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.