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Author Archives: Valerie DeVito

baby steps

The longer I am alive, the more it seems that life is
an endless roller coaster of good times and bad.

When it’s good, it’s so thrilling, we feel as though we may spontaneously combust.
Or, it can be an unexpected, horrific crash; effortlessly breaking, and crippling us.

Most of us plod through, doing the best we know how.
A common thread of being a human, together here on Earth for a very short time.

Another year of time, gone, never to be seen again.
This year has been a tough one, simmering steadily with loss.

As a result, the words, I love you, are perpetually locked & loaded on my lips,
ready to catapult forward with the slightest tug of a heart string.

I do believe that we co-create our lives, whether or not we ‘believe’ in that sort of thing. We are either conscious or unconscious of it. Being conscious is better.
So direct your thoughts to the positive, because the body is a follower,
and listens to everything the brain has to say.

Carefully choose your words, as they have an energy of their own,
and that energy will draw in more of the same.

Seize joy when it presents itself. Laugh hard.
Take baby steps toward what you want, while feeling any emotion that goes with it,
and the Universe has to respond. It’s the Law of Attraction, and it never fails.

When I first started making soap,
I also started this blog, with the best of intentions.
With so many other responsibilities, and life’s happenings, it’s been spotty at best.

This year, my little snippets of free time have been insidiously sucked into a
vortex of Facebook soaping groups, craft fairs and local markets.

I try to choose carefully where I will be spending my time, and shlepping my heavy product to next. I enjoy the meet and greet part. Speaking with passion about the things I love, has always come easy for me. People seem to like it.

At a recent holiday fair, I met a vendor who has plans to open a turn-of-the century type general store this coming spring. He wants to carry my soap and candles!
The funny thing is, at first appearance, I judged the fair a waste of a Saturday.

ย Perhaps, he was the only reason I was at that fair?

I’m imagining good things, and I’ve saved up enough money from sales,
to buy myself a new, double-loaf soap mold.

soap moldIt’s an excellent mold; the Cadillac of soap molds ๐Ÿ™‚

If it doesn’t happen, well, that’s ok, too. Life goes on.

I think that sometimes, when you’re right on top of things,
or in the midst of them, it doesn’t seem like much is happening.

But baby steps do add up. Baby steps matter.
They lay down the roots that we can’t see, and slowly feed growth.

So whatever you’re doing, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have instantaneous success. If you are fortunate enough to do what brings you joy,
you are already successful.

We are in charge of creating our own happiness,
so move in the direction of what moves you, for however long you are given.

Looking Forward To, And Wishing You, A Very Happy New Year!

reminiscing on labels

I was looking at old pictures recently, and it occurred to me that,
if motivated, you can learn a lot about something in a very short time.
Looking back, it’s easier to see how I’ve grown as a soap-maker!

Its only been three years since I began, but it feels like I’ve been doing it forever.
Like most soap-makers I know, I think about it all the time.

I daydream about what I’d like to make next.
Something seasonal? A classic, like Lavender & Oatmeal?
A beer soap? A milk soap? It’s always exciting,
and being passionate about something is food for the soul.

My mind wonders on soapy creations during my day. While I’m cooking,
while I’m rushing about, and of course, when I’m in the shower.
I talk to my dog about ideas, (I’m not sure, but I think I she looks bored)
and then I wonder when I’ll have the time to get soaping.

I’ve gathered that for many soapers’, it’s not the math,
(for me, its the math..but give me a calculator, and I’m a formulating Ninja)
and it’s not the risk of handling the *potentially dangerous lye water
that makes ’em sweat- it’s the labeling!

While I’m naturally horrid at math, I do enjoy labeling.
I liked it right from the start.

When I first starting making labels, I hand wrote them on hang-tags.
Then I decided I wanted something more professional looking,
so I learned how to make simple cigar-band labels.

IMG_1415~Above is a pic of some of my earliest labels. I was very pleased with them!~

IMG_1468~For the packaging above, I used leftover fast food napkins.
Re-purposing is good. Fast food, not so much. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are some more recent labels: DSC_0038~Mermaids are so pretty. She made my Juniper Breeze soap look lovely!~

DSC_0037~I love vintage maps, and they make a great background for masculine scents.~
DSC_0001~Rose always reminds me of my Mom. I’ll save one of these for her.~

I give thanks for the good things in my life; my family and friends,
my furry children, and my job.
And, as strange as it is, making soap feeds my soul.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. ~ Thoreau

Or, To Each His Own. Amen.
*Disclaimer: ALL bar soap is made with lye, sodium hydroxide, or NaOH.
If you’ve read different, it’s a lie, really. ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lye water is a caustic base solution, and it is potentially dangerous-
but only to the person making the soap!
Adding lye water to fatty acids (your chosen oils) produces
the chemical change which results in soap.
As soap-makers, we are well aware of the risk of handling lye water,
and wear full protective gear during the process.

All that being said..
there is no lye in the finished product of a properly formulated soap!

On the contrary, as a general rule, soap-makers ‘super-fat’ their soaps.
This simply means that there is enough lye molecules to turn most of the
fatty acid molecules into soap, but not quite enough to change them all.
This results in a small percentage of free-floating oils in the
finished product, which ensures a mild and conditioning bar.

Long Island Love

I love where I live, I really do.
Long Island enjoys all of the seasons, but Summer has got to be a favorite of most.
(Personally, I prefer the Fall. October can be spectacular here!)
This especially long winter has left lots of folks here craving milder, warmer weather.
And the Sun & Sea!

I enjoy making soaps that reflect The Love of The Island.
I became acutely aware of this recently, as I was chatting with a woman
who owns a gorgeous, Long Island themed boutique.
She stocks her little shop with one of a kind artisan pieces of jewelry, fiber arts,
and paintings. She also stocks gourmet cheeses, chutney’s and spreads.
It’s really quite lovely.

I met her through a friend and I was trying to convince her
that my soaps would fit perfectly in her shop ๐Ÿ™‚

I make a Sea Salt Soap, I heard myself tell her, which is made up of 30% Sea Salt.
Sea Salt soaps possess the same healing properties of the sea, and using them
is equivalent to swimming in our nearby and mineral-rich oceans!

Just as a side-note, last summer, my son took a dip in the ocean, and the eczema break-out on his feet cleared up about 90% by the next morning.
Now, I’m not making any claims here, just an observation..

Besides the salt soaps, I just love loofah-embedded soaps for the summer time.
Did you know, that loofah is a dried-out gourd that actually comes from the
same plant-family as cucumbers? I think most people associate loofah with the sea.
I did, until I learned otherwise!

These soaps are scented with Juniper Breeze fragrance oil,
and also contain skin clarifying Sea Clay.
I think the loofah peeking out looks perfectly imperfect, and beautiful.

My enthusiasm must have rang true, because luckily for me,
the boutique owner was an agreeable type, who will be stocking my soaps soon.

So here’s to salty air, fruity drinks and summer breezes.
Hang in there, because it’s all just around the corner!

playing with wax

Holy Cannoli & Mamma Mia whoever thought candles were so involved?

Candles are a simple luxury I’ve always enjoyed, and spend money on. I thought, I make soap, lots of people who make soap make candles, too. How difficult can it be?
I’ll just make my own. Genius.

When I started researching, I was surprised at what I found. I guess I never paid attention to the fact that there are so many different types of waxes;
I just used my sniffer to decipher what I liked.
Paraffin, Soy, Soy-blends, and Beeswax. Container wax, votive wax, pillar wax.
My head was spinning.

Soy wax sounded nice. Grown in the USA, clean burning candles,
yes, please! I’ll start with Soy.

Four types of candle wax later, and there’s still one more that I’m interested in.
Some of the waxes cracked and caved after pouring, or ‘frosted’,
or developed ‘wet spots’. New terms, that I unfortunately came to understand.
Others had barely a scent.

I’ve never looked at a candle with such discriminating eyes before I made them myself.
This particular wax was easy to work with, and poured beautifully. The tops look creamy, and there was no cracking or caving.
This wax is primarily Soybean, with just a bit of paraffin added.
From what I understand, this gives us the best of both worlds.
A less-finicky pour, and the cold scent throw is strong.
Blackberry Marmalade

Next is the test-burning.
Test-burning is a series of burns, in which you record how well your chosen wick works in your chosen wax, within your chosen container.
Dye and fragrance oil also factor into the outcome, so it’s good to keep accurate notes.
The test-burn will also tell you how many hours your candle will last,
which is helpful if you plan on selling.

You want to make sure your candle is not under or over-wicked. An over-wicked candle will have a large, flickering flame and use up the wax-fuel quickly.
An under-wicked candle will not burn hot enough, which causes tunneling,
or it may even extinguish itself.

I haven’t produced a truly successful candle yet, but I’m determined.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed on these, and lucky me, it’s time to
trim the wicks and test burn!

Always, always trim your wicks, kids.

Burn, Baby, burn. Not too hot, but not too cool, either.
I’d like a Baby Bear Burn, please;ย  just right ๐Ÿ™‚

the joy of moving your business in december

As if the holidays alone aren’t enough work!
Due to some unfortunate, (or perhaps fortunate, as it turns out) events,
I lost my lease right before the holidays. I had been working in the same
location for four and a half years, and the news came as a BIG shock.

So I did something that I thought I’d never do,
and brought my business home. Amazingly, it’s been a dream!

However, It’s been more work than I could ever possibly imagine,
and I’m only now starting to catch up with things.
I can tell you one thing I’ve learned from the experience: haste makes waste.
For sure.

I’d love to tell you that everything I make comes out perfect,
but as any soap-maker would tell you, that is impossible.
I’ve never found soap-making easy, but it’s enjoyable, and I’m persistent.
I would never sell anything that I wouldn’t use on myself or my own family.

Thanks to my gnawing desire to make time for creative endeavors
while trying to settle in, the first soap I made in my new and beautiful
home-studio was diagnosed with the most
dreaded-affliction-known-to-hand-made soap..lye-pockets.

What are lye-pockets, you ask? These crystal glazed, dangerous little pockets
in the finished soap, are filled with unsaponified lye water.
This can happen when the soap batter is not mixed well enough,
which is what happened in my case.
Mermaid Cold-ProcessIt’s not easy to see, but the little white areas are the culprits!
I threw the whole batch in a bowl, and sure enough, the next morning,
there was a small lye puddle at the bottom.

I added insult to injury by posting how I had just made my popular
‘Mermaid Soap’ on Facebook, and I had almost the
whole damn loaf sold within minutes.

It only took me a month, but a bad soap situation, even of this caliber,
can usually be safely cooking the hell out of it!

I shredded the whole loaf, and incorporated a small portion of the shreds into a
fresh batch of oils, which is then cooked until neutral in a crock-pot.
Unlike cold-process, after the ‘cook’, this type of soap is ready to use immediately.
Hot-Process Mermaid Soap
I still have plenty of the original loaf left over to re-cook; not a bad thing.

The new hot-processed soap is more rustic looking than cold-process,
but still beautiful, mild, and bubbly! It’s in my shower now, and I’m loving it.

I’m happy with the new soap, and my new surroundings. Lesson learned.
I love happy endings..and new beginnings, too!

they’re here..

The Holidays!

I have to admit, the holidays have always been special to me.
Growing up, nothing made my mom happier than decorating the house,
and cooking delicious meals for large family gatherings.
I liked when my mom was happy, and I still do.

I heard “Let It Snow” while shopping the other day, and while I
realize how much holiday music (too soon) tends to piss people off-
I am not one of them. Yes, I’m aware it’s a little early,
but I can listen to it everyday, from now until Christmas.

Speaking of, I probably should have come up with a bunch
of holiday soaps sometime ago, but life happens.

I did manage to finally get a shop up on Etsy, and even made my first sale!
I can see this is going to take some work, but I’m up for it.

I made these cute little guest-soaps using a fragrance oil I’ve
wanted to try for the longest time; Frankincense & Myrrh.
It’s a deep, warm Vanilla and Amber based fragrance
that is perfect for winter, and especially holiday gift-giving.
The quintessential holiday scent.

I love packaging!
After looking and looking, I finally found these pretty
little cardboard boats to securely sit the trees into:

Holiday Guest Soaps

These will be up in my Etsy shop, soon.

Not today, though.
I have potato’s to boil, stuffing to make, and company to entertain,
all while listening to my favorite holiday tunes, which are all of them.
Life happens, and I’m grateful for it all.

Wishing You A Very Happy Thanksgiving! ๐Ÿ™‚

the really big show..

I think my family was just about at the end of their rope with me.
All summer, I had been making soaps and such,
in preparation for a huge local seafood festival & craft fair.
The Mother Load of Craft Fairs.

My house was taken over with soap-making supplies,
half-finished and finished product.
Packed and unpacked, some labeling finished, and some on-deck.

Two eight foot tables covered in signage and stock.
And then..deep breath..after four months of preparation,
everything was finally packed and ready to load.

I’m really loving our display.
My crafty, palm-sander-wielding-friend (and with three young
children under foot, mind you) created these
vintage-looking, distressed crates.
Kudos to Lorraine’s Ninja Crafting Skills.
They’re functional and tough, yet appealing to the eye.
We use them to pack the products in for transport,
and then to create interest with different height levels on our tables.

After much nail-biting and anxiety, the fair turned out to be a great success.
Product flew off the tables that took me all summer to make.

I think the feedback we received from customers may have been just
(if not more) as satisfying as making the actual sales.

I mean, we’re not selling Arbonne here,
not that there’s anything wrong with Arbonne..
but it’s the best feeling to see people enjoying something you’ve made by hand!

We sold so much, I started to panic that we’d have nothing left to stock my shop with.
Being cold-process soap takes so long to cure,
I was a little worried with the holidays right around the corner.
But I got this; I’ll just make more.

After some long-term resistance,
I’ve decided to take the plunge and open an ..Etsy shop!

At this moment, Etsy has 51,318 bath & body products listed.
I’d call that some healthy competition! I’m very realistic in my expectations,
but after this weekend, I’ve realized that I do need a place
to point people who are interested in a more simple way of purchasing.
Telling someone I’m free on Thursday in between 1-2pm ain’t cutting it anymore..

Ah, the lovely left-overs all settled in and comfy at the shop.
I have no doubt they’ll find good homes soon.

Listing on Etsy is a slow-go, I’m not so speedy at trying to
figure out yet another new thing. I’ve barely got blogging under my belt.
But new things are good, right? Neuron synapses and what-not.

I’ve always subscribed to the slow and steady wins the race school of thought,
which is a good thing, because the horse before the cart always
turns out to be..awkward.

candles; my maiden voyage!

Now I’ve really gone and done it-ย  I looked.
I stuck my nose where it didn’t belong, and had a good, long lookey-see.

Since I began making soap, I’ve purposefully avoided
anything to do with candle-making. Not that I have anything against candles,
on the contrary, I buy ’em by the dozen.

I have to admit, it wasn’t easy holding out when more than a few people said to me,
“You should make candles. Candles and soap go together!”

I knew eventually, I would have to go to there.
However, I was really enjoying learning how to make soap, and
there’s only so many hours in the day; soap’s ensconced me.

Then, I needed candles, I bought a bunch. After that, I received a
beautiful, hand-made candle and scented wax-tarts
as part of a soap-swap.
The little scratch at the door got louder.

OK, I was ready to look.ย  And I had birthday money!

Aย  friend recommended one of these Candle
Starter Kits from Peak Candle Supply, to simplify things.

It was a great idea, there’s a lot of stuff to know about candles.
Which wax? What wicks go with which wax? What? Why?

I put in my order for the Soy Container Starter Kit,
and started searching in forgotten cabinets for containers.
I was surprised at how many potential containers I already had!
My thrift-store, but perfect tea-cups, looked to be an attractive choice.

I had seen container candles done in tea-cups, and
find it really beautiful. Plus, I had plenty of dusty tea-cups
on hand that I could scrub-up and recycle!

Container candles are really fun and easy,
the perfect first-candle for anybody!
I may try those pretty little tins, come next round..

Candle Making can be pleasingly simple or simply complex,
depending on what you are creating.
It’s always beautiful.

Can’t wait to light my new candle ๐Ÿ™‚

fun, fun soap swap!

Alright, so I’ve only been involved in two my entire life, but they’re so fun!
I was introduced to them over on one of the forums last year,
and it was such a nice experience, I wanted to participate again.

The way that it works is this: a swap hostess posts the swap info
on the forum, and who ever wants to participate, signs up.

There’s usually a limit of 12 or so people, so you gotta sign up quick.
The hostess then collects shipping money from all the participants,
and we have a certain amount of time to create and then mail her our 12 items.

She will divide these up and make each one of us a box.
Each participant will receive a package containing 12 different items!

I’ve seen lip-balm swaps, soaps made with freshly dried herbs,
welcome swaps, and soaps using all-natural colorants.
Basically a swap theme can be whatever anyone dreams up.

It just so happens that both times I joined, it was a Halloween/Autumn themed swap.
Fall is my favorite season, I’m all about the pumpkin!
So, I made Pumpkin Seed Oil Body Butter:
That beautiful amber liquid is pure vitamin E, being added at the ‘cool down’ stage.
And below, my finished product:
So I mailed in my body butter, by the given deadline,
and I received a package in return, containing the twelve different items!
It included candles, lotions, soaps, bubble bath, perfume and a body scrub:
All of it wonderful.
I knew it was here, because the minute I opened the mailbox, I could smell it!
I didn’t get a chance to go through it until the following night at around 9:30 pm.
My friend was over and we were enjoying a glass of wine, when I remembered
I hadn’t had a chance to open it yet!

With Ooo’s and Ahh’s we admired the packaging, all the
while slathering ourselves in delicious-smellling lotions and body butters.
Then I put everything away, to wait for everyone to receive their boxes.
Once everyone has gotten theirs, the postings and reviews will begin.

I can barely wait to use all my Halloween Treats,
so much better than candyย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

covet thy cupcake

What is it about the cupcake that makes it so appealing?
Maybe it has to do with the fact that although it’s beautiful,
with all its fancy embellishments, it’s also small,
so therefore, no sharing is required.

Any pretty soap intrigues me, but I find the soap cupcake especially appealing.
A yummy, decadent treat to use and enjoy.
So much so, that you almost feel guilty doing it.
With a case of the guilts, ya gotta be strong and shake it off- use the soap!

On a side note; those tall, lovely cupcakes are very comfortable to use
if you cut them in half vertically. They will fit perfectly in the palm of your hand.

I’ve made soap cupcakes only a handful of times.
Not because I don’t want to, (’cause I always really want to) but because life gets busy,
and there’s never enough hours in the day, and blah, blah, blah-
we’re all in the same boat.
This week I took some time off from work, so I’ve been getting my soaping on.
Lucky me!

I don’t have a huge array of food flavors for soaping,
so I went with what I had on hand.
I’ve always loved chocolate and mint together, and had both fragrance oils,
so I decided to go with that.
I divided my soap batter into three parts.
Two parts for the base, one part scented in mint, and
the other part scented in chocolate.

The last portion I saved for the ‘icing’.
I wanted to color it green, so I scented this portion in the mint.
Mint fragrance oil doesn’t discolor like chocolate & vanilla scents can.

Since I knew the chocolate part would come out brown anyway,
I added some of Brambleberry’s Vanilla Select
to it, just because it smells incredible!
I was having so much fun, I decided to make some Pumpkin-Caramel Delights.
(I just made that up, because that is what they smell like to me)
I figure with Autumn right around the corner,
who wouldn’t like a little Pumpkin Delight?

Pumpkin, lemon, caramel & a touch of chocolate.
And it’s mine, all mine!
Well, one of them is, I’ve had my eye on on it..

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