Monday, April 28, 2014

You want my trade secret recipe?

First off - the weekend was a bit of a bummer. Even though we were spared from really, really bad rain and high wind, and even the thunder and lightening, we did get enough rain - especially in the first few hours of the show - that a lot of people stayed home.

That was the bad news. The good news was that it was "mostly" dry and I didn't have to slog a whole bunch of wet tent bits and soggy bins to the car on Sunday evening, and there is no big huge dry-out spread around my living room and dining room today.

Another thing that happened this weekend at the tulip festival street fair was a request a brand new soaper (been doing it for a year or so) for my soap recipe.  She did not buy any of my soap, but just by fondling it, realized that it was way softer and smoother than her bars.  She uses mostly palm oil as the base because it makes the soap last longer.

(Just a thought, why would you want not-so-good soap to last even longer? but I digress..)

I told her that I was not willing to share my recipe - that it was a trade secret.  And I went on to explain that it took me 2 whole years of constant experimenting to really get the recipe adjusted to the way I like it.  Plus another 15 years of practicing it daily and weekly to get it as beautiful as it is now.

So yes, gentle tough love to all you newbie soap makers, getting your craft to become an art takes time and practice, diligence and commitment.  You can certainly make nice soap right away, don't get me wrong.  But there is something to be said for all the extra years of passion put into doing a thing that you love too.

I've not been asked outright for my recipe in a really long time.  So my answer was different this time than it was years ago.  And it got me thinking about all that trade secret stuff again.

I am generally a pretty "share-y" person, but I won't give out the proprietary information about my recipe, or where I got a specific super-cute packaging item, because that stuff is my trademark, my business, the very essence of what I'm selling and my livelihood.

I will tell you all kinds of suppliers to search on your own time and find what suits you best. I've seen them all, and I can shoot out a dozen soapmaking suppliers and packaging peeps and whatnot that you can browse online and see what grabs you.  If you are starting your own business, you should not only want to do it your own way, but you should expect to put in some time to build it yourself and not have it handed to you from somebody who already built it.  That's just how it is. Even when you see those amaaazing infomercials that tell you they are going to share all their super secret methods to make a million dollars in six months or lose 50 pounds in two weeks, you yourself still have to put in the work to make that happen.  Life, eh.

So this woman and I had a great conversation about all the qualities of different base oils in making soap, because I don't get to do that kind of insider talk with people very often and it's fun.  And here's what I will tell anybody else out there that is interested in making soap and looking for a good recipe . .

Buy some soap that you love.  Then read the label on the back.  Every product has to have a list of ingredients on it.  And they have to list them in order of volume (weight? ) on the back.  Just like food.  When you pick up a box of cereal and the first two ingredients are "wheat, sugar . ." then you know that the primary ingredient is wheat, secondarily sugar.  It's just like that for everything that has a label.

My soap labels say "Olive, coconut, palm oil, shea butter" (plus other stuff for scent and color) as the base oils of the soap.  So I use primarily olive oil, with a lesser amount of coconut oil, then even smaller bits of palm oil and shea butter.  If the other soaps you really enjoy are similar, then you're on to something.

There are literally thousands of soap recipes online, and in books too, and it is not too hard to find a recipe that starts with those base oils in that order.  Then try that one.  If you love how it turns out, you're there.  If you think you still need to modify, experiment more by adjusting those amounts, or researching more, or trying different recipes altogether.  There are so many resources online that it's ridiculous.  From Youtube videos, video tutorials on other sites, courses, databases, forums, etc. - you can find lye calculators to figure out how much lye to add once you monkey with recipes etc. It's an abundance of riches in this online world and everything is out there.

Maybe that's something I could dive into deeper in a future blog post, but for the point of wrapping this whole thing up - here's my point.  It's not hard.  DIY is everywhere.  Jump in.  Start with what you love and go from there.

Also, welcome to the club :)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What's in this stuff anyway?

Have you ever wondered what was actually in that new bottle of shampoo, or body lotion, or face cream?  And wondered if that stuff was actually good for you?

Chemicals and pesticides and toxins, oh my!  That's all you ever hear about any more.  Everything you eat and wear and put on yourself is loaded full of crappy chemicals that are unhealthy for you and probably will cause cancer at some point.  It can be pretty frightening.

But if the answer is label reading, then crap, we're sunk.  Nobody can decipher all those huge long words on every bottle, label, can, tube etc.  I know the saying, "if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it" and I suppose that is generally true.  It's the chemicals and synthetic additives that have the long scary names.  But even natural ingredients can sound bad sometimes, and I don't know about you, I never learned latin in school either.

If you want to really know what's in your beauty product something, check out Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database.  It's online, if you've got the time.  But they've also got a mobile app, which is genius if you're in the drug store browsing the shelf and just don't know which way to go - you can check it out by phone.

There is so much information over there it's ridiculous.  They have over 68,000 products by name, plus a search bar for every ingredient known to man (or woman).

They cover food too, and cleaning products for your house.  Articles, the latest research - its a wealth of great info.  Great place to get started if you're serious about taking some of the junk out of your daily routines.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Eat it. Slather it. Glow.

Total love affair with coconut over here.  Can't get enough of it.  Coconut oil happens to be one of the base oils in my soap recipe, but yesterday I made soaps with coconut milk in them too.  MMMmmmm, that creamy yumminess.  Totally coconuts for coconut.

Eat it.  Slather it.  Glow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day on Planet Earth

Ahhh yeahh, baby. 1970 was a year of hippies, flower power, rock concerts, protests and the sweet smell of patchouli (or was that weed?) in the air. It was also the year that we first celebrated "Earth Day." Protecting the environment was a relatively new concept, but raising public awareness and channelling all that student movement and protest energy into saving the planet seemed like a match made in heaven. 

On April 22, that very first year, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. In addition, thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Separate groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values and came together to create one grand vision.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, wealthy and poor, urban and rural folks, big business and labor leaders - which seems impossible to imagine given our current situation. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Fast forward 20 years to 1990 - Earth Day took a bigger step and went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage and launching recycling efforts worldwide. With the millennium, Earth Day took on global warming. Earth Day 2000 combined the high-energy movement of 1970 with the international grassroots activism of 1990, added the internet and exploded to 5,000 different environmental groups in a record-breaking 184 countries, reaching hundreds of millions of people.

Now it's 2014. We're facing more climate change and weird weather than ever, bigger oil spills, all kinds of dirty energy issues from tar sands to coal to fracking. And there's still an Earth Day every day on April 22nd all in the hopes that we can save Planet Earth in spite of ourselves. Let's get together, make some more noise, and get this thing done already, people!  We can do this!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Heads Up - Tulip Festival this weekend

This coming weekend is the big Tulip Festival street fair in downtown Mount Vernon.  Yes, and I wanted you all to know about it.  So that maybe you could load up the car with kids, dogs, mud boots, plenty of towels, and have a family outing.

Sounds messy? Leave them all behind, just come up with your girlfriends, have lunch and do a major shopping haul.  Either way's good with me :)

This is an outdoor street fair.  The first one of the year in a spring that has had a lot of rain, mixed in with a few warm jags, so the tulips are up and blooming and raring to go. Doesn't look like we'll have the drenching rains, wind storms or even snow (!) we've had in previous years. Maybe we'll get lucky and have sun breaks.

How it's all going down: Show runs Friday through Sunday, April 25-27. It's a week later than usual (due to Easter). Hours are Fri and Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm. It's located in downtown Mt Vernon, which you truly can't miss because it runs for blocks right down the main street (1st Street) from the bridge at the north, about 5 blocks south to Kincaid, which is the freeway exit off of I-5.

Soapworks Studio booth is in the same area as last year (I think I'm across the aisle from last year's spot which was across the aisle from the year before).  It's called "space #20" and it's the street intersection at Washington St. at the front doors to the Skagit Valley Co-op.

I'm bringing all my spring stuff, as well as the usual mix of everything. And I will say this again, because it holds true for every show, every time: if there is something in particular you are coming to stock up on, please shoot me a message somehow (phone, email, FB, comments below) and let me know so that I can make sure to have it with me and not disappoint you.  I really hate disappointing you by leaving that particular scent at home, or not having the full dozen that you came for to hoard in the cupboard for a year.

Ok then.  We'll do the tulip dance and beg for sunshine. I'm so over standing out there in frigid rain for days.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter - the nutso holiday

Happy Easter! Wishing you the very best celebration of a holiday that makes not a lot of sense, but that we love, love, love anyway. Maybe because there is chocolate involved?

I thought I put all those marshmallow peeps
and chocolate eggs in here?!
Seriously? How do you put Jesus crucified on the cross and died for our sins in the same holiday as this giant, fluffy bunny that brings us jelly beans and chocolate treats, and hides colored hard-boiled eggs among the tulips in the garden?  Then toss in frilly bonnets, new dresses and pretty little patent leather shoes, all in peachy pastels with lace and stuff.  Wha?

Clearly the religious part and the pagan part clash, and then we added our own little twist to it all by adding fun fashions and big buffets, desserts and sweets a plenty. I don't mind, I'll still party.

I keep the big picture in mind and let the rest take care of itself. It's spring, new beginnings, new life and a beautiful cycle of the seasons. If candy and baked ham is needed for this, so be it.

Wishing you all the Easter joys,
whatever they may be for you . . .

Friday, April 18, 2014

Snails - aww, now I want to cuddle them

It's spring here in Seattle.  And as I was clearing out my potting bench last week, and tidying up the patio that was abandoned all winter, I came across plenty of the slimy snails and slugs.

Credit: Ukrainian photographer Vyacheslav Mishchenko
In previous seasons, I had declared them my enemies. Some mornings I'd awaken to find an entire pot of my beloved flowers eaten to bits by the dreaded slimers. They leave a wake of goo and are voracious chewers, especially those big snails. But they only eat the good stuff.  Never have I seen them eat a single weed type leaf out there.  So when I see one, I usually "snuff it out" (sounds better than outright stomp them or snip them with garden scissors, ewwwww).

Some have even found their way into my basement studio during the winter.  I pulled out a box that I had close to the floor of older discontinued sprays and one of those little buggers (or heck, his whole family) had gotten hungry and eaten the labels off them.  Maybe they could digest the paper? Or had a hankering for glue? I don't know, but they were covered in slug trails and there were only bits and scraps of labels left on the bottles.

Then I found this photo journal and my world has turned upside down. This man has the most clear and up close photos of snails I've ever seen.  And they are kissing each other, and hugging cherries, and grasping their little arms around stuff. The antennas are adorable. Oh my God. I've had a total moment.  They are so sweet I want to run out right now and feed one a pansy. I will never be able to kill another one of those things again.  Not personally anyway.

Ok, totally honest? I still might have to put out a little pet-friendly slug bait if they eat all the tops off my echinacea patch.  But I won't be able to look to see what happens.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why we procrastinate . .

and how to stop doing it.  That's what the article said it was about and I was immediately hooked.

If you've been reading along, you probably already know that I, myself, am a bit of a procrastinator.  I've always believed that I needed a hard deadline to really motivate myself.  That planning ahead and working in advance was harder, because my time was always at the stretching point, and if I had a few minutes to take a break, relax, do fun stuff or whatever, that life would be more enjoyable.  Ebb and flow instead of always in high gear.

But after reading this article on Greatist today, I might have to give it more thought.

Two psychotherapists (Phil Stutz, Barry Michels) explain that procrastinating is the avoidance of doing something, not because we don't know we need to do it, or even want to do it, but because by actually doing it, we think we will experience something uncomfortable or even painful.  It's retreating to our comfort zone, and making excuses to put those things off.

Hmmm. I'm going to need to observe this in myself for awhile. I did not have an "aha" moment where I instantly recognized this in myself. But I am not shrugging off the idea either and tossing it aside with the belief that it doesn't apply to me. This might actually be the source of some of my procrastinating, and I don't want to miss the opportunity to figure this out and get into action again.

Their solution, which is brilliant also, is to just straight on tackle the painful whatever.  Like run straight into it, because pain shrinks when taken head on. It only becomes the giant monster when we avoid it and dramatize it.

This could be an awesome, liberating thing!  They've written a book "5 Tools to help you find courage, creativity, and willpower - and inspiring you to live life in forward motion."  Need to check this out.

Are you a procrastinator too? Let me know in the comments below if you do this too and what you think about this theory.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tulip Festival - Got my spot

Cute new little poster for the Tulip Festival street fair coming up next weekend (Apr 25-27). I just found out my booth location and it's (almost) in the exact same place as last year. I've skipped around that corner in basically the same spot for years - at the corner of Washington St, the main entrance doors to the Co-op.

Love that place - so easy to duck in for breakfast, lunch, afternoon treats and a quick bathroom break too. My home away from home!

Oh, they've got a FACEBOOK page for more info too.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fire at the Fair last night!

I arrived at the fairgrounds to tear down my display this morning and we couldn't get into our building at first.

There was a huge fire at the fair last night - started at midnight, so no people were there. The building right next to ours burned to the ground - the entire barn is just gone. The fireman who got there first said they rescued dozens and dozens of animals - 48 piglets, chicks, turkeys etc. They only lost one small piglet. 

Wow! Total mess this morning. We were able to skirt around the barricaded off area, but had hoses and trucks parked all over the entrances to our hall.  I had to jump fire hoses to load out my stuff. Our Artists in Action area was fine, thank God. And the soap stills smells like soap and not smoke. We got very lucky - though I feel so badly for the folks that were in that building.  

He said when he arrived it looked a giant fireball had dropped into the middle of the fair and there was smoke plumes 500 feet high.  Big happenings...

This was a 2-story building, and if you look into those doorways there is nothing but charred sticks.

That's a grandstand tent that is collapsing onto the stage just outside our doors - the cables holding it up were attached to the roof of the burned building.

Subscriber-only Flash Sale tomorrow

I'm doing a special flash sale tomorrow. And if you're not on my email list, you're not in the know. I've got to give little perks to the folks who've signed up to my list - they're my besties.

If you want to be an insider too, click the "Join My List" button over in the side bar or email me today and I'll get it sent right over to you.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Easter baskets for the big girls

Easter is a week away!! I need to start planning my brunch menu asap!

Do you make Easter baskets just for the kids? Or grown ups too? Do you know what I like to put in my big girl Easter baskets? SOAP of course. And little tins of fun flavored lip balm. Nail brushes and salve for the gardener gals. All the spring seasonal products will be a big hit this year...

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Got it! We're screwing the tops.

I heard you! Ok, ok, ok, I get it.

Within the span of one calendar week just recently, two different customers contacted me to find out the trick to getting the Healing Salve or Shea Butter Balm tins open.  They were having trouble cracking into it and they both sounded frustrated.

I felt terrible about it - completely mortified that I would be the cause of someone's suffering. I explained that there was no trick.  It's just that when the balm goes in hot and the lid gets slapped on, sometimes it creates a bit of a vacuum in there and the first opening take a little oomph, plus maybe a pull and a twist at the same time to just crack that air seal. I won't lie.  I've heard this before, but it was just a few and pretty far apart.  So I didn't think I needed to take action.  Because, really, they are awfully cute and easy to carry around, aren't they?

But then the next day when I stopped by my sister's place, she complained too.  Only louder.  She's using the stuff to help heal a little boo-boo on her cat.  And she doesn't ever close the tin up because she can't get it open again.  And made it quite plain that I need to just get another kind of container.  At which my other sister jumped on the bandwagon and exclaimed that "fer sure, man" nobody can use those stupid tins, no matter how cute they are.

There's no dodging the universe when it's trying to give you a message.  I get it.  I was almost out of tins anyway and needed to make more this week.  And I actually gave it some considerable thought, even weighing the idea of going into a whole new thing altogether - glass jars, plastic jars, all new labels - which meant new graphics and a lot more expense.  And at the last minute, a light bulb went on and common sense finally took over.

I ran to the container store and ordered my exact same tins, only with screw caps.  Duh.  Exactly like the lip balm tins I have now, only a little bigger, the 2 oz size.  The same tins I'm already using and still have a million labels for - except the top just twists off real easy with a little threaded screw lid instead of the plain seamless top.  No more ripping off your fingernails to get in.  No need to scratch and dent the fine silver trying to pry it open.  No need to run next door to big muscular Biff to use his power tools either.

It's very ladylike.  You just do the simple twist off.  Perfect manicure still in place.

All of the Healing Salve and Shea Butter Balm will be in these new tins.  Please note, I still have some inventory of the Healing Salve in the old tins which I'm selling first this month.  So if you're ordering online and you really, really, really want the new tin, please add a note in the message box to let me know.  I suppose this is true if you have some deep desire for the old tin too.  I can accommodate anybody's wishes.  That's what I live for :)

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Spring Fair - Do It

This week our big event is the Puyallup Western Washington State Fair (ahem) Spring Fair.  Yeah, I know.  The name change is stupid and way too long.  It's always been the Puyallup Fair and that's what we all call it.  So that's gonna be hard one to change.

They do a mini-version of the ginormous Fall Fair in the spring.  It's pretty much all the same stuff, just not quite as much of it.  A few less vendors, a little less tents, smaller scale in entertainment and concert events.  So if you love that stuff and don't want to wait around until next September, get your butt over this weekend.  Oh yeah, did I mention that it's only 4 days instead of 2 weeks?

Their description:  "Get ready to shake off your winter blues at Washington's biggest celebration of spring, the 25th annual Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, April 10-13, 2014.  Welcome in the spring with baby animal exhibits, delicious fair treats like scones and elephant ears, tons of free entertainment including racing pigs, leaping DockDogs and free music, and learn new gardening tips and tricks at Northwest Living & Garden.  Plus, see cars smashing at the Slamfest Demolition Derby and Monster Truck shows, and whirl and twirl on some of your favorite rides!"

Those are the All Alaska Racing Pigs.  Super cute, but how do those little porkers run so fast?

Hours:  Thurs 2pm-10pm, Fri & Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-8pm
Tickets and more info on their website:  Spring Fair

Thurs is kids free day!!  And please note, it doesn't start until 2pm on the first day - we'll all be setting up in the morning and you can't get in.

Soapworks Studio is always part of the Artists in Action area.  We are all local handcrafted and handmade artists, doing demonstrations of our work and selling our wares at a separate display from the other commercial vendors.  For the Spring Fair you will find us in the Hobby Hall.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Two Tramps

Two Tramps in the Mud (an excerpt)

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

- Robert Frost, 1936

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Set up day at the barn

Setting up the spring craft show over at Pickering barn today. It's happening Thurs thru Sat. See details on my EVENTS page. And if you like antiques and collectible stuff, the trailers were just pulling up with loads of furniture, home decor, vintage beauties - it's actually two shows in one with the other half of the barn set up as an antique show. So much to drool over . .

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April (in the) Showers

The following is an excerpt from our monthly "Getting Fresh" fresh sheet which went to our beeyootiful subscriber list this morning . . .

April is Gardening month

I have no idea who thinks these things up.  Or makes them official either.  But apparently according to the calendar poo-bahs, April is Gardening Month.

I have no quibbles with that at all.  I'm happy to make any and every month "gardening month" - well except for maybe January when it's too cold to even venture outside.  But I do love me some gardening.

If you love to get your hands in the dirt too - or just know someonw who does - we've got a few items on our menu that just may be what the doctor farmer ordered.

Healing Salve ($5.00) - A super luxe solid moisturizer balm that's jam packed with herbs to meet all kinds of rough hand needs.  It's like a miracle worker in a tiny tin, able to kill bad bugs, heal splits and cracks, and stop roughness in its tracks.

Citrus Basil Scrub Soap ($4.25) - the one soap I recommend most for gardeners.  Basically I've thrown a handful of birdseed in every bar.  It's got a mix of poppy, flax, mustard, and sesame seeds along with millet and corn meal to give it the scrub you need to really get the dirt off after a day of weed pulling.

Nail Brushes ($3.00) - Along with soap, a true gardener usually appreciates a handy dandy little nail brush to get really clean, especially under fingernails.  This one is a charmer - made of a handsome wood and all natural bristles, with an extra little ridge of bristles along one side specifically angled to get right under fingernails and briskly brush away those last little remnants of the garden.

Flower Pot Gift Set ($16.95) - A darling little tin flower pot with your choice of soap, a cotton scrubby accessory, and a nail brush or soap dish to boot.  Great small gift!


Watering Can Gift Set ($28) - an adorable tin watering can container packed up with everything  your gardening fans could possibly covet: colorful garden gloves, choice of soap bar, shea butter balm, a nail brush and our all-natural Bugger Off spray.  Plus you can customize it any way you want.