Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Cover

I wish for you much love & laughter, new memories made, old ones revisited with those that shared them with you at the best of times.  Have a safe & happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Holiday discounts, yes or no?

Everyone knows about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  Many an Indie crafter lives for these three days to make their numbers go into the black and sell out their fall and winter stock.  We love any reason to be able to make more soap.  Really.  We are obsessed and unashamedly so. Still, there comes a time when the shelves are groaning, there’s a small narrow path from bed, to bath, to kitchen, to front door and room for little else because of all the inventory we’ve feverishly crafted for the past three months so we’ll be ready when the clock chimes midnight on the night after Thanksgiving.  That’s when chaos rules.  But we love it.

So you’ve spent a lot of money on ingredients, the best that money can buy, little extras you hope will make others squeal with unabashed glee when they open their boxes, made things at a frenzied pace for weeks in early fall or late summer, all with Christmas or wintry themes.  Observers scratch their heads in confusion, glance at the calendar and walk away hoping you’ll come back to reality soon. But you know what you’re doing.  You’ve planned great things for this holiday shopping season.  Big plans and now the game is afoot.  The calendar has now flipped over into November.

The turkey’s gone, the dressing is drying out on the table.  Coffee mugs rest abandoned and cold.  Football plays on the television in a room nearby but the cheers are overlaid by the distinctive sounds of snoring.  You know what’s going on in there and it’s all about the tryptophan.  Ah well.  You’re ready to makes really right with your business world.

Time to set out the packing materials. Wait for midnight when you can begin lining up those emails from orders that begin pinging into your inbox.  You’ve prepared for this.  You made beautiful things that everyone loves and set up coupons for real deals on all those little lovelies that you hope they just have to have!

Let’s think about that for a bit.  You’ve worked hard, created those items, building them from a tiny kernel of an idea that you stewed over, losing sleep, making notes late into the night.  You’ve lost time with family, hubby, pooch, grandbabies too maybe (depending on your age) that you can never get back but you did so willingly because this is your career and you love your work.  It’s your purpose and feeds that deep-seated need in your soul to provide something to others that they cannot find or have been searching for before stumbling across your website/Facebook page/YouTube channel/whatever.  You bounce out of bed every morning to do this and yet you want to sell these things short?  You decide to use a coupon code and be a part of the shoppers rush even though you know your products are worth every bit of time, effort, stock, labour, blood sweat and tears at their original price.

Hm, what is missing here?  What am I not comprehending fully?  Yes, a sale is a good thing and at this time of year, it’s a way of life now. If you don’t have a sale price, well, you will lose business.  On Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday it’s all about the sales numbers.  It isn’t about the product anymore.  It’s about the price point.  Somehow, though you know that consumers love a good deal. With luck, if they come to you now and like what they get, they’ll come back again throughout the rest of the year.

We as business owners & crafters are keenly aware of how much consumers love a bargain and we do as much as we can to give them one because we love what we do.  This is the heart of our deal.  They buy from us, at a slightly lower price for this one weekend out of the month of November and we will be happier for knowing we gave them more for their hard-earned money and they still have a wonderful gift for their giftee for all that work on both ends.

Using coupons and sale prices was a tough call for me this year.  Frankly I can’t afford to offer coupons or reduced prices, but I also know there is a bit of room for compromise to be able to sell my products, still be compensated for all the superior quality ingredients I use in each of them, the time it took to craft them all from scratch and still be able to pay my electric bill at the end of the month. But some other deals had to fall by the wayside.  Ideas were toyed with then scrapped for lack of funds.  It’s been a long, hard, expensive drive to the end of this year and I still hope I can remain in this a good bit longer.  As the others, I love what I do.  I’m not ready to stop.  There are too many really great ideas and new things I want to offer yet it was becoming clear that things must change or it will be lights out for my business that’s struggled for so long.

Using coupons or running sales, offering give-aways are good things, but they don’t have to happen all the time. Free shipping will have to be applied only to larger orders that will qualify for it. Keeping the sales to the holidays, offering free shipping for larger orders will be the new rule for Neecy’s Necessities if I want to stay in business at all. It’s a painful reality, but a very realistic one from a business standpoint.  I know what my customers are getting when they order from me and I’m confident they’ll love it once they’ve discovered it, so my prices, while lower than some are still competitive, not too low, not too high and can withstand three days of sale price levels once a year.  It’s a compromise I do for my customers and perhaps in the future I’ll offer something else instead, perhaps loyalty points or a buy this many, get that free.We

We’ll see what the future holds for Neecy’s Necessities and in the meantime I wish for you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving.

To discount or not to discount?

It’s speeding towards the holiday shopping season faster every year it seems and many B&B makers like myself are hustling their bustle like dervishes to get everything at a state of readiness for the big sales days ahead.  It’s usually their busiest time of the year so lots of stock has to be ready and waiting for the Go Shopping button to light up.

Shoppers also like a great deal, discount, sales, bargains from every direction.  Coupons can fall like confetti at a ticker tape parade.  It can get hairy, to say the least.  This time of year is stressful for both sides of the sales counter.  We worry about stock being plentiful enough; did we make the right things in sufficient quantity to cover every potential scenario?

Makers worry too that prices are not on point.  ‘Point’ being that level that will make it possible to continue to be a maker and sell an insured product to the buying public.  Taxes inevitably follow, but for now that worry is after the first of the year.  One issue at a time is about all this maker can take.  It’s more a focus of covering the shelves with a diverse selection that is affordable in today’s market environment.

I recently read something about discounts being a cut into your product’s value and how others see that value as well.  I cannot and will not undervalue my product.  I have worked too hard to make it something wonderfully beneficial, safe and available to all to undermine its value at this point.  With that in mind, for good or for bad, I removed the discount codes from my site.  All except for one.  Its only remaining code is for the 5% discount on the Pre-Order soaps (EARLYBIRD5) to encourage sales to lock in an order for those wanting a particular batch’s bar guaranteed to be there when it’s ready for shipping day.  It also serves as an indicator of scents that are customer favorites.

Time will tell if that was a good idea or not, but there it is for now.  Let’s see what happens.

Here’s a link to my site for you to browse through for your shopping this year….

Neecy’s Necessities

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