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!