08 December 2010

Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla Weekend - Pt. 2

Christmas inspirationImage by katiescrapbooklady via FlickrNostalgic Memories

As our weekend began, it dawned on me that the Inlet Inn, which we just started patronizing in 2006, has fit so seamlessly into our tradition.  I do miss the beach house - lots of space, outside shower, beach right outside the door (and over the dunes), the option to cook meals as we wish - but the Inn is very nice and a relaxing escape for us.

My memories took me to the "notable" experiences of our Flotillas.  In 2006, I was sporting a seriously cute pedicure a la my husband to go with the orthopaedic sandal I had to wear as my broken foot continued to heal.  That made navigating through Beaufort a bit of a challenge, but it wasn't bad.

Two thousand seven was pretty bittersweet.  We were glad to be there, but I'd just found out the week before that I'd miscarried the baby we had conceived, and I was waiting to see if my body would get rid of it naturally; if not, my D&C was scheduled for the Monday right after the Flotilla.  It was hard sharing in my daughter's excitement, knowing the sibling she wanted was resting dead within me.  That year, though, we discovered a model train exhibit, and my oldest daughter simply loves model trains, having gotten one the year before for Christmas from Santa Claus.

In 2007, we ended up with a room on the third floor.  The Inlet Inn has three floors - the first two have balconies, the third has window seats.  We spent a lot of time sitting in the window seat as a family, sipping decaf coffee flavored with Hershey's candy cane kisses, and it was that year that something new started that still continues to this day.  Our daughter said, as the three of us sat in the window seat, "I want Kisses."  So, we gave her kisses - lots of them, but not the chocolate variety.  Every time after that, when she said, "kisses," we'd give her kisses.  Since a window seat and a smallish window is no way to enjoy the Flotilla, we went up to the Widow's Walk Lounge to watch the Flotilla.  Imagine our surprise to discover a whole bunch of people up there!  They were sweet folks from Wilmington, and they invited us to join them for their Christmas party - simply pot luck dinner.  We declined because we were still very full from dinner and we didn't have anything to share.  (I'm a born-and-bred Southern lady; you don't go empty-handed to a pot-luck meal.)

We made our reservations for 2008 very early and scored a room on the first floor.  The view was good, the balcony was nice and the bittersweetness of the year before was replaced with hope, anticipation and a reason for me to decline the offer of wine or beer at the party.  I remember asking one lady if there were any non-alcoholic drinks available, accompanied with a small rub on my belly.  We went to see the model trains, walked the wonderful downtown area, our daughter talked to Santa and we watched the Flotilla from our balcony, eating homemade macaroons and Toll House cookies as we watched the parade, ending our day with our new acquaintances from Wilmington.

We missed last year's Flotilla weekend.  It broke my heart having to cancel our reservations, but a new house and a new baby left us strapped for extra spending money.  I made a point, though, of going ahead and booking our reservations for this year's Flotilla, determined we'd go.  Missing it had left us maudlin with an empty spot in our traditional Advent memories.
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05 December 2010

Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla Weekend - Pt. 1

Welcome to the Crystal Coast sign The Tradition Begins

This article begins a multi-part series on our trip to Beaufort, NC to see the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla.  This is an annual tradition for our family, and this year in particular brought back a wave of memories and quite a bit of nostalgia.

Beaufort (pronounced bo' - fort -- long "o") is a charming port town along the North Carolina coast, pretty much the farthest point north in that section known as the Crystal Coast.  There's a rather large historic district containing numerous old homes, some private residences, some bed and breakfasts; and the historic district culminates at Front Street, which runs parallel to the Intercoastal Waterway and features numerous shops, antique stores and restaurants.  Along Front Street is the Inlet Inn, our choice of accomodations for the weekend, with its balconies overlooking the water and prime viewing space for watching the Flotilla.

As we arrived for our weekend away, I remembered the beginning of what would become this Christmas tradition.  The year was 1996, and my now-husband and I had just started dating not even two months before.  I told him I needed a topper for the 4-foot tall tree in my apartment, and he started telling me about this shop at Atlantic Beach that has a whole room of tree toppers.  I looked at him and said, "Christmas By The Sea?"  He was surprised I knew the shop, and we discovered that our families had been vacationing on the same island for pretty much our entire lives.  We got up early on Saturday and struck out, excited about our day trip.  While we were there, we discovered to our surprise that the Flotilla was going on that night, so we hung around, browsed the shops in Morehead City and Beaufort, and watched the Flotilla in both towns, hauling it the three miles from Morehead to Beaufort, arriving just in time to find a parking spot and stake out our spaces along the boardwalk where we could see the boats.

The next several years, we stayed at his parents' beach house at Emerald Isle, always making the trek between Beaufort and Morehead to catch both Flotillas, enjoying the shops, sometimes picnicking as the weather permitted, and I enjoyed some of my most deeply spiritual moments and meaningful encounters with God while standing on the end of my in-laws' dock overlooking the beach late at night.  Yeah, I still miss those moments of simply God, the ocean, and me.

In 2005, my in-laws sold their beach house.  I was unemployed for most of the year, and by the time I'd gotten a job, we figured it was too late to try to get reservations, so we missed that year.  The following year, I made reservations at the Inlet Inn, excited because, while I loved the beach house, I'd also rather envied those who would sit on their balconies sipping wine while watching the Flotilla from the floors of the bed and breakfast.  We've been pleased with our stay here year after year and already have reservations for next year.

Stay tuned for more posts about our weekend and my reflections on it.  I've also got a video of the Flotilla itself.

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31 October 2010

How Well Do You Know Your Christmas Songs?

I'd like to announce a fantastic new game for the month of November!  This game will be taking place at my Facebook page and will be my own version of "Name That Tune."  Here's how we'll play...

The last verse of The Twelve Days of Christmas...
Every week in November up until Thanksgiving, I'm going to post a snippet from a Christmas song on my Facebook page.  It'll start easy - 5 notes - then gradually get harder.  I'll choose Christmas music of all kinds - traditional, contemporary, carols and secular, but I won't use obscure songs.  Your challenge is to name that tune!  The winner each week will receive a coupon good for $10.00 off an order at Sara's Soaps 'n Such.  You can only win one time, but don't let that keep you from playing.  There's only one little catch:  You must "like" my Facebook page.  But really, how hard is that?  (And I promise, it's not all "buy my products"; there's actually very little of that.)

So, cruise on over to Facebook and get ready for some fun and the opportunity to WIN!  Contest starts Tuesday with the first snippet.
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25 October 2010

Pumpkin Soup with Curry

A bowl of pumpkin cream soupImage via WikipediaThis recipe featured in the CoastViews Magazine Blog and was brought to my attention by Monique, a Facebook friend.  I tried it for the first time last week and, while it didn't hit the palate as we were anticipating (more on that in a bit), it's still a very delicious soup.

You'll need:
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
3 medium ribs celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Dash fresh ground black pepper2 tablespoons fresh parsley, or 2 teaspoons parsley flakes
3 cups mashed pumpkin, fresh if possible
2 cups half-and-half or 1 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream
Parsley or chives for garnish (optional)

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Saute' chopped vegetables until just tender.  Add garlic and vegetable broth and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add curry powder, salt, pepper, parsley and pumpkin.  Stir cream until well blended.  Working in batches, blend until smooth and pour back into the saucepan.  Heat through; add more salt and curry powder as needed.  Garnish with chopped parsley or a few roasted, seasoned pumpkin seeds.

I made this in my Dutch oven, just to make sure it all fit in one pot.  I added an additional teaspoon of curry, which was a bit much.  I've found that ground clove balances the curry without making the soup taste too much like pumpkin pie.  I'd recommend starting with 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves for the whole batch and adjusting to taste from there.  This soup is awesome for cool Autumn nights, and I trimmed a bit more fat by using 1% milk, as opposed to the cream or half-and-half.  It doesn't taste as rich as it might, but it's still very tasty.

The flavor threw us a bit at first, because we're all used to a butternut harvest soup I make as often as possible in the Fall and Winter.  That soup contains sweet potato and apple, among other goodies, and I season it with allspice, cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg, so it's got a bit of a sweeter spicy taste.  I think all of us were looking at the soup, noticing the color and texture and expecting it to taste the same.
I hope your family and you enjoy this treat!
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22 October 2010

Pumpkin Treats

I whipped up another batch of pumpkin doozies today; after all, I had to find something to do with the leftover cream cheese frosting.  I made the original batch with whole wheat flour, since that's what we have in the canister.  They were a gorgeous brown and had a rich flavor as the nuttiness of the flour accented the pumpkin.
We're running low on whole wheat flour and I didn't feel like a run to the store, so I decided to use self-rising flour, which only comes in white in our house. This batch was significantly lighter colored, doesn't have quite the same flavor but tastes a bit like pumpkin shortbread. Mmmmm mm! I haven't tried one of the sandwiches in this batch, yet, but my daughter did. Her verdict? "They're good, but next time, use store-bought frosting." I wonder if she realizes it's the same batch of frosting she enjoyed so much in the last batch of cookies?
 I got the recipe off of Allrecipes, so I can't claim credit for it.  It's very easy to make, so whip some up and enjoy!
You'll need:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup of sugar
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
1.  Preheat oven to 350 deg F.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2.  Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add  pumpkin, egg and vanilla; mix well.
3.  Stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  (If you use self-rising flour, omit the baking soda, baking powder and salt.)
4.  Drop onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-14 minutes and let sit for 1 minute before transferring to wire cooling racks to cool.
Cream Cheese Frosting (also from Allrecipes.com)
You'll need:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy.  Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar.  Store in the refrigerator after use.
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21 October 2010

Bottom Lining It

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseAlright.  It's taken me a while, but I simply have to confess, I'm sucking at this blogging thing lately.  What is it?  Time?  Maybe.  Lack of things to talk about?  Yeah, more than likely.  I'd say that both of these are hindered by my laptop being out of commission.  It's like this:  I'm the world's worst for not turning it off.  I'm homeschooling my older daughter all day, squeezing in some soapmaking after school's over, darting into the office to update my Facebook or Twitter streams or, on occasion, fixing or upgrading something on my website.  Do y'all really want to hear about that stuff?  Probably not.

Back to the whole "not turning it off" thing.  I love my laptop and our home's wifi connection because they enable me to watch my shows in the evenings and still get some of my computer work done.  They can also allow me to work on blogs and so forth while I sit in the living room as my daughter works.  Unfortunately, until I can get a new cord for my laptop, neither of those things is happening.  Soon!  Hopefully soon!

Besides my lack of blogs lately, what has been keeping me busy?  I've created a new blog for Moms of all sorts, colors, professions, in-home, out-of-home and even manly moms (aka, Dads).  It's for us and it affirms that we as parents are God's masterpieces, and those children we're raising, nurturing and loving are themselves masterpieces that God created and is still using us to fine tune.

I have a fabulous new private label customer in Elissa, owner and lead stylist at Salon E in Kinston.  Elissa and I met in April at Bee Fest in Kinston and the girls and I had the pleasure of taking a little road trip up to visit with her and discuss her spa collection needs.  How fabulous was that!  It was awesome seeing her again, and I'm so excited about the fantastic products I'm making especially for her.  When her shelves are stocked, I'll post it so you can buy my wonderful soaps and spa treats from her.

Elissa requested two soaps that I didn't have in stock.  Well, I have one of them in stock, but it's a clearanced item.  Her requests were for soaps that get you going in the mornings, and I recommended peppermint and Crystal Coast Morning.  Peppermint simply uses redistilled Peppermint essential oil for an in-your-face, tingle-your-senses bathing experience.  Crystal Coast Morning packs the punch of waking up at the beach on a brisk Winter morning where the only sounds you hear are the waves kissing the sand, birds calling to one another and "ahhhh"- the sound of your first sip of coffee.  You'll be able to get these delectable goodies from Elissa as well.
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02 October 2010

Making Soap New School

Last month, I discovered that my Great-Grandma used to make her own soap.  Dad says that stuff would dry up poison ivy in twenty-four hours!  Yeah, it was that strong.  It shouldn't surprise me that Grandma made her own soap.  After all, in the early 20th century, pretty much every good farm wife made soap for the family, for bathing, laundry and washing dishes.  I'm impressed, though, because not only did Grandma make her own soap, but she also made her own lye.

Still, while this was a common practice a hundred years ago and not terribly remarkable, it's somehow thrilling to me to realize that I've got soapmaking in my family tree, especially a lady I loved and admired a great deal.  When Dad was over at our house a few days after telling me this, I happened to be making a batch of laundry soap in the crockpot.  This is soapmaking new school.  He remembers watching his grandma standing over a black iron pot over an open flame in the yard, stirring the soap endlessly, waiting for it to saponify (become soap).  This would take hours!  Keep in mind, a batch had to bathe all the bodies, all the clothes and all the dishes, and the larger the batch, the longer it takes to "become." 

Now, my soaps won't clear up poison ivy in twenty-four hours, and I have to specially formulate the batch to make it suitable for laundry.  Yes, my laundry soap will get you clean, but it's not nearly as moisturizing as my goat's milk soaps.  So what does "new school" look like?

Lye is bought, not made.  You can make lye by pouring water through ashes, over and over, but this makes a combination of sodium hydroxide (lye) and potassium hydroxide (potash).  I don't have an easy source for ashes, so I just buy my lye over the Internet, or, if I'm out and desperate, at the local hardware store.

Stirring is done by a stick blender, not by hand-stirring with a wooden spoon.  Hand stirring soap can take a few hours at best with some batches.  Stirring with a stick blender takes about five minutes, max.  This spares the arms a lot of agony, plus gets the soapmaker on with life faster.

Soap can cure for longer periods.  Folks like my Great-Grandma didn't have four-to-eight weeks to wait for soap to cure before they could use it.  It needed to be ready right then.

The crock pot has replaced the iron pot (at least in my kitchen).  Instead of adding heat by cooking the soap over an open flame, now we let the crockpot do all the work for us.  It's not quite a matter of turning it on and forgetting about it, but it's close.  My soap can cook in as little as 45 minutes or as long as three hours.  Either way, I'm not stirring it constantly.

So...  For what "old fashioned" thing are you grateful we have modern equivalents now?
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27 September 2010

A Special Promotion for Le Boudoir

Massage oil, available scented,
unscented or flavored.
My own highly exclusive oil blend
In case you didn't know, I have a fabulous line of products for couples that I call Le Boudoir.  I enjoy making these (and product testing, of course!), because couples should have all natural (or mostly natural) products specifically designed to enhance their love life.  My husband feels that one of my business goals going forward into the fourth quarter of the year should be to really drive this line.  I was sharing this with a writer friend of mine - she writes under Celtic Lass - and she offered to help.  How?  Here goes; hang on!

CL writes erotic literature - pretty classy stuff; pretty hot stuff, too! - and she's willing to include some of my products in her stories with links back to them on my site.  Pretty sweet, huh?  But wait!  It gets better!

How'd you like to star in an erotic story?  CL can include you in her stories with either your spouse/SO or just some random "other" (opposite sex unless requested otherwise).  If you would like, she can also create a link to your social media page or website as a way of giving her "lovers" the opportunity for a bit of shameless self-promotion.  We envision that these stories will get a lot of reader traffic, so you stand a great chance of expanding your audience.

If enough people participate, we will open up voting, with the winners getting free Le Boudoir products.  Sounds like a win to me!  If you'd like to be a character (ha!  All my customers are characters! ;-)), you can post a comment below or email Celtic Lass or me.

21 September 2010

Tacky Trash

I mentioned in another blog post about meeting a friend from Twitter this past Saturday.  Sarah is a talented artisan in her own right.  A graduate of Meredith University with a degree in Art, she is artsy and gifted in ways I can only dream about.  I think a part of me may be slightly envious that she has the time to do all these great crafts.  She not only showed me her fantastic flower hair clips, but she also told me about a new product she's planning to add to her line, as well as the rugs she has recently learned to make using old sheets and pillow cases.  I'm telling ya, this lady has TaLeNt!

My older daughter wearing her new hair clip by Tacky Trash
 Sarah brought some of her creations to show me, and I found a hair clip that I knew my daughter would love.  It's got some great colors that go with several of her outfits and, as I could have predicted, she planned her outfit for Sunday's church services around her new clip.

You can find Sarah's other hair creations at her Etsy shop, and if you live in the Wilmington, NC and Cape Fear area, you can find her lovely clips at The Boutique on Castle.

Know an artisan or crafter who deserves a shameless plug or shout-out?  Make sure to tell them how much you appreciate their work.

19 September 2010

It started with Twitter

I joined Twitter Spring of 2009.  To be honest, I'd heard about it but thought, I really don't have time to do any social networking.  Besides, what networking?  I'm a hugely pregnant work-at-home Mom getting ready to move; it's not like I'm going to meet anyone.  I now laugh at my naivete, because I've done a LOT of networking and have met quite a few people with whom I first connected on Twitter.  Some of these are local; others are fellow soapmakers who I had the pleasure of meeting in Denver at the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild annual conference.

I met the most recent Twitter friend on Saturday.  We'd been tweeting back and forth some, and I'd followed her Etsy post listings and FourSquare excursions.  Then, something new popped up.  She started posting about a new project she was undertaking with the intriguing name "52 first dates in a year."  The premise is simple:  Sarah will go on a date with a different guy every week for a year.  Her goal is to meet new people, make new friends and to undertake a courageous voyage of self-discovery.  She's not looking for hook-ups; as she says on her blog, the gentlemen can expect a thank you and at most, a kiss on the cheek at the end of the date.  She is also limiting her dates just to guys to whom her friends refer her.  And that's where I came in.

I mentioned that I've met some local people from Twitter, and one of those happens to be a gentleman named Craig who was interested in our church.  Craig happens to fall within Sarah's preferred age range, is delightfully social and won't make the average female want to gouge her eyeballs out after looking at him.  I sent Sarah an email recommending Craig to her and after twenty-something emails later - some really long and all under the subject line "date recommendation" (we need a new subject) - we met in person.

When I joined Twitter, I expected to network with other business people and other soapmakers.  I expected to use Twitter to promote my business.  I never expected to make a very good friend because of Twitter.  That ended up being a very pleasant surprise. 

Are you on Twitter or Facebook?  I'd love to connect with you!  Check below for my links for Twitter and Facebook.

What has been your most memorable Twitter or Facebook experience to date?

Twitter:  www.twitter.com/SaraNesbitt
Facebook:  www.facebook/com/SaraNesbitt
Facebook fan page:  www.facebook.com/SarasSoapsnSuch

18 September 2010

My First Labyrinth Experience

As a small business owner, mom and homeschool teacher, I'm very seldom "off."  I wake up in the mornings and hit the ground running, keeping up with my two girls.  Then we start homeschooling, and once that's over, I'm still Mom but also hustling to catch up on business matters, often working right up til dinner, pausing for dinner and to put the girls to bed, then getting back to work, often until 11:00 at night.

Today, I was invited to be "off."  I've recently met a lady on Twitter named Sarah who invited me to join her to walk her church's labyrinth this morning.  How wonderful, both to meet this new friend and to enjoy 30 minutes of time "off" to me and "on" to God!  I wrote about it on my religious blog; this is the repost.


I had a fabulous spiritual experience this morning. My new friend Sarah invited me to join her at Church of the Servant Episcopal Church in Wilmington to walk the labyrinth. While I was familiar with this spiritual practice, I'd never experienced it. 

Labyrinth - Photo courtesy of Unity Christian Church
If you blow the picture up and trace it, you'll see that there are no dead ends to the labyrinth; the line leads to the center, and after savoring time in the center to pray and meditate, the labyrinth then leads sojourners back out to the outer edge of the circle. When walking towards the center, sojourners - for, yes, the labyrinth represents a journey - take the opportunity to clear their hearts and minds, enabling God to speak.

As I walked the labyrinth, there were some things I discovered, as well as some things the Holy Spirit revealed to me.

Walking the labyrinth forced me to look down at my path.  As I walked the labyrinth, I had to keep my eyes down so I could see where I was going. When I tried to look at other sojourners or enjoy the beautiful sanctuary, I risked getting off my path. The same holds true for our Christian walk. So long as we're focused on what we're doing and what we're supposed to be doing, then we will find our way staying true to our spiritual paths.

I didn't walk the labyrinth alone, any more than I walk this Christian journey alone. Yet, my walk is my own. As I walked the labyrinth, I followed, I led, occasionally I walked beside another sojourner, I may have, at times, met someone on the walk and once, I had to step aside so someone who was just starting the labyrinth could pass.

My mind could not fill with God until I emptied it of stuff.  In this case, I don't mean bad or worrisome stuff; I mean all stuff, even happy. Right before walking the labyrinth was the first time Sarah and I had met in person, and the very first thing we said to each other was the other's name as a question, and in perfect sync. Obviously, with our names differing by just one letter, it was rather amusing. Again, a happy thought, but still one that created mental "noise" and kept me from hearing God as I should.

When I arrived at the center of the labyrinth, my mind was clear, open and being deliciously filled with God. This may sound bad, but I could enjoy a prayer free of my children (my older daughter and I pray together twice a day, with her daddy joining us at bedtime prayers). This children-free time with God enabled me to pray just for what I wanted to pray. I didn't feel compelled to list all of her sick friends (most of whom are probably well on the road to recovery by now). It was, plain and simply, my Mommy time with God. No, it was my WOMAN time with God, a daughter taking quiet respite time hanging with her Father. As I walked back out of the labyrinth, I felt lighter, calmer and less stressed.

Have you ever walked the labyrinth? What was your experience of it?

Church of the Servant Episcopal Church is located on Oriole Drive in Wilmington, about 1/3 mile down on the left. The labyrinth is open the third weekend of each month on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings.

06 September 2010

Video: The Economic Ramifications of Safe Cosmetics Act

A little over a month ago, I posted my reasons for opposing the Safe Cosmetics Act; you can read that article here.  I have no problem with safe cosmetics; that's why my colleagues and I make our own as much as possible, and we make them according to cGMPs (Current Good Manufacturing Practices), as set forth by the FDA.  In this video, I discuss how the passing of the Safe Cosmetics Act (H.R. 5786) would decimate thousands of small businesses.  It's almost eleven minutes long, so go ahead and grab a cuppa before watching.

Please, if you haven't already done so, contact your Representatives and Senators and tell them that you oppose the Safe Cosmetics Act.

02 September 2010

I Stand Corrected

After writing this post regarding "illegal" pesticides in the form of bug repellents - all natural ones that haven't been tested by the FDA or the EPA - a newish friend Lisa, co-CEO of Personal Care Truth, messaged me with some great information regarding these products.

I'd found some - what I'd thought was good - information on a supplier's website.  This lady is smart, heavily involved with battling industry-crippling legislature and a highly reputable source.  I didn't realize she was posting somewhat fear-related information, and I don't know if it's out of ignorance or an attempt to crush a competitor - hers or someone else's.  Well, I quoted that source and even linked to her articles on my website.  Now I feel like a fool.

The truth?  The EPA has a list of ingredients that are considered exempt from testing.  These not only include the inert ingredients I use to make up the base for my bug repellent sticks, but also the essential oils that are the active, bug repelling ingredients in them.  But then there's that pesky other agency, the FDA with its own set of rules and regulations.  A repellent is a drug; the secret around it is not labeling it as such.  Not a problem.

In conclusion, all natural bug repellents are much, much safer than commercially prepared ones containing extra chemicals, including DEET.  If they're prepared according to the cGMPs established by the FDA and labeled according to the guidelines set forth by both the FDA and the EPA, then these products are ideal for helping keep children and adults bite-free and safer from the diseases that mosquitoes transmit.

Want some awesome, totally safe, all natural bug repellent?  You can get yours here!  The bugs are still out there annoying us, so take care of 'em!

01 September 2010

Lessons in Leadership from my Six-Year-Old Daughter

Originally typed 29 July 2010

Each day, my girls and I walk at least a mile-and-a-half.  Well, I walk, the baby rides in her stroller and my older daughter who's six rides her bike.  She likes to be the leader, and since she tends to ride on my heels, I let her.  Walking with her has taught me a few valuable lessons in leadership.

(1)  A good leader will make firm decisions.  We take turns deciding which route through the neighborhood we'll take, and when it's her turn, she doesn't waffle; she says, "Let's start at the cul de sac today."

(2)  A good leader trusts that those she's leading will follow her.  My daughter wouldn't be "leading" if I were to strike off in the other direction.

(3)  A good leader will accept direction from her followers.  Even though my daughter may be leading us on our walks, she listens when I holler, "Car!" which is our code for "get to the side."

(4) She respects differences of opinion.  Usually her little legs wear out before mine do, so she respects my desire to continue while she finds something else to do.

Who's been an unlikely leader for you?  What did they teach you?

25 August 2010

What's the Deal About Pesticides?

There are many soapmakers and cosmetic manufacturers out there who make all natural bug repellents.  These are products in either spray or solid form that repel bugs, normally made up of an all natural blend of alcohol and essential oils (for the sprays) or a butter/wax/oil blend with essential oils (for the sticks).  They're generally fabulous products - all natural, DEET free, safe to use on everyone from babies to the elderly.  I know, because I used to make and sell them; now I only make them for our own use.

Honestly, it broke my heart giving up this product.  It was a phenomenal seller and I couldn't keep it in stock during the Spring and Summer months.  So, if it was such a great product and such a fabulous seller, why did I discontinue it?

I promised myself and my customers that, no matter what, I would run my business legally and ethically, abiding by the matters of my faith and the law of the land.  As a cosmetic and soap manufacturer and small business owner, then I'm bound by the guidelines and laws of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (regulates plain ol' soap), the Food & Drug Administration (regulates cosmetics), the North Carolina Department of Revenue (for obvious reasons) and the Internal Revenue Service (again, for obvious reasons).  This means that I make my products in the safest way possible, abide by the guidelines for cGMPs (current Good Manufacturing Practices) and adhere to what the FDA says I can and cannot sell, given my level of manufacturing.

The bottom line is, I discontinued Go Away Bugs! because the FDA considers bug repellents to be drugs, and the EPA regulates them as pesticides, even though they repel, not kill.  This means that bug repellents, even all natural ones, have to undergo extensive - and very expensive - testing, both by the FDA as drugs and by the EPA as pesticides.  The EPA tests alone run in the range of $12,000.00, which I simply can't afford. 

Still, other cottage micromanufacturers continue to make and sell these.  Considering their prices are reasonably low and their exposure is small, it's a safe bet that they have not had these products tested, leaving the consumer to wonder, Exactly how safe is this product?  Just because it's all natural does not ensure or guarantee a product's safety.  Over against the looming monster of the Safe Cosmetics Act and the microscope under which all of us bath and body makers are, such careless, UNLAWFUL practices just underscore the public's doubt about the safety of all of our products.

For me, it's not worth $5.00 a tube to damage the rest of my business or to harm this microindustry as a whole.  While my product is safe and effective, as a responsible business owner, it's up to me to protect not only the integrity of my company, but the integrity of my industry as well.

29 July 2010

Why I Oppose the Safe Cosmetics Act

We, of course, want to use safe cosmetics.  I can agree that we want to avoid certain things:

  • Deodorant that makes your arms stick straight out to your sides.
  • Luxurious night cream that turns your face green with orange and purple spots.
  • Eye cream that makes them look buggy.
  • Shampoo for fine, thin hair that ends up making your hair fine and thin.
So why am I so opposed to the Safe Cosmetics Act (SCA), whose very aim is to ensure cosmetics are safe for consumers?  Short answer...  The SCA won't necessarily make cosmetics safer for consumers and it'd put me out of business.  Longer answer...

  • The SCA proposes to ban all ingredients that are in any way carcinogenic, without regard to dosage.  It sort of reminds me of the health warning on saccharine:  "This product has been known to cause cancer in laboratory animals."  Well, yeah, if you inject 6 packets of the stuff straight into a rat's blood stream, chances are, the rat will develop some ill effects, but how many people do that to themselves?  No one, of course; that'd just be stupid.  Same with the SCA.  An essential oil may contain one component that makes up 0.5% of that oil, and that component may have carcinogenic effects in 0.03% of the population, so therefore, the SCA would propose to ban that essential oil completely. 
  • The SCA is calling for cosmetic manufacturers to list every single component that would be in every single ingredient... well, except for those which can't be detected.  With the current technology, we can find trace components as small as ppb (parts per billion), virtually leaving nothing undetectable!  I swiped the following example from Essential Wholesale's blog, at Essential U, listing just the components in water:
Aqua (lead, acrylamine, alachlor, alpha/photon emitters, antimony, asbestos, arsenic, atrazine, barium, benzene, benzo(a)pyrene, beta photon emitters, beryllium, bromated, cadmium, carbofuran, carbon tetrachloride, chloramines, chlordane, chlorine, chlorine dioxide, chlorite, chlorobenzene, chromium, copper, cyanide, 2,4-D, dalapon, o-Dichlorobenzene, p-Dichlorobenzene, 1,1-Dichloroethylene, cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene, trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene, Di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate, dinoseb, diquat, endothall, endrin, ethylbenzene, fluoride, glyphosate, hexachlorocyclopentadiene…mercury….radium….uranium, vinyl chloride, xylenes.)
Now, that's just all that's in water, nevermind the 5-50 other ingredients (with all their components) that might also be in the product.  Determining these trace components will be time-consuming and expensive for the small manufacturer.
  • The SCA is calling for the testing of all product formulas.  In the course of the past 8 years I have been in business, I've created seven different lotion formulas alone (not including the total of dozens of variations on my other products' formulas).  At around $35.00 each to test, that gets to be very expensive, plus it's time consuming, with an average of two weeks' wait to get results.
  • The SCA calls for additional testing to determine if there is any reaction between the product and anything with which it may have come into contact.  If my wholesaler has a lotion base that they've developed and had tested, then they store that lotion base in 1-gallon plastic jugs, they would then need to have that lotion retested to see if it in any way reacted with the plastic in which it's stored.  This, of course, costs my supplier money, costs that they then have to pass on to me, which I then have to pass on to my customers.  My customers don't like paying the higher prices (no worries, as I don't use bases, anyway), so they stop buying my products.  Therefore, I have to close up shop.
  • The passing of the SCA will put thousands of small business cosmetic manufacturers out of business.  Those higher prices that suppliers have to pay trickle down, all the way to the consumer.  Small businesses will close, putting people in every community out of work, making it that much more difficult for us to take care of our families.  During this recession when unemployment is so high and people are dying to work, it makes no sense to eliminate so many jobs needlessly.
The majority of cosmetic micro-industrialists practice current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) as determined by the FDA.  We have our water-based products tested for safely and preservative efficacy, and we started making these superior products because we wanted to provide consumers with more natural, greener, American-made products, because we've used them and love them!  Probably all of us only test on two-legged animals (that's what friends and family are for), so we don't harm animals in our manufacturing, either.

What can you do to help us?  You can start by signing the petition we have going on to oppose the Safe Cosmetics Act.  We've gotten over 2,000 signatures in 48 hours!  How's that for positive reactions from people who want to preserve small business and maintain their right to buy artisan soaps and cosmetics?  Second, please go to Open Congress and register your opposition to the bill.  There's even a handy link there you can use to contact your representative to tell him or her that you oppose H.R. 5786, the Safe Cosmetics Act.  Third, spread the word.  If you're posting about this on Twitter, please use the hashtag #OpposeSCA.

For more information, go to http://www.opposesca.com/.  Thank you so much! :-)

21 July 2010

Washington Aiming to Demolish Small Business

I am normally very intentional about not tying any of my political views to my business, but us small business owners who make cosmetics could be in serious trouble, so I want to get the word out for you to support us and am going to try doing so in the most nonpartisan way possible.

What's the deal?  Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc. introduced to the House the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 this afternoon.  Concordantly, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CFSC), which is backed by some large tax-exempt organizations and some Hollywood celebrities (particularly those with their own cosmetic lines) has released a video today filled with misinformation, untruths and generalities in order to convince the trusting public that cosmetic manufacturers are filling cosmetics with cancer-causing ingredients.  This is simply not true.

A little history...  In 2008, the FDA Globalization Act 2008 was bandied before a congressional subcommittee.  This act, which addressed primarily food and drugs, arose after a spate of salmonella-tainted peanut butter issues and after lead was found in toys imported from overseas, namely China.  (The CPSC - Consumer Product Safety Commission - dealt with the toys issue in a way that put hundreds of artisan toymakers out of business.)  There was a small section - very small - in the Act that required cosmetic manufacturers to register with the FDA (for a fee) and further, required them to file every formula with the FDA.  The registration fees were as high as $12,000.00 annually, and having to file formulas would have resulted in more time dealing with paperwork than in actually driving a business.  (Even changing an oil for another oil would have necessitated filing the new formula documentation.)  When the draft of this Act was before this subcommittee, they had NO idea that there was this cottage cosmetic micro-industry that the passing of the FDAGA2008 would decimate.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of many in our industry, the draft was changed in 2009 and passed so as not to affect us.

In March of this year, Colorado representative Dianne Primavera led a move backed by Skin Deep to ban all ingredients with any toxicity at all from cosmetics, with no regard to dosing.  Olive oil, cocoa, and some essential oils all contain trace amounts of toxins.  What this proposed law would do was prohibit all cosmetic manufacturers in Colorado and all those shipping to Colorado from using any of these "toxic" ingredients.  Yet, the amounts of olive oil and cocoa that the citizens consume in food are far greater than what would be in your average cosmetic.

And now it's looking like we have still more legislation before us with its roots in fear-mongering and ignorance.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't one of the campaign "hot buttons" the last election "small business" with tax breaks for us small business owners and "promises" from Washington to help drive small business, recognizing our sizable contribution to promoting local business, promoting American made products and stimulating the local - and ultimately the national - economy?  And now, with the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, the very body which swore to protect us could conceivably bury us small business owners in astronomical fees and mountains of paperwork.

Additionally, the demolition of small cosmetic businesses will eliminate that option from peoples' buying choices, making it nearly impossible for them to buy high quality artisan cosmetics.  The ruination of small local cosmetic businesses also eliminates them from the economic landscape, forcing people at the local level out of jobs, which in turn adversely affects their buying power (no income means much less money to spend locally) and increasing unemployment.  Small business owners of all breeds (not just us cosmetic manufacturers) work so that we can support our families and our communities, which we feel is far better than being unproductive leeches of an already overburdened welfare system.

Please support us and help us keep our own businesses intact, as well as helping us as we support our families, communities and local economies.  I reiterate Donna Maria Cole Johnson's question on her blogWhat are you willing to do to make sure your representatives live up to their promises to support small business owners?

My Daughter's Statement of Faith

The Sunday after Mother's Day, our six-year-old daughter told us on the way to church that she was ready to say the sinner's prayer and invite Jesus into her heart.  She'd been grappling with this decision for a few months by this point.  At the end of the service, her daddy and I knelt with her at the altar by the wooden cross that stands over our church's Open Door service while she said the sinner's prayer and asked Jesus into her heart.  She wrote this soon after.

And as you grow, you will reseve [receive] that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins.  I aready [already] said the Lords [sinner's] prayer.  I aready [already] beleve [believe] he saved us from our sin.  You also get batized [baptized].  When I am nine I will get batized [baptized].
Love, Mary.

20 July 2010

Tea For Four

Last Wednesday my baby and I drove down to Southport to meet with a potential wholesale customer and to deliver some soap samples to her. While we were there, we took the time to walk around and visit some of the other shoppes at Olde Southport Village, a charming collection of cottage shoppes. I noticed a tea shoppe and tea room there, and thinking of a good source for Christmas presents for my tea-loving aunts, as well as a nice afternoon trip for my older daughter and me, I popped in. A few minutes with the shoppe owner, Jan, and we were talking private label tea soaps. I assured her it could be done, but it wasn't likely that the scent or color of the tea would remain in the soap, though any beneficial properties of the teas would. She gave me three teabags - green, chai and Earl Grey - to try and soap.

I went back home and immediately hopped online to see if I could find these scents and got lucky. I dared to try another supplier for some of these scents (always a little nerve-wracking), and they came today. I'd brewed the teas and chilled them, so when my fragrances came, I was ready to go. This afternoon, I whipped up four 6-ounce bars of soap, three using each of the different teas and one with water, and all four with different fragrances - green tea, chai tea, Earl Grey and white tea (the one with water). What a thrill to do a soapmaking blitz like this, and how exciting it was soaping with both a new medium (tea) and new, fantastic smelling fragrances!

These are the soaps freshly poured.

Being the oh, so typical soapmaker, I had to peek a few times during the process.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that the soap was gelling and looked like this!

Look at how dark that White Tea soap is in nearly full gel!  Unreal!  I peeked about two hours later, and the Chai Tea soap was also pretty dark.  I predict that at least three of these soaps will be cream, and one might be tan, depending on how much vanilla is in it.
So, that's my excitement for the day.
What's excited you recently?

17 June 2010

Flippin' for Children

A couple of weeks ago, a local media outlet aired a "gotcha" story against Yahweh Center, a non-profit Christian organization that serves children, including some with learning, emotional and behavioral disorders.  It seems like a disgruntled former employee wanted her 15 minutes of fame.  Yet, I'm concerned what this bad media exposure would do for this center at a time when they're already struggling due to a decline in charitable giving with the current economic situation.  So, I came up with a way that all of us can help.

To order your flip flop soaps, go to http://www.sarassoapsnsuch.com/.  For more information on the Yahweh Center, check out their website at http://www.yahwehcenter.org/.  If you want to find us at the North Carolina Blueberry Festival, we'll be in booth 72, near the intersection of W. Wilmington Street and S. Walker Street on the Courthouse Square, kind of across from the Pender Rescue Squad.

07 June 2010

Working Smarter

I've learned a lot of things from my husband over the years, but one thing which stands out, especially in the current insanity that's our life together right now, is the importance of working smarter, not harder.  For me - and for him - this means finding the right tools which would allow us to maximize efficiency and minimize labor.  I've recently found two gems that do this for me as I make lip balms.

The first is a lip balm filling tray.  You can get these at any of several online retailers and wholesalers; I happened to get mine from Bramble Berry when I was ordering a fragrance oil my daughter wanted.  It's a simple concept.  You stick up to 50 lip balm tubes in from the bottom, pour your melted lip balm into the tubes, and any mess you make - any spills at all - collect on the top where you can scrape them off, remelt them and repour.  The result is the ability to make many lip balms at once with perfect tops and no messy drips down the side.  This is a HUGE improvement over pouring 4 at a time, by hand, and having to clean lip balm off the sides of tubes before I could even think about labeling them.

The second wondrous addition to my business life are these lip balm labels from Online Labels.  I'd heard about them from friends who'd tried them, but I figured, business was in its slow period, so I'd wait.  I wish I'd had these five years ago (they weren't around then)!  I bought the clear ones, which look awesome against my white tubes.  And ohhhh...  They're large enough to go all the way around the tube with a bit of overlap, meaning they help themselves stay on, plus I don't have to finangle my font sizes just to get all the FDA-required information on a smaller label.  I absolutely love these!  I love the ease of use, the way they print and the great way they make my lip balms look.  I save myself a ton of work with these and get consistently fabulous results.  The old way?  I'd print the label on a smaller white label, then seal it with clear tape.  It was a lot of work and a lot of frustration.  Check out the picture!

Question:  What tools make your life easier, especially when it comes to your business or work?

27 May 2010

On How to Subtract

He's a quiet man, unassuming, passionate in his love for God and God's people.  His name is Mike Cogdill, and I've had the pleasure and honor of knowing Dr. Cogdill since I was a smart-mouthed sophmore in college.  Even with that less-than-stellar beginning, he still gave me his blessing as I prepared to enter Divinity School at Campbell University Divinity School, of which he was dean.

Upon entering Divinity School, Dr. Cogdill stresses, "You don't add divinity school to your life.  You must subtract something."  Over the course of 3 1/2 years, I subtracted a lot of extra activities, most of my TV watching and online forums.  Then somewhere in that mix I added something big - a baby.

As things get hectic in life and business, I haven't forgotten Dr. Cogdill's exhortation to subtract, not to pile more and more on an already full plate. 

I subtract products.  There are some things I make that I absolutely love.  I enjoy making them and using them, and I just know all my customers are going to clamor to have one of them.  Sometimes this works.  I see it in my Soaps of Milk & Honey (and Oatmeal!), which are good sellers, and I can see this in my goat's milk lotions.  There are times, though, when I get a bit over enthused about my products and make tons of them, anticipating they'll sell; then I have to clearance them eventually.

I subtract tasks.  With all that goes into running a business, I have had to decide for myself what I will and will not do in order to drive my business.  Weekly or monthly markets are the first thing that went.  While I love meeting my customers and interacting with them, doing markets and events requires a lot of work and a pretty big time commitment.  I opted to subtract those from my business itenerary, choosing instead to focus on wholesale and private label accounts.

What have you subtracted from your business, and how has this subtraction made it more successful?

23 May 2010

What's the Secret?

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary.  This past year has certainly been a wild one, what with moving into our first house, making our "big move" at the same time to a completely new part of the state, and having a new baby.  Our day began with brunch at Chris's Cosmic Kitchen in Wilmington, traversed down to Kure Beach for a bit of water therapy and a walk on the beach, ultimately ending back in Wilmington with a fondue dinner at The Little Dipper.  Our server at dinner asked us, "What's the secret to staying married that long?"

My first answer was "Forgiveness," and Peter followed this up with, "Don't go to bed angry."  In all our years of marriage, as long as we've been under the same roof, we've slept in the same bed, with maybe the rare occasion of sickness.  (I had bad heartburn for a few days with my first pregnancy and slept sitting up on the sofa one night.)  We might sometimes sleep with a foot of space between us, yet at some point during the night, our bodies forget about the irritation and we end up in our usual yin-yang-esque position.  I've screwed up.  He's screwed up.  We will both likely screw up again, but we can't let that become a wedge between us.

I thought later, and the other thing that keeps us united and strong is laughter.  In any situation, we have a choice of how we'll react.  Last night is a great example.  On the way to dinner, traveling down the interstate, I blew a tire on my car.  A little freaky, and somehow rather funny, given that I'd just asked him if the tire would survive my road trip today.  He's changing the tire, and we're exploring the levity of the situation.  One thing we try to do each anniversary is use the "traditional anniversary gift guide" for presents.  This actually makes us be creative in our gift-giving.  The 11th anniversary gift is steel.  Can ya see where I'm going with this?  After he got done changing my tire, Peter said, "Well, you'll get a steel-belted radial for your anniversary gift.  I'm getting you steel after all!"  I laughed (really, a tire's OK this year), and we hobbled on to dinner on the spare, getting smiles and waves when people read our back window.

What are your secrets to a long and happy marriage?

21 May 2010

Being Looked Up To and Humbled

It happened twice this week, rather out of the blue.  The first time was Tuesday when a friend saw something I posted on Facebook.  I was venting about my older daughter's teacher and used a description that she was afraid her daughter would see.  It caught me off-guard, but what she said was, "She looks up to you, and seeing that would crush her."  Wow.  I absolutely adore this young lady.  She's lovely, funny and bright, but she doesn't see herself like her parents and I do.  I think of her as the niece I'll never have (but have always wanted), and I later messaged my friend and said I'd never want to do anything to hurt her or make her stumble.

Then came Wednesday.  I was moderating and catching up on the WSP forums and saw a discussion thread on SoapMaker, the lye calculator I use.  One member said to me, "You're my mentor."  Again, a humble wow.  This lady is very sweet, we get along great and I think of her as a friend, but I had no idea she sees me as her mentor, someone from whom she can seek guidance and encouragement.

Both of these comments humbled me.  There's something about knowing others are looking at what I do, what I say and what I think and have decided for themselves that it's good.  Or not.  If Jesus himself refuses the title of "Good teacher," when he alone is good, then certainly I should just hold the humble honor that's in the title of "teacher," "mentor" and "friend."

Who's your mentor?  What about that person makes them that for you?

20 May 2010

The Hype of Social Media

Confession...  I'm a huge crime drama junkie - My week runs through all the CBS "howdunits" from Monday night with CSI: Miami to Thursday night and The Mentalist.  (Numb3rs is off the air and I gave up on Sunday nights - couldn't stay up.)  Last night I was watching Criminal Minds, which is like a dark chocolate dream to this former Psych major, and was fascinated by the whole emphasis on social media.  There were a couple of comments that really stood out for me.

"Online time suck" - Garcia said this about all the social media networking sites - Twitter, Facebook (FB), MySpace and YouTube.  And it's true.  I'm on Twitter and FB, and I can't tell you how many of my connections spend all day in YoVille, Farmville, Mafia Wars and Cafe World.  I skim over those posts, because that's not my thing.  I can see, though, how much time one can spend in a day just between Twitter and FB.  (Incidentally, one friend got away from FB because of all the games on his stream.)

"We all want an audience." (Morgan) - Don't we though?  One question that preceded this comment was, "Do they think anyone cares what they had for breakfast?"  Donna Maria Coles Johnson would argue, "Yes, they do," because readers want to know they're dealing with a person, not a huge, anonymous corporate entity.  I post tweets throughout the day about what I'm doing, irritations, something cute one of my children did, and so forth, but do I really think that all 240 of my followers are raptly staring at their Twitter steams, waiting for the latest from me?  Um, no.  My ego's not nearly that big!

For me, the quality online networking experience comes from selectively choosing my audience and selectively choosing those for whom I will be the audience.  After all, it's about making connections, not about being in the middle of the online equivalent of the Midway at the State Fair.

Question:  What's the most rewarding part of your online social media experience?  How can you use that to improve your interactions?

16 May 2010

Sixty-four a Day

Sixty-four... what?  Bars of soap?  Sometimes!  Bottles of lotion?  Possibly.  Tubes of lip balm?  Nope.

Sixty-four ounces of water daily.  This is my favorite and easiest fitness trick.  I start with 16 ounces when I take my morning pills - eight for my multivitamin, another eight for my Claritin.  This is a hard goal to reach when it's 35 degrees and cloudy outside.  After all, who wants to put even tap cold water into a body already bundled up against the cold?  However, as the days get warmer and more humid, that 64 ounces is very attainable.

I use water to stave off cravings, too.  My family gave me a scrumptious Andes Mint Cheesecake for Mother's Day, some of which is still in the fridge.  Last night I was thinking, "Hm, a slice of that sure would be good!"  Then I remembered something a friend told me one time:  "Hunger can also be your body's way of telling you you're dehydrated."  That stuck with me, and often when I find myself really wanting a sweet something (like a slice of cheesecake), I instead bypass the fridge and pantry and refill my water cup.  Works almost every time (though I'm not opposed to grabbing a Kiss from the bowl, either).

Question...  What's your favorite and easiest fitness trick?

14 May 2010

Home Soapin' Day

My six-year-old daughter was home from school this past Monday, getting over a stomach bug.  I'd given her a soapmaking kit I got at the HSMG Conference the previous week and told her that she could now fly almost-solo in making her first soap.  After the squeals and hugs and "Oh, Mommy, you're the best!"s, she asked, "But not with lye, right?  Because I'm not old enough to do lye soap."  Nope, she's not; she'll start out with melt-and-pour, just as I did.
I cut up the soap block for her and showed her how to melt it in the microwave.  First, she added the color, a gorgeous royal purple.  (Don't ya just LOVE that tiny little pipette?)

Then she added the fragrance, which is a totally scrumptious Passionfruit Rose fragrance oil.  (I later found out that it's also lip safe!  Woohoo!)  This scent reminds me of the rum punch my husband and I enjoyed on a sunset sail on our honeymoon.

Then she stirred it gently.

Then came the pouring.  The pots of colorants and glitter are testimony to her soapmaking ambitions for this day!

And after patiently waiting for them to set up, here's the final result.  The purple one is the one she's making here.  The pink one is the same scent and poured into a mould I've had for a while.

Question:  What's a good sick day activity you've gotten to share with your child?

Soapmaking kit provided by Brambleberry.  The soap and colorant used in the heart soap came from Wholesale Supplies Plus.

13 May 2010

What's in Your Cell Phone?

A well-known Viking-heavy credit card commercial asks, "What's in your wallet?"  I ask you, "What's in your cell phone?"  I had the time and extreme boredom required to clean out my cell phone the other day.  There were text messages going back over two years that needed to be deleted or moved.  I did this partially because, with the number of texts I'm sending and receiving lately, it doesn't take long for me to run out of memory, and really, I'd rather have the memory to snap that picture of one of my girls.  Also, I've been eyeing a new phone for a few months now and want to have my "must saves" squared away.

While I was cleaning out my text messages - and yes, that meant reading most of them - I started noticing what a treasure trove of daily life my texts were.

Daily Stuff - Texts from my husband asking if I knew of anything we needed at the grocery store or telling me he'll pick up our daughter from day care.

Romantic Texts - Kisses flying through space to land in my phone.  Simply "I hope your day's going well.  I love you."  Sweet little moments of knowing my husband's thinking of me at that moment during his work day.

Pictures - Pics from friends, one of whom seems to have a fascination with sending multiple camera phone self-portraits.  (Why???)  A picture showing a new haircut.  My aunt enjoying her second-best birthday celebration in recent years.  Christmas breakfast.  Things my husband spots while he's out, like the house that had Halloween and Christmas decorations up at the same time - in early October!  Then there was this, arguably the best treasure of all these pictures, each pixel worth a thousand words and a million memories.

This is my recently departed Grandpa holding my then newborn baby last August.  It's the only picture I have of them together.

Question:  What's in your cell phone?

10 May 2010

Chemistry Making Sense

While I was at the HSMG Conference last weekend, I took advantage of the opportunity to sit in on two sessions, both of which were very chemistry-rich.  Let me preface this by saying that just being in these sessions was a matter of extreme self-discipline and personal challenge.  You see, while chemistry is now pretty much my life, I did horrible at it in high school and college, earning C's at both levels.  (I guess I should take some sort of solace in the fact that, while the work got harder, I didn't get dumber.)

The first session was led by Dr. Cindy Jones of SageScript Institute (a Colorado company) and dealt with the Chemistry of Cosmetics.  The second session I attended was led by Dr. Kevin Dunn of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and was an hour-and-a-half on trace, which is one small part of the cold- and hot process soapmaking process.  I learned how emulsifiers work.  I learned the difference between the molecular structure of saturated and unsaturated fats.  I learned what it means when a fatty acid is referred to as an "Omega-3 fatty acid."  And I learned that light trace in soap has a viscosity of 150 centipoise (my new favorite word that I try to find a way to use daily).

I'll expound on these answers (because, really, doesn't everyone want to know them?) this week.  I'm curious, though.  What's the latest thing you've learned that helps make you better at what you do, be it a business or a hobby?