Friday, February 27, 2009
My friend, Tamara sent me this photo. For quite a while she's been using a satin jewelry pouch that I sent her as a holder for her ipod. She says it works great and many people have asked her about it.
Photo by Tamara Munger. Used with permission.
I need to send her a new one . . . Tamara, I hope you like eggplant color because I only have one left!
I don't actually use these for my jewelry sales. I use a sheer organza pouch since I like to be able to see through mine so I know what's in all those little pouches in my jewelry box. But when I travelled to China and shopped at the Pearl Market in Beijing, they packed up my order and used these little, empty, satin pouches in all different colors instead of packing peanuts or tissue in my box. Most of them have been given away to little girls who find them to be quite charming and to bigger girls who find other uses for them. Thanks Tamara!
My current jewelry packaging
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
I have a winner for my bleeding heart flower earrings GIVE-A-WAY using the highly scientific method of printing off a list of all my newsletter subscribers, snipping it up into slips, putting them in a bowl, holding it over my 7 year old's head while having him draw one.
Congratulations to Kathy Matchett of Florida. Enjoy your earrings!
Friday, February 13, 2009
I started making soap for my family back in the early 1990s before hand-crafted soaps became as popular as they are today. We immediately discovered the benefits of using our own. Handmade soaps retain all the natural glycerin produced in the soap making process which is very soothing to the skin. Most mass manufactured soaps have the natural glycerin extracted so it can be sold for making lotions. They also use a lot of ingredients to make soap lather, because people like a lot of lather, even though it has nothing to do with getting you clean. Those are the same ingredients that tend to dry skin. If you use a shower puff with hand-crafted soaps, you will get just as much of that lovely lather without the drying effects.
Soap making is a process with many steps and involves using highly caustic lye so it needs to be done with care and away from young children. Because of living overseas for a while, it's been some time since I've made soap, but I jumped back into it this week and it's been fun.
You need lots of high quality ingredients to make a good bar of hand-crafted soap. These ingredients are not cheap, so you can expect to spend upwards of $1 per ounce for good hand-made soap. A good bar should be long lasting, smell great, be wonderful for you skin and nothing like grocery store bar soap so it's worth every penny. There are so many wonderful soap makers out there these days. Check the end of this post for some of my recommendations!
Pictured above: pine box soap molds made by my father, food grade olive oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, coconut oil, lye, natural powdered clay, cocoa butter, oatmeal, honey, pure essential oils and vitamin E oil.
Above: I line my soap molds with freezer paper. Then I very carefully mix a water and lye solution in the garage with good ventilation and protective gloves and safety glasses. Mixing the lye into the water causes a chemical reaction that heats the solution. I then let it cool overnight. The next day I carefully weigh out the oils that I have chosen to use for this batch of soap. This time I am making an oatmeal, wheat germ and honey soap with olive oil, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, cocoa butter and vitamin E. I heat the oils on the stove top just enough to melt the oils that are solid at room temperature such as coconut oil and cocoa butter. I also put the container of lye solution in a sink of hot water to bring it up to temperature. For optimum results all the ingredients should fall into the same warmed temperature range.
I'm the only one I know who does this, but once you mix the lye solution with the oils, you have to stir like crazy for a long time. I discovered I could make a batch of soap that was just big enough to fit in my Kitchenaid mixer and not have to do the stirring by hand. Most soap makers now use stick blenders. The mixture in the bowl will begin to turn lighter and more opaque. Stirring continues until the mixture comes to a "trace" or thickens slightly. At that point the fun begins: I add oatmeal that I've ground into powder, wheat germ and a little honey.
The whole mixture gets poured into the prepared mold and covered. I usually have to wait a couple of days before the slab of soap is ready to unmold. It will continue to turn lighter and more opaque as well as becoming harder as the saponification process progresses.
Two days later I grip the freezer paper and pull the slab free of the mold. I double check that it is hard enough to cut into bars.
Using a long quilting ruler and a sharp knife, I slice the slab into bars. We like big, chunky bars that can last a couple of weeks in the shower with a couple of people using them. These bars weigh about 6 ounces. They will have to cure for at least a month before the saponification process is complete, the water is gone and they have mellowed enough to use. I usually cut one or two bars in half to use for hand soaps.
You can extend the life of each bar of soap by making sure water has a chance to drain away from it after each use by using a appropriate style of soap dish or a soap "raft." You can also use every last sliver of soap by saving them up in a "soap saver" such as the beautifully crocheted ones made by Anastasia from Mattscraftywife on Etsy.com. We have some of hers and they are wonderful! She also has sweet little crocheted cotton facial scrubbies.
Also on Etsy.com I have found some truly wonderful soapmakers that I highly recommend:
Wendy from BesemNaturalScents makes cold process soaps a little like I just showed you, but she does it much better. I have purchased from her and can assure you that her bars are very long lasting and have wonderful scents. She also makes extremely high quality candles in the same scents and has a very earth friendly shop.
Lucy from mummumscrafts makes cold process soaps as well as mineral makeup, lipbalms and other products. She is very in-tune to what those with sensitive skin issues need and keeps coming up with new items so check back often. I am hearing rave reviews on her goats milk lotions.
Diane from LusciousLather makes the most beautiful soaps ever. If you want something very special for gifts, guest baths or to treat yourself, you have to check out her shop. I also hear that her clear complexion bar works wonders. I'm planning on testing that out for myself soon.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
I'm giving these away on Valentines Day!
Find out how you can win below:
This is my new design based on the graceful bleeding heart flower. I've designed them in both red and pink. These are in red coral, glass seed beads and sterling silver. I'll be choosing a winner on February 14th, 2009.
I will pick a random winner from my list of Newsletter Subscribers (blog followers are not considered newsletter subscribers so that there are no duplicatons). As always, my subscribers are my preferred customers. If you already subscribe to my e-mail newsletter, you are already entered. If you would like to subscribe, visit the Newsletters page on my website.
I send out an e-mail newsletter every month or two with jewelry buying tips and trends, new items and sales. I do not sell or otherwise share your information with anyone. I plan to do more give-a-ways this year so spread the news!
Sunday, February 1, 2009
I don't usually make a New Years resolution. But I would like to be able to memorize scripture better. I've never been able to retain the scripture that I have set out to memorize. Last year, when I started my business, I chose a verse to use on my website as a motto:
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man." Colossians 3:23
Seeing it on my website and using it for my business all year has allowed me to actually retain it. This year I've decided to "adopt" another scripture verse for the year.
". . . And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8
A photo my husband took of my parents' yard in Michigan