I liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! So tell me what mortal needs my protection, Great Ancestors, you just say the word and I'm there! - Mushu.
Channeling my inner Disney aside, I am indeed alive. I am SO SORRY for not posting in a while and for not making anything in a while! Hopefully sometime this week that will change!
So I owe you a life update. Things have definitely changed around here! So, for starters, May 5 was my last day of my job - I quit! As you may or may not know, I have been in school to change careers, and it was time for me to move on to an internship in my field. But before that - I needed surgery. May 10 was my surgery, and recovery has gone AMAZINGLY! I feel 800 times better than I did. And so far, my health issues have tapered off, which is always a great sign. Hopefully it stays this way!
Secondly, now that I am doing internship stuff and not working, I have more free time - or, I was supposed to! Who knew that this whole internship + school + teaching myself a second programming language + keeping up with chores thing wouldn't actually give me as much time as I thought (though if I'm being honest, I spent a few weeks catching up on various video games I've put off for the last couple years...because who wouldn't?). It has been really rewarding, though....even if I can't always tell (learning computer programming is hard, yo). My husband has been encouraging me to do programming problems daily, as well as keeping up with school. It has been quite the steep learning curve.
Said curve has actually kinda put me in a bit of a slump. Creatively and just..generally? I enjoy programming, I find it cathartic. But since it's somewhat like drinking from a fire hose, it can be mentally exhausting! And if I don't understand something, it's about 10,000 times worse because I beat myself up until I do understand it. And transitioning over to working-but-not-really has been hard for me, as I am someone who is quite independent and likes to feel like I'm "contributing." My internship hasn't actually started yet, so at the moment I feel sort of listless and like I'm not contributing towards...well, anything. I just sit at home all day and read homework assignments and chapters and write made-up programming assignments and just.......kinda do chores otherwise. It's a big difference between being on the go and always having work to do and money coming into my bank account (I miss the money!). I thought it would be super epic sweet to have time between work and switching careers, but I feel sorta directionless at the moment. Not was I was expecting....So it has been an...adjustment.
With any luck, though, that will change soon. And a friend of mine is hopefully coming up this week (TBD, I think we're getting a cold, and it would be rude to spread germs). We have plans to make bath bombs, maybe a soap or two, and some other fun things like maybe salves, lotion, whatever! Definitely bath bombs, though! :D I am very excited. I have all the ingredients and I've been DYING to try them out for a long time, but for whatever reason, the major life upheaval just totally crushed my motivation. My mojo went poof. It has been sad. I've been watching everyone else make stuff, and I have been missing it...but just couldn't quite clear the funk that is keeping me from making things.
Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I will have something awesome to show you all! Thanks for hanging in there with me anyway! <3 Until next time - I am off to do more homework!
PS - Happy 4th!! We hope you enjoy the fireworks, that your pets are all safe, and you enjoy the wonderful time with family and friends in celebration of 'Murica's birthday!
Well hello, everybody!
This weekend, I spent my time down in Gambrills, Maryland, at a local antique, home, and artisan show - The Barn Show! A couple of my customers at my day job run the show for one weekend every season, and were kind enough to invite me to sell my soap at the Spring sale. I had a wonderful time and I am so grateful for the opportunity they provided me to sell my soaps in public for the first time ever!
I am glad I waited for such a long time to sell my things in person, because I wanted to make sure I really had a good handle on my soap making and could reproduce my soaps reliably. I have now opened my own little Etsy shop so that people who may be interested can purchase my soaps (or repeat items of what they've already purchased) instead of just grabbing them at a public market. I am also hoping, though, that The Barn's staff will allow me to come to their seasonal sales, and I am happy to volunteer one weekend every few months to help them out in exchange for allowing me to keep my items there! *Crosses fingers* We shall see!
I figured that this would be a great time to go over some of the things I learned this weekend, standing there on the sloshing muddy hay-covered ground as people hectically brought us items to purchase! My soap was set up on a table, in a little farm box, right by our checkout area. It was sort of a last minute thing to throw there - I couldn't be there on Friday (opening day!) due to work, and priced my items (they required special tags because it is a mixture of vendors that sell at the show) literally ten minutes or less before they opened!
I really liked the little display I had, however, I realized pretty quickly that I needed to open one of each of my soaps and set them out for people to "sample." Originally, I had planned to do this - however I was instructed by one of the staff not to do so, as they were going to scatter my soaps around the barn for people to purchase. But in the craziness of Saturday morning, with people running around trying to save items from the damp ground (it absolutely POURED on Friday, all day long), and trying to quickly price my soaps, and find space for the box, etc....yeah, the scattering didn't happen, and they all got stuck together in their box on the table.
So lesson one: Have soaps that people can smell.
It seems kind of obvious, but since I'd been instructed not to keep any open...well, I didn't. However, I noticed that once I had them opened, people definitely stopped to sniff them a lot more. Kids, especially, were super interested in all the smelly awesomeness, and that was really cool! The only down side was that, ya know, as kids do - they kept setting my soap bars back down sideways, or all askew, or flat on the table, etc. But they're kids - so there isn't a lot I could have done about it, especially across the "room" (well...under a tent...), where I was busily assisting with wrapping, checkout, reserving items for later purchase, etc. Next time, I think I will definitely keep some soaps open, and perhaps provide little trays or plates or something for them to sit on, so that they maybe make it back to where they belong (instead of little kids flopping them around). A friend of mine also suggested a little bowl of water for people to try the soaps, but the jury is still out on that. I'm not sure yet. Seems a little gross (if everyone washes their hands in the bowl? Kinda ew). I'll give it thought, though.
Lesson two: FEATURE YOUR INGREDIENTS!
This is something I really wished I'd done - my soaps had two different price points, and honestly, that was because of the ingredients in some of them. For instance, my oatmeal milk and honey soaps have colloidal oatmeal and goat's milk in them. They are made as closer to a castile-type soap, so as to be gentle on the skin. My "Under Your Spell" bars featured apricot kernel oil, mango butter AND shea butter - again, something that is nice and luxurious, and something I wish I'd featured to drive sales. I definitely wish I'd had a chance to be like, "hey, these soaps have colloidal oats and this here has some skin loving butters!" From across the room, though, I really couldn't. And I wish I had written on little chalk placards or something the featured ingredients of my bars instead of relying on people to maybe read the ingredients label on the back. I was definitely kicking myself for that by the time I left Saturday afternoon. Ugh!
Lesson 3: Make the display visually appealing.
While I liked the way my soaps were set up, I definitely had a lot of room for improvement. The little farm box I had my soaps in fit the theme and decor, but it also looked kinda clumsy, as the soaps were just sorta lined up inside, and as people bought them, they were falling everywhere and I kept having to run over and straighten them, as well as my sample soaps. Next time I really want to put more emphasis on the way the soaps are presented, and I'd really like to up my packaging game. Since this is my first time ever selling in public (and not to just people who know me), I am using shrink wrap and labels I got from Vistaprint. While the Vistaprint labels are nice, they really aren't the...erm...look? Feeling? I want for presenting my brand. I want something more whimsical and rustic, as opposed to just...kinda...plain. And I definitely think I could up my game to make the packaging look more professional too. A friend of mine is currently designing me a logo and I LOVE what she has done so far. Hopefully, in the near future, she will finish (or at least give me a picture of the inked version so I can at least get a custom stamp made), and I can get my own custom boxes and whatnot with my very own original label instead of something mass produced on Vistaprint.
Lesson 4: Don't skimp yourself on your prices.
Since this was my first time selling, I kinda lowballed myself on my prices (don't get me wrong - they were still a little profit, but I had to pay myself a lot less at these price points for my time and work). And the week beforehand, I also learned that the Barn takes 25% of what I make for themselves. I am fine with this, as they are the ones being kind enough to lend me their space, their time, their venue, their customers, etc. But what I should have done (and thought about doing but decided not to - derp) was worked a higher price-for-my-time into my overall price, and priced my soaps a little higher. After all, it is also my time, my work, my resources, my effort, etc., that goes into making these things. And the time I spent wrapping, labeling, weighing, doing the ingredients, etc., is not something I paid myself for AT ALL during this process - and truthfully, I should have. Especially since my heat sealer died, I had to rush order a new one, and I ran out of labels, and had to rush order more. All of that adds up. And it needed to be worked into my price.
Another suggestion was to average out the prices across all my soaps. Some are more expensive than others? Instead of having different prices, add them all up and divide said prices across all the soaps. That way, people can't opt for the "cheaper" soaps. I'm not sure how I feel about this, as some soaps had more/better ingredients than others (like mango and shea butter, goat's milk, etc)., and I think that featuring the ingredients in my soaps like I explained above would justify the price discrepancies and that the average of prices may not be necessary. Again, that's something I will think about - but I believe that if I feature my star ingredients next time, that will be enough explanation for the price differences.
Lesson 5: Make sure you check your shit!
What do I mean by this? I mean check your shit. Do you have enough shrink wrap bags? What happens if they tear - do you have enough to re-bag? Do you have enough labels? Do you have a backup heat sealer? If I'd actually checked that I had enough labels instead of just assuming I did, I would have learned pretty early on that I did not have enough labels and would have ordered more from Vistaprint without having to pay a $19.99 rush to get them in time to finish labeling everything for this weekend. And if I'd had a backup heat sealer, I wouldn't have had to frantically buy one on Amazon Prime on Sunday of last week. Ugh!!
So check yo' shit.
Overall, I had a wonderful time at The Barn Show, I saw a lot of really unique and authentic items, I met some really fantastic people, got to see my customers outside of being customers and instead being people, and sold approximately half the soap I took with me. Is it as much as I'd wanted? Nah. But is it still good? For my first time - and not being able to interact with anyone, AND missing the opening (and busiest) day? Yes. I'll take it. It's better than continuing to give soap away to everyone (though I do still do that, too).
I really hope that I can join The Barn Show during all of their sales, and stay all weekend this time instead of just one day! And I hope that in the future, I am able to apply the lessons I learned from my first time EVER selling in public, and create an even better display!
If you have any tips or tricks for selling in public, let me know in the comments! Until next time, happy soaping!
Oh my gosh, you guys! It has been a while.
I am so sorry that I suck so hard at writing these. I also accidentally deleted the post I wrote back in January. :( It showed up as blank and I thought it was a draft. It was not. D'oh!! I put in a ticket for recovery, but that was a no go. Not starting this post out great!
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Though I haven't been writing that much, I *have* been busy making some soaps! One of my customers at my day job invited me to come sell my soaps at their market next weekend. Eep!! I took them some samples a couple weeks ago and they really enjoyed them. They asked about packaging last week, which I provided samples of today. They really liked it and thought it looked good, so I am happy to say I am definitely joining them next Saturday. I am so excited! And nervous. But mostly excited!
The fragrances that I've made were requested to be "spring-y," so I started with one that is definitely springy - a little twist on Brambleberry's "Fresh Bamboo" FO. First off, let me tell you - what a ricer, holy lawd! It was crazy, I definitely didn't get done what I wanted to get done with that, but fear not! I overcalculated my 9 bar mold volume, so I ended up with super chunky bars that I later cut into individual bars. They smell...amazing. Just...fresh and clean and soooo good. Even with the trouble the FO gave me, those bars will be totally worth it.
The second batch I made was a combo of Brambleberry's "energy" fragrance oil and another citrus. ;) Trying not to give everything away, here. I can say that said citrus is more tart, and was sooooooo yummy in the soap. It has been sticking pretty well, too, which is really really nice. I tried a new recipe from Nature's Garden for that batch, but so far I am not sure how I like it. The soap is significantly softer than I am used to, and I'm not sure if I like it or not. The colors, though - amazing. Since the fragrance is named "energy" and smells bright and happy, I felt like I should make something that reflected that. I looked at sunrise pictures, and then sunrise yoga pictures - and found the most lovely photo of someone doing yoga on a beach during sunrise, and based my color palette off of that. I tried to do a black base with a drop swirl on top to mimic the layers of sunrise, and I am really pleased with how it came out. It's also REALLY bright, which is super fun and reflects the fragrance.
The third batch I made was a new twist on my Lemon Drop Martini bars - same recipe and colors, but with a little less white, and in my tall and skinny mold instead of the normal small, squat one. Left off the pink Himalayan sea salt, as I've learned that the salt actually discolors my soap, which is sad. It came out a bit more yellow than I wanted it to, and I think next time I will scale back the yellow and add more white back in. It still smells AMAZING, though, and is made with coconut milk.
The fourth batch is the ever-popular oatmeal milk and honey with colloidal oatmeal and goat's milk. I wanted to add honey, but also wanted time to pour a drop swirl and didn't wanna compromise, so I left the honey out (since it would speed up trace like whoa because of the sugars). It has to be added at such a small percentage anyway, I decided it wasn't worth the sacrifice of work time.
Finally, my fifth batch is a dupe of a famous lingerie store's fragrance, which is VERRRRRRRY good. Like......spot on, perfect match. I called it "Under Your Spell" and it didn't come out how I initially envisioned it (because it kinda started to accelerate on me, whoops!), but it's still cool. And it smells AWESOOOOOOOOME!
I am so excited to share these soaps with customers next weekend, and I really hope that people will enjoy them! I haven't taken many pictures, as classes for school have been reallllllllllyyyyyyy haaaaard!! But while I'm packaging and labeling this weekend, I will definitely be taking some nice pictures of the final products!
Until next time!
3/30/17: Edited to add pictures of soaps that I took while wrapping and preparing! Note that most of them were taken before I beveled and steamed the soda ash off of them.
There are always those smells that can transport a person back to another time and place, or evoke a memory that has long since been forgotten. It can happen anywhere, at any time. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not. But that's okay - our memories are what makes us "us." :)
Why am I waxing poetic about smells today? Well, for a couple reasons, actually. For one, it has gotten a bit chilly here in good ol' Maryland, and despite having some insane bipolar weather the last two weeks, the leaves are changing, the chill is hanging in the air, there's even that autumn fog I've grown to expect in the mornings. Also deer trying to commit suicide by vehicle, but that's a story for another day.
My favorite thing about autumn is when people start using their fireplaces. For whatever reason, the sweet smell of chill on the air mixed with that creosote and wood ash smell is so incredibly comforting to me. It reminds me of my grandmother, and my childhood. Growing up, we had a regular fireplace, and a wood burning stove (a potbelly stove, to some). When it would snow, or be super cold, my family would light a fire in the fireplace and snuggle on the couch in blankets watching movies, or cuddle on the floor in our blankets with our pets and coloring in coloring books, or drawing, or whatever.
My grandmother had a small waterfront cottage and their only source of heat was that wood burning stove. MawMaw's wood burning stove being lit meant winter was in the air, pancakes were going to be made for us (with sausage, and sausage gravy like only she could make it!), Halloween and Thanksgiving were coming, Christmas tree picking and decorating was just around the corner, and we'd have a bunch of time off school to spend visiting the old bat. It was excellent! My dad always cleaned out her stove pipe, too, to make sure it was safe, and I'd be allowed to help. Nothing better than being allowed on the roof to your mother's dismay! Oh! And there were always bonfires too! We'd burn the hell out of some leaves. Fireplaces are just...my favorite smell of childhood!
Anyway, on to the second reason, I got off on a tangent there. The second reason is that I obviously work with fragrances when I make soap. There are few that make me stop and say, "Where do I know this from?" But that is exactly what happened when I received a bottle of "Warm Flannel" from Brambleberry last week. I knew I recognized it. Where from, though? I kept sniffing, like some weirdo teenager huffing Lysol, just to figure out (remember, kids, don't huff things. There are too few people with a brain these days - save all the brain cells you've got!). And then I realized - it really does smell like flannel blankets. Only it had been so long since I'd snuggled up in one that I'd forgotten that smell. And of course, it brought me back to my MawMaw's house, curled up with her wood burning stove going, watching Looney Toons and Tom & Jerry on Saturday mornings while she made us pancakes and sausage, playing with tinker toys, or maybe a board game. This freaking fragrance bottle encompassed my entire childhood sleeping over at my grandmother's house.
Holy freaking crap.
And suddenly there I was, little 9 year old me (my MawMaw died when I was 11 so all of my memories are pretty early in my life), arguing with my cousins Emily and Greg about who would get to sleep on the "gold couch" (arguably the most comfortable couch in the house - they were a mish-mash of grandmother patterned sofas, and the coveted gold couch was the best one for sleeping on...PLUS, it was right next to the wood burning stove, so it was also the warmest spot). I was curled up on her horrible 1970s rust brownish-orangeish carpet, with wood paneling on the walls, a tall, gaudily decorated Christmas tree to my right in the corner, while my cousins and brother took up the couch, all of us laughing at Tom & Jerry, not understanding the WW2 jokes and propaganda that we couldn't fully grasp until we were significantly older...Listening to the old bat cackle (you could find her anywhere in a room as long as you listened for that cackle) at some horrible joke, while Big Band music (Benny Goodman was one of her favorites) played in the front area of the house so she could sing while she cooked.
I am actually quite convinced that my penchant for bursting into song in my day-to-day life is because of her. She did that all the time. Everything was a song to her.
But there it all was. All of it. That whole story. In this one fragrance bottle. I wasn't sure whether to smile or to cry. So I put the bottle away for a few days while I sorted out life things, thought on it, and then came back. I decided I felt loved, and I wanted to make a soap that reminded me of my MawMaw. I was hoping to make a nice soap that looked like a flannel blanket.....but, as with everything in life, I got a significantly different end result! It is okay, though - it still looks neat. I don't have a name for the soap yet. It turned out very 'Merica patriotic, or maybe Grateful Dead fan. I'd like to try again after this current batch is cured and gone, and hopefully get a more MawMaw-worthy pattern out of it. Though who knows, she might have liked the patriotic look!
The fragrance made it through the saponification process just fine - the batter itself thickened up like pudding on me relatively quick, even for soaping at room temp...But I still had enough time to get the initial Taiwan swirl done. And since the fragrance didn't morph, I'll put the thickening in the "worth it" category. I can't wait for these bars to be usable - I will just keep one to smell and think of my MawMaw forever.
I hope that the rest of you encounter good memories through smell or food or sight in the near future, especially with the holidays coming up. And I hope those memories make you feel super happy and loved like mine made me feel.
Greetings and salutations, everyone!
Oh my gosh, it is HALLOWEEEEEN! :O! How exciting!! I don't know about the rest of you, but Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday! I love dressing up, I love watching guilty pleasure movies (Hocus Pocus and The Craft are my favorites!), I loooove handing out candy to all the kids that come by our house, and I love carving pumpkins! Basically, I love everything about Halloween!! :D (And yes, I will be watching Hocus Pocus and The Craft while I hand out candy as Hipster Ariel tonight! And my dog will be dressed as a bumblebee. No shame!)
Husband and I went to a party on Saturday, and it was (as always) a great time! In fact, it was five years ago Saturday that we met for the first time - at the Halloween party thrown by the same friend! Crazy! It was a really nice time, and it's always great to catch up with everyone.
On the school front, I've got three classes going right now in addition to working full time, so I have been running on pretty much no sleep for the majority of the last two weeks. One of my classes ends this week, though, so I am hoping that things will calm down enough over the next two weeks that I can work myself into a routine and still have some free time.
Next weekend I am running a 5k through a corn field on a farm, which I am super excited about! And then that evening we're going for a hot air balloon ride for our 5th anniversary. :D So much awesome stuff is coming up, and SO MANY HOLIDAYS AND SPECIAL OCCASIONS!!
Speaking of holidays, you may have noticed that many soapers are already into Christmas soaps! I am no exception to this - I have a custom order which I've made for someone, and I am making three dozen bars of soap to give to my co-workers. I was given an American Soap Supplies tall and skinny mold for my birthday, and I have to say - I think I love this shape the best! I think I might want to do all of my soaps in that mold from now on. But the jury is still out - there are some soaps that just do well with the square shape, you know?
Moving right along - you may have noticed some changes to my menu bar recently! And if not, that's okay too. :) I am now taking custom orders! Obviously, I need 4-6 weeks notice, but I am happy to work with anyone who is interested and come up with something you will love! All of my FAQs and policies are up, as well as an order form. If it's too complicated, shoot an email my way for clarification. I am looking very forward to expanding my customer base. So many people have been asking if I sell my soaps yet, and no, no store front yet (though I'm hoping to have something up online maybe by the summer?), but custom orders, I definitely can do!
Also, I am thinking I will cut palm oil out of my recipes once I run out of this current bag I've got. I have a friend who is allergic to palm and coconut, and while researching alternatives for custom recipes for her, I learned about the palm oil trade and problems with sustainability and labor in the industry. While I understand soapers use such a small amount of palm oil relative to the larger industries (looking at you, food), I still feel like it would be better to step away from palm altogether. Brambleberry actually has a very informative article on it, and there is also a really interesting and enlightening conversation in the comments of that particular article as well.
I will likely switch to mango or cocoa butter in place of palm, which will make my bars a bit more expensive, but I feel it will be worth it in the long run. Additionally, there are several local farms I can get tallow from, for those who aren't as worried about the vegan aspect of things. I also have a friend who is raising bees now! They are keeping what wax they get just for me! So I will have that as well for soap and lotion bars. :)!!
That is it for now, I gotta run and finish - you guessed it - more homework!
TTFN! <3 And happy soaping!
I am horrible at this blogging thing. I desperately want to write more, but damn if there isn't always something going on! School has resumed, and a class I discounted as being, "not that hard" is actually somewhat whipping my ass. Yay advanced research writing. *sobbing* On top of that, husband, myself, and three of our friends are ALL September birthdays, so we've had a *lot* going on in terms of celebrations. Plus, the Renaissance Festival is in town until the end of October, which means LOTS OF FOOD AND DRINK AND MERRIMENT! So long story short: we've been busy!
I am a few weeks late to the party, but I wanted to write about the fun times I had on Labor Day with my friend D. She came up to visit, stood in my utility room (where the soap supplies live) smelling ALL of my fragrance oils, and concocting various plans for many different soaps, lotion bars, and other sundry bath and body items. We made three batches of soap and one batch of lotion bars (not something I had yet attempted, so fun!) that day.
Our first batch was made with Mermaid Pilsner, which I had previously boiled and frozen into ice cubes. It actually performed WAY better than either of us expected it to. To go with the the marine theme, we used Brambleberry's "Yacht Club" fragrance oil, which.......ohmahgah, smells SO sexy. Like man. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Seriously, it's soooooo nice. And the beer, surprisingly enough, paired with it really well! We tried to do a tilted mold pour, and while it turned into nice stripes, it wasn't *quite* what we were going for. It still came out great, though, and we are super happy with the result. Given the fun use of beer, we decided to call it "Drunken Mermaid." I can't wait until it's cured so I can have my husband lather up with it. Oh yesss.
The second batch of soap we made that day was another batch of Lemon Drop Martini, which I've run out of. Everyone at work loves it the most, so I needed more! I am glad it's a hit, I enjoy it a lot. It helps quite a bit to know what peoples' preferences are so I can narrow stuff down (and buy bigger bottles of fragrance oil, too).
We also decided to attempt shampoo bars from one of Soap Queen's recipes. We didn't use the exact fragrance blend that she recommended, rather we chose orange and lavender (mmmmmm). I am so excited for these to cure, they smell amazing. I am really pumped to use them, as I love Lush's shampoo bars, and I am hoping that making my own will be better long-term. Plus, it's so gratifying to get in the shower and use stuff you made. I love it!
Finally, we made lotion bars. I used this incredible fragrance from Nurture Soap called "Gaia's Harvest." I got it as a sample, and D and I were trying to figure out a good fragrance for, "Rennies" (Rennie: (n.) person that goes to Renaissance festival in garb every week, loves merriment, glitter, and all things natural/awesome/somewhat offbeat). We chose that, and made a recipe with coconut oil, avocado oil, vitamin E, shea butter, and bees wax. The bees wax was sourced from our local Amish market, and when it was melted down....Ohhhhhhhmygoodness! It smelled like honey! Combined with Gaia's Harvest, the fragrance of the lotion bars is just *divine!* I absolutely love it, it's so perfect. D told me that some of her friends wanted "craft herpes" (glitter) in their lotion bars, so we messed around trying to figure out what would make the best shimmer. We made two or three bars with cosmetic glitter (Nina Simone from Mad Oils) and two different micas (Sister Golden Hair Surprise from Mad Oils and Snowflake Sparkle from Brambleberry).
I believe we have determined that the cosmetic glitter was the best "transfers to the skin but doesn't get glitter everywhere!!!" result. :) Which is good to know if people want more of the lotion bars in the future!
The day after experiment day, I was ready to make another batch of soap that I'd been wanting to try, and D helped me come up with a "female" version of Drunken Mermaid, which we named "Siren of the Seas." It's a combo of Nurture Soap & Brambleberry fragrance oils (I don't wanna give it away, hehe), and it's soooooooo nice smelling. Very floral, with some citrus and a wee hint of musk. I tried to get a "mermaid tail" shape in the swirl, which actually did show up on some of my bars. Huzzah! I love the way it smells, and so far, everyone that has smelled it has fallen in love with it too. I am hoping people will like it once they try it.
Overall, I've gotten a lot of really great soaps made, and I am looking forward to starting in on Christmas soaps! :D I can't believe I'm thinking about that, but the time is getting nearer!! I will be making my custom order Christmas cupcakes in a couple weeks, oh my gosh!! <3 Time is flying!
Enjoy the photos below of everything, and have a soapy day!
Aloha again, everyone!
Today I shall be writing about a very special soap I am doing for a very special little lady - one of my very best friend's daughter, Emma. Emma is seven, and is into Paw Patrol, dinosaurs, space, Batman, cheetahs, sharks, and wants to save the ocean, maybe even the planet. She is a kid after my own heart, and reminds me so much of myself as a kid at her age. Though I wanted to be an archaeologist veterinarian astronaut. You know, because reasons.
For those of you who don't know me, I'm not really a huge fan of kids. They're okay, I guess, when they're older and become small people, so for me to say I super duper dig Emma is a huge deal. I've known her since my friend was pregnant with her, and being able to watch her grow up (if from a distance, cuz she and my friend are halfway across the country) into the interesting little person she is has been really fucking cool. Someday I think I'll kidnap her and take her shark's tooth hunting and snorkeling and teach her all the ways that cats and dogs make awesome children (what is being an auntie worth if you can't corrupt the small ones in your ways? MWAHAHAHAHAHA!)!
Recently, my friend asked me if I could help her out and make Emma a special soap. Not only does she evidently have Eczema, she also has recently developed a condition known as "Molluscum Contagiosum" (say it out loud, it sounds like a bad Harry Potter spell, doesn't it?). Apparently, this skin condition is related to Chicken Pox, but isn't pox itself. It's a viral infection (so no antibiotics), and according to the CDC, it can take six to 12 months to resolve. In some instances it can take up to 4 years. It presents as little pox-like lesions and, like chicken pox, are very itchy for the patient. It can be spread and transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, so it's extremely contagious.
Needless to say, little Emma is not having a good time of it at the moment. She is soldiering on like the awesome kid that she is, but her mom is having a hard time treating her. Nothing they have tried so far has worked, except tea tree oil. The problem with that is that the smell is overpowering and both mom and Emma have a hard time using it topically. That's where I come in! I was approached by my friend to make her some soap with tea tree to try to help her out! It has to be as mild and gentle as possible, and be able to fit in a wee child's hand.
So, off we went to brainstorm land, where we came up with a formula that will hopefully offer some relief to the poor kid. I have that calendula and lavender that I grew and dried this summer, so we started there. I decided to make her a sensitive skin formula with mostly olive oil and shea butter. I decided to steep the oil in the calendula, lavender, and mint for a few hours to get all that healing goodness. I also decided to add coconut milk, aloe juice (from the aloe vera plants I've been growing out back), and colloidal oatmeal to the mix. In addition, I cut the tea tree oil a little bit with lavender essential oil, just to try to tone back the smell for mom & kid. I used Bramble Berry's 12 bar silicone mold, as we decided that would probably be a good size for a kid's palm. If not, mom can always cut the bars in half to little squares. :)
Since CP takes 4-6 weeks to cure, and little Emma could use some soap, well...now...I also made her some melt and pour soap in her favorite color (blue), and used a small paw print silicone mold I had to make her "paw patrol" soap. I used hemp & aloe vera MP bases, and added colloidal oatmeal with the lavender & tea tree oil. Hopefully those will help her out and last a bit while I have her "actual" soap curing. I hope very much that the soap helps her feel better and gets her life back to "normal" (or as normal as it can be until the condition is gone).
Overall, I am looking forward to seeing results, and desperately hoping it can help her. I know I'd feel helpless were I in her mom's shoes and nothing worked, so I am hopeful that I can at least provide SOME form of relief for the poor kid. If nothing else, at least she'll feel special that she has her own "special" soap, just for her. And that will make her feel awesome. Plus, what kid wouldn't be eager about their favorite color "Pat Patrol" soap, yeah?
Hello again, everyone!
Have any of you ever been in one of those moods - a mood where you feel restless and like you need to DO something but you aren't quite sure what that something is? That describes my mood today. Occasionally, I am struck with random bouts of wanderlust, wherein I have a strong desire to run to my car, get in, and just go. I never know where I'd go, how long I'd be, or what I'd do once I got to where ever it was I was going (I imagine I'd know once I got there). I am feeling like that today. It always seems to be accentuated with the turning of the seasons, especially in the fall. It probably also has something to do with the fact that one of my best friends is leaving next week to go to England for two weeks, and I won't fit in the suitcase to tag along. Bah humbug!
So instead, I'm channeling my need to do something into writing a few blogs and working more on my policies. I am also cleaning out my closet. It's sort of a weird thing to do, but it's necessary. :) I tend to hoard things. "But I might need this someday!" I tell myself, stashing it yet again for a few more years. Yeah, it's time to get over that, put on my big girl panties, and really make an effort to de-clutter.
Anyway, on to the point of this blog! My co-worker's sister's bridal shower was last weekend, and she texted me that evening to say:
"The soap favors were a huge hit! Everyone loved them and my sister was so excited! And I used one tonight and am in love! It's so lathery and soft and smells incredible. I want to try all of your soaps haha. You are extremely talented!"
THAT MADE MY WHOLE FREAKING WEEKEND, YOU GUYS!! I was so incredibly flattered and it made me feel awesome! I love being able to help people and make things that make people happy..it was the best feeling!
She sent me a couple of pictures, which I've included below (with her permission) to show how she wrapped them as the final product. I also included some of the preliminary test photos from when I was helping her pick out color schemes, frosting decoration, and fragrances. Her sister's bridal shower was a Kate Spade "Southern" themed shower, and the colors were black, gold, pink and white. She had originally told me lime green and pink, which I believe were the bridal colors, but ultimately decided on a black/white/gold/pink scheme for the cupcakes. I made fifty in total, and one half was vanilla & honey fragrance while the other half was white tea & ginger and peach fragrance. I made her little spade embeds to put on each of the cupcakes, and did a gold mica dusting on the "frosting." The vanilla and honey cupcakes sported a brown base, white "frosting" and of course the gold dusting with a pink spade. The white tea & ginger and peach cupcakes had a white base with pink frosting, gold dusting, and a black spade. Here is an Instagram photo I posted (for some reason my other photos didn't get backed up, waaah!) of the final product for each:
I did a lot of test work to make sure she'd be happy with the end result, and tried to communicate with her throughout the entire process. As I move forward towards formally taking custom orders, communication and informing my customer of each step of the project, explaining how things work (like vanillin in soaps turning the end result brown, for instance!), and making sure to get the utmost benefit out of the end soap for my customer are goals I am going to strive for very hard. Being able to work with Heather, as well as a couple other customers (I've done three other custom orders in the last few months and am setting out to do a fourth here in the next couple weeks) has been a really good benchmark and learning experience for me. I am really looking forward to doing more of this for people!
In the end, I am sooooooooooo pleased that Heather and the bridal shower guests enjoyed their cupcakes. I hope that everyone loves them as much as she did! I am both humbled and proud of how they turned out! And I absolutely LOVE how she wrapped and decorated them for her final favor. I know from having done my Sister-In-Law's that it was probably a LOT of work!! What an awesome sister Heather's sister has in her! And what an awesome thing for me to be even a very small part of!
That is it for now, I am off to do more closet cleaning! Enjoy the photos, and have a wonderfully soapy day!
Well hey again, you guys! :)
I could get used to this whole more blogging thing (at least for the next two weeks - school starts again Sept. 13! EEEEEEK!)! I come to you today bearing updates and happiness. And, of course, a follow-up on my soapy catastrophe.
First thing is first - the catastrophe! I made my soap again, and this time, only used Red Apple FO. Performed beautifully, like a champ. I made the mistake of forcing gel, which was stupid given that I use coconut milk and had spice fragrance oils (which heat up the soap), and got a lovely crack down the middle. I shoved it in the chest freezer to cool the soap down, and it did very well. The crack down the middle basically faded, and the soap itself turned out beautifully. I even got a cool swoopy swirl on a few pieces. Yay me! I haven't had time to take artsy glamour photos, but you can see where it came out pretty damn good. And it smells amazing! I love it. SOOO pleased. There must have just been something crazy going on in that pear & apple combination from the first attempt. Lesson learned.
Second thing on the agenda today is a big announcement: I am going to be starting to accept custom soap orders soon! I am really excited! Currently, I am building the form necessary to accept custom orders, tailoring payment and return policies, and all of that other sundry mumbo-jumbo. I am very excited to start doing this! So far, I have made things for family and friends, or sold a few bars of soap here and there to people I know, and everyone has really loved it. I am hoping I can continue this trend, and bring my soaps to new people. Specifically, I anticipate doing soaps for events (such as cupcake soaps for bridal showers, baby showers, Christmas, etc.), or tailoring soaps specifically to suit the needs of the customer (eg: eczema, sensitive skin, allergies to ingredients like coconut oil, and the like). I am happy to do regular orders as well, however!
Finally, in case you haven't noticed, I did add a "Reviews" page to my site! I recently sold a loaf of soap to a friend and she wanted to leave a review. It occurred to me that with having given away many soaps, as well as done custom orders, I should probably have done that sooner! Whoops!! So, I searched high and low this evening and worked out building the review page. I am looking forward to receiving feedback on the things that I make, and I am also looking forward to being able to share my creations with all of you.
For now, that is everything! Stay tuned for a blog post about a sweet little girl who I am creating a special soap for!
Have a wonderfully soapy day!
It happens to everyone, doesn't it? That one soapy catastrophe that makes us all pout and cry on our loved ones...
Maybe it's just me that cries on my loved one (my husband, who I am sure thinks I'm insane). Just kidding! There was no crying. There was, however, an immense amount of moping.
With the autumn season just around the corner, I decided to make some nice fall inspired soaps. Cue the ever-traditional pumpkin spice soap, which I made last week, that is currently making my basement smell amazing! Pumpkin spice by itself just wasn't enough for me, though. I wanted something else...Maybe some kind of mulled cider. Yes! Mulled cider soap! That would be awesome, I said to myself!
I came up with my fragrance combination, going with Cinnamon Sticks and Arabian Spice for my "mulled spices" and Crisp Anjou Pear & Red Apple for my cider part. The pear has a really nice deep, sweet fragrance to it, which perfectly complimented the tartness of the apple fragrance. I used the Maniacal Pea from Mad Oils (which is a fantabulous mica name, by the way, just have to throw that out there!) and of course the ever-trusty brown oxide. All of my fragrances are from Brambleberry, which I normally have zero trouble with as far as FOs are concerned - The website tells you what to expect, and I appreciate that. The plan was for the pear & apple to go into my green with the spices going into brown since they'll discolor from the vanillin anyway. I soaped at near-room temp, approximately 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and everything was going great. Until it was time to add the apple & pear fragrance combo.
Catastrophe. Utter and complete failure. I feel like at some point in every soap maker's journey to perfect their craft, a failure is inevitable. A right of passage, even. Everyone has a failure story, right? Everyone has had something go awry at one point or another. For me, it was this damn pear and apple fragrance combo. On their own, each fragrance oil performs absolutely beautifully. No acceleration, no ricing, no seizing, nothing. Just beautiful. Together, though? Like the fiery bowels of Hell opened up and took a shit in my soap. I have no idea what it is between the two fragrances that when combined causes them to 100% separate my soap batter and laugh in my face.
Suddenly, I found myself dealing with gritty water. You know that texture when you freeze milk, and as it's thawing out in your fridge and you go to pour yourself a glass, you get that nice gritty milk-water with ice crystals floating in it? Yeah, that was my soap. Only it wasn't milk. It was just green grit water. I stick blended for five minutes straight. Grit water. I stick blended more. Grit water. I tried Soap Queen's Hot Process Hero method and dumped it all into a stock pot together. That shit came to a BOIL. Since I'd added the brown to the mix (which behaved 100% perfectly and as expected - no complaints there), I ended up with brownish black watery gritty clumpy looks-like-sewage in a pot. The fragrance was AWFUL on the heat, and we had to open the windows on an 80 degree summer night.
Needless to say - I let it cool a bit, stuffed paper towels in the pot to absorb any oil that had slicked to the top (the green's portion slicked to the top, the brown sank), and dumped it right in the garbage. That was my first failure resulting in a total loss. I don't know what happened! I made two test batches, and individually, the fragrance oils are wonderful. But something about that combo just wasn't working and ruined my soap.
So anyone who might like to combine these fragrances - DON'T!
Tomorrow I will be making the soap again - only this time I'm only using Red Apple FO and putting the pear fragrance back in my cabinet for another time. ;)
Elizabeth is a new to soap making, and wishes to share her journey in learning to make cold process soap with the hope that it will help other newbies who may stumble upon this site as a resource. From swirl techniques, choosing colors, combining fragrances, embeds, toppers, and textures, she chronicles her lessons and stories here.