Saturday, December 26, 2009

Frankincense and Myrrh Me!

Well, Christmas is now officially over.

I still had some soaps and fragrance balms that are (sort've) related to this frankincense and myrrh. It is always my hope that I will sell these items out by Christmas because chances are they will languish on my shelf if I don't. Sometimes, I'll put on a great sale and get them sold, or find other ways to clear out my holiday inventory.

What I like about frankincense and myrrh is that it is a wonderful year-round fragrance, but many associate it with Christmas. I find that I can sell frankincense and myrrh products throughout the year, but sales are best for it right before Christmas.

Well, this year, I came very close to selling all of my F&M scented product, but found myself with 7 F&M soaps and 5 F&M fragrance balms left over by Christmas Eve.  No worries. They will sell sometime after the season...I hope.

A close friend called me around midday on December 24th stating that she would be in town to visit the day after Christmas! Hurray! I had some frankincense and myrrh items and that happens to be one of her favorite fragrances. I told her I would set a soap and fragrance balm aside for her. She was thrilled! Then, she asked me how many I had left, and I told her.

"I'll take them all," she said. "I want to buy the rest from you because I'm having a special party and want to give them away as gifts! I need seven soap and seven balms though."

"Well," I replied, "I can make a couple extra balms for you, not a problem."

"On such short notice?"


I love Frankincense and Myrrh fragrance balm so much, I made of couple of extra, just because I want some too.

Maybe I should've made more....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Importance of Heritage

For many years, I have dispensed with the idea that my heritage is of any importance to me. After all, I am who I am. Perhaps my genes have had something to do with it. Perhaps my ancestor's past experiences have had a part of who I am today.


Problem was that I knew so little about my heritage. Our family is a scattered one, with very little contact. I knew only one grandparent, my grandmother, who passed away when I was a very young adult. I really didn't know much about her and even less about any other relative.

All I knew was that my grandparents from my mother's side came from Manchester, England and emigrated over to the U.S. sometime during the turn of the century. They made a brief stop in Canada...long enough to give birth to my aunt, then moved on to California from there. My mother was raised in southern California.

I knew even less about my father's side of the family. Apparently, my father was born in California, his mother died of the Spanish flu during WWI when he was a small child. His father left him with family here in California, and packed up and moved his sisters to family members back in Texas. My father always considered himself rejected, abandoned and somehow less loved. It impacted the rest of his life. He knew very little of his own family history, and apparently came up with some stories that seemed to help him compensate for his lack of belonging in his life. Because of his stories, I always believed that I had some certain cultural heritages in me that probably weren't the case after all.

My oldest brother was not happy in not knowing his family heritage, so made of point of researching both sides.  He recently made up a folder containing lots of information that he has discovered about our family.

Suddenly, I feel as if I am not a lone satellite out here in the world, even though I never knew that this had been an issue in me. I now feel like I BELONG somewhere; even if it is with a bunch of ancestors I never knew of before. I have something in common with them. There's genes that I've inherited from them, similar traits, maybe even my eye color, skin color, mannerisms. I don't know.

Suddenly, it seems important now. I had a relative who lived in Jamestown, the first English colony in the new world! My relatives fought for the confederacy...OK, they lost. I had relatives named after historical figures like Robert E. Lee, Daniel Boone and Grover Cleveland. Some relatives of mine stopped the British at their farm in North Carolina during the Revolutionary War and forced them to return where they came from. I had a relative who was quite possibly born in Colorado territory, then returned to England. I had relatives deeply involved in Salvation Army missionary endeavors. I had women relatives who were very independent minded for their time ( mid nineteenth century) and led their own lives in unique ways. I had relatives killed in wartime and relatives who killed others for the purpose of preserving their livlihood.

Somehow, I seem to be able to identify with many of these previously unknown relatives of mine. Vague stories now seem to make more sense. Other stories still raise question marks as to their authenticity and relevance to my family. Real or not? Who knows? All I know is that somehow I belong with it all. Perhaps I still have family in Montreal, Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas and in various parts of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Now, my name, my life and whatever historical value it contains will be added to the family legacy. My children will be able to pass this historical legacy on to their own children.

We are no longer an island unto ourselves, but part of the human race after all.

Below are the 4 family crests of my grandparents.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

For the Love of Music, Dogs and Cooking...

So, how does all three of those things, love, music, and dogs, come together into one cohesive blog entry?

Quite simple actually.

You see my daughter, Amanda, is in choir at her high school. She's good...I mean, REALLY good. I know, I know; I'm Mom and I have to say those things, but SERIOUSLY...she has an amazing voice!

Good enough to be chosen for Washington Allstate Honor Choir. It will be in Yakima, WA. this year. It is a great achievement and honor.

It also costs money to attend; and the school is only paying for a small amount of it. The rest comes from whatever we can scrape up.

Being Christmas time and all, there isn't a whole lot left to scrape! I said to my daughter that she was going to have to come up with ideas for a fundraising for this. I made several suggestions, we clanked our heads together a few times and decided that since she loves animals and loves to cook, perhaps she could make and sell dog treats to help raise the money for the Allstate Honor Choir.

Now, she's made cookies, cakes and brownies, but this was her first try at dog treats. We searched for some recipes online, checked out what was in dog treats sold in the stores and came up with some recipes of our own.

We went out and purchased ingredients we didn't already have she started mixing, shaping, rolling, cutting and baking. The first batch, a peanut butter number, was finally finished. Now, came the time to do a taste test....

Amanda took a bite of the peanut butter treat. After all, it was made from ingredients we pretty much eat at home anyway. How bad could it be, right?

"Hey! Not bad for a dog treat," she announced.

"That's great, sweetheart," I replied, "but you may want to see if our DOGS actually like them."

She called each one of our three dogs over. Two of them are chihuahuas and the other is a sheltie, aussie shepherd mix. Each one eagerly grabbed a treat and clamored for more!

"I guess the taste test is unanimous," was the official pronouncement from Amanda.

Since then, she has made Chicken and Cheese, Herbal Rice, and No Shedding Zone dog treats. Each one of them have been made without preservatives, so need to be either consumed within about three weeks time, or placed in the freezer. Each treat has also been officially tested by our three furry "taste-testers" and all pronounced delicious. Whenever, my daughter makes her way to the kitchen now, they all follow her with expectant eyes and drooling tongues!

All of her dog treats have been selling locally, but I thought it might be a great idea to place them online too. I've recently put her treats on to give her a larger audience and, hopefully, sell enough treats to pay for her trip a little sooner.

Who knows what will happen afterward if her treats are successful at selling? She may continue to make them afterward. For now, it's just taking everything one day at a time.

To see a few videos of her performing and of the choir she is in, please stop by at

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas Deals and Shopping

Looking for a bargain for Christmas shopping? Here it is! You pick 5 bars of handmade soaps that you would like...Pay $20. THAT'S IT! Doesn't get easier than that. No shipping charges for shipments in the U.S. Sorry guys who live outside the U.S. Shipping will be reduced but that's the best I can do.

This item is available on most of my shop sites and just recently sold on Etsy.  Shopping online is so much easier than long waits at the store lines.

So, sit back in the comfort of your home, have a cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate or other drink of your choice, listen to some great music while you shop online. No lines, no traffic jams, no rude people, no road rage, no hauling bags around and storing them in your car in hopes someone doesn't break in while you shop at yet another store.

It's all online.

All your packages get shipped to your door. All you have to do is haul them inside your house and get them wrapped up. Wait! If you shop at my shops, I even do the gift wrapping for you on request! So, you don't even have to gift wrap them!

Doesn't get easier than that.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

We a re a busy family full of working adults and social butterfly teenagers. Neither hubby or I have "regular" Monday-Friday daytime jobs at "normal" times, so our schedule "rocks". Maybe I should call it "rocky" instead!

Anyway, we often work holidays and weekends; and sometimes we don't even get the same weekends off. It requires a lot of planning and working at keep our family/marriage alive and well.

Usually, on a holiday, we try to ensure that at least ONE of us adults are home and arranging some sort of traditional holiday festivity, but it isn't going to happen this Thanksgiving. We BOTH work. He works the night shift and I work the 12 hour day shift. So, hubby will be home but needing to get a little sleep, and I will be just gone!

The solution? Who said Thanksgiving has to be on Thursday? Not happening this year, at least for us. Instead, we will be having our Thanksgiving on Friday instead. It doesn't give me much time to prepare a "Thanksgiving" feast though. So, my plan is to purchase my goodies today and prepare most of the stuff today. Then, on Friday I can just pop in the oven and enjoy without killing myself.

Every year we go through this issue of "what are we going to have for Thanksgiving?". Why? Well, I have a finicky family. Hubby hates turkey, daughter hates ham. We have grown tired of cornish game hens. No one likes lamb but me. Everyone hates pork except me. What to do, what to do......hmmmm. I have not yet come up with a menu for Friday, but here are my thoughts for the main at least. Tell me what YOU think:


Chicken and seafood kabobs

Chicken pie

I am leaning toward the kabobs. They are so much fun to make and eat, don't take long to cook. I can marinate the meat all day Thursday, so they will be just fantastic by Friday.

Are you asking for a recipe? No, I don't have one; at least on paper anyway. I'm one of those 'fly by the seat of my pants' cooks. It's all up here in my head. I take an idea and run with it and seldom write anything down! Drives most folks nuts. I can give you a basic run down of what my plan is though, IF I still decide on the kabob thing.

Skewers, I have metal skewers but still prefer wooden ones that have been soaked in water prior to cooking.
The meat will marinate in some sort of sauce I have yet to create, still no idea yet which direction I want to go. It depends on what I find on sale at the grocery store. I'm thinking some sort of lemon pepper type thing, but nothing is set in stone. Maybe more of a spicy caribbean lime/rum thing?
When I make the marinade, I will put the strips of meat in it and let it savor up overnight.
Veggies? Well, of course, what's a kabob without fresh veggies! onion, peppers, tomatos, with just a little brushing of oil and herbs.
Must have a bed of rice, not sure what kind got it, whatever I find on sale at the grocery store is what will go in.
A little squeeze of lime at the end of the cooking and yum!
Tossed salad along with it and of course some little appetizers.
What to drink? No thoughts yet.
Dessert? I would like to have at least ONE traditional thing, so pumpkin pie for sure. Then, maybe another lighter dessert.
After dinner, I have a sweet port wine and want to add some dark chocolate nibbles to go with it.

OK, so there are a my thoughts so far. I am thinking of my menu as I write this blog. It's my best method of organizing thoughts.

Does it sound good?

I'll let you know how it all turns out next week :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hot and Cold Process Soaping Methods

If you know anything about handmade soap, you may have run across this terminology before: cold process, hot process, melt and pour, hand milled...

You may not know what any of that means.

In case you ever wondered, this is the blog read for you.

Well, here is my attempt at briefly explaining what those things are and how they differ from one another.


Let's start with just your basic melt and pour. This is a method of soap making where you purchasing a pre-made soap product. You melt it down, add some color and frgrance to it and mold it to your preference. Sound easy? It is, although there are a few things that you need to know in order for your soap to be successful. Melt and pour method does not require you adding any ingredients that may be dangerous around kids and animals, or to yourself. It really is a fun, clean craft. Easy wash up since it IS soap.

I started off making melt and pour soaps. I still make them on occasion, although that method is not the bulk of my soap making.


Next is the cold process soap method. This requires that your make your own soap formula from various oils, liquid and sodium hydroxide (lye).  There are tons and bunches of soap recipes online and in books. Each oil adds its own distinctiveness to the soap recipe. If your are a star trek fan, you may remember how "The Borg" assimilate other cultures to add to their own? Well, different oils are like that in soap. Palm oil helps to harden the soap, coconut oil gives the soap a nice lather, castor oil gives the soap a sudsy quality, olive oil is amazing on your skin but low on suds, and so on.

Just the right amount of liquid and lye mixed with the oils, and mixed together until the soap begins to thicken just a bit, called "trace". Then you add any other colors, fragrances or exfoliants to the soap. In cold process, the lye mixed liquid and oils are mixed together at a cooler temperature. They are poured into molds and covered and insulated to allow the oils and lye mixture to heat up and "cook". The curing process takes a while before the soap is safe to use. I typically wait about four to six weeks before I will allow it to be sold.

If done right with a good recipe, you will get a great, smooth bar of soap at the end of that time.  A few drawbacks in cold process is that some colors you may use, may look different when the soap is done, and some fragrance oils fail miserably during the curing process and you end up with a nice bar of soap that doesn't smell anything like you intended.


Hot process soap uses essentially the same ingredients as cold process, although you may want to add 2.5-5% additional liquid to your recipe to prevent the soap from hardening a bit too quickly. Sometimes you can add just a bit of sugar to prevent hardening too quickly also.  Each hot process soaper develops their own style.

This time you take your lye/liquid mixture and add it to your oils. Then, you begin to heat up your soap mixture. There are a variety of different ways to do that. Some soapers use their oven, some used a large crockpot, and some are double boiler experts. I'm a crockpot fan myself and own several crockpots so that I can make more than one batch at a time.

The soap mixture is heated up slowly and on low heat since you don't want to burn the stuff. It is important to check on it while "cooking" to avoid boiling over and spillage. The soap will turn from a batter-like substance to a slightly lumpy gel (kind of like thickened wall paper paste or thickened fiber laxative like metamucil...really! :)  Once the soap is this gel substance, you can give it a taste test. Yes, I said a taste test. Before taste testing, I test it between my fingers first, then if it feels OK, I touch it to my tongue. If there is no stinging "zap" to the taste of the soap, that means it is finished cooking and you can take it out and allow it to cool. I usually add my color, fragrances and any other additional oils or ingredients once it has cooled just a bit. This allows the fragrance to not overheat in the soap dissipate. Once I'm done with that, off it goes to my mold. No need to cover it up to insulate and cook; you've already cooked it. Once the soap hardens, it is ready to use.

The benefits of hot process is that you have soap that is ready to use right away because cooking it has allowed the chemical reaction between the lye and oils to occur more rapidly.  Another benefit is that you don't have worry near as much about your fragrance oils changing during the cook, since you add them AFTER the chemical interactions have occurred. The drawback to hot process is that you can't get that gorgeous, color swirl effect in it like you can with cold process, although you can mix a few colors together if you like.


Hand millled soap is a fun little process where you use soap that has already been made and you shred it down, add a bit of water, and melt it down. You then take your colors, fragrances and other additives and add it to your soap, re-mold it and allow it to dry and harden again. Some folks make hand milled soap balls, or bars out of soap that maybe didn't look too nice the first time around for some reason. Hand milling gives a bar of soap a second chance. I love using hand milled soap for decorating and for adding ingredients and fragrances to my fragrance free soap. I can take a small batch and re-color or fragrance it according the season. So, it is great fun.

So there you have it. In a nutshell, some different handmade soap processing methods. This blog write was not intended as a tutorial for how exactly to make each type, but simply an overview. Hope you enjoyed.

Of course for a full list of soaps that I currently have available in many of these methods, visit one of my online shops.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

After the Workout...then What?

Want something to soothe those sore tired muscles after working out at the gym, or yard work, housework, or coming home from work? This is your handmade soap! Perfect for hard-working, sweaty bods needing a top-notch clean up!

Each soap is approximately 3 oz each and loaded with natural oils to soothe your dry skin, and loaded with oils that soothe your aching muscles and joints.

This soap contains Eucalyptus oil, which is said to stimulate and aid in concentration. It also helps to relieve aches and pain. Peppermint oil not relieves aches and pain but is also stimulating and refreshing. Ginger and Lavandin also have reported pain relief properties. Tea Tree oil is a natural antiseptic on the skin and assists in alleviating body odor.

In addition to these fantastic oils, Calendula blossoms were added on top and throughout the soap. Calendula helps with mild skin irritations.

You'll be delighted!

Here are some hints to keep your soaps lasting longer. First, you may want to cut your soap into halves or even quarters. Keep the unused portions wrapped in a towel in the refridgerator and use one of the portions in the shower or bath. Always store your soap in a place after shower or bath that is well draining. I recommend a slatted soap dish to allow the soap to sit above standing water and let it air dry. When the soap becomes too small to handle easily, you can always add the piece to an open weave soap bag for use until it completely dissolves.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Yes, it's a movie; yes, it is an odd conglomeration of Spanish and English tossed together. It is a melding of cultures in a language format.

Our kids were raised in Spanglish due to the uniqueness of our own multicultural marriage. Dad's first language is Spanish and mine is English, although we often drift into the other language. Besides that, because both of us worked when the kids were younger, we had to have babysitters. We chose sitters that spoke Spanish, figuring that English would eventually take over here in the U.S. We lived in an agricultural area when the kids were little with a rather high hispanic population, so it worked for us.

Early on, we never taught numbers, letters of the alphabet, animal names, or any of those early words that kids typically learn in English. They were all Spanish. However, the English sentence structure stayed. Hence, Spanglish.  The kids would come out with sentences like: "Look, mommy, that caballo is bonito." (...that horse is pretty).  Or, screaming this one out..."eeeeeeee...the ganzos went caca on my cabeza!" (the geese pooped on my head). It was a traumatic experience for 3 year old!

After a few years, we moved over to an area that had less percentage hispanic population and it was difficult to find sitters who spoke Spanish, so the kids had more exposure to the English language. By the time the kids went to kindergarten, one of them still spoke a form of Spanglish and attended ESL classes. The younger one was fully integrated in English before attending school and never went to ESL.

Their language of choice now is full-on English, although they both can pronounce Spanish and understand much of the language; not fluently though. Daughter is now attending Spanish class in high school. The teacher suspected early on that she knew Spanish and kept trying to catch her, but never could because my daughter DOESN'T speak Spanish. She knows lots of songs in Spanish, lots of words, lots of things in Spanish that most English speaking kids don't know; but she doesn't speak Spanish. They learned a song in school, sort've a Spanish childhood nursery song, which my daughter had heard numerous times as a child and she sang it fluently the first time out. Made the teacher just a tad suspicious. I told my daughter that if that teacher had any questions or concerns, please call me at home and we will talk. Although my daughter is not a straight A student, she does get good grades in Spanish.

OK, so Spanglish is not an official language, but it is spoken by millions here. It is just another sign of how language is an ever changing, dynamic method of communication. It doesn't need to be official in order to serve the purpose of its intention.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Frankincense and Myrrh....

Frankincense and myrrh is just one of those fragrance combos that remind us of  Christmas because both of those are mentioned repeatedly in the Bible. These were expensive back in biblical times, used for many things. In the scriptures, it is included with gold as gifts to Jesus by the wise men, showing their importance.

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of frankincense and of myrrh." 

Matthew 2:11

Frankincense is a resin from a deciduous tree  that is a low twisted, thorny shrub without a central branch. Today, almost all frankincense comes from Somalia, where the trees grow along the coastline, without soil, growing out of rocks. Frankincense is harvested by a deep cut made into the bark and a 4 to 6 inch strip is peeled off. A milk-like juice exudes from the plant hardens when exposed to air into "yellowish tears". These tears are then scraped off and harvested. When burned, frankincense is very fragrant and was used in worship as an offering to God.

Myrrh is a resin also, pale yellow in color. It eventually dries to a brown/black and comes a large shrub or tree found in East Africa, Yemen and the Red Sea countries. There are ducts in the bark, which fill with a granular secretion that drips when the bark is wounded or has natural fissures. The myrrh drips from the bark, forming irregularly shaped grains of resin. Dried myrrh is hard and brittle with a bitter taste.

Myrrh was one of the ingredients of the holy anointing oil and also of incense. Myrrh was valued as a perfume as well as for its medicinal properties. It served as local anesthetic and was given to both mother and child for postnatal care, perhaps one reason the Wise Men brought it to Jesus. Jesus was also offered myrrh while being crucified on the cross.

The Wise Men brought items that had great worth. Although we don't consider these two resins as valuable in this day and age, they still have symbolic worth and smell delightful, which is one of the reasons I've included these two fragrances in one of my latest soaps.

Each soap is a generous 4 oz plus size with just a small dusting of copper and gold cosmetic mica for added elegance.

"Who is this, coming up from the desert like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense..."
Song of Solomon 3:6


Christmas Bazaar Time

Yes, 'tis the season for Christmas bazaars again. For those of us who are handcrafted vendors and take our craft seriously, this is a real busy time. For those who are Christmas bazaar attendee addicts, well...the same goes. It's a busy time too.

Before I got into soap-making, I had never attended a Christmas bazaar. Well, I digress a bit; I had attended a few in my past, all of which contained items I would never have given to anyone I knew, nor would I have bought them for myself. I guess I didn't go to the right bazaars. My general consensus was that these things really weren't worth my time attending. But, that was a few years a go.

Christmas bazaars have really done some upgrading over the years. Both small and large sized, the quality of items you can get at a bazaar is usually great.Of course, not all bazaars and craft items are created equal, so you just have to pick and choose what works for you. There's much more variety than there used to be. Or maybe I'm just attending better bazaars? Actually, it is a recent upsurge of desire for handmade items that I believe is the factor.

Yesterday, I attended my first Christmas bazaar of the season as a vendor. It was a smaller bazaar, affordable for me, run by a local church. They had more vendors this year than last, so could not fit all of them in their main room. They ended up putting the other half of the vendors in a different room down the hall. The result? Despite the fact that there were signs stating there were more vendors down the hall, much of the traffic didn't get there. The "down the hall" vendors were feeling a bit forgotten. I'm hoping that it will be a bit different next year. It was my second year there. I had a great experience there last year, but was "down the hall" this year and we vendors down there were trying to come up with ideas to increase traffic down that lonely hall.

I can't blame it all on the down the hall syndrome though. Despite the numerous signs, advertisements and internet postings, there just wasn't near as much traffic this year. Due to our sluggish economy? I suspect so. The prices were good too, so we weren't scaring people off. Our location in relation to general street traffic made it a good location.

My first Christmas bazaar of this season has given me just a little trepidation on what is to come for other bazaars that I'm scheduled for in the upcoming weeks. Next week's bazaar is also located in a nice, high traffic location, but it is my first time there. I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm hoping for a group of folk who are excited about there purchasing experience this year. Which brings me to another subject of Christmas commercialism, which I won't talk about now...

For those who are locals here in the Portland/Vancouver area, stop by and visit the Christmas (oops, they are calling it a "holiday") bazaar at the Fishers Grange next Saturday, Nov 21st, 9am-4pm. It sits there on 164th ave, just a few blocks north of Mill Plain.

You might just be pleasantly surprised!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Phoenix in August and Other Unseasonable Trips

Our family took a vacation this past summer. A real, actual vacation; not a day trip or an overnight trip, or a business trip or a trip out of necessity. We chose to take a vacation. Not extravagant; we didn't go over our budget which meant we spent overnight most of the time at friends and family. We had a great time.

Our first stop was sunny southern California with all that it has to offer. Great beaches, amusement parks, great weather. It really is a great vacation spot. I was born and raised in So. Cal and always enjoy going back to visit, even if it is to see how much things have changed since I was growing up there. When I was a kid, Disneyland was just becoming a budding giant surrounded by a few backwater towns, orange groves, dairy farms and low land crops. There are STILL some low land crops grown in the area, but you really have to look hard for them.


Next, we chose to drive over to Arizona...yep; in August no less. My friends there said it was "monsoon season" there but I'll be dog-goned if I could find anything that remotely related to a monsoon while there. In fact, they had 113 degree heat and hardly a drop of rain during the week we were there.

I love hot weather, by the way and enjoy the dry heat that Arizona offers, even in the summer. We started off in northern AZ, driving to a friend's house north of Prescott, then continued onward toward the Grand Canyon. Spent the night near Flagstaff, then drove south to Scottsdale, which is next door to Phoenix. On our way down, we stopped at a variety of places, including Montezuma well and Montezuma Castle (which you see in the picture above). This area is located up in the hills just north of Phoenix and was quite hot the day we visited, but I enjoyed it all. In Scottsdale, my hubby found a casino and hang out in while I visited a dear friend of mine. The kids hung out in the pool and the local mall, which is pretty much what kids enjoy doing anywhere. Our time was pretty limited and we didn't really stop at too many touristy spots in Scottsdale/Phoenix area.

On our way back home, we stopped along Tuzigoot Indian ruins, pictured below.

As we made our way back to the Prescott area to drop off our other friend who had spent the last several days with us, we went up the side of a mountain and drove through a cool old mining town, touted to be "haunted", has lots of artsy/craftsy type things there. Gorgeous views, and RAIN!!! Yeah, we ran into some rain on our way up the mountain. It was a nice relief from the heat, even though I like the heat, change is always nice. After dropping him off in Chino Valley, we headed out toward Las Vegas and ended up staying overnight there.

We spent the night on the strip of course and checked out the Luxor the next day. Las Vegas is truly a place for fantasy. Pick your fantasy, you can find it there.

The next day we drove through the desert in California and passed through the Barstow area. Just west of Barstow, we saw a huge cloud of smoke going over the desert. We realized it was the smoke from the fires near Los Angeles. It was pretty impressive.

Over all, we had a nice relaxing vacation and lots of pics to remember our time with family and friends. That's what it is all about, isn't it?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee... Soap, that is.

Handmade soap using real coffee! Coffee is known to get rid of unwanted odors. Coffee grounds are added in the soap for exfoliation. Great for cleansing without drying your skin. What more could you want in a hard-working soap like this? Only one thing... It smells fantastic!

This soap was recently made and now listed on two of my shop sites. It has been a hit so far in men's soap collections, spa baskets and individually.

This will be one of my featured soaps in upcoming bazaars this year.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Featuring "The Candle Guy"

Donald MacKinnon is the Candle Guy and sells his amazing candles on I chose to feature him due to his unique history and how he came to be making candles.

He is a retired principle engineer and a Vietnam Veteran. While in Vietnam he was assigned to the 170th Assault Helicopter Company, where he served as crew chief on a "huey".  In the picture below, that is Donald on the far left.

After retiring and moving to Florida, he became extremely ill resulting in a permanent disability. Because of Agent Orange exposure while in Vietnam, he suffers from chronic pain due to Peripheral Neuropathy and a host of other problems. Candle making has allowed him a distraction, enabling him to manage his  pain issues more effectively.

His candle making began in 2004 making some hand-dipped tappers, which he sold at a local farm. From there, he moved to his first online venue, Ebay. He eventually moved from Ebay to Etsy, then to as his main selling venue.

He uses the 3 inch diameter X 4 1/2 inches tall pillar candle as his flagship product because he feels this size candle gives the customer the most product for their dollar. It is a good size for shipment using the priority mail 2-3 day system offered by the United States Postal Service.

Another extremely important detail is that Donald has a special deal for ALL 170 th Assault Helicopter Company Vietnam Vets. If any of these vets purchase 6 candles of the 3 in dia. X 4.5 inches tall variety, he will pay the shipping. This deal will last forever because they are family.

He has an outdoor studio where he works most days on his candles. From this vantage point, he is entertained by the local feathered residents of his neighborhood while he works.  Perhaps some of their beautiful colors has inspired some of his beautiful designs. His store "Candles by Donald" is open all the time, and is easy to get to at

Stop by Donald's shop site, grab a cup of tea or coffee and explore his delightful candles. You won't disappointed.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

You Never HEARD of THIS?

What? You never heard of this kind of handmade soap? It's amazing! Made from real Japanese Plum wine, it has the sweet, heady fragrance of the sweet dessert wine, plus an added berry wine fragrance to make it a "dessert soap".

Each bar is hand-cut, approximately 3 oz each.

Talk about lather! This soap has lather that doesn't quit; and leaves the lingering scent of the soap behind.

The perfect holiday gift! This was the first time that I used the plum wine for soap-making and it turned out wonderful! The texture is hard, smooth and I'm amazed at the lather it produces! Must be all those ingredients in the plum wine that has made the difference.

Extra precautions had to be made when mixing the wine with the sodium hydroxide due to the sugar content in the wine, the mixture heated up very quickly and was quite hot initially...even though the wine was chilled prior to mixture. I added the sodium hydroxide slowly to prevent over heating and "boiling over" of the mixture.

But the end results were worth the extra precaution.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I have.  It is currently available on my etsy site and will soon be available on the rest of my shops sites.

"...Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

Nehemiah 8:10

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Luscious Pink Grapefruit

Luscious pink grapefruit scented handmade soap. Sweet and tangy all at the same time. Plus soap that doesn't leave your skin feeling dry and itchy. Perfect for a soothing bath after a hard-working day!

This has been one of my favorites and one of my best sellers! I still have a few left.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Love this Adorable Item from Critters and Crafts

This reversible snuggle bag for small dogs that measures 25" x 23" and has a soft fleece with a cute puppy pattern on it on one side and a soft denim on the reverse side. It can also be used to pad a crate or use as a cushion on furniture or floor.

Great for the burrowing dogs like the doxies, or chihuahuas (My chis would LOVE this!) The fleece is cuffed over the denim and sewn. All seams are double stitched. The corners are tacked down so the layers will stay together.

This adorable item can be found on Critters and Crafts etsy site at:

Check this and many of her other adorable items!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What to do When There Just Isn't Quite Enough!

A few weeks a go I was on a soap making binge! I made about eight different batches of soap in less than a week and still had ideas cooking in my head.

Problem was, I ran out of ingredients! Most of the time I can make a substitution or two and not sacrifice soap quality, but this time it was different. I ran out of sodium hydroxide (Lye), which is the ingredient that makes soap what it is...SOAP! Without it, there is no chemical reaction of the oils mixed with it that hardens it into a viable bar of soap and has great cleansing action.

This is not an ingredient you can just hop over to the store and buy. They don't sell it craft stores. It is definitely a specialty item that requires special care in handling.

So, here was my problem. I was busy making my next, and last batch of soap, although I didn't know it at the time. I had my oils ready, I had my colors ready, my fragrance oil ready, had my liquid ready (in this case, it was wine). I had donned my apron, my gloves and my mask and my tools were out and ready to go. I carefully measured my sodium hydroxide out....and there was only half as much as what I needed!


This stuff has to be measured out according to the content of the oils and I didn't have near enough!

Not to be thwarted by a small (?) planning glitch, I quickly re-evaluated how much soap I COULD make with that amount of sodium hydroxide. A few more minutes and I was on my way again, only making less than half of a batch. I had to revamp my soap mold to create a smaller version too! I typically used an antique countertop drawer lined with wax paper. It has wooden dividers in it to make smaller molds. I was already using a smaller mold and the only way I could make it even tinier was to create another temporary divider. I quickly grabbed a thick piece of cardboard, cut it to fit the loaf mold, placed it inside the mold and relined it with wax paper. I used the leftover bottle of wine to hold the cardboard more securely in place by placing it inside the mold just behind the cardboard.

Voila! It was a REALLY tiny loaf mold! I made the soap, poured it in the mold, realizing that it was going to be pretty small in height, even with the cardboard adjustment. I'd worry about that later.

When it came time to unmold the soap and cut it, I knew I had to do something to compensate for the smallness of the soap. I ended up cutting the loaf into small guest sized (1 to 1.5 oz each) bars, and wrapped them in cute organza bags.

There you have it! The creation of my guest sized BERRY WINE soaps!
Fun little soaps wrapped in organza with the decadent fragrance of berry wine!
This soap is made using real wine to provide your skin with all the ingredients that wine contains. (Yes, there are ingredients in wine that your skin LOVES!)

This is a hot process method soap which means that the fragrance usually doesn't change as the soap cures. This scent smells just like a heavenly Merlot sweetened by Raspberry, Blueberry and just a hint of Blackberry. This fragrance is a great scent in the fall, when the leaves turn their gorgeous shades of red, orange and yellow.

I put a lot of innovative ad-libness to this batch!

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Commercial "Natural" Soaps

The bigger companies are noticing that "natural" soap is an increasing popular item and are capitalizing on it and producing their own versions.

I actually was unaware of that since I make my own soap and really don't pay much attention to what the commercial guys are up to.

That was a mistake. I should've been paying more attention.

Strolling through my local grocery store today, I happened to find myself in the "soap" section. I was totally amazed at the amount of "natural" and "designer" soaps that the BIG companies are producing now. Less than a year ago, I happened down that same section and took a look and there was barely a bar of soap to be found! Everything was liquid body washes and such. There were only a few of the very basic soaps that most are familiar with...and that was all there was.

Now, there are all these claims to "glycerine" soaps, "natural" soaps, special fragrances in the soaps and all kinds of designer scents. I was completely floored!

Curious, I picked up one of the "natural" soaps and read the ingredients. Floored again, I couldn't believe was I was seeing for their "natural" ingredients. Very vague wording, it all sounded good to the lay person who doesn't know about soap ingredients, but I wasn't fooled a bit! Some of the soap ingredients didn't even label the botanical names of anything, which I thought was a labeling requirement! I label all my ingredients on my soaps in both common and botanical names, why do they get away without doing that?

Maybe because it wasn't "natural" after all.

Most of the "designer" soaps were nothing more than a waxy cube of detergent with a couple of natural additives and fragrance!

Well, the price was good anyway! They were charging at least 1/3 of what I can charge for a bar of soap. If I could charge that much and make a living at it, I most certainly would! But, because I really do make soap the way it was intended to be made, I can't do that.

Don't be fooled by the bargain price. It isn't such a bargain, and you aren't getting what you probably think you're getting. It's all in the wording and clever advertising.

Clever advertising...I guess I need to work on that! Clever, yes, but not misleading...where does one draw the line? Nope, I don't do well at misleading! I want my customers to be totally in the know about what they are purchasing.

Maybe that's why I won't make millions at this, but at least I've maintained my integrity.

And that's OK.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's Sunday Morning...and Everything to Do!!!

It was so nice for me to get away for a few weeks a few months ago...first time in years, yes, years! Now, I'm back into "the routine" again and slowly the "must dos" and "ought to dos" are building back up again.

The Lord designated a day of rest, probably realizing that life's little battles overcome the best of us sometimes and we need a break. It's up to us whether we decide to take heed to God's suggestion (used to be a commandment to the Israelites) that's how important it was.

Now, I work full time at very stressful job, so that takes lots of hours out of my time where I could be doing other things, like making soap, cleaning my house, fixing meals, and spending quality time with my family.

I've broken it down into hours designated to what I do, more or less:
1 week =7 days, which there are 24 hours in a day
7X24= 168 hours in a week! Whoo hoo! That sounds like a lot, doesn't it?

I work 36 hours of it, plus lunch break (.5 hrs) plus the hour commute both ways
168-37.5= 130.5 hours left in my week! Not bad, or so it seems.

My time at home, let's say just doing the bare minimum basics of "domestic management" such as housecleaning, preparing meals, washing clothes and outside chores...and I'm talking BARE minimum per week, are around 12 hours per week.
130.5-12= 118.5 hours left. Well, OK, still doesn't sound too bad, does it?

Oh, now I have to talk about spending time with my family. I've got a hubby and 2 teenagers still living at home. I honestly think teens take more time than toddlers! Just in different ways! (Guitar lessons, voice lessons, shopping for "just the right" clothes that mom will approve of), shuttling to friends and back, school games, dances, get-togethers, parties, competitions, school shopping, Dr. and dentist appointments, take daughter to driving lessons, help her find a job. The list goes on and on and on. My hubby work opposite shifts, so we try very hard to spend at least a few hours during our work week with each other, and have at least ONE day off together every other week. Try to break this down into hours per week, I'd have to average about another 10 hours per week...and that is probably a bit short.
118.5-10= 108.5 OK, I'm still over 100 hours per week. Still sounds good, right?

Wait a minute! I have SLEEP sometime during all this! I SHOULD give myself 8 hours of sleep every night, although I seldom actually sleep 8 hours! Well, just to be healthy, I'm giving myself that time anyway, in case I do!
8 hours of sleep every night is 56 hours per week.
108.5-56= 52.5 hours Uh-oh, this is starting to sound like a time crunch!

One recent thing that I've begun for my own health and sanity is to workout in a gym at least 3 times a week. That usually takes 2-3 hours each time, given the getting dressed,driving, warming up, working out, cooling down, showering, getting dressed and coming back home again. I'm giving myself 9 hours a week for this.
52.5-9=43.5 hours Hmmm...

I'm a devout Christian and spend time reading and studying the Bible, going to church etc. I'd like to spend more time, but given my circumstances, it doesn't seem to be happening. I will average probably about 6 hours per week in these endeavors.
43.5-6=37.5 hours It is really starting to dwindle.

Oh, that's right! I run a business too! Making soap if you haven't already figured that out. I generally spend one entire day every week devoted to my business, about a 10 hour day, plus little snippets during the rest of the week that probably amount to another 10 hours, just making soap, wrapping soap, cutting soap, unpacking soap supplies, re-stocking, printing labels, making supply lists, preparing for craft fairs etc, preparing soap for shipment, and shipping them, taking pictures. That equals about 20 hours per week.
37.5-20=17.5 hours YIKES!

What I mentioned about the soap DOESN'T include my time promoting online or many of my other online things I do that are related to my soap, such as listing my soaps online, coming up with the perfect description of my soap, editing pictures, twittering, facebooking, and all the other online, soap-related things I do. I typically spend 2 hours per day doing those things, which is a pretty conservative number, if you ask my kids and hubby.
That's 14 hours per week...
17.5-14=3.5 hours!

OK, I now have 3.5 hours per week left over to do whatever I feel like! Almost like heaven!

Uh-oh, the dog just threw up on my carpet. I forgot that I have a dentist appointment this week! The dishwasher just broke. My computer is acting goofy and won't upload my pictures. I ran out of milk and need to make another trip to the store for groceries that I didn't intend to do. I THOUGHT I had enough material for soap packaging, but apparently didn't, so now have to make an emergency trip to JoAnnes for a small supply until my order comes in....

There goes my 3.5 hours!!!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Apple Harvest Soap

This soap smells like a fresh apple after biting into it. Delightful! Leaves your skin feeling soft and supple after using. All the glycerin has been retained to give your skin extra love.

I used coconut oil for suds, palm oil for hardness of the bar, castor oil because it gives great lather quality to the bar, shea butter and avocado oils for extra love for your skin.

Each bar is hand-cut, approximately 3-4 oz each. No two are exactly alike. Although it is somewhat round on purpose, I decided NOT to add a little worm coming out the side. A soapy stem on top might've been fun though.

"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings" Psalms 17:8

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Spice Soap... This Year's Sexy Fragrance

This is one of my recent listings that I've placed on etsy and will be placing at some of my other shop sites shortly.

Published studies have shown that Pumpkin Pie is the number 1 fragrance that gets a man's attention.

I always knew there was something more to that old saying, "A way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

Go figure.

This delightful soap really does smell like pumpkin pie. This listing is for one soap, approximately 4.25-4.75 oz each, a nice generous sized bar of soap.

Stock up on this will go fast!

"While the king was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance." Song of Solomon 1:12

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Perceived Weight Loss and Aromatherapy wants guys to THINK you've lost some weight? Try aromatherapy!
Amazing things happen to the brain when whiffs of certain things get to the brain and start hanging out with those brain chemicals. Perceived weight loss, male attraction, feelings of well-being, just to name a few things.

According to Dr. Alan Hirsch MD and his studies, there is a perception of weight loss when men smell certain odors! If a woman wore floral and spice fragrances, it apparently reduced men's perception of her weight by an average of 4.1 pounds! If the guy thought the floral and spice scent was pleasant, he perceived her to be a full 12 pounds less than her actual weight!

Next time you are out on a date with your hubby, boyfriend or new flame in your life, you may want to take advantage of this idea!

Gardenia is a lovely floral fragrance that I've just recently added in a group bath gift collection. Shower in gardenia soap and follow it up with gardenia fragrance balm that is handy to take with you in your purse too!
OR, bathe in a delightful gardenia fragrance emollient bath salt!

Monday, September 21, 2009

What's With Coconut Milk Soap?

I just recently made this soap. It is made using real coconut milk instead of water. I added two different fragrance oils to it, coconut fragrance and orange. No added coloring was added to this soap. That is it's natural color. I made using the hot process method, hoping that the orange fragrance with withstand and hold out during the this process instead of the cold process method. Most orange fragrances do not stay well in cold process soap-making and in using the hot process method, I've had better success.

So, using coconut milk instead of water in the soap-making process, what happens? coconut does NOT stay its lovely creamy white when mixed with sodium hydroxide, a main, necessary ingredient when making soap. Instead, it turns a light brown and thickens up a bit. Coconut fragrance oil also turns the soap a beige color when added, so that is the reason for the orange-brown color to the soap.

Adding coconut milk gives the soap a different feel also, it seems to be a bit smoother, soapier, more lather, than if you don't add it. So, it definitely gives the soap some added benefits.

This soap has not been added to any of my online shops yet, but I will be doing that later this week. Stay tuned!

P.S. Have you voted on your favorite soap yet here on my blog?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dragon's Blood!

We are talking about a plant, not the blood of a real dragon, OK?

Actually, we are talking about several types of plants that has been called "Dragon's Blood" over the centuries. A more common one that has been naturalized here in the U.S. is Dracena Draco, also known as the dragon tree, is a vulnerable plant endemic to the arid, rocky mountain ranges of the Canary Islands, Madeira, and Cape Verde. This is the plant shown in the picture above. It is commonly cultivated as a houseplant and garden specimen, but there are very few naturally-occurring plants remaining in its narrow ecological range. The dark red sap of Dracaena draco was regarded for centuries in European legends as “the blood of dragons”, and was often used for its supposed magical and medicinal qualities. This resin is still used today to produce incense and varnishes used to stain and polish wood.

Much confusion existed in ancient times regarding the source and identity of dragon's blood. The resin of Dracaena species, "true" dragon's blood, and the very poisonous mineral cinnabar (mercury sulfide) were often confused by the Romans. Apparently, they had a tendency to call anything that was bright red "dragon's blood". In ancient China, very little distinction was made among the types of dragon's blood from the different species. Even today, both Dracaena and Daemonorops resins are still marketed today as dragon's blood.

Dragon's Blood was obtained as dried garnet-red drops from Dracaena draco, a tree native to the Canary Islands and Morocco by traders in the 15th century. a resin came from its wounded trunk or branches. Dragon's blood is also obtained by the same method from D. cinnabari, which grows on the island of Socotra. This resin was traded to ancient Europe via the Incense Road.

Dragon's blood resin is also produced from rattan palms in the Indonesian islands and is known there as jerang or djerang. It is harvested by breaking off the layer of red resin that surrounds the unripe fruit of the rattan. It is then rolled into solid balls before being sold.

Dragon's blood was used as a dye and in medicine for respiratory and gastrointestinal problems in the Mediterranean area. Many considered the resin as a sort of cure-all, using it for such things as general wound healing, a coagulant, diarrhea, fevers, dysentery, ulcers in the mouth, throat, intestines and stomach, as well as an antiviral for respiratory and stomach viruses, and eczema. It was also used in medieval ritual magic and alchemy.

The species of Dracaena draco and Dracaena cinnabari were also used as a source of varnish for 18th century Italian violinmakers and has been included in an 18th century recipe for toothpaste! Even today, it is still used as a varnish for violins, in photoengraving, as an incense resin, and as a body oil. It is still used for ceremonies in India. The Chinese use it to make red varnish for wooden furniture, coloring the surface of writing paper for banners and posters, for weddings and Chinese New Year.

In American Hoodoo, African-American folk magic, and New Orleans voodoo, it is used in mojo hands for money-drawing or love-drawing, and is used as incense to cleanse a space of negative entities or influences. It is also added to red ink to make "Dragon's Blood Ink", which is used to inscribe magical seals and talismans.

In folk medicine, dragon's blood is used externally as a wash to promote healing of wounds and to stop bleeding. It is used internally for chest pains, post-partum bleeding, internal traumas and menstrual irregularities. Many of the modern day plants that are harvested as Dragon's blood, however, contain anticoagulant properties and using it for stopping bleeding is not recommended.

In neo-pagan witchcraft and new age shamanism, it is used to increase the potency of spells for protection, love, banishing and sexuality.

It is also commonly distributed as "red rock opium" to unsuspecting would-be opium buyers, though it contains no opiates and has only been shown to have mildly intoxicating effects.

Now that you know a little history and current uses for Dragon's Blood.

Dragon's blood also comes as a fragrance oil, not really made from the dragon's blood plant but a nice facsimile of the incense that the resin produces. I use this dragon's blood fragrance oil in my soap and bath products for a unique, fragrant change of pace. Recently, I've made a batch of dragon's blood soap that will be ready for sale in the first half of October.

It smells great, no spells have been cast over it for protection, love, banishing, sexuality or any other neo-pagan/shaman spells. It doesn't contain any of the medicinal properties previously mentioned. It DOES contain what all my other soaps contain...soapy blessings. It's a great bar of great smelling handmade soap that doesn't dry out your skin too.

Interested in placing a reserve order of Dragon's Blood soap? Contact me at one of my shop sites! :)