Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sunflowers and Triscles

We've been having a great time at Otion with melt and pour.

These dual colored Sunflowers were made by Andrew, my brother-in-law. He is certainly getting talented at melt and pour, isn't he? The mold is by Milky Way and the colors used are Cellini Red, Emerald Green Labcolor and Canary Labcolor. Detail work was done painstakingly by hand with a dropper.

These two lovely soaps on the left were made by yours truly. The blue soap pictured on the right of the photo is a difficult soap - three pours. Sadly, the photos don't show its true glory. The top layer is clear soap with lovely navy blue sparkles. The blue used is Labcolors Aqua. The soap on the left is a dual pour soap utilizing copper sparkle mixed with merlot mica for contrast.

Have fun trick or treating tonight and be safe!

Clear Instructions for Layering CP Soap

Playing With Soap has a helpful post, complete with photos, on layering Cold Process Soap. Click here to see it.

I do layers the same way: pour at a very pudding thick trace and try to work quickly.

I've heard other soapmakers actually make three batches (rather than separating one big batch into three parts), one right after another. The time in between batches allows the layers to harden enough to support the next layer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Contest! New Contest! New Contest!

We are busily shipping out orders and dreaming of fun projects to experiment with when the holiday rush is over.

The new contest for the week is easy - post a comment *in this thread* with the dream project you'd like to see us tackle. Not much is out of bounds so suggest the wildest, most difficult, exotic project or just keep it simple - either way, you'll get an entry into the fabulous random drawing for the goodies photographed below.

Among the loot is a Sweet Pea candle (the pink one in the back) from Full Moon Candles, two of the Choco Balm Experimental Lip Balms and a Banana Nut Bread Beeswax candle and more!

Crockpot Soap From Scratch

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mud Puddle Girl

Thanks Carrie-Gigi at Mud Puddle Girl for sending me a fabulous goody pack! Carrie-Gigi has showered me with gifts before (click here to read about her fun billows) and this time, she's sharing her Soap-Queen inspired chocolate lip balm. Back in September, Carrie-Gigi wrote me to share the good news about her new product line: Muddle Puddle Girl. She said:

I am very passionate for what Mud Puddle Girl stands for. And it's really not about playing in mud~ but making a splash! One of the 1st products within the Mud Puddle Girl line will be: Mint Chocolate Puddle/ lip balm. Pure ummm...used your recipe, then tweaked it to call it my own.

The lip balm is quite tasty and leaves a little zing on the lips because of the mint that MPG's have added to the straight chocolate lip balm. But, staying true to the Chocolate Lip Balm project (click here to see the final recipe), MPG really did include chocolate in the lip balm.

Thanks for the samples and for liking the Choco-Balm recipe enough to make it your own. Go see Mud Puddle Girl's site here. As for me, I'm going to sit here smacking my lips all night!

Note from an ADGA Winner

Here's a kind note I got from Sue Harris of Little Mama Products

I just learned that I placed second in the "fragranced soap" category at the ADGA national convention last week!

I read your blog about what a chore it was, testing all those soaps... thank you so much. It means an extra lot, knowing the judging was done by someone I really respect! :o) I appreciate all the trouble the two of you took, testing the various aspects of the soaps. It's very interesting to see the criteria, and how decisions are made.

Congratulations on your 2nd place finish, Sue!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tile o' Soap

The soap artist says this about their work:

A bar from each of the batches of soap I've made so far. They can be bought at except for that lavender one. I'm not really selling that one since it was my first batch and doesn't even smell like it's supposed to.

I love the bottom right soap - the swirl is very crisp and clean. And Gapey, don't worry too much about your first batch of soap not smelling like you wanted. It happens to all of us.

September 21, 2010 Update: Hi everyone! Just wanted to give you a new link. You can now buy these fabulous soaps at the Sultan Scents Etsy Shop.

Feelin' the Love

Thank you Joanna at Product Body for a wonderful ego-enhancing post about Bramble Berry, this blog and (eyes downcast modestly) me. Click here to read the post.

And then DesperateHorseWife (aka Tracey) has a very nice post, complete with awesome photos about her experience with Otion, Bramble Berry and soaping. It's a well-written funny missive (just like Tracey is when you meet her in person). Click here to read it.

Recipe for Oatmeal Melt and Pour Soap

Oatmeal Melt and Pour Soap Recipe

(1) Melt 8 oz. of white/opaque base

(2) Melt 8 oz. of clear base

(3) Optional: Grind up 1/2 oz. of Oatmeal in coffee grinder for a smoother, lighter exfoliation. Also, the smaller the particle, the easier to suspend in the soap.

(4) Combine the two bases

(5) Add your fragrance oil - approximately 1/2 oz. (Oatmeal, Milk and Honey is a good one!) and stir in well

(6) Optional: Add colorant

(7) Add the oatmeal and stir. Wait 20 or 30 seconds - is the oatmeal sinking to the bottom of your bowl/Pyrex or is it staying suspended. If it is staying suspended, skip to step 8

(8) If the oatmeal is sinking, this simply means that your base is not thick enough to support the oatmeal. Either cover the bowl/Pyrex with saran wrap and wait for the base to cool, or stir the melted base until it is becomes thick enough to suspend the oatmeal.

(9) Pour your oatmeal soap into molds

(10) Spritz with alcohol to finish the soap and break up any bubbles on the top of the soap

(11) Wait 2 to 3 hours (or even better, overnight!) to pop the soap out of the molds. Wrap with saran wrap and you're done!

Oatmeal & Honey Soap

Oatmeal & Honey Soap
Originally uploaded by blossomsundries

A stunning photo of Oatmeal and Honey Soap from Blossom Sundries.

The oatmeal is a particuarly nice tough on top of the soap; it provides texture and an artistic look.

The Soap Artist has a great recipe for an Epson Soaking bath over at her blog here.

More Wildlife at our House

Thanks for the comments yesterday about our hilarious wildlife. The little critters make us laugh every morning as we drink our coffee. Here are a few more videos of the squirrels eating and playing.

video video video

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Frolicking Squirrels

Our chipmunks and squirrels have become happy (and complacent?) on our deck, eating gifts of peanuts (shelled and unshelled).


Despite my husband's fears of our squirrel's imminent starvation, they eat enough peanuts to empty both feeders every week or so.

Happy Saturday!

Curious Chipmunks
Originally uploaded by Sandra Leidholdt
While these aren't the chipmunks at our house, ours have been out in full swing all morning. I will post a video or two of them later.

We're busy today, catching up on the mundane that doesn't get done during the week (cleaning, washing dishes, actually speaking longer than a brief "Hi" and "Goodbye!"). Sadly, today won't be spent playing with soap and toiletries because the dirty clothes hamper calls. Our kitchen is safe for another few days.

Upcoming this week: Ranting about Business 2.0's lack of female business covers, photos of a fun soap party at Otion, and a new contest! Look for the Lake Samish Chipmunk videos later today.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Candlemaking - Final Touches

Final Tips and Tricks:

1. Thank you to the Anonymous poster for writing and telling us her experience with hot wax on her hands. She recommended wearing gloves when making candles to protect hands from burns. I find gloves cumbersome and bulky but might consider them for future projects. Third degree burns are never pleasant!

2. Wick trimming is important. Trim the wicks down to 1/4 inch prior to burning and continue to trim them after burning if the wick gets too long. Wicks that are too tall will cause smoking and high flames, which could be a fire hazard.

The photo below shows wax seepage between a first and second pour. When the wax congeals and cools, it will shrink considerably. Beeswax does not need a second top-off pour like paraffin wax does. If you try, the result is below. The wax seeped down in between the glass and the beeswax that has shrunk.

And a big thank you to Mark F. Small from "Small Bees" for his thoughtful email today. I appreciate him sharing his tips and tricks for working with spilled beeswax! Here are Mark's tips below:

1) Allow the beeswax to solidify. Ice is not necessary, especially on wooden sufaces. The water will only damage the wood.

2) Once the beeswax is hard, use a stiff plastic blade putty knife or a stiff plastic vinyl applicator (this is what we use, found in sign shops to apply vinyl letters to banners) to scrape most of the wax off of the surface. Using the stiff plastic tools suggested should not leave gouges or scratches on virtually any surface. If removed effectively there should be just a fine film of beeswax left.

3) Now break out the hair dryer or heat gun and turn it on medium to medium high. As the beeswax softens and melts use a terry cloth towel to rub the area affected. You may need to keep using different areas of the towel as it absorbs the wax. Continue until all wax is absorbed. Done!

You should experience no gouging or wax buildup if you follow this procedure. Some beekeepers do use mineral spirits for removing fine films of beeswax, but I have found the approach above to be much more effective.

Thanks Mark!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kiwi Soap from Otion!

The soap geniuses at Otion made this plate of kiwi and cream soap. It looks edible and smells delicious. Melt and pour is a wonderful medium to work with; it gives great artistic freedom and creative options for crafting with.

Crave Party in Seattle

I have the privilege of speaking at CraveParty in Seattle next weekend. If you're in the area, please stop by! The scoop: CRAVE Show ’07 is Seattle’s premier indulgence and style event for women. CRAVE Show ’07 showcases nine themes for smart, urban-minded women. To empower and inspire CRAVE Show ’07 features lifestyle experts, a fashion stage, fitness studio, décor design stations, spa services, cosmetics counters, travel desks, culinary delights, a connection café for friendship and networking, and much, much more. Above all CRAVE means enjoyment, enlightenment, indulgence, health, fashion and above all sophisticated, feminine fun!

Click HERE to see the calender for the show on November 3rd and 4th. The panels I'm participating in are at 12 noon on Saturday and Sunday and 4 p.m. both days.

So, if you're in the Seattle area and want to meet hip, smart and connected women, stop by!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Candlemaking - Pouring, Steady Hands & Straight Wicks

For Candlemaking Set Up, click here.
For information on wick and fragrancing, click here.
For wax spill cleaning, click here.

Once the wicks are anchored and centered, fragrance added and your wax is colored. You are ready to pour. Pouring has been briefly discussed here already. Most cotton core wicks will stand up straight when exposed to the hot wax. If you happened to purchase a wick that is drooping, consider using a CD series wick. They are specially designed for high melt point wax and will stay firm under the deluge of hot wax.

Here is another photo of pouring from the melting container to the pour container. Notice that we've finally covered the table with newspaper! There is approximately 3 pounds of melted wax in the double boiler pot. That much weight requires a steady hand (no caffeine before the pour!) and a strong wrist. Always work within your limits for weight; if you have a weak wrist, melt smaller amounts.

When the wicks get warm, they do tend to droop just a bit. Here we have propped up chopsticks to help keep the wicks standing up straight. It takes approximately 30 minutes for the beeswax candles to harden and be safe to move. Tip: If you try to move the wax while it is still congealing, it will ripple on the surface of the candle. Your candle will not have a smooth even look if you try to move the container too quickly.

Check back tomorrow for final touches for your candles and some general tips and tricks for making your candle crafting as fun and easy as possible.

Best in Show from the ADGA Contest

There were over 80 entries to the Soap Contest that the American Dairy Goats Association sponsored. The Handcrafted Soap Guild designed the contest rules about what makes a "good" bar of soap. Some of the criteria included:

Even Texture
Feel when soaping
Density and Stability of Lather
Water Absorption Test

To read more about the Water Absorption Test, click here.

After lathering up with more than 80 bars of soap, Harriet Schieb (a small soapmaker from Denver, Colorado) and I independently filled out review forms. Each criteria had different points associated with it. The entire judging process was done over two days. Our hands are a testament to how nourishing goatsmilk soap is. Even after lathering with 80 bars of soap and using no lotion, our hands were fine! There was no excessive dryness or cracking!

The best soap in entire show was (drumroll please!) a soapmaker from Texas!

TLC Farms!

The winning soap was made in a Mini Mold using AppleJack Peel fragrance.

Congratulations Caroline Lawson from Franklin, Texas!

Lusting after these personalized cards

From their site: cheerful, colorful avians, two by two. freehanded on felt, so every bird is one-of-a-kind, like you. two-line saying in lovebird cursive (neat, carefree handwriting).

The cards are $42 for a box of 12 which seems pricey but when the work to cut out the felt birds and the custom printing is taken into account, it seems like a fair price to pay for all that labor!

Cake and Milk Paperie has lots of other card options if you're looking for personalized cards. Check out their site here.

Thanks, Carrie Gigi!

Thanks to Carrie Gigi From Mud Puddle Girl for the shout-out and the "You Make Me Smile" award.

Look for another candle making installment later today or tonight!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Candlemaking - The Inevitable Spill

Crafting with soap and candles is a wonderful family activity. For this Container Candle experiment, my Dad and I took the opportunity to spend the morning crafting and laughing together.

I've mentioned my propensity to ruin the kitchen (here and here), much to my husband's bemused chagrin. This time, it was my Father that betrayed the sanctity of our otherwise clean kitchen.

As I was chattering away, wick centering and placing, my Dad helpfully pulled the hot wax off the stove and gingerly walked over to the table to gently pour the wax into the metal pouring pot. It was a particularly graceful arc of wax that flowed right over the cannister and directly onto the table, where it slowly started splattering on the floor.

Silence filled the room as we both looked at the wax, congealing on the hand-installed cherry wood floors. We both looked at each other sheepishly as the error of our ego and hubris set in; why hadn't we covered the table with newspaper?

My Dad is a doctor. He's been stitching people up for over 30 years now. One would assume that he would be able to easily pour with a steady hand. I pointed this out, in a gentle, loving respectful manner (of course). He sputtered back that the viscosity of melted beeswax is different than urine and blood, the two things he most commonly pours. There's really no rebuttal to that statement so I let him work in silence as I thought up funny ways to tell my husband of this latest mishap.

To clean your wax spill: Freeze the wax to make it easier to scrape.

Find a flat knife, such as putty knife or a baker's scraper cutter. This is my Dad, scraping away at the wax with one of my best cheese knives.

I have a video to post later tonight of my Dad scraping away at my table. The clean up was slow and tedious. It took approximately 30 minutes until the table was wax free (albeit with nice divots and holes where Dad gouged the wood).

To hide the dark wax stain, we decided to buff and wax the table with a commercial furniture polish. It comes in a yellow can and looks remarkably like Pam, the vegetable oil. After Dad and I finished buffing the table to a shine, we both looked at the bottle in my hands and realized one of us (finger pointed squarely at him!) grabbed the Pam bottle rather than the furniture wax bottle. So, we repeated the entire process - only this time with real furniture wax! My table has never been so moisturized!

We then covered the table with newspaper and started our container candle production line all over again.

Check back tomorrow for pouring and wick straightening tips!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Candlemaking - Wick Centering & Fragrancing

Click here for Day One of Container Candle Making - set up and melting instructions.

Step Three: This is where you will center and place your wick. You can purchase specialty glue dots to hold your wick in place and buy wick centering devices (such as the EZ Wick Setter here). If you're not making candles for a business production line, you do not need a special glue to hold the wick down or a wick centering device. Use our cost-effective method below for setting your wick.

To glue down the wick, draw up some warm wax into a disposable plastic dropper. Use this hot wax as your glue to place and hold your wick. You can eyeball the wick into the center of your container without too much trouble. Work quickly. The wax will set up in a matter of seconds.

Fragrancing: Fragrancing is important in candlemaking. A recent survey done by the National Candle Association found that 75% of consumers purchasing candles considered fragrance to be "extremely important." With over 10,000 candle fragrance options and an array of fragrance companies to choose from, candlemakers are lucky to have such a wide variety of choices to ensure they get the best scent for their budget and market demographics.

Some basic caveats when choosing a fragrance for your candle:

Throw is an issue. "Throw" refers to how well a candle wafts the scent over and throughout a room. Most candle fragrances are specifically designed to throw extremely well.

Flashpoint is something to consider. "Flashpoint" is the temperature at which an undiluted fragrance will combust when exposed to a flame or spark. Since candles are 5-10% fragrance and are diluted with 90% wax, combustion is not an issue. However, the lower the flashpoint, the higher the chance of fragrance note evaporation is. For example, if the fragrance flashpoint is 130, with a normal paraffin, soy or beeswax candle, evaporation or flash-off is a factor.

One important safety note is that if you are making gel candles, you must not use a fragrance with a flashpoint of 180 or below. Gel candles make large oil based pools. The entire pool of liquid could catch on fire with a sub-180 degree fragrance.

Test your fragrance. Different waxes, wicks and fragrance variables will make one fragrance smell great in a certain wax and wick combination but under perform with a different combination. A single Dixie cup with an appropriately sized wick, in a small room (bathroom anyone?) is an ideal test. It just takes two ounces of wax and .2 oz. of fragrance to test and potentially save you large batches of poorly scented candles.

The usage rate for fragrance in candles is surprisingly high. We recommend a full 1 ounce of fragrance (weight) per pound of wax. Candles scent entire rooms. To scent a such a large volume of space, 1 ounce of fragrance is a small investment.

You can the Bramble Berry candle line to scent your candles or the regular soap line. If you use the regular soap line, be sure to test the fragrance in a small test candle to ensure you're thrilled with the throw.

Step Four: Once you have carefully transferred your hot wax to the pour container, add the candle fragrance while stirring the entire time. Since the candle fragrance will be cooler than the hot wax, the fragrance may congeal at the bottom of your pouring container. Simply stir it gently until the cooler portions are fully mixed in.

Step Five: This is where you add color. Remember to only use candle safe colorants as some colors may release toxins into the air if not approved for burning. In the photo below, I have dipped a Q-Tip into liquid candle color and painted designs on the inside of the container for a wacky, tie-dyed effect.

Step Six: Pour the melted, fragranced and colored wax into your heat safe container with a steady hand and evenly flowing pour.

Check back tomorrow for Day Three of container candlemaking.

The Day That Got Away

I am mid-way through the Wick Setting and Fragrancing instructions for our candle tutorial but the day has gotten away from me! I will work more on the post at home and (hopefully) get the 2nd part of our candle tutorial posted to the blog tonight.

Orange Passion - Newbie makes soap!

Diana wrote me to share her successful first soapmaking foray. She learned how to make soap from our Cold-Process DVD! Here is a photo of Diana's soap.
This is what Diana had to say about her soapy creation:
I added Orange Valencia, Red Grapefruit & Plumeria fragrance. Also added was the peach tone liquid color. It went in red and came out this way. I call it Orange Passion. I am very excited and can't wait to make more soap.

Thanks for sharing, Diana! Your initial soap batches look very advanced for a newbie; it's inspiring to see what a great look you can achieve - even on your first batch!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Candle Making - Set up and Melting

Bramble Berry has a substantial line of candle fragrances, colors, waxes, wicks and candle glass containers. I love making candles but don't make them enough. Once you get a perfect recipe down, the outcomes are more predictable than cold-process soapmaking.

For this Beeswax Container Candle project, the set up includes:

a double boiler
cotton core wicks
candle fragrance
glass containers
Metal pouring container

If you don't have all these things, you can melt beeswax in the microwave. It takes 6 to 10 minutes to melt the wax. It's not advised because Pyrex will not always withstand the sustained heat. I have personally broken (exploded is a better word) two Pyrex "heat-safe" containers and a microwave glass rotating plate attempting to melt beeswax in the microwave. Do not melt the wax in a normal pot, directly on the stove. The wax needs diffuse heat from a double-boiler to best melt.

Why cotton core wicks? Cotton wicks are all natural and do not use zinc or metals to make them stiff. For beeswax users, the cotton wicks also carry the fuel (the melted beeswax) up the wick in a more efficient manner. In normal situations, cotton wicks are smoke free. The wick needs to be large; approximately double what you would use in a paraffin candle. Beeswax is a hard, dense wax and has a high melting point, needing a larger flame for a consistent melt-down.

Why specific candle fragrance? You can use soap fragrances (the ones from Bramble Berry are great in candles!) but they tend to be more expensive than dedicated candle fragrances. Soap and skin safe fragrances have higher standards for ingredient safety and purity. Candle fragrances can use a wider variety of ingredients, often cheaper, since they don't need to adhere to standards like on-skin irritancy or being an allergen when applied to the body. Also, dedicated candle fragrances will sometimes perform better in candles than an all-purpose fragrance. Our soap fragrances (originall line and the Cybilla line) work great in candles. We have many customer using our normal line for their candles because it's easier to have matching soap and candle scents. But, if you're just making candles and economics is the main factor for you, choose the candle line.

Beeswax is a precious renewable resource. To make one pound (16 oz.) of beeswax, a worker bee will eat 10 pounds of honey and visit 33 million flower blossoms over 150,000 miles! WOW! That makes the price of $4.00 per pound seem positively cheap!

Why glass containers? Because they require less work than a traditional pillar candle and you don't need to buy any molding equipment. Make sure if you use a container for your candle that the jar is a heat safe container.

The Instructions for making Beeswax Container Candles
Day One

Step One: Melt the beeswax in a double boiler. 16 oz of beeswax pastilles will melt down to about 10.5 oz of volume. One container (as shown in the top photo) takes a full pound of beeswax! This explains why these candles burn for so long - there's a lot of wax in that little glass! Tip: When the wax is melting, it will congeal into one large lump. Breaking up the lump will help the wax melt faster. Please be careful when you are breaking the lump up - too vigorously chopping might splash hot wax on you!

Step 2: Carefully transfer the hot beeswax (no children or pets should be underfoot during this step!) into your pour container. I like metal for this though you could use a heat-safe pouring container in a pinch.

Check back tomorrow for Wick Centering & Fragrance Use.

Back from Denver!

Originally uploaded by mselderhuis
I am back from the National Dairy Goats Association trade show and excited to start working on the Beeswax Container Candlemaking tutorial this week. Also, I have the "Best in Show" winner from our soap judging to announce!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Goatsmilk Soap Judging!

Greetings from the American Dairy Goats Association annual convention in Denver, Colorado! It is bright, cheery and brrrrrr, cold in Ft. Collins.

Harriet and I (the soap judges) happily lathered up with over 80 bars of soap testing for hardness, fragrance, color and evenness of tone. We also did a fun test called the "Water Absorption" test.

For that test, we tested each bar of soap for weight in grams. Then strung the bars up with grommets and BBQ skewers. Those bars soaked for a full 2 hours before draining for 15 minutes. Then, every bar was reweighed and a mathematical calculation was done to see the % of water each bar absorbed. If the soap absorbed too much water, it was deemed a soft bar of soap that would disappear in the shower. The Soap Guild suggests an absorption rate of 5-15% is average. Some of the bars absorbed up to 45% and still others totally disintegrated.

This process looks easy. It wasn't. Cutting and weighing and screwing the bars took hours. Hand screwing the hooks in caused some feelings of numbness and carpal tunnel onset.

We had to tongue test every bar for lye bite. It was horrific. Eighty bars of soap tasted terrible. I almost threw up multiple times. We did this in a public restroom with the manager coming in every 25 minutes telling us to leave immediately. It was the ultimate negotiation trying to get her to let us stay in the bathroom. "Please, just another 30 minutes? Under what circumstances could we stay another 30 minutes?"

It is amazing how badly we rated some of the bars for lather and residue. Those same bars scored poorly on the water absorption test as well, absorbing much more than the suggested 5-15% rate. The fact that, scientifically from a water-absorption rate, these bars were poor coincided impressively with our subjective ratings on lather, residue and feeling when using. It showed us that science matched gut instincts, at least with goatsmilk soap.

The winners will be announced tonight. We're excited. Harriet and I don't know who wins. We just know what the random # is. After 12 hours of testing, we can't wait to see who the winner is!

E-Wax in Ft.Collins CO?

I am teaching soap and lotion classes at the National Dairy Goats Association annual convention. My lotion class starts in 6 hours ... and I have no emulsifying wax. It will be difficult to teach without it.

If anyone reading is is in the Ft. Collins area AND happens to have some e-wax, I desperately need some. I am happy to buy, trade, or beg for it.

I'm at the Ft. Collins Marriot (970-226-5200) and can send someone out to get the precious emulsifying wax from you if you're nearby.

Update: Thanks for Theresa in Denver, I now have 6 oz. of E-Wax for the class. Thank you Theresa!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Aussie Soap Supplies Reviews BB Fragrances

Thank you to Dave and Jude at Aussie Soap Supplies for trying out some of Bramble Berry's latest additions. They even sent photos and testing notes! If you're in Australia and you want to buy soapmaking supplies, Dave and Jude have a great company so check them out here.

Testing notes from Jude:

This is Wasabi fragrance in a discount water batch - just the small sample - works a treat and fragrance is top notch. It's the blue swirl in the pot soap attached. I actually added an ester (*Smack = dumb) so that was why it was accelerated before I even added the FO!

Snickerdoodle in full gel phase

Jude notes: Buttercream and Snickerdoodle morphs slightly IMHO, still pleasant, but more like Warm Vanilla Sugar. It seems to lose the caramel sugar notes in CP. HOT gel, quite quickly. Discolouration tan/caramel colour. Not unpleasant.

Review from Jude: Rhubarb - will *bite* ? You mean seize? Attached are pics - and yes, it was pretty hot and although I had a 20% discount water, it was workable as you'll see in the picture. It of course set up, so I would put a warning about water discounting, but it didn't superheat or anything - its luscious stuff. Oh, BTW, warning warning - I made a bright custard yellow background to stand out against the purple/red of the rhubarb, and when the FO hit it, it turned sort of mucous green!!! I touched up the yellow, but it wasn't looking good, but CP miracle, its as you see the picture. It hasn't faded out, but its not quite as milk-shaky now. Delish just the same

Hostess With the Mostess Blog

Thank you Amber for telling me about this adorable blog! Recently, Hostess With The Mostess featured the most adorably done Bento boxes. They make me want to play with my food. Alternately, they also make me want to have children who might appreciate well-crafted food like this! Click here to get hostess tips, read about cupcake trends and be the envy of your block for Halloween. The ideas at HWTM are positively popping!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Interview with Soapy Love

I have blogged with awe and admiration about Debbie from SoapyLove (here and here). She takes melt and pour to an entirely new art form. We are so lucky that she is willing to share a bit of her soaping philosophy with us. Her web site can be found here and her Etsy store here.

Soap-Queen: I love your soap! Your creativity clearly comes through. Do you have any formal art training?

Debbie: Thank you!! Yes, I have a BFA in Fashion Design from Academy of Art College in San Francisco. During my college career, I switched from a BS to a BA to a BFA and thought I went to heaven when my science class in art school was anatomy drawing! Any excuse to draw was (is!) a welcome one.

Soap-Queen: How long have you been making soap?

Debbie: I’ve been crafting with glycerin soap for 2 ½ years, since I was pregnant with my son, Sequoia. I started out wanting to make my own natural body products like cocoa butter cream, but eventually discovered how fun m&p is. I still love homemade scrubs, lip balms, cp soap, etc, but like to buy them from other crafters.

Soap-Queen: Do you sell your soap as your only source of income/is this your full time job?

Debbie: No, alas I am still a corporate slave. I’ve worked in the apparel industry for 10 years and specialize in Product Development. I dream of making Soapylove my full time job, though. Maybe one day!

Soap-Queen: What is your favorite soap to make, and why?

Debbie: My favorite soap to make… that’s a really tough one to answer because I enjoy discovering new uses for m&p so much. There are so many great sources of inspiration whether it’s a change of seasons, a new colorant, a movie, or a piece of jewelry, that I just like to keep experimenting. Outside of soapsicles, I rarely make the same soap twice.

Soap-Queen: I see that you have a lot of stores that sell your wares! That’s awesome! Do you have independent sales reps, a rep house or are you doing it all on your own?

Debbie: Yes, I have been so lucky to get approached by buyers. I don’t have any reps, but am working on some distribution arrangements in the UK and Australia. I think my exposure on Etsy, The Switchboards Forum, and through several of my original retailers who have done very well keep my items visible and the interest fresh. It’s sad, though, that I don’t really have any retailers in San Diego where I live! I just haven’t had the time or courage to approach local shops.

Soap-Queen: What are you reading right now? And, if it’s magazines, those count too!

Debbie: I am so busy I don’t really make the time to get into a book. As my husband would tell you, though, I’m famous for not finishing books I start. My friend got me a subscription to Everyday Foods which I am really loving, though. I don’t know if that would be considered reading!

Soap-Queen: Any words of advice for soapsters wanting to get into the business?

Debbie: When I decided to get Soapylove started, it was because I was making so much soap I didn’t know what to do with it all. The passion to make soap just for the fun of it is what still drives me today. Regarding advice for your readers - if they can find an item or a look that makes them stand out, that will be very helpful. I found a special item (my soapsicles) and a feel in my photos that conveys a bright, fresh, happy vibe, which appeals to a wide range of customers. I think if you go with your heart and reflect your own style, then you will automatically have consistency in your items, which gives your business a stronger identity. Learn from your successes and build on that, but don’t worry about items that don’t sell all that great – just enjoy what you do. Also – be very educated about soap ingredients and labeling. There are a lot of experts out there that aren’t afraid to be the soap police!

Soap-Queen: Final question, what's your favorite Bramble Berry product?

Debbie: The Brights and Pastel Mica Sample Pack and Pigment Sample Pack

Big thanks to Debbie from SoapyLove for doing our Soap Queen blog interview! Visit her site here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Letting the Consumers Set the Price

In case you haven't heard, Radiohead is giving away their new CD and letting the consumer decide how much to pay for it. Click here to buy their new album - for any dollar amount of you want to pay - even $0.00.

If you listen to a group of entrepreneurs chatting, you'll hear that employees are a common theme. How to compensate our best and our brightest is a tricky subject. Years ago, I ran into a business owner who told me that he lets his employees set their own salary. I filed that information away, thinking that it might come in handy some day. I have dabbled in the idea over the years but for the most part, follow traditional salary setting theory (market driven).

Radiohead is doing the opposite - they're letting their bosses (the ultimate judge, the consumer) set their pay. It's a very free market economic theory - if their work is deemed necessary and good enough, consumers will pay for it. If it is not, Radiohead will have a very sorry paycheck. That theory assumes a perfect world, where people aren't greedy and where "art" can be properly priced and valued. It's not a perfect world and the beauty of art is in the eye (or in this case, the ear) of the beholder.

Stephen King did this type of payment choice option in 2000 and the NY Times called it a "digital disaster." Mr. King abandoned his ambitious plan just five months into it, stating: 'If you pay, the story rolls. If you don't, the story folds.'

Hopefully Radiohead has better success than Stephen King.

Click here to read the full story of Stephen King and the book, "The Plant."

The Long Tail blog has a detailed analysis of the economics behind Radiohead's move. Click here to read it. For more blogs and opinions on Radiohead's latest pricing idea and implications for the music industry, click here for the NY Times, here for Marginal Revolution, and the roundup from Swinging Kangaroo.

Our Lady of Weight Loss

We've excited! Janice from the "Kick In The Tush" club has included Organic Fusion in her end of the year gift round up. Thanks Janice!

Click here to see a few of her suggestions for non-food related goodies for the holidays. Janice is considered to be one of the top weight loss coaches in the U.S. We're honored to be included in the club's gift guide.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Domaly Spiced Cranberry Sugar Scrub

Yum! Domaly Spiced Cranberry Sugar Scrub is made with Cranberry Seeds, shea butter and cane sugar. Adding to the delight, the scrubs are self-emulsifying when used with water.

Now that winter is coming, it's important to exfoliate your rough parts at least once a week and moisturize heavily to guard your skin against the dry winter weather.

Click here to go to Domaly's web site.

Hiking at Mt. Baker

We love Washington State - the beautiful hiking is a side-effect of the large amounts of rainfall we have. My family came up for the weekend. We all piled into the car and drove an hour to Mt. Baker for some hiking (slipping and falling) in the snow.

This is me and my Dad, after hiking past an avalanche on Mt. Baker

Me, happy to be descending


My crazy husband swimming in a pond surrounded by snow!

My freezing husband shivering dry after his snow pond swim.

After the hike, we had a wonderful dinner at Milanos and took in a sold out Circus Show by the incredibly talented U & I Productions. We finished off a wonderful weekend by making beeswax candles. The Soap Queen blog will focus on our container candle trials this week.