Sunday, December 9, 2012

8 Ways to Save at The Brown Barn Company

I am often surprised at how few people take advantage of the many ways there are to save at The Brown Barn Company. Read up here so you don't miss out!

1.  Like us on Facebook!  This is the easiest and most effective way to get an immediate notice on sales and free shipping.  We often offer “Facebook Code Word” sales that you can use at check-out or on-line to get discounts.  (And we have the funnest Facebook group EVER!)  Did you know you can get a Facebook code word right now for 25% off your in-store purchase or 10% off a web-site purchase thru the 14th?

2. Shop the Item of the Week.  Each week we offer one selected product or line for savings.  Watch for your favorite products and stock up when we offer these items on sale. 

3.   Coupons – Use your coupons in conjunction with Item of the Week for an even bigger savings or use anytime for savings on the items you want.

4.    Ask to be placed on our e-mail list.  Even if you already like us on Facebook it is worth your while to also be on our E-mail list so you can receive even more Brown Barn coupons and specials.  We are just beginning to get in the habit of sending weekly e-mail notices and specials out and hope to get better at this over the next couple months.

5.    Free Shipping – Here is a Brown Barn secret – we offer Free Shipping for all purchases for a few days approximately every 6 weeks!  We ALWAYS offer free shipping on orders of $50 or more.  Personally, I find this the best way to shop Brown Barn for those items your local store tends to run out of such as facial products and the most popular soap scents.

6.   Traveling to Steamboat Springs, CO from Wisconsin or from Colorado to Holcombe, Wisconsin?  Ask for the travel coupon at your local store or by e-mailing me at  You can get 30% off by visiting one of our stores!

7.    If you are not fussy about seasonal scents, shop the discount area of your local store.  We often offer sales on items that are running on short date or scents that don’t match the season (such as Lilac in December).

8.    Save Brown Barn Bucks – Brown Barn Bucks are handed out ($1 for every $10 spent) at key times in the year.  They work just like cash for up to 70% off purchases in the months of March and October.  This helps you as new items are often introduced then and helps us as those are slower times of the year for Brown Barn.

Happy Shopping! Don't forget to take time to relax and enjoy the season.

Chris Untiedt

Founder, The Brown Barn Company llc


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Good Night's Sleep with Lavender

Sometimes I have trouble sleeping.  It doesn’t seem to be linked to stress or problems; happy, sad, it doesn’t matter.  Sometimes I just can’t sleep.  

I have Fibromyalgia so sleep is very important to me.  A few bad nights can trigger painful episodes of tense muscles and even muscle tics.  When I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia my doctor gave me powerful sleep aides that left me groggy all day.  This was when I realized the power of Lavender as a sleep aide. Lavender has been used for centuries to speed relaxation and induce restful sleep.

If I were a more creative person I would write an ode to Lavender. I love Lavender for what it brings to us as humans, it is my best friend in the plant world.  Alas, I am not creative enough to write an ode so you are stuck with simply my version of what I consider to be the best, sure-fire (at least for me!) sleep inducing routine I can come up with.   

First, for this routine to work you must be sure to use Lavender Essential Oil, not Lavender Fragrance Oil. Check your product labels to make sure the ingredient listed is not fragrance oil. Only essential oil will give you the benefits of the actual plant DNA which will work with your body to create a therapeutic result.

I believe what makes this routine fail safe for me is that the lavender is layered throughout and that it is a ritual - first this, then that - so that I have trained myself to associate this routine with sleep.  

I need to add a disclaimer here as well.  I have been exposed to lavender most of my life and never have had an adverse reaction. Before trying any routine this intense you should test the waters by using a combination of a few of these products at a time before diving in all the way.

When I am desperate for a good night’s sleep I….

Draw a hot bath. Sometimes I opt for some Lavender scented soy candles or a beeswax candle to create a positive atmosphere. Put on quiet relaxing music or grab a relaxing novel.

Dry brush myself to stimulate my skin and remove dead skin cells (dry brushes are available in our stores or other quality bath shops). You can call us at 715-595-4570 to inquire about telephone ordering a dry brush from Brown Barn.

I drop a Lavender Essential Oil bath bomb into the bath water. Sometimes I even include some Lavender infused bath salts.

I climb into the tub, being careful not to slip.

After soaking for a few minutes I wash myself with any of the following: Lavender essential oil based bar soap, Lavender Essential Oil foaming bath butter, or Lavender Essential Oil liquid body wash (my personal favorite).

Then I use our famous Lavender essential oil sugar scrub or the Brown Burl White Pines Sugar Scrub. I am careful to scrub in circular motion from my outer extremities toward my heart to stimulate circulation. I scrub until all of the sugar has dissolved so as not to waste a drop.  Our sugar scrubs start out dry but boy when they hit water watch out, they are just packed with fabulous oil.

I soak some more, maybe adding a little more hot water to the tub. Read, relax, close my eyes. I might choose to use my Lavender eye pillow.

When I exit the tub I am VERY CAREFUL as there is a lot of oil in that tub after using all these great Brown Barn products. I pat dry (never rub – you don’t want to remove all that great oil you just invested in).  

I use either the Brown Barn Lavender Body Lotion or any of the Brown Burl White Pines line liberally even though I’m already covered in oil from the bath.  My purpose now is to layer on more Lavender essential oil.

I then get in my pj’s and relax a little longer by watching tv or reading until the oil has sunk fully into my skin. At this time I heat and use my Lavender infused neck pillow. If I really want to go all out with my theme I give myself a mini-facial using my Lavender & Lime clay facial mask.

When I’m ready for bed I spritz my pillow and bedroom with Lavender Peaceful Sleep Pillow Mist. I also add another layer of lotion or salve to my hands so I can breathe in the lavender scent while I sleep.

I then use either the Brown Barn Lavender Aromatherapy Roll-on or Lavender salve around my nostrils so I am inhaling luscious Lavender as I drift off to sleep.

I turn on my electric blanket so my bed is warm when I enter.

I drift off to peaceful sleep – medication free!

Wishing you a great night's rest...

Chris Untiedt, Owner, The Brown Barn Company llc

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Brown Barn Lotion 101

With the coming of winter I find myself pondering my skin, my hair, my overall self-care routine.  There is something about the turning of the seasons that turns my mind inward.  I suppose it might be the flaky skin, fly-away hair and itchy scalp that comes with turning on the heating system in the house!

There are many different lotions available from not only Brown Barn but other fine companies. It can be confusing to the consumer when so many options exist!  What follows is a primer on lotion - type, what it's good for and how to best use it.

From lightest type of lotion to heaviest:

1. Hand and Body Lotion - At Brown Barn this is our lightest lotion option.  We recently underwent a reformulation of our lotion line in an effort to provide a better, more long-lived lotion.  This type of lotion is light enough to use repeatedly throughout the day but still effective as your primary lotion. Brown Barn offers liquid lotions in a wide range of scents, ingredients and levels of "natural ingredients".  The base of our lotions are all natural however our customers love many of the synthetic fragrance oils available.  We offer this lotion in unscented, scented with essential oils (making the lotion all natural) and scented with fragrance oil (making this lotion nearly natural).

2. Body Oil - Honest Balance Body Oil is an all natural, organic body oil infused with organic essential oils.  It is produced by our sister company, Honest Balance Organics.  Body oils are generally more expensive than Body Lotion but they are, in the end, a much better deal!  They are straight oils with no additives or fillers.  Body oils are best used when stepping from the tub and applied to wet skin.  They can also be used by pouring a little oil directly into your warm bath water.  A little goes a very long way, resulting in much longer usage per bottle.  Honest Balance Organics ingredients are known for their high quality, organic certification and their commitment to using Fair Trade ingredients whenever possible.  You cannot find a higher quality oil on the market at a better price!

2. Body Cremes and Body Butters - Body Cremes and Body Butters are thicker than liquid lotion, providing for more oils per square inch of skin than lighter lotions.  Often these lotions are made with more expensive, more effective ingredients.  This results in deeper skin hydration.  Depending on skin needs, some clients may find these lotions to be too heavy for repeated use throughout the day.  For this reason we recommend Cremes and Lotions be used morning and night.

3. Salves - Brown Barn salves are all natural and quite thick.  They often use beeswax or other forms of wax to make them semi-solid.  Salves are great for problem spots such as elbows and knees or hands.  Their ingredients will dictate which salve will best fit your needs.  At Brown Barn we enjoy our Lavender Salve as a perfume as well as skin conditioner.

4. Massage Bars - At Brown Barn, massage bars are a best seller!  These are solid bars that transport oils to the skin when rubbed on the skin.  The warmth of the body causes the bar to melt slightly as it spreads the oils over the skin.  Massage bars are made with beeswax, just like salves, but massage bars are so solid you can pick up the entire bar.  The beeswax lays on top of the skin after the bar's oils sink in resulting in a barrier against the elements.  We love the massage bars for the beautiful finish it leaves on skin and "Rejuvinating" bar is made with herb infused oils and essential oils reputed to relieve pain and assist in healing.  Our massage bars are offered in many all natural scents and formulations along with a couple that are made using synthetic fragrance oil resulting in nearly natural formulation.

So what do I use from this list?

1.  I use Body Oil on my damp skin when I get out of the bathtub (yes, even on the nights I use a bath bomb!)
2.  I use Body Creme or Body butter each morning and each night.
3.  I use Liquid Hand/Body Lotion throughout the day.  We love it by the bathroom and kitchen sinks so we can apply with a little water.
4. I use salves for those pesky dry spots.
5. I use a massage bar when my skin is crying for more than lotion.  We keep a massage bar in each vehicle for my husband, who's hands are often cracked and battle-worn.  I love the massage bar if I'm wearing short sleeves so my skin looks finished and "ready for public viewing".

What's next on our formulating agenda?  A massage bar that can be used by skiers and other winter sports people who's faces suffer from wind-burn and over-exposure. We do not recommend using beeswax on the face as it could clog pores so we are looking for a binding substitute.

Whether you use lotion once a day, five times a day or once a month your skin will thank you for taking the time to apply helpful oils. If you find yourself confused about what lotion product is best for your skin type be sure to ask any of our helpful sales associates.  They have all used these lotions themselves and can answer your questions from first-hand experience!

Have a great week!

Chris Untiedt
The Brown Barn Company llc

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A good excuse to treat your body luxuriously.

This week is a "Double Blog" weekend.  Today, Alyssa Untiedt, owner of Honest Balance writes about training for the Tough Mudder Marathon.  Honest Balance is the Brown Barn's sister company; manufacturing organic, all-natural bath and body products in Holcombe, WI.  Alyssa also happens to be my daughter.  When she said she'd be participating in a marathon that involves barbed wire, guantlets of fire and running thru live electrical wires I thought she'd never really do it but right now she is checking into the event and having her contestant numbers written across her forehead with thousands of other participants in Somerset, Wisconsin.  Here Alyssa writes about training for the Tough Mudder.  Tomorrow, we wil post a blog including pictures and video clips from the Holcombe store staff, who participated in last weekend's Flater's Triathlon.  At a future date, Alyssa and her team will write about participating in the actual Tough Mudder event. - Chris

All registered and ready to dominate, Alyssa Untiedt at Tough Mudder!

“Goood-mooorniiing, Goood-mooorniiing…” chimes my cell phone before I tap ‘dismiss.’ It’s 5:30 a.m.  I happily hop out of bed and head for the closet to pull on some stretchy pants and a sports bra. Opening the curtains to a still-dim sky, I trill ‘Good-morning ladies!’ to the colorful row of orchids adorning the windowsill and then head to the kitchen for a lemon water.  Before I leave hook a pull-up bar to the bedroom doorway.

As I sip my water, I punch on the laptop sitting on the kitchen counter and set some high-energy music playing as I check the weather and the news. It’s Thursday so I’m going to do a strength workout. ‘Eye of the Tiger’ plays followed by Enur as I haul a couple kitchen chairs, free weights, a yoga mat, a clock and 4 worn sheets of paper containing my workout for the morning into the living room. Then a series of push-ups, lunges, squats, dips, pull-ups, and planks commences until about a half hour later, panting and sweating, I’ve reached the last exercise on my list and I go to shower and start my work day.

If it’s not a Tuesday or Thursday, I run the other three weekdays, as many miles as my mood will allow me to eke out. I have never been much of a runner (I’ve been an avid swimmer all my life), though it’s not without trying. Generally once a year I am overcome with an urge to sprint and frolic with the same vibrancy of the spring greens blooming and bursting from a warming soil. Unfortunately my legs, even in their most toned and youthful form, exude the daintiness of an oak stump and so does my gait. Eventually all this enthusiastic thumping and stomping about the trails begins to resemble a hobble as my knees protest this unnatural activity, and I am forced to dejectedly abandon my frolic and take to swimming again.

How does it come that this ungainly girl is suddenly running three mornings of the weekdays? Why would any sane (fingers crossed…) 24 year old willingly subject herself to morning hours so incompatible with the lifestyle of reasonably sociable young woman?

Because today this woman is doing the TOUGH MUDDER!!! The Tough Mudder is a hardcore 12 mile obstacle course designed by the British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. With the most innovative courses, half a million inspiring participants, and more than $2 million dollars raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, Tough Mudder is the premier adventure challenge series in the world.

Doesn’t that sound like fun??? As a born and raised country girl, the images of mud-caked past contestants stir up fond memories spent along a beloved snowmelt swollen creek, dashing up and down the banks to chase the stick I tossed in to race against my brother’s on the opposite bank. Well-worn black Sorels sank deep into muddy banks while brambles grabbed my ankles, sending me to my knees into freezing puddles of ice water. But who can feel that when there’s the thrill of a stick race to keep your blood pumping? (It occurs to me now I skipped more than one track practice to do this very thing…I’m kind of regretting that now. Life is so ironic…)

I imagined the Tough Mudder can’t be too much unlike that, and that it’s the perfect motivation for me to get in shape, so I went ahead and signed up!  Instead of my brother to race this time, I’m doing the course with one of my best friends, Lisa, a lanky, giggly, athletic swimmer I met and shared a house with in college. We both agreed to do this together last December and have been trying to mold our swimmer’s legs into running legs ever since.

About five months later, I (never having run more than a mile straight in my life) can now run five miles slooowly, but with no stops, and Lisa can do even more. This wasn’t achieved without a certain degree of pain however…legs used to a soft, aqueous terrain find pavement rather jarring. Very tight calves led to a sore foot which took a few weeks to heal in December. A stubborn blister acquired while snowshoeing in March plagues me still today. Not to mention lots and lots of sore, stiff muscles!

None of this was unbearable, however, much thanks to the plentiful mud and salt baths, essential oil blends, analgesic and soothing body oils, and currently an endless deluge of lavender oil smoothed over that blister. My job has perks, to say the least.

Training for the Tough Mudder has certainly helped me in my quest to learn how to better take care of myself (and in doing so, caring for others too). A relaxing bath becomes a greater priority when I have sore muscles to remind me all day long that they need it. Regular use of quality body oils and self-massage becomes even more important when my circulation and vein health is directly involved in my short-term goals. This in turn reminds me of my long term goals of holistic health and wellness, and keeps me on my path of happiness. 

~Alyssa Untiedt, Owner, Honest Balance llc

Starting time: 9:20am Saturday, May 19th. Link:

 [I managed to avoid sore knees…I attribute this to my conversion to minimalist/barefoot running. link:]

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Mother's Day Blog

I asked my Mother, Dolores Giencke, to write our first Mother's Day blog.  When I asked her to write, Mom said, "What will I write about?"  My response, "Whatever you want."  Her blog is presented here as it was written; we have not edited it. My Mom is 80 years old and amazing.  She worked for 25 years as a Special Education aide with intellectually challenged children in the Waukesha, WI school district.  Then another 20 years as an infant care-taker at the Tender Learning Center in Ladysmith, WI; where she retired at the age of 80.  Now Mom, fit as a fiddle and sharp as a pin, is part of our Brown Barn team.  We all love her dearly....

The Mother's Day Blog by Dolores Giencke:

Myself and Chris, 1967.  I made these dresses for us.

Hi, I am Dolores, Chris’s mom.  As you read this please keep in mind that I am eighty years old and have never written a blog before, so bear with me. First, I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you. I am a mother of three boys and one girl. Yes, Chris has three older brothers who at times have tormented her. The one thing I instilled in my children was that in their lives they could do anything they wanted to. I like to think that was a spark of self-confidence that made them all successful. But this blog is about the Brown Barn. The Brown Barn amazes me and I love it! I have many stories I can tell and today I wish to write about how in my eyes the Brown Barn was born. 

When Chris was thirteen years old she came to me and said she wanted to paint a mural on her bedroom wall. At that time we lived on the family farm that had several houses and four generations living there. In fact Chris’ dad grew up in this house and it was a hundred years old.

The old farmhouse in the background, my husband Bob (obviously much younger) in front making snowmen as a boy.

When Chris asked me to paint I thought, oh well, we can always paint over it again, so I said yes. Chris’s grandmother, who also lived on this farm, was not happy about this painting and told her “The next time you want to do something you ask your father.” But Chris and I went and bought all the paints; red, blue, lots of green, yellow, purple, orange and Chris took her brush and happily went to work. Free hand, she painted a life size Holly Hobby in a greenhouse on this huge wall. It was filled with green plants and colorful flowers. When she finished she said “It is good.” And we kept it.

As the years passed and Chris grew up and was married her husband found a little farm with a greenhouse and a Brown Barn, and they bought it. Chris was very delighted as now she had her very own greenhouse.

The greenhouse, in its first year.

She worked her little heart out growing beautiful flowers and plants and had her own little business. It was just like her Holly Hobby greenhouse. At that time Chris lived in Abbotsford, WI and I lived in Holcombe, WI so I didn’t get to see her every day.

One day when she was at my house, in fact it was just a year ago, we were sitting at my kitchen table having coffee and she said to me, “I want to open a shop with handmade soaps in Holcombe.” My mouth dropped open from sheer surprise. I knew she had been (what I thought was fooling around) with soaps, because she would give me soaps or lotions that she made and she would say “Try this and tell me what you think.”
One time she gave me a coffee scrub. It smelled so good and I couldn’t wait to try it. That night I took a bath with it and when I finished my tub was filled with coffee grounds. What a mess, it’s a good thing her dad didn’t see that.  When I told her how awful it was she said “Oh good, then I won’t try it in my tub. Ha Ha Ha.” Around that same time Alyssa (Chris’s daughter and now the owner of Honest Balance Organics) gave me a healing bar that she made and said, “Grandma this is for your arthritis in your hands.” For six months I rubbed that healing bar into my fingers every night. I couldn’t believe it but my joints were much better. I guess those healing oils soak into your skin and deeply heal.  That was almost two years ago and my fingers are seventy-five percent better today. I know the healing bar did it.
So yes, I didn’t know how hard they were experimenting, working, searching and schooling to make these luxurious, healthy, full of these good oil products for us to have. And that’s where Brown Barn had its beginning. It will be one year this June 2012 that Chris opened that shop in Holcombe and she looked at it and said “It is good.” and she kept it. Be sure and stop at the Brown Barn Bath Company and see how good it is.

Chris and I today.

P.S. This is for Chris from me for Mother’s Day Chris! While I am here I want to say that I have loved you every day and when the end of my time on Earth has come, the privilege was mine to be your mom.

The Brown Barn Family wishes each of you a
Happy and Love Filled Mother's Day!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Introducing Kathy Goltz, our New Textiles Expert!

Hello.  My name is Kathy Goltz and I am the textile manager at The Brown Barn Bath Company.   As my title implies, I sew…. and sew…. and sew….  I make the eye pillows, neck pillows, and keyboard and mouse wrist rests that you may have noticed in our stores.   

I have been sewing ever since I was a kid, making Barbie doll clothes out of the scraps from my Mom’s projects.  When I was in 3rd grade, Santa brought me my very first sewing machine.  It used glue instead of thread, and didn’t really work very well at all, but I was happy that I could now make something besides ponchos for Barbie.  Since then, I have made many quilts, with baby quilts being my favorite.  I like to specially design each one to suit the family and their nursery theme.
Prior to coming to work at The Brown Barn, I was unemployed for 1 year, 7 months, and 15 days.   Needless to say, I was super excited to finally get a job.  But, I soon realized I really don’t have to “work”.   Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”   Well, that job chose me!   I feel truly blessed to be able to play in my craft room all day, without constantly being interrupted by, “Mom…. Mom… MOM!!!!”    

In my free time, I enjoy drawing, photography, and painting.  I particularly enjoy oil painting, and I have even sold a few of my works.  I volunteer at our local high school, as the artistic director for the annual theater group’s play.  I paint the sets, design props, and make some of the costumes.  They even got me on stage last year (I was a bottle in Alice in Wonderland). 

Kathy on left, in the brown bottle!
When researching the products I would be sewing here, I found that OSHA suggests using a wrist rest “to maintain straight wrist postures and to minimize contact stress during typing and mousing tasks.”   They say that your hands should move freely and be elevated above the wrist/palm rest while typing.  When resting, the pad should contact the heel or palm of your hand, not your wrist.  I have been working on finding new, fun materials for our wrist rests.  I recently found some animal prints that I just adore.  You can now find zebra, giraffe, and leopard fur, along with a snakeskin look.  Of course, you will still see the fancy brocade silky fabrics in this line.  

I have also been re-designing our neck pillows.  I’ve made them a bit larger and a lot heavier, each weighing four pounds now.   These therapeutic neck pillows help relieve shoulder strain associated with tension and stress.  They can be heated in the microwave, releasing the relaxing aroma of lavender, while warming your body.  They also can be put in the freezer to help cool you down on those hot summer days.
Our Eye Pillows are a sensory relaxation tool used for easing stress and tension, while alowing you to rest and recharge, sleep or meditate deeply.  Filled with flax, and available in lavender, the Eye Pillow applies gentle acupressure to tired eyes and facial muscles, while the aromatherapy induces an aura of comfort and calm.  The luxurious fabric is cool to the touch, allowing the Eye Pillow to drape and conform to the contours of your face, providing welcome relief for headaches, sleeping difficulties, stress or eye puffiness.
Kathy designed and made this beautiful quilt, which replicates the original Brown Barn!

This is one of the Brown Barn quilts I made. You will soon see these in our stores, where they will be available for sale.  Also in the works are smaller, hand-made boudior pillows, which will combine my artisitc ability with the sewing prowess of Judy Talbot.  We will also be collaborating on larger art pillows, which are planned to be in our stores this year! 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Perfect Bath...In My Opinion

I love baths.  I think this fetish for bathing and bath products goes all the way back to my growing up on the family farm in an old turn-of-the-century farmhouse that had a huge iron claw-footed tub.  Every night I climbed into that tub and played, washed and spoke adoringly to my "fuzzy-wuzzy" bear soap.  I loved that soap and wonder if it is still made.  It would grow fur when it hit the water and he even talked back to me.  He was my best friend.  At least that's my memory. 

Now my baths are a whole other experience.  They are a haven and refuge from the day.  A place I can focus only on what my own needs are at that given moment and unwind (usually uninterrupted) for a few moment's peace. 

So, what do I consider to be the perfect bath?  This is a question that must be addressed in stages....

First, a bath requires planning.  Yes! I said it, planning. Before even beginning to draw water the serious bather must take a moment to reflect upon the day and what their needs are in that moment.  Was a really stressful day? Reach for the Lavender.  Down in the dumps? Sandalwood Vanilla.  Feeling exotic? Lemongrass. Need cheering? Orange.  I can spout on and on all day on scents, fragrances, essential oils.  But I'll save that for another post. 

Second, what is your intention for the bath?  Do you have dry skin and need moisturizing? Need sore muscle relief? Just want some water therapy?  Cleansing?  Are you detoxing?

With these two questions answered you can choose your bath products.  Below I have outlined suggestions for several types of baths.  Use this as a jumping off point for yourself so that you can go on to create your own unique bath rituals.

Dry Skin: Bath Bomb, Whipped Soap, Sugar or Salt Scrub followed by body lotion or body oil after exiting the tub (this will be a slippery tub so be careful!!)  If you are really in the mood to pamper you can add Silky Saltz to your tub as well.

Relaxing: Bath Bomb, Salts (any type), soft music.  For relaxing baths I cannot say enough for Lavender essential oil.  If you use Lavender take the bath at night then follow up with Lavender EO lotion and a spritz of Lavender mist on your pillows to help you drift off to sleep.  I also use Lavender Scented sea crystals on my night stand (coming to stores in the next two weeks). Another great item for relaxing that goes great with salts? Bath Teas! Place the bag in the water, gently squeeze to release the herbs.  The bag can be used repeatedly until the water from the bag runs clear when squeezed.

Pain Relief: I have Fibromyalgia so my baths are very therapeutic to me.  Use Dead Sea Salt and Epsom Salt to ease muscles and draw out toxins (I use about half and half and I use about a half cup, I know that's waaaay more than you need so use your best judgement.  At least four tablespoons.)  Bath Bomb (LOL...I can't help myself!).  When I'm in pain I find our Whipped Soap and nice soft bath pouf to be the only thing I really want to touch my body, I know its psychological but that's what I like.  Then I soak, soak, soak and add hot water as needed.  I'm not a doctor so if you are a doctor and reading this and I've said something wrong please let me know!  I'm just writing on what works for me.

Detox:  Ooooooo.....I hate to detox!!  But at least once or twice a year I go on a huge detox diet and attempt to make myself young again.  For those who are interested, we have a couple detoxing bath salt treatments in the salts section of each store.  At minimum you should use a salt blend when you bath while detoxing, it will help draw the toxins out.

Now...a moment on mood and ambiance.  Make your bathroom your haven.  Have a basket in the corner to throw the kids bath toys into, pick up the dirty laundry left behind by your family and wipe down the tub.  You can't really relax in a dirty tub.  It's just not the same.  Light a candle.  Play some soft music to relax you.  If you are fortunate enough to be a two bathroom family try to comandeer one of those bathrooms for yourself and ban those kids from it! 

Tools. Our stores are full of bath tools to help you relax, scrub, exfoliate and wash.  Treat yourself to something more than a ratty washcloth.  Get a pretty pouf or a soap saver just for yourself (I have been known to hide my tools!!)

Lastly...Rules.  Bath rules.  Let the family know it is your time and you are "goin' in".  Hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the doorknob if you must.  Turn on the VCR and park the kids for a half hour.  I have a Master's Degree in Education and am giving you my professional permission to allow your kids a half hour of Sponge Bob (or whatever viewing makes them happy).  Your family will be better off with a relaxed happy Mom than a worn down stress-out "Super" Mom. 

Happy Bathing!! Chris

Friday, January 27, 2012

Beardsley Bears: Our 2012 Artist In Residence

"She makes bears," Kim whispered across the Holcombe store counter at me as I was rushing thru the store one day last Fall, my arms full of bottles fresh from the lab.


"Bears...Deb Elertson...she makes bears."

I glanced over to the elegant woman perusing our facial items.  An image of Deb standing over a downed bear, one foot resting on its shoulder and a large shotgun in her arms flashed in my mind.  Quickly rejecting that image I turned back to the counter, "What kind of bears?"

Please join us in welcoming Deb Elertson as our First Annual Artist in Residence!

As soon as I was told that Deb was the maker of Beardsley Bears I knew we were destined to meet!  I remembered her bears from years ago when I had a brief obsession with toy collecting and had spent many hours drooling over magazines and catalogs. What luck!!!!  Deb lives only a few miles from our Holcombe store!

Deb's creations have been featured in multiple international magazine articles, catalogs and stores. (  To quote one, "Deb has sculpted emotions from wool, mohair, and excelsior that make us forget our everyday stresses and focus on the joys." I could not agree more!

Whenever I enter one of our stores I immediately have to go say "hello" to the creatures in their glass cases.  They make me smile. I can't help myself! Click this link to visit Deb's "gallery" and see for yourself how adorable these babies are!

 In awe to have met her and crossing my fingers, I quickly asked Deb if she would be willing to make some bears for us to feature in our stores. 

After another week Deb arrived for a brief meeting at the lab. I'll never forget that day! Deb came in with her arms full of bears and dogs that were ready to be shipped to a vender far away.  She set the box on the floor of the lab.  A collective "Awwwwww....." went up from myself, Alyssa and Jessica (our Director of Operations) as we spied a box full of tiny faces peering up at us.  One little dog in particular caught my eye.  He looked up at me so forelornly from his box, as if saying "Don't make me go....I want to live with you...take me home."  I was hooked!

We immediately ordered more dogs (with one for myself!) and bears so that three items would be on display in each store.  Several weeks later Deb arrived at the store, placing all nine creatures on the counter while our entire staff giggled and cooed over them.  After Deb left we all had to give them a hug and move their little arms and legs until we'd played ourselves out. 

All parts of these pets are hand-made.  You can learn more about the details of the process by reading some of the many articles posted on Deb's web-site.  To keep it simple, I'll just say they are made completely by hand, right down to the hand-dying of the fabric. The toys are also made of top fabrics and built to last generations. Each stitch is a well thought-out placement, sometimes meant to hold the bear together, sometimes meant to give the bear an aged look and sometimes meant to bring character to the pet. A crooked nose?  Done completely on purpose.  A loose stitch? Again, completely on purpose. These toys are meant to look well-loved and aged.  The perfection of Deb's work is in the imperfections! 

I asked Deb to tell me some of the places her bears and animals live.  Her response: "Germany, France,  Italy, UK, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Japan, Luxembourg, Astonia, Australia, Netherlands..I am sure there are a few more , just cannot think of them now.  All over USA ~~~"

And this is from her web-site: "Deb was commissioned in 2002 by The European Ballet in London, England, to create special "one of a kinds" for their Gala Events. This was one of the biggest thrills in her career. She has also had the honor to be included for 10 consecutive years in the prestigious Teddy Bears of Witney catalog."

How cool! What's coming next to The Brown Barn Company's stores from Deb's workshop? Bunnies for Easter!!!  Our customers will have the opportunity to enter a drawing to win a special lavender filled bunny as part of a giant Easter basket.  We will also have one bunny for sale in each store during that time.

Over the course of this year be sure to check out Deb's bears as we rotate the collection thru the stores.  Every few months the stores will switch their trio of animals with each other to ensure all of our customers get a chance to see (and buy!) one of Deb's creations.  Be sure to stop in and welcome all of them!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

How to Breeze Thru Airport Security

This week we drove (yes drove) from Steamboat, Colorado to Holcombe, Wisconsin.  We took our worse-for-wear four door pick-up, loaded with cases of freshly minted bath bombs, back to Wisconsin. Alyssa sat up front with Steve (my husband) and Miji, Alyssa's extremely furry American Eskimo, in a box between them. Steve was determined to keep Miji in a box so that he wouldn't be covered in white dog hair but Miji decided Steve was her new best friend and repeatedly leaned against him, snuggling and nuzzling Steve's right arm. 
Fuzzy white Miji with Alyssa at Christmas.

I was relegated to the back seat with Lola. Being a Border Collie, Lola is honor bound to herd. She herds everyone and everything, including attempting to herd every car that we pass. Our truck window quickly became smeared with doggy breath (and I prefer not to ponder what else) as Lola enthusiastically watched for on-coming cars and then attempted to nip the cars as they passed.  These nips were followed by my scolding "No Bite!".  We drove Alyssa and Steve crazy.

As we traveled I thought about the last time I'd traveled to Steamboat, that trip in the luxury of an airplane.

When we travel we try to keep it light and use carry-ons as much as possible. The only flaw is that I hate the security check process and loathe having to pull out liquids, my computer and all the other detritis necessary to clear entrance to the airport. The last time we flew I decided to try something new and took the following items:

- My Blackberry instead of a lap top because all I really need is Internet access.
- A massage bar for body lotion.
- A shampoo bar (which will be added to the web-site in about a month, when our current stock is cured and we can guaranteed consistent inventory from now on. I never need conditioner with these.)
- A Bar of body soap in a plastic holder
- A Deep Cleansing facial bar in a tin
- A test of a solid facial lotion product I hope to launch this summer

I always purchase a small toothpaste once thru security so I don't have to worry about that item.

Smugly, I breezed thru security, knowing there was no reason for me to be stopped.  I was wrong!!

As soon as I stepped thru the body scanner I was pulled to the side and told to wait.  The entire line of luggage on the scanning conveyer belt had come to a halt and the two guards who were scanning came to the end of the conveyer system to talk to me.  They were joined by two other security guards.

"Is there a problem?" I asked the four guards, thinking maybe the tin from the facial bar set something off.

The guards smiled and said, "No, we just had to see who this belonged to because we never have anyone go thru without a computer AND without a toiletry bag!"

After being congratulated on such a good system, I was allowed to leave. So much for saving time, but it was a great compliment!

On another airport excursion I was surprised my mother was able to go thru security without putting anything in the "2oz container bag" either.  She had a similar list as mine above but hers also included:

- a large jar of our Whipped Soap Sudz ( and
- a four ounce container of body butter ( 

I'm not sure if these items were legitimately not liquids or if they took one look at my white haired mother and deemed her not a risk, but she did swing right through.

I hope you all have Safe Travels and, if you try our toiletries strategy, a speedy trip thru Security!

Chris Untiedt
The Brown Barn Company llc

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Review of 2011 and What's to Come for the Brown Barn Bath Company

For me, with the New Year always comes the desire to take stock of the previous year. What have I learned? What do I need to do differently? What changes are to come?

When I sat down with myself this week and thought about 2011 all I could think was "Wow." The last year has been a complete blur of lotion, soap, store openings, customer faces, e-mails, phone calls and let us not forget...printing labels! We began this year with the intention of taking the first year of business slowly. Taking time to perfect our branding, recipes and store styles. Instead, we ended the year with three stores instead of one (and each one we love), fifteen employees instead of the planned two (and each one we love) and a sudden need for an overhaul of our labs, labels, recipes and spaces. We felt we needed this year because none of us had any experience in owning a retail store.

To say things spun very far away from our initial plan is putting it mildly....

What have I learned from this experience? 

1. Don't be afraid to fail. The fear of failure is what personally holds me back the most. The Brown Barn Company is not the first company I've had, I've experienced failure. In looking back now I see that the lessons learned from my failed attempts were what have pulled us thru to this point. Let go of fear of failure, if you don't try you'll always wonder what could have been.

2. Build a great support system for yourself and let them know you appreciate them.  Without our amazing team of employees we would not have the stores we have now or even have made it to Christmas and stayed open.  Each person on our team brings their own unique skills, talents and style to the mix; making us a whole. I value each person in our company for different reasons...from Erika's previous experience in a national company to Jessica's brutal honesty to Brenda's quick hug...they are each equally important to this company and my ability to do my job.

My family, providing me the support to
kayak a series of caves in Belize, 2009.

3. Take time for yourself.  This was the hardest lesson for me to learn and one I continue to struggle with. The whole premise of The Brown Barn Company is to take time for yourself, care for yourself, a minute alone.  But I have to admit I didn't follow that and now am paying the price for it. I'm pooped out! LOL. One of my New Year's resolutions is to institute me-time and self-care firmly back into my life.  I'm placing boundaries on business time vs. family time and making a point of daily down-time for myself.  Otherwise I turn into a very crazy, very crabby person!

4. Admit when you're wrong and made a mistake, ask for help where needed to fix the mistake and move on. Address and fix your mistakes quickly and with firm decisiveness. I guess that says it all!

5. Communicate. Communicate every little thing to everyone. Talk, talk, honest, open and fair but also be tough when you need to be. Have a buck-stops-here attitude. You cannot control how people are going to behave or think but you can control how you behave and think and how you react. You have the choice in how you respond to people and situations. Empower yourself. When you make decisions, stick to them and be firm about it.

And what will 2012 bring to The Brown Barn Company? 

1. Doing A Better Job: Because we fast-forwarded, we now have the luxury of focusing 100% of our energy on catering to our customer needs and improving what we've built in our Wisconsin stores.

2. Tools To Do A Better Job: While we will always be a hand-made company, there are devices and automation that will help us to meet consumer demands. We've purchased a bath bomb press and are quickly working to crank out enough bath bombs to get them back into the stores and to expand that area. A bottle filler and some larger soap making equipment is on the list to be purchased this year. This equipment will allow us to expand our product lines and make a much finer product out of our current offerings.

3. Expand to Colorado: It had been our initial intention to start out in Wisconsin, where our roots are, and then expand to Colorado, where my son is. As I write this I am sitting in the living room of an apartment/commercial work-space in Steamboat, Colorado. I'll be living here this year, making product and introducing The Brown Barn Bath Company to Colorado....a full year ahead of schedule. This was a difficult decision to make, leaving Alyssa (my business partner and daughter) in charge of our Wisconsin operation so she can institute her organic line and assist Jessica (our Director of Operations) in running the stores there; and leaving my husband for several months at a time so he can continue to run his business. On the flip side I get some precious time here with my twenty-two year old son as he finishes college. To me this is a precious gift.

My son, Tommy, at Colorado
Mountain College, Steamboat.
I'm sure any parent can relate to my desire to want an excuse to be close to my children, even if the time is split between them. Also, Colorado is a great fit to our product line. There is a big push in the Western US toward more all-natural body care, the Western US is where the movement seems to have begun. We are excited to put a toe in these waters, we think its a great fit to what we've done this year in Wisconsin with one side of the business providing support to the other financially and in production.

4. More Product, Better Product: We have already made a long list of what is to come this year, from Organics to improved Facial Care items to solid Bubble Bath to improved Lotions, we think you'll be pleased with our changes and new offerings. This is what drives Alyssa and I personally, we love to formulate!!

5. Improved Web-Site and Product Branding: This has been a real challenge area for myself. I've carved a firm block of time into my schedule each week for work in these areas. Hopefully soon you will see positive changes in our web-site. We are also working to bring a more professional image to our products and hope to have a solid brand established this year.

Are my dreams coming true? They just might be! Did this happen overnight or easily? No! High Hopes? Lofty Goals? I think so, but without our dreams, where would we be?

What are your dreams? Do you think they are unrealistic? My advice is to pick one thing you'd like to work on this year, break it down into miniscule, tiny steps and take that first awkward, tentative step forward.  You won't regret it!

Here's to a wonderous 2012!

Chris Untiedt, Owner
The Brown Barn Company, LLC