Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Our New One-Eared Cat: Yack the Black Tail. Adventures in Stray Adoption.

Our household now has two cats! Marianne (my roommate) named him Meow but I call him Squeak, Squeaker or Yack because he has a raspy barely-there meow from talking too much, according to the Vet. AJ call him "Black Tail".

Black tail fits because he's a raggedy pirate cat.

We let him in one rainy day when he came meowing to our door. He's missing half his right ear, he had fleas, flea allergies, and a hole in his paw. He's also missing a lot of his teeth.

He was aged between 7-9. You can tell he's been through a lot in his life.

Yack is mostly mild-mannered except when it comes to food. He begs for it all day! If you leave food alone for a moment he will swipe it up in his mostly toothless jaws in a moment and chow down! The vet says this is from his rough life outdoors. He never knew when he was going to eat again so he's always searching for food. We may never train that opportunistic eating out of him.

The photo above is a rare example of Yuko and Yack actually being near each other peacefully, Yuko's still territorial and fighting with him a couple of months later. Regardless of the adjustments, I feel good that Yack's off the streets and being fed and watered regularly. If anyone has tips on getting two cats acclimatized to each other or abating the hunger of a forever-ravenous cat, let me know!
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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What I've Learned the Hard Way - Focus on Self-Care: Rituals for Health and Wellness

We've been selling our natural body care wares since 2015! I dove into herbalism study starting late December ‘14 during a difficult, transitional period in my life. A couple of years (and certifications in Clinical Herbalism, Medical Aromatherapy, Reiki, and much more along the way) we turned our frequent pop-ups into a local brick&mortar and online store!

Along the way I learned, more than ever, personally and via our customers, how important self-care is in our busy, modern, stressful world.

My self-care drawer with essential oils, gemstones, incense, sage, palo santo, resins, taort cards & items from my reiki class

In fact, self-care was everything they needed. It is now the cornerstone of my business.

When customers and visitors smell our essential oils infused oils, inhalers, soaps and incenses I watch them light up. They smile, they’re transported. For a moment they forget the stresses in their lives. Work, family, kids, bosses, money, it all melts away.

Our number one selling product* is our anxiety essential oil inhaler, infused with antidepressant may chang essential oil. The tiny molecules cross the blood-brain barrier and are processed by the limbic system quickly, I watch people instantly perk-up. (And yes, when things are tough with the business, I want to walk around with our anxiety inhaler shoved up my nose! I advise people not to do that!)
(*Our deodorant & charcoal tooth scrub is also popular! Triple tie?)

Running a store can be stressful. Running one where you HAND CREATE, design, label, and bottle all the merchandise inside (though I pay my mom and eldest niece to help me, thank you mom for your beautiful soap, bath bomb, and bug spray formulations) is LUDICROUS. I’ve learned the hard, painful way, why people tend to order the stuff for their store instead of making it themselves. There were too many 3am to 4am nights stuck working for me early on. And this is when I learned the hard way to re-embrace self-care rituals; not just encouraging this for others, but healing myself.

When I worked in an office as a copywriter I had a favorite work ritual. I got up early enough to beat (most) of the traffic and was the first person to get to the office. The lights were off, the office was zen and peaceful without the hustle and bustle of my coworkers. I used the porcelain Japanese tea set in my cubicle (on a silver, tray, even!) to make a delicious tea and sipped that while checking e-mails and writing, easing into the day.

The quiet time with my tea was healing.

Self-care rituals are as simple or involved as you want them to be. It’s burning sage and journaling before or after work, taking a hot bath with your favorite bath bomb or making sure you have regular spa, yoga, or friend hangout days scheduled.

When you take the time for Self-Care you life transforms. There will still be problems or stressors, but you will handle them better. You’ll be happier when you're working smarter and not harder, and MUCH more productive, ironically! When you get to a certain level with your Self-Care you’ll feel like you’re floating, not walking around. Yes, without drugs! Ha!

Get your tea mugs and journals ready and start mapping out some free time for self-care. I’m excited to share that bounty of self-care information with you.

I’ve spent a lot of this year behind-the-scenes writing loads of informative posts on how to use herbs and essential oils for healing. These are informative and scientific posts like what type of incenses to use to calm your nervous system (herbal classification: nervines). They’re posts on easy rituals to incorporate into your life that heal your body and soul.

Come back to read them. Treat yourself to self-care. You deserve it.
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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why I'm Grateful we Started Our Retail Store the Broke No-Money Way

We started our retail store without a bunch of money in the bank, and I'm so grateful we did. Hell, the first half-year in I wish we'd have spent even less!

In The Seven Laws of Money, Michael Phillips writes about his experience giving grants. He noted churches, nonprofits, businesses and organizations that received them more often that not, failed. He learned from it and didn't give grants to beginners anymore. Instead he gave them advice: grow your audience first. You need a following, your buyers, your people, to grow.

Your loyal followers will keep you in business, not start-up money. You have to go out there and find them. My copy of the book was from 1974 but the same principles apply. Now we have social media to help us find thousands of followers easier than ever before.

98% of our store's retail displays were free or from my apartment. It's FAR from my intended vision for the store but It still earns us hundreds and let's us grow so we can replace everything with our dream retail displays down the road.

Furthermore, especially as a beginner, if you have the money, you're more likely to spend it on non-essentials. And probably on things you don't absolutely need. But when you're a lean small business without that capital you're going to learn to spend on only what you need. You'll retain those lessons, remaining a smart business spender even when your business has more capital to play with.

About five years ago I got a check in the mail for $15,000 to start a vintage retail store with a couple of friends. The check bounced when my investor ran into trouble with the IRS. I'm confident we'd have squandered those thousands on non-essentials as overwhelmed 20-something creatives with ample talent but insufficient business smarts, just liked Phillips describes in his book. I'm grateful for our slow, low-cost start-up, it's already paying off beautifully and giving us room to keep growing!

Being broke doesn't have to be a curse. Sometimes it's your biggest advantage as a new business owner.
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Monday, July 17, 2017

I'm Selling Nearly All My Stuff! And it's Bringing Back my Creativity and Main Missions

This year it's been challenging to stay creative outside of my store and product line. Every ounce of my energy went into infrastructure work; accounting, inventory, employee training, etc. This is ON TOP of formulating and bottling our product, graphic design, web work, labeling, marketing and merchandising.

This exhausted me creatively. Blog posts slowed. I went from taking daily photos to hiding my DSLR for months. Before my new business took off I was setting up professional online shops for others. I LOVE crafting beautiful shops for creatives, but it wasn't until later that I realized this meant my well of creativity was bone dry before I even opened my shop.

Nearly everything I own outside of clothing and work stuff is stored in this credenza, which will also be sold!

We're getting more caught-up, thankfully! Yet when I decided to move production back to my apartment I was forced the face the truth, while juggling business tasks I'd let my supplies get horribly cluttered.  I gave myself some time on July fourth to put my business supplies away KonMari method style. I did a swift KonMari method run of the whole house taking the longest time on my work stuff, putting hundreds of bottles and labels away neatly and accessibly.

Getting organized the KonMari way felt so amazing, as it always does, that I started devouring more media on minimalism. Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism named after the book of the same name was so compelling I went out (using money I earned recently selling a table I'd sold, haha) to buy the book immediately! I consider it the spiritual successor to Marie Kondo's famous books on the KonMari method. It's for those who want to take minimalism to another level, to challenge themselves mentally and spiritually to live a life without extra Stuff.

In the upper left of the photo above is a pile of stuff I'm going to sell. I'm finally ready to sell a lot of paintings and extra bits I've been hanging on to. It feels so light and amazing to be taking another step toward being the type of minimalist I've wanted to be since my office job days, when my apartment was FULL of collections and that extreme-minimalist life felt like an impossible pipe dream.

Just a few things I took out of the apartment today. Some store stuff, some donations.

A couple of the lines in the book that really stood out to be was about how much stimuli was have to process since ancient times. Our brains are bombarded with more data in ONE DAY than people in the 1600s would process in a YEAR. Furthermore, our brain's "hardware" is 50,000 years old. It hasn't updated in the slightest to deal with modern society which bombards us with ads and information at every turn.

I identify, and most artists who look up the stats would too, as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). It means I'm very easily overstimulated. For example, if I'm excited about something that will happen the next day I won't sleep no matter how many tinctures herbs, and melatonin pills I take; damn my nerves! Having as little stimuli in my apartment (and it's related maintenance) as possible is healing to my easily-stimulated body.

The reduction of that clutter has been WONDERFUL for clearing that extra data (every object is a thing to deal with eventually) and getting my overdrawn creativity back.

Colorful Photos of my previous apartment 2010-2012ish

I used to use my things as a sense of comfort and identity. Things like my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster above, from my Italian childhood, bought a lot of happiness not just to me but visitors.

In fact my artsy-reseller's pad full of cool-stuff was kind of infamous, here it is above being used for a photoshoot at the request of a local rapper. It felt good to make visitors, locals, and thousands of readers around the world happy with my colorful home! Of course, it inspired me, too.

Photo from me packing to move to my current apartment.

But this all came at the high price of LIVING among it. Always trying to find the best means of storage. Spoiler: I never did find a good means of storage.

When it came to moving time! Holy hell I had a LOT OF STUFF in both merchandise and personal possessions to drag to a new apartment. That was hell. Boxes and moving stuff from place to place would be part of my life for the next few years.

Years of selling off merchandise and then my personal possessions later, this little pile at my apartment represents the LAST time I have to have a mass sale/exodus of Stuff. I'm looking forward to this new era of minimal living with less stress! So if there's something you've had your eye on in my apartment (I've gotten e-mails over the years trying to buy stuff from my photos) drop me a line, it's probably available. Why yes, so is that cuttlefish anatomy poster, and other childhood treasures I'm finally ready to release.

I have many posts to come with details on this new adventure. The weight being lifted is transcendent.

Then when it's all gone I'm looking forward to working, creating and living simply knowing that releasing the past has ALWAYS, almost mystically, bought me even better shining new opportunities.
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

MODify: Should I "Destroy" This Vintage Pendant Lamp? What Do You Think? Halp!

Have you ever found something 2nd hand that you want to destroy, yet feel guilty about it? I'm at that cross road with this lovely vintage pendant lamp I found at the thrift store. Remove the orange and purple beads and you have exactly what I was looking for!

I was driving home fully intending to immediately get to work destroying it but then it hit me, this was clearly made for a little girl's room in the 70s and in a particular space it would look REALLY good just like it is.

It also already had a black light in it which looks really good with the orange and purple!

What do you think? Should I transform it into the lamp I need or sell it to someone who wants to preserve its beauty as-is?

Update: I was kindly informed via Facebook that this is a lawnware light meant for outdoors/RV use. You can see it on the bottom of this listing but mine has holes on the bottom that cut off the name. That would explain why it's plastic! You can see different unique patterns on these when you look them up online.
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Friday, June 23, 2017

Our Tour of Cassadaga, Florida: The Peaceful Spiritualist Camp of the South


Cassadaga Florida is a 122 community of spiritualists and spiritual-minded people. The town is full of mediums, tarot readers, mediums-in-training, and other reiki and esoteric healing practitioners. We finally made it down a couple of weeks ago and it didn't disappoint!

On this visit we went down for the city tour and learned some history and insider information on the tiny city/community (it contains only 55 residences!) Their main book and gift store was beautiful and filled with too many healing decks, gemstones, and herbal goods I'd like to try.

Of course there were many areas for meditation and relaxation. All with retro 60s-70s hand painted signs, I loved those!

I just knew the city would have good vibrations, but wow, I wasn't expecting the peace and quiet of this place. Because of its age it was like going back in time to an old Florida city. Just look at this silent uncluttered street! My shop and apartment are in busy, loud areas so I appreciated that calm and silence.

I liked how this old house had curtains and big gold buddha statue.

And this gorgeous memorial.

Another memorial from a story of a girl who said she was visited by spirits. This was carved with a chainsaw by a talented resident.

And I had to throw in this old unoccupied house...with asbestos siding! Aaah!

The mediums and healers had their own unique signs. There are also TONS of classes and activities going on all the time! There's something practically every day.

The sign by their large park, lake, and relaxing gazebo. Lots of peaceful places to sit here. I wish I could have a week to chill under those trees to chill, read, and write in my notebook.

This is their spiritualist temple where they host a mass of sorts and do prayers and healing.

It's rather conventional inside with historical items behind class for visitors and framed pictures of famous people in the movement. There's a lot of famous spiritualists, who knew? Cassadaga is also where I learned the my lifetime favorite flower, the sunflower, is the universal symbol for spiritualists and spiritualism. It's used liberally throughout Cassadaga.

Curious and curiouser, let's see how deep this rabbit hole goes! We were taken to a tiny room on the right side of the church.

Open a door in the little room and that's where seances are performed! I'll skip that one, thank you, I didn't even walk inside. Even if it was allowed, there's some risks I won't take for now. No bad luck spirits following me around please, life is hard enough as it is! >:D

There are a couple more little physic shops, the nice ladies at this one invited my business back to sell natural goodies at their Fairy Faire!

When we do go back for it we'll stay at the "haunted" Cassadaga Hotel and do some other activities.

I'll take some classes and enjoy some peace while there, too!

My mom got a tarot reading at this spot and was very impressed with the reader's use of a plain deck of cards, which was the way her mom used to do tarot readings. She felt like it was very accurate. He even said something about my business looking up for August which according to our data reflects reality. Whether coincidence or not, these are always fun novelties. :)

You gotta love the street names! I'm actually taking my neice and mom back tonight for their butterfly release after I finish some work at the store. If you're ever in Florida and love new age healing, spiritualism, peaceful history or just novelty and kitsch definitely check out Cassadaga! 
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Thrift Finds 2017: Mid Century and Groovy 60s-70s Furniture and New Age Accessories

Like a former alcoholic has to stay away from the bars, I still don't do a lot of thrifting these days. It's too easy to impulse buy or think "I can sell this!" - former reseller woes! Yet I do want to ease my way back in to 2nd hand shopping. I'm at the point where we actually do need a few things to wear and use at home and our store! Here are some awesome scores that stuck to my core needs/wish list from the first half of the year!

Mid Century Modern hutch? Credenza?

This one was a total impulse I picked up right when we were painting and settling into our store. I thought it would make a nice check out desk but once we got it upstairs into our apartment is stayed there! I use it to hold books and craft supplies and thought the top part would make a nice bar when we have gatherings.

Wicker Chair

I found this light wicker chair at a yard sale. I use it behind my desk at the shop and my counselor friend that rents our store's second room (pictured above) uses it for her appointments. Dream score, I've been wanting one for years. I grew up with a couple of these with maroon and sky blue pillows, haha.

Coffee Table

This little coffee table was at the same yard sale. I believe it's handmade? Again I enjoyed the small size, perfect to add homeyness to our shop's class / creation space. I paid under $10 for both! I liked how they were so small and light that the fit in my compact car easily. I move furniture a lot so small pieces appeal to me.

1960s-70s Zodiac Crystal Ball

I paid more for this one 2nd hand than I normally would but it was such a neat piece. Perfect for someone who keeps going down the esoteric rabbit hole. It makes a fun photo or market prop. I didn't realize until I turned the store lights out, but it glows in the dark, too!

I'm totally willing to sell this one for the right price if anyone HAS to have it. If not if I take Tarot reading on the road with us and our natural body care goods, it would be the perfect thing to have on my table ;)

Orange Shag Rug

The shining fibers of this rug are so beautiful in-person, it's hard to capture on camera. There's a mix of colors giving it a neat multi-faceted affect, you move them and they shine like goldfish scales in the light. I bought this one from my friend Lia and we love sitting on it in the shop's 2nd room. I wanted it to live at home but my cat WILL destroy it, guaranteed. Anyway, it's nice to have something luxurious and textured in the room. It's the "high" to the rest of the room's "low" and just makes it so cozy.

I also found some miscellaneous bags and accessories I thought I was going to sell but I'm going  to donate them. I would go back and forth on turning my store's second room into a vintage clothing and accessories section but I MUST focus on selling one solid successful business so I can just have time to explore and live! No more vintage selling for now, dammit! Unless it's something extra unique and beautiful to keep and use. :) I also did some shopping for vintage clothing which I wanted to collect because fast-fashion falls apart instantly and I hate it, and ironically, the pretty 70s top I had unraveled completely upon first wear. Come on vintage, you're supposed to be worth investing in!

Have you been second-hand shopping lately? What's on your wish list? I'm always on the look out for high quality clothing, rugs, mod furniture (right now I particularly need lots of shelves/bookshelves) and unique display pieces & planters.
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Thursday, June 1, 2017

May Business Review: Abundance is Here. A Busy, Stressful, but Beautiful Month.

Looking back at May Business as a whole all I can think the hell can something go by so fast and "so little" get done? Though that's not true. At all! Ever since opening our store I've been battling internal doubts and anxieties. Hence my need for looking back with gratitude post.  But as Hena said in the comments, that is easier said than done! I keep falling out of it. That's why these month look-backs can be so good for my spirit, it may seem like I'm not doing enough to my perfectionist-brain but we're actually accomplishing a lot. To get back into gratitude-listing I'll look back on the month in that style:

My reading from this morning. Abundance in three realms! Exciting!

This May, I'm grateful that we:

1) Hosted a hugely successful charity event on behalf of Yoga for Change
2) Got accepted to a big-time local art market in our neighborhood
3)  Finally buckled down and finished new PR materials to get us into said market
4)  Did well at five local events (seemed like so few compared to previously jam-packed schedules)
5) Got more caught-up on merchandise production (still more to go!)
6) Are closer to being done with inventory & the other boring-but-necessary bureaucratic stuff
7) Have abundance, we're putting away more capital & clearly growing!
8) That I finally streamlined the type of layout I've been wanting for outdoor market tent
9) Even have a shop and a brand where we call all the shots, it's not easy, we're still growing, but it 1000% beats answering to anyone else. Having control is such a pleasure!

My view from my desk at the shop where I'm usually working.

Most importantly: I know I have ALL THE INTERESTS (too many, so many) but I can focus on just growing ONE successful business and stop trying to divide myself all over the place. Do I get ideas, distractions, and temptations from this business path? Yes! But it's vastly improved.

Looking back at this month's events and markets. Top row Vagabond Flea. Bottom left: Mother's Day sale at the store Bottom Right: Yoga for Change Event 

On the personal side I've fallen back into cooking for pleasure again as was my original resolution for this year and I've cut caffeine out of my diet again, my adrenals and skin thank me. Caffeine can also makes you anxious and I don't need any more help with that!

This June I will:

1) Continue to cut the unimportant stuff so I can...
2) Have lots of free leisure time without working, reading, exploring and learning, without guilt!
3) Knock out ALL the tasks on my white board
4) Finish putting procedures in place for accuracy that reduces anxiety & gives us free time.

And really it's awesome that we're having to put procedures in place, growth always requires some of that! And right now being a little more caught-up on business things it's nice to be able to sit and write here and not be in scramble-mode. I can't wait to have more time here to write and be creative the for the rest of the year! It's been sorely missed, but I had to cut one thing for my sanity!

This June I'm looking forward to lots of explorations and time outdoors AND enjoying the indoor times reading and crafting and enjoying tea while the summer storms roll through! That all sounds too amazing!

How has business and life been for you in May? Are you ready for June? In the U.S (and maybe worldwide) Summer can be the slow months for retail, it gets nuclear-reactor-surface-of-the-sun uncomfortably humid and hot here in Florida so that contributes to the slowdown int he southern states. This is the time to ramp up and be prepared for the busy retail months of fall, winter, and (ah!) Christmas!

For biz updates I post regularly on Instagram with a personal one here.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Daily Gratitude Reflections for Perspective and Clear-Minded Productivity (Journaling)

Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying: There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

I don't know about you, but I live those words! In my experience, the "high" or happiness for each new experience and accomplishment is short-lived. No one plugs away at the daily tasks without problems. You will have strife whether you get what you've always wanted in life or not. No one is constantly ecstatically happy. Contentment takes effort. Daily gratitude reflection is an excellent way to work toward it.

When you're feeling constantly overwhelmed and unhappy sometimes reflection is needed.

Writing what you're grateful for daily helps you reflect on what you've accomplished rather than the never-ending to-dos in your life. When you just look at what you've yet to do, you can feel defeated. It's nice to change that up and look at your progress instead.

Writing what you're grateful for daily improves your mood and helps you look at your home and work environment with new eyes and a clear mind.

It's too easy to get wrapped up in all the things you WANT to do, feeling like what you've accomplished and the things we have aren't good enough. With social media we can too easily compare ourselves to everyone else instead of accepting where and who we are now with gratitude.

I dumped a bunch of gratitude in my notebook and feel refreshed and ready to work with improved perspective. I'm committing to writing things I'm grateful for every single day and if you're in the same currently-overwhelmed-by-life boat with me I highly recommend you join me!

What techniques or tricks do you use when life gets overwhelming to get back to center? This post + the gratitude journal reminder popped in my on a head-clearing neighborhood walk and I had to share it ASAP; just felt right! I hope you try it if you're having a tough time, too.
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