Monday, December 29, 2008

Products I LOVE #2 - Ring from JenXCreations

Time for another product I love! I actually traded soap for this gorgeous ring on Etsy from JenXCreations.

I will be the first to admit that I'm not a huge jewelry wearer - I forget to put anything on other than the necessary clothing most days, but this ring spoke to me. Its natural colors and slight sparkle will match many outfits that I wear. And it goes great with the beautiful necklace Coll bought me for Christmas!

The ring is made with the wire wrapping technique (that's about the most I can say on that as I really have no idea how to even BEGIN making jewelry and feel my lack of knowledge would be glaring if I tried to say any more!). It is called "The Best of Both Worlds ring". The beads are Opalite and Peridot and it is wrapped with sterling silver and gold wire. I was surprised by how sturdy the ring felt - I have never worn a wire-wrap ring and was concerned it wouldn't be very tough and prone to bending out of shape but that's not the case at all!

The ring came in a cute handmade box and was packed very securely. Shipping was fast and I was pleasantly surprised that day to open my mailbox to see a package made of Christmas wrapping paper inside! How cute! She also sent along some free peppermint tea which I have since consumed...yum. JenXCreations is an asset to Etsy. I love my beautiful ring!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Better late than never!

I forgot to post this Treasury that was on the Front Page on 12/26/08 with my 4 bar pack in it! What a beauty. It is called "Oh My!" and was created by LeelaBijou.

Just listed - Soothe-Me Chamomile Tea

I just listed my Soothe-Me Chamomile Tea bar! It's a luscious combo of Chamomile/Green Tea chock full of Baby Oatmeal. This will be the last new bar I will post prior to my little necessary vacation in January for my interviews. Everything else will be posted after January 23 when I return! That vacation is going to do wonders for my shop - it's going to come back super strong and full of variety! Check it out here.

Sneak Peek: The Garden (?)

I just took another new soap out of the mold. I am EXTREMELY excited about this one - it smells so amazing! This one is probably going to be called The Garden, but I'm not 100% on that yet. Initially I was thinking Dad's Garden but the scent is not extremely masculine and I don't want people to think it's a guy bar! I created this one with my Dad's backyard vegetable garden in mind - he grows an amazing variety of things and has always provided my family with a ton of fresh produce in the summer. The tomatoes and rhubarb were always my favorites, not necessarily for taste as a kid, but because the tomatoes were SO time consuming and had their own little cages. The Rhubarb was a family joke as it grew like a weed and my Mom was constantly going to neighbors houses to drop off bags at a time. So, this one is a combo of a Tomato Leaf and Rhubarb scent which ended up smelling a little melon-y? Kind of sweet, kind of fruity, kind of...indescribable. I'm going to have to think about this one and wait to see what the final scent is once the fragrance oils have time to settle.

This is already a fave of mine, though. I can't wait til it cures so we can try it!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Just listed - Strawberry Fields (Forever)

I just listed my Strawberry Fields (Forever) soap bar on my Etsy site!

I am really happy with how this bar turned out - the color from the rose hip powder is so berry rich, and it smells divine. I can't wait to hear what others think of it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The best gift I gave this Christmas...

As promised, here is the gift I gave Collier this season! I did sign a handmade pledge saying I would buy handmade this holiday season and most of my gifts are or were, but this one was something that I just couldn't GET handmade! So I did my best to make the wrapping as do-it-yourself as possible.

I bought him tickets to come with me to Albuquerque, NM and Salt Lake City, UT next month when I am going there for interviews. He originally was thinking of coming with me for those two, but his alternator on his car clonked out last month and he could no longer afford to without draining his savings. So, I thought about it long and hard and realized that finding a place to move where he will be happy is so important to me so I decided to bite the bullet and pay for his plane tickets. I have to pay for some of the hotel stays myself anyway, so it would be a fairly inexpensive trip for him.

Instead of just giving him a card with the tickets, I decided to tie things to a ribbon to pull out of a box. First, I put some of my books at the bottom of the box so Coll would think it's something heavy since the box was too big for me to hide in our apartment. I bought a few handmade cards from the shop next door and wrote on the outside of them with cut-out construction paper (which was probably the most time-consuming thing I could have ever chosen to do!). I made a "cover" of construction paper with a slot in the middle so that when he opened up the box he would see the first card on the top with a ribbon going into the slot. The first card is above.

This is one of the other cards - it was the first he would have opened that actually told him what was going on. Prior to this I had construction paper backed photos of the kitties, just to build the suspense! This one said "And Finally..." on the outside and inside I made a ticket out of construction paper that said Admit One to Albuquerque. I gave him the Salt Lake city one after this and said "And That's Not All!" on the outside. I told him prior to opening the gift that there are two rules - go slowly and you can't ask any questions until you are done. So, after opening the Salt Lake city one he looked at me and said, "But I still have to ask off do realize that..." to which he received a blank stare and said, "Oh, right, no questions."

So, then he opened his itineraries - I had each one wrapped with a nice bow and made an envelope to put them in (again out of construction paper). After that was a card that read, "I know what you're thinking..." and inside that was his ticket for his return trip to Milwaukee, and an explanation - I actually called his boss and asked for him to have the days off as I knew Coll couldn't go otherwise!

All in all it was a fun thing to open and though he was really tired he was excited :) I'm so glad he will be coming with me, too, as traveling alone for a week and a half would really not be fun. What he needs more than anything is a vacation, so I'm glad I could give him that!

That's all for now! I'm about to start making another batch of soap...more details to follow :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A great Christmas!

We had a wonderful time with Collier's family this weekend. We laughed and were merry and I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful time! The only thing missing was MY family, but luckily for us we get to see them next week for a belated Christmas at my parents on New Years day.

I got more wonderful gifts than I could have asked for, and had a special surprise when I returned home - the Christmas treasury I made was on the front page today! Hooray!

Some of the wonderful people I featured in the treasury are people I've purchased from this year (I'm wearing that awesome cranberry glove/scarflette set as I type this!), in the next few weeks I'll be posting about them. Others are people I plan to buy from in the future. I want to buy one of those awesome terrariums when we move to our new place.

Well, that's all for now. I'm going to enjoy what's left of Christmas day with my wonderful Collier and our little furry family. Well...Kermit's passed/partied out and the kitties are napping as well so maybe mostly Collier :)

Merry Christmas to anyone who reads this!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Three things I love on this Christmas Eve!

1) The USPS

Those are presents for our mail carrier and the once a week sub. Why? Because they are AWESOME! We actually had a parcel stolen from our mailbox earlier this year (a sound conditioner aka noise machine I'd purchased from and the manager of the local post office called me to discuss. Luckily, it was covered under Amazon's guarantee so they sent us another at no charge to us. Unfortunately we live along a highly traveled road just down the street from a middle school so we have a lot of local adolescents walking by - most of whom are very well-behaved, but whoever took the package obviously was not! At any rate, since that time they don't leave anything that would impede the mailbox from being completely closed (meaning anything larger than a flat envelope) and will always ring the doorbell with anything larger.

The second part to why I love the USPS and why I chose them to ship my parcels is that they ACTUALLY DELIVER when they say they will! Collier ordered a gift for his Dad that is to be delivered by FedEx Home Delivery and it has been rescheduled now for FOUR DAYS due to weather. I understand that they can't move as quickly with the snow, but it's a gift and if we don't get it today it's kind of pointless. Of course we can give it late, but the fun of Christmas is everyone opening their gifts with loved ones! The USPS, on the other hand, delivered two parcels for me yesterday. With a smile! I love them.

2) My awesome customers!

This is a new one for me this year as I've never really had my OWN customers before!

This is a photo attached to feedback from my first ever international customer! She contacted me after receiving her order and let me know that I checked the incorrect box on the customs form (which I greatly appreciated as I really didn't know which to choose!) and to check "other", and left wonderful feedback today including that awesome photo. It is people like her who make those hours stirring oils and lye together worthwhile. Everyone has been so receptive and kind about my new soap business, I just appreciate that so much.

3) My Family!!
Last but certainly not least, I adore my family (along with Collier's who are not technically "mine" yet but I think they and I would all say that the legal documentation doesn't really matter!) We are seeing Collier's family over the next two days, and we will see mine on New Years. I am SO excited to have time to relax with everyone. This is my third Christmas with Coll and his family, the first one was 2004, now 2007 and 2008! I am also so grateful for our wonderful pets and the fact that they have acclimated to all living together so well.

And finally, I am SO in love with my wonderful Collier. He makes my world go round some days - lately he's been carting me around after work to do all of my errands as my car is SO terrible in snow. Last night he took me to the paper store so I could buy paper for my new soaps, and then helped me dig out my car so I could move it to the other side of the street. He is very good to me, I couldn't have ever imagined or wished for someone this special. I got him a very very special gift this year, I think I am more excited about him opening it than he is (mostly because he has no idea what it is!). It took me a solid 4-5 hours to put together and wrap on Sunday. I will take photos and hopefully post them in the next few days. YAY!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just like in Kitchens across the country...

Sometimes I realize that having pets is not SO drastically different from having human children. Every time I make anything in the kitchen (aside from soap - the pets know they have to STAY OUT when I'm soaping!), they whole crew aside from Panda is right there. Watching my every move, waiting for me to give them something or maybe even if they're lucky, LICK THE BOWL!!

Today was no exception. I made Peppermint Bark this morning and Kermit followed me like a hawk. Once it was out of the bowl they were ALL begging for a lick.

Kermit even walked on his back feet for about 6 feet trying to get to the elusive bowl.

So, really - not so different from human children?

It continues to snow here. We got a few more inches today, and are supposed to get 3-6 more inches tonight into tomorrow. Yuck. Collier and I are still planning to go to his family's Christmases which are about an hour and a half away - the first of which will be tomorrow evening. I hope we are able to make it. Enough is enough with the snow! I need spring!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kermit bundles up

It's been really cold in Milwaukee - on my way to work this morning they said it was 0 degrees and with the wind chill a whopping -25. From what I understand this cold front is sweeping the nation.

Because of the cold, I haven't taken Kermit for a walk since our trip to the puppy park on Saturday. Even taking him out to go poop on Sunday, he actually layed down on the sidewalk because he was too cold to move. This from the dog that can not get enough of snow and winter!

So, when I was at work today, I was talking with the doctor I'm working with this month about Kermit's anti-wind chill attitude and he said his dogs were faring about the same. I told him I'd considered buying him little boots to wear but know we are hoping to move somewhere warmer and don't want to spend a lot of money on something that he won't get any use of in the future, and he told me that they used to just put socks on their dogs! I figured it was worth a shot if only to see if he tolerated wearing footwear.

So I did it.

I put socks on each leg with a headband to hold them on. Unfortunately, the front ones came off in a giant snowbank (which was fun for me as I was the lucky victim who had to dig through and try to find them!), but the back ones stayed on! We ended up going for a 20 minute or so walk (see first photo) and Kermit was SO happy! No laying down this time - with his coat and his gloves he was fine!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A great last minute gift idea for the Animal-lover in your life!

The humane society in Milwaukee has a program where you can sponsor an animal that is in their shelter by sending a donation. They then post on their "Angels" page that you sponsored the cat/dog with your message. This is one of the things Collier got me for Christmas this year! I knew about it a week or so ago as he put my name for the contact info and an email receipt was immediately sent to me. Oops! I actually almost called the humane society telling them I didn't make a donation and that they must be mistaken, but then saw Coll's sweet note :)

What a great gift idea for the animal lover who doesn't really need or want anything, though! The cat they assigned to Coll's donation is "Buttons". He was adopted well before I figured out the angels page thing, otherwise I was thinking of taking him some special toys for his stay! But he will have a holiday in a new home which is SO much better.

Oh, and I don't really want 20 cats. I promise. I just love them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A soapy update

It's about time I talked about what is new in my soapy world! I actually haven't had much going on, to be honest. I am lucky in that my boyfriend braved the weather to drive me to the post office yesterday to ship my last order for the holiday season out. He also drove me to pick up new packaging supplies and to get my prescriptions! He likes to drive in the snow - and my car was stuck where I'd parked it worked out well! Things in the Etsy shop have been pretty slow, I think most people (like myself) are kind of shopped out! Since this is my first year selling, I'm not sure if I will see a resurgence in orders for the post-holiday times, but I am likely going to put my shop on vacation for at least a week and a half while I'm traveling the country for interviews, so my guess is I won't have my shop open enough to really know!

I am currently featured in another Treasury! This one is called Simple Style and was created by Caitlin Plein. It's a gorgeous mix of magenta/gold/rich purples, I love it and am very honored to be a part of it:

Clearance Sale!
One little tidbit of news is that I am clearancing out my Neroli Lemon and Eucalyptus and Wasabi bars. The prices as marked are 25% off their former price (from $4 to $3!). These are my 3 oz bars that I was making prior to selling my soap and after deciding to sell I bought a new mold and have a new system that makes my current 4 oz bars. I also developed a new wrapping and labeling system that incorporates my shop theme and ingredients on the back. My sister just wrote me yesterday saying she likes the new soaps so much more because of all those things and I have to agree! I might continue to make Neroli Lemon in the future, but first I need to get these 3 oz bars out of my storage area!

Ideas for the Future
I am thinking it would be beneficial for me to have a "line" of certain soaps that I always keep in stock. I didn't want to do this initially because mixing scents and botanicals and natural colorants is my favorite thing about soaping! But, each batch only makes 25 bars and I think it is scary for people to buy a bar they've not smelled before! I am thinking of having 5-10 constant soaps that I continually re-make and then do a few limited editions at all times so I can continue to be creative! Right now I've got 4 more completely new soaps to make, then I might have to take a poll as to what other people would like to see me continue to make! I pretty much know Mom's Holiday Kitchen is out as that's not an all year round bar, but people really seem to love that bar so perhaps it will become a holiday limited edition on a yearly basis! So much to think about :)

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland

I haven't heard the official totals but we got about a foot of snow in Milwaukee today. Luckily for me, I didn't have to work today to begin with - I don't think I would have been able to make it in if I did! Honda Civics and deep snow do NOT mix well. Instead, I slept in a bit, then got up and shoveled our walk.

After work time is play time! I took our dog (Kermit) in the back yard and threw (snow)balls for him - he LOVES to leap through the snow and swim through it. Then I decided to try one of our cats, Zazu, out in the snow. Both of our cats are exclusively indoor only, but I have taken him out on a harness a few times and in the summer he seemed to like it quite a bit when I took him out with Kermit. Plus, he will lay in front of drafty doors and on cold flooring so he seems to like a chill. So, I took him out, put him down, and he sat and looked around. For a while it seemed as though he was kind of intrigued and enjoying himself. Then a big gust of wind came and Zazu was pelted in the face with snow. He freaked out, gave me a pathetic look, and said, "MeROOOOW?" So, I picked him up and held him and he was shivering so it was time to go inside. I did get a few nice photos of him, so I thought I would share them here. Zazu and Kermit can also be seen featured in my photos for Orange Mocha Love, the bar that was designed for them (Zazu is the Orange, Kermit is the Mocha)!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sneak Peek - Soothe-Me Chamomile Tea

There is another new kid in town! This one is called Soothe-Me Chamomile Tea. It's a wondeful blend of chamomile and green tea fragrances with just a touch of ginger/amber. The bar is also filled with baby oatmeal (aka the really flaky gentle kind that isn't scratchy!), and topped with Chamomile flowers. One of the more gentle bars I've made. Currently these bars are in the process of curing, they should be available for sale on my Etsy site at the end of December. Yum!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sneak Peek- Strawberry Fields (Forever)

I have a brand new batch of soap curing right now, I'm planning to call it "Strawberry Fields (Forever)". The full story will come on my Etsy page in a few weeks. It turned out gorgeous - a berry scent with grassy undertones to keep it earthy. I put strawberry seeds in the soap as well as on top, and rose hip powder to give it the gorgeous reddish color. It reminds me a bit of Red Velvet Cake!! It smells great, though - I can't wait to see how it turns out once completely cured! Here's a sneak peek unofficial photo:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Aaaaaand I've finally figured it out.

So, for the past week I've been loving soap life - I've had an order almost every day, it's been "easy" for once...I'm not spending hours every day promoting, I was in a treasury, people seem to be finding me somehow without me really trying.

I was just in Etsy Forums and found this helpful post. It turned me on to a new tool called Featsy which will search etsy to see if you are featured anywhere (meaning gift guides and front page I believe...I think it's only if administrators choose you and doesn't search treasuries). Well, I found out that not only was I on the front page this week, but I have spent the week in the Gift guides!! I am so honored, seriously. And if finally gives me my answer as to why things have been suddenly different. I went a month without a sale...I know changing my photos helped a little, but I just couldn't understand how all of these people were FINDING me?! I suppose, really, changing my photos helped a LOT and posting the sampler pack was a good idea as likely the combo of those those two things are what got me on the gift guides.

Here is the gift guide I am in, Stocking Stuffers:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Products I LOVE #1 - Cards from Clever Hands Press!!!

First of all, the treasury listed below with my sample size soap pack was on the front page tonight! Unfortunately I didn't see it and by the time I figured out something was up with the sales and new hearts coming in it was off the front page. But cool nonetheless - my first time featured!

But enough about me! Time to talk about some of the other wonderful, talented folk on Etsy! I must admit - I've been doing my fair share of buying on Etsy as well as selling :) I thought my blog would be a nice place to talk about what I REALLY think of the items I buy!

The first I will talk about is 3 sets of thank you cards I purchased from CleverHandsPress. I was in Indiana for an interview and thought that I should send Thank You's to the nice people who took the time to speak with me. I've got 8 interviews across the US and at each about 2-4 people speak with me so I needed at least 30 cards. I thought that a handmade card from Etsy would be so much nicer than something you buy from the store!

I searched for an hour or so before deciding on 3 sets of cards from CleverHandsPress.

The first I chose was a set with two elephants...I had spoken with someone that day about a program in Kenya and thought what better a thank you to send than one with elephants? All of the text (Thank You) was added as a custom request for me. The cards usually come without text.

I also thought the Bamboo cards were gorgeous and LOVE them with the Thank You!

And last but not least, I bought a beautiful floral card that reminds me of summer :)

I really enjoyed working with CleverHandsPress. We convo'd back and forth quite a bit the night I placed my order as she is in St. Louis and I was heading there directly from Indy and we were trying to get the details of my order all ironed out so I could pick up from her directly. She met me in St. Louis to hand-deliver the cards (no shipping charges!) and the transaction was all in all wonderful! Her pricing was very fair and she was super easy to work with. The cards are super professional - on a heavy cardstock with slightly raised print. The envelopes are also really beautiful. I can't recommend buying from CleverHandsPress more highly!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My first treasury feature!

I was just checking to see if I was too late to try for a treasury tonight (which I was!) but was surprised to find that my 4 soap sampler pack is currently featured in an Etsy treasury! It was created by Spongetta, she sells beautiful not-so-traditional stockings and purses - check her out!

Here is a screenshot of her treasury, it is called "stagecoach". My MacBook has a small screen so I wasn't able to get it all in, but you get the idea - luxurious purples and greens. It's very soothing and earthy, I love it!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Newest soaps

Well, I'm finally getting around to this! I have been so busy trying to get caught up around the house and with my life here that I have been letting things like this slide!

I've posted 4 new items since I last updated. Here's a bit about each of them:

The Golden Afternoon

I made this bar because I wanted to recreate some of the scents of my childhood - lilac and fresh laundry will always remind me of my Mom and Dad's house. Put the two together and you have a warm, floral, summery bar. I love it! I put Calendula (dried marigold flowers) in this one which is appropriate as my Mom always had marigolds when I was little - they grew well in the direct sunlight in her front flower garden.

A Pineapple Under the Sea

This bar might have the most non-illustrious beginning of any I will ever make. I was sitting down to think of soap ideas and after coming up with Mom's Holiday Kitchen I got stuck. I'm a huge Spongebob nut and happened to be writing on my Spongebob notepad. I started thinking of smells that made me think Spongebob when the idea for this soap came into my head. I found a great Pineapple fragrance and combined that with sea moss fragrance. It sounds strange (this was the bar I was more worried about than any other prior to smelling the fragrances together!), but it's really awesome. I separated out some of the soap at trace and made peaks at the top of this one...trying to recreate the look of waves on the sea. It ended up looking more like mountains which is ok, too, ha ha.

I also posted a 4 bar sampler for my new bars which will all be about 4 oz in size from here on out.

And finally, the ever so popular 4 pack of sample sized soaps.

So, that's pretty much what's been going on! I'm trying to get caught up with everything in life and around the house and am hoping to make another batch of soap in the next few days! I will try to snap a photo in the mold before I cover it all up - I've got a pretty good idea on what I want to name this one but nothing is set in stone yet. It's going to be a goooooood one!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The post that's been way too long coming thus is too overwhelming to write.

The title says it all. I NEED to blog. I've got exciting things to talk about! And I will, I promise, I will blog soon. In the meantime, check out my Etsy shop: .

I took a bunch of new photos today after learning how to use the macro function on my camera (which is truly a huge time-saver and my photos all came out super nice!). I changed many of my primary photos so my shop has a slightly different look to it. Since I've changed it I've gotten a ton of new hearts, made a few is amazing just what great photos will do for you on Etsy. I posted in a forum to encourage others to read their camera manuals, because one page of my manual was the difference between ok photos and awesome photos for me.

I've also got a few new items out there: A Pineapple Under the Sea, The Golden Afternoon, a 4 bar sampler of my 4 oz soaps, and a pack of 4 sample sizes for people to try. I will try to post about those soon!

I also need to post about all the wonderful things I've purchased on Etsy. And I will. All in good time!