from my web site, with lots of customers in the U.S. and a few in Canada, Europe, and even Australia. While I love working with people from all over, I'm excited by the possibility of providing my products to more local customers, too. The more we can buy and sell locally, the less fuel we consume through transportation, which is better for the environment. I'm hoping to make my products available at more local craft fairs this fall, so if you're in our area, make sure you're on our local mailing list (or subscribed here at the blog) to get updates about where we'll be!

I try to be "green" in my personal life, too. I am a vegetarian, but what's more important (in my opinion) is that I'm trying to eat fewer processed foods and more local food. I have found that even as an avid gardener I couldn't grow as many fresh veggies and fruits as I wanted (and needed), so my family recently bought a share at a local CSA. This summer we'll pick up a box of fresh vegetables and fruits every week. Check out this link if you are interested in Community Supported Agriculture. We also purchase fresh eggs from a local "farmer" who keeps hens in his back yard, and now we're also fortunate to have our own local organic milk (MOO--Maine's Own Organic--Milk), which supports organic dairy farmers throughout the state. (Did you know that becoming a lacto-ovo vegetarian, a diet which still includes milk and eggs, can reduce your carbon footprint by about a ton every year?)

There are so many environmental issues that concern me, and I've only mentioned a few of them here. What are YOU interested in? How did you celebrate Earth Day? Would you like to read more here about ways to "go green" with your diet or shopping choices? Please let me know what you think!

Other Related Posts:
Sustainable Fashion
National Vegetarian Week

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday is Moisturized

What do you get when you combine emollient mango butter with a vitamin-rich blend of five oils (olive, almond, avocado, sunflower seed, and grape seed), add in conditioning shea butter, softening, soothing aloe vera gel, and super-hydrating Hyaluronic Acid? Our new Facial Moisturizer!

After several customer requests, many samples, and rounds of testing with willing subjects (thank you!), it's finally here. Our testers had great things to say about this buttery-thick face cream and the way it eases dryness and smooths their skin. In fact, I had a few phone calls from desperate (is that too strong a word? I think not!) testers wanting to know one thing: when can I order more?!

Well, the answer is, NOW! We're offering this rich hydrating cream in a standard 4 ounce jar, and between now and Mother's Day it's 30% off! Order before May 9 to take advantage of this introductory pricing.

We're convinced that you'll love this facial moisturizer, but if you need to see it (and feel it) to believe it, we have a few samples left. Be one of the first five to comment below and I'll send you a sample jar. Make sure you identify yourself or provide an email address so I can contact you privately for your shipping details.

Have you tried it yet? What do you think? Please let us know!

Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice, Sodium Hyaluronate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Mangifera Indica (Mango Butter) Seed Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Prunus Dulcis (Almond) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Capric/Caprilic Triglycerides, Vegetable Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Cyclomethicone, Triethanolamine, EDTA, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.
Please note that the Sodium Hyaluronate in this product is plant-derived.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Personal Shopping Assistant

For the past few months I've been asking you to share your opinions in our Feedback Friday posts. Getting customer feedback really helps me to make decisions about products: if certain fragrances don't sell well (and no one raves about them in the feedback) I'll know it's safe to discontinue them. Likewise, if I mention a new product idea and people seem excited, I feel more confident moving forward.

While I find it helpful to take the comments as a whole and draw an overall conclusion, I also realized how important feedback is in helping me to help each of you individually. More often lately I find myself being a "personal shopping assistant" with my customers. People call directly to ask questions about our products and get advice about their options. I LOVE this because it allows us to make products that are absolutely unique and perfect for each person. And the more information I have from you—which fragrances are your favorites, which products you like the best—the better I will be at helping you, AND at advising others who may share your preferences.

How many people share your preferences? Lots of you have asked "what's popular?" so I added the Top Flavors to our home page. We'll be adding more of our top products and fragrances to this area to help you with your choices, but please don't ever hesitate to call or email if you have any questions or if you need personal assistance. There IS a person on the other end of our phone number and email address, and I'm always happy to help! You can also ask questions or share feedback on Twitter or Facebook.

Thank you so much for your continued interest and the ways you help me to do a better job of helping YOU! What do you think? Am I doing enough to help you? What other information would be helpful? Are there any other services that would help you with your gift or favor purchases? Please share your thoughts!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Perfect Gift for Mom

I introduced Limited Edition Apricot Freesia back in mid-March for a Feedback Friday feature as well as a gift set giveaway. We chose a winner on Saturday (yay Beth!) and we've been playing with the fragrance to come up with lots of elegant gift ideas for mom just in time for Mother's Day. We're excited to offer you a Mother's Day discount on this new fragrance, too!

As soon as I tested Apricot Freesia, I fell in love with it, but of course it matters more what YOU think of it! I can think that it's a perfect balance of juicy apricots with a spicy floral hint of freesia, but what did our reviewers say? Several agreed: Laurie said it was a "new favorite...a clean and crisp fragrance, not overpowering." Heather also called it a favorite. We also got several thumbs down: Mary said, "it is a little sweet for me," and Lisa said, "I still prefer the orange/spice." Of course no fragrance will appeal to everyone, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this fragrance to anyone who enjoys fruity, sweet scents!

We think that the perfect gift for mom is a gift of pampering. Maybe that's a relaxing soak in the tub with mineral-rich bath salts, or an at-home pedicure with exfoliating sugar scrubs? We have small gifts that mom can tuck in her purse for a bit of pampering on the go; and larger gift sets with all that she needs for a day of indulging. Finish it all off with moisturizers that will make her skin feel as smooth as silk, and mom is sure to feel appreciated and loved!

Check out these unique women's gifts and so many others...and between now and May 9, enjoy 10% off our Apricot Freesia items. (The prices are automatically reflected in the shopping cart when you choose Apricot Freesia.) Not a fan? Don't worry--most of these products and gift sets are also available in our other fragrances. If you're looking for personalization, we can add your special message to the gift tag; simply specify details in the shopping cart at checkout.

I'm confident that you'll find the perfect gift for mom! Please share your comments and let me know what you think!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Word of the Week: Secrets

I remember when I was a kid, being a good friend meant sharing (and keeping) secrets. Only my very closest friends told me all about themselves, and I shared certain things only with them. With a few exceptions, this has continued for me up into adulthood.

Occasionally I ran into someone who would start right off sharing too much. You probably know what I mean--you're standing in line at the grocery store and suddenly a complete stranger turns to you and begins to tell you their life story. I have always found this awkward and never know what to do with TMI (too much information) apart from nodding and listening politely. What else CAN you do? Other responses seem rude or inconsiderate.

Last week I wondered if maybe I was sporting a tattoo on my forehead welcoming detailed disclosure. Everywhere I went (in the real world AND online) I met acquaintances and even strangers who felt the need to share personal details about their lives. It happened so much and made me squirm so often, I wondered if it was just me or if everyone is noticing this?

So of course I ran it by a few friends on Facebook to see what they thought. First of all, this happens to everyone (whew! Not a tattoo after all!). One friend considers it a sign of loneliness, but I wondered if there's more to this. I saw other friends discussing the place of Facebook, Twitter, etc. in providing personal support, and there was a wide range in responses, from "yes I rely on it" to "this is not an appropriate place to share." Put those two people in the same place with opposite opinions and there is bound to be some squirming involved!

People have always had different comfort zones when it comes to "boundaries" and personal information. But it seems that even if we are physically isolated (sitting alone at home) all of these options for communication (chatting or texting on phones or computers) are giving us more opportunities for interaction with vastly different people. A lot of this new media also encourages more disclosure; we build trust by sharing details about ourselves, but at the expense of privacy. If we grow accustomed to this in the "virtual" world it will likely follow us into our face-to-face interactions, too. We have no secrets.

I know that this is the direction we're moving in--I've been reading about it for months, and like this CNN piece says, "In this connected era, a private life is a lonely one." And more: "In the attention economy, privacy is obscurity." I know it's what I should want, but TMI still makes me squirm.

What do you think? Is the death of privacy inevitable? Are you relieved that you can tell people whatever you think? Or do you long for a secret or two and a comfortable silence? Please share your thoughts! (Remember, everyone is doing it!!)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

And the winner is...

Good morning! I am so excited to announce that the winner of the spa gift set giveaway is...
Beth Penny! The lucky number was 3, and here is her winning comment:

Beth will receive a gift set like the one below, in our NEW Apricot Freesia fragrance (or another fragrance of her choice).

I want to thank everyone for commenting in these past few weeks! I really appreciate your interest and your honesty. Several of you have shared additional feedback by email and in person, and I'm grateful. Knowing what you think about a new fragrance or product really helps me in ways I didn't anticipate. I'll be sharing some of those thoughts in coming blogs, and I hope that you will continue to participate as I feature other fragrances and flavors in Feedback Fridays. Check back here every other Friday! (Did you see it yesterday?)

Thanks again! And congratulations, Beth!

Apricot Freesia is now available in all of our unique women's gifts for Mother's Day! Through May 9, we'll also take 10% off the price of every Apricot Freesia product you order! (These prices are automatically reflected in the shopping cart.) You're sure to find the perfect gift for mom--or yourself!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Sweetini Spa 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).

Our last Feedback Friday was for the Limited Edition Apricot Freesia fragrance, and we also invited you to enter our gift set giveaway. The giveaway ends tonight (4/9/10) at midnight EST, so please leave a comment at the link above if you still haven't entered! We'll announce the winner tomorrow.

This week's Feedback Friday is Sweetini Spa. Some of our most popular Girls' Night lip balm flavors are the sweet martinis or "sweetinis" like cosmopolitan and appletini. With our Sweetini Spa line, our bath and body products are spiked with tangy Appletini, tart Lemon Drop, and sassy Cosmopolitan fragrances. Our Sweetini fragrances are now phthalate-free, a change that we'll be talking more about in the coming weeks. We love to decorate and personalize these mixed drink gifts for bachelorette parties and pamper parties, and we'd love for you to try some!

The Feedback Friday sample is a 2-ounce bottle of one of our Sweetini Spa hand creams (see below). Our hand cream contains silk amino acids as well as shea butter, avocado oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera, and lots of vitamins. It's very thick, so a little goes a long way, and our favorite part is that it dries to a powder feel without any greasiness! These creams are the perfect size for your purse or desk. Add one to your next order, then let us know what you think!

If you've tried our Sweetini Spa products, please share your feedback in the comments. What did you think of them? Which is your favorite?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Healthful (and Inexpensive) Lunches for Kids

My kids have always taken cold lunches to school. I'm a vegetarian who cooks mostly veg meals, and many of the hot lunch options include foods that we just don't eat. (And if you've been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, or have visited your child's school recently, you know that there's a lot of fat and sugar and salt in most schools' hot lunches--stuff that most kids just shouldn't eat!)

The perception seems to be that fruits and veggies, organic foods, or whole grain options are too expensive, so people are forced to buy the cheap, high fat and low quality foods. My daughter started middle school this year and the kids have access to a la carte food items in addition to the hot lunch program. A few weeks ago she mentioned that some of her friends spend $4 or $5 a day on their lunches, eating burgers, french fries, mac and cheese, ice cream, and cookies, with no fruits or vegetables. I knew we weren't spending that much, but I wasn't sure of the actual costs. So out of curiosity, I did my grocery shopping and included the ingredients for a week of cold lunches so I could calculate the average meal cost.

How expensive is it, really, to put together school lunches with low fat, low sugar, whole grain, and fresh fruit options--some of them organic?

A typical lunch for my kids usually includes a sandwich, sometimes peanut butter (or another nut butter) and jelly; a piece of fruit or a serving of raw veggies; and an additional snack with grain and protein (crackers with cheese, for example). For this particular week, we chose:
  • three types of fruit, some of which were on sale
  • multi-grain and unsalted pretzels and crackers
  • organic peanut butter, no sugar added
  • reduced fat cream cheese
  • reduced sugar jelly
  • whole wheat bread

The sandwich was the most expensive part: $.64 for each kid. The fruit ranged from $.19 for a banana to $.55 for an apple; and a serving of pretzels or crackers averaged around $.30. To further reduce costs (and make lunches "greener") we use reusable bags and containers for lunches instead of plastic sandwich and snack bags. The initial cost is higher, but we have used them for years and they pay for themselves within a few months. The average cost for this week's lunch was $1.33 per kid. Of course in most weeks I don't give them the same thing every day, but I figure that most of the time their lunches cost $1.50 or less. Even with veggie and cheese sandwiches, or sandwiches with cold cuts, the total lunch cost is around $2.

I don't often include a drink with my kids' lunches; my son, in particular, was filling up on the drink and not eating his lunch, so if he's thirsty afterward he helps himself to water. Buying serving sizes of juice adds $.65 to each lunch, but you can cut this expense by using a thermos or other reusable drink container. (Buying serving sizes of anything adds a huge amount to the cost, so it's always cheaper to buy a big bag and divide it up into servings.)

I also don't include sweets in their lunches. I used to, but have since decided that I want them to eat as much "food" as possible in that 10 or 15 minutes of eating--the cookies and candy can wait for after school on special occasions.

This article talked about the reactions of the schoolkids in Jamie Oliver's show. A survey of the kids at the school showed that they preferred the school's offerings over his by a margin of 4 to 1. Some of them even stopped buying lunch. My first thought was, "I wonder how many of their parents would prefer the institutional cooking over Oliver's healthful choices, too?" I'm guessing most of them—the researchers said they believed Oliver's offerings "may be healthier than what children get at home." Which just means that kids will eat what is familiar, so as parents and "home chefs" it's our responsibility to make wise choices. Marion Nestle, a nutritional studies and public health instructor at NYU, agrees. "I don't care whether they like pizza or not," she says. "It's not up to them to decide. It's up to the adults to decide. It's one of the things about being a kid: Too bad for you."

I think kids may feel punished to begin with. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that! But the long term effects of eating a high fat, high sugar, high sodium diet will be a worse punishment. I should note that I am NOT a nutritionist, and I sure don't have all the answers. But I do think it's important for all of us to be looking at nutrition more carefully.

What do you think? Have you been watching Jamie Oliver's show? Did it make you think about what you and your kids eat? Have you made any changes? Please share your thoughts!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Soap from Aunt Nancy's

Look what just came in the mail last week. I love buying handmade soap from other independent businesses, and this is a new favorite. I decided last year that I love peppermint soap, and adding a chocolate swirl is probably the Best. Idea. Ever. Plus, it's got goat's milk. And you know how I feel about goats.

The Creamy Peppermint with Chocolate Swirl soap contains: Olive Oil, Distilled Water, Coconut Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Cocoa Butter, Sweet Almond Oil, Goat Milk, Castor Oil, Essential Oil of Peppermint, Organic Cocoa Powder. She describes it as smelling "like a big peppermint patty," and that's SO true. I find it has a nice lather, a great, fresh smell, and is very mild. I also ordered a few other soaps with lavender (which I haven't tried yet, but I'm sure they are also wonderful) but next time I may go ALL PEPPERMINT. I just love it. Have I mentioned that I love it? Thank you, Aunt Nancy's Handmade Soap!

(I purchased this soap for my own use and this is my own opinion.)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Word of the Week: Go

Yes, this is my passport. And yes, it's brand-spankin' new. When I went to the town office to apply, they asked me if I needed it by a particular date. Was I planning a trip that required an expedited application? No, I replied. But in about a year I'll be 40, and (I joked) I might want to go somewhere someday.

I have been the stay-at-home parent to two children, now 11 and 9, and though it wasn't my original intention, I have followed that job description almost to the letter. During that time I've also owned two home businesses, so my life revolves around home. I am a homebody.

I don't mean to make it sound like I never leave my house. I traveled a bit with my husband before we had kids, and as a family we've taken vacations. Those trips have included several to Canada, just a skip away from us in Maine and a border crossing which only recently has required a passport. You can see here the beaches of Prince Edward Island and the architecture of Quebec City, which I would love to visit again with my camera and much more time.

Honestly, this is what makes travel difficult for me: the lack of time. Most of my trips have involved itineraries and clocks, following the lead of a host (or a spouse) with a list and a plan. I've felt hurried and harried, with pressure to go, go, go, to see more and do more. I find it overwhelming. My brain just doesn't work that way. So while I long to visit Tuscany, to see Paris or the Orkney Islands, I fear that rushed feeling. I don't want to come home with a pile of photos and no memory of where they were taken, or when. Without the time to sit somewhere with a cup of tea and watch the people go by, a moment of quiet to take pictures and absorb it, I won't feel like I really was there.

Some people are appalled when they hear that I don't travel much. It seems to imply a lack of interest in the world. I enjoy the writing of Henry David Thoreau, who advised: "Live at home like a traveler." When he wasn't traveling (to places like Maine, where he took extensive notes in his journal and about which he later wrote the book The Maine Woods), he was reading about others' travels. He read hundreds of personal accounts, which informed his views of the world as well as his writing. He lived vicariously. In this age of Twitter and Facebook and Skype, it's even easier to "live at home like a traveler!"

There's a lot of go, go, going all around me all of the time. I love to follow the travels of others (Lela Barker, for one, blogs and tweets amazing details of her African adventures) and they do inspire me to plan future trips of my own. The passport is the first step!

But I'm mostly content to stay in one place. Thoreau also said, "I have traveled a great deal in Concord..." There are a lot of places you can go without ever leaving home. There's a journey happening here that has nothing to do with passports or suitcases or "going."

What do you think? Where are you "going" right now? Does it involve reservations and time zones? Please share your thoughts! And wherever you go this week, have a great Monday!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Donating to Kiva

Last year I wrote about Kiva, and talked about how much I like donating to this organization. We donate as a business because it's a great way to support other entrepreneurs who might not have access to the same resources that we have. The small loan (micro loan, really) that we gave around that time was recently paid back in full, which made those funds ready to donate to another entrepreneur. Which got me thinking...

We've been working on a building project here, planning a new work space, and when I think about everything that's involved in that I feel really blessed to be able to make it happen. I realized that I want to give that experience to other business owners more frequently. So when I logged in at again to re-loan the funds in my account, I added more funds. I gave six micro loans yesterday, to entrepreneurs in Ghana, Paraguay, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bolivia, and Kenya! I'm going to keep doing this, and when the funds get repaid (did you know that they have a 98.47% repayment rate to date?) I'll loan them out again. I'd love to loan $50 (or $75 or eventually $100) each month from my account. I'll have to build this up a little at a time, of course, but that's my new goal. I'll keep you updated here!

"As of November 2009, Kiva has facilitated over $100 million in loans." I'm so excited to be part of this! I encourage you to visit their site to read about what they do for entrepreneurs all over the world.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts!

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