The Fifth Petal

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry wrapped me in a warm blanket of mysticism, mystery, intrigue, history, jealousy, love and a thousand other feelings for about a week as I devoured the story of four young women that are descendants of four girls hung as witches in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts.  The story stand on a firm foundation of historical fact as the original young women were quite real as was their dark fate.  Were they really witches or innocent young women with an enemy that had more power and held the right ear in the community?  This story takes that line of thought and gives it a turn or two along the way and in the end you find yourself feeling heartache for their loss regardless of your opinion of their leanings in faith.

Having never read the Lace Reader despite having my eyes drawn to it repeatedly shortly after its release, I now know I MUST read that one to gain more insight into these richly drawn, deeply flawed characters.  They are like family now which made leaving their circle all that much harder to do. Only a few of the characters from book one are carried forward into this book but that doesn’t make it any less captivating for the reader as these characters have a story of their own to tell.

The Fifth Petal can definitely be read along without the preliminary story from book one, but why would you want to when such fascinating people exist in both?  If you have read The Lace Reader then you really should read The Fifth Petal though how much closure it will bring is hazy at best.  Perhaps with a couple of the characters, it may bring some, but with others, well, let’s leave that open to debate.

Snow, Molds, Micas, and more

We’ve had the weathermen doing a slow, painful dance around the forecasts all week while they try to figure out this cold front headed our way that carried the promise of snow into the southern states starting this weekend only to get to Friday and watch them begin the backstep. We’re now into Saturday night and there’s no longer the threat of winter weather in North Carolina as much as there was around Thursday of last week, as the boundary has moved further south into South Carolina.  My sympathies to all of the Sandlappers out there.

Anyone who knows me well knows I despise winter weather.  This incompatibility has only grown over the years – my age has increased while counterbalanced against my decrease in tolerance. This has actually become a physical problem now, too.  Every cold morning brings migraines.  Not much productivity follow migraines as they don’t play well together. So it’s taught me to follow that adage that goes something like ‘make hay while the sun shines’.  And I do. I cram as much as possible into one day that’s good so that ‘bad day’ that is inevitable can be spent trying to move without nausea or pain.  I say this not to seek sympathy but rather to explain why there are many times when I go silent.  Those silences are either because I’m avoiding the brightly lit computer screen or I’m extremely busy taking care of business.  We all know I’d much rather be making something!

The need to create lively, new & fresh looks for my products is the goal for this year.  With that goal there was a need for some new colours, new molds and new fragrances.  I’ve finally ordered some tall skinny molds!  That was as exciting for me as the fragrances and colours!  I’m easy to please like that.  Still, the colours for this year are some new ones to extend the shades for colours we have already, some darker, some lighter hues of one now in stock.  The fragrances are new ones for us as well as we work with local suppliers for our boozy bar ingredients.

Speaking of…..I was competely thrilled to find out there is a meadery in town here!  Had no idea! The name, Honeygirl Meadery, offers several delish sounding meads and they sell at the Farmer’s Market all year round.  You KNOW I’ll be visiting their booth in a couple of weeks!  I’m all shopped out for right now but will definitely stop by to pick up the flavours I mentioned in a private message in Facebook.  Pop into their page in Facebook and read about them to see if there’s something there for you.  They do ship, so if you aren’t local, you can order online if your state allows ordering across state lines & online. Spoiler alert – I have my eye on their Lavender Mead and the Hibiscus Lemonthyme.  What’s about you?  Take and look at their listing and tell me if you like what you see.  Which ones speak to you?  Look for those two in future batches this year.

We’ve picked out some amazing scents from Nurture Soaps and Nature’s Garden that we are very excited to get our greedy little fingers around soon.  Some of them are really interesting  names, so we’ll see what they’re like.  They’re intriguing to say the least. We’ve ordered some new flavours for our lip balms so there will be a longer list of selections to choose from very soon.  The new fragrances are also going to be used in our cream soap and sugar scrubs that use our cream soap as a portion of the base.  The other portion is our mad-from-scratch liquid soap.  We do NOT use premade bases.  Like my grandmother used to say – “You don’t know where it’s been!” , so using my own as the base keeps control and provenance in my hands. The cream soap is a long process to complete, taking months to be finished and properly done, so a new batch is needed sooner rather than later and I’ve considered using some of our new meads in that, too.  It’s been on my mind since the last batch, frankly, so we’ll see what is used.

We currently have a Black Raspberry Nectar Mead and a Watermelon Nectar Mead from Redstone Meadery which is in Colorado.  (I bought these before I knew about Honeygirl.) Doesn’t that Watermelon Mead sound delicious?  I’ve actually tried a taste test of it and yes indeed it IS delish!  We have Redstone’s Sunshine Mead on order which is an Apricot Mead for a future batch as well and some Angry Orchard Hard Cider for an apple soap, too.

So you can see that our Boozy Bars selection is really growing by leaps this year and we hope everyone will find one they are dying to try because they’re really fantastic in the lather department and the new fragrances are ones we are very excited to offer!  Keep following for the production of these new batches and products.  Thanks for following and reading along!

Getting back on the horse

Where do you go to find your mojo?  How do you get around writers’ block without pulling out all your hair?  What inspires you to step out of that creative desert and back into the refreshing shower of ideas? Do you go with a really good program on television, something smart and snappy, something “Catch”-y maybe? I loved that show last year and watched the entire season in one go while ironing one afternoon then pulled it back up again today just to try to get moving again after several days of no motivation, no inspiration, frustration that when a fleeting second of motivating ideas hit there was something else demanding my attention elsewhere.  We all have been in this dark place from time to time and while we all hope it’s temporary, it seems endless while we are wallowing in its depths.

I’ve stuck my head in the sand for several weeks, waiting for the chance to sit and work on something real, using my hands, my mind and my heart, but it hasn’t been possible to get all three in the same place at the same time lately.  Thank goodness for Hulu, Netflix and YouTube.  Without them I’m lost.  Apparently I was a bit more silent than usual as a friend checked on me in Facebook.  It made me realize that perhaps someone does notice when I’m not participating, posting, cheering others on from the sidelines, creating, stirring things up a bit now and then.  The numbers tell the tale as well when they dive below triple digits in the reach.

Honestly though I often feel Facebook is taking more away from my creative time than feeding it or serving its purpose.  If it isn’t helping my business, why be there? It draws you in like a black hole, stealing away your time, and it’s certainly stolen mine.  Things were stolen from me in 2010 that can never be replaced despite being mainly of value in sentiment only, they were precious to me.  They are gone now.  That was not my choice. The loss of time from Facebook is of my own doing.  My choice.  And clearly not the best one.  It has its purpose and should remain a device only, to be used as a tool for networking, marketing, advertising, promoting, no more than these.

Perhaps this is where my mojo goes.  Into the abyss behind the screen of Facebook and for that reason it is now time to step back from it and be less of a cheerleader for others and more of a cheerleader for myself and build onto what I started in 2011. My business needs me more than others need me.  It needs nurturing.  I’ve loved it all along but it wasn’t enough.  It need more attention from me so now it will have it.  Blogs will continue, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, even Google+ and yes, Facebook too, but much less of it.  Mainly for the what’s new in the business page, less of the roaming around to see what everyone else is doing and how they are all doing.

 

 

The troubles with labeling & branding

I know people who are able to snap out a product label without batting an eye, no problemo.  They can design in their sleep and are perfectly happy with the results for ages.  I am NOT one of those people.  I’ve fought for years over the looks in product labeling and even the product itself and still find it wanting.  At least from my own perspective.  I think the same can be said for many other bath & body product makers.  Many are still finding it doesn’t impress them as it once did or never did at all whenever they see their products lined up on a shelf.  They dream up a perfect design for their brand and style then it somehow gets lost in translation from imagination to imprinting.

Mine has evolved a lot over the years.  Those early years were such a struggle when trying to achieve my own unique voice & look that it embarrasses me to even look at some of those ideas now.

Initially, I had just an ‘N’ in a fancy font.  It took more than a year, probably closer to 2 years, to find  a different font that I loved, placed it inside a bubble, one that could be changed with  the seasons and the colours within the product being featured and remained happy with it  Today, I have one for nearly every occasion – including the bubble version of the little black dress – black-bubble-clean-edges and one with a filigree edge…..Black Bubble, framed.png

and liked how they looked so much I used the bubbles with a slightly different colour combination for my first initial of my given name.

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[Side Note – Neecy is what I am to my grandchildren.  My given name is Denise, so since Neecy and Denise are the same person, of course I had to have a bubble that ties me back to the Neecy version of myself.]

So now I’m happy with that aspect of the labeling and branding but still it’s just the logo.  What about the rest of our product labeling?  Ugh!  How many incarnations of that will I end up with is yet to be determined, but I know I’m extremely close to being content now since this design has not changed in quite a while.bar-front-standard-aloe-soap-label

These in a clear Avery label placed on vellum wrappers for the bar soaps are where I am now and so far it’s sticking around a while. A clear label is also used for frosted jars for our cream soaps, sugar scrubs, body whips or body creams. I like clear jars for our products as I feel it builds trust in our products.  The customer sees exactly what our product looks like from top to bottom so they know exactly what they’re getting. No surprises.

For the men’s line, packaging is done with a modified flourish.  Today’s efforts were spent in making a label for the men’s shave soaps that still reflects the brand’s style but without the feminine flair.  Here’s what we’ve come up with for a shave soap in puck form.

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If you’re still struggling with your labeling, take heart and take sometime to decide what a package would look like if you were buying it for yourself.  What would appeal to your visual sense most, entice you enough to buy it, choose it as a gift for a friend or loved one?  What images draw you in more than anything else?  Chances are, if it appeals to you, captivates you in every possible sense of the word, it will appeal to your potential customers as well.  Give it that extra nudge towards your ideal audience and the rest will fall into place.  Asking friends, family members, a person with knowledge in graphic design always helps.  Get every perspective you can from every person you trust with valuable input and the rest will happen organically.

Lemongrass Anyone?

Lemongrass Pre-Buy from Fragrance Laboratory

One of my favorite suppliers is opening up a Pre-Buy for Lemongrass in case any of you readers need, use, love essential oils.  They offer it in 8 oz and 16 oz sizes and their quality is second to none.  I’ve worked with them for years and have always loved how their fragrance and essential oils have performed.  Nothing speaks to quality like a well-produced batch of soap, lotion, or pest avoidance product.  I love using Lemongrass in my Bugs Me Not!

Prebuys work in just such a way.  They receive a sample, put in a minimum order for a certain baseline amount to their supplier, must sell a minimum numbers of pounds from this baseline amount and if it reaches that minimum baseline amount they order the oil.   Once the oil arrives, it’s bottled by our supplier, which in this case is Fragrance Laboratory, then they will notify you that it’s going out in xx days.  Most soapmakers stay ahead of the curve by working in two-month-in-advance patterns, so this method of ordering should be no problem for most of you.  This method takes longer so you cannot be in urgent need of the oil, so be prepared for a wait.  It’s truly worth it though because you get exactly what you want and the quality is beyond compare.

Their packaging is sturdy as well so be prepared to work for it when your order arrives.  I’ve never had any spills from any order placed over the many years I’ve ordered from them, which is great as a spilled oil is not usable and your precious money gets wasted as well as the oil.

Stop into their site and see for yourself.  They offer some of the best fragrance oils on the market, with testing and result posted on the site to make it easier for you to create with confidence.

 

 

 

Strange Times

According to every meteorologist on every news station around, we are currently experiencing the second warmest February on record and that’s saying something as the records go back to 1887.  That’s the year my great-grandmother was born and only 52 after the Civil ended.

With warm weather an itch begins.  That nagging itch to break the soil, turn it over, loosen and prepare it and plant something wondrous.  Something that brings the world back to colourful life, brings the birds, butterflies, moths, bees and even bats back to our yards. (Don’t cringe at that last one.)

I have high hopes every year though they usually don’t fall into place quite as I’d planned. This year, once again those hopes are just as high as in years prior, but this year I have a feeling they’re going to come pretty darn close to that expectation than in those other years.

Much needs to be done first though.  Edging is needed to keep the soil in place, then those bulbs are going into the ground this year and hope they’ll come back to life despite their long wait.  Every year we have moonflowers and they’re are so breathtakingly white, ethereal glowing white in the darkest of nights and those bats, Luna moths, and even hummingbirds are are overjoyed to see them appear.  Those will be planted up front as always.

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Moonflower

A nice box planter is something I’d like to add if I can find one I like enough to bring home.  Something for the geraniums that were favorites of my late mother-in-law along with roses that we hope to add more of around the front of the house. Roses, thanks to those lethal thorns, are a great protective plant for windows around your home.  Holly bushes are also nice, but they’re literally a pain to prune.

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Knockout Red Rose

The peonies, my own personal favorite are here and every May they start showing off their abundant frilly coated blooms. With these unusually warm days, I’m tempted to take a peek to see if they’re starting to shoot, but there are some close-to-freezing temps coming soon so no peeking until after the danger is passed.

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Variegated Peony

Plans have changed for the side bed that runs the length of the driveway.  It too will need an edging as all our topsoil washes out with every single rainstorm, but the choosing is proving harder than expected.  It will be slow, but it will get closer to completion than we have seen in previous years.

So joining the hydrangeas in the side bed will be some of those hoarded bulbs, an edging to keep the soil around those green, growing beauties and cross those fingers we’ll have a vibrant floral show to enjoy come summertime when the warm weather is really here.

“Girls Waits With Gun”, by Amy Stewart

Allow me to introduce you to the sisters Kopp – Constance, Norma, and Fleurette. What makes them so special? Well, for one thing, these spirited ladies were real.  It’s a book of fiction, yes, but many of the characters are people who truly existed, but the story that swirls around them is somewhat fictionalized.  Ms Stewart aimed at accuracy in certain aspects of her telling of the high adventures of the Sisters Kopp, starting right at the beginning with a smash up between the rowdy new invention,the motor car and a horse drawn carriage by a beloved equine of the family, Dolley.

The year is 1914.  The surly, spoiled Henry Kaufman, gin smuggler of ill repute hurls his motorcar headlong into the carriage of the sisters three and Dolley, and refuses to pay for damages, which they feel is his responsibility,  What ensues is a twisting tail of stalking, harassment, and gun shooting lessons with the local sheriff.  Everyone knows of Mr Kaufman’s reputation for too much booze, too much privilege, a misplaced sense of entitlement and low morals.  This mix becomes dangerous as winter sets in in earnest and the spoiled boy and his band of thugs begin a campaign of terror against the sisters who are relying on dwindling resources to get them through the winter in a remote homestead with little going for it.

The beginning of this story was seeded from the research of a previously published book by Ms Stewart, The Drunken Botanist, which introduces us to a ne’er-do-well  by the name of Henry Kaufman.  A story in a newspaper of that day splashed the headlines of a collision between a fellow of the same name and three sisters on a horse-drawn buggy. This story was so intriguing, thanks to those indomitable sisters and the outcome of that fateful day, the story had to be told.  Of course Amy Stewart’s telling was spot on for suspense, capturing the essence of the three very different women as they struggle to get through one of  the worst winters they’ve ever experienced made worse by the kidnapping threats, arson attempts, and harassment from the Band of Surlies lead by Kaufman.

This story was a fun, intriguing and captivating read top to bottom.  It’s definitely captivated my inner suffragette’s heart with these feisty women working with little and gaining so much in return.  They’re independent and remain so throughout their time in this story though now I’m curious to hear more of their adventures. The next in this series (yes, there’s more) is entitled Lady Cop Makes Trouble, which I can’t help but feel it’s both a play on words and a teaser of things to come.  Let’s just say Constance finds her calling and runs with it.

Grab this one and you’ll be hooked to join them as they sure0footedly march along through their lives and grow into their own presences in just after turn of the century  United States.  You’ll love their quirky lovable ways, laugh with those attention-grabbing, obscure headlines Norma is so fond of and the fashion stylings of Fleurette making her mark on society as it matures into the industrial age.