Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sweet, Yummy Vanilla!

One of our most popular oils and incense, year after year, is vanilla.

In ancient times, vanilla was associated with the Yin energies – female, soft, dark. It’s element is water and it’s ruling planet is Venus, Goddess of Love.

But wait! How can all these ancient associates be correct if vanilla is from the New World? The ancients of the old world did not know about the existence of vanilla until Cortez brought some back from his adventures.

The history of vanilla starts with the ancient Totonaco Indians of Mexico. They were the first keepers of the secrets of vanilla. They inhabited the Mazantla Valley on the Gulf Coast of Mexico near present-day Vera Cruz. According to Totonaca mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew.

Vanilla was completely unknown in the Old World before Cortez. Spanish explorers arriving on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the early 16th century gave vanilla its current name. Spanish and Portuguese sailors and explorers brought vanilla (and chololate) into Africa and Asia later that century. They called it vainilla, or "little pod".

We are often asked by patrons “Do you have vanilla essential oil?”. To which I reply “We have two very nice vanilla fragrance oils.” Most people don’t notice the switch in terminology – essential vs. fragrance. Few people ask.

There is no vanilla essential oil in the sense that we think of most essential oils. But if you get online and Google “vanilla essential oil” you will find there ARE people selling ‘vanilla essential oil’. So what is that?

I don't know about the legalities, but I'm guessing they can get away with it due to convenient vagaries in the legal code surrounding the definition of "essential oils". In fact, there actually is no regulatory standard governing the use of the term "essential oil".

However, it seems to be generally accepted that essential oils are, in large part, defined by the method with which they were extracted. More specifically, they must be either steam distilled or, in the case of citrus oils, cold pressed. The problem is, some plants, like vanilla, are too delicate and cannot withstand the heat involved in the steam distillation process. So, in order to extract the essence of these plants an alternative method must be employed. In regards to vanilla, this typically means solvent extraction or CO2 extraction.

CO2 extraction can actually yield a very high quality product. In this method, relatively cool CO2 is pressurized and pumped through the plant. When the pressure is released, the CO2 escapes as a gas, while the plant oils remain behind. There are no residues or solvents in the final product, so this is probably as close to a vanilla "essential oil" as you are going to get. However, if this is what you want, be prepared to pay for it. It is very expensive. It will likely be called an absolute, but pay close attention to the extraction method. Absolutes can be extracted with hydrocarbon solvents (like hexane).

The other common type of concentrated vanilla that is available is called an oleoresin. Oleoresins are extracted with solvents. The solvent is then removed. During this final distillation process, some of the aromatics are lost, but a strong oleoresin (as determined by a higher "fold" number) can still give a pretty good flavor and smell. Oleoresins are commonly used in the food industry to make the extracts many of us cook with. Although it seems like oleoresins would be cheaper to produce than absolutes, they often are still very expensive. At least the good ones are.

The vanilla extracts are a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily from the Mexican species, flat-leaved vanilla (V. planifolia). Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican peoples cultivated the vine of the vanilla orchid, called tlilxochitl by the Aztecs.

The main species harvested for vanilla is Vanilla planifolia. Although it is native to Mexico, it is now widely grown throughout the tropics. Madagascar is the world's largest producer. Additional sources include V. pompona and V. tahitiensis (grown in Tahiti and Niue), although the vanillin content of these species is much less than V. planifolia.

Though there are many compounds present in the extracts of vanilla, the compound vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde) is primarily responsible for the characteristic flavor and smell of vanilla. Another minor component of vanilla essential oil is piperonal (heliotropin). Piperonal and other substances affect the odor of natural vanilla. Vanillin was first isolated from vanilla pods by Gobley in 1858. By 1874, it had been obtained from glycosides of pine tree sap, temporarily causing a depression in the natural vanilla industry.

Vanilla essence comes in two forms. Real seedpod extract is an extremely complicated mixture of several hundred different compounds, including acetaldehyde, acetic acid, furan-2-carbaldehyde, hexanoic acid, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde, 2-methoxy-4-(prop-2-en-1-yl)phenol, methyl 3-phenylprop-2-enoate, and 2-methylpropanoic acid. Synthetic essence, consisting basically of a solution of synthetic vanillin in ethanol, is derived from phenol and is of high purity.

Most artificial vanilla products, including our fragrance oils, contain vanillin, which can be produced synthetically from lignin, a natural polymer found in wood. Most synthetic vanillin is a byproduct from the pulp used in papermaking, in which the lignin is broken down using sulfites or sulfates. However, vanillin is only one of 171 identified aromatic components of real vanilla fruits.

The orchid species Leptotes bicolor is used as a natural vanilla replacement in Paraguay and southern Brazil.

So what is our Dark Vanilla and our French Vanilla?

Both are fragrance oils. This means that they are man made. Fragrances can fall under two catagories – nature identical or synthetic.

A nature identical essential oil is a blend of essential oil and various extracted aromatic compounds. A nature identical oil may also be a rectified blend of components that mimic the chemical structure of the original oil. Nature identical oils are synthetic oils, having the identical chemical build-up as the ones from the plant. Nature identical oils smell like their natural equivalents, but contain on average noticeably less ingredients. Some fragrance oils, like ‘lilac’, ‘chocolate’ or ‘apple’ are always synthetic. Others, such as ‘rose’, ‘gardenia’ or ‘honeysuckle’ are nature identicals.

Fragrance oils fall into the FDA's jurisdiction and their "trade secret" law. This means that the manufacturer of the fragrance oil does not have to disclose the ingredients used in making their fragrances. Basically you may never know what in the world is really in a fragrance oil, but they do have guidelines in place to ensure the general safety of the product.

The term French vanilla is often used to designate preparations with a strong vanilla aroma, contain vanilla grains and may also contain eggs (especially egg yolks). The appellation originates from the French style of making vanilla ice cream with a custard base, using vanilla pods, cream, and egg yolks. Inclusion of vanilla varietals from any of the former French dependencies or overseas France noted for their exports may in fact be a part of the flavoring, though it may often be coincidental. Alternatively, French vanilla is taken to refer to a vanilla-custard flavor. Syrup labeled as French vanilla may include custard, caramel or butterscotch flavors in addition to vanilla.

Our Dark Vanilla oil would be more aligned with Bourbon vanilla or Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla, produced from V. planifolia plants introduced from the Americas, is the term used for vanilla from Indian Ocean islands such as Madagascar, the Comoros, and Réunion, formerly the Île Bourbon. It is also used to describe the distinctive vanilla flavor derived from V. planifolia grown successfully in tropical countries such as India.

Lots of interesting information here. But the bottom line is we try to sell good smells, be they pure essential oils or fragrance oils. Since vanilla is not available as an essential oil for a price that the average person can afford, we offer our fragrance oils of vanilla for your olfactory pleasure.


Sources of information and mild plagerism.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Chance of a Lifetime

I didn't write this either, but I'll sure as heck repeat it!

The Chance of a Lifetime

written by Seth Godin

A friend asked me the other day, "...given the sorry state of so much in the world, what's possible to look forward to?"

The state isn't sorry. It's wide open.

Interest rates are super low, violence is close to an all time low, industries are being remade and there's more leverage for the insurgent outsider than ever before in history.

The status quo is taking a beating, there's no question about it. That's what makes it a revolution.

I said this nine years ago and I stand by it. In the years since I wrote this essay, people have started social movements, built billion dollar companies, toppled dictators, found new jobs, learned new skills and generally made a ruckus.


Hindsight is 20/20. People are already looking back on the 1990s and wishing that they had had more courage. When you look back on the 2000s, what will you have to say for yourself? [The following is reprinted from 9 years ago].

Here's a question that you should clip out and tape to your bathroom mirror. It might save you some angst 15 years from now. The question is, What did you do back when interest rates were at their lowest in 50 years, crime was close to zero, great employees were looking for good jobs, computers made product development and marketing easier than ever, and there was almost no competition for good news about great ideas?

Many people will have to answer that question by saying, "I spent my time waiting, whining, worrying, and wishing." Because that's what seems to be going around these days. Fortunately, though, not everyone will have to confess to having made such a bad choice.

While your company has been waiting for the economy to rebound, Reebok has launched Travel Trainers, a very cool-looking lightweight sneaker for travelers. They are selling out in Japan -- from vending machines in airports!

While Detroit's car companies have been whining about gas prices and bad publicity for SUVs (SUVs are among their most profitable products), Honda has been busy building cars that look like SUVs but get twice the gas mileage. The Honda Pilot was so popular, it had a waiting list.

While Africa's economic plight gets a fair amount of worry, a little startup called ApproTEC is actually doing something about it. The new income that its products generate accounts for 0.5% of the entire GDP of Kenya. How? It manufactures a $75 device that looks a lot like a StairMaster. But it's not for exercise. Instead, ApproTEC sells the machine to subsistence farmers, who use its stair-stepping feature to irrigate their land. People who buy it can move from subsistence farming to selling the additional produce that their land yields -- and triple their annual income in the first year of using the product.

While you've been wishing for the inspiration to start something great, thousands of entrepreneurs have used the prevailing sense of uncertainty to start truly remarkable companies. Lucrative Web businesses, successful tool catalogs, fast-growing PR firms -- all have started on a shoestring, and all have been profitable ahead of schedule. The Web is dead, right? Well, try telling that to, a new Web site that helps organize meetings anywhere and on any topic. It has 200,000 registered users -- and counting.

Maybe you already have a clipping on your mirror that asks you what you did during the 1990s. What's your biggest regret about that decade? Do you wish that you had started, joined, invested in, or built something? Are you left wishing that you'd at least had the courage to try? In hindsight, the 1990s were the good old days. Yet so many people missed out. Why? Because it's always possible to find a reason to stay put, to skip an opportunity, or to decline an offer. And yet, in retrospect, it's hard to remember why we said no and easy to wish that we had said yes.

The thing is, we still live in a world that's filled with opportunity. In fact, we have more than an opportunity -- we have an obligation. An obligation to spend our time doing great things. To find ideas that matter and to share them. To push ourselves and the people around us to demonstrate gratitude, insight, and inspiration. To take risks and to make the world better by being amazing.

Are these crazy times? You bet they are. But so were the days when we were doing duck-and-cover air-raid drills in school, or going through the scares of Three Mile Island and Love Canal. There will always be crazy times.

So stop thinking about how crazy the times are, and start thinking about what the crazy times demand. There has never been a worse time for business as usual. Business as usual is sure to fail, sure to disappoint, sure to numb our dreams. That's why there has never been a better time for the new. Your competitors are too afraid to spend money on new productivity tools. Your bankers have no idea where they can safely invest. Your potential employees are desperately looking for something exciting, something they feel passionate about, something they can genuinely engage in and engage with.

You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It's never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. The best thing is that it only takes a moment -- just one second -- to decide.

Before you finish this paragraph, you have the power to change everything that's to come. And you can do that by asking yourself (and your colleagues) the one question that every organization and every individual needs to ask today: Why not be great?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Some Thoughts on Leadership

I’m not going to pretend I wrote any of this, so don’t accuse me of plagiarism. I just thought this was a good article, and my blog is about not just the wonders of oils and incense and aromatherapy, but also about life as a small business owner, and the life of being a artist and crafter.

So enjoy reading!

Copied completely from SmartBlog on Leadership.

What every leader can learn from “The King’s Speech”

By Guest Blogger on May 23, 2011.

This guest post is by Dennis S. Reina and Michelle L. Reina, co-authors of “Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace” and “Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace.” They are co-founders of the Reina Trust Building Institute.

In the movie “The King’s Speech,” England’s King George VI turns to Lionel Logue, an unorthodox Australian speech therapist, to overcome his stammer. The two men become friends as they work together, and after his brother abdicates the British throne, the reluctant king relies on Logue to help him make a radio broadcast at the beginning of World War II.
We also see the movie as a parable — a story about a leader healing from the wounds of broken trust. King George VI had to heal from childhood betrayal before he could “find his voice” and become the leader his country needed at the brink of war. The king, however, found it extremely hard to ask for — and accept — support that he, as that would-be leader, needed.
If you’re like most leaders, you, too, struggle with asking for, and accepting, support — support you might need to perform, such as King George VI, to your most powerful potential. You probably think you should be able to go it alone, to have all of the answers. Yet, in failing to receive support, odds are you are depriving yourself — and your organization — of your true greatness. Accepting support isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of courage and strength. Only strong, self-aware leaders can size up a situation and see, realistically, what they can or cannot face alone.
In our work with leaders, we find that there are at least three common, instinctive reactions to the idea of receiving support. Our advice and insight for how to deal with them:

“I’m the leader here. I can’t let on that I need help.”
Sure, you can. People expect you to lead, and if accepting support from others will help you be an even better leader, it’s your best course of action. What’s more, by example, you’re letting your leadership team, among others, know that it’s OK to receive support, embrace their human-ness and to learn and grow through and with other people. That awareness can deepen their connection and commitment to one another and to the organization. It also builds trust and respect.

“I don’t know whom I can trust. I don’t want to open myself up to be vulnerable.”
Make a wise choice — and take the risk. Playing it close to the vest might be your default, but that doesn’t mean it’s the smartest thing to do. Also, ask yourself whether you’re really concerned about trust or, more likely, about letting others in. During highly stressful periods, you might unreasonably question everyone’s intentions. Resist those doubts and fears. They can — and will — hold you back.

“I want to be the best leader I can be for my organization. That has nothing to do with my personal life.”
Really? You’re a whole person, and your success comes from the sum of your experiences. Additionally, as a leader, your ability to build and rebuild trust with others has a lot to do with how you’ve dealt with — or haven’t dealt with — situations of broken trust in your life. If you don’t want to “go there” with someone within your organization, look for someone on the outside — your Lionel Logue.

Image credit: Laurie Sparham, The Weinstein Co.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wonderful Lavender!

I need some Lavender.

I mean, LOTS of lavender!

Things have been a bit stressful around here. Erika is rocking along at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. She has one more weekend to go and the weather forecast is looking pretty good.

But back to the lavender. Business has been slow, and I know it’s because of all the turmoil going on. Prices are rising, incomes are flat. Tornados are doing a darn good job destroying jobs. And this is where lavender comes in. It is just what the doctor ordered.

We all know that lavender is the best thing in the world for relaxation and stress relief. I’m starting to believe that the ‘Rocky Mountain High’ is in part because of all the lavender that grows so easily up there.

This herb has so many uses. Put a few drops on your pillow or on a handkerchief and it is as good as any sleeping pill – and a lot safer too! I use our Magick Elixir so much because of the lavender in it. It relaxes me while the peppermint and eucalyptus and rosemary go to work on my immune system and helps me to breath easier. Try this…lay down at night after a hard day, breath in some Magic Elixir and notice how fast your whole body just seems to relax.

And better yet, I found that it works on the dog too. Fleas are bad this year, and I just didn’t want to go spend the money for the good flea medicine because we are going to Colorado soon where there aren’t any fleas (maybe because of the lavender growing up there?) so we were browsing online and came across some recipes for aromatherapy flea repellent. One recipe blended peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus and lavender. Oh My! That’s our Magick Elixir! So we put some in a spray bottle with water, shook it up and sprayed our dog as best we could. Mind you, Shadow is 14 years old and has a hard time getting around these days. She has fat tumors, arthritis, she’s overweight and this heat makes breathing hard on her. She stays inside in the AC (and away from outside fleas) as much as possible. I rolled her over and sprayed her belly and legs, then along her back and neck, rubbing the fur up so I could get it into her skin well. Before I was done at least two fleas jumped out! According to the article we read, these oils will not only repel the fleas, but will kill them as well. Sure enough, within 20-30 minutes she was sleeping very soundly, and was very relaxed. So we are keeping her sprayed every day until we leave here and she is enjoying the mellowness it gives her. It works with ridding lice also, and can be used in the treatment of ringworms.

Lavender has a well-established tradition as a folk remedy, and its scent is still familiar to almost everyone. It was used to ‘comfort the stomach’ but above all as a cosmetic water, and insect repellent, to scent linen, and as a reviving yet soothing oil. Generally regarded as the most versatile essence therapeutically.

We’ve long know lavender is also good for bee and wasp stings, and other insect bites. Rub a little lavender on any sting or bite and the itching and pain will go away within 60 seconds. Lavender is a universal oil because it balances the body and is known to work wherever there is a need. It is probably the number one oil anyone should have in their home or traveling medicine chest. It works on abscesses, acne, allergies, athlete’s feet and fungal infections. Boils, bruises, burns, cold sores, cuts. It is good on the skin for just about all your needs.

Use lavender by itself, or mix with a few drops of peppermint and use as a headache relief. We have had several people tell us it is the only thing that helps them with their migraines.

Lavender is safe to use neat – or straight from the bottle. Most essential oils aren’t recommended to use this way, but lavender is the exception. Lavender is considered one of the safest of oils, but because of it’s effect on the uterus it shouldn’t be used in the first 3 months of pregnancy. Generally it is considered a non dermal toxin.

True Lavender is also known as lavendula angustifolia or lavendula officinalis. This is considered the best lavender. There is also the variations Spike lavender and Lavindin. Spike lavender is not as delicate and is more camphor-ish. Lavindin is a hybrid of True lavender and Spike lavender, and is cheaper but not as potent as True lavender. It takes about 150 pounds or more of lavender buds to make one pound of essential oil. The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the fresh flowering tops and an absolute and concrete are also produced by solvent extraction in smaller quantities. The oil is a colorless to pale yellow liquid and the absolute is a dark green viscous liquid.

Lavender is an evergreen woody shrub, up to m (3ft) tall, with pale green, narrow, linear leaves and flowers on blunt spikes of a beautiful violet-blue color. The whole plant is highly aromatic. It is indigenous to the Mediterranean, and is now grown all over the world. Most of the commercially produced oil comes from the mountains of France and Spain. You can find lavender festivals and celebrations all over the world, including the Blanco Lavender Festival in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

The word lavender comes from the Latin word lavare, which means ‘to wash’. English and Dutch: occupational name for a washerman or launderer, Old French, Middle Dutch lavendier (Late Latin lavandarius, an agent derivative of lavanda ‘washing’, ‘things to be washed’). The term was applied especially to a worker in the wool industry who washed the raw wool or rinsed the cloth after fulling. There is no evidence for any direct connection with the word for the plant (Middle English, Old French lavendre). However, the etymology of the plant name is obscure; it may have been named in ancient times with reference to the use of lavender oil for cleaning or of the dried heads of lavender in perfuming freshly washed clothes.

You can cook with lavender and you can find many recipes. It adds a unexpected flavor to any meal. You can use the flowers, leaves or stems, but the buds are the most delicate. Always use clean, pesticide free lavender when cooking. You can find organic lavender buds on several online merchants. There is more information at Joy of Lavender and at Purple Haze Lavender and Whats Cooking America.

Lavender history goes back over 2500 years. The plant was sold and traded by the Greeks around 600 BC to the Hyeres Islands off the coast of France. The first recorded arrival in North America was by the English Pilgrims in the 1600’s. The Egyptians used Lavender for mummification and made stills to extract the oils. They made perfumes and traces of lavender were found in urns in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Solid cones of unguents was placed on the heads of wealthy men and women and as they unguents melted, it would perfume their entire body.

Queen Victoria loved lavender so much she had it used to wash the floors and furniture. Sachets were used in the linens and cloths. This became a very fashionable fragrance among all the ladies at that time and because of this lavender is commonly associated with the Victorian Age by most people.

During the Great Plague in London in the 17th century, bunches of lavender were tied to each wrist to protect against infection. The grave robbers used to wash in Four Thieves Vinegar, which contained lavender. They rarely become infected. Another source says the Four Thieves went into the homes of the plague victims. They said they oiled themselves with a mixture of equal amounts of lavender, absinthe (wormwood), rue, sage, mint and rosemary mixed in vinegar.

In folklore lavender is frequently associated with love, but also with protection, sleep, chastity, longevity, purification, happiness and peace. On St. Luke’s’ Day young maidens would sip on a lavender tea and sing “St Luke, St Luke be kind to me, In my dreams let me my true love see.”.

Lavender is associated with the Heart Chakra.

Traditionally, a cross of lavender was hung on the door to safeguard against evil and children would wear lavender on their shirts to avert the evil eye.

Lavender is called blue magic, and lavender is ruled by the planet and God Mercury, The Great Communicator. This is why we mix lavender with sandalwood for our Virgo oil. But it is ruled by the element air (the element of thought) and is masculine – or yang – in nature.

At midsummer, mix chamomile, lavender, mugwort and rose petals to call up the sprites, fairies, brownies and elves.

For security and peacefulness, mix basil, frankincense, lavender, lemon balm, rue and thyme. Wear such an oil mixture for security and peacefulness, or mix the oils and herbs in a powder incense and burn to induce sleep and rest, and scatter about lavender buds about the home to maintain peace.

Lavender is carried to see ghosts. Place lavender under your pillow while thinking of your wish. Do this just prior to retiring for the night. In the morning, if you have dreamt of anything relating to your wish, it will come true. If your dream was unconnected with your wish, then your wish will not manifest.

If you are one of those lavender addicts, then Joys of Lavender and Discover Lavender are two places you want to visit.

And us, of course!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ground Rules for Living

1. Keep Your Word

Whenever you don't keep your word,you lessen your experience of yourself and you put something into your environment that always comes back. It maybe as serious as someone loosing trust in you. There is always a consequence. When you are crisp with your integrity, life is crisp. Keep your word, it does matter.

2. Avoid Nothing

What you avoid in life is never the circumstances. It is an internal experience that gets reactivated by circumstances . By resisting and avoiding that experience you create a nerve. The internal experience that you avoid then becomes stronger. As you allow yourself to experience it, it goes away and the nerve diappears. When you avoid something, the nerve gets stronger and your environment becomes threatening. If there is something you are avoiding, handle it quickly and get it behind you.

3. Remove All Unworkability

Unworkability exists only because we tolerate it. If there is unworkability in your life, handle it now. Do whatever it takes to remove it. You may have created such a mess that it will take a lot to handle it. Don't wait. Have everything in your life work. Don't tolerate unworkability.

4. Keep Your Enviornment Clean And In Working Order

When your environment is sloppy and cluttered, so is your vision and clairity. A sloppy environment will hold you back. Clean your home, your work and your car. Fix or get rid of everything that doesn't work. Handle anything that you have a charge on, even if it seems insignificant. Get rid of what you don't use or don't need.

5. Be Positive. Do Not Speak Or Think Negatively Of Yourself, Of Others, Or Of Life.

Every word you speak and every thought you accept creates your reality of life. You act consistent with it and it becomes true. Your creat your circumstances by the words you speak and the thoughts you accept. Don't speak or think negatively unless that's the way you want it to be.

6. Acknowledge That You Are 100% The Cause Of Everything That Happens In Your Life.

The more you see yourself as the cause of what happens in your life, the more you can determine what happens. Others may also be responsible , but when you point the finger at them, you give away all your power. You the become stuck and at their mercy. Pointing the finger at you allows you to take charge of your life.

7. Allow Everything. Let Go Of All Unwillingness.

You are either allowing or resisting. When you allow and are willing for life to be as it is, you are in The Flow. You become clear and effective. When you resist and demand, you are in trouble. Both your aliveness and your effectiveness disappear. Give yourself permission for life to be as it is. Then go do what you need to do, coming from allowing rather than resisting.

8. Let Go Of All Your Attachments.

Anything you can't let go of hurts you. You can be attached to any thing: a person, a thing, a circumstance or a way of being. When you are threatened by the loss of what you are attached to, you go crazy. Attachments are like anchors. They keep you firmly in place. You can't move forward. You have to stay to hang on. Let go of all your attachments. Release whatever you're hanging on to and give it permission to go. If it stays you really have it. If it doesn't, you didn't have it anyway. When there is nothing to lose, there is nothing to stop you.

9. Let Go Of All Upsets.

An upset is a signal that there is something you are not allowing. Find out what it is and release it and the upset will disappear. Your aliveness will return. Life is always the way it is. Hanging on to upsets can only get in your way.

10. Release All Resentments

We resent so we can avoid something. When you avoid confronting your responsibility you suffer. You die inside. To release a resentment you need to forgive. Look for your responsibility and acknowledge it. Totally forgive others, your self and life. You wiill never be free until all resentments are gone.

11. Have Every Relationship Work.

Whenever a realtionship doesn't work, you pay a big price inside. The more important the relationship, the bigger the price. To have a relationship work, forgive them for everything and give them full permission to be the way they are. Love them, empower them and take sole responsibility for the success of the relationship. Make sure every realtionship you have, either past or present, is a full expression of love.

12. Clean Up Whatever You've Done That Is Against Your Integrity.

Clean up all the skeletons in your closet. Acknowledge all your misdeeds. Communicate everything so that you are hiding nothing. Set yourself free from the past. Be willing for anyone to know everything. The withholding destroys your aliveness and has you live your life in fear. It forces you to hold back.

13. Participate Fully In Life. Don't Withdraw.

At any moment you are either participating in life or withdrawing. You are either at cause or at effect. When you withdraw, you stop creating and start reacting. Life then goes downhill fast. To have life work, you have to be in life. The cost of withdrawing can be severe suffering. Stay in charge of your life and live it fully.

14. Have Your Life e About More Than You. Serve!

When you put the focus on you, problems and upsets grow. When you put the focus on sevring others, who you are comes forth. Find something more important than you and throw yourself into it. Find your heart and live it. Have your life be about contributing and giving. Find how to serve.

Friday, April 15, 2011

To Dodge, or not to Dodge

That is the question.

Every day you make decisions. What to wear. What to eat. Some decisions are more important. What kind of car to buy? Do you even need a car now?

Ten months and 2 postings ago I wrote a blog about roadie vehicles. The vehicle of choice for most roadies for many years was the Ford Econoline. Awesome, tough, reliable. It can carry all your stuff AND you can sleep in it. I’m talking, of course, about the life style of the young and restless. Those of us nomads that travel from renaissance festival to renaissance festival (or gig to gig for you musicians). We were young. It was fun and an adventure to be on the road. We would fix a small bed, a few shelves, perhaps some curtains. Called it home. Some vans had little A/C units stuck in the back window. Many had big dogs taking up the whole passenger seat.

We grew older. We were still on the road. The comforts of life started looking better and better. We’d get a 12 foot bumper pull trailer to pull behind our van, giving us more room to haul our stuff. Years passed. The bumper pull was traded for a gooseneck or fifth wheel, and the loyal, now ragged looking Ford was retired with much love and fanfare and replaced with a Dodge Ram 3500. It was the influence of the 1990’s and we felt we were all moving up in the world. And, we didn’t attract as much attention from the DOT.

The Dodges (and Ford Power Strokes) and the nice sanitary looking travel trailers represented to us a sort of moving up in the world. As if we were attaining the dream of our parents by finally getting that house in the “good” neighborhood. But we missed our vans. Our vans, with so much of who we were written all through them. It was like letting go of our childhood pets that had shared so many memories with us.

But there are still those of us who like to be creative in our travels. Larry and I bought a 42 foot dragster hauler trailer and have stripped it out and we are rebuilding it into our on the road home. Then, because it was a tad too much for our Dodge Ram 2500, we made the difficult decision to sell the Dodge and go bigger. We bought a International 4700 series crew cab. Larry finally has his own big truck again!

Ok, well, it isn’t a BIG truck. More like a Class 5. But it was bigger than even those F-450’s, but under CDL weight. This turn out is going to be cool!

Reality sets in. Time for ANOTHER major decision. After selling the Dodge, we were left without a run-about vehicle. My sister loaned us an old Ford F150 for the summer. At the end of last year, we found a great deal on one of the online auctions and acquired a beautiful 2002 Ford E350. It was clean. It runs great. Truly, the best van I’ve ever had.

Gas hog.

It’s a fact. Trucks get better gas mileage than vans. Especially the diesels. So, here we are, thinking of changing vehicles again. Here is the question. Do we sell the Ford van and the International and get a Dodge RAM3500? This is a tough one. Last August it cost us about $440 in just fuel for the International and the Ford F150 truck to go from Colorado to Texas in our bi-annual migration. A distance of barey 1000 miles. I remember when it cost us around $50-60 to make that trip. But the price of fuel is hurting everywhere.

Cons for having only one vehicle:

  • We will still have to try to fit everything into the trailer and truck. We want to take our small 12 flatbed trailer with us so we can have something to haul the ponies on short trips, and we would pull that with the van while the International pulls the big tailer/i.e. house. Also, we were thinking it would make things easier if we carried all Crystal Mountain business stuff in the Ford, thereby avoiding any potential problems from the DOT if they ever caught us hauling business stuff in the International or the trailer it pulled. THAT immediately makes you commercial.

Pros for selling the van and the International and having just one truck:

  • One vehicle means repairs on only one vehicle. It also means lower insurance for just one vehicle.

  • Larry and I and the dog get to ride together every trip. No need to be constantly calling each other on the phone, or talking on the CB, or having to keep up with each other.

  • A Dodge RAM3500 will pull the big-ass trailer just as easily as the International will (turns out the International only has DT360 instead of the DT466 they told us it had. The International has a Allison automatic, so it only gets about 10mpg anyway, and it would cost money to put in a manual tranny to get better fuel mileage. Our old Dodge 2500 had a manual tranny, but because it didn’t have the dually rear-end it didn’t pull the trailer well enough.)

  • Pulling the trailer with just a Dodge 3500 will no longer attract attention from the DOT’s. They love to harass truck drivers, and if you aren’t clean it can be a HUGE pain. Larry and I have taken absolutely EVERY precaution about being legal with this International and the Smokey Bears still want to pull Larry over and tell him he isn’t legal.

  • We can get better fuel mileage with a Dodge 3500 even pulling the trailer. Empty we can probably get 8-20 mpg and loaded probably at least 12-13 mpg. Both the Ford E350 and the International get only about 10-12 mpg empty.

  • I have heard the dually’s are a stiffer ride, but the two Dodge 2500s we had road like a Cadillac……and Larry might be able to enjoy A/C again.

So, should we sell the Ford and International and buy another Dodge?

You can post your comments at

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Musings of a micro-business person

Being in business can be pretty scary sometimes. These last few years have been nerve-wracking. It only seems to get worse.

Now, I don’t like being a complainer, and I won’t do it here, but my thoughts have been wandering towards becoming a “real” business. Larry and I have run a Mom/Pop craft business – rather successfully, I might add – for nearly 20 years now. Pretty amazing for two people who have no formal training in business management. When I was in high school, I really had no idea what the CVAE, DECA, KEY or even CAE clubs were all about. I truly had no inspiration as a teenager, no one to tell me how to achieve.

I learned all about achieving from Larry, my second husband. Now, of course, I have ambition out the whazoo, but I still lack a lot of skills on how to make all that happen. What I can see, however, are vague images of things that I know I need to know. I just can’t quite decipher them clearly. I see other rennies doing business, and I watch how they balance and juggle the craft/artist, accountant, marketing, sales, janitor, web mastering, shipping/receiving, research/development matrix. I sometimes wonder if they are just as confused as I am, or did they figure out some secret? Do they actually have any schooling in business? My sister and her husband formed a small business of their own and they seem to be doing very well, thank you. Is it really because they ‘played’ the game and paid all the licenses and permits, filed all the incorporation papers, set up all the payroll, applied for the business line of credit? All I knew how to do is make something, go set it out and hope someone will buy it. And buy it they did! It was the 1990’s and people just bought and bought and bought!

Eventually, it came to a severe adjustment. George Bush was in the White House and the Dot Com market had made it’s crash, balancing out the mad credit lending. While it was enjoyable while it lasted, I think the credit economy is trying to adjust back to pre-1970’s where people with good credit had credit and people with bad credit didn’t have credit and had to live on a cash basis, and not this blue sky concept that everyone is entitled to everything. One must work for what one wants.

Take Crystal Mountain. We have ALWAYS lived on a cash basis. It doesn’t have anything to do with our credit history (well, ok, we’ve incurred some medical debts), I just get scared about the ability to pay on a credit card. Larry and I are always saying that one should take calculated risks, otherwise you won’t ever leave the train station of dreams, but I am wondering if not sticking my neck out to pay debt has hampered Crystal Mountains ability to expand. Now I’m thinking that was a stupid question. Fiscal conservative is suppose to the be the model, right?

So all this rambling – I didn’t score well in my high school English composition classes either – is that I am beginning to see the value of getting educated in business management. True, I’ve learned a LOT in 20 years, but I keep thinking there is more to learn. There are lots of books out there, but even those can skip topics. I’ve learned a lot on how to manage people – still working on that too. I’ve learned about keeping records and filing taxes. What I am starting to learn about now is business plans, executive summaries, and a host of financial, number crunching, type reports that I haven’t got the foggiest idea on where to start. Year-to-Date Profit and Loss, current Balance sheet – I mean, Crystal Mountain is so small! I am at a loss on how to find those numbers. Our inventory isn’t on paper – it’s the “look on the shelf and order” method.

I wonder if it is worth taking out a micro loan just to pay some accountant to get my papers in order so I can apply for a small business loan? A loan for a loan. It sounds silly, some might say it is a plan. Naw, I think I’m conservative enough to just keep on doing business the way we have for 20 years. Anyway, I have a big faire coming up in 4 weeks and I gotta go make pretty, smelly things.