Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rubber Duck Addict

I'm an advocate of collecting something. Doesn't matter what, just something. For me, it's nutcrackers (I now have 232, including several 6 foot guys). I also have a collection of swizzle sticks... you know, those glass thing-a-ma-bobbers you use to swirl around in fancy drinks (over 100). I'm not saying a collection has to be useful. Case in point, swizzle sticks; totally useless. However, they do make a nice decoration or garnish in a drink. Forget that they have to be hand-washed at least twice a year because of all the dust they gather while on display (and rarely used).

My latest obession is collecting rubber ducks. Have you seen all the awesome rubber ducks on the market? As a soaper, it's a collection that makes sense. Come'on, I own a soap supply company, what could be more practical than my own private collection of rubber ducks.

There really are some truly awesome duckies to be found on the net. The above duck is a collectible duck designed by Bud by DesignRoom. Sporting unique designs, these Luxury Ducks come in boxes with the same pattern with a domed window in front. They are made out of non phthalate plastic, which is a non-toxic plastic and safe for babies mouths.

It's a tradition to give our grand kids a special tree ornament at Christmas time. This year, that will all change. This year I'm giving them a rubber duck. A way-cool unique rubber duck every Christmas holiday. What a novel idea. Hey, maybe I'll give a way-cool rubber duck on their birthdays too.

Of course, the way-cool rubber duck looks even bettter when sitting atop the Mold Market Duck Pond soap mold (which we just happen to sell!).

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A music video tribute to our US Soliders

Memorial Day is a time to pause, reflect, and remember. It is with gratitude and thanks that I remember all those who have sacrificed their life to allow me the freedoms I enjoy. To my brother-in-law who served in Iraq for 18 months as an Army medical doctor, I say thank you. To those who have served our country in past wars, and to those who serve our country today, I say thank you.

On this Memorial Day 2007, take a few moments of silence to PAUSE, REFLECT, and REMBEMBER all the soldiers who have shed blood for our freedom. I found this video very touching. I hope you take a few minutes to view it in honor of all those have served in our US armed forces.

Another Rainy "holiday" Weekend

It’s been raining in Michigan this entire weekend. Having lived in Michigan most of my life, I’ve come to expect a rainy forecast for most every extended summer weekend. However, I had really hoped this weekend would be more cooperative. With family and close friends flying in from as far away as Nashville, I was planning cookouts on the deck and a host of other outdoor activities to keep everyone entertained.

It’s now Sunday morning and still raining. In light of this, my husband and I began brainstorming. What in the heck does one do with a house full of guests when it’s raining? Ah ha, we said! Games!

This weekend we’ve rediscovered the fun (and social aspect) of board and card games. Let’s see, so far we’ve played Yukor (a Michigan card game), Apples to Apples, Sequence, Charades, and Taboo.

We also hosted a progressive wine dinner on Friday night (see pic for some of the gang). It was a blast! There were four couples with each couple preparing one main course along with an appetizer or side dish. Each main dish was paired with a wine selection. What a feast. Imperial cut lamb chops, bruschetta, zucchini pancakes, stuffed mushrooms, fish tacos, grilled basil garlic shrimp (made with fresh home-grown basil), and seared artichokes were just a few of the yummies served.

The best part of this “rainy” holiday weekend (at least for me) has been the opportunity to visit and interact with friends and family on a more personal level. No computers, no video games, no T.V., no movie rentals. This entire weekend has been about enjoying conversation and laughter with loved ones in a group situation. It’s been a great weekend.

Sidebar: There’s been just enough chill in the air to build a fire in the fireplace and still have windows and slider doors open. This weekend has felt like a camping adventure but with all the comforts of home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Software I Can't Live Without

One of the best business investments I've made is a subscribtion to the online service It's critical that I have access to work files, software, UPS, order historys, printers, etc. when I travel abroad. Go To My PC allows me to securely access my company's computer network in real time from any Web browser or wireless device worldwide. Cost is around $15 a month (based on the annual plan).


1) No investment in expensive software for my laptop. I can remotely access any of my company's software and programs just by connecting to via a web browser.

2) The ability to review my employees work day while out of the office. I can view sales receipts, orders, shipments, correspondence, and print comments/notes to my employees. Yep! You can even print to your office printer.

3) I have full and complete access to everything on all of my PCs from anywhere. It's just like I was sitting in front of my work computer.


You're never really on vacation. As long as you have a wireless connection, you're connected to work. The proverbial "you can have your cake and eat it to" certainly applies to Go To My PC services. Staying connected is great, but can be the demise of anyone truly seeking a retreat from their work environment.

On Health Care for Small Business Owners

A major stumbling block to small business owners getting any relief on health insurance is that federal laws prevent small-business owners from forming multi-state employee pools for the purpose of negotiating insurance contracts.


There is a proposal before the U.S. Senate that would allow Small-Business Health Plans (AHPs). Allowing AHPs would make it possible for small business owners to negotiate group discounts through their trade associations (CRAFT) that big business and labor unions take for granted. If approved by Congress, CRAFT, alone or in concert with other associations, could seek out health insurance opportunities that would benefit members. Estimates of the savings that might be attainable have varied from 15% to 40% but it is a moot point unless the legislation is passed.

NFIB, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, is soliciting signatures to a petition in favor of passage of legislation authorizing Small-Business Health Plans. If you are interested in adding your name to the NFIB petition, please go to or call 1-800-NFIB-NOW.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Soap and Art Fusion

Hard to believe, but these are actual soap carvings. Turning humble fruits, vegetables and, even, soap into gorgeous pieces of art sculpture is a talent developed and cultivated by Kae Sa Luk, a grandmaster of this inimitable culinary art.

Carving Institute was established in Bangkok based on the culmination of over seven centuries of history and heritage in this art form. Soap carvings are colored using a batik process. It's truly amazing that these masterpieces are hand carved from just a block of soap.

Tired of making traditional CP and Melt and Pour Soaps? Consider a week long course at the Carving Institute and learn soap sculpting. Classes take place on weekdays from 9 am until 3 pm leaving afternoons and evenings free to explore and enjoy the many and varied attractions of Bangkok. The course takes five days. A great adventure in learning for your next vacation (and a possible a tax deduction as well!)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Hometown Up In Flames

Friday night was a sad moment in the history of our small community. A one block area of historic buildings dating back to 1825 (which is the majority of the city's downtown buildings) went up in flames. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the buildings suffered total devastation. Over 25 different fire departments were on the scene battling the blaze.

The city's Bridge Street-Broad Street Historic District was listed in the National Registry of Historic Places in 1982. The one block strip was the gathering place and focal point of our town. As word spread about the fire, the entire town began to gather at the site. We are a small community and everyone knows everyone. For most of us, our neighbors are not just neighbors, they are also close friends and family. This fire has forever changed the face of our small community, and has left some unemployed and others without a home.

I'm not yet sure how this fire will affect other community activities that we have come to enjoy every summer. Like the music and movies in the park down by the Mill Pond (pictured below). Or, our annual Summer Happening that features foods, rides, family entertainment. All of these events will take on a new face in light of the recent fire. The damage is estimated at well over one million dollars and it will take several years before the community can rebuild.

Tragedies happen in life, but we often don't grasp the lasting impact until it hits on a personal level. Our community is stong and we will rally together to survive this misfortune. Admidst the existing ashes and rubble we will find hope.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Seeing Life through the Eyes of My Maker

Today, while searching for some information about my peonies, I happened upon the web site of Michael Botos. The past few weeks have been so crazy that I haven't taken time to appreciate and enjoy all the beautiful perennials just now blooming in Michigan. As I strolled around my yard this morning, I was once again awestruck with God's incredible handiwork.

I was impressed by the simplicity of Mr. Botos' web photos. They depicted such simple things in nature but made you pause with wonder at the majesty of life. Even if for a moment, I was able to acknowledge the insignificance of my worries, concerns, and cares when paired against the grand scheme of life. A reminder that I can't control everything. I'm not God.

Life gets so hectic and out of control at times that we need these moments of introspect to renew our spirits and give us grounding. Thank you Mr. Botos for sharing your photos! I hope you don't mind that I've shared a few with my readers.

Shipping Overseas... my two cents

The vast majority of our overseas customers are the most loyal customers anyone could ask for. But in the next breath, we've had some less than desirable dealings with a select few. In my early business years, I was burned financially by those select few and resolved to never go down that road again. Hence, I drafted a company policy requiring wired bank funds on international orders over $300 (especially if it's a company or individual with no order history). Alarms go off whenever I receive an order from an international customer that is

1) of excessive value, and

2) the customer has no order history

Just this week, I received an order that set off all the bells and whistles. It was a new customer wanting to purchase a large number of fragrance oils to the tune of $2803.80 (this was before shipping cost). The shipping address was Cote D'Ivoire (also known as the Ivory Coast), a country situated in Africa. This country isn't even listed with our shopping cart vendor (that in itself made me somewhat wary). In the past, Cote D'Ivoire was considered the "Paris of Africa". However, in recent years, this small country had been a site of political unrest. In fact, the US Dept of State (Bureau of Consular Affairs) has a TRAVEL WARNING posted urging Americans to defer non-essential travel to Cote d’Ivoire.

To make a long story short, I emailed the above customer explaining our wired bank fund policy. I wasn't too surprised when I received the following response,

"Dear, My bank we not honor the transfer cause this is also our first transaction with you company..."

My response,

"No problem, order cancelled."

To some this may seem a bit harsh, but I'm guessing you've never been burned finanically by fulfilling a large order only to find the purchase wasn't authorized by the card owner. I point this out to new business owners because you can often be blind-sided by a big dollar order. All the warning signs are there, but poor judgement is used based on the order's value (you're thristy for that FIRST big sale!). Credit card terminals are unable to verify the billing address of international cardholders. The order may be approved, but it could come back to haunt you (or should I say your bank account) down the road.

History has been my best teacher in learning that new legitimate international customers are willing to pay by wired funds on large orders. As a business relationship is established, credit card payment can become an alternative payment method. Obviously, GoPlanetEarth doesn't require wired funds on orders falling within a normal dollar range.

For the record, I appreciate and value our international customers. But, as a business owner, I am cognizant of any order warning flags that read "DANGER or PROCEED WITH CAUTION".

Thursday, May 17, 2007

How Many Reading Glasses Can One Person Own?

This is a question my honey man asks every time I buy a new pair of reading glasses. I suppose it's a valid question considering I currently own 15 pair of reading glasses (which doesn't include the 3 new pair I just bought online). The most recent purchase was prompted by a friend who tipped me off about Oh my gosh, when I clicked on their "FUN" eyeglass link, my heart leaped and my pulse quickened. I was in "peeper" heaven.

I admit, I'm addicted to collecting reading glasses. But in my defense, it's a legitimate addiction. Come on, when you have to hold a book or magazine at arms length to read the print, you need reading glasses. Or, when your grandkids say, "Just a minute NeeNee, let me get your reading glasses", you have to fess up to your inability to read anything in print. It's an age thing. We all need reading glasses after a certain age, don't we?

You may be wondering what in the heck does one person do with so many reading glasses. Ah hah... there is logic to my madness. I have a pair in most every room of the house. At work, there are two pair in my office, another two in the packing area. One pair in the glove box of each car, a pair in my travel bag, two pair for rotating between purses, and the remainder for emergency situations (in case I can't remember where I left the last pair I was wearing).

Eye glasses are all colored differently and color determines location (it sounds pretty anal, but not nearly as anal as my husband pinning his socks together...that's another post in itself). Hence, glasses in the packing area are pink, kitchen eyeglasses are purple, office eyeglasses are blue, etc. It makes perfect sense to me. Unfortunately, I may end up needing a spreadsheet to reference eyeglass locations. Before that happens, I'll just place a hang tag on each pair of glasses with the designated location. Can you imagine a tag hanging from someone's glasses that reads "these belong in the office"?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's my Party and I'll Cry if I Want To

Last weekend we attended a big bash for our granddaughter's first birthday. It included white canopy tents, hanging food baskets, a catered meal and one unhappy birthday girl. Princess Olivia just wasn't in the party mood. Of course, all us adults had a great time, but one does wonder why we go to all this hoop-da-la for a first birthday. There is no doubt that Princess Olivia will have no recollection of the party. She would have much rather finished her afternoon nap than attend the event. The picture says it all.

Having said that, our grandson turns four next weekend. Guess what? You got it... we're doing it all over again. His party will be a pirate theme. Of course, NeeNee (that's me) bought all the party decorations including a really cool pirate sword that lights up and makes swooshing sounds when you use it. And then there's the pirate shirt, eyepatch, hat, sliding telescope. Oh, and let's not forget the treasure chest full of gold coins and loot.

Since I spent a bunch of loot on furnishing the party decorations, I told my daughter I would not be bringing a gift. Afterall, our little guy will have plenty of gifts to open from other party-goers. That all changed when my grandson had the following conversation with me,

"So, NeeNee, what present are you bringing to my party?"

"Well what would you like?"

"A Power Ranger costume. A red one!"

As crazy as it seems, I stayed up until 2 am that night trying to snag a Power Ranger costume in his size (red, of course). His size was out of stock on most web sites, but I persevered. It arrives today. The crazy things we do for those we love.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Yahoo! A Day at the Spa

Every year in May I treat my college employees to a day at the spa. It's a tradition I started a number of years ago and it's proven to be a great morale booster. These girls work hard (not just on the job, but also at their studies) and are extremely loyal to the business. They certainly deserve a bit of pampering. Missy has been with me for 3 years, Kaylee for 2 years, and Mary and Michelle for 1 year. We lunched at a local waterfront restaurant and then headed off to an afternoon at the spa.

I must admit I have some VERY exceptional employees. They love their job, take pride in what they do, AND have many perks from the company. One such perk is a college scholarship fund. We celebrate birthdays by ordering in lunch and spend a full day decorating for the holidays in late November.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Finally, a weekend of fun!

I love what I do, but I also put in some veerrry long hours. An online business is pretty much 24x7 and even with my incredible staff, a weekend off doing fun stuff with my 'honey man' doesn't happen often enough. I recently commited to a "just for fun" long weekend and it was awesome. My husband had a business engagement on the west shores of Michigan. We hopped in our little red roadster, top down, music blasting, and cruised two hours to the city of Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids offers all the big-city excitement you expect from a million-resident metropolis like a bustling downtown featuring more than 60 restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, museums and sports venues within a five-minute walk. Yet for all its sophistication, the city prides itself on such small-town virtues as friendly people, safe streets, minimal traffic and good old-fashioned Midwest value PLUS the sugar-sand beaches of Lake Michigan.

While my husband attended to his business (hosting an afternoon wine tasting at a chic downtown restaurant), I put on my walking shoes and set out to see the city. I discovered one of the coolest shoe boutiques ever, and a great clothing boutique called the
Little Bohemian where all the clothes looked much better on the mannequins than on me. I must say, if you ever plan a trip to Michigan, put Grand Rapids on your agenda and plan to stay at the Amyway Grand Hotel in the heart of downtown. WOW!!!!!!!! That's the only way to describe this 682 guestroom hotel. It's a destination in itself.

The weather was spectacular. We had late afternoon appetizers at an open air cafe and then headed off to a 5-course wine dinner with two winemakers from Chile and Argentina who flew in just for the dinner (a business event for my husband... geezz, what a job).

It was an amazing, relaxing weekend with my honey. We laughed, talked, ate, and then laughed, talked and ate more. Life is good. I need to be reminded of this as I watch my Dad battle with cancer. We need to make time to enjoy life and spend time with those we love the most. Thanks to all my loyal staff for holding down the fort on Friday and making sure orders went out timely

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Enough about Propylene Glycol in Soap

OK! Enough already! I've had it with the environmental rhetoric about Propylene Glycol in Soap. I hate to beat a dead horse to its second death... but I must. I can’t stop myself from sounding off. And why not? Everyone else on the web seems to be voicing an opinion about this 'alleged' toxic ingredient. For those of you who don’t know, PG (propylene glycol) is a common ingredient found in melt and pour soap base. Not just soap base, but also in certain medicines, cosmetics, and food products to name a few.

I happened upon a post today from someone out there in cyber space spouting out claims that PG is an inappropriate ingredient for cosmetics and foods because it is also used in products such as antifreeze. I normally would have ignored the post had it not specifically mentioned our web site and the fact that our soap base contains this ingredient (as well as a most every other soap supply company on the web). My brother-in-law is a bio-chemist and someone quite knowledgeable and informed about chemistry. I have discussed this whole PG issue with him on numerous occasions. His opinion is the same as mine. The environmental rhetoric about PG found on the web is well-intended but ultimately not exactly accurate. I will refrain from making sidebar comments about those uninformed individuals on the web posting criticism about propylene glycol. And who, for the most part, have just copy and pasted something they found on some message board as being gospel rather than doing some legitimate research.

Here’s my Yadda Yadda on the subject….

1) It is ethylene glycol, for example, which is a more common ingredient in antifreeze and which is, in fact, highly toxic. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) actually recommends the use of propylene glycol-based antifreeze because it is safer than ethylene glycol should pets accidentally ingest it. Simply because propylene glycol has many different applications does not make all the products which contain it the same.

To the cyber-space PG queen who made the following post,

"Propylene Glycol is apparently an organic compound, manufactured by the hydration of propylene oxide... not safe for cat food or for estrogen creams if used post-menopausal women, but considered acceptable for moisturizers, food, tobacco products, and antifreeze, among other things.

"I reply (and I'm keeping it brief as best I can!)....

PG and Propylene Oxide are two entirely different things. Propylene Glycol is not the same ingredient used in anti-freeze. As mentioned above, it is ethylene glycol. There are newer and improved anti-freeze brands on the market today that actually use PG and may be labeled as "non-toxic antifreeze". Even then, its use in anti-freeze is intended to protect the product from freezing in the winter. I again repeat, simply because propylene glycol has many different applications does not make all the products which contain it the same.

Propylene glycol is considered a safe and appropriate ingredient not just for cosmetic products, but also for ingested products like food and pharmaceuticals. It is on the US Food and Drug Administration's list of ingredients which are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) and is recognized by the World Health Organization as safe for use.

For the record, MSDS sheets for propylene glycol contain no indications of carcinogenicity or chronic exposure effects. The concentrated form (and I emphasize concentrated) of the ingredient can, however, cause temporary reddening, stinging or swelling when it comes in contact with the eyes or skin. This indication does not mean that a product formulated with the ingredient will have irritating properties.

If you really want to do your homework, try reading the 260+ pages of toxicology findings on propylene glycol at this site:

Final comment.

I have been in the soap making business for a good number of years. I find that many of those on the bandwagon of some suspected "toxic" ingredient (I'm talking soap here!) are often guilty of other things that are unhealthy to the body or harmful to the environment, such as....

1) smoke cigarettes

2) drink alcohol in excess

3) drive without a seat belt

4) overeat, don't exercise

5) fail to recyle... the list goes on

Please don't email me about this post, I won't respond. Just this once, I want to post my two-cents without any feedback. Thanks!