Look! A Kitty!

I have a lot of trouble sticking to one thing. My generation didn’t have a diagnosis for it, it was simply “too much sugar” or “what’s wrong with that child?” I was and still am interested in everything, at least for one split second.

As a result of that bounce, I have arrived at what I do best, soap making. Because it’s never the same. And I can’t ever guarantee the same outcome when making soap.

For instance, here is batch one and batch two of Winter Magic. Same colorings, same basic pour and yet.

Both pretty soaps but obviously not the same. And how does this happen?

There are so many variables when making soaps. Oils, temperature, fragrance, coloring, pour ability, time of day, did I eat breakfast, did YOU eat breakfast?, You can guide the process but you will never truly control it. That is why so many of us who make soap anticipate cutting day. The reveal!  The ultimate beauty of soap is that you don’t need to account for the outcome, just own it! I meant to do both of those batches just. like. that.

These are all lavender soaps. Same recipe, different ideas and again, unexpected.

So for those of you who follow kitties, then butterflies, then the flower behind the butterfly? Consider making soap. It will not only appeal to the practical side of life in use but you can chase all the kitties you want! I guarantee it!

 

 

Creative Minds

I have yet to meet a soap maker that only does one thing. Our minds don’t work like that. Is there a creative term for it? OCD: Open-minded Creative Designers? Basically, we see ordinary things everywhere and our minds go into scramble mode and combine it into…cool stuff.

We are the people you are talking to who tend to stop on the sidewalk while you are still walking and you have to turn around and lead us back to reality. We have seen something/thought of something/heard something and we loop. But we take you with us so those of you who need some fun, well, here we are! Children do this until we drill it out of them. I wonder how much creativity they lose?

Besides soap, and bath bombs, lotion bars, deodorant (it all ties together when wandering), I also garden, weave, cook, draw, photograph and take classes that draw me out of my quiet comfort zone (find my story on welding).

I have taken (talked her into) my artist friend Eileen to classes on silver soldering and weaving. Eileen Flanagan Kane is a fiber artist who’s work had been featured in local galleries. She creates detailed works of art with fabrics and threads. Here is a sample of some of her amazing work.

Thread Vessel

We are taking a class Sunday on bookbinding with a class on glass sun catchers later this month. And I have talked my friend Andra into coming to the bookbinding class (she is a wordsmith).
My friend Linda Long sends things to me that interest her and that I might like in regular messages. She is a class on her own, having taught me basic crocheting and knitting. One of many things she makes are intricately beaded, crocheted prayer shawls along with a million other sewn, smocked and woven things. Take a look.

Linda picture

Our next project together is cake decorating.

This is what creative minds do. We expand on what we know while happily picking up the creative offerings of other minds through classes, items we have seen and loved and sharing what we know. All art has a common thread whether it is fine art or a craft and life has a lot of creative things to offer if we look with friends around to guide us back to the sidewalk.

So what do you do? Besides what you do?

 

A Deer in Headlights

My first vendor event. (After I wrote that I had to stop for a few minutes as the shock and awe of it caused brief paralysis.)

Seasons Bath and Body debuted “live” at the PX on Fort Campbell, Kentucky. We couldn’t have asked for a better venue. Not only were the soldiers and their families something to be proud of, the other people working around me were kind and supportive. Which was a great comfort to me, a person who would rather be in the kitchen making soap while someone else sells it!

Ft. Campbell Event June_17

This was not easy.

As I have said a thousand times, I love making soap. The end. But to make soap it must sell so that I can make more soap. Simple? No, not really. I had to create a space that would attract people to my spot, people who would love my soap as much as I do. I felt like I was playing pretend, putting on a show with business cards and signs and pretty displays. I hoped that people would stop by who, once they smelled the soap and heard about the good ingredients in it, would scoop up boxes of it and rave all over the building, bringing others running to my little corner of the PX.

I carefully laid out my soaps, checked the display from all angles and then considered crawling under the cloth until closing. I am not a star on any stage. I am the one who happily opens and closes the curtains. I still think the under the table thing would have been an excellent plan in hindsight. But no, I bravely put on my SEASONS apron, tying the bull’s-eye on (no mistaking who is in charge here!) and opened shop. And people came.

Very nice people came to see the soap but how does that work? My soap scents
attracted them and then it was my job to (pounce on them, wrestling their money from their wallets) have a conversation about my soap and ME.  And why my soap is better than that commercial, cookie cutter stuff in stores. My homemade soap. And they would buy it.

Fruity 2

 

The most interesting part? Most people told ME how good my soap will be for them. How they want something real, simple and good (wait, MY line!!) and are glad to buy it from me. They bought my soap! I had the opportunity to see what people liked the most and was surprised that what I thought was the nicest soap offered was not necessarily what people were looking for. I had a man buy out my oatmeal soap, knocking down my belief that my target audience was women. The young girl who bought soaps for the whole family when I thought she might be “just looking”. I learned a lot about who buys soap and why they buy it. It was good.

Yes, there were a few that looked and moved on and that was to be expected. There were one or two that looked slightly down on the soap as if it weren’t “real” like the ones laid up in rows on that bath and beauty shelf in the big store. But for the most part, people had fun, we had conversations, we connected and the good people of Fort Campbell bought some bath products.

rice flower

Not as easy was the business side of vendor sales. Because I was selling soap, I had to be able to calculate amounts, taxes, make change, write receipts and use a Square reader.
The Square reader is a device that attaches to my phone to allow me to take credit card payments. Imagine that. And it didn’t work at first. Imagine THAT! I stood there smiling and swiping and swiping and my first customer ended up with a free bag of soap. Not his fault and he was so kind and patient. The issue? The cover on my phone was too thick to connect well with the reader. Some of you are nodding and some of you are saying, “Wait, WHAT?” Yes, learning curve. I didn’t just get to sit there and visit. I was supposed to know what I was doing.

Have you ever been in a position where you applied for a job and were asked what experience you had? If you were young or new to the field, how do you get experience until you get hired? I was SO there with selling soap in an open shop!

Here’s what I recommend if you haven’t taken the step. Do at least one face to face event. Take a friend and supporter! For me, that was Kathy Anderson of Good Living Essentials. She had a shop right next door and was not only reassuring, she kindly spent much of the day walking over and swiping my Square reader (yes, I have nightmares) every time it didn’t work. When there was down time (and there was), she would talk about what I should do next (never mentioned crawling under the cloth) in shows or suggest something that might keep me in touch with the people I met through the shop. She has done many of these events and was truly my life raft. Here’s where you can thank her for keeping me afloat (her items are beautiful!) goodlivingessentials.com.

So consider it. Because it’s good to get out there and find out what people love, need and are looking for in a product. Because I bet you have something they love and need!

Bath Bombs key word being Nope!

So then I crammed the soap mixture into the mold, covered it and ran away. oh, Hi! I was off on another tangent.

It has been said in business that it’s “not about what you like” which is true. If I did what I liked, I would make soap only and it would magically sell without me ever having to change out of pajamas.

IMG_2687

I think I make pretty soap. Don’t you? Okay, if there were a couple of thousand “YES!” then I would be done. But people like other things and a whole store/craft booth/Etsy shop of soap might not get the job done. So I thought, “hey, bath bombs, how hard can that be??” People who make them, please pick yourself off the floor now.

Making bath bombs is basically three ingredients. Baking soda, Citric Acid and something liquid. There are other things that round out the recipe like Epsom Salt, Clay or Cornstarch, Coloring, Scent. Weather, How your mouth is twisted. Sanity. Sanity is a big one.

Finished Bomb

Basically you mix the first two ingredients together, add something liquid and then harken back to that Volcano that someone in your Science class made in the 4th grade that exploded. Thanks for listening!

I have read all the lovely explanations and how to’s and of course they make it look easy. After 342 tries I sort of get it but I can tell you I am a very stubborn person who refused to give up until I made one and now continue because I can’t believe the recipe is working.

Here’s what worked for me. It is a variation on a recipe made by Anne-Marie Faiola, The Soap Queen.

Bath BOMB
24 oz. baking soda
12 oz. citric acid
1 tablespoon kaolin clay
1/2 teaspoon mica (coloring, your choice)

2.5 oz. melted coconut oil
1 tablespoon fragrance

a mold (official metal bath bomb mold, plastic bath bomb mold, plastic egg, silicone muffin liner), a rimmed tray, household or medical gloves

rice (you’ll see)

If you are still with me (foolish people), grab a big bowl and a rimmed cookie sheet or container with a slight side to it and a Wisk. Fill the container with enough rice  to give the bath bombs a cushion and place a piece of cling/plastic wrap on top of the rice. You are going to use this as a bath bomb holder/dehumidifier if you are not pressing your mixture into a silicone muffin liner. Don’t try to put the bath bombs directly on the rice (tried that, too).

Put on your gloves and measure the baking soda and citric acid into the bowl. Whisk it together removing the lumps. I have also used a mesh straining spoon to find the bits. Be aware that this stuff is dusty so try not to churn it up too much.

If you have kaolin clay you can add it now. It adds a bit of softness and I like to believe it takes a bit of that moisture out. Or you can use cornstarch here or use nothing. Whisk again. Mica? This is my recipe. It’s what I use. There are all kinds of beautiful colors of micas out there. If you are new (more power to you, why are you reading this?) make pure white bath bombs or if you must have a color, do you have a 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric?

Add the fragrance and the coconut oil and whisk into your dry ingredients. This is where the tutorials say that it should have the consistency of damp sand. I grew up at the beach. Their damp sand and mine are totally different things. I would say it should be barely damp sand or powdery snow without the cold feel. (I know, I am no help!) A bit of the mixture should press together when squeezed without feeling wet. Look! A picture! (Disclaimer: all naked hand pictures are solely to show you how this is done. Normally I wear a hazmat suit and beekeeper hat).

wet sand

How much to put in the mold is also an entire volume of classics. I fill each side of the mold and press a very light thumb indent on each side, then over flow the molds with more mixture. Funny how this works, too little and it won’t fill the mold and hold together. Too much and it breaks.

I then press the two halves together until they meet. I spend a small amount of time pressing the top and bottom together while moving my fingers around and wondering if this counts towards increasing chest size. That’s how hard I press. I have followed the advice of lightly tapping the outside of the mold with a spoon. Key word, lightly, as I have also ruined a perfectly good metal mold in a previous “tapping like Thor” moment. (Attempt 117).  If I am lucky at this point, I can take the top off one side of the mold and gently turn it onto the plastic on the rice wherein the other side gently releases. I have heard you can leave it in the mold and turn it out later. I have one mold. I can’t wait. And when I did try it never came out. This was a different recipe, a different life.

Strawberry

This recipe and crazy bench press method works for me with small variations.
1) They all come out in perfect bath bombs.
2) Two come out fine and the third bath bomb splits in half. I say a few things, scoop out the middle of both sides, run my pristinely clean/gloved fingers around the inside of the mold and try again.

If you are using a silicone muffin liner, much easier! Fill it slightly over and press down. Walk away, come back tomorrow and pop them out carefully. If you are in a humid area. you can set this on that rice tray.

Here is a picture of the plastic molds. They actually squeeze together and hold. Mine actually squeezed together and then oozed, expanded, popped before I tried the above recipe.

3). They come out beautifully and then humidity rears it’s head and they flatten slightly on the bottom. I actually made it look like I meant to do that by painting them like sand dollars. It worked.

Tips?
a) There are a lot of good tutorials out there.
b) Work with your mixture quickly.
c) If your mixture does dry out you can add a spritz or two of witch hazel or alcohol (or just drink the alcohol-over 21 people and you just won’t worry about perfection!!)
d) Don’t touch them for at least 24 hours! It is tempting but don’t.

And don’t give up! If I can eventually do this, you can to! Remember, try number 343 is the charm!

 

 

Where’s the Fun Part?

I’ll have to admit, I never saw this coming! Making soap is so much fun! What to do with it after it has cured, that’s different!

Do you remember years back where everyone was making friendship bread? You are happily and lovingly given a coffee cake with a bag of starter to be able to make your own coffee cake. Then after you knocked yourself out adding to the starter every other day, stirring the starter every other day and then having to make coffee cake for two (when you really didn’t need one coffee cake every ten days in the first place), you now have to find the last person on earth who did NOT have starter or coffee cake. So now I make soap. Right.

Colorful Display

For anyone with a creative bent you know what I am talking about. When you fall for something you inhale it. You want to try everything to do with it. Like lemon pound cake? I bet you have a Pinterest board full of recipes! Well, me, too! My Pinterest board, Soap Recipes and Techniques currently has 1,342 soap recipes on it. That will change by the end of the week. Needless to say, I make a lot of soap. I love making soap.

At first, I gave it to coworkers. In fact, tasked with spiffing up an office for a new coworker, I opened the desk to find seven bars of soap that a poor beleaguered coworker had stashed in the back of a drawer.(By the way, they still smelled great!) But I get it. So now I sell it! Which leads to my new problem,

Dark Soap Display

selling it. I have now become a one (and a half, thanks Season) woman operation in management. I can make the wonderful and fun soap, then I have to market it, label it, package it, ship it and/or sell it as a vendor, invoice and pay taxes and where did the fun part go??

And I will share this backwards journey with you as I move along that road. Those who have a handle on it and those who are now staring with slightly glazed eyes at a growing pile of soap bars, wondering if coffee cake is a better option, as Stephen Wright says, “It may be that your sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others”.

Get ready for my purpose.

 

 

 

Grow your own Herbs!

There is something really satisfying about growing your own herbs. A quick snip of lovingly grown basil, chives or cilantro into a prepared dish adds a level of completeness you just can’t achieve from a jar of dried stuff you have had on a shelf for months. In fact, when is the last time you have looked at the expiration date on those spices? Have you ever?

McCormick shares these guidelines for how long spices can be expected to last.

  • Seasoning blends: 1-2 years
  • Herbs: 1-3 years
  • Ground spices: 2-3 years
  • Whole spices (such as cinnamon sticks and peppercorns): 3-4 years
  • Extracts: 4 years (except for pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely)

So, if you are fine with using herbs in a dish that are one to three years old, read no further! I absolve you from gardening responsibility! But if you aren’t?

No kitchen, no apartment, no yard is too small to accommodate a pot or two of fresh herbs; even a windowsill has room for a little basil and thyme. A porch, yard or garden can afford a tub of mint, cilantro, basil chives, thyme or oregano. And all you do is grab a pair of scissors and snip some fresh herbs for your cooking dish.

Let’s face it, fresh herbs can be expensive when you purchase them individually at the grocery store every time you need them, and the local grocery doesn’t always stock all the herbs you are looking for. And while jars of dried herbs may be cheaper, what is the shelf life of a bottle or can of dried herbs? How long has the jar in your hand been sitting on the grocery shelf and then in your pantry?

So how hard is it?

Outdoors:
When to plant: The best time to grow your own herbs is between March and August.

Step 1. Choose your herbs. I was at our local home improvement store. The peat pots of herbs were going for $3.87 a pot. Less than most bottles at the store, again fresh, and lots of that herb in just one peat pot. Remember, you are not using the whole plant! Just a teaspoon or tablespoon of fresh leaves depending on the dish.

To get the most from your outdoor garden, pick a variety of herbs. Here are a few herbs that are easy to grow: Sweet marjoram, Rosemary, Thyme, Mint, Basil, Sage and Oregano. I always plant Cilantro because I use it a lot but Cilantro is a more delicate herb and requires cooler temps than I have and more care than the others.

Step 2. Decide on the location for growing herbs. Different herbs require different condition to really get growing, and while some love the sun others prefer shade. You can plant among your flowers. Just do your research to make sure your plant will not take over! Some spread. Some make pretty fillers and some like rosemary, are woody stemmed plans, grow large and are more hedge or bush like. With rosemary, you can actually trim it into a shape (you will see these at Christmas as a front door Christmas tree).

Thyme
Thyme in the flower bed

MAJOR EMPHASIS ABOUT SPREADING: Many herbs spread. A large barrel or outdoor pot is an ideal way to plant herbs. I can tell you the “wish I had known” story that after planting mint, even with an addition added over the mint spot, it continued to grow and spread through the garden and across our lawn!
If you are adventurous enough to want a spread in a garden bed, thyme has a low spread and tiny flowers. It fills in well and can be easily trimmed. Mint? NOT SO MUCH!

For herb pots or window boxes on the sunny side of your house, Chives, Oregano and Lemon thyme will flourish, whereas Wild Rocket, Chervil, Parsley and Cilantro prefer a shadier location.

Herb planter
a simple tiered Herb Planter with Cilantro, Chives Basil, Thyme and Parsley

Step 3. Potted herbs
Buy a large pot with holes in the bottom for drainage or a layer of rock or some gravel, a bag of potting soil and a watering can. Take your pot and pour to fill about a fourth of the pot as this will help with drainage and then fill the pot with multipurpose potting soil mixture. Easy find at any hardware or garden store.

Herb Pot.jpg
A deck planter with Thyme

Depending on the plant packaging, I will gently pull the bottom of the peat pot off or if a non-composting container is used, gently work the plant free and slightly loosen the roots to encourage them to spread, then place the plants in the large pot leaving room between each plant. Place taller plants at the center of the pot and trailing herbs near the edge and you will have a beautiful arrangement for a deck or patio plant. I have placed a cherry tomato in a pot and surrounded it with basil and thyme. Fill in any gaps between the plants with compost, gently pushing it deep down a bit with your fingers and leaving a little room between compost and the top of the pot so it doesn’t overflow when watered. This year, our deck plants only have one herb in them, thyme. It makes for a pretty and usable filler!

I’ll be honest. I make sure the pot is regularly watered but with the right potting mix, I have not fertilized it. Life should be easy.

Cyd

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day. An official day, along with a million new holidays that seem to come up every year to honor one thing, person or event; this should be one of the keepers. Because Mother’s Day is every day.

Being a mother is the most rewarding job ever. Hands down. It’s also damn hard. With no monetary compensation in most countries. And why is that? Because raising a person to be a caring and productive member of society is kind of important to the planet. It takes time and loving effort. Something you really shouldn’t screw up! And to see that baby, child, teenager, young adult and adult become that amazing person that you had the smallest part in raising? Truly is the greatest thing.

When I first found out I was pregnant I was not only in awe but honestly in a kind of panic. I wanted a baby but I knew nothing, NOTHING about raising one! Most of you are aware there is no manual? That two of the most important jobs in the world are Motherhood and World Leader? Nope, no manuals! Mothers give birth and in doing so, become “mothers”.

I remember when my first born was a few days old and just couldn’t seem to stop crying. My husband looked at me and said, “Why’s she crying?” “I don’t know”, I said. “But you’re her MOTHER!”, he said in disbelief.

We love you, our children. We raise you to the best of our ability. We screw up a couple of times and we are sorry. But we wouldn’t trade you for the world and that little acknowledgement from you once a year? It means we did a few things right. Without the book.

Day at Beach

https://www.facebook.com/SeasonsSoaps/

https://www.etsy.com/listing/512844254/a-day-on-the-boardwalk-mothers-day-vegan

Going to the Dogs

I see this a lot in blogs “It’s been awhile!”. Lots of reasons there. Life, Work. Soap. Soap.

Roll In This 1

Soap.

We have three dogs. Two are happy geriatric dogs and the third is a Chihuahua. Chihuahuas aren’t dogs. I’ll let you know when I figure out what category they are in as I don’t think they know (or care) either.

Finch 11

I have been making soap for a few years now, trying different things and I realized that I have not made a soap for dogs. Why not? If you own a dog, you know there are all kinds of products out there for them. A whole range of shampoos. Lots of chemicals on the list of ingredients. Which I don’t like.

So I not only made a basic oatmeal soap, I also made a soap with rosemary essential oil for smelly dogs (not that THAT ever happens!).

Whew You Stink 2

These have a simple olive oil base and palm and coconut oils. I have a recipe somewhere on this blog for people. I used the same here. And it works nicely.Because this time we tested it on animals. Ours. And they were fluffy.

So, where have I been? Making soap and promoting it with a contest on Twitter. https://twitter.com/SeasonsSoap

And our winner of the contest, with the most votes for cuteness and soapability? Teddy.

Teddy

 

 

 

 

Marketing Soap

It’s hard to focus when it comes to soap because there are so many formulas, designs and trends out there it becomes hard to know what is right for you. Many people who love homemade soap love it because it is real to them, natural. So consider that and make soap for them. A lavender soap. An oatmeal soap. There are two that are basic and good.

After you make them, take a picture. And it should be a picture of your soap. You don’t need to decorate around your soap. Not if it looks good on it’s own. And if it doesn’t, don’t sell it! That is your reputation out there. You don’t need a fancy camera, your phone should work just fine. Two pieces of white paper work just fine, too.

I used two legal sizes, curved them around and set my soaps on them. No distraction, just soap. img_0533And some natural light. That’s it!

Your next step is tell people why you love your soap. And why they should, too. What are the basic ingredients? Why did you choose this combination? What makes your soap special?

One of the best places to get ideas for your soap is Etsy. Don’t steal anyone’s ideas, not fair! But you can see what makes a good picture, what descriptions speak to you. Then you can create your own. Have a friend who’s prose you admire take a look at what you have written. Fix it if need be.

And now that you have gotten a few ideas from me, keep moving forward. I believe in you!