Monday, December 28, 2009

Toast


Phew, the rush is finally over. Last minute orders continued into last week - all while I was juggling all my own shopping, baking, wrapping of gifts, and decorating. Christmas flew by so fast, didn't it? After the months of preparations, it all slips by in the blink of an eye.

Now I am over-sleeping a bit. Wearing my pj's until noon. Catching up on the gigantic heap of disordered mess in my office. It's a lot of putting away and making little piles of things to do. Like the bookkeeping, filing, inventories, taxes. January is full of so many little tasks. Definitely not a slacker month, but quieter. No shows, no rushing around. Orders have slowed down to a little trickle for one month. But the paperwork pile is staggering. New show applications area at the top of the list, along with all the end-of-year books.

I must say, last year was puny in comparison to the last few previous years. Sales were down in the spring, by a lot. And summer was a lot slower than usual. But November and December were up from last year and mail order did a bit better too. So those are positive signs. I'm going to work harder this coming year, on all kinds of things. I've got a bunch of ideas about what I want to change and what I want to make better. I'm kind of excited about it all, and hopeful. Glad that 2009 is over, and I'm still here.

Postage rates increase again on January 4th. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to make some changes in that area. Prices will go up in the next mailing - Spring 2010. I'm also going to do a clearance sale of the last of the winter items. That should be up next week, and it might be a good time to stock up on a few things at the cheaper prices. February 1st will be the spring newsletter, price changes and new updates.

I got a new stereo for my studio for Christmas. It's gorgeous and I forgot how much I liked having a little something in the background while I'm working. I didn't know how much I missed the music. I love it.

I also got a Cuisinart toaster from my sister. I have been struggling with toasting a darn bagel, which always burned or got stuck and had to be shredded to get it out of the old cheapie toaster. This one is so beautiful, it's a work of art. And it makes the most perfect toast I've ever had. Truly. I adore this sleek silver machine in my kitchen. I want to toast everything.

So a toast to the new year. And a chance to start all over again.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shipping Deadlines

Just a quick pop-in to say that today: Thursday, December 17 is the guaranteed last day for Priority Mail shipping in order to get it there by Christmas.

If you are shipping to a local address, it usually takes just a day or two, so there might be time left. No guarantees. But if you are shipping across the country or out of state, this is it. Get your mail order in right now.

I've gotten so many mail orders this month that I'm down to the wire on lots of my products. A bunch of the regular flavors are sold out, though the 4 holiday scents are still in stock. At least for today. The holiday lip balms and bath salts are sold out. All the sprays are still available. And the shop shelves will be very bare until early January. I'll get back to making the soaps in the next few days, but they will need cure time. So it's not until the new year that I will be fully stocked again. I tried so hard this time too, not to sell out before Christmas. No matter what I do, there is always something that comes up and wipes me out. Which is good, don't get me wrong. But gives me panic attacks too, which is no good.

This whole announcement is probably a little too last-minute - sorry. I lost track of time with all the coming and goings and running to the post trips. But there you have it.

I'm almost at the end of the long, long ride that is the holiday circus. What a relief. It was good. And chaotic. And stressful. And prosperous, for the most part. So now I need to get my own shopping done. And find cards, if there are any left on the shelf. I can't wait to get out of the studio for bit today and see what's out there. Fa la la la la.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

We've Got A Shop This Week!

This week I've got my own little shop space over at the Group Health campus on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Michelle Deyoe is joining me with her whimsical jewelry pins, and Nancy Ensign too, with her vintage pieced jewelry and collectibles. Lots of holiday gift stuff, loads of great gift ideas.

We're located in the Group Health Shop Space, Central Campus, Capitol Hill
Address: 108 - 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill, half a block south and across the street from the Safeway at the corner of John St.

Hours: Wed-Fri, Dec 9 to 11, 9:30am to 4pm daily

We're going all out, with twinkie lights and trees. Hope to see you there.

Oh, by the way, this is my last show of the season (except for the final weeks of the Allied Arts show in Bellingham). So last local Seattle show, anyway. And I'm starting to get a little thin on inventory. Yes, I know there are weeks left before Christmas. But it's been a big huge month of shows and mail order and that's how it works. So if you are on the fence or need a bunch of stuff for gifts this year, it's a good time to either stop at the shop, or get an order in. No pressure, though :)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

This Week's Shows - Dec 1

A whole bunch of stuff is happening this week. It's packed full of shows. And the mail orders are flowing in. There's still time to order, but stock is getting thin in spots after all this hoopla. So don't delay on working on your gift list.

The Holiday Festival of the Arts in Bellingham continues, and has their big gala reception this Friday night:
GALA RECEPTION AT THE HOLIDAY FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS
Friday, December 4 from 6-9pm - 3548 Meridian St. across from the Bellingham Country Club
Please join us for hors d’oeuvres, a glass of wine and live music. Music provided by End of the Road String Band, The Honey V’s, The Honeybees and Chuck Dingee & Friends. This is a great time to shop for the holidays and enjoy your self!


Hilltop Holiday - part of Bellevue's Magic Season of events
Northwest Arts Center
9825 NE 24th St
Bellevue (Clyde Hill area)
Wed - Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-5pm

Phinney Winter Festival
Phinney Neighborhood Center
6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle
Sat and Sun 10am - 5pm
* Note: I've got a different spot this year and will be in the downstairs Blue Room of the main (blue) building. Right across the hall from my usual spot in the Red Room, and a little smaller space. So look for me, and let me know if you want a big bundle of any one thing so I can make sure to bring it. Or if you are looking for something specific, just to make sure I have it along. I've got to squeeze in and cut back on some of what I usually have there due to my smaller location, and I want to make sure I don't disappoint anyone who needs say a dozen bars of anise soap or a boatload of berry baskets.

Wow, it feels like I've been in this merry-go-round of holiday madness forever, maybe a year or more. But it's only been one month. Four weeks of non-stop shows and orders. And we've still got a month til Christmas. My party horn will be all worn out by then. But it's going good. Very good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blown Away

Blown Away. That's the theme this week. The wind is fierce, the rain is never-ending, the weather is awful.

I am blown away too, not just by the weather, but by all the shopping madness. Between the last few weeks of shows, the piles of mail orders, a couple of big corporate orders, and the shows left on the schedule, I am getting thin on inventory, and even thinner on time. So I have to cancel a show this week -- the one that I had just added before things blew up, and that's PLU in Tacoma this Saturday. I really hate to do that. But I stretched myself too thin and have to finish the orders that are already here on my desk. That's the number one priority. And in doing that, I have literally nothing prepared for Saturday. There isn't a minute to spare to package up an entire new show from scratch in an hour or so tonight. And it's not worth all that agony to even try. My apologies to all the south end folks who were hoping to catch me there.

So here's where I am this week (in addition to flitting around the studio from dawn to dusk):

November 19 - 21
Vasa Park Christmas Craft Show
Vasa Park Ballroom, 3560 W Lk Sammamish Rd, Bellevue
Thurs and Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-5pm


Nov 20 - Dec 24
Allied Arts Holiday Festival
Wed-Sun 10am-6pm, new location with great parking!
3548 Meridian Ave
West of Bellis Fair Mall on Meridian, across from the Bellingham Golf & Country Club

Opening night is this Friday, Nov 20 and it continues through Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

If you need a reason to smile today, check out these videos of doggies greeting their soldier-owners at the door when they return.







Monday, November 09, 2009

This Week's Shows - Nov 9

A little whiff of holiday cheer -- yep even at the beginning of November. I feel a bit like this elf - feet out from under me. It's starting to go so fast.

First off, the newsletter went out last Friday and I was a little surprised at how many people showed up to the Eastlake show on Saturday looking for the new winter soaps. Dang! I thought I could squeak out one more weekend with the fall soaps, since I have to make the winter soaps last for so many more shows this month and next. But we're all good now.

I've sent off a pile of orders today that came in over the weekend for the new stuff. And I'll have the full line of winter soaps at both shows this week. We set up today for the Starving Housewives show at Echo Falls Country Club in Maltby. And the weekend will be the gigantic, stupendous, Best of the Northwest show at the Exhibition Hall in Seattle.

The following week is will be the busiest yet, and I hope to make it through in one piece. Allied Arts in Bellingham begins that next weekend, and I'll be at Vasa Park all week, PLU on Saturday, and Grandma's Cupboard in Snohomish too ( I think, we're just working that out now, more later.)

Here are the details for this week:

November 10 - 14
Starving Housewives Holiday Home & Gift Show
Echo Falls Country Club, 20414 121st Ave SE, Snohomish (Just off of Hwy 522 E onto Echo Lake Rd)
Tues - Friday 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-6pm

November 13 - 15
Best of the Northwest
Exhibition Hall, Seattle Center, Booth # I-13
Fri 10 - 8pm. Sat and Sun 10-6pm
Click the link for a $2 off admission coupon to the show
160 local artists and their wares - lots of wonderful and unique holiday gifts

That's the news for this week. Everything else is a blur. Some of the fall scented soaps are going fast, so if you were still interested in those, order quickly.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Winter Holiday Newsletter 2009


I've sent out the Winter Holiday newsletter and it should arrive in mailboxes today or tomorrow. The email version will ping into mailboxes this afternoon. So I'm posting the letter here too, just to keep everyone up to date with the latest.

I haven't time to include linkie-poos here for each and every item. But if you want to click directly to the web site, on the winter holiday seasonal product page, CLICK HERE!

WINTER HOLIDAY NEWSLETTER

Dear Friends,

What I notice most as we slip from late Autumn into early Winter is the darkness. Daylight arrives in the morning long after our day has begun. And the deepening dark of sunset creeps over the sky before we’ve even begun our suppers. Staring up into the inky black skies of a chilly winter night, the stars blink and twinkle, more sparkly and clear than any other time of the year. Scientists say we are made of stardust. Our human bodies, like all life forms, were created from the dust and elements in the explosion of a star - the atoms of our bones glittering with the magic, chance, and chaos of those twinkling stars so far away. The wonder and sparkle of Winter is more than the season of parties and shopping. It’s a celebration of just being here, made all the more special when you share it with others.

As the holidays get closer, the gift lists begin to grow – but the intentions seem a bit different this year. Rather than the usual exchange of “stuff” , we all seem to be looking for more simplicity and meaning. Handmade gifts and items that are both useful and use-able make more sense, especially while we are watching our budgets a little more closely. Soapworks Studio’s little gifts of soap and bath goodies are the perfect fit. All locally handmade and reasonably priced, there is something for everyone on your holiday gift list.

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)

Cool Yule - Oh baby, the ultimate cool. This scent is a soft blanket of freshly fallen snow, an icy breeze, and a wintry breath of juniper. This clean white soap is as cool, fresh and tingly as a snowflake against your cheek.

Eucalyptus Lemon – Cold, wet weather sparks sniffle season and this soap is the perfect antidote. Bright, sunny lemon banishes the drearies while eucalyptus opens up breathing in your chest, head and nose. A dusting of French green clay adds soft color while adding detoxifying benefits. Lather up and breathe deeply in a hot steamy shower to give you a lift on a grey morning. (100% natural soap)

Winter Day – The perfect winter day is spent outside in a lush Northwest forest – skiing, hiking, skating, or searching for that magical Christmas tree. I’ve tried to capture that essence in a unique fragrance blend. While the list of elements will at first sound perplexing, it’s really quite lovely. Pine trees and dark forest, wood smoke and flannel shirts, woolen mittens and sugar plum treats all stirred together. This soap is the soft red color of Grandpop’s Union Suit long johns.

Tangerine Cinnamon – Tangy sweet, juicy orange and tangerine mixes it up with warm cinnamon. This is a classic and lovely holiday combination in a pretty cantaloupe colored bar. (100% natural soap)

All the Autumn seasonal soaps, Cinnamon Pear, Pumpkin Carrot and Honey Orange Clove are still available too!

Holiday Spice Home Fragrance Spray

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!

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. (4 oz bottle - $ 6.00)


Sugar & Spice Bath Salts

Sugar & Spice – and everything nice. That’s the winter seasonal scent we’ve added to the regular menu of Dead Sea Bath Salts. Sweet vanilla cookies, warm spices and a splash of orange make this a wonderful holiday treat in the bath.

Our rustic, chunky bath 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 the luscious bath waters, you are left with unbelievably soft, silky smooth skin that seems brand new. For little footbaths or long evening soaks, these are the best bath salts ever.
Standard scents: French Lavender, Vanilla Bean & Honey, and Almond Ginger (16 oz bottle - $8.00 each)

Festive Lip Balm

Just for the holiday season I’ve added Hot Cocoa, Pumpkin Pie and Candy Cane flavored lip balms to the menu. It’s the same nourishing, natural lip balm base that I always carry in a dozen-lip smacking 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, Root Beer, Raspberry Soda . . . . mmmmm. (1/2 oz tin - $3.00 each)

Gift Ideas
Attention Holiday Shoppers! It’s the gift-giving season, and fun bath stuff is the perfect gift for everyone on your list. I’ve got an elfin mountain of new gift sets and packaging ideas.

Gift Boxes: New, unique, and downright adorable origami style boxes to hold a single bar of soap, two bars of soap, or perfectly sized to hold a bar of soap and one of our cotton scrubby accessories - like the cotton washcloth, soap sack or scrubby mitt. These are the perfect small gifts for those special office folks, the patient teacher, the friendly neighbor, the lovey who watches the pets while you're away, the dear who does your nails or hair, that gaggle of book club gals -- you know who I mean. Two colors/patterns: Chocolate brown/Paisley Chicken, Sky Blue/Cherry Bomb. ($ 4.00/box)

Gift certificates: So 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 that 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 the products on our list. You may purchase a gift certificate in any denomination to fit your budget. We’ll pretty it up and send it off in a lovely decorated envelope. Gift certificates are the perfect gift for that exacting person on your list with a flair for sensual pampering.

Go Green!: Skip the wrapping paper this year and gift a bar of soap inside one of our scrubby mitts or sacks. A little piece of recycled ribbon makes it special. Order them separately on the accessories page, or as a set on our gift ideas page.

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 several days – Wednesday through Friday, December 9-11. Group Health has a tiny storefront that I am “renting” to have my own 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, full of winter holiday gifts, and a great way to shop the entire Soapworks Studio selection. It’s located at 108 – 15th Ave E, kitty-corner from the Safeway on John St. See you there!

Internet & Mail Ordering

Holiday shopping online or by mail saves you time, expense, and the headache of traffic jams and crowded malls. We usually 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 website at SoapworksStudio.com. Spend more time celebrating and less time fretting. Let Soapworks Studio be your answer for holiday gifts!

May your holidays be twinkly and bright!


Again, I would love to have the time to type in a perfect little clickable link for each new item I've listed in the newsletter, but there's too much to do today. So if you want to click directly to the web site, on the winter holiday seasonal product page, CLICK HERE!

Monday, November 02, 2009

This Week's Shows - Nov 2

It's going to be a busy week - lots of running around. I'm at Meridian Valley Monday and Tuesday, Red Ribbons the rest of the week, and a one-day show at Eastlake on Saturday.

November 2 - 3 Meridian Valley Artisans Festival
Meridian Valley Country Club, 24830 - 136th Ave SE, Kent
Monday 4pm-9pm - members only, Tues 9am-8pm open to public

November 4 - 7 Red Ribbons and Reindeer
The Hollywood Schoolhouse, Woodinville

November 7 Eastlake High School Holiday Bazaar
400 - 228th Ave NE, Sammamish, Sat 9-4

The Best of the Northwest show is next week - I have postcards for $2 off admission, and there is a downloadable coupon on the web site for the same thing. Click HERE for more info and the coupon. Northwest Art Alliance, who runs this show, has a new director and a new marketing director too. So there is all kinds of new energy and a huge advertising push this time around, which is much appreciated. We'll be at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall again this time. I'll have more details about next week's shows in the blog next week. Oh yeah, if you want a postcard with the coupon, let me know if you see me this week at Eastlake or wherever. I'll have them at my tables at the other shows, next to the brochures. Or give me an email or quick phone call and I'll send one off.

The Winter Holiday Newsletter is going out this week - in a few days. I'm getting it back from the printer today, with a stuffing fest going on in between everything else. It will be in mailboxes before the week is over. I'll post it here too, and send out the email versions at the same time, so everyone will be updated at once. I started all the website updates over the weekend. Just need to get some new photos on there of the winter soaps. One more project on the list, whew.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stamps and blather

These are the stamps I'm using for the Winter newsletter mailing. It's called Thanksgiving Day Parade, and it looks like a window pane of 4 designs on the USPS web site, but they've just arrived and it's really a vertical strip, with one entire design spread across all 4 stamps. Kind of cool. If you look closely the bottom row attaches to the back of the first two and it's a little slice of band and giant turkey balloon from the New York Macy's parade.

I just thought the colors were nice and it was more hip than the stupid holiday stamp designs this year. I never like to do religious ones - just doesn't fit with business. But the generic holiday is usually dumb - nutcrackers, ornaments. I'd love a pretty snowflake design. But the parade it is. And I'm running on about this why? Because I don't got nuthin' else.

I've been mulling over the blog, which is especially dusty and forlorn. In order to write a blog - a personal type blog, not just a business/advertising/marketing type blog - you have to be doing or thinking something interesting. Or else be an especially great writer of boring nothings. None of the above going on over here. My life is so singularly dull right now. Nothing but work.

It's a week or two before the big kick off of November and December holiday sales. Next month is when the newsletter goes out. The craft shows will be 3 per week. The mail order stuff will be piling up into mountains. And I'll be buried deep for a couple of months, just running frantically. And right now is just as frantic, but in prep work. Finishing up the last minute decisions, writing the letter, updating the web site etc. I spend all day making as much soap as possible, running around from task to task, doing half of it, while my mind reels out of control, jotting notes, starting another little task, another little pile. Printing labels, making supply runs, endless lists, questioning everything. So, so dull.

And the blog? Well, there's hardly time to write. But I can't think straight enough to get a sentence out anyway. And honestly, even thinking about doing a blog post seems like another chore. You know what happens when you commit to a personal blog? Your whole perception of your day, your life changes - like you work your way through each activity thinking about how to describe it to strangers rather than just doing it and moving on. Should I write about this? or this? or this? Oh, maybe I should be taking a picture of my breakfast? Or talk about what I had for dinner? which might be interesting, if it weren't just toast or noodles.

So alas, I'm just incredibly busy. Doing the doing that has to be done right now. And not having any kind of entertaining thoughts about any of it. Just head down. Shoulders hunched and sore. A slight headache. Because I'm a one-gal show over here and there's way too many things on my plate at the moment. It's like this every year. This one isn't worse, or better. It just is and that's what I do.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vasa Park This Week


This week is the fall Country Creations show at Vasa Park Ballroom on Lake Sammamish in Bellevue. Just to explain again, this is a different show than the Country Crafts (unique names, huh?) show that was at Vasa Park for a million years. Sue quit the business and the show stopped for a couple of years, until last year when Sandy Roundy started her show in that same location. So it's a little different organization. Some of the same vendors, some new ones. Lots of fall gift and home decor.

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: October 15-17
Hours: Thursday and Friday 10am to 7pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm

Link to directions: Vasa Park Resort

The past few days has been a whirlwind of laying pavers for a path and a patio in back. Everything hurts - hands, knees, back. So loading the car doesn't look that fun this morning.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Group Health Shop


This week I am starting my first of two little holiday gift shops at Group Health. I am "renting" their little retail space on Capitol Hill to set up my own gift shop for the next 3 days. A portion of all of the sales goes to their Patient Needs Fund, which buys supplies and necessities for patients there, part of their Volunteer Program.

It's a great time to start shopping for Christmas presents a little early, just to spread out the budget a bit. And this year, consumables are the way to go. Nobody wants "stuff" this year. But a little treat that you can use up quickly and enjoy is just the ticket. Soap and bath goodies are better than food, because you don't have to worry about your waistline!

Dates:
Wednesday through Friday,
October 7 - 9
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.

I'll be back there for a few days at the beginning of December with the winter holiday products for last-minute Christmas shopping too.

Monday, October 05, 2009

October

It's all good. The weekend ended up being beautiful weather, though a bit chilly on Saturday. And sales were great. But what's even better?

The sweetest little girl stopped by the booth with her family to sniff up the soaps. She picked up one after another, mmmmm'ing and ahhhhh'ing until she got to one specific one. With the bar smooshed up under her nose she cried "Oh Mommy, I love this one! I could smell it for my entire life!!" Yes indeed.

It happens to be my favorite one too. But I'm not telling which one. Because if you don't care for it, you'll think we're crazy. And if you happen to feel that way about one of the others, I don't want to make you doubt your choice. Hopefully somebody thinks that about each and every flavor.

It's all good.

This week I'm at Group Health - my own temporary shop space that I've done in the past. Wednesday through Friday. I'll get the details together and post that later. There's way too much to do today to get ready for it all. Just wanted to pop in and say it was a great weekend and life is good. That's all it takes.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Issaquah Salmon Days



This is the 40th anniversary of Salmon Days in downtown Issaquah. This year’s festivities promise to be the best ever with all your favorites...the Grande Parade, delicious Foods of the World, creative and colorful arts and crafts, exciting live entertainment, and our central hub of family fun at the Field of Fun.

Dates: Saturday and Sunday, October 3 and 4, 2009
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've got all kinds of info here - schedules of entertainment, maps, etc.

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

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bits


The blog has been left by the wayside I'm afraid. So busy at the Fair and everything else too.

This has been amazing weather, huh? So warm, so sunny, so beautiful. I love the September light. It's softer, more diffused than the blaring summer sun. As it moves so much quicker across the sky, the dappled patterns, filtered through the leaves is lovely. And the deeper, more distinct colors at sunrise and sunset are breath-taking. The last couple of evenings have been so warm and perfect - as we were leaving the Fair the other night I thought it just couldn't be a nicer night to be out and enjoying the world. A very special year this year.

...

I dropped a bottle of Almond fragrance oil this morning. Crashed into smithereens on the cement basement floor. I can't stand the stink. Really. I've cleaned, then mopped, then steam cleaned. I've used a roll of paper towels and newspapers and rags. Torn apart everything in the vicinity and soaped it clean. And it still stinks to high heaven. I have to leave the house now.

...

My December show schedule just fell apart. I'm working on it - but there's a good chance I won't be at Phinney Ridge this year. I hate to even type that. I'm trying not to even think that it could be possible since it's my best show each year. Just send good vibes that I'll be in my same little spot in the red room again.

...

Roasted poblano peppers. Delicious. Mild but with kick. I just got a dozen of them in our CSA box this week, so I could roast them and freeze them for stews and stuff later. We ate stuffed ones last week and they were amazingly good. So this week we got a bunch more to preserve for later. My tomato plants are still pumping out fruits, and they are still super tasty. Usually by this time they are getting bitter, or thick skinned due to the cold snaps at night, or never getting ripe due to the colder, greyer days. But this September, we are still in tomato heaven. Hoorah! Tomato sandwiches on english muffins with cream cheese for lunch.

Gotta head out and do errands or something now. I just have to leave this stinking house.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Puyallup Fair 2009


Bonus double post today. Only because I'm late in announcing the Puyallup Fair this year. It actually started today - this morning was the free day. But if you're a real fair-goer, you probably already knew about that. This year the advertising line is "The Big Fantastic." It's big. I hope it's fantastic too.

I'm participating in the Artists in Action gallery this year, like I have the past few years. It's a really big undertaking, but pretty exciting too -and a much needed boost for me in September. We are located in the Artists in Action space, which is on the ground floor under the Grandstand. We have a little handcrafted artisan boutique -- a mix of pottery, fiber arts, painting, basketry, jewelry, clothing and a bunch of other stuff, which is my category - always the "other stuff" part.

New at my display this year: lip balms in a 3-pack, two different assortments of flavors; the Pacific Northwest Collections, which I've had since last winter, but didn't bring to this show last year; and the white berry basket gift sets. They have a bar of soap and one of the hand-crocheted washcloths in them, and I'm selling them there for $12, which is a bit of a bargain, since I've been selling them for $12.95 elsewhere all year. Snap them up, people!

Anyway, I wanted to post the details on the Puyallup Fair gig, in case anyone's headed over there in the next two weeks. It's like the biggest thing that happens all year for some folks, even if they are just going one night for an onion burger and a concert. Lots of great entertainment in the line up.

Puyallup Fair

The Fair is open September 11th through the 27th. Sunday through Thursday 10am-10pm. Fridays and Saturdays 10am -11pm.

The "Artists in Action" area, is in the Merchants Building -- the lower level of the Grandstand, at the west end, next to the Fisher Scone windows. It's a boutique style craft show, with lots of pottery and fiber arts, demos every day with artists demonstrating their techniques and craft. It's a central cashier style thing, with all of us artists in baseball caps milling around on the floor, meeting and greeting our guests. Don't mind the elephant ear crumbs on our shirts, we can't help ourselves.

The website (www.thefair.com) has more info about maps, directions, parking, concert and event schedules, ways to get discounted tickets, the works.

September

It's such a beautiful day today in Seattle. Crystal clear blue skies. The sunlight is dappled and rippling, likes waves on the water - so much different than a mid-summer sunny day. Yet it's warm and gorgeous. Almost exactly the same kind of day we had here on that horrible Sept. 11 eight years ago.

What I remember most about that day, besides how truly horrific and terrible it was, is that the day itself was so absolutely beautiful. Glued to my couch and the teevee for the entire day, I remember repeatedly walking to the doorway or the back yard and just looking up at the sky in wonder at how pretty it could be, especially on a day so full of tragedy. Of course it was a lot more quiet that day. No traffic, no planes in the sky, just silence. Today is the usual noise and hustle and bustle.

It's been a long time. Lots of things have changed. Most of them not for the better, if I'm being honest. 2001 was a good year for me overall. For the business, for all kinds of things. The past few, not so much. Not being a whiner or complaining, but it's been kind of tough lately.

Whenever I hear that ridiculous question, "do you feel safer today than you did then?" I just have to shake my head. How could you possibly? Nobody in their wildest imaginations thought something like that could happen here. But after witnessing that live, now you can imagine all kinds of horrors, happening all over, in all kinds of ways - ways that can never fully be prevented. The naivete is lost, and once gone, cannot be returned.

Today I'm just enjoying the beauty. I've got loads of work, but I need to just poke my head out, or eat my little lunch under the perfect sky and breathe deep. It's just too pretty to ignore. Life is good.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Autumn Newsletter 2009



Just cross-posting the new fall newsletter here as well. It's in the mail today, and in the email inboxes too. Plus the web site has been updated with all the new products.

I've been working on the site a bit too - rearranging it just a tad to make it easier to use. There's a "BUY NOW" button for all the products, rather than a list of tabs on the home page for each type of product, which was a bit more confusing and redundant. On the BUY NOW page is the one big-ass disclaimer about how the purchasing works for me - the little lecture about how the orders get processed back at the ranch, with shipping and taxes added later, rather than insto-presto while you are online. I've said all that before so I won't take up space here again on that, but as always, let me know if anything is unclear. And then the links to the soap page, the spray page, the gift items page, the seasonal stuff page (which I will feature new each season but always have available) and the clearance sale page. I think it makes a little more sense, even though it's one more level of clicking. It sort of clears up a lot of information all over the place that didn't quite make it across. I think. Anyway, here's the fall news scoop:

It's hard to believe our glorious summer is fading into fall, but the shorter days and cooler weather are signaling the winds of change. After all those days of record-breaking heat and endless sunshine, the return to our "usual" weather - chilly, breezy, drizzly - somehow feels like a welcome old friend who's been away too long.

As we head indoors, reacquainting ourselves with sweaters and hot tea, it feels like a return to the basics. Simple pleasures and appreciating what's right in front of us just feels right, especially now when Fall has so many treasures to offer. Although Autumn's magic sometimes sweeps by too quickly, the breath-taking color show of the trees and an over-abundant harvest is more than enough gifts for just one short season.

AUTUMN SEASONAL SOAPS

Autumn's cool, crisp air crystallizes our senses. The whisper of wind, the crunch of dead leaves, 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 Carrot: Scented with creamy pumpkin, rich vanilla, and a sprinkling of spice, it's always one of the most popular soaps we make each fall, but this year's soap has a little something extra. Carrot powder adds both depth of orange color and nutrient properties too. Carrots are packed with vitamins, have anti-aging benefits, and help heal dry, cracked or chapped skin, a common problem as we head into cooler weather.

Cinnamon Pear: Luscious yellow pear topped with a touch of cinnamon, this soap smells warm and delicious. It's the perfect little indulgence - sudsing up with this fruity delight is a simple daily luxury which nobody should live without.

Honey Orange Clove: Sweet orange, a dash of pomander cloves, and a spoonful of soothing honey. This is a lighter scented soap, with the added benefits of pure honey. Calming and hydrating are just a few of honey's wonders for skin - it heals and reduces infection too. The bright orange and clove scent is a traditional holiday treat I look forward to each year.

AUTUMN AROMATIC SPRAYS

The Autumn aromatic sprays 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. ($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 crackle-snap of crunchy leaves, and bobbing for apples.

Vanilla Bean 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 rich vanilla with a sprinkling of cinnamon spice.

HOLIDAY LIP BALMS

Just for the Autumn season, I've added Pumpkin Pie, Egg Nog and Hot Cocoa 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

BERRY BASKET SETS

Our sweet little vintage-style wire berry baskets are now white in color. They are 5 inches square, with wood handles and perfectly sized for gift basket making. Adorable with a bar of a soap and one of the little cotton scrubbie accessories - it's a charming way to decorate your bathroom with flair and fragrance. And they can be used for almost anything later - collecting keys on the front table to holding towels on the bathroom sink, to decorating your fall home. Check out the photos on the web site! (Set - $12.95)

MY OWN SHOP - 2 MORE GUEST APPEARANCES

I'll be repeating my temporary Group Health storefront two times this fall. I will have my own little retail shop for a few days in October and again in December. Group Health has a tiny jewel of a storefront that they loan it out to artists from time to time, and a percentage of all 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 7 - 9, and December 9 - 11. 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. See the Show Schedule page for more details.

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

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Tomato Jam


Tomato jam. Best stuff ever. And it uses up a whole bunch of tomatoes that are coming at me too fast to eat fresh right now. I've made batch after batch of sauce in the last month. The little sungold cherry tomatoes, which ripen at about 100 a day, make an amazing sauce. But I've already got lots of bags of various kinds of tomato sauce in the freezer.

I've oven dried tomatoes, and frozen more tomatoes. And then yesterday I tasted some tomato jam at a restaurant -- just dotted on the plate with some cheese and a chunk of baguette. I had forgotten how delicious it is. And since I had another whole basket of tomatoes at home on the counter, I decided to make jam this morning. Oh, I'll need to do more sauce too, probably later today, and still have a few sandwiches for lunch and salads for dinner. There's still more tomatoes every day.

SInce I haven't made the jam in awhile, I googled a recipe and decided to go with Mark Bittman's recipe in the New York Times from last summer. Of course I had to make my own little tweaks to it. Mostly because I used more tomatoes than called for - so I added a touch more sugar, adjusted all the other stuff to my liking or due to pantry shortages, etc. Not too sweet, it has a kick of heat to it, and some great spices. Lordy, it came out good. And the best part? Two whole pounds of tomatoes are gone which made just these 3 little jars of jam. It will be eaten up so fast I didn't even process the jars. Just stuck them in the fridge.

Mmmmm. I just might need to make this again before the season is over. I'll want to have some of it last into the winter.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Front Page News


How funny! My plum tree is the top story of the Seattle Times today. Plum crazy - the story takes up about half of the whole front page.

I had no idea it would be such a big deal - maybe a little thing in the local section, or the life section on a Saturday. But it's great publicity for CityFruit.org, who I've mentioned here before. They are a bit overwhelmed with the the harvesting right now, because everything gets ripe at the same time. So spreading out the volunteers and pickers, delivering the fruit to all the various food banks and organizations must be a gigantic amount of work. Good for them. I hope this helps them out in some way.

This little ol' plum tree might be famous, but it's still a headache. Even though we've gotten a couple hundred pounds of fruit off of it at least, it's still loaded at the top with stuff we can't reach. And it's over-ripe now, and dropping bombs all over the sidewalk, the yard and our heads. It's getting trimmed back for next year, so I don't have to use so many poles to keep the branches off my electric wires and internet cable.

So today's story is plums. I really didn't know how many people still read the paper - we've gotten so many calls and emails this morning. A couple of cooking tips - if you're doing any cooking with them, they get brown fast. Toss them in a little lemon juice immediately. I made a delicious salad last night with slices of plums, halved cherry tomatoes (which I also have a LOT of right now), a bit of feta cheese, and a handful of mint leaves chopped. Since there was already a bunch of lemon juice on the plums, for dressing I added a teaspoon of honey, a splash of white wine vinegar and a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Super juicy and the peak of tastiness.

Oven drying was not the best. There's a Martha Stewart recipe (and variations) all over the internet which worked out well. I substituted a spice blend with a little star anise and cinnamon for the thyme leaves. You cook them on low for 3 hours and then turn off the oven overnight. They are totally juicy and not at all dried the next day. Tasted great though, and I froze them. The second time I tried this I decided to cook them all night (at 200) like I've done for oven dried tomatoes, which come out exactly like sun-dried. That is to say, actually dry. I was aiming for more of a prune or dried fruit like thing. But they were still a bit wetter the next morning, and had a terribly bitter taste. Totally inedible. I'm sure a food dehydrator would work, but I don't have one of those.

So mostly I've cooked sauces and frozen them. Some sweet, some savory for pork and chicken later. This year I did not can them into jam. I don't like it as well - my plums just get this weird gold/brown color and it doesn't make a pretty jam. Right now I'm so sick of them, I don't want to do anything else with them. They are best just fresh off the tree, but you can only do that for so long and then you want a dang banana or an orange. Anything but another plum.

Did I mention that I fell off the ladder? Right in front of the reporter while he was taking notes for the story? No? Probably because that's the most embarrassing thing ever. Yes there was a 911 call. And a fire truck raced over with sirens blaring. Super cute guys - one named "Almond" and one named "Berry." I kid you not. We could have made a great dessert together, but they had to go back to work. I am fine. A couple of bruises, nothing major. Not even a stiff neck, no broken bones, no major head injury or body cast. I guess I got very lucky. Just a little overzealous with getting that next branch and the ladder started to tip on the un-even hill. Dumb. I know. I'm still cringeing with how stupid the whole thing was. And now there's a front page news story to remind of that happy day. With photos of my chin in color and large pixels taking up half the front section. Hoo boy.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Random Bits


Somehow life got too busy for the blog. Almost a week after I finished the Anacortes show, I'm finally able to breathe again. In a few small spots I can even see the surface of my desk.

So here's what's new. Anacortes turned out to be a fairly good show. Even though I lost my corner space at the last minute and had an invisible spot in front of an empty bakery storefront, facing the giant double Costco-sized booth of some other guy's soap (argh!), I did ok. Pretty much the same as the last couple of years, so that's a ginormous achievement given the way all my other summer sales went.

Now it's on to fall. The fall newsletter, the fall soap production, the fall updates on the web site. All things fall. It even feels like fall. The chilly days of grey and rain, the leaves dropping everywhere, the summer plants that have all yellowed out and turned to crisp. I know we've got sunshine and summer for a few more weeks, starting tomorrow I guess. But right now, it's back to sweatshirts and pumpkin spice smells.

Soaps gone bad: I think I've found the problem that has been shortening the shelf-life of my soaps the past few months. Earlier this year I had changed the brand of one of my base oils. Turns out it was a slight variation of what I had been using in the past, and when I calculated out the recipe, it was not quite right. I've changed back to the old brand and there should be no more problems with the soaps I am making now. Tried to cut costs a little and it didn't work out - it backfired. I'm so frustrated.

The bottom line is this: any soaps that you may have gotten from me during the last 5 months or so do not have the same shelf life of the soaps you've grown accustomed to. If you haven't used them already, get them out pretty quickly. Some are fine, some are turning a little slimy or getting tiny orange spots. If it's already turned, do not panic. The soap itself is still good and usable, although not as attractive. But if you'd like to exchange it for a new bar, please feel free to call, email or contact me and I'll cheerfully replace it. If it's a seasonal one that is out of stock, then we'll do something else you like. But it's important to me that you don't just get disgusted and stop ordering - it was a temporary mistake that I've fixed and will not happen in the future. Anything not quite right up to this point, I'll replace at no charge.

I'll have to do a little blurb about all this in the fall mailing, but if you've been reading along here, I'm posting it early so that you can check your bars and use them up now instead of putting them in deep storage for winter or later. They won't last much longer. And again, if they're gone - I'll replace the bad ones.

Canning: hoo boy is it canning season. The tomatoes are constant, so we've tried oven drying. That doesn't work so good for cherry tomatoes. We made sauce and froze it. We've pickled. Bread and butter pickles with cukes this time. Twice. I've done strawberry and raspberry jam. And the plum tree just turned. Solid Ground/City Fruit are going to harvest over the weekend, to bring the hundred of pounds of plums to local food banks - plus a school organization that is going to dry them for lunch programs and snacks. BTW, if you've got a fruit tree in your yard that you'd like to have harvested and donated, go to CityFruit.org and get on the list. Even if it's for next year. They are a new group and just starting lists so that next year they can coordinate neighborhoods and harvest times better. Super great people.

NW Art Alliance (Best of the Northwest shows) finally hired a new executive director. Pamela Rembold, who was the interim director during the summer, is the new head honcho. She's wonderful, and very committed to building the organization, with a new focus on marketing our shows. Everyone else on staff previously has left. So it's all new, quite hopeful and freshly invigorated. We are still doing the fall show at Seattle Center - probably spread out between the Exhibition Hall and the Northwest Rooms like last year, which wasn't ideal but already committed to for this year. Except this time we might actually have some advertising.

The Puyallup Fair is right around the corner too - starts Sept.11. So I'm getting busy on plans for that too. I want to bring some lip balms again, but in a different kind of combo package. New styles of baskets for gift sets. Maybe a few different salts or spray flavors just for the fair. The past few years have given me a good idea of what that bunch of folks likes - and high on the list is vanilla and patchouli. So I want to make sure I've that all that and more. And the fishermen want the anise soap. Check.

I'm done with summer shows and summer stuff. I'm moving on to fall. Hoping to finally get around to doing another round of clearance stuff on the sale section and send something to the email list, which hasn't happened in months either.

And lastly: Bill Morris, the elegant, gentleman, calm in a sea of chaos - it was such a pleasure to work along side you for so many years. You'll be deeply missed. RIP.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Anacortes Arts Festival


This weekend is the Anacortes Arts Festival. The fifth show in five weeks. And the last one of the summer for me. So if you've put off stopping by to stock up - this is your last chance. Final call before fall comes around, which (gasp!) is right around the bend. But don't say that too loud.

Next week is going to feel so good. When I unload the car, I get to to actually put stuff away for a bit. And not spend the entire week getting ready for another show. The canopy is pooped, and I am too.

But Anacortes is my biggest show of the summer and I'm looking forward to ending the season with a humdinger. If you haven't been before, or haven't been in awhile, it's worth driving over and checking out. So many blocks after blocks of local artists and the best of the handmade stuff in our region. All kinds of stuff going on - a juried fine art exhibition, over 250 juried booth artisans, two music stages, international food court and beer garden, a hands-on youth area, fiber show at the Depot, working artist area, poetry reading at the port and more.

Anacortes Arts Festival

This is one of the largest and most popular art fairs in the entire Pacific Northwest, with

Dates: August 7, 8 AND 9
Times: Friday and Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 10am-5pm
Location: Downtown Anacortes, on Commercial Ave between the port and 10th
Soapworks Studio booth location: same location as last year, directly in front of the empty space that used to be La Vie en Rose Bakery, near the corner of 5th street, on the West side. Booth # 419W. So sad - the bakery is gone this year.

Looking forward to seeing all my Anacortes friends!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Week in Review

Ouch.

Coupeville was lousy this year. It's never a big show for me anyway, but it's such a pleasant town, and I have regulars on the island. I've skipped a couple years in the last four years there - just to save expenses. It's an overnight stay, plus ferry, plus gas and meals. And being just the weekend after Anacortes, I figure most people have already just seen me in that little neck of the woods. But Anacortes and Coupeville switched weekends this year, so I thought I'd give it another whirl and see how things went. Why not?

Turned out to be my worst show there ever. My profit was next to nothing. Again. Worst summer ever. I'm in a bit of shock, frankly. To be just about at the end of my summer show blitz, and have so little money after all that work is hard to take in.

This coming weekend is Anacortes, and it's always my biggest show of the entire season, so I'm going to try to end it with a bang. Fingers crossed. And toes. And eyes.

Another little issue. In all this heat wave, I've had a few batches of soap start to turn bad. I've never had soap go bad in the past. Even after a couple of years of sitting around. These are ones that I made in the early spring, or even later. It's a big surprise and I'm not sure what is causing it. The new recipe of shea butter and hemp oil? That seems the obvious first choice, but I've used this recipe for a year and a half now, and they've not done this yet. It would take a lot more time of experimenting to pin that down - and waiting around for another six months to see what works and what doesn't. Obviously the heat and sunlight don't help, and we are at the end of that now with the fall just around the corner.

What this means is . . . well I don't know. I have to make some changes to the process, the recipe, the way I store them, what I keep on hand and for how long. All of it. I'm starting to adjust the recipe a little this month and will watch to see how it all goes, but I won't have answers until next spring. I am also temporarily not making a few scents of soap that don't sell as well, but that I keep on hand for a small loyal following. That's the Sacred Smoke soap and the Anise soap. I've got to have a new batch of Anise for Puyallup in September, but after that, I won't make more batches for a bit until I've figured it all out. The Smoke soap is done for now. The batch I had in inventory, which I made in the spring is starting to ooze little brown goo, which means that one of the oils has gone bad. I have to toss the whole thing.

While I'm in this business slump, I can't afford to have money tied up in inventory that doesn't move, and ends up going to waste. I can only keep going on the most popular scents. As I plan the new fall scents, I have to be ruthless with what I'm going to spend supply money on. If I end up disappointing a few people by not having something in stock, I truly apologize. This is temporary, I hope.

I just don't know any answers at the moment. I'm sort of reeling and overwhelmed by all of it. I'm not sure what to do. I'm still going to do all my fall and winter shows, and both the fall and winter newsletters with full seasonal products. The next four months is when I do probably half of my sales for the year and I have to make a go of it.

That's the ugly truth from here. I can't vouch for any other artist, any other soap seller, or the world at large. Maybe it's just me, but I suspect that most other people are having a tough time too overall, even if sales are up or down at specific shows. Gosh, I'd hate to lose this whole thing now - after 13 years. I don't have a Plan B.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Melting

Did you survive the historic heat wave this week? WOW! 103 degrees on Wednesday. That's hawt.

Last night's cool down was so nice. What a pleasant change. Today I'm just dealing with noise. The hydro's racing around the lake can be heard humming from here. And the air show, with the Blue Angels and other screaming stuff overhead starts in just a bit. It's definitely summer.

This weekend is the Coupeville Arts Festival. I am posting the info here in case you're heading over there.

It's downtown Coupeville, in a huge square on the main streets - along Front Streets and Coveland Streets, from Alexander to Main Streets. My usual spot is right in front of the museum at the corner of Front and Alexander. But I lost that space by not being there last year - this time I'm right across the street from there, facing my old spot. I think it's going to be a bit sunnier and hotter, because the afternoon sun goes the other way. But luckily the forecast is for slightly cooler temperatures. And hopefully the island will have a nice breeze.

Hours: August 1 and 2, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm.

There's kid's activities, food booths, an artists in action area - all the usual stuff. It's always cool on the ferries, and there's plenty of beaches on the island to dip a toe in the frigid ocean. Sounds pretty good to me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hot Days

Whew, it's hot and getting hotter. This week is going to be record breaking for us in the Pacific Northwest.

The Bellevue show last weekend was already hot. There was so much hype about how high the temperatures were going to get that I think everyone made plans to go to the beach or something instead of coming over to the show. It was dead and sales were so slow that it turned out truly awful. So disappointing.

And I came back to find that my pumpkins are suffering the dreaded powdery mildew disease now too. They looked great on Friday morning. And Monday morning the entire thing is a goner. There's nothing to be done at this point, it's too far gone to save anything. Total bummer. Now I remember why I decided a few years back to skip the veggie growing and just do flowers. You work so hard, spend so much extra time watering and caring for them, fighting bugs, fighting diseases, mulching etc and then they don't put out. I'm back to thinking I should just save all my time and energy - not to mention water bills - and just shop at the farmer's markets. Let the experts do the farming. I'll just do my picking there instead of the back yard. It usually looks better than what I grow anyway.

The exception is the tomatoes. I love those and they always do well here. They are exploding now in all this sunshine and I'm already giving some away, having more ripe ones than I can eat this week.

And OH MY GOD the plums! I have a plum tree in the front, little green things. Don't know what they are and I've never liked them all that much, even though they are tasty and free and no work at all. The neighbors go crazy for them, and I let them pick as much as they want. But this year? This year is different. I've never seen so many fruits in my whole life. The branches are so low you can hardly get under it. One big branch cracked and split under the weight over the weekend. And I spent Monday morning scrounging every piece of bamboo pole, 2x4, lumber scrap, pvc pipe, garden stake etc to prop up branches. I had to get them off the electrical wires too. It was starting to get really scary. So the front yard looks ridiculous - dozens of poles propping up branches all over the place. It's like a funhouse trying to maneuver around the poles, up the steps, and to the front door.

Cityfruit.org is keeping track of city fruit trees, with a huge list of projects they have in the works - from growing to help with harvesting. We've contacted Seattle Tilth to have volunteers come harvest the fruit this year, donating the plums to food banks etc. But we've got a few weeks before they are fully ripe and it's nuts out there.

The cats are totally crashed out, they are so hot. We keep trying to relocate them to cool spots in the basement or breezy windows - it's cooler inside, but they insist on being outside under the plants, their little fur coats must be so miserable. This week is Seafair - the boat races and the Blue Angels screaming overhead all week. The jets arrive today, which will make the cats even more unhappy. And a bit scary even for us.

And it's Coupeville this weekend. I'm already working on that. Anacortes and Coupeville switched weekends this year and Coupeville comes first in August. I'll get info and link up in a bit. Promise. I'm pickling beets this morning and need to get back to it. Super cute candy striped Chioggia beets in a crazy yummy pickling brine. Just a couple bunches of beets from Bellevue's Sunday market. Not a year's supply. Well, maybe that is a year's supply. I mean I like beets, but a jar of pickled beets can go a long way.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bellevue - 6th St Fair


Since I blew it last week, I am definitely not going to forget to post the particulars for this weekend's show. It's usually a really good show, so I'm hoping for the best again this year.

This weekend is the Bellevue Arts Fair extravaganza. It's actually three different shows, all going on simultaneously in downtown Bellevue. The Bellevue Arts Museum ArtsFair, is the fancy pants show in the garage of the Bellevue Square Mall. It's exclusively fine art and is the biggest draw for national artists to travel here. The second show is called Bellevue Festival of the Art and is located in the Cost Plus parking lot across the street from Bell Square. Also only traditional fine art categories and lots of lovely folks there, another 300 artists or more.

And the third show - my show - is the 6th Street Fair. Now, this is not the poor cousin of art shows - it's just an extension of folks who show locally, and they in fact allow some other categories too, like traditional crafts, which are not allowed in the other two shows. Soapmaking is obviously not high end fine art. So the only show that me and others like me can even participate in, is Sixth Street. And believe me, there are some very lovely artists in our show too. All kinds of things, from furniture to glass, pottery, jewelry, woodworking - but also soap, candles, fabric arts etc., gift items that don't require a year's worth of salary to invest in. There are 120 artists, food booths and music stages over our way. If you've oodles of time, it's nice to visit the whole entire hullabaloo and see everything. The weather is supposed to be hot and sunny, hopefully not too hot as has happened in previous years. This particular calendar weekend usually breaks heat records in the summer, but I'll be in my same old spot under the tree in the shade.

Details: 6th Street Fair
downtown Bellevue along 6th Street

Friday, July 24: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Saturday, July 25: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Sunday, July 26: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Soapworks Studio Booth Location: I am located in #3, at the corner of 106th & 6th, right in front of the California Pizza Kitchen, facing east towards the Bellevue Galleria complex. Same spot as last few years!

Side note: I made mozarella cheese today! It's messy and sort of weird. I had no idea that a gallon of milk had so little curd and so much whey. But it still made a good amount of cheese. I'll make pizza tonight I think. It's a tad tasteless. I added a bit of salt, but I think I'd add a sprinkle more next time. It's never a super tasty cheese anyway, but it will be fresh and lovely with all my ripening tomatoes and pots of basil, especially after the weekend's heat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fromage


Dudes, I totally forgot to post the specifics about Gig Harbor before the show last week. I came down with a snotty little cold over the weekend, and have been a little spaced out. The weather was perfect, and the weekend turned out lovely anyway.

I took it a little slow yesterday, mainly because that was all I could manage. But I've got a full plate this week in order to be ready for the Bellevue show this weekend. It's another 3 day show, and one of my biggest, so there is quite a lot to be done.

In between all this work work, I've made a couple of batches of cheese. Yes, you heard right, cheese. Mascarpone and chevre to be exact. And they turned out quite nicely for the first experiment. I plan to do more. It's easy! In fact, as I was reading through all the instructions for the harder cheeses - the molded ones and the rind ones - it sounded a lot like soap making. I think I might just be able to do this. Where can I find sheep's milk I wonder. Mozzarella is next. There are so many to try. Yum, cheese.

I was reading the other day about the tomato blight on the east coast - it's awful. So disappointing to put in all that hard work and then have the plants die off before you can get any crop. I know, that's what's happened to a bunch of my squash in the front. I'm trying to save 2 little ones off in the corner which still have healthy leaves on them, but the other ones are gone. I have no idea if it came from my soil or came from the plant itself, but it's awful. The pumpkins on the lower terrace are growing like mad, but my treasured little round zukes and yellow summer squash are no more. My tomatoes are incredible - biggest plants ever and they are all starting to turn this week. I've had a few small handfuls of cherry tomatoes, and the romas might be good for dinner. It's going to be so hot the next few days - I'm sure they will all ripen and fall off while I'm working in Bellevue on the weekend. I'll have to get up extra early to harvest.

In case anyone is wondering, business has been down. The shows are ok, some really awful, some just down a bit from last year, some borderline ok, nothing great. It dawned on me about a week ago that this soap business might just be a pot of hot water and I'm the frog. I'm hoping I can hold on this year and wait for the economy to pick up. At the moment, I'm in too deep with summer and fall commitments that I don't have a minute to make new plans or change anything. I just have to hang in there through this bunch of shows and see where I'm at in mid-August.

Favorite quote (at least this week): "It's not about miracles, it's about persistance." Gotta keep plugging away at it, that's all I can do.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July

Beautiful day today. Nice to have a bit of warm sunshine again after a few days of cool and cloudy.

Farmer's Market Day at Columbia City. And we've joined a CSA too, so we are up to our eyeballs in fresh produce. The best thing I've cooked this week: sauteed a summer squash with spring onions, garlic and sugar snap peas - a sprinkling of herbs de Provence tossed in. The peas stayed nice and crunchy but sweetened up even more than raw, the squash got that perfect melty brown - so delicious. There is sweet corn at the markets this week - it tastes terrible. I'll wait a while to try that again. And we're freezing flats of raspberries and blueberries to keep for winter. I got a half flat of the final strawberries of the season on Sunday. Got a few minutes to make jam on Monday evening - with a splash of balsamic and a hint of ginger. It's so yummy. The last bits in the pot that didn't fit in a jar made an amazing salad dressing, just mixed with olive oil and red wine vinegar. The perfect sweet tart for arugula, pecans and goat cheese. Oh and raspberry liqueur - we made just a little and couldn't help drinking it all once, it was that good. There will be more.

My own little garden is having a small crisis. All the squash and zuchini are catching some stupid blight or powdery mildew. I've been picking leaves, spraying with a natural spray and trying whatever I can to save them, but it seems to be moving from one plant over to the next. I'm so bummed. I have a few unusual squash and dark green pumpkins out front that I was really looking forward to. Fingers crossed I can save even a little something.

What I'm reading: Animal, Vegetable. Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and Mollie Wizenberg's new book, A Homemade Life, plus all the gossip on Michael Jackson that comes out daily. What I'm watching: the Tour de France, Wipeout, Superstars, Ghost Hunters, pretty much nothing on tv. Waiting for: Harry Potter at the Imax, ripe tomatoes, a few free days in August. What's percolating in the business: working on fall scents, finishing the fall show schedule, changes to the web site and email marketing, how to survive after a month of super crappy shows.

So that's the nutshell of what's going on here - vegetables and work. I'm buzzing around getting ready for Gig Harbor this weekend. I'll post the details on that tomorrow.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

West Seattle Street Fair


This weekend is the West Seattle Street Fair - Friday through Sunday, July 10-12. It's a great community festival and everyone turns out for it. It's at "The Junction" on California Avenue. So all the restaurants up there set up sidewalk cafes, spilling out onto the streets. The shops bring tables out to the curb and have little sidewalk sales. There are beer gardens, bands and evening street dances. There's a huge kiddie playground area with those big blow up thingies to jump on and in. Fun for everyone. And shopping. Handmade crafts, arts, import stuff, and great goods. Plus a bunch of commercial sales-y stuff like chiropractors, vinyl siding, insurance, and nursing homes - soup to nuts at this one, but in a good way.

Friday and Saturday hours are 10am-8pm. Sunday is 11am to 7pm. I'll be in the north block, about mid-way, facing East (booth #102). Sorta near Matador's, maybe up a few booths or so, if you know where that is. It's the next little bunch of booths up from where I've been the last couple of years in front of Jak's.

So, that's the business bit. I know, right? It's all business and no play around here any more. Boring.

Here at the studio, it's been a holiday weekend of play. My last bit of summer for a while. I've got shows scheduled for the next 5 weeks in a row and I'm feeling a little blue about it. At the moment, the very cusp of the show blitz, I'm regretting that decision. But it's necessary. I have to make hay while the sun shines. And I'm going to need a lot of hay to catch up this year.

July is smack dab in the middle of summer and it's so full. The Tour de France and Bastille Day - I love to sip rose' and celebrate that. Birthdays. Setting up my calendar of fall shows. Starting to make all the fall soaps and plan Christmas. Harvesting scads of tomatoes - all that early hot weather has my tomato plants just loaded with fruits that are a few days away from turning color. The new Harry Potter movie at the Imax. I want to can stuff this year - pickles at least, tomatoes, maybe jam. Picnics. I've got stuff to do man, and all this working 7 days a week for a month and a half just doesn't fit. Phoooey.

What are you guys doing? Having any fun?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Best of the Northwest/Art 30


Art 30 is the new name for the new incarnation of the summer show that Best of the Northwest is doing. The last few years it's been in Marymoor Park (Redmond) in mid-August. This year it's back at Magnuson Park off Sand Point Way and it's June.

If you're following along to the Best of the Northwest story, we are probably never going back to the old location in the Hangar at the Naval station. The Cliff Notes version is that the building was decaying into such bad shape that the city wanted to sell it to a developer rather than fix it. And then a developer decided to buy it and fix it up. But it was to be for their own purposes and no longer available to be rented out to groups. Lots of protests from the community who wanted access. The deal stood. And then the deal fell through, some financing snafoo. But the building is not habitable and not worth fixing, I guess.

The NW Art Alliance (business name for Best of the Northwest shows) has signed a longish lease at Seattle Center now for the spring and fall shows. So they'll be staying put there. But this summer show is testing the waters back at Sand Point. It's teamed up with Live Arts of Bothell, and it doing this show during the same weekend as the bicycle ride "Artride '09" along the Burke Gilman Trail.

We are going to be at Hangar 30 this time - partly inside and partly outside. The Soapworks booth is outside and luckily it will be sunny and dry all weekend, or so the forecast predicts. It's free admission at the summer shows, and there is free parking right there and we're back in Seattle. All good things, so I'm hoping this version will be successful. Do not expect as many artists though - it's a busy summer and there are lots of shows to choose from, so some of the usual artists didn't want to take a risk for this first-time show, opting instead for the tried and true. Totally expected when times are tough. I think there's about 75 artists scheduled which would still be a nice showing, but I'm not on the inside track.

Deets: Saturday and Sunday, June 27-38, 10am-6pm both days

More info at Art 30

ETA: Linkie fixed

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Boo


Yesterday I posted a picture of Louie, so it's only fair that I post a picture of my other beautiful girl, Dora. I usually call her Boo. Or Skinny Butt. or Chick Pea. She's got a hundred names.

I know. Pictures of your cat on a blog are stoooopid. I obviously don't have kid pictures to post. But some of you out there have heard so many stories about them, that maybe you want to see what they look like lately. Still super cute. Maybe the cutest cats in the world. I'm not biased :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Zzzzzz



This is what I usually feel like on a Monday after a long show. Not so bad yesterday - it was a busy day around here. But this little gal had a rough night and needed a serious snooze.

Just wanted to post a little extra cuteness.

Edmonds Arts Festival


Lots of shows in June -- this weekend I'll be at the Edmonds Arts Festival - voted "Best Street Fair" in Western Washington for 2009 by the Evening Magazine poll for NW Escapes.

One of the most prestigious fine arts fairs in the Northwest, attracting artists from across the nation -- in a beautiful setting overlooking the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. There is also live entertainment, a juried gallery exhibition, a nationally-recognized juried children's art exhibit, a hands-on children's art activity area, wonderful food and a wine bar and bistro.

Dates: June 19, 20 & 21, 2008
Hours: Fri 11:00am-9pm, Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 10am-6pm

Soapworks Booth Location: I will be in the indoor Plaza Room, the top floor of the Edmonds Library, Space #P105. Just a note, Fine Art is located in the field at the street level. Traditional Craft (which my category of soap stuffs falls under) is located above the library, in the outside plaza and inside the Plaza Room at the top floor of the library. We're all above the street, on the other side of the building complex from the other art vendors, so look for us!

For more information: Edmonds Arts Festival There are lists of participants there, maps and shuttle information, free parking and more.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sorticulture this weekend

I'm late in posting this. Sorry for the last minute. Lots of things going on - not the least of which was a water emergency the other day. Don't ask. Oh ok. I have to tell. I've been spending weeks on the front bushes. Taking them out I mean.

For the last month or so I've been hacking away at the two gigantic laurel bushes that were stupidly planted (not by us, the previous owners) right up against the house between the sidewalk and the foundation. For years I've battled those bushes, trimming them back like crazy, only to have them grow a foot in a week and flop over the sidewalk again. You couldn't even get to the front door anymore without trampsing through the flower bed on the other side of the walk to get in the house.

Then when we did the work downstairs we discovered the roots had come clear through the foundation and started growing in the basement. It was causing all kinds of trouble inside and out. It was time for them to go. So I decided heck yeah I can just rip them out myself. No problem. Right. I sawed and hacked each week until the giant yard waste bin was overloaded. Then the next week I did it again. I think it was a solid four weeks of branches and limbs. Until I got down to the two trunks sticking up out of the dirt. I started digging with my shovel. And axing. The first one would hardly budge.

Hopes dashed, I started calling around for stump grinders or someone to help. But since we live up a flight of stairs from the street, there was no equipment that could be used. I kept hearing "just dig it out by hand." So Saturday afternoon I donned the gloves and started in earnest. When I finally got the first trunk out I was ecstatic! Bliss! All my hard work and I finally did it - a hole in the ground!

That lasted about two whole minutes. I went back to get a piece of big-ass root that was caught up against the house foundation and it was really stuck in. Pushing and pulling, I felt a give and then whoooooosh - water started gushing up, making a swimming pool in the blink of an eye. I had dislodged the water main. My heart sank at the same time I ran for the shut off at the front curb. No budging it. Ran for the basement, muddy boots and all, to get tools. Ran back to the curb and finally got the water shut off. Emergency calls to plumbers, so sad.

Realistically, I knew that was going to happen. There was no way that giant root system was NOT wrapped around the water main line right there. It had come apart few years back for the same reason. I'm convinced that it was already slow leaking, the dirt seemed much damper than it should have been for that dry spot under the eaves.

What happened next was hours of panic and frantic calls. In a nutshell, there are no parts for that stupid piece of pipe from the street. They tried to convince me I needed to spend thousands and dismantle my new landscaping walls to re-dig the main line. I tried to convince them that I was not stupid and not rich. They then found a lovely fitting that worked, and a nice solid piece of copper pipe and fixed it for me. A few hundred bucks. Not a few thousand. I'm good to shower. But almost had a heart attack.

My next project? Removing a clump of bamboo that's like 30 feet high and crammed in a two foot space between the house and the patio up against the fence (again, bone-headed move of the previous owners, not me). I've spent hours the last few days trying to find a rescuer. But I'll still be digging the rhizomes out for months and years anyway. It's poking up through the patio stones again this summer, dropping leaves and messy junk all over my dinner and I just can't live with it any more. But it's beautiful and it should have a much roomier home. So we're trying to find a new owner for it.

Oh, and I'm doing a show this weekend. A gardening show. Did I forget to mention it? That was the whole purpose of the blog today. Sorticulture. If you like plants and gardening, you really should go. It's gorgeous and fabulous, filled with rare finds, new and lovely plants, garden art, funky stuff. Everett, this weekend. Link to all the seminars and talks and special guests and entertainment HERE. Plus hours and directions and map and stuff. It's free and the view is beautiful from that park up there. I so look forward to this show every year.