Saturday, August 25, 2007

I'm Off!

I'm off for a week's vacation starting . . . right . . . now!

Sorry it's been a little sparse this week. So many preparations, so much to take care of personally and business-wise. I feel like I got it all done. Of course there is always just a little nagging doubt that I could have or should have done just a little bit more. But honestly, all the major stuff was covered, and lots of little stuff too. I can be totally relaxed this next week and just enjoy myself.

So, have a great week everybody. I'll check back in Labor Day, rested, refreshed, re-vamped and raring to go.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rolling along

Things are moving along here at the studio. It's a gorgeous, sunny day - which we haven't had for a week. It almost felt like someone turned the summer switch off. It's clearly changing seasons on us rapidly, but we've got at least a little smidge left to squeeze out of the tube.

Lots of stuff that was just at a standstill has been making small but steady progress this week. It finally came down to the wire. With my vacation looming and just a couple days on the other side before the fair starts and the mailing gets let loose, there needed to be things in place. And I am getting there. It's a method of working backward.

A huge part of this business is the deadlines - shows, mailings, orders - and in order to accomplish them, I have to work backwards in time. The soap takes a very minimum of 4 wks to cure before it can be shared with the world. So it's important that I have a production schedule in place that has enough of everything made far enough in advance that it's all ready to go when the time arrives. The other things all have timing issues too - either labels, time it takes for packaging pieces to be ordered and arrive, bottling, and a myriad of other concerns. It all has to be thought out in advance, scheduled and the steps accomplished, managed, kept track of. One small thing can throw the whole works out of whack. So I'm trying not to miss anything.

It's usually the stuff that I don't have control of that do me in. The bags I need for some sachets are out of stock until next week. I'll have to figure that one out. Or something gets delivered to the wrong address. Or it arrives in the wrong size or wrong quantity. If I have extra time built in, that's great. If not, then we go to Plan B - winging it, which may very well happen.

So I'm zipping through my lists and lists, double checking everything, trying not to spend too much time looking outside at the flowers and sunshine that are having so much fun without me. I've got next week to play - stay focused.

(insert about 20 minutes of lost time here)

Oops, already screwed that up. Just as I started typing this morning, I remembered I had recently read a magazine article about just this very thing. And I even made a note to myself to explain it in the blog, because it's so crucial to how this whole thing works for me, and if I didn't utilize this principle constantly I would never have made it anywhere. I like to think I'm pretty good at it - it was supremely useful in all my other jobs too - executive assistant jobs, catering jobs, event planning jobs - it all ties together. So after rooting around my desk pile to find the note, which of course didn't include the issue, I then had to root around my whole pile of magazines looking for that particular page and article. And then when I finally found it, the article really was about a whole lot of other extraneous crap, but that specific paragraph must have struck a chord. Sigh. Anyway - those of us who maybe over-do the multi-tasking thing tend to think we can get a whole lot more done in the time allotted than is humanly possible. In order to keep ourselves in line and on track, the process of working backwards from anything, writing it down, with time elements(!), and then working forward again from the first step with the appropriate amount of time scheduled in . . . well, it's a useful thing. The end. Try it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Girl Gang

These are my two girls, Dora and Emmy Lou. And I don't really mean to brag, but they are the cutest cats in the whole world. Practically inseparable in their travels, bestest friends.

So that's all I've got today. They make me supremely happy.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

For the birds

Pigeons braving the pouring rain as I set off for the show yesterday morning. I was feeling a little sorry for myself until I saw the Danskin women's triathlon biking across the floating bridge to Mercer Island in that freezing cold rain. Oh my gosh, those were brave and determined women, and my heart went out to them. Although the finish line must have been that much sweeter, and the feeling of accomplishment immense.

Recap - Humpty Dumpty has been put back together. New hot water heater, new plumbing, all new set-up. It's grand. The studio has been put back in order, cleaned up, spiffed. All the mail orders made it out on time. I was a little low on the inventory that I had wanted for the show, but it turns out that I didn't need it.

Broken record - another lousy show. Just not enough customers. All the artists were crabbing, and most had barely made booth fee by the end of Saturday. And then Sunday was a complete downpour, the field was a swamp, and a whole bunch of folks just packed up and moved out. It was a worthless day. A bunch of us stayed because we want a good spot in the upcoming fall show. But we had nobody but ourselves to amuse all day. I actually had a lovely time joking around with my neighbors and new friends. A little profit would have been nice though.

So today it's raining again. The cats are bored and wet. I'm unpacking, drying out, taking stock. I will finally get a whole week's vacation starting this coming Sunday. I can't even tell you how relieved I am to have time off, and to have something totally fun, new, and exciting to look forward to, which is not even remotely work related - it's 100% recreation.

There is almost no time at all to be prepared for the fall newsletter mailing and the Puyallup Fair - so that's what is happening this week. Last minute planning, preparations and supply orders. Anything I can possibly do will be done. The week I return will be a huge jolt back into the real world, since there is only a few days before the fair sets up. Don't care.

I'll keep myself busy and efficient for now, but my heart is already on vacation. It's been a long, long summer and I'm happy that the show blitz is over. I had a glass of champagne when I got home last night. And then went straight to bed.

Best of the Northwest - Marymoor

The real title today is: It Pours.

But I need to cough up the deets on the Best of the Northwest show that I'm going to be participating in this weekend first. Because first and foremost this here is supposed to be a business blog, not a 'she whines like a baby' blog. So here goes:

Summer Art at Marymoor - This is the 6th annual summer event, the 2nd one at Marymoor Park in Redmond.

Dates: August 17, 18 & 19
Hours: Friday 12pm - 6pm, Sat and Sun 10am - 6pm
Location: King County's Marymoor Park, Redmond

Booth Location: TBD - they tell us when we get there to set up, but it's all out in a field somewhere with signs everywhere.

Link: Best of the Northwest

Ok, now I can do a little crabbing. Ya know when you just want to order a small side salad? or a 99 cent cheeseburger? they always want to "up" you. Didn't you want the 'meal' or what about that appetizer, entree, dessert and coffee too? I guess what I'm getting at is the old saying: when it rains . . .

So I get home last Monday from the 3rd show in a row, and I'm not only brain dead, but body dead and spirit dead by now too. And there's a damp spot on the garage floor. It could be anything. But Tuesday, when I'm able to even see straight, it's really a wet spot, but what the? it's nowhere near any possible plumbing whatsoever, so, um, huh? And Wednesday it's darn soaking wet and there is a trickle from the wall?

I've done all the tests, the meter from the street, the shutting off the water at the house, the full basement inspection. There is no water line there. There is no sewer line there. There should be no water nothing on that entire side of the property. But oops, just noticed the small wet spot on the floor in the corner of the basement - the hot water heater busted a leak in the bottom of the tank. Alert! Good lord, we've sprung another fucking leak and it's running underground all the way over to the far side by the fence and busted a whole in the garage wall. Shitastic! Excuse my sailor cussing.

So Thursday, the chaotic frenzy last day before my big show when I need every single second to package and pack and generally get ready, I've had to re-locate my entire office and studio to trace plumbing, replace the pipes, install a new hot water tank and generally blow the remaining few pennies I made at that crappy show last weekend on repair and equipment fees. Plus no water and big men all marching through my 4 sq foot shoebox of work space. Ugh.

This is a pattern with me. It's either all good, or all bad. When it's in synch, it's generally ok. When it's not, then a whole crapfest of things goes wrong all at once. Or I break a truckload of stuff in a single day. Or I not only get a single zit - I get a monster zit, plus diahrea, a freak rash, and a head cold with honking snot. Something like that. No middle ground.

Hey, and the forecast looks like a soaking rain on Sunday while I'm out in a field selling soap over the weekend. Guess I probably don't need to have as much ready as I thought. Is that the silver lining? Or is it the huge amount of airline miles I'll be getting on the credit card later today? I can fly from here to Spokane for free!

Well, it could be worse. It's just super inconvenient, but not tragic or life-threatening or impossible. Tomorrow the crisis will be over and I'll be back to hawking my good old smelly stuff outside in our famous Northwest drizzle.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's live may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
and grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rent in the grace of the world, and am free.

- Wendell Berry

I've got no business writing a post this morning given the mood I'm in. But we're keeping it real here at 'Suds' and not sugar-coating how lovely all this little soapmaking is. I worked straight through last night until 10pm. Got up at 3:15, 4:11, 5:23 and finally just got out of bed. Haven't had a day off, a whole day off, since the 4th of July. Energy level = low. Self pity level = high.

I rooted around for a poem or little verse that would make me feel better, change my outlook before I headed off to work at the shop all day. And this one was pretty good. But the closest I'm going to get to wild things is the mosquitos in my back yard later this evening when I get home. Not so peaceful.

I've got a list of complaints as long as my leg, but I'm not going to dwell on it. It's hard to stay grumpy when the weather is so perfectly perfect here. At least 45 of the other 50 states are suffering record heat, but we are in Shangri-La. So I'll stare at the lake, the cloudless sky, the vast amounts of trees, mountains, flowers all around me and just not think at all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Swirl and Twirls

Swirls of indecision. I'm supposed to have the Autumn seasonal soaps and new product line already in the bag. The soaps should be curing merrily on their shelves. The new bath stuff should be decided, supplies ordered, labels made - the whole thing moving along somewhere in the works.

But I'm behind this time. Mostly because I just can't decide what to do. It's such a short little window from September through October, and then the winter holiday stuff gets introduced at the start of November. So I want to be a little smarter and pick scents or items that will last through the December rush, still be relevant and just be more fun choices for all the holiday buying that's coming up.

I also want to be smarter by using up some of the older fragrances and supplies I have on hand from previous years and seasons. It's not very efficient to just keep on doing brand new stuff all the time, and continue to buy loads of supplies which never quite get used up and start to stack up all over. It's a waste of money and space.

And there are other considerations too. I've got the Collage shop to think about now, with it's own set of unique needs. And the Puyallup Fair next month skews to a little different crowd but is a massive effort. I want to have some items that appeal to both markets instead of splitting it all up, investing in even more supplies, and going off in a million different tangents.

Unfortunately, either there is no way to do it all easily, or I just haven't figured it out yet. I'm still spinning around in circles, racing down one path, and then turning full circle and running down another path. So many ideas just wrestling it out, and frankly, there's nothing left standing that makes sense.

I've got a few batches of fall type soap made, and I think I can go with it. But I'd like to have a few extra scents to beef up the selection. There just doesn't seem to be enough time to fit in all the different batches of soapmaking I need to have done - the newsletter and fair are just a few short weeks away, and I've got a vacation planned in the middle of it.

The other stuff? there's one spray, maybe. Possibly new scents of the dead sea salts. Bath and body oil? Incense wands for the Fair? I can't keep the soap dishes, nail brushes and soap sacks in stock any more - it's crazy. What about labels and the whole look? That part is completely unsettled. Lip balms, yes, I want to do the pumpkin pie one again, and I've had it on my 'to do' list for weeks and just can't squeeze the lip balm making into my days.

Oy, the calendar needs updating. The web site needs a re-vamp and new pictures. I've got to get cracking on writing the letter itself. And the brochure needs an overhaul and my endless notes on all the above, that I've been collecting for months, are unreadable - although I have them all in one place now. Most of today has been spent on the computer - pricing, comparing, looking at options, calculating costs and profits. I'm tired, confused and feel farther behind than before.

What happens next is usually something miraculous. I have to say - it happens almost every single time, and yet I can never quite trust that it will happen again. Somehow I sit in this place which feels like a swirling toilet bowl for what seems like eons, panicking that I can't get it right. Weeks go by, and then months. And then one morning, I wake up and it's clear as a bell. And it's always just in the nick of time to finish it all up lickety split.

If I had to guess, I'd say it's part of the creative process - which is messy and unpredictable and scary at times. But when the deadline seems almost just out of reach, the whole thing falls together. From outside - it appears seemless and perfect. So that's my dark, little secret - just for those of you who read the blog. Shhhhh - don't tell anybody that my so-called seasonal genius ideas are really total chaos on this end. Last minute, seat-of-the-pants, luck.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Early Mornings

Saturday morning, woke up at 3. Not on purpose. Messed with the cats until 4 and then began preparations to leave for Coupeville. It's funny how there are almost no cars on the road at 5pm, yet there are hundreds of little fishing boats on the water, and dozens more racing over to the best spot for salmon trolling. It was rush hour on the sound.

Coupeville was a mixed bag all over. Mostly nice weather, but a freezing wind racing through and toppling things on Saturday afternoon. Good sales and lots of fun customers the first day, but almost no sales or customers the second day. Usually there are 4 or 5 soap vendors at that rather small show, but this time there were 9. Too much competition for anyone to have a truly good show in the same place - you just can't split the pie into that many slices and still taste the fruit. We all just got a bunch of crumbs. But I had fun meeting a few of the new soap gals in the 'hood (*waves*) and we all got to compare notes on all kinds of stuff.

Sunday morning I had a little extra time before the day got under way to head over to Fort Casey and check it out. I hadn't had the chance to explore that side of the island. Overlooking the straits towards Port Townsend, the Admiralty Head lighthouse is cute, and the fields around the buildings are chock full of deer. It was just me, the hundreds of bunny rabbits, thousands of birds - including quail marching around - and a herd of deer cavorting, playing and running circles around each other in the grass. You could hear the water rushing in the currents down below the cliffs, almost like a waterfall. So much sky - so many shades of grey on a cool, cloudy, solitary morning.

This morning I am taking it a little slow, regrouping and hatching a plan for getting through this week, working ahead for the Best of the Northwest show this coming weekend, and working forward to a very busy September with the Puyallup Fair, the announcement of the fall products and the autumn newsletter. Everything still seems possible in the quiet light and stillness of an early morning.

Friday, August 10, 2007

So stinkin' cute

This is Dora, who will curl herself up in any box, any garbage can lid, any anything as long as she can squeeze herself into it. She likes nothing better than a blankie cave, or tunneling under the rug, or squishing herself into a paper bag, as long as it's small and dark.

Yes, I'm going to be the freaky cat lady today.

This little girl is also a squirrel. I've seen her climb trees faster than the resident squirrels, and race across branches that by gravitational law and modern science, she has no business being able to traverse. From the smallest little twigs to the roof, across several other trees, and back down as if it's just a plain old sidewalk. She amazes me every day.

And today, she has amazed us with her immense outbreak of fleas. In the last 24 hours the entire house has erupted with the little buggers, and I'm guessing - just a stretch - that it's the cats. Who have just started scratching too. I think it was only a week or two ago that I was thinking to myself, "what luck! how did we escape the fleas this year?" Um, no.

So there have been long hours vacuuming everything again, washing every blanket, sheet and fabric square within these four walls. A run to the vet, and home to squirt the beasts with flea drops, and choking back the flea pills too. With any luck, we won't wake up tomorrow morning scratching and moaning like today with little red fires all over our legs. Pets. What fun.

But how can you resist this sweet little face who took her pill with such grace and thought the flea drops were such fun that she drooled happily all over the table and then plopped herself in the potting bench sink to nap it all off? I could not be irritated for more than a single minute with a little pink nose like that poking out from the edge of the dining rug which has just been turned upside down with toppled chairs . . .

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Clucking about Coupeville

Earlier today I was stressing about the bags I use to put the soap in when I sell it at shows. I do realize that this level of mundane triviality is probably not interesting reading - well, erm, after reading it back again later. But honestly? It's all the little daily decisions we make that define us, just as much as the big ones.

And as far as the business is concerned, there is nothing too trivial to consider. This is especially true when you are thinking through the customer experience, because all those little details are important on the other end, and become tantamount when someone decides to do business with you again. Customer loyalty is of the utmost importance if you want to do business for longer than a year or two. It's not that hard to hook somebody once, but if they have a bad experience of any kind, they won't come back. So if the soap is crappy, or your handling of the transaction is cold or rude, or they walk away with a mushy little bag that gives them grief, then it's not the happy ending you were hoping for. They aren't coming back for more.

Anyway, I don't know why I thought I needed to clarify or justify my rambling about paper bags with handles. And now I've gone and spent another couple of paragraphs on the same. Good gravy. Head whack. Well, that's the world of random suds blogging. Life really can be that extraordinarily boring. Like chicken for dinner every night this week because I thought the family pack was such a great bargain and could be used for so many dishes. And after days and days of chicken eating, lunch and dinner, this kind of clucking about nothing is what it's all come to.

And you know what? I've totally forgotten to post the details for this weekend's sale.

Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival is located along the waterfront/downtown area of Coupeville on Whidbey Island. This is a large arts and crafts festival, with music, food, and artist-in-action demonstrations too. Gorgeous weekend getaway and fun for everyone.

Dates: August 11 - 12
Hours: Sat 10-6, Sun 10-5

Soapworks Booth Location: To be determined, but hoping to be in the same spot as previous years. I'm always located on Alexander St. near the corner of Front St. at the public pier -- directly in front of the Island County Museum and next to Due Vetri's double- fabulous glass booth. We don't ever know exactly where we'll be until we check in before the crack of dawn on Saturday morning. But if I'm MIA, keep looking around. I'm there somewhere, and I'll be the stinkin' lavender smell that wafts from half a block away, heh.

Oh, and the ferry schedule is HERE if you need it to get over to Whidbey Island this weekend. Love, love, love the ferry system. I haven't had to take a ferry for almost the whole year (gasp!) and I so love being out on the front deck of the boat early in the morning, the bracing wind in my face, the water like glass, and just the few little fisher boats sharing the first light of the day with me. Just them. And me. And the hundreds of other cars on the ferry, all of whom sit inside their warm little cars reading the paper and sucking down Starbucks. So yes, I'm admitting that I'm the strange little gal hanging off the front of the boat all by herself freezing. The captain and crew think I'm a silly tourist for sure :) Even the real tourists only venture out for 2 minutes to catch a snapshot (or 5 group shots) and then run back to the warm indoors. Hee.

Paper or Plastic

Isn't that the eternal question? Do we use the petroleum based plastic jobs which are recyclable, or do we cut down more trees? Even though trees are renewable, we're not going to be growing enough for long enough and we need our trees desperately to counteract global warming. I love trees. I hate the oil industry. Yah, the correct answer is paper, to be sure, but it's tough sometimes.

I'm in a quandary at the moment. For years I had gone to my long list of shows with paper bags. I started out with mostly recycled paper stuff. But then felt the pressure to have something a little more showy to put the soaps in. So I got bags that were a little more decorative, with patterns and handles. I was on the lookout for something new, something different, something that would stand out when folks walked down the street with my goods. If people saw a few of my bags, and recognized them, then it would signal, "hey, that must be good stuff - they're all buying it". Or so the marketing strategy goes.

But then it rained at a bunch of shows. It got really old trying to wrap enough paper around a bar of soap for some poor customer who had courageously braved the downpours to come to the show. I felt awful about not having a plastic sack that they could safely take their goods home in. So I started buying some plastic bags, just for rainy shows. And then the new marketing strategy was, instead of some showy, expensive paper bags, what about just stocking clear plastic sacks - then people would clearly see my goods walking down the street. A parade of folks with clear plastic sacks, proudly displaying my soap stuffs and my brochure in them.

So I simplified by just having clear plastic, but needed several sizes. And experimented with styles and sizes by buying different kinds from different vendors over the last couple years. And plastic takes up way less space, in the car and in the office, and it's a whole lot lighter to lug around than a bin of paper sacks too, which was an added benefit.

But my conscience was bothering me. I hated giving away all those plastic bags that I knew were not going into any recycling program, for the most part. I've spent the better part of this summer using them all up and making a promise to myself to do something better and more carefully thought out.

I snooted around a couple of stores for recycled content paper and didn't find much. And then panicked today because I don't have enough bags for the weekend and there isn't enough time to do online research, order something and get it before I go. So I headed out to the specialty shop that I use once in a while - just to get a little bundle of something to tide me over - and paper was a must.

Well, they were having a half-price sale on the huge-o bundles of little handle bags that I was once using. I have no idea how much or if any of it is recycled content, and they are white to boot, which I figure is worse than natural kraft color. But the handles are really handy. Nobody likes walking around blocks and blocks of a show with a heavy bag that has no handles, alternating it under one armpit and the other, balancing it on top of other stuff. They sizes on sale were a teeny bit smaller or bigger than what I usually buy - so what the heck, I got one of each. Stuff will either fit in the smaller one, or I bump up to the bigger one, but I've got twice as many bags as I would have otherwise for the same price. A bargain! And it will take me forever to blow my way through these again.

This going green and making the right choices can be so hard sometimes, sigh. Although I still think I'm better off with paper, and I've got just a little stash of plastic in the bottom of the bin in case I hit a rainy spot some day. But, um, next time I need to restock bags, I'm really, really, going to do the research and do the right thing. Baby steps.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Buckets of Beans

I got a minute this evening to run over to the Columbia City Farmer's Market, which is nearby, but just far enough away that I don't get to go weekly. It's such a tightly packed little market, squashed into a too-small parking lot, but chock full of such wonderful vendors. I always end up bringing home way too much food, more than a gal can possibly eat in a week, but who can pass up the incredibly beautiful buckets of every kind of string bean imaginable?

The selection is tremendous there - as it probably is at the other Seattle markets that I almost never get to visit on the weekend since I'm off selling suds somewhere else. But we've got several cheese booths, dairy, fish and bakeries. European pastries. An Italian guy selling fresh pasta and ravioli (we had the pumpkin for dinner, yum). So many gorgeous tomatoes. Peaches to die for. And they've still got berries - the blueberry flats are so darn cheap right now, and tasty as can be.

I have no idea how I'm going to eat it all, but I can't resist the beauty and freshness of all that organic loveliness. With a small little baguette.

Sometimes I'm just so taken with the simplicity of it all. And wish I could set up my little booth like they do - just a flat table with a little checked cloth. A few rusty buckets. And a few little piles of soap bars, fresh from the kitchen. I think it started out that way for me at the Tacoma Farmer's Market, oh so many years ago. But I almost can't remember that far back.

And somehow it got to be so much more complicated. With ribbons, and decorating, and cute curtain panels. Merchandising and marketing. The pressures of being professional, creative, a cut above, etc. Just to swim with the big fish.

It's a constant tug of war, really. The desire to be a big fish, with the desire to stay just a small fish that can swim away whenever I want. Deep down somewhere I still like to pretend that I can just walk away from it all and do something else whenever I want. I don't have some vast company and team of employees that I'm beholden to. It's just me, and I can close up shop and run off to the Greek Islands when the going gets too tough, without having a mountain of responsibilities. Of course it's all a fantasy . . . dreams and big ideas.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Talking Shop

Still winding down and cleaning up after the Anacortes show this past weekend. It was truly another excellent weekend.

One of the little quirks to the weekend was the placement of the artists - we actually had 3 different soap booths all right next to each other in the same little area in the span of about 2 storefronts. One was kitty-cornered from me, so I could see them the entire time, and the other one was a couple of booths over from me, so I couldn't see them all weekend, but we could chat.

Now, a few years back, this would have made me crazy. Every time someone else made a sale, I would cringe, because it wasn't me. Or I would spend the whole time making myself insane about what they were doing that I didn't do, or whatever. Constantly comparing and beating myself up. But it doesn't bother me at all any more, in fact it's kind of fun.

There truly is enough business to go around, and everyone should be successful doing their own thing. I could never wish that someone who is working as hard as I know we are, would not have a profitable show. There is plenty of room for different takes on the soap world, and we've all built up our own little niche, and have our own little base of loyal customers who like different things. The other folks had soap bars only, and I've got a whole variety of things. So it was interesting yesterday when doing my inventory of what sold, to see that I sold less bars of soap this weekend than usual, but more of the sprays, sachets etc. The sales were darn tooting close to my record breaking show of last year, but far less soap bars sold. Which is actually perfect at this moment in time, because I was just beginning to worry a little bit about my stock for the next few weeks. Now I don't have to worry about that, it's all good.

But it did get me thinking, nevertheless - because each of them have such very different perspectives from me, and from each other too. There is still comparing going on, but in a good way. There's always something to learn when seeing how somebody else handles the same things you are. And the gal from Eastern Washington that I chatted with last weekend in Bellevue too, such a totally different take on it. So many similar experiences, and yet such different outcomes and viewpoints.

So I've been mulling over what I want to change myself for next year - which I've been doing anyway - but with some new input. The "what works/what didn't work" song plays in my head every single day any how. I just had a little something extra to work with by being in such close proximity to my fellow soap geniuses, and having the chance to talk shop with other experts.

Well, this coming weekend is the Coupeville Festival, so I'm busily re-packing what I've got and getting the rest ready to go again. It's show 3 of 4 in a row and we're humming along. It's the 'Dog Days' of summer, and I'm working like a dog. Somehow, I don't think that's what it's supposed to be, hmmm. Are the rest of you lazing about in your underwear, taking it easy?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Bridge

Have you heard the word "bridge" enough times in the last few days? The Minneapolis bridge collapse is so incredibly tragic and scary.

I went to college in Minneapolis and probably crossed that bridge hundreds of times. I also had two different apartments during those four years right next to the so-called "Dinkeytown" - which is basically the U Dist area at the University of Minnesota. It was only blocks away with full view of the bridge. I remember looking out my dorm room windows the first year which overlooked that bridge too. I loved to watch the lights of the cars endlessly streaming past and wonder where everyone was going. Or watch the lights twinkle and wink on just as dusk set, marking the end of another day. Of course it was all a million years ago. (Aside to internet hacker stalkers: you'll have to find out more info on your own this time, especially if you're still trying to use my credit card to wire cash to some Palestinian terrorist group like last time.) *shakes fist at the hackers*

Ahem. Well, as I was saying . . . it was so darn long ago, and kind of hard to remember clearly now. But it's still shocking and horrifying. We all travel so many bridges on a daily basis.

Whenever I'm travelling home from somewhere, it's always that big rise of the ship canal bridge on I5 south that makes me smile. You just come up over the top and see the entire downtown, shimmering silvers, golds, blues, oranges - whatever sunset colors are in the sky that night. The space needle stands like a beacon in the clouds. The mountain ranges on both sides dark and majestic, and the eleventy million little boats bobbing in the marinas, sailboats gliding across Lake Union. That scene, for me, is home. The view I've loved best since I first arrived here 17 years ago. And it also means I have just 5 minutes left until I'm pulling up in front of my own house. It always makes me pause, breathe deep and feel grateful for living here in this awesomely beautiful place.

But yesterday, at the exact same moment, I also thought "!bridge!!!!". What if something like that happened right here? And snapped this photo as I was driving in the midst of it all. Which is probably a dumb maneuver since the traffic is always intense there. But here's Seattle, on the way in. And I noticed a car full of folks next to me doing the same thing - sticking their little camera against the window and trying to capture that single moment of wide eyes, sharp intake of breath, and little flutter of wonder that happens each and every time as you try to take in the grandness of the beauty.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Loonie Farm: New Occupant

It's the last day before the really big show, and I'm spinning like a top trying to get it all done. The huge list of big ideas has been hacked down to the teeny list of absolute essentials today. There are only so many hours left. And honestly, I don't have enough room in the booth for all the little things I was thinking I could bring - it was simply crazy talk anyway. I've never learned restraint. And more is just usually . . .

. . .

more. Not better.

Last year I was prepared enough ahead of time that I took a little time off today to head down to the lake and watch the Blue Angels practice. That's not likely today, although I will hear them roar overhead several times today, since they have two practices. If I get even five minutes of extra time, I will be vacuuming - the dust bunnies around here are fierce and ankle biting. I have no idea when they all showed up, but this morning it's unbearable.

So I'm wrapping up like a fiend. And daydreaming of the day, some time next month probably, when I can relax in my own little hammock. So what if I don't even own a hammock. A gal can dream. Even about a long nap.

What is better than a dream - a daydream. What is better than a bed - a hammock, for here daydreams flourish.

- Agnes Snow

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Anacortes Arts Festival

As I mentioned, I'll be at the Anacortes Arts Festival this weekend, and I wanted to post the details in case you're thinking of heading up.

The Anacortes Arts Festival is HUGE. One of the largest art fairs in the Pacific Northwest, with a juried fine art exhibition, over 250 juried booth artisans, two music stages, international food court and beer garden, a hands-on youth area, fiber boutique at the Depot, a fine art exhibit, a working artist area, poetry reading at the port and more. The artists booth cover 6 whole city blocks, both sides of the street and a row down the middle too. So much to see and do.

I am actually an honored INVITEE this year, which is so darn cool. I broke my own sales record there last time, so I got a special invitation to come back instead of jurying in like everyone else. It's my best show of the summer each and every year, so I'm looking forward to another fabulous weekend. And I'm only a teensy bit worried that I won't have enough stuff ready. I may be doing a some late night scrambling during the show too, eek.

Dates: August 3, 4, and 5
Times: Friday and Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 10am-5pm
Location: Downtown Anacortes, on Commercial Ave between the port and 10th

Soapworks Studio booth location: same spot as last year, directly in front of La Vie en Rose Bakery, near the corner of 5th street, on the West side of the street. Yum - so many breakfast goodies to choose from.

For more information, maps, directions, etc: Anacortes Arts Festival

I am bringing my new soap dish sets that did so well at Bellevue. That is, if the box of new dishes arrives tomorrow, which they assure me it will. I'll also have all the soap scrap bars I can possibly scrounge up - all the dings, dents and dropped on the pavement ones. All the leftover bars of discontinued frangrances and some of the regulars which came out with a streak (beauty marks?) or seem a little off kilter. There will be a tub of soap seconds for sale at $1.00 each. "Come early for best selection." That means that the best ones will go fast and if you wait til Sunday afternoon, there will be just a few ugly bumpkins left.

Psssst, I'm also going to do a little test marketing of the new spray for Fall - Sandalwood Orange. I made up a batch last week and I'll have it with me, just in case that floats your boat.