A New Way to Use Soap: a reflection and guide to peaceful, reflective thought

Let’s Catch Up

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Every once in a while I like to take a mindful pause, contemplate the joys and difficulties of our current season of life, and write a more reflective piece for the AVNS blog. Why? It’s my way of connecting with all you wonderful people as a fellow human being. It’s also a chance to remind myself and the AVNS community that behind every beautiful bar of soap is a fantastic team of people who all have stories to share and lives to live. With this being said, I’m excited to share that over time and starting within the coming months we’re hoping to craft feature blogs for all of the amazing people behind AVNS…but for now I’ll have to do. 

The Importance of Easter

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I sincerely hope the contents of today’s blog are useful to you, wherever you may be on your life-journey and regardless of religious affiliation, however I do want to take a moment to share what stirred me to write this blog in the first place. Today’s blog was inspired by the recent Easter holiday, an important holiday for many AVNS team members, including myself. For Christians, Holy Week is a time of respectful reflection, gratefulness and celebration. Holy Week and Easter are commemorations of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a purposeful and powerful sacrifice resulting in eternal life in Heaven for all who acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and their Savior. 

What Does Soap Have To Do With It?

Now you may be wondering, what does Easter, or even Christianity…or even religion in general…or EVEN just the acts of contemplation and reflection…have to do with soap? To be honest, I had the same question…which is why I turned to my Bible. I figured the Bible is just as much a historical account as a religious text, maybe I’d find some ancient soap recipe (probably involving saltor clay) to write about, but a quick internet search brought me to an even cooler connection…How To Soap.

Our popular Honey Carrot and Tangerine Soap!

The S.O.A.P Method

Well, that’s obvious…right? Just lather, rinse, and repeat with your favorite bar of AVNS soap and you’re good to go. I was surprised to learn that soap or S.O.A.P is actually an acronym for a method to read and reflect on scripture. How cool is that?! I found this method on Love God Greatly, a website for women’s ministry. I share the original method below, but I’ve also adapted each step so that everyone is able to utilize this method.

S.O.A.P

S – stands for scripture, or sentence-by-sentence.

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You’ll start by taking your verse or line and actually taking the time to write it out. It’s amazing how just the act of intentionally slowing down will allow you to really focus on what you are reading. If you aren’t so sure about religious texts you could always start with a piece of poetry you love or even song lyrics. If you’re curious or interested in what the Bible has to offer, here are a few verses that I find calming and encouraging.

Encouraging Bible Verses

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Proverbs 24:14 Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

O – stands for observation.

Ask yourself. What stands out to you as you read your text? Which words are repeated? Does it sound different if you read it out loud? Who is the speaker addressing? What is the tone? You’d be surprised how a deeper understanding of a text can teach you so much about life and yourself.

A – stands for application.

When in a religious context, you can ask yourself “How is God speaking to me today?” Also ask yourself in what ways you can apply what you’ve read to your personal life. Are there habits you need to change? Actions to take towards a goal you’ve set for yourself? A comfort you can fall back on in times of stress?

P – stands for prayer, or personal-dialogue.

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Talk to God. Tell Him about what you learned, ask Him about any questions that came up during your reading. If you aren’t familiar with prayer, think of the p as personal dialogue. Take a walk out in nature where you have some privacy and speak out loud to yourself, it may seem strange at first…but try it. Did you know that the act of talking out loud to yourself, or self-talk can actually improve concentration and self-esteem? If self-talk isn’t your cup of tea, try journaling. Write a letter to yourself, or a friend…even if you don’t plan on ever sharing what you write with them. If you’d like to try praying but aren’t sure how, try talking to God like He’s just another one of your friends or family members who cares about you. God is never judging you, he loves you and wants to know you.

Thank You For Your Time Today

I hope this blog served as a fun and interesting change of pace. If you’re interested in checking out our more typical posts (natural ingredients we use, benefits of the products we offer, etc.) click here!

Much Love,

Nora


Wary Welcoming: A Reflection on The Past Year

I’ve been thinking long and hard about how to properly reflect on the past year, and how to prepare myself for the year to come. Every once in a while I like to write about life’s journey because it gives me a chance to slow down and connect with everyone who reads the AVNS blog.

I am thankful for beautiful sunsets.

I think the entire world must have let out a sigh of relief on New Year’s Eve as it felt the immense tension accumulated over the course of this infamous year finally giving way to the anticipation of a new start, but did anyone else have doubts that 2021 is truly the cure we’ve been waiting for?

I’ve seen the New Year’s Eve Instagram posts of my friends, their captions roughly shove 2020 out the door, personifying it as though it was an unpleasant houseguest who overstayed its welcome. While I admire and envy this bold and enthusiastic display of spirit, I’m a bit ashamed to admit I’m far too weary to join in and even more than that…I’m wary.

Wasn’t it just a year ago that we believed that 2020 would be our banner year? If 2020 let us down, who is to say 2021 will be any better?

Yikes, what a debbie downer, right? I’m kind of bumming myself out with all the cynicism, but bear with me and I think we can reach a brighter outlook.

I value storytelling because it allows people from all different backgrounds to find common ground amongst many differences. The experience I’d like to share with you is a Christian experience, and before you stop reading because you feel you may not be able to relate, I’d also like to emphasize that this experience is also wholly human and worth reading if you relate to attempting to navigate a world that contains both unbearable loss and overwhelming joy. 

During a New Year’s Eve church service I attended (virtually) the speaker had asked the congregation to consider a perfect gift God had given them over the course of the 2020 year. As I thought about all the beautiful things I was grateful for (including my boyfriend of five years who was sitting next to me at the time) I realized I could not think of all the perfect things God had given me without also thinking about all the perfect things God had taken away. 

This thought unsettled me, not just because of its bitter nature, but because of how inaccurate my understanding of God was in this moment. I gently reminded myself that God does not purposefully take things away from us and that loss and chaos are side effects of living in a broken world, but the entire incident had shaken me and I spent a great deal of time in thoughtful contemplation trying to reconcile my strange anger with my love for God. 

I am thankful for snuggly puppies.

As I write this blog, I reflect on 2020. I celebrate the fact that this blog marks a full year of writing weekly blogs for this beautiful company under the undeniably kind, creative, and giving guidance of Marianne. I mourn the fact that there are people who read this blog or love AVNS products who have lost loved ones this year due to COVID-19 and other causes. I think about all my friends who got engaged, planned their weddings, and started their lives while I moved back home with my parents. I think about how so many of those weddings were postponed or felt incomplete because of COVID while I rejoiced over reconnecting with my family after four years of being away at college. 

What I understood from that moment during the service and what I understand now as I write is this: humankind relies too often on rhyme and reason. If there is anything we can agree on after this year it is how little the world actually adheres to a model of rhyme and reason.

As I said to my boyfriend after the service, “I think my greatest struggle as a human being is forgetting that there is a bigger picture and also my inability to fully reconcile myself with the idea that there is no way for me to know or understand exactly how that bigger picture works.” I continue to practice recognizing the gifts in live while simultaneously working through the difficulties.

That strange anger I felt, that instant need to blame God for the earthly occasions that caused me grief was my own humanity getting in the way of my love for God. My earthly compulsion to apply rhyme and reason to a world plan that defied earthly limitations set me up for heart ache and exhaustion. So what do I do to avoid feeling this way this year?

If you are weary.

If you are wary.

Consider this: 2021 is a new houseguest. Not an old friend, but a complete stranger. Instead of trying to control this year, let it pull up a chair and introduce itself. Don’t worry too much about how the house looks, or making some elaborate dinner. Simply focus on the basics. Be kind and be hospitable to others, and yourself. Welcome, 2021.

Much Love,

Nora


Boost Your Confidence Naturally With Power Posing?

I Tried Power Posing for Five Minutes Daily to Increase Confidence

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Is confidence something you’re born with? Or something you can naturally obtain over time with experience? Are there things you can do to boost your confidence quickly? I decided to spend five minutes power posing every day and then keep a daily journal to record any signs of increased confidence. I can say with complete confidence that the results surprised me.

Boost Natural Confidence?

Outer Sources of Confidence 

Natural ways to improve confidence are easier to achieve than you might think. Evaluating the patterns in your life can help you determine ways to boost confidence with only a few mindful adjustments.

Surround Yourself With Supporters

Spending time with people who believe in you can help you to believe in yourself. Be mindful not to rely on others to feed your ego, but learn how to participate in a community focused on the goal of lifting up others.

Essential Oils to Boost Confidence

Essential oils are used as natural remedies to boost confidence. Our noses have a powerful influence on the rest of our bodily systems. Introducing your senses to certain smells in order to influence your body or mind is known as aromatherapy. Specific essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, and peppermint have been used to relieve tension, boost self-esteem, and even increase performance ability (have you ever received a peppermint before a big test? I know I have!). Many essential oils and plant products also have topical benefits as well, which is why they are the perfect natural solution for scenting our soaps and other products.

Inner Sources of Confidence

There are tons of natural ways to boost confidence, and most of them start with the way you treat yourself. 

Self-Talk

How you talk to yourself influences your self perception. When your inner monologue is positive and not self-deprecating, your self-esteem increases. For some examples of negative self-talk vs. positive self-talk, check out this educational example!

Body Language

What is Power Posing?

If you’ve ever prepared for a job interview, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the term “Power Posing” before. Power posing comes from the idea that our body language plays a big role in determining self-perception and if we look powerful, we’ll feel powerful. The initial Power Posing Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy became wildly popular after its debut in 2012, but after a replicated study in 2015 failed to produce similar findings power posing was called out as pseudoscience. Despite receiving fervent backlash, Cuddy must have been power posing 24/7 because she refused to give up and confidently continued her research into 2018 until she confirmed without a doubt that power posing is shown to make people feel more confident, even if it doesn’t actually produce a hormonal change. 

Five Days of Power Posing

I kept a little journal for each day that I spent standing like Wonder Woman to record any changes in confidence that might have occurred as well as some overall feelings and observations about the experiment.

Day 1

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Today was my first day “Power Posing!” I decided to use the same pose every day, even though there are many poses to choose from. I chose the Wonder Woman-esque “hands on hips” pose because it seemed the most natural (just in case I ever had to do it in public) and it’s also the pose used on Grey’s Anatomy (Season 11, Episode 14) which is where I first got the inspiration for this blog. I posed in my bathroom so that I could look in the mirror to check that I was doing it right. Wow. Five minutes sure seems like a long time when you aren’t doing anything, I tried to think “powerful thoughts” but I kept getting distracted and I think I checked my timer like a million times. I’m so glad I decided to start this project today because I had an interview and I needed all the confidence I could get. The interview went very well and at one point my interviewer asked me if I was actually good at writing. Normally I’d come up with a tactful reply balancing between humility and positivity, but when he asked me my instant response was a big, confident, “Yes.” WHOA. WHERE DID THAT CONFIDENCE COME FROM?! Does power posing work that well? I guess I’ll have to see and find out!

Day 2

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Power posed in the shower today so that I could let my favorite deep condition do its trick at the same time. I felt pretty low today because my long term boyfriend and best friend leaves for college in three days and I’m going to miss him a ton. I went over to his house to help him pack for school and was just overwhelmed by sadness (and all the packing that needed to get done). I was sitting in his room feeling sorry for myself when this thought popped into my head, “You know, if you work at being productive you might not feel so sad.” Cleaning is never my favorite task and I’d have normally dismissed the thought, but for some reason I felt like I had the inner reserves to push through and get the job done. After five hours and a bunch of sorting and organizing we had gone through his entire room. It was extremely satisfying and I felt like maybe the power posing had helped me feel like I was capable of accomplishing tasks I would normally avoid.

Day 3

I was super busy and didn’t have time to power pose until late afternoon because I spent the morning driving to Wisconsin to get to work on time. I didn’t notice much of a difference throughout the day, although one interesting thing did happen at the end of the day. I was sitting behind the front desk and a couple came in looking for a recommendation for trips down the river. When I started talking to them, I found myself getting out of my chair and standing. Then my hands naturally went to my hips and before I knew it I was discreetly power posing (nervous sweat be gone!)! 

Day 4

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I forgot to power pose at home and had to do it at work today. The workplace can sometimes be stressful and I found I had difficulty holding my pose for the full five minutes. I kept resorting to more anxious body language. The rest of the day went relatively smoothly. I think my main takeaway from today is that maybe power posing offers more than just boosting confidence, maybe it also acts as a gauge to determine how confident you are at any given place or time. Perhaps, if you recognize a place where you don’t feel as confident, your awareness can help you push through the situation.

Day 5

Photo by Cedric Lim Ah Tock on Pexels.com

The last day of power posing started off with really great news! I was offered the position at the place I interviewed! For the rest of the day I felt extremely productive. Over the last five days I’ve found that I’ve been able to initiate action with more ease than I have in the past. I think I’m going to continue power posing every day for two minutes instead of five. Even if its effects are just placebo, power posing gives me a couple minutes to just breathe and be in my own body and I’ve come to appreciate and cherish that time.

I hoped you enjoyed following my five days of power posing. Feel free to replicate the project and reach out with your results! If you’re new to AVNS, welcome! You can join our community newsletter to stay up to date on sales and giveaways and get 10% off on your first purchase!

Much Love & Confidence,

Nora


Want to become a Brand Ambassador for Natural Soap? Here’s How.

What is a Brand Ambassador?

A Brand Ambassador represents a company and promotes the company’s products either in person or on-line.

Apple Valley Natural Soap Brand Ambassador/Affiliate Program

We want people to have natural, organic, vegan, cruelty-free, options when it comes to health and beauty products. As a smaller business we do our best to reach people with quality, hand-made natural products, but sometimes we need a little help. The Apple Valley Natural Soap Brand Ambassador/Affiliate program was created so that people who love our products can benefit from sharing them with others via social media (Facebook, Instagram, personal blogs…you get the idea).

Don’t Think You’re Tech Savvy enough to be a Brand Ambassador? Think Again!

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Okay, let me start by saying: I have never been a tech savvy person. When I tell people this they think I’m being dramatic. Then I tell how I failed my computer skills class in eighth grade. The story goes like this:

We were supposed to program a short animation of a cat doing the following: walking across the room, picking up a can of tuna fish, eating the tuna fish, turning green, and barfing.

After five hours of sweating over my keyboard and mouse my cat did this:

Turned green, walked…upside down across the ceiling, barfed (while still upside down), completely ignored the can of tuna, and then disappeared.

People don’t question me after that. 

Steps to Becoming an AVNS Brand Ambassador

I decided that if I could figure out how to become an AVNS Brand Ambassador, you could too. I spent the entire week attempting to learn the ins and outs of being a Brand Ambassador and even if I’m never successful, hopefully I can give you the start you need to become the best AVNS Brand Ambassador EVER.

Step One: Create an Affiliate Account Through Apple Valley Natural Soap

If you’re on the mobile version of our site it will say “Pages”

Once you’re on the AVNS website, click on “More” and then scroll through the drop down menu until you find the “Ambassador/Affiliate Program” tab. 

The Ambassador/Affiliate Page will walk you through the process and benefits and at the bottom of the page you’ll see a button that says “Register.” Click on it.

Here are the basics of becoming a Brand Ambassador

Setting up your account is super easy, as is setting up a Paypal account if you don’t already have one.

Step Two: Set Up a PayPal Account

I’m pretty sure all I had to do was enter my email…

If you know you’re putting all your profits towards more AVNS soap, we have an option for your commission to be in the form of store credit as well!

The trickiest part for me was the actual Brand “Ambassad-ing”

Step Two: Create Promotional Posts

We’ve already supplied you with banners (photos of your fav products) that can be found on your affiliate account. Just download the photo you want to post and then upload it to social media. I love Instagram and Facebook, but I quickly learned that I wasn’t as good at navigating them as I thought. It took me a while to understand that I couldn’t share a click-able link on my Facebook and Instagram stories. The trick is to put your affiliate link (which you can find on your account page) in your bio. And then direct people to your bio.

Aww, look at my cute lil affiliate link!

Not sure what a bio is? That’s okay, you aren’t alone! A bio is a place for you to introduce yourself on social media platforms and is typically under where your name is displayed. A blog is also a great way to share products with others

My First Post

I chose the half-sized bar banner because one of my favorite things about AVNS is the huge selection of unique soaps. I put my affiliate link in my Instagram and Facebook bios so that I could redirect people through my story. My Instagram gives me the option to share the post on Facebook and to that I said YES!

When people purchase through your affiliate link you’ll earn commission starting at 6%!

Why Be a Brand Ambassador for Apple Valley Natural Soap?

Apple Valley Natural Soap is about more than keeping surface-level clean. We design our products to exist in harmony with the environment and with your body. What we put in our earth and on our bodies MATTERS. We strive for a deep clean of mind, body, soul, and earth because we believe it is a noble undertaking. If you believe this, and want to help others achieve a deep clean then you’re already on your way to becoming an AVNS Brand Ambassador (if only we can get this pesky post to upload, am I right?)

Much Love,

Nora


Puppy Love for Natural Dog Shampoo Bar

WARNING: THIS BLOG INCLUDES ADORABLE PICTURES OF DOGS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

When I was a little girl my biggest dream was to have a dog of my own.

I drew pictures of dogs, wrote stories about dogs, and owned two well-worn dog breed encyclopedias that I would spend hours paging through for fun. My obsession has since become a healthy passion, but I can still list off fifty dog breeds in under two minutes and thirty seconds.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in the company of some of the kindest, gentlest dogs I have ever known. My dad’s Vizsla Hank (looking shiny as a penny in the photo to the right) and I grew up together. Hank tolerated all of my toddler teasing and by the time I was twelve he had far outgrown me in dog years and was my faithful friend. He would follow me everywhere, limbs stiff with age. His velvety brow would wrinkle with concentration and he would cock his head when I spoke to him as if he were trying to understand me.

We also have several English Setters, who are basically giant drool babies with excellent noses and a penchant for snuggles (see the picture of my brother and his dog Lily on he left for proof).

With their stellar sniffers, English Setters are soft-mouthed dogs that are bred and trained to be fantastic hunting dogs. A soft mouthed dog is more inclined to retrieve without clamping down on prey and in order to keep this desired trait intact, I was not allowed to play fetch or tug-of-war with our Setters.

Having family dogs was not enough for me, I wanted a dog of my own. So in seventh grade I decided to take matters into my own hands and convinced my mom to take me to the Golden Valley Humane Society with the popular fate-sealer: “We’ll just pet them.”

Nico was about six months when we brought him home.

We did pet them…we also brought one home…

I quickly learned that Nico was not the noble, obedient dog I was accustomed to, but I actually love him more because of his deviant nature. Here are some of his most laudable qualities:

Nico has an adorable habit of scratching at my door when he wants to spend time with me, but the fact that he refuses to come when called is even more adorable. When I call Nico, he stands at a safe distance and just looks at me — not like he’s confused — like he’s still deciding whether or not he wants to come. I find it incredibly charming.

Nico is also a real crowd pleaser, a people-dog if you will. When Nico meets people for the first time, he puts them at ease by doing a stellar impression of a barking, growling land piranha (although he is all bark and no bite).

This is a candid of Nico making my favorite doggy-grin before he was able to go into “Alien Mode.” Nico has many nicknames including: Panini, Sneeps, Ni-ni, and Neepo. What silly nicknames do you call your dog?

Nico is remarkably adroit when it comes to non-verbal communication (although he is also an eloquent barker and can rhapsodize through high-pitched yips and grumbles about the neighbor dog’s presence in our yard for hours). Nico’s favorite pastime is trying to convince people that he is not a dog, but an uncomfortable alien who hates being touched.

My mom recently introduced Nico to her co-workers through a conference call. Recognizing that this was his time to shine, Nico held nothing back. His ears went flat against his head, his legs went taxidermy stiff, his lip stretched thin, and his eyes bulged like giant marbles. Alien dog achieved.

He makes me so proud…

Except for one thing…

I can’t stand the stink.

Nico loves stink. He loves stink so much that he wants to be stink. Nico rolls in the stinkiest things he can find and I often bury my face in his fur only to be unpleasantly surprised by a giant whiff of the dead fish bouquet radiating from his coat. Now that we’re dipping into spring, Nico finds many fragrant opportunities that are thawing and decomposing. When this happens, I pull out my secret weapon: a single word that sends Nico running for under the bed: BATHTIME!

I have to wash my hair every other day, but I have friends who only need to wash once a week. Dogs are the same way and so are other pets. According to AKC, your dog’s coat type typically determines how often they need to be bathed.

Huskies have insulated coats and over-washing will strip their fur of important natural oils. On the other hand–sorry–paw, Chinese Crested have very delicate skin and actually need to be bathed weekly.

As a rule of claw, most breeds need a bath once a month. Dogs get dirty, so dog shampoo can be packed with some pretty heavy duty ingredients and over washing your dog can lead to dry skin…which is the last thing you want for your pooch or any other pet.

Our dog Toby (Tri-color English Setter) when he was a puppy.

This poses a problem if your dog likes mud or stink. You shouldn’t keep your dog clean inside at the expense of them not getting proper exercise…so what do you do?

I used Lavender Silk. First on my own hair, and then on Nico’s. Let me tell you, we both smelled awesome.

Yes, some of our bars can be used for pets!

Because natural soap is more moisturizing, our soap can act as a monthly cleanse, but is also safe to use as a midweek emergency touch-up. While our Jojoba Silk Conditioning shampoo bar, Hemp & Honey bar, Lavender Silk bar, and Simply Shea bar can all be used on you and your pet, our Natural Pet Shampoo bar is designed specially for pets.

This bar is packed with pet-approved ingredients. When it comes to pets, lather is essential, you want physical proof that the soap is coating every inch of fur and lather helps a little go a long way. We used castor oil to achieve a fluffy lather that is effective in repelling dirt and fleas. We also added olive oil and coconut oil–oils that are known to moisturize, revitalize, and “antibacterial-ize.” The two components I’m most excited about are the essential oil blend and the colloidal oats.

Because my family has hunting dogs, they pick up a ton of ticks when they work in the fields and woods, additionally, the sheer number of dogs that we own makes flea infestations a huge potential problem. Essential Oils of Lemongrass, frankincense & cedarwood have been shown to repel fleas and ticks…and we put that blend right in the bar!

Burt working in the field.

Colloidal Oats are basically finely grounded oats. Oatmeal is a fantastic agent for soothing skin. When I was much younger my family had an English Setter who suffered from terrible dry patches and we could only bathe him with oatmeal shampoo. I also suffered from an extreme reaction to poison ivy as a child–it was miserable–and oatmeal baths were a huge factor in alleviating my symptoms.

This bar has everything you need to maintain your pet’s coat, but the best part is that it may help restore health to both skin and coat. As with our human shampoo bars, this bar needs soft water to work its magic.

During this time of physical distancing, our pets are there for us. This is the perfect time to reconnect with your adorable animal and get your kids involved! Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Rodents: if you own a hamster ball, you can train your hamster or other speedy rodent to race. Find a hallway. Put your rodent at one end and yourself at the other. Then have a simple chant (I used to do this with my “prizewinning” hamster Scooby, and I’d say “Go Scooby, Go!”). When your rodent reaches you, reward them with a treat. Eventually they’ll be tearing down the racetrack (you can line up some stuffed animal spectators on the sides for support)!

Cats: cats are mysterious creatures with minds of their own, but they seem to like feathers…

Dogs: I love playing hide and seek with Nico. I get some really fantastic snacks (let the dog know that you have these snacks), then put him in a room with a door that — if left slightly ajar — he will be able to scratch open on his own (if there is more than one human player they can take turns hiding and staying with the pet).

Since Nico and I play one-on-one, I tell him to stay and then I hide somewhere super easy (behind a chair or corner) then I yell, “Nico! Come find me!” When he finds me I instantly reward him with a snack. As the dog gets more used to the game you can find more tricky hiding places (behind a curtain, under a blanket). I love hiding somewhere where I can watch Nico look for me. He will often check all the original hiding places and will jump up on couches to get a higher vantage point (which for some reason is hysterically cute).

Horses: While nothing beats a trail ride, you can always take some time to brush your fore-locked friend as well. There is nothing more satisfying than detangling a mane!

Last but not least, every pet deserves the spotlight! Get creative and give your pet a well-earned photo shoot. Let them show their playful side with their favorite toy, or…if they are very patient, you could even try a costume or two (just make sure there are a lot of treats involved and don’t make your dog do something they don’t want to). There are so many ways to get creative! You can involve your kids, make it a contest, explore your phone’s editing options…no matter what you do, have fun!

We’d love to see your pets, so feel free to use #avnspet if you post any photos on Instagram or Facebook! If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, check out some of the results from Nico’s photoshoot below!


Faith in Quarantine

When you’re a child the world seems bigger.

The family retriever was the size of a horse, chapter books were intimidating, and twenty minute car rides took hours: which is why the three hour drive to my grandparent’s house in Wisconsin seemed to me like an all day affair. The trek was worth it though. I’d spend all week counting down the days until my parents packed up the car, strapped me into my car seat and backed out of the small driveway connected to our modest townhouse in Plymouth, Minnesota. At this time I was the only grandchild, and spending the weekend at Nana and Papa’s meant I got twice the attention. I’d wake up to pancakes and fall asleep to Nana’s stellar impression of Grandfather Frog as she read aloud to me from her old copies of Thornton Burgess stories.

Their cabin was surrounded by forest and sat on the top of a steep decline that led right to the lake. I spent hours outside, shaking off suburbia as I scampered down the damp stone staircase and straight into the sparkling lake. I built forts out of sticks, filled old mason jars with “perfume” made with water and crushed up flowers, and mixed together my own homemade exfoliant*. Sheltered by the shade of the leafy green trees made me feel safe and secure as I played contentedly on the forest floor, surrounded by God’s sacred beauty.

I tell you this because I’m guessing you have a special place of your own. It doesn’t even have to be nature. It could be curled up in your favorite chair in the corner of your favorite coffee shop, or standing, swaying with your eyes shut in front of the stage as the stirring strumming of a guitar pulls at your heart. You can understand how a special place is invaluable, which is why — when my dad came down with a cold the night before we were supposed to leave for the cabin…putting our morning departure in jeopardy — I immediately prayed to God. I wish this touching moment of a child praying for her sick father was without ulterior motive, but embarrassingly I was actually praying for his recovery so that we could still go to the cabin.

Yes, my childish selfishness mortifies me to this day.

Regardless of my prayer’s shady intentions, when I awoke the next morning to sounds of my parents packing I was overjoyed. 

Lying on my back in bed, I remember a feeling of immense gratitude. Overwhelmed, I did what any thankful child does. I stretched out my tiny arms as far as I could manage and circled them around the air in front of me, drawing an invisible God into the biggest bear-hug I could muster.

Let me get something straight: this is not the story of God answering the prayer of a simple and slightly selfish child (what kind of backwards moral would that portray?) No. This is a story of child-like faith. To me, it’s a beautiful image that brings me back to a time when trusting in God was the simple and easy solution and not the last-resort, risky task.

The older I get, the harder it is to trust God. Being an adult seems to imply the continued practice of taking on more and more responsibilities with each passing year. It’s no wonder that in a culture that encourages self-sustainment we struggle to allow room for God to act.

Especially now in this time of quarantine we find our worlds growing smaller than ever and our burdens greater. We find ourselves restricted from visiting the places that are most near and dear to our hearts. And those whose jobs require them to continue to brave the outside world face dangerous risks every time they leave the house. As we navigate this new and confined lifestyle we ask ourselves how there could possibly be room for God when we feel like there’s barely room for us. 

Having faith can seem tiring. Even when we try to listen to God in this time of chaos, it isn’t always clear that he’s there or listening to us. Is that God telling me to give myself bangs? Or is it my own stir-crazed gut?

As a shy child I grew up dependent on Joshua 1:9. Every time I showed up friendless to summer camp or tried something new I relied on the heartening command to “be strong and courageous.” I was always comforted by the thought that no matter how big the journey seemed, God was always along for the ride.

In her riveting year long memoir “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” Rachel Held Evans spends a month practicing aspects of biblical domesticity. Her reflection at the end of the month stuck with me as I read the rest of the book for class and is as follows,

“Somewhere between the chicken soup and the butter-bleeding pie, I’d made peace with the God of pots and pans — not because God wanted me to meet him in the kitchen, but because He wanted to meet me everywhere, in all things, big or small. Knowing that God both inhabits and transcends our daily vocations, no matter how glorious or mundane, should be enough to unite all women of faith…”

-Rachel Held Evans

Although the domesticity Held Evans refers to has more to do with an exploration of a woman’s traditional role in the household, I find that the general idea of “home life” is extremely relevant and her wisdom is widely applicable. God will be with you, wherever you go. Whether it’s at the hospital you work at, the aisle of the grocery store you’re stocking, or sitting at your kitchen table filming online lectures for your students…God will meet you there and he will make room even when you can’t.

*I know you’re probably wondering how you can get your hands on some of my homemade exfoliant. Unfortunately, mixing sand and water is not FDA approved (nor is it that great of an exfoliant). On the bright side, AVNS has some incredible exfoliating bars that are also fantastically sanitary! Try our Grapefruit Peppermint Luffa Body Bar, it’s packed with authentic dried luffa fiber. You can also check out any of our Salt Bars! Only Jesus can wash away your sins (but at least we can help with the dirt and dead skin)!


Knitting a New Year

Well, New Year’s Eve has come and gone. We’ve turned over those new leaves (whatever that means) and now we’re trying to decipher what the underside has in store for us. Some of us only take a peek before we quickly flip those leaves back over and pretend we never had any of those ambitious resolutions in the first place. Others are launching into new diets and exercise routines with a vigor that will most likely burn out within a month. If you’re like me, coming up with resolutions is a blast, but the follow-through proves to be a difficult task. Which is why I turned this year’s resolutions into resolu-fun!

The trick? Start small and have fun. Mini-resolutions, if you please. These mini-resolutions come in neat packages and promise instant gratification while hinting at a future opportunity for a change in lifestyle (if you so choose to accept your mission).

What in the world is she talking about? You ask, as you scan your list of resolutions to see if any of them seem mini, or at least small enough to fit in your mailbox.

Knitting. I’m talking about knitting.

yarn

I started knitting two days ago and not only am I already 1/16th of the way done with my first lumpy, puke-colored, spiderweb of a scarf, I have also (if I so choose to accept my mission) opened a crochet-covered door to a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Although currently a knitting novice, I optimistically imagine that someday I will become a professional. Every blanket in my house will be knit by me, every potholder in my kitchen will be a labor of my love, every gift I give will reek of the sweat I worked up as I frantically power-knit it the night before.

Of course, I’m not saying knitting is the be-all end-all for everyone. Raising one tomato plant could turn into a garden, playing a new card game could become a family tradition, buying one bar of Apple Valley Natural Soap could be the start of a more environmentally friendly and naturally healthy life.

Resolutions don’t have to be huge or life-altering, what matters most is embracing the promise of a new year.

With that being said, I understand that turning over into a new year also means facing the unexpected. We like resolutions because they give us a sense of control over our destinies. But the truth is, the New Year may bring on hardships that we’d rather not deal with. If you find yourself secretly dreading this upcoming year, don’t panic, you’re not alone.

My sweet Nana passed away unexpectedly at the end of October after a slow and tiring battle with a rapidly progressing form of dementia and my family is now faced with the unbearable process of moving forward. We find ourselves on the cusp of a new year forced to deal with something we didn’t anticipate. There is nothing neat or packable about death and there is nothing simple about moving forward.

monarch

Mentally, it seems unnatural. During difficult times, grief seems to occupy every moment and keeps us frozen in place, like leaves trembling upon a branch in the midst of a bitter winter. We define moving forward as an active process that requires “picking yourself up and dusting yourself off.” I would argue that this is not true. From what I have experienced these past couple months — in a spiritual sense — moving forward happens naturally.

Moving forward is a subtle process and for my family it involves crying. We cry over Nana’s music box collection, we cry over mushroom soup that will never taste quite right without her, we cry over butterflies and rainbows and dolphins and everything else beautiful that reminds us of the beautiful being she was. At first I mistook the crying for grief, but I’ve come to understand that the crying is actually a sign of moving forward. Every tear we share together is a step, a moment to thaw the grief. Moving forward doesn’t mean letting go, it means mending, knitting, and healing.

opened-glass-window-1906795

At first glance, this post doesn’t have much to do with soap. But Apple Valley Natural Soap’s mission is to help others embrace the blessings of natural ingredients through their products and it was reflecting on this idea that inspired me to consider the natural blessings of life. From the ability to knit, to the grace evident in the process of moving forward, God always provides an open window (and maybe crocheted curtains).


Fabulous Friday & Glycolic Peel

Have you ever had one of “those” days? 

You know, one of those days where you have great plans for everything you’re going to get done, but by the end of the day, even though you’ve been busy, you’re not quite sure how you managed to NOT get anything on your list done.

Well that’s been my day, well, it’s actually been my last week. At least it feels like it. 

Truthfully, I have been busy. Busy with the business (AVNS), busy with family, busy with life in general. But I don’t think I’m any more busy than most people, it seems to be the world we live in. But I guess that doesn’t make it okay. I’m starting to realize that when we’re busy, we miss out on so many things. So busy is okay for periods of time, then we need to do life with our family and friends.

Now I’m laughing at myself, this is NOT what I was going to blog about, but hey, welcome to my life!!!

This blog is over due, sorry! 

I thought it would be fun to give you all a recipe to try at home. We will eventually do some youtube videos, but we’re not quite there yet. So here’s a recipe I use at home on myself as a peel. Yes a homemade glycolic face peel, and I love it!

First, what is Glycolic Acid and it’s benefits?

Glycolic acid is simply an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) derived from cane sugar. It has many benefits, some of which are:

  • Removes blackheads
  • Purifies pores
  • Improves texture of skin
  • Gently exfoliates dead cells
  • Gets rid of acne scars
  • Brightens skin tone
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation

I’m sure there are more, but I was super excited when I saw how the texture of my skin improved after doing this only once. You may be tempted to try this every day, but don’t, that would be too harsh on your skin. Start with once a week and then eventually move up to twice a week if needed. 

The items you’ll need:

Sugar, brown or white. Lemon juice or Yogurt. Manuka honey (opt.). Small bowl and spoon.

Before we get started, here are some details about the ingredients and why:

I already talked about why we use the sugar, so I’ll move onto an ingredient we have listed as optional. Manuka honey. It is expensive, so that’s why I made it optional, but here are some of the benefits to consider:

It is a potent anti-inflammatory, so soothes inflamed skin while healing blemishes. It also helps balance the skin’s pH and contains amino acids which slough away dead skin cells, helping to keep pores clear. Another benefit I like is that Manuka honey has been shown to increase collagen cross-linking, promoting the structural growth of collagen in skin cells. And since amino acids are the building blacks of collagen, they also protect collagen. Healthy collagen means healthy, firm, youthful-looking skin. It is also a natural humectant, drawing moisture into the skin. This hydration helps to further enhance the skin’s elasticity and cell regeneration, as well as promote healing.

Lemon juice. We use this because it’s rich in vitamin C, plus it contains citric acid which helps with the effectiveness of the peel. But if you have sensitive skin, you may want to try plain yogurt instead. Yogurt contains lactic acid, it’s still effective with the peel, but more gentle on the skin.

The recipe:

1 T soft brown sugar

1 T lemon juice (or 1 T plain yogurt)

opt. 1 T Manuka honey (if you use the honey, reduce the lemon juice down to 1 tsp)

Small bowl and spoon

That’s it!

The process:

I use whatever sugar we have in the house, which is typically Muscavado. So I need to blend/grind my sugar down to a powder so it is more gentle on my face. But if you’re using a fine grain/soft sugar, you’ll be okay.

  • Put your sugar into a bowl and add the honey (if using), and lemon juice (or yogurt).
  • Mix together until they are well combined. 
  • Apply gently in circular motions to a clean and slightly damp face. Avoid eyes and mouth.
  • Let it sit for 3-5 minutes
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm water, pat dry and follow with a moisturizer.
  • Love your skin!!!

Let me know if you try it 🙂

Until next time,

Marianne


Our Story

When thinking about whether or not I should start a blog, it really came down to, will I be able to write about things that people want to read? Ummmmm….hard to say. Will you be interested? Or have I already lost you? 🙂 

As many of you know, we already send out a newsletter every week, well, we try to anyway. That newsletter usually contains information about our company, our products, promotions, links to helpful information and so on. This blog will also contain some of that, but it’ll go more in depth. More “how to’s”, more behind the scenes and into our lives type of information. 

So to start this, I’ll tell you a little about us. Who are we? That is, who is the family behind Apple Valley Natural Soap? 

Back in 2010, I became frustrated with my options for natural skin and body care products. Why does it cost SOOOO much to use healthy products with healthy ingredients? That was the question that started me on the journey of creating recipes and products that wouldn’t cost us an “arm and a leg” to use. First came lotions. You may ask, how do you create natural lotions without all the “junk” in there? Glad you asked! The answer is LOTS of research. I used the EWG site to check ingredients and find those that will work, but that would also not have nasty side effects. I also turned the skin of a fewfriends orange in color (wish I had photos!!!!) from the organic carrot oil – pretty funny actually 🙂 Don’t worry, it washed off eventually. 

Fast forward a few years. Shortly after I became a customer of Apple Valley Natural Soap (yep, I didn’t start this company), I started making soap. I was inspired. Again, lots of research and funny “mishaps” but the soap recipes I landed on were awesome. That sounds like boasting doesn’t it? Hard to say something that you do, or own is great without it sounding that way….

Anyway, I was approached by numerous friends saying that I should sell what I was making. I didn’t feel ready, but both my husband and I felt that God was leading us down this road, so we took a step forward and started selling on Etsy.

Fast forward to 2015. We were approached by the owner of AVNS with the possibility of purchasing the company. Neither my husband or myself felt it was the right time for us to do so, even though our companies were very similar, it’s a big step to take on and take over someone else’s dream. 

Fast forward again to 2017. We were approached again about possibly buying AVNS. This time was different. Our son had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in June, 2017 and we had started down a road of “alternative treatment” for him. Plus with all the other time and financial commitments in our lives, you may ask why we wanted to  embrace another business!?!  But buying AVNS seemed like an answer to prayer. Were we sure? Nope! But that’s where we stepped out in faith. We prayed for doors to open if we were supposed to do this, and for them to close if not. They flew open. Ummmm….so what do you do when doors open?  You walk through them. And we did. 

Owning Apple Valley Natural Soap for this short period of time has been a whirlwind and a blessing. I love being able to create what is good for our bodies, knowing that the ingredients aren’t harming, but nourishing and cleansing in a good way.  Some of our products can even help with detox, LOVE that! It pairs well with what we’d already been doing, we just got busier thanks to FABULOUS AVNS customers!!! 

So, this is only the beginning of our story.

What are some things you may see in the next few months? The use of more organics in the recipes, the reappearance of some past products that are loved by many, and the introduction of new products that will expand the Apple Valley Natural Soap line.  I love being creative with my products, and our customers get to benefit for all the “crazy” ideas whirling around in my head. Hopefully that’s a good thing!

Above all, our goal is to honor God. We also want to serve our customers with joy, continue to make the best products we can with the cleanest ingredients, and help those in need.  

Until next time.

Marianne