Friday, September 16, 2016

Soap Shopping at Cheese Days

I'm mixing it up this time.  For the first time since I joined the farmer's market, I won't be participating in the Cheese Days Farmer's Market in Monroe, Wisconsin.  I'm taking a break and enjoying the day!  But you can still find my soaps this weekend, and in the middle of all the action.

Right here, at JoAnne's Dress Shop:

It's easy to find!  It's right across the street from the Main Stage.  (It's where all the Swiss music and yodeling is coming from.)

You'll find a large variety of soaps and my other products...

...and even loofah soaps, while they last.

So you can shop while I eat.  Cheese curds and cheesecake-on-a-stick, here we come!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Soap Opera

The Soap Opera is a downtown landmark on State Street in Madison, WI, just a couple of blocks from the capitol.  What a place!  Soap, soap, and more soap.   I've visited there several times over the years (if you even had to ask).

When the Soap Opera's owner approached me a couple months ago, asking to include my soaps in the shop's made in Wisconsin line, I was on board!

Actually, my first exposure to The Soap Opera came from one of my herbal books, published in 1976. Jeanne Rose's Herbal Body Book listed the shop.  It was one of four locations listed in Wisconsin and the closest to me.  Forty plus years later, the shop is still around and thriving!

Have you ever seen so much soap in your life?!

So when you think of Wisconsin, what do you think of?  If you think of beer, cheese and cows, there's a soap for that.  And all three are available at The Soap Opera.

Dairyland, with a Holstein cow design and a fresh sweet grass fragrance...

The eye-catching Cheese soap, also with a sweet grass fragrance...

And then the oh, so very popular beer soap, on the left side of the Cheese soap.  This bar has an Oatmeal Stout scent, which, most unfortunately, is not edible.

Besides these, The Soap Opera also carries several other soaps of mine, including Lilac Blossom, Lime Cilantro, and all the rest that you'll just have to smell for yourself!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Soap + Alpacas = Felted Bubbles

I've recently teamed up with Danielle of Meadow Ridge Alpacas, a fellow vendor at my local farmer's soaps with her alpaca fiber.  I can already tell it's going to be a great partnership.

The idea of felted soaps was a new one for both of us but it seemed logical given our products.  So we turned to our good friend, YouTube.  After watching lots of videos, I gave it a try.   It was a Goldilocks kind of project--the first one was too thick, the second was too thin, but my third, fourth, and fifth attempts were just right.  It's a strange concept, the idea of turning a mass of soft fibers into a scrubby, felt washcloth attached right to the soap.  But it really works!

I love the color variations of the natural alpaca fiber.  But of course, I can never leave well enough alone, so my next project will be learning how to dye the fibers to add a splash of pretty color.  (Because we all know prettier soap gets you cleaner.)

The market opens this week, so you can stop by my booth or Danielle's to get your own bar!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Mr. in the Workroom

It's not often that I have company when I make soap.  In fact, it's pretty rare.  But since my shelves were nearly sold bare at Christmas time, it's taken some work to get my inventory back up to full capacity.  On a recent Thursday night my husband suggested that I prep oils and molds and we would make some soap together the following evening.

So Friday night, I had a hot date with my guy and soap.  (Not too shabby!)  We make a good team!  He was a great help, stirring lye solutions, measuring fragrances, and even choosing color schemes. 

We made six batches, which included a few test batches.

Here is one of the test batches that he poured by himself--his first attempt.  I think it's gorgeous!  He has a lot of natural talent, don't you think?

He's a keeper!  (And so were the soaps.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Loofah Soap with John McGivern in Monroe, WI

If you don't live in the midwestern United States, you may have not heard of the show Around the Corner with John McGivern...yet.  But it's hugely popular in Wisconsin and the surrounding states and the interest is growing!  I can't say enough to praise the whole crew and thank them for all the work they put into the program.

Last April I was contacted and asked to be on an upcoming episode that took place in the town in which I live, Monroe.  I agreed (gulp) and the filming took place in June and some more in September.  The show finally aired last night, even though I got to see it a few days earlier.  So here it is....

And there you have it.  Maybe you should vacation in Monroe this year?  You'll certainly be well fed, well entertained, and of course, if you swing by for some soap, very clean. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Simpler Life

It's 2015 already!  And halfway through January, to boot!

For me, 2014 was a blur of action--farmer's markets twice a week, an abundant garden, a few big home projects, summer work as a school aide, lots and lots of soap and even a couple of vacations wedged in among everything. It was a good year, but....not the sort that creates a sane family life.

Late last summer, my husband and I discussed pulling back on some of our commitments and purposefully not signing onto everything that looks like fun.  (A significant weakness of mine.)  So, I finished my stint as manager of the Monroe's farmer's market in November and didn't fill up every weekend leading up to Christmas with craft shows.

Life is much better!  Right now I'm enjoying the slower pace that comes during the winter months.  But my primary focus this January is streamlining 10th Ave. operations--making bigger batches of soap and learning to be more efficient with my time in the workroom to make everything run smoother.

When I'm not in my soap room, I've been catching up on many things that I neglected in 2014. making my family pretty happy.  For instance, here are the results of a recent afternoon:

All this to say that I'll still be around this coming summer, of course, but I may miss a market here and there for family "emergencies" that involve kayaks, tents, and bicycles or maybe just nothing.  (And if I'm not at the market and your soapy needs reach critical levels, check the tab at the top of this page titled "Buy soap locally.")

Hope to see you at the Winter Market on the Square on Saturday, January 17th from 9-2 at the Masonic Temple building on the north side of Monroe's square!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Minding my Beeswax

I bought some beeswax....awhile ago.  As in a year ago.  A friend of mine in the honey business was learning how to take care of the beeswax and had lots of extra.  Local beeswax?  At a good price with no shipping charges?  I was in.  As it turned out, she had done for the first step in cleaning it, but to get the best quality, cleanest beeswax, it needed a second step.  I finally got around to doing it this fall, as I'd run out of my previous stash and all the cleaner pieces I had.

Yellow jackets that died a waxy death.
Cleaning beeswax isn't hard, but it does take a lot of waiting.  The first step for me was cutting it into smaller chunks to melt it down.

Wrenching off pieces of beeswax with a butcher knife is a workout like no other.

My "double boiler"--a #10 can in an old saucepan
Melting the beeswax down took awhile in my makeshift double boiler.  When melted, the pure beeswax stays on the top while the junk and bugs sink to the bottom.  I could then pour out the wax into silicone mold shapes and it wasn't long before I could pop them out.
For clean-up, I found a heat gun to be the handiest thing ever.  It was easier to wipe up melted beeswax than scrape it off the counter, floor, and stovetop.  I also used it to melt bits of beeswax off the blade and handle of my butcher knife, one of the few pieces of equipment that I've re-used.  On the plus side, I think the handle is permanently waterproofed!
Now I have a couple of bags of beautiful, dark golden beeswax in smaller, more manageable chunks.  (The honey scent is incredible, by the way.)  So what do I use beeswax for?  Several products--lotion sticks, lip balms, and sugar scrubs.