Neecy's Necessities

For those who just can’t get enough of soap making books, here’s something to check out next time you’re looking for something quick, simple & fun to read, something to learn from and refer to over time. Anne Watson now has two more in her series of “Smart” books –

Cool Soapmaking: The Smart and Simple Guide to Low-Temp Tricks for Making Soap with Milk, Citrus, Cucumber, Pine Tar, Beer, Wine, and Other Special Ingredients

and

Castile Soapmaking: The Smart and Simple Guide to Making Lovely Castile Soap from Olive Oil Quickly, Safely, and Reliably

That’s quite a mouthful, I know, but the contents are helpful, no-nonsense and approached in a clear slightly humorous way.  She explains how to make soaps that will be safe and ready for use faster, with a boost to bubbles, or how to make them with foods that won’t ruin the soap over time with DOS or worse, mold.  She also includes a way to contact her for questions you might have that weren’t clear or not covered in her books with the note she’ll respond within hours.  How helpful!  This sort of transparency & approachability in knowledgeable experts is a rare treat in any field!

Under the Castile Soapmaking’s covers, she includes how to create castile, why it should be done a certain way, and even how to get it to trace and saponify faster.  Even though I’ve been a soap maker for more than 8 years, I still found very useful info in here to finish out the book with a few pages of notes to add to my reference notebook.  She’ll teach you how to calculate for a blended lye solution to help avoid the slimey texture castile is prone to with a blend of KOH and NaOH, use a bit of uniodized salt to help firm it up if the oils used are not characteristically hard oils in a finished bar or by adding warmth to the oils and how to boost the bubbles using a bit of sugar or castor, to name a few tricks contained in its chapters.

Within the Cool Soapmaking book she offers tips and tricks for working with cucumber, avocado, honey, various types of milks, yogurt, apricots, and clays.  She uses essential oils predominantly for the soaps in this book though some include the use of fragrance oils only as suggestions. There’s even one recipe that includes orange juice.  Are your taste buds tingling yet?

This book is not a beginner’s guide type of reference so it would be best to read through her previous book Smart Soapmaking or Milk Soapmaking and practice with a few of her small batch recipes to get a feel for the touch needed using alternative liquids in soapmaking particularly alcoholic liquids such as ales, wines, champagne, beer, stouts, etc.  Those are very tricky and definitely not for beginners.

Cool Soapmaking and Castile Soapmaking are available in Kindle format, which is how I got mine (for $0.99!), as well as in paperback format.  They both also include numerous recipes to try out and learn from as you expand your soaping skills horizons.

I highly recommend her books for every level of soapmaker looking to have a robust reference library to turn to for confirmation of certain techniques without all of the clinical or technical jargon that some other books may have.  They touch on the science of soap crafting with easy to read and follow text in a light, friendly way that’s neither overwhelming or intimidating.

In case you’re sold on these two spotlighted titles or any of the others mentioned, I’ll include links below for them.  Happy soaping!

 

Castile Soapmaking

Cool Soapmaking

Milk Soapmaking

Smart Soapmaking

PS: she has also published a book on Lotionmaking – Smart Lotionmaking

Today I received a letter.  A letter from an opportunistic leech.  Now maybe I’m presuming guilt where there is none.  Perhaps they are legit and just trying to help, but the cynic in me thinks they just want to steal my money and run with it.

The company sells domain names, allegedly.  Internet Domain Name Services.  They sent a letter telling me the date my domain name ownership expires. which I already knew.  They then proceed to state I should lock in my name to protect myself by getting the .net and .org names as well so there is no confusion on my customers’ part.  It’s only $540 to do all of those.  A pittance I suppose to protect my domain name, right?   Of course there’s an equal chance they are honest and trying to help me out, but they made the mistake to reminding me of something I already knew long before was necessary, voluntarily sent me this form requesting I send them $540 without any knowledge of their integrity, honesty, or ability or intention of providing the services I sent them the money to do.  I don’t trust anyone who sends me such mailings when they’ve purchased or found and nabbed my name from the net in hopes of profiting from it somehow.  I would hope that all other independent crafters and artisans will be as cynical and not trust strangers too quickly.  Their numbers are legion.

The host I use for my web site, Weebly, has always been friendly, helpful, honest, forthright, and extremely quick to respond when there’s a problem or question.  I asked them about this company and they might very well discover this company is legitimate, but I’d rather be safe than sorry (and broke!) so I sent along the name that I received the mail from today.

Many others are out there, the Nigerian scam promising millions in overseas funds, ship our products overseas if we’ll accept their credit cards and (which aren’t real), buy their supplies from a country we regard as highly suspect or sell second-rate goods.  The list grows every year and our hard earned money is constantly under threat.

Be aware of those seeking the quick money stolen from your pockets.  Ask your fellow crafters about those hinky  emails you’ve received, they’ll be happy to help you discern the company’s legitimacy.  We’ve all been on the receiving end of those trying to part us from our income and learned to recognize the signs from a mile away.

I’ve always loved to draw going back far back enough that I could safely say I’ve drawn things since I was big enough to hold a pencil and not lose an eye.  I began with butterflies from my grandmother’s Field Guide to Butterflies.  After a year or so, I tried birds from, what else, the Field Guide to Birds.  That was how I entertained myself while my parents played Canasta on the weekends before I began taking piano lessons.  Once those lessons started I played for them during the game time and served drinks during the break.  Halftime? Good times in a simpler age.

The drawing continued and once in junior high it was suggested that I try out the art classes, so being willing to try something new, I signed up during 7th grade.   I think it was seventh anyway.  So after a few weeks, we were given an assignment to draw a portrait.  Anyone at all was fine so long as it was a full face portrait.  Finally, an assignment I could dig deep for fun and a grade! I thought it turned out rather nicely, but my teacher took a look and instructed me to change how I drew the eyes.  I must remove the reflections of the lights in the eyes.  I said they were in the picture I used, so they’re there in my drawing.  He insisted they be removed because my drawing was obviously NOT a picture.  It was a drawing.  It was very frustrating because I’ve always liked doing the eyes the most in a face.  They’re something I worked very hard to make completely realistic and was told often to enough that I’d succeeded. Needless to say this would not happen with my drawings.  So I stopped taking that class.  He might not have liked it, but I would not change the signature feature of what I create.

Many years have passed since that year.  More than I’ll admit to here.  It’s always enjoyable to try out a new technique, a mew media or method, and even mroe fun to have others enjoy it, too.  I love creating something that brings a smile to someone else.  If it can make you happy, it’s something I’ll at least try.

Circular motif, December watermarked for blog

With the newly discovered therapeutic benefits of colouring for adults, it wasn’t too hard to work this newest form of drawing into my portfolio.  The above is the mandala now offered on my web site as a digital download.  It can be found in my etsy site as well as the regular, full service web site.  Links for the regular full site is found here….while the link to my Etsy store can be found here….. and please let me know if these links aren’t working for you!  I test them, but I’d like to know that a third party can get there through the links provided, too.

I love to colour, using coloured pencils, with these colouring books for adults that you can find just about anywhere now, but soem of the prettiest images to colour are individual pages.  You might not like every page in the books but you will get all your favorites in a choice of individual pages.  If you really want a great selection of pencils with a name that’s been trusted for a very long time, go with a nice set of Prismacolor pencils.  They’re the best around now for performance, smooth application of colour and lays down a soft layer of colour with little breakage. Blending is easy to do, seamless and practically effortless.

Christmas Amaryllis

Christmas Amaryllis

With the world becoming crazier, scarier, more rushed and stressful, it’s more important than ever that we find peaceful means of relaxing, decompressing somehow that offers us quiet time.  No thinking, just quiet, meditative motion.  Colouring gives us this and more.  If you haven’t tried it out yet, take some time out from the rest of the world and see for yourself. This is far better than just playing couch potato for an hour or more!

Please submit your email one time only please and you’ll be entered into our giveaway context.  Drawing is January 31 and notification of the winner will be announced Feb. 1 2016.  Send your submission email to neecysnecessities@live.com today.  Thanks and Good Luck!Valentine's GIve-Away Collage

I’ve been practicing on depth, dimension, shadows, and realism in the colored pencils on plain paper just for fun in recent days, trying to improve something somewhere along the way as I do each one.  Today’s project was a small cluster of bright red cherries in front of a wedge of ripe watermelon.  The cherries were the easy part.  I have a long way to go to work on the realism with a watermelon though to say the least!

I’m self-taught.  Haven’t really wanted to take classes or lessons for fear it would ruin the ‘fun’ aspect of art for me if I knew I had to draw a specific thing that was not of my choosing and turn it in by a deadline.  That’s intimidating even without the possibility of critique at the end!  So, I remain self-taught, but have lately taken up watching every YT video I can find on the subject of coloured pencil drawing and even some pastel (chalk) as well since I did that media for many years before other things took my attention away from it.

I love to draw, have done since I was big enough to hold a pencil and not hurt myself with it, slowly going from pencil line drawings to butterflies to birds in crayon to chalk pastel portraits to today’s coloured pencil workings and colouring pages.  Today was rotten.  To the core rotten.  Pouring rats, cats, & dogs outside all morning and there I was rolling slowly 10 miles to work in the dark and the rain.  Ugh.   Anyone who knows me how much I hate driving, even in good weather with the sun up already.  This morning’s commute was nothing short of hell.  Pure unadulterated hell.  So, once I got back home, for good that is since hubby and I went out to lunch today for a change, I slipped into my jammies,put on some Enya and worked on the picture I’d started yesterday.  Cherries and a wedge of watermelon. It was going very well until I stood back at realized that the shadows were all wrong for the watermelon.  Not that it looked all that realistic in the first place, but well, if the shadows are heading towards the left, then the right side of the watermelon shouldn’t be shadowed, now should it!  Oooops! Cherries cropped, resized So out came the gum eraser and the boo boo was eradicated and the shadow was placed elsewhere.  it’s okay, but I know it needs lots of work before I’ll be where I want to be.  Maybe I try some faces, which I have had more experience with in the past and see how they do with pencils, but if we plan to draw, we need to keep our net cast widely.  Draw anything and everything.  Do it often.  Keep stretching those boundaries outward.  It never hurts to go sideways and try something way off from where you’ve been going.  Being flexible doesn’t hurt and who knows, you might find that you have a flair for something else entire different from what you thought you excelled in.

 

Have you noticed how popular this new adult colouring pages trend has become?  It’s amazing to see how it’s just exploded onto the scene! Though I never grew tired of colouring all these many years, I didn’t do much until now when these highly detailed colouring books started appearing on bookshelves and stores, justifying my longing to colour anything and everything.  I think there should be a roll of designs so we can colour our own wrapping paper.  Don’t you agree?  Adult designs, intricate, fun and once you’ve completed it, you have a beautiful, totally unique paper to wrap something up for someone special.  Let’s do this!  Maybe butcher paper, using the paper side, not the waxy one.  I have lots of that around thanks to the soaping biz already in place, so let’s do something new and see what happens.  It would definitely take a while to colour up a roll of paper, but hey, it would be pretty and very unique.  And I love unique!

Holidays for soapmakers are always super busy, exhausting, and the days are way too long.  Online soap stores might lead you to believe that the site’s owners have it easy, but you’d be very  wrong.  When you sell online exclusively, no matter the reason why it’s done this way, is harder than anyone else’s way of selling.

There are fewer avenues for public exposure of your brand, product and name.  The reputation earned becomes exponentially harder to build.  You’re going to be selling based on supposition,  trust, and a touch of curiosity from a buying public who’ve never heard of you up to now.  While you might have been at it for years, it can be painful to hear they’ve never heard of you until they did a Google search or a friend of theirs bought from you recently ‘just out of curiosity’ or a cousin on your husband’s side of the family twice removed was gifted with your product and dear cousin had great things to say about their experience with your products.

So what do you do when this is how it’s going?

You post – long, often and vividly.  Everywhere.

Having a YouTube is fine, but if you aren’t uploading videos, posting how-tos or doing a video review and making these all searchable, it won’t matter much.  Trust me when I say, uploading a video is NOT a quick task.  It can take a long time before the editing is done once you’ve just made the video.  I spent two full days on one video editing it until I was ready to through the entire thing in the virtual trash can. But I didn’t.  So this avenue is time-consuming but it’s an avenue of public exposure of your brand, your methodology – a chance for others to see what you do and how you do it, and in some cases to see you face-to-face. This matters more than you think!

Other social media is also important, Facebook, Instagram, blogs such as this one, Twitter,  Pinterest, Google+.  There are others, but these I’m familiar with and they are huge black holes for time.  Still, they are important, so do them yourself with sincerity, keeping it fresh, relevant, and colourful!

Posting current updates to each of these to keep your name & face visible and viable takes far more time out of your creative time than you might realize.  Mine have clearly suffered for this very reason from both sides.  I’ve made little due to illness in the family and working a second job so it isn’t possible to stay on top of it all unless you dedicate to it full time or pay for ads which, let’s face it, most of us already know doesn’t work and can’t afford.  Post Planner is nice, but again, it doesn’t really work all that well for a couple of reasons.  One – you have to pay for it if you really want it to do what it’s supposed to do.  Two – its posts aren’t all that relevant to what you create.  They are ‘feel-good’ or ‘heartstring twangers’ for the most part. Might work for some, but it really didn’t work for me.

Take a moment to think like your buyers and see what you can do that will make them see you in a stronger light.  Do they want to see more of what you already are doing?  Do they really get something from you they can’t find somewhere else?  Is what you create uniquely you?  Based on your responses to these, what can you change to make your business thrive into the coming year 2016? How can you grow as an entrepreneur and in what directions will you grow?

You have so many things keeping you busy around the holidays just with family, food and gifts there’s little time for the creative side to shine for a bit. But if you’re in business, that creativity is necessary to stay in business and remain visible to the public.  So take a nice, deep, cleansing breath,, eyes closed and savor that for a moment.  Enjoy this holiday first, then once it’s in your rearview mirror, move forward to grow your business in directions that will get you seen, heard, and experienced in whole new ways.  One simple new thing might be all it takes to make it a profitable year for you, so do that. Make lists of what could be tried this year that wasn’t done last year. Think about making signage like car door magnet to advertise your biz and use a local printer to do this. Have bsuiness cards and samples with you everywhere you go.  I mean literally everywhere! Let people know what you do and name groups or guilds of which you are a member. Get reviewed by others and have them post it somewhere so others can hear about your products from a third party that isn’t biased in any way.  Just remember that what ever you might add to your cotery of equipment to expand your horizons, it’s a deductible expense, so keep receipts, manage your records, manage your time and grow, grow, grow!

I wish for all of you a safe journey if you must travel to another family member’s home and many joy-filled moments that will bring you memories to smile about in the years ahead.   Coming from a large family myself, there were many opportunities to gather at one family member’s home or another and saying there was lots of laughter is a gross understatement.  I now have a large family of my own and the fun, laughter, memorable moments are countless as well as priceless.  I am truly grateful for every child of mine and every child they’ve had to continue on our family into future generations.  We are truly immortal when grandies begin to arrive to fill our hearts, lives, and homes.

 

Have a wondrous day and thank you, followers, friends and readers, for keeping up with us at Neecy’s and with me, Denise, as well.  It’s a blessing that I deeply appreciate!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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