Monday, October 29, 2012

After a storm...

We're battening down the hatches here in anticipation of Sandy, expecting strong winds and lots of rain in the next few days. I'm scrambling to get orders out as quickly as possible in case we lose power, but want you to know that there may be a bit of a delay this week due to the weather. Please know that I will get orders out as quickly as I can! If you can't reach me by email, please try to call me with any questions. I can be reached at 1.888.778.1666.

Thanks so much! Stay safe!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So You Think You Know How To Use Lip Balm

I'll bet you use lip balm on your lips, don't you? Oh, I know, it's called "lip balm," so it's SUPPOSED to be used for moisturizing your lips. But did you know you could use it for more than your lips? And for more than moisturizing?

With all the lip balm we have around, we've found some extra uses for it. We've also figured out how to get greasy lip balm stains out of shirts and pants and...wait, you've put lip balm through the clothes dryer, too? I guess that's what happens when you have a tube or jar in every pocket (like I do). Well, no worries, I can help with that, too. But first, let's talk about the other things you can do with lip balm.

1. Smooth the rough edges
Fall isn't the only time of year that skin can feel dry or rough, but it's a great time to pamper those problem areas. And while the thin skin on your lips takes a beating in the cold and dry weather, rough or dry skin on elbows, knees, heels, or even cuticles can also benefit from a bit of balm. How exactly does balm help?

Natural oils, butters, and waxes can protect skin from further damage even as they moisturize. Almond oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil work to soften, condition, and smooth the skin. Shea butter is another great moisturizer, and cocoa butter and beeswax in a balm form a waxy, waterproof layer to help hold all these conditioners and moisturizers to the skin. Our balms contain all of these ingredients, plus extra Vitamin E (which is great for smoothing cuticles).

So smooth some on your dry hands...or that dry area above your lip that appeared after you blew your nose 647 times during that cold. Yeah, I can see it from here. I know the balm makes your nose shiny, just put it on at bedtime. Trust me, your nose will thank you. And me.

2. Lips Part Deux
So you're using balm to moisturize your lips, sure, but what if they're not as smooth as you'd like? You just might need a sugar polish. All you need is your favorite lip balm (we like a little PiƱa Colada for our lip polish) and some granulated sugar.

Scoop a bit of balm into your palm and add a pinch of sugar, mix until the balm is warm and melted, then apply gently to the lips. When you rinse away the sugar, your lips will still feel that protective layer of balm. They'll also feel invigorated—it's like a mini massage.

Note: We loved the idea of adding a pinch of salt to make polish (especially with our margarita balm, it was too hard to resist) but found that if our lips were the slightest bit chapped the salt would sting. Salt is also sharper than sugar and can be dehydrating, which was not the effect we wanted. Our recommendation: stick with sugar!

3. By Gum, the Gum is Gone!
I'm not in the habit of tossing all kinds of weird things into the washer, but with two kids I was bound to end up with chewing gum in my dryer at some point, right?! (Please tell me I'm not alone here.) I scraped off as much of the goo as I could, then applied a bit of balm around it. Wiping with a paper towel removed the gum and the balm all at once, and with a few applications, all the stickiness was gone.

I've since found that balm is great for removing other sticky things, like annoying bits of adhesive labels that refuse to come off. Please note that these tips are only recommended for hard surfaces, not fabrics or other porous materials. You also won't want to apply balm to anything that can be damaged or stained by oils. Oops! But what if the balm got on them by accident? (Or went through the dryer with the bubblegum...)

"Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!"
Now that you have all of these new uses for lip balm, you'll probably have one in every pocket, and you know what that means: lip balm in the laundry. Whether it's lip balm melted on the jeans, a shirt pocket, or on your favorite dress, if you can iron and wash the garment, you can get it out.

The object is to melt the balm with your iron and absorb the waxes and oils into paper towels.
  • Start by gently scraping off any excess balm.
  • Set your iron to the lowest setting and prepare your ironing board with several layers of paper towels. Place the garment on the paper towels, then put additional layers of the towels on top of and underneath the stain (inside the clothing...this prevents wax from melting through and staining the other side of the garment).
  • Place the iron on the top layer, above the stain, and heat the towels. Depending on your fabric type, you may need to adjust the heat of the iron, and you will need to replace the paper towels as they absorb the oils. Repeat this process with clean towels until you have absorbed as much of the balm as possible.
  • Wash the garment by itself in hot or warm water (the hotter the better!), with detergent.
  • Allow garment to drip dry, and check to see if an additional wash cycle is necessary. Several wash cycles at high temperature with detergent should remove any remaining oil stain.
Need some yummy flavored balm for a lip scrub? Here are a few options. How about some plain ol' unscented, unflavored, colorless balm for other jobs? You might want Bare Balm. It's a special 2-for-$4 price because we know you'll want one in your car and junk drawer and medicine cabinet. And pocket. Every pocket.

Have you found other uses for your lip balm? I'd love to know. And have you laundered your balm, that's the other pressing question I really need answered. I'd feel much less alone. Please share your thoughts!

Friday, October 19, 2012

What You Need To Know About Donating and Shopping at Goodwill

Though I've donated to Goodwill for years, I'll admit that the shopping side of the experience became much more appealing after I had kids. The day I bought my young daughter 5 pairs of jeans for $25, I was hooked!

I still make frequent trips to drop off items that my kids have outgrown, so I thought I was pretty familiar with what Goodwill is all about. But a recent visit to their website convinced me to spend a little more time learning about this organization. With all this election talk about job creation, did you know that in 2011 Goodwill helped more than 189,000 people get jobs? In fact, their mission involves "helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work." Who knew? I sure didn't, and I started to wonder if everyone else knows about the good work that Goodwill does in our communities—and how all of this donating and shopping helps them do it.

Kate Fagan, the manager of the Goodwill in Belfast, Maine, agreed to answer my questions about Goodwill so I could share some tips for donating and shopping at Goodwill—and the reasons why you should do both. Ever wonder what you absolutely shouldn't donate? What bizarre things people buy? What happens to your stuff after you drop it off? She answers all of this and more.

Donating to Goodwill: Why, What, How, and Where

Why donate to Goodwill instead of somewhere else? 

Goodwill is a non-profit. Surprisingly, a few other similar chains out there are not. We are also all about recycling. So, although we don't encourage it, if you do donate something we can't sell, we often have a way to recycle it or resell it. In fact, our new stores are being built without a dumpster and we're required to fill out a lot of the same paperwork as your local transfer station.

What kinds of things absolutely shouldn't be donated?

Mattresses are a big no, no. Also because of the large number of recalls on baby items, we have to refuse most baby items. Cribs and car seats actually have very strict regulations on how or if they can be sold secondhand. Any large kitchen appliances can't be accepted, as well as building materials. Habitat for Humanity has their own resale stores that accept those.

We would really prefer anything you donate to be sellable. There's a longer list which is on Goodwill's website. (And please, if its a couch that has been sitting at your curb for a week in the weather and no one would take it for free, we won't be able to sell it and we do turn those things away!)

How should I prepare my donations before I bring them in?

If at all possible it would be great if people could wash their clothes and take everything out of the pockets. That's for your protection, too. Just overall making sure they are clean is ideal. And also safe. All our donations are sorted by human hands. Putting a giant kitchen knife in with clothes could be a very unpleasant and painful surprise for someone.

What happens to my stuff once it's donated? 

As soon as your stuff comes in the door it gets sorted. Sometimes that means that it will be put in a large box with other bags of clothes or boxes of household items to be completely sorted later. Ideally it means that the person who took your donation is going to rip open your bag or box and take everything out and put it into one of our categories. All the clothing gets sorted into men's, women's or kid's boxes or cages. We also have a specific spot for shoes, books, linens, accessories and household goods. All that stuff then goes through our production process which is when someone actually takes the clothes and hangs them and tags them, or prices the other types of item. And then it goes out onto the sales floor for you to sift through and find that long lost treasure!

Where does the money go when my stuff is sold?

All the "profit" from our stores goes to our various programs. We have group homes and rehabilitation services for people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, we have several programs to help people find a job, we have services for people who are deaf, and a few more programs as well. Goodwill was founded as a funding source for programs; it's a side benefit that it provides quality items to people who may not otherwise be able to afford them and all those bargain hunters out there!

What's the deal with the receipt for tax purposes? How does that work, and should I do it?

Just like any charitable donation, your donation to Goodwill can be a tax write-off. So, if you are looking for deductions make sure that you itemize the stuff you bring to us and if the person taking your donation doesn't ask you if you want a receipt, you can request one. We don't have the time in our donation area to go through everything with you, that's why I recommend making an itemized list yourself before bringing your goodies. We also can provide a list of items and the price range we usually put on them. We always advise people who are donating and want more information to consult a tax professional to make sure you are doing it correctly. Trust me, we are not qualified to give tax advice!

Shopping at Goodwill: Treasure-Hunting Advice

Is there a particular day/time of month/year that's best to shop? Are things priced the same all the time or are there times with better prices?

We are pricing items from the time the store opens until a short time before it closes. We have goals as to how much product needs to go out in all major categories everyday. Summer is definitely a busier time for us, just because of the weather, but we haven't seen much of a slow down of donations yet this fall. Really, you could find an amazing deal any day of the week, at any time during the day.

As far as extra discounts, every store in Goodwill Northern New England uses the same sale color every week. The sale color changes each Sunday.

Any other advice for shoppers?

You can buy a discount card. For $10 a year you get 10% off every purchase, with 25% on your birthday. You can buy one at any of our stores, and they work at any of our stores. Keep in mind, though, that if you go to a Goodwill outside our area they'll probably have a different type of loyalty program.

What's the most amazing "treasure" or best deal you've run across?

This is a tough one because everyone's version of "treasure" or good deal is different. For me the best deals have been on brand new Carter's baby clothes for under $3. I've seen almost new North Face jackets for $9, I saw a double La-Z-Boy recliner at one Goodwill for $30 once. We've gotten in Le Creuset cookware, Ugg boots, KitchenAid mixers, all of which we may price a little higher than our usual, but all of which have been an excellent deal!

And the most bizarre item?

The one that sticks out to me was this horribly ugly, life-size rooster, with a plastic head and feet and its body covered in real rooster feathers. The face was an awful, cartoonish caricature of a rooster face. I was sure we should just trash the thing, but someone convinced me to put it out and it sold within 5 minutes. That and the 2 boxes filled with (ahem) adult toys.

Is my purchase taking away from someone who needs it more than I do? 

Our purpose is to sell secondhand goods to raise money for our programs. We certainly also fill the need for people who can't afford to buy things firsthand, but there is plenty of stuff to go around! Goodwill of Northern New England hasn't run out of clothing since 1998 and based on the volume of stuff we see every week, we aren't going to anytime soon!

What things do you think people should know about Goodwill?

The biggest thing I always want to stress to people is that we are a nonprofit. Even if we get the stuff that fills our shelves for free (for the most part), the second someone helps you unload the goods out of your car, our costs start adding up. We pay the same type of rent or mortgages that other businesses do, our electricity costs the same, and we have competitive wages for our employees. We are trying to fund good programs, doing good work throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. We are all very proud of that, as well as the environmental impact we are having. We keep hundreds of thousands of pounds of "garbage" out of landfills each year. And that's just our Goodwill agency. Goodwill is an international organization. We are following this same model all over the world.

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Kate!

What do you think? Did you know all of this stuff about Goodwill? (I can't decide which part I like the best: the way their programs help people, the fact that you can find awesome stuff for great prices, or the new life this "trash" gets instead of being dumped in a landfill!) Do you donate and shop there? What are some of the treasures you've found?

Monday, October 15, 2012

All Things Are Difficult...

When I'm in my everyday routine, doing what I always do, things feel easy. Oh, there's the occasional snafu, the little unexpected hindrance. But when things are running smoothly, it's easy to forget how hard they were when you started.

My kids sometimes need help with homework, and we watch them struggle with things that seem so simple to us. Trying to teach them how to deal with frustration is particularly hard when we forget how that feels—which is why the past few months have been so helpful to me.

As I've struggled to learn new software and new skills to put together my website, I'm remembering that "dumb" feeling. I know that's not politically correct, and I'd never say that to my kids (or to anyone else), but that's just how I feel! It's uncomfortable, and I don't enjoy that feeling. I want to feel competent and knowledgeable. But how reasonable is it to feel competent and knowledgeable about everything, all the time? My world would have to stay really tiny for me to keep that feeling. So to make way for any growth at all, I guess I have to get used to feeling "dumb" and sticking with things through that feeling. I have to remind myself that as Thomas Fuller said, "All things are difficult before they are easy." 

When you're frustrated by things, what helps you to stick with them?  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The New Site Is Coming...

I know, I haven't posted much recently. I know, I'm not supposed to draw attention to that fact, but the reason is actually a good one: I'm getting ready to launch my new, redesigned website.

Like an idiot  a control freak  many other multitasking entrepreneurs, I update my own website. Since setting up our first site in 2005 I've made a few design changes, but nothing that felt as big as this change. I had to learn so many new things in order to make it happen, which has been exciting as well as frustrating. I'm still learning as I put together the last pieces, a time-consuming process which explains where I've been instead of posting here. I promise that it's temporary!

I'd love to give an exact launch date, but let's just say that I'm working toward completing this at the end of the month. I'm looking forward to having it finished (as finished as a website ever is) and you will be the first to know. I'm also looking forward to spending a few days in my lab pouring holiday lip balms, which will feel like heaven after all of this sitting and programming!

Be watching for launch details and a big sale to celebrate, probably at the beginning of November. In the meantime, please know that I will be back and posting more frequently very soon!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Tubes They Are A-Changin'

When I first started making lip balm, I only made it in jars. Most of our balms are still made in this shape (call me crazy, but I think they look cuter as favors), but after many requests we started offering the tube shape, too. Like these flavors for fall:

Over the last year we've been dropping some of our less popular lip balm flavors, instead stocking larger quantities of our bestsellers. This allows us to respond quickly to rush orders while maintaining our goal of a 2 to 3 day turnaround for all orders. While the tubes have a small and dedicated following—and they've grown particularly popular for kids' party favors—I've had some difficulty with overstocking, so I've decided to make some changes to the way we do our tube balms.

First of all, don't panic! We are definitely still offering lip balms in the stick/tube form. This is how we'll be handling the tube balms from now on:

  • Several flavors will always be in stock (such as birthday cake and peppermint) and available to order with no minimums.
  • We will offer an assortment of flavors for a month or two at a time seasonally (such as the fall and Halloween flavors shown above) which can also be purchased in any quantity.
  • We're trying out a Flavor of the Month to offer additional flavors for a limited time, also available to purchase one or two at a time. (Caramel Apple is our flavor for October; if you'd like to help choose November's flavor,  you can vote on our Facebook page or cast your vote in the comments. The choices are Apple Cranberry, Pumpkin Latte, Ginger Pear, or Maple Nut.)
  •  All of our other flavors will be available in tubes by special order or by ordering favors, with a minimum quantity of 10. 

We hope that this will offer enough options to the "tube fans" and allow us to keep up with the most popular flavors! Our currently stocked flavors are all available here. Please let me know if you have any questions about our tube lip balms!


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