Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Have yourself a merry little Christmas! Best wishes for a peaceful and safe holiday.

Snowbound for a whole week now, we've had to postpone our family Christmas Eve celebration. Nobody can get out of their neighborhoods to a main road. It's crazy and unbelievable. Hooray for living in the city where it's only a two block walk to the grocery store. And the mailman only missed one day, so the netflix have arrived too. He's mostly walking, driving only a few blocks on the main roads with chains, and then walking the whole route. Those guys are heroes.

As I post this, we've just gotten dumped with another couple inches or more of snow and it's still coming down steadily. We're due for another round by mid-day. Well, basically non-stop stuff. Possibly some rain mixed in later today. But then freezing again tonight. So the ice should make it all even more fun.

Staring out the window at the beauty of our snow covered world, I'm counting all the little blessings and grateful that I'm not at the airport or alone in some weird place. We just snuggle in another day.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Marshmallow World






Snowed in again today.

Half a block up, the neighbors built a ski jump in the middle of the street and at least a dozen kids were skiing and sledding down it. We were sledding with the neighbor girls in front of the house yesterday afternoon too.

Driving? Not so much.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice


The Shortest Day

by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!


Third snowstorm in a week. We're snowed in for days and days. So many holiday activities cancelled. Now I'm beginning to think that Christmas Eve dinner at my place, the Feast of Seven Fishes, is going to wait until New Year's Eve. Living on the hill, it will be impossible for family and friends to travel here.

This quiet time, reduced to small forays on foot in the neighborhood and snuggling in my little house, is peaceful and comfortable. But it's not what I expected. Usually there is rushing and shopping and doing and seeing in the few days before Christmas. I've planned a menu for people who can't come, with food I can't shop for. I'm missing a few gifts for people on my list that I might not even get to see on Christmas. So we sit by the fire and catch up on reading. Walk in the snow, watch afternoon movies and nap. It's nice. Sort of suspended in time. And yet each day that passes is a little more worrisome as it gets closer to the holiday.

There are so many work tasks I could be doing - preparing for January and using this time to get ahead. But I'm not. I'm purposely not working. Intentionally not even thinking about it. This is a special time. And a time to enjoy the moment. There will be plenty of time ahead to work and to plan and to accomplish chores. But now is the time to savor the pleasures of winter. The shortest day. The longest night. The quietest hush.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Free Shipping!



In the spirit of the season, I've decided to announce my email list super special deal on the blog today too. Hurry, there are just 3 days left. Place your order before the end of Friday in order to get the free shipping and your gift there on time.

Teeny tiny note: If you wait til the very end of the day on Friday, you might miss the shipping deadline. I can only do so much :)

You've waited until the very last minute to shop by mail and the post office deadline is looming. The last day to ship priority mail is Friday, December 20. We're here to help you find that special something for everyone on your gift list, and ship it there just in the nick of time. Your bonus? Free shipping on any order of $30 or more, between December 16 and December 20.

Shop Now!

New holiday items on clearance sale too! Check out the Sale Page for great last minute bargains!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Packages, packages

Today is the busiest day for shipping. The whole world has spent the last weekend shopping and wrapping and checking their lists. And then Monday, the post office, UPS, Fed Ex et al are swamped with folks shipping out their packages to family and friends.

This is not the deadline for getting it there by Christmas. Not yet. The last day for shipping things by USPS Priority Mail, which is the service I use for all my business, is December 20. Today is the 15th, so that gives you just a few days left to figure out those last minute gifts.

I'm going to do one more email special this month. Just working on it now. So if you're not on the list, and want to be included in this or future discount or special announcements, head over to the web site and sign up now.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Snow!

Whee - a snow day! We got a few little inches of snow overnight. Man, it's cold. And it's going to stick around for a few days too.

It's a little bit unnerving for the cats, but exciting too. They've been in and out and in and out all morning. Out just long enough to get cold ears and toes. In just long enough for a quick warm up and a snack. Then back out to hop around some more, each time going a little farther away from the house. Lots of fun to watch.

No business today. None at all. It's a day off, and a snow day to boot! Peppermint white chocolate scones. Best recipe ever. I've never been great at baking, mostly because I like to improvise, and hate to measure stuff. But I make the effort sometimes and this was worth it. Of course I improvised from what the actual recipe said, but not too much.



Since I changed a couple ingredients and did the whole thing a bit differently, I guess I can print my own version of the recipe that I found in a magazine a couple years back. Here's mine:

Peppermint White Chocolate Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold butter, cubes
1 cup white chocolate peppermint mint candies, chopped into bits
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheet.
In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt - just a few times until well mixed. Add the butter and pulse again until very well blended. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cream, egg yolk and vanilla. Add the dry mixture to the cream mixture and stir together to form a wet dough. Gather it into a large ball. Dust your surface with a bit of flour and knead the dough ball a few times til it holds together well, but don't over work it. Flatten it out into a large circle and cut into 12 pizza slices. Place on greased baking sheet. Brush tops with a bit more of the cream and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.

They are cakey, crumbly and soft, just the way I like them. I'm not a hard scone fan. And the candies? The original recipe talked about white chocolate chips and peppermint baking chips. I've never seen peppermint baking chips. But I used the seasonal flavored peppermint white chocolate thin mints that the Andes brand had at Safeway. You can improvise with whatever you find. Or do candy cane bits with white chocolate chips. That would be good too. Just make it a cup's worth of the add-ins.

Happy snow day!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Whooooosh

That's me letting out a sigh of relief after holding my breath for the last few days.

I was waiting to see how my Phinney Ridge Winter Festival show would go. It's my biggest show of the winter season each year, and would (or would not) give me the money I needed to keep going through the spring next year. Not that I'm out of business if it's not that good. But I'd have to tighten my belt so much harder. Oooch.

So the verdict is . . . . UNBELIEVABLE. It was a record breaker for me. The best I've ever done there. Ever. And the best two day show sales in my whole career. I'd snoopy dance, but my feet still hurt and I'm still a little glazed over. But it's good. It's great. And makes up for a lot of other stuff that didn't go as well. Happy days.

I'm done with shows for 2008. Another huge relief. I won't have to load the stinkin' car again for a couple of months. It is a huge pile of mess in the dining room right now. Just getting it out of the car and into the house was all I could do this morning. I've transferred some of it back into the studio later today. But it's a bigger process of putting it all away for a long time, not just til next weekend. It needs to be fully unpacked, organized, cleaned up and truly put into storage. Kind of a bigger process and it's going to take an extra day or so. But that's all good stuff too.

I've got mail order to catch up on again tomorrow. More soap to be made. A few other projects in the percolating stage. (yes, L, I'm working on the palm oil issue - you're right and I'm going to make the change).

So that's it. Tonight I almost can't believe it's over. I can't quite take it in. I mean, it's not like I'll just be sitting around in my jammies eating bon bons now. It's a full time business and it never stops. There is more every day. But my time is now totally under my own control for a couple of months. What luxury.

Now I can figure out what I was actually doing with my life before this madness of holiday rush hit. And start my own holiday making for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Product Note

Small announcement, ahem. I'm almost out of the winter holiday soaps. Like sold out within the next few days.

The past two weeks of mail orders has been all holiday soaps, and lots of them. And I'm down to my last show, so I hadn't planned to make more of them. Somehow I ended up just a bit short of what I probably need for the next couple of weeks of online and mail orders. I guess that's how it works out this time.

The seasonals are always a guessing game. I make a bunch more of the spring and summer soaps because they can be sold all summer and into the fall with no problem. There is always another sale each week and the seasons all blend. And the fall soaps I go a little heavier on too, so that I have them through the holiday season. They usually last through the November shows. But Christmas is different. It's fast and short and intense.

I have to make a decision early, because the cure time is a month. And after the rush is over, it's dumb to have holiday hoopla soaps hanging around after the party is over. Nobody buys them in January, and February 1st ithe spring soaps are already introduced. So it becomes a big clearance sale or a lot of scraps. This year I couldn't afford to make so many that I'd have extra. I went right to the edge to be more careful of my costs.

And the year turned out pretty good. I thought they would last longer. They didn't. A few big corporate and gift orders (well a bunch this time, yippee) and the inventory is down to the bottom. In fact, I'll only be able to bring a few to the Phinney show. So this is a heads up. If you're still planning on ordering the Winter Forest, Flannel Jammies or First Snow this year, do it today. I've got a bit more Hot Cocoa, but the Turkish Coffee is getting close too. When it's gone, it's gone this time. I need to move on to the spring stuff already. It's too late to make more - because the window for curing a new batch and having it ready by Christmas shipping deadlines is over. My apologies to future orders. Yet a big sigh of relief that sales are flooding in this scary season.

Phinney Ridge Winter Festival

Just thought I'd mention this week's show. It's my last one of the year. Seems odd to be done with shows the first week of December. But there truly aren't many shows after this one big weekend. It becomes "panic at the mall" season in late December. I guess you need to plan ahead for the handcrafted shows. Anyway, this is a reminder - get over here for the very best artist's wares in Seattle. Well, there are a few other good shows this weekend too, but I personally love this one the mostest.

Winter Festival and Crafts Fair
Phinney Ridge Community Center
6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle

Dates: Saturday and Sunday, Dec 6 and 7
Hours: 10am-5pm both days

There is a small admission fee ($2 PNA members, $4 general public) which supports the Phinney Ridge
Community Center and its programs. Artists (115 booths) are present at their booths, and this is truly one of the highest quality shows with lots of holiday gift items. Donations for local food banks are requested here. Food and entertainment is available throughout the show too.

Soapworks Studio booth: Red/Preschool Room in the lower level of the Main Building. Same spot I've had for a gajillion years.
Link: Phinney Center
List of all the artists at the show: Artists

Monday, December 01, 2008

December begins

First day of December. It's the last month of the year. And usually chock full of so much activity it passes by in a blur.

The shop is perking along. We've got just 3 more days this week and it closes up for the year 4pm on Thursday. If you're planning on doing a little holiday shopping, head on over.

Cyber Monday was pretty good for me. Except that it was mostly phone in orders, instead of online orders. Funny. But I'm all caught up on the weekend's orders, and starting in on today's orders, so those will all go out tomorrow. It's been the easiest holiday season ever for me. And not because the business is so slow, in fact the mail order is bigger than ever. I think I'm just more prepared and not stretched as thin as I usually am. So it's all under control and I'm not short of inventory. Orders are getting out really quick and only one mistake so far on getting an item wrong. I think I blew about half a dozen orders last year - going so fast that I missed something or switched an item between orders I was doing all at once. I am seriously trying to check and double check each invoice and each box. But there's always something. When all the boxes are lined up and I'm packing them one after another, it's so easy to switch a bar or forget there were 3 of those instead of 2, or something.

Mr J L called this morning to order a few bars of soap. He's the husband of one of my longest and most loyal customers. They moved from Puyallup to California about 6 years ago, but she kept regularly ordering from me and was always so complimentary and kind. When he began, I thought he may be ordering something special for her for Christmas. But he explained instead that she had recently passed away, but that he liked the soap too and wanted to continue ordering and receiving the little newsletters. Bittersweet moment. I'll miss her a lot - I have no idea how or why she's gone, but I guess it doesn't matter. It felt wrong to pry. I'll just remember her cheery phone calls. And wish the Mr. a holiday season of peace.

Peace. We could all use a dose of that this year.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey Butt


It's been a few days since I've poked in here. Feels a little stale, maybe I should open a window?

How was turkey day? I had a good one, sandwiched in between days at the precious little shop I'm manning this weekend. Wow, I stuffed myself. I think I got turkey butt. Or this stool is kinda small.

Friday was pretty busy over here. Yep, I'm blogging from the shop itself. Last time we were here, the Saturday was totally dead. So I expected today to be slow too, and decided to haul over my computer.

Probably everyone in the world has a laptop and wouldn't think twice about that last statment. But I don't have a laptop. I've got a Mac, and while it's all one piece and more portable than others, it's still a heavy beast to lug on a road trip and set up. I have so much paperwork and general computing stuff to catch up on, that I just felt like it was necessary to be productive today, and not just sitting around reading magazines waiting for the 2 or 3 customers to straggle in all day. I've got the fuzzy slippers on, the snacks and soda pop. A full ipod of Christmas carols. It's almost better than my office. Wait, no. It's not. It's a glass fish bowl and this rolling cart that I'm set up on hurts me. And the chair is really bad. I think I mentioned that.

Boy, I got a lot done. A lot. It feels great. Some of this stuff I don't even get to do until January a lot of years. I'm all caught up to right this very minute on accounting, bookkeeping and database stuff. Now if only I could be that caught up on the mail orders that are streaming in. Hopefully I'll get a break for a few hours on Monday to do some of them. And I've got all day Tuesday in the office, so that's next. This week's focus is getting a heap of soap done for Phinney.

I need to be super prepared for Phinney - it's my biggest winter show, and I need it to be like twice as good as it ever was. I'm a comedian, eh? Since almost everything is down this year, and some of it is really really really down. Now that I've got all the numbers in one place, it's not looking that great. Oh, it's not horrible bad. Just super tight and worrisome. But there's still a month of shopping to happen. And belt tightening - which I think is why this little chair hurts so much, perched on it all day.

It's the weekend to be thankful, and grateful - counting my lucky stars. And I am. I'm still here and I'm still in business. Nobody trampled me to get into the store for door buster deals yesterday, but I had happy folks in and out of here all day.

The shop is open another 4 days - Monday through Thursday. I've been closing at 4 - so don't wait til the last minute to run over. It's so incredibly slow after 2 or so, that I just can't sit still another minute. I'm awful at this shop sitting thing and I start to get so antsy to get home and work on other things that are just screaming at me from my desk in the studio.

Tomorrow the shop is closed, like anyone cares, and at home we've declared it tree trimming day. So I'll have to hunt out all the decorations and make a run to the store for more lights. Eggnog eye openers and mountains of mess ahead. Sounds grand. If I hadn't been listening to christmas music for 8 hours straight the last week, I wouldn't believe it's the holidays already either.

Hope you're all having a fabulous turkey weekend!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The shop is back


The shop is back for one last appearance before the holidays. I mean, of course, my little retail space at Group Health on Capitol Hill. I'm open this week (except Thanksgiving) and next week through Thursday.

Patricia (the Paige Lisbeth caramel lady) is joining me. We are "renting" their little retail space on Capitol Hill to set up our own gift shop for the next two weeks. A portion of all of our sales goes to the Patient Needs Fund - part of the Volunteer Services Dept, which buys supplies and necessities for patients there.

Hours:

Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov 25 and 26 - 9:30am to 4:30pm
Thursday, Nov 27 - closed for Thanksgiving
Friday and Saturday, Nov 28 and 29 - 9:30am to 4:30pm
Sunday, Nov 30 - closed
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Dec 1 thru 4 - 9:30am to 4:30pm

Location: Group Health central campus, Seattle
Address: 108 - 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill, half a block south and across the street from the big Safeway store at the corner of John St.

It's been a whoosh of setting it all up, with twinkie lights and snowflakes and decorations. And we're splitting up the hours a little bit, so Patricia is doing a couple of mornings, while I catch up at the office. And I've got a couple of afternoons while she makes more caramel. Hope you can get a chance to stop by and say hello - pick up a little something for the stockings and gift list.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vasa Park Holiday Gift Show

This week is the new holiday themed show at Vasa Park Ballroom on Lake Sammamish in Bellevue.

As I mentioned last month when we did the first fall one, this is not the same show as the one that had been there for years under Sue Van Gerpen. But if you're feeling nostalgic, there are some of the old vendors, and it's still the same rickety old place. But there are new crafters too, so new cool stuff to check out, and this time around it will be holiday and Christmas items. It's a boutique style show, which means there is a central cashier and artists are not generally "working" their own booths, except for a few folks who are taste-testing their treats or personalizing something.

We will be setting up the displays today. And it gets into full swing tomorrow. The deets:

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

Dates: November 20-22
Hours: Thursday and Friday 10am to 7pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm

Link to directions: Vasa Park Resort

Might I also mention that I am having a love affair with Excel lately? I am. If you've been reading along, I'm totally not into math. But as a business person, owner, keeper of the bottom line, I have to have my finger on all those dreaded numbers. So I had a friend make me some Excel spreadsheets a few years back for the basic accounting stuff. And I've taught myself how to make new spreadsheets and work all the little shortcuts and stuff. Now I'm on fire. I've made little charts and graphs for so many things and it makes life so much easier. And my competitive streak loves to analyze all those little bottom lines. Mail orders versus shows. Sales at each show. Sales from month to month and year to year. Production of inventory.

It's pretty simple to set up really, and then when I get a free hour on a quiet evening, I can input my notes and see it all add itself up and report back. It usually makes me feel a lot better about all my hours slaving away in the studio lately. November is the toughest month of all as far as deadlines and intensity. So right about now I'm starting to feel sorry for myself and pooping out. Knowing exactly how I'm doing though makes it better.

I've been doing this for what? a dozen years now? And I'm finally figuring out what I'm doing. Or at least how much money I'm making doing what I'm doing. Slow learner :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Just past Monday

I was trying to get a teeny tiny minute to post yesterday, but the whole day was such a blur. There's so much to do this month that I can barely think straight.

The Best of the Northwest show was 'just a'ight for me dog.' Nothing too spectacular, but not a total stinker either. It's weird because it's somewhat disappointing to not have the sales I want, and yet thrilling to still have any shoppers at all, given the expectations for this year. It seemed to be more shopping for themselves rather than gift buying - and others said the same. Maybe people aren't quite ready to think about their holiday gift lists yet? At least that group, that weekend?

Because there is plenty of holiday shopping going on over here at the studio with mail orders. In fact, I'm slammed and surprised by how many wonderful folks decided to get a whole list of things for gifts from me this year. It's fabulous and overwhelming. Today. Overwhelming today. And yesterday. I wasn't able to do orders during the weekend since I was caught up in the big extravaganza that is the Best NW show. So the orders piled up for four days and it became more than a mole hill.

Monday became a race to the post office finish line to get as many done as I could and out the door. Big orders, little orders, far away orders and nearby. Today will be a repeat. Except that I'm supposed to be packing up for the Vasa Park show which sets up tomorrow. It's going to be a long day. And it's all good. I'm so grateful for my faithful customers who are keeping me afloat this year, with their business and their kind words of encouragement. It will all work out. Because, as my friend Kim says, "it's what we do." And it IS what I do. So somehow it all gets done and it all works out. Proceed and continue, sometimes little baby steps, but still moving forward.

Oy this place is a wreck. So many revolving and rotating piles. Stuff coming in, stuff going out, rearranging the bins and boxes endlessly. I'll get the Vasa Park show details up either later today or tomorrow. Basically it's Thurs through Sat out on the beautiful shores of Lake Sammamish.

Phone ringing, gotta run for now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I have a new toy


Help me. I can't stop.

Here's how it started. A customer called to place an order the other day. He had just moved and gave me his new address. But then a few hours later, he called back in a panic because he switched up the house numbers on his new place. So I processed the order, packed it up and was getting it ready to send. I use the Post Office web site and pay for postage online. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I just type in the address info, and it creates a super official postage label with tracking bar code and all, which I print on my own printer. So I just affix the label and can drop off the whole bunch of them at the post office at once. No waiting in line, it's already paid for. It's a breeze, and cheaper, and gives me free tracking. I swear, it's a miracle.

But I digress. I typed in this man's new address and got an error message. If it's not a valid address, it won't let me do the label. Another super cool bonus. I'll never have to worry about a returned package because I wrote the numbers wrong, or the customer made a mistake when typing in the online order . . . it's all good. So I google mapped the two different house numbers that he gave me to see which one was an actual address. Just to see if I could make sense of it, before having to bother him again.

Well, you all probably know this, but it was new to me. Google maps now has street views of addresses. I guess it's been in the works for awhile, and it's very controversial, and there is litigation pending, blah, blah. But they currently have pictures, from the curb, of addresses from all over the US. It appears to be only cities, nothing in smaller or more rural areas. I saw his house, and then typed in my own and got a sweet picture of my own house from the summer when it was sunny and gorgeous. And then typed in my sister, and my mom and . . . here's where it gets dicey.

It makes me a little skeevy even admitting it. But I typed in friend's addresses to see their houses, and a customer or two, and more friends in New York, because I love NY street scenes. It's totally wrong and voyeuristic. But I know these people and have seen their houses before. But of course the privacy issue is huge. I mean nobody wants the whole world to see where they live. Um, but it's kinda cool too.

It makes perfect sense for businesses, way more than personal homes. If you're looking for a new restaurant, or need to find a business or office, it's really helpful to see a picture of the outside of the place as well as get directions from Google maps. And people's homes crosses the line. Yes. So make me stop. Besides, I don't have time. I need to head out to set up the giant Best of the Northwest extravaganza today. So I am putting down the mouse and leaving my computer screen. Now. I swear.

The next few days will be a blur of super long days selling soap at Seattle Center. My free passes are gone, but I have about a dozen postcards which give you 50% off the ticket for you and a friend. That's a buy one, get one free, type deal. Call me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Best of the Northwest


This year's Best of the Northwest fall show has moved to Seattle Center. It's such a big show that we are using both the Exhibition Hall plus all of the Northwest Rooms - it's spread out a bit but all connected.

The food and entertainment is in the Northwest Rooms area, and I'm in the middle of the rooms. My booth will be in the center room (the Olympic Room) up against the far wall. I don't know if that's good, bad, or what, but that's where you can find me. It's all new - although many years ago this show started at Seattle Center. So we'll see how it turns out. Hopefully much better than the spring show experiment at Qwest Field.

There is an admission fee to get into this show - but tons of postcards with discount coupons, and I've still got a few free passes, and you also get $2 back if you get your ticket stamped at both the hall and the rooms - meaning if you visit the entire show and don't skip half of it, you get a small refund. It's an incentive to see it all. Which I would think you'd want to do anyway, since you are there to see the show and paid to get in. But that's the inside scoop. If you are interested in going, and want a pass or coupon, please CALL ME this week, and I'll get it to you. I know it's already getting late, but there is still time to arrange something.

Details and ad blurb: Celebrate our 20th Anniversary with over 200 artists. Friday evening will be hosted by the Preston Kuppe Guild to raise funds for Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center. The Artisans of Northwest Art Alliance are committed to fostering a network of artists, art supporters, art organizations and collectors. Founded in 1989 by thirty artists, we now represent over five hundred artisans annually, who are young and old, emerging and established, and working in all mediums.

Dates: Friday through Sunday, November 14-16
Hours: 10am-8pm Friday and Saturday, 10am-6pm Sunday
Link: NW Art Alliance (you can also print a coupon right from this site too!)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Tightrope

Balancing on the high wire.

Last week's marathon is over. And the new week's marathon has already begun.

Yesterday was long. Up at 5, loading the car at 6, setting up the show at 7. Working the Eastlake show from 9-4. Rushing home to throw everything out of the car, grab a sandwich and rush up to Maltby to tear down the Echo Falls show by 6. Rushing from there to the Hollywood Schoolhouse by 7 to tear down the 3rd show. I could barely squeeze a path through the house this morning, with all the piles of props and inventory. Special thanks to my parents who helped me at the end. I couldn't squeeze another bin into the car and was seriously pooping out.

I've unloaded it all, inventoried it all, re-packed what I could for this coming week's show (Best of the Northwest - which I'll blab about tomorrow). And did a million loads of laundry and food shopped and tried to squeeze in some time off my feet in a chair. It's all good. The orders have been piling up all weekend, and that's tomorrow's task. There's another mountain to do tomorrow, but it seems doable.

The final tally is ok. For the marathon of 3 shows last week I ended up right about the same spot as last year. Two shows were up (just a teeny) and one show was down (just a teeny), so it's all a wash. Which is a miracle and way better than I was expecting, given the state of the economy and all the rotten consumer spending and sales reports that have been coming out the last couple of weeks. I'm grateful for every penny, and met some of my lovely and loyal customers, which I so enjoy.

I've scheduled myself a little bit less than last year with the shows this month. It was a decision I made at the end of last year, to not run myself into the ground in November and early December. I realized that I just try to squeeze too much in, and don't do the job I'd like to at any of it because I'm spread too thin. And realized that I'd actually like to have a bit of a life - to remember what those two months are like instead of just being a blob of stressed out stupor that doesn't experience any of my own holidays any more.

So that was all good . . . until the economy went belly up in September, which I guess I didn't see coming, even if everybody else did. I've been thinking that my great plan was going to be really stupid, and that I would need to do twice as many shows this winter to make half the money I had before - and that maybe I had set myself up for total failure. Well, the good news is that I think I'll survive, and it might just have been a good idea after all.

Oh, the money will still be really tight. But I've been much less stressed out this week than usual. And I'm not dreading next week or the week after. I've got enough inventory to cover all the bases, and not run out of this or that and freak out about how to make it all work. It's a little early to know how it will all turn out. But I'm hopeful and optimistic. At least right now. Even if my poor feet still hurt and I'm bone tired. I'll go to bed early -- and tomorrow is another day. Oh, and that dratted cold is on it's way out - almost completely gone. Yahoo.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Winter Holiday Newsletter


I always post the most recent newsletter here on the blog when it goes out. It's just been mailed out to the mailing list, emailed out to the email list, and the website has been updated too. So just to complete the circle, I'm posting the Winter Holiday newsletter here also.

Just a note though - I usually post the letter with all the linkies. But it takes forever to get all those tags typed in, and now that the site server and email hosts have upgraded their templates, the coding doesn't talk to each other, and it doesn't cut and paste over here either. Each one of those linky-poo's has to edited by hand. It's a lot. A really really lot. And I'm already pressed this week. So I'm just posting one big link at the beginning, at the title, which takes you to the entire new web page of all the holiday products. From there, you can click on any single new product or wander around the rest of the site easily. I think that should work out ok?

Winter Holiday News

Brrrr, baby it’s cold outside. Puff of breath, mittens rubbed together, scarf scrunched a little tighter, it’s winter. A frigid nip in the air signals the next act in the play of ever-changing seasons. A curtain of quiet hush and cold stillness falls, darkness replaces light. One magical snowflake dances and twirls down from the grey sky, gently touching your nose, a teasing kiss from Jack Frost. Winter’s beauty is the contrast of stark silence outside, while inside the joyful celebrations toot and jingle, one after another, throughout the next couple of months. Cozy snuggles by the fire, long anticipated visits with family and friends, and nostalgic feasts are just some of the treasures of Winter.

The holidays are just around the corner, and with all the extra activity in your schedule, simplify your life by having Soapworks Studio help with the gift giving. This year make it easy on yourself and shop from home. Lounging in your jammies, we’re just a click away. We can ship the order to you, or directly to your family and friends with an enclosed holiday card - saving you time, money and hassle. We have a Santa’s Sack full of great ideas for special presents, stocking stuffers, teacher and co-worker gifts, or a special treat for a party hostess.

Holiday Seasonal Soaps

The upcoming holidays have sparked a bunch of new wintry wonderful soap scents for a little fun in the shower, or a special gift for someone (or everyone) on your list. ($4.00 each or 4 bars for $15.00)

First Snow - A soft blanket of freshly fallen snow, an icy breeze, and a wintry breath of peppermint, this soap is cool, fresh and tingly as a snowflake against your cheek.

Winter Forest – The most perfect, magical Christmas tree can only be hidden deep in the winter forest. This dark olive green bar is much more than simple pine needles – it is filled with the scents of lush forest, warm woods, rich earth and the clear night sky. A magnificent blend of fir, cedar, juniper and cypress, it’s the ultimate forest fragrance.

Turkish Coffee – There is nothing more irresistible than the fragrance of freshly ground coffee beans or a cup of perfectly brewed coffee steaming in a mug. Well, nothing except maybe a hint of delicious cinnamon and hazelnut added to your cuppa. Try a little exotic spice in your morning routine, and little coffee in your shower!

I’m also reprising a couple of favorites of year’s past, just to keep up with requests for special customers.

Flannel Jammies – The scent of clean, fresh, cotton warm from the dryer, and one of my favorite comforts of winter – snuggling up in a pair of cozy flannel pajamas. This soap is ivory white and silky smooth.

Hot Cocoa – Think steaming mugs of rich, dark, chocolate topped with fluffy mounds of whipped cream after a frosty afternoon of skiing, skating or hiking in the woods. Colored with cocoa powder, it’s a pure chocolate soap and a special treat for that choco-lover on your list.

Are any of those fabulous Autumn Seasonal soaps left you ask? Why, yes! Apple Jack, Pumpkin Spice, Moroccan Fig and Cinnabar Oatmeal are still available while supplies last in November.

Pacific Northwest Collection – It’s back!

This is a new take on an old favorite. Years ago when I first started the business, I had small boxes of four triangle shaped bars of soap in different “collections” or themes. The Pacific Northwest Collection was far and away the most popular version, and I’ve had endless requests to bring it back – so here ya go. The soap bars are a bit different this time around, handier little squares of 2.5 ounces or roughly half the weight and size of our regular bars. The four soaps are bundled in a Kraft cardboard box, appropriately scented in Rain, Forest, Mountain and Sea, with lovely soft colors of ivory, olive green, oatmeal brown, and pale blue. The Pacific Northwest Collection is the perfect little gift for anybody or everybody on your list. Who can resist the allure of teeny soap bars in captivating scents? Send a sample of the Pacific Northwest to your friends in faraway places or just away from home. (Box of 4 soaps - $10.00)

Winter Holiday Home Fragrance Sprays

Add a little festive spirit to your home with one of our winter holiday home fragrance sprays. Mist your house and holiday decorations just before guests arrive, or spritz your gift boxes, cards and stockings -- your family and friends will receive a whoosh of holiday scent when they open their presents! (4 oz bottle - $6.00)

Holiday Spice - this is our most requested seasonal spray, every year since the very beginning --oranges, cranberries, spices and greens all blended together for the perfect scent of magic and delight.

Winter Forest - the companion to the soap of the same name described above. Do you have one of those artificial trees? This spray can bring the forest indoors and give you that fresh tree ambience you’re looking for.

Festive Lip Balm

Just for the holiday season, I’ve added Hot Cocoa, Pumpkin Spice and Chocolate Mint flavored lip balms to the menu. It’s the same nourishing, natural lip balm base that I carry in a dozen lip—smack ing flavors, just a few new flavors for Christmas stockings and holiday memories. See the enclosed brochure or the web site for the full list of flavors – Coconut Lemon, Vanilla Tangerine, Cupcake, Root Beer, Raspberry Soda . . .mmm. (1/2 ounce tin, $2.00 each)

Gifts Galore

Attention Holiday Shoppers! It’s the gift-giving season, and fun bath stuff is a great idea for everyone on your list because it’s a pampering treat which feels luxurious, doesn’t add clutter and stays within your budget. I’ve got an elfin mountain of new gift sets and packaging ideas:

New Gift Boxes: New, unique, and downright adorable origami style boxes to gift wrap a single bar of soap, or two bars of soap, or exactly sized to hold a bar of soap plus one of our cotton scrubbie accessories - like the cotton washcloth, soap sack or scrubbie mitt. These are the perfect small gifts for those special office folks, the patient teacher, the friendly neighbor, the dear who watches the pets while you're away, the lovey who does your nails or hair, that gaggle of book club gals, you know who I mean – check everyone off your list at once!

New Gift Bags: Soapworks Studio is now carrying adorable cotton print tote bags to stuff full of goodies for any gift-giving occasion. 10x10 inches with a wide-gusset bottom and handy handles, these are made from recycled fabric scraps in the most charming patchwork designs, 100% cotton. Add some of the bath salts, sprays, soaps, and bath accessories for a gift guaranteed to please. When the pampering is finished, the bag can be used for shopping trips or light handbags.

Gift Certificates: You know they love Soapworks Studio products but you’re not quite sure which scents they like the most? Or you have a choosy someone on your list who likes to select their own signature scents? Or you’re just plain out of time in all the holiday rush? I’ve got the perfect idea! Give a gift certificate from Soapworks Studio so they can choose their own favorites from any of our products on the list. You may purchase a gift certificate in any denomination of your choosing. we’ll pretty it up and send it off in a lovely decorated envelope. The perfect gift for that particular friend , the choosy family member or any number of special someone’s on your list with a flair for pampering themselves.

My Own Holiday Shop

I’ll be repeating my little temporary storefront at Group Health in November. I will have my own retail shop for two weeks at the end of November. Group Health Central Campus on Capital Hill in Seattle has a tiny storefront that I am “renting” to have my own shop space. They loan it out to artists and a percentage of sales funds their TLC Guild. It’s designed to be a gift boutique, especially focused on winter holiday gifts. It’s located at 108 – 15th Ave E, kitty-corner from the Safeway on John St. November 25 thru December 4. I’ll be closed on Thanksgiving, but open on the weekend. Hours are 9:30am to 4:30pm each day. It’s a great way to see my entire product line in one place, pick up all your gifts and save on shpping!

Internet & Mail Ordering
Holiday shopping online or by mail saves you time, expense, and the headache of traffic jams and crowded malls. We ship within two business days, and can send your items directly to family and friends - with gift enclosure cards too! Send in the enclosed order form, call during business hours, or for late night brainstorms, order from our web site SoapworksStudio.com. Spend more time celebrating and less time fretting. One final note, my office will be closed from Saturday, December 20 until the last holiday party is over on Wednesday, January 5.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday and magical moments with those you hold close.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A new day


On January, 20, 1993, Maya Angelou spoke these words at the Bill Clinton inauguration and they ring truer this morning than ever before:

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

This week's shows

I have so many antique postcards for Halloween and I didn't get to post any of them. And I was so buried in work and a hacking cold that I didn't even get around to posting a picture or a simple holiday greeting. Boooo. Sorry I'm late. Hope you all had a fun time celebrating. I pretty much missed it.

I'm still down with a bad cold and it's been a tough weekend to work. Much to my dismay (because I really can't afford to lose the money) I had to cancel one of the 4 shows I was planning on doing this week.

I will NOT be at Meridian Valley Country Club's show on Monday and Tuesday. I'm at half capacity the last few days, and couldn't pull enough together to do all four shows I had scheduled for this week, I couldn't possibly be ready to set up two shows tomorrow. So I needed to pull out of one at the last minute. I'M disappointed, I know THEY are disappointed, and I hope I'm not disappointing too many folks in Kent . . . but I know there will be some. I'm truly sorry.

Here's where I WILL be this week:

Starving Housewives at Echo Falls Country Club
20414 - 121st Ave SE
Snohomish, WA (Maltby)

Dates: Tuesday through Saturday, November 4 - 8
Hours: Tues-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-6pm

This is a boutique style show with a central cashier. Wonderful handcrafts and charming antiques. Look for one-of-a-kind holiday gifts!

Link: Starving Housewives

Red Ribbons & Reindeer at
The Hollywood Schoolhouse
14810 NE 145th St
Woodinville, WA

Dates: Wednesday through Saturday, November 5 - 8, 2008
Hours: Wed 3pm - 8pm, Thur-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-6pm

This is a boutique style show with a central cashier - a long standing tradition for Christmas shoppers. This is the 20th anniversary of this show!

Eastlake High School PTSA Holiday Bazaar

Eastlake High School, cafeteria
400 - 228th Ave NE
Sammamish, WA

Date: Saturday, Nov 8, 2008
Time: 9am-4:00pm

Artists are present at their own displays. Moms and kids are all volunteers and they put on a great holiday gift show each year! All of the participating artists donates a gift basket of their creative talents and a raffle is held all day long, with several winners every hour. Your chances of winning are pretty darn good, and an excellent way to pick up a freebie holiday treat!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sniffles


I've got the flu. Or a cold. I can't tell the difference. They used to be 2 different illnesses when I was a kid. Flu you had stomach upset and threw up a lot. Cold was runny nose and fever. Now they are both snot. So who knows. It's just bad.

The shop is poking along, a bit slow. And the rest of my fall show prep and newsletter and whatnot is threatening to drown me. That's probably why I got sick. It's all so overwhelming.

But I'm taking it one day at a time and just doing what I can. Today I'm back at the shop all day. Patricia is there all day tomorrow with samples of stuff - her jams, caramels, lavender lemonade. And then it's over. Thursday (tomorrow) is the final day of the shop. So get it while it's hot.

We'll open the shop again Thanksgiving week, and be there through the first week of December. So if that's a better time, mark the calendar. Gotta run, gotta stock up on Kleenex and get going. I'm not used to having a schedule - and I don't want to be late to open.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shop. Around the Clock.

Last week at the shop, Patricia and I were encouraged the first day, a little slow on Friday, and then discouraged on Saturday. A slow slide down hill.

In May, when we opened up here for the first time, I had so many requests from people to please please please have weekend hours so that other working folks could make it over to do some shopping too, not just the Group Health employees and neighbors. So this time, we made sure we were open Saturday. We had exactly 2 people stop in all day. It was deadly boring, and not worth the effort.

Maybe it was the gorgeous day. Maybe it was the time of year. Maybe it's just the way things will be this year. We're re-thinking our hours for the November/December schedule. Of course it's closer to Christmas and people will be holiday shopping. Isn't the day after Thanksgiving the biggest shopping day of the year afterall? But it's also a holiday weekend, and a lot of folks will be doing family stuff or traveling, and I'm not sure our little location will get any traffic. The big sales are at the malls. So it's a toss-up. We'll know more after this week is over, and have a better idea of what we want to do.

Of course I'm sitting in that little space dreaming big about hauling in lights and garlands and ribbons and trees . . . But I've got to be realistic too. As much as I love to decorate, it has to be practical. It has to fit in just a few car loads, not truckloads. And I've still got to leave room for our merchandise - not just the froo froo. And maybe we picked a bad week. Yikes.

Sunday is my day off. Except I'm working on a million things instead, just because it's that time of year. And tomorrow I'm back in the shop all day. Hopefully this coming week works out a little better. Do you need some extra special delicious caramels and caramel corn for Halloween treats? Do you need a little special something for a party hostess or a grownup trick-r-treater? We've got you covered!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Shop

We had a great time decorating the shop this week, and yesterday was our first day open. Pretty good day - folks started to pop their heads in to see who the new folks were and what was going on. I'm hoping it will be a good week.

Besides the lovely caramels and caramel corn, Patricia has some fresh caramel apples, Jonagold apples, which are always so juicy. And I've got all the soaps, sprays, balms, bath salts etc. But there is a book shelf of soapmaking and craft books, practically new and all for sale - $5 each. Most of them are gorgeous picture books, and ones I collected earlier in my career for reference. So if you've got someone on your list who's always wanted to try making soap and wanted to know how to start, this might make a good gift. There are fall decor items too - candles, vases, brown satin hat boxes, miscellaneous vintage collectibles. It looks great - hope you can get a chance to stop by for minute. There's usually parking on the street right out front too. It's 1-hour parking, so the spots are always opening up.

Oh, and I've got some new hemp fabric bags for gifts. They are fully lined with white cotton and have a rope drawstring. They are that irresistible contrast of rustic and elegant, and hold a bar of soap and a cotton scrubbie just perfectly. A nice little bag for other uses also, any kind of small gift would tuck in quite nicely - $3 each. The natural hemp color is lovely for fall, but it would look really sweet for Christmas too, especially with a sprig of holly or greens tucked into the top.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fall Shop


Usually I operate under the "why do today what you can do tomorrow" philosophy. But this time of year, I have to stop all the procrastination and really work ahead of myself. I had planned a full weekend of non-stop work. But the weather was especially beautiful and I had to go outside and revel in the sunshine and the magnificent fall color. Sunday we took a little road trip along Highway 2 to Leavenworth. That drive along the river and through the mountains is always so pretty, and yesterday was breathtaking. So nice to take a day off and just enjoy the view, watch the trees and rippling river sparkling in the sunlight.

This week I am starting my first of two little holiday gift shops at Group Health. Patricia, my friend who makes Paige Lisbeth caramels, is joining me. We are "renting" their little retail space on Capitol Hill to set up our own gift shop for a week or so. A portion of all of our sales goes to their Patient Needs Fund, which buys supplies and necessities for patients there, part of their Volunteer Program. We're setting up the next couple of days, and we'll be open according to the following schedule:

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct 23, 24 and 25 - 9:30am to 4:30pm
Sunday, Oct 26 - closed
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Oct 27 - 30 - 9:30am to 4:30pm

Location: Group Health central campus, Seattle
Address: 108 - 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill, half a block south and across the street from the big Safeway store at the corner of John St.

So that's the next two weeks, and we're open on Saturday for working folks to stop by too. I'll have all my fall products and full line. Patricia will have her caramels and caramel corn, as well as some fresh caramel apples. And we'll have other fall decorating and gift things too, so I hope you all can stop by.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vasa Park Show


This week is the new autumn and harvest themed show at Vasa Park Ballroom on the shores of Lake Sammamish in Bellevue. It's not quite the same as the one that was there for years - sadly, Sue Van Gerpen had to shut down her schedule of shows early last year. But Sandy Roundy, who has been a show organizer here too for a gajillion years, is taking over that location to do her version of a fall craft show in the same location. There are a number of the same vendors, and a number of new vendors, so a little of something for everybody. It's a boutique style show, which means there is a central cashier and artists are not generally "working" their own booths, except for a few folks who are taste-testing their treats or personalizing something.

We set up the displays yesterday - lots of gift stuff and decorative home stuff for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Autumn occasions, plus little bits of Christmas stuff too.

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

Dates: October 16 - 18
Hours: Thursday and Friday 10am to 7pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm

Link to directions: Vasa Park Resort

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wind on the Hill


Wind on the Hill

No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.

It’s flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,
Not if I ran.

But if I stopped holding
The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.

And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.

So then I could tell them
Where the wind goes…
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.

- A.A. Milne

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday afternoon

The National Debt clock has run out of numbers. It's been spiraling so fast and out of control lately, and now there's no room left on the sign for it to register the 10.2 trillion dollars of debt we owe.

Bankrupt. That's a bit how I suppose we're all feeling right now. Frustrated, angry, depressed, hopeless about the whole situation. I never would have imagined that smack in the middle of my lifetime I would be living through an epoch event as great as any in the history books, like the Great Depression. But here we are.

I faced my financial statement Friday - the small amount I've scrimped and saved for my entire adult life to retire on, and it's so meager and sad. I suppose I should be grateful that I even have anything at all - so many people are in such worse shape. Sure, it will eventually come back, or at least most of it. But that's not the point. By the time any of that happens, I've lost the big window where all that compound interest or whatever is supposed to happen that actually makes it worth doing. We were all taught to put in as much as we could early on, and that over time, the continued investment would grow. But now I'm back to where I was over a decade ago. Bleh. It's just paper money anyway. We're all in the same boat.

My intention wasn't really to whine about my own situation today, or rail in rage over the state of things, or wring my hands with worry about what's about to be either. It's all just so surreal. I have some of my biggest shows and sales in the next few weeks before the election even happens. Between October and December I usually do almost half my sales, half my entire business for the year during this time. And I'm facing a complete what the frack.

Do I just carry on as if things will be close to the same? Which, by the way, means investing in a lot of supplies and racking up some credit card debt? Because if it doesn't happen, and sales are really slumping, then I'm in trouble come January in more ways than one. Extra debt plus lack of funds. Or do I cut back and take it slow, seeing how the first couple of shows go and decide then? The trouble with that last one is that I can't. The first show is this coming week, and then I've got my little storefront the following week. But all at the same time, I have to put out the winter newsletter and do four more shows all in the same week - the major bulk of everything for November. It's either all there, or I cut back. But if I cut back inventory, then I can't spread out the smaller amounts of stuff among that many shows. I don't feel like I can cut a show, if I need every penny.

I'm going around and around with this. Basically trying to achieve as much as possible with as little investment as possible and making it all work. And then just waiting it out with fingers crossed. Again, bleh.

So I guess the bottom line is this: I will pretty much carry on business-as-usual and hope for the best. I write this blog so that outsiders, customers, etc. can know what it's like on the inside of this tiny business. And as much I would prefer to just sit silent and not worry out loud, I've kinda committed to letting it all hang out, warts and all. Putting on some smiley face that all is well and the factory is just humming away in blissful ignorance is not my style. I'll continue to do the sales-y blog posts about what's new and where I'll be each week during the next couple of months. But I'm going to also try to add a few starkers journal entries on how the business is actually faring in this new state of crisis as we head in to Christmas. Just because that's what I'd rather be reading if I was on your end. I think.

Monday, October 06, 2008

It rained again


Yes, another Salmon Days, another storm. All day Saturday it rained and the wind gusted and blew and tossed our little tents around. Rained sideways on and off, hard and then light misty rain. Everyone was wet. Umbrellas unloaded on the display of soap bars. Labels got soggy.

And it was chilly too. A storm front moved through all day, and by the late afternoon, when the tail end was blowing over, it got super windy. Banners blew off. Signs kept blowing over. Everyone was hanging onto their tents. Mine was a corner and the wind swept across the parking lot behind me and kept traveling the far corner out a foot or so with each gust. I thought the frame was going to end up all bent out of shape. It was anchored down well, but not enough on that one outside corner. And the velcro tabs on the back panel were too flimsy to hold either when the gusts came from straight behind. I spent half my time re-attaching the tent panels and straightening up the poles. It started to get super annoying. Just a couple of tiny leaks. And then some kind of stick which looked like a spear was impaled through the tent top in another gust. I just left it there. Patching will have to happen later. Next year. Unless I decide that I can afford a new tent. This one should probably not have to go another season, but probably will. Who can afford anything new now?

So the damp was miserable. The crowds were still impressive. And I had a pretty good day in sales, considering the state of the weather. In fact, it was better than a lot of shows this year, and under the worst conditions yet. Bad weather and crumbling economy. I still sold soap. Yeee haaah!

Sunday was much better weather. Still chilly and grey, but no wind, no rain. And sales were record-breaking for me. I sold out of probably 10 or more scents by the afternoon. More bars than ever. I'm not sure what it means, if anything. A sign of things to come? An anomaly? It's too hard to predict. And I guess it doesn't really matter. Except that I need to keep cranking out the batches of soap for holiday shows and sales.

Today was the big unpacking and clean up. I'm feeling a little slow and tired - all that weather takes a toll on a body, standing out in the elements for hours on end. I'm so grateful to have a bit of money to pay bills with. But worried about how much more I need to spend in supply orders this month to get me through the huge show season of November and December.

Friday, October 03, 2008

New Map

You probably haven't notice, but I added a new little widget thingamajiggy towards the bottom of the blog. It's under the the whole list of linky stuff on the right. It keeps track of where any visitors to the blog come from around the world and tracks them on a map.

It wasn't worth mentioning at first, of course, because I needed to have a few visitors log in first. I think it's been a week or so? I don't remember. But it's sorta exciting! I've got a bunch of people from around here. But there's others too - like Australia, someplace in the middle of the ocean off the coast of Africa (!?), the UK, a few Europe, one South America, and all over the US.

Anyway, just thought I'd mention it. I had almost forgotten to check it out again myself until this morning. Cool.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Salmon Days



These folks have the cutest slogans - this year it's "what a wonderful whirl!"

Welcome to the “whirled” of fish, fun and festivities!
Join the fun this October at the Northwest’s most-loved, award-winning community event!
The salmon are returning to our lakes, streams and our historic, downtown hatchery! The Issaquah Salmon Days Festival is 39 years old and we're celebrating with special fishy attractions: the Grande Parade, Foods of the Whirled, “whirled-class” arts & crafts, whirling live entertainment, whirledly-wild Field of Fun for kids of all ages, and a whirl of sporting attractions.
You're invited


Dates: Saturday and Sunday, October 4 and 5, 2008
Place: Historic old downtown Issaquah
Times: 10am - 6pm both days
Booth Location: Same spot as last few years! Booth #318, located on W. Sunset Way, at the corner of the driveway entrance to the hatchery.

Link: Salmon Days

They say don't bring your pets, but bring your umbrella. And don't miss the fun!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Turmoil

What now? What's next?

No matter what the government ends up doing here, the best possible predictions are for at least several more years of deep recession, which I thought we were already in, so isn't more of it an actual depression? I'm no expert but it all sounds bad and scary.

I feel like I should be doing something, like buying batteries or stocking up on provisions - sort of like we've gotten an advance weather warning of a huge storm coming in. It feels like I should be preparing somehow, but I have no idea how. It's a little surreal to keep going on business as usual during all this meltdown and crisis, but that's what we are all doing. Until we know something more.

At this point of the year I am usually full steam ahead in preparations for the huge holiday shopping season. I'm guessing it won't be quite so big this year. I should be placing supply orders for all the cool new stocking stuffer and gift packaging ideas I've cooked up. But I'm pretty sure I should be changing my plans and scaling back everything instead. However, I still need to be making soap - as much as possible - because I never quite have enough inventory by the time we get into mid-December. And time is short. Too short. My show schedule is huge and my deadlines are coming so fast. And yet I'm a little paralyzed by confusion on where I should be focused and what I should be doing proactively.

Are we all going to be living in Hooverville next year? People will still need soap, right? Even if I don't have to worry about losing my job, losing my business isn't a great option either. Well, I can't worry about all that today. I have to whiz up this batch of soap and carry on. This weekend is Salmon Days in Issaquah - one of the biggest shows around here. It will be a good signal of what the season will be like. And the weather is always iffy - this year will be no exception with rain, storms and wind predicted, even if today is supposed to be another sunny, warm, perfect day. Figures.

The bad weather has never hampered us in the past - with crowds coming out no matter what, and shopping happily. So I'm getting myself ready for a prosperous couple of days in the rain, with my boots. I'll get the links and details together and post those tomorrow, in case you're planning on going to the show.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Farm Day

Saturday was the Harvest Celebration here, where dozens of local farms were open for tours, special demonstrations, chefs cooking in the fields, petting of the animals and milking of the goats. Most of them are CSA's, which are community sponsored farms - you buy a share for a few months or a season, which makes you sort of an investor in the farm while they grow the crops, and you get a fresh box of produce and flowers weekly. That way they have funds to operate and a guaranteed market, and you get locally grown, organic, fresh food from folks you know. It's a great plan all around.

We've been wanting to do this for a while now, but just hadn't worked out which farm - there's so many it's hard to choose. And we needed a beautiful sunny day in the fields just to enjoy the final warm days of September. So we headed out, tramped around and bought veggies, cheese, and honey. We found one farm that we can volunteer hours as compensation for the CSA, which would be a whole lot more fun. You head over for 4 hours a week and work at the farm, receiving the same box of goodies each week. We're definitely going to do that next summer, but in the meantime, we're figuring out another farm to sign up with during the winter.

Such a gorgeous day. Cool to see all the families that brought kids out to see the animals and fields, do a little pea picking to see where the food comes from, and choose pumpkins and spooky gourds.

I would love to have my own little tiny farm - not a big one, but just someplace with a little more land than my postage stamp in the city. I'd love to grow more of my own food, but I don't have the space or enough direct sun in any one area besides a few tomato plants. At the moment I'm plotting a little corner for a worm bin. And maybe a raised bed over on the side for a zucchini plant or a row of carrots next year. I've grown them before, but it's more work than stopping at the farmer's market, which usually has a way better selection anyway. I don't know - with all this talk about recession and depression and economic meltdown, it makes me want to plant potatoes and cabbages in the front lawn and start canning stuff.



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hot tomato

Even with the cooler weather and rain we've had this past week, I'm still harvesting tomatoes. I just can't eat them all. Tomatoes for every meal. I don't want to start hating them, so I've given bags away to the neighbors and friends. I'm pretty sure we're getting close to the end here. It definitely feels like fall now, and the nights and mornings are darn chilly, even if we get a few hours of sun in the afternoon. The ripening is not going to be happening at that breakneck pace, and the little skins will be getting tough. So I'm just enjoying what I've got left, and dreaming about next summer's crop.

The votes are in, and the favorite soaps for this year's Puyallup Fair were: Vanilla Bean & Honey, Patchouli, French Lavender and Roses & Violets. Now, those are not the most popular kids in school at all the shows, or even in general. But they were a hit at the fair, and I sold more soap bars than ever. The coolest kid on the block of the new fall soaps was Apple Jack. I only brought the new ones towards the end of the show. My intention was to sell the remaining spring and summer ones first, and make sure that I had enough fall soaps for the mail orders that were flooding in from the newsletter. But for what it's worth, the Apple was the top seller.

In mail orders, however, the Moroccan Fig is the queen. It's been a favorite among loyal customers for years, and they can't wait for it to come out again so they can stock up.

If you're planning on ordering a few things in the next week, a couple of notes - I'm temporarily out of the aforementioned Patchouli, Vanilla Bean & Honey, and Lavender Pear soaps. I've got batches curing, and they'll be ready in a week or so. But the Fair wiped me out of what I had in stock right now. I'm not making any changes to the website however. You know why? Because I never remember that I made all those notes and inventory limits and coding. And I don't have time to keep going back and updating it either. So last time I did that, I found out that months later, I still had the cabosh on a couple of my fragrances and nobody could order them from the site. I just plain forgot to fix it again when they were ready. And I already know my mental capacities are sketchy, so I'm leaving the website alone.

If you want to order them, go ahead. I'll take the requests as they come and let you know if I have to "back-order" a bar or two. But hopefully they'll all be ready for shipping pretty darn quick, and the glitches will be minimal.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jitters


It's a deceptively beautiful day here in the Northwest. A cloudless blue sky, with warm sunshine glowing through the leaves on the trees. I'm trying to go about my normal routines and do my everyday tasks, but it's hard to be business-as-usual when the news is one meltdown after another crisis after another panic attack. It sounds like the entire world is crumbling around us.

But even as gigantic banks fall (does anyone still think that privatizing social security and having those guys manage our retirement funds was a good idea?) the fair is still pumping out scones and the rides are still spinning the kiddies silly. I'm packing up more soaps and sprays to take over there tomorrow. And sending out orders today.

It's all I can do. Just focus on what's in front of me, stop to admire the flowers and the sunshine, appreciate the life that is around us - all of this planet that we live on. The catch in my throat when I stop for even a second to notice the way it is so intricately, powerfully, beautifully alive from the tiniest molecules and cells to the splendor of the galaxies. Sometimes I forget all that when I get too caught up in the news, the blogs, the politics and the hype.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11

It's been 7 years since that day. I don't need to explain it. Everyone knows 9/11.

I've spent some quiet moments today thinking back to that unbelievable day. How awful it was to experience the unfolding of it all, hour after hour. Woken up by the phone, my Mom had just heard the report about the first plane on the radio and told us to turn on the tv. In my jammies, glued to my tiny little corner of the couch, huddled into a fetal position mostly, I watched the smoking buildings, the home video of the planes, the panic, the crumbling of the buildings, the chaos, the grief. Unable to take tear myself away from the constant news, I only left my spot to go to the bathroom, which I did about a hundred times. I peed so many times I didn't know how I could possibly go again - but that was my physical reaction to the complete horror. And I was a million miles away, totally unrelated to anything or anyone there, and just watching on tv. I can't even imagine how much worse it was for the victims, their families and people just living there at the time. I heard them. I watched them. And I still can't imagine how that felt inside. For me it was an emptiness and heartbreak larger than I've ever known, and still hasn't faded away completely. Not fear, not anger, just sadness and grief and devastation. Still.

I've tried to remember the hours, days and weeks that passed too after that single day that changed so much. Things were very different then from where we are now. The world is not the same place and we are still at war with people who didn't have anything to do with that event. So many more people have died. So many more lives are still at stake now.

So much can change in an instant. I'm heading outside for a minute to search the blue sky and listen for airplanes overhead. The eeriest thing ever was the total lack of sound overhead for all those days. I live under the flight path to the airport, you see. And there is the constant and regular little roar overhead of people coming, people going, life moving at a fast pace. But that day it all stopped. Everybody stopped and the silence was deafening. It's comforting now to hear the jets flying about on their regular schedules. Life goes on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Still alive


Hiya! Just popping in to say that I'm still here. I'm still alive. Haven't keeled over. Yet.

[Beware: stream of consciousness rambling ahead.]

The fair is super busy. Seems like sales are a bit down this year - what else is new. But it's not going too bad either. Big crowds and lots of activity. I'm running back and forth for my work shifts, spending all my free time (what? what's "free" time?!) getting more inventory ready to bring back over.

In the meantime, whatever spare moments (again, what the heck is a spare moment?!) I can find are spent catching up with orders and trying to squeeze in "real life." Like the one cat who can't seem to kick the fleas even though she's getting treated regularly. So we had to do an extra dose of de-worming, de-flea-ing and the whole full-on cleaning of the house and a million loads of laundry to wash every single item that exists under our roof. And the other cat spent a very scary night away from home last night and gave us a heart attack.

I ate my first Elephant Ear at the fair. Those things are good. Too good. Because you know it's nothing but fried dough with more grease than a basket of fries, and then they slather on a half a pound of butter, and then a cup of cinnamon sugar. I shared it with someone, but I think I still ate a week's worth of calories and fat in that one piece of scrumptiousness.

I got home from working, super long day, and raced to the bathroom after the endless car ride home. The toilet flusher snapped when I pushed the handle. Argh. Who needs a late night race to the hardware store to sneak through the door two minutes before closing, purchase extraneous toilet plumbing pieces and then wade in elbow deep to repair a stupid flusher? I suppose there is never a good time for that kind of stuff to break. But dang. Now the shower faucet has started dripping. Head smack.

My tomato plants, once they started to ripen, have gone berserk. Maybe they took lessons from the zucchini. I'm eating tomatoes for every meal, giving away bags of the things, have bowls upon bowls in the fridge from yesterday and the day before. And still, there were a million news ones practically falling off the vine again today. I love them. I do. But I'm going to turn into a cherry tomato. I swear I will.

We've been having a pretty darn nice September. We usually do up here. It's sort of an extra month of summer. Except it's only warm for a chunk of the day, instead of day and night. Evenings and mornings are cool, and the dew is getting thick overnight. It's all good. The sunny afternoons have been extra gorgeous. I get to squint at the sky for a bit in between my fits of panic while I pet the cats frolicking in the sun spots out there. Or while I'm picking another bowl of tomatoes.

Everything feels really anxious-y lately. Like I'm right on the edge. I think it has a lot to do with the intensity of all the politicking in the final countdown to the election. All that lying and posturing, it makes me insane. The culture wars and the contentiousness of it all has us split into rabid teams (go, team, go) that inspires the absolute worst instincts in humanity. We aren't people any more, we are all stereotypes. Each hating the other side more each day that it goes on. I hate it. I can't wait for it to be over. Except that I'm scared to pieces about how it will turn out. So I'm alternating between hate, fear, disgust, terror, and plain insanity. I used to be hopeful. But that went out the window a while back. Now it's a constant loop of all the bad stuff, because that's what makes the highlight reels each day.

What are you doing for serenity?

eta: just a few corrections - because grammar still counts for something, even if telling the truth doesn't matter any more

Friday, September 05, 2008

Autumn Newsletter 2008


Autumn News

Autumn is ripe with possibility. The excitement and anticipation feels like the first day of school, with thumping chest, stiff new shoes, a whole new chapter ahead.  It’s a crisp sheet of pristine notebook paper and a stash of freshly sharpened pencils, ready to write your new story.  We have turned the page from sultry summer to the shorter days and brisk, cooler weather of fall.  With a fresh school year, new schedules and different routines, comes a chance to reinvent the way we live.  

Autumn Seasonal Soaps

Autumn’s cool, crisp air crystallizes our senses.  The whisper of wind, the crunch of dead leaves and twigs, and the light patter of raindrops welcome us back indoors to the comforts of home.  This year’s Autumn Harvest soaps are loaded with our favorite fruits and spices, taking the best of the season and celebrating the bounty.  ($4.00 each or 4 bars for $15.00)

Pumpkin Spice :  A little different blend this year, more fresh pumpkin and less sweet brown sugar.  Freshly cooked pumpkin custard, a dash of vanilla, and sprinkled liberally with cinnamon, sugar, spice and everything nice.

Moroccan Fig : Our most requested fall fragrance.  Dark, rich, ripe and fruity fig blended with an air of mystery — sensual, exotic, earthy and irresistible.

Apple Jack : Autumn and apples are inseparable partners.  This soap is an irresistible blend of baked apple, orange peel, and spice notes of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, finished off with just a kiss of vanilla and a splash of brandy.

Cinnabar Oatmeal: A creamy oatmeal soap with the unmistakable scent of rich spicy cinnamon blended with a petal or two of ylang ylang and a nip of sandalwood for an exotic, lush and nourishing treat.

Autumn Aromatic Sprays

The Autumn aromatic sprays, used for home fragrancing, will add a festive and cozy feel to any home.  Unlike potpourri or candles, these sprays can be used to spritz table linens, a quilt in a guest room, freshen bathrooms and closets, mist a note card or gift box, and a million other ways too. This season’s flavors are much requested scents, a tribute to my wonderful customers who know what they like.  ($6.00 each)

Apple Harvest : Tart, juicy green apples with a light sprinkling of cinnamon.  It's the quintessential scent of Autumn, and one whiff transports you to nostalgic memories of apple orchards, cider presses, the cracklesnap of crunchy leaves, and bobbing for apples.

Vanilla Spice: Vanilla, first grown in Mexico, was considered a gift from the gods. The world’s only edible orchid, vanilla grows on a vine and can only be pollinated by special small bees, hummingbirds or by hand in order to bear fruit – the vanilla bean.  It’s intoxicating scent is both calming and an aphrodisiac.  This fragrance spray is delicate vanilla blossom with just a subtle hint of toasted spice.

Rose Petals: Very traditional and simply lovely, it’s a bouquet of delicate fresh roses.  This is a single note floral of the finest, lushest rose blossoms.

New Lip Balms

Just for the Autumn season, I’ve added Pumpkin Spice, Chocolate Mint and Carrot Cake flavored lip balms to the menu du jour.  Who can resist these treats?  It’s the same nourishing, natural lip balm base that I carry in a dozen lip—smacking flavors, but the perfect flavor for Halloween treats, Thanksgiving celebrations and Christmas memories.  See the enclosed brochure or the web site for the full list of flavors – Cupcake, Vanilla Tangerine, Root Beer, Raspberry Soda . . .mmm

Dead Sea Bath Salts

More of our big, beautiful jars of bath salts that we’ve had all summer, but with fragrances that harmonize with Autumn.  These  rustic, chunky salts come directly from the Dead  Sea.  Pure salts with a mineral content that is much greater than other types of sea salts, they work wonders on purifying and detoxifying, improving circulation and moisturizing skin, soaking away stress, and relaxing muscles, aches and pains.  These bath salts dissolve in water almost instantly, with a lush, silky feel – no gritty bottoms.  What we know for sure is that when you finally drag yourself out of these glorious bath waters, you are left with unbelievably soft, silky smooth skin that seems brand new.  For little foot baths or long evening soaks, these are the best bath salts I’ve ever tried.  * New:  now in plastic bottles for safer tub sports – same size, same design, just easier to handle.

Inspired by the season, the two new scents are scrumptious, edible Almond Ginger and beautiful, classic Vanilla Lavender (16 oz plastic bottle - $8.00)

Berry Basket Sets

We’ve found the sweetest little vintage-style wire berry baskets with wood handles.  They are 5 inches square and perfectly sized for gift basket making.  Adorable with a bar of a soap and one of the little cotton scrubbie accessories.  And they can be used for almost anything later – collecting keys on the front table to holding towels on the bathroom sink, to decorating up your fall home.  Check out the photos on the web site!  (Set - $12.95)

Tax Savings

The state of Washington has changed the way they charge sales taxes.  Mostly it’s a headache for mail order businesses.  But for customers (YOU!), it has benefits.  For anyone ordering by mail or internet, you will now be paying the tax rate of your own town, not mine.  This saves you money if you are outside of Seattle, because you no longer have to pay the highest rate in the state.  The very best of all – if you are ordering a gift to be shipped to family or friends out of state, there is no sales tax levied at all.  It’s a great time to think about your holiday gift lists.  I can package it all up, add messages and greeting cards and ship it all off for less expense than ever.  Just to celebrate the change, I’ll have more gift boxes, gift bags and special packaging introduced Nov 1st with the Winter Holiday announcements.

My Own Shop  – 2 More Guest Appearances

I’ll be repeating my little temporary Group Health storefront two times this fall.  I will have my own little retail shop for two weeks at the end of October and another two weeks at the end of November – and this time we’ll be open weekends for all the regular working folks who couldn’t stop by in the Spring.  Group Health has a tiny little jewel of a storefront that I am “renting” to have my own temporary shop space.  They loan it out to artists from time to time, and a percentage of our sales funds their TLC Guild, which helps with patient's needs.  It’s designed to be a gift boutique, especially focused on fall and winter holiday gifts. It’s located at 108 – 15th Ave E, kitty-corner from the Safeway on John St.  Dates are October 23 thru 30, and November 25 thru December 4.  Hope to see you there!

The next few months are filled to the brim with craft shows, fairs and festivals too.  I’m making an extra effort to bring the goodies to you – so check the enclosed calendar, and log onto the website to get even more details on the “Calendar” page.

As always, I sincerely appreciate your loyal business throughout the year, and wish you a brilliant and abundant harvest season!