Taking a Time-Out

It is with a heavy heart and tearful eyes that I write this posting.  After great consideration, I’ve decided to start winding down my soap business over the course of this summer…

As I’m sure you’ve already gathered, soapmaking is a process that requires a fair amount of time and attention.  Making a single batch can take 1-2 hours and then curing takes another six weeks.  Soapmaking is essentially like performing a chemistry experiment.  You’re creating a chemical reaction while working with a caustic substance.   You have to suit up in goggle, gloves, and protective clothing.  You have to be focused and pay attention to your work.  You cannot have a little one around to distract you.

Until recently, I have been able to soap regularly with the help of my husband.  Once or twice a weekend, Jesse would entertain Bug while I crafted my soaps.  However, Jesse’s new position at work has come with a lot of extra demands.  For the time being, he has been working extremely long hours.  He leaves before 630am and doesn’t come home until after 9pm.  We are hopeful that he will have a better schedule within a few months, but, as things currently stand, our family is feeling the stress of not having time together.  That being said, I haven’t been able to make soap during Jesse’s time-off as I did before.  Our two days together are jammed packed with family time, fulfilling obligations, baby doctor appointments, and errand running.

I’ve also had trouble finding time to prep my soaps for sale.  Every once in a while, I’m able to print and cut labels while Bug is awake, but he is usually too demanding of my attention to allow me to complete my task.  This morning, for example, attempted to update my Facebook page with the soaps that are currently for sale as Bug played outside.  I sat on the porch so I could keep my eye on him but within two minutes of me losing focus of him, he had followed the cat deep into the woods and gotten stuck.  Needless to say, my work session ended right then.

With a new baby coming this fall, I, unfortunately, don’t see my ability to soap improving.  Even if Jesse starts working fewer hours, I imagine his time off will be spent with us adapting to a life with two small children.    For this reason, I’ve decided to slow down my business.  I just don’t have the resources to keep up with it right now.  My goal is to make several batches throughout the summer so there will be soap available to family and friends (and the local spas!).  I’ll be making gift bars of soap for my best friend’s wedding in September!  Also, as long as I have stock, I will be selling–you can find me on May 10th selling at the Historic Buckingham’s May Day celebration. Overall, however, the business will be slowly shutting down as we prepare for Baby #2.

I can’t help but feel slightly like a failure but I’m focusing on the fact that I managed to keep up with my little business for a full year!  For that, I will be proud.  And, deep down, I hope that within the next few years circumstances will change and I’ll be able to start creating again.  Meanwhile, I will be focusing on my sweet family (and my efforts to become a lactation counselor).  A special thank you to everyone who has supported my endeavors.

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Notice his shirt?  Do you get it?

We’re having a baby!!!

After much deliberation, we’ve decided to go public with our special news.  I’m 8 weeks along, which is relatively early in a pregnancy to share the excitement with the world.  However, I started thinking about why we were keeping baby #2 quiet and came up with two reasons…both of which have turned out to not be good reasons at all.  First, we were originally waiting until baby was 14 weeks, like we did with Bug, and that decision was made only because social etiquette dictates that we wait.  Second, the threat of miscarrying drops dramatically after 14 weeks…

With Bug, we were told to prepare ourselves for a miscarriage.  Without going into any graphic details, I faced some problems during the first trimester and my doctor told us that our likelihood for losing our baby was great.  It was awful.  And, what made it worse was that very few folks knew what we were facing because we chose to keep our news quiet.  I spent most of my first trimester feeling scared and alone.

Therefore, this go around, waiting to share the news until the chance of miscarrying is gone meant that every time I wanted to tell someone that we’re expecting (but instead withheld that information), I would start to think about miscarrying and would get quite scared.  So, instead of waiting around for impending doom that hopefully will not come, I’m embracing sweet baby #2 and sharing the awesome news with everyone.   If, God forbid, our baby is too special for this earth, I’d rather have support from my family and community rather than tiptoe around my sadness.

Also, it has been really hard to field certain questions that have regularly been popping up recently.  So, do you think you want more children?  When are you going to have a second?  Have you decided to start trying again?  I hate lying and I’m really not that quick on my feet when it comes to side-stepping thess queries.  I had one friend recently ask me if we wanted more kids and I blurted out happily, “YES!” before realizing that we weren’t making it public and having to reign my enthusiasm back in.  I also, unfortunately, had to rain check on a Mom’s Night Out (to which I was really excited about being invited) because I had no energy.  I felt particularly lame because I couldn’t offer up a valid reason for skipping without revealing our news.  (And if I had gone, I would’ve had to have made up a reason for not boozin’ it up!–trust me, I wish I could).

Lastly, I’d rather the world know that my “beer belly” is actually a beginning baby bump.  Baby #2 may only be a little gummy bear right now, but my body is definitely prepping for her/him and making me a bit rounder than I prefer to be 😉  When I was pregnant with Bug, whispers went around my workplace about how “marriage was doing good for me because my thighs and bottom had filled out” (yes, it was a bit mortifying to be informed that this gossip was floating around).  This time, no more speculation, folks.  You know why I’m plumping up. =)

Essentially, we’re super excited about our growing family and we’re ready for our loved ones to be excited too!

Honeycomb Soap

This weekend I made my trusty old Oatmeal Honey soap.  However, I used a newer recipe and a brand new texturing technique.  The recipe was the same as the one that seized during my first attempt.  This attempt went so much better and I reached a beautiful level of trace with no problem.  When unmolding, the soap was a bit stickier than I prefer, but I’ll attribute the stickiness to the honey.  Hopefully, it will firm up with a bit more sitting.

I’m most excited about the texturing.  Typically, I top off my Oatmeal Honey soap with oats.  However, sometimes the oats start to fall off and they make cutting slightly challenging.  A few years ago my friend gave me a soap that looked like a honeycomb.  I attributed its appearance to a special mold until doing a bit more research.  I found that I could make my own honeycomb soap using bubble wrap!

After pouring my soap, I lightly pushed the bubble wrap into the top of the soap and then left the batch alone to saponify and harden.  When it was ready to unmold and slice, I gently pulled the wrap off and voila! the soap looks like a honeycomb!  You can see where a few of the bubbles must have been popped so next time I’ll need to make sure the wrap is completely intact.  Overall, however, I think it looks great!

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Spring Sunrise Soap

Fresh from unmolding is my soap that will likely be called Spring Sunrise.  The name came to mind as I was planning the colors and scents for this particular batch.  I chose to use oils infused with alkanet root and annatto seed powder to produce a swirl of lavender and creamy yellow, respectively.  I hoped to create a landscape similar to a country sunrise.  My blend of essential oils was unconventional but produced a magical result.  Scented with lavender, tea tree, and just a hint of orange, this soap is clarifying, energizing (yet calming!), and fresh–just like a spring morning.

My husband was so eager to see the results that he encouraged me to unmold the soap this morning before he left for work.  While it needs a bit more sitting time before it’s ready to be completely cut, you can get an idea of how pretty a soap it will be.  In these current pictures, the alkanet root swirls are still quite blue.  However, they will morph into more of a lavender color as they’re exposed to the air.

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Ginger Grapefruit Revealed

As always, my latest batch of soap was a huge surprise.  I was pleased that the annatto powder gave such a beautiful, rich orange color to the soap, especially since I’ve only had limited success with annatto oil infusions.  The rose hip powder, however, was a huge surprise.  I’ve used it in powder form in the past and knew that I’d get a somewhat speckled look; yet, I wasn’t expecting such great speckling, especially throughout the annatto streaks (and, honestly, I was expecting a richer red color).   But, as always, I’m just fine with interesting results.  Makes the soap eye-catching (and the scent is amazinggg).

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Ginger Grapefruit

I sold my last bar of Ginger Grapefruit soap (thanks, Lindsay W!) and since it’s one of my personal favorites–it’s so warming yet fresh–, I decided to make it this weekend’s batch of soap.  And, for once, everything went beautifully!

I tried a new recipe again and, thankfully, this one did not seize on me like last week’s.  I also tried a variation on coloring, using rose hip powder and annatto seed powder for a bi-colored soap.  I’ve added rose hip powder to plenty of soaps before but I’ve only used annatto seed as an oil infusion (like in the cinnaorange soap from last week).  It’s interesting how the colors appear when the soap is first made.  The annatto gave a great orangey-yellow color while the rose hip remained a pale cream color.  However, I know the rose hip colored soap should eventually change to a dark red kidney color.  The chemistry behind soap making is always a surprise!

I practiced my swirling technique and, for the first time, it went beautifully.  The irony is, however, that you won’t really see the swirls because of the mold I chose to use.  Since it’s a tray mold rather than my normal log mold, I don’t have to slice each bar, which is typically when the swirls reveal themselves.  With this mold, I just cut the bars apart with minimal slicing.  At least the bottoms of the bars will be pretty and I got extra practice making swirls.

My kitchen smells divine and has had my mouth watering all day!

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Results of the Funky Soap

Yesterday I unmolded and sliced the mystery batch of soap.  Since I tried too many new techniques at once and the whole process was more than experimental; I really had to idea what to expect.  The results are pretty great.  Not only the does soap smell delicious, warming, and amazing, it cut beautifully!  My goal was to make a harder bar of soap and this one was perfect only a day after soaping.  Now I just have to let it cure so I can test the lather.

Additionally, it did end up having a bit of a multi-colored look to it!  The annatto stripes are light but they’re noticeable.  The soap reminds me a bit of a tiger.  I’m having trouble with coming up with a fun name for it (orange-cinnamon is just too plain for such a funky bar).  Send your suggestions to me!

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Live on ETSY!

Good morning!  I’ve decided to reopen my Etsy shop now that my soap inventory is rebuilding.  I’ve got a handful of soaps ready to ship and many more on the curing block that will be added over the next few weeks.  In celebration of the shop reopening, I’m offering a 10% discount through March 7th.  Use the code RELAUNCH to claim your discount!

Per the requests of regular customers, future bars of soap will be cut larger and there will be a slight price increase for the larger bars. The soaps currently listed are 2-3.5oz. Once they’re gone, they’re gone! So now is the time to place an order for a variety of soaps at the lower price to figure out what scents are your favorite!

Blessing birds will be offered soon and custom orders are welcomed!

Stop by and check it out! Thanks!

New Recipe + New Scent = Funky Soap?

A few weeks ago I placed an order for new oils and new essential oils.  I found a recipe I wanted to try using Shea Butter.  I’m hoping to find a concoction that will produce a harder bar of soap without sacrificing lather.  Eager to try out the new recipe, I set to work this morning.  I planned, once again, to try a multi-color swirling technique, but this time with a new oil infusion.  Lastly, I decided on a blend of orange and cinnamon leaf essential oils, the latter of which I’ve never used.

Simply put, I tried too many new things at once.  Too many new ingredients.  Too many new techniques.  Needless to say, the soaping experience didn’t go quite as planned.

The shea butter accelerated trace.  The cinnamon essential oil sped it up even faster.  The swirl technique drew out the mixing process so by the time I was ready to pour, I had a very thick soap batter.  Pouring was impossible so I had to scoop the soap into the mold–there went my swirling technique!  Moreover, I accidentally dropped some batter on my liner which caused it to fall in on itself.  Oh, the mess. Oh, the comedy?

Ultimately, I got all the soap into the mold and, because it was so thick already, I was able to give it a neat looking top (usually my soap tops are smooth).  I don’t think I used enough oil for the color infusion to be successful so I may end up with a solid colored slab of soap.  But who knows?  The chemistry of it all is unpredictable and maybe upon cutting I’ll find a marbled effect.   Regardless, the essential oil blend is fantastic and the soap smells good enough to gobble up!  I don’t believe in batches of soaps ending as a disaster…just different from planned!

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A Record Setting Tough Week

This week has been a real test of my patience.  And, I’m not proud to say, it (being the week/life) has won more than once in making me succumb to frustration and temper losing.

On its own, it has been tough adapting to Jesse’s longer work hours.  Sunday through Tuesday, he’s up and out of the house by roughly 615, meaning that, other than a kiss goodbye, I don’t see him.  Moreover, I don’t start the day with any help with Buggy.  Jesse also doesn’t return home until about 930 at night, which also means that I get zero help from him all day.  I’m not throwing myself a pity party.  I know there are single parents and military spouses, among other parents and guardians who are left alone to raise a child more than I.  I have nothing but the utmost respect (and awe, really) of these folks.  Seriously, I don’t know how they maintain their sanity.  However, I still want to acknowledge my feelings that it is hard being on your own with a child nonstop.  It has been even harder on me recently because I miss my husband.

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Muddle Puddle Man (of course, two seconds before we needed to leave)

This week in particular has been even harder than usual because Buggy is cutting teeth.  We’ve lived through 12 teeth cuttings and a somewhat cranky baby but none of those times compare to what he is currently suffering through.  Today, for example, he woke at 4am and no amount of singing, rocking, teething tablets, or nursing would calm him down enough to go back to sleep.  A few minutes of nursing made him happier, but then he was ready to climb out of bed and start playtime.  He is explosive when he is told “no” or thwarted in his play.  He is clingy, wanting to be held nonstop.  He has refused to eat anything but muffins, bananas, and applesauce.

And I have tried everything to alleviate his pain to a tolerable level.  Homeopathic teething tablets, check (they have always worked in the past).  Cold wash cloth, check.  Chamomile tea sweetened with honey, check.  Chomping on a carrot, check.  Amber anklet, check (the anklet lessened his pain earlier this week but doesn’t appear to be strong enough now). Every other non-medicating teething remedy, check check check.

Anyone who knows me knows that I try to treat ailments with homeopathic, natural remedies first, particularly if the problem is not threatening.  But today, I had to give in to medication.  Bug’s pain was unbearable.  He was contorting his mouth as if trying to find a more comfortable position, his puffy red gums bulging.  So I gave him Advil.  And I make no apology.  I know there are folks who would admonish me for giving medication for teeth pain (heck, until this moment, I know I’ve found myself being judge-y), but I believe it was the right call for my child.  He is now napping and will hopefully wake a bit happier and able to tolerate more food.  And, on a side note, quite off topic, I truly believe that parents need to start supporting each other more, accepting others’ decisions and abilities to know what’s best for their families.   I hate that I put off Advil so long because I was embarrassed about what others would think.  I had one know-it-all “friend” arrogantly lecture me against medicating for teeth pain (though, ironically, this person’s partner confessed only minutes later that they regularly medicate their child) and I let this person, who I don’t really care for, influence my ability to care for my son.  I am not free of judgement but I am working actively to be more open-minded of families who parent differently than I.  I don’t know their whole story and the circumstances under which they live; therefore, I should be supportive of them rather than silently (or worse, openly) tearing them down. (I sense a whole separate blog entry in the near future…)

Now, back on topic… This week has been a real struggle.  In addition to missing my husband and frustration with my toddler, Murphy’s Law seems to be in place.  I’ve sliced my fingers with a knife THREE times this week, most recently, with a serrated knife.  I slightly knocked the blender over in the sink while rinsing it and it shattered (SERIOUSLY.  That huge hunk of glass just broke.  I swear appliances aren’t made as well as they used to be–my parents’ still functioning wedding gifts are proof).  And the list goes on.  Again, I’m not having a pity party (been there. it’s over now), but I want to acknowledge how tough it can be sometimes being a stay-at-home mother.

Deep down, I truly do love being a SAHM and I feel very blessed that we can afford it.  But some days make me want to cry.  Or, in the case of this week, lash out at my husband (I’m not proud of how I handled my frustration).   Being with a tiny human all day, and frequently without additional adult interaction, can drive a person mad.  I babysit for a family of two kids.  The father routinely tells me (most recently, yesterday) that I’m one of those mothers who could easily manage TEN children; that my ability to tend to his children’s and my toddler’s needs is amazing and effortless.  I wholeheartedly appreciate his kind words; they give me renewed strength and the ability to take a breath and soldier on.  Yet, I can’t help but to laugh inside and think “if you really knew…”

Being a parent is hard.  I read all these blogs that make parenting look easy.  I follow their tutorials on learning activities for toddlers and follow their steps for combating sleep reversion–they, of course, had smashing success with their children.  My child, however, inevitably finds their suggested activities uninteresting and dares to defy their remedy for having him sleep through the night.  While these blogs are wonderful resources, they lack a healthy dose of honesty.  Therefore, I’m going to say it, parenting is hard.  It’s hard if you’re a working parent, a stay at home parent, a work from home parent, a single parent, or a parent with an excellent support system.  Raising a child is hard.

Now that I’ve ranted and shared some truth, I’m going to end on a positive note.  I want to reflect on what I can be thankful for from this past week.

  • I am thankful for the friend who sent a sweet note asking me how I’m coping with the job change.
  • I am thankful for my parents who fed supper to me and gave me adult interaction during one of Jesse’s long days.
  • I am thankful that Buggy ate a handful of edamame in addition to his muffin and banana.
  • I am thankful for a husband who responds to my requests, even if they came out more like angry demands.
  • I am thankful for the family for whom I babysit; the additional human interaction every afternoon keeps me sane.  And the sweet children show my wee one so much love.
  • I am thankful for the new vacuum and steam cleaner that have arrived.
  • I am thankful for Toddler Time at the library which brings my Bug so much delight (the goober spent yesterday morning turning in circles, saying “Ra Ra Ra” the entire time).

And I know the list could go on and on…a fact I need to recognize when I’m feeling weepy and at my worst.  Parenting is hard.  And I truly appreciate those who support me and try to make it a bit easier.

 

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