Cozy Cottage/Rustic Decor' Ideas, Mountain Aspen Glow, Uncategorized

The Beginnings and Evolution of a Home-Based Business

A Lady Worth Emulating

A few years ago, after I was no longer raising kids, or employed in any way outside the home, I asked myself what I’ve always wanted to do when I didn’t have the majority of my time defined for me each day.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved what I did during those years! But time changes things, and I found myself in a new season of life.

I thought of the times I had read Proverbs chapter 31 and how impressed I was with the woman described there! She was home-based and thoroughly committed to her family and her home, yet she was not just”the happy homemaker” whose skills didn’t stretch beyond making cookies (although I’m sure she could make a mean batch of cookies in whatever form of stove she had!)

But no, it didn’t stop there. She was an astute business woman, and a compassionate and generous person in her community. I wanted to be like her.

“She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands”  OK, thought I, she’s a sew-er. I like to sew. I’ve been sewing ever since my 7th grade sewing class. So I started an etsy shop, made table runners, and used some of the photography skill that I had recently developed to display them. The shop was then entitled “Bev’s Table Creations”  Etsy has about two million sellers, and it seemed when I looked at the shops that sold runners, there had to be thousands of table runners! I didn’t expect to get anywhere fast.

But the first week, my phone went “cha-ching” (the sound of a cash register indicating an etsy sale). You’re kidding! I was incredulous! I sold a runner! But being such an unbeliever, it turns out that I didn’t have enough fabric to fill the order. So off my husband and I drove to Denver, three hours total there and back, to get the fabric I needed since the fabric store in my town was out. We spent way more money on gas than we made on that runner. But from then on, I was well-stocked and ready to go.

download.pngAnd much to my amazement, my runners sold and sold. It turns out women love to have seasonal table runners for special occasions. And when I started making reversible runners, with ,say, Thanksgiving on one side and Christmas on the other. The orders got hard to keep up with.

But guess what. Sewing has always been fun for me but when it became such full time work, I knew that I didn’t want to do this long term.

But I did loooove being an entrepreneur. And that was the spirit of the Proverbs 31 woman. It didn’t have to take the specific form of sewing.

The Challenge That Started Everything

Now Mike, being fully immersed in his corporate job, had no intention of doing entrepreneur work. But I asked him if he would consider making something out of wood for the shop to expand the potential a bit.

Little did I know that latent within this man who had pretty much never done any woodworking in his life, lay undiscovered giftedness!

OK, this is a blog, not a book. So fast forward. Bev’s Table Creations is now Rocky Mountain Glow, with wood products being the main attraction of the shop. And Mike, it turns out, like Michelangelo who said he could “see” David in the stone before he sculpted it, Mike is able to “see” lamps, candles, and other awesome wood items in a random wood log, and make it into something beautiful!

SONY DSCWe knew we were on to something when we got an order for 16 centerpieces comprised of Mike’s awesome candles and a little decorating handiwork on my part, to be used at the Broadmoor Hotel. “Hey, people really like this stuff,” we commented to each other.

An Unexpected Inspiration

Then I did something kind of weird. I signed up for a class at the local senior center. I had never done so before. It was a wood burning class. I expected to be surrounded by feeble classmates barely able to hold the hot iron. But much to my amazement, I was instead surrounded by very talented, gifted, and able artists! And I learned much from them and from the teacher.

DSC06099ed.jpgI was however disappointed when I and one other woman in the class who were the only newbies had to work the entire 6 weeks on an ugly “tree spirit” rather than on the cute little squirrel that the others got to work on.

But as it turned out, learning to shade and color leaves would be a valuable part of our business in the future, but I had no idea of that at the time.

Not only that, but a group of the men in the class were into making walking sticks because wood carving was also among their areas of expertise, and they, along with the teacher, would go out with a pick up truck and gather wood for sticks.

I listened carefully to their conversations, as if a fly on the wall, and brought it all together as an idea for our shop. What if we made customized walking sticks with wood-burned names and designs?

Long story short, these sticks have become our best sellers. I also do some wood burning on lamps.

Fun Work Improvements

So the final part of our story I would like to share is the improvements we recently made in Mike’s working conditions. I have a lovely workshop in our lower level, where I even have a little kiln for making fused glass jewelry, as well as all my other endeavors.

But Mike has worked in a corner of our garage and outside sanding in wind, cold, heat, and snow.

I should mention that during the past year or so, Mike has come to love this work as much as I do, and when retirement comes upon us, we’re going for it full time.  Wait! I thought retirement was for stopping work. That’s not how we see it. We’ve only just begun!

Mike says he finds that the time flies by when he is doing wood working, and that it is therapeutic for both body and soul. Remember the Proverbs 31 woman who “works with eager hands’? both Mike and I find that we love this work!

Back to the point, Mike needed some improvements in his working conditions if this thing was going to be long term.

He also has been using mainly hand tools. That’s nice for home projects, but our sales have doubled since this time last year, and we need to keep up with the pace.

With a little coaxing (Mike is always slower to spend money on anything than I), we both agreed that we need to invest in some things that make our (especially his) work “faster and easier,” which has become our theme for the year.

The first thing we did was to get a small chain saw. We had been sawing down our “standing dead” aspen with a hand saw (and after a while I pooped out because it was just too hard) but now we can zoom through the forest finding the dead wood that we need. Yes, we have permission to do this. It is legal to take dead wood from the national forests as long as it is not to large and not too much.

The next thing we did was to purchase an awesome Sunset shed for a workshop for Mike. How fun it has been to get it ready.

Our son Ricky came over to help Mike put in the electrical stuff needed to have power. Mike did the digging and wiring outside and Ricky did the wiring inside.

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And now we have room to roam…room for such items as this band saw, which among many other features, is able to make these wood slices…something which used to take a huge amount of time and energy. But now…it cuts like butter.

 

Rocky Mountain Glow may or may not become a super thriving business. But one thing is for sure, we’re having a lot of fun giving it a go!

rockymountainglow.etsy.com

Mountain Aspen Glow, Mountain Hikes and Adventures, Uncategorized

The Best Place for an All-Day Picnic in Colorado (in our opinion)

Pine Valley Ranch Park is a not-so-well known gem that Mike and I stumbled upon a couple years ago. If you’re looking for one of Colorado’s grand hikes, no…it’s not that. For one thing it is surrounded by the burn of the Hayman fire of 2002, which was the largest wildfire of Colorado’s recorded history. In every direction you can see the scorched remains of trees. But it is as if God set a boundary that this gorgeous little area would not be burned.

Although it is not a great super hiking place, the short stroll-like hikes are fabulous. There is a level natural river walk that Mike and I think is the best river walk ever, and we have walked along a lot of rivers! The North Fork of the South Platte River runs through the park. I should say roars through the park! Love this inspiring walk before lunch. Take a look at the very short video above of the roaring river 🙂

IMG_2433edThe picnic area is idyllic. Surrounded by large and shady pines, the river is just a stone’s throw away.  I love to go wading in the river while Mike cooks, (Today we had hamburgers cooked in a fry pan on the camp stove. Usually we have grilled chicken) The water is icy, and I mean icy from the melting snow from whence it originated.

 

IMG_2438edMike takes his own kind of leisure while the food cooks, although today in addition to his chair lounging, I actually got him to join me in the river for the first time.

We were there on a Saturday in the middle of the summer on a gorgeous day, and yet we were joined only by two families in the tables by the river. Lots of kids, but happy sounds of memories being made!

IMG_2460edAfter lunch we lounged with a Bible and  a couple good books just for a while, sharing our favorite parts and watching Old Man River amble by.

 

 

 

IMG_2462edWe couldn’t leave without saying hi to the sparkling lake which is a pleasant little hike away. The ducks, the sun highlighting the ripply water, the green meadows and wildflowers, and the majestic hills in the background made us not want to leave.

We go on lots of day trips and about some we say, “that was nice, but once was enough.” But not so Pine Valley. We plan to go at least once a year as long as we are able.

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Hiking Jewelry

I like to hike and I like to wear jewelry. Some jewelry doesn’t work, at least not for me. For example, I find that necklaces with metal chains, when I get sweaty, begin to chafe and feel uncomfortable. And some earrings may not feel heavy for “city life,” but when you have hiked a mountain for 3 or 4 miles, you can begin to feel them pulling on your ear with every step!

 

And so I have created some hiking jewelry that I sell on our etsy shop Rocky Mountain Glow.  The sparkling glass pendants have cotton cords, and the earrings are light and always have 100% sterling silver ear wires. I don’t like to have harmful metals leaching into my body through my earrings when I’m hot and sweaty, and I’m sure you don’t either!

Speaking of hiking, I have some pretty cool blogs on rockymountainglow.com about our hiking adventures where we live in Colorado. Check it out:

mountain hikes and adventures

 

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When All Else Fails, Take a Bath…

 

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Sometimes, my muscles ache, my head is tight, I feel tense all over. When that happens there is only one thing to do…take a very warm, almost hot, bath.

I call it my “think tank,” because there I am finally quiet with my own thoughts. No one is telling me what to think; no news is alarming my mind; I can pray. I can ponder. I can close my eyes and melt into the calming warmth.

I don’t like just plain water. I have some favorite things that I put into the bath. We sell these things on our Rocky Mountain Glow shop, but I can honestly tell you that no matter if we sell them or not, I think I shall always use these products, because I am most literally addicted to them!

Oatmeal Bath with Scoop
Cleopatra is said to have taken milk baths for her skin, I believe it!

The first is my oatmeal milk bath.  It is finely ground oatmeal with powdered milk, and yummy-smelling essential oils. I usually use orange, vanilla, and peppermint. Quite a combination that makes you close your eyes and breath it in deeply because it just smells so good.  And oatmeal is well know for getting rid of the “itchies.”

I usually add to the bath a glob of coconut oil along with this powder for extra moisturizing.

 

Goat Milk Soap

I am also addicted to goat milk soap. To be honest, I started making it to sell it, and we do sell it. But as long as the ingredients are available, I will never stop using this soap! It is creamy-dreamy and moisturizing.  I make a wide variety of “flavors,” combining essential oils to keep it interesting.

 

I love layered soap with one scent on one side and another on the other side. It may sound strange, but I have begun washing my hair with this soap. When I use a bit of conditioner with it, I have really loved the results.  Unlike most shampoos, it doesn’t strip the hair of natural oils, just gently cleans and leaves hair shiny and healthy.

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So, before I leave the subject of the bath, I’ll share two of my favorite bath secrets. One is Bach for the Bath, the most wonderful music ever to soak in the tub! I never get tired of it.

 

The other thing I love to do is to make the bath steamy and to contrast the warmth with a cracked window, yes even in Colorado in winter! The cool breeze and the hot bath feels wonderful. At least I think so.

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“Beauty Soap”? Really?! (Here’s what I learned from the “Grand Soap Experiment.”)

I’m sitting here with all the windows and doors open, in Colorado, in the middle of December, at 4:30 p.m. after the sun has gone down. Why? Because I just preformed the “grand soap experiment” and my whole house smells like an industrial explosion has occurred.

Let me back up:

This past year I started making soap. Well, actually, before I apply all my ingredients, I use a soap base made by a company that is committed to health. It melts down to a cream, dreamy consistency (and the goat milk just adds to the creaminess), and keeps that quality when it firms up as usable soap.

Being so impressed with this soap, (after all, when I make it I am tempted to lick the spoon!) but being so impressed, I decided to melt down a couple of store-bought soap bars I had around the house,  a popular bar of “soap for sensitive skin”, and a bar of  Lavender “beauty soap,” also a popular brand, to see if they too would melted into creamy wonderfulness.

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Pouring glycerin-rich soap

 

So first I melted down the soap I make. Luxuriously creamy. Wonderfully fragrant with natural essential oils, in this case, lavender.

 

 

 

Then I melted down the sensitive skin store soap bar. Well, I should say, I tried to melt it down! It wouldn’t melt, but kind of exploded into a powder-like substance that smelled like an industrial chemical plant and if it were just a little drier, would greatly resemble laundry detergent. And that’s supposed to be one of the most gentle soaps for skin! Then I tried the lavender beauty bar soap. But after it was in the microwave for about a minute, it smoked so badly that I stopped it half way, fearing that something really bad might happen if I left it in there.

 

So why didn’t the store-bought bars melt? They didn’t melt because, technically, they aren’t really soap! Here’s an excerpt from an article from More Than Enough blog:

Here’s the scoop. Commercially made beauty bars are made with synthetic detergents and the precious glycerin is stripped out. Manufacturers sell the glycerin, or use it in higher price point items. Think fancy moisturizers and serums. The resulting soap bar is a harsh bar of detergent. It strips skin of its precious moisture and oils, creating dry skin. Now you have to use lotion to help soothe and restore the moisture balance of your skin. What a vicious cycle! These bars will often crack as they dry out (another indication of the effects they have on your skin!) and often will not last as long as a natural soap bar.

Why apply harsh detergent to our skin, which in many cases is already dry, when creamy, moisture-giving soaps are available?

If you are looking for real beauty soaps, try genuine soaps that contain glycerin. Glycerin literally grabs moisture out of the air, and when it is applied to our skin, does the same…makes our skin full of moisture. It is glycerin and the wonderful oils found in good soaps that make it fit for humans, as opposed to fit for a basket full of laundry!

Visit this page on my blog to see Mountain Bubble soaps.

OR

Visit rockymountainglow.etsy.com to see our shop, including our soaps!

(FYI. Cold process soaps, that is, soaps made entirely from scratch, also contain glycerin and also melt, although in a little different way than melt and pour soaps.)

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Lavender Shouts For Attention!

I personally have a love-hate relationship with lavender. I remember reading a book on essential oils and the author shared that she had worn lavender oil on a plane. She heard the man in back of her ask his wife, “Do you smell bug spray?” I had to chuckle, because I knew exactly what he meant 🙂 It can be quite poignant.

On the other hand, I find that I can’t seem to resist using it, at least in small doses. I don’t use some of the essential oils in my soaps, simply because I don’t like the scent, but I just can’t exclude lavender, and in fact, some of the lavender soaps are my very favorites (much to my surprise)! I think that soap is an ideal way to bring out the best qualities of lavender because the creaminess of the soap absorbs and mellows it out a bit, and also the scent has contact with the skin, but a good deal of it is washed off, leaving only a hint of the fresh and intriguing fragrance that so many love.

So yes, I use my lavender soap, enjoying its invigorating qualities. And I know there are many who love the fragrance of lavender full-on and powerful. But I’m just sharing my preference.

At any rate, lavender deserves to be a featured blog…its history, its sources, its world-wide intrigue. I could write pages about this little flower that has caused such a stir for so long, but in the spirit of brevity, I’ll share a few of my favorite findings.

History of Lavender

lavenderLavender is a flowering plant of the mint family. It is gorgeous purple (my favorite color!) and its uses seem to be countless! Some make a connection between spike-lavender of the lavender family and spikenard, mentioned in the Bible in the Song of Songs and in the gospels where Mary anoints the feet of Jesus before His death. But others say that spikenard is exclusively of the family of Valerina officinalsis. My study won’t take me deep enough to figure all that out, but it is an interesting possibility that lavender is related to the spikenard mentioned in the Bible.

Lavender derives its name from the Latin ‘lavare’ meaning ‘to wash” (think “lavatory”). The Romans used Lavender to scent their baths, beds, clothes and even hair. They also discovered its medicinal properties.

Today Lavender continues to be cultivated across its countries of origin as well as Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North and South America. Its widespread presence is understandable due to its beautiful flowers, its alluring scent and its extensive uses.

In fact, Washington state holds a huge lavender festival each year called The Sequim Lavender Festival. Check it out!

Fir Branch and Lavender, a Special Soap

1200px-SANJUANMTNSplacesoap_edited-1I am an out-of-doors lover! There’s plenty of opportunity here in Colorado where we live, to smell the fragrance of fresh fir trees, and wild flowers. And although lavender is not real common in most places in Colorado, lavender scent makes me think of fresh air filled with the scent of wild flowers!

And so this soap was created for the woman who craves to be walking through a forest filled with firs and a meadow graced with fragrant flowers.

This is a layer soap, one side being the color of fresh firs and scented with fir needle essential oil, and the other side being a lavender color and scented with, you guessed it, lavender essential oil.

To see other awesome soaps, go to rockymountainglow.etsy.com 🙂