Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year!

2008. And so it begins. A clean slate. A fresh, crisp, page of paper in a brand new notebook on the first day of school. So much promise and hope.

I have to admit, 2007 was a difficult year. It felt so out of control most of the time. By the last few weeks, I kind of just let go and gave up, anxious to put it behind me and start over. There was really nothing more I could do, and nothing I could say that made sense. The voice in my head just sounded hysterical and helpless.

I closed up the studio and took a week off. A few days later, it's a little far-fetched to believe that just a little bit of reckless celebrating and everything is different. But it's a new year on the calendar and I'm looking forward, not backward. I got a chance to even spend more than two minutes on my computer and I caught Alicia's post about her Christmas Wish. It describes what I've been feeling so well, and so many other people I've talked with lately are feeling it too. The holidays and rush are over now, so let the silence, peace and balance begin, I say.

January is a month of relative quiet, hibernating and working ahead. I want to make a lot of changes. But I haven't even started yet. Today I'm at the shop and catching up orders that came in all week. Tomorrow begins the clean-up and focused soap-making. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I have almost no soap at all in here. I'll need to work quickly to get back up to speed and have something to actually sell and fill more orders with.

Back to work day. Ugh. And yay, too. I'm reluctant to have to look at the mess here that I just dropped and walked away from, but I'm also a bit excited to put order to the whole unresolved nagging pile, slowly put things right, and take action on my new ideas. A toast to turning the page. Um, sparkly water of course, since we're all probably on diets today too :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.

And a season of peace and goodwill.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tipsy Tips

I spent the weekend in New York City. Left for just a quick few days to catch the holiday lights, window displays and do a bit of shopping. I was hoping to catch some holiday spirit, and it was really a wonderful getaway.

I want to post pics and say something more about the trip, but I'm tipsy. For weeks, (months) before I left, I'd been getting up by 5am to start work, plug right on through til 9pm or so, and fall into bed and die. Only to do it all over again each day, never quite getting everything done that had to be done right this very minute. So last Friday when I left, I was thinking that it must finally be over, it must surely be winding down. There has to be at least a day or two that I can have to myself to get my own shopping done, my own holiday festivities under way? And if I had stayed here, I would have worked myself right on through and probably be in a straight jacket by now.

So I left. It was good, and the perfect antidote to all this holiday stress. But I came back to another pile of last minute orders, several calls from Bellingham saying that my table at Allied Arts was empty, the Collage shop shelves empty . . . more more more. I spent the night before packaging stuff to send by courier over to the shop, instead of packing my socks. I put a couple big orders on hold til I got back. I came home to an even bigger list of things . . . work shifts the first couple of days, orders from morning until night. I'm worked out. So I got back from Collage and did a few more orders. Then when I got back from UPS and USPS, I tossed back a couple.

It's the only way I can survive this one more evening of frenzied packaging and pricing, to leave before the crack of dawn and drive to Bellingham and restock the show before they open tomorrow. There are 5 more shopping days til Christmas. I'll be up late again. And up earlier again. And rushing again all day.

So listen up all you Bellingham peeps -- here's the tip: if you get to my table tomorrow, there may possibly even be soap and products there. I've got soap bars, lip balms, some salve and stuffs. It will be as loaded as I can get it. But it won't last long. Everything is getting snapped up quickly, and the early worm . . . blah blah.

And if you live somewhere else? the mail order is over. I can't get it to you by Christmas. I tried the UPS thing to the East Coast today and if you want to pay the equivalent of a honey baked ham to ship it, you can have it there by next Thursday. The Post Office is slogged too, and even Priority in Seattle is iffy. I'm willing to do a quickie or two by Friday, but there are no guarantees. I restocked Collage both days I worked this week, Tuesday and Wednesday. I brought over lots and lots. And sold even more, it looked like.

So think about your lists now. Get over there quickly. It's all there is until mid January. I'm not kidding this time. I'm seriously sold out of a big list of items, both holiday and regular. And I'm not making more until January, so there just won't be any for a few weeks. Everything I saved and divvied and spread around is in 2 places -- Bellingham tomorrow morning or Collage. The home studio is dry, empty, barren, nothing. Which includes me. That's my news.

I'm downloading all my super coolio pics of New York shops and lights and cheer. I'll post more later. Back to the hamster wheel for now -

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Baby, it's cold outside

Brrrrrrrr! It's so cold this week.

I really have nothing to report, except that I'm working like a slave and it's not that fun. In the very back of my mind, I'm beginning to think about how to do this all differently next year. Because clearly a lot of things haven't worked out all that well as I got to crunch time. Obviously I need to get a better system in place for the next go-around. It feels a bit disappointing. I haven't gotten past the stress to get to that "excited and challenging" part yet.

The sales, however, are NOT disappointing. That part is wonderful and new. I just got pinched hard when everything began to reach a different level this year.

I'm working at Collage today, and twice next week. And the remainder of the weekend, I'm taking a couple of days to get some holiday spirit. I need a brain vacation so I'm setting the whole thing on a shelf until next week. Hope you all get a little time to play and do fun stuff too during this super busy season. It all goes by so fast. And I was beginning to feel like I would miss the entire thing completely if I didn't stop the train and jump off at the next station, even if it's only a few hours. See you next week!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Quiet Sunday

Oh, blessed, quiet, day of calm.

I think I'm finally downgrading from code red to code orange. The flood was cleaned up and the studio reorganized. Bellingham was restocked. By Thursday I had caught up with all the current mail orders. Friday I worked at Collage and spruced up and restocked them too. I even got a few hours off in the evening to socialize! Do holiday stuff!

And then, wonder of wonders, I took a day off yesterday to decorate the tree, string the outdoor lights and deck the halls with a little holiday spirit. But it was sorta of slow and apathetic, because I'm so darn tired. My sweet kitty, Dora, is having a love affair with the tree - batting off all the lower ornaments, rearranging the light strings, and sleeping under the branches in her little fuzzy blanket. It's adorable, most of the time.

Today is quiet - a day of cleaning, laundry, catching up on extra stuff. I feel like it's the first breath in a long time, like I've been underwater, holding my air til I'm blue, and I've just blasted to the surface. I'm working ahead on getting all the new orders out tomorrow, right on time. It's by choice. I don't really have to work today, but I want to do some shopping and errands tomorrow. That's one of the good things about being self-scheduled. I don't have to fight the crowds on weekends. I can wait until the weekday and head out early to avoid some of the craziness. So today I'm staying home and getting things put to rights and hopefully taking a long nap.

I'm also making more batches of soap almost every day. Just to fill in holes, and get all the flavors back on the list. As of now there are several scents that are sold out again. I had made small batches of all of them - just to get me through that last little hump of shows, but they sold out almost immediately. The next round of little batches will be ready Dec 18th. What's missing is: Cedar Musk, Citrus Basil Scrub, Breakfast, Lavender Pear and Red Currant. They WILL be back in stock. I am working on it as fast as I can. Everything else is good and ready for last minute Chrismas shopping.

When I finally get a bigger chunk of quiet time to catch up on paperwork and bookkeeping, I'm expecting that the mail order and web site have finally outgrown the show money. I hope so. That was the goal. Or at least get closer. I want to make changes next year - yes, like make a ton more soap earlier so this running out thing doesn't happen again. But also change up the show schedule, maybe do fewer little ones anyway. Concentrate on the internet sales more because it's a much more effective use of my time. Can it be? Is it already time for resolutions and new year planning?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Flood

Yep, it was bad. Woke up to a flooded basement (you too?!) - the furnace and the water heater washed out, a couple of racks of soap floating. Not what I needed. What I needed was a day off, to sleep in and relax. What I got was panic, bailing water with buckets and complete chaos. It took all day to get pumped out, rearranged, appliances back in working order. I've never seen so much water everywhere. Relentless. That's the word my neighbor used. And he's right, it just never seems to stop.

I was able to make a stab at the piles of mail orders, and shipped off about half of them. My re-stocking trip to Bellingham is moved to tomorrow. Soap of the Month club packages are a day behind too, but heading out. If I start to think about everything on my list I just flip out - so I've made priorities, and just take it one at a time. There's never enough time in this month, I think.

Even though it feels completely out of control, I'm pretending it's all going to turn out fine anyway. One step at a time. Baby steps.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Oh my GOSH! It snowed yesterday!!

Great big snowflakes, all afternoon. I never expected we would get that much, and it actually stuck. At least for the afternoon and evening. The kids were sledding and throwing snowballs, the cats were hopping around in it, when they finally braved it out from under the bushes. Or so my sister said. I was at the Phinney Ridge show all day, watching out the window and wondering how bad it really was. Because I needed to zip over to Bellevue as soon as we were done and break down the Hilltop show.

Turns out, it was starting to get slushy by then, and the roads were just wet, not icy. And the shows went very well. Almost too well.

There seems to be a shift in the universe lately. Suddenly there is so much more demand for the soap bars than I could ever have imagined. And I can't keep up with it. The mail order is so much bigger this year. The orders are larger than I've ever dreamed of. The shows are selling so many bars, bars, bars. It's not the same for all the other stuff, although that part is ok. But the bars of soap are flying out faster than I can make them.

For example, most years I'm doing another couple of shows this weekend in addition to Phinney. And I can only swing enough bars for the first day at that show, hoping that whatever I pick up from breaking down the other two shows on Saturday night will carry me through Sunday. Well this year I was only doing one, and it was the smaller one. So being all smarty pants, I had enough time and soap to bring the whole load yesterday - as much soap as I sold for the entire show last year.

However, by late in the afternoon, I was almost sold out. And what was left at Hilltop - almost nothing. And what I have here on the shelves - less than nothing it looks like. I've got orders all set aside that need to be shipping this week. And I've got just a handful of bars I was saving to restock Bellingham - far less than I would have wanted. And after that? Maybe 4 of this, 6 of that. The other batches curing need at least a week or two before they can go out - they are still squishy. So no way can I sneak those over.

I'm going to have empty bins. I'm going to have to be creative. And the shoppers today will have to come early or settle for other things -- like lip balm, bath salts, the fizzies. Plenty of those. But it's hard to sell little gift sets of soap mitts, washcloths, soap dishes and . . . . . . . no soap. I'm disappointed that I missed the mark, but who expected it?

So now, I do the best that I can, and crank up my plans for next year. If I get started early enough, and work hard enough, maybe. Just maybe. Pfffffffft. And then next year it will be the year of something else. Nah. I think the message is: it's the soap, baby. Just the soap.