03 March 2014

Travelin' On

If you're reading this, just let me take a moment to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to do so.  For a month, your email inboxes haven't been popping up that little notification that I've created a new post to this blog, and I'm so sorry for leaving you hanging.  It became time in the life of my business to place my blog under my own possession instead of that of Blogger or WordPress.  While both are fabulous blog sites, they are still third-party sites, and my content is dependent on their being up and functioning with pretty much nothing in my control.

I spent a couple of hours one day moving my blog over from here to a subdomain on my website.  It was a great learning experience, I tell you what!  The fact that I did it with very little help - though, THANK GOODNESS for live chat tech support from the great folks over at Hostmonster, my host!!! - just thrilled me.  Mastering anything tech without a lot of assistance is a boon to me.  Be sure to read all about that cool learning experience here.

That being said, I invite you to just truck your mouse on over to my blog's new home and catch up on your reading.  I've been posting just as regularly there as I did here, plus all of the posts from this blog moved over there as well.  My best friend said he couldn't find a way to click for email notifications; I'm still working out a few kinks while trying to stay caught up with posts.  If we're connected on social media at all, I always post links to my blog at Twitter, FB, G+ and LinkedIn.  I also Pin whichever post has the most eeen-ter-esting pictures; those typically happen on Mondays.

Real quickly, be sure to check out some new products on the website.  I just added a scrumptious Coconut & Avocado Body Creme and coordinating, all natural Moisturizing Body Wash.  These two products are divine!  And a friend of mine convinced me over the weekend that I simply must start selling my laundry soap and include some more DIY recipes and tips for y'all, so be looking for that to go up later this week.

If you don't receive my periodic email updates or follow me on the social networks, please be sure to take a moment to read the latest update, which has some valuable information in it about some upcoming price changes.  Those go into effect the end of this month.  I know there's a lot of information here and a lot of links to click and get lost in.  Thank you for following my blog, and I look forward to seeing you at my new location!

03 February 2014

The BIG Reveal - Traveling Soaps

I love to travel.  I love home, too - my bed, my cats, my own kitchen.  But with being home so much, I really welcome the opportunity to get away, to see new sites, new parts of the state, or even to have that moment of seeing a familiar site in a new way.  Whether it's a day trip, a weekender or a major vacation, I like exploring.

Our last family trip was a weekender in December to Beaufort, NC.  It's an absolutely lovely little coastal town, and the people in that area are just so friendly, too.  In fact, I was driving through the town leading to Beaufort when one of the police officers pulled me over and issued a personal invitation for me to return to Beaufort next week, actually.  Well, he issued me a speeding ticket, but he was really nice about it.  Since getting that ticket, I learned that one of the pilots on the ill-fated space shuttle Challenger was from Beaufort, and as many times as I've been in that town, I've never paid attention to the memorial to him.  I'm going to go check that out next week after I'm done at the courthouse.  I have a friend with a shop in Beaufort, so I'll stop in and see her, too.

Of course, with all this traveling, I absolutely MUST have good soap with which to bathe, so I always take a small bar of my own soap just in case my only other option is the dreaded "deodorant bar."  Thanks to my mother-in-law, I decided it's time to make these small travel-sized soaps available to my customers, too.  My soaps want to travel!  They want to see the sights!  They want to travel the world!  Will you give them this opportunity?
Lovely little 1-ounce bars of travelin' soapy goodness

These lovely little gems will be ready to own by the very end of February, and they will be ready for you to tuck into your travel bag and take with you as you hit the road this Spring and Summer.  As you travel, I invite you to take pics of your soap and you and email them to me (please, no naked pics) to be featured in an upcoming blog post.  Let's see where these soaps find themselves.

Where will your travels take you this year?
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30 January 2014

Eschewing the 'Poo

I have officially gone a week-and-a-half without using shampoo.

My hair looks and feels amazing!

Weekend before last, my older daughter and I were browsing Pinterest for inspiration on stretch loop creations.  Somehow, we stumbled across a blog talking about the "No Poo Method" of hair washing.  I thought, Hmmm.  That looks interesting and worth trying.  In our house, what the mommy does, the girls have to do, so we got serious about learning more about this method.

Shampoos, for the most part, contains sulfates (usually sodium laurel sulfate or ammonia laurel sulfate).  These sulfates are actually pretty strong detergents which strip hair of oils and styling products, as well as produce lather.  When we use these products, yes, our hair gets clean, but then our hair has to work overtime producing its natural oils.  It tends to go overboard, producing an abundance of oils, which makes us dive for that shampoo again.  Conditioner helps some, but not permanently.

With no-poo, we're washing with a tablespoon of baking soda, followed by rinsing with a dilution of apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons diluted in a cup of water).  We do that twice a week and water only in between times.  I used conditioner last week to wash mousse out of my hair, and I swore I'd never do that again!  My hair felt so waxy, and I'm not sure if it felt yucky because of its transition or because of the conditioner.  Overall, though, my natural waves and curls are soft, springy and tangle-free.  I'd like to say that this method is saving me lots of time in the shower and a good bit of water, but it's been bitterly cold this week, so my showers are lasting just as long as they had been.

Nice and inexpensive ingredients here. Generic is absolutely fine!
From another no-poo'er: http://ohwhimsicalme.blogspot.com/2013/04/baking-soda-and-vinegar-hair-care.html

I still like my styling products and I like using my mousse and hairspray.  I can't go from Wednesday to Saturday (my second wash day of the week) with gunk on my hair, though.  So what's a girl to do?  I think I'm going to content myself with going lo-poo in those situations.  Surely I can use my own soap on my hair for one or two washings a week when I'm using the apple cider vinegar to condition it.  I was vacillating about this when I got this awesome message from a friend/customer last night:
I asked [my husband], who has a LOT of scalp issues, we're talking raised, itchy lesions on his scalp what he's been using for shampoo, hoping to get him on board. Turns out he hasn't had a lesion or an itchy scalp for a while now. Wanna guess what he's been using? Your soap.
So, it looks like my own handmade soap will do the trick for keeping my hair clean naturally between washings.  This is also good to know for our upcoming summer excursions to the beach.

Do you have natural solutions for taking care of your hair, body or home?  Let's hear about them!
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27 January 2014

This Weekend's Creation

It was one of those wonderful, liberating weekends.  I'd been tired for a week from too little sleep and way too much of balancing children, work and school.  I'm the financial accountability partner for my best friend, and a new job with new income meant it was time to re-examine the spending and saving plan.  Plus, we were going to enjoy a selection of absolutely delightful, totally unadult movies and a freedom from all parental responsibilities.  Being on a budget means resisting the urge to dine out (plus, it was COLD!), so we decided to cook.  Is there anything more fun than cooking with your best friend or a child?

Yummy, delicious one-bowl pineapple cake
Dinner was simply homemade Buffalo wings with celery and chips, followed by this stupid-easy, absolutely delicious pineapple cake.  The wings recipe is the marriage of two recipes I found at Allrecipes.com, though the sauce had an affair with my own creativity.  You can find the pineapple cake recipe here.  We didn't have pecans, so we skipped them and didn't miss them.

To make the wings...  (Sorry, they got gone too quickly for pictures)
  • Before you get going with the chicken itself, make a batch of Italian dressing by following the directions on a packet of Zesty Italian dressing mix, substituting lime juice for the vinegar.  Let sit for at least two hours.
  • Start with a 2.5 pound bag of plain frozen party wings, thawed.
  • In one bag, combine 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.*
  • In another bag, combine 3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs (can also use plain bread crumbs) with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.*
  • Pour 1/2 cup buttermilk into a bowl.  (If you don't have buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into a measuring cup and add milk to make 1/2 cup.  Stir lightly and let sit for 5 minutes.)
  • Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Place party wings in the bag with the flour mixture, doing one at a time.  Shake to cover.  Dredge wing in buttermilk, then place in bag with breadcrumb mixture.  You can shake up to three wings at a time.  Place wings on cookie sheet.
  • Once cookie sheet is filled, place in oven.  Cook for 18 minutes.  Flip, then cook for 18 more minutes.
While the wings are cooking, make your Buffalo sauce.  In a small saucepan, melt 3 T plus 1 teaspoon butter.  To this add 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of your Zesty Lime Italian dressing and 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper sauce (i.e., Texas Pete, Tabasco or something similar).  Gently stir together until hot.  Place wings in a large bowl.  Pour sauce over wings and toss to coat.

* Depending on how many wings you have, you may need to mix up more flour and/or breadcrumb mixture.  We made 25 wings and had to make up more of both, and we had just enough sauce.

These are a staple for our football watching events here, and you can bet we'll be making up a bunch for the Superbowl!  The lime juice adds a delightful flavor to the wings while somewhat mitigating the heat of the sauce.  Absolute perfection!  Serve them with crisp, cold celery and follow it with a slice of that scrumptious cake.

What's your favorite Superbowl food?

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23 January 2014

Valentine Heart Soap Petals - DIY Project

This is a great, fun project you can do in not a lot of time, and it's kid-friendly, too!  Woohoo!  Win!  My daughters and I had a lot of fun making these today.  And since it's soap, clean-up of all those inevitable messes is a breeze.  Let's go!

First, create your design on water-soluble paper.  I did 2 dozen hearts in two different colors of pink.  I have an inkjet printer which worked just fine.  Cut them out carefully, leaving a little tag on the side for holding and pinning.  You'll cut this off at the end.

Cut-out paper hearts.
 Next, melt a half cup for clear melt & pour soap base.  I absolutely love this clear soap base from Brambleberry, but you can also find it at big-box craft and hobby stores.  Using a microwave-safe container, heat soap in 30-second increments until the soap is melted.  Once the soap base is melted, add 1/2 mL. of fragrance oil.  For these, I used Fresh Cut Roses from Nature's Garden Candles, but Brambleberry also has a fabulous Passionfruit Rose fragrance.
Clear melt & pour base
Adding fragrance to the melted base
Using tweezers, hold a heart by its tab and dip it in the melted soap base, being sure to cover the entire heart.  Let the excess soap drip off of it and set it aside to dry.  We used straight pins on a piece of cardboard.  Repeat until all the hearts are dunked.  You may find it necessary to remelt the soap.  Microwave again in 20-30 second intervals, stirring in between intervals, until the soap is fluid and easy to work with again.

My 4-year-old dipping a heart in the soap.

Sometimes one escapes.  It happens.

Soap petals setting up.  Note how we left a little space between the petals and the cardboard.

After your soap petal hearts have set up, take them down and carefully cut the tabs off.  Set them in a bowl or dish by your sink.

All done and trimmed.  Aren't they precious?
To use:  Take one soap petal and use it to wash your hands.  Each soap petal is good for one hand washing.  These are also great when you're out and about and don't want to use that stuff in soap dispensers.

Do you want the sheet of hearts in a .pdf?  Leave a comment below, and I'll be happy to upload it.
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20 January 2014

Beautiful heart soaps

Check out these Victorian heart soaps. I highly suggest them to you because they are good quality soap with an elegant design. I have black, white and red for sale. They are very pretty and have a dusting of mica, perfect for Valentine's Day.

The red one is a limited edition and so is the white one, too! The design I will only do for Valentine's Day. The black one is a new variation on an old design. The other soaps will be available year round.
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16 January 2014

Meet Mary

I am so excited to have the opportunity and privilege of introducing you to a very special big girl.  This is Mary, and she is the Vice President of Marketing and Product Development here at Sara's Soaps 'n Such.
Help me pay for college. Buy soap!
 She's also the Chief Operating Officer of Girly Arts Made by ME, a line of products Designed by an elementary school girl for elementary school girls ™.  Mary is the mastermind behind Sun on the Go, and is the creator and designer of Victorian Heart Soaps.  She's so talented and so creative!  I'm fortunate to have her on my team.  Her boundless determination and enthusiasm are infectious; nothing is not-doable in her world.

When she's not designing and creating new products, Mary is either tearing down the soccer field, designing and sewing clothes for her doll, or reading.  She loves mysteries and, as is typical for most young ladies, girly novels.  Currently, the Harry Potter series has completely engaged her.  In the summer, Mary spends a lot of her time at the beach, playing with her sister and boogie boarding with whoever she meets there.

You are going to have the opportunity to get to know Mary better through her writing.  Starting next week, Mary will be contributing to this blog at least a couple of times a month in a feature called "Mary's Thoughts."  She's going to be telling you all about the new products she has in the works, as well as give you glimpses into the things she learns and discovers in her everyday life that will impact how she serves her customers.  Her first article will post on Monday, 20 January, so be sure to keep an eye out for it.

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13 January 2014

Filling the Soap Rack

This past weekend wasn't a weekend for creating great new soaps, but instead, for replenishing out-of-stock wares.  After the beating my rack took between holiday sales and filling my private label accounts, my soap rack is looking very bare.  Well, it was, anyway.  Take a quick peek at some of the offerings that are soon to be available again.

That lovely natural-colored soap on the left is a fresh batch of Lemongrass Sage Beer Soap, one of the newest offerings from Sara's Soaps 'n Such.  This divinely wonderful soap has a luxurious lather, a clean spa scent and moisturizes your skin like nobody's business.  Its rougher looking companion there is the beginning of a new soap concept, courtesy of my mother-in-law, Mary Ann.  Each of those bars has a kickin' lather (seriously, the bubbles rose FOUR INCHES above the top of my soap pot!) and the silkiest feel I've felt in ages.  They're scented with Purple Sandalwood, an exotically earthy fragrance.  And the new concept?  Stay tuned! :)

What soaps would you love to see me offer this year?  Any particular liquids or scents?

09 January 2014

Back to Work

Break is over and it's back to the grind for us.  Oh, but was it hard!  We got started a day later than previously expected, because we had the opportunity to go see "Frozen" (highly recommend it!) yesterday.  This morning the temperatures were - I swear - the CoLdEsT here in recorded history.  Suffice it to say, cocooned under the covers with a 12-pound furry space heater beside me, and I didn't want to get up at all!

But get up we all did at long and at last.  As my fuzzy slipper-clad feet hit the floor of the lower level, a new excitement stole over me, and that excitement has continued to grow throughout the day.  Following 2013's series of business disappointments that I lay completely at the feet of the economy catching up with everyone, it would be so easy for me to be discouraged, to quit, to liquidate my business and call it a day.  But I'm no quitter!

I usually have a strong sense of how business will roll through the year, or, more importantly, how I'm going to roll with my business, and this year is no different.  I'm starting the year with better boundaries on myself.  I'm going to lower some of my walls to enable others to help me when I need it, as well as ask for help when I need it.  (Hey, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto, right?)  Another thing I'm doing with intention is put boundaries on myself.  I have to discipline myself better in order to grow my business, and I'm starting with this week's Indie Beauty Network's Success Call.  I have to give up an hour or two of TV to take part, and unfortunately, in doing so, I'll have to give up my best friend's and my weekly tradition of watching our favorite Tuesday night shows together virtually, but it's not every week.  It's not like I can't catch the shows in reruns or online, too.

While I don't think 2014 will be MY YEAR (I'd seriously make that blink if I could), I feel strongly that the steps and action plans I'm going to put into effect this year will provide an incredible foundation for next year to be MY YEAR.  I feel like I'm gearing up for absolutely amazing things to happen, and how exciting it will be to have you along for the ride!

Is 2014 going to be your year?  Or is this year simply the start of something grand for you?
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06 January 2014

Victorian Heart Soaps

Mary, head of Girly Arts Made by ME, made these lovely Victorian heart soaps.  I just LOVE the colors, don't you?  White and red are perfect for you traditionalists out there, while the black soaps make lovely additions for those who prefer a more Goth or Steampunk look.

Mary's next step will be to give each heart a bit of mica embellishment, highlighting the raised motif with a light dusting of red, pink, green, gold and/or bronze sparkle.  They're going to look sooo pretty when she's done!  These soaps bear a light, delightful rose fragrance and would look absolutely lovely in your powder room or bathroom.

I'll be featuring more "loving" delights in the weeks to come, so keep watching.  What types of treats would you like to receive for Valentine's Day?  (This goes for both men and women.)
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01 January 2014

How Small Businesses Help Communities

Drama Llama soap
Drama Llama soap (Photo credit: Sara's Soaps)
I am coming off a tremendous mixed bag of a holiday selling season.  My shows were slower than usual, but my seasonal online sales were smokin'!  I'm grateful for every dollar I earned.  I want to start this new year right by helping people realize how much small businesses help their local communities.

I sell soaps and body products.  From there, I portion out a percentage of my sales for my own pay.  I use that money to go shopping for my family and for gifts for people.  I pay local taxes out of that money.  Then I may meet a friend for coffee at our local coffee shop.  I buy cupcakes for my daughters' birthdays from the local indie bakery.  I'll pick up some locally grown produce for my family's dinner.  My girls and I get haircuts.  These people have to pay local taxes from what they earn, too.

All this money works together for our community.  Several local small businesses sponsor youth sports teams, something they wouldn't be able to do without income themselves, and without that sponsorship, kids might have to go without uniforms for soccer, baseball/softball, football or cheerleading.  The money our town makes upkeeps our roads, improves our schools (which need all the help they can get!), draws movie and TV production companies to our area, and builds up our downtown area.  It's a pretty awesome domino effect, all because a bunch of people decided to buy some soap.  When you "shop small," 70% of that income stays in the local community.  This simply doesn't happen with your big box stores selling products which are mass-produced overseas.

Buy local, support local.
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