April 02, 2015

April

"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March."
- Robert Frost

January 26, 2015

Musings of a Blog Writing Chair Potato

Anybody who has spent more than an hour with me can attest that I'm regimented. I enjoy order, bada boom. Putting action to a plan on a timeline is orgasmic. Chaos, clutter, procrastination, these are the very things my nightmares are made of. In that logical corner of my brain most things have a place, a purpose, a time. For decades I've joked that it's a self actualized disease. I can easily begin the day without making my bed, I purposefully choose to make it with perfect hospital corners. When traveling by plane I arrive at the gate before the previous flight at that same gate has boarded. You're getting the picture and maybe even squirming. All this and yet when it comes to writing this first entry of the new year I'm a blog writing chair potato, a mere spec sitting in front of an immense blank canvas without a clue of what to do.
Reflecting back four weeks ago Gary and I were in Atlanta frantically setting up Aunt Sadie's Showroom, the Gift Show was about to open into a blur of order writing activity. There was barely a moment to pop a Tic Tac. Mid-month was filled with a pile of post-show design projects the size of Rhode Island and a week-long head cold. So that was then and this is now, the month has dwindled away and I'm still wondering why I haven't taken the blog by the horns sooner and put this puppy to bed. And I look outside my window and all I see is icicles, a crunchy white blanket of snow and shivering ghostly mountains. Yes, finally, an epiphany, I've had blog freeze for the past month. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Brian 1/26/15

December 05, 2014

A Christmas Eve Memory

We still hear whispers in our Atlanta showroom that Aunt Sadie is an imaginary icon we created 18 years ago (perhaps to anchor our logotype). "She's the personification of an old-fashioned grandmother" I've overheard. We're frequently asked if she's real and on a few occasions have been complimented by seasoned agency branders for capturing in one tiny cameo photo the essence of Nana, Meme, Bubba, Babcia, Yaya, Grandma. Though Gary and I both love unsolicited pats on the back, the truth is Sadie was my paternal grandmother. Friends who might read this are shaking their heads and likely thinking "we know, we know", but my intent is to share what Christmas Eve with Grandma was like. It is my same memory from age 3 to age 35, she seemingly never changed in my eyes while I grew a mustache and four feet taller (not necessarily in that sequence). It was her annual arrival a few days before December 25 that for me defined the beginning of Christmastime. . . plentiful belly laughs, squeezes, hugs, kisses, shopping bags filled with tins of home-baked cookies, it was the grandmotherload of holidays. For Grandma the wonder and delight of each ornament, decoration and greeting card was right there in her twinkling eyes and smiling sighs. She adored Christmas. But it is Christmas Eve that's forever etched in my memory. . . Dad, Mom, brother Dean, twin sister Debbie, myself and Grandma nestled together in our cozy seldom-used living room. Add the tinseled tree, Lionel trains, eggnog (potent whiskey sours for the grown-ups), artfully presented tiers of holiday goodies, and sing-along sheets from Mitch Miller's iconic carol albums and there you have it, a very merry Schnetzer Christmas Eve. It feels like a lifetime ago, yet in that rare stillness of this beyond busy candle making season I hear her singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and smile head to toe, for I have these memories. For whatever and however you celebrate this festive season, we wish you and those you love peace, joy, laughter and many memories.
Happiest Holidays,
Brian Schnetzer
Gary Briggs

November 01, 2014

THANKSGIVING

We all have memories of some sort when it comes to Thanksgiving, the day we intentionally gather with loved ones and give thanks for our blessings. It's no coincidence that this holiday takes place during the time of year when temperatures plummet and our palates crave heartier meals and more bountiful desserts. For those of us charged with preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, it's a culinary marathon that begins Tuesday holding a potato peeler and culminates Thursday holding a baster. Thanksgiving is about parades, overindulging, football games, rubbing our over-filled bellies, and just catching our breath before the official onset of the holiday season the following day (gasp).

Ah, yes, and Thanksgiving is about gratitude, a time to reflect on what we have and to give thanks as we choose. . . to a Higher Power. . . . to each other. . . to ourselves. And while we think that nothing shows thanks more than the gift of a candle, it's really the sharing of family and friendships, the warming of hearts that make Thanksgiving memories.

Since 1998 we've been so fortunate to do what we love to do, make Aunt Sadie's Candles. This Thanksgiving especially, our hearts will be filled with gratitude for each of you.


Brian and Gary

September 23, 2014

Autumn is the Sunday of Seasons

Most of our friends and customers know Aunt Sadie's is based out of a town in northern Vermont called Lunenburg.  This is Gary's home town, and situated in Essex County, the northeastern-most county in the state, bordering the Connecticut  River and New Hampshire.

Lunenburg perpetuates the stereotype of Vermont ... a general store right across the street from the town green, rolling pastures peppered with bales of hay, sap buckets on the maple trees in spring, and even a covered bridge.  It's lovely and we're grateful that Aunt Sadie's resides in these beautiful hills, in this clean air, with the wonderful community we share it all with.

One of life lessons we've learned is that sometimes beauty and serendipity come with a cost, in Northern Vermont winter is perceived an an occupation (in Vermont we relay live by and for the seasons, and not always in the greatest harmony).  Each season is defined by it's extreme characteristics:  Winter can seem like one continous snow storm with temperatures well below zero; Summer can bring daytime temperatures in the triple digits;  and Autumn and Spring can be a combination of both.

Each season is brilliant in its beauty, but when Autumn rolls around, the temperatures both at day and night start to cool, harvest moons are admired, and we know there's quite a bit of work ahead of us, our break is over.  That is how Autumn is like the Sunday of our seasons.  For folks that work and have the weekend off, you enjoy Sunday (like we're enjoying September), but you know what's looming ahead... just like after Sunday comes Monday, after Autumn comes Winter.  Those of us in the northern climates are now taking one big collective breath.  Like many places in America, there's trade-offs to living in scenic Vermont, but when the foliage peaks and the brilliant splashes of yellows, reds and oranges illuminate our land and mountainsacpes, ahhh, we sit back and believe it's well worth it.  Up here, where most people seem grounded by the earth, the changing of seasons comes with anticipation and gratitude.  So from Aunt Sadie's to you, Happy Autumn and thanks for sharing the journey with us... here's a cinnamon-scented virtual hug.

August 06, 2014

Take a Break or, Leave Both Ends at Home

The dog days of summer are here, and those of us at Aunt Sadie's hope you've had time to get out and enjoy yourself.  Summer always seems to be like one long weekend:  not nearly long enough.  We get to Labor Day and it's like the seasonal version of Monday - we're asking ourselves where it went and commenting how fast it slipped through our fingers.

For those of us in northern climates, summer months are short and sweet, so getting out and enjoying ourselves while we can is particularly important.  Savoring green grass and blue skies at home is one thing, but most of us strive to get away during the summer, hoping to savor the green grass and blue skies of someplace else.  

We get it, it's good to get away and summer is a perfect time to do it - everything is in its prime and everyone is so alive.  But for all of that, we seem to be taking less vacations than ever.  3-month breaks for school children may still be the norm, but sadly for us grownups, we have obligations and responsibilities and often it's just not in the budget.

Looking at the concept of vacation, there's many reasons to take one, but for most of us it really comes down to the fact that we're overworked, we're stressed, we need to recharge our batteries, and we need to get away.  We're parents, spouses, employees, bosses, volunteers, friends, sons, daughters, and it can all be enough for most of us to walk around, burning the candle at both ends.  

But we all need a summer vacation!  Whether it's going back home to visit family, or going to the other side of the country so you can swim in an ocean, taking summer breaks are good for us.  Gripping the railing that overlooks the Grand Canyon, with the wind in your face, is surely one of the best ways to relieve stress, as is feeling the sand between your toes while you stand on the beach while the salt-spray mists your face.  Vacations give us an opportunity to explore other interests, immerse ourselves in other cultures, and give some perspective on the other parts of our life, our "normal" life.

And isn't it great to get away from your regular routine?  Isn't it great to set your eyes on a new mountain range, explore a new city, take in all the sights, smells, and textures of a new place, just like newborns take in the new world around them?  Sure it is!

So you have Aunt Sadie's permission:  get out there, be healthy and take a vacation.  You deserve it and your life will be better for it.  We just ask one favor of you:  when you're on vacation, just one end of the candle, okay?  :)

June 24, 2014

The Fourth of July and the Queen of Candles

Is there anything better in the summer than the Fourth of July? Ocean and lake beaches are full of sunbathers, lawns from coast to coast are being mowed (with a few short naps taken in the shade right after), picnic chests are brimming with homemade potato salads and barbeque grills are heating up. July offers something other months don’t, a time to celebrate our Country, our friends and families, and yes, summer. Whether we spend the day enjoying
parades, picnics, or concerts, from poolside, surfside, the back porch or a hammock, the one iconic common denominator of the Fourth of July is fireworks. And because fireworks are distantly related to candles, you can be darn sure that Aunt Sadie's loves them.

We recently discovered a little town in Pennsylvania that celebrates the Fourth in an unusual way, one close to our hearts. The town of Lititz has a tradition that goes back to the 1930s, they crown a Queen of Candles who lights the first of thousands of candles, setting them off in formations down the stream that comes from beneath the Lititz Spring Park. Imagining the magnitude of viewing thousands of floating candles gives us good goose bumps and we're adding Lititz, PA to our list of "must see" destinations.

Aunt Sadie’s was created 17 years ago, chasing that great American Dream of doing something you love, working hard at it and hoping that it will survive and thrive. Our values and principles passed down from Sadie Denton remind us of how fortunate we are to live in a great country where these dreams and opportunities abound. And so
our Fellow Countrywomen, Countrymen and Candles Aficionados, wherever you choose to be and however you celebrate the Fourth of July this year we wish you much laughter and leisure on America's 238th birthday.

June 03, 2014

Fathers

Just like Moms, we all have Dads. There are so many types of mothers in our world, and we talked about that last month in our blog. This month, we’re honoring the same types of fathers: new fathers, step-fathers, adoptive fathers, fathers that weren’t with us for long, middle-aged fathers, old fathers, and fathers that aren’t with us any longer. The same common bond is true for all of them: they’re in our hearts and minds all the time, though especially on Father’s Day.

On Sunday June 15th, and every second Sunday in June each year, we honor our fathers. When it comes to the history of Father’s Day, this is where the Moms beat the Dads to the punch. Woodrow Wilson decreed Mother’s Day into law in 1914, but the movement to commemorate Dads didn’t have quite the same push behind it. Sadly, as one florist commented, fathers didn’t have the “same sentimental appeal” as mothers.

Now we know this not to be true, but the majority of American men felt the same way about the holiday in its early years.

In 1909, in Washington state, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd got serious about the holiday. She was one of 6 children raised by a widower, and she rallied local government, churches, YMCAs, business owners until Washington state honored their first Father’s Day on July 19, 1910. It started to slowly spread throughout the country, and President Wilson acknowledged the day in 1916. He made a large production of using telegraph signals sent from the White House to unfurl a flag in Spokane, but the day was still not officially recognized.

Aunt Sadie’s home state of Vermont has a connection to Fathers Day, oddly enough. Vermont’s own President Calvin Coolidge asked state governments to recognize the day, but as a whole, the country had still not taken the day on officially. It chugged along, with people wanting to scrap both Mother’s Day and Father’s day in the 20’s and 30’s, in support of just a Parent’s Day. It wasn’t until decades later, in the midst of the tightly-run re-election campaign of 1972 did Richard Nixon sign the day into law.

This year, along with our little history lesson, we’d like to share our Dads with you. Brian’s Dad Artie lives in Florida (with his wife Ginnie). Aunt Sadie was Artie’s mother so he shares a very special place with us. Artie will turn 90 years young in August and over the years he’s been a painter, a rock and mineral collector, a Grand Knight in the Knights of Columbus and worked for many years as a Schematical Engineer on Long Island before he and Ginnie relocated to Florida. He’s out and about everyday and enjoying his retirement. Gary’s Dad Bob lives in Lunenburg (with his wife Pat). He’ll be 83 later this month and has done construction work for most of his life. He’s an AVID fisherman, fishing most days in the local lakes and supplying the residents of Lunenburg with their fill of trout, bass, perch and croppies! He’s also Aunt Sadie’s dump guy, mailman and handyman. We’re so thankful for both Artie and Bob’s support and can’t wait to help them celebrate their big day on June 15th!

 

Happy Fathers Day to you all!

April 30, 2014

Mothers

We've all had one.  Everyone is unique, there's new mothers, adoptive mothers, middle aged mothers, old mothers and mothers that are no longer with us.  The common denominator is that mothers are close to our hearts, especially on Mother's Day.  Although we like to acknowledge the gift of motherhood everyday, there's something right about commemorating one day just for them.  Did you know Mother's Day is a relatively new holiday in the United States?  It was first celebrated in 1908 by Anna Jarvis who held a memorial for her mother in West Virginia and then began a campaign to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday.  She was successful and since 1914, every second Sunday in May has been devoted to celebrating moms.

This year we'd like to share our mothers with you.  Brian's mom Virginia (and his dad Arthur) lives in Florida and has been a steadfast supporter of Aunt Sadie's since it's conception in 1997.  At 88 she overflows gusto, laughs heartily, is abundantly grateful for everything, and is all inspiring.  She's pretty darn special.  Gary's mom Pat (who you might have met in last month's blog) lives across the street from Aunt Sadie's (with his dad Bob) and she works during the week packaging candles.  Not bad for an octogenarian newcomer!  She's run her own antique shop for 40 years and is as passionate about her work for us as she is scoring a great antique.  She's the comic relief for our staff and she's pretty darn special as well.  Thank you both for teaching us kindness, sharing your values, and believing in us even when we didn't.  We honor them an all mothers on May 11th.  

Happy Mother's Day to you all!  

Brian and Gary

April 05, 2014

Fortunate That Way: A Sitdown with Pat Briggs and Jane McGoldrick

   Aunt Sadie's is situated on a hill in the town of Lunenburg, Vermont, having moved there after our inceptual years in Boston, Massachusetts.  Lunenburg is situated close to the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the North Pole, although 90% of our town's residents would say it feels like we're twice as close to the North Pole this year than the Equator.  For those not really familiar with our background, our owners are two friends of 20 years, Gary Briggs and Brian Schnetzer.

   The lives and day-to-day operations of a Vermont-based candle company may seem like glitz and glamour to you, but we'll let you in on a little secret:  it's not really.  It takes people working long hours, bending and straining their lower backs and shoulders over tens of thousands of candles, hand-pouring them just right, making our operation successful, both from a practical and financial viewpoint.

   So we'd like to pay tribute to our staff who are beside us day in and day out by featuring them on this blog with profiles and featurettes.  It will give you the opportunity to take a bit of a peek behind the scenes at Aunt Sadie's and give you some insight and perspective into the lives of some pretty wonderful and fascinating folks.

   This month, we're going to interview a pair of sisters born in the 1930s who've seen more history than most of us would care to:  Pat Briggs and Jane McGoldrick, born and bred in Lunenburg, Vermont.  Pat is Gary Briggs' mother, and Jane his aunt.  They work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, among other days during the busy season.

   Pat is 80 years old; Jane is 83.  Neither one of them expected to be working at their age, but they say the main reason they still do is that Aunt Sadie's doesn't feel like work at all.  They have fun.  They reminisce.  They discuss family, church, and other going-ons while they trim candle labels, which is their primary task.  If asked if they'd change anything about their days they say in unison "Not a thing!".  

   That really makes us happy.

   The sisters are quick to praise Gary and Brian for their generosity ("to a fault" according to Jane), and how they always look ahead and plan for special events, like birthdays.

   What can we say?  We love cake at Aunt Sadie's!

 

   Having seen as many decades pass as they have, they're of the opinion that there is more "good" about the present-day than there is "bad".  Many diseases have been eradicated and there have been major medical advances that they never dreamt possible.

   One of the things they stress they love about Aunt Sadie's is they believe Brian and Gary have mastered a candle that smells both fragrant and "clean".  Of course, we needed to know what their favorite candle is, and each sister had different answers.  Pat LOVES Tree-in-a-Can, with our signature Pine scent, while Jane really likes our new Moss candle.  The most popular candle, they say, is the Tree-in-a-Can candle (with the "Snowy Tree" label).  According to Pat, during the holiday season, they're "cutting, cutting, cutting" and of course, just like an iconic old gent in a red suit, she said it with a twinkle in her eye.

   They added the Bacon candle is popular right now, which brought us to the topic of bacon, and eventually livestock, when there were many more farms and rural communities were dependent on them.

   One of the best things about yesteryear:  bacon was a staple.  Jane and Pat both say is was "tastier, and thicker", and that bacon grease was saved and not thrown away.

   When they were talking about their childhood, neither claims to be the token troublemaker most large families have, although they claimed their mother said she'd never seen two girls fight more than Pat and Jane.

   As with many small towns and villages, religion plays a prominent role in the community.  Both girls grew up in a Methodist church, but many of their friends were of Catholic faith.  They recall "tension" when they were children, "but only among churches and never with the people".  Both sisters have spent time away from Vermont in the first half of their lives;  Pat's husband Bob was in the service, and Jane and Bob (yes, both sister's husbands are named Bob) moved south to Springfield, VT, to find work.  What they cherish most about those days was the safety and security they felt when it came to their children.  They never worried where they were, or whom they were with.  They agreed that they were "fortunate that way".

   Once both Pat and Jane really warmed up to being interviewed, you could see they were both spirited females who speak their minds, and if there's any right we earn when we become octogenarians, it's the right to speak our minds.  We talked about a lot of different topics, from favorite cars (Fords) to favorite Presidents ("Jack" Kennedy), to least favorite Presidents (no names mentioned to protect the reputations of the *cough* innocent).

   We think the funniest response they had was to the question, "If your life was a country song, what would be the title?".  When you're asked a question like this on the spot it's difficult to produce a satisfactory answer.  Jane's response was "Heavens, I don't know."  Immediately we all knew that was it, the name of our great country song for the afternoon:  "Heavens, I  Don't Know".

   Pat and Jane are just as generous in every part of their lives as they are with their laughter; when anyone is feeling under the weather, they work alongside them and come to the rescue with natural home remedies.  Having two motherly octogenarians on the payroll has taught us that life experience can trump work experience and that taking a bit of family, adding some zest for life and a dash of laughter produces some pretty fine candles.  If we must say so ourselves.  

   We began this story saying we wanted to acknowledge our wonderful staff.  And just like we want to pay gratitude to them, we want to pay gratitude to you, our friends, supporters and customers.  When we think about where we'd be without you and our staff, there's only one answer:

   Heavens, I don't know.