Monday, January 31, 2011

Word of the Week: Collaborate

Last week a reader suggested that a chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry combo would make interesting lip balms. I'd been wanting to experiment with layered balms in tubes (and even had the clear tubes ready), so I asked for an opinion at my Facebook page. Friends there expressed more interest in having a three-layered balm than with a set of three balms. I did a little experimenting, sharing photos of the "swirled" look balms and the flat layered balms as I tried different techniques. There were lots of suggestions and comments as I went along. I shared photos of the finished Neapolitan Lip Balm, and even offered to send some samples of the "factory seconds" that resulted from my experiments. (Anyone interested? I have a few left!)

I collaborate every day with customers to provide gifts and favors with the designs and colors they like, but this was a new experience for me. I've never shared this much of the creation of a product with people before, and it was so much fun! I will definitely be doing this again.

This week I was also reminded of some other really cool ways that people collaborate. If you've never seen his projects, I highly recommend Ze Frank. Some (many) of his lyrics are explicit and not appropriate for kids, but it's worth checking out the really unique ways he connects people using technology. This particular TED talk shows some of his ideas.

Do you like to collaborate? What have you learned from collaborations? Please share your thoughts!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How Would YOU Spend It?

A few weeks ago I was contacted by an associate producer of a well-known cable television program. She said she was doing research and thought my company and products might be a good fit for a feature that would air in April. She needed more information before making a decision, so I answered a few questions. Then we made an appointment for a follow-up phone conference to discuss the feature in greater detail.

This kind of inquiry is not common for me, so I was kind of excited, but she said there were several more steps before I would know if my products had been selected. Last week was the second meeting, during which she spent 40 minutes outlining the types of media exposure my company would receive beyond the 3 - 5 minute feature. With related commercials, email promotions, and social media coverage, it all seemed too good to be true...and it was. After more than an hour of discussions, she mentioned (for the first time) that the pre-production fees and prize donations they required of participants totaled upward of $50,000.

I am a small business owner. My kind of small business isn't the kind that has 500 employees or makes millions of dollars or spends $50,000 on a 5 minute spot on cable TV. My kind of small business is the kind that has one employee who designs and makes all of the products, puts together her own web pages, and handles her own social media. That employee washes her own dishes and does her own taxes. She also answers her own phone. That employee is me. When I get telemarketing calls or other inquiries from salespeople, I prefer to cut to the chase. Honestly, I don't have lots of time to chat about opportunities that are out of my reach or inappropriate for my company. Usually salespeople don't have time to chat with business owners who can't take advantage of what they have to offer, either, which is why I'm still a little baffled. Why would you wait so long to bring up the costs? Why would you want to keep talking long after you knew I was a "one-woman band"?

But at the very least, the experience was thought-provoking. For one thing, the producer told me repeatedly that this was "not an infomercial" but an opportunity to educate their viewers. I think there's a lot of difference between "here's an interesting company we found" and "here's an interesting company we found that was willing to pay $50,000 to be here." Do the show's viewers know this? And if their show works this way, how many other shows do the same thing? Maybe I'm being naive, but I actually believed that some of what TV show hosts present are things they genuinely like, not things they've been paid to like. Wake up, Emily!

It's an interesting reminder of yet another barrier to entry for small businesses: opportunities like this one are open to a very few businesses, none of which are the "small" businesses I know about and work with. Even if they could handle the rapid growth and immediate increase in sales from this intense attention, few can afford such high costs. It seems that in order to get big exposure like this, a small business has to already be big. And most of us aren't.

Of course I keep thinking about that $50,000. What if I had access to that kind of money without mortgaging my house? Would I spend all of it on a single media opportunity? What would I do with $50,000?

What would YOU do? You could take a pretty serious vacation (or several) with that money. You could buy a car with it (or really, almost 2 cars), or pay down your mortgage, or invest in your kids' college fund. Or invest in that dream company you've been dying to start. Would you try to buy your 15 minutes of fame? (Or 3 - 5 minutes, I suppose, if you want it on cable.)

How would YOU spend it?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Winner of the Chocolatey Goodness...

We have a winner! I'm delighted to announce that #21 is naudii beautii (a.k.a. Tamira G.), who will be receiving the Chocolate Truffle Gift Set! naudii beautii was clearly "in it to win it," with fully 1/3 of all the entries! (How? By tweeting about the giveaway almost every day!)

In her first comment she said: "I haven't tried anything chocolate truffle! But would love to try it!" I'll be emailing you shortly to get your mailing address so you can try it soon!

Thank you so much to everyone who participated! If you didn't win this time, please keep watching...we'll be having another giveaway soon! And in the meantime, come on over to our Facebook page, where we're talking about a new layered Neapolitan balm today! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Word of the Week: Tools

I'm late with my word this week, but I blame it on the tools.

I had something written and all ready to go on Sunday. For weeks I've been hearing the quote, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." It reminded me of my New Year struggles with fitness and weight loss, the way that I always focus on one piece of exercise equipment or one way of working out and forget all of the other tools I know about. I thought I would cleverly use this as an example to remind everyone (myself included) to use all of the tools we have to achieve success. Sounds pretty good, right?

Then I decided it would be fun to record my word as an audio file. I figured that would be a good way to mix things up (I don't want to get TOO boring here, you know). In order to do this, I needed to use a few new tools including a microphone (mine is Bluetooth, wireless and requiring setup) and an online service called Cinch.

First the microphone wouldn't work. At all. I spent hours trying to get my laptop to recognize it. To add to the frustration, the "comfortable" earpiece wouldn't stay on my ear. I finally resorted to masking tape, literally fastening the mic to my head so I could continue troubleshooting without having the thing fall off mid-sentence. (It was pretty comical.)

Once the microphone finally worked (can you hear me now?), I couldn't get Cinch to work. The name implies usability, so I read and reread the directions but never got a usable recording. So I tried recording the message on my laptop sound recorder. Perfect! Except that the file created wasn't in a Mac-friendly format. I decided to upload it anyway, then found that due to a problem with my internet service (of all the days!) I couldn't transfer the 1.2 MB file to my website. *sigh* I finally gave up and went sulking off to bed. (I've read that some days are like that, even in Australia.)

This morning I realized what a good point this whole experience makes! On Sunday I wrote the whole script for my (failed) chat on a piece of paper with a pencil. In preparation for the post that never was, I took a picture of tools with one of my own favorite tools, my Canon Rebel XT. And here I am writing a post with another old familiar tool.

The quote about the hammer is called Maslow's hammer, or the law of the instrument, and it refers to a tendency to depend too much on familiar tools. In my quest to incorporate new tools, though, I forgot my own point: you need to use ALL of your tools if you're going to be successful. There's a reason that hammer has such a comfy handle, the tape measure is at the top of my toolbox, and the screwdriver feels so familiar in my palm: those tools work. Just like my camera works and my pencil and paper work and my brain works (when it's not too frustrated by taped-on microphones). They're always there when I need them.

In spite of these frustrations I'm determined to keep trying to add new tools to the box, new ways to talk with you and keep things more interesting. I'm curious: of all the tools people and businesses use to stay in touch with you, which are you most comfortable with? Do you like reading blogs, or do you like to watch videos or listen to audio clips? Do you enjoy chatting on Facebook or Twitter? Which tools do you find most frustrating? Please share your thoughts!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Soap and Water and Common Sense..."

Sir William Osler, M.D., the father of modern medicine, said, “Soap and water and common sense are the best disinfectants.” For years manufacturers have tried to improve on soap by adding things like triclosan to create antibacterial washes. But just last year the FDA announced that it was reviewing the safety of triclosan. They have no evidence that it is unsafe for people, but there also isn't any evidence "that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water."

My own experience is that triclosan can irritate the skin, but sometimes it's hard to find soap without it. That's why I'm so happy to be able to offer this new hand soap as part of our Hand Soap and Lotion Set! I've been calling these Sink Sets because "common sense" tells me that you need a soap AND a lotion at every sink (especially in the winter). We're putting these together with a generous 8 ounces of soap (with mild surfactants to clean, glycerin to moisturize and soften, and colorful jojobas to offer gentle exfoliation) and 8 ounces of lotion (with goodies like sunflower oil and shea butter to moisturize) in your choice of fragrance—both in pump bottles for easy, sanitary dispensing. (Plus, we try to make them pretty so they look nice next to your sink!)

What fragrance would YOU choose?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Super Size Moisturizer

We've had several requests for a larger size of hand (and foot) cream, so we've added a NEW 8 ounce tottle! Now you can get your favorite fragrances in the standard 4 ounce, the purse-sized 2 ounce, and the jumbo 8 ounce. If you're finding it super hard to stay moisturized this winter, why not super size your moisturizer?

I know it says hand cream (or foot cream in the case of the peppermint) but we use this thick formula on elbows and knees, too... any parts that need extra care!

What do you think? Are you looking to Super Size your moisturizer?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall...

It was a gross oversight that left me without a mirror in my office bath. I'd like to think that I went three months without one because I didn't need it and I wasn't a slave to vanity, but honestly it was because I couldn't find one that I liked. Everything seemed too ornate or too plain or too expensive.

Finally out of desperation I bought the plainest, least expensive mirror I could find. I figured I could use it until I found one that I liked better. Then I figured maybe I could turn it into something that I liked better. Here's my $5 mirror at right.

I bought a few bags of decorative glass "gems" at the craft store. I got two bags like those pictured at left. There are lots of options for color, size, and finish. I chose an assortment that had a few different colors as well as some shiny and some with a matte finish that looked a bit like sea glass. Of course you can also get sea glass if you'd like that for your own mirror; here's one place you can order sea glass and other craft marbles and glass gems.

I spent a little time arranging the gems on my mirror. I went for a random look rather than a pattern, but you can arrange them any way you like. If I did it again, I might choose gems in different sizes rather than all the same size. I also think this would have looked cool with a few black gems added to the arrangement. You could make interesting mosaic patterns if you had a larger frame to work with, too.

Once I had the gems arranged, I used hot glue to stick them to the frame. Make sure you choose a glue that's appropriate for the materials you're using. I didn't find many that were specifically for glass crafting-- make sure yours will work with your gems.

I found it easiest to put a dab of glue on the back of the gem and then place it on the frame, rather than putting glue on the frame. This minimized the amount of cleanup and extra glue around the gems. Keep in mind that this project is great fun for anyone who doesn't mind the occasional 400° drop of molten plastic on the fingers--definitely not one for young kids to do, at least not by themselves.

Here's the finished mirror. I like the sea glass feel and the aqua colors. I wanted a stained glass mirror, and this is certainly a less expensive alternative (the whole project cost less than $20 and took about an hour and a half to complete).

I think mirrors like this would make really fun gifts, too. It's an interesting way to use broken pottery or china; save the pieces, break them into smaller bits that show off the pretty patterns, and create a mosaic. Or make a small decorative mirror with shells you've collected from the beach. What a great reminder of your vacations!

What kinds of things would you add to a mirror like this? Please share your thoughts!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Choose Your Words

In a eulogy last week in Tucson, President Obama reminded us that our word choices are important: "At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized--at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do--it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."

A year ago today, my uncle passed away. At that time I wrote about his struggle with words. I encouraged you to use your words, not to "be stingy" with them, but several readers pointed out that I didn't say what kind of words to use. By request I am running this post again, with this thought: freedom of speech is a right, but it's also a privilege and a responsibility. Choose your words carefully.


I like to talk, I like to write, and I take my words for granted. Nearly ten years ago my uncle (pictured here with my son) was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia, a disorder of language that progresses over time. At first he had difficulty speaking. Then reading, spelling, and writing became challenging, too. For much of that time he could understand what others said to him, but had a hard time forming responses. More recently, conversation was nearly impossible.

Throughout this time, he and his wife dealt with this frustrating condition with incredible grace. I am certain I would never have been as patient as either of them. Their strength and their love has been truly inspiring.

Sadly, my uncle passed away yesterday. When I last saw him several months ago, I could only say hello and give him a hug. No other words were possible. I left that visit missing him. Even though he was there in the room, I realized how much you lose when you can't share words. So much of the connections we have with each other are about our conversations: voicing ideas, sharing endearments. We take our words for granted.

I don't usually make requests here, but today I want you to do two things for me. The first thing is to remember the nicest thing someone ever said to you. Think about how their words made you feel. Think about how powerful a feeling it was to have someone acknowledge you, maybe praise you, compliment you, or thank you.

The second thing I want you to do is to say something nice to someone else. Don't be stingy with your words! It's so easy to thank someone for their help, compliment a job well done, or simply tell them how much they mean to you. And it means so much to the person who hears it. Never, ever take your words for granted.

To learn more about aphasia, please visit the National Aphasia Association.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Leftover Candy Canes? Not for long...

So we took down the Christmas tree last week and I realized that the candy canes I thought we'd eaten were just hidden among the branches. You know, the candy canes that the kids have been drooling over for the past three weeks? Apparently they are, like, so yesterday once January rolls around. What to do?

Just before Christmas I made fudge with crunchy peppermint topping. A layer of white chocolate and sprinkling of crushed candy canes would be yummy on brownies, too. (Here's my recipe for java brownies.) But this morning I ran across this blog post from the Candy Blog that provides 33 Uses for Leftover Candy Canes. Perfect!

My favorite idea for unbroken canes: use them to stir your hot cocoa

My favorite idea for crushed candy canes: use them to rim your cocktail glass.

Read the rest of the Candy Blog's list, and make sure you read the comments section there for even more ideas. What about you? Do you have leftover candy canes? What do you do with them? Please share your ideas!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vegetarian Tacos

Mexican food is a staple in my house. Most of what I cook is vegetarian, and it's a challenge to come up with things that even my kids will like. I've recently discovered that they both love tacos. When I was growing up my mom made taco "meat" with textured vegetable protein (TVP) instead of ground beef. TVP is high in protein and has no fat, but it's a highly processed food often made from soy, which my son can't eat. For a less processed, soy-free alternative, we've found that quinoa is a great option.

If you're not familiar with quinoa (pronounced keen'-wa), you are missing out. This gluten-free, grain-like food originated in the Andes, and has an unusually high protein content (12 - 18%) for a plant food. With a full set of essential amino acids, it's also considered a complete protein (something else that's unusual for a plant). Quinoa is much lower in sodium and saturated fat than ground beef, has no cholesterol, and is also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, and folate. If you're looking to add some veg options to your diet, this would be a great food to start with!

To make the best taco filling, you have to make your own spice blend, too! I mixed the following in an airtight container:

3 T chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
black pepper to taste
cayenne or red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Of course you can adjust any of the quantities to make your own secret spice blend! Set this mixture aside while you cook your grains. I used red and traditional white quinoa for appearance (I think the darker grain is more appealing in a taco). I also used bulgur for texture, but you can replace this with additional quinoa.

1/4 cup red quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup traditional quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup bulgur
1 3/4 cup water

Rinse quinoa until water runs clear, then combine with bulgur and water in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer at low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons of your secret spice mix, then simmer for an additional 5 minutes. That's it!

Then comes the fun part: add to corn taco shells or spread on soft tacos, then top with cheese, lettuce, black olives, tomatoes, chilies, onions, salsa, sour cream (I substitute plain yogurt), or guacamole. Use it in taco salads or to fill burritos. Add to a plate of nachos. Stir into rice with black beans and salsa. I could go on all day. My kids LOVE this, and we hope you do, too!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Word of the Week: Goofy

Last Monday night I was fighting a cold and having a hard time sleeping, so I was surfing the late night talk shows. This skit with Josh Groban was on the Jimmy Kimmel show. (I promise, only the first tweet has potentially offensive language):

I'm sure it was partly the virus and the lack of sleep, but I laughed until my voice was gone. The next morning I found the clip on YouTube and posted it on my Facebook wall, then laughed myself silly for the rest of the week. A couple of friends joined me and the silliness entered all of our posts and conversations. It was one of the highlights of the week.

I'm not usually that goofy, but apparently I really needed it! I also needed to be reminded of the importance of having fun with what you do. Josh Groban is a tremendously talented crossover artist, having success in several musical genres as well as acting roles on television and more recently in movies. But clearly he doesn't take himself too seriously. Part of what I love about this video is that he does this goofy singing with just as much enthusiasm as his more serious performances. The "playing" seems to be as important as the work, maybe even a part of the work. What a concept!

This week I'm remembering why I started doing my job: it's fun. It's like playing. Of course I know that sometimes I need to focus on practical things like my accounting or marketing, but it's even more important to make sure I'm enthusiastic about my work, and the best way to do that is to have fun with it, to not take myself too seriously, and to be a little goofy.

What do you think? Is there room for goofy silly stuff in your work? Do you enjoy your work? What makes it fun for you? (And do you know where to find marble conference tables? Sorry, I couldn't resist! :0)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Chocolate Truffle Giveaway

Welcome to the first Feedback Friday of 2011! In case you're just joining us, Feedback Friday is when we feature one of our fragrances or flavors with an invitation to share your opinions below. If you haven't tried the featured product, we make it easier by offering a sample in your next order.

This Feedback Friday is brought to you by Valentine's Day. I love flowers, and I'm a sucker for a sweet card, but my favorite part of Valentine's Day is the chocolate. Bet you didn't know you could have your chocolate and wear it, too? Our Chocolate truffle moisturizers and fragrances are a guilt-free pleasure! Decadent Chocolate Truffle lip balm contains Ghirardelli® cocoa, along with sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and so many more lip-friendly ingredients. Silky smooth Chocolate Truffle hand cream and purse potion fragrance are both calorie-free, so indulge at will!

Chocolate Truffle is available in hand cream, lotion, lotion & potion gift sets, purse potion fragrance, and in our Dolly Bag gift sets (choose from red taffeta or gold luster damasknow 20% off through the end of January!). Orders placed between now and January 31 will also receive a sample of our Chocolate Truffle balm. Please come back here and let us know what you thought of it!

Now here's the bonus: I had so much fun doing holiday giveaways that I just can't stop. I'll be sending one of you a Chocolate Truffle Gift Set with hand cream, balm, and purse potion. This set is tucked into a cosmetic bag hand made especially for us by Dungaree Dolly's, in chocolate brown with gold luster damask. The bag has a chocolate bow detail and zipper top, is stabilized and fully lined in ivory fabric with metallic gold fleck and made in the U.S.! Wouldn't you love this for Valentine's Day?!

For a chance to win the Chocolate Truffle Giveaway, all you need to do is to leave a comment below. That's it! Tell me what you think of Chocolate Truffle; if you haven't tried it, tell me about your favorite Valentine candy (I love pink m&m's!), or share a Valentine story or idea for celebrating. (Make sure you leave your name or email address with your comment so we know who you are.)

For extra entries, you can follow us on Twitter, tweet about the giveaway (only once per day, please), join our mailing list, or "like" our Facebook page (please add a separate comment for each of these entries). We'll be announcing our winner at noon on Friday, January 28, so make sure to leave your comment! Thanks so much for your interest!

You may be interested in these other Feedback Friday posts:
Lemon Blueberry
Green Clover & Aloe
Apricot Freesia
Sweetini Spa
Lip Balm Tubes
Maine Woodland Berry
Coconut Twist
Pumpkin Pie
Sugar Cookie

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Clearance Sale

The last of our seasonal and overstocked lip balms are on sale at 50% off! There are dozens of flavors, but limited stock of each, so check out what's available. We have balms in jars as well as tubes, for those who prefer each type.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Bob's the Word

This time last January I was choosing three words to guide me through the year. I thought about them a lot (and wrote about them several times) in 2010. Last week I was finalizing my new list of three words when I realized there was just one that would cover all of what I want to accomplish in 2011. This year, Bob's the word.

If you've seen What About Bob? you will think I'm crazy to let Bob Wiley guide my life and business, but trust me, there really are a few important lessons to be learned from him. (And if you haven't seen What About Bob?...oh my gosh, see What About Bob?!!!)

"Baby Steps"
When Dr. Marvin shares his new book Baby Steps with Bob, he explains what the title is referring to: "It means setting small, reasonable goals for yourself. One day at a time, one tiny step at a time -- do-able, accomplishable goals." Bob is so paralyzed by his phobias and obsessive-compulsive behaviors that he finds even baby steps challenging. Of course I don't have Bob's issues, but I often feel overwhelmed by all of the things I want to do and try. So this year when I feel like I don't even know where to start, I'll remember what Bob said: "Baby steps to the elevator." One tiny step at a time will get everything done.

"As long as I'm in my apartment, I'm okay...But when I have to go out, I get... weird."
While we're in therapy mode, I'll confess: I'm a workaholic. And kind of a hermit. Those two things together mean that "social" to me has largely been "social media" for the last year or so. I love Twitter and Facebook and I've really enjoyed making new friends online. I plan to continue, but I'm pretty sure social media should never take the place of a real social life. So I'm taking my cue from Bob, who fights his fear of germs (and Tourette's Syndrome) long enough to make real connections with Dr. Marvin's family. (And, okay, I don't actually get "weird" when I have to go out, but my rusty social skills could use some work, so I'm looking forward to more dinner and movie nights this coming year!)

"I'm a Sailor. I sail now."

Have you ever felt like you didn't have enough training, education, or experience to do something that you really wanted to do? I have that feeling almost every day. I'm learning constantly but there are always new things to learn and never enough time to do everything as "perfectly" as I'd like to. So Bob's sailing experience reminds me that sometimes you just need to tie yourself to the mast and call yourself a sailor. As Bob said, "I never actually thought I could do this. I never thought this could be me!"

So that's what I'm thinking about for 2011: Baby steps. Social time. And "sailing". What about you? Do you have any resolutions or words for the New Year? Please share!!


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