Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from our family to yours. I'll be over at my brother's house handing out full-sized candy bars to children who come knocking. It's a 3rd generation Faiola family tradition that we're proud to carry on in honor of our generous grandfather, Louis Faiola. Everyone in our family and on the Bramble Berry Team hope you have a joyous day, celebrating with family and friends.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spooooooooky Eyes

If you are new to the Melt and Pour layering technique, learn the essential tips and tricks on the Basic Layers episode of Soap Queen TV (Episode 12). If you’re already a pro at layering you can get started on your Spooky Eyeballs.

Get everything you need for this project in the click of a button!

ONE: To make the pupils, melt 1 ounce of clear melt and pour and add a little bit of Liquid Black Colorant. Mix well and use your syringe to make a small black drop of soap in the middle of each cavity. Spritz with rubbing alcohol if you need to get rid of any air bubbles and let cool.
TWO: For the iris, melt 1-2 ounces of clear melt and pour. Mix in non-bleeding red and a tiny amount of Liquid Black. I filled up 4 cavities with the red then decided I wanted yellow eyes too. So I added a couple drops of Liquid Yellow and filled up the rest of my cavities. 

Tip: Remember to spritz with rubbing alcohol before you pour so the layers adhere.

THREE: Melt another 1-2 ounces of white soap base and fill up the rest of the cavities with white soap base. Let cool and your eyeballs are done!

FOUR: Time to make our base soaps. Melt 35 oz clear soap base and mix in 1-2 tablespoons of Patina Sheen Mica and 1 oz of Pumpkin Spice Fragrance Oil. Fill up all four cavities of the Heavy Duty Round Mold and Slim Short Rectangle Mold (or any mold that you want to spice up with a spooky glare). Let cool.

FIVE: Once all of the soap has cooled it’s time to “glue” on the eyeballs. Melt 1 oz of clear soap base. Dip the white end of the eyeball into the clear soap and quickly place it on the bar of soap. Repeat with the rest of your eyeballs. Let the clear soap cool and they’ll be ready for your spooky, Halloween gathering!

Yields: 14 eyeballs and 8 soaps

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blending Labcolors - A Primer

Recently, one of our active Facebook friends posted a mystery photo (on left) and asked why her purple Labcolors didn't go purple. I suggested that perhaps diluting the Labcolor rather than using it straight would fix the issue. And voila, fixed (right side).

Labcolors Color Blending

The reason for this is simple: Labcolors are crazy, insane concentrated FD&C (Food, Drug & Cosmetic) and D&C (Drugs & Cosmetics) colors blended in a small amount of liquid. We've deliberately made the colorants ultra-concentrated so you're not shipping water. So there's an extra step for you at home but judging from the photos above, it's definitely worth it. Some of the colors are super gloppy and tend to sink or stick to the bottom of the container so if you use them directly out of the bottle, they can spot strangely (glop glop) or not go the color you want because you're not getting the full mixture.

To dilute Labcolors:

1. Heat distilled water in the microwave in a sterilized (5% bleach water will do the trick) heat-safe container until 140 degrees or warmer. For the 10 ml size, you can dilute between 2 ounces water to 8 ounces water. I prefer to work with 2 ounces of water for an ultra concentrated and non-clumping color. This is a personal preference thing. I know one other professional soaper that prefers 4 ounces so play around with it until you get the perfect dilution. Start with 2 ounces and work up.

2. Mix the colorant into the water and rinse out the colorant bottle to get all the last dregs of color. Shake well.

3. You can either refrigerate the diluted Labcolors or add an effective water soluble preservative at 1% (Germaben is my preference).

And that's it - it's super simple but yes, for those of you that don't love the extra step, we're working on a line of diluted colorants of our favorites just for you.

Thank you to Courtney Beard for posting the mystery for us to all learn from. Check out her blog and learn more about Courtney here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

News and Chatter, Hearts 'n' Dots

New molds just hit our warehouse today, fresh off the mold presses. We couldn't be happier about what Erik has designed for us and hope that you find these modern, whimsical designs equally appealing. Want your own custom mold? Erik is a miracle worker. Email him here. Buy the Heart Grids here or the Beads on a String here.

Another thing that's been keeping our team busy this week is prepping for our ultra cool (wait? am I maybe a bit biased?) Bramble Berry newsletter. If you're not a subscriber, you can sign up here. Can't wait? Here's a sneak peak into the newsletter tomorrow (below). There are full instructions on making my Soap Swap Cranberry Fig soap. Wondering how to make the soap? Sign up for the newsletter on the homepage (right side, middle). It will be hitting email boxes in timed waves after midnight tomorrow (Wednesday) in time for you to see it Thursday. 

Thank you happy customers and Soap Queen readers for keeping our warehouse and customer service team hopping. We are so excited to see the holiday orders pouring in and are currently processing orders at 1-2 day turnaround so give yourself an extra day or two to get your super sweet soapy supplies from us. We are working weekend shifts and late nights and are so thankful for the business. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dressing and Soaping Green

I was super impressed with my order from Dress Green on Etsy. So, of course, I have to give the creator, Lauren, a soapy shout out. I love everything especially my Tricky Lip Lush and CP Soaps (Cocoa Addict and Cucumber & Guava). Her packaging was darling, her branding consistent and she even stuck in a couple of samples for me. I also ordered Fresh Start Skin Serum and Grapefruit Bergamot Body Cream. Yum! Thanks Lauren!

Here's a little more Lauren and Dress Green. Enjoy!
Anne-Marie: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What keeps you busy when you're not making soap?

Lauren: My name is Lauren and I’m currently living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Although I’m a native Michigander, I just recently moved back after spending the last few years exploring various other states and areas including Washington, Oregon, Arkansas, and Panamá.

It’s rare that I get out of my work studio, but when I do, I can usually be found spending time with my partner, Justin, and our pup, Porthos; on a hiking trail; at a great local brewery; sitting in my backyard with a cup of coffee (and even better if there’s chocolate involved too); or just reading in a corner.  Oh and I’m also now found at the local community college taking classes in my *spare* time (this semester is Chemistry).

Anne-Marie: What inspires your recipes? Do you follow trends? Listen to your customers?

Lauren: My background is in mechanical engineering and industrial design, and my interests have always tended toward product design.  I love combining the practical, problem-solving aspects of engineering with the aesthetic, user-focused aspects of design.  These two worlds come together perfectly, allowing me to create all facets of my line – from the product ‘designs’ (recipes) to the packaging and labeling solutions.

I try to keep the focus of DressGreen products on not only effectiveness, but also user enjoyment.  And I always try to choose sustainably-sourced and organic ingredients when available.  Most every product I make is inspired by either a personal need I have had, or by a request from a friend, family member, or customer.  I like to hear (and really do listen to) feedback, and always appreciate thoughts on new products people would like to see in the line.

Anne-Marie: What's your favorite product (that you make or sell)?

Lauren: My facial care products!  I can’t begin to describe how my skin used to freak out at most commercial products before I started the DressGreen line.  It has been such a relief to have products that not only keep my skin from reacting negatively, but actually keep it healthy.  Staples in my bathroom cabinet are the Calming & Clarifying Facial Cream, unDressed Facial soap, Toning & Clarifying Facial Serum, and Delicate Toner.

Anne-Marie: What's your favorite fragrance?

Lauren: Hands down my Grapefruit Bergamot blend.  I’ve literally been using this same scent for my body cream for years now, and still haven’t gotten the least bit bored with it.

Anne-Marie: Oh I agree. The Grapefruit Bergamot is fabulous. I'm so glad that I ordered the Body Cream! And I am loving the Fresh Start Facial Serum. I'm even using it on my belly to maybe stave on stretch marks. Thanks again, Lauren for the fabulous products!  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Crucial Conversations Don't Happen via Text

Good friends from Mastermind Group (no, I'm not pregnant there and drinking. And no, it wasn't any of them.)

Small minds trade on the currency of gossip.

I got my nails done on Wednesday to make sure they were beautiful for our SoapQueen.TV shoot yesterday. While at the drop-in nail salon, a distant acquaintance made an extremely personal comment to me. Surprised, I inquired about the nature of the comment. It turns out that she had heard some malicious gossip about my marriage. Not only was the gossip untrue, she even mentioned where the gossip had originated with. 

I went to the source. I called a few times and in the interest of time, left a message requesting a face-to-face meeting the next day, stating the subject matter and my feelings (hurt, surprised, puzzled). The next morning, I received a ... text message (!) in return. No phone call. No meeting. And no chance for dialog. 

The art of having a 'Crucial Conversation' has been written about extensively (I've even written about it here). There's even a book (recommend it!) that my Mastermind Group read. I recommend it. But here's the cliff notes version of how to have a crucial conversation (and no, text message isn't in it):

1. Start with heart - Focus on what you really want. Ask yourself: How would this look and sound and feel if I got everything I wanted out of this. Refuse to give in to the sucker's choice of peace and honesty. Look for the win win in every conversation. Avoid fuel words like 'Always' and 'Never'. What is your style under stress? Make sure that you're not resorting to that. 

2. Learn to look - Focus on the other person. What are they saying? What are they doing? Is their body language escalating? Are they moving to silence? To violence? Ask questions. 

3. Make it safe - Apologize when necessary, contrast to fix misunderstandings, and brainstorm together to come to mutual solutions.

4. Master YOUR story - What's really going on in your head? What are your feelings, really? What stories are you telling yourself (example: am I enjoying playing the wronged victim? Did I make an offhand comment that could have been misconstrued?). Determine what you really want to happen.

5. State your path - Share your story, encourage facts, talk tentatively

6. Explore other's path - Listen, mirror ("I hear you saying..."), agree, build, compare

7. Move to action - Determine who is doing what, when, and how to solve the situation.

Meaningful quotes (to me) from the book:

“Every time we find ourselves arguing, debating, running away, or otherwise acting in an ineffective way, it’s because we don’t know how to share meaning. Instead of engaging in healthy dialogue, we play silly and costly games.”

“In order to justify an especially sordid behavior, we suggest that we’re caught between two distasteful options. Either we can be honest and attack our spouse, or we can be kind and withhold the truth. Either we can disagree with the boss to help make a better choice – and get shot for it – or we can remain quiet, starve the pool, and keep our job. Pick your poison. What makes these Sucker’s Choices is that they’re always set up as the only two options available. It’s the worst of either/or thinking. The person making the choice never suggests there’s a third option that doesn’t call for unhealthy behavior. For example, maybe there’s a way to be honest and respectful. Perhaps we can express our candid opinion to our boss and be safe. Those offering up a Sucker’s Choice either don’t think of a third (and healthy) option – in which case it’s an honest but tragic
mistake – or set up the false dichotomy as a way of justifying their unattractive actions. ‘I’m sorry, but I just had to destroy the guy’s self-image if I was going to keep my integrity. It wasn’t pretty, but it was the right thing to do.’”

When is the last time you had a 'Crucial Conversation?" Is there something you've been putting off for weeks, months? Deal with it, this week (!) staying calm, open, and following the road map from Crucial Conversations. Here's to improving all of our interactions, one by one. Have a great week, team!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hot Process Hero

Did you ever have a batch that you just knew would be perfect … only, it wasn’t? Sometimes, batches curdle, seize, separate or do otherwise strange things on us even when we think we’ve accounted for all of the variables in our cold process soap batch. Not to worry – your batch is not all lost. This post will show you how to save each of these formerly-ruined batches. This technique will work up to 24 hours after your batch has been ruined. If you check on your soap a day after you made it and found it’s separated in the mold into an oily top layer and a goopy hard bottom layer, not to worry, this method will work for that too.

ONE: Wearing all of your safety equipment, pour your entire batch into a stainless steel pot. The lye in your soap is still present because saponification didn’t quite work out the way we had planned on. Your pot must be 3X larger than the batch size. You need a lot of head space for this process.

TWO: Put the pot onto the stove. Turn the stove onto medium.

THREE: With your goggles on, start to stir your gloppy, blobby mess. It’s okay if it’s still in chunks. It will start to liquefy shortly. Keep stirring.

FOUR: If your soap starts to pop oil up at you, turn down the heat until the oil is no longer spitting at you from the pot. You want to stay as close to medium as possible.

FIVE: Keep stirring. The soap should start to fully liquefy and become an oatmeal like consistency, easily stirrable.

SIX: When the entire batch is fully consistent in texture and color (no oil leaking, no strange looking globby spots) and the batch is sticking together in the pot in a smooth and homogenous manner, you are ready to glop.

SEVEN: This soap is hot, hot, hot. Make sure that the mold you are pouring the soap into can withstand the heat. This plastic mold started to bow on me soon after I put the hot soap into the mold (note to self).

EIGHT: Let the soap cool for 24 hours and harden up. The soap is ready to use right away. You have literally cooked the pH down to a soap-level (around 9). If you let the soap sit for 4 to 6 weeks, it will become harder as it evaporates out its water. PS - The 'dots' in the soap are just oatmeal. The soap itself is perfect and totally usable now (as opposed to when it was a gloppy oily separated mess).
Now, was this the design you planned on?  Probably not but at least it’s useable soap that you can give away, sell, or turn into a promotional bonus at your craft show booths. It’s far better than (literally) throwing it all down the drain.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What's New? And a Contest!

I just wanted to give a shout out to Creative Soap Week. They're having a Winter Wonderland Soap Making Contest. The prize is $100 gift certificate to Bramble Berry! Check out the details and how to enter HERE. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Also, in Bramble Berry news, we've added some new products:

dl-Panthenol -This white, powdered, water soluble conditioning agent is also known as Pro-Vitamin B5 and is super moisturizing to skin and hair care products. Add it to your hair conditioning recipe for extra sheen and shine (it's also known to help improve hair structure). Recommended usage rate is 1-5%. Starts at $3

Castile Liquid Soap PasteThis liquid soap paste is made up of 100% Olive Oil, which makes it an ideal hand and facial soap. Two pounds of soap paste can make up to seven or eight pounds depending on your dilution rate. Ingredients: Saponified 100% Olive Oil. Starts at $18. Also, in a high sudsing formula.

Mini Temperature Gun: This digital, infrared, non-contact thermometer is a must have for all soapmakers, from melt and pour to cold process. Temperatures range from -27ºF to 230ºF and responds in 1 second. even comes with a wrist strap (no dropping in the soap pot!)! $22.75

Two new Holiday Soap Loaves: Cranberry Fig and Sleigh Ride. Finished handmade cold process soap read to use, sell, or give as a gift. Shown above the Sleigh Ride is swirled with Merlot mica, Green oxide and Titanium Dioxide for a stunning result.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Take the Poll - Boy or Girl?

We won't find out for almost two more months but I'd love to know what you think! Boy or Girl? =)

If you're not seeing the poll, click through to the blog here to take the survey!

My Kitchen to Yours

Our Kitchen Is Your Kitchen is a local cupcake shop located in Barkley Village in Bellingham, Washington. They heard the word on the street that I adore cupcakes (so true). So they hand delivered some samples to our retail store, Otion. That is some smart marketing, folks! We just placed an order for our all staff meeting last week. They were moist, delicious and gone in 30 seconds! Aren't they cute? They were also pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Here are some other super cute creations they made from this summer- Too cute!

Of course, any day is good for a cupcake so we were thrilled to support Breast Cancer Awareness while eating such moist deliciousness.  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Heart Onesies!

Thank you, loyal Soap Queen readers, for all of the congratulatory comments on the newest addition to the Bramble Berry Team! We're calling the little one BrambleBaby for now until we figure out if it's a boy or a girl. I'm so exited to have finally shared the belly news! It's been a quiet Sunday after a full SoapQueen.TV shoot on Saturday that will continue on Monday evening.The projects are fresh and fun; I can't wait for you to see them!

This was a little something extra we received in the latest shipment of Soap Queen Aprons. Isn't it the cutest little onesie you've ever seen? I squealed and awwwwed at its miniature cuteness!

Little Toy Piggies making their Soap Queen TV debut. 

It looks like I'm really concentrating here. Filming SQTV isn't all giggles all the time. 

Upcoming episodes will include a new Jelly Roll project, the marching piggies and a gardening soap. And we're thinking about doing a natural colorants Cold Process soap one and a mineral eyeshadow make up one. This means that I'll be reacquainting myself with natural colorants all week and starting the scripting process with the team this week. It will be fun to play with infusions and make soap all week.

Friday, October 15, 2010

We're, er ... um... I'm Expanding!

cHRIS graduation MBA

In addition to the Bramble Berry building project, my sweet husband and I have been working on a little personal project of our own. We are expecting our first child, the first grandchild in my family, on our 4 year wedding anniversary (no really, that's the actual due date). Come April, we'll have one new Brambleberrian to add to our team.

cHRIS graduation MBA

We found out on a very special day - my husband's graduation for his Masters in Business Administration. Ironically, he had been telling me that he didn't want a baby until he graduated. And in a stroke of amazing timing, when the entire family was here for his celebration, we added an extra little teensy sunflower-sized celebration to the day. Chris was sweet enough to share his day of glory with his firstborn.

This is the baby's first picture - taken at 6 weeks:

This is the latest picture - taken at 12 weeks:

Totally loving the excuse to eat cupcakes and ice cream.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tangle Free Soap Queen TV!

Learn to make Shampoo and Conditioner in this episode of Soap Queen TV.

I love making my own hair care products so I can scent them with my favorite fragrances and layer my signature scents with matching bar soaps and lotions (for a subtle scent that lasts all day)! Making hair conditioner is just as easy as making lotion. You won't believe how fast and economical this project is.

As a special bonus, I made the label template used in the video available as a free download on the Bramble Berry web site- Check it out here!

How to Make Shampoo and Conditioner from Soap Queen on Vimeo.

Fragrance Blend:
1 part Rosemary Essential oil
1 part Peppermint 1st dist. Essential oil
1 part Tahitian Vanilla Fragrance

For the Shampoo:
1/4 oz Fragrance Oil Blend
10 oz. Shampoo Base

For the Conditioner:
2 grams Liquid Silk
22 grams Liquid Glycerin
35 grams BTMS-50
13  grams Jojoba Oil
6 grams Sweet Almond Oil
12 grams DL-Panthenol
374 grams Distilled Water
4 grams Fragrance Oil Blend
4 grams Optiphen
Get everything you need to make this project added to your Bramble Berry shopping cart by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shopping. Planning. Shopping.

We're hard at work planning our Summer 2011 line. Our Spring 2011 line has been determined (thanks S.O.A.P. panel!) and will be announced soon. One of the ways I work to plan future seasons is by reading a ton of magazines, walking the mall (color trend, scent trends, bottle shapes and sizes all play into that) and buying from a bunch of different vendors to see what they are making  (what they're trending towards, are they making traditional products with a twist, what colors seem to be hot, what new ingredients have caught their eye). So, lucky me, it's part of my quarterly job to seek out cool bath and body products to buy and yes, use.

My first purchase yesterday was from Angel Face Botanicals out of Portland, Oregon.

My creation

Then I went over to Nature's Art and grabbed some all natural toothpaste that I had my eye on. And, since you can't just buy one thing, I tossed a couple other things into my cart.

My creation

I also ordered from LUSH to see what's going on in their trendy world (I am looking forward to trying their solid conditioner). I can't wait to use the products, be inspired and get some new Shout-Out to Soapmakers Interviews up and running for you to read and get energized by. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Swap Your Heart Out

Wow! You are all so excited for the soap swap! We have had a huge response and can't wait to see all of those amazing soaps. Below we will have a constantly updated list of who is participating and what fragrance they are using. Because we have so many participants, 2 people can use the same fragrance, but no more than that.

What's that? You haven't heard of our insanely popular soap swap? It's not too late to sign up!

Here are the details:
  • You send us an email telling us what Bramble Berry fragrance you are using - check the list below.
  • You make 12 bars of soap (Cold Process or Melt & Pour) and label them with the ingredients you used and your name, your company name or soaping alias.
  • You send the soap to Bramble Berry ensuring that it is received by Friday, December 3rd
    • Ship to: Bramble Berry Inc.
    • C/O Soap Swap
    • 2138 Humboldt Street
    • Bellingham, WA 98225
  • You purchase the Soap Swap item and choose what shipping method you would like. (USPS Flat rate box will be $13.15 but FedEx or Priority Mail may be less expensive depending on where you're located)
  • Sit back and wait for your exciting box of goodies! We will get the swap boxes sent out by Friday, Dec. 10th.
Sound like fun? Sign-up here!

Here's who we have for Cold Process:
  1. Ali M. - Rosehip Jasmine
  2. X Amy L. - Cedar & Saffron
  3. T.A. H. - Baby Rose
  4. Nancy L. - Kentish Rain
  5. X Emily B. - Cherry Almond
  6. Theresa M. - White Ginger & Amber, Wasabi
  7. X Melissa J. - Oatmeal, Milk & Honey
  8. Bridget G. - Energy and Champagne 
  9. X Cathy O. - Island Coconut
  10. Shannon C. - Grass Stain
  11. Amanda G. - Pumpkin Spice or Pumpkin Pie
  12. X Kristy S. - Oatmeal, Milk, & Honey
  13. Jennifer D. - Spiced Mahogany
  14. X Jennifer C. - Sandalwood Vanilla
  15. Angie D. - Fresh Mango or Mango Mango
  16. Tara P. - still deciding
  17. X Karen P. - Hello Sweet Thang!
  18. Carmen M. - still deciding
  19. X Cindy W. - Pineapple Cilantro
  20. X Robin S. - Black Cherry 
  21. X Suzette S. - Bonsai
  22. Donna R. - OMH, Feliz Navidad, and Buttercream & Snickerdoodle blend
  23. X Lydia B. - Gingersnap
  24. Erica P. - Pink Grapefruit
  25. X Tony D. - Cranberry Realistic & Cranberry Sweet blend
  26. Jamie S. - still deciding
  27. X Sara S. - Coconut Lemongrass
  28. Katie C. - Raspberry Porter
  29. X David D. - Blackberry Sage
  30. Betty B. - still deciding
  31. X Emma P. - Dark Rich Chocolate
  32. Wisalya L. - Oatmeal, Milk & Honey
  33. X Lisa G. - Sandalwood Vanilla
  34. X Cheri C.  - Lavender FO
  35. Renee L. - Summer Melon Spritzer
  36. X Ann S. - Neroli
  37. X Hillary S. - Pink Grapefruit FO
  38. X Melissa B. - Clove Essential Oil and Spearmint EO
  39. X Kelli O. - Bonsai
  40. Kate S. - Spellbound Woods
  41. X Liberty M. - Champagne or Turkish Mocha
  42. Jennifer T. - Saffron & Honey
  43. LuAnn R. - Blue Man
  44. X Jesse W. - Matcha Tea
  45. X Debbie Q. - Rain
  46. X Marissa V. - Fresh Snow
  47. X Elizabeth S. - Yuzu
  48. X Traci K. - Santa's Spruce
  49. X Mary C. - Eucalyptus & Moroccan Mint Blend
  50. X Sonia I. - Applejack Peel
  51. X Curie M. - Pear Berry
  52. Cindy H. - Cranberry Pomegranate
  53. Dorenda C. - Fresh Mango
  54. X Judy S. - Christmas Forest
  55. Brooke L. - Kumquat 
  56. X Denny P. - Bay Rum  
  57. Michele A.  - Violet & Champagne blend 
  58. Shannan J. - Gingersnap
  59. Michele A. - Violet blend
  60. Trish B. - Karma Synergy Essential oil blend
  61. X Bonnie C. - Ginger Orange
  62. Carol J. - undecided
  63. X Kelly T. - Cranberry Fig
  64. Catherine D. - Lavender and Vanilla Blend
  65. X Shannon G. - Peppermint & Spearmint blend
  66. X Susan P. - Rise & Shine, Energy & Yuzu blend
  67. Heleln J.  - Salty Mariner
  68. Lorrane P. - Patchouli, Geranium & Bergamot
  69. X Erin C. - Ginger Orange
  70. X Christine C. - Lychee Red Tea
  71. X Christine C.  - Mint Chocolate Chip
  72. Rachel P. - Black Amber and Lavender 
  73. Kristina V. - undecided
And for the Melt & Pour Swap
  1. Cheryl M. - Fresh Snow
  2. X Gail P. - Moonlight Pomegranate
  3. Madolyn L. - Christmas Spice
  4. Stephanie T. - still deciding
  5. Heidi Z. - Vanilla Select and Sun Ripened Raspberry blend
  6. X Lori R. - Honeysuckle
  7. X Mariah G. - Island Coconut
  8. Joan B. - Spellbound Woods
  9. X Jennifer C. - Ginger Pear
  10. Maxine L. - Lavender 40/42
  11. Judy P. - Passionfruit Rose
  12. Sharon P. - Plumeria
  13. X Lorena H.- Frankincense & Myrrh
  14. Tina R. - Lemongrass & Sage
  15. Mariann M. - Energy
  16. Taryn K. - Arabian Spice
  17. X Gina S. - Warm Vanilla Sugar or Cream Cheese Frosting
  18. Megan Y. - Pumpkin Spice and Sugar Plum Fairy blend
  19. Kelsey S. - Juniper Sage
  20. Michele C. - Dark Rich Chocolate & Moroccan Mint blend
  21. X LeDeana D. - Soapy Clean
  22. X Terri L. - Lavender Fragrance
  23. X Mary T. - Grapefruit Essential Oil
  24. X Lisa B. - Almond Biscotti
  25. Tabitha J. - Frankincense and Myrrh with Cream Cheese Blend 
  26. X Cassandra H. -  Wasabi
  27. X Jennifer M. - Naga Champa and Yuzu
  28. X Jenny R.- Lavender 40/42 & Patchouli EO
  29. Keri C. - Oatmeal, Milk & Honey
  30. X Christine C. - Tomato Leaf
  31. X Christine C.  - Moroccan Mint
  32. Vicky H. - White Tea & Ginger
  33. X Donna S. - Summer Fling
  34. X Susan P. - Rise & Shine and Energy
  35. Karina P. - Energy
X = swap soap received! Thanks!

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Bursting at the Seams!

    After being in our lovely 13,000 square foot warehouse for over five years, we were faced this summer with the prospect of moving or trying to build onto our warehouse. After working with the City of Bellingham to get a waiver for the 22 extra parking spaces they initially told us we needed to add (apparently they were treating our warehouse storage space like retail), we started planning for our very-needed addition in earnest. It was important to us to be able to stay in Bellingham and not add to the problem of sprawl in our county by being forced to move out there so we were thrilled to be able to add on to our building and stay in Bellingham city limits.

    There's a lot that goes on with a building project of this magnitude, not the least of which is that the City of Bellingham wanted us to put a sprinkler system into our entire 13,000 square foot warehouse and not just the 2,500 square foot addition. That added an extra month or so of delay and a significant additional cost. But in the end, we are happy to sprinkler the entire building to help keep firemen safer should a fire ever break out in our building (knock on wood). The middle photo up above is Norman, our COO and defacto General on the building project, wearing my pink soaping goggles to protect his eyes as the gravel gets poured.

    After all of the i's were dotted and t's were crossed, we had the permits in hand but alas, it was October - much later than when we had originally anticipated starting and the start of the rainy season. We had our very first cost overrun the first day but luckily, one week later, nothing new or major has cropped up that wasn't planned for.

    This is the difference between 1 week to the next. Check it out! Trusses! Yay. Soon, by next week, it won't even matter if it rains because the roof will be on. Yay!

    We are so thrilled to be adding on to our space because it means more room for new products and more room to better serve you. We'll keep you posted on how the building project goes. Right now, we're just all thankful it's not raining yet...

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Sharpening the Saw & Synergy

    My Mastermind book club read two Stephen Covey Books (7 Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First) last year. The book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a must-read. It's a classic time and life management book. Two of the key points in the book - numbers 6 and 7 are Synergy and Sharpen the SawSynergy is all about creative cooperation. It recognizes that two heads are better than one and that magic happens when a group comes together with one mind to accomplish something momentous. Sharpen the Saw refers to the principle that preserving YOU is key to living a long, successful and balanced life. This encompasses everything from taking care of yourself through physical activity to taking time to rejuvenate yourself through quiet time.

    I can't say it was a hardship in this beautiful setting.

    I spent Thursday through Saturday doing both of those things with my Entrepreneur Organization. We have an annual retreat every year (this was my 8th retreat with the group) that focuses on growing ourselves as leaders and getting to know the other entrepreneurs in the group better.

    Teamwork at its finest; Rock Star karaoke. 

    We started with a fun team building exercise put on by Event Experience out of Seattle. They had us all break up into teams, generally with people we didn't know that well, and follow a variety of instructions in a scavenger hunt/race/following directions challenge. We had to do things like golf together, shoot water balloons, put on a dramatic play, bike, run and play with a giant Jenga game. It brought out a uniquely unflattering competitive streak in me. I'm not proud. 

    My values. I was the only person with a wheel.

    Friday was all business, all day. We started the day at 8 a.m. and did not quit with the intensity until our brains were fried like an egg on a hot sidewalk. The morning was spent taking a 'Life Assessment.' With questions like 'Rate your Spirituality' 'Rate the hand you were dealt in life' and 'Rate the quality of your relationship with your mate', it was a wide ranging, insightful assessment. There was a lot of deep discussion around the answers and many insights to be gained. We worked through lunch, continuing down that path. We identified the values that we live our life by and then started on working on very general idealized future. And then the hard work really comes in when we put the low numbers from the life assessment and mixed it in with our values to come up with specific SMART goals. We continued with that work Saturday. And, I'm excited to keep going with the values-integrated goals over the next few quarters. 

    I hope you had a fantastic weekend with friends, family and yes, maybe even a little bit of work. We've got an exciting week ahead of us at Bramble Berry because we're shooting more SoapQueen.TV next weekend.

    Want more information about planning? I've blogged about the process of goal setting, planning your year, determining your vision and values here, here, here, and here

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Last Call: Advanced Oatmeal Stout CP

    The tutorial and recipe you've all been waiting for ...  Oatmeal Stout scented cold process made with real Oatmeal Stout Beer. Can it be? It's true and it's made with real oatmeal too!
    If you have never made cold process soap before, I strongly suggest getting a couple of  basic recipes under your belt before diving in...working with beer is definitely an advanced technique. Check out Soap Queen TV on Cold Process if you want to get started with cold process. It's a 4 part series that will take you through the basics (and be sure to watch the episode on Lye Safety). If you're a book worm, Bramble Berry also has some helpful reading on the cold process technique.

    Olive Oil
    Oatmeal Stout Beer
    Long-Cook Ground Oatmeal

    2 large glass mixing bowls
    Stick Blender
    Spatulas and spoons

    Get all of the ingredients in one click!
    (olive oil, beer and oatmeal not included)

    PREP: The first step to a successful beer batch (in my opinion) is boiling flat beer. Let your beer sit open for 24 hours to get rid of the fizz then boil it for about 5 minutes to cook out all of the alcohol. The beer really 'poofs' up during this boiling phase so don't leave it unattended. Also, be sure to line your wooden mold with freezer paper, shiny side up.
    ONE: Measure out your lye (by weight) and beer (by volume) and slowly add the lye to the beer in 3 batches (pour a little lye and stir- repeat 2 more times). Repeat until the lye is completely added and stir until the lye is dissolved. Let the lye mixture cool to about 130 degrees.

    TWO: Melt and measure the Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Palm Kernel Flakes and Palm Oil. Then stir in the Shea Butter (until liquid). Let the oils cool to 130 degrees.

    THREE: Slowly pour the lye mixture into the melted oils and mix with your stick blender for about 30 seconds.

    FOUR: Separate your soap batter in half. It does not have to be exact but try to eyeball it so it's equally separated.

    FIVE: Add a heaping table spoon of Titanium Dioxide to the one half of the batch to lighten it up and mix with the stick blender. Then add 1.5 tablespoons of long-cook ground oatmeal to the mixture and stick blend.   

    SIX: Hand stir in 2 ounces of Oatmeal Stout Fragrance Oil and pour the soap into the mold. 

    OPTIONAL: I dusted a vein of Super Pearly White Mica. This is an optional step. I couldn't see it as much as I wanted in the final, cut soap.
    SEVEN: To your other half of soap batter, add the rest of your Oatmeal Stout Fragrance Oil (2.1 ounces). Hand mix the fragrance in and pour the second layer.

    TIP: To make sure the top layer of soap doesn't penetrate the bottom layer of soap, pour the soap onto a spatula so it drips slowly into the mold.

    EIGHT: Press your dividers down into the mold and sprinkle on some whole oats on the top for decoration. Pop the lid on and insulate with a towel to keep the temperature up. It will help with a lovely gel phase and also prevent soda ash. Once the soap hardens up, carefully unmold the soap and let it cure for 4-6 weeks.