Sunday, May 26, 2013

Life in the Garden

When I used to live in Calgary I always wanted to be able to start getting into my garden in March, forget about waiting until April or probably May like any sane gardener, I needed to get that dirt under my nails now.  My heart envied those folks on the west coast that had their daffodils and tulips up in February, it made me look at the snow, and well, stick my tongue out at it.

Five years ago my mother & I decided to move back to the coast.  Back in, this is where I was born and spent the first few years of my life.  I was even fortunate enough to have spent a great deal of those first few years on tugboats and fishing boats so the smell of the sea is home.

We bought a property with immense gardens (forgetting what immense work those immense gardens would take).  The first 2 years we let the gardens show us what was in them and by year 2 we also discovered this thing called horsetail.... A weed that dates back to prehistoric times... Living with this beast I can understand how it has survived thousands and millions of years. Wow, it seems you pull it and you think you have the roots when bam there it is again sneaking up in the same spot, well it seems like the same spot.

As a soap-maker I should be embracing this tenacious plant because it has a lot of great qualities to add to my products.  It contains a large amount of silica which is exceptional for hair products helping the hair be soft as well as sealing the shaft of the hair allowing for easy comb-out.  Medicinally this plant has a long history as a cure-all.  It helps the body retain calcium which assists in cases like osteoporosis, arthritis, anemia and so many other conditions.  Of course I just learned the internal medicine part now as I am righting this post.  Here are a couple of links to read more about it:

These are just a few sites to look at, a google search gives you quite a but more.

Oh yeah, back to the gardening bit.  So we quickly learned that horsetails love this climate and you have to be pulling them daily or they will take over your garden.  It doesn't matter that you have a wonderful ground cover which would normally keep the weeds down, nope there comes a horsetail right though the middle of it.  Stupid plant... So yesterday I decided I would help out with the weeding and took on a small garden that was so overgrown you couldn't see the "good" plants; those would be the ones you want in the garden after all a weed is just a plant you don't want growing there.  I filled up a full garbage bag with weeds plus another pail full, but oh does that garden look good.

Here is the garden I did yesterday:

  I planted this Fuchsia the year we moved in and it is now an amazing plant but I need to either move it into a spot by itself or trim back the Cotoneaster in order to allow the Fuchsia to shine.  This is in the same garden as I weeded yesterday.

And here is what it was like before....

I must admit this is a climate where you should be gardening all year long to keep the gardens looking nice.  Of course I don't but I think I am going to start doing a bunch more.  It is so satisfying to look at the gardens and see what they are doing in each season.  It totally thrills my heart to see flowers bloom all winter long and I am so incredibly grateful to be able to live here in my personal paradise....

Now to get those new plants in the ground....

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cosmetic Notification Form Workshops

Here in Canada those of us who make soaps of any kind need to register with Health Canada and we need to complete Cosmetic Notification Forms that are then mailed in to Health Canada.  The reason behind this is that soaps are considered cosmetics here and therefore are regulated as any other cosmetic which includes lotions.

So many out there are just not aware of the requirements here because most of the forums out there are American and in the US, as of today, you do not need to even disclose ingredients if it is called soap.  So it gets very confusing for Canadians who want to start selling their products.

Once they are aware of the regulations, they now have to find all the things they need to learn, not an easy task and there is just so much to learn.  Then comes the Cosmetic Notification Form which for many is confusing to say the least.

This is the reason I have decided to start giving these workshops.  I have completing these forms for over five years and have come to know them very well.  I am going to share that knowledge to help others get as comfortable with these as I am with the knowledge they are doing them right.

The workshops are going to help using Go To Meeting which allows us to interact as discuss which will enable everyone to really understand as we go through the forms step by step.  You will be able to refer to your own recipe right there, with the class.  We will discuss the following areas:
  • Cold/Hot Process Soaps
  • Melt & Pour Soaps
  • Liquid Soaps
  • Cream Soaps
  • Lotions, Creams
  • Other Bath & Body care products.
The first of these workshops is now full and I am just so excited to be able to share my knowledge with them.  A group of 6 allows us to have the time to actually ask questions, get answers and get what each needs from the workshop.

In the future I will be breaking these up to East & West in order to find times that will work best for everyone.

Labeling is the next are of confusion and much discussion in Canada because again we have very definite laws as to what must appear on the labels and where.  Again, because we are on US forums the information about labeling is confusing.  So that brings us to the next Workshop in the series.

I have always loved teaching workshops including First Responders when I was the trainer for our group to giving workshops at Lee Valley Tools in Calgary teaching wood carving and pyrography (wood burning).  I've also taken workshops on-line so I know what it is that I like, as well what I don't like.  What works and what doesn't.  Through these experiences I believe I will be able to create an atmosphere for people to enjoy learning what we all need to know in order to run our soap, bath & body products here in Canada.

I really am excited about this because it allows me to do something I love to do while being able to help others learn new skills that are so necessary.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Soap Challenge - Week 3

Mica Swirl was this week's challenge from Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks and I was surprised at just how much trouble I had with this one!  I thought "Snap! How hard can this be?"

Have I ever told you what happens when I say that?  Well Murphy joined this party and it took 3 tries before I got this one done for heaven's sake and I'm not all that happy with this one even. 

So let's start at the very beginning shall we?  On the right you can see my first attempt. This one is Black Raspberry Vanilla which usually plays nice.  But by the time I was doing the mica swirl it was getting thick.  How annoying!  Then I put too much swirl on so the drama doesn't exist except in my annoyance.

The second one, well you don't get to see a picture of it because nothing went right on that one.  Total fail!  I haven't had one of those in donkey's years (they live longer than horses, dogs, or cats),  Did I mention that Murphy had come calling?  Ah well that was when I soldiered on to make the one you see about.  It's scent is Green Irish Tweed, once of my personal favourites and it also is know for playing nice.  Well not when Murphy comes to play....   In all fairness the swirl worked out just perfect but again, it started getting thick when it came time to do my top swirl.  I even had the mica swirl sitting there ready to go, but I thick where I messed up was being too fussy about getting all of the batter used.

So lesson learned.  The mica swirl is going to take me a bit longer to perfect.  Here are the cut pictures for your enjoyment.

Black Raspberry Vanilla

Green Irish Tweed Type

Amy thank you for hosting these challenges - you are helping me grow in my design area and I am grateful for that.

If you would like to see more pictures of other results take a look here.

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We will be taking a break and it will be two weeks before the next, and final challenge. Until next time enjoy your days.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Elemental Swirl - Challenge #2

I would really like to thank Amy Warden of  Great Cakes Soapworks for being generous enough with her time to create these challenges once again this year.  It is fun to try new techniques I may not otherwise have tried.

This week is the Elemental Swirl.  What's interesting about this one is that you are combining two techniques, both of which I've done in the past.  I also learned that I need to let my soap set up a bit more before doing the ITP (in the pot) swirl in order to avoid 'mud'.  All righty then - now comes some decisions.

First I needed to decide what elements I wanted represented in this soap.  So very many options.  Finally I decided to make this personal and a friend directed me to a quiz which determines your Element and I came up as Air, so that would be my top layer.  So what should my second be?  Since I am a Sagittarius which is a Fire sign that became my second element.  Next was trying to decide what scent was going to represent both elements.  Hmmm well there was a dilemma.  I needed something that was going to behave to allow me time to work and spices are not known to play nice.  Okay so the spices were ruled out, or were they?  What if I added them to the other scents I wanted, maybe it would behave then?  Air was easier for me as I always think of air as fresh, bright and carrying the scent of flowers on its breeze.  Here is what I came up with:
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Spearmint
  • Black Pepper (for heat)
  • Menthol (cold heat) - just a titch of this one
  • Lilac fragrant oil
I am now ready to go.  For the fire portion I chose Bordeaux & Romantic Rose micas with FD&C Red #40.  Air received Dark Blue (morphed to a greeny tone) & Cornflower Blue micas plus Ultramarine Blue.  I used cocoa powder for the dark line, but I didn't use quite enough...

Now for the reveal......

In the log is the wet soap.

Another in the log shot.
Here you can see what it looks like prior to cutting showing the two layers - kinda.

All cut and ready to go onto the curing rack....

Amy this was a lot of fun and I look forward to our next challenge.  Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this.  For those of you that missed the link above to go to Amy's Blog please, click HERE.

For those of you who would like to purchase one of these bars they will be ready at the end of the month.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tiger Stripe Soap Challenge

Amy Ward of Great Cakes Soapworks has generously started another round of challenges to soapmakers and I have joined this year for trying different different swirling techniques in soap.  Here is where you can see Amy's video on how to do this technique.  Before I go any further I would really like to thank Amy for doing these Challenges as it allows all of us to try new things.

So our first challenge is the Tiger Stripe.  As most of you know I love Pink so I decided to do Pink & Black for my colours, nice high contrast.  Everything was going according to plan, got the pink to where I wanted it, the black was a lovely deep black and then I added the fragrance.  It left the pink gorgeous but it morphed into a lovely grey, I loved it!

Now comes the pour.  I decided to leave this at a fairly thin trace in order to make sure it didn't get too thick.  I used a well behaved fragrance so I knew it wouldn't make it move too fast (Energy).  Unfortunately, it was too thin so the first part of the pour was not quite what I was going for.  By the middle of the loaf it had gone to where I wanted it to be.  At the end, well it was too thick, of course.  But I soldiered on, I wasn't going to let mere soap best me and I did my normal top with lots of glitter.

Now the wait was on.  What was this going to look like when I unmoulded it and cut?  How bad was it?  Here I am, am experienced soapmaker, fussing like a newby about what was inside the soap.  It's amazing what a challenge will do to you! 

It's now tomorrow, I can open up the present that is my soap.  Oh heaven this is as exciting as Christmas except there was some trepidation involved.  I lift it out of its mould, good so far, unwrap the soap, hmmmm maybe a little soft yet.  Should I wait?  Nah..  I pull out the cutter, prepare the soap to go in and slice!

Here is what I found!

I am pleased and this was fun so I will be doing this again.

Amy, thank you for the learning opportunity.  I look forward to the next challenge.....

To see all of the participants take a look at Amy's Blog HERE

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Good Business Practices

I always wonder what causes someone to not have good business practices and then when they are pointed out to them get angry.  So rather than talk about the negatives, let's talk about what good business practices are.

If you are in business you are selling something, either a product or a service, but you are selling.  A boss of mine from many, many years ago told me there are three things a business can offer:

  1. Quality
  2. Service
  3. Price
Which two of those three do you really want ?  For me the answer is always Quality and Service, price is quite a distance beneath that.  You know that old adage you get what you pay for?  Well it is true.

I have always taken pride in my ability, and my desire, to produce both products and services that are above the rest of the pack.  In order to do that I need to charge a fair price because I have a lot of hidden costs such as research, development and training.  My training is industry related and I am proud to have achieved my Certified Clinical Aromatherapist designation.  Essential oils are over the counter drugs and I want to use them in my products in a responsible manner, knowing what the contra-indicators are and what warnings, if any, need to be on my products.

I also look at what other countries are doing differently, and perhaps better, than what we are here in Canada.  I must say that our legislation is fair and protects our consumers and not nearly as challenging to meet as others such as the European Union has done with theirs.  We don't have to get safety assessments for our products before selling.  We do have to register our formulations with Health Canada prior to, or within 10 days of starting to sell that particular product.  In other words me must be responsible for what we do.  Interesting concept that.

So back to good business practices.  What is good for the industry is good for the people in it.  You will never find me trying to undercut my competition, real or imagined.  Because I do supply a product that people want I have a hard time keeping enough product available.  If I were to try and undercut the market I wouldn't be able to keep up and I would have to start cutting corners. Let's go back to choosing the 2 out 3 things you can ask from a business.  What's going to be your best deal in the long run.  Most businesses that feel the need to undercut in order to move product are ones that aren't moving product in the first place.  There are lots of reasons for that and only they can say what it is.  It could be as innocent as a poor marketing plan and are therefore not reaching the market they need to reach.  But hold on a minute - this is bad for the overall industry because they are setting unrealistic expectations from the general market that they should be able to buy your product/service at that price.  So this would fall under bad business practices.

Another good business practice is to not talk badly about your competition to your customers.  Eventually you are going to turn them off because people don't like being sold through a negative sales pitch.  Talk about what makes you product different and better.  If you don't know then you need to sit down and figure it out.  If you don't believe in your business no-one else is going to either.  You went into business for a reason.  Always try to remember why you are walking this path.  Usually people go into business because it is a passion; always hold onto that passion - let it shine in your day to day business practices.  It is okay to talk to other business owners about challenging business owners that are not using good business practices, and it is even better when you question that business directly.  But know that you are not likely going to change how they do business and you could end up in hot water so choose your business group wisely.

My business is governed by Health Canada and I take a great deal of pride in knowing that I am doing everything I need to do and so much more.  I take pride in my business practices, in my products and the services I offer my clients.  There are businesses I greatly admire, there are business owners for whom I have a great deal of respect.  These are the people who will influence me as I build my business.

What makes you stand out from the crowd?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Playing in the Sun...

I love sitting  here on my deck working and watching the ocean.  We have so much sea life which shows up at the most unexpected times.  Of course you have to be looking at just the right moment which means I keep looking up hoping to catch sight of the many dolphins, porpoises, and whales that are in the area on any given day.  Plus I have an amazing jasmine vine that is right beside the deck climbing on an arbour and right now it is loaded with flowers and the scent is pure heaven.

My brother is planning a visit this summer so we're planning a kayak trip while he is here into the Copeland Islands (aka the Ragged Isles) where we know there are harbour porpoises, harbour seals, jelly fish (of course and I so love them) as well as sea lions!  That really is the best way to catch up with our water friends is being out on the water on a regular basis.

Yesterday I picked up 50 lbs of lye and 12 liters of olive oil so I'm set tomorrow to get some soap made.  I am so far behind I'm pretty sure I'm first.  So tomorrow I plan on getting solid shave soap made in a variety of fragrances as well as some more Salish Egg Soap scented Lilac as well as more of my cocoa butter soaps plus a baby soap which will be goat's milk, Olive oil and castor oil.  This is a really, really gentle soap and I leave it unscented because young children really shouldn't be exposed to a lot of fragrance until they are 3 or so.  I'm going to get some more liquid soap made as well as shower gel as there seems to be people wanting it.

We are having such a flea outbreak again this year that my poor dogs are just going stupid even with flea meds.  We've had to put them on Benedryl to try and relieve some of the itching and it does help but I think I need to reduce the dosage as it does make them rather dopey and sleepy.

So I'll leave you now and hope you all have a wonderful weekend.