Friday, March 30, 2007

Report from Suds Central

The two days of sunshine and warm temperatures has me all aflutter. Threw open all the windows and doors, and pretty much stared at the garden, watching the kittens hunt little winged creatures and eat flies. All of us wanted to just bask in the outdoors, late into the evening. The intrepid hunters have moved up from the occasional stray styrofoam peanut on the floor.

It's been a little scary in the house as it gets warmer. Their laser focus on the just hatched flies is unwavering, and I'm just lucky to have my tv still intact. They will stop at nothing to catch their prey. Which is both amusing and scary. If there is anything between them and the buzzing thing, it's toast -- lamps, kitchen items, curtains, knick knacks. So it's rather nice to have them outside where just a few leaves get trampled rather than total house destruction.

Am I working on anything? Um, no. Well, kinda. I mean, I'm getting a little bit of the usual work done. But next week is another show, and the grand opening/unveiling of my stuffs at a new shop. But all that news will have to wait until next week. I'm perking along getting it ready and pretty much procrastinating (my specialty) until it's really, really, up against the wall. I wish that wasn't how I rolled. But there it is. You can't ignore the sunshine when it's staring at you in the face.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fan girlies

I have a little group of fan ladies - women of a "certain age" I guess you could say. They are by no means the majority of my customer base - just the most vocal lately. Maybe because they prefer to order the old fashioned way, instead of internet shopping. They write in (with checks - who uses those any more?) and put the whole thing in a happy greeting card with a cheery little handwritten note. Or they call in and chat merrily for a few minutes, with stories and sunny words of support, cheerleading my little business on.

It makes all the difference in the world to hear from them and always makes my day. One glorious gal told me she loves to receive the newsletters so much, that they are some of the best reading she's seen in years, better than a lot of the novels she's read. I was so touched, but didn't really believe her. I mean there are many kinds of writers in the world -- magazine article writers, travel writers, fiction writers, manual writers, short story writers, advertising copy writers. They are all different and I've never tried any of that stuff. Plus, I've never really thought of myself as a real writer. Just a dabbler.

Sure, I can put together a few paragraphs for a dinky newsletter, ok. I can even plunk out these bloggy things pretty regularly. Is that really a writer? I know some blog writers actually make it a career - enlisting sponsors and having thousands of readers daily. But that's not my aspiration. I'm not that into sharing I guess. And there isn't even that much going on in my humble life to wax eloquent about.

But it's gotten me thinking about writing. Wouldn't it be great to just sit in front of the computer for days, weaving a strand of little jewels that become the next best seller? I'm pretty sure there's nothing like that it in me. It probably takes a lot of practice, discipline, and education. And I've no patience for that kind of thing.

If it doesn't come out of my head the right way the first time I just chuck it. I have to type fast because it's the conversation in my head, exactly as it rolls out (ew, is that brain vomit?). No planning, laying out plots or outlines, just letting it roll.

And you see? This is why I am not a writer. There is no point to any of this whole dialog. Except that I love my little fan club. And when they cheer me on so enthusiastically, I begin to imagine bigger things for myself that I wouldn't have done on my own. Big smooch to my fan girlies.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

News Bitelets

Just a few pieces of business.

We just got our booth assignments for the U District show in mid May. I will be located at booth #339, which is pretty much the same spot I always am. It's on University Way, in the block between 42nd and 43rd, just down from Finn MacCools bar, on that same side. It's a big corner booth, and I'm really pleased to be there again. Apparently it was quite a bit more competitive to get in this time around. But it's always one of my biggest shows and a huge kick-off to the whole summer festival shebang. Details about dates, hours, and whatnot are HERE.

And I was accepted into the Sorticulture show. I've never participated in this one, so it's exciting to finally get a chance to try it. I've heard so many wonderful things about it from friends who've done it for years and friends who never miss going to it. Basically it's a garden show, run by the Everett Parks Dept., with lot of nurseries and plant growers, garden artists, featured guests of local garden celebrities, and other cool stuff. I'll focus more on my gardener's scrub soap, the Bugger Off natural bug repellant spray, the healing salve and a bunch of little gardener-oriented gift sets with all those products plus the super duper nail brush. But I'll have a bit of everything. Details about dates, hours, and whatnot are HERE. This is Father's Day weekend, and it only runs Friday and Saturday, so you can spend Sunday with Pop.

And then another random topic that doesn't relate. That's what Random Suds is all about. Just emptying my head so the marbles in there have more room to roll about. I was listening to the radio for a minute this morning and BirdNote came on. I love to listen to this radio snippet. I am not a "birder" by any means whatsoever. But I've recently started to be more interested in birds. I think this is something that just spontaneously happens to you as you get older, like bad knees and wrinkles. Today's topic was urban birds. Apparently songbirds that live in the city have adapted their songs once they live in urban areas - drop the low notes and sing higher to counteract the low hum of traffic and city noise. And they sing faster too. Like all things, I suppose, the city is always faster paced than the country or forest. So it's no real surprise, just fascinating - probably because I've never given it any thought whatsoever. You can listen to the little radio spot from their site to hear the actual song variations of city dwelling singers to their forest cousins. Chickadee dee dee.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Blossom Sunday

Pretty much a do-nothing weekend. My only interest was the garden. It was horribly rainy and lousy Saturday, but we headed off to the nursery anyway, to mosey about the plants, immersing ourselves in things that looked like spring. Coming home with a few little flowering items to stick in the dirt outside a window for a little perk-up.

Sunday morning, also cold and rainy was spent puttering around in the dirt again, moving stuff. Just rearranging what made it through the winter, spreading out the crowded stuff. Finding better spots for the tough little sprouts that need more sun or more room. But then the sun came out in the afternoon. The SUN!

We decided to head over to the arboretum to admire the glorious magnolias. There are so many kinds - from big, blowsy, overblown blooms on trees that soar overhead, to little delicate star blossoms on petite baby trees. They are definitely one of my favorite spring blooming flowers, although with my crap sense of smell, I can't pick up their delicate fragrance, although I am assured they definitely do have a pretty floral scent. If you head over there, don't forget your mud shoes, it's a sloppy mess in spots.

And then on to the Quad at the University for the cherry blossom extravaganza. If you've never been there at the peak of blooming, you simply must go. It's absolutely magic, especially on Sunday - family and tourist day. There were gobs of people just wandering around under the canopy. Smack dab in the center of the UW campus there is a plaza planted with ancient cherry trees imported from Japan so that we can experience the same cherry blossom festival as they do. These trees are awesome- huge gnarly things so overloaded with blossoms that you can barely see through them to the sky above. Surrounded by aged buildings of higher learning, they are a little oasis of magic - you can actually feel a sense of wonder and awe the moment you step into that place. Kids were climbing the trees, a little merry band of musicians were plucking out tunes, loads of tourists were lined up taking a million pictures of each other, others were picnicing on blankets on the grass, and dogs were catching frisbees. Everyone craning their necks, gazing upward, outward, backward. It's impossible to capture the entire magnificence of it all on a little camera screen. Just go over there before it's gone.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Another cold and grey day. Is it gray or grey? Paralyzed. By. Inertia. So fogged I can't even string a sentence together.

Slight exaggeration for dramatic effect. But basically true. I'm still plugging away at the bare minimum, like orders, so that money goes into the bank. But procrastinating on everything else I possibly can, while I shuffle around mindlessly, stuffing chocolate Easter eggs in the snack hole, clueless to what I even came in here for anyway. What was I supposed to be doing? Did I turn the oven off, or should I just put my head in it? TMI?

I didn't have any big deadlines this week so I was going to get all inspired and work on some looming creative projects. But it didn't happen. Pretty much nothing did. Except the orders (which were huge and lovely and oh, my, gosh - thank you!). And a couple of batches of soap. There really should have been more soap too, since I had a bit of extra time on my hands and needed to work ahead in a more disciplined manner. But alas, it's inertia season at Camp Soap Suds. Adrift in unmotivation.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

That Ralphie, smart man. Except tomorrow is Saturday and I want a weekend off to just veg, not think about business, and with luck, enter the office Monday morning with a new attitude. Or any attitude at all.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring Equinox

Today is officially the first day of spring, even though it's bitterly chilly and I woke up to frost. Still, it's making it's way - with a profusion of buds and blossoms that will probably hide under the blankies again today until the sun gets a little warmer. My new star magnolia bush is opening in fits and starts. One warm day and a bunch popped. Two cold days and it takes a little break, shivering in the shade. Another warm afternoon and a couple more flowers pop out.

The changing tilt of the Earth's axis causes the change of seasons, as well as the shortening and lengthening of daylight hours. The equinox means that today the north and south poles are equally distant from the sun, so we will have almost exactly the same amount of daytime as nighttime. And starting tomorrow, we will begin to gradually have more daylight hours, a few minutes each day. Hooray!

And today they are handing out 30,000 free daffodils at Pike Place Market too -- part of their 100th anniversary of the market celebration. Run down and get one while they last.

I got the sweetest call yesterday from a charming woman who just recently tried my soap and loved it. She called to order dozens and dozens of bars, and about one of everything else I've ever made. She wants to give it all out as Easter and Spring gifts to everyone she knows. Just to share how great it is, and to spread me around to her family and friends. I'm so touched, and a little flabbergasted that something like that would just pop up out of the blue. Especially when I really needed it. Fate is a funny thing.

A little Madness in the Spring / Is wholesome even for the King. - Emily Dickensin

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dr. Seuss

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.

Dr. Seuss

Monday, March 19, 2007

How I started the soap biz

When people ask me how I got started making soap, I don't have a great story. In fact, it's a little hard to explain.

It was 11 years ago. I was catering at the time, and knew that I wanted to keep my flexible hours, not work in an office, and somehow make money working for myself and start my own business. I had no idea really what I wanted to do.

I was a speech-communications major in college with a liberal arts degree. That was by default. I was in college, mostly working full time and avoiding classes, but fully partaking of the social benefits. Changing my major every other month or so -- social service, political science, whatever didn't require math and science. Fell asleep through art history every day about 5 minutes in. So when it got down to crunch time, where you really had to put something in that little box on the form, I was stumped. I ran my finger down the column of possibilities, did a quick reckoning of what credits I had already accumulated, and calculated what I could get with the minimum effort in order to graduate in the same year as the folks as I started with. Really carefully thought out future, eh?

So when you pop out the other side, diploma in hot little hand, what do you do with a speech-communications major? Well, after agonizing over my resume, shopping for days on end for the perfect interview suit, poring over want ads and job postings, I headed out to my first interviews. One of the first questions they asked, since I'm a woman, was "can you type?" Entry level job for any woman who types (and I was a great typist -- don't ever admit to that) is receptionist and secretary.

So a million secretarial and administrative jobs later, I was bored and underpaid. I interned with huge event planners for fun and free stuff. I worked for catering companies after hours to see how the other half lived. And I dreamed about my own business some day. Literally.

I dreamed up this business. I almost never remember my dreams. And I can't say I remember this one either. But I woke up one morning with the idea, and an incredibly strong conviction, that I must make and sell soap as my business. I didn't know the first thing about how to do that. I'd never made soap before in my life. But it just so happened that I had been working full time for a catering company that was going out of business. And we all got laid off and given a little severance package about a month later. Perfect timing. I had no job, a little money and some time on my hands. And the dream.

So I went to the library and took out every single book on soap I could find. Spent a day shopping around for the supplies that I would need from the lists in the books. The following day I spread it all out in the kitchen and made a couple of small test batches. While stirring, I hatched a name for the venture. Ran down to the government office that runs such things and got a business license the same week. One week, the business was born.

I eventually took a couple of classes on soapmaking, a couple of classes on making herbal stuff and smelly bath items. And I kept making soap. A lot. It was September 1996. In November, I wrote up my first newsletter and sent it off to everyone I knew with little teensy-weensy sample bars of the lavender lemongrass and breakfast soaps. Those were my first ones, and they are still at the top of the list. I was selling soaps for Christmas presents to friends already! I was in business!

So it doesn't make for a riveting story -- no handed down from generation to generation, no learning the finer points of soapmaking from some ancient relative, no family traditions or secret recipes. And no compelling background story either, like a health or skin problem that resulted in years of research on such things. Also no predilection for special soaps or scented stuff since I was kiddie, like it was my passion. In fact, I was never really into those things at all, weird. Absolutely nothing in my past that would have pointed towards this as my destiny.

I just made it all up myself. Took about a year to perfect my own soap recipe from all the other ones I tried. Just a lot of trial and error and experiment - jumping right in and figuring it out by myself. So there you have it. Booyah.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Last night we tore down the Vasa Park show, and it felt like the last day of school. So many hugs, and "let's keep in touch", a few tears, lots of phone numbers being passed back and forth as we packed up and headed off. As I mentioned before, Sue is selling the show, and it was her very last one. We've had a lovely run for many years together and it felt like family.

Of course, many of us will run into each other at other shows here and there. Familiar faces as we travel some of the same paths. But this was a special group and it just won't be quite the same.

Actually, all week was a fizzle. Sales were lousy, customers were sparse, even a bunch of the usual artists were missing. Sort of like the air had already escaped the balloon. Or exactly like the last week of school, when lots of kids had already snuck out for family trips, schedules were different, teachers could care less - just wanting to get it over with and start their own vacations. It had a completely different feel and all the usual routines were gone. Part breathless anticipation for what was next and part sadness for what was never to be again.

I think it's probably a good thing, this unexpected kick in the pants, to shake things up and re-think the "usual." Because the same old routine quickly becomes a rut, and thinking outside the box or trying new ways of doing things gets shoved aside for what's comfortable and easy. We'll all have to come up with new shows, or new schedules, or new ways of marketing, or even new ventures altogether. Lots of talk about retiring, new part time jobs, different work.

Somehow I don't feel afraid, or worried, or upset -- about the money. I do think something better will come out of all this. It just doesn't feel that way yet. It still feels like I'm going to be missing something. So as we all head off to college (or beauty school) in the fall, I really hope I can keep in touch with my bestest friends better than I did the first time around.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Top 'o the mornin'

Happy St Patrick's day! Doesn't everyone want to be a little Irish on this day?

Yesterday was a true blast of what's to come -- so warm we could almost sense summer was getting on the bus to visit us, while spring waits at the station to collecting her luggage. Where better to head than Alki Beach in the evening, the sun just setting behind the mountians in glorious oranges and purples. Twinkling ferries seemed to float, hardly moving, on the dark water. There were volley ball games in progress, a million walkers, roller bladers, dogs sniffing and greeting, a man stamping out "I Love You" with his feet in the sand for the rapt little gal sitting on the wall. So many poofy, blossomy cherry trees, floating petals like confetti at a parade. Very special evening.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Chocolate Bunnies

Aren't these sweet? They come from Vosges, which has the some of the best chocolate I've ever tasted. I love, love, love artisanal chocolate, with interesting flavors , unique herb and spice combinations.

Even though I'm partial to dark chocolate, two of their mik chocolate flavors are absolutely incredible - "Naga" with coconut and curry is my fave, and the "Barcelona", so simple but irresistable with smoked almonds and grey sea salt. But as tempting as it all looks, $10 for one teeny bunny, not counting shipping, is insane. Well, at least not until that money tree I planted out back gets a little busier.

FYI - the sales tax rate just went up to 8.9% around here, effective April 1st. And I got a notice yesterday that Bank of America wants to charge a new finance charge fee each month if you pay off your balance. No additional charges if you're carrying a balance with their overly high interest rates. And my merchant account announced new fees starting next month too. Just another reminder to read the fine print.

So I'm going to catch up on all that fine print reading paperwork today and then hopefully get some time this afternoon to do something fun or creative. Recharge the non-business and finance oriented side of my brain which feels like it's atrophying lately.

Hoppy Friday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Vasa Park Show

This afternoon is the opening of the Vasa Park show. It's the final show run by Sue Van Gerpen, who has been organizing this bunch of shows for years, along with Lord Hill Farm. And it's always been one of my best shows -- full of great stuff and wonderful people. I'm going to miss them all terribly.

I got just a small peep yesterday during set up. And there are some new artists here this week. One of them is my friend, Kim Groff Harrington who makes fun, whimsical garden art out of recycled cans, bottle caps and all kinds of old bits. That is one of her garden goddesses in the photo. She does shows around here, but never been in the Vasa Park show before, so it will be fun to see how well she does, being the newbie with cool new stuff. She is the most bright, bubbly, giggly gal I've known, and seems to glow with a special kind of radiance that is infectious. Who would't want to take a little piece of that home to their garden?

We're still hoping someone will want to buy the show and continue on. But even if that happens, it won't ever be the quite the same without Sue's smiling pixie face, the tireless little engine that could, inspiring our little group to always be a little better and a little kinder. So if you want to catch the last little bit of this fun run, hop on over and see the spring fling of gifts and garden stuff, antiques and easter fluff.

Country Crafts Home and Gift Show
Vasa Park Ballroom
3549 W Lk Sammamish Pkwy
Bellevue, WA

Dates: March 14 - 17
Hours: Wed 3pm-9pm, Thur-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-6pm

Link: Country Craft

Note: ARGH!! Blogger photos won't upload today. I'll get the pic up as soon as I can

Monday, March 12, 2007


Love that word. Swoon. For me, it's the feeling I get when I see something so visually lovely, that the moment I feast my eyes on it, the light suddenly gets brighter and shimmers, and almost like a spell, a little wave of faintness washes over me from head to toe. A rush of sensory overload that feels like the floor suddenly disappeared and I'm surfing the crest of a perfect wave or a gust of ocean breeze. My heart flutters, my eyes roll, my stomach flips, and my legs quiver. It's just a quick flash and then it's over. Everthing is solid and clear again. But the wonder of what I'm looking at remains.

That happened to me this morning when I took a moment to catch up with some of my favorite blogs. Frankly, it happens a lot over at Pam Garrison's blog. She has such a lovely eye for things, and whenver I am in need of a little visual eye candy and inspiration, I head over there. Her flicker faves link this week made me totally swoon for spring. And her flower photos too, and last week's faves too. So much beauty.

I'm working on arrangements to join an artisit's co-op gift shop in Kirkland next month. I know that you all have begged me to have things in a shop nearby and now it may finally happen. Still working out all the details, but I'm lousy at keeping a secret. We had a meeting yesterday afternoon -- such a lovely bunch of women artists with big hearts and strong opinions about everything. I'm so excited to have this opportunity and work with them. As soon as we get it in place I'll have all the details here and on the web site.

And this week is the Vasa Park show. The last one, sniffle. I'm putting finishing touches on things today and we are setting up tomorrow. I'll post the details tomorrow, it starts Wednesday. But plan to stop by later in the week if you want to see our final showing there.

Friday, March 09, 2007


I've been becoming more and more frustrated with my office space, which shall now be named "the dungeon" because it's dark and stupid, stuffed to the gills in the little basement we have. After seeing these lovely studio photos this morning, I was even more bummed. So I trudged upstairs to announce that at the very least, I needed a clean up, new paint, new cabinets, new carpet and re-wired electrical so I can have some actual light sources. Probably not the darling chandelier in this airy, gorgous, sugary sweet place. But something.

And I was also heading upstairs to retrieve the order that wasn't on my desk. Yesterday late afternoon, as I was stirring up a batch of soap, the phone rang. A lovely woman who was brand new to me and had not ordered from me in the past. And as I was copiously writing all the detailed information on the scrap paper I keep next to the phone for such emergencies, another call came in. I'm not the flustering type. But what are the chances that I get two phone orders at the exact same time right while I am at a sort of critical point in the soap process? Well, to be fair, it wasn't critical at the time I answered, or I would have let the machine get it. But I guess I was assuming it was going to be some short little thing, or family member who I could just call back.

And then it got more complicated. The problem arose when the second call was a bit more confusing. I couldn't just jot down stuff, I had to head to the office, calculate, communicate and stuff. This is all edge-of-the-seat excitement, I'm sure.
Anyway, no worries, the soap was just fine. In fact the extra time in the pot probably helped, because it was at a really nice super thick trace by the time I got back, perfect.

The point being, that I thought I had both orders in my hand when I ran down to the office. This morning I could only find one. So I figured the other one was still upstairs somewhere. I have now torn apart my office and every file about 3 times. I've emptied and sorted the recycling in the office and kitchen at least 4 times. I searched under tables, desks, rugs. When the panic really began to set in, I decided to shower and come back to it. I had a couple more ideas of where it could have gotten stuck to mail and filed. Nope. Then I started again -- headed back to the cabinet where I did the writing. Brainstorm, I had my recipe notebook open there last night. And sure enough, it was stuck in the pages of my binder. Whew! In all the years of doing this, I have NEVER, ever lost an order. I'm so glad that wasn't the first, though someday, the very law of averages dictates that I will have to deal with that, I think.

The upshot to all this rambling is that now I am even more disgusted with the piles and mess in this office. I am on a mission today to get it in order. And figure out a real plan for re-doing this place so it makes me happy and and efficient. The end.

Oh, Einstein, I am not.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Best of the Northwest

Big news yesterday -- I got word that I was accepted into ALL of the Best of the Northwest shows for this year! (wiggle, wiggle, butt shake) I think that's supposed to be an amazing thing. I mean, I never even tried to get into this series of shows. When I started out in the biz, that seemed to be the most high falutin', artsy fartsy show around. You needed professional slides, for gosh sakes. And there was glossy colored advertising and brochures and stuff. These were all real artists, folks who travelled in a different world from me, like high-end galleries and national exhibits. I was just a little newbie with no idea what I was doing.

So, I shied away from even trying that kind of thing. I figured I needed to get my feet wet with smaller shows and figure out how the whole thing worked. And then later, as I got sort of established, I still wasn't sure I really fit in. And I heard about the long waiting lists for the fall show. Maybe I was doubting myself a bit too, and I still never had professional slides ready. I had finally gotten the hang of a digital camera, but you've probably read here before, I'm not usually organized enough to remember to take really great booth or display photos when I'm set up somewhere. So when January rolled around and I was supposed to have my big impressive portfolio ready for their jury committee . . . the last couple of years I just caved and told myself "next year."

Well this year was next year. I just did it anyway. Even with the dumpy little photos I had. You can't win if you don't play, or whatever they say. And I got IN! Maybe the other soap people took a break. Who knows. Who cares. I've got a chance this year to do something brand new and special. It's three big shows that I otherwise wasn't really planning on, so I've got to get cracking if I want to have enough inventory ready for this giant month of May ahead. The dates are:

Seattle Spring Best of the Northwest
May 11, 12 & 13
Featuring a display garden for Mother's Day
Hangar 27 at Magnuson Park

Summer Art at Marymoor
August 17, 18 & 19
Marymoor Park, Redmond

Seattle Fall Best of the Northwest
November 16, 17 & 18
Hangar 27, Magnuson Park

So, um, I still haven't actually gotten the letter. It's supposed to come today, I think. But the guy on the phone yesterday seemed sure. Hoo. I hope I haven't jumped the gun and announced it too soon. Gah. What is my problem? Of course I'm in. See? After all this time, I still get panic attacks. So silly.

Lavender Success

Oooooh, Mother Nature heard me and yesterday turned out glorious -- sunny, warm and full of life. And today looks to be even better! Nevermind the rest of the week's cooler weather, showers and gray skies again. I'm going to get outside for a bit and enjoy this little break. I am SO a slave to the sunshine.

Yesterday I made another big batch of French Lavender soap. I think I have finally found a scent blend that I am happy with. It's a combination that evolved a few months ago, and seems to be holding up and developing into a really nice lavender scent that I don't have to be embarrassed about.

With some trepidation, I will admit this -- the lavender soap has been the one scent that I've had the most trouble with, ever since the beginning. And there have been times when it just hasn't been something I was comfortable with. My very first batches when I started out were just plain lavender essential oil. I figured this must be so easy, just dump in the obvious stuff and voila. But it never smelled quite like the lavender oil after it cured, and it always faded much too quickly. I tried other lavender oils, even lavandin oils, and then started searching for lavender fragrance oils to boost the essential oils and last longer. There have been literally dozens of formulations over the last ten years. So many of those fragrance oils were lousy -- more granny-hankie than live lavender plants. And I was trying to capture the real thing. Something that at least bore some resemblence to the lavender sachets that were sitting next to it. Sheesh, it seemed like everyone and their mother had a nice smelling lavender soap, and I just couldn't get the hang of it.

But I carried on and persevered, trying scent anchors (cedar, patchouli), trying other essential oils to round it out, or pump up the slightly tart grassy notes (rosemary, palmarosa). And now I've got a blend that has a really deep lavender oil, a slightly lighter lavendin oil, which is a variation of the same plant, a teeny bit of litsea cubeba, which is a sort of lemony verbena type oil that freshens it up and holds it togther, plus a few drops of patchouli (shhh, don't tell) which is too small in quantity to recognize, but is the ultimate scent anchor, making the whole fragrance last longer with a good foundation and base for all the other lighter top notes. It was really important to me this year to make sure it was an all-natural blend of essential oils, because I really want to commit to getting away from fragrance oils unless they are absolutely necessary.

At least all the batches I made through November and December seemed to turn out beautifully. Maybe six months from now, I'll find the scent didn't hold up well enough. It's a little hard to predict at the moment because I'm selling it all so fast. But that's a heck of a lot better than having folks pick it up, stare me in the eye and say "this doesn't smell like lavender -- it doesn't even smell at all." Gah. That hurts. No more of that.

I've sort of gotten used to people saying I have the best soap on earth, or the nicest smelling soap they've ever tried, or something along those lines. So when someone tells me it's no good or that they don't like it as much anymore (like one of my long-standing loyal customers did last summer), I fret and stew and double my conviction to make it better than everyone else's. I really hope this does the trick.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Waiting for Spring

I know it's coming. I know it's almost here. The warmer weather over the weekend was just a tease. Because when I tried to tromp around the muddy sludge in the back yard, the grey skies looming overhead, spring seemed so far away. Yes, there are a few daffodils and tulip greens poking out. There is a crocus and a couple of primroses with flowers. But the trees haven't begun to bud. The soggy grass is so very sad. The grey, the mud, the grey. It feels like some weird glitch in time where the wheel of life somehow got stuck and we're frozen in that sort of forever February haze.

In lieu of outdoor activities, I've been inside tossing stuff. Sort of a long, drawn out, never-ending project of cleaning out. Files from long ago years. Boxes of cds I forgot I had. Pulling out all the carefully stowed away stuff that was being saved for projects and ideas that have long since beeh forgotten. Mostly I just want to toss the whole mess and move forward.

I think what's really happening is that I'm antsy to just move on to the next thing, whatever it is, right now. Just get on with it. So today, I will do just that. Get on with it. Hoping for a productive and inspiring week.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Subliminal messages

I'm always amazed at the power of scent and fragrance, the huge impact it has on us, and new ways in which it is being used to manipulate us.

For example, I just read an article in a travel magazine about the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. which just finished a $24 million makeover. In addition to all the decorating and renovating, they hired the Parisian perfumer, Blaise Mautin to design a custom signature fragrance for their property. Atomizers pump what is described as a warm, woodsy scent into the sleek hotel lobby in order to create an environment that is unique and recognizable as soon as a guest arrives.

Other luxury properties are doing the same thing - using scent to invoke a particular feeling or produce memories out of the guest's imaginations by using scent signals. Omni Hotels have hidden machines which spray a green tea and lemongrass scent in the lobby, and a coconut fragrance around the pool areas for a tropical feel. They are also experimenting with specific aromatherapy blends in meeting rooms this year -- lavender and sandalwood to reduce stress, citrus combinations for energy.

And in Las Vegas, the cutting edge place for manipulating guest's experiences (their lighting tricks and pumping oxygen into the casinos are legendary), many of the chicest properties also use subliminal scenting. The company, AromaSys, the so-called "world leader of environmental aroma systems" creates customized aromatic experiences that extend the emotional impacts of interiors. They see it as just another tool in designing the ideal guest environment, like color, lights, plants and all other design elements. Kind of like music - an inviting "scent" is similar to an enjoyable background soundtrack of classical music, or jazz crooners. It adds that extra something which people identify with - not quite subconsciouly, but not overtly obvious either. Unless of course, you really hate that particular scent . . . or song in the elevator.

I remember walking into a hotel bathroom which smelled exactly like my grandmother always did. I couldn't tell if it was the hand soap, the cleaning products used, the flower bouquet on the counter or a combination of the whole thing. It was so completely captivating and compelling, yet I couldn't identify even slightly what the elements were. I think it reminded me of the face cream she used, but was it some kind of floral? Who knows. All I know is that I wanted to stay in there for hours.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Marvelous Marvis

I got this fabulous toothpaste as a Christmas gift, and can't get enough of it. It's the Jasmine Mint flavor from Marvis, who apparently is an Italian Apothecary company. It's imported from Italy, and sold at Anthropology for a ridiculously high price, like $11 a tube or something. I checked around online and I think you can get it for $8. What price luxury. But it's so damn yummy I want to eat it. So euro delicious, like those little floral candies in tins, but way better. I'm going to link the official website, even though it's totally whacky. Basically no content except their new ad campaign, and they like to call it "thootpaste" (hello Italian proofreader.)

Anyway, I decided to try to replicate the flavor as a scent in a bar of soap. I made a teeny batch of a few bars as a test -- just to be all matchy matchy. I used the soap for the first time this morning, and it's heaven. I combined my Jasmine fragrance oil with corn mint essential oil, which is a nice delicate mint. Not as powerful as peppermint and not as sweet as spearmint. It came out perfectly, and it's a pretty little lavender color too, just like the tube.

I didn't get very far on the summer scents yesterday, as you can probably imagine. But I'm very much leaning towards doing this Jasmine Mint thing. I'm going to do another little test batch with Wintergreen or Birch essential oil. Both of them are pretty close to the corn mint and I happen to have a stash of it here, without having to buy another go of some new kind of essential oil -- ever the frugal gal. Heck, you can still have little luxuries, even if you're broke like me.

And I forgot to mention, if anyone out there has a real hankering for something I haven't done before, or maybe I have but not for awhile, shoot me an email or give me a jingle. I'm up for suggestions. Now is the time to holler.

ETA: sorry for the edit, i needed a second stab at it, more coffee, hope it doesn't screw up the bloglines, feeds or other techonocality that I am unaware of . .