December 2008- finally have extra time on my hands, decide to play with a body butter recipe. People have been asking us for a lotion to match their soap for years. Research recipes and ingredients with giddy anticipation....
Later that day- Order ingredients needed then impatiently start a test batch with oils and butters already on hand. Whip like crazy, getting butter on my hands, apron and more. Hands are slippery, I've got butter in my hair now, what was I thinking?
The supplies arrive- I can't wait to start a "real" batch. Follow the recipe exactly, the butter looks great- so excited! Wait, why is it so greasy? More research...
January 2009- Try again. This batch is less greasy, but feels like I have chalk dust on my hands after I use it. Shoot! What do I do with all this body butter? Take a break to regroup.
February 2009- Better! Put batch aside and bask in the victory. Go back a week later and the oil has separated out of the butter....another failure, more research, more ingredients....
So goes every new product- try and fail, try and fail, try and fail not so badly, adjust, try and better, keep trying and finally- perfect! The body butter is in our shop after almost a year of tweaking, we love it and hope you do too!
Today is our 15th wedding anniversary! Every day I thank God for the wonderful man in my life. For my children, the roof over our heads, food on the table and the peacefulness of our everyday lives.
I met my husband 17 years ago- a single mom with a special needs baby. That wonderful man stepped right up and became a father to our daughter, and adopted her legally in 1994. I remember the judge telling Kent to think before he signed the adoption papers. That by signing the paper, he would be responsible for Jen and her needs for the rest of his life. Kent listened, then signed the paper without even hesitating. Makes me cry to this day to think about it.
Happy anniversary, Sweetheart! You are the joy of my life!
Clementine is in Rwanda, she sent a final letter and has graduated from her year of support through Women for Women International. She writes that she used the support she received from all of you during the last year to buy a cow, two chickens and two rabbits! She's planning on forming a co-op with other women in her group, isn't that fabulous?
Zijada is in Bosnia- we never really got to know her well as she chose not to write letters. She wrote in her exit interview that she used her support to buy food for her family, that her housing conditions, self confidence and support network all improved, and that her awareness of her rights is much stronger.
Our newest sisters are both in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Faila is 26 years old, is divorced and has two children, a boy and a girl. She is also caring for FIVE of her younger brothers and sisters, the woman takes care of 7 children! She is unable to read or write. Their home is listed as a hut or a shack, with no electricity; a cooking fire is used for cooking meals and water comes from the nearby river. She has some animals for support of her family. Faila says that her family's health is poor, that she cannot afford medical care when needed and there are security concerns when leaving her group. She has lost family members to violence. Faila is looking forward to being more active in her community and developing friendships and a support network through the program.
Mapendo is 27 years old, is married and has three children. She has been in the Women for Women International program for several months, but her sponsor was unable to continue so we're going to finish out her sponsorship. Besides her own children she takes care of a younger brother and sister- that makes 5 children in her family. Mapendo is unable to read and write more than her name. They live in a house with no electricity and no running water, water comes from a nearby river. They have access to batteries for lighting their home. Mapendo has animals to tend to support her family, but rates her family's health as poor. She cannot afford medical care when needed and has lost family members to violence. Mapendo especially wants literacy training as she goes through her program.
1. What products are your main focus? What is your main ingredient?
Our specialty product is soap in all it's forms. I started with bar soaps, then learned to make liquid hand soaps and body wash. Eventually we added whipped soap, dish soap, powdered laundry soap and even a natural dishwasher detergent. Olive oil is my very favorite ingredient to use, I love the way it feels on the skin and that feeling carries over into the soap.
2. How did you get started? When?
My mom sent me a natural bar of soap for Christmas in 1996. I had young children at the time, the shower was the one place in the house I could be alone, LOL! That bar of soap pampered my body and my soul, the creamy lather, wonderful herbal scent, the smoothness and richness of the bar. We lived in a very small town and it was pre-internet, I couldn't find anywhere to buy more soap! My first batch of soap came from a library book and a wooden spoon. I still have a bar of my first successful batch- Orange Spice.
3. Why do you do what you do?
I never planned on developing a business, it just kind of evolved over time. Most soapers will tell you that making soap gets into your blood, which is so true! Soon I was turning out way more soap than we could use, and I wanted to make more. Friends and family got more soap than they wanted, they started passing it on to friends and soon people were calling asking for soap! Turning the soap into a business fit perfectly into our lives; it was a way for me to make some income and still be home with our children. Since then it's become one of my greatest joys; I love everything about making and selling our products.
4. Where else to you vend your products?
We sell locally at 2-3 farmers markets, as well as on Etsy and our own website, www.showertreatsoap.com. This year we've done a few fundraisers for the local schools in support of the music program. Our products are also available at one of the health food stores here in town.
5. Where do you live?
We're located in rural Southwest Michigan.
6. How long have you been selling on Etsy? Do you have any advice?
We opened our shop on Etsy in 2006, but didn't tend it seriously until 2007. My advice for Etsy shop owners? Do what you love, do it well, or don't bother to do it at all.
7. What is your favorite scent?
Rosemary and lemongrass essential oils, blended together are simply wonderful!
8. What oil do you enjoy most?
Olive oil- there's nothing like it on skin.
9. What do you do for fun?
I am passionate about knitting, especially with wool. All winter long while the local soap business calms down I'm knitting felted wool handbags to sell the next season.
I've been slowly learning to spin my own wool yarn from roving, very exciting!
With all the fences we put up, money that changes hands, we people think we own the land but we're really just in charge of it for a time. Eventually someone else will take care of that same section of land, and someone else after that. Being good stewards of the Earth while we live on it and from it is our responsibility. Here are a few of my favorite ways to nurture the planet and save you some money at the same time.
1. The clothesline- You can't beat it for savings, we hang our clothes 7 months of the year and our utility bill goes down an easy $20 a month as a result. Your clothes smell fresh and clean, they stay wrinkle free until you take them down, very often they'll dry faster on the line then they will in the dryer. If your clothes dry a little stiff then you can tumble them on fluff with no heat in the dryer for 5 minutes, they'll be nice and soft. Another plus? You never have to replace the timer or the heat element on your clothesline.
2. Newspaper- If you've got a hamster or other critter in a cage, shred the newspaper in your shredder and use it for bedding material. Speedy, the hamster with incredible longevity, lived for 4 years in piles of fluffy shredded newspaper, it works beautifully. Have you priced small animal bedding? When your cage needs freshening the newspaper can go right into the compost pile for use in the garden later. Newspaper can also be shredded to use as packing material for all you Etsy shippers.
3. Compost your leaves, people! If you live where the leaves fall, find a corner of your yard and start a compost pile. A HUGE pile of leaves will cook down into rich dark soil- garden gold - by spring, and you won't be driving to the garden store and paying for plastic bags of compost. If you've got established garden beds, simply deposit raked leaves on top every fall. Till the leaves into the soil in early spring and you'll have wonderful soil to plant in. For potatoes, all you have to do is put seed potatoes on your garden bed, then cover with a thick blanket of leaves, about 2 feet. The leaves will decompose over the summer, the potato shoots will grow right up through the leaf covering. When you want potatoes during the year just move the leaves aside and pick them up, no digging required!
4. Make a decision now- NO paper plates! It isn't that hard to wash dishes!
5. Cloth diapers are easy to use, save you thousands of dollars over disposables, and keep HUGE amounts of waste from the Earth. Etsy is loaded with wonderful cloth diaper designs, wool soakers and more. We cloth diapered two children, once you get into the routine it becomes quite easy, I promise! I admit, we did use disposables a few times. One particular time when our son was ill, and on a few cross country trips by airplane. They have their place, but rarely.
What are your favorite eco-friendly tips? I'd love to hear them!
Are my newest passion! Learning to make a decent cream soap was a struggle but so worth the effort. Thick, creamy and rich, cream soap is perfect for shaving, leaves skin smooth and soft. The soap is thick enough to suspend sugar, salt or pumice for a moisturizing scrub. A little on a bath sponge brings loads of bubbles and leaves a lotion like feel to the skin.
We received a new letter from Clementine, one of the sisters we sponsor through Women for Women International. Since all of you who buy our products play a part in sponsoring our ladies, I thought you might enjoy reading the letter.
I wanted to truly thank you for your good support I received it.
I'm married since 1985, together we have 9 children among which 6 are girls. The first born is 21, just completed secondary school. Second born is 18 years old, he was in senior school but his daddy is in prison, it was tricky to keep him in school. The third is 16 years, just completed primary 6. Then the other four are still in primary school. Two haven't started yet.
I'm 42 years old my husband is 46 years old. It has been 2 1/2 years since he went into prison, we depend on cultivation plus a few domestic animals we have. I'm so glad to have your support.
Allow me to stop here until next time, goodbye for now.
Yours, K. Clementine"
Thanks to all of you for creating joy and good in the world!
For the first time in months, I find myself without a schedule. No soap to make, no book work to do, no appointments to keep, the house is clean and the family is at work and school. I fantasize about days like this in the busiest part of the summer, when even an unscheduled moment is precious, but a whole day? What do I do now?
So many opportunities! I'm toying with knitting the day away, but I have the urge to move, to do something wonderful. Okay, going outside isn't an option. As I write it's -5 outside with a windchill of -21. Not being fond of the cold, today's activity is going to be indoors. Looks like we'll see the sun today, the first time in a week, and that has me energized. I absolutely love bright sunny days.
My latest knitting project:
Off to shower and ponder the day, what would you do with a blissful, unscheduled day?