Sunday, December 13, 2015

Aromatic Traditions Transitions

Last day of shipping 12/14/2015
A few months ago I took time to look at what Aromatic Traditions REALLY does and found that 64% of my business was serving the spa and indie maker sector.
It was a lightbulb moment.  To better serve, isn't it best to serve those who are asking for what one has?  I believe so.
I have mixed feelings of joy blended with creative excitement and a swirl of ideas waiting to manifest in tangible ways...a new website is in the design phase, garden fresh products are formulated and ready for testing in the lab and a fabulous communication service for busy spa-makers will be launched soon.
A big thank you and a huge hug of gratitude to all of you who love Aromatic Traditions products and botanical perfumes.  I've met some really great people and reconnected with old friends.
My transition begins on our last shipping day of December 14th. Enjoy my thank you by using discount code GRATITUDE2015 on our luxury botanical products, gift sets and perfume.
Blessings and have a warm and wonderful holiday season with your family and friends.

Susan Varga

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New Niche and Business Sustainability

Working through the vision.  Aromatic Traditions™  2015
After I read Paul Hawken's book The Ecology of Commerce back in the early 90's, I started to think about his term "restorative economy".  At the time I was applying some of his thoughts to my own businesses - a healing studio, a store which featured items made from recycled materials and my own body care business.

At the time I had a small farm and was very focused on creating the best soil so that I could take advantage of the short growing seasons in northern Pennsylvania.  I was also a massage therapist with a message.


Restoration of self , community and eventually planet.

As I see myself now going forward I am working more and more towards the goal of restoring myself, then community, then planet.  How? Slowing down and taking an assessment of my energy drains in my personal life.  I've decided that I can no longer foster relationships that are not reciprocal.  I had to take a close look at lip service versus acts of friendship and kindness.

For my community, I keep my company production "close to the bone" as I like to say.  I know where my raw materials come from by working with companies (some of whom I have had a relationship with for over 15 years) who are committed to transparency and ethical sourcing.

Waste and packaging is another consideration.  I was thrilled to be one of the first employees working for a co-op who took the sustainability model seriously -  from raw materials in the door to waste out the door and nothing, yes NOTHING went into a landfill.  Now, there is a role model.  I recycle and take good care when sourcing my packaging materials.  I re-use, recycle and refill.

This is just the beginning as we all need to know  how to trim off the fat in our production and use.

How "big" do I want to get?  I recently read an interview with another maker which echoed a friend of mine's business policy. Both expressed the idea of keeping it small and manageable.  This way they as artists can keep their hands in the creative mix and not lose integrity of what they are making to mass production.

And for that matter - mass consumption.  Another issue of our society.  We don't need all this stuff.

Over the next few months I am excited to explore some other small, niche manufacturers to see how they are using efficiency models and how I might want to set up my business statement to reflect sustainability.

As always, I am open to your comments.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Bestseller Blues

Blue Pearl - bestseller since 1998.  Aromatic Traditions™
Tonight I'm feeling bittersweet.

I'm bottling up likely the last Blue Pearl Face Serum batch for who knows how long.

The formula certainly has had a few versions since 1998.  I can still remember when I "got" the recipe. We were driving through the Catskills and I "heard" the formula.  I had to open the glove-box to get a piece of scratch paper to write it down.

I've been making it since 1998 and I know the formula has a few fans.

The base will soon become a staple for my spa-maker© series.  In a few months I plan to launch a new niche servicing spas and massage therapists who make their own products.

I'm looking forward to the transition.  I am also a bit sad cleaning out my lab to make room for this new venture.
Its like a birth.  I'm fluffing up the nursery to prepare for the new baby's arrival.

I can feel the energy building and it is a bit of a challenge to contain it.

I'm grateful to those of you who love these products and who have remained faithful to the brand.  You won't be forgotten.  And if you get stuck and haven't stocked up during my upcoming sale.  Well, you know where to find me and I'll make sure to get some to you.

As one customer and friend said "just package it in any old plastic tub and send it to us".

Thank you all for your loyalty and we'll be hearing from you soon when we announce our upcoming sale.

Be well.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I just had a conversation with my son.  We were talking about being what he calls "an oracle".  I'm thinking he is referring to the movie The Matrix.  You know the scene.  When the Grandmother pulls a tray of fresh-made cookies out of the oven and lets you know that what she is about to say...
"will really bake your noodle".

Sometimes the world delivers that kind of information...big enough that you can only swallow it a bite at a time.

My son and I went on to talk about where "knowing" resides.  I spoke about seeing with your heart.  And that most of the time what we are "seeing" comes from our minds.

He said that his knowing is a gut feeling.
Good one.
With all that is going on in our world.  I am happy to know that my son can trust and act on his gut sensation.

My son and I had this conversation because as he says - this is the fourth thing you knew about and it happened.

It takes a lot of responsibility to know.  To trust our knowing and act on our knowing.
Not everyone wants that level of responsibility.
We are all at different stages of exploring what that looks like.

You can call it listening to God.
Trusting your gut.
Following your intuition.
Hearing Spirit whisper.

It is all the same to me.

It is much easier to be pragmatic and logical - to discard the magic. To Google a "fact" and hand over our process to an authority, to assumptions and surface information.

A good question to ask - "what do I know now that I am not allowing in?".

As each of us navigate this time of violence and uncertainty, I feel that our "knowing" will guide us now more than ever.
Our "noodles are baked", our minds are likely incapable of processing what is going on in our world.  

It is time to trust our hearts and act on what our hearts are telling us.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Switching My Niche

Spa-Maker© series coming soon.  Aromatic Traditions™ 2016

Do what you love and everything else will follow.

Aromatic Traditions™  is 4 years old.  Our anniversary was 11/11/15.  Usually I throw a nice party at my studio and people stop by to visit, shop my retail shelves and snack on delicious local goodies.  This year I was busy packing up the final pieces for a natural baby line and prepping bulk orders for several spas.

You see, my focus has changed.

Changed because my customers asked.

I had no idea when I started that I would be doing Custom Manufacturing and Private Label.  I put a few pages up on my website and the rest is word of mouth.


The best referral is from other customers.  The learning curve has been a little steep.  However, I like a good challenge and found that I love formulating and creating in my lab.

It is quiet, focused and creative.

I am also co-evolving with several of the spas who were my first customers.  As they grow, so do I.

It felt natural today as I cleaned up my creative space and started to de-stash bottles and jars.  I really do not have much overstock so my inventory is changing as well.

I have created several gift sets for the holidays and I am feeling a little bittersweet saying goodbye to some of my favorite products.
I will soon offer a first-come-first-serve discount to my online retail customers.

These formulas will now be available for my new niche - spas and massage therapists who make their own products and have reached a point where they want someone else to produce for them.

It is a niche I am familiar with as I was a massage therapist for 25 years and know the industry.  I also love working with spas.  I love people who pamper and encourage others in the tradition of self-care.

I'm excited for this new chapter in Aromatic Traditions™ life.

Enjoy the holiday discounts online and call me if I can help your spa or massage practice.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Prayers for Our World Community

Praying for my friends and their families in France and my new Portland french community friends who are watching helplessly here in the States.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Tests are Back and I Feel Great

I've been waiting for a month for lab results.  Just the wait was stressful and the diagnosis - adrenal fatigue.

Nothing new.

I've gone up and down following treatment plans for several years now.  (I'll be blogging periodically about my new protocol because this time I'm excited and it feels right.)

What I am really curious about is what was I living on if (clinically) there was nothing in the tank?

I've seen this over and over with oncology massage clients.  Some people enjoy an amazing quality of life when the test results don't look so great.
I've seen it in my only family with my father.

What are we living on if our tank is empty?


All possible answers or a combination of a few.

I've had friends with adrenal fatigue who have moved out of the United States and taken up living in a country with a slower pace and a back to the farm lifestyle.

Can't do that here.  I'm a mother, a business owner, a wife with a bi-coastal marriage.  What I can do is celebrate a new regime of honoring what is already in place and begin to take baby steps back to health.

In the meantime...I am going to give thanks for whatever is keeping my tank full.

Thank you Spirit.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Chicken is in the Oven and Everything is Alright

Comfort food, rituals and making it all cozy.
Tonight I came home with a farm fresh chicken.  I grew up with access to farm-raised meat, milk and eggs so I look for the same locally.  My cousins had a farm and the chicken coop was my favorite place to play. (I bet a few of you can say the same)

For me the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven gives me comfort, warmth and a sense of home.  I know it does for my family.  I come from a long line of chicken-raising, chicken-cooking women.  I clearly remember my Great Grandmother preparing chicken and waffles.

My mother always roasted a perfect bird.  I found a recipe that I truly love by Ina Garten.  Here it is if you want to cook a chicken that will woo your loved ones...

Yep,  I remember telling my boys that they were having engagement chicken when they were young.  I kind of believe that they will compare all roast chicken against this recipe.


this isn't the whole story.

I want to talk about what it takes to make a home.  
To step up to the plate, to go the extra step and put your day aside and make the home warm and cozy for your family.  I believe that there are many people out there that do this for their family.  I don't care if you only have a bowl of rice or a can of beans (believe me, I've been there).  There are just people who know how to make it special.

I love the old trick I heard from a wisened girlfriend.  She told me "I always slice up some onions and put them in a pan when I hear my family come in the driveway".

I don't know what it is about making a house a home.  Must be in our DNA to have something roasting by the fire.  We get a sense of security and that everything is alright.

Tonight I am doing it more for myself.  I miss my family.  I miss my Mom and her home cooking
AND I want to be a good Mom to my kids.  I want to give them sensual memories of home.  Something that they can tap in to when the going gets tough.

Maybe something that they can pass on.

We all need a touchstone.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Crafting Fire Cider with My Friends

It's a tradition for me to make Fire Cider with friends.  It is a great way to share recipes, stories and the best part - laughter.

Have you tried it?  I love to have some around to add to soups, stews and salad dressings.  It adds zip and is a powerful decongestant.  There are a lot of great benefits.  It depends on what you put in it.  It is particularly beneficial to have on hand during cold and flu season.

So let's get this party started...

Get your favorite people together and start prepping.

Fire Cider Ingredients:
-fresh grated organic ginger root
-fresh grated organic horseradish root
-fresh grated turmeric root
-chopped onion
-organic garlic, peeled and crushed
-organic jalapeno peppers sliced lengthwise (any kind of hot chili pepper will work)
-zest and juice of an organic lemon
-sprigs of fresh organic rosemary
-organic apple cider vinegar

Find a container that you want to use to pour or store.  Make sure it is clean.  Once you have all of your vegetables prepped start adding them to your jar.  I like to loosely fill a quart size mason jar.  Once you've selected the ingredients that you like fill the jar with organic apple cider vinegar.
If using a mason jar with a metal lid, place a piece of parchment or wax paper between the lid and jar.
Screw lid on tightly and shake.
Store in a cool, dark place for 30 days.
Strain using cheesecloth and squeeze the pulp to get the goodness out of the roots and enjoy.

Some people like to add a little bit of honey (get the good kind) and enjoy it as a tonic.
Fire Cider fixin's.

Best of all...have some good laughs while you're making your tonic.
Laughter is the BEST medicine.

Monday, November 9, 2015

We Die Like We Live

A few years ago my husband's cousin asked me to take a trip to Ohio to give him an Oncology Massage treatment.  He had recently been diagnosed with cancer and wanted to explore his options.

He knew I taught classes to practitioners and had also created a clinic which matched massage therapists certified in Oncology Massage with patients undergoing treatment.

My husband packed the car and we travelled several hours to his home and I began to give him treatments. We went back several times and I taught his wife how to do some of the protocols.

I've done this a lot for friends and family.

There is a lot of cancer going around.

One evening after giving him a treatment my husband's cousin asked me to sit down with him in the living room.  He wanted to talk about death.

He knew that I had experienced quite a few crossings as an Oncology Massage therapist.

He played a tape for me of songs he had written for his grandchildren who were not yet born.  He knew that he might not meet them.  The songs were gorgeous and full of his heart.

After we talked about his preparations for his family he asked me...
"how do you die?"

I thought a while about the many faces that I saw pass through my Oncology Massage clinic.

"We die like we live."

He liked that and I could see him reach a state of peace that evening.

I've hesitated to write the past few days.  Recently a dear friend passed.  I also have another who is preparing for the next "new normal" - whatever it may be.

Aromatic Traditions™ began because I wanted to lighten my life after many years in the oncology field.  I continue to "touch those who are touched by cancer" (my clinic slogan) by making healthy products for those who are seeking them.  I also know that when a friend or family member calls - I'm there.  Usually I am there before they call.  I know how important touch is...I know what it feels like to wake up in a hospital bed isolated and afraid.

Thank you for taking the time to read this little missive.  I have committed to writing every day for 30 days and the last two were challenging.  This commitment is what keeps me going on my path so that I may continue to serve.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Self Care and Self Love

Be true to you.

"To thine own self be true"
-oracle at Delphi

I'm writing this blog with a little bit of elation and sadness.  I had to practice taking care of myself by setting a boundary.  Knowing our boundary is a necessary component of self-love...we know where we end and someone else begins.

I had to draw a line this morning, ironically, with someone who teaches others about boundaries for a living.
My hope was to connect and create a referral section on my new website by featuring interviews with people that I know practice self-care.
Collaboration and community can be a wonderful thing.
It can also zap the energy right out of you if you let it.  The attempts to connect and have a conversation just became too hard.
Clue #1 - if it isn't easy, let it go for now.

Many of you who are reading this know that I have often been a part of spiritual communities.  Spiritual communities aren't perfect as one would "think". A superficial view if you haven't participated. They are great crucibles for self-awareness.  Some jump in and join the "big hot mess".  Some join and watch from the side-lines.  Some come in and out.  These actions vary individually and as a group.  All organic and human.

When do we decide what is best?

For me, it starts in the gut.  I get a sick or nauseous feeling when I am interacting with someone.

I'm tolerant to a fault.  This feeling is often abated by a bit of self-sacrifice (masochism) on my end to keep the connection.  To love the other through the pain.  To keep the door open as I have been taught.

When is enough, enough?  

Well, I frankly don't know until I'm in it.

For me it began with my spiritual community.  I could only do so much in a certain capacity and needed to step back and let others step up.  Next came a very toxic family situation as a stepparent.  I felt I had to lay boundaries with everyone.  I couldn't believe it.  I had always felt myself a "free" spirit.
Clue#2 - freedom and responsibility reside on the same coin.

We all have to negotiate boundaries - I know, I know - some of you will say we are all one.
Probably AND we also need space to learn how to love ourselves.
I am granting that to my self right now.  I'm sure that is what the individual is doing who I could not connect with at this time - setting boundaries too.

We may connect again down the road.  We may not.

I'm interested to hear how your thoughts on self-love as self-care and setting your own boundaries.

Be true to you.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Renew, Revive, Nourish & Guide Yourself

NEW Product - 4 Self-Care Ritual Boxes             Aromatic Traditions™  2015
Thrilled to launch these new and thought-filled "Self-Care Elemental Ritual Boxes".

Our first box: Renewal - Elemental Water Ritual is packed to the brim with our farm-fresh products, a detachable ritual instruction card and a sweet little one-of-a-kind talisman designed by Linda Lee at Dragon Hill Studios in California.

You can check it out here:
Elemental Water Ritual - Renewal  Aromatic Traditions™  2015

I love our ritual card.  Each ritual is care-fully designed to lead you deep into a state of total relaxation and self-care. 

We will continue our blog series with inspiration to fill your cup.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Is "Green" Really the New Black?

Transparent since 1998.   Aromatic Traditions™ 2015
I remember vividly a conversation I had with the owner of a very large essential oil company back in the 90's.  He told me that my company would never make it because I used precious essential oils and plant extracts in my formulations.  15 years later I'm still doing it.  I didn't listen to him.

Now creating with the benefit of plant-derived materials vs. synthetics is mainstream. 
(Heck, synthetics have only been around for a short period of time on the space/time continuum).

I like to stick pretty close to the Earth.  How about you? 

First I pay attention to my soil which is amended with compost.
Soil is the heart of my line.
My son is experimenting with composting now for my floating garden.
Yes! We have a floating compost pile.

(He has also won a scholarship to the Conserve School in Wisconsin.  I can't help but think all of my direction - pleasant word for broken record demands- toward composting and recycling made an affect.  Proud Momma moment.  Thanks for listening.)

So back to is "Green" Really the New Black?  I can't say that I take offense to green-washing as it brings to light (in contrast) conservation and spotlights ideas that so many of us stood for many years ago.  I am talking the 60's and 70's.  Some of us risked a LOT not to sell out and to take a stand for Mother Nature.

What I do find difficult is that so many people have jumped on the bandwagon - yeah and now green, organic, local-ingredients, etc is becoming banal.


devoid of freshness or originality; hackneyed; trite:
a banal and sophomoric treatment of courage on the frontier.

Yes, that's the word I heard at a recent conference.  How do we differentiate, stand out, if we use the same words to describe what we do.

I can't help but think - I've been waiting for this! and now it is passe?

For some of us who really do make an effort to plant, harvest, dry, infuse and amend.  Who follow the laws of nature and abide with respect - what?

Maybe I'm not understanding the question.

Perhaps this blog isn't clear.

I want to hear your thoughts?

I'm interested in a dialogue.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mother, Wife, Renovations and Other "Distractions"

Bottom Line.
Every once in a while I get a chance to set my priorities - straight.

The bottom line is my kid Alex.  His brother too, however, he lives several thousand miles away right now.  You see, I live a bi-coastal relationship for now. Half of my family in Oregon and the other half in New York.

During this time we are also renovating a floating home so that my husband can semi-retire and enjoy life on the water.

I, on the other hand, am growing my business.

Staying true to myself and true to course is the biggest challenge.  Self-employment offers a bit of freedom and you almost always work well beyond the hours you would employed by someone else.

But shhhhh....

Nobody really knows that I "work".  You see, I have made myself very available to my family in the beginning.  I was a stepmom then.  Trying my hardest to provide the kids and family with consistency and stability.  This takes a lot of time and energy.

Slowly I am adding bits and pieces of myself back into the picture.  Kind of like Oz behind the curtain.  I'm not talking ego - I'm talking fake it 'til you make it.

There are no rule books for being a parent and there certainly are no rule books for step parents.

Boy do I hate the word step parent.  I've decided to drop it and just become Mom - because this is what I do.

As I write this blog I can hear the sound of a screw being driven into a wall and my son and his Dad talking about life.

I am writing this blog as part of a 30-day challenge and have committed to take my business to the next level in the midst of renovations and distractions.

Because... this is what I do.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Introducing the Adventures of "Susan the Spa-Maker©"

Custom Vegan Lip Shimmer.   Aromatic Traditions™

Did you know that I currently work with spas, wellness centers and massage therapists with earth-conscious sensibilities creating custom product lines?

Over the years I have had the pleasure of serving other makers making them look good so they could help you look and feel pampered.

In the industry we call it Private Label - you would put your label on one of my formulations...
Custom Manufacturing - I help you design a formula or line of products that fit your vision.

This particular aspect of Aromatic Traditions™ has grown significantly over the last year. 

Today I am in the process of creating a brand new website to service this niche. 

We blend in small batches so we can take your idea to market quickly.

Vegan Shimmer Body Oil   Aromatic Traditions™ 

At the root of Aromatic Traditions™ is my intention to connect the voice of nature with all levels of healing - body, mind and spirit.

Our flowers and herbs come from our own floating garden on the Multnomah Channel in Oregon and from some of "the best kept secret" organic farm sources in the Willamette Valley as well.

You know, the home of some of the finest Pinot's on the planet. (We believe).
Oregon Pinot  with Vineyard.
My mission is to make personal care products in small, hand-poured batches utilizing the bounty of Oregon's niche farmers for spas and massage therapists all over the world.

I am here to connect and collaborate with you by building a relationship of trust and by creating something truly extraordinary.

Order fulfilled for local spa.
 And here is what one "spa-maker" had to say...
 "Aromatic Traditions™ customized products and labels has set our spa at an exciting new scale. We now have customized products exclusive to our customers with the quality; knowledge and attention from Susan's 15 years of experience. It has been a beautiful part of our evolving dream."

-Laura Lee Robinson, Emerge Spa

Stay tuned for more adventures from "Susan the Spa-Maker©" as I transition from online retail and wholesale to this fabulous new niche.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

For the Love of a River

Pine Creek Canyon     Wellsboro, PA

Water represents emotion in my tradition.  Moving water - flowing emotions.  Stuck water - stuck emotions.
Dark water - things are not so clear.  Clear water - yeah, you get my drift.

I was born on a river.  Our cottage, the Lazy Lodge, literally hung over the river pictured above and I could hear it day and night.

My grandfather taught me how to fish, swim and live off the river.  He dried mullein stalks and we later soaked them in kerosene and lit them like torches and walked along the railroad tracks at night.  Very primal.

Our place was right below the one rapid - Owassee rapids.  We learned about the bounty of the river as we saved those who had overturned in the rapids and gathered coolers, six-packs and river booty as it floated by our cottage.

My grandfather also taught me about the strength of the river and death.  He took me by the hand and walked me the half mile or so along the tracks so that I could see a woman who had died while navigating the river.  I remember her almost blue body underneath a rock.

Later in life, I chose to follow a friend and work on the Snake River in Wyoming.  I became an official whitewater guide.

Here is a pic, I am in the back and my crew has just hit the hole that they call the Big Kahuna.  We didn't get enough speed to get through the rapid without "hitting" it hard.  You get used to that as a guide.  You can encourage (a gentle word for not yell so hard) to paddle and then you just have to let go and ride it out.

The "Big Kahnua", Snake River, Wyoming USA

Now I am back on the river.  This time the Multnomah Channel of the Willamette River near Portland, OR.  My husband and I are renovating a floating home from the river up.  I wake each day to the river flowing right by my front door.  Cormorants, Bald and Golden Eagle, Great Blue Heron and Osprey are my constant companions.

Once I guided on the river, now the river guides me.  

Floating Home on Multnomah Channel
Wish you were here.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hello My Name Is

Demo Day at Greenstar Co-op Ithaca, NY

Taking my wares to market is a great chance to break from the solitude of working in a lab.  I get to shift gears and prepare my samples, set-up and costume (yes, I like to put on red lipstick).

It is an opportunity to meet people that I don't know, face to face and speak openly about what I can do for them, why I make what I make the way I do and generally hand out free swag.

Instantly I feel open, happy (after a bit of apprehension preparing) and thrilled to meet people who are curious and willing to put their guard down for a moment to come up to speak to me.

Different venues bring different clientele, values and interests.  I am particularly drawn to co-ops as the members are usually very well educated about what they put in their mouths and on their bodies.
I get a chance to walk my talk.

You also never know what is going to happen.

It can be hopping and happening...or

you're all dressed up and...
nobody shows.

That is the way it was for the three years I tried the Bridal Show circuit.  Boy did my feet get sore.  I made a commitment to stand the entire time, meet and speak to every single person who walked by my booth and I had an assistant gather e-mails.

In three years, I received nay an order.  I spent more time educating people about bespoke perfumery.  Most people in the rural part of upstate NY could not wrap their heads around the concept.

It was the same when I brought massage therapy to the area.  I was an ice-breaker for therapists who came years later.  Some of us are ice-breakers and pioneers.

We pave the ways so others can bring the next level of expertise.

I wouldn't change that role for a minute.  I truly believe in what I have to offer.  Just a little bit ahead of my time perhaps.

Here is to all you trendsetters out there - be forever creative.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Intention to Manifestation

The Khata Tree© Project    Aromatic Traditions 2014
A few years ago I had a vivid dream. I saw a Khata (a ceremonial scarf symbolizing goodwill and compassion) streaming from a tree void of leaves.

The dream struck and I began to find a way to manifest that vision.

I started to write and illustrate a children's book.  Here is the first layer of a painting illustrating a young Tibetan girl who has discovered a Khata.

Tibetan Girl with Khata©  S. Varga
Several illustrations for the book were completed and then the project stalled.  Life caught up with me.  Kid's soccer games, Aromatic Traditions™ began to grow, I put the paintbrush down.

A few months later I decided to reach out to a dear friend who worked for a local museum.  We had collaborated on several different children's projects for the museum.  She had an idea.
I proposed a workshop which taught children about bridging cultures and won the Rose Family Grant.

Here is the culmination of the Khata Tree Project© (as it stands now).  We worked with a local area youth center with at-risk pre-teens and teens.  The kids were amazing.  We used storytelling and art to bridge cultures.
Individual Khatas painted by local teens.

What had begun as a dream ended as a full-blown project.  Every kid in the youth center had an opportunity to participate in some way.  We shared stories, food, blessings and music as each child spoke about their piece.

Moral of story:  dreams are manifesting all around us - grab one and hold on tight.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

In the Garden of Spirit

Plein Air Botanical Painting     Aromatic Traditions 2014

After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Communication Design - a fancy name for Graphic Designer - I found myself designing and drawing things commercially like trucks, abalone cutters and yes, I designed a logo for a condom company.  A gentle feather with a bit of a tilt at the tip.

I cut my chops at a Mom and Pop printing shop on upper State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.  The head designer the wife and the head of the print shop her husband.
Every day was pressure packed as I typeset, rendered drawings and cut and paste pounds of galleys and images to boards.  Yes, this was the old method before desktop computers.
 We had a lot of fun and we worked our asses off.  Some big name accounts used our services as well as walk-in customers.

Needless to say, I found Graphic Design boring.

Years later I decided to take a leap and signed up for a botanical painting class at my local arts center.  I immediately fell in love with the teacher's style.  She was quiet and each time she said something about what I was painting it had meaning and I could immediately move to the next step.  She became my painting guru.
I decided to sign up for private lessons and my love of botanical painting began.

Tiger Lily©            S. Varga  2014

It felt fulfilling to sit in a spot in the garden, take a deep breath and begin to paint what I felt.
Although botanical painting calls for a bit of perfection - you have to catch the spirit of the plant or flower.  In the moment.  They change by the minute as the sun shines and they start to bloom or fade.  You have only a small window of time to paint.

Part of the Aromatic Traditions™ logo contains a drawing of White Sage.  A plant that is dear to me as it is used often for smudging prior to ceremonies. (I always smudge my laboratory before I begin any product).

Here is a bit of blessing for you...
White Sage©  S. Varga 2014

May you always walk in beauty.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Working for The New Farm

"Out, standing in her field."    Aromatic Traditions™ 2015

The New Farm magazine was published by Rodale Press and the Rodale Institute from 1979 to 1994.  During my Fall semester of 1980 at what is now called Kutztown University, I became the first photography intern at Rodale Press.

I wanted to combine my love affair with the environment with my passion for the camera.  I worked this internship until I got it.  (I believe it still exists?, I'm not sure though.)

No sooner than I was given the internship I was assigned many menial (but meaningful?) tasks.  You see, photography interns did not exist before I came along.  Frankly, I don't think they knew what to do with me.

I was fascinated by the studios, test kitchens and a particular food stylist who made the most amazing presentations with hands gnarled by rheumatoid arthritis.  I started to make friends and stay late utilizing the facilities to take pictures that would later fill my portfolio.

It felt great to be part of Rodale Institute.  I loved that they were "back to nature", exploratory, sustainable and family run.  I was part of a family.  I am still part of that family today.  Farms turn me on.  I love the smells, the sounds, and most of all the people that I meet a long the way.

I remember one particular photo shoot trudging in my "wellies" through pig sh*t carrying about 80 pounds of photography equipment.  Anything for the perfect shot of a well run rural farm.

Later I was sent out on assignment.  Looking back through some of the old books and magazines published by Rodale I still see pictures and know that is my hand holding the growing frame lid up so you can see the tomato starts.

Although the memory of that time drifts into my mind in bits.  The passion for farming remains.  The passion for sustainable farming in small places.

Here is a pic of the first day of my floating garden on the Multnomah Channel of the Willamette River.

I grew several pounds of Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) flowers this year.  Quite a yield.
Here is one of my favorite products made from the blooms:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"Fake It 'Til You Make It"

Soul Sister Reunion          Morning Glory Cafe  1999
On a rainy day in Flagstaff, AZ, I looked out my window to see a bear naked little boy jumping up and down in mud puddles.  His blonde curly hair flying and his feet stomping.  It was a moment of sheer joy, a perfect photo op - I went next door to ask permission to take a picture of my neighbor's son and a restaurant was born.

We had now clue what we were doing.  We had a vision. And both, from indigenous backgrounds (both Native American in part but coasts apart), wanted to share our roots.  I loved gardening and wild-crafting.  Maria loved her incredible heritage and the ingredients dear to her from New Mexico.

We started literally from a dirt floor up and created an amazing place, not so much a restaurant but a place of incredible heart where people of all nations and beliefs could stop by for a bite.  And most certainly a chat.
Maria was bigger than life, I was shy and willing to work behind the scenes as an advocate.  We certainly needed one.  We were two young woman starting a business in a man's world.  Inspectors, landlords, permits, construction.  We handled it all.  We were harassed, adored, challenged and loved.  Best part of it all - we did it.

Every day we would tackle one problem or another and our battle cry was always "Fake it 'til we make it."

It gave us perspective and certainly an appreciation of the deep mystery of not knowing what the heck to do in any given moment.  We sure trusted that the answer would come -- eventually.

Not always in the package you would expect.  And always better.

Today the Morning Glory Cafe thrives - 30, yes, 30 years later.  The wonderful ladies who run the place, whom I've yet to meet in person, but support via social media, have still got the spirit.

The spirit that endures.  Making something with love for y'all to enjoy.

That's what I'm still doing at Aromatic Traditions™ and if you are ever in Flagstaff, AZ.  Please take a moment and stop by the Morning Glory Cafe and tell them that Sue sent you.

You can check 'em out here:


In honor of Maria Delores Nelson Ruiz RIP my dear soul sister.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Years in the Making

Wisdom Parfum Oils               Aromatic Traditions  2015

Years ago I met a teacher.
We were gathered together to do what is called a Moon Ceremony.
Some of us were adding extra layers as it had snowed.  I was being chided for looking like Little Red Riding Hood as I had all of my prayer bundles gathered in a basket and a shawl with a hood pulled tight over my head.

Not to be taken too seriously, I pulled up my skirt to reveal a pair of very brightly colored leggings.  One of a kind. Or so I thought.
Across the room another woman lifted her skirt and had on a similar pair.  We laughed and when she asked me where I got the leggings, I told her she wouldn't know the place, it was very far away.

But she did and she became my teacher that night.

Ten years later, my teachings culminated in what is now the Wisdom Parfum Oil set.  
My family did not see me for months as I sat at my perfumer's organ creating each oil.
(I still work with them, tweaking and noticing the changes.)

The oil set is based on 15 years of teachings about the chakras, the medicine wheel and ceremony.  Each oil is blessed and sits on its accompanying affirmation while marrying in the bottle for months prior to dispensing.

This set is an honoring of my teacher, her teachers before her and to all who use them to create a difference in their lives and others.

You can check them out here:

(I like this set because it comes with a little affirmation booklet and a sweet little bag to put your oils in and draw out one or two for the day.)

Deep gratitude.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

If I Had Balls..they'd be up in the air.

Girl has got her priorities on straight.

It all started a week ago when I decided I wanted to stop being invisible.  In my business and in my life.
Not hide behind "fear of success", " fear of failure"...just plain fear.

I made a call to Indie Business Network owner  Donna Maria and signed up for her "Stand Out Sister" one-hour phone consultation.

She blew me away.

She shined the light right in and there I was looking at my business Aromatic Traditions™ from an entirely different perspective.
I was excited, I was stoked, I was ready to roll out the new website and prepare to launch...

then it happened....the fear...

Things started falling apart.

The self-sabotage mechanisms started working.  My old familiar patterns started to kick in.


At the same time, orders started to roll in.  Old accounts called asking for new lines.  New accounts wanted to launch sooner than later.  Customers started to text orders.
Something had shifted just enough  to allow room for the next step.

I took it.

Yeah, I made one batch of product three times as I worked through the issues.  I'm a little behind my schedule (getting this blog out is part of it).  My dishes are pilled high in the sink.

Oh well.
And the self-sabotage part of myself - I took it and my son to a ballgame this evening and then to dinner.
I'm going to be working with this fear for a long time, might as well bring it along for the ride and focus on what really counts - making memories with my family.

Love to y'all.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Gardening is an Instrument of Grace

Floating Garden    Aromatic Traditions 2015
Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.  Gardening is an instrument of grace.
-Mary Sarton

When all else fails - I go to the garden.
Picking my first red, ripe tomato.  Boy, I had to be patient waiting for just the right moment to pull this one off the vine.  P-a-t-i-e-n-c-e.

I still grow tomatoes. So does my father.  His father, my grandfather, did too.  He would walk every night to his tomato plant down the hill step by step until his last day.  I often wondered if he planted that far away as inspiration to get up and move.  To remain a farmer.

Gardening is in my blood.

Before I moved to Portland, I fantasized about building a floating garden like the Aztec gardens you read about when you were a kid.

I salvaged an old swim platform and began to plant.

The first to thrive - Calendula Officinalis, a major ingredient in my products. (Check out this blogpost for a Calendula Infused oil:

The blossoms were huge.

We both found a home to be nourished and thrive.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Self-Care Ritual Box: Water Renewal

Self-Care Ritual Boxes              Aromatic Traditions 2015

So what is Self-Care?
Self-care is any intentional action you take to tend to your emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being.  Buzz word -- intentional.  We need to initiate something for ourselves.
Not so easy for most of us, don't you agree?
Like the "shoemaker's son" I am guilty of putting off my personal needs for the needs of others; family, neighbors, customers, etc. and find myself at the bottom of the barrel.
The bottom is dry - not juicy.
The bottom feels empty - not full.
The bottom seems dark - not light.
Creativity gets stagnant - lacks flow.
Have you noticed that doing one small thing a day can turn these feelings around?
Something as simple as lighting a candle and soaking in some fine bath salts.  You know that "Ahhhhh..." when you slip into the water and feel your muscles sigh in relief.
You let go, you surrender.
And with surrender, your heart opens and into it flows all the juiciness, full-filling and lightness the world has to offer.

Here is a postcard which is included in one of my four Ritual Boxes:
Feel free to substitute any of the products that you have around your home and create a Water Renewal Ritual for yourself.

Blessings to YOU!

We've launched our first box -- Renewal, Elemental Water Ritual -- check it out here:
Shhhh...each box contains a one-of-a-kind talismans designed by artist Linda Lee of Dragonhill Studio