Saturday, November 26, 2011

Brief update...

...on how everything's going:

My computer died about a month back and I'm roughing it for now using other people's computers to get everything done. I'm managing well as far as daily life goes: bill paying, checking e-mail, etc. But it's going a little slowly as far as the business side of things are concerned. You do really get used to the convenience of having everything on your computer "just so"!

We took care of our very first Etsy order on two different computers (it went very smoothly thanks to the friendly and patient buyer), and listed one of our lotion formulas on Etsy (woohoo! finally! People around here have been asking for a while) and printed business cards on another. We will soon be listing our lip balms as well as updating the product info on our website, but I've got a miserable cold right now, so I'm waiting on that until probably Monday or Tuesday. :-)

I had a dream last night that we had an open house for our soap and a friend came up and said "I bought something from your Etsy shop!" It reminded me of one of those dreams where you find treasure and then you wake up disappointed because it's not real- apparently getting Etsy sales is the new "finding treasure", *lol*...

It hasn't all been work since my computer died though- my Mom and I discovered the slightly-addictive Abbey Road Cam, and we've been playing a lot of Minecraft as a family. Good times!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Public service announcement: Check those old passwords!

We noticed last night that our bank account got charged for two Microsoft items (to be exact in case anyone googles this: MICROSOFT ONE MICROSOFT W 08003865550 WA ) and did a little digging to try and find an answer as to why it happened. We wanted to post the information we found out in case it can be helpful to anyone who goes through the same thing- what we found helpful and what we would suggest avoiding.

After we noticed the charges, we called Microsoft right away. This is something that we would NOT suggest doing. (The most common phone number you'll get when you search on the internet is 866-672-4551. This is the phone number for their billing department- more specifically, the department that handles subscriptions.) It seems like others have also tried this route and have had no success getting the problem solved. The first thing the representative did when we tried to explain the situation was ask for our full credit card number. Our reaction: "Wait, what? Someone just committed credit card fraud and now you want us to give you our full number?" They told us something about how the credit card information is not stored (which does not make sense, because then why would they want the full number? The rep had no explanation.). We tried another number for Microsoft and just got transferred back to this billing number, and got told the same thing. It seems like all roads when calling Microsoft about fraud lead to this department, and they don't have any answers. The second rep admitted that the credit card number would be on file, but not your security code or the expiration date of the card. We still did not feel comfortable giving the credit card number out.

Our second call was to the bank, to dispute these charges and have them send us a new card. (If this kind of fraud happens to you, it will probably not be due to a lost card. Your poor card will probably still be sitting safely in your wallet. Call the 1-800 number on the back of the card to talk to someone.) The rep was able to see the charge right away, and the full information about where the charge came from, which is not something you can always see when you're just checking your statement online. In any case, at least we have the peace of mind knowing that the random person who bought the two things can't do it again.

Our third call was just as helpful, and we think that after you call your bank, it should be your next call. We gave up on getting help through Microsoft and got more specific- we called XBOX support. (The direct number there is 1-800-469-9269.) If you call you might be a bit intimidated by the huge menu, *lol*, but just make sure you get to the part where you can speak to a real person. I think we went through the billing department, and the first (and only) person we spoke to was incredibly helpful, sympathetic and understanding, not only fixing the problem on their end but also explaining how it might have happened in our case. We each had different questions, and so this patient rep ended up talking to almost every member of our family in turn to answer them. He could see on our account exactly what the person had tried to do, and gave us reassurance that the matter was being investigated, and told us how we could keep up with that investigation (it takes 25 days to make a full investigation, but they restore your account completely and put everything back the way it was before the fraudulent charges were applied.)

Even if you don't even have an XBox, but someone does this to you, we would still suggest calling the Xbox support number. (Whenever we've had to talk to Microsoft support, we've had negative experiences- but whenever we've had to call XBox support, we have come away with glowing praise for the reps. Haven't been able to figure that one out.) At the very least, the rep can ask you questions to try to find a link between the charge and your recent activity. The rep we spoke to asked very specific questions (including the last four digits of our credit card number as confirmation, which we are completely okay with) to see if there was any way that someone could have taken our credit card number or hacked our computer. Like I said, I've noticed from research about this problem that it's even happened to people who don't even have an Xbox or Microsoft account of any kind, but calling can still, at the very least, let them know that there is a problem, and they can give you some suggestions.

I think the most valuable piece of advice we came away with today was to check and make sure that any passwords for old e-mail accounts are still secure. It happens all the time in this busy world- we get an e-mail address, then suddenly months or years pass and we haven't checked it or even thought about it because we have another one that we use more. But hackers get better all the time- and nowadays even the big companies are getting hacked (Sony, Google, Microsoft, and many more!), so if you have any old "straggler" e-mail accounts, they may not be secure either. And if any of those old e-mail accounts are linked to your online activity, you are susceptible to fraud (or at the very least, privacy invasion!). We believe that this was the link to this charge in our case- one of the "big guys" got hacked (MSN) and we were one of the "little guys" whose information is now out there somewhere. And it's just a good policy anyway to keep your passwords up-to-date and secure- can you imagine how insecure your passwords from a few years back are when we are now being encouraged to use capital letters, more numbers, and special characters? Check those old accounts or close them, and make sure that you change the passwords often (one site suggested every three months).

Okay, well, I'm sorry if that was long-winded, but I hope you can learn from our experience and prevent this from happening to you. :-)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Centering your webpage when you've got a full size background

I just finished fixing our website so that when your browser isn't fullscreen, it will still look nice, and not all smooshed to the left side of the screen. My eyes are so crossed right now...

Here's a link to the page that I found the most helpful in my quest to center my poor webpage:

It looks perfect on our resolution of 1024x768, but I don't dare check it out on any other resolution... that might mean more coding! *gasp!* I got out of the web design business 10+ years ago, so I am completely out of date with my HTML skills. (I'm glad I chose soap as a business instead. It's stayed relatively the same for how many thousands of years? *lol*)

Note to self: when you're done uploading your changes, hit F5 before you freak out because they don't seem to have taken effect. No, just hitting 'refresh' won't always do it... I didn't think the last bit of coding I tried worked so I was ready to start all over again with another piece of coding, but then I heard my I.T. brother's voice in my head: "Diiiiid you hiiiiit F-fiiiiiiive?" (You know when Luke is stranded on Hoth and he sees Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan says "Uuuuuuuse the foooorce, Luke..."? Like that.) I've learned the whole "have you tried turning it off and then on again?" thing, now I just need to get that drilled into my brain. ;-)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

MMS Swap!

We got our box today from the Majestic Mountain Sage "Simply Botanicals" Swap and gathered around to smell everything and sample the salves and lotions. This was a BLAST! Next week when I know that everyone has received their goodies I'm going to post again with pictures and details of everything. I look forward to doing more sampling! :-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If you're having problems seeing images on's something you should try-

Go to in a new tab, then go to your AdBlockPlus options (this is easy in the newest version of Firefox, since ABP is a little red stop sign at the top of the browser. Just click the drop arrow next to it.) and click "disable on".

Out of the blue about two days ago, half the images on Etsy stopped working for me. I didn't think it was anything I did, because it was half of all the images, not just half of my images. I also hadn't changed any image filters or anything- but I had forgotten that ABP checks for updates on its own. And like all the best programs, it was a bit "over-helpful" in blocking what looked like ads. ;-)

I noticed while doing research to try and fix the problem that most people say that the only images affected are on (or loading from), and that if they have two browsers, all the images work just fine on one, but not the other. If you're having the same problem, I hope you'll give this quick fix a try.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Finally on Etsy!

Well, I JUST finished opening our Etsy store and listing our first item. Aaaaand, I wasn't wearing my glasses, so now everything is blurry. *l* This evening I have a lotion order to complete, but tomorrow I'll work on listing the rest of the soap and lotion that we have for sale. :-) And I'll wear my glasses this time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Canfield Fair 2011

Every year, Canfield, Ohio has a 6-day craft and agricultural show, and we wanted to post a link for the people who are getting directed here by search engines. (Having people check out the blog is cool, but that's not exactly what they came here for, *l*)
Prices and tickets

It looks like SO MUCH FUN! It's over for the year, but maybe some year we can go... it's only 2,466 miles away! ;-)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

San Diego power outage

I just wanted to ask- if anyone has a picture (or knows where I can find one) of the power out in Downtown San Diego, can you point me in that direction? Our neighbor rode his motorcycle down Orange in Coronado and said the sight across the bay was a once-in-a-lifetime sight- all of San Diego with no lights! But on the AM news they were advising not driving unless absolutely necessary... and I guess driving down the Strand to gawk didn't count... ;-)

EDIT: I found a couple of photos online- here are the links to the articles/slideshows.
Slideshow photos by Mark J. Terrill - Check here for a larger copy of the first photo! San Diego looks cool in the dark with only the emergency lights on.
Another slideshow of San Diego's power outage- I liked the first photo of the freeway, but it's also interesting to see people just kind of... waiting for the power to come back on.
This short article includes a map of the affected areas, and an interesting first-person description of the power outage and the "block party" atmosphere that it caused. We experienced the same thing in our neighborhood- people were out on their bikes, in their front yards looking at the stars and talking to their neighbors, and generally having fun. You could hear people all over the neighborhood enjoying just being outside in the cool air.

Site update

I've spent yesterday and today completely revamping our website, and tomorrow and for the weekend I'm going to be working on updating the products page to include our new soaps and a page for lotion and lip balm, which we make to order. I'm also updating the FAQ, since it was previously geared to soap and now we're making other products (and people have had a lot of questions!). After that it will hopefully be maintenance- keeping the scents and sizes in order, that sort of thing. :-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lotion update

I took a few minutes yesterday to make some fresh Shea Butter lotion for Mom, who needed something soothing. I used some extracts and allantoin for their healing properties, and I scented it with Chocolate Raspberry. Today it's a bit on the Raspberry side, so I may need to add more Chocolate. (It still smells delicious!) Our Shea Butter lotion makes our skin sooooo soft... I find myself using it even when I really don't need lotion, just for the extra healthy feel of my skin after I use it.

Today's batch will be a lighter lotion with Wheat Germ oil. I'll let you know how it goes! :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Autumn S.O.A.P. team time!

Whoa, time flies, doesn't it? I can't believe it's already been a whole season since the last S.O.A.P. team was chosen and did their testing. Bramble Berry is accepting blog entries to choose the new team, and I'd love to be chosen to be on the panel!

Believe it or not, my favorite product from Bramble Berry is still the water resistant label paper! This paper is awesome! I've gotten the paper wet on accident and wondered what would happen, and unlike some other "water resistant" paper, you can't even tell that anything happened. It's also not glossy (which I liked because it looks more natural) and not pre-sectioned, so your labels can be whatever size you choose. Okay, maybe that's a bit boring of me to choose the same thing I did last time, so I'll show you the mold that's a favorite around here- the Wave mold! It's a great, and stylish, all-purpose bar mold- the best thing about this mold is that the soap it makes stays in your hand and keeps its wave shape down to the very last ounce of soap.

I really enjoyed reading all of the entries for the past few panels- everyone did their testing so thoroughly that it seems a bit daunting to try to think of new ways to test the scents, but I'd really love to give it a shot! I have a few ideas that are different from what others made, so I didn't want to pass up the chance to volunteer. My fellow potential scent testing participants (aka, my family!) are helping me get my ideas together, and we are excited about the challenge of testing on a larger scale than what we're used to. Autumn is our favorite season (here in San Diego even the weather seems to agree that it would much rather be autumn than summer!) and we'd love to participate in testing the new autumn/winter scents.

Thanks for reading, everyone! It's great to be part of the ever-friendly and ever-enthusiastic soaping community- here's wishing the best to everyone who gets chosen, and we look forward to reading your entries! :-)

Total lunar eclipse in Tajikistan

I saw this on APOD and wanted to repost- I think very few of us have seen a total lunar eclipse, so my jaw dropped when I saw this. We all love astronomy! Hope you enjoy it too! (And do watch it in full screen if you get the chance! :D )

Here's the description from APOD: "If the full Moon suddenly faded, what would you see? The answer during the total lunar eclipse last month was recorded in a dramatic time lapse video from Tajikistan. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth moves between the Moon and the Sun, causing the moon to fade dramatically. The Moon never gets completely dark, though, since the Earth's atmosphere refracts some light. As the above video begins, the scene may appear to be daytime and sunlit, but actually it is a nighttime and lit by the glow of the full Moon. As the moon becomes eclipsed and fades, the wind dies down and background stars can be seen reflected in foreground lake. Most spectacularly, the sky surrounding the eclipsed moon suddenly appears to be full of stars and highlighted by the busy plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. The sequence repeats with a closer view, and the final image shows the placement of the eclipsed Moon near the Eagle, Swan, Trifid, and Lagoon nebulas. Nearly two hours after the eclipse started, the moon emerges from the Earth's shadow and its bright full glare again dominates the sky."

Monday, August 8, 2011

SLS vs... SLS?

Looking at the websites of a couple of skin care companies today, I noticed that both of them mentioned that they one, don't use surfactants, and two, stay away from anything with the words "lauryl" or "laureth" in it (Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, etc). The thought came to me that these statements could mislead some who had never heard the terms... So, having done a mind-boggling amount of research on these terms, I thought I'd post a few links and give some information to help arm you when reading the label of that soap/shampoo/bath bomb/toothpaste etc. Please see the links below to do more research on your own. :-)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Soap roundup

Today I've been working on taking stock of the soap we've made over the past few weeks, and thought I'd share a photo of a couple of the ones people have been loving so far. One lady mentioned that she hung on to her Spiced Apple-Pear butterfly for a few days because at first she thought it was just too cute to use!

Okay, I know you can't smell them, but these recent soaps are scented with Jasmine, and two lovely "soapy" scents- Crystal Blue (an herbal/oceany scent that I have been saving for a while) and Fresh Air (an ozone/fresh scent). All very "mmmmm!" inducing. ;-)

My main goal was to make soap today, but I found that I was just about half an ounce short of the amount of yogurt I needed! I thought I'd have to be patient until tomorrow, but my brothers are rescuing me by stopping to grab some yogurt this afternoon. Two tubs of it- "one for eating, and one for soap", as my older brother said. Thank you, guys!

I also wanted to let everyone know that sometime within the next week I'll be updating our site to include all the recent stock we've made, and adding a full page dedicated to the "made to order" products that we provide- lotion, lip balm, etc. Second, in the near future, we will me making a more detailed Yogurt Soap tutorial and posting it here. We noticed that a lot of people are browsing our last entry about our experiences with yogurt soapmaking, and wanted to give them a bit more info in case they wanted to try it themselves. :-)

Upright mold swirl tutorial

I usually save links to LiveJournal, but it's not loading for some reason... so here I am, with a link for making elegant, yet simple swirls in an upright mold. Check it out!

Update: In unrelated news, I found the reason LJ isn't loading... DDos attacks! *winces*

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

AWESOME soap gear!

For Craft's Sake Soap cutters

This is waaaay out of my price range right now, but can you imagine going through your whole log of soap in just a minute or two? LOVE it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Craft Show tips from Dirty Laundry

I wanted to be sure I shared Jeanee's blog posts about preparing for, attending, and cleaning up after craft shows. All three are excellent reads for anyone who wants to sell their crafts at a show (or farmer's market, or open house...) and have the minimum amount of stress, while having the maximum amount of fun and, of course, being professional. Or, anyone who wants to "ooh" and "aah" over a lovely display and adorable products! ;-)

Part one: Before the Show

Part two: During the Show

Part three: After the Show

Thank you, Jeanee, for sharing your years of experience! I came away feeling much more educated, prepared and confident- I gleaned so many tips that I will put into practice when we do sell at craft shows in the future!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chocolate... essential for all soapmakers

Wanted to save this link:

Ghirardelli's 54-count "build a bag" of chocolate squares

I'm a huge fan of the 60% Dark myself. :-)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Jasmine soap woes

Just finished a DELICIOUS smelling batch of Jasmine yogurt soap- the weather here is not making it easy... closed toe shoes, fully gloved, mask on, goggles on... on a warm humid day!

I somehow managed to freeze the yogurt I was going to use, and did not discover it until it was time to add it to the soap! Managed to get it pretty well defrosted, but I fear that my tan soap is going to have tiny white yogurt specks. I was laughing at myself because coincidentally, I did this exact same thing to the last batch of Jasmine soap that I made. It was wonderful soap- but had tiny white specks!

Off to make more soap! This weekend's project will probably involve making soap boxes and making coffee... to put in the soap and also in ourselves. ;-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New yogurt soaps

We've got a batch of Spiced Apple Pear soaps that have been curing for about 2 1/2 weeks now, and even though the yogurt combined with (I suspect) the touch of vanilla in the fragrance is turning them tan, they're going to be really pretty!

These molds are pretty adorable, aren't they? We've even had guys stop by who have said "that soap is beautiful!" :-)

I made some soap using this same recipe, scented with Citrus & Basil, and we couldn't resist using it. Even at 2 weeks, the soap holds together extremely well, doesn't mush when it sits in water (which surprised me, since it has such a high yogurt content), and lathers and moisturizes beautifully. I'm not going to post pictures of the Citrus & Basil batch because they turned out a bit "cute grunge", as we call them... what that really means is that I waited too long to pour the soap (I was getting the additives mixed in well) and the last few bars ended up pretty chunky in the mold! Oh well, good thing that doesn't affect the quality of the soap! ;-)

The good thing about the "cute grunge" batch was that we have found an excellent "tester bar" or guest bath soap size. We're making more next week, using Jasmine fragrance, and I'll post pictures then.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to play Cassino

Wiki article on how to play Cassino

My youngest brother and I heard about a card game called Cassino and looked up the rules, and then played a few hands. Once you get the rules down it's a lot of fun! It's called a "fishing" game, which means you collect and pair cards as you play. It is very much like "go fish", except you collect cards from the table, not other players' hands. You can also "add" cards to other cards on the table to make them equal the number you're 'fishing' for.

I would highly recommend this game, and it seems especially suited for younger teens who have outgrown "go fish" but are still interested in cards. The end of each complete deal is especially fun, because calculating your points can mean a complete reversal of who you thought was doing well!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Windburn prevention lotion

I've never tried a recipe with Allantoin before, but since we're going to be in a very windy stadium this weekend I'm trying a light moisture recipe that will hopefully prevent (or at least soothe!) some of the windburn I know we're all going to get. :-)

80 gr. water

10 gr. palm kernel oil
6 gr. stearic acid
5 gr. em. wax

5 gr. rice bran oil
5 gr. wheat germ oil

2 gr. vit. e
2 gr. wheat protein
2 gr. sodium lactate
1.5 gr. Optiphen preservative

2 gr. allantoin
2 gr. ivy extract


This lotion recipe is usually very light on the skin. I need to add the allantoin after the lotion is cooling, when it's at about 90 degrees. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Summer S.O.A.P Team!

I'm coming back from a blogging absence to post about why I'd love to be considered for Bramble Berry's Summer S.O.A.P. team- this has been a good chance for me to get out of the lab (aka, kitchen filled with experiments!) and concentrate on the 'technology' side of soaping... blogging about it! :-)

To begin, my favorite Bramble Berry product (as yet) is the water resistant label paper! That may sound like a strange choice- but I know labeling is an important step in getting our business off the ground, and it's the product I am still the most excited about! What you put on the outside of a product reflects the care that went into the product. It's great to find quality label paper at a great price, and the thing that I was the most thrilled about was that I could buy it a few sheets at a time for testing. It's nice to be able to save money wherever you can when you're just starting to turn your hobby into a business.

A sheet of plain paper, full of label color print tests. Time to make labels!

I would love to be considered for this panel because I am constantly looking for new challenges while working on our business. It's been a bit scary trying to take something that was a fun hobby into the world of small businesses, so my awesome helpers (my Mom and three brothers) and I have done our best to leave our comfort zones and experiment to create things that we think others will like (and that we love!). And, though the business aspect is still in the works, we have already had the best kind of rewards- seeing other people get excited about what we're doing!

Now it's time to take it one step further and start branching out to help others in the crafting community! We've done it on a small scale, answering questions from friends and on forums, and even having friends over to show them that making soap or lotion isn't hard. It feels great to have someone literally jumping up and down because you're showing them how to make soap! But we would also love to contribute something to the companies that we purchase our supplies from to show we appreciate their hard work, which is why I'm volunteering for the S.O.A.P. panel. Plus, who could pass up a chance at something that sounds this fun? ;-)

I'm very fortunate to have four willing family members- we are all very different so when we come together to work on crafts we have a lot to bring to the table. If I am chosen to participate in the S.O.A.P. team, I look forward to getting their first impressions on the scents and their help with the projects. :-)

In either case, I have enjoyed reading the blogs about the last S.O.A.P. team and look forward to reading everyone's experiences with this panel and seeing the results!

Take care, everybody!