Quick note about the weekend and the web site.

If any of you have visited the web site lately and been planning on shopping for Christmas gifts this weekend, you couldn’t have timed it out better!  I’ve put up coupon codes to use on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  Depending on the turnout for the Saturday sale, I might be talked into extending it over to Sunday as well.

For those wanting the inside scoop, the codes are as follows:

For the Black Friday sale, you get 10% off on youor order total when you use the Code BLACKFRIDAY

For the Small Business Saturday sale, use the coupon code; SMALBIZSAT and get 12% off!

For Cyber Monday, use the coupon code: CYBERMONDAY and get 15% off your total order!

Of course these reductions on items in the store are dependent on the supplies on hand.  When everything’s gone, there will be no more for another four weeks in the soaps department, so hurry in and lock in yours and please be sure to tell your friends to shop small business this year. thank you!

Lavender-Chamomile with White Tea

Lavender-Chamomile with White Tea

Lavender-Chamomile with White Tea

 

The latest batch to appear on the curing rack is a remake of one that disappeared quickly – Lavender Chamomile.  This batch had a little something extra, a twist of white tea.  Gave it just enough of a lift to make it lighter, though once it went into the soap, the lavender overtook everything.  In the bottle it was ethereal, surprisingly sophisticated. In the soap, there’s a stronger note of the lavender, though the chamomile makes its presence known well enough as well.  The White Tea is such as subtle note even on its own, that it kind of gets pushed into the background.   Maybe a bit further into the background than I would have liked, but there’s still some of this blend left, so there’s always next time.  I liked the colours, Cancerian Heat and Emerald Green from TKB, though they’re dark  it’s a nice contrast from the lighter background.  This batch did include some titanium dioxide so they would be a contrast between the background and the colours.  I didn’t use any in the recent version of the Blush Fig,  that was deliberate.  With the fig, it should be a slightly creamy, ecru-plummy background with the other colours blended around it, because it was Black Mission Fig. Different story with the  Chamomile -Lavender. Everyone know a chamomile flower is a small, pristine-white petalled flower, so the white is an understandable choice, equally so the lavender and the green.  The lavender was more of a pinkish-lavender, but it’s good to change things up now and again, don’t you think?  I really don’t like repeating myself, creating the same soap twice, at least, not in appearance anyway.  The other batches were mostly green, so this is definitely a departure from that.  This characteristics with the choices of oils gave me a rating of 7.2 out of 10 in moisturizing,  a 6.2 out of 10 in stable lather, 1 4.7 out of 10 in fluffy lather, and a 5.5 out of 10 in hardness.  I like a good moisturizing bar and when it’s high in the stable lather the creaminess of the lather is exactly the way I like for it to feel.  The addition of the Kaolin Clay and Silk were just icing on the soapy cake.  There’s also three milks – coconut milk, goat’s milk, and buttermilk, so lots of skin-loving goodness there that makes for a really rich dense lather, particularly due to the coconut milk.   I love using that in soaps!  It really makes the soap feel spectacularly rich.  This match used, once again, coconut water, though it’s better to use it as frozen cubes so the sugars in it dont burn too much.  They still turn orange, but not as much as when it’s only cold or worse when it’s room temp.

So with this one done and awaiting it’s date to the prom, it’s time to begin plotting the Next Big Thing.  I was listening to a story about a brewery in California that makes honey mead in many flavours, some of them are distributed in North Carolina. Knowing that many soapers love to include beeswax or honey in their soaps, it made me wonder what a soap would be like if mead were to be incorporated into the liquid phase either in full or in part.  Some soapers are also beekeepers and one even stated that a family member also makes mead.  She said her relative would be a very unhappy camper were she to use mead, after its long process is complete and aging is done, to just ‘waste’ it in a soap.  I can understand that if it’s theirs and their time was taken up by its production.  However, if it’s one I bought for the sole purpose of using in a soap, that’s entirely different.  So, my mission for this week is clear.  I go in search of mead.  There are several places I know of to check into to see if there’s anything close to it around.  There’s also the matter of a slight wait ahead while more Peach Kernel Oil arrives on my doorstep along with an order from my favorite fragrance oil supplier for some new fragrances! I can’t begin to describe how excited I am to be getting these hopefully by Wednesday!  Once they’re here, more goodies will be posted along with pics, so you can now consider yourself warned.  There’s much more to come!

This is the perfect time to be doing all of these indoor tasks.  A brutal cold front is coming through and the highs will be only in the 30s, which yes, that IS brutal for we Southerners.  We’re used to warmer temps than stuff that’s usually experienced in Canada or Wisconsin.  This cold hurts!  So, it’s warm woolies, fleecy PJs, and thick fur-lined slippers for us for a few days. Or maybe this cold is here to stay for a while.   In which case.  break out the space heaters, a good book an a warm blanket.  I’m hibernating til it’s over! Fingers crossed no one gets sick! That goes for all of my blog readers, too.  Stay healthy out there!

Therapeutic soapmaking

Today was, well, awful.  Major problems at the other job caused me to just lose it.  Completely.  It wasn’t pleasant and definitely not pretty.   I have very limited hours so every little thing that delays my tasks is bordering on catastrophic as everything slows down to a dead halt until tomorrow when I can return.  Well, this week the work computer has let me down.  Big time.  Not letting me log on without trying two or three times before it finally lets me get onto my desktop settings.  This easily makes what once took 2-3 minutes, now takes 10-20.  Ridiculous!  I’ve called, asked for help, asked them to let me stay home while they worked on it.  Still not working and they won’t let me stay home until the blood pressure hijack headache goes away that this whole thing caused.  I don’t think I’ve ever lost it at work, but today was a first.  Stress has been really getting to me lately and not sure why now.  It just reach critical mass now and I need a break, but can’t take one.

So, what to do when soapers get stressed out?  You make soap.  Not just any soap.  It must be a soap that you are comfortable with in the ingredients and process, using colours that won’t let you down, and a fragrance that will easily blend without gremlins at any point in time.  So, today I worked up a new, replacement batch of the Black Missions Fig from soapmakingfragranceoils.com.  I’ve made it before, making only 2 lbs that time since I wasn’t sure how it would behave, and after the fact knew that it would be an easy soaping fragrance, so I went for a larger sized batch, this time making 4 lbs.

There are easily 5-6 batches that could’ve been made, but this is the one I chose to do.  Why this one?  The scent.  Plain and simple.  The scent is of sweet, juicy, warmed-in-the-summer-sun figs with a bit of woody stems and leafy green leaves.  It’s soft, sweet with a gentle glide of aroma that both tantalizes and speaks eloquently of solitude and serenity in a sunny bower amongst a garden’s beautiful plants, bushes, and flowers.  It soothed me with its gentle touch, massages my rattled nerves, calmed my raging headache (for a while anyway), and kept my mind occupied with what to do with this one that will be pleasing both aromatically and aesthetically.  I hope I’ve managed to pull both off adequately.

This batch looks quite different from the first.  Where the first was topped with silver, this one is topped with warm gold.No mica or glycerin swirl on the top either, just a light dusting of Celestial Sun (TKB) glitter The colours are deeper – a deep almost black green to represent the leaves, stems and branches of a fig bush and a dark plummy red for the figs.  I started out with a drop swirl but then used a long-handled spoon to give it a bit more drama inside.  We’ll see in a day or two how that turned out.  The colours, from TKB Trading were reliable ones they’ve rated as cp stable and so far, they’re right on the money.

It has no other major departures from the previous batch – still includes colloidal oatmeal, coconut milk, Tussah silk, goat’s milk, buttermilk, vitamin E.   It sure helped me get back into balance again though.  I needed that!

Does anyone else ever have those days where you just want everyone and everything to just go away and leave you alone?  You put on some music maybe, or run a favorite movie or tv show for background  and just soap because it calms you?  Once upon a time in another lifetime, I played the piano to do that.  It took all of my concentration so nothing else mattered anymore, no one else existed, it was just me bringing out the music that was hiding inside the pages of a book tucked inside a piano bench.  Maybe I need to return to those days again.  Find the music again.  Meanwhile, I’d like to hear what you do to unwind after a particularly rough day.  What’s your mental vacation?  Do you have a regular ‘escape’ routine you turn to when things just get to be too much?  I’d love to hear about it.

And while I await to hear from my readers,  here’s the new batch, still wet and in the mold for now….

Blush Fig- Ready Dec 23.

Blush Fig- Ready Dec 23.

Thursday, November 21 – So, as it turns out this soap set up remarkably fast!  A few hours in the fridge to prevent gel, then removed it and left it out to get to room temp over night, then cut it into bars this morning.  Scared me how firm the loaf was!  I thought the wires might break, but thank goodness, none did.  There are ten full sized 7 oz bars, though there will be some loss during the cure due to evvaporation,  and 6 samples, 3 large and 3 small.  It smells dreamy, too just like the first time, so clearly nothing else has changed other than the look of it.  These will be ready, as mentioned before, on December 23rd and they’re now listed on the web site as a Pre-Order soap.  It’s in the drop down menu that appears when you hover your pointer over the Silk & Milk Soaps tab on the web site. Pop in and take a look and knock a few things off your Christmas shopping list while you’re there.  We’re still offering free shipping on all orders placed between now and December 10th, which is just around the corner.

Blush Fig bars

Blush Fig bars

Blogs, Websites & Tweets, Oh My!

There are two very distinct schools of thought, as I recently discovered whilst lurking around in Facebook last weekend.  They’re very far apart in their message too, which makes trying to get a business built up with enough volume to be viable as a business rather than a burden on time and money all the more difficult.

In one direction, there’s the firm belief that getting your face, your product &  business entity, including logo & branding out in the public eye via farmer’s markets, fairs (Craft, State, County,  RenFayres, etc), events, special parties either home or in another venue,  are the only way to get your company built up enough to pay the bills and have some left over to pay yourself and replenish stock.  This mindset makes sense.  Logic will state with conviction that there’s no other way for anyone to ever even know you exist unless you’re peddling your wares in a public place, thus increasing your presence in the open physical market. When you are seen you become known.  Out of sight, out of mind, blah, blah, blah.  This widely cast business net can then translate over to the virtual market and expand exponentially.  Like that old Wheat Germ Oil & Honey Shampoo commercial that played endlessly on television in the 80s – “I used Wheat Germ Oil & Honey Shampoo and loved what it did for my hair, so I told 2 friends, and they told 2 friends, and so on, and so on, and so on………”  I’m quite sure I just dated myself there with that one, but it’s what pops into my head every time someone tells me I needs to network more or spread the word more widely.

On the other hand, there’s another set of soapers who’ve sold exclusively online because, to put it in the simplest of terms, they are timid.    I happen to fall into that category.  I cannot go out into public and be a huckster for my goods.  I was never good at vocalizing my products’ merits.  I like for the product to speak for itself.  Yes, I’m much better online, as you can see I have no trouble dialing it up in here or in Facebook to talk about what I’m making now, what was done to improve this thing or change that one, but if you’d asked me in public, I’d probably start blushing and stammer through some mangled mess of a description. So how to get the shopping public to buy something if you aren’t any good at public speaking?  Tricky.  Social Media helps a great deal, but there again, people have to know you exist in order to hunt you down online, know what to look for, or at least get them in the neighborhood.  Very tricky indeed.  Personally I believe that Pinterest, FaceBook, Twitter, Linked In and blogging was invented to help just such people as myself and others of our ilk who would rather let their goods and services do the talking for them.  Still there is that tricky identity & presence issue to get past.

I know of several extremely talented and very popular soapsters who’ve made it into the big leagues with their soaps selling out before they’ve ever reached the cure dates and I’ve been nervy enough to ask them how they got where they are now.  They’ve kindly answered my questions with patience and great thoughts on why, where and how.  The best example was one from Ireland, who, if I gave their name, you would recognize them, but I won’t say here for their own privacy.  They described themselves as quite similar to me in the public speaking issues.  We neither of us can do so without a great deal of anxiety. They, too, said there was  a time when they’d go months without hearing their Inbox ping with a new order notification, calling into question their reasons for getting into the business in the first place.  They told me there’s not so much a reason that is direct such as “I do it for the money”, but rather that we are making these things to fulfill a need for the consumer.  We create something that fulfills a need that they possibly never even knew they had.  We create a niche in the market that only we can fill, staking our claim that this is better while all the rest is simply good.

What I learned from them is that we have to approach our business in the manner that works best for us because when we do it our way it works better, seamlessly.  It flows from one phase into the next with grace.  We must work with joy, a keen sense of fun, let our personalities shine through in every aspect of what we do, say, & create.  That is what the shoppers will identify with best – someone who’s more like them than they think we are.   Tell about your process, what inspires you, what you enjoy doing the most, maybe even give a glimpse of what you like the least because it keeps you human.  Maybe provide a video that shows how you do what you do because  consumers like to know ‘where it’s been’ and if it’s safe for them to use.  If they see it through every step, they know exactly what they’re getting, thus putting their mind at ease, especially if it’s something to be used for little ones.  Enjoy what you do and let it show.  Be  yourself. Even if yourself is having a bad day.   Letting the process take you into its embrace and letting it work all those mean kinks out will also be helpful to shoppers as they know that what ever they get from you, you did with serious ferocity of purpose.

Social media is a genuine boon for those of us who are socially challenged.  I do not do well in crowds.  I shrink.  Literally.  I try to find some way to hide because all I feel is awkward, no confidence at all.  But put me behind a computer in a virtual ‘room’ filled with scads of people, and I’m all over the place, talking away in dozens of conversations at once.  I can’t even count the number of times I’ve posted a response in the wrong place and blushed to the very tips of my toes!  Just too embarrassing when I lose track of where I am.

Yes, I’m taking all the right steps.  So many places try to get you to buy the book, take the course, listen into conversations and they all speak about the same thing.  We can grow your business in three easy steps and for only 5 easy payments of 59.99.  Really?  No thanks.  If I do that, I’m not helping my business grow, I’m helping yours.

So, I’ve put my brand out there in facebook – www.facebook.com/neecysnecessities.

I’ve put up a web site at great initial expense out of pocket with no guarantee of recouping any of that initial investment – www.neecysnecessities.com.

I’ve joined the Titter Nation.  Find me at DNeecy in Twitter.com.

Of course I’m in here too, and then there’s LinkIn and Google Circles.

So, no one can tell me that I’m not putting my name out there enough in the Social Media market enough, because that’s not so at all.  I’m everywhere.  So I guess the answer to why there isn’t a bigger number of hits on my site or Facebook page is simple – they aren’t looking hard enough. Maybe my car needs a business logo magnet.  that’s one suggestion I’ve read somewhere for getting your brand out there into the public eye, raise awareness of your business and with luck their curiosity will get the better of them and they’ll shop from you enough, just enough, to get hooked on handmade soap.  Once they do, they’ll never go back.   I’m doing my part, now it’s their turn.

 

Building web sites, tweaking, etc

I don’t know what sorts of experiences you might have had with building your own web sites.  Perhaps you loved it, or maybe you had one that had you shaking your head in confusion wondering what the heck they were talking about most of the time.  We’ve all had times like that really, when we were running up against a brick wall and not getting anywhere at all despite hours, or even days at the computer trying to get a web site built the way you wanted it.

The option to build one myself was a given really for me because I have control issues.  I like to be able to know how to add something, change it around, change the appearance whenever I want, change fonts (whole other story with that one!) when the mood strikes, but mostly I wanted my customers to be able to use their cards on my site and remain on my site when doing so.  That was the biggest problem for me.  I wanted that ease but the web site I have with Weebly didn’t have that sort of ecommerce technology. I didn’t want to go elsewhere for a new web site just so I could have the luxury of card acceptance, so I hung in there, waiting patiently, then not so patiently, for something to change and…. tah dah!  It finally did!

Recently Weebly has added in new ecommerce features that allows me to go from my Pro version of Weebly, a subscription with ownership of my own domain name and site, to the new Business Plan.  It allows me to accept credit cards through two choices for a gateway service, one was Stripe.  Maybe someone out there has had experience with Stripe and found it to be terrible or terrific, but so far, so good here!

When I was faced with the renewal of my Pro site subscription I had a question for the Weebly team, one that basically was this – if I have the Pro currently and just the one web site with that name with them, is there a need to maintain the Pro AND the Business Plan.  Seems like a no brainer for many, but I didn’t want any doubt in my mind about the answer, so I asked.  A couple of days later they responded and told me that since I had the Pro version for a long time,  and it was up for renewal they’d give me an extension for free for the next 6 months since I’d paid for the Business Plan already.  This is just one example of why I love Weebly and really wanted to stay with them if it was possible.  They have such great customer service, going above and beyond whenever possible.    I’ve never had any serious problems with the web site or how to change things around when another whim hit,  including theme or how to add in widgets (or remove them).

I love Weebly – I’m a huge fan of how they’ve handled their free web site set ups, had that fandom grow exponentially when the site went to Pro, and now that they’re offering a Business Plan, including SSL with the addition of ecommerce, I’m forever sold on them.  Their customer service is prompt, clear, and friendly.  If you want to build it yourself because of either budget constraints or just want to be able to have complete control of the decisions of how it looks, this is the one I’d recommend.  Even more strongly I’d recommend it for those who are just starting out and want to go with baby steps and start with the free version and learn as you go, building it yourself, adding things, changing, tweaking, on your schedule.  It’s the best way to start and the best place.  I paid for the Pro version on a 6 month basis, which made it very affordable  The eCommerce Business Plan has extremely competitive pricing if budget is a major concern, and who doesn’t have budget issues these days!

Take a look at the site now with the eCommerce st up with their Business Plan  and see for yourself.  I love it!  And now that it’s all done except for the occasional maintenance and adding of new products, I’ll have more time to soap and craft, so let’s get back to work and prepare for the holiday shopping season!

Liquid Soap to start off November

The  liquid soap was started yesterday afternoon around 3 pm, but believe it or not, I’m still working on it 21 hours later.  It’s now diluting, which is what takes the longest for me.  If anyone who reads my blog also makes liquid soap, please pip in with how long your batches typically take.  These always seem to take about 2 days to complete, start to finish, and I’m curious to know if others have this lengthy timeline as well.

I decided to try some different oils, not because there’s anything wrong with the previous batches and their results, but rather just out of curiosity to see what other oils bring to the batch’s characteristics.  I tried wheat germ, rice bran, coconut,  pumpkin seed, and grape seed oils in this one.  There were a few extras as well.  I also added, for their nutritive benefits, Vitamin E & DL Panthenol (a B vitamin) and a dash of caffeine and a splash of silk amino acids.  These were stick blended into the oils prior to the addition of the KOH & glycerin solution that had already been dissolved completely and slightly cooled.

This rendered a large batch that was the usual amber tinted paste, and very silky looking, like salt water taffy or perhaps closer to pulled sugar for wedding cakes.  Really pretty!    While it was still very hot, about 35 oz of very hot water was added and blended in, but it was still a very stiff paste,  The burner was turned off beneath the paste and a pot of 70 oz of additional water was heated to very hot, but not boiling, just bubbling a bit.  This was left to steep for several hours, then very low heat was turned on beneath the pot of soap.  It stayed on for about 2-3 hrs, then turned off for the night.  This morning, the paste had still not yet dissolved completely, but was well on its way to being there, so an additional warmth was added, and about 35 oz of hot water was added.  This is now still steeping, to soften and thin it down to a pourable stage.  I added some of it to a bottle and tested out the bubbles.  It was still hot enough to warp the bottle!  But the lather was outstanding, and my skin felt extremely soft, silky, not dried out or taut.  See for yourself –

Bubbles! (800x600)

Silky feel, soft, stable thick bubbles.

More Bubbles! (800x600)

 

 

Love how this one feels during the wash and after!  It might be amber, but it feels like gold!

Anhydrous caffeine is believed to stimulate hair follicles and scalp for healthy scalp and hair, encourage growth, and firm skin when added to lotions, balms, and liquid soaps.  It’s believed to help with cellulite, too.  This coupled with the tocopherol (vitamin E) will be a boon for skin so you will be left feeling refreshed and softly cleansed.  I hesitate to use too many words that would describe it as treating something, fixing something, helping with certain issues for obvious reasons.  If you choose to do your own research into the ingredients noted, you’ll see what this formulation will offer as well as why I chose to include them.  I love using a tiny bit of caffeine inn my body lotions for give the lotions those properties I love so much.  The last batch of lotion made was a wonderful blend of golden jojoba & peach kernel oils that, while softening, and moisturizing upon application initially, they left behind, once absorbed, a satiny smooth after-feel that is much nicer than a greasy sticky feel others have had.  I’ll stick with that blend for a good while, I think!

The other oils, like wheat germ, brings a large additional amount of Vitamin E, and additionally also adds Vitamins A & D, antioxidants, and is believed to treat vitiligo  and is a perfect carrier oil for various preparations for muscle rubs, balms, facial blends & serums as it’s also believed to help with the signs of aging.

Rice Bran oil is a tidy package of antioxidants and vitamins for your skin, including an abundance of B vitamins and E, improves skin’s elasticity and suppleness, and lends a bit of sunscreen thanks to the Vit E as well to keep you younger looking longer.

Pumpkin Seed Oil deeply moisturizes your skin, while it also helps with acne, fights free radical damage, aids firmness, lightly encourages exfoliation and reduces irritation.  The benefits are increased when taken internally in the form of a daily supplement, though not from our soap.  A healthy snack of pumpkin seeds are a wealth of goodness for your entire body! They include Vitamins K, E, B and A, loaded with fiber, and packed with phytosterols that help fight the ‘bad’cholesterol,  LDL.  Additionally, they also help you mellow out as they’re a storehouse of tryptophan, which will give you that feel good mood that aids in relaxing enough for a good night’s sleep.   You’ll be glowing from the inside out!