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

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Little Altars Everywhere...

Sacred Space     Aromatic Traditions 2015

“Sometimes I wonder if any of us are cut out for the lives we lead.” 

Really!  If you told me a two years ago that I would be where I am now - living on a floating home in Portland Oregon - I would have felt a little overwhelmed (to say the least).

It was a real push to pack up my home, lab and part of my family and move across the country.  As soon as we unpacked, we began to renovate from the water up.  Yes! We replaced the float system of old growth logs underneath or home, put in a sub-floor, later flooring, electricity and plumbing.

I am also living a bi-coastal relationship.  There is nothing easy about it.  You miss the cues, the little things your senses pick up about your partner.  There is nothing physical about it.

Today was a really difficult day.  We all have them.  Sometimes we have them more than we care to.  Today the sun came out and shown through my kitchen window illuminating my greenhouse and statue.  A gentle reminder to stop, slow down, and take the moment IN.


It is time to be grateful to everyone and everything that brought me to this moment.
Sometimes I feel like I am not cut out for the life I chose because I forgot to be grateful for everything that got me here in the first place.

Thank You!

I am grateful.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

And I Sometimes See a Falling Star...

Rose hip harvest.    Fall 2015
It is December in Wicklow:
Alders dripping, birches
Inheriting the last light,
The ash tree cold to look at.

A comet that was lost
Should be visible at sunset,
Those million tons of light
Like a glimmer of haws and rose-hips,

And I sometimes see a falling star.
If I could come on meteorite!
Instead I walk through damp leaves,
Husks, the spent flukes of autumn,...
-from "Exposure", Seamus Heaney

Commonly known as Dog rose, Dog Brier, Brier Rose, Rose hips always remind me of the coming of Fall.  As a young woman, wanting to "live off the land", I would collect bright red rose hips, grind them and make a Vitamin C packed tea.

Here is my simple recipe, I hope you enjoy!

Rose Hip Tea
-Place fresh or crushed dried rose hips in a mason jar.
-Pour boiling water over them and steep, covered for 10 minutes.
-Add honey, stevia to sweeten

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What's In A Name...

White Sage by S. Varga   2015
"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
-William Shakespeare

It began in 1998 with my first farm to face company.
Lillly's Essential Products blossomed from a small plot of land and a renovated mudroom. The first product came to me while driving across the Berkshires.  I remember opening the glove box and grabbing a scrap piece of paper and writing:
Evening Primrose Oil
I heard these words whispered as I rode along absorbing the scenery.
Blue Pearl has been a bestseller ever since.

Fast forward 13 years...after a career pioneering Oncology Massage my heart broken from another loss my husband asked - "if you could do anything right now, what would it be?".
Aromatic Traditions™ was born in that moment.
My passion for aromatics and need for a tradition of self-care rooted in Mother Earth birthed a brand dedicated to the beauty way. To walk in balance with all things. 

Today may I walk out in beauty.

With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty around me, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
-Navajo Beauty Way prayer

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Way to Get Started...

Easy-Bake Oven, circa 1960's
"The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing."
-Walt Disney

Tucked inside my bedroom closet. No adults please! Just grounded and my brand new chemistry set removed from my room - I create.
This is how Aromatic Traditions™ began...
Out of the box go the baking mixes.  Into the pans go my mixes. 
Crayons, candle wax, flower petals from my beloved Peonies.
Somewhere in my heart, I knew what I came here to do.
Didn't you?

I would love to hear about YOUR earliest passions...
and how you stay true to them.

Let's start a list.

1. Follow your heart. Listen to the voice that whispers to you (HINT: it never raises its voice).