December 30, 2008

What's With These Kids?!

I have five children, two belong to my husband and three are mine from a previous marriage. The two he owns lived with their mother across the country so I had limited access to them over the years. My husband and I have raised the three I brought to the mix. We've tried to raise them up with morals, good self-esteem and a sense of personal responsibility. We've found that the concepts we pushed mostly became apparent when they reached their mid-twenties.

It seems my son, our youngest, and his friends are in their own generation category. Let's call it the "I want it and I want it now!" generation. These young adults (and I use the term loosely) seem to think that working for what you want is a ridiculous waste of time and energy. Why do that when you can just whine, bully and manipulate your way into getting your way? I'm not sure where this attitude came from, as at least in my son's case he was raised in the same household as his sisters who do not behave like that, but the sense of entitlement without reciprocation is definitely rampant in his group.

Our children worked part-time while in high school, especially during the summer break. We encouraged them to save their money. When my son started working just before he turned 16 as a bag-boy (can we still use this term?), all of his friends thought he was being punished. No really - they actually thought we made him work because we wanted to abuse him. It seemed to them that they should not have to work at that tender age, yet they wanted to be treated as adults. That translated to "give me what I want but don't make me do anything for it."

Our lessons to him would have been a lot easier if only more of his friend's parents would have jumped on the bandwagon. I know - believe me I do - that letting them do what they want is much easier for the time being. The problem is you eventually pay for your lack of perseverance. All you have to do is let up one time and they run with it. If they stick their hand out and you place currency in it you will be expected to do so for until the end of time. If you throw your hands up in despair and say, "Do whatever you want!" you're doomed for eternity. If a child remembers nothing else you've taught them they will remember what buttons to push the next time they want something.

We are still hoping these kids will grow out of this phase, some of them have, but it has lasted a long time. I believe that time and reality will be their teachers now and the lessons will be much harder than the ones we tried to teach them. When you are a youngster and you don't have any money to buy something you want it's frustrating. When you can't pay the rent or buy gas or food as an adult the lesson is a bit more harsh. Nevertheless you will eventually learn to do what you have to do to get what you want and hopefully that won't include robbing gas stations.

It's painful as a parent to see your kids go through these trying times. I just wish they would learn from our experience and skip the harder lessons of life when they can. I'm betting my mother felt the same way, and trust me when I tell you that I thought I knew what was best for me. Not so much. I only wish she were still here so I could apologize to her every day for driving her nuts when I was a kid. Nothing like the reality of life to put things in proper perspective.

December 19, 2008

The Cheerleader's Guide to Life or How to Motivate Yourself

It seems I spend a lot of time being a cheerleader. I was a cheerleader in high school, pom-poms and saddle shoes, the whole nine yards. I have a whole slew of motivational tidbits stored up in my brain. I've cheered my children on to help them attain excellence in sports, academics and reaching personal goals. I've pep-talked my siblings, rah-rahed co-workers and generally uplifted the spirits of those around me for years. It doesn't always work but I sure give it the old college try.

So why does this technique not work so well on me? I think it might be because I know the drill. If anyone tries to give me the old one-for-the-Gipper speech I just roll my eyes. I know a cheer when I hear one. In fact, I hear them rolling around in my head in the morning when I wake up, "Get up! Get moving!" When things are crazy and I'm running around in circles it's, "You can do it! You can do it! You can! You can!" No more pom-poms or back flips, but it's still the same idea.

I plan to work on ways to self-motivate this coming year. I want to employ techniques that will help me stay inspired, stay on task and generally moving forward in both my business and personal lives. There are so many things I want to accomplish and seemingly so little time to do it that keeping up my energy and focus is going to be a major priority. I believe that setting attainable goals will be key to my success.

I will promote my business. I will resume my exercise routine and I will write that book one blog post at a time as a mentor suggested. Go Team!!

December 12, 2008

Indie Shopping TV: Recap!

It was very exciting to be featured on the first ever IndieShopping.tv segment today! I was a little nervous as I've never been involved in this type of media before, but Donna Maria, the consummate professional that she is, breezed her way through any of the start up glitches we experienced with ease and took us along for the ride. All in all it was lots of fun, and that's what this is all about! I can't wait to see the next show and hope to be a part of many in the future.

And now for your viewing pleasure is the un-cut, un-edited version of our very first show!


dM experienced a few audio challenges out of the block, but if you fast forward through the first quarter or so of the video, the show begins! And don't forget, that my site at http://www.bidwellbotanicals.com is open 24/7 to serve you and products are still available for shipping in time for Christmas!

December 11, 2008

Indie Shopping TV!

Bidwell Botanicals is going to be on live TV tomorrow!! Indie Shopping TV, that is!

Indie Shopping TV is the first live video chat e-shopping portal designed especially for Indie products and the people who love them. And Bidwell Botanicals is the very first line to be featured!!

Join me and other Bidwell Botanicals product lovers LIVE at http://www.IndieShopping.TV at 12:15pm EST tomorrow, December 12, when we'll be demonstrating our fabulous holiday sugar scrubs and offering them at a special price just for you!

There will be live product demonstration by the show host, plus a live chat so you can talk with me!! We'll also be joined by other Bidwell Botanical product junkies live, from the convenience of your laptop!! It's going to be a blast!!

Special pricing will apply during the LIVE show so mark your calendar, set your alarm, auto-email yourself or whatever you have to do to catch this exciting show. I can't wait to see you there as Bidwell Botanicals helps bring you the best of the holiday season in a live show format. It's cutting edge, it's so easy and most of all, FUN!

Date: December 12, 2008
Time: 12:15pm EST
How to Join: Log onto http://www.IndieShopping.TV

We'll do the rest! See you then!

December 4, 2008

All I Want for Christmas...

I am a great gift buyer. Ask anyone who knows me, I'm all about the giving part but not so good at the getting. Every year my kids ask me what I want for Christmas and I tell them, "World peace, or at least in this house." It's not that I don't appreciate receiving gifts it's just much easier and more satisfying for me to bestow gifts upon someone else than to receive one myself.

This year my family asked me to make a wish list. It's harder than you might think! Oh, there are things I want and really some I need, but most of them would not be in their price range or they are intangible and pretty much unattainable. So to placate them I made a list and put it on the front of the fridge with all of theirs. Here it is:
  • Peace on Earth or one week of no fighting, bickering or other nastiness in this house.
  • A family member, not Mom, makes dinner at least one night a week, preferably Mondays. (I specify family member to rule out Ronald McDonald, The Colonel or Pop Eye.)
  • Snow in the month of December. Just a little to make it all Christmassy.
  • A heartfelt hug when I look like I need one.
  • Buy or make me a gift that you think I will like.
The last one would be the hardest for most people because you have to put some real effort into it, especially when you're on a tight budget like most of us this year. My mother, wise woman that she was, used to tell us to buy or make a gift that we would want to receive ourselves. This works well with most friends because you usually have a lot in common and you can sort of put yourself in their place. It's much harder to do this for your mother. I'm trying to instill thoughtfulness in my children by making them think about the person they're giving gifts to and not just picking up something sparkly from the store. Will it work? I'll let you know after Christmas!

December 1, 2008

Cyber Monday Super Sale!

Shop Bidwell Botanicals' Cyber Monday Super Sale and save time, money and your sanity. Unique pampering gifts for everyone on your list, great prices, complimentary gift wrapping and free shipping to your door. We'll even throw in a free gift for you on orders totaling $50.00 or more. It doesn't get any better than that!

Sale starts December 1st at Midnight and ends at 11:59 PM EST. That's 24 hours with 25% off all regularly priced merchandise! Plus amazing deals on exclusive gift sets and selected products that will not be offered at any other time this year! Just enter the discount code: CYBERMONDAY in the voucher section when you check out and your discount will be applied. It's that easy to wrap up all of your holiday shopping with the click of a button!

  • Cyber Monday SuperSale begins at 12:00 Midnight EST, December 1, 2008 and ends at 11:59 PM December 1, 2008 EST. *Free standard shipping within the USA on all merchandise purchased on December 1, 2008. International orders will incur shipping charges before processing.
  • Complimentary gift wrapping is optional and must be requested at checkout in our comments section.
  • The discount code: CYBERMONDAY should be entered in the voucher section upon checkout. If you do not enter the checkout code the discount will not be applied.
  • Free gift is added to orders totalling $50.00 before tax or shipping fees. Gift is our selection and is not refundable.
  • Discount code is good towards regulary priced products and will not be applied to the purchase of items on sale. Your order will be adjusted to reflect the correct amount before processing. Discount code is good on December 1, 2008 ONLY!

November 20, 2008

What's It All About?

T-Day aka Thanksgiving Day is just about here. I have pies and stuffing to make. A house to clean and prepare for family that will be staying with us. Food to buy- LOTS of food! I am busy with making and sending out orders and trying to finalize some new products that will launch after the first of the year. Thinking about making enough food to feed an army and making sure I have enough clean towels and blankets is almost beyond my comprehension right now.

As a retailer I understand why most of the stores and advertisements have been pushing Christmas for weeks now. Local stores couldn't get the Halloween stuff off the shelves fast enough to insert the Christmas merchandise. Thanksgiving is hitting late this year so Christmas will be here before we know it making it a short shopping season. If you sell online it's even shorter if you want to deliver before the big day. All of this combined with the tight economy is making a lot of people very nervous that the most lucrative time of the year will not be quite so lucrative this year. Stress much? Who? Me?

Okay, breathe! Let's remember what this holiday is supposed to mean to us. Obviously thankfulness and reflection, but it's also about family, friends and sharing quality time with them, especially on this symbolic day. I try to take time to remember how lucky I am. I will be surrounded by my family (yes, that's a good thing!) We will be able to feed the masses in a warm and cozy environment. I remind myself that there are many who are not so blessed, and even more who have nothing at all.

Why not do something this year to help those that are less fortunate? There are many local charities in every community that will gladly accept donations of food, bedding and clothing, not to mention your time. Most grocery stores have donation bags pre-packed that you can purchase as you're checking out that they will deliver. You can donate to food banks, serve meals in your local homeless shelter or volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Get on your computer and search for local charity organizations or check with your church to see if they are planning any charity events. Unfortunately there is no lack of need, but there is lack of warm bodies to help.

Here's a short list to give you some ideas:
Meals on Wheels
Homeless Shelters
Toys for Tots
Children's Charities
St. Vincent de Paul
American Red Cross

Now get out there and make a difference!

November 16, 2008

Handmade Holidays

The sluggish economy gives me great pause when I think about holiday gifting this year. I have a large family and though we don't have strict rules about gift giving, I do try to give something to each of them every year. It can get freakishly expensive when you have 6 siblings and a variety of off-spring, spouses, in-laws and friends. They all get soap, that's a given, but I like to change it up a bit each year so they don't get bored with my gifts.

In years past I have done foodie gift baskets, home-spa weekend packs, movie night gift certificates and a variety of cookie, candy and baked goods. I've been working on this year's gift ideas and I think we'll keep it simple and fun with some handmade goodies and unique accoutrements. I can't tell you what I'm doing here because my family reads my blog - Right, guys?

Here's a few ideas to get your creativity going:Babycakes Marshmallows
  • Homemade marshmallows, holiday mugs and coffees and/or hot chocolate mixes in a decorated basket. Kick it up a notch by adding a small bottle of decadent liqueur, a CD you burned of classic holiday music and a log for the fireplace. If you don't want to make the marshmallows yourself you can get them at Babycakes (and while you're there check out her incredible cupcakes).

  • A great gift for tween and in-between girls is a kit for making fairy dusting powder. You will need cosmetic glitter or mica, cornstarch and a small container for mixing and storing. Add a powder puff or soft brush, some glittery hair accessories and you'll be her BFF! You can get everything you need to make the fairy dust online at Coastal Scents.

  • Is someone on your list a bit stressed this year? Give them a coupon book you make on your home computer with coupons for things like free babysitting, a movie or lunch date with you, a foot massage - you get the idea. Upgrade this gift by presenting it with a good bottle of wine, imported beer or home spa goodies.

  • For someone who has no time to cook make pasta sauces or casseroles that you freeze in either single or family portions that they can just pop into the oven or microwave at a moments notice. Use disposable containers so they don't have to clean up afterward. They'll love you for it!

  • You know the old saying, "The way to every man's heart is through his stomach." Truer words have never been spoken! Is your guy the outdoors hiker type? Check out House of Jerky. They carry all kinds of great tasting jerky including exotic types like gator, salmon and and buffalo. You can purchase a Jerky of the Month pack for the gift that keeps on giving. There's even an option to purchase a Hero Pack that will be sent to your fave soldier with free shipping and a personal note. Pretty cool!
I hope this post will motivate your gift-giving-self to present unique and personal gifts this year that will put holiday smiles on your loved ones faces and will have you saying Ho! Ho! Ho!

November 12, 2008

Changes in Attitude

Years ago when I was going through a tumultuous period in my life a good friend of mine suggested I try to simplify my daily existence. I thought he was crazy at the time as I had 3 young children, was in the middle of a divorce and trying to decide where my life would go from that point on. He suggested a few books that might move me in the right direction and gave me pep talks along the way.

So just how do you simplify your life? Part of it is prioritizing. You have to decide what people, things, etc, are the most important to you and sort of let the rest go on the back burner. This doesn't mean you have to divest yourself of all your earthly possessions and ditch all of your friends and obligations. It's more putting them in order of importance and need and dealing with the rest as you get to it. If there are things you can eliminate that seem to be taking up too much of your time and effort with little return on your investment then maybe it's time to cross some things off your to-do list for now and free up precious time for what really matters to you.

Another tip I picked up along the way was to start each day on a positive note. You know, just as you're waking up and your brain starts kicking in with all the noise of what you have to do, what is happening, yada, yada, yada! The thoughts that make you want to pull the covers over your head and hibernate need to be pushed out by cognitive positive thoughts. You have to train yourself to do this and sometimes it just doesn't work, but I've found it to be a great motivational tool.

Just start with "today I'm going to accomplish things!" or "It's a great day and I can't wait to get started!" I know- sounds pretty lame when all you really want to do is crawl to the shower and the coffee pot, but it honestly does work. The idea is to surround yourself with positive thoughts and feelings, even if they only come from within you. Negative feelings just kind of sap the yippee out of your life. Try to repeat this process throughout your day to keep the good vibes going. If you're coming across as positive and happy it will spread to those around you. Hey, it's better than giving your co-workers your cold, right?

November 3, 2008

Cold Weather Skin Care

November is here and cold weather is right on its heels. Take some time to prepare your skin to withstand the blustery winds and dry indoor heat now and throughout the Winter months.

One of the very best way to prevent dry flaky patches is to help your skin retain its natural moisture balance. Moisturizing right after your bath or shower, especially just before bed, helps to form a barrier to slow transdermal moisture loss. Using a good moisture cream or body butter every day, especially on areas known to be trouble spots like elbows, knees and feet, is very effective.

Another trick is to promote new cell growth by removing dull dead cells from the surface of your epidermis. Your body naturally sloughs off dead skin but the removal rate is sometimes not what we'd like it to be. That can cause clogged pores and skin that appears dull and dry. Try using an all over body scrub to exfoliate the dead layer of cells and help promote new cell development. Think of it as deadheading your pansies to bring out new flowers. Take a jar into your shower or tub and use it 2-3 times a week for optimal benefits.

If you're a bath lover, like me, make sure you only soak in that warm (not hot!) water for about 15-20 minutes. As comforting as a hot bath or shower seems, they can actually cause moisture to evaporate from your skin. Using a bath additive or body wash with emollient qualities will help to minimize this effect, and don't forget to moisturize right after patting your skin dry.

Treat your body with TLC and you will reap the reward of soft, supple skin all year long.

September 28, 2008

Why Shop Online?

Shopping online used to be scary. You never knew when, or if, you would get your order. Who were these people you were giving your private information to? Who else was getting the information? In 1996 when we applied for our first merchant account and told them we were selling "online" they looked at us like we were speaking another language. We had to walk the guy through what we did and how we kept the information safe, encrypted and that we were not going to sell it to the highest bidder. Let's just say the bank monitored us pretty closely during the first few years.

These days online stores are the norm. Nearly every retailer, large and small, has a presence online. There are many reasons to shop online. Here are just a few:
  • Anything you want you can find online.
  • Shop in London, Sydney, Canada or Los Angeles without leaving your kitchen.
  • Find unique items made by independent designers you can't find anywhere else.
  • Buy your Christmas presents without changing out of your pajamas.
  • Buy a gift today and have it delivered across the country, gift wrapped, tomorrow!
  • Save gas, time, money, aggravation and energy.
To ensure a pleasant experience there are a few things you should do prior to whipping out your credit card. Make sure the business you are buying from is legit. They should have contact information, including a phone number and address. If you've never purchased from them before and have any questions, call them. Shopping cart systems are extremely safe in general. Your information is transferred in an encrypted format to a secure database and is regularly purged for safety against hackers.

For your part you should read the shipping and return policies just in case. We offer a no questions asked return policy for 15 days after retail purchase. Every company has different rules so make sure you know what they are before you give them your money. If you're shopping on Paypal, Ebay, Etsy, or one of the many online shopping malls read their policies as well. Make sure to check the shipping policies as they may differ during the holiday rush time of year. You want to give yourself time to receive the merchandise in time. Doing your homework in advance will save you aggravation later.

Still not convinced? Check out these scenarios:

You need to buy a last minute Christmas gift for your niece in Florida. You get dressed, hop in your car and discover you need gas. So you whip around the corner to the local gas station and find a line around the corner! You sit in line for 30 minutes (or more!) wasting yet more gas, money and time, to pay $4.25 a gallon. You make your way to the local mall and find you have to park in Timbuktu. As you get about half way across the parking lot it starts to rain and you forgot your umbrella in another country. You run to the doors and squeeze your way into the crowded mall of harried shoppers.

Since you have no idea what you want you have to push from store to store all carrying pretty much the same things. You finally settle for something and stand in line to pay a harried cashier. When you finally make your way home you have to wrap the gift, box it up and then go back out to the even more crowded post office to send the thing out! Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Alternatively you pull on your cozy bathrobe and make yourself a cup of tea. While it's steeping your flick on your computer, go to Google and start a search for that gift you need. You sit down in your warm house, listening the the pleasant patter of rain on your windows while perusing the limitless options available to you online. You find the perfect unique gift, maybe even a one-of-a-kind, at a great price to boot. You enter your credit card or Paypal information, choose over night delivery to your niece with gift wrapping and hit "submit".

You have just purchased the perfect gift and will receive glowing praise for a job well done while saving gas, money, the environment and your sanity. I ask you, can it get any easier?

September 21, 2008

September Savings!

Fall Savings at Bidwell Botanicals
We've got Fall Fever at Bidwell Botanicals! It's time to stock up on new and traditional Bidwell Botanicals Fall and Holiday product selections. Get a jump on holiday shopping and take 20% off all online purchases during our Member's Only Fall Savings Days. Use discount code: FALL08 at checkout.

As always, all orders over $50.00 receive a complimentary gift and over $75.00 enjoy free shipping within the USA.

Fall '08 sale prices in effect through September 30, 2008 on all regularly priced merchandise. For more information, call 1.888.360.3398 or email at sales@bidwellbotanicals.com.

Offer valid at Bidwell Botanicals Online store only through 11:59 p.m. EST September 30, 2008. Offer not valid at Bidwell Botanicals wholesale partner locations. Offer may not be combined with any other offers, coupons or discounts. Offer not redeemable for cash, gift certificates, gift cards, nor is it valid toward previous purchases. Gift cards, gift wrap services and taxes are not applicable toward purchase requirements. We reserve the right to cancel any order due to unauthorized, altered or ineligible use of discount and to modify or cancel this promotion due to system error or unforeseen problems.

September 4, 2008

Cancer is the Devil!

Cancer and I have a hate/hate relationship. Obviously no one likes cancer, but I really, really hate this disease in all of its ugly forms. A little personal history: I lost my mother (breast cancer), my father (Adenocarcinoma) and my 3 year old daughter (Rhabdomyosarcoma) just to name a few. To say that cancer scares me to death is an understatement. I know many people survive the disease and ensuing treatment, and research is providing more answers every year. Unfortunately those closest to me were not so lucky.

When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer I was completely devastated. I still had her twin sister and my younger daughter at home to care for while she was spending 90% of her time in the hospital for surgery, treatment and complications of the two. I was exhausted and an emotional wreck. She was diagnosed in late September and died one month later. I felt like I couldn't breathe for at least a year. If not for my other children and my family rallying around me I doubt I would be here today. I lived in fear for years that her identical twin would get the disease too. Her doctors did not have enough information to assure me that would not happen. This was many years ago but the emotional wounds are still deep and painful.

I have tried over the years to help where I can both financially and by donating my time to the cause. Each year we promote our Think Pink Spa Pack and donate 50% of the profits to the Susan G. Komen Organization. We support the Relay for Life program and donate regularly to the Children's Cancer Foundation. I would do anything in my power to help find the cure and make sure no one has to go through the pain I and countless others have experienced. There are many worthy organizations working hard to develop tolerable treatment and ultimately a cure. Please make time and dig deep to help them meet their goals.

August 29, 2008

The Beauty of Natural Soap

I am biased, I admit it. I am totally in love with true soap. I love making it, using it and just looking at it. You can't buy true soap on your grocery store shelf for $0.59 a bar. Even the "natural" soap they promote can contain syndets (synthetic detergent) to increase foam and bubbles and extra additives to make it last longer. While most of the ingredients are benign in nature they can strip your natural oils. You know, the old "squeaky clean" feeling?

So what is "true" soap? Simply said soap is made with an alkali (sodium hydroxide) and an acid (oil). When these two things are mixed together in the right proportions you get soap through saponification. This process produces glycerol and fatty acid salts - better known as soap. Most of the large manufacturers of soap use an intensive heat process and siphon off the natural glycerin. This is one of the reasons soap off the drugstore shelf can be very drying to your skin.

If you're a label reader like me then you probably know what is in most manufactured soaps and other toiletries. If you're not you should really start checking out what you're putting on your body. A large number of commercial bars are made with tallow (beef fat) which renders a hard bar with lots of suds. Using tallow is not bad, unless you're a vegetarian or do not like using animal based products on your body. There is chatter that tallow or lard used in soaps will clog your pores or promote blackheads. I don't know if this has ever been proven scientifically. I do know that once the saponification process occurs there should be little fat and no lye present in the finished product - only soap.

The major difference between commercial soap products and true soap - specifically handmade soap - is that during the process of saponification natural glycerin is produced. In handmade soaps that glycerin is retained in the finished product versus the common commercial practice of removing the glycerin so they can resell it into the industry where it is more lucrative for them.

The soap we make is vegetable based and contains additional nurturing ingredients like goats milk, honey and all of the natural glycerin to help retain your skins natural oils. This makes a huge difference in how your skin will feel after bathing. With continued use of true soap I have found my skin doesn't itch or dry out like it used to when I was using commercial products.

You can conduct your own study. Buy a bar of true soap, making sure there are no ingredients in the product that you might be sensitive to, and use it exclusively for a month. If you're like most people you will be converted. The range of handmade soaps available today provides consumers with an astounding array of choices. Have dry skin? Try a milk soap with honey and oatmeal. Acne prone oily skin? Choose a soap with clay and tea tree oil. You can even exfoliate while you wash with the many scrubby bars available with everything from ground pumice to cranberry seeds. The cost of handmade soaps is admittedly higher than the store bought versions, but as the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for." Try it - You'll like it. Trust me.

Suggested Links:
Bidwell Botanicals
Ablutions Spa
Flower Peddler
Om Aroma & Co

August 22, 2008

Product of the Day

Today Bidwell Botanicals is serving up our new Goji Berry & Quinoa Seed Sugar Scrub. It smells like a fresh berry patch in the shop today, yum! This juicy number is loaded with skin-loving shea butter, nutritive quinoa seed oil and antioxidant goji berry extract. Goji berry boasts one of the highest levels of free-radical fighting antioxidants of all the superfruits. We've added a touch of organic quinoa seed for that extra boost of exfoliation. Check it out - your skin will thank you!

August 11, 2008

Have I Mentioned It's Hot?

I'm sure I have. I believe I say it about 100 times a day now, a number that sadly enough matches the temperatures we've been having recently. If August were wiped off the map and we could just jump into September I would be a happy camper. Alas, we all know that's not going to happen so I thought I would list some ways that I've found help me to keep my cool when it's- well HOT!

Everyone knows a dip in the pool or a cool shower will help bring your body temperature down but that's not always an option. I keep a spray bottle of mineral water mixed with a bit of lavender and mint hydrosol and some aloe juice in the fridge. When I'm in a hurry and just need a quick pick-me-up I indulge in a few spritzes at the back of my neck, my face and anything else that's exposed. It dries quickly but leaves a fresh, cool feeling that helps beat the heat.

Drink lots of water. I know, you've heard that before, but it really is something we all tend to forget. Iced tea and juice are good but they also contain calories, sugar and caffeine. Water will refresh you and help restore any fluid lost when you sweat. Stay away from sodas if possible when your outdoors on hot days. The caffeine and carbonation tend to dry you out and can leave you feeling woozy.

I grew up in the South and believe it or not we had no air conditioning in our house. Florida gets pretty hot and humid in the summer- make that all year. I remember some of the older ladies used to sit on their front porch with a glass of ice and a fan. They would take out a cube and rub it all over the back of their neck, face, arms, etc. Kind of messy but effective. You can get basically the same relief with a neck cooler. They come in several different forms, some with polymer beads that hold water for evaporation cooling and others are strips of freezable gel that you insert in a sleeve of fabric. If you're crafty try making one yourself: http://www.ehow.com/how_2073447_make-neck-cooler.html

I hope these tips help you to stay cool for the remainder of the summer. I have high hopes of an early Autumn this year. Hey- a girl can dream, can't she?

July 30, 2008

Ho! Ho! Ho! It's Hot!

I'm trying to get my head wrapped around the fact that we have to start making our holiday products. Yes, it's July and it's HOT! Yesterday it was about 100 degrees outside - in the shade. I truly love the holidays and one thing I like best is the cold weather. I know - I live in the south - but here in the north Atlanta burbs we do get cold temperatures in the Winter and even some snow most years. Today is not one of those days.

This year we're offering several new "flavors" including Gingerbread Latté, Hot Buttered Rum and Peppermint Silk. It smells heavenly in the work shop! When people come by they wonder what we're cooking. We have to get moving because products will be available starting mid-August.

So I guess we'll turn down the AC and try to pretend it's December. Maybe I should put on some Bing Crosby music?

July 17, 2008

July 16, 2008

Food, Glorious Food!

My birthday was last Sunday (nope, not tellin' my age) and my dear husband took me out for a day away from work and home. That's not as easy as it sounds, believe me! I am a major homebody/workaholic and getting me to take a whole day off takes quite a bit of creative effort.

He started off by taking me out to our current favorite restaurant, Sugo, in Roswell on Saturday evening. This little gem is a unique combination of Italian and Mediterranean foods. Delicious pastas, creative tapas, seafood and varieties of chicken, beef and pork dishes to please every palate. I love that they have specials so there is always something new to try. I had the most amazing diver scallops and shrimp with smoked salmon and a lovely sauce with mascarpone cheese. You just have to try it to believe it.

My husband opted, as he often does, for a variety of small tapas plates including bacon wrapped dates and piquant peppers, stuffed baked calamari and an antipasto salad with fresh mozzarella drizzled with rich balsamic vinegar. He topped that off with the Mediterranean Mussels and some of Sugo's delicious warm bread for dipping into the rich tomato putanesca sauce. Of course I had to have a taste and shared some of mine with him too. All perfect as always.

They offer a large wine list, full bar and coffee menu. Their dessert menu is short, but sweet with the expected tiramisu and divine chocolate mousse cake, but also some creative gelato offerings. Our pick: Limoncello gelato swirled in a champagne flute and topped with light whipped cream. To. Die. For! To top off the wonderful food and service the owners of Sugo sent me a coupon via email for a free entree (up to $16.95) for my birthday. How sweet is that?! Go if you get the chance (they have two locations: Historic Roswell (770.641.9131) and Roswell North (770.817.4230). Make reservations and bring your appetite!

On Sunday we had lunch at a local deli and then went to do some birthday shopping at Ann Taylor Loft - yay! My favorite place to plunder. Before starting our next adventure in shopping we stopped in at our new favorite gelateria, Dreamy Gelato and Chocolates, at the Avenue in Forsyth. It's not a chain to my knowledge so if you're not local you will just have to use your imagination. I've had several different flavors but I think coconut has to be my new fave. Yummy! Creamy, sweet and delicately flavored in a delicious waffle cone. Wow! I think I might have to get my husband to take me back tonight! If you get a chance you really must check them out.

After dashing through the rain to several other stores (how lucky am I, girls?) and tucking my stash into the car we continued on to our dinner destination. My husband likes to surprise me with interesting restaurants and he was dead on as always with Babette's Cafe in Atlanta. A quaint little provincial style establishment that is both cozy and romantic. They offer a full bar and a large wine and beer list. Prices are moderate and reservations are suggested.

It was obvious by the familiarity between the staff and patrons that this is a bistro that is visited again and again, and I now know why. The food was perfectly cooked with generous portions and delicate seasoning. We sampled several of their "small plates" including crispy potato chips baked with gorgonzola cheese, a variety of French cheese with a date and almond spread and slices of raisin walnut bread. All very unique and very tasty.

My husband had the steamed mussels in a delightfully different white wine sauce with strawberries and serrano peppers. Since it was my birthday I decided to go for the grilled beef tenderloin - I know - bad me! But it was oh-so-worth-it. Tender perfectly cooked tenderloin with a mild gorgonzola cheese sauce and a side of lightly breaded spicy onion rings. I only got past the first half of the entree and I was stuffed! My daughter was ever so pleased to receive the left-overs and devoured it sans silverware shortly after we got home. A lovely meal and a wonderful end to my 30th birthday... No - really... Okay, 31st?

July 6, 2008

Let Your Voice Be Heard!

I generally keep my political opinions to myself, but recently a proposal by the FDA to dramatically change regulations concerning the manufacturing and sales of cosmetic/beauty products has really hit home. So I am here asking you to spread the word and let your voice be heard!

The Globalization Act of 2008 is a grand (ie: overblown) proposal that will definitely put a huge number of small indie manufacturers and retail/wholesale concerns out of business in one blow. Unfortunately I am not exaggerating. Many of these new proposed regulations and fees would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for most small companies to absorb. If you currently purchase from Bidwell Botanicals, or any other small cosmetic companies, you will find that if this Act goes through your only choices left in the market will be big box businesses, thus greatly limiting the variety and price ranges that are currently available to you.

The Globalization Act of 2008 is a huge document that really boils down to the FDA laying the ground work for monopolization of the marketplace by proposing manufacturing practices and fees that small or fledgling companies could not possibly comply with and keep their financial heads above water. The registration fees alone - which could add up to approximately $12,000 per year - would certainly put many businesses at risk of permanently closing their doors.

I do not deny the importance of a regulating agency to help make sure that cosmetics and health products are produced safely. I have no problem reporting my ingredients and product claims to the FDA. I do have a problem with proposed laws and fees that will squeeze the life out of small businesses leaving a huge vacancy in the creativity and range of prices that will be available to you as a consumer.

What can you do? Please view this short informational video which outlines the steps you can take to help ensure that your choice to purchase from independent business owners, and for those people to actually provide those services, is left intact.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW9SlqiA_DI

I thank you in advance for your support!

July 2, 2008

Happy July 4th!

I'm so ashamed! I've been severely lacking in my blogging the past few weeks. We've crazy busy with work and family obligations. Lots of birthdays in June and July in my brood (including mine coming up but that's another blog). Believe it or not I'm rushing to finalize our holiday '08 products and packaging and I need to have it done right after the 4th. So I will just wish you and yours a Happy Independence Day. Play with fire (grill - I mean grill!), eat watermelon and run around your backyard in your bathing suit with a sparkler. Be careful - you could put an eye out with that thing... Ahh go ahead - live a little!

June 15, 2008

Summer Skin Savers


Even though the calendar still says Spring it appears that Summer is in full swing here in the south. We spend more time outside working in the garden, swimming in the pool and socializing than any other time of the year. It's time to talk about protection... skin protection that is. The harmful UV rays of the sun can make spending time outside a real pain! I've gathered some helpful hints to make your Summer safe.

The sun is our friend but we need to screen out some of those powerful rays. Dermatologists generally recommend a sunblock product with an SPF of at least 30. Sunscreens should be applied 15-20 minutes before sun exposure to allow a protective film to develop, then reapplied after water contact and sweating. Some sunblocks can lose effectiveness after two hours, so reapply frequently. Wearing a hat and sunglasses will help to protect you even further. Limit your sun exposure especially if you are fair skinned or burn/freckle easily.

The top 5 sunscreen brands recommended by Dermatologists are:

  1. Neutrogena - Contains Helioplex™, shown to deliver very high, very broad and photo-stable UV protection, providing a high level of UVA protection.
  2. Coppertone - One of the best known suncare products offers numerous variations of suncreen options.
  3. Anthelios - A L'Oreal exclusive contains Ecamsule (Mexoryl XL) shown to reduce the skin damage associated with UV exposure.
  4. Blue Lizard - An Australian brand now made in Tennessee that uses a unique formulation including a micronized Zinc Oxide that allows the protectant to form an even barrier against UV rays.
  5. SolBar - Comes in an SPF 50 with broad spectrum protective ingredients to help extend the amount of time you can safely stay in the sun.
Unfortunately even when we try to avoid it sunburns happen. Try these steps to help alleviate the pain and suffering:
  1. Soothe your skin using a washcloth soaked in cold skim milk. The coolness takes out the initial fire, and the milk creates a protein film that will helps ease discomfort. You can also try cool wet compresses or Witch Hazel for 20 minutes 3 to 4 times a day to relieve pain and itching.
  2. Protect the burned skin from the sun. (nothing feels worse than more sun on your already damaged skin - ouch!)
  3. Apply a good moisturizer, such as Hydrating Body Milk, 3 times a day to reduce dryness and peeling.
  4. Hydrate! Drink lots of water and avoid alcoholic and carbonated beverages.
  5. To relieve pain and reduce inflammation, take aspirin, NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen), or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol).
  6. Soak in a cool tub with oatmeal (Aveeno makes a good one) added to help relieve itching and soothe the burn.
Note: If your skin blisters, you run a fever or you feel dizzy, faint or very dehydrated contact your doctor for additional treatment. Don't fool yourself - a sunburn is a burn and may require medical treatment.

Stay safe - Have fun!

June 2, 2008

Step Right Up!

If you're like me, the last thing you think about in your beauty regimen are your feet. I admit it - I'm guilty of tootsie abuse. I stand on my feet many hours a day and wear ruts in the workroom floor. I go barefoot in the summer time and fall into bed too tired to moisturize my poor peds after my evening shower. It's criminal, I tell you! If you're ready to stop the cycle of abuse there are a few simple things you can do even once a week to make amends and get those toes in top shape.

1. The first thing you have to do is schedule about 30 minutes without interruption. Yeah, I know, but you deserve at least half an hour to yourself. I do this at night so the moisturizer has time to soak in really well and it's relaxing. Assemble your pedicure accoutrements:
Towel, plastic tub or bathtub, foot soak, exfoliating scrub (Peppermint Buffing Creme) or pumice stone, moisturizer for feet, nail clippers, emery board, cuticle stick and spa socks or white cotton socks. Nail polish is a plus if you have time to let it dry well.

2. Pour comfortably warm water into a plastic tub big enough to fit both feet up to your ankles. You can also just shallowly fill the bathtub and sit on the side. Add some Epsom salts, oatmeal (the old-fashioned kind) or any variety of botanicals you have on hand like rose petals or mint leaves. Use your imagination or use a product specifically made to soak your feet like our Cooling Peppermint Foot Soak. Lean back and soak your feet for about 10-15 minutes. Yes - I said to sit down in one place for one quarter of an hour! Read, watch TV or just meditate, it will be over before you know it.

3. Rinse feet with warm water and drain the tub. Massage damp feet with your scrub product or a pumice stone, concentrating on extra rough areas. I usually do this for about 5 minutes per foot for a thorough treatment. Rinse feet again and dry well.

4. Now is the time to push back your cuticles and clip or file nails as necessary. If you're going to polish your nails use a light moisturizer, our Peppermint Foot Cream is a good one, and wait until it dries before you start. Give polish plenty of time to dry before going to bed or putting on shoes. If you're not using polish, I suggest a heavy duty product like PM Foot Repair to help seal in moisture. Then slip on a pair of light cotton socks and you're done. You'll wake up to soft, pretty feet ready for those new sexy sandals.

Take care of your feet. After all, they do get you where you're going.

May 26, 2008

Watching the Garden Grow

Here in the south we have some pretty short Winters so the arrival of Spring is refreshing but not earth shattering. Summer just sort of slides right in behind Spring and the next thing you know the temperatures are in the 80's and everything in the yard, especially the weeds, have just taken off. Seeds sown in hope last Fall shoot up and set flower in the blink of an eye.

Each year in late Spring when things start budding my husband and I begin our daily "yard walks." We begin at one end of the back yard and make the rounds to see how everything is doing. Dead-heading annuals, picking a stray weed or pesky beetle and always talking about what we'll add next year. This year we added a few more blueberry and raspberry bushes. One can never have enough raspberries in my opinion. Our figs are heavily fruited and hopefully we'll get more of the them than the birds do this year. We've also added several types of peppers for salsa this summer. I am in love with fresh salsa served over grilled chicken or fish. Now if I could just get the cilantro to stop bolting before everything else is ready I'd be in good shape.

It has taken me a long time to somewhat master the growing conditions and seasons here in North Georgia. I grew up in sandy, hot and humid Florida where we could grow things year round as long as we kept it watered. When I first got here I killed a lot of poor plants because I put them out too early. I now follow the "April 15th and not before" mantra my landscaping pal taught me. The soil in our yard was as hard as a rock and took an auger to plant anything more than one inch deep. That was 10 years ago and since then we've amended the soil each year with organic compost and use raised beds for much of the vegetables and other annuals. It's still a work in progress but that's the fun of it.

My husband and I took advantage of the holiday and sat in our glider on the upper deck lazily rocking away part of the afternoon. There's something magical about the early Summer garden. The water from our pool reflects on the deep greens of the new foliage of the forest of trees lining the perimeter of our property, sending dapples of liquid gold throughout the canopy. Even if you're not in the water it seems to make the yard cooler just by being there. The birds, bees and butterflies flit from one side of the garden to the other performing their dedicated services of bug control and pollination. Soon it will be time to weed the herb garden and harvest the lovely tomatoes and squash. But for now I can just sit and watch the garden grow.

May 25, 2008

If It's Not One Thing...

Please give me a break! I've had problems with my back for ages apparently due to athletics and idiocy of my youth. Not one particular problem but the pain seems to randomly migrate from one place to another. If I have a month with relatively no back pain it's a miracle!

This month it's my upper left quadrant, including neck, shoulder and everything in between. Muscle spasms, stiffness, pain - oh yeah - it's awesome. Now this would be enough to slow me down but my body seems to react to a lowered immunity with a vengeance. I have had a sinus/cold thing going on for about a week now. If I didn't think it would stuff me up more I'd have a good cry. Instead you're stuck listening to me whine.

I see a chiropractor who is very good at relieving my symptoms, but this just keeps coming back and usually at night so I can't sleep. Obviously that isn't helping matters. Today when I cough, which is often, it's creating painful twinges under my left shoulder blade that radiates pain like a super conductor throughout my back. I'm not loving life this morning.

Oh, and the kids drank all the milk last night so I couldn't have tea this morning. Hmphh!

May 12, 2008

A Bidwell Botanicals Update!

We recently hit a growth spurt here at Bidwell Botanicals and proud parent that I am, I wanted to share our progress with you. Our products are now being offered in Norway, Abu Dhabi, Greece, and soon traveling all the way to the Cape of South Africa. I would like to tuck myself into one of the boxes and tag along to these exotic destinations!

We've added several new products to our line-up:

Mangosteen & Açaí Berry: A refreshing fragrance coupled with some of nature's best antioxidants to help fight free radicals and boost skin cell regeneration. Enjoy these benefits in our exclusive Shea Butter Sugar Scrub, Hydrating Body Milk, Shea Butter Body Wash and our new Trilogy Body Butter™.

Trilogy Body Butter™: Indulge your skin with the triple moisturizing power of Trilogy Body Butter™. Replenishes skin with Mango, Shea and Cocoa Butters and helps to sustain moisture throughout the day. Infused with beneficial botanical extracts and nutritive oils to protect, renew and rejuvenate your skin.

Coming soon:

  • Goji Berry & Quinoa Seed: A fresh berry blend with the powerful punch of organic Quinoa Seed. Goji berry boasts one of the highest levels of free-radical fighting antioxidants of all the superfruits. We team this awesome performer with organic Quinoa (pronounced /keen-wah/ ), the "Mother of all Grains" for gentle exfoliation in our Shea Butter Sugar Scrub, and Quinoa Seed Oil to impart moisture benefits and high levels of tocopherols.

  • Bidwell Botanicals Home Care: We can't wait to introduce our new line of natural home care products! Refresh your home and laundry with natural essential oils, vegetable based cleansers and aromatherapy scents like Ruby Red Grapefruit and Lavender Fields to help create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere in your home. You might even enjoy the cleaning process and we know you will appreciate the results.

Last, but not least, we welcome our new employee, Megan, and look forward to her help in the packaging & shipping department. She comes to us with years of experience in retail and we plan to put her experience to good use as we pick out our holiday '08 gift packaging this summer.

I'm off to plant more heirloom tomatoes and peppers. We grow organic veggies and herbs every summer in our kitchen/deck garden and in the bigger garden in the yard. This year we've added several new heirloom types including the Black Krim and Black Cherry Tomatoes. They grow alongside of our fave Cherokee Purples, Sweet Basil, Greek Oregano, and varieties of peppers, summer squash and eggplants. The raspberries and blueberries are fruiting heavily this year. I see some delicious preserves in our future. I hope you can get out and get a bit dirty this weekend too.

May 6, 2008

Hugs and Kisses, or the Lack Thereof

You all know about Empty Nest Syndrome. Though my "nest" is not yet empty I think I might have a mild case of its lesser known evil twin No Hugs & Kisses Syndrome. I was thinking about it the other day after I dropped off my nearly 19-year-old son at work. When he was young and I took him to school he would smother me with kisses and hugs before leaving me for the day and again when he came home in the afternoon. Now I'm lucky if I get a "Thanks for the ride, Mom" out of him. I realize that he's an adult now but no matter how old my children get they're still my children, right?

It comes and goes but I feel that something has been missing in my life for some time. It occurred to me recently that the problem is the lack of physical affection from my brood. When you're used to years of hugs, kisses and fixing boo-boos it feels pretty strange when all of a sudden (or so it seems) your kids don't need you for those things any more. Okay, that's not entirely true. They do seem to need me for rides, occasional loans and Sunday dinners, but things have definitely changed.

Maybe I just didn't want to see that they're saving their hugs and kisses for other people now. Not that there is a limit of affection one can give in a day but apparently hugging your mother is so not cool after a certain age. I remember my mother telling me she felt the same way. Although in her case there were so many of us that by the time she got to the last kid the older siblings were providing a new crop of kidlets for Grandma to cuddle. So while her arms were usually kept busy I now understand how she felt.

My children are old enough to have their own babies that I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities to snuggle with, but I'll gladly wait until they finish their educations and figure out what they want to do with their lives. No baby pushing from me! Well, maybe just a little nudge?

Now go give your mom (or your kids) a big hug. Happy Mother's Day!

April 20, 2008

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No... It's a Super Fruit!

What is all the fuss about these so called "super fruits"? They're not really new by any means as they have been cultivated in their various locations for centuries. Recent studies have shown some incredible discoveries so I decided to do some investigation. Connecting the dots between their benefits of ingestion and topical uses made perfect sense and we began using the extracts, pulp and oils of the fruits and seeds in some of our products. (see links below)

Let's go over the top contenders:
  • Açaí Berry: (ah-SAH’-ee) The berries are produced by a palm tree that grows in the Amazon region. Recent studies have shown the small grape-like berries to possess high levels of antioxidants. Historically, Brazilians have used açaí berries to treat digestive disorders and skin conditions. In skin care açaí is being used to prevent signs of premature aging and inflammation of the skin. Studies have shown the extracts of the berries and oils made from the seed contain high levels of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals to help promote skin cell health and fatty acids and phytosterols to help to preserve collagen and boost skin cell regeneration.

  • Goji Berries: Historically used in ancient Chinese medicine, this amazing fruit packs a powerful punch of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Recent studies have shown that extract of the berries helps to calm skin sensitivity, irritation and redness. They are a rich source of beta-carotene and Vitamin C, and chock full of antioxidants to aid in neutralizing skin-damaging free radicals.

  • Mangosteen Fruit: The mangosteen hails from Southeast Asia. Studies have shown that this very perishable fruit and its rind contain a powerful class of antioxidants (xanthones) known to protect and nourish the skin and aid in the fight against free radicals. I have been told that the flavor of the fruit is incredible, but I doubt I will get a chance to eat any fresh unless I travel to Asia as it is hard to come by in North America. I do drink the fruit juice mixed with cranberry, pomegranate, blueberry and açaí berry and it's very tasty.

  • Pomegranate: A legendary fruit with ties to ancient times is native to the region from Afghanistan to the Himalayas in northern India and it is now grown commercially in many locations around the world. It's no news that the pomegranate is busting out all over with antioxidants. Polyphenols from pomegranate are known for their potent anti-inflammatory properties. Pomegranate seed oil helps to refine skin tone and high levels of ellagic acid help boost collagen production. The bright red fruit tastes amazing and it is good for you inside and out. What's not to love?

  • Quinoa: (KEEN-wah) Not a fruit, but an ancient grain that deserves top ranking in the super-foods club originated in the Andean region of South America. Quinoa was revered by the Incas who called it "the mother of all grains." Quinoa contains extremely high levels of unsaturated fatty acids and is a natural source of Vitamin E and antioxidants. Quinoa oil imparts excellent emollient and moisturizing properties to the skin. It also enhances circulation in the skin area treated to help aid revitalization of the dermis.
How's that for a crash course? Don't you feel smarter already? You can find these ingredients and more in our Mangosteen & Açaí Berry, Sanguinello & Pomegranate, and coming soon, Goji Berry & Quinoa Seed collections at Bidwell Botanicals.

You knew I had to throw in a sales pitch eventually, right?

April 18, 2008

Airing Your Laundry

My mother always warned me about airing my dirty laundry in public, but that's not what this post is about. (You knew that, didn't you?) It's about the cost of natural gas or electricity that we use to dry our clothes when there's perfectly good air and sunshine outside our back doors, and it smells better too. Well, I guess that depends on where you live. That might not be the case in Los Angeles or Detroit, but you know what I mean.

When I was first married I lived in a quaint little neighborhood with a fenced-in backyard where I could actually hang our laundry on a clothesline to air dry. What's a clothesline, you ask? It's this really nifty gadget - a string or wire - heavy duty of course, and you use clothespins (another nifty gadget) to secure your t-shirts, jeans and unmentionables out in the sunshine to dry - for free. Oh, and not one of our neighbors called us to angrily complain or report our unsightly mess to the neighborhood association.

There are actually restrictions in many places, including the city I live in, that make it illegal to hang your clean laundry outside to dry. You can get fined for this horrible wanton act! Now I'm not talking about hanging your undies in the front yard for all to see or tossing your towels and jeans over your porch railings for days on end. I mean a discreet little clothesline strung between trees or poles behind your house where no one can see it unless they're spying on you. What would that hurt? Does it actually bring the level of the neighborhood down because you want to save a few bucks? Isn't this the age of "going green"?

If you happen to live in the country or outside of the suburbs you could probably get away with at least hanging out your towels and sheets. I realize it's not terribly convenient but once you dry off with a fluffy towel or plop face down into a pillow that smells of sunshine and fresh air you might find it addictive and worth the effort. If you like the additional fragrance that you get with laundry additives you could use a linen spray with lavender to add a calming floral scent.

Back in my grandmother's day they used drawer sachets, not only for keeping their laundry fresh but also to help ward off moths and other undesirable critters. A sachet is simply a small bag or pouch filled with dried herbs or flowers. You can fill a small muslin drawstring bag with cedar chips and hang it in your closet to keep moths away from woolens and keep clothes smelling fresh. I keep a little satin pouch with dried lavender and rose buds in my lingerie drawer. Shhhh... don't tell my husband, he thinks I smell that good naturally.

The naysayers would complain that if you let one person do it then everyone would do it and it could get out of control. Maybe, but I highly doubt it would lead to anarchy.

Sources for Clotheslines and Supplies:
Whitney Design Outdoor Dryers
The Clothesline Shop

April 14, 2008

Put a Spring in Your Step!

Spring has sprung as the saying goes. Here in the south we've already been treated to bursts of bright yellow daffodils and forsythia, clouds of cherry blossoms and dazzling red tulips dotting front yards and street corners all over town. Masses of vibrant azaleas grace landscapes with shades of pink, white and crimson. The dogwoods recently bloomed in pink and white showing off their southern charm, while drifts of multi-colored pansies happily bob their heads during our frequent spring showers. Birds and butterflies are in abundance, as well as the constant drone of the carpenter bees as they do their hovercraft impersonations looking for a mate and a place to nest.

The temperatures are just about warm enough to set out our summer annuals. I say just about because today we actually got a little bit of snow. That's right... here in the deep south we had snow flakes falling in the middle of the day. Crazy! I'm good with this cold snap though, because soon enough the only cool air we'll get will be blowing out of our air conditioning units, and I have to pay for that pleasure.

I went out and snapped a few shots of the first spring flowers and plants. As you can see some of them are still sporting a light coat of yellow pollen. Anyone familiar with spring in the south knows what I'm talking about. Thankfully the recent rains have washed away a lot of the evil dust, but more is to come with the setting of pine cones and flowering magnolias. It's a small price to pay for the beauty Spring brings us each year, even if some of us have to view it from behind our tightly closed windows.

April 11, 2008

Making Mud Pies

Do you remember when you were a kid and the days seemed to stretch endlessly in front of you. Back then television was something we watched for maybe an hour on Saturday morning to catch the new cartoons. Long hot summer days were spent running around our backyard from the pool to the swing set and back again. Most days we had a sun shower or two late in the afternoon that produced just enough rain for one of our other favorite activities: making mud pies. There's nothing like digging your little fingers into cool wet mud and creating masterpieces to present to your mom and dad who politely pretended to taste them and proclaim them the most amazing creations ever made! Then it was back to running through the sprinkler with a dash into the pool for good measure to wash away the remnants of our day's endeavors before going in for supper.

Now that I'm older I still like to play in the mud, only now the mud is clay. Sea clay, rose clay, cocoa clay, stark white kaolin; the list goes on and on. I've formulated with gorgeous mineral clays from around world including Australia, Israel, France and Morocco. They come in a dizzying array of colors and textures and are enriched with the mineral deposits indigenous to their homelands.

What can you do with clay, you ask? We use them in soaps for their cleansing, soothing and drawing powers. Body and facial masques are made moisturizing, astringent or soothing. Rose and white clays are best for mature or sensitive skin types while sea muds and green clays possess powerful drawing power to pull impurities from your skin.

To make a simple facial masque try this:

1 Tablespoon of Bentonite or Kaolin clay
Liquid of choice (water, honey, cream, yogurt or hydrosols are excellent choices)

Using enough liquid to make a paste, stir into clay until you reach the desired consistency. Using clean fingers or a facial brush spread the mixture over clean face avoiding eyes and mouth. Lie back and relax allowing the paste to work for 10 - 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with warm water until completely removed. Splash face with a cool water rinse, gently dry with a soft towel and apply your favorite moisturizer. Discard any remaining clay mixture. Your skin will feel incredibly soft and clean.

Even though the endless days of your youth may be behind you it's never too late to make time for yourself. So go ahead and make a mud pie, or better yet pamper your skin with a beneficial mud masque and regain that youthful glow.

April 9, 2008

Heaven in a Bag

I went to Whole Foods today (better known as Harry's Farmer's Market around here). I love that place! Being a weekday before lunch hour it was quiet and I could roam around and sample fruits, cheeses and other assorted yummies set up in the aisles. I picked up a brie cheese and smoked turkey panini with fresh basil and tomatoes and a delightful organic mango smoothie by Naked Juice Company for my lunch. Can you hear me sighing with delight?

As I searched for some organic fruits and berries for photo work today I found the most amazing thing ever! I love dried goji berries. I order mine from an organic grower in Tibet to help support their co-op, and also because no one was carrying them locally at that time. They carry several kinds at Harry's now and it's always a good idea to have a back-up source. As I was browsing the shelves of exotic ingredients I spied a bag on the bottom shelf that looked intriguing. Egad! Organic goji berries covered in dark chocolate by Himalania. They were $5.99 for a 6 oz bag; pricey, but I had to try these.

If you've never eaten goji berries, they taste like a cross between dates and dried cranberries. Not too sweet with a slightly tart aftertaste. Goji berries
(also referred to as Wolfberry) are one of the newly acclaimed "super fruits" and have been cultivated high in the Himalayas for centuries. I initially tried them to see what all the fuss was about and now eat them because I really like them. So I figured goji berries covered in deep dark chocolate would have to be good, right? I can't tell you how good (mostly because I'm currently stuffing them into my mouth). The dark chocolate adds a whole new level to the flavor. Plus it's ... well... chocolate! Of course chocolate has its own antioxidant health claims to boast these days, but I always knew it was a super-food. No really, I did!

If you get a chance to try these I heartily recommend them. I wonder what these would taste like sprinkled on top of this freshly made gelato I picked up at Harry's?