There’s a movement in America that screams red, white and blue. Established in 2007, this crusade started with a small band of brothers who were passionate about United States National Soccer. It began at Captain Jack’s, a local bar in Lincoln, Nebraska. Three fans began throwing viewing parties and traveled to as many games as possible.

As they trekked across the country, they became frustrated with the lack of support for fans to meet together. American baseball, football and NASCAR fans all gathered, tailgated and cheered for a common good. The three soccer fans felt like the outlaws of American sports and within a short time, they banded together to create a nationwide, non-profit supporter group called the American Outlaws (AO).

AO members are honored to be Americans and proud to be soccer fans in America. They are loud, passionate – and organized. In 2013, they celebrated their 100th chapter; in 2014 they announced their first international chapter. Today they have more than 175 official chapters with more than 30,000 members.

          Click to buy this American Outlaws stein  Click to buy this American Outlaws stein

The goal of the American Outlaws is to unite their fans, create a large presence and give more visibility to the sport. They unite supporters locally and nationally – and they ask for you to join their movement.

          Click to buy this American Outlaws stein  Click to buy this American Outlaws stein

AO started with three fans working together to unite America. That’s something for everyone to cheer about.

Keeping watch. Pat

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It’s easy to get sentimental as we look back at accomplishments. Certainly being recognized for our landmark safe, clean air initiatives this past year stands out. There’s another milestone that makes us proud – and that’s you!                                          

On a daily basis, we receive validation of our work. People from all over this great country write to tell their story of how they found their first SHS mug, how they broke the handle off their Mom’s favorite mug after 12 years and they need to have it replaced immediately, how they collect our mugs as they travel the country. Retailers comment on how nicely packaged our pieces are, how they sell out the same day the shipment arrives, how easy we are to work with.

            

                                         

  

                                 

              

We log many of these endorsements on our testimonial page – in fact, we’ve been logging and dating your comments since 2011. Why? It makes us proud of the product we hand produce and the high level of services we provide. It is simply a privilege to serve you and America’s best.

Our team is forever grateful for you taking the time to be kind. Making the effort to tell someone they are doing well is a fantastic reflection on you.

Thank you.  We'll catch up in the New Year.

Keeping watch. Pat

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Some say that a typical friendship will last about 7 years. The reason is simple. People change over time, so it’s realistic that friendships change too.

Years ago when I traveled for corporate America, a woman I was sitting next to (we had never met before) and I shared some very personal thoughts during our two-hour flight. By the time we had reached the terminal, she had invited me to visit with her on my next trip out. I hesitated realizing how much had been shared with a complete stranger and how it would be a difficult commitment to keep as I was typically pulled in many directions when on business. As I wavered in my reply, she took my hand and said ‘sometimes people are friends for a lifetime, sometimes for a few years and sometimes for two hours; it depends what we need in life.’ While I can’t recall her name and we never connected again, I’ve never forgotten that during that short time together, we were the BFF needed at the time. I also learned that being kind to a stranger, even if it’s for 3 minutes is sometimes all that is needed.

                           

Friendships happen in business too. Almost 10 years ago we worked with Jim Roark at Elk River Coffee Company. Our Sunset Hill Stoneware team handcrafted hundreds of high-quality branded mugs for his business before he sold it four years later. Fast forward another 5 years and Jim’s son Ryan and his wife returned to America from spending the last 4 years doing mission work in Ireland. Upon settling in Richmond, VA, they decide to open Ironclad Coffee Roasters and we had the good fortune to be reconnected with another generation of the O’Rourke family.

                   

While living in Europe, the couple learned what made America stand out; it was the passion for quality – in product and service. While some consumers are ok with purchasing an inexpensive cup of coffee, Ironclad Coffee Roasters will focus on environmental sustainability that does not cut corners during cultivation and making sure that farmers are paid a ‘fair trade’ wage for their hard work. Their ‘ironclad’ name also reflects their commitment to unwavering customer service.

The deal was sealed with Ironclad Coffee Roasters when they connected with Sandra, one of our SHS account specialists. “Sandra is not only knowledgeable about the SHS products, services and processes, she is passionate about the products and providing great services’ states Jim. “If I were starting a business, I'd hire people just like Sandra because I know 'my customers' would be well taken care of…every day and in every way.”

                                     

We hope friendships like these last a lifetime.

Keeping Watch. Pat

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Still looking for the perfect gift? Many of our customers ask us how they can buy our branded products; literally there are thousands of places across America from tiny coffee shops to America’s historical landmarks. 

Featured below are a few of our favorite places and spaces. There’s plenty more organizations that carry our hand thrown stoneware, but these have ecommerce sites that make it easy to buy today.

Do you know of other ecommerce sites that sell Sunset Hill Stoneware that you think should be on the list? Please contact me and we’ll continue to get the word out. 

Want to design your own stoneware – visit www.shstoneware.com to customize (your pieces will ship in 2016); or purchase ready-made pieces today that will ship in time for the holidays. 

Keeping watch. Pat

The Local Store
Located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, The Local Store’s gift-worthy offering evokes a sense of place in the Chippewa Valley and Wisconsin. Remind your family and friends of home when shopping online or their catalog for outstanding Wisconsin-made gifts.

Walt Disney Family Museum
The Walt Disney Family Museum brings Walt Disney’s legacy to life. Bring his artistry to life when gifting a handmade stoneware mug.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace
Share your family’s secret chili recipe when purchasing this hand thrown crock. Available exclusively online at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.

Mystic Monk Coffee
In the solitude and silence of the Wyoming mountain wilderness, the Carmelite monks drive for perfection into every roast of coffee and every coffee blend they produce. Support this monastic, cloistered Roman Catholic community by shopping online for Mystic Monk Coffee, tea and unique double-handled stoneware mugs.

Grand Canyon Association
This non-profit partner of the Grand Canyon National Park is the hub for private fundraising. Buy an exclusively handcrafted mug to forward their mission and remind of you of America’s finest.

Packer Pro Shop
Of course, every home needs green and gold for the holidays! The Packer Pro Shop is the official retailer of the Green Bay Packers.You can shop for Vince Lombardi branded mugs at Lambeau Field and online.

Peet’s Coffee & Tea
Founded in 1966, Peet’s Coffee & Tea is the grandfather of specialty coffee. Join the Peetnik’s around the country as you shop for holiday gifts.

Yellowstone National Park
You’ll find the world’s greatest concentration of geysers at Yellowstone National Park. Extend your visit when selecting from a stunning array of gifts, including eco-friendly thrown stoneware mugs that match the national parks environmental initiatives.

Grateful Dead
Catch the vibe and think of your favorite Deadhead this holiday. Limited edition Grateful Dead stoneware available now.

Deering Banjo Company
Founded in 1975, Deering Banjo Company is the nation’s only American-made manufacturer of hand built banjos. Buy hand quality stoneware for your Deering Banjo lover. 

EAA
The Experimental Aircraft Association provides expert advice and inspiration for aviation enthusiasts. Support your aviation friends with a hand built stoneware mug. 

Left Hand Brewing
Need a gift for your left-handed friends? Shop Left Hand Brewing in Colorado for the perfectly balanced handmade stein.

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This time of year causes people to be more reflective and grateful. Not everyone is going through good times, but sometimes it’s what you make of a situation. It’s that way with Keith and Kari.

The couple met through Keith's company, Drakes Adventures. Keith is 50 years old; Kari is 48. Both had been married before and had experienced life’s ups and downs. For some reason they were drawn to each other – and on their first date, they discovered the connection. Kari’s daughter was born on October 4, 1994; it was the same day that Keith’s son had passed. It instantly became their awakening with the ‘Circle of Life’.

               

Together they believe the moment we are born, we face the hourglass of life. It is in this moment that life’s ‘play’ button is depressed and each second, granules of sand pass through it. Our life doesn’t have a pause button, we can’t rewind, we can’t fast forward. We have to live in the moment or that moment is gone. Thus their motto: In Life… There is NO Pause, NO Rewind, No Fast Forward, JUST PLAY™.

During Keith’s dark moments of losing his son, his brother and then his father – Keith realized that while he was grieving, life for others continued to carry on. The traffic outside his world never slowed down. There was no pause button, there was no rewind. Life simply kept going. It was a learning that stayed within him then and that Kari shares with him today.

Keith and Kari planned to marry on their ‘Circle of Life’ day – Sunday, October 4, 2015. Two days before their wedding, Kari’s father passed away unexpectedly. Of course, her father was supposed to walk her down the aisle. They couldn’t rewind, fast forward or pause. Traffic didn’t stop, the world kept turning. The hourglass granules continued to pass. They simply decided to live their motto and played on. They wedded in a private ceremony in front of their fireplace on October 4.

                

Stories like Keith and Kari are why our artisans and SHS team are so passionate about what we do. We’re not simply selling mugs; our mugs are telling stories and becoming part of people’s lives. Our artistry communicates the passion for doing things right. It connects people with America. It gives us hope that everything will be ok. Our mugs and your stories will live on much longer than you and I – and for that we are forever grateful. Find Just Play mugs online at Trending Now Promotions.

Happy Thanksgiving from our entire SHS Team. Pat

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Vermont is known as the ‘land of milk and honey’ so it’s appropriate that Champlain Valley Apiaries would be located there. Founded in 1931 by Charles Mraz, the 3rd generation family business will be celebrating their 85th anniversary in 2016. 

While the average American thinks honey is honey and will buy the cheapest brand (ok, I admit, I’ve bought the Honey Bear squeeze bottle in the past), others from around the globe better understand the importance of honey and use it for food and medicinal purposes. 

                   

In fact, in the mid 1950’s, Charles started to study apitherapy – treating ailments such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis with live bee stings at his Middlebury home. People came from around the world to be treated by Charles – sometimes seeing 20 people a day, 7 days a week. Today the company may well be the only U.S. business that sells bee venom to pharmaceutical companies across the globe for use as desensitizing treatments for people with allergies to bee stings.

Similar to the early days, Champlain Valley continues to focus on quality. To produce a pound of honey, bees need to make 20,000 flights, collecting nectar from hundreds of thousands of flowers. Employees spend a good part of each year visiting approximately a thousand hives the company maintains at more than 30 locations from the Canadian border to Shoreham, NY.  The end result is a crystallized (raw honey) that is extracted and packed in its natural state retaining its original flavor, vitamins and other nutrients. They also offer liquid honey. 

                           

Today Charles’ grandson ‘Chas’ manages the family business. The company sells much of their product through health food stores across the country, online – and their holiday gift catalog.

                                     

This time of year everyone is looking for a deal; it’s an honor for Sunset Hill Stoneware to be a part of their sweet offering.

Keeping watch.  Pat

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Acadia National Park was founded in 1916. It is located in Maine on Mount Desert Island, the 6th largest island in the contiguous United States. Its coastal landscape is marked by woodlands, rocky beaches and Cadillac Mountain – the highest point on America’s East Coast. Today the island maintains a year-round population of 10,000 and swells to 2-1/2 million each year as tourists visit the park.

In 1986, founders of Friends of the Acadia formed to support the park’s long-term vision. Their forward-thinking and stewardship supports their love and preservation of Acadia National Park. Together, the members and volunteers have fundraised and worked to protect the scenery, history and culture of this national treasure for future generations.

In 2016, Acadia National Park will be celebrating their centennial with a year-long, Maine-wide celebration. They’ll be highlighting the past hundred years of world-class conservation at the park while inspiring and launching the next hundred years of Acadia stewardship. While the official ‘birthday’ is July 8, 2016, you can support the park today by planning your centennial visit next year – or by purchasing centennial merchandise. Your purchase supports Acadia National Park’s nonprofit partners to continue their vital work. Sunset Hill Stoneware is licensed to sell Acadia-branded product through 2016, with a percentage of the purchase benefiting Acadia National Park. 

      

We appreciate the leadership, commitment and volunteerism of Friends of the Acadia – their ongoing efforts uphold America’s natural beauty.

Keeping watch. Pat

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Earlier this year, we talked about our Clean Air achievements – today we’re pleased to share we now offer carbon neutral shipping!
                         
As a small family-run business, our goal is to hand throw a great product, protect our employees and do our part in preserving the environment through green initiatives. Our customers appreciate our American-made quality and the conscious effort we make to be socially responsible for our actions. For us, it’s simply the right thing to do – especially when we interact directly with America’s national and state park systems, along with historical landmarks and museums across the country.

Environmental leadership starts with small steps that accumulatively make a larger impact – it’s why we partnered with UPS and their Carbon Neutral Shipping initiative. UPS ships millions of packages a day that can have a negative impact on the environment. Think about their brown trucks, air flights, miles and fuel; it all adds up.

                                 

To offset the impact on the environment, they created a program called UPS Carbon Neutral. It allows Sunset Hill Stoneware to financially contribute to their program to offset the climate impact of our shipments. In turn, UPS takes our contribution, combines it with others and works with globally recognized certification and validation groups to reduce fuel use, conserve energy, recycle and operate responsibly.

It’s how SHS is making small changes to make a big difference. We hope you do the same.

Until next time. Tom

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Michael Kalish is an artist, a sculptor and designer. If you haven’t heard his name before, you are missing out. Twenty years ago he was repurposing materials before upcycling became cool.

He grew up in Georgia with a love for art. He knew if he wanted a serious career, he would need a unique medium. In his travels, he picked up an old license plate and was captivated with its color, texture and reflective shine. He picked up another – and another and he began creating something new, lasting, something of beauty.

Today Michael lives in California and is world known. His connections include the family of Mohammad Ali and partnering with DRIVE4COPD. Art critics have stated that his work is transformational and being surrounded by his work makes one feel like the best days are yet to come. This video is a bit long (5 minutes), but shows a man who stayed true to himself, followed his destiny and continues to do well for the world around him.

                       

This week Michael introduced a men’s wear lifestyle brand, Kalish & Sons. The project comes after years of research and travel across America to find pieces for his Made in the U.S. collection – a portfolio of quality of goods inspired by the most skilled American craftsman. The line includes a classic chore coat, a utilitarian duffel bag, limited-edition canvas prints and an artisan-thrown Sunset Hill Stoneware mug.

                             

A great American story. Congratulations to Michael and to all who have the passion and maintain the perseverance to follow their dreams.

Keeping watch. Pat

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I’ve worked in the corporate world – and for private industry. I have great stories about both experiences, so prior to landing my current position I kept an open mind about my next career step. Five years later, I can share that being a part of a small family business has literally been a breath of fresh air.

It’s the same for Lori and Mike Miscovich. Years ago as they worked in fast paced corporate roles, they did some personal soul searching and asked themselves ‘why does everything artificial seem so natural and everything natural seems so foreign?’

In 2013, the couple left their careers and relocated to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Today they encourage followers to momentarily unplug from their mobile devices – and take time to pause and enjoy the beauty of wildlife and nature. They like to consider themselves as the marketing team for Mother Nature under the Hermit brand – created for people who enjoy experiencing the outdoors and the wilderness the way it was intended to be: unplugged, unpaved and uncompromised.

                        

The Hermit brand also commits to offering products made with the environment in mind – organic/natural products – made in America. They offer t-shirts, ball caps and of course, Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs, steins, crocks – all made in America reflecting color schemes straight from nature.

                       

On October 29, Hermit brand will be celebrating National Hermit Day. A day dedicated to those of us who want to chill out by ourselves. A day dedicated to step away from the hustle and bustle of life and retreat to a quiet place. No phone, no computer – a time to nap, read, rest and relax. Doesn’t that sound inviting? It may become my favorite holiday.

                      

Keeping watch. Pat

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