Parties, More Aliens, Leaves, New Business Accounts

It’s been a great summer. We have had parties in the yard, attended a family reunion,  raced sailboats in the San Juans,  and picked up a great new business account.

Maleah turned 10! We had a bevy of girls at the house. Sunshine, snacks, treasure hunt, cake, and lots of giggles.

Maleah's Birthday Party.

We also had a second birthday in September. I turned 50. Vanessa had a surprise party for me. I had a great time. It’s really nice to attend a party where everyone brings YOU food and drink and YOU don’t have to hussel around keeping the food and drink table filled.  Ah… life is good.

Brad and looooong time buddy, Ross.

Some GREAT friends showed up, some that I hadn’t seen for ages.

V, Eden and Jer

We were at the local coffee shop the other day and ran into some more aliens. They had odd looking hats. They also used them for noise makers. Actually, the brown cones are called Gold Cones. It is a gold sluicing device developed by my father about 40 years ago.

Gold Cone Aliens

We had fun raking and jumping in the leaves this fall.

We also got a great new business account this Fall. Herbs of Grace, Inc. welcomes Whole Foods NW as our newest retailer for Natural Look Mineral Makeup™. You can find Natural Look Mineral Makeup™ in the following stores:

Bellevue Whole Foods, Bellevue, WA
Redmond Whole Foods, Redmond, WA

Interbay Whole Foods, Seattle, WA

Mill Plain Whole Foods, Vancouver, WA
Bend Whole Foods, Bend, OR
Freemont Whole Foods, Portland, OR



Herbs of Grace, Inc.

Day shift, hair cuts, the creek, hunkering down, and business

Wow. It’s been awhile. V and I swapped shifts. She now is working the swing and I’m doing days. Swing is the “non-business” hours shift, meaning I did not need to fill my day with phone calls and ordering. Now that I’m on days, I spend more time marketing and dealing with customers, since “business hours” are when everyone else is open. On swing, I had more time to spend on the blog and the web site. Seems it has affected our Google rank. We were at 30 and now we are at 36 for a “mineral makeup” search.

M and S asked V to cut their hair the other day. M got tired of dealing with the knots. M had hair to her waist, S had hair to her mid back. Now M has a “Hermione Granger” hair cut, and Scarlet has a shoulder length bob. Both cuts are very sassy. Neither of them have had their hair cut since birth. Well, that’s not true. M cut S’s hair when she was about two. Butchered it. I has decided to keep her hair as is for the time being, can’t remember if she has been the recipient of any hair cutting experiments or not.

Our seasonal creek is flowing again. The ponds are full and refreshing as the new water displaces the old, down the creek. The lower pond is spring fed, which is really nice. It stayed full the entire summer. The upper pond, tho, is not spring fed, so it lost about half of it’s volume since the creek quit flowing in early July. Here’s a pic.

Seasonal creek.
Seasonal creek.

With the early onset of cooler weather, we have fired up the wood burning stove. We started burning in early October, perhaps even late September, I can’t remember. I pulled the room heaters out of storage and set them up. They are controlled by timers, so they come on in the morning and go off in the evening by themselves. We are back to long sleeves and long pants. This summer was too short, and too cool.

We exhibited at the NorthWest Natural trade show in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. Trade shows give us a chance to meet some of our retailers. Most retailers contact us via phone or email, and business is transacted in a rather blind sort of way. I really enjoy visiting with customers. Perhaps I am commenting on my social life, lack of one really, but I like putting faces to names and a trade show is a great place to do that. Over all, the show was good. We came back with a list of new contacts, sold a couple of displays and had some great face time with our sales reps.

Later, Brad.

Back to Herbs of Grace

The simplest things…

I put a clean towel next to the sink this evening. You remember our house, don’t you? It’s the one that breathes during the winter. Everything in it is also crooked. The windows don’t quite fit, the plumbing works and does not leak, but it looks like it belongs in a Mouse Trap game. Even with all that is wrong with the house, I’m amazed what clean counters and a new dish towel does for it. Maybe I’ve had one too many cocktails, call me simple, whatever, clean counters and a new dish towel makes my day.

House from back yard.

The summer is cruising along. It’s been unseasonably cool and wet this summer. It rained so hard early this morning, I thought the house would be washed off the foundation. I don’t mind, tho. I’m not a hot weather person, unless I can be out in the boat or swimming all afternoon. The kids love the cooler weather. I’m amazed with how much more they play outside, when it’s cool and slightly overcast, then when it’s clear and 85 degrees. When it’s hot, they come in saying “it’s too hot” and plop down on the sofa to watch a video or continue some ongoing project. If I can get them going in the deep shade of our friendly maple tree along the edge of the ravine, they sometime will play when it’s hot, but not often.

Business has really picked up during June, July and this first part of August. V and I really need to watch supplies and materials so we don’t run out. We need to start ordering higher volumes of ingredients, displays, containers, etc, and then order when we are about half-way through them so we can build in some time for shipping and the occasional mis-shipped, or lost items. What would be a fiasco for a large company is usually solved with a quick phone call to a customers about a back ordered item. It’s still a hassle when we don’t have the items to ship. We keep learning, thankfully.

Later, Brad

Back to Herbs of Grace

Winter wrap-up, Goldfish, New Seasons Markets

I think Spring has finally arrived. We no longer use the wood stove everyday, the rain isn’t quite a persistant, (as a result, the water flow in the creek has diminished a bit) and the most sad of all, the local ski area, White Pass, is open only weekends until the end of April, then it will close for the season. The kids really enjoyed skiing this year. We hope to hit it one more time this coming weekend. Fingers are crossed for clear weather.

The kids got 100 goldfish the other day and put them in the lower pond. I didn’t realize goldfish school, so now when we go to the pond, we make a game of seeing who can find the school of goldfish first. They are often in two schools, lately. So now we have twice the fun. I’d like to get some trout for the upper pond, since it is always in the shade, but I think I’ll watch the upper pond this summer to see what type of temperature fluctuations it goes through, and how much evaporation occurs during the hot weather. If any one has “fish in pond” experience, please send my a note or leave a comment.

Casting practice.

We did a staff training the other day, at our newest retail customer New Seasons Markets, in Portland, OR. We visited with the Health and Beauty Aids managers. We discussed the product line, our company history, application tips, display options, did a couple of makeovers, and had a great lunch. Natural Look Mineral Makeup is officially available in the New Seasons Markets on May 1, but we are in 3 of their stores now and the rest of the displays will be delivered this Friday. We got an exciting phone call from our rep in the SW region (AZ, NM, UT, CO, NV, WY). More about that later, if/when it pans out.

Later, Brad

Return to Herbs of Grace

Snow?, Old Maple Tree, Follow up

Snow on April 2. It’s been so cold here the past few days, I’m ready to go back to full winter clothing. We had a nice stretch of weather over the past couple of weeks, spring definitely had sprung. We had begun to dress lighter, the girls are in spring dresses, I even wore shorts a week ago. And then this. Snow. 0 centigrade over night. Cold house in the morning. I’m ready for warmer weather.

I cut a big maple tree in the yard the other day. It had not fully leafed for the past two summers. 30% of the branches had leaves on it last summer. A friend dropped in the other day, looked at the maple and said, “it’s dead”. Lots of maples are dying in eastern Lewis county. No one knows why. Could be warming, could be pollution encroachment from the valley, could be anything. When I made the last cut and the tree hit the lawn, it shattered into thousands of pieces. Much of the wood was past dead, and had dried on the limb. The bark fell off main branches, the limbs shattered, there were all sorts of bugs in the canopy. I cut the tree about 15′ up in hopes of sprouting new shoots. My friend says it won’t sprout. We’ll see.

I did the last of the follow up from the trade show last night. A few days after the show I sent everyone a quick email “thank you” and yesterday, I sent a post card. I love visiting with customers to answer questions, send samples or brochures, zap email back and forth, etc. Don’t hesitate to write.

Later, Brad

Back to Herbs of Grace

Snow, Spring, Big Business News

It’s been snowing here the past couple of days. The girls are diggin’ it. They recruited me to build a snow castle this afternoon. The local ski area has a snow castle as part of their Winter Carnival every year. The kids remember the carnival from last year so they want a snow castle in our yard, “like the one at White Pass”. We’ll be heading to the pass this weekend to check it out.

Even though it’s snowing, the spring buds are popping out everywhere! Spring is in the air. You can see it, smell it, feel it. Maybe it’s just me, but I swear, it’s too warm to be snowing. Maybe our “breathing” house has me used to the cooler temps.

When the sky is clear, the daylight lasts until darn near 6:30. I’m one of those who loves winter temps and snow, but I hate the short days. November, December and January are gloomy for me. Finally in February, I can start detecting the longer days, especially with the clear sky.

The business received a great boost the other day. A local chain of eight natural food stores in Portland, OR, New Seasons Markets, has told us that they want our products in ALL of their stores. This is our first chain! This is big news and we’re all buzzed about it, have been for about a week now. Keep asking your local natural food store if they carry Natural Look Mineral Makeup(TM). If they don’t, have them contact us at 888-817-1831. We’d be happy to set them up.

Later, Brad

Winter Break, Frozen Pipe, Almost Lost Acquaintance, Refridgerators

Where have I been? I noticed that my last post was December 17. Life gets in the way sometimes. We took two trips for the business, had lots of friends and family over for the holidays, then it snowed and we’ve been in a freezing weather pattern for the past week so I’ve been busy keeping the house warm.

A pipe froze over night so we didn’t have any hot water for a few hours. Luckily, the pipe didn’t burst. I was able to thaw the pipe and then reinsulate so, hopefully, it won’t happen again. I got to looking around the pipe, it’s in the pantry, and noticed that daylight was coming though the corner of the room. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the the critters pulled all the insulation from a crack in the wall and a nice stream of cold air had been blasting the pipe all night. Turns out, the pantry has pulled away from the house so there is a seam that has opened in the siding about an inch wide. Got it reinsulated and sealed up from the outside. Now I have one more “to do” on the list for this summer. I should post the list sometime and get your input. This old house, I tell you….

Got a nice note from a friend whom we met in Japan. He and his wife and kids stayed the following school year (05-06) and then came back to the states this past June. His note was the perfect mid-winter lift. Not only was it a real correspondence, but it was from someone I thought I would probably never see again. One of those past acquaintences that are helpful, outgoing, and truly friendly. We were beginning to know this family, and our kids were similar ages, so our relationship could have blossomed into something more than casual. Then we came back to the states and this family, along with all of the folks we met in Japan, are suddenly part of our past. Well, Brian crossed that bridge and wrote a great note and let us know what they are up to and how they are settling into life back in the USA. It was really nice. Thanks, Brian.

A shelf in our refrigerator broke this evening, just at dinner time. *&^%! refer. It fits this old house too well. It seems to run ok, but the interior is shot. I’ll see what I can do about repairing the shelf tomorrow and let you know if I succeed.

As mentioned above, we’ve been traveling a bit for the business. We like to touch bases with the local stores that carry our products. We got as far north as Bellingham, WA, and we’ve been as far south as Portland, OR. We often will do a demo, or simply swing in to ask how things are going and if there is anything we can do for the retailer. If the retailer is far away, we find a makeup artist in the area and hire them to make an appearance and do a demo. If you are interested in doing this, please let us know. You might check the store locations link to see if we have a store in your area.



Careful What You Wish For.

OK. The COLD weather has arrived. As much as I’d like the ponds to freeze, I would prefer to be able to keep the house warm. The sub freezing weather makes if very difficult to keep our “breathing” house warm. The stove is cranking and we are wearing extra layers, indoors. It’s not as bad as I’m making it sound, but it’s different than our old house in Vancouver.

V did a demo at the Poulsbo Central Market on Saturday. We stayed with my folks Saturday night. Half the island was without power for over 48 hours. Yes, my folks were on the outage side. Dad kept the wood stove burning and also has a generator that helps keep the furnace and refridgerator running. Inconvenient, yes, but I think still better than trying to heat a drafty old house with only a wood stove. Actually, we have some in-wall heat units, but I hate running them. They are so inefficient and the give me the creeps regarding fire hazard. Although we did run them tonight, when we got home the interior temperature was 44F. =8^O

Picked up some ski gear from a college buddy of mine this afternoon. Now each of the girls have skis, and two of them have boots. We’re almost ready to hit the slopes. The girls really enjoyed skiing last year, and they have been talking about it this year. Hopefully, we’ll ski this week. One more pair of boots….

No matter how many times I do the math, it just seems like the business isn’t growing fast enough. Some of the vetern business owners, at the last trade show we attended, said that we need to be able to hang in there for about three years. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, and hustling alot. I used to be the wage earner and it’s definitely a different mind set for me, staying home with the kids and all. Maybe my mind set will change once I get the kids geared up for skiing and we start skiing once a week. If any of you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.



Kids, A House that Breathes, Snow.

I, our two year old, spent the day in her pajamas. V tried to get her dressed this morning, gave up, and turned it over to me. I got two of each item of clothes, so she could have her choice of what to wear, but as soon as I headed toward her, she went screaming in the opposite direction, yelling that she wanted to wear here pajamas today. I started the knock down drag out, and then caught myself and let her be. Her pajamas are the full body type, with footies. They are pile and have a high neck, so I realized that she was dressed warmly. I did manage to get a parka and boots on her. So off we went, to the coffee shop and grocery store, with I in her pajamas. Did I mention that she’s two? This all makes sense now, right?

The kids are getting excited for christmas. M, age 7, keeps asking “how many more days”. S, age 5, tells us what she wants from Santa, and I, wants a nutcracker.

It has snowed here over the past few days/nights and the kids are really enjoying it. We didn’t get much snow last year so this is extra “cool” this year. Bought the kids a sled and even though the snow is very sparse, they were out there on the hill pushing each other around.

Our 110 year old house is not what you would call, air tight. Living here reminds me of the year we spent in Japan. The Japanese build houses that “breathe”. They are cold in the winter and hot in the summer. During my bicycle commute in Japan, I watched the daily progress of a house being torn down. After the siding was removed, there was building paper, but there was no insulation, and only a thin wall covering on the inside. When I talk to folks about our old house, I tell them that it “breathes”. Anyway, I woke up this morning and the temperature outside was 26F and, remembering that the house breathed all night, was 46F inside. It took the old wood stove an hour to warm the house up to 54F and another hour to get to 60F. Needless to say, we wear sweaters all the time. V has a heater in the office which keeps it toasty all the time.

V is very busy with Herbs of Grace. We have demos to line up and present, product and samples to ship, marketing and sales firms to keep organized and motivated, product to manufacture and package, office supplies to order, displays to design and manufacture, press releases to write and publish, a website to maintain and a zillion other things to do. I’m sure it’s going to get busier and busier. I don’t know if V realized this when she signed on, but she’s hanging in there. She has always had her own business, but this is the first time that she has marketed to the mass market. It’s quite different than puttering along doing Saturday markets and an occasional gift show.

White Pass has a ton of snow, hope it stays cold this winter.

Later, Brad Klein

Herbs of Grace website

Trade Shows, Working Late, Surgery.

It’s 11:50PM. I’ve been cleaning up some mail and researching the Natural Products Association (formerly the NNFA). We have to be members of this association if we want to exhibit at their trade show next July in Las Vegas. Can you believe it, a conference in Las Vegas, IN JULY! Go figure. We’ll be at ExpoWest in Anaheim, CA, March 8-11, 2007, and are planning to exhibit at the NPA show in Vegas, July 20-22, 2007. Trade shows are a great way for us to get out there and meet our customers and show our product line. If any of you will be attending these shows, we would love to meet you, so swing by and say “hi”.

Anyway, I often work late because the kids and V are in bed. Since V works all day, this is my time to get a bit done. I suppose, between the two of us, we put in from 12-16 hours per day on the business. When one of us is in the office, the other is with the kids. The kids are tended to, but V and I rarely get one-to-one time. At times I don’t know if this is a receipe for success or disaster, for either the business or our relationship. Like so many parents and grandparents have said, “I wish I spent more time with my kids” or “I spent too much time at the office.” V and I can say we spend time with the kids, and at the office, we just don’t get time with each other. I suppose we’ll be saying “I wish I spent more time with my spouse.” Since we are both committed to the business and the kids, we are ok with our arrangement for now.

Daughter M has bounced back from surgery, last Wednesday. As a parent, it sure is uncomfortable to watch your child go through surgery. It was an out patient issue, so we were back home in one day, but even tho, M sure was feeling low for a couple of days. V and I found it discomforting to not be allowed into the recovery room, so that one of us could have been there when M awoke. M was very shaken up when she was being wheeled out of recovery. When she saw us, she busted into tears. It was sad. Short lived, thankfully, but sad none the less. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we all stay healthy, and in no need of surgery in the future.

Later, Brad