New twist

Time marches on, things change, kids grow up, our homes evolve, family scatters, but sometimes we can feel like we’re standing still while the world marches past, moving inexorably forward.  Shouting down the marchers does no good.

That was more or less how I felt for a while. Clicking along, merrily, perhaps a bit cocky and overly confident in the day-to-day workings I’d churn out online in formulations, label production, graphic design, blog posts, Instagram & Twitter moments then Bam! It all came to a screeching halt.

Windows 10 ran an update,(cue ominous music) which did not play well with others.  My computer lost sight of several things – first, our network settings, so trying to get that back caused us to lose our sound card codec settings.  Trying to get those back, we then lost the ability to save custom settings for region, date and time of day.

The forced updates Windows began doing with its roll-out of 10 was a complete disaster to the desktop.  The laptop fared far better and still clicks along just fine.  I suppose in part because it’s newer.  It began life here on 8, which we could hardly wait to leave in the dust to upgrade to 10.

10 worked fine for a while on the desktop that began life here on 7, but then suddenly we could not get any wi-fi signal, so YouTube buffered constantly before dropping out completely. Being a huge fan of Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and streaming online at various channels’ websites, that’s like being denied air.  Unsustainable.

The fixes to all of those issues did nothing to repair the situation.  There was no going back as another of the casualties was the ability to set aside a custom portion of our drive to rollback dates.  It wouldn’t go back beyond the date of the fatal update so all hope and hardware was lost.

The time had come.  My desktop was going to have to be retired from full time operations.  It’s still a great computer, but the internet connectivity is unreliable.  Still a lot of my files are on there and I need them daily.  So, it will still be used for offline work mostly, though it does still connect to some ghostlike form of someone’s network.  Don’t know whose network it’s latched onto since none are listed.  My 20 year era of faithful dedication to PCs had ended.

Welcome to the wonderful world of iMac!  It’s a brave new world and so far I’m loving this and wondering now why I waited so darn long.  Yes, a couple of my programs aren’t Mac compatible, but the PC still can serve that purpose.  I’m fine with that.  Now to learn how to find everything I typically use all the time and quit scrolling on a wheel mouse in the wrong direction. My iMac is an older model, but new to me.  Has plenty of power, lots of memory, runs on Sierra, updated to the latest iTunes so this chick is a happy camper.  Everything seamlessly syncs if you want it to.  It never fails to ask first and I like that!  So here’s to another long & happy relationship with Apple computers and the bright, shiny world of iMac!

Advertisements

It’s in our genes

Genetics is a quirky sort of thing.  We love it…and we hate it.  We cannot avoid it.  We can’t be inoculated against the things that are passed down through them, we are often pretty miserable living with them, and yet they do have some redeeming features. All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with my genetic makeup.  Even to the point that I live with my allergies and was ecstatic to read how much Irish I had in my DNA.  No trying to desensitize or hide away that report from 23andMe.  I love my heritage.

Well.  let me amend that statement that “I’m pretty satisfied” statement.  I’m pretty satisfied – for the most part – with what I’ve inherited from my ancestors with one exception.  The migraines I progressed into from neuralgia in childhood.  The pediatrician warned my mother, based on her own experiences with the problem, that those blinding pains I’d feel in one area of my head which could occur at any given time and be in any place around my head would eventually lead to migraines. That prediction bore out over the years.  The one thing she didn’t warn us about was that the neuralgia could recur along with the migraines.  That’s really a bit too much sometimes to have them both at the same time.

Sinus problems from allergies or weather related (high barometric pressure) have been increasingly bad this year though not entirely sure why this year more so than others.  The one thing that works sometimes is Advil Sinus Congestion and Pain with an Excedrin Migraine.  Those two will work about 75% of the time. For those other times, it’s a matter of sleeping it off or just being very still in a dimly lit room with no noise.  It’s miserable for at least one full day though there have been some really doozies that ran for 3 days straight.  Others fade at night then return like a bad relative the next day. Yet again, it can be the reverse of this.  I’ve wondered if it might be worth it to be scanned but not sure I could handle the results.  There are so many health issues cropping up now I don’t like to ponder too deeply what the next year will bring.  There are many health issues that several of the five sisters in my generation have inherited that are medication controlled now, which really scares me.  The one sister most like me in health issues has not found anything in any scans to indicate there’s anything other than just migraines that will occur at times and it’s a ‘deal with it’ type of thing most of the time with behavioral changes and as a last resort, medication.

I have Imitrex in generic form (insert long multi-syllabic name here) but frankly the side effects are terrifying so I’ve never felt any headache was bad enough to resort to it.  But I know it’s there.  If ever a day comes that I cannot stand to move, talk, breathe, I know it’s there.

Ah, genetics.  You just can’t fight them, can you.  Still I love my DNA. It makes me me and sets me apart from everyone else in so many ways.  I’m similar but not exactly like my siblings because we’re only one fourth similar in our genetic makeup.  I’m only half of my mother, half of my father.  But I’m all me.  100%.  That 100% is content with my creative life, the kids I’ve raised, the Little’s they’ve gifted me with to be their grandmother and call me Neecy.  Life is good because genetics made it so.

Soapmaking at a glacial pace

One of the most challenging soaps to date was finally finished late last week and cut two days later.  The challenging aspect of it was to make it appear as though a glacial glaze overlaid the exterior sides, freezing snowflakes in place while the center was icy blue and white with glittery snowflakes and surface glitter made the appearance of frozen water and snow.  This year’s version of Snow Queen was that soap.

I’ve made it several times before but with simple, standard swirls of two or three colors in a cold process coconut milk soap.  Ho hum. It got tedious after the third run, so it was time to shake things up.  With the rising popularity of soap dough work with a cp soap, it seemed the ideal opportunity to create something a bit more…. well, more.

The first challenge was getting all the flakes made and for that a set of snowflake punches in three different sizes was used on a snowy white soap dough tinted with mica from Mad Micas.  Here Comes The Bride has the perfect amount of shimmer to it to bring a satin-like sheen to embeds of any type so the flakes were painted with this in alcohol (91%) after they were made and allowed to dry a bit.  The snowflakes took about 4-5 days.  I didn’t work on them non-stop but did other projects in between sessions in order to get up and move around a bit.Snowflake punches

If any of you decide to try these out for fondant or soap dough for your own projects, keep around an old toothbrush and several tooth picks for cleaning out all those tiny crevices.  They get clogged up quickly, causing the punch plunger to become stuck and your flakes will not come out without a fight.  Use the toothbrush to wash out the plunger and punch after use each day.

Once enough flakes were made, the mold was lined with a lip to hold in the M&P that was going to cover the snowflakes placed on the sides.

The ruler made the lip rigid to hold the liquid M&P within the space.  Once the first side was poured then cooled to firmness, the ruler was removed, the paper folded back, and the other side was poured.  The flakes were place shiny side down on the liner, the melted soap poured over them, then left to cool completely.  Once cooled, the paper was rolled back to open up the space so the cold process soap could be poured and swirled within the space.  Above right, you see the channel created by the two sides after they’d completely cooled.  On the left is the ruler offering rigidity to the paper lip that holds the poured side inside while it cools.  In this pic, the mold is laying on its side.

Once the two sides were complete it was a simple matter of making the cold process batch as usual, pouring, swirling then waiting for the top to thicken enough for more flakes to rest on the surface without sinking beneath it.

Long view of top

For this swirl a hanger was used.  The colors were Mad Mica‘s Snow White and Aphrodite Blue.  The top had mica in oil with only one change.  The Snow White was replaced with Here Comes the Bride.  Diamond Dust was scattered across the top after all the flakes were in place. The fragrance, as always, was Snow Witch, which is now available from Arizona Mad Oils, a small specialty section of Arizona Soap Supply that offers the same fragrance oils we came to trust, know & love from Mad Oils.

Snow Queen was then covered with plastic in the mold and chilled to prevent partial gel. After taking more than a week to complete, I didn’t want a partial gel circle to mar the look!

Snow Queen Top & Sides labeled & logo

Here is a side view with a slant to see the top as well. The tops of each ‘ice’ coating was trimmed down to match the height of the CP portion.  The arms of these flakes are very fragile so it was probably not such a good idea to have them sticking up at all.  Next time they’ll be placed flat on the surface.  Quite a few flakes were disarmed in the cutting of this batch.

And so after more than a week’s worth of work on one project we have an outward appearance we are happy with and an interior view that presents wispy swirls and a brisk, cool, yet slightly sweet fragrance (though you can’t tell from your computer screen).

2-Bar image with logo

The top portion had more white added to it for better contrast.  The interior was slightly tinted by the addition of the coconut milk and the slight yellowish tinge of the fragrance oil.  Several things will be changed for the next time I make this batch & fragrance, but overall, I like how it turned out.

Find Snow Witch here.

Find Mad Micas here. Please note the varied choices of colour types.  Choose the type you need based on their stability in your product.

Not sure where I bought the Diamond Dust, but highly recommend using TKB Trading’s Mermaid Collection glitters instead for real sparkle & shine to your product.  They appear white in their containers but with a turn in the light you’ll see a lavender, green, red, blue or silver shimmer to them.  They’re a genuine treat to work with!

Mad Micas has a large selection of glitters from which to choose in addition to bio-degradable micas that are all skin safe!  Check out their collections here. Word of warning – you’ll be hooked for life with this company.  Their customer service is second to none!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Season’s Byproduct

Most folks along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts will embrace the end of the hurricane season this year with open arms and tired, aching backs, mainly over Harvey, Irma, Jose & Marie.  Although we in the central portion of North Carolina weren’t dealt the major blows that Texas, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Florida received, we have had a history of feeling their effects and know the problems many felt for these last two months.  It’s an ongoing task to recover, back-breaking, soul-wrenching, budget-busting work and my heart goes out and hat’s off to all those still trying to get back onto dry ground  once again.

After the waters recede, the real problems will begin on a deeper level.  You know what I mean.  Mold.  In most homes & businesses, black mold sprouts up as far as the waters reached, causing serious health risks.  It’s costly to remove, time consuming and eats away at what little money you have left after trying to get back into a routine again. Many will have to replace their cars as well since once a car is submerged in water, it’s of no use anymore.  It’s a rough time of the year for the Atlantic and Gulf states but we love where we live and wouldn’t move (well most of us anyway) despite the risks.  It’s home.

Further along down the road from the hurricane season is the propagation of the ragweed.  Massive growths of ragweed that now can spring up everywhere now that the trees are gone, no longer blocking the sunlight from their shoots and they thrive like they were wanted here.  Like feathers floating with the breeze, the thread-like bits of fluff float along until they can find a place to land and thrive, spreading their allergens beyond their current boundaries.

The bane of my existence right now is ragweed.  With a pounding head from the sneezing fits, red, raw nose from trying to stop it from running away like a freight train without brakes, itchy watery eyes, I’m sitting here quietly typing instead of creating something for the holiday shopping season that’s virtually around the corner.  Because of  the hurricane season’s by-product. Ragweed.

Allergy pill, my bed with three pillows and mystery book, you will comfort me tonight.  Sleep well and breath deep all! We will try again tomorrow.

Trying Out Ingredients & Shampoo Formulations

I’ve been doing liquid soap for a very long time already but have wanted to do a shampoo for ages.  Many soap makers offer shampoo bars but I like a good liquid form that will do the job without the possibility of becoming covered in hair. You know how it is.  Shower then shampoo with a bar and hairs get stuck on the bar, drying onto it between uses.  It’s gross,  Just. Gross.

I dug out the reference materials for best oils to use, infused a couple of botanicals – rosemary into part of the oils, and hibiscus petals into the other, then built a recipe that cleans without too much drying out and not a large superfat percentage, right around 2%.

I used Silk Amino Acids as well instead of the usual silk fibre dissolved in the lye solution.  I tend to use the liquid amino acids when making liquid formulations such as lotions or body washes so shampoo was treated the same way. I like the luxurious feel these lend to lotions and liquid soaps.

Silk Amino Acids

Another item I’ve begun using is Leucidal Liquid as an anti-microbial.  It’s a ferment that’s extremely effective against most known contaminants that can lead to mold growth on hydrous formulations.  (Formulator Sample Shop also has an anti-microbial for anhydrous formulations made from elderberries. Find it here.)

Leucidal Liquid SF.jpg

A new ingredient just added to the roster is one that acts as a thickener.  I wanted something as natural as possible as that is high on my list of priorities when it comes to crafting a product that’s good for hair or skin cleansing or smoothing.

SiliGel

SiliGel gives a silky glide and a thicker density to liquid soaps if you want something that’s more gel-like.  We all know how think hand crafted body wash, or for that matter, any liquid soap, can be.  Store-boughts are thick from synthetic ingredients that read  like a lab experiment.  I aim for a more natural approach when making a liquid soap and the same can be said for the shampoo I tried out.  SiliGel is made from Xanthan gum so I felt very comfortable with using this product.  Used at 0.5% to 2%, it’s best dissolved into a liquid and blended to emulsion with a stick blender.  Simply stirring does not properly distribute the light powder into the liquid.  I tried it as a direct addition to a bit of the shampoo after it was fully diluted and ready for bottling as well as mixing into distilled water, stick blended for at least 2-3 minutes at medium speed then adding to the shampoo and found either works well though I feel the thickening worked ideally at its best with the direct addition.  Stick blending to the shampoo did not add as many bubbles as you’d think.

Speaking of bubbles, I also tried out the addition of a bubbling agent.  Poly Suga Quat L-1010P added at the recommended rate. it boost the bubbliness of liquid soaps and the initial impression after the first use (without the addition of the thickener as yet) was exactly what I was looking for in the bubbliness of a body wash.  I try to get the bubbles to the customer’s preferred level, but the trouble with that is it often is from a higher than normal amount of coconut oil, which can dry out your skin too much, leaving you itchy and uncomfortable.  If I add SugaQuat to a body wash with a more reasonable amount of coconut oil, it’s still wonderfully bubbly and is exactly what the customers prefer.  It’s ‘green’, created from sugars, which many soap makers use to boost the bubbles in their bar soaps. It can increase the heat if you add a sugar to a bar soap, but this product does not do that.  It’s added to liquid soap here so no additional heat is experienced.  I add it during the dilution phase.

Poly Suga Quat L-1010P

While you might wonder why I’d want to add all of these extras into a testing batch as it only makes things costing more to produce, it’s more important to me that a product do not only a good job of cleansing, but also do it without stripping away the good oils our skin and hair naturally have in constant production all day, every day.  Those oils are vital to the overall health of our skin and ultimately our whole-body health.  It’s a holistic approach to health maintenance, really, when it’s looked at thoroughly.

If your skin is healthy, clean without being stripped, it keeps you healthy inside and out.  After all, as you’ve heard so many times before, our skin the largest organ of our body.  it’s also very vulnerable 24/7 from external events that are hostile to its good, healthy condition.  Our environment is bombarding us with contaminants, toxins, chemicals, pollutants, and radiation that are damaging in the short- and long-term.  Some damage is not going to be seen until many years later and by then it’s too late to correct it.

The same is said for our hair as well as it’s just as vulnerable to our hostile environment, too.  What’s worse is that we also add insult to injury by blow drying our hair, using hair dyes, chemicals to straighten or to curl our hair, leave it in the sun unprotected, burning it with flat-irons and curling irons.  It needs all the pampering it can get so why not make something that spoils it just a bit more than usual.   I love a shampoo that does great things for my hair and hopefully gives it back that thickness I miss from my youth, gives it shine and bounce that speaks volumes, so that is why I’m adding all of these things to my testing batch.  If they work as I hope they do, this product will go out to the web site, and I’ll be happy with the product I’ve made for everyone out there, myself included.  If not, well, it’s back to the drawing board…..Shampoo Batch 1032017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unforeseen Circumstances

We all know what that means and it’s never good, is it?  Something bad has happened and it will no doubt impact us in in varying levels of pain from tiny twinges to abject misery.  Maybe it’s a slight bump in the road, but then again, it could be a gaping pothole that covers the entire roadway with sheer drops on both sides. Then there’s the happy in-between.  I suppose last night fell into that category.  At least looking back at it now, it’s somewhere in the middle. At 1:30 am, it felt more like the sheer rock face on the side of the road dropping away.

After all the technology glitches were squarely in my rearview, I began to relax a little and settle into a new rhythm, learning a little something new everyday with iMac computers.  I was enjoying learning this new skill set.  Still, production waits for no man – or soap maker- in this case, so it was time to stop tinkering around and make something that would carry our product line into Fall & Winter ’17/’18. Sounded simple enough, yes?

No.

A lovely Green Tea Nectarine batch was completely with no problems at any point except the supply of this particular custom blend needed replenishing, so that, too, was done with no fanfare. Score two for two on that day.  The batch was a bit on the soft side so it waited an extra day before being cut though in reality it could have waited another two or three and been all the better for it. Still, as most other soapers know, we can’t wait to see how the swirls turned out, so to the cutter it goes.

Fine.

Another day passes and I’m able to tidy it up without smearing it since it’s still on the softer side and it’s then picture taking time.  One of my favorite things to do besides making a batch is taking its picture.  I also like to tinker with the images using PicMonkey.  (If you haven’t tried this program and love taking pictures, you really need to check into it sometime.)

Loaf on the cutter

I get some lovely shots and tweak a few like the one above to make it a bit more on the thoughtful, nostalgic side with a soft, muted color saturation.  Way fun!

It’s rather late, about 11:30 on a Wednesday night when I finally go to the computer to upload the images onto the web site and ….nothing is there.

I’ve had this web site for years, all my product pics are there along with descriptions that wax poetic enough to tempt the shoppers, but all those images are…gone.  Nothing is on the page but divider lines, the page title, and a testimonial at the top just above the coupon codes.  It’s all text.  No photos!  What the what?

I fretted, jumped between outside website window and editing side window to see what was going on and nothing could explain what had happened to all my beautiful stuff.  My head ached, my chest hurt, my eyes were grainy from straining to find something to tell me what to do to fix this yet nothing came forward.  I finally had to take a sleep aid to knock me off my feet, but even that didn’t go far enough.  I still stumbled out of the bed at 5:30 thinking I heard something in the house that shouldn’t be there.  Fumbling around in the pre-dawn darkness, nothing out of the ordinary revealed itself, so I staggered back to bed and stepped onto something that had me hopping around all the way back to the bed.  After the adrenaline dissipated, I nodded back off to sleep only to pop back up, gritty-eyed again at 7:30.

Lousy night doesn’t even come close to describing that night’s non-sleep.

Not one to give up without a fight, I went back to the web site and realized the pages that had no products listed were a standard page and would need to be made into a category page in order for products to show up since two other pages had images still on them and those pages were category pages.  So……..all the pages were switched to category pages by mid-day today as my mind went to the why of this change in the way my site was being handled.  Why now?  I’ve had this site for many years and the products have always shown up just fine as standard pages with single listings.  Now, all of a sudden the page requirements have changed?  Where was the notification of these changes in page requirements? Was there a notification?

For those of you that work at home, you know this pain.  You know the anxiety at 1;30 or 3:30 in the morning when things have imploded on your site and it’s all on you to put things right again because you’re a solo-preneur.  It isn’t always smooth days, making stuff, selling stuff, hauling deliveries to the post office and checking our bank balances.  Some days we have to wear many hats, running on very little sleep and hope nothings else fails us as a result.

It’s much like having a very active toddler around – all the time.  They never grow up, they’re always demanding our time and attention, they’re exhausting, yet we love it and we carry on.  (I’ve had four of those two, two were twins, so I know this feeling well.)

The site is updated, cluttered cleared away and tonight I can sleep the sleep of the content knowing nothing else has failed.  I hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, here it is again…

….the end of yet another summer and I have to say I’m rather disappointed in this one.  Too much cloud cover, too many rainy days, not enough sunshine for my thin blooded self, but i’m sure the green things love it.

With the end of summer and school about to begin again, we start thinking about cooler temps, leaves changing colors & falling away and all those fun (and expensive) holidays looming just over the horizon.  I start thinking about having oatmeal in the mornings with my caffeine jump-start of choice – Pepsi.  I’ve never learned to like coffee, sorry java lovers!  So with those thoughts rumbling through my brain the products to come are now coming to the forefront on my mental To Do List.

Here are a few returning scents I plan to make this year:

Cafe Mocha

Snow Witch

Ultimate Christmas – maybe.

I say maybe to that last one because it was not a huge seller last year but the scent takes you home for the holidays in such a memorable way that it’s hard not to use it in something.  I might just stick with making wax melts of the spicy scents that can discolor or seize and use the others that don’t produce gremlins in bar soaps.  Hand and body wash is also a possibility for the naughty scents since they won’t make an already made soap seize.

I would love to hear from you on what scents you know of that would be ideal for this fall/winter season of 17/18.  Comment below or email me at neecysnecessities@live.com.