Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Your Own Gardener's Gift Set

On Saturday I announced the Gardener's Gift Set Giveaway, which also introduced this new Gardener's Hand Scrub (in Lavender) and Sarva Soap's fabulous Gardener's Hand Soap (my favorite).

I'm really excited about sharing the tote bag and gift set with a lucky winner, but as they say in Highlander, "There can be only one." Winner, that is. What about everyone else who wants really clean and scrubbed post-garden hands?

Now you can get one of your own Gardener's Gift Sets. I've planted Gardener's Hand Soap, Hand Scrub, and Hand Cream in this cute pot, along with a Lavender Lemonade Lip Balm for moisturized gardeners' smiles. I'm also including some flower seeds and a shovel to play in your garden.

The set comes wrapped in this garden pot with cello, a tulle ribbon, and a gift tag. We'll even add a handwritten gift message. A cute gift for your favorite gardener—and yeah, it's OK if that's you!

While there is definitely more than one, these gift sets are in limited supply, so please let me know if you're interested!

Have you been working in your garden? Which of these products do you think you need the most right now? Please share your thoughts! (And make sure you enter the giveaway!)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How To Make a Potted Herb Garden

Even if you're not a gardener, and even if you don't have a lot of gardening space, you should really think about growing herbs. It takes just a few minutes to create an attractive planter filled with fragrant, delicious herbs--and a small space on the patio or windowsill to show it off. Every summer I plant a container garden of herbs which sits on the deck right outside my kitchen door. It's so easy to pick a few leaves for a pizza, salsa, or salad, and once you try this I'm sure you'll enjoy it, too!

You'll need a large container, potting soil, and 3 or 4 herb plants from your local garden store. I've picked four plants that have similar growing requirements so I can put them all into one pot. You'll want to read about the herbs you're selecting to know that they'll all be happy together, or plant into several pots if they have different needs.

If your container is particularly large or deep, you may also want some styrofoam packing peanuts and a piece of landscape fabric (or another small piece of cloth that will let water through).

The containers I use are quite deep, so I start by putting a layer of the packing peanuts on the bottom of the container. 

Then I cover the packing peanuts with a piece of landscape fabric...

...and cover the fabric with my potting soil. (I mix a little composted manure into the soil, too.) This layer of packing peanuts reduces the amount of soil you need to use, allows the pot to drain, and makes the whole thing much lighter and easier to move around.

Add soil to within about 2 inches of the top of your planter, then gently remove each herb from its pot and arrange it in the planter. When you're happy with your arrangement, loosen the roots of each plant, scoop out a bit of soil in each spot, and set each plant, firming soil around them. You may need to add more soil to even up the surface, but you'll want to leave at least an inch of space between the soil surface and the edge of the pot (so the water doesn't run out over the edge).

Speaking of water...you'll want to water everything well before you  place your planter in a convenient spot. My planter has cilantro, thyme, oregano, and basil, all of which like well-drained soil and full sun, so it sits in a sunny spot on the deck right within reach. The plants look pretty puny now, but in a month or so they will fill the container with gorgeous (delicious) foliage!

This summer I'll be sharing some recipes that include these fresh herbs and talking about how to harvest and store them. I'd love for you to plant yours so you can join me in trying them! I think you'll find that there's nothing quite as easy (or delicious) as an herb garden!

What will you plant in yours?

Kitchen Container Potager + Outdoor Extravaganza Link Party

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Gardener's Gift Set Giveaway

It's been almost six months since we did our last giveaway...don't you think it's about time for another? I do, and I think you're gonna love this one!

I've been puttering in my garden the past few weeks, weeding and planting, raking and watering, and all of that work is messy. To clean up and moisturize, I rely on a few products, including Sarva Soap's fantastic Gardener's Hand Soap, our own Manicure Scrub and Hand Cream, and of course, Lip Balm! I think every gardener needs these, so we've included these items and more in our Gardener's Gift Set!

One lucky winner will receive:
- Cotton pocket tote bag which I made just for you! (Here's a tutorial if you want to make your own garden tote.)

- One 4.5 ounce bar of Sarva's Gardener's Hand Soap, a palm-free, veg-friendly soap with the scent of Eucalyptus and Citrus and added Cornmeal to scrub off all that garden dirt!

- One 5 ounce bottle of Gardener's Hand Scrub, our manicure scrub in a light lavender scent and a handy squeeze bottle. 

- One 4 ounce bottle of Gardener's Hand Cream, also in Lavender.

- One tube of Gardener's Lip balm in Lavender Lemonade flavor.

- A pair of gardening gloves, a garden shovel, and several packets of flower seeds including Bachelor's Buttons, Shasta Daisies, Zinnias, and more!

This gift set would retail for over $50, but this is a one-of-a-kind and only available through this giveaway! To enter, simply leave a comment below sharing why you want to win. Are you excited to try the Gardener's Scrub or Hand Soap? Do you love to garden, or maybe you'd like to give it to a friend who's a gardener? Share with us! Make sure to leave a name or email address in your comments so I know who you are! Please note, this giveaway is only for residents of the U.S. 18 and older.

Additional entries: for those who would like extra entries, you may also do any (or all) of the following:

1. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest (only one is necessary). If you are already a follower or a friend at any of these places, you can just say that in your comment.

2. Connect with Sarva Soap Co. on Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest (only one is necessary). If you are already a follower or a friend of Sarva at any of these places, you can just say that in your comment.

3. Join our mailing list. If you're already on the list, you can just say that in your comment.

4. Subscribe to this blog. You can subscribe by email or subscribe in a reader (you may choose your favorite). Already subscribed? Just leave a comment saying so!

Make sure to leave a comment for each separate entry!  
That's it! Enter before midnight EST on June 7th, when we will randomly select one entry from these comments. We will contact the winner directly via email, and after we've notified them we will make an announcement here on the blog and on Facebook. If we cannot contact the winner in two days, another winner will be selected. Please contact me with any questions.

Good luck and Happy Gardening!

UPDATE: We have a winner! Please check here for details!

(This giveaway is not affiliated with Facebook, nor is entry dependent on "liking" or any other action at Facebook.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I just realized the other day that I didn't consciously choose many of the things that influenced me as a child. I imagine this is the case for most kids. We're guided by our parents and teachers, who choose for us how to spend our days and, when we're really young, who we spend them with, too. This is appropriate, of course, but it means that we rely on our parents or other adults to make the best choices for us. And not everyone has caring parents or compassionate teachers (like I did).

As you grow up, you get to choose more and more of the things that will have an influence on you. You'll choose new friends, you'll decide what to study and what to read. The amazing thing is that even if you had a crappy childhood with less-than-ideal role models, as an adult you can make different choices for yourself. You can choose to learn from new people who share your interests and values. You can move beyond what you already know by changing who and what surrounds you everyday.

John Wooden said, “Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you've met and the books you've read.” We don't always consciously choose these things, of course, but when we can, doesn't it seem incredibly important to choose them wisely?

Are you careful about what influences you every day? What do you think?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Neil Gaiman's Advice to the Class of 2012

Neil Gaiman's Address
A friend on Facebook posted this link and I have to share. It's Neil Gaiman's address to the University of Arts Class of 2012, and it's wonderful. No matter what you do, if you consider yourself "creative" at all this is such generous, humorous, and thoughtful advice.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Three Ways To Fight Information Overload

A few weeks ago I was admiring a cookie decorator's Facebook page. She was lamenting the fact that her technique and designs were not as good as those of other "cookiers." Instead of being inspired, she found their work discouraging. She shared her fear that she might never be as good as the designers she admired, and that feeling made her consider giving up.

Around the same time, a friend sent me the link to a blog post about inspiration: having it, losing it, and overcoming its loss. The blogger said, "I feel so overloaded by imagery thanks to my big art book collection and websites like Tumblr, it is almost as if there is nothing new or unique I can offer to the world as everything has been done before."

A post at IndieBeauty.com, an online indie business community, was the most recent of many such stories. The subject of the discussion is, "HELP…Where do I begin?" and the Indie-in-training writes, "I feel like I'm on information overload and I'm about to explode!" She's having a hard time choosing a direction for her fledgling business because there are so many options available.

I've seen these feelings described in other places lately and have felt them, myself. There are so many books and blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter streams, podcasts, and videos to navigate, and clearly this constant stimulation and information are not always helping us. We are discouraged by comparisons, afraid we can't innovate, and paralyzed by too many choices.

What's happening here? How can we feel less overwhelmed by all of this information?

1. Take Care with Comparisons.

Comparison is necessary: how else do you recognize your own improvement? But there is danger in comparing yourself to colleagues or mentors. The truth is, getting really good at anything takes more than inspiration and education. It takes time: practice time, play time, trial-and-error time, LOTS of time. Your willingness to make that time for your art or craft diminishes when you feel discouraged. Nothing beats down a playful spirit like feeling hopelessly behind someone else.

When you're looking for inspiration, try not to focus on other people who do exactly what you do. If you're a "cookier," you could check out fabric patterns at craft stores or even clothing at the mall. Sketch or take pictures of the shapes and designs at a local antique store. Or follow some jewelry designers or soap makers on Facebook for new ideas that can be rendered in sugar. I admire the work of painters, toymakers, and yes, cookie-and-cake designers because they are creative and colorful and have nothing to do with lip balm! The tendency to compare ourselves unfavorably to others is unfortunate, but real; save the heartache and compare yourself only to yourself.

2. Limit Your Choices.

When I first started my business, I decided to prepare and file my own taxes. That first year was a nightmare; I was drowning in tax forms and publications, overwhelmed by piles of information. Then I realized that at least 90% of those forms and publications didn't apply to my business at all. Subsequent years were much simpler because I knew what was critical and ignored the rest.

It turns out that ignoring the stuff that's not critical is pretty important when making decisions. In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes the work of Cook County's ER in establishing a triage plan for suspected heart attack patients. Researchers found that doctors made better decisions about who to treat (and how to treat them) when they had less information. "What screws up doctors when they are trying to predict heart attacks," Gladwell notes, "is that they take too much information into account." (Is this the same thing that happens to us when we try to reconcile the advice of 6 business gurus and 10 business books and 7 bloggers? I know it makes me feel screwed up!) Gladwell recommends, "In good decision making, frugality matters." And just to drive this point home, he adds, "To be a successful decision maker, we have to edit." But how do we edit successfully? How do we know what is critical and what we should ignore? I think we should all try to...

3. Go Unplugged.

There was a piece in The New York Times in January called The Joy of Quiet. It refers to designer Philippe Starck and attributes his innovation to social and cultural isolation. "I never read any magazines or watch TV. Nor do I go to cocktail parties, dinners or anything like that," Starck states. What the Times article didn't relate was the rest of Starck's description of his process (detailed in this interview in Condé Nast Traveller India): "I just make what I believe in, in a very free way…Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I don't. But the most important thing is that I am outside of mainstream thinking, not repeating what everybody else is saying. I am alone, trying to find my own way of doing things. That's all."

Though Starck's kind of isolation isn't practical for most of us, those who aspire to "original thinking" are right to be troubled by the constant stream of other people's ideas and words. Finding one's own way through this barrage requires efficient decision making, "snap" decisions like those described in Gladwell's book. "Is this right for me? Or better for someone else?" are daily, hourly, even minute-to-minute decisions. And making those decisions successfully depends on knowledge and experience—in this case, knowledge of ourselves. I think it's become harder to be creative and make decisions because many of us have lost touch with what we truly want, think, and believe. The solution is turning off all of those outside voices, temporarily, but on a regular basis. We need to establish the routine of looking inside for our direction and purpose, and that can only happen when we're unplugged.

In her book The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp talks about the importance of routines. The "most productive" writers, she notes, "get started early in the morning, when the world is quiet, the phones aren't ringing, and their minds are rested, alert, and not yet polluted by other people's words." (p. 6, emphasis mine). Recognizing that "other people's words" can be harmfully overwhelming as well as inspiring and educational is a surprising thought that allows us to keep the proper perspective. What do you think? Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of information around us? Are you discouraged about adding your voice or ideas to the mix? How do you deal with it? Please share your thoughts!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sweet Pea Favors and Gifts

Favors and gifts can be customized to match a theme.
Our Sweet Peas are usually pink or lavender, but here's what they look like in gold.

Monday, May 07, 2012

"Happy everyday!"

As a business owner I sometimes receive emails from companies trying to sell their products or services. Over the weekend I got an email from a Chinese printing company. It started like this:

"Hi sir/madam,
Happy everyday!"

Just like a fortune cookie, some of these business translations share "creative" English. At the same time part of me is recognizing the error, another part appreciates the happy sentiment. It's more than a greeting, somehow. It's a way of life they're promoting right here in this spam.

What if, instead of saying, "Have a nice day," you said, "Be happy everyday"? Or even, "I am happy everyday!" What if you could say it and make it so?

Perhaps this wasn't meant as a greeting at all, but a command: HAPPY EVERYDAY! I mean it! Or else!

Could it be that easy? Just to decide that every day is happy?

What do you think?

"Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times." ~Aeschylus

"Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same." ~Francesca Reigler


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