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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As beautiful as pottery is, the manufacturing process has a dirty little secret. Pottery harms those who love it the most – the potters. Harmful airborne particulates, sharp knives, repetitive motion, heavy lifting and dark, damp conditions are all commonplace in the pottery industry.

Knowing that clay airborne particulates can create poor indoor air quality, when we relocated our production facility a few years ago, my Dad and I were determined to incorporate employee safety into our building design. Years later, while many of the improvements and innovations were measureable, the lingering question was – did we do enough to protect our employees from harmful clay airborne particulates? We wanted independent documentation to ensure our employees were safe.

This past May, we employed an independent environmental consulting firm to conduct on-site monitoring for respirable dust and crystalline silica. The testing was conducted over a series of days – in every part of the facility. The final results of the testing confirmed our designs and efforts were achieved! Today we can share that not only does our team produce the best stoneware in America – they work in a safe ‘clean air’ environment.

                

We’re proud that our investment and efforts have created a production ‘Pottery Heaven’ facility. Our employees can enjoy safe working conditions and a healthy, clean air environment that will allow them to prosper and live well for many, many years,

Read more about why Sunset Hill Stoneware is the Cleanest Greenest Pottery in America. 

Welcome to the future of production pottery manufacturing!
Until next time.  Tom

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When you mention ‘Woodstock’, most people immediately think about the iconic 1969 Woodstock Festival outside of White Lake, New York. There’s another Woodstock – in Georgia, and it’s the home of Reformation Brewery

                    

Nick Downs and Spencer Nix own the brewery. Years ago Nick was a pilot and would bring back unique beers from his travels. He shared the brews with his buddy Spencer, which started them on the road into home brewing. As time went on, they began to make more brew than they could drink, so they invited family and friends to enjoy their concoctions. Those people told their friends and their beer community grew – eventually attracting people from the southeast to join the conversation. In 2013 they turned this hobby turned into a microbrewery business and named it Reformation Brewery.

The brewery is named after Martin Luther, an iconic leader of Protestant Reformation. Martin was well known for inviting students to his home after class to discuss life, theology and culture while his wife served her home-brewed ale. In similar fashion, Reformation Brewery fosters that tradition of mixing conversation and community with a well-made craft beer – and takes it even further with their core values of acceptance, story, authenticity, moderation, humility and humor.

        

Today patrons can enjoy 4 popular anchor brands: Atlas, Cadence, Providence and Stark and soon will be able to appreciate a much anticipated seasonal line as well as bottled reserve offerings. If you’re in the area, they welcome the opportunity to give you a tour and offer complimentary beer tastings.

In 2014, craft brewing reached double digit growth. Much of that growth was from small and independent brewers like Reformation Brewery that are deepening their connection with local beer lovers and keeping the conversation going.

        

Reformation Brewery brings old world traditions to their beers – it makes perfect sense to match their beer-making style with the tradition of stoneware craftsmanship. We hope their story continues for generations.

Keeping watch. Pat

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1965 was a memorable year.  Kellogg’s introduced Apple Jacks, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis was completed, the first Porsche 912 was produced and George Barris was commissioned to build the Batmobile for ABC's upcoming Batman TV series. And in Palo Alto, CA, a psychedelic revolution was beginning.

It was the year that Jerry Garcia purchased a banjo at a local music store and met Bill Kreutzman. The two connected – and soon Jerry was working at the store selling instruments and teaching guitar lessons. One of Jerry’s student’s was 16-year old Bob Weir.  Jerry and Bob became good friends and soon Bill, Jerry and Bob formed a band. Needing a vocalist, they added 15-year old Ron McKernan, aka ‘Pig Pen to the group. Playing mostly folk and bluegrass music, the four of them called themselves the Warlocks. Soon after, Phil Lesh was added to the band.

When the guys realized that there was already a band called the Warlocks, they went in search of another name – and settled on the Grateful Dead. Living in a communal house, they were considered the leaders on the hippie movement and built a large following of ‘deadheads’ by giving free concerts.

The group's mission as voiced by Jerry Garcia, "We're trying to make music in such a way that it doesn't have a message for anybody. We don't have anything to tell anybody. We don't want to change anybody. We want people to have the chance to feel a little better. That's the absolute most we want to do with our music. The music that we make is an act of love and act of joy…we're not telling [anybody] to go get stoned, or drop out…. We are trying to make things groovier for everybody so more people can feel better more often, to advance the trip, to get higher – however you want to say it – but we're musicians and there's just no way to put the idea 'save the world' into music."

The band never had a number one hit, but Casey Jones, Truckin and Touch of Grey rank in their top 10.

           

In 2015, in recognition of the band’s 50th anniversary, four original Grateful Dead members – Mickey Hart (joined as the band’s drummer in 1967), Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir – will reunite one final time at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 3, 4, and 5th.  The date is nearly 20 years to the day of their last concert which took place at the same venue. This will mark the original member’s last-ever performance together.

Any way you look at it, you just have to feel grateful.

Keeping Watch.  Pat

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America is known as the land of opportunity. In the 1800’s, many Europeans traveled to America by sea, risking everything they had in hope for a brighter future. These hard-working immigrants were determined to build their legacy in the new country. 

One of the early German settlers planted roots in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. His name was David G. Yuengling. In 1829 David established a brewery that has continued to be passed down through the generations. David partnered with his son, Frederick, who eventually passed the company onto his son Frank. When Frank passed, his son’s Richard L and F. Dohrman took over and in 1985, 5th generation ‘Dick’ Yuengling, Jr. bought the company from his father. The brewery continues to be family-owned and operated – it’s just that today the ‘family’ has expanded in facilities, locations and brands. 

          

Yuengling currently has three locations: 2 in Pottsville and 1 in Tampa, FL. And their products are distributed in 18 statesYuengling is listed on the national and state registers as America’s oldest brewery – and in 2012 the Company became America’s largest US-owned brewery. Brands include premiums, dark, craft, lights and lager beer. And Dick Jr’s, four daughters, Wendy, Jennifer, Debbie and Sheryl are full-time members of the Yuengling staff.  All because one man was brave enough to take a trip across the ocean.

Recently, the Brewers Association listed the top 50 US craft brewing companies of 2014. You guessed it – Yuengling was named number 1! For the first time ever, craft brewers reached double-digit volume share of the marketplace in 2014 with anticipated 20% market share by 2020. 

                     

Beer is the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage – following water and tea, it is the third most popular drink overall. There’s an art to making, pouring and enjoying beer. And we’re grateful to be part of another American-made story.

Keeping Watch.  Pat

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