Meet the Huntington Beach mom whose philanthropy fundraiser turned into a small candle making business with her two grown sons when COVID sent California into lockdown.
Where are you from originally?
I lived in Downey, California for most of my life until moving to Huntington Beach with my husband Jim.
How long have you lived in Huntington Beach? How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have lived in Huntington Beach since 2000. I have a 24-year-old son named Dane and a 19-year-old son named Jacob.
What are your favorite things to do with your kids in general or in town?
Currently, my favorite thing to do with my sons is make candles. Before COVID, we enjoyed taking a cruise together once a year, watching movies, family dinners. They both live away from home during the school year. They both attend CSULB, one lives off campus in a fraternity house and the other was a freshman in the dorms. Since early March, they have been here and that’s when we ramped up our candle hobby into a small business.
Name 3 things in town you can’t live without.
Three things in town that I can’t live without are my friends, the beautiful weather, and local dining with my family, especially sushi.
What’s your favorite restaurant in town for a family date? Why?
My favorite restaurant in town for a family date night has always been Matsu in Huntington Beach. Their sushi is always so fresh, the teppan tables are always fun and delicious, and the employees are so friendly and have become our friends over the years. There is one more place that has recently opened and is our other favorite restaurant, Chidori Sushi in Fountain Valley. They also have an amazing menu and their owner and his wife are two of the nicest people around. I had to list two favorites, because I just couldn’t decide on one.
What has been your go-to activity during quarantine?
Well our go to activity has been our candle business. It keeps us pretty busy. My son does all the cutting, my husband does the sanding and I wick, pour, label all the candles. My other son and I do all the social media and messages. It keeps us pretty busy. But we love having a common interest that we can all do together.
What’s the number 1 thing you miss about pre-COVID life?
What I miss the most about our pre-COVID life is spending time with extended family and friends. We have always celebrated family birthdays with my siblings, nieces and nephews. We haven’t been together as one big family since before March. I also really miss country concerts with my husband and our yearly summer cruise with my husband and our two boys.
What is your local go-to store for clothes? Furniture? Gifts?
My local go to store for clothes is usually TJ MAXX, Target or Macy’s. For furniture, I love my La-Z-Boy couch and also Macy’s for our bedroom set. For gifts, my go to store is usually TJ MAXX, Target, Amazon or Hallmark.
Do you have a favorite destination for family trips? Why?
We love to cruise. We try to do one cruise a year to somewhere we haven’t been. We took a cruise to Alaska last summer and it was unforgettable. We also loved our cruise to the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Thomas and Grand Cayman. The reason we love cruising is we can visit several places in a short period of time and the ships are always a lot of fun. The entertainment and food choices onboard are amazing.
Name a favorite book or podcast?
My favorite podcast is “On Purpose with Jay Shetty.” Jay is a motivational speaker and is so inspiring to listen to. He is so wise and gives such beautiful insight into living your best life. I highly recommend listening, if you don’t already. I also follow him on Instagram & Facebook.
What has been the most difficult age with your children to date? What helped you overcome the challenges at that time?
Luckily my boys were both pretty easy and weren’t too difficult at any age. If I had to name a challenging time, it would probably be balancing homework/projects with team sports and their social life. Now that they are both older, I look back and wonder how we balanced it all when they were young. Trying to play every sport possible while taking advanced classes to prepare for college, and spending time with their friends was the daily norm, but it wasn’t easy. Luckily I was able to be a stay-at-home mom and helped keep them both organized and on track.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms? What was the best advice your mom gave you?
The best advice I could pass on to other moms is to take lots of pictures, you can never have enough. I also try to listen when they tell a story without turning it into a lesson. Oftentimes as moms, we think we have to give advice when they want to tell us about something they did or saw. I have found that they will tell us more if they don’t think they will get the “mom lecture” at the end of their story. My mom taught me so much about being a good mom, I think the most valuable advice she gave me is to pick my battles. Everything can’t be a big deal, especially when you’re raising two active boys.
What do you value most in your friends?
I value loyalty and honesty with my friends. I am fortunate enough to have several life-long friends that have become more like family to me over the years.
What was your career before having children?
I have been a stay-at-home mom for 24 years, but before that I worked for our family business. We’ve owned a tool & die machine shop in Stanton since the early 80’s. I worked in the office for 9 years when I decided to start a family and stay home with my children.
How do you relax and unwind?
The best way for me to unwind and relax is an evening on my couch with my laptop and a glass of wine. I love catching up with my friends on social media and text messages, since we can’t be together in person right now. I have friends that I have known since kindergarten and I love that social media keeps us all connected, even during a pandemic.
My guilty pleasure is watching a couple reality tv shows, my top two being Dancing With The Stars and The Bachelor/Bachelorette. COVID has halted those shows for now, so I tend to channel surf until I can find a good, cheesy 80’s movie that I’ve seen a few times already, and watch it once more. I can sing along to every song in Grease, Grease 2, Footloose and Dirty Dancing.
I am inspired daily by my sweet mom, who is also my best friend. I always thought after my kids were grown, I would go back to work. About 3 years ago, my strong and independent mother had 3 strokes in one year that left her at the mercy of others. So instead of going back to work, I became her caregiver. She was the glue in our family and loved when we all got together at her home. She always organized holidays, gatherings and cherished time with her 3 kids and 6 grandkids. Since her strokes, she can no longer live alone or care for herself. Since my two brothers work, it was my decision to care for my mom weekly. Even though she is alert enough to know what has happened to her, she tells me daily how grateful she is to see another day and to know she is so very loved. It is inspiring to me to see how she smiles through each day and is so thankful to have family to care for her. I know she is sad that she can no longer drive, cook and live alone, but she tries to stay positive. She tells me often that she is sad that her life is so different now, but she says that she is so thankful to have survived her strokes, when many people don’t.
Can you tell us a little more about how you came to start making candles?
The start of our candle adventure began when my son became philanthropy chairman of his fraternity and needed a way to raise funds for their cancer philanthropy. That same week, my best friend dropped off a candle she had made for me out of a wine bottle for my birthday gift. At that moment, I thought to myself, we could do this for my son’s philanthropy. We started from scratch watching “how to” videos, ordering supplies and having a blast as mother & son. We were receiving donated bottles from neighbors and friends and turning them into candles. They were a hit and we were raising funds for their cancer philanthropy for several months. Once COVID brought an end to school and fraternity events and my son’s position in the fraternity was over, I was too invested in this new hobby to just call it quits. I had done too much research in the science behind candle making and I was truly enjoying every minute of it. So that is when “Wine Me Up Candles” was born. My oldest son cuts the bottles, my husband sands them, I wick and pour, and my youngest son helps with social media, picking up empty bottles and candle deliveries. We are making the most out of an unsettling time during a pandemic. Our silver lining is that we found a way to bond as a family, which is a really big deal to a mom with two adult sons 19 & 24. Finding a common interest with my boys has brought me so much joy.
Thank you Denise!
If you are interested in giving a fun gift to a friend, or treating yourself, check out @winemeup_candles on Instagram. They also do custom orders using bottles that have sentimental meaning to the customer.