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


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


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.