Monday, March 25, 2013

What's new at HOUSE 54...

I've been a busy little bee over the last few weeks.  The first thing you may notice is the packaging re-design that I promised (again).  There's a lot of trial and error involved in launching a product line, and I'd say that my labels and packaging were the things with the most amount of trials.  Thank you to those of you who have stuck with me while I confuse the crap out of you by changing the "look" of my products so often.  But it was all a process that led to this new look, and I couldn't be more happy with it.

You may also notice a few new products in that line-up.  The Green Mountain Gardeners' Balm is my new favorite thing.  It's not even gardening season yet, and I can't help but slather this stuff on my Winter-bitten fingers, and marvel every time about the results.
Green Mountain Gardeners' Balm, Rosemary Salve, Made in Vermont.
I've been working for a while now on a new collection of perfume, and I seriously can't help myself around these 3 new ones.  I can never decide which one I want to wear more, so I end up wearing all 3 in different places on my arms, and weirdo-sniffing myself all day.  So I made a sample set of the 3 in the collection, called SOUL SURFER, in case no one else can decide either.
Eau de Parfum Sample Set, SOUL SURFER, Made in Vermont
I also made a Yoga Mat Spray/Linen Refresher.  Basically, this stuff takes the husband-yuck off our shared yoga mat, and it turns out that it makes pretty much every single other yucky smell in our house disappear also. 
 Yoga Mat Spray and Linen Refresher, Made in Vermont
So that's what's new and exciting this week.  Trials are still out for the new face cream.  So hopefully that'll turn out well, and be joining the line soon.  Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by,

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fashion lust: It happens to the best of us every now and then...

I have no words to describe how amazing I think this dress is.  You know how sometimes, despite your best efforts to keep it simple, and not be drawn towards the corrupt, material world of consumerism, you just can't help but have a little longing for a completely impractical piece?   Maybe it's because it's white, and my baby's very into puking up sweet potatoes right now, or that it's SALE price tag is more than my monthly mortgage payment, but this dress is my impractical yearning at this very second.  Tomorrow it'll probably be a new pair of running shoes, but today, this dress earns every ounce of my lust...
Mirror-embellished shift dress by Balmain

Mirror-embellished shift dress

Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Workout Wednesday: Portion control...

Dear Food,
I love you.

I don't "diet."  No, let's put it this way... I WON'T "diet."  I will use portion control as a tool to help me eat a little less of what I love, but I won't do the following:

~Any diet that says that I can't have cookies, bacon, cheesecake, bread, butter, pasta, or General Tso's Chicken.  I'm like a toddler when it comes to my food.  If you tell me I can't have it, that's the thing I'm going to want more than anything.  But if you tell me, sure, no problem, have a brownie, then it's not going to seem like such a big deal, and I won't be so inclined to freak out at some point, and eat the entire pan of them in one sitting.  I'm not saying that a breakfast of cookies and bacon is the way to go for a healthy body (although that would be fantastic).  What I'm saying is that if you deprive yourself of the things you love, then you're going to end up resenting your diet, and relapse into your old habits in no time.

~Any kind of juice cleanse that promises that I'll drop 15 pounds in a week.  First of all, that's not a healthy amount of weight to loose in that period of time.  You're going to shock the beejezus out of your internal organs, your skin, and your brain by doing that.  Second... Do you remember back when celebrities started doing interviews and telling the general public all about their cleanses?  Well, I do, and it was awful.  Seriously, I used to think the Demi Moore was about the hottest thing EVER to grace the face of our great planet.  Now, all I can think of when I see that scene in Charlie's Angels where she's walking out of the water with her surf board in hand, and a totally epic bod is, "I hope her Kindle was charged up for all the time she spent on the toilet before that scene was shot."  Not cool.  Please, everyone, if you want me to continue thinking you're super hot, don't, for the love of God, make me picture you on a toilet.

Basically, I eat what I like, but don't eat giant portions of it.  And it also helps to, whenever possible, eat the homemade version.  The less processed garbage that's in your food, the better you'll feel.  But if you want chips, eat chips, but eat 5, not the whole Super-Bowl-Party-sized bag.  Then you've satisfied your craving for Doritos, but don't have to go run for 7 straight hours to burn off the calories you just consumed.

PS:  I think the no-carb diet is terrible for you. Good carbs give you energy.  No carbs makes you skinny, but lethargic and weak.  Skinny is the end goal that some people have.  But "skinny" is totally different than "healthy" if your skinny self has no energy, and doesn't have the upper body strength to lift your car keys.

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shop Progress: Signage...

Holy ol' slacking on the photos, Batman...

So for those of you who are not facebook followers, here are the photos of the new sign/shop-front of HOUSE 54.

And, because I can't say it enough... A GIANT Thank You to Torrey of New Duds for my awesome logo, and to Hendrick at Glaeser Signs for getting it all together for me in a fantastic finished product.  

Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Workout Wednesdays: Mama Fit: No more excuses...

Let's try a new series, shall we?  No promises.  But I'd like to try out a weekly post on fitness.  How many of you just stopped reading right there?

OK, so for those of you that are left, let's start with the factor that was holding me back for so long.  The excuses.  I'm being brutally honest here, because this was the major factor in why I didn't get super serious about my fitness goals a long time ago, and maybe why you haven't either...  I made excuses.  Finding time to do ANYTHING for myself is nearly impossible... Nearly, but not completely.  I have found lately, that cutting the crap, and not giving any excuses for why can't work out has freed up a ton of opportunities for me to add some extra fitness into my schedule.  For instance, I no longer accept the following excuses as valid for not working out:
~I just ate
~I haven't eaten yet
~I just showered
~I just drank coffee and my heart may explode
~My sports bra is in the laundry
~The baby is sure to wake up before I finish my workout
~It's too cold out
~It's too wet out
~It's too hot out
~It's too dry out
~The ipod isn't charged

Here's the deal.  That's all bullshit.  For the last few weeks I've been trying something different.  Every morning when The Baby goes down for his morning nap I work out.  First.  before I sit down at the computer.  Before I do dishes (OK, who are we kidding here?  I do everything before the dishes).  And so far, only once has The Baby woken up from nap before I had time to finish the whole workout.  But I got all but the last 4 minutes of it done, and that's 36 minutes longer than I would have if I didn't try at all.

Love this photo from FitPregnancy.

I had 6 different workout DVD's sitting in my tv cabinet collecting dust.  Not to mention the plethora of material available online via YouTube, Pinterest, and various fitness magazines' websites.  So all of my workouts could be done indoors, within ear-shot of The baby's room.  No more excuses about weather.  And as far as all of the other excuses about why it would be uncomfortable to workout on a full or empty stomach, my sports bra being in the laundry, or if the timing was off, and I was going to have to take another shower...blah, blah, blah.  When is it EVER comfortable to do push-ups?  I can do a low-impact workout, like Yoga, and not have to worry if my body-armor-like bra is nowhere to be found.  And, please don't hate me for sounding wasteful here, but I don't feel like it's a "waste" of water to, occasionally, add a 2nd shower to my day.  I'm a Mom.  Therefore, I am sometimes yucky, and go more than a day without a shower (more times than I care to admit).  So I feel like if I get to take 2 in one day, it's just making up for the times I didn't get one at all the day before.  

This is the way it's been going for a little while now, and so far, I don't miss the time that I'm "giving up" to be working out.  I feel better than I did when I was only doing it maybe once a week, and my stress level has gone down considerably.  So there's my first "Workout Wednesday" advice:  Stop the excuses, find time, feel better.

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, March 8, 2013

I want...

Just found these really incredible bags on Etsy.  I think I just "favorited" every single item in this guy's shop.
Stylish Messenger Bag // Upcycled and Handmade by peace4you - Model paul-2102
From peace4you.  Check them out (and perhaps pick one up for my belated birthday present?).

Thanks for stopping by,

How to give up an incredible opportunity and not feel bad about it...

So, I'm pretty sure that I just lost the biggest wholesale account I may ever see.  On a positive note though, that loss will help keep my moral compass pointed in a forward-facing direction.  Remember when I said that I bent over backwards to get samples to a big-boy company, and then didn't hear back from them?  Well, I actually DID hear back from them, finally, this week and it continued to get worse instead of better.  Basically they decided they wanted to carry my perfume on their website, but they lost the sample of the thing they were most interested in.  So they wanted me to send a replacement, as well as a whole boatload more stuff again for free.  After 4 days of exchanging wildly frustrating emails with their buyer, I chose to send off this gem of a self-destructive email to them this morning...

"Hi *employee whose name I shall spare in this blog*.  I apologize for any misunderstanding.  This was the first mention of the fact that I may be getting the account.  Up until this time, I was under the impression that I was shipping samples for review at meetings, and was not made aware that any decision had been made.  To be completely honest though, I don't really feel good about sending that amount of product to be photographed for your website without some sort of commitment that you're going to end up buying it.  And at this point I'm not sure I'd feel good about having this account at all. 

I sincerely hope that other small business owners are not having the same experience dealing with Urban Outfitters.  This feels like a large company trying to take advantage of the high hopes of a just-starting-out small business.  Financially, an account with Urban Outfitters would be an amazing opportunity that I may not see again.  However, some things are just not worth the money.  Feeling belittled and taken advantage of, is not the way I want to start a business relationship with anyone.  Where I'm from, businesses, large or small, are run by people.  Those people deserve to be treated with kindness, respect.    

So far I've I taken time away from my family, and hundreds of dollars worth of product off my shelves, to prepare a sample order for you.  I made sure that it got to you the very next day, so that you could have it in time for your meeting.  Only to find out that some of the products I sent went missing.  And with no apology, I was asked to send replacements for what was lost, and an additional $200 worth of product.  It was not an empty bottle of perfume, as you say, that I sent either.  It contained a generous amount of sample perfume in it, just like the solid perfumes I sent you.  If you find the hand-written note I included to you, thanking you for the opportunity and hoping that you enjoyed the perfume I sent, you may find the perfume as well. I also sent a line sheet, at your request, that went unread.  This was apparent when you sent me an email that included a photo from my line sheet, with an inquiry about wholesale cost of the item.  The wholesale and MSRP list was on the line sheet just below the photo that was copied and attached in the same email.    

This behavior shows a serious lack of attention to detail, and lack of compassion towards me as a human being.  So I hope you can see why I'm hesitant about continuing a working relationship with you.  Please either start treating me with respect, or find another supplier for your perfumes.  

I thank you with heart for the opportunity."  

I anticipate (if she even read the whole thing, which I highly doubt), that she'll be taking the later option and finding a new supplier.  But being treated like crap just for the glory of the paycheck, goes against everything I stand for as a business owner.  While I'm not a fan of throwing others under the bus, I'm even less of a fan of large companies that bully smaller ones.  So you'll notice that I left the name of the big-boy company unedited this time around.  I feel it's my duty as a business owner, and as a consumer, to let folks in on the way places do business, and let them make informed decisions as shoppers.  I can't say I'll never shop at Urban Outfitters again, and I'm probably not going to give up the cute little owl I have from there that so happily calls my coffee table home.  But should I decide to shop there again, I will now do so in the hopes that the item I'm purchasing is supporting another small business owner that had the nut to make it further through the corporate gauntlet than I did...

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, March 2, 2013

(ONE of the reasons) Why I love Vermont...

I live in a pretty rural town, by most people's standards.  The grocery store here flooded one too many times, and finally closed a couple years ago.  So I drive a few towns over to do my grocery getting.  It's only slightly larger than the town I live in (meaning they actually have a stop light), but still have more stores that supply food for livestock that for people.  Anyway, this is the place where most of the county does their food buying, so you're pretty much guaranteed to run into someone you know, whether you want to or not.  As I learned today, you're also guaranteed that, even if you've never met them before, they're going to treat you like they've known you their whole life.
I get stopped a lot in the grocery store.  Like a weirdly high percentage of the times I set foot in the place, I can bank on at least an extra 10-20 minutes of chatting to take place.  My husband told me today that I need to grow way bigger muscles, a huge beard, and shave my head.  He says it works for him.  No one talks to him when he's shopping.  I told him that sounds interesting, but I don't think he'd talk to me anymore either if I did that.   Basically, I live in a predominantly "white" community, and I stroll through the grocery store with one of the cutest babies on the face of the planet, who just so happens to not be white.  People in Vermont are not shy.  Almost every time, someone looks at him, then looks at me, we end up having a conversation about adoption.  I'm actually really impressed by this most of the time.  One time while we were still waiting to adopt, my husband and I were out to lunch and there was a family seated next to us.  A Mom and Dad, and 2 little boys who were quite obviously not from the same gene pool as their parents, but happily referred to them as "Mommy" and "Daddy."  We left there that day kicking ourselves for not having said anything to them, because we had a million questions about our own adoption process we were going through, and wanted desperately to talk to someone who had the been-there-done-that t-shirt.  So I'm always impressed when someone has the guts to just come out and ask a total stranger about one of the biggest events in their lives.

Today was no exception.  I was approached by a woman in the soap aisle who had a thousand questions about adoption.  The first question is always "Is he adopted, or is he yours?"  Well, the answer to both of those questions is, "YES."  But this woman was so amazingly sweet, and I quickly remembered back to a time when I was asking people questions like that, and instantly forgave her for the oversight.  By the time we were done chatting, I knew her home address, in case I was interested in coming to look at the house she's pondering selling soon, and she had my phone number in case she had more questions about adoption.  THAT is  (one of the reasons) why I love Vermont.  I would never in a million years go to any other corner of the world an exchange personal info about my home address, where my kids go to school, and where I grew up with ANYONE.  But here, we take leaps of faith that the people who seem sincere, and kind, actually are.  And I love that about where I live.

Thanks for stopping by,