Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pretty as a Picture (Frame): Sweet Dixie Designs

Every year I dress up my kids and take tons of pictures to make holiday cards as well as gifts. For those relatives who say, "All I want is pictures," the frame becomes such a vital part of the gift.

For frames as pretty as a picture, look no further than Sweet Dixie Designs in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Jane Pitkow draws on her degree in textile design and years of experience painting furniture and accessories to create handpainted (yes, those designs are handpainted) works of art that you'll be proud to put all around your favorite faces!

I'm so pleased to have Jane join us today for our next small business feature. I loved learning more about Sweet Dixie Designs, and I hope you do, too!

1. Martha Stewart is looking for unique gifts to share with the special people on her list. Which Sweet Dixie Design would you recommend?
It would be a frame since that is mainly what I make, but maybe not the obvious Christmas design....how about a red and white or lime and white hand-painted frame for that holiday picture; or a navy and white one for those who celebrate Hanukkah. If it is a gift for a family member or someone close it is always nice to put a special photo inside.

Lately I have been doing a lot of special order frames for invitations to weddings, Mitzvahs and even birth announcements. I love designing a frame that coordinates with the piece and matting it on beautiful paper, it makes a really special keepsake.

2. Early Bird or Christmas Eve shopping?
Definitely Christmas Eve (or hopefully a few days before). I am not usually a good planner and always work best under pressure! I try to plan ahead but life just never seems to work that way.

3. To get in the holiday spirit, I like to...
It may sound funny but I am a real sucker for those Hallmark Channel holiday movies, they always get me! I also love to drive around at night during the holiday season and look at the beautiful lights.

4. My favorite (new, most popular) gift idea at Sweet Dixie Designs this season is:
I would suggest my painted damask frames. They are my most popular design and I do them in so many different color combinations that I think there is one for almost any occasion or personality....I have had customers purchase them as gifts for teens, babies, women and even men. I also really enjoy custom orders and I am always up for a special request!

5. And most importantly: Naughty or nice?
Hmmm....I guess being just a little naughty is more fun!

To order your own Sweet Dixie Designs frames, visit Jane's Etsy shop. You can also follow her on Twitter and visit her at Dreamers into Doers!

It's so hard to pick a favorite, since there are so many great color and pattern combinations, but I really like the green damask frames. What's your favorite?

Monday, November 28, 2011


This will sound crazy coming from someone who makes and sells stuff, but recent news from the retail world has shocked me. I'm sharing something from my own experience (not just from watching The Grinch) because I feel that it's important and know that it's true: even if you couldn't buy another gift or write another card or bake another cookie this year, Christmas would still come.

My friend Michelle Gilbert shared this article discussing the new tradition of violence and craziness on Black Friday. Michelle spent the Thanksgiving holiday dealing with some health challenges, and shared, "I am grateful for an illness which forces me to choose peace amidst the madness around us."

I thought about the "forced" peace that Michelle spoke of and remembered my own experience abandoning traditional holiday chaos. In early December 1998 my parents were driving home from Christmas shopping when they were hit by another driver. My dad had some broken bones, some cuts that required stitches, but my mom suffered a broken neck among numerous other injuries. She was in the hospital through December into January, required multiple surgeries, and worked through weeks of rehabilitation.

My daughter was only four months old at the time of the accident, and any plans for some "perfect" first Christmas were quickly scrapped. Very little of what we did that year was traditional: I didn't write holiday cards, and many of the days I bundled up the baby to visit my mom, leaving little time for baking or shopping. Without the insistence (and assistance) of a friend, I'm not even sure we would have gotten a Christmas tree. In fact, most of those normal holiday things that I had always felt compelled to do just didn't get done. And yet, when Christmas came around and we were together at the hospital eating Christmas dinner, we all felt blessed. My parents were alive, my mom was going to recover. All of that other stuff really didn't matter.

People will repeat it this year and every other: the shopping and the gifts are not what this season is about. We will say it, and then we will choose the shopping and chaos (I do it, too). We will talk about "peace on earth" and then pepper spray one another at the local mall. The truth is, happiness and joy and peace can't be found there, or at Walmart, or in any other store. "Peace comes from within," Buddha said. "Do not seek it without." Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gandhi and Thomas Kempis and many others said the same thing: peace on earth starts with peace inside. You may not know it until you are "forced" into it, but you carry it with you wherever you go.

So maybe I'm crazy to tell you that you don't NEED what I sell, as much as I enjoy participating in your holidays. You already have what you need. Abandon the chaos. Embrace those you love. Be at peace,  because you are the gift. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bear Hugs: A Visit with TG Bears

Toy trends come and go, but the teddy bear is always popular. We give them at baby showers and birthday parties, to sweethearts, friends, and collectors. But most of us still think of teddy bears as kids' toys. (Can you think of anything requested in more letters to Santa?)

Lots of kids will get teddy bears this year, but the luckiest ones will receive TG Bears, handmade by Monica Collins in Tucson, Arizona. Each TG Bear is 16 inches tall, with safety eyes, noses, and joints to make them safe, and soft furry bodies to make them huggable. (In fact, TG Bears come pre-hugged by Monica herself!) Every bear is unique, from its expression to the colors, accessories, and even the personalized details you can choose.

I'm delighted to have Monica join us today for the first in our series of small business features. We hope you'll enjoy learning a bit about Monica and her fabulous bears!

1. Martha Stewart is looking for new gifts to share with the kids on her list. Which TG Bear would you recommend?
 I would definitely suggest Theodore Bear. Not only is he the Classic Teddy Bear with his sheepskin color fur, he also is the one traveling and having so many exciting adventures, keeping a journal of all of them on my blog.

2. Sugar cookie or Gingerbread man?
Gingerbread man

3. To get in the holiday spirit, I like to...
Take time to browse craft stores and other places where there are so many pretty decorations. Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the prettiness and goodwill that is projected.

4. My favorite (new, most popular) gift idea at TG Bear this season is:
A personalized Christmas Bear (see picture below). This bear has the foundation of a white bear, but the embroidery on the foot is personalized and the accessory can also be requested. In this case, the customer requested a scarf.

5. And most importantly: Naughty or nice?
I think a little bit of both is needed to make the world go round - nicely balanced.

Monica has recently created special bears for Hilary Duff and Jessica Alba, and she can create one for you, too! She has generously offered a coupon to all of you which will give you 15% off. Use coupon code GDCSPA#1 at checkout on the TG Bears website between November 25 and December 9. Thank you, Monica! 

Find out more about Monica and TG Bears:

Order online at the website, TGBears.com

TG Bears Facebook page

The blog (keep up with Theodore Bear's travels!)

Follow TG Bears on Twitter

See what TG Bears is pinning on Pinterest

I like Uncle Edward the best! He has a great bow-tie. Which TG Bear is your favorite?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Friday Sale

If you're shopping in your pajamas this Friday (and not at Walmart), you're welcome to visit us! Take 15% off your order this weekend by entering the coupon code BLACKFRIDAY at checkout. This coupon is valid through the end of November.

Have a great day!

Being Thankful

"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."  ~H.U. Westermayer

Wishing you and your family a day rich with blessings.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Vinyl Anniversary

I hope you can read that card over there. (It's a Hallmark card.) It says, "Standard Schedule of Anniversary Gifts." Needless to say, this is not the traditional or even modern list of anniversary gifts, but I prefer a list that includes things like duct tape and latex. When I first saw this card I was dismayed to realize that my Naugahyde™ anniversary had already passed. We've also made it through talc, PVC, and fiberglass (whew!).

I'm posting this on our Vinyl wedding anniversary. For many years my husband has tried to find something that creatively incorporates the traditional or modern gift for that year. Since there are no real suggested gifts for year 17, heaven only knows what he'll come up with today. But honestly, it doesn't matter.

I've written about my marriage before, in such posts as Laughter is the Word EVERY Day. I've also written about my less-than-perfect wedding, in (of course) Perfect Weddings. From that inauspicious beginning, we've been so fortunate. I feel thankful every day to have such a supportive, kind, even-keeled partner. Having an anniversary near Thanksgiving gives me one more thing to be thankful for every year.

So Happy Vinyl Anniversary, O.! With any luck we'll be celebrating Teflon™, suede, and cast iron someday, too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday Goodies are coming!

Yes, my office tree is already up!
I had so much fun last fall sharing holiday gift ideas, recipes, books, and places to shop, but this year many people suggested that we wait until AFTER Thanksgiving to talk about Hanukkah and Christmas. I've been (mostly) good, which means that I have lots of holiday goodies to share. The fun starts this Friday!

One of the best parts of the holiday season last year was getting to introduce you to other small businesses. Not everyone on your list will want lip balm or sugar scrub (I know, it's baffling to me, too) so this is a great way to find out about other small businesses offering extraordinary products. Watch for features on Fridays and Tuesdays into mid-December; we'll spend a few minutes with each business owner finding out about the amazing things they can make for your loved ones!

Every Monday I try to share a word or thought to start off the work week. This week I talked about gratitude, and as we near the holidays I'm sure I'll be writing more about the thoughts that inspire me at this time of year. I'd love to know what you're thinking about as you make your way through the hustle and bustle of the season, too, so make sure to leave a comment on any post!

Wednesdays are traditionally wordless here, so you can expect something "merry and bright" in the middle of every week. Thursdays I'll be sharing recipes and other DIY projects, such as gifts that you can make. I'll also be posting some printable tags and labels for wrapping. And though I don't consistently post on weekends, I have so many books and other ideas to share, I think they may spill over into Saturdays and maybe even Sundays. I'm putting together the details of a giveaway, too, with more information to come. See why you should stick around?!

If you aren't a regular reader, I welcome you to subscribe either by email or in a reader. I'd love to share the season with you!

Is there anything I missed? What else would you like to see here in the coming weeks? Please let me know!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Expressing Gratitude

I've been thinking a lot this week about gratitude. I'm sure it's partly because of Thanksgiving and the approach of the holiday season, which we spend expressing thanks. But I've also realized that gratitude plays a huge role in day-to-day happiness.

This isn't just my own personal experience; studies have shown that while happiness levels are pretty consistent for most people throughout their lives, increasing the amount of gratitude you express can actually increase your happiness. In fact, Todd Kashdan, an associate professor of psychology at George Mason University, lists gratitude as one of three things necessary for a happy, meaningful life. (If you're having trouble figuring out how to be more grateful, check out these 10 steps suggested by Dr. Robert A. Emmons, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology.)

I've noticed that stopping every so often to acknowledge how fortunate I am makes me feel even better about what I have. Is my life perfect? Of course not. But looking for the things that are going well means I focus more on the positive, even seeing positive things in negative situations. And that surely makes me happier. I think Henry Ward Beecher was right when he said: "The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!"

There is no shortage of wisdom about the expression of gratitude. G. K. Chesterton said, "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." And Epictetus said, "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."

I love that I get to help people say thank you every day. I believe that the more we express gratitude, telling family and friends that they're important to us and that we're happy to have them in our lives, the happier we are.

What do you think? Do you feel happy when you express gratitude? What are you thankful for this week?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review at Maine Days Designs Blog

I was so excited to see this review at Maine Days Designs blog yesterday! Kate creates those cool map pendants I talked about last fall, and she has some nice things to say about our Candy Cane pedicure (including the pumice stone, which replaced the one her dog seemed to enjoy) and Cupcake hand cream.

She also points out how much more economical at-home pedicures can be. I'll be hosting a pedicure party tonight for some friends, so I definitely agree! (And since you technically can wear your pjs, it can be much more fun.)

Thank you, Kate, for the great review! I appreciate it!

You can see Kate's pendants and other pieces at her Etsy shop. And read more about how to enjoy an at-home pedicure.

And you? Do you enjoy doing pedicures at home? Have you tried a Candy Cane pedicure?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Save 15% through November 21

The second of our Early Bird sales is going on this weekend, Friday through Monday. Use the code "NOVSALES15" from November 18 through November 21 by entering in the promo code box during checkout. Click update to see your discounted prices reflected in the shopping cart.

Thanks so much for your interest!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kiva Update

I made my last Kiva loan way back in August. I got a reminder today that I had enough repaid on my previous loans to allow me to make more. So today I made five more loans.

This time my loans were made to women in Uganda, Viet Nam, Honduras, Peru, and even the United States! Some of these businesses are retail, one is a beauty salon, and one of the women is using her loan to pay for her education.

If you haven't heard of them, you can learn more about Kiva here. I've also blogged about Kiva a couple of times. Oh, and here's another. What I love about it (and I know I say it every time) is that as the loans are repaid, I can choose to loan that same money over and over again. I get to help people through micro loans (each one is $25) in countries all over the world. And then help some more.

This marks loan 28 and counting! What do you think?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Where you can find us

The only place that you can view and purchase all of our products is online, at gcdspa.com. That isn't likely to change anytime soon. What has changed is that we are working with a few spas and gift shops to offer a selection of our products in treatments or for retail sale. Maybe one of them is near you?

Finger Lakes Distilling, Burdett, NY
Sante Spa, Victoria, B.C.
Robert Andrew Salon & Spa, Gambrills, MD
The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA

We'll let you know as we add to this list!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

New! Sweet Fig

Just when I think I have my mind made up, I go and change it again.

I had decided on the holiday fragrances: the Candy Cane pedicures, the Gingerbread gift sets, the Sugar Cookie moisturizers. Then I sampled this fragrance for a custom order and it was all over.

Sweet Fig is our version of the BBW Brown Sugar and Fig fragrance (we aren't affiliated with Bath and Body Works). This scent is ripe figs in caramelized sugar, coconut with the warmth of vanilla and musk, and very light floral notes. Such a scrumptious blend and a very Limited Edition that we're offering in three sets for the holidays.

You can find Sweet fig in our Hand Soap & Lotion Set (also known as sink sets, see above left). We are also offering this fragrance in our Bath Indulgence Gift Set, with sugar scrub and moisturizing cream, and our Holiday Shower Smoothers bath gel and lotion sets.

I'd love to know what you think of it!

I also want to let you know that if you aren't already on our mailing list, you'll want to add your email before Thursday. We have a few weekends of big sales coming up and the coupons will be in our newsletter later this week! I don't usually push this, but you won't want to miss it!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Marie Curie's Lessons

A while ago one of my Facebook friends posted a photo taken at 1927's Solvay Conference. As I scanned the caption, noting the familiar names from my physics and chemistry classes (remember Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Bohr, and Einstein? Anyone? Beuller?), I noticed the lonely-only woman right there in the front row. In addition to being the only representative of her gender, Marie Curie was the only physicist present who had received two Nobel prizes. She was the first female laureate, as well as the first person to be honored with a second Nobel prize. The more I read about her accomplishments, the more inspiring she seemed. It was only after I read a biography of Curie, though, that I realized just how many things we can learn from her. Here are just 3 of them:

1. Be persistent.
Curie's family didn't have the money to send her to school, so she and her sister took turns working to put each other through university. When Curie returned to Poland with her degree, she was not hired at Kraków University because she was a woman. She returned to Paris and eventually became the first female professor at the Sorbonne.
"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained."

2. Keep your sense of wonderment.
Isolating pure radium from pitchblende was an arduous, tedious process that took years of Curie's life. But this is how she described the materials in her laboratory: "...arranged on tables and boards....At night...from all sides we could see slightly luminous silhouettes, and these gleamings, which seemed suspended in darkness, stirred us with new emotion and enchantment.... It was really a lovely sight...like faint fairy light."

3. Use your powers for good.
When WWI broke out, Curie helped to create portable x-ray machines that could be driven onto battlefields. She helped to train women to operate these inventions so they could locate bullet fragments in wounded soldiers, assisting with surgeries.
“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”

On Curie's 144th birthday, I'm remembering these lessons. Which of Marie Curie's many accomplishments do you find inspiring?

Friday, November 04, 2011

What About Favors for the Guys?

Last spring I put together these lip balm favors for a baby shower. About half of the invited guests were boys and men, so the planners asked, "What about the guys? Do men like lip balm? What about favors for the guys?"

This is such a common question, and this is what I tell everyone: Guys do like lip balm. Some guys, anyway. But everyone (everyone) EVERYONE likes chocolate. So when in doubt, we recommend favors with candies.

If you want us to do it for you and include it with your order, just ask! If you want us to send you extra tags, bags, and bows so you can choose your own candies (something we'll usually recommend in the summer months, anyway, since chocolate doesn't ship well in hot weather), just ask! We'll provide price quotes for any of these options, so just talk with us.

If you're wondering whether it will work to have some favors that are candy and some that are balms, here's a picture of the chocolate favors we made (see at right). You can display these in separate containers (baskets, decorative boxes, bowls, etc.) from each other, or combine them, but with the same bows and tags they all go together.

Believe it or not, there are some women and girls who'd choose chocolate over lip balm (I know, it's shocking), so having a choice in large groups often works well even if there won't be any guys there. I also like the idea of adding chocolates to the lip balm favor bags because chocolate is an important food group and we need to make sure we get the proper number of servings every day. I'm only sort of kidding.

So if you're ordering balms as part of a larger favor—or you have something else for the guys—we're happy to prepare extra tags for you along with your balms. Talk with us for a custom quote. We love hearing about your events!


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