Monday, May 30, 2011

Remember

(This is the post that ran last year on Memorial Day. I still think these quotes are so appropriate.)

"I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did." ~Benjamin Harrison

"The story of America's quest for freedom is inscribed on her history in the blood of her patriots." ~Randy Vader

"Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic." ~John A. Logan

"We who are left how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?"
~Wilfred Wilson Gibson

"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself." ~Joseph Campbell

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Trip to Ireland and a Bit of Blarney

Way back in February I featured Blarney Balm for Feedback Friday. I told the story of how the balm came about, how it's just right for prepping your lips for kissing the Blarney Stone, and how—just like the stone—it will bestow the "gift of the gab." (Well, that last part might be blarney...)

A friend (and customer) read the post and said, "I'm going to Ireland in a few months with my mom and sister! I think I need that!" I sent some Blarney Balm to all of them (all friends, and all super customers) in hopes that it would come in handy.

They returned last week and shared some amazing photos of their trip on Facebook. Beth and her sister Jen have graciously allowed me to show some of their pictures here along with sharing their favorite things—foods, experiences, sights— from the gorgeous places they visited.


Beth: "I think that our staying in Killarney was a great idea. We were literally across the road from their 26,000 acre national park (above), and taking jaunting cars through the park and walking through the park was a highlight. There were red deer, Kerry cows, Muckross Abbey (see photo below), Ross Castle, Torc Waterfall, and beautiful mountains and lakes in the park."

Jen: "Dingle was definitely a highlight. One of the many, many things I loved about Ireland is the obvious pride the people have in their towns and their country--nearly every town or village we drove through had been recognized in the annual "Tidy Towns" competition--everything was clean and neat and welcoming."

Beth: "Dingle had THE BEST ice cream (Murphy's ice cream) on the planet. They also had hands down the best fish and chips. Murphy's had ice cream flavors like sea salt (made from salt harvested from the waters around Dingle), brown bread (Irish brown bread is not like the kind of brown bread we serve with beans and hot dogs - theirs is more like a wheat bread...and it's caramelized in brown sugar for the ice cream. The ice cream had the texture of grapenut ice cream here), and honeycomb (with bits of honeycomb in the ice cream)."

Jen: "I also love that nearly every business is named for the proprietor/family....everything in Ireland is about relationships--who 'your people' are, where your family is from, etc. and I think that's really neat."

Beth: "I loved, loved, loved the sheep. There is one picture of the two sheep wandering down the road on the Ring of Kerry in front of us. One of them turned, glared at Jen (who was driving) and jumped in the air, kicked his feet, and in the next photo you can see that they hopped the rock wall and went down into a huge field next to the ocean. The picture of them perched on the wall is one of my favorite photos from the trip."


Beth: "I think Blarney Castle and the gardens around it was one of my favorite stops - mostly because the sun was shining and the gardens were full of druid circles, the Witch's Kitchen, and the wishing steps...all very cool."

So I'm dying to know what happened at the castle! Did you kiss the stone??!

Beth: "The sad news is that the Blarney Stone is at the very top of the castle, and while I am not afraid of heights, I do have claustrophobia that is sometimes overwhelming...so going up a small, stone spiral staircase to the top was not something I could do. Jen can attest to the fact that I REALLY tried, but about three flights up, I started to panic and had to go back down. I did see lots of people kissing the stone, and I found another stone on the grounds to kiss...but that's as close as I got."

(No one else is talking, so we'll just have to wonder what happened when they made it to the top!)

Here are Betty, Beth, and Jen applying their Blarney Balms in front of Blarney Castle! They were such sports to take the balm along on their Irish Adventure—and share some of their beautiful pictures! I really enjoyed living vicariously through their stories and photos, and I hope you've enjoyed it, too. As Jen said,
"We had a fabulous time, as you can tell—Ireland is a very special place."

(Photos posted here belong to Elizabeth and Jennifer Dimond. Please do not copy.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fresh Herb Pizza

Today was the first summer-warm day we've had, so when I got my orders packed and in the mail, I headed to the garden store. Every year I tell myself that I don't have time for a big garden. Maybe I'll just plant flowers this year, I think. Maybe I won't fill all of the planters on the deck again. Then I go to the local garden store and it's all over.

I brought my son with me this time. He's 11 and he has "helped" me with the garden since he could walk. Now he really is a help. We browsed every aisle and checked out every plant before making our choices. When we got to the herbs, we played a game: I would brush a hand over the leaves and he'd sniff and identify. Some he knew right away (lavender) and others (sweet woodruff) weren't familiar. But when we got to the oregano, he breathed deeply, said, "Oh, oregano," and asked if I would please buy it and make pizza with it tonight. How could I say no to that?

On this trip we came home with oregano, basil, thyme, and cilantro, which I planted all together in a big pot just outside my kitchen door: just in time for pizza night. Friday is pizza night at our house, and most of the time I make it from scratch. My bread machine quit months ago, so I use this quick pizza crust recipe:

1 pkg active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast)
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

I use instant yeast because there's no need to dissolve or proof it. Just mix it in with the flour and other dry ingredients, stir in water and oil, and knead with additional flour, if necessary, until dough can be worked and isn't sticky. Divide the dough in half and roll out to make two crusts. Grease your pans with a bit of olive oil (or preheat your pizza stones) then place your rolled dough into the two pans. If you have a little time, you can let the dough rise a bit before topping, but we can never wait! (This pizza tastes good even if you don't let the crust rise!)

Our favorite is to spread a few tablespoons of olive oil on the crust, cover with minced garlic (4 or 5 cloves isn't unheard of around here), then add a layer of mozzarella. Sliced black olives, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, feta, and spinach are more of our favorite toppings. My husband also likes grilled chicken on his. Add whatever toppings you like, and don't forget the most important ingredient: fresh herbs, chopped and added to the top. Bake in 400° oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheeses are melted.

Tonight we added basil, thyme, and of course, oregano. The plants were tiny so I didn't add very much; by July I'll be picking them by the handful and feeling really glad that I changed my mind about planting them! I realized tonight that this is what summer feels (smells, tastes) like to me, this is what it's about: stepping outside and picking zucchini, salad greens, and yes, my own oregano, and adding them to my plate every day. It's a simple thing that makes me happy. So I guess I'll be having that garden after all.

How about you? When do you really know that summer has arrived? What does summer taste like to you?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rubber Ducky Baby Shower Ideas

"Rubber ducky, you're the one!" If rubber ducks are the theme for your baby shower, of course we can help you with the favors. But what about cakes and cookies, decorations and tableware? We have a few ideas to help you with those, too! (Please note that links provided are to our own products or are affiliate links.)

Of all the Rubber Ducky tableware out there, we think this is the cutest! Choose from paper dessert plates, cups, and napkins, all in this whimsical duck design.

Ducky Dinner Plates
Love this little splashing guy!

Ducky Beverage Napkins
Ducky is waterskiing along in the water!

Ducky cups
I'd be inspired to create a bright blue punch with blue kool-aid and lime sherbet, just to match the colors in this tableware. Make some Ducky Ice Cubes with orange juice, toss them into the "tub" and you're good to go.

Too much duck? Order only the napkins with the duck motif and get the remaining tableware, spoons, forks, etc. in white, blue, yellow, or orange.

Now that you have the adorable place settings, you need some ducky cuteness to serve on them! While we probably wouldn't recommend the roast duck with the mango salsa, a duck cake would probably be just right. And a three-dimensional duck cake would be...well, just ducky!

Wilton 3-D Rubber Ducky Pan will make a 3D cake! Set up to decorate on a platter spread with blue "water" frosting and white "bubble" marshmallows! Lemon cake with lemon frosting would be so yummy for a ducky theme cake.

One of my favorite guest favor ideas (well, apart from lip balm favors) is to make and decorate cookies, then wrap in cello bags with ribbons and tags. This Ducky Cookie Cutter will make perfect aquatic friends for your guests to take home. (Of course they'd be delicious at each place setting, too: tie a name tag to each bag and arrange your seating with the ducks' help.)

To decorate the table, add something extra to your favors, or maybe use as cupcake toppers (they're just under a petite 2" long!), why not try Baby Girl Rubber Duckies or Baby Boy Rubber Duckies? They come by the dozen in an assortment of styles.

What do you think? Do you have other ideas for ways to decorate and celebrate a Rubber Ducky Baby Shower? Any fun recipes you'd like to share? Please let me know in the comments below! And if you're planning a Rubber Ducky baby shower, talk with us about the details! We'd love to help you create adorable personalized favors for your event!


Monday, May 23, 2011

If size matters...

Of course I'm talking about the size of our favors! What did you think I was talking about?!

Occasionally someone will ask, "Just how big are your lip balm favors?" I decided to share a picture along with the measurements. (In the grid at left, each square is .5" wide.)

The jars (white or black) for the lip balms are just over an inch in height and about 1.3" in diameter. (The round labels on top are 1.2" in diameter.)

The tubes are exactly the size of a Chapstick: about .6" in diameter and a little more than 2.6" in length.

For decorated balms, I use bags that are 2" wide and 5" long. The custom tags are 1.5" square. When the favors are all wrapped up, they're about 2" to 2.5" wide (including the tags), 4" or 4.5" long, and 1" thick.

If you ever have any questions about favors or wrapping, please don't hesitate to contact me!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Teacher Appreciation Gifts

Can't believe the school year is almost over. I'm starting to put together gifts for teachers at my kids' schools, and I decided they all needed a vacation in a bottle. And in a tube. So of course they had to be Coconut Twist ("you put the lime in the coconut...") and have a fun (or maybe silly) tag.

Here's this year's idea. Do you need a little teacher appreciation gift, too? I'll be making a bunch. I'm even making some in Vanilla.

I can use this same gift tag with our other gift sets, too. Here are some other ideas for teacher gifts.

What do you think? Do you usually give teacher appreciation gifts? How do you say thanks for a great year?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pedicure Cream for Feedback Friday

Yesterday I talked about how to give yourself an at-home pedicure to get your toes ready for their summertime sandals close-up. In today's Feedback Friday post I want to offer a special sample to make your pedicure even more enjoyable!

If you're not sure what we're talking about, 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.

Now through the end of May we're offering a sample of our hand cream with every order of sugar scrub. It's easy: simply order sugar scrub and we'll include a purse-sized tottle of cream in the matching fragrance (one per order). Our hand cream is really thick, so a little goes a long way, but it has a very smooth and silky feel. It contains silk amino acids as well as shea butter, avocado oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera, and a ton of vitamins. It's perfect for that extra moisturizing you need on your hands, elbows, knees, AND toes! A great way to finish up your pedicure.

We'd love to know what you think of our hand (and foot) cream, so if you've tried it, please leave a comment below! Thanks so much for your interest!

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

Blarney Balm
Tulips

Thursday, May 19, 2011

At-Home Pedicures for Tip-Top Toes

I had my very first pedicure about two years ago. (I know that's weird. For some reason I was just embarrassed about my feet. I know, also weird.) Once I had one, though, I was hooked. I'd have them every week if I could afford to, but of course I can't, so most of the time I do them at home. Gotta look good in those sandals, right? (It's all about the sandals.)

A few weeks ago I had a girls night with a couple of friends. We watched movies and had yummy snacks and drinks, but the high point (for me, anyway) was the pedicures. Everyone brought their favorite nail polish colors and tools, and I provided the rest! Here's what I think you need for a relaxing at-home pedicure:

1. Tub to soak those toes. I bought a plastic dish pan for each of us. They're only a few dollars, a perfect size that's easily cleaned, and can be used over and over. (You know you'll want to do it again.)

2. Pedicure kit. If you don't have one, at the minimum you'll want clippers, emery boards, and orange sticks. You may also want nippers or a pumice stone.

3. Products. Nail polish remover, nail polish (including base and top coats, if you use them), foot soak, foot scrub, cuticle remover, and foot cream.

4. Extras. I highly recommend buying a bag of smooth river rocks (the kind often used in floral arrangements) and spreading on the bottom of each dish pan/foot tub. You'll also want a bunch of towels handy.

After you've gotten all of your materials together, you can get your foot soak ready. I spread a layer of river rocks on the bottom of each pan, covered the rocks with hot water and let sit for a few minutes, then filled the pan about halfway with warm water. I added scented bath salts, too; if you'd like to make your own, you can add a handful of Epsom salts and your favorite sea salt to the water along with a few drops of essential oils. Lavender is wonderful, and peppermint is also a great essential oil for pedicures.

While your salts are dissolving and the stones are getting warm, you can start working on those toes. Remove any old polish, then trim the nails with your clippers, cutting straight across. Use emery boards to smooth them. Now you're ready to soak!

Set up a comfy spot and refill your beverage of choice--make sure you're prepared to sit for a while! Spread a towel under your pan to catch any splashes, then place your feet in the soak for at least 10 minutes. Let those river stones massage the bottoms of your feet as you sit. It's incredibly relaxing!

Once the 10 minutes have passed, it's time to exfoliate! We used sugar scrub, which I prefer to salt scrub. (I find that salt stings, and it feels more abrasive to me than sugar.) You can make your own blend of sugar or salt scrub; I find that combining 3 tablespoons of oil (olive, coconut, grape seed, or a blend of your choice) with 1/2 cup of sugar (or salt or a blend) works well. Of course you can also add your own essential oils to enhance the experience! A few drops is all you need. Apply the scrub to each foot in turn, rubbing callouses and heels. A pumice stone is also helpful at this point. Once each foot is scrubbed well, rinse off in the tub and then dry thoroughly.

Now you can apply your cuticle remover, pushing cuticles back and trimming as necessary. Then apply cream to your feet, massaging up onto your ankles. You're all ready now to pick out your polish color! (This is always the hardest part for me.)

Clean the nails with a bit of polish remover to make sure there isn't any oil or cream on them, then apply your base coat (if you have one). I "cheat" and go straight for my polish; Sinful Colors is one of my favorite brands, and usually I apply two to three coats and call it a day. Er, I wait for it to dry and THEN call it a day. But of course your polish will usually last longer and have a super shine if you add the top coat, too.

This is so easy to do, I think it would be great fun for a Bachelorette Party or other Girls Night In. And if you'd rather not make your own products, we'd love to put together soaks and scrubs in your favorite fragrances! Talk with us about making fun spa favors for your next event, too.

Have I missed anything? Do you enjoy the occasional at-home pedicure? What else would you do to create a relaxing pedicure? Please share your thoughts!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Do it better

A few months ago I was referring someone to a particular product on my website and when I saw the photo, I had that moment where I realized I could do better. Does that happen to you sometimes? You review your old projects and think, "If I did that today, I'd do a better job." It used to make me feel bad (probably because I knew I'd have lot of work ahead of me to replace those old photos!) but now I think it's a good thing. It helps me to realize that I'm making progress, even if it feels slow.

I could hardly believe it when I came across this quote by Leonardo da Vinci: “I have offended God and mankind because my work didn't reach the quality it should have.” Can you imagine creating the Mona Lisa and still feeling that way? I guess everyone should always try to get better all the time. And there's always room for improvement.

Instead of feeling bad about having some outdated photos on my website, I decided to start updating the designs and photos. Our Kids Birthday Party Favors page and Baby Shower Favors page were the first to be updated. Last week I updated our Girls Night Out Ideas page. I'm taking new photos to make changes to several other pages in the coming weeks.

“There's always room for improvement, you know--it's the biggest room in the house.” -Louise Heath Leber

What do you think? Do you feel like you're doing things better than you used to? Isn't it a good feeling?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

"Can you make me a favor for my unique theme?"

I have hundreds of different designs on my website, but I still get calls and emails about custom work. Maybe you're celebrating a 50th anniversary or having a graduation party and you can't find anything specifically for those events. (Did you know that you can change the wording on any of our designs? If you see one that you like, just specify your own text at checkout or contact us with any special details!) Or maybe you're looking for a particular design that I just haven't gotten around to making yet!

That's what happened a few weeks ago when Tammy G. ordered some favors. She is moving with her family to Vermont and wanted a gift to give to her special friends to invite them to her new home. She chose "Chocolate Moose" lip balm, and wanted a special moose design to match. Could we make her a favor for her unique theme? You bet!

I'll admit, I haven't always done all of the drawings and photos for my designs. Some of them are copyright- or royalty-free graphics or photos, and some of them are fonts. Some of them are even illustrated by my daughter (she made the kid illustrations on our foot rub, tummy rub, and chest rub!). But many of the designs do incorporate my own drawings and photos. Some of the time I start drawing on my computer, but for this moose design I did some freehand pen sketches. These gave me the rough shapes to work with. You can see from the scan below that they aren't even complete drawings—often they're just parts. And pretty silly-looking parts, at that:Once I have a starting place, I scan the drawings into my computer and start playing with them. I work in Illustrator and turn most of them into vector drawings; this allows me to change the shapes and colors really easily (so if someone wanted a pink moose later, it would be a snap!).

Here's the first moose I came up with. Once I have a graphic, I try it out by putting together some samples of tags and labels. For this project I tried a few different wordings and layouts. Sometimes I use different fonts. See some examples below:




Tammy chose the tag design and wording that she liked, and also requested some changes to the moose. Here's the final moose and her decorated favors, ready to share:

While most of our customers find a design on the website that can be personalized for their event, some events (and themes) are just unique! We'd love to talk with you about your unique event! Contact us for more information.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vote for your favorite Summertime Lip Balm Flavor!

We're thinking about our favorite flavors of summer and trying to decide which ones should become our summer lip balms! Would you like to vote?

The choices are:
1. Pink Lemonade
2. S'mores
3. Strawberry Shortcake
4. Peach Margarita
5. Mango Tea
6. Watermelon Daiquiri
7. Cherry Berry Gelato
8.Fruit Salad
9. Iced Coffee
10. Lime Popsicle

and here's where you go to cast your vote. You're welcome to leave a comment here if you'd rather vote at the blog. And if you think of a really amazing Summertime Flavor that isn't on the list, please share that, too!

Springy Wednesday is Purple


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Indie Business Blog Mention!

I was so excited to be mentioned in a blog post at the Indie Business Blog yesterday! Donna Maria Coles Johnson gave some great examples of how small business owners can spread the word about their businesses, including sharing what they make, sharing their ingredients, and sharing where they go. In the "Share where you work" section, Donna Maria mentioned the slide show video which featured the construction of our new office.

The post also provides links to some amazing businesses, such as The Bead Dreamer, Bella Lucce, and Milk and Cookeez. I'm honored to be in such great company! Thank you, Donna Maria, for including me!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Yes or No? Both!

I came across this Henry Ward Beech quote in my morning reading: "The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't." First I laughed, then I wondered about those two words. Is obstinacy seen as a negative because people associate it with saying no? We praise those who persevere, but is persevering all about saying yes? Isn't there room for a little no?

Persevering and being obstinate are both about sticking to your purpose. What we say "YES" to in our lives is what we devote ourselves to: our spouses, our children, our jobs. We stick with them—we persevere—because of this strong will, the strong "I will." But having the time to devote to the important people and tasks in our lives also depends on our ability to say "NO" to others. We're trained from childhood to do what we're told, to compromise and go with the flow, but with so many claims on our time and attention, the ability to say no to what doesn't work for us isn't just important, it's necessary. Is this being "stubborn" or "obstinate"?

Perhaps the real difference between perseverance and obstinacy is in your perspective. When your toddler begs for candy in the grocery store, she's being obstinate because you want her to stop. You want to be able to present the argument that will calm her, persuade her to give up, but she is unyielding. That makes her stubborn, obstinate; but to her, doesn't this feel like perseverance? Do you sometimes feel that people call you stubborn just because they don't share your vision or purpose?

The business people I find inspiring (and OK, I'm talking about Tony Hsieh again) are always saying YES: to new employees, original thinking, innovative solutions. They're also always saying NO: to inefficiency, ill-timed buyouts, dead-end projects. The parents I find inspiring also say YES a lot, but at some times that's overwhelmed by the NO: no you cannot eat another cookie, no you cannot pierce your eyebrows, no you cannot get a motorcycle. Just like good business people, good parents persevere with a little obstinacy.

What do you think? Do you find yourself saying I won't just as much as I will?

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