Friday, January 30, 2009

What If?

How often do you wonder what if? I think it’s human nature to wonder about the road not taken or about the outcome of an upcoming event. What if I fail? What if I succeed? Many talk about the fear of failure or success. There is definitely something to that, especially if one is rendered somewhat stagnant at the prospect of failing or succeeding. But to just wonder about it, that’s something completely different.

I wonder what if all the time. I’ve lately been faced with a new adventure and I’m wondering the usual what-if-I-fail/what-if-I-succeed thing. If I fail, I’ll be no worse off than if I hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunity presented to me. If I succeed, I could get into a situation much deeper and more demanding than I can physically and mentally handle, or I could fling myself into a whole new world of opportunities.

But did you notice how I wondered about those scenarios? If I fail I will be no worse off. If I succeed I could get into a situation … I know the outcome of failure. I can only speculate the outcome of success. When it comes time to make the actual decision which will I choose?

I’m going for speculation. I’m going to put myself outside of the comfort zone in an attempt to grow and learn. It makes me feel a little daring, to risk success.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Did You Know - Christening A Candle

Did you know there’s a proper way to burn a candle for the first time? It’s vital to the long life and even burning of the candle.

First of all, make sure the wick is trimmed to ¼”. Then, with a match or lighter, light the wick. Sure, you say, what’s so “proper” about that? What happens next is the important part – the length of time you burn it.

When lighting a candle for the first time, use the following formula:

Diameter of candle = number of hours burned

For example, if you have a candle that is three inches in diameter (my standard pillar size), the initial burn should be at least three hours. If the candle is two inches in diameter, the initial burn should be at least two hours. When you have a square candle, measure diagonally from one corner to another for diameter size.

The reason for this very important christening is that candles have a memory. As the melt pool grows, the wax around the edge of the candle softens and adds to the pool. If the candle is properly made (which mine always are, of course!) the wick is smart enough to melt just the right amount of wax per hour to allow a nice, even melt pool to the edge of the candle. Once that initial melt pool has been established, subsequent burns will follow the trail of the previous burn, to the edge of the candle.

It stands to reason if a candle is initially burned for less than the recommended amount of time the melt pool will be smaller. Subsequently, when you burn the candle again, the melt pool will grow only to the point of the initial burn. This makes for a tunnel candle where the wick is surrounded by a thick wall of hard wax. The tunnel gets deeper and deeper. Not only does this make it harder to light, especially with taller candles, the melt pool is extremely small. When the melt pool is extremely small, the candle doesn’t throw out as much aroma. The size of the melt pool will determine how wonderfully fragrant your candle is when it’s burning.

Perfect melt pool after 3 1/2 hours of burning

So get the most out of your candle by making that initial burn count. Your candle will burn down evenly and the fragrance will fill your room. With behavior like that, you’ll want to hug your candle, which we’ll talk about in another tutorial down the line.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Homekeeping Update

As you know, I’ve made it a resolution to become more in touch with my Martha Stewart side. All right, before any of you start getting the wrong idea, I use “Martha Stewart” as a metaphor – I would never claim to have a side that is actually Martha Stewart. Not that I have any against Martha Stewart…

Before this gets way off track, I’m proud to say that my attempts to make more of a routine of my homekeeping tasks has shown good results. The tidiness about the house has created a sense of calm in me. Don't start thinking I’ve gone all sappy over house work, let me just clarify that last statement by saying I fidgeted a lot today, wondering what I should do and wondering what I should be thinking of doing. There was nothing to do, and I didn’t have to think of doing anything because everything on my handy-dandy list had been done. All week I kept to the list, so by the weekend I was free to do anything I wanted. Anything! Not only that, keeping to my list (which I hope will turn into a routine that doesn’t require a list) gave me time throughout the week too. By limiting the chores I do after work, but covering everything throughout the week, I have plenty of time at the end of the day to read, watch TV, or work on projects for Auntie B’s Wax. I’ve even managed to make it to bed a little earlier on some nights, and can lay there without spinning thoughts about what I should be doing instead of attempting to get the rest I need.

It can only get better, don’t you think? It’s amazing how much better I can sleep at night knowing there aren’t any dishes in the sink.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cold January

Long underwear, top and bottom. Two pair of socks. Slippers. Cargo pants. Turtle neck with cuffs containing thumb holes, covering hands to knuckles. Old (twenty + years) pullover sweater. Another old (12 + years) cardigan sweater. This is what I’m wearing tonight, and I’m still cold. Oh, I’m not complaining, I’m actually enjoying the cold and snowy winter we’re having in Minnesota this year. It’s just that…I can’t move much. I feel like Randy in A Christmas Story – I can’t put my arms down!

The whole family came over this past weekend to celebrate my dad’s birthday. The ladies prepared an old-fashioned dinner, specifically requested by Dad, of meatloaf, potatoes, green bean casserole, and fruit salad complete with marshmallows. Of course my mom made her very popular angel food birthday cake with the best frosting, served with strawberry ice cream. Maybe it’s not so much my many layers of clothes as it is last night’s huge meal that’s making me more immobile than usual.

The evening was right out of a Norman Rockwell painting when we started playing old 78s on the Victrola and watching home movies. Do families still do things like that? If not, they should. There’s nothing liked old-fashioned family fun to warm up a cold winter night.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Treasury

How lovely! I've been included in a very special Etsy Treasury, compiled by one of my fellow Minnesota Street Team members. All of these treasures are made from members of our team. Guess the cold weather in Minnesota has been feeding our creativity!

Meet The Browns

Do you go through color phases? I had an orange phase not too long ago. Seemed all of my candles were orange, or some shade thereof. Unfortunately they didn’t sell too well, especially to those who purchase candles on the basis of the color of their décor. Oh, I know, orange brightens up any décor, but I couldn’t convince them all of it.

During my annual tidy-fest in Craft Land I did a rather in-depth inventory of things hidden in boxes on top shelves as well as the myriad of candles waiting patiently for delivery to their intended destinations. Some of those destinations haven’t been determined yet, but destined they are. I realized that I had gone through yet another color phase…brown.
There are all sorts of browns. The red browns, the purple browns, the green browns, the blue browns. Yes, there are even orange browns. I tend to lean toward the red and purple browns. And the orange browns. Brown was my thing for a while, and I have a few candles to show for it.
The browns are going to make an appearance in my shop. Check them out. Unlike orange, browns compliment most décors. Earthy and rich. And that’s not saying anything about the scents. Oooh! I can see why I had a brown phase. I’ll probably have another soon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Day

I ran an errand during my lunch break today and caught the inaugural speech. Wow. I'm not normally one with strong political opinions one way or another but President Obama is impressing me. I hope he retains this much support throughout his term.

I've seen the pictures of Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall, and it just takes my breath away. Also, as I was driving too and from my errand destination listening to the speech, I could tell other people in their cars were listening. The store I entered had the speech playing through the speakers. Everyone is ready for this. When I'm feeling particularly patriotic, I need to hear the lady herself. She's been on before and will be on again. Kate gets me all choked up every time. Today as we look at a piece of history and open the door to a great new future, get a little choked up. This is big. And it's really, really good.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Home Comforts

For me, and Auntie B’s Wax, the holiday season is officially over. Does that mean a peppermint candle won’t sell anymore? Personally, if a scent makes me happy, be it Sweet Pea or Northwoods Christmas, I’ll burn it no matter what the time of year. I bet if I’m that way, someone else is too, so I’ll continue to list candles in my shop regardless of what seems…seasonal.

It’s always a little sad when the last of the Christmas decorations are packed away. There’s a coldness about the house when it lacks all the color and twinkling lights that come with the holidays. But when the anticipation of Christmas, the entertaining and being entertained, and the sweets and sounds of the holidays disappear, the original warmth of “home” sinks in again.

I had a holiday from work today and spent my time regaining that warmth of home. I got caught up on a lot of the domestic chores that got put on the back burner for a few weeks. It feels good. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to become more organized, and to become better at homekeeping. I’ve been creating lists to follow until it all becomes routine again. (Running a business has a way of taking a routine and shaking the life out of it!)

A great resource, should you also wish to embrace the art of homekeeping, is Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. It’s a very comprehensive book covering every aspect of homekeeping. I reread the first chapter the other day to get inspired, and it worked miracles. There’s nothing like a well-kept home. If you make a priority out of a clean and cozy home life, the drudgery assigned to housework will minimize and the rest of your life will be less stressful knowing you have a well-kept abode.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cold Days Indeed

People who rely on weather conditions as a topic of conversation usually bother me, and strike me as having little character and uninteresting lives. Today I become one of those people.

It's -20 degrees today here in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. If you take the wind into consideration, it's -75 degrees. Yikes.

The people who rely on weather conditions as a topic of coversation usually have to complain about those conditions. It's too hot, too cold, too humid, too dry. I will not be one of those people.

I'm glad we're having a cold and snowy winter this year. Winter in Minnesota is supposed to be cold and snowy. It's perfect weather to snug in, light a fire in the fireplace, and bake some cookies. Sip some hot cocoa while you read a book in your favorite chair. If you really want to get warm, throw a shot of amaretto into that cocoa! Mmmm.

If you have to go outside, bundle up. This is the kind of weather that's been known to put roses in your cheeks.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Share The Pain

I'm recuperating from a root canal. I also keep forgetting to order the fragrance oil.

What's causing you pain today?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Light Your Way

Afraid of the dark? Me neither. But completely dark rooms at night bother me. I feel there should be some light in all rooms during the evening hours. I love the dark and loathe bright lights. There’s a word for the lighting I prefer…dim. Light enough to see, but not so much to be garish and blinding. Dark enough to be calming, but enough light to see the entire room.

Of course if you have a household income like mine, you can’t just go through life burning all the lamps in your house during the evening hours. Wouldn’t you know I solve the dark room/bright room dilemma with candles. They’re the perfect solution. During the winter months of Minnesota it gets dark around 5:00 p.m. We do a lot of moving around the house during the evening hours, but spend most of our time on one level of the house. Not only that, the rumpus room and kitchen are located toward the back of the house, leaving the front of the house, the rooms that face the street, fairly unoccupied. These rooms don’t deserve full lighting, but as they’re seen from the street they should be illuminated somewhat. Ta da! Candles. Not only will keeping the electric lights off save some money, the rooms are surprisingly illuminated. Bathrooms are also good places to keep a candle burning during the darker hours of the day. The flame is bright enough (for me, at least) to take care of business without having to flip the light switch. A small pillar burning in the kitchen will not only make it cozy, it will also stave off the odors produced by cooking the evening meal.

I don’t recommend using candles as night lights while you’re asleep, of course. You should never leave candles unattended. But during the dark winter evenings, between your busy work day and slumber, warm up your house with a grouping of votives in that little nook or a taper or two on the dining room table. My favorite place for a candle is on the landing of our stairway. It lights the way up the stairs to the bedroom much more pleasantly than the hallway overhead light. I light it when I come home from work in the afternoon and blow it out on my way to bed. Of course there are electric lights on in my house, but for those dark corners and unoccupied rooms, there’s nothing better than a little flicker of a candle to light your way. Try it sometime.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Warm Thoughts

Is it Spring yet? Being in the business of retail mixes up my mental calendar, but I think I’m getting the hang of it once and for all. It’s January, so I have to start thinking about Easter. At Easter I have to start thinking about Halloween. And between Easter and Halloween I have to start thinking about Christmas. It’s like I get to live all the seasons and holidays twice!

The thing is, at the beginning of the year, after the entertaining and celebration of the Christmas season it’s hard to think of the Easter Bunny right away. How do I get in the spirit of tulips and pastel eggs when it’s 10 degrees and snowing outside? Alas, this coming weekend I must wrap my head around it. Shall I begin with little egg-shaped, pastel-colored votive candles? Maybe I can try my hand at a garden-themed hurricane shell. Little pom-pom chicks? Decoupage? The possibilities are endless. That’s part of the problem. Where do I begin?!

In the next couple of days I have go to through the salvaged pages of The Great Recycling project and get some more ideas. I’ll also have to organize those pages.

There’s a wonderful new accordion file waiting to be filled with wonderful crafts, recipes, and home decorating ideas. The year is just beginning.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Great Recycling Project

The Great Recycling Project continues. I’ve been finding little piles of magazines all around the house and am trying to whittle down their number. I’m going through each and every one of them page by page determining what articles, pictures, ideas I want to keep, and what can go into the recycling bin.

The pages I want to save are cut out somewhat carefully with a little Exacto knife. Multiple-page articles and instructions are stapled together. For now the project serves as a purging of space-consuming magazines and catalogs.

Next I figure out a way to neaten the “keeper” pages, those recipes, decorating ideas, and craft projects that appeal to me.

It seems with the beginning of every year I resolve to be more organized. To find the time to do everything I want. Will I be able to play the piano more this year? Will I be able to cook more? Entertain more? Keep a cleaner house? Grow my business? Redecorate a room or two? Read more books? Read more magazines?

My resolution begins this year with the magazines. I’ve already cleaned out about four year’s worth stored in a tub down in my studio. I now use that tub to store miscellaneous craft supplies, which in turn makes more space on the shelves to fill with new projects.

I also resolve to make better use of my Outlook Tasks page and my planner. Lists are an anal-retentive’s best friend. And oh, the lists I’ve created! Now to view these lists as things I must actually do in the time allotted, instead of seeing them as mere suggestions.

Little by little. One attempt at organization leads to another. Pretty soon even my closets will be in order. There will be a place for everything, and everything will be in its place. The clutter will be eliminated and order will become my most productive asset.

It all just sounds so dreamy…

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


As joyous as Christmastime was for me there were times when I forgot to be jolly and let the shortcomings of others bother me. Simply being bothered wasn’t enough, of course, and I let some of these actions grate on me and take away from what was really important. Don’t you just hate when that happens? The moments didn’t last too long, but longer than I cared for.

I’ve learned that focusing on the shortcomings of others is merely a demented way to feel better about oneself. I know someone who uses a blog to complain. And complain. And then complain some more. Nothing is as she would have it. Her husband isn’t as available as she would like him to be. Her children don’t behave as she would have them behave. She focuses on her losses rather than counting her blessings. Why would one read such a blog? I’m not really sure why I do, except that it serves as an example of how not to be.

If you’re looking for some hope, some happiness, some example of celebrating life simply because it’s there for the taking, check out this little video. It’s an example of how to be. It’s also an example of how pure silliness and joy is contagious. Celebrate life. It’s just too short to spend dwelling on the negative. Oh, and while you’re at it, do a little dance. It will make you smile.

To view the hi-def version, click here. Thanks, Matt.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year, 2009

Time to clean up the side bar and wait patiently for the new edition of Midwest Art Fairs. I look forward to the arrival of this publication to find new venues at which to show my wares. The new year promises a new schedule for me. Midwest Art Fairs is also a great reference for those of you who want to visit the many art/craft shows occurring in the five-state area.

The past year was a good one for me, not only in a business sense, but also personally. The two realms have become intermingled much more this past year. I’ve met some wonderful fellow-vendors at shows, had a great time meeting new customers, jumped into internet sales, and fostered existing relationships with return customers, both retail and wholesale. My little cottage industry has become such an important part of my life as a whole it’s hard to separate it from “personal.” All of the new experiences and the people I relate with with have helped me become more of the person I want to be, and for that I am grateful.

So on we go. I think many of us are looking forward to the changes in store for us in 2009. It’s going to be a great year.
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